And On the First Day…

After writing three books I’m familiar with the process of creating characters and controlling every move they make. I dictate every word they say and I decide if they live alone or are romantically involved. I choose their friends and pick out their wardrobe, their diet, and the car they drive. I also decide if they live or die. It’s a tremendous responsibility and one I try not to take too lightly but I have to admit that every so often I find myself muttering ‘without me you’d be nothing’ at the screen.

Characters are one thing, or a bunch of things I guess, but with this fourth book I’m not only creating characters but the place in which they live. The previous books were set in actual locations I know well, have visited, or could research easily. I decided this time I would create a fictional setting, a make-believe hamlet in central British Columbia that won’t require hours of fact-finding. That should be easy.

Not so fast Mister Gonzales.

The idea for the story was one of those ‘What if?’ moments. I had watched a nature show about snakes in swamps (no political undertones implied) and a few things piqued my interest, mostly the moody environment that the landscape presented. I decided that with a few modifications it would be a good setting for a tale but I had to find out if such a place could be located in British Columbia. That answer was easy…yes. There are quite a few areas that fall into the parameters but they were all further south than I wanted and creating a fictional world near an actual swamp also wasn’t what I wanted. So where did I want it to be? I found a spot that had all the geographical elements I needed but it would require a major natural event to create the geological base. After a little more research I discovered that such an event took place nearby in the early 1900s, about the time my little hamlet originally came into existence. Sometimes you just get lucky.

I already had a rough storyline so after confirming fault lines, geological data regarding rocks and minerals, possibility of railroad/lumber/mining activity, groundwater levels and a legitimate road/highway access I was ready to go.

landers bog 1.jpg

I’m 8,000 words into it and my original rough storyline, although serving me well over the first 3,500 words, has gone from dark and moody to a more light-hearted character-driven general fiction story. I’m actually okay with that (it’s my comfort zone) but I have challenged myself to stick with my original concept and blend two (or more) genres into one story.

It kind of like when Jenn McAvoy asked Evan Morris (White Wolf Moon) about a book he was writing:

“Are you thinking mystery, romance, horror, fantasy?”

“All of the above and with horses, pirates, intergalactic cruisers…I’m not genre-phobic.”

Hmmnnn…that sounds about right. Except for the pirates.

Mike Grant is the author of three novels. “White Wolf Moon”, “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”, and “Fergus”. Visit his Amazon page to find out more.

 

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NEW WAVE?

I wrote the following nearly forty years ago. I’m not sure where I was going with it but like most of my writing from those olden times I must have had a premonition that one day I would look back and wonder. It is what made me look back that interests me.

I wish I could remember what blog I was reading recently that referred to the “new wave” of young indie-authors for I would certainly provide a link. It was one of those writings that, like jalapeno peppers, comes back and bites you long after consumption. I appreciate it when something that someone has created can do that. They plant a little seed in your mind and after sufficient germination the message blossoms and you realize that what was written has become a part of your thoughts. I would however hasten to add the word “current” to the term “new wave” because as far back as I can remember there has always been a new wave of sorts, whether in music, art, or writing. It also applies to science, technology and life in general. What was “cutting edge” a few years ago has long been forgotten, replaced by new ideas and products from new wave thinkers and designers.

Waves are like that. There’s always another one on the way.

The writer of the blog questioned why there seemed to be more of these new creative voices today than ever before. While I was surprised he didn’t provide the simple answer I considered that this might have been his way of making me think about the question. The internet has provided a platform and for good or bad anyone can now publish their message. Everyone has a voice and everyone has something to say.

All you have to do is listen.

I’m pleased to be a part of this community and who knows…one of my books might just be the one to ride it to shore. Like Brian Wilson said…catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.

Unicorn

Within the shadows, without the light, unicorns prance while pan-pipes lay a bed of hushed harmony.  Fragile butterflies flutter between stone turrets resting only briefly amid rich ivy as they flit their way across sunlit castle walls.

Within the light, without the shadows, there is honesty and truth. It is called ‘reality’.

Some say it needs no creative process to survive. Simply put, all that is experienced is all that there is. There are no unicorns.

Between realms there lies a better world. A delicate blend of truth and dreams where fabled creatures, when called upon, may exist. A mixture of warm imagination and cold reality. Sprinkles of hope and guidance spiced with seasoned knowledge and understanding. Gently stirred and mixed yet somehow keeping separate the shadow and the light. This delicate blend of truth and fantasy…of realists and dreamers. Each needs what is unique to the other. Reality requires the elasticity of imagination to stretch boundaries and expand horizons. Creativity needs reality to temper dreams into possibility. Without the other, each suffer.

Where once they sailed the ocean blue, today they sail through darkened space, one daring to dream and one daring to try. Together they have reached the stars.

Reality lasts a lifetime.

Unicorns…forever.

Mike Grant is the author of three novels. “White Wolf Moon”, “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”, and “Fergus”. Visit his Amazon page to find out more.

The Stories Thus Far:

WHITE WOLF MOON:

smallwwm180“White Wolf Moon” is a character-driven story set in Kamloops, British Columbia. Seen through the eyes of a twenty-year-old journalism student (Jennifer MacAvoy) and a sixty-something poet/songwriter (Evan Morris) it takes a lighthearted approach to the philosophies and realities of the Sixties through serious interviews and wonderfully off-the-wall dialogue.

Evan had departed the music scene almost as quickly as he had arrived and now lives a reclusive life with his wife Marie and Ginn, his white wolfdog. Jennifer wanted to find out why. At first terrified by his gruff demeanor she gradually peels away the façade. By sifting through his philosophical banter she unravels his story to discover that she is unwittingly a part of his secret. With her research now overshadowed by a more personal journey Jenn copes with the unnerving realization that she herself has been drawn into his world and heart.

A get-together involving friends from Evan’s past (including his now-wife meeting his then-girlfriend) sets the scene and proves that sixty-something, like the Sixties, is just a state of mind.

As a side note some scenes depicted in this novel are based on personal experiences from those bygone days. I shall, however, leave up to the reader to decide which ones they might be.

 

BARKING AT YESTERDAY’S MOON:

smallbark180In this sequel* to “White Wolf Moon” the usual suspects are at it again. Evan Morris and Danny Mann feature prominently in one misadventure after another. Evan’s confrontation with a rifle-toting hillbilly while researching the background of Ginn, his white wolfdog, sets off a week packed with uncharacteristic behavior for the sixty-something ex-folk singer, from vandalizing a teen-ager’s car to a brush with the law in Edmonton, Alberta. These needed and often comedic contrasts to his staid life are overshadowed by the death of another former band member from the Sixties.

At the celebration of life “muck-up” Evan grapples with thoughts of a life that might have been and treads a trail of rediscovery with more questions than answers.

“Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” is about relationships and friendships that last forever, old rock and roll bands and a musician’s life on the road. It’s about finding that balance between what was and what is and realizing that it’s what we’ve done that makes us what we are.

*Every effort has been made to allow this novel to stand alone. The chapter ‘Jenn’s Story’ briefly recounts the contents of “White Wolf Moon” and any references to that first book have been clarified in the narrative or dialogue.

 

FERGUS:

smallfergus180“Fergus” is a definite dark departure from the first two books although he is a character in “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”. I wanted to pursue how he got the way he is and that’s why this book took a lot longer than I expected. The research was the tough part.

Due to a bus accident Fergus suffered damage to the Broca (speech) area of the brain causing communication difficulties. While the rest of his brain seemed to function normally his inability to communicate his thoughts succinctly coupled with the frustration of always being misjudged gave Fergus the outward appearance of a boy burdened with much greater challenges.

Fergus also suffers vivid ‘false awakenings’ and is occasionally overwhelmed by the confusion of not knowing what is dream and what is reality. Other issues include his brother telling him horrific bedtime stories (the shovel-wielding murderous Jimmyman), no longer being accepted in his school social circle, and people insisting that the creative introvert ‘man up’ from the time he was six.

As an adult he tries to find peace within memories of a younger Fergus. Thoughts of his sister Annalee and his mother Hannah soothe the conflict in his mind but a deeper darkness remains inside. Sometimes Fergus’s fertile imagination and delicate psychological balance combine to blur the line between reality and bedtime tales and sometimes the Jimmyman crosses that line.

My Amazon Author page

Naïve? Me? Okay….

More important than what the writer puts into the words is what the reader takes out of those words. I’m paraphrasing something I said to one of my English teachers oh so long ago. She congratulated me on an astute observation and I must confess I’m also pretty impressed at my insight at that age although I’m not sure if I came up with it or I read it somewhere.

I suppose it doesn’t matter. The point is valid. A writer can spend months putting together a manuscript, tweaking and doctoring every word, but if the reader doesn’t ‘get it’ then it’s all for nought.

I read sci-fi, in particular the ‘Alien’ and ‘Predator’ novels. I have two bookshelves full of the stories and mostly I find them easy, enjoyable, and well-written. There are a couple of authors however that try to take them to a higher literary level and while I basically have no problem with this I find that having to consult a dictionary to understand some of the words takes away from my enjoyment of the story. Know your market folks.

When I released my first novel ‘White Wolf Moon’ I sold a copy to one of the regular customers of the bookshop where I was employed at the time. She came back a few days later and commented that the book was funny and entertaining which is really all I could ask for. Then she smiled and said that there aren’t many ‘naïve’ authors that can put a story together that flows that well. I can’t remember my response but I imagine it was a slightly sarcastic ‘gee thanks!’

I later found the same reference to Richard Brautigan and I no longer felt insulted.

Like naïve artists, naïve writers are the naturals of their craft. They understand their world and are able to translate that world into an understandable concrete form, creating their visions while appearing innocent of the rules and mechanics.

Basically they either don’t know the rules or they do know them and break them.

When it comes to writing I must confess I don’t know all the rules but I do know a lot of them. Yes I am aware I break some of them and I will also admit there are probably a few I unwittingly break. But…

Wait…let’s talk about ‘but’ for a moment. It used to be that you never started a sentence with the word ‘but’.

But it’s accepted these days…as a conjunction used to coordinate two independent clauses.

But enough about ‘but’.

Unfortunately I’ve forgotten what my second independent clause was going to be which is just as well. It’s time to refresh everything I’m doing (starting with the header pic above) so I shall end this now and get back to working on some changes for this blog and my facebook pages.

Until next time…happy trails.

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B0143ZI4W8?ref_=pe_1724030_132998070&redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

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WELL HELLO THERE….

…my it’s been a long, long time.

With due credit to Willie…ain’t it funny how time slips away? It’s frightening to think that eight months have passed since my last blog entry. It just doesn’t seem that long. Politically a lot has happened…North Korea, Iran, Border controversy and all but I try to stay away from politics unless it’s Canadian. There’s not much to write about on that front these days. Seems everybody dislikes the current Prime Minister about as much as they disliked the previous dude-in-charge but that is and will always be the case. You just can’t please anybody these days.

Most of my time since my last post has been taken up with my new novel.cover ebook3

‘Fergus’ is a definite departure from the first two books although he is a side-line character in ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’. I wanted to understand how he got the way he is and that’s why this book took a lot longer than expected. The research was the tough part.

Due to a bus accident Fergus suffered damage to the Broca (speech) area of the brain causing communication difficulties. My research revealed that, while the rest of his brain might function normally, personality disorders can arise due to the frustration brought about by the inability to communicate succinctly.

Fergus also suffers vivid ‘false awakenings’ (dreaming you are awake but are still asleep) and sometimes the confusion of not knowing what is a dream and what isn’t becomes overwhelming.

Other issues involve suddenly not belonging in his school social circle, an uncle urging him to ‘man up’ from the time he was six, and his brother Lucas telling him horrific bedtime stories (The Jimmyman). Fergus’s fertile imagination and his delicate psychological balance sometimes combine to blur the line between fact and those bedtime tales.

It all goes together to create what appears to be a simple sympathetic personality but in reality is deep and dangerous.

And there we have it…my return to blogdom with a little shameless book promotion, which is kind of what it’s all about.

Here’s the link to my Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B0143ZI4W8?ref_=pe_1724030_132998070&redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

 

 

 

DIALOGUE or DIRE LOG?

Da way Oi sees it dat dire log gotta be true to dat guy speakin’ y’know?

After reading countless guides and articles I have come to realize that there are many differences of opinion when it comes to writing dialogue in an accent or dialect. I remember reading some of the respected names in literature back in school and their proficiency with the English language flew out the window when it came to some of their colloquial characters. Mark Twain is the first that comes to mind but I recall others who wrote of the Southern States in the 1800s where regional dialects were often thick and confusing.

Current wisdom appears to be that dialect should be kept to a minimum and a few experts have even suggested that you explain that the character speaks with an accent but the actual written dialogue should be presented in proper Queen’s English. I prefer the minimal approach.

In my current writing project I have a character that suffers speech issues due to an accident that damaged the Broca’s area of his brain. With this, and his outwardly awkward and backwoods appearance, he comes off as a bit of a buffoon but in reality is a well-read, philosophical and intelligent man. His overwhelming frustration of knowing what to say combined with the inability to communicate his thoughts accurately and concisely leads to other issues that I won’t get into here.

It probably took you close to five seconds of work to read the first line of this blog.

‘The way I see it the dialogue has to be true to the character’ is much easier and faster to read and that, I believe, is the secret.

The reader. It has to be easy for the reader to grasp the dialogue at a normal reading speed. Unusual spelling or made up words fight the flow of the experience to the point that reading becomes a bit of a chore. That’s the last thing we, as authors, should want.

Writing the voice for my main character has been the biggest trial. Invariably I start with far more complicated and scattered dialogue and keep paring it back until it moves along like those other voices, most of which speak pretty good English.

Here is a sample of the upcoming book:

Annalee reached across and took the book from his hands. “You read that as perfectly as anyone could Fergus. I’m impressed”

“So I passed?”

“With an A plus.”

“No big deal, it’s easy.” Fergus shrugged. “Don’t have to think on what I say ‘cos the book tellin’ me the words y’know? That whole thinkin’ thing is what mess me up sometimes, gettin’ ahead of myself an’ stuff. It comes to readin’ and I just gotta concentrate and say what the book says to say, thass all.”

Hopefully you found it easy to follow.

SPACE

It’s all around us. There’s nothing in it or to it and, if left uninterrupted, it goes on forever. That’s why they call it space. You can’t see it of course but if you go straight up until you get past the birds and the blue and arrive at nothing…that’s it. The final frontier.

Space on terra firma has become a rather intimate thing. Everybody has their own space and some folks can get a tad cranky if they feel that you have somehow trespassed on their space. The problem is that it’s not exactly clear to me how far this space extends from the body. A foot, two feet…or is it metric space? Is it like a big round invisible bubble or is it a concise shape cut parallel to my dimensions? Does it follow the contours of my ins and outs (mostly outs these days) or does it plot a random course around my 70 year old celestial body? Do bigger people get more space than little people? If so then I don’t think that’s fair. We’re all created equal (or so I’ve heard) so we should each get the same amount of space. If some people want to fill it up with more of themselves then that’s their business.

So many, many questions…

If it’s a really hot day does my space expand? On a cold day does it shrivel up and become inner-space? When I lie down where does the behind me space go? Does it compress or just sort of squirt out the sides? If I go into a really small room does all of my space fit in there with me or is some of it still outside the door? If I sit in a movie theatre does my space and the space of the guy beside me overlap and intermingle? Actually that’s a rather disgusting thought.

Of course back in the sixties I was in a different space. It was a groovy space. It replaced my neato space of the fifties and paved the path for my polyester space of the seventies. The eighties saw the downsizing of my space due to kids arriving on the scene. It’s amazing how tiny creatures such as newborns can fill up what was once a vast space. But as a new parent I didn’t have any real space to call my own…except in the bathroom. That’s the last bastion of solitude for a dad. Nobody messed with my space when I took it into the bathroom.

That was so long ago. Now they’ve all gone on to their own universes and I have my space back.

It’s funny though…it doesn’t feel the same. The space continuum has been disturbed. Of course there are times when the kids and grandkids come by and play space invaders and that’s fine. Unlike the guy next to me in the theatre these space cadets are welcomed. I also know they’ve booked a return flight. Their mission ends at bedtime. That’s when I can return to my own space. Everybody needs someone in their space but everybody needs a little space to themselves sometimes.

It’s all about balance.