Saturday, March 31, 2012

A-Z Challenge Start Tomorrow!

The A-Z Challenge begins tomorrow and I am going to give it my best shot. I look forward to making some new friends and really pushing my blogging skills. I have not decided on a theme yet, though I did just launch a 90s nostalgia theme for my blog in general as a brainstorming tool for my upcoming WIP. But I think I might be a little more random. We shall see. In any case, I look forward to it. Let the fun begin.

For more information on this blog hop go here or here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent." Reality Bites - 90s Nostalgia Begins

For research purposes, I have decided to do a few blog posts here and there about the decade in which I came of age and the decade in which my next WIP is going to take place. A decade that looks like paradise compared to the misery wreaked upon us since 2000. Y2K was real, except it wasn't what we thought it would be.

So, I invite you to join me in the reminiscing, if indeed you can remember and relate to the gloriously...what...? cynical, languid, dark, dreamy, grungy, retro, heroin addled 90s.

I will start with a film that was meant to characterize generation X, which I think characterizes a group a little older than me. I was generation XY. I think. Who cares? Reality Bites (1994) was a film filled with angst, grunge, arty malaise, guilt ridden casual sex and, of course, cigarettes. I was 17 that year. I liked it and in some ways I aspired to be those characters. Yet, I also remember thinking it was lame. I guess because I was supposed to, being an angst ridden anti-establishment teenager of the day.

I remember thinking it was totally wrong of Wynona Ryder to even consider dating a stiff like Ben Stiller - their characters I mean. Who wouldn't have, in the 90s, lusted after the sulky, selfish, grungy Ethan Hawke. We all knew he had a heart in that player costume of his. He was just damaged, like everyone else.

"Did he dazzle you with his extensive knowledge of mineral water or was it his in-depth analysis of Marky Mark that finally reeled you in. I just would have liked to have been there to watch how you rationalized sleeping with a yuppie-head cheeseball..."

There's no point to any of this. It's all just a... a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details."

"Troy, aren't you excited? Troy: I'm bursting with fruit flavor. "

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

waiting, dreaming of owls, and the weather

Hello readers,

I am really trying to post more these days, but I have such a hard time getting into it after work. With my fiction writing, I save up. I am able to work on it in other ways. I dream. I imagine. I listen to music that inspires me to think up new worlds and to envision the problems of characters who are just growing and yet to hit the page. I imagine symbols and themes, conflicts and resolutions. But all of that can be done when I am driving home from work or in the shower. Then, when I hit a vacation, which as a teacher, come pretty regularly, I start writing and usually get somewhere fairly fast. Blogging. Not so much. I think of ideas and then they fade away. BTW: Thank you to those who took the Lucky Seven meme bait.

I am dreaming of owls right now and I am waiting. The great honed owl that has been lurking around my yard is waiting too. He is like a vision, a harbinger of something to come. Of what, I do not know.

DISTILLATION  has been in a round of querying since September and there have been many full requests. Recently I was asked to revise with an offer of notes from an agent. I took it, feeling like those revisions were right on. That agent has, even more recently, as geologic time goes, replied. She likes it and will keep reading. She asked if other agents had the book. Yes they do. So, I wait. And wait. In the meantime more requests have come in and the owl hoots from inside the fog that has settled on my little town.

I am really trying hard to think about the next WIP and April vacation can't come soon enough. I am trying not to obsess. I know they will all get there when they do. Agents are busy and their clients are their first priority. I have paid attention, after all, all these months in writer school .

But is hard. The fears and fantasies fly like that owl in my mind, wings whipping up dreams and nightmares alike.

To make things even more strange, the weather in Massachusetts is just bizarre. Today the temp was double what it should be. It is summer in March. I hope it is not a 120 degree summer when the real one does actually arrive. Combined with daylight savings time, I don't know what month it is, what time it is, or what is happening. Overall this is really a bit disconcerting.

But I wait, knowing that everything will be all right. Because things move and the world changes, but really everything is still the same.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lucky 7 meme

I’ve been tagged by the awesome tfwalsh for The Lucky 7 meme. It is a fun little thing where you get to post 7 lines of your WIP. Just a nice tantalizing little tease. So don't forget to leave a comment on my seven lines of DISTILLATION, which is having a good run with some agents right now (*visualize me praying it comes to a great end - I need the luck right now, I think*) After that, stop by some of the blogs below and don't forget awesome tfwalsh, who I thank for tagging me in her meme.

A 7 line excerpt from my paranormal women's fiction DISTILLATION:
"Why would anyone bury a child in their cellar?” I cried. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yes. It does to the old world mind, Alice.” Lydia crossed her arms. “There is an archaic belief that burying a still born child in the hearth will bring good luck to future births.”
I dropped my head into my hands. It was hard to focus. “But I heard it crying.” I sniffled, swatting at my wet eyes with a sleeve, trying to steady myself. “It lived.”
Lydia, who was gazing now out into the night, snapped her head around to look at me. “You heard it?”
I guess that's a good place to hop in to the story. It is refering to the discovery of the bones, which is my hook.

Now for the basic rules of this meme:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know
So, now I have to tag seven more people. And here they are:
Jayne at  A Novice Novelist
Brenda Drake Writes
Handling My Dream
Inner Owlet
Kate MacNicol's Blog
JuneBug at My Blog
So there it is. Sorry if I surpised anyone. I am trying to get better at being less of a lurker. LOL.

Monday, March 12, 2012

She's dead...wrapped in plastic

Long before there were vampires in Washington, there was a dead girl, found wrapped in plastic, whose dark secrets unfolded like a night lily.

For research purposes, I have dug this old gem out of my book shelf. Yes, I own and once devoured The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Even now, I open to any page and know exactly why.

Do you remember Twin Peaks? I was thirteen years old the year it came out and they had me at “She’s dead.” I can’t believe I was that young. I first typed fifteen, and then I researched the series. Nope. 1990. This explains a lot. Exposure to such dark underpinnings, mystery, and melodrama tainted my imagination for sure. The sordid and bizarre tales of small town life undoubtedly informed my understanding of the small town I lived in and most definitely influenced my future as a writer.

Laura Palmer and company were to me what Diana was to Anne of Green Gables. (Irony intended)Though my life was definitely not filled with abuse and addiction like Laura Palmer’s, I related to her character, or rather those characters that told us her story as they lived in a place of deep forests and black nights where secrets and lies abounded.

I knew well that whispering of the trees that foretold of omens and possibilities. I knew what it was to walk the woods at night and to keep secrets. I believed in magic and the veil between two worlds. I saw omens and signs in nature. I knew good people gone bad and bad people who were really good, and most mesmerizing of all I coveted the idea that one could walk that line.

According to Wikipedia “Twin Peaks explores the gulf between the veneer of small-town respectability and the seedier layers of life lurking beneath it.” And this, dear readers, is what I too am setting out to do. Long ago, Laura Palmer and her friends focused the world I saw in my small town into a heightened and somewhat fantastical focus. Everything seemed laced with import. We were young, we were the center of our own universe, every possibility of success and failure was in front of us. Sexual, psychotropic and identity exploration, as well as ironic lessons learned from adults living in the real world, spiraled around us in an enchanted universe. And, that view, that spectral dark sparkle that coated everything in those days has a story in it. A fictional story that will try to capture how the world looks through that lens, walking a forest path just on the line between light and dark, fire and water, good and evil.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life is Good

Simone - my love (Tortie Point Siamese)

Today was beautiful here in western MA. I spent the day in the yard, picking up sticks and pruning grapes (a little late on that). The Siamese and the chickens were glad to help. The cat playing a game where she would sit on the stick gathering tarp eagerly waiting for my next arm load dump and then she would sprint away with excited glee. Then she would come back and wait to do it all over again. The chickens love to dig, so they helped with raking the perennial patch, I suspect eager to snack on the early shoots hiding beneath. But, Helen, our golden arricauna did not hesitate to insert herself into the pile of brush I was building. She climbed right inside and sat there, perhaps looking for a new nest. She was not please when I took her freshly laid, still warm egg this morning. In fact she hopped up on the coop and investigated with some agitation. We don't even have a rooster (he was very mean and then tasty) so no chicks would come of her endeavors anyways. I told her, that is the way it goes chicky.

It was a beautiful day and I am looking forward to spring. Daylight savings is nice in that I will be able to go for walks more often after work and the days will get warmer. Husband wanted to drain the snow blower of gas today. I thought, not so fast. April Fools 3 foot snow storms are not unheard of.

I hope everyone else had a lovely day and a has a great week ahead.

This is Helen sunning herself

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are you in my novel?

After just posting that last blog post, and sharing it to FB, I was thinking, I need to write a post for family and friends. The writing process isn't interesting to non-writers. What they might be interested in, is what sometimes people ask, but mostly they just wonder, if they have a writer among their peeps. Am I in your novel?

So, I thought I would just write a quick note about that. The answer is…yes you are.

In writing a DISTILLATION, it took my husband a while, if he even ever did, not to see the male lead as himself. And people of course see a bit of me in my main character, Alice, though really I tried to make her as different as I could. Still she shares a lot of my personality, obsessions, anxieties, and fears, though in a fictionalized form. But the truth is, yes I use everything and everyone I have ever known or met in the creation of my characters and plot. Much of DISTILLATION centers on a world I once inhabited; the world of Ashfield. So, the places are clearly inspired by reality as is some of the story. But the people are ALL based on people I have known.

Often my characters are conglomerates. A gesture they make might come from an old friend, a parental situation from another. Their personalities too are usually caricaturized hybridizations. Does that mean any of you are directly translated onto the page? No, probably not. But might you recognize a bit of yourself, a laugh, a point of view, a family structure, an adventure we had together in my story. Perhaps.

Gathering Up Wind and Laying Down Stones

Right now, I am gathering dreams that blow in on the wind: ideas, images, quotes, small points of character, simple twists of fate, and otherwise tiny shards of a brewing story.

I collect these mementos of imagination in a black book. In the past, before I was writing seriously, this was a major outlet for my expression. I collected and pasted all through college, and the years after. I'd cut images from anywhere. I'd copy poems from books, horoscopes from the local newspaper, headlines, fabrics, photos. Whatever struck my fancy and got me thinking. In my travels, I would jot notes about strange folks lurking on a street corner or sipping bourbon at a swank bar. I made up lives for them, channeled their (imagined) thoughts, and surmised their deepest secrets.

Once I started writing DISTILLATION though, my collection practices became a bit less artistic and more focused. I used two different notebooks to record research and ideas. In the early drafting stages, these were similar to the collections I'd done before - character sketches, meaningful lines, images, plot points, poetry - all to nourish the seed of an idea into a vibrant bloom.

By the time the first draft was finished though, and then revised, folders and mounds of paper had sprouted like mushrooms all over my office. Photocopies and sketches of architectural designs, descriptions and drawings of essence stills, photographs of peppermint and a particular town's rural landscape and cultural landmarks, renderings of allegorical alchemical art, information on archaeological digs, and (most creepy) a detailed sketch of the bone and cartilage structure of an infant and a description of infant remains unearthed at a real historic burial site. There are notes, notes, and more notes on tarot, on genealogy, on plot. These were the tools in my toolbox.

As I wrote and revised, rewrote and revised again, I found that revisiting these collections, helped me to find my path again and again. I look back at them now and realize how much research and planning went into writing DISTILLATION. It is evidence of the process of constructing a story's path.

A favorite question for writers is: "plotter or pantser?" A plotter being someone who plans his or her story, either before or as they write. A "pantser" (which to me sounds like someone who pulls people's pants down) is a person who just writes and sees where the story goes. At least I think that is what it is. I am a plotter, but I also follow the wind. And so I wonder, can someone be both?

For me, it all starts with a feeling in the air, a smell on the breeze, an image, a sound, a phrase, the inspiration that starts me dreaming. Sometimes that is when I start collecting - as with DISTILLATION. Other times, as now, I first come up with the premise, then start gathering. The collection doesn't have to get very large before I start writing, at least a first scene or some moment. Once I get a scene, then I plot. I am a list maker. Lists fill my notebooks and computer.

These lists are, for me, akin to the laying stones. Piece by piece I construct a path with the bits I've gathered, a road for my story to travel. But I only build this path a few steps at a time. I write a scene and then list the next steps. Often, I need to back track and reconsider the direction I am traveling. Did I actually step on all those stones? Is there one I forgot and want to add in? Is there one I left out and for good reason? Sometimes I need to locate a missing stone, and it is common for the path to take a whole new and unexpected turn. At that point, I start a new list.

And so, yes I plot, but only a few steps at a time. Often, I know where I want to end up and so the stones I've laid must eventually lead me there. But often that end-point is vague and will only come in to focus once I've followed the path and come out on the other side.