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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blog ideas and WD Dear Lucky Agent contest

Sorry, I haven't been posting as much recently, but I've been collecting things to talk about. As I've searched "the interwebs" and Facebook, I've cut and pasted articles, quotes, web links, etc., into a Word document. So far, I have over sixty pages. And that's in less than two weeks.

I'm trying to focus on writing and editing my own fiction and getting notes from my 35 plus notebooks into a computer file. That and Chris has been on vacation, so I've had to share the computer a little more. While I've been fighting another case of the creeping crud, the doctor took some gunk samples and they're at the lab. Hopefully, we'll find out what we're dealing with soon. That and getting through the Hidden Quests in Jewel Quest III. My bad.

So, opening one of my blank books at random, I see notes I scribbled while watching a gardening show on our local PBS station on daffodils/narcissus/jonquils. One of my characters is an expert gardener, so I find myself discovering things here and there. Did you know deers won't eat daffodils or their bulbs? The show recommended planting a swath of them about 5 feet from your garden, as a kind of fence. Also, after they bloom, you need to fertilize and bundle the foliage, but don't cut, so the bulbs will grow and split for next year. The show featured a high school that sold bouquets as a fundraiser and I can just see my character, Mary Margaret, helping with that and with a church summer social fundraiser booth, selling plants. There are over 13,000 hybrids, so choose several types so you'll have blooms over a six week period.

I also took some notes on a cooking show where they made a bread pudding out of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and put some canned pumpkin in the custard. Cinnamon is Mary Margaret's favorite flavor and smell, so I'm always looking for good recipes. She and her family are vegetarians, so I have a bunch of notes and recipes to sprinkle through the books. Heaven knows, my husband thinks the only vegetables are potatoes and corn, so I would only be fixing them for me in real life.

On another page, I noted that on March 3, 2011, my manuscript for Seven Days was 584 pages. By 5-8, I got it down to 512 pages. I have a lot to cut out of Saturday (starts Monday night), because a good chunk is told from the secondary characters' POV (Mary Margaret and Rob) and that will be the beginning for the second book, Seven Months, which is their story. I really love keeping track of my edits. In this notebook, have about eight pages of a young adult novel I want to do, told from the POV of the daughter of the characters (Will and Elizabeth) in Seven Days and about five pages of story for a separate novel (most in another notebook) that was originally a subplot in a third book, that involves two injured Marines from the SD hero's unit.

So, there are decades worth of ideas, many would serve as separate blog topics, that I need to get into the computer and flash drive, to be inserted into my manuscripts or just to serve as back story research. It's fun to go through the blank books, which I've been keeping since 2006. There are a lot of things I'd forgotten I wanted to do and a lot that I've changed. Originally, for example, Will had a dog, but it wouldn't work out in the story.  He will have a cat later, a Manx who will choose him, because that is what Manxes do.

And as I mentioned above, he will be a father. While my father passed almost ten years ago, I do have a wonderful father-in-law that I'm going to make a big batch of beef vegetable soup for his son to take over tomorrow. Here's a picture of me with my dad, who loved to read and even loved to read romances. He preferred the big family historical sagas, but would read a Sandra Brown or Janet Daily on occasion. I know Dad would be proud of what I'm doing and I think I've been channeling him a little for one of my characters later on in the story.

Also, I'll be entering the Writers Digest "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest and I have to submit the first 150-200 words of my book. I also have to post it here, so part of that I think is by telling you all I'm doing it, I'm committing myself and I will publicize it a little more. Here's the link:
And the top three winners get a critique by an agent of the first ten pages AND a free one-year subscription to Writers Digest. How cool is that? Deadline is the 26th, so if you meet the requirements (women's/upmarket fiction), please consider entering.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Reading Darkness and Light

In response to: Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?” by Meghan Cox Gurdon in The Wall Street Journal, Sherman Alexie wrote “Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood.”  Alexie is the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and winner of the 2007 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, so he is an excellent choice for the response.
And here’s the quote from the essay that made me put this young adult book on my TBR list:
“As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.
And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”
Now, since it’s summer, I’m harkening back to all those summer vacations I spent reading my way through the Mt. Carmel Public Library. Sounder made me sob. I wondered if I could be as brave as the girl in The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I had to put Black Beauty aside for a day, after reading the scene where the horse was beaten.
In fact, I’m thinking that while the “young adult” readers these days may have more graphic choices, we should be doing some serious celebrating that there are still kids reading out there. Next to Alexie’s article, was a picture of the cast of the latest “Twilight” movie at the MTV Movie Awards. I’m happy there is such a vigorous market for 450+ page books about weighty issues, like the Stephanie Meyers’ books and the “Harry Potter” series. There was also a poll at the end of the article, asking, “Are dark themes in youth fiction helpful or harmful to teenagers?”  As of June 11, 2011, 88.8% felt they were helpful.

God bless my parents, who while they were alcoholics and pretty much let me raise myself after my brother died when I was nine, always encouraged me to read anything and everything. While I am not a parent (and I don’t even play one on TV), I believe that as long as there are forums for discussion and responsible caring adults to help tweens and teens along the way, it’s extremely important for us to get any and all books in the hands of readers.
What were some of the books you read that influenced you as a teen?

Link to Gurdon’s original article:  MEGHAN COX GURDON
Link to Sherman Alexie’s website: here.