Tag Archives: thoughts on writing

Do you have a suitcase story? by Sheila Deeth

Last year I thought it would be easier to travel by train with one nice strong wheely suitcase – only one item of luggage to worry about; only one spot needed on the luggage rack; solid sides to protect the treasures inside; what could go wrong?

What went wrong was an overcrowded train insufficiently supplief with luggage space. I couldn’t lift my heavy case to the top of any piles, and it probably wouldn’t fit there anyway. I traveled most of the way from Manchester to London sitting on my suitcase near the door and standing to let further passengers squeeze me into ever tighter spaces, ever closer to falling out. Painful long and slow.

This year I carried two smaller more malleable cases and found … an overcrowded train with insufficient luggage space, all filled with other people’s super-large, super-solid items. I squeezed one case into the overhead space, panicked at every corner that it might fall down on some poor stranger’s head, then found at journey’s end that I needed the aid of not-poor strong-limbed strangers to pry it out. Meanwhile a fellow passenger’s large case filled the space where my feet were meant to go (cheap tickets in England are only valid for the designated seat). And there was nowhere for my other case, besides nowhere for me.

So I made friends with strangers, swapped life stories, rested one case on another and sat sideways in my designated seat with feet stretched into the aisle  – thus, since every passer-by had to ask me to move, I made many more friends. And relationships between real characters became my suitcase story.

Which got me thinking – every story we write is like a suitcase filled with ideas – enough for more than one suitcase perhaps,  even a series, but how we pack might not be the most important thing. Relationships will make or break the journey or the tale … and fill the author’s mind with more to follow.

So … pack heavy? Pack light? I’ll just try to pack “write.”

Sheila deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum,  and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea. Her suitcases are full and she’s thoroughly enjoying the journey. 

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Subtraction Distraction by Sheila Deeth

The trouble with being a mathematician is you like things to make sense. So spelling’s supposed to be logical. Grammar should have simple rules. Punctuation should be more than vaguely undefined measurement. And what should a mathematician do when tasked with producing an anthology for a local writing group?

The trouble with literary rules is everyone reads and writes them a different way. Some authors never use quotation marks. They get away with it, a) because they’re famous, and b) because they’re consistent. The reader turns the pages and soon works out how those sentences should sound. But when everyone in the anthology uses a different set of rules, the reader ends up with unmeasurably ill-defined noises from each page all demanding to be properly understood. So what’s a mathematician to do?

I got together with my fellow volunteers. We pondered whether ellipses should have spaces before and after. What about m-dashes? Should we get rid of straight quotes and replace them with curly ones. And could we make a cheat-sheet of simple editing instructions? All went well and the cheat sheet’s only one page long. Then we came to that vexing question of usage: m-dash or ellipsis; how, when and where?

Some web-pages told us ellipses are used in dialog; m-dashes in prose. Others said ellipses are for trailing dialog; m-dashes for interruptions. Still others insisted ellipses be used whenever a sentence was incomplete. But I’m a mathematician, and we needed a rule.

In the end, we came up with something moderately mathematical. The ellipsis, we said, is for missing words, whether forgotten, unspoken, left out, interrupted, or just too many to quote. M-dashes are for extra words, where one sentence is inserted inside another, where brackets might be used, where intersecting ideas overlap. It sounded good, but what do we do with this?

“My child… my baby… my heart…” the poor mother cried.

Are the thoughts interrupted, intersected, incomplete, or all three. (Our best suggestion was to capitalize the ms, making three incomplete sentences with ellipses to cover the missing words.)

Then there’s this, from my upcoming novel, Subtraction. A math teacher prepares to treat his students to burgers and fries while pondering “Who am I?”

Voices from the past ushered a host of memories into Andrew’s mind. Amelia was the girl long gone, child of a house whose antique, ticking clock kept perfect time. Amelia was lost under green of trees and the pricking of tangled branches of a place called Paradise—Amelia, Andrew’s parents, Carl… all subtracted like numbers from Andrew’s page. He let his gaze drift to the window, hoping the sky’s bright tones would wash his palette clean again. But who-am-I doubts combined with the whispering of leaves and chatter of children. He couldn’t forget. That long slow walk between Tom’s desk and the classroom door could take a lifetime, waiting for delivery’s knock.

The m-dash leads on from a completed sentence, I guess. And the ellipsis ends a list with names left out; but I’m not sure. Does it look odd to you? Should we add another rule that no sentence include both?

Meanwhile, being a Harry Potter fan as well as a mathematician, I just happened to be reading my (American) copy of The Cursed Child and comparing it with my son’s (English) copy. So there it was, in black and white… a sentence which used ellipses in one edition was punctuated by a comma and an m-dash in the other! Help!

Alas, the trouble with being a mathematician isn’t just that you like things to make sense. You like the rules to be simple and clean as well, with no exceptions please…

i before e except after c? No wonder I always hated spelling.

Sheila Deeth (with an e before the i) is a mathematician and a writer. Her Mathemafiction series of novels is published by Indigo Sea. Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum have already been released, and Subtraction is coming soon. She’s currently working on the fourth book, Imaginary Numbers, and promises to be moderately logical with her punctuation.

 

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Writing Romance for Baby Boomers

It’s been great to get to know Australian blogger,Lana Pecherczyk  from Author Zoo. Lana asked me to write about romance novels from an aged perspective for her series on “How to write a Romance from A to Z”. Google Author Zoo and check them out!

 

Baby Boomer LOVE

by Jonna Ellis Holston

If you are writing romance then chances are that a large percentage of your readership will be of the baby boomer age. Infrequently is a romance novel written specifically for this generation, so in rarity we find value. If written well the rewards are great.

This is the population who met the Beatles, the Woodstock women who eased the way toward sexual freedom. They lived through the sixty’s and now they’re in their sixties. If you are interested in writing about and for the boomers then, author, know thy sub-genre.

Writing an older woman protagonist has undeniable appeal. In her you discover a character of complexity and depth. She has confidence, wisdom… experience. Imagine the possibilities for characters, setting and plot.

-Feel the energy between a silver cougar and her prey. Is her motivation lust for his hard body or is she damaged and hiding her need? Is he drawn to her mystique, living MILF fantasies or does he plan to steal her money? What do they talk about? Where is the conflict? Who gets hurt and who is healed?

-A similarly aged couple finds a second chance love. Can two households merge? Do their adult children worry about the wills or cringe in disgust with each kiss. Which is worse? Which is real? Can their love survive their offspring?

-An older woman is polyamorous. Is she honest or deceitful? What will the neighbors say about multiple partners? Would she care? Will her lovers meet in conflict then end in a threesome?

What about writing physical limitations and the body image issues that millennials have yet to discover? Tread lightly here lest you break the spell. Use softer images, shimmering fabric catching candlelight or try something risky like a shared vape under moonlight and they end up naked in the lake.

Her body is no longer perfect. You might describe the grace of her movement, the curve of a shoulder or the shape of his arms but consider what point when physical description must yield to expressions of feeling. The softness of her breast, the warmth of his skin, the magic of losing self-awareness in the moment, the urgency in knowing that this could be the last time either one experiences this feeling of love in their lifetime.

Age creeps on, choices lessen. Lovers sicken and die. When you write a character that a boomer identifies with she escapes more readily in your work. Once again she’s made beautiful, desirable and loved. They value this feeling for its rarity. They are greatly mindful of the moments ahead and appreciate each one all the more.

If you wish to write such a romance, understand that She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. She is Women’s Liberation in the Age of Aquarius. She’s the bra burner, the Great Mother and the flower child of love.

Do her justice. Write her truth. Write her well.

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What’s in a name?

A little more than a decade ago, I wrote my first novel. I had no idea if I was going to be able to finish it, or if it would ever end up in print. It turned out I enjoyed writing enough to finish the manuscript, and I went the route of self-publishing. Now, many years later, I am re-editing and publishing it piece-by-piece on my website (www.ajackmccarthy.com)as a blovel (no, this word is not in the dictionary).

I continued to write, and last year I published another novel, Betrayal, with Indigo Sea Press. Another book, another experience.

I certainly don’t consider myself a seasoned writer, but I think the subject of my discussion today may have been experienced by the large majority of writers.

When I wrote my first novel, in my innocence and ignorance, I decided it would be fun to create some of my characters using names and personalities of people I know. After all, it was likely no one would ever read it. But, people did read it, and many of those who knew me were able to pick out the significance of the names and the characters. Some people even went so far as to imagine significance when, in fact, there was none.

I learned my lesson. The second time around, I was extremely careful when naming my characters, and I went to great pains to make sure they didn’t closely resemble anyone I knew. That didn’t stop people from looking for connections. When they couldn’t find them among the characters, they looked for them among the places. Since Betrayal was set in my hometown and the surrounding area, they tried to guess whose house I was describing or where the cabin was situated. It was amusing to see people looking for clues which didn’t exist.

As I said, I’m fairly sure this is a common occurrence among writers.

Something which I am now experiencing are people asking to be a character in my next novel (don’t worry, Kenny and Tim, I won’t mention any names). Sometimes, they even would like to have specific roles. Perhaps, this is not so common. Maybe I simply have friends who want to be implicated. If they are looking to be famous, or infamous, whatever the case may be, they should perhaps try something different. I’m not likely to be the conduit for their fame. Besides, I like them just the way they are.

Sorry to disappoint, guys, but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. It could lead to too many complications, and it restricts what my characters can do or not do. I don’t want to be tiptoeing around, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

However, I’m curious to know, among the writers out there, if you use or avoid the use of names and characteristics of people you know.  Do you have any stories to share? Do you have a few friends like mine?

*******

A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, published by Indigo Sea Press.

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Middle Children (or Books, really)

Root, book two of my Dormant trilogy, is completed and at my publishers! It’s bittersweet letting go of a story I’ve been absorbed in for so many months. However, it’s time to release Root into the wild and see how it fares.

Recently a friend commented that the middle book was usually her least favorite of a trilogy. It got me thinking about trilogies in general and middle books specifically. As I ticked through some of my favorite trilogies I realized that frequently my favorite book is the middle book. (The same holds true for movie trilogies in many cases.)

In the first book, the author has done the work of introducing the reader to world and the characters who inhabit that world. There’s often a lot of world building and character-building. Always interesting and necessary but sometimes the action can get a little lost. In book two of a trilogy, the assumption is the audience read the first book, so the author can spend a few lines on the events from book one, and then dive right into the action. The action is usually leading up to the climatic events in book three without having to resolve everything.

In no particular order here are some trilogies where the middle book is my favorite (no spoilers – though it was hard!):

The Tony Foster Trilogy by Tanya Huff. The middle book is Smoke and Mirrors, which takes place almost entirely in a haunted house. I relish Tony’s view of the world and he’s so accepting of the events that unfold around him that it makes scary scenes more enjoyable. This is my favorite in the series for it’s humor, tension, and deep character development.

The Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix. The middle book is Lirael. The focus shifts from the characters in book one and ups the stakes for the Old Kingdom’s’ survival. Lirael and her companion, the Disreputable Dog, are delightful together and I cheer for Lirael’s hopeful success in achieving her desires. I love this book because we get to know more about the folks in the Old Kingdom, Lirael is an appealing character and her problems feel familiar, even though I’ll never have the opportunity to be a seer.

Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy by Laini Taylor. The middle book is Days of Blood and Starlight. We know Karou’s secret and now all hell is about to break loose between two worlds. Taylor finds a good balance between our world and the alternate fantasy world.

One notable exception is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – The Two Towers is my least favorite. Though, I do love the Ents and it establishes Pippin as my favorite hobbit.

Does this hold true for some of your favorite trilogies? Let me know in the comments!

Now, about the third book…

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photo

 

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Sometimes you have to let go

I had to give up a child this week. Not literally, of course. But, I had invested a certain amount of time and effort into a project and I had loved it in my own way.

It began months ago when I was struck with a wonderful (I thought) idea for another novel. I was already working on a manuscript when I had this epiphany. The new idea took up residence in my mind and stayed there until I finally set aside one novel and started working on another one. I was excited about it. I was convinced it was ‘the one”.

Months passed (because, after all, I have a full-time job) and I started stumbling. I still thought it was a good idea, I still believed in the premise, but I was having trouble getting my thoughts organized and onto paper. I knew the beginning and I knew the end, but everything in between kept jumping around. The first week of January, I decided the story was falling flat and I had to find a way to jazz it up, so I outlined it again with some major changes.

As soon as I started to go with the new outline I developed a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t feel right. It went against the idea which had excited me in the first place. I dropped Plan B and returned to Plan A.

Several weeks later, I had to sit myself down and have a good stern talk with myself.

Me: Ugh! What am I going to do? I’m getting nowhere with this.

The more logical me:  Sucks, doesn’t it?

Me:  But, it was such a good idea! How come I can’t make it work anymore?

The more logical me: Do you think if you keep hammering away at it the story will get better?

Me: I thought so – at first – but now even I’m bored writing it. And if I’m bored, what about the people who have to read it?

The more logical me: Exactly. I think you’re starting to get it.

Me (in a whiny voice): But, I’ve spent so much time on it already. I really liked the premise. Do I have to just throw it aside? Do you know how hard it is to do that?

The more logical me:  Sure. But, sometimes you just have to know when to let go. Do you really want to keep working on something that’s become tedious and boring?  Think back to when you started writing. Think about what you liked about it. Wasn’t it fun?  Wasn’t it something you enjoyed doing? Are you getting any pleasure out of this exercise now?

Me (hanging my head in shame): You’re right. I wrote myself into a rut.

The more logical me: So what are you going to do about it?

Me (straightening my shoulders): I’m going to set it aside and come up with a better idea.

As soon as the decision was made, I felt better. In short order, I worked up another idea and started a new novel.  And, guess what? I wrote more in one day than I have in the past six weeks. Even better, I loved every minute of it!

***  A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, a suspense thriller published by Indigo Sea Press.

 

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Writing Thanksgiving

Last week, I wrote and saw performed a very tongue-in-cheek Thanksgiving murder mystery called Merry, Merry, Quite Contrary, How is Your Turkey Stuffed?

Food - turkey

Today, on this day of Thanksgiving, in the midst of mashed potatoes, roast turkey, Becky’s sausage apple stuffing, and pumpkin pie, I would like to take a minute to be serious and express my gratitude for each of you who reads the words I put together.

Today, I’d like to share ten things I am thankful for, from a writer’s perspective.

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 116

  1. I’m thankful for a publisher who not only saw merit in my work and took a chance on me, but who encourages me to write what’s on my heart. Thank you for not pressuring me to write what’s selling, or what fits into a certain box.

Shy Violet  Blue Belle, a contemporary romance by Sherrie Hansen  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

  1. I’m thankful for faithful readers who return to my stories again and again, and clamor for more. It means the world to me.

NIght and day cover

  1. I’m also thankful for those adventurous new readers who take a chance on my books, who spend their valuable time and money on books by Sherrie Hansen even though there are millions of others to choose from.
  1. I’m especially thankful for those wonderful, glorious people who actually take the time to write and post reviews of my books. I am quite convinced they are angels!

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 017

  1. I’m thankful that I come from a family of thinkers who talks things through, tries to figure things out, and speculates on possible outcomes. From my grandmas on down, the family members who influenced me the most, know how to tell a good story, nurture imagination, and ask the question “What if…?”

Romania - stairs

  1. I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed to live a life sprinkled with novel (novel-worthy?) experiences. It hasn’t always been fun. It’s been traumatic at times. But it’s never been boring, and writing about some of the things that have shaped me, in story form, has been therapeutic and uplifting.

Romania - Castle

  1. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to live in and travel to some very exotic locales. From Scotland to Romania, Bar Harbor, Maine, Colorado Springs and yes, even Lawton, Oklahoma, my sojourns and journeys have provided amazing backdrops for my stories, and opened my eyes to unique people, different ways of thinking, and alternate perspectives. I love it when I can escape my own comfortable little corner of the world and experience the grand adventure of seeing the universe through other people’s eyes.

Sherrie - Mark

  1. I’m thankful for a supportive husband who encourages me to write and helps me make time in my hectic schedule for writing. I am thankful for his little acts of thoughtfulness, like driving us places while I write away in the car, my laptop propped on the open door of the glove compartment – yes, even at night when the light from my screen irritates him.
  1. I’m thankful for friends and relatives who critique my work, share candid opinions, and let me pick their brains so I can learn everything they know about cows and everything else under the sun. (Yes, Victoria, you will get credit for sharing your expertise on cows in the dedication for Sweet William.)

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  1. I’m thankful for a God and Savior who created me in His image, and gave me the gifts of creativity, artistry, music and passion. God could have designed us to be obedient, robotic type creatures, but instead, he gave us free-wills, and imaginations, even though He knew both good and bad would come from our choices.

IMG_2404

My sincere thanks to all of you who have read my blog, and in doing so, listened to and shared my thoughts. Anyone who has experienced the thrill of having someone read what they’ve written knows what a true joy this is. On this day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you.

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When Blogs Sleep by L.V. Gaudet

I have been in something of a dry spell for the past months when it comes to writing, blog posts especially.drought

Lack of inspiration is only a part of the problem.

Most advice on how to have a successful blog boils down to one frequently repeated piece of advice.  Post interesting content regularly.

Easy, right?

The problem with that is not only do you have to come up with ideas of blog posts to write about all the time, but they also have to be interesting to other people.  Okay, so that is only half the problem.  The other half is having the time.

If you do not keep up on regular blogging, you can find your blog has gone to sleep and so have you as a blogger.  Your blog followers’ interest will wane when there is nothing to follow.  You become as forgotten as yesterday’s news.

People are fickle that way.  Once you lose them, you can find yourself starting over to create a following all over again.

It can also be harder to dig yourself out of that slump once you are fully entrenched in it than it is to keep writing regular posts.

inspirationboxGetting inspired takes time.  It takes a lot of things, but all of that means little if you do not have the time to let yourself get inspired.

Everyone finds their inspiration in their own way.  A quiet walk in nature, sitting alone enjoying a coffee on a Sunday morning, reading, letting your mind roam on your commute, people watching, these are just a few.

If you do not have the time for that in your busy life, you can find yourself feeling irreparably caught in a dry spell with no end in sight.

When the inspiration does come, it means not losing it, maybe having the chance to write it down before your busy day melts the thought away into a blank mind void.  And then you still have to have the time to sit down and write the article, edit it to perfection, and polish it.

Evasive-Manuvers-penguins-of-madagascar-13157021-607-478Time is both valuable and, at times, insolently evasive.  Time is not on my side.  Not lately.

If you are like me, and like many other writers, your writing by necessity comes a distant last after everything else in your life.

Bills have to be paid and family and home taken care of.  Commitments for work, school, and both immediate and extended family will always push writing time back.  By the time you have finished your work day and commute, feeding and chauffeuring your kids to their activities and back, and getting them into bed, you might find yourself lucky enough to have an hour left to make lunches, throw a load of laundry in, and pick up; and maybe even a moment to or two to write.

This can make you feel a tremendous self-imposed stress to do that writing you are missing out having the time for.  It is too easy in the rush of life and trying to fit in writing to forget what is important.  Never let yourself miss those family moments because you are pushing yourself too hard to do too much.

lessons-in-lifeThe most important lesson I ever learned in life I learned from my own toddler.  Back then, I was doing the stay at home parent thing.  Daycare for two would have cost most than I was making, so we opted for me to stay home.  Every time we went to Wal-Mart to shop for groceries, we passed a display of plastic and fabric fake flowers.  They were depressingly fake, but every time she would make me stop to smell them.  It was not just a memorable moment to be cherished; it was a life lesson.  No matter how hurried I felt, there always had to be time to stop and smell the flowers, whether they smell like anything or not.

Take each moment as it comes.  As the saying goes, take life one moment at a time.  That is the only way to do it when life gets busy.  I spend my lunch breaks editing, and with the distractions that is about all I can manage.  I try my best to note it down when inspiration hits and gives me an idea.  I write in stolen moments.   I do what I can to keep up on the major things while, unfortunately, the little things are often left to slide along with the housekeeping.

When I do have a moment (or thought I did) for writing, it may be interrupted and quickly evaporate.  My advice: no matter how frustrating you find it to have to try to seize those too often lost moments; do not let it become either a chore or a barrier to your life and family around you.

dullWhen your writing is just bland and dry, and inspiration has failed you, you might have to just accept that and cede defeat.  This time.  One of the lovely things about social media and networking is the very nature of it.  It is, for the most part, shareable.

People blog because they want to be noticed.  They want followers.  They want more visits to their blog.  What better way to have that happen than to have followers share their posts?

When the inspiration flows strong, get as much out of that as you can.  If you can snap out six or eight witty blog posts and another half a dozen ideas for later, you are on one killer roll!  Do not post all those great posts at once, but save them.  Spread them out and have some back up posts for those dry spells.

Make your blog more interesting with guest blogs and outside articles.  Invite guests to guest blog, have reviews on their books posted, reviews they wrote on other books posted.  Even just sharing other bloggers posts on your blog that you enjoyed and found interesting.  It is all about driving traffic to both your blog and theirs, and everybody wins.

Distraction is the writer’s curse.  Nothing can kill a writer’s mojo like distraction.  As a parent, I cannot turn my kids away when they need attention just because I am trying to write or edit.  The same goes for your life partner.  These are the most important people in your world, and hopefully your biggest fans and supporters.

When I do have time to write, it is often in the chaos of distraction that comes with a small house and no escape.  You feel like you are central to everything going on in your house because you are, literally, if you have no other room to escape to.  And even if you do have somewhere to go (unfortunately I don’t), if you are like me, they will just follow you there.

It is not easy to write with all the distraction.  And you certainly cannot do your best writing.  But, at least you are finding that bit of time.  If nothing else, you can edit and jot down notes for things to add later.  I certainly do not recommend writing under the cacophony of distraction, but busy people sometimes just have to do what they must.

At the moment, I am being distracted by one child (Okay, a “tween”.  She hates to be called a child.), who is not yet in bed and has a never-ending need to talk to me, a dog requiring my undivided attention, and a very persistent housefly that apparently does too.

recyleIf all else fails, you can always recycle.  Reuse, reduce, recycle.  Isn’t that the saying?  Oh, wait, that’s for reducing trash waste.

In all seriousness, when you are really stuck for something, you can always take an old blog post and re-write it.  You might be amazed at what you learn doing that.

Not only does your writing change, but so does your opinions, feelings, and knowledge.  Writing is a flowing creation that is never stagnant.  The industry itself is ever-evolving.

Over time and practice, your writing continuously improves.  Re-writing an old blog post is a good lesson in that.  Re-writing old stories, whether fiction, blog, or other, is like taking a walk down that memory lane to those old photos of your youth.  Yeah, you remember those old sick clothes and ridiculous hairstyles you laugh at now.

So dust off that old post or story like an old record and play it again, only better this time.

No matter what gets in your way, lack of inspiration, time, distraction, or anything else, you keep on writing.  It’s not what you are, it’s who you are.

You press on because you are a writer.  I am writer; hear me roar.

.

.

 

L. V. where the bodies areGaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Second Wind Publishing, LLC:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

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The Passage of Time and Little Details by L.V. Gaudet

Just as in life, little things in your story would change with the passage of time.  It’s not a necessity, of course, but those little changes can bring a sub-layer of change to the reader’s unconscious mind.  And if they do pick up on it, it’s a nice touch in adding depth to the story.

 

They said goodbye in the spring.  She ran her fingers through his hair that was cut short just the week before, the hair tips following the curve of the top of the ears they were just shy of touching.  If it were any shorter, it would be called a brush cut.

She frowned inwardly at that.  She had always disliked brush cuts.  They reminded her of the father she had lost the day he enlisted in the army when she was only six.  He died years later, coming back for brief moments between tours of duty.  But something had changed in him.  When he came home for good, he never came home all the way.  Something of him was left behind in the war-ravaged wasteland that was left behind when so-called peace came and sent the soldiers home.  He killed himself ten years ago on her twentieth birthday.

 Now, years later, as she said goodbye to her own six-year-old son in the spring, it felt like a piece of her had been torn out.  She had watched him walk away, holding his father’s hand, her estranged husband, with his freshly cut short hair, she swore she would never let her son join the army like her father had.

 Her husband had joined the army too.  That’s why she left him.  She could not bear to live that again, to have her son live it like she did growing up.

 Summer is over now and fall is coming.  Her son’s summer with his father is over and school starts in a few days.

 She turned at the unmistakable racket of the approaching train, watching anxiously down the tracks.  Butterflies flitted in her stomach.  She told herself it was at seeing her son, but the reality is was over seeing them both.

 The train pulled into the station and she waited the interminable wait of one waiting for their loved ones to arrive in the designated arrival area.

 She held her breath and forced herself not to run to him, to tear him away from his father’s hand and squeeze him tight.

 There he was.  It felt like her heart would leap right out her throat.  Her throat constricted and her eyes burned.  Where is he?  Her son was alone.  How could he send him alone?  He’s only six!  But then her son turned, and he came through the crowd.  Her heart leapt and sank at once.  He was dressed in uniform.

 Her son ran to her, face cracked into the biggest smile she had seen since she said goodbye to him in the spring.  She got down on one knee, opening her arms to him, and he ran to her, throwing himself into her embrace and wrapping his arms tightly around her neck.  She ran her fingers through his hair, the tips of his hair reaching just past the top of his ears.

 “Mommy,” he sighed into her shoulder, “your nails got longer.”

 She looked up at a sense of a presence close by.  Her estranged husband stood over her looking down.

 “You look thinner,” he said. From his expression, she wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at a compliment or sarcasm.  He was still bitter at her for leaving.

 “You were supposed to bring him back last week,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him.

 

If you picked up on it, the above starts with a reference to the boy’s recent haircut and his hair being trimmed above the ears.  When he sees him again, the boy’s comment on her nails is a distraction to the reference to his hair now being just below the tops of his ears.  The ex-husband’s comment on her weight could go in any one of many directions.  It could be used as a reference to a longer space of time since she left him.  It could be a hint into his character, or her own wasting away at the end of her marriage.  It could even mean she’s become more healthy and fit since leaving him, at a healthier weight than before.

 

Even if the character doesn’t noticeably change, and neither does his or her immediate surroundings, some things can’t help but change with the years. Some things grow (plant life); other things inevitably deteriorate with age. Things become modernized as they have to be replaced. After all, that fridge in the kitchen will not last fifty years seemingly untouched by time.

 

images (4)It might be an old ice box from before the age of refrigerators, then be replaced with an early style fridge, eventually becoming more modernized as each one has to be replaced. (Just as an example, assuming the character even has one.)  Or it might be a fridge at a place the character frequents, even if that frequency is once every decade.

 

A change like that the character is certain to notice. Similarly, horses and wagons eventually become replaced by increasingly modernized cars.  Everything has a finite lifespan, whether it is a fruit fly or something that lasts for eons. A small sapling tree will grow and grow, becoming a massive tree and eventually dying.  A stone wall will weaken and crumble over time.  Look around you; everything is touched in some way by the passing of time.  Pick things that can be described well by you and easily be identified by the reader.

 

It is little details that make a story.  The odd little things that might catch one persons eye while no one else in the room even noticed.  Throw them in at the oddest of moments.  A moment so divine, that it is almost out of place – almost.

A moment of utter seriousness, where  picking out that one ridiculous detail only serves to bring home to the reader the gravity of just how serious it is.

That one out of place almost unnoticeable thing in a time of grief, to show how strangely the mind might work in a moment of stress and confusion masked by forced peace and quiet, to reinforce on the reader the many levels of the story and its characters.

 

Amidst the crowd of mourners packed into the room like cattle in a cattle car on the way to be rendered, Annie alone noticed the little loose thread sticking out mournfully from the fabric of the seat where Mrs. Peckham sat.  Annie stared at that thread, mesmerized, unable to look away.

 A stray thought teased at her mind.  With all these people staring at Mrs. Peckham, watching her sit there lost in her private world of grief, weeping for her child so tragically torn from her breast by the drunk driver, what does that thread mean?  Is the chair unraveling in sympathy to the shattered lives of all the mourners who’ve sat there day after day?

 She looked around, wondering if anyone else saw the thread and what thoughts it provoked in their minds.

 

No matter how farfetched and deep within the realm of the unbelievable a story may lay, it’s the little details that suggest it might just be possible.  It’s the ability to sell the story as a “what if”, the idea that just maybe this *could* be real if our world were shaped a little differently … that is what makes a good story.

 

L. V. where the bodies areGaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Second Wind Publishing, LLC:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

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Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

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Taking a hammer and chisel to those words on the page by Sheila Deeth

Sylvia’s story, titled Infinite Sum, will soon be released by Second Wind Publishing. If you’ve read Divide by Zero, you might remember Sylvia as a teen falling prey to the Paradise Predator in the woods. But now she’s grown up and married, with children of her own. Where will those memories of far-off days take her? And how do the wounded heal?

I wrote the first draft of Sylvia’s story quite some while ago, and even recorded the first page on YouTube:

Then I read, rewrote, reread, rewrote, and took my imaginary hammer and chisel to the words. Edited, re-edited, re-edited and more, this is the final version of that page. I’d love to know, did the hammer and chisel help? (And if they did, will you read the book — Infinite Sum, coming soon from Second Wind Publishing?)

“Don’t try to decide what you’re going to paint,” says the teacher. Then I wonder; if I don’t decide to dab my brush in paint, does he think some glorious image will appear unaided?

“Don’t restrict yourself.” But I’m bound by the page.

“Let inspiration arise from your subconscious. Set it free.”

The teacher’s voice rises skyward with his words. I watch him lift manicured hands, so very consciously and theatrically. But we’re working in a warehouse, under a lofty ceiling of snaking conduits and tangled wires. Around us, deliberately inspiring objects are artfully displayed—paintings, sculptures, a vase of flowers, a crooked pile of boxes covered in cloth. Distant spotlights splash the walls, while layers of gauze and canvas tumble down in wild abandon. In the midst of it all, we painters guard our easels, proudly wearing our different shapes and styles, eagerly devouring the teacher’s wondrous wisdom, and ready for art.

But my subconscious really doesn’t feel like inspiring anything. My hand holds the paintbrush, level with my eyes, as if I’m measuring angles or judging the shade for some curious tone, while I stare pointlessly at flowers. Yellow roses, tipped and veined with red; I mourn them as they dangle over the rim of a blue glass vase. Their feathered heads promise magic in that precious moment before falling. And then, in silence, one lonely petal drops. I let my paintbrush dip and stroke its sunset onto the page and think, yeah great; this is me, inspired by dying flowers.

Colors, shapes of blooms and stems; I add them to my canvas, and my hands are painting fast. Wash blue with white for the vase’s pure translucency.  Bite my tongue and feel my lungs expand as breath swells fiercely through my head. I dip and stroke, streak and lie, bend and rise until my kneecaps ache. Red clings to tipping tips of petals while darkness piles its urgency behind, and angles bend with a flower’s sharpening shot at eternity. Ruined lives are encased in the vase’s delicate glass, and my fingers flash with ease.

“Let inspiration arise from your subconscious,” the teacher repeats.

I’m in the zone. Then I wake and he’s announcing it’s time to go home.

The canvas in front of me is filled with red and black. Broken petals swell with decay, laid out on a layer of coal. Shattered flowers lie torn and dead and scattered, never to return. What did my subconscious have in mind?

 

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero and the upcoming Infinite Sum, published by Second Wind Publishing.

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