Book Review Friday – Apart from Love by Uvi Poznansky

ApartfromLoveLitFicI’m behind on writing reviews, but I hope the lapse will be forgiven with my review of an astounding book from Uvi Poznansky and her work of literary fiction, Apart from Love. Ms. Poznansky is a multi-talented author and artist, and with this novel, she creates a multi-faceted and multi-layered work of art.

The story is told through the first person narrations of Anita, the new wife of Lenny and step-mother to the other narrator, Ben. The point of view is unique because the story is more about the love between Ben’s parents, Lenny and Natasha, than the other two, who form another sort of love story. Ben’s separation from his home for ten years only shows the level of dysfunction in this family. I use the word “dysfunction” with disdain sometimes because it is overused to the point where it sometimes means very little. But if any family is dysfunctional, it is this one.

During Ben’s absence, the lack of communication with his mother and father is evident when he comes home. For a decade, he assumed his talented pianist mother is out on tour, when in fact, his father is hiding something quite important from his son about Natasha.

In the meantime, Lenny has remarried Anita who is one year younger than Ben. She’s a beauty–a younger version of Natasha. It’s complicated and completely dysfunctional in the true meaning of that word.

Literary techniques abound in Apart from Love. The author skillfully creates symbols and metaphors with the white piano in the living room, the antique mirror in the bedroom, and the tape recorder on the balcony. The point of view represents the author’s skill in writing dialogue that characterizes both Ben and Anita. It’s obvious when switching between chapters who is the narrator, even though Ms. Poznansky tells the reader if it’s Ben or Anita in each chapter title. That’s helpful, but with her paintbrush, she paints prose that is distinct for each one.

Alzheimers rears its horrifying head in parts of the story, as does the family’s inability to know how to deal with it. Insanity hovers at the edges of all the characters as well, presenting the reader with that fine line between genius and the alternative.

If that’s not enough, Lenny is a writer who uses the words of others to create his stories. The blurred lines between reality and fiction are explored in this intimate look at how authors sometimes steal identities from others to draw portraits of real life. It’s haunting in its honesty of how an author works. The “record, rewind, record” element of the story reminds me that all reality is really the fiction of our imaginations.

Uvi Poznansky is a talented author who says in her bio, “I paint with my pen, and write with my paintbrush.” The cover of Apart from Love and the content in between are assurances that this is true.

Click to preorder - $.99

Click cover to preorder – only $.99

After reading this novel, I’m even more honored that Ms. Poznansky asked me to be a part of her latest endeavor, the box set At Odds with Destiny, a collection of ten novels by ten unique authors. The full-length novels are brimming with myth, fantasy, mystery, history, romance, drama, originality, heroism, and suspense. Finding themselves at odds with destiny, the characters in these stories fight to shape their future and define who they are. My offering Native Lands examines how cultural boundaries established centuries ago are erased as love and nature seek the balance lost in the battle for power and control of the last of the Florida frontier.

Author Wednesday – Elaine White

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today Elaine White visits my blog for an interview about her writing life and her book Runaway Girl. Elaine writes paranormal romances featuring vampires. She uses the genre to teach some very important lessons about life. Runaway Girl is the first book in the Secrets of Avelina Chronicles series, which contains six books in total. The other books in the series also delve into the lives of witches, seers, magical lands and lycanthropes (werewolves).

Final Cover - RG - Front

It took me quite some time before I could call myself a writer so it fascinates me to learn when other authors were able to make the public pronouncement. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

Probably around five years ago, when I first started sending my books to publishers and agents. The positive feedback, even through rejections, gave me confidence in what I was doing.

That’s great that you saw beyond the negative to concentrate on the positive. Congratulations, Elaine. What messages or themes do you try to convey to your readers?

I try to put something positive in my stories. Even when I’m writing paranormal or crime stories, I try to have something inspiring and helpful that my readers can connect to. I want to give them the self confidence to step out of their shells the way I never could. And, of course, I try to inspire my readers to help make the world a better place. Even if it’s just one person at a time, a reader who smiles after a bad day or feels better because of my words, then that’s enough for me.

That’s a very worthy goal. Whats the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

It was a very nice comment about how my use of various POVs [point of view] nspired him to use the same technique in his own writing. I’ve never inspired anyone before. And I’d recently been getting a few comments about how some people didn’t like that there were so many different POVs in my story. But to me, every character is important. They wouldn’t be in the book otherwise and some of them so important that the reader just has to see things their way.

Your experience is a valuable lesson to learn as a writer – reviews often contradict one another pointing out to the subjective nature of the review. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Don’t let it get to you. You can’t please everyone. Just remember that J.K. Rowling spent years having Harry Potter rejected and still gets bad reviews. The Twilight series still has people debating over the love/hate aspect of the story. Everyone is different, and everyone will have an opinion. Read every review and don’t just assume that a low rating is a bad review. Just soak it in and accept that it’s a fact of life.

That’s the best possible advice. I like to say I don’t believe either my excellent reviews or my poor reviews. Whats your one sentence pitch for Runaway Girl?

Runaway Girl is a paranormal romance that sees vampire soldier Damian finally facing the demons vampire princess Amelia left him with when she sent her soul into the netherworld, fracturing it between five young human girls.

What is the message conveyed in Runaway Girl?

That love and loyalty are the most important things in the world. Power is enticing, lust can be consuming, and money can be corrupting. But over all of those things, love and loyalty shine through and show the right path any one soul should take. When people stray from that path, the trouble starts.

That’s an excellent message to convey. Thank you for sharing today, Elaine. Best wishes as you continue to share your words with the world.

Elaine White_EditedAbout Elaine White: Elaine White was born and raised in the small town of Haddington, Scotland. She began writing from an early age when she thought that she would have written differently passages from the books she was reading. Elaine currently lives at home in Scotland with her parents and boisterous poodle. She is a full time student and full time writer.

Where to buy Runaway Girl:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Runaway-Secrets-Avelina-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00B3OERUG/ref=sr_1_24?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358885563&sr=1-24

http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Secrets-Avelina-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00B3OERUG/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1359378449&sr=1-77

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17255023-runaway-girl

How to connect with Elaine White:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ElleLainey

Facebook Author page – https://www.facebook.com/elainewhite.author?ref=stream

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ellelainey

Blog – http://ellelainey.wordpress.com/

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6895396.Elaine_White

Book Review Friday – Embattled by Darlene Jones

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Embattled jpg for KindleGenre – Science fiction/fantasy

SynopsisWith blood on her hands, strange words coming out of her mouth, and her face all over the media, Em knows that she stopped the jungle battle, stormed into the armed courtroom, and defeated the zealot soldiers. However, as she works for the aliens controlling her, her emotions are torn between what she knows must be her real life and the life she is now living. How is it that she is able to step into the middle of a war and stop it without getting killed? How is it she doesn’t remember her “old” life? And, how will she decide whether or not she wants this sci fi life that’s been thrust on her? Yves, one of the gods from out there somewhere, is assigned to take care of Earth. He’s a rookie learning to be a Power and trying to communicate with Em. For full media impact, Yves manipulates the reporting to maintain constant attention on Em and her exploits. The world falls in love with this “madame of miracles.” Meanwhile, Em agonizes over the impact of her actions and whether or not they are right. Em is not the only one confused and agonizing. Coming from the sterile world of the gods, Yves succumbs to human emotions. Jealousy takes over as he watches Em and her lover. He plots to end their affair, but in doing so risks losing his chance for advancement, his chance to free his people, and even risks losing his life.

My Review – I don’t usually read science fiction or fantasy. In fact, it’s the last thing I’d choose to read. However, I read Darlene’s biography and wondered how she was able to solve her heartbreak over wanting to help the people she met while living in Mali many years ago. When Darlene signed up for Author Wednesday (see post from April 3, 2013), I decided to read Embattled, the first book in her series. My review is based solely on my enjoyment as a reader, not on my knowledge of how a science fiction novel should be written.

Through the other worldly powers of Em, or Miracle Madam as the world comes to know her, the reader travels to the worst corners of hell that exist right here on Earth. From Africa to Europe and back again to the gangland streets of Los Angeles, we are transported along with Em. In the beginning, Em suffers the shock of her new abilities that have come to her as an adult as the result of a typical wish of any caring ten-year-old child. She wished back then for the magic to save the world.

Em struggles with her decisions and even wonders if war isn’t something that must exist in this world in order to achieve peace. The answers aren’t easy and neither is the work. I believe Em is the incarnation of the author’s wish to save her beloved Mali.

I read once that classic novels do one of two things. Either the hero is extraordinary and is put into ordinary circumstances and forced to cope with the everyday world. Or the hero is ordinary and is placed into extraordinary situations and forced to cope. Em falls into the latter group. She’s a normal high school principal who is suddenly thrust onto the world stage making destiny-changing decisions as she becomes the most revered and beloved woman in the world. She’s a modern day Joan of Arc who must sacrifice her ordinary life to achieve the goal of straightening out Earth for the better. Ms. Jones achieved a level of believability for me that I didn’t think would be possible in a science fiction novel.

The “Powers” who guard and pull the puppeteer’s strings on Em are a fantastical lot, from Yves to the Mentor to Elspeth, Yves’ sister. The switch in point of view, from the Powers to earth, is very confusing in the beginning. Also, the switch in setting with Em’s character from principal to the Miracle Madame is equally confusing at first. However, with the inclusion of Ron, her eventual lover, I found myself grounded and better able to make the transitions. Ron is an average-looking actor who’s thrust into the limelight by a movie Em helps produce. His rather mundane and ordinary life  is touching and pitiful, even after he meets Em because he knows he can’t keep her with him or do anything to stop the course of events. When I found myself thinking about the characters after I stopped reading, I knew the author managed to hook me with the plot.

As the Powers observe the happenings on Earth, the reader learns more about Em, and as unbelievable as the Powers seem, they make the Earth characters more realistic.

Many characters are introduced during the novel, but most are only mentioned once. I found it confusing and wondered at the necessity of including them. Some of them, such as Tony, could have been expanded for more depth of Ron. In addition, Francois seems to be an important character in the beginning of the book, but he is only mentioned in passing in the rest of the novel. Perhaps he comes back in the next book in the series. I hope so because I felt he was one character I’d like know better.

Ms. Jones makes several important commentaries on our modern world. Em argues with Ron over the issue of salaries of movie stars and the discrepancy in what a teacher makes each year. Through Em, we also are given a view into our acts of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves by simply writing a check. Em takes Ron down into the streets of L.A. to see what it’s really like for the folks he thinks he’s helping by giving them money without knowledge of what’s it’s really like to be poor and to live without hope.

Embattled is a book that made me think. I recommend trying it, even if you aren’t a fan of science fiction. I did, and I liked it. In addition, I’d like to continue reading this series and applaud the author for bringing attention to the plight of those less fortunate through an entertaining art form.

Coming Soon - Worldwind Blog Tour

Coming Soon – Worldwind Blog Tour

Book Review Friday – Two Books by Lisa See

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

When I read Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, I didn’t put the book down for several days. The book follows the lives of two sisters, May and Pearl, portrayed as selfish, hedonistic young women 1937 in what some referred to as the “Paris of Asia” in Shanghai, China. When the family loses its great wealth and privilege, the women experience some of the worst tragedies imagined. Out of the great darkness comes a light  in the birth of the baby Joy.

Even though it’s hard to believe one family could endure so much, these hardships are a part of the world’s history whenever one form of government is traded violently for another. When the two sisters finally make it to the land promised to them through their in-laws, chosen for them by their parents, the United States land of plenty only comes to them through their labors.

The contrast between the two sisters is stark, but See portrays very well the different perceptions of each even though the story is told through the voice of only one sister. The choice of point of view adds to some of the suspense and tension in the novel instead of switching back and forth between May and Pearl. Pearl, the narrator, misjudges her sister and so does the reader. It’s only through the unfolding conflict that May is somewhat redeemed.

In the end, Joy flees the sisters who have raised her and fought over her love throughout the years in California. The book ends with Joy’s departure to find her father, which most likely will lead her back to China, the land her aunt and mother fled years ago. It was on their journey across the Pacific that Joy was born.

The ending of Shanghai Girls left me wanting more so it was with relief I found See had written a sequel. I immediately ordered a copy of Dreams of Joy. And just as quickly, I found the story of the headstrong Joy who throws herself at the feet of her real father, an artist still living in Shanghai lacking in the poetry I loved about See’s writing in Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls.

See researched both books extensively, but I could not warm up to the character of Joy. Pearl follows her to China, and it is the story of Pearl, who sacrifices everything to return to her homeland to chase after Joy. Her love and devotion moved me because her actions are unselfish and motivated by love. Joy reacts to life’s events without thought of anything but herself. As a result, she ends up in a loveless marriage of her own choosing. In the end, the love of Pearl rescues her.

I grew tired of reading the endless scenes of poverty and starvation and cruelty and deprivation. I feel selfish even writing that sentence because these conditions did and do exist for those living under dictatorships couched under euphemisms of social reform and power to the people. Perhaps that was See’s intent with this book – to make the reading of it as intolerable as the conditions she repeatedly shows.

Even though I didn’t enjoy Dreams of Joy as much as her other novels, I give praise to See for writing such detailed accounts of historical events that must be remembered lest we forget, and worse, repeat. Novels that entertain and inform stand a chance of making a difference, and I don’t fault her for doing that in both of these books.

I just wanted to be swept away by both, and that didn’t happen with the sequel. Two out of three books by Lisa See to transport me, isn’t so bad. Have you read other books by Lisa See?  I loved the first two so much, I’m willing to try a fourth.

 

NOTE: Fellow blogger and author Annamaria Bazzi starts a blog tour today for her new release. I interviewed Annamaria and two of her characters from White Swans earlier this month.

Blog Tour for White Swans: A Regency EraWhiteSwansARegencyEra for blogs

March 22:  Judy Shafer  a review
March 23:Reyna Hawk
 March 24: Jim Liston
 March 25: Chelsea Hammond
 March 26: Giulia Beyman
 March 27: Karina Gioertz
 March 28: Kate Jennings
 March 28: Lindsay Avalon
 March 30: Audra Trosper
 March 31: Carol Bodensteiner
 April 1: Leah
 April 2: Michelle Shriver
 April 3: DelSheree Gladden
 April 4: Judith Marshall
 April 5: Chantel Rhodeau

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Book Review Friday – In the Time of the Butterflies

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Book Description from Amazon: It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.”

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

My Review: Julia Alvarez weaves fact with fiction to create a novel that offers one view of life under a cruel leader, and she shows the courage it takes to stand up in the face of dictatorship. In the Time of the Butterflies mesmerized me from the first chapter, as told through the fictional voice of the only surviving sister, Dede. Each chapter takes on the voice of all four sisters in a way imagined by Alvarez as she researched the lives of the Mirabel sisters, known as the butterflies.

I was unaware of the history of the Dominican Republic until I read this novel. Of course, I’d heard of Trujillo and his regime, but I’m not sure I even knew which country he ruled. The period portrayed in the novel, 1938-1960, follows the life of the Mirabal sisters. Alvarez creates a fictional life for the characters that she says took her over the more she researched. Alvarez, born in New York City in 1950, was raised in the Dominican Republic for the first ten years of her life as her family supported the overthrow of the Trujillo regime. Four months before the death of the sisters, her family fled back to the United States. She knows of what she writes, and it’s not surprising a ten-year-old girl would romanticize and fantasize about the lives of female heroes in a cause supported by her own parents.

The result is the novel In the Time of the Butterflies, published in 1994. How did I miss reading this? I read her first and probably more widely known novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, published in 1991.

I’m glad I found it. I bought it last year from a bargain bin at Barnes and Noble, simply because I recognized the author’s name. It remained on my bookshelves for almost a year. Once I picked it up, I seldom put in down in the two or three days it took to read.

As a writer, I found the concept of taking real people and real events and giving them fictional dialogue, emotions, and actions, intriguing. Alvarez tells Dede’s story in third person. Dede, the second-born Mirabel sister, is the only to survive because she didn’t travel with her sisters on that November day in 1960. It’s a good choice, even though I questioned it at first. As the novel evolves, it becomes clear that Dede remained removed from the sisters in ideology and character, so it’s appropriate her story is told from a more detached point of view. Dede never really entered into the activities of the butterflies, and often objected to her sisters’ participation in the revolutionary activities, despite her love and loyalty to her family. It is Dede who’s left to raise the children of her siblings after Patria, Minerva, and Mate are found murdered on the side of a road.

Minerva’s story is told in the form of a diary, which is helpful in understanding how she became the first sister to begin to question the government. Throughout the story, she’s also the most radical of the four. Patria, the eldest sister, attempts to cling to her religion through personal tragedies and outside forces through her first-person narrative. The entries of Mate show the brilliance of the author when she begins with Mate’s chapters with immature, girlish diary entries written as a nine-year old. The entries show the maturing of a young woman, and perhaps Alvarez relates to this character the most since she begins her entry into the story near the same age Alvarez was when she and her family fled the country.

Patria’s story touched me the most. She struggled with her faith as she faced the loss of a baby and faced the fear of losing her first-born, a son determined to join the fight against Trujillo. One chapter, “January to March 1960” in particular, struck me. It begins, “I don’t know how it happened that my cross became bearable.” Her husband was imprisoned; her home had been taken over by the government, yet she found hope in that setting by praying to the mandated photo of Trujillo in the hallway of her mother’s home. She didn’t pray to him because “he was worthy or anything like that. I wanted something from him and prayer was the only way I knew to ask.” Patria says she learned the trick from raising children. “You dress them in their best clothes, and they behave their best to match them.” She hoped to turn the regime around by praying to his “better nature.” Through this simple prayer, created in the fictional lives of the women, Alvarez gives the reader a lesson on life.

Even though I knew how the novel would end because of the real historical facts, I was still mesmerized by the story as I read the account of the final days and moments in the lives of Patria, Minerva, and Mate.

It’s the same reason the ancient Greeks attended the same plays over and over again by the few playwrights of the day. They knew the story; they knew the ending; but they didn’t know how the elements within each production would be presented. A classic story withstands its retelling only if the artistic rendering is unique and suspenseful in the hands of a talented writer.

Alvarez qualifies with this rendering of the story of the las mariposas (the butterflies) of the Dominican Republic.

Next, I’ll watch the movie of the same name, starring Selma Hayek as Minerva.

See my post Weaving Real Events into Fiction.

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Time to Start Another Novel

woman writerBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

It’s time to start another book now that Trails in the Sand is finished. Finding the time to begin the new work is nearly impossible because my days are taken up with promoting the novel, submitting it to different websites, and finding reviewers for the book.

I’m not really starting a new book this time. I began a novel in 2006, but then life interrupted, and I set it aside. When I pulled it out of the drawer yesterday, I was amazed that I had written more than 300 pages. How did that happen? For the past six years, I wrote two other novels, Live from the Road and Trails in the Sand. But Safe Harbor – the book’s working title – sat in the drawer waiting for me to do my research.

second draft - all 538 pages

I remember thinking right before I put it away that I needed to interview a wildlife expert, preferably a wildlife officer. Safe Harbor is about an international consortium that wants to build “perfect” living communities with an environment filled with wild and endangered wildlife. The two main characters are environmentalists who attempt to uncover the truth about the community. But I needed to do some research about wildlife and the laws regarding endangered species.

As life would have it, within two months of putting down the novel, I took a job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public relations director. For four years, I worked with wildlife biologists, wildlife officers, and wildlife conservationists. I trampled through the Everglades in pursuit of the Burmese python. I worked with experts on Florida’s panthers, alligators, bears, freshwater turtles, and sea turtles.

I’ve done my research. Now what do I do?

First, I read the book. I began with the first chapter yesterday and here’s my process.

Note cards: I put the name of each character on a note card. I put down relevant information on the card to help me keep details straight. I put year of birth, marriages, divorces, etc. When I have a card for each character, I pin each card on a bulletin board on the wall across from my desk. I group them by relationships. I also put any cross references to other characters on the cards.

Characters: As I go through the first reading, I’ll assess the depth of the characters. I know I have a few peripheral characters in this book so I have to make sure they are essential to the plot and have enough substance to remain in the book.

Dialogue:  Sometimes I read the dialogue aloud to see if it sounds realistic. I’ll ask questions. Does the dialogue seem too formal? Sometimes writers forget to use contractions or slang or have a character using dialogue not true to the characterization developed. For me as a reader, nothing turns me off from a book more than unrealistic dialogue. I still struggle with dialogue at times. Each time I write a novel, I learn more and appreciate the comments of my beta readers. On my last book, one of them asked why I had a husband and wife speaking to one another in such a formal tone. I reread the passage and was shocked. She was right. That question guided me through the revisions of the next draft.

Point of View:  Point of view is another tricky little task to tackle and understand. Again, when I’m reading a book with a point of view that jumps around or isn’t established at all within the book, I’m a goner. I’ve experimented with point of view. I’ve written two completely in first person. I wrote one with the omniscient third person point of view – which to me is one of the trickiest forms, and I don’t think I’d do it again. In Trails in the Sand, I experimented with chapters from the three main characters. In Safe Harbor, the point of view is third person limited, but I switch the limited view between characters in different chapters. I’m not a fan of switching point of view in the middle of a chapter. I may decide on a different point of view in Safe Harbor as I begin revisions. I did that in Trails in the Sand after my beta readers made some comments about how I was portraying the real-life events playing out in the oil spill and coal mine disaster. So I inserted short chapters of narrative coverage of the environmental disasters taken from news reports and press releases. I suggest writers play around with point of view.

Plot:  Since it’s been six years since I’ve worked on this novel, I’ll probably do a timeline and outline of the story as I read. I often move around chapters or bits of pieces of information. I love doing this because only one person is in charge of how the story plays out. We don’t often get that much control in life.

I have lots of work to do, but I’m ready to do it. I hate having an unfinished book sitting dormant in a drawer. Now I won’t have any. I look forward to the day when I’m ready to start another novel from scratch, but at this point, I don’t have any idea what I might write next. That doesn’t bother me. It always comes to me if I just let it go and let my subconscious do that work. My job is to remain conscious enough to allow the story to sift into my brain.

I always tell my friends they need to be careful what they tell me because they might end up in my next novel.

How do you get your ideas?

I’m looking for reviewers for Trails in the Sand. I’ll be happy to gift you either an ebook version or print copy in return for an honest review. Leave me a comment or email me at pczick@verizon.net. Thanks for your consideration.

Available in print and ebook

Available in print and ebook

Editing – Smoothing the Cement

Trails in the Sand

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

This past week, I finished the edits on my third or fourth draft of my new novel Trails in the Sand. I sent it off to my editor, Kathleen Heady, so she can weave her magic on the manuscript. When she returns it, I’ll go through her suggestions and then ready it for publication. I want to thank Jae over at Lit and scribbles blog for suggesting I write this post. Check out her site – she’s always very clever and inspiring.

Most people who are not writers do not realize how little time is actually spent on the “writing” part of this gig. When I tell someone, “I’m writing today,” I could mean several things, but only about twenty percent of the time do I actually mean writing as they envision it.

However, when I’m editing my work, I’m still writing, and I love it. When I do a first draft of a novel, I liken it to pouring cement into a frame. When it’s first poured it does not resemble the finished product – it’s not smooth; it can’t be used; and it probably shouldn’t be seen by anyone.

It’s the next steps that bring it closer to a finished product – the smoothing of the cement, back and forth until it’s uniform, cohesive, and strong. That’s what editing is for me. Now as it goes through its final reviews, it’s curing and setting up. Soon enough I’ll know if it’s ready for public use.

During the process of editing, the book can change tremendously. I’ve changed point of view several times in this novel and now have alternating points of view between chapters. I’ve deepened the characters as I’ve gotten to know them better over the almost two years I’ve been creating this novel. They’ve changed and grown as the plot has also changed and developed. It’s all a process, which starts with the basic foundation of pouring the first load of “cement” upon the paper.

Everyone does it differently, but here’s the process I use for the smoothing of my cement.

  • When I know it’s time to go back over the manuscript for editing, I set aside a block of time to do it. It’s best to go through the book with few breaks. I can do 100-150 pages per day, if there aren’t any distractions (good luck with that!). Trails in 510 pages, so I was able to complete the edits in five days. But remember this is the final draft and the third or fourth time I’ve gone through the process.
  • I set goals for each day. One hundred pages is a worthy goal, but I found as I got into the process, I wanted to do more pages in one day. For me, setting that goal helps me stay on the task.
  • I print out pages, as wasteful as that may seem, but I’m helplessly old-fashioned this way. If you can do it all electronically that’s great (and I’d like to know any tricks for getting over this hard copy obsession I have). I read through the pages and mark them up, adding copy, deleting words, sections, making notes to check on later pages. Then I go to the electronic copy and begin making the changes from the hard copy. This process also means I’m reading the pages twice in one day.
  • I cut and paste throughout the whole writing process, so doing editing in one consecutive time block helps me find places where I might have misplaced or repeated sections. I’m looking for repetition, transitions, and gaps in the story. Also, I’m looking for inconsistencies in spelling and mechanics. I use the Chicago Manual of Style (and when in doubt Associated Press style) most of the time, but what’s most important is sticking to a particular style throughout. Decide how you’re going to handle numbers, abbreviations, and dates and stick with it throughout the manuscript. I had to decide on some spellings for this book. Microsoft Word uses “coalmine” and “oilrig” as one word. I don’t think these words have yet evolved to one word, and when I checked I found they can be used either way. I chose two words for each, and that’s the way (I hope) it is throughout the whole novel.
  • Doing the marathon session meant I was dreaming about my characters – which is good. I discovered I needed to increase the tension for one of the characters so I wrote a whole new scene where her shame is expressed, adding to the motivation for her despicable behavior toward her daughter.

That’s how I do it. And now I’m a little at loose ends because it’s over. But now it’s on to writing my one-sentence blurb and back-cover copy. Once that’s done (and edited), I’ll be ready to contact  cover artist Travis Pennington at ProBook Covers for his rendering of a vision I have in my head.

Do you like editing? How do you do it?

NOTE: I’m cutting back on my blog writing starting this week. I’ve been writing four blogs a week – two for Living Lightly Upon this Earth and two for Writing, Tips, Thoughts, and Whims. While I enjoy writing the blogs and interacting with followers, I need more time for writing novels and nonfiction books. From now on, I will post two times – one for each of my blogs. Thanks for reading my posts. I’m always thrilled when I see someone has left a comment.

Incubating a Novel

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”

Larry L. King

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

My new novel is incubating. I finished the complete first draft in February. I gave it over to two beta readers who sent back their comments and suggestions in May. In the meantime, I read. One book that captured my attention was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad. She experimented with point of view so much that at first I didn’t think I’d enjoy this Pulitzer Prize novel. However, I found myself drawn to her experimentation with her characters and their voices and the non-linear plot line.

The comments from my first readers of Trails in the Sand made suggestions about the flashbacks and suggested lack of development of certain characters. My reading led me to revamping my second draft. Each chapter changes point of view and character. I finished this draft August 28 and sent it back to one of the betas. I await her pronouncement on the first fifty pages.

“I need to know immediately if the direction works,” I told her the other day when she called to apologize for not starting to read it yet. “It may be painful for me to hear, but I need to know if I’ve gone off my rocker with the experiment.” She agreed she would let me know as soon as she could.

In the meantime, I the novel rests on an unused desk in the living room. I walk past the manuscript in its three-ring binder, but I resist the urge to open it up. The characters, plot, and me need a break.

To keep me occupied, I read. The pile on the coffee table threatens to fall, but I am making progress. Even though I do have my Kindle and read occasionally from it, I still love the feel of the real thing in my hands. I love the smell of a new book opened for the first time. I like looking at the book cover next to my nightstand when I wake in the morning.

The rewriting will come soon enough. I already have an idea for revamping the beginning scene to bring it more in line with the theme of the novel. The idea came from a book I’m currently reading.

We writers may be the storytellers, but we are also the readers. There are no shortcuts.

Point of View

“I almost always urge people to write in the first person. . .Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it.”

William Zinsser

Point of view is crucial in a novel. One of the quickest ways to turn me from a book is immature point of view. I often experiment  with point of view. In my current work, I started out all first person, with one character telling the story. I’ve decided two other characters deserve to be heard in Trails in the Sand so I’m experimenting. After reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, I decided to change point of view after each chapter. I highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize novel as a primer on point of view. Not only does it change after every chapter, the author experiments with all of the type of POV, even using second person successfully.

Here’s my four samples of POV from Trails in the Sand.

Caroline – First Person

I savored that first sip of coffee every morning. The whir of the coffee grinder woke me as regularly as any alarm clock when my husband churned beans into grounds for our daily ritual. Simon used only the darkest roast with an oily sheen. Every morning he brought me a steaming mug of the brew along with the morning papers. If my eyes weren’t open when he came into the room, he bent down and gently kissed me on the forehead.

“Good morning, baby,” he’d say, and I’d look up into his smiling face, his blue eyes twinkling a greeting. His eyes mirrored my own blue eyes. At one time we both had blonde hair, but now with age, Simon’s had turned white while mine remained the same color of our youth, thanks to L’Oreal.

As I sipped the aromatic brew, I glanced at the morning’s headlines before my attention was diverted to the television and George Stephanopoulos.

It was only a blip on the charts of the day’s news stories. I would have missed mention of it if I’d gone to the bathroom when George said an oil rig had caught on fire in the Gulf of Mexico the night before. On the morning of April 21, 2010, other news took precedence over this minor incident occurring miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Simon – First Person

I liked things simple. When I first met Caroline, I was fourteen and she was nine, and my feelings for her were anything but simple for three decades. Now watching her sip her morning coffee, her forehead crinkled into a frown as she considered how to find out more about the oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico, I marveled at the simplicity of our life. I reveled in it.

“I’m going to check on the garden while you do your Lois Lane thing,” I said when I finished my first cup. “We should have tomatoes within the month. You ready to start putting up salsa?”

“You bring me tomatoes, and I’ll dance the salsa,” Caroline said. “You know you grow the best in the world.”

Narrative – Third Person Omniscient

Details about the oil rig explosion and fire slowly leaked into the news as it became more than a blip in the media. Often the early reports contradicted each other, confused the public, and spread distrust between all parties involved.

Within days, the name BP – British Petroleum – became synonymous with “oil spill.” The rig, Deepwater Horizon, was owned by Transocean, but leased by BP for drilling its Macondo well, forty-miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, 5,000 feet below sea level, 13,000 feet under the seabed.

Jodi – Third Person Limited

The shock of her mother dying came to Jodi slowly despite all the false alarms over the years. All those hospitalizations, each time never knowing if Amy would come home or not, still didn’t prepare the daughter for the loss of her mother.

“Somehow you’ve got to make her eat,” Jodi heard the doctor tell her father more than once. “Or you need to admit her to the psych ward at Shands in Gainesville.”

Jodi’s dad said he knew the doctor was right, but then GG interjected.

“There’s not a thing wrong with my daughter, Greg Simpson,” GG said. “I’ve known you since before you were born, and you’ve always been a trouble maker.”

“Gladdy, Greg is only trying to help,” Jodi’s grandfather said. “Maybe we should think about what he’s saying.”

“I hope you all do think about it,” Dr. Greg Simpson said. “Otherwise, Amy is going to die.”

Jodi slumped in her chair when she heard the pronouncement from Dr. Simpson. No one noticed her sitting there. She was eight years old that time. As an only child, she learned one thing very well. She retreated into a hole of her own making while the grownups ignored her silence as they retreated into their own lies.

I’m still plodding and plotting my way through the second draft. Then when I leave on vacation  next week, I’m going to let the whole thing sit in a notebook waiting for my return. Hopefully, the break will allow me to come back to the novel with fresh eyes. Then I’ll decide if this experiment in point of view works.

What do you think?