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Archive for the ‘Carousels’ Category

I think it’s finally spring here in west Michigan. The birds have been returning, led by the robins and geese. A random snow shower might still pop up uninvited; Michigan can be, after all, quite tempestuous. But the grass is greening up, the horses are finally shedding their heavy winter coats, and the ORV park out at Silver Lake opened this month.

Which means it’s difficult to concentrate on not only my work at the library, but also on my book, Lift. First in the Flying Ponies series, it’s sitting on my old desk in my office at home, waiting for me to complete its editing. I know I need to buckle down and get to it, but the warm weather keeps calling me outside. Our kids are taking lambs to the county fair this year, and last night we worked on building their pen. No editing was accomplished.

I don’t actually mind editing. I know whatever I do now will only strengthen the story. My first reader gave it a good review, and also pointed out some things that need fixing, which is what a first reader should do. I have a plan of action to fix what’s broken. Now it’s just a matter of getting down to it.

The first story in the Pentallian Chronicles is coming along. The rewrite is much better than my first attempt at telling the story. And I’ve started making notes and finding character pictures for a future story (more on that in a future post). Unfortunately, none of that is helping get Lift edited. So it sits on my desk, half of it highlighted, the other half waiting. The highlighting is to help me make sure all of the various plot threads make it all the way through the book, and don’t suddenly drop off or stop. So far, everything looks good.

But the sun still calls, and the dunes are beckoning, as are the trails. My horse needs brushing to get all his winter fuzz off. There are so many other things I’d really rather be doing than sitting at good old Wellington (my desk) and pouring over a manuscript. Still, it has to be done. I have to find the motivation. The Flying Ponies deserve a chance to shine. Their story should be told.

So in the end, the dunes and trails will have to wait. My XJ and my horse can chill in the sun a little longer. And once Lift is done and sent off to my publisher, then I too can go play in the sunshine.

 

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So I know I haven’t updated this website in quite a while, and I apologize for that. I do, however, have some big news about the Flying Ponies. I finished the first book (as yet untitled) on Valentines Day, and am letting it sit for a few weeks before taking on the task of editing it. The rough draft is now in the hands of my first reader, my oldest niece. She is an aspiring writer, too, and she’s good – I have no doubt she’ll become a best-selling writer.

After doing research on the best ways to get published, and looking at scores of agents’ websites, I decided to be brave and become a self-published writer. K. R. Conway, author of the best-selling YA series Undertow and owner of Wicked Whale Publishing, is helping me along on my journey. She is walking me through how to become an indie author, and I feel confident being in her capable hands.

I will keep you updated on the progress of my first novel. My other writing plans include finishing the rewrite of the first Pentallian series, and beginning research for a dieselpunk story.

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As many of you writers know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or for those who like acronyms: NANOWRIMO. I’ve been a semi-active participant for the last few years, as have been a few of my coworkers. It’s fun, and sometimes I do get fairly far with whatever project I’m currently working on. This year, since I’m already 176 pages deep into The Flying Ponies, I decided to write a diary from the viewpoint of my main character’s great, great grandmother. The diary is really just meant for me so I know the backstory on the Flying Ponies Grand Carousel, but who knows – if the book takes off, perhaps the diary will someday be published.

The diary is being written in a pretty cool leather journal I scored at Barnes and Noble a few years ago. I have a gel ink pen that looks like a giant white feather to write with, and that’s fun, too. It’s been quite a while since I’ve handwritten anything other than notes for a story. But the real fun, for me, has been the research. Adara, the writer of the journal, lives in Brooklyn during the Roaring Twenties, and she frequents the infamous Coney Island. I’ve been a fan of the place for quite a while now, because I love amusement parks and carousels, and the Island has quite the storied past.

I’d heard of the Dreamland fire, in 1911, that completely wiped out that beautiful park. It was never rebuilt, leaving only Steeplechase (which burned but was rebuilt) and Luna Park to dominate the Island, along with the infamous Boardwalk and Bowery, but I’m learning a lot more. Coney Island still operates, and a few of the historic rides are still there, including the newly-refurbished B & B Carousell (that’s actually how it’s spelled), and the Cyclone coaster. But I doubt it’s anything like it was back in the twenties, when a million people would come to the Island to lay on the beaches and take spins on all the rides.

I also doubt that a lot of people like to do research; I feel that a lot of writers think it takes time away from the writing. And it does, certainly. But to get that authenticity for your  story, to really get inside a character’s head who’s in that time period, it’s absolutely essential. I have pages and pages of research on Coney Island, and have books coming that talk about the park during the different decades of operation. I need to know what roller coasters and carousels and dark houses were on the streets of the Island so that Adara and her boyfriend can move through them and have it be real.

Without doing your research, your story will fall flat, because guaranteed, someone out there reading it will know something about the subject you’re writing about, or the time period your characters are in, and if it’s not right, you’ll hear about it. If I’ve learned anything at all from writing fan fiction, it’s that the fans LOVE to tell you when you’re wrong. And with fan fiction, because there are so many stories out there, if you get it wrong once, you’re likely to lose that reader forever. And though I’m not yet published, I’m guessing it’s the same with published books.

So whether you hate it or love it, do your research. Do it because your story, and your characters, are worth the time and effort. And you’ll learn a lot, and thus, so will your readers.

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Sometimes you have characters, and those characters just know, instinctively, where they are going to live, what they are going to do, etc. I thought I knew where the Flynn family was going to be living –  in a giant mansion in Smoke City. But that wasn’t where Charlotte (the second oldest) wanted to live, apparently, because now they’re living in a giant old mansion out in the middle of a dark wood, with a mysterious carousel that Charlotte finds.

Funny how that works, huh? And maybe funny that there’s a carousel, of all things, out in the woods. I’ve always liked carousels, with their painted ponies and carnival music that shades toward the creepy side sometimes. Frozen in mid-stride, or perhaps mid-leap, those old wooden horses spin around day after day, playing in a world increasingly less in awe of their mystical powers. Because I dare you to take a ride on the armored horse or the leaping prancer and not feel something magical. Go on. I can wait. But it might take you a while to find one of these old carnival relics.

The idea to write something about a carousel horse has been floating around in my mind for a  very long time. Being a horse person, I’ve always been drawn to the wooden ponies. But it wasn’t until I took a picture of an old unrestored (he has been now, as far as I can gather) carousel horse and paired it with the Flynn family that their story really started to take shape. And it’s still taking shape as I write this. Being only six or seven pages into the manuscript, it’s difficult to tell where they’re really headed. But I bet it’s someplace magical and haunting and okay, maybe a bit creepy. After all, the carousels of old held honor in places like the White City (Luna City, later) and Coney Island, places where creepiness was just part of their charm.

But can you take that charmed creepiness, that weird mixture of magic and spookiness, and make it into something worth while? Will people want to read it? It doesn’t really matter. The best advice as far as writing goes that I’ve ever read is write for you. Don’t play to the trends. Whatever it is that makes you tick, that infinitesimal stuff that makes you you, is enough to create good stories. And for me, right now, it’s a fascination with wooden flying ponies that started the very first time my mom put me up on one at the local county fair.

Because, you see, there’s still some magic left in the world. And no, I’m not talking sorcerers and flying brooms, or witches and cauldrons. I mean the magic that, when you were a child, you didn’t struggle to find – it was just there. It was part of you. And it’s still there. You just have to find it. For some, it’s a trip to Disney World or Land, or going back to the place where you spent your summers.

I find the magic, my magic, in the wooden ponies of the carousel, resplendent in gold and silver and jewels, with fierce expressions and eyes that, if you choose to look into them, will transport you to worlds you never knew existed. And maybe someday, I’ll be able to share that magic with you.

 

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