Wednesday, September 2, 2015

An excerpt from the upcoming release

Gathering Mist is in the hands of the editor. As promised, here's a little snippet:

     “I wanted to sketch the skyline by night.” She hesitated. “And I thought I’d watch the sun rise over the lake.”
     She’d drawn the canyon on the sidewalk overnight. Couldn’t she afford a hotel? Max was back to worrying she was homeless. “I couldn’t call myself a gentleman if I left you alone in the big city at night. Let me be your tour guide?”
     “I can take care of myself,” Robin said, irritation returning to her voice.
     Max stuck to his resolve. “I have no doubt about that, but it isn’t smart for a woman to be alone in the city at night.”
     “Are you calling me stupid?”
     Why was she being so defensive? Max never had trouble talking to women. He held up his hands. “You know I’m not. What’s this really about?”
     Robin stood akimbo. “Why should I trust you? I don’t know you.”
     Max glanced at the platforms. He should walk away from his fairy artist and go upstairs, grab something to eat while he waited for the 10:40 train. He was tempted, but the girl screamed vulnerability. He couldn’t, in good conscience, let her walk out into the urban jungle alone.
     As they neared the end of the shopping district, an ominous shadow approached the intersection ahead of them. Max tightened his grip across Robin’s shoulders. A group of people wearing dark clothes rounded the corner, walking toward them. A confrontation didn’t look promising, and he couldn’t tell if the glow was a result of the street light or the scary aura that would identify them as demons.

Have I whet your appetite? And have you read the first two in the "Mist" trilogy? Time to catch up - this one should be ready no later than November! Click on this link to find out more about this series.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Busy as a bee?

I'm "busy as a bee" preparing the latest for the editor - cleaning out overused and filler words. I'm also addressing comments from my beta readers, one of which lives where this book takes place (and which I've only visited).

I'm pleased that I'm doing better about NOT using these words during the writing process, which means less cleaning out afterward.

Show of hands - who wants to see the new cover?

"Rising Mist" goes to the editor in a few short weeks, and I'm expecting a November release (just in time for Christmas!).  I'll share an excerpt with you next week....

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Advancing the plot

Taking time out to divert my attention from copyediting. A fresh look gives you sharper focus, and that means thinking about something else for a few days.

I've been reading, and one of the books I chose, while the story is good, suffers from unnecessary detail. As a story teller, when you tell your best friend "what happened when I went to the fair" or some other event that happened in your life, you leave out the things they don't care about. You'll tell them about the concert on the main stage, about the rides and games, about the livestock, if applicable. You're not going to tell them you left the fair and had dinner in town unless that's relevant to the fair for some reason, say "and then I saw one of the clowns, in costume, at the restaurant!" If I was telling my girlfriend a story and stopped it to tell her about a side trip into town to shop, she'd very impatiently ask me what happened at the fair, tell me to get out of the weeds in order to direct me back to the topic at hand.

When I'm writing, I often suffer from "author intrusion"-- information I need to tell the story, but which the reader doesn't need or want, at least not all at once. It can be drizzled in a little at a time, but an "info dump" will take you out of the story at hand. An example?

She heard a bump in the basement. "Is anybody down there" she called down the stairs as she flipped on the light. She was wearing blue jeans and sneakers and was glad she'd put her hair up in a bun.

When you're heroine is about to go walking into danger, do you care what she's wearing? or how she's wearing her hair? I think not! You want to know what's in that basement! This information is relevant to the story, but it might come earlier on, or later, if she, say, falls and tears a hole in her new blue jeans. That's another way to "show" your readers what she's wearing without stopping the story to tell you.

While background information and a character's history, or backstory, is important to a novel, when it doesn't advance the story forward, it can be the difference between someone who reads a novel in one sitting and someone who might take days to slog through it (or decide not to finish it because the author keeps straying from the action).

While I'm reviewing my second draft of Rising Mist (it's getting closer!), I'm keeping these types of scenes in mind, how much time I take away from the plot, along with dozens of other silly mistakes that happen when you write a novel. Another thing I need to keep sharp on is how often I repeat information. To the point of "oh yeah," or "I got it already, can you tell me something new?" (That has been a bigger problem for me in this book!)

So back to work for me. Did I tell you I have a cover? Very excited for the new release! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Me and SEP

My writing style is very haphazard. I sit down with an idea and let it take me where it will. I have a basic idea, a direction to go, and then I let the characters walk me through it. If they get lost, I call a time-out and draw them a map.

I'm about 70% through my "get it out of my head and onto the page" portion of my writing process. The first draft is done, but there is a lot of detail I miss on the first pass. So now I'm going back to fill in the holes and to fix anything that's still wrong.

And there are things that are wrong.

As I took a break this week, I read a post by Susan Elizabeth Phillips which cheered me. She wrote that her writing style is very similar to mine, the "throw it against the wall and see what sticks" approach. Except that means you have to go back and scrape the mess off the floor when it doesn't stick (which is where I am now). She said she is also rewriting her current work in progress. I'm in good company.

This is the work portion of the writing process. The probabilities and the improbabilities and making the story believable. I've had to correct an "improbability", except my hero had a reaction to that which I want to keep, so now I have to approach it from a different angle. I will essentially be rewriting the last 30% of this book (although it should be close to what I've already done). The good news is that it will make the story better. The bad news is I have to do the work.

Five weeks to the editor's schedule, and I still have the culling process to do - pulling out overused and unnecessary words and phrases. That should only take a week (although that process is also VERY tedious).

On the plus side, I have a cover concept which I'm jealously guarding to tease you with when we get closer to release day. Now if I could only write a strong blurb to entice you to read it! But first things first. More work to do.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Who gets to die first? and a PSA

My company sponsors volunteer days once a year. We get to choose where we can donate our talents, very often food banks. And that's where I am today! Another opportunity to help out the community - and this is also a good chance to let you know that the summer months are when shelters and food banks need you most. One thing I learned while writing Return to Hoffman Grove is that at Christmas, everyone is in that giving spirit, generosity personified, but in the summer, shelters and food pantries run short. So {nudge nudge} go donate food to your local food pantry. Help out at the local shelter.

That's the PSA portion of my post today.

There are birth order books that supposedly determine your personality based on where you were born into your family, but have you ever wondered about death order? What has me waxing on this cheery topic today? Well, my mother is ill and waiting for surgery.

My father has always been of the opinion that he is going to die first, so he wants to make sure my mother can take care of herself after he's gone. As they advance in years and things don't work the same way they used to, he continues to tell my sisters and me that he wants to make sure mom knows what's going on. The sad part is that due to advancing age, my mother is having more difficulty remembering everything he wants her to know. My sisters and I are stepping in to help, and assuring him that we will stand beside her should something happen to him. But now, there's a very real chance he will survive my mother, and that thought isn't one his ego is prepared to deal with. As much as my sisters and I will also step in to help him should my mother go first, that thought unnerves him.

Like my father, my personal preference is to believe I'll die before my spouse. On those frightening occasions when I consider that my husband may die before me (and the odds are in his favor), I tend to panic.

I'm still young enough that if my husband should precede me, I can make a life for myself alone. That doesn't mean I want to. Would I go looking for a replacement? To quote my latest heroine in Rising Mist, "Oh, hell no." He'd be a hard man to replace, simply by virtue of his ability to put up with ME. I kind of like the man I'm married to, enough to hold onto him for as long as the Man Upstairs permits. If I were to go first? Well, he was a very independent man before I came along, and I certainly upended his life by bringing along two cats and two children into his very organized, orderly home. Some days I think he would breathe a sigh of relief should I go ahead of him, and yet, I know he'd miss me.

But then I started to think about what I would do if I was widowed. Would I offer to move in with one of my single BFF's, the two of us turning into old cat ladies? I have to tell you this image sends me into fits of laughter. I know how difficult I can be to live with some days, and the sometimes unconventional way I structure my priorities. While my husband doesn't mind these things (they fit into his own unconventional structure), these quirks might well drive another person bonkers. And then I'd have to worry about if my friend died before me (or I died before her). No, I like my friends too much to do that to them.

I could always be a burden to my children... (Don't worry, babies, Momma's not eyeing rooms in your houses.) No, I like to think I would do things I put off now. Go to the Athletic Center and swim laps every morning. Volunteer more. Get out and visit my friends more often. Yeah, I like to think I'd do those things more often, and likely I would, if for no other reason than to get out of a too-quiet house although, you know, I don't mind being alone most of the time.

God willing, I have many years ahead of me, as does my husband. I think I'll just pretend we'll both die at the same time, in our sleep, years from now, snuggled up together, or holding hands across twin beds in the nursing home. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Want to read an excerpt from Gathering Mist?

Celebrating writing "The End" to the third in the Mist trilogy by sharing an excerpt from the second book, Gathering Mist. Have you read it yet? (Buy links are on the right {wink wink})

(c) Karla Brandenburg
At the end of a dirt road, nestled into the backwoods of Wisconsin, Scott Michaels sat on his deck, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. He went into town as little as possible, and the locals who recognized him didn’t treat him like “the big rock star.” To them, he was Scott Michaels, who lived on Hidden Spring Road. He wasn’t Patch, lead guitarist for DragonPurr.

He needed the solitude after two weeks with his mother and sister—and the accompanying sense of helplessness. After ten years of continuous concert tours, he and his bandmates had agreed to six cities a year, most of which were booked during the summer months at outdoor festivals. He could finally give his sister, Natalie, a break from caring for their mother, but he’d still be gone for weeks at a time with concerts, songwriting commitments and producing records.

Natalie had insisted their mother was better off with the consistent attention Natalie and her daughter could provide, a point which was emphasized repeatedly during his visit with them. And so, with three days before he had to leave for Chicago to regroup with the band, Scott had retreated to Door County to decompress.

Eyes closed, he let the music soothe his fired-up emotions and the ever-present sense of guilt from not being able to protect his family from the hardships they’d faced. His fingers absently picked out a tune on his acoustic guitar. The lush, mature trees swayed in time with the music while crickets sang along. Scott hummed, not the usual driving, rock and roll beat. When he realized what song he played, he stopped.

In spite of the heat and humidity, gooseflesh popped up on his arms. His heart raced and he glanced around the woods, at the lake beyond the trees, expecting to see her magically appear. Wavy red hair, mossy green eyes, Giselle still haunted him. She was part of the music.

They’d been inseparable since the night they first met at the student union. Giselle was his first girlfriend, his first date, his first lover. She’d become so important to him in such a short period of time that she’d spooked him. Like she owned his soul. There was no other way to describe the intensity of the bond they shared. And yet he’d chosen his music over her, another of his famously bad decisions.

Scott set his guitar down. He’d written the song for her. Played it for her. She’d sung it with him, lying together in bed in the afterglow, before he’d shown her the lyrics. The way she seemed to know things before they happened, or knew his thoughts as well as he did, those were the things that made her scary.

After all the years apart and countless groupies, he should have gotten Giselle out of his system, and yet here he sat, on his porch in Door County, playing a song he’d written for her before the rest of the world had any idea he existed. A song she’d inspired. A song he wasn’t sure she hadn’t given him in that unusual, soul-binding way she had.

The fact of the matter was he’d never stopped loving her. Even after he’d left her behind.
He’d heard she’d gotten married. He hoped she had a good life somewhere, even as he scanned the woods for her face, wondering if somehow she could see him, if she could reach him through that unexplainable connection they had.

None of the groupies, none of the relationships he’d attempted after, had come close to what he’d shared with Giselle. And he’d walked away from her. He had no one to blame but himself.

Scott turned to go into the house, but hesitated when a cool breeze blew the hair off his neck. The way Giselle used to. He closed his eyes, imagining she stood behind him. Playful. Sexy as hell.

Maybe she’d gotten fat over the past years.

Play the song for me. No more than a whisper on the breeze, he heard her voice in his ear.
He shook his body like a wet dog. He’d done what he set out to do, made a career for himself, and paid the price. The road was a lonely place.

Scott was ready for a little magic, and he knew the next show would bring some. Giselle would be in Chicago. He felt it in his bones. 

Copyright 2015 by Karla Brandenburg. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Dog Days of Summer

Writing progress: I'm editing. I still have to write the final chapter, but that's a formality at this point. It's a wrap-up, not a "what am I going to write" issue. Trying to clean up the earlier chapters that are still going through my critique group, fix the continuity errors I've left behind, the blips in the time/space continuum, and add descriptions that didn't make it out of my head on the first pass.

Summer has finally arrived and the pace of life has slowed for me. More time to read, more time to catch up on all the things I've been setting aside, and once this book is completed, time to let my imagination free to begin the next story.

Time to grab a daiquiri and sit on the deck, let the sun warm me and enjoy the slower pace while I can. In the immortal words of "Ahnald," "I'll be back."