Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New synopsis

OK, I've been working on this for months and months now, a synopsis of my story that captures, even incompletely, some idea of what my story is about. While talking to Therese at Writer Unboxed blog I had an epiphany, of sorts, and came up with the following:
Joseph Marquand knows he's the greatest werewolf hunter in the world. What he wants to know is how to save them.
He's going to the Moon to investigate some werewolf-related deaths. He'll discover that everyone in the colony is a wolf, terrified that their curse has followed them into their final refuge, their prison.
He falls in love with Candace in spite of her curse. He will rouse his prior love, dead on the Moon but not gone, trapped in limbo, and she is not done with him yet.
He must deal with one of the colonists that is in despair, seeking to kill them all and end their hopeless suffering. He will be dealt with by another that has freed his rage, hoping to kill many more people than that, starting with him.
Joseph Marquand knows he wants to save the wolves. What he doesn't know that he himself is the key to salvation, of wolf and ghost alike. Nor will he find out, until it is far too late.

Questions and/or comments are welcome.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Character-driven fiction

Don't ask me why, I'm going on a little bit of a Gilbert & Sullivan trip right now. I was at the library, last week, getting a bunch of books for my wife (who'll no doubt read the lot within a fortnight) and I picked up a bunch of books on G&S for no good reason other than I happen to like the Mikado. I also like the Pirates of Penzance, but I'm not a big fan of HMS Pinafore or Iolanthe, the only other shows I'd ever seen. Having read the books, especially one called A Most Ingenious Paradox, I'm even more interested in seeing their other works. Another was called Gilbert & Sullivan and their Victorian World. The first was a very technical and internal discussion of the development of the plays as works by G&S, how they grew and developed, and even what the stories were really about. The second is mostly a discussion of the effect of the team on the London world around them, and of the social elements that were being interpolated in the plays. I also found a recent movie that came out a while back, called Topsy Turvy, about the creation of the Mikado. Kind of interesting, in a year-in-the-life sort of way, and the portrayal of the development of the story was very pleasant, the best part of the film for me.

I first experienced the pleasure of seeing a G&S show when my wife and I were forced for a short period to stay with my parents (trying to find a rental house in mid-winter, no fun) and the movie version, with Kevin Kline, and Linda Ronstadt, was on cable. It was a lot of fun, but I had no idea that that was atypical of G&S. Gilbert was actually against much of the tomfoolery that went on in this version. He was quite specific about everything the actors did. Anyway, I enjoyed the show and naturally learned the songs, especially the Major General's song. I love fast and witty, and I have a trick memory for lyrics and dialog. Shortly after we found a new house to live in, and what a dump it was, let me tell you, I experienced the dubious pleasure of seeing a D'Oyly Carte production of the same show, and it had to be one of the most painfully unfunny and boring things I'd ever seen in my life. I saw a version by Peter Allen as well, which was actually worse, almost like a filmed dress rehearsal or something.

Fast forward a good many years, and I discovered that the library near me had a number of copies of G&S shows, specifically The Mikado, about which I'd heard a lot but never seen. It wasn't a great version, but it had the expanded stage, more room to maneuver, and most important the song lyrics were subtitled, so I've learned many of them as well. Not much patter, but a number have some incredible lyrics in other ways. Unfortunately, the dialog wasn't subtitled, so I still get a little confused about Pooh-Bah's different roles. Love Pooh-Bah.

At a different library I discovered recordings of Pinafore and Iolanthe, but I had to say that they weren't as interesting. Pinafore in particular was very unlike the others I'd seen, and according to the books that's because it was the most tied to the expected norms for the stage at that time. It was still head and shoulders above even that, so I cringe to think what the Victorian audiences of the day were seeing before that. Iolanthe is a much more mature G&S work, and according to the books one of the better ones. I can't say I was moved by it much, with its political plot, but I was watching an old video of a Canadian production on a regular stage and it may have lost something in translation. I should reread that chapter and watch it again.

It turns out both Pirates and Mikado were unusual for G&S, shows they wrote in a hurry, with little time to prepare or tune. So the writing is looser and the parts less cohesive, with room for humor and actors to shine. The versions I saw allowed that. Most of the shows were much more cohesive than these two, with the lyrics, and the dialog and the music all combined to an ever-increasing degree, to tell the story. The height of G&S is their most cohesive work, after which they sort of had little left to do. Sort of a shame really.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cool true story

My daughter is reading Call of the Wild, the classic Jack London story. She expressed an interest in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, as well. Then I explained what the story was about. "Oh," she said, "So it's like a jungle, a place of terror, because the managers are like predators, treating their employees like prey."

My daughter is still 8.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Honored daughter!

My girl Julia got three separate academic achievement awards tonight. I left work and got there just in time to hear the principle read the letter from Barack Obama, and then start calling out the roll of those who received the President's Award for Educational Excellence, the one with the GOLD seal. As opposed to the one with the Silver seal. Then she got the Principal's Honor Roll!

Apparently I missed the Certificate of Special Recognition in English. My bad.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Printers Row Lit Festival

Like many another author I was at Printers Row last weekend. My publisher, Echelon Press, had a tent as usual (sort of), and had invited a number of authors to be there selling our books. I went in my secret identity of Author Guy, book seller to those who have the good sense to buy my books. Years ago, I started out trying to sell my own books at craft and gift fairs, but I ran into many people who said they didn't read fantasy. Since I'd paid for the table and wanted to make that money back, and since it seemed to me that someone who wanted a mystery wasn't going to buy a fantasy novel anyway (and therefore I wouldn't be cutting into my own sales), I went to Echelon and got everything they had in a variety of genres. That was five years ago and my table now carries everything Echelon makes and a few others besides.

Had I been in Chicago as myself with just my own books, I would have lost a ton of money on hotel fees, tolls, gas, etc., just to be there. As Author Guy I brought my entire collection of books, and I had on my table everything Echelon did that wasn't already being represented by its own author already. That took a good many titles off my table, let me tell you, since we had at least 10 other authors there, but even so I was still overflowing. Fortunately I have some folding racks, so I could go vertical where there was no room to be horizontal. We were placed at the worst possible corner, because that's just how good I really am. I learned a long time ago that book selling means getting the customer to come in and check out the product, and part of my function was to get people from the far side of the street to come in to see us.

Oh yes, we were reduced, as many vendors were, to a mere half tent this year, so we had four tables, two facing one side of the street and two facing another tent with an lane in between. Most of the business was on the street sides, naturally, and part of my work was to get those people to come into the lane and check us out. I've been doing this for years and I'm good at it. What was most pleasant was that some of the authors at our other table in this lane, Sam Morton and Margot Justes, were directing customers to me from the other side! Go Team Echelon! Sam even came up to me on Sunday, when my voice was starting to go (did I mention it was very loud?) and offered to get me a soda because he could hear the hoarseness of my voice. Gotta love Sam.

The event itself is a blur of faces and people, interested and eager to get our books. Many of them knew the Echelon name from previous Festivals and deliberately sought us out to see what we had new. Some even came looking for me, and I wasn't there last year! People were coming before the event even began and flooded us on all sides. We ran out of small change in the first morning! It started to rain a little bit Saturday afternoon, but that didn't stop anybody, although I was surprised to see that a lot of the vendors covered their products over with thick blue tarps! How could the people see anything? We had transparent plastic sheets over our books so the customers could still see covers and we could hand them out at need. A little bad weather doesn't stop Chicagoans.

Sunday started out much the same, although it had a little rain at the beginning of the day, which blew over quickly and left us alone the rest of the time. Some of our authors left and new ones arrived unexpected. Robert Walker, author of PSI Blue, showed up and signed the copies of his book that I had on the table. While we were chatting a customer arrived, looking for exactly his sort of book (FBI search for a serial killer using a psychic team)! I handed him a copy and let Robert take it from there. Good timing. At South Carolina I ended up describing Austin Camacho's Blood & Bone to a customer, in front of Austin Camacho! He thought I did a perfectly fine job, but I'm still leery of doing that. BTW, PSI Blue and Blood & Bone are really cool books, and I recommend them completely.

Getting there was a different story, not to mention getting back. First of all, being a flatlander, I really need to work on my driving skills in mountain environments. Going through PA and the Appalachians meant that I was constantly being accelerated by every little downslope. On the far side of the mountains we hit some large downslopes, and I was accelerated rather badly and ended up with a speeding ticket!

On Saturday I went to park the car in a local parking garage, only they had no directions on what I was supposed to do, and I guessed wrong. Another citation. The nest day I went to a different lot that had directions, as well as another man, an employee at the Hotel Blake, who showed us how the system worked.

On the way back we got sidetracked in some mysterious fashion and ended up going very south into PA on the return trip. It was very pretty, where we ended up, and it was also very pretty going up Rte. 220 to get back up to I-80, but we still lost an hour or more on a trip that was already 14 hours long. Then when we got back to New Jersey our tire developed not one but three separate bubbles! Fortunately none of them popped, and changing the tire was straightforward. But you can bet I was ever so glad to be home again.