Blog

Other Cool Blogs: Magic Words February 18, 2016

Time To Relax
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week’s other cool blogs postings from Magical Words returns to the incredible Tamsin Silver. (see other blog from her I commented on HERE)

This weeks blog is Hump-Day Help: Refill/Restore/Replenish.

Very timely for me in the middle of tax season. I get an hour … yes one hour … of personal computer time per day right now. The other waking hours are one hour to get ready for work and the hour once home to pack for the next days work (lunch, layout clothes, shower, and the like) and an hour to wind down – not on the computer because that will not wind me down. On the weekends I get an extra hour each day, one for groceries and one for clothes. That is pretty much my life right now outside of work. Yes, I am working seven days a week and have been since January second.

Oh, and that one hour of computer time is devoted to keeping this blog running, keeping in touch with friends, dealing with bills, and the myriad of other obligations.

Any of it writing or creativity? Not really. And I am tired. Core-center through-and-through tired.

Ms. Silver hits it spot on. Take care of yourselves. It is necessary – as a writer, as an artist, as a human. Read the Magical Words blog – again the link is here. And go rest, refill, restore and replenish.

(And to all of you out there holding down two jobs AND raising kids – you people are amazing!)

WRITING & READING EXERCISE: Do one creative thing. Something that makes you smile with accomplishment once you are done.

(Addition from 2/25/2015 – Ms. Liana Brooks has an excellent addition to this discussion at http://lianabrooks.blogspot.com/2016/02/maslow-vs-deadline.html
I love Maslow’s pyramid of needs and this makes sooo much sense for writer’s block.)

Author Spotlight: J. Matthew Saunders

Book Cover for Daughters of Shadow & Book Book I: Yasamin

Book Cover from Amazon

Author J. Matthew Saunders first full-length novel “Daughters of Shadow & Blood – Book I: Yasamin” is a delight of wordsmithing. Images of the Prologue alone are worth the price of admission to this book; Darin Kennedy of the Mussorgsky Riddle correctly describes as “Dracula meets The DaVinci Code, a contemporary thriller masterfully interwoven with historical dark fantasy.”

The weaving of four different main timelines and locations, plus a few side trips, produces a spell-binding story. Book 1: Yasamin captures the horrific beauty of the first bride of Dracula

J. Matthew Saunders lives in the greater Charlotte NC area and has published numerous published fantasy and horror short stories. He has degrees in history, journalism and law – and like most lawyers, in very elegant with his words. He is an unapologetic European history geek, which is woven throughout his first novel.

His author blog can be found at Write Wrote Written and centers on his passion of history and monsters. He put together a cool soundtrack of music related to Yasamin – link here.

Flash: The Amores

(Original picture no longer available as the blog it came from is no longer online)

Arms, warfare, violence – I was winding up to produce a                    Regular epic, with verse-form to match –
Hexameter, naturally. But Cupid (they say) with a snicker                  Lopped off one foot from each alternate line.
“Nasty young brat,” I told him, “whom made you Inspector of Metres?     We poets come under the Muses, …. – Ovid (translated by Peter Green)

****

“we’re not your mob …” The young beatnik continued urgently, never grokking when The Amores switched from high poetry to erotic love imagery.

Theodore looked at Nika. The young-looking brunette had put her hand over her mouth when the pretender had stepped up to the mike. A regular like themselves, they knew the boy never wrote his own poetry, and barely understood anyone else’s. Nika’s hand was now sideways so she could bite the fleshy part to keep from laughing. Or moaning in pain.

It would be rude to laugh. Moaning in pain would be worse.

you can’t keep your arrows idle – They’re so hot.” Emotive angry rage shot the lines into the crowd.

Coffee snorted out of Theo’s nose. Wiping his greying beard with a napkin, he hid his moving lips behind the cloth. “Can it get any worse?”

Nika left off from gnawing her hand. “I’m waiting for ‘I’m no sexual circus rider’.”

“Zeus and Mercury, that is part of the first poem, isn’t it?”

A giggle-moan of confirmation escaped Nika as she went back to biting her olive-skinned hand.

Eventually the torture, or comedy routine, depending on one’s love of poetry and toleration of youth, came to an end.

Theodore had gone earlier in the evening with one of his limericks. The earnest creative writing crew from the local college never knew how to deal with them. The short poems were always clever, requiring a deeper understanding of English which the children treasured. But the rhymes, however good they were, were still limericks, an affront to their lofty art. Since he was a best-selling author who often spoke on campus, they silently drank their coffee and clapped politely when their professor nodded permission.

The two stayed through last call at the coffee house and the final poem. Two poets continued to show promise, one from the college who somehow was not being stifled by the esteemed professor, and a high schooler who was out way too late on a school night.

Poetry readings were Tuesday. The coffee house had various musicians come in over the weekend. The guitarist on Sunday was the best of that mediocre lot. Nika didn’t have a vested interest in them, so they rarely attended the performances.

Tossing a fifty onto the table to cover drinks and an inflated tip for the hard working waitress who would get nothing from the students, the two left.

“I think I should underwrite a book for Sindee and one for Hampus too.” Theodore commented as they walked hand-in-hand through the quiet parking lot to their truck.

Nika considered, her wide hips swaying to brush Theodore’s long legs. They had the money to spare. “Hampus, definitely, needs to be removed from the cutting machine before his creativity is crushed. … Sindee, hmmm, she’s local. I may be able to inspire her directly.”

Startled, Theo pointed out. “She is still a little young for that in this culture.”

“It’s no always about sex. … Although the child is a dark desire to drink.”

Theo leaned against his truck. He ran a finger across his lover’s lips.

Nika opened her mouth to let the finger enter. Closing her plump lips, she swirled her tongue around the finger. Theo slowly slipped the finger out, hissing as Nika lightly closed her teeth around the end just before he pulled out completely.

Groaning, Theo slipped his hands into the back pockets of Nika’s jeans and grounded his arousal into his personal inspiration. “But it is about sex between us at least, my love.”

“Always, my favorite wordshaper.”

Theodore drowned Nika in a kiss, before the female pulled away to whisper the closing lines of The Amores, Book 1 properly. Theodore knew it was coming. The Muse had to heal the affront to the poem she had nurtured in Ovid.

ergo etiam cum me supremus adederit ignis, vivam, parsque mei multa superstes erig.” The words steamed between them, promising Theo an immortality unique among the mortals the Muses chose.

So when the final flames have devoured my body, I shall survive, and my better part live on.”

(words 742 – Published as part of the Breathless Press Sunday Fun and on my blog on 9/17/2013; Republished 2/14/2016)

Passages of The Amores, Book 1 come from Ovid,the Erotic Poems: The Amores, The Art of Love, Cures for Love, On FacialTreatment for Ladies, translated with an introduction and notes by Peter Green. Published by Penguin Books in 1982. A copy can be purchased at Amazon, but clicking on book description.

Latin version from http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/ovid/ovid.amor1.shtml.

Editing Rant: Beginnings

Determining the proper place to start the story...

Image acquired without permission from Castlegate Press 2014 posting

The image above is from a post by Suzanne Hartmann, one of the co-founders of Castlegate Press, for a July 6, 2014 posting entitiled “Where Does the Story Start?”.

Starting a Story

One of the toughest parts of writing is figuring where your story starts. When initially writing, just write it out because often you don’t know where the story will start until you know where it ends and what happens inbetween.

Then come back to the beginning. The common agreement in 2016 is the story should start when the main character’s life begins to change. That rarely is when they are waking up or walking through a door – usually it is something like “The front door no longer had a doornob.” …

Some famous opening lines include:

Lord of the Rings “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

Pride and Prejudice “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

The Stranger ” Mother died today.”

Metamorphosis “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

***

So a romance book I was editing started with three pages of exposition, describing the hero of the romance (the Point-of-View (POV)/narrator) leaving home, finding an apartment, finding a roomie, job hunting, and interviewing. Eventually we reach the point of the hero meeting his two possible love interests on a bus.

While his life was undergoing massive changes from the moment he left home until he got on the bus and met the love interests, none of that had anything to do with the plot. It was background. The job hunting, which took an entire page, ended with “I sat down, and he hired me.” (Actually it was “I sat down, and hired me” … but that is a different editing rant entirely.) The job is never mentioned again. The roomie is mentioned once, as a ride to the party and could have easily been included at the time of getting the ride. In fact two pages are dedicated to it when the ride is given because the roomie took his time getting ready. The parents are never mentioned except to leave home.

Half of the first chapter, close to 2,000 words, needed to be chopped. Nothing in those pages had ANY impact on the plot, romance, or character development. Maybe the job interview could have shown something about the hero’s character, but it was only “I sat down, and he hired me.” after the page of dead-end job hunting. At only 20,000 words this chop was a huge hit to the manuscript. (The first 10% of the length – this percentage is important so keep it in mind as we continue.)

And the manuscript should have never gotten to me in that form. One of content editing’s job is to define where the story starts, not line editing. All of that should have been decided long before it hit my desk. I should note this book was PREVIOUSLY self-published and I was reading it in relation to a reprint. So this story was already out there in the sales world and the author was wondering why he was getting no sales when he contacted me.

The reason? The romance story did not start with the romance, but a long backstory reading like a coming-of-age story – readers reviewing the 10% sample on Amazon received a false impression. Chuck the first part of the manuscript and have the beginning of the romance at the beginning of the story and suddenly readers know they have an interesting story with two possible love interests. Who is our hero going to end up with and is the romance going to break the friendship between the women? Much more interesting than a dead-end apartment with a dead-end job after leaving home and taking a couple of classes at the community college to get ahead.

Remember the start of the story is what most readers are seeing when trying to decide to put out their hard-earned money. Start the story when life gets interesting for the character.

A couple genre examples: For quest fantasy, start with why the character is willing to go on a quest. For military sci-fi, why the character is going to join the military. What had made the character’s life go off the rails so they are open to change?

Well, that is the editing rant about beginnings.

WRITING EXERCISE: For your work in-progress (WIP), review and see if the book would feel different if you add another chapter in front adding the day before to your story – then see what would happen if you just eliminate the first chapter. How would these changes impact your story?

READING EXERCISE: Have you ever read a book which seemed to start in the wrong place and you felt the first chapter or two were fillers? How about a book where you struggled through the first chapter not sure what is happening because not enough information was given i.e. the story started too late and you didn’t get time to be introduced to the changes?