The Magician’s Doll is the Featured New Book on the blog West of Mars! It’s hosted by Susan Helene Gottfried, author of the Trevolution Series, and a wonderful editor in her own right. Check it out! Thanks, Susan.
Mr. Mackey gave the key a final twist in the lock. After a long day at work in the soda shop, he was ready to go home. He tucked the pint of ice cream he was carrying under his arm more securely. His wife had made her delicious home-baked apple pie and had asked for the extra creamy vanilla-bean-flavored ice cream for the crowning touch. Mr. Mackey was only too happy to oblige. His wife’s apple pie was one of his life’s greatest pleasures.
The night air stung his cheeks, but Mr. Mackey wrapped his scarf tight around his neck and started his trek home. Fall evenings had become chilly this month, but it was not yet cold enough for snow. Good thing too, with the storms around the area, Mr. Mackey thought. It would not be pleasant to have rain storms turn into blizzards. It would interfere with his walk home, and he enjoyed using the stroll to unwind after his workday.
As he made his way down the street, he noticed that the light on the corner was out, and that a figure waited under it. Strange, thought Mr. Mackey, no bus stops there. He made out someone tall, but not much else.
“Hello, Sir,” the figure said, as Mr. Mackey approached. It was a man who spoke, but he made no move to come into the lighter section of the street where Mr. Mackey could see him better.
“Good evening,” Mr. Mackey replied. “It’s gotten a bit chilly out, hasn’t it?” He squinted to see if he recognized the man, but the shadows hid him.
“It has,” the stranger agreed. “You all seem to be having an unusual fall out here.”
“I suspect it has to do with the storms in the area,” Mr. Mackey said. “I suppose you’ve heard of them?”
“Yes, they are quite the news nowadays, aren’t they? They don’t seem to be affecting this town, though.”
“I guess we’re having a bit of luck,” Mr. Mackey said. “I take it you’re not from around here, then?”
“No,” the stranger said, “I’m not. I found myself here by accident.”
“This town, it slides under the radar, don’t you think?” The stranger’s tone was conversational, but there was something else to it that made Mr. Mackey feel like the stranger was not really having a conversation at all.
“It’s almost too easy to miss,” the stranger continued. “It slips out from under you unless you really want to find it.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” Mr. Mackey said.
“No, I don’t believe you do.” The man took one step towards him. Mr. Mackey did not want to be impolite, but he instinctively took a step back.
“I’ve noticed that about the people who live here as well,” the stranger continued. “There’s something about you all that I, literally, cannot wrap my mind around. I should be able to read you, see everything about you, but,” the man made a motion with his hands as if he was grasping at empty air, “you all seem just beyond my grasp.”
A cold that was not a part of the fall air filled Mr. Mackey. He glanced around, but the street was empty. He had stayed at the soda shop later than usual, and everyone else had gone home.
“If you’ll excuse me, I should be getting home now.” Mr. Mackey backed away from the man.
“Have I made you uncomfortable?” the stranger asked. “I apologize. I just didn’t expect to encounter such a puzzle here.”
“What are you looking for?” Mr. Mackey asked.
The man paused. As the silence stretched, Mr. Mackey wondered if he should take the opportunity to hurry on home. But then a strange feeling stole into him. It was like fingers tickling along his skin, ruffling through his hair and burrowing into his head.
The ice cream he was holding dropped to the ground. He tried to move, but his limbs would not listen.
“You know,” the man said softly, “I am actually not too sure you can help me. I don’t think you know anything about what I am looking for. And yet there is something about you…it’s maddening!”
The man’s head moved then, as if he noticed something on Mr. Mackey. He took another step towards him, but not enough to pull him out of the shadows.
“Your scarf,” he mused. “There’s something about your scarf. Where did you get it?”
“One of our local stores.” If Mr. Mackey could have moved his limbs, they would have shaken from fright.
“Does everyone shop there?”
“Yes, pretty much.”
Again the man was silent.
“I’d like to leave, please,” Mr. Mackey pleaded.
“Who owns this store?” the man asked.
Mr. Mackey hesitated. What if this man tried to visit Janet Stone? He could not send him to her.
The man stepped closer. Mr. Mackey stood captive.
“No answer for me? What’s the name of the store?”
Mr. Mackey did not answer. Heaven help me, he thought.
The man sighed. “This makes it hard. It should have been easy to come in here and find out what I needed, but now I’m going to have to do some more work, and not all of it pleasant. Now,” the man said, his voice growing hard, “I’m going to give you a chance to tell me what I need to know, before I start moving on to other methods. From which store did you buy the scarf, and who is the owner?”
Mr. Mackey closed his eyes. His heart sank. He sent a silent apology to his wife for not making it home with her ice cream. His eyes opened in time to see a hand reach for his scarf. He heard a roaring snap, and a bright light blinded him. He opened his mouth to scream, but then the world went black.
copyright © 2013 M.L. Roble
If you’d like to read more, click here for another excerpt or see below for ways to purchase The Magician’s Doll!
The Magician’s Doll is available for purchase as a paperback and ebook. You can find it as an ebook through most retail outlets including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and Itunes, and through subscription on Scribd and Oyster. You can order the paperback through most book stores including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Bin and Town House Books (Town House Books may even have a couple of copies in stock at the store!). You should be able to check with your favorite bookseller. A great reference for independent booksellers is www.indiebound.org. The Magician’s Doll is listed on its site here. Locate your local book store and have them order it for you! I wanted The Magician’s Doll to be as widely available for purchase as possible, so hopefully you won’t have to look too far to buy it. 🙂
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I got the edits from my editor today. Surprisingly, there were few. Still, there were corrections on my manuscript that confirmed there are things to be learned. Always. I am so glad I decided to get an outside eye to do the final proofread!
Now I’m nervous. The editor had some wonderful things to say about the story, and I feel like I really need to try to make sure The Magician’s Doll stands a chance of being read. I love the story myself, and it’s interesting how responsible that makes me feel.
It will be a difficult task for me. I tend to be a private person, but marketing requires you to put yourself out there. Each decision I make, I scrutinize and question myself. I really admire people who do it with greater ease than I do. But if I want to do right by the book, I must try!
I’ve completed the edits, but I will continue to read through the manuscript, yet again, over the weekend. I forgot to write a bio (ugh!), and will need to whip one up. I need to make the final decision on whether to use Createspace or Lightning Source. I need to get my design for this blog and my Facebook page (on which I have not written – again, private person, here!). Things are gearing up.
I just realized. It’s only ten days until I put the book up. Whoa…
And I thought writing was hard…
The first draft of The Magician’s Doll was a bunch of word vomit. Every day I strove to meet a word count, and there were days I was not sure what I had written. I wrote and wrote and wrote until one day I realized I had nothing left to write. The story was complete. I learned from this draft that sometimes just plowing through will get you to the end. In the race to finish, I think I was a little numb when I did. Then I was elated. Then petrified.
I was nervous to go back and read what I had written. I put it off for several months. I wrote Encounter Way and worked on editing and publishing that story.
When I got back to The Magician’s Doll, I found I liked it, and started writing the second draft. At this point I had about 100k words. I pieced the different sections I had written in order so that the story made sense. I learned that finishing a first draft got me a “rough something” as opposed to my wait-til-inspiration-hits-me work in progress. And that’s a pretty good starting point.
I made an inefficient choice with the third draft. I started polishing the writing. I looked at voice, took out the “she felt” “she seemed” phrases and reworded them with more active descriptions. I had a lot, well maybe closer to a ton, of those phrases, so it took a while. I kept reference books and a thesaurus close at hand. When I finished the draft, I was down to 96k words.
For the fourth draft, I took out much of the “she said” “he said”s and substituted actions. I learned here that even though readers can tune out the “said”, the pace improves if you can leave it out or use action. In some places, using the “said” worked better, but finding the balance made a difference. This brought me down to 93k words.
The fifth draft was where I started making the big cuts. I learned that this is a step best done in the third draft. All the hard work and pretty phrases and corrections from the earlier drafts? Snip snipped away. Ouch! As an exercise, I made it a goal to cut at least 25 words a page to see what would happen. When I knew I had to cut words, it was amazing to find what I actually could leave out. I did not always hit 25, but I found several areas that could be edited or streamlined for more concise content. This draft brought me down to 86k words.
By the sixth draft I was starting to feel like I’d had enough of my story. I looked harder at flow for this draft, as well missed opportunities for description or action or emotion. I looked at repetitive words. My thesaurus became my best friend. I learned how overusing adverbs could weigh down the prose. I kept tweaking here and there and started to wonder whether my perfectionist tendencies were starting to work against me in making me feel that the story would never feel complete. Once I made it through this draft, I’d had enough. I decided that I would get an editor to do the final proofread.
Then my mother read the sixth draft and mentioned off hand that the main character was a little annoying.
Thus started the seventh draft. The annoyance had actually been a concern of mine, but I figured that since the character grew by the end, it might be justified. At this point, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do, but I did try to soften a few exchanges between the characters and shed some light on my character’s motivations that hopefully helped. In any case, it was important to me that the character grew, so I kept some of her annoyances. From this draft I learned that if I have a concern, the readers probably will too, so it’s important to explore the things that bother me. On the other hand, if the justification for my choices are clear, chances are, it will be good enough for most readers.
The seventh draft, which had less than 86k words, went to the editor, and I can’t wait to find out what more I can learn to make the final copy better.
What was the biggest lesson I learned from the drafts? There is always something to be learned in writing and editing each draft forced me to improve. I found many flaws, I agonized over every word, every piece of punctuation, I scrutinized my sentence structures and grammar, and even though I am far from perfect, I see the difference between the first and the seventh draft. Working through each draft fueled my desire to learn more.
I guess that’s why writing is a little like giving birth. There’s the pain of creation, but the work does not stop there. You have to follow up with the nurturing, the growing and the learning needed to make it the best child it can be. And that’s the reward.
I started writing The Magician’s Doll several years ago.
My writing repertoire at the time consisted of a short story in college, some comedy sketches, and a whole lot of journal writing. I learned from my journal writing that most of what I had to say was as interesting as balancing a checkbook. From the short story and comedy sketches, I learned that writing, at least for me, is hard. Really hard. Like ‘forget this!” hard.
Then I took a sketch writing workshop led by Ranjit Souri (Ranjit teaches at Second City in Chicago, and if you would like to learn about sketch writing, he’s terrific!). Under his instruction, I learned about structure, and it opened up a whole new world for me. Whereas before I had floundered in a sea of confusion as to how to get my ideas into a coherent form, learning structure gave me the freedom to create. I started to enjoy the process of writing. A lot.
That’s when I started to think about writing a novel.
I don’t remember how I came up with the idea for The Magician’s Doll. I do remember starting to write a few paragraphs of the story and then staring, staring, staring at the computer screen. I had no idea how to get through the daunting task of writing a whole novel. It was another wall.
So I started taking online classes. Writers.com was my favorite site. I had taken other classes that could crush fragile spirits, but the classes there were warm and encouraging. The instructors were top notch, and they taught me the different pieces that make up a novel: scenes, characters, dialog, setting, plot, etc.
I learned that classes can give you tools, but in the end, it’s left to the writer alone to assemble the story. That part escaped me for years. I did other things like look for fun word processors; I read all sorts of books and articles about the craft; I moved closer to work with the idea that I would have more time to write. None of these efforts brought me closer to completing my novel.
Still, I kept in the back of my mind, always, that I would finish my novel, even if it was the only novel I ever wrote.
When I finally decided to just do it, finish it already, I took another terrific class at Writers.com to help me crash through that final wall. Working through that first draft was, for me, an endeavor so arduous that my elation upon completing the novel felt more akin to shell shock. But complete the novel I did.
Then I discovered that the work doesn’t stop there. Editing, submitting, and then all the tropes that come with self-publishing: covers, formatting, marketing. You have to love what you’re doing – that’s my biggest lesson.
But I love my story. I am thrilled that all those years resulted in a product about which I am so happy. I look forward to the day when I am far enough removed from the novel that I can pick it up with fresh eyes and rediscover it. No matter what happens, I did it. I wrote it.
I have four dedicated e-readers right now. The Nook Simple Touch, the Kindle Touch 3G, the Sony PRS-350, and the Sony PRS-600. Maybe I’ve gone a little e-reader crazy.
In a way, though, I can’t really say that I have. I buy ebooks at both Barnes & Noble and Amazon, so I need those e-readers. I use the Sony-PRS 350 for library books, and its size is so perfect for portability, I just can’t do without it. Ok, maybe I don’t need the Sony PRS-600, but the PRS-350 is so great that I thought getting it in a larger size would increase my reading pleasure (it turns out size is not what does it). But all in all, it’s hard to find one e-reader that can cover the spectrum of purchases I make and the needs I have for portability.
In an ideal world, there would be one document format for ebooks. In that world, I would only need two e-readers. One with the form factor of the Nook Simple Touch, and one with the form factor of the Sony PRS-350.
Oh well. Until then, I can challenge myself mentally trying to remember which books are on which e-reader…
Thanksgiving is just as good a time as any to start a blog. Thankfully, my list has pretty much stayed the same over the years.
I give thanks for my family without whom, life would mean nothing. I give thanks for my friends without whom, life would be bleak. I give thanks for the luck I have, living in a country where people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, because as I turn on the news, I see people who must still fight for said right, and I realize that it is something I can never, ever take for granted.
And then there’s chocolate. As anyone around me knows, I am always thankful for chocolate.