Writing

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Open House Interview with author Audrey Driscoll

I had the chance to participate in Sally Cronin’s Open House today. She provided some interesting questions, and hopefully my answers are interesting as well.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

My guest today on the Open House is supernatural/paranormal author of The Herbert West Series, Audrey Driscoll.

About Audrey Driscoll

I grew up reading books, and became interested in making stories myself. I worked out scenes and bits of dialogue, and made my friends act out little dramas based on my favourite book at the time – Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

With that background, it was inevitable I would become a writer. It just took a while. After establishing a career as a librarian – first at the University of Saskatchewan and then at the Greater Victoria Public Library in British Columbia – I had a meaningful encounter with H.P. Lovecraft’s character Herbert West.

Strangely fascinated by HPL’s corpse-reanimating physician and his friend the nameless narrator, I built a set of stories around them. In 2000, I was compelled to write them down. The result was The Friendship of Mortals…

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The Willful Character And The Act of Writing

 

I read comments by writers all the time saying their characters take over and start driving the plot of the story. With my current work in progress, I’ve become quite the plotter, making detailed outlines for each section of the work before I start writing. So imagine my surprise when the pen in my hand started writing a scene that was definitely not in the outline! What’s more, it was an unplanned sex scene.

Once it was written, I had to admit that scene actually worked, but the whole thing got me thinking about the willful character. Maybe it’s a form of “automatic writing,” not in the supernatural sense, but the result of tapping into subconscious impulses while in a state of receptiveness induced by the act of writing. (Hey, that’s not bad, considering I made it up on the spot).

The best fictional characters are like real people, complete with flaws, quirks and contradictory impulses. Some writers develop their characters before they actually start writing the novel. Physical features, musical and food preferences, hobbies, education — a complete curriculum vitae. I’m not that kind of writer. I have a hazy vision of my primary characters, that becomes clearer as I write. There seems to be a department in my brain called Character Development, that trots out details about each major character when needed. Sometimes it throws me a surprise.

One of the best parts of the writing process is when this automatic thing kicks in and the words pour out effortlessly. Sometimes it feels as though I’m just copying stuff dictated to me by a disembodied brain. It’s probably my brain. Or some kind of collective unconscious, a well of ideas available to all who yield themselves to the writing urge. That’s where our characters come from, finding their way in response to tentative images in our writing brains.

Characters manifest their characteristics, prompting a kind of negotiation with the author. “Okay, that’s fine — you can do this, but not that. And definitely not the other thing.” But cut them some slack. Willful characters aren’t a problem, but a sign that the writer’s imagination is engaged beyond the scope of the outline, tapping into a realm of mystery. And that’s good.

Sitting down to write, giving yourself up to whatever you are creating, is like going down an unexplored trail. You just don’t know what you might meet around the corner, even if you have a map. Whether you outline your plot in detail before you start, or write by the seat of your pants, you must be prepared for the unexpected.

SWCF manuscript and notesThe first stage of creating a work of fiction — the first draft — isn’t the place to worry about rules, or getting every detail right. At this stage, the writer’s imagination needs to be cranking out stuff, producing raw material to be refined later. That’s why I still write my first drafts — or maybe they’re better called “proto-drafts” — in longhand. Actually, “longhand” seems too fancy a term for my cursive scribble on the borderline of legibility.

The thing is, at this stage you don’t want to read over what you’ve written and polish it. You want to forge ahead, beating out the rough shape of your story, bumps, holes and all. Don’t look back! For me, stark black words on the bright white screen are just too intimidating. I really doubt I would have written that sudden sex scene if I’d been using my laptop. But I scribbled it down, and when I typed it up a few days later, the critical, analytical part of my brain said, “Well, okaaay, I guess it works.”

As for my work in progress — the first draft is almost done! Another 5,000 words or so, and I can write Finis.

And then, of course, I go back to the beginning. The crazy, creative part of my brain will take a back seat, and the critical, analytical part will get to to do its thing.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

 

The Disappointed Housewife is LIVE!

The Disappointed Housewife has made the scene and is seeking the quirky and off-beat. Might be you!

WHAT THE HELL

The Disappointed Housewife is alive and well and living in a newly disclosed location: thedisappointedhousewife.com.

First of all, please navigate to the site and immediately follow. We need to build a readership in a hurry so that all the terrific, intrepid writers can get plenty of eyeballs on their work.

While you’re there, poke around, read the Editor’s Note, the mission statement, and the submission guidelines. Then sample some of the pieces I’ve gathered for the launch. There’s already some fiction, a number of poems, a couple of essays, and a graphic piece. I already have more things lined up for later in the week too.

You can browse the site by scrolling down the main page. Everything is there. But you can also use the navigation bar on the right to select one of the categories: Fiction, Essays, Poetry, and Faux Forms & Genres. Later the site will…

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Get Set for THE Adventure Writing Contest

This contest looked exciting back in November, and now that the details have been worked out, it’s even more so! And I seem to remember saying “I’m in” back then, so I’d better fire up the old imagination engine.

Fiction by Rachael Ritchey

Hey, hey, hey!!!

It’s time to prepare for the Adventure Scifi and Fantasy Contest coming at the end of February!

I’ve got all the official rules and stuff for you here today, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Entries for this Short Story Contest don’t actually open until February 26th, 2018, so you’ve got time to prepare…or procrastinate. Whichever style you prefer.

If you missed my query back in November, I put out feelers to see who’d be interested in joining a writing contest using a book cover design I made as inspiration.

My simple dream for this contest goes something like this:

A bunch of talented, inspired writers take a stab at this FREE contest to win some prizes and have their short stories included in an anthology where the proceeds from sales will be donated to a charity. In this case, I’ve chosen Compassion International.

The Basics

Write…

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Electric Eclectic

Guest Post: An Alternative to Free Ebooks

Just before Christmas, I read this post on Paul White’s blog. As you can see, it sparked some fairly diverse comments. In fact, I was so busy formulating my comment, I didn’t read the end of the post as thoroughly as it warranted.

Paul’s solution to the give-books-away-for-free marketing strategy deplored by the rest of his post is called Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

At this point, I’ll turn it over to Paul…

*~*~*

To quote that wonderful philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, “The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I was looking for a great book to read.

I finished reading the last book by my favourite author. It would be another year, maybe two, before his next book became available. This meant I needed to search for another book to read. I was even willing to stray from my usual genre to find an excellent read.

Easier said than done.

You would think, with over 45 million books on Amazon alone, finding a story to enjoy, a book you can immerse yourself in totally, would be a pretty easy thing.

But no, it is not.

You could look through the thousands of free books on offer. But… much of the time there are reasons books are offered for free, or heavily discounted, by their authors… and not all those reasons are good.

There is the uncertain quality and content of many of the full priced eBooks. Anyway, do you really want to commit spending your hard-earned cash to buy something you do not enjoy reading, or find the writer’s style is not to your taste?

It all makes choosing a ‘new to me’ author or selecting a book from a different genre a bit of a lottery.

That’s when I thought there must be a better way.

I asked myself, “HOW CAN YOU MAKE CERTAIN A BOOK YOU BUY WILL BE ONE YOU ENJOY?”

Electric EclecticThat’s when I had my eureka moment.

The result is Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

‘Electric’ because they are ebooks– digital, electric.

‘Eclectic’ for the various styles, genres and authors who write them.

And ‘Novelettes‘ to tell readers they are short, sample books, introducing readers to new authors and new genres.

Electric Eclectic (EE) books are written by various authors under the EE brand as introductory, sample works of each author’s writing style and narrative forms.

Each EE book is a short work of between 6k and 20k words.

A standardised price of just 1.00 (dollar/pound/euro) for each novelette, allows people searching for new reads to get to know our EE authors’ styles and narrative types before committing to purchase their full-length books and novels.

Offering these short works also lets people read examples of genres they may not have previously considered.

Electric Eclectic books are written by some of the best indie authors in the world. Each Electric Eclectic Novelette delivers wonderful and entertaining storytelling to a high standard.

All Electric Eclectic Novelettes undergo stringent assessment, ensuring the storytelling is of high quality, dismissing concerns generally associated with low cost or free eBooks. People searching for their ‘next favourite read’ can rest assured in the knowledge that Electric Eclectic Novelettes have undergone a rigorous selection process, ensuring the stories meet exacting standards.

This means you do not need to read through a bunch of substandard books, or spend money on a random book hoping you will enjoy its content. Say goodbye to ‘dodgy’, inferior writes.

Once you have found the right style of stories, the ones you love, you will have found your next favourite author and can start to work your way through their full-length books and novels knowing you thoroughly enjoy their writing.

Download a handful of Electric Eclectic Novelettes and give yourself a literary treat!

Electric Eclectic Novelettes are easy to find.

The first way is to visit the Electric Eclectic website where all the Novelettes are shown, along with author insights and links to their personal books and pages.

The second is to go to Amazon books and type ‘Electric Eclectic books’ into the search bar. (In the USA you will need the Amazon.com Kindle search page.)

Alternatively, if you are on Amazon.co.uk you can follow this link: http://amzn.to/2BnYe7u

Website link: https://goo.gl/q2zwTS  (This site is available to view, but not fully functional or edited. Estimated date of completion Mid-January 2018)

Email: EEbookbranding@mail.com

Coming soon!

Here is a new outlet for creative impulses of the quirky kind. Have a look at Kevin’s suggestions to get inspired.

WHAT THE HELL

The Disappointed Housewife is approaching!

I’ve received a number of fun pieces the last few weeks, and though I’m still keeping the pre-launch submission window open, the big day will be January 15. Mark your calendars.

I hope all my readers here at What The Hell will quickly follow the new lit mag and start spreading the word. But I’m also eager to see new submissions coming in so I can build up a nice catalog of material for readers. I’ll be posting open submission calls at a variety of places, hoping to find a lot of writers willing to try new things. Of course, I’ll always give readers of this blog a fair shot at publication because loyalty deserves reward. If you have something you think would fit in at TDH, send it on over. Or read the pieces that I’ve already assembled to get a feel for…

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thinking, contemplation, statue

Unspoken Thoughts And The Inner Voice

Readers and writers, I need advice!

What’s the best way to represent unspoken thoughts in first person, past tense?

My work in progress contains unvoiced thoughts and interior monologue, as the first person narrator shares her private thoughts with the reader and holds debates with herself.

Like dialogue, the narrator’s uncensored, unvoiced thoughts must be in present tense. The problem is that readers may perceive them as random departures from the prevailing past tense, i.e., as mistakes.

Which leads to these two questions:

a) Are unvoiced thoughts confusing or distracting for the reader, and therefore best avoided?

b) What’s the best way to tell the reader This Is An Unvoiced Thought?

Three possibilities:

  1. Incorporate the statements of the Inner Voice into the past tense narrative, with the tag “I thought” as the signal (same as the “I said” tag in spoken dialogue).
  2. Put the unvoiced thoughts in italics, in present tense.
  3. Unvoiced thoughts in present tense, but without italics or any other signal.

EXAMPLES:

She clattered downstairs, all gussied up for her big night out.

“What do you think?” She twirled around, the short pink satin number revealing her thighs.

“You’ll wow ’em, for sure.” Too short, too tight, too shiny, I thought.

“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”

“You look great!” Only like a sausage about to burst its casing, I thought.

The door closed behind her. Why am I so judgmental? I wondered, turning back to my crossword.

OR

She clattered downstairs, all gussied up for her big night out.

“What do you think?” She twirled around, the short pink satin number revealing her thighs.

“You’ll wow ’em, for sure.” Too short, too tight, too shiny.

“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”

“No, of course not!”  Only like a sausage about to burst its casing.

The door closed behind her. Why am I so judgmental? I turned back to my crossword.

OR

She clattered downstairs, all gussied up for her big night out.

“What do you think?” She twirled around, the short pink satin number revealing her thighs.

“You’ll wow ’em, for sure.” Too short, too tight, too shiny.

“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”

“No, of course not!” Only like a sausage about to burst its casing.

The door closed behind her. Why am I so judgmental? I turned back to my crossword.

OR?

My thoughts on this: I don’t like the first technique, of adding “I thought” and similar phrases. It works if the unvoiced thoughts are brief and few. It’s awkward if the thoughts are longer than a single sentence, or are frequent enough that a phrase other than “I thought” becomes necessary. “I thought” is more obtrusive than “I said,” and becomes irritating with repetition.

I favour using italics to designate any thought that’s not spoken aloud (#2 above). But I’ve heard that italics can be confusing or irritating.

A fairly extensive treatment of this matter, mainly with regard to third person narrative, however, may be found here. It suggests the technique used should reflect the intensity or importance of the unspoken thought, with italics kept to a minimum. Given all the unvoiced thoughts and interior monologue in my WIP, I will have to keep this in mind when I work it over once the first draft is complete (soon, that will be!)

So what do you think? Here are the two questions again:

a) Are unvoiced thoughts in a narrative confusing or distracting for the reader?

b) What is the best way to tell the reader This Is An Unvoiced Thought?

 

 

Solstice and Christmas

Here is a poem from a few years ago. It’s not really jolly-holly, but I think the featured image above makes up for that.

 

The Gardener In Winter Night

Cold rain drips from branch and twig,

Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Sullen,

Slow

From edge of roof.

Yellow jasmine lights went dim at dusk,

The garden cloaked in absence and night.

The sky flattens,

The soil accepts.

Ailanthus

The eye sees black.

Pond water steeping leaves,

Tree shapes flat against grey sky.

The gardener in negative space,

Opposite of summer’s exaltation,

Contemplates…

Snowdrops soon to raise their elfin spears,

Violets wet and secret within dark green,

012

Crocus and tulip bulbed in earth,

Honeysuckle buds held tight by leaf to stem,

Blue poppies crowned in tattered leaves,

Rose canes studded with ruby nubbles,

Moss velvet green between reposing stones.

Remember snow,

And hope.

Consider sleet,

Believe.

Return to rest.

cosmos

Image from Pixabay

front garden in November, decline, brown

Faith to the Finish

The work in progress is at a crucial stage. Not only is the protagonist about to face a really big challenge, but the author (that would be me) is being attacked by thoughts such as these:

Why would she wear that dress while crawling through the tunnel? That’s just dumb.

The photos can’t be in two places at the same time. Uh-oh.

Okay, she finds the cello in the underground room. No, she doesn’t. Because it’s the reason she decides to meet him in the wadi. Even if she knows what he did? That’s just dumb.

Aaargh, let’s think this through again.

There should have been more foreshadowing.

This doesn’t make sense. Any of it. Even with foreshadowing.

This novel is a pile of crap.

Trouble is, I’m at 75K words, and until now I’ve been pretty happy with the thing. It’s too late to call it a false start (especially since I’ve been beavering away on it since January).

Can’t quit, can’t go back. The only way out is to keep moving forward. It’s sure to look better when I’m done.

This is where faith comes in. Faith that I can realize the vision for this novel I’ve been carrying around for the last three years. I wrote the first 17 pages and then abandoned it for more than a year, but I never stopped thinking about it.

There are few things worse than being haunted by an unwritten novel. At the beginning of 2017, I resolved to go back and write it. Now that I’m getting to the climax scenes, a kind of performance anxiety has arrived. These are the crucial scenes! What if I mess up? But I’ve learned a lot by now…

The handwritten proto-draft always feels like crap. The real first draft (Word doc) is always better.

Overthinking details is pointless at this stage. Just write ’em down.

Keep pushing the pen and don’t look back.

You’ll work out the kinks later. You’ve done it before and will do it again.

The earlier sections can be tweaked, adjusted, added to and, if necessary, totally rewritten.

Focus on the key elements of the original vision: that which must be preserved, and and that which must be sacrificed.

Focus on how great it will feel to lose this albatross realize this vision.

KEEP WRITING!

 

winter jasmine, yellow flowers, Jasminum nudiflorum

Winter jasmine in bloom: little yellow sparks in the darkest time of the year.

 

 

 

Why the Divide Between Speculative Fiction and Literature?

Here are some thoughts on speculative fiction (a term that embraces much) by Kyle A. Massa.

Kyle A. Massa

Floating Castle

Literature | ˈlit(ə)rəCHər | noun | Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. – New Oxford American Dictionary


According to a certain stuffy pocket of the literary community, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, collectively known as speculative fiction, don’t qualify as literature. Decent stories? Maybe. Cool ideas? Sure. But in the eyes of this snobbish literary elite, speculative fiction just doesn’t measure up to stuff like The Grapes of Wrath and Moby Dick

Would you ever read Moby Dick willingly? Yeah, neither would I.

Take the 2003 National Book Awards as an example. That year’s winner was none other than Stephen King, who of course mainly writes horror. The literary elite wasted no time in attacking him, no doubt because he’s just a lowly genre writer. Here’s a quite from critic Harold Bloom.

“The decision to give the National Book Foundation’s annual award for ‘distinguished contribution’ to…

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