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.

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TIME TRAVEL & TRUTHS

“No…I wouldn’t want to go back. You can’t change just one thing, it’s all intertwined…one thing causes another and so on. Take away that first thing and a whole branch of your life tree could disappear and who knows where I’d have ended up. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you if I could’ve gone back and changed something.”

So says Danny in a deleted scene from my current manuscript. It is the obvious theory of time travel and actually makes a lot of sense.

Time travel is easy when writing a manuscript but the same theory applies. When I began this story I decided to keep writing as the ideas flowed and I’d go back and organize it later. At one point I was reading what I had written and decided one scene would work better in a later part of the story so I used a bit of fictional time travel and relocated it. It was only during what I hoped would be my final read-through that I realized what I had done.

As this is a sequel to “White Wolf Moon” I have to keep in mind the people that might not have read the original story so all the little “in” references have to be introduced. One of the major references was to the place that all the characters gathered on weekends simply called “The Ranch”. Using internal narrative I had Evan (the main character) reminisce about the pioneer property with an introductory description of the geography and the activities they had experienced back in the 60s. That narrative (and a few other mentions) was in the scene that I had moved. Anyone who hadn’t read “White Wolf Moon” would have had no idea what the characters were talking about in the current manuscript.

Another flaw in the time travel was a new character calling an original character by her first name. Their introduction was also in the scene that I had moved so there was no way he would have known this woman’s name as he hadn’t met her yet. That might work for a psychological horror story but not in mine.

Lack of continuity aside I’m surprised at the number of little things I’m finding that need to be tweaked or totally redone. It tends to make me wonder what kind of head space I was in when I wrote it.

Another topic, still in keeping with the fictional flow of this blog…truth on the internet. If I’m to believe everything I’ve read then Shania Twain has died not once but twice over the past few years; Michelle Obama is really a man; Sandy Hook was a Government plot to outlaw assault-type weapons (no children were harmed apparently, they were just “actors”); Malaysia Flight 370 was hijacked by ISIS and is buried in the sand in Syria awaiting another 911 fiasco; President Obama doesn’t know what a cattle guard is, and of course the re-occurring chestnut…Paul is dead.

What got me started on this was a post to a BC Wolf Hunt petition by a man named Bill Schoel whom I don’t mind mentioning because I apparently embarrassed him into hiding. He claimed that a “friend” of his had his dog killed by a pack of wolves that frequent downtown Kamloops, British Columbia. I’m not sure why he chose to name Kamloops as the setting for this piece of fiction but I’m glad he did. I have lived in the city for many years now and I don’t recall any wolf sightings…bears and cougars yes, but no wolves. I’m pretty sure a wolf pack patrolling downtown would make the news. I took him to task and he withdrew into wherever people like that go but not before he had multiple “likes” and confirming comments about his post. It is those people I question. Do they not check out these comments to ascertain the validity before jumping on the Fool Express? I find it amazing that in this easily accessed information age so many people are so misinformed. Perhaps they’re just lazy and would rather mindlessly buy into the flavor of the day than expend what minimal energy it takes to check the facts. Bill should have googled his ludicrous story prior to writing his comment and he wouldn’t look like an idiot trying to spread something that wasn’t true.

One comment I received was questioning whether I thought I was smarter than the rest of the world. My response was “It has nothing to do with being “smarter” it’s simply using your head and presenting verifiable facts (preferably with links). You don’t have to be a genius…just someone who wants to do a little digging and get it right before you comment.”

Alas I fear it’s easier to look the fool.

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PICKLES & STICKLERS

I’m not sure where the saying “I got myself into a real pickle” came from but it describes the first major stumbling block on my read-through/edit of the manuscript. I haven’t read some parts since I wrote them and I’m quite surprised at the number of things I’m finding that just don’t feel right. As individual pieces they seemed fine but reading them within the context of the overall story they just don’t flow as well as they should. The changes are mostly minor, a word here and a word there and eliminating words repeated in the same paragraph, you know…all those little things you ignore on a first draft. It was relaxing at first and I found myself thinking that this was going to be easier than I had anticipated.

Then came the pickle.

It was a scene of nothing but dialogue between two characters. The first part flowed beautifully and I found myself giggling at lines I didn’t remember writing but then, like an unseen speedbump in the supermarket parking lot, I hit that one line with a jarring thud.

I wanted to get into some old-age philosophy with a character that I’ve always used as comedic and I felt that bringing out his previously unrecognized wisdom was important to the storyline. I realized the problem instantly but correcting it was far from instant. One issue was that I wanted to keep most of his thoughts as they tie in with later dialogue but the bigger problem was in the setup leading up to his words of wisdom. It was something the other character wouldn’t say in casual conversation. The line was forced, obvious, and clearly out of context with the rest of the dialogue.

Over three days I attacked this stickler, trying all my tricks to get past it. I worked on other scenes and came back to that one, getting more frustrated each time. I tried staring at the screen and strumming guitar chords (which always works). I recorded the dialogue on my digital recorder (which usually works). I took a walk around the block and mulled over different angles but that didn’t work either. By the way my block is comparable to three or so regular city blocks so circumnavigating it takes time and about half of it is along riverbank. Watching television, doing laundry, cleaning the basement or taking down the outdoor Christmas lights…it didn’t matter what I was doing that damn scene was the only thing I could think about.

I was working on another scene, this one where Evan (my main character) was sitting on the porch and puffing on his pipe. I included his minor vice because it was something I could identify with. I used to smoke a pipe and had quite a few of them lying around. My son from Alberta is a pipe smoker/collector so last summer I gave him all my old pipes except for three that were special to me, one of them being the first pipe that I bought with my first paycheque back in the early Sixties. I watched him sit across from me on my deck puffing away and remembered how much I enjoyed this activity back then so last July I bought a pouch of tobacco. The fact that I am still only about halfway through that pouch is testament to the number of times I have lit up, the last time being Christmas. Another determining factor was the $35 price tag for a pouch. The previous tobacco I bought was, I believe, about $4.00 (which shows how long ago that was).

Yesterday the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and a fresh new season was in the air. I decided to take my coffee along with a pipeful out to the deck and grind out my dialogue dilemma.

There are some who might say it’s purely psychological and they would probably be right but within ten minutes of going over that scene in my head…it came together. It was so obvious and so minor that I feel embarrassed that I didn’t see it days earlier. The line I was stumbling over wasn’t the only problem…so was the line leading into it. I changed that one and a new segue line naturally followed. Lesson learned? Look at the big picture and don’t get hung up on one element. It all ties together and sometimes what you’re looking at isn’t all there is to see.

I’ve dropped the pickle back in the jar and tightened the top…until next time.

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A LITTLE VOICE TOLD ME I WAS WRONG….

My old desktop computer had a text-to-speech feature that I don’t have on the laptop I’m using now. I never used the feature anyway so I wasn’t concerned about upgrading or downloading it when I set up this computer. A few years ago I bought a home music studio program to record a few songs for my own entertainment. This program (Music Maker) has the text-to-speech option but other than trying some special effects on my music I didn’t use it…until now.

This morning I decided to put the first three pages of my new manuscript into the program. I listened while a pleasant, if not somewhat static, female voice read it to me. Aside from a few words that had double meanings (wind as an example) and mispronouncing both the main character’s names she did quite well. Keep in mind these are pages that I have gone through twice, checking for errors and flow, and I was prepared to sit back and just enjoy having someone read me the story.

This isn’t quite what happened.

First she found the missing word “a” in what I had written (“brief career as writer/singer”). That’s one of those things I had read over countless times and just read it as being there. Then the little lady found an ellipse that wasn’t and read it as “period, period, period” although I find it funny that she doesn’t read aloud the single periods or other punctuation. The non-ellipse, I believe, was the result of me switching the language on the keyboard, something that happens frequently although I’m not sure how I’m doing it. This became clear when she read “he’d” as “he-accent-dee”.

She also repeated a line and corrected my grammar by removing the “s” from a word. (“Evan had toured the exhibition of those ‘exciting new visions’ but had seen nothing of note in any of the pieces, most resembling his own failed attempts in Grade Nine art class. He guessed it must be an age thing. With so many years behind his eyes his ‘visions’ probably aren’t what they used to be.”) Out of context she was right…but the “s” stays.

I also found that when you hear sentences transferred to speech you pick up on clumsy wording and I’ve smoothed a few lines out that actually sounded fine in my head but not-so-fine out loud.

I’ve nearly finished tweaking the whole manuscript but I’m throwing another step into the process. Once done I’m going to find a quiet place, throw on the headphones, and let this charming computer lady read me the whole book and see if she finds anything else I’ve missed.

For those that have the Word (or any version of) text-to-speech I suggest giving it a try. It reads exactly what’s there and assumes nothing.

Writers today are fortunate. We have a wealth of wonderful computer tools to assist us with our passion. Text-to-speech has just been added to my list.

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ART, MUSIC, LIFE, RHYTHM…

How curious is Mother Nature. To create within a single world this multitude of perfectly shaped trees, flowers and grasses then simply toss them about with reckless abandon.

Rocks and boulders, each grained and weathered with intricate care are strewn helter-skelter across the landscape with little consideration of overall impression. Does she not understand the basic concepts of balance in form and texture, function and structure?

Or could this chaotic representation be the work of the quintessential artist?

It might be a still life with wind-swept grasses cascading down hills like waterfalls frozen in time, charred trees boldly standing as ancient sentinels on a field of muddied ash, a reminder of the fires of summer. Portraits of perfection posed before a scattered backdrop.

Is it abstract, impressionistic or a subtle blend of both? Simply put it is the finest example of interpretive natural art and it is how you see and feel it.

Nature may not always be perfect yet within these imperfections there lies a sense of purpose. Straight lines do not grace her masterpiece yet within her seemingly disheveled display there is order…and rhythm.

Everything natural exists for a reason and everything runs to a beat. It’s the cycle of life. Left to her own devices Mother Nature the artist becomes Mother Nature the composer, her natural sweet symphony the soundtrack of this world.

It is only when mankind chooses to ignore the rhythm that this symphony is silenced.

While Mother Nature is perfect in her imperfections mankind is simply imperfect, failing to understand how much a bit of harmony could improve life’s song for everyone and everything on this planet.

This not-so-veiled call for everyone to stop and think before we lose what we can’t replace was predicated by the BC wolf cull. I am almost ashamed to admit that I live in this province they call ‘beautiful’ on television ads and license plates. Public and scientific opposition to this ‘cull’ is massive yet the government doesn’t want to listen. Oddly enough the B.C. Ministry of Lands refuses comment on how many wolves have been ‘harvested’ and won’t provide a representative to explain the ‘science’ behind their decisions. My guess is…there is none.

Blaming predators (wolves in particular) is the cowardly way out. It’s easier to face a backlash from ‘tree-huggers’ than the wrath of forestry, ranching, and mining corporations. It’s easier to take to the air and gun down animals that are simply trying to survive in a wilderness growing smaller every day than impose restrictions on development, fracking, and overgrazing livestock. The caribou herds are in decline but for God’s sake’s let’s not suggest that man has had anything to do with it.

Okay, off my soapbox but on the same topic…

The Go Go’s had the beat, as do we all. Everyone has that certain song stuck in their head and that song goes a long way toward how we feel about our day. Regardless of religion, race, sex, or socio-economic lot in life…music is the common denominator. Happy music puts a spring in your step and makes everything just a little bit better. Those odd people, those skippers and shakers you see every day swaying along the sidewalk…you know the reason they’re odd don’t you? They’re marching to their own drum and while it may seem that some have their own damned orchestra it’s all part of the rhythm of life.

I’m on the first major tweak of the manuscript for my second book and never has the need for rhythm been so obvious. This book has been written in pieces over two years, which is my failing. These pieces didn’t necessarily follow each other during the writing and while the rhythm within each scene is strong the combination of scenes doesn’t flow as well as it should. It’s almost like this was a group effort, different people writing different parts of the same book. Readers need a beat whether in narrative or dialogue and while it’s not a major re-write it is a necessary step to smoothing the flow of the story.

It’s simple. I’ve just gotta stick with the beat and follow that rhythm in my head in writing…and in life.

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https://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/captain-paul-watson-on-b-c-wolf-kill/

 

THANK YOU JOE SOUTH!

I love it when I have one of those ‘out-of-the-blue’ and ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moments.

I’m in the process of tweaking a scene where my main character Evan Morris goes back to Edmonton, Alberta…the city he called home before he moved to Kamloops. I started off by walking him down a once-familiar street but then I hit a bit of a block and found myself wondering where I was going to take the internal narrative. I resorted to one of my usual distractions.

When I stumble with writing I’ll sometimes pick up a guitar and just strum random chords and stare at the screen. Normally it doesn’t take long to come up with something but today I found myself listening more to the chords I was playing and I realized that they weren’t all that random.

It took me a while to figure out the melody but when I did my ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moment arrived.

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It was a song I learned back in 1969 titled “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” written by Joe South. This is a song I haven’t really thought about for thirty or so years but it came back so easily and quickly. Of all the random chords or songs that those chords could have represented this was the one that I needed it to be. As I played it and recalled the lyrics I stared at my computer screen and everything started to come together.

Inspiration sometimes comes from the damnedest places doesn’t it?

http://www.joesouth.com/

REKINDLING THE DEKINDLED

It’s been two years since I’ve read White Wolf Moon from beginning to end. Occasionally I’ve had to go back and read selected passages to ensure I don’t contradict anything with the new book but generally I haven’t spent a lot of time with the original story.

For reasons that will hopefully soon become clear I have spent the last five days going over that old story word by word and finding a few minor things that I had missed. Fortunately there weren’t that many. When I finally finished the read-through a light came on. I realized why I’ve been having some issues with the new story. It’s all about flow and while White Wolf Moon was a veritable stew of different thoughts, approaches, and styles it came together nicely. This one hasn’t.

I’ve known for a while that something was wrong or missing but it took going back and starting over at page one of WWM to make me understand what it was. I wanted the second book, although a sequel, to be able to stand alone which required that an introduction to the characters and basic story-line of the first book be included. I’m pleased with how I managed to accomplish this but upon re-reading the original story I realized that the bond between the characters wasn’t as evident as it should be this time around. I also noticed that while I prefer to let the characters and dialogue drive the story line I used far more narrative in the first book than I have in the second. The narrative is what gave it the flow and that flow was missing in what I’m writing now.

I think this demonstrates my previous post about occasionally “going back” and starting over. The process of getting a book out there is one of learning and I learned so much over those two years. While I appreciate and will utilize this knowledge it’s important to look at writing the way I did back then and see it through less educated eyes.

For me White Wolf Moon was magic, from writing that first rough draft to holding that finished hardcover in my hands. It was fresh, new, and exciting. Going back through it has rekindled that magic and I’ve found myself spending up to ten hours a day at the laptop rereading the old and reworking the new. I also find myself exhausted by the end of the day (which goes by all too quickly) but it’s a good exhaustion.

Two years ago, in my delusionary euphoric state after the initial publication, I decided I should make this a trilogy. I have since reversed that decision. While a few Ginn fans might be upset, I’ve decided that after this I want to move into another area although I’m not yet certain what that will be. There’s still a lot to be done on my current project but it’s not looking as formidable as it did a week ago.

The magic is back.251794_114200048731938_327331232_n