A gift to my readers

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Every author needs a break or two from the great projects they hope to write.  This is mine.  While I was in Bath, I took the opportunity to pen down three pages.  Of course, I used a good dip quill and decent paper, all while sitting in the parlor of the restoredWriting in the parlor Regency house: The Admiral’s House.  I offer it to you here, to be read here.  I request that you do not copy it.  If you know someone who would enjoy it too, share a link to this post.

It is unedited, uncorrected, un-fixed … it stands as is.  Written on an afternoon when I was feeling the loss of time, knowing that I was going home all too soon.  Please enjoy it.  And if you are so inclined, please feel free to comment.

The Resident of Lower Catswold
– A simple feline story – by T.E. MacArthur

It is a solidly accepted fact that cats adore affectation. Whether it is the appearance of indifference to touch or dissatisfaction with a hearty meal, a cat is judged to be a Wise Feline based on how many affectations he has mastered.

He is also considered a Wise Feline if he has discovered his true potential in life. For you see, cats are most pleased with themselves when they are fully engaged in the practices of their hearts. And, of course, when pretending to have the opposite opinion.

He had decided very early on that being born an American cat – a domestic shorthair Tabby to be specific – did not please him at all. He was a special cat and he knew it. Every cat in the house was an American cat and he wanted something quite different for himself. After all, the most vital aspect of the feline’s early life was pleasing himself, which universally lead to knowing himself. How he would accomplish being anything other than what he’d been born as, he wasn’t certain, but he was determined. He was fully one year old and it was high time he set about becoming a Wise Feline, in terms he would dictate.

He had just given himself a proper cleaning, required before attempting anything serious, such as napping, eating, or becoming “not just another American cat.”

It was then that life rather rudely interrupted him. He would learn that this was generally the natural state of things, but to a one year old cat, interruption was just plain inconsiderate.

His human discovered she could not properly care for the extremely large family of cats she maintained in her home. As quick as one could say, “catch the sparrow,” he found himself in a cage – a cage no less! Surrounded by squawking birds, who mocked his predicament rather cruelly. For three days he stayed in that dreadful enclosure. The humans who ran what he decided was a shop were in great anticipation of an event in another day. He did not care. Human events that did not include generous plates of fish were of no interest to him. Irritated beyond measure, he folded himself into a furry cube and sulked.

Faces pressing against the window, trying to see the “kitty” were purposefully ignored with absolute distain. They left nose prints on the glass – quite undignified.

What was particularly galling was that he could not complain about it. You see, every feline, canine, and possible some of those twittering birds, clearly spoke, understood, and even read the local speech of humans. They were not, however, obligated to inform the humans of this fact. Few would reduce themselves so far as to point out this fact unless the humans, or one in particular, could achieve a very special level of trust. Dogs were more likely to withhold speech as they found it often prevented playtime. Humans who had learned their dog could speak spent far too much precious time asking the dog to talk and not enough simply throwing the ball. Amongst canines, it was generally understood that the best thing for humans was not to talk to them in words. Cats, however, had more complex needs, and thus tended to look for opportunities to trust and then speak with their humans.

Humans, on the other hand, simply didn’t tend to hear. Adult humans especially. They preferred speaking with each other, which was fine except that it lacked a feline perspective. To a cat, not having a cat’s perspective on the world meant that the conversation was going to be rather useless if not unnecessary.

Since no one in the shop had earned his trust, he was unable to explain to them that he was an out-of-doors cat, not an indoor one, American or otherwise. His needs were best met by sunlight, trees, and wind. He needed natural places to properly bury his “business.” To ask him to use the strange smelling sand and pebbles for such an important task was outrageous. Did they not understand that as a burgeoning Wise Feline and Predator, he had to change where he eliminated his “wastes” constantly so as to throw off the other, would-be predators – such as the heavy orange cat in the enclosure below him? Yet, he could not tell them. The humans were much too excited by their own plans and he did not trust them.

This was not to say that he did not like them, but “like” and “trust” were two different things.

Thus he sulked. Even when the big day arrived, and a dozen other cats were brought in cages to be displayed, he sulked. The tiny kittens were too young to understand that their prancing and playing was merely showing off and quite undignified. The orange cat below rubbed ridiculously on his bars, trying to get attention. It was almost too much to bear.

The morning passed, and humans continued to parade past his window. None of them paid him attention. By afternoon, he was beginning to regret his petulant behavior. Even the orange cat had been given the all-important sign that read: Hold for Pickup.
One human waited by the window. A female. Not young or old. Her head fur was dark as were her eyes. She looked sad. Slowly, hesitating often, she finally came into the store – past all the kittens, and birds, and staring humans with their squealing offspring.
The shop human spoke to her about how he had been brought to the shop, how he had been one of too many cats in one house. His name, the human female was informed, was Mac. That was not his name, but he never resented it when the old lady called him that.

“My uncle was named Mac,” the female said, a sad tone in her voice.
“He’s very sweet. Would you like to hold him?”

Wait? What? She was going to touch him? That was not fair, no one had asked him if he minded being taken from his comfortable situation. Of course, he was not comfortable in that cage. And when the shop human lifted him by his belly, his legs stretched a little. He’d been sulking for hours in the same position, and frankly, it felt good to move. This he could not tell anyone, thus he grumbled a bit as the shop human put him in the arms of the female.

Accidentally, he purred. Not a pleasant purr, but a combination of satisfaction being out of that cage, warm in someone’s arms, and yet afraid sort of purr.

“Do you have other pets at home?” the shop human asked.
Pets? Really, how rude. I am not a pet, Mac thought. I am a Wise Feline in development.
“No. My cat … passed away three months ago.”

Mac relaxed a little. She was a trained cat human, and she was sad to be without cat. This could be promising. Perhaps.

“I really shouldn’t …” she said.
“Oh, we are cutting the price for adoption today in half.”

Price? I have no price –
The female handed him kindly back to the shop human.

Wait! Are you rejecting me? Mac was horrified. Every feline that had been picked up was chosen to go to a home, some had already gone. But not him? What was wrong with him? Of course, he was just another American cat, he decided. Perhaps he was not so special after all.

So there he sat for another hour. This time he wasn’t sulking but feeling truly forgotten. Was it because he was so common? No, he was special and unique and rather handsome if he might say so – as he was a cat, he did say so. Yet, no one seemed to see this in him. Was it because he was no longer a bouncing kitten but not yet a Wise Feline? He simply didn’t understand. Why had she walked away?

He closed his eyes and thought as hard as he could about anything but the rejection.
The empty cages were being collected and the humans were congratulating themselves at how many cats had gone to new homes. But not him. Well, if they didn’t want him, he’d hiss at them and not let them touch him and …

The shop door opened. The female looked in … at him. “Are you still open?”
“Why yes.”

The female stepped into the shop, with a tired but fancy cat carrier. “I think I’d like to take him home with me.”

Mac’s heart raced but he didn’t dare move. He really hated carriers, but this was different. He could withhold his distain just this once. Was this really happening? The humans were too far away to be heard, but the female kept handing them pieces of colored paper and they handed her large white sheets with typing on them.

The shop human went to take him out of his cage, yet hesitated long enough to whisper to him, “We’ll miss you big boy.”

Unceremoniously, Mac was wiggled and wrangled into the carrier. He made no sound. The female spoke very kindly to him, as if she understood how he might feel. The open shop door allowed fresh air into his carrier and then it was done. He would never go back to that shop, and he suspected, never to any shop again. How he knew this, he didn’t really care. Such things were known by Wise Felines.

The female walked home, some few blocks from the shop. It was a nice neighborhood, or so he decided from his position only about two feet off the ground. Mac sniffed the air from his dark hiding place in the carrier. He could smell other cats and a few dogs. There were trees that needed to be climbed. Mice to be chased. And of course, a territory to be established. He would be patient though. They were not yet home.

Home? Yes. If he liked the place, he would call it home. If he didn’t, well then…

They stopped in front of a three story building with two large trees outside. There wasn’t much in the way of grass, but plenty of plants he could “water” when marking his territory.

“Ready for an escapade or two?”

Well, of course he was. A cat’s life was one exploit after another … in between naps.

“We’re on the ground floor, so I’ve decided this is Lower Catswold.”

Catswold? No, he knew better. The term as Cotswold. Still. As he could sense a lingering residue of the prior cat, which she clearly had tried to clean in her human way, he decided this was indeed Catswold.

“Welcome home, Mac.”

Welcome home indeed. In his quest to become a Wise Feline, and to decide what sort of cat he would become, this human female was in for quite an adventure. He might, someday, dain to speak to her.

An interview with no less than Tom Turner himself

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The Blackfriars Courant is a delightful bit of Victorian yellow journalism, at its very best.

Editor in Chief, Penelope Dreadfulle, snagged up some delightful comments for this interview.  It is possibly the most innovative “review” The Volcano Lady and The Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner has ever received.

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http://blackfriarscourant.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/exclusive-interview-with-tom-turner-scoundrel-or-hero/

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!!!

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In case you hadn’t heard, there is some exciting news to start off October.

First, the Audio version of The Yankee Must Die (the Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner #!) has been released.  You can now order this audio book, narrated by the brilliant and talented Patrick R. Golden, on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.

cover metafreeAlso, I will be lecturing this coming Saturday and Sunday (Oct 4-5) at Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium in Old Sacramento.  The schedule is being finalized but it looks to be marvelous fun!!

Bath or Bust!

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Really … I did have every intention of posting here while on my amazing trip to Bath and London in September.  I confess: I had little opportunity.  Why yes it was THAT much fun, but also I had dreadful connectivity issues while there.

On 9/11 I dared to board a flight for Heathrow from San Francisco.  A direct flight, which I must say makes all the difference in the world.  Though 10.5 hrs long, and while chasing the Moon, I couldn’t sleep.  I read some, cat napped, ate fairly good meals, and indulged in one of my current favorite movies: Cap Am 2 – The Winter Soldier.  I can stare at a long haired Sebastian Stan for hours, but that’s just me.  I made certain not to leave drool on my neighbors (its my karma to be stuck in middle seats; I have come to terms with this.)

Mrs. Charles TurnerThough no one really needs an excuse to go to England, I actually had one: the Jane Austen Festival in Bath.  Fourteen of us rented a restored Regency period house across from the Paragon and two blocks from the Assembly Rooms.  For the next 9 days we dressed in fashions of the 1790’s – 1810’s, and frolicked without a care along Milson Street, the Bath Abby, and the Roman Baths.  Tours were had to #1 Royal Crescent, the Fashion Museum, and a splendid night time Ghost Tour.  We even went astray to Lyme Regis to walk the Cobb as Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds in the 1995 movie Persuasion.

We had Tea, drank the waters (yikes!), attended concerts, held soirees, and danced at two balls.  It all sounds like a description of an average week in Bath as experienced by the divine Miss Austen herself.  Sadly, it was all too short a time.  The photo below is me, at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, looking over her writing desk (a necessary photograph for any author.)

I’m sorry to report that while I was there I did not write a word for the upcoming Volcano Lady novel.  I was inspired and intrigued – and my research on England’s West Counties is greatly expanded, but alas, no novel writing.  This should not be taken to mean I did not write.  I did, penning (literally with a pen, seated at a 200 year old desk in the library) a start to a children’s book for adults called the Resident of Lower Catswold.  More on that later.

(Next: Off to the British Museum)

The Audio Book is On Its Way!

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Hold on tight – you asked for it and now it’s almost ready.

That’s right!  The Yankee Must Die (Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner #!) has been recorded and now only waits for a Q&A check (hey, that’s a good thing.)  I will post an announcement with links and all once the audio recording is ready.

cover metafreeAnd wow … can I just say wow!  How about WOW!!!!!

The narrator, Patrick R. Golden, is a master of reading with dramatic flair and exceptional voices.  This is no ordinary, average reading of a book -

it is a treat for the ears.  

Stand by for the announcement: anticipated release date is Friday, September 13.  Lucky Friday the 13th!  On Amazon.com, Audible.com, and iTunes.

 

An Audio Book? Why, yes!

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Oh, I know.  It seems like forever since I last posted, but I promise I’ve had good excuses, such as the successful Clockwork Alchemy convention over Memorial Day weekend.  And now this …

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… a chance to have the Yankee Must Die dime novel in audio format.

Professional Producer, Musician, and Voice Artist Patrick R. Golden has partnered with me to produce the audio-book version of The Yankee Must Die – Huaka’i’ po. Patrick has an impressive background in accents, storytelling, and linguistics. If you want to see/hear some of his work, check out his website: www.PisceanCreed.com.

We’re anticipating a September release – but more on that later.

The Omnibus Edition of the Gaslight Adventures

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GATT advert

This large scale publication is ready now on Amazon.com.  The Gaslight Adventures is a compilation of the Tom Turner Trilogy with more.  Historical notes, illustrations and photographs, personal notes from the author, and stories of a real life, Wild West inventor.  The Omnibus Edition brings all this together in one volume.

Kindle and Smashwords editions coming soon.

The Gaslight Adventures – Omnibus Edition

For Clockwork Alchemy convention attendees, you can get your copy signed by the author (that’s me!) for a special convention price.  I’ll be down in the Author’s Alley, Friday through Monday, and at the Book Release Party Friday night (5/23/2014.)

Clockwork Alchemy Appearance

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It’s that time again …

Clockwork Alchemy, the San Francisco Bay Area’s premiere Steampunk convention will be held at the D10277380_10153980956790012_6703535100348847755_nouble Tree Inn, San Jose CA, Memorial Day weekend.

Yours truly will be presenting or participating in the following panels:

Friday, 5/23, 4pm: Villains – The Worst of the Best

Harry T at CASaturday, 5/24, 12 Noon: Real Women in Victorian Times

Sunday, 5/26, 12 Noon: Avoiding Historical Mistakes – and I’m on the panel with the charming GOH Harry Turtledove.

More to come, as there will be a book release party on Friday evening and …

AND …

And … The brand new

Exclusive to Clockwork Alchemy members

The Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner: the Omnibus Edition

will be available for the first time!!

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Blog Tour!

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Many thanks to the marvelous Maggie Secara for the invitation to join the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour.

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First things first: there are some questions I get to answer and then I get to introduce you to three lovely people and their blog sites.

What am I working on?

What aren’t I working on might be a better question.  I have two very specific projects moving ahead at full steam.  The Volcano Lady 3: The Great Earthquake Machine is shaping up nicely, though I confess that it won’t be released this spring.  My, wasn’t that wishful thinking on my part?  Yet, one should have reasonably-set goals, even for work that will be ready when it’s ready and not a moment before.

In the meantime, I am developing an Omnibus Edition of The Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner, complete with illustrations, maps, annotations, and a few extra bonuses.  This will be a lovely 8.5” x 11” compilation with a potential of sporting a hard cover.  Ohhhhhh!  That edition I anticipate will be ready for Clockwork Alchemy, May 23-26, 2014.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m trying my hand at a Western, a mystery, and some short stories.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Steampunk tends to focus on technology and adventure, and in this regard I am right in line with the genre.  Where I tend to veer from the norm is in my love for Victorian history, my attention to those details I look for in my own reading choices (such as manners, culture, and language,) and a blending of classical Western storytelling with old school melodrama.  I also try to take my characters out of England and Europe, showing other nations and cultures from the 19th Century.  That is not to say that I am the only author who does this, but that it is a variation on the generally followed Steampunk theme.

Why do I write what I do?

History!  Action and adventure!  I adore it.  That, and the drive to bring childhood fantasies to life.  I don’t recall any time that I wasn’t writing or drawing.  I grew up on Jules Verne, the Wild Wild West, and Victorian dime novels.  Every summer the family packed off to Cripple Creek, Colorado, to ride the steam train to Victor and watch a melodrama at the Butte Theater.  Steampunk, Westerns, and Historical Fantasy all inspire me to write more.  I can’t get enough of it.

How does my writing process work?

I’m not sure I have one process.  But things go a bit like this: I imagine a scene with something exciting.  It could be inspired by another story or freshly plucked from a memory of running around in the mountains of Colorado or the Gold Hills of California.  Is it for my Volcano Lady world or is it something distinct?  From there, I try to flesh out what came before and after.  How did it happen?  What were the causes and consequences?  Next, I start generally outlining, with a promise to myself that it may be written on paper but not in stone.  Things change.  Stories change.  On a far less grandiose scale, it is a bit like the Big Bang – it starts from little to nothing and expands.

cropped-kanaga.jpgThere are my four questions, which of course you are welcome to ask about via the comments section.  I’m happy to answer

More importantly, this tour is intended to introduce you to three authors.  I’ve deviated a little from the directions, yet kept the intent of the tour by choosing these amazing folks.  Each of these ladies will do the same next week (on or about March 3rd.)

Let me introduce you to Karen Krebser – Psychic, poet, writer, cartomancer, all-around creative!  Karen is not your average author: she is a poet and blogger.  Her ability to express her insights is extraordinary.  One need not write fiction to create a dynamic narrative.   And oh my yes … her poetry!

Her official profile: “Karen Krebser is a psychic medium and card reader, and also a poet and aspiring dramatist. She has been living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area all her life, and has been engaged in spiritual practices for about as long. She has been actively studying the Tarot for almost twenty years, and has been providing insightful and creative readings publicly for over ten years. Her Tarot and cartomancy studies are continuing, as are development activities and explorations in several different ancient spiritual traditions that have brought her into a closer relationship with her ancestral origins and her ancestors themselves. On the writing side, Karen has taken a Master’s Degree in English Literature from San Jose State University with an additional emphasis in Creative Writing, and she has been an avid and passionate fan of Elizabethan drama since childhood. In addition to her cartomancy readings and blog work via The Muse’s Darling web site, Karen is also currently working on her first graphic novel and several plays that explore the themes of identity, chaos, and vengeance.”

Her blog site: http://musesdarling.wordpress.com/

Next up is a combo of two unique ladies who came together to create a Young Adult adventure, The Stolen Songbird, Dover Whitecliff and Vicki Rorke.  You should give their blogs a perusal: their process, both as individuals and as the team behind Stolen Songbird, is quite enlightening.

Dover’s Offical Profile: “Dover Whitecliff was born in the shadow of Fujiyama, raised in the shadow of Olomana, and lives where she can see the shadow of Mt. Shasta if she squints and it’s a really clear day. She is a wild and woolly wordsmith, a blogger, an analyst, and a jack-of-all-trades, but mostly a writer. She has been writing since the ripe old age of nine and won her first ten-speed as a fifth grader with a first place entry into Honolulu Advertiser’s “Why Hawaii Isn’t Big Enough For Litter” contest.

Dover currently spends her free time writing the stories inside her that are fighting to get out, and playing Rock Band with her husband, big brother, little brother, and consigliere, all of whom will graciously allow her to touch the instruments on occasion, but mostly just hand off the microphone so she can sing. She lives in Sacramento, California with her very patient and wonderful husband and several hundred bears.”

Her exceptional blog site and webpage:  Website: www.doverwhitecliff.com and Blog: http://wildandwoollywordsmithing.wordpress.com/  Storyboards for Dover’s writing projects and novels can be found at: http://www.pinterest.com/pennydreadfulle/boards/

Vicki’s Official Profile: “As a young child, Vicki Rorke contemplated one of the great questions of life: Star Trek or Speed Racer?  Fortunately, her older brother controlled the TV and she became exposed to, and enthralled with, Star Trek. After attending many a convention, (when 50 attendees was considered a raging success! My, have times changed!) and reciting dialog by heart, it was only natural that she began creating her own worlds. Her first sci-fi short story was published at the tender age of fourteen.

Vicki currently has the great honor of abiding in the Sacramento, California, temple residence of the Pharaoh, Khufu, and Goddess, Isis, her two orange tabby cats. They rule the house, provide comfort and laughter, and yet never fail to let Vicki know who the real bosses are, especially at meal time. Khufu enjoys the creative writing process by lying on her laptop and infusing his ideas into her stories through osmosis. She is grateful for his insights and feedback. Isis provides purr-fueled massages after a long day at work. Life is good along the American River!!”

Vicki’s Blog and sites:  http://musingsfromtheranch.wordpress.com/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiRorke  Facebook:  www.facebook.com/Vicki.Rorke

Many thanks again to Maggie Secara for the invitation, and to Karen, Dover, and Vicki for participating.  Please check their blogs to see the exceptional variety of authorship out there!

Backstory, we don’t need no stinkin’ backstory

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cropped-cropped-kanaga1.jpgHola, fellow authors:

I was just reading an article about where to start your novel or short story.  The blogger insists that beginning in a character’s childhood is both boring and unnecessary.  In fact, she suggests that readers don’t really need to know about your character’s growing up into the adults they will be.

I disagree.  I think that a character’s early background (childhood if not young adult) can be essential – if handled right.  Here, the blogger and I agree.  And, of course I would approve of backstory prologues, as that is precisely how I started the Volcano Lady series.  Introducing characters by way of their daily routines or calm-quiet childhoods would indeed be boring, but you’re not going to do that, are you!

Starting a novel, especially your first novel or the first of a new series, can be difficult.  We want to tell the reader everything they need to know in order to make the story full and complex.  That’s not a bad idea.  But, be warned, it can backfire.  Even the bestselling authors can make this mistake.  I love Dan Brown novels but I can say that I find them initially tedious.  Too slow.  Too full of details, that while I will need to know them later, can just make you feel schooled.  I stay with the book because I know Brown will deliver in the end.  By mid-book, you’ll be hooked and going with the ever increasing pace.  For an unknown author, this can be the kiss of death.  Brown has earned his reputation for delivering a powerful story, but you and me?  Not yet.

Backstory is one of the trickier things an author works with.  Have I mastered it?  Depends on your tastes, but I don’t think I bored anyone.  Some readers adore backstory and research; others, not so much.  Yet, it is necessary, isn’t it?  Think about the Indiana Jones movies: do you think the stories would have worked if you didn’t know that Professor Jones had a difficult relationship with Marian or that he and his father didn’t quite get along?  The filmmakers brilliantly handle both backstories very differently.  For the story of Marian and Jones, you get little comments and eye glances, hinting that Jones is not comfortable meeting Marian after all those years.  Her reaction tells the rest of the story once they are in the same room.  In the third movie, you get the “early years” approach with young Jones recovering an historic item only to have his father’s indifference, obsession with the Holy Grail, and misunderstanding of his own son’s nature betray him into failure.  Two different approaches with two essential elements:

  1. Both stories show, they don’t tell.  Oh, I know, you hear it over and over again: show, don’t tell.  There are definitely times to tell, but those times are generally brief.  Showing is very effective because you can drag your reader along, letting them pick up clues for themselves along the way.  Isn’t that why we read a novel and not the Wikipedia or Cliff Notes of the story?
  2. Conflict and Drama.  We all have had our childhoods, and for the most part, they were probably pretty average – even a little dull.  In reality, that is a good thing, yes?  However, your book has to grab someone’s attention from sentence one – thus anything you present in your first chapter has to have purpose, conflict, drama, and flow.  It has to drag you in.  Purpose is extremely important as it needs to explain why the character is who they are – what is their obsession?  What makes them tick?

In the case of my first novel, A Fearful Storm Gathering, I break with the idea that we don’t want to read about a character’s younger years – that we want to see them in the book’s immediate here and now, doing what they will be doing for the rest of the story.  I chose to begin with a volcanic eruption and its impact on a child.  Lettie Gantry, my geologist and protagonist, witnessing an erupting volcano and the destruction it caused gave her the focus for the rest of her adult life: predicting volcanoes.  I could have simply said this or mentioned it later.  However, I thought that wouldn’t help the reader to like her early on, to see who she was and why she is the way she is, and to understand what it would take to cause a Victorian woman to toss all convention aside in reaching her goals.  I wanted to show you.  To put you in her shoes.  To see how horrible an eruption could be and how it would force a child into making a lifelong decision.  Drama, conflict, and danger.  Eruptions are fast, terrifying, and the reader gets to be there for her defining moment, scared right alongside her.

Whatever way you plan to give the reader a backstory, be sure it is dynamic, dramatic, and full of pertinent conflict.  Show them why your characters are the way they are.  Otherwise, they are empty and incomplete.  Readers won’t care about someone if there is nothing for them to link to or to like.  And if your readers don’t care about your characters, then they won’t finish your book.  Plain and simple.

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