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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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

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.

INSPIRATION

ginn2After taking a few days break (mostly due to stumbling blocks in the story-line and a new RC car) I seem to be back on track. During the last few weeks I’ve been struggling with the sequel to White Wolf Moon. I have this nagging recurring thought that pops into my mind every time I hit a block in the writing. Do the sales justify a sequel or should I be working on another, totally different story-line?  A month or so ago I split the difference and started a second project using mostly the same characters in what would be a prequel and I’m actually quite pleased with the progress. It answers the questions that some readers have had regarding the background of the characters and gives a more serious insight into what brought about White Wolf Moon. I’m also continuing with the planned sequel which picks up two weeks after the events in the original story. This is where I seem to need a shot every now and then because it’s here that my nagging thought arises. What amazes me is that just when I’m seriously questioning which way to go, something happens to make the decision for me.

In the past few days two things have started the ideas flowing and the fingers going again. I was downtown shopping when I ran into one of the older fellas that bought my book. He told me he was on his third read-through and picking up on a lot that he’d missed, especially the hidden philosophies and song titles. He also mentioned he’d lent it to a friend and she loved it and both of them are waiting for the second book.

Then, last night, I was returning some movie rentals to our corner store. The girl behind the counter had bought White Wolf Moon about three months ago and had also lent it to friends who apparently liked it. She finally got her copy back and was reading it for a second time. We stood and chatted about it for a few minutes then I went home. Ten minutes later I received a phone call from her. Another customer had overheard our conversation and wanted to know more about the book…then decided she needed to have a copy (signed) as well.

Events like this remind me of the many comments about the book over the last five months…mostly good, mostly wanting to know more about the characters, and a lot of requests for a follow-up. I think I’d forgotten how much interest is out there and it takes a little nudge every so often to remind me that pretty much everyone that had actually read it wanted more.

What’s encouraging to me is how little it takes to get me fired up again. It tells me that I must be on the right track. I’m still playing around with a prequel…perhaps it will be the third act…I don’t know. I do know that my main goal now is finishing the sequel and I seem to have once again found that silly spark that I need to put these characters into some original and off-the-wall situations. With the first book there was a mixed reaction. The story itself is a combination of serious sixties history and modern-day situations. Most preferred the modern-day side of it (especially the character dialogue and banter) and quickly read through the serious interviews; anxious to get back to the people they’d grown to love. This is more what the sequel is about. It’s a lot lighter than the original and leans more toward humor in dialogue and scenario…although there is some drama concerning one of the main characters.

I think the big key now is that I’m back to having fun with the people in the story and the words and dialogue are coming faster than I can type.

To paraphrase a common saying…happy author, happy characters!