Thursday, February 26, 2009

STRUCK Update: Distant Thunder

Do you love a good thunderstorm?

Like most folks living in the high desert of the southwest, I do. This area always needs moisture, so even a glimpse of a distant thunderhead or the faintest rumble of faraway thunder creates hope that this storm will pass over us. And when one does, it's usually dramatic, with plummeting temperatures, dark angry skies, and wild winds. Sometimes there's hail, and, of course, always the lightning and thunder.

I seem to anticipate the release of my novel STRUCK in the same way I anticipate a thunderstorm. Maybe it's because a thunderstorm in the first scene provides the initial burst of energy that propels readers into the novel. Or maybe I'm hoping its release will be dramatic, with positive reviews, happy satisfied readers, and brisk sales. For whatever reason, if STRUCK's release really was a thunderstorm, in quiet moments these days, I can hear the first distant rumblings.

I was extremely fortunate to score Rick R. Reed as my editor. I'm a big fan of Rick's writing; he's an acclaimed author for very good reasons. I quickly learned he's just as talented as an editor. So now my manuscript's stronger, I've sent my publisher all the other odds and ends she needs from me, and Regal Crest is getting STRUCK all prettied up to become a real novel.

On top of that excitement, Rick sent me this blurb to use:

"A skillful melding of Native American mythology and suspense is what you'll find once you start reading Keith Pyeatt's STRUCK. And, once you start reading, you'll also find you can't stop. Masterful storytelling from a new author you're sure to hear from again!"

--Rick R. Reed, author of IM and Deadly Vision

Yep, I definitely hear thunder now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A year later...

And I still miss my Nicky. She comes to mind and heart the most in the evenings when it's time to sit back and relax. I found this picture taken in December 2005. This was our nightly routine for 13 years. She'd stay there for hours, as long as I would.

Here's another shot taken that same night. Bliss times three.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday's Tip for Writers #7 - Vary Sentence Structure

Ever become aware of a repeating sentence structure while reading? I have. Once I notice a repeating rhythm, I have trouble ignoring it, and it distracts me from what I'm reading. Since most writers want their readers focused on their story, not their sentence layout, variety is a good idea.

By far, the worst offender I've found while editing manuscripts--and sometimes while reading published novels--is the repeated use of introductory phrases. There's nothing bad about using introductory phrases. My point is that they shouldn't be over-used.

Taking care not to wake her young son, Mary tiptoed across the room and closed his window. As she returned to the doorway, Billy stirred in bed and moaned. Sensing he was having a bad dream, she stood beside his bed. Billy mumbled a name Mary couldn't understand. Leaning closer, she listened.

Even with a simple, direct sentence thrown into the mix, notice how the rhythm repeats? The effect gets more noticeable after several paragraphs until it becomes sing-songy and distracting.

Sometimes writers get into the habit of tacking a phrase or two on to each sentence.

Mary tiptoed across the room to close her young son's window, taking care not to wake him. Billy made noises, thrashing and mumbling in his sleep. Mary stood beside his bed, sensing he was having a bad dream. Billy mumbled a name she couldn't understand. She leaned closer, hoping he'd repeat it.

Again, readers begin to expect this pattern to continue, and it becomes sing-songy.

Repeating sentence structures are hard to catch in your own writing, but it's important to try. In addition to the ones mentioned above, look for successive simple sentences or runs of compound sentences of about the same length. I urge writers not to worry about varying sentence structures as they write first draft, but keep it in mind during edits. We all have our favorite sentence structures, things that work well for us. Using favored structures can help define our writing style. Over-using them can distract our readers. Mix it up.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Fact in Fiction: The Sun Dagger on Fajada Butte

For those of you who enjoy finding interesting facts mixed into the fiction of a novel, you might like to know how Chaco Canyon and Pueblo Indian ancestors helped inspire my paranormal thriller STRUCK. I'll offer one instance as today's blog.

First, a clarification: My novels are not meant to inform or provide historical accuracy. I write paranormal fiction to entertain readers who want to leave the real world to enter the ones I create.

But there is fact in my fiction. A fascinating detail that needed no "bending" to fit into the fictional world of STRUCK is the sun dagger high up on Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon.

A thousand years ago, Ancestral Puebloans (often referred to as Anasazi) created the sun dagger. It was re-discovered in the late seventies, and it reveals the detailed knowledge this ancient civilization possessed regarding solar and lunar cycles.

There are two petroglyph spirals, a major one and a minor one, pecked into the rock on Fajada Butte. Three stone slabs allow slivers of sunlight to fall on the spirals and precisely mark seasons. On the summer solstice, a dagger of light bisects the main spiral. On the winter solstice, two sun daggers flank the outer spiral. On the equinoxes--spring and fall--a sun dagger bisects the minor spiral. Moonlight also passes between the pillars to mark lunar cycles, including an 18 1/2 year lunar cycle that I daresay many people today aren't aware of.

modified public domain sketch

In my thrillers, as in many thrillers, there's a "ticking clock," something that makes the characters (please pardon the upcoming cliché) race against time to save the day. In STRUCK, the ticking clock is an ancient sundial on Fajada Butte.

A sad fact not mentioned in the novel is that the interest in the sun dagger since its rediscovery resulted in much traffic up Fajada Butte. The traffic caused erosion and led to minor settling of the stone slabs. Minor settling was all it took to destroy the precision of this ancient and fascinating timepiece.

If interested, find out more here: