Tag Archives: Brittain

Fantasy and the cold hard truth

Saint_Alban_(cropped)In a good novel, there is a moment where the interactions between certain characters can become highly charged, fraught with anger and other intense emotions. That is the case with what I am writing now:  three of my characters spent a long time fighting alongside each other, brothers and sisters in arms, completely dependent on each other.

They have a long history. Several terrible incidents occurred during the war they once fought that they don’t understand, and which created a rift between them. Some of their close companions were killed under bad circumstances (are there ever any good ones?) and each of my characters suffers a little survivor’s guilt.

After the war, they went their separate ways and for the last 25 years, have rarely seen each other or spoken. They all bear a burden of responsibility for things they can’t change, and their lives are affected by this, although they don’t know why. For each of them, their anger and remorse are expressed in different ways.

Two of them can’t be in the same room for long without trying to kill each other.

One character in particular suffers disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and what we call ‘fight or flight syndrome,’ the uncontrollable urge to either fight or flee. These characters all three demonstrate varying degrees of avoidance,  withdrawal, aggressive defense, or in one case, complete frozen immobility. Certain memories trigger these behaviors, and now all three are being forced to face their demons.

My challenge is to bring these people back together with sensitivity and realism, in order to advance my story, and use only 1/3 of the allotted word-count for this book.

Does this sound like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? You’re right. For more information on PTSD, see an article  on the website, Military Pathways, and this news article aired by CBS on their show, 60Minutes.

Because it’s a new term, I can’t refer to this ‘injury of the spirit’ as PTSD in my manuscript. But I can give it another name and air both the symptoms and the sometimes life-long problems untreated PTSD causes.

GeorgeSPatton - WikipediaMy father, and my uncles all suffered from this long after World War II ended. In many ways it has shaped our post WWII society. Our fathers were told to just shut up and  get on with their lives–something that is not always an easy thing. Alcoholism and domestic abuse lay just under the surface of many families in our community, hidden but there.

Prior to World War I, the U.S. Army considered the symptoms of battle fatigue to be cowardice or attempts to avoid combat duty. While the causes, symptoms, and effects of the condition were familiar to physicians, it was generally less understood in military circles. General George Patton garnered substantial controversy after he slapped two United States Army soldiers under his command during the Sicily Campaign of World War II.

It was common for soldiers who reported these symptoms to receive harsh treatment. At the time of the slapping incidents, the two soldiers Patton assaulted were suffering from “battle fatigue,” otherwise known as “shell shock” or “battle stress.” Today, this condition is characterized as a form of PTSD, which can result from prolonged severe exposure to death and destruction, among many other traumatic events.

220px-Sir_Galahad_(Watts)

Even though I write fantasy, the reactions of my characters to certain situations has to be realistic, and that is where a good grasp of what really happens to our vets comes in handy. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is real and affects our returning veterans. More must be done to help ease our military wounded back into society, but generally speaking we pay more lip-service to that problem than we do tax dollars.

We write about incredible personal challenges, because they make great stories. But what about the people who live through those moments? How do they quietly go back to the farm once the war is over, and pretend it never happened? This is what I am writing about now, and it has been an emotional journey for me as as an author and a human being. Everyday, our paths are crossed by men and women living with PTSD caused by a variety of terrible circumstances,  They are just ordinary people trying to keep their lives together, not understanding why they sometimes do the things they do, and wondering why things just keep going to hell all around them.

 

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Filed under Adventure, Battles, Blogger, blogging, Books, Fantasy, knights, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, WordPress, writer, writing

Sell me that book in 100 words or less!

Aquarell_gemalt_von_August_Menken-1875 By Creator - August Menken [Public domain] via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve been participating in a month-long exercise where you get a prompt and you write the story. I have set the bar a bit high, as I am giving myself only 100 words to tell that story.  It’s a bit difficult, but I have a reason for this, beyond my usual insanity.

The back of a book has something we writers call blurbs (I know. I shouldn’t use author-speak in company, it’s not polite.)  Technically it is called “the pitch” because you are pitching your product to prospective buyers.  This little thing is critical.  Your cover must make them pick up the book or click on the icon and your pitch must sell it. But hello – you have only about 30 seconds to capture the prospective buyer’s interest enough for them to crack it open, or use the look inside feature for eBooks.

I’m not real good at writing pitches. Neither are the Big Six Publishers, oddly enough!  Even the big companies have found ways of avoiding pitching a novel simply by putting glowing reviews of other works by that author on the back cover.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Bleah.  That doesn’t sell me a book, Tor-Forge, publishing giant that you are. As you can see, on the back cover of this book there is no blurb, only glowing comments about the author’s other series of books.  This may work for a well-known author like L.E.Modesitt Jr., or Brandon Sanderson, but it doesn’t work for me as a reader.

I have observed many indies taking the same route, and skipping the blurbs entirely.

Indie authors take note: I (and millions like me) don’t buy books without blurbs of some sort, somewhere, unless I am already familiar with that author’s work. I want to know what I am buying, so even a bad blurb will interest me more than a quote from a glowing review by one of your Beta Readers.

Just sayin’!

So here I am, suffering the curse of the indie author, trying to not only be my own publicist, but also my own advertising agency.

Thus, I am going to learn how to write a blurb, if it kills me. Writing a 100 word piece of flash-fiction is called a “drabble”.  I figure if I can get this down to a fine art, I can write a decent blurb.

The original prompt went as follows:

Write A 100 Word Story (“Drabble”) . . . although a 100 word story will probably take longer than expected, it’s still going to take a manageable amount of time.

To make a drabble work,
-Choose one or two characters
-Take one single moment/action/choice and show us how it unfolds
-Give us one or two vibrant details in as few words as possible
-Show us (hint) how this moment/action/choice is more significant than the characters probably realize in the moment

I decided to use these parameters for the entire month of flash fiction.  Here is my first one, written May 1st.

Ted  (5-1-2013)

Edna stirred her coffee and looked out the window toward the shed.

“Did you feed the chickens?” Marion always asked, though she knew Edna had.

Edna looked away from the shed. “Of course I did.” Her eyes turned back to the shed. “We won’t be able to keep him in there much longer. He’s growing too big. We should have a barn built for him.”

“Ted was always a greedy boy.” Marion stirred her coffee. “I warned him he behaved like a beast.”

A rumbling bellow shook the shed. A long green tail snaked out of the shed door.

I will keep practicing until I get the hang of creating something interesting in 100 words. Blurbs  don’t have to tell the whole story, that is what the inside of the book is for! All they have to do is sell the book–be that tantalizing bit of interest that hooks the reader into buying your book. 

Yesterday’s drabble went like this:

Quaglio_KipfenbergDrake – 5-3-2013

He stood on the parapet, silhouetted against the starry sky, his wings wrapped tightly about him against the chill wind. The sounds of the darkened world below drifted up to him. The nightbird’s song. The servants in the castle below. The lowing of cattle in the distance.

Hunger, intense and overwhelming clouded his vision.

Spreading his wings Drake fell forward, the wind catching and lifting him; soaring. A scent on the wind alerted him to his quarry.

On a corner she stood, ripe and full lipped—the tamale vendor.

Silently, he dropped beside her, whispering seductively, “Two tamales, please Senora.”

I’ve had a lot of fun with this, and I may have some ideas for longer short stories here, so it’s certainly not a waste of time, even if I never get the hang of selling my own work!

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Rain, rain, rain

51jPbExehrL._SL500_AA300_Once again, spring has decided to funnel water on the Northwest.  Two weekends ago it was lovely- mid seventies weather, with the feeling in the air that winter had indeed ended and better days loomed on the horizon. I had all the cushions out on the back porch and was, briefly, in heaven.

Now, the doom and gloom of the standard Northwest spring has returned, and I find myself suffering from the blahs.  I can’t think straight, much less write a coherent sentence.  On the positive side, my 2nd oldest granddaughter, Courtney, will be staying with us for a few days, so I will have someone to share the misery with.

The locals joke that if you see someone with an umbrella, they’re from out of town. This is not true, as I have a large collection of umbrellas, many of them unbroken and still useful!  Even the cutest umbrellas frequently end up in street-corner trash-bins, ending their days as the tattered and broken relics of impulse purchases.

The winds here in my little valley are known to be death to umbrellas, even expensive ones.

I do confess that I can be seen at large events in the summer with an umbrella keeping the SUN off my lily-white skin! 81UuqzVF-1L._SL1500_

Despite the carnage, I feel compelled to keep buying umbrellas, feeling somehow as if the next umbrella will be the one–the true umbrella for all seasons, able to withstand 40 mph winds and sideways rain-bullets.  I just know that my desire to have some cheery vestige of spring in the form  of a floral print over my head will somehow work out and I will manage to remain both dry and stylish.

(snorfle)

The weather here is kryptonite to even a super-umbrella.

Unless….

Wait… is that…

Oh god.

It’s the one personal rain-shelter superhero that can take the hurricane force winds and merrily give Spring a thumbs-up. ( I’m sure that the one-finger gesture was meant to be a thumb…it’s pointing up anyway….)

31YA3A1XV3L._SX385_It’s  a Golf umbrella, that ubiquitous bastion of Pacific Northwest Fashion. Conversations between middle-aged sisters in Northwest restaurants tend to run like this:

“Is that my umbrella by your chair?”

“No,  its mine. Mine is the blue and white one.”

“MINE is the blue and white one. I’m sure I brought it in with me.”

“Well, this one is mine, see?  Here are my initials. I knew this would happen, so I used a sharpie. You didn’t come in here with an umbrella. Did you leave it in the shoe store?”

“No, I’m sure I had it when we went to Costco. That was after the shoe store. Are you sure that umbrella isn’t mine?”

“NO! It’s mine!”

“Next time I’m getting a red and white one, so I can spot it more easily.”  (Eyes restaurant full of red and white golf umbrellas.)

MH900399383

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Oh, the Agony

The Aspirin Shop © 2012 Connie J Jasperson All Rights Reserved

The Aspirin Shop © 2012 cjjasp All Rights Reserved

Yes, we now find ourselves in the deepest depths of January. The days are short and dark, and my desk is piled high with the visions and revisions of my current works-in-progress. I stare at the mountain of work that demands my attention and my mind is consumed with solving that eternal paradox,  “Who gave me this damned cold? Which little germ-factory that I call a grandchild is the culprit?”

Alas, the responsible party is most likely sitting in his kindergarten class having a snack and discussing tactics for beating “Lego Star Wars”  with his mates while Grandma suffers the agonies of the damned.

In the meantime, cold or no cold, I must somehow wind up the tale before me. My characters have already been through quite a lot, and they aren’t in tip-top condition. Still, they have a job to do and they are going to do it or die in the process.

At this juncture my characters are lurking high in the  branches of fir trees outside the stone walls of a mountain keep, observing the small village surrounding the castle they need to enter. They need to decide how to enter the haunted castle, and they need to make a plan for getting to the rogue-mage and eliminating him.  Once he is dead, the spells he’s layered over his guards will be broken and my team should be able to leave safely.

Once inside the keep, they will have to make their way through the halls, killing off the bespelled guards as they come to them until they have finally met the mage they have been sent to kill.

They’ve already fought a dragon and been caught in an avalanche. They’ve fought many other elemental creatures and each other.

Now here they are, poised on the edge of finishing this adventure and Grandma’s too stoned on NyQuil to concentrate long enough to get them to where they can kill the evil bad dude.

This could take a while.

It’s just so much wo-o-o-ork…..

Actually this game looks fun. I think I’ll just rest in the play-room for a moment….

lego-star-wars-the-game desk top wall paper

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Charles Dickens was an Indie Author, Too

achristmascarol George C ScottFew people are aware that one of the most famous and inspirational books in the English language was originally self-published, and didn’t do as well as the author intended. Charles Dickens began to write A Christmas Carol in September 1843, and completed the book in six weeks with the final pages written in the beginning of December. Unfortunately he was feuding with his publisher over the meager earnings on his previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. Because of that, Dickens declined a lump-sum payment for the tale and chose a percentage of the profits in hopes of making more money. He then published the work at his own expense. It was as expensive then as it is now to publish quality print books and high production costs netted him only £230 (equal to £19,128 today) rather than the £1,000 (equal to £83,164 today) he’d hoped and needed, as his wife was once again pregnant. A year later, the profits were only £744 and Dickens was deeply disappointed.

Formatting was as tough in those days as it is now and Dickens was unhappy with the first edition of the tale. It contained drab, olive colored endpapers that Dickens felt was unacceptable. The publisher, Chapman and Hall, quickly replaced them with yellow endpapers but those clashed with the title page which was then redone. The final product was bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages and was completed only two days before the release date of 19 December 1843.

I take comfort in knowing that the man who wrote the most powerful story of redemption in my personal library was an indie author too. Self-Alastair Sims - A Christmas Carolpublishing is much easier nowadays, but nevertheless it too is fraught with costs and formatting difficulties.  I have one last little formatting issue to solve in the Tower of Bones on page 361, and then I will be able to okay the final print version of it.  Wonky formatting is the curse of my life!

This is the time of year when I watch every single version of A Christmas Carol that can be found. Alastair Sims, George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Mr. Magoo and now Jim Carey occupy the small screen and remind me of what is really important in life – love and family.  Even Mickey Mouse has warmed the cockles of my heart in the role of Bob Cratchitt.

And now, I must go wrap presents by the flickering light of my television, as once again the Ghost of Christmas Present leads Mr. Scrooge to see what he should have seen all along – that Christmas Spirit is a year-round emotion, and has less to do with cash flow and Black Friday Shopping and more to do with charity of spirit.

If you are feeling charitable, I would recommend these fine charities:

The Salvation Army

The Union Gospel Mission

Clean Water for the World

Patrick Stewart - A Christmas CarolThere are so many worthy charities, and any gift you make to them will benefit millions of people.  I live in the lap of luxury, and I know it. I have a good roof over my head, a reliable income and a healthy family. I am grateful for all these blessings, and if you are similarly blessed, I encourage you to make some donations to your local charities as a way of giving thanks!

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The Alternative Guide to Alternate Realities

The Infinity Bridge by Ross M KitsonToday we are going on a voyage, visiting three very different realities, or as I like to think of them, Blogs.  We are on a progressive blog tour, guided by the incredible Ross M. Kitson, author of the Steampunk fantasy, The Infinity Bridge.  Part I of this tour is today, here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy

Part II will be tomorrow Dec 13, 2012 at  www.alisondeluca.com – Alison Deluca’s wonderful blog.

Day III will be at Ross’s own blog http://rossmkitson.blogspot.co.uk

I encourage you to check out these blogs and follow this post through all the realities it travels through!

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Alternative guide to Alternate Realities 1: Literature

By

Ross M. Kitson

One of the key aspects of my latest book, The Infinity Bridge, is the existence of parallel universes or alternate realities. As the book is written for the teen market upwards (MG/YA is the latest term, to avoid the patronising ‘kid’s book’ I suppose) I spent a good while musing about whether to include a meaty information dump in the next about the ideas of alternate reality. And here’s an odd thing- the more I thought about it, the more I realised that as an idea in fiction/TV/film it is so thoroughly established that I didn’t need to bother!

I think my first exposure to the idea of alternate reality came in the form of comics (which was pretty much my first form of literature anyhow). I’m going to ramble about those in a separate post—for this one I’m going to focus on alternate reality in books.

The idea that history may have taken a different course, and the ramifications of that, have been a popular theme for centuries. The first works about the topic popped up in Victorian literature (N Hawthorne’s short story ‘P Correspondence’ and C Holford’s ‘Aristopia’) but the real boom in the topic came in the pulp science fiction of the forties and fifties. During this time some awesome writers, including Heinlein, L Sprague De Camp, Poul Anderson, Andre Norton and Larry Niven turned their hand to the topic. In many of these works we have protagonist able to cross between the alternate realities, often armed with knowledge of their own historical variant, via portals or machines. In some tales they are ‘police’ figures (the best example of this being H Beam Piper’s Para-time books, which I read recently and absolutely loved) trying to address some renegade or some disruption, whereas in others the individuals are more passive in their roles, thrown into the new reality and learning of its variance as the reader dose.

The concept of parallel worlds and alternate history progressed from the pulp SF realm and into that of more popular and conventional literature. A recurrent favourite of the genre is the course of World War 2 being changed: Philip K Dick ‘The Man in the High Castle’ describes the Axis powers winning WW2 (and has a character in it who writes a book about the Allies winning!); Robert Harris ‘Fatherland’ is a similar very popular example. I’ve yet to read one where Adolf has a better moustache, however.

In MG-YA books the theme is quite a popular one too. I recently read Time Riders by Alex Scarrow in which three teens are recruited by a futuristic agency to help ‘mend time.’ The first novel explores the idea that time travellers go back in time and assist Hitler by stopping him attempting to invade Russia. The ramifications are that an alternate timeline is created, which alters the present in which the heroes occupy. My 10 year old son took the plot in his stride, and when we talked about it had no issues about the whole concept!

Purists of the SF genre would ponder whether works of alternate histories are fantasy or SF, namely is there any science behind it (I feel like Jennifer Aniston in a shampoo advert… ‘now here comes the science’).

Semantics would argue ‘alternate histories’ are not the same as ‘parallel universes.’ The idea is that parallel universes co-exist, namely they run along at the same time, whereas only one ‘alternate history’ can exist, i.e. the history has changed and continues along its new course. For me this is pretty pedantic, but since I grew up with the ideas in Star Trek, Dr Who and comics I’m hardly a hard-core sci-fi buff…

There is a school of thought in Quantum physics that gives a degree of theoretical credence to parallel worlds and alternate histories: the Many-Worlds Interpretation, or the ‘relative state formulation.’ It’s the sort of quantum theory advanced since the 1950s and sufficient to make you reach for a large spliff and say ‘Hey, man’ as someone in a brown corduroy jacket begins to explain it. Its basic tenet is familiar though- every event even at a quantum level, can go a number of ways. As a result there are a myriad set of possibilities that extend out from each other in a never ending tree. There was a famous thought experiment to do with a cat, a radioactive isotope and a vial of poison (Schrodinger’s Cat, not to be confused with Schroder’s piano in Charlie Brown). I’ve rambled enough now, so I’ll leave you to seek that one out yourself (or follow Douglas Adam’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency where the cat had got bored and simply wandered off).

To me the popularity of the alternate history is that it forces us into questioning our world, querying about how things came to be how they are, and extending that idea from simple practical aspects (what if we flew around in airships not planes) to greater moral and ethical considerations (what if the philosophy of the Nazis were part of our own daily belief structure; what if the Americans lost the War of Independence and remained a colony of Europe, how would it alter their perspective of the world and their Constitution-based beliefs?).

I think that the idea of alternate reality, alternate history and parallel worlds is so ingrained now in our literature that it hardly needs explanation and I think a massive part of that is the progression of the idea from 50s sci-fi into the popular realms of TV and Film.

And in my next post on the topic, I’ll explore that some more….

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Part II will be posted tomorrow Dec 13, 2012 at  www.alisondeluca.com – Alison Deluca’s wonderful blog. http://alisondeluca.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-inspiration-behind-adventures-of.html

Day III will be at Ross’s own blog http://rossmkitson.blogspot.co.uk and will run on December 14, 2012!

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Ross M. Kitson

Author Bio

Ross M Kitson is a published author in the fantasy genre, with an ongoing series (The Prism Series), a number of short stories on Quantum Muse web-zine and several stories in Steampunk and fantasy anthologies.

His debut series for Myrddin is due for release in October 2012, and is a sci-fi series set in modern day York. It is written for ages 12+, although its combination of killer androids, steam-powered airships, kick-ass heroines and action packed chases will appeal to all ages.

Ross works as a doctor in the UK specializing in critical care and anaesthesia. He is happily married with three awesome children, who nagged him incessantly to write something that they could read. His love of speculative fiction and comics began at a young age and shows no signs of fading.

You can Follow Ross on Twitter:   @rossmkitson

You can find him on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/TheNuKnights http://www.facebook.com/ross.kitson.9

Ross M Kitson’s Books are available at Amazon.comUS and Amazon.comUK.

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Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Fantasy, Humor, knights, mythology, Steampunk, Uncategorized, writing

J.D.Hughes – William the Cat

Today is day 12 of NaNoWriMo – and I’ve managed to write a total of 39,700 words since day one.  It’s been a pure stream-of-consciousness,  run-for-the-money, laying down of the basic structure of the story.  Nothing of what I’ve written is anything I would be proud to show the dog at this point, but when I’ve finished with the many vignettes which form the basic storyline, I’ll begin the task of actually writing the story. I think it will be about 60,000 words when it is fully plotted.

Then the real work begins, when I have to turn this patchwork quilt of a manuscript into a book!The finishied book will be about 130,000 words.

In the meantime, for your dining pleasure we are serving up a delicious guest-post by UK author and blogger-extraordinaire, J.D. Hughes.   J.D.’s new book ‘Northman’ is scheduled to be released on Friday, November 16th .  He has kindly allowed me to reuse a post from his blog, J.D.Hughes.

I must confess that having seen the cover, and read the pitch I am lurking, waiting to get my hands on my copy!  And now, without further ado I give you a reprise of my favorite post ever by one of my favorite bloggers:

WILLIAM THE CAT

Originally Posted on June 15, 2012 by J.D.Hughes

I am not a fan of cats.

They leave excrement in my orchard and pee on my windfall apples.

But, I have a grudging respect for William the cat. He is white, sleek – turning to a little tubbiness as he ages – but will kill anything smaller than he. That characteristic would be psychotic in a human being, but defines a cat.

I’ve never seen him pee on my apples or crap in my garden, so he is – in that catlike manner – returning my respect. Or so I like to think. If I am realistic he probably regards me as an occasional source of food and gruffly masculine tummy rubs but is indifferent to my opinion of him. He has repeatedly tried to get into my house after one successful raid. We are now engaged in a cat and man game, which he believes he will win. He is seeking to wear me down with persistence, but I have owned many dogs who knew more about persistence than any creature living or dead when it came to precise feeding and walking times, so he will be disappointed.

For some reason he has a liking for my garage and is often locked in for long periods of time. We have a thriving community of field mice to keep him entertained, but I think it may be an attempt to show me how easy my garage is. Logically, that ties in with his belief that my house will one day be his.

He has no remorse, no sense of guilt when some small creature is struggling in his jaws, little understanding or sympathy with anything living and zero interest in anything with which he has played and which has now stopped moving.

So, why do I respect William the cat?

Because he is being a cat.

It’s what cats do. He has no choice.

I respect human beings who tell the truth, help others, attempt to raise mankind from the gutter and try to behave in a kindly manner to their neighbours for a similar, but perhaps not the same, reason.

Not all humans behave like that. Some of William is built into our DNA and we occasionally behave badly towards our fellows.

The difference is that we have a choice. We can think rationally about whether it is a good idea to kill people smaller, weaker, less intelligent than, or different from, ourselves.

There are exceptions, of course. The sociopathic or psychotic personality may have no choice, but we do.

My previous post was about Truth and this is a (sort of) continuation. My belief is that there is nothing to be gained by being unpleasant or violent to strangers and that it is a part of our journey to the status of rational beings for us to be kind to people – do unto others and all that.

Of course, if they attack you with a machete then one should adopt the William attitude and either run away or get a bigger machete.

My own journey through life tells me that most people harbour few truly evil thoughts towards others. Occasionally, hatred will spring up in the fight for sex, resources or survival (perceived or real) but unless there is a continuing need for the above then it often dies away and people (mostly) play nice, or at least become tolerant.

So, as William wanders past with something furry clamped in his jaws I wonder how I would feel trapped in behaviours I cannot control, without choice and destined to repeat the same patterns, again and again.

Got to stop now. It’s 12.30pm, time for my Ploughman’s Lunch, a short walk, the BBC News, a nap at 1.27pm for exactly 21 minutes and a quick chase around the garden looking for small rodents or baby birds to eat.

Unless William has been there before me.

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Below I have posted J.D.’s biography, exactly as he sent it to me. He cracks me up!

J.D. HUGHES

A ‘sort of’ Writer, living in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England.

His new supernatural thriller for adults, NORTHMAN, begins in Anglo-Saxon England, 943 AD, moves through World WarTwo, 1943 and into the present. It is an epic story of timeless love and eternal evil but contains no vampires or werewolves.

It has something infinitely more evil.

He also has several free, dark tales (links on blog). Or on Amazon if you want in a perverse gesture of altruism to buy them.

JD has worked as a writer, director and producer of commercials, short films, corporate and music promos. Recently, he accidentally gained an MA in Film Studies and Screenwriting, whilst continuing to work as a freelance. He loves film, so enjoyed the experience and almost continued on to a PhD, but decided that it would interfere with real writing and painting the shed.

JD started writing fiction aged 11 and it has taken him until now to be competent – obviously a slow learner. Some might say that point of competency is still some way off. Despite those people, JD is determined to inflict his writing on innocent readers and will be doing so to the exclusion of all other delusions (except painting the shed) for the foreseeable future.

He apologises in advance to those who will be offended, and hopes the rest of the world will enjoy some of it.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

 

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On Editing, part II; guest post by Carlie Cullen

Today we continue with the second half of Carlie M.A. Cullen’s absolute gem of a post on Editing.

Here is where the principle she expressed in Monday’s Post are put into action.

Her Comments will be in Red and my response will be in Blue!

Comments:

When I edit a manuscript, I always request it in Word. I use the Review tab and insert comments which appear on the right of the document. If there are too many comments to fit on the page, the comment box will show ‘. . .’ in a small box; clicking on this will bring the comment up in full on the left of the document. By selecting the word or phrase and highlighting with the cursor, then pressing ‘New Comment’ it allows me to show the author the exact part they need to look at (see the screen print of the document I have edited for this post).

I always try to gently guide my authors. They have spent countless hours and poured a great deal of themselves into their work and I’m not in the business of trashing their self-esteem. In addition, I fully recognize they have the final say and I can only make recommendations.

The content of the comments made depend on what the problem is with the manuscript. Some comments are only one or two words long, i.e. ‘delete’ or ‘insert comma’, while others are much longer. Let’s take a moment to look at the comments on the screen print.

 

Comment C1 – just says remove comma”. This comma has been placed in a position where it is not needed and therefore incorrect. An author wouldn’t expect a ten line explanation of why the comma needs removing so it’s quite acceptable to have remove comma”  (done)

Comment C2 – this is a longer comment and showcases my point about realistic dialogue. The comment says Do you mean for the dialogue to be so precise here? You’ve used contractions in other places so I would suggest you change this to ‘They’re’ (done)

Comments C3, C4 and C5 – these also refer to comment C2 and the author, having read comment C2, will not expect an editor to type out the whole message for each case therefore, for these three comments I ask the author to Consider it’s / they’re / I’m(done)

Comment C6 – this comment has been showcased above when I spoke about inconsistencies. My message to the author here is If Wynn has seen a firedrake, surely he knows whether they look fiery or not. I suggest you reconsider this question.” This gives the author an opportunity to re-think and re-word. (Wynn has not seen a fire-drake.  The point of the exercise was to get him acquainted with beasts he had not encountered before.  However, Carlie has only seen this excerpt and doesn’t know this.)

Comment C7 – this relates directly to C6 as it answers the question which I believe to be inconsistent. Depending on how you handle comment C6, this may have to change or be deleted.” (left it in)

Comment C8 – in this case, I have a small issue with sentence structure. My comment, This doesn’t flow very smoothly. I suggest you consider changing the order to ‘put out the flames on its skin’”, tells the author what the problem is and gives a suggestion of how to fix it. (done)

Comment C9 – Consider changing to ‘she’s’”. This again is a dialogue issue and use of contractions. C10 – See comment C9”. There is no need for me to go into long explanations when I can refer the author to a previous point made. (done)

Comment C11 – sentence structure and the flow of it is the problem here. My comment, Having ‘healer’ and ‘healing’ in the same sentence doesn’t sound right. Consider changing ‘healing’ to something like curing/restoring, shows the author what I consider is wrong and suggests alternative words they can use. (done)

Comment C12 – deals with repetition of a phrase. You’ve used this type of phrasing above when talking about how tired Wynn was, so the repetition doesn’t work very well. If you want to emphasize how Jules looks and feels, I suggest re-wording or changing this around. Consider something like ‘Jules felt really out-of-sorts and looked quite rough’”. Using phrase repetitions, especially on the same page, annoys some readers and it doesn’t show the authors grasp of vocabulary as well as it might. By rephrasing, it removes the repetition and makes the story flow better and my suggestion gives the author another way of looking at it. (done)

Comment C13 – is to do with contractions in dialogue again. However, I can see there might be a reason why the author would not want to do so. Therefore, my comment, Consider contracting to ‘I’m’ unless you want to emphasize the ‘am’ in which case it should be in italics”, provides two possible solutions. (changed to italics)

Comment C14 – sentence structure and flow is the problem here so the comment, This is clunky and doesn’t flow at all well. Consider changing to something like ‘Shouldn’t they have challenged us with something we’ll actually be facing…?’ or similar”, explains the issue and suggests an alternative. (done)

Comment C15 – repetition. You’ve used ‘facing’ on the previous line. I suggest replacing with something like confronting / tackling / meeting”. This identifies the problem and offers a solution. (done)

Comments C16 and C17 – using contractions in dialogue. C 16, As this is dialogue, consider contracting to ‘it’ll’”. C17, “See comment C16”. (done)

Comment C18 – this comment covers two problems; repetitions and contractions in dialogue. It’s difficult for an editor (unless they are very familiar with an author’s work) to suggest changes to dialogue other than use of contractions as each author has their own ‘voice’. To get around this, I point out the problem and leave it for the author to fix, like so, You’ve used ‘it will’ 3 times in this paragraph. Consider rewording at least one of them (see also comment C16/17)”. (done)

Comments C19, C22, C23, C25, C30, C32, C34 and C35 – these again deal with use of contractions in dialogue and the comments made are almost identical to those used above. (done)

Comments C20 and C21 – both of these deal with repetitions &/or sentence structure/flow. As you can see, both comments offer suggestions for alternatives. C20, Repetition – you’ve just used ‘irritating in the previous sentence. Consider changing to something like annoying / infuriating / aggravating”. C21, “You’ve used ‘bored’ on the 1st line so this is like a repetition & doesn’t sound right. Consider replacing with tedious / monotonous / tiresome / repetitive, or similar”.  (done)

Comment C24 – because of the dialogue used, I feel there is a need for the author to show emotion in the speaker’s voice. The comment reads What inflection is in his voice? Annoyance? Exasperation?”.  (done)

Comment C26 – this is another emotive section where the character needs to come alive for the reader. I prompt the author thus, Consider what expression is on Devyn’s face and the inflection in his voice. You need to show a little something here”. (done)

Comments C27 and C36 – extraneous words have been used so a simple delete suffices. (done)

Comment C28 – You have 6 repetitions of ‘rules’ in this one paragraph. Delete this Pretty self-explanatory, I think. Comments C29, C31 and C33 deal with the other instances of the repetition within the paragraph. C29 states Delete”, C31 reads Change to ‘their directions / conventions / instructions / decrees’ or similar”, and C33, “Consider either removing this bit or changing to something like ‘… about what they want…’”.  (done)

Comment C37 – Repetition from previous paragraph. I would switch things around and remove ‘both’”, identifies the problem and offers a solution. (done)

Comment C38 – sentence structure and flow. Using ‘level’ and ‘leveling’ in the same line spoils the flow. Consider changing to flattening / razing / demolishing”. (done)

Comments C39 and C40 – incorrect punctuation. C39 states, “Remove comma and C40 reads, Insert comma”.  (done)

Comments C41, C42 and C43 – using contractions in dialogue. Comments are as previously shown.(done)

Comment C44 – showing. The reader needs to connect not only to the character in this part, but also the scene. The comment recommends, Is there a smug smile on his face? A hint of devilment in his eyes? What inflection is in his voice? Is there an aura of amusement around him? Your readers need to ‘see’ the scene”.  (I will work on it.  I don’t really do ‘devilment’, lol)

Comment C45 – punctuation can be over-used just like words can and this is a perfect example. The comment, “Too many exclamation marks – 3 in 3 sentences! Replace 1st exclamation with comma, change ‘O’ to lowercase and replace last exclamation with period”, shows how to rectify this. (What!!! er… Done)

Comment C46 – inappropriate descriptive word. This particular example was covered in the first section of this post. My comment is, Would the smiles be grim? Also, grim smiles wouldn’t light up their faces. This is payback as far as they are concerned so I would have thought there would be excitement / devilment or similar in their smiles. I suggest you look at this again and change this word to something more appropriate to the occasion”. (I will work on it)

The above comments show how I try to guide my author by posing questions and offering solutions to the identified problems.

Editing is a very time-consuming yet rewarding job; taking a raw manuscript and honing it until it shines is as much as labour of love for the editor as it is for the author. They have to work closely together for a prolonged period of time to achieve a common goal. The end result, the published book, gives an editor as much joy and satisfaction as the author.

I hope you have found the foregoing informative and interesting. As Connie’s editor, I have to say she is a consummate professional throughout the editing process and wonderful to work with. It makes a huge difference to an editor when their client approaches editing with an open mind and a positive attitude; it results in a wonderful piece of literature both parties can be proud to put their name to.

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 Carlie, thank you for your long hours of work doing the edit of this segment.  I know you took time away from your own work to do this, and it means more to me than you know!

And for those of you who are wondering why a proper editing is so very expensive, there were only 836 words in this snippet, and it took her every bit as long to edit it as it did for me to write it, perhaps longer.  A good editor is very much worth the price – but I warn you absolutely must be able to work closely with your editor and you must be willing to consider and act on the changes they suggest. Your manuscript is the child of your creativity, and as such you must be very careful who you allow to care for it. If you have a contract with a publisher, be sure you have final say on all changes before publication.  It doesn’t matter how much you pay, if your editor is not willing to allow you to make the changes on your own ms. It is only through making these changes and thinking outside of your normal mindset that you will really grow as an author.

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NaNoWriMo – the first 6 hours

YES!!!  We survived the invasion of the 3 ½ foot tall Zombies. There was enough chocolate to go around, with plenty for my hubby and I to—er—examine.  But now another Apocalypse looms on the horizon.  Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo.  Now I must write 1666 words per day to have my 50,000 words by Nov. 30, 2012.  I will have no trouble. I managed to wake up at 2 a.m. and got the first 1538 words down.  Now it’s full steam ahead and no stopping for tourist distractions.

This blog will be the temporary home of eminent guest bloggers such as J.D. Hughes, Carlie Cullen, and Maria Johnson along with others as yet to be lassoed!  I can’t wait to see what they pull out of their incredibly creative minds for this!

Also, Alison DeLuca is having a blog tour for her fabulous Steampunk series, the  Crown Phoenix Series this month, and she will be visiting more than once, I hope!

So, to get you all started, these are the first paragraphs of what I did at 2:00 A.M.!

Excerpt from Valley of Shadows

The day John Farmer left home began as any typical winter day, rainy and cold. Only the day previously he’d turned fifteen making him legally an adult. His father had given him a new bow with a quiver full of arrows he’d forged especially for him, warning him to use them wisely. Other than that, nothing in John Farmer’s life had changed to mark his passage into adulthood. He still planned to try to get into town, and see Marjean Baker, if he could.  She was a friendly-girl down at the Boar’s Head tavern, and was five years his senior, but she really liked him, and he’d most definitely enjoyed her favors, the two times he’d managed to sneak off with her.

Unfortunately, he’d dallied with her too long the last time, returning home a bit too late the previous Restday, and his father discovered his secret arrangement with Marjean. John was now unlikely to get into town, unless he could figure out a way to sneak away without Wynn finding out—also unlikely as Wynn had taken to popping in and ‘checking’ on him at odd hours, making sure he was still there. His dad had even taken the precaution of hiding the saddle and bridle, so John would have to ride bareback if he did manage to sneak off.

He’d no idea why his father was so upset about such a minor thing. Unbonded men often had relationships with friendly-girls. No one thought twice about it. From what his dad’s old army friend, Jules Brendsson, said when he’d passed through Markett during Harvest, his dad had been the next best thing to a pleasure-boy as a young man, so Wynn’s attitude was hypocritical, in John’s opinion.  It’s not like I want to bond with her or anything, we’re just having fun. People expect you to have fun with friendly-girls, but Dad acts like it’s the end of the world.  

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It has a long way to go!  But it’s 30 days of straight on keying and no looking back until December 1st.  If I can just get the whole tale down from start to finish in that time, I will be able to spend the next half-year expanding on it.  Fortunately, I know these people and their world better than I know anything else right now, so I should be able to do it.

I will pop in and keep everyone posted on my progress. In the meantime I can’t wait to see what posts my friends will be making here during the month of November!

 

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The Zombie Apocalypse–and so it begins…

Halloween is just a day or two away. Wednesday night will see the streets of my town filled with the walking dead, the could-be-dead and the just plain skeletal remains of the dead. Should I plan poorly and run out of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Hershey’s Chocolate Bars before 9:00 P.M. or so, I will most likely wish I was dead! After all, my deeds that night are all that stands between the undead apocalypse and the good people of the world.

What is this fascination we have with death?  So many books are being written about the undead, vampires and zombies.  In my town Zombies are very popular, being quite athletic and charitably minded, with many turning out this last week for the Zombie Dash 5k run.

According to Zynga executive, Travis  Boatman, who has been making games for two decades,  “People want to smash and maim and kill people,” Travis says. “But people don’t  alway like smashing and maiming and killing real people because, well, there’s  something unsettling about that. Zombies are people,” Travis continues, “so they fulfill people’s desire to  smash and maim and kill people. But they’re also already dead. So there’s  nothing unsettling about smashing and maiming and killing them.”

Read more of Travis’s Interview at : Zynga

Vampires are of course very romantic, and frequently are the most popular books on the store racks. Anne Rice made the vampire quite romantic and disturbingly sexy in her 1976 novel, Interview With the Vampire. Stephanie Meyers made them not only romantic, she made them mainstream with her mega-popular  Twilight.  Heck, she even managed to make damp, dreary Forks, Washington seem somehow  more mysterious, much more glamorous and a LOT less rainy than it actually is. After all, Forks averages 212 days per year with measurable precipitation — and trust me, that is a LOT of dark, rainy days.

I am a superhero, and  October 31st is a most important night in the calendar of this superhero. It is the one night of the year when the veil between the worlds is most thin and the undead wait, literally DYING to invade our streets. Without my efforts to stave off the annual apocalypse which each year is poised to take place on November 1st, who knows what mayhem would abound?

How do I do this?  I have certain skills… and I’ve much arcane and mystical knowledge. Dressed in my ritual garb, I will personally perform the annual sacrifice which appeases those uneasy dead who roam the streets.

The vampires and zombies who will be knocking at my door on Wednesday will be, for the most part, less than four feet tall, wearing rain coats over their rags and capes, and carrying plastic bags for the annual sacred offering of chocolate.  I will be wearing my lucky witch’s hat and  flying-cape as I ritualistically drop chocolate into the offering-bags, hoping against hope that the annual tribute will keep my neighborhood safe from the walking dead for one more year.

I take my work seriously, when it comes to protecting my town. If it wasn’t for me and fifty dollars worth of chocolate, who knows what evil these undead marauders could unleash for the next year? It’s a terribly lonely thing, knowing that one fat grandma in a witch’s hat armed only with a bucket of chocolate is all that stands between human-kind and the zombie apocalypse.

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