An Adventure, Or Two, Or Three….

I wasn’t going to tell you this. In the end I figured, well, why not? We’re friends here. :-)

I’m fast approaching a milestone birthday that ends in a “zero.”

Free Stock Photo: Cupcakes with birthday candles.
Free Stock Photo: Cupcakes with birthday candles.

You may know that “James,” one of my main characters, is 29 years of age in 1994:

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Never In A Million Years

Laura had been born in upstate New York. She died August 26, 2004 on Long Island – 11 years ago now. Only 52 at the time, she’d died in her sleep of a previously undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.

For those of us who grew up fans, she was like a local gal who’d “made it.” I saw her perform live once, and won’t ever forget it:

A sneak peek into "Distances." Click to enlarge.
A sneak peek into “Distances.” Click to enlarge.

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My Phone Buzzed….

….and, from far away Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., messages from my uncle started appearing out of the blue yesterday afternoon. He does that. Unexpectedly, thoughts and advice disjointedly come flying my way.

I usually try to jump to and – if possible – answer him immediately. You may know he’s a HarperCollins published crime novelist. (His first book appeared in the early 1980s. And he, urr, also sorta resembles one of my characters.) We got involved in a back and forth about reading and my writing.

This starts the revealing bit: it opens with the end of my response to a reading suggestion he’d made:

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Life: The Most Difficult Exam

A thought for a Monday:

image

It may be extra-useful to remember that if you are, as I am, battling a sense of gloom about life.

We all feel down and out of sorts occasionally for a multitude of personal reasons. We must fight through. But it’s not always easy, of course.

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Friday Smiles

Proofing Distances, I’ve also been referring at times naturally to the first two volumes: Passports and Frontiers. When you write a series, continuity issues become huge. After all, as an author you don’t want to make even one silly mistake.

Because, of all that you write, you KNOW someone will pick up on any error. ;-) By now, there are A LOT of characters – parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, college chums, girlfriends, boyfriends…. and they are all distinct people. And there are varied settings, happenings and other background that must not be “misremembered” either.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a yellow smiley face.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a yellow smiley face.

Amidst all of it, there are lighthearted moments. Life isn’t always “heavy.” I thought I’d pull some excerpts from Passports and Frontiers and (in no particular order) “rapid fire” share them here. Something a bit different. I hope you enjoy them!:

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

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Flesch-Kincaid “Ease” Of Reading

Yesterday, I was on about the cover art. Of course, the tale between the covers is far more important. After all, you can change a cover even after publication, whereas the book itself is “forever.”

Planned
Planned “Distances” cover.

I’m still working through the final proofing of Distances. As I am, it’s not only about keeping an eye out for errors and typos; it’s also about its language – carefully reviewing the text in detail to try to make sure it conveys the story in the style I want. I suppose it’s not unlike an artist’s having a last look at the painting and applying the final brush strokes.

Readability,
Readability, “Distances” chapters 125-133

While writing the books, occasionally I run parts of the text through the Flesch-Kincaid readability check. That above is how chapters 125-133 in Distances “rate” overall in reading terms according to that test. Flesch-Kincaid has become so commonplace that it’s now even available in Microsoft Word when you do a combined spelling and grammar check.

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Not Being An “Artist,” I’ve Taken My Best “Shots”

That post I wrote yesterday about that cover of that, errr, “erotica” novella having created a logo dispute with the Chicago Teachers Union, encouraged me to take time afterward in the day to finish off the Distances cover “officially.”

We’ve all bought books. We know it’s usually the first “contact” we have with one. The cover can be the difference between attracting us to the book…. or not.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a modern art painting.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a modern art painting.

As a writer, you could be the next “big thing,” but if the cover’s lousy quite a few people who are put off by it will never learn that. When you indie publish, the decision falls to you. When I was considering what to do for a cover for Passports back in 2013, new to all this, I had searched through hordes of “stock photo” possibilities, including human models. Frankly, most of what I saw was dreadful stuff that made me groan.

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“You kids….and get off my lawn too!”

In a world full of young adult fiction readers who are also “social media” users, who could seriously argue the likes of Twitter are destroying novel reading among the young? For the two streams of entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive: reading a novel is one thing, while networking and socializing is another. Most people can walk and chew gum at the same time.

However, this retired English literature professor lumps them together:

Screen capture of the Daily Mail.
Screen capture of the Daily Mail.

His summation of novels in single tweets is amusing. However, his tweets are obviously not replacements for reading the full novels themselves. That said, I’ve also never seen the issue positioned before in that thrown back on itself manner.

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“Author Terror” Makes Its Appearance

Over the last few days, as planned, I’ve spent hours proofreading and tidying up Distances. Headphones in, listening to it as I read along, it is remarkable how hearing your written words helps you focus while you proof. It does make it easier to spot not only the likes of accidentally omitted words and typos, but I find it better reveals the overall flow and “readability” and if there are any problems with them.

Paris, France street scene. [Photo by me, 1995.]
Paris, France street scene. [Photo by me, 1995.]

One of my proofreaders, who had before their publications critiqued both Passports and Frontiers, was also on the phone yesterday.

She’s impatient.

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Our Distinctive Writing “Voice”

The net is wonderful in so many ways. It brings together those of us who otherwise would never have known each other. It allows us to share so much with others who may be equally enthusiastic about…. whatever it is we’re enthusiastic about.

I’ve read quite a lot of Thomas Jefferson over the years. You may know the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. diplomat in France from 1784-89 (a period of his life that, you may not be shocked to learn, has always been of particular interest to me), first Secretary of State, Vice President, and finally 3rd President, even gets casual mentions in my novels. That’s because, unsurprisingly perhaps based on my real-life interest, I’ve made “James” something of a “fan” too – and by this 3rd novel it’s well-known among other characters, who sometimes have some fun with it:

"Distances" back cover character quotes. [Original photography by me, 1995.]
“Distances” back cover character quotes. [Original photography by me, 1995.]

So when I saw this quote on Twitter a few days ago, I’d thought: How interesting? Hmm. I’ve never seen that before?:

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