Celebrations – April 3, 2015


Welcome to the April 3 edition of the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, started by VikLit and now run by Lexa Cain, our fearless new leader and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Katie @ TheCyborgMom

I am celebrating several things, in ascending order:

  1. This has been a busy week and I accomplished a great deal (for myself)
  2. Winter is broken and yesterday I saw the first shoots of daffodils.  I know we have crocuses coming up at the front of the house, purple and yellow.
  3. Writing is coming along well, I’m finishing my first finished draft of VENGEANCE, which is the second book in my Paris 1834 series, and…
  4. Today is the beginning of the days leading to Easter, a day I love.  It is, as well, the first day of Passover.  

 I’m home alone this weekend with a real yen to cook and (I gasp at this admission from a confirmed ‘pantser’) to actually do a chapter outline of this story and the next in the series, as well as my other, Egyptian work in progress.  I’ve done this in a desultory fashion (hm…  A word I can use in my going-along-with-the-A to Z-blog-fest-when-I-have-the-time.  No, wait.  D, for me, is Decorated Capital.  Ah, well.

Joy, good weather and blessings to all of you.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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Celebrations 20 March 2015 – Skipping (Reading Essentials)


Welcome to the March 20 edition of the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, started by VikLit and now run by Lexa Cain, our fearless new leader and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Today I am celebrating a wonderful reading (and writing) tip:

 
SKIPPING

Skipping Through Books…

I have a terrible confession to make.   It has required a lot of courage on my part to take this step, especially on a public forum (more or less, since mine is not the most widely read blog by a long shot).   I don’t know too many people who would willingly admit to it, at least not in this modern world where people take pride in reading every single word of a book.  Certainly, only one other person I know will admit to this particular practice.

The thing is, the practice has enabled me to circumvent unpleasant things and get to the meat of a book and then, armed with confirmation of the book’s quality, go back and have another go at the unpleasant parts.  Since I have seen the whole of the book, I can now inspect its separate parts.

What am I talking about?

Skipping.

One of my favorite authors (C. S. Lewis) has this to say:

It is a very silly idea that in reading a book you must never “skip.” All sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they find is going to be no use to them. In this chapter I am going to talk about something which may be helpful to some readers, but which may seem to others merely an unnecessary complication. If you are one of the second sort of readers, then I advise you not to bother about this chapter at all but to turn on to the next.

Lewis was speaking of philosophical and theological subjects, but I have found that the advice is equally valid to those who are trying to plow through a passage of purple prose that threatens to derail them (Dickens has a lot of this), or who are having heavy going with a particular scene that has no apparent bearing on the rest of the book, (Melville’s digression on the history of whaling in Moby Dick, for example) or the discussion of gardening practices in Lady Chatterly’s Lover, per the reviewer in Field and Stream.

Just look at what not skipping does to your face!

I have gone skipping through most of Dickens, happily thumbing past his description of the nasty things that the law did to the fellow who they decided had killed the happily late Marquis de Saint-Evremond, and his various disquistions in all his books on society, injustice and the method a gentleman should employ while chasing a runaway hat on a windy day.

With this useful, and previously forgotten, technique, I am able to sit down, pick up The Pickwick Papers , and read what I enjoy, going back when I have more fortitude to suffer through enjoy  the parts I skipped.

That’s worth celebrating, don’tcha think??

So what are you  celebrating?  (And have a wonderful weekend!)

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Romance?


I had the most interesting discussion with someone on the subject of romance novels.


“Come on and kiss de Girl”


Based on that discussion, I thought I’d see what others had to say about what is or is not a ‘Romance Novel’. Some of the language seems to rule out LesFic or Gay Romance; I don’t necessarily agree with that. A romance is a romance.

I write across genres, depending on the story. However, I have two romances: The Orphan’s Tale and The Safeguard, both set in the 19th century, one in Paris, the other in 1864 Georgia. They are love stories; one ends with a kiss, the other with the heroine rising to stand, beaming, as her returning lover rides across the lawn toward her.

That said, here are some definitions:

This blog post from a while back has a definition I endorse:

A story about the growing love relationship between a couple that has an HEA ending. There may be other elements, but the love relationship and its progression should be the focus. Because of this, there should not be lengthy separations between the lead characters. There should be, however, an emotional bond with the reader that develops out of their story, and it doesn’t matter whether the bond is laughter or tears or a strong sense of lust.

Another, quoted there, says:

A romance is just like any other type of fiction out there; it can be mystery, suspense, science fiction, historical, western, comedy, even horror. The only differences are that the story concentrates on the relationship between the lead male and female, and the book is guaranteed a happy ending.”

RWA (Romance Writers of America) are a little more limited:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality-ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.

Finally, there is this summation:

A novel is generally considered to be romance fiction if:

1.A love story is central to the plot – The main idea of the story must be that two people who are in love must struggle through obstacles to their having a relationship. While their can be sub-plots (job, family, etc.), the love story must be the main element that drives the narrative. And…

I love you, I love you, I love you – I do!  But don’t get excited:  I love monkeys, too!

2.The ending is emotionally satisfying and optimistic – The appeal of the romance novel for many is that the struggles of the lovers are rewarded and the risks they take pay off in a happy ending for them both.

A romance novel may be a one-off (“single title”), or it may be part of a series. Within the parameters of the romance novel, there are many romance subgenres, which yield endless variations in: 

*Timeframe – Romance novels can be set in the past (historical); the present (contemporary); or even the future. 

Most normal men would opt for armor…

*Setting – Whether the Scottish Highlands or a made-up universe or even Topeka, romance novels can be set anywhere. The story can take place during a family reunion or a murder investigation (which would put it in the romantic suspense subgenre).  

Sand in swim trunks: the essence of romance!

*Hero – He can be an “average guy” (as long as he looks better-than-average with his shirt off); a man in uniform (whether military, fireman… or kilt); or not even a “man” at all, as happens in the popular paranormal subgenre (“Hello, Werewolf!”).

 *Tone – The sexual explicitness of romance novels ranges from demurely warm (the inspirational genre is generally not explicit) to hot and steamy… to super-sizzling.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Uh…  No.

The Sheik springs   to mind as a very good illustration.  Women were swooning over that book in the 1920’s.  Having read it, myself, I have to say that it is an excellent illustration of The Stockholm Syndrome, and I do wish that Diana (no relation) had had the gumption to brain him and his spineless buddy with something very heavy.  Several hot-sellers from the 70’s, in which the woman is repeatedly raped (and just loves it) do  not, to my mind, qualify as romances, but nevertheless fit the various descriptions, though (to my mind) with one or two of them, the HEA (Happily Ever After) consists of being stuck with the Nasty One, whether male or female, for the rest of their life.   

I think this is a topic that is not going to go away, and I tend to enjoy listening to the arguments.  Besides, when has the presence of romance, in whatever form, *not* lent spice to a story?

 

Thought for the Moment: Discipline


A sometimes unwelcome truth…

I stumbled upon this image while thumbing through various ones trying to find something for a book cover design I was working on.  It made me pause and think.

Slow and steady wins the race…haste makes waste…Measure twice and cut once…

They all refer to our need to refuse instant gratification.  To allow the wine to age, to permit the flowers to grow, to let a relationship deepen.  In my case, referring to my writing, it was very hard not to give in and shoot for that ‘Holiday Release’ when I knew jolly well that the book simply was not ready.

I’m older than I was (ten minutes older right now than when I started jotting my thoughts for this post) and I have learned a thing or two despite my best efforts to the contrary.  Around late September of this year I sat back, looked at my ‘Holiday Release’, lowered my head and advised all who were concerned with the book that it simply was  not ready, and needed to be pushed back at least four months.  Everyone was charming about it, and while I still felt the itch to get that wonderful book cover I’d put together out to be seen, I knew I had done the right thing.

Guess what?  I really had done the right thing.

·     The book cover was scrapped and a far better one designed.

·     With the pressure off, I found that the storyline itself was deepening, growing more complex and tighter, and setting up for a really good (I think) finish in the third volume of the series…

·     …which, incidentally, was being pushed toward finishing by my work on the second volume.


The entire effort is far better than it was in September.  And once again I have to concede that impatience is best restrained and time, in matters of creation, is generally an ally.

 

Iwsg November 5 – Just do it #IWSG


THE INSECURE WRITER’S SUPPORT GROUP

The first Wednesday of the month is the time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alex J. Cavanaugh .

IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click for the link).  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

Visit the site – and visit the co-hosts:
LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy

Art work by Ben Southan

Over the past months, I have been wrestling with all sorts of writing-related questions.  For me, at least, they never come one at a time, small and easily dealt with. 

Instead, they cluster around the door of my thoughts like wolves and go rushing in if I let them.  Fighting them off is tiring and usually an exercise in futility.


There are questions regarding my writing in general:

  • Is it good? (Pretty important, actually… )
  • Is it the best I can do? (See above)
  • I’m tired: how can I write anything good when I am exhausted? That requires a little extra thought.


Then come the questions regarding works in particular:

  • Will it sell? (Speaking strictly from the ‘art’ standpoint, this should not be so important a question, but we do tend to equate quality of writing with saleability, whether or not we recall our earlier sneers at various best-selling offerings that appear to have been cranked out on a conveyor belt by someone who, we say, has prostituted his or her talent to profitability)


Questions regarding the flow of my writing and the value of my current WIP:

  • Does this WIP follow well after its predecessor? Does it pick up the threads and weave them convincingly? 
  •  Is it bad? The predecessor was really good, so why does this one stink? (I’m getting ahead of myself, but if I were not – at the time I squall this to the heavens – really tired and off my game, I would admit that a story with three years of effort going into producing it is naturally better, at the moment, than one that is just underway. And I would also acknowledge that, this being a series, I am building on the structure that I hopefully perfected in Volume I and will bring to a thundering, triumphant conclusion in Volume III.)
  • …and why, oh why, is Volume III, nearly completely visualized, so much more seductive than Volume II, which I have had to insert between I and III?

Hydra by John Singer Sargent

How do you cope?
As with all questions posted on this wonderful hop, these are nothing new. 

Like the Hydra in Greek Mythology, though, they  do tend to come back every time you think you have killed it.

It’s a condition peculiar to writers.
(I remember the story of a young actress telling the great Sarah Bernhardt that she never, ever had stage fright.  La Bernhardt said, ‘Well, ma petite, when you become a real actress you will!’)


What is the answer?

Well…
November is NaNoWriMo time. We are supposed to write, write, WRITE!!! for thirty days straight and come up with 50,000 words. I am not participating this year because I have committed to get Volume II (of The Orphan’s Tale) whacked into a shape where I will not die of embarrassment when I send it to my editors at month’s end and then, heaven help them, to anyone who volunteers to be a beta reader. Publication is tentatively slated for Spring 2015. But the concentration on writing itself swung my attention toward the answer to this and just about any angst-related, insecurity-generated question that a writer can face:

Just write. 

  • Write what comes out the ends of my fingers.
  • Close my eyes and write. 
  • Wake up and see what I have written and laugh hysterically and resolve NOT to do this at 11pm on a weeknight. 
  • Realize that I am not carving things into a block of marble. I am putting out words, and words can be tweaked (the part I personally love the most).


But I’ll write. That is what a writer does. 
And just producing the raw material, which I can squint at, groan over and ultimately fix, somehow, for me at least, smooths away the worries. 
When I an clicking into productivity and actually doing what it is that I live to do, I am invincible, at least in my own mind.

Then I’ll go over what I have written. Use my wordsmithing abilities and work on it. I’ll just do it. Mark things up, rewrite, groan.

I’ll be too busy to be insecure.  And I’ll be writing, which is, after all, what I live to do.

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Visualizing a Scene: It’s Good if You Can Do It…


 
‘Artist Sketching’ by Constable 

I tend to be visually oriented.  Something, whether a graphic or an item, can serve to express and summarize my thoughts about a scene, a character, a setting.  Sometimes things fall beautifully into place.  And sometimes they…just…don’t.  But ah, they do come close at times.  I have a scene in my Work In Progress in which one of the characters, Larouche, a 7 year old street urchin, encounters ‘Monseigneur’, his name for a high-ranking police officer that he met in the first book of the series, initially hated, and grew to like and admire in the course of the story.  The growth of their liking is a theme throughout the series, and this scene, the second time they have actually come face to face, is pivotal.  The child, who has found a position at a small bistro as a hired boy, is sweeping the yard: 


**   **   **

         Larouche watched as Jean-Claude led the big gray horse from the stable.  Nice-looking fellow, he thought. Tall, strong: maybe some Percheron in him? His dark coat dappled down to white with a white mane and tail. Elegant and strong, Larouche thought, and remembered the horses ridden by the helmeted officers during reviews.  This one could easily be one of those mounts.

The horse had been gazing toward the door of the taproom.  He raised his head and nickered as Monseigneur emerged into the early afternoon light.

Larouche drew back against the wall, suddenly breathless.  The row of bushes was beside him, offering shelter and concealment.  He lifted his chin, stayed where he was, and watched.

Monseigneur was in uniform, the sun flashing from the gold-washed bronze buttons of his coat, the dark blue cloth rich in the sunlight.  A brief conversation with Jean-Claude… Nods all around, and Monseigneur came farther into the stable yard.  He was bareheaded, the cocked hat tucked under his left arm. Larouche could see the sunlight glinting on strands of silver in his dark hair. Monseigneur getting old? The thought sat oddly, as though it expressed something Larouche did not want to be true.

The gray was tossing his head. He settled as Monseigneur approached, took out a small snuffbox and shook some candies into his palm.

The gray’s ears flicked back and forth. He lowered his lead to lip at the treats.

“He’s ready for a good trot,” Monseigneur said. Larouche caught the accent again. “I will be obliging him shortly.” He took the reins from Jean-Claude, smiled as the man cupped his hands for a leg up, and sprang into the saddle.

Larouche watched Monseigneur slide his feet into the stirrups and gather the reins. The hazel eyes settled on his, caught and held. Larouche thought it was like the time Monseigneur had seized him by the ear. No escape possible. But did he want to escape?

He raised his eyes and smiled as the moment deepened, lengthened. Larouche realized that Monseigneur was as caught as he was, unable to break the connection, unable to speak.

…and then Larouche found that he could draw breath and take a step forward, and he saw that Monseigneur was also leaning toward him, smiling and stretching out his hand—

“Sir!”  The voice, strident and anxious, cut the connection between them.

Monseigneur’s hand fell to his thigh as he turned, frowning. “What is it, Trinchard?”

“A mob assembled! They are threatening headquarters!”

What? When was this?” 

“Twenty minutes ago—a half hour! We have been seeking you all this time!”

Monseigneur’s frown deepened. “You have found me,” he said. “Lead me there.”

Larouche watched Monseigneur gather his reins, and then, almost as though he were drawn, turn back toward Larouche.

Their eyes met, held for a long moment.

Monseigneur’s lips parted as though he meant to speak. Larouche waited. But then he turned his horse and was in the street.

Well, that was that. Larouche took up the broom he had laid aside and started sweeping the leaves away.

          The clack of iron on cobblestone made him look up..

The gray was snuffling at the remains of the ivy on the post while Monseigneur watched Larouche with a warm smile. Larouche could see a group of mounted officers in the street beyond.

Monseigneur leaned down, his hands braced on the pommel of his saddle. “I must go,” he said. “I will be back. I don’t know how soon that will be, but I will be back. I give you my word..”  His smile deepened.  “I want to speak with you.  Will you wait for me?”

Larouche nodded. “I’ll be here,” he said through an answering smile. “I promise.”


Monseigneur bowed, touched his heel to his mount’s side, just behind the girth. The horse turned on his haunches and they left at a gallop.



** ** ** 
I had the scene in my mind, I’d been to Paris and scouted the location of the tavern and the lay of the streets.  I knew what the hero looked like, and I knew what the little boy looked like.  In thumbing through images, I came across one that was…almost…perfect.
So close, and yet so far…

Almost.  It has some issues.  For starters:
 

1.  They meet in the courtyard of a small tavern, not the esplanade before the Tuileries palace, which was across from the Louvre. 
 
2.  Larouche, though better dressed than previously, and with a job, is still almost penniless.  He does not own a suit like this boy is wearing.
 
3.  While Malet (the hero) is in uniform in the scene, the police uniform of this era, while dark blue with a red front panel, gold buttons, and a high collar like this one, it also had a cravat.  The uniform coat would have covered his abdomen. The chicken guts (‘aiguilettes’ – can you tell I’m a military brat?) would not be worn by him.  The bearskin shako would have been worn by Malet in the artillery during his service between 1810 – 1814.  The Police of this era also wore the bearskins.  That stopped after the fall of Napoleon. Breeches and waistcoat would have been a lighter buff for police.
 
4.  The rider appears to be sporting a queue.  Malet never approved of them.  They are a good way to be disabled and killed (just grab that ponytail and hold on) and they were no longer worn in the military after about 1806.
 
5.  The horse is black.  Malet’s preferred mount in the book is what they call a ‘white dapple’ with white mane and tail and a dark coat that dapples down to white.
 
I did bring the horseman and the child ‘forward’ by making the other rider and the crowd in the background paler (adjusting opacity; you can see it if you look).  I am toying with fiddling with the image, removing the shako, adjusting the uniform…  Just for my own amusement, you understand…
 
Maybe I’ll update this post if I succeed.  (For those who are curious, the series is The Orphan’s Tale, and I am working on the second installment.)
 
 
 

Celebrations, October 3 2014


Once upon a time, not so long ago, a lady who wrote decided to set up a blog hop to celebrate the things that made her happy, whether or not they merited a 21-gun salute.  She ran the idea past her friends and co-bloggers and everyone agreed that it was a great idea.  And so the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop began.  Why don’t you join?  it might make you smile (See the bottom of the page for details)

A lot of nice things have been happening.  I rediscovered a lovely little CD I bought a while back and have been singing my made-up words to con te partira (time to say good-bye).  Here it is on YouTube.  (Do click to end the advertisement):

Interesting enough, though I don’t play an instrument, unless you count a Recorder, sort of, or a Kazoo, I’ve always been a little musical.  Music seems to ‘firm up’ things for me, or condense them.  This particular instrumental piece served as a sort of theme for my recent book Mourningtide (Book 2 of The Memphis Cycle), which chronicles a powerful man’s passage through grief at his eldest son’s death through a very stupid mistake.  The man, a king, makes his way through his loss and heartbreak and finds peace and love again.  Somehow, that tune expressed it for me.  Very hard to explain.  But now I have it back to listen to, remember and enjoy.  (I reread the story, too and I have to say that I liked it.)

I also received the delivery of the 10th Anniversary concert (Royal Albert Hall) of Les Miserables., along with a two CD set.  In this production they gathered the actors that they thought did the absolutely best performances of their parts.  One of them, a distinguished Australian actor named Philip Quast, played the part of Inspector Javert.  Quast has won several Olivier Awards (as prestigious in live performance circles, as an Oscar).  Unlike some in that production, though he had presented a splendid interpretation of the Police Inspector, Javert, he rethought the part, honed it, and delivered a breathtaking performance.  (see below – but do click to end the adverts)

Stars:


Javert’s soliloquy.  I could wish they had done the hair and makeup differently.  A para-military type of that era would not have worn his hair long.  It was out of style and it was conducive to being seized (by the hair) and disabled.  But I digress in the way of writers of historical fiction: 



And listen to that passage at 2:38 where he holds that soaring note.

I do love baritones.

As I said, I have the DVD of the concert, which is nice and does Not feature the man in front of me at my first viewing of Les Miserables in 1988 with the head the size of a pumpkin, who kept sitting bolt upright and swinging his skull about during the most important songs.  I wanted to relieve him of his skull and hurl it out the window for him but, alas, the Civil War Navy Cutlass that my late father willed to me was safely at home.  He lived to annoy another theatre-goer.  (I did thank him after the performance…)

You can never find a good sword when you need one!

We must learn to bear our griefs and celebrate our joys.  In my case, the CD of that performance is currently in my car’s CD player and I have been belting out those two songs at the top of my alto lungs.  It has been delicious!  I had forgotten.

Driving along, pretending that I can sing well outside the shower stall – what greater felicity can there be?  Saturday coming lickety-split, that’s what! http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

What are you celebrating?

The buy link (Amazon US) if you are interested.

Celebrations September 19, 2014


Today is the Celebrations blog hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below. 

I am a little late to this dance, since I have been running around getting ready to head to my mother’s place this weekend.  In addition to enjoying seeing her,

I have some urgent business with her: she is updating her Living Will form.  My father, t

Such a pity uniforms aren’t so decorative now

wenty years before his death, drew one up for each of them.  The players have changed, and hers must be updated.  That is important, and I have that form for myself, as well.

But, going along with that, I am celebrating a week finished, a newsletter sent out (my website has one, and some nice folks have honored me by asking to be on the mailing list).  A revelation on a plot part – you writers know how it is: Something that happens in the story, that is important and has some far-reaching repercussions – and a light suddenly goes on for something that will set matters up beautifully for that event in the story.

…AND I get to write it this weekend!

I will also be going to some antiques/flea markets with Mom, who loves them, we’ll sip some very nice red wine, and I’ll be visiting my old haunts.

…And now for some eye candy (at least for me) that is very much like one of my characters eighteen years before the start of the story.
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What are you celebrating?

IWSG August 6, 2014 – Write! #IWSG


First Wednesdays come very quickly, far faster than other days.  It is now time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group .  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

I was speaking recently with someone who is disheartened.  He is experienced, and while he is only recently published, he has written for years, and through the years has honed his craft.  He tells good stories.
 
But there are others that he sees, those who put out products that – to him, at least – do not have a whole lot of merit.  They crow of their successes, they flaunt what he thinks are fabulous sales numbers, while he has nothing to boast of.  He just does not fit in.
 
I replied that some of the great writers did not fit in.  They did what felt best to them and never lost sight of who and what they were, and the source of their joy.  He is a writer: he should write and follow his own path (taking advantage of the aid offered, of course.)
 
I sometimes break into (pretty bad) poetry, and for this post I decided to offer this bit of doggerel, which expresses my musings on my friend’s questions:
 
What am I?  (With a nod to Jean Valjean and a bow to Shakespeare)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
Alas, that I should take this wearying path
That windeth through such perilous wilderness,
And with this throng;
‘Tis certain that my steps herein shall lag
Through many deserts without hope of aid
with choices wrong –
To follow my own heart, or heed the cries
Of those who claim to know the secret pass
That leadeth to the land of fame and wealth –
‘Tis sure they lie and knoweth not their way –
 
…Or do they?
I fear that perils loom on ev’ry side,
My own heart tells me that they menace me
With thoughts of quick success, such as might wreck my gift –
And leave me with no hope.
So then, I think: what am I to do?
The urge within me says to simply write,
To let the words flow from me to be read;
To glory in the spate of thought and act
Capturing the joy of times long past
When telling tales held me in joyous thrall –
But is it right—?
But is it right?
The question still remains, and so I ponder it.
As I have pondered through all the passing years;
Who am I?
…And the answer comes:
 
What have you sought to be through years of waiting?
The glad times you sought words and let them dance,
The tales you spun,
The way your heart had sung
And you knew the path was true.
And all else to the side.

Storyteller…
Tell your stories.
 

I have been rediscovering my gift, and the joy that using it gave me.  I think we lose sight of it, of the reason we are writers.
In A Chorus Line, Cassie, who had done some solo work, exclaims, “God!  I’m a Dancer!  A Dancer dances!
We’re writers.  All else is to the side.  Without the writing we are nothing.
…So let’s write!


Check out the hop.  There are some fabulous posts to savor:

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‘A Killer Serial’ – Guest Post by Hart Johnson


I am delighted to host a guest post by Hart Johnson, familiar to bloggers from her delicious (and quite informative) blog:

Hart had the idea to write a serial. She speaks of this in her post, so I will not steal her thunder. I will, however, give a thought or two of my own on serials. In past centuries, many writers were published in serial form. Dickens, specifically, wrote in a format that lent itself for serialization. Typically, a family would subscribe to a publication and that publication would feature an ongoing story. Each issue would contain an installment, which would be read, exclaimed over, discussed at great length. The younger members would be on the lookout for the next installment. When the process was through, the book would be published in its complete, monumental form.

That practice fell out of use nearly a century ago. We are now seeing it again. Hart’s is the first I’ve seen among writers I know, but there are others.

So… What does a serial have to offer over a ‘brick’, as we call non-serialized publications. I have my own thoughts on that issue, and they surprised me. I have The Pickwick Papers in serialized form, and it was impressed upon me when I read it that way that I was being drawn more thoroughly into the story. My enjoyment was deeper. If Mr. Pickwick at the end of the most recent installment was on a coach about to head to Dingley Dell for Christmas, I had a month or so to reflect on what he had been doing, what he was about to do, my thoughts on the character of the residents and visitors at Dingley Dell. Would Alfred Jingle (the cad!) be up to his caddish tricks? Would he charm, say, the maiden aunt? My thoughts would deepen my enjoyment, something that doesn’t happen in these days of novels you plow through.

Is it working? I will say that my reading of the installments has made me ponder what will happen next, frown over what seems to be about to happen, and argue with others over what will happen.  It’s a little more leisurely and (I won’t hide the fact) annoying to some people.  But I think the format is back to stay.  I think it’s a good thing. – Diana

…And now Hart, in her own words.

Serial Madness
First, I really want to thank Diana for hosting me! I’m happy to be here!  (It’s good to have you, Hart…)
To give you just a bit of background so you know where I’m coming from:
For the last ten months I’ve been serially releasing a very long book—there have thus far been 11 parts (of 12) and they are about 100 pages each. I’m here to share my thoughts on the good, the bad, and what I would have done differently in relation to serial publication. 
Moth to Flame 
First:  why I was so DRAWN to this idea… I have always had a love for door-stopping stories (physical door-stoppers, I mean—the 1000+ pagers). When I began trying to publish the hardest thing I had to do was learn how to rein in a long, complicated tale. Then, almost two years ago I had a friend announce she was serially releasing a story and I fell in love with the idea… Heck, follow in the footsteps of Dickens and Dumas? I could tell the stories I wanted to tell—the LONG complicated ones! I had a nearly finished book that I was frustrated with because it needed more, but at 600 pages, it needed LESS, if you know what I mean, so I decided to take on the rewrite, not to TRIM it, but to fill it in—give it more points of view so the stuff I was having trouble getting across because of the PoV limitation could be told and a good ending would no longer seem out of the blue.
The GOOD 
Man, talk about a project to keep a person on their writing pace. I have written SO MANY words in the last year. (the 120K thing I HAD became a 330K thing, and that doesn’t even account for old version stuff I had to lose)
I have learned SO MUCH! It was trial by fire and I had to just get in there and do it. One of the BIGGEST things, and I think this is why I managed to be an Amazon semi-finalist with Parts 1-4, is having not just one climax, but regular mini-climaxes so each section was satisfying and the tension always remained high.
I think it worked to get a great story out there that was as long as I wanted it to be. 
The BAD 
I REALLY strained my first and second readers—it is too much to ask people to read 100 pages EVERY MONTH (which was the gap I ended up with between episodes after the first couple)
Readers, apparently, don’t TRUST serials. I didn’t know this because I thought it sounded so awesome, but I’ve heard this several times now—they will wait for it to be done. And no matter HOW up front you are that you are serially releasing, they grumble about SHORT or about ‘is this all’?
I am REALLY worn out. The monthly marketing effort is GINORMOUS and I think I had either too long or short between to be really effective. If it was shorter, I could build momentum, if it was longer, I could rest up between. One month is the WRONG distance.
The REVIEWS are all on the individual episodes, but once they are bundled, the BUNDLES are what I have been focusing on selling because it is easier to talk about…. yet there they sit, reviewless…
  
What I would Do DIFFERENTLY 
The VERY most important is I would finish the full first draft AND get first and second reader feedback before I started the polish to publish cycle. I had a few life stress cycles that really stopped up the original writing end of things—I think 6 weeks is the longest between episodes, but I think 2 weeks may in fact be ideal. I REALLY should only have had copyediting left to do.
If I do it again, I will either try to go through Amazon’s formal serial arm (they require a finished product before they take you, then they sell subscriptions) or I may just say, “Hey, let’s make it a trilogy” (that is the version I am working with on my current book—three books with three acts each, to be published as a trilogy)
I would have self-published a standalone before committing to a serial. I’ve traditionally published, but the publisher does all the technical stuff, so part of my learning curve was THAT. I really should have mastered all that before I started shouting and creating expectations. And then I had to repeat it regularly, but there wasn’t enough time between to master OTHER formats (Nook, iTunes)–I really felt like I scrambled a bit. (read:  a lot) 
Volumes 1 – 4
Volumes 5 – 8

I am happy with the outcome though. The LAST ONE comes out next week. If you are curious, the bundled first four are still just 99 cents—once all of them are out, I will figure out a pricing strategy. Volumes 5-8 are also bundled, and sometime in August I will bundle the last.


You can find the first bundle, parts 1 – 4 here, and the second, 5 – 8, here
…and here are the covers so far:


Hart Johnson is a social scientist by day and plots murder in her bathtub at night. If you want to learn more about her, you can find her at Confessions of a Watery Tart: