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Monday, September 22, 2014

Writing Process Tour

Photo by Laura Bear
Hello again. Elena Greene, the author of several stunning historical romances, most recently, the re-issue of Lord Langdon's Kiss and The Three Disgraces series, has asked me to participate in a Writing Process Tour. Please check out the websites: www.riskyregencies.com and elenagreene.com. Even if you think you're not a "romance reader", you can't deny the quality of Elena's story-telling and the strength of her characters. In this tour, a writer answers four questions then invites other writers to answer those questions the following week. I totally dropped the ball when I misunderstood how this actually works, so I'm a bit behind. Sorry, but hopefully I can redeem myself at least a little. Here is my contribution to the tough questions of writing process. Please read through to next week's contributor, whom I'll introduce at the end.

1) What are you working on?

I am currently in the midst of the editing process of my first-to-be published novel WHERE THE HEART LANDS through Unsolicited Press out of northern California: www.unsolicitedpress.com. The story of Lucy, a woman who reinvents her life after a failed suicide attempt, and Addie, a young girl with a dark past. I am also working on my next novel about a killer virus triggered by technology and several short stories that have an "other-worldly" bent.

2) How is your work different from others' work in the same genre?

That is a difficult question for a new author. Although, I am not actually "new" in age. I grew up knowing that  I was supposed to write, but I could never figure out exactly what I was supposed to write. I took a circuitous route to writing my novel by starting out as an English/Journalism major, then quitting school and later going back to school for nursing. I worked as an RN for several years before deciding to go back to school again to get my degree in Speech Language Pathology/Communication Disorders. I still work full-time as a speech-language pathologist, but the dream to write never went away. I decided to pursue it head-on after several serendipitous encounters with, shall we say, magical people, and that constant nagging realization that I'm just not going to get any younger. I believe that my nursing and speech background--working with people in crisis and who have incredible stories in their own right--offers a unique perspective to my writing that not many others have had the opportunity to encounter. The privilege of sharing people's feelings at their most vulnerable has left an indelible mark on my heart that I hope comes through in my writing.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Because it's part of me and it's what comes through me. I don't have a better answer than that.

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process is constantly evolving. I tend to ruminate on a subject or character for a long time. Some might call that procrastination, but it's active procrastination. For my work-in-progress, I have to do much more research than on my first novel. The first one was organic. It began with an idea about one particular character. The story developed as I talked about it with a couple of early editor/coaches at a life-changing writing retreat known as WHEN WORDS COUNT in the Green mountains of Vermont. I spent many months writing and rewriting the opening of the book then outlined it up to chapter 17 or so and "pantsed" the rest (as in "by the seat of my pants"). I had some beta readers that were very helpful in asking questions that I had to figure out how to answer. Once I had the story in my head, I was able to write fairly chronologically. I wrote backgrounds for all my characters so I could really get to know who they were. After that, they sort of wrote the story themselves. I just did the actual typing. The outlining helped give me a structure, but my characters would surprise me and do something completely different. I think being creative requires a little bit of "crazy" to work. I am trying to tap into that as much as possible!

I am pleased to introduce you to another fantastic writer:

Gregory L. Norris is a professional writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines and fiction anthologies.  He once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager, and wrote the scripts for the feature films Brutal Colors (presently in post-production) and The Demon of Lakeford County (filming Winter 2015).  Norris penned the handbook to all-things-Sunnydale, The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and two recent short story collections, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse and Shrunken Heads: Twenty Tiny Tales of Mystery and Terror.  A former columnist and feature writer at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), Norris judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category.  Short stories of his are forthcoming in XIII, Anthology Year Three, and multiple releases by Cleis Press and Bruno Gmünder Verlag in Germany. Please check out his responses to the questions of writing process and other wonderful things in the coming week at: gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.

Happy writing, and always, happy reading!





Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blooms From A Deep Well

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Here's a goldfinch my husband caught on camera in our backyard. I haven't seen any goldfinches at the feeder in a couple weeks. Not since a flock of them stopped by for a few days. Must have been on their way to a warmer climate.

I've been reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm only part of the way through (I can't tell if I'm halfway through because it's on my Kindle--one of my complaints about electronic books). I like that the story actually centers on a real painting from 1654 by Carel Fabritius. It disturbs me that the bird in this painting is chained to the feeder, but that may be the point of the novel. I'm not sure yet because I haven't finished the book and I have not read any critiques of it (I want to form my own opinion). I'm also reading a steampunk novel by my friend Ani Bolton called Steel and Song: The Aileron Chronicles. Totally entertaining in a different way!

There has been too much disturbing news in the world lately. I won't go into what because we are so bombarded already. The news has triggered more ideas for the novel I am currently working on, but some of it is just so bleak and awful. When I am feeling particularly blue, it helps me to read May Sarton's memoirs. I have been re-reading Journal of a Solitude lately. It is simply a journal of her days, her thoughts, and descriptions of her surroundings, but I find it comforting, if at times sad (depressed people like to go deep into their sadness--much easier to take than all that blasted happiness!). Sarton often refers to nature as a balm and a muse. I particularly like this quote from her (not from this book, but in the same vein):

"Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, 
who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, 
and without light nothing flowers." 

Every time I read Sarton's work I think of my friend Kay in Minnesota. She introduced me to May Sarton's work years ago when I stayed with her and her husband Jon. They graciously offered their place to me as a second home so I could visit my son who lived far away because he was living with his father. His father and I divorced and my young son stayed in Minnesota when I moved back east to get myself and my life together. It was a difficult time, to say the least, and I am grateful for the kindred spirits that helped me along the way and the love of my second husband. My son grew into a fine man and he is getting married next spring to a wonderful young woman. My novel Where The Heart Lands will be published just two months before the wedding. A time of great celebration, indeed. From darkness, comes new life. New light brings new growth. I can't wait to see what blooms!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Word Debris

Photo by Laura Bear 
It's been a frustrating few weeks. The computer is still in the shop (it wasn't the graphics card after all, it's the screen...maybe). Still on the loaner computer with my hard drive inserted, but little weird widgety things keep happening to dampen my mood. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I am quite fickle, I admit. I only love it when it works well. I really hate it when it doesn't. But, yes, I need it, so I have to figure out how to work with it. I have little-- make that--noooo patience for computer malfunctions. Zero. Zilch.

Anyway, I have been searching for inspiration. I have all these ideas in my head for stories and for the new novel, but everything I try to write falls flat. So, I went to Julia Cameron's book The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart. She lists a survival rule about attitude, "Do it, don't judge it." She reminds us that we won't always like what we create. And that mood is "slippery" and "can't be trusted." That the reward for patience is process. The process itself. In other words, be patient and do the work anyway. Eventually, the stuff that you think is terrible might begin to look pretty good. Or maybe some of it will be pretty good. Great, even. Or at least, better than before. Just keep doing it or you will have nothing because nothing begets nothing. So, okay, I'm doing it.

It doesn't do any good to beat myself up for not meeting a certain word count or for not knocking out polished prose with every keystroke. I can't approach writing that way. But, I can write whether I feel like it or not. Inspiration is great, but if I had to wait for the mood to strike every time I sat down to meet a deadline, I wouldn't finish anything at all. I think Cameron has it right. Process is the reward. Sitting down and just doing it is much more likely to entice that crafty critter Creativity. But, now and then, it would be mighty fine if Creativity showed up unannounced and blew the roof off the place. Just sayin'.