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message 1: by A.F. (last edited Sep 07, 2012 05:35AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1774 comments Mod
Please welcome author Darius Jones to our group Q and A discussions. Darius a writer of literary, fantasy and historical fiction and has two published works, The Truck Stop, a short story, and a novel, The Library of Lost Books.
His writing influences include, Edgar Allan Poe, Plutarch, Jose Luis Borges.

His Goodreads Profile: Darius Jones

The Library of Lost Books by Darius Jones The Truck Stop by Darius Jones


message 2: by Doug (new)

Doug Lamoreux (douglamoreux) | 16 comments Greetings. Your list of influences is certainly eclectic. What about their various writings interest and inspire you? How do they weave themselves into your own works? Thank you.


message 3: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones First thanks to AF for putting this together! I'm excited to answer everyone's questions.

For background, here's my blog:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/...

and here's the link to my novel on Amazaon:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008KWVX3I

,Darius


message 4: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Doug,

Great first question. Tough. I could go on and on about my influencers.

Let’s take these top three.

I loved Poe as an adolescent, but my interest has waned somewhat. Still, it’s hard to imagine a writer with such a sharp style. And it’s remarkable how fresh his style seems 150 years later. I couldn’t say the same about other great writers. I especially feel his influence when I write in 1st person. It’s that whole:

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”

Who wouldn't want to imitate that? It's timeless.

Plutarch is rarely read, but he is vastly underrated. He was a huge influence on Shakespeare and it shows. He can bring out a person’s best and worst qualities with an offhand comment, jest or subtle action. He was also known to change the sequence of historical events to make the pacing of his lives more exciting. When I think of a character, I think of how Plutarch would subtly bring out a good or bad man’s qualities.

Borges is fascinating as an idea writer. I like his imagination and how he weaves in history, science, mathematics into his work. I just recently started reading him, so we’re still in our honeymoon phase. If anything I incorporate Borges by placing bigger philosophical ideas into a fantasy-world setting.


message 5: by Christine (new)

Christine Rice (christine_rice) | 82 comments You have an impressive blog, Darius. I like that you provide tips and information that is helpful to writers in addition to details about your books and your experiences an author.

Congrats on publishing your book in July and your book sales so far, which you mention in your blog.

Are your books self-published or traditionally published? How did you choose which way you would publish your books?

Thanks!


message 6: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones For those looking to read more, I suggest...


Top Poe: The Gold Bug

Top Plutarch: Lives of the Noble Greeks

Top Borges: Labyrinths


message 7: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Christine,


Thanks!

My goal with my blog was to give people a feel of what it was like to be a writer starting out in the digital age. It seemed like there was so much misinformation out there about Kindle, Nook, KDP, Smashwords, DRM, etc. and what little information there was wasn’t from authors.

My goal was to fill that gap by honestly and transparently sharing my experiences. Part of that project is to show other writers that crap happens (rejections, slow sales), but that you have to keep going. Part of it was just to inform.

But now, I’m trying to include more posts for READERS, on the creative process, my musings and how I come up with this stuff. I will still post WRITER-centric posts, but I also want to give the readers something…

Whew! Is that too much?...Part 2 of answer coming…


message 8: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Christine,


You ask: Are your books self-published or traditionally published? How did you choose which way you would publish your books?

“Traditionally published”? What does that even mean??? I’m not sure anymore.

In a word, yes, I self-publish everything. I write it, I edit it. I send it to a proofer. They send it back. I hand the manuscript off to my book cover designer and my e-book formatter. They send me back a book cover first. I send the cover to my formatter. He sends me Kindle and Nook files. I post them. Done.

That’s how it works.

I guess that’s not traditional?


message 9: by Massimo (last edited Sep 07, 2012 07:58AM) (new)

Massimo Marino | 23 comments Hi Darius,

while writing my novel at one point something happened. The story and the characters acquired a life of their own. At first I was struggling to imagine the situations and plunge characters and "imagine" what would have been their reaction. Then, I stopped to imagine and I "saw". At times, actions and scenes and dialogues happened in my mind faster than I could write: I became a witness. It continued till the end of the first novel and it is now providing material for its sequel. Long preamble, sorry. Now the question:

How intimate do you get with your characters, does anything as the above happen to you, too. Do you disagree sometimes with what your characters say and do?

Thanks and great work, Darius.


message 10: by Darius (last edited Sep 07, 2012 09:01AM) (new)

Darius Jones Massimo,


Another good, tough question. This one on becoming a “witness” of your characters as you write.

I think I approached this piece differently than other writing projects I’ve done in the past. I have had that experience of letting the characters drive the action and seeing where they end up. With Library I think in the early days I came up with the basic idea: the place. Who would be in this place came next, the characters: Señor, Friedrich, Heraclitus. Then, the basics of the plot came to me. I knew where and how I wanted the book to end. Then, I literally took 20 sheets of paper and laid them on the floor of my apartment, arranging them and rearranging them until they seemed right (set up, rising action, dénouement). I stuck to that progression. I’m not quite sure this is the best way to go about doing things, but I have done pieces with strict control like this and others where I’ve let the characters have more free reign. The problem with that can be that you get a bloated piece. On the other hand, the problem with too much control is that your characters come out flat and tepid. It’s a fine balance between giving characters free reign and life vs. letting them run amuck and go here and yon without any firm direction. This is especially tough in fantasy where anything can happen.

There is a famous bit in Cormac McCarthy where a wolf keeps wandering for 50 pages. I’m not sure what book it’s in. But that seems to be an example of an author letting his creations go where they will. I’ve heard it actually works quite well with the larger novel.

But I have also had the experience you’ve described in other works. My short story, The Truck Stop is a good example. Originally, Thomas left the truck stop café and the story ended. I typed “The End” but it just didn’t feel right. So, I let Thomas keep going. He literally took a walk in the park which I had never imagined or intended. But it ended up being perfect. It drove us into the depth of who he was.


message 11: by Ann (new)

Ann Lee (goodreadscomAnnlee) | 39 comments Hi Doug,

Your books sound fascinating. I have added them to my books to read. Good luck to you in all your endeavors.

Ann


message 12: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Thanks, Ann! Always love getting a new reader.

,Darius


message 13: by Tal (new)

Tal Boldo (dew_pellucid) | 5 comments Thank you for the stimulating conversation! I'm curious to know which aspect of writing fiction you find most challenging... plot construction? Character? Style? Actually, I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of these, and more.


message 14: by Darius (last edited Sep 07, 2012 11:36AM) (new)

Darius Jones Dew,

You ask, which aspect of writing fiction you find most challenging... plot construction? Character? Style?

Plot is my biggest challenge, but I’m starting to lick it. I hope. I used to think all I needed was a good idea and good characters. Not so. If you want to keep the reader’s attention you also need a compelling, driving plot. And plot construction is important, but an idea I like to use now is what I call the “plot dynamo.” It’s not the plot itself, but what drives the plot. What drives the plot will ultimately help create the plot structure.

Here’s an example I like to use. I call it Two Men in a Boat. The story starts with two guys in a rather large boat floating along. So far, not much of a plot. But unbeknownst to them, there is also a very hungry tiger loose on the boat (Is this the plot to Life of Pi?? I don’t know, but forgive me if it is.) Suddenly, you have tension and a plot dynamo, something driving the action. Ultimately, either the tiger will kill the men, the men will kill the tiger, or the men escape. At any rate you have something that causes rising tension and you’ll know when the story ends if you’re the author.

You could do this treatment with almost any classic book.

Style is also difficult, but I’m tackling this too. I’ve started to focus on first lines. A great first line (or two) sets up everything. It tells you what the story is about, but most importantly it should have the tone in there. These are great examples, I leave you to identify their sources:

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.

To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

In the midway of this our mortal life, I found myself in a gloomy wood, astray, gone from the path.

Character is easier for me. I don’t know why. Heraclitus (one my heroes who became a character in The Library of Lost Books) said “Character is fate.” Or something like that. If you have a compelling character, great action and conflict will follow in his wake. Especially, if you mix him/her together with other compelling characters. My key to character is Stanislavsky’s Maxim, which I plan to explain in my blog at a latter date, it’s a bit too long to explain here.

So, plot is the killer for me. I try to focus on the setup, rising tension, climax, resolution. That’s what every good story should have.


message 15: by Tal (new)

Tal Boldo (dew_pellucid) | 5 comments Fascinating. I think of your Dynamo as a my plot pivot (that which everything turns on). So I'll up the stakes with my next question.

I assume you start with a theme, a purpose for writing the book... so what tools do you use to come up with physical manifestations of the theme; i.e.: events that will illustrate the point you are trying to make? I think this makes plot weaving deadly difficult. But without it, does the story fall short of being literature?

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and thoughts.


message 16: by Darius (last edited Sep 07, 2012 12:06PM) (new)

Darius Jones Dew wrote: "Fascinating. I think of your Dynamo as a my plot pivot (that which everything turns on). So I'll up the stakes with my next question.

I assume you start with a theme, a purpose for writing the bo..."


Theme, theme, theme…Let’s see you mean theme as the point I’m trying to get across? Or as the topic or subject of a work?


message 17: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Dew wrote: "Fascinating. I think of your Dynamo as a my plot pivot (that which everything turns on). So I'll up the stakes with my next question.

I assume you start with a theme, a purpose for writing the bo..."


I’m assuming you mean theme as point of a work.

Honestly, I can’t say I think much about this. I’ve been asked more and more about this lately. In fact, one friend asked me what the point was of a piece I’m now working on. I really couldn’t tell him. Does there really need to be a point?

I can’t say that I write with a point I want to convey in mind. I figure I leave the points to the rhetoricians and politicians. I don’t feel I need to have points and so don’t really include them.

But who knows? Maybe I’ll break this rule one day and write something from the ground up with a point I want to make? I think if my novel/stories have points it’s only incidentally. Or perhaps they’re so broad, they become invisible. I’m not really sure. I guess theme is something I don’t really think much about, so I don’t think about how I should weave it into my works as a whole.

Sorry, but that’s all I’ve got on themes.


message 18: by Christine (new)

Christine Rice (christine_rice) | 82 comments Most writers are readers too. What kind of books do you like to read?


message 19: by Darius (last edited Sep 08, 2012 09:17AM) (new)

Darius Jones Christine wrote: "Most writers are readers too. What kind of books do you like to read?"Christine,

Alas, it’s true I must admit I have a reading habit.

I like to read pretty much anything, but I usually stick to fiction. But I did read Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We are Who We Are on primate society lately which was really good. For fiction writers, I think it’s important to stretch out and read more than just fiction. You never know where you next great idea is coming from. And I have usually found it doesn’t come from another fiction book.

Right now, I’ve just started The Invention of Morel continuing my current interest in recent Latin American literature. I’m getting more into this area and plan to start reading more Argentine, Brazilian and South American literature in general. I also have a developing interest in Japanese literature. I especially enjoy Bashō Matsuo’s poetry.

I have a bad habit of reading mostly very old stuff and not enough contemporary stuff. You know, Plutarch, Heraclitus, Ovid. My friends are trying desperately to cure me of this malady. For some reason lots of the modernists leave me cold. I think too much style can distract from that “unity of effect” that Poe strived for. I’m a big believer in the unity of effect and sometimes feel the modern emphasis on a personal style distracts from it. That being said, I would really like to hear your suggestions, or anyone else’s, for good recent reads.

I used to be very much into the 19th century Russians (Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Gogol), but I haven’t read much of the Russians lately. Also, I’ve read quite a bit of Dashiell Hammett in the last couple of years. I think he’s underrated as a stylist and psychological writer.

I haven’t read much genre fiction (scifi, horror, fantasy) lately. But I used to read a fair amount. I like to consider myself a “literary genre writer” so I’ve started to build up my collection in this area again. Stuff like The Stars My Destination.

I could go on and on about this, like most writers, but I think that’s a good overview. See my book ratings here at Goodreads for stuff I’ve read.


message 20: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Great first day, Everybody! Thanks for all the questions.

I'm going to head to the fridge for a snack and watch some Star Trek.

I will be back in the morning to check in and answer more questions.

,Darius


message 21: by Christine (last edited Sep 08, 2012 07:04AM) (new)

Christine Rice (christine_rice) | 82 comments Hi Darius,

I looked at your rating list. What came to mind for good books for you is The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo, and books by Ray Bradbury, such as The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Zen in the Art of Writing.

Christine


message 22: by Darius (last edited Sep 08, 2012 09:24AM) (new)

Darius Jones Christine wrote: "Hi Darius,

I looked at your rating list. What came to mind for good books for you is The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo, and books by Ray Bradbury, such as The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Z..."


Thanks, Christine.

I will have to check out the Zen and the Art of Writing book, I’ve never heard of that one before.

And generally I’ve been remiss on delving into Bradbury, but that is going to change...


message 23: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Got to do some Saturday chores, but I will be back in the late afternoon/early evening to check in. Hope to have some good questions waiting when I return! And I promise to answer every one.

Cheers!

Darius


message 24: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1774 comments Mod
I second the Bradbury recommendation. I also recommend Guy Gavriel Kay. He's one of my favourite authors who combines history with fantasy into wonderful books.
Now for my question. Do you feel that the quality of writing in genres today had diminished, or remains the same as in past decades?


message 25: by Kevin (new)

Kevin (kevinhallock) | 60 comments Hi Darius,

One of the things I always wonder is how authors write up the blurb for their books. It's the first contact with a potential reader, and am curious what type of strategy you used when writing yours.


message 26: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones All, we have had severe storm and tornado warning. Internet is down. Am answering via phone. Bear with me. Will do my best.


message 27: by Darius (last edited Sep 09, 2012 10:19AM) (new)

Darius Jones A.F. wrote: "I second the Bradbury recommendation. I also recommend Guy Gavriel Kay. He's one of my favourite authors who combines history with fantasy into wonderful books.
Now for my question. Do you feel..."


I have to admit, I'm not a huge reader of genre writing, so I'm not the best person to answer this. But I will say it's sad to see some of the great sf writers depart. Bradbury, Harrison, etc. Sad also to see the lack of good sf on other media. When I was growing up Star Trek was on tv, Star Wars was at the movies. I think a comeback is due.

Of genre writers today, gaiman is quite good. So I have to say there are still good writers out there. Please, everyone, send suggestions on good contemporary genre writers. Would love to hear what you have to say.


message 28: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1774 comments Mod
Darius wrote: "A.F. wrote: "I second the Bradbury recommendation. I also recommend Guy Gavriel Kay. He's one of my favourite authors who combines history with fantasy into wonderful books.
Now for my question...."


I have to agree with Neil Gaiman, being a huge fan since his Sandman days.


message 29: by Darius (last edited Sep 09, 2012 10:21AM) (new)

Darius Jones Kevin wrote: "Hi Darius,

One of the things I always wonder is how authors write up the blurb for their books. It's the first contact with a potential reader, and am curious what type of strategy you used when writing yours..."


Well, ten years as an ad writer helped me write a good blurb. But seriously, I think you have to look at other blurbs in your genre and see what they wrote. One key is to give a setup and the main idea without giving away too much plot. The idea is to tease, not to give it all away. And it's definitely a place to display your best (proofread) writing. If you can't interest them in the blurb, they won't get interested at all!


message 30: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Still no internet, but phone seems to be doing the trick...


message 31: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones I'm back online and looking forward to your questions this afternoon/evening.

,Darius


message 32: by Christine (new)

Christine Rice (christine_rice) | 82 comments Hi again, Darius.
What are your goals for the future?


message 33: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Christine wrote: "Hi again, Darius.
What are your goals for the future?"



Christine,

Thanks, that’s a good question. I’m not really sure I have an answer.

My future goals? I really don’t know, to be completely honest. I’m just focusing on getting my works to the public. That’s what I want to do. I just want to make the time to write and write and write. I want to write the best I can and not worry too much about what readers, editors or reviewers think.

Also, I’m not a writer who suffers from a dearth of ideas. I have lots and lots of ideas. I definitely do not feel like I’ve written myself out or don’t have anything else to say. I have ideas for novels, stories, plays. Everything except poetry (which I suck at) and screenplays (which I have no interest in). I plan to keep sending my short stories to magazines and self-publishing my longer works online.

So, that’s it. Keep publishing on Kindle, Nook and other digital publishing platforms and see where it leads me.


message 34: by Christine (new)

Christine Rice (christine_rice) | 82 comments Sounds like some great goals and plans! Thanks for answering my question.


message 35: by Darius (new)

Darius Jones Thanks, Everybody for a great Q&A session. I really had a great time answering your questions and learned a lot in the process.

I will check in tomorrow for any lingering questions you post.

Thanks!

Darius Jones


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