June 29, 2010

Tuesday Testimonial: Down Time

  When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.  But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can.  ~Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1842

I will not be unplugging for a week. I won't. I may or may not have access to the internet, but if I do sometime during vacation, you can bet I will be updating, uploading, Twittering, Facebooking, and, oh yeah, checking my email. Occasionally. A few times.
I don't play Farmville or Cafe Town or Underwater Rainbow Treasure Hunter. I'd rather write or socially interact. Or listen to Writing Excuses.
So, Tuesday Testimonial and Thursday Authorial will be short and sweet this week. I'm packing my laptop. If the internet must elude me, then I will edit, revise, write. In-between all the other fun stuff. It's a long drive. I won't mind. If you pass us on the freeway, I might have my laptop open, I might or might not be in discussion with my husband, I might or might not be tapping away on the keys.

It's how I scratch.

Have a great week! Hope you take care of that itch.

June 27, 2010

Talking, Because of Writing.

Writing is both mask and unveiling.  ~E.B. White

I met with a famous author the other day for lunch and the exchanging of ideas. Okay, it was Robison Wells. I was nervous. Though others had been invited, word was that a breakout of childhood diseases and birthday parties prevented their attendance. Crashers threatened, but never showed. (And I'd had a chance to meet with the lovely Annette Lyon the week before so I was already grateful for that, but Mr. Wells can be a bit... misanthropic. That's his word, not mine. I had to look it up.) So, it was me, my son, and Rob. Or is that Rob, my son, and I? Annette?
I was excited about this chance to meet a Twitter friend/author and talk writing, and nervous because I shy away from talking. I'm a listener. When I talk with people I don't know well, I say things like this:

"I monely try to... I mean, I maistly try... No, MONELY... MAISTLY... ugh, I MAINLY try to (what was I talking about?)..." *meanwhile my son is shaking his head in his hand and Rob is thinking he could have pretended to think we were meeting at the other El Chihuahua in Salt Lake City*

But aside from my verbal congestion, it was an awesome lunch and I learned some things and Rob was very cool and gracious and told me I was funny. YAY!

So, as I said before, I would rather listen in unfamiliar groups, but I've noticed I'm growing out of that just a little. And I think it's the writing.
Of course, if the subject is writing, that makes it so much easier. I don't think my conversation with Rob was a disaster. It was fun. He asked me lots of questions and I managed to remember a few I had for him, and my son was drawn in as well.
But my husband and I went to a retirement party yesterday and I knew three people. The host and his wife, and the high school English teacher who works at my husband's school (it's not like he owns the school, he's just the principal). I was introduced to other people who apparently had no issues about talking to strangers.
And I joined in. Tolkien. Camping. New York eateries. Christianity. Hometown growth. Gardening. Oregon.
And is it bad I found myself looking for story ideas? And asking questions because I wanted to know more, I was curious and voiced it? Because I'm a writer? I was talking and my husband kept giving me strange looks that said, "Why are you talking so much? These are practically strangers." (He tends to do just fine in a crowd.) Of course, there were a few monely/maistly moments, but I left the party with a smile, and not because we were leaving.

Is this what growing up feels like?

June 15, 2010

Tuesday Testimonial: In Need of a Wand

It's not too late for Tuesday Testimonial, is it? I've been home a few hours now from a very fast trip to Salt Lake City and back and I'm about to collapse with a book (I haven't decided which one yet) before I fall asleep with it on my lap. We just went over the calendar for the rest of the month and it is FULL. Every day.
I guess that's a good thing, though some of the things aren't what we want to do, but what we have to do, and there may be as much time getting someone somewhere as there is being in that place. But I'm one of those people who needs to try and make the getting there enjoyable, so I'll just have to plan for that.
I guess I'm tired, and I'm wishing for some time to do this:

Let me walk through the fields of paper
touching with my wand
dry stems and stunted butterflies.... 
~Denise Levertov

That will take some planning, too.

And I think this wand.

Writing is a sort of magic, is it not?

June 13, 2010

Book Review: Heroes of the Fallen

I've slowed down on the book reviews lately, not because I haven't been reading, but because I usually just post what I think over on my Goodreads page and leave it at that so I can move on to other things. But I finally read my friend, David J. West's book, Heroes of the Fallen, and after this fun interview we did a while back, I had to post my review here on my blog.
Thanks, David!
David J. West weaves an intricate tale full of adventure, color, and intrigue. His fantasy-laced story of an ancient American civilization turns and surprises, brings out the odd chuckle, and has you beating your fist, slapping your forehead, or holding your breath.
I was continually impressed by David's imagination and penchant for detail, using his knowledge of historical fact and artifact and mixing it with his love of epic fantasy.

This is David's first published novel, and I know his story-telling skills will get even better. A fun, thrilling beginning that left me wanting the next book. Now.

In unrelated, but still exciting news, the winners have been drawn for my 50 Followers contest! Congratulations to:

Melissa Nielsen- Maple Syrup gift box
Tamara Heart Reiner- Cherries gift box

I have contacted the winners and I want to thank you all for playing! I think I'll be holding more of these contests as I get the hang of them. Thank you, followers!

June 11, 2010

Are You Writing Cinematically?

At writing group I was explaining how certain events unfold in my WIP. I kept on saying things like, "Well, at the beginning of the movie..." or "by this point in the movie..." and "I'm not sure about this part of the movie..." and my group-mates were laughing because I kept having to correct myself and I was getting flustered.
No, I do not have grand aspirations of someday seeing my novel on the big screen. I do not picture movie stars playing my main characters (not that there's anything wrong with that). I do not dream of signing movie deals. I just don't.
I simply see what I am writing so vividly in my head, the characters playing out their scenes and dialogue as I type, keeping up with the action or banter or emotion, there is a glitch in my stored vocabulary that has me calling my book a movie. It's a movie in my head and I'm writing it as I see it, hear it, smell it, feel it. But it's a novel. I know it's a novel. A book. Not a movie.

But, I watched Sherlock Holmes last night, and saw Robin Hood in the theater last week, and I am reading David J. West's Heroes of the Fallen. The actor, Mark Strong, who plays a villain in both those movies, keeps popping in my head as the image of Akish-Antum, the arch villain of Heroes.

So it got me thinking, is there an actor or actress that could be the ideal for one of my characters?
And then I started to laugh. Because I remembered a pair of actors I had in mind when I wrote two lesser characters of The Orchard. And admitting this is SO going to date me.

Do you remember these guys?
They are Officers Jim Reed (L) and Pete Malloy (R) from one of my favorite childhood TV shows, Adam 12. This is pre-CHiPs, people. Officer Reed was right up there with Donny Osmond, Shawn Cassidy, and my neighbor, Robby Johnson, as far as my kindergarten crushes went.
Meet Will Eliot and Uncle Jay Whitney, from my novel, The Orchard.


Well, it's televison... not film. Right?

Do you picture actors when you're forming your characters? Or when you read? Is there a movie in your head when you write?

June 10, 2010

Thursday Authorial: H.B. Moore, Book Review

I grabbed this book as we headed out the door to drive an hour to my nephew's baptism. My husband, who was driving, kept asking questions. "Did you see the map?" "And the character chart?" "I like how she put scriptures at the start of every chapter." "I think that's one of my favorite scripture stories." "At what point does she start the story?"
I looked at him. "Would you like to read it next?"
He nodded his head vigorously.
I must add that my husband isn't really all that animated. Mr. Cool.
Five minutes of intense reading later I hear, "Is it a good book?"

Moore brings the story of Alma the Younger to life in answer to the question, "How could the son of a revered high priest go so bad and lead so many astray?" Her take formed an intriguing answer.  

Before I read H.B. Moore's ALMA THE YOUNGER, I hoped she wouldn't glaze over things, that she would portray the fall of this would-be High Priest as significant enough to bring the intercession of an angel from God. From the first page I was drawn in, wanting to find out more, wanting to know these characters and where their paths led. It was especially compelling to have the opening scene show just how wicked the main character, Alma, the son of the High Priest, had become, and then the next chapter jump back only 3 months earlier. My mind reeled at how such a change could happen in such a short time, and I really wanted to know how the author approached that.

I both loved Alma and cringed at him and kept turning pages, putting myself in Moore's Zarahemla, asking myself, "Where would I stand?" Moore keeps him real and doesn't sugar-coat his falling away, but shows the fine silken cords the adversary uses to draw those he would need to further his purposes. She succeeds in portraying Alma's sins without being gratuitous. Moore tempts the reader to believe Alma might be right, justified, because he believes it so fervently. Because he is, quintessentially, a hero.

Cassia is sweet and sincere, and the sons of Mosiah charming and loyal, Ammon a leader in his own right.
Moore's portrayal of the king and the government had me considering righteous dominion. 

As I read, I wasn't sure I could swallow the change I knew was to take place in Alma the Younger, but as a reader, I wanted it, and Moore made it believable. Yes, he would be changed. His redemption is all the more meaningful considering where his path of destruction was taking him and those who followed.

Alma's redemption is not a fix-all, but that reflects real life. The struggles that come will now be accompanied with peace and strength from a higher power.

I'll certainly never read the scripture story the same way again.

And, the scripture references at the beginning of each chapter kept reminding me of God's hand in all things, even when they seemed bleak.

If I have any disappointments with this book, it is that it ended too soon. I'm looking forward to reading the next book. Ammon, anyone?

Here, hon, you can read it now. And yes, it was a very good book.

June 8, 2010

Tuesday Edit Crunch: Run, Forrest, Run

Welcome to this week's Tuesday Edit Crunch.
Sounds like a breakfast cereal made of old typewriter keys.

Tuesday Edit Crunch is an informative, fresh, and important part of this nutritious... blog...

You can't give people what they need, if you don't know who they are. -Susan Law Corpany
Imagine getting your first manuscript accepted, with a request for certain revisions. 1) Lose two of your characters with their subplot, and 2) bring up two minor characters out of obscurity.


But I was asked to try. The challenge? Making these two "rising" characters real without making them replicas of those I had cut. I had to transfer some plot responsibility onto this couple, make their weight in the story believable, and I realized after I revised the male character that he could be interchangeable with another minor male character, so I had to alter his personality... like Harvey Dent... only not.

Somewhere along this writing road I came across a character development worksheet. I took it and formed it to my own preferences. It has been fundamental in allowing me to write my characters, and though I use it for my main characters, in this case, I used it on my minor characters as well. It made a HUGE difference in the re-write.

Describe the following about your character:
What will he learn?:
What will her obstacles be?:
Why will the reader like him?:

Because these were minor characters, a lot of this information didn't come to light in the story, but it did come through in my characters' mannerisms, responses, humor, and dialogue, making them real.
Now, before I get too far into a new story, I stop and make a character development sheet for each character. Some things I know when I set out, and some things I learn from the characters as they form on the page. And if I know these people better than their mothers? That's when they climb out of the story and run with it. Like Forrest Gump.

That's when it's my favorite.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Tuesday Edit Crunch. If you'd like to feel celebrated, enter to win my contest HERE. Right now, your odds of winning are REALLY GOOD. It's a thank you to my followers!
And remember, watch out for the K's. They're especially crunchy.

June 1, 2010

Tuesday Testimonial: Anonymous Who?

There is a reason I don't allow Anonymous commentors on this blog. The week my book, THE ORCHARD, was accepted, I took a deep, happy breath, and posted the first 364 words of chapter 1, a mere page and two lines, here on this blog. I loved the scene and had received a lot of praise over the rhythm, the imagery. M. Gray commented. It was lovely and made me smile.
Then, somehow, as I believe my followers were at 4 at that point, Anonymous found me. Ripped it apart. Where was the love interest? Why was the character lamenting? Present the eviction notice! Then they listed a large number of questions and possible outcomes of where in the world this story could be headed and pointed out that I hadn't addressed a single one yet. My writing was drivel. Pretty drivel.
I was dumbfounded.
Had they not read that the book was complete? That the series was actually complete? Was I supposed to have my love interest come traipsing up in this quiet, compelling moment and introduce himself? Was I to have the lawyer blast through the trees at 8:00 p.m. and thrust the foreclusure papers up through the branches? All on the first page? Really? Really. I was asking myself these questions and considering changes because this was all so new and I knew I had much to learn and this Anonymous sounded like they knew what they were talking about. I was near tears.
I humbly replied, assuring them that the plot takes off just after this scene, that I only posted it for its imagery, and since the book was accepted, and completed, the publisher must see something. As I wrote, I realized something. This short, quiet opening scene had made this Anonymous reader ask questions. It made them wonder what would happen next (albeit, impatiently). They had 10 possible scenarios written right in their comment, wondering, demanding. I pointed this out in my reply, that perhaps this was a good thing.
Anonymous commented back. With a vengeance. How dare I? They had been published many times over! There were "Ha ha ha's" and lots of !!! And then came a list of numerous ways to NEVER begin a novel. It ended with a congratulations I could give no weight to.
My hands shook as I leaned into my husbands shoulder and he offered to write the next reply. As we talked about why someone would launch such an attack on a beginning author without at least earning my respect for who they were or their accomplishments, another comment popped up.

Bonnie said...
Good job. The way to keep me reading is NOT to outline the entire plot in the first few lines! In fact I'd rather you keep me up in the wee hours trying to find out!

I could breathe again. Bonnie was my new friend.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew it would be best to delete the offending comments and block anonymous commentors from the blog. I also took another deep breath and posted the entire first chapter in place of the small opening. Some of you may think my actions a bit cowardly, but I felt empowered. And I learned this: Comments like that from someone unnamed, no matter what their claim of expertise, are weightless. Even if there was truth in their critique, I would go elsewhere to learn more. People with names and manners and known expertise. Strangely, I also felt it might be better for Anonymous not to have those comments posted. I'm crazy-protective like that.
Since then, I've been critiqued up and down, and if you've been reading my posts here, you know how I take it. I need it. Give me feedback, and I'll do my best with it. I've written several opening scenes since I've begun writing, each different and fitting of the storyline and genre, some quiet, some jumping out of the starting gates. The thing is, I'm still writing. I'm still sticking my neck out.

Thanks, Bonnie. Your simple comment meant more than you think it did. I'll never forget it. Or your name.
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