September 28, 2010

Power Up

A lot of draining stuff has been happening, both in my writing life and my home life (which actually take place in the same space... my laundry room), and it's time to power up.
Long ago in a family room far, far away, we had a Play Station 1. Do you remember those? PS1. We had Crash Team Racing. I ADORED that game. I MISS that game, those controllers. I tried the Xbox version.

NOT THE SAME.

You raced and raced and jumped on the turns and if you hit the one button at the right time you got a burst of speed. I was a menace. And to power up, you slammed, rocketed, or vaulted into boxes or dangling bunches of wumpa fruit. Man, I loved the wumpa fruit. I knew where it was and when I would need it. Wumpa fruit prolonged the race, boosted your momentum, strengthened your weapons.

This week I am attending The Book Academy at Utah Valley University.

Wumpa Fruit, baby.

Hope to see some of you there!

(How do you power up?)

September 25, 2010

Gazing at the Window Display

Well, it's happening again. It seems like whenever I post about being brave and pushing past the pain and seeing beyond the little stumbling blocks in the road, the universe in all it's wisdom says, "Oh, yeah, Krista? You think you've got a handle on it? Well, let's just see about that..."

I talked to my editor last week. There have been some scheduling changes.
Now, whenever someone asks me when my book will be hitting the shelves, instead of answering excitedly, "Spring of 2011!", my answer will now be a slightly tempered but still hopeful, "I'm not sure, possibly 2012..."

I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail. Kathleen has just accepted that her book shop must close.

Kathleen Kelly: Oh, Birdie, what am I going to do? What would Mom have done?
Birdie Conrad: Well, let's ask her.
[Birdie opens her locket, revealing a picture of Cecilia Kelly]
Birdie Conrad: Cecilia, what should we do?
[holds the locket to her ear]
Kathleen Kelly: Birdie...
Birdie Conrad: Shhh! She has no idea. But she thinks the window display looks lovely.


In the meantime, I am working on two other manuscripts and will submit them. I may be down, but I am certainly not out. Covenant has accepted two of my books and I'm giving them more to chew on. I won't be closing the book shop.

I'll just be wincing a little every time someone asks me, "When can I buy your book?"

September 23, 2010

September 20, 2010

Commandments for Writers Series: #9

We have nearly completed our study of Sol Stein's Ten Commandments for Writers from his book, Stein on Writing. For those of you who have followed along, I hope it's been a help in becoming a more perceptive writer, or reader. I have learned a lot from his book... maybe nothing astounding or revolutionary, but certainly, Stein's views on what good writing is and what it accomplishes will push me to be better, to reach farther. His explanations are clear. His examples back up his theories. And he loves character. Which is why I really loved this book. Now, on to the next commandment.


9 Thou shalt not forget that dialogue is as a foreign tongue, a semblance of speech and not a record of it, a language in which directness diminishes and obliqueness sings.

I love dialogue. I love the possibilities it brings to the reader to be in the "now" of the story, learning by what characters are saying instead of what the narrator is describing. It brings the story to "real time" and gives the characters life. We learn so much from what a person says, the way they choose their words, the forms of speech they have grown up with. We learn what age they are, their level of education, the level of respect they have for others, for the things in their lives. We even learn what they are hiding if their words conflict with the inner thoughts we are privy to as readers.
Dialogue moves the story quickly, the reader able to move down the page at a clip. But what do we include in written dialogue? What do we leave out?
When I'm writing a first draft, I've noticed the sections of dialogue I hammer out are fairly all-inclusive. Particularly if it's a phone conversation. The greeting, the small talk, the ummm's, then the meat of the conversation, the purpose of the call, then the ummm's again, then the farewell. But it's a first draft and I'm in the zone and it's what I am seeing and hearing in my head, so it all gets thrown down.
When I edit, I choose only the essentials needed to take the conversation where it needed to go. The reader will assume the conversation started with niceties, and ended the same way. Stein says dialogue in a story is not as the precise recordings of a court reporter. Select what moves the story along. Make it resonate. Make it count.

*NOTE: Because THE ORCHARD is now under contract, I can no longer post excerpts from it as examples without written consent. But you can read the whole thing as soon as it comes out! Thank you for understanding!

September 15, 2010

Fruition

Every year my mother-in-law and I collect orders for peaches and pears, drive with our husbands to Idaho, rent a U-haul, and load it up with boxes of fresh, tasty fruit (as opposed to not-fresh, un-tasty fruit we can buy here in Wyoming for an arm and a leg). We drive home through Yellowstone and load up our garage. Then we wait for the happy faces to come get their orders. It's the best my garage smells all year.
Sometimes the numbers are a little off, and I get nervous about being able to fill everyone's order. After all, loading a truck full of crates, and then unloading half of them (185 peaches and 87 pears this year) at my house, there is bound to be a discrepancy here and there. But for the most part, with a little shuffling of boxes between my mother-in-law's house and mine, we work it out and everyone is happy.

Except, if I am short a box or two, I usually give my own order away. Last year I ordered 4 boxes of each. I think I was able to keep 1 1/2 boxes of peaches and 2 boxes of pears. My kids were sad.
This year, about 2/3 of the way through distributing the orders, I took a count, and guessed I would be able to keep all my pears, but only 1 box of peaches. I expressed my concern to my mother-in-law over the phone.
"You go and separate your order out right now. You set your boxes aside. Those are sacred. You did all the work, you get your fruit."
My mother-in-law holds nothing back. And it's great. I fret about making others unhappy, and she often puts things in perspective. I picked my boxes and set them aside. I even went ahead and canned 3 batches of ripening peaches, and still the worry of using my order before the rest had been picked up nagged at me. But I kept telling myself, "I did all the work, I get my fruit."
It turned out that my mother-in-law had a few cancellations, so the discrepancy was covered, and I can relax about everyone's orders, uncluding my own.
What does this have to do with writing?

When I was given revisions on THE ORCHARD, I was asked to hack off the last 30 pages. Literally, the story did end at that cut-off. I knew it. But there were a few tasty bits in those last 30 pages, and the setting for the new ending was not in the right place. I did as I was asked, and then wrote a short "tie-up" chapter for The End. I sent it back and the publishers were pleased. Good.

But...

Those few tasty bits tugged at me. The setting for that tie-up chapter was still not right. It should be THIS way, with THIS happening. The reader will want THIS.
I was given a chance, when I was assigned my own editor, to run through the story again. I made edits like changing awkward sentences, making clarifications, better wording, etc. I am still learning so much, every time I re-read I am able to see more ways to make the novel better. I love it. Then, I got to the final tie-up chapter.

Nope.

I returned to my original 30 pages, picked out my few tasty bits, re-distributed them where they fit smoothly into the story, and re-wrote the final scene, putting the characters where they needed to be, the right setting, giving them the right things to do.

I was so excited about that short little re-write, only a couple pages. But those few elements of the story, they were sacred to me. I did all the work. I get the fruit.

After all, the book is called THE ORCHARD.

In what ways are you "giving away your fruit"? Have you learned to compromise? Save the tasty bits?

September 13, 2010

Rain, Drive-Ins, and Rootbeer

I've receive two major awards! Well, maybe not major, but they are lovely, are they not? They come from my blogger friend, Ali Cross. Her site is always thought-provoking, honest, and fun. Thank you, Ali!

The Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:
  1. Thank and link back to the person that gave you the award.
  2. Share seven things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award to fifteen bloggers that you think deserve it.
  4. Lastly, contact all the bloggers that you’ve picked for the award.

One Lovely Blog Award Rules:
  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
  2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
  3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
Seven things about myself, in no particular order:
1) I love the sound of rain, crickets, and frogs. Not all at the same time.
2) I love drive-in theaters. I lament their passing and avidly support the one in the next town, American Dreams Drive-In. Sometimes I wish my husband and I could move to the back seat. Like we used to. There are kids in the way.
3) I love rootbeer floats. Particularly A&W rootbeer floats, which we used to get at the A&W on the way to the drive-in when I was little and living in Seattle. Where it rains. And there are frogs. At the lakes.
4) I love lakes. I love the calm, the lack of current, the warmth.
5) I would rather live in the mountains than anywhere else; preferably in a lake house. I don't have one yet. But I am in the mountains. Baby steps. The mountains here in Wyoming are different than the mountains of western Washington. In a good, non-rainy kind of way.
6) I LOVE snow, but seasonally. At Easter time, I want tulips and sunshine. Not snowmen and wind-chill. Like here in the mountains.
7) I'm adaptable.

With that out of the way, it's time to move on to 8 out of the 15 bloggers I have chosen to receive these awards. The other 7 will be mentioned in my next post. Give it up for:

  • Margot Hovley at Inklings. Margot is a new Covenant author, like me! Her book, GET REAL, is coming out next summer. Congratulations, Margot! 
  • Melissa J. Cunningham at A Writer's Reality. Melissa cracks me up and she's a great motivator. Apparently she sings, and I'd like to hear her sometime. Okay, Melissa?
  • Donald J. Carey is a sweetheart of a guy and also has a book coming out called BUMPY LANDINGS. Check him out; bring a lei.
  • A.L. Sonnichsen over at The Green Bathtub (so named because her writing cuts into her cleaning time) and I are finding we have a bathtub full of things in common, beginning with the areas we call/called home, and our husband's football careers, both on the field and sidelines. She posts her short stories weekly, and is sending me chocolate. What more can you ask from a blogger friend?
  • I really like how Clarissa Draper critiques chapters at Listen to the Voices. And her posts cover everything from Blogger tips to Forensics.
  • Kimberly Vanderhorst at Temporary? Insanity is the embodiment of serenity and anxiety at the same time. Her posts are sweetness to the soul. She would balk at that. But I insist.
  • Sara B. Larson is new to blogging and I found her posts really fresh, so she's on the list!

And one more note. My book contract is signed, delivered, and my copy is now in my possession. I feel like the Velveteen Rabbit. Real.

September 7, 2010

What's Your Pain Threshold?

 Criticism is something we can avoid simply by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. ~Aristotle

I was doing a little blog-hopping-- only a little because I've spent every ounce of energy I have and my bed is calling me... "Kristaaaaaa, Kristaaaaaa, I'm warm and deep with three inches of memory foam softnessssss..."
*sigh*
What was I doing? Oh yeah, the blog.

I saw the wonderful ladies at Writing on the Wall had a new post here. Julie Wright shared her thoughts on the pain of critique and bearing it better if we took some pain meds beforehand, or, actually, maybe we would submit more if we knew it wouldn't hurt so much. It's a sweet boost, so go read it. But come back here.

Because I was thinking about pain and what it can do. Paralyze us? Make us grit our teeth and bear it?

About 16 1/2 years ago a car going 65 mph hit my stopped car from behind. Didn't see us at all. Mine and my baby's survival was a miracle. Because of her car seat, my little girl was frightened, but perfect. I walked away, however, with severe muscle tissue damage in my lower back. I'm in some level of pain every hour of every day. People compliment me on my excellent posture. The truth is, if I slouch, the pain meter spikes quickly. I try to avoid that.

It's like walking around with a knife stuck in my back. When it gets worse, someone is twisting the knife. Every hour of every day. I fought depression. I won.

Then a few years later, my marriage nearly fell apart.

We sucked it up. We made it through. We fell in love again.

And then we lost a child. 



It's a risk, as writers, putting ourselves out there. It could hurt. It could help. Use what's given, find what works, make the changes, meet halfway, follow your gut, scrap the rest.

I keep submitting, because critiques and rejections are tough, but I know some things hurt more.

I can handle it. So can you.

September 3, 2010

Labor Day Weekend BBQ Blog Party

Welcome, Labor Day Weekend BBQ Blog Party visitors! As requested, I'm posting a link to my mom's famous New York Grilled Chicken recipe, and yes, though I grew up in the Northwest, my mom is a New Yorker with Vernor's Ginger Ale running through her veins.

Browse around and leave a comment, follow if you like, and I look forward to meeting you as I visit your blogs!

Thanks for throwing a party, Karen. Have a wonderful weekend!

September 2, 2010

Commandments for Writers Series: #8

Moving along with Sol Stein's Ten Commandments for Writers, from Stein on Writing...
8 Thou shalt have no rest on the sabbath, for thy characters shall live in thy mind and memory now and forever.
It's true, figuratively and literally. Giving life to characters is akin to creating family. That sounds insane. I don't think I'm insane. I do know that Alisen, Elizabeth, Amanda, Chloe, Jill, and Kirianah are like sisters to me. Okay, maybe I'm insane. The asylum's in my head. Shhh, don't tell anyone.

I know of writers who choose not to write on the Sabbath day. But I bet they think about it.

I have been jolted with inspiration for a plot line in the middle of Sunday School class. My jaw has dropped as I sing the words of an unfamiliar hymn, appropriately depicting my character's feelings. A comment, a quote, a scripture catches fire in my soul, burning to be written down as soon as I get home. A fix to a scene, a turn of dialogue, an expression of emotion. The rest comes after the words are down.


But yeah, I'm still thinking about them.
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