Monday, April 29, 2013

My process

When I write a first draft, I don't worry about word choice or sentence structure. My process is to get all the bones down and flesh them out later. Part of the filling-in is also a taking-away of cliches and over-used words. (Really, just and pretty are my most overused words.) But even then, I am not overly concerned with word usage. Once the story is done, I can do the weeding through and parsing of language.

I have seen a lot of writers ask "How many rewrites?" The correct answer, to me, is: As many as it takes.

Sometimes a story is so flawed that tweaking it just makes it worse. Truth's Enigma is that way for me. The first incarnation was an enormous mess. It had every problem a story can have - too many characters, too many plot lines, no clear arcs. In retrospect, I think I wrote it like a TV show. My characters had various adventures together. That's not the way a novel should be structured. So I whittled away at it. I shifted the POVs, I took out characters and plotlines. The feedback I got from the last incarnation was not favorable. I need to chuck it all and start fresh.

Then there's Unintended Consequences. That was another story that I tweaked over and over. I got very tired of the story, but it still meant something to me. I wanted to fix it. One of its problems was setting. I only had a vague idea of where it was. With that in mind, I started from scratch. I built the setting and let it influence the way the characters grew. The story I will publish doesn't look like the first try, or the various others. I rewrote it many times, but I'm finally pleased with it. My beta readers are, too.

I feel that every story I successfully finish teaches me something new. Truth's Enigma is a huge story in a setting that encompasses a whole galaxy. It will be a series. After the second rewrite, I realized that I might not have the storytelling and writing skills to accomplish it - yet. So I set out to learn new things.

White Lies is a much smaller story. It's a mystery which requires a certain formula. I learned a lot writing it. I went back to Truth's Enigma and did the most recent rewrite which still isn't quite right. So I pulled Unintended Consequences out of the closet. I learned even more writing it. Now I'm working on End of the Lines, a near-future, post-apocalyptical story. And it's teaching me even more. It's a bigger story in a bigger world. If I can get it right, I might be ready to tackle the series.

Keep writing and learning.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A new obsession - Arugula


I am growing arugula this year because I just can't get enough of it.

We discovered an incredible salad - pear, goat cheese, arugula and toasted walnuts. With a splash of fruity balsamic vinegar it's heaven. Add a couple dried cherries and it's even better. The combination of flavors is so complementary, they set each other off in surprising ways. And let's face it, toasted walnuts make everything that much yummier.

We've used strawberries in place of pear and Gorgonzola in place of goat cheese. That worked just as well. The bite of the Gorgonzola and the sweetness of the pear works really well. And strawberries and goat cheese is a wonderful pairing.

So my first experiment with arugula. It came up gangbusters in the sunroom. I transplanted it out into the garden the day before a heavy rain. So far it seems to be doing fine. But small. I want it to get big so I can start harvesting.

It is one occupant of my new raised beds. That bed gets a lot of shade so it is going to be mostly salad greens. So an experiment of plants in an experiment of a raised bed. Looking forward to how it turns out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

That deadline thing

I'm making myself crazy with deadlines again. After all, no one will die if I miss them. In fact, no one but me will even notice.

Deadlines are a good thing to have. Keeps me banging away at the keyboard on a regular basis. I have a 1,000 word a day goal. And I have been keeping to it, except when life happens.

Unintended Consequences is not going to get published as soon as I had hoped. It's nobody's fault. Everything just took longer than I had expected. Each step had people involved and people have lives and commitments and other things going on. So the critiques came back a little slower than I'd hoped. Now I need to do the tweaking with all the ideas and questions that the readers gave me. That'll take awhile. Then it needs a line edit for punctuation and grammar. Another while. Whew. Probably June before this puppy is ready.

Because a big chunk of May I will be in France! Woo hoo.

And the audiobook for White Lies has been delayed also. Sigh. As I said - life gets in the way.

So I am freeing myself of any deadlines right now. It'll happen when it happens. So there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Garden Update

The bleeding heart isn't this big yet, but it's getting there. The forget-me-nots and phlox are blooming. Forsythia is past it's prime and the daffs are about gone.

I planted shelling peas and sugar pod peas on St. Patrick's day and they just came up last weekend. And the onion sets I put in have finally shot up sprouts.

Last week I put in seed for beets, carrots, mustard and scallions. Last night we had torrential rain. I am sooo glad I put the raised beds in. The garden flooded, but the beds were fine. Usually a flood like that means that all my seed is now elsewhere - in the path, the flower bed, on the patio... But the beds are above the flood level.

The strawberries are flowering. Berries in about 4 weeks.

The apricot and plum didn't lose all their flowers to the unseasonably cold weather we had. Two solid weeks of night time temps in the mid-twenties. The Christmas lights I put in the trees were useless for something that long term. A night or two it might have helped. So a few blossoms hadn't opened before the cold snap. I have hopes for them. Now it just depends on whether the rainy weather kept the bees away.

I've got seedlings in the sunroom and out on the patio hardening off. It feels like spring arrived half-spent already. My thermometer hit 80 the other day. So after stalling, now I have to scramble!

Monday, April 15, 2013

I don't want to.

I chose a serene picture for this blog because the topic is a little zen.

I discovered, awhile back, the power of saying things out loud.

One day while doing some especially boring scene painting, I felt like I was going to explode. I think I was painting some steps, repetitious but still a little picky. Scene painting very often happens on stage. Due to scheduling the rehearsals and lighting work and such, scenic artists often have to work late hours. Overnights are common. So I was probably tired on top of it. And I just said it:

I don't want to do this.

And despite the fact that I did do it, probably several days of it, I felt a lot better. Some of that angst was expressed. I got it off my chest and was able to carry on.

It's a lesson I've paid attention to. There are always things we don't want to do, but have to. Once we become adults all sorts of nasty things have to be dealt with, like taxes and flat tires and clogged toilets. There is no law that says we can't state our feelings about it. Saying it aloud, even if no one heard me, helped. Maybe because I knew the work had to be done. It was promised. There was a deadline. That didn't mean I had to suffer in silence.

So the next time you're washing the floor or pulling weeds or going to the dentist, allow yourself to say it out loud - "I don't want to do it!" And see if it doesn't make it easier to get through the chore.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Present Tense


I am grabbing books, willy nilly, off the shelf at the library again. Sometimes I find a gem that way. Unfortunately, this time it fell flat.

The big turn off for this book is that it is in present tense. That really grates on me after awhile. I think it works well for dream sequences and flashbacks. I think in the Farseer books Robin Hobb used present tense for the journal entries that began each chapter. It set the tone and reminded us that someone was telling the story. I love those books, and I think that method worked well.

But I can't read an entire book of it. It makes me unreasonably aware that I am reading. I can't slip into the world and get carried along. I am always aware that someone is slinging words at me.

It might just be that I was taught to expect stories to be past tense. I read them growing up and now I'm too old to adjust. It's a strange affectation to me. The story doesn't need any distractions like that. Especially complicated ones.

I don't understand the sudden love of it. A lot of books I pick up are written that way. And I usually put them right back down. Although, I have to admit I used to feel that way about first person. It's too intimate. Jim Butcher got me to love first person, because I love Harry Dresden. But that's a big gamble. Not only has the story got to dazzle the reader, your narrator has to also. I've read books that draw me in despite not liking a character. That might not happen with first person.

Third person, past tense will always be the most comfortable read for me. First person is acceptable, but has a higher hurdle to cross. Present tense has the highest and ugh I don't think I could ever read first person, present tense.

But that's just me...today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Conflict

Writing advice always pushes conflict. There has to be a problem to make the story interesting. Some stories I've read have so much conflict that I want to yell at the writer "Get on with it already!" So there has to be some but not too much.

I just finished reading a book by an author I love that has too little conflict, I think. The main character takes on herculean tasks and, well, just does them. It's a fish-out-of-water story, the old alternate world trope. Normally, I shy away from them. For that reason, I decided to give this one a try. It felt a little light, so I tried to think through why it didn't work for me.

The person from our world gets pulled into a land of magic. She learns how to use it and rids the world of evil...the end. (But it's only book one, so I'm sure she didn't get all the evil.) There is minor conflict in that she has confrontations with various characters and fights in several battles, but she always wins easily.

That might have made for a good set up towards over confidence. Then she hits the big reversal and realizes her own naivete. But even when she faces off with the Big Bad, she does her thing and they all go home. Yes there are consequences - she's physically depleted and friends die. But even that seems glossed over. She sleeps for a week and has a hearty breakfast.

The death of the sidekick is almost an aside. Oh, yeah, by the way, he's dead. She sheds a tear and carries on. That plus the mass destruction she incurs makes her feel like a psychopath. She destroyed a whole country. And she sheds a tear and carries on. What choice did she have? If she didn't kill them all they'd just keep coming after her, right?

That's an argument for a boatload of other stories. There's always that point where you just want the hero to kill off the villain already! Well, that happened in this book and it was sooo unsatisfying. The goal achieve too easily has a lower satisfaction threshold.

So that brings me back to the whole point of this post. Stories have to have appropriate conflict.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Audiobook delay





This is the cover for the upcoming audiobook. It was a learning experience! But I think it works in comparison to the print cover. The online publishing people are demanding higher quality, which is a good thing. But it means I need to learn new graphic programs. Which is also a good thing, even if I don't have time for it.

There's been a glitch and the recording has been delayed. I'm disappointed in a "now-now-now" kind of way. But it's only about a month and in the scheme of things, that's not much.

I'm very excited to be having the book produced at all!

The actor recording it - Scott David Reeves - has a lovely voice. The piece I heard was very well done. I can't wait to listen to the whole thing.

Hopefully it will be out about mid-May.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why do bunnies bring eggs?

This question has bothered me for some time. Where the heck did the whole Easter bunny and chocolate egg thing come from?

It wasn't until I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods that I understood. It's all based on a pagan spring ritual. I don't remember the goddess's name, but the point was to celebrate birth - babies of all kinds. So baby rabbits, chicks, lambs, etc.

Spring is a time when the trees come back to life and green things shoot out of the ground. Life starts up again. Or over depending on your world view.

After I read that, it all made sense. It has nothing to do with Christianity. It's just one of those trappings of society that got dragged along as a seasonal ritual.

The transition to chocolate was probably more commercial than symbolic. People wanted chicks and bunnies in the spring, but giving live animals as gifts gets complicated. It probably started as chick cookies or bunny buns and eventually morphed into chocolate and marshmallow.

So now we celebrate the arrival of spring with a sugar high!