Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Using Your Jeweler's Loupe

One of the great pleasures I’ve discovered in writing time travel is that the past can be every bit as exotic as science fiction, that building the world of the past, though not a flight of fancy, can be just as creative.

When I wrote Screwing Up Time, I got to explore Bodiam Castle. I memorized the entire map of the castle, and I could probably find my way around blindfolded. I learned all about Medieval cuisine (cockentrice, wines, and spices), heraldry, and religious observances. In Screwing Up Babylon, I researched city maps, food, the Hanging Gardens, etc. I know all about palm wine, cuneiform, harems, and Archimedean screws. And for book three (here’s a hint), I learned about ostriches, anti-psychotics, tasers, and cone mosaics. I could write a dissertation on dumb waiters or draw an engineering schematic.

But all this information is the bane of an author too. Sometimes you come across a fact so amazing you want to share it with your readers, but it doesn’t fit into the plot. You try to make it work, but it doesn’t. And if something doesn’t advance the plot, you have to cut it—Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch called it “murdering your darlings.” And it’s so painful. I actually have documents where I store my murdered darlings because I just can’t quite snuff them out. When I put my little beauties there, I tell myself, I can always add them back in if I need them. I never have. I’ve never actually re-read them. They weren’t part of the story. They were just sparkly bits, and I was an enthralled magpie. But once I fitted my jeweler’s loupe, I can tell zircon from diamond. And zircon never belongs in a story.

Loupe photo by Adamantios, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
 BTW, Book Three in the Screwing Up Time series is currently with a beta reader. And she’s got her jeweler’s loupe firmly in place.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hearing Voices

I’ve started a new book. (Don’t worry, I’m still working on book three of the Screwing Up Time series.) I’m only working on the new book at times when I wouldn’t be editing. And though this new book isn’t part of the SUT series, I do have plans for book four of the series, which has a setting that I’m very excited about.

This new book is different than the other books I’ve published. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I write more than young adult fiction. I also write what might be called literary fiction-historical fiction-upmarket women’s fiction. Yeah, kind of a hybrid. But what it’s called mostly depends on who’s describing it.

In any case, I started a new book and it’s made me think about how I write. When I write the SUT books, I know the main characters very well and their stories flow easily. But it’s different with a new cast of characters. I know the plot of the new book—not the details, but the highlights of the action and where the story is going to end up. In spite of that, I haven’t gotten beyond the first two thousand words. Every day, I keep coming back to those same words. I play with them. I alter them. I flesh them out, and then I cut them back.
I’m discovering the characters, three strangers at this point. (Though there will be more characters later.) And I’ve begun to tell their stories. But every day when I come back to the narrative and dialogue, something strikes me as “off.” So, I work with the words. Over and over again. I’m waiting for one thing. The voices. At some point, I’ll hear the characters’ voices instead of my own. And then, the novel will plunge forward because the characters will propel the story. Their desires, fears, and secrets will set everything in motion. And I’ll become the observer, the amanuensis recording their story.
In the meantime, I’ll keep editing those couple thousand words and editing book three.
Don't forget, Screwing Up Babylon is on sale at Amazon for 99 cents through Friday, April 26

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Celebration Book Sale

I finished the first major edit of book three in the Screwing Up Time series. Yay! *Throws confetti*

In celebration, this Friday, April 19 through April 26, I’ll be putting Screwing Up Babylon on sale for 99 cents at Amazon! So, if you’ve been waiting to buy the book or know someone who has, Friday’s the day to buy it (or gift it). The price will return to $2.99 on the 27th.

(Sorry the post is so short today, but I’ve got a terrible cold.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Going On a Writer's Retreat

I’ve had several writing friends that have gone on writing retreats. Usually, it involves getting away to a hotel or bed and breakfast and writing, writing, writing without any interruptions or distractions.

It sounds like bliss to me. And I always wished I could go on one. But hotels are expensive, and, honestly, I’m not someone who can write for eight hours straight. My mind and creativity turn to drivel after a three hour maximum.

But then, I got my writer’s retreat. In an unusual way. My 16 year old son was looking for a job. My mother was looking for a house cleaner. And they got together. The only problem was that my son doesn’t drive. (He has a permit, but do you know how much money is costs to insure a teenage boy? He just keeps renewing his permit.)

As supportive as I was about the job, I saw it as another time suck, stealing writing time. And then, I decided to reimagine it. What if it was an opportunity to write? I could write while my son worked. I turned an unused bedroom suite in my parents’ second story into my writing retreat. When we arrive, I head upstairs and I stretch out on a daybed covered with silk pillows. I’m surrounded by silence. The French door opens onto a second story balcony overlooking a pond and a golf course. My only disturbance is snowy egrets that fly by.

It’s perfect for me. And all it took was a little imagination. (And my parents' house.)

Here are some photos.

I can't wait for the weather to warm up and I can sit outside on the balcony.

n.b. Yesterday on my Merry Heart blog, poet and author Laurel Garver guest-blogged about writing poetry and gave helpful suggestions for beginners. Check it out. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

World Autism Day

This Tuesday is a bit different for me. It's World Autism Day, and in celebration of it, I'm posting about my son Matthew and our family's experience with autism on my blog, A Merry Heart. Click here to view the post.

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