Guest Blogger C. S. Boyack and a Special Guest

I’ve got a treat for your today. Actually a double one. Craig Boyack of Entertaining Stories and I are doing a blog swap. Craig and a “special guest” I asked him to bring along are taking over my blog, while I’m hanging out at his. I’m talking about my experience offering a book for free on Amazon. Was it worth it? You’ll have to check my post on Entertaining Stories to find out. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ll leave Craig and his companion to keep you entertained. The special guest he brought along is only one of the many colorful characters from Craig’s imagination that haunt his blog. I just happen to be partial to this particular character. Maybe because I can relate to how it feels when he drops in for a visit. You’ll see what I mean in a minute, so sit back and enjoy Craig’s post. . .

~ooOOoo~

I walked up to the shop and checked the map on my iPhone. A huge raven whooshed over my head and landed in a tree. This looked like the right coffee shop, and I took a seat outside. Mae asked me to come here and write about my editing process and the blessing/curse that follows me around.

The truth is, I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to editing. I’ve learned a trick or two and made notes in my living document. I looked around the parking lot, but there was no sign of Mae. I took a table outside so I could watch for her.

I started writing this blog post; any available minutes can be precious. The raven swooped down and landed on my table. See, he’s a gift from my Muse, and tries to keep me looking professional. The bird’s name is Doubt.

I’ve learned to search out my personal sin words, like “that, very, was, and the various forms of its and there.”

These days I’m trying to eliminate what I call stage directions. These are usually things like “said, heard, saw, smelled, felt.” If we’re in a character’s point of view, it’s better to describe someone walking across the parking lot, than to write, “she saw someone walking across the parking lot.” This is a new one for me, but I believe my writing is better for it. I learned that from Doubt.

Doubt pecked at my hand. Krik krik blork.

Ravens make hundreds of noises, more than common crows. I really don’t know what they all mean. This one even manages to mimic a few human words. I’m guessing he doesn’t like me using contractions in a blog post. It’s a blog post, it’s supposed to be a bit more familiar to readers. Now I have doubts. That’s how he works.

Raven sitting on a thin stump of wood, head bent to claws

I have to put him away when I draft my novels. If I listen to him during the draft phase, I never get anything done. My Muse says he helps me, but I have my doubts.

I love my stories, all of them. I even love the trunk novels that no one will ever see. Doubt gets into my head, and keeps me from the most egregious mistakes. The run of the mill mistakes are mine, and sometimes they get in. I’ve learned not to listen to him in every case.

I thought he was going to peck my hands bloody, when I edited Will O’ the Wisp. This is the first thing I ever wrote in first person point of view. He didn’t like the over use of “I and my.” I changed what I thought I could, but some of that has to happen in first person point of view.

The trick is to listen to Doubt, but to also override him when needed. I’m still not sure who’s right in some cases, but I’m learning. Doubt would have all my fiction looking like a lawyer wrote it, and he would take all the character out of it. Fiction needs character, and sometimes it’s the best part of the story.

Too much input from Doubt leads to perfectionism. Perfectionism is the bane of many writers. It prevents us from putting out acceptable work for fear it might have a mistake. I personally believe we learn more from drafting new material. Not everyone feels this way.

Kaw! Doubt pecked at my iPhone.

“We’re at the right address.” I checked again anyway. “I wonder if I wrote it down right in the first place.” See how he works. A little Doubt goes a long ways. “Why don’t you fly around and see if you can spot Mae Clair. Maybe she’s at a different coffee shop.”

Doubt slit off the table and took to the sky. I kind of hoped to give him to Mae for a month or so. I get a lot accomplished when I don’t have Doubt getting in my way.

~ooOOoo~

Craig’s newest book is WILL O’ THE WHISP, a highly entertaining  novel which combines elements of magical realism, mystery, and fantasy, as well as an appealing coming of age theme.

Book cover for Will O' the Wisp by C. S. Boyack depicting a ghostly floating light over a stream with treesBLURB:
There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, face the wilderness, and an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

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Author C. S. BoyackYou Can Follow Craig at the Following Haunts:
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Guest Blogger C. S. Boyack on Pre-Research

Not that long ago I stumbled across a blog called “Entertaining Stories,” written by fellow blogger and author, C. S. Boyack. Needless to say, I found Craig Boyack’s observations highly entertaining, and in no time added his blog to my list of regular haunts. Trust me—you need to check it out. He shares interesting reflections, writerly thoughts and slice-of-life stuff. It’s kind of like sitting around in a writer’s café and chatting with the group. You can find Entertaining Stories here.

If you hop over today, you’ll also find me there as well. Craig and I are doing a blog swap, each of us posting on various aspects of researching a novel.  So check out the informative post below (along with Craig’s most recent release, THE COCK OF THE SOUTH), then hop over to Entertaining Stories to see what I’ve got to share!

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IMG_0956 smallThe Cock of the South is a dwarven fantasy set in a Greco-Roman environment. It involves a group of scattered races coming together to face a common enemy. You can check it out here.

~ooOOoo~

Mae Clair and I are doing a blog swap today. She’s over at my blog discussing the depths of her research for her WIP about the Mothman. To get your Mae Clair fix today, you’ll have to visit my blog at  https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com 

I’m here today to talk about my own version of research. I come up with some pretty wild things for my stories, but I’ve found it easier to fertilize my imagination somewhat. Maybe I should call it pre-research. To that end I use two special apps.

The first one is my RSS reader. This allows me to subscribe to topics that interest me. As a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal it helps to have data pushed to me. I get articles on archaeology, space exploration, webcomics, fantasy art and more this way.

I also use something called Zite Magazine. This allows me to subscribe to content that interests me, but it allows me to refine it. When you first pick a category, the app searches for the word. “Voodoo” will return information about doughnut shops, Jimmy Hendrix music, voodoo economics, and a bunch of other stuff you don’t want. Zite comes with a thumbs up or down option to help refine your results. Spend a month with it and you’ll be learning all about Gris Gris Bags and Black Cat Oil.

But wait, there’s more! I save time by checking these feeds daily. Not everything is awesome, and some days it’s just a quick surf. When I find something of interest I move it to my living documents.

I keep living documents on my iPad with names like Cryptids, Science Fiction, and Paranormal. I add a few notes, and include the link to the article. Now I have a handy reference guide when I need a story element or maybe even a central theme. I also save neat articles and post about them on my blog on occasion. I call these my Idea Mill posts.

My living documents aren’t fancy. They’re just notes for me, but they grow over time. If a note says, Black Shuck the Hellhound of Suffolk, that’s all I need. I can paste that into any search engine and get tons of data. (Try it, and learn all about Black Shuck) As the documents grow, I organize them into categories like ghosts, voodoo, witchcraft, etc.

Here’s an example of how this helped me out. I was writing a science fiction story called Arson at the time. Zite Magazine pushed me an article about micro-thin electronic circuits that would dissolve in water. The purpose was to use them in surgical applications one day. Wow, they’d probably wash away in a fire hose too. Look Ma, no evidence. The idea wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years, but Zite provided a seed.

I received a post about an archaeological dig in Ancient Rome. It was all about a rock with a prayer carved on it. Apparently the ancients would place the rock on an outcrop and grind it clockwise while repeating the prayer. It also worked counterclockwise as a curse. I tucked it away in a living document, and thought no more about it. When I needed a little something for a novel called Panama, there it was.

I also keep living documents about various writing lessons. It’s just a handy place to remind myself of a suspense trick, or a plotting device that might help me out. Right now I need to improve my section on Asian magic and fantasy. I could use more data about Asian dragons too. I have a rough idea for a short story that could use a little kick in the pants.

3D65373B-5BEE-4BD0-8919-FACF56E0F332 smallAll thanks to Mae Clair for inviting me here today. I hope you found my pre-research tips helpful.

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