Tag Archives: POV

Language in Ruins: Exploring the Dystopian Cautionary Tale with Alena Graedon

Posted by March 13th, 2014

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Photo © Beowulf Sheehan

The death of print is a fear that comes hand in hand with the rapid technological developments of our digital age, but in Alena Graedon’s THE WORD EXCHANGE, it has become reality. She presents a not too far-off future where over-reliance on smart digital devices impairs our ability to communicate—even think. What goes into imagining a world in which technology inhibits our thought processes? How about our speech patterns? We talk to Alena about THE WORD EXCHANGE’s “language in ruins.”

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NG: THE WORD EXCHANGE is based in the recent future—and yet the death of print and the onslaught of sixth-sense digital technology have already tremendously changed the way people live. You had to coin new words and concepts that only exist in the futuristic sci-fi world of the book and think through how a language virus would change people’s speaking and thought patterns. Can you talk about that process of creating language in a novel about language?

AG: Language is really at the center of the book, you’re absolutely right. In some sense, it’s the hero of the story. Our relationship to language has been profoundly changed by technology, and I’ve been fascinated by the implications of inviting lots of beautiful, blinking machines into our lives, and of gradually relinquishing functionalities to them that we once viewed as fundamental to ourselves—decision-making, creating and interpreting things, communicating. Setting the book in the near future helped me explore what might happen when these processes have advanced just slightly, and how things could go really wrong.

A lot of the decisions I made in writing the book came from its focus on language. For instance, I always knew that lexicographers would tell the story. Dictionary-makers are especially attuned to words—to their diachronic evolutions over time, as well as to synchronic snapshots of what our living language means at any given moment. It was also interesting to have lexicographer protagonists because the publishing industry is changing so quickly, and the shift from print to a more fragile, ephemeral digital medium leaves us vulnerable to certain losses and threats. In the book, these include the hijacking and corruption of language, and also a disease, “word flu,” which makes communication nearly impossible, increasingly isolating and alienating its victims.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Ellie Isis

Posted by February 3rd, 2014

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Today I am happy to welcome Book Country member Lisa Iriarte, who writes science fiction and fantasy as Ellie Isis. She’s penned several books — many of which well-reviewed on Book Country! — and is currently seeking representation for her work. Her book THREADBARE was recently an Editor’s Pick on Book Country — so be sure to check it out if you’re looking for some original romantic science fiction

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NG: I was impressed to read in your Book Country bio that you try to write a thousand words a day and read a book a week. How do you keep yourself on task?

EI: Hah! The key word in there is “try,” but I do a pretty good job with it. For one thing, I am one of those hyper-organized people. I make to-do lists. Reading and writing are actually on that list, along with chores and such. I go down the list, alternating reading a chapter with doing a chore like laundry, then I write a page on my manuscript and do another chore. Reading and writing end up being rewards to myself for completing other tasks. If I finish all my chores, then I alternate reading and writing for the rest of the day. Of course that doesn’t take into account things like my full-time job, two kids, two dogs, and a husband (they are not on the list :)), so it doesn’t always go according to my grand plan.

NG: You’ve penned four romantic science fiction manuscripts! Tell us more about what draws you to the subgenre and what is, for you, the most important aspect of writing about love in a non-romance  novel?

EI: I’m more character driven than anything else when I write, so the emotional element is vital in any manuscript I work on. When I add a romance in as a subplot, the most important aspects are making sure the balance is right between the romance and the science fiction, and also capturing the feelings/emotions/reactions of the characters in a believable manner. When they suffer from broken hearts, I want my readers to suffer, and when they feel joy, I want my readers to experience that emotion with them.

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Meet Writer Rebecca Blain

Posted by May 13th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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“I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds.”

Rebecca Blain is a fantasy writer from Montreal, Canada; she’s also a speed-reader, freelance editor, artist, and fantasy fan girl. Rebecca has been a Book Country member since we launched, and we always recommend her wonderful how-to guide for new members. We wanted to catch up with Rebecca and find about her debut novelThe Eye of God.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Rebecca. The Eye of God will be released in July. Congrats! Tell us more about the story.

Rebecca: Thanks for having me.

The Eye of God is the story of Terin and Blaise. Terin’s a slave in a world that’s reminiscent of ancient Rome, and Blaise is someone—something—that has been watching over the world and a few of its more interesting denizens for a long, long time. When the balance of power in the empire is shattered, it falls to the two of them to restore order before everyone close to them has their souls devoured.

Nevena: How has the novel evolved over time? What was it like working with an editor and a cover designer? (The cover is gorgeous, by the way.)

RebeccaThe Eye of God is the novel in which I really figured out how to write. “Showing versus telling” clicked for me, and I got a much better grasp of immediacy and limited third point of view. My developmental editor loved the story—the characters, the plot, and the general arcs, but it didn’t have the base writing of my other WIP, Storm without End.

My marching orders were simple: Rewrite the book from the ground up, but recapture the same plot and characters.

Working with my editor is a lot of fun. She’s a great sounding board for me, and she isn’t afraid to tell me when something just isn’t working. And, she deals very well with me when I’m bullheaded and don’t want to make changes I need to make, which is exactly what I need in an editor.

As for the cover art, this was my favorite bit of the process. I met the cover artist, Chris Howard, through one of my editorial clients. We hit it off right away, and I hired him. I told him a little about the world and about Terin, and he started sketching over his lunch break.

The sketch of the cover came back almost perfect; I asked him to change the style of shirt and make Terin’s hair a bit longer. The rest is history. A very short time later, I had cover art that I am really, really proud to have on my book.

TheEyeOfGodCover_rjblain_bc

Nevena: So you have a great team helping you! The book you’re currently working on, Songbird, is a romantic fantasy, which is a new direction for you as a writer. What’s been the most challenging part of the writing process so far?

Rebecca: Writing the female perspective. The vast majority of my books have male points of view. Writing Kara has been a huge challenge. Ranik, the main male character, comes a lot more naturally to me than Kara.

Nevena: To say that you’re a huge fantasy buff wouldn’t be an overstatement. What draws you to it?

Rebecca: I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds, for things that make me ask questions, and that make me see a little bit of magic in our own world.

Nevena: That’s quite poetic. Are there any fantasy conventions or clichés you’d like to see disappear?

No. Even the most boring cliché can be turned to magic in the hands of a skilled writer. When I encounter a cliché in my clients’ works, I don’t tell them to remove it—I tell them to enhance it so that it becomes original to them. If they can’t do that, then they should consider cutting it out.

A cliché or convention exists because many people love the same thing. It isn’t that you use them that matters it’s how you use them.

A perfect example is Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. I didn’t realize it included zombies until he told me when we met at World Fantasy Con. That is skill, and turning something old into something new.

Nevena: Let’s switch gears. Tell us more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Rebecca: Me? I’m boring—okay, well, maybe not. I am a natural-born punster. (You got off the hook this time.) I have a spouse and four cats. I turn thirty on the 16th, and I’m really excited about it!

As for what started me wanting to be a writer, I blame Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. The Black Gryphon nailed the coffin closed for me. Valdemar just ensured I’d never leave the Science Fiction / Fantasy section of the bookstore ever again…

Nevena: Happy birthday! You work as a freelance editor and writer. How do you manage to fit your own writing into the mix?

Rebecca: A lot of dedication, discipline, effort, and heartbreak. That, plus 12-14 hour days.

Nevena: What’s your Book Country story? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Rebecca: I came to Book Country with one of the waves of beta fishes. I’d followed Colleen because I wanted to query her when I was ready, but then she upped and changed career paths! Still, it worked out for the better. I think Book Country has been a huge influence on me in terms of honing my writing skills.

I regret nothing!

Nevena: That’s awesome! You’ve written a couple of amazing pieces—on the forums and on your website—about how to use Book Country. What is the #1 thing you think new members should know about the peer review process?

Rebecca: Thank you!

All I can say is this: pour your heart and soul into the peer review process. Sure, your help doesn’t make your book immediately better, but it’ll help you open your eyes to your own writing with time. The more you help others with their writing, the more you will be helped. It’s true—it’s really, really true.

Let me say this again: Give your honesty, your integrity, and your professionalism to others. Pour everything you have into it. Give it your absolute all. Sure, you may not get a review out of it, or a publishing contract, or a job as an editor, or even a thank you, or some form of gratification, but you will learn. That learning will help you find the problems in your own writing.

Nevena: Amen. Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Rebecca: Writing is hard. Don’t give up—good things happen to those who put in the effort and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and their fingers bloodied making their stories come to life.

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Rebecca. Good luck with The Eye of God!

Connect with Rebecca on Book Country and follow her on Twitter at @rebeccablain. Visit her on the web at her website. Oh, and Rebecca has graciously invited everybody to help themselves to a copy of the wallpaper of The Eye of God’s cover art.

*Cover art by Chris Howard

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Meet Charlotte Firbank-King

Posted by December 21st, 2011

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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Haven’t interacted with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-King yet? Get to know her in our member spotlight!

Every time I read a book, a short story, a poem, or anything really, I wonder about the person behind the words. I ask myself a million questions, wishing I could know some of their true-life stories and how their experiences have shaped them. Why? Because what we’ve been through is what shapes our creativity. It’s not identical, of course, but it makes us who we are as people and as writers.

So, I decided to chat with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-Kingabout some pieces of  her life, her process, and her writing to get a little insight into this recently minted member’s mind:

DP: The majority of our members are from the United States but I noticed you are not. I’d love to hear a little bit about what it’s like in South Africa where you live! What is the writing community like there?

CFK: South Africa is a complex land with 11 official languages and almost every ethnic group known to the World. We have wide open spaces of pristine bush with a staggering variety of creatures. And no, lions and elephants don’t wander down our streets—unless you live in a village in the bush. Here, a stark third-world existence rubs shoulders with gleaming first-world technology and opulence. Our weather is wonderful. We don’t get many earthquakes or tornados and snow only falls on mountainous areas. The writing community sucks. I personally don’t bother to explore its limited offerings. In that regard, we are definitely third world.

DP: You edit, write, and illustrate? What was your first creative outlet? How did you shift into the other two?

CFK: The illustrating, art came first. I studied art at Pretoria Art College. I visited England and France to see the works of old masters. There, my existing love of history was fuelled. I have always dabbled in writing, from childhood. First poetry expressed my angst, and then cheesy bodice rippers served as a release for raging teenage hormones. Finally, life turned out to be my greatest motivator and teacher. About seventeen years ago, I sent a very, very length novel to Sandy Tritt, CEO of Inspiration for Writers. Because of the poor exchange of SA Rand, I couldn’t afford the editing fees, but she offered to read my book anyway. She imparted her extensive knowledge freely and I honed the craft of writing under her guidance over the next ten years. She eventually asked me to become an editor and ghost writer for IFW.

DP: It says in your profile that you usually write from the male protagonist’s POV. Why’s that? What’s your favorite (and least favorite!) part about writing from the perspective?

CFK: Men are simpler. I love their direct, practical approach, and I think they are misunderstood and underappreciated by most women. (Not talking about your wife-beating jerk here) I especially love the warrior spirit in a man and that is what I concentrate on. My husband was a warrior and he was killed. I guess I just understand them. I have no least favorite part. Well, maybe when it comes to finer details like what is it like to make love to a virgin—tricky interview that.

DP: You have great attention to detail, especially when it comes to grammar and word choice, from what I can tell from your reviews so far. What is your greatest writing pet peeve? Why do you think it’s important?

CFK: That sounds like a no-brainer. Isn’t writing all about grammar and word choice? My pet peeve is manuscripts put out there when the author hasn’t even bothered to try to edit a single word. Would a person expect someone to live if they performed brain surgery on them without studying medicine first? This is my mantra and I write with it in mind always.The writer is forever searching for a brilliant phrase that will blow the reader’s mind away. They hunt among the bright pebbles of adjectives and adverbs, worn smooth by overuse, when all the while it is hidden under the boulder of brevity.

Below are a few of my favorite quotes that sum up how I feel:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again” ~ Oscar Wilde

“When instinct fails, rules may guide us. But rules shouldn’t preoccupy the writer. The real job, the enduring task of the writer, is cultivating the instinct for language–even when language so stubbornly resists the precision we seek.” ~ George Orwell

DP: There is a wide variety of authors listed as your favorite writers–Dan Brown to Shakespeare! What do you like about them?  Is there a common thread you see in their writing? I’m intrigued!

CFK: Dan Brown and the like are light entertainment (they should edit their books more carefully, too). Shakespeare feeds my soul; Dickens and Oscar Wild teach me how to use words effectively. I have eclectic tastes, interests, what can I say! =)

DP: What brought you to Book Country? What is your own personal writing goal that the community can help you with?

CFK: I saw your site referred to on Kirsten Lamb’s blog. My goal, to get my first, of 12 novels, published. My inability to promote myself is my worst enemy. At first, I just wanted another point of view on my most completed novel Twilight Path. And most of the reviews have been helpful, made me look at the area that bothered me most, what genre is my book? And some things that I didn’t think were a problem, but then had to look at. Finally, as I did more reviews, I wanted to help aspiring authors. Yes, I am paid to edit, but when I see a really talented writer I can’t resist wanting to guide them.

DP: I read that your book, TWILIGHT PATH, is nearly complete and ready for publication. How many rounds of revision did you go through? What was your process? How do you know you’re nearly done? 

CFK: Not nearly, it is completed, but only to the best of my ability. I think what got me was the numerous rejection slips I received from romance publishers. I write for the thinking person. I don’t do wilting heroine on hunk’s arm. I doubt I could give an accurate estimate of how many edits, but I would not be lying if I said at least 150 of my own. So I’m anal, shoot me. =) My process starts with the story in my head, clamoring with a thousand others to be heard. The one that screams loudest gets first shot. First chapters are my thing. It’s like the first time you make love; it has to be good because that defines your love life (story) for the rest of your life (story.) As I go, I have a separate file called a story outline. This has all the details about various characters—eye color, hair, fears, habits, twitches, aspirations etc. It isn’t good to have blue eyes in one place then brown eyes. I guess I will never be done editing; there is always the lure of a better way to say something.

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” ~Winston Churchill

DP: What kind of books do you edit versus what you write? What do you find appealing about them from the different roles?

CFK: I have edited anything from hard-core porn, romance, Christian inspirational works through to paranormal and some that have no specific genre. I write mystery/thrillers with strong elements of romance. I also write YA fantasy and kids’ books with illustrations. I guess I wear two hats, an editor hat and a writer hat. The editor hat puts aside self. I have no views or opinions that I am permitted to express, concerning the author’s views and opinions. My job is simply to help them grow as writers, be it porn of spiritual. In my own writing, I wear both hats and I sometimes hate my editor hat.

The editing appeals because I can help someone improve, if they are willing to learn. Some aren’t. My writing satisfies a deep, abiding compulsion within me to write—I can’t help myself—I need to write everyday like a junky needs a fix.

DP: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse, if you will?

CFK: I believe God gives us gifts and those gifts become a compulsion if we let them, I let them. The stories that keep me awake at night won’t go away until I put them on paper, then they grow and consume me. Do I have a muse? A muse, by definition is spiritual, really. So if God likes Shakespeare and those of his ilk, then there is my multidimensional muse—there are ten, mythically speaking, aren’t there?

DP: For our final question, let’s talk about something other than writing. We’d love to hear a random fun fact about you!

CFK: I’m not random, so obviously, I don’t get the question, but here is what my one granddaughter and kids thinks is fun about me, if that counts:

I am into technology and play computer games, so that makes me fun.

Eldest daughter: Editing with me makes me fun.

Son: Woodworking and cooking with me, experimenting with different dishes, makes me fun.

Youngest daughter: I play computer games.

Is that random enough? =)

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