So summer’s underway…

Need a novel for the beach/pool/long car ride?

(PLY-uh pur-DEE-duh)

Expats in an uncharted beach community recruit a reluctant pastor to class up the neighborhood. Grace happens.

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Available in paperback or as e-book

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Dan Schmidt has a terrific mind and a gift for language. In Playa Perdida, he has drawn on a world he knows well to craft a tale you will not forget.
John Ortberg, Senior Pastor; Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

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What better summer beach reading could there be than a book about a beach? Really, Playa Perdida is a great read for any season. It deals with the quiet drama of spiritual growth—through endearing characters and an engaging story in a captivating setting.
Brian McLaren, Author/speaker

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Fiction for both sides of your brain…

Paging Tom Edison

light bulb by Thomas Edison

If I’m not careful, my days break into too many small pieces: I have a variety of interests and responsibilities that clamor for attention, and want to give them all time and energy. But doing so can be wearing, and leave me huddled over the desk after sundown with a sense that not much was accomplished in any arena.

When several of those days pile together, I resolve to focus, to start the next morning by thinking in terms of chunks more than bits, hours more than minutes. Segments when things will happen.

On days like that, I section off a chunk for fiction, and set to it with determination. Usually, it works out rather well: time flies, and words show up on paper (the quality of those words is another story, as I’m also trying not to get too worked up about sentences or paragraphs during these early drafts, trying to listen to those who say ‘put words down before giving your inner editor license to critique’. Success in this is occasional).

The wrench? Reading over what’s appeared on the page. Sometimes, I like it fine. Other times, not so much. Recent case in point: a story that is unfolding more as a batch of episodes than as a sequence of events had me in its throes, and I bashed out another few hundred words only to find upon review that what I’d written would not do. Too many new ideas, too many unexplained pieces, too much drama for what needed to follow. Argh! One of my chunks wasted.

I went for a quick walk, grabbed a snack, checked email. A new idea occurred, and so I bent to that. Much better fit this time. So why couldn’t I have done it right the first time? This ‘technique’ seems rather inefficient.

Recollection of a story/urban legend about Thomas Edison floated in, how the esteemed inventor was trying to find what would hold a current and illuminate a gas to create a light. He tried this, that, and the other thing, failing each time. Are you discouraged? he was asked. Not at all, he replied. Now I know what doesn’t work.

3 tips for continuity in novels

row of palm trees

When writing happens in the cracks and on the margins–in other words, when it’s part of a routine that includes a set of responsibilities like raising kids, operating in the marketplace, etc.–continuity can be an issue. How do you keep track of the developing story? What helps your novel stay consistent?

I’ve found a handful of tools that help with this, so that it’s easier to pick up my writing when I return to it hours or days after dealing with other concerns: Continue reading

Writing maps

A reader of Playa Perdida said that she liked to find maps in the novels she went through–and that jogged a memory…. Early on as I was writing that book, I decided that a map would keep me straight, so I sketched a layout of the beach community where Playa was set and tucked it into the file folder that held my notes. When I’d sit at my desk to work on the novel, I’d take that map out and refer to it. It reminded me of where the characters were, where they were going; it kept me from putting them into the sea when they should have been at a cafe.

When it came to printing the book, though, I never even considered including that map in the finished book. But maybe I should have….

In high school, I took geography classes every year (it was a British school–my friends in US high schools at the time thought my class load odd). A big part of that was reading and copying maps, which I found to be great fun. Now I’m wondering about including versions of the maps I use in future books.

Which raises some questions: Obviously, this has been done–but has it been overdone? Too infrequent? What are the benefits? Liabilities? In these days of reading books on phones, is a map even possible for such devices?

If you’re a writer, have you had experience with this? What sort of maps do you make for your books?