Thursday, December 16, 2010

Haul Out the MasterCard

"Haul out the Mastercard
 Wrap up these gifts before my spirit falls again
 Where did I park my car?
 Wish I could find it 'cuz its starting to to rain again now...

"'Cuz we need a little Christmas
 Right this very minute
 Where's my CD starring
 Carols at the spinet?"

So it's been crazy the past week or so, trying to get shopping done after work in preparation for my parents' visit this weekend.  We are having "four Christmases" as my son says, since we are getting together with different parts of our family on different weekends, and also exchanged gifts with my mother-in-law at Thanksgiving.  My mom and dad are going to take all the family gifts back with them, so I need to have them wrapped and ready.

It's actually a good thing that I'm getting all this stuff done early.  Well, I guess it's not technically "early" any more.  But it *feels* early.  I'm just not mentally ready for Christmas, because I haven't really had time to stop and think about it. My mom, who retired this year, said that she is actually enjoying Christmas shopping now because she can take her time with it.
Sooooo... I haven't written anything except for a little bit on Sunday morning.  I would love to finish this novel by Christmas, but there is just no way. I feel like one of those people who always says, "I'm writing a book" but never actually finishes it. I could be "writing a book" until I retire. But I won't even let myself think that way.

How are you guys doing?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

Okay everyone, here's your chance to share again!  This time, just post the last 50 words of whatever you wrote.  It doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense.  The point is to take a quick snapshot of your style and genre.

Enter your snapshot below!

 Remember:  It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good.  It just has to be yours!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

There is no greater burden than great potential. - Charles Schultz

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Testiomony of Timing

The holiday season (and yes, I mean "holiday" as in Thanksgiving + Christmas + Hanukkuh + Kwanzaa + New Year's) is a time of reflection for most of us. Even in the midst of all the rushing around, I find myself thinking about the past year: its accomplishments, its failures, its joys and its sorrows.

In case you haven't picked up on this before, I'm a born-again Christian. I don't really like that term because of the negative connotations that get attached to it, but it does accurately reflect my belief system. I don't just believe that God exists and is in charge of the universe, but that He is personally involved in my life on a daily basis through His Spirit. Everything I do is either in accordance to His will and purpose, or against it.

It's not always easy to know God's will. Sometimes I sense His Spirit speaking clearly in my heart. Sometimes, I hear nothing but my own anxiety and confusion. Sometimes He just tells me He loves me.

Which is nice and all, but it can be annoying when I want an answer, darn it!

This year has been one of transition. I sensed that things were about to change drastically. I didn't know what would happen, just that it would be different.

Two major things changed: I gained new confidence in my writing, and I went back to full-time employment in an office. Both of these were a matter of timing.

I had been agonizing for about three years as to whether I was "good enough" to write for publication. I spent about half that time just uncurling from my creative fetal position. I spent the rest of it learning all I could about writing and publishing, mostly from other blogs. I also found a local writer's group which has been a huge boost for me.

I finally reached a point of clarity with my novel: I know what to write, and how to write it. I just need to find the time to concentrate enough to do it.

I tend to beat myself up over how long it's taken me to get here, but I have to remember that this is a learning process. Moses spent 40 years in the desert before God sent him to free Israel from Pharoah. So I shouldn't feel bad about not getting published before age 40. I know I needed this time to learn enough that I can trust myself now.

I know my instincts are good. I have confidence in my voice. That is HUGE.

The other big thing was getting my job. I recently passed my 90-day probation period. I'm an official full-time employee now. Although it's been a tough transition for all of us, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do for child care Christmas week, I know I'm in the right place. I couldn't imagine a better company to work for. My boss and I get along excellently. This makes up for all the hassle and the long commute.

Earlier in the year, I was beginning to panic about looking for a job. I felt enormous financial pressure; I was literally sick to my stomach with worry. When I prayed about it, however, I felt God telling me "Not yet. Wait."

So, I waited.

When that feeling finally left me, we were down to the wire. But by then I had come to trust in the God who provides every day, every month just what we need. There were so many times that I thought, "This is it. This is the month things will fall apart." But you know what? Something always came through.

We were so blessed! I decided that "my worrier was done busted." I just couldn't worry any more.

Then I applied for this job and was brought in for an interview. They called me at 6:30 the same evening and offered me the position, for three times what I was earning part-time. It was like a shower of blessing!

If you have stayed with me this long (and I hope you have) my testimony to you is this: Wait, prepare, be ready!

I have heard over and over how important it is for writers to be prepared for unexpected opportunities. So don't worry if none of your queries have been accepted. Just make sure you are ready when you do get a response.

If you aren't at the querying stage yet (like me), don't worry how much time you spend training yourself in your craft. Every little bit adds to your marketability and skill. Don't worry if the manuscript isn't done yet. Just focus on making it your best work possible.

It will happen at the right time.
When it is meant to happen.
When the right people are positioned to help you succeed.

Trust yourself. Trust God, however you perceive Him.

There is no other, no better, no more satisfying way.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Note: Please do not post religious comments that have nothing to do with my post!  This is a writing blog, not a religious blog. Thank you for respecting my virtual space.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

Okay, you crazy, hazy-brained, cross-eyed Nanowrimoers!  And sane cowards, like myself, who watch you from the sidelines and secretly envy your determination.

What was the last thing you wrote?  Post it in the comments below. It doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be YOURS.

Here's mine:

The first bird of morning trilled with freshly-wakened enthusiasm somewhere on the castle roofs as Faldur strode down the walkway of the circular courtyard where he had first arrived.  A troop of mounted soldiers waited there, the best of the half-elevjan who served the King, with Mel at their head.  Tall of stature and strong of girth, clad in the King’s armor, their breath steamed in the pre-dawn chill along with their horses’. 

Faldur hoped that as a display of the King’s favor, they would so impress Chalmeth as to make use of their swords unnecessary, but he was glad to have the swords just the same.  He clasped hands with Mel, and then turned to the groom who held Strider for him.  The dory seemed small and lost beside the tall, gleaming horses; the upper curl of his thick horns came only to the nearest one’s withers.  He butted Faldur impatiently.

“We’re going,” Faldur murmured. “We’ll bring her home.”  

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Be wery, wery quiet. I'm hunting word counts.

It's 6:42 on Thanksgiving morning.  And yes, I'm very thankful for my family, my job, health, a safe place to live and all that good stuff.

But what I'm REALLY thankful for is a still, quiet house.

I realized yesterday that I have over 70,000 revised words.  70,000!!!  And the remainder of the book is still in first draft form, which means I get to do some real writing now.  I am hoping to make a huge leap forward this holiday weekend.

I hope all of you find some quiet space to pursue your private goals between now and Monday.

Shhh!!!  Don't wake anybody up.  And have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Editing The Guts Out of the Story

Did you ever look at something you wrote a long time ago and think,  "Wow, that was really passionate and moving and... I killed it."

That happened to me today.  This morning I grabbed my original notebook for my novel, the one with the first handwritten scenes and the precious syllables of my language, to write in if I had some free time today.  I ended up reading one of the pivotal scenes in the heroine's story.  One of those so-called "candy scenes" that are a pleasure to write because they are so compelling, and which drive the rest of the plot.

It made me realize how much I've lost in the editing process through the desire to be "tight" and "clean."  I just edited the same scene last week for the third or fourth time. I wasn't satisfied with it, but I just moved on.  Because that's what I'm doing now: Moving on.  But now I'm thinking, "Hoooold it!  What happened here?"

Did you ever have one of those moments?  Have you gone back and resurrected the dead?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Where Do You Find the Time?

It's an awfully good thing I'm not doing Nano this year, because I would be so far behind I'd never catch up!  Life has just been crazy.  I just got back from New York again, and was in D.C. earlier this week.  I keep having this insane idea that I'll write in my hotel room, but I get so exhausted by the time I get back in the evening I just fall asleep.

The only writing I got done was for about an hour yesterday while in transit, and half an hour while eating in a restaurant alone on Tuesday.  And that's probably the most I've done in weeks.

I'm looking forward to being with my long lost family this weekend, but I doubt I'll get any writing done.

How in the world do you all find time to write?

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Makes You Feel Good?

I'm taking a break from writing-themed posts this week, as NaNoWriMo is consuming the blogosphere. I haven't time for NaNo this year.  I actually haven't had time for NaNo any years. Anyway, I was editing some recent photos in my camera and just had to share some of the things that make life worthwhile for me.
Like sunrises

And pom-pom covered pumpkins

Cute little puppy faces
Finding Darth Vader and Cad Bane in my front yard

A glass necklace, brought all the way from Italy by someone who loves me

The last fall bouquet

Good friends

Beautiful places

And the occasional miniature tree frog.
At the end of the day, when you can't think or type or do a single thing more, what makes YOU feel good?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

No pressure

"One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work." - Gloria Naylor

Monday, October 18, 2010

Forty is Fine

40 is an achievement
40 shuts the door on the insecurities of youth
I wouldn't be 21 again for a million trillion dollars
Or even 29
40 is fine

I've learned from my mistakes
Watch me prove it
I know what I want
Watch me do it

I have great friends, the right friends
to see me through it

My parents are my friends, not a mystery
I love them more now, knowing what they did for me.

And the future is growing so fast, it seems
Every week he needs new jeans

Pretty soon he'll want the car
I'll say, "Drive me to my book signing, son. It's not far."

40 is a release, a shout!
"Hey world, Look out!"

Christine Hardy, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

Last week's Sunday Snapshot was so much fun, let's do it again! Post the last paragraph (or last ten lines) of whatever you've most recently written in the comment section.

If you want to link to your work, you can us the following to insert a url in the comment section: < a href=""> My Website Name < /a> BUT take out the spaces after the <'s at the front and end of the command. I had to put those in so a real link wouldn't show up.

Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't even have to be good, it just has to be yours! I haven't done much writing this week because I've been really busy at work and had a horrible cough that I'm still fighting to get rid of. But here's the last thing I wrote (well, revised.)
Marenya slumped down on the rocky floor. She was cold and bone-tired, and her leg ached. There was no way back through the waterfall, and she had no food nor fuel for a fire. She had no choice but to go with him. Still, she lacked the will to move, and gazed at the sun striking the top of the waterfall. Beyond that glittering curtain lay everything she had ever known, and everyone she had ever loved. Somewhere out there her mother was worrying and Pelwyn was waiting for her. Somewhere, Faldur was searching for her. She felt a strong certainty that if she left this spot now, she would never return to them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First 250 Word Blogfest

In my aimless Saturday morning surfing, I came across Elle Strausse's First 250 Word Blogfest and foolishly decided to sign up.

I have revised my first page so many times that I don't have a clue whether it's good, bad or indifferent. I don't recognize my own story any more. It's like a child that has run off to college and become someone completely different. Most writers don't feel that way until after their book is published. Or perhaps I'm the one who has changed.

But, anyway, for what it's worth... here it is. Please let me know if it's too boring.

Moonlight cast blue shadows on the snow, turning the great drifts that stretched across the parkland into waves in a silent sea. Crikhaven Castle rose like a battered island from the whiteness. A decade of impoverished neglect had left its mark on the ancient walls. The brightly painted stucco depicting the Chalmeth family history was faded and flaking off. The carved ravens and gryphons adorning the rooftops had been worn smooth by the elements and not replaced. Now they were buried beneath a white mantle so thick that only an occasional head or wing protruded.

However, the windows were bright with candlelight and smoke billowed from the chimneys. Friendly voices called out in greeting as carriages and lone riders arrived one after another. It was Midwinter’s Eve, the one night of the year when it was not only permitted but expected to eat much, drink more, and dance with every hawin in the room: pretty or ugly, young or old. Tonight was a night for celebration. A night to prove you were alive.

Captain Faldur Relaszen observed the occasion by sitting in a fir tree overlooking Crikhaven’s courtyard. His light gray Ranger’s cloak was drawn tightly against the cold. He felt like an oversized owl, sitting perfectly still behind the sheltering boughs. From his perch he watched each guest arrive, taking careful note of their faces, families, attendants, and liveries. He wished he could be among them. Not to join the feast, but to hear the furtive conversation of the...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sunday Snapshot!

(This wasn't supposed to show up until tomorrow, but for some reason it did anyway.)

I just had a really cool idea.  Let's take a snapshot of all of our work... right now... What's the last thing you wrote?  Even if you haven't written for a while just open the last file you worked on. 

Then put the last paragraph you wrote into the comment section.  If it's very short, or back-and-forth dialogue, you can include up to ten lines.  But only ten lines.  Just a quick little glimpse into your writing world.

I can't wait to see what everyone is working on!  I love reading other people's styles and voices. Don't be shy.. it doesn't have to be perfect.  Heck, it doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!

Here's mine: (as of Saturday morning, when I made this post)
He fumbled with the flask and took a drag himself. “You will be sore for a while, but you can walk. We have to get out of here.”  He helped her to her feet and she swayed a little. Her newly-healed leg felt strange and raw.

“Take me home.”

“You can’t go home.”

Beer for my Horses

Yes, I have been listening to country music lately.  Out of sheer desperation and boredom, I am streaming live country music station feed into my computer.  I used to listen to country all the time when I was younger, but it isn't very popular here on the east coast so I hid my preference for it.

But, today I have a cold and am feeling goofy!  So I will now sing Toby Keith and Willie Nelson's song "Beer for my Horses" which I can't get out of my head.

No, not really.  But you can watch it on YouTube.

"Justice is the one thing you should always find
You gotta saddle up your boys
You gotta draw a hard line
When the gunsmoke settles, we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon

We'll raise our glasses against evil forces
Singin' 'Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses.'"

Kind of appropriate for the part of my book that I'm working on right now.  I'm at 63,400 words and hoping to break 70K today.

OMG - someone actually made a LOTR video for it!  I'm dying laughing!

Friday, October 8, 2010

"I want to do something splendid…
Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…
I think I shall write books."
Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Writers are Like Toddlers

Writers are like toddlers.  We keep turning simple, everyday events into huge scenes.
- Christine Hardy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

To Be Understood

My brain is finally waking up.  My coffee and an hour of Internet surfing are kicking the neurons into activity.

Simon C. Larter (whom I love to tease) posted the following on Facebook:

I will consider it an honor if someday the words I write make someone feel less alone in the world. Everyone should have the chance to feel understood.  

Which made me think for a minute.  And my thought was that, honestly, I don't write to make other people feel less alone.  I write to make myself feel less alone. Telling you guys that my dogs woke me up at 5 a.m. as I sit in this dark and silent house makes me feel less alone.  Taking the crucial moment in my protagonists' relationship and posting it on the Internet and reading "Oh, how sweet. I loved it!" makes me feel less alone.

I write so I can be understood.  I want my readers to understand all those things that burn inside of me, which can only be explained through story because no one would ever actually sit down and listen to me explain them over coffee.  Heck, I wouldn't even listen to them over coffee because without story, they're boring!  Meaning themes and such. Who likes discussing themes?  Yuck. But when the hero's world is falling apart and he has to choose between what he wants to do and what he is supposed to do, suddenly theme is fascinating.

Perhaps I'm selfish.  I want to be understood.

And let's face facts: Nobody understands writers.  Except other writers.  Which is why we are all here on the Internet, pouring our hearts out and complaining about dogs and writer's block and such.

Simon, I admire your generosity of spirit and believe you will succeed.  How about a group hug?

Nah. Pass the vodka.


So it's Saturday, and the dogs woke me up at 5 a.m.  Who needs an alarm clock when you have two "whimper alarms?"  That high pitched sound just pierces through the fog of sleep.  This is followed by the impatient jangling of metal tags and the "whip-whap" of ears flapping as they shake their heads to be certain that I know they are hungry.

I guess I'll write then.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Real Writers

It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write.  
~Sinclair Lewis

Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting It Right

"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right."
~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

The toughest part of writing has to be making human feelings come across on bare paper (or a bare screen) without sounding trite or forced. And yet, if we know our characters well enough, they speak for themselves.

 The trick, my friends, is knowing them well enough.


When her tears had subsided, he murmured, “A’er marenken, Marenya. M’ashkenai el folmendur.” I hold you in my heart, Marenya. My heart burns forever.

“M’ashkenai el folmendur,” she replied.

A line from an ancient poem, quoted by lovers through the ages. He kissed her again, not carelessly as he had done before, but fearfully, longingly, asking for her reply and receiving it back, drawing strength from her and giving her strength in return. He had been living under the sun for forty years, and had only just been born.

As I struggle to find my voice again, these are the passages that make the characters come alive.  These are where the characters speak. 

This is where I begin.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do you look like your Main Character?

I'm just curious.

At the moment, I resemble Marenya more than I did before.  Unintentionally.

Those of you who color your own hair are familiar with that wildly unpredictable game of "hair color roulette" that we all play.  Will the color I end up with actually resemble the color on the box? Or will it turn out completely different?  Even your hairdresser doesn't know for sure.

My hair was a bleached blonde over the summer.  "Neon" would be a more appropriate term. Remember Pony Boy from "The Outsiders?"  I have a lot of natural red tones, so even the lightest color kits - those that are supposed to make you look like an albino - still come out golden yellow.  But it was summer, I was at the beach, what the hey!

My personnel photo for my new job, however, looked really tacky.  So I decided to try to go back to my natural color. In order to do this, I used a medium ash blonde over the yellow. "Ash" refers to the greyish blondes and is supposed to be good for reducing red and gold tones. 

Well, it came out "ash" all right.  Literally grey. I looked like I'd just gained twenty years.

In desperation, I went and got a golden blonde to put over the grey, thinking that the two tones would then balance out. Well, they didn't quite balance. Instead, the ash reacted with the gold and gave me... brown! 

Yes, brown. Which has since faded to a light auburn.

Like oak leaves in autumn.

Like... Marenya.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm Not Really a Writer

At least, I haven't been one for a long time.


I haven't written anything.  I've thought about writing, talked about writing, read about writing and blogged about writing.  I've read a lot of other people's writing and given feedback.  I've done a ton of editing of my work in progress, though not for several weeks.

It's been a very long time since I've actually written something new and fresh.

Does that make me a candidate for Nanowrimo?  I don't know. It's kind of tempting.

However, I think my husband would be very upset if I started something new, and he became a writing widower again. Especially before I finish the novel I'm working on.

No, I need to finish before I start something new. But I need to keep my WIP fresh as well.  It's time to get back to being a writer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Official!

I completed my Advanced Fiction Writing Course and have a fancy certificate with my name on it. Okay, it's really just a .pdf document, but it certifies me as having completed 24 hours of training.  So am I officially a writer now?  I'm gonna say "yes."

By the way, prizes in the 100 Followers Contest were mailed Saturday.  Please let me know when they arrive, okay?

I found this photo in my files from this summer.  A friend and I were visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art one Saturday.  She was taking an online course in art appreciation, and asked me to go to the museum with her for a big project she had to do - a sort of detailed scavenger hunt for various paintings.  Since I have spent quite a bit of time there, I acted as tour guide for the day. 

We had a lovely time, and on the way back I took this photo of City Hall viewed between a pair of skyscrapers.  The way the past seemed squeezed between the two tall buildings and yet scattered brilliant reflections from its impersonal windows seems to me like a metaphor for modern American life.

We talked about metaphors in my writing class, too, and how they can be used not just to enhance the imagery in one's writing but to convey themes and symbolism.  What powerful metaphors, similes or other images can you recall reading or seeing?  Have you used any in your own work?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where's Miss Manners when you need her?

Dear Readers, I have a social dilemma.  Perhaps you can give me some advice.

My birthday is approaching soon.  I typically give a tea luncheon for my friends, not mentioning that it is my birthday.  The ones who know me well bring small gifts anyway. I made quiche, cucumber sandwiches, scones, etc. and we have a lovely visit.

This year is a milestone for me and I want to celebrate it. (For one thing, if I don't, I'm going to be mighty depressed on that day!) I want to have the tea at my favorite local tea shop.  But I feel awkward sending the invitations to celebrate my own birthday.  It's not really appropriate for DH to send them, because
a) He's not a tea-and-crumpets kind of guy
b) He won't be attending the event
c) Everyone will know the moment they see the invitations that I wrote them.

A friend offered to help DH a while ago, but she is going through a very difficult divorce, and I just don't feel I can add to her burdens by asking her to do this right now.  But then, she might be offended if I don't ask her.  But if she can't do it, she'll still say "yes" because she's that kind of person, and I don't want to ask.

What should I do? 

* Put DH's return address labels on the invites and pretend I don't know everyone will see through the charade?
* Ask the friend who's getting divorced to send the invites for me, even though I'll feel horribly guilty about it? 
* Just send them in my name and hope everyone doesn't think I'm conceited? 
* Ignore the birthday and just send invitations to tea? 
* Ignore the birthday, and do all the work at home again this year?


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thank Goodness It's Saturday (and some background on "Gryphon")

Dear friends,

Oooh, am I glad it's Saturday!  I'm home alone today.  All Day. Woo-hoo! 

Not to say that I don't have a ton of housework and laundry to do, but I'm planning to fit in a little writing, too.  And a run.

I've started running.  If you can call it that.  Let's call it "Interval Jogging," since I'm walking and running at intervals, working up to a goal of actually running the whole time.  Hey, we've all got to start somewhere, right?

I'm also working through the blogfest entries. I am totally impressed with the quality of the writing in your posts.  You guys and gals are amazing!  I'm blown away.

Several people have asked about my WIP, so I thought that I'd explain a bit for those of you who don't know the whole story behind "The Golden Gryphon."

I wrote all the time as a child and in high school. When I got to college, my coursework started to get overwhelming. I took a Fiction Writing course as an elective and did horribly in it. I was so discouraged that I gave up writing completely.  Looking back, I think the instructor wasn't very good.

Now fast forward twelve years or so.  I'm a stay at home mother, desperate for mental activity and adult interaction.  A flier arrives from our local regional high school, advertising their adult education classes. I see one on writing and decide to take it.  The instructor, a lovely woman named Esther Hughes, was so encouraging that I decided to try writing again.

I started a romance novel, a scene from which I posted for the Beach Scene Blogfest. 
I submitted the proposal to a publisher for whom I had tailored it and it was rejected, so I laid it aside and stopped writing again.  (Since it was a Christian romance, tailored specifically for their criteria, I didn't think I could sell it to anyone else.)

But the creative muse had been re-awakened. I tried to ignore her, but couldn't. At the same time, I was so terrified of writing garbage and being rejected again, that I felt like hiding in a corner and never coming out.  But I knew I had to write something, just for the sake of writing.  So I started a story in which my best friend and I were the starring characters.  It was meant to be a Tolkein-like adventure in which we - two elf maidens - were the heroines.  Silly, I know! I had no plan. I just began writing whatever came into my head.

It didn't take long for me to decide that I didn't want to write fan fiction.  So I started over, creating a whole new world and even a language.  At first the characters were human, then I decided to make them only kind of human.  They are like hobbits in the sense that hobbits could be described loosely as a cross between men and dwarves.  (They would certainly object to this description themselves, but it fits.)  My people are a cross between men and elves.  I'm not sure if I humanized the elves or majifyed the humans, but the idea was to take those distant, elevated creatures of Middle-Earth and make them more approachable and understandable.

I soon realized that the hero was a two-dimensional sword-wielder (kind of like the prince in Snow White) and I needed to flesh him out. To my surprise, Faldur became more and more real to me,  and in the course of events became pivotal to the story.  So he and Marenya must share the narrative now.   They still argue sometimes, over at Come in Character, whom the book is really about.  CIC, by the way, has been instrumental for me in developing my characters. It really is a fabulous tool for those who have time to play around in character.

Only just when this happened, I started working again.  So for the past three and half years, I have been tortured by my "persistent novel."  I keep trying to put it away, and it keeps insisting on being written.  I have nearly 100,000 words of material (probably more like a million words if you include all the revisions).  But it's not complete, and keeps getting more complex all the time.

I've also been immersed in the Internet, meeting other writers and learning as much as I possibly can about the craft and the business.  I can't believe how supportive the writing community is, or the wealth of information out there.  I didn't start using the Internet until a few years ago. I had no access at my previous job, for confidentialty reasons, and no reason to use it or anyone to teach me at home.  I went to college when computers were too expensive for average people to afford, and my master's thesis was programmed in FORTRAN, if you can believe that.  Does anyone use FORTRAN any more?

So all this stuff is new for me.  I don't think I would have gotten this far without my blogging friends, especially the incredibly sweet and inspiring Michelle Gregory.  Never let anyone say that you don't make "real" friends on the Internet!

My original plan this year was to have it finished by the end of July.  That deadline is long gone, so I'm hoping for the end of December.  But with my new job and all, that may not be doable either.

I don't want to just write it and be done. I want it to be good. And even if I have time to write, I don't always have the focus or mental energy to put words together.  So... it's going slow.  But I'm greatly encouraged by all of your positive responses to the snippets I've posted here and there and I promise you: One Day, There will be a book!  Even if I have to publish it myself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Apologies

I am so sorry that I have only read a couple of blogfest entries so far.  This whole "working full time thing" has really put a damper on my blogging.  The weekend also turned out to be quite busy, in terms of food shopping, laundry, and just spending time with the family.

I promise to keep going through them when I can, and appreciate your patience. How do all you working moms do it?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Contest Winners!!!

I couldn't wait until Monday to post the winners of the 100 Followers Contest. My deepest appreciation to everyone who participated and who promoted it.  I literally couldn't have done it without you.

The winner of the book "Break Into Fiction" is Coreen (Velvet Over Steel.)
 Congratulations, Coreen!

The winner of the Gevalia mug is our moonlight writer, Roh.

Jennifer Daiker gets the Starbuck's mug in which to drink her tea.

and the memo pad goes to busy mom Elizabeth Mueller.

I will be contacting each of you through the email accounts associated with your Blogger account.  If you don't hear from me because you don't use that email any more, please email me via my Blogger account profile or leave a comment here as to where I can get in touch with you. I promise to delete your information soon as I read it.

Congratulations!  And don't forget: Write First, Blog Later.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Last Day to Enter

Hey, everyone... I just want to remind you that today is the last day to enter my 100 Followers Contest.  You have to post a comment in the contest post to be entered, so if you are a follower and didn't enter, please be sure to do that to have a chance to win one of the prizes.  Winners will be announced on Monday.

I have not had a chance to even glance at any Blogfest entries yet.  I've been totally overwhelmed with my first week on the job. I'm learning a whole new field from what I did previously, so my brain is on overload from all the training sessions I've been attending.  I'm looking forward to kicking back this weekend and browsing through your entries.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rainy Day Blogfest

"He sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." - Matt. 5:45 
At last, it's time for the Rainy Day Blogfest!  I can't wait to read everyone's entries. 

And don't forget that my 100 Followers Contest ends Friday, so please pass the word to gain additional entries for the prizes.  Since we've already passed 100 I've decided to give away both the Starbuck's and Gevalia mugs. Thank you, thank you, thank you, one and all, for your help in spreading the word!

My entry is after the Mr. Linky code.  If you just stumbled across this, it's not too late to join the fun!

Here is my entry. Marenya is currently staying inside a giant tree. Because, as you know, I've always wanted to live inside a tree.
 Marenya woke to grey twilight and the sound of rain.  The others were still sleeping.  She lay, warm and comfortable, watching drops fall from the leaves outside the window. Although only a few hours seemed to have passed, she felt as alert as if she had rested an entire night.  It occurred to her that perhaps she had done so, and slept right through to the next day.   It was impossible to tell.

Something she couldn’t name pressed on her mind, making her feel that she must go up to the top of the tree.  She tried to push the feeling aside, but the harder she tried, the stronger it grew.  At last she got up.  She wrapped the blanket around herself over the yellow robe. Then, creeping soundlessly on her bare feet, she tiptoed up the stairs and climbed onto the platform of branches above. The moist air hit her face and she raised her head to its coolness, eyes closed, drinking in the wonderful, rich smell of the forest. When she opened them, what she saw made her stop still.

There in front of her on a thick branch stood a gryphon. Its wings were folded and it was facing away from her, but even so, she could see the faint glow that shone from beneath its feathers, each of which looked as if it were made of purest gold. It was twice as tall as she, with sharp claws and pointed ears.  It turned its head toward her, and she saw the curve of its gleaming beak and the depthless pools of its eyes.  It was at the same time the most beautiful and the most fearsome thing she had ever beheld.

The gryphon turned on the branch so that she could see his full splendor. The raindrops caught the light that shone from him and glittered golden as they fell.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rainy Day Blogfest Tomorrow

Hello, everyone!  Don't forget that the Rainy Day Blogfest is tomorrow.  That seems appropriate, as the weather has turned cool and rainy this week.  It's not too late to sign up.

Also, Friday is the last day to enter my 100 Followers Contest.  Wow, I can't believe it... already we have 103 people.  That is amazing! It is thanks to all of you for joining and spreading the word.  I'm blown away.

Thank you!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Viewpoint, Voice and Setting

Point of view is a sticky subject for most writers.  It's hard enough to stay consistently in one point of view while writing that story which is dear to your heart, but even harder to keep the narrative voice appropriate to the POV character and still describe the setting enough to create a vivid experience for your readers.

It's particularly difficult in fantasy, because as the author I want to describe so many things for my reader... all that Really Cool Stuff I've invented.  But I can't spend time describing anything except what the point-of-view character would be likely to notice, given their state of mind at the time.  No matter how important I, the author, think it might be, if it's not out of the ordinary to the POV character they won't notice it.

For example, I may want to describe his boots or his clothing, but it would be out of character for me to have him go into a detailed description of his own appearance.  Unless he has a hole in his boot or needs to buy new clothes, he wouldn't think about them. And unless it advances the plot, any extra time I spent describing them would be both misleading and distracting.  The same goes for buildings, dishes, interior decorating, etc.

Tudor room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

If he does notice something, he can only describe in terms a manly sort of guy would use. He isn't going to say that the heroine's dress was made of "jade-colored satin."  He would say it was "green and shiny."  Not quite the effect I was going for.

The obvious way around this is to use an omniscient narrator. But omniscient is frowned upon in most writing circles as being old-fashioned and distant.

So what's a writer to do?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guess that Character Blogfest, Part 2

Okay, so here's what Raynor, our character from yesterday, actually looks like:
Faldur strained to see the taller man’s face but he could not, for it was turned away from him. All that he could see was that he was dressed in black and that his hair was pale gold and fell in loose waves down his back, nearly as long as a woman’s...

Then he turned, and Faldur could finally see his face. Faldur suddenly felt chilled again. The man before them, with the long hair and strange clothing, was the image of Melbrinor himself.*

It was Raynor.

He looked much older than Faldur remembered, more than the five years which had passed. There were lines in his forehead and around his mouth, and he carried himself with an erectness that implied rigid training and authority. Raynor turned his head back and forth, surveying the area, and then stopped, staring in their direction. He smiled then - a small, wry smile as if something unexpected had occurred to him - and for the briefest second, Faldur felt the spell over himself and Mel flicker like a curtain in a wisp of breeze. He must have imagined it, however, for Raynor’s gaze passed over them and, turning, he retraced his steps back into the cave.

*Mel is tall, broad-shouldered, with a charming manner and wide smile.  Raynor is his younger brother.
You can see that I still didn't go into too much description.  I think somewhere else I mention that he has hazel eyes.  He's quite the tortured lad, but has good reason to be.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guess That Character Blogfest

Today is the Guess That Character Blogfest hosted by Jen at Unedited  Today I'm posting a passage featuring a character, and you are to guess what he looks like.  Tomorrow I'll post his actual physical description.  Ready?

Raynor shrugged and turned towards the back of the cave. Opening his hand, he made a motion as if throwing something up into the air. An apple-sized orb of yellow light leapt from his palm and floated above and a little ahead of him. Then, taking the reins of the horse, he motioned for her to follow him. The noise of the falls made speech useless.

She stayed where she was.

His countenance clouded, and in a rush of emotion that she didn’t understand, she felt a great struggle emanate from him. Perhaps it was because of the spell that had joined them until a little while ago, or perhaps his emotions were too intense for him to control, but she knew that he was both angry and desperate, and consumed by a darkness as vast and hopeless as the cold earth beneath them. She felt the hard edge of his anger, too, and the force of his will reaching out to make her come.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Update

Hello, everyone! I just want to remind you that the Character Blogfest is tomorrow over at Unedited.   I need to sit down and come up with a good entry. I'm debating whether to write something new, or use something from my WIP. I'm afraid I've been a bit lazy with my other blogfest entries by using old material, but this has been such a hectic summer!

My Rainy Day Blogfest is next Wednesday, the 25th.  Michelle Gregory has created a really cool button for it.  I think you can save the photo to your pc, then put it up on Blogger by choosing "add a gadget", then "add a picture" and add the link to the picture.  The link is ""

I have good news: I'm starting a full-time job on Monday.  This is great financially, but of course it will affect my ability to blog and write.  I'm hoping, however, that by having a regular daily schedule and not spending my weekends grading papers, I will actually be more productive than before.  I'm a bit overwhelmed with shopping for appropriate clothes and getting everything DS needs for school, and squeezing in all the doctor's and vet appointments for our family before the 23rd.

I also have house guests this week. We were at the beach yesterday.  It was a perfect day; the boys had so much fun jumping in the surf.  However, it got progressively rougher and I had to make them come out of the water because I just couldn't keep track of both of their bobbing heads, and neither is a very good swimmer.  More than once I had to grab one in each hand, and even tuck one under each arm. Why is it that two children in the ocean always drift in opposite directions? 

So, that's why I haven't posted or commented much this week.  I did go through some of the entries in the Weather Blogfest, and they were all very unique and colorful. That's what I love about blogfests: seeing so many unique takes on one  subject.

I have 90 followers already!  I'm so psyched!  The 100 Followers Contest ends next Friday, so please pass the word about the prizes.

That's all for today. It's a nice, soft, rainy day today.  Perfect inspiration for next week's fest!

Have a great one, everybody!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weather Blogfest

Hey, Everyone!  It's time for the Weather Blogfest, hosted by Nick at A Little Slice of Nothing.

And don't forget my Rainy Day Blogfest is happening this Wednesday! Wednesday, Aug. 25th.

I happen to like weather in fiction.  I don't think enough of us indoor-dwellers pay attention to what is happening outside our climate controlled environments. In my novel the characters are outside most of the time (except when they're underground) and so rain, snow, wind, etc. are a constant influence on their ability to Get Things Done.

This is a scene after a skirmish in the mountains. Faldur is trying to get an injured Marenya to safety.  She's unconscious on a makeshift stretcher.


“How far do you reckon we have to go?” asked Brilward, looking at the sky. It was early afternoon but the light was fading fast; a storm was coming.

“To the bottom." Faldur tone was harsher than he intended.

They started off, marching the prisoners ahead of them and carrying Marenya in turns. The wind turned bitter. Large flakes of snow began to swirl down and land on their clothes and hair. Faldur feared they would lose sight of the path if it began to accumulate. One of the prisoners admitted to knowing the way, and agreed to guide them.

By the time they reached the tree line, the snow was falling fast and thick, covering the ground in a slippery blanket. Faldur was worried about Marenya. Her lips were turning blue and he could barely detect her breathing. The trees were huge pines, weighted down with snow so that their lower branches created a kind of tent under which the company could find shelter from the cold. Faldur sent two soldiers ahead to find Lord Tarnbel. In his heart, he secretly wished for Rangers, but the soldiers were reliable fellows and would have to do. He only hoped they didn’t lose their way.

He chose a group of trees that were roughly in a circle together and divided up the hamen, directing them to take cover under them. They cast hiding spells over their locations, and set pairs of sentries up to watch. The snow which hindered them would also hide their tracks, and the cold air and pine sap would help mask their scent. They would be safe enough for the night.

Faldur laid Marenya on the thick bed of needles beneath one of the trees. He broke away the dead lower branches to make more room for the both of them. He didn’t dare start a fire for fear of setting the tree alight, but wrapped her in his cloak and lay down next to her. He arranged his body over hers so as to give her as much warmth as possible, wrapping her torso in his arms and pressing his face to her cheek. Without invitation, the lioness pushed through the branches and lay on Marenya’s other side. She placed her face very close to the hawin’s, seeming to want to warm her breath for her, and stayed that way, nose to nose, for a long time.  Finally, she lowered her head and slept.

Faldur, however, could not sleep.  He lay awake in the gathering darkness, listening to the moaning of the wind and the occasional rustle of snow falling through the branches. After a while he felt that his body had fallen dormant, but his mind was as clear and sharp as the night air.  The snow gradually stopped and the wind fell.  It became absolutely quiet, and absolutely dark.

Marenya was as still as death.  He closed his eyes and sought her. She was still there, but faintly.  A coldness seeped through him that was not from the ground.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Weeping over Wimsey

Good grief! Why do I always tear up when reading a Harriet Vane / Lord Peter Wimsey novel?  You wouldn't think that a book with a cover like this one would be particularly sentimental, would you?  Especially since it is far from sentimentally written. But this series, written in the 1930's, gets me every time.

The scene which moistened my eyes this morning takes place at Peter's club in London.  He has invited Harriet to dine with him there.  He frequently invites Harriet to dine with him, and she accepts despite the fact that she really would rather be rid of him.  He saved her from a false murder charge for killing her ex-lover and she feels indebted.  However, his frequent marriage proposals are becoming too tiresome, and she is determined to break it off, for both of their sakes.

They are in the midst of a discussion about the different roles in life of people who are extremely intelligent from those who feel things deeply, as well as the complications that come from a person being both, when Peter says,

"Has your napkin gone again?" (It's been slipping off the lap of her silk dress throughout their conversation.)

"No--it's my bag this time.  It's just under your left foot."

"Oh!" He looked around, but the waiter had vanished.

"Well," he went on, without moving, "it's in the heart's office to wait upon the brain, but in the view of--"

"Please don't trouble," said Harriet, "it doesn't matter in the least."

"In view of the fact that I have two cracked ribs, I'd better not try; because if once I got down I should probably never get up again."

"Good gracious!" said Harriet.  "I thought you seemed a little stiff in your manner.  Why on earth didn't you say so before, instead of sitting there like a martyr and inveigling me into misjudging you?"

"I don't seem to be able to do anything right," he said plaintively.

"How did you manage to do it?"

"Fell off a wall in the most inartistic manner.  I was in a bit of a hurry; there was a very plain-looking bloke on the other side with a gun. (Peter has just solved another murder case.)  It wasn't so much the wall, as the wheelbarrow at the bottom.  And it really isn't so much the ribs as the sticking-plaster.  It's strapped tight as hell and itches infernally."

"How beastly for you. I'm so sorry. What became of the bloke with the gun?"

"Ah! I'm afraid personal complications won't trouble him any longer."

"If the luck had been the other way, I suppose they wouldn't have troubled you any longer."

"Probably not. And then I shouldn't have troubled you any longer.  If my mind had been where my heart was, I would have welcomed that settlement. But my mind being momentarily on the job, I ran away with the greatest rapidity so as to finish the case."

"Well, I'm glad of that, Peter."

"Are you? That shows how hard it is for even the most powerful brain to be completely heartless.  Let me see. It is not my day for asking you to marry me, and a few yards of sticking-plaster are hardly enough to make it a special occasion. But we'll have coffee in the lounge, if you don't mind, because this chair is getting as hard as the wheelbarrow and is catching me in several of the same places."

(She helps him to the lounge, and the waiter brings her dropped purse along with some letters which had fallen out of it.  She had picked up the mail on her way out and not looked at it yet.  One of the items is a postcard with a nasty message on it.  Peter sees her face when she reads it, and insists on being shown it.)

She handed it to him without looking up. "Ask your boyfriend with the title if he likes arsenic in his soup.  What did you give him to get you off?"

"God, what muck!" said he, bitterly.  "So that's what I'm letting you in for.  I might have known it.  I could hardly hope that it wasn't so. But you said nothing, so I allowed myself to be selfish."

"It doesn't matter. It's just part of the consequences. You can't do anything about it."

"I might have had the consideration not to expose you to it. Heaven knows you've tried hard enough to get rid of me.  In fact, I think you've used every possible lever to dislodge me, except that one."

"Well, I knew you would hate it so. I didn't want to hurt you."

"Didn't want to hurt me?"

She realized that this, to him, must sound completely lunatic.

"I mean that, Peter, I know I've said about every damnable thing to you that I could think of. But I have my limits."  A sudden wave of anger surged up in her.  "My God, do you really think that of me? Do you suppose there's no meanness I wouldn't stoop to?"

"You'd have been perfectly justified in telling me that I was making things more difficult by hanging around."

"Should I? Did you expect me to tell you that you were compromising my reputation, when I had none to compromise?  To point out that you'd saved me from the gallows, thank you very much, but left me in the pillory?  To say, my name's mud but kindly treat it as lilies?  I'm not quite such a hypocrite as that."

"I see. The plain fact is I am doing nothing but make life a little bitterer for you.  It was generous of you not to say so."

(He proceeds to burn the postcard and declares his intention to "admit defeat and say good-bye." He also observes that since he was vanquished by Fate in the form of a postcard, he can walk away with his vanity intact.)

"Peter, I'm afraid I'm not very consistent. I came here tonight with the firm intention of telling you to chuck it.  But I'd rather fight my own battles. I-- I--" She looked up and went on rather quaveringly -- "I'm damned if I'll have you wiped out by plug-uglies or anonymous letter writers!"

He sat up sharply, so that his exclamation of pleasure turned half-way into an anguished grunt.   "Oh, curse this sticking plaster! . . . Harriet, you have got guts, haven't you?  Give me your hand and we'll fight on until we drop. Here! None of that.  You can't cry in this club. It's never been done, and if you disgrace me like this, I shall get into a row with the Committee. They'll probably close the Ladies' Rooms altogether.

"I'm sorry, Peter."

"And don't put sugar in my coffee!"

Later in the evening, having lent a strong arm to extricate him, swearing loudly, from the difficult depths of the couch, and dispatched him to such rest as he might reasonably look for between the pains of love and sticking-plaster, she had leisure to reflect that if fate had vanquished either of them, it was not Lord Peter Wimsey.


This is where I wish several things. I wish that Lord Peter was a real person and that I had been born in 1903 in order to be the appropriate age to know him.  I wish that I had gone to Oxford like Dorothy Sayers and could create such brilliant, intellectual dialogue.  I wish that I had the boldness to write so truly about the human condition, and the cleverness to disguise it in wit and self-deprecation.  And, I wish that I were allowed to use big words in popular fiction.  The truth is, I don't really know what "inveigling" means but I can infer it from the context, and I actually enjoy the challenge of having to look something up.  But I fear an editor would make me take it out if I had used it.

I also wish that conventional wisdom wasn't so against the use of adjectives, several of which are used in this passage. Quite effectively so, in my opinion.

Time to turn on your Internal Editor: 
* What do you see in this scene that is particularly well-done?
* What things betray it as being written eighty years ago?
* Do you think it would be published today? (The book actually opens with a long, reflective scene in which Harriet is debating whether or not to attend her college reunion, aka "Gaudy Night.")

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Image is everything.. .Or is it?

Jen at  Unedited has a very interesting Blogfest coming up next Thursday and Friday. It's called the "Guess that Character Blogfest."  I confess I skipped over this one without reading it carefully. I'm glad Jen reminded me of it so that I could take a closer look.  I thought it just involved posting a physical description of a famous celebrity or fictional character and having people guess who is being described.  But it's more complicated than that:  You  are to post a character description (not a physical description) on the 19th and have people guess what that character looks like, then on the 20th, post the actual physical description you have in mind.

Why is this important?  Because it is a practical exercise demonstrating the disconnect between authors' and readers' notions of how characters look.  But that disconnect is not necessarily a bad thing.  Personally,  I don't like to get hung up on what color a character's eyes and hair are, how tall they are, the shape of their mouth, shoulders, legs, etc.  I would rather focus on who they are and what motivates them.  In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll never gives any physical description of Alice. We all think of her as resembling the Disney version, but in fact, Carroll could have imagined her being entirely different.  Or perhaps he didn't imagine her appearance in detail at all.  I tend to think that the latter case is the more likely.

Modern readers are trained by popular fiction, movies and television shows to think of characters in terms of detailed physcial descriptions. Many times, however, these descriptions can detract from a story. I know that I find it incredibly annoying to find out in Chapter Four that the hero has brown hair and eyes, when I had intuitively assumed that he looked more like my Cousin Joe, who has blond hair and blue eyes, because he acts like Cousin Joe. 

The key to characterization is words and actions.

I admit that there are times when physical descriptions are important to make characters more colorful.  The gimpy sea captain or fluffy-haired old lady create clear, immediate mental images.  But even those, I would argue, are stereotypes and often over-used. In general, I think that the very minimum of physical description should be given, just enough to give the reader something to start with in their own imaginings.

Do you agree or disagree?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Announcing the Rainy Day Blogfest

I love rain.  I love the way it sounds, the way it smells, the way it makes the air feel, the way it tastes on my tongue.  Do you love rain, too?  Or do rainy days get you down?  Does rain interfere with your outdoor plans?  Or make commuting horrible?  Or inspire you to write poetic verses about the heavens weeping o'er the fields?

What about your characters?  How does rain affect them? 

You will have a chance to share in my Rainy Day Blogfest on August 25th.  The burning intensity of August has me longing for a little wet weather, even if it is only fictional.

Please help me share the word on your own blog.  Thank you!

P.S. Let's also keep our contributions to a 500 word limit.  After all, as Shakespeare said: "Brevity is the soul of wit."  So gather your wits (and raindrops) and join us here on the 25th.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Change Blogfest

Smack me with a noodle!  I forgot to put up a post for Elizabeth Mueller's Change Blogfest

Sheesh, where is my head these days?  Actually, I know where it is.  My brains are tangled up like a bowl of the aforementioned noodles between returning from our vacation, looking for a new job, preparing for the upcoming semester, dealing with various family crises, working on my writing course and trying to entertain a grumpy, bored little boy.

So, with my apologies, here is a scene from my novel in which a character changes physical appearance.  It was quite fun to write.
Brambleburr bowed deeply and gestured for them to enter.  They stared at the door, which, though the right size for them, was much too small for the bear to enter.

“Ho-hum! I nearly forgot.”  He shook himself all over, like a dog shedding water, and grew a little smaller. Then he shook himself again, and grew smaller still. One more time, and he was almost small enough to fit through the door. Then he reached up to his throat, opened the bear skin like a jacket, pushed the head back like a hood, and stepped out of it. There before them stood a little old man with a lined, brown face, tawny brown hair and a beard. His eyes were hazel-colored and bright, his back straight, his hands gnarled but strong. He was dressed in a soft brown suit, with a green embroidered waistcoat, and shiny black boots. Eyes twinkling, he picked up the bear skin and rolled it up. It became the size of a handkerchief, and he put it into his pocket.

“Now,” he said, flinging the door open, “let us all go inside.”

Setting, Plot, Character or Theme?

The creative process seems to be quite varied.  I find it fascinating how differently writers think about their projects in the initial stages.

* Some writers start with a theme in mind and craft a story to convey a particular message, such as protecting the environment or warding off Communism.

*Others start out with a great idea for a plot suggested by something they've seen or heard, like a news item about a man lost in the Alaskan wilderness who miraculously survives, or a funny story about a friend's disastrous vacation.

"The Other Bolelyn Girl" was inspired by a ship named "The Mary Bolelyn."  Author Philippa Gregory came across it in some reseach she was doing on naval vessels during the Tudor period.  Curious, Gregory dug deeper and discovered that Mary was the sister of Ann Bolelyn, who had an affair with Henry VII and reportedly bore him two children. She couldn't believe Mary's story had never been told.  Mary Bolelyn was so utterly unknown that it never occurred to the author that she was related to Ann Bolelyn until she did the research.  How's that for a precious nugget?

* Still other authors spy an interesting person who suggests a colorful character, and the story builds from there.  Hercule Poirot, for example, was based on a gentleman whom Agatha Christie observed eating in a restaurant.  His particular appearance and manners inspired numerous books about the famous Belgian detective who solves crimes using his "little gray cells."

* Other authors start with setting.  C.S.Lewis started "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" based on a mental image of a streetlamp in the middle of a snowy woods.  I must confess I'm a setting gal. I start with the atmosphere and mood suggested by a particular place, then add people and events to the story.

So, what inspires you first: Setting, Plot, Character or Theme?
Take the poll on the sidebar and share your thoughts with us.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finally... A Contest!

Okay, everyone, I have been bitten by the contest bug. I am finally ready to have my very own 100 Followers Contest.

First of all, I want to say "Thanks!" to everyone who is already following me. I swear, I never imagined I'd have sixty-three whole human beings interested in what I have to say. I'm truly overwhelmed.

So, time for some prizes. This is the totally easy part.  You know how it works: Become a follower (if you aren't one already) and post in the comment section to be added to the running for some awesome prizes.  You get extra entries for tweeting, facebooking or posting about the contest on your website. Let me know how many of these things you are doing in the comments.  I want everyone to get credit for sharing the bloggy love.

The prizes are (drum roll please):

First Prize:  A copy of "Break Into Fiction: 11 Steps to Building a Story that Sells" which includes write-in sections to power-plot your own novel.  A great tool for discovering your story and characters and putting them into agent-ready format.
Second Prize: For the ladies, a lovely Godiva coffee mug with two packets of Godiva Milk Chocolate cocoa mix. This type of tapering mug is my favorite to hold and drink from, perhaps because it tends to tilt the beverage to one's mouth with less effort than a straight-edge mug.
Alternative Second Prize:  The more masculine Philadelphia Starbucks Coffee mug. This is one big mug... for those late nights and early mornings that can only be survived by copious caffeine consumption.  Don't worry, I'll throw in some of that hot cocoa mix, too.

Third Prize: A magnetic memo pad.  Because we writers are forgetful people.  This would be a handy place to jot down all those things you need to do after you are done writing.  Like, "take a shower" and "call Mom" and "order dinner."

Or, it might be a place to jot down those fantastic ideas you have for your story while attending to your non-writing life.  Or even (Dare I say it?) "Things to Blog About."

(An appropriate masculine substitute will be provided should the third place winner be male. Be assured that, living in a predominantly male household, I am sensitive to the whole "floral antipathy factor.")

You have until Friday, August 27th to sign up.  Winners will be announced on Monday, August 30th.
So that's it, people!  And don't forget:  Write First, Blog Later.

P.S. In order to qualify, you must become a follower on the Google Friend Connect thingy on the sidebar.  Thanks!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Milestone Blogfest

My apologies! I forgot to put up my entry for the Milestone Blogfest, which officially took place on Saturday.
Donna Hole is hosting a Milestone Blogfest today. You can pick anything you like that represents a milestone for your characters. I chose Faldur and Marenya's first kiss.

I'm not really into kissing scenes, so this was tough for me to write. They are at an all-night feast. It is tradition to stay up until the sunrise, but she is too tired from dancing and has fallen asleep against his shoulder.

(PS I'm still working on this, so consider your internal editor duly warned.)

Faldur listened to Marenya’s breathing as she fell asleep. When her head began to droop, he eased it onto his lap. She looked more like a child in her sleep, more as he remembered her always being. In the quiet coolness, the memory of his close call with the nightstalker came pressing back on him. It was always that way. No matter how hard he tried to forget, the moments played themselves over and over in his mind, robbing him of both peace and sleep. He closed his eyes and behind the lids saw the lion gathered to pounce, felt its blood on his face, the crushing pressure. He couldn’t breathe. He was helpless, pinned.

He opened his eyes again and shook his head like a dog shaking off water. He must not fall asleep, for then he might dream and cry out. He didn’t want to explain, didn’t want Marenya to know all that took place outside these walls.

At last he saw through the doorway that the first pink light had begun to seep across the sky. The other guests stretched and stirred, moving outside. He waited as long as he dared, then shook Marenya’s shoulder.

“Is it morning?” She sat up abruptly and blinked.

“Yes. Everyone’s gone outside.”

They walked out into the cold stillness of the garden, and up the steps to the wall. She shivered, and he wrapped his arms around her, for he had forgotten to fetch their cloaks. Below them everything was sparkling with snow and a pinkish golden light, clean and new and perfect like the first morning ever dawned.
The first edge of the sun’s bright disk appeared above the trees. Mel began to sing the song of the morning, his voice clear and strong.

Now the morning sun has woken
Its warm rays the earth caress

Other voices joined his.

Night is gone, the day is broken
Gone all shadows and distress

Something stirred in Faldur that he hadn’t felt in ages. It had been so long since he had known anything but the company of other Rangers, the cramped, smoky barracks, bad weather, worse food, watchfulness and danger, that he had nearly forgotten what it was like to be an ordinary hanor. This night had lifted the lid of a box long-closed and he was helpless to shut it again.

Mountain, river, field and forest
Their true colors glowing bright

Marenya was in his arms – soft, warm and still a little drowsy. They were standing behind everyone else. No one was looking at them. He bent his head down to hers and she looked up in surprise. He kissed her, their breath mingling in the frosty air. At first she froze, startled, but then responded with a sweetness that made the earth tilt strangely beneath him.

Light of Heaven, shine before us
Showing hope, and truth, and right

When they drew apart at last, she gazed into his eyes with the same devotion he had seen in Pelwyn’s face when she looked at Mel.

All at once, Faldur realized what he had done, and cursed himself.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writing Who You Know

I'm having a fantastic time with my online writing course.  This is truly the best hundred bucks I could have spent on my writing.  So far we have covered story structure, plot templates (which is a lot more inocuous than it sounds), and character development.  The assignments are short and sweet and I have been using my
WIP for all of them.  If anyone wants information on it, I will be glad to give it to you.

However, one of the things that has prompted electric shivers in my spine (or is that just a pinched nerve from sitting at the computer too long?) is the idea of "Writing who you know."

Although I understand the benefit of finding authenticity by drawing on what you observe in real life, I also have to say that none of the characters in my WIP are anything like anyone I know. They are purely fictional, and yet are so real to me that I almost expect to meet them one day. I was writing a contemporary story several years ago, set in a place we often visit, and I had the oddest feeling when I went there one day that I would see her restaurant on the street corner where I had placed it. I was actually a little upset, if you can believe it, that it wasn't there.

Because in my mind, it's there!

I really don't know where my characters come from. It's a mysterious thing, almost eerie. But they are there, in my head, nonetheless.