The Process… or Lack Thereof

As I’ve alluded to in recent posts, I’ve been working on a new novel. I mentioned the characters last time around, and today I thought I’d touch on the creative process a little bit.

Over the years I’ve heard and read a ton of tips and advice on the writing process. Everyone has an opinion on the best approach, many of which differ greatly, though I’ve found there’s a nugget of wisdom in nearly all of them. At the end of the day, it’s my opinion that any approach that leads to creativity is the correct one.

I’ve written three novels (or will have once this one is finished) and each has come together in a totally different way. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the current project, which actually first came to life as a short story. As with so many of the things I write, it began with a “what if?” that occurred to me. I mulled it over, and the more I thought about it the cooler it sounded. I wrote the story and was pleased with it. Normally when I write a story that’s the end of it. But this one just kept coming back to torment me.

Something about it bothered me. The premise, the plot line, all of that was cool. But the more I thought about it the more I realized I wasn’t entirely happy with how it came out. I decided it needed more – these characters had stories that deserved to be told. The “villain”, so to speak, needed time and space to marinate. In other words, I had hit the highlights, but the story still hadn’t been told.

So, I pulled out the story, read it over, and made notes to myself as I went. I added scenes, filled out existing ones, drew out the descriptions. The characters began to leap off the page, as they so often do when given free rein. Before I knew it, this six thousand word short story was over 30k and still growing. Points of interest that hadn’t been fully explored due to space constraints now had room to grow and flourish. Chapters got shuffled and reordered, new issues presented and then resolved themselves.

All in all it was anything but a traditional approach to writing a book. But then again, a great deal of what I do is anything but traditional or “normal”. Why should this novel be any different? There have been times when I’ve been tempted to call it quits and just say “this isn’t worth it, does anyone even want to read a short story that I stretched into a novel?” My hope is the answer to that is yes. But ultimately, it’s interesting enough to me to make me keep going with it, so keep going I shall.

I don’t know that I’d recommend tackling a novel in this way. It sounds more haphazard and chaotic than it really has been, but it’s still probably far from the most efficient way to go about it. Hell, I’m still not finished, so I can’t say for sure how successful an approach it’s been. But like I said before, anything that brings out the creative muse and makes some magic appear on the page is the correct way to go about it. Or maybe, the complete lack of a recognizable process IS a process unto itself.

I don’t know. But finding out has been quite an interesting experience. I’ll post here from time to time and let you know how it works out.

-JP

 

Listen to Your Characters

Even though my life hasn’t been altered to the degree that many others have experienced over the past month, I’m certainly not immune to the effects. As a result I’ve tried to make it a priority to spend more time working on writing projects.

At the top of my to-do list is the draft of my current novel, a project that sat on the shelf for some time but which I’ve decided to revisit. I took a little break from working on it, during which time I mulled it over in my head looking for what was missing. I’d been fighting it for a while and growing frustrated at my inability to get past the point at which I was hung up, until I finally decided to take some of my own advice.

In my writing classes I talk a lot about characters – specifically, how they drive a story. A good character can drive a weak story much easier than the other way around. The key is to listen to them. If they’re well developed, they’ll lead you wherever they want to go. Often we try to force them into the narratives we create, and sometimes they’ll go along with it for a while. But you can’t force them into places they don’t want to be, not for long. I realized I was asking for something that my main character just wasn’t interested in giving me. It’s not my story, after all. It’s his.

With that in mind I handed over the reins and let him run with things. Without going into the specifics of the story I have to say, so far he’s doing a much better job of figuring things out than I was. Ultimately I still have the final say on what goes on. But I’ll be paying attention to what he (and some of the other characters) want from here on out.

You could say the moral of this little tale is to practice what you preach. All I needed to do was to take a bit of my own advice. When you’ve painted yourself into a corner in your story, don’t be afraid to rely on the characters you’ve developed. They oughta know what’s best – it’s their story, after all.

-JP

Making Adjustments

To put it mildly, a few things have changed around the world since my last blog post. Let me just say that there is ample reading material, information, misinformation, statistics, and memes concerning the COVID-19 virus across all social media platforms. Since I don’t really have much of anything to add to the discussion, I’m not going to talk about it here.

…well, except as it pertains to my writing classes.

Naturally, when everything else began to shut down, the university followed suit (they were actually ahead of the curve on that front). So as a result, we had to shut down the final session of Crafting the Short Story, and cancel An Introduction to Publishing. If you’re reading this, ladies, as promised we WILL do that final class, whether in person or via Skype or some such.

Further to that: as of this morning I’ve been in discussions with the powers that be regarding classes, and how to handle them moving forward. It looks like we’re going to launch online classes in place of classroom gatherings. I’ll discuss more details as they unfold, but for now it looks like what would have been the April session will begin sometime in May.

What does this mean? Well, it’s an adjustment, no question. I’ve done online lessons via Skype before, so it’s not entirely new for me, although I’m told we’ll be using a different platform here. It also means that suddenly my classes are available to people who don’t happen to live in the immediate area.

Just a short post today, to let you know I’m still plugging away over here. I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. Talk soon!

-JP

 

Mid-Winter Notes

We’ve got January behind us, which for the optimistic among us means the worst of winter is now behind us. It’s not gone of course, not by any means. But now that we’re half way through February I for one am starting to let myself feel a bit optimistic.

 

We’re back into the swing of things with the winter 202 0 edition of Crafting the Short Story. It’s a fun and creative group that I’m enjoying as we pass the halfway point of our session together. I’ll be following this up with another round of Introduction to Publishing on March 21st, then a short break before diving right back into Crafting the Short Story on April 20th.

 

In case you missed it, here’s the link to my interview with Allan Hudson of the South Branch Scribbler from earlier this month. Allan does a lot to promote the industry and those of us that toil within it. I know he’d appreciate it if you dropped in at the Scribbler’s website and had a look around. Odds are good you’ll discover something there that catches your eye – maybe even a new author to add to your list of favorites.

 

Elsewhere, last summer I cobbled together a collection of my short stories which I submitted to an open call for consideration. Still awaiting word on that. I think it’s a solid collection, so we’ll see how that goes. Additionally my second novel, Seventeen Skulls, has been sent to my publisher. I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on with that as things progress.

 

Speaking of updates and news, if you click here and enter your name and email address you”ll get updates right to your inbox hot off the presses. Feel free to invite your friends to sign up, too. The more the merrier, I say! And who knows, maybe you know someone who would find my stuff is right up their alley.

 

One final note for the day: my usual plea for reviews. I appreciate all the support for Terror in High Water. Lots of you have written or spoken to me about how much you enjoyed it, for which I’m very pleased and grateful. It would really make my day if those of you who did read and enjoy the book could take a few minutes to pop over to Amazon or Goodreads (or both, if you’re feeling motivated) and leave a short review to let others know what you thought of it. It can be as long or as short as you want – they all help increase exposure and get it in front of a wider audience.

 

As always, thanks for reading. Until next time!

-JP

Back to Class, and Other Tidbits

It’s been snowing most of the day here. I guess I got a little bit spoiled with all the unseasonably warm weather over the holidays, to the point where I’m mildly offended when it dares to turn cold and snow in January. On the other hand, it’s hard to be too upset about such things while our Australian friends are going through such a terrible, terrifying experience. Perspective.

In any event, it’s a brand new year, the start of the 2020s, and what better way to start the year off than to plunge into writing?

For some, getting started is the toughest road block to overcome. But fear not, I’m here to help. The next installment of Crafting the Short Story launches on January 27th, and it’s a great way to get inspired and get writing. Or for those who already have something written and are looking for the next steps, there’s An Introduction to Publishing on March 21st (one day workshop). Follow the links for more information, or drop me a line with any questions.

There are lots of other great courses offered at the College of Extended Learning. Even if writing isn’t your thing – and perish the thought! – have a look at some of the other stuff they have to offer. Odds are good you’ll find something interesting and informative.

In other news, James Fisher at the Miramichi Reader did a review of Terror in High Water this past week. You can check that out here. Many thanks for the exposure and kind words. Incidentally, if you’re thinking of buying a copy you can click the Amazon link at the bottom of his review, for which he receives a small commission at no cost to you.

In the coming weeks, look for an interview I did with Allan Hudson at the South Branch Scribbler. Allan’s a great interviewer who likes to dig below the surface a little bit, and it was a fun and thought-provoking process that I really enjoyed. I’ll let you know when it goes live.

I try not to ramble on about High Water too often, so the regular reader doesn’t tune out. I did want to say that it has gotten a few more reviews lately, which is awesome. If you’ve read it and wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to leave a review, just know that it’s greatly appreciated. Just follow these links to Amazon, Goodreads or both. Every little bit helps spread the word and get more copies into the eager hands of new readers.

Want to receive updates and all the latest musings directly to your inbox? Go to my contact page here, enter your name and email, and add something to the comment box so the system knows you’re not a robot, and bada-boom, you’re the first to know when a new blog post is published.

More news and notes as they unfold. As always, thanks for reading.

-JP

 

 

The Year That Was

The year is winding down rapidly – time for one last post before we roll over into the 2020s. As a sort of recap I thought I’d take a look back at 2019 as it unfolded from my perspective. As it turns out there’s quite a lot to review!

The biggest news, for me at least, was the release of Terror in High Water. I can’t say enough how pleased I am with how it turned out, and the kind words and support I’ve received. It’s widely available on numerous platforms in paperback and ebook.

My story, The Grand Finale, appeared in the Deadly Bargain anthology. It too was well received, and I’m proud of my inclusion in its pages.

The Canadian Dreadful anthology was next. This was a learning experience that contains a version of my story, The Sound of Passing Traffic.

Speaking of learning experiences, this fall saw the debut of my new course, An Introduction to Publishing. It’s a one-day seminar that’s a sort of companion piece to my Crafting the Short Story course. Both are offered through UNB’s College of Extended Learning and will continue into 2020 and beyond.

High Water has drawn interest locally in a few ways. A signed copy was included as part of a prize package offered by Fred-E-Scene, which is a showcase of local news, business, arts and leisure, and more. It’s a great resource that I highly recommend for anyone in or around the area.

I recently did an interview with Allan Hudson, founder and driving force behind the South Branch Scribbler. It was a cool experience in which we discussed a variety of topics. You’ll be able to check out in the coming weeks – I’ll keep you posted there.

Another “I’ll keep you posted” item is my first foray into children’s horror. Mother Ghost’s Grimm is a multi-part series focused on horror (age appropriate, obviously) for young children. Volume One, which includes a number of my friends, released earlier this month. I’ve got a story called The Little Ones in the forthcoming Volume Two, in which I’ll share pages with many other friends and my better half, Sheryl. She’s got a new release as well, an all-Canadian anthology called Creatures in Canada. It’s got a great author list and lots of cool stories. Worth a look!

Lastly, even though it won’t see the light of day until well into the new year: I’ve sent my second novel, Seventeen Skulls, to my publisher just before Christmas. It’s far too early in the process to divulge any more than that, but as with everything else on the horizon, I’ll keep you posted.

Have a safe and Happy New Year. Thank you for your support and all the cool experiences. See you on the other side!

-JP

Winter All-Purpose Post

Today’s post is a bit of a catch-all, as I bring you up to speed on some of the things going on in my chilly little piece of the world.

First, Terror in High Water is rolling along and getting some positive feedback. I’m grateful for the kind words and all the attention it’s been getting. Watch for reviews, spotlights and interviews, and more in the New Year.

As an aside, books make great Christmas gifts. For those unable to flee south and escape Old Man Winter, well… it’s always hot in the little Texas town of High Water.

Speaking of Terror in High Water, it recently received its first five-star review. You can read it here. I’ve also added a page on my site dedicated solely to High Water, which you can check out here.

The Fred-E-Scene holiday wishbook was released right on schedule and received with much enthusiasm. Thanks to the management and staff for being so cool to work with.

Also – and I’m sorry I didn’t know about this earlier – 13 Horror Street made High Water their Scream of the Day on release day.

Another first for me: I get to share a table of contents with my better half! I mentioned this briefly before, but I figure it bears repeating as we creep closer to the launch date. To recap:  it’s a slight departure for me, but we’ve delved into the world of children’s literature: horror edition. Presenting the Mother Ghost’s Grimm anthology. Here’s a little peek at the cover art. Sheryl and I will appear in volume 2.

Little Ones

Fun stuff. Looking forward to this cool project.

More to come later. Stay warm, stay safe. Talk to you soon!

– JP

 

Shop Local!

As I alluded to yesterday, the Fred-E-Scene Holiday Wish Book is live and running as of today. In case you missed my post, this is a showcase of small and local businesses, artists, musicians, restaurants, and more.

Beyond the wish book the site – which counts its views in the missions, I might add – is a wonderful place to keep up on what’s going on in and around the greater Fredericton area. There’s even a section that features such things as literature, where they reviewed Terror in High Water in October. When they asked me to participate in this, I was more than happy to do so.

Here’s the link to the Wish Book. And here’s the link to the authors’ section. Happy browsing!

-JP

Holiday Spotlight

Fred-E-Scene is an excellent showcase for, as they put it, “everything Fredericton”. They’ve got all kinds of stuff regarding the greater Fredericton area, with their fingers on the pulse of the arts, music, shopping, and other pursuits. It’s a pretty great site that boasted over 1.5 million views this year. Go have a look, you never know what might interest you over there.

One of the cool things they do on this site is their annual Holiday Wishbook. It’s a great way to showcase local vendors and businesses, and get seen by an awful lot of eyes. They put a lot of emphasis on supporting local business – which I fully endorse and agree with – and this year, I’m thrilled to say that I will be included!

It goes live tomorrow, I’m told. I’ve skimmed through, and am pleased to report an impressive list of things to browse. My little corner will feature my latest novel, as well as the writing courses I offer through the College of Extended Learning at UNB. I’ll update with a link and pics and such when it goes live. But for now…

…Here’s an early, sneak-peek look at the wishbook. I encourage you to visit early and often. Hopefully you’ll find something in there that jumps off the page at you. I must say, there’s a pretty nice list of contributors this year. Hat’s off to the good folks at Fred-E-Scene for putting this together and helping to shine a well-deserved light on the local business community!

-JP

Buy a Book, Leave a Review

It’s been a week since Terror in High Water hit the market, and the buzz is growing slowly but steadily as word gets around. The idea that my book is out there being read by friends and strangers alike is amazingly cool. I’d love to hear what everyone thinks about it. An inexpensive and effective way to do that is to write a review.

Reviews sell books, there’s no doubt about it. Word of mouth is, far and away, the best advertising a book can receive. It doesn’t cost anything, only takes a few minutes, and goes a long way toward exposing good books to potential readers. Here are a couple of readers’ comments:

“…takes the reader on a dusty ride that shows you the path to redemption can be something you would never expect in such vivid colours of suspense and conflict.”

 

“As the reader is taken on the suspenseful journey you can picture the town, its citizens and the anxiety.”

If you’ve read Terror in High Water and enjoyed the journey, it would be wonderful if you could pop over to Amazon (or Smashwords, or wherever you purchased your copy) and leave a nice review. Let others know it’s worth stepping into 19th century Texas for a glimpse at that little town of High Water. I would certainly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance!

-JP