Women of Horror Interview!
During the Covid 19 Pandemic, I've been lucky enough to have been able to work with Abbynormal Productions in a series of Facebook plays. As part of that, I got to work with the awesome Leila Toba on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dracula (I got to respectively play two cool original characters, the indominable Sr. Agatha and quirky, flirty Bridget Stone, aka The Curator). Abbynormal is creating a new monsterverse, so if you're a horror fan and you haven't checked out their Facebook page, do yourself a favor and check it out here.
Leila and I were interviewed by Andrew Morris on his What the Niche podcast about being women in horror, why the horror genre is ultimately hopeful, and why Morticia Addams is Boss. (I also learned, on relistening, that I giggle a LOT!) Many thanks to Andrew and Leila for such a fun and informative chat!
Check it out here - our interview starts at the 40 minute mark!
In this sneak peek from Jenny Goodnight, Jenny, a burnt-out missionary, has just arrived in the small town of Legacy, where her Uncle Matthew has started a small but controversial newspaper. As Jenny waits in her uncle's print shop to greet her uncle for the first time in a long while, something happens to disturb the peaceable reunion:
How long I waited, I can’t say. Time stretched out until I lost track of it. My head grew lighter until it seemed ready to float away. My legs were heavy, like blocks of wood, and there was a general fogginess about my ears that blurred what few sounds there were. I was slipping away again – dreams beckoned with dark arms.
Then, just I was on the verge of falling asleep properly, an explosion occurred.
I exaggerate, of course. It was merely the front door bursting open under someone’s impatient shove – but it might as well have been an explosion from the way it made my heart skip a beat and shook me out of my reverie.
The door slammed back against the wall, making the windows rattle. A big, bulky man stormed past me. His boots hit the floorboards like weights, and when he slammed his large fist down on the counter, everything on it shook and danced the jig.
“Goodnight!” the man roared. “Goodnight, where are you?”
I caught my breath.
The man’s voice was as big as his presence. He was dressed in the usual cowboy gear – blue jeans, a faded button down, boots curiously spur-less, and a hat which he pulled off to reveal a head full of dark hair. He was coated in dust and grime and might have been just any no-account worker, except for his good quality leather vest and the hand-tooled leather belt carrying his six-gun – both too expensive for the ordinary ranch hand.
I jumped when his fist struck the counter again.
“Dammit, Goodnight, don’t make me come in there after you!”
He tossed his hat on to the counter, freeing his gun hand. It was then that I saw the newspaper, clutched tight in his fist. The white knuckle grasp on the newspaper, the rigid clench of his jaw, and the tension of his big shoulders radiated not only outrage, but the ability to act on it. This was a very dangerous man.
Slowly, lest he catch sight of me, I bent down towards my carpet bag.
The call came, not from my uncle’s office, but from the open doorway behind me. A slim man stood there, also dusty and breathing heavily.
The big man at the counter whirled around and pointed at the new figure.
“Stay out of this, Olsen,” he threatened. He saw me then and I froze, bent at the waist over my carpetbag. His eyes raked over me, a brief but penetrating evaluation. Then he looked back at Olsen. “I’m just going to have a friendly chat with Mister Newspaperman here.” He turned and pounded the counter once more. “Goodnight!”
“This ain’t no way to do it,” Olsen said. He pushed the hat back from his sun-weathered face and stepped cautiously into the room. “Let Schuyler handle it – that’s what you pay him for.”
That only seemed to enrage the big man more. He slammed his palm into the counter (I was surprised that the board withstood such punishment) and roared, “This is a family matter and I’m not paying any lawyer to do what I can do myself. Goodnight, are you coming out here or am I coming in there?”
I fumbled with the catch on the carpetbag.
Then the office door opened and Matthew Goodnight emerged.
A decade had passed since I had seen my uncle, but I would have known him anywhere. The fearless smile, the sharp blue eyes, the almost military carriage were all so reminiscent of my father that, under other circumstances, I might have had a misty moment.
But Uncle Matthew was not my father and he had changed with the passage of time. Though his good looks remained, his features had softened and his face showed shades of cream and pink beneath the ever-present tan. There was something disheveled about his person, as though he no longer cared so much for appearances. He and my father shared the same feckless courage in the face of danger and he displayed it now, stepping out of his office as casually as if this were a social call.
“Ah,” he said, carefully shutting the office door behind him. “Mr. Evans – to what do I owe the pleasure?”
I did a double take. So the big man beating the counter was John Henry Evans, a member of the Evans clan I’d heard so much about. It explained the swagger, Olsen’s deferential manner, and Evans’s air of outraged dignity. It was his brother, Ben, who was running for office and it was their mother who was running the campaign. His family had founded this town and they weren’t accustomed to be being argued with or challenged. They were, in short, precisely the kind of people most likely to provoke my uncle’s ire.
“You know what a firebrand crusader your uncle can be…”
Aunt Alice always said that Uncle Matthew had the looks of a politician and the manner of an Irish pugilist with a sense of justice that would have impressed Solomon himself. It looked as though that moral courage was about to be reckoned with.
Matthew Goodnight didn’t act like a man afraid. His voice was the same as I remembered from childhood – a blend of formality and superiority – and he smiled up at the big man as though he wasn’t concerned in the least. It was not calculated to be conciliatory and it had the expected effect.
The big man slapped the newspaper down on the counter with such force that even Uncle Matthew jumped and Olsen took a half step forward.
Evans pointed at the open page.
“What do you mean by this, Goodnight?” he demanded, through gritted teeth.
Uncle Matthew leaned over to look.
“That,” he said, “is an editorial, an opinion piece. It is common in all papers, and it is usually meant to stir thought and to comment on recent events.” He flicked some dust from his jacket.
“It’s a pack of lies, is what it is,” Evans said. “You came just short of calling my father a murderer!”
Olsen took another cautious step forward.
Uncle Matthew grinned.
“I stopped short enough so that you won’t have a case if you try to sue this paper for libel. Not that you would or could, anyhow. Neither you nor your mother or your brother or his pretty little wife want to risk any of this going to court, do you?”
He had barely finished when Evans grasped him by the shirtfront and drew him half-way across the counter until they were nose to nose. Olsen squawked, but didn’t try to interfere. I gasped and rose before I remembered what I was doing.
“Now, you listen here.” Evans’ voice was low and dangerous. “You leave my mother and brother alone. If you’ve got a problem with the Evans family, you go through the court system, when and if you ever get the evidence. Do you understand me, Goodnight?”
Matthew was as helpless as a rag doll in his grasp, but he eyed the big man with a steely gaze.
“You couldn’t be more clear, Evans,” he said.
Evans dropped him. Uncle Matthew recovered quickly, straightening his shirt front. Olsen relaxed, until Evans asked, “You’ll print a retraction, then?”
Uncle Matthew laughed.
“Retraction? You listen here, Evans, this paper doesn’t apologize for its opinions. We apologize for errors in facts, but never for our interpretation of them. No one asked your brother to make this foolish attempt at public office and someone should have warned him that all candidates are subject to scrutiny. If the precious Evans name doesn’t hold up under it, that’s not my fault. Tell your mother, the grand lady herself, to keep a tighter leash on Ben – better yet, make him drop this whole run.”
“Not on your life,” Evans said. “The Evans family has nothing to be ashamed of, Benjamin the least of all.”
“Oh, he’s too young to have done too much harm,” Uncle Matthew agreed. “But you might want to warn your mother that all good investigative reporters dig into the backgrounds of candidates and their families. I’m famous for my excavations, you know. The skeletons in your family closet had better be buried pretty deep if you don’t want me to find them.”
“You’re a damned fool, Goodnight,” Evans said. His hands were balled into fists, his knuckles white under the pressure.
“I’m just repeating what everyone else is already thinking. Twenty-two years ago, your father, Jacob Evans, and Ezra Jones, his partner, rode into this valley to look for gold. Five months into the search, up in the hills, Jones was bitten by a snake and your father was just a little too slow getting him to the doc – something about his horse stumbling and dying on the way. A month later, he finds ore in those same hills and is suddenly the biggest man this side of the Mississippi. And he doesn’t have to share it with anybody. All I’m suggesting here,” he laid his hand on the offending paper, “is that it was awful lucky for your old man: that snake bite and that accident with the horse.”
Olsen whistled and half turned.
My hand found what it was looking for. Buried under layer of calico, the smooth heft of the pistol grip filled me with reassurance and a trickle of fear. I always kept my revolver loaded with one empty chamber so it wouldn’t go off by accident. Wrapping my hand around it, I pulled myself back into an upright position, careful to keep my hands hidden in my skirts.
Evans put both hands on the counter and leaned in.
“You’ve got an accusation to make, newspaperman?” he asked. His voice was low, slow, and dangerous, and my pulse jumped. “Why don’t you just make it to my face and quit hiding behind that paper of yours?”
“I’m just asking questions, John Henry…”
“You call me Evans, Goodnight. Mister Evans.”
“…and I’m not the only one who’s asking these questions.”
Uncle Matthew leaned forward and even from that distance, I could see the dangerous glitter in his eyes. My hands began to sweat, slicking up the grip.
My uncle said, “Now, folks around here have been asking a very logical question: Was it just luck that caused that snake bite and that horse to stumble? Maybe it was. But if you, the great John Henry Evans of the Evans Empire, are so sure this is the truth, why would a little thing like this opinion piece bother you, eh? If your father was the man you claim he is, if there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that he did all he could to get his partner to the doctor, that he had no idea of the ore up in those hills, if this was just one huge lucky break, why would you take time out of your busy day to come down here and threaten me?”
“Goodnight, I’m a patient man…” Evans said warningly, but Uncle Matthew didn’t let him finish – he just leaned in further.
“The only reason I can think of, John Henry, is that you yourself aren’t all that sure. You have doubts too. Did the horse really die of an accident? Was Jones even bitten in the first place? Or did your father decide that he didn’t want to share the ore up in those hills, so he killed his partner to keep it all for himself? Does your mother know-?”
He never finished the sentence.
Evans’ fist flashed and Uncle Matthew’s head snapped back with a sickening crack. Olsen cried out and jumped forward as the newspaperman dropped behind the counter. Evans was half-way across the counter when I found my feet and made my voice ring out across the room.
“Now, you just hold it right there, Mr. Evans.”
I doubt he would have stopped had I not accompanied my words with the ominous sound of the hammer of a Remington New Model Army .44 being drawn back...
Order Jenny Goodnight Now!
Bridie Vail agreed to allow me to use her in this short introduction. I've always loved reading about the Revolutionary War and since Miss Vail is the person I know who most closely reminds me of Maureen O'Hara, it seemed natural to set her story here. My apologies for any historical inaccuracies! Enjoy and happy Fourth of the July!
The occupation of Boston and the closing of the port had been done in a gentlemanly and efficient manner. The locals, clearly resentful, were for the moment keeping their distance. The other officers in Townhend's circle were hopeful that this would be an easy assignment, with nothing much more to do than drill the troops, collect their pay, and enjoy themselves.
But though initially events seemed to confirm their optimistic outlook, Captain Townshend couldn’t shake the feeling that things were not as secure and calm as they appeared. Perhaps it was the weather, which was foggy and cold. Perhaps it was the miserable city of Boston itself, with its filthy crooked streets, dreadful little houses, and lack of anything even remotely resembling culture, cultivated minds, or art. Perhaps it was in the very silence of the inhabitants, who appeared watchful and calculating, even for disgruntled, ungrateful colonials.
It might have been any one of those factors. But the truth of the matter was, it was something else entirely that kept him worrying.
The Quartering Act was, of all the acts, perhaps the one most keenly resented by the colonists and no one could be more resentful than the Vails of Blank Street, where Captain Townshend had taken up his residence.
Townshend prided himself of his good manners and clean living, on making himself the least possible bother to his reluctant landlords, but this made not one whit of difference to the Vails. They were Irish, of course. (It seemed that the entire nation consisted entirely of either disgruntled Irishmen or self-important Puritans, neither of which were particularly endearing.) The husband had worked on the sea, the wife was seamstress, and there were two sons who’d left before the occupation.
The husband and the wife were quiet and Townshend could have left them well enough alone. But it was their daughter, a young, slender woman with stick straight hair and a proud carriage that would have cowed the Duchess of Marlborough, that really got under his skin.
From a brief glance, Bridie Vail would not have seemed a rebel. She was generally demur, lady-like, even gentle. But prick her and she bled the colonist’s cause. Townshend had been in the house all of ten minutes before he realized this.
He’d been gently but firmly introducing himself to the family, explaining the law and their duties to it and the crown. Mr. and Mrs. Vail had subsided into the resentful silence that he’d come to expect from these unreasonable Bostonians.
“We expect that every subject will do his duty, as due his sovereign lord,” he said, finishing the little speech he crafted for all such occasions.
It was Bridie who answered. “And I suppose you’ll be wanting meals, too.”
He was a little surprised. She’d been silent until now and her voice was as gentle and soft as her appearance. He should have known it was misleading.
“Yes,” he said. “That’s generally expected.” “
I see,” she nodded, her arms crossed in front of her pale green dress. “I suppose it does make sense to force the people you’re starving into submission to provide not only a roof over your head, but their own food to fill your stomachs. Gets the job done quicker, you might say.”
New Year, New Look!
So, one of my many New Year's Resolutions (I'm sort of a masochist, I guess!) was to refresh and revitalize my look and website. And lo and behold, I actually did it! Along with the new look, I'm hoping to post more book reviews and the occasional article and clips from The Early Late Night Live Show, as well as news about our film, The Dinner Party, and the new episode of Felson and Company. Also new is the fact that I'm writing now for a new publication called LogoSophia Magazine, so be sure to check out their website here: logosophiamag.com.
As for new books, I'm happy to report that there are a few in the works! One of them has just received an intense re-write (hooray for patient editors!) and there are several in the outline-stage, including a few new Encounter Series books. Speaking of the Encounter series, Margaret and I had a blast at Super MegaFest and would love to do more comic cons - any suggestions on where we should pop-up next?
As always, I'd love to hear from you all! Got suggestions, comments, feedback, complaints, cunning plans? Let me know! And good luck in 2020, everyone! Lets get this decade off to a roaring start!
Five Questions for Sarah Ashwood!
Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee, who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story. Part of the epic Black Friday Indie Book Sale, I was luck enough to get to interview her this week!
1. What are your books about?
I tend to write a little of a genre mashup. My current Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy are portal fantasies, centering around a parallel world, Aerisia. They could be considered portal fantasy and epic fantasy, with a side dash of romance.
Coming in December is an entirely different work, Knight’s Rebirth, that’s a fairytale fantasy. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it, anyway. Knight’s Rebirth is sort of a humorous take on the larger than life aspects of common fairytale themes.
Currently, I’m working on an urban fantasy project for Nanowrimo called Ashes on the Earth that concerns a naive, human girl getting thrust into a world of warring shifters. However, when I started this project, I knew I didn’t want “standard” shifters, such as werewolves, wolves, panthers, bears, etc. My shifters change into creatures from legend, mythology, and folklore all over the world. It’s a blast finding new creatures for my shifters’ doubles, and the supply is endless!
2. Who or what inspires your writing? How do you hope your work inspires your reader?
I’m inspired by nature, by music, by movies, by books, and by the world and people around me. I have found inspiration everywhere from a dirt road to a sunset to a forest to the 1980’s gangster movie, The Untouchables.
I hope my work inspires readers, ultimately, with a sense of hope. I tackle difficult topics in my books, but I always want to write an ending that leaves readers with a sense of hope and of good triumphing over evil. I feel like there’s so much negativity in the world. Fiction should offer some escape.
3. I use soundtracks to help me focus when I write. Do you have any writing rituals or tricks to help you keep in the mood to create?
Soundtracks for me, as well! Last of the Mohicans is my all-time favorite, but Pirates of the Caribbean, Gettysburg, Anna and the King, Lord of the Rings, and many others also provide fantastic inspiration.
4. I love fantasy and so I have to ask: Who is better, JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis? Or, if not these, who is the King of Queen of Fantasy?
Ah, I definitely enjoy Narnia and its world, but, to me, Lord of the Rings is the ultimate in epic fantasy.
5. What's next for you?
As I mentioned, Knight’s Rebirth is set to debut in December. After that, I plan to write and rapid release Ashes on the Earth and its sequels. Ashes on the Earth is the first book of the Stones of Fire series, and it’s plotted to be a four, possibly five, book series. Following the release of Stones of Fire, I will go back and finish up my second Aerisia series, Beyond the Sunset Lands. (Book 1 is available now.)
Find Sarah on Amazon.com!
I wanted to tell you about a HUGE sale that is going on this weekend! There are over
150 titles available (including my own Summer Shadows and Necessary Evil) and they are all either $.99 or FREE! There are also a long list of paperbacks for sale at incredibly discounted prices as well! Be sure to go check out this amazing sale here.
Necessary Evil is free on Amazon Kindle for a limited time only, so be sure to check that out!
Here's the teaser line: "Maddie Warwick is about to lose everything and the only man that can help her is the last man she can trust. But losing her heart was never part of the bargain..."
Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness will be showing in Exeter NH on September 22nd: stayed tuned for more details. I am so, so proud of this particular movie - the cast, crew, and energy are just so spot on. Be sure to check it out and check out the book page on this site and on IMDb while you're at it!
Last weekend, we began filming "The Dinner Party" and what a crazy rush it's been! After all the prep-work and a few last minute challenges (including having to find a new costumer five days before the first shoot!), we've got some footage in the can and a few awesome pictures like the ones below. Check them out and stay tuned - the best is yet to come!
1. Hi and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello, and thank you for having me by. I’m the proud author of eight sweet, historical romance novels. I live in Toronto and love living where I can walk to everything. But we also love to get out of the city and hike in nature. Like most authors, I started out as an avid reader and I still love to read. Another passion of mine is travel. My husband actually inspired both of these loves. He dared me to start writing and he’s the one who got me hooked on travel. I’m also “trying” to get addicted to exercise since both reading and writing are sedentary activities and I want to be healthy enough to keep pursuing my interests until I’m old and gray.
2. When did you begin writing? What inspires your writing?
For me, these two questions go together. I’m an avid reader, as I said. If I’m reading a good book, even if the house exploded, I might not notice until I finished. My husband, not an avid reader, doesn’t love this particular quality. He used to complain about my reading and suggest I ought to be writing books instead of reading them. Finally, when I wouldn’t stop reading, he challenged me to write a book before I read another one. I didn’t think I could do it, but I accepted his dare and stuck my behind in front of my computer and gave it a shot. The end result, after a year or two of hard work, was my first published book, Tempting the Earl. Now I love writing almost as much as reading, but it doesn’t preoccupy me in the same way so my husband doesn’t mind nearly as much. And I love my husband dearly so I would say he’s my inspiration. This challenge took place about ten years ago with my first book getting published in 2010.
3. Family is so important! How does your family inspire and support your work?
My husband is very supportive. He thinks it’s great that his wife is a published author. He “lives” every book along with me. While we both know my characters aren’t real, we have been known to discuss them as though they were. If anyone ever overheard us, it would be hilarious! And my parents are my biggest fans! They read each draft of every book and then buy it when it releases. They are my motivation because they’re always anxious for the next one.
4. I know you love to travel! Do you set your stories in places you’ve been?
Yes! But I did it in reverse. I started writing my books set in England before travelling there. I had just signed the contract for my first book when we went to London to celebrate. It was a wonderful trip. We went to so many museums. There’s a museum of interiors where they have the same townhouse but how the interior would have changed through the years – VERY cool!! And then in the summer of 2016 we went again to explore places outside of London for my characters to visit – Brighton, Southampton, Bath, Salisbury, Marlborough, Blenheim… Such a fantastic trip. And SO much inspiration!! I’ve just started writing a series based on inspiration I received on that trip.
5. Where would you rather live: Avonlea with Anne? Or Concord with the March sisters? Why?
It’s hilarious you would ask this question – my first two favorite authors were Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I want to say it’s a tie, I would love to spend time with both Anne and the March sisters. But I’m actually from Atlantic Canada, even though I now live in Toronto, so I’ll say I would rather live in Avonlea with Anne. Prince Edward Island is beautiful. And I think Anne (with an “e”) might be a little more peaceful of a companion than being in the midst of the four March sisters.
I have read all the Anne books and all of “Jo’s” books multiple times. Now that you’ve reminded me of them, I should dig them out and read them again!
Every other Monday, we ask indie authors Five Questions about themselves and their fabulous new books. Looking for your next great read? You'll find it here, with these folks!
1. Hi Lisa, and welcome to Wanderings! Our audience is dying to get to know you, so tell us a little bit
Greetings and Salutations, everyone! Writing has been my creative outlet since I could first hold a pen. My school bus rides were about an hour each way, and these were the days before smartphones. I spent the time inventing epic storylines with brave heroines and challenging obstacles. I now have over 300 works published on Amazon. I love all sorts of storylines. For fiction, I’ve written medieval romances, cozy mysteries, dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, time travel, historical fiction, and probably everything else in between. I’ve also written quite a number of non-fiction titles.
2. What do you do when you're not writing?
When not writing I am vice president of the Blackstone Valley Art Association. I am fascinated with film photography, watercolors, cyanotypes, and a myriad of other styles of art.
3. I know when I write a book, I always have a particular person in mind as an audience.
Who do you write for?
I always write to allow the characters to come to life. It is in my nature to write as authentically as I can and to let the characters speak for themselves. I never try to plot them in a direction or force a certain ending. I don’t think about any third party person peering in on this world.
I start with the characters. I think about what they would say. I consider how they would react. That then leads to new developments in their lives. It allows them to learn and grow in a way which comes naturally.
I am often surprised about the directions the characters take and the way the story ends. I think that is a real joy of being a writer – to allow the creative process to blossom and unfold. I am thrilled that there are readers out there who enjoy my creations.
4. You have a background in medieval history: how does this contribute to your creative life?
I have adored the medieval time period since I was very young. I have belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) for many years – this allows me to take on the personae of a medieval woman. I sew and wear medieval dresses. I participate in medieval dance and play medieval instruments. I ride horses. I have learned to fight with a medieval long sword and dagger. I’ve been to quite a number of medieval locations and castles to get a sense of what it was like to live there.
In my medieval stories, I always remember that there is a balance. A reader usually does not want a history lesson. They want to immerse themselves in another person’s life, if only for a short while. I use my knowledge of medieval food, drink, music, and other things in order to bring that world to life for my readers.
4. I know you love to travel. Do you set your stories in places you’ve been?
I feel strongly that an author should write what they know. This is the best way to bring a story to rich life. A person who lives and breathes New York City every day will bring it to life in a way that a person living in Siberia just could not do, no matter how many books and websites the Siberian person read. But the Siberian person could create the most stunning portrayal of Siberia that existed, and the world would thrill in reading it.
When I write my cozy zoo mystery series, I go to each zoo in order to capture the way the light falls across the statues and the feel of the petting zoo animals beneath my fingers. My Sutton Massachusetts mystery series is written a chapter-a- day as I explore my hometown. An environment comes to life due to its scents, textures, reflections, and other sensory attributes. These are things that shine when experienced in person.
We all have stories to tell and we all have locations we know intimately. That is where a story truly comes to life – when an author shares that insight into what makes a place special.
New Acting Reel!
I am super lucky and awfully blessed to be surrounded by awesome and talented people. One such group is Narrow Street Films, the company started by my brother. Thanks to all our projects - and my brother's knack for throwing together a reel - I now have an awesome new acting reel! Check it out and let me know what you think!
Previously published, but worth repeating....
Now with helpful illustrations!
It is inevitable that every writer will, upon submitting their novel for editing, have that conversation. You know, the one where your editor slides your baby, the thick pile of pages that you've spent so many doting hours on, and utters those dreaded words: "I think you need to cut this scene."
Cutting unnecessary scenes is normal, a natural part of the writing process, and one that should be faced with dignity, maturity, and calm acceptance. But since we're writers and artists, calm and dignity might be expecting a little much.
It can help to know that, not only are we not alone, but there are actually five stages to receiving and accepting an edit. For the benefit of mankind, I outline them here, with illustrative dialog (which may or may not be autobiographical).
Behold: the Five Stages of Editing Acceptance (or, How to Survive Your Mean Editor, with helpful illustrations...)
The writer will resist the cut/edit/suggestion vehemently, to the point of self-delusion.
"What are you talking about? This doesn't need to be cut. This is a perfectly gorgeous scene, so well written Shakespeare would have prostrated himself before my pen! PG Wodehouse would have given up and gone into drama. Shelley and Keats would rise from the dead just to praise me in verse! Yes, it's absolutely necessary. Why? Um, character development, of course. Yes, character development. No, I'm not making that up. Shorten it? Are you nuts? The main character finds a squirrel in her house - it takes twenty pages to describe that properly!"
On facing the editor's implacable insistence, the writer will often turn hostile.
"Well, what do you know, anyway? I'm the writer - in this story, I'm the puppet master, the know-all, be-all and end-all. You just don't understand. Like everyone else, you can't just leave art alone - you have to try to destroy it. Why are we even friends? Yes, the squirrel is important! Do you hate squirrels or something? No, I will NOT keep my voice down. Yes, I will keep that scene, I will, I will, I will! You can't make me cut it. YOU ARE SO UNFAIR!"
Feeling helpless, the writer will then try to regain control of the situation.
"All right, all right, fine! I'll consider it. How about I cut it back by about five pages. Seven? Ten... Ten, and I'll also cut the grocery store scene. Okay, okay, okay, final offer: I'll cut the squirrel scene by fifteen pages and the grocery store scene and toss in another romance scene to sweeten the deal, what do you say?...
"Read it again and get back to you? If I do that, can I keep the squirrel scene?"
Being forced to accept the authority of the editor, the writer will inevitably slump into self-recrimination and depression.
"Yes, I re-read it. You were right. It's horrible. It's stupid, a complete waste of time, ink, and paper. I can't believe I wrote this. Actually, I can. I'm the worst writer ever. This book make PS: I Love You look like a Pulitzer Prize Winner. I should never have learned to write. And what's worse, I ripped into you like... like....
"Well, that’s it. I quit. I'm turning in my keyboard. I'll throw myself on my pencil. Why am I even here? I'm a terrible writer, a terrible friend, a terrible person, and I need a double shot of Crown, like, right now."
Moving forward, the writer sees the wisdom in the suggestion and begins to rebuild their self-esteem - which will last until the next edit or critique.
"Okay, okay, I've cut the scene altogether and you know what? The story flows so much better now! It isn't terrible at all! It's tight, it flows, and I am a genius! Oh, right, it was your idea, I know, but that's what editors are for, right?
"Hey, you know, I was feeling so good, I actually added an epilogue. Remember the tangerine incident? Maybe you haven't gotten that far, but it's hilarious, so I expanded it into this cool little...
"Oh, you read it? What did you think?... It's not trite. It's cute!... Cliche! Honestly, you make me so mad sometimes!"
Writers: making the emotionally unstable look like stoics since the invention of the hieroglyphic.
Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, historically a bigger deal here in the States, especially Boston, than it is in the Emerald Isle itself. It's the day devoted to the wearing of the green, indulging in blarney (the fine art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip), filling your glasses with Guinness, and proudly crowing to all within hearing, "Erin go bragh."
Not Irish? Feeling left out? No need to - I've got great news for you: You don't have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's day!
It's true! Everyone is invited to shilly-shally, tell a long story, wear the green (or the orange, if you're feeling in a fighting mood), or talk about who in your family shook the hand of the man who shook the hand of the man who shook the hand of John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy. It doesn't matter where you're from - on the 17th of March, everyone is Irish.
I'm not the first or the only one who proclaims this truth. As some of you may or may not already know, Summer Shadows was inspired by a soundtrack to a little-known movie called Flight of the Doves, a 1971 British film based on a book by Irish writer Walter Macken. The music was by jazz musician Roy Budd (of Get Carter fame) and you can listen to the suite on Youtube here.
Flight of the Doves is a story about two orphans that runaway from their cruel guardian to find their grandmother in Ireland. When the guardian realizes that the children are about to come into a sizable inheritance, he hires a master of disguise with no compunctions to hunt the children down. From this rather terrifying situation, a sweeter story emerges as the two orphans discover the warmth and friendship of the Irish - and learn that you don't have to be Irish to be Irish. This truth is told to them in song form (see the awkwardly filmed clip from the movie below).
Truth be told, Irish is steeped so deep into this country that chances are you have a bit of the old sod somewhere in your family history somewhere. And even if were not so, Irish-American culture has seeped into your life in ways you may not be aware . The Irish in New England have worked in the mills, as policemen, on the farms, in the fine houses, in politics, in every sphere available to humanity in this country. The Irish have been here since the first ideas of independence took hold of the American colonists. If you live in the USA, your life has been touched, shaped, or molded in some way by the sons and daughters of Erin.
So, in summary, you don't have to be Irish to be Irish on the 17th - though to quote the song, "You'll live a little more, and you'll love a little more. For that's what it takes to make you Irish." Tomorrow, lift your glasses to the Emerald Isle and shout "Sláinte!" You'll be in the best of company.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! Erin go bragh!
On this busy, busy Monday, this is Danny Kaye and me reminding you to always TTTR: Take Time To Read!
Happy Monday, y'all!
I've always been a bit of a DYI person. Not that I'm the type that makes my own cheese (though it's on my to-do list) or swaps out transmissions or anything intense like that. But when it comes to publishing and writing, I generally find myself trying to do everything. Sometimes I have great results. Sometimes it's more of a 'Lesson Learned' thing.
Making my own cover for Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness was one of the latter. Don't get me wrong - I love this cover (the colors! the rose! the intrigue! Isn't it pretty?)! But over the course of the months, going to different live events, I got some feedback that made me realize that I have many things to learn about graphic design. Here are a few, which I now gladly share with you!
1: SIZING THE TYPE
Intention: The Season of Darkness is intended as the start of a small series, so I made the main character's name big, as it's the title of the series.
Result: Almost everyone has assumed that Michael Lawrence is the author. It's only when they squint that they see my name. Unlike Laura Holt's attempt to drum up business, putting a man's name on my book hasn't helped sales, alas!
Conclusion: Make sure the author's name is large enough to see to deflect confusion. Also, when I re-do this cover, I'll probably be listing it as 'The Season of Darkness: a Michael Lawrence mystery'.
2. THE ROSE
Intention: In the language of flowers, the white rose stands for marriage (among other things) and I thought this rose, threatened by encroaching darkness and shadow, represented Michael's marriage problems pretty well. #deepermeaning, am I right?
Result: Turns out, when most people see a rose, they think 'romance' - regardless of color (several would-be readers thought fantasy romance when they saw my rose). In contrast, the movie tie-in cover, with the two leads looking like British detectives having a stressful day, was instantly recognizable as what it was: an American murder mystery.
Conclusion: Don't try to be too clever with your imagery. If the book looks like a romance novel or a gothic adventure, mystery enthusiasts will not bite. (Alas, my poor, misunderstood rose!)
3: THE TAG-LINE
Intention: "Murder Will Out' is an idiom meaning 'murder cannot remain undetected'. I'd heard this phrase used over and over again in the mysteries I read and watched and it's the perfect tag for this particular case for reasons that I can't get into without spoilers. Plus, I knew it was English, which, as I was going for the feel of a British murder mystery, only added to its appeal.
Result: Turns out, whatever books or movies I was enjoying aren't commonly known. This phrase, which is of unknown origin but sometimes attributed to Chaucer, made more people question me than the numbers 1 and 2 combined. No one knew what it meant. As a result, no one was intrigued by it.
Conclusion: Run your tag line by a few people before you commit to them. It'll save you a lot of explanations in the long run.
In Summary, creating your own cover is a ton of fun and well-worth the time and effort. But do yourself a favor: show it to a few of your friends, neighbors, co-workers, or innocent passersby before you commit. You may be saving yourself a lot of explanations in the future!