Road Trip Day 8

Today we left Flagstaff Arizona, and went retro. Back on Historic Route 66, we saw all the kitschy fun sites. Our first stop was Meteor Crater which is in the middle of nowhere, Arizona.  That would be about 35 miles west of Flagstaff. About 50,000 years ago, a piece of an asteroid, traveling at about 26,000 miles per hour, struck the desert floor. The result is a crater 2.4 miles in diameter, a mile across, and 550 feet deep.DSC00256a

 

Although it’s not quite as big as the “hole in the ground” we saw yesterday, this “hole in the ground” was impressive in it’s own right. There are guided tours, and a museum. It does have that kitsch factor, from the alien footprints painted on the ground to lead you from the parking lot to the crater, to the signs along the way and a radio broadcast as you drive up the road telling you to EXPERIENCE THE IMPACT!DSC00251a

 

We were actually glad we were listening to the radio broadcast, because they told us to stop in Winslow, Arizona, where we can stand on the corner next to a flat bed Ford.  There was no question we had to take advantage of that photo op! If you don’t know the reference – it’s the Eagles’ “Take It Easy.”  The lyric goes like this … “I’m standing on the corner, in Winslow, Arizona, she’s such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, My Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to look at me.  Click here for a video of the Eagles.

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It was pure Route 66 kitsch!

From Winslow, we came to another Route 66 staple -the Wigwam Motel. We had hoped to stay there, however our timing didn’t work out. We couldn’t resist stopping to check it out though!

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Next, we made our way to the Petrified Forest.

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You may hear the word forest and think trees, but what you really see , are what look like logs made of stone scattered all around the desert floor. The logs are from trees that were knocked down by a volcanic eruption. The trees were buried by mud and ash, sealing them off from oxygen, thereby preventing them from decaying. Minerals from the soil replaced the cells of the tree, turning them to stone. The different minerals create different colors. Quartz is the most common.DSC00265a

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The next thing we saw was the painted desert. The layers of sedimentary rock showcase many different colors, making it look like someone spray painted the buttes.DSC00296a

 

I’m sure this Raven, who certainly didn’t seem fearful of us, reminded Mr. Dickens of his beloved pet, Grip.

DSC00297aFrom there we visited Puerco Pueblo. A site of ruins from farming homesteaders. The pueblo was inhabited between 1250 AD to the late 1300’s. The above picture is of the Keva. This served several purposes. One was as a general meeting place. Another function the structure had was as a way to settle disagreements. If two tribe members had a disagreement, a relative of each would go into the Kiva together, and couldn’t come out until they reached a settlement. It was like a time-out by proxy!

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The main structure had many small rooms. Twenty people stayed in each room. I have to believe these people were tiny in stature.

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There are also quite a few petroglyphs still clearly seen on the rocks. There is one rock face that was used as a calendar. The sun creates a line when it shines between two other rocks. When the line of light reaches a symbol they carved in the rock face, it was time to plant.

 

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From here we will make our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico!

A special congratulations to Julie Westphal. She will be receiving an autographed copy of “Christmas Carole” for giving the correct answer to the trivia question in my last post!

 

Road Trip Day 3

Today was certainly the best day so far. First of all, this leg didn’t need to be one of those 10 – 12 hour days on the road. We did start off with a little hitch – a flat tire.

Luckily there was a Tires Plus right down the road from our hotel in Reno, but it did cost us some time.

We left Nevada, and entered California. DSC00045The landscape improved drastically, and although the mountain driving is a bit rougher for the driver (a big thank-you to John), the beauty makes the long hours stuffed in a car a million times more pleasurable. Sierra Nevada

We only had one stopped planned, and that was to the Donner Memorial. I would think most people have heard of the Donner party which was a group of families who left from Springfield, Illinois and crossed the country, making their way to California. The name comes from George Donner, who eventually led the group. Most people will only remember one thing –  that the group of early settlers to the west were reduced to cannibalism to survive being trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The story of what these people went through, what theyachieved in a time of covered wagons, and the hardship they endured, is much more interesting than just what they had for dinner. I think Mr. Dickens was impressed with the tale.

I will not give the full story here, if you’d like more details click here: Donner

Dickens DonnerThe sight of the Donner encampment is now the sight of a memorial park. The camps of the families were actually spaced pretty far apart as by the time they had gotten to this point, after seven months of a long and arduous journey, already weak and hungry, they weren’t on the best of terms. The memorial itself sits at the site where the Breen and Murphy families camped. The group had come across some old cabins left from mountain men that had been there before. A short distance away is the site of the Graves/Reed cabin, and even farther way is where the Donner family set up camp in tents. The site rests on the edge of Donner Lake. Donner Memorial

The memorial has a statue on a large stone plinth. The height of the plinth represents the height of the snow that winter in 1846/47.  This statue also stands at the sight of the Breen cabin.  There is a path that leads around the monument, and I have to say, we didn’t want to step off of the path, knowing that many of those people perished on that soil.

After a walk through the museum, and a short film about the Donner Party, we took a walk down a nature trail to where the Murphy cabin stood. There is still the remnants of the fireplace standing there.  Not only were we standing on Murphy Fireplacea historic site, but the site of a mass grave. We were actually standing on the grave itself. The survivors had been rescued in a series of three relief efforts. After the last survivor was rescued, a mass grave was dug in the floor of the Murphy cabin and most of the bodies were buried there. There were also some bodies buried at the other cabin sites.

The experience was interesting, awe inspiring, goose bump inducing, and a bit sad. Out of 81 people trapped on that mountain, only 45 survived.

After our exploration of the Donner Memorial, we drove around Donner Lake, pulled off to the side of the road, and hiked to a rock outcropping above a valley. It was a beautiful place to have a picnic lunch. picnic spot

From there we drove all the way through the Tahoe National Forest, through Sacramento, and San Francisco, to Daly City where we were reunited with our daughter, Emily.DSC00075

Road Trip Day 2

The same disclaimer goes for today. I’ve gotten a little over four hours of sleep after being on the road for 14 hours. Any errors are completely out of my control. I’m lucky I remember how to transfer pictures onto my computer at this point.

As we drove out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, we found ourselves surrounded by rolling landscape, dotted with buttes and  framed by mountains.

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Although not as spectacular as the Alps which has fascinated Charles Dickens in the past. I think he found the view as interesting as we did.

Utah, was even lovelier, with the  snow capped peaks of the Wasatch Range. We could see reminders of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The US Olympic team training center is here as well. The ski jump near Summit Park was awe inspiring and fear inducing.  YIKES!

From there we descended from approximately 7000 ft. in elevation, to only 4000 ft. in Salt Lake City. Here we made a stop at the Great Salt Lake.

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As we drove through the Great Salt Desert, it’s amazing to think of those early pioneers crossing such a vast, uninhabitable place. As I mentioned yesterday, our path is close, and sometimes the same as the Oregon, Mormon and California trails.  This was part of the Hastings cut-off that the doomed Donner Party took.

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There is salt stretching as far as the eye can see. Animal nor plant can survive here. There was no food or water for the animals. The waterholes were  brackish and poisonous. Although the salt desert seems like it would be a nice hard surface for the wagons, there are places when the surface crust is thin and the horses, oxen and wagons would break through the crust and sink into the mud below.Bonneville

We stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway, where many a land speed record has been broken. Lunch was at the Salt Flats Cafe. The walls were covered by photos of racers with their rocket cars, and souped up motorcycles, many autographedDSC00035

 

Besides the Ruby Mountains,  there was not much beauty to behold. The remainder of Nevada was long and desolate, and made our journey less than thrilling. We were relieved when we finally pulled into Reno, Nevada.

I’m not too sure what Mr. Dickens thought of the bright lights and cacophony of sound from the slot machines, but we came out with a few more dollars in our pocket than we started with.

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We are looking forward to more scenic mountain views tomorrow, along with a reunion with our daughter in San Francisco.

Road trip Day 1

I will first apologize for any typos and grammar errors. It’s 2:00am after a very long, sleep deprived day yesterday. On Thursday. we got off to a rough start. Thanks to a poorly set alarm, o-dark-hundred started a little later than anticipated. We wanted to be up by 2:00 am, but it ended up being 3:38am. Regardless, we got on the road (without forgetting anything that 2013-05-23_13-26-33_218we can think of right now), without too much commotion.

The van was already packed. Thankfully Mr. Dickens is a small fellow – there really wasn’t any spaces or cubbyholes left unfilled. So the four of us, my husband Jim, our friends John and Sue, and I crammed ourselves into our allotted spaces and we hit the road.  This will be the most boring part of our trip. It’s our intention to get to San Francisco as quickly as possible, then slow down and do some sightseeing.  Not to say that our trip was boring. Oh no, the reason the four of us travel together so well, is that we can find humor in almost anything. There were many times that we were laughing so hard we were in tears. I’m very glad that, for a Victorian fellow, Charles Dickens was a bit of a wild guy. I’d hate to think we made him too uncomfortable! Even so, I’m pretty sure the ladies of his day were a bit more reserved than Sue and I are, and the gentlemen were a little more “gentlemanly” than Jim or John. I am certain he never heard song lyrics like the ones we were coming up with.

We left Wisconsin and drove south into Illinois, then west across the Mississippi River into Iowa.  The only sights we saw in Iowa were from the car window as we zoomed by, which consisted of the worlds largest truck stop, and newly sprouted corn fields.

Lunch was a picnic lunch eaten at a truck stop somewhere between Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska. We took turns at driving, except for Mr. Dickens of course.  Each of us tried to nap at different times, but without the ability to stretch our legs out, none of us got any really useful rest.  We did learn a little bit about the Oregon and Mormon trails which both parallel I-80, one to the north, and one to the south. I-8o is the second longest transcontinental highway, which runs all the way from New York City, to San Francisco, California. It is also the highway that most approximates the Lincoln Highway – the first road across America. Dickens Nebraska

 

 

 

It was exciting to a small degree when we finally crossed the state line from Nebraska into Wyoming. Nebraska can feel like the longest state in the country. If you have never been in this part of the country it is desolate. There is nothing but scrub, tumbleweeds,2013-05-23_20-21-10_970 and cattle ranches – lots and lots of cattle. Our rule of thumb is to always eat whatever is the local specialty, and that would be steak.  So after a very scrumptious steak dinner at Little Bear Inn, although as you can see by this picture, their bear wasn’t all that little!  We finally hunkered down at a La Quinta hotel at 9:00pm (which, since we crossed time zones would be 10:00pm Wisconsin time).

I would like to say I got a good nights rest, but as I said in the beginning, it’s only 2:00am and I’m awake typing this. In just two hours we will be up and back on the road. Today we aim for Reno, Nevada. Yesterday we traveled just over 1000 miles. today will be almost the same. At least we will be leaving the Great Plains and entering the Rocky Mountains.  I know Mr. Dickens was not too fond of America in his past visits, but he’s never been to this part of the country. I have visited this beautiful mountain range before, and I think he may be in for a treat.

A Road Trip with Charles Dickens

As some of you already know, I seemed to have developed an obsession…no… fascination…umm…let’s say a fondness for Charles Dickens. It started with an idea about a Christmas story and ended up with months of research.  Although my Christmas story is finished and published, the man just won’t leave me alone. There may even be a full-length novel in the future, because Mr. Dickens doesn’t seem content with just a novella.

In the process of all this research, I started a Facebook page called “The Charles Dickens Project.”  http://www.facebook.com/TheCharlesDickensProject

Every week I post summaries on the Dickens book I’m currently reading (I’ve decided to read all of his books, in order), biographical facts, Dickensian term definitions, quotes, and other fun facts about the author.  I also share links with other pages dedicated to Dickens including the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

Totally unrelated to this, my daughter, Emily moved to California. Well she flew to California to stay, the moving she left with us. So on Thursday morning, at 936028_520125411367979_1224355279_no-dark-hundred, as we like to call the wee hours of the morning. my husband, another couple and I are embarking on a road trip from Wisconsin to California in van filled with my all my daughters possessions. We decided that if we have to drive, we might as well make the best of it, so our plans include stopping to see as many sites as we can in two weeks.

A couple of days ago, the Charles Dickens Museum posted a link on Facebook about a fun event they were hosting. It’s called Dickens On Tour, and it’s similar to Flat Stanley. They posted a picture of Charles Dickens and asked followers to print it. The idea is to take Charles Dickens with you to interesting places and snap a picture to post online. Could this be more perfect?

So now we have an additional passenger with us for our trip across America!  I will post pictures along the way of Mr. Dickens enjoying the sights. To kick off this adventure, I took Mr. Dickens to work with me on my last day before we start our vacation. It is well known that Mr. Dickens loves animals. He had many pets over the years including several dogs, cats, two ravens (including the raven that inspired Barnaby Rudge as well as Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’), a canary, and a pony.  Lucky for him, my day job is in a veterinary clinic.  As you can see, he looked happy to be there with me, and was thrilled to meet Gibson, the dog of one of our doctors.

If you’d like to follow us on our cross country adventure, you can find us on Facebook or keep checking here! I will keep you up to date on the things we see and the places we visit.

 

Mr. Dickens - YOU ARE HERE.
Mr. Dickens – YOU ARE HERE.

 

 

Pinterest – The New Writer's Tool

2013-01-15_06-09-10_304I don’t know if you have had the opportunity, or perhaps the misfortune of discovering  Pinterest yet, but anyone who has can testify to how addicting it is. For those of you who haven’t, Pinterest is an idea sharing website. You build virtual bulletin boards to which you “pin” pictures which link back to recipes, craft ideas, decorating tips, clothing, jewelry, books, music, just about anything you might have an “interest” in.

Recently I was looking for a better way to develop my characters for a new book. I Googled “character development tools” and got loads of long worksheets filled with questions about a character. Questions like: What is their favorite food? What music do they listen to? What is their favorite book? The problem with using one of these time tested lists for me is that I have problems with memory and simply answering these questions wouldn’t be enough. I would need to refer back to my characters’ lists often. I already have stacks of notes I refer to while writing. Adding pages and pages of more notes felt overwhelming, and I could see myself frantically searching for some little piece of information I needed to make sure my character was staying in character.

So one day I was playing on Pinterest, lamenting the fact that I was wasting time when I should have been writing, when it came to me. Why not build boards for my characters? I can pin foods they like, music, books, clothing styles, hair styles, just about anything. It gives me a visual representation of my characters. I’ve also downloaded a tool so I can pin items from anywhere on the internet, not just from the Pinterest site. So far, I find this is working wonderfully. I just glance at a page of pictures and my character and all their quirks are there for me instantly. Not only does this help me to better develop my characters, but now I can stop feeling guilty when Pinterest has sucked me in again – at least a little.

Reviews – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

amazon-5-star-review-2Reviews good and bad, are something every author is familiar with.  We beg for reviews because they help to sell our books. We cringe at the bad ones. We cheer at the good ones. If only all of them could be good…or maybe not.

Any author can relate with the bad review that makes no sense. It’s frustrating when the reviewer complains that the story is short when it was published as a short story. Hopefully other readers will be smart enough to see through those. But false good reviews can be just as damaging. Often when a bad book gets good reviews, we have to wonder if all the good reviews came from friends or family.

I recently came across a book for Kindle that caught my interest. First the cover attracted me, and although vague, the description grabbed me enough to look at it closer. It had 45 reviews with an average of 4 stars. I started reading the reviews, both good and bad. I rarely give much weight to reviews that don’t give enough information. I’m not convinced by comments like ” I didn’t like it.”  Books are subjective, so I need to know why the reader didn’t like it. In this instance, in the one star reviews the book received, I was seeing comments about punctuation, format, and story structure that gave me pause. So I clicked on the “Look Inside” link.

What I read was absolutely terrible.  The first page was enough to convince me that I didn’t want this free book to take up space on my Kindle.  The first thing that smacked me in the face was purple prose by the wheelbarrow full. What is purple prose? It’s when you use too many descriptive words. For example – “The glossy bird, black as midnight, soared like a jet across the cerulean blue sky dotted with opaque clouds, wispy and ethereal, as they drifted by.”  My daughter calls this word salad. When an author spends too much time with a thesaurus and dictionary and tosses in every word they can find, some words so obscure, the reader will need to keep a dictionary on hand to understand what they’re reading. There’s a fine line between quality descriptive narrative and overkill. To be honest – I have skirted on the edge of using purple prose, not to that extent thank goodness, but it’s something I try to keep an eye on.

The second issue that jumped out at me was punctuation. I’m not talking about a few typos. The only punctuation the author uses is periods and maybe a few commas. Even at the end of questions, he uses periods, not a question mark to be seen. There are no quotation marks for dialog.  Some of this author’s long, run on sentences are paragraphs. I can’t claim to be an expert at punctuation either.  My nemesis is comma usage, I either use too many, or not enough. But the absence of any other punctuation becomes confusing, and when the reader is confused it pulls them out of the story.

The third problem that I noticed were tense changes. The author switches from present tense to past tense and back again, sometimes within the same paragraph. This is something most authors have done at some point in an early draft, or early in their writing life.  I certainly have. But it’s something I have learned to be conscious of. Yes, I still slip up from time to time. That’s why I have my manuscript read by as many people as possible before the final draft.

I didn’t download the book, and I won’t leave a review. I feel bad for this author. These problems are not subjective. I ‘m not criticizing style, story line, or whether or not I like the ending. These are fundamental issues that this author will need to work on, if they are serious about being an author. I don’t think this is a terrible author. Perhaps he has some interesting ideas and creativity.

So which reviews are the bad ones? The painful one star,  negative reviews? No, it’s the glowing five star reviews left by well meaning friends and family.  It’s hard to tell a friend that you don’t like something that means a lot to them. Unfortunately, if we aren’t honest, and give wonderful reviews just because we don’t want to disappoint, we do more harm than good. It sets the author up for a painful fall. They believe the good reviews which make the bad reviews unexpected and painful.

I’m not saying all good reviews are bad, or all bad reviews are constructive, it can go either way. What authors need are honest reviews.  Why didn’t I leave a review, even though I think it would be an honest review? Because at this point, the author will use those good reviews as a shield. They are his reason to dismiss the bad reviews. Which in the end will hurt him, not just because they will be a dagger to his heart emotionally,  but because he may dismiss what they are trying to tell him.

What I’d like to do, is send this author a personal message. One with praise for the bravery to put himself out there, but also with the gentle advice that there are issues in his writing that need improvement. In the end all writers improve with every word written. It never ends, at least it shouldn’t.  However, it’s not my place to do so. It was the place of those who let him down, whether that was their intention or not.  He thought they loved his book. I shouldn’t make assumptions, maybe they did, but I don’t even want to go there.

So what do I want to say about all this? Be honest with those you care about. Do I think if you hate a friends book, you should plaster it on Amazon? No. Tell them before they get to that point, or if you don’t have that option, in private. Do it gently, and be specific. Balance it with what you did like.  For example, ” I love the dialog, but don’t understand why this character was introduced in the last chapter,” or, “This story is fascinating, but on page 48 I wasn’t sure who was speaking.”  If there are specific areas where there were problems, mark them and point them out, sometimes it’s just an oversight and the author is happy to know it was caught, and want to fix it. This type of critique is important and will help them to be what they really want to be, a good author.

Authors, if you don’t have the money to hire an editor, have as many people you trust to give you an honest opinion read your book before you publish. Not just close friends, but other authors who have been in your place at one time. Perhaps, like me, you have some friends or family members who have experience editing.

Read books about writing, read books in general, lots of books. In Stephen King’s book “On Writing,” he says if you don’t have the  time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Join writer’s groups, take writing classes and seminars. Surround yourself with as many people as you can who will not feel obligated to praise you. Try not to be defensive. I know it’s hard. This is your baby, and no one wants to hear that their baby has an unsightly wart on its nose. Sometimes when we see something everyday, we stop seeing it altogether. By the time we’ve finished a book, we’ve seen those words so many times, we aren’t really reading them anymore, and we can miss things that are glaringly obvious to others.

As for myself I find I have a knee-jerk defensive reaction, (I probably owe my editors an apology or two.) but if the criticism is good constructive criticism, I go back and take it to heart, and it inevitably improves my writing. I watch that my descriptions are well worded and not over-the-top purple prose, because someone, who did so in my best interest, told me.  I have editors that correct my punctuation when I mess up., and trust me, I mess up plenty. They also let me know if there are passages they don’t understand, or continuity errors. I don’t always have to agree with everything they suggest, but it makes me take a second look and ask myself if my readers will understand what I’m trying to get across.  Does this make me a good writer? It depends on each persons opinion, some reviews say I’m the next best thing out there, and some say I’m crap. What it does is make me a better writer. I will use everything I learn over time to continue to get better, for that’s all I can really strive for.

Addendum: While searching for an image to go with this post, I accidentally came upon a website that offers 5 star, compelling reviews for any kindle book for the price of $5.00.  Maybe I was wrong about the author above. I hope not, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. All I can say is, if an author feels the need to buy positive reviews for their book, they aren’t really an author at all.

 

 

Christmas Carole

 

IT’S HERE!!!!

Christmas Carole

E- book available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com (Paperback coming soon!)

Only 99 cents!

 

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
―Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Carole is a modern day, career-driven woman who has little time for love and even less time for Christmas. While escaping the flirtation of a co-worker and the trappings of an office Christmas party, she meets a mysterious stranger. With this man, she travels back in time to 1843 London. There, she becomes a guest in the home of Charles Dickens, as he writes “A Christmas Carol.” People and events that inspire Mr. Dickens become part of Carole’s life. The secrets she learns about the man, his life, and his writing affect her in ways she could never have imagined.

 

Hump Day

For most people hump day is Wednesday, the day of the week in which one has crossed the center and is now in a race for the finish of the week. For me, hump day is similar, but different.

I wish I could say I was one of those people who are disciplined enough to get their work done well ahead of when it’s needed, but alas, I am anything but. If there’s not some deadline looming over me, I procrastinate. In all fairness, I do lead a very busy life. I have my writing, and all the book events, marketing, seminars and classes that go along with it.  I also work a full-time day job, and have a home and family to take care of. Add in any kind of social activities and don’t forget holidays, and you can understand why I have very limited time to get things accomplished. I can use lack of time as an excuse, but I know myself. I need a deadline, and will dawdle about until I’m in a panic because I’m running out of time.

That goes for everything. I’ve had paint chips taped to my kitchen wall for a year now. It really wouldn’t take much time to actually pick a color and paint the small accent wall. But it will take a party, or inviting someone over that hasn’t seen the house to motivate me, and even then, I can picture myself staying up until midnight the night before praying that it will dry in time for said event.

This month the project du jour is a Christmas novella. My story is  about a modern day woman who once fancied being an author, but had been disillusioned and embittered by life. She meets an unusual stranger and travels back in time with him to 1843 London, where she finds herself the guest in the home of Charles Dickens, as he is in the process of writing his classic “A Christmas Carol.” Once there, Carole (get the pun) learns (you guessed it) the meaning of Christmas from the father of Christmas spirit(s), himself. When I set out to write this Christmas story, I actually gave myself a year. Does it really take me a year to write a novella? Nope. Yet, here I am, on November 28th, racing through edits, hoping against hope, that “Christmas Carole” will be out in time for Christmas.  What does all of this have to do with “hump day” you ask?

Because I’m always writing right up until deadline, there are times when my mouth is telling the public “I will have a new book out for Christmas,” however, I will not have enough written to have any confidence in that statement.  I tell my readers on Facebook to expected it, and only have three chapters complete. I post a flier that promises it’s  “coming soon” at a book signing, and only have five chapters written. I say it to the bookstore owner who will be selling my book-that-does-not-yet-exist, when I have seven chapters written, but still don’t have a clue as to how the story will end. Hump day, for me, is the day when I have enough written, and know enough about where the story is going, that I realize I actually have a chance of meeting my deadline.  It isn’t based on any formula. It’s not based a certain word count. It isn’t even the half-way point. It’s some imaginary point-in-time in which the story is complete in my head, if not on the page, and enough pages are written that I feel I can complete it in time. It’s a feeling in my gut that I have gotten over the hump and I’m cruising for the finish line.

Last week Saturday was hump day. The story wasn’t finished, but it was whole. This past weekend I completed the last chapter, and this week is edit-mania. If all goes well “Christmas Carole will be available as an e-book within a week. Paperback is a bit more of a gamble since I have to depend on editors, on cover design, and on Amazon’s Createspace to get  the book printed quickly, once I approve the proof.

But you know, Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in only six weeks, finishing it at the end of November and having the final product in hand by mid-December and that was ages before computers and print-on-demand.  If he can do it, so can I!

So…

COMING SOON! IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!

Christmas Carole by D.L. Marriott

Sure to be a holiday favorite!

The Charles Dickens Project and The Pickwick Papers

As promised, here is more facts and information about both Charles Dickens and his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.

(Sorry about the lack of space between some paragraphs, seems to be a problem with the site.)

 

I have a little trouble connecting with Mr. Pickwick and company. They are the typical overly dramatic Dicken’s type characters. But the “stories” they hear and report to the Pickwick Club instantly catch my attention. Especially the darker ones. What can I say? It’s my dark side. I was completely pulled into “The Convict’s Return” as told by a clergyman.

It’s the tale of young John Edmunds who grows up protected by his mother from his violent father. His mother takes the abuse to spare him. He is very close to his mother, and goes to church with her regularily. As he grows older, he drifts from his mother’s side, and no longer goes to church with her.

Once grown, John Edmunds is accused of a crime spree and sentenced to death. His mother’s heart is broken. His sentence is commuted to 14 years in prison.

Despite his hardened attitude, his mother visits him everyday, until she grows ill. He suddenly realizes how much he loves her and how sorry he is when she stops coming to the prison gate to see him. The clergyman tells John Edmunds that his mother is ill and tells him of her love and forgiveness, and the clergyman tells the man’s dying mother of his repentance. During the night John Edmunds is moved to another prison and the clergyman has no way to tell him that his mother had passed away. She was buried in the corner of the church graveyard without even a headstone.

Although John Edmunds had written letters to his mother via the clergyman, none had ever made it and the clergyman had assumed that John had died in prison. John’s father never visited, or cared what happened to his son.

Once released John returned to his village, looking for his mother. He went to the church, but the familiar pew they always sat in together was empty. He went to his childhood home, but someone else lived there. He didn’t have the heart to enquire further, and wandered on, sad and alone.

Quote: ‘On a fine Sunday evening, in the month of August, John Edmunds set foot in the village he had left with shame and disgrace seventeen years before. His nearest way lay through the churchyard. The man’s heart swelled as he crossed the stile. The tall old elms, through whose branches the declining sun cast here and there a rich ray of light upon the shady part, awakened the associations of his earliest days. He pictured himself as he was then, clinging to his mother’s hand, and walking peacefully to church. He remembered how he used to look up into her pale face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she gazed upon his features — tears which fell hot upon his forehead as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep too…’

Later, John Edmunds came upon an old man. At first he didn’t recognize the person who had caused him and his mother so much pain. Then, when the man cursed him and hit him with a stick, he knew it was his father. Although he wanted to choke the man, John couldn’t bring himself to harm his father. The man collapsed on his own of a burst blood vessel right there and then. He died before his son could even raise him off the ground.

The old clergyman finished his story with – ‘In that corner of the churchyard,’ said the old gentleman, after a silence of a few moments, ‘in that corner of the churchyard of which I have before spoken, there lies buried a man who was in my employment for three years after this event, and who was truly contrite, penitent, and humbled, if ever man was. No one save myself knew in that man’s lifetime who he was, or whence he came — it was John Edmunds, the returned convict.’

I actually teared up a bit. Not only is the story heartbreaking, but Dickens creates art with his words. His poetic style brings real emotion to the page.

And now to Mr. Dickens – Here’s one of many interesting fun facts about Charles Dickens. Hans Christian Andersen was Dicken’s close friend and mutual influence. Andersen even dedicated his book Poet’s Day Dream to Dickens in 1853. But this didn’t stop Dickens, a bit of a jokester, from letting Andersen know when he’d overstayed his welcome at Dickens’s home. He made a sign and left it on Andersen’s mirror in the guest room. It read: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks, which seemed to the family like AGES.”