Tag Archives: writing

It’s…*ALIVE*!!!

*POKE* *POKE*

Yes… it IS breathing! For real!

Okay. All kidding aside. Some of you may have noticed a slight lack of activity on this blog for more than a slight amount of time. I could fill pages explaining my hiatus — but I won’t. It suffices to say that life has thrown me a few curve balls over that period, and while they’ve been, oh, let’s just call them challenging, I can say with confidence that I’ve learned a whole lot of new ways to swing a bat and hit a few out of the field. And I suppose, that’s much of what life’s all about. So, let’s take a look at the score.

I’m still here. And what’s the saying? Any day above the ground is a good day.

The boat is still NOT afloat. Which, at this time of year is fairly normal, though it would have been nice to actually seen her underway at any point last summer. And work (more on that some other time) is progressing at a slow but definite pace. ALL the decks, short of the cockpit, have been COMPLETELY re-cored. Again, this is the subject of far more than these few sentences, and it suffices to say that is a task I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s like banging your head against a wall, as it feels much better when you’re done. Someday I’d like to look back and say it was worth it…but that’s down the road, and these days I’ve found time passing far too fast as it is, so for now I’ll just enjoy the thought that my still not floating boat has some of the strongest, most solid decks around.

And my writing? Yes. I am writing. Not as consistently as I have in the past, but as I said, there were all those pesky curve balls. It’s ironic that my third book, set to take place during a fictional hurricane that decimates the NY/NJ coast, was derailed by that very fiction turning to reality. Such is life, but in the end it’s given my madness and mayhem far more material than I could ever imagine. And that’s what I’m writing.

What I’m not writing is anything remotely socially networky. As in, I’m not doing all that stuff writers are encouraged to do beyond actually living life and writing books. All that ‘connect with your audience’ stuff. If you’re my audience, if you’ve read my books, you should understand. I don’t just write about anti-social, snarky characters with questionable people skills — I play one in real life. And trying to pretend otherwise, trying to do that whole Facebook and Twitter and networking thing, for me has been like trying to force an isosceles triangle into a round hole.

The last two weeks have been the longest downtime I’ve had in years, and it’s been a good break. It’s let me regroup and focus on priorities. And it’s made me realize that half the reason I haven’t been blogging in all this time was because I was still trying to figure out how to digitally force that triangle peg into the round hole.

So here’s the score. I’m a crazy writer. Anti-social, highly introverted, and perfectly happy that way. My people skills suck. I know I’ve said that here before, but perhaps that message got lost in my attempts to be social, network, and connect.

This is the web. I can sit in my private little corner, comfy-cozy in my isolation, and write to my heart’s content. Some of you out there may enjoy my somewhat skewed characters, others of you may not. Some kind souls, out of concern for my moral well-being, may send me suggestions to read the Bible, and thank you very much. Some of you can, and have, written me directly, or commented on my posts, and I welcome that. I’ll even reply, though occasionally it may take a day or three.

Perhaps if I could focus on that whole social network thing I might ultimately sell more books. But let’s face the facts: me and social just don’t go together. That’s me. That’s the way I am, and that’s the way I like it. While it might not do much to advance my career, it’s a balance that works for me.  It’s wonderful that my books have an audience and a following, and while perhaps that following might be larger if this particular writer were wired a bit different, I’m not, and that’s what makes me who I am, and my books what they are, for better or worse.

Random Observation of the Day:  Food heats faster when you write. But that accelerated process also applies to food’s ability to burn if not watched. And on that note, I’m going to shut the stove and have some pre-blizzard dinner.

So here’s my schedule…

Monday: I write.

Tuesday: I write.

Wednesday: I still write.

Thursday: I post at Write on the Water, then spend the rest of the day writing.

Friday: I write even more.

Saturday: I attack the boat with power tools.

Sunday: I continue to attack the boat with power tools.

Rinse and repeat.

A new chapter…

For the last few months I’ve felt as though I have been falling further behind. I know of other authors who had published around the same time as me; I’ve followed their success as their sales have risen and they’ve moved on to second and even third books.  I know I may have mentioned my strange writing schedules; I’m regularly up by 4:30 a.m., and staying up until midnight or 1:00 a.m. isn’t unusual, but the fact is if I truly wanted to write those were the only hours available. Yesterday I posted on  Write On The Water how for years I’ve pushed ahead with my writing even as I juggled the demands of a full-time day job, a family, house and the perpetual project boat. (In fact due to my present schedule I’ve recycled bits of that post here.) Writing has been a matter of determination, perseverance and sleep deprivation, but ever since publishing Last Exit In New Jersey last summer, I began to re-evaluate where I was headed these days, where I wanted to be, and how I planned to get there. The conclusion was clear: if I wanted to be serious about my writing and take it further, the day-job was holding me back.

Well, as of tomorrow afternoon, that will no longer be an issue.  It wasn’t so much a bold move as a result of cutbacks at work but the end result is the same… no more day-job. But rather than seeing this as a set-back, I’m viewing it as an opportunity to focus on my writing. At home we’d already crunched the numbers and we agreed; we could quite happily make do with less and I could put my energy into being a full-time not-just-in-my-non-existent-free-time author. So, kind readers, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from me from this point forward as I move ahead on a new chapter in life. This should be fun!

An update on the updates…

Some readers may have noticed a slight increase in the number of posts I’ve been making recently. January is the time of year when many of us look back at years past and consider where we’re going. Time is a limited commodity and we all have responsibilities that demand our attention. But beyond that, we must decide how we chose to spend the rest of our minutes. A TV show here, random web surfing there, they all start to add up and erode away the hours, the days, the years. To accomplish anything we have to work at it, to focus and set priorities on our time. There will always be an excuse, a reason to procrastinate, but we must decide what’s most important to us.  And with that in mind I’ve set myself a few goals for the year ahead. They include staying better connected with friends as well as reading, writing and blogging more.

For years many of the people I know have been on Facebook and Twitter. Until now I’d resisted jumping in, certain it would be one more thing clamoring for my attention. I’ve come to discover these social platforms are, in fact, a wonderful way to stay connected, and in some cases even reconnect with old friends I’d lost track of without consuming my day. I’ve even made some new friends along the way.  Imagine that! And I make sure I carry my Kindle at all times, so even while I’m waiting at the deli counter I can sneak in a few pages of reading. As for writing more, I know I get my best work done in the earliest hours, so I’ve made a point of not sleeping in another hour (or two). I get up early, brew some caffeine and get to work. And as for blogging, my intention is at least 2-3 posts a week, and among those posts I plan to share the books I’ve enjoyed.

You won’t find any New York Times best-sellers here. For one they’re not the types of books I normally read and second, enough people are talking about them as it is. No, the books I’ll be spotlighting are primarily ones from less well-known authors. For the most part they’ve published through smaller presses or gone the independent route. Some will be current reads, others may have been read months or even years earlier but remain among my favorites to this day. I won’t be giving ratings or awarding stars; none of these reviews were requested and I’m not looking to be a review site. There are many wonderful blogs that provide superb reviews; you’ll find links to the ones I follow below.  The titles I’m mentioning here are simply ones I’ve enjoyed, stories that struck me and I believe deserve a closer look. I’ll include the author’s blurb but these won’t be book reports that rehash the plot turn by turn. I’m simply going to tell you what the book is and why I felt it may be one readers should consider.

Recommended Book Review Blogs:

Book’d Out

CMash Loves to Read

Curling up by the Fire

Minding Spot

My Reading Room

PodPeople

Red Adept Reviews

Socrates Book Reviews

Tea Time with Marce

Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Be our guest…

Yes, I have been watching too much Disney lately, but I’m also posting to let everyone know I’m posting elsewhere today. I’ve been invited as a guest blogger over at Write On The Water, a wonderful site of boaters who happen to be writers as well. In other words, my kind of people! Take a moment and check out their site, there’s a fantastic collection of writers and books.

Layers, Chevelles and the Fuzzyloris

On occasion I’ve been questioned about how I create my plots, with all their complexity and details. It isn’t all that difficult, actually; it’s simply a matter of building in layers. I start with a basic, bare-bones outline. From there I flesh it out with key action, dialog, turning points, and reference notes, <<bracketed out like so>>. Scenes seen through Hazel’s eyes get yellow highlighter, Hammon’s, gray. Turning points are bookmarked and highlighted red, notes, pink. There’s still gaps, but the general storyline is complete, and that’s where I am now. The hull is solid, the engine runs, and the whole thing floats. Now it’s time to caulk the leaks, add the rigging and gear. Finally, I paint, polish, and tune things up. (revisions, revisions, revisions!)

Now I’m filling in the gaps, dumping anything that seems clunky or doesn’t work. Things will continue to shift as new inspirations come in, and it all starts to mesh and flow. Rather than losing momentum dwelling on areas that need additional attention, I throw in a <<fuzzyloris>> (see below for fuzzy little slender loris). Basically, it’s a nonsense word that has no place in the story, and I can easily search later on. And while I’m working on one spot, I realize what’s happening there requires something be established in an earlier or later chapter, but again, I don’t want to shift my attention, so I throw that on the Chevelle List. Towards the end of Last Exit, I realized a character needed to borrow a distinct, recognizable car, one solid enough to take a beating, but one without an airbag. A Chevelle fit the bill. But it was key to the plot that it be clear who owned the Chevelle, and that had to be established earlier in the book.

It’s a building process, a constant puzzle, and there’s numerous variations to how the pieces can fit. The challenge and fun comes from finding the best (or worst) possible route for the story to unfold.

This is a fuzzy little baby Slender Loris, with an expression matching mine after too many all-night writing sessions!

slenderloris.jpg

Am I soup yet?

I suppose this gives me a place to vent, rather than walking around in circles, mumbling to the cats. Not that there’s much need for venting at the moment, just a general ennui, and trying to get all my muses in a row. The frustration of writing suspense, and most anything else, I imagine, is that as you’re working, everything is in your head. You, the author, know what’s around every turn and under every rock. You know the red herrings, and you know the red shirts, (the fifth crew members on Star Trek, the ones that wound up vaporized or condensed into a neat little geometric shape of minerals,) and you know who is really good/bad/out of their minds. So, as I write, I’m wondering, am I really pulling this off? Will this make sense to my readers, am I giving too much, and will they see it coming a mile away, or am I giving too little, and the pieces won’t mesh in the end. According to my kind victims, uhm, test readers, for the most part, yes, I pulled it off. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t tweaking to do, but that’s to be expected.

So now I’m doing it again. I know what’s in ‘the snow’, where, why, and how it plays out. I have everything outlined, and it is all coming together very satisfyingly. My characters are throwing me a few curve balls, which I expected, and I roll with it. Sometimes a scene isn’t working, so I back up, hit the delete key (okay, cut and paste it into a scrap file) and start over. Minor characters stepped up to bigger roles, action shifted. I try to write with a general idea of where I’m going, then figure the worst possible route to get there. What could go wrong? With my characters, that’s not too hard. How could it go even worse, and what, in turn, might that lead to? Sometimes I find myself on an entirely different path, and the outline gets overhauled. Overall, it’s a fun process, though at times it leaves me pacing and mumbling ‘I need something.’ Those around me have learned not to be alarmed by this behavior.

Presently, I’m in one of those spots. My mood tends to reflect my characters at the point of a scene. And presently, my most antisocial, snarky, difficult character is trapped in a tense, stuffy, social scene. She’s at her best alone or in life & death situations, and while it is necessary she be there, she, and consequently I, am not happy about it. So ‘we’re’ sticking it out, and by the second draft I’ll work in more humor and/or violence to satisfy us both.

Thank goodness my husband understands, when he asks how my day was, and I say “I really need to kill someone.” (That’s in two chapters!)