Lurid and Unsuitable. Yup.


As you know I have been dealing with 6-year olds a lot lately, and they are full of fibs and fabulous tales. They crack me up with how obvious they are about it.

But little white lies happen in adult life, too.  They are usually a gut-reaction — a sometimes irrational reflex that we justify with the comforting thought that “it doesn’t really matter, and this way we’ll avoid an argument.”  We’ve all done it at one time or another, and in much the same way as our toilet habits are, it’s not a subject we like to discuss in polite company.

But it makes an interesting plot development. In real life, white lies can escalate into big, complicated messes that can end marriages.  Love and white-lies are like the two sides of the family I grew up in – they don’t really mix well. In a good marriage, there are no white lies.  White lies happen when you don’t trust the other person to accept what you have either done or plan to do.

Trust is the key word here.

In Forbidden Road I have one character whose life is one long string of white lies, and that made for the most pivotal plot development in the story. It was difficult to write his tale and yet his penchant for avoiding the truth is the snowflake that causes the landslide and it drives the plot. The repercussions of his white-lies forms the tension for the next book in that series.

Speaking of books I’ve written, you may notice that The Last Good Knight is no longer available. It will be republished when Huw The Bard is published. Right now it is being readied for a complete re-editing, along with new covers to better reflect the fact that both books are a part of the Billy’s Revenge series.

TLGK was my first complete novel. I didn’t know much about writing, other than I liked a good story, so I wrote one. I had been writing for years, but I was working and raising kids, so all my writing was for my own amazement, and the rejection letters didn’t really matter, since they never said WHY my work was rejected.

I have struggled with The Last Good Knight. Carlie Cullen tried to straighten it out, and she worked a miracle, but there is one flaw inherent in this book that MUST be eradicated for it to live up to its potential. TLGK was written for NaNoWriMo, and many of it’s flaws can be traced back to that origin – “did not” instead of “didn’t” (for word count) and two rambling sections where I was establishing backstory. No one but the author really cares about backstory, but I didn’t know this at the time.

I’d never taken the time to analyze what I liked about a book. I didn’t know why some books I read captured my imagination, and some didn’t. I was writing for my own eyes, and I wrote what I wanted to read, and I LOVED a good story.

This is the reason why:

TriplanetaryMy parents were a bit eccentric. (Understatement of the year.)

Dad thought we should read what ever we want to read and of course we wanted to read what Dad read, so my sister and I cut our reading teeth on E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman Series.

This presented a problem at times in elementary school when we brought the book we were reading and it was deemed  to be ‘lurid and unsuitable’ by our teachers, frequently with negative consequences. My sister’s teacher went so far as to tell my mother, “A third grader should not be reading such trash!”  My mother’s response was that children should read whatever they wanted if they understood the words.

The series begins with Triplanetary, two billion years before the present time. What a great notion THAT is! The plot devices developed in this series of serialized tales forms the core of what we think of as traditional science fiction.  George Lucas liked it so much he used it in Star Wars.

200px-DocsavageThe other great influence on what I instinctively thought of as a ‘Literature’ was written by Lester Dentyes folks, my sister and I adored ‘Doc Savage’.  Clark Savage (or “Doc” to his friends), had no special powers, but was raised from birth by his father and other scientists to become one of the most perfect human beings in terms of strength, mental and physical abilities.

So, having spent my formative years fighting with my sister over who got to read dad’s Analog first, and having eagerly shared every crumb of any book, from Tolkien to McCaffrey to Heinlein with her, my notion of what constitutes a good tale was formed.

All these tales were TOLD, using phrases like “there was” and “he felt”.  These are HUGE no-no’s in the current culture of show-don’t-tell, as in the eyes of the modern reviewer there is no greater crime than that of “TELLING” a story.

Tolkien would have never gotten off the ground.

Thus, I need to completely rewrite two sections of TLGK, under the eye of an editor with a cruel red pen. It’s a great story, and I LOVE Julian Lackland. I just need to have modern approach to telling his tale and I think that when  he emerges he will be all that he is now, and more. So for the time being Julian Lackland is in literary limbo.

It’s been a hard decision to make, as I love that book, and the characters in that book have spawned two other stand-alone books and a whole world of tales. Once Huw the Bard is published I will re-release The Last Good Knight in some form or other. In the meantime I feel good about this choice.


Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, writer, writing

9 responses to “Lurid and Unsuitable. Yup.

  1. I love Sir Julian too, but I do understand the need to shelve the book. And thank you for introducing me to Doc Savage! I must read all 181 books!


  2. Sherrie DeGraw

    I think I totally get what you are feeling about TLGK. While my time commitment to a couple of paintings is less than nothing compared to what you put into your novels, I spent all fall working on two canvases that have some of my best work on them and are my first in a planned series of related paintings. As I finished the first one I had that “Something isn’t right” moment. Couldn’t put my finger on what but it just wasn’t right. After putting them away for 6 months I know I have to rethink a crucial part of the design. I really don’t want to repaint the whole thing. Not because of the work involved, but because some of the work is exactly what I had envisioned – it is a piece of me and pretty darn amazing if i say so myself. Yet I want folks who see these canvases to see what is in my heart. What was in my mind’s eye as I painted them. You want folks to read the book you wanted to write, the one you know you can write. The one hat’s in your heart. So, once more into the fray!


  3. Oh I So know where you are coming from.
    I too grew up on the Lensman series :), Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke, Frank Herbert, Tolkein etc. and moving from telling to showing has been a huge learning curve.
    I decided last year to self-publish a novel. I’ve written several, but this was the first one I felt was up to scratch, and a few years ago it got me an agent. It didn’t sell, and went on the back burner while I wrote (and sold) 2 non-fiction books.
    Seeing the oppportunities of indie publishing I thought – why not? I commissioned a cover, started learning the ropes, and then thought – I’d better give the manuscript a quick once over.
    Oh boy. Major re-write headache. Not the story, but the writing style.
    I even said to a writer friend recently: “I had no idea it was so badly written!”
    She, bless her, pointed out that it wasn’t badly written, just that I’d developed more skills since then.
    I think you’ve made absolutely the right choice – and it demonstrates yet another of the advantages of indie publishing – the ability to go back to an already published novel and improve it.


  4. Alison, Sherrie and Deborah – You all do understand! And Sherrie, your heart really is in your art, as much as Alison, Deborah and mine is in our books!


  5. You know – I happened to re-read part of something I’d written the other day and I’ve realised how much my writing has grown. Whilst I’m still extremely proud of that piece of work, there may come a time when I do something similar to what you’ve done with TLGK.
    Thank you for your kind words. I think I know the bits you’re referring to in the book and if you decide you want my vicious red pen, it’s yours! 🙂


  6. Well, Carlie beat me to it, but remember me if her pen runs out of red ink.