Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Truth about Cats and Dogs

Have you ever loved a book because it had a furry friend with whom you identified, felt comforted by, or related to your own pet? I have.

Using animals and pets in your fiction is a simple device to reach more readers. People love animals.

Did you know:
Consider these successful books and how the pets in them helped boost their success:

In the book Fall on Your Knees (an Oprah book club selection) by Ann-Marie Macdonald, there is a cat that the protagonist is particularly bonded to. In fact, the cat actually saves her life at one point. As the MC is lying unconscious from a wound, the cat curls itself around her head and kneads her scalp. Ouch! But this is what keeps her from slipping away. I loved that. I believe my Siamese cat would try to save my life if ever the need arose.

I, you see, am a cat lover. So, I like it when there are companion cats in a book. Though I am not much of a cozy mystery reader, you may be aware of "The Cat Who..." series by Lilian Jackson Braun, who sadly passed away this year. In her books, the cats (Koko and Yum-Yum, I believe)actually help solve the mysteries. Then there is Rita Mae Brown, who features animals as characters in her stories as well. Both of these writer's books are enormously popular.

But, it doesn't have to go that far and, of course, it doesn't have to be a cat. Sometimes, an animal can give the protagonist some distraction from herself. If a book is written in first person, and the narrator is spending a lot of time alone, say, figuring out a mystery in an old house, it is important to have some dialogue, even when no one else is around.  This type of example was well received in Katherine Howe's Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. The dog sidekick Arlo was well loved by many readers.

A pet can be a dedicated ear and can even respond in cute ways that add a little something extra to the book. Though not all animal sidekicks need to be main characters, I think Rita Mae Brown says it well: "I can never understand how authors can write books without having animals become important characters. We share the earth with other sentient creatures and they often do a better job of living full lives than we do. One woman’s opinion but I like the chatter of all living creatures."

Do you have any favorite fictional furry friends? Or... do dogs that do good and cats that carry the characters drive you batty?


Friday, August 26, 2011

Using Music to add texture to the imagination

Do you listen to music when you write? Do you listen to music in between writing sessions and think about what you have just written and where it will go next? Do you do both?
I find it hard to listen to music while I am writing. It is too distracting, too varied. I get so immersed in the moment that if the song changes to another mood, I get lost. So I don't listen to music WHILE writing.

However, I DO listen to music between writing. This last marathon round of work on DISTILLATION saw me become obsessed with more than my characters and their lives. I make mixed CDs still. Old school, I know. They correspond to playlists on the I-Pod, but it is easier to listen to them in my car. I made a playlist/CD about a month ago, just when I was really riding the wave of DISTILLATION's last 100 pages. Thanks to I-Tunes, I am aware that I love what they call Alt. Country: Neko Case, Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch etc. Some of it more blue grass, some of it more general singer song writer. But I made this mix that was mostly Gillian Welch, a combination of her new and old stuff. And I still can't stop listening to it. My husband immediately was sick of it. He said the songs all sounded the same. I disagree. But they do all have a similar dark, haunting, melancholy element to them. And they bring me to a place where the the images and the themes of my novel are able to thrive.

What I find is that I fixate on mood in a song. A particular line will speak to me and ring in some way of the story that is going through my head. My vision may not have anything to do with the story of the song itself, but the combination of the mood and the lyric help add texture to the picture in my mind.

For example: The song "Elvis Presley Blues" by Gillian Welch, which has no connection to my story's plot, has a line "he shook it and he rang like silver, he shook it and he shined like gold...well, bless my soul, well bless my soul..." My story deals with the balance between the male and the female using the sun and moon as symbols, as is done in alchemical symbology, and it deals with the reincarnation of souls. Having written the scene in DISTILLATION where the male and female leads are in a field finally getting to business and both the sun and moon are in the sky, one setting, the other rising - I am in my car listening to this song and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I feel that moment.

Another example is from Welch's new album The Harrow and the Harvest. The song "Dark Turn of Mind" is a song that if I could make a movie of my book, I would include in the sound track. So many of the lyrics bring to mind elements of my story. "I've had trouble already, and it left me with a dark turn of mind. I see the bones in the river, I feel the wind through the pines, and I hear the shadows a calling, to a girl with a dark turn of mind." (song is below)

Love it.

Lastly, the song "The Way it Goes" from the same album - talks about people all once friends going different ways in life and dealing with darkness of one sort or another. "The brightest ones of all, early in October fall. That's the way that it goes. That's the way. While the good ones go to bed with good whiskey in their head. That's the way that it goes. That's the way." The theme of this song reminds of living in a small town and the things that happen which never go away, the things that change relationships, but still you can never get away because everyone in a small town have to exist in such close proximity. This too shows up in DISTILLATION.

Because of my obsession with this CD, I was able to stay in character so to speak. When driving alone in my car, or cooking dinner, I could immerse myself in the in the emotions and ideas evoked in my novel, by letting the art of another add texture to my imagination.

So how do you use music in your writing?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Obsession is not a bad word

The rewrite of DISTILLATION is complete - for now. Since early spring I have been doggedly reworking my first novel.

I set out to make DISTILLATION the novel I had really wanted to write all along (though it took me a while to admit to myself just what I really wanted.) This time I was going to make it pop in a huge way - make it magic, make it romantic, make it gothic. I think I succeeded. Summer 2011 is coming to a close and I have had a fabulous ride reworking this book. I am too in love with it, which I know is dangerous, but it has been the greatest adventure. Not only do I think I made my book better, I learned a lot about myself.

But here's the thing. I have spent most of my summer obsessively writing. When I wasn't writing I was listening to music (the same songs over and over and over) lost in the world of my characters. My imagination was on fire. I was channelling them. I was having trouble eating. I wasn't sleeping. I would get up at four and start writing again. I was euphoric. I felt like I was on drugs but there was no crash. Not once have I suddenly dropped down and said - this sucks - why am I doing this? My poor husband must be jealous, I am so enamored with my characters, I have to give him credit though. He has listened to me go on and on about ghosts and witches, romance and peppermint, souls and eternity. He has really supported me through this obsessive roller coaster.

And now it's done. I have to write curriculum for school. I should be doing that right now in fact, but here I am. Strangely, I am not sad or grumpy. I am still happy and even when I am back in the classroom, I know my characters are there waiting for the next chapter to be written.

Recently, an article about Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' came across the Twittersphere. It talks about how long it took her to write the book, how many rejections she got, how her friends said things like: “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?” Eventually, after 40+ rejections, she started lying to her friends about what she was doing on the weekends. "The truth was," she says, "I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read." She became increasingly obsessed, going away for weekends to be alone and edit, editing even as she was in labor.

I really related to this article when, last weekend, I declined hanging out by a lake with friends to stay home alone and edit for twelve hours straight. It made me feel a lot better knowing that at query # 61, Stockett finally got an agent and now look where her book is.

I have a long way to go before I meet her record, and her success, but at this point, I am thankful for the pleasures of obsession.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Embracing the writer you never knew you wanted to be

Oh yeah - I went there. This is the best image I could find to illustrate one of the things that has been in my imagination over the past month as I rewrote DISTILALTION - it's not quite right, a little too...perfect, but nonetheless a visual helps.

Hello again.

Summer has flown by because I have been having way too much fun rewriting DISTILLATION. I took a serious hiatus from Blogger - though I've been around the Twittersphere a bit. It was a choice I needed to make between reading and thinking about writing and just WRITING. Over the past two months I have completely reworked my novel and not only do I think it is much better, but I feel that I have finally embraced the writer I never knew I wanted to be.

When we start out writing, there are so many preconceived notions of what is and what is not good, inspiring, marketable, enlightening, or worthwhile. I just read a tweeted blog post entitled You Want to Write Trash? thanks to @AmyJRomine. This post is about a woman whose husband thought her Gothic romance was trash and didn't see why she would write such drivel. Well, it turned out her husband was a good reason to need some romance in her life.

My life is pretty good, but like most, it is full of work and bills and responsibilities and other boring things. So I write to escape it, to add some measure of fantasy to my days. And this time around with DISTILLATION, I finally let go of my preconceived notions. I stopped trying to cling to some modicum of reality, because I asked myself the question: Who the hell wants to escape to reality? Not me.

Earlier this spring I tried to read a realist novel by a well known author whose prior work I had enjoyed years ago. I got to page 50 and when a character was lamenting a horrible tragedy for the 10th page in a row, I closed it and never picked it up again.
I wanted fantasy - damn it. I wanted witches, and ghosts, and magic, and maybe a little mystical love. Okay maybe a lot. Well good thing I had the summer ahead of me to rewrite a book with the potential for all of those things. And man, has it been fun.

When I let go, so did Alice (my MC). She articulated what she wanted, she stopped shaking in her boots, she faced her fears to find the truth, she figured out she wanted her man early on, (and let him know it), and she let others help her to accept herself for who she is, which in the end enabled her to solve the mystery, which made everyone happy. Alice (and I) achieved so much more than we did in the first version. We went so much further, in so many ways. Looking back at the story I thought was "done," I now see as a real let down. It was so UNSATISFYING.

DISTILLATION went from being a half baked magic realism flopper, to a full on gothic, darl, scary, fantastical, magical, funny, sexy, and -  I think - inspiring story. No I am not calling myself a romance writer these days. Still supernatural women's fiction. But, I stopped telling myself I must be the only one who reads good love scenes twice just for fun, or gets excited when full on magic brings down that bad guy. Once I embraced what I wanted and let myself stop worrying that it was silly, then Alice embraced her talents and had a real adventure.

Now, let's just hope that when the rose colored glasses come off, it reads as good for others as it does me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What sets your novel apart?

Having recently a conference, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how a novel needs to stand apart from others in its genre. It is really unsettling, when you read a book and realize that it has such similar elements to something you have been slaving over for a few years and showing to only your writing group. But that's how it goes. Ideas tend to trend, or so it seems.

So, I made a list of some books I've read in the past years or two that had something that set them apart, in hopes that I will find something in my novel that is not in theirs and be surprised I do have something, or perhaps brainstorm some ideas, not like theirs, from see what others have done.

Not in order of reading or release - all somewhat in my genre - some closer than others:

      • Her Fearful Symmetry - Audry Niffenegger - told from the ghost's perspectiveHorns - Joe Hill - the devil is the hero - a familiar character in a new way
      • The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters - the end has a twist - don't want to give it away
      • The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry - the end also has a twist - a psychological one - similar, but different that The Little Stranger - in both - what you think is happening all along is not what is happening. I think it is masterful when an author can trick the reader.
      • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe - historical narrative interlaced with a contemporary story
      • The Dead Path - Stephen M. Irwin - a fairy tale witch in a thriller style narrative
      • The Tooth Fairy - Graham Joyce - uses a familiar character in a completely new way
    That's only some - I know there are more - and I would love to hear about books you have read that have something that sets them apart. WIP.
    It is daunting and intimidating to set out to think of something new and original. Isn't it true that there is nothing new under the sun. I think those authors who have snatched up surprise should be applauded. A MS one has started at for too long, looks like old socks after a while, and I know that is why distance is important. But sometimes, if you look again, you just might find there is something unexpected in there. If not, you too might consider what isn't out there and how you can bridge the gap.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

6 Reasons Why I Love The Muse...

Yesterday, I went to Grub Street's The Muse and the Marketplace writing conference 2011. It runs for both Saturday and Sunday, but this year I only went for only one. Conferences are expensive and they can be somewhat intimidating, especially if you are shy. But they are so worth it. I have actually never been to any other conference besides the Muse, and this was only my second year going, but I hope to go to more in the coming year. There is Write Angles conference that happens right here in the Pioneer Valley and it is affordable. I want to go to more because going to conferences is the best way to exercise your writer muscles, beyond writing itself that is. Yesterday, I had an amazing time. So here are 6 reasons why I love this conference, and why I think all writers should find away to go to at least 1 writing conference a year.

1) You meet other writers. You have all heard before, and know first hand, that writing is often a solitary endeavor, that can in fact be lonely if we don't reach out. The writing group is an important remedy to this, as is social networking on line. But at a conference, you get to meet folks who write in other genres, who share your hopes, dreams, and frustrations, and who are just as excited as you to learn more and stretch their writing skills. I met some really great people yesterday, and I admit I was a bit shameless with the business card thing. Anyone who uttered more than a sentence in my direction got a card. Hey - why not? It's a great way to get people to remember you and check you out. So if you are here because of that card - THANKS for stopping by!

2) You meet published authors. One of the best events for me this year was meeting one of  my writing idols: Alice Hoffman. She was lovely. She led a seminar of brainstorming for a linked story collection and it was so fun just to hang out with her. And, being the Lisa Simpson that I am, when she needed someone to write on the board and take notes, my hand shot up. So, I got to be her assistant. Yay! What fun. She was great.

3) You learn things. The Muse and the Marketplace is great because it does exactly what it's name says, it presents opportunities to spark the muse, and to explore the marketplace - two different aspects of the writing life, but each equally important, depending on where you are in the process and what your current goals are as a writer.

Last year, I was getting ready to query DISTILLATION for the first time, so I focused a lot on the Marketplace aspect. I went to seminars with "agents on the hot seat" talking about what they do, what they like, don't like, and how they view the industry right now. I also went to query sessions and met with an agent for the purpose of getting feedback on my query. It was so helpful all around. This year, I am working on revamping my story a bit, and so I focused more on the Muse aspect. I learned about the elements of thrillers and mysteries, and I got some insight into the essentials of structure.

4) You get outside your comfort zone. This may seem like the most terrifying part of the conference, and it fits into a number of the other reasons for going to the conference. You can't meet people if you sit on your phone checking your email the whole time, or if you won't strike up a conversation. But when you do go out on a limb, it is rewarding.

One risk I took was submitting my first page (anonymously as required) to the "Author Idol" seminar, in which a panel of 4 established writers listen to a professional "reader" read first pages one at a time from the submission box. If they hear something they don't like, they raise their hand. At two hands, the reader stops reading. SCARY. The conference also offers a version of this with Agents, which I watched last year, but did not submit too. That is even scarier, because they have much more critical ears, as is expected.

When the reader get to yours you tense up and stop breathing, hoping your face is not turning red, and that it's not obvious they are reading your piece. The anonymity is important because the agents or authors can be more open about their reactions. This may make you think: "No Way! Why would I put myself through that?" And yes, it even says in the brochure this exercise is not for the thin skinned. But it is great. You get so much insight into your writing. Which brings me to #5.

5) You get honest feedback on your work. This, for me, is the most important aspect of going to a conference. Whereas some conferences do the speed dating style pitch sessions, The Muse allows you to sign up (at an extra, but tax deductible, cost - it does not go to the agents - it supports Grub Street programs) for a one on one, twenty minute session with an agent or editor of your choice. Here is a reason why The Muse and the Marketplace is such a high caliber conference. Amazing authors and agents volunteer their time to this event. Of course, authors do get to sell books, and agents may just find a submission they are interested in, but overall it is so generous of them to do this.

6) You feel like a professional. Last week I wrote about having a business card, and about how they help boost your sense of self as a writer. Going to a conference does the same thing. The Muse is at the Park Plaza Hotel is Boston. It is really nice. They serve a fabulous lunch. The presenters are top shelf. The attendees are serious, just as serious as you. What a great way to affirm: I am a writer. I am willing to work (and perhaps invest a few Benjamins) to further my career as a writer, and this is because I am serious about my craft and want to learn, network, and invigorate my writing practice. Going to a conference validates your goals as a writer - whatever they may be, whether you want to write your family memoir, get your work accepted in a literary magazine, publish a novel, or just express yourself.

I'd love to hear about other conferences out there that people think are great and anyone who did go to The Muse and the Marketplace (some of you are there right now!) tell me what you loved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Do you have a business card?

Do you have a business card? Why do you need one?

These were questions I asked myself last year before I went to my first big conference.
Initially, I did not have a business card, but I decided it would be good to hand it out to all the people I met at the Muse. So, I designed one myself. I thought it was pretty cool at the time and it definitely made me feel official.

I went to the conference and I handed out maybe 5 business cards, but alas the rest are still in the box. Is this a bad thing? Maybe, if only because I am sure I missed a few opportunities along the way. But overall, having the cards was a good thing because I did make a few good connections. Connecting with fellow writers and getting people to visit my blog was well worth the $20 I spent on 100 cards. Even if I still have 95.

It was a way for me to leave my mark . This year, looking back, I saw that the old ones were amateurish. The learning curve is steep. So, I decided to get new ones professionally done up. They are much cooler. In the end, I know I will feel better if I have them to give out. Even if its only a few.

So here are my reasons why I think aspiring writers should have business cards (especially if you are going to conferences):

1) It will make you reach out to people. After all you spent the money - so why not hand them out. Shameless self promotion is not a bad thing and doesn't have to be shameful at all.

2) It will make you feel like a professional. Having a business card in you pocket or purse with your name, your blog, your twitter, and your email is saying I have it together. I am in the business of writing.

3) It's something to say during a conversation with a stranger - "Hey, I loved your comment in that seminar. Here's my card. What are you writing?"

4) They are fun to make and give you a chance to consider your image. How do I want to portray myself as a writer?

5) You never know who will contact you. That is what the card is for after all, to give strangers a reminder of who you are and what you are about. Bring them to your blog, gain more followers, maybe even have that agent you pitched randomly check you out.

If you plan on attending any conferences, or if you just want to feel like a professional, a business card is the way to go. And when you do sign that book deal, well then you will have something to put on the table at your signings so people can find you online. I don't recommend putting your address and phone number on it though. I did that the first time. But why, in this digital age, do we need to? Email is often the first contact and anything more can be asked for if needed. So, email, blog, twitter if it applies.
Reach out to the masses and maybe they will reach out to you.

Wannabe Me - An Aspiring Writer's Reality

Today I thought I would show you some of myself. I am a writer, and I thought it might be nice to see some of what The Writer's Life looks like over here. All of you of course have your own Writer's Realities - and all of us are unique.I love seeing the process, the place, and the personality of fellow writers - published and unpublished. I find myself looking in the backgrounds of pictures to see what kind of counter top or wall paper someone has. I just like those things. I also love to see their yards and their pets. Am I weird? Well, yes.

So here I am:
Not a great picture - but - it is me. Ariel Swan writer of supernatural women's fiction.
This is my wannabe writer's reality.

This is my office - the table where I do planning and school work. I am home on vacation from the day job - teaching eleventh graders English literature and writing. I love to read and write and that is what I do in my free time. 16 year olds on the other hand - not so much. I wish I had a classroom full of students like me. You can see in the picture some grading I need to do - today.

I am an obsessive planner. (As a teacher and a writer.) I love organizing and putting things is order. Told you I was weird.

 I have started using art paper - long 12x 18 art paper - to look at my plot - as I am revising - and to lay out genealogies - which is a layer that has been added to my WIP - well not really added - it was part of the original idea - but something I chose not to do in the first draft. Now that I am revamping - adding oomph and more story to support my premises - I have added it back in. The trick is not to make it too complicated - but to use the family tree in points of interest only.

I am an avid reader of everything.
These are some of the books I have on my working bookshelf. Some of them I just reference for inspiration - others I look at to chart plot pacing that has worked. To Ride A Silver Broomstick one I use for witch knowledge - spells and herbs and such - which figures into DISTILLATION. There is also the Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions. And of course a regular dictionary which I use all the time. Somewhere in there is a Writer's Market too - but now I use Query Tracker which is much easier as it is up to date and cross reference-able.

Although you can't see me I am sitting at this desk right now. Spooky.                                                               My writing desk is a mess and every time that phone rings it scares the bejesus out of me- especially when I am writing a scary scene. Up to the right is an antique unframed mirror I found in an old garage when I worked for a General Contractor doing the books. I love antiquy things - especially old Dags and such. These also figure into DISTILLATION.

You can also see to the left the pile of my print outs - that is all novel stuff. Spread out it looks more like this:

All right - I cheated - I pulled out the files and the print drafts too. It is a lot. As I've said I've worked - hard - to make this story what it is. Maybe too hard. And now I am re-writing - which is different than revising. Some say I should put it away. But I mostly write in the summer - so I do get some distance. After this rewrite - and an edit - I will stop and move on. I am stubborn - what can I say. I want to get it RIGHT.

One last thing to see. I said I like seeing pets - so here is one of mine. My baby - Simone. Tortie Point Siamese and Princess Extraordinaire. I also have chickens.

So, that's my Writer's Reality. What makes up your Writer's Reality?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Recluse Writer

Recluse: One who lives in seclusion. At what point does writing become a bad habit?
I have been in a world all my own lately. The day job keeps me busy during the day and then at night I am back at my keys. Not blogging, not Facebooking, well...maybe a little Tweeting, but writing. On the weekends, I wake up and I start writing. If left to my own devices I will write all day. My husband even complained this past Friday, when I had an unexpected snow day, that I ignored him all day. I wrote for twelve hours.

Of course you would think I am making excellent progress with all that writing. I am, sort of. In the midst of deep revisioning of DISTILLATION, I am losing myself, but checking myself, much more deliberate this time in making sure I am telling the right story. I go for a while, then I hit a road block, realizing I am painting the wrong picture, or not focusing on the right thing, and then I have to go back and think, rewrite, edit, and think some more. It is grueling, but exhilarating.

The problem is that I am starting to neglect my other duties. Vacuum? Never heard of it. Go out to a ladies night? Well, I would but I've been writing all day and (and since most of my friends just give me the blank stare when I talk about writing), I think I'll just take a bath and think about what I wrote today.

Same goes for visits to family. I could have gone over the last vacation to hang out with my sister, but instead I needed to make sure I got some writing done. I do have a deadline after all with the upcoming conference.

It's not like I don't do anything else, but the weekends are full of writing and it is hard to even think about what else has to get done. I tell myself I'll do it during the week, and then the week is so busy with teaching that those things get put off again. And the next weekend I can't even remember them because I am lost in my fictional world.

Do you lock yourself away? At what point does the writing become too encompassing? Is this a healthy thing? I am willing to bet that it is a good thing as long as it doesn't go on too long. Eventually I come out and say hello to the world. Which is what I am doing right now. Hello world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Style Award! and..."Swamp Girls at The Hatchet Motel"

So, my writing group friend Perri awarded me the Stylish Blog Award. This is my second award ever and I am very flattered, though as I posted over @ Lesser Apricots, I have to think it is a bit ironic, considering my blog is entitled "Writing Blog." I never really thought about what people would refer to my blog as and I guess I didn't consider the title I put up there would be actually be it. (?) Go figure.
So, here is a challenge. I am going to try and think up a cool new writing blog name. So many of you have such original ones. So...any ideas you have would be appreciated. Since I am supposed to tell you seven things about myself, maybe these will help give you (and me) some ideas for that new Blog Title. Incidentally, I guess (according to Lulu) I am better at thinking of novel titles than blog titles.

1. I grew up for the first ten years of my life in a haunted Victorian, and for the second ten years of my life in a lake side cabin with a dock and a canoe as my first mode of transportation into town.

2. I met my writing group via a post on Craig's List

3. I am a Cancer on the cusp of Gemini - born June 24th 1977

4. In my immediate circle of female family members spells and fortunetelling are not uncommon.

5. If I had one superpower it would to breath underwater.

6. My favorite feature on a person is the nose, and I have a particular male nose that I find very attractive. Instead of nice butt, I say nice nose.

7. Lilacs, fireflies, garden strawberries, Siamese cats, antique hats, and the sea are a few of my favorite things.

So thanks to Perri, and here are those I am passing the award on to:

Fine Sarah over at The Strangest Situation
Jayne over at A Novice Novelist
Anne over at The Piedmont Grille

Thanks everyone and pass it on. Oh...and leave a comment with any crazy blog title you can think of. I don't know, if I were a plagiarist I'd say Swamp Girls at The Hatchet Motel. Perri you do have such style!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Is your title bestseller worthy?

Totally stealing this from my writing group friend. She is struggling with a new title for a revitalized WIP. Check it out here. her post she noted the website Lulu Titlescorer. I let it have at Distillation with its magical calculations and it came up 63% likely to be the title of a bestseller. HA! Will someone please tell an agent that.

Try yours out. I love my title and that is one of the secrets I harbor - well it won't be after right now - when and if I get a publisher to want my novel - it will be VERY hard on me if they want to change my title. I feel that everything in my book leads to it and comes from it. But of course, I would be reasonable. (maybe)

So please test out your titles. I hope they score high. Even if it's as accurate as a magic 8 ball - hey its something.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Oh how I love being haunted


I was just in the dead man's room. When we moved in it smelled of dying. There were boxes of medical supplies still in there the day we came to view the house and we might as well have been viewing the body of the guy whose dying there made buying this house possible. Not all hauntings are mysterious or magical. Sometimes, spirits are just...there.

Okay, I don't know that he actually died here. But that room had a feeling. You know the feeling. That one where it seems someone else is still there. I have lived in houses like this before and I think that is why I love old houses so much. Growing up, I lived in a crumbling old Victorian with my mother and my sister. It was a magical place, this both my sister and I, who is twelve years older, can agree on. There were eves closets with secrets, a scary cellar with an old coal closet, a library with a fireplace, a sunroom with dust motes floating, lazy cats, and a wild garden. So much atmosphere, so much ambiance. I was the little one and because of this the most sensitive. There is a story. I don't remember if I told it first or if it was told to me later by someone else who remembered what I'd said. I complained of hearing the voices of men one morning, of seeing shadows cast against my curtains. They were mumbling, angry, I seem to remember. Maybe it is because I have re-lived this in DISTILLATION, or maybe it is because I just remember it. But, I know that there were no men. The question always was, whose voices were they? Were they real or imagined? This became one of the central legends of our old house. It became said that the house held the ghosts of men because men had trouble there. The house didn't like men. Perhaps this perception had to do with more terrestrial issues going on around me that I didn't understand. Perhaps not.

In any case, I love a good ghost story to this day. And it is not just an old house than can bring me to one. With ever passing season, I sense the movement of time and of souls. I feel the essence of life whirling around me and there are spirits in the air. Spirits of nature, spirits of the dead, spirits of life. Hope glides on a spring breeze, foreboding gathers in the dark clouds of winter, nostalgia grows in a cascade of orange autumn leaves, and summer, oh summer, that is the most full time of all. In the summer I sense a paradox - the fullness of life growing all the while cast the shadow of certain oncoming death. I love summer. Summer is all. Perhaps that is why I have chosen to set my own ghost story in the summer.

One way or the other, here's to be being haunted. Have you ever experienced a haunting?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where Shadows Dance ~ Learning from What we Read

I stumbled upon a series a few year ago and I happy to announce that the next book in the series is out today. It is a Regency Mystery series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr: a lovely, roguish, troubled aristocrat who solves mysteries in his ample free time. I am not a person who picks up books with the mystery logo as a rule.  But, I accidentally came into this series, and late, all because there was a book on the shelf entitled Why Mermaids Sing. I picked it up based solely on the title and didn't even notice the mystery logo on the spine. I have a thing for mermaids that dates back to pre-Little Mermaid days . The rest is history, because I fell in love with Sebastian and his mysteries. I actually pre-ordered last year's hard cover of What Remains of Heaven and I am excited to BUY Where Shadows Dance.

As with every book I read, this series has helped me to see who I am and who I am not as a writer. I learn from everything and I notice both things I hope I can do as well, and that I think are not my style. Reading books that are not in my specific genre help me to further identify my genre, which we all know is not an easy thing to do.
So, check out author C.S. Harris's blog and maybe check out the Sebastian series. The cover is a little romancy, but one thing I have learned from Harris's blog is how a writer is not always in love with the cover the publisher thinks is right. What do you learn from what you read?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In need of some action

The last two months have consisted of gearing up for the great revisioning of DISTILLATION. I received some feedback that was so specific and so right on hurt a little. Well, okay, a lot. But I learned, from two separate readers, what my strengths were and my weaknesses. They agreed on almost everything, independently. I was pleased to finally see, once the nasty bits had stopped blinding me, that the strengths were many, and that the nasty weaknesses few, but alas major enough to take me more than a month to process and come to the point where I could create a plan.

I planned, and I planned. I used large art paper to construct detailed outlines of what I have and what I need. Finally, this week, I started the revision. The first fifty have been charged with a task. Within them, I have to get to a certain event, one that all along people have told me to move up, but one I felt needed a slow, smouldering build. This event started at page 150. Yikes! Then it moved to page 118. I thought that was an improvement. And now. It has been cut away with a boning knife (pun intended if you know my hook) and is waiting in the wings for its reveal somewhere before page 50.

OMG. Can it really be done? It has to be. The problem, I have discovered, is that atmosphere, setting, and mood are my thing. That is what I am most comfortable writing. I've always thought of writing novels and making a movie with words. Maybe that is misguided, but I think in scenes, I think in images. That is not to say that character and dialogue are not important, they are and I have always put a lot of focus on those parts as well. Plot too. Now that is REALLY important. If you don't have a story that moves forward with events and questions and discoveries and a good ending - well then, your story is boring.

No, these things I have always thought about and I think are elements that are in my story, if not perfected. But...what I didn't really think about, at least not in the terms that are apparently required, is the ACTION. I have been happy to spend five or fifteen pages describing a scene in which there is plot happening, but I love the description of shadows, of light, of smell, of sound, of facial expressions, of feelings. I am a sensory writer. No surprise I started out in poetry. And I think many of my scenes are beautiful, chilling, ominous, filled with...atmosphere... and like I said - there IS plot happening, but I think I sent it to the back of the room too often. I spent too much time creating a world, and it took too long to make the action happen. Slowly, it has been coming to the forefront. But now, I am the kamikaze writer. I'm going in and bringing ACTION to my novel - no matter how many darlings I have to kill.

This task is harder than it sounds. This week, on vacation, I spent a few days, whole days, writing the first chapter. The first 16 pages. If at least 3 chapters must come before page 50 then, I have at most 16 pages for each. So I wrote the first chapter, and I needed to "disrupt my character's ordinary world." I am trying to provide the reason for her departure and introduce Objective # 1 - which is to resolve internal conflict. I wrote it and I thought it was good - but I wasn't sure of it. I read it to my husband - and for once - he gave me really good feedback. "I don't care about the mother or her husband right now. I care about that guy she saw outside the building. What's up with that? Cut the conversation short and get on to the next scene." He was so right. What happened was that I got caught up in the description of my MC and her conversation with her mother. Throwing in some back story, trying to draw thematic parallels, all the while painting a picture of every nuanced move. Arg!! It sneaks in there even when I try not to do it. How frustrating.

So, today, I re-wrote. I cut it down by six pages. I stuck to the action. I moved it forward. I established my MC and her main inner conflict. I introduced an important supporting role, but only introduced, and I set the stage for the novel's themes. In ten pages, I got my character to the door of leaving her normal world. Now the next chapter will start right in the new world, and the third chapter will close the door behind her so she can't go back. I vow to stick to the action. I vow to make every paragraph, every page move my MC forward. I vow to tell myself over and over - less is more - do not digress - keep - moving - forward. No paragraphs of back story, no paragraphs of ambient description. One foot in front of the other. By page fifty - a major discovery will have occurred and a major objective of solving the main mystery will be securely on the table.

This doesn't mean I will abandon my love of atmosphere, nor will I ignore the past that drives my character's decisions, but I will pepper them in, one sentence at a time. No more.

Revisioning is hard - is also exciting. Once you have the plot set out and fleshed out with all your wildest desires, and then pared down to something better. A firm, clear headed revisioning is...almost freeing. I get to take what I loved and make it so much better.

How do you revision your writing?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are you in it for the Muse or the Marketplace?

So, I've registered for The Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston, April 30th and May 1st. This will be my second year going. I heard about from one of my critique partners two years ago when we first started our writing group. (Woohoo! Anniversary this month.) When she told me about it, I thought I would never be able to attend such a behemoth of a conference. Over 500 hundred participants, famous writers, established agents and editors, and even a few recent literary notables in the mix. Last year I was very nervous to meet with an agent face to face. It was pre-query and it was the first time I would present my query to anyone. It was not a pretty picture - but I learned a lot. I was also less interested in the workshops as I was in meeting an author of choice.

Now, I am less nervous about meeting an agent, and am approaching that whole business from a new angle, not looking for a query critique - but more for some answers on common page critiques. The author situation is pretty much the same, as I am going to meet Alice Hoffman, the author that got me started writing in the first place.

But this year, the main reason for going is to get some insight from seasoned professionals on how to rework my WIP. I am more interested in the Muse aspect, specifically the revisioning Muse, than I am in the Marketplace. I am hoping to learn something about pacing, structure, and the essential elements of keeping a reader guessing. This, I think, is the natural progression of the process. I wrote the novel, I thought I did my best, I submitted it, and I learned I could do better. So now I am working hard to do just that.

In any case, I know that it will be a blast. If you are in the Massachusetts area - I strongly suggest you check out the site. As my husband said to me today, it may not be easy, but you don't learn anything from that which comes easy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Horns - Contest - I want it. You should read it.

I've blogged about Joe Hill's Horns before and if you haven't read it - and you like horror type novels - then you should read this. It's original and really awesome. AND...if you want to enter a contest to get a copy...go HERE.


And just a side note - if you are unfamiliar with Joe Hill - it is a neat little fun fact that The Shining is dedicated to his dad. But his writing stands alone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Message for Beginners

I came across this today at The Chocolate Chip Waffle and it was exactly what I needed to hear at just this moment. I love Ira Glass and now I love him more. Thank you Terresa Wellborn.

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through."

~ Ira Glass

Monday, February 7, 2011

First Line

My actual first line is as follows:

"My mother told me never to start a new endeavor on the full moon, but as was my nature then I didn't bother to pay attention."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fortune's Favors

Process: I first shuffled all the cards thoroughly and in the traditional way, the deck cut with the left hand, and then I spread them in a fan, face down, and picked four out at random, four that seemed to call to me. I am reading them in the order of the spread. I did not choose which one went where. Again, I am using the traditional Universal Waite Tarot deck and the interpretations are assisted by Arthur Edward Waite’s accompanying discussion of the tarot.
This time I have chosen a 4 card spread, a goal and achievement spread.

First, envision the goal you are trying to achieve. My goal: To find success with my writing, and by that I mean to find a compatible and interested agent and to eventually be published.

Card 1: The seeker and his or her goal.
The Five of Cups

I am very familiar with this card. It is one that showed up in Alice’s reading in DISTILLATION. A cloaked figure stands on the shore. In the distance is a building – a castle perhaps – one with a tower in any case – a high point. The figure is on the shore of the river and there is also a bridge in the distance to the right. The seeker must cross the bridge to achieve the goal. This is a card of loss. The seeker is gazing downward contemplating the three fallen and empty cups. That aspect of the card indicates a focus on something lost. The Pictoral Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite indicates that this can be related to patronage of some sort – or of a marriage. There are also two cups still standing however, and this is indicative that there are more possibilities for union or patronage. More positives to focus on.

Card 2: The past- that which is influencing the current state of the quest.

The Seven of Wands
An individual stands above a crowd apparently battling them from the high ground with his or her own staff. This is a card of competition and/or negotiation – it can also be seen (Waite) as a card of valor and intellectual, wordy strife. Given that the individual has the upper hand in the image – it can be seen as a card of success. So – in the context of the past – from my POV, I see this as me being in the middle path of my journey to succeeding at my goals. Competition and intellectual strife have certainly been a large part of that, but so has the hope of success and doing well.

Card 3: The present condition of the goal, what is happening now that is influencing the attainment of this goal, or the current state of the goal.

Queen of Swords.

Though the image here seems to indicate strength, it is seen as a card of sorrow, of infertility, of sterility. The queen is holding out her hand expectantly, the sword is there, but is not in a position of use or power. She is reaching for something and is coming up empty. That is how I see it. So far, lots of possibility, lots of interest, but no offer. Yet.

Card 4: The future – the outcome of the goal.

The Star

This is a card of the major arcana – it features a woman bending on one knee pouring water from two jugs, one into the pool, the other into the land. There is one large star in the sky behind her and seven smaller stars. In addition, in the distance is a leafy tree with a bird in it. Waite indicates that this card has sometimes been seen as a card of hope, but he feels it is more a card of eternity and inner light, truth unveiled, a pouring out of the soul, and an element of fertility as she is an earth mother.

So – my interpretation as to the future of my goal – I see it as indefinite, but positive. It indicates to me that my writing is positive in its outcome. The act of giving, of pouring forth my ideas and my soul will result in an eternal and fruitful outcome for me as an individual. This does not mean I will get an agent and published, but it means that my writing is important and that is leading me down a path toward goodness no matter what.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fun Contest from Brenda Drake Writes

First Line Contest - Too Fun! Here is the graphic from Brenda's blog, she is hosting this fun contest that you all should do

Weronika (pronounced 'Veronica') Janczuk is a writer and an agent with D4EO Literary. She also writes YA, literary, and historical fiction, and blogs about it here. An interview with Weronika will be posted here sometime before the contest so go on over and check it out.
Brenda's Instructions: Go to her blog and sign up on the linky. On February 7 and 8, post the first line of your manuscript (any genre) on your blog to get critiques from your followers and then hop around to the other participants' sites and give critiques. Polish your line and enter it into the comments of the contest post on February 9 like this:

Name: Ariel Swan
Title: Distillation
Genre: Women's Lit

"My mother told me never to start a new endeavor on the full moon..."

You get the idea.

Prizes from Weronika:

1st place -- a critique of the first 50 pages + query

2nd place -- a critique of the first 25 pages + query

3rd place -- a critique of the query

I'm in. So go to it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Team Jacob All the Way - better late than never

So, I am late in coming to this trough, but I have recently (as in 5 minutes ago) finished the Twilight films. No, I didn't read the books and I probably won't. Being a high school teacher, and beyond teeny-bopper schmoopiness - I did not even consider Twilight when it came out. Many of my students were into it and still I resisted, privately rolling my eyes at the bubble gum vampire adventures they swooned over. But now that the hype is passed, I figured why not watch the films, because, I confess I was at one point a full on vampire girl. Full on.

I was absolutely obsessed with Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles when I was sixteen. I wished very much that Lestat or someone like him would come through my window and transform me. Alas, it never happened. I have a whole vampire library to prove my obsession went way beyond Rice's series. In fact, even as a young lass, way before Anne Rice, I was in to films like Once Bitten and The Monster Squad - I was just into that type of thing. But Lestat is not Edward. The vampires I was raised on were not PG 13. Classic to modern, Palodori to Camilla, Dracula to the Blood Countess, they were much more erotic, not to mention intellectual and sophisticated.

But...I happily watched all 3 Twilight films, ready to forgive its flaws, and eager to be swept away in romance and fantasy. Twilight - the first film - was good to start. I liked the setting, I liked Bella, and I liked the Native American descended from the wolf thing. The vampires, however, were lacking and just a bit silly with their sparkly baseball, which I had previously heard about. Just like musicals in which I like everything but the singing, I liked everything but the vampires in the first story. It was enough in the end however, to make me want to see New Moon. I watched that last night. Not so good. As with many trilogies #2 seemed but a bridge story. Not enough about what I was interested, which much to my chagrin, was Edward vs Jacob.

I was particularly struck by the sexual allegory, albeit par for the course in vampire lit. Bella and Edward can not consummate their relationship because it means he must "bite" her, or enter her body and pull from her the very goodness he so desires. Now this varies depending on the lore, but most vampires are not able to engage in the traditional sexual act. The bite and the drinking of blood is their release. Meyers doesn't seem to be playing it this way, but her rules are vague to say the least. Can Edward actually do the deed? He wants to be married first before they "do it" - interchangeably relating to having sex and him making her into a vampire, on which be blames his old fashioned ways - being 100+ years old and all. But as a teenager, it makes sense that Bella is abstinent, and a vampire boyfriend, who for one reason or another is unwilling to go beyond a kiss, makes sense.

And then there is Jacob: warm blooded, animistic (in more ways than one). His clan can have children, and only some of them "inherit the gene" for being a werewolf. He is tan, he is jacked, he is witty, and...he can do what needs to be done. No contest. Although, running around perpetually without his shirt on and donning cut off jeans is a bit questionable. But...he is also dangerous. He says himself, he doesn't know what he could do to her if he got angry. Uh oh. Watch out for those hot blooded guys, they might blacken your eye or worse, therefore presenting another allegorical warning. Even the nice guys can be dangerous if they are that type.

But of course Jacob never hurts her, and neither does Edward. But Edward is a vampire, he is cold, pale and sickly looking, mopey, and somewhat insecure. Who would want that for a man? This was most prominently dealt with in the winter/tent scene in Eclipse. Of course Jacob can keep her warm, and the line that he is..after all...hotter than Edward made me laugh hard. So true.

Overall, it was teen romance, mixed with the classic vampire love story, which I once was in love with myself, so I can't fault it for that. The evil vampire clan thing was totally unnecessary and I tried to ignore it in all the movies as much as possible. It was not possible though in New Moon and that is why that was the worst of the three films.

Now, there was a moment there, between New Moon and Eclipse where I believed that maybe this story was going to end in a new and original way. Maybe Edward would actually consummate the relationship with a deep and juicy bite and they would actually live happily ever after, and after, and after, going against the traditional vampire story. And, truly, I suppose that is how it ends in a way. We just don't get to see the deed being done, which was a major let down. Instead all we got was a flower laden field with talk of wedding dresses and guest lists. Isn't that how it is for every bride? all fantasy, and little focus on the reality of married life. A virginal wedding with oh such a surprise on the wedding night. Now that IS the old fashioned way.

In Eclipse, I thought for a moment that Bella would choose Jacob and the whole thing would be turned on its head. The scene where, as a wolf, he rubs his head against her like a pet dog, brought tears to my eyes. A guy who is hot, magical, and as soft and cozy as a pet pooch - well who could want anything more? She even kisses Jacob and tells him she loves him. All the vampires, including Edward, told her she shouldn't "marry" him and become a vampire. So why didn't she choose Jacob for God's sake?!

Well, because there is one theme that will go on in perpetuity. Women always choose the guy that is not right for them. Even if he himself tells her he is not the right guy for her. The nice, warm blooded, family oriented, caring guy will never win out over the withdrawn, despond ant, outsider. Nice guys always finish last.

Now, I almost do wish I had read it along with my school girls. I could have then told them that worst guys are hairy on the inside, and not the outside.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fortune's favors?

 The Tarot is a form of divination using archetypal imagery to delve into the psyche. Archetypes have meaning to us all and any image will have some meaning to the seeker. Just like the interpretation of dreams, it is more important what the dream (or card) makes you personally feel (afraid, relieved, rushed etc.) than the actual story of the dream or image.

Josephine, the mother of my MC Alice Towne, reads tarot cards. In DISTILLATION she does a reading for her daughter - which took me a lot of time to do. When I started my novel I never thought I'd be doing tarot readings for imaginary characters, but it was insightful for me and for Alice, I think.

I grew up with a traditional with a Universal Waite Tarot deck in my own household. I played with it often, examining the images and imagining their stories. Although I do not claim to be a true cartomancer, I know my way around a deck. So, I thought it might be fun to add a little divination to my blogging repertoire.

So, here is the card for today: The Seven of Cups - pulled from a shuffled deck - cut with the left hand.

Cups is a generally positive suit. This card depicts a figure gazing at an array of full cups. It is an indicator of imaginative purpose, of possibility, and of potential realization. Each of the cups may contain something desired or something feared, and the figure is in contemplation of those possibilites. The cups sit on a cloud, rather than at the end of a road or in a distant landscape, which means the object of the seeker's imagination is not yet a reality. Attainment of something desired is not guarenteed, but the possibility is there. It indicates that there is yet a choice the seeker must make, or a path he or she must take to bring what is wanted to fruition. I see this image as a reflection of wishing, of wanting, and of inaction.

If I am the seeker, this means I must stop looking at the imagined possibilities and get back on the road in order to actually make any possibility a reality. If applied to my writing - this means I need to get writing and stop waiting, something I have been struggling to do.

If you are the seeker what does this image mean to you?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What author would you like to meet?

I just checked in at the 2011 Muse and the Marketplace website to see how this year's conference planning was coming along and found that my favorite author, the one who inspired me to write novels in the first place, is going to be there. Now I am going to have to go - because I must meet Alice Hoffman.

If you could meet any living author, who would it be?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

#2 No Kiss Blog Fest


My second blogging/writing resolution is to get more involved in the online community. I have been visiting Nathan Bransford's forums again and I am going to try and comment on others blogs every day and begin taking part in some of the activities going on. So...Starting right away - my first activity is to participate in the "No Kiss Blogfest" which I learned about from Lindsay's (a.k.a Isabella's) lovely blog Adventure in Writing - which linked me to Frankie Writes who is the creator of this exercise. Note: This excerpt has been edited for length quite a bit.

I stepped down from the bank onto the ledge and felt the shock of the water surge through me, sucking the air from my lungs. I let out a little yelp and saw Kyle turn his face to see what was happening. I had no choice. It was either stand there exposed in my underwear, or dive in. So, I jumped, the freezing water rushing over my body, tiny bubbles effervescing against my skin.
I swam across to the ledge where Kyle was now sitting up again, and found a wide rock beneath the water on which I could sit, modestly submerged. But my rock was in the shade and I began to shiver.

“It’s really cold,” I chattered, my arms folded over my breasts.

“It’s invigorating for sure,” the sun was in his eyes and he was squinting at me. “You can come up here in the sun. Believe it or not, I’ve seen women in their underwear before.”

I laughed a little sourly, and breathed “Yeah,” looked away and shivered harder.

“Come on,” he held out his hand to me and after a moment I took it, getting a foothold on my rock and stepping over the water onto the dry, sun drenched ledge. “See?”

“See what?” I said sitting down beside him, shaking still.

“Not so bad.”

“No,” I laughed.

When I looked back at Kyle was staring at me. I held his gaze, my stomach doing flips, my arm pits prickling, watching him watch me.

“I’ve never met anyone with your color eyes before,” he said matter of factly.

“Ah. Yes, a family trait.” I looked down, breaking the hold, a little embarrassed.

“They’re almost all gold. It’s interesting. You’re different.”

“Than what,” I asked, feeling warm and relaxed now in the sun, although a jittery feeling inside persisted.

“Than the other girls I know.”

“Really? Well, I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but thanks I guess.”

“You seem so …” and he broke off, not finishing his sentence.

“So what?”

“I don’t know… solitary, hiding out in that old house. Truthfully, I’ve been a little intimidated by you.”

“Ha,” I laughed, incredulous, and then felt I shouldn’t have. “It’s true, I guess. I’m here taking some time for me. But, I wouldn’t say I’m hiding out,” I said.

He was quiet for a minute, thinking, looking off into the woods and then back at me. Then with one finger, he touched the tip of my nose. “You look like a llama.”

“What? I thought llamas were ugly with big hooked snouts.” Of all the things I’d ever wanted to look like, this was not one of them.

He laughed with a full smile. “No. Llamas are cute. They have long dark eye lashes and pretty triangle shaped noses like you, although mostly they don’t have freckles, but there are blonde ones.”

“I see.”

He was still smiling, his head leaning on his shoulder, his body leaning back on one hand.

I shifted my eyes sideways, sensing that there was something uncomfortable in the possibilities of where this conversation could lead.

I imagined how he would taste: sweet and cool as silver. Then reality slipped in. I saw Steven’s brown eyes peering out at me from my conscience, sending at once a pang of both guilt and anger through me.

I turned my face, breaking the moment, before Kyle even made up his mind.

When I turned back, he was still close to me, but I could see the intention had faded. He smiled with closed lips, leaned away, and slipped into the water and waited for me to follow. Disappointment and relief surged through me as I plunged in after him, bracing against the shock of the water, and we swam back across.

Do you have an almost kiss - either from a WIP, a movie, a novel, or...wherever to share? If so - get to it - but stop off at Frankie Writes first to sign up so yours will get added to the list.

Happy New Year! #1 Reading and Writing

Happy New Year. Resolution # 1 - to start blogging more often about what I am reading and finding out what you all are reading.

I am reading right now "Outside the Ordinary World" by local author Dori Ostermiller.
Outside the Ordinary WorldSo far this book is pretty good. It is about Sylvia Sandon who swore she wouldn't become like her mother (imagine that - it seems to be a common theme) but finds that she is retracing some of her steps as Sylvia tries to create a better life in small town New England (also very common in these parts) as her marriage is failing. The beginning at least is set in California in the 1970s amidst ambient brush fires that give the sense that the world is going up in flames.

I was a little familiar with Ms. Ostermiller before because she runs the Writers in Progress Workshops in Florence, MA. I have considered attending them numerous times and still plan on it at some point. I did try to contact her a few times because she did offer manuscript critiques (for a fee which I couldn't really afford) - but I was going to see if there was a partial critique we could do. But alas, she didn't return my calls or emails. But when I saw her book in the library the other day I figured, she must have been busy with this.

and "At Home: A Short History of Private Life" by Bill Bryson At Home: A Short History of Private Life
This book is non-fiction and is one I heard about on NPR - I ordered it from the library and had to wait. It is really interesting - taking the reader through all the rooms and passageways in a home - and in doing so going off on a million tangents about the things found in them - or in ideas (somewhat) related to that room. I started reading it because I love old houses and I wanted to know the history of the rooms. Unfortunately though, Mr. Bryson does not stick to that formula. For example, he spends the entire chapter on the Cellar (which I was very interested to learn about) talking about the history of bricks and cement. Right now - we are in the study - and he is talking about the lives and habits of rats and mice. These are interesting subjects, though I do not share his particular interest in eccentric architects, and I have kept reading - but it is not solely about the house. It should have been a clue that one of Mr. Bryson's earlier works was "A Short History of Nearly Everything."

So What are You Reading? Please do tell.