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Home > Author > William Penrose
 
William Penrose

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Member Since: Apr, 2008

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Background Information

Writer of novels and stories in adventure and romance.

I never took a creative writing course, but from the time I could lift a book, I've been reading. While Dad was off in Europe kicking Nazi butt, we had a single book in the house, an introductory chemistry text, a heavy, formal book with line drawings of apparatus and industrial equipment. Between that and my grandfather, I started reading at four and never looked back. For a time in Grades 7 and 8, I read five or six books a week.

As a teenager, I read more than I hung out. This left me a little socially underdeveloped; in the '50's, chasing broads or fixing cars were the only socially acceptable pursuits for a teenaged male. I was the skinny geek in 'Grease'. But some of the books I read at the time made me think, 'I could do better,' and I tried. My stuff was really bad, even by the standards of the time. I wrote a novel while in grad school, using my Remington Quietwriter. I still have it and it still stinks. The novel, I mean. I still have the Remington, too, and it still works.

For the next 30 years, I wrote purely technical stuff: scientific papers, reports, manuals, employee evaluations, memos, research proposals, yada, yada. These taught me the important principles of academic writing:

* always use the passive voice
* use long sentences with convoluted grammar
* never use a one or two syllable word when there was a seven-syllable word available
* let your superiors revise it until even you can't understand it
* always write with a voice of pompous authority, like a Cambridge don with a pickle permanently lodged in his hemorrhoids

Using these infallible guidelines, I published about 100 scientific papers and two books, now mercifully out of print.

While on vacation in Arizona in 1996, I sat alone on a reputed sacred rock for an afternoon, and after an hour or two had a mystical experience, which I've since called a 'cosmic download'. The entire structure of a story began to appear in my head, complete with characters and plot. When I returned to the hotel, I began writing it down in outline, and filled in the outline with remembered details over the next days.

When I got back home to my computer, I began writing the story. A big help at this time was the merger of our company, which left me lots of free time and enough in severance and stock options to keep me going for the next two years.

With time available, I set out to learn to write good fiction. How-to books were nice, but I had trouble putting into practice the good advice in them. It was then I developed my own technique: I took books by my favorite authors, and began copying passages from them. I had discovered that I learn better through my fingers than my eyes. In the act of copying, I internalized details of style, character and plot from these various authors. I learned to compare styles at the word and phrase level, so that I could identify why Lawrence Block, for example, wrote better prose than Stephen King, but King wrote better stories. I began to see ways I could have done a particular passage better.

I still do this exercise today, especially if I feel blocked or on the wrong track. In a way, I could say that my writing school faculty included Stephen King, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Michael Connelly, Anne Rice, and many others.

I finished 'The Sisters of Kali' seven years and 215000 words later. It does not do justice to the original cosmic download. It's nowhere near ready for prime time. It's grotesquely uneven, because the early chapters were written by a near-illiterate wannabe, and the later chapters were written by a more skilled wannabe. If you look carefully, you can see spots where other writers' styles poke through like buried roots.

To date, I have published one 11,000 word story, 'Comfy', in an anthology edited by Maria Isabel Pita.

My works in progress:

The Sisters of Kali - A very long novel about a tiny cult based in Arizona that receives a misson from God, who appears as a female. They are to establish a worldwide matriarchal society and head off a prophesied apocalyptic war. In editing.

Anne the Healer - A drifter and con-man crosses paths with a woman with an interesting curse: she can sure people of incurable diseases and feels morally and religiously obligated to take her dubious gift to the world. Complete and about ready to meet the public.

Rhiannon's Men - Rhiannon Lane is an attorney who helps corporate pirates steal their companies' assets, and then exploits the men for her own gain. This does not make her a nice person, although she's definitely a very sexy one. Stalled. 

 

Birth Place
Hamilton,  Canada


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