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."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Writing "The End"

Many people struggle with how to end a novel. I know I did on my first one. You don't want to let the characters go. They've become family. You want to keep going with their story, but the interesting part of their lives is over. That's what makes the story. And after I finished Touched by the Sun, I learned that lesson.

Now, for me its a matter of tying up loose threads. As I finish Rising Mist, the third in the trilogy of the Kundigerin saga, I'm going back over breadcrumbs that I've left behind. I started writing this one during my busy season at work, which left me limited time to write. As a result, I wrote more summaries than prose fairly often, notes for where the story was going, what I wanted to address, comments my characters made to me that I wanted to include. It's a stop and start sort of process which doesn't work very well, and often leads to continuity errors (oops, she already did that, or oops, they don't know that yet) and sloppy writing.

Busy season is over. My first draft was nearly completed, and I'd gotten as far as the climax before I went back to fix all the mess I'd left behind, including discovering some of those loose threads I'd forgotten about, or the continuity errors that needed to be addressed. And now I'm back to crafting"the end." Years after my first novel, I understand better what that means, and because this is the last in the trilogy, I need to wrap up not only the loose threads in this novel, but also give the characters in the first two novels an appropriate send-off.

I've made a note of my open items and written more breadcrumbs to move me down the right path. The resolution is in sight. What have the characters learned? How have they grown? How will their lives move forward from here? All of this has been foreshadowed in the story, and must now be presented. I dropped a rather large bombshell on my heroine during the black moment (not part of the black moment, but certainly something she wasn't expecting). That left me an opening to explore another subplot, but this deep into the novel, I'm closing that loop fairly quickly. Otherwise I could be writing this story for many months to come. No, now is the time to wrap things up. To resolve the issues left unsettled and move these characters forward into their henceforth boring lives.

I've got this.

I have an appointment with my editor, and I'm working to polish the words I've written until they shine. Rising Mist, Kundigerin 3 should be available for publication late this fall. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Don't Forget about the Bad Guy

Working on the third "Mist" book and staring at the final conflict. This is usually the part of the book where I struggle most, because I'm generally a peace-loving person, so manufacturing a major confrontation doesn't come naturally.

When an author lays out a new book, she endeavors to get to know her characters, their personalities, their backgrounds, their goals, what motivates them, what frightens them. It is essential to build conflict into their relationships in order to give them something to overcome and help them grow--and I've done that in this third story.

I've tried diving into the confrontation organically, which is my writing process, but that didn't work. So I took my fallback approach, which is to write detailed notes about what I want to happen, how it will happen, which I can then incorporate in story form. And then I realized I had to essentially rewrite my last two chapters because it doesn't fit. Frustrated, I called my editor to make an appointment with her (A deadline to work toward. We're looking at an October or November release. I'll keep you posted) and told her where I was struggling. So she brainstormed with me. And I realized I'd overlooked one step in my process.

My villain showed up at the end of Gathering Mist. I knew who he was, knew a little bit about his background, but that was as far as I'd developed him. Silly me! Kelly pulled out a reference book and we went through a Q&A brainstorming process to FINISH developing his character. Villains are people, too, with complex relationships and thought processes. I did that for Thiago in the last book, but somehow I'd skipped the rest of the details on the guy in THIS book.

Villains have goals. They need motivation to accomplish those goals, and they have personal conflicts to overcome. In working through the traits I'd forgotten to look at, I found my "black moment" was going to be even stronger, thanks to him. Villains have black moments, too (that moment when "all is darkest before the dawn," to incorporate a cliche). I've known the black moment for my hero and heroine almost from the start of this novel (which is a novelty - that's usually difficult for me, as well), and now that I know more about my villain, he's playing his part admirably to contribute to that "all is lost" moment.

Villains aren't all bad. Something happens to them to make them that way. In this book, his future doesn't look very bright as a result of his bad choices, but as an author, I should never forget that once upon a time, he was an innocent little boy, influenced by things that made him the way he is today, things he didn't have any control over.

Memo for next time. When doing character sketches, don't forget about the bad guy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Unexpectedly Brilliant

Sometimes, when you least expect it, the things you've been waiting for jump out at you.

I've been struggling with my third Kundigerin story. Part of that is due to lack of time, distractions, "life" getting in the way and just plain lack of enthusiasm. And yet I've been writing. And this is where the realization comes that this is what I was meant to do.

As I was riding home from the city on the train, I picked up a new book that I'd won at LibraryThing by an author I usually like and her main character reminded me of a character I've been tossing around in my head for the next book. When I knew I couldn't finish the next chapter before my stop, I put the book away and started drawing the character sketch I've been mulling. Then something amazing happened.

With my thoughts diverted away from the snags in my current story, things started to come together unexpectedly. The combination of reading the new book, looking ahead to the next one, and harking back to comments a friend of mind shared with me regarding Mist on the Meadow all jumbled together in one big lightning bolt.

So first, thank you Janet for telling me what you liked about Mist on the Meadow. It helped me to tie together this third in the trilogy to the elements that people (like you) liked in that story. Second, thank you to Jude Deveraux for writing a character similar to the one I've been envisioning for my next, which gave me the motivation to write down the thoughts I'd already been rolling around in my head (I always hate to start writing the next story before the one in progress is finished). And third, in a moment of unexpected brilliance, I had to pat myself on the back for pushing through with this story even when the going got tough. The setting I chose lends itself perfectly to provide those elements that the characters in Kundigerin 3 don't possess but need. And thank you to +Terry Odell for chatting with me about one of the secondary characters I wasn't sure was superfluous and who was in danger of being written "off stage." I defended his appearance, which led to the wheels turning for all of the subsequent flashes of brilliance. I'd joked with her about unintentional foreshadowing and she pointed out that sometimes our minds work even when we aren't paying attention. That is definitely the case in Kundigerin 3.

Sometimes thinking about the next story diverts you just enough to see what's missing in this one. I'm 2/3 the way there, and with fewer distractions and "life" events, I'm optimistic a good draft will be completed by the end of the month.

Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Love/Hate Affair with Facebook

Last weekend I had a reunion with some of my old classmates. What a fun time! We were a small class and most of us were together for nine years (some of us less), but back in the olden days, we stuck together like family. We talked about silly things like when we all went to dance classes! I don't think that was a school-sponsored activity, and yet somehow we all ended up there. (Can you even find dance classes for middle graders these days?) After all these years, many of us had lost touch, and yet, through the magic of Facebook, we were reunited. In spite of this, I wasn't thanking Facebook for reconnecting us, but rather ties that still run deep in the old hometown and friendships that, while perhaps neglected for a number of years, waited to be rekindled. It was such a fun evening.

While still smiling from seeing the faces and enjoying the conversations, I came home the next day and found a message on Facebook from yet another friend who I have missed through the years, someone I had lost touch with during the "raising kids" years and "life gets away from you" times.

As one of my school friends and I discussed, no one ever told us that after a certain age we'd get our lives back, and that those things we might have not made time for or relationships that we didn't take care of are still waiting for us. Life's short.

And so as often as I rant about how much I hate Facebook and the way it intrudes on your privacy or various other complaints which I won't share with you today, I'm grateful that we have a vehicle that brings people back together when they've been lost.

And because I'm in such a good mood and full of happiness and joy and love (quit rolling your eyes at me), I'd like to celebrate my birthday with you (which was also this week!). For a limited time, I'm offering the Gathering Mist e-book for the low-low price of just $0.99! That's right, just $0.99. Make my day. Pick up a copy today and leave me a review to tell me how much you loved/hated it! click on the links to the right, or find it at your favorite bookseller.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Writing, or Going on Vacation

This meme comes to mind. No, I'm not sitting at my desk playing solitaire (although there are some games that have been known to distract me).

Perception: I'm going to write the next great American novel and make buckets of money.

Truth: Very few authors are able to make a living at this writing gig.

Writing is not glamorous. It requires discipline and hard work, like any other job, and the rewards are generally far less. There is no boss to slap you on the back and tell you to keep up the good work. There is an editor waiting to read your words and tell you what you did wrong, what you need to fix (and thank heavens for editors!). Along with the writing job, many of us hold down day jobs to pay the bills (and fund our writing habit). To quote my very smart son, we do what we have to so we can do what we want to.

Right now, I'm fighting for time to write. Although I am managing to get words down, my writing production is slow because I'm doing what I have to (rather than what I want to). This is the most frustrating part about being a writer, not enough time to spend, which results in summaries of ideas and thoughts to be fleshed out at a later date after I've filled the available writing space for the day. Generally, I break free from this cycle by scheduling vacation time dedicated to writing  in order to get the book done (or at least replace all those notes with actual prose). Fingers crossed that things will break loose in another week or so and I can increase the time I'm spending with my characters.

A little like being a parent, I suppose. We work to support our families, spending only a few hours each evening with them and touch down. And then we take a vacation to fully enjoy the time we spend together...