Some books just stay with you. They haunt you. You dream of the characters, and of what would be if it just ended differently. Sometimes the closing lines just make sense, and sometimes they hint of a path not taken. Some give us closure, some are cliffhangers, yet they make me want to read the book again, and again. How about you?
Here are a few of mine.
by Mary Shelley “He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”
Lord of the Flies
by William Golding “He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.”
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee “He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”
by George Orwell “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden “Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak “Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky “But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”
In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote “Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad “The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky – seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Hippos Go Berserk
by Sandra Boynton One hippo, alone once more, misses the other 44.
Research, like writing, is never linear. I have a running chat conversation with Edward Branley that delves into many different directions. The beauty of it is, I can search on it and find the conversations that pop up as a “hey, what do you think of this” and use it later on. One perfect example of this was a conversation we had back in November of 2017 about Catholic Churches and Parishes, in New Orleans.
Father Anastase Douay held the first recorded Mass on Mardi Gras [March 3, 1699] on Louisiana soil near the mouth of the Mississippi River, as part of the founding expedition of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. This is the beginnings of New Orleans Catholicism taking root.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Patroness of New Orleans, is believed to have helped the city defend itself against a British attack in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Deborah Krause, a Presbyterian minister wrote a historical paper on how “the figure has presided over New Orleans transformation from an 18th century colony to a 21st century republic — and lately to a devastated landscape after Hurricane Katrina.”
The history of churches and parishes have always been fascinating to me. Who builds them, where they’re built, why they’re built in that particular location. Churches, are the building, Parishes are the surrounding neighborhood. Post-Katrina reorganization, there are parishes in New Orleans that have multiple churches. I’m lucky in that Edward always ties churches / parishes into his novels. For the current novel (almost out, in June!), Trusted Talents, these are all the Churches/ Parishes he mentions:
St. Mary’s Assumption Church, Irish Channel
St. Alphonsus, Irish Channel
Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, main campus of Loyola University New Orleans
St. Stephen’s Church on Napoleon Avenue, Uptown
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Kenner
St. Mary’s Italian Church, French Quarter (Old Ursuline Convent)
Annunciation Church, Faubourg Marigny
Our Lady of the Rosary Church
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Chalmette
St. Angela Merici Church, Metairie
St. Ann Catholic Church, Metairie
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Faubourg Treme
St. Anthony of Padua Church – S. Bernadotte Street
Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter)
Stephansdom (Cathedral of St. Stephen)
Manhattan Beach, California:
American Martyrs Church
Wonder why I tease him about needing a spreadsheet to keep it all straight?
There are many old photos, and many histories listed on all the church websites, which helps date the timeline for the church creation, and even if it has been merged since it was consecrated/dedicated. Case in point, is St. Stephen’s Church, which is a merged parish now (St. Stephen’s, St. Henry’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel to form Good Shepard).
St Joseph’s Church
Another bit of interesting that I found during my trip down research lane is about St. Joseph’s Church [1802 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans] . Dedicated Sunday, December 18, 1892, the original building was across from Charity Hospital. In 1895 under Archbishop Francis Janssens ( the fifth Archbishop) who renovated the ‘old’ church, it became a place of worship for many Negro Catholics under the patronage of St. Katherine. Demolished in 1964, it was rebuilt on the current location in 1866 when Father John Hayden purchased the current plot of land.
Why does St. Joseph’s call to me, other than the history behind it? It has the longest main aisle in New Orleans at 12′ x 150′ long.
The Redemptorists and The Irish Channel:
St. Alphonsus, St. Mary’s Assumption, and Notre Dame de Bon Secours
The first of three great churches built by The Redemptorists for Catholics in the Irish Channel. St. Alphonsus for the Irish, St. Mary’s Assumption for the Germans and Notre Dame de bon Secours for the French.
Charles E. Nolan writes in his book, Splendors of Faith: New Orleans Catholic Churches, 1727-1930, “St. Mary’s Assumption formed part of a unique cluster of ethnic Catholic parishes in the South. St. Mary’s Assumption (German speaking), St. Alphonsus (English speaking), and Notre Dame de Bon Secours (French speaking) were all served by Redemptorist fathers who shared a common rectory. By 1885, St. Mary’s Assumption numbered 4,000 parishioners; St. Alphonsus, 5,200; and Notre Dame de Bon Secours, 340. St. Mary’s Assumption ceased to function as a separate parish after Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Following a decade of repairs, the renovated church reopened on August 15, 1975, as the place of worship St. Alphonsus Parish” (page 97).
Editor side note: The last line on the plaque “as the St. Aphonsus arts and cultural center” is a typo. Someone should tell them to fix it.
Another site I value for research is the New Orleans Catholic Church website. They even give you history of the various pipe organs that are still (sometimes) in use at the churches.
Finally, don’t be afraid to follow an idea or a fragment of a sentence you find when you are reading, you never know where it may lead. I find that most of the readers are hungry for the historical details you can put in your novel/ manuscript, especially when it furthers your storyline. This is true for real-world places. One never knows what reader you may spark to learn more.
I just finished editing the second novel in the Bayou Talents series for Edward Branley, Trusted Talents. As I am wont to do after finishing edits, I take stock on how I can help my clients streamline the process and make it smoother.
Trusted Talents has so *many* characters, I decided to try to create a spreadsheet to keep track of who they are, how they fit in the story, their quirks, their nicknames, and any other details that I think would be important, especially NAME CHANGES in the middle of the story.
Well, that got me down a rabbit hole pulling my hair out and drinking lots of coffee late at night (does no good for me when my HS Sophomore needs to be at zero period at 6:45 am and I get up at 5:15 am). I am not an Excel expert by any means, I can do basic sum functions and that’s about it. So, cut to the next morning when I was more awake and able to focus. I used my Google-fu powers and found a few different Excel spreadsheets that did what I was looking for already and all I had to do was test them out and see if it worked well for me.
I started with the tab labeled ‘Character List’ and page one of the Trusted Talents novel from Edward. I input all the characters and the formulas that are built into the pages (Remember that I am NO Excel expert) was a lovely touch to make the spreadsheet fill out faster.
A couple things that I really liked was when I sorted by first name, you could see that there are way too many names starting with a certain letter, and how many characters have names that are similar (Davey, David).
I sent what I had worked on to Edward, to see what he thought, and he realized that Brooks Stirling Sumner (Silver)’s grandfather had two names in the novel. Remember up there when I said NAME CHANGES in the middle of the book? He was listed as both Robert Duncan Sumner and Grantland Sumner.
Now, I think of myself as being very attuned to that, but I admit even I missed that name change. This set-up made it easier to fix and find the mistake with a global search and replace function in the master document.
I have started on Edward’s newest novel, Dragon’s Defiance (Book 3 in the Blood-Bound Series) and from first read, had a new spreadsheet set up to start on page 1. What a difference this will make in my editing, and my clients writings. I highly recommend this.
I’ve only used the Character Listtab at this time, but I can see how much more you could do with this spreadsheet – from the Character Genealogy Tab (one of my other passions on the side), to the Word Count Tracker (great for authors trying to hit a certain word count per day or per week to finish their novel), and the Scene List.
In the updated Version 2.0, which I just downloaded, there is the Cards Tab (sort of my old way of writing papers in high school and college with index cards delineating all the scenes/main ideas.) This one is automated, so if you use the Scene List, it pulls the information from that.
The Chapters Tab in Version 2.0 will give you a visual graph of how word count length and number of scenes per chapter.
I’m a firm believer if you have various tools and processes in place, it helps you focus on what you need to do, which is write! (Or in my case, EDIT!) Don’t be afraid to use tools that are already out there to make your process easier. One does not have to reinvent the wheel. You can tweak something that is created to match what you need.
Sound is so important to creative writing. Think of the sounds you hear that you include and the similes you use to describe what things sound like. ‘As she walked up the alley, her polyester workout pants sounded like windshield wipers swishing back and forth.’ Cadence, onomatopoeia, the poetry of language are all so important. Learn all that you can about how to bring sound into your work.
Very Happy to announce that the FINAL EDITS on Trusted Talents (Book 2 in the Bayou Talents Series) have been returned to author Edward Branley. Can’t wait for you to read / see what Ren, Mike, and the gang have been up to in New Orleans and the world.
I can’t wait for you to meet all the new characters as well. Please let me know what you think of Kate Farrington, Evelyn Barton, and especially Brooks Stirling Sumner. I don’t want to give too much away, but check out this little snippet…
“Right. I need you to evacuate the courtyard and the shop. I need to burn this place down,” Meg said to Bubba and Ren. “Huh?” Bubba asked. “Spider on the counter in the shop,” Ren said. “That’s not a spider, that’s a radiation-enhanced spider from a bad sixties movie!” Meg exclaimed. “This is a Spanish-Colonial house that dates back to the 1790s. You can’t burn it down,” Ren said, calmly.
“Watch. Me.” Meg replied.
“How about we go check this thing out?” Bubba asked.
“OK, but only because you have a gun and can shoot it,” Meg agreed.
They went into the carriage house, the part of the house facing Chartres Street. Bubba led the way, followed by Ren. Meg stayed in the courtyard, peeking in the doorway.
A huge spider sat on the glass display case where the cash register was located.
“That’s a big bug,” Bubba observed.
“Shoot it!” Meg urged.
“The wife said she saw a rat the other day and she made a ‘fear-induced butt diamond.’ It didn’t make sense at the time. Now I get what she meant,” Bubba said.
Ren started to chuckle. Meg punched his shoulder.
Kate Farrington walked up on the third punch.
“Why are you beating on the poor guy?” She asked.
“Because he’s laughing at me!” Meg said.
“No, I’m laughing because you want Bubba to shoot the spider—ow!” Ren said, as Meg punched his arm again.
Kate stepped into the shop and stood next to Bubba.
“She’s scared,” Kate observed.
Bubba squeezed her hand and stepped back.
“Hi, there. They’re scared, too. Yes, of you. Do you think you can get down and go in the courtyard?” Kate asked the spider.
Time froze for a moment. The spider circled the counter, then crawled down the side. Ren moved further into the shop, with Meg following him. The spider now had a clear path out of the shop. It crawled through the doorway, headed to the back wall of the courtyard.
“Where did you come from?” Meg asked Kate.
“Soccer practice,” Kate said.
“No, I meant what planet, but—wait, soccer practice? Don’t y’all practice in City Park?” Meg continued.
“Yeah. I ran down here,” Kate replied.
“That’s a nice run,” Ren added.
“Y’all are crazy, all that running,” Meg said, laughing.
Be sure to check out the cover art by the quite Talented (see what I did there?) Elizabeth Person.
If you want to catch up in the story before you get to Book 2, you can find Hidden Talents on Amazon.
Coming soon to your bookshelf! I’ll keep you posted on when it hits. BONUS note:
Elizabeth also created the cover art for Edward’s YA novel, Dragon’s Discovery (Book 2 of the Blood Bound series).
All material copyright 2018 Edward Branley
Artwork by Elizabeth Person
Make sure you know what kind of edit you are asking for.
There are differences between a developmental edit(also known as substantive editing or structural editing): “the big picture” feedback on structure, style, pacing, and voice.
“The strongest part/s of the book is when …” “The weakest part of the book is when…” “Try to change the opening to highlight …”
are all things your editor will comment on when doing a developmental edit.
And line editing (or paragraph level editing) – recasting sentences for clarity and flow. You may see suggestions and comments from your editor on how to fix the following:
“You use too many adjectives…” “This wording doesn’t fit your intended audience…” “Change the length of your sentences so they are not all the same length…”
Why vary the length of your sentences?
The reader will not get bored that way. Short sentences make your manuscript seem childish and/or choppy, and bland. Long sentences are hard to read in a row. Listen out loud to your sentences, use your computer for this, or read it out loud, to hear the rhythm in your sentences. See where you can combine your shorter sentences into a medium length one, and cut down the descriptiveness in your long sentences by eliminating passive voice (is, was, were, has), and eliminate repetition. Get to the point. Also, be sure to pick an editor that is strong in your genre. A developmental edit for non-fiction is different than fiction, or science fiction.
Prepare yourself for feedback, criticism, and direction.
I know how it would be easy to let your mom, or your aunt, your coworker, or your best friend read your manuscript and make suggestions, and think “hey, so if they can do that, why hire an editor? They have my best interest at heart.” Yes, they do, I don’t want to take away from your friends, families, and co-workers. However, sometimes those close friends and family members won’t tell you what you need to hear, in fear of hurting your feelings, or won’t look as deeply at your manuscript to find the things that aren’t working, such as tenses and change of hair color of your main character. Don’t misunderstand me, your family and friends play an important part of your support structure. But hiring an “outsider” is the best thing you could do.
Once you release your darlings into the world, a second pair of eyes sees it from a different perspective. A fresh one. Don’t be upset when your favorite part of your book comes back all “red-penned” to death. It’s my job to give you a point of view you may not consider, ie: head hopping in your characters. Try to picture your main character with a video camera on his / her forehead, and only pointing in one direction. That’s all your character sees. Not behind the door, down the block, or what’s not in their range of vision or hearing. IF you need to change perspectives, pass the camera.
Speaking of head-hopping, check out my latest blog post, “Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story.“Point of view is part of head-hopping, because it’s putting on the blinders and seeing what is going on just from the character that colors the story. Consider this as you write your characters.
It’s your choice to take the advice or not that I give you, but be willing to consider the changes offered. Feel free to agree there’s a problem, but not how the editor suggests to fix it. Talk it over with me. Brainstorm with me. We may come up with a better solution.
Don’t be afraid to tell your editor what you want your book to accomplish.
“What do you want the reader to take away from this?” is a question I ask all my clients. What do you want your reader to feelwhen they turn the last page. If you tell me what you want, I can help craft your manuscript with the right emotion, turn of phrase, and details that will guide you to that end.
The Narrator’s personality and perspective helps shape the reader’s perspective, and how the story unfolds. The reader sees what the character experiences from their point of view (POV).
Why Point of View?
POV helps us understand motives, desires, and empathize with characters and what they are going through. Ursula Le Guin, in Steering the Craft says, “The technical term for describing who is telling the story and what their relation to the story is” (page 83).
First Person POV
Use of “I”, or, in plural first person, “we”. This is used in both autobiographical writing and narration
Examples: Charles Dickens’ character introduction in the opening of the chapter “I Am Born” in David Copperfield (1850).
‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night’ (page 1).
Second Person POV
Use of word “you”. Sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’. When I think of this, which is a very uncommon type of POV that we see, since it’s hard to write and keep consistent. Why do I say it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ type? Because the reader imagines themselves performing each action. One of my favorite books that showcases second person POV is Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler.
‘Now you are on the bus, standing in the crowd, hanging from a strap by your arm, and you begin undoing the package with your free hand, making movements something like a monkey, a monkey who wants to peel a banana and at the same time cling to the bough.’ (page 7).
Editor’s Note:For an interesting Study in Second Person and Calvino, check out DarWrites.
Third Person POV
Use of words he, she, it, they. In today’s world, don’t forget about gender-neutral pronouns as well. Third person POV can stay in one character’s head, or move freely between characters.
Only see what’s happening through the character that is narrating, very narrow, and only colored through what our character thinks/ feels / believes about the characters and events around him/her.
“Non-involved narrator”. Narrator sees all and knows all, including the character’s private thoughts and feelings. Ursula Le Guin, in Steering the Craft’s chapter “Point of View and Voice” says, “the narrator knows the whole story, tells it because it is important, and is profoundly involved with all the characters.”
Fun Fact:When I was in Paris during my HS French trip (too many moons ago) I saw Michelle Lee (of Knots Landing fame) in front of the Centre Pompidou. That has always stuck with me, and is probably dating myself if you know how long ago that show was popular. Somewhere, buried deep in a box in my parents attic is the photo of her I took.
The thing that fascinated me about the Centre Pompidou when I saw it was the bright colors and how weird it was to have the air ducts, elevators, escalators, and pipe systems outside. Turns out… it was an architectural choice when it opened in 1977: Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, and enabled them to create huge uncluttered space inside. You can see why it’s nickname is the “Inside-Out Building”.
Four strong colours – blue, red, yellow and green – clothe the structure and enliven the façade, their use governed by a code laid down by the architects:
blue for circulating air (air conditioning)
yellow for circulating electricity
green for circulating water
red for circulating people (escalators and lifts)
Place Georges Pompidou – 75004 Paris
Le Marais – 4e Arrondissement
If you go visit, you should find something else to do on Tuesdays, and May 1st, because Centre Pompidou is closed.
Fun Fact #2: The Place Georges Pompidou in front of the museum is noted for the presence of street performers, such as mimes and jugglers.
Did You Know?
It is named after Georges Pompidou, the President of France from 1969 to 1974 who commissioned the building.
A fifth floor room of the building featured as the office of Holly Goodhead in the 1979James Bond film Moonraker, which in the film was scripted as being part of the space station of the villainous Hugo Drax.
One of the oldest Carousels in Paris is located on the tiny Place St.-Pierre in Montmartre, in the 18th arrondissement on the Rive Droite (Right Bank), near the Eiffel Tower.
When I was in high school, I went on a class trip to France and Switzerland (and drove through the Italian border on the bus so we could say we were in Italy). I remember vividly the tour of Sacré-Coeur and sitting on the steps of the Basilique. We also rode the Carousel at the foot of Sacré-Coeur. Imagine my surprise today when I came across this photo of the Carousel in the winter, with snow falling from Pinterest, it transported me right back to Paris, exploring.
Somehow, the snow in the image just makes it so much more magical, and intensifies the beauty. Hard to believe that Paris can be more magical, but to me, it just is.
I went searching for more photos of the Carousel, and found the stunning juxtaposition on Flickr of the carousel and Sacré-Coeur by eagle1effi that you can see in the Featured Image up top.
Carousels were born from tragedy: A jousting accident killed King Henri II, Catherine de Medici’s husband, in 1559, driving knights to practise a safer alternative to these tournaments, such as spearing suspended rings with their lances. For the birth of the Dauphin, Louis XVI held a carousel festival in 1662 in front of the Tuileries. In true Sun King fashion, it was all pomp and fanfare: 15,000 guests watched knights on their horses participate in jeu de bagues compétitions. The celebration which took three months to organise lasted only three days, but the Sun King did himself proud because the memory of this grandiose fête still lives on: the location where it was held is known today as Place du Carrousel.
Map of Montmartre:
Have you been to Paris? Did you ride the Carousel? Have you visited Sacré-Coeur and sat on the steps of the Basilique? What’s your favorite architecture in Paris? What other architectural tours would you like me to write about? Tell me in the comments, or on Twitter @bookdoctordara.
Earlier this evening, I blogged about Cartography and the Moon, 1647 and Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687). While doing the research, I came across this image of Hevelius’ earliest drawing of sunspots. Since it wasn’t “Moon” related, my son, Jason ( check out his blog, “Jason’s Blog- Work in Progress”), said I should post it as a bonus feature. So, here it is!
So, what is the “Maunder Minimum“? ” The number of sunspots observed on the solar surface varies fairly regularly, with an average period of 11-years. However, if we look at the variation of the sunspot number with time, we find that for a period of about 70 years, from A.D. 1645 to 1715, practically no sunspots have been observed. In other words, during this time the solar cycle has been interrupted. This period of time is called the Maunder Minimum.“
Did You Know?
In 1679 the English astronomer Edmond Halley visited Hevelius and compared the use of a sextant having telescopic sights with Hevelius’ sextant with open sights. Hevelius showed that he could determine stellar positions about as accurately without a telescope as Halley could with one.
In 1647, Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius published the Selenographia sive Lunae Descriptio (Selenography or the description of the moon). [Ed Note:Selenography is named after the Greek moon goddess Selene.]
Historian of astronomy Albert Van Helden explains:
In Selenographia he presented engravings of every conceivable phase of the Moon as well as three large plates of the full Moon: one of the ways the full Moon actually appeared through the telescope, one the way a maker of terrestrial maps might represent it (using the conventions of geographers), and one a composite map of all lunar features illuminated (impossibly) from the same side.
Hevelius’ lunar map influences astronomy, cartography, and navigation to this day by introducing us to longitudinal lines, necessary during the Age of Discovery when navigators had to figure out the difference between their local time and a distant reference point (the moon). They needed “a composite view that pictured the Moon in a way it never appeared in reality but was accurate in its placement of individual features,” Van Helden writes.
Did you know?
A large crater on the western edge of the Ocean of Storms is named after Hevelius?
Editor Note: If you enjoyed this Cartography post, check out the first in the series, Cartography and World Building. Let me know what else you’d like to see…
I love interesting images that I can use for the featured photo on the blog pages. I love vintage typewriters, as well, if you could not get the connection on all the pages. (This post’s featured image is a play on that by using typewriter keys to spell out “blog”!)
Here’s some more really cool vintage typewriters that may (or may not) wind up as images going forward. I am too stuffed from Thanksgiving Turkey to decide right now. What does everyone think? Let me know what your favorite is…