All About Louis: Memory Thief Chapter Six and Seven

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Welcome to another chapter annotation for THE MEMORY THIEF. Up this week? A bit of discussion on Louis as a character, along with some info on how he changed over the course of the book. As always, this is intended for people who have finished the novel, so I’ll be talking about the ending and everything in between. Don’t read if you don’t want spoilers.

In the original draft of THE MEMORY THIEF, Louis is a kind old man who dies at the end of chapter six, as he does now. But the big difference is that he stays dead. There was no “remnant” of him left to instruct Benji. He gives his ability and knowledge of how to be a Memory Thief to Benji all at once, and he’s gone. Benji just has all the information at his mental fingertips right off the bat.

This was problematic, because it made it so Benji had to sort of think through things that he technically already knew. It was very clunky, and made for big chunks of exposition that didn’t work at all. To fix this, I made Louis show up as he does now in Chapter Seven in his afterimage form. (My ode to Obi Wan.)

This helped in many ways, because it gave Louis a bigger role, and allowed him to have more one on one time with Benji. It also let Benji get a crash course on how to use his abilities in a way that makes sense and is interesting. As a matter of fact, I ended up having  Louis play an even bigger role after that first draft. He would pop up now and then at sporadic times to comment on what Benji was doing and to give him advice and input. He ultimately helped Benji through the depression trap Genevieve sets for him late in the book, and disappears there.

On the one hand, that was great. Benji had a great relationship with the old man, and when Louis finally disappears, it made a big impact on him. But it presented other problems. The biggest was that Benji had help throughout the novel. He had an expert on hand to conveniently show up and offer solutions to whatever pickle Benji found himself in. This ultimately proved to be too much. It didn’t feel like Benji was solving any of his problems, which cheapened the feel of his victories.

In the end, Louis stuck around for a chapter, and then disappeared. Worse yet, we discover later in the book that Louis had been a real jerk years before. (Something which presents bigger implications. How much do Memory Thieves get warped by their ability? Is it inevitable? It corrupted Louis. It corrupted Genevieve. What will happen to Benji?)

So Louis ended up having quite the range of experiences over different drafts of the book. I think we ended up in a good spot, but I do miss some of the interactions he and Benji had way back when.

As a side note: I wonder how many readers noticed that Benji’s name connects to Louis. I’m doubting very many, since a lot of readers appear to be pronouncing Louis’s name the French way, like King Louis. I always thought of it being pronounced like Lewis. And back in Chapter One, Benji’s mom yells at him and Kelly. “Benjamin Clive and Kelly Joy Lewis” (Truly geeky people will get the reference there. His parents named the twins’ middle names after CS (Clive Staples) Lewis and his wife Joy.) But anyway. Benji’s last name is the same as Louis’s first name. Make of that what you will.

Sixteen Years of Marriage

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I was terrified of getting married. It’s something I think I’ve discussed here on the blog before, but it bears repeating. My parents had divorced when I was young, and it really threw me for a loop. It was no fun at all, and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure I spared my kids from having to go through that. But how in the world could I know the person I was marrying was the *right* person?

I’m a planner, and so I had come up with lots of different plans to be certain. I would have to know the girl for at least a year. Probably more like five. We’d date for a long time, and I’d want to get to know her in all sorts of situations. I’d want to meet her parents. See where she grew up. Have many long conversations about everything under the sun. I’d want to date widely, so that I had as much experience with different personalities that I could. What if I met someone after I got married that I ended up being better matched with?

There was just no way to know. I was convinced of that. It’s why I went on so many dates after I got back from the Jerusalem Center. There was one girl I thought I’d end up marrying. That had been the plan, at least. I’d known her for years. All the dates were just there to make 100% sure I knew what I was doing.

And then I went on the first date Denisa, and all those plans went out the window.

Our first date was November 4, 2000. We were secretly engaged by New Years. We eloped April 25, 2001, less than 6 months after that first date. I hadn’t met her family. I hadn’t even been to her home country before, let alone her home city. We’d had plenty of discussions, but as for knowing and seeing her in tons of different situations? I didn’t have any of that.

Anyone who’s met Denisa obviously knows why that all got forgotten. When you meet someone like that and discover she’s actually in love with you back, you’d be certifiably insane to let her get away. And when I look back at 16 years of marriage, I realize how little all my planning really would have come to.

So much of marriage is about adaptation. Encountering surprises and changing. Parenting adds a whole new dimension. The big takeaway is you aren’t marrying that person for eternity. That person will change. You will change. Marrying, in my experience, turns you and your spouse into something else. You are no longer the single version of you. You’re a team. I don’t mean that in any sort of creepy way. I don’t mean you give up your individuality or anything like that. But your priorities change. Your definition of success changes. You could plan for all the different situations that might come up in life, but in the end, all those plans don’t amount to much, because you realize how little you knew at the time.

I was 22 when I got married. I had no idea the sort of challenges that would end up facing us. Family passing away. Career plans drastically changing. Figuring out that whole “parenting” thing. Moving states. I get a real kick out of the thought that I could plan for all of that when I was that young. I don’t think I could plan for all of it now, even with 16 years of experience under my belt. And as time goes on and I see how much still lies in store for us, it would be even more daunting. As I see my parents and friends deal with changes and tragedies and blessings and more, it just shows me how little I know, even now.

If I knew what being married was really like, I think the younger version of me would have been even more terrified. Overwhelmed. But even knowing all of that, I think that younger version of me would still have jumped at the chance to marry Denisa. Sometimes great ideas just glow with how wonderful they are. By far the best decision I have ever made in my life was to ask Denisa on that first date. Everything else changed because of that.

Happy anniversary, Denisa. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Tomas!

It’s finally happened. I’m the parent of a teenager. Tomas turned 13 yesterday. Write a blog long enough, and you start to run out of new material to cover. I’ve written multiple posts on his birthday over the years. (For the record, here are my posts when he turned five, six, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve. Somehow I skipped seven.) Looking back over them, it’s interesting to see how he’s changed and how my posts about him have changed. I’ve tried to chronicle what he’s interested in from year to year, so I’ll keep that up now.

Many things haven’t changed from recent years. He’s still a big Doctor Who fan, loves watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, has a great time playing Magic and other board games, and loves to read. But like me, his particular focus from time to time changes and morphs. He had his BeyBlade stage years ago. There was his Cars stage. Pokemon. Transformers. 3DS.

These days, his two main passions are his Minecraft YouTube channel and his Nerf guns. He will happily tell you all the many tweaks he wants to make to his current pride and joy: a Nerf Stryfe he purchased a few weeks ago. He’s planning on upping the motor, swapping out the trigger lock, and repainting it eventually. He did a ton of research to figure out which Nerf would be the best for him, eventually settling on the no-longer-manufactured Stryfe, and buying it when he could find a new one on sale. He got some add-ons for it yesterday for his birthday, and he was very pleased.

But the Minecraft YouTube channel gets even more of his attention. One of the first things he did yesterday was set up a Patreon account for himself, since they have a rule limiting accounts to those age 13 and up. So the very second he could get on the computer (he had to wait until 4pm, which is when we let electronics start being used on Sundays in our house), he went straight to Patreon and registered. He takes these videos very seriously, doing his best to come out with a new one every Wednesday. To make that happen, he has to record the video, edit it, compose music if he needs to, and then find a time to upload it to YouTube. He tracks his views and his subscribers like a hawk, and he’s always doing whatever he can to make his subscribers happy.

So if you’re looking for something to get Tomas for his birthday, the thing he would probably love would be for you to subscribe to his channel (free!) or (better yet, he would say) support him on Patreon. After much deliberation, he decided to base his support tiers on a monthly basis. In other words, you can sign up to give him $1, $5, or $10 each month. At $1, you get behind-the-scenes info on what he’s up to. $5 gets you an exclusive video, and $10 gets you all of that, plus a shout out in his videos and your name in the credits. (He had made abut $1.50 through YouTube ads up until a few weeks ago, when YouTube changed its rules so that only people with 10,000 views can monetize their videos.) So Patreon is his only hope of bringing in money for now. (He’s had about 1,000 views so far. 9,000 more to go!)

In any case, it seems like he had a good birthday. We watched the first part of Iron Man 2, played some Magic, had boxed mac and cheese for dinner and chocolate chip cookie pie for dessert. He’s definitely growing up: becoming more serious about school and his responsibilities around the house, and holding his own in any game he plays on the planet.

Happy birthday, Tomas. Here’s hoping your Patreon just explodes with success.

Revising on a Fast Turnaround

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If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that I finished the first draft of MEMORY THIEF 2 last Saturday. It clocked in at around 66,000 words, and I’m pretty happy with it, as far as first drafts go. It does the main thing I want my first drafts to do, which is get the basic events of the book down on paper, so that I can take a look at what’s happening and see where I need to revise things into shape.

I’m really big on revision. My first drafts need a lot of work to bring them up to shape, mainly because I typically make most of them up as I go along. It isn’t until the whole draft is finished that I really understand what the book is about. I get that isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to write a book, but it’s what works best for me.

My usual approach is to set the first draft aside for a half year or so after I finish it. Go off and write a different book, or else revise a book I’d written earlier. The thought behind this is that I’ll have forgotten enough of the book to be able to read it with “fresh eyes,” seeing it as if I hadn’t written it. I’m always worried I’ll go easy on a book I wrote, not being able to see the imperfections that will leap off the page to others.

With the MEMORY THIEF sequel, I don’t have this luxury.

The final draft is due in August. If I took 6 months off, I wouldn’t be coming back to the book until October, two months late. So I can’t very well sit back and do nothing. And as I thought about the problem, I realized some of this might just be that it’s time for me to handle my revisions differently. When I’ve revised MEMORY THIEF and VODNIK, there were times when I had to just plow through a revision, and forget all about needing fresh eyes.

So two days ago (just four days after having finished the first draft) I printed out the book and am rereading it from the beginning.

Right off, I’m seeing some good things from this approach. I remember what happens at the end of the book, for one thing, so I can spot places where I need to set things up better than I thought I had. I certainly feel like I’ve been able to write plenty of comments down for ways to improve the book. And somehow, I forgot enough about the beginning that I’m still feeling like I’m encountering it fairly fresh.

Some of this might changes as I get further into the book. Will I still be able to be objective when it’s with material I just barely wrote a month ago? We shall see. But I’m always open to switching things up with my writing. Maybe I’ll discover I’ve been sitting on books too long, or unnecessarily. Certainly having an editor already on board to look at it and give me feedback makes a huge difference.

I should also note that with this draft, I had a pretty strong outline that had already gotten feedback from my agents and editor, which is different than how I’ve worked in the past. I still anticipate making changes in the revision, but the skeleton should be fairly strong and constant. That will no doubt make a big difference.

I’m not sharing much in the way of details of the sequel just yet, mainly because I want to make sure my editor is happy with the book in general before I say too much about it. I don’t want readers to be getting excited for something, only to have it totally get switched on them before it gets published. So stay tuned for more information . . .

Heavy Meta #10: Library Funding

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There are some potential troubles for libraries in the future, both nationally and in Maine. Kelly and Bryce discuss what these are and what their impact might be.

Right click to download audio file.

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