Archive for the ‘novels’ Tag

Interview with Eugene Uttley   4 comments

Today’s interview is with Eugene Uttley. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself. 

Thanks. Just flew in. Arms are tired. Haha. Hello. I am Eugene Uttley Esq. & I live in the Midwest of the USA, where I hold down a modest jobby job to pay the bills, which is not difficult considering I live alone and have no dependents.

 

boon-1At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? (When did you write your first story, for example?)

I have always written creatively. My jokes, however, have whiskers on them.

 

Tell us about your writing process.

I have been writing the same comic novel for over fifteen years now, and it’s coming along grudgingly, I’ll tell you. It’s this character Roger who hasn’t left me alone over the years. So I’ve got him on a bus on the way to Albuquerque….

 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

Humor. Postmodern humor. I mean, that’s not a genre, but… literary fiction?

 

Humor should be a genre, although I prefer it to infuse all genres. We need more laughter in the world. What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about one issue lately: demystification of mental illness towards more comprehensive mental health education and against the stigma of violent behavior or tendencies with schizophrenia in particular.

 

What is something you cannot live without?

The toxic byproduct of plant metabolism: O2. No. Um. For me, it’s aripiprazole. Without it I experience mental torture. It’s truly agonizing, and fatiguing beyond measure. I try just to sleep.

 

way-out-1I used to work as an administrator for a community mental health center, so I know what atripiprazole is. When you are not writing, what do you do?

When I am not writing, I am generally sleeping or working or both.

 

Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?

Oh, yeah. Great question. Writing Way Out helped me put a lot behind me. Like, “This is something that happened to me,” as opposed to, “This is something that is happening to me.”

 

That is a great way of looking at it. I find writing to be very therapeutic myself. Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

 

The three brothers with their own language in The Diamond Grenade have to be loosely based on the Beastie Boys, the way they minstrel show with instruments and all, but basically just rapping insults at the audience in their own language. So hiphop influences, certainly, pop culture of the turn of the millennium. But as far as inspiration goes, I feel like the really worthwhile writing kind of wants out. You’ll be like, “whoa, I only got so many hours in the day to be making stuff up with the word processor.” And your muse won’t listen and will keep pushing you for all you’re worth.

 

Yeah, you’re a writer for sure. I’ve definitely has similar experiences. What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Well one of my books, The Boon, isn’t a novel at all, but since you said research, I thought to mention that research is what The Boon is. Very ongoing and sometimes stream-of-consciousness loose progression of topics for momentary mention or investigation, in a narration like a reacher’s reading journal. But my novellas and such do not require research. They are tissues of fiction.

 

dg1-1If someone who hasn’t read any of your work asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

Reading The Boon is a bit of a chore. But the good news is that very soon there will be an audiobook. Way Out is a more straightforward memoir, albeit not chronological and framed as a biography. The Diamond Grenade is revolutionary of course – good fun to read.

 

Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

That’s interesting. They say in life we sometimes recycle the same interpersonal dynamics and run the same situation through different sets of friends. I find myself recreating a situation in which I just made a faux pas but nobody was paying attention to me, anyway.

 

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Oh, the characters take over. They’ll do what they’ll do, it seems, when you’re writing a few hours a day or more, you know… But I maintain a brisk course of events.

 

Making characters do what you want is a lot like herding cats, in my experience. Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer? Why?

You try to keep in mind that the notes are calling the shots, but eventually you’re just trying to keep up with what has to happen next.

 

Absolutely. What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

I prefer to sketch caricature. Events practically overshadow character in The Diamond Grenade. If there’s depth of character, it stems more from the reader’s feelings about the perpetrations of the characters than from much lingering in the narration on how anybody actually feels about anything. Well, the POV is of a couple of the main characters. If that makes any sense.

 

It does. Do you head-hop?

I have heard of this head-hopping of which you speak, but have yet to really wrap my mind around it. I believe that, yes, in The Diamond Grenade I head-hop from one narrator’s into another’s POV.

 

 

Where can readers find you and your books? 

weeditty.wordpress.com

Posted January 25, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Was   Leave a comment

No matter how much time and energy we authors put into querying agents and editors (or conversely learning the ins and outs of self-publishing) it’s all wasted if we don’t have a polished piece of work. One way to make sure your book is the best possible product is to brush up on your nuts-and-bolts writing skills. This also saves money in editing fees.

Image result for image of past perfect tense

I’m pretty sure everyone has been in a critique group, had a beta reader, or listened to a creative writing workshop where somebody lectured you about avoiding the word “was.” We are routinely told to eliminate all forms of the verb “to be” from our prose.

Well-meaning mentors tell us “was” is “passive,” so we must avoid it at all costs, along with adverbs, run-on sentences, and naming all of your characters the similar names.

These experts were repeating “The Rules” they heard from their own critique groups, beta readers, and workshop leaders when they started writing.

Sometimes “The Rules” are wrong.

This particular rule has good intentions, but shows a lack of understanding of grammar. The verb “to be” has many functions in modern English and some have nothing to do with the passive voice.

I’m old enough that I actually received an education in English grammar, but I think it may not be a major focus in most schoolrooms because I find a lot of writers have not been taght the basics.

Past tenses in English

  • Simple Past
  • Present Perfect
  • Past Continuous (or “Progressive”)
  • Present Perfect
  • Past Perfect (or “Pluperfect”)
  • Past Perfect Continuous.

Some of these tenses are created by using various forms of the verbs “to be” and “to have.” They’re called “auxiliary verbs” (sometimes helping verbs) when they are used this way.

Simple past:

I threw up.

Present Perfect:

I have been throwing up since I ate that chicken.

Here an action starts in the past and comes up to the present.

Past Continuous:

I was throwing up when Mrs. Smith arrived to invite me to tea.

A continuous action in the past gets interrupted by the simple past. “Was” is necessary to create this tense with the verb “to throw up.” “Was” in this auxiliary function has nothing to do with the independent meaning of the verb “was” meaning “existed in the past.”

Past Perfect:

I had threw up right before she came to the door.

An action happened in the past BEFORE the past of the story. “Had” is the auxiliary verb that creates this tense. This is different from the stand-alone meaning of the verb “had” meaning “possessed in the past”.

Past Perfect continuous:

I had been throwing up for hours.

An action happened in the past over a period of time until it got interrupted by another action. The verbs “to have” AND “to be” are combined with the primary verb “to throw up” to make this tense.

These tenses have nothing to do with the Passive VOICE

Throwing up was caused by chicken.   In the passive voice, we use forms of “to be” when the object of the verb becomes the subject of the sentence.

Or, as my college English professor would say:

The passive voice is avoided whenever possible by good writers.

Then, just to be confusing, we have the Subjunctive MOOD.  (Sometimes called the “Unreal Conditional” tense.)

If I were smarter, I’d have brought my own lunch.  

It also uses the auxiliary verb “to be”. Are you starting to see what a multi-purpose word “was” is? The word “were” doesn’t put us in the past. It tells us he’s not actually smart.

But what about this?

If I was even smarter, I’d have shot my uncle instead of the bear.

This is incorrect grammar, because the subjunctive uses “were,” not “was.”

So “was” should be eliminated here, right?

If you’re aiming for grammatical prose, absolutely, but if you’re writing fiction, it’s probably just fine. You don’t want all your characters to sound like college professors.

What does this all mean?

Sometimes “was” and “were” are absolutely necessary for meaning and by no means “passive.”

I was just sitting there when the bear mauled me.

This means something different from:

I just sat there when the bear mauled me.

Eliminating “was” changes the meaning from “the bear mauled me with no provocation,” to “I didn’t react when the bear mauled bit me.”

However, your critique group didn’t steer you totally wrong when they told you to be wary of “was.”

This isn’t because the word is always passive, but because it can be part of lazy sentence construction.

Beginning writers tend to write flabby sentences like this:

There was a squirrel sitting on the picnic table and he was eating my peanut butter sandwich. He was looking at me like I was nobody to be scared of, so I decided it was time to get my shotgun.

That can be cleaned up by using simpler verbs:

A squirrel sat on the picnic table eating my peanut butter sandwich. He looked me in the eye without a speck of fear. I went for my shotgun.

That’s easier to read and gives a stronger, clearer image.

Another note on past tenses

Most readers say they prefer reading a book written in the past tense, but writing in the past can be difficult when you decide to do a flashback. Yes, you could just not write flashbacks, but sometimes the story absolutely requires one. That’s when you go into the past perfect tense. But you don’t have to stay there, because it sounds awkward.

He hated squirrels. Last summer, he had been walking in the park when he had run into a gang of squirrels who had attacked him with giant acorns.

Actually, you only have to use the past perfect (the “had” construction) once or twice to introduce the flashback, then continue in the simple past and readers will automatically adjust.

He hated squirrels. Last summer, he had been walking in the park when he ran into a gang of squirrels who attacked him with giant acorns.

It’s all in the distant past, but we know that without all the extra “hads.”

Sometimes it’s best just to trust your readers.

So, when you’re doing your edits, a search for “was” in your manuscript can help clean up your prose, but we’re not looking to eliminate “was” because “was” is “passive” because that’s a clunky use of grammar. Maybe we’ll look at passive voice in the near future.

Motifs   Leave a comment

Image result for image of quilt motifI think most novelists don’t really consciously use motifs in their writing. We’re much more familiar with allegory and metaphor. I think there are writers who deal with these literary techniques in a wonderful fashion. I openly admit that I’m not a huge symbol gal. I love to read what other writers create in that vein, but it’s just not my thing. But, motifs … I can handle those. In fact, they naturally work their way into my writing.

Motifs are symbolic elements packed with inference. They can be a word or phrase, a concept, an image—just about anything that can be repeated with significance and symbolism. 

Using motifs in writing fiction is one of the most powerful and evocative ways of imparting your themes in your novel. Few authors use them, and fewer use them well. My favorite novels of all time are ones that use motifs beautifully throughout their narrative because these elements weaving through the stories tend to stay with me for months and years after I’ve read the book.

Image result for image of quilt motifThink of a motif as a splash of color that you are adding to your story palette—a very noticeable, specific color that appears from time to time and that “blends in” beautifully with the overall picture you are painting. Did you notice that I just introduced a motif in this discussion by using the concept of color to emphasize my theme?

Motifs can be an object, an idea, a word or phrase, a bit of speech—and you can combine these in your novel to create richness, anticipation or poignancy. In Transformation Project, for example, I include a phrase that the characters often bring up. In Daermad Cycle, it’s usually an object that has some link to the history of Celdrya.

thewillowbranchWillow branches have multiple meanings in Celdrya. Among the Kin, the wise ones carry a diamond willow walking stick as a symbol of honor while the Celdryans see willows as a source of healing. Thus, both elements play in the series. The first book is called The Willow Branch for a reason. Padraig, a healer, is the “willow branch” sent into the kingdom to try to heal the fractures. Ryanna receives the honor staff of diamond willow as her charge to enter the search for the One’s true king. The book titles in the series have double meanings. Book titles are a great place for motifs and allow you to tie it into your book’s theme.

Motifs can bring cohesion to a story. An object can symbolize important qualities. In the movie, Up, balloons represent freedom, the need for release. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the bird comes to represent the idea of innocence. To kill one is to destroy innocence. This ties in beautifully with the book’s themes and plot involving guilt vs. innocence. After Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds” and at the end Scout voices that hurting Boo Radley would be like “shootin’ a mockingbird.” Perhaps the most significant use of this motif is the scene in which Miss Maudie explains to Scout: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That Jem and Scout’s last name is Finch (another type of small bird) indicates that they are particularly vulnerable in the racist world of Maycomb, which often treats the fragile innocence of childhood harshly. I’m sure Harper Lee used this motif very deliberately.

So as you plot out your novel, or more likely when you tackle your rewrite, think of two or three motifs you can weave in, then go back through your book and place them strategically. If you can somehow use the motif in your title, even better. And if you can think of motifs that parallel and/or enhance your overall theme, you will have a book that will be unforgettable. Pay attention as you read great novels to see if you can spot the motifs the author has used. You will be surprised how you will start seeing them if you pay attention and look for them.

Posted November 16, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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Dianna Gunn Interviewed Lela Markham on The Dabbler   4 comments

http://thedabbler.ca/author-spotlight-lela-markham/

Front Cover LAWKI no windowI met today’s author, Lela Markham, through Twitter, which has become my favourite social media network over the last few months.

She’s got a very interesting body of work, but I think I’ll let her speak for herself.

Please give Lela a warm welcome.

Thank you for having me, Dianna. I am a lifelong Alaskan who gew up in a house built of books. Back in the days before the Trans Alaska Pipeline was built, we were a pretty isolated community with limited television. Both my parents were great readers, so there were always books around which they encouraged me to read. As an adult, I have embraced the adventure that comes with living in the Last Frontier and followed my somewhat insane husband into the forests dragging our two fearless offspring with us.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

I write in a variety of genres.

Daermad Cycle is an epic fantasy with Celtic and Christian influences. The Willow Branch was published last year and Mirklin Wood should come out this year or early next year. Told in two timelines (past and present), it tells the tale of the destruction of a kingdom and the attempted restoration. There are human factions, vengeful Celtic goddesses, evil mages, less evil mages, heroes who are doing the best that they can and dragons. The Christian influences in the book do not make the book a candidate for inclusion at the local Christian bookstore. This is a series that can be enjoyed by any fantasy fan and there will be other books after Mirklin Wood.

Transformation Project is an apocalyptic series. Although Amazon classes that with science fiction, it’s written in modern times. Life As We Knew It came out in March. It tells the tale of a small Midwest farming town struggling to deal with the aftermath of a large scale terrorist attack. My focus is primarily on the town and its survival. The affects on the country as a whole are merely background. Shane, the main protagonist, is a damaged hero who can take care of himself, but may not always make the best choices for the people around him. He is surrounded by an ensemble cast who will evolve as people over time – kind of like what would happen in a world gone crazy in reality.

2. When did you first know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Mom said I told tales from the time I could talk. My friends valued my imagination to make long Alaskan winters stuck in the basement entertaining. I wrote down my first fiction story when I was in the 5th grade and that started something that I just couldn’t stop. I wanted to make my living as some sort of writer since the 10th grade when I was asked to write some articles for the town newspaper. I got my degree in journalism and worked as a reporter for a time, but got frustrated with the politicalization of journalism and the lack of a living wage, so I started working in administration, where my writing has been in demand for grant-writing, newsletters, and other publications. I always wrote fiction no matter what I was doing for a living. I published some short stories in Alaskan anthologies, but found that finding an agent required that I choose between writing Christian fiction and adhering to those rules or writing fantasy without the Christian elements. I felt really constrained by those rules, which stalled me for a time until the self-publishing wave began to swell. I was asked to join Breakwater Harbor Books, which is a small press that acts much like an author’s cooperative, so I went indie with them.

 3. Who are some of the authors that inspired you to start writing?

Wow, there are so many! Madeleine L’Engle and Zenna Henderson were early role models, followed by Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I can’t leave out CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien … what fantasy author can, right? Katharine Kerr and Kate Elliott have been favorite role models in adulthood. I like Stephen Lawhead and Morgan Llewellyn. And, I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten.

 4. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

It’s sort of unprocessed. I’m an adventure writer. Generally, I read a lot – not just the genres I’m writing in, but a lot of non-fiction too. A character presents itself and decides to tell me their story. At this point, I think I sound a bit mentally ill, but I used to work for a mental health center as an administrator and my co-workers say I’m fine. The character demands I write their story down. If that story coincides with some research or maybe some imagery I’ve run across in the past, I begin to develop the story into a full novel. I’m typically a third of the way through a novel before I have any idea how it’s going to end, at which time I hit pause, draft an outline to get to that ending and sketch out the major scenes to achieve it. Then I go back to the drawing board and do a thorough rewrite. What follows are many re-readings and edits, sending the book to alpha readers and then beta readers, finally asking a BHB author to do a final read/edit and then going back through for more editing.

5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? How do you make it easier for yourself?

Figuring out when to end the story is probably the hardest part for me, especially if the characters still have stories to tell me. I make it easier for myself by writing series.

6. How do you balance writing, marketing and life?

I really have no idea. If you have any advice, I’m still working that out. My family is used to me writing … it’s something I’ve always done. I often do it in the livingroom amid chaos so I can be with them. I grew up in my mom’s daycare center, so I actually don’t find that terribly distracting. I do take time off to hike into the woods (I bring a notebook with me, though) and to do other fun things in life. I think it’s really important for writers to have a life outside of our fictional worlds because fiction should imitate life. The marketing end of it keeps wanting to eat my life and I’m finding I have to put limits on myself about that and sometime just be downright rude to people who don’t “get” it. I’m using social media to market my books, not to be social, but I also want to be friendly. It’s a definite juggling act. I recently “hired” an assistant (my teenage son) to do some of the automated features of Twitter so I can have time to do some other things. If people sense that I’ve been replaced by a robot … or a budding engineer … it’s because I have been part of the time.

7. What is your favourite social media network and why?

I prefer Word Press because I can write a blog post and link it across Facebook, Twitter and a couple other platforms, which is an enormous timesaver.

8. If you could give one aspiring writer just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Read and live a life. That’s two, I know, so I guess I’d choose read – anything and everything. It’s all research for writing and you never know what your story might demand. A writer’s head needs to be stuffed with “trivia” that can flow out into details in your character development and world building.

9. What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the third book in Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic series – “Cold Steel”, my friend Kristin Gleeson’s “Along the Far Shores”, and I am also re-reading a political science textbook from college as part of research for Transformation Project. And, the Bible almost every day. That’s a pretty skimpy reading list for me, but I’m very busy these days writing.

10. Are you working on anything right now that readers can look forward to?

 “Mirklin Wood” will continue the story started in “The Willow Branch”. Readers can find out what happened to Donyl when the dragon grabbed him and what happened to Tamys after the Celtic goddess threw him out of a window. Padraig and Ryanna will continue their separate searches for the True King while the Svards begin their campaign to invade the kingdom. I want to publish “Mirklin Wood” this fall, but I had a major technological setback a couple of months ago, so it may be early 2016. That will be followed by the second book in Transformation Project“Objects in View” sometime later in 2016.

I’m participating in two anthologies in the next several months, but I don’t have publication details yet.

I’ve got some works in progress for different genres, but they’re nowhere near ready for prime time, so readers will have to wait on those.

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