I’m visiting with fellow author Nikki Andrewsover at Scrivener’s River, stop in and say hello! We’re talking about writing and what it’s like living in an RV full time. You know you want to look.
About the cover art: The tree, the Los Angeles skyline, and the colors evoke a few of the themes from the storyline and their layout creates energy and life. This visual created by Diana Carlisle is stunning, and I believe even the font choices and tagline are perfect for what lies within.
It is finished. And just beginning.
Because one of the most common questions I’m asked is about process, just about two years ago when I started a new novel project, I also started a blog topic thread; Kaleidoscope-growing a novel. I shared what it was like along the way, describing the actual backstage work that goes into plotting, writing, revising, editing, proofing, pitching to publishers, editing again, covering, waiting…and now launching, a book.
What if advances in artificial intelligence, combined with mystical elements found in the earth, could produce inexplicable images of the future? Harold Donaldson unwillingly becomes the custodian of a beautiful, handcrafted kaleidoscope that changes the viewer’s future and becomes the focus of evil operatives intent on capturing the kaleidoscope for nefarious purposes.
It’s been a fun, hard, challenging, tedious, rewarding, patience-building process to this point.
The inspiration ‘scope, which actually belongs to my sister, and is handmade (but not magical that I know of…unless you count being the inspiration for a novel.) The one in the book is small enough to fit in Harold’s pocket.
Now it’s time to sit back and relax. Not. Now I move into promotion, advertising, blog visiting, forum chats, tweeting, Pinteresting and pitching to readers. I wonder if there is a magical device for that?
Would I do it again? Yup. Already started on the next project.
What keeps me going? Seeing the final product is very rewarding.
But hearing from readers…that’s the ultimate. Here’s an early review:
“I love how the novel hits different chords; being at times inspirational, metaphysical and scientifically speculative even while following a thriller-like narrative. Beverly Nault managed to create an adventure with characters I actually cared for.
The most memorable parts of the novel are the ones which show how looking into the kaleidoscope changed the characters’ lives. Everyone has some secret fear that holds them back from fully enjoying all that life has to offer. As the characters faced their own fears during the course of their adventures, I found myself stymied that I was feeling hope and inspiration while reading an adventure/science fiction/thriller novel.
It takes a certain kind of talent to write a novel that contains different aspects from different genres while still maintaining a coherent narrative. Beverly Nault has skillfully created a journey that can suck in readers from various backgrounds and leave them pondering questions the book raises about life, meaning and relationships hours after they’ve finished reading the novel.”
~Eduardo Aduna, Readers’ Favorite
I hope you like Harold and following along on his journey. It’s been terrific fun getting him this far. Here are a few paragraphs for you to sample until it’s formally released:
Ruddy complexions were like skywriting, a girl in high school had told him once. The message may appear slowly, but everyone can see it for miles around and remember it for days. “I have to get back to work.” He gathered up his trash and headed for the can. When he turned around, Pepper was standing close, nose to his chin. “Tell Glenda hello.” Before he could go, she grabbed his arm.
“Harry, I really mean it. I am glad I saw…what I saw. Where did you get it again? Could I get one like it, or is that a one-of-a-kind thing?”
He told her about the encounter in the park with the homeless man. “It’s a mystery why he picked me.” He pictured the day of the handoff, the police hurrying the old guy away before he could explain himself. The police responding to his own complaint about the vagrants camping out. She was the first person he shared this with.
“You have been given much responsibility in many areas.” With that, she stood on tiptoe and pecked him on the cheek. “You have been given a gift. Thank you for sharing your magical looking-piece with me.”
“Um. You’re welcome. And thanks.” He demurred, dropping his hand from her grip. “But I don’t believe in magic.”
“A man of science and numbers, I get it.” She tipped her head sideways, considering him. “The mysteries of the universe reveal more than we see with our eyes or hear with our ears. If we slow down and really absorb what it’s trying to teach us, we might be surprised and delighted.” She poked a slender finger at his chest. “I choose to keep my mind open to the possibilities. What about you, Harry?”
Now the next stage of life begins for the book. Finding its place in readers’ hearts.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on The Kaleidoscope‘s progress, so here’s a quick update. My amazing, thorough, talented and patient editor at Wild Rose Press/Crimson Rose (Suspense) and I have been hard at work polishing and adding sparkle to the final manuscript, and we’re thrilled that it’s headed to galleys! (Notice the clever usage of publishing lingo.)
And now the housekeeping portion of the journey begins. Ad copy, back cover blurbs and tweetable quotes must be massaged and tweaked so the book’s represented in its very best light. (See what I did there?…light…kaleidoscope…)
I’ll soon begin working with an artist who will consider my ideas, we’ll discuss the image, graphic design and layout to make sure the cover is inviting and representative of the story inside.
Of course I’m enjoying these steps (and giving my noggin a rest because writing is hard, y’all), but I’m most excited for you to read the story of Harold Donaldson and his unusual journey of self discovery with a colorful and crazy group of friends brought together by the magical, beautifully hand-made kaleidoscope.
Here’s a short bit from the manuscript to give you a glimpse of what’s in store:“Rhashan paused, hand on the divider next to Harold’s desk. “Say, wot’s this?” Harold chided himself for setting the Kaleidoscope in full view as Rhashan picked it up. “Mind if I look?” Rhashan emitted a low whistle as he spun the dial and then froze, his breath rushing between the gap in his teeth. Slowly, he lowered the ’scope and laid it on the desk like a fragile vial of nitro. “Where you git such a t’ing?” He backed up into the mail cart, catching it as it tipped, spilling the contents. “It’s just something I’m keeping for a… friend.” Rhashan’s complexion swirled from espresso to latte, his focus on the drawer where Harold dropped the Kaleidoscope and closed it out of sight. “Are you all right? Here, sit.” Harold realized the man wasn’t going to allow him to maneuver him any closer because of whatever evil he perceived lurked in the drawer, so he rolled the chair behind him and pushed down on his shoulders. “Mr. Harold, I wouldn’t have figured you for someone who played wid other people’s mind.” Colorful beads strung along his dreads clicked together as his head shook side to side. “But whatever you’re trying to do wid that t’ing, you’re dabbling in something you shouldn’t.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Harold was getting a little impatient with all this talk of warnings and being careful. “It’s just a toy.” Perhaps Rhashan didn’t understand how the glass slid around to vary the images and so he removed it from the drawer and started to explain the mechanics. “Oh no, it’s more than dat.” Rhashan stood, banging the chair against the wall. “Tell me what you see inside.” To prove a point, Harold put it up to his eye. “I see colors and shapes that change when you—” “Oh, no mon!” Rhashan leaned away when Harold held it out to him. The metal had warmed, and something shivered from within. “What do you think you saw?” “I see myself.” Stay tuned for more updates including the cover art selection for The Kaleidoscope! Bev out.
We all wonder what God’s doing sometimes, and even while we’re walking through trials often doubt His hand and plan.
On May 16, 2012, Ben Ramsey crashed his motorcycle into the rear end of an 18-wheeler going faster than 100 M.P.H., not wearing a helmet.
He lay in a coma for weeks while his family prayed, wondering whether he would even survive. What was God’s plan for their beloved?
Instead of me telling you how Ben’s doing now, I invite you to watch this stirring video, and I pray it blesses you and gives you hope in whatever you’re going through.
If you would like to know more about Ben’s journey, his mother, Dr. Karla Ramsey, keeps an informative and encouraging blog at Stepping Stones for TBI Recovery. More than a traumatic brain injury site, it’s a safe, encouraging place of hope where faith meets God even in the difficulties of everyday life.
Click through to watch the video, “Ben’s Hope,” and have your tissues ready.
This week, Good Morning America and Entertainment Weekly are revisiting classic shows and movies, reminiscing with their cast members, and finding out what they’re doing now. On Friday, October 18th, GMA will air the interview segment featuring cast members of The Waltons. Since I get asked a lot about my experience writing with Mary McDonough (Erin Walton), I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the highlights of what’s happened since Lessons from the Mountain came out, and what Mary and I are both up to now.
Since Lessons came out, I’ve continued adding to my popular fiction series, The Seasons of Cherryvale. I’m also branching out, working on a high concept adventure story, The Kaleidoscope. I also have a new nonfiction project in the pipeline called “God Stops, a Pediatrician’s Faith Journey After Her Son’s TBI,” written with Dr. Karla Ramsey.
People often ask me what were my lessons from the mountain. My answer? To be open to the possibilities of what God has in store, and with
some lots of hard work, your dreams can come true. ALSO, I learned that the people behind the scenes of one of the most classic, enduring television shows ever, from the creator and writer Earl Hamner, to the crew and cast, guest stars and their families, are all truly a part of an American legend.
I’ve been honored and blessed to be a small part of The Waltons‘ legend, continuing its positive influence on the world’s culture through entertainment. Because after all, “the Walton way” is truly at the heart of every loving community.
This is part of a series I’m posting as I write THE KALEIDOSCOPE A Novel of Unusual Circumstances.
I’ve been reading about making great openings. As soon as I’d arrived at a conclusion (notice I didn’t say The End yet) of most of the story threads, I zoomed back to the beginning.
I don’t know about you, but when I read a novel, I want all the pieces to fit together and the journey to end in a satisfying, even in a clever way, that the author had my satisfaction in mind both from the first to the last.
I picked up a copy of Jeff Gerke’s First Fifty Pages and devoured it/lost sleep/highlightedtheheckoutof. Trained as a screenwriter (and having worked as an editor and successful author), he zooms right to several points I could understand how to implement, and WHY.
Last night, I had critique group to attend, so I printed out my first three pages. After some a lot of tweaking. I even moved an entire scene to the beginning based on Jeff’s advice. My opening had bogged because it was a lot of blah-blah narrative. But I need the reader to know my guy, I whined.
So Jeff, when is it OKAY to give information? Here’s what he says:
A) when the reader must want to know it
B) when the story cannot go on without the information (Kindle loc 683)
As you know, I wanted to raise the bar on myself, so instead of beginning in dialogue or action, I had started out in my MC’s head, and that was borrinng, but he’s a complicated guy.
Aannnddd then I read Jeff’s advice and now I have my MC DOING something, the thoughts in his head are now generic to what he’s doing, even though he’s just on his way to work (I’m also establishing his normal, another necessity of an opening), we see a lot by how he thinks about what’s around him. Notice I said SEE?
So did my tweaking work for my critique buddies Veola, Ron, Ralph and Kelly?
Here’s one of the opening paragraph for which I got several positive comments:
“He double-timed the staircase and sailed inside the office building. His steps clapped against tile, echoing around the bank’s tiled lobby. ID card drawn for the guard and swiftly replaced, he tapped a loafered toe to send a subliminal message to the couple selfishly absorbed in a personal discussion, and by 8:58, pushed the elevator button. Despite the challenges of the morning, it was going to be a good day.”
What’s interesting about this one is, I had it buried about five pages later, and when I read Jeff’s logic, I brought it forward to the opening. (BTW, he’s just bypassed a homeless encampment, and that’s why he’s in such a hurry…nice guy, right?)
Something else Jeff said resonated as I realized my “cuts” file is getting longer than my MS. “What you lose in detail, you more than make up for in reader engagement.”
To write complicated characters, which makes them more compelling and makes the reader want to know what happens next, you need to know a LOT of details and background yourself. In first drafts a lot of inner thoughts may find the page, but to follow Jeff’s most compelling nugget now burned into my writerly brain: “Can the camera see it?”
Like I said, he was a filmmaker by education, but that explanation makes it so much easier to remember than the tired old, “show don’t tell” which doesn’t really say anything to the 21st century brain. But I get camera angles and the importance of “the visual.”
Also this week, I hit a low when I realized how long this was all taking, and I want the book done NOW.
But I read the terrific writer, Jess Walter’s BEAUTIFUL RUINS, a complex, character driven, yet plot complex story about an American actress, and the Italian hotel owner she meets when she’s looking for privacy…a great read y’all.
A big shout-out of thanks to both Jeff and Jess this week. (And Rebecca’s critique group)
Writers, what’s helped you with your opening?
Readers, What keeps you interested past page one…or worse, what makes you toss the book aside and reach for the remote?
I’m having fun writing The Kaleidoscope, A Novel of Unusual Circumstances, where the main character, Harold, finds himself the custodian of a magical scope that reveals much more than just colorful shapes! Here’s a Pinterest board where I’m gathering images of the characters and setting for Kaleidoscope.
Blogging about the process…while I write The Kaleidoscope, a Novel of Unusual Circumstances – Entry 2
My main character, Harold, is the most complicated character, and he should be, because most of the book will be from his point of view- POV. And because of that, he’s the one whom I should pay the most attention to in preparing to write. Because I challenged myself to really get into his head, I have been studying how other authors do it.
To make it workable, I will concentrate on three major areas:
- Use details that resonate – sprinkling in small moments from Harold’s memories will make him seem more real, less cardboard
- Demonstrate motivation with feelings– people are emotional beings, and before we form words, we feel our hurts and hates.*
- Know a character’s backstory, shames, accomplishments, and what he WANTS, even if every detail doesn’t seem important at first.
I read a couple of novels recently that demonstrated these points really well. Tammy Greenwood’s “Two Rivers,” is a first person POV of a widower with a young daughter who becomes involved with a girl stranded after a train wreck. Greenwood’s depiction of Harper meets all the rules for writing a dimensional character. From the beginning, we’re drawn into Harper’s world:
“Once, a long time ago, I made a split-second decision that has made me question who I am, what I am capable of, every day since. And this instant, this horrible moment, has haunted every other moment of my life. I don’t think I am a bad man, but sometimes I just don’t know.” (Kindle loc 222)
Immediately, we’re into Harper’s head, feeling his angst and also, cleverly enticed by Greenwood to keep turning the pages to find out what happened so long ago. Conflict and mystery!
Some complain that deeply written character-based stories have little plot, but Greenwood’s able to handle both because her character’s thoughts and memories help to move the plot forward, adding dimension:
“On Christmas Eve we always stayed up until midnight. And just as my mother’s Windsor chimes rang out, my father would make a big show of going to get the Yule log (which was actually nothing special, just the biggest piece of wood on the wood pile), and my mother would ceremonially disappear into their bedroom. A few minutes later, she would come out with a handful of splinters from the previous year’s log, which she kept in a shoebox under her bed. This tradition, pilfered from her distant European ancestors, was meant to keep the house safe from fire and other demons. I hadn’t thought about the irony of this, one of my mother’s few but beloved customs, until this moment. I felt suddenly wrecked with nostalgia.” (Kindle loc 3771)
Harper recalls this childhood memory with such detail we feel as if we’re there with him…no! We feel as if it’s OUR memory. It would take me two more pages to list all the details Greenwood packed in here about her MC. You’ll have to read for yourself why this memory is another important tactic. By the way kids, did you spot the RESONANCE? Another important tool.
Another master at character development is author Joanne Bischof. In “Be Still My Soul,” bad boy Gideon finds himself in a shotgun wedding. (Bad boys are particularly tough to cast as main characters, but Bischof’s a genius at making us love and hate him at the same time. In this scene, Gid regards his life situation so we know how he feels about his dilemma:
“Whether he wanted to or not, he’d have to take responsibility for his family…The thought sobered Gideon, fueling the fire under his feet. He would have to find work soon. And a house. He could not offer his family much, not in eight months, but there would be a roof over their heads…Through his own blood and sweat, he would spend the rest of his days repaying an unseen debt. Apparently God hadn’t been satisfied with his sacrifices already. With his fingertips, Gideon turned his glass in a slow circle on the table.
Figures.” (paperback, p 135.)
*Each author paints an internal picture, never using the words “feel” or “thought” but actually walking the reader through the thought process.
To do that, an author skillfully shows, not tells using natural beats, action and emotion. “To convey feelings well, a writer must also utilize nonverbal communication, which can be broken down into three elements: physical signals, (body language and actions), internal sensations (visceral reactions) and mental responses (thoughts).” “The Emotion Thesaurus” (Kindle loc 93)
Why does this work so well? There’s actually psychology involved!
In “Million Dollar Outlines,” David Farland explains that when reading fiction, our minds don’t separate what’s going on with a character and reality. It’s like we really get in there and feel the experiences. A surface treatment of “he anguished” or “worried about” wouldn’t provide the same response in us, the reader, as the two examples.
Another ingredient that’s important is conflict. Notice in both samples, each of the guys struggles against something. They’re not cardboard guys wearing the latest jeans and cologne, they have spiritual selves, railing against God in Gid’s case, or being chased by guilt in Harper’s.
Back to Kaleidoscope. Here is Harold’s character description, so far:
Harold XXX (no last name, yet) a 39 year-old divorcee, works in a bank processing commercial loan paperwork. His ex-wife, Georgia, left him for the Sparklett’s delivery guy, telling Harold he was boring and dull, and would never make anything of his life. Ruddy complected, he pays great attention to his appearance, pressed slacks and white button down shirts, laundered weekly. He also keeps his cubicle at work immaculate, and expects everyone else to do the same. He lives in an apartment complex within walking distance, across a city park from his work, making it convenient since he doesn’t drive (having failed every driving test he’s ever taken). Harold has a plan to win Georgia back; he’s convinced that if he gets a promotion he will once again earn her respect, but first he must correct all his officemate’s errors, which will prove his worthiness for the job visiting commercial properties to evaluate them for their loan status. But since he doesn’t drive…
Here are the books I’ve referenced in this post:
What books would you recommend that drew you into the character? Books on craft?
What do you think of Harold so far?
*update! Kristen Lamb has a blog that you HAVE to subscribe to if you are serious about writing. Here is one she just posted on complicated characters. Creating Multi-dimensional characters. Must. Read.
I’m asked two questions most often about my writing. One is, “how do you come up with story ideas?” and the other usually centers on the actual methods…translate: how many hours are spent planning, plotting and preparing before actually setting pen to paper?
Since I’m all about FRESH STARTS here, and I am beginning a new stand-alone novel, The Kaleidoscope, a Novel of Unusual Circumstances, (This is my working title, and as with everything else here, open for discussion.) I thought it would be terrifying fun to post along the process as the story takes shape.
I’ve added some personal challenges (besides blogging the journey) to up the ante. I want to grow as a writer, and as I study from some terrific teachers, I will post what I’m reading and studying.
So please, join me as I take you backstage so to speak, as my idea becomes a finished book.
If you’ve written before, or heck, learned or practiced anything while others watched, maybe a new sport, talent or craft, you know how it feels to bare all. I applaud you for that. The accountability can be scary, right? But we’re all friends here. Can I get an amen?
Most writers are advised to do several things: take classes, go to conferences and join a critique group (and/or find a critique partner who isn’t related to you…or in your employ, LOL.) Check, check, and check.
I’m eager to get your input, so if you have a question, have read a great book or site that adds to the conversation, or even if you sense a wrong turn, see a misstep or catch me in a foul-up, please weigh in. I welcome your input and always covet your prayers.
And if you’re writing, I’d love to hear from you!
I used to show hunter-jumpers, and when my green horse got comfortable taking small hurdles, my coach would remove the pegs, and raise the top rail for a higher challenge. Literally, I am raising the bar on myself, and hopefully this preparation will bring me a clean round when it’s showtime.
Here’s how I conceived of “The Kaleidoscope.”
One of the techniques I wanted to improve upon was to “deepen my POV,” to build believable characters who are dimensional and complicated. To write a book where the people begin to seem so real, you know their thoughts, childhoods, secrets and shames.
You have to test a character’s chops to discover motivation, and one way is to offer them a challenge. So I searched for a method or idea to really scare the daylights out of my main character (MC).
I used to work in the properties department of live theatre, providing handheld items for actors to carry, so props are special to me, close to my heart. I searched for something that would be used throughout the book to further the trouble my MC would face, something he would learn to love and hate. (Every story needs trouble in River City!) Beware, I will use a mash up of theater and horse riding metaphors, LOL. #selfediting!
I considered using a snow globe for my prop. Somehow the MC finds or becomes its guardian. But that bothered me for two reasons: a) it’s kind of cliché, overdone, and b) I also wanted the image revealed to be a secret, visible only to the viewer… so my MC would have to get to know the person better after they looked.
Voila, I decided a magical kaleidoscope would work! (I’ll discuss exactly how the MC is terrified by it in a future post, but don’t worry, we’re not writing horror…um…I don’t think.)
Before I was settled on a ‘scope, though I also searched Amazon to see if there were many books using Kaleidoscopes as a motif, and found a few, but none using the plot device I plan. Perfect.
As you’ll notice, I haven’t identified what genre I am going for. Yet. But I’m beginning to see lines forming. Because I will attempt to write deep POV, I’m dabbling in literary fiction (with my little pinky), and a magical ‘scope, so the fantasy element is now there. (NEVER thought I’d write fantasy.)
I’ve been writing for mainly a female audience until now (THE SEASONS OF CHERRYVALE), and I wanted to really stretch myself, so I decided my MC should be a man.
I’ve been reading “Million Dollar Outlines” by David Farland, and he reminded me that by casting the MC as a man, I might attract more male readers. (More on this EXCELLENT book in a later post.)
Aaannd…not only will I no longer be able to fall back on “how would a woman think/react,” I will have to do my homework and pay attention when I write how a guy thinks.
Which is a perfect setup for the next post, which will cover some terrific books I read to prepare myself for laying down the groundwork for the plot, setting, characters and other tools.
To see the pictures I’m gathering around the casting and setting for Kaleidoscope, check out my Pinterest board.
I’d love to hear your stories of making fresh starts, thoughts about writing, or what new talent, hobby or endeavor you’re challenging yourself with. If I’m really inspired, I might enter you to win random giveaways from my overstuffed shelves.
Be sure to check out Christina Katz’ list of terrific freelance writing books!