Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Only a Novel"

While doing some research on Jane Austen and her works for my review of P.D. James's new mystery, Death Comes to Pemberley, I came across this quote from Austen's novel, Northanger Abbey. Novelists should commit it to heart.

"Only a novel"... in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world, in the best chosen language."

From Northanger Abbey, Chapter 5 (1818)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Old Love and the New Love

Yesterday I received a Christmas present, a gift to myself, actually. The bound proof of my new novel, The Old Love and the New Love, arrived at Baico Publishing Company, 294 Albert St. Suite 103, Ottawa K1P 6E6, and I picked them up. A bound proof is the trial print-out of a book, a single copy complete with cover, a prototype - and the author's last opportunity to make corrections. Little glitches tend to creep in, no matter how conscientiously you copy-edit.

The Old Love and the New Love gets its title from a phrase in an Irish ballad, "The Hand that Shakes the Barley". The idea of writing an action/adventure/romance came to me several years ago when I was teaching a class called "Start a Novel" and found that among my students were three bright individuals committed to writing genre fiction; that is, category fiction rather than "literary" general interest fiction.

I decided to try my hand at writing something with more action and adventure than my earlier novels (although my four mysteries include suspense and tension.) I used as a starting point an exercise to stimulate the imagination that I have given my students. The exercise goes like this:

"A couple is having a pleasant evening meal at home when there is a knock at the door. On the doorstep is someone with whom one of the partners used to be romantically involved."

The aspiring writer who takes up the challenge must find a reason for the person to show up on the doorstep, and must consider how the partners will react, and from there, build a plot.

Obviously this work is not autobiographical, but is a work of the imagination.

I won't tell you the plot of The Old Love and the New Love, as I want you to buy the book and discover it for yourself, but I will share the back cover blurb.

"When Cleo's old lover, Leo Phelan, whom she hasn't seen in a decade, turns up on her doorstep, she is flustered, not flattered. Should she invite him to join her and her husband, Andy, for dinner? Will he be the serpent in their Eden? Little does she know that Leo poses a different sort of threat. Gradually, she realizes how tangled she is in the ties that once bound them."

The Old Love and the New Love will be published early in 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

John Donne's Christmas Sermon excerpt

I wish you a Merry Christmas with this excerpt from John Donne's Christmas Sermon, December 25, 1624:

"...God made Sun and Moon to distinguish seasons, and day and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons: But God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies. In paradise the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is alwaies Autumne; His mercies are ever in their maturity. We ask Panem Quotidianum, our daily bread, and God never says, you should have come yesterday; he never sayes you must againe tomorrow, but today if you will heare His voice, today he will heare you.

If some King of the earth have so large an extent of Dominion, in North and South, as that he hath Winter and Summer together in his Dominions, much more hath God mercy and judgment together; He brought light out of darknesse, not out of a lesser light; He can bring thy Summer out of Winter, though thou have no Spring; though in the wayes of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now - wintred and frozen, clouded and eclypsed, damped and benummed, smothered and stupefied till now - now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the Spring, but as the Sun at noon, to illustrate all shadowes, as the sheaves in the harvest, to fill all penuries. All occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons."

From Sermon Number LXXX (2) given at St. Paul's Christmas Day in the Evening, 1624.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An excellent article about creativity

I recommend the article "Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking," by Michael Michalko, in Psychology Today,