30s Pulp Adventure for Kids

I’m excited to announce that I just released my 3rd sci-fi chapter book! Check out Squint & Rocket on Amazon.

This 1930s pulp adventure features zeppelins, lost treasures of ancient civilizations and two squabbling partners – the gentlemanly Englishman Captain Ishmael Squint and the rough and rude American Rashomon Rocket. With all their bickering, it’s a surprise they get anything done. And with their dangerous rival Henrich von Schnitzelwisen bent on world domination, there is a whole lot to get done.

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Do You Have Something to Say?

A friend of mine recently asked me a seemingly small question. I was telling her about all of my creative writing projects (my children’s books, novels, short stories and poems), and she asked, in an intrigued tone, “So you feel like you have something to say?”

I could answer that question by rattling off all the philosophical topics I love to chatter about anytime I’m sitting across someone with nothing but coffee between us. And I could easily write a non-fiction book on just those things.

But I don’t think that’s really answering the question (for one thing, I’m not writing that non-fiction book). And I don’t think it’s such a small question after all. Certainly everyone has opinions, and at least a modicum of a unique perspective. Each of us, I believe, has something to share with our fellow humans. But do we feel that something is valuable enough to charge others’ money for it?

Part of the answer lies heavily with how we share our piece. Because that’s the art of it, isn’t it? Are we a good craftsman? Do we weave a compelling tale, or use poetic language?

But also, is our perspective well-informed? Well thought-out? Does it share a perspective sufficiently unique as to provide something new or powerful or educational?

I can only say I hope so. And I suppose that would be the honest answer, in one form or another, of most artists. We create because we are drawn to do it. I write stories and poems, because I’m feel compelled to do so and because I feel immense joy in the process.

But are the works that result things of value? It is the collision of art and audience that starts to answer that question. Even then, we are left with the question: Did the right art find the right audience?

Work-in-Progress: The Novel That Insisted

I’m finally writing the science-fiction novel that’s been bugging me for a year and a half. It just wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, I said, “Fine, come over here. Let’s do this.”

I always enjoy writing, but one element that has particularly drawn me in this time has been the characters themselves. They are constantly doing and saying things that engage me. Every day, I can’t wait to dive back in and explore how these characters are going to confront the next scene.

There’s more comedy here than I’ve seen in my adult fiction before. Perhaps, this is a by-product of the children’s literature I’ve been writing. But I know it’s a good thing. I’ve been looking for ways to get more humor into my work, and now, it’s just emerging naturally.

Obviously, it will be a long while before I can share any of this story with the larger world, publishing being what it is. But I can’t wait. At the very least, I need to get this in front of beta readers soon in the coming months.

Pens, Keyboards & Typewriters: How the Physicality of Creative Writing Affects the Psychological

When it comes to creative writing it matters how we write.

Most modern writers, it would seem, knock their drafts out tapping onto a computer keyboard, almost at the speed of thought. The improved keyboards of today’s machines make this experience nearly soundless. There is a swift conveyance of thought to screen that seems to be almost simultaneous for some. The convenience and speed of computer input makes it seem like a no-brainer. I do most of my writing this way. But writing hasn’t always been this way.

When I get stuck, I reach for my notebook. There is something about the process of putting ink on paper that changes the way we think. Some psychologists have suggested there might be a link between using two hands (a keyboard) and the one needed when writing longhand.

But that can’t be the whole story. There is a spatial element involved when writing by hand as well. I use pen writing most often when I’m working something out creatively, perhaps it’s a plot or a character arc. I often don’t just write straight across the page, line after line. I may write a note in the margin, and then I’ll draw a line from that connecting it to another thought on the other side of the page. There’s a kinetic energy to making work this way.

There have been times where I yearn to work on bigger and bigger pieces of paper. Someday, I plan to turn one whole wall of my study into a whiteboard so that I can map out my next labyrinthine novel plot. On second thought, perhaps I should turn the floor into one big rolling butcher sheet (paper is always better).

In Lee Rourke’s article in the Guardian on this subject, he quotes writer Alex Preston: “…watching the imprint of pen on page reminds us that writing is a craft. If everything is done on keyboards and fibre-optic wires, we may as well be writing shopping lists or investment reports.”1

Neil Gaiman has spoken publicly at length about his fondness for writing with a fountain pen (because, of course, Gaiman does). As he told the BBC, “I found myself enjoying writing more slowly and liked the way I had to think through sentences differently. I discovered I loved the fact that handwriting forces you to do a second draft, rather than just tidying up and deleting bits on a computer. I also discovered I enjoy the tactile buzz of the ritual involved in filling the pens with ink.”2

I also really like what Jon McGregor said (also from Lee Rourke’s article): “An idea or phrase can be grabbed and worked at while it’s fresh. Writing on the page stays on the page, with its scribbles and rewrites and long arrows suggesting a sentence or paragraph be moved, and can be looked over and reconsidered. Writing on the screen is far more ephemeral – a sentence deleted can’t be reconsidered.”1

Exactly! When we write creatively, the subconscious is telling us something. Even though those first words on the page may not be the best, they are important, critical even. Even if you’ve scratched through them, they still exist on paper, hinting at something else, some deeper force at work.

Other writers favor the pencil. And some still, the typewriter. Although I own a few manual typewriters (how they do warm the cockles of my heart), I’ve not really tried seriously writing on them. But poet and professor James Ragan once told me that he wrote all of his poems on the typewriter. There’s certainly a physicality involved with working on a manual typewriter that’s non-existent with a computer keyboard. You have to work at it. There is a physical exercise to getting something out of your head, with the body is engaged, that’s not really present in any other method of writing. Chiseling at a stone tablet, perhaps?

Different words and ideas are possible when you write in a college-ruled notebook versus writing on an unlined page, or on a napkin even. Are you writing with a gel ink pen or a ball point pen? All of these tangible factors affect how your hand moves, the energy of the stroke, the movement of the eye, the mood of the writer even.

I like to imagine the muscles in the hand directly connected by nerves to the brain, and at least some of those links are to the creative centers of the mind. By scratching the page, we jerk the strings of the imagination puppet, the strands that weave through our subconscious.

 

1 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/03/creative-writing-better-pen-longhand

2 http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18071830

Readers Dig into New Sci-fi Chapter Book

Spit Mechs 2 has already received some wonderful reader reviews. It’s so terrific to hear how fans are enjoying the books. If you have a chance to add a review, it’s immensely appreciated (plus, it makes it easier for me to keep producing books like these in the future).

“My eight-year-old son … really jumped right in, and he does not seem to want to put it down.”

“My family really enjoys these books  … My girls (4 and 8) loved Curie so much. The spunkiness!”

“I highly recommend each of Corbett Buchly’s chapter books for the young reader in your life.”

Leave a review here (thereby earning my gratitude and adoration).

 

The Nakedness of the Non-Fiction Memoir

Although the biggest portion of what I read is fiction, I’ve been reading a few non-fiction books lately. I was struck with the idea of how well we get to know an author who’s writing about her personal life. There are so many details and nuances we experience in the reading that we would probably never encounter even if were close friends. Details about holiday traditions, internal dialogues, various mannerisms, mundane events and so on. I would have to think that authors that put these kind of memoirs out encounter fans that feel they know them, even though they’ve never met. It can be a very brave thing I think to write about your life in such a way, even if you still keep your biggest secrets locked away.

Art vs. Market

Today, I wrote the first 1,000 words of prose for my latest novel concept (adult literary). I have this idea to write this slow, pensive book with lots of dialogue and quite moments. There’s certainly a story arc and character development, but part of me worries that it’s not too terribly marketable. I read a lot of reviewers concerned with a book’s slow start. But then the other part of me, the artist side, knows I have to write what I have to write. If I write something that interests me, then somewhere out there is a market for it. And really, if the work  is strong enough, true enough, it has the potential to transcend expectations. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.