Tag Archives: novels

Author Interview: Elizabeth Crowens

I met Author Elizabeth Crowens at World Con in Kansas City.  We are both members of Broad Universe.  Her Time Traveler Professor series is an alternate history/spooky steampunk published out of London.  Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.

author-elizabeth-crowensHi, I’m Elizabeth Crowens. Why do I use a pen name? Because back in the 80’s I wrote for Ninja Magazine and a bunch of other unusual publications. This was when Hollywood and Hong Kong were churning out a lot of over the top films on the tail end of the Bruce Lee craze. I actually had a blackbelt in ninjutsu that I received from the top masters in Japan, but I knew the reality behind the façade and felt I needed a bit of anonymity from my professional life working at a publishing company at the time. The last headache I needed was to have someone plan a surprise attack to see if I could really do a triple backflip and throw ninja stars in my defense. I didn’t need the hassle. So I just came up with a pen name.

When and why did you begin writing?

In the 70’s when I was in college I thought my career path was going to be screenwriting. Back then I didn’t have a very realistic view of how the film industry worked. My head was in the clouds with wildly creative ideas, and my teachers weren’t the best influences because they came from the avant-garde and Andy Warhol schools of artsy indie filmmaking. However, my goals were commercially oriented. New York film schools were like that back then. Unfortunately, I was young, naïve and didn’t know any better and flying by the seat of my pants until I finally moved out to Hollywood in 1990.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Back in the 80’s when I was writing articles for magazines and working on the first draft of this manuscript. However, I wasn’t making enough money to make a living out of it. My degree was in Photography and Film studies, but I found out the hard way that in journalism people were paid more for writing articles in magazines than they were for the photography that accompanied them. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I was always good at English in school. I’ll write the article, as well, especially since I’d get paid more for it.”

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Silent Meridian is a 19th century X-Files meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his paranormal enthusiast partner, John Patrick Scott, the Time Traveler Professor. It’s a delightful mash-up blending those elements with hints of Doctor Who, Tim Powers, and Nicholas Meyer. Contrary to people’s first impression it is not a Sherlock Holmes story.

What inspired you to write this book?

That’s a stranger than fiction story. I’ve always had a passion of collecting antiques and antiquarian books. Very similar situations that occur in the book, sometimes finding a strange book or an unusual item can inspire a whole flood of ideas.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to mimic a Victorian first-person point of view although I tone it down for modern readers. Authors such as Henry James and Arthur Machen can get incredibly wordy. Editors today are always hopping on our backs about word count.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

In the book, I refer to two similar metaphors, i.e. the sfumato effect and the Verdaccio technique of underpainting. These are both art terms from the Italian Renaissance referring to the methods used by Leonardo da Vinci as to how he depicts seamless and invisible edges in paintings such as the Mona Lisa. However, it alludes to the often-indistinguishable transition from dreams to reality to jumping back and forth in time.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

“The key to the future lies in clues from the past.” That’s from a quote in the novel. It’s very much tied into resolving karma and moving forward and any conflicts you experience now most likely can have their roots traced back in history—therefore the justification of traveling through time.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Shush! That’s a secret.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’d rephrase that by asking the question, “What books or media have been the most influence?” I’ve gone through spurts with reading, but I’ve always been a film buff. My answer? Stanley Kubrick, Harry Potter and Star Wars. Kubrick and Lucas were the reasons why I got involved in the film industry. I remember being blown away by A Clockwork Orange, especially in its art direction and cinematography, when I was in high school and Star Wars just at the time I was graduating college and about to spring out in the job market working in film production. Harry Potter didn’t come around until many years later.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

If I can resurrect someone from the dead it would be Arthur Conan Doyle, because his Sherlock Holmes stories are so damned clever. One that is living now? Tim Powers. I’m amazed as to how he puts everything together in his plotting.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

This was an unusual situation where I, as the author, had a significant amount of input in the cover design. After I signed my contract with my publisher, he hooked me up with the graphic designer that handles most of his covers. The graphic designer asked me if I had any ideas since this was basically a steampunk novel and not the typical Sherlock Holmes pastiche that comprises most of my publishing company’s catalogue.

“Do I have any ideas?” I thought to myself. “Boy, am I going to surprise everyone!”

Little did they know that I’ve been professionally trained as both a graphic designer and photographer and have had over 20 years experience with Photoshop. Previously in my career, I used to art direct and shoot movie posters in Hollywood. Since I had full intentions of pitching the Time Traveler Professor series (Silent Meridian is the first of approximately seven books) as either a film series or a cable television series, I had already composited a one-sheet or sell sheet mini-poster as a leave behind. The background photo on the cover is one that I took at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where Conan Doyle received his medical degree.

Brian Berlanger, MX Publishing’s graphic designer, and I worked together refining some of the images. I took a back seat and allowed him to get all the credit just because I was so thrilled to have as much input as I did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

To quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, “Never give up. Never surrender.”
silent-meridian-book-coverElizabeth Crowens
New York, NY

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Silent Meridian

Art Director: Elizabeth Crowens
Cover artist: Brian Berlanger.
Publisher: MX Publishing

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MXPublishing

More iPad Writing Apps That Authors Love

Hands Holding iPadI tend to not use tablets to do my writing. I am more comfortable using my Alphasmart Neo as a digital typewriter, keeping my iPod Touch nearby for research, serve as a dictionary, or to provide music if I don’t like what is playing at the coffeehouse. However, I am discovering that more writers are turning to their Apple iPads as full flung writing devices, forgoing even their laptops in favor of the lighter weight, smaller tablets.

The following is a personal review of iPad apps that family and friends have recommended to me. These apps are all focused on creative writing: some favor markdown language, others are great PDF annotative apps or additions to your favorite note taking apps and one is a great companion to blog writing. I have not been asked to review the app by the developer nor do I have any financial stake in their product.

If you love iOS apps, please also click over to an earlier post: iPad Writing Apps that Authors Love.

Penultimate
iOS 5.01 and later, iPad only
Free

Many writers are used to jotting research notes in a Moleskine notebook with a favorite pen, but with the advent of the iPad, many are turning their offices paperless. The Penultimate app for iPad has been purchased by Evernote and now seamlessly integrates with their note based system. Handwrite notes in the classroom, on the go, or in your office and your sketches will automatically be saved in Evernote. If you have Evernote premium, your handwritten notes will be searchable. Penultimate imitates different paper and pen options to make your writing experience on the iPad more comfortable. If you already use Evernote, this is a no-brainer addition to your already robust note taking system.

iAnnotate PDF
iOS 7.0 and later, iPad only
$9.99

Save your manuscript to PDF and use this app to read and annotate it in your iPad. You can choose different types of text to write with from pens, highlighters, stamps, straight-line, typewriter, underlines, strikeouts and more. Copy and paste your annotations from one document to another. You can connect iAnnotate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, iTunes, or open PDFs from emails and the Internet. The PDF reader aids in the editing and revising process by taking your manuscript from one source and allowing you to view it as if it was a printed work, giving you the ability to see your words in a new light. If you are looking for a way to removing printing your novel and using a red pen to mark it up, this might be the solution you are looking for.

Notebinder
iOS 6.0 or later, iPad only
$6.99

I found this PDF note taking app to be interesting because it integrated audio and video capabilities along with your note writing. It reminds me a little of the Livescribe pens that were very popular a few years ago. It allows a little more customization of the screen, is compatible with Pogo Connect and iPen Styli, one touch access to your notes, the ability to easily timestamp notes, and it can switch the touch screen to make it more left hand compatible. However, I find that the import/export is not as robust as the previous reviewed iAnnotate.

Goodreader
iOS 5.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

This PDF reader has won many favorable reviews for its robust features and integration with many online systems. You can read pretty much anything on it: books, maps, text, and photos. You can even view movies with it. Goodreader can be used for manuscript annotation since you can write on the PDF as if they were printed pages and can even handwrite in the margins. It has all the annotation goodies that you would expect in an app. Exporting is a breeze due to the numerous methods you can utilize. You can import/export via USB cable or a wifi connection, from email attachments and set the app so that it auto syncs with your favorite cloud server. Goodreader connects with Dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive, SugarSync and many other online servers. Of all the PDF readers I’m reviewing in this article, I feel that this one is my personal favorite.

Editorial
iOS 6.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

If you love to write with Markdown, this is a minimal app to do that comfortably with on your iPad. With a simple swipe to the left, you can switch from an in-line markdown preview to full HTML preview of your document. The smart keyboard is designed for writing markdown and includes all the special characters you will need. The app comes with 50 pre-configured actions, but you can add to them with your own python scripts to make it even more customized. Your documents sync with DropBox.

Blogsy
iOS 5.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

While I would not use this app to work on a novel or short story, it is helpful when writing blog posts, something I do almost every day for my writing platform! One of the reasons people buy iPads is so that they can get work done on the go. You can maintain several different blogs at the same time with Blogsy on the following platforms: WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, MoveableType, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr, Squarespace and MetaWeblog. Use the built-in web browser to drag and drop videos from YouTube, photos from Flicker, Picasa, Facebook, Instagram and Google image search at the touch of a button. Style your blog posts with bold, italics, text alignment and more. Easily change the image and video properties and alignment via menus, write and edit in HTML, toggle comments on and off, and much more. You can also schedule your posts, create online drafts and pending-review posts right inside the app. It also has markdown support. It is no wonder that this app has received so many rave reviews all over the internet.

CloudOn
iOS 6.0 or later, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad
Free

As a writer, many of us are used to working in the Microsoft Office environment. CloudOn allows you to use your iOS device to access your Word, Powerpoint, Excel files easy to access and use on the go. You can edit documents, spreadsheet and your presentations from anywhere you travel, be it an editor’s office or the local coffeehouse. Transport or store your MS Office files via Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive. The app version of Office is minimalist and streamlined, but it is fully compatible with your computer Office programs.

Cymbol
iOS 5.1 or later, iPad only
$1.99

Cymbol gives a unique functionality to your iPad’s keyboard. This is an app designed by writers for writers and provides a fast access to those special characters not available on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. On Cymbol’s ready scratch pad, you can save a variety of enhanced character sequences, symbols and other snippets to then be cut and pasted into your written document. Cymbol provides common symbols such as the pilcrow (¶) and section symbol (§), copyright (©), trademark (™), text glyphs such as the number abbreviation (№) and other typography. The application includes full sets of subscript and superscript numbers used in math, chemistry, and physics documentation.

Writing a Hook Line for Your Novel

Its All In the HookI was seated at my local Starbucks coffee house the other day and fell into conversation with an artist. I was asked, as our conversation went on, “So what is your novel about?” I started to think about all the threads that run through my current novel and was at loss for words. This is a common enough question that I will face as an author and it is one that should be addressed even before a novel is finished. What I needed was a one or two sentence summary of what my story is about, one that is designed to capture the interest of a reader or listener. It is known as a “hook line” and beyond its use in conversation, it also serves as a pairing with the book cover in online catalogs to entice readers to buy your book.

What are the Elements of a Hook Line?

    Characters – Who is the main character of your story? What does that main character want? What is his/her main goal?
    Conflict – Who is the antagonist of the story? How does this villain stand in the way of the main character obtaining their goal?
    Originality – What makes your book different from others? What is the unique element of your story that makes it stand out?
    Setting – State the location, the time period or perhaps the genre if it is not obvious.
    Action – Your hook line needs to have an action that catches the reader’s attention. A little detail can go a long way.

Examples of Good Hook lines from movies, also known as Loglines:

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Clint Eastwood, 1995) – An Iowa housewife, stuck in her routine, must choose between true romance and the needs of her family.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Sergio Leone, 1965) – A man with no name and a man with a mission hunt a Mexican bandit for different reasons.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger, 1969) – Naïve Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.

LONE STAR (John Sayles, 1996) – A small town Texas sheriff, despite warnings not to, investigates a convoluted case, when a brutal predecessors’ remains turn up 40 years after he was supposedly run out of town.

What are some common elements in these compelling loglines from famous movies? First, they mention the main character in some way. The main character is the star of the movie or the novel and needs to be someone that the reader can be interested in or they will not read the book. You do not always need to mention this character by name, but rather find a way to describe them to make them stand out as unique in the reader’s mind. Next, notice that in the examples, the location of the story is mentioned: Iowa, Mexico, Texas, or New York City. This helps to give the reader an idea of where or when this story takes place. Observe that the conflict that the main character will face is hinted at. A housewife must choose, a man hunts a bandit, an innocent man becomes a friend of a scoundrel, or a sheriff investigates a murder. This is exciting action. Hopefully enough of a conflict to interest a potential reader. Finally, an element of originality should be offered. This helps to off-set your hook line in the book catalog from all hundreds of other offerings in the book store.

The next time I am at the coffeehouse and someone asks me what my novel is about, I might answer this:

Alice dreams of romance, and when her handsome prince arrives, she follows him through the looking glass into a world of Victorian steam-powered engines, a mad queen, an assassin, and a charming rogue. Will she have the courage to be the heroine that Wonderland needs and find her heart’s desire?

What will be your answer?