Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Hour I'll Never Get Back ... Or 50!

Different colored M&M’s have slightly different flavors.  When I was younger and had time to devote to researching this topic I could actually identify the M&M color by taste.  When I was right 90% of the time, people finally stopped thinking I was quite as crazy as they had before that.
Just think if I had all that time back I spent doing M&M research… 
Oh well, then I couldn’t have shared my scientific breakthrough with all of you today, and wouldn’t that be a shame?
Log it under… There’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back again (well, more like 50, but who's counting?).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cover to Cover

Do you write your novels cover to cover or jump around, creating scenes individually?
I always write cover to cover.  In fact I can’t imagine even attempting to write scenes individually.  The thought of trying to piece together scenes after the fact is mind boggling to me.
Pryor to writing I do play out scenes in my head, repeatedly, trying little changes here and there.  I’ve even gotten where I’ll take notes about specific scenes or things that I want to remember to incorporate.  I come up with a plotline and where I want the characters to go.  I’ll make notes about their past, things that drive them or have made them who they are; most of which is just for my mental image of them and won’t actually make it into the book.  I try to capture the essence of the story and the characters.
But when I sit down to write I begin with that opening scene and work my way through to the end.  There are so many times when I think I know exactly where the story is going and it’s only when I set about typing that I’m blindsided by one of my character’s doing something completely unexpected.  I love when that happens.  I love when I feel like I’m the vessel for the story, not the creator of it.  I’m glimpsing their world and their lives, attempting to capture it all in words as I go, but the story has a life of its own.
In the end I hardly feel that I own my characters.  I love that feeling. 
I don’t think I would have that feeling if I didn’t write the story ‘as it happened’, cover to cover.  I need to experience the whole thing as if I was an onlooker; the reader and not the writer.  When I discover the hidden details of the story I can feel better how it’s playing out.  I love to capture the characters as they grow throughout the story and show how their voices change as the story progresses.  I think that would be harder to do out of sequence.
I don’t know that I could write a book scene by scene, skipping around in time.  I think that the joy of discovery would be lost and I would never quite connect with my characters.  To be honest, I began writing because a first scene came to me that I couldn’t ignore.  It haunted me and I had to know what happened to her.  So I began to write.  For me, so that I could know the story.  No one else could tell me the story because it hadn’t been written.  So I began to write that story.
Somewhere in the process of writing her story I began to fall n love, not just with that book and those characters, but with the feeling of writing.  I realized that there were more stories in my head that hadn’t been written, and I wanted to know how they ended too.  The only problem now… very few stories really have an ending.  Books have endings, that’s true, but stories don’t.  Stories lead to more stories, characters lead to more characters, and the story goes on.  Stories are a lot like life that way.
Now I’m a bit addicted to writing.  It’s a rollercoaster of emotions that always leaves you on a high, because the possibilities are endless and the potential unmeasured.  So I’ll probably always write my books from cover to cover.  I want the rollercoaster.  I want the high.  At the end of the day, I write because I need to know the ending and there’s only one way to get there.  Published or unpublished I write for me.  Readers are just the big ‘ol gooey icing on the cake of this writer’s life.
So to all my readers out there, thank you for being my gooey icing!  This next book’s for you, cover to cover…

Monday, November 22, 2010

Edits – Nightmare or Dare to Dream

Lately I’ve heard from a lot of writers about the dread they feel when having to do edits and revisions on a completed draft.  This always strikes me as odd because I just can’t relate to the stress and dislike they seem to have for the process.  I’m sure every writer approaches this process with a different view at different times, but I must say that even when it’s come down to major revisions I’m always so psyched to go through the entire process.  So I started wondering if that was as unusual as it appears to be.
When I write a story I have to say that I get into the story to quite a degree.  The characters get under my skin, or maybe I should say I get under theirs.  I think about their thoughts and dream about their interactions.  My heart races when theirs does and I’m choked up and writing through a teary haze when they go through emotional scenes.  I ‘feel’ my characters to a great degree.
Because of that I tend to ‘be’ where they are at the place in the story where I last left them (or the place that I’ll find them next.)  Somewhere in the long process of detailing their existence I lose track of all the emotions that brought them to that point.  Details I remember, but the feelings I forget, as I get caught up in their new feelings and attitudes. 
So when the story is wrapped up and the time to finally embark on that first read-through comes, I’m excited to say the least.  I love discovering the characters anew.  I love being reminded of the little choices that led them where they now are.  I feel very much like someone pulling out old love notes and reminiscing by themselves about the flood of emotions that came with those days so long past.
Sometimes, as I’m doing my editing I’ll get lost in a scene, discovering it like a first time reader and forgetting to look for editing points.  I have to go back and start over.  In fact I usually have read and re-read it dozens of times before a reader even sees it (except for a few who won’t let me do that and are riding me to finish so they can find out more – they get warning notes about typos on their copies.)
I laugh, I cry.  I feel like someone has come into my dreams and watched the movie that’s been playing in my head for months, writing it all down for me to remember.  I fall in love all over, every time.  Then I remember that someone didn’t write this down from my head, I wrote this down.  This is a new story that just came to life in my dreams, and there it is, preserved for anyone who wants to see it and experience it with me.
Wait this is mine?  My book?  A whole story, by me?  And I love this story!
That is the cool and amazing feeling of writing a book.  I can’t believe I did it once.  I can’t believe I’ve done it multiple times and I’m doing it right now.  I can’t believe that I was even capable of doing this.  I met a story in my dreams.  I fell in love with that story.  I found a way to keep that story forever, and share that story, and treasure it.
That is the truth about writing a book, published or not.  There lives and breathes a little piece of my dreams that can be relived over and over.  How many people have a great dream and wake up from it, longing for a way to go back and experience it again?  I get to do that.  I get to share the details of the way the forest smelled.  I get to remember with clarity the crushing of her heart when she lost him.  I get to know the feeling of that first kiss, over and over.  I captured a dream!  I can barely believe it’s possible to do, let alone believe that I was capable of doing it!
When I get that first chance to go through and edit a newly completed book, I’m overwhelmed with the prospect.  I get to revisit my dream.  How amazingly blessed am I that I have been given the desire to do this?  How amazingly blessed am I to be able to share what I have dreamed with others?  How cool is it to be able to call yourself a writer, merely because you are driven to write and dream and hope?
That’s when I really understand the whole point of what I do.  It’s not about the agents, or the publishers.  It’s not about the genre that’s currently trending or how many rejections I get.  It’s not about ‘the call’ that I’m waiting for.  Sometimes it feels overwhelmingly like those things are everything, but they’re not.  They’re the reaction, not the cause.  They’re the things that I will work through so that hopefully I can share this dream with the world, or the next one, or the one after that.
But this dream, captured on paper (or flash drive, or hard drive), is the real reason.  I edit to perfect the telling of the dream.  I revise to make sure that whomever reads about my dream will understand with complete clarity every nuance of emotion that went into its original showing (the one in my head).  I relish the edits and re-writing, and I especially relish the read-through.  I get to become lost in the words and forget they’re mine.  I get to fall in love all over and find new reason to make a bold attempt to share this love with all the readers out there who just might be ready to fall in love with it too.
So to make a short answer long, that is why I love edits and revisions.
But I’m curious, is that an odd feeling to have as a writer, or have you felt it too?
Are edits your nemesis, or your wonderful revelation?  Do they bring you down, or bring meaning back into your writing journey?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where does your writing come from?

There is so much talk lately about staying true to your voice, as well as the opposite talk of writing for the market.  
Vampires are done to death, automatic rejection from an agent.  Werewolves are everywhere, don’t want to see anything hairy.  Fantasy is out, unless it’s new, but not new to you, new to me…
How do you write what an agent, and ultimately a publisher wants to see and yet write what you love at the same time?

Well, here’s how I write – for the market, for me, for my reader…  It’s one in the same.
I have a writing voice.  I have a writing style.  I have characters and settings and plotlines that flow from that place in me which I can’t begin to understand or explain.  I’m a writer.  But I don’t have a PhD in writing.  I write because that’s how I best express myself.  I write because there are worlds that I imagine, people and places that spring forth in my visions, and I fall in love with them.  Will you fall in love with them?  I hope that if I explain them well, if I draw them with my words in all the beautiful colors and emotions that I see them in, then you will.  Not everyone will.  That’s ok.  But maybe if you think like me, maybe if the same things excite you and make your heart race, then you will fall in love with my worlds.
I’m fond of vampires.  I’ve become increasingly fond of wolves and the occasional sprite.  I’m branching out in my writing.  But I’m still writing in a genre that is saturated with a few big-name characters that have turned agents and publishers off to a degree.
My Vampires are different.  My wolves aren’t ordinary.  And my Sprites are downright human, only with a few abilities I don’t have.  I think my characters stand uniquely amidst the sea of their kind.  But can I get an agent to look at my query and not say, ‘Oh another vampire/wolf/sprite…’?  Can I get them to request my MS, then meet my characters and see the uniqueness of their voices, of my voice?  That’s the challenge to me.
I have decided to write from my heart.  From that place in my mind where all of my experiences gather, all my dreams mingle and all my passions intertwine.  I try to write the best way I can, showing my worlds in vivid color and touch and taste and smell.  I describe my worlds to the best of my ability.  If I write well enough, the things of my heart, then when you read them you will see them through my eyes and fall in love with them too.
I do read as well.  In reading I’m influenced by the new worlds that others create and my own creative experiences expand.  In that way, the market does come in and influence my writing.  But I don’t try to predict what that particular agent will want to see, or this other one…  How could I do that and do any justice to my writing and my worlds themselves?
I’m sure there are more formulaic writers out there.  Ones who are educated in the writing process and the marketing world.  I’m sure that their methods could be drastically different from mine, and who knows, maybe more ‘successful’ as well.
I’ve chosen to write in the way that I love to write.  I’ve chosen to write out of a passion for the worlds that exist in me.  I long to share those worlds with anyone who wishes to glimpse them.
Because of that decision, however, finding an agent who can lead me on to my publishing dreams might be a bit more difficult.  But I believe in my writing.  I believe that the right agent will take a chance on me and request one of my MS’s.  And when they do, I think they’ll see my unique worlds and unique voice for what they are. 
I write the best query I can, about the books I love.  Maybe the subject matter will get me rejected more often than not.  But to the agents out there who are holding onto my MS’s in their ‘to read’ piles, I hope you connect to the worlds in my books.  I hope that the descriptions can paint a picture that somewhat matches the beautiful movie that plays in my mind.  Because if you see those worlds as I do, then I know you’ll fall in love.  If you fall in love, then maybe you’ll take a chance on me.
In the meantime, I move on to the next world that is being formed in my imagination.  Because there’s always another story to share, another picture to paint in bold and colorful words.  That’s what I must do.
I’m a painter, and my medium is words.
Thank you to all who have taken the time to read those words and view the pictures that I have made for you and for me.
I am, a writer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

‘Tis the Season! (For Unexpected Circumstances)

Ever since I can remember Christmas has been the most amazing time of the year for me.

Growing up on the California coast we never had snow or that cold nip in the air.  We had clear blue skies and 65 degrees, just like most of the year.  But we did have colored lights on the houses, the smell of pine indoors and even chimney smoke here and there.
The stores would all put out their holiday displays (around Thanksgiving instead of before Halloween.)  And Christmas carols would fill the air almost everywhere you went.
Christmas time was a time for joy and love.  Everyone wanted to embrace the world and give a little more.  It was like His love, His gift of the season, was being shared by all.  Believers and non were ready to give a little bit of themselves and somehow the world seemed a better place.
Idyllic?  Maybe.  But maybe it’s the one time of the year when that’s a little bit ok.

Then I grew up I took all my love of the season with me as I started on a new portion of my life.  I have a family and now it is my turn to pass along my love of Christmas and tradition to the next generation.  That’s when something strange began to happen.
We had a new baby and a new home in the woods.  We had snow and lights and a chill in the air.  It couldn’t get better than this, could it?
Our first Christmas as a young family we had a lot of company, who all came to our house bearing gifts.  Yes, it was cold and flu season and we all managed to get ill that Christmas.  Surrounded by family with hacking coughs and multiple trips to the bathroom which inevitably led to clogged and overflowing toilets, we embraced a not-so-traditional season that seemed to last for well longer than the usual Christmas month I was used to.  But, oh well, it was just one strange holiday and we would have many more to come.  Traditions could start next year.
Yes, the next year came with a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes, and hope in my heart.  Snow was a-plenty and this Christmas would be wonderful.  And it was, even when the power went out and we huddled around the fireplace bundled in our outerwear.  Even when ice storms came and trees fell down in the night as howling winds tore through the forest.  Even as Christmas approached and we had to cancel our travel plans because we weren’t scheduled to have power back before Christmas day.  And then the toddler fell and cracked cheek open on fireplace and we all moved into my parent’s townhouse because it was freezing (literally) inside our powerless house…
Eight days and cold nights later we finally had power and raced back home.  Good to be home on Christmas Eve.  Tried to salvage what was left of our Christmas spirit and enjoy the moments we had together, unaware that this particular Christmas season would never really end. 
It’s good to know that sometimes when a toddler gets a fondness for a particular CD, they don’t give up on it very easily.  That Christmas CD was listened to until I finally ripped it from the CD changer around August, vowing that I would never want to hear another Christmas song again.
But the holidays came once more, this time finding us in a bit of a land dispute with our neighbors who had come by around September to tell us that they realized where the property line was, but had decided that they wanted it about 25 feet closer to our house, never mind if we had to cut off part of our attached garage if that were the case.  (Worse than child dispute case – our attorney claims so at least.)
So, skipping that one and then the additional 6 months of holiday CD’s being played…  We now found ourselves at a new house with a new baby on the way, due around…  Yes, you guessed it, Christmas!
This was the year when I finally figured out what our family Christmas tradition really is…
Our tradition is that no tradition will be allowed to exist, unless you count ‘unexpected circumstances’ as an actual tradition.  I still love Christmas, even if life is determined to hold me down and beat the Christmas Spirit out of me one December at a time.

So now that we’re approaching yet another Christmas, the Christmas music is already playing in my car, the presents are starting to get wrapped, the joy is building.  I’m getting an early start on my Christmas spirit, because I don’t know what will happen between now and Christmas day.  Yes, we will have Thanksgiving, trimming the tree, a very special birthday to celebrate, and then there’s the reason for the season.
I never forget the reason for the season.  His gift that brings us all together.
In fact, maybe I can relate a little more to that very first Christmas in a cold manger without power or a place to call home.  Giving birth to a new life while the world lay sleeping.  Away from home, away from family, away from everything traditional.  Funny how all of our deep rooted traditions started with one very non-traditional birth on one non-traditional night. 
Maybe ‘unexpected circumstances’ is the best tradition to celebrate a very unexpected circumstance that changed the course of my life and all the lives of those who celebrate this season with me.
So wishing you all an early start to the season and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS no matter where it unexpectedly finds you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What’s Your Super Power?

When I was young there was this show on T.V., Out of This World.  In this show, Evie, the main character was half alien and half human.  She had the power to stop time and restart it.  All she had to do was put her fingers together and time on Earth would stop.  She could go and do whatever she wanted, leaving time frozen around her.  If she wanted to unfreeze someone else she could touch them and unfreeze them with her.  Then, when she was ready she put her hands together and time un-froze.
Ever since I saw that show I had a new ultimate super human power desire.  (Before that I think Plastic Man was the one I envied.)  But the ability to stop time…  Super-human cool!
When I was younger I would have used this power to work on homework without missing any shows.  Or I could have gone on private adventures without ever being missed.  I would have been able to sleep in whenever I wanted and stay up late every night.  That would have been so cool.
As I’ve grown older, this super power has remained my constant number one in supernatural ability wishes.  Its benefits are endless.  Its drawbacks almost nil.  It is the ultimate super power.  Just think…  I could do my ‘mom’ thing all day long, then I could stop time and sleep as long as I needed to.  Then, with time still frozen I could write as long as my fingers could stand the typing.  I could unfreeze time and still do laundry and the dishes and all the other home stuff.  I could even watch T.V. or play my Wii, without it taking away from my write time.  How cool would that be?
Rough day?  Freeze time and nap.
Kiddo about to fall down?  Freeze time and set them upright, or put a pillow under them.
Inspiration strike?  Freeze time and write until you get it out of your system.
Ok, I’ll admit that there could be some issues that arose if you had this ability.  Learning how to limit your usage of it.  Dealing with seeing everything and everyone frozen in time (kinda strange).  If you age during that time, then how many years will it eventually add up to?
But if you take away all those little ‘realities’ and just look at it in a supernatural sort of way…  Totally the coolest super human power, with the absolute most practical uses.

So, if you could have a super power, what one would you choose?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Older Men can be HOT

Believe it or not, Older Men can be HOT
Ok, so in my last post I tried to explain to all my readers out there why my characters sometimes sound like an old British lady. 
Now on to another subject that my readers have questioned.  The age and hotness of my main characters.  Yes, most male main characters in my stories tend to be a little older than the female characters.  They also tend to be really nice guys, even when they’re vampires and werewolves.  Yes, they’re strong, for sure, masculine, for sure, but they’re so confident that they don’t mind showing their heart every now and then.
I don’t have a lot of defense here, except that I like older men, and I like strong, kindhearted men.  Yes, I write about the characters that I can’t help but fall in love with.
When I was young (very young) the first ‘TV crush’ I had was on Richard Dean Anderson as MacGyver.  Oh my goodness!  He could fix anything!  If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, you would pick him.  Plus there was the whole, quiet, alone, slightly hurting, thing that he had going on.  You just knew that if you could be a character on the show, you could break through and bring true happiness into his life.  You could heal all his hurt and then some.
When I found out that RDA was actually as old as my Dad, there came a pivotal point in my youth.  Your first reaction is always going to be, ‘oh, gross!’  But what comes after that?  Do I abandon my loving obsession for this man, or do I say ‘What the hay!’ and go right on loving him?  Well, you can probably imagine which one I did…  Yes, what the hay!
So I followed that TV crush up with some others that were all too similar I’m afraid.  Johnny Depp, Christian Slater, Hugh Jackman, Lloyd Owen, Clive Owen, Colin Firth, Mark Harmon…; and let’s face it, some of them just keep getting better with age!
I’m afraid this trend followed me into real life as well.  I never was interested in boys my age, but there were some rather fine teaching interns that I came across in my day.  The closest to my age that I was ever interested in would have been five years my senior, but I tended to stay in the 10-12 range.  I can’t explain it, it’s just me.  Yes, if you’re wondering, my husband is 11 years older than me.  I’ll admit it, when you’re 15 that difference can seem, well ewwww, but give it another five years and, hey not so bad!
So if you think that my younger characters are interested in guys who are too old, just remember, older guys can be really HOT.  If you’re still having trouble with it, try picturing Johnny Depp or Hugh Jackman as my leading character… it can really help I hear.  Besides, most of my characters are in some way immortal, so hey, what is age anyway?  Nothin’!
Now, you think the old guy is just too nice?  Maybe saying he’s sorry too much, a couple tears too many, expressing himself too well?  It just goes along with the whole, I’m tough, I’m strong, I’ll sweep you off your feet, but I need you desperately, thing.  They are strong, they’re tough and sometimes lethal, but she can melt their heart.  Yes, she being female main character of course.  Because who doesn’t want to be loved that way?  The badest boy on the block but he’d cry a tear for losing you.  (Just me?)  He would defend you to the death and yet keeps all those killing instincts under control just so he can be with you. 
Besides, maybe it takes a little age to have that kind of control and confidence.  You’re not worried about how anyone else views you.  You don’t kill just to raise the body count (anger and revenge, well ok, but not body count.)  You’ve learned in those years.  You know how to appreciate a good woman, even if she happens to be 15 years younger than you were when you were last human.  Hey, it’s all good.
So, maybe I don’t have a good excuse for my leading male characters.  That’s just the way I like ‘em ladies!  Anyone concur?
If you do, all good then.
If no, then just picture Hugh Jackman or Johnny Depp, or whoever your middle aged idea of hot might be.  Go ahead, we know you have one!
And if you’re not a lady, well then just be happy there are ladies out there who are capable of viewing middle aged anything as hot, because if you’re not middle aged yet, you will be soon enough.
Ahhh, feels good to get that out.  Maybe next post I’ll cover contractions (or lack thereof)… Ok, I have no defense for that one!  Sorry readers.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Life is British Comedy

So many of my readers have made various comments on my original drafts that have to do with a couple things…
First of all, my inclination to talk a little bit too British sometimes.
No, I’m not a British old lady, I just play one on TV.  Well, not me exactly, but my family for sure.
 Here’s my illustration:
I meet future husband and we sit down to watch some TV at his place.  Keeping Up Appearances comes on.  He’s excited.  I’m wondering what this is, but British sitcoms are usually pretty good, so I’m game.  By about fifteen minutes into the first episode I have ever seen my mouth is hanging open and I’m thinking, “Why do people think this is funny?  This is so, not funny!  No, see, this happens to me every day at my house, and it is NOT FUNNY!”  By the end of the first episode I was rather shaken by the fact that this character of Hyacinth and all the little minions she Queened herself over was considered comedy.  Because, and you’ll have to trust me here, when you live with a Hyacinth, it is NOT FUNNY!  It’s actually quite hard growing up as a subject of the self-appointed Queen of the world.  (No, it’s not my mother if you all are thinking that…) 
So my future husband tried to explain the hilarity that others feel in viewing my daily existence as British comedy.  Still, didn’t get it.  He told me that I should try distancing myself from the situation and try to see what other people see, then I could laugh at it and it wouldn’t feel so bad.  Ok, what does he think he is a psych major? (No, he’s an accountant.)  But I gave it another go, chuckling nervously to myself.  Feeling guilty that I might even be making light of situations that I had lived through.  Situations that were SO NOT FUNNY!  By the third episode I was laughing, yes laughing, at us, at the bizarreness that is my family, at the irony of life.  Had I finally learned after 20+ years to laugh at the Queen herself?
Ok, fast forward a year or so.  Now married and own the complete box set of Keeping up Appearances.  Family is over (including the Queen) and trying to find ways to entertain them all.  Husband suggest watching Keeping up Appearances.  Now, with my new distance from the situation, I agree.  The Queen is excited, turns out she loves the show!  We begin to watch, at which point I look over at my Mom, mouth open and shocked look on her face.  I know that look and I know what’s going through her mind, “This is so NOT FUNNY!  Why are they laughing?  No, this is real!”
End of first episode and the Queen turns to my Mom, “That is so you and ‘your husband’!  Ha Ha Ha.”  Ok, my Mom goes from shocked and teary to ready to spit nails (at the Queen.)  It took my Mom about three episodes to learn how to laugh at the way British comedy viewers watched her life play out.  But she learned, eventually.
Sometimes it’s ok to find humor in what was in no way a humorous situation when it occurred.  British comedy has apparently captured my life, and I’ve learned to laugh along.

(Oh, by the way, yes we had a Richard, Rose, Onslow, Daisy… we had the whole cast in our family, plus some extras that must have been cut for the BBC version of our lives.)
Looking for more of my BBC life?  Check out Monarch of the Glenn… I would usually say that the simplest way is the best, but not with my family!  Or how about the documentary that had the queen going through the display of her gowns… holy cow, that happened at my house on a monthly basis, at least!

So to all my readers out there, forgive me if I go off on British old lady dialog every once in a while… just returning to my roots for a moment.  (Don’t worry all you agents, editors, publishers out there, it’s been edited out as much as possible.)

Watch for my follow up post on why older men are HOT.