Monday, September 30, 2013
What are you working on right now? A new series, for adults, based on the Bible. Been planning it a long time. It's kind of tough going but I find it really inspiring. It probably won't be Christian fiction: I'm planning on publishing it in the secular realm.
How does Rapunzel Let Down differ from other works in its genre? Probably the Catholic angle. Plus it's very gritty for what would normally be considered Catholic fiction, since it's a story about the consequences of mortal sin.
Why do you write what you do?
Because I love telling stories and retelling old stories with my own twist on them. How does your writing process work? I usually write by synopsis but sometimes if I'm stuck I do some freewriting. It's a hard process no matter what!
Thanks for reading today's blog hop! And check out these blogs
by Henry Vogel:
Storyteller site: http://www.henryvogelstoryteller.com/
Serialized online novel:http://cliffhangertwofifty.blogspot.com/
as well as the series that I manage:
and a story by my friend Bill Powell:
Thursday, March 14, 2013
I have received some questions asking why I am saying that Rapunzel Let Down is a heavier and harsher book than the other books in the series.
In some ways, it's so very different from the other books that I seriously contemplated releasing it as a different series altogether. However, it is still a Fairy Tale Novel, told in the same manner as the others, part of the same universe and involving some of the same characters.
However, it is clearly a book for older readers of the Fairy Tale Novels, and I am happy that there are now so many of them who are ready for a book like this one. Although I wrote this book in 2004, I am only publishing it now, because I feel many of the fans have grown up and are facing deeper and darker questions about human relationships and the problems of human sexuality. This is a book for them.
I will try to inform you of the contents of this book without giving away the story. Please forgive the abstract and ponderous and somewhat allegorical language as I attempt to do so. The story is hopefully not as didactic as it may sound below.
This book presumes that the reader has already become acquainted with the sad state of human sexuality, and knows something of the sorrows and the burdens of the loss of innocence, and the banal sexual depravity that taints so much of our lives. This is a book for readers who are searching earnestly for answers to those problems, even subconsiously, and who need hope.
What does this have to do with the fairy tale Rapunzel? Everything.
Rapunzel Let Down is the story of a young couple in love who falls from grace and innocence into mortal sin, which lacerates and divides them, seemingly forever. Consequences of their actions deal them a stunning blow that plunges both of them into suffering and drives them forward on a dark and lonely journey. Each seeks to escape that wound, and along the way each encounters cunning and dangerous dragons who promise to solve their problems, the problems of human sexuality.
The dragons come out in their full colors in this book: prostitution, pornography, forced abortion, rape, lesbianism, homosexuality, child molestation, and vicious hatred of the other sex all make an appearance. Characters speak openly about sexual aberrations using blunt and profane language. While very little is graphically shown, many things are frankly discussed as possible solutions to the problem of man and woman, and their genius for wounding one another.
As an author, I usually try my best to use veiled language to convey harsher topics. In my previous books I was able to touch on some of the above subjects obliquely. But when I set out to write this book, I realized I was writing for a different audience entirely.
This book is not for readers who are innocent of the above dragons. Parents, please do not allow me to initiate your child into these particular evils! I have never had a desire to be edgy in order to be cool, to push the envelope, or to give a tour of secret sins, even to warn against them. If your sons or daughters are innnocent of any or all of the above topics, please don't let them read this story. Read it yourself and judge when they will be ready for it.
But if your sons and daughters have already seen the dismal state of the human condition, if they are sad and struggling, if they are questioning and angry, then this is a good book for them. I hope to give some answers and some hope.
You see, my purpose is not to inform readers of these evils: I'm telling this tale for those of us who are already sick at heart over them. The only reason I'm offering to walk readers through this dark valley is to show them the passionate glory of the heights and mountains that lie beyond it. There is something of the epic about this tale, and perhaps that's why I felt that for once, the dragons had to be shown in their true size and shape.
Some stories just come along, seize the author by the throat, and demand to be written. Rapunzel Let Down was one of those tales. It was a terrifying roller-coaster of a book to write, and I hope it will be to read. And I would be grateful beyond words if it helps readers of either sex find healing, forgiveness, and courage in their relationship with one another.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
For those of you who have been waiting for the next book in the Fairy Tale Novel series, I have good news! The next Fairy Tale Novel is on its way, at last. I can't tell you a lot, but here's what I can tell you:
The title: Rapunzel Let Down: a Fairy Tale Retold
Tentative release date: Easter 2013
Tentative retail price: $20.00
What else can I tell you about it? It involves new characters you've never seen before. It takes place several years after Fish and Rose's wedding, and also after Paul and Rachel's wedding, which could mean that it's between four and five years after the events of Alex O'Donnell. (I won't get more specific so that I can change my mind if I need to.) Paul has a cameo in the book, and Fish appears as a minor character, often unseen, in several scenes, where he gets to be very Fish-like. (What a great guy he is.)
I also need to tell you that this is a more serious and heavier book than the others. The subject matter is harsher. It's about premarital unchastity. It's about an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. It's about serious (ie: mortal) sin. It's probably not appropriate for 14 year old readers to read without their parents. One reason why I've been holding off publishing this book is because I've been worried about you parents out there who have honored me so much by trusting me to entertain your young teens. I don't want to violate that trust.
But these past few years, I've been having conversations with many of you parents, and many of you have encouraged me to go forward with this book. Also, I realize that many of my readers have grown up. Some of you might have been 14 when you first read Shadow of the Bear, but you're in college now. I feel confident that many of you will appreciate this book.
Why, you may ask, am I writing such a dark book? Well, it strikes me that while there are quite a few books that focus on premarital unchastity from a girl's point of view, I don't know too many books that tell the story from the point of view of the guy. That's what this book is about: it's about a prince who fails.
Read the original story of Rapunzel (the original Grimm's, mind you). That handsome prince was no hero. He messed up: and messed up big time. You've got a girl trapped in a tower by a witch. A prince discovers her. Why doesn't he rescue her? Isn't that a prince's job? So why does he leave her there?
Notice how harshly he's punished: how hard his penance is, and how his beloved suffers because of his sin. And notice how the happily-ever-after only happens after he and Rapunzel are reunited and she forgives him.
We live in a world that doubts that men and women are much good for one another. Why else is the very definition of marriage being called into question? It's because men and women are so exquisitely adept at wounding one another so very deeply. Given how deep that hurt can go, I personally can understand why some want to give up on the opposite sex altogether.
So is a fairy tale still possible in today's world?
I believe it is. And that is what this book is about.
So I hope you will pray for me as I prepare this book for publication. And I hope that when it comes out, you'll make sure it finds its way into the hands of the appropriate readers. I'll do my best in the cover design to flag the book as a story for more mature readers. Tangled, this ain't.
There's a lot to be done: I need to do the final story edit, I need to get permission to use a beautiful poem by Carl Sandburg, and we need to do photo sessions with the models we've picked (yes, we already have our cover models!) and design the cover. Anything could go wrong along the way and cause delays, so keep us in your prayers.
And I can take some more questions on the book, but I won't give out too many details yet. Remember, we haven't finished the final story edit.
I'll start out by answering a few other questions I've been asked quite a few times in the past year or so:
Q: When will you write/ why won't you write another book about Fish and Rose (or Blanche and Bear, or all four?)?
A: I don't know, because I don't have a really good idea for a new book about them yet. I know I would hate to write a bad or stupid book about them. (And I know you'd hate it even more!) And thanks to all of you who've sent me ideas and suggestions for new books, but none of them have kindled my imagination yet. But I do promise you this: if and when I do get a good idea, I will write another book.
Q: What about the Fish book based on Rumplestilskin you promised, Goldspinner?
A: It's still in the works, but I haven't been able to work on it much, and the book on Rapunzel is already mostly finished. So we're going with Rapunzel Let Down first. In order to do Goldspinner, I need to do some research, and since I haven't done it methodically, I haven't found out the answers I need to find. Yet. At some point I may get more serious about research and finish it, but that time hasn't come yet. Plus, believe it or not, I have yet another series I want to find time to write. The first book in that series needs to be written soon. So, it may be a few years before another Fairy Tale Novel comes out after Rapunzel.
Q: Why is all this taking so long?
A: Actually, none of you have asked me this directly: you are much too polite to do so! But I guess there is an answer why there's been a delay in the release of the next Fairy Tale Novel. You know my editorial duties have taken up more of my time these past few years. I have loved being the editor of the John Paul 2 High series and I've enjoyed co-writing Catholic Philosopher Chick and the first book of the still-in-process Ruah Chronicles (see the Chesterton Press Facebook page for details). I also love my work editing for Manga Hero. But time spent editing is time not spent writing. I love to edit and I need to edit: it's a passion, plus it's a job that pays bills.
The other big reason I am slowing down on my writing is that my family is larger. I no longer only have little kids crawling over my computer keyboard: I have (three!) teens of my own who will come up to me and say, "Mom! I need to talk to you about my life RIGHT NOW." I love them tons and they won't be under my roof forever, so I need to spend time with them. Also means less time to spend writing. Right now.
But what is really good news for you is that these teens love my books and want me to write more. So don't worry: I won't be giving up writing Fairy Tale Novels. It just might take me longer.
Q: So what did you think of the Disney movie Tangled?
A: Oh, it was delightful. But not much like the real story in many respects, and thankfully, not much like my book at all.
So ask away ... on my Facebook page, on the Fairy Tale Novel Forum, and on this blog. I'll try to answer your queries as soon as I can. If there's a delay -- remember, I take longer to do things these days, but blessed be the Lord, I'm still here. Just not online.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I'm really enjoying the challenges of the manga format, which to me seems like a meld between the novel and the screenplay. I like visual writing, since I tend to think in images. But screenplay writing has many strict conventions which I'm still struggling to learn. Writing a manga, at least for a small company, doesn't seem to be so strict. So long as I'm communicating to the artist, we're good.
Readers regularly ask me if I'm planning another Fairy Tale Novel (specifically, another Rose/Fish or Blanche/Bear book). The answer is, not now. Between starting Chesterton Press, managing John Paul 2 High and various other projects, and writing/editing for MangaHero, I think I'll be busy for the next year or two. I like to think of this as a nice transition, because I've got something totally new I'd like to start writing. Right now I'm stuck behind a writer's block that's about a mile thick (or so it seems), but I really hope I can start writing in earnest soon.
So when I do come back to the Fairy Tale Novels, it will hopefully be with a fresh mind and some new plot ideas. But for now, I think it's time for a rest. If you can call it a rest... ;)
In the meantime, I hope to post more on my progress on Esther soon!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
For Christmas, I have a VERY special t-shirt that I'm posting on Zazzle for you. Created by artist Mary MacArthur, this shirt features both Fish and Rose in an imaginative setting that captures their passionate love and innocence. The opening words of the book "I love him more than poetry ... I love him more than song" are quoted on the shirt. Rose, arrayed as a princess, plays her violin in a thorny clearing while Fish, revealed as a knight, approaches.
When Mary first posted this image a few years ago on the Fairy Tale Novel Fan Forum, I knew I wanted to buy it from her. And now we have it: just in time for Christmas!
The shirt can be printed on a short or longsleeved shirt of the pastel color you choose in the size you want. The shirt shown is only $21.95 from Zazzle. Click here to buy it. Order by Dec. 15th for guaranteed Christmas delivery. (Order right now using order code DECDELIGHT11 and get 15% off!)
Happy shopping, and look for more products with this image on it from Zazzle! (PS: Email me if you have something in mind you want to see this image on.)
Friday, December 2, 2011
Buying a Kindle this Christmas?
Buy it stocked with Catholic Fiction!
Not doing e-Books yet?
For signed copies (the kind printed on paper)
visit us at our new website
Friday, October 14, 2011
3: Summer of My Dissent by November 1.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
As a longtime Christian, I've seen LOTS of retellings of Christ's parables, and I'm sort of used to how the storyline of such retellings goes. No surprises, heavy morals.
If that's true for you as well, I invite you to experience MANY ARE CALLED.
This offbeat steampunk manga is a compilation of Christ's parables of the End Times like you've never seen them before. Think the parables of Ten Bridemaids plus the Two Servants. Plus the overarching narrative of The Parable of the Banquet. And oh yeah, there's a villain and a lost princess as well. And a prince and his loving Father who remind us greatly of ... well, you can guess.
Now, a disclaimer. I'm a professional fiction editor, and I do work for the company which published this book, Manga Hero. However, this book was in prodution when I was first hired so I had nothing to do with its creation.
The narrative, written by Gabrielle Gniewek, is original and inspired. As for the artwork, veteran manga artist Sean Lam tops himself in this highly-detailed rendering. This is manga at its best: showy, gritty, flash and fire.
Sure, there's a message: what parable doesn't have a message? But instead of snatching at trying to be "relevant," the creators keep the message timeless, as Christ would have wanted it. They allow the parable to speak for itself. "Many are called: few are chosen." Sad, but true.
If you (or someone you know) can't get enough of the Japanese-inspired comic books called manga, check this one out. You'll be in for some nice surprises. In particular, I liked the obscure but tantalizing glimpses of Christ and his apostles in the frame of the story, including two Sons of Thunder and a eyeglass-wearing Apostle Matthew. If Gniewek and Lam revisit Christ's parables in manga form again, I hope we'll see more of them.
MangaHero is known for their comic book series on the apostle Paul and the Biblical heroine Judith, as well as for their recent comic on Pope Benedict XVI (read it online for free!). You can find more of their books at www.mangahero.com and you can ask for the book at your local Christian bookstore or order it on Amazon.
So as we head back to school this fall, keep your eye out for this new book! Speaking of school, teachers, parents, religious eduction directors, youth group leaders, anyone who works with Christian youth: MANY ARE CALLED is one manga comic you've got to get your hands on!
Pass the word!
Monday, July 11, 2011
June 9, 2011
Contacts: Ann Margaret Lewis, Catholic Writers Guild President
Phone: 317-755-2693 email: email@example.com
Karina Fabian, Catholic Writers Guild Secretary
Phone: 719- 924-5578 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Clare Bills, Catholic Writers Guild Publicity - email: email@example.com
For Immediate Release
Catholic Writers to Convene August Conference in
August 3-5, 2011, at the
CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis said this year's conference will, “focus on marketing and selling one’s written work.” Highlights of the conference include:
· Over 30 sessions taught by professionals in writing, marketing, blogging and publishing
· Pitch Sessions where writers may meet privately with representatives from four publishers
· One-on-one coaching sessions. For $35 an author can have a 30 minute private consultation with a specialist who will review their manuscript and guide them toward publication.
· Rapid-fire readings. Published authors will each have five minutes to read a selection from one of their books. A mass book sale and signing will follow.
Lewis says the conference comes at a modest cost. “Registration for the jam packed three days is only $90 for CWG members or $100 for non-members. And we have a special price of $42 for students. Our conference allows you to connect personally with Catholic publishers and retailers, to show your work, learn the craft and network.” Priests and religious are invited free of charge, but must register at the email address: http://www.catholicwritersconference.com.
This year’s conference speakers include:
· Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman of Servant Books/St.Anthony Messenger Press,
· Regina Doman, author of numerous young adult and children’s books and acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press,
· Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN TV host of "Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms" and author of numerous Catholic books including “Mother Teresa and Me,”
· Michelle Buckman, author of the young adult novel “Maggie Come Lately” and the adult drama “Rachel’s Contrition,”
· Angela Breidenbach, author of “Gems of Wisdom” and
· Patti Armstrong, co-author of the best-selling Amazing Grace book series and author of “Catholic Truths for Our Children, Stories for the Homeschool Heart.”
Past attendees gave glowing accounts of their experiences at the conference:
· Carol Bannon, author of the children’s book “Handshake from Heaven,” said, “Attending this conference has been the best thing I have done for myself professionally.”
· Writer Melanie Cameron concurs, “I recommend this conference as a resource for any author (or wannabe) at any stage. You will walk away empowered!”
· Maureen Martin, a consultant and trainer said she attended to connect with other professional Catholics. “It was such a wonderful, nurturing environment where we could share our faith and our love for literature.”
The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. “Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre,” says Lewis. “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”
Also at this year’s conference, the CWG will be presenting its first ever Catholic Arts and Letters Awards (called the “Lilies”) for the best in Catholic fiction. This award will recognize one book in the adult market and one in the children’s market for its literary merit.
Information for the Catholic Writer’s Conference can be found on the conference web site: http://www.catholicwritersconference.com.
The CWG is a professional group of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies whose mission is to build a vibrant Catholic literary culture. The organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
- End -
Interviews and further information available upon request.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I am pleased to announce the release of Shadow of the Bear in its first foreign translation: POLISH!
Yes, Cień Niedźwiedzia: Wspotczesna Basn is available now at Polish sites online.Since my husband is half-Polish and our family has a devotion to both Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Sister Faustina Kowlalska, both Polish saints, we were delighted when we were approached by the Polish publisher for this edition. When we discovered that they are the diocesan publishers for the Diocese of Katowice, the original diocese of Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, we were even more thrilled.
We just received six copies of the new edition in the mail today, and they are beautiful, with thick glossy covers and beautiful inside flaps, a detail not often seen on American paperbacks. The publishers did their own typesetting, including lovely sihlouettes of dark and light roses on the chapter headings:
And, what is even more charming, they used a dark rose to indicate sections in Rose's viewpoint, and a white rose to indicate Blanche's, as you can see from this section of the climax:
Thus we are very excited about our first foreign translation. To some authors, a Polish translation of their work might not be a big deal: a Spanish translation might yield a bigger market. But for me and my family, who owe so much physically and spiritually to the Polish people, having the first foreign translation be into the native language of John Paul II is simply fitting. One might even say perfect.
So if you have any Polish friends, please let them know about this new translation! And tell them that there's more to come: the publishers hope to bring out the rest of the "Snow White and Rose Red" trilogy as well within the year. Black as Night is up next for translation.
In the meantime, we have been contacted by a Spanish Catholic publisher, and I understand I have some Mexican fans who would love to see a Spanish edition.... I joked to my husband that we'll have to ask St. Josemaria Escriva (and Teresa of Avila and Blessed Miguel Pro) to help us out with that one!
And check out the : we had fun reading the Google translations. (There's no Amazon for Poland, but it looks like it can be ordered through Amazon Germany)
Monday, July 12, 2010
Press Release: please re-post and pass this on!
The second annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will be held August 4-6, 2010, at the Scanticon Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, PA. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), and held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show, the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe.
This year's conference will feature presentations on such topics as market tips and time management for busy writers, poetry, creating evil characters, working with an editor, creating winning proposals, journaling and much more.
Speakers include Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman - General Manager of Circle Press, Regina Doman - acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press, and Tom Wehner - Managing Editor of the National Catholic Register, all of whom will also hear pitches from writers.
Among the other speakers are Mark Shea (Mary, Mother of the Son), Michelle Buckman (My Beautiful Disaster), Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (Mother Teresa and Me), Susie Lloyd (Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water), and Publicist Lisa Wheeler from the Maximus Group.
Regina Doman (author of Alex O'Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves) will speak on "How to Create Evil Characters if You're a Good Catholic," "Working with an Editor," and will be participating in the Fiction Writing and Publisher Panels.
Additionally, the Catholic Writers Guild will present its first-ever achievement award for excellence in Catholic Arts and Letters to Rick Hinshaw, editor of the Long Island Catholic.
“Attending this conference has been the best thing I have done for myself professionally,” Carol Bannon, author of the children’s book Handshake from Heaven, said of the 2009 conference. Her fellow writer Melanie Cameron agreed, saying she left the last conference re-energized. “I recommend [this] conference as a resource for any author (or wannabe) at any stage. You will walk away empowered!”
The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. “Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre,” says CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis. “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”
To register go to catholicwritersconference.com.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Alex returns from college to find that his dad, a hacker-turned-software programmer, has developed the Mouse Catcher; tracking software with a cute Super-Cat interface.
Morning Rosary (of course)
Midnight Swimming (spontaneous, but boy was it fun!)
Blueberry Picking (yummy!)
Thrift Store Shopping (for the women)
Stone Masonry (for the men while the women were shopping)
Weapons Demonstration with Andy O'Neill and Ben Hatke
Writing Sessions with Regina
Marriage Vocation Talk With Andrew: Preparing for Marriage - How to Live Happily Ever After
Film Workshop by Elizabeth Hausladen, director of The Shadow of the Bear film
Right now we're searching in earnest for a family or group willing to host us for the weekend.
Got any ideas?
Email us now and let us know!
Thanks so much!
Talks from this conference are available for FREE DOWNLOAD by clicking here.
Eastern Pan Handle Homeschool Conference in Shepherdstown, WV has been POSTPONED until March 2011.
WHAT: CMN & Catholic Writers Conference
WHEN: August 3-6, 2010
WHERE: Valley Forge, PA
WHY: I will participating in these events and will be available to sell and sign her books.
WHAT: Chesterton Conference
WHEN: August 5-7, 2010
WHERE: Mt. St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD
WHY: I will be speaking about The Evangelization of the Imagination on Saturday morning, August 7.
WHAT: Midwest Catholic Family Conference
WHEN: August 6-8, 2010
WHERE: Wichita, KS. Century II Convention Center
WHY: To get your copy of the official released edition of Alex O'Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves!
The Jeff & Jo Hauge Family will be managing a vendor table for the Fairy Tale Novels.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Thursday, June 24th
Hope to see you there!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Yesterday a friend commenting on my posts asked:
Just out of curiosity, what is your view of showing versus telling? I wonder this because there seems to be this very hard and fast rule currently that everything possible must be shown rather than told. But if you go back some years and look at what is considered great literature, there is a lot of telling. I recently read a short story from the 1930's by John Cheever which was almost entirely telling, but a really good story.
How do you approach this in your own books, and how do you approach it when looking at a manuscript for Sophia Press?
As a hard-and-fast rule, eliminating all "telling" from your story is usually impossible. Some telling is nearly inevitable: there's no easy way to inform your reader a character's age, for example, without telling. (It's much easier to say, "he was about thirty years old" than to show him having a 30th birthday or to have a friend say, "Now that you're thirty, are you going to settle down?" etc.)
My philosophy, inasmuch as I even have one on the subject, is that both showing and telling should serve the demands of the story. Some stories demand more telling than others. But there are a couple of caveats new authors should remember:
In our culture, movies are the predominant medium, with television being the second most-predominant medium. As Walker Percy acidly observed, more people will watch one Superbowl than will read any particular New York Times Bestseller. So most of us bring our viewing habits to our reading habits.
How does this affect storytelling? Well, we literary types can moan and groan about the predominance of the visual as much as we like, but the fact is, our audience (who, from my view, we are here to serve with our stories, not to teach) prefers that their stories be visual. They enjoy them more, they read them more, they find those stories more moving, more powerful, more entertaining.
This is the main reason why "telling" has fallen out of fashion since the 1930s: because most modern readers find excessive "telling" is boring to read, simply because it's dificult to visualize, and the modern reader reads by drawing heavily on his visual imagination.
Also there's the element of impatience and escape. When I say that modern readers are impatient, it doesn't mean we only want short stories: quite the contrary! But we have a lot of stress and distraction in our lives, and we don't want to have to work so hard at trying to enjoy our entertainment: we appreciate it when the story helps us launch into escape mode immediately by immersing us in action or conflict or another world.
We modern readers like the sense of being immersed in a story, part of the action, flowing along with the narrative. We like it when our books read like movies: when we can just sit back and watch it all go by. When the narrative is halted for any reason, it can be jarring. So authors shouldn't do it, unless they have a very good reason to.
And, let's be honest, authors make the most money when their books are bought and made into movies. Books that contain more showing than telling are easier to translate into film: hence are more likely to be bought. Any writing teacher worth his salt is going to point that out to his students.
So if your story requires telling (and some do), make certain that the telling is:
a) humorous and entertaining, stylistically fun to read
b) heavily visual so that your reader isn't bored.
I've always been a very visual writer (I think in images and don't consider myself a particularly strong stylist) so accepting the viewpoint of the modern reader hasn't been difficult for me. I *am* in many ways, a modern reader myself! I don't have a literary background, and studied television, not literature, which may indicate my inclination. Scriptwriters must think in images and seldom, if ever, are allowed to tell their audiences anything. But I don't believe that this is a hard-and-fast rule for books.
As an editor, again, I primarily look at storytelling technique to find out if it is adequately serving the story. I don't start out with a set of rules in my head and look at a manuscript to find out if it obeys them: I open the MS and read it the way any reader would.
But when I come to a part that is wooden, clunky, or boring, I stop reading and try to figure out why. That's what editors do. And yes, sometimes the reason it's boring is because the reader has yanked me out of the story in order to subject me to several paragraphs of telling. This is really annoying when I was enjoying being immersed in the escape, or the argument, or the complex situation the character was grappling with. Once you've been sucked into the story, you don't like to leave.
Or, if I'm not interested in the story at all, I often discover that the reason I'm not is because the author is summarizing action and events instead of involving me in it. They're telling me about how the character responded to, say, his mom's death or his father's betrayal instead of showing me and letting me have a chance to feel the character's pain or rage.
I don't notice 'telling' if the author uses it to explain action I've just seen and am interested in knowing more about. I don't mind 'telling' if the author halts the narrative to give some funny commentary on what the characters have just been doing. So long as I'm entertained, I'm good.
But most authors whose MS I read have not yet mastered the storytelling form, and so 'telling' for them is an easy-out, a way to dump information on the reader, or to moralize or preach to me. They often don't recognize what a jolt they've given me, their reader, when they halt the story for a 'telling' session. They don't realize how non-engaged I am when they start their story by giving me information that doesn't seem releveant to me instead of pulling me into a fascinating situation.
It's a tricky operation, storytelling. And for most beginning authors, the mantra "show don't tell" is useful because it helps them learn to see their story the way their readers will: it gets them away from summarizing and keeping us distant from the action and instead forces them to learn to let the reader share in the action.
Some masters of storytelling will always be able to break the rules and still entertain us. But for beginning writers, learning the parameters of their audience, and accepting their limitations and needs, will be more helpful than setting out to ignore rules they haven't yet mastered.
Hope this helps!
Monday, May 10, 2010
(We'll do another Preview Edition for the Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference on May 28-29th, but I won't be at that conference: Elizabeth Hausladen, director of The Shadow of the Bear movie will be manning the Fairy Tale Novels table. Those copies of Alex won't be signed, but they will be available.)
The official release date of Alex will probably be sometime in June: and this time we'll be able to take pre-orders. Stay tuned for further details!
An important component of the final edit of a book is the Read-Aloud. Now, I confess that I haven't done an official read-aloud since Black as Night. Reading your manuscript out loud to a small audience is a great way to do a thorough edit quickly, and I bet it'll weed out typos better than Microsoft spellcheck. But there are other advantages to doing a Read-Aloud, which I'll list for those of you who are writers (or who want to be!).
Basically, the Read-Aloud has a way of making even the Writer (who is thoroughly familiar with the work) a Listener, and gives that crucial Outsider's Perspective that's so critical to the editing phase. But these are the aspects of the work that particularly stand out when you read it out loud to an audience:
1. Awkward phrasing.
If you can't read it out loud smoothly, you'd better rephrase it. Some of the manuscripts I see for Sophia Institute Press could be easily ironed out if only their authors read them out loud before submitting. If this is your bugaboo, start reading your early drafts out loud (hint: make a friend read it while you listen). Reading aloud the final draft will hopefully eliminate the clunkiness.
If someone stands up in the same paragraph (without sitting down in between) you or your audience will probably notice it. Also basic fact checks. ("Hey, you just said ten percent of a million bucks is $10,000: is that really true?")
Andrew Pudewa opines that fine writing style comes by hearing, not from seeeing, the written word. Poetry and plays come alive only when they're read aloud. Same with a novel. Rhythmn, the "third dimension" of the novel, so to speak, is thrown into sharp relief when the book is spoken. If your writing has style, speaking will reveal it. If it doesn't, same thing.
I don't consider myself a particularly strong stylist. It's something I'm working on (and teen fiction is rather style-lite, so I don't work on it much). But the Read-Aloud is an invaluable aid to developing this intuitive writing virtue.
I'm not a very funny person, and the jokes I make in speech tend to be either a) lame or b) too esoterically subtle to be recognizable. Writing gives me a chance to actually try to sound funny, but it's still a lot of work for me. If you've read one of my books and laughed at something, chances are it's because I rephrased it and rephrased it and fiddled with it until it got a laugh out of me. Reading-aloud has a way of generating even better punchlines. Sometimes your audience might even suggest a better one for you. :) And on the basic level, humor is all about rhythmn, so see #3.
Some of the characters in Alex have rather corny humor (ie: like mine) but others actually need to be funny. And pulling the humor out of a situation is always tough. Working on humor in a manuscript, I find Mark Twain's aphorism is particularly appropriate: "The difference between the right word and the almost-right-word is the difference between the lightning and the lighning bug."
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
FIFTH BOOK in the Fairy Tale Novel Series,
Alex O'Donnell and the Forty Cyberthieves,
coming Summer 2010!