Another perfect summer day. I love summer, love driving down the street and seeing flowers blooming in my neighbors’s yards, love having friends over for dinner on the back porch, love … oh, so many things. I think most people share my feeling about summer. It’s the season of freedom, freedom from the routine of school for the kids, freedom from the constricting clothing we have to wear in the winter. There’s no snow to shovel. On the other hand, there is grass to cut and summer is also the season of humidity and mosquitoes. Like every time of year, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad. All things considered, I’m grateful that I live in an area where we experience four distinct seasons.
Each time of year has its own seductive charm, from the spare elegance of a bare-limbed tree in winter to the extravagant bounty of a summer garden. Much as I love summer, spring and fall are my favorite seasons. They are less intense than the periods that precede and follow them, but to me, they are more interesting. Lacking extremes of heat and cold, the transition seasons are more gentle. They are also less predictable. Each day begins with a decision: T-shirt and shorts? A sweater and jeans? True, that’s a trivial decision, but if you don’t get it right, you’ll have an uncomfortable day. Even if you do get it right, there’s a good chance it’s just temporarily so. By mid-day, something as capricious and beyond your control as the weather may force you to regret your choice, maybe even change not just your clothing, but your plans.
Transitions in novels are like that too. These parts are more gentle. They are not the scenes of intense action, but those moments of introspection that follow or precede the action. They are less predictable, when readers wonder how characters will react to events beyond their control. They are the scenes in which the characters have an opportunity to change and grow. They have to make choices, some of which may be trivial in themselves, but they can produce unexpected results and lead to other, more difficult choices, which in turn, lead to … yes, more changes.
Transitions show the characters in their more reflective moments. It is here, in the periods of less intense action, that we get to know the characters, to understand why the choices they have to make are difficult for them. If they’re done well, we, as readers, agonize over the decisions with the characters and start to identify with them.
I think of these scenes as bridges – where the writer guides the story from beginning to middle to end and, if they’re good at it, they make it look easy – as natural and inevitable as the changing of the seasons.
As you may know, I sometimes post on Classic and Cozy . Since the contributors to that blog all, like me, once wrote for Avalon Books, it seems appropriate that I share my thoughts about the tenth anniversary of my first published novel there too.
I hope you’ll follow the link and check out what I have to say. Leave a comment and you might win a free book.
In case you don’t have time to go there, I’ll repeat here my conviction that readers are an important part of the creative process and how much I appreciate your support and encouragement over the years.
This month, June 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of the release of my first published novel, Put Out the Light.
I’ll never forget the thrill of getting the call from Avalon Books. As luck would have it, that happened on my birthday. Best present anyone ever received! I don’t remember what I said, but I know that a few seconds into whatever it was, I realized I was making no sense whatsoever. I took a couple of deep breaths and started over. I don’t remember what I said then either. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Avalon didn’t hold it against me and went ahead with the publication of Put Out the Light.
It was a major milestone in my life. I had reached a goal. When I started writing this book, I told myself it didn’t even matter if it was published. I just wanted to see if I could actually write a book – a whole book – so I put those first words on the page with only the vaguest idea of what came next. Finally, I finished the book. I had a story that, at least in my oinion, held together. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. I was enormously proud of myself, but only for a few minutes. It hit me that it did matter to me that the book be published, so I started down the road toward another goal – publication. A different goal. A different process and not an easy one. Nevertheless, after a long and not-always-pleasant journey, I achieved that goal and, since then, have reached a few more. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that a goal reached is not an end, but a beginning. There’s always more to the journey.
I’ll be sharing more about this journey in the days ahead. Next week, I’ll be blogging about it on Classic and Cozy, the blog written by some old and dear friends from my Avalon days. Here’s a link in case you’d like to check out what they have to say: http://classicandcozybooks.blogspot.com/ I promise you’ll find it worthwhile. The current post is by Janis Susan May and is about finding the right length for whatever you’re writing.
That’s enough from me. Time to step aside and let Marielena share her news. Okay, you’re on, my friend.
My novel “Loreen on the Lam: A Tennessee Mystery” made the leap from ebook to paperback on May 25th through the wonderful publishers at
iPulp Fiction. http://www.ipulpfiction.com/indexLOREEN.html
So what’s so special about having your book in print? For starters, you see the fruition of years of hard work. Your book now has an ISBN and people can find your novel and buy it.
Sure, ebooks are convenient. But a print book? Ah. You can hold it in your hands. Turn pages. You can bookmark or dog-ear it. You can put it on a shelf, spill coffee on it while reading it, go to sleep with it.
And you hope that people buy and like your book because after all, this IS your baby. You hope they enjoy the story, relate to the characters, and laugh at and/or cry with them.
Speaking of those characters, let me introduce you to what reviewers are calling some of the quirkiest, yet most appealing folks around.
Loreen Thigpen, our heroine. She escapes from a Houston prison by stealing the tour bus of a famous country music singer so she can get home to her dying mama in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. Along the way, Loreen picks up three unwanted passengers, not knowing one of them is a hired killer.
Tilly Davis, a battered wife who’s a twit personified.
Buffington Splatt, a deaf-mute Bible salesman. What’s his story anyway?
Sister Sarah, a nun who adds her holy touch to the group.
And there are other unique characters, residents of Red Boiling Springs: Olivia McLoon, who has some mental challenges, and her brother Sammy, who has cared for her most of his life. And let’s not forget Loreen’s Grandpa Mac who has a secret past.
Does Loreen get home in time before her mama dies? And does Loreen’s mama tell her about her grandpa Mac’s secret? And who is the murderer on the bus?
Most of all, I’m hoping that readers pick up on the underlying messages. But if they don’t, that’s OK. The relationship between a reader and a book is personal. And in the end, the book is just FUN to read!
So, if you’re in for the road trip of your life, Loreen would love your company. You can hop on board the bus here to purchase the book through iPulp Fiction: http://www.ipulpfiction.com/indexLOREEN.html
And thanks so much for taking time to support this writer and the writing community!
Thank YOU, Marielena, for stopping by.
Readers, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Loreen on the Lam and can tell you it’s quite a ride. I hope you’ll check it out. I promise you won’t be bored.
One of the things I love about being a writer is having my books in libraries. Sometimes I visit them on my way through the stacks. How vain is that? I write mysteries and my last name begins with a C, so I’m on a shelf with Agatha Christie – something that never fails to send a tingle up my spine.
I can never resist reaching out to touch the spines of my books. If a book isn’t on the shelf–even better. Someone is reading my story! I feel an instant connection with that reader, though I’ll probably never know who it is. I send hopeful thoughts into the universe that they enjoy the book. Will my characters be as real to him (or her) as they are to me? What other books does this person read? I could go on (and on), but I’ll spare you.
I admit what I’ve just described is an ego trip, but my love affair with libraries is much more than that and began long before my books wre rubbing shoulders (spines?) with Ms. Christie. Some of my earliest and best memories are of wandering through what seemed to my young self like miles of books in a hushed, almost reverent, atmosphere. At least it was hushed when I was a girl. Libraries are livelier than they used to be–a good thing, I think.
The library in the small town where I live now has a section with puppets for the children to check out along with their books. No hushed reverence in that corner. Lots of giggles though. Sometimes the library experience leaves the building altogether. There’s an outdoor story program where a librarian travels to a nearby park with stories, songs, jokes and puppets. Participants are invited to bring a lunch and have a picnic. Another program I love is “Kids Reading to Dogs”. It’s not unusual to see a small person sprawled on the floor reading to a large and attentive Golden Retriever. Yes, the child is reading to a dog. The idea is that all kids really want to read; they all want to do well in school, but some of them need a little extra help–and a lot of practice. Reading to another person intimidates them, but they feel comfortable with a dog. There’s no need to measure up, no fear of judgment. To me, these programs are perfect examples of how libraries have changed as community needs and life styles have changed.
I was talking with one of our librarians recently about the changes she’s seen in her career. One thing is that the number of audio books being checked out is growing dramatically. Another is that half the space in the reference section is devoted to computers. There are almost as many requests for help navigating the Internet as there are for reference books. Does this signal the slow death of print books? I don’t think so. I believe the need to learn about different things and to become part of an imaginary world is a basic element of human nature and having information and stories available in different formats reinforces that need.
My friend said one thing that hasn’t changed is children’s story hour (her favorite part of her job). The kids still sit on the floor in front of the reader, wide-eyed, spellbound by the power of story–on their way to a lifelong love of books.
How about you? Do you have special memories of libraries? How do you feel about the changes that recent years have brought? Some people find them a little frightening. I’d love to hear how some of you feel about this.
“I’m going out for a while,” I call over my shoulder.
I just posted about humiliating your heroes. It occurs to me that it’s not just heroes who benefit from an occasional dose of humility. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there and risk personal humiliation. Not an appealing prospect, is it? No one likes that feeling, but there are times when a lesson in humility can be helpful to a writer. It’s part of the kaleidoscope of emotion that make up humans and, to be a really good writer, you have to use them all.
The feeling of being slightly off-balance comes in handy when you’re plotting a murder mystery. I don’t think I’ll ever go as far as murder, but’s not too hard to imagine humility mushrooming into a sense of total inadequacy, and I’m convinced that a sense of inadequacy is at the heart of most crimes. Think of the usual motives: greed, lust, jealousy, revenge, shame. All have at their core a feeling of being not quite enough – an emotion most of us experience at least occasionally. I know I do and, as much as I hate the feeling, experiencing it helps me empathize with my villain and make him/her a fully-rounded character, someone the reader may not like, but will believe.
Fortunately, there are people in my life who are quick to reassure me that my good qualities outweigh my shortcomings. And that is something I acknowledge with grateful humility.
People who grant unconditional acceptance are a wonderful gift – one that I wish I could guarantee to every person on this planet. It might not wipe out crime. but I’m willing to bet it would reduce it dramatically.