Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Back in the Saddle Again

I've been taking a deliberate break from my Hillendale novels. It's similar to that feeling when you have house guests. You love to see them and spend time with them when they first arrive, but after a a period of time, you're ready to kick them out. While this isn't true in all cases, I think you get the idea.

The writing project I picked up to fill the void has been giving me fits, however. Reviewing my old work has been a lesson in passive voice and redundant words and phrases. I fix a boatload, then pass it to my critique group, and they find more. I'm relieved to note that my writing has matured in the last ten years and my new projects are much more "seasoned." At least I like to believe they are. Working with an editor has helped me learn what to look for and how to correct it. One of my critique partners is always saying not to edit bad writing but to start over. This eliminates a lot of the errors I've been overlooking, and she's probably right. There's an old saying about playing to the level of your competition, and I think that applies to editing to the level of the writing, but it's hard to dump a completed novel and start it over from scratch. Hopefully, after this editing pass, all the old rookie mistakes will be corrected. If not, my editor will certainly point them out! 

I'm hoping to release the Legend People story later this year. Which reminds me - I'd love beta readers. For a spot on my team, sign up for my newsletter and indicate you want to be a beta reader (or sign up as an ARC reader for future releases). If you're already signed up, you can update your information to include your interest. Here's the link to sign up. What's it about?

A young sprite gets lost on her way to ask the Coyote to release one of the Hoodoos from his stone prison. Nascha gets roped in as her guide, and capitalizes on the opportunity to find answers about her missing mother. On their way to the neighboring canyon, they hitch a ride with a plane that carries them off course to Illinois. Now they must enlist the help of the pilot to get back to Utah.

Devin Sike mistakes Nascha for an Indian Princess, except for the pinger beacon she seems to activate inside him after she touches him. The more he finds out about her, the more determined he is to come to terms with his own lost heritage.

Their journey enlightens them both to a destiny neither expected. 

As I wrap this one up, I've begun work on the fourth installment in the Hillendale series, and I'm finding renewed energy - the goal I was hoping to achieve by taking a break. It feels good to give the old writing horse its heads and gallop forward into a new story with my old friends!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Bibles

When you write a lot of books, details tend to get lost in the cracks. How do you keep track of all those details?

And then there's the concept of names. My hairdresser asked me once how I come up with names for all my characters. Well, I have a variety of sources, from sports figures to tombstones to actors. I still have to remember them all.

I have a database certification, which means I use my skills to track my book details with a program I've written. When I come across a name I might want to use, I add it. When I use it, I assign it to the book. More than names, I add the fictional places I create so I don't have to go back to look up "what was the name of that town I made up?" or "What was the name of the restaurant in town?" This is especially helpful when I'm writing a series. 

Character names should be varied. If all your characters' names start with the letter M, a reader is going to get confused very quickly. Which "M" was that? There are occasions when "like" first initials have a place, or homonyms, but that should be the exception rather than the rule. For instance, I have twin sisters named Molly and Polly in FAMILY ALCHEMY. Families often stick to an initial when naming kids. My stepson and his wife have named all their children (and they have many) using her first initial for their daughters and his first initial for their sons. I have Max and Marissa who are brother and sister in MIST ON THE MEADOW. But when it comes time to add a new character, I want to look for a different first letter. With my database, I can sort the "available" names I've collected alphabetically (names I haven't used in other books or "this" book).

My database is NOT like Scrivener, which is designed to organize your thoughts in addition to gathering this information. Mine is strictly for organizing books, characters and places--a quick reference point. Which brings me to a question. Is this something other authors might find useful? How do other authors track their series? I imagine for authors like me with an extensive backlist, it would require a lot of backtracking, but for newer authors, or authors who are looking for a way to get organized, it might be a useful tool to share. What do you think? 

(You can see a demo on my website... "For Authors" page.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Social Creatures

Man is classified as a social animal, some more than others, and that is readily apparent more today than in the past.

Me? I'm an introvert. That means I don't mind *not* being social most of the time. In fact, I generally prefer it. With that being said, I still Zoom and/or video chat with my friends and family. I live with The Big Guy, and while we stay out of each other's way a good portion of the day, when we have those rare moments of I-haven't-talked-to-anybody-in-days-and-I-have-diarrhea-of-the-mouth, we have each other to talk at in between regular interactions. I'm lucky. The extroverts I see and/or talk to are really struggling - and I completely understand that! Heck, if I'm getting stir crazy, I can only imagine what they're going through.

The thing I miss the most about the seclusion of the day is observing, and yet the people I AM observing are "different." They are interacting in new and different ways. With face coverings, I miss seeing expressions that make me wonder what people are thinking (but I wouldn't change that right now). People are at once more friendly and more reserved. Everybody waves, everybody says hello, but there's a hesitation to go beyond that, a wariness.

Still, while I'm out and about, I continue to look for a setting, an interaction between people, an expression, sometimes even a smell. Those are the things that activate my imagination. I certainly have a storehouse of things to draw on from "before." Even though I'm covering the same familiar territory when I go walking every day (you can see what I see on my Instagram), I miss exploring new places and seeing new things. With that being said, even everyday things can spark my imagination. Today I saw the underside of the leaves. There's an old wives' tale that tells you that's the harbinger of a storm. Storms often make for good stories, don't you think?

Counting my blessings instead of sheep, to coin a phrase.

Current music: Count my Blessings
Current mood: 🍀
Currently working on: Hillendale 4

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Heroes and villains

 So I was working on a thing. I call it my pandemic project. For those of you who are newsletter subscribers, you'll be getting news next week. For those of you who are not, now's your chance to sign up.

I've also been reading up a storm, books to distract and inspire. The last movie I saw in a theater was LITTLE WOMEN, and I appreciated how Jo was constantly writing, and how by the end of the movie she'd taken control of her career. It was also an illustration of how much the world has changed with time, and a reminder that it will continue to change. Through it all, we rely on the tales that are passed along, from the times of bards in the kings' courts to the dawn of the industrial revolution and continuing through today. We listen intently to stories of heroes and villains, both real and imagined.

With the crazy news cycles constantly vying for attention, my creative mind has been struggling. One of my friends nudged me to resurrect an old story I'd written several years ago, one that is a little out of my normal scope. It's more of a fantasy-type novel, about mythical beings and airline pilots that I wrote after a trip through canyon country. When I pulled it out to read it again, I decided it wasn't half bad, so I'm working on fine-tuning it before I take another trip to Hillendale. 

Antelope Canyon

One of my critique partners suggested I might be straying too far from the legend that inspired my fantasy novel, which got me to wondering how far is too far when you're making stuff up? How much is "appropriating" someone else's culture and how much is fair game for a vivid imagination? Then I started thinking about Bram Stoker's DRACULA, one of my favorite books (and movies - Bela Lugosi era). Fast forward a billion years and we have Twilight, which says vampires sparkle. Is that appropriating Transylvanian folklore? Is that twisting a legend to suit an author's vision? (Here's a Facebook link to the canyon legend.)
Bryce Canyon

Are you, my readers, interested in reading the fantasy novel I've written? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

Wherever the changes we're currently living through take us, we will have stories to pass along to the generations that follow, either as cautionary tales or as beacons of hope. While we wait to see how all this turns out, I'll do my best to give you something else to think about for a few hours. Thanks for sitting around the fire with me while I spin my yarns.

Current music: Tusk (Fleetwood Mac)
Current mood: 🤔
Currently working on: Hoodoo Awakening

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Crittercide - meanderings of the mind

I live fairly near a forest preserve and there are often animals that forget to look both ways when crossing the highway. I have seen several baby Bambis recently which makes me sad - poor babies - along with baby 'coons. The big ol' guys you figure have at least lived their lives and if they decide to commit crittercide in front of a car, they've had their chance at life. I was driving home from work a while back and came across just such an animal. I think it was an opossum - didn't really get a good look, only long enough to see it step into the road, start back, hesitate, and in that indecision, lose his life. There is something very unsettling about critters getting squished in the middle of the road - and this guy actually did the roll off to the shoulder instead of the pizza on the center line, but all the same, it's ugly.

Which brings me to my other point (going back to Bambi). Do deer run into other animals in the woods? I mean, really. They see a car zooming down the road, running, if you will, and figure they'll just dart on an intercept course? Tag, you're it? Is this some kind of woodland creatures game like cow tipping? Kind of like my cat that likes to head butt. He jumps up beside you and BAM! there's that little head smashing into whatever body part he's closest to. Does he think he's going to knock me over????? I realize that at night deer can't see with headlights shining in their eyes, but I've seen these guys crossing the road in full daylight, in the middle of rush hour traffic. Usually they race along the side of the road first to see if they can outrun the car, but when the cars slow down to avoid being dented and furred, they figure it's safe to shoot across. *sigh*

Oh well. Whatcha gonna do?

More exciting news on the writing front next week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Law of the Garbage Truck

Had to share this - For a lot of us, life has been overwhelming for an excessively long period of time. As we all deal with our own garbage, here's a reminder that we aren't the only ones.

Law of the Garbage Truck

One day, I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!

The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly.

So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!'

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment.

As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so...

Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Have a blessed, garbage-free day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Looking back before looking forward

There’s always a moment as I finish a book where I look ahead to what’s next. Occasionally, I don’t have a fully formed idea, or I have too many, at which point I stop to look over everything I've ever written.

Some time ago, my first two books were remaindered, i.e., delisted. They’d fallen into the irrelevant category and being my first two books, showed dreadful growing pains. After 20 years, I’ve actually learned how to put two sentences together! I’m very proud of how far I’ve come in nearly 20 years at this job. Having recently completed a novella (more news will be forthcoming about LANDSLIDE), it was time to consider what comes next. The state of the world being what it is, I’ve been fairly overwhelmed, so I picked up book #1 to see if it was worth a reissue. Reading my first, unpolished story was difficult, and I decided it had had its day and it was time to move forward. 

Another thought was picking up a story I’d tucked away in a drawer. I didn’t feel it was strong enough when I’d originally finished the first draft. I have a writer friend who keeps encouraging me to resurrect it, and looking it over, it isn’t half bad! EPITAPH suffered that same fate for several years until I found the right path forward.

I'd also considered another Northwest Suburbs story.  And there’s the new series, Hillendale. A case of too many ideas.

Looking back at the old books reminds me that in writing, as in life, I should keep moving forward.