News and Changes

So, things are progressing with the book. The proof copy is on its way to me, and if all looks good the paper copy should be available on Amazon in another week! The ebook of Revenants Abroad is also now available via Kindle on Amazon, and will remain available via Smashwords, Kobo and Barnes and Noble as well, all at the same price of course. I’m also probably going to be resurrecting my other website that I let slide, ddsyrdal.com, and take all the book talk over there so you guys who don’t care about it don’t have to listen to it here. Having my own site again will allow me to do things I can’t do here.

In the meantime, here are a few recent shots. I swear the rainbow one, while only showing a short section of it, was the widest rainbow I’ve ever seen.

Guest Post – He Always Runs While Others Walk: Pacing in Fiction

Today I have a real treat for you guys. I’m delighted to host a guest post by Harry Connolly, author of the Twenty Palaces series, and The Great Way, his new fantasy trilogy. I’ve been a fan of Harry’s for years, and was thrilled to be able to participate in Harry’s blog tour. He has written a dynamite post on pacing in fiction, so you writerly types take special note. And be sure to follow Harry on Twitter @byharryconnolly and follow his blog, Harry J. Connolly. And go read his books! They’re fantastic and imaginative and great fun. Now, on to Harry’s words of wisdom!

 

He Always Runs While Others Walk: Pacing in Fiction

We’ve all had the experience of reading a book all the way through to the end because we just have to get to the end. God help us, the awful word “unputdownable” was coined just for this, and as much as I hate the word, it exists for a reason.

Pacing. For the sort of fiction I write, it’s vital, but I think it’s also misunderstood.

Typically, people talk about pacing when they talk about my style of writing—chases, fights, daring escapades—but every book has its own pacing. If we’re reading about a young woman spending a summer in Florence, you’d expect the pacing to be mellow and relaxed, with a text mainly focused on description and casual conversation. Likewise, most cozy mysteries are chiefly made up of conversation and scene description, which are not usually considered gripping entertainment.

And yet, just like with thrillers, we can find ourselves compulsively reading cozies.

In other media, pacing can be pretty straight forward. How do we pick up the pace in music? Have the drummer (or the other musicians) play faster. (Probably there’s advice about playing on the upbeat instead of the downbeat, but I’m not musical.) Film has a number of techniques, including fast editing, that will speed the pace.

But with text on a page, it’s just one word after another. We can make a book seem shorter by including a bunch of one-line paragraphs that don’t extend to the right margin, but that’s just the book. It doesn’t increase the pace of the story. Yeah, I’m going against some really common advice here: short sentences are not one of the keys to fast-paced writing. We can increase the pace with long sentences, too. I ended the biggest action scene in Game of Cages with a run-on sentence that was over five hundred words long. It’s complexity, not length, that slows things down.

My friend Bill Martell is a screenwriter with an interesting theory (well, more than one, really, but let’s talk about this one) about films: they generally have two genres. The primary genre is where all the big set pieces and high drama occurs. Those are the super-exciting “peaks” in the story where the pace is most frenetic. The secondary genre (the word “subplot” just isn’t that descriptive) is where the “lulls” happen. Taking Super-8 as an example: the primary genre is a monster movie about an alien that grabs people and devours them. The secondary genre is a coming of age story. In between the chase scenes and the scary monster stuff, the mellower moments that let us catch our breath center on the protagonist’s relationship with his father, with the girl he likes, and with his best friend.

In decades past, the second genre was typically a love story, usually with the Only Woman Appearing In The Film. Lately, it’s more likely to be about Daddy Issues.

Books are different, but only because they can be longer and more complex. We can have a whole bunch of different plots running throughout the book, with multiple points of view, and can switch between them whenever we need to alter the pace. If we have one storyline about a prince leading a battle against an invading army, we can switch over to the princess being forced into a marriage with a man she knows is secretly plotting with the invaders, then switch to a disreputable smuggler working the docks, wondering who’s bringing in all these new shipments. Battle -> Court Intrigue -> Skulking -> Battle -> Court Intrigue -> and so on, switching between them.

The thing is, each storyline could be equally gripping. Just because one is slower-paced than the others doesn’t mean that the reader attaches to the story less ferociously. But the difference in pace is important for creating that reader attachment. The fast parts need the slow, just as the slow needs the fast.

To shift gears a little bit: Most people who go to see a Michael Bay movie know they’re in for spectacle, which is achieved through some very specific techniques. However, although the pace is fast due to the way it’s framed, shot, and edited, a lot of people find it intensely dull and/or unsatisfying.

The audience doesn’t care because the first step in creating pacing that really works is to create a situation that the readers care deeply about.

Look at the situation I presented four paragraphs before: some readers will have zero interest in anything related to a princess forced into a bad marriage. Maybe they don’t like reading about female characters. Maybe they don’t like reading about female characters without a lot of agency. It doesn’t matter. Even if the story is full of chases and betrayals and death-defying risks, every time the narrative switches to her plot, the book will sag.

For that reader.

You really can’t please everyone. Personal example: I was confused by early reviews of Child of Fire that said “nothing happened” for the first 100 pages. I was perplexed by this, because the protagonist sees a child catch fire and transform, they he helps break into a home, then a gunman shoots up the restaurant he’s in, then…

Anyway, a lot was happening, and it was happening quickly. However, the main plot question was “What the hell is going on here?” and there are certain readers who don’t consider that a legitimate plot question. For them, unless there’s a clear goal (beyond “we need to figure this out”) it’s all a holding pattern. I suspect those readers will never truly like my work.

How do we control the pacing, though?

As I’ve been trying to demonstrate, there are no hard and fast rules. Some choices will seem fast in one book and slow in another, depending on what’s around it. Sometimes the reader will be impossible to win over, no matter what we do.

Like all writing, it depends on what information is being delivered to the reader and how. It’s not something I can turn into a numbered list. Is the scene we’re writing about a soldier trying to defuse a ticking bomb, and full of relatively simple language? Probably fast paced. Is it about a soldier trying to defuse a bomb and full of complicated clauses, digressions into the soldier’s childhood, a description of the surroundings? Well, that might be frustratingly in conflict with itself, and maybe that’s the point.

Characters we care about, doing something we’re interested in, acting in a frantic way, described in the appropriate language, is probably a fast-paced part of the story. Unless it isn’t. If they’re taking stock, or just getting to know each other (so the reader will be sad when they’re killed later) that’s probably slower.

The only way to really tell is by the feel of it. When writing/revising/rereading a section, do we feel as though some tidal force is pushing us forward? Do we feel centered and at ease? Frankly, for all the talk about writerly technique, I think we too often give short shrift to the true arbiter of proper technique: our own taste.

Short sentences! Showing instead of telling! Whatever! These things are usually substitutions for the careful creative decision that seems right at the moment. The real world of art—even commercial art of the kind I write—is more complicated than short sentences = fast pace.

Anyone who’s curious about the way I do pacing, look no further than the opening of my new trilogy. Check the cover.:

The Way Into Chaos Cover

It’s about a sentient curse that brings about the collapse of an empire, and it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

You can find out more about that first book here, or you can read the sample chapters I’ve posted on my blog to see a slow lull that builds until it turns into a fast-paced scene of violence.

Thanks for your time.

BIO: Harry Connolly’s debut novel, Child of Fire, was named to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Novels of 2009. For his epic fantasy series The Great Way, he turned to Kickstarter; at the time this was written, it’s the ninth-most-funded Fiction campaign ever. Book one of The Great Way, The Way Into Chaos, was published in December, 2014. Book two, The Way Into Magic, was published in January, 2015. The third and final book, The Way Into Darkness, was released on February 3rd, 2015. Harry lives in Seattle with his beloved wife, beloved son, and beloved library system.

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 27

Chapter 27 is up on on Wattpad! I’m getting nervous now, down to the wire before I pull it off Wattpad and launch the paper copy on Amazon. :::chews nails::: The final chapter, 28, will post on Saturday. I’ll give it a week, and then the whole thing comes down so I can make it available for sale on Amazon. Get caught up now, if you’re not buying the book!

And we’re finally getting a break in the gray and the wet we’ve had. The rivers are still way up, water’s lapping at the edge of the road in places where I drive, but we’re supposed to be dry for the next week or so. I was able to get a few shots this morning on the way to work. Oddly it was clearer at my house than further down the road where I was once again swallowed up by the fog. This first shot is from my front porch. It’s a little blurry, but the color took my breath away.

sunrise 2-11-15

The bright purple and reddish-orange faded very quickly to soft pinks

Rounding the curve 2-11-15

Sunrise Minter Bridge Rd 2-11-15

Farmington at Burkhalter sunrise 2-11-15

Unfortunately all my shots of the high water in the marsh came out like this:

marsh high water 2-11-15

Which is what happens most of the time. The point is, normally you can’t actually see the water here. So yeah, it’s been soggy.

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 26

Chapter 26 went live yesterday, sorry to be a day late with the notice! Only two more chapters to go after this so time is winding down to read it for free online. There have now been over 5000 reads of Revenants Abroad on Wattpad, so thank you everyone! :D

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 25

Chapter 25 is up now on Wattpad! Three left to go, I’ll give it a week and then pull it to get the paper copy up on Amazon. As I’ve mentioned previously, Amazon’s terms are such that if the book is available anywhere for free, they will make it free as well. So… I am forced to remove it from Wattpad when I put the paper copy up for sale. Hope everyone who wants to has a chance to finish it before then.

I’m making slow progress on the sequel, and feeling sidetracked by a couple of other stories I started and want to work on.

Picture is not compressed, if you care to embiggen. Sunrise dressed in blue and gray this morning.

blue-gray pond 2-4-15

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 24

Chapter 24 is up now on Wattpad! This may be the longest yet, at 12 Wattpad-pages. If you’re snowed in this weekend, or it’s just too cold to be outside, it might be a good time to catch up on your reading. Four more chapters to go, then I’ll give it about a week and pull the story from Wattpad to get the book up on Amazon. It is still available as an ebook from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo.

Here’s our lonely mountain (sans dragon) at sunset, an eagle perched in the next-door neighbor’s tree, last night’s moon, and a spider web in the power lines under the streetlight.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 23

Chapter 23 is up now on Wattpad! Only five more to go. And as I’ve said I will be removing it from Wattpad entirely about a week after the final chapter posts so I can make it available on Amazon, so not too much longer until the paper copies will be for sale.

So today started out incredibly foggy, cleared later, then the fog was starting to come back on the way home. I really liked the clouds that look like a halo around the tree. It was so odd, lined up just right for that shot.

Foggy pond 1-28-15 foggy sunset 1-28-15 Cloud halo with tree 1-28-15 Moon 1-28-15

Revenants Abroad – Chapter 22

Chapter 22 is up now on Wattpad! I want to sincerely thank everyone who’s reading along. I have to say I’ve been a little surprised by the demographics of the readership on Wattpad for this story. The largest percentage (44%) list their age as “over 45″, and more surprising to me is 22% are male. Interestingly most of the engagement I’ve had with people on Twitter about the story has been with men. One reader said, “definitely felt like a more traditional vamp novel with the act of feeding so sexualized”  and that he was looking forward to a sequel. There is a love triangle in the book, but I think it’s first and foremost a buddy story. Mostly they’re trying to survive without getting killed. If you’ve been hesitant to check it out, thinking it’s another YA vampire romance with sparkles, I assure you it’s not.

A question I get a lot is, “Is there going to be a sequel?”

Why yes! Yes there is.

I’m working on it, but need to get back into NaNoWriMo mode and crank out some wordage every day.

And with that, I will leave you with this:

January 23 2015 sunrise

Blog Tour – STRUCK by Clarissa Johal

Welcome to the blog tour celebrating the 1 Year Anniversary of the release of Paranormal Gothic Horror Novel ~STRUCK by Clarissa Johal.  Follow the tour (schedule posted below) to read new reviews, interviews with Clarissa, and exclusive excerpts.“The shadows hadn’t been waiting. The shadows had been invited.”



About STRUCK

After a painful breakup, Gwynneth Reese moves in with her best friend and takes a job at a retirement home. She grows especially close to one resident, who dies alone the night of a terrific storm. On the way home from paying her last respects, Gwynneth is caught in another storm and is struck by lightning. She wakes in the hospital with a vague memory of being rescued by a mysterious stranger. Following her release from the hospital, the stranger visits her at will and offers Gwynneth a gift–one that will stay the hands of death. Gwynneth is uncertain whether Julian is a savior or something more sinister… for as he shares more and more of this gift, his price becomes more and more deadly.

Book Details:
Title: STRUCK
Genre: Paranormal Gothic Horror
Author(s): Clarissa Johal
Cover Artist: Kelly Shorten
ISBN: 978-1-61937-690-8
Number of Pages: 255
Price: $4.99
Purchase Links:
About the Author:
Clarissa Johal has worked as a veterinary assistant, zoo-keeper aide and vegetarian chef. Writing has always been her passion. When she’s not listening to the ghosts in her head, she’s dancing or taking photographs of gargoyles. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters and every stray animal that darkens the doorstep. One day, she expects that a wayward troll will wander into her yard, but that hasn’t happened yet.
*Member of the Author’s Guild
Coming May 19, 2015 from Permuted Press
VOICES, a paranormal psychological horror
STRUCK, a paranormal gothic horror
(2014) Musa Publishing
*Indie Book of the Day Award
*Nominated for the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2014
BETWEEN, a story of the paranormal
(2012) Musa Publishing
*Second place in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2012
*Paranormal Reads gives BETWEEN 4 out of 5 Bats
PRADEE, a young adult fantasy
(2010) CreateSpace
*Second round finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2012
Short stories:
PIGEONS, published in the literary journal Susurrus
THE ROPE, published in the literary journal Susurrus
Non-Fiction:
A WAY OF LIFE, published in The Sacramento Bee
Find Clarissa Online:
Praise for STRUCK:
Lovely Reads

“This book grabs you in right away and hold your attention…I so loved this book and didn’t put it down until the very end.” Read More ~ Lovely Reads

Bex ‘n’ Books

“This is a spooky thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You won’t be able to put it down because you must finish it to see what happens, even if it keeps you up late at night to do so.” Read More ~ Bex’n’Books

Bibliophilic Book Blog

“STRUCK will get beneath your skin from the very beginning. Gwen’s a likable character with a difficult past and tenuous future after meeting Julian. I liked the secondary characters, especially Fenten and Poppy. The characters were definitely all well-developed and engaging.” Read More ~ Bibliophilic Book Blog

Straight from the Library

“The characters are well drawn and likable….The action is fast paced– I read the book in one sitting.” Read More ~ Straight from the Library


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How did you come up with the idea for STRUCK?
Some stories begin as random scenes, some as characters, and some are born from asking the question, “What if?” I was hit with the idea of STRUCK while running on a forest trail near my house. It was during a thunderstorm and I wondered what it would be like to be hit by lightning. I write about ghosts and things that go bump in the night and in essence, those entities are energy. What if a portal was opened by a lightning strike? And what if that portal allowed the energy from those entities to escape? The idea was intriguing and I went to bed still thinking about it. That night, I dreamt I stood in a field, with lightning striking the ground all around me. But the lightning wasn’t just releasing electrical energy, the lightning was releasing negative entities from the Otherworld. I woke from the nightmare in a panic, thinking those entities had somehow attached themselves to me. And so a story is born.
I went on to research the effects of being struck by lightning, interviewed several lightning survivors, and began writing STRUCK. I’m continually amazed how a, “What if?” idea can expand into a novel.
What first inspired you to become a writer? And what compels you to continue your career as an author?
I wrote my first short story in grade six. I was asked by the teacher to read it aloud to the class, which terrified me. After I was finished, I realized that I actually had everyone’s attention! I was shy and we moved every year, so I was always the new kid. When you’re in that situation, it’s kind of like being invisible. Finding my voice through story-telling made me realize how powerful writing could be. As far as continuing—truthfully? I think I’d go nuts if I didn’t write.
What made you choose the genre of paranormal gothic horror?
I started out writing fantasy fiction. I was working on the second installment to my PRADEE series when there were two characters that kept showing up on the page, over and over. They didn’t belong in fantasy novel, nor did they belong in my story! But their backstory came to me so vividly, that I set aside my series and wrote my first paranormal novel, BETWEEN. I’ve been pulled into the Otherworld permanently now. The ideas come faster than I can write
them down.

Exclusive Excerpt:

She woke with her cheek pressed against concrete. Paint tubes littered the floor. Gwynneth pushed herself up, but the floor tilted and she slumped down again. Daytime was always more difficult. The filtered gray light burned her eyes, and the sounds from the other artists hurt her ears. Gwynneth dragged one of the canvases toward her. It had been painted on, but it didn’t matter. She would cover it with another layer. She picked up a paintbrush and waited for the darkness to assail her senses once again. Her world slowly collapsed in on itself, and her hand shook…waiting. The tip of her paintbrush touched the canvas, and black tendrils sprang up, capturing it.

“Gwynneth Reese, open the door.”

She was jerked from her trance and dropped the paintbrush. So close.

“I know you’re in there. Open the goddamn door!”

“Go away, Fenten.”

“Don’t you tell me to go away.”

The tendrils that had been lending her power sank back into the canvas. “Go away. I’m busy!”

“You got two choices, girlfriend. You can unlock the door, or I’ll break it down.”

She heard the anger in Fenten’s voice. It took a lot to make him angry, and she reluctantly got up. She braced herself against the wall and opened the door.

“You need to open the windows in here.” Fenten stalked past her to the window and ripped the newspaper from it.

Light flooded into the dark corners, and she squinted. “That hurts my head.”

“You hurt my head,” Fenten replied, hands on hips. “What the fuck, Gwennie? You haven’t showed up at work for over a week, and Seth is boo-hooing in his apartment right now because he thinks he took advantage of his best friend. One that he’s completely in love with, I might add. You didn’t tell me that, did you? It took me two bottles of wine to get Seth to spill that bit of information. And you’re locked in here doing God knows what! You’re messed up, Gwennie. You know that?” He looked down at her, blue eyes blazing.

She tried to make sense of what he had said.

“I’ve taken about all I can from you. I’ve got a good mind to take you across my knee.”

“Leave me alone.” Wandering over to her easel, she collapsed in front of it.

“What the fuck is going on?”

Gwynneth picked up her paintbrush. Her hand shook, and she tightened her hold. “Nothing’s going on.”

“Bull. Shit.”

“Nothing’s going on. I need to get these done.”

Fenten squatted in front of her so they were eye-to-eye. “I’m going to only say this once. You can ignore or mouth off to me all you want to, Gwynneth Reese, because I’m your friend and I don’t give a shit. But Seth is another story altogether, and if you keep up with this, I’m going to disown you.”

She took in the fact that he was flushed red with anger…and returned her attention to the canvas.

Fenten grabbed her chin. “There’s only one time in our lives that our soulmate comes along, and if we don’t grab the opportunity and treat them like gold, they will slip away forever.”

Soulmate. A wave of emotion bubbled up from inside her, sucking the air from her lungs. What’s happening? Heat surged throughout her body, and she cried out. Bright, flashing lights filled her vision.

“Shit,” Fenten murmured.

She felt Fenten’s hands on the back of her head as he eased her to the floor. She heard him talking, and she shut her eyes tightly. The heat ripped through her again. Bright, flashing lights flickered under her eyelids. She fought against something that threatened to pull her away. Suddenly, it all came in a rush, the feelings she had been fighting the past few weeks. Pain ripped throughout her core. She bit her tongue, tasting blood in her mouth. Seth. A light went on in her soul and scattered the darkness that had been in there moments before. It was a moment of clarity, and she seized it.

Tour Presented by:

Tour Schedule:

January 1: Tour Kick-Off http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/

January 2: Exclusive Excerpt http://ifeeltheneedtheneedtoread.com/

January 4: Review http://www.carolynspearromance.com/blog

January 5: Review HorrorMade.blogspot.com

January 7: Exclusive Excerpt http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/

January 9: Exclusive Excerpt http://aliciajoseph.com/

January 12: Review https://twitter.com/peach83352

January 15: Exclusive Excerpt http://darcnina.wordpress.comJanuary 17: Review http://mullenarmyfamily.blogspot.com/January 19: Exclusive Excerpt http://sloanetaylor.blogspot.com/January 20: Exclusive Excerpt http://www.babsbookbistro.net/

January 21: Interview http://ifeeltheneedtheneedtoread.com/

January 23: Exclusive Excerpt https://fillingspaces.wordpress.com/

January 26: Interview http://karengreco.blogspot.com/

January 28: Review http://neutiquamerro.wordpress.com

January 31: Reviews (by 3 different tour hosts)

1) http://ifeeltheneedtheneedtoread.com/

2) http://www.themoralofourstories.com

3) http://hello-booklover.tumblr.com/

Revenants Abroad–Chapter 21

In which our hero takes matters into his own hands… Neko and Anne-Marie are off to Greece, leaving Andrej and a couple of hired thugs free to do what needs to be done.

Chapter 21 can be read free on Wattpad (and yanno, chapters 1-20 as well…)

So here’s a thing. I’ve been contacted twice by people on Wattpad looking to swap ‘votes for votes.’ Maybe this is how some of them reach the rankings they get, by ‘buying’ or swapping votes. My sense of fair play was offended. I won’t do it. I’ve heard of this being done on other sites, a “you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours” set up. The corollary I fear is that if I don’t, will these people feel snubbed and try to keep people away from my story(ies)? I don’t know. I’m still learning my way around Wattpad and discovering the “clubs” (discussion boards). It seems there’s still a great deal I don’t know about the site. I’ve been disappointed not to even receive any comments on the book, although people have contacted me outside that venue to talk to me about it.

I’m nearing the end of it on Wattpad. There are 7 chapters to go and then I’ll give it a week or so and pull it so I can upload it to CreateSpace and make paper copies available. Amazon’s terms do not allow the book to be available for free elsewhere, or they’ll make it free, too. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it on Smashwords or move it to the Kindle platform and other resellers directly (Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, most notably). I’ll have to see what’s involved.

So anyhoo, here are a few shots from this morning’s commute. Lovely to have a break in the rain. Happy Wednesday!

 

kolk pond Tonquin Road 1-19-15Mt Hood sunrise -1-21-15Pink sky and freezing fog 1-21-15RR Pond 2 sunrise 1-21-15