June 29, 2012

Bittersweet

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Shakespeare said that parting is such sweet sorrow.  Personally, I think Romeo and Juliet was meant to be a comedy and anything those characters say should be taken with a shaker of salt - but in this case, the case of coming to the end of a story, the phrase holds water.

I've been working on the first draft of The White Sail's Shaking for more than a year and a half, beginning in November 2010.  I had hoped to finish in May, when it would have been exactly eighteen months; but what with studying and finals and the like, that plan failed.  This June, however, I set myself a goal of two pages a day to see the story finished by the 30th, and I reached said goal two days early.  Which is to say that the very rough first draft is now complete.

Naturally, this is exciting.  It's always exciting to finish a novel.  When I ended The Soldier's Cross, I immediately ran off to call Jenny and let her know (a bad idea, it turned out, since it was Sunday and she had been taking a nap).  I don't remember what I did when I finished Wordcrafter, but then, I had to rewrite the ending so many times that it hardly counted.  But each time I have been excited - excited to see some of my efforts pay off, excited to be able to move on to the next stage.

There's some bitter mixed in with the sweet, though.  To say I spent a year and a half writing this novel is also to say that I spent a year and a half rubbing elbows with these characters, and, for the most part, only these characters.  Now their story - or this part of their story - is over.  Oh, I still have edits to do and earlier chapters to write, the ones that got skipped on the first go-round, but it isn't the same.  As Tip just remarked in a different context: "There's no going back."

So for the next couple days I'll be in a state of elation, which will then degenerate into a few days of numbness, which will progress to panic as I wonder, what am I going to do now?  Technically I know what I'm going to do now: edits, and queries, and more edits, and eventually beginning Tempus Regina.  But whenever I finish a story, even knowing where I'm going next, I feel a little frozen.  I just spent a year and a half with this cast; how am I going to fall in love with another one?  What if the next story doesn't develop?  What if at some point I finish a novel and there isn't one to come after it? 

I am, you see, quite the paranoid writer, and I suppose that many writers have similar fears.  I haven't yet found a way to counteract them, besides telling myself that I'm being ridiculous (which I am), but I do know one thing: there's no going back, but as long as the Lord desires it, one can always go forward.  There are too many stories to tell, and new characters to love, and new places to experience, for us to stay in a single place for too long.  We must always be discovering.

Because we're writers, and that's what we do.

June 25, 2012

Tea on Literary Lane

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Today Miss Elizabeth Rose graciously hosted me at her blog on Literary Lane (which is just past the bookstore on the left) for tea, scones, and an author interview.  We chatted about general writerly things, including favorite times of the day in which to write; most inspiring books and authors; and how faith affects writing.  And what's more, there's a surprise at the very end of the post.  I'll give you a hint and inform you that it's not cake.

So do scoot over and join us!  I haven't eaten all of the crumpets yet.


In further news: don't forget to enter Grace Pennington's giveaway!  It ends June 29, which is fast approaching; tack it to your calendars 
and don't miss out!


June 23, 2012

Love and Thunder

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The inspiration for The White Sail's Shaking, especially the title, began rather with a poem than a song.  It's a fairly well-known poem and I've posted it before, so most of you have probably read it before.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, 
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, 
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
 And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking. 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide 
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, 
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. 

 I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, 
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife; 
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, 
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

- sea fever, john masefield

It is not, however, the only poem or song that inspires The White Sail's Shaking; I have a whole heap of those.  Although I have a hard time actually writing while listening to music, there are still many songs that, when I hear them, make my fingers itch to continue writing.  (Especially helpful for times like these, since I would be utterly uninspired otherwise.)  Here are a few on my list.

to the sky (owl city)

There is a great deal of Owl City in this collection; for some reason, perhaps only because I started listening to it early on in the writing of White Sail's, the two are connected in the odd recesses of my brain.  To the Sky was the very first one I heard.  It is Charlie Bent's song, really, but it doubles as inspiration for the first half of the novel - it's too lighthearted and jolly for the second half, unfortunately.  (Happiness?  Goodness, we mustn't have any of that!)

on the heels of war and wonder
there's a dreamy world up there
you can't whisper above the thunder
but you can fly anywhere.

undying love & infinite legends (two steps from hell)

I consider this a terrible name for a band, but they do have beautiful instrumental music - excellent stuff for battle scenes.  That is, in my mind it's excellent stuff, but then when I try to write with the music on my output rapidly decreases...

I'm still here (treasure planet soundtrack)

This song works as a theme for Tip and Charlie both, but I think primarily of Tip.  It suits his attitude (of which he has plenty) at the beginning of the story, and summarizes some of his motives.  Besides, it makes me think of "space" ships and Robert Louis Stevenson.  Both epic.

and you see the things they never see
all you wanted, I could be
now you know me, and I'm not afraid
and I wanna tell you who I am
can you help me be a man?

storm (fernando ortega)

This is the song I chose for Marta ages back when I assigned a piece to each of my characters, but I've found it works for Marta and Tip's relationship as a whole.  It is not a typical love song; but then, theirs is not, I suppose, a typical love story.  The feeling of rest in the lyrics is especially suitable.

it takes the rain between the lines
to know what sorrow finds
the way a cloud divides sometimes
the clearing and the blue
...I love you.

vanilla twilight (owl city)

This is Darkwood's theme; he has a great deal more backstory than is given to him in the book itself, and this song sums it up.  (Except that I'm pretty sure they did not have postcards in 1803.)

and I'll forget the world that I knew
but I swear I won't forget you
oh, if my voice could reach back through the past
I'd whisper in your ear:
"oh darling, I wish you were here." 

if my heart was a house (owl city)

I would just like to point out that, grammatically speaking, it should be "were".  Were a house.  But I'll admit that "was" sounds better in the song, and I suppose songwriters are allowed to take, er, license with the English language.  At any rate, this is another for Tip and Marta - mainly its chorus:

circle me and the needle moves gracefully
back and forth, if my heart was a compass you'd be North
risk it all cause I'll catch you if you fall
wherever you go, if my heart was a house you'd be home.

What about you?  Do you write to music, and are there particular songs that inspire you?

June 19, 2012

The Art and Craft of Villainy

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Once upon a time, my family watched Midsomer Murders.  Looking back on it, I can hardly figure out why, but for some reason we liked the series - until Troy left and they brought in a new right-hand-man.  After that, we stopped watching and the series has, for the most part, faded from my thoughts.

Not entirely, though.  Villains seem to be the characters of the day - or month - and when Georgie and Sky released their Villain edition of Beautiful people in May, my mind soon went to a line from one of the Midsomer episodes.  I can no longer remember the exact quote, and I've no intention of trawling through fifteen seasons' worth of episodes to find it; but in the main, the detective was asking another character if he knew about the trinity of murder.  That is,

motive
opportunity
means

Three things that seem to me fitting questions to ask any villain, murderer or not.  After all, there is an art to creating a memorable villain, as much as there is an art to creating a (hopefully still more memorable) hero; greatly as a billowing black cape may enhance the awfulness of any antagonist, it is, alas, not the deciding factor of villainy.  So what about this trinity?

motive

Much is written about backstory - the primary factor in forming any character's motive, including that of the villain.  He must have some reason for doing what he does, or he will only come across as arbitrary and irritating.  Writers are forced to take into account that, depraved though human nature is, it is still considered unnatural to commit certain crimes, including murder; one usually doesn't simply wake up one morning and decide to take a jaunt before breakfast to kill a handful of people.  An impetus is needed.  What is that happened, or is happening, in the villain's life that set him on this particular path?

That said, I'll add that it isn't necessary for the villain's backstory to overwhelm the story, or even to be worth sympathizing with.  I never sympathized with Wickham, or Magua, and I've only ever remotely sympathized with one of my own villains.  Some people are just plain wicked, and it takes a great deal of effort to summon up any charitable feelings toward them - especially if they're on a page.  But you know, even psychopaths use a form of reasoning, and it ought to be lightly threaded into the story.

Another thing to consider in the search for motive is that the external impetus is not enough.  Two people will react to an event in two different ways.  One character may suffer poverty and come out on the other side with more charity and compassion; another may become Ebeneezer Scrooge.  The mental configuration of the villain is even more important than the outside events one may lob at him, for abuse and rejection and poverty and starvation and the whole shebang will only warp a character as much as he allows himself to be warped.

opportunity

The villain has to spend most of the story with opportunity, and greater opportunity than the protagonist.  The story will always be a give-and-take between the two characters, a battle in which sometimes one side and sometimes the other will come out the victor.  But for the most part it should be the villain who keeps the upper hand, for otherwise he isn't much of a villain at all.  The greater the villain's success, the greater the tension.  Thus, he must be in a suitable position for whatever it is he is attempting to do - or he must have good connections. Good connections are always to be coveted.  (Although one must take into account that if one wants a thing done properly, one has to do it oneself.  Never trust matters to the hired help.  Important advice for those who are considering ruling the world.)

means

Here there is a great deal of room in which to play.  The usual fallback means for villains to get what they want tends to be murder, but as mentioned above, that is hardly what one would call a "natural" thing to do.  The character has to be pushed very far, and have a certain makeup, to resort to that.  So before pinning the murder on him, the writer has to stop and consider whether he is in fact the sort of person to bring about his own ends by taking another person's life.  

If not, there are other means, just as wicked, some more insidious, that don't require any physical blood being spilled.  Manipulation is a good example and can take any number of forms, including blackmail; bullying also works, especially for characters who are rather childish.  For stories set in fantastical worlds, sorcery presents a whole array of possibilities.  And in any genre, there will be those villains who prefer to work entirely behind the scenes, pulling the strings so that others do the work for them.  In this instance, however, it is important to know why the puppets agreed to being on the strings in the first place...

...and then you go full circle and are back to "motive" again.

June 12, 2012

Interview with J. Grace Pennington

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Today I have the honor of participating in Grace Pennington's blog tour, celebrating the release of her novel Firmament: Radialloy.  Grace has supported Scribbles and Ink Stains for quite a while, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to return the favor as her debut science fiction hits virtual shelves.  And what's more, Grace is also doing a giveaway of one copy of Radialloy!  To enter, just leave a comment with your email address.  Giveaway ends June 29, so don't miss the opportunity!

The year is 2320. Andi Lloyd is content with her life as the assistant to her adoptive father, a starship doctor, but her secure world turns upside down when she begins uncovering secrets from her past. When her father mysteriously starts losing his mind, she finds that she can no longer count on him to guide or help her. With mutiny breaking out on the ship, and two factions desperate for a valuable secret she holds, she must race to save her father and herself before time runs out.

the interview

1. To start off (as usual), could you tell readers a little about yourself? Short bio, extra-writing hobbies, cats, dogs, or fish? 

Hello, and thank you for having me! I’m a homeschool graduate, oldest of nine kids, living in the beautiful Texas Hill Country with my family. I love writing, obviously, but I also enjoy many other things—reading, watching films, playing piano and a little guitar and violin, playing with my siblings, chatting with friends, and riding my horse, Pioneer.

2. To what prime factors would you credit your writing, and how did you get started? Was it something you always saw yourself doing? 

Probably the biggest factor in my writing was reading and watching other stories. Every time I experience a great story, I feel a strong longing to create something just as beautiful. I started writing as soon as I realized I could, about age five. I knew then I wanted to be a writer, and I wrote prolifically until I was about fourteen, though I never finished anything. After that, I sort of gave up for awhile, and didn’t get back into it until I was nineteen. At that time, I finally got serious about writing, and finished several things

3. What would you say is your philosophy of writing, your way of looking at what it is you do? 

My first and foremost goal is to bring glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and serve others. Sometimes that means writing about God’s laws, sometimes it means demonstrating a virtue that mirrors His character, and other times it just means making someone laugh. But everything I write is weighed against that standard in one way or another.

4. Writers tend to have very different processes in the crafting of a story. Can you summarize yours, or does it change from one novel to the next? 

I’ve experimented with different things, but I do have a basic pattern I usually follow. I generally start with several things I have in mind—a first line, a bit of dialogue, a scene, a character, a relationship, a twist, an image—it could be anything. I freewrite until I have a general premise or idea of a plot that uses those things, and then I start writing the rough draft. I often plan as I write, taking a break to do some freewriting and plan the next couple of chapters. So I guess I’m sort of a cross between a panster and an outliner.
 
5. You primarily write science fiction, and Firmament: Radialloy falls in that genre. What sort of research and brain-storming goes into creating a story that takes place in such a different world? Are there things about sci-fi that you believe make it more difficult to write than other genres? 

It depends on what kind of sci-fi you are writing, I think. For instance, if you’re creating another planet, you have a lot of freedom to develop the setting, the rules, etc., depending on how scientifically accurate you want to be. If you’re writing it on Earth, on the other hand, you have to make sure you have not only science right, but you have to consider geography, realistic projections of future cultures (if you are setting your story in the future), and much more. And it can get more complicated—if you deal with time travel, for example, you have to work out the rules for that, and all the paradoxes that will result. So basically, science-fiction can be as difficult or simple as you make it, depending on the kinds of things your plot involves. My plots tend to be rather complicated and somewhat science-oriented, so they do require a fair amount of research, but not as much as very “hard” science-fiction, where there’s oftentimes more science than fiction.

6. Which sci-fi authors do you particularly enjoy, and which have had the most impact on your own writing?

Surprisingly, I haven’t read many sci-fi authors yet. One of the few I have read, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, gave me a lot of thoughts about humanity. But thus far I’ve been more influenced by sci-fi films and TV shows, especially the Star Trek series, and the films of Steven Spielberg.

7. If driven to choose, what would you say were the three main things that inspired Firmament: Radialloy, both in its planning stages and in the writing of it? 

Star Trek was one, since my series is very loosely patterned after those shows, and it was what got me very interested in sci-fi. But before that I was growing interested in sci-fi due to a talk given by Mr. Doug Phillips at the 2009 Christian Filmmakers Academy about science-fiction and why it was important for Christians. If I had to pick a third influence, it would be my readers—I had test readers both of the type who squeal over each chapter and beg for more, and of the type that pick every paragraph to pieces, and some in between. All of which are very necessary to me, because I crave feedback in order to keep going.

8. Without giving any spoilers (which are evil), can you tell us what it is you would most like your readers to take away from your debut novel? 

In many ways, this is an introduction. It tells us who everyone is, what their relationships are, and the way things are on a starship in the twenty-fourth century, so we can move on to the more complex themes and stories of later books. But it also stands as its own story, as Andi learns to grow and mature. I’d like my young readers to learn and grow with her, and for my older readers to perhaps remember a little of what they learned once, when they were trying to finish growing up.

9. If I’m not mistaken, Radialloy is the first in a series. Where do you intend to take your future books? Will they all be closely tied together, or loosely linked instead? 

Indeed it is the first in a series. There are eighteen books planned in all, and they are definitely tied together, some more closely than others. Some almost stand alone, while others are in clusters that could be categorized as a trilogy within the series, due to events and character arcs carrying over. But there is an ongoing arc for everyone, especially Andi, as she journeys from being a young lady to being a woman.

10. What project are you currently working on? 

 I have a few different projects in different stages right now. Never, a historical western mystery in the revision stage; Machiavellian, the third Firmament novel, in the drafting stage; and Chroma, a cyberpunk thriller in the outlining stage. It’s going to be a busy year, as I’m hoping to write a couple novels and get Never published, perhaps in November. We’ll see where God leads!

Thank you so much for having me on Scribbles and Ink Stains, Abigail!

Thank you for adding Scribbles to your blog tour!  I'm looking forward to reading Radialloy.





Radialloy is available for purchase through Amazon, where you can also find reviews.  If you would like to connect with Grace and stay updated on her other works, be sure to check out her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter (@jgracetheauthor). 


June 7, 2012

Tweeting Fathers

I didn't used to be interested in American history.  For one thing, there isn't as much of it as there is of - well, just about any country in Europe and Asia.  Besides, I had The Landmark History of the American People for an American course years ago, from which I learned that there have not been such things as Color or Life from the Revolution to date.  (All the pictures in that massive tome are black and white, and to a child, it felt like reading the obituaries.)  Needless to say, not much was got out of that course.

However, about the time I started reading histories and biographies in some degree of earnest, I decided that I ought to incorporate at least some works on America's past.  So I read David McCullough's John Adams, and discovered that the founding of the United States was actually interesting.  The men had voices and personalities; through the writing of an another like McCullough, you can see the world of the times unfolding - and the writers of The Landmark History got it wrong: there was color.  It was quite the breakthrough for me, I assure you. 

So after a short jaunt to the Roman Republic in April, I've picked up Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton and returned to the United States in its early years.  One thing I especially love about these books, and the time period in general, is the insults that men hurled at each other.  (I know I'm supposed to be appalled, but I'm more inclined to wonder why on earth such wit ever went out of style.)  Reading the invectives used by Hamilton when he was just getting his start in the States - one man's writing was "puerile and fallacious" - and the fact that just the other day I opened a Twitter account gave me the amusing thought, Whatever would the Founding Fathers have done with social media?  I can't help but feel it would have curbed their wit; I'm not sure Hamilton could ever have managed to fit any of his thoughts into 140 characters.  One can imagine the butchery of the English language that would have inevitably resulted -

@TJefferson - Sir, ur grasp of ecnmc thry is abysml.  I hmbly submit to u that u r an idiot.  #washingtonscabinet  #federalbank

@JAdams - Yes, I sabotged the elect'n.  Get ovr it.  #election  #chump

@GWashington - Receivd notes @ 11 pm.  Emailing 65 pg treatise 2 u now.  Dont think adqutly addressd pt 22 on pg 59.  What u thnk?  #sleep?

@JMadison @JJay - I allude to the fishries. #federalistpapers #random  

@Seabury - Such is my opnion of ur ablties as a critic, that i vry much prfr ur disapprbtion 2 ur applause.  #awestchesteridiot
(Real quote from Alexander Hamilton, if you un-butcher the English.)

The beauty of Hamilton's wit is lacking, as you can see.  And amusing as it is, the humor comes in a bitter way - for, judging from the popularity of Twitter, people nowadays don't struggle at all with reining in their thoughts to 140 characters.  There is no wit to be lost.  I can't say I want us to go back to speaking in quite the same flowery language that the men of the 18th and 19th Centuries used; sometimes it's hard to sort out the fellow's meaning from his blathering.  There is, however, one thing that ought to be preserved, and that is the beauty of thought and its expression. We are, after all, writers, and that should make both things doubly dear to us.

"There's a moral somewhere in that, if you like morals."

- the eagle of the ninth, rosemary sutcliff

June 4, 2012

Snippets of June

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First off, I'm pleased to announce that there is a sale going on throughout the month of June for The Soldier's Cross and The Shadow Things Kindle e-books.  They will each be available for 99 cents until June 29th, so if you haven't had a chance to get them yet, here it is!  For more information and updates, including a link to the free iPad "Kindle" app, you can check out my Facebook page.

On to the subject of this post, proper.  Last month I didn't participate in Katie's "Story Snippets" meme, partly because of the almost-summer rush, mostly because I forgot until about two days until the end of May.  To make up for my brainlessness, I'm getting in to the June collection a little early.  For those of you who have not investigated this blog-series yet, you can take a peek at Katie's blog at Whisperings of the Pen to join the fun.

june snippets

“Sir?”

Tip dashed the salt out of his eyes and glanced sidelong at Marta. She had turned up her collar and shrunk down into it, and she blinked cat-like at him from the little shelter her cap gave her. When he turned she held out to him a dark, damp bundle and said, “Your coat, sir.”

 - the white sail's shaking

Tip’s eyes wandered off, scanning the witching expanse of sea and the white bodies of the gulls, real ones now, whirling over it like foam. He moved, trying to keep the weight off his left leg.

- the white sail's shaking

[Marta] was off-duty and Tip found her with a half-dozen other seamen, sitting and talking round a table while Scipio waddled between them and vied for every man’s attention at once. One of the ordinaries and the carpenter’s mate were playing a game, but the sharp staccato of their dice halted when they caught sight of Tip; the gossip dithered into awkward silence. Only Scipio went right on being coy, coming over and attempting to shimmy up his master’s leg.

- the white sail's shaking

His vision blurred; the shadows had gone strange and elongated, peppered by brilliant flashes of red that burned behind his eyes. You’re a fool, Tip Brighton, he thought; but that was nothing new, and he ignored himself.

- the white sail's shaking

Decatur eyed him sideways, more as though he were solving for the variable of an equation than as though Tip was of any concern to him.

- the white sail's shaking

“I told you I was a c…oward,” he said, holding the c with his tongue so that it would not catch. “You didn’t believe me.”

- the white sail's shaking

The world split.  Pain drove through Regina's heart like cold fire; her thoughts shattered to the far corners of her mind.  Screaming and roaring, snatches of discordant songs, battered her in wind and waves and darkness.  There was nothing beneath her, nothing above her, nothing around her - there was no her.  The dragon had opened its jaws, and the void of its mouth consumed identity, consumed existence.  Of Regina there was nothing left.

- tempus regina
 
meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings






The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings






Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing



Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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