Here’s a reblog of a lovely tribute to one of my favorite authors, Lawrence Block and his greatest character, Matthew Scudder.
Here’s a good blog post about a terrific writer.
In looking through the thicket dividing this week from next, I see the 4th of July waiting with a smirk on its face. Already.
When we get to the 4th, time slips into high gear and we zoom like helpless pilgrims in a roller coaster right toward August. And August is almost fall, and the whole damned summer is over. No.
As I’ve been threatening since sometime last year, I have finished A Signal Shown, Book Two of the Wisdom Court novels, and Book One, Edge of the Shadow, as well as Book Two will be epublished as soon as the eformatting is finished and the covers are created. So there. It took longer than I thought it would, but life got in the way, as life so often does, and what’re you going to do–stiff life? No.
So slow the hell down, June! I’m writing sales copy and blurbs for both WC One and Two, while, in the shadows, Book Three looms and lurks on alternating days. It’s very distracting and scary to boot. I’m also supposed to come up with some artful posts here and there to tweak the interest of potential readers, write reviews so others will reciprocate, and get the house clean before the health department shuts us down. Did I mention the garden? Oh, never mind. I must have time to deal with everything, and the only way that’s remotely possible is if July simply crawls by. That’ll happen, right?
Although, as we know, we never really reach the end. And so I’m zipping through the manuscript of A Signal Shown, Book Two of the Wisdom Court series, adding a bit here and there so I can get it off to my beta readers. As I finished on page 301, I let out a deep breath and thought about heading to the refrigerator for the bottle of champagne I put there several days ago. I never pass up a chance to click champagne glasses because they’re not always frequent, those celebratory writing moments.
As soon as I have feedback from the readers I’ll make one more pass through the prose and then submit the book for eformatting at ePublishingWorks!. They’ve done such good work with my two mysteries Scavenger Hunt and Obstacle Course. As soon as the new book is ready, the first Wisdom Court book, Edge of the Shadow, along with A Signal Shown, will be epublished. And how will I greet that frabjous day? By telling the world about my wonderful books and–oh yeah–by plugging away on the third Wisdom Court book, All in Bad Time. You have to be true to the story arc.
So, my friends, here’s a sample from Wisdom Court Book One, my first metaphysical thriller, Edge of the Shadow:
“Mistletoe to break the lock.” The woman seated at the small table sprinkled leaves into the shallow bowl next to the candle illuminating the room.
The windows at her back were closed and curtained but the flame fluttered, deepening the red of her upswept hair and gleaming along the silver threads in her robe. Her gaze darted toward the gloom in the corners as she reached into another bag.
“I call upon the spirits.” Spiky thistle leaves fell to the pottery surface. Groping inside a leather pouch she pulled out dry needles. They dropped from her hand as she whispered, “Yew to raise the dead.”
A gauzy sack yielded graying fronds. “Balm of Gilead, manifest the one I seek.”
After a glance down at the ancient book open across her lap she murmured, “Protection born of amaranth. And borage for courage,” she added under her breath, releasing the last bits into the container.
Shadows stirred along the wall as she twisted the candle from the saucer and held it to the herbal mixture, taking care to push her flowing sleeve away from the dish. Pungent smoke drifted upward as she replaced the taper.
A breath of air touched her and she turned, half-glimpsing motion but unable to find its source. Again the flame wobbled, and behind her the curtain billowed upward. The border of the coarsely woven material brushed the wick as it fell back into place.
A tiny spark gnawed along the threads until it burned.
And that’s The End for today. Cheers!
I’ve been working on making my characters’ dialogue more distinctive and honing their actions to make them more in the scene.
Here’s some wonderful advice for spiffing up dialogue from Shannon Donnelly on the Writers in the Storm blog. Great stuff.
Originally posted on Writers In The Storm Blog:
Great dialogue can make or break a novel.
This view may stem from growing up watching a lot of 1930’s screwball comedies. Zingers fly with rapid fire and everyone talks. A lot. But the importance of dialogue really sank in when I wrote A Proper Mistress. I went for a lot of dialogue in that book and it went on to be one of my best selling romances.
We all know great dialogue when we read it—and the best dialogue seems effortless. But good dialogue takes work, sometimes needing multiple edits and thinking it over and totally revising a scene. It also takes a few key ingredients.
1) Give Your Characters Unique Voices.
Can you tell who is talking without any tags to make this obvious?
You have to get your characters talking in order to find their voices. And each character needs a distinct voice.
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Every January I’m imbued with a feeling of possibility. It’s a new year. A period has been added to the last sentence of 2013, and a shiny 2014 is available to fill with ideas, words, and work. I’ve decided to dedicate this year to one of my favorite creatures.
This is my year of the duck.
Ducks are masters of land, sea, and air. They view life with a Mona Lisa smile, and are willing to plumb the depths for sustenance, leaving their heads beneath the surface and their tail feathers vulnerable to the breeze. Awkward at times, graceful at others, they go about their business with enthusiasm.
In the coming twelve months of writing I’ll try to let go of fear standing in the way of expression. I’ll develop a smile to face down the moments when words hide from me like minnows under rocks. When I want to turn away from the computer to find distraction, I’ll focus on my characters until they talk to me and show me the paths they want to follow. I’ll float on the pond of ideas lightly, lightly, and swim my way to the ends of the stories I need to tell.
I’ll stop once in a while to preen my feathers, to feel good about what I’ve written rather than letting the perfectionist-voice whisper criticism to take away my pleasure in what I’ve captured on the page. And I’ll fly high enough to see entire landscapes populated by characters I want to explore.
It’s the year of the duck.
I said out loud I was aiming to complete A Signal Shown by the end of November. It’s not going to happen, but I’ve written a lot so all is not lost. Here goes another challenge: I’m aiming to finish it by the end of December, holidays or no holidays.
As for the random viruses, crises, and have-tos of the season: can we coexist peacefully?
Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo participants. I hope you met your goals.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. I’m grateful to family and friends who not only support my endeavors, but also accept my disappearing for weeks (months!) at a time to tell myself stories.
Just checking in to report that the words are flowing, the page stack’s growing, and I don’t know if I’ll be done by December 1, but I am getting there.
I’ve lived long enough to believe in ghosts, not to say I’ve ever met a vaporous shade on the stairs. I’m haunted by memories of people I’ve loved and hated who are dead now; by regrets of actions done and left undone; by unwritten story ideas that don’t go away; by a deepening knowledge that someday I will go away. This time of year, as light dwindles and leaves fall, I appreciate the leering jack-o-lanterns and tilting headstones appearing in neighborhood yards. It’s the perfect time to exhume more thoughts about plot threads.
We’re advised to write about what we know. We’re told to read everything we can of the fiction genres we like. When I suffered the fatal writer’s epiphany, throwing a novel I’d been reading across the room, declaring “I can do better than that!”, I’d read lots of mysteries and figured I could write one.
But what did I know? What could I write about?
I knew how it feels to be so angry at a person I wanted to kill her. I understood how someone could feel outside his own life, as though he were acting a part instead of interacting with the people he saw everyday. I’d worked with cops and social agency staffers, and I knew several distinct personality types who end up in those jobs. I knew a lot about feeling uncertain and yearning to accomplish something I wasn’t sure I could do. Those personality traits gave birth to my first protagonist, Finny Aletter, the burned-out Denver stockbroker who discovers by accident that she really loves rehabbing her old house and might want to make the activity her new career. My husband and I were making our century-old house livable, and I used my own work stripping and refinishing wood, sanding and painting, caulking and polishing to supply Finny with a desire to use her hands instead of her killer instincts as a broker.
Finny had to be more than conflicted about her job, so I gave her an ex-lover, who was also her boss, a lingering affection for him standing in the way of her giving notice. The police detective investigating the requisite murder let me use my own lustful thoughts (but not actions–sigh) toward several men who, in composite, became Chris Barelli. His occasionally asshole behavior was based on several men I’d known. The killer, and motives thereof, gave me the most fun, since I was able to channel vitriol I’d built up over a lifetime of swallowing anger to convince the world I was a “good girl.” I added some ragpickers wandering through Denver alleys and a lost literary manuscript (a nod to my English lit degree) and wrote and revised for years. A wonderful editor at Arbor House, Liza Dawson, took me under her wing. Finally, Scavengers, now titled Scavenger Hunt in ebook form, came to be.
Plot threads are woven from dandelion fluff in the mind, bits and pieces observed, felt, wished. When such ephemera is combined with years of reading, and with what is learned from teachers, a novel can come to be. The most influential for me was Lawrence Block, whose fiction column in Writer’s Digest taught me the basics. He is the most insightful writer on writing I’ve ever encountered, and one of the best writers, period.
So, what do you know? What do you feel? What have you observed? What can you weave from those threads?