Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Next Big Thing--Week 15

The Next Big Thing is a chance for authors around the world to tell you what they're working on--their next novel. The author answers several questions about their next novel and tagged other authors. So I was very excited when Melissa Pearl, author of The Time Spirit Trilogy and Betwixt (released Nov. 5), tagged me. 

What is the working title of your book?

Screwing Up Babylon.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I begin a novel, the inciting incident is usually a mental image with tremendous energy. With this novel, I saw a young woman in a red dress standing on a castle turret. Then, she faded away. At first I thought she was a ghost. But when I started writing the novel, I realized she was a time traveler.

What genre does your book fall under?

Screwing Up Babylon is the second in a series of time travel YA novels. It’s a combination of action/adventure, comedy, and a little romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m actually faceblind, so I don’t think of my characters as particular actors. And I don’t cut out photos from magazines like many authors do. So to answer this question, I viewed lots of web photos of actors and actresses, and I realized that my characters weren’t as gorgeous as actors and actresses usually are. But if I had to pick actors, I’d say that Henry/Mark looks most like Tyler Posey while Miranda looks like AnnaSophia Robb. Kate looks like Jennifer Connelly. And Granddad looks like an older Alan Rickman. Finally, Peter is a taller, white-haired version of John Malkovich.


 Jennifer Connelly as Kate                            Tyler Posey as Mark                      AnnaSophia Robb
                                                                                                                            as Miranda

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
When Mark discovers that his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given as a concubine to the king of Babylon, Mark does whatever it takes to rescue her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published and released in October.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first book took a year. The second book took about 8 months.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
The mental image of Miranda wearing a red gown and standing on castle turret at night.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The first book in the series, Screwing Up Time, was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Here are some wonderful writers whose work I want to share with you. They are contributors to the Winter Wonders anthology that will be published in early December 2012. (I'll have a Screwing Up Time short story in that anthology.)

Here are links to other authors who will be participating next week. These writers also will have short stories in the upcoming anthology Winter Wonders. Check out their blogs and their books!

Heather McCorkle, author of To Ride a Puca, The Secret of Spruce Knoll, Channeler's Choice, and more.

Christine Fonseca, author of Lacrimosa, Dies Irae, Transend, and more.

Tina Moss, author of A Touch of Blackness and Code Black.

And if you want to know more about Winter Wonders, click here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Writing Historical Fiction, Setting

A while back I wrote a post about historical fiction and using details from your research to craft your plot. But what do you do when you need historical information and you can’t find it?

I faced this question many times for Screwing Up Babylon. For example, I needed information about the palace in Babylon. But I haven’t been able to find much information on the palace except that it was enormous (600 rooms) and extremely impressive. There are some photos on the web of the palace, except those are photos of Saddam Hussein’s rebuilding of the palace. And his attention to historical accuracy is doubtful. After all, he built his own palace in the shape of a ziggurat over Babylonian ruins. And, honestly, though Saddam’s rebuild is big, it’s kind of ugly and plain—just clay bricks that are already crumbling due to poor manufacture. My readers won’t be impressed. And the real Babylonian kings…well, let’s just say you don’t give the rulers of the known world shoddy workmanship.

So I had a few options. I could go with ugly. But I didn’t think that was fair. Particularly since the Ishtar Gate is amazing (no, the gate didn’t make it into the book), and I’ve no doubt that the Babylonian kings would have made their palace more impressive than a city gate.

Another option was to consider real possibilities and let my imagination run within those parameters. For example, Babylonians often used panels for decoration. So the palace I created has those panels. And I decorated them with aurochs and other creatures from Babylonian mythology.

The Babylonians traded all over the known world. So if an item existed within the Babylonians trading sphere at the time the story is set, then I assumed the item was fair game. For example, Tyre, Sidon, and the Egyptians all made beautiful colored glass, which means the Babylonians would have had access to it. So colored glass makes an appearance in the decoration of the palace.

Armed with historical information and imagination, I created a palace that I think my readers will like. And a palace that the king of Babylon would recognize—or at least one, that might make the king say, “We need to hire her to redecorate the palace.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Writing is not an easy calling. Though in some ways, I think it’s easier now than it used to be. Word processors are better than typewriters. And infinitely better than pen and ink. (Though I know there are some diehards out there.) Google makes research so much easier. I used to troll the library, looking for the right book, which the library didn’t have. Then, I’d have to ask the librarian to order the maybe-important book from across the state, and I’d have to pay a transfer fee. (I’d always ask the happy red-haired librarian instead of the scowling one with a white streak down the front of her black hair a la Lily Munster. Or Pepe le Pew.)

So writing is easier. Except… Along with all those blessings, come all those temptations. It’s oh-so-easy for me to take a quick peek at my email inbox when I’m racking my brain for the perfect word. After all, you never know when I might hear from an agent.

And then there’s the siren call of Facebook and my friends who posted the newest pictures of their babies. (Because we all know I can’t see those photos when my writing time is over.)

And then there’s the ever present desire to check my novel’s current ranking on Amazon.

(And there’s always laundry, dishes, dinner, etc. So maybe distractions aren’t a new phenomenon.)

But those electronic distractions are so easy to justify because they only take a second or two. But it’s not those seconds that are the issue. It’s getting back into “the zone.” And according to the most recent statistics that takes 15 minutes! While I’m sure it varies from person to person, that’s the average. So maybe it’s less for me. Or maybe it’s more.

I’ve considered my options to combat the colossal waste of precious writing time. One suggestion is to turn off my computer’s Wi-Fi when I’m writing. Another is to join a program that actually turns off your Wi-Fi connection and won’t turn it back on until the allotted time has transpired. Neither is my cup of tea. I decided to try good, old-fashioned self-control.

My plan (okay, it’s not my plan—it’s courtesy of my friend Joyce. Thanks, Joyce!) is to sit next at the table next to child number four (while he does his homework) and write. It’s a win-win situation. I write; he works. And I’m there if he needs help. Plus, I will feel incredible shame for being a bad example if he looks over and sees me on Facebook/Twitter/etc.

The results? I’m getting more done. And so is child number four. Of course, child number four isn’t entirely happy about the new arrangement. I believe the words “looking over my shoulder” were used in a vehement way. 

But hey, it’s working!! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sequel Title and Setting

Congratulations to everyone who figured out the title of the new book. The answers to the questions are at the end of the blog post for anyone who missed anything. But if you didn’t get a chance to figure out the puzzle, the title of the sequel to Screwing Up Time is Screwing Up Babylon.

Picking the setting for the new book wasn’t hard. I wanted a culture that was ancient but still accessible. A culture with tremendous power in its time. And a culture with exotic and fascinating attributes. I needed a place where there’d been enough archaeological information that I’d be able to craft a detailed story. And I wanted it to be familiar enough that it wasn’t too obscure.

Babylon was an obvious choice. It was one of the most powerful kingdoms ever. It had one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And though there hasn’t been a lot of archaeological research lately, archaeologists have done quite a bit of research at Babylon in the past. And while in many ways Babylon is obscure to modern readers (have you ever read a book set in Babylon?), modern day Iraq encompasses Babylon. So we’ve seen pictures and maps of the area on television for years.

I’d love to know what you think about the setting.

Here are the answers to the acrostic:

1. Where Mark hid from Peter when he was at Bodiam Castle. Stables.

2. The room where the recipe book was hidden. Chapel.

3. An herbal ingredient in the elixir of time. Rosemary.

4. The name of Mark's grandmother. Elfrieda.

5. The real last name of Jeremiah. Wilberforce-Jones.

6.  An epic poem Mark said he read over Christmas break. Illiad.

7. "On the ____ wall, there's a stone." North.

8. A precious metal used in the time elixir. Gold.

9. The name of the animal whose horn is used in the time elixir. Unicorn.

10. The American university that the grad student Mark met at Bodiam Castle attended. Princeton.

11. The color of Miranda's hair. Blond.

12. Peter is known as Peter the _______. Alchemist.

12. The name of the lord who wants to marry Miranda. Bernard.

13. The university where Mark's dad teaches. Yale.

14. The computer wallpaper that Mark uses is from what movie. Lord of the Rings.

15. The name of another epic poem that Mark tries to read over Christmas break. Odyssey.

16. The name of Mark's cousin. Nathaniel.