Monday, May 6, 2013
It has been years since I took a real, far away, vacation. The last big trip was to Hungary in 2005. But that was before I moved to the house in Asheville. Now a trip is trickier, we have pets and a garden and way too much stuff to worry about!
Now is a bad time to be away. I have a book in final edits, almost ready to publish. The audiobook is in the works. It's time to be sowing my warm crop veggies and the cool crop veggies are almost ready to harvest. The strawberries are just coming on. I need to keep spraying the fruit trees with organic pest and fungal preventatives...Yeesh. And with all the rain, the lawn needs mowing again!
Eh. It'll all have to wait.
I'm off to France with my sisters and cousin to visit family in the Loire Valley. So cool. When I get back I will be refreshed, revitalized and ready to go back to my old routines. It's important to jump out of the rut from time to time. I will have new adventures and new information to add to my stories.
Unintended Consequences will rest till I came back. Then I can do a final read through to see how all the tweaks I made, from beta readers suggestions, work in the story. Sometimes a tweak feels right in a chapter, but when you come upon it, with the whole story freshly read, it clanks horribly.
White Lies audiobook should be ready for review in early June.
Once those two are taken care of, I can get back to the first draft of my post-apocalyptical, near-future story - End of the Lines.
So - no blogs for a bit. Oh, did I mention...I'm off to France!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
My favorite was something like: "The introduction starts with..." Wow. That'll sell a lot of books.
When I was learning about queries, the rule of thumb was a formula like this:
To achieve his goal of _____, Hero must do _____ to stop Villain from doing_____. That's the story in a nutshell.
For my novel White Lies that would be - To prove his innocence, Asher must find the killer before he kills again. There's a lot more to it - his addiction problems and destroyed career, the relationships that he has to repair, the deaths of loved ones. But that is all window dressing for the direct action of the book. Once I have that single line finished, I can add the most important breadcrumbs and a splash of setting.
Writing the blurb can help you see any inconsistencies in your story. I wrote a blurb once that I thought was just right. Then I took a good look at it and realized that wasn't the story I had written. You have to cut through all of the backstory and setting and emotion down to the kernel of the story. That blurb clarified the direction of the story that I wanted. I needed to get back there from where I had wandered.
When I'm looking for a story to read, I don't want to hear about set up. "This is the story about a girl whose parents don't understand her." OK. Then what? Who's the hero and what does she need to overcome to achieve her goal. Better yet, what is her goal?
Or - "This story is set in several European capitals with fast paced chase scenes." Ouch. If I wanted a story about chase scenes, I'd be sure to snap that up. Who is running? Who is chasing? Why?
Readers want to meet the characters and ride along. I look through blurbs every day. I love books. I read a couple a week, when I can. The blurbs that get right to the meat of things draw me in - John loves Mary, but..., Sue's husband tried to kill her and she must escape..., David woke in a strange place....
Get to the point. Don't tell me that the story is set in post-Katrina New Orleans where a neighborhood is being revitalized. Tell me that Jane and Bob struggle to rebuild in a neighborhood destroyed by the hurricane.
Boiling a story down to it's simplest definition is hard. It's torturous. But it is the most important thing you can do.
Monday, April 29, 2013
I have seen a lot of writers ask "How many rewrites?" The correct answer, to me, is: As many as it takes.
Sometimes a story is so flawed that tweaking it just makes it worse. Truth's Enigma is that way for me. The first incarnation was an enormous mess. It had every problem a story can have - too many characters, too many plot lines, no clear arcs. In retrospect, I think I wrote it like a TV show. My characters had various adventures together. That's not the way a novel should be structured. So I whittled away at it. I shifted the POVs, I took out characters and plotlines. The feedback I got from the last incarnation was not favorable. I need to chuck it all and start fresh.
Then there's Unintended Consequences. That was another story that I tweaked over and over. I got very tired of the story, but it still meant something to me. I wanted to fix it. One of its problems was setting. I only had a vague idea of where it was. With that in mind, I started from scratch. I built the setting and let it influence the way the characters grew. The story I will publish doesn't look like the first try, or the various others. I rewrote it many times, but I'm finally pleased with it. My beta readers are, too.
I feel that every story I successfully finish teaches me something new. Truth's Enigma is a huge story in a setting that encompasses a whole galaxy. It will be a series. After the second rewrite, I realized that I might not have the storytelling and writing skills to accomplish it - yet. So I set out to learn new things.
White Lies is a much smaller story. It's a mystery which requires a certain formula. I learned a lot writing it. I went back to Truth's Enigma and did the most recent rewrite which still isn't quite right. So I pulled Unintended Consequences out of the closet. I learned even more writing it. Now I'm working on End of the Lines, a near-future, post-apocalyptical story. And it's teaching me even more. It's a bigger story in a bigger world. If I can get it right, I might be ready to tackle the series.
Keep writing and learning.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
We discovered an incredible salad - pear, goat cheese, arugula and toasted walnuts. With a splash of fruity balsamic vinegar it's heaven. Add a couple dried cherries and it's even better. The combination of flavors is so complementary, they set each other off in surprising ways. And let's face it, toasted walnuts make everything that much yummier.
We've used strawberries in place of pear and Gorgonzola in place of goat cheese. That worked just as well. The bite of the Gorgonzola and the sweetness of the pear works really well. And strawberries and goat cheese is a wonderful pairing.
So my first experiment with arugula. It came up gangbusters in the sunroom. I transplanted it out into the garden the day before a heavy rain. So far it seems to be doing fine. But small. I want it to get big so I can start harvesting.
It is one occupant of my new raised beds. That bed gets a lot of shade so it is going to be mostly salad greens. So an experiment of plants in an experiment of a raised bed. Looking forward to how it turns out.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Deadlines are a good thing to have. Keeps me banging away at the keyboard on a regular basis. I have a 1,000 word a day goal. And I have been keeping to it, except when life happens.
Unintended Consequences is not going to get published as soon as I had hoped. It's nobody's fault. Everything just took longer than I had expected. Each step had people involved and people have lives and commitments and other things going on. So the critiques came back a little slower than I'd hoped. Now I need to do the tweaking with all the ideas and questions that the readers gave me. That'll take awhile. Then it needs a line edit for punctuation and grammar. Another while. Whew. Probably June before this puppy is ready.
Because a big chunk of May I will be in France! Woo hoo.
And the audiobook for White Lies has been delayed also. Sigh. As I said - life gets in the way.
So I am freeing myself of any deadlines right now. It'll happen when it happens. So there.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I planted shelling peas and sugar pod peas on St. Patrick's day and they just came up last weekend. And the onion sets I put in have finally shot up sprouts.
Last week I put in seed for beets, carrots, mustard and scallions. Last night we had torrential rain. I am sooo glad I put the raised beds in. The garden flooded, but the beds were fine. Usually a flood like that means that all my seed is now elsewhere - in the path, the flower bed, on the patio... But the beds are above the flood level.
The strawberries are flowering. Berries in about 4 weeks.
The apricot and plum didn't lose all their flowers to the unseasonably cold weather we had. Two solid weeks of night time temps in the mid-twenties. The Christmas lights I put in the trees were useless for something that long term. A night or two it might have helped. So a few blossoms hadn't opened before the cold snap. I have hopes for them. Now it just depends on whether the rainy weather kept the bees away.
I've got seedlings in the sunroom and out on the patio hardening off. It feels like spring arrived half-spent already. My thermometer hit 80 the other day. So after stalling, now I have to scramble!
Monday, April 15, 2013
I discovered, awhile back, the power of saying things out loud.
One day while doing some especially boring scene painting, I felt like I was going to explode. I think I was painting some steps, repetitious but still a little picky. Scene painting very often happens on stage. Due to scheduling the rehearsals and lighting work and such, scenic artists often have to work late hours. Overnights are common. So I was probably tired on top of it. And I just said it:
I don't want to do this.
And despite the fact that I did do it, probably several days of it, I felt a lot better. Some of that angst was expressed. I got it off my chest and was able to carry on.
It's a lesson I've paid attention to. There are always things we don't want to do, but have to. Once we become adults all sorts of nasty things have to be dealt with, like taxes and flat tires and clogged toilets. There is no law that says we can't state our feelings about it. Saying it aloud, even if no one heard me, helped. Maybe because I knew the work had to be done. It was promised. There was a deadline. That didn't mean I had to suffer in silence.
So the next time you're washing the floor or pulling weeds or going to the dentist, allow yourself to say it out loud - "I don't want to do it!" And see if it doesn't make it easier to get through the chore.