Playing God

Two orphans, Amara (11), a servant, and Tadpole (8), a reluctant and hunted royal, escape and find their way through the Gallic countryside to Britannia.

It’s a classic story, fun to write. So I wrote the whole thing, some 40 plus chapters, rewrote the first 12, sent it to Elaine the Reader, got it back, rewrote those chapters, then the next 12, and then stopped. That’s where I am now after several weeks (could it be six or more?) of realizing the kids got off too easily.

Real children don’t have it easy. Last week, three of my grandchildren came to live with me while their parents took a work vacation. Children argue, fight, like each other, joke around, tease, and get hurt. They try out independence. Jon (barely 9) reveled in riding his bike all around the far reaches of our desert acreage, forbidden territory until now for him. They cheat, too. Indoor hide-and-seek became a lesson in peeking, faking the count, changing hiding places, and helping the seeker when you weren’t supposed to.

They also made characters out of plastic clay and we took pictures. The children were not doubtful about the one that lost a leg and then an arm. “He fell down the cliff!” “He got run over!” These little guys (aliens of some sort) had a rough time in the desert but finally found a place to rest.

An author is the god of his/her world, decreeing choices and plot. If the characters are to have a chance of becoming real to the readers (and hopefully there are some), their lives have to follow a pattern that fits them. Often the author is surprised by their choices, but allows them their independence. If the plot and characters have been reasonably set up, then the surprises will strengthen the story and make it more believable.

During the six weeks of not writing, I came to realize I’d let my two orphans off too easily. I’m a protective mother and grandmother. I love Amara and Tadpole. Why would I put them in real danger? What would they do out there in the woods if one of them was badly injured or sick? How could I do that to them?
If they didn’t encounter real danger, there would be no reason to write about them, would there? Why read a fictional travelogue? To be meaningful and perhaps even memorable, they had to have conflict, work to resolve it, and emerge changed for the better.

I’m ready for it. Just a couple of projects to finish up at home and then I’m back to four or more daily hours at the keyboard, drowning, eating wild poisonous berries, losing the boat, and being attacked by this and that.

Bad Luck, Good Luck

I just got back from a week in Vancouver BC with middle daughter Alisa, Maya (6), and Sahana (1). Vivek was off on a business trip, so they wanted company. It was cloudy and drizzly, a comforting relief from the desert heat.

Bad luck – I can’t upload the picture of rhododendrons. They were in their glory with enormous, pink to purple blossoms. The upload page choked on “crunching” five times for I don’t know how long because I stopped trying after ten minutes.

Perhaps remembering the fun I had is why my brain malfunctioned on the flight to Seattle. I left the first 20 chapters of Amara (working title) in the seat pocket in front of me. I’d put the folder there for takeoff. It never came out. The flight was only a half hour, just enough time to chat with my seat partner about why so many travelers these days are grandmothers flying to our far-flung children.

I’ve just confessed to working on a printed version, stark evidence that I don’t have a laptop. I’m not against it. But The Amulet’s first e-version had an embarrassing number of errors simply because it’s harder for me to catch mistakes on the monitor than on paper.

It’s OK. Elaine, my “I’ll read the early version” volunteer, saved her comments and re-sent them to me. They are now tucked away in a safe file ready to be applied to version 1b, on screen or on paper.

Because I had no manuscript and thus no work to do on the flight to Ontario CA (that’s California, not Canada), I took out a copy of The Amulet and started reading it. I hadn’t looked at it for weeks, so it felt fairly new. Here’s my opinion: It’s a good book, not a world-changing masterpiece, but entertaining enough to warrant the time spent.

I hope that if you’ve read it and enjoyed it, you’ll pass the word along. I don’t always do that with books I’ve liked, but those authors have a wider audience than I have.

Text message alert! Maya just found a four-leaf clover right next to a dime! That’s got to mean a hundred times more good luck than finding a penny! Maybe she’ll send some of that luck grandma’s way. Or not. I was lucky enough just to be able to see her again.

Finally Done!

The Amulet, in both paperback and e-book, is officially for sale on Amazon now, with mistakes corrected and looking good. As for those who already bought the e-version, Amazon is deciding whether or not you can get a free “upgrade.” Why they don’t automatically upload the new version is beyond me.

If you have read it and liked it enough to recommend it to a friend, that would be great. If you didn’t like it, wait for the next one which isn’t a sequel but a parallel story.

To find The Amulet, go to Amazon and search for Victoria Paulsen. Thanks, everyone, for your support and patience!

The Amulet – Almost Time

The Amulet, first of the series, is almost ready to go to Amazon for e-publishing!  I have tweaked and formatted and agonized enough.  So why am I scared?

It doesn’t fit comfortably into a category.  How will the right audience find it?

Young Adult, yes, but its audience will be women between 15 and 95+.  Some men will like it, too.   Most novels in the YA category are either Vampire, Fantasy, Paranormal, or Romance (with sex more often than not).  The Amulet isn’t any of those.  A bit of paranormal helps the plot along, but doesn’t dominate in any way.  A bit of romance heightens the fun, but is secondary to the main plot.

A lot of people like me don’t like books reeking with lurid, provocative sex scenes.  That’s why we go to YA instead of Adult fiction.  I guess we’re not grown-up enough for the heavy stuff.

Historical Fiction.  I wish there was a subcategory called Light Historical Fiction, indicating that the reader won’t get bogged down with a lot of facts and foreign terms.  Who cares what the Latin title of the treasurer is?  Using a Latin term means the reader has to remember what it refers to.  Or social norms.  If I say my characters can ride horses and wander safely (more or less) all over Gaul, I shouldn’t have to include a treatise on society’s treatment of women in Rome vs Britannia.  The research has been done, so you can be confident that if I say it could happen, it could.

Have you read Roman or Greek plays?  They are fascinating studies of humanity, and just like Shakespeare, they are relevant today because the human condition does not change.  You understand what’s happening by watching the characters act out their lives, not by having a lot of justifications and explanations thrown at you.

My books are like that.  I put you into the time period, 2nd Century AD, and then get on with the story.

Buying The AmuletYes, please do buy it.  It’s cheap!  I’ll post the info on how to get it as soon as I send it in to Amazon.  If you like it even a little bit, please tell your friends so they can try it out.  Remember, what strikes one reader as superb, may not seem so to another, and vice versa.  Just so you know, of those who have pre-read The Amulet, over half have been over-the-top enthusiastic about it.  The others have kept silent, thank goodness.

Exclamation Points!

Amazon’s recent novel-writing contest accepted “only” 5000 entries.  Imagine!  Five-thousand people have written full-length novels they hope to have published.  Many more than 5000 did not enter the contest.  All these voices yearning to be heard!  All these men and women spending untold hours typing away on their computers far into the night and early in the morning, squeezing creative time into the corners of their busy days.  See the list of entries now pared to 2000 at

http://www.amazon.com/b?node=332264011

In the Young Adult category, the 1000 chosen to go on to the second round were mostly written by women, whereas in the General Fiction category, the split was more even.  With women writing them, YA books are geared more toward girls than boys.  Look through any book store and you’ll see the evidence – romance and fantasy for girls fill the YA shelves.  Could it be that girls are reading while the boys play video games?

Here are some titles, chosen at random, that made the 1000 YA cut – Black Myst, The Waters of Nyra, Light Dancer, Into the Hourglass.  They look like fantasy to me.  Probably others deal with teenage angst, boyfriends, and girl jealousy.  But they steer clear of graphic sex scenes, brutality toward women, and things like that which drive most adult fiction, especially that written by men.  Have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

This may be why women write YA novels.  We want to write and read about strong, independent, free-thinking girls who will become positive contributors to society after they go through all the scenes that the novelist throws at them.  (The too-popular Twilight series negates this argument, making some of us cringe at the implications of it.)

After my initial minor disappointment at not making the cut (The Amulet is historical fiction about a girl in the Roman empire, definitely not a winning subject), I went for a walk in my desert and found that I was absolutely glowing with joy knowing that thousands of women have been writing their books, just like I have, with no promise at all of ever reaching the millions of readers we dream about!

What oddly magnificent women we are!  Creative dreamers!  Not just dreamers, but dreamers who bring to pass the actuality of the dream!  Days, weeks, months after the dream begins, we find that the end has come.  We have written a staggering number of words, weaving them into a story that’s never been told by anyone in the whole history of the world!

For this achievement, no matter what the future of our stories is, we deserve exclamation points!!!!