Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Monday, May 9, 2016

Interview with Annie Douglass Lima, author of The Gladiator & the Guard

Since the 1990’s, a surge of fantasy writing has established new categories such as paranormal and dystopian. Dystopian is somewhat the opposite of utopian in that there are horrifying features in the fictional landscape. At Authonomy.com, a site HarperCollins maintained for book writers, I read the first chapters of many such novels, usually vampire, zombie, and apocalyptic scenarios. These imaginative ventures made me curious about the popularity of the genres and why young authors chose them or were driven to write the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Annie Douglass Lima interviewed me about my fantasy, The House in Windward Leaves, at her blog, Letters from Annie (Douglass) Lima. In her Realm Explorers weekly interviews, the blog covers a variety of fantasies and science fiction novels. These interviews are intriguing in that authors answer questions about their speculative world.

I’ve interviewed Annie in this post. Published in April, The Gladiator and the Guard is the second book of a series. The series presents a dystopian society that might be startling because such societies have taken hold in human history, and to the demise of the society. Yet the fight against slavery continues as a concept.

Annie's first book from this series The Collar and the Cavvarach was recently reviewed in Publisher's Weekly! She gives more information about that book after the interview.



















Interview Questions


Congratulations, Annie Douglass Lima!   You published your book The Gladiator & the Guard on April 22nd.
1) Could you give a synopsis or some words about your book? 

Sure!
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

This is actually the sequel to another book, The Collar and the Cavvarach. Here’s the synopsis of that first book:
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

2) Where can the book or information about it be found?   Links?
The Collar and the Cavvarach is available on Amazon here.
The Gladiator and the Guard is available on Amazon here and Smashwords here.

3) Thinking on your book, how do you remember its beginnings as an idea?   After you decided to do this book, how did it proceed?

I’ve had the idea growing in my mind for the last few years.  It started as just a picture of the setting and its culture: a world almost exactly like ours, but with legalized slavery.  The main characters, Bensin (a teenage slave and martial artist) and Steene (his owner and coach) emerged gradually, along with the plot (Bensin’s struggle to protect and free his younger sister, and then later his struggle to survive as a gladiator).
4) How did your fantasy panorama develop? Would you describe it as a parallel reality or as a place of its own? 
You could say it’s a little of both, actually. Though the Krillonian Empire, where this story is set, is a world of its own, I purposely made it almost exactly like our world. I wanted it to seem so real and immediate that readers would be able to relate to it all the better – and be all the more disturbed by the injustice of slavery there. To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.)

5) Did you understand the characters in your book at first or did they reveal themselves as you wrote the story?  Did they respond to your plot as you planned?

I planned out all my characters beforehand, and for the most part, they cooperated with my ideas. But some of my characters seemed to take matters into their own hands and decide they wanted a different role than the one I had planned for them.  For example, City Watch officer (the equivalent of a police officer) Kalgan Shigo ended up playing a much bigger part than I had anticipated.  While still a minor character, he is a more important one (in both books) than he was originally supposed to be, and he plays a different – and much needed – role in Bensin’s life.  I loved watching him take charge and step into the position he wanted!
6) Why did you choose the fantasy genre?

Reality just doesn’t offer me enough freedom as a writer!  I like to be able to make the rules.  When I read, I like knowing that things could happen that just can’t in the real world.  Having said that, The Collar and the Cavvarach isn’t really fantasy, at least not in the typical sense. If you were to step into that world, you would probably assume you were still in our own world – except for a few key details, like the prevalence of slavery.
7) How do you like to describe your background? How has that affected your imagination and your writing?


I have an international background! I was born in Southern California but raised mostly in Kenya.  As a young adult, I spent a year teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in Indonesia, which was an incredible experience.  Shortly after returning to the States, I married my husband Floyd, and the two of us lived there for several years before moving to Taiwan, where we live now.

I’ve been privileged to visit or live in a total of twenty different countries so far, and those experiences have definitely played a role in my writing. I love getting to know different cultures and the differences between them, and I was glad for the chance to illustrate this in my recent fantasy novel Prince of Malorn (part of my Annals of Alasia series). Prince Korram has to deal with when he travels into the Impassables to seek the help of the Mountain Folk.  In Malorn, Mountain Folk and Lowlanders tend to distrust each other and avoid contact whenever possible, and both sides claim that the other mistreats them.  I wanted to show that often, it just takes better understanding to lead to acceptance and appreciation of another culture.  That, and the willingness to learn new ways of doing things and respect others’ customs even when they’re different.

I’ve based a few details of Jarreon’s culture on the culture here in Taiwan. The convenient boxed meals and the importance of New Year, for example. In addition, competition winners receive award money in red envelopes. As in Taiwan, some in Jarreon’s lower class chew betel nut, a legal drug sold in shops decorated with flashing colored lights.
8) What books in the genre of yours were your favorites?  Did they inspire you to write?
I’ve always enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings series. More recently, I’ve grown to love the Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. They didn’t really inspire me to write; I’ve just always known I wanted/needed to write. I started my first novel (never finished) at age seven. But those books, and many others, have definitely fueled my imagination.

9) During the times when you’re not writing, what sort of activities feed into your imagination?  Do you take walks or talk with others in person or on the internet?
I love to read; that definitely feeds my imagination, as mentioned above. When I’m stuck on a scene, I often talk it over with my husband, who is usually able to give me good ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Sometimes I ask for suggestions on Facebook, especially if I’m trying to come up with a name for a character or place. I have lots of online friends who have enjoyed giving input into my books like that.

10) Do you have another job?  It seems that some jobs work better with writing than others.  Is yours compatible?

Yes, I’m a 5th grade teacher in an international school. Though I love my job, I must admit I wish it left me with more time for writing.  In the evenings my brain is often so fried after a long day that I just can’t get much done, so most of my writing happens in the early mornings or on weekends or school holidays.  But one thing I really enjoy is the fact that my students are at the right age (though at the younger end of the spectrum) to enjoy most of what I write.  I read one or two of my books aloud to my class every year, and their feedback helps me polish and improve them.  It’s really helped me see what kinds of scenes and characters appeal to readers of that age.
11) What are your plans for writing?   Will you write another book in this series or strike out into another direction?
There will probably be one more book in this series, though I’m tossing around ideas that may eventually lead to other stories set in the same world. In the meantime, I’m working on a final book in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series, which should be ready to publish in the next few months. I also have a science fiction novel that I drafted for last year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in November). I hope to have that one polished and ready for publication in another year or so. Lots of irons in the fire!

Thank you, Annie!
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for letting me visit your blog!

From Annie
 
I'm excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach


First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  


Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.




  



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On individual attention for trees, people, and books

Because of an antiquated sewer system and a plan for road widening, about 200 boulevard trees were chopped down on East Fourth Street in Duluth a few months ago. Third and Second Streets are both one-way so most people could skirt the process conveniently. It all happened in about a week. One day, walking, I saw the tree removal and my footsteps seemed to sink into the ground as my spirit sorrowed. I could only walk by once.


Fall on Fourth Street, 2014



 
Fourth Street, March, 2016
I am glad I took this dreamy picture on the sidewalk of one residence when all the trees were there. A lovely entrance to a front yard. But the vines on this portal were ripped, I last saw, and stumps were near it. 
 



Although there are many troubles in the world and although the Duluth area is filled with trees, this symbolized something for me. It was the lack of individual attention. Sewer work has been going on in Duluth for years. Roads have been excavated with huge cushioning tires revealed under them. 
 

At another location where I lived, a side street was opened up. The workmen finally removed a boulevard tree. An elderly woman in the house behind the tree was angry because that tree had beautiful fall color. The tree wasn't very old so it was said that its root system wouldn't survive the bulldozer. 
 

A boulevard tree in my current view was near an excavation but it wasn't felled. Unfortunately, its spectacular fall color, what enhanced my bedroom view, was a dull, short-lived yellow the next year. Two springs later, the tree did not grow leaves at all. The city finally put a red X on it, and a few weeks later, chopped it down. Before they did, a crow sat on it. Quoth the crow, nevermore. I'm sorry I didn't get the picture. But it would only look like a crow sitting on a winter tree.


There is a fragrant lilac smell and blossoming on young trees in the neighborhood. I asked people what these new trees were but didn't encounter anyone who knew. Someone on Faceboook suggested that they were Japanese lilac trees and linked me. That was the tree.
 


University tree experts could not predict how many of the 200 trees would survive the Fourth Street excavation. I wished they had been allowed the chance to survive. I know that when a tree dies and a crow mourns it, the tree removal guys are not resented. But the widening of Fourth Street caused the trees to be treated as a group or even a population.


This brought to mind refugees and the challenge of numbers versus individual attention. The displacement of so many people presents a much more urgent crisis for governments. Books are the focus of this blog and the problem is there. More books are being published than ever before while the sorting of them is difficult, more important than it would seem to be. I have to admire the used books trade for sorting old books. Young people looking for jobs often feel that they are not really considered. People displaced don't want their lives sorted out in large groups. 
 

Before the internet, many people felt anonymous, desperate for their resume to be noticed. Urban identities tended to be stereotyped to a group. The internet and its documentation was a kind of savior. At its advent, people thought they would be treated as numbers in the hands of a robot. Surprisingly, computer life developed into a restoration of identity, easily found. There appeared to be hope that a person could find themself amid large numbers of people. And the computer saved trees.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Writing poetry and how that becomes diary

One of the things I'm happy about this New Year is that in the past months, I went over all of my poetry, formatting it digitally for editorial benefit and revising when needed, and it was needed. The formatting was technical. I removed all tabs and used the digital spacing in Word paragraph formatting for any lines that didn't start flush left. The revising was another project. I had organized my poems into three books, and then there were others.


I have never kept a diary and though I've tried to journal in my lifetime, I didn't keep that up. But I kept up a poetry journal, small notebooks with images, reflections, realizations, and piquing moments. The entries were sketchy, ideas to fill out.



The poetry I wrote over the years became a private diary. As poetry, it was written for others and for poetry itself. But for me, a poem told about a season of my life and what I was contemplating then. The test was how evocative it was, recalling scenes and moods and concerns. When the poems brought back particular months, places, and sights, I could relive the days that inspired them.



Memory is a funny thing. As I got older, the feelings of the past seemed to drain from memory and events remained. That can be disheartening! I remember what happened but often I don't recall the sensations, the moods, the thoughts I had then. Beyond a diary entry, a poem recalled the person I was before I had changed and lost my younger attitudes.



The poems I wrote were in about three varieties: poems where nature could reflect human issues, poems about the dream world and its relation to life, and narrative poems. I had many published in literary journals along the way. I usually worked during the day, and, while I liked to write fiction before work, only spending an hour or so on those projects, I wrote poetry after work, usually before I made dinner or while it was cooking. That was a relaxation time, a period where a poem might allow me to forget the day and ponder something I'd seen or wanted to explore. I often had a glass of wine when I was writing. The experience established my own time and it opened up the evening.



Because I also wrote fiction, poetry became a more confidential and honest expression of creative writing for me. Besides its being a private diary, it was revised to be snapshots in words and thoughts. I realized, rereading the poems, that some of the happenings were beginning to fade and I might not have recollected them - and especially because they connected to inner life.



My most recent poem published is in Review Americana. That is the literary journal published by americanpopularculture.com. Their book publishing branch, Press Americana and Hollywood Books International was the publisher of my short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Short Stories (seen under the blog tab Short Fiction and Plays.)

In the last year, I was also published in three excellent print journals, Cider Press Review, Thin Air Magazine, and  Agave Magazine, besides being published again in the internet journal Shadowtrain.



Before the internet, I found good lists of literary journals in the annual Pushcart volumes and also at literary organizations such as The Loft in Minneapolis. When I went to the internet, I found a site named NewPages. They maintained extensive lists of literary journals, both traditional print and internet journals. Since the early 2000's, it was interesting to watch the traditional journals adding internet reading to their publishing. I've thought it fantastic how the internet could support art with poetry, short stories, and prose nonfiction. Reading these journals is never time wasted and usually illuminating.




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True or false? The imagination as scientific theory

**Claude:  A Dog of the Sixties is FREE Kindle Nov 26-30**

Imagination usually has a positive connotation. Lies are “falsehoods uttered or acted to deceive”, my old Webster's dictionary says. There was a period, it seems in the 1990's, when some interviewed about the fictional process claimed facetiously that they were good liars.
I guess a person uttering a falsehood without knowing the truth is not a liar. They are incorrect. A lie operates with the intention to deceive.
The term “meant to deceive” is used by antique dealers, less often by used book dealers. I discussed with a seasoned book dealer the issue of signed copies and whether people could get away with forgeries, thinking it could be risky to be certain of an autograph.  One grade school year, I practiced handwriting by copying the signatures of my parents, one backhand and the other forward. I didn't think about signing checks, however a person can get pretty good at another person's signature.
A few years ago, I found a confusing book at an estate sale. It was a perfect copy of A Christmas Carol  marked only with Chapman & Hall MDCCCXLIII.  I wanted it for the original illustrations but of course, the perfect condition was suspicious. Usually, facsimile copies are marked by the publisher as such and the publisher is identified on the copyright page. I would not be a liar and yet it made me wonder what would happen if a person knew how to dirty up the book and wear off the edges of the binding. Charles Dickens self-published A Christmas Carol, but soon afterwards Chapman & Hall became the book's first publisher. I see on Abebooks today that a First Edition copy is priced at $9000.

Photo from Wikipedia

At the time, I didn't see what is on Abebooks today, that Chapman & Hall published a facsimile of that 1843 book, however they didn't mark it as a reprint or facsimile. I felt that my book, in its condition, would have had to have been stored in an lead box and kept in a cool place to be a book from 1843. I researched it, and couldn't find the information about Chapman & Hall's facsimile. Yet the spine binding, I felt, would prove its reprint or facsimile status. Its components, a color dye, seemed to be  from a later period. I guessed my book could be from the early 1900's.
Chapman & Hall might have published the facsimile before their business merged with another publisher in 1930. That was all I could figure. But it looks as if I was right and re-sold my copy with acceptable information.
After I began working with antiques, I started an inkwell collection. I made a mistake with a porcelain inkwell that was probably “made to deceive.” On the internet was a Limoges inkwell in the French style, and quite beautiful.  When I got it for too good a deal, I was still stunned at the Limoges mark – looked like someone wrote out longhand Limoges. After that, an antique dealer told me that inkwell reproductions were being made in China. I knew I had one and I re-sold the inkwell, making it clear that it was not Limoges of France. I didn't lose much from that lesson.
The informed reader often comes across books where the settings or the characters seem replicated from other media or produced from a wishful imagination because details give away the author's ignorance. Yet many can be fooled and don't mind it. 
Then there are the authors who are not trying to deceive but they prove to be incorrect. I haven't read a lot of science fiction but the speculative nature of it makes flaws acceptable. The book Perelandra by C. S. Lewis was a favorite of mine way back in the 1960's. Then I re-read it after the Venus probes.  I couldn't finish it, a book I had loved. I tried to re-imagine for C. S. Lewis, that a watery planet with floating islands was in another solar system rather than ours. But my disappointment about Venus kept intruding into the story.

Image arztsamui @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Image Victor Habbick @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When people don't know, the imagination is like scientific theory. From ancient times, prophets were hailed or cast out for their true or false predictions. I like to think of fiction that way, as a speculative venture, based on what an author knows, researches, or fathoms. The unknown fascinates and the author tries to fill in those gaps.




Friday, October 16, 2015

Gilding the Lily: The Fantasy Imagination


Choosing to try children’s fiction, like many young writers, I started with fantasy. I ran into a problem in my first draft of Josiah’s Apple Orchard because I wanted to create a place that not only conquered the seasons but contained new apple tree hybrids. That book was rewritten with realism but I was happy with a Readers’ Favorite reviewer terming it “surrealistic.”

I felt I was in trouble and read up on fantasy. According to children’s literature experts, fantasies have rules within their boundaries. The sorcery in Harry Potter often goes wrong in the real world and could cause Harry bad trouble with his relatives. The sorcery at the school has a much better chance of success. I admit I liked the juxtaposition of Harry's magical friends in the real world while the author preferred the wizard school as her setting, establishing a sensible rule. Mary Poppins was an odd adult who didn't get caught and could escape if she were suspected for magic.

Creating parallels with real life, the best authors can elevate fantasy to philosophy. Alice is controlled. Someone who knows biology has controlled her body and its growth. When she tries to obtain more power over her plight in Wonderland, she runs into tyranny, a queen who bends Wonderland rules for her own purposes.

Recently I re-read The Wizard of Oz. The news probably nudged me. Judy Garland's childhood home was in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and so The Judy Garland Museum there displayed the ruby slippers, one pair of the four that Garland wore in the movie. But ten years ago, a thief entered the museum and stole them. This June, one of the museum founders followed a lead to a nearby mine. During a Wizard of Oz festival, divers searched for the slippers but didn't find them. Then in July, a Garland fan and donor offered a million dollars for information that would lead to the slippers. Every dreamer goes to Oz, trying to solve this one.

Smithsonian ruby slippers photo from en.wikipedia.org
 

I wanted to re-read The Wizard of Oz to find out why it disappointed me after I first saw the great movie. That was probably because the dream aspect of the story was not in the book. There was no connection between Oz characters and Kansas characters. The movie added Miss Gulch and the circus man. Dorothy's orphan status was more apparent. She was caught up over the rainbow, and there was reluctance about her need to return to Kansas where it was just Auntie Em and her uncle who revived her. She could have returned at any time, the good witch told her.

It seems that the imagination in a good fantasy is driven by an obsession for answers. The world of children is full of rules that can be questioned but can’t be changed. Children probably realize that parents change in every generation and that the world is unique today.


One of my favorite juvenile fantasies is the Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, from the 1960’s. I was absolutely taken by the idea that certain characters in her story had been reincarnated and knew it. They were the secret society. Is there reincarnation? I’ve often wondered.

I finished one fantasy – The House in Windward Leaves. The concept that ruled the book from the first was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I felt that children discover what they like to do. In the fantasy, I allowed my characters to find out about an identity they chose. The rule was that their Halloween costumes became real in the fantasy world, but they couldn’t remember who they were. They could magically get the hang of their new status and experience the up and down side of it in a society of children.

My fantasy has more humor in it than horror. I suppose my big question was: Why are the decisions we make at eighteen so serious? Lewis Carroll may have wondered: Can a female get any control out there in the world if she isn’t an aristocrat or a queen? Maybe L. Frank Baum was asking: Why is a fabulous place close in the mind when home is drab?

After all, it’s greener on the other side of the fence. Strangely, good fantasies, as stories, make good sense. The human imagination, in real life, creates locales wonderfully different from another while the human experience is very similar. Humans gild the lily of life.

In the fantasy world, things can get out of control for characters who have arrived at the site of an author's imagination. The reader shares the dilemma: “How soon can I make sense of this?” There is satisfaction in getting somewhere and finding that an author is gilding that recognizable lily. 


Image digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Everyday tests of the imagination

According to my dated Webster's dictionary, the "formation of mental images of objects not present to the senses, esp. of those never perceived in their entirety; hence, mental synthesis of new ideas from elements experienced separately" is imagination

Imagination might seem to be a totally free idea, like the phrase "pure imagination" in the song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  But the candy there must have been synthesized from something.

Is imagination more like dreams?  A concoction, mixture of gases, totally out of reality's atmòsphere?

Thinking more about the power of imagination in everyday life, I saw how it worked on the romantic level, not knowing  a person very well; on the suspense level, worrying about a possible danger; as a mystery, suspecting  a culprit; in science, not knowing except that much is possible; at the plane of children, not knowing except that anything is possible.

First I considered some romantic scenarios:

Image nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You went to a party where you spent much of the evening talking to a guy. Then he called and asked you out. You know some things about him. But it's a few days before you will know him better. Who is he when he picks you up?

In a few days, a writer with an imagination could have outlined a whole relationship and planned the wedding.  Only to find that...  immediate attractions don't always lead to the ideal. Who did he turn out to be?  I'm not much of a romance reader because I told myself too many romantic stories that dissolved after the first date. What was in my head wasn’t the real person.

So we have the genres of romance and women's fiction and literary fiction. The trouble is that the disappointment of life not being what you asked it to be, happens.

Or your friend who is engaged to a handsome doctor invites you on a blind date evening. You dress for this occasion and you have filled in the blind spots as best you can, and then, for the first time, you meet a hospital administrator. You shouldn't conclude that all hospital administrators lack romance but this one isn't Dr. Kildare. The imagination can get it all wrong, except some central detail like financial security.

Image jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The worst is when the guy imagines that you're like his mother or some other woman that he could love more easily than you, and that includes his ideal woman. Someone says, “But it's not you to do that...”, or some other hint that you haven't turned out as imagined. That’s quite a quandary, someone knowing you better than you do.

So you go to the classifieds and you actually get a job interview at an art museum. You've been to the museum so this job is one to dream on. Oh, the lunches and the people you'll know better there. After all, the best part of a job is lunch. The imagination can get through many hurdles even if you're like me, you couldn't take art classes except for photography.  But the job is perfect; it entails publications.

Image sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I'll always feel that my imagination failed many times and that I hadn't prepared for reality. So a museum administrator doesn't do art on the job, doesn't dress for that, and he isn't looking for flaring creativity at a desk job. Strangely enough, I interviewed at three art museums amongst other interviews where I was surprised at how my mental image of the interviewer was far from correct. At one museum, I was taking a typing test when two attractive men who looked like artists came into the room and told me to move for them. They had to convey a huge piece of art out of the room. That happened during the next test, and then I was looking for the hidden camera. Or was it a test to see what I would do?

If I imagined a story about that interview, it would never have been as good as the story that came out of real life.

Image Serge Bertasius at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even so, the best part is the imagining because you can enjoy your own plans. When you see that perfect apartment description or you imagine that a vacation visiting friends is going to launch you into a new life, afterward, you might want to read something that warns you and illuminates about people and places that you don't know.




So I like the idea that the imagination, especially the writing imagination, is a synthesizing process. When there is some knowledge about setting, character, and lifestyle, the process could hit the mark better. I imagine that I'm not done pondering fiction and imagination.





Monday, July 20, 2015

Claude: A Dog of the Sixties is published

Claude:  A Dog of the Sixties is now published. It is available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in paperback, soon at Ingram’s.  It is also available as a Kindle book.



Synopsis
Perry has his own misadventures when the standard poodle Claude comes to his house. Because of a defect, Claude can’t be a show dog. But he fetches beyond his training, opens doors, and attempts to roam the neighborhood. The spring before the moonwalk, Perry plans a group project about UFO’s, space travel, and the Dog Star. During this, Claude makes escapes like a canine Houdini. Perry’s father has enough to worry about with the anti-war protesters in his history classes. Can Perry turn Claude’s exploring into training?

Claude was based on the standard poodle of my childhood and school days. The fictional Claude is placed in another family and becomes the pet of a boy, Perry.  This was the first children’s novel I wrote with a boy protagonist. The book was drafted some time ago however I did a total rewriting of it in recent years.  It had been set in the 1960’s and retained that period, what now is categorized as historical. The poodle I knew was in a time when hair length was an issue and people were worried about being “uptight” or “alright.” Claude can be clipped and Claude can be longhaired, being a poodle.

Realizing that the book would be retro or historical as I rewrote it, I decided to stay with the Sixties decade. Reviewing the space program was intriguing. I was in grade school when man left the earth for outer space. The attitude then was that anything might be possible. UFO’s  were.  In fact, my worst bedroom bogie, as a child, was the UFO that I was afraid would land near the streetlight in my window view. Then, imaginations went wild about aliens and humans colonizing Mars. Today, there isn’t so much real fear of such invasions or operations.

Claude is a book about a dog and a boy. The people in his family have their own interests, and maybe because of that, Claude has his.  After Perry gets a telescope for Christmas and shows his school friends the Dog Star besides other stars, Claude identifies particular places in his neighborhood that he wants to see up close.

Here are a few paragraphs from inside the book:

C
laude had been cooped up for days. When he went on the leash outside, his nose froze. The clouds on the ground didn’t sparkle anymore and the snow tasted like dirt.
Tonight the air was warm. And lights glowed from the houses. Claude stretched his paws and he ran and ran. Whenever he ran, he was on a rope, never free. Young people had come for Perry and he thought they might take him away. They all liked the metal thing the way the Brimley’s liked the TV, crowding around it.
Claude suddenly knew what he wanted. He wanted to see another dog. He’d woofed to two dogs in the neighborhood. Then he met one but it was short and strained by a leash. That dog had a hysterical high bark, and it was frightened of him.
The other dog was sure of himself, baying from his yard. They both complained about their leashes when they woofed back and forth. Claude wanted to meet this dog and find out which of them was the leader dog. He hadn’t been the leader in the barn. But here, Claude might be the leader dog.
 He surged into the dark air. He heard Perry but the other kids were calling too. Claude barked. Then he sped along the sidewalk and turned at the corner. When he saw the alley, he trotted down it.
Claude woofed again. He heard a remote bark, the greeting of the dog he hadn’t seen yet. Claude raced towards the barking, into a yard. There at a window was a dog with flapping ears the color of leather.
Claude was on his ground! There was no better way to become the leader. He woofed at the dog and the dog made it clear that once he got outside, they would tussle. Claude showed off his shoulders and his front legs. Then he teased the dog, marking a tree. The door opened but it was the dog’s owner.
“Shooo, you,” a woman said.
Claude took off. He could hear Perry’s voice calling. He ran down the alley again and then he crossed a street and trotted down another alley.
~~~
Perry was frantic. He could find the Dog Star more easily than Claude in the outer darkness of the neighborhood.
“He’s like a kid in kindergarten!” Perry said.
“Claude!” Imogen wailed. “It’s my fault. I was petting him and I didn’t think he’d get out!”
It was Perry’s fault because he hadn’t warned Imogen. That’s what his parents would say. At the end of the block, Perry said, “He’s invisible in the night.” He didn’t voice the horrible fact that Claude might be invisible to cars. They crossed the street, calling and calling.