Lessons from My Father – The New Yorker

The white limousine was out of place on Magill Road. Except for prom nights and funerals, this wasn’t a limousine kind of street. It was suburban, on the fringe of the island of Swarthmore, in the sea of working-class Delaware County, the armpit of America, as my father called it. Looming over the modest three-bedroom Cape Cod house was the glowing white Mobil sign, the steady hum of traffic, motorcycle engines roaring, music pulsing from open windows as cars idled at red lights.

Read more at the source: Lessons from My Father – The New Yorker

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#CapitalIndieBookCon: Aftermath

On Saturday I was a vendor at the first of what I think will be a great new Indie Book Con tradition, begun by the wonderful people at Clockwork Dragon. Lee French describes how it began and how it went!

Lee French

As I type this, it’s Sunday night and I’m tired. Saturday, I got up at 5 and couldn’t get back to sleep because I knew I had to run a book fair that day and fifty billion things bombarded my brain–things to remember, things to do, things to take to the car, things not to do.

Folks, I put on a book fair, and it rocked. Jeffrey Cook, my ConBuddy, handled the volunteer side of the affair, among other things. A dozen people did that volunteering to make it really work. My part was all the logistics and venue management. Bookkeeping, paperwork, contracts, payments, spreadsheets, lists, badges, phone calls, emails, maps, arrangements, dragons, tacks, safety pins, tables, chairs, disaster management, tact, mailings, setup, and teardown. So everything I normally do, but times fifty.

From about 6am to 7am, I kept remembering things I need to put in the car. I’d…

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The Genius of William Shawn, and the Invention of The New Yorker | Literary Hub

Reblogged from Literary Hub Daily

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Just the other day, feeling a ripple of melancholy after cleaning out desk drawers and stacking books into orange moving crates, I wandered into the office next to mine. After 90 years in a micro-p…

Source: The Genius of William Shawn, and the Invention of The New Yorker | Literary Hub

On Being a Professional Writer #amwriting

Lee French talks about her writing life, and questions she is asked most often when on a panel at a convention. Good information!

Lee French

I participate in a few forums and chat rooms where people ask a lot of amateur author questions. Before I go any further, I have nothing against these people. I had all these questions when I started too. The entire reason I hang out in this places online is to be helpful, and hopefully pick up a few kernels I didn’t know along the way. Sometimes, people who know less than me ask questions in areas I haven’t encountered or considered, and then I learn something when others answer. It’s also a good way to discover new cover artists and editors, and to find people to join online book release parties.

Several questions are asked over and over, and they’re very basic questions.

Q: Do I need to hire an editor for my first book? What kind?

A: Yes. Absolutely. Whether you’re self-publishing or not, do it. It’s usually best to…

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New Releases and Excitement! #free #ebooks

Our own Lee French has a new release in her YA Spirit Knights series, Ethereal Entanglements. Pick it up at Amazon!

Lee French

This past Tuesday, Ethereal Entanglements released. This is book 3 of Spirit Knights, a young adult, paranormal, modern fantasy series about ghost hunting in Portland. Book 4 will have to wait a little while, as I have some other projects with deadlines to deal with. Hopefully, Ghost Is the New Normal will be out in time for Norwescon 2017.

If you missed it, Girls Can’t Be Knights rocketed up the Amazon charts to reach subcategory bestseller status on June 15-17 as a result of some professional promotions work, and it’s now in a whole lot more hands than it was before. I need reviews, though! If you’ve read it, please leave a review. A sentence or two is fine.

I also need reviews of book 2, Backyard Dragons. Comment with a link to your review of Knights–because book 2 has a much better grounding if you’ve read book 1!–and…

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How to Make Purple Prose a little more Read

Eliminate purple prose with clever little metaphors.

Once again, Yours Truly has been accused of writing Purple Prose!

My first thought was which color I was using because my usual font color is black. Then it quickly occurred to me that I really do tend, at times, to lean toward the morbidly obese verbiage when it comes to richly compiled sentences. What I have just written may be an unworthy example of it.

I suppose we are all guilty of flowery language and purple prose when we are writing. At least sometime. It’s not really that we want to show off. It’s not that the scene or the character really needs it in order to be authentic. After all, it slows down the reading, makes the reader have to work harder to comprehend what is happening, and in the end it doesn’t garner us any kudos for our highly honed verbal wordplay.

A while ago, I had a linguistic joust with a colleague who swore she was going to write a blog post on the subject of purple prose. One thing that came from that exchange was the idea that metaphors and, in particular, how a writer can build a beautiful, poignant metaphor can substitute for purple prose or flowery language.

Yes, it’s possible to craft a deep thought or feeling from plain, ordinary language.

My one and only venture into urban fantasy, my so-called vampire novel A DRY PATCH OF SKIN, provides useful examples. Its well-read protagonist pulls metaphors out of thin air left and right, so I was able to pull a couple of convenient examples. Let’s deconstruct one of them to see how a simple-worded metaphor can stand in for flowery language or purple prose.

[Set-up: At this point in the story, our protagonist suspects he is transforming into a vampire, which is something he doesn’t want. Facing this desperate situation and, with no other recourse, he turns to God – with whom he has been feuding during his search for a cure. The following paragraph comes after the end of the soliloquy (spoken aloud in the story); the novel is a standard first-person narrative.]

A flake of snow alighted on my nose, then more flurries fell around me. Probably it was God sending me a sign, but as usual nicely disguised and suitably vague. But I did not stop to gaze at the snowflakes. I knew they would melt. They always do. And become someone’s tears.

Not a high-brow word in that entire paragraph.

Sentence #1 is merely a statement about the weather. Some readers may instantly latch onto snow as a metaphor, but that would only be because we have been trained through all of our previous reading of the literary canon and so much bad poetry to think that way. But here snow is snow, pure and simple.

In Sentence #2, the protagonist himself makes the comparison between the snow flurries and a message from God, and by extension, so does the reader. His personalized assessment of the message (disguised, vague) gives us some of his (the protagonist’s) mindset, further building the metaphor. Hence, if the sudden snow falling upon him is a message from God, it is typically vague, thus requiring him to interpret the message.

Sentence #3 is a bit of a switchback on the road to metaphor. He takes the snow as a message from God but refuses to get caught up in interpreting the message. Essentially, he is saying: “Take that, God! I’m not going to play your game.”

Sentence #4 becomes a rebuttal to Sentence #3: He did not concern himself with the snow because he knew the flakes would melt. In a metaphorical sense, the symbols that snowflakes represent will melt, hence become nothing (in a moral sense) – or in a practical, realistic way, nothing of significance.

Sentence #5 is simply a trailing fragment of Sentence #4 but, left as a fragment, it becomes a separate, added comment rather than part of the original comment of Sentence #4. The effect is two separate ideas, not one combined idea. There is a difference. If one wanted to, a semi-colon would probably work just as well to join these two sentences.

A day after writing the paragraph, I returned to read through it and make sure it said what I wanted it to say and felt the way I wanted it to feel. Then. almost as a whim, I added the final sentence. Just four simple words.

Sentence #6. Here is the metaphorthe leap of linkage between a fact of snow falling, a character’s thoughts about God that are sparked by the snow falling, then a rebuttal or dismissal of those thoughts, and finally the tears. Snow obviously does not become actual tears. That happens only in the imaginary sense. It is the character who, like many people might, makes that comparison.

That is what metaphor is.

I’ve been reading a fascinating book about metaphor (I is an Other) in which author James Geary declares that everything is a metaphor. Said another way: If it is not the actual, physical thing itself, it can only be a description of the thing (my words), hence metaphor. He further elaborates on the brain’s unique ability to form patterns from each and every experience we have, physical and intellectual. Then, upon encountering a new experience, the brain relies on the patterns it has already stored to determine if the new thing is in any way like something we previously encountered. Metaphor is that practice of pattern-forming. This is like that, therefore, I can identify certain properties of this new thing which match that old thing, and I’m ahead in the game of identification.

But I digress….

In fiction writing, we do not use metaphor for survival or to make patterns per se, but rather as shortcuts, as more interesting ways of introducing emotions, connections, and other perhaps esoteric claptrap. Sometimes they work, sometimes not.* But purple prose and flowery language can be dismissed in favor of the carefully constructed metaphor which, in the end, is usually going to be more powerful and more beautiful than a stream of haughty, vainglorious words themselves.

*My first novel, AFTER ILIUM, has sections of “flowery language” – ’tis true, I admit! – but I believed it was appropriate, reflecting the romantic hero’s mindset as he works his way through a seduction and an affair. Conversely, once the affair ends and cold, hard reality is thrust upon him, the writing style becomes quite lean, even terse, matching the effort he must put forth to survive – where there is no room for frivolous thought or the luxury of metaphors.

EPIC FANTASY *With Dragons UPDATE: We remain dedicated to daily production even when we write ourselves into corners. Still, at present we have reached Chapter 20, which brings us up to page 232 and in the neighborhood of 82,000 words. We are only half-way along on our hero’s journey, yet we remain optimistic that we are indulging the “epic fantasy” length requirements with appropriate acumen and verve!