27 June, 2013

The silence, 'tis deafening

Unlike before, when I forced myself to take a break between the first draft and the second, I do not have novel-related things to work on to keep me occupied. I have three-four weeks to kill, and so far I have crickets chirping as if to cheer my lack of productivity. I mean, I have written a first-draft query letter, but that's gotta sit now, too.

I suppose I could do more character biographies, just so I know where they've come from and where they're going. I will take suggestions if anyone has any! :)

25 June, 2013

The halfway mark

Yesterday, I finished my second draft edits.

*CONFETTI!*

Yup. I hit one more milestone with this novel, which is two more than the first novel I tried to write. Now, I need to take a mental break from the novel, step back from it and rest. I cannot allow myself to look at it, otherwise when it comes to round three, I won't have those fresh eyes to catch my mistakes. It's amazing what you see when you have a month or more between your drafts.

I don't know how many of you have heard of scribophile.com, but it's a critiquing website for serious writers. I'll be spending the next month or so over there, getting my act together, and getting additional feedback on my novel as far as plot, characterization, theme, consistency, etc. I'll be doing this before I start work on the third draft, so that I can take their suggestions into account and bring you a much better novel.

I gotta say, just on my own, I can see a dramatic difference between the quality of the first draft, and the quality of the second draft. I can only imagine how stark the contrast between the second and third will be.

On the flipside of things, I have been trying for months to come up with a term or phrase that would describe my novel's world. It's based heavily on our Earth, but it's not our Earth. It's a different Earth, a fake Earth. Long story short, I stumbled upon two articles on Wikipedia detailing natural, celestial phenomena known as a Moon Dog and a Sun Dog. Considering what the events entail, I thought of doing something similar.

"Earth Dog" will describe the world, to say that it is a fake/mock Earth, similar to our own yet extremely different. If I were to build a series of books set in this same world, I would refer to them as the Earth Dog series, or the Earth Dog novels. I don't have a sequel planned (yet), but you'll just have to stay tuned to find out if there's more to see of Fredderick ger Grimmbone or his family.

21 June, 2013

Math: Not just for the classroom

Yes, I do math so you don't have to!

Interesting bit I found while I was editing -- I had a line about a mob of deer swarming a field in a night and eating half the crops. You may not think much about that, but when I stared at it for a few minutes, I knew something was off. I kept staring, and staring, and staring, and then I realized my math was wrong. Impossibly wrong.

The estate is about 7-8 miles², including all buildings, farming land, grazing land, fallowed land, etc. Between the property (i.e. where the estate home sits), the fallowed land, and the grazing land, there's only about 2,000 acres², or 3.125 miles² to farm. Half that to 1,000 acres² and . . . yeah. Impossible for deer to eat through in a night.

Solution: Boar.

Wild boar will eat about 3-5% of their body weight a day, but they do so much damage. This article may be old, but it gives you an idea of just how destructive wild boar can be. What's worse, is that a sounder of boar can grow to include 50 or more, and that's a lot of feet trampling over crops.

There's no way a mob of deer can compete with the brute force of a sounder of boar, and I'm so very glad I found that mistake now.

19 June, 2013

What a silly catch

So, as a status update, I'm on Chapter 8 of 12 of my edits. Yup, I'm on that grand, downward slope towards the end of my 2nd draft. Since I took that break in between drafts, I've had the fresh eyes to catch my silly mistakes before I upload the chapters to a critiquing website for input from others, and I'm rather happy I did this look first.

I've caught two silly mistakes, quite often repeated, as far as spelling choice. Reign and rein, for instance -- I'm dealing with nobles, so both words get used in Uncertain Heirs, but I noticed my common mistake: "The chauffeur reigned reined in the horses". For whatever reason, I always substituted reign where it didn't need to be.

My other weird, yet consistent mistake, was writing lead in place of past tense led every. Single. Time. I know the difference, I really do, but for some reason I wrote it wrong -- but I did it consistently, which fascinates me beyond measure.

This, folks, is the perfect reason for why you should take three to four weeks rest in-between drafts. Fresh eyes catch the silly mistakes, and save you from the "OMG! I should have caught this" embarrassment of having others read it and catch it for you.

15 June, 2013

Book Ratings -- Do they exist?

The answer is "Yes", and here's why: Books have always been distinguished by their audience, whether that be for children or for adults. Other categories have since arose based upon ages, which means we now have a more comprehensive rating system:
  • Children
    • Picture Book (ages 0-5)
    • Early Reader (ages 5-7)
    • Chapter Book (ages 7-12)
  • Middle Grade (MG) (ages 8-12) Note: This appears to be the term replacing "Chapter Book".
  • Young Adult (YA) (ages 12-18)
  • New Adult (NA) (ages 18-30)
  • Adult (ages 25+)
Common sense tells you that this lines up with the movie industry's ratings:
  • G
  • PG
  • PG-13
  • R
  • NC-17
Adult will not necessarily be NC-17, obviously, since there're so many romance novels that feature platonic love, not erotic; but at least a classification exists that will guide a reader in their choices. If we think of book ratings in terms of the MPAA ratings, then we, as readers, can make presumptions about the possible content.

For more on the MPAA film rating system, check out this explanation here.

12 June, 2013

What have you read?

A friend of mine shared this list on facebook, so I'm not quite sure where the original came from -- it suggests the BBC released the list. Anyway, here's how this works:
BOLD: Books you have read.
UNDERLINE: Books you have started, but haven't finished.
ITALICIZE: Books in your queue.
Leave blank anything you haven't read.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series –
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchel
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I've completed 21/100 works listed here (tis more, total, because of series grouped together), and I have 7 in progress and 22 in my queue. Apparently, the average person has only read 6 of the works listed, so I think I'm doing well for myself.

How about you? What books have you read?

08 June, 2013

Changing landscapes (New Amsterdam)

Source: http://pinterest.com/pin/73605775130787783/
When you write an story with an alternate history, there can be changes on however small or grand a scale you want. I like to draw from real world history (as far as places are concerned) and look at the reasons an area was founded, as well as what prior names the place might have had. Everyone knows New York, NY, but not everyone knows that it was originally founded as a trading port and named New Amsterdam. It was only later, when the British took over the area, that the name was changed to New York (in honour of the Duke of York).

For my novel, it's still New Amsterdam, and it's still a major trading port. But I had to think of ways to alter it physically and keep it paced with my Steampunk influence. Obviously, looking at the above picture on the right shows how the skyline of New York has changed in 150 years time.


New Amsterdam has evolved at a slower pace. Not only that, but the areas of growth are also different. For New York, southern Manhattan took off as the business centre while northern Manhattan became predominantly residential districts. New Amsterdam is the reverse. The southern end of the island, known as the Terrace, has the town houses for the gentry of Assenisippia (if they are of high enough rank to afford it, that is), and the northern end, known as the Arcade, is the business centre.


The Bronck family owns north of the Harlaem River, and has developed it into an industrial area -- integrated mills, floundries, etc. So the business end of town grew up along the Harlaem River, because trade ships came up one side, across the Harlaem, and back down the other to go out to sea. There are fish markets, butcheries, produce markets, in a U around the Arcade, while the interior comprises athletic clubs, social clubs, gentles clubs, and private clubs (associated with alumni of universities or academies). There's the Heminges-Pope Amphitheatre, too, and smaller venues that are open to the general public to watch rehearsals. Then there're the basic shops (tailors, jewelry, clothing, etc.) and the assorted doctors and trade-smiths.

There're also "blue clubs", which are up-scale brothels (choice of male or female) that operate by appointment only; typically have waiting lists; and are expensive for full-service, but reasonable for education of youth (re: when I say youth, I mean the ones who are just coming to season who are 15-16 years old -- yes, you're a legal adult at 16). Bathhouses are common, too, and are prominent throughout the Terrace and the Arcade, many of which are attached to the various clubs, making them exclusive to members.

Oh, and before I forget -- there's a "castle wall" in a U around the Terrace that has been heavily modified from its original design. Sections of it have been removed so the town house properties can have their private docks.

01 June, 2013

The Clinical, The Euphemistic, and The Vulgar

Disclaimer: This blog is about sex, and how writers approach it using word choices specific to their demographic audience. If you don't wish to continue reading, I've conveniently broken the page.


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Ash Litton

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, Comeuppance, and Cabover Cabaret, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she's not writing, she's drawing, and when she's not doing either of those, she's dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.