Quick post

I’m very busy scrambling to change cover art (and make sure the right ones are properly attached to books – just had a mixup that needed to be fixed, ugh!), and get things loaded onto my new snazzy (hoping I get accepted into the catalog)….

SMASHWORDS

Please go take a look – the first book in the RSI series is free to read!

The second book is available there as well, as will be the first book in the Sleep trilogy soon (as soon as I can get the file fixed up and transferred to the website).

Road to nowhere

Had meant to say in the last post that I’ve been struggling for a week or two with the dilemma of *which book to work on*. For a while, the motivation to write has been the urgency of wanting to get a decent body of Stuff out there. In the course of that, there are now three books in one series, and one in the other. The other series is the first book I’d ever written to completion, though it very little resembles the original “finished product” that I thought was done.

It’s been gutted, redone, and given an angle that finally made sense. And yet, I’m having a heck of a time getting rolling with its sequel. Maybe it’s just the distraction of online shopping, of looking for a telescope for the older kiddo, shiny lights to jokingly outdo the neighbors’ outdoor lights, and I would get myself completely sidetracked here just thinking about all the things to think about. No! Stop it…::slaps hands::

ANYway…the other option is to work on book 4 of the primary series. This is the series that could go on forever, I suppose. The other, I’ve concluded, ought only to be a trilogy. That’s what I put on the cover, anyway, so I guess it’s true.

It makes sense, right? If one thing isn’t working, try another line of approach? Zen writing? Find the plot of least resistance?

Research part two

bhairava_alt_e-233x300

The Bhairava

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(used in Wikipedia)

In the event that anyone reading the last post came away with the notion that I don’t care for research – well, it’s more the direct opposite – what would happen if I let the research take over is this:

Five years later, writer is still making sure everything is *just right*.

Above are some more examples of the fruits of my labors – searching in the vast internets for solid and non-bogus information – I keep for each book: digital folders that hold web pages, images, research stuff worth noting – in the case of India, I’ve also bought several books.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me (which is mostly everyone) – my degree is in archaeology. A grasp on history is somewhat vital to that field. Not that I’m an expert all-around. The particular field of study was ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Middle East. There was an entire class on Greek Architecture. And one on Homer. Not Simpson.

Geneaology is also my “thing” – though I am careful not to overindulge, because it will be 8am one moment, and the next, the buses are outside honking. It can be alluring at times, though, because we have a number of family mysteries that have not been solved. See, even now, I’m fighting the temptation to enumerate them. *Slaps hand*

I should have been more specific when I was saying that I’ve decided not to get carried away with research and over-detailing the environment. I just don’t have the time to get into being that lush with my writing – realizing that, I’ve tried to make up for it with every other aspect of the plotting, and just in the language itself.

See, I would love to be like…Ellis Peters, who wrote the Brother Cadfael series (the really spiffing post-WWII Inspector Felse series, and a really in-depth series about Welsh royalty) – I’ve often marveled at how detailed she was in creating her worlds. Sharon Kay Penman is another – but it took me ages to get through When Christ and His Saints Slept (normally I can get through a book in days, even with kids distracting me – why do they want to eat every day???).

Maybe someday my great opus will fall out of the sky and land on my head – or I’ll find a time-turner so that I can get way more done. That would be pretty awesome, though I can’t fathom being much more tired that I already am most days. Older kid was awake at 445 this morning! What is up with that? Aren’t pre-teens supposed to be all tired and wanting to never get out of bed??? Makes for a long day.

Doing my best to have the words be accurate and present a lovely (or scary) portrait – that’s the goal – while keeping output as the primary objective. Yawn.

Research and stuff

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I’d been berating myself that I am not doing the extent of research that some other authors do – some of whom manage to reconstruct an older world – days gone by.

But…I realize that in the same way that I dislike science-fiction that overdoes the creation of “new” terminology, idioms, and everyday use items, it’s one thing to enlighten, another to become obsessed. Even writers of the time in which I have been writing (mid-1830’s) didn’t belabor the “stuff” that they found commonplace, so I’ve decided to relax about it.

The above engraving is, at least, one example of research I did. It is a proposal for a “steamship-train” that was intended for use in the vast river systems of India. Clearly it never came into being, and we might argue the reasons why for some time – but for the purposes of An Awareness of Dark Things, I decided to make use of it. Granted, this idea was some ten years after the story, but that’s what we call artistic license, right?

In the case of the steamship, I wanted a means of mass transport that would have Isabel able to have a private moment with the antagonist – while railway travel was many, many years away, steamships were beginning to be widely used. The Ganges seemed a likely setting for this unwieldy monstrosity – as well as being a symbol for modernization steamrolling ancient and pristine settings.

My goals in research are to ensure that I’m not saying things that are patently untrue, that are geographically impossible, or anachronistic to the point of ridiculousness. My summer and fall reading focused a great deal on this time period, as well as slightly before – reading about the Caton sisters, Victoria’s early life, The Count of Monte Christo – for anyone who thinks that life is grossly unfair, or that we are living in the worst economic times ever, I challenge anyone to read Sisters of Fortune and/or Washington’s Secret War, amongst others – I think we’re pretty lucky but also still mired in the same foolishness.

The new book

unseencover2013 copyAwareness2 copy Book 3 copy

I know I’m no Diana Gabaldon, but I’m growing rather fond of “my” Major Macconnach (non-spoiler spoiler alert: he’s being brevetted soon – if you want to know what that might mean for him, give dictionary.com a wee visit!). He’s my creation, as is the slightly strange world in which he lives…and I like him, even with all his flaws.

I’m also going to say that I like Isabel a lot, too. The goal in creating her was to have her start out being the way many of us are in our early adulthood – certain that we have ALL the answers, jaded, untested by anything too exciting, and very cranky about having our pet theories questioned.

Making her in that form gives her the ability to fall down on her face a number of times and grow – that’s why I didn’t want to make her “too old” if you’ll pardon the phrase. It’s a way to revisit those years of our lives, as well, and do it safely.

If I’m honest (though not too explicitly so, as my kids may someday stumble over this), I made a sh**-ton of mistakes in that stage of life. Likely, we all have. Can’t change them, right? I think I’d just want to be an invisible hand, were I given the chance to go back in time, smacking myself at moments of excessive silliness.

At any rate, the new book, number three of the Royal Society for Investigation of the Paranormal series is out. Next up is the sequel to Ages in Oblivion Thrown – which is already feeling pretty intense….

Book Three: A Divided Front

Done, done, diddly done.

I’ve finished a, what shall I call it…penultimate draft? This time around, I’ve been trying to discipline myself better and not squander the time alloted. Yesterday was the final big push. I sat down at 8am, intending to go until I was done. Music on, earbuds in – I had already decided to also stop every hour and do some crossfit style back-to-back exercises. By 3pm, I had been done for 15 minutes, and was waiting for my older son to get home from school.

This is how working through ADD looks, I guess. Scheduled distractions. 5 minutes of every hour to fool around and do whatever – and then spend many more minutes reminding oneself NOT to go online except for thesaurus.com.

I’ve come to like the online thesaurus – it’s a little more intuitive than the word one, and certainly faster than the twenty pound hard copy version. As I discovered, though…it’s…R rated. Maybe even more than R, actually, as it obligingly pops up with every possible permutation of “aroused” – or…well, let’s just leave it at that. Remind me not to let my kids use this thing. Possibly until they’re in their 30’s.

I’d gotten quite far in the process by end of school day on Friday, actually, and I was deep into the one and only love scene.

Jokingly, or maybe kind of seriously, I mentioned to my husband that I wished we had two laptops, so I could write on the weekends. I don’t know if he thought it was funny or not…I suspect he envisions me having plenty of “free time” while kids are at school. And during the summers, he pities me as he runs out the door as fast as possible.

I’ve also made headway on the sequel to Unseen, which I’ll be getting back to as soon as I’m done with this. Waiting on cover art, trying to work on a title, need to read for a review, on top of taming the household…yes, I have plenty of free time. I watched the season finale of Downton Abbey while picking up, folding laundry, and vacuuming (closed captioning is a wonderful thing, but make sure there aren’t socks under the couch…legos hidden in the corners….)

And just for your enjoyment, something as inocuous as love will give you quite a variety of results, like this (note – my characters only abstained momentarily):

Main Entry: love
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: have sexual relations
Synonyms: caress, clasp, cling, cosset, court, cuddle, draw close, embrace, feel, fondle, hold, hug, kiss, lick, look tenderly, make love, neck, pet*, press, shine, soothe, stroke, take into one’s arms, tryst, woo
Antonyms:

abstain

Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti by Ted Oswald – Review

Certainly we all think of Haiti in particular terms, here in the U.S. We don’t have the “history” with the island nation that France does, for instance. I’m sure many of us think immediately of dictatorships (Baby Doc Duvalier), unrest, UN interventions, and finally, The Earthquake. And because we live in a first world nation, where we readily ignore the starving and impoverished already living side by side with us, it’s all too easy to forget the woes of third world nations. Because we want to.

That said, we can look to Haiti as a land with a particular ethos, even if that sensibility gets clouded from time to time. “Libète, Egalité, Fraternité” Moreover, it is the phrase, “because we are,” that is at the heart of this novel. Oswald does his level best to remind us, far more gently than might be warranted, that it is we who have muddied the waters. Rather than read this deep and engaging work with a sense of nagging guilt, however, one ought to read with a feeling of awe. I know that this is a complete work of fiction – but it might as well be documentary. There are probably far too many stories bearing resemblance to those of the characters Libète, Jak, Davidson, Aunt Estelle, Lolo, and Elize. There is grinding poverty. There are people who die of AIDS all the time. There are good people, those who struggle with good or bad choices, and then those who do bad things for thousands of reasons. There are girls (and probably boys) who have disappeared by the hundreds, and only their families know their names. Reading this novel may not give those lost souls their lives back – but it may help the living.

Oswald has managed to put some magic into the telling of an otherwise (extremely) grim tale. Perhaps it’s the result of how he deftly breaks the bad news up into bite-sized pieces, delivering us our poison incrementally. It’s also due to how well he tells his story of a young girl who refuses to accept her fate at face value.
The story bobs back and forth in time with ease – it was never too difficult to keep track of what was what – Oswald keeps the cast of characters at a reasonable level, and marvelously distinct from one another – there’s never a moment of mixing anybody up. You know that feeling, perhaps, when you find yourself in chapter 35, and the author revisits something from the beginning…ugh, now, where was that part? Who are we talking about again? While I love Tolkien, for instance, it’s best to have an index to all the characters sitting right by you as you read him.

This is a mystery story, a thriller, ostensibly – but we stay out of criminology or forensics. Libète, whose story this ultimately is, doggedly pursues justice “because nobody should have to die like that”. She blindly hurtles down a path of her own choosing, possibly because she knows that death can come for any of them at any time. This particular time, she and her friend Jak stumble over the bodies of a young woman and her baby boy. These are Claire and Gaspar, mother and child, clearly murdered, their bodies abandoned in the tall grasses of a marsh. As the beginning to a mystery, it is one many of us will recognize. The crime is laid bare, and next, the process of solving it will commence.

But we are not in a place where police and private eyes have the luxury of crime labs, contacts in high and low places, nor even an efficient policing force. Once Libète has informed the only people she can think of who will mobilize action, half of Cité Soleil crowds into the marshes to get a look. This is the nature of murder in this world. One might compare it to, say, Victorian England.

As this is Libète’s story, the reader spends the most time with her. She is a pint-sized, determined detective, by default. She has taken a beating in life before – she’s unafraid to face that again. In her journey, her best friend Jak is her second. He’s cautious, reluctant to attract attention, and hasn’t the desire to solve this crime at all costs. They are opposing natures of humanity – their voices equally compelling at times. Traveling with Libète means danger, as Jak comes to discover, and she does not turn away from this truth. Like any good detective, she has to be a little self-destructive.

We know that Libète will “get her man” in the end. What comes in between is a story of endurance, bravery, as well as a tough look at some of the uglier bits of human nature. That word, human, gets tossed around a lot – perhaps some of us recall a term in high school English devoted to “man’s inhumanity to man”. Because We Are will hopefully find its way into that conversation, and make a splendid addition to it.

There was never a point in this book which found me disengaged – I found myself staying up until one in the morning while reading it (and believe me when I say I don’t really do that anymore – with young kids, it comes with a price tag!) – many emotions might stir within you, but regret will certainly not be one of them.

Find Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti here on amazon, or directly on Oswald’s site – proceeds will benefit Haitians directly.

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Other details:

I picked this book out of the internet ether by chance – it was advertised, I think on FB, and probably on my page because one of my hs classmates has lived and worked in Haiti since before the earthquake. And, likewise, because of that classmate, I noticed the book, its eye-catching cover art, and went right away to look it over.
I downloaded it via amazon’s kindle app on my phone – given the slightly different method of formatting that Ted Oswald uses for dialogue, etc., on the (I believe) 4.3″ screen of my phone, it was slightly off – that said, I quickly forgot any differences in layout. The story and its surrounds are far too alluring to worry about details.

Read about Cite Soleil here
And about the Haitian Quest for Freedom here