In Which I Become a Young Man

Aside – before I started writing this post, I had to do a search of this blog to make sure I had not written about it before. Am I getting senile or have I been blogging too long? You decide.

So I’ve been having a blast lately, spending some time as a young man. You see, that’s what a writer gets to do. If they want, they can be a young man for a while. Or an old man. Or an asshole. Or a small kid. Or an alien creature. A fairy. A god.

I’ve written from the point-of-view of all of these.

A friend of mine says writing is much like acting. I don’t know if I’d ever have the guts to get up in front of an audience and act. But I love the role-playing I get to do as a writer. I love really getting into character. Especially if it is something I don’t ever get to do in real life. Like being a complete jerk, or becoming a young man.

The young man in question is Ty, the main character from a short story I just uploaded to various online e-retailers. “Once Upon a Gas Tank” is the start of a series of short stories called Petroleum Sunset. Here’s a snippet. It starts with Ty’s kid brother Joel talking.

~*~

“What if we join the Chevelle Gang, Ty?”

“We cain’t join them, Joel. You’ve seen what they do to folk.”

“Yeah, but if one of us joins, maybe they’ll leave the rest of us alone.”

“That ain’t thinking right, Joel. Murderin’ and lootin’ folk just so your own folk stay safe. Do you really think you could do it?”

“I’d do it for Ma.”

I believed he would. “Ma wouldn’t like that none. If you ask me, that’s just a coward’s way out.”

That set off his temper, just like I knew it would. He jumped up. “I ain’t no coward, Ty.”

“Joinin’ the Chevelle gang just to get ’em off our backs ain’t exactly brave.”

“You’re the coward, Ty.”

My own anger ignited and revved up to about 6000 rpm. I jumped up too. “How do you figger?” Clyde raised his head and looked at us.

“You’re the oldest. It ought to fall to you.”

“What ought to fall to me?”

“Takin’ care of the famly.”

“Runnin’ off and joining a gang ain’t takin’ care of the famly. It’ll just make Ma sad and Pa want revenge.”

We argued about it, but I could tell nothin’ I said was sinking in. So I felt obliged to put a whuppin’ on him to make him see reason. However, I hardly struck the first blow when he lashed out, quick as a rattler, and bloodied my nose. We ended up on the floor, gougin’ and clawin’ at each other with all the pent up rage a couple of dumb teenage boys can muster up.

~*~

It was (and is!) so fun to become Ty. I realize it was risky. Writing in dialect always is. I realize that I’ll probably get a lot of one star reviews from people who hate the dialect. But I felt a strong urge to put this story out there, and to tell the rest of the stories about Ty and Joel that keep popping up in my head.

And I thought that if I like it, maybe some other people will like it too.

I won’t innundate you with posts about these stories. (Too late? Maybe!) I’ll just put up a post when I upload each story, and maybe an extra post if something exciting happens with it. I hope to put up the next story in just a few weeks.

So, here’s the linkage. It will be at more places next week as Smashwords gets it distributed.

If you buy it and like it, I’d really appreciate a review at the site where you purchased it. Gotta counter-balance all those expected one-star reviews, yanno. And if you are a blogger and are interested in hosting me, I’d love to be your guest.

Enjoy!

Adventures in Self-Publishing, Part Two

So today, I hit the “publish” button for “Once Upon a Gas Tank” at three sites – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The book is already available at Smashwords, will start appearing at Amazon and B&N in the next two days, and at Kobo, iBooks, Sony, and Deisel Ebooks in about a week.

I took my time getting this story ready, mostly because I didn’t have much time to devote to it. Everything took a long time–I began this process in January–but the cover took the most time of all. For fun, I thought I’d post my covers, so you can see the evolution.

(image source)

My problem here was the picture size. The largest just wasn’t large enough. And I just wasn’t happy with it.

(image source)

Loved this version, but the original pic wasn’t big enough. Also, I discovered that slanted lines look bad when shrunken.

(image source – large!)

This image was plenty big enough, but it just didn’t work for me.

(image source)

I liked this one, but then I got the idea of taking my own picture.

I woke up with this idea and went to a great deal of trouble to obtain this picture. I drove all over town trying to find a metal funnel (available only at Ace Hardware–all others were plastic), and I took a gazillion pictures, and I had to learn new software–Inkscape–in order to get the curving text.

And then I realized it looked dreadful when shrunken. The whole thing just looked like a mistake. You couldn’t even tell it was a gas tank that the funnel was stuck into.

One word–yuck. I went way overboard on the color manipulation.

My final, after lots of tweaks, and after designing the series name in Microsoft Publisher and importing it into the image.

I learned lots. Probably the most valuable lesson was to work with the image while it is zoomed way out, so you will know if it looks good small.

The second book in the series is already written, waiting for a cover (and formatting). I hope it don’t take three months this time!

What do you think of the new blog name?

Take a gander at the heading of this page and let me know what you think of the new name for this blog. I’ve been meaning to name this blog for quite a while. I don’t find it very inspiring to write a blog called “Tia Nevitt”. 🙂 So, rather than try to think of a name for the blog and then writing about it, I decided to think of a name that describes what I already write about. That way I don’t have to change anything. Except–hopefully–to be inspired to post more frequently.

So I thought of a twist on my “anywhere but here, anywhen but now” tagline. And I used the same fonts that is in the header for the rest of the site, except I switched it around. I like it. Do you?

Recent Research – Disease Shopping and Condom History

If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know that I’m planning to publish a series of short stories called “Petroleum Sunset”. I am now working on my third story, and thinking of a fourth. It’s actually panning out kind of like a TV series. Think of a futuristic Waltons with imperfect parents, and with things like gas, medicine and birth control becoming scarce.

To that end, I’ve been doing a little research. First, I had to shop for the perfect disease.

Tetanus

Otherwise known as Lockjaw, tetanus is a soil-born disease thanks to the bacteria Clostridium tetani. It causes muscle spasms that start in the jaw, hence the name. Most of us were immunized against this as babies, and we had a booster when we hit adolescence. It does not come from rust; a common misconception.

I was especially interested in how long it takes before symptoms appear. The victim in this case is a healthy fifteen year old boy who would have gotten the first set of shots, but not the second. (Medical scarcities, you remember.) The story could be called “Quest for a Tetanus Shot”, but it’s not.

I also believe the loss of plastic would devastate the medical community. Plastic is a petroleum product, and in my future it is scarce enough that the boys are rummaging for scrap plastic at the dump at the start of the story. The hospitals would have to go back to glass everything–glass IV bottles, glass syringe bottles, etc. (I need to pick my nurse sister’s brain.) Medical tubing would have to go back to rubber/latex, which some people are allergic to. So that might make it into the story as well, and I need to research what was in use before plastic.

Birth Control

In my world, birth control is getting scarce along with many other forms of medicine. All these scarcities may eventually rectify itself as the world re-adjusts to horse-and-buggy transport, assuming the factories can stay in operation. For now, it’s scarce.

So, I figured that the demand for things like condoms would still be high. Since synthetic latex would be scarce, they would have to be natural latex. Latex condoms were used in the 1800s. They were stinky and aged quickly. The process (and product) was improved in the 20s, and condom sales skyrocketed. The condoms available in my story would likely be similar to these.

Despite the subject matter, this story is actually rated PG.

And dang–those are some diverse topics!

When was the last tetanus shot you got? I had a booster before a trip to India, about twelve years ago. I guess I’m due …

Five Reasons I Keep Turning the Pages

A while back (ok, too long ago), I posted about 5 reasons I set a book aside. To even things out, here are five reasons I keep turning the pages.

Sexual Tension. This is NOT the same as sex! Nothing ruins a romance for me quicker than characters who hop into bed too early. The very best romances keeps that sexual tension up until the last possible page. But I love it when something keeps the characters apart–as long as it is not misunderstandings. This is what has kept me coming back to The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson. In ten books, they only kissed once, and Sarah was under the effects of morphine and doesn’t even know if it really happened! And yes, Frank totally took advantage of her. It was so fun. I really need to get the next book.

I tried to read The Time Traveler’s Wife recently, but set it aside when the characters slept together after their first meeting. Yes, I know. To Clare, they were already married, and it was only Henry’s first meeting of her. But it was the first time I met both of them, and I ended up heaving a sigh, setting it back down, and returning it to the library several days later. If any of you can recommend it, I’ll try again.

Secrets. Tantalize me with a secret and I’ll be dying to find out the end. Especially if it is the kind of secret that the main character doesn’t even want to face. A good example was The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry. A man wakes up in a hospital after an accident with no memory of who he is. And as he learns who he was, he discovers that he doesn’t like himself. Why? You read to the end dying to find out. (My only quibble was this novel was its very abrupt ending right at the very instant that the main mystery was solved. Grr.)

Adventure. This is why straight romances often don’t work for me. I love to read about danger and adventure. Children like these kinds of stories for a reason, and one good way to get kids into the classics is through adventure stories. My own daughter is liking The Boxcar Children for its adventure, and she is what you’d call a struggling reader. Why does she like them? Because they are nothing but adventure. For an older reader, Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer are, of course, great choices. In the fantasy realm, I’m really overdue for a good adventure-type fantasy novel. The kind where the character goes off and does something exciting. I’m reading the The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham, and I’m hoping it has the same kind of heroic adventure that was in the last book. I almost think it has no choice.

A character to love. I’ll forgive a lot of flaws in the book if the main character is wonderful. For that reason, the kind of multi-POV stories that have been coming out lately are slower to engage me. However, they still do. In George R. R. Martin’s series, I just loved Jon, Daenerys and Tyrion. (This is why A Feast for Crows was such a disappointment for me.) I prefer just a few viewpoints, and I’m not so crazy about seeing the world from the villain’s point-of-view.

Worldbuilding. I adore masterful worldbuilding. It’s what brought me over to fantasy, and why I love historicals. And really, anything goes. I have been enthralled by feudal Japan (Shogun), ancient Rome (I, Claudius), 18th century Paris (Les Miserables), the Depression (Maisie Dobbs), medieval England (The Once and Future King), deep space (2001), alien worlds (Sentenced to Prism), and, of course, fantasy worlds (too many to mention).

What do you think? Do these things keep you turning the pages, or is it something else for you, like solving the mystery (meh for me) or seeing the villain’s comeuppance?

Cover Madness

Remember the cover I posted two posts down? I was all happy with it until I tried to put it in the actual ebook. Those nice curving letters looked all blotchy once the ebook formatting software was done with it. And I realized that once the book is shrunken down, it’s not quite so obvious that it is a gas tank that the funnel is sticking out of. It’s kind of unidentifiable. So now I’m re-tweaking the danged thing with a smaller gas tank image, and no curving text. And it took me so long to learn paths!

I don’t want to unshrink the image too much, because then I have this distracting stripe (my truck has a silver stripe), and it becomes obvious that the gas tank is from a truck, and not a car.

On the bright side, I’ll have an opportunity to photograph some antique cars tomorrow. I hope there are a few muscle cars there. That would be so perfect. I’ll take about a zillion pictures of the cars not only as research for this story, but for my time travel historical as well.

I have tremendous respect for digital artists! I salute you! (And maybe I should hire one of you!)

Review: TRANCE by Kelly Meding

Trance
by Kelly Meding
Pocket Books
Mass Market Paperback
Urban Fantasy/Superhero

One of the last my last review copies to arrive in the mail was Kelly Meding’s Trance. I was glad to see it because I always thought her Three Days to Dead looks good but I never got a chance to read it. (Part of the reason I stopped accepting review copies was because it seemed that other people were always making reading decisions for me.)

So when Trance arrived, I cracked it open right away and finished it in just a few  days.

Fifteen years, Teresa was a trainee in the Ranger Corps, a group of superhero crime fighters. But during a war with superhero criminals, all their powers mysteriously vanished. The story opens when Trance’s power returns, more potent than ever before, and this time, it’s dangerous.

Now she’s on a mission to find her old teammates, figure out who took their powers, and why they now have them back.

And why her powers are so different.

I liked this novel a lot and I would read the next book in the series. Not only must Trance track down her teammates, but she also picks up a new person who never knew they had powers to begin with. The novel is typical of the superhero genre, with lots of angst, larger-than-life situations and unexpected campy humor. I do have a few nits–one is that the heroes were able to figure out very little by the end, thus necessitating a lengthy villain confession. Another is in an effort to make the villain a surprise, some of the earlier scenarios are a bit implausible. Even within a superhero novel.

(A complaint that has nothing to do with the author: the ebook is priced the same as the physical book. This makes me cranky. In such situations I buy the physical book even though I’d rather get the ebook.)

But I definitely want to read the next book, which comes out this summer.