"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing: To italicize, or not to italicize

I thought I'd talk a little about writing today. Normally, I just write, show you what I've written, then let you decide whether I've done it correctly or not. Call it insecurity, but just because people tell me that they love my characters or my dialogue doesn't make me want to run out and teach the world how I do it.

Who am I to teach others?

But my editor was talking to me awhile back about a workshop she was giving. She was trying to describe the difference between being in a character's point of view and using italics to denote the character's thoughts.

"You do it really well in MURDER ON THE HOOF," she said. "But it wasn't released yet, so I couldn't show them an example."

Naturally, I was flattered. I was also curious - about my own writing style. How do I decide when a character is thinking something, as opposed to just being in their head? It took me some weeks to figure it out, but I now think I understand my own rules and can pass them on to you.

Picture yourself driving down a street. You're listening to music, keeping your eyes on the road, checking the rearview mirror every 10.24 seconds, just like the experts recommend. As you travel, you are aware of the construction they're doing on that house to the left, the small child on the bike to your right, the traffic up ahead, slowing down for the light, when -



As you can see above, your thoughts about your drive are just images. Perhaps they are accompanied by sound and smell, but they are not forming words and sentences in your head. Your brain is logging sensory experiences, until that last word. That word, your brain actually formed and said, even if your mouth didn't expel it.

That's basically how I use italicized thoughts. My character might be experiencing events, but the only "thoughts" he or she has are the ones that are actual words/sentences.

Here is an example from MURDER ON THE HOOF:

* * * * *

There was a cluster of young riders at the end of the arena, sitting around on their horses and talking. Not certain if there was room to pass, and not wanting to disturb them, Willie turned across the arena early.

“Hey, watch out,” a man’s voice barked at her.

She looked up to see the same man who’d nearly run into Emily, now barreling toward her like a freight train. Her first impulse was to stop. She raised the reins and breathed, “Ho,” but saw that she was stopping in his direct path. Her second reaction was pure adrenalin—she kicked the mare, who leaped forward and took off running.

All thoughts of how to ride disappeared from Willie’s brain. She braced her weight into her stirrups and pulled on the reins. The effect was not what she wanted. Belle raised her head and yanked forward, adding a hopping motion to her gallop. Willie grabbed the horn, trying to push herself back into the saddle. Her body shifted to the right with each bump. The rapid jostling kept her powerless to either stop the horse or get back in the middle of it.

Damned if I’m gonna come off. With one final thrust, she shoved her body left and down. Belle slowed for a moment, allowing Willie to bend her knees and sit back. The pair settled to a stop. What felt like a ten-minute nightmare was probably not even worth a rodeo’s eight seconds.

Willie let out a deep sigh and looked down at Belle’s head. Tyler and Emily were already at her side.

“I’m so—” Willie began, then choked on the word “sorry.” I’m such an idiot.

“It’s not your fault,” Emily said, helping her off the horse. “Bobby Fermino is a horse’s ass.”

* * * * *

I hope this example and explanation is helpful. In the meantime, the chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite can still be yours. Read this post (http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com/2014/05/but-wasnt-there-another-contest.html) and follow the directions. You could be a winner!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rabbits of velvet and steel

This isn't my story, it's my son's and it's not even his story, it actually happened. Being interested in all things, he found the story of Yutu, the Chinese lunar rover. "Yutu" means Jade Rabbit in Chinese and it would seem that the little piece of hardware they shot to the moon took on anthropomorphic qualities, especially when it began to fail. You see, it began sending messages back to earth that were heartbreakingly human.

There are several articles about it, here and here (this one has the most information about Yutu's communications, but it was never updated to say that Yutu survived). The articles are good, although I recommend staying away from the comments. There are trolls and then there are trolls, and sooner or later they forget about the topic and just want to mud wrestle.

Now, being a former engineer, I know how very simple it is to program human-like responses to stimulus. So Yutu's stoicism about his situation was just the result of a programmer's choice to be different. And I might hazard a guess, that despite this programmer's rigid belief in science, they formed an attachment to the Jade Rabbit, an attachment that took on human qualities, making their status messages more intimately real.

My son wrote a song about Yutu, which he included in his senior vocal recital.

Yutu wasn't a life form. He didn't think of the messages he sent. He was programmed to send certain words as the result of certain stimuli. And yet...

Marcus spent most of his early childhood with a stuffed lion under his arm. Simba now sits on the top shelf of his closet.

Yes, he sometimes wears doggie sweaters.

Simba is an inanimate object, made of fabric and batting. And yet, when I look at him, I feel he is full of the memories of Marcus' childhood and losing him would be like losing a member of the family. He is our Velveteen Rabbit, and it would not surprise me to see a young lion running across our lawn one day, heading for blue skies and green fields.

Do you have any Velveteen Rabbits in your life?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An open letter to Amazon haters

If you're an author or a publisher or an agent, you're well aware of the battle going on between Amazon and Hachette Publishing. If you're not, well, Hachette wants certain terms for offering their books on Amazon and Amazon wants different terms and Amazon is blocking Hachette pre-orders until it's all resolved and no one is flinching. So far.

Hachette and other publishers are, of course, painting Amazon as the villain in this picture. A large number of authors are leaping to Hachette's defense. After all, Amazon is taking over the world, right?

As an author-publisher, I feel it's my civic duty to take a stand on this issue.

* * * * *

Dear Amazon Haters,

Yes, it is true. Amazon is taking over the world. Pretty soon there won't be any stores at all, because everyone will be one click away from buying anything. We'll even fill up our cars online - the gas will be delivered by drone. We'll all be part of the collective and Amazon will have total power and be able to force us to sell our wares on their website at their prices, even if it puts us out of business.

But until then...

I put my books on Amazon, available in paperback and Kindle. I create the content, pay for the cover art and editing. I take all the risks. And every month, I get money in my bank account from Amazon. My Kindle sales earn 70%. My paperbacks earn less, but still more than a royalty percentage, and definitely more than once a quarter.

In addition, I am in charge of pricing, so I can offer sales or even free promotions any time I want. If I decide the cover art isn't working, I can change it. I am steering my own ship.

So hate Amazon if you must. You can order my books from Barnes & Noble, or any independent bookstore. As a matter of fact, please do support your favorite indie - they offer that personal touch, which is lacking online. If you want an ebook but cannot abide Amazon, email me and I'll sell you a copy personally.

Just don't expect me to throw in with your anti-Amazon platform. I'm not about to bite the hand that's paying my electric bill.

Hugs & Kisses,

Gayle Carline,
Author and Columnist

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

If I only had the nerve.

I've been thinking about change and bravery lately. I think you have to be brave to be a self-published author, and you have to be able to embrace change. Friends tell me I'm brave, but it's the last thing I'd put on a list of my greatest attributes.

And I hate change.

Someone wrote once that you shouldn't work on your weaknesses because they will always remain weaker than your strengths. You should work to make your strengths as strong as they can be. Perhaps they're right and I shouldn't try to be any braver than I already am. And yet, when I want to do something, I find a way to do it, even if my first steps frighten me beyond all reason.

So I may be headed for a slender limb holding the best fruit, both in my career and in my personal life. It may snap and drop me before I reach the goal, but I'm still going to reach for it. Even if I don't get the fruit, I may be led to something more interesting, if I can change my reason for climbing the tree.

It was interesting to me to read my horoscope today, from Free Will Astrology.

"The Buddhist meditation teacher Chogyam Trungpa said that one of the best ways to become fearless is to cultivate tenderness. As you expand your heart's capacity to feel compassionate affection for the world, you have less and less to be afraid of. That's the opposite of the conventional wisdom, which says you become brave by toughening up, by reinforcing your psychic armor. Of all the signs of the zodiac, you Pisceans are best set up to benefit from Trungpa's method -- now even more than usual."

I've  a lot to consider with this idea of becoming less tough in order to be more brave, and you may not believe that horoscopes are relevant or useful. Still, I think it's darned timely that my horoscope is telling me all about something that I am already consumed with pondering.

JUST A REMINDER: I still have a contest going on with my newest book. Check it out!


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