Being a ‘Non-Conformist’ Author: You Don’t Always Have to ‘Follow the Script’

In the mid-1990s I joined a local far west Texas writer’s group called ‘Texas Mountain Trail Writers.’ While working on the first printed novel I would call Battle of the Band, I needed ‘tutoring’ so-to-speak on absolutely what had to go into the novel to make it a legitimate novel, to market and sell the thing–that is, get some literary agent to ‘sell’ it to a big time publisher. No literary agent came a-calling, so I had to do it myself.

And this was what I picked up in all of these discussions and even annual writer conferences, which I will now list:

  1. ‘Show, don’t tell.’ Anyone who writes novels or books knows what this means. And I believe in ‘show, don’t tell,’  but there are times the ‘tell’ part has to be used perhaps  more than some would find acceptable, as I discovered finishing up my first book.
  2. Your setting must be a setting one is familiar with. After all, aren’t most of Stephen King’s novels set in Maine, where he is from? (And why do I always use Stephen King as an example? Because other than literary genius Kurt Vonnegut–from Ithica, New York (quite a few of his books are set in that part of New York state)–no writer has influenced me to write than the best suspense-si-fi-horror novelist in US history.
  3. Your characters must be from the setting you use that must be one you are familiar with.  Not all, but many of King’s characters are from Maine, or at least New England.
  4. Your characters, because you must know your characters–especially the main ones–must be part of you and even as you are. (Characterization)
  5. Dialogue–your characters must speak in a way that characters from a particular setting would speak, thus you must know how these characters would speak, which is why they ought to come from a particular familiar setting. Further, you characters must speak in a way that it is obvious for that character and the reader knows that is how the character talks. Use catch-phrases as well.
  6. Genre–this is the item that has and will give me the most headache. My books are not genre specific, but a mix of spiritual/satire/adult-rated R not X/horror/suspense/fantasy, so that could be why no literary agent touched my books–literary agents tend to be genre specific, or at least that’s what I was told by the first published author I ever met, a romance novelist (with plenty of the required ‘sexual tension.’)
  7. Theme–The only way I can describe any theme in my books is this: good triumphing over evil. If it isn’t ‘good vs. evil’ in fiction, then I am not writing it-ultimately, good vs. evil is the only issue that matters to me.
  8. Plot–Within the realm of the physical and mental and real and spiritual worlds, the plot revolves around an 80s-90s rock and roll band that, upon achieving great success, must choose their good vs. evil path, with triumphs, trials and tribulations along the way. Because they are ‘rock stars,’ they are ‘gonna do what a rock star is gonna do.’ Which is why these novels are adult–sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll–and not young adult or Christian or rated G. Sorry about that, but if my characters are going to be real, they’re just gonna have to cuss every now and then, or engage in free sex–and one of my characters is bi-sexual, by the way.

Did I miss anything?

So, here is where I ‘go off the reservation’ so-to-speak. ‘Show, don’t tell’? Who gets to decide if you I don’t show enough and tell too much? Folks, I have NEVER read a novel without some ‘tell,’ okay? Read JRR Tolkein’s “Silmarillion’ some time…there is so much ‘telling’ in that book that one would think one of the greatest novelists ever couldn’t write a novel to save his life! But of course, he has to ‘tell’ about how the elves and what not came to be, from what heavenly spirits, and the rest. Then you have books loaded with dialogue–in fact, one friend-turned-book-critic once told me that my two printed books had too much dialogue! “Too much telling,” she told me. After all, dialogue is kind of like telling, right? In my opinion, however, nothing SHOWS a character like his or her dialogue, and how he or she says it!

Where I really go off the reservation though is setting, for actual setting and in terms of where the characters are from and how they speak. I intend to fully explain the whys and what-fors of this issue in posts I have already written and just need the right time to post (since I am busy re-typing/re-writing my two printed books for e-book formatting purpose for sale on Kindle, Nook, Lulu, etc). But for now I will sum it up–since my characters are in a rock band of the 80s and 90s, and since I grew up in the 60s and 70s when British rock reigned supreme for the most part (beginning with the Beatles), and since I spent about two months there in mostly the southeast (Brighton area) and also met three twenty-somethings from Tyneside (Newcastle, of course) and I just loved hearing that Geordie accent… Okay, you get the idea. But just to make it a bit easier for me to deal with creating these books, roughly half of the settings in all my novels are in the US, either New York City or California between LA and San Fran. I grew up on Long Island and lived in NYC. I have visited southern and central California and know several folks from there  (and my brother and his family used to live near Silicon Valley). A number of supporting characters are Americans. Finally, for the most part, my Brit rocker characters spend most of their time in the most affluent part of England, which just happens to be the part of England I am most familiar with–the southeast, including the affluent county called Surrey. Thus, one really cannot accuse me of not knowing the settings and the ways of speaking (though I do use slang words every now and then that are more American than Brit, and one big mistake I made originally in the printed books was listing the dates American style instead of Brit style: instead of writing ‘the 15th of July’ I wrote “July 15.’ Or used the term ‘called’ instead of ‘rang’ on occasion…any slang terms I screwed up in my first two books will be rectified, I hope, in the e-books.

Finally, as I will explain in my posts that will be posted as soon as possible, my entire life generally does not ‘follow the script,’ and I’ve been for the most part a non-conformist my entire life.

The Prodigal Band Trilogy: The Why, Part 5

In Part 1, I stated why I became a writer-story-teller. In Part 2, I stated why the characters I made up were a gang and then a rock band. In Part 3, I stated why the rock band morphed into one from England, and in Part 4, why they were from northeast England, where the initial setting would occur. Now is Part 5, discussing the various changes I made over the next twenty or so years from 1970 until the final version of the first novel in the series, Battle of the Band, was published, that set the stage for the next two books, including the FREE PDF of The Prodigal Band.

In the early 1970s I had planned to write the story of a 60s band, but that made no sense since no prime plot was set, and why write a story about a 60s band when the 60s were over with and in the mid-70s the music genre was changing? And, oh yeah, the mainline pop music at the time was a genre I hated—Disco! And then in 1975 another rocker I had no regard for, Peter Frampton—remember him?—was suddenly foisted on us rock fans at the same time the early 70s wonder-kind, Led Zeppelin, was stagnating? Just as with today and my feeling that rock is dying or died with Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell resting in peace, I felt that by the latter 70s rock was dying as well. What was around was milquetoast at best (with a few exceptions like the Eagles and one or two others). Thank God for punk—the Ramones, the Cars, the Police and others. As I said, a 60s or a 70s band made no sense to me, and again, what was the over-riding plot?

And, oh yeah, I was in my mid-20s and had to support myself and figure out my life, right? That meant working full time, and then later, attending college, which I thought would help me figure out just what I was going to do with my life. So, from 1972 or so until about 1981 I stopped writing (except for college term and research papers).

In 1981 I graduated from a state university in New York. I had been accepted for a master’s degree/PhD at the New School for Social Research in the midst of New York City, a very expensive college, with the goal of getting a PhD in Psychology. Well, President Reagan screwed that one up by signing into law a provision whereby graduate students could no longer apply for Pell Grants or other grants, which was how I was planning to pay for college (and then there was the issue of getting room and board in New York City besides). I was NOT going to force my parents to pay for all this; they had just retired and moved to snowbird central, the Tampa-St. Pete area of Florida (where my mother’s folks lived). So, thanks to Mr. President, I had to put off my college plans, so I moved in with my parents in a nice retirement HOA home in a very nice subdivision with swimming pool, golf course, etc. But in 1982 I was hoping to head back to New School after having worked a several jobs. In the meantime, I began working on the band story again for a month or two. Then, in early fall, an event happened that would put the story off for years—I met my future husband, who lived in far west Texas, a beekeeper and lifeguard near the Oasis of far west Texas, mostly mountain and desert country. We married in a small Catholic church in a town of 600 people, then a couple of years later bought property in a local POA, then built a house there. In the meantime, I returned to college, Sul Ross State U, and got a teaching certificate in secondary math and English, then taught math in local high schools. In 1993 after having two kids, I got a Master’s Degree in Counseling, but never got a counseling job—my Spanish wasn’t good enough! (Note: I lived within a hundred miles of Mexico…).

So there I was…being a wife and mother and beginning to home school my kids and such in the middle of nowhere in the mountains in the early 90s and was no longer teaching (getting the Counseling degree in the meantime, then teaching a year in El Paso since we badly needed the income for various reasons I’m not going to get into here…but might be explained later in a non-fiction book I plan to write about an event that really happened in my neck of the woods in the mid-90s). One night in the early 90s—I can’t remember the year, but it was in the middle of autumn—I prayed and prayed for Divine intervention because I was feeling as if I must get these characters out of my head if I was to be a proper mother/teacher/wife, as if these characters haunted me. And that is why over the next couple of years the stories I had in my head became my first book, written on someone else’s Mac computer and then finalized on my own Mac computer in early 1996. Because of praying for Divine intervention, this book morphed into the spiritual genre.

Of course, that was the plan all along. Up next is the “how” of all this.

***

Download the FREE PDF The Prodigal Band here.

 

The Prodigal Band Trilogy: The Why, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, here, no boy would dance with me in the public school gym on rainy days, so I pretended they would using a fictional diary character, a “new persona” so to speak, just to make myself feel like I was okay and not the ‘D-lister’ I imagined everyone else thought I was. I didn’t even think my neighborhood friends thought I was up to snuff (and I don’t mean “snuff film snuff” either! If this happened to day I’d have been called a “geek” or “emo”). Four of the fictional diary boys later became four of my Prodigal Band fictional characters.

But in late December, 1963, before school was let out for Christmas vacation, I noticed a magazine picture on a shelf along the blackboard wall headed out the door. On the picture were four young men dressed in dark-colored suits and long-ish hair…back in those days boys or men generally had either crew cuts or short hair not below the neck line. These four men had much longer hair than I was used to seeing! The name or title above the men was written as “The Beatles.” Well, that was it, no other mention by any other student that I’d heard. And I had no idea who put this picture on the shelf, or why. The teacher was in her 50s–certainly she wouldn’t have put it there!

Then Christmas came and wouldn’t you know it but my  older brother got two Beatles albums as a gift! (Did he put the picture there? Likely not, he was already in High School. But clearly he’d heard of the Beatles or else why would he request Beatles albums, LPs back then, for Christmas?) So he let me listen to both; one was Introducing the Beatles featuring ‘And I Love Her’ and several others I can’t remember, and the other was Meet the Beatles featuring ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and “She Loves You.’  Well, that Meet the Beatles LP just blew me away, especially ‘She Love You’ (Yeh, yeh, yeh…) Now THAT was rock and roll! So, I became an instant Beatles fan, and nearly went crazy when I watched them on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964. And then went even more nearly crazy when I saw the movie, A Hard Day’s Night, that summer in a nearby movie theater.

But it wasn’t just the Beatles. By summer, 1964, the so-called ‘British Invasion’ was in full swing and pretty much took over the airwaves from American acts by then. After the Beatles came, in spring, the Dave Clark Five (who I actually got to see live in early 1965), and other Liverpool groups like the Searchers and Gerry and the Pacemakers; then in summer, the Rolling Stones and the Animals; then in fall, Herman’s Hermits and the Kinks. Then in 1965, the Hollies and the Yardbirds (both of which would lead to even greater things with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Cream and Led Zeppelin).

Note about the Animals: ‘House of the Rising Sun’ originally by Bob Dylan was one of my fave songs back then, and, when I saw them on the Ed Sullivan show, he interviewed them after they performed and what got me was that while I could understand what the Beatles were saying (they of course are from Liverpool and speak ‘Scouse’), I could barely understand what any of the Animals were saying! They were from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and had a very strange accent! And, in a later post, I will explain how I became fascinated with this strange accent, called ‘Geordie’.

But as for my fictional diary characters, since I didn’t know squat about how rock and roll bands did things and couldn’t play guitar then anyway, I didn’t yet have them form some fictional band–they became a gang. American, of course. Didn’t know squat about England–yet.

The Prodigal Band Trilogy: the Why, Part 1

As I have said in previous posts both here and the main OmegaBooks site I began my journey as a writer of fiction around the age of 8 or 9. I was returning home, on Long Island, New York, with my parents and older brother in a car from a visit to my grandparents (mother’s side) who lived in Mount Dora, Florida (about 20 miles from what was then Orlando). It was the summer of 1962; thus, I was 9 at the time. And I just happened to bring some non-lined notebook-sized paper and pencil with me. The paper was folded in half, width-wise, and looked like a “paper back book.”

Glad I brought the paper and pencil, because I was bored. I do not remember what my brother, in the back seat with me, was doing–he was 14 and likely listening to transistor radio up to near his ears (and folks, before the Beatles came along, pop music was very very boring, cutesy-wootsey “love songs” and other meaningless tripe about teenagers falling in love. From the time of the plane crash of Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly in 1958 until the Beatles in 1964, “rock” music, if you could call it that, was IMHO, tripe. Dion and the Belmonts and Del Shannon and perhaps the Four Seasons were about as good as it got, and who the heck was Elvis? But anyway…) I had no idea what my parents were doing.

This was my first journey into the “deep south.” And the only thing I knew about the “deep south” related to the Civil War and the abominable institution known as slavery back then. There were times along Route 301 or even what was then I-95 when I would see what were called “negro shacks” along the way, plus we all visited some Civil War Confederacy monument somewhere, can’t remember. Now I was a “buff” so to speak of Civil War history. So I decided I was going to make up some story about this kid in the South during the Civil War who, along with his friend, a black kid who had been freed from slavery somehow and lived with the kid and his family, hated the south and slavery! So what he and his friend did was help the Union Army blow up a Confederate “ammunition dump.” And they did. I did not mention the state the kid lived in, or even the kid’s family name, but I called him “Johnny Reb” and the black kid was named Sammy. So, I named a kid who would blow up a Confederate ammo dump Johnny Reb? When my dad actually read the “book” (named “Johnny Reb” and was about 20 pages long in pencil) he brought up this irony! After all, weren’t the Confederates called “Rebels”?

Around that time I also had a diary–didn’t all young girls have diaries then? So, there I was in late 1963 just starting to have any interest in the watered-down “rock and roll” back then. When it rained outside, and in the Northeast US, home of “Nor’easters,” it almost always rained some in the fall and early winter, the public elementary school kept all the students in the gym after lunch, too wet to play outside. I was in sixth grade at the time and, not being popular so-to-speak, no boy wanted to dance with me. So all I did then was listen to whatever 45 RPM record discs were put onto the record player. Not being a ‘A-list’ or even ‘B-list’ (more like ‘D-list!’) that’s all I could do as most of my friends were dancing on the gym floor with boys whom had asked them to dance. Well, I had to try to ‘fit-in’ somehow so, even though I thought the music was boring tripe, I pretended to like it anyway. Thus, in my diary I would make up stuff about myself–in terms of a fiction character I can’t even remember the name–being popular and folks like Chubby Checker or Frankie Valli (spelling?) wanting to ‘dance’ with me (not knowing the actual hidden meaning of ‘dance’ at the time…’dance’ was code for a certain ‘f’ word if you know what I mean!) And of course I made up the boy characters as well. And named them the same names I have used for the original rock band characters in my books! (Note: the band concept came about in the latter 70s, and then I added two more band members, then deleted one of the originals in the 80s only to put him back in during the 90s). The reader is going to have to wait to find out the names of the characters for a bit.

Or, you can find out now by downloading the FREE PDF e-book, The Prodigal Band.

This site is now the OmegaBooks WordPress Blog site

After about a month of trying to get BlueHost to give me back my domain “omegabooks.com” and (using ICANN and Whois as excuses for not doing so!) failing to get the domain “omegabooks.com” back, WordPress handed me a “reprieve” of sorts by letting me set up a new domain, omegabooksnet.com from where one can download the FREE PDF e-book, The Prodigal Band, as well as (soon) purchase the printed books published in the 1990s, Battle of the Band and The Prophesied Band. For the last three weeks I have been getting the site prepared for this adventure in Independent Publishing and marketing. Today, April 30, 2018, I was able to get the site presentable, and also get The Prodigal Band registered with the Library of Congress ($55 fee).

Since omegabooksnet.com is now the official OmegaBooks site, this WordPress blog site will be the BLOG for omegabooksnet.com where I will discuss how and why I began the book series in the 90s, the creation of the characters and scenarios and such. Since I have deleted the “blog” and “book” pages previously at the top of the page in the “menu,” I am re-posting the original “blog” article, below.

Chapters of Three Books will be added soon.

UPDATE: The “chapters” will be added to the Battle of the Band page on omegabooksnet.com, The Prophesied Band page on omegabooksnet.com, and the The Prodigal Band FREE PDF page of omegabooksnet.com, and in fact, the Prologue has already been added to that page!

Chapters, or rather, parts or sections of chapters, will be posted in the “Book” menu section soon, and here at the “Blog” I will discuss what was posted and why I posted what I posted. If one is a certain spiritual bent some of the words posted might offend. Sorry. But anyone who believes a writer can’t develop a character’s way of speaking or way of living in order to prove a point later has likely never tried writing a book let alone develop book characters.

Notice (if you have read the home front page) the use of the word “Band.” Gee, guess what kind of “band” I am talking about? Growing up in the 1960s? Now, what kind of bands predominated in the 1960s…and the 70s and the 80s and the 90s and the 2000s?

Rock and roll bands? Yep. (Note–I am white. If I was black they might be rap groups or “soul” groups or Michael Jackson-types)

Meaning, guess what the main characters are? Rock stars. Yep, sex, drugs and rock and roll, with some cussing thrown in (BTW, I almost never cuss, and do not use the “f” word…my characters do. Sorry.) But when I was growing up, the one thing I had in common with boys and girls of my generation–I grew up on Long Island, not some far west Texas ranch run by a fundamentalist Christian family where girls always wore dresses or skirts and boys always wore button-down long sleeve shirts and jeans or nicer pants for church led by a fundamentalist preacher–well, the one thing I had in common was love of rock bands and music (really, that was the one thing that kept me from being “D-list” in high school…I actually made it to “B-list” by my junior year! And I even tried out for a couple of local rock bands–they were all over the place! I will discuss that at some point). So, about the only way I “conformed” to kids my age was listening to rock music and discussing or seeing various rock groups (I never did see the Beatles except on TV. Oh well.) So, there I was a writer of fiction from the time I was 8 or 9…seriously.

Now I could have written about just average teenagers. But I wanted characters a bit more exciting and “push the envelope” than just young folks like me. So I developed the characters I developed and, over time, they became rock stars. (Keep in mind, I was pretty good at electric guitar and could sing at the time. Meaning, I wanted to be a rock star though I am female and there weren’t very many female rock stars then.) Since I never did become one, I figured, well, if I didn’t become one, maybe I could write about one? Or a band that (fictionally) made it big?

So, there I was in the mid-1990s when an extraordinary experience happened to me in the mountains and deserts of far west Texas, where I am now.

More later.

Why Is OmegaBooks “Home Of The World’s Most Unique Fiction”?

I know that sounds bloviated, unrealistic, conceited even, to call my little independent publishing company hardly anyone has ever heard of “home of the world’s most unique fiction.” But folks, I do believe it is true. Here is why:

  1. None of my fiction books fit into a fiction genre. My books are not simply romance, though there is romance in them. Or spiritual, though there is much spirituality in them, and the same goes for the “Christian” label–my novels contain sex, drugs, and rock and roll–now how “Christian” is that? Or fantasy–but there is plenty of fantasy in my novels! Or horror–bu there are elements of horror in all my novels, such as Satanists drinking blood like vampires. Or adventure–but there are adventures in all of them, and even a bit of “western” in my forthcoming “The Prodigal Band.” Or the notion of “based on a true story”–no novel is based on one particular true story, but many truthful events which at some point I will document. One “truthful event” scenario that prevails in all my novels so far is the well-worn notion that rock and roll artists, from simple rock stars to mega stars, have “sold their souls to the devil.” Thus my novels are spiritual, fantasy, horror, with a bit of adventure, romance, “Christian” and western thrown in. Historical facts are also at play here.
  2. The over-riding theme, being spiritual, is simply this–and I hate to play spoiler here–a rock and roll band learns how to defeat evil and accepts the ultimate destroyer of evil, but not to spoil anything I won’t say Who. So, folks, are there any other novels out there with the same theme using a rock and roll band? If so, let me know.
  3. The main characters in these books were created by me when I was somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14, the time period being 1964 through 1967 or thereabouts–the time of the Beatles, Stones, Who, Cream, etc.–that is, the beginnings of the true “classic rock” period. Now, what do the bands mentioned above all have in common? They are Brits. To me, these English bands made the genre, so therefore, after spending about 6 weeks in England as a HS graduation gift, along with five others, one my best friend, and learning about living in England (we lived as guests with families near Brighton and attended lectures at Sussex University), I decided my main characters would be from England, and would be in a rock band. (Besides, I love hearing English accents, especially northern ones).
  4. Now isn’t it conventional wisdom that one’s novels almost always contain characters and landscapes similar to or exactly where one grew up? Stephen King’s novels almost always take place in Maine, where he is from, right? JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are set in England, where she is from, right? My fave American author if all time, Kurt Vonnegutt? He is from central-upper New York State, near Ithica, and aren’t many if not most of his novels set in that area? A great English novelist, Charles Dickens, has most of his books set in or around London, where I presume he is from, right? So, another “unique” aspect to my novels is that my main characters, which originally were from my birthplace on Long Island when I first created them, were moved to England around the time I went there. But not because I know a huge amount of stuff about England or even would rather live there, but because since they would be in a rock band, in my opinion they had to be from England, which created the best rock music in my day. Plus, I had become an Anglophile, so to speak.
  5. Why a rock band? Two reasons. One, rock music was one of my very few connections to my generation and friends–I was mostly a loner then and I am mostly a loner now…an introvert. Being a fan of rock music allowed me to have at least some good friends and become, if not “A-list” in High School, at least “B-list.” Two, because when I was a teen I wanted to become either one or two things–either an author or journalist, that is, a writer, or a rock star with guitar. I learned some guitar when my grandparents got me a regular guitar for Christmas in 1965 and learned mostly chords. I got more lessons from a friend who happened to be the front man for his local band, which after some lessons I joined–and this band was quite good. But it split up in 1969 or so. Plus, I was okay at guitar as well as singing but not really up to professional standards. So as for college, I had become pretty good at art as well, so I went to art school in NY City but dropped out after a year–I was good, but again, not professional. So then, why didn’t I become a journalist? Because I realized that “journalism” was what the editor and newspaper publisher wanted one to “journalize” about! I did not want to be a “journalist” who had to re-write the truthful story into falsehood just to please my “bosses.” So, after a period of years, I began my first novel featuring a fictional rock band.
  6. If I was never a rock star, how could I write about fictional rock stars? Ever hear of Rolling Stone magazine? The “magazine about rock stars” from the late 60s until today? Research, folks. Plus what happens at gigs, how music/tracks/albums are recorded, back then and today with digital, various instruments, etc. The music business, recording contracts, managerial connections, etc. The research isn’t that hard–and I did most of it back before I had internet! But though fictional rock stars are featured in my novels, the novels aren’t about “rock stardom.” The novels are about good vs. evil. And did I dance with evil! The occult, witch craft, tarot cards, ouija boards, seances, etc. Just to try it out so to speak–but after one particular horrifying seance were I and two other friends actually called up the dead and the “dead” responded–sending the ouija board into the air and the curtains in the room flying hither, thither, and yon!–that was the last of my doing “witch” stuff!  So, my novel characters also wind up calling up what would turn out to be demons and wicked angels to “assure” their huge success. If I could do it (never mind success)…

And, if my novels present and future do achieve sales success, it won’t be because of evil spirits, but Good Ones if you know what I mean. I’m on a “mission from…” Remember that line from the movie Blues Brothers?