Under the Electric Sun

I recently drew a new cover design for Under the Electric Sun, the science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012. I was never happy with the earlier cover. Here is a photo of the new version. No, I didn’t put greasy Saran Wrap over the camera lens. I took this picture with my prepaid cellphone, a tedious little device that demands to be recharged twice a day. Sometimes, you just do the best you can.

Under the Electric Sun is available in paperback for $6. The Kindle version is 99 cents. You can click here to order.

I hope you’re enjoying the cool weather — if you happen to live in this part of the world. Have a lovely weekend.

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Titles

When I write a book, the title is usually the last thing I think of. The title sums up the book. The title describes the book. Since a manuscript evolves and changes as I write it, I don’t know what kind of title will describe it until it’s actually finished. For me, the title is like the last little dab of icing on top of the cake.

Any time I tell people that I’m writing a new book, they blurt out, “What’s the name of it?”

I shrug and say, “I haven’t thought of that part yet.”

At that point, they frown at me and look away, shaking their heads, almost in disgust. Like there’s something wrong with me. Like I apparently don’t know what I’m doing. If I don’t know the title, I must not know anything.

It annoys me when people do that. It’s like walking up to a college student and asking, “What kind of career are you pursuing?”

And the student says, “I want to be an accountant.”

“Oh really? That’s great! When you become an accountant, what color do you want the carpet in your office to be?”

And the student says, “Well, I haven’t really thought about that yet. I’m just trying to get my degree right now.”

And you say, “Obviously, you’ll never make it as an accountant. That office carpet is a big deal!”

I’m not saying the title doesn’t matter. The title of a book is profoundly important. It has to draw attention to itself. It has to make people want to pick up the book. But there’s no rule that says you have to think of a title before you begin writing.

Many people who don’t write (or even read, for that matter) seem to think they’re experts on the writing process. Bugs me.

(The typewriter image isn’t mine.)

Angela

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The snow began to melt away this afternoon. The neighborhood isn’t a magical wonderland anymore. Patches of grass and gravel are showing everywhere. “Real life” is quickly resuming. I’m sad to see the snow vanish, but I’m also relieved. I know it’s caused some serious trouble for a lot of people.

I spent most of the day nestled in my apartment, enjoying the warmth of the kerosene heater and watching an old VHS tape of The Andy Griffith Show recorded in 1987. I also finished drawing a picture of my beautiful friend Angela. And here she is. I’m not completely happy with the way this picture turned out … but I don’t completely hate it either.

Lately, I’ve been drawing on manila folders. It’s similar to the paper in a Moleskine sketchbook, but much cheaper. (Still, I’m planning to buy a new Moleskine sketchbook when I have a little more money. Maybe I’ll do that when my income tax money comes in.)

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a great week.

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You can click here to download my two novels, Citizens of Purgatory and Under the Electric Sun. They will also be available in paperback soon. (Crosses fingers.)

The pause that refreshes

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When I first started writing, back when I was a teenager, I kept a writer’s notebook. It was one of my most cherished possessions. Every morning, while I was sitting in home room at Model High School, I would scribble in it, describing the little realizations and epiphanies I had experienced about my writing process. It was a lovely way to get my brain unclogged before I did my actual fiction writing, later in the day. It felt so good, so cathartic, to look inside my own head and psychoanalyze my writing habits, to examine my hang-ups and see what was holding me back. I haven’t done that kind of thing in a long time, but I might start doing that here — sometimes.

Here’s something I’ve pondered lately as I’ve hammered away on my new novel: it’s critical for a story to have a middle. I’ve always felt this pressure (I’m not sure exactly where the pressure comes from) to make the story move as fast as possible. I have this miserable, oppressive, overwhelming fear that I’m going to bore the reader — and all the people I come in contact with in everyday life, for that matter — so I feel this intense need to rush through the story quickly, quickly, quickly. (Also: when I was younger, I remember reading the reviews on the back covers of my favorite novels. They were loaded with phrases like “fast paced” and “page turner” and “breakneck speed.”)

Yes, it’s a valid concern. The whole point of writing fiction is to entertain people. Thus, you should try not to put your reader to sleep. It’s perfectly logical.

But I’ve realized recently that, even though a speedy pace is important, pauses are also just as important. When you’re reading a story, you need little “slow” moments, especially in the middle, that allow you to process the information you’ve learned so far. Without these pauses, the ending seems to come too quickly. It’s abrupt and premature. You hit the end of the story feeling as if you’re just crashed into a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.

Here’s something else I was thinking about the other day: when you take a long road trip, you need to pull over at a rest stop every few hours to get out of the car, stretch your legs, empty your bladder, and eat overpriced crackers from a vending machine while grumpy families stand around you, arguing about maps. The same principle holds true in a story. Occasionally, the reader should just be allowed to stop and chill — but not for too long.

I’m almost finished with the first draft of my new book. It’s not incredibly long, but it’s longer than my last book, Under the Electric Sun. In chapters 3, 4, and 5 of the new one, the reader is simply allowed to hang out with the characters. I do introduce a few important items in these chapters, things that will pop up again near the end of the story … but, overall, there isn’t much “plot stuff” happening in this middle section. (I did stuff a lot of jokes and gags into these chapters to keep the reader awake, though.)

My author/blogger friend Victoria Grefer mentioned this idea the other day, although she was making a different point. She was saying you should never overdo it and let the story come to a standstill. She said something important should always be happening, even in those slow moments. And I agree with her.

I decided to write about it here because the topic was already rolling around in my head. If you’d like to read Ms. Grefer’s post, you can click here.

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As always, you can click here to download a copy of my book, Under the Electric Sun.

(I decided to discard all the illustrations and give the book a new cover. The image above is no longer in the book.)