Predicting the Future – Writer’s Resources

Sicfi fans are smiling together today. It is the day that Marty McFly traveled to in the iconic Back to the Future movie. Remembering that light-hearted, entertaining story about one boy who changed the future will have many of us tuning in once again (Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy ) to share the fun with our kids.

In the original script the time travel portal was a refrigerator. It’s easy to visualize the comedic scenes that could have spun off from that idea. Would removal of a certain item cause the time travel event? Would the characters have had to squeeze inside? Would grabbing the handle make the floor drop out from under Marty and company? It was a cool idea but I think that the DeLorean was a much racier choice.

It’s been fun to see the differences between the movies’ visions of the future and what actually transpired!

Time travel, as a story theme, is fruitful ground—ripe for the imagination. Economists, politicians, governments, storytellers, futurists, scientists, dreamers, children and their parents all wonder about the future.

As a writer, I find that scenes set in the past are much easier to imagine than ones set in the future. Information, history and research is easy to access. What I enjoy most abut that type of writing is weaving in little known facts—learning becomes effortless and fun. (Author, Ken Follett is a master of this technique.)

How can a writer prep for composing futuristic fiction?

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Currently I am working on a scenario where a character from the year 2135 travels back to the mid 1980’s.  Coming up a story rich in details that haven’t happened yet is challenging.

Since we have we have a 10-year-old son who will be ready to start his professional life somewhere around the year 2030, my research about the future has become a family affair. Together and separately we read and talk about articles in geek, science and technology magazines. We watch TV shows and documentaries where futurists entertain us with their speculations. The links below are to some of our favorites.

“The kids who will control the solar system are the ones who do not give up, who enjoy doing it and persist.” – Chuck Pell, Artist, Entrepreneur and Futurist and host of the TV series, Xploration Earth 2050.

Other Resources:

U.S. National Intelligence Council website Global Trends 2030. Articles submitted by academicians and think tank members discuss a variety of topics such as population, immigration, climate change, aging and more.

MAKE Magazine & Movement

The Futurist Magazine

As with any writing endeavor, research can take tremendous amounts of time. So much so, that it may be difficult to pinpoint where to stop.

As the cast and creators of Back to the Future point out, some future predictions were right and others were wrong. While you are working on a project, you have no idea if it will be a hit or a flop. Only time will tell.

In the end, all any writer can do is create strong characters, set the scene, make their best guess and enjoy the journey.

Today Show cast interview.

 

Train Tunnels, Chinese History and Urban Art at Donner Summit

Explorations Around Donner Summit (California)

Research for an upcoming book prompted a plan to hike to the China Wall at Donner Pass. Mom must be humored at least one day a year (Mother’s Day). Driving an hour to Donner was an opportunity to get the family out of the house and learn some local history.  Other than me, the dogs were the only members of the family who were truly enthusiastic about the outing from the get-go.  But as the day wore on, everyone found something interesting to capture their imagination.

Donner_Lake_as_seen_from_Donner_Pass

Taking in the expansive views overlooking Donner Lake and trekking over gargantuan, sun warmed slabs of granite, one can not help thinking about the ancient hands that pecked away at the rock faces some 1,500 to 4,000 years ago. Nomadic bands of Great Basin Indians spent many pleasurable hours here. They quenched their thirst from the streams that burble their way down to the lake below as they labored to record their thoughts and ideas in stone. The exact meaning of the 200 rock art designs has been lost in the annals of time. Today’s viewers are left to fill in the blanks in an attempt to guess at their story.

Not far above the petroglyphs, and in more recent history (just a meer hundred and fifty years ago), another story with blank pages exists – the names and personalities of the people who built the China Wall and train tunnels.

In its day the railroad moved people and products faster than ever. This new mode of transport was responsible for booming business and for populating the west. As one historian put it, the railroad would be comparable to the internet today.

Charles Crocker was in a hurry to make progress on his section of the railroad. Government incentives offered sizable rewards for the company that could lay the most track in the shortest amount of time.

Facing the problem of getting his project over Donner Summit, Crocker wondered if the Chinese, who’d invented fireworks and built the Great Wall, could help. Starting off with only 50 workers, Charles soon discovered that his guess was right. Determined, dependable and with specialized knowledge of nitroglycerine the Chinese proved that they were the right people to accomplish the task. Within a year, 8000 pioneering immigrants were hard at work tunneling through the rock. Granite is one of the hardest minerals on the planet. Progress consisted of making their way through the span of a large man’s hand (14 inches) per day. With wages at $28 per month, these workers were a bargain, even by 1850 standards.640px-Chinese_railroad_workers_sierra_nevadachinese built trai tunnel

Donkey steam engines lowered men in baskets down along the steep rock cliffs. (*see below for update) Holes were drilled, filled with black powder, packed and tamped. Men scrambled for safety as fuses were lit. Once the air cleared after the blast and the debris was moved away, men went back down to repeat the process.

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9-2015 update – additional research has pointed out that the artist rendering of the baskets lowered over the cliffs may have been ‘railroad hype’ to entice train travelers. Bosuns chairs, similar to what tree climbers and sailors use, were likely employed to gain access to the steep cliff faces.

baskets and bosuns chairs

cape horn plaque cropped
Near Donner Summit is Cape Horn – another treacherous cliff face that Chinese railroad workers tamed.

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In the Tunnels Today

My dogs were surprisingly sedate, while we strolled through the cool, dark and dripping, tunnels. A quiet hush permeated the space even though plenty of visitors were never far away. Did the dogs sense something that I could not?  As I gazed up at the high jagged walls antiqued with residue from the coal smoke that spit from the mouths of long retired locomotives, my thoughts reached back to span the years between then and now.  Grasping at unknown stories of the men responsible for this feat of engineering, I anticipate the time when I am ready to sit across from my keyboard to tap out a tale that gives definition back to the blank faces that ignorance and prejudice caused to slip into historical obscurity.

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0510151350The photographer in me, delighted at the colorful urban art along the smooth walls of the snow sheds. Does it connect in some way to the Native Americans and Chinese people who occupied this place?

The mom in me cringed as my 10 year old son stood reading some of the uncomfortable statements that were written five feet tall. Like any art form, it moves us to think outside of our respective boxes… This is usually a good thing.0510151318

Protected from the fading rays of the sun, these ever changing urban designs remain vibrant and saturated. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself coaxing photography clients to join me and my camera in this fascinating spot filled with so many intriguing layers of history.

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donner summit tunnel

If you’re going:

Map of the Donner Summit Area

Donner Summit Historical Society -Tunnel 6 – PDF

Donner Pass History –  Blog – On the Summit

Chinese History Videos:

Positive Gifts from the County Go Beyond Doctors and Medicine

It can start as a cry at a higher than normal pitch, a raging fever that won’t come down, bruises that appear for no reason. A parent, consumed with worry seeks out help. The Pediatrician makes a preliminary evaluation and orders more tests.

Then the moment arrives…words, delivered with professionalism and care from the doctor;  everything has changed for the family and the child with the difficult diagnosis.

For nearly 300 families in Nevada County (California), these experiences are part of their story. But that’s only the beginning. A new reality sets in—one that involves long drives to special care units at UC Davis, San Francisco or Stanford and physician specialists, dieticians, nutritionists, social workers and rounds of medication.IMG_1555-web

Maryellen Beauchamp has a special connection with these families. She is Nevada County’s Public Health Nurse Case Manager for California Children’s Services. 53 webCalifornia Children’s Services is operated by the State of California. Over 80 years old, it has an office in every county. Maryellen acts as the conductor in an orchestra that encompasses multi-faceted medical assistance for children with severe health issues. These issues can range from growth plate or skull fractures, endocrine, neurological, orthopedic, and metabolic disorders to Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and premature infants.

This type of work comes with a heavy weight and knowledge that is often difficult to leave behind at the end of the day.  On her desk, Maryellen keeps several inspirational quotes that remind her to remain grounded. One of them reads; Today, I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive; I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. –H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama

Maryellen recently had the opportunity to incorporate something important into her program—a sense of positive empowerment for her young clients. It came in the form of a beautifully illustrated book, Toby Bear and the Healing Light.  It is the story of a stuffed bear who teaches a sick child the power of affirmations, meditation and visualizations in the healing process.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light was created by author, Lisa Boulton while undergoing cancer treatments, as a gentle way to help children going through difficult illness. Boulton enlisted photographer and artist Lisa Redfern to create the photo-illustrations. “I wanted the story to feature local people, places and businesses as a way to express my love for our community and for the outpouring of support and caring that I received when I was sick,” says Boulton.SNMH Approved 12-14-12

Maryellen says, “I like that the story features Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital—the place where the journey with California Children’s Services begins for many of our families. It is also a plus that the Nevada  County Public Health Department could partner with the local women who created the book.”

As Maryellen puts it, “You can’t get well with doctors and medicines alone…it takes the right attitude to make it all work.”  She’s excited about the books because she plans to give them as gifts to the age appropriate children in her program. “It is a positive message and gift from Nevada County Public Health Department to the children (and their families) who need it most.”

Read more about this topic at The Union.com.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light

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Organization & Social Media for Authors

Author Interview – Resources for Writers

If you are a Haylee fan, you’ll discover a bit of the back story in this condensed author interview. You’ll also learn about the historical research – San Francisco and California Gold Rush – that went into the project.

Created to coincide with the release of Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone (paperback), the interview contains marketing and social media tips for authors. It also delves into character development, creativity and sources for Public Domain images.

The original, in-depth author interview can be read on the blog, You Read It Here First.

Interviewer:

Debbie McClure, author of In the Spirit of Love and In the Spirit of Forgiveness
You Read It Here First Blog owner—Christina Hamlett, Screenplay Consultant, Media Relations Expert and Award-Winning Author.

5 Tips to find the right professional editor for your book

It’s a special occasion! Only something sumptuous and sweet will satisfy the mood and pallet.  Delicate aromas float in the air as you approach the bakery. The corners of your mouth lift up as you fill your lungs with the heavenly smells.

pastries

 

When you step-up to the display case, you see that none of the cakes or pastries have frosting or decorations.

unfrosted cake

Will they still taste good?  Surely. But will they cause an ‘oooo’ or an ‘ahhhh’ at the moment of reveal?

Many aspects of Indy publishing are appealing because it puts ultimate control of a publishing project in the author’s own hands. You get to create your own original recipe, and blend flavors and textures without a publisher or cover designer in the kitchen telling you to adjust this or that. But just because you have all the tools you need to self-publish, does that mean you should do everything?

In every sole proprietorship, the business owner is required to perform the vast majority of the work. However; the savvy business person knows that at times it’s necessary, even critical, to hire an expert.  When you are just another author in an ocean filled with Indy authors, a pertinent question becomes how to differentiate your work from all the others in the marketplace?  Professional editing is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

Here are five tips to find the right professional editor for your book.

1. Decide if you want a local or a remote editor.

To find a local editor, tap into your personal networks – ask people you know and put it out there on your facebook or google+ pages. You can contact local writers groups, high school and college English and Literary professors as well as librarians.

Initially, I wanted an editor I could meet with in person. By going through the process above, I found several but did not find the one who was the right match for my subject. Eventually, the idea of finding a local editor was discarded in favor of finding the right one – no matter where he or she lived.

2. Contact a professional editors association.

The organizations below were the most helpful in my editor search.

Editorial Freelancers Association (1,100+ members) has a sort function that simplifies identifying the editors who match your search criteria.

Bay Area Editors Forum

Book Expo America

Additional resources: Google search – ‘Writers Conferences’  for conferences in your area.

3. Choose an editor who specializes in your genre.

Haylee, like pretty much all of my artistic expressions, does not clearly fit into one specific category. It’s a blend of paranormal, Sci-fi and adventure genres with a hint of romance sprinkled in. Because the story follows the main character from ages seventeen to twenty-five, most genre guidelines place it in the Young Adult category.  However, when viewed with the other titles in that group, Haylee does not play well with the others.

Once I released the Young Adult genre idea, I began to search for editors who specialize in paranormal subject matter. It quickly became clear that this was the right way to go.

4. Understand which editorial services you want.

According to Wikipedia, copy editing, “is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the content of the text. Copy refers to written or typewritten text for typesetting, printing, publication, broadcast or other independent distribution.”

A line editor evaluates sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling and verb agreement. Line editing is the final piece of the manuscript production process before it is ready for publication.

5. Request sample edits.

Compose a brief editor inquiry, but include enough information about your project so that the editor can make an informed decision.

Here is the query e-mail I sent. *Note. To make evaluation easier I asked each editor to make sample edits on the same four pages of my manuscript.

Dear ———,
 I would like to inquire about your editing services.
If it looks like a project you may be interested in, please let me know the next step.
Thanks!
Lisa Redfern (Grass Valley, CA)
The Project:
Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone | 86,000 words
A new adult, paranormal, romantic, time travel, thriller.
A Five Part Novella: Awakened Seed, Need To Feed, Burden of the Powerful, The Traveler and Upholders Redemption
____________________________________________________________________________
BACK COVER COPY
_____________________________________________________________________________
How can you stop being lonely when your touch destroys everyone you love?
Something triggers an ancient pattern…
Growing up with a father who could not climb out of his grief stricken oblivion, Haylee Garrett was left to fend for herself.  The desperately lonely girl is delighted with the sudden, dramatic physical changes that come over her on her seventeenth birthday. The boy she has been dreaming about for years finally sees her.
The pattern dictates dark deeds…
But with those changes comes a sinister drive; a fierce undeniable hunger. Haylee’s victims become hollow remnants of themselves.
Until two Travelers meet…
After her personal life is turned to ruins, Haylee is unceremoniously pulled through time to San Francisco during the 1849 Gold Rush. It is here that she must find the only person who can help her…the last Traveler in their lineage.
Emis Laurent is an infamous French Seer living the bawdy life of an entertainer at the Bella Union, a brothel in heart of Portsmouth Square. Emis has no intention of following the predestined course of their ancestors.
Haylee discovers an implausible alliance with two Irish emigrants; a friendship with fifteen-year-old Edward Keener and a reluctant, unavoidable love in his older brother, Reece.
Reece is the unfortunate recipient of fallout from Emis’s wayward plan. Can he bring a sense of order back to their lives after the Traveler has come and gone?

 

Every editor I contacted responded to my e-mail query. Each of them was timely, polite and had unique talents and skills. I was not prepared to like all of them!

Once I started comparing the sample edits, one clearly stood out – Erica Ellis.
Her changes sounded like my own voice. She took the time to explain Chicago Manual of Style rules and passed along information that helped with ‘Track Changes’ in Microsoft Word. Through the process of working with her, I learned to improve my writing and was overjoyed to see professional quality that the book took on after she was finished.

Erica Ellis

Erica lives too far away to take out to lunch.
If we ever have the 
opportunity to meet,
she will get a hug and a smile from a
very happy and appreciative client!

 

In my own Indy production process, professional editing was the area where I planned invest in an expert. I think it is a critical component in taking a manuscript from DIY  – OK to a polished product that is ready for readers. It’s like adding the frosting and finishing touches to a long and challenging baking project.

Ultra Chocolatey - Chocolate Coma Cake

Ultra Chocolatey – Chocolate Coma Cake