Doing The Story Justice — Redux

My PerNoReMo moves forward, despite some major self-doubts earlier this month. To help me through the mire, I read some of my earlier posts, looking for inspiration. And one that I originally posted on 2 June 2012 reminded me why I’m rebuilding Death Out of Time and not sticking with my original version. I thought it was worth sharing again with readers. Rather than force you to make extra clicks, here are the highlights from that post. Continue reading

My 2013 PerNoReMo In A Blaze Of Autumn

My what you ask?

PerNoReMo is my 2013 version of NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. PerNoReMo is my Personal Novel Rebuilding Month. I’ve set some modest goals for the rebuild of my sci-fi WIP, Death Out of Time.

From November 1st through the 4th, I’ve repurposed and added a combination of 5,023 words, well over my daily targets. And that feels good. But it also means I won’t spend too much time on blog posts. So today, I thought I’d share a few more autumn photos from last week. Colors were really beginning to peak. The season didn’t start out too well for color, but things have really picked up over the last week. So, without further ado, here are a few shots from my neighborhood walks. Continue reading

From My Mind To The Page

It should be no surprise that writers spend a lot of time in our heads. After all, that’s where ideas are born and stories take shape. And when we write something as long as a novel, well, that adds up to a lot of thinking, imagining, creating, brainstorming…. You get the idea. So how do we get those stories from our heads to the written page?

For me, coaxing the full story out of the characters is a long, complicated process. Sometimes they’re helpful—too helpful when competing voices bombard me with ideas. Other times, they wander off with my Muse to enjoy tropical drinks and beaches. At those times, I’m on my own. Continue reading

Rebuilding A Novel

So, as you know, the characters from my first two WIPs have been suggesting revisions to improve their stories’ chances of finding an audience. While Katharine continues to talk with the other characters in Summer at the Crossroads, Madeleine O’Brien of Death Out of Time has stepped up to the plate and made some serious changes. And I mean serious. Continue reading

Book Review — Travels in Elysium

In April, I found an unexpected message in my email inbox. It was from Iridescent Press, which had been given my name as a potential reviewer for one of its upcoming releases, Travels in Elysium, by William Azuski. This became my introduction to NetGalley, a digital review service where “professional readers” (such as librarians, bloggers, booksellers, educators, and those in the media) can obtain free advance copies of forthcoming books from publishers for review.

I could hardly turn down such a request, and so I registered for NetGalley, downloaded the book onto my Kindle, and began reading.

______________________________

A metaphysical mystery set on the Aegean island of Santorini

It was the chance of a lifetime. A dream job in the southern Aegean. Apprentice to the great archaeologist Marcus Huxley, lifting a golden civilisation from the dead… Yet trading rural England for the scarred volcanic island of Santorini, 22‑year old Nicholas Pedrosa is about to blunder into an ancient mystery that will threaten his liberty, his life, even his most fundamental concepts of reality.

______________________________

Pay close attention to that description as metaphysical mystery. If you’re looking for something like “Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Atlantis,” you won’t find it here. In fact, you may need to keep a dictionary at hand for some of the vocabulary. The linguistic simplification forced by many American presses onto their writers is absent in this work. Comparisons in my mind ran to authors such as Umberto Eco and Gabriel García Márquez, not Ernest Hemingway. This is not a novel for the casual reader.

Like Eco and García Márquez, Azuski conjures a remarkable sense of an exotic place. The reader is immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of Santorini under the military junta of the early 1970s and in the mystical reality that intersects with the mundane world. Main character and narrator, Nicholas Pedrosa, immediately finds himself caught up with people and events he doesn’t begin to understand. What happened to his predecessor? What is archaeologist Marcus Huxley really searching for? What is Atlantis? For that matter, what is reality?

Azuski combines aspects of mystery, philosophy, history, archaeology, and mythology in weaving the story. Nicholas Pedrosa spends much of the book searching for meaning and sense around him, and I often had a similar feeling of being “at sea” while reading the story. Some readers may take this as a weakness in the writing, but I suspect Azuski wanted exactly such a reaction from his audience. We are with “Nico” on his journey. We are meant to question not only what we read and what it means, but also our own preconceptions and ideas.

This is an original take on the Atlantis myth, and Azuski’s writing style complements the complexity of the various story lines. Descriptive passages at times match the pace of life in a place not fully in the modern world. But when that modern world intrudes, the writing shifts to meet it. His characters are complex and offer insights into the mysteries and ancient puzzles that surround them as they delve into a lost city—and into their own thoughts and beliefs.

Again, this book is not for those interested in a quick read or an adventurous romp through Atlantis. But if you enjoy literary fiction that makes you think, then I recommend Travels in Elysium. My best advice for reading it? Heed the words of archaeologist Marcus Huxley: ‘Trust no one. Believe no one. Question everything. Remember, there is nothing here you can take at face value… No — not even yourself.’

Travels in Elysium is now available in bookstores and with online retailers in both paper and electronic formats.

Onward

The beta comments on my latest draft of Summer at the Crossroads have arrived. My readers did a stellar job, as I expected. They read the manuscript thoroughly, enjoyed the concept, liked my writing style, and gave me great feedback.

image credit: Microsoft clip art

image credit: Microsoft clip art

Once the beta comments come in, a writer must decide which of them hit the mark and which can be ignored. The book is the writer’s vision and story, no one else’s. This is a good time to again ask the question, “Who am I writing for?” Continue reading

Are You With Me?

Well, the holidays are behind us and most of 2013 lies ahead. If you’ve made resolutions for the year, my best wishes to you for carrying them through. For me, there is one goal for 2013—complete one of my WIPs and have it on track for publication.

Image credit: Microsoft clip art

How are the WIPs going? Why, thank you for asking. Let’s see…. Continue reading

The Saturday Morning Post

If you saw Thursday’s premature post, there is new content here. WordPress, could you add an “Are You Sure?” pop-up when we hit “Publish”? I know I’m not the only one who’s hit Publish instead of Preview!

No single topic came to mind for today. Instead, I’ve been flitting between ideas and decided to go with a few random thoughts in magazine style. My apologies to the real journalists among you.

Envisioning A Novel’s Setting

In several comments on Tuesday’s post, I mentioned adding some photos to give you a sense of place for my novels. We start with a few photos for Death Out of Time. Much of the action takes place in our time in the northern Virginia suburbs. The book opens with archaeologist Madeleine O’Brien and detective Jack Trainer excavating an 18th century cemetery in an old, overgrown pasture. The pasture looks something like this one, although it has fewer trees.

Can you guess where the headstones are?

Can you find the cemetery in this photo? Madeleine faced a similar setting in Loudoun County. This is what she encountered when the project began in the spring.

Are you stumped? That’s okay. It’s a trick question. None of the headstones are still standing. They all fell over and were buried through the years or were removed by farmers to make more room for crops. Madeleine knew the cemetery existed only because it was marked on old maps.

One of the headstones she finds looks something like this. (Please bear with me. I’m not very good with my graphics software.) Who would have guessed it would lead to an unimaginable experience?

It seemed like a straightforward cemetery excavation….

In the book, Madeleine also spends time in her lab. It looks similar to many other archaeology labs in universities and in the business world. There, you’ll find an artifact drying rack much like this one. Very basic and inexpensive, but it does the trick. Budgets are usually tight in archaeology. Madeleine saves money where she can, just as my colleagues and I do.

All archaeology labs have something similar to this for drying artifacts after they’ve been washed.

In one scene, Madeleine focuses on that drying rack, struggling to maintain her composure in front of her crew. She can’t let on about what’s happening upstairs. Madeleine never thought she would need a good poker face. Jack’s much better at that sort of thing. But when a time traveler drops into her world, an archaeologist has to adapt.

And there you have a brief view of some of the scenery in the book. If this experiment gets favorable reviews, we’ll see more of the story’s settings in the upcoming weeks and months. I’m thinking of adding these photos (and others) to the introductory page for the book here on the blog.

Author’s Note

Tuesday’s post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I’m not depressed about my stats or contemplating a summer vacation from blogging. Subtle humor doesn’t always translate well to social networking or the written word. I think that happened here. Rest assured, I will stick to my twice a week posts unless extreme circumstances require changes.

And Finally—The Importance of Editing

I realize budgets are tight for small newspapers. And proof readers are a rare luxury in today’s world. But I think this photo caption from our local paper shows the downside of such cost-cutting measures. It’s worth clicking on the image if you need to in order to read the original caption.

I nearly lost it when my husband read the original story aloud.