28 December 2010

The Age of Technology

When I was in high school I was roundly ridiculed for suggesting that we needed to call the times we live in something other than modern. Now, if by modern you mean new, up to date, fine. That is one of the meanings of the word. But if we use it to designate the age we live in, all epochs from here on out will have to be called modern and we will be unable to distinguish which age we are talking about.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that the Modern Age ran from 1450 to 1900. They, as did I, recognized that the age we live in is profoundly different from, say, 200 years ago or even the mid 19th century (1800's). Before World War I most of the world's population was rural. They had little by way of technology and social relations were much more traditional. After World War I life has become dominated by technology and runs on powered equipment. Now most of the world lives in large cities and people live from industrial and post-industrial jobs (if they can find one) and not off of agriculture. Social relationships are fragmented, fragile, and fraught with uncertainty. No wonder people feel unsettled, unhappy, and disconnected in spite of all our communications. We feel cut off from the past. People feel differently about the disconnection, but we all feel it.

We need to recognize at this point that the Modern Age is now over and we are in a new and different era. I will refer to our new era as The Age of Technology for convenience. In the next couple of posts I will discuss briefly what the change of eras means to us and how it can help us understand our circumstances and take control of them. In the background of my Angela series are the technologies that affect us and the social and political problems they bring on. The plot of each book turns on the main characters' ethics, which bring them in conflict with the interests who profit from technology at the expense of most of us.

One last observation: Technology is neither good nor bad in itself. However, like money and sex, it is very powerful and likely to be destructive if not handled ethically and with discipline.

Please visit my web site at http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html to find out more about Angela 1. You can enter "David A. Bedford" in YouTube and find the trailer for the book (not a very accurate one, but worth a viewing nonetheless) and a TV interview about it.

18 December 2010

Teenagers Reading More

I apologize for not posting in such a long time. We've hit the end of the semester rush at the University, and with final tests, grading, and graduation, etc., my time is all taken up.

The news last week was that teenagers are reading 14% more this year than last. That's the good news. The bad news is that a lot of what available for them is not necessarily good. The news article cited Twilight's one-dimensional characterizations, whiny main character, and clunky prose. It also cited Hunger Games, saying that it is well written but too violent for many younger teenagers. I was turned off to Twilight for the reasons cited. It just never grabbed me. As for Hunger Games, I really cannot bear reading an entire book narrated in present tense. Does one really narrate to someone else what one is doing as it happens? Not in my experience.

In Angela I attempt to provide in elegant prose a story suitable for everyone while dealing with important issues our country is facing. If that is the kind of thing you like, please check it out. Next I will be posting a series of three or four posts on the passing of the Modern Age into the present Age of Technology. In a real sense, that is what the characters in my novels are dealing with in a way that is understandable to everyone.

Please visit my book's website at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

03 December 2010

Misconceptions about JK Rowling

I read a comment on some blog that said that "JK Rowling is bad at sex." As proof the commenter cited that none of the characters in the Harry Potter series is divorced and that they all wind up with who they wanted. Well, now, that is a classic example of confused thinking.

To begin with, it is my understanding that Rowling is divorced and (I believe happily) remarried. She's been there, so why is she writing about faithful characters? She has the right to take the characters where she wants. If fidelity marks her characters, then she certainly has something to say that's all the more important and that deserves listening to.

Furthermore, none of the above is sex. Wonderful as it is, it is only a small part of a mature and loving relationship. Sex, like money and science, is a highly powerful force. Like them, it is destructive if not handled with maturity and an ethic. Rowling puts it in its rightful place, while recognizing its importance. Enough said about that.

Most of American young people have grown up in divorced, separated, remarried, and/or dysfunctional families. Is that good for us? No, not at all. I think most of the young people would like to marry one person and stay with him or her. Rowling is just saying it's possible, but not easy.

One more thing. I think people assume that everyone should marry his or her soul mate. That does happen from time to time. More often, we don't connect with our soul mate because we never met him or her or because the soul mate is the wrong age altogether. Marrying your soulmate can't be your expectation. But developing a lasting love-based relationship is within reach, with help of Him who made us. Usually real love costs.

Some books show life as it too often is. Others show life as it is sometimes and would be better if it were the norm. Give Rowling a break! She's done a wonderful job.

Please see my website at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

24 November 2010

My Radio Show Interview

All of you may now listen to my interview at any time you like by going to the link. It lasts 30 minutes. Feel free to post a comment after you listen. Thanks! http://www.blogtalkradio.com/strategic-book-club/2010/11/24/interview-with-david-bedford-author-of-angela

You can find out more about my book at: www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela.html.

My Personal Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I is a wonderful piece of moviemaking. More than any of the previous installments in the series, this last movie stays as faithful to the original story as possible in the two-and-a-half-hour time frame. Bucking the trend of major movies made by big-name American studios, it has a calm pace that allows the viewer to absorb the tale. In these two respects, it is reminiscent of the best qualities of the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Overall the acting was excellent. Even Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson gave credible performances. This means that the directing was careful and on target.

There is a subdued, pervasive beauty about the cinematography and the effects are purely in the service of the story, never specious. The scriptwriters, art directors, and the director took a bold chance and it paid off. The final installment should be a winner.

I was struck by an aspect of the story I had not considered as carefully before: it is up to the young people, just moving into adulthood, to save their society from its worst impulses. They are forced to decide what to accept and what to reject from the adult world they were brought up in. This choice determines their actions and leads them into mortal danger. They are willing to face that danger, but never willing to throw away their lives needlessly or because they think they can't cope. Rather they are willing to risk all for the higher good of everyone.

Will our young people in the very scary real world be up to the same task? Will they change the world in a good way? Clearly we "grownups" are not going to.

Please see my book's website at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

16 November 2010

Some Thoughts on Christian Fiction

Christian fiction is a hot topic these days and a growing book market. Opinions on Christian fiction range from the ecstatic (from people who are looking for a specific and narrow kind of reading experience) to the disgusted (from people are predisposed to hate things spiritual).

What is Christian fiction, anyway? According to some, it is a story that contains the plan of salvation and centers on someone who undergoes a conversion experience. There are even publishers who require these elements in any book they publish. But if that is Christian fiction, then every novel will have the same, predictable story line. Moreover, there is little or no room for a subtext to enrich the world of the book.

The purpose of that kind of book is to proselytise. Now that is a legitimate activity if the other person is willing to listen, but it is not the stuff of a novel. The text for that already exists and no one can do it better: the four Gospels in the New Testament. If you want to proselytise, talk primarily to people who want to hear, give them a synopsis of the gospel story, and refer them to the Gospels for a full account. It is not likely to work well at all in a novel.

For others, Christian literature is a safe place to read, where the world of the book is the same as the imagined culture of the American Bible Belt minus all its ugly aspects. The world is not really like that, though and that is a problem for the novelist.

What really makes a book a Christian novel is that the author is a believer. Like any author, the Christian author should be able to deal with any topic of universal importance that will contribute something of value to the reader. Major Christian writers include Pascal, Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, and Dorothy Sayers. None of them wrote to proselytise and all dealt with issues from the real world in some way or another.

Readers: Read widely. Writers: Write what you are given and be faithful to your calling.

To learn more about my book, please visit www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

02 November 2010

Angela: the Right Kind of Person for the Times

Apologies to my followers for the long time between posts. Since I teach college full time, I have many matters that require my immediate and full attention. Much as I love writing, whether it's my fiction or this blog, it must always be done in time grabbed from lull moments. Now I can tell you about what's been on my mind for some time.

One of the many facets of Angela Fournier is that she is the kind of person we need for the times we live in. Please indulge me in a brief explanation. Since World War I, more or less, we have been living in a time similar to the 6th and 7th centuries, when the Roman Empire and the world view of the ancient world were passing away, and to the 15th century, when the Medieval world view began to give way quickly to the thinking of the modern age, which the Encyclopaedia Britannica sets as the years 1450 to 1900.

After Rome began to crumble, the world view and culture of the ancient Graeco-Roman world no longer fit the new reality. In the same way, after all the advances of the High Middle Ages (technological: eye glasses, water and windmills, the compass and sextant, and the printing press; institutional: universities and hospitals; and financial: banking, letters of credit, limited liability corporations) the Medieval world view was suddently outdated. The modern world view that followed believed only in what was visible and measurable and in what made money. At first they thought wealth would solve all problems (age of exploration, conquest, and global economy), then they thought that reason and science would save us (the Enlightenment), and finally that progress and technology would answer all questions and cure all ills (the 19th century). The first World War proved to anyone who took the trouble to think it through that the modern world view no longer fit the reality we lived in. The very forces unleashed by the modern project threatened to destroy us. Art, music, and literature all mirrored this new age in some way during the early 20th century.

Many people have yet to get the memo. Maybe it's too hard to think about. There are vested interests still making fortunes from the industrial processes developed in the 19th century and still working and growing into the 21st. These people don't want to hear about it. Many would still love to think that science and technology, a.k.a "progress", will solve all problems. But then why can't we agree at all on values to live by? Why are we so cut off from one another? Why do we splinter into smaller and smaller ethnic and interest groups and so lose all sense of ethos and ethics?

We are at a point in history when we either decide on a new world view we wish to create that will benefit all and make a new vibrant age like the passing of the Medieval world to the modern, or we will sit back and watch things fall apart into a dark age, as that which followed the collapse of Rome. It's our call. I don't have an answer to propose. It's too early for that. But we do need to think about it and pool our collective wisdom.

Now, Angela Fournier is the kind of person we need for this project. She is unusually mature, wise, and discerning, but she is so unassuming that she is not aware of it. She is directed outward, to other people and their needs, instead of inward, brooding on her inadequacies. She really wants to help if she can, and she knows she doesn't have all the answers. She's not the only kind of person we need, but her kind will be indispensable in making something good of our world. What kind of world do you want?

If you haven't already, but would like to, please visit my book's web page at www.strategicpublisninggroup.com/title/Angela1.html Thanks!

14 October 2010

Literature and popular fiction

There is a great deal of teen fiction and Christian fiction out there, but is it literature? The answer is not as simple as may seem.

On the extreme end of literature, we have works that practically no one reads through. The prime examples are James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. At the other extreme take, for instance, Michael Crighton's Airframe, a good, fast read, but with nothing literary about it. In between there are many surprises.

Now, popular literature is that written to sell well, with minimal consideration to character development, themes, or style. Literary novels are character-driven, are elegantly written by some reasonable standard, and deal with themes of universal importance. They often have a subtext and/or symbology. Another characteristic of literary novels is intertextuality, that is, references to other works of literature. For example, Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey novels make frequent allusion, directly or indirectly, to Alice in Wonderland and to Through the Looking-Glass. Most works considered literary display most (though not necessarily all) of these characteristics.

Here's what makes it so difficult to draw a line between literary and popular. No one doubts that Hugo's Les misérables is literary. Yet he was paid by the word and the novel appeared first by installments in newspapers, the height of popularity back then. By contrast, the Harry Potter series is considered popular, but it is overflowing with literary and historical allusions, wonderful characterizations, and a thoroughly character-driven plot. Being popular and literary is not mutually exclusive.

So, for writers who aim to be literary: remember and respect your readers. Unnecessary complexity and obscure writing do not add up to literature. And for writers of popular fiction: read a lot before you ever start writing and always keep reading. That makes for literature and it is not incompatible with popularity. Publishers: be more judicious and bring back a sense of literary mission to put alongside the desire to make money.

See my book's website: www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

01 October 2010

Present tense narration

I'm an avid reader of The New Yorker but I have seldom read their fiction. When I first tried it out I found the stories not particularly imaginative and a good half or more were narrated in the present tense. I read one or two of those and that was enough. A whole story in present tense is usually tiresome in the extreme. So from then on, as soon as I saw that the story in the new issue was in present tense, I stopped reading. I thought it was a sign of getting old on my part.

Then, last week, the New York Times carried a story on the UK's prize for Youth Fiction. The judges were complaining that half of the books submitted were narrated in the present tense. They said it diminished the quality of works they were judging. There was a small demonstration outside the place where the winners were announced. The demonstrators carried signs saying "What do we want? Past tense!" and "When do we want it? Now!" I had company!

Apparently present tense narration has hit a nerve. Right now I am about to finish Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. She has a little present tense narration (not much) sprinkled here and there. I find natural. It helps to distinguish the moment of narration and what surrounds it from the stories about what happened in the past, which are the memories of the young Chinese-American women and their mothers.

So here's my take. Any good story, and certainly any book-length fiction should be narrated in past tense. Never use present tense unless there is a specific function for it and it contrasts with the majority of the work. There must be a very good reason to use present tense narration. It is not sufficient to say "It's the new thing" (it's not: it's around 100 years old and needs to be retired) or "It has greater verosimilitude (looks and feels and works more like real life)." Just what possible verosimilitude is there in someone telling you what they are doing as they do it?

Present tense narration was big with the modernists (Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner) who did stream of consciousness. An incredibly little bit of that goes and enormously long way. Enough, already.

A footnote: you should read the Scholastic report on reading habits and likes of families, available at http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/themes/bare_bones/2010_KFRR.pdf

See my website at http://strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

20 September 2010

Parallel Technologies

I'm going to make a bold prediction: e-readers will never replace books, bookstores, or libraries.

There, I said it.

E-readers will continue to rise in popularity for some time to come, but that doesn't mean that the good old codex (bound book as we know it) is doomed to extinction. Not everyone will have the means to buy an e-reader. Of those who can, not all will want to. Many people will use both formats. E-readers can be very handy and helpful to many people, and that promotes reading, which is all to the good. But consider this: it's much more likely that an e-reader will be lost, stolen, or crash irreparably, losing your entire library in the process, than to loose a home library of bound volumes lining the walls to flood or fire.

Now, it is imperative to know some history in order to have a prayer of predicting what is likely to happen in the future. Radio did not replace live music performance. Movies did not eliminate theater. The VCR and later the DVD player did not replace the movie theater, in spite of dire predictions of the death of movies and/or movie theaters. So why should we think that e-readers will replace the bound book? There is a place and use for both.

Recent studies show that children who grow up in a house full of bookcases lining the walls and holding hundreds of books (or more) are 30% better at academics, college, and the advantages all that does for careers. It was the single most powerful predictor of success. The e-reader is very limited in that regard and cannot fully supply the same function.

So never fear. On with e-readers and on with bound books!

www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html (to see my book).

15 September 2010

My Interview on Cinette's Musings Blog

CS: Tell us about Angela 1: Starting Over. How was your story birthed? What was your motivation?

David A. Bedford: In April 2005 I attended an all-day workshop on getting published, sponsored by my university’s extended education program. I was wanting to get ideas for finding an agent and publisher for a bilingual version of my book of Spanish short stories (Liliana y el espejo, 2002), but I came out of it with something much better, something I never expected. The instructor spent the morning of the workshop talking about how to develop a project that agents will at least look at before throwing it onto the rejection pile. When we went to lunch, the whole Angela project just came to me (oh yeah, in English!): main character, locale, overarching theme for three books, and a plot idea for each one. I opened my composition book and sketched out a draft outline for each book, making a bunch of notes on characters. As soon as I had time just to stop and think, I made a fuller outline for Angela 1, and started writing. The rest, as they say, is history and since “they” say it, it must be true. Right?

My motivation for writing is having a story in me that’s bursting to be told. In the case of Angela, I wanted to do something very different from anything else out there. That’s why I put at the center of the story an unusually mature, coherent and loving teenager who sets off all kinds of potentially dangerous reactions, never meaning to.

CS: What messages/life lessons did you wish to teach your readers in Angela?

David A. Bedford: I always write to engage the readers with a story. Too much message bores them, me included. For me, writing is mostly intuitive and then later I see what I have been up to. The major theme of each of the three books in the Angela series is responsible citizenship and what it may cost us. At the time I sketched out the books, I only knew I was excited because I had a story I wanted to tell.

For many years, the US movie, TV, and radio industry was governed by a self-imposed code that prohibited “bad” words and references to sex, among other matters. Screenwriters retaliated by making any good, rule-respecting character hypocritical or hopelessly clueless, in the case of adults, and scared, social climbing, or a snitch, in the case of children. We were all conditioned to love the antisocial characters and view good people with scorn or disbelief. As a result, to this day readers and viewers react to good characters as basically unreal, uninteresting, or both and to expect the dysfunctional, greedy and self-indulging characters as the norm in literature and in life. I decided to take the challenge and write a good character who people can’t ignore and show that it takes a great deal of courage not to conform to what most people consider normal or to how they act. Another important point is that, when the story opens, Angela’s parents have just divorced. Of course it’s a major blow to Angela, her brother and her little sister, but doesn’t make them crazy or uncontrollable.

If you want to be a responsible citizen, you have to have courage. It means going against what everyone else does pretty much all through life. It can also involve confronting powers that could really hurt you. That’s what Angela is forced to learn.

CS: Looking back on the writing of Angela, is there anything you would have done differently?

David A. Bedford: The funny thing is that I discovered what I just told you about the book only by looking back on what I had done. I suppose many writers share that experience: we know in part what we’re doing but there’s a lot more going into the book than we are aware of as we write.

Now, as to what I would do differently, I probably would have developed the back story more. Given my experience writing the next installment in the series, I would have had the confidence to write a somewhat longer book. But I figure I’ll take all this experience into my next project. Always learning and growing: that’s what keeps me happy.

CS: What part of writing is easiest for you? And the hardest?

David A. Bedford: The hard part is coming up with a plan after the initial idea has come to me. I need characters, the plot in broad strokes, a locale, and an underlying philosophical or aesthetic concept as a subtext before I start writing. Finding the time to write can also be a challenge. I’m a college professor with a full load of work. But once I have all my elements and some free time, I’m off and running. The writing, that’s the easy part.

Of course, getting up the nerve to show the first draft to someone for feedback can be tough.

CS: What advice would you give aspiring authors about getting into the game? What do you know now that you wish you knew back when you started in the business?

David A. Bedford: First, have another job and don’t plan to live off royalties. Very few people have been able to do that. Even some of the very best classical authors had another source of income.

Plan what you want to do with each writing project.

Plot: how will the story end and how do we get there?

Characters: what makes them tick, what are their motivations and inborn personality traits? Know their back story.

Subtext: what are the values and/or symbolism and/or philosophy and/or any other matters that are important to you?–don’t address it directly, just let it bubble up.

Locale: have it vivid in your mind but just allude to it as if your readers already knew the place.

Allow for the serendipities: you never know just what may happen.

Allow yourself to be intuitive.

Let the characters be who they are. They may hijack your plans. So, see where it leads to. The idea of plot that you start with should be something that occurs because your characters act and think the way they do. Sometimes you start a scene with characters interacting and when you’re done you say: “I didn’t know it was going to turn out like that.” I call it being in the zone. When you’re in the zone, good things happen.

Have several people read your drafts. Think about what they tell you.

Finally, finish your book and start submitting it to agents. Know what the agents accept and don’t accept before you send it and make sure it is in the format they ask for. Expect many rejections and never give up.

I wish I’d known to keep submitting the book more purposefully and frequently.

CS: What was the wisest thing about writing ever said to you?

David A. Bedford: Literature should have room for everything.

CS: Tell us about your next book. Is it young adult fiction as well?

David A. Bedford: My next book will be Angela 2: The Guardian of the Bay. It’s already written. I want Angela 1 to get some good traction before I submit the next one for publication. Before that I need to go over Guardian and edit it very carefully. The third and last installment (Angela 3: Silver Path of the Moon) is planned out. I suspect it may need a more detailed outline. I plan to start on it when the second book is published.

Thank you so much for interviewing me!

“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” – Terry Pratchett

No David, Thank you for sharing this interview with us.


10 September 2010

On Genres

Yesterday I read on a blog a very excited comment to the effect that there was now a new genre, YYA (young-young adult, meaning middle school). Rather than get into a rant on the proliferation of "genres" and writers chasing after the latest fad, I just want to say a couple of words on genres and marketing categories.

Originally, the term genre meant novel, short story, poetry, theater, etc. All these genres were influenced by literary movements (classical, romantic, modernist, etc.) which in turn responded to the world at large and its problems and issues. Of course, words change in meaning with use. That's a feature of language. But at some point, overuse of a word for many different things robs it of any meaning.

In current fiction, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, adult, young adult, and so on, are marketing categories, that is, demographic groups the book selling business targets. The best literature appeals across these categories (Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, JK Rowling, etc.) Even marketers seem to understand that the over-proliferation of brands in a company begins to cannibalize their own products. If we let marketing drive what we write, we will mostly write trite books aimed at ever shrinking readerships. It is to everyone's benefit to cast a wider net. Write a novel, story, poem, or play (no labels on it) for your ideal reader or readers. At least, that's what I aim for.

Please visit my book's website at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

30 August 2010

Why I'm Writing YA Fiction

My Angela series is considered Young Adult fiction because the main character is 15 in the first book, which revolves a lot, though not entirely, around her life at school. In the past I have published highly literary short stories in Spanish (Angela is in English), so why would I plunge into YA now?

The truth is that the story came to me with Angela Fournier as the main character, all three books of it, all at once, as I have described on other posts. Writers must write what we are given. The series will be fast-moving, tension filled, but given relief by an unusually mature and caring central character. This is reality, too. Literature should have space for everything.

The theme of my Angela series is responsible citizenship and what it can cost us. My next project may not have a teenage central character, but in both Angela and my next project, I hope to write something of interest to all adults, young, old, and in between.

07 August 2010

Fiction: A Way of Dealing with Truth

In following in the blogosphere the discussion on fiction, whether teen fiction, Christian fiction, or young adult fiction, I have discovered a minority opinion out there that equates fiction with fantasy or with lies. I thought I would offer some light on the subject.

Fiction is a sub-category of narrative. Narration goes deep into what makes us human. Some narration is historical, in the form of chronicles or biographies. The Bible makes wide use of the former (Exodus, Kings, Chronicles, and so on) and of the latter (the Gospels). Fiction usually takes the form of short story and novel. The best deals with believable characters we can relate to as readers, in varying degrees reflects the real world, and has something significant to say about it.

Works of fiction can range from an entire fictional world with its own mythology, legend, and history (The Lord of the Rings), through the real world containing a magical alternate (The Harry Potter series), through novelization of enduring legend (Mary Stewart's four books on the King Arthur legends), to historical fiction that paints a particular point in a nation's past (Les misérables). The best science fiction projects a current trend to a future in which our worst tendencies have damaged us (H.G. Wells' The Food of the Gods). Each of these has something important of universal human value to say.

As with all human artistic (and other) endeavors, there is work of high quality, there is trash, and everything in between. Some of it contributes positively to understanding ourselves better, some of it is destructive of ethics and culture, much nowdays is merely commercial (If it makes money, do it!).

Read widely. Don't condemn a book if you have not read it, at least far enough to know clearly what it's about (but it's rare to pick up any book you can't read through to the end and it's important to find out just where the author comes down on the main issue presented in it).

Please take a look at my latest realease, a piece of realistic fiction, at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

04 August 2010

So You Want to be a Writer

My apologies to all for all the time gone by between posts. It's been an unusually busy year and I'm still in recovery mode. I am going to be posting a series of short messages every few days for a while, now that I have some time.

I read the other day a lament on writers: everyone wants to write nowdays but nobody wants to read. Of course it's an exaggeration for effect, but it needs to be addressed. Anyone who wants to be a writer must read a lot. Whether one is aiming for "serious literature" or for a trendy demographic group such as teen fiction, young adult fiction, or Christian fiction, one must read.

All good writers are readers, but not all readers are writers. Authors love and need readers, but they got to be writers by reading. Certainly writing comes much more easily to some people than to others. Another way of saying that is that writing well takes talent. Like all talent, though, it has to be developed. Authors need to have read a great deal and they need coaching, that is, readers, editors, and good writers who read what they produce and give them feedback.

What should you read? A bit of everything and as widely as possibly. Only that way can the potential writer find a genre (poetry, novel, story, essay, etc.), themes he or she cares about, and the writer's own voice.


20 July 2010

A note on Harry Potter

There has been some talk on the blogs about the Harry Potter series from people who honestly want some input. The themes of these books is love, loyalty to friends, and standing up against evil to do what is right, even if it will cost your life. How could anyone object to that?

Some people are confused about the wizarding world Harry belongs to. Here's my take: In these books, where so many wizards and witches gather, technology cannot function. This was a stroke of genius on the part of JK Rowling. The result is that all the characters are free to be human. What is about to sink us as humanity is runaway technology which exists, not to make our life better, but to make money for investors. Joy in life comes from relationships, not things, and sacrifice when unavoidable.

The Lord of the Rings also deals with these themes. Both books are wonderful reads for any reader willing to tackle them. The movies of both are for people who can stomach some strong scenes, that is, not for everyone.

Whether teen fiction, young adult, or Christian fiction, these are great books. When I decided to write my Angela series, I opted for something much smaller and brighter, to be different and not try to compete.

Please visit my website at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

16 July 2010

Angela Doesn't Have it all Together

Angela 1: Starting Over is classed by default as a work of teen fiction or young adult fiction (YA fiction) because the main character and her friends are of high school age. Some may think of it as Christian fiction because of certain underlying themes and symbolism. But I hope the book transcends all these narrow categories so it can offer something to everyone who likes to read a good work of literature. My readers will determine whether I have been successful.

I really need to explain that Angela is not perfect (no one is) and that she doesn't "have it all together." Sure, she's mature beyond her years. Maturity has a whole lot to do with personality, upbringing, and what you do with what life throws at you. Some people never grow up. As adults they are still insecure, self centered, and inconsiderate. Some people gain a great deal of maturity very young. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Angela avoids a lot of trouble because she does not want to be controlled, whether by drugs, by responsibilities of relationship that even adults have difficulty with, by authority figures, or by peers. This independence of thought and action leads to a great deal of other kinds of trouble, though. If you challenge entrenched interests by calling on them to act with integrity, all the power they have will come crashing down on you. Angela naively thinks that the world is straightforward and simple. As teenagers we often think we have the world figured out. Her growth will come as she discovers how complex (and at times evil) the world can be. This discovery will shake her to the bottom of her flip-flops.

All this will come out over the three books. I hope you really enjoy them and I welcome your comments.

See the cover and read the blurb at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

02 June 2010

A novel centered on a mature, loving character? What??

Angela 1: Starting Over centers on an unusually mature (for her age), coherent, stable, and caring central character. To most readers, that just may be downright weird. I know, it’s just not the done thing if you want to be taken seriously. But I do want to be taken seriously and I did it anyway. You probably ask, Why?
Good question. There are many answers to it and one is that good writers can only write what we are given. Angela Fournier and Angela the book came to me all as a piece one day as I sat at lunch between the morning and afternoon sessions of a writing workshop. I sketched out the main characters, the locale, and a theme for a three-book series (Angela’s 10th, 11th, and 12th grades) and made a broad outline for each book. At that point I really had no choice but to write. I made a more detailed outline for the first book and the rest, as they say (so it must be true) is history.
Now, good characters are practically never at the center of interest in novels or plays. There is a lot of history behind that but, more practically, it’s hard to do. For instance, Charles Dickens. When you think of A Christmas Carol, who comes to mind first? Scrooge, of course. And in Oliver Twist? Fagin, Nancy, the Artful Doger, and all the other criminal element but not Oliver who, after being mildly interesting when he had to pick pockets, becomes superfluous to the rest of the story. And the Cratchitts? One doesn’t particularly care for them. In Les misérables Hugo makes Cosette more interesting than Dickens’ good characters, but she still is quite forgettable beside the tortured and immature Marius or his rancorous grandfather, or even Javert, the police inspector who persecutes Jean Valjean.
Tradition is all against good characters as well. In the ancient Greek plays, the main character is always brought down by his or her own character flaws. The same is true for Hamlet, two thousand years later, and still is now. Besides, when American movies and TV were under Hollywood’s self-imposed code, the scriptwriters fought back by making any good adult a hypocrite or laughably naive, and good children were those who conformed with their parents because they were scared or they were just snitches. All the characters you enjoy are anti-social.
So it was a big challenge to put a person like Angela, who is not traumatized, bitter, or self-seeking, but rather other-directed and well intended, at the middle of a series of three novels. What makes it work is that, without intending to, she sets in motion all kinds of trouble. She calls on the adult world to live by integrity, that is, to practice what they preach, and so of course they see her as a threat and try first to neutralize and then to harm her. Although she is developing good social skills, she refuses to allow peer pressure to make her do what she doesn’t want to or goes against her values. She infuriates the mean girls and the school bully because they can’t control her. And that means that the school principal has it in for her as well.
Angela is not entirely without precedent. Ivanhoe’s Rebecca is a wonderful person who gets only suffering as a reward. But I wrote Angela 1 before I ever read Ivanhoe. Well, I think you will find Angela different.
Please visit my site at http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

24 May 2010

Introduction to Angela Fournier

Angela Fournier is the title character of my new release, Angela 1: Starting Over, the first of three novels set in Sargasso Beach, my fictional suburb of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Her story came to me on a Saturday in 2005 and never let me rest until I began to write it. I was taking an all-day workshop on getting books published and the teacher spent the morning talking about how to put a good book project together. At lunch the three books just popped into my head so I madly sketched out characters, locale, and an overall plot line for all three in order to get back to the workshop on time and not forget my inspiration.

I began writing the first book immediately in the evenings after work and in summer and at other odd times. Then there was a four-year odyssey of finding a publisher. During that time I wrote the second book, Angela 2: The Guardian of the Bay. The third book isn't written yet, but it's all planned out.

Angela Fournier is a typical 15-year-old in most ways. She is insecure and doesn't believe the good things people tell her about herself. She is sad because her parents just divorced and she moved to a new town and a new school when the book opens. Angela has a striking appearance and a debilitating smile, but she is only aware that she looks unusual and worries about it. She is a dancer and Honors student, but only because her mom, a new librarian at the Sargasso Beach public library, signed her up without her knowledge. She is unusually mature for her age, loves to learn, and cares more about her friends than what people think of her.

Her two best friends are Fiona Banbury and Benjie Cooper. All three keep getting in trouble, Angela because the principal and mean girls have it in for her, Fiona because she knows more than just about everyone around her, and Benjie because of his fiery personality. The friends discover evidence of corruption in school board contracts and naively set about to make the board and contractors live up to what they profess, not knowing how they are likely to get hurt in the process.

That's probably enough about Angela for now. If you want to know more, see my publisher's web site at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html

I will post more from time to time.