Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finding It Independently

Trust us, we know that sometimes it is hard to get noticed even when you do something worth someone’s attention. As independent eBook authors, we struggle against the perception that if you haven’t been swallowed by a large publishing conglomerate, your work must be second rate. We know it’s the same for others in the world of arts and crafts. So, in order to foster good karma and so we can practice what we preach, we like to support other independents who have made the effort to produce quality work on their own. This week we have the chance to do this three times.

One of Lynn’s current students turned personal tragedy into a remarkable work of fiction. If we weren’t old enough to know that there is plenty of room for good writers, we might be intimated that one so young could produce such a fine novel her first time out. Instead, we would like to take this opportunity to recommend Slipping Reality by Emily Beaver. We got an electronic copy from Amazon (find it here) and read it on our Kindle and on our laptop’s Kindle Reader. It is definitely worth reading even without knowing the back story. We are both happy and proud to wish Emily continued success in writing and look forward to reading her next eBook.
 Another former student and long time friend married an artist who works at a bookstore to help make ends meet. He had his first gallery showing this month and we went down to see it. The show’s title, “Imagination Rules the World” could not have been more accurate. To quote from the brochure: “The artist, Daniel Ketelhut, leads you on an imaginative journey through fantastic artscapes where expressive, surreal creatures lurk just outside the realm of the known.” We’d never seen anything like it and were so impressed, we bought one. The Abduction of Persephone is going to hang in our living room as soon as the show is over. If you are within driving distance of The Main Street 5 Gallery in El Cajon (124 E. Main Street) we highly recommend visiting on or before Labor Day. It might be the only chance you’ll have of seeing all these amazing and inventive creatures in the same place again. 
You could say that Evan’s cousin makes bags out of banners, but that would be nearly tragic in understatement. What really happens is that Mary Alice Kessler turns outdated vinyl banners into functional art. Clicking through the picture of tote bags on her website ( reminds us of thumbing through the pictures in National Geographic. It’s simply mind boggling that so much eye-popping imagery can be wrapped around something so practical. We also find it hard to believe that these masterpieces were created from something (let’s face it) you never even noticed hanging on the side of some building. We were so impressed that we had her make us a custom tote from the cover of our eBook. Starting next week it will be filled with healthy snacks and be prominently displayed in the Poway High Student Services Office.
You could look at it like it was a fair exchange; that we simply traded money for goods. But we know that it was more than that. Our lives were enriched because we seized the chance to learn what other creative folks were doing and took the opportunity to be part of their future success. Now, when you discover Emily, Daniel, and Mary Alice, we’ll be able to say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah! We knew them first!”  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Picture Posting

This week’s post is about posts; more specifically about making our posts a little more interesting. To help with this we like to include pictures. The good ones we download from a royalty-free image site but, since we also like to keep it personal, we try to include a picture we’ve taken. This can be quite a challenge.

As you may have noticed by now, we are not particularly good photographers. We try to compensate for our technical shortcomings with originality. Usually this means setting up something at the kitchen table with the camera is set to automatic while it is perched on top of a stack of books. It can get pretty funny sometimes – pushing the camera’s timer and dashing into position while dodging the cat or some inanimate obstacle. It can also be amusing as we discuss what body part we want to get cropped out when we photoshop the result.

We’re not sure why we really go through all of the effort, except maybe that the blog is beginning to take on a life of its own. Still we’re pleased when our post pictures get noticed. The one we did when we were talking about a book with an alien theme received the most enthusiastic response so far. Our favorite was the one where Lynn has her fingers stuck in her ears. In these cases, and in a few others, we think we were able to capture a little of the fun we have together when we’re creating novels and in the rest of our lives. Hopefully you see it too.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When The Readers Just Don’t Get It

We have a novel we’ve been working on for three years now. When Evans drafted it originally it was a love story between two exceptional high school girls and how their getting together played out among their exceptional friends. Each chapter started with a poem. While sometimes gritty, the language these young people used was not guttural and often used vocabulary not common to TV teen dialog. The original draft was also long for the typical young adult novel, coming in at around 120,000 words, twice the length suggested for YA.

The chapter poems didn’t survive Lynn’s review and neither did a lot of details Evans thought of as “back story.” More cutting was done with our multiple reviews and, when we were through, it was a leaner 99,000 words but the central themes and advanced teenage dialog remained.

The problem was that our advance readers didn’t believe it. They thought subject matter, scenes, and language were too advanced for high school kids. The fact that we’d known teenagers every bit as capable and loquacious as our characters couldn’t be transferred to our written world. At least we couldn’t transfer it. There also seemed to be doubt that “children” could understand their own hearts as well as our characters portrayed. There needed to be more doubt and more struggle before our made up story would feel real. We found it strange that our fantasy and science fiction works were viewed more realistically than our novel based on real life.

So we are reworking the novel yet again. Now, instead of being in high school, the central characters are college age. We’re also eviscerating the back stories surrounding the supporting characters.  If it doesn’t support the emotional journey of the two central young women, it’s gone. We’re learning you need to be stubborn if you’re a writer and, if you expect others to read your work, you need to listen to what they’re telling you. We like to poke fun and say that our advance readers “just don’t get it,” but of course they do, which is why they are so important to producing a solid novel.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Like Mother Like Son

When you’re a writer, you need to pay attention to patterns that repeat, even when they take awhile for them to come full circle.

Eight weeks shy of twenty-six years ago we were celebrating the fourth birthday of a darling little girl. Our daughter Laura was such a sweet child that she fooled us into believing that raising children was a snap. Her sister Sarah, who was born 16 ½ months later, soon set us right. But on that special day our quiet first child celebrated the way all little girls do with a pink little party that had lots of friends and family spoiling her with cute little gifts.
She didn’t stay pink very long. While always short of stature, she grew into the toughest 9-12 year old we’ve ever known. She loved a number of sports but excelled at softball where she practiced pitching until she was the master of control. Her specialty was the drop ball. When she let it go it looked like it was a meatball in the center of the plate. But, about the time the batter started to drool and let loose a swing straight out of Casey at the Bat, the bottom would drop out of the pitch and the ball would dive toward the corner of the plate. Invariably the batter would nick the top of it and the ball would roll weakly for one of her teammates to gobble up and throw over to first base. The infielders loved when Laura pitched while the outfielders fell asleep.

But even sweet little girls don’t stay young forever. They grow up, get married, and have children of their own. Four years ago this week our sweet little girl had an even sweeter little boy. Ethan is charming, pleasant, and the absolute apple of our eye. On top of that he has his mother’s love of baseball. So today there is a baseball themed party being set up in our backyard and soon loud and happy voices will be echoing through the neighborhood while the birthday boy celebrates with his family and friends. No pink, but plenty of party.

Eight weeks shy of twenty-six years ago we penned a birthday poem for our little girl. Today we are giving it to our first grandson and sharing it with you. Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Hurray for a Four-Year-Old’s Birthday!
Happy birthday sweet Ethan.
Happy birthday we say.
You’re one more year older
starting today.

You’re one more year wiser
and you’ve grown a lot too
since the last time we sang
happy birthday to you.

From this day onward
you’ll be three never more.
For after today
you’ll be counted as four.

So happy birthday sweet Ethan.
Happy birthday my dear.
Stay safe ‘till we sing
happy birthday next year.