Is Ignorance Truly Bliss?

I miss the good old days before I supposedly knew what I was doing.

Back in the last Century, at the end of the 80’s, I was a happy wannabe writer. A new invention had sprung up and I was having oodles of fun using my secretarial skills that I’d made a point to learn in the 9th grade to help me in my future career as a writer. My skills as a touch typist landed me clerical jobs and my boundless curiosity drove me to learn various computer programs. My dad enlisted my help keeping the books for his company on his brand-new TRS-80 computers. One of the perks was that I could have one of those 8” floppies to store my writing on, and print it up on his dot matrix printer for editing and archival! Those computers spoke TRS-DOS and I became proficient with the language. (If you’ve read SOVRAN’S PAWN you’ll understand the significance of that.)

In those days, I just told stories. I didn’t worry overly much with “hopping heads” or “pacing” or “plot reversals.” I just threw things at my characters and let them deal with them, developing along the way. It was raw and it was fun. It was also very, very bad writing but I didn’t care. Ignorance was bliss.

The 90’s rolled around and computer disks shrunk. WYSIWYG replaced dot matrix, and a magical little thing called Windows appeared on the horizon. That was when I lost my innocence. I went to my first writer’s meeting and I had my very first critique – not only by published authors, mind you, but authors whose books I had read and enjoyed. I was intimidated and terrified. By the time they finished their very gentle, but honest critique, I felt stripped bare, humiliated, dejected and a complete failure. I wanted to crawl away and lick my wounds in private.

I will be forever thankful that my then-husband had the foresight to accompany me to that meeting and sit through the critique at my side, listening to every word. When it was over, he could see how shattered I was. Putting his hand over mine, he leaned forward and said, “May I ask you a question?”

I cringed. He wasn’t exactly the most diplomatic sort. At their nods, he picked up my submission and set it on the table in front of him.

“Please be honest. Do you think she has talent to pursue writing, or do you think she’s wasting her time?”

The question took them by surprise, I think. They looked from me to my husband and then to one another, shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. Slowly the nodding began.

“She has talent…”

“This is an excellent beginning. She only needs to learn a little more about storycraft.”

Then they explained to my husband and to me, because I hung on every word, that the things they had pointed out in the critique were common among newbie writers. I was guilty of passive voice, shifting from one POV character to another within a scene, letting the reader stay just outside the action as an observer and not a participant, telling and not showing.

That was the beginning of my professional writing career. Starting that day, I threw myself headlong into learning everything I could about story craft. From that day, the sheer joy of writing and spinning stories diminished a little more every time I sat down to work. Now I spend more time thinking of my writing as rising and falling action, goal-conflict-disaster-repeat, scene and sequel, plot points, inciting incident, dark moment, resolution, reward, than I spend just telling a story.

I do hate the middle part of the story. That’s where you torture your characters to prepare them for the grand finale. You have to move them ever onward towards that grand decision that makes the climax worthwhile.

Fast forward to 2012. SOVRAN’S PAWN is the first book in a series. It’s Act I and as such, was fun to write. BARRON’S LAST STAND is the Final Act. The big finish and also a lot of fun. Book Two (let’s try out the title THE BROKEN WING) is Act 2 in the overall series arc. I hate the second act. This is where story craft is vital and plot and pacing are of primary importance. The action MUST rise and fall. The plot MUST reverse at the right time or the reader will lose interest.

I stared at my storyboard until my eyes crossed. I filled index cards with scenes and notes until I ran out of them. I had a beginning and an ending, but a convoluted path between the two, with holes large enough to fly a Tau-class cruiser through. I was beginning to despair ever making sense of this story when the advice came in from another writer to stop planning and just let the story unfold.

So simple, yet sitting on this side of the last twenty-two years, it’s much more difficult than it used to be. I sat down, put my notes aside, and just started writing, letting my characters tell their story without worrying about how many words I was racking up or how passive the voice. Since I started doing that, I’ve added more than ten thousand words to the manuscript and I’m falling in love with the characters again. I know much of it will be cut and revised in the editing process, but for now, the story is unfolding and it’s poignant and funny and lovely and sad. I hope I can stay out of my own way long enough to tell it all the way through.

***

How has learning the “proper” way to do things changed your outlook on your work or hobbies?

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Book Review: The Whispering Tombs

THE WHISPERING TOMBS
A Quality Times Novella
by Gayle Ramage

Love Quality Times! She’s a tongue-in-cheek time-traveling adventurer. Her sidekick, Tim, is a great foil for her jaded demeanor as she’s dragged into an ever-increasingly dangerous adventure with twists and turns to keep you turning the pages! Tim, an unapologetic Whovian, tries telling people he’s a Timelord from Gallifrey, much to Quality’s chagrin.

In their first adventure (of many, I hope) Quality Times and Tim are on a quest to see the universe. With a time machine/space ship that shrinks down to the size of a child’s toy, all of time and space are theirs for the exploring. So where do they go? Why to a resort, of course. That’s where they meet Bob, a self-styled archaeologist complete with safari outfit and pith helmet. Bob’s hunky assistant Qez, a.k.a. Bluey the “sexy police siren” catches Quality’s eye.

Joining forces with Bob and Qez, Quality and Tim try their hand at grave robbing, I mean archaeology, and end up taking on more than they’d anticipated.

The Whispering Tombs is a rollicking good romp complete with betrayal, greed, grave robbing, gunplay and extinct critters that keep popping up at the darnedest moments. It’s a quick and fun escape that ends all-too-quickly and leaves you turning the page looking for more. You’ll gasp with surprise, laugh out loud at some parts and groan at others. All-in-all, expect to be delighted and entertained.

***

Meet Quality Times, just your average 21st century woman who happens to own a shrinkable time machine. Along on her intergalactic adventures is Tim, a self-confessed sci-fi geek who takes everything in his stride.

In ‘The Whispering Tombs’, Quality and Tim are residing at the luxurious Baala Haven Resort, on an unpronounceable planet, when they’re invited on a quest to find ancient hidden treasure by a wealthy alien archaeologist. Reaching the caves of Azrokaran, however, loyalties are tested to the very limits as those within the group reveal their true colours.

A light-hearted mix of science fiction, adventure and humour.

“What’s Next? What’s Next?”

Now that SOVRAN’S PAWN is out in the world for everyone to see, the question I keep getting is “What’s next?” I am delighted to know my meager efforts have been so well-received. I’d like to thank everyone who has already bought an e-copy of my book and assure those waiting for the paperback, that it won’t be long in coming. Look for it sometime in June. Yes, I will have a supply on hand, signed, that I will happily sell direct to you at a discount, plus shipping costs.

As for what’s next, look for ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS sometime this fall. It is the premiere installment of THE MERCENARY ADVENTURES OF BLADE DEVON, a companion series of books featuring the man himself in all his swashbuckling glory. (Be still my heart!) You can find an excerpt under the tab at the top or by clicking the link.

The first draft of Book Two of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES, tentatively titled THE WATCHTOWER, is two-thirds complete. Plans are for a release in Spring 2013, provided we all survive the Zombie Apocalypse of December 2012.

I hope to be spending a lot of time at the beach between now and then, doing research. Much of THE WATCHTOWER is set on the Outland Fringe planet Kah Lahtrec whose people have adopted Blade as a native son. He has a pretty nifty villa on the beach there that was given to him by the Lahtrecki government in recognition for… well, you’re just going to have to wait and see. Book Two is going to be a lot of fun as it introduces some of my favorite characters in the series:  Ballanshi – Tryrium te Kah Lahtrec, his lovely and formidable wife Madine – Tryrine te Kah Lahtrec, and the wizened old holy man Tahar. Book Two also explains the how and why of Blade’s leaving his career in holofeatures for the life of an itinerate mercenary, complete with the scene in the theater which is part of Blade Devon lore.

Not to worry, the romance with Bo continues, as she carries on her quest to clear her name and find her father. Book Two finds Bo settling into her new role as a facilitator in her brother’s organization, and she has learned to have fun. With a new confidence, her puckish sense of humor emerges, but her resolve is put to the test as she draws closer to finding the answers she so desperately seeks, one of which threatens to destroy her relationship with Blade forever.

Now that I’ve told you entirely TOO much, I’m off to get back to work making all of these claims a reality.

Help Me Name My Book!

The fun thing about writing a book in a series is that you have to come up with working titles to keep them straight. Some of my past working titles have been “Livre de Moi” and “My Bookie, My Nightmare” as well as various versions being named “Old Imaginary World Order” and its companion “NEW Imaginary World Order.”

As in the case of THE TENNOVA JOB it was a working title designed to help keep it straight within the story arc of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES series of books. With the deadline for publication looming ever closer, and Internet traffic and searches on the rise, there has been some confusion caused with the drug company Tennova. Apparently when references to my book under this title show up in a search engine, unsuspecting people arrive at my site expecting information on obtaining gainful employment with said company and instead are cruelly subjected to my fictional adventures. (Which is pretty funny if you ask me…)

So to avoid future confusion, since the drug company seems disinclined to change its name, the simpler course of action is to change the title of my book. This is where YOU come in. Over the course of the week, I will be collecting suggestions for alternative titles. On Saturday, along with Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday’s Snippet fest, I will be conducting a poll, letting YOU vote for your favorite title.

***

BO BARRON is the pawn in two Sovrans’ struggle for power. As the Chief of Barron Clan she commands the Black Wing, a strategic asset crucial to the balance of power in a Commonwealth in contention. That’s the reason she was falsely convicted of treason and sentenced to be executed. Instead of letting her meekly go to her death, Bo’s people risk all-out war by breaking her out and smuggling her into hiding. It’s what they do. They’re pirates at heart.

But if she can’t be killed, she can be manipulated. How? By kidnapping her father. If Bo wants him back she has to take on a false name and steal the schematics for a phase weapon being auctioned off to the Sub-socia at a Five Point tournament.

BLADE DEVON knows all about false names. He has more than his share. As Darien Roarke, he’s a pretty well-known Five Point player. If Blade is willing to use his alter ego to retrieve those schematics, the Inner Circle is willing to overlook the fact that he’s technically a deserter.

A botched assassination under the guise of a bar brawl leaves Bo blind and Blade wondering if there isn’t more to this job than he was led to believe. Never able to resist playing the hero, Blade tends her injuries and delves deeper into the intrigue only to find this mission isn’t about a weapon at all.

The catch is, no one and nothing are what they seem…

***

 

Vote as often as you like.

I’ll be unveiling the results the following Saturday at the Snippet Fest.