Sunday, January 30, 2011

It Is The End

Two of the beta readers have politely intimated disappointment at the end. Two others were non-committed about the ending, just mostly smiling and nodding and stirring their half-empty cups of coffee. One beta reader began correcting the grammar of one of my characters. One liked the "hero"and wants him in the next book. One liked the nautical vocabulary, learning with the main character. One skipped over it, but thought it wasn't "too much" to skip. One wanted to read more. One admitted she doesn't like historical fiction.

All felt they were there, on the ship, experiencing life at sea and liked the main character.

So after all of this, there comes a time when one must admit defeat and end it...


So that is what I have done. I've saved my old ending, but have written a new one. I am afraid it might be a little sappy, but perhaps it will be more pleasing than the ending I had. I'm sure it will have to be revised a thousand more times, but I think I'll start the query process again.

But first I'll send it to my BFF.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Boiler Bay Beta

The sun came out after a long bout of rain. What better way to recover, when the sun entices and you have three new CDs, than to hop into the car and careen to the beach? Boiler Bay is south of Lincoln City, close to Depot Bay.

The buttons for the sun roof still work after three months of being shut tight against the rainy gloom. In a small parking area, I settle back into the seat, flip open a book, listen to Mozart and pray seagulls won't fly directly over the opening in my roof.

But I'm anxious. The beta reader has finished the book, but she is away this weekend and I cannot get her review until she returns. This cannot be good. If she liked the book, she would have cancelled her weekend plans and joyously met with me. Right? Right?

And I think my book is not really her "genre." In fact, I know it isn't. I can't sit still, even when my favorite part of the Clarinet Concerto comes on. I get out and walk over to the fence, pacing and wiping my damp palms on my sweater.

What if she hated it? What if the comments are like something my mother would say. "Well, dear, you've written a book. That is quite an accomplishment." Yikes. That ranks right up there with, "Well, dear, you are as pretty as you can be." Which means what? That you are dog ugly, but that is as pretty as you are capable of being?

What if it is worse? What if she says I should put it in a drawer and take up knitting? What if she says that perhaps I should fill my free time with volunteer work. Or (gasp) housework?

They say that rum is bad for you. I guess I'd better finish it off then.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Resplendent Shimmering Beams

In the Northwest, we don't always see the moon. It shivers behind the shrouds of gloom and sneaks out only when the clouds open the ports. When I walked out of work a couple of days ago, I had to whirl around in the silvery sparkle and snatch up my camera.

Beta readers are just as rare. When you find a good one, it is time to celebrate. Many people will offer to be a beta reader, but I have found out all who offer should not be selected. Twice I gave my manuscript to readers who never read it. After three weeks, one woman had been too busy, but would get to it soon. I took it back and gave it to another. Another three weeks, again the next person hadn't gotten around to it. I got smart and started asking if they could do it in two weeks. I explained that I wanted to send it off to my BFF as soon as possible. The third beta reader read it in one week, but she forgot to fill out the chapter-by-chapter check list. She wrote a nice little paragraph about it, however, which had me panting in panic. She said some wonderful things, but it was this that skewered me on the terror-o-meter:

"The in-depth research into ships, history, sailing, and life on the sea really showed. Amazing amount of detail and new-to-me vocabulary."

This was disaster.

First of all, the research shouldn't be obvious. Neither should the "history." And the vocabulary; an amazing amount? Dear Lord. Too much. Way too much.

I made an appointment and bought her coffee at Starbucks and began the grilling. I wanted to bring hot lights to shine in her eyes, but my critique partner, Carol, wouldn't let me. The reader assured me that what she had said was a "good" thing. She said the amount of detail put her on the ship. She was there with them. The vocabulary was interesting, entertaining, fun. It was fascinating to find out some well known terms are nautical in origin by "watching" the scene unfold where it was used in its original habitat. She liked it (the vocabulary).

She has offered to read anything else I write. In fact, she is willing to read any of my critique group's manuscripts. She is the resplendent shimmering beams of the joyful moon.

I rejoice.

I have an appointment with another reader next week. She's in the middle of Chapter 28, and wants to finish it tonight, but she hasn't a free moment to meet me "for the grilling" until Monday. I'll get her opinion about the vocabulary then, but I'll need to buy six more bottles of Maalox to get me through the weekend.

I'm so terrified.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stoltzman's Innisfree


I'm grateful to be able to sit amid a flock of Canada geese at lunch time. I'm grateful for my car stereo. I'm grateful I can google (yes I believe it is now a verb) things and people, and learn about them on the computer. Although I prefer the instant gratification of going to a store and being able to walk out with my purchase, I'm grateful I can buy hard-to-find things on Amazon and have them arrive at my mailbox a few days later.
Earlier in the week, before the rain set in, I found out my friends, the Canada Geese, were back near the little pond near my work. At lunch I drove to the spot and settled in. With the window only partially open, I listened to Richard Stoltzman play Mozart's Andante K315 on his clarinet, while I edited my manuscript. It was beautiful, tranquil, lovely. That is, until some predator, probably an eagle, sent the birds flapping into the air in a frenzy of honking terror. Then there was no peace for anyone. I might as well have had heavy metal playing and been setting small houses on fire. It was almost a relief to return to work.Friday, I went to the post office and there it was, my new Stoltzman CD, "Open Sky". I ripped open the package, carefully removed the CD and slipped it into my player. I drove to the "geese" spot, but they were not there, maybe because a red-tailed hawk lorded over the meadow in a naked tree. I'm not really sure the geese would be afraid of the hawk, but the meadow was barren. I'm also not sure the hawk appreciates my music like the geese do, but I set Innisfree on repeat and tortured myself for 45 minutes, watching the hawk and swiping at the tears. It is so very beautiful. I don't know how Stoltzman was able to put so much emotion into his instrument, but I can't listen to it without sobbing. Probably best not to listen to that particular piece while I'm driving. The other music on the CD is lovely, yes, but does not evoke my utter surrender, as Innisfree does.

When I got home Friday evening, I googled Stoltzman, found out he is currently at a well known music conservatory and I sent him an email, thanking him for the perfection of that song and for sharing his gift with us. He'll probably think I am stalking him and delete the email, but Hayward's Daily Review newspaper columnist, Ray Orrock, once said that if someone has touched your life, made it better, you should thank them.

You've no idea how it will affect them, of course, but I know such a simple task can mean a lot to some. On a whim a few years ago, I wrote a thank you note to one of my college instructors years after my degree. I received a letter back from his wife. He was in hospice. She read him the letter, and she didn't know if he understood, but the letter cheered her and renewed her resolve to stay strong for him. He died a few days later and she took my letter to the college newspaper and had them publish it as a tribute to him. I doubt he was well enough to comprehend the letter and, although I thought about it every so often, I never wrote to him until it was too late. I regret that.

If someone had a positive effect on your life, send them a note. It doesn't matter if it was a neighbor, a teacher, a relative, a movie star, or a clarinetist. Do it now, before it is too late.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Clarinets in 1805

According to two experts, very few amateurs would have had a clarinet in 1805. They were very costly, and not many had the free time to practice. It was suggested by one that a stringed instrument would have been more likely.

Professor Arnold Myers, Chairman, Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, suggested the possibility a flute would have been more likely than a clarinet. He agreed, however, that if the gentleman in my book were to play Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major, Second Movement, that he would, indeed, have to play a clarinet in A, although the B-flat was the more common size even then.

Luckily, my character has the time to practice, and the money to purchase the instrument.

There were six key instruments in 1805, but the more common clarinet would have been a five key.

Notice the ivory rings? All three of the above instruments were made in London, c 1790, c 1770 and c 1805. I wonder if they had connections to the ivory trade? The wood is boxwood.

I also heard from a clarinetist by the name of Tom, who told me of Richard Stoltzman. Mr. Stoltzman has numerous CDs and, of course, I've purchased one. Mr. Stoltzman breathes life into the clarinet, and reduced me to tears when I heard him play "Innisfree." Tom also took the time to tell me what it is like to play the clarinet, capturing my heart and making me regret a decision I made in second grade. My piano teacher told my mother that she had a waiting list and that I obviously did not have my heart in learning the piano. Would it be all right for her to drop me and take on someone who actually wanted to play. When my mother approached me and asked if I wanted to continue with the lessons or not, I shrugged and said, "not really."

Years later I realized it was a stupid decision. If only we could know the importance of things at a very early age, we wouldn't have to live with regrets later. I'm grateful that Tom, and Richard Stoltzman did not make the same mistake.

If you would care to hear one of the most beautifully played clarinet pieces I've ever heard, may I suggest you listen to "Innisfree" on the Open Sky CD.

Editor's Note: Photographs of the above instruments from the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments used by permission.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mixing the Best of 2010 with the best of 2011

Good-bye 2010

2010 is gone, kaput, vamoose. When things end, does something new always begin? Should we take a lesson from the calendar and anticipate the fragile new life after waving good-bye to what is gone?

I decided to wave to the remarkable people I have conversed with in 2010. There have been too many for me to list (or even remember--when a brain cell dies, a new one does not begin--this seems a shame). But here are a few I'd like to mention.

Ann Littlewood's book, Did Not Survive, came out in 2010. This is the second book in her Zoo Mysteries series. She has spoken at the Vancouver Writers Mixer and is always informative and amusing.

Lilith Saintcrow, a New York Times Best-Selling author, has also spoken at the Vancouver Writers Mixer. I was lucky to have taken a class from her just before her first book, Working for the Devil came out. Now she has more than one series published in several genres. Her two books published this year were:

and the third in her young adult series:

Carolyn J. Rose's book Hemlock Lake came out this year. Carolyn is the one who started the Vancouver Writers Mixer, originally as a one-time event.

In addition, Carolyn J. Rose and her husband, Mike Nettleton's next book in the Devil's Harbor series came out this year.

Bill Cameron's Day One came out in 2010. I met Bill on twitter and he has been gracious enough to give a talk at the Vancouver Writers Mixer, in which he said he was too nice to his protagonist in his first book, Lost Dog. His poor protagonists now have much more to contend with as they struggle through their books. I like that in a protagonist. :)

Speaking of twitter, I've had the good fortune to converse with many amazing writers. One book I enjoyed reading was John Locke's Saving Rachel. This book is part of the Donovan Creed series.

Another twitter friend is Jens Kuhn, who is a nautical fiction author, whose second nautical fiction book published this year.

But then new beginnings for 2011 will bring us many new books:

Tawna Fenske's first book of a three book deal, Making Waves

Bill Cameron's fourth book, County Line

Lilith Saintcrow's next book, Angel Town

Lilith Saintcrow's other new book, Defiance

Karen Azinger's first book of a five book deal, The Steel Queen

Heather Snow's first book, Sweet Enemy, will be published, but technically not until 2012. I'm hoping to pre-order in 2011, however.