Best-Selling Author

Here I am…the best-selling author of ‘White Wolf Moon’, ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’, and ‘Fergus’ struggling to come up with a topic for this blog posting.

Wait…‘best-selling author’? Yup, I can say that…if you take the sales pitch at face value. It’s simple. I am the best-selling author of those titles because nobody else has sold any other books with those titles…therefore I am the best-selling author (of those books).

This is one of those instances where the statement is actually true but deceivingly inaccurate. It’s all about interpretation isn’t it?

I can’t claim to be a best-selling author. That would just be wrong. But isn’t it just as wrong to include the three titles thereby justifying my claim? I think so. Knowing that most people would react to only the ‘best-selling’ part, makes me think about how little thought or research some people put into their reading. We’re in an age where we can instantly online search any item that pops up on our social media feeds but many folks choose to go with whatever they’ve been told. Is it too much work to verify that Hillary give birth to an alien baby on her secret state visit to Mexico? Okay, I made that up but if you take the word ‘alien’ out of that headline I’d bet the story would have gone viral in nanoseconds, which is how Mork from Ork would have described it.

I guess that’s the topic for this post. Research…check stuff out…do your homework.

That’s it, I’m done. I’m nothing if not succinct…and look at all the space I have left. How about a photo of a rose??

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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.

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.

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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.

 

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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ANOTHER SUMMER…

Another summer has gone. This wasn’t a particularly good one for me. My neck of the woods was strangled by smoke from forest fires all around the province and while we weren’t affected by the fires proper the smoke from all of them seemed to gather in our valley. On the air quality index, (1 being low health risk to 10 being high risk) we had more days in the ‘+ very high’ category than I care to remember. At one point we had a reading of +49. The air was virtually unbreathable, meaning that at my age and with my health status a mask was in order.

I know where this summer went. It’s the other 69 I’m wondering about.

I remember during my youth those hot summer days and warm summer nights seemed to go on forever but I didn’t really think about it at the time. I lived in the moment. Whether it was a road trip to California or a European summer with time spent on the Riviera and Monte Carlo or simple days at the local lake I didn’t give much thought to how precious those times were.

70 summers. It seems like a lot until you really think about it. It’s then that you realize how quickly those seasons have passed. Some family, friends, and acquaintances that shared those times with me have also passed. It’s life, I guess.

If I am to be philosophical about all of this I suppose I should be thankful that I have 70 summers to remember. Many people will never have that opportunity.

If I were the village elder I would be telling my children to cherish the moment for soon it will be gone. Create fond memories and appreciate the world around you. Listen to the birdsong, feel the warm winds upon you and value the essence that lives within you.

Time is fleeting and unless you reach out and grab those moments they will fly by faster than the crimson leaves on the brisk autumn winds.

Mike Grant, author: White Wolf Moon/Barking at Yesterday’s Moon

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.

FOUR CHARACTERS & VANILLA PUDDING

I’ve been working on a manuscript for nearly a year. It’s been a troubling experience and I don’t know why it’s proving so difficult although I have a couple of thoughts. One…it’s so different than anything I have ever written. I like light writing. Both previous books have been light with a just a pinch of serious seasoning. The one I’m trying to complete is precisely the opposite. Overall I’m happy but it is so dark in places that I sometimes don’t want to go there. I read the words but they don’t sound like me and although I think I did well I’m not comfortable with how it sounds. This is, I think, my second reason for having so much difficulty. I’m not me and a Snickers ain’t gonna help.

So, to take respite from my woeful endeavors, I opened up a few of my old starter files and discovered a whole new world, most of which I’d forgotten. The people that inhabit this place are just as new but they feel like old friends. The story-lines are interesting but undeveloped.

That’s where the four characters come in. They’re of the new but familiar kind of people and totally unrelated to my main writing project. They’re fresh and eager to be drawn out and I sense some gold just below the surface.

As I roughed out a bit of an introduction and an opening scene to this new project I found myself enjoying writing more than I have in months. It’s been almost a chore to sit at the keyboard as my lack of blog posting indicates. With each of these characters I can draw on my life’s experiences from my days in radio broadcasting to bookselling and everything in-between. I guess it goes back to writing what you know.

I’m not done with my current manuscript and it will be completed but I think it’s time for a vacation with four new friends that will let my imagination run wild.

I see a part of me in each of them and I’m anxious to throw them into situations that will bring out the best in them and hopefully serve up some old time philosophies and humor to boot. I’m intending this to be more like the first two books with different characters and perhaps a little mystery-solving thrown in to give them the stage.

A quick tease, which apparently I’m supposed to include in a blog, is vanilla pudding. It’s the first befuddlement of Ned, the personality I most identify with. He and I both feel that vanilla is the boring aunt of the pudding family, the smelly one you put up with because she’s rich and makes good cookies. It’s nice (and serves the purpose somewhat) but given their choice most people would move on to chocolate or butterscotch pudding. In the annals of dessert warfare vanilla is always the pudding left behind. Vanilla would say ‘You go on without me and save yourselves’ and the other puddings would go on without him and save themselves because vanilla was…well, vanilla.

Ah yes…there’s a certain comfort in writing about vanilla pudding.