miscellaneous rambling about recent events

Hello! I am currently on writing vacation, which is great! I needed it after the obsessive editing I just went through. I am currently reading Last Days by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a short story collection. She’s very good. I dig the intensity of her writing and the way her descriptions dig down to the marrow of a thing.

I finished up the book for the contest. It probably isn’t perfect, but I had to let it go. What is perfect? Anything? I keep having these rushes of insecurity, like did I double-check this or what if that punctuation was wrong? Then I push the doubts away. I did the best I could in the time I allotted for the project. Regardless of win or lose, I like the book. It’s a good read, I think. And to keep my perspective about this whole contest business, I keep this quote in mind.

“The goal is the work itself.”

– W. Eugene Smith

He was a photojournalist I recently read about. I love that quote because it’s so simple and true. Whenever I feel myself slipping into a particular, undesirable mindset, I use that idea as a kind of compass to lead me back to where I began.

There was no movie watching this past weekend because we were at a monster truck thing. This was our second year going. It was dusty and dirty and the stadium was filled with carbon monoxide. In other words, it was quite fun. Here are a couple of pictures of my favorite moments.

The first one is from when the Lucas Oil Crusader plowed through an RV. Nice, right? The second pic is from Maximum Destruction who should have changed his name to Efficient Destruction because he was on the track for 14 seconds before he flipped that thing onto its back. In his defense, he did continue to drive it, somehow, while it was upside down.

This coming weekend, we’re going to the Naptown Roller Girls bout. I’ll probably have pictures of that as well. Ah, I hear tell it’s Star Wars Day.




A Movie I Totally Want to See

Hi! I’m doing some very last second books edits before I edit the book contest entry, so this isn’t actually a real blog post. The husband’s birthday is next week. We’re talking about going to see this movie. We’ve been waiting for it to come out FOREVER! Also on the want to see list: Red 2. OMGI’MSOEXCITED!!!

movie: Dark Shadows

dark shadows1

Description from IMDB: “In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin.”

Is that too much? I used the longer description this time.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. First, the setting. Collinwood Manor is very cool. For most of the story, it’s a dilapidated mansion in a nautical theme complete with seahorse statues everywhere. There’s a very good haunted house vibe about it.
The story begins with a tragedy. A witch takes everyone he loves from him, turns him into a vampire and then buries him alive. Think psycho stalker with magic powers.

The plot seemed sort of all over the place. I think they tried to cram too much into a short period of time. We have Barnabas back from the dead, his romance with the nanny who has some interesting problems of her own, a little boy who believes he can speak to his dead mother, their efforts to get the family business running again, a doctor who tries to help him resolve the vampire issue, and the thing with the witch. There’s a lot going on. It does start to come together eventually.

Watching Barnabas navigate the 70s is very funny. He’s confused by a lot of it, of course. He also has some issues getting along with the family members who occupy the house. They’re an eccentric bunch.

He’s also violent. He is a vampire, after all. Barnabas is this glorious mix of bloodthirsty and endearing and very into the ladies. And they like him, too.
Despite its shortcomings, Dark Shadows is fun to watch. It gets a B.

An interview with Gary Dolman, author of The Eight Circle of Hell

Today I have an interview with the talented UK author Gary Dolman! His book The Eighth Circle of Hell is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and various other retailers. He has another book coming out in 2013, entitled Seven Gifts of Madness.

Welcome, Gary!gary

What led you to become a writer?

I am as unlikely a novelist as you will ever come across. When I began writing creatively, which was around four years ago, I had a lot of very difficult circumstances in my life; hardship and illness and death and I really began to write as a catharsis and a way of coping with these.

One evening I was visiting my father in the nursing home where he was dying of Alzheimer’s disease when the elderly lady sitting in the chair next to his suddenly began screaming and screaming, begging some uncle to stop, that he was hurting her. Of course it made me begin to imagine what sort of horrors she must have been reliving and that led in turn to The Eighth Circle of Hell.

What authors inspire and/or influence your work?

I am really the sum of very many influences because like many writers I have always read widely and voraciously. The biggest of those influences I guess would be Charles Dickens, Thomas Harris, (who is a master at describing the pain of mental disorder, Arthur Conan Doyle and Shelley.

The Eighth Circle of Hell is published by Thames River Press. What was your journey to publication like? Did you enlist the assistance of an agent?

Unless you are already an established ‘name’, the road to publication seems almost always to be a tortuous one. I did begin in the usual way, by submitting queries to literary agents, and I was eventually accepted by one. However, because The Eighth Circle of Hell is not the most obviously commercial of novels and because many of the larger publishing houses were also becoming increasingly cautious about taking on new writers in the wake of the recession, he couldn’t place me. He therefore, quite understandably I suppose, terminated our contract.

I began to research small and medium-sized publishers and started to make submissions to those I thought were the best fit for my work. One of those was Thames River Press, an imprint of the Wimbledon Publishing Company of London. The Submissions Editor duly accepted the manuscript and we spent the next two years or so revising and polishing the manuscript until it was right for publication.

The book is based in the 1800s. Are you a history buff? What made you choose that particular era?

I am very much a history buff. The plot for The Eighth Circle of Hell was to centre on the sexual abuse of girls. When I began to research the history of the subject, I stumbled across what is probably the greatest social scandal in modern British history – The Victorian Defloration Mania. This was in essence, the almost industrial-scale trade in adolescent girls who were procured by the wealthy classes for rape. The story of the hundreds of thousands of young, innocent girls caught up in that horrific time really had to be told.

What sort of research did you have to do in order to make the story come alive?

Everything I describe in The Eighth Circle of Hell, from the padded rooms to the procuresses, from life in the workhouse to that in the linen mill, is based on thoroughly researched fact. To bring it alive, I had to try to drop myself into the situation of the characters, to feel their agony as best I could and then to voice it.

Research is hugely important in historical fiction. If you state something that isn’t factually correct, there are enough people out there who really know the subject to make sure it comes back to bite you. Research must involve every aspect of setting and dialogue. Streets for example may not have existed at the time you write about or words might not have been coined. Never take anything for granted.

There’s a quote on your blog that pertains to the manuscript for Seven Gifts of Madness. You said you were “left with several layers of pomposity and arrogance to peel away” from the writing. I know remaining objective about your own writing can be difficult. How did you know which parts of the story or writing ventured into arrogance territory?

That was quite easy; the submissions editor rather bluntly told me so and suggested a major rewrite, which I duly did. Sitting alone for hours over a keyboard is not the best way to maintain objectivity about a manuscript. The Eighth Circle of Hell is quite literary and I tried too hard to achieve even more with Seven Gifts of Madness. I hope I have the balance just about right now and I have the reassurance that the manuscript will be revised further at substance-editing and final-review stages.

Are any aspects of Lizzie’s (protagonist of The Eighth Circle of Hell) personality based on anyone you know?

The inspiration for the character was drawn from the elderly lady in the nursing home. Like Lizzie, she has passed on now, and is at peace. Lizzie’s personality I derived from a number of people I know, all of whom have suffered severe (but not necessarily sexual) trauma at some point in their adolescence.

What experience do you want for your readers?

That is a very good question. The theme of the novel is that of Dante’s Divine Comedy (from which the title is derived); Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. I want the reader to feel each of these elements in turn: the Hell of sexual abuse, the Purgatory of Lizzie’s memories of this and her eventual pleasure and relief in death. There are also three distinct murders in the story. I want the reader to make his or her own mind up as to the justification, if not necessity of each. And I would also like them to be informed about how hypocritical and brutal Victorian Britain could be.

eighth cover

The Eighth Circle of Hell is available at:


Barnes and Noble

The Victorian age is often held up as a shining era of British history, a time of wealth and power, of civilisation and philanthropy. It was all of these. Yet it was also a time of cruelty and depravity, where power and wealth were too-often used for ill-purpose and exploitation. It was the time of the ‘Defloration Mania’, where young girls were bought and sold like the slaves they became. Elizabeth Wilson is an elderly woman who has spent a lifetime of grinding toil and poverty in a workhouse. She fled there as a young girl, pregnant and penniless, to escape her depraved uncle and his powerful friends. However, advancing dementia has caused her to regress inexorably back in her life, to the point where she is once again re-living the hellish memories of her life as an orphaned child. [NP] ‘The Eighth Circle of Hell’ is a bleak study of the stark contrast between the polite, strictly ordered society of the Victorian age, and the utter depravity and exploitation of the vulnerable it shielded. This story demonstrates how in the furnace of shared adversity, enmities and friendships can be forged that will last a lifetime, and which are more enduring than the boundaries of life and death.

Gary Dolman was born on Tyneside in the early 1960s but grew up in Harrogate in Yorkshire where he now lives with his wife, three children and three dogs. His writing reflects his fascination by the aberrations of the human mind.

Gary’s blog is HERE.

The Fog of Ward.

It’s been a few weeks since author Peter David suffered a stroke while on holiday in Florida with his family. Since that time, he’s continued to make steady progress in his recovery and rehab, and his wife, Kathleen, has been doing a tremendous job keeping friends, colleagues and fans updated…all while juggling the four thousand or so other balls she has in the air.

In addition to the continued influx of well-wishes and other good vibes, one question which has repeatedly asked by concerned folks is “How can I help?” Back on January 4th, Kathleen posted an entry to Peter’s blog on just how to do that, and this morning she’s offered up some new information. In addition to buying some of Peter’s various books and comics, either through Crazy 8 Press or other venues, people also can make direct donations which will go toward such things as copays for doctor visits and other…

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Editing: Method and Resources

I submitted an entry to the Amazon Breakthrough novel contest this year. I was delighted to find that I can edit my entry up until 1/27, which means, yes, I get a little more time to hunt for typos. Woo!

I thought I would write something about my editing process, just because that’s what I’m doing. I’ve written about it before in the past, but methods change.
This is not to say that my stuff is 100 percent error-free. Please trust me when I say, I’m perfectly aware that I screw up sometimes. I would like to think I get things right more often than I get them wrong.

That being said, this is what the most recent work has gone through and continues to go through at this moment. I hope someone might get some ideas for their own edits, so that I may feel like a superhero word nerd.

Step One of the edit. Distance is extremely helpful. I used to wait between the rough draft and the first rewrite, however, I have changed my mind. When I reach the end of the rough draft, the story is still fresh in my mind. I go back to the beginning and see if everything vibes. I burn the book to the ground if I need to rebuild. This is primarily a story edit, but I fix any grammar issues I find as well, mostly because I can’t help myself, plus, what if I don’t catch them on the next read-thru?

Next, I walk away from it. I work on something else while my manuscript cools off in the virtual drawer. This is usually when I crank out another rough draft.
I return, eventually. This is an evaluation. What parts of the book did I skip over because I was in a hurry? Does this make sense? That’s a big one. Sometimes, I’ll read a sentence or a paragraph and wonder what the hell I meant. Did Brain go on autopilot again?

This is the read-thru that requires significant patience. I need to look at the work as objectively as possible in order to determine where the weak points lie. I look for repetitive words and phrases, also a biggie. In this most recent book, I discovered that while writing the rough draft, I developed an obsession with the word ‘few’. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps I was lacking something. I deleted a bunch of ‘fews’.

Oh no, now the word sounds weird. Few few few. Almost like the laser sound effect pew pew pew. Ack.

After another, probably, 2 read-thrus, the manuscript travels to the editor. She reads it, giving me distance once again while it’s gone. During this time, I probably edit the other story I wrote.

I get it back from the editor and make the needed changes. Then I read it again, this time for minor phrasing issues and typos. I catch problems I probably should have caught before it went to the editor.

A couple more read-thrus and typo checks ensue. I try to keep myself from tumbling into obsession.

The last read-thru is a hands-off edit, which means I try to fix typos, only. I find other minor issues, too, but ideally, it’s supposed to be a typo search. That’s what I’m doing right now.

I’ve also been using some online resources pretty heavily, just to double-check various items.

Oxford dictionary and sometimes Merriam Webster

Wikipedia if I need a visual and/or the word is out of the ordinary

White smoke online grammar check for the occasional, questionable sentence. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it makes me feel better.

And Google for questions like – can I start a sentence with (insert word type here)?

I’ve also run the Microsoft Word spelling and grammar checker multiple times. It catches some mistakes, but it isn’t as good as one might expect it to be for what their software costs.

And then, I reach the time to let the book go. Born freeeeee! Free as the wind blows. As free as the grass grows.

I’m getting there soon. Very soon. It’s a weird feeling after working on the book for so long.


movie: Moonrise Kingdom

Hola! How was the weekend. Good, yes? We had some warm weather, followed by flooding, followed by freezing. Delightful. Actually, the warm weather part was delightful!

The movie for this weekend was Moonrise Kingdom.


Here’s the description from IMDB: “Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down — which might not be such a bad thing.”

This movie was going to go one of two ways. It was either to be boring as crap or super awesome. I thought it was super awesome.

The kids were hilarious. They were so very old school, not the politically correct movie kids that are typical of most of today’s movies. For instance, the child main character smokes a pipe pretty much throughout the story. Many of the children are also seen with various items they should not be in possession of, such as weapons.

The story is very endearing. The love between the kids is so sincere an adorable. And most of the grownups were equally awesome. Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, and other assorted great actors.

Moonrise Kingdom is colorful and quirky and very entertaining. It gets an A.