An Epiphany!

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Solutions to problems that I have been considering sometimes come to me at the oddest of moments. I have found answers to questions about writing or teaching while in the shower, in the bathroom, or just after waking up. I am sure this experience is not unique to me, and I suspect the subconscious mind working on a difficulty and then presenting the answer when it is ready might be the explanation for this phenomenon. What would Dr. Freud have to say about this?

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Recently while on a gallivant with my wife, a drive we take for relaxation with no particular place in mind and hoping to find back roads we haven’t yet explored, a solution to my second novel burst into my consciousness.

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I had written two previous drafts of this book, a Young Adult speculative novel, set extremely far in the future, but I felt unsatisfied with its structure. I have had several people read it and make extremely useful comments on the book. One asked me if there would be a sequel, and I realized that I was thinking in those terms. But I was still not certain about this one. What was it? A single novel? Two books?

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The answer came to me as we were cresting a hill in the beautiful back area of northeastern Pennsylvania. I said to my wife that I needed to tell her this solution so I didn’t lose it. This was one of the few times I went out without pad and pen, something I almost always have with me. She graciously listened, and I explained what burst into my mind.

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I now know the structure: it is a trilogy, and I know where the divisions are for each book. I now understand the arc of the entire trilogy, as well as the narrative arc of each text. I also know the antagonists of each piece as well as the overarching antagonist of the trilogy. As I talked it out, the answers solidified in my mind.

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So I am now working on the draft of the first book of the trilogy. I hope to have this done by the end of May or early June. We will see.

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A Goal Reached

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I wanted to finish a first draft of my third novel by the end of this month, and I have done that.  I am not impressed by the draft, because it needs a mountain of work.  I see numerous serious narrative issues that I will need to address in future drafts.  In fact, I am not sure if I will continue with this one–I have to let it percolate for a while before I decide what to do with it.

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This completion of the first draft does lead me directly to my next immediate writing goals.   I intend to attack the completion of the third draft of my second book, a Young Adult novel over the next couple of months.  I want to have a third version complete by the end of May, which is optimistic, or June at the very latest, which might be more realistic.  If the third rewrite moves well, I will then aim for formal editing, and perhaps, just maybe, begin submitting it.

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As the semester grows to a close,  I will soon be able to finish my grading work and devote more time to the work on this revision.  I hope I am able to complete this goal.

A Little About Helen Murray

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I have been giving tidbits of backstory about the three retired gentlemen who are the focus of my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. In the next few posts about characters in the novel, I will write a little about a few of the secondary, but important characters, of the book.

Helen Murray was a high school history teacher, the kind of teacher who caught her students’ attention and engaged them in the lessons. She understood that for many teenagers, history began the day there were born, and that it required a great effort to engage her charges’ minds.

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She would often wear clothing or costumes of the time period when teaching about the Civil War or the Victorian era for example. Many of her fellow teachers looked at her as an eccentric, but she didn’t care, because her pupils had learned to be interested in history. Reaching her students, and instilling in them an interest in history was far more important to her than what others thought about her.

Her life had been an ordered one, but that changed with a series of terrible incidents, including the deaths of her sister and brother-in-law. As a result of a terrible car crash, Helen became the guardian of her very young niece, Helena, who was named for her.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot of the book, but I will say that Helen showed herself to have the heart of a tiger and to be a warrior.

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The Importance of Revision in Writing

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“Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.”

(Ernest Hemingway, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris Review Interview, 1956) 1

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The act of revision is an absolutely necessary part of writing, no matter what kind. Essays, stories, novels, books all require that the author not be satisfied with initial drafts. “Re-vision” means to re-see, or to look at the work from another perspective. This idea is something I try to teach my students in College First Year Writing classes, and it is crucial that I apply the ideas myself to my own work.

When I look back over my writing of the last few years, I can see that I employ this practice. I wrote at five-seven drafts of the chapters of my dissertation for my Ph.D. in English, and I continue to revise with the novels I am currently writing. I wrote 13 drafts of my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1; I did six drafts of my second novel, a young adult speculative work.  The second book in my supernatural series is almost ready to be released at 6 drafts–Gallow Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 2. I have learned to be more focused in my revisions, so I have been able to cut down the numbers a bit.

Of course, the writer can revise in several ways. Do we do a complete rewriting of the draft trying to deal with everything, or do we focus on a particular aspect of the novel, for example structure or characterization? I do not pretend to know what each writer should do. I suspect that it varies according to project and writer.

What I am certain of is that we must continue to work on the writing, trying to see it in new ways and looking for various problems to fix.

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The most important point is for writers to keep writing and revising!

1. From http://grammar.about.com/od/advicefromthepros/a/rewritequotes.htm 3/28/2015.

What is Young Adult and New Adult Fiction?

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As I worked on the third draft of my second novel, I started to wonder about an issue of genre and classification. My novel is definitely post-apocalyptic and speculative, but is it Young Adult, New Adult, or something else?

How are these classifications defined? Is it the age of the protagonist? The hero of my second novel is a sixteen-year-old young woman, so does that make this work Young Adult? Are all novels with a young protagonist necessarily considered Young Adult? I am not in any way suggesting that this is somehow negative; rather, I am trying to understand where this book fits in the publishing scheme.

Additionally, what makes a New Adult novel? Would such a book be aimed at 18-25-year-olds?

Does theme and treatment of the theme also play into the consideration of the classification of a work?

If anyone can offer any suggestions, please, please, please, feel free to offer answers.

Thanks to any who help.

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Roosevelt Franklin’s Guilty Pleasures

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Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist in my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, is a man who does not allow himself many indulgences. Despite being able to afford almost any whim he might desire, he does not grant himself many. He does, however, have two guilty pleasures that he loves to enjoy: fine cigars and good whisk(e)y. The spelling depends on if the alcohol is American, with an “e” or Irish or Scotch without the “e”.

Even though he has a heart condition and is 68 years old, he refuses to give up smoking one cigar and drinking a couple of fingers of whisky each day. He knows that he is on the downslide of life, but he does not intend to give up these enjoyments.

Roosevelt prefers strong cigars. He is a lover of strong flavors, from coffee to whisky and cigars. His favorite is a CAO Brazilia Churchill length. This cigar is intended for experienced smokers, with a deep, rich flavor and powerful smoke. Roosevelt chooses the Churchill length because he likes to make the experience last, usually at night and paired with a good whiskey.

Roosevelt enjoys good American bourbon and Irish and Scotch single malt whiskys. His favorite bourbon is Maker’s Mark, a standard of excellence. It is rich with a strong flavor, but it is also very smooth. His preferred Irish whisky is John Powers, a very smooth drink. His favorite single malt Scotch whisky is the 18 year old Macallan, as Roosevelt calls it—the finest whisky in the world. It is smooth, rich, and strong, with no bite. It is a perfect dram of whisky.

At the moment, Roosevelt is drinking a rare single malt Scotch whisky–the 15 year old Macallan, which is very smooth and has extremely deep and complex flavors.

Roosevelt certainly understands that not everyone will agree with his opinions on these cigars and alcohol, and he respects others’ views, but he holds firm on his sentiments.

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(images from personal photographs)

Evil Lives After—Submitted to Publisher!

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I have returned from a productive visit to the local post office.

I sent my manuscript to a publisher the old-fashioned way this afternoon, in a mailing envelope, complete with cover letter and self-addressed, stamped envelope. There are still some publishers that accept non-solicited manuscripts from writers without agents, and that describes my writing situation!

It is exciting to send it into the hands of an editor. I have put it through 7 drafts, so it is time for more feedback, and perhaps—acceptance. But that is now out of my hands. It is time to breathe deeply and to continue with the other writing projects.

Tomorrow I will continue with working on the 3rd draft of my second novel and composing the 1st draft of my third novel.

For now though, I have submitted Evil Lives After, a supernatural thriller, to a publisher!

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Roosevelt Franklin–Anglophile–from Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French

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Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist of my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I is a self-admitted anglophile. While a proud American with a very American name who loves his country, he is drawn to the manners and customs of England and the British Isles.

He embraces courtesy and dignity, but he despises snobbery and bigotry. He was raised in a very wealthy family, and he rejects their view that people in the classes below them are intended to serve as underlings. He loves British customs, but he abhors the rigid class system of that culture. He is more comfortable with his friends from varying backgrounds than he is enduring an evening of cocktails with his family, most of whom he has distanced himself from.

Roosevelt loves old-fashioned, hand tailored British wool suits. He feels the most at ease when he wears them. “They may look old-fashioned, but that is completely appropriate, because I am very old-fashioned,” he would say about the appearance of his attire.

He insists on showing courtesy, not as an act of thoughtless and forced behavior, but as a conscious attempt to provide a touch of civility in a decidedly uncivil world. He still handwrites thank you notes for any gifts or kindnesses he has received. “Using pen and paper shows more consideration than simply typing a note on the computer screen.” He definitely is not a fan of the contemporary so-called connected age.

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Roosevelt’s favorite authors are also British and have stood the test of time: Shakespeare and Chaucer. “To read Shakespeare is to glean what it means to be human,” was one of his favorite sayings about the Bard.

And one of his favorite meals was a traditional British style breakfast, complete, with tea or coffee, toast and jam, eggs, and rashers of bacon and sausage.  In the evening, an after dinner relaxation was drinking several fingers of excellent single malt Scotch Whisky and having a fine cigar.

For travel, no place in the world rivaled London for Roosevelt. It was simply the City to him. In his very American soul also resided an old-fashioned British gentleman.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Finished With the Latest Revision!

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It is late on Wednesday evening, and I have completed the revision of my supernatural thriller Evil Lives After.  This is now the seventh draft of this novel.  While I am under no illusions that more work will not be needed if it is picked up by an agent or a publishing house, I hope it is at least in a good condition for submission.

I will speak more about what I am going to do for future query letters and submissions, but I have finished this task.

This means tomorrow I return to writing the first draft of my third novel.

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Roosevelt Franklin, Book Lover

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This entry is one of several posts I will write about some of the characters in my first novel. I hope you enjoy it.

The protagonist of my supernatural horror thriller Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I is a retired History professor, living in Bethberg, a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. He is a deeply complex man, influenced by, among other things, his service in the Vietnam War and the profound and loving marriage with his now deceased wife.

Roosevelt has several deep enjoyments in life—eating, drinking good whisky, especially single malt Scotch, and smoking high level cigars, but his primary passion in life is books. A visitor to his home would notice, more than anything else, the enormous number of bookcases lining many of the walls in his house. Roosevelt’s home is an old Victorian home that he and his wife Sarah had purchased and renovated shortly after their marriage.

While she did have a large room dedicated to being her art studio, an avocation she loved, even while being a surgeon, and Roosevelt had a large room that was his studio, smoking room and library, other rooms also were filled with books of many kinds and conditions. Roosevelt, although a man of financial means, is not a book collector. He believes that books should be read and not simply owned to be put on display. He thinks that the words in a piece are what make the book important, not a fine leather cover or being a first edition. He places worth on the ideas, the stories, the tales, the histories, and the communications in books and not their potential monetary value.

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At one point, he tried to make a calculated estimate of how many books he owned, but he decided it was an almost impossible task, so he stopped the tally when he reached 4000. And no matter how many books he owns, he seems to always find more to buy. Again, he is not a snob when it comes to the owning of books. His snobbery emerges when it comes to whiskey and cigars.

More on that later.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview