Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Writing Issues

As a writer sometimes the process throws a wrench into the works and you wonder how you will handle the situation.

Let me give you an instance...

I'm working on a novel right now that takes place in 1961.  It was the time of a lot of unrest on many different fronts. 

Issue one: Vietnam war
Issue two: Civil Rights
Issue three: Religion

Let's review each of my problems.  With issue one I want to make sure I put in the correct information about the war.  I don't want to glorify nor do I want to skirt it.  The war doesn't have a lot of play in my novel but it does play a minor role for a character.  The governmental processes change by the minute and what is done today regarding a situation, say death, is handled similarly but also differently than say back in 1961 or even back in 1944 or in 1919.  I don't want to set off a flag to anyone who is familiar with protocol of that period.

Issue two involves Civil Rights which was also happening. It was a time with major historical actions and again, to wishy-washy my way through the story would be an insult. But, I also have another problem. In the North, we spoke differently than down in the South.  We used terms to describe those of another race.  Yes, they were slurs and very derogatory but nonetheless, they were spoken; sometimes in anger, sometimes from a bigot.  Back in the 50s it was very common for a white person to slur those of another nationality -- I could list them, but there is no reason to; we all know them to represent those who are Black, Jewish, Italian, Hispanic, etc.  For my story I want to be true to the period and the talk.  I've used LinkedIn to discuss this with other writers and the general rule seems to be "don't sanitize the ugly" and if somebody gets offended, so be it.  Reality is truth.

With issue three I have a couple of religious issues working. One is more a 'way of life' than religious but for the Amish, religion and life are very intertwined with rules.  My research into that lifestyle was very enjoyable and enlightening.  The Amish people I spoke with were very open and most were willing to discuss their ways.  I have those non-Amish (English) characters interacting with Amish characters and vice-versa.  Again, I want reality, not some trumped up concoction to make my story more fantasy than reality.  Yet, I don't want it to be boring because it will be a piece of fiction based on some truths.

Obviously since the story is based on 'some facts' I will be relocating the tale to a fictitious locale with different names.

As a writer I feel I need to be true to myself, the period of time and to my characters.  As one of the respondents on LinkedIn relayed: I'm wrote a Civil War story taking place in the South. Trust me, the plantation owners didn't say 'Get all them African Americans out to picking the cotton.'  I sort of have to agree with him.  Sanitizing the slurs will actually cheapen my novel and relegate it to obscurity since it won't connect with readers.

It was mentioned that some are attempting to re-write Mark Twain's tale to remove all slurs.  Next we'll be re-writing Shakespeare to reflect today's slang... OMG!

What light through yonder window breaks?
What the hell is that light in the window?
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Romeo, where the f*** are you?
Oh, yes, you can still offend with other words that are not slurs but in today's society, it seems quite acceptable to cuss in front of a lady and not blink an eye. (Heaven forbid you did that at the turn of century... uh, 1900.)
Writing has its issues and as a writer, you need to address those issues and be honest with yourself. And even more, be honest with your readers. History is filled with ugly facts but we can't whitewash the truth to erase it.
Until next I ramble...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Interview with Jack Franklin

Today I decided to give you a special treat -- I would interview my writing partner, the 'other half' of the writing team for our latest horror offering: Ancient Blood: The Amazon.  The two of us have been working together on this project for almost two years.  So, moving along, hereeee's Jack.

 To start, give us the title, genre and a 40 word or less tagline about your bookAncient Blood: The Amazon. Vampire fantasy (or maybe not…). An evil so wicked has grown deep in the rainforest until the mighty Amazon flows deep with blood.

Which came first, the title or the idea?  The original title in my head was River of Blood but the idea was always primary and powerful: could the deep still of the rainforest hide an evil even more powerful than the bosom of the earth.

 Was there much research for the novel?  As with everything I do, yes. Every detail was researched, either in person or through the wonder of the Internet. I lived in Brazil and spent many weeks in Manaus, the capital of the region, and have tried to let my love for the area spill into my part of the writing.

Who is your favorite and least favorite character? Why?  Itotia’s my favorite. Strong, independent and dedicated to her mate. Paulo is my least favorite: the scumbag abandoned his charge in the grasp of danger.

Who do you consider your audience for this novel?  Folks who loved Dracula, but never had the palate for twilight tales. Age is unimportant, though I suspect the link with history will not be as interesting for the youngest readers.

What is the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?  They should hate Ejup and be scared spitless by him at the same time.

What drives the story?  The polar opposites of evil and good and how any one of us might be drawn toward the darkness.

What do you have planned – book related - for the future?  Ancient Blood: The Amazon was planned as the introduction to a series. Bob and I have finished the next volume, where the ancient evil returns to its origins. The third is keeping me awake at night, now and then.

Are you married or single and how do you blend home life with writing?  I am very married and had hoped that writing could let me work from home forever. Gotta sell a screenplay…

When you're not writing, what do you do to pay the utility bills?  I am an international business executive and consultant, currently working in China. (Editorial Note: Did you catch that? China. Can you imagine the difficulties of time differences? It was much easier when he lived in Brazil.)

Tell us an interesting tidbit about you on a personal note.  My grandfather was a personal friend of Joe DiMaggio. Or so my mother always told us…

Can you give us a snippet from your book to tease us?
Paulo’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t move,” he snapped moving in the direction of the two young men. From beneath the mess crawled a spider twice the size of the earlier tarantula. It reared up on its two back legs as Wayne reached in its direction.
“Hey, I’ll take this one home as a pet,” he said.
Paulo flung his straw hat, Frisbee-style, and caught the creature just as it jumped toward the student. “I said don’t move, idiot.” He ran over and clamped his hand on top of the hat. “Bring me a specimen jar,” he ordered. Slowly, he eased the spider into the plastic container. /div>
“What’s your problem, man?” Wayne whined. “You said they were harmless.”
Paulo held up the creature for all to see. “Does this look like the other one, genius?” The sarcasm wasn’t lost on the group. There was little similarity. The second spider appeared to wear armor instead of a hairy sweater.
“This is an armadeira. You call it a Brazilian Wandering Spider. He pointed to a burrow underneath a cluster of small broken branches near Wayne’s boots. “You stepped on its home. This is the deadliest spider in the world.” The short Brazilian stared at the spider. “One of the biggest I’ve ever seen. Without anti-venom…” Paulo momentarily gazed into the distance as he calculated. “You would have been dead by tomorrow afternoon. Maybe earlier.” The spider struggled against the sides of the jar, looking out at them looking in. It was clear who was more frightened.
“Let it out,” Wayne said and grabbed a rock. “I’ll smash it.”
“Americans,” Paulo said and shook his head. “Everyone, head up the path.”
They walked as a group a few yards further toward the forest as Paulo released the creature. It jumped to the ground, reared on two legs and scanned for threats. Finding none, the armadeira walked back to its home and disappeared into the earth.
Paulo collected the group, eyes narrowed and serious. “You are the strangers here,” he chastised. “You stepped on its home. You will be squashed by the rain forest if you do not respect her.” He looked directly at Ana. “When you go places you don’t belong, you have no right to expect to return breathing.”
* * * * *
Until next I ramble...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Interview with Gretchen Elhassani

Today I'd like to introduce Gretchen Elhassani whose novel "Volunteers for Literacy" has just been released this month.  If you're looking for something new to read; this is the story you want.  First, let me show you the book cover... just so you know what you're looking for. Going to the library will have a whole new meaning for in the future.


Now for some details about both the author and the book.

What is the title and genre and give us a 30 word or less tagline about your book: Volunteers for Literacy, thriller. A learned edifice. A hostage crisis. The heroes: a librarian, a homeless man and an illiterate woman.  Sometimes learning to read can be a killer.
What makes your book different from others on the market? This book tackles social issues such as illiteracy and homelessness in the course of the narrative. It shines a light on the hidden epidemic of adult illiteracy, but in such a way that the reader should relate to the character and her struggles.  At its heart, it is a fast-paced action/adventure novel set in a library.  Sure to engage those bibliophiles among us!
Why do you write this particular genre? I dropped out of college because I was sick of academia.  This means that the jobs I am able to secure are not necessarily thought-provoking endeavors.  I have time to ruminate as I slave over my data entry, and my mind naturally inclines toward thrillers.  I always imagine myself a warrior defeating criminals, though in reality, I am just an ordinary person.
Why did you pick this particular title? Volunteers for Literacy is the organization within the library that brings the heroine into her situation.  I also wanted to highlight the uniqueness of the main character, her inability to read.
Which came first, the title or the idea? The idea.  I worked for a volunteer literacy organization for ten years in the basement of the public library.  The book is loosely based on my experiences.
Your experiences? Are you telling us you were illiterate? No, I am not illiterate. I worked with adults who were illiterate.
Okay, my bad. Was there much research for the novel? I did some research for the novel specifically, but most of it came from my own personal experiences within the library.  The details about adult literacy are a by-product of my work environment.
Who are your influences for writing? James Ellroy is super cool, I think.  I went through a long period where the only thing I read was true crime.  Then I creeped myself out on that, and went through a phase of not reading.  Recently I have been devouring books by other indie authors.  A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow got me energized to write again recently.
Do you have a writing regime? I like to push myself, but when I really don’t feel the mood, I have learned to let it go.  When I’m kicking it into high gear, I wake up early to write, and I stay up late.  I write while the kids are watching television, and on my breaks at work.
You tell us you have children. I raised four children -- writing and raising is an interesting combination. Would you care to expound on that? If not, I understand some don't want their personal lives splattered all over the internet, but, if you wish...  I do have children, and they come first. I am often unable to work on a project due to homework or dinner or potty time. It's the nature of the beast. I just keep plugging away every chance I get.
How long did it take to create this manuscript? Variations? How many? It took about a year to write this novel, but I took some time off in the middle of that year.  The manuscript is largely the same (with massive edits), but the ending is completely different.  I had a lovely woman read the first copy and was terrified to read her comments.  I then changed the ending, adding a bit more of a secondary character and changing the location.  I think the enhancements worked well.  (The first draft was a bit weird)
Who is your favorite and least favorite character? Why?  Amanda is my favorite character, she is the protagonist and the woman who cannot read.  My least favorite character is the lead bad guy, Johnson.  I wrote him almost one dimensional.  There are other characters who participate in the murders but are more sympathetic.  Johnson is just a cold blooded killer. 
Who do you consider your audience for this novel? I hope this novel will appeal to those who enjoy frequenting libraries.  There are nuggets of library gossip hidden within the narrative, and the entire plot revolves around literacy. 
Why do you write? What inspired you? And how long have you been writing? I’ve been writing ever since I was a child.  My first work was a book of poems about Winnie the Pooh.  I’m my biggest critic, however, and I am always striving to do better.  This book was edited by Kim Coghlan, and she did a wonderful job, teaching me nuances even as she polished the book.  If I live to be 100, I’m sure I will still be learning!  Even if I couldn’t publish, I would still be writing.  It’s what I do; it’s in my bones; I’m addicted to it.
So, where can we find you on the web? I have a blog called Creative Writing Addict at http://publottery.blogspot.comI do author interviews, book reviews and my own random musings.
Where can we get our hands on this very interesting novel, Volunteers for Literacy? It’s out in ebook on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/Volunteers-for-Literacy-ebook/dp/B0095JNMPW/ and also at Damnationbooks.com: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727605
Thank you Gretchen for spending a few moments with us and sharing this great insight of your novel. We look forward to this exciting read.
Until next I ramble...