It’s that time again. How is that possible? Okay, so I took a long overdue vacation and disappeared for a couple of weeks to the other side of the globe. Now it’s back to the Mitten State and just a week before summer classes begin.
Here’s my updates on writing, my latest project, an interview with another great author and music. Let there be music. But enough of the pontificating. Showtime!
Recently I was reminded of a comment from an old creative writing professor. According to him, back in the days of pulp magazines, writers would get paid by the word, instead of a set amount for a submission. With that in mind, many writers would add unnecessary words to describe a scene or interactions between characters. This did absolutely nothing to improve the story, but it did add to the paycheck if the work was accepted.
I’m not a fan of redundancies. Repeating something over and over or just saying the same thing in a different way is a sure way to drive me crazy. More than once I’ve tossed a book aside when this occurs.
This happened last week during my trip. Naturally, I’d taken a couple of books with me. While reading one book, I noticed multiple redundancies. One particular passage thoroughly disgusted me. One of the minor characters arrived on the scene and ‘bounded’ out of his taxi. He then ‘bounded’ up the stairs of the house. Was he suddenly part kangaroo?
I realized that this was a pattern the author used throughout the book. Not everyone bounded but their actions and conversations became redundant, with the same words and expressions repeated. This work was by a popular author with one of the larger publishers.
The best way for me to describe this writing style is wooden. There was something missing throughout the story. Either the author or the editors should have spotted this and corrected it. Simply digging out a thesaurus would have offered more options and resulted in a better manuscript. I couldn’t finish the book.
We all repeat ourselves at one point or another. But as a writer, it’s my job to minimize these occurrences, unless they become vital to the way a character acts.
Work In Progress:
It’s fortunate for me that Leo Agonasti is a patient man. I didn’t take my computer with me on the trip, so no work got done on the manuscript. There was a notebook in my pack, where several pages are now crammed with ideas for scenes. So while I wasn’t at the keyboard recently, I was in fact working on the story. With any luck and the holiday weekend on the horizon, I’ll have some time to flesh these ideas out and add more content to the story.
Meanwhile, the formatted manuscript for “Chasing Favors” was anxiously awaiting my return. Jamie, Malone and the cast of characters are getting closer to the release date in July.
I may even try something new and have a launch party to celebrate the release of the book. The cover should be revealed in June. Jamie insists she’s not vain, but she does appear on the cover.
Once upon a time, in a zip code far, far away, I participated in my first book festival. After setting up my space, I wandered about, talking to some of the other writers. That’s when I first crossed paths with Diana Kathryn Plopa. Not only does Diana write wonderful books, but she is a promoter with a passion for sharing new authors with the world. Diana hosts the Indie Reads Aloud podcast, of which I’ve been a frequent visitor.
So it’s high time to introduce you all to my good friend, Diana.
Tell us something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’m a multi-genre author, writing coach, and book editor. As mom to one son, Zachary (now a very tall adult person), I live in the Detroit area with my husband, Dave; and two dogs, Finnigan and Charlie.
I’ve loved books all my life. I remember writing my first story at about seven. It was a retelling of “The Town Musicians of Bremen” by the Brothers Grimm. Notable differences in my version were that the animals were a rebellious teenager wild animal rock band (instead of a geriatric domestic folk group), and the lead singer was a duck. I remember my first-grade teacher telling me that she thought it was very clever, and I was hooked on the idea of spending my life as a storyteller from that moment forward. Just for the record, no, I have no idea whatever became of the manuscript (although I think it may be in a box in my basement with some old journals); and yes, I may actually rewrite it and publish it one day. The story is still very vivid in my imagination.
Do you ever imagine one of your novels being made into a movie or television series?
I haven’t ever really thought about the visual versions of my books. I’m happiest in the world of words. I dream in subtitles instead of images (except when I have nightmares about snakes, for some reason, my brain likes to torture me with those images – ick!)… Think of a dark screen with words scrolling up as if I was reading the dream on a page, similar to the opening sequence in “Star Wars” but not nearly as dramatic. Yes, I know, I’m a bit strange. I love it when people read aloud to me. So, more than thinking about films or television, I often imagine who might narrate the audiobooks.
Any favorite actors you’d cast in the lead roles?
In a utopian world, where all dreams come true, and cost is not a barrier… I’d like to have Jeremy Irons read “Free Will”; and Sting (as Thomas), Stana Katic (as Gillian), and Sandra Bullock (as Paige) read “A Tryst of Fate”. I’ve heard all four read short stories aloud, and for whatever reason, I find tremendous comfort in all of their voices.
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you write the chapters in sequence?
This is a fun question, especially coming from you, and considering our frequent teasing of each other on this topic. I’m a Passionate Plotter. I start with a skeleton of beginning, middle, and end. Then I narrow down the outline by adding chapter breaks, and then plot points of the individual scenes for each chapter. But after that, Drake (my Muse) takes over. I rarely write in an intelligent sequence. Drake gives me ideas when they come to him, and so I find myself jumping around a lot to fill in the holes. Then, when all the holes have content in them, I do a deep-dive self-edit from beginning to end for continuity, and then pass it along to my editor to handle all the final fixes.
Tell us a little bit about the characters in your latest book.
Which one? I’m working on five novels and novellas right now. 😊 The one I will finish first is a paranormal novel. This story has an interesting cast of characters who come together for a writer’s retreat. Among them is the retreat facilitator, an MSP detective, a librarian, a newspaper reporter, a photojournalist, a young widow, and an IT specialist. Oh, and of course, the spirits they have to contend with throughout the story.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
As with plotting, I make detailed character maps before I begin to write. I usually build out physical features and psychological enneagrams for each one so I have some idea of how they will interact and respond when Drake and I drop them into various situations. But often, I find that once the writing process begins, the characters stand up and speak for themselves, often changing bits about themselves that I didn’t expect.
Yes, the writing process can be mysterious, even for Plotters! 😊 I once had a main character abdicate her role as a central character, and I had to scramble to figure out who would be willing to take her place. It was a tense few days. But all ended well, and the switch made the story better.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book (well, it’s actually Drake’s latest book) is a second collection of short stories. The stories in “A Duck Echoes” all came from writing prompts, and are a little darker and weirder than those in “A Duck Quacks”. Drake has never been a tremendous fan of the constraints of writing in short form, but the little quacker is getting braver with each new release. 😊
Can you share an excerpt too?
Here’s a little bit of Drake’s latest collection of short stories: A Duck Echoes…
BUT THE TOYS ARE COOL
“You heard me. I’m offended.”
“Offended? By what?”
“Not what, who.”
“Well, whom, actually. Yes, offended.”
“By, well, you, specifically.”
“Me? What’s so offensive about me? I’m a fairly decent fellow, you know.”
“Actually, no, I don’t know. First of all, that sullen and unapproachable thing. It’s inaccurate and seriously unkind.”
“Inaccurate? I thought it seemed rather on-point, myself. I mean, one can’t really go around having a bunch of chummy friends when you’re doing what I do all night.”
“Wrong. Welcoming and kind; that’s closer to the truth. It’s overly dramatic that you wander around all by yourself all the time. There’s no realism in that whole ‘must-do-solitude’ thing. Everyone knows we hang out in big groups. We’re quite social, and loyal. Well, at least you got the loyalty thing right. But the rest of it – way wrong.”
“Well, it’s important, you know, to instill fear, at least a little bit. Otherwise, what’s the point? Nobody’ll pay attention.”
“The point? Here’s the point, you’re propagating the myth that we can’t be trusted. You’ve convinced everyone that we need to be avoided like we’re rabid or something. And this loaner thing? Do you have any idea what it’s like to convince the girls that’s not true? I mean, do you even have a girlfriend?”
“Well, no… not really…I…”
“I thought not. And why would you? There’s nothing soft and cuddly about you. No warmth, no sensitivity. Have you looked into my big brown eyes? There’s a lot of compassion in there. What about your eyes? Oh, that’s right, no one can see them.”
“Hey, I can be warm and cuddly…”
“No, I don’t think you can. Whenever I’ve seen you, you’re out there roughing up guys and ruling the roost according to some warped sense of honor and justice. What is all that? Can’t you just go out and have a good time rather than flying off the handle all the time? Oh, that’s right, I forgot – you don’t really fly at all, do you? So pathetic.”
“Hey! I’m out there trying to do some good in the world, and what are you doing, eh? Oh, that’s right, you’re flapping around willy-nilly, scaring people half to death, coming out of nowhere. People are just out having a good time, camping and singing by the fire, and then you show up, scaring everyone’s girlfriends. At least when I show up, I’m saving or helping someone. Who have you helped lately, huh, dude?”
“I save plenty of folks, mister! Rancher Joe, for instance. If not for me, his cattle would die of dysentery, all those mosquitoes messing with their white blood cells. Those little disease buggers would be infiltrating your steak and burgers if not for me!”
“There! See, I’m improving your image. People wouldn’t think you were a good idea if not for me. They see me doing heroic stuff, then they jump on Google to find out what you’re all about. I’m great PR for you.”
“Improving my image! HA! Thanks to you, people think I live in dank, dark caves and come with a big ol’ heap of retribution.”
“But I’ve got cool toys…You can’t top that one.”
“HA! Toys! See, you can’t even do it on your own. You’re so inauthentic. You need a backpack of crazy gadgets to get the job done. Well, I don’t need your silly toys. I do it all naturally. Did you know that my crap is even good for people? That’s right, buddy, I’ve got some of the best fertilizer around. I bet you can’t say that about your crap, can you?”
“Yeah, well, what about that virus thing? That’s a whole heap of violence if you ask me!”
“Okay, big guy. Let’s take away all your nifty little toys, rip off your cowl, and cram you in a little cage with ten people you don’t know… Oh, and then stab you with a bunch of needles with who knows what in them? How do you think you would do then, hmmmm, Mister Caped Crusader, Dude?”
“Okay, maybe you’ve got a point. But I do have cool toys.”
“Yeah, I’ll give you that. The toys are cool.”
What’s the next project you’ll be working on?
This summer, probably in August, I’ll release the first book in my political thriller series. I’ve never considered writing a series until I began work on this project and realized that the story was so big that I had to break it up into four books. I’m a little worried about that one because it’s a new challenge for me, but it’s a lot of fun to write.
I have a western novel that I started the year before COVID that I’d like to finish. It takes place in the years of the Pony Express and focuses on the life of a young rider. My plan is to release that in September or October.
I also have another children’s picture book coming out later in the year. I’ve finished that story, and my husband, who illustrated my first children’s picture book and painted the cover art for my paranormal novel, is currently working on the illustrations.
And finally, my most daring experiment… I’m working on a suspense novella with just five characters, written entirely in second person narrative. I hope to have that out by the end of the year.
You can find out more about Diana and all her books on the website. Just click on the link.
I like many different types of music. One group that my son Travis got me hooked on years ago was the contemporary swing revival sound from a group known as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. They’ve been on the scene since 1989. It’s impossible to listen to their music and get up and move.
Here’s my top five hits.
Why Me? https://youtu.be/a3Z4RWZa9WA
Diga Diga Doo: https://youtu.be/ufvmD9s76X0
King of Swing: https://youtu.be/xphZkAiJve0
Mr. Pinstripe Suit: https://youtu.be/aBxfAs_skMA
You, Me & the Bottle: https://youtu.be/FkmgafBRdos