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Editing

November 30, 2016

cervantes“No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.” -Miguel de Cervantes

I’m reading through an almost ready manuscript before I hand it over to be edited. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read these pages. Every time I come to the end, I think the same thing: “I’ve finally gotten it right, but, just to be sure, I’ll put it aside and read it again in a week or two.”

Two weeks pass and I give it another try – and am appalled at the things I find. But that’s only half the truth. The other half agrees with Cervantes. I think my child is beautiful. But not perfect and I need to strive for perfection. Not possible, you say? I know that, of course, but still I have to try. That’s what writers do – a good thing, but we have to remember not to strive too hard. We have to recognize that some of the changes we make are just that – changes, not necessarily improvements.

Time has elapsed since we began our story and we’ve changed – no matter how short the period of time. Every day, things happen to us and to the world around us. Some are small, seemingly insignificant. Others are large, inescapably significant. All of them alter us, whether we realize it or not, and as we change, so do our stories.

The trick as a writer is to decide which is better: the younger, fresher version or the later, more thoughtful one. The thing is, we can never really be sure. At some point, we have to send our offspring of the mind into the world and hope we’ve made choices that make them beautiful to readers.

Thanksgiving Blessings – and a Hopeful Wish

November 23, 2016

I have so much for which to be thankful that I can’t begin to list everything here. I suspect the same is thanksgivingtrue for most of the people who will read this. I know some of you are going through difficult times, and to you, I send my heartfelt hope that they pass quickly and leave you wiser for having gone through them.

Blessings to all and a hopeful wish that next Thanksgiving will see fewer people on our planet living in hopeless situations. May those of us who are blessed turn our gratitude into empathy and work to eliminate the artificial barriers that separate us. May civility and understanding overcome hostility and division, and …

May all of you spend this holiday surrounded by people you love.

 

Priestly Thoughts

November 14, 2016

 “Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries.” -J.B. Priestleyjbpriestley

When I came across the above quote, I couldn’t resist including it in a Birth of a Novel post. I discovered Priestley a number of years ago when I read The Image Men, the story of a couple of down-on-their-luck British professors who create a Foundation of Social Image and are astounded by its success. As I said, I read the book a long time ago, so I don’t remember much detail, but the story and the ideas it conveyed have stuck with me – ideas that seem to be more and more true each day in the age of social media. I think it’s safe to say Mr. Priestley was well ahead of his time. Though I loved The Image Men, I haven’t read any of his other fiction. I do have a copy of his Literature and Western Man that I picked up at a book sale. It’s a little intimidating to read straight through, but I keep it on my writing desk and browse through it from time to time. I always find something interesting. I like the way his mind works.

Here are a few of examples of his advice to writers:

“Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write.”

“Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.”

“If there is one thing left that I would like to do, it’s to write something really beautiful. And I could do it, you know. I could still do it.”

“Depending upon shock tactics is easy, whereas writing a good play is difficult. Pubic hair is no substitute for wit.” Had to laugh at this one – reminded me of a Maggie Smith line in Downton Abbey.

All these quotes contain sound advice, but my favorite is:

“If you are a genius, you’ll make your own rules, but if not – and the odds are against it – go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper – write.”

That’s the one I turn to when I doubt my own ability and wonder if I should bother.

Happy reading (and writing), my friends.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look

November 6, 2016

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban has allowed me to share a behind-the-scenes peek at the story told in The King in the Stone. It’s a scene not included in the book, but one I think you’ll enjoy.

The King in the Stonecarmens-locale

She takes a deep breath, and looks around. She is standing by the tomb of the king, but she has no recollection of leaving the camp or climbing the mountain. The last thing she remembers is Kelsey’s voice, so eerily clear through the phone even though she was six thousand miles away, telling her about Julián. A flash of lightning shatters the sky and, almost immediately, the deafening explosion of close thunder shakes the ground. Andrea looks up. Dark clouds, heavy with rain, have turned the day almost to night, shadowing the valley below and hiding the peaks beyond.

Andrea moans at the memory and, bent in two by the sudden pain the memory has brought, leans forward. Images of the man she has tried so hard to forget flash through her mind. Julián bleeding in her arms, an arrow through his chest. Julián by the broken arch telling her how much he loves her. Julián rejecting her, stealing the ring from her finger . . .  From the slab that covers the tomb, the lying figure of the king carved in the stone stares at her with unseeing eyes.

Another lightning flash streaks the sky and the earth trembles under her feet as thunder rolls once more over the mountains. Heavy drops fall on her face, washing away her tears.

Andrea forces her mind to reason. She has no claim over Julián. He broke their engagement and made it clear he didn’t want to be with her. That was the reason she left California these three weeks past. Whether he’s with Kelsey now or with somebody else should make no difference.

But it does. She can’t lie to herself. She’s hurting too much to pretend anymore. The truth is that moving to Spain has changed nothing. She has not forgotten Julián. His memory has haunted her dreams every night, stolen itself into every one of her waking thoughts.

Her hands clenched into fists, Andrea hits the stone, swearing at Kelsey for her betrayal. How could she? Kelsey is her cousin, her confidant. Kelsey knows how much she cares for Julián. How much she wants him back.
Not anymore. Knowing he doesn’t love her is one thing. Learning he is with Kelsey quite another. Now, at last, she will forget him.

She turns her back to the tomb, and starts toward the trail. But the rain has turned the soil to mud. Loosing her footing, she falls down.

Spitting water and dirt, Andrea scrambles to her feet. By the light of the next lightning flash, she sees the gap on the mountain, an open mouth calling to her, and dives through the sheets of water pouring from the angry sky toward the wall. The rope she remembers from the previous evening is still hanging down into the cave. She grabs it in her slippery hands and climbs down.

She has barely reached the ground­­—welcome, dry ground, firm under her feet—when the mountain shakes again. Andrea stumbles and, falling on her knees, raises her arms over her head, a weak protection against the gravel falling around her like solid rain.

When the noise finally stops and Andrea opens her eyes, the cave is in total darkness. Has she gone blind? she wonders as she fights back her fears. I’m not blind, she reassures herself. That’s absurd. But if she isn’t, why is it so dark?

She looks up, squinting her eyes. But it’s useless: no ray of light steals through the wall of rocks. The opening is gone. Of course, the thought breaks into her mind. The earthquake has provoked a slide and closed the entrance. A wave of panic washes over her as she realizes she’s on her own. No one will ever come looking for her. Why should they? She told no one where she was going when she left. She’s buried alive and this cave up in the mountains of this world that is not hers will be her grave.

Andrea screams, a name, a broken word, a feral cry for help that, as she fears, dies unheard against the cavern’s walls.

Want to know more? Here’s a link to the book: http://amzn.to/2aEhQ6M

Thanks, Carmen, for sharing this with us.

What then …

October 25, 2016

This poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge crossed my path recently. I’m not a poet, nor am I particularly adept at interpreting poetry. To quote that old cliche about art (any art), I just know when I like something – or when something touches me. And this little poem touches me. I love the way it crosses the line between dreams and reality.

What if you sleptcarmens-perfect-rose
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I like the poem in its entirety. I’m intrigued by the possibilities inherent in a dream, but the words that pierce my heart are those in the last line: Ah,what then?  Those are probably the favorite words of all storytellers – and story listeners. Those are the words around which our dreams are woven and our stories are built.

So, happy dreams, my friends. May they be filled with strange and beautiful flowers.

By the way, the lovely flower photo was taken by my friend, Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban. Thanks, Carmen. As I’ve said before, you are a multi-talented woman.

And the Winner is:

October 24, 2016

What winner am I talking about?balloons

Sarita Leone very generously offered a free copy of a book from her backlist to one randomly-chosen commenter on her post last week.

That winner is …TA DA … Sydell Voeller.

Congratulations, Sydell, and happy reading. I’ll leave it to you and Sarita to work out the details

Thanks, also, to Sarita, for her post and for her generosity.

Sarita Leone Tells a Ghostly Tale

October 14, 2016

I’m delighted to welcome my friend, Sarita Leone, to Birth of a Novel. Sarita is one of the sarita-leonereasons I love the internet. We’ve never actually met face to face, but have been friends since we both wrote for Avalon Books – more than a few years ago. I don’t remember exactly how we connected, but I’m grateful that we did. We share our lives, cheer each other on, and, when necessary, reach out with sympathy and encouragement – all via emails and, of course, Facebook. What can I tell you about Sarita except she’s a good friend? I could say a lot, but I’ll stick to a couple of things. First of all, she loves books – both reading them and writing them. Secondly, she loves travel – visiting new places and meeting new people – all kinds of people. Never one to stand still, now she’s reaching out in another way. She’s writing in a new genre, but I’ll let her tell you about that.

Sarita …

Paranormal romance novels incorporate fantasy worlds, paranormal elements, or science fiction as an integral part of the plot. It’s a new writing endeavor for me, this paranormal romance gig—but I’ve got to tell you, one book in, and I’m hooked!

Shelby’s Ghost releases today. It is, I am excited to say, my first paranormal romance. I shelbysghost_w10961_300loved writing it, and am tickled that this new direction is getting such a positive response. I hope readers will embrace this new season as much as I have, because the next few books scheduled for release are paranormals.

But about Shelby, her ghost, and the hot car…

Shelby is in college, dedicated to her sorority, finding her way to a new normal after losing her mother. She’s floundering a bit, but her sisters are holding her up—and all she wants is some happiness. Some fun. You know, the usual collegiate stuff.  She receives a killer car for her birthday, a vintage Shelby, but she absolutely does not like the car one bit—that is, until she finds it comes with a hot, sexy ghost named Joey.

Joey? He’s stuck in limbo. Dead, but not in heaven. Or, the other place. He’s tethered to the car he loves so much, and has no idea how he’s supposed to move along. But when he meets Shelby, he forgets about heaven, hell, how he died, why he’s stuck—she’s so amazing, she makes the ghost wish he were still alive!

But the path of true love never runs smoothly, does it? A horrible ex who kidnaps Shelby and a familiar face at the Pearly Gates gives this fast, fun, steamy paranormal a few unexpected twists. As I said, I loved writing it, and I hope readers enjoy it, too.

Thank you, Sandy, for allowing me to visit today and chat about this new writing season in my life. I’m so grateful!

The pleasure is mine, Sarita. Thanks for telling us about your latest writing venture. I can’t wait to read Shelby’s Ghost. Good luck with it.

Shelby’s Ghost is published by The Wild Rose Press, and is available in both print and ebook formats. Buy links:

https://www.amazon.com/Shelbys-Ghost-Sarita-Leone/dp/1509209875/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476116375&sr=1-1&keywords=sarita+leone

http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/4612-shelby-s-ghost.html