How much surprise do you like in a story? I like a story to be unexpected at every turn. It doesn’t need to have multiple or parallel plots or one plot with many trailing sub-plots, but I find it’s the smaller surprises that help define a story and its characters. In my own life I find a competition of motives and possible actions which give spontaneity a chance to bloom. I expect any new detail to have its own story, so I pick and choose to create the characters and the themes. Among those things, I like to choose the one least probable.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Hope you’re proud of the courage it takes me to write well. I am inspired by the courage you showed that day on the Santa Fe when you guys rescued so many men from the USS Franklin in the battle of Leyte Gulf (plus the courage it took to have five kids). And I remember you too, Mom. And to all the other Dads in the family: Thomas, Joe, Ben, Martin, Tommy, and Steve. Hugs, all.
McSweeney’s has some positive notes on the state of publishing today. Here. They say: “Book sales are up, way up, from twenty years ago. Young adult readership is far wider and deeper than ever before. Library membership and circulation is at all-time high. The good news goes on and on.” Of course all that takes place with everything else about the industry in a total state of change. Cool.
Tim Gager, the principal of the Dire Reader Series, announces a new literary journal: Printer’s Devil Review (PDR). He’s its Editorial Consultant and he helped find authors to submit to the journal. Thomas Dobson created it along with his staff of editors. It’s is an open-access journal of stories, poems, and visual art. They aim to provide emerging writers and artists with greater access to publishing. For the reader they hope to deliver new voices and visions. The journal has all the contents downloadable on PDF files from the Website. If the story of Kate Racculia is an example, he’s met his promise to showcase good writing. I was once a printer’s devil (a printing assistant) and had my own Red Howl Press when “press” meant paper under my feet and ink under my fingernails.
Real pirate treasure is shown is this slide show. Click this link:
I don’t stand in line to buy an album of music I already own. Also, I don’t look for books that read exactly like Chekhov, as good as he was. I want something unique, a story that is specifically a new tune with a different use of harmony, and most of all: with a different rhythm. The only way I know to create such a thing is to find it in myself. My own mind is what I trust to synthesize all those elements in a story to make it all work together. The music comes from the imagined story itself, the words come from that same place. The intellectual mind is important, but not any more important than the sub-conscious or even unconscious parts of the brain. The more of myself I can access to add to a story, the better it will be. Listening to music can help (I listen to Afro-Cuban music while I write my Caribbean story), but writing is its own music so it helps me to hear it aloud . . . and to listen.
My ten favorite rules for writing fiction
(Partly derived from: this Guardian article which includes the “Top Ten” lists
the authors: Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy)
1. The most important thing in fiction is sincerity: don’t fake it.
2. If it sounds like writing, read it out loud, then rewrite it.
3. Feel your anxiety—it’s an important part of the process.
4. Keep a grip on reality with a good meditation practice.
5. Read. Read all the best books: look them up.
6. Most writers don’t know how to use an em-dash: look that up.
7. Spend most of your time not writing. Readers don’t care about words,
they want to hear your imagination speak.
8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Kill good ideas with better ones.
9. Never fall in love with your own writing.
10. Write a book you’d love to read.
My novel, Tesora, is based on as much research into the facts of the era in which pirates roamed the seas of the Caribbean as I could find. Here is some of that information:
David Cordingly, from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, is author of the definitive book on pirates, Under the Black Flag.
He says that in the years between 1715 and 1725, there was an explosion of piracy in the Caribbean that was comparable in some ways with the recent outbreak of piracy in the seas off Somalia.
In contrast to the fictions displayed in the movies, the majority of the eighteenth-century pirates were working-class sailors: naval deserters, redundant merchant seamen, and former privateers. They were not the heroic, romantic characters portrayed in the movies by Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow. They were hard men notorious for their foul language, heavy drinking, and casual violence.
Also, it was true that “Negroes and mulattoes were present on almost every pirate ship, and only rarely did the many merchants and captains who commented on their presence call them slaves.” Kinkor even presents examples of blacks who were leaders of predominantly white crews.
Yet, Cordingly also wrote that conversely, “pirates shared the same prejudices as other white men in the Western world. They regarded black slaves as commodities to be bought and sold, and used them as slaves on board their ships for the hard and menial jobs.”