It’s the little things.
You know when you’re watching a movie and you say to yourself, “that’s bullshit?” Because you know too much about the particular topic, and the director didn’t do his homework, so you’ve a guy shooting way more bullets than are in the gun etc.
Well, I’ve had a couple of those recently that all came together and makes me want to point them out.
The first is from the book I’m reading – Dan Brown’s Origin
Yea, I know, Dan Brown isn’t writing for accuracy.
But he could at least try.
Let’s leave aside straight away the fact that he’s put lots of detail into all his descriptions of the architecture (before you start reading the novel he states that all the locations and art etc. are real) but invents a parallel universe Spanish royal family. It’s actually quite funny to read how the king of Spain is so devout, when the former king is a notorious philanderer.
It’s the little things that catch a reader. Like when at the start of the novel two Irish football fans harass a Spanish Admiral in a bar. The fans have been watching a soccer match between Ireland and Spain or Portugal (it’s unclear where this takes place) and are drunk (that’s fine) when they enter the bar, empty but for the barmaid and the admiral. Now, not only would two Irish fans not harass a local to drink with them, being happy enough to be with themselves, they’d not be just two of them alone after a match. There’d be hordes of them. And when we read that the name of the bar is fucking Molly Malone, it’ just taking the fucking piss! What a crock of shit.
Just laziness. Perhaps what Brown considers Irish is what he sees in Boston, but he’s never watched footage of Irish fans after an international game on foreign soil, that’s for fucking sure.
I’m obviously not the first person to point this out...
Research. It’s what writers do. Getting people right is more important than how long the LCD screens in the Guggenheim are.
The second examples come from a movie I’m half way through.
Hold the Dark.
As a biologist and woof enthusiast, I stuck it right on when I signed up to Netflix!
I knew there’d be bullshit about wolves. They’re always cast in a bullshit light.
But that wasn’t the problem on the believability end.
I was at first impressed to see the local woman put masking tape on the tip of the gun barrel, to keep out snow and dirt. We do that in the bog, in case you fall and get peat and dirt stuck up there. You can’t shoot a rifle that’s obstructed like that. Well, you can, but do it far away from me.
But then, they go and make a point of the naturalist, played by Jeffry Wright, struggling to get the masking tape off the barrel so he can defend himself against the approaching wolf pack!
No! No and fucking NO!
You don’t take the tape off! You just fucking shoot! The pressure blows a hole in the tape before the bullet could even touch it! Any hunter knows that, or should.
But what most pisses me off about some movies, and it’s perhaps not a problem of doing research, but just society, is how much the actions of some characters differ from what I consider sensible and, given the state of our world right now, basically unacceptably stupid.
Wasting stuff, especially energy.
They’re in Alaska.
Not Anchorage, but way up north.
The biologist inexplicably turns up without decent footwear, like he’s never tracked a wolf in his life. The local gives him some boots more appropriate to the weather. And a good caribou skin.
But yet, she lives in a house that looks way under insulated for the clime. I’ve more cladding on my house in Spain, and that has foot-thick brick walls to boot.
And she goes around in cardigan open to the wind, and stands with the fucking door open looking out at the snow.
I know she’s a bit crazy, but such habits are ingrained. She’s not rich – her husband is off in the war and she says she can’t pay the naturalist.
So why is she wasting the heat?
I dunno if it’s just because I was always told to turn off the immersion heater and turn off the lights to save money, but I’m sure poor people the world over are pretty frugal when it comes to this kind of thing.
Also, the naturalist sleeps on the couch with just his long johns and a flimsy blanket. The fire is roaring, of course. But he’s a naturalist! Where’s the sleeping bag and less of the wasting firewood?
Climate change, Jeffry! Your character would be very aware of that, even if your host is not big on energy efficiency.
As I said, perhaps it’s just the state of society.
But, as I also said it’s not acceptable.
And we should stop showing such irresponsibility.
As Hollywood knows, art imitates life and life imitates art.
It’s time to start modelling good behaviour.
Just like few characters smoke in movies now compared to the chain-smoking of the fifties and sixties, movie makers can stop having characters do stupid shit that worsens climate breakdown and pollutes our planet. Hopefully it will happen a bit quicker than the change from smoking to not – this is more urgent.
Then maybe readers and viewers won’t get be so let down by the stories we’re told.
On the other hand, if real people keep acting like these characters, then our children won’t have much time, money, or inclination, to “Netflix and chill.”
So, I know it’s been a while, but things have been as hectic as a 2-year-old in a new playground. Literally.
My final chapter of the Silver Nights Trilogy is out now, and so I thought it a good time to recap what I learned in the process of writing it.
1) Things take longer than you think…
Especially when you think you can squeeze side projects in there between…
I always knew I’d finish my trilogy (I advocate the finish your shit mantra) but I thought I’d have it done a couple of years ago – around six months after the first novel came out and I realised just before publication that it was going to be a trilogy. The nuclei of the second two parts came to me very clear and I reckoned that I’d have them both done by Christmas – I had a part time job and summer in between, after all.
But then I got the idea for a novel about Loch Ness, and that just grabbed my attention like a talon clutching my balls, insisting I go along with it. So I thought it best to comply. The first draft spun out easily, but then there were drafts to go over before I submitted, and another project popped up. This was going to be easy – my publisher put out a call for erotic romance novellas set in one night in any city, for a series called City Nights. Well, I had a long short story set in Madrid that could be refitted in a jiffy. Or not. The challenge of writing erotica wasn’t half as hard (fnarr!) as shaping it into a longer story that was still under 25k words. Anyway, despite it taking me several rewrites I got the bug and did 2 more cities since, Pamplona and Boston (for these the story was simple, starting from scratch always is simpler) published under the name JD Martins – yes, I am a school teacher. Then there were edits for a YA paranormal and a children’s fantasy novel to go over for publication (yes, I’d a drawerful of old novels that I finally found willing publishers for). And of course, real life did it’s usual trick of getting in the way. Our daughter was diagnosed diabetic at two and a half, so I spent a lot of time cycling across town to inject her at lunchtime, we had another sprog six? months ago… all that great stuff. But the sequels kept simmering away in the meantime, slowly taking shape… of course, people kept asking when they’d be ready and I kept telling them a date not too distant in the future – three months or so, by this Christmas, as soon as submissions reopen, I’m sending both books straight away…
2) Think before you decide to write a trilogy.
At least, think before you tell everyone, and have the second and third pretty much ready to go before you tell everyone. Sure, the idea for the second and third novel might come to you real quick and seem pretty safe and secure, but they need to tie together like a trilogy, and, more importantly, people are going to be waiting on them – some won’t even read the first part till they know the second and third are written and out there for them to read straight after – hands up who’s waiting on Game of Thrones to finish it’s run before even starting? Only me? Oh… anyhow, though the ideas might seem pretty solid, they have to lead directly from the first to the second and into the third and though there might be three books, hence trilogy, a series can have three books, too – you just don’t write the fourth book, and nobody’s going to feel cheated. Are you? It’s not that the second and third novel aren’t solid, but the challenges facing the characters can’t be the same, and things that happen in the sequels need to have a coherency with the first, so perhaps write them all at the same time, rather than have one done and decide to add two more
But definitely write part two and three together. It might piss off those waiting impatiently for the second to come out, but it’s better in the end. Also helps keep all those characters in your head at the same time – werewolves have big families, dammit, especially when they’re trying to build up their numbers after centuries of persecution.
3) Stick to your original vision
I wrote the first novel in this trilogy, Leaving the Pack, twenty-five years ago. The time in between turned out to be very useful. I was inspired by Whitley Strieber’s novel Wulfen, and to honest, I never really read much about them since then. I liked my werewolves (almost as much as Strieber’s) and I didn’t much like the movies I occasionally saw or the few books I read. Having a book out before you write the next leads to the temptation to take reader’s opinions into account as write. But making everyone happy isn’t a possibility and if the reader didn’t like the first book, it’s pointless to try please them in the second, or the third. Besides, when I looked around at some of the other werewolf novels out there, I realised their tastes were more aligned with the books I wanted my story to stand out from – the real tribe who engendered the original myth.
4) Don’t bother reading in-genre – it’s probably not your genre, and there’s some weird shit out there.
I did read a few other books over the years, but reading other werewolf novels was a bad idea. They filled my head with stuff that I didn’t like, making me second-guess the world I’d created – a real world where shifting is just as physically impossible as it is in ours.
In tandem with their physiological lunar rhythms, these people worshipped the wolf, had an affinity with their four-legged brethren that had led their enemies to assume they turned into beasts.
As a zoologist, I knew that wolf mating is similar to dogs, where they are unable to separate afterwards for a while. I went to double-check the term (knotting) in the final edit and discovered a sub genre of werewolf novels that was eye opening, let’s say.
5) The real world has changed, and so must your characters.
Even though my werewolves are first found roaming the city during the late Eighties, when homosexuality wasn’t nearly so visible in our cities, and I have no interest in writing gay sex scenes – and I doubt I could make them hot enough for the readers of werewolf knotting – I totally agree that we need more diversity characters in our novels. The werewolves are an ancient tribe, and the poster boys for patriarchy, but even they have to evolve to deal with the way things are nowadays, including equality for their daughters. But such changes are a joy to write, to put your characters in awkward situations. One thing that has not changed for the pack, however, is they still hate vampires, and real vampires are not so nice as they’re made out to be.
You can get all three books here….
Haven’t posted in a while because real life is keeping me from any sort of writing.
I am back to work – the day-job stuff. Since I haven’t been flooded with movie option offers, or thousands in royalties, I’ve still got this nine-to-five teaching stuff to do.
And getting time to write fiction is very complicated; it’s hard to get some intellectual space to enter any imaginary realms.
This year I have increased my hours in the school so that I don’t have to do the evening classes I have been doing. This doesn’t give me more time to write. In fact, it gives me less.
I used to have a chance to get a few hundred words done in the spare hours between classes. Instead, the new schedule gives me time to do the things people do with their kids – collect them from school, go to the park, take them to swimming and dance class. Then there’s going home to have baths and prepare dinner. The six hours between 3pm and 9 go by faster than the six between 9am and 3pm!
Collecting conkers in the park…
It hasn’t helped that my daughter broke her arm two weeks ago, and so can’t cycle her own bike, among many other inconveniences and incapacities. That means I spend more time commuting back and forth, to collect push chairs and catch buses.
I have had a chance to read a few pages of novels while the kids play or take the bus, but I haven’t written anything other than a shopping list in the last two weeks. I am one of the last letter writers left, and I love to write and receive them, but I just sent a birthday card to my sister and I didn’t include a handwritten latter – for the first time in the sixteen years I’ve been away from home.
Not only have I not had a chance to write letters, but I can’t keep up with my emails. I usually read or delete the mails in my inbox within a day or two. Sometimes I leave one or two pending – longer mails or links to articles. At the moment I have four hundred to get through. Many of them with links to longer texts. I open my mail each morning hoping that I can delete as many as possible without even opening them. Much of these would be interesting if I had time, but my priorities don’t include reading mails.
I have also been busy living life. I’ve been out collecting mushrooms in the beech forests north of Pamplona. I am not much into mushrooms myself, but any excuse to get into the woods is good, even at dawn. And foraging is my second favourite food collection method after hunting!
Pickin’ mushrooms with the lads.
I’ve been collecting veggies and making tomato sauces for jarring, roasting and preserving peppers, and I have prepared my patxaran, a local liqueur like sloe gin but with anis. These are all excellent ways to spent time, both in terms of healthy eating and zero-kilometre food, and in the simple manual labour tasks that are communal and relaxing.
not a big fan of this myself, but friends and family love them, and it’s foraging – second only to hunting in my favourite food collection methods!
My tomato sauce stash, made from fruits picked off the village veggie plot. Should keep me for the year.
And while such activities don’t remove the urge, and need, to write, they are therapeutic in their own way – better than colouring books, in my humble opinion, in reducing stress. Which reminds me of a poem I wrote back in August, when I had time to think. Apologies to my friends who are fans of adult colouring books!
Colouring Books for Adults
I know someone who bought a book
To colour in, in her spare time.
It’s the new trend in stress relief,
She says; takes her mind off thinking,
Relaxes in its repetitive actions,
Easy, simpleminded tasks that pass
The time of a dark evening
Much more calming than movies
Or reality TV.
I think it’s akin to knitting;
If you didn’t have a niece who needed a scarf,
Or whittling sticks; since who wants to hoover
Up the shavings off their sitting room floor?
Or darning socks that are too darned thin to bother nowadays,
Or jarring jam, or bottling sloe gin, or
Washing up; which filled in time, once upon a time,
As we talked between dinner and sleep.
Click the link and leave a comment!
As September gears up, I’m also back to the city after summer in the countryside, and back to my desk. Will have some news to reveal next week, too!
Today I have the great pleasure of having Janie Franz, a multi-published author who’s written all kinds of books and is known for her strong women characters. She has several series published by Muse It Up Publishing where we share an editor.
She’s eager to share an excerpt from her new novel, Coda, which is Book 3 of The Lost Song Trilogy and Book 6 of the Bowdancer series…
Tell us what’s happening in this excerpt, please Janie…
Jan-nell, her son, Chandro and Bekar from the sisterhood, and the virile sword dancers discover dark secrets about the women on the mountain as they bring the lost sisters home. During the journey, Jan-nell’s growing attachment to Bekar is tested as Bekar discovers the joys of having men in her life.
Jan-nell raced toward the boulders on the cliff above the dyemaker’s encampment where her sister-kin supported a young girl between them, guiding her carefully down the treacherous rocks toward their fire. The girl’s bright yellow dress bulged around her belly, straining the fabric.
“She is about to bear a babe?” Jan-nell asked, placing her hand on the girl’s roundness. “Is this your first?” Raising her face to look at the young mother, Jan-nell gasped. She stared at her sister-kin Chandro, who had wrapped her arm around the girl, held her right hand, and watched the ground and the girl’s bare feet, as they moved.
There was the same oval-shaped face, the same light brown eyes, the same copper curls. But the young mother was only perhaps sixteen summers and kept her curls long, falling far down her back, not in the curly cap Chandro wore. The girl could have been her little sister.
Though appearing strong in the leather vest and wide-legged short breeches of the sisterhood, Chandro the trackfinder appeared stunned and frightened. She whispered assurances to the girl as they came farther into the light of the fire.
The girl cried out as Jan-nell felt her belly tighten underneath her hand. She made Chandro and master hunter Bekar stop while she placed her hands on each side of the bulge and looked deep into the girl’s eyes. “Take a deep breath, filling the belly. Like this.” She showed her. “Now let it out slowly for as long as you can. Concentrate only on releasing the breath.” Usually, one long breath was enough to breathe through an episode. But because the girl was so frightened, Jan-nell had her breathe again to calm her and make sure she had learned the practice.
“You did well.” Jan-nell smiled. “There is a place for you to rest over here. We will make you tea and some broth… How are you called?”
The girl stammered out, “Wila.”
Jan-nell tried out the new name. “Wila.” Then she smiled again. “We will take good care of you and your babe.” She pointed to a sheltered spot where a coarse blanket stretched between two boulders and was held in place by large rocks. Jan-nell’s son, Bearin, and the beastmaster, Shadu, had made the shelter for her to rest during the heat of the day. When she had spread her own blanket and laid her head upon her travel pack earlier, she had no idea it would become a birthing chamber.
Night had fallen quickly on the plateau where the travelers made their camp. The fire gave out a welcome glow, and one of the burning branches would provide a torch if Jan-nell needed one to guide her when the birthing occurred.
Chandro and Bekar helped Wila sit on the blanket under the canopy while Jan-nell moved her travel pack out of the away. She would need the healing wares within it as the night progressed. She turned to the trackfinder. “Could we use your pack for a pillow for Wila?”
Chandro nodded as if in disturbed thought before she moved to fetch her pack.
“Bekar, make the girl comfortable,” Jan-nell said then took two steps toward the trackfinder. She hooked her arm around Chandro’s elbow, whispering as she walked with her away from the girl. “How fare you?” Jan-nell searched her face, which still was a mix of emotions, but fear and horror were the most pronounced. Chandro had seen something.
Jan-nell guided her sister-kin toward the dark-skinned sword dancer Farik who frowned as he listened to his sword brother Mali’s report of what had happened in the dyemakers’ camp. Mali was still dressed only in the black silk loin cloth he donned to climb the rocks without hindrance when he and Chandro had gone after Bekar.
Farik turned at the women’s approach. He stepped to meet Chandro, immediately drawing her into his arms.
“I think she is in shock,” Jan-nell said. “Get her off her feet and hold her close. Heal her with the Ashay, the spirit within. If she starts to shake like she is cold, cover her with a blanket even in this heat and give her some tea.”
She turned to Mali, her foster-father. He looked weary in the fire’s glow and much older than she. “Take Chandro’s pack to the girl. It will be her pillow.”
“I will fetch it,” he said, frowning at the young mother who still sat on the blanket beside Bekar who had not moved. “But the girl will not let me near her.”
Jan-nell nodded. “I thought as much. That was why the women supported her, and you did not help.” Her forehead wrinkled in worry over Bekar who just sat with a hand on the young girl’s arm but did not even look at her. “I will take it to the girl and make her comfortable.” Returning her attention to Mali, she asked. “Are you well?”
He nodded grimly. “But what I have seen will haunt me all my days.”
About Janie Franz
Janie Franz comes from a long line of Southern liars and storytellers. She told other people’s stories as a freelance journalist for many years. With Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox, she co-wrote The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book, and then self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid! She also published an online music publication, was an agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, a radio announcer, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.
Currently, she is writing her twelfth novel and a self-help book, Starting Over: Becoming a Woman of Power.
I saw that the movie Highlander was released exactly 30 years ago, the other day.
One of my favourite films ever, if not my favourite, it is the perfect example of something I wrote a blogpost for MuseitUp’s Sunday Morning Musings last week, in answer to the question … is every story a potential series?
My response was No. Not in the least.
You can read the full answer below, but suffice to say, some stories are done when they are done, much as we’d like them to keep going. Highlander said it right before they broke their own rule with two successively silly sequels – There Can Be Only One.
Even those that seem like they could be are probably better off not becoming series.
I don’t like writing novellas very much – if I have to create a world and a set of characters each with their own back story, I want to give them more life than just 25 thousand words. And while it is nice to use the universe you create for more stories, especially if that universe is kickass and cool and populated with beings Darwin only wished could have evolved, sometimes the story to be told about that world has its beginning, its middle and its ending. And they say “that’s all she wrote” because there was nothing else to tell.
Trying to come up with a something new to say in a series is often difficult, and sometimes contrived, if not an abject failure. Just look at some of the movie franchises that have “graced” our cinema screens over the years.
I’ve never written a series. Nor do I plan to. But I am writing a trilogy, which didn’t set out to be one – I got the idea for the second two parts twenty years after I wrote the first book, which stands alone fine. I just needed those twenty years to get the novel right, get it published, and have the characters age that much – kind of like if Sylvester Stallone made Rocky and then just went straight to Rocky Balboa. And thought the story for second and third books came pretty easily, and I have first and second drafts of both, they still feel a little contrived and not as fresh as the first, and are having an equally long and difficult birth as that – my first ever novel.
Though some of my other novels are open ended, so that the characters are mostly alive and well at the end and could hypothetically continue their adventures, I’d feel like I was just throwing more shit at them just for the sake of it. They did their time. They paid their dues. They deserve to live happily ever after in everyone’s imagination. Aside from this fact, I don’t have the time for them anymore. They came, they conquered my imagination and I obliged by giving them a story and now I’ve shown them the door.
There are too many other ideas knocking to get in, demanding mind time and requiring their own stories be discovered and told.
And while I wish they’d hush now and then, I’m forever in love with the next book, whose possibilities are endless and unprescribed by stuff I’ve already written.
My current work in progress is a Young Adult novel set in Ireland; my old stomping ground of south Dublin, and north Wicklow.
I have the layout – the streets and hills – down so well that a reader could navigate by it; follow the footsteps, or cycle tracks, of the characters, smell the pine woods and take in the views of Dublin Bay.
But I’m writing a court scene at the moment, and I’m not so sure of my ground. I’ve never been in court in Ireland. I was on the jury of a Coroner’s Court in Dun Laoghaire in my late teens – a very interesting experience. But I don’t know the exact way prosecutions are conducted in Ireland; what the prosecutor is called, who comes to collect the witness from the waiting area (or where they even wait) and take them to the courtroom, if witnesses are allowed to talk before or after they give testimony.
Do the barristers wear gowns and wigs nowadays? I think they do, but does it really matter?
That’s my question.
Do I need to mention the wigs, the gowns, where everyone sits in and Irish courtroom?
Everyone has their own image of a courtroom, created from movies and television. Why should I mess with that by creating a new one?
Why look up the particulars and detail each part of Wicklow County Courthouse (as I assume it’s called)?
I’ve never been to Wicklow County Courthouse. I probably never will. So I can bet that 99.9999 etc. percent of my readers won’t, either. Half of them might never step foot in Wicklow (a big mistake – it really is the Garden of Ireland, so go book a flight today), so am I just wasting my time and effort and in fact, messing with the plot by even trying?
Is it better to invent a little?
I’m not against research – as a scientist it’s the bread and water of life.
Nor am I usually against accuracy. The days of the full moon in my werewolf novels all correspond to the actual dates in the calendar of the year the books are set. I made a mistake once and had to rewrite a chapter because what I had written couldn’t have taken place on the particular date (full moon clashing with state holidays).
In this case, though, I think vagueness and actual invention might serve the story better.
It’s a bit like when the priest says, “You may kiss the bride” at a wedding.
I’ve been to a few weddings, including my own. The priest doesn’t say that; at least not in a Catholic wedding. But if you were to describe a proper wedding, it would be serious and fairly boring (seriously, I’ve looked at my watch on all three occasions I was Best Man).
Similarly, I am not sure (though a quick email to friends in the know would clear it up) if a court summons is served by a policeman or just a civil servant – or by post. I don’t really want to know, though, because my story is best served (ha ha!) by a nondescript civil servant knocking on my heroine’s door.
But should I find out?
Should I bend the plot to the whims of the Irish Judicial system?
Or should poetic licence extend to prose?
Wicklow Courthouse, above (photo: http://www.independent.ie) is actually closed until further notice, so all cases are heard in Bray – a rather different building as you can see (photo http://www.courts.ie)… Some research is essential!
- Today I’m delighted to be able to welcome a fellow Tirgearr Publishing Author, Christy Jackson Nicholas, author of Legacy of Hunger and the upcoming Legacy of Truth. She’s a bit of an expert on Ireland, having penned a travel guide – she’d know how to find Ballyboy Beach, I’m sure.
- Tell us a bit more about yourself, Christy. Where are you from?
That’s not an easy answer. I was conceived in England, born in Denmark, lived in Dearborn, Michigan until I was 8, and then south Florida until about 15 years ago. Since then I’ve lived in north Florida, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I guess I’m a bit of a gypsy at heart!
- Tell us about the setting of your book. Why did that place speak to you?
The book, Legacy of Hunger, is set in 1846. The main characters start out in Pennsylvania, and then travel to Ireland in the midst of the Great Hunger, commonly referred to as the Potato Famine. Ireland is my soul’s home, my ‘anam bhaile’. The first time I visited, almost 20 years ago, I felt immediately at home. I’ve been five times now, and will retire there some day. The magic of the land and the people have something integral within them that I must share with others. The novel is set in several of my favorite places – Ardara, in County Donegal, Achill Island, and Kenmare in County Cork.
- What do you like least about writing?
The editing process, hands down. I love planning portion, and writing the first draft. I hate the part that comes after – endless editing, changing, shifting, improving, refining. I think because it’s more of an organic process to me than writing it is. I am very methodical in my writing – plan everything out, write scene by scene in order, etc. I can change my plan as I go along, and I frequently do, but still push on bit by bit. After that, it’s all rather nebulous.
- Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal library.
I love fantasy and science fiction, so Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Diana Gabaldon, are all big favorites. I love historical fiction as well – Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Edward Rutherfurd.
- What inspired you to write in the first place?
Actually, finding my father after searching for him for fifteen years inspired me. He never knew I existed, and when I finally found him, he and my mother got together and got married for the first time. I knew that had to be a love story – so I wrote my first novel. It was addicting.
- Was there much research involved?
A lot more than I thought there would be! Since the novel is set in 1846, there are many small things that I simply didn’t know, such as what sort of foods would the locals be eating other than potatoes? How would one travel from Pittsburgh to New York, since the railroads weren’t that far west? Or across the ocean – the first steam ships were just being used at that point. I found myself writing about the funicular train and boat system on the Juniata River in Pennsylvania, near Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. After the book was finished, I then got a new job and moved to that area, completely by coincidence.
- Tell us about your next project.
I’ve already written the first drafts of two more books, prequels to Legacy of Hunger. There will be a trilogy, if all goes well! Legacy of Truth and Legacy of Luck.
- It’s great to see that the first of those is well on track. Thanks for coming by, Christy.
Grandmamma’s brooch haunted Valentia’s dreams.
Even as she relaxed at afternoon tea with her mother, the lace doily reminded her of the delicate intertwining design of the brooch. That, in turn, reminded her of the task she had resolved her mind upon.
She was tired of always settling for the smallest bits of whatever was good in life. Perhaps it was time to take larger chunks.
Valentia’s corset pinched as she leaned towards the tea tray, reaching for a large cake on the upper tier.
“Control yourself, Valentia, or you’ll end up looking like one of those Pittsburgh steel workers.” Majesta McDowell was always aware of the proprieties. From the servant’s area, one of the maids sniggered.
With an unladylike grimace at her mother, Valentia reached for a much smaller piece when she heard shouts. This wasn’t the normal sound of a foreman yelling at his workers.
This was panic.
Several other patrons stood to look out the plate glass window of the café. Though she was tall for a woman, all Valentia could see were the backs of strangers, and an occasional glimpse of someone running in the street.
Then there came a sharp crack, followed by a muffled explosion. Clouds of dust billowed, and Valentia fought her rising dread.
People in the café jammed the door, trying to escape.
Valentia, her mother, and their maids, Sarah and Maggie, pushed out of the stifling building. Panicked voices screamed amid crashes, all from a street not far away, in the direction of the Monongahela House Hotel.
Which was where they had been staying.
Her mind raced in panic, her stomach was a solid knot. Trying to make sense of the chaos, she looked the maids and her mother. She was transfixed, staring at the looming threat.
A threatening column of black, oily smoke billowed from the riverside, a searing blanket of menace. The smell of burning wood filled the air.
A church bell tolled. She must quell her terror and take charge.
“Mother, this way!” Valentia tugged on her mother’s arm to break the spell she was under, and pulled her away from the hotel.
My name is Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon. I do many things, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing and photography. In real life I’m a CPA, but having grown up with art and around me (my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected me, as it were. I love to draw and to create things. It’s more of an obsession than a hobby. I like looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or a fragrant blossom, a dramatic seaside. I then wish to take a picture or create a piece of jewelry to share this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus I write. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. I do local art and craft shows, as well as sending my art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.
God made His world in seven days; it takes most authors a lot longer than that.
I’m not saying this because I swore I’d have the two sequels to Leaving the Pack ready for submission this week and I find myself unable to even get enough sleep.
I find myself a bit bemused about this whole George RR Martin Game of Thrones furor about the delay of Winds of Winter.
Perhaps it’s just me; I find myself bemused by lots of the things people get upset about on the Internet.
But what has happened to people’s patience?
I know we are creating a generation of impatient people raised on fast food and instant information. But we’re talking about readers. Readers of fantasy novels, the longest books ever, often with many books, which take years to read never mind write. If they can’t chill out and wait until the books hit the shelves, who can?
I have yet to see Game of Thrones. Not because I’m unconvinced it’s a kick-ass TV show. I am. I can’t wait to start watching it.
Except, of course, I can.
I am waiting.
I have the first three books in the series on my shelf. I haven’t read them yet. Don’t plan to for a while. I’m in no rush. I have a few years of reading material sitting beside those books, so I’m not stuck just yet.
Nevertheless, you’d swear there was no other book left to read in the universe from the clamour raised upon the news the new book will be delayed. Seriously, there are lots of other things to read. Go catch up on the classics. Or go read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. That’ll keep you busy for a year. And there are other TV shows to keep your eyes busy, too.
I know, I know. You’re in the middle of the series. You need to know what happens next.
When I was a teen I found The Clan of the Cave Bear in my local library. I was hooked. I took out the next two books straight after. I read on the back covers that they were part of a six-book series, called Earth’s Children. I was confused; t was a trilogy, surely. Then one day a year or so later I saw The Plains of Passage in a bookshop. I bought it straight away – well, I asked my mother to, since I was fifteen and it cost twenty quid.
Then I waited.
And boy, I waited.
For the first time, in my twenties, I looked up an author on the Internet to see what the hell was going on; where the next book, or was there a sign it was coming out. I was worried JM Auel was going to die before she finished the next two books. The last in the series, The Land of Painted Caves only came out in 2011. I’d waited twenty years to complete the saga. It took Auel thirty years to write them. But they were worth it.
Who’s the slowest writer of them all? GRR Martin and JM Auel
Photos from Nick Briggs/HBO via http://www.wired.com/2016/01/george-rr-martin-game-of-thrones/ and delibrossetrata.blogspot.com
It would have been great to find all the books completed, like we did The Lord of the Rings when we were kids (or The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). But them’s the breaks.
That’s why I’m waiting, so I can go start to finish.
Since it became possible to binge on TV series, it’s become better (for me anyway) to wait until the last episode airs, and your mates have said it’s worth the watch. Then you just go through the whole thing.
I did this with Mad Men, last year, and with Breaking Bad before that. I was planning on doing it with Lost, but skipped that. I bought my bother the box set of season one on the strength of the recommendations it got, then never bothered to borrow it when the sixth season ended to bad reviews. I’ll never watch it.
So I’ll stick to the other books on my to-be-read list for now, watch The Shield, when I get a chance to watch anything with a new-born in the house and a pile of things on my to-be-written list.
And I’ll continue to ignore people talking about what happens in the series the same way I ignore people talking about the Kardasihains and their ilk on the Internet.
And when George RR Martin is good and ready to put out the last book in the series, I’ll start reading and once I’ve read it, I’ll get the box sets from someone and sit down in front of my telly for a marathon. By then I’ll probably be retired and have loads of time.
I’m participating in a blog hop for Christmas today…
Here’s a holiday photo..
Christmas is a complicated time for a writer. Both for his or her writing and for the characters in his or her head.
We generally have some time off over the holiday season. We writers generally look forward to it, imagining we’ll have long quiet mornings to get some serious word counts down, or plot a novel, or just scribble down ideas as we ponder the virgin snow in our gardens.
And at the back of our mind, we know that it’s as fictitious as the man in red. We’re surrounded by family, by food and preparations, by kids running around with toys that usually make noise, and require some putting together.
We do get some time, because as writers we make it. We get up early – perhaps not the night Santa Claus comes, just in case we bump into him in the hallway, but on other mornings. And we see the sun come up over the winter landscape as we scribble, or edit, or plot.
For our characters, our plots, our storylines, Christmas can be a crux, or a crossroads, or a cross we have to jump over or have our story impaled upon it. To move the story along it can help, or hinder. Characters who are not from the same place would logically separate for the holidays, go their separate ways, to their separate homes – even if they love one another very much, and I know because I left my girlfriend every Christmas until we got married. If their families are living close by, we are faced with the battery of family members who’d want to be introduced, and while it can be amusing to have some banter over the table, it can be too much, too complicated to include in a plotline that nowadays readers expect to be ever more streamlined and spare, free of unnecessary sub plots and minor characters.
So we skip it sometimes. We gloss over it. If we have to deal with it at all – sometimes the timeline nicely avoids the whole season. In my most recent adult novel, The Ecology of Lonesomeness, Kaleb the American scientist, stays in Scotland for Christmas, since he’s Jewish and isn’t expected back home by his parents. He’s going out with the daughter of fairly strict Scottish Presbyterian, which might have provided some laughs, but also some awkward moments, and it would have bogged down the story; we’d already found out much of what we needed to know about Jessie’s parents, and more would have become boring. So a few comments about how well it had gone and how good an impression Kaleb had made by just being there and attending morning service with the family sufficed.
In my only other novel that had to deal with Christmas, Leaving the Pack, the two main characters are also very different in their approach to Christmas. Paul, of a race of men who are the origins of the werewolf myth and who worship the wolf, has no familial obligations at Christmas, and is happy to accompany Susan, his “normal” girlfriend to her family for lunch (though he does make her miss morning mass… The rest of the day is leapt over, because Susan’s family, since they’re not werewolf-like, are very peripheral to the story line.
Leaving the Pack is part one of my Silver Nights Trilogy, the two other parts of which I am currently editing. My plan is to submit them to my editor and publisher in Tirgearr Publishing as soon as submissions reopen after the holidays. To this end, I have grand plans to work while I have some time off from my day job teaching high school science… of course, I have a 4-year-old who’s waiting to put up the tree, a 10-day old son who hasn’t yet figured out that his dad has other children besides him, most of which are imaginary but equally demanding to have their adventures written down,an extended Spanish family who will expect to see said son and me for their intensive three-day family celebrations, complete with Basque version of Santa, dinner on Christmas Eve, Lunch on Christmas Day and St Stephen’s day, as well as the serious gift-giving on Little Christmas when the Three Kings come… The only reason I don’t have to squeeze in a trip home to Ireland in between is because said son is too small to travel as yet (and hasn’t got the travel documents in time). But I will find some time, and get my submission in.
I’m offering a prize today of a copy of Leaving the Pack – a werewolf novel like no other you’ve ever read, written by a scientist about the truth behind the myth.
Leave a comment and let me know whether you prefer to read about Christmas in a novel or skip it to get to the other plot points to be put into the draw.
Blurb of The Ecology of Lonesomeness:
Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot while studying the Pacific Northwest forests. He’s in Scotland’s Great Glen to investigate aquatic food webs and nutrients cycles; if he proves there’s no food for any creature bigger than a pike, then so much the better.
Jessie McPherson has returned to Loch Ness after finishing university in London, hoping to avoid the obsession with its dark waters she had when younger and first discovered lonesomeness. She knows any relationship with a scientist studying the lake is a bad idea, but something about Kaleb makes her throw caution to the depths.
When Kaleb discovers Jessie’s lonesomeness refers not just to the solitude of the loch, he’s faced with an ecological problem of monstrous proportions. Can he find a way to satisfy both the man and the scientist inside himself, and do the right thing?
10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.
Blurb of Leaving the Pack, Silver Nights Trilogy Part 1:
Nobody believes in werewolves.
That’s just what Paul McHew and his friends are counting on.
They and their kind roam our city streets: a race of people from whom the terrible legend stems; now living among us invisibly after centuries of persecution through fear and ignorance. Superficially Caucasian but physiologically very different, with lunar rhythms so strong that during the three days of the full moon they are almost completely controlled by their hormonal instincts, you might have cursed them as just another group of brawling youths or drunken gang-bangers. Now at the point of extinction, if they are to survive their existence must remain restricted to mere stories and legend, but, paradoxically, they also must marry outside their society in order to persist.
The responsibility for negotiating this knife-edge is given to Paul, who runs the streets with his friends during the full moon, keeping them out of real trouble and its resultant difficult questions. Having succeeded for years, he finds his real test of leadership comes when he meets Susan, a potential life-mate, to whom he will have to reveal his true identity if he is ever to leave his pack.
10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.
David is a writer, ecologist and teacher from Dublin, Ireland, now living in Pamplona Spain. He has a degree in environmental biology and doctorate in zoology, specialising in deer biology and is still involved in deer management in his spare time.
As an avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David’s non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science. While some of his stories and novels are contemporary, others seek to describe the science behind the supernatural or the paranormal.
A long-time member of The World Wildlife Fund, David has pledged to donate 10% of his royalties on all his hitherto published books to that charity to aid with protecting endangered species and habitats.
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