Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beginnings and Ends

Yesterday was a very strange day for me, and here's why:

1)  The first 500 words of THE REFUGEE were critiqued on the wonderful Aimee Salter's blog, and I received some fantastic advice.  I've got some polishing to do, and I'll be undertaking that soon.

2)  I also passed the climax of THE REFUGEE.  Granted, technically I passed it a year ago, but as I'm rewriting the whole bloody book, it's a huge milestone.  I'll hopefully finish sometime this week, then it's off to some beta readers!

But first, I have to go revise the beginning.

Sometimes I feel as though I'm working in this gigantic loop.  Naturally my writing improves as I get deeper into the novel, so that by the time I'm finished, I look back at the beginning and think it's trash.  So of course I have to start over again, and so on and so forth.  One of these days I just need to be done with it.

Though I've tried that too.

For awhile I loathed THE REFUGEE.  Absolutely hated it.  I wanted to forget about it, and start something new.  Something fresh.  But then I mentioned it to a friend, and they told me it sounded like a cool concept.  So I took it out of the desk drawer, and started to revise.

Still hated it.  Back in the drawer.

Then came another friend, and another bit of encouragement.

This has happened so many times, I've lost count.  And now I finally haves something I'm satisfied with.  Something I'm serious about.  But I'm also drained, and though I look forward to some fine-tuning, part of me wants to move on.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Narrative Biographies

Recently I finished reading The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, a narrative biography of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife.  Of course, it was largely fictionalized, as most narrative biographies are, but it still made for an interesting read, and got me thinking of other people whose lives were just too darn fascinating for a standard biography.  People who lived a compelling story, and whose lives would make a damn good book.

I compiled a short list of whom I would want to write about, if I were to write a narrative biography:

  • Thomas Jefferson - Sure, he wrote the Declaration of Independence, but what about his time in Paris, during which he fell for Maria Cosway?  How about his flight from Richmond, with Benedict Arnold on his heels?  And then there's the story of how he broke his wrist, and could never play the violin well again?  Whether you love him or hate him, there's no doubt that Jefferson lived a life fit for books.
  • Anne, Mary, and/or Deborah Milton - The three daughters of seventeenth-century poet John Milton.  Because Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, he dictated it to his teenage daughters (the oldest, Anne, was only 16 years old when he finished), who wrote it all down.  Now that must have been an interesting experience.
  • Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette - A young aristocrat who directly disobeyed his king by running off to America to fight, and in doing so became like a son to George Washington.  If that weren't enough, he played a crucial role in stirring up the French Revolution, and he witnessed the Napoleonic Era--though he spent quite some time in a French prison.  Now that's fascinating.
  • Pedro I of Brazil - When Napoleon's armies invaded Lisbon, the royal family escaped by fleeing to Brazil, then a colony of Portugal.  Pedro was nine years old at the time, so he spent his teenage years away from home, in a strange and wild land--at least, compared to Europe.  Then much of Latin America was going through a period of unrest, as various colonies called for independence.  Pedro grew to sympathize with the Brazilians, and eventually decided to remain in Brazil as its ruler, rather than return to Portugal with the rest of his family.
  • Herbert Hoover - Herbert Hoover belongs less in a book and more in an off-Broadway orphan musical.  Only unlike Annie and Oliver!, the story of Herbert! starts in tragedy--and ends in it, too.  Orphaned at age nine, Hoover grew up under unusual circumstances, became America's favorite humanitarian during World War I, then President of the United States--and a short while later when the stock market crashed, Public Enemy #1.  Unfortunately for him, he'll always be remembered as "That guy who botched up the Depression."  A sad orphan story indeed.

Who would you want to write about?  Who would you want to read about?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What sound does a wad of mail make as if falls from a letterbox?

Answer:  flumppf

At least, according to http://www.writtensound.com/index.php, a dictionary of "onomatopoeia and words of imitative origin."

I've always been pretty bad at onomatopoeia.  Sounds like bang and clang, tick-tock and clackety-clack I can handle just fine, but when sound descriptions get complicated, I get buried in a jumble of letters that remind me of this:

So, once I got stumped on how to describe shuffling a deck of cards, I looked up an onomatopoeia dictionary!  Not perfect, but definitely helpful for the onomatopoeia-challenged, like me.  Some interesting sounds?

  • vwomp or floovb - the bad tire of a car
  • kish-kish - ice skates
  • nnneeaoowww - a propellor plane
  • schhwaff - a flying arrow
Do I agree with all the sounds up there?  No, but it's a good place to start.  And what did I finally choose for shuffling cards?  Thith-thith-thith-thith.

What are your thoughts on these imitative words?  Do you like them, or do they drive you crazy?  Any interesting sounds that deviate from the usual bams and thuds?

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I've never really had difficulty coming up with titles for my work, but The Refugee (a working title) is driving me mad.  For years I've been trying to think up a better one, and I've decided that the best route would be to pull a line from Dante's Inferno--like Steinbeck took The Grapes of Wrath from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Hemingway took The Sun Also Rises from Ecclesiastes.

But it's not as easy as I expected.  Most every line I consider sounds like the title of a sappy romance, not a time travel thriller.  Like "Breathe with the Soul".  Great title--for a romance.

Some others I've considered:

  • Honorable Enterprise
  • The Deep and Savage Road
  • Smoke on Air
  • Runs among the Lost
Right now, I'm torn between Honorable Enterprise and Runs among the Lost...But I don't really like either of them.  At all, actually.

Oh well.  In the words of Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about that tomorrow."  (I just finished Gone with the Wind, and I'm still on a reading high).

Speaking of book titles, this is awesome:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/the-original-titles-of-15-classic-novels.  I especially like the last one :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Best Christmas Ever

Two of my favorite books of all time.  Two promising movies, starring about two dozen wonderful actors.  One day.

Yup.  I'm fidgeting in my chair like a two-year old right now, I'm so excited.

The first is The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo di Caprio as Jay Gatsby and Toby Maguire as Nick Carraway.

The second is Les Misérables, with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Samantha Barks, to name a few.  I squealed when I saw the trailer today.

And, if I'm not mistaken (which is very possible), they both come out on Christmas.

So Santa can wait.