In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On the Road Again: Fun in Flood Season, and Schools Are on My Mind

One of my best adventures for March was a visit two weeks ago to Hawthorne, New Jersey, during flood season. My sister-in-law Cheryl warned me bluntly, "There are roads closed everywhere, but I have no idea which ones. You'll have to find your way."

Luckily, the roads I needed to arrive at Hawthorne's Well Read Bookstore (seen above) were relatively dry, and aside from two or three traffic jams, the routes functioned as planned. Good thing, because I was eager to meet the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey -- a lively group of about twenty people on March 12, gathered for a panel on "Diversity in Fiction." Flood season also turned out to be flu season, and I was the lone author for the three-woman panel. But that turned out to be lots of fun, as I rattled off some of the Vermont stories (some scandalous!) behind The Darkness Under the Water and merged into a great discussion with people like Todd, Aurelia, Remilter, Beverly, and Gene, about what the risks are in crafting fiction that extends into the secrets and guarded truths of history.

That may sound a bit too focused on the past for a group dedicated to visions of the future -- but we all recognized that the futures we're crafting depend on how we understand what's already happened. I loved every minute of it, and even aired a page and a half of a novel of "speculative fiction" (placed about 15 years forward from now) that I've started writing, Bear-Shadow. Thanks, SFSNNJ and Well Read hosts, for a grand time.

I came home after the rapid road trip and collapsed into two weeks of bronchitis, so it's good to be breathing-without-coughing at last; this week included a couple of visits to St. Johnsbury (Vermont) Academy to talk about revision and to learn from translators Alexander O. Smith and Elye Alexander, who brought The Devotion of Suspect X  by Keigo Higashino into English (as they have for many a video game and RPG).

Coming in April:  Catching up with readers at the Lisbon (NH) Regional School. And lining up summer conversations about The Darkness Under the Water and autumn ones (Sept./Oct. in Vermont; Nov. in NJ) for The Secret Room. There's a Skype author visit in the future for Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, VT, too.

More about that, later!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Details, Details ... It's all in the details!

I'm excited that my 2010 writing project, a murder mystery called Cold Midnight, is being read by a few people who might choose to escort it into print. The writing process may be long ... but the publishing process is often even longer!

Cold Midnight takes place in 1921, a year of exciting developments like fast cars and short skirts. In Vermont, change often arrives a bit later, but there's no question that downtown St. Johnsbury hosted the local equivalent of the speakeasy, as well as flappers, barnstormers, and ... whatever else of national culture could arrive on the train.

Working out the "back story" to the novel involved me in a lot of details I hadn't considered before. For instance, I know what a 1921 kitchen looked like -- some are still more or less intact here! -- but had no clue about bathrooms. Not every novel involves a  bathroom, but at one point in Cold Midnight, the second most important character in the book, Ben Riley, needs to clean up, in order to keep his mother from worrying about why he's been out at night. He lives in the grandest house in town, but he's the son of the cook/housekeeper. Would he use the fancy facilities that the owners enjoyed? I thought probably not ... but although "outhouses" (outdoor bathrooms) still existed around here then, I also though the mansion owner would provide something a bit better for the "help." Here are the two images of bathrooms that I worked with, one fancy, one plain.

Oh, you might ask, who's the most important character in the book? That would be Claire -- Claire Benedict. She's got her reasons for being out at night, too. Heaven help her, if her mother ever knew.