Now its onto the stars of the show.
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By happy accident, I discovered the way to travel interstate, overseas, inter-culturally and explore the ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.
It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the
inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity. I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need to explore.’
I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down country lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…
Now, if I need to capture something of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address. Then in I go and wander around, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as street art, verge gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings.
I have also found that exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the inhabitants of the town. Many homes give a slideshow or even a video tour online. This helps you pick up on details of life – home decor, layout, from wall hangings to cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden.
Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a ’feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!
The nice thing about working on panel 5 is that it's a nice break from the multitude of detail on panel 4. I covered a lot of real estate this evening just by working on the background. The downside, however, is that because I was working a little red into the yellow for texture, I had to work without stopping in order to blend the colors before they dried completely. And, since it was a larger area, I was using larger strokes...I feel alright right now, but I think my arm will fall off tomorrow morning.
This afternoon I drove up to Cambria to see if my voice will work for the audio book of J2M.
It was the first time Rick and I had met in person, so we chatted for a few minutes as we walked around to the studio, which takes up two small rooms above his garage.
Inside, I got settled on the couch with the text in front of me on a music stand. It took some some time to get the microphone just right. Then Rick went into the other room where his equipment is and I could see him putting on the headphones through the window. He signaled me to start reading.
Reading was much harder than I anticipated! I've read the beginning of this book aloud hundreds of times, but recording is a whole new game. For a start, there's no need to project your voice. The microphone is inches away and it catches everything, including the little pops of the p's and the sibilance of the s's and the sigh when you flub a line for the third time.
Reading for a recording is more like acting than reading. You have to give the characters unique voices, even if you don't "do voices," you have read slowly enough for the readers to absorb the dense imagery in the beginning of the book, and, if you are me, you have to modulate the long a's so nobody can tell you're from Philadelphia. (I didn't even know I said words like "nasty" in such a nasty way!)
We worked at it for a couple hours, recording two chapters in the end. It's clear that I'm going to have to practice (a lot!) to do this right, but I think we both feel that my voice will work in the end. I have some homework: to get a man and another woman (with a lower voice than mine) to do an informal reading of the same material so we can compare. If I like either one better, we'll try to find a professional actor to do the reading.
Rick gave me a copy of today's reading on a CD and I popped it into the car player on the way home. Some of those a's really made me cringe, but you know? All in all, it doesn't sound too bad.
Right now I think this is going to work!
June and July will be good months for print reviews of Journey to Mythaca: one is coming out in the June/July issue of a homeschool magazine in Great Britain, and another will be in several small town weeklies in Marin County and the local free monthly here.
Today I'll write to the independent bookstores in Marin. I wish I could visit them in person with my basket of books but there's no time this month.
Now that I have a book group guide together, I'm working on having setting up more book groups. I put an online one up on belief.net but considering how hard it is to find on the site, I can't imagine that I'll get the requisite 12 people to sign up.
The group that has the most potential to happen is the local one I'll set up through the Novel Experience. So that's my next job: to make a sign for the checkout there.
The signing at The Novel Experience went very well, as signings go. I've done some where almost no one comes and I only sell copies of the book to the store. This was much better.
It was a lovely day and the streets were crowded with tourists. Jim gave me the little alcove outside the store, and I brought all my characters and I set them up on the table and chairs.
At first no one stopped at all, even though I think the display was attractive with all the little people and Magellan himself. But people walked right by without a sideways glance. I guess they were all on their way somewhere else?
Half an hour in, the friends I'd invited and some others who happened by arrived. Pretty soon the little table was surrounded. People on the street were suddenly interested. Lots of people took the book club brochure, and I sold and signed several copies.
When the crowd finally thinned, I started approaching families with kids the right age asking, "Would you like to meet the characters from my new book?" That worked very well. More books went.
All in all, it was good, very good. Next time I'm going to wear more comfortable shoes though. What on earth made me think my feet should look good for a book-signing?
On the very same day that Google called Tom to order many thousands of little chocolate coins with the Google logo imprinted on them, Journey to Mythaca turned up on Google Books.
With book one in the “forts” series due out in just a couple weeks, and book two tentatively scheduled for sometime later in the year I thought I might type up a little something to give you an idea of what to expect.
I personally think the trailer is cooler than Steve McQueen in “The Getaway,” or a beat up Arnold in the chopper after he finished throwing dukes with the Predator, or even Cool Coolerson moments after winning the “National Cool Competition” in Coolsville U.S.A.
He edged out Coolton McCool for the title.
Honestly though, beyond being so darn cool – the trailer really doesn’t tell you a whole heck of a lot about the plot.
Lets start with a little background.
At roughly 120,000 words book one, which is titled “Fathers and Sons,” was written a little over two years ago and took me about year to finish. Why so long you ask? Well, I was only able to write between the hours of 10pm and 2am, and I did take a few months off sometime around June. Why the time off?
None of your business – stop being so nosey.
I shopped the book around quite a bit and amassed an impressive pile of rejection letters. Most were positive, “I like what you’re doing, but I’m just not interested at this time” sorts of things. There was one slightly pompous, “This is good but I’m just not feeling passionate about it, and I can’t get behind anything I don’t feel passionate about” response, and there were even a couple “I have absolutely no idea who in the world buy this” tossed in there.
With memories of my nerdy high school years rising to the surface once again, I had taken just about all the rejection I could handle and was ready to move onto the next project when Canonbridge came along.
Turns out all of those rejections were a blessing in disguise. Canonbridge has been a dream and at this point I can’t imagine there being a better partner in the publishing process.
I’m not saying that just to brownnose either.
Believe it or not that chocolate colored smear on my schnoze is actually nothing more than chocolate. I’m a messy eater. You know those pictures of little kids with bowls of spaghetti on their heads? I took one of those last week – of me.
When book one hits on or around the 20th of this month it’ll hopefully be some of what you’re expecting, and a lot of what you aren’t. If I can leave you surprised and wanting more I’ve done my job.
Without giving away too much of the plot let me tell you that you’ll get very real drama in a world familiar, and even more in worlds not so much. There are ancient prophecies, underground cities, castles, kings, swords, monsters so incredibly large their heads get lost in the clouds, and an army hell-bent on stacking the bodies of the dead just as high. At the center of it all is a group of five children from very different situations with abilities they can scarcely understand, let alone hope to control.
You’ll get some actions, you’ll get some tears, you’ll get some scares, maybe even a couple laughs here and there, and hopefully a few moments that will you feeling like you’ve been slimed.
I of course mean that in the most positive of ways.
In the end, I just hope you dig it.
I dig it.
If I didn’t I wouldn’t have written it, and would feel like the worlds biggest jerk trying to sell it to you.