Update October 24, 2020: Progress on Shadows and Stars

Over the last few days I have been working on Shadows and Stars. Currently, I am editing a scene where Mikash and Daryn go to a festival of ivory in the capitol city of Janhalo. As I am not familiar with sculpting ivory, I did a little research on it yesterday. Right now, I am working on developing a better description of an alien city than the one I have currently. Therefore, I went onto YouTube and looked up “Unusual skyscrapers” to stimulate my imagination. The first video I found is really fascinating and has some humor (check out the unofficial names for some of these towers), so I thought I would post it here.

Take care. Wear your mask.

September 20, 2020: Progress on Shadows and Stars, Tangents, and Internet Marketing

Shadows and Stars cover 2

Coming hopefully soon.

Contrary to what are probably well established principles of writing, I will start this article off with a side note, which I foresee as setting the tone for this morning. It’s 11:46 and while I wait for the oven to heat up so that I can bake my croissants (small ones from Pillsbury with black tea–my favorite breakfast of late), I am watching Better Than Food.

If you are not familiar with it, Better Than Food is a book review channel on YouTube that is hosted by Clifford Lee Sergeant. He reviews books from all periods of history. I enjoy his reviews a lot because he is passionate about them and can discuss the book’s structure, plot, characters, everything a writer would need to know to select the best books to read. Today, Clifford is reviewing The Sound and the Fury, which he says is one of his favorite books.

I started reading The Sound and the Fury a few years back, but, even though I was enjoying it, became distracted and wandered off onto others. Based on the little I read, which was probably ten pages at most, it is beautifully written. I have wanted to go back to it since, but haven’t sat down long enough to focus on it as it deserves. I have a print copy and have been into audiobooks for some time, which I can listen to in my car. Right now, I have Gogol’s Dead Souls, in my car, which I am not far from finishing, but the second book is not as entertaining as the first, so it is difficult to focus on it.

So much for the side note/tangent.

Phil Slattery portrait

Phil Slattery
March, 2015

Back to the tangent. I took a break from writing this to have breakfast.

The last time I made croissants, I added about half a teaspoon of ricotta cheese to a couple of them before I rolled them up. I did it today with most of the croissants. The cheese becomes hot but does not melt (350 degrees at nine minutes). I eat the croissants with butter and just a little grape jelly. Combined with black tea this is a nice way to start a Sunday morning.

Why am I mentioning all this? Answer: marketing.

I am finally coming to realize that the Internet is a vast library where one searches not for books but for words. If I write a book that is stocked by a library, people come in and search for a topic the book covers. But with the Internet, they may search for a word (or phrase) and be led to a lot of books, which may not be what they were looking for, but which they might find interesting anyway.

Ergo, an avid reader of science fiction, let’s say, may be searching for a new filling for her croissants. Then she comes across this page and finds out about an upcoming sci-fi novel called Shadows and Stars. She decides to follow me and keep up with the updates on Shadows and Stars. She also finds out that I have written other stories, including sci-fi ones, and buys one or two to check out my writing style. If all goes well, I have a new fan that will pre-order Shadows and Stars when it comes out.

What are your thoughts on this strategy?

But, finally, on to the brief note about Shadows and Stars that I originally set out to write.

By the way, this is how I get onto tangents and why I haven’t finished reading The Sound and the Fury yet.

I am at 148,517 words for Shadows and Stars at this moment. I finished filling out a chapter yesterday that has been bugging me for a while. There are some other plot holes I hope to fill in today.

I want to finish this up asap without making it read as if I finished this up asap.  So, from here on, I am going to focus on removing as much as I can to bring the final draft down to about 100,000-125,000 words if possible. If I can’t bring it down that far, Shadows and Stars will be concise and tightly written with an intricate plot and good character development if nothing else. Filling out the plot holes will probably add at least 1,000-2,000 words, so I will have a lot of cutting to do. Let’s see if I can pull this off.

Don’t forget to like, comment, and follow.

 

Photoshopped painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci wearing a medical face mask to prevent spreading COVID-19/Coronavirus

Prevent the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19.

 

New Banner for LinkedIn

Banner for LinkedIn

New Banner for LinkedIn as of August 19, 2020

I have been in the marketing/publicity mode for Shadows and Stars tonight, so in addition to my new Twitter banner, I also designed one for my LinkedIn page. I downloaded the background image from Pexels.com, where you can get high-quality, royalty/fee-free, public domain images.

New Banner for LinkedIn

Banner for LinkedIn

New Banner for LinkedIn as of August 19, 2020

I have been in the marketing/publicity mode for Shadows and Stars tonight, so in addition to my new Twitter banner, I also designed one for my LinkedIn page. I downloaded the background image from Pexels.com, where you can get high-quality, royalty/fee-free, public domain images.

Update: Shadows and Stars, Cover 1, November 19, 2019

Shadows and Stars Draft cover

Shadows and Stars cover, first draft, for Kindle

I have been searching for royalty-free, public domain images that I can use in my works, particularly Shadows and Stars. Here’s my first idea for its cover using something from Pixabay. Let me know what you think. Of course, the proportions are for an e-book on Kindle, and I would have to modify it for a standard 6″x9″ cover, which I might do tomorrow.  But you get the idea of what it might be like.

Update: November 19, 2019, Preparations for Shadows and Stars

Selfie with Lotus in background near Arkansas Post, September 4, 2019

I am closing in on finishing the first draft of Shadows and Stars. It’s time for me to start (probably late) some of the peripheral tasks of producing a book.  I think I will start designing a cover for one thing. I hope to have Shadows and Stars published by a big, traditional publishing house rather than self-publishing, but in any case, I will need at least an idea of what my vision of its cover should be, if, for no other reason, than to give the cover artists a starting point. I will go with whatever looks the best and expresses the emotional impact the best. At least that’s my initial thought. Any comments or suggestions? I am open.

As I develop ideas, I will probably post them here for comment. Of course, I won’t make a hard and fast decision until all is said and done.

I will probably need an agent as well. I should start checking the Internet and researching how to find and select an agent. I learned a little about this in the Farmington Writers Circle, but I need to get serious about it now.

I am not planning any parties until a publisher accepts it. I am just going to intensify my research in the final stages of producing a novel.

Hasta luego.

Update: November 5, 2019, Writing and Playlists

Working late at night in an IHOP in Midland, Texas, May 2019 (photo by Francene Kilgore-Slattery)

Yesterday and tonight, I have made some progress in critical plot junctures in Shadows and Stars.

I went to Dumas yesterday to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. I stayed to have a good, tasty dinner of Enchiladas Verdes at El Toro. Afterwards, I stayed close to three hours to write. I got home around 9:30 or 10:00. I had a pain (muscle strain) in my right leg, so I took some Tylenol PM and lay down and listened to more of The Exorcist on audiobook until the pain went away and I could sleep.  I dozed off at some point, then finally rose and went to bed around 1:30. Then I had an idea pop up around 2:00, so I had to get up and write it down before it escaped. So I didn’t get to sleep until close to 3:00. I had to rise at 7:00 to go to work. It’s a good scene, a fun scene that will mix together comedy, drama, and suspense into a few tense minutes.  You’ll have to read the book to find out more. I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

Tonight, I went into Dumas to pick up some groceries. Afterwards, I had the special plate (chile relleno, tamale, enchilada, taco, chalupa, rice and beans) at El Toro, then stayed to write for a couple of hours. I made good progress jotting down ideas I have been having since this morning and filling plot holes in Shadows and Stars.

I decided to make a playlist for each of my works for sale on Amazon as well as for my works in progress. Though this will take some time, it will be interesting and fun…when I am not writing for whatever reason. I hope some of you have been listening to the playlists I already have up. I am really experimenting with trying to capture the mood of a work by producing a sort of soundtrack, hoping that if people listen to the soundtrack, they might become interested in the book. Sort of like when you buy a movie soundtrack at a store without having seen the movie. The soundtracks also help stimulate ideas or set the mood to work on Shadows and Stars. If you listen to any, let me know what you think. I am still tinkering with setting the tunes in an order that best captures the ebb and flow of the mood in the work.

I have only a couple of rudimentary test videos up now. I hope to make some headway soon in developing more professional ones.

I am really enjoying the audiobooks available on YouTube. I have really been catching up on my reading. I can turn on an audiobook, stretch out, and it’s like having someone read a long bedtime story to me. However, my bedtime stories tend to be quite serious in nature: works by Kafka, William Peter Blatty, Dostoevsky, Hesse, etc.

Although my website is not getting many views, the few I get are from all around the world. Today, I had visitors from:

Countries list

Visitors to my website on November 5, 2019, came from these nations.

The Arkansas County Writers Circle website had only three views today, all from Nigeria. Maybe someone from Arkansas is living in Nigeria. In any case, I am happy to have them visit me…unless it’s that phony prince that pesters people for money and promises them a fortune in return. I should find a spot in hell for him in The Man Who Escaped from Hell.

By the way, I am taking a break from reading Upton Sinclair’s The JungleIt’s too depressing. I am now focusing on finishing The Exorcist, which says something about The Jungle. Imagine a book so depressing that one reads The Exorcist for something more light-hearted and fun. After reading the first dozen or so chapters of The Jungle, I have to wonder how humanity has survived for all these millennia without cannibalizing itself. I know Sinclair worked in a stockyard as part of the research for the book, but after having done that and then sitting down to write it, it’s a wonder that Sinclair didn’t just hang himself or lose himself in alcoholism.

That’s all for tonight. Stay tuned. Hasta luego.

Update: YouTube Playlist: Tales of Hell, November 3, 2019

July 29, 2019, in the Bisti Wilderness south of Farmington, NM

One playlist that I neglected to mention during my most recent post on my playlists is one entitled “Tales of Hell“. As you know, I am working on a supernatural horror novel called The Man Who Escaped from Hell. In my research for the novel I have read a few books on hell, read several articles, and so forth (mostly though I will rely on my own concepts and imagination).

However, as I watch a lot of YouTube and I fond of horror and supernatural tales, I am collecting any videos on people who say that they have actually been to hell into a playlist called “Tales of Hell.” No surprises there. This will allow me to gain a few different perspectives, but it will also allow me to see the similarities between the stories. I feel certain that most people’s concept of hell will be the same because of cultural biases; hearing the same tales, myths, and legends; and because of certain archetypes in human psychology. If you have read Joseph Campbell or have seen any of his interviews with Bill Moyers from a few decades back, you will know that Professor Campbell that commonalities in religions and mythologies worldwide are due to commonalities in the human psyche.

The Fallen Angels Entering Pandemonium, from ‘Paradise Lost’, Book 1.

I don’t believe that anyone has actually been to hell and returned to tell the story. I think these stories are hallucinations experienced during the changes in brain functioning and body chemistry while being influenced by a person’s guilty conscience while that person dies.  On those rare occasions that someone returns to life after being clinically dead for a few minutes, they report the experience of having gone to hell, but which is probably more closely related to the ultimate “bad trip”.

But my novel is a work of fiction, not a documentary. In it, I try to make a few points about life and death and the spirit and conscientiousness and several other things.  The best way to do that is by showing the protagonist actually going through hell.

It will be interesting to see how this playlist develops. It will probably make a great horror anthology in its own right.

By the way, I have written around 80,000 words for The Man Who Escaped from Hell. I hope to finish it soon after I have finished Shadows and Stars.  I put it on hiatus until I can finish Shadows and Stars because I have been getting more and more ideas for Shadows and Stars than I have for The Man Who Escaped from Hell.

Update: YouTube Channel, November 2, 2019, Diegaro

Angel Peak

Angel Peak, Bloomfield, NM, 2019

I have added another playlist to aid in writing Shadows and Stars, During one part of the story, the protagonist, Daryn, and his guide/bodyguard, Sero, are trekking across the deep back country. Though trying to avoid people, as they proceed up a steep-walled canyon, they find a huge festival (think Walpurgisnacht) of believers in primitive religions occupies the far end, though they try to avoid it, a wrong turn takes them directly into its heart.  The festival is called the Diegaro (the Gathering of the Great Gods).

So that I can whip up ideas on how to describe the Diegaro, I have started collecting the type of music that would be played there into a YouTube playlist entitled Diegaro.  This consists of primitive, pagan chants, songs, and instruments but modernized. The songs are mostly strong and powerful (think The Hu), though I will probably also have some softer, meditative music in there as well (think Carlos Nakai). I will listen to these periodically and try to gain inspiration and ideas on how to describe the action at the Diegaro.

Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Update: September 30, 2019 Shadows and Stars

Selfie with Lotus in background near Arkansas Post, September 4, 2019

Over the weekend I made some important progress with my novel in progress, Shadows and Stars. Although I have over 80,000 words, there were still some large holes where I could not come up with a good plan to fill them. On Sunday, the 29th, I went to Ameca Mexican Restaurant to have lunch and took my notebook/journal for Shadows and Stars with me as I usually do when I go out to eat or have coffee. After eating (a delicious pollo Chihuahua by the way), I started writing another synopsis of the plot, which is something I do when trying to generate ideas. I try to reduce the entire novel to one sentence, one “elevator pitch”, or what you could find on the back of a dust jacket. The ideas started flowing and I could not stop writing for a few hours. I finally wrote one additional (and important) chapter of about 1,000 words, which I typed into the novel tonight. But, the important take-away is that I finally came up with the entire plot. Now I will continue expanding on that and refining it, until I have the first draft completed, which I hope will be by Halloween. Then I will refine that until I have the novel as perfect as I can make it. Wish me luck.