Saturday, October 6, 2018

Lone Star Book Blog Tour: Old Buildings in North Texas by Jen Waldo ***ENTER GIVEAWAY***

  Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 213

Scroll down for the giveaway! 

After rehab, Olivia, a 32-year-old cocaine addict, is required to move back in with her mother and pregnant sister. Having left a promising career in journalism in New York, she’s now working as a sales assistant for a family friend in her home town in North Texas. 
Under pressure from her court-mandated counselor – an old high school friend - to take up a hobby, Olivia decides on "urbexing." Soon she’s breaking into derelict homes, ex-prisons, and old drive-ins across North Texas, and it’s not long before she’s looting state property and making money off the possessions, fixtures, and fittings that have been left behind.
Old Buildings in North Texas is about a modern woman’s search for personal equilibrium and wild adventure -- the attempt to find stability in existence without losing sight of what makes life worth living. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, tackling social and moral transgressions with incisive observation and vivid humor.
“A lot of Jen Waldo’s debut novel takes place out on the porch of Olivia’s mother’s house. […] With its casual, confidential tone, Old Buildings in North Texas puts the reader in one of those porch chairs, reclining on a warm evening with a cool drink.” -- The Skinny
Old Buildings in North Texas is an amusingly written and well worked book” -- Trip Fiction
“This novel is an absolute blast. There are serious moments of course, but Jen Waldo looks for the comedy in everything to create a memorable scenario that reminded me very much of the style of Six Feet Under.” -- Shiny New Books

Character Building
Guest Post by Jen Waldo

            I once heard a recorded spoof based on the formula for writing romances.
            “Start all characters’ names with different letters,” the narrator said. “This is called characterization.”
            It’s a rule that’s too ridiculous for a writer to admit to following, but we all know that characters with similar names can be a stumbling block to the reader.
One of the most difficult hurdles in creating a character is finding the right name. Beside my writing desk I have several books of names and their meanings. I look them up online. I keep our church’s annual list of all who have died during the year. It’s given me Fitzhugh, Marveline, and Orceno.
Consider Olivia and Chloe, the sisters from Old Buildings in North Texas. To me these names say whimsical, resilient, and impetuous; a perfect fit for my girls. Extend the view to the woman who gave them these names (not me; their fictional mother), and it’s obvious that in her younger years she demonstrated like traits.
I didn’t give much thought to the meanings when I chose the names. But if I’d gone to the trouble to look them up, I’d have discovered that Olivia means kind; and she definitely isn’t that. And it’s amusing that Chloe means blooming and in the book she’s pregnant.
In a mystery series I’m working on, I changed the main character’s name several times before going with alliteration—Fran Furlow. Fran is tiny but mighty, intrusive, stubborn, fanatically goal-oriented, and flawed. Though I knew the character, it wasn’t until I got the name right that I came to love her.
In the same series, there’s Lurline. Every time she appears her image comes to mind: solidly built, walks heavily on her heels, middle-aged, quick to judge but can be compassionate, always well-groomed, and always stepping forth in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
In addition to bestowing names, there’s the matter of description. Painting the visual is as essential as revealing motives and mindset. As with differing names, unless it pertains to the plot, each character must come with distinct physical traits, so that with a single evocative word or phrase, the reader easily recalls who the person is.
Say I give my main character blond hair and blue eyes. What kind of blond? Almost white? Brassy? Ripe wheat? What shade of blue? Cornflower? Silver? Navy?
Having committed to golden hair and periwinkle eyes, in order not to be repetitive, each time the character is mentioned, I must come up with a new way to describe the same coloring.
And this meticulous focus must also be applied to every sidekick and nemesis.
The organized way to handle this would be to keep a record of the descriptive wording each time the character makes an appearance. Yeah, I don’t do that. If I fear I’ve been redundant, I scan for past descriptions and rewrite accordingly. It’s an inefficient way to go about it, but by the time I finish a manuscript, I’ve been forward and back so many times that I’ve got it memorized.
Now I’ve got names and physical traits.  
But how do my characters think and act?
Take a fictional group of four friends. One is the smart one; another is kind-hearted; the third is tough and snide; and the last is the comic. These characters are always true to their traits, which is understandably comfortable for the reader.
But for me, this consistency comes with a built-in conundrum. I want my characters to be believable. And in the real world people are unpredictable. The smart one will make a mistake. The kind one will grow impatient. Real people make decisions and they change their minds. They do stupid things knowing they’re stupid. A well-rounded character is constantly reacting to those around her. She doesn’t go straight through without hesitation and deviation.
In Why Stuff Matters, one of Jesse’s main traits is her inconsistency. She’s confused and hurt and she doesn’t know how she feels about anything. Resentful when her twelve-year-old stepdaughter, Lizzie, is foisted on her by her dead husband’s first wife, Jesse is often uncaring toward her stepchild and unconcerned when Lizzy is delivering contraband drugs to the questionable side of town, reading erotica, and showing an unhealthy interest in a grown man. Yet Jesse arranges flute lessons for Lizzy, buys her her first bra, and uncomplainingly pays the hospital bill when Lizzy falls through a pile of debris. 
Because my characters come with a sense of humor, I often run into trouble when I sacrifice consistency for a laugh. I know it’s simply not something this particular character would say, and yet she said it anyway. That’s me taking over. I hate to lose a funny line. Nevertheless, out it goes. 
And finally, there’s the question of how much of myself goes into each character. And how much is based on people I actually know?
I don’t peep into windows like Fran, and I have never been raped. I don’t sneak into abandoned buildings like Olivia and I’ve never been addicted to cocaine.
But like both of them I tend to be irreverent and opinionated. Also like them, I’m fully aware of my flaws and have no intention of attempting to conquer them.
Another trait I have in common with many of my characters, central or secondary, is a baffled fascination with the behavior of others. Why the ego? Why the sense of entitlement? Why the bitterness or the mean tongue? Why did this woman choose that man? Why is this person begrudging and this other person generous? Why does one person manipulate another?
Overall, the key to creating a character is submission on my part. Olivia isn’t me. She’s her own person and when she takes over I disappear.
Anyway, that’s the way it happens for me.

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 
1st Prize: Signed Copy of OBiNT + $10 Amazon Gift Card 2nd Prize:Signed Copy + $5 Amazon Gift Card 3rd Prize: eBook Copy of OBiNT October 2-11, 2018
Guest Post
Author Interview
Guest Post
Notable Quotable
Notable Quotable
Guest Post
Sequel Spotlight

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