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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Anniversaries and memories

On the anniversary of Mom's death, I wish to celebrate fierce women.  Lizzy/Elizabeth, the heroine of my novel Seven Days, is one of them.  Her younger sister, Mary Margaret, not so much.  She comes into her own in my second book in the series, Seven Months, though.  I've read that in good fiction, the characters grow and change.  In great fiction, the reader will grow and change.  We shall see.  I know I have become a better person creating and learning about their world. 

As I wrote and revised in both books, I kept pushing the timetable up, throwing more obstacles in the characters' way.  Testing them with conflict and fire.  I'm kind of cruel that way, but it makes things more interesting, doesn't it?  And part of life is death.  In the fourth book of my series, which involves the children's stories, I had to kill off a major, beloved character.  It wasn't the first tragedy the family had to deal with, but it sucked.  But, since my books are primarily love stories, I show how the main characters handle the initial notification, the shock and horror, by pulling together.  I briefly mention the funeral a few years later, as a hero researches the family and pulls up the news story.  That character becomes a blessing to the family, bringing them joy, when they're still grieving. 

Fiction is about change and how our characters deal with that change.  I've used my reactions to people in my life passing as fuel for my words.  It caused many tears and there are still certain songs that I pray won't come on the radio when I'm driving, because I'll have to fumble for tissues.  Needless to say, I don't listen to country music very often anymore.  I have to admit, it's cleansing, though.  As I unfold these stories, I hope that by sharing these characters' experiences, my readers will find some peace and comfort, along with laughs and entertainment. 

Thanks, Mom, for giving me a love of romance and books.  I can hear you egging me on and I appreciate it. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Getting a little overwhelmed sometimes

It's that whole adult child of alcoholics thing--I have a hard time starting things because I might mess it up.  I have a hard time finishing something because it might not be perfect.  I have a hard time accepting my work is good enough because there were times it wasn't good enough for Mom and Dad. 

You know the drill.  I've had to overcome that nasty inner voice in order to accomplish the things I want to do.  I had to measure a half dozen times to make sure I was cutting the fabric for a new cross-stitch project properly, then debate if I even wanted to use that fabric at all, because then I wouldn't have a square yard of it.  When I do make a mistake, I am so hard on myself, several of my bosses put on reviews they never had to "come down on me," because I did their work. 

So, I realize I could re-edit Seven Days yet again or start working on the second book in the series, Seven Months, while I'm researching agents and how to write the best query letter.  My husband even made a crack about me probably never getting anything out, because I'd continue to work on it for the next year.  I'll show him!  Procrastination and getting overwhelmed in the quest for perfection stopped me last time (20+ years ago) from attempting to get an agent, editor, published.  I've promised I'm not going to touch the first book until I get some feedback (positive or negative) from a reliable source and have the chance to think about it. 

Not that it's perfect, but it's pretty good now.  I need outside voices to give me some perspective on where to cut or how to refine it.  Meanwhile, my other characters are clamoring for attention.  Will and Elizabeth from Seven Days will figure prominently in Seven Months, as Will's brother Rob goes after Elizabeth's sister Mary Margaret.  But, it's time to move on, plowing ahead, even though I want to play Hearts and Bejeweled on the computer all night, while watching HGTV and Food Network. 

While I got a little overwhelmed, reading some author and editor blogs today, I promise I will sift through the information I've absorbed and actually get a draft of some query letters out by the end of the month, along with a list of potential agents.  There.  I've put it in print.  That means I have to do it now, right?  Thanks, again, to all who have joined me on this journey and please give me some feedback if you think I'm going in the right direction or just full of beans. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

At the movies

My husband and I went to see "The King's Speech" this afternoon and I really loved it!  It's not only a story of friendship, it also highlights the love story between the King and Queen.  Of course, I've always had a love jones for Colin Firth, but he really earned my respect for his skills as an actor.  It's not as easy as it looks.

Also, my husband and I went on another "The Hangover" binge, where we have to watch it every time it's on, even though we have the DVD.  There are so many great scenes, you don't want to turn it off, because you anticipate the next one.  We're shouting out lines at the TV (remember MST3000 or "Rocky Horror"?) and laughing like fools at something we've seen a dozen times.  One of our friends hasn't seen it yet and like "Office Space," she'd probably be better off not watching it.  It could never live up to expectations.

But, my novel is filled with scenes of dialog.  No long narratives describing the setting for me--we've got too much happening.  After some investigation and discussions with my husband, I think I might have a go at turning it into a script.  I saw it all in my mind as I wrote each scene and when I re-read it, I hear each character.  It's also an issue of $$$$, as even a beginning scriptwriter would get significantly more money than the average advance for a book.  Of course, the natural discussion is what actors would play my characters, though some authors warn not to mention a specific one, because the reader won't be able to see anyone else. 

All of this is simply at the stage of positive thinking right now.  Have you seen a movie after you've read a book that really hit it dead on?  Or one that really disappointed you?  I thought "Silence of the Lambs" did justice to its source material, acting, casting, tension, etc.  On the other hand, I can think of a half dozen movies that were like wha-wha-whaaaa.  "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub was one of them and "The Postman" by David Brin another.  What do you think?

Monday, March 7, 2011

We are all writers in one way or another

A long time ago, I was asked to speak on writing before a small group of women.  I tried to make the talk entertaining and humorous, but my point was that many people say they want to be a writer and you can be.  It depends upon what degree you want to be.  I found something that backs me up.  I found a $1 page-a-day calendar called "For Women Who Do Too Much" and for Jan. 17th, they have, "There are more secret writers among us than we realize."  It mentions journaling, making notes or lists and ends with, "Women are writers." 

When I suggested at the talk that they could start keeping a journal as a beginning to a writing career, I got some terrified looks.  The basic response was, "Who has that much time?"  Granted, many of the women were young mothers or had careers, but even jotting down a few lines about your day will help clear your head.  Maybe, you overheard a smart quip or read a wonderfully inspiring quotation?  Maybe, your kid had a good report card or said, "Mommy, I love you!"  At the end of the week, month or year, you'll be able to look back on your little notebook and relive that moment with joy.

Michael's had some pretty blank books in their $1 bin, 100 pages for you to start.  Do you keep a list of your books or your movies?  I do.  It helps when you're trying to remember that title to tell your friend or to make sure you don't pick up a second copy at the used book store (guilty...).  The Good Reads website has a place where you can do a few lines for review and share with your friends or even join a book club.  A friend's daughter blogs and shares pictures with her, almost half-way across the country.  I've seen gorgeous scrapbook pages with brief stories printed out to go along with the pictures to preserve the memory.  That is all writing. 

I just take all those experiences, even the ones I experience vicariously, mix them with a vivid imagination and turn it into fiction.  The calendar page also has, "When we speak our truth in our writing, even if it's only for our own eyes, we are cleaned and healed."  Indeed.  It's cheaper than therapy for me.  If it will bring happiness or entertainment to others, I'm truly blessed.