Monday, February 1, 2016

Math, Research, and Auctions...

So. I found this interesting little math problem on Facebook last week:

3+3x3-3+3=?

I've also been doing some research on the year 1957 because I'm setting my current WIP in a time not unlike that year (just as the setting is a place not unlike Boston, or London, or perhaps Ankh-Morpork...). This has led me to search for things like cars and fashion and other random stuff like this cool lighted alarm clock which Inspector Beck has in his bedroom.






Or this cute outfit I imagine one of my characters wearing.





This necklace which another character inherits.





This '57 Lancia Florida which Officer Prentiss drives (and which Inspector Beck envies, not that I can blame him).


or how about this cool panel truck one might see while in my city...






See? Research is FUN!




As for auctions, well, I don't know about you but I love them. I once bought a gorgeous Oriental type carpet for not very much which still graces my living room. Anyway. The other night I went to hang out with a friend and he had the Discovery channel on which was showing the Barrett-Jackson Auction. I think I died and went to Heaven.

There were so many amazing and outrageous cars, like this 1938 Coddington V12 Hemi aka "The French Connection"


Or how about this 1950 GM Futurliner Parade of Progress Tour Bus (might be kinda fun to tour in, no? I wonder what it looks like inside...)




But I think my favorite was this 1971 Pontiac GTO

sold for $126,500



Now that's an OMG.

I think I might be drooling on myself. Again.



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Morrigan's Curse - Author Interview with Dianne K. Salerni



The Morrigan’s Curse is Dianne K. Salerni’s third book in the Eighth Day Series, which began with Jax Aubrey discovering an extra day of the week sandwiched between midnight on Wednesday and 12:01AM Thursday. At first Jax thinks it’s the Zombie apocalypse but he soon discovers that there are certain people—Transitioners—who experience this day in addition to the other seven, and others—the Kin—who only experience this day.


Today, Dianne is here to talk about the third book, The Morrigan’s Curse.

Happy release day, Dianne, and thanks a bunch for stopping by to answer a few questions! For those who haven’t read the series, tell us a little about how the idea came to you, and how it evolved from the idea to the story.

Thanks for having me here, Marcy! The idea of a secret, extra day of the week came from a family joke. Whenever my daughters asked my husband when he would take them to the amusement park – or ice skating, or the beach, etc – and he didn’t have a specific answer, he’d tell them, “We’ll do it on Grunsday.” And the girls would exclaim, “Oh, Dad! There’s no such day!” I started wondering what it would be like if there really was a Grunsday, but only a few people knew about it.

Then I started wondering what it would be like for a person who lived only on Grunsday and didn’t experience the other seven days of the week.

You know I’ve loved this series from the moment you first started it, but when did you actually start thinking it would turn into a series? Did you have ideas for a second and third book, or did it come to you as you were writing?

I wrote the ending of the first book with a clear resolution to the conflict, but a hopeful “We’ll-have-lots-more-adventures-together” tone. I hoped that it could become a series, but I didn’t have the subsequent books planned at that point.

After HarperCollins bought the book and at least two sequels, I began to plan the other books. I was asked to write a 5-book story arc, even though they had only committed to three books. At that early stage, I planned a premise for each of the books but didn’t really outline the plot of each one until it was time to write it.

Lots of us dream of writing a series, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Tell us what was hardest about writing a series, and what was the easiest.

The easiest part was falling back into character with each subsequent book. I knew my main character, Jax, and his friends, Riley and Evangeline, so well it was easy to write their parts. That isn’t to say they didn’t grow over the course of the series – and that was one of the easier things as well. Their growth seemed natural and obvious to me.

The hardest part was that with each successive book, I was locked into the circumstances of the prior books. When writing the first book in a series, or a standalone, you can change the events, characters, or world-building as suits you. But when writing sequels, you are stuck with what appears in the published books.

Luckily, the publication process takes so long that there is often time to go back and change small details in the previous books before they go to print, just to make sure everything lines up correctly.

You drew a lot on Arthurian legends and Celtic mythology in the writing of these books. Was it planned, or did it just happen? And did your research prompt any new ideas?

While I was researching legends about alternate time and suspended time, I re-discovered an Arthurian story about Merlin being trapped in an eternal cave by his apprentice.  Several aspects of the story matched what I was planning for the inhabitants of the secret eighth day and the people who put them there. The more I considered the parallels, the more characters in my planned book started clamoring for Arthurian-based ancestors.

Once I got to the third book, however, I was introducing a group of characters who needed to come from outside the Arthurian saga. For The Morrigan’s Curse, I delved into Celtic mythology (which sometimes mixes with Arthurian legend anyway). The race of people trapped in the eighth day are loosely based on the Tuatha de Danaan, and I mined lists of Celtic deities for the names of my characters and their special abilities.

In The Morrigan’s Curse, you introduce The Morrigan—a three-in-one deity who embodies chaos and destruction. Did you go looking for her or did you discover her?

My research into Celtic mythology for Book 3 led me to the Morrigan, and I was immediately fascinated by her. She didn’t exactly fit among my planned villains, and it occurred to me that the Morrigan could be an outside force manipulating both sides of the conflict for her own dark purpose. If this were the case, however, her arrival needed to be foreshadowed earlier in the series.

This is one of those times when the slow publication process worked in my favor. As soon as I knew how the Morrigan would fit into Book 3, I went back and revised Book 2 to set the scene for her arrival. The Morrigan is mentioned a number of times in The Inquisitor’s Mark and makes a brief appearance at the end – but it’s in the third book that she becomes a force to be reckoned with.

The Morrigan’s Curse is the third but possibly final book of the series (I’m rooting for more!). How the heck did you manage to write a book that serves as both?

I was contracted for three books, with an option for a fourth and fifth, so I knew from the beginning of my planning that Book 3 needed to serve as either the end or the middle of the series. In order to do this, I had to write a story that would leave the reader feeling satisfied that the conflict in the series seemed resolved.  However, that doesn’t mean that there was a happy outcome for every character. There’s one character in The Morrigan’s Curse who does not get the happy ending readers will be rooting for. If the series continues, that character’s fate will be further explored.

In addition, one of my editors suggested that I plant a version of “Tom Riddle’s diary” in one of the early books. If you recall, at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle’s diary is destroyed, and we have no reason to think about it anymore. However, we later find out that the diary is one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, and the search for the rest of them drives the plot in the later books.

Therefore, there’s an event in The Inquisitor’s Mark (Book 2) that appears to be resolved but is actually only the tip of an iceberg. Marcy knows what it is. (wink, wink) Everyone else will have to look for it!

Oh, yes! The scene in the…no, I won’t say, because everyone should discover it for themselves. In fact, everyone should immediately go buy all three books (if they haven’t already) and read them because The Eighth Day series is perhaps my favorite MG series since HP. Not to mention the fact that buying these books increases the likelihood of a book four and five, and I really want a book four and five!


Dianne, thank you again for stopping by and congrats on the release of The Morrigan’s Curse!

Monday, January 25, 2016

A - Z sign up and other fun stuff

Yes, I've signed up for the madness, chosen my theme, and have already begun to write my posts. Are you signing up? Have a theme in mind? Or are you just going to wing it and see what you come up with?

I tend to go with a theme. One year I did all things Scifi, which was pretty fun (ever hear of a Krasnikov Device?), and another year my theme revolved entirely around my just released first book, West of Paradise, and all things historical that had to do with it, like the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and another year I did the phonetic alphabet. I actually had this year's theme chosen for last year but I ended up going to Sanibel Island for two weeks in April so I decided not to do the blogfest. Sorry. Sanibel trumps A-Z. Every. Single. Time.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the fest because it's going to be fun AND winter will be OVER!!!

Other Fun Stuff:

I have Dianne Salerni stopping by tomorrow to talk about The Morrigan's Curse, book three in the amazingly awesome Eighth Day series.

I'm on Season 4 of Supernatural which I'm really enjoying. I especially love the way the writers have upped the stakes for each season, and Dean is...well, I could marry Dean. He cracks me up, is tough as nails, loyal to a fault, and holy cow hot as hell, no pun intended ;)

Have a wonderful Monday!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (again)

The Good: I finally saw Star Wars Episode VII, and it was good, and there was no Jar Jar :)

The Bad: My Volvo is NOT as good in the snow as my Rav4. Not that I didn't know that. But. I got stuck in my drive and had to call a tow truck :(

The Ugly: Since it was Sunday, it cost $85!!!

But let's talk about the Good...

I was so happy not to see Jar Jar, and seeing everyone else was like seeing old friends after a long time. I loved the new characters, including the new droid, and the tie ins with the previous episodes. I have one question. Who is Rey? Specifically, what's her parentage? This was what we (me, my son, and two of my brothers) talked about most on the way home. I won't get into specifics here because I don't want to reveal any spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it (like some people did for one of my brothers and my son. Wankers.) but it sure makes me wish Episode VIII was coming sooner! Abrams did a great job, imo.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

UFO

The other night (Monday around 7/8pm eastern standard time) the son and I were standing on my porch and we saw an unidentified flying object. It had yellow/orangeish lights, and it did not blink the way planes do. There was in fact a plane in the sky further away, and I could clearly distinguish between the two. It also seemed to flying low in the sky, though admittedly it was hard to tell since it was dark. The UFO slowly moved across the sky, and we went inside.

So, the question is, what the heck was it? A drone? That was our first thought (but wtf was it doing flying over midcoast Maine?). Any thoughts? Have you ever seen a UFO?

Meanwhile, I'm over at Unicorn Bell today and Friday talking about building better characters and stories. I'll be back here on Monday with...I don't know, something!

Have a fabulous weekend!


Friday, January 8, 2016

Idiosyncrasy- a mode of behavior or way of thought peculiar to an individual.

Most of us have them, you know, those weird little aspects of our character for which there is no explanation. Today I'll share mine (I probably have others but this one is, well, peculiar is probably a good word).

I despise stickiness. I hate having sticky hands more than anything. Okay. Maybe not more than anything, but I hate it way more than your average person, most of whom just wipe their hands on a napkin or their pants and call it good. But oh, no, no, my friends. This will not do for me. Because simply wiping your sticky hands on a napkin or whatever does not entirely remove the stickiness from your hands. It's still there, people, and if you touch anything else your hands are going to stick, and that's just unacceptable in my world.

I've been like this for a long time. I remember as a kid playing in the woods and getting sap on my hands, which is worse than anything to a stickyaphobe because you can't get it off by licking it. At least with jam or honey you can lick your fingers, and eventually you won't be sticky anymore. You'll probably collect a few stares in the process but hey, whatever it takes, right? The only thing I remember working was Boraxo soap and I had to scrub the heck out of my hands to get that fricking sap off. I have since discovered that paint thinner, turpentine, even kerosene works great on sap, and if you're in a real bind and in the woods without access to one of theose excellent sap-zappers, you can use dirt. Yep. Just get some dirt and and rub your hands in it. I'd way rather have dirty hands than sticky hands.

Sometimes I wonder why I hate being sticky. Where did it begin or was I just born this way? I imagine myself sitting in my high chair with my sticky hands waving about, wanting them cleaned but not having words. Was I fussy because of it? I'll tell you one thing though, my son never had sticky hands or a sticky face. You think I would touch that? Not likely. His hands and face were immediately washed the moment he finished eating. I wonder if he hated that. Me swooping in with my washcloth before he'd finished his last swallow. Poor kid.

Anyway. I really hate being sticky, to the point where I won't eat anything sticky (like an ice cream cone) unless I have access to water. I have been known to take the ice from my drink to wash my hands.

It's weird, or peculiar, if you like, but I've learned to live with it and discover new ways to achieve victory over sticky. Lotion works (it's the greasy factor), and that anti-germ gel and yep, I carry both around with me, because sticky and I are at war, and I don't see it ending any time soon.

So. What idiosyncrasies do you have? Care to share? or you can just commiserate with mine...

Monday, January 4, 2016

First Impressions - SWEPT




Happy 2016 everyone and welcome back to another edition of First Impressions, whereby Dianne Salerni, Krystalyn Drown, and I critique someone's first page. This month we only have one, an MG fantasy from Christian Bensing. You can find him on Facebook.





Swept
 
Chapter 1:  3pm
            
Bobby Conrad used every last ounce of his brain power in an attempt to somehow stop the marathoning minute hand of Mrs. Winkey's clock from reaching its destination, but its will was unstoppable, silently cheered on by the eager eyes of his classmates.  Three o'clock, and the end of the school day, had come despite Bobby's best efforts to forestall the dreaded moment when he would have to leave the safety of the classroom and enter the unsupervised, terrifying world seventh graders of his minimal stature and reputation had to face on a daily basis.  If only Mrs. Winkey's algebra test, which looked to Bobby as if it were written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, had not racked his brain to the point of delirium, maybe he could have stopped that clock through sheer concentration and enjoyed the serenity of 2:59 for a few more precious seconds.  Instead, the minute hand ticked forward with one more click.  The bell rang, and his classmates scattered.  Bobby faced the fact that he had to go home, his own virtual prison.  The only thing worse was getting there.
            Bobby slowly shuffled through the classroom door to the bustling hallway.  He took one last look at Mrs. Winkey, who seemed to take great pleasure in dishing out deliberately dramatic red slashes  across the test she held in her hands.  Her eyes went from the test to Bobby, then back to the test and back to Bobby again.  It was as if she had to restrain the corners of her crooked mouth from forming a smirk.  Winkey's eyes continued this dance as her head swayed sideways, back and forth in disapproval.  Bobby knew deep in his heart she was grading his test.  He impulsively looked at his feet as metal locker doors crashed closed behind him.
            “Crap,” was all he could say in a hushed tone as he found a break in the hallway traffic and exited the room with the cartoon-like vision of a sneering Mrs. Winkey engrained in his brain.
            Bobby navigated his way to his locker and waited for the hallway to clear before he dared open it.  He

slowly gathered his books and stuffed them into his backpack.  The backpack had seen better days and already

had more stitches in it than Frankenstein's monster after a car accident.  A new tear had developed which required

repair, and Bobby could clearly see his recently acquired library book, Strange Tales of the Weird, peeking out

one of its sharp, new corners.  The sight of the book made him forget all about the bloodied math test and Mrs.

Winkey's mocking features.  He had gone to great lengths to secure this book, having stalked its very first

borrower, Randy Reinhold, the entire first week Randy had it, waiting for its return to the general circulation. 

When that rat Randy had renewed the book for yet another week, Bobby almost lost his mind. 


First thoughts: One space between sentences, not two, and is it really that bad being a short 7th grade boy? I was teased relentlessly in 7th grade but I wasn’t terrified; it just ruined any self-esteem I had. Or has the teasing upgraded to physical bullying? In which case terrified would be quite apt. 

Further thoughts: Mrs. Winkey isn’t a very nice teacher. I hope Bobby has some nice teachers in contrast. Why the long spaces between the sentences at the end? I found it distracting, but maybe this was an error in formatting. And why Bobby’s fascination with the book? What’s so important about it? I would want to read more and find out. 

Final thoughts: This is a great set up. The reader is immediately sympathetic with Bobby, and while his extreme interest in the book seems, well, weird, it also creates the need to find out why. What’s special about this book? Why is he dying to get his hands on it? And what’s going to happen to Bobby on his way home. Excellent beginning!

Readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts about this first page and I know Christian would appreciate any feedback. Thanks and don't forget to go visit Dianne and Krystalyn to see what they thought.
 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Subconscious Mind


The Subconscious Mind


I’ve been thinking about this lately, especially as it pertains to writing. I don’t know about you but I often write subconsciously, ie, write what I think is ordinary/average but which turns out to have deeper meaning or significance.

For example, when I began my current WIP, it was November, and I was struggling with the first chapter. I knew I wanted it to be from my Inspector’s POV and that it had to start with the discovery of the body. Then there was the surrounding description: the place, the time, the weather, all those little things that frame the important words regarding what’s really happening. Since it was fall where I live, I gave my book the same setting. A bit cold, leaves falling, rainy weather, damp, etc. It’s always easier to write in the season you’re in, I think. It was only later I realized I had chosen an excellent time of year to begin my story. The murder was only going to take so long solve, at which point my story would be done. I imagined this to be no more than two months, bringing me to the end of the year. Since the story also revolves around the relationship between the estranged sisters, it made perfect sense to have the resolution occur at the end of the year so that the new year could ring in…well, something new. Birth and death. Death and Birth. 
I think my subconscious mind somehow knew to set the story at that particular time of the year.

Could it have been chance? Coincidence? Possibly. But I don’t think so. For the simple reason that it’s happened too many times. I suddenly realize that something I’ve written is—not to crow too loudly—a little bit brilliant, and it wasn’t planned. Sometimes I notice it right away, but sometimes, as in the above instance, I don’t realize it until later.

I’ll share one other curious incident that happened recently. As I was researching Tarot Cards I came across the amazing Visconti-Scorfza deck which I mentioned on my lastpost. I also posted a picture of the Ten of Swords from the deck, which I find extraordinary beautiful. So of course I used the card in my story, right? Only afterwards do I go and look up the meaning of the card, which is uncannily appropriate for what’s going on:

"The idea of completion and a group of people, associated with the meaning of the number ten, take on rather negative connotations in the suit of Swords. The Querant should beware of getting involved in a group of people whose problems will cause trouble for the Querant, though this may not be possible if they are members of one's own family or people to whom one has a commitment. However, as the number ten also signifies the conclusion of something, and the beginning of a new phase, this card can indicate that problems, conflict and pain are coming to an end and that the Querant is now experiencing the worst point of a crisis, after which the situation will improve. This is sometimes described as a card of ruin and disaster, but also offers hope for a brighter future."


Was it chance I chose the Ten of Swords? Coincidence? Sure, it could have been. But I think my subconscious mind pulled this information out of the vault of memories that's buried beneath all the immediate stuff I need to pull out of my hat. I think my subconscious mind knows all the stuff I’ve forgotten and sometimes I tap into it.

According to Brian Tracy* “Your unconscious memory is virtually perfect. It is your conscious recall that is suspect.”

What do you think?



* Brian Tracy is the CEO of a big company specializing in development training for individuals and companies. I just happened to come across the quote while googling the subconscious mind. Figured I’d give him credit. It’s an interesting quote. 

 

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse and Other News

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts and our books with other enthusiastic readers. Please join us:

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-december.html


 I have been a shit reader this year. Seriously. For reasons unknown, I just haven’t felt much like reading and when I have, most of the books I picked up did not hold my interest. I have been such a crappy reader, in fact, that I haven’t even read a single book this whole month, which means you get a review of a book I read last month: Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade by Susan Flett Swiderski.



Generally speaking, I don’t read women’s fiction or stories that take place in the real ordinary world we live in. I tend to like more adventure, intrigue, magic maybe, or a ghost or two in my stories. However, if you like women’s fiction and real-life stories, then this might be the perfect book for you.

This story is based entirely in the real world, Pearl’s world, which is pretty normal and average at first glance. She has an odd relationship with her mother that took me forever to figure out, thinks her dad can do no wrong, and I could totally relate to her blindness when it came to her ‘golden boy’ son. We all want to think the best of our kids, help them out when we can. It took a lot for Pearl to see how he was using her, manipulating her, and I have to admit I wanted a little more come-uppance for him. I loved all Pearl’s quirky friends—especially Candy—and  Pearl's family, and how she assumed a certain something was going on because she couldn’t imagine anything else. I especially loved how Pearl changed, not drastically, but just enough so she could be a better person for herself AND her family.

My only complaint (and I hate to use that word because it’s entirely subjective) is that there was a lot of description. Susan has a great way of describing things, like this: “Leggy petunias still loitered in her garden, slouched beside the chrysanthemums like a gang of long-limbed teenagers with no place to go.” Can’t you just picture that? The problem was that the description slowed down the pacing and it just felt like too much at times. For me.

Aside from that, this book was well-formatted and error free as far as I could tell, and if you like slice-of-life stories, you would probably love this.


In other news: I have been completely wrapped up in my new WIP and writing like a fiend on a mission. I don’t think I’ve felt this excited about writing in a while, and since November I’ve logged nearly 50K words (and I’m not counting the ones I wrote and then cut!), including 11K in notes alone.

I did quite a bit of outlining to start off with, and it took me a LONG time to get the first chapter down. But once I did, the rest has been…dare I say, fairly easy?

What I’ve learned thus far: Although I wrote a chapter by chapter outline for about half the book, I’ve deviated greatly from it. Which reminds me of playing Skyrim and wandering in the wilderness and suddenly seeing some hidden fortress. “What’s that over there?” I think, immediately heading towards it even though I was on a mission/quest. Sometimes these detours prove fruitful. Okay, most of the time in Skyrim, but in the writing world, detours don’t always pan out. Lucky for me, so far most of mine have, which is why I’m having so much fun with this. There are treasure everywhere!

Tarot Cards: I’ve always thought they were interesting; I have a small book about them and my own deck, but I’ve never really played with them. Then I did a little research and discovered the Visconti-Scorfza Tarot Cards, now held in the Beineke Rare Book& Manuscript Library. Having seen them, I can see why I didn't care much for my deck. I want this deck. Please.

Here’s a photo of the Ten of Swords, which played a part in a chapter I recently wrote:


 

Isn’t it effing gorgeous? And all the cards are equally stunning.


Writing is fun again, even addictive. I can’t wait to get at it in the morning and tend to think about my characters and where they are and what they’ll do next while I'm working, driving, or grocery shopping. And I’ll tell you a secret that’s both nice and (for me) a little worrisome: It’s been almost too easy at times, too fun. My muse is definitely with me and I think she likes what I'm doing. Let's hope she sticks around a while because if this trend continues, I might just have a new novel in a couple of months :)

Finally:

This is my boss' tree. Also stunning.





Happy Christmas all!



Friday, December 4, 2015

Building Better Characters

So. I'm on a roll here with my current project and am still going to be mostly absent this month, but while I was working so hard on my story and characters I came across something I thought I'd share. It's another character building exercise (because I love building better characters) that helps us delve into the deeper emotions of our characters. 

"Start by picking any moment in your story when your protagonist (or any other character) feels something strongly. What is that feeling. Write it down, Now, pause at that moment. As what else does this character feel simultaneously? Write that down. Next ask, what else does my character feel at this moment. This third level emotion is our focus." 

In my current tale there are three estranged sisters who have brought together by their mother's murder. One of the sisters, the oldest, is Alice so I did the exercise for her first. At the beginning of the story Alice is devastated (first level emotion) by the news of her mother’s murder. Not only does she love her mother as her mother but also as a friend. But what else does Alice feel simultaneously? Anger (second level emotion) at whoever did it. How could they? Why? What’s wrong with people? She hopes they rot in hell forever.  Next ask, what else does Alice feel at this moment? Afraid. (third level emotion) Her mother has been the one who has led her through society, provided her with a home and a lifestyle she not only wouldn’t be able to keep up on her salary, but would be afraid to even try to keep up on her own. Without her mother, she feels lost and afraid and alone again, like the kid she used to be and couldn’t wait not to be so she wouldn’t feel like this.
 
Examine this third level emotion: What is it like to feel this feeling?  Alice hoped never to feel like this again; she thought growing up would mean she wouldn’t. It’s even worse now because there isn’t even an adult to rely on. What might (or should) this character be feeling instead?  What would a finer human being feel? She would feel and exhibit the proper amount of grief for the proper amount of time and then get on with her life and everything would go back to being fine and dammit, what was wrong with her? Why did she always feel like she was faking being grown up? Regardless, why is this feeling the right and only one for this character right now? Because she needs to be down so she can learn to rely on her sisters who will help her be strong, for herself and others. Finally, what does having this third level-feeling tell this character about herself? What does it say about her condition? That she has some shite to deal with and get through. Has this character sunk or risen?  Sunk. Has this character grown or regressed?  Let’s call it a set back. What’s the truth in it?  She’s probably not the only person to feel this way when one of their parents dies. How is this feeling beautifully universal or painfully unique?  Is feeling this feeling to dwell in heaven or burn in hell? It’s hellish. She can’t wait to move on, but it’s going to take some work and she’s going to have to...change.

I did this exercise for all three sisters and it was interesting to see both the similarity in their answers, and the differences. It also helped me realize that Alice isn't as grown up as she may appear to others (or as grown up as I thought she was!), which helps me know how she reacts to situations, and clues me into her inner feelings so I can write her deeper.

Anyway. That's what I've been doing; writing my little ass off and trying to build better characters, and, a better book. 

I may not be back this month to post until the Cephalopod Coffeehouse on the 25th - unless I have something interesting to share - but I will be back for First Impression at the beginning of January so if you have a first page you'd like critiqued (your NaNo project maybe?) check out my sidebar (right) for all the FAQs and happy writing!


12/26/15 Update: I discovered where I found the bit on Third Level Emotions. Donald Maass. I should've known.




Friday, November 27, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - Dead Connection

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts and our books with other enthusiastic readers. Please join us:

 
This month the book I'll be talking about is Dead Connection 
 

Murray Keifer, who spends far too much time in the cemetery, is a kid with a hard life. His mom is an addict and sometime prostitute, there's a bad cop on the lookout for him, and he can speak to the dead. He doesn't understand his gift but talking to the dead gives him - and them - comfort. He likes to think of himself as a friend to the deceased. When he hears a new voice asking for help, it doesn't take him long to connect the voice to a missing teen names Nikki...

***
 
I pretty much ripped right through this book. Admittedly, I'm a huge fan of stories with characters can talk to the dead, and this reminded me a little of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I absolutely adored. I won't say it's as good, but I would give Dead Connection a solid 4 stars. I really liked it. A lot! Murray is an immediately sympathetic character due to his situation, and immediately interesting because he talks to dead. Pearl was a real brat in the beginning and we see a lot of her through her father's eyes, but this was especially fun because her father has no illusions about how devious his daughter can be. Gates, the cop investigating the crime, was solid along with the trying-to-get-his-life-together Robert, who may have seen something important, if only he could remember what it is. My only complaint about this book was the end and isn't so much a complaint, as a wish, summed up by this reviewer: "I don't mind the ending being left somewhat open, because the reader knows what will happen next. I wish Price would have taken us all the way there though, to the grave, to the story of this young girl, and to some sort of catharsis for Murray and his special gift." Exactly! Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed every word and I'll be plunking down some green for the next book about Murray.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Break Time

Yup. It's time for a mini blog break, in which I will go off and write some stuff and then come back in time for The Cephalopod Coffeehouse at the end of the month. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the last of the pumpkin pics I took...

my thoughts: what a strange little pumpkin family

here's the head of the family (get it? ha ha)
weird child #1
#2 (creepy hair)
and their little dog, too.


See you in a couple weeks :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

First Impressions - The Old Days


 Welcome to our last First Impressions post for this month, this one from Mary Livingston who has submitted the first page to her adult short story, THE OLD DAYS. As always, Dianne Salerni and Krystalyn Drown will also be critiquing this first page so do go see what they had to say if you have a chance.



THE OLD DAYS
Some people claim they have a vivid recollection of themselves in their mother’s womb and claim they can tell you, in detail, the usually elusive experience of birth.  They see themselves a little ball of flesh, floating in darkness.  The volcano erupts, the walls heave violently and close tightly around them.  One solid shove and they are forced into the world of things to come.  I must confess that I have no such recollection, but I can remember my parents before they were my parents.
He used to steer her down the streets of the past when she was just a baby.  And who would have thought that he would be steering her baby one day.  Certainly not him, for he was busy.  Busy maintaining his freedom to be wild, strutting like a male peacock, knowing the attraction of his brilliant color.  Busy trying to spread two dollars on as many girls, as many drinks and as many laughs as he could.  Seven years his junior, she was busy then writing in her diary, while he had already read that chapter in the book.  Today, he says, “I was waiting for your mother to grow up.”  And everyone smiles and slyly glances at everyone else, knowing that those laughing blue eyes in that devilish Irish face were looking anywhere but into a baby carriage.
I remember about a year before the “big war” was over.  His number came up.  His family said, “Thank God that no good son of a …is leaving.”  They cackled and chuckled to cover the dull ache in their guts.  For people feel sad when a while animal is on the verge of becoming domesticated.  The battle in the streets was common to them.  But this new battle was foreign to them.  And although they had slackened the line attaching him to them years ago, they now held tightly onto their end.  They gave him a party, as people will do, on the night before he was to go.  But, true to his leprechaun nature, he didn’t go anywhere, except to sleep with a smile on his face.  And if they all hadn’t been so hung-over, they would have killed him.  When he was out of sight, they would commiserate in humor about the boldness of his nature.  In his presence, they would mumble their disapproval, look everywhere but at him, and stifle an urge to grin.  Today, he winks while opening a beer and says, “I had a lot of parties when I went into the army”.  She moves her eyes without moving her head to look at him, and when he looks away, she smiles and he knows she is smiling. 
In those days, she was totally and wholeheartedly obsessed with the smile of the boy in the grocery store.  And the boy on the corner.  And the boy…Mind and eyes mesmerized by the silver screen, she would lick the last bit of her sundae as she and Astaire finished their dance.  He was her older brother’s friend and another piece of furniture in the mishmash that was her home.  And though they were so close, she could lean slightly to the right and touch him; in those days, she was looking past him into her own reality. 
***

My thoughts:  "Some people claim they have a vivid recollection of themselves in their mother’s womb and claim they can tell you, in detail, the usually elusive experience of birth." I'd consider replacing one of these and make this a stronger first sentence. Also, one space between sentences, not two.
This first paragraph leads me to believe that the narrator somehow knew his/her parents before birth.
"He used to steer her down the streets of the past when she was just a baby." Why not come right out and say 'his father'?
"Seven years his junior, she was busy then writing in her diary, while he had already read that chapter in the book." Now we're talking about the narrator's mother, but I don't get that last bit. What book? The diary?
"I remember about a year before the “big war” was over." Who is I? The narrator? Someone else? I'm a little confused. 
"But, true to his leprechaun nature, he didn’t go anywhere..." So...he didn't go off to war?
Aside from the above, this is an interesting concept, assuming I'm reading it right. This narrator/person was somehow able to observe his/her parents long before he/she was born. Why? To observe? To what purpose? Or was it to choose? Was the narrator in spirit form then or did he/she have another form at that time? And what's so important about their past that it's being repeated here now? I'm definitely curious! My only concern is that if this is a short story, I think things need to be clearer sooner, starting with who our narrator is. Unlike a novel, one only has a fraction of the words to tell the story so all the words have to carry even more weight.

Mary, I hope this helps, if not, feel free to ignore! Readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts about this first page, and if anyone is interested in submitting to First Impressions, please check out my sidebar - right - for all the info.
 

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About The Author

JESSICA THERRIEN spent most of her
life in the small town of Chilcoot, California, high up in the Sierra Nevada
Mountains. In this town of nearly 100 residents, with no streetlights or
grocery stores, there was little to do but find ways to be creative. Her
mother, the local English teacher, inspired her to do all things artistic, and
ultimately instilled in her a love for language. Jessica currently lives in
Southern California with her husband and their two children.

You can visit
her online at
www.jessicatherrien.com