Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Outside Listener

Scott D. Parker

Two things dominated this week: the sound of screeching tires and Harry Potter. First, the tires.

The Outside Listener

We writers live with the voices in our heads all the time. Like the president and his aides or Hollywood stars and their entourages, after a time, the voices in our heads become an echo chamber. Everything we write and dream up is good. Call that over confidence. Conversely, everything we write is bad. Call that writer's block.

So, every once in awhile, it's good to get the voices heard by others, make sure the wonderfully complicated plot that those voices assure is perfectly fine really is. Or, at least, in the ballpark. That's where the outside listener comes in. My wife served as that sounding board for me this week with my current book. I've blocked out the first half of the book on index cards and pinned those cards up on a cardboard stand used for science fairs. Then, with a notepad and pencil, and, keeping all the complicated back story out and presenting just the tale as my detectives will experience it, I started my presentation.

One must have thick skin to survive graduate school. One must also have thick skin when presenting a gestating story. Because, let's be honest, if your first listener cannot follow your story, the future agent/editor/reader won't either.

I hoped for the best: "Wonderful story, honey. Please finish the planning so I can read it!" What I got was this: "Good start, but that Act I bombshell you think is so substantial, sorry, honey, but I just don't get it. And what do I care if that character does that?"

Like a good pitch man, I rallied and threw the stumbling block back at her: how might you fix it? She made a suggestion. One, simple suggestion. And, while a portion of what I had mapped out crumbled, a whole other section was built. It was a brilliant suggestion that will likely win over reader's minds.

The tires screeched on my current book this week, but I didn't fly off the cliff. I found a new road just up the way. I hadn't seen it before because some brush was in the way. I've cleared the brush and now I'm on a new, subtly different road. Collaboration can be fun. Sometimes, it's crucial.

What do you do to get the voices out of your head?

Harry Potter

By the time many of your read this, I will be sitting in a theater watching the last Harry Potter movie. Starting last weekend, when we noticed that ABC Family ran the first five movies in a row, my wife and I started re-watching the films to prepare ourselves for this finale. Well, we missed "Sorcerer's Stone" (AKA #1), but we've seen it enough to know it pretty well.

Experiencing these tales--cinematically, yes, I know, but I have my reasons for doing it this way--one per night, the beauty and magnitude and artistry of J. K. Rowling's stories emerge. They suck you in. This being a mystery blog, I could discuss the mysteries featured in all the films. Rowling could write a good whodunit, considering she kept the final piece of each puzzle a secret until the very end. I love music, so I could certainly write how, as the themes got darker and the characters aged, John Williams's simple, youthful theme evolved over the course of the movies. I could even write how the intricate plot, woven over seven books (eight movies) is as tight and self-contained as one can get. To quote Ron Weasley, it's brilliant.

Plot only gets you so far. It's the characters that matter. Simple, cliched statement, but it's true. If audiences don't care about Harry, Ron, Hermoinie, and the rest, no one watches. But viewers do care, and they get intoxicated in these glorious coming-of-age tales wrapped in mystery, magic, and mayhem.

I'm not ashamed to say that I cried when I read the last book in 2007. I'm pretty sure I'll be shedding a tear today, too, not just for the characters and the closing of their saga, but of a magical time in pop culture. I am a member of the Star Wars Generation and would not trade it for anything. But I have to think that the youngsters who were a member of the Harry Potter Generation, who literally grew up with Harry in a way I could not with Luke Skywalker, have a special bond with these books and movies. I wonder if, when they walk out of the theaters this weekend, they will feel grown up, that a major part of their childhood has ended. It wasn't my childhood, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

And it's one I might get to live again. You see, also this week, I went in the garage, found my copies of the Potter books, and put them on my son's bookshelf...

Movie of the Week: Really? Do you have to ask?

Friday, July 15, 2011


By Russel D McLean

I’ve been reading a lot again recently. There’s been a lot of travelling back and forth for me to various places, so I’ve been using the time to catch up on reading and get more reviews done etc. Many of the books I’ve read recently have had preposterous and possibly insane plots. The majority, to be fair of them worked. But one didn’t. And while I know with that one, my opinion is likely to be a minority (the author is hugely popular), I’ve been tryng to pinpoint why it didn’t work while the others did.

And I’ve realised it’s because I felt the whole time like that author was bending over backwards to make his plot sound plausible. He dotted every t. Crossed every i.*He explained every double cross, made sure we knew precisely why something was happening. And precisely how it was happening.

And you know what?

I got bored.

I’ve got a tract I run on occasionally where I talk about how movies and TV are actually a purer kind of storytelling than most novels. Why? Because they have little choice but to tell their tales through action and conflict because that’s all they’ve got. Can you imagine the director suddenly walking into shot to explain the precise mechanics of the gun that Arnie’s using to mow down thousands of bad guys? Talking you through the history of the weapon, the kind of guys that use it, all that shite? It would kill the action and yet so many thriller writers do this every day, and its no wonder I quit reading because, guess what, I’m interested in the goddamn story and the characters and I’m willing to trust that what you’re doing is at least plausible in the real world.
“Yeah,” says research author, “But if you don’t put that in you’ll have the gun nuts decrying your innacurate use of a weapon.”

Bollocks. Put in only the information you need and it doesn’t matter. Make it plausible, ensure your scene is possible and let the mechanics take care of themselves. Yes, it does matter if you click the safety on a model of gun that doesn’t have a safety, but that’s simply solved by taking away the action of flicking the safety not explaining to me why the damn gun doesn’t have a switch in excruciating detail.

Because in the grand scheme of things, what matters in a story are narrative and emotion. The rest is window dressing. And yes films have a huge amount going on in the background that has been researched, designed and created in perfect detail, but the fact is that all of these details are on screen for less than a second and what the viewer is really watching is the central actor and their journey.

But that’s going slightly off my original point, which was the author intervening to explain every plot point and not just those technical aspects, but the exact and detailed reasons why everything happened (and stuffing it all in close to the conclusion, too: something that really bugs me).

Trust your readers.

They’ll fill in more gaps than you think. And if you feel you have to bolster your twists with a thousand words of explanation that put every piece of the puzzle in place for the hard of thinking, maybe your twist isn’t actually working. Maybe you don’t have the confidence in it that you think you do. Maybe you haven’t laid the groundwork for it early enough in the novel if you have to explain it all in that last fifty pages. At the very least spread out those revelations. Spoon feed the reader slowly. Don't choke them with ludicrously large portions of exposition (that could easily be delivered through action rather than authorial intervention or worse authorial intervention posing as character's dialogue).

Trust your story.

Trust your characters.

Trust your readers.

Here endeth the rant.

*or whichever way round that goes

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That Damn Cork Board

By Jay Stringer

This week was going to continue my Summer Reading List series with an ebook. But a slight snafu ("slight" is such a relative term) means I'll continue that next week.

Something that every blogger writes about at some point is their habits. Usually we'll do it at the start of a project, when we're procrastinating, and pretend to be assessing our approach to find some new deep insight. It's amazing how deep we'll burrow into pointless things when we have something to be getting on with.

I have a pretty big project that I'm limbering up for. A fourth novel, and one that would be pushing myself in a new way. Rather than sit around staring at the wall, or trying to find further distractions to avoid the issue, I decided to warm up by writing a novella.

Now, I have previous in this. Folks may remember at the start of the year I talked about writing something different to let off steam. That quickly turned into another novel (a very short one) and a first draft is sat on my imaginary shelf waiting for it's revenge. So I have a previous history of productive procrastination. I'm good at trusting my brain, and following it where it wants to go.

One thing I've been itching to do is to try out some different software. And that's where the fun and the swearing started.

Writers are creatures of habit. We each have our own foibles and methods. What I realised was that my main method was a lack of method. I don't need to sit in a certain place. I'm not fussed whether it's loud or quiet. I don't have a writing desk, or a preferred time of day. My only set habit is to sit with a blank page and move the cursor around until the page is less blank.

As much as we have fun slagging of microsoft for burning the coffee and stealing the milk, it did okay with Word. It's a pretty basic piece of kit. It's a blank page with a toolbar at the top, and can be customised to make it very details or very sparse. You sit and type, and nothing else matters.

My first full length novel, Old Gold, started as a short story that kept going. It's chapters existing in many forms, in notebooks, on beer mats, as text messages saved on a phone, or as notes on the back of my hand. Ultimately it took form in Word. The second book I attempted, Runaway Town, was a more controlled affair. It started and finished with a cursor blinking on that blank page on my laptop. A few drafts, a few reboots, a few printed hard copies with doodled notes in the margins, but it started and ended on that screen.

All the while, folks on the twittertubes are talking about this app called Scrivener. It did all this amazing stuff. Like, it had a cork board, or something. My kitchen has a cork board, but I don't feel the need to tell the twittertubes about it. But folks raved, and I decided to give it a go.

So ready to write a novella, I opened Scrivener and flexed my fingers ready to move that cursor around and stop a page being blank. The following conversation may not have happened, but it also kinda might have;

Scrivener-What kind of template would you like?

Me-Eh? What? I want a blank page. See i have this thing I like to say about a blank page and-

-Sure, very funny, but what kind of project is it?

-What do you mean? It's like a writer type project. I say 'like' because I never can be sure...

-But what is it? Is it a book with parts, or with chapters? How many scenes are there in each chapter? What is your expected word count? Do you have character maps?

-But the fun of writing is getting to find out all of these things over the next few days

-Nuh uh. Fun? What do you think this is?

-Okay, you wait right there. I'll go and start this project on that blank page I have over there, the Word document. Once I got a few answers for you, we'll talk again.

-Have I shown you my cork board?

And I did just that, I went and typed into a blank page somewhere else for awhile. I didn't want to have to sit and set up the whole system before getting to write. Dammit Jim, I'm a crime writer, not a computer programmer. I also don't need to make sure that I have the right amount of pens on my desk, or that my coffee cup is sat in the right place, or that the lamp is angled just so.

In The Dark Knight the Joker states that he's a man of simple tastes. He likes dynamite, knives and gasoline. I realise now that I'm a man of simple tastes too. My pallet might not lean toward agents of fiery destruction, but I just want a blank page and as few rules as possible. Give me a word document and a blinking cursor, or a notebook and a pen.

It seemed to me in that early exchange that Scrivener and me were just not meant to be.

I mean, I guess I could see the attraction. I could see why people would want to sit down at the start of a project and set up the system, just as I can see why people like to set their desk up the right way, or have their research on index cards. But it's not the way I work.

All of the things that Scrivener was asking me were distractions from what I'd loaded up the software to achieve. If I wanted to lay out ideas on a cork board then you know what I'd do? I'd lay my ideas out on an actual cork board. Computers can do many wonderful things, but I don't see the need for that. All it's doing is taking jobs away from actual cork boards. Who thinks of them, eh?

And other things that the software does, that gets it rave reviews, is the ability to move chapters around, and to customise the running order of your story. But you know what else does that? Just about everything else. Shuffling blocks of text around, copying, pasting and flat out rewriting -these are a vital part of how I work. I don't want that made any easier. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, and I don't really think we need to reinvent the art of filling up a blank page.

So I went and wrote the first couple thousand words in Word and then copied it into Scrivener, and then all was well with the world. I'm halfway through the novella now. Halfway through my first real attempt at using Scrivener. Have my impressions changed?

I've settled into a groove with it, True. And I'm sure if I were to use it for a second project I would get through the setting up phase much quicker. I'd have less distractions from writing, and a much firmer grasp of the software.

But still, at the halfway point, I'm not sure there'll be a second time.

The project started life in Word. Once my draft in Scrivener is finished, I'll be converting it to a Word document to send it to my agent. When I get notes back, and write a second draft, guess which software that will be done with? It seems I spent half my time trying to make Scrivener act more like Word, and then the other half worrying how it will look when I transfer it from one format to the other.

There's time yet. Maybe I'll get to the end of the first draft and be converted. Maybe it'll all fall into place.

But for right now I can't escape a simple idea. I'm too busy writing to worry about apps that are meant to aid writing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pulp Life #2

John McFetridge

Recently here at DSD we published our second anthology, Collateral Damage (and chances are as soon as we can come up with another clever title with the word, “damage” in it we’ll publish another one) and all the stories had some reference to Father’s Day.

Well, all the stories except mine.

I’m going to use the lame excuse of, “too busy.” The story I did submit, Pulp Life was an adaptation of a TV script I wrote, the pilot episode for a show I was trying to sell last year that didn’t sell. But I still like the characters – the poor-selling crime fiction writer Danny and the ex-con, but still active criminal, Angelo, and I like some of the other episode ideas I had so I’m going to write them up as short stories.

Lately I’ve been spending more time working on TV writing than on novels or short stories and, of course, there are similarities and differences. One of the differences that at first seems a little stifling but turned out to be quite liberating is the structure of the TV show. We’ve been asked to use the “teaser/4 act structure.” We have a 3-5 page opening, the “find the body” scene from Law and Order right up to the clever quip from the cop and off to the credits. Then four acts of about equal length.

The other common structure for TV shows these days seems to be The Good Wife approach of the teaser and first act combined so the opening credits don’t show up till about the 10-15 minute mark.

So, I’ve been looking at TV shows and trying to break then down and analyze them by structure and plotting and that has inevitably led to breaking them down by theme and that gave me something for Danny from Pulp Life to try and explain to Angelo.

If you haven’t read episode one in Collateral Damage (and really, it’s a buck, come on, for the whole collection) the set up is pretty simple; Danny has had three crime novels published to okay reviews and very poor sales so his agent sets him up as a ghostwriter for Angelo who’s just gotten out of prison and is writing a memoir. Except Angelo isn’t finished with his life of crime and Danny is helping him more with that than with the book.

So, here’s a little piece of episode #2 of Pulp Life.

Danny got to Angelo’s apartment, the top floor of a house just off College Street, had to be sixteen hundred a month, pushed the doorbell, heard Angelo say, come on in and climbed the steps thinking how does a guy get out of jail and right away have a better place to live than I’ve been able to find in this city in ten years?

And walking into the living room and seeing Angelo on the big leather recliner looking at the 63-inch flatscreen Danny remembered, oh yeah, life o’ crime. Just like he was watching, Christopher Moltisano’s nose looking crazy big on the huge TV and Danny said, “D-Girl, a good one.”

Angelo said, yeah, “Have a seat,” and Danny did on the other recliner, and then he said, “Shit gets real.”

Angelo said, “What?”

“The first scene in this episode, in the bar in Manhatten, the D Girl, the redhead, and Christopher’s cousin, Christopher and Adrianna show up?”


“So, the guys at the next table bump into her, the redhead, almost spills her drink, Christopher looks pissed off.”

“He wants to bang her, the redhead, the whattayacallit?”

“D Girl, development, all the movie companies have them, they’re all great looking, sexy glasses.”

“The way you like ‘em.”

Danny said, yeah, and then he said, “Then it happens again, the guy bumps her again and Christopher gets up.”

“Yeah, Ade is pissed he’s going to make a scene.”

“Right,” Danny said, “but he doesn’t, even after the guy says something about why doesn’t he go back through the tunnel to Jersey.”

Angelo said, “Yeah, but Christopher just says something to the guy, quiet, just him and the guy,” Angelo nodding, knowing what that’s like.

“And it goes from just talking in a bar, joking around,” Danny said, “to being real.”

“Yeah,” Angelo said, “this shit is real.”

“Then that’s what every scene in this episode is about.”

Danny was watching the TV but Angelo was looking at him and he said, “I thought it was about Christopher fucking the very, very hot redhead.”

“Yeah, and it’s all fun and games in that scene,” Danny said, “a good scene in the hotel, she’s wearing the towel, very hot, until they remember she’s dating Christopher’s cousin and then this shit gets real.”

Angelo let out a sound, a kind of a loud huh, like he was suprised and then he said, “Yeah, that’s right.”

Danny said, yup, “That’s the theme of the episode, crossing over from shit we talk about to this shit is real.”

“The whole episode?”

“Yeah, of course. Look, you’ve got the stuf about making the mob movie, for the D Girl and Jon Favreau it’s just shit they talk about but when they want to put in the story Christopher told them about the guy taking the transvestite out to the parking lot to make out—“

“That was a funny story and that shit happens a lot more than you think.”

Danny said, I’m sure it does, “But for Christopher that’s when the shit gets real and he freaks out, telling them they can’t use the scene, people will know it came from him.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.”

“And when Carmela wants to get her neighbour to get her sister to write a letter of recommendation to get Meadow into Georgetown.”

Angelo said, “Yeah,” and Danny could see him paying attention, thinking about this stuff so he kept going, saying, “The sisters get together and the other one says she isn’t going to write a letter to get a gangster’s daughter into her school it’s just shit they talk about, joking around.”

“Yeah,” Angelo said, “but then Carm goes to see the sister.”

“Takes her some kind food she made.”

“And the sister says, you threatening me?”

“And Carmela doesn’t say, no, of course not, she looks right at her and says, what threat?”

Angelo laughed and shook his head and said, yeah, “That’s a fucken threat if I ever heard one,” and Danny didn’t say anything, thinking that Angelo knew threats, but then he said, “And so it goes from shit we talk about to something real.”

“And here,” Angelo said, pointing at the flat screen, “Christopher comes to Tony’s house for AJ’s birthday—“

“Not birthday,” Danny said, “it’s AJ’s confirmation.”

“Whatever, it’s a party.”

“Yeah, but it’s important, confirmation is a big deal, it’s also a crossing over, going from kid’s stuff to this shit being real.”

Angelo leaned way back in the recliner and looked at Danny and said, “Holy shit,” and Danny shrugged.

Then Angelo said, “And Tony gives Christopher the speech.”

“Gives him ten minutes to decide if he’s going to keep fucking around with screenplays and Hollywood—“

“Shit he talks about.”

“Or if he’s going to dedicate himself, every second of every day to this.”

Angelo laughed loud, actually slapped his fucking leg and said, “This shit is real!”

Danny waited a few second and then said, yeah, “And then there’s all the stuff about Christopher proposing to Adrianna, that shit finally getting real.”

Now Angelo was leaning back as far as he could, the recliner practically coming off the floor, and looking at Danny from as much of a distance as he could and he said, “Holy fuck, you’re right, they put all that in there on purpose, didn’t they,” and Danny said, yeah, “Of course.”

“And you saw it all?”

“It’s good writing, it’s the development of the theme, it’s why we love The Sopranos.”

“Yeah, that and the way they kill the rats and all the hot chicks get naked.”

“Yeah,” Danny said, “that, too.”

“So, do all shows have that, the whattayacallit?”

“Development of the theme? The good ones do, Mad Men, it’s why it wins all the Emmys.”

“See,” Angelo said, “again I thought it was cause of the very, very hot redhead.”

“Yeah, that’s a good thing to have, too,” Danny said and he was thinking maybe his books needed more hot redheads. Couldn’t hurt.

Then Angelo said, “Okay, so this book we’re working on, what’s the theme?”

Danny said, “What?”

Angelo was sstill looking right at him and now he just shrugged, waiting for an answer, and Danny said, well, “This book isn’t fiction, it’s a memoir, this is stuff that really happened, it’s your actual life.”

“Yeah, sure, but we’re picking what stories go in, like on The Sopranos they picked the scene in the bar and the scene with Carmela and the sister and Tony and Christopher at the end, at the confirmation like you said, not a birthday, that was for a reason.”


“So, shouldn’t we have a theme, too, wouldn’t that make it a btter book?”

“Yeah, sure, but that would be the theme of your life.”

“So, what’s that?”

Danny said, “I don’t know.”

Angelo was nodding then, thinking about it and then he said, “And it would be the same kind of shit in every scene?”

“Not the same things happening, but the same meaning.”

“Yeah, I got that.”

“Okay,” Danny said, “and yeah, each scene would develop the theme a little more, add to the whole, you know?”

“Yeah,” Angelo said, “Yeah,” and he was still nodding and looking to get lost in thought and he said, “I’m going to think on this theme stuff,” and Danny said, okay good, “You do that, but right now I got us a boat, we can go dump Marco.”

That snapped Angelo out of it and he smiled big and said, “All right, you are getting good at this.”

And they headed out of the apartment with Danny thinking that couldn’t possibly be the theme of his life, could it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation Reads

It's Dave, taking over the Tuesday posting slot because Jay has... I don't know... a job or something.

Anyway, I'm back safe and sound from Cabo, and as I like to do, I'll recap my vacation reads.

AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman: Simply one of the best books I've ever read. Gaiman mixes crime, fantasy, romance and horror together for a fantastic book about immigrants bringing their gods to America. There's more to it than that, but you have to read it for yourself if you haven't already. It's funny, charming, full of emotion. Just a well done modern classic.

GAME OF THRONES by George RR Martin: I gave up on the TV show two episodes in and wanted nothing to do with the novel. But a friend of mine let me borrow it and insisted I'd love it. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. There are a ton of characters, and it's hard to keep track of them all. The writing, however, is smooth and compelling. When I was done, I wish I had brought the second novel with me as well. I'll be starting that soon.

CARTE BLANCHE by Jeffery Deaver: The newest Bond novel. I don't have much to say about it. It's an entertaining novel in it's own right. I've read all the Fleming novels and seen the movies multiple times. This felt like Deaver went out of his way to modernize the Fleming Bond, but it was missing something for me. I loved the twists and turns and the action, however. Finished it in a day.

Also started GOOD OMENS, but am not anywhere deep enough to give my thoughts yet.

I also scanned what others around the pool were reading. When we were on our honeymoon last year, I noticed a ton of "THE GIRL WITH THE---" series. This year, there didn't seem to be one popular book. A lot of airport paperbacks, and some non fiction.

Not many e-readers around either, which I found surprising.

Is there a BIG BOOK out this summer?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Fine Line Between Heeding Wisdom & Selling Out Creatively

You have a vision for your story. It's been building to a steady boil in your mind for years. You feel you know where you want this to go, and you work at it. A little here, a little there.

Gradually, the story takes shape on the page, and you feel you've done your job. It's the story you set out to tell.

And then you send it to your beta reader or editor or agent. And the response is not overwhelming praise for your brilliance.

No. Instead, the response is something more along the lines of, "Some potential here, but we need to find the story."

Proposals include massive scene cuts, a shift in focus to a different main character.

Do you: a) stand your ground and refuse to edit your story, or b) make the changes and feel like a sell-out?

The other night, watching America's Got Talent, I watched someone face this dilemma on TV, with music. The singer in question had wowed the judges and audience with her audition.

She made it through to Vegas, where she decided she would perform an original song.

The judges didn't think that was a good idea, and when she blew it, they gave her a second chance. To leave the stage, take a few hours and prepare a cover of a popular song they'd know. In the discussion between the judges, Howie said something about how this wasn't a writing competition.

I found myself wondering about that. Isn't it a TALENT competition? Isn't writing a talent? I mean, if all you can do is cover other people's material, you'll never actually be a star yourself.

That's one side of the coin. The other is that it would be unappealing to spend a season watching singer after singer perform original songs you didn't know. I mean, when I watch The Voice, I have to admit that I don't know all the songs being covered all the time. And thank God for Adam Levine, who actually admitted he didn't know all the songs being covered by contestants, either. He and I can at least agree that you can't solely base judging the contestants on comparing them to the original artists.

Howie was right for that point in the competition. The judges gave Dani a second chance, and Dani had to decide if she would stand her ground on her principles.

Or if she'd take the second chance.

She did. And the end result was that she made it through to Hollywood, while the other female singers in her category were both sent home.

Now, some might say that's unfair, and that she shouldn't have had a second chance, or that she had an unfair advantage over the other contestants. But I think a big part of what counted for her was her professionalism, and her willingness to take direction.

We artists have to know our place. Sometimes, it's appropriate for us to stand our ground.

And sometimes we have to find Option C) The ability to see your own story on another level and make changes to the work that meet your needs artistically as well as an editor or publisher's needs commercially.

I went through this writing HARVEST OF RUINS. From the inception of the story, it centered on a young girl, and how things in her life that happened shaped her, and ultimately tore her apart.

As the story evolved through rewrites and revisions, and massive cuts in content and the introduction of new scenes, the book no longer centered on Vinny Shepherd. Instead, Hunter McKenna emerged as the central character.

And as more layers were stripped away, the book no longer centered on an investigation and the outcome. Instead, it put Hunter's future in the balance, with the detective sergeant facing criminal charges in court as her personal and professional lives are ripped apart one witness at a time.

The end result is a streamlined, 65,000 word story about a detective sergeant who's on trial for negligent homicide, whose partner takes a leap of faith as he tries to uncover the truth about the investigation they were conducting that led to tragedy, and whether the answers he finds will be enough to sway the jury.

Beneath the surface, HARVEST tells several other stories without losing the threads. It's about how parents shape their children, how susceptible teenagers are to the influence of their peers, how we all bear some responsibility for the choices we make and how those choices affect others, and where to draw the line between personal responsibility and criminal responsibility.

And ultimately, it's a story about forgiveness. Of others. And of ourselves.

Readers have a unique opportunity. Anyone who emails proof of purchase of HARVEST OF RUINS to snubnosepress at gmail dot com by September 1, 2011 will be sent a free copy of the prior version of the book, titled BELOW THE LIGHT, including an afterward by the author about how the book was ultimately revised, and why. You can block out your address and phone number from the purchase receipt. :) Your information will not be shared or disclosed with anyone. Copies of BELOW THE LIGHT will be available early August.

Purchase HARVEST OF RUINS from

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's summer

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Summer means time for barbeques and fun in the sun. It’s the time of year for pool parties and weddings and all sorts of frolicking. Of course, if you’re like me, you find yourself having to work hard to sit down at the computer, ignore the sunshine and get yourself writing.

However, despite the lure of fun in the sun, I admit that this is my favorite time of year to write and set goals. And there’s a reason why. While the publishing industry gets work done in the summer, it is at a much slower pace. Sure, there are still deals being made. James Patterson just sold the next bazillon books for a bazillion more dollars. But really, the pace of the sales and the pace of the business slows down a great deal. Editors take vacations. Editorial boards don’t always have everyone present to have an acquisitions meeting. Agents take vacations. They close off to submissions in order to catch up on their work loads and start fresh in the fall. The pace of publishing slows down as summer heats up. Once Labor Day hits, the wheels will begin to spin at a faster (well, faster for publishing) pace.

Which means this is a great time to forget about the business of writing and just write.

So here’s the deal. I want you all to list your writing goals below in the comments. Do you have a book you are trying to finish? Are you going to write 100 words a day? Do you need to create a query letter to wow those agents and editors when they come back from vacation? What are the writing goals you want to hit before September smacks you in the face? List them here and when Labor Day arrives, I’ll check back in and see how everyone did with their goals. If you hit them, I’ll put your name in the hat to win a really cool prize. What is that prize you ask? I haven’t the slightest idea. Could be gift certificate to Barnes and Nobel or another cool bookstore. Could be a copy of SKATING OVER THE LINE – if I get my author copies in time. Could be a rubber chicken. The point isn’t the prize (although I promise it’ll be something fun). The point is that this is the time to set your goal and get to work knowing that everyone else signing up for the challenge is right there with you.

So –who’s with me?