If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our May author interviews: Marla Cooper-5/3, Rhys Bowen-5/10, Cindy Brown-5/17, Martha Reed-5/24, Sherry Harris--5/31.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in May--Paty Jager-5/6 and Maren Anderson-5/13. WWK Saturday bloggers write on 5/20--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 5/27--Kait Carson. E. B. Davis blogs this month on 5/30.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Technology Changes Stories

I recently reread Ant Farm, what would now be a prequel to Bad Policy, the current start of the Seamus McCree series. Several readers were interested in the origins of various characters and this early work provides the answers. So, I read it through to determine how much work it would take to fix the problems that made Ant Farm unpublishable.

What I learned about story and writing style problems may be material for another blog, but one of the things I discovered in this reread is how quickly technology can force story changes if they are set in “recent” times. I last worked on this story in early 2006. If I do the rewrite, I’ll need to update it to around 2010-11 to fit in with the rest of the series. In those short five years:

Fax machines for personal use did not become extinct, but they might as well be. I’ll need to change fax usage to sending pdf files that can be digitally signed. I’ll miss the mating call of two fax machines linking.

Using phone booths. They still exist, but they are rarer than hens’ teeth—well, I’m not sure that’s accurate because I’m not sure how rare hens’ teeth are, but nowadays I only see phone booths in rural areas where cell coverage is still spotty.

Speaking of cell coverage, have you seen the commercials for Verizon’s coverage map? Fewer and fewer places are without cell coverage. Fortunately for me, some of the rural areas my stories deal with are still white (empty) on the map—for now.

And how about those phone calling cards we used to use. Anyone, other than characters in the current version of my story, still using one? Didn’t think so.
I used driving a hybrid Prius as an indicator of an environmentally conscious early adopter. I need to find another indicator now.

In 2006, few people used their cell phones for detailed internet searches on the road. Now, it’s second nature.

In 2006, none of my characters texted each other. I need to think through how communication might change.

In 2006 “everyone” had home phones. Now, many people only have cell phones.
Wow! That’s a lot of changes for only five years. Mostly they relate to the way we communicate, and I haven’t even covered social networking, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., etc., etc.

Writers, have you ever picked up one of your old stories and discovered it was dated? If so, what did you do? Readers, how much slack do you cut writers if their story seems dated?


~ Jim

15 comments:

Kathy Waller said...

My cell phone is dumb and I rarely use it. I don't have a tablet. I've texted twice in six years. My car windows and locks are do-it-yourself. Given that I'm so poorly informed about life in the 21st century, I set most of my work in the 1950s and '60s. That's where my mind is most of the time anyway.

I didn't even know the fax machine is on the way out.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Kathy,

You've actually texted twice more than I have! However, I do have a smart phone and a smart car. Setting stories in the past solves the problem of changing technology, although I suspect you have to spend a fair chunk of time making sure your characters don't do anything futuristic.

~ Jim

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I've had to do some serious rewriting on books and short stories that took time to sell. And yes, the changes in technology have had quite a lot to do with it. The changes are constant and dramatic. It probably is smart to set work in a past time if you're not comfortable with the tech revolution.

E. B. Davis said...

Although I understand the need to update your script, Jim, keep that old script in case you decide at some point to write a story based on that time period. It will be a wonderful research tool for you to get back into that time frame.

I set a short story that will be published next year in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, in the late 1970s in D.C.'s Georgetown area. Although I've been to Georgetown in recent years, most of my memories of that place are still imbedded in my memory during my college years. It was an easy write and there were lots of pictures and data on the Internet to refresh my memories.

Technology changes, clothing and fashion changes, but people don't change.

Gloria Alden said...

Although I got a simple cell phone recently - a Jitterbug - I don't text, and I still have a land line and use that phone mostly - which is I can take with me anywhere close by because I'm more comfortable with it - I can prop it between my shoulder and my ear if I want to use two hands. I use a calling card with it - 500 minutes for a little over $12.00 and it lasts for months.

I was excited when I got a car with a button that unlocked and locked the doors, but the battery died not too many months after I got the car, and I've never bothered to replace it. I try not to wrote too much about technology
because I'm not as up to date with it, and even if I were, it would date the book down the road.

KM said...

Technology can certainly date a story; it changes it from "contemporary" to "recent, but non the less historic" status. Sometimes a story can be updated, bu sometimes the best bet is to put in a reference to the time frame & leave it like that.

One of the spects of my crime series is the difficulty of someone who's been released after being in prison for years and now has to cope with a culture shock, everything from scanning merchandise at a cash register to blinking Christmas lights (I know one guy who was convinced he'd manage to break the lights he was hanging because they kept going off.

Jan Christensen said...

I understand that sometimes you do have to update the technology like in this case, Jim, but I usually cheat when I pull out an older story or novel and just put a date at the beginning and at least one reference early on about the year it takes place. Sue Grafton was so smart when she decided to set her stories in the 1980s. I think she reallized how much things would change in the years between then and now. She's so smart, I have decided to use the same technique when I can.

Shari Randall said...

I was at a conference a few years ago where this topic was addressed. The presenter said to keep the tech as vague as possible: just say the character "called" rather than how....still, it's hard to avoid.
It is awful/awful funny when old tech gets in the way of the story - watching movies from the 80s sends my kids into hysterics when they see the first generation, brick-sized cell phones.

Kara Cerise said...

Technology changes so quickly. Last week at the mall I saw a watch that looked stylish and practical then realized that it was a new smart watch. Like Dick Tracy you can talk on the phone using your watch. Of course, you can also check your Twitter account, listen to music etc. What next?!

Warren Bull said...

Language can change too. Recently when I was working on a story I wrote, "both men were married." Afterward it struck me that I needed to add, "but not to each other."

Terry Odell said...

I'm constantly trying to figure out how to keep my characters from using cell phones for everything. I live in a rural area, so lack of coverage is commonplace up here--and if you don't have Verizon, forget any signal at all. When I was going to re-release my 2003 book after rights reverted to me, I did minimal updating (although I hated having to lose the line, "You have a floppy in your pocket?") and instead, added a preface alerting the reader to rewind their mindset to about 21005.

Terry
Terry's Place

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I have no problems when an author sets the time period early in the story/novel. Nor do I have any problems with a novel with a copyright, say 2005, set in the "present" reflecting the 2003-4 realities.

However, if the novel is published now, set in "present," and plot points revolve around old technology, they've got a big strike against them -- which is what I need to avoid in this one.

I recently looked at an old unpublished short story of mine. It too has old technology, but the fix will be to set the time period in the reader's mind early on and let the story remain.

~ Jim

Georgia said...

I seem to stray back in time to set my stories because I am so uncomfortable with today's technology. My writer's group is of the same vintage. My WIP is set in the 1960's when getting a second car was a big deal. Before that my story was in 650 AD with a language barrier. Maybe soon I will understand the technology I should have put into my unpublished novel set in 2008. I am a slow learner.

jamesdorrwriter said...

I made one change to a story in my current collection changing a reference to the twentieth century to the twenty-first, but otherwise left the others alone, either because they weren't contemporary anyway or, as reprints, any technology was incidental and people could see the original date on the "acknowledgements" page. What has been a problem in brushing up unpublished stories for a new go at the market is, in those that are supposed to be near-future science fiction, finding that technology has already gone past some of the "marvels" described -- as well as changing dates (e.g. from 2008 to, say, 2018) and making sure that everything else remains consistent within the story.

jamesdorrwriter said...

I made one change to a story in my current collection changing a reference to the twentieth century to the twenty-first, but otherwise left the others alone, either because they weren't contemporary anyway or, as reprints, any technology was incidental and people could see the original date on the "acknowledgements" page. What has been a problem in brushing up unpublished stories for a new go at the market is, in those that are supposed to be near-future science fiction, finding that technology has already gone past some of the "marvels" described -- as well as changing dates (e.g. from 2008 to, say, 2018) and making sure that everything else remains consistent within the story.