January 21, 2016
I've been absent here for a while. It's because of a combination of, first, being down but then, second, I was actually getting some writing done!
I'm trying not to stare into the face of the beast too much. You know, spend too much time online gazing at my and others' navels. Don't get me wrong ~ I love myself a good navel gaze, but it seems to contribute to my depression sometimes, and so I have to look away.
I have to look inside because that's where I need to be to get the writing done. And, boy oh boy, I've been getting some really great writing done! I won't say too much about it right now, other than it's YA, but let me tell you, I got the best reviews from my kids. My daughter said, "It's just like Percy Jackson!" and my son said, "I don't like it ~ I LOVE it!" Of course they would say that, but it warms my heart to the cockles!
So let me just say, wonderful things coming down the pike. I'll fill you in once I know more.
September 21, 2015
|Via the Atlantic|
I was thinking this weekend about war and about the rhetoric around war vs. the real reasons we go to war.
It started from a thoughtful post on Facebook friend Stephan Heard’s wall:
I just came to a startling conclusion about how I perceive delusions to work: Namely, the idea that the delusional thinking itself is safe: It is a withdrawal into the creative spaces and processes of the mind, where thought is beautifully free-flowing and the mind can conceive of alternate realities conceptual in nature, imagining things otherwise difficult to apprehend ... The struggle being that delusions cannot ultimately seem to exist outside of the consequences that occur via the delusions, nor can the delusions easily substitute for the goals and tasks a person has and can only seem to achieve though standard rationality and purposeful action. Where, then, and at what point, do the delusions become so disconnected from reality that they cease to be connected to the real world whilst yet simultaneously guiding action that exists in the real world, ultimately leading to the conflict that it leads to?
Delusions in general, while not causing harm except in bizarre situations, are dangerous, and that is what makes them so valuable, but is undermined by the traditional ways we are conditioned to think ...
Great observation. I think it depends on the delusion. (I have relatives who believe we're descended from aliens.) I think delusion is a necessary part of the writer's process. A writer has to believe both that what he or she has to say is important and worth listening to - a certain brand of hubris - but simultaneously he or she often believes that they are worthless, and this is a driving factor in getting work done. It also takes a certain amount of delusional thinking when you start a novel - "Yes, I can write 100,000 words!" We could also talk about how war and religion are delusional and harmful, but that's a much bigger subject.
PS And I agree that delusions inside the head by themselves are harmful, even without considering resulting actions.
A delusion is an idiosyncratic belief that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument.
What do we say about war? It’s necessary. It’ll bring peace. We’re just doing it for noble reasons. Death is a necessary cost of political interest ~ to bring democracy to the unwashed heathens. That it’s for the best.
Why do we really go to war? Commercial interests. Political interests. Too many young men at loose ends challenging the establishment, so let’s have a draft (both the Crusades and Vietnam and probably many other wars). Because we have all this confusing and subtle frustration in our daily lives that has to be focused somewhere, and we think if life were only black and white, if we had a goal, if there was an enemy to fight, we’d have a place to release all this anger and hate.
To be sure, many of the men and women who fight in wars are doing it for the noble reasons. They risk their lives because they believe in God and country and that they are sacrificing themselves for the greater good. This is an amazing thing. A very laudible, if misplaced, thing. But many soldiers (I’m not trying to speak for them, of course, but I’ve read it time and again) get over there ~ wherever there is ~ and quickly become disillusioned.
But we lie to each other. We baldfaced lie. Since it usually isn’t us or our loved ones who pay the price, it doesn’t touch us. It’s like cheating on you diet ~ oh, I’m making myself feel better ~ but every time you take a bite, someone dies. It’s like passing a law that doesn’t do anything but make yourself feel better, but every time, a country is invaded.
War ~ an idiosyncratic belief that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument.
Humans are capable of such vast and unimaginable horror.
September 18, 2015
Generally, on the Friday following a book release, I talk about what’s coming next.
This is both easy and hard because on one hand I know exactly what I’m working on but I’m not sure when I’ll have them completed. First I’ll tell you why, and then I’ll tell you about the cool projects I’m working on.
This is the why. I’ve gone through a long period of writers block that’s severely shaken my confidence. I couldn’t seem to make myself make any progress at all. Many reasons behind it, but I was pretty despairing for a long time. Will I ever write again? Should I just give up? This is fodder for a longer post, but suffice it to say I’m once again facing the blank page—and actually writing.
To get myself back into my writing, I’ve been working on a middle grade chapter book called The Adventures of Opal the Hounddog. So much fun! My daughter was very distressed when she found out I killed the dog in Earth’s Imagined Corners. I told her I hadn’t actually killed her ~ she just disappears in a flood. My daughter then insisted I resurrect Opal and that she live a long and happy life. And so that’s what I’m doing, and it’s a blast. Opal swims out of the flood, gets attacked by a bear, befriends an elephant, and then joins the circus. I’m also going to do some illustrations.
I’ve also started working on a book of essays called Stand In Your Truth. These are very much for me at this point. I feel like I have to write these in order to break myself out of the depths of whatever it is I’ve been in. They most likely will never see the light of publication.
Once I get through with Opal, which shouldn’t be but a week or two, I’ll get back to writing my young adult series called Wyoming Chronicles. It’s British classics set in contemporary Wyoming, with a girls' and a boys' version. The first girls’ book is Pride set in Jackson Hole, which is based on Pride and Prejudice. The first boys’ book is Moreau set in the Hole in the Wall, which is based on The Island of Dr. Moreau. This is so much fun to write! Young adult rocks.
Then I also have the sequel to Earth’s Imagined Corners coming up. It’s called Numberless Infinities, and it follows Sara and James out across the Nebraska prairies supplying ties for the railroad and ends at the Massacre at Wounded Knee. It won’t be ready for the next January publication, as originally predicted, but what you going to do? Keep plugging away.
And then I’m also working on my photography projects, and I might put together a photo book. I also have been doing some artwork and would love to illustrate the two children’s books I’ve written ~ A Blush, a Giggle, a Smack and ZoLilly and the Feeling of Impending Doom.
I’ve always been one to have way more ideas than I could possibly follow through on!
September 17, 2015
Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be able to give Maggie a happy ending, to have Jes grow into a happy and healthy young man whose only scars are those left by his troubled father. It wasn’t to be, however. The logic of the story inexorably pulled me to where it ended.
That’s not entirely true. The first ending actually had Jackdaw successfully shooting Jes and then killing himself. So maybe I did pull back a little—at the behest of an editor friend. The conversation went something like this. “The ending is too unremittingly dark.” “But Jes has to die. Otherwise no one will buy it.” “Yes, but does his father have to kill him? AND THEN commit suicide?” Point taken. That same friend said she bawled in public in NYC at least four times while reading it. Now THAT is a compliment.
The inspiration for this story is a friend and coworker who is one of those ideal mothers. If I could have chosen to have any mother in the world, she would have been at the top of my list. She had two boys, and then her third boy was born with severe spina bifida. Watching what she went through was heart-wrenching. When I decided to write this book, a few years after the darling boy had died at age 6, we sat and talked through what at happened. She said that most people act like it never happened and so it was good to talk about it. I hope so, and I hope I’ve in some small way been able to honor what she went through.
Another inspiration for this story is my history of infertility. My mother had seven kids including me, and one of my sisters had seven, and so I never considered that I would have problems having children. Then, my husband and I had five miscarriages, the first at six months. The medical rigamarole that ensued was awful. I’m so glad for it though, because we were able to have our happy ending. A wonderful amazing woman—whom I’d trust almost more than I’d trust myself—acted as gestational carrier for us, and our twins were born. Our son was born with a severe cleft lip and palate, and so that was more medical procedures that we went through. As much as we’ve been through, though, I can’t express how thankful I am to medical science and the wonderful doctors who made it all possible.
The first scene I wrote, I was actually staying in a residential hotel in Denver undergoing IVF procedure for the twins. All those shots. That was August 2005. The first scene I wrote was where Maggie walks into the room and Jes just lights up. He makes her feel wonderful, despite everything, just by the way he beams at her. I finished a first draft by June 2009. I remember because I completed it for a Tin House writers conference mentorship with the legendary Little, Brown editor Judy Clain. The manuscript was an unqualified mess—four points of view with two timelines going concurrently. Bless Judy’s heart for first of all agreeing to do the mentorship and second of all giving me such great advice. Help your reader out. Chronological, chronological! More reflection to let the reader know what to take away from a scene. Her talking with me was simply the best encouragement I could have had.
So I went back and majorly rewrote it. Because of the nature of how I’d written it—two timelines—the beginning and the end was basically written and I had to write through the middle. An odd experience, to say the least, but a good one. It shaped up nicely, although I distinctly remember having writers block and thinking, this is the most horrible thing I’ve ever read. I do that when I write—I go through periods of loving the work and then hating it. Especially when I’m not writing, I think about all the flaws.
Having four points of view presented its own challenges. If you have a point of view, you have to have a character arc. Something has to happen to that person. They have to change. And therefore all the stories have to be coherent in their own right, yet they have to meld together into this unified whole. “Ambitious,” someone called it, and at the time I don’t think they meant it as a compliment. My initial inspiration for form was actually the movie Love Actually. I was fascinated with how that movie was able to have all those different story lines yet work. I love that movie. It strayed pretty far away, though, didn’t it? Another big inspiration was William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, one of my favorite books. All those points of view tied together in a country setting. Believe it or not, I didn’t actually read Kent Haruf’s Plainsong till late in the writing process. Without knowing it, I had mirrored a lot of that wonderful book, and so when I did finally read it I was a bit thunderstruck.
I deliberately try to have all kinds of people in my books. I regret that I don’t have more diversity in this one, but I am glad I was able to have CJ work through her sexuality. Race and ethnicity and gender and sexuality are not binaries—they exist much more on a spectrum—and I find myself continually fascinated with the complexities of these subjects.
Finally, though I hesitate to bring it up, I often have an extended metaphor or theme that I’m thinking of when I write a story or a novel. In the case of Deep Down Things, it’s the story of Jesus. Many readers would not pick up on it, I think, but Jes’s story riffs on it with details large and small. I’m a spiritual person—though I’m not a religious one—and the ideas underlying the story of Jesus are complicated and compelling and timeless. Self-sacrifice, family relationships, being a good person—these all are just as relevant today as they ever were. And I find by using something like this as a framework, an extended metaphor, I can explore these subjects more deeply. I don’t think of this as a religious book or a Christian book, but I am very invested in the ideas that Christianity presents to us. I am happy, however, if this book helps someone affirm his or her faith or think more deeply about the issues presented.
My final confession is that the ending still makes me bawl like a baby. I don’t think writers are supposed to admit that.
September 16, 2015
Don’t you just love meeting cool new people?
One such cool person is P.J. Morgan, the inimitable actor and voiceover artist. Have we been working together for years now? Wow.
What so much impressed me about P.J., from the very beginning, was the amount of thought and “character” she puts into her characters. And by that, I don’t mean over-the-top radio schmaltz. I mean, she figures out the author’s intent for the character and she does it in an excellent way that even the author didn’t think possible. My characters needed to be understated laconic western people, and she nailed it. You know how how authors have ideal readers? Well, P.J. is my ideal reader in another way.
I am so thankful to P.J. for putting so much thought into the voicing of the four points of view in Deep Down Things.
Here is an interview P.J. and I did a while back.
What’s an interesting thing people don’t know about you?Hmm, good question! I've probably only told one or two people in my life that one of my dream stage roles is Mary Poppins. There's just something so whimsical and powerful and enigmatic about her character. The great music doesn't hurt, either!Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid?I grew up in a little town about a hundred miles south of San Francisco, right on the ocean. I was very much enamoured of storytelling from a very young age. I read voraciously, and had many imaginary worlds I inhabited at play time. I wrote my own short (and often unfinished) tales, and everything was an opportunity for me to make-believe I was living some other life. I was quirky and a dreamer and full of crazy ideas that no one else thought were very funny. I guess not much has changed. ;) My sister and I made a pact that someday we'd create our own cartoon show, where she animated and I did the voices. She got her degree in animation, and here I am as a voice talent, so I think it's time we got to work on that dream!Your degree is in linguistics and phonetics. Wow! Tell us about that. Why did you choose that?My favourite subject in school was always foreign language. I absorbed language books as quickly as I could, reading about ancient and modern Greek, Mandarin, German, etc. before they even started us on Spanish in school. I was just fascinated with other languages - the way they sounded, the mystery of them, how the sounds felt in my mouth, whether people who spoke another language still thought in English (yes, I really had to wrap my mind around that one as a kid!). Linguistics was just a natural fit in college. My favourite subject was Phonetics, particularly the articulatory branch, which looks at how speech sounds are actually produced in the vocal tract.
Who’s your favorite linguistic theorist and why? (I was pretty taken with Saussure.)I'm going to kind of cheat on this one and talk about my favourite linguistic phenomenon, though I did indeed enjoy learning about Saussure! The one thing that stuck with me the most from my undergraduate studies was the study done by McGurk et al. in the 1970s (about the McGurk effect), and shed some light on how important visual cues are to speech perception. We tend to think that most of verbal communication is auditory, when in fact most people rely heavily on visual input to make sense of what another person is saying. This is why many people are so uncomfortable on the phone, where those visual cues are missing. As a voice actor, this is a very interesting thing to think about, especially when narrating audiobooks. You have to use your voice to convey so many things - emotion, tone, action, setting, on top of enunciating in a way that is intelligible, without sounding stilted, and still tell a story in a way that a listener can easily understand and stay connected with.You’ve done a lot of fabulous things ~ acting, voice acting, puppets, and writing. What do you think those have in common and why are you drawn to them?The underlying thread for me is storytelling. There's a bit of it in everything I do. I love to bring others' stories to life, as well as tell my own. Each medium has a slightly different appeal, but I've never been able to decide which one I like best. I hope to keep doing all of them throughout my life. Storytelling for me is one of the ultimate acts of creation, and an essential part of what it means to be human.Do you have an origin story? In other words, can you think about something that happened in your childhood that fundamentally shaped who you are and what you do?My mom taught me to read and write when I was three, by having me narrate and then trace the letters of a story about my stuffed toy mule. She also read to me before bed every night - The Hobbit and James Herriot come to mind - and instilled in me a great love for words and stories. I've never been able to stop reading and writing since unlocking that magic.
Talk about creating How to Be a Man (the previous book of mine she voiced). What were your first impressions? What did you enjoy about it? What challenged you?I'm fascinated by gender roles and norms - how they've changed, how we obey and break them, the effect they have on people and their relationships with others. I stumbled on the synopsis for How to Be a Man while shopping for a project on ACX, and bookmarked it for about a week. I had only done public domain work for the past five years, since leaving my job where I worked with a lot of commercial voiceover, so I wasn't sure how I would fare in the realm of commercial narration. How to Be a Man seemed like a project that would keep me interested through the long hours of recording and editing, and that maybe needed a voice more like mine, instead of the seductive, sometimes over-the-top tones of many commercial voice talents. I submitted an audition on a whim one night, and was completely overjoyed to find a recording contract in my inbox not long after. I really enjoyed the long, intimate evenings spent huddled in my recording booth with the manuscript, getting to know the characters inside and out and connecting with them and what they were saying. I loved the diversity of the stories, and how each one took me to a different place. I found by reading them aloud, they came to life for me in a way that stories don't always do when read silently off the page. The biggest challenge was probably having to edit all that audio! For each finished hour, it takes between six to ten hours of work. I learned a lot of tricks in the process to speed things up, but it was a real process! I've certainly come out the other side a much more proficient audio editor, though.You’re a writer too. What do you write?Most of my writing is done every November during National Novel Writing Month. Writing sadly slips to the back burner for me all too often, with all my audiobook, theatre, and film projects. It's still such a driving force in me that I keep returning to it, though. When I'm not penning a novel in thirty days (or making half-hearted stabs at editing them), I also journal somewhat allegorically about my life through the adventures of a pirate lass named Captain Pen.Finally, if someone wanted to get into voice acting, do you have any advice for them?If you have an interest in narration in particular, I highly recommend Librivox (www.librivox.org). It's the audio book version of Project Gutenberg (an enormous digitised collection of public domain books at www.gutenberg.org). Volunteer readers from around the world narrate public domain books and put them up for free download in the catalogue. The wonderful thing about it is, anyone can sign up to read, regardless of experience. There are very active and helpful forums to help you get set up with a basic recording environment, learn how to read aloud, edit audio, produce it, etc. It was a wonderful and supportive place to get my feet wet. If you have any specific questions, I'm more than happy to help, as well. I'm on Twitter (https://twitter.com/listentopj), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/authorpjmorgan), and at listentopj.com, where I hope to start some blog content soon about my adventures in the world of VO!
And if this post inspires you to check out P.J.'s work, here's where you can pick up Deep Down Things.
September 15, 2015
So you're a bit intrigued by the novel Deep Down Things? You'd like a taste? Click here to listen to the first part of P. J. Morgan's wonderful reading.
And if you like it, the full version is available here:
I hope it's a good listen!
September 14, 2015
I wanted to officially announce the audiobook version of the novel Deep Down Things!
Here's a little about the novel. It's an emotional roller coaster ride.
Deep Down Things, Tamara Linse's debut novel, is the emotionally riveting story of three siblings torn apart by a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer and the love that triumphs despite tragedy. From the death of her parents at 16, Maggie Jordan yearns for lost family while sister CJ drowns in alcohol and brother Tibs withdraws. When Maggie and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she's found what she's looking for. As she helps him write a novel, she gets pregnant, and they marry. But after Maggie gives birth to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes' severe birth defect, while Jackdaw struggles to overcome writer's block brought on by memories of his abusive father.
I'm so excited about this ~ I can't tell you. It's read by the inimitable P.J. Morgan. P.J. is this amazing voice actor who goes that extra mile.
P.J. has a bachelor's in linguistics, with an emphasis on phonetics. Speech sounds and language as both a phenomenon and a science fascinate her. She has many years of stage and screen experience and a love for the written word. She loves reading audiobooks, and using her voice to tell stories. She is also an author, working towards publication of her first novel and has done NaNoWriMo for many years. You can find her at listentopj.com or penelopejmorgan.com.So this is my teaser-trailer post to the audiobook version. Later in the week, I'll post a snippet of P.J.'s wonderful rendition, I'll talk a little about P.J. and then about the four points of view in the novel and how she nailed it, I'll talk a little about how the novel was written, and more. I hope you enjoy it!
In the meantime, the audiobook is available here: