The Harshest Critic

As I mentioned the other day, my harshest critic (Mrs. Nello) is now reviewing Frontiers:

“Patricia Hall-Surrey? Oh, please. Seriously? You’re EVIL!”

She grinned mischievously as she said that to me. That character’s name contains an obscure personal reference, and she’d caught it immediately. And it is hardly alone in that among the 95,000 words that make up the book.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an owl on a book.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an owl on a book.

Until she gives Frontiers her green light, the novel stays tucked away inside my PC(s). The tale has raised her eyebrows a few times, to say the least. Novel-writing is, frankly, great fun – at least once you’ve finished the story and get reactions. ;-)

Have a good Friday!

And this is also my 300th post on here. :-)

Time To Celebrate…. I Guess

Well, Frontiers is finished….

Front cover.

Front cover.

….and so, for all intents and purposes, mentally am I (for the time being). Lastly, final checks as it goes through Amazon’s processes. After it has appeared, I’ll put a link up here in the sidebar…. and perhaps set off fireworks too:

Free Stock Photo: Colorful fireworks in the night sky.

Free Stock Photo: Colorful fireworks in the night sky.

Okay, short of fireworks, how about a celebratory drink?:

Cognac!

Cognac!

Uh, about that. It’s rather early here in Britain right now to consume any of that; naturally that photo is merely for show. At least until tonight. ;-)

I’ve written previously about the first time I’d had one. It was, shall we say, “memorable”…. insofar as I can, err, fuzzily remember it:

The first time I’d had one was in France a rather, uh, relatively long time ago. … I remember having had, umm, one too many. And so had a girlfriend. We were saved when her (sober, designated driver) friend “poured” us two into her tiny (French) car as we three left a party. I recall a lot of laughing among us being involved too.

In Frontiers, at one point James gets himself in a degree of trouble in France due to having imbibed a bit too much of that. His problem is much more serious than that which happened to me in real life. As to what goes on with him, well, you know I will say no more about that here of course!

On a serious note, I’d like to thank you again for reading and following my site. If you can bear it, in weeks to come I’ll probably start yammering on about the third volume in progress. 2015’s project.

Have a good weekend. :-)

“Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

Writing, you are your best critic in some ways. If something bothers you as you re-read, it’s definitely not quite there. As in everything in life, listen to that little voice inside you.

I had a moment like that yesterday. It was only a few lines, but it just didn’t read quite as I wanted. Arrgh!

So, on the verge of publication, yep, yesterday I rewrote some of a Frontiers love scene.

I’ve discussed this problem previously. “Intimacy” is so difficult to write well. A real pain. There’s the narrowest of lines between “Got it! That works!” vs…. “Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

That issue off my chest (again), how about a “romantic” landscape photo for midweek? Iford Manor, Wiltshire:

Iford Manor, on the River Frome, Wiltshire, last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

It’s not a “Carson, would you please ask the new chauffeur to bring the motor around,” Downton Abbey type of manor. However, the house is thought to date originally to the late 1400s. Its garden was used a few years ago for a wedding in an episode of the TV series Mistresses.

Have a good Wednesday. :-)

It’s So Profound, It Should Be Shown On BBC 4

In working to finish Frontiers once and for all, I’ve vowed not to spend too much time on the net over this weekend.

I have had quite a few new followers in recent weeks. [Hello!] If you’re interested in what on earth “makes me tick,” and haven’t seen it, a couple of months ago I posted an interview I conducted…. errr, with myself. Let’s call this, here, an encore presentation. ;-)

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of television screens with commercials

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of television screens with commercials

Seeing those posts initially in September, some close to me were sure I had finally, uh, come authoringly unglued.

I assure you I hadn’t, and I haven’t. Writing requires determination and dedication of course. But we also need a sense of humor and to laugh a bit occasionally – including especially at ourselves in having chosen to write. :-)

Hope you have a good Sunday.

A Birthday Remembrance

As you know, I didn’t get Frontiers finished in time for publication today. I had fought to make today (which was slightly earlier than I had planned) in memory of one of the real-life inspirations for my novel(s) – although I never told her that (and never would have). However, she’d known I was writing the first one, Passports. The last time we saw each other in person, in mid-2013, she’d urged me on to do the best I could and said she was sure it would be great.

Free Stock Photo: A mixed flock of waterfowl flying in the sunset

Free Stock Photo: A mixed flock of waterfowl flying in the sunset

She died back on February 2. I wrote a post about her eight days later. If you’d like to re-read it, click here.

Today would have been her 46th birthday.

Have a good Sunday, wherever you are reading this. And thank you for reading, following, and sharing my novel-writing site. :-)

I’ll Do It My Way

Currently, I’m seeing lots around WordPress about something called “National Novel-Writing Month,” also known by its hashtag #NaNoWriMo. I have to admit I’ve paid scant attention to it. I’ve never been a “contest type,” and I’m wary of distractions.

I finally looked at the web site, and realized quickly enough I didn’t need another writing “challenge.” I have one already. For over 10 months, I’ve been up to my eyeballs completing a second novel.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a quill pen

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a quill pen

Understand, I’m not arguing one shouldn’t join in the #NaNoWriMo. It’s a personal choice. If you lean that way, go for it.

I seek on this blog to share various of my novel-writing experiences. I would never presume to tell anyone else how to approach their books…. other than generally to urge anyone desiring to write to stop thinking about it, stop discussing it, stop planning it, and just get on with it. Write the novel! Feel free even to write about, uh, vampires! ;-)

image

The last observation above from Béatrice in that Frontiers excerpt speaks to my aim in novel-writing. I believe a book should make us think, immerse us, take us elsewhere, introduce us to those we’ve not known before, and even perhaps lift us emotionally and spiritually. Above all, it should entertain us.

All of that is, at times, perhaps contradictory, which is why there is no “magical formula” or “template” for producing a novel. There are a gazillion ways to do it. Writing is – and always has been, and always will be – an intensely personal, daunting challenge.

It has taken me since January to produce the 95,000 words that make up Frontiers. I wrote pretty much daily – adding, changing, altering, fine-tuning, detailing, cutting out, etc. The only lengthy slowdown was for much of February – shortly after I’d really gotten going – when I’d totally lost heart after the sudden death of our girlfriend and considered giving up on the entire project and throwing my computer out a second floor window. Her death so early in the writing profoundly influenced the overall tone of the tale. Like I said, writing is “intensely personal.”

I didn’t hit “50,000 words” until almost June 1. It’s November 7, and I’m still tinkering with a word here and there in the final draft. Passports is about the same length book, and also took me a similar time to write in 2012-2013.

So when I saw this “National Novel-Writing Month” goal of encouraging a “rough draft” of 50,000 words in 30 days, my reaction was someone is having a laugh. Talk about setting up aspiring writers for disillusionment right out of the starting gate. For given the incredible difficulty in producing a novel to begin with, the last thing anyone new to writing needs is to be urged to churn out a major part of one at warp speed.

I’m underwhelmed. Not my thing. In the immortal words of one Frank Sinatra, I’ll do it…. my way.

Happy Friday! :-)

“Woman’s name omitted”

Given what my uncle had messaged me recently about my perhaps writing a “cozy mystery” novel, I’m now really pleased I’d soldiered on with that Frontiers chapter I’d struggled with getting “right” for months. Whew. Apparently it was worth the effort. One proofreader has emailed me that she was floored by it:

Wow!…. (Woman’s name omitted)’s dilemma certainly holds the reader’s attention….

It is, shall we say, something of “a shocker.” Naturally I don’t want to give away too much. The only hints I’ll drop here are, uh, alcohol, a razor sharp knife, and a scarf, are all involved. ;-)

I was privately quite full of myself over her take. (As you see, I deleted her mention of the character’s name.) And I’ll admit, yes, I couldn’t wait to share it here. After all, that’s what novel-writing is essentially all about: wowing readers and holding their attention. [#fistshake]

A cozy.” Ha! Take that Uncle! I can do…. a bit of “thriller!”

The “Frontiers” proof open to where I am now as I do final corrections. I wasn’t a big fan of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but it has grown on me. Aside from the keyboard (sold separately by Microsoft) being hypersensitive – which can be annoying at times – it’s excellent as a combination tablet/PC. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Now back to polishing off Frontiers. I’m almost across the final corrections’ finish line. I may actually get there today. :-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are in the world….

Beware Too Many Cooks

You may recall I posted recently about a Messenger exchange I’d had with my uncle in which he’d suggested to me that I could write “a cozy.” When he did, I almost split my sides laughing. I wouldn’t know where to begin with a crime novel of any sort.

I’ve always suspected he sees me as a gentle type, and could never imagine me producing, say, a “stalker, slasher, serial killer, blood everywhere, horror thriller,” or some such. And in that, he would be right. (Although I’ve got stuff in Frontiers which might surprise him! Hey, I can do “thrilling!”) Still, as a crime novelist, he sees the literary world first and foremost from his perch as a crime novelist.

Although they are “thoughtful” (perhaps even, uh, “gentle” in some ways), I suspect the novels I’ve written would stun him. (The romance and sex especially!) Yet I also suspect that, after he’d thought about it a bit, he wouldn’t be nearly as stunned. So even those who know us well (even a long-published novelist) can’t always give us decent writing advice.

It is worth bearing that in mind. Seeking out too much advice and too many critiques has its own pitfalls for any novelist. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth.

Free Stock Photo: Hispanic women preparing food By: Rhoda Baer acquired from National Cancer Institute

Free Stock Photo: Hispanic women preparing food
By: Rhoda Baer acquired from National Cancer Institute

Because novels aren’t written by committee. Any five people out there will share their takes on your writing from their own five, entirely personal, perspectives. Other novelists chiming in are similarly biased, as my uncle demonstrated unwittingly to me. Indeed whenever I see authors “judging” and “helping” other authors, I can’t help also but recall my uncle’s bemoaning aspiring writers sending him manuscripts, and his noting he doesn’t really have time to read them (and I sense doesn’t even really want to): he is merely another writer, he says, struggling to get on with his own latest project. (Although, obviously, he’s a HarperCollins published one.)

Consider this too: if those “five” people have their varied opinions about your work, how do you think “100 readers” (likely mostly non-authors), or even 10,000 or more (should you be so lucky), will react to it? There are those who will open (or download) your novel and adore what you’ve produced. Others will roll their eyes that you haven’t quite nailed it. Still others will scoff that you write like you are still in high school and hate it.

Even Shakespeare had – and has – detractors. I had a laugh a few months ago on here also imagining Washington Irving having to cope with disparaging comments on Twitter. Bottom line: you will NEVER satisfy everyone, so don’t even try.

Above all, no one can write your book(s) for you. Yes, you may ask for the views of numerous others, and even a dozen other authors, but what you write is rooted ultimately in your unique background, your interests, your experiences, your outlook, and what you know. In the end, it’s all on you. :-)

November 9 is getting here way too quickly. Now back to polishing off Frontiers. It is entirely mine. No one else is to blame for it! ;-)

Have a good Monday, wherever in the world you are reading this!

Customer Experience

In proofing Frontiers, I am re-discovering that qualitative reading “difference” between print and e-books. Both versions have their pluses and minuses, and I still maintain I would not chuck out print books in exchange for e-books. E-books have their role, but they are not everything.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of books and reading glasses.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of books and reading glasses.

I do final corrections by reading the paperback proof, scribbling in the margins, and simultaneously have the PC (currently, a Surface Pro 3) open on the desk (currently, post-move, that’s the dining room table) to the manuscript. If I see a word, or phrase, or typo, or punctuation I want to change, I insert the revision as a “comment” in Word at that spot in the PC manuscript. Then it’s back to re-reading the print book.

I hope to get through the proof that way within a few days. I’m fanatical about the text. Every word. Every letter.

Because I absolutely haaaaaaaate typos and sloppiness. I get a sense from what I read on the net that some indy authors – eager to make their, uh, fortunes – rush to print having missed obvious errors or, worse, don’t seem to care about them. I don’t think either is acceptable from the perspective of you expecting people to separate themselves from their hard-earned money to buy your book. By making your book the absolutely cleaniest you can (I’ve seen major publishing house books with typos too and don’t think that’s acceptable either), I believe you show readers the respect that is their due in their choosing to buy your work ahead of others. It is standard good “customer experience” stuff that applies to any business.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of the word business in the dictionary.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of the word business in the dictionary.

In terms of craft, the tale is written as it is for reasons of my own. It’s personal. It’s mine. It’s like a painting or poetry (for me). I’ve often agonized for hours over the style and flow of a few paragraphs.

Indeed how it “sounds” not just in one’s head is important to me too. I tend to proof read, at times, out loud. (Naturally, that is helped immeasurably when I am alone in the house. And, no, you don’t want to hear my English-French or English-Russian accents! ;-) ) Doing an impersonation of an “audio book” I find greatly assists in tightening the story flow and reading experience.

Overall, what might appear to be a “typo” in a conversation is almost certainly not. I write conversation in the manner of “real chatter,” so it is often ungrammatical in the manner in which we all sometimes speak. I also write non-native English speakers’ accents in English….carefully. I am fully aware it can be dangerous to venture into that realm in case one accidentally drifts into caricature, but I believe it is vital for my story and characters. (I’m told I succeeded in that with Passports, so now feel more confident in continuing that style.) It’s always a case of knowing where to draw the line. (I’ve reached the point now that my characters are so familiar to me that I know whose English is better than whose!) So an awkward delivery by a non-native English speaker is presented that way deliberately.

Yesterday, I was able to finalize about 150 pages out of the nearly 390 of the full story. Not bad that. The day whizzed by.

Although it may not be possible, I would love to get Frontiers published on November 9. On that exact day. It would have been our friend Kam’s 46th birthday.

Here’s The Proof

Drumroll please….

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a toy drum

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a toy drum

It arrived yesterday afternoon. The first paperback copy! Here it is!:

Frontiers cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Frontiers cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

You may know you’ve written 100,000 words. And you may see it on a screen. However, it never seems quite real and legit until you finally see your struggle in print. (To me, anyway.)

Oh, and here they are, posing together:

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

I think they sit well side by side. And they should. Being a series, I’ve made sure they are laid out similarly.

Now to the next task: re-reading and scribbling in that Frontiers “proof” copy. Time to scour it word by word, pencil in hand, for small errors. Final corrections.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a word of advice: you should’ve penned fiction. Young adult perhaps. Maybe vampires too. (Note: I have already apologized for the lack of vampires in my work.)

Although many might also assert that a political memoir could be, uh, rather “fictional” too.

What I write about here revolves around a group of intriguing twenty and thirty-somethings from several countries and a variety of cultures and upbringings. And their families. And, uh, crime novelist Uncle Bill too. (Don’t want to forget Uncle Bill!)

Frontiers tentative back cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Frontiers’ tentative back cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Have a good weekend, wherever in the world you are reading this. :-)

Oh, and Happy Halloween. Be mindful of the politicians the vampires roaming around out there tonight!