Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Talk with Lynda: Special Guest Brandon Ax


Hey, everyone! Today marks the beginning of something special, and I’m glad you’re here to share it. Back in the day when free time was in abundance (about three or four years ago), S.K. Anthony and I used to get together for coffee on a weekly basis and talk about all kinds of things bookish. Pure intellectual stuff, it was. Or something like that.

[Side note: If you ever have time—and brain cells—to kill, check out my Coffee Chat tab. But start at the beginning or it will never make any sense. Um . . . and starting with the first one doesn’t actually guarantee the subsequent ones will make sense, but it helps.]

Here I was, missing the days when S.K. used to break into my house (before she had her own key made), take over my kitchen, and chat with me awhile about everything relating to writing and reading. So I decided to invite someone over today to talk about book stuff. I thought about who would be too polite to say no, and chose Brandon Ax because he’s from the South, and we all know how polite southerners are. Right? Not only did he say yes (I knew it!) but he just so happens to have a new book coming out in a few days, so I won’t have to pull out my 3x5 index cards of Conversation Starters for Awkward Moments.

[Heads toward the kitchen.] Hmm . . . he’s actually waiting outside the door. How odd. I guess I’ll have to get used to guests waiting for me to let them into my house.

L: [Opens door to let him in.] Hey, Brandon! Welcome to the very first Book Talk with Lynda. Make yourself comfy and I’ll grab you a cup of coffee.

B: [Walks in and takes a seat at the table.] Oh thanks! Actually a glass of water would be great.

L: [Pours cup of coffee and plops it down in front of him.] Here you go! Drink up; I made plenty.

B: Um . . . thanks.

L: So hey, I’m pretty excited that the third book in your Light Bringer series is coming out on Monday. I’ve actually read it and I’m still excited because that means it’s official, and everyone else can enjoy it too. Are you feeling any sadness at saying goodbye to the characters?

B: [Nudges the coffee cup around.] There is a bit of sadness. Although who knows what the future holds. They have been a part of my life for so long I don’t know that I can truly stop telling stories about them. However, I am really excited about the things I am working on now. [Waits for Lynda to turn her attention to the oven, where something smells wonderful, and promptly pours coffee in the cat’s dish.]

L: I’m excited about homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast! They go so well with the coffee, and they’ll cheer up your sadness. [Hands over full plate.] So of course I have my favorite characters—seriously, Zander is my fave—but I loved the addition of new characters in Light Bringer. Some of them, I wanted to punch, but I’m sure you may have felt the same way. Have you ever had a bad-guy character where you were like, “Ooooooh, if you weren’t essential to the plot I would kill you so fast . . . better watch yourself, mister . . .”

B: [Takes a soft, warm roll from the plate and tries not to make too many “mmm” sounds as he bites in.] Well, I try not to write villains as much as antagonists. As such I get into their heads and find their motivation. In the end, although I don’t like the things they do, I understand where they are coming from. Having said that, there is a Weaver in the first book who made me contemplate interesting ways to kill a character. She was particularly vile and her motivations were pretty self-centered and obnoxious.  

L: She really was. I was hoping she’d get it good. And what if Lynn or Sidney or Connor or any of the gang starts talking to you again? Would this particular storyline continue somehow, or would you come from a completely different direction?

B: That’s the thing, right? They never really stop talking to me. There may or may not be a document. In this possible document, there may or may not be the beginnings of something. I will just have to wait and see what happens. I do have a prequel in the works mostly geared around Aiden. Also there are a few side characters in this last book who are screaming for a spin-off.  

L: What a tease. I would love any or all of those, so write as quickly and as often as you can. [Looks to the side as something whizzes by.] Whoa! Check out AndyAndy! I don't know what that's all about . . . that cat never moves that fast! But anyway, I know you're also an artist . . . does art have anything to do with what you're working on right now? And let me refill that coffee for you.

B: I'm really not that much of a—

L: Here you go! [Places a steaming mug in front of him.]

B: [Sighs.] Thanks . . .

L: So, those other interests and projects . . .?

B: [Watches the cat run laps around the table.] Yeah, I do a lot. I have always drawn, but I also love to paint and make clay figures. I have illustrated a book for someone and even dabble a bit in writing songs. Writing is my first love and will always win out, but I figured I could use some of those others here as well. So one thing I am doing as part of the giveaway is painting pictures so I can give away some prints. Would you like to see them? [Goes to grab another roll and promptly pours the coffee in a house plant.]

L: Are you kidding me? YES. I’ve seen some of your clay figures in the past, and think the book you illustrated has an adorable cover. Of course I’m a big fan of songwriting, too, and taking a peek at your paintings is naturally the next step. Doing a giveaway of the paintings is a phenomenal idea and I think your readers will really love it. What are you waiting for? Gosh, you’d think those two cups of coffee would have kicked in by now. Let me refill that cup while you grab your paintings.

B: But I—

L: Bottoms up, my man. [Lifts mug to “cheers” him.]

B: [Clinks mug in despair.] Thanks . . . Oh, by the way, can I have a glass of water, too? Because . . . coffee makes me . . . thirsty. Yeah, that’s it.

L: There you go. [Hands over a tall glass of water, almost dropping it as Brandon grabs frantically at it.] Hydration is the key, right?

B: Right!


 


L: Wow, these are great! Connor, Lynn, and Zander. But I thought you said you were bringing four with you.

B: I did. But now I can't— [Cuts off abruptly as AndyAndy races by with a painting in his mouth.] Never mind.

L: Uh . . . sorry.

B: [Sighs.] So I was thinking, it may be cool for people to read an excerpt from Light Bringer. I mean I wouldn’t want to spoil anything big, so some stuff may be redacted. In fact, it's in that file right behind you. [Waits for her to turn and pours full cup into her nearly empty one.]



L: That was . . .

B: Riveting—I know.

L: I’m still catching my breath.

So hey, everyone, I hope you enjoyed the very very VERY first Book Talk, with my special guest, Brandon Ax. And if you haven’t read Brandon’s first two books, Elemental and Ashes, then I have no idea what you’re waiting for, but you’re in for a treat when you do. Light Bringer will be released on Monday, September 25, so you will want to be caught up and ready to continue the adventure.

You can find Brandon at his website: Brandon Ax
At his blog: Writer's Storm
On Facebook: Brandon Ax: Author
On Twitter: @BrandonAx
And on Instagram: axbrandon

I’m here, of course, because it’s my blog and nobody invites me anywhere else. But you can also find me on my ERE Facebook page and on Instagram as easyreaderediting. Follow me to see what kinds of trouble I can manage on other social media (I post different things in different places), which basically means take your chances on being bored, or completely stunned and amazed.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Editor's Notes #38: Dialogue Part 3—Those @#$!$%^ Tags



This is the third and final part in my series on dialogue. Click HERE to read Part One—Regional Overkill, and click HERE to read Part Two—Sounding Real.

Book after book has been written about them. Blog after blog has featured articles with cautionary tales. And yet . . . the overly awkward dialogue tag still manages to work its way out of the garbage can and into manuscripts the world over.

In fact, while researching for this post, I was astounded at the number of articles I found which advocated "the death of 'Said'" and "making your dialogue more interesting with anything but 'said'" and other generally bad advice.

I'm not saying there's never a good moment for a shout here and there, but the advice to young writers on various teaching blogs & forums goes directly against the advice of best-selling authors, who sometimes advise to skip tags altogether as often as possible, and more often suggest "said" or "asked" as a way of making the tag disappear.

Personally, I tend to skim over dialogue tags when I'm reading, so I like the idea of eliminating them more often than not, unless the conversation becomes confusing. Maybe it's because I read decent books that use "said" and "asked" and, as promised by those high-level authors, those two particular words become invisible after a little while.

No one wants to read the old-fashioned (and thankfully, almost never used) "he ejaculated" as a dialogue tag. The more obscure tags will pull a reader from the story as physically as tipping him out of his chair. Think of how often you've read "blustered," "queried," "wailed," "bellowed," "quipped," and the like. I don't know about you, but when I read those words, in my mind the character is instantly replaced by the Skipper from Gilligan's Island, a blusterer & bellower from way back. Or suddenly the character is Lucille Ball, wailing her trademark waaahhh.

Elimination of dialogue tags in certain spots can be effective for quick back-and-forth action. If your characters are written distinctly, their manner of speech should indicate easily enough who's talking.

Another mistake inexperienced writers often make is to use dialogue tags that don't work in the physical world:

  • "I love you," she breathed. Nope. You can't breathe in while speaking. And breathing out is not the same as forcing air through your mostly closed vocal cords.
  • "Don't do that," he growled. Nope again. Try growling and saying anything intelligible. You're not Batman.
  • "Get over here, NOW," she hissed. Double nope. Hissing and speaking don't mix, and hissing sounds usually require the use of the letter "s." Just ask Harry Potter.
  • "What do you mean, you won't?" he barked. Nooooope. Unless it's a dog literally barking, and you understand that he sounds like arf arf woof woof grrr but you can translate it in your head like a foreign language, or—oh, forget it. You get my point.
So . . . to recap these three posts neatly: don't overuse regional dialect and slang, make sure your characters sound as real as the people around you, and make those dialogue tags disappear, whether literally or figuratively.

I'd love to know: Have you ever read a truly abominable dialogue tag? Have you written one you regret (or that your editor made you regret until you removed it)?