The Barrels of Your Skull

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WHY WE WRITE

We never have a problem coming up with ideas for our stories. As Taylor correctly points out in another post, sometimes we have too many ideas for our own good. Nevertheless, there’s never a shortage of imagination and inspiration. Writer’s block is non-existent around here. The main reason for this is we’re inspired by true masters of the pen. I’m not talking about Stephen King or Shakespeare, although I take nothing away from either.

We are always inspired by true lyrical masters. I’m talking about the artists, poets and writers of another medium.

Try this on for size: “He knows just where to touch you, honey, and how you like to be kissed. He’ll put both his arms around you; you can feel the tender touch of the beast.” These lines were written by Bob Dylan, one of the preeminent poets of the 20th century. The words are lyrics to the song, Man Of Peace from Dylan’s 1983 album, Infidels.

These words inspire the visual artist and the writer alike. People try to decipher a deeper meaning behind the lyrics of Dylan, but I say, why? Enjoy the picture he’s painted with his words and use the words to inspire and motivate yourself. Consider these:

“But all the while I was alone. The past was close behind.” Hmm, “The past was close behind.” Simple, but powerful lyrics from the song, Tangled Up In Blue on Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks album.

“…Shakespeare, he’s in the alley with his pointed shoes and his bells, speaking to some French girl, who says she knows me well.” Picture that. These lyrics come from a song with a provocative title, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, from Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde.

Some will suggest there are better examples of Dylan I could use. On this point, that doesn’t matter. Two people could argue Dylan for days. After all, it’s inspiration, nothing more complicated that that. Get your inspiration from wherever you want. Bob Dylan’s lyrics are sometimes deep, sometimes fun, but they still motivate and inspire.

So, what about more contemporary artists, you ask? They write good stuff, too, you say. First, I agree. I can (and probably will later) give you many examples of contemporary artists that inspire us. Second, you read this far because you’re learning stuff you didn’t know.

One last point, from Dylan’s Man of Peace: “Well, he can be fascinating, he can be dull; he can ride down Niagara Falls in the barrels of your skull.”

That’s badass.

Long Distance Loneliness

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WHY WE WRITE

“There’s a long-distance loneliness rolling out over the desert floor.” Credit prolific songwriter Jackson Browne in his song, The Fuse, from his album, The Pretender. With this painting of emotion, the pen becomes the brush, the mind is the canvas. With but one line, an emotion, a feeling is painted.

“A long-distance loneliness.” It’s beautiful, it’s immense, and it’s depressing all at once.

It’s a challenge when one attempts to resolve the dilemma of the greater of two artists – the one whose canvas is transformed with the brush, and the other, who uses words to stir the senses.

Pictures bring feelings. Sadness, romance, and elation. That magnificent painting of the waterfall with the calm pool beneath, takes you away. Put yourself into the picture, drenching yourself in the icy water, hiding behind the massive liquid sheet, falling asleep in the sunlit afternoon on the bank of the sandy shore by that waterfall.

Question to myself: Where can the visual artist take me that the writer cannot? Is it enough to paint the cave in the shadows? Does the visual artist take me into the cave, or does my own imagination? In the scene of the cabin in the woods, surrounded by a winter wonderland, do I feel the warmth of the fire because of the light I see in the window and the smoke emanating from the chimney? Does my mind take me there and supply the warmth?

Does the painting on the canvas move my psyche? Is it true that I need to have experienced warmth to imagine it? Do I need to know snow to feel the cold? Is it the viewer who brings the canvas to life, or the artist?

So to the visual artist, and I am one myself, I challenge you to paint the cold without showing me the snow. Paint the warmth of the cozy fire in the cabin without showing me the fire. Paint the wet of the waterfall and the depth of the valley and the height of the mountain. Yes, the visual artist can do these things and more.

This all begs the question: How does the visual artist paint the “long-distance loneliness rolling out over the desert floor?”

How indeed?

Reality Check Number 1

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reality check

We originally started this website to document our experiences in writing a book. It’s a way to share with anyone who wants to know, anyone who’s curious, and/or anyone who may be on the same journey. We also wanted to have a nice place to show off our talents, our personalities and a small part of our lives.

So it’s reality check time.We decided to send our – what turned out to be second-to-the-last – draft to some people that seemed genuinely interested in taking a look at our manuscript and giving us an outsider’s view of what we had created. We determined early on we wouldn’t bug these people with things like, “…so…what do you think…how far have you gotten…did you like the part where…what do you think about…”, etc. We delivered our book electronically to a few beta readers. After almost a month, we have heard not one word. From anyone. Not. One. Word.

Maybe it’s the book. Maybe it’s the story. We’ll keep looking for readers. A little better diligence and vetting next time around. We have to know what outsiders think about it.

In the meantime, editing continues.

 

 

The Book Was Better

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books to movies

“The book was better.” HA!

It seems like there’s an over-abundance of prequels, sequels, and remakes coming out of Hollywood these days. (Can you believe they’re remaking Dirty Dancing?). In the last 20 years or so, Hollywood has been buying the rights to YA (young adult) books in hopes of bringing the characters to life. And really, who wouldn’t want to see their favorite book on the big screen?

I read this about book-to-movie adaptations: it’s not easy to fit a 300-400 page book into a 2 hour movie. As much as we may hate it, there will likely be cuts. I always hope the author will have enough input with the screenplay to minimize cuts that might compromise the story.

I read The Maze Runner series by James Dashner before it was announced they were making it into a movie. Once that news was out, I kept abreast of details like casting. When Dylan O’Brien was cast as Thomas I was skeptical, so I started watching Teen Wolf on TV. In Teen Wolf, O’Brien plays a main character. Ultimately, I fell in love with the show and his acting.

Another detail that concerned me is that in the Maze Runner books, Thomas and Teresa are telepathic, although only with each other. When I heard the telepathic angle was omitted from the movie, I wasn’t happy about it – at first. Director Wes Ball said he cut the mind-reading to make the movie more realistic. I ended up loving the movie and I’m actually glad they took out the mind-reading aspect.

There are some movies that stick to the books and end up creating the perfect adaptation. I had read the back of the book If I Stay by Gayle Forman. When I heard it was going to be a movie, I wanted to read it. I love the premise because it’s different: A family gets into a car accident and the teenage daughter is in a coma. The book is about her being ‘out-of-body’ in the hospital. While out-of-body, she sees the people there to support her. She recalls significant memories but she’s faced with a choice: let herself go or stay. In the book, there’s a scene where her grandpa is talking to her while she’s in her coma. He tells her that if she needs to go, he’ll understand. I cried (I tend to get emotionally invested) and when they recreated the scene in the movie, I cried even more. To me, that’s one sign of a good adaptation.

I recently read a list of books that are being adapted for the big screen. I found my favorite series, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken has been written into a screenplay! I am beyond excited to see if it really does become a movie. Here are a few up-and-coming book-to-movie adaptations that I can’t wait to see because I loved the books:

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I can tell from the trailer there have been some big changes but I still think it’ll be a really cool movie
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Death Cure by James Dashner

So is it true that “the book is better”? I’ll answer it like this: The book is the raw, hardcore original, and nothing can take that away. But many times, bringing the book to life enhances an already awesome story.

Beta Readers

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beta readers

Yay, we found some beta readers and sent out semi-final drafts of Changers. And we’re still looking for more. Calling people beta readers, or beta testers – or beta anything – brings to mind a room full of people sitting around a huge table, all reading the book, taking notes, making red marks, and tapping on their tablets. Or a bunch of robots lined up in a row, all perched in front of computer screens with the words of the book scrolling upwards a la The Matrix.

There were a few instructions we gave to the readers. 1) We welcome feedback, and 2) It’s a Young Adult novel. We don’t want anyone to be shy about telling us what they think, or how the book makes them feel. We’re pretty sure we snagged most, if not all the typos. We’re looking for things like pacing, whether things make sense, timing and timeline issues, etc.

Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We put a lot of effort into trying to know what we’re talking about. Facts are important, even in fiction – we didn’t want to distract the reader by playing loose with facts. For example, we have a scene where someone is going through a candidate diffusion. In this scene, the Changers wanted to erase the character’s short term memory, but they didn’t want to eliminate (kill) her. So they went through this process to erase her short term memory. To make it credible, we researched how that would be possible. One of our beta readers has both a bachelors degree and masters degree in nursing. If our research is wrong – if we used the wrong drugs, if our character didn’t act appropriately in the moment – hopefully our nurse beta reader will let us know.

We also don’t want beta readers from our immediate family, for obvious reasons. So far, we have six readers. They look like this:

  • A 17 year-old male high school student with a 4.5 GPA.
  • A 17 year-old female high school student who excels in sports.
  • A 21 year-old female college student majoring in medicine.
  • A 28 year-old married woman in the mortgage industry.
  • A 40 year-old married nurse with bachelors and masters degrees.
  • A 41 year-old male telecommunications engineer with a bachelors degree.

Yes, Changers is YA, but people of many ages still like YA novels. It’s all in the story. We’re still anticipating more readers – we need all the feedback we can get. We’ll post the comments and feedback when received. This is getting exciting!