Baiting the hook

450px-Flyfishing wikipedia dot com

Flyfishing on river Sava Bohinjka, Slovenia photo by Ziga (PD)

You wrote the book. Your friends read it–you hope. At least they said they did, and they still like you. They tell you it’s a good book. They think it’s publishable, so you decide to go indie and self pub it. You spend the next year getting it edited and having a flashy cover designed. You even have a launch date picked out and feel reasonably sure you can get the book through the pipeline at CreateSpace by that date.

Now you are at the point where you must come up with some sort of a blurb.

This is where it gets fun.

Not.

There are many wonderful blurb-writing gurus out there on the internet, offering advice to those intrepid indies who would write that catchy morsel of blurbiness:

www.blurb.com

Marilyn Byerly 

Digital Book World

The Creative Penn

Yes, there are many websites offering us insight, and they all have great advice for us.  But putting that plethora of knowledge to practice is a bit daunting. 

They each approach it differently but when you distill it into a simple, linear form, it all boils down to variations on these concepts (in no particular order) for you to have in your head before you begin:

  • Use words that clearly evoke the genre
  • Keep it short– 100 to 300 words
  • Get the protagonist’s name out there early
  • Introduce the core conflict
  • Make it intriguing, mysterious–can this conflict be resolved?
  • Use a little hyperbole–stunning, denouement, and so on

The Internet Gurus also offer us this advice:

  • Don’t say what a great book it is
  • Don’t give spoilers
  • Don’t summarize the book (or even the first chapter)
  • Don’t be long-winded or wordy
  • Don’t say what a great writer you are
Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor

Example of what NOT to put on back of book in lieu of proper blurb.

I would also offer this advice: keep it to less than 150 words and don’t skip writing the blurb. It has become popular for the Big 5 publishers to skip writing a blurb and just go with praises for the author’s other works, expecting that their name and fame will sell the book. This tells me that blurb writing is hard and even the the big guys don’t like it. Most big publishers, like Penguin, will have a marketing department.  Penguin puts blurbs on their books, so why the others can’t come up with a proper blurb is a mystery to me.

That might work for Stephen King or L.E. Modesitt Jr., but it won’t work for an unknown indie who is trying to build a reputation and a fan base.

Readers want to know what they are buying, and if they have no idea who you are, they don’t care what your friends think about your work. They aren’t going to touch it.

The blurb is a teaser.  It’s one part of a three-part lure, the only purpose of which is to entice a customer to buy your book.

Remember, you are fishing for readers and that blurb is part of the triangular bait:

  1. Part one is the flashy cover–even for ebooks that cover gets them to stop and look a bit closer, and
  2. the blurb is part two–the part that hooks them and gets them to crack it open.
  3. Part three of this lure is the words they read once they open the bookthat is when you land your fish, whether by ebook or by paperbook.

But until they have read your blurb, they won’t open the book, so they won’t know what wonder awaits them.

I am currently working on a blurb for a stand-alone book based in the world of Neveyah, the world the Tower of Bones Series is set in.  Where the Tower of Bones series can be rather dark, Mountains of the Moon has many comic elements.

Right now, this is my blurb. My head is numb, so I’m letting it sit for another week or so then I will revisit it and have my homies at Myrddin Publishing go over it one more time:

MOTM MAPHidden away in the Mountains of the Moon, the ruins of an immense castle harbor a dark secret: entire families have vanished from the valleys in the shadow of the mountains, leaving no trace. The elderly Baron Hemsteck hasn’t been seen for two seasons.

Four mages are sent to investigate. Wynn Farmer and his companions embark on a trek to learn the truth. Along their route, they must battle against the strange beasts controlled by a rogue mage and ultimately face an evil they never thought possible.

Danger, dark magic, and mystery await those who seek the truth in the Mountains of the Moon. The Gods are at war, and Neveyah is the battlefield.

We kept it down to 114 words, and managed to get the World of Neveyah series tag-line in on the end of it.

Sigh. I admit I am not good at writing blurbs for my own books, but I do have a large posse of author-friends who are more than willing to help me hone that blurb. When the back cover is finished, I will have a concise blurb that will hopefully entice readers to read my book.

Finally, at the end of June,  I will reveal the cover.  I am pretty excited about this new book. I can hardly wait!

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Girls Can’t be Knights, Lee French cover reveal and interview

My good friend and fellow member of Myrddin Publishing Group, Lee French, has a new book coming out soon. The cover is gorgeous, in my opinion. I also love the title, Girls Can’t Be Knights.  This book is a young adult fantasy novel, championing Girl Power while exploring the world of a secret organization, the Spirit Knights. I can totally get behind that!

Set in Portland Oregon, Girls Can’t Be Knights is another in the long line of French’s impressive career, which includes nine books, one trilogy, one epic fantasy series and a short story. Her works are popular among fantasy and paranormal readers, with many re-reading books several times after purchase.

Lee has consented to answer a few questions for us:

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

Lee French's First Book

Lee French’s First Book

LF: I was a late reader, not really grasping the whole thing until 2nd grade. Once I did, I clung to books with both hands and a glare for anyone who dared to attempt prying one away. At that time, my school district ran an annual book fair, for which they encouraged students of all ages to submit “books” for “judging.” With my mom’s help, I self-published an epic six page volume about The Mean Old Man’s Backyard, which is to say that I cut all the paper, wrote all the words, drew all the pictures, and let her glue the fabric to the cardboard for the cover.

From that point on, I considered myself a “writer,” though I considered it a hobby for a long time.

CJJ: That is a cute book! Tell us about your most recent book. How did you come to write this novel?

LF:  Girls Can’t be Knights started as all my books do—with an idea that sounds brilliant but is ultimately kinda dumb. I wrote it for NaNoWriMo last year, which means it had curious ideas and plot points that had to be rewritten quite a bit. The primary idea comes from Les Miserables, specifically the idea of two men, eash the hero of his own story, striving against each other. The two main characters were Valjean and Javert, and elements of that remain. What happened is that Claire stepped in and demanded agency. The core ideas had to mutate to accommodate her.

CJJ: How does Girls Can’t be Knights differ from your other two series of books?

LF: This is my first foray into YA. The Maze Beset trilogy is similar to urban fantasy, though being about people with superpowers who got them through a genetic thingy, it’s technically science fiction. Like that trilogy, The Greatest Sin is generally suitable for teen readers, but wasn’t written with them in mind.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

LF:  When I first took the plunge into writing novel length work, I winged it. A lot. October 29, 2008, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time and had just a basic idea of where I’d go. I finished, but it was awful. The next year, I took outlining a little too far. Since then, I’ve found a happy medium that works for me, where I go back and forth between winging it and outlining. The first chapter of a book is usually off the cuff, then I outline a few chapters, then I work up to the outline and wing a bit, then go back to the outlining. It works for me, which is the most important part of any Process.

CJJ: What genre would you consider this book, and how does it differ from others of its genre?

LF: Girls Can’t Be Knights is Young Adult Urban Paranormal/Fantasy Adventure. This book is all about family issues. Justin has a happy traditional family, but he’s the only one, and he came to it by way of domestic abuse between his own parents. This story shows a number of characters in various stages of dealing with broken homes and lost family members, and for various reasons. I’m really looking forward to pursuing the theme further in the second book, which is untitled as yet and will probably be out in 2016.

CJJ: What sort of books do you read for pleasure?

LF: As a book blogger, I don’t really read for pleasure in the strictest sense anymore. My reading material is almost exclusively indies, because that’s who needs book reviews. I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of excellent indie authors, though, and their writing is mostly what I read, ensuring that steampunk, traditional fantasy, the occasional bit of space sci-fi, and some guilty pleasure smut fills my reading time slots.

CJJ: When you are not writing, what do you do for fun?

LF: Though writing is, admittedly, the most fun thing I do, I also enjoy baking, gardening, and cycling. Every year, I participate in Ragbrai, which is a lunatic pedal-powered festival across Iowa that attracts about 20,000 other cyclists for long days of torturous riding in abysmal heat punctuated by camping every night. It’s awesome.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

LF: At first, I chose it because the process of querying an agent or publisher made me freeze in panic. It also made my hideously impatient side cringe at the expectation of waiting months to get rejected. After pursuing it for almost two years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d probably be unhappy with a traditional publisher. I’m too impatient, I have too much need for control over the aspects, and I actually *gasp* enjoy formatting my own books. If someone took one of my books and gave me a cover that I didn’t like without letting me at least make suggestions, I’d probably punch them in the face.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

LF: Read everything you can about how it works and don’t discount one or the other because you’ve “heard” x or y thing. Independent publishing is now a major force in the market, but traditional publishing isn’t going to roll over and die. There are benefits and detriments to both paths, and every author has to decide what’s right for them. Investigate the market to discover who your audience is and where and how they shop. Get out and meet other authors in your area. Pay attention to the books you come across and how you came across them. All the information you need to make the best choice for you is out there.

CJJ: I always enjoy your POV, especially on the way the publishing industry works, and what indies need to take note of. And now, the blurb, and the the cover reveal for Lee’s new book:

>>><<<

GIRLS CAN’T BE KNIGHTS

by Lee French

release date June 12, 2015

Girls Can't Be Knights KINDLEPortland has a ghost problem.

Sixteen-year-old Claire wants her father back. His death left her only memories and an empty locket. After six difficult years in foster care, her vocabulary no longer includes “hope” and “trust”.

Everything changes when Justin rides his magical horse into her path and takes her under his wing. Like the rest of the elite men who serve as Spirit Knights, he hunts restless ghosts that devour the living.

When an evil spirit threatens Claire’s life, she’ll need Justin’s help to survive. And how could she bear the Knights’ mark on her soul? Everybody knows Girls Can’t Be Knights.

>>><<<

Lee French PhotoLee French lives in Olympia, WA, and is the author of several books, most notably the Maze Beset Trilogy, The Greatest Sin series (co-authored with Erik Kort), and assorted tales in her fantasy setting, Ilauris. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.


She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association and the Olympia Writer’s Coop, as well as serving as the co-Municipal Liaison for the NaNoWriMo Olympia Region.

 

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Book signing events, the art of Paul Cornoyer, and inspiration

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

The signing at Forever Knight Games in Olympia went well. I met several wonderful authors I hadn’t had a chance to meet in person: Sechin Tower, Jolene Loraine, Rachel E. Robinson (Maquel A. Jacob), and Erik Kort. We were joined my my good friends, authors Lee French, Lindsay Schopfer, and Jeffrey Cook. These wonderful people write great books, and I was privileged to be counted among them!

We had a great time, and it was a good first event at that venue. I want to thank all my friends for coming out and meeting my favorite local authors. Tower of Bones was my big seller–which makes me happy.

paul cornoyer rainy day in madison square

Rainy Day in Madison Square, Paul Cornoyer

But then, after the big party was over (and it was a party–believe me) I had to drag myself back to reality. As I said the other day, sometimes my head isn’t in the right place for reading. At the event this last weekend, a friend asked me how that inability to read without the editor in my head making noise affects my ability to write. I had to answer that it does affect it to a certain extent.

The reason being in an editing frame of mind affects my writing is that while I am creative, it is like my creativity has to go through a maze to get to the ends of my fingers and into written form.

It’s a sloooooow process.

Paul Cornoyer Winter twilight along Central Park

Winter Twilight Along Central Park, Paul Cornoyer

I do a lot of things to jumpstart that creativity. I  clean things I don’t really care about under normal circumstances.  Something about a really orderly environment gets my mind relaxed enough to work properly.

Sometimes I write flash-fiction, 100 to 1000 word short stories.

I find great art that really makes my mind click–Wikimedia Commons is awesome for that.  Today I came across a download of a picture that, two years ago, sparked a 250 word flash-fiction. That  image, which I will get to later, was painted around the year 1910 by an American artist, Paul Cornoyer.

Paul Cornoyer -Gloucester

Glouster, Paul Cornoyer

His work is quite intriguing, and much of is done in an impressionistic style.

According to the Fount of all Knowledge, Wikipedia, Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement. Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

The thing about the impressionists that so inspires my writing is that they don’t give you all the details–they give you what they saw including the mood of the piece.

Paul_Cornoyer_-_The_Plaza_After_Rain

The Plaza After Rain, Paul Cornoyer

In so many ways, good literature is like good art–all the important things are there, everything the eye needs to have a perfect vision of the mood, the setting, and characters–everything is there within the piece, but with economy. When you limit yourself to expressing the complete idea of the story in less than 300 words, you discover just how well (or how badly you can write.)

This last picture is the piece that inspired one of my better, short pieces of Flash Fiction, which will be featured later this month on Edgewise Words Inn. I will post links to that here when it goes up

It is called The Plaza After Rain. I love it because, even though it depicts New York City in a different time, it shows the way rain is in the springtime. The sky is dark, but the trees are just beginning to leaf out. The streets are wet with rain, but a hint of blue is showing through the dark sky. When you see this painting, you feel like sunshine could happen any minute.

That is what we try to convey in flash fiction, and that is why it’s so important to practice writing in short, complete bursts. You never know when one will become a longer tale, so you will have a backlog of  fodder to fuel your creativity when you need a good story idea. Being able to create an entire story in 3 paragraphs is an art. Sometimes I can do well at that, and sometimes not so much.

 

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Reading for pleasure vs reading for editing

George R.R.Martin formatting issue 1 via book blog page views, margaret ebyI haven’t been able to read as much lately as I normally do–my editing and writing time has seriously cut into my reading time. In fact, I haven’t written a book review in over a month. I do miss the long hours I used to spend reading, but lately I am lucky to read two or three pages before fall asleep. Thus I have been reading poetry and short fiction.

This is not because the books I intend to read are boring–they aren’t! It’s just that when I am editing for a client, I can’t disengage my mind from that mindset. This means I have a terrible time reading for pleasure. When I am in editing mode I notice things a casual reader might not, and I can’t just enjoy the book. And I am not talking indies here–I am talking books published by the Big 5 traditional publishers.

Sometimes the errors and flaws are hilarious though.

Marked_Wicked_bibleThe thing is, errors do creep into even the most carefully examined texts and manuscripts. Usually, no one dies over it, however, in the case of the infamous Wicked Bible, the publishers paid a hefty price: Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London,  were called to the Star Chamber and fined £300 (£43,586 as of 2015) and deprived of their printing license. The Star Chamber, which held court from the late 15th century to the mid-17th century,  was a branch of the English court of law and was established to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against socially and politically prominent people so powerful that ordinary courts would likely hesitate to convict them of their crimes.

SpelMistk14 Image credit- Jazarah! Hubspot_com 14 worst marketing errorsTypos and editing mistakes are pretty much taken for granted when left in mass-market paperbacks by the Big 5 Publishers, but woe to the indie who neglects to notice a repeated ‘and’ or any other editing error.

Indies are held to a far more rigid code by most readers than the traditional publishers are because the internet is rife with disparaging rhetoric pointing the finger at indies. And while the Big 5 traditional publishers are just as guilty of rushing-to-publish crap, the truth is, many new self-published authors haven’t yet gotten the hang of the publishing business, and often their books are rife with things they will later wish they hadn’t rushed-to-publish.

enhanced-buzz-20953-1398618489-5 courtesy reddit dot comHaving learned my own lessons the hard way, besides working closely with a professional editor, I now have a reliable group of friends who comb my completed manuscripts for errors and gross cut-and-paste errors, and we can only hope we have caught them all. When you are an indie, it takes a village to help you get your book fit for the public to read.

Anyway–my editor’s hat is firmly on my head these days, and that means I can’t enjoy casual reading for a while more. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my clients’ books–I love them. I’ve made it clear that I only accept work I feel a strong attachment to, but editing is a different mindset from casual reading, and I can’t just fall out of it at the end of the day. Yes, this greatly slows my own writing, because I am stupidly self-editing instead of just letting the words flow. When I am editing I am looking for all varieties of mistakes–not just structural, grammatical, and obvious punctuation errors. I am also looking for things that will interfere with formatting the final ms for upload to Kindle or Smashwords and I hope I find them all for my client, but it makes writing my own work difficult.

George R.R.Martin bormatting issue 4 via book blog page views, margaret ebyAs an editor I do my best. But, nothing is ever sure, and I won’t see the ms after I send her the final suggested corrections. Mistakes can be made right up to the last minute while she is making those adjustments, so someone else will have to proof-read her work. The indie author has the responsibility for the final eye on his/her work. So when my client has finished her revisions, she will have her posse check the ms over for the slings and arrows of publishing fate.

I will be finished with my current editing project soon, and I plan to take a break from editing for a short while, when that happens. Then I will let my mindset slide back into the joy-of-reading mode.

I really do love to read–getting lost in a great book is the best thing I can think of, as comforting as a cute kitty purring, or my sister’s homemade chocolate truffles. I look forward to resting my editorial mind and over-indulging in the work of my many favorite authors.

 

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I #amwriting

Map of Neveyah, color copyWriting is going well. I’m fleshing out the third book in the Tower of Bones series. The prequel to the Tower of Bones series, a stand-alone novel, Mountains of the Moon,  is in the final stages of production and will be published in July. I’ve also been working on some short stories in the Billy’s Revenge series, follow-ups for Huw the Bard. The re-write of The Last Good Knight went well, and the rough draft is now resting on the back-burner while I finish up the third book in Edwin Farmer’s story,Valley of Sorrows. VOS is nearly complete, and will be my main area of focus for the next three months.

Valley of Mal Evol B&WValley of Sorrows picks up where Forbidden Road left off, and is a rather dark book, although there are some moments of hilarity. We will see a great deal more of Stefyn D’Mal, and find out what sort of person Lourdan is. Valley of Sorrows will finally take Edwin home, but what waits for him when he arrives back in Aeoven? We should know by next spring!

Set concurrently with Forbidden Road is John Farmer’s story, The Wayward Son. That book deals with the issues of PTSD, survivor guilt, and what happens to the men and women who return from the war. Some wounds are not visible from the outside, and John Farmer’s story takes us deep into that aspect of a soldier’s life.

One reason writing has been so slow on Valley of Sorrows was that I had to write John’s story, so the book would make sense–so I have been writing two books.  I’ve always known John’s background, but his back-story has always remained just that–reams of untold back-story.

John, Garran, and Halee have some serious issues to overcome stemming from a series of traumatic incidents that occurred during the last days of the war in Mal Evol. Twenty five years have passed, but for each one of the three who were once so close, some scars have never healed, and John’s return to Neveyah reopens the wounds. While those problems are hinted at, they’re not discussed in Forbidden Road. In order for John and Garran to be at Braden, waiting for Edwin and ready to join the quest, I had to resolve some of those long-festering issues.

MOTM MAPAlso, several things occurred in Aeoven during Edwin’s absence, things that set him on a different course. These things are explored in the course of John’s story, and that book, The Wayward Son, will be published right around the same time as Valley of Sorrows.

During the re-editing of Tower of Bones I took the liberty of changing one character’s name. She is briefly mentioned in that book, but her part really very minor. However, she assumes a somewhat larger role in Forbidden Road, which caused some problems, as her name was only one letter off from another female character’s name, and they rhymed.

At the time I first published Forbidden Road, I was concerned about the names being so similar, but I didn’t know what to do about it. But it occurred to me that since I am an indie, I can do any thing I want, so I went ahead and changed the abbess’s name to Halee. The simple expedient of changing her name from Marta to Halee ensures she doesn’t rhyme with Marya.

So my writing life has been quite full–when I run out of ideas on one story I pull out another and work on it until it’s time to move on to a different one. My books have new interiors, new maps, and new covers. They are back on the shelves for sale, and the sequels and prequels are moving along just fine.  My writing life is good!

Twer of Bones Postcard Front

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Elements of the Story: Allegory

allegory

Proper use of the allegory is an integral tool in the author’s toolbox. An allegory is a metaphor, but it is not merely symbolism, although it is definitely symbolic. Authors, painters, and musicians can convey hidden meanings and discuss complex moral issues through the device of allegory.

Literary Devices.net describes  Edmund Spenser’s “Faerie Queen,” a moral and religious allegory, in this way:

RAK9388 Faun and the Fairies, c.1834 by Maclise, Daniel

Faun and the Fairies, c.1834 by Daniel Maclise

“The good characters of book stand for the various virtues, while the bad characters represent vices. “The Red-Cross Knight” represents holiness while “Lady Una” represents truth, wisdom and goodness. Her parents symbolize the human race. The “Dragon” which has imprisoned them stands for evil. The mission of holiness is to help the truth, fight evil, and thus regain its rightful place in the hearts of human beings. “The Red-Cross Knight” in this poem also represents the reformed church of England fighting against the “Dragon” which stands for the Papacy or the Catholic Church.”

The Faerie Queene is an allegorical romance, and contains several levels of allegory, including praise for Queen Elizabeth I, who was Spenser’s great patron.

Elizabeth-I-Allegorical- painting  c.1610  by Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Allegory of Queen Elizabeth (c. 1610), with Father Time at her right and Death looking over her left shoulder. Two cherubs are removing the weighty crown from her tired head. Artist unknown.

Allegory is not always something that works well if you desire commercial success with your novels. This is because allegory is the sort of thing that only becomes apparent on further contemplation by the reader–which many casual readers don’t usually want to do and modern action-based literature does not encourage. A great many of today’s readers are action-junkies, so if you choose to present a moral concept through the use of allegory, you must take a page from Stephen King‘s work and  wrap it up in such a way that the average reader will enjoy it for the entertainment value, while the discerning reader will look deeper and find more layers to enjoy within your work.

ClassroomSynonym.com says: “At the foundation of a well-constructed allegory are carefully crafted parallels between two separate issues. To properly analyze an allegory it’s important to identify these parallels and explain why the parallels are such strong indicators that an allegory exists. Even though “The Crucible” is literally about a witch hunt, the unfair tactics for deciding who is a witch and who isn’t parallel the claims made during the McCarthy Era with little justification other than rumor and hearsay that certain people were communists. The unfair method of designation is the parallel.”

Crafting an allegorical narrative requires planning and intention. Clarity of thought on your part is absolutely crucial if your deeper story is to become clear to the reader. I suggest you outline so that the beginning, middle and end are clear before you begin.

An effective allegory narrative will have a clear moral or lesson that will become apparent at the end of the essay. Even if it is not stated directly the message will be implicit in the final resolution. You want to be sure that the ending reflects your final thought on the subject.

  1. Use Symbolism

The allegory is the symbol of your idea. This means your narrative or poem conceals the true theme you’re symbolizing. In other words, you are writing a cover story that will contain the primary one.

  1. Planning Your Characters Is Essential

Each character in an allegory represents an underlying element to your theme. Because the reader is expected to interpret the whole story and find what it means, no character can be introduced that does not directly pertain to and represent part of the underlying story. The moment you introduce a random character into it, your allegory devolves into chaos and your deeper meaning is lost.

  1. Planning Your Action is Essential

The arc of the scene becomes tricky. Every action is crucial–action must show something that pertains to the underlying theme, not just push the overlying story forward.

  1. Insert Hints Regarding the Deeper Meaning Into The Overlying Story

What that means is, you’ll be expected to leave evidence in your story for the discerning reader to grasp. Some authors have used irony, and sarcasm.  Others use large metaphors. No matter what you choose, subtle clues will guide the reader to the deeper story, and you want them to catch that underlying meaning, or you wouldn’t have written it. You don’t have to explain it baldly—readers love figuring out puzzles. But you do have to make sure a trail of breadcrumbs is there for your reader to follow.

E-how gives us this perfect, concise example: “For instance, if you want to show the damage done to the environment by humans, then the character symbolizing “everyman” could end up harming or hurting the character symbolic of the environment.”

animal farm george orwellI love allegories, and I have written a great deal of poetry that is allegorical.

I have read The Faerie Queene and The Crucible, and was challenged by both, for different reasons. One reason for that challenge in The Faerie Queen is that Spenser used many words that were considered archaic even in Elizabethan times, so you have to interpret it as you go.

Some other famous allegorical novels I have read are:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

An allegorical and dystopian novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945. According to the author himself, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalin era in the Soviet Union.

The Trial by Franz Kafka  Kafka’s descriptions of law and legality are considered allegories for things other than law, but it does clearly show how law and legality sometimes operate paradoxically.

Thinner by Richard Bachman (Stephen King writing under a pen name) Horror: An allegory about what lies beyond the limits of prosperous American complacency and where the responsibilities of human actions ultimately lie.

I will just say that allegorical novels are not written to be comfortable, cozy reads. They can be quite disturbing and thought provoking, as both Animal Farm and Thinner were to me. They were extremely disturbing, if you want the truth, but that was what makes them great literature. I was in the mood for a meatier read, and they took me out of my comfort zone, showing me disturbing aspects of the world I live in. These were things I could not change on a global level, but which I could possibly change within in my own sphere, thus my horizons were widened by reading them.

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My Writing Life: David P. Cantrell

My Writing LifeToday indie author and blogger, David P. Cantrell, has consented to answer a few questions for us. Dave is a fellow staff-member at Edgewise Words Inn, a reader-oriented blog where Dave Cantrell, Lee French, and I post a variety of short articles, human interest stories, some short stories, memes, and generally have a great time just writing. At the end of this post, I will be reblogging Dave’s most recent post on Edgewise Words Inn, a little thing called “Ten Things I’ve learned as a Quadriplegic.” I think you’ll find that post as interesting and inspiring as I did.

But first, my virtual interview with Dave:

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:
DPC: I grew up in Southern California after immigrating from Indiana at age five. I was a mediocre student in grade school, sports were much more interesting, but sadly, I was a mediocre athlete too. I wasn’t horrible at either of them, mind you—I got by.

I’ve often wondered where I’d be today if my family hadn’t moved to a new school district. I had completed one semester of eighth grade before the summer of the move. The new district couldn’t accommodate split semesters and required me to restart the grade. I became very bored in math and petitioned to join an experimental math class (eighth grade algebra—it sounds quaint now.)

The math teacher let me in for a semester with the proviso that I earn a Cee or better, otherwise it was back to regular math. I struggled, but the teacher worked with me, and I didn’t want to be put back. I think she took pity on me when she wrote a Cee on my report card. Whether she did or not, I’ll never know, but that Cee changed my life. Ultimately, I got a Bee in the subject, and took Geometry during the summer following middle school—No I wasn’t that nerdy, my girlfriend wanted company. I started high school taking a junior level math class.

I learned to enjoy reading in eighth grade. It’s difficult to remember which book lit the flame, but I think it was I Robot by Isaac Asimov. At any rate, reading eventually ignited the writing flame.

CJJ: You are right–the love of reading is the jumping-off-point to attempting to write. I happen to know what you are working on, but my readers don’t, so let’s talk about your current work in progress. 

Disturbance - the VettingDPC: My one and only book is a work in progress. I published part one, Disturbance: The Vetting, in July 2014 and took it off the market in January 2015. The initial publishing was a mistake, but I’m glad I made it. I’ve learned a good deal about the process of writing, formatting and editing because of the mistake. I’ve met wonderful, supportive authors from around the globe as a result of it too.

CJJ: How did you come to write this novel?
DPC: Well-meaning idiots made me do it. That’s mean, but true in a sense. I started posting short “Slice-of-Life” stories on Facebook, items like “The Chicken Parmesan Saga.” I was encouraged to create a blog and gave it a go. I beta read Sci-Fi novels for a talented author, Jasper T. Scott. His comments gave me the idea that I might be able to write. I jumped into the deep-end.

CJJ: I’m mostly an outliner, myself. Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?
DPC: Please define creative process. I tried to outline, but got hung-up on the order of things. What comes first, character or story? Can they exist independently? I’m a wing-it writer that prays for an outline to magically appear, and in it does sometimes.

CJJ: This is the question I hate to be asked, but here I am asking you: how does your work differ from others of its genre?
DPC: I want to write stories that make the reader think or learn something new. I love action oriented stories as much as the next person, but I want to write page turner’s that make the reader stop and think about what they’ve just read every once in a while. I get frustrated by the mantra to keep the story moving forward, if the words don’t keep it moving they are useless, not necessary.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?
DPC: I write for the joy of research (I love an excuse to learn new things) and the hope to touch a stranger with my words.  Touching strangers is why I smile and say hello to them as they walk their dog down my block. Their response makes me feel good.

I recall a day my wife asked me to pick up something from our local grocer on my way home from work. It must have been summer because daylight abounded. I was a middle aged over-weight man walking across a parking lot and saw a stunning mid-twenties women dressed to the nines walking to her own car with a bottle of wine.  I worried if I said anything she’d think I was perverted. As I passed her we made brief eye contact and I said, “You look beautiful the evening.”  The smile on her face brings tears to my eyes as I write this.

CJJ: I like that little vignette you just painted for us, and feel somewhat the same myself when it comes to making people smile. So, when it comes to publishing, I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.
DPC: Is there a better way for an unknown to get their work before a world audience? I don’t care if I make a lot of money selling books. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do it, but it isn’t why I’m writing. I want to touch others, and honestly, I want the ego stroke that comes with it.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?
DPC: If money is your goal, try the traditional path. No one can promise better odds of making money on that path, but if you don’t give it a go you’ll always think you should have.

Dave Cantrell Author pictureDavid P. Cantrell lives with his wife of nearly four decades in the beautiful coastal community of Arroyo Grande< California. He is a retired CPA, enthusiastic (but not particularly good) home cook and avid reader. He enjoys history, historical novels, science fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, crime, thrillers, contemporary fiction and even a western now and again.

Before a spinal cord injury in 2009, he spent his creative efforts writing IRS defenses for his clients and on woodworking; building a variety of items, from chessboards to a Murphy Bed. The spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the neck down, but with the help and love of his wife and caring therapists, he was able to recover significant function. Woodworking was behind him, and he accepted that.

Thank you Dave—you are a joy to know and to have as a friend, and you are an integral part of my personal writing life.

And now, “Ten Things I’ve learned as a Quadriplegic” By David P. Cantrell

(Reblogged from Edgewise Words Inn)

Being a quadriplegic (aka tetraplegic) is a learning opportunity. I found my opportunity when a confluence of events left me prostrate. Actually, I don’t remember being on the floor, I learned it later from my wife. She also told me I repeatedly asked if I’d had a heart attack while in the local ER. I don’t remember that either, but I’m not surprised. After all, I was an overweight, hypertensive, diabetic, chain-smoking CPA working on a deadline.

The first thing I clearly remember is the voice of an EMT talking to his ambulance driver as we arrived at a bigger hospital. I wasn’t sure why I was in the ambulance, but I knew something very strange was happening. I learned a good deal about myself over the following months.

  1. Paralyzed means: Crap, I can’t move and I don’t mean immobile.
    There’s a big difference between the two. Immobile means I can’t move right now because I’m drugged, strapped down or really-really sleepy, perhaps all three. Paralysis means so much more.
  1. Disrespect or abuse of a good woman’s love and support deserves retribution.
    If I’ve done either, shame on me. The memory of ICU, day one, is vague, but real. My teary-eyed wife held my hand, which I could not feel, and said, ‘I have your heart and your mind, that’s all I need.’ To this day, it’s our motto ….(To read the rest, click here to be transferred to Edgewise Words Inn and the rest of Ten Things I’ve Learned as a Quadriplegic)

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