Thursday, May 23, 2024

New

 

 

 

I’m pleased to announce my young adult novel, Summer and 16, is on Amazon!

 

Amazon.com: Summer And 16 eBook : Dubie, Cathy J : Kindle Store

 

 

Lorin had wanted her 16th summer to be exciting and fun. Instead, she’s resigned to have a boring time in a small village that has no cell service, no Internet, no cable TV.

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CW1BG1D4

 

Monday, May 06, 2024

Dream a Little Dream

 
Did I say I had bizarre dreams? Well, I dreamed an agent came to visit me. Said agent was a big man with a big blustering voice, traveling with a rather small assistant. He studied my bookshelves for some minutes, then asked my daughter to find a particular title for him. (my kids were young in the dream.) The other two were trying to watch tv, but couldn't hear it for his loud voice. I had expected him to talk to me about romance novels, but he kept harping upon some fantasy title I'm sure I didn't own.

Perhaps that blustering voice, or my frustration, snapped me out of the dream.

Which, for some reason, brings me to Fantasy novels. I was never an avid Elves-and-Faeries-type of reader. Tolkien doesn't work for me. I do read witches, the Anne Rice type, but not Rowling. And I've enjoyed vampire and werewolf tales--the old ones, not the modern-day ones.

But oh! I admire those who create entire worlds that are not quite our own. Whether lower, middle, or upper earth, or in a galaxy that's far, far away from our own ken, these places exist far beyond the pages of a book.

Which bring me to this observation: creating a plausible world, whether inhabited by sorcerers with powers or regular people who've lived any time in the last four and a half billion years can be a daunting but exciting task.

I guess that's why we write.

--Cat

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Drama

My husband watches some "reality" shows. You know the type, Man Versus Nature, usually in winter, often in Alaska, or an isolated locale in forbidding mountains, or a desolate wilderness inhabited only by wild things.

The men on the shows struggle against enormous obstacles. Perhaps it's the weather: from 20 to 50 degrees below 0; predators: rampaging grizzlies, ferocious wolves, giant cougars, dinosaurs; or machinery breakdowns: snowmobiles or trucks stuck in the snow, or with dead batteries, or out of gas, planes, trains, and automobiles. How easily I digress.....


If the transport requires work to fix, daylight is always fading and the man must spend the night in this frozen inhospitable wilderness.  He relies on his wits and cunning to keep from freezing/starving/dehydrating/being mauled or eaten by predators.

Of course, the first thing he must do is start a fire. The wind may be howling and snuffs out match after  match until they're all gone. So there he huddles, rubbing two sticks together, or scraping his trusty flint, hoping against hope for that magic spark to begin the fire that will keep him alive.

At this point, I tend to interrupt the fictive dream and say, "Why doesn't he ask the cameraman or other film crew member if he could borrow a lighter?" To further annoy, I add, "If I was in that situation I'd hop into the motorhome. Which is probably what he'll do  as soon as he gets a small blaze going and the camera is turned off for the night. Jump in the heated motorhome, have hot coffee or cold beer with the group, watch some satellite TV ..."

We laugh about it, about the fabricated drama added to the story. Effective? Well, the shows do have an audience and run for season after season.

This reminds me that my stories need the element of drama to keep readers turning the page. I don't want obvious fabricated drama, or melodrama, but something that arises in a natural way among characters and situations I created.

Many have said there must be conflict or tension on every page to keep the reader hooked. To me, whichever way you look at it, it's drama.

––Cat


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Orwell's advice to writers

 

 George Orwell - real name Eric Arthur Blair
 

June 25, 1903 - 1950


I came across an essay written by Orwell and was struck by how relevant these words are today. The essay is too long to post here, but here are a few paragraphs:

Politics and the English Language, 1946

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.
~
... one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

~

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.

~~
Orwell was very pro-English--this was written one year after the end of WWII, and his prejudices are often apparent. I agree with much of what he states; his rules apply to writers of prose as well as political writers/journalists.

I admit I often use long words where short ones will do, because the long one seems so right. Perhaps that makes me pretentious. I can argue that it's my characters being pretentious.
What would Orwell think if he knew that computer chat rooms and cell phone text messaging have created a new version of "English" shorthand? I cringe when I see phrases like c u l8ter. Maybe I'm just too old to appreciate the beauty of words that have been condensed to their simplest forms. Or I've been programmed by years of reading to want a word to be written as a word.

~

– Cat

 

Friday, February 02, 2024

I thought it meant "male pig"


Interesting research tidbit:

I have a character in Fortune who is a veteran of the Crimean War, or the Russian War as it was called in those days. He isn't an old vet, for the story takes place in 1868, twelve years after the Peace was signed. He's a young vet of about 36 who plays an important role in the book, and whose life was forever changed by the War.

Although I plan to make only brief references to the battles that involved him, I needed to learn facts about the war, what caused it, who was involved, etc. I've been researching  on the internet. And one word kept coming up to describe attitudes in Russia and England at the time -- chauvinism.

It had a preconceived notion about the word and thought it had more recent origins. Here's what I found:

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.

chauvinism -- word derived from the name of Nicolas Chauvin, a soldier of the First French Empire. Used first for a passionate admiration of Napoleon, it now expresses exaggerated and aggressive nationalism. As a social phenomenon, chauvinism is essentially modern, becoming marked in the era of acute national rivalries and imperialism beginning in the 19th cent. It has been encouraged by mass communication, originally by the cheap newspaper. Chauvinism exalts consciousness of nationality, spreads hatred of minorities and other nations, and is associated with militarism, imperialism, and racism. In the 1960s, the term “male chauvinist” appeared in the women’s liberation movement; it is applied to males who refuse to regard females as equals.

So there you go -- the word chauvinism was coined as a term for excessive nationalistic fervor. (Not unlike global attitudes nowadays, hm?)

Well, as the 19th century wars, like the wars of today, were decided upon, planned and executed by men, I see chauvinism as a man thing.

Would it be different if women were in charge? That's a whole other story, something in the realm of Mythology. Or Science Fiction/Fantasy. To some, probably, Horror.

Cat

[originally posted 2015]    

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Editing updates

 As part of this editing process, I opened a spreadsheet and designed it to keep track of the chapters, the length, and the characters who are in that chapter.

I discovered some very long chapters, so I broke them down, recalling an agent had once commented that short chapters were more reader friendly than long ones.

I also discovered that by listing the characters as active, small active, passive [there but not speaking], I can see if one of them needs a bigger role, a smaller role, or was not necessary at all in that chapter.

More discoveries to come, I'm sure.

– Cat

 


 Progress –

Today I reduced my word count by 125 words.

I came across an unnecessary word. I then decided the sentence that contained it was unnecessary. As I read further, I asked myself if the paragraph that contained the unnecessary sentence that contained the unnecessary word, was necessary. [Oof – sounds like a song!]

And I laughed. Of course the paragraph, and the two that came after it were not necessary to the story. They may have added a bit of fluffy background for a character who isn't the main one, but their presence or lack thereof made no difference to the plot.

I'll have another update in a few days.

– Cat    first posted in 2015