Tag Archives: James Rollins

Setting inspiration ablaze

225px-Author_james_rollins_2008Last Thursday I was privileged to hear James Rollins speak at the opening of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Writers association conference in Seattle, Washington. He’s quite hilarious, and down to earth. He is still actively working a s veterinarian, which is a profession that would keep anyone humble, I  think.

It was a wonderful speech, and I was completely entertained, laughing so hard I had tears at one point. Jim kicked it off, but over those four days of immersion in the craft, 4 presenters in particular impressed me and rekindled my drive to write good novels.  Over the next weeks I will be blogging on the elements of the craft that each of these four speakers were able to convey.

scott-driscoll1The first to pique my interest and steal my literary heart was Scott Driscoll,  whose  novel, Better You Go Home , has been receiving high praise. I am in the middle of reading it now, and it is compelling work. I’ll be blogging at length about all the books I purchased at this convention.

Anyway, Scott gave 2 talks and I attended both of them  The first was on the arc of the scene, developing a rhythm for each scene that grips the readers attention, takes him through all the emotional points you want him to experience, and then sets the platform for the next scene.   The second was on literary fiction, which is my secret addiction.

In some ways I already understood the arc of the scene, but he was able to really get it across in an entertaining and concise way, and emailed me a wonderful handout to tape next to my computer. In his literary fiction seminar Scott Driscoll also discussed  a fourth point of view I had heard of in college, but forgotten about,and gave it a name I’d never heard of: the Flâneur (idler, lounger, loiterer,) which we will be discussing next week. Charles  Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a “gentleman stroller of city streets,” he saw the flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city. Thus, a flâneur plays a double role by existing  as a present, but ignored, member of society who remains a detached observer of all that occurs within the story.

jason blackThe second speaker to really grab my interest was Jason Black. A well-known structural editor, Jason also writes middle-grade novels.  His discussion on steering your story where you want it to go was really pertinent to a problem I’ve been wrestling with in one of my current works in progress. I will be writing on his suggestions and putting them to work  for me.

One of the things that Jason jarred loose in my head is how I need to proceed with deploying information about a certain evil character while not revealing too much at the outset. He reminded me of the the concept of asymmetric information–A situation in which one party in a transaction has more or superior information compared to another. This often happens in business and stock transactions where the seller knows more than the buyer, although the reverse can happen as well. Potentially, this could be a harmful situation because one party can take advantage of the other party’s lack of knowledge.

In novels, not everyone in the scene knows everything, and those plot points are driven by the those characters who do have the critical knowledge. Applying this to my current plothole will be key to resolving it.

Lindsay Schopfer book signing PNWA 2014Then I was assisted by fantasy author, Lindsay Schopfer, in identifying character motivation. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why characters do the things they do–and Lindsay boiled how to identify it down to simple manageable chunks. Now I think my problems with the one evil character I am trying to flesh out will be resolved, because he now has clear motivations for his actions. I will be writing like a banshee for a week, anyway!

Lindsay’s characters leap off the page, and that is what we all want for our own work.   I really enjoyed The Beast Hunter and Lost Under Two Moons, and have reviewed both of them on Best in Fantasy.

Terry PersunAnother seminar I went to that really pushed my current work into focus was given by Terry Persun,  the award winning science fiction and fantasy author.  He was discussing point of view, the ubiquitous POV we sometimes struggle with, should we be omniscient, 3rd person, or first person? And what do they mean? Of course, I have a grip on that, but it was his side comments and sense of humor that jump-started my my brain. He managed to help me bring into focus the way to end the final bit of misery that is my current work in progress.

He made the point that the only POV a reader can really trust is the ‘omniscient’ as it is not told from any one character’s point of view and is therefore unlikely to be a lie. However, that said, he’s  written novels in every POV, because it’s more interesting for him as an author. I bought 4 of his books–just sayin’.  Can’t wait to get into Doublesight. I can smell a book blog review!

And while I was there, I finally met Janet Oakley in person. She is a long-time friend, an author I have known for several years, and whom I met through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Contest–but we only have known each other through the on-line community. She is an awesome person and her books, Timber Rose and Tree Soldier  have been winning awards right and left!

Janet and I met up with local author Don Harkcom, who writes thrillers, and who is now being courted by several agents. Don actually lives not far from me, and we spent a lot of time discussing everything from gaming to politics. All in all, it was a great conference and I am already looking forward to next year!

Me, Don Harkom, J.L. Oakley -Janet - PNWA 2014

Me, Don Harkcom, & J.L. Oakley at PNWA 2014

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Kicking off the annual PNWA writers conference

300px-DocsavageWell it’s that time of the year again–today is the first day of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, held in Seattle, Washington. I’m a proud member of PNWA, and find incredible inspiration at these conventions. This year’s keynote speaker is James Rollins, the well-known master of magic, mayhem, and monsters.  According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge,  “Rollins found the authors of the Doc Savage series inspirational as a youth and acquired an extensive collection of the popular 1930′s and 1940′s pulp magazine stories.”

Quite frankly, I too adored Doc Savage, and discovering that another author was influenced by that wonderful, lurid, misogynistic series is quite a treat.  I’m looking forward to hearing him speak tonight.

Another person whose seminar I am looking forward to will be given by Lindsay Schopfer, author of The Beast Hunter. He will be talking on the subject of unlocking character motivation, and I am quite interested in hearing what he has to say on the subject, as he is an accomplished author, and his characters leap off the page.

The Beast Hunter, Lindsay SchopferIt’s one thing to understand the mechanics of writing, the nuts and bolts of how to put together a coherent sentence and join it together with other sentences to make paragraphs. Most writers can do that. It’s quite another thing to write paragraphs that become stories other people will want to read.  Attending writers conferences and seminars gives me insight into how successful authors whom I’ve admired over the years think, and helps me stay fired up about my own work.

I will reconnect with many local northwest authors who I’ve become friends with over the years, and of course I’ll be connecting with agents and editors from all over the country.  This is a huge opportunity for me to absorb the mojo that happens whenever writers gather to talk shop. My next blog post will cover the events and hilarity of this one.

Jake RansomLast year I did learn one important thing–even the Hilton doesn’t have a clue when it comes to providing decent vegan entrees, no matter how the conference organizers claim they will offer them. Rather than starve as I did last year, this year I am commuting from home and bringing my own sack-lunch with plenty of snacks. It’s a bit of a drive, a little over 1 hour each way, but if the dinners provided are less than adequate, I’ll survive.

Today’s lunch will be an avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich on whole-wheat. ♥  It doesn’t get any better than that!

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