Monday, May 20, 2013
In my current WIP I ran into a snag. My ideal reader warned me, “You have to get away from Aaron’s overwhelming POV.”
My main character is self-judgmental. I needed a tempering agent. What were his character flaws, his weaknesses, and whom did he go to for support to share his thoughts even if they were wrong. Who might he respect, even envy?
Hard to believe in rural Georgia in 1963 with the Civil Rights movement just starting to be felt in this southern saga, Aaron’s best friend from childhood is a black boy named Skillet. With him he finds a place to rest his weary, over adult cautions and just be the seven year-old boy he starts out to be when the book opens in 1958.
The boys’ family portraits are reversed. Aaron comes from a fractured family. Skillet has a happy, functional two-parent home. His family is surviving together despite the winds of change that came late to buffet the South.
Aaron slipped through the hedge to the old depot entrance and sat down, making himself as small as possible.
Skillet circled the building until he found him. “Wondered how you were doin’ since you got back, Aaron?”
“I couldn’t get away any sooner, Gram watches me.”
“We got a phone now. I’ll give you the number.”
“That would be great.”
“You looked messed-with; what happened this time, another crisis? I thought you couldn’t wait to get back in the States.”
“Skillet, I’ve got grandparents—”
“Ah know…what about ‘em?”
“Remember the ones that were dead?”
“No way! They ain’t dead?”
“Dead to us, Mom says.”
Skillet shook his head. “That’s one messed up family you got, Aaron.”
“Tell me about it. I talked to them, the Frasers, on the phone. They’re real, Daddy’s folks. They live in Florida.”
“Guess they’re real old?”
“Daddy’s over forty, he’s old, too.”
“What’s gonna happen?”
“Nuthin’ I guess. You know Mom and Gram, nothing happens in their world they don’t want to happen.”
Skillet nodded. “Then that’s the way of it. Sometimes I’m glad I’m black.”
“Yeah, sometimes I wish I was you. Your life is so…so simple.”
“Don’t ever say that, man. My family is simple, but my life is very different. You’s lucky you white. You just gotta figure out how to take advantage of that.”
“Sorry they messed with your head again.”
“Thanks. I’ll call you, and let you know if anything comes of it. Mama was awful mad; I thought she was gonna stroke out. And Gram…she was speechless.”
Skillet chuckled. “That’ll be the day.”
They got to their feet and left separately. Aaron stuffed the phone number in his jeans.
It fell to Skillet to introduce Aaron’s story and be the omniscient unseen voice of the novel. Yet, Skillet would leave the small southern town and not return until nearly the end of their story. So who will show us what Aaron is developing into? It had to be Aaron. Skillet frames the story and is present through Aaron’s difficult times in high school. Skillet can’t see what happens to Aaron when they are apart, but it is his voice that guides the observation with his more compassionate judgment of our hero’s journey taking over for Aaron until he mellows. Skillet is the voice pleading with Aaron to lighten up, and “…let go and let God.”
Julie Eberhart Painter, is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee and the sequel, Medium Rare. Daughters of the Sea, new this year is a paranormal from http://www.MuseItUp Publishing.com
Visit Julie’s Web site at www.books-jepainter.com
Sunday, May 19, 2013
What a whirlwind the last six weeks have been, since the release of An Alien’s Guide to World Domination on April 1. Two release parties with readings, with over 130 people attending; interviews on book review web sites and fellow author blogs; and all the questions from wonderful friends-and-family-readers: “Is Jack really so-and-so?” “I know who Sergio is! Am I right?” “I remember when you and I were at that meeting – that’s the one you wrote about in Chapter 6, isn’t it?”
It’s all fiction, I remind them, and revel in the fact that people are reading this story.
Now it’s time to get re-acquainted with writing. I will attend two writers’ conferences, one this weekend and one in July, and I need to have another manuscript ready to “pitch.” That means I need to re-read, and re-write.
I decided to work on my first attempt at a tale for young people, using the work I did in last November’s National Novel Writing Month as the foundation. So this week I pulled the manuscript for The Law of Immediate Forgiveness out of the dusty file drawer (or the digital equivalent thereof) where it’s rested since December 1. And started reading it again.
And I met up (again) with main character Amy June Pilgrim, the eleven and a half year old girl who longs to prove she’s no longer a little kid, and to experience a real adventure. She does both. I met up (again) with her Grandpa Marq, who is the leader of a team of misfit math and computer geeks on the verge of finishing the formula for the Law of Immediate Forgiveness, which will free the world of war, strife, violence, and suffering. I met up (again) with Professor Fogarty, who might be helping them or might be trying to stop them at any cost. And of course with Licky, the black Labrador whose ability to fart helps Amy June escape her kidnapper and reunite with her family.
How much fun, to become reacquainted with all these interesting, silly, brave, and sometimes scary characters, and to re-read their tale, and to make it ready to find other readers who will love them as much as I do, I hope. It's one of the great joys of writing, isn't it?
Saturday, May 18, 2013
The studies and statistics are out there proving Americans are reading less. Just take a look at Lynn Neary’s November 19, 2007 program on NPR “Reading Study Shows a Remarkable Decline in US.” Don't think think have improved. Are our children more interested in video games than a reading a story? Really? All the time? Why?? I know I've preached this topic here before, and that I am preaching to the choir, but this is so important we all need to spread the word.
Illiteracy has plagued our society for ever. A certain percentage of the population's doesn't speak English at home, so few read in English. Another percentage is so put off by reading that, although functionally literate, they never read other than the required minimum once they graduate high school; and our high school graduations rates are what? I can assure you far from 100%. (good news – bad news from Reuters, 2013) A certain percentage of adults have poor reading skills due to inadequate education or undiagnosed reading problems such as dyslexia – STILL, even though these problems have been known for decades.
As a parent and a grandparent, I know the blame cannot be placed solely on the schools, although right now the public schools' funding, where most of our disadvantaged students dwell, is under insidious attack. Parents are the bulwark, the instigators, and promoters of reading for both pleasure and knowledge in our children. If we set the example, our children will follow.
I watched a program recently where moms and dads complained they couldn’t get their children to stay in bed and sleep. While not a confirmed cure, I thought: grab a book and lay in bed reading to those tots. Show them your enjoy the experience. Reading can be calming and cathartic while still engaging. One of my fondest memories is my dad reading a book to my mom and me in our living room over a weekend – during broad daylight! It was quiet except for his voice. We shared a story, laughter at some scenes, and time together – and I was fifteen!
If we want another generation to read our books we must encourage readers, i.e. market growth, in every way possible. Reading stimulates the brain, increases intellect, and takes us out of ourselves. If you give a child a present – make it a book. For hints check out this article 20 Ways Parents Can Encourage Reading.
From Champagne Books
Friday, May 17, 2013
Michael W. Davis
What is it that makes us choke? I don’t mean like we swallowed a bone. I’m referring to the strange reaction that most struggle with when their heart strings are drawn tight. Could be the birth of a child, watching someone suffer through cancer, any of a dozen events we experience in our life that causes an invisible fist to reach down and squeeze off our air supply. The really weird thing is the reaction occurs not just with those we are connected to, but even strangers. How many have watched on TV when a father returns from overseas and surprises their child. Don’t know about you but that one especially rips my resistance apart.
Does it surprise ya that macho non metro guys would tear up, be moved beyond words. Here’s a shocker for ya. In private, away from curious eyes, I’ve had adult male buds choke when they talk about their deceased wife, a loss grandchild, even when they discovered their mate had violated their vows. Men do have emotions; we just erect walls, compartments to drive the outer expression away. That is, until we hit the big 5 by 5. Our testosterone sinks so far into the pits we no longer have the unfaltering foundation to hold back. Makes it rough, down right painful to suddenly release sentiments you were able to tank up your entire life. We don’t like it, we hate it, just have to live with it. Gets so bad, lot of guys flip the channel when a story comes on dealing with kids going through turmoil. That’s the worst for me. Dealing with a suffering child.
What I can’t figure is why our species has evolved that characteristic. Must be correlated to some purpose for survival. Or, maybe the real big guy upstairs tried to do us a favor, provide a reminder to what our time here is really all about; each other. Sad so many allow themselves to get wrapped in hate, in the the anger of progressive politics, the 99% demonization of the 1%. Oh well, perhaps some day they’ll simply wake up, right? Probably not.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I’m deep in revisions right now, for a book I didn’t expect to write until this fall. I pitched the idea to my agent, who loved it, and wanted to see something immediately. I took two weeks to put together a detailed proposal, including the first three chapters, and the outline. She loved it -- and needed the full manuscript within a couple of months (not in the fall, as originally planned) in order to take it with her to an event where she could sell it -- and possibly the whole series.
I was in the middle of directing a mission-specific play I wrote, a comic mystery, to benefit the National Marine Life Center.
I had to do it anyway.
The play took center stage (in every sense of the word), while I worked slowly (but daily) on the book. As soon as the play was done, I ramped up the writing to do at least one, often two, chapters per day.
I prefer to put away the first draft of a novel for two months before I start revisions, so I can approach it with fresh eyes, as though someone else wrote it.
In this case, I had three days.
In those three days, to clear my creative palate, I worked intensely on another project. When I came back to this one, I’d achieved separation. I could read it objectively. I could tear apart what didn’t work, strengthen subplots, layer in sensory description and red herrings, change the ending to make it more pro-active and satisfying for my heroine.
I did my ever-loving multi-colored draft, where I use three different colored highlighters to mark each use of passive, adverb, and qualifier. My over-use of qualifiers appalls me, and the most over-used word in this draft are “lovely” and “vaguely.” If they didn’t glare at me in color, I might not have changed enough of them. I tightened language, I realized I put too much emphasis on something that isn’t important to the story (although it will come up again later in the series). I still wonder if I should rewrite the whole thing again in the first person instead of the third. I’m putting together a packet of unique extras, to take interested readers deeper into some of the material.
It goes out tomorrow.
Will it find a home? Who knows? It’s always a crap shoot. If that group of potential markets doesn’t work out, I’ve got a suggested list beyond it. It WILL find the right home.
But the opportunity was there. I had to try. If I’d made excuses about “not having time”, I would have lost the opportunity and regretted it. Not only was I able to work more quickly than I usually do (my usual pace is 1000-1500 words/day -- this book required 2500+ on most days), I was able to achieve and maintain a quality in which I feel confident. WHILE juggling my freelance work to pay the bills. There were nights I was so tired and sore, I could barely see. I worked through stomach issues, migraines, work commitments, family needs, garden demands. I shut up and did the work.
I feel good about the book. I feel good about the potential of the series. I look forward to working with a strong editor who’s excited about it and brings fresh eyes and ideas to it.
I rose to the challenge, even though I wasn’t sure I could. I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t whine -- much -- and then, only to a specific circle.
I put my head down, butt in chair, and did the work.
I am a stronger writer, on many fronts, for it.
--Annabel Aidan is a full-time writer publishing under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. Her paranormal romantic suspense novel for Champagne is ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, combining witchcraft, theatre, and politics. Website:
Posted by Annabel Aidan at 7:19 AM
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
We’ve all heard it before.
Thank you for your query, but we will have to pass on your project. “
“Dear Ms. Lokos,
Thank you for considering [So and So] publishing. Your story sounds interesting but we feel that it wouldn't be a good fit for our publishing audience.”
“Thank you for submitting to [Such and Such]. We have reviewed your piece and unfortunately we are unable to use your work… Please submit again in the future.”
We all know the feeling. We spend weeks or months—years, even—polishing our pieces to perfection. We agonize over where to submit before finally sending them off. And then we wait.
And we wait
And we wait some more.
And then, finally, the letter comes. And we stand there and we hold it—and our breath—and we pray really, really hard. Then, we rip it open. Our eyes devour the words. And we find we’ve been rejected. Again.
More often than any of us would like, being a writer means being rejected. Just a couple months ago, I was engaged in the publishing battle. I had submitted to over thirty publishers, and I had been rejected over thirty times.
One day, after one particularly discouraging letter, I asked my mom if she thought the rejection letters would ever stop coming. She thought a moment, and chuckled, and said, “When you stop submitting, you won’t be rejected anymore.”
While this was true, it wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I wanted to be published; I had wanted to be a writer since I was five years old. So, my parents encouraged me to hang in there and wait for the day when the rejection letters ceased.
Then, on March 27, 2013, I got my first letter of acceptance. It was from Champagne Book Group; they wanted to publish my novel, tentatively titled “Labyrinth of Lies.” It's a smallish novel of historical fiction with a bit of romance and conspiracy theory thrown in for flavor--nothing huge. Still, I won’t ever forget that moment. I started to read the email, holding my breath as I anticipated the “Thank you, but’s” all over again. But this time, they didn’t come. This time, it was a contract offer. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I literally ran out of the college library in which I had been studying and called my mom to let her know that I wasn’t rejected anymore.
Rejection is discouraging, and sometimes, it can be tempting to just stop submitting. True, if we don’t submit, we won’t be rejected anymore, but we won’t ever be accepted either. Getting published can be a heck of a fight, but it is a good fight, and it will be worth it. There is hope. I was nearing the verge of despair, but now my book is slotted for release December 2, 2013. So take heart. The rejection rate may be high, and there is a veritable ocean of failed attempts. Yet, we cannot forget that there are success stories also. We cannot forget why we write. We write because we love it, because we love the way it feels as words form in our minds, fill our hearts till bursting, then course through our veins, spill out our fingers, and splatter all over the page. We love it, and therefore, we cannot stop. So we will brace ourselves and face the rejection letters, and know that one day they will end.
Hannah Lokos was an unusual child. She has been writing since she was five. At fourteen, she wrote her first novel. At seventeen, she interned as a ghost writer. At eighteen, she won Scholastic’s Art and Writing Award. She has recently received her very first book contract.
Follow her on Twitter, https://twitter.com/hannahlokos, or like her on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hannah-Lokos/358739397569904. Her official website is still under works, but feel free to shoot her an email at email@example.com. Seriously, she would love to hear from you.
Monday, May 13, 2013
I recently completed a month of boot camp at the local gym. It was HARD! It's actually the second hardest gym class I've ever done, but because it was three times a week rather than one, it deserves the title of "hardest class ever."
I'm not the most fit guy. I'm kinda skinny, with a few spare bicycle tires around the middle (not a full spare tire -- a little smaller). But I don't do manly sports. I don't do gyms. I don't do burpees.
People know this about me and so they sometimes ask why I do something so hard. I describe the workouts and how I couldn't do them all, and they sometimes ask why I don't switch to a class I can handle.
Years ago, out of the blue, I decided I wanted to take a kickboxing class. I had spent four years as a couch potato, so to go from that to kickboxing had people wondering if (a) I was out of my mind, or, (b) if someone was threatening me. I wanted to do it because I thought it was fun. I couldn't do everything in the class, though, and I was sore all week until the next class.
So why do something I can't fully do?
What I've learned is that those physical limits my body has are really psychological. When I think I can't push any further, my instructor shouts at me and suddenly I'm pushing harder. When I'm ready to give up, my instructor challenges to me to go just a little longer, and I do it.
I do the extreme classes because I've found I love pushing my limits. I love reaching the edges of what I think I'm capable of and then pushing just a little further. It's when I'm in that uncertain territory, beyond my comfort zone, pushing with all my might, that I find what I'm truly capable of. It's there that I learn how strong I am.
So, as of writing this, I'm in the midst of setting up a meeting with a trainer at the gym to figure out if the next step for me should be another month of boot camp or a month of once-weekly personal training. I want to challenge myself and venture further into that unknown zone.
That unknown zone is where true transformation occurs.
As I was walking home from my last boot camp class, I got to thinking about how this physical journey (filled with those never-ending gawdawful burpees) is a metaphor for writing.
As writers, we all believe we have limitations. We admire other writers and wish we could write like them, knowing we will never be able to.
That's all false. Those are psychological barriers that have no basis in reality. If you push past those barriers, if you enter that zone of uncertainty and transformation, then you'll find that's where your true creative energy lies. You will immerse yourself in possibilities and potentials.
If people tell you that you can't do it, that you will never measure up -- don't listen to them! Find that person that will tell you to push harder, dig deeper, and write stronger. With the right motivation, internal or external, you can enter realms you never thought possible and take journeys you never imagined.
Like with the gym, it will hurt and it will be painful -- thankfully, there are no burpees -- but it will reward you. You will grow, you will discover, and you will learn that there are no limits to your creative potential.
Cameron D James is a writer of m/m erotic romance. His first eBook, Autumn Fire, will be published by Carnal Passions in July.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Do you have a theme that runs through your writing? I didn’t think I had. Recently I explained my four books, two published and two about to be, to a writing group. To my surprise, I found I was describing a thematic thread common to all. Prior to these four, I had written five other books that did not work to my satisfaction. They never made it to the query process because I never felt they were whole, nothing describable, just not right. It seems, once a theme appeared in my writing, I was able to complete the stories successfully.
I wrote The Prince of Keegan Bay (Champagne Books) on a whim, for NANOWRIMO. When you write a novel in a month, you do not spend a lot of time working on themes, plot or character development. You write the story in your head as it spews out day after unedited day. In the end, I found I liked my characters, the plot, the setting and so I spent three months editing it and sent it off to a competition where it won a first prize for humor. I call it a humorous thriller.
The theme in the book is about a young widow who sacrifices herself in order to save her baby’s life. The baby is threatened with death before it reaches six months old because it is a crown prince of a Middle Eastern country. A group of senior citizens help protect the baby from the terrorists. The baby is the focal point of the story. In this case, his loving mother is willing to accept death in order to save him. Fortunately, the story does not end that way.
The next accepted book, Elena – the Girl with the Piano (Double Edge Press) features a young girl who, with her family walks through the front lines of Leningrad during WWII into the arms of the Germans. Elena’s mother, a former nursery school teacher in the Soviet Union, resents her responsibilities for Elena. During their good years, grandparents and a housekeeper took care of the girl. Once the stress of dealing with the enemy takes hold, Elena’s mother turns on her. Elena is left to survive by her own devices.
Then I wrote The Reluctant Daughters (Double Edge Press – to be released August 2013) where I wove together three generations of women and complications with parenthood. The protagonist, Elizabeth Ackert is raped and gives birth to a daughter. Her father, being wealthy, arranges for her to travel to Europe. She marries an invalid who is happy to have her as a wife and accept her daughter. Unfortunately, he dies leaving Elizabeth with an unwanted child. She sends the girl off to boarding schools in Switzerland. The daughter, Mary Ellen, also is a survivor who marries young, has two daughters, Barbara and Lillian, by two different men and winds up in opium dens instead of caring for her girls. Grandmother Elizabeth, now the head of a lumber empire in the age of railroads, takes on the care of the two young girls. Because of her own daughter’s lack of discipline, Barbara and Lillian live a Spartan life until Barbara realizes her grandmother is ill and goes in search of their mother. There are many plot twists and turns in this one. Grandmother starts the action by deciding to destroy the man who fathered Mary Ellen, a man who is running for president in 1900.
The current work is Silent Autumn, a futuristic story set in 2179, when the population in the former United States is down to ten percent of its 2079 levels. A young woman, Taylor, overhears two leaders planning to remove the leader of the Western Territories and is caught, then rescued by Max, one of the president’s security guards. As the two of them travel toward the west in order to warn their leader, they come across a group of people in the western Pennsylvania mountains. A girl has an infant, unwanted by the community, which she palms off onto Taylor and Max, swearing them to care for the baby. She then commits suicide. Unfamiliar with any form of childcare, the couple take the baby with them on their journey. Taylor becomes close to the infant, learning to care for it and recognizing all that was stolen from her when she, following government doctrine, gave birth to two children in her teens. The two children, like all children in The North, were conceived through artificial insemination and taken from her immediately following birth. All children are raised in nurseries and schools to ensure they are well cared for, protected and educated without undue influence of parents. The more attached Taylor becomes to Acorn, the less she wants to risk her life to save unknown people in The Western Territories. Max begins to share her feelings.
These stories surprised me when I recognized the theme—the mother-daughter relationship in many guises. On further thought, I realize that I am still working on unresolved issues with my own mother. She gave birth to me, not wanting a second child. She abandoned me in the hospital, but was forced by her family to take me home, refusing to name me because she hoped I would die. My aunt and my father named me. Thereafter followed a life of constant humiliation, rebuke and abuse. I survived and had my own three daughters and then inherited three more when I married for the second time. When Mother’s Day comes around, I am a little surprised but always glow with pleasure when they send cards and gifts. While I still cannot remember what it feels like to be a loved and cherished child, I know that I managed to provide those feelings to my girls, each of whom I adore. Somehow I had expressed these conflicting emotions in varied stories.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and daughters out there.
Veronica Helen Hart (Ronnie) is a member of Sisters in Crime, The Florida Writers Association (Board of Directors and Regional Director), and The Ormond Writers League. She has participated in NANOWRIMO regularly since 2003, but The Prince of Keegan Bay (2008) was the first book she believed capable of being published. Web page: www.veronicahhart.com (remember to put the extra h in the middle.)
Posted by Veronica Helen Hart at 1:00 AM