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.

 

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.

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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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.

MIND CLUTTER…..

My last blog referenced ‘mind clutter’ and this seems to be a good place to start.

It’s been three months since I posted and much of that time has been spent trying to figure out what to post. The purpose of this blog was to promote my books (both of which are still selling…thank you) but in researching reaction to my previous blogs there’s really no distinct pattern favoring any individual topic. My ramblings on wolves, books, music, renovations or shoes all seem to gather the same amount of interest which, in itself, is interesting.

So, with a quick reminder to check out my books on Amazon, let’s do some rambling and perhaps de-clutter a little.

I have a third book, perhaps three-quarters finished. I love everything about the story and the characters but I can’t seem to find the drive to finish it. Unlike the first two books which were loosely based on personal experience this one is total fiction and slips into areas requiring me to forsake my comfortable place and explore the inner thoughts and external emotions of characters with which I have trouble identifying.

Once I sit down and open the file I’m okay. I consider it a challenge to see a life, albeit fictional, through different eyes. I re-read what I have written and I like what I have done so far. I pick up where I left off and new words come easily but while I know where I want the story to go I have trouble driving it there. It seems every sentence or line of dialog I type takes me into a different direction, usually away from the intended conclusion.

There have been many times I’ve relegated this manuscript to the back burner and worked on a couple of different ideas but I’ve gone so far with this one that I feel the need to finish it. I suppose I have put undue pressure on myself as I made the mistake of hinting at the final outcome of the story in the first chapter. Eliminating that subtle spoiler at the beginning is a possibility but with 51,444 words already laid down the idea of going back through them all to correct any references to the original ending only serves up more pressure.

An unfinished story is a ghost that will never be set free until that final ‘save’. It just lies in wait somewhere in the furthest reaches of your mind, taunting and teasing until it commands your undivided attention. You could be sitting in a food court sipping a coffee when you realize that the person at the next table looks like your main character or you’ll hear someone talking and you’ll think ‘hey that’s something Corbin Wessler would say’. That’s the story beckoning, its spirit reaching through the mush and mayhem of conscious thought demanding to be noticed, insistent on the peace that only completion will bring.

Thank you for bearing with my venting. Oddly enough it has served to make me realize that I have to accept my self-declared challenge and buckle down to exorcise this demon.

My 150th Blog!

Actually I would have passed this milestone months ago had I remained as active as I once was but so many things seem to get in the way.
I’ve decided that it’s time to start again.
A quick update on my books is probably the best place to begin. After much messing around and a long learning curve I have claimed my first book “White Wolf Moon” back from the vanity press that originally published it and it is now re-published under my name. My second book “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” has been under my name since creation and, with the republish of the first book, I feel a bit more in control of both of them.
The interesting part about republishing is that it gave me an opportunity to sit down with the original manuscript and correct some of the little flaws that had been nagging at me since it was first released. A missed capital letter here and a small spelling mistake there haunted me every time I thought about it but they’ve all been corrected now and I can put that book behind me. It seemed to take as long to go through it again as it did when I first wrote it.
I have three fairly interesting ideas for another book but only one has reached an ‘almost ready’ stage. I have devoted a good deal of time developing the storyline but it is so different from anything I have ever written that those second thoughts keep popping into my head.
My first two books were based on people and incidents in my life and required little or no research but this one is bobbing around in uncharted waters. I’ve had to research everything from brain-injuries to small engine repair and forensics. The storyline continually drifts into a mystery/horror theme and my comfort level in that area is pretty low. I have written scenes that, upon re-reading, I toss aside only to open them again a month later. I find myself reworking them and feeling good about what I had written yet, for whatever reason, the whole story didn’t sit well with me.
In July I gave up on it entirely and put the whole manuscript aside. I began a more comfortable storyline, this one lighter and quite humorous if I do say so myself. I’ve been working on it periodically while re-editing ‘White Wolf Moon’.
This morning (after uploading the revised White Wolf Moon) I decided to open that cast off untitled manuscript and read it from the beginning. I’m not sure I have ever been so pleasantly surprised. Parts of it I thoroughly enjoy, some parts I like and a few parts will remain cast off…or at least held in trust for possible inclusion later on. Maybe I just needed to get away from it for a while but I find myself digging in with more enthusiasm than I have had in recent times.
Taking back my rights to my first book had contributed to the mind clutter I seem to be experiencing lately but now that it’s done I have a little more space up there for other things.
Ah mind clutter. Sounds like a good topic for next time.BTW: The photograph has nothing to do with this blog…it was taken in the early 50s in Monlochy, Scotland. The ice-cream mooch is Mitzi, my first pet. I just felt a little nostalgic today…

My books thus far….

COVER UP…..

….actually the insides are up too…finally! ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ is now available on Amazon as a trade paperback.

It’s been a learning experience but I’ve figured out what NOT to do the next time around. I’ve learned that the most important three words in writing are proof, proof, proof. When I got the initial download I immediately checked for those nagging formatting errors and found quite a few. Pages containing only two words, justified lines with far too much space between the words or blank pages where the ‘page-breaks’ were too close to the bottom of the previous page…fun stuff like that. While going through this process I discovered a few errors not related to the formatting and changed those. The second time through I was looking for those little mistakes and found three, one of which made me shudder. It was the use of “your” instead of “you’re” which is one of those things that drive me nuts, like “their” and “they’re”. Such simple mistakes but such unallowable mistakes. I found nothing on the third proofing but did a fourth anyway. The lesson to me was to do the proofing in a different format than the full page Word document. Switching the text to the format in which it will appear gives a different perspective and it’s surprising what it reveals. While I still have to select a portion of ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ to use as a preview I consider the final upload to Amazon a bit of an accomplishment.

With this part behind me I’ve returned to a manuscript I worked with for a few months, one I really wasn’t fussy about originally. Perhaps it was the time I spent away from it while putting this one to bed but I’m feeling better about it now. I can see so many possibilities and directions and I’m looking forward to diving back into it.

For now though I’m getting caught up on blogs and facebook…and maybe a little yardwork.

COMFORT ZONE….

“Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” is online. Another chapter in my writing life has closed and it’s time to start anew. While there is still a lot of work to do with getting some exposure and working a bit of marketing I can’t bring myself to not have a Word document open. I have to be working on something and my read-through of the Kindle version of “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” provided me with another storyline. It involves some of the ‘walk-on’ characters from one of the scenes.

Being ‘walk-ons’ in no way diminished their importance to the storyline. The roles they played, while not central figures, provided insight into the main characters and created some interesting scenes. One character in particular made his appearance early in the book, created a little havoc then disappeared. The more I thought about this man the more I realized there is a story behind who and what he is and how he got there. I decided to flesh out his story and it came surprisingly easy.

Unless you have read “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” the name Fergus Lloyd would mean nothing. If you have read it then you already have an opinion of Fergus and what he is all about. As in reality and with real people an opinion based on first impression is often wrong. The well-spoken, well-dressed banker might have some questionable material on his computer and that street person might have a heart of gold. You just never know what’s behind their public faces. Fergus wasn’t always the Fergus that confronted Evan and exploring his life has provided some interesting research and excitingly addictive writing.

From the outset of the first draft I had to expand my comfort zone. I prefer to write light and with a sometimes questionable sense of humor and while there are some lighter moments in this story there is also an underlying darkness. This was a challenge for me and a welcome brain-teaser. Then came the scene that I believed would be the pivotal point of the story. Without getting into detail the young boy discovers something horrific in the woods and all his childhood nightmares come back and…never mind. I’ve already said too much.

Suffice to say that this scene completely ripped me out of my comfort zone and threw me headfirst into the horror/psychological terror genre, one that I’ve never explored. Blood, gore, and childhood nightmares wreak havoc with my usual style of writing and way of thinking. After I wrote it I would wake at night and think about it. Each time I rehashed it in my mind I became less impressed. It sounded forced, manipulative, and not at all like me. A week later I wrote an alternate scene where someone else stumbles on the terror and relays it second hand in a more sterile manner. I was more at ease with the revision and I sentenced the original storyline to life in my ‘not used’ folder and continued writing.

One of the elements of writing a story based on a previously introduced character is maintaining continuity with the original. That wasn’t all that difficult in this case but as the new story progressed I realized that I was missing something. The emotional development (or destruction) of this character wasn’t strong enough to result in the character traits featured in “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”. The crisis, real or imagined, that set him on my created path hadn’t occurred. I opened up my ‘not used’ file, read the original scene and knew that it had to be included. I also learned the value of putting something aside and revisiting it later. I actually like what I wrote back then and with a little work it will become that pivotal scene. It just goes to show the value of never throwing anything away.

On a side note: My age is showing…I welcomed my seventh grandchild into this world on September 3, 2015. Mum and son are doing well.

Shameless self-promotion side note: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0143ZI4W8?ref_=pe_1724030_132998070

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WOLVES AGAIN (sort of…)…

It’s been a while since I have posted anything about wolves but I’m finally going to respond to a comment I received about three years ago with regards to “White Wolf Moon” and my depiction of Ginn, the wolfdog. A woman came into the bookshop where I worked at the time and informed me that I misrepresented this animal to be cute and cuddly and not the “killer” that wolves are. I have also been (correctly) informed that wolves do not have blue eyes.

First…the book is fiction. Yes the characters and situations are loosely based on people and events I knew back then and contain a lot of factual information but it is still fiction. Ginn is based on a white wolfdog I had met (yes, she had blue eyes) and in subsequent encounters with other animals of her type I found all of them to be very much like the character I portrayed. Second…I did a search for wolfdog photos and sites that featured the crosses and not only confirmed that if treated properly they can be socialized (although not properly domesticated) and that quite a few did peer through blue eyes. I suppose the eyes are indicative of the wolf content (high content would probably negate the blue eyes of the Husky or whatever the other part of the cross). No there are no blue-eyed wild wolves but the fact is there are many blue-eyed wolfdogs out there. By the way the questions I received about Ginn have been answered in “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”. As for wolves being “cuddly”…come now. We all know that wolves are predatory carnivores and trying to cuddle an actual wild wolf (if you could even find one) is nature’s equivalent of Russian roulette with five rounds in the chamber. That’s the reality. Do I love wolves? Yes but I think “respect” would be a better word.

I find it interesting that, according to a couple of sellers that flog Canadian and British Columbia souvenirs, the two most requested animals are bears and wolves. My local thrift shop will tell you that if it has anything to do with wolves, whether posters or sculpts, they rarely last more than a day on the shelves and Walmart sells out of those wolf keychains before anything else (even though they incorrectly have blue eyes). Tourists spend millions of dollars a year to come to our country to see the wildlife yet we blatantly slaughter these animals under the guise of “control” or “maintenance”. We aerial gun down wolves to “protect” the Caribou then turn around and lease those delicate lands to oil and forestry businesses thus destroying the one thing that these animals need…a safe and secure habitat.

Okay…elections.

Both the U.S. and Canada are in the throes of election campaigns of sorts and for whatever reason I’m intrigued by both this time around. I’ll pass on commenting on the “hair” aspects of our election…Margaret Atwood said it better than I could:

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/hair-is-in-the-election-season-air-but-is-it-crucial-to-your-vote

I just wonder why no-one is using this type of campaign against Trump.

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