Library A-Wandering

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image courtesy of ninocare via pixabay.com

Ever have one of those days when you want to read “something” but don’t know what to read?

You look at your TBR pile. You know everything looks great, but nothing appeals right now.

You wander the house, searching through shelves, for a favorite comfort book, but none of them hit the craving.

You waft through bookstore shelves, where everything and nothing looks good.

You post on social media, asking for recommendations; again, they sound good, but for a different day.

So what do you do?

Those are my favorite days to wander the library. I either go to my “home” library (the library that holds my card or the one that I use regularly), or I go to a different library in the same network, where I can still use the card.

And I wander.

Maybe I don’t really feel like fiction today. Maybe I want nonfiction, even though I’m tired of my research. Maybe I want local history or diaries by other writers or verbal portraits of the way I wish life was. Or maybe I want fiction — something light, brain candy, so I can refresh. Or maybe I want to revisit a classic or read a classic that I haven’t yet read.

Maybe I’ll find an interesting cookbook. I test drive cookbooks from the library, and if I keep taking it out, I’ll buy it. Maybe there will be a book on garden design, or one that gives me ideas for the herb garden.

You never know, and that’s what’s so wonderful.

Wandering the library shelves, you’ll find books you didn’t know you needed to read, but are irresistible when you pull them off the shelves and hold them.

It’s not the same when you do a computer search and come up with limited terms.

Wandering the library shelves is more like a treasure hunt.

And what grand treasure it is!

When I travel, I always visit the library (if it’s open while I’m there). Even if I can’t take out a book, I learn a lot about the place, and I discover hidden gems. It never gets old.

Next time you feel restless, and want to do “something” or read “something” but can’t settle –visit the library and go on a treasure hunt!

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image courtesy of Free Photos via pixabay

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The Idea Vat (A Post on Writing Process)

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One of the most frequent questions I get as an author is “Where do you get your ideas?”

As though there’s some central Idea Vat into which we writers dip in and pull out ideas.

I’m always puzzled when it comes from people who claim they want to write, but don’t know what to write about; most writers I know have far more ideas than they’ll ever be able to explore.

Non-writers are fascinated by the writing process (so are writers, but for different reasons). Writers tend to be fascinated by anyone’s process to do anything, because it’s all material.

There is no Magic Writing Bullet or Potion that will suddenly make one a creative genius churning out best-sellers and winning every award. Even the innately talented have to put in the work. I’ve had many talented writers in my workshops who were not willing to put in the necessary work. The ones who could outwork the more talented are the ones who usually end up sustaining a career.

I find the world an interesting place. Almost everything can be interesting, if approached from the right angle. Everyone has a unique story, which can be interesting, but too often is spewed out there for catharsis without being crafted. Catharsis is great, but sometimes it makes more sense to keep it in your private journal until you find the best way for that unique piece to be shared.

Where do I get my ideas?

From everywhere around me. A line in someone else’s story gets me thinking, “What if?” A fragment of an overheard conversation gets me thinking, “What if?” A news story or something heard on the radio or seen on social media gets the wheels turning. Visiting a new place inspires.

For me, setting is an additional character, and emotional geography is just as important as physical geography.

Paintings inspire me. If I’m stuck or feeling frustrated in my work, I go and look at paintings. A beautiful painting will inspire me to go back to the page — either because I’m no longer stuck or because the painting inspired a short story. Edward Hopper’s work, in particular, has inspired several short pieces.

Historical places and people inspire me. History is comprised of people and what they do. It’s not just events and dates — it’s the struggles, joys, and sorrows of those immersed in those events at those dates. Visiting an historical site often inspires me.

Soundtracks DO NOT inspire me. Soundtracks are created to support someone else’s creative vision. If I use a soundtrack when I’m writing fiction, unless that particular piece has relevance to the plot or character, it derails my work and bleeds into it.

I can always tell when my students have written something with a show or movie soundtrack on. I can usually tell what it is. Because it warps their writing.

If I have music on while I write, it’s instrumental, unless I’m listening to something specific to the plot or the character.

After the inspiration comes the work. Research, what I call “percolating.” I get an idea. I jot down notes.

I usually work from character first. Even if it’s inspired by a painting or an historical site or event, until I have my central character, I can’t do anything with it. Character, more characters, situation, then “what if?”

Then, I can work.

I usually write my way in to a new piece for about four chapters (if it’s a long work; if it’s short, I usually know within ten pages and can adjust). Four chapters (40-80 pages) gives me a good handle on whether or not this idea is viable.

Then I percolate for a bit, thinking about the idea while I’m doing other things. That negates the mindfulness in which we are supposed to do all things, but I often get my best ideas in the shower, or driving to the store, or cooking, or doing yard work.

Once I’ve percolated for a bit, I sit down and do my Writer’s Rough Outline.

For those blank-pagers (I loathe the term “pantser”) who are moaning — hey, do what works for you. This is my business, not my hobby. Writing is how I keep a roof over my head and food on the table. In order to do that, I have to juggle multiple projects. My time is as limited as anyone else’s. I don’t have the time to stare at a blank page or a blank computer screen. When I sit down in a work session, I need to be able to drop into whatever project I’m working on and produce my quota for that work session. Having a detailed Writer’s Rough allows me to do that.

It also allows me to move from project to project without losing the individual project rhythms, or having them bleed into each other.

Once I have my outline, I research what’s necessary and gather research materials to which I might need to refer as I write. I prefer to do that than put in a placeholder and look it up later for a different draft. Right now, I’m on too tight a deadline schedule for that to be viable.

I have X amount of time each day where I’m reading research for any number of projects, taking notes, making my bibliographical lists. This is separate from writing time.

Then I write. When a fiction or script project moves into “Primary” position, it means I do my first 1K/day of it first thing in the morning, at least six days a week. If I fall behind and have a deadline looming, I raise the quota to whatever it needs to be to get it done.

Once I have that first 1K done, I can move between whatever other projects are on contract and deadline and client work. If I can or need to have another fiction or script session later in the day (often on a different project), I add that in.

At the moment, I’m doing 2K/day on one novel, first thing in the morning, and then 1K/day later in the day on a different novel (with a slightly later deadline). And pulling together research for a play, while researching something that came up for one of the novels.

I prefer to edit in the afternoon. It needs a different approach. When editing/revising a novel, I do 3-5 chapters a day. And there is always more than one revision. before I turn it over to my editor. We usually have at least two rounds of revisions before it goes into production, and then as many rounds of galleys as needed or as can fit in to the schedule.

Because galleys are for copy edits and catching mistakes, NOT for major revisions. You have to train yourself to catch what needs to be caught in each phase of book production. Because it’s not just about YOU. It’s about the entire team working to make the book the best it can be.

Every book has its own rhythm and process, but the overall structure I talk about here is working for me right now. When it stops working, I’ll change it. Creativity is a process, and each piece you work on teaches something and makes it possible for the next to be better, artistically and in craft.

In a way, I suppose I do go to the Idea Vat, dip in a ladle, and pull out an idea. The Idea Vat is another name for the Creative Unconscious.

 

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Learn more about Devon’s books at www.devonellingtonwork.com

Release day: MYTH & INTERPRETATION, a Gwen Finnegan novella

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Stuck in NYC when plans for their next expedition fall through, Gwen and Justin accept teaching jobs at different local universities. Adjusting to their relationship, and juggling the academic and emotional demands of their students, they are embroiled in two different, disturbing, paranormal situations that have more than one unusual crossing point. Can they work together to find the answers? Or are new temptations too much to resist? For whom are they willing to put their lives on the line?

This between-the-books novella takes place in New York City, shortly after the action in Tracking Medusa ends and The Balthazaar Treasure begins.

Released by Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press July 2018. $1.99
Universal Buy link:
https://www.books2read.com/u/4XKL57

Q & A with Devon Ellington:
Question: Talk a little bit about how Myth & Interpretation came about.

Devon Ellington: Originally, a handful of the scenes were in the opening chapters of the second Gwen Finnegan mystery, The Balthazaar Treasure. But they didn’t work. They slowed down the story. Yet, the readers needed to know what happened in between the end of Tracking Medusa and the beginning of Balthazaar. I talked to my editor. She suggested breaking it off and doing a novella. I outlined it; she worked with me to pare it down so it didn’t become a novel. And some characters that are vital to the series get proper introductions here.

Q: Justin is in an interesting position here. He’s always been the assistant. He’s always been in the position of less power. But here, he is the leader, especially when it comes to helping his student, Jessica.

DE: Yes, he’s growing into himself. He made huge strides when he and Gwen teamed up to find the Medusa statue. Now, he’s the teacher and he’s responsible for the next generation of his profession. Gwen’s done this before; he’s finding his way.

Q: Plus, they have to work out the dynamics of their own relationship.

DE: Which isn’t easy. Gwen’s been married and divorced. She’s worked and lived all over the world, and experienced her share of relationships. She knows what she needs and won’t put up with in a relationship. Justin’s still finding out, and he’s still playing by the rules he’s used to. They have to navigate. Gwen’s approach is simple: I love you and trust you. No games. Justin is used to games.

Q: At the same time, what Gwen chooses not to tell him here is interesting. You’d expect her not to want to have any secrets from him.

DE: Yes, and that choice is part of what fuels their conflict during Balthazaar Treasure. She believes that telling him certain things – can’t mention them here or they’re spoilers – would cause the type of drama between them she wants to avoid. Yet the choice to avoid drama now means she has to deal with it further down the line.

Q: And Karl stirs the pot. Again.

DE: As Karl does. Especially when it can annoy Justin.

Q: They stayed in New York for this adventure.

DE: And Gwen can’t wait to get back in the field. She loves her home, but she loves being out and about even more. Now Justin’s got field fever, too.

Q: I kind of fell in love with all the students in Gwen’s seminar. Even the ones who were a problem. Will we see more of them?

DE: In the original outline, they grew into a tighter group and had more to do. But, again, it was too much for the scope of the piece. Their stories definitely go on; how much directly intersect with Gwen and Justin, I’m still working on defining it.

Q: But we have to see more of Alec. And Jessica.

DE: Don’t worry. You will. In surprising ways!

Q: New York was a huge character in the piece.

DE: Yes, I’m creating my slightly alternate New York based on some of my favorite places. New York is rapidly changing, but my fictional New York, I hope, can retain some of my favorite places, add some fictional places, and still be believable for those who know the city well.

Q: The crossover that happened between the worlds of Gwen Finnegan and the world of the Coventina Circle happened again, with the Société Sortileger, the esoteric library on Orchard Street.

DE: Yes, that was fun. Since Gwen lives in almost the same New York around the same time as Coventina, even though they move in different circles (no pun intended) most of the time, it makes sense that they would end up in some of the same places, even if they don’t know each other.

Q: Harry Delacourte – he’s getting around. Kind of hard not to fall in love with him.

DE: He certainly is. He turns up in the next Coventina Circle, Relics & Requiem, too. Harry’s a busy boy. He and the staff of the library will likely cross over in several books in both series. He surprised me, though, when it turned out he was related to one of Gwen’s UK coven sisters. I have a feeling he’s full of more surprises. As are Gwen and Justin.

 

Excerpt:

Justin was grateful he’d prepared most of his lectures so far in advance. He was comfortable with the material, and he could make it through the lecture without worrying. He’d have to find a way to concentrate on the papers that were turned in today.

He pulled the piles Louis collected together, shoved them into a manila folder, and jammed them into his bag. He needed to get back to the hospital. His dad was scheduled for release in a few days, and Justin had the irrational fear he’d never make it out. He hadn’t dared to share this fear with Gwen. She’d comfort him, be logical, and he didn’t want that right now.

“Mr. Yates?”

He jerked his head up to see a young woman in front of his desk. He searched his memory. Florence. The Mayans. “Jessica? Jessica Sayles?”

“Yes. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Good to be back.” It sounded false and hollow. If he reached, he could remember the joy his first days of teaching gave him. They felt far away. “How can I help you?”

“I’m not sure.”

He noticed she looked tired. “Do you need an extension on the paper?”

“N-no, nothing like that. I turned it in. I hope you like it.” She looked down, her hair falling over her face, hiding it. After a minute, she took a deep breath, brushed her hair back and looked at him. “I’m afraid. And because you and Dr. Finnegan have the experiences you have, I thought you could help me.”

“Um, sure, I’ll try?” It sounded lame to Justin’s ears, but that was the best he could do.

Jessica took a deep breath and exhaled. “I think my roommate, Gina? The one who’s in Dr. Finnegan’s seminar? I think she’s trying to kill me.”

 

Available for $1.99 digitally on July 17. Delayed release on Amazon, but with the same link.

https://www.books2read.com/u/4XKL57

Visit the Gwen Finnegan website to keep up with all the latest!

 

 

 

Summer Reading

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My favorite thing about school getting out was the Summer Reading List. I’m old enough so we received a mimeographed list, in purple, smudged.

I usually had every book on the list read by July 1.

That meant I could read whatever I wanted: mysteries like Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, Vicki Barr, Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton and more. Childhood of Famous Americans books — especially all the girls.

The library was my favorite place, with the bookstore a close second.

Reading is often part of my job now, and I still love it. I still devour books weekly.

And, in good weather, I love sitting out on my deck and enjoying a good book. I’ve been reading Fiona Davis and Elizabeth Adler and Donna Andrews and  Hannu Rajaniemi this summer.

What are you reading?