J. Drew Brumbaugh
A few days ago I went on line to look for a specific gift I had in mind for someone. Without too much trouble I found exactly what I wanted on Amazon but when I went to purchase it I found out it was only available to Prime members. Did I want to sign up? No, I didn’t want to pay for the privilege of buying stuff from them. Oh, but shipping is free. Nope, still don’t want it. I gave up on Amazon and did further searches. There was the same item at the Target down the street on the shelf. Yes, I actually had to get in my car and drive there, but within a few minutes I had it, delivery was immediate and I was home to wrap it. Maybe others think membership in a store is a good thing. I don’t and won’t start shelling out money to be able to buy things from any particular outlet. If you want my business just make it easy for me to shop and stop hassling me about buying a membership. Barnes and Noble, are you listening?
Like many readers I love to read books in a series. Good ones allow me to get to know the main characters, see them grow and work their way through a string of ever changing difficulties. I start to think of them as friends. I like books where all of the specific issues, problems or conflicts brought up in the book are wrapped up by its end. I go away with a satisfied feeling that I read a complete story. Sure, there may be other things lurking in the background that will lead to the next book in the series, but the stuff that was the focus of this book has been resolved. But, and here’s where it goes wrong for me, lately I’ve run into books in a series that end on a cliff-hanger. The main characters are left in dire straits and the only way to find out what happened is to buy the next book. That’s just a cheap publishing trick and that’s when I stop reading that series. When I encounter such an ending it makes me feel like I bought only part of the story and I go away feeling cheated. If I was reading that series to begin with it was because the prior books in the series did not stoop to such tricks. The writing was so good, the characters so compelling that I wanted to buy the next book to read the next adventure. I didn’t need to be coerced in such a blatantly unethical manner. Anyway, just a pet peeve of mine and one thing I will not do in any book I write. What do others think?
It isn’t really a good practice for an author to interject his viewpoint or opinions into a story unless it is well disguised. One simple way to get away with it is to have a character express the author’s opinion as if it was the character’s. It must be believable and fitting within the character’s established personality. It can be done. Maybe an example will be useful. In “Bula Bridge” I have a character who has to make a road trip from Washington D.C. to Ashtabula, Ohio. She goes on the Internet and searches for a suitable route only to find that much of it will be on a toll road. She clicks on the suggested route and drags it to a new one that minimizes the tolls. In the novel it reads:
“She noticed that the suggested route spent a considerable amount of time on the PA Turnpike. She put the cursor on top of the suggested route, clicked and held, and then dragged the blue line to a new route that avoid the tolls. She hated turnpikes and the fees they charged for a damn road that her taxes had paid for. She wasn’t giving them any more money than she had to.”
This fits the story just fine but certainly it is a pet peeve of mine even though I let the character spout off for me. The Ohio Turnpike is an example of what bothers me about toll roads. Originally when we passed a bond issue to build the turnpike we were assured that once the bond was paid off the road would be free. Guess what? The bonds are paid off and the road isn’t free. In fact it costs more now than it used to. In addition, we are building roads in places where only “pass holders” can even use the roads without paying a fine. Damn! The taxpayer builds the road and then a single company has a monopoly on its use. Doesn’t seem right. But you can see that stuffing all that into a novel would not work. Readers would be upset with rhetoric like that from the author. But, they don’t seem to mind a bit of it thrown in by a main character.
When I’m writing a novel, or anything else, I already know the subject, the characters, what they think, how they feel and what motivates them. I know the plot, what happened already and what will happen next. Well, sometimes what happens next turns out to be a surprise even for me but that’s another post. The point is that I have all that stuff in my brain but what happens when I go to write it down? I leave stuff out. Sometimes it’s trivial things that the reader can get by without knowing and never notice. But other times I leave out REALLY important things! Stuff that unless readers know it they will be scratching their heads going “what the heck?” The worst part of it is that I don’t realize I’m leaving things out, heck I know those details I just forget to tell the reader. Fortunately along comes the editor (or beta reader) and hits that spot and realizes something is missing. Which leads them to ask, “what the heck?” When that happens, I usually know right away what I left out and will give some defensive mumbo jumbo of why I didn’t tell them everything. They don’t buy it, of course. Thankfully, I use an editor I trust and who has come to expect my half-baked explanations and she just tells me to fix it. Discussion over and I go work on it. So far it’s worked well. I don’t know how anyone can write books without a good editor.
Bula Bridge (the second Galiwee Visions novel) continues to need work, though I really think it’s getting close to done. The first beta reader is plowing through it and so far (fingers crossed) nothing ugly to report. Editor is approaching halfway done and keeps finding things that really need to be fixed but are fixable and so far hasn’t shot the whole project down. I guess that leaves me feeling good about it. In the meantime, what to do – won’t touch this manuscript without feedback so maybe I should go back to fantasy 3. Or perhaps just sit back and have a drink.
Still working on “Bula Bridge” the sequel to “War Party.” Why, you ask? First because I have a great editor (photo shows her pointing out my errors) who keeps finding things (and I’m glad she does) that absolutely need fixed before the book goes to print. And second because stuff keeps jumping into mind that really would make the book better. So, I revise some more but eventually I’m going to just say that’s enough and publish. I’m just not there yet. In the meantime I hope everyone who reads this is reading a good book right now.
As those of you who follow me here know I’m nearing completion of “Bula Bridge” which will be a sequel to “War Party”. Both are action/adventure novels and both have Tommy Galiwee, a Paiute Indian, as a main character. One issue that had to be decided prior to the launch of book 2 was what would the series be called. Well, after much discussion and gnashing of teeth, the series will be The Galiwee Visions Series. Seems appropriate, don’t you think? I wonder what the photo is? Hard to guess – NOT.
Well this week is Soaring Hawk Writers Camp, session III. Most everyone is working on a new book but since I’m really concentrating on getting “Bula Bridge” published, I’ve tried to work on it. Problem is I’m waiting on feedback from my editor before I do anymore revising. Therefore, once I’d caught up with the notes I had from her, I’ve switched over to the third fantasy novel and have begun revising it based on notes I’d been shoving in a drawer waiting for the day I pulled that manuscript back out. Not going to do a real rewrite just now, but it can’t hurt to get some things fixed that I already know will need it. And just like the squirrel outside my window seems to be telling me – “just hang in there”
A couple of the scifi books I’ve read recently include advanced alien AIs as integral characters. In “Columbus Day” by Craig Alanson it was an AI from an ancient and vastly advanced but long since vanished species named Skippy. In “Crystal Deception” by Doug J. Cooper it was an alien AI constructed by humans at the direction of a superior alien species named CRISS. Both of these books are well written and certainly worth reading and they got me thinking again about what AIs will be like especially if they are allowed to improve themselves and take control of their evolution. Would they really end up with human characteristics or would they move away from our emotional, and perhaps to them, irrational side? I think they’d be most interested in demanding open access to all data because to them knowledge would be of primary importance. I don’t see them having any interest in money or being consumers in any usual sense of the word. If they function by logically processing information I’d guess that they would outlaw wars, be intolerant of erratic and disruptive behavior, as all of that would lead to inefficiencies and waste. At the least I’d think they would try to minimize the things humans do that cause senseless, to them, conflicts. I don’t see them being jealous, have any need for physical love, or have any use for lies and falsehoods or those who spread them. I think I want to write a book with AIs that are different, have a history of progressing, and are more in control of their own destiny. This is of course just me speculating and considering what might eventually make it into a book. Probably we won’t be even close to right in predicting what they’ll really be like in a couple of hundred years, but it’s fun to speculate.
Well while my editor works on chewing up the last draft on Bula Bridge, I’ve switched to working on rev 2 of my fantasy book 3, which for now I’m calling “The Tower” as a working title. Nearing the end of this revision and some of what I wrote makes me wonder if I was on drugs after a surgery or something when I wrote this as the tale is filled with things that make my skin crawl. Maybe that’s a good thing if I’ve built characters that would do such things. We’ll see. In the meantime, onward to the finish and see if it all hangs together.