The Saga of Secret Book and the Upcoming Holiday Continues

I wrote a chapter on Secret Book at lunch last week that was so good I made myself giddy.

Anything is possible with…IMAGINATION. 

Anything is possible with…IMAGINATION.

Image:  philadams.co

I posted about it on Google+, and a friend said, “It is the most elegant drug.”  She’s right; I really did almost feel high.

Now if only I can get the rest of the book to that caliber.  I’m challenging myself with this one–not only is the scope and research more wide-ranging than anything else I’ve attempted, but it’s far more character-driven, and despite a rather difficult and speculative quirk, more literary.

Plus, I have two worlds colliding with these characters.  However, by a stroke of good timing, I’ll be able to cram some research into my holiday, both geographical and cultural.

On the bad side, by several horrible folds and stains in the fabric of time, I will miss the following:

  • The Doctor Who Experience will be shut for regeneration when I’m in Cardiff.
  • There will be a new Dark Arts exhibit at the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio the weekend after I leave.
  • My skating club decided on our Halloween show date, for which my coach and I have already choreographed something because I’ll miss three weeks of practice. I have literally been begging for a Halloween show for years.  It is now a fall exhibition and will happen at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 3.

I will be asleep on a train coming back from Scotland.  

Nooooooo!

Nooooooo!

This would have been my program:

If you haven’t seen the original 1985 Fright Night, I highly recommend it.  It’s great fun.

I’ll keep working on it.  Perhaps I’ll get another shot.  Or maybe the Universe is trying to tell me it doesn’t want me to skate any more—this is the second time it’s skunked me on a club exhibition.  A trip to Loch Ness trumps an amateur ice show, of course, but it still sucks.  You’ll have to give me a better reason than that, Universe, if you want me to quit.

Pittbull fight universe and me

Original image:  thememebinge.tumblr.com

Just to drive you crazy (heh heh), listed below are some of the things I’m trying to research for Secret Book.

  • The film industry in the 1970s, primarily in America but possibly the UK as well
  • Theater from about 1960 through 1978 or so (both London and New York)
  • Boys’ boarding school in England in the mid to late 1950s
  • London in the 1970s (this should be easy–my auntie can tell me)
  • Two things I can’t tell you about or they’ll ruin the story, one of which I’ve already mapped out (mu wa ha ha)

If anyone has any specialized knowledge of these things, or knows someone who does, I would appreciate any input you think might enhance the story.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve put the Rose’s Hostage sequel on the back burner for now, until Brian sends my manuscript back.  I can’t write anything until I know what he thinks I should change in the first book.  Well, I could, but I don’t want to.

Besides, if you knew what was going on inside my head right now, you’d be all over me until I finish Secret Book.  Only ONE person knows what happens, and that is someone with whom I had to discuss the psychology issues.

So until I’m finished and start querying, it will have to stay a secret.  I was hoping to get a large portion of it written before I go on holiday, but that probably won’t happen.  Looks like it will be a working holiday.

Maybe if the book sells, I can write it off!

Maybe if the book sells, I can write it off!

Image:  adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That’s all for now on the book.  I’m counting down the days now until I can get the hell out of here.  If I can post between now and then, I will, but there’s a lot to do, so don’t count on it.  I still have to try on clothes, mock pack, get my hair done, work, clean the shit out of my house, and of course, write.

Look for pictures and commentary on all I’ll be seeing and experiencing.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

 

Book Review! The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light

I’ve been given a book to review!

For an upcoming blog tour, I am reviewing The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light, by Deirdre Eden.  It is the debut novel of a fantasy series set in medieval England.

Ms. Eden is a writer and speaker who runs Eden Literary, a company that provides services to writers such as editing, critiquing, promotion, book trailers, and others.  I feel honored that I was chosen for a Powerful Woman Writer Award by her blog, A Storybook World.  You can see it at the bottom of my page and find the link to the site in my blogroll.

Eden’s Amazon biography says:

My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles! 

Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures.

She’s well qualified to write the action scenes in this book.  And looks the part as well.  This picture is super cool.

Deirdre Eden knight Zion PHotography Studio

Photo:  Zion’s Studio Photography at Amazon.com

In The Watchers: Book One, we meet fiery haired orphan Auriella, who has discovered a strange new power within her.  Charged with witchcraft, soon she is on the run, pursued by wolves and the dreaded Shadow Legion.  They are the nemeses of the mysterious and legendary Lady of Neviah, whose identity soon becomes apparent.

Auriella and a fellow captive, a chirpy pixie named Cassi, are rescued from the clutches of an evil hag by Ruburt the dwarf.  The three friends travel through a dangerous world, until they reach the patronage of Lady Hannah, who adopts Auriella.

Enchanted by her new life and a burgeoning first love affair, Auriella begins to turn away from her destiny.  But she cannot escape it for long, and soon, her comfort and safety is threatened, along with everything and everyone she has grown to love.

Through heartbreak and loss and with newfound skills and experience, Auriella must face her enemy and fight for her chance to become not only a legend but a knighted protector of the kingdom.

Though I’m not a reader of high fantasy, I enjoyed this book.  Tiny pixie Cassi in particular was an amusing character.  She and Ruburt the dwarf provide comic relief, and they stick loyally by Auriella through thick and thin, as real friends do.

Eden is a Mormon writer, and the theological research she draws on in her writing supports the story beautifully without being intrusive.  Not being Mormon myself, I don’t know a lot of it, but the whole Watchers thing (see the Books of Enoch) doesn’t come across as preachy or even particularly religious.

I would have liked the author to take me through some of the transitions a bit more slowly–some of them seemed rushed.  But I’ve just read The Lord of the Rings again and recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, so the slow tempo of both those books (especially Tolkien’s) may be coloring my perception.

This story would be fine for younger readers who can handle chapter books.  It’s fast-paced and the language isn’t too hard for them.  Young adults and even grown-ups who like a quick read and a good adventure will enjoy it too.  While reading, I found myself wishing I had a nerdy bookworm kid with whom to share it.  This blog post will appear on my Facebook page, and I’ll make sure my parent friends see it.

It looks as though Eden has at least six books planned in the series.  I’m anxious to see what happens next, and how Auriella’s adventures play out.  I think it would make a neat animated film (or a series of them).

Find The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light on Amazon. Watch this cool book trailer here:

Exciting, yes?

Thanks to Laura Watkins and Theresa Sneed, Book Manager and Blog Tour Assistant of Eden Literary for providing a review copy to me.  Now go read!

Tunerville Update and Principles of Design

Just a quick dash in to let you know that my friend and first reader Jim Allder finished with his reading of Tunerville.  He liked it!

He said it reminded him of a cross between Michael Crichton and Bruce Joel Rubin (author of the screenplay for Ghost; probably because there are ghosts in it).  High praise indeed.  To be compared to the great Crichton made me squee.

Rest in peace, sir.  You left us too soon.

Rest in peace, sir. You left us too soon.

Image:  michaelcrichton.net

Next, I will incorporate his suggestions (one was something I was thinking about doing anyway, which tells me it was on track) and then print it out for its first hard copy edit.  D’aww!

Although that means I have to haul it around in a binder for a few days.  Ick.  Also I better buy some paper.  And revisit my copymarks, most of which I’ve forgotten by now.  I still have my study sheet.

That’s all I have time for right now, since I’m drowning in homework (the four principles of design are:  Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity.  Acronym:  C.R.A.P.  Tee hee!).  But I’ll be back soon, when I get my edit finished, and I might even post a wee bit of text.

‘Til next time, people.  Keep your feet warm.

It’s Banned Books Week – read a book nobody wants you to see!

ALA Freadom Slide 2013 (2)It’s Banned Books Week again!

Every year, the American Library Association and a host of other reading-friendly organizations celebrates books banned for one reason or another—content, language, etc.  Some of our favorite reads, such as the Harry Potter series, get banned for the silliest reasons.

From the bannedbooks.org website, we learn the following:

 Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year.  According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 326 in 2011.  ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.  (http://bannedbooksweek.org/censorship)

 I thought about listing the five dumbest reasons why a book is challenged, but I found other posts dealing with this on the interwebz.  Reading them, I realized there is only one reason:  fear.

  • Fear that kids will read something they shouldn’t.  Who’s responsible for that?

You decide what your kids read; don’t try to decide what mine do.  I want my kids to be Potter nerds.  I’m pretty sure the school librarians know what they are doing when they pick books for kids.

If you feel you have a legitimate objection, don’t go all crazypants; at least read the book in question so you can discuss your concerns intelligently.

  •  Fear of diversity.  What?  We’re all different; are you MAD?

Yes, you are.  If you can’t celebrate diversity, I don’t want to be like you anyway.  We can learn so much by reading about other cultures, and soon we’ll see how much we have in common.  Hello, deeper understanding.

  •  Just plain crazy fear of something that doesn’t even exist.  Magic, anyone?

This one is my favorite.  Who as a kid didn’t wish they could just think about candy and it would appear?  J.K. Rowling once said (roughly) that the spells in Harry Potter weren’t real.  You could wave a stick in the air and chant “Alohomora!” all day and nothing would happen, because she made it up.

That should be the end of it.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

THIS magic wand really works…and it is awesome.

THIS magic wand really works…and it is awesome.

 Image: ThinkGeek.com

 Fear keeps people from finding out more.  Then bad things stay the same, and we don’t grow as human beings.  When people fear something, they attack it.  But books do more than tell us things; they reflect us.  Perhaps there is more in a book than some people are comfortable seeing.

Look here for lists of frequently challenged books.  Pick one and read it today—if you can find it!

Tunerville and 300th post update: 

On my 300th post, one random commenter who answers a trivia question correctly will win a prize.  I had intended to make it cookies, because of the poll I posted a while back (more votes for that than anything else).

Unfortunately, the cookie shop I wanted to deal with for my giveaway doesn’t want to be associated with personal blogs.  That’s cool; it’s hard to control your info on the ‘net these days.  (Maybe my last post had something to do with it; I don’t know.)  Anyway, no ill will there, so I’ll look around and see if I can find something else.  I may have to put off the post until the 30th.  But the Tunerville reveal is still on.  So stay tuned.

 

 

A view on second drafts–article by Moira Allen

I subscribe to the Writing World newsletter via email.  While catching up on issues I haven’t had a chance to read, I came across this article by Moira Allen.  It’s very relevant to my current situation with Tunerville.

The only exception here is that my first draft experience sucked dog doo.  I enjoyed writing Rose’s Hostage; not so with Tunerville.  On everything else, though, Moira nails it.

Coffee on the Deck – by Moira Allen

January 24, 2013:
Do You, Author, Take This Novel….?

It should be fairly evident to anyone who has been following my editorials that I’ve been having just the teensiest bit of difficulty getting to the second draft of my novel.

I’ve found this reluctance a bit of a surprise. While I approached the first draft with a certain amount of trepidation, the experience was actually a delight. I loved writing that first draft. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed writing task quite so much. I couldn’t wait to sit down to the computer and begin the next scene. And much to my amazement, that first draft actually got finished.

And that’s where things came to a screeching halt. Oh, I said, I’ll just give myself a bit of a break, and come back fresh. Maybe a bit longer break. Maybe a sabbatical. Maybe a round-the-world cruise, followed by a lengthy quest for enlightenment at some remote monastery, and then another cruise… Suffice it to say that time has passed, copious amounts of water have flowed under bridges, and the second draft is no closer to being begun.

Now we stand on the brink of yet another New Year, with that first-of-the-year urge to set goals and tackle the important stuff, and I’m asking myself… why? What is it about a Second Draft that makes it such a different, and more intimidating, prospect than the first?

And then it came to me. The first draft was romance. The second draft is marriage.

The first draft was a dance of delight without commitment. Put simply, I could enjoy the relationship without worrying about whether or not I could actually make it work. One of the mind-games I played was the classic “It’s a first draft, it doesn’t have to be good.” The words don’t have to be right. The rhythm doesn’t have to be perfect. Plot holes can be filled in later. Research gaps can be noted and attended to in the future. We’re just having fun together, my novel and I, spending time together and seeing where it goes without worrying obsessively about whether it’s going “in the right direction.”

But now, it’s time to ask harder questions. Tackling a second draft is not just a stroll in the park. It’s a commitment. One can no longer get away with saying, “The little things don’t matter.” In a second draft, they do matter. One can’t say, “Hey, I don’t have to worry about making it work” — because making it work is the whole point of a second draft.

Nor is it just a commitment to “hard work.” If hard work scared us away from writing, we’d never get anything done. There are lots of writing tasks one can undertake that involve every bit as much work as a novel, but nowhere near the amount of commitment. Because the commitment isn’t just about effort. It’s about emotion.

Writing a novel is, in many ways, a process of embarking upon and committing to a relationship. A novel is something you’re going to spend time with — a lot of time with. It’s going to consume hours of your waking life. Even when you’re not working on it, you’ll be thinking about it, worrying about it, perhaps even having conversations with your characters in your head. You’ll know more about the lives of your characters than you may know about some of your own relatives. When things are going well, you’ll wonder if they’re really going well, or if you’re just deceiving yourself. When they aren’t — well, stock up on the chocolate ice cream!

It is an emotional commitment. It raises doubts, fears, concerns. Is this the right book to commit to? Is this really something I want to dedicate the next X months or years of my life to? Do I have what it takes to make this work? What if I don’t have what it takes to make it work?

Like any relationship, we come to it with hopes, expectations, and dreams. A novel isn’t just a certain number of words. It’s words into which we have invested our hearts — and we hope that investment will “pay off.” We want that novel to be a success. We want others to read it and fall in love with it, just as we’ve fallen in love. We don’t want it to end up on the remainder shelf, or worse, never make it to the top of the slush pile. And if the relationship doesn’t “work out,” we’ll blame ourselves, and perhaps start to wonder if we have what it takes to make any novel work.

In short, a novel has a unique power: It has the power to fulfill our dreams, or break our hearts. Mere “work” alone does not have that power. Only a relationship has such power.

So if you are finding yourself shying away from a first draft, or a second draft, or a third, take heart. You’re not lazy. You’re not afraid of work. You’re afraid of commitment — and everything that a commitment means. Deep down, we realize that only by giving that relationship our all, and holding nothing back, can we truly “make it work.” It’s no small step to take.

But without taking that step, we fail before we begin. So perhaps, as we look ahead to a New Year, we need to say more than simply “I will.” We need to open our hearts, embrace our fears, and say… “i do.”

Copyright © 2013 Moira Allen


Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts Mostly-Victorian.com, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer’s cat. She can be contacted at editors “at” writing-world.com.

Writing the Novel Synopsis, or I’m Supposed to Tell You How it Ends!?

UPDATE:

I got my little car back!  And he’s all well!  He looks as if nothing even happened!

He’s gone from this:

5-28-13 Oliver accident

Ouch.

To this:

  Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Today I did this to him:

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers.  Also, I control him.  Muwahaha!

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers. Also, I control him. Muwahaha!

Photographs by Elizabeth West

In other news, I have completed another pass through Tunerville, completed a chapter-by-chapter outline, and now I’ve started working on the synopses.   Why am I using the plural?  And what is a synopsis, anyway?

Simply put, it’s a summary of your novel.  Agents and publishers ask for them in manuscript submissions and sometimes in query guidelines.  They tend to ask for something short, in my experience, between one and three pages.  And yes, you have to tell them how it ends.

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

 Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Relax, grasshopper; you can do it.  Start by thinking about your story.  What is it about?  Who are the main characters? What happens in the story?  You don’t need huge amounts of detail; just the gist of it will do.

The synopsis should be written in third person, present tense, no matter how your book is written.  Below, I’ve posted the first two paragraphs from the Rose’s Hostage one I sent to Brian.

Bored office worker LIBBY ANN MARSHALL never dreamed a man like JOSHUA ROSE would come into her life.  He is confident, sexy, and adventurous.  He is also the Black Bandit, a former gang member and armed bank robber in the (fictional) city of Ralston, IL who, one hot July day, kidnaps her during a heist. 

The crime inflames harried city police detective STEPHEN PIERCE and the FBI.  Pierce must divide his energy with another major case, prostitute killer JOHN COOK JR., known only as The Motel Shooter.  Cook is furious with Joshua for stealing all his press and launches his own search for the Bandit.  

Capitalize the names of the characters the first time you write them.  (I left out ages in parentheses because I couldn’t fit the whole thing on one page.)

For Rose’s Hostage, I have one, two, four, and seven-page synopses.  I’ve sent the one and two-page ones out.  One-pagers are probably the one you’ll use the most, so work really hard on those.

In addition to this, you should also have an elevator pitch—a short, two or three-sentence summary, sans ending—worked up and memorized, in case anyone asks you what your book is about.

 

Speaking of Rose’s Hostage, I haven’t received my critique from Brian Keene yet.  He should be finished soon.  Either he was too busy to get to it until today, was waiting for someone to get back to him on it, or it stunk so bad he has to practically rewrite it.  I can just imagine…”Cut this…this sucks…good God, what did you do here…auuughgg!”

  Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.


Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.

Image:  Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know I have more work to do on Tunerville, so why am I writing synopses now?  Well, the damn things are helpful to me.  Doing a huge outline—going through every chapter and summarizing it—gives me little bits I can use in my synopses.  It also helps me see where I need to add stuff, and I’ve already used the outline to split a very long chapter.

The synopses will change as the rewrites progress.  I’ll do the short one, so I don’t have much to edit if I move things around.  When I’m ready to submit, I won’t have to cobble one together at the last minute.

If you are finished with your book and you need some advice on writing synopses, check out the following links to start.

Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents editor, writer, and columnist) gives five tips for writing a synopsis.

http://writerunboxed.com/2012/02/27/untitled-2-27/

Robert J. Sawyer, award-winning science fiction writer, shares his outlines and synopses with us on his website (please, Robert, hire someone to update it!).

http://www.sfwriter.com/ouindex.htm

Anne Mini’s blog, Author! Author! is a dense read, but worth it.  I learned so much here it’s not even funny.  Check out her Synopsispalooza series of posts.

http://www.annemini.com/

 

Computer Blues and Book Updates

I have three computers.  All of them suck right now.

One, my primary computer, is a 15” Toshiba Satellite laptop (check out the hilarious old lappy at that link!) with Windows 7, named Littleun.  It’s a fast little bugger and much more portable than its predecessor, a 17” Vista-infested, weighs-a-ton Satellite named Biggun.

Littleun is also broken.

 His fan had been going “WhhhrrrrRRRRRRRrrrrrrWHHHRRRRrrrrrr” for a while.  I knew it was probably the fan, but I was hoping he’d hold on until I can get a little more caught up from a year of unemployment.

Then I turned him on one night last week, thinking he was awfully quiet.  Not noticing his silent distress, I booted up Netflix for a Season 9 Bridezillas extravaganza, and *PTT!*   In the middle of an amusing screamfest, an overheated Littleun shut down.   I rebooted him to make sure the fever hadn’t fried his brain—it hadn’t, but it wasn’t safe to leave him on, so down he went.

My computer-savvy friend and I both agreed that the fan probably up and quit.  He will repair Littleun for me (I’m sure the inside is filthy—I really don’t know how to take him apart and clean him).  It can’t be soon enough.  Biggun drives me crazy, now that I’m used to Win 7 and Office 2013.  Word 2007 and Vista just aren’t happening.

But Biggun has a couple of games on him I need to finish, so perhaps I can get those done finally.  I know that at least one Myst title won’t play on Win 7.  It’s just a pain in the ass to save out documents and links I have to transport from one computer to the other.

It could be worse—I’m actually happy Biggun is available.  Unfortunately, his wireless thing doesn’t work very well.  It drops the signal all the time.  So I rolled my eyes and went to Best Buy, where I purchased an instant-gratification, overpriced, 50’ Ethernet cable and jammed it up Biggun’s port.  Now he’s online steadily, although without portability.

In the course of this operation, I discovered my long-lost short cable.  Yay!  Now the third computer, a Best Buy Insignia Windows XP Pentium IV named Old Wheezy, who refuses to die, is again online.

Old Wheezy, in his natural habitat in my craft/sewing/whatever room.  Love that CRT.

Old Wheezy, in his natural habitat in my craft/sewing/whatever room. Love that CRT.

Photograph by Elizabeth West

 Why do we have such an attachment to our machines?  We get used to their feel, their operation, and when something changes, we feel all out of kilter.  I have Tunerville on a flash drive, so I can edit at lunch when I’m at work.   That is a different machine than Littleun—a Lenovo Thinkpad—but it has Win 7, so it’s almost familiar.  But it’s not quite the same.  And I don’t get to lounge on the couch while I’m working (but no TV to distract me, hehe).

I suppose it’s better than writing the way I used to, with a pen and a spiral notebook.

———–

TUNERVILLE UPDATE:

Still working on editing.  Two scenes need complete rewrites, as they are clunky and unsatisfactory.  I also need to add a couple of things and complete a bit of research.

ROSE’S HOSTAGE UPDATE:

Apparently, the manuscript is still in the capable critiquing hands of Brian Keene.   He posted on his blog that he still had five for which he was waiting on publishers to see if they would want to take a peek.  Since I haven’t received mine, I’m hoping like mad it was one of the five, although he didn’t actually say (BRIAN, DO NOT MAKE ME COME UP THERE).

The suspense is killing me.  Maybe it sucked, and it’s just lost in the mail.  I must never, ever, tempt fate by getting my hopes up, but I really do wish something would sell so you could read it, dammit.   Right now, I just want to get Rose back and begin a re-edit; I’m sure Brian has lots of excellent suggestions.

If you want to make your writing better, never pass up the chance to have a more experienced person look at your work.  (Make sure they know what the hell they are doing, of course, especially if you’re paying for it.)  Grow a spine, thicken your skin, and learn to take criticism.

Well, I’m off to figure out what to bring to a weenie roast I’m invited to this afternoon.   Everyone have a safe Memorial Day!

Mem day doggie

Image:  Humane Society of Tampa Bay

 

Update and 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves–Matt Mikalatos

I have a final to finish and then I am done with school for the next few months (until the fall semester).  So I get to spend the summer paying off a bunch of old bills to some nasty-ass collection bitches (do they have a special bitch class when they get hired?  I mean, really.) and getting all the loose ends tied up in Tunerville.

It’s nice to finally be able to do it though, and not have it hanging over your head.  That would be the bills AND the book.  For so long, I wasn’t able to put anything in on both of them.  I knew they were there, but at the end of the week, there just wasn’t anything left.

I got an email today with a link to a great guest post on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog I’d like to share with you.   If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might remember an interview I did with him a few years ago about his humor book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack.

Guest writer Matt Mikalatos has something to say in this article that might not be so funny.  It’s called 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves (And the Truths That Can Get Them Published).  To paraphrase Pink Floyd, if you’ve ever banged your heart against some mad bugger’s wall by trying to get something published, you need to read this.  You might not want to hear what he has to say, but it’s important.

Once you’re done with that, you can cheer yourself up by watching this hilarious video by gloveandboots about how time travel sucks.

 

 

Places in Your Writing

UPDATE:  I FINALLY GOT A JOB!

Yep, and it’s writing/editing related!  I’ll be proofing reports for a local company, along with various administrative duties.  I’m pretty excited about it.  It seems like a very cool place to work.

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  I had to rest my brain after NaNoWriMo.  The space between when I finish and when I can stand to even look at NewBook has been larger than it was for Rose’s Hostage.

Instead, I’ve been reading Robert J. Sawyer, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and Brian Keene, and absorbing lessons on characterization, chapter structure, and speculative / thriller elements.

There’s a lot to do, and I promised I would share that process with you.  I’ll start with these remarks about setting.

Whether your story takes place in a village, a city or on another planet, your setting has its own identity that may or may not be wrapped up in that of your protagonist.  The right name and some attention to its population, geography and infrastructure provide valuable backstory that will give your place depth and realism, even if you don’t use all the material.

The sounds of the words can tell you something about your setting.   Consider J.R.R. Tolkien‘s hobbits, who live in Hobbiton, the Shire.  Tolkien’s place names are representative of the folks living in them. Shire sounds pastoral, peaceful, like the hobbits themselves.

Looks like it, too.  No wonder Gandalf loved it here.

Looks like it, too. No wonder Gandalf loved it here.

Image:  filmhash.com

Gondor sounds mighty, as its warrior Boromir was before the Ring tragically unmasked his failings.  And Mordor—the name alone is enough to conjure writhing black spirits in one’s mind.

Batman’s stomping grounds are based on New York, a city that can be dark and looming, although Chris Nolan’s movies are filmed in Chicago.  Gotham, which was a nickname for the Big Apple long before Batman came to be, sounds metropolitan but also gothic in a broody way.  Considering Batman’s tragic origin, it fits.  Metropolis (hello, Captain Obvious) is the bustling city where Superman hangs out.

Sometimes writers use real places in their work, especially ones with which they are very familiar.  Tons of movies and books are set in New York City. .  In Betty Smith’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the borough itself is as much a character as the protagonist.

I prefer to make up settings.  Unless I know a place very, very well, I’m liable to get it wrong.  If one of my books happened in Los Angeles, I would have to either do a great deal of research (which sucks – I set something in Spain once and know NOTHING about it) or travel there to get it right (Ha! Not likely with my bank account!).

Rose’s Hostage is set in a fictional city in Illinois called Ralston.  Yes, like the cereal.  To me, it sounded Midwestern, solid, slightly industrial.  I picture a drive into it as close to entering St. Louis–not as factory-infested as Joliet, with rural satellite communities like my small city.   To make it interesting and keep my detective busy, I added:

  • A self-contained rough area downtown, like the Narrows in Gotham City, with lots and lots of bars and hookers.
  • Federal law enforcement and an entrenched Mafia presence.
  • Motorcycle gangs.  Both they and the Mafia are augmented by a reasonable proximity to Chicago, which I can mine for all sorts of criminal goodies.
  • Lots of public areas—parks, a museum, etc. where disaster-ish stuff could happen.

Thinking about where Ralston is, who lives there and what kind of activity they would engage in made a difference in all sorts of details.  The population is mostly descended from Western European immigrants, which affects what names I choose for people.  All this comes together in a flavor for the area.

Most of the places in NewBook are grounded in reality.  Some are speculative.  There are several places where the story happens:

  • Martinsburg (working title)—a nice, middle-sized city, nothing huge, smaller than Ralston, but not rural.  It’s home to a prestigious university that has spawned a pretty good scientific community, central to some elements of the story.
  • A couple of other dimensions.  No, really.
  • Heaven.  Yep, you heard me.
  • Brief visits to Los Angeles and New York.

WTF??  What is this story about, anyway?

You'll find out, youngling.  You'll find out.

You’ll find out, youngling. You’ll find out.

Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are larger social ramifications to the protagonist’s actions, but I simply could not expand the scope of my settings and still manage the story.   So I’m condensing the majority of it down to Martinsburg.  I’m not sharing just yet because so many things still need work that what I say now may be completely different in a month or two.

Keep an eye out for April’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge.  I’m planning yet again to participate, with more enticing tidbits about how my book is coming together.

NewBook’s settings are still mostly in my head.  It seems kind of back-assward to write them down now, but this book has not followed my usual process, so don’t take it as gospel on how to work.   For most of us, it’s worthwhile to take time and plot your setting before you put your characters there.

 

Celebrate National Banned Books Week!

As the American Library Association is fond of pointing out, in the US the last week of September is set aside to celebrate the importance of free and open information, and that many books that provoke controversy are still available.

Many works were lost during the Nazi regime, and going back even farther, at the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria.  Most of this can be attributed to attempts by one conquering group to control another, by restricting what they are allowed to read and to think.

A book-lovers nightmare, Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451describes a totalitarian regime that employs firemen not to put out fires, but to set them.  The fuel?  Books.  ALL books.

Ideas and creative thinking are deemed dangerous, and society is controlled by incessant and vapid television programming and medication.  So far-fetched!  That could never happen NOW!

Oh wait….

Image:  imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, it could.  Read this article from CBC News.

These days, most objections to a book are for excessive bad language, sexual themes or situations, or violence.  Some believe that if it offends them, then it must be offensive to everyone.  Access to material must be controlled, because what if a tightly-regimented young person comes into contact with a new idea?  This will not do.

Are those books behind that little guy? Quick, do something before they infest his brain with ideas!

Image:  Milan Jurek via stock.xchng

Relax, folks.  Schools and libraries know what they’re doing, I promise you.  If they included something you’re not sure about, why not take a look at it yourself before you erupt in fury?  I’ve heard a lot of people complain about a book or film they never read or saw.  How do you know if there is a problem unless you check it out?

Children’s author Betty Miles wrote a book called Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book, a story about two classmates who inadvertently create controversy when they read a picture book about puppy birth to younger children.  It illustrates beautifully how crazy parents can get when their children are exposed to certain subjects.

My take?  Start teaching kids young.  Birth and death are part of life.  People are different-looking and act different sometimes, but underneath we’re all pretty much the same.  I think it’s wrong to keep information from anyone.

Granted, I’m not talking about subjects that are beyond a young kid’s understanding, or adult-oriented.  There’s no need to shove too much crazy at them too soon.  But we don’t give them enough credit–kids are pretty smart.  And they can spot a hypocrisy faster than anyone on the planet.

“You lied to me about where this stuff comes from, didn’t you?”

Image:  imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have brains for a reason.  Without them, we wouldn’t have antibiotics, the Hubble telescope, or laundry detergent that removes grass stains.  There would be no medical advances, no Harry Potter series (a frequent entry on the banned books lists), and no smartphones.  Yeah, that one would hit you were you live.

ALL the cool cats have them.

Image: koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net  

Interestingly enough, the captcha code for that image download was “arbitrary rightwit.”  Sounds a bit like an Elizabethan insult.  I think it’s an apt description of those who are determined to control other people’s reading, don’t you?

I dearly hope that someday I write a book that someone wants to ban.  Not for gratuitous sex, blood, or violence, but one that challenges people to think a bit.  Some people don’t like to do that.  I have a couple of ideas.  Perhaps you’ll see me on that list someday.

When you choose a book to read this week, make sure it’s one from the Frequently Challenged Books list.  Keep knowledge accessible to everyone.  Visit and support your local library today!