Thursday, December 27, 2007

Snacks

Fell off the exercise/food/writing wagon again. Dratted holidays. I have enjoyed time with friends and family though and that's far more important than being slim, beautiful and famous.

It's not like I haven't done anything. I spun around the living room a couple of times but no bopping. I wrote all over the shower wall but haven't actually inputted anything since Christmas Eve. That feels like a lifetime ago. I think the shower stuff might lead me down an avenue I had overlooked. It might be very interesting.

And I think I discovered Nea's favourite snack food - dates. She's already gone on a rant about nymphs actually being cannibals. That's not accurate but it was kind of funny. If they're supposed to guard and protect flora and fauna, isn't vegetarianism a very bad thing? Maybe it was funny only to me. At this point in time the scene doesn't actually serve a purpose. Until it does, it's only in the notebook, not actually input into the document.

What do you do with those scenes?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Caroling

Hello all you weary carolers. The CBs have been going from blog to blog singing traditional, non-traditional and sometimes even funny Christmas carols in an attempt to inject some fun and frivolity into the festive season.

The sideboard is loaded with beverages from cocoa to hot toddies, with eggnog and punch thrown in for good measure. All of the cookies and treats that came in the mail are laid out for you weary carolers to sample. I've even included some of my Toblerone fudge.

Gather 'round the fire. Have a toast. And know that no matter where you are in the world, who you're with or how well we know each other, you are welcome at my table.

Peace on earth, goodwill toward' man, and like I sang this morning on a hilltop with my dog,"let the sun shine in."

Regardless of what you celebrate this holiday season, my wish for you is joy throughout all that you do.

CMS/Keziah/Sheryl

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Big Picture

That's a phrase that's been running through my head for weeks as I deal with work issues as well as writing challenges. There are times, more often than not, when we react to a situation without any idea of how we fit into The Big Picture. I'm well aware that, at work, I'm an expendable cog in a tiny wheel that operates a side component of the entire machine. Once I accepted that, I was able to find peace in the changes and be happier with the job that I do. I was also able to look at it from the other side when management divulged information about someone else's job. The bottom line for me was to understand how all the pieces fit in the puzzle.

Friends of mine own a lovely piece of property with seven acres that backs onto a creek. Their home is at the front half, lots of elm and black walnut trees populate the back. While they are smack dab in the middle of orchards and grape fields, their property is prettier than it is functional.

Last week, the husband was clearing out the underbrush down by the creek when he found a hunting platform in the top of their tallest, straightest tree. He was furious. Not only had someone trespassed on his property, they hunted wildlife that resided safely there. They shot a rifle with the intent to kill. And kill they had. By spiking his tree to build the platform, they had ruined it.

What I didn't know, which means the hunters most definitely didn't, was that my friends were planning to sell that tree as a veneer tree. Money is tight for them right now. She's been ill the last few years and unable to contribute to the household income. Alternative therapies don't come cheap in any country. So that tree was not just the highest spot in the land from which to kill deer. It was a souce of income for my friends. An income they desperately need. One that they have nutured for several years.

Those hunters were ignorantly unaware of the big picture and how destructive their trespassing was. I'm not convinced they would have behaved differently had they known. Sometimes The Big Picture doesn't mean anything to people who don't see themselves as part of it.

I think that maybe that's the problem with demons. They don't care what The Big Picture is. They live to rearrange it. Structure and understanding are repugnant to them.

Fortunately that makes for an interesting story. Alex and Nea have no idea how their puzzle pieces fit together. They are only aware of their effect on each other. They are in for a big shock at the end of the book when they find out who exactly manipulated them both and why. So am I because at this moment I only have part of the answer.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow storm

I'd show you pictures but the wind was blowing so strong I didn't take any. My niece and I only tromped to the bridge and back because the visibility was so low. We really needed Ky to help us find our way a couple of times. I definitely got my exercise today.

I can also use that feeling of battling the elements in one of Alex's scenes. He's hating winter and dreaming about the hot climes of Belize. I can only imagine. My little trek today reminded me of how quickly things can turn. Again, something I can use with Alex.

It's all about the writing, baby.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good Advice

I fell off the Sven/exercise/good food/writing/healthy wagon last week. I think I just caught a bug. No, it was not a Curculio elephas or lesser chestnut weevil. I had a fever. Which makes me like the Energizer Bunny without any direction. I go full tilt ahead then forget what I was doing and crash to a halt. Leap forward a few paces then stop again. I even took time off work because I had the attention span of a gnat.

So I did nothing but play with the dog, clean the house and overstimulate the parrot(he's not used to me being home so much). We played loud music, danced around the house and crashed on the couch every couple of hours to stare blankly at the wall. Seriously. The wall is that lovely spiderweb colour. A few plants need to be pruned. Maybe I should hang some pictures.

I started a lot of conversations that didn't make sense. I didn't write. I didn't work on my library assignment and I most definitely did not go into the store to sell pet food. I was also very dizzy. That made me fall down a couple of times. The bruise on my knee is a lovely eggplant. Grilled eggplant is delicious. My mind wandered very easily.

So I whined to a friend about how productive I wasn't in any aspect of my life.

Her great advice - crash on the couch, drink plenty of fluids and baby the bug (still not a curculio)It was good advice.

I went back to work today. I wrote a scene last night and another one today. I finished my library assignment. And I came up with an indoor exercise program. All because I took Elen's advice and stopped fighting the fever. I was losing anyway.

Now, I'm playing with Nea's bug. A curculio elephas. But I'll spare you all the image of the long nosed chestnut weevil.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Excuses, excuses

Ky was sick for a few days which meant I was up all night every night. By the time I dragged my sorry butt home from work every night, I was too tired to actually think of anything scintillating to add to my wip. Not a single word of brilliance.

I walked to work on Saturday with the hope that it would trigger a great thought process. Most of what I thought was along the lines of,"Crap, it's cold out here," followed immediately by, "Why didn't I wear my black coat? It's longer, warmer. Ugly." For twenty minutes my entire focus was on getting to work without freezing to death. The sun was shining. I was tired. I mistook that for a sign of warmth. I won't do that again.

I had the day off work yesterday. Ky and I spent it with friends. Then I went Christmas shopping. That was definitely not conducive to thinking. Which is why I was scrambling last night to get my reading done for a library course I'm taking. I had a session with my tutor this morning and I didn't fake it very well. Fortunately the assignment isn't due until next week. So much for my day of writing. "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft agley."

Today I was speed walking indoors. I was warm, almost too warm. Ky's feeling better so he only woke me up three times last night. I read a sign that said, "No refunds," and it sparked something in me. I dug out the scene where Alex and Nea argue over the importance of capitalism and free enterprise as they pertain to natural resources. Boom! I had another page of dialogue. Who knows from where inspiration strikes.

I'll endeavour to do more tomorrow. 'Tis the most anyone can ask. Besides, my shopping is done.

Quote from Robbie Burns - a nod to Theresa in Edinburgh

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Opening Scene

You know the opening scene of a movie where the harried heroine runs around the house,hopping into her hose while grabbing toast off the plate and slurping her coffee? That was me yesterday - without the hose or coffee. :)

I hopped into the shower and ideas came pouring out. I wrote all over the back of the shower wall with a blue bathtub crayon. I had one eye on the clock and another on the wall and I just couldn't stop writing. I wrote as fast as I could with one hand, while the other hand scrubbed. Then I shut off the shower, grabbed a towel and kept writing. I was afraid to stop. The ideas might not have lasted long enough for me to find the recorder.

I yanked my notebook out of the bag, and continued writing with one hand while the other one dressed me. Not my best hair day; it was scooped up haphazardly into a clip. The good news is I was only five minutes late. The bad news is I was late for work (sorry, Chantelle, but I stayed late to make up for it)

At the end of the day I had four and a half pages to show for my early morning hop.



This morning, I took Ky out for a run in the brisk winter air. I listened to another Will Write for Wine podcast and laughed my butt off. The exercise/podcast combination usually puts my thought processes down an interesting path. Lani and Sam have some fascinating exchanges which never fail to spark something for my own wip. Then the endorphins kick in and I use the recorder.

I doubt I'll finish by this weekend. I'm at the point where each page contains notes for two or three scenes. It's all good stuff but in dire need of major expansion. Who wants to read,"Then Nea crawled in the shower with him and the sex was different than she was used to." Followed by, "Alex and Nea share a moment at the head of the falls." It all needs work, but just think how much stronger it will be when they are actual scenes.

Thanks to Kate for a serious conversation that sparked all that frantic writing on the shower wall.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday's check-in


Team CB has had a busy week, but we've all powered through and made our weekly goals. I have to admit I'd stuff cookies in my face and lounge on the couch instead of resisting both and heading outdoors for a walk if it wasn't for fear of disappointing Mary, Christina and Theresa. The way they've all stepped up for a run inspires me to do the same. I actually did laps indoors today despite the fact that it was my off-day for walking.

Sweating with Sven keeps me at the computer when I'd rather be scarfing back cookies and lounging on the couch. I really want to finish this draft of Hell to Pay by the end of the month. Which is this coming Friday. My work schedule isn't any lighter. In fact this week is particularly long with a couple of double shifts, twelve hour days.

But Elen and Sven have me down on the mat working my fingers to the bone typing. If I don't meet my goal this week, it will be because I ran out of time. I've learned how to write under almost any circumstances, in any environment, surrounded by noise and distractions.

I'm blessed with great friends who encourage and support me, who inspire and motivate me to be a better writer and a better person but who all like me as I am. How lucky am I?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Agent search

Yesterday was not so great. I didn't take the dog for a walk. I worked both jobs so I came home and fell on the couch. I can't believe how much my legs hurt after walking around the store for five hours. :whine:whine: At least I have legs that walk. I'm doing better than some people. And I'm truly grateful despite the need to grumble and grouse.

I transcribed my scene notes off the mp3 player. They held up to the scrutiny as I typed. Very solid stuff.

Received a rejection from the agent I met with at NJRW in October. It was a good rejection but one none-the-less. i was thinking about it later and realized that I have no idea what I'm looking for in a agent. A few years ago, I made a list of possibilities but it was a short list based entirely on who represented paranormal. That list is huge now.

I need to look at other considerations when choosing agents to whom I wish to submit. What criteria is on your list?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Great Day


I couldn't get my butt out of bed this morning. My legs were exhausted and weak so I wrote the day off for exercise. Then I spent some time on the phone with a friend in crisis and I needed some fresh air. I grabbed my new mp3 player, the dog, some tennis balls and off I went.

Once the dog was happy with a ball in his mouth, I switched on the voice recorder and talked faster than I walked. It was scintillating, brilliant and insightful. It was also all lost because I didn't hit the right button. That stopped me cold. Once I figured out what I'd done wrong, I hit my stride. Alex's illusions fell by the wayside as I walked quickly along the canal.

I felt fantastic. I was walking and writing and Ky was happy. The weather was cold, crisp but not precipitating. It was a great experience. Just as we turned to head back home, I saw a barge being pushed down the canal by a tugboat. The barge was named, I swear I'm not making this up, CMS 1261. Add those numbers up, people. Ten! The tugboat is the rest of Team CB. Thanks, ladies for inspiring me every day.

So what if I ate two shortbread cookies? I had an excellent morning. Now I have to go input what I wrote while I walked.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More research means less stars

I spent two hours last night and almost that much time again today watching videos of Extreme Kayaker and vertical descent world record holder, Tao Berman. I wasn't actually writing the scene where the kayak goes over the Falls, but Alex was defending his chosen profession. After watching a bunch of videos on YouTube as well as an excellent documentary, Fearless, about Tao, the right language really fleshed out the dialogue. It also, happily, increased my word count. More importantly it gave a layer of depth to Alex. He's not an irresponsible idiot. He's skilled, methodical in his planning and confident.

No walking today, too immersed in kayaking waterfalls. Paddling through class 5 rapids to plunge over the edge into the shallow rocky pool below. Not the most comfortable place to be in the world but definitely invigorating.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One for, one against


I walked to work. Listened to Will Write for Wine podcast on my shiny new mp3 player. Was too enchanted with Lani Diane Rich and Samantha Graves to think about my own book. I did however play with the voice recording before I left the house.

Lose the star for eating a Caramilk Dark bar. Right now, while I type. :sigh:

In the words of the incomparable Scarlett O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


After telling McB all the reasons I wasn't going for a walk today;the high winds, cold rain, not enough time before work to walk and write, would rather write, still had tomorrow to meet my weekly goal;I sucked it up. I'd been staring at my open document for an hour without adding more than two sentences to my wip.

Bundled in more layers than a jockey trying to make weight for the Kentucky Derby, I headed out with Ky. We walked further than the other day and in less time, despite the strong head wind. The tail wind more than made up for it.

Something really cool happened on the walk, something that happens every single time and I always forget the intensity of it. I wrote in my head. It was layer stuff;the demon's bugs, the other demon's reaction to seeing Alex's trapped soul and some stuff with Alex and a harmonica. I need a mini-recorder for this stuff because I had actual lines of solid writing. I repeated them to Ky a few times but even if he does remember, how is he supposed to tell me what they were?

I needed to look at exercise as an extension of my writing as I'm far more dedicated to the latter than the former. It never ceases to amaze me what I will do to further my writing career. You all know I have sucky days where I wonder why I bother but those don't last long. I am hard-core about this.

Walking may very well be a good tool for all that writing in my head time that I need to let ideas and images jell.

Tomorrow I'll take paper and a pencil if it isn't raining. Or my cell phone so I can leave a message on my answering machine.

Whatever works, eh.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Team CB


Today was a good writing day. Actually it was a good day all around. I came home from work, went for a brisk walk with my darling dog along the canal and didn't eat a single piece of junk food. Yay.

Christina bought new running shoes the other day, thanks to Mary.
Theresa chimed in with her own comments about jogging along the canal in Edinburgh. Again thanks to Mary's wrestling with her Inner Slug. The three of them have been encouraging each other to get more active. I have popped in on their blogs from time to time and added my support. They formed Team CB this weekend to make it official. Then peer pressured me into joining.

Four women, in four different countries, doing their best to run, or walk briskly in my case, into good health. It's harder to blow it off when you're accountable to other people. I'm easing into it, am definitely less hardcore than they are. But it's good.

Just like Sweating with Sven is keeping me writing every day. Even if it isn't a large word count, it's still progress. I expect Team CB will work the same way for me. They actually complement each other. The exercise clears the cobwebs and helps me to plot. The writing keeps my hands busy and out of the cookie jar.

I met today's goals with all of the challenges. Theresa made a gold star for me to put on my blog. How cool is that?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rome, Across the Universe

Good writing stays with you.

As simple as that. Whether it's the characters, the plot, the emotion, the setting;there's something about the writing that resonates through time.It's different for everyone. But I want to be that kind of writer. One whose work you can't forget.

The tagline for Across the universe reads All you need is love. A movie created entirely from Beatles songs, it was a brilliant execution of story, character and a political climate that is as relevant today as it was in the 60's. It blew me away. I came home and wrote notes so that I wouldn't forget a thing. I needn't have worried. Everything not only stayed with me but revealed more as time went on.

The music, the artwork, cinematography, choreography - it was all brilliant, rich, detailed. Evocative. But you'll laugh at what stood out the most for me. The transitions. They were always true to the scenes. The scene that was ending led naturally to the next that was beginning. Music tied them together, a snip of dialogue but most often it was a visual cue. The clouds above their heads spun around to become the white load in the industrial washer at the laundromat. It doesn't sound like much but when you see it, you'll know exactly what I mean. I struggle with scene breaks so that could be why it was such a stand-out aspect of the film.

The music added a point of reference to underscore each scene with a depth that comes from a shared history. The music and lyrics are used to carry the viewer along a journey. They evocate emotion, place and character with a seamless integration to the plot. I wonder how it plays to a much younger audience. The theme is universal, relevant to every era, but I'm not sure I recognized that idea when I was a teenager or even my early twenties.

Still, a good story transcends all that.

The HBO miniseries ROME depicts a time that is ancient. None of us were alive then to be influenced by our memories of that era. We have a level playing field as viewers.

Despite the sex, violence and breath-taking set design, this was a character driven piece. Don't let anyone tell you any different. Each character, from the Emperor Caesar down to the Roman centurion and the slave girl he loved, was a well-developed, three-dimensional being with flaws and traits that made them real.

There were no clear-cut good or bad guys. They all had layers, depths, and motivation. They each felt love, disappointment, greed, anger, compassion, insecurity, affection and even mercy. Each one of them was merely human, doing what they thought was best,using the tools they had whether it was sex, violence or power. One of the heroes killed his wife and cursed his children into slavery. Another hero murdered Caesar. One of the villains made gifts for the children in the slums. Hero or villain depended upon how you perceived the characters. The writers let you decide for yourself.

While each scene was truly a feast for the senses (my nose strained to catch some of those scents believe me) every action no matter how seemingly insignificant played a much bigger part somewhere down the road in the series. Nothing was wasted.

That was another thing about both shows. Everything meant something. Perhaps that's one of the reasons they're both so memorable. I was transfixed, mesmerized, focused on every nuance and detail throughout every moment that played on the screen. I was distant enough to be comfortable but immersed none-the-less.

Brilliant writing. Absolutely brilliant.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ooey Gooey Descriptions

Guess what I'm missing in my wip? That's right. Breaking a cardinal rule, I've plunked my characters down in a room with little regard for where they are. If setting isn't a character then what difference does it make where your story takes place?

In this case, scene and setting are integral to character developement. I know that. That's why my notes say "describe". Whether it's the Sibun River in Belize or the Niagara River, Alex is conscious of what flows past his window, or tent. I need the descriptions to help set atmosphere, mood and action. The scenes I'm having the most difficult editing are the ones in which I have no idea where they take place. I'm working on that.

A lot of scenes do have notes along the margins about setting. Those are the scenes that require the least amount of work. Actions and reactions are influenced by those external surroundings, primarily because the internal conflicts are tied into those places.

I spent a fair amount of time yesterday on Nea's wings. Texture, colour and even their position on her body can influence not only how other's interact with her, but also her own self perceptions. I know some people thought they should be wispy Faery wings while others thought they'd be leathery and repulsive. I think what I envisioned yesterday suit her.

Thanks for the help last week with the bugs. It's going to be a good scene now. I'm working on it today and knowing which insects are going to appear at the end of the scene is really helping with the descriptions. The flow is more natural, stronger. I appreciate the input.

I've put Bracken and Kellie on the back burner. I want to have this draft done of Hell to Pay by the end of November. December will be the last go-through before I pass it off to my readers. By January the new characters will have had enough time to skulk around in my subconscious.

While I'm not keeping diligent track of my word count, I am progressing with the 70 Days of Sweat. Ruby and Margaret would be so proud.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's been a rough couple of weeks for my virtual friends. I detest that expression. It makes them sound like they're imaginary or somehow less than real. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I've been a member of JoAnn Ross's online community for the last seven years. It's a diverse group of people who support and encourage each other in their writing endeavors. It's a close group of people who share in each other's triumphs and tribulations. There's even an off-shoot group for those of us concerned that sitting on our butts all day while we create little worlds of our own may have a less-than-attractive impact on those same butts. I truly cherish the friends I've made from that group. I've been privileged to have met several in person. Over a cup of tea while we gathered some supplies to send to another member of our group.

Ruby struggled with congestive heart failure but you'd never have known it from her cheery posts to the group. Her voice was one of the loudest when it came to cheering others on. Her sense of humour was unwavering. She was determined in so many ways. To be a great writer. A wonderful mother. A loving wife. A good friend. Maybe not in that order but those were her goals. When I think of all the emails she sent encouraging me to turn the music up loud and dance across the room, I smile. Her soul was a beauty. I miss her voice in the group with a sense of loss that is incomprehensible to people that think Ruby was a virtual friend.

Still reeling from that hit two weeks ago, I'm in shock over the second loss from the CB community. Bob Mayer and Jennifer Crusie had no idea what they unleashed on the world when they started their blog to promote Don't Look Down in 2006. Neither did we. People cruised by to see what the fuss was about. Left a comment. Responded to another person's comment. The next thing we knew, there was a party, some fast friendships were formed and enduring relationships forged. Margaret was there from the beginning, a silent lurker until someone lured her down to join us at the party. Margaritas shared, road trips survived and through it all a loyalty to each other that superseded our ethnic, political, religious and cultural differences.

There's a strong CB contingent on the left coast. They'll travel four hours to have lunch with each other. And they all did their best to keep Margaret connected throughout her battle with cancer. Even though I kept up with that fight through her blog, it never occurred to me, she wouldn't triumph. She was strong and brave and funny and crazy like the rest of us. She was quick to praise and share in our accomplishments and her laughter managed to transcend the written format. I can't believe she's gone.

Despite my geographic disability, I've managed to travel with and to several CBs over the past year. In a strange quirk that I only discovered after Ruby's death, she lived in the same hometown of a CB I visited frequently. My two online communities linked.

I never had the privilege of meeting Ruby or Margaret in person. But that doesn't make their losses any less painful or diminish the significance they had in my life. They were real women whose friendships I cherished.

And they would both hate the fact that my grief has kept me from writing for three days. I'm going to crank up the music and dance across the room, then sit back down to honour them both by putting words on the page.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Research

I spent two hours today researching butterflies and dragonflies. It's only going to amount to three sentences in the manuscript but trust me, it was necessary.

I know you're all tired of hearing me whine about my daily time crunch but two hours for three sentences is hard for me to justify. This is going to continue(the whining and the research). I stuck a lot of asterisks in the body of my wip. In order for me to continue editing and rewriting, I have to figure out what those asterisks represent. They are more than just research points. They're clues to further behavior and plot points.

The word count may suffer while I clear through this process but the story will sharpen as a result.

How do you handle research?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Parfait

I write in layers. Not onions like an ogre but more like Donkey's parfait. Dialogue comes first, the nuts and protein of the parfait. Then I drizzle on some tag lines with a dash of stage direction. One scoop of plot action. Another scoop of emotional reaction. A sprinkle of more dialogue followed by a smattering of description. A dollop of the five senses and then it's topped off with a kiss.

Alex wants more emotion, Nea wants more plot and I can see that the whole thing needs a heck of a lot more description. Not to mention the need for stage direction that helps the plot move along. And the lips line up.

I always knew I wrote this way but trying to keep track of my word count for the 70 Days of Sweat challenge has made it interesting. I was trying to change the way I work to accommodate Sven. In the end I decided to stick with my parfait. It's effective, and tastes good.

Oh yeah, I wrote a plot outline yesterday for Bracken and Kellie. There's one element about which I am uncertain but I'll deal with that when I start writing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Progress so far

One of those good news/bad news posts. The good news is that I'm writing. Every day. I'm thinking about writing even when I'm no where near pen and paper/computer(that may classify as bad news for my bosses). I'm only on page sixteen of rewrites for Alex but that's because I've had to do some research for some of his scenes. That's page sixteen, single spaced, eleven point font.

Bracken and Kelly are being a bit more difficult so I've decided to let them drift to the back of my mind while they figure out what's keeping them apart. Besides the external conflict and her need to fit in and be normal. I need something bigger, something over-the-top, something on par with saving the world or a soul. How do you follow up those kind of story lines?

While I figure that out, I'm going to continue to focus on Alex and Nea and the pretty little soul turning black in the corner of the room. And increasing my word count every day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pseudonyms

I've had a multitude of nicknames over the years. All of them have great stories behind them. Only one of them was to protect my identity. I wasn't doing anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed by, but not everyone shared my views so it was wise to have a separate identity. I've relaxed those restrictions considerably over the years, torn between the ideas of safety and that if I believe it, I should stand behind it.

My friend Elen Grey and I spent a delightful afternoon sitting on the patio of Zooma Zooma discussing this very topic. Certain genres demand pen names. Erotica is the obvious choice but it's not the only one. I wonder if it's not just good business practice as well. There are some people who have trouble differentiating between fiction and real life. The Internet has made anonymity much more difficult.

The conversation with Elen about writing pseudonym led to a google search on my birth name. I already knew from an incident with border guards that there was another woman in my town with the same name as me. The identity mix-ups have caused a few hiccups over the years. According to google, there are plenty of us throughout the United States and Canada, serving life in many different capacities.

When I google Keziah Fenton, the only reference is my own. From 70 Days of Sweat. When I sent the email asking to have my blog linked to Sven's, I used the email account with that name. It's fitting. I'm about as serious and dedicated about a writing career as I have ever been. It's time to start as I mean to go.

Keziah was a ghost who led me to many adventures in other realms. I write paranormal. Fenton was the surname of my great-grandfather. I sat at his knee, enthralled by his gentle burr relating tales of his Scottish homeland. He was a grand storyteller, was Alec Fenton. I hope I do him justice.

On another note, I've edited/revised/rewritten 12 pages of Alex and Nea's story and plotted three pages of Bracken's since I started sweating with Sven on Wednesday. I haven't done anything yet today. But I have a Write off the Deep End meeting this afternoon. I'll likely surpass my daily word count after that.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

70 Days of Sweat

I signed up to do 70 days of sweat. Louisa and Mary were doing it and my good friend helenb suggested I look into the seventy day challenge some time ago.

Yep, my life is still busy. Yep, that's a lot of writing. Yep, 750 words a day isn't a lot. Yep, the math adds up. If I use enough yeps, I won't have to think of many real words.

I'm finishing Alex's story and starting Bracken's. So my goal is actually dual. When I'm near the computer, I'm going to work on Alex and Nea. We're in the homestretch. The story is told. Now I need to pretty it up a bit.

When I'm relying on a notebook or sheets of scrap paper, I'm going to sketch out Bracken's story. I've got his conflict,and his heroine. What I don't have is her internal stuff. But then, I'm not worried too much about that story right now. It's just in the pre-writing stage.

I signed up yesterday. I went through Alex's story and pulled out all those symbols that needed more research. The two hours online resulted in less than a dozen words, but led to another layer in several scenes. I made the 750 word goal through that exercise alone.

Today was a busy work day, both jobs for a total of 13 hours out of the house. The good news is I named Bracken's heroine, got a sense of her personality and one of her quirks. A paragraph during one break, half a page on another one. I'm not sure of the actual word count today because I wrote a page of dialogue with Alex and Pzuzu. That bar scene sure is fun.

I'm not going to be near a computer again until Sunday. A minimum of 750 words a day for 70 days. It's going to be a challenge. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I learned in New Jersey

Romance writers are very creative people, but can take a lesson from bartenders(Kiss on the lips).
High fantasy is the next big wave in romance.
Some agents like gimmicks and many don't.
Blogs aren't that big a marketing tool, unless you count your readership in the thousands instead of hundreds.
Alcohol is not required in order to have a good time, but the hotel bar makes the best margaritas I've ever had.
No matter how many times you pitch your book, it's always unnerving.
Great love scenes get their heat from deep emotional connections. Lots of touching doesn't hurt.
Persistence is essential. You can't get published if you're not sending anything out.


I likely learned a lot more than that but I'm still digesting. I have two packages to get out; one to an editor, another to an agent. I'm pretty psyched about both. I attended the agent panel in order to get a feel for the different personalities. This is a crucial business partnership. It's essential we're of like mind about managing my career. She was very warm, professional and knowledgeable. I have hope.

In other news, I'm in the homestretch with Alex and Nea. Once I input the notes and scenes scrawled across all over the place, I should have only have one more edit. Then it will be time to send it to my readers.

Bracken awaits.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I'm off to a writer's conference in three days. Yeah, I'm not ready. Clothes aren't washed, bags not packed, book not written. But I have a plan. There's another draft after this one. It will be written when I input the current draft into the computer. I'm not as far behind as I feared. I'd be further along if I didn't have this Mike Rowe obsession. If only he would kayak down the Sibun River and I'd be able to call it research. :sigh:

Back to planning for NJRW. I've got two books done, one two-thirds of the way and another one in planning stages. I had a friend here on the weekend who suggested I use the blog as a marketing tool. Yeah, when I stopped laughing, I listened to her. She made a good point about established readership, hooked me up with sitemeter so I could compile statistics. She's a smart woman, this friend of mine and knows what she's doing when it comes to business and technology. I have no idea who's reading this in Calgary or South Africa but hi (enthusiastic wave). You look great in the reader report. I have an international readership (more waves to Theresa and Christina) as well as a core group of loyal people from writer's groups and other blogs.

Who knew blogs were such a great tool for writers? Actually, I did. They have led me to a number of fantastic authors I may have taken a lot longer to find, if ever. Many well-known authors use their blogs to build, encourage and entertain their audience. It's an effective way to communicate with readers.

Armed with blog statistics, three manuscripts and some experience at selling myself(the writing people, the writing), my plan for the writer's conference is to pitch a career rather than an individual project.

Wish me luck. And thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Priorities

Every body wants to have that one person they mean the world to. The person who puts you ahead of everyone and everything else in their lives. When you're a kid, it's usually a parent but as you grow, friends, then lovers fill that void. Sometimes, a furry/feathered/finned/scaly creature is the one that lives and breathes for your existence.

It was the scaly thought that brought me to Nea. Not all demons have scales but plenty of them do. Nea has turned her back on scaly creatures, has blocked herself from love, acceptance and dependence. Not as much as she thinks though because Clio is not only her conscience but that one creature in all existence who puts Nea first. The little weevil has an attachment to the demon/nymph that supersedes all else. Nea is her priority.

As all others have dropped out of her life, Nea has become more emotionally dependent on the weevil. But she is oblivious until something threatens Clio's existence.

I thought I wasn't writing because I've been so exhausted. That's definitely part of it. I didn't feel stuck or stressed because my deadline had whooshed by so colourfully. There are so many hours in a day and I have to make the paying jobs the priority.

I realize that this time away from the characters gave me a fresh perspective as my brain has slowly adjusted to less sleep. Interesting patterns and colors dance before my eyes. Creatively, this is a good thing.

Update - I still haven't found enough hours in the day, and I've added a library certificate course to the mix. But last week's meeting, and the advice to Me that every scene should serve at least dual, if not more, purpose helped me slowly navigate my way to another realizations for this scene. I'm going to take away from much-needed sleep to see if I can get the nebulous thoughts on to paper. I'm going to hard look at my schedule and see where I can drop in the occasional nap. That's the only way my brain is going to get back into the groove where connections are made. Auto-pilot is not the mode in which to write a book. Or work either. Thank Bob I'm not a brain surgeon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NoNaAu

Well, it's two days to the end of the month and I will most definitely not finish writing my book by then. But I did get a fair amount accomplished. Both Bracken and Nyssa have names(thanks, GP and McB) as well as truly wicked reveals about Nea's parentage. That scene is a powerful turning point.

I've been going through scene-by-scene and expanding the notes and/or dialogue to actually flesh things out into a living entity of a manuscript. I'm pleased with my progress so far. Although the message I left on my own answering machine while I was walking to work needs some tweaking. It was a major breakthrough for Alex's motivation in the second half of the book. Yet another sagging plotline pulled taut by a long walk through town. Who knew I was exercising more than my legs?

Thanks to OH who started this whole NaAu writing challenge, I had a brilliant idea that played nicely off Arden's suggestion that I make each nymph's physical manifestation of meeting their soul mate as individual as they are. Again, it dovetails wonderfully with Bracken and Nyssa's personalities as well as revealing some more motivation, even if it is backstory.

I doubt these will be two-dimensional characters. But if they are, the fault lies with my ability to flesh them out, rather than the input I've received from all of you.

September doesn't involve as much craziness(that was a prayer, not a challenge to the gods) so I should be able to finish the last half of the book. I'm so excited about how it's coming along.

Wait 'til you read it.

PS Mary, Ky is much better now. He chased a raccoon over the back fence with his usual enthusiasm and energy. The raccoon is not as enthusiastic about Ky's return to health.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More characters

Help. I need the latin names of trees that grow around chestnuts. They will form the basis of several character names, both masculine and feminine, in sound as well as gender.

I had a male nymph step out of the shadows last night and whoa, is he hot! Phew! I think he's my next hero. He has plenty to say. Too bad I don't have time to listen to all of it. Man, does he have backstory. Unfortunately for the current story, he would like to kill my heroine. He's Nea's mother's current lover. Guardian. Protector. Nameless, as is the mother.

I'm going to have to dedicate this book to everyone who keeps doing my research for me. You all know who you are. I thank you sincerely. Getting up every night with a sick dog, repeatedly throughout the night, is killing more brain cells than I can spare. It's good to have people that fill in the gaps.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Whoosh

I'm a big fan of Douglas Adams, the brilliant author of the five part trilogy, The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He also wrote the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency, the third installment on which he was working when he died.

I've never been as quirky or original, but I do share one of his most infamous traits - procrastination. While he had it down to a science, I merely get caught up in research or other creative endeavors and lose track of time.

I am blessed with the ability to write just about anywhere;on the hood of the car at the drive-in, in the hospital waiting room,even the dentist's chair. It makes it harder to blow off deadlines.

But this month is hectic and while there's still time, sand is racing through the hourglass and crashing to the dunes below. I'll be shocked if I can finish this book while creating bracelets and a sculpture that have their own deadlines.

Fortunately the words of the incomparable Douglas Adams sustain me, "Deadlines.I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

NaAu

Our darling CB, orangehands, has declared August a novel writing month all on her own(hence the NaAu but I think it should be NoAu but will go with her acronym). She's going to write 100,000 words or 5 pages a day.

I like a good challenge but I'm not up to one like that. I'm going to a NASCAR race with my brother and nephew next weekend at Watkins Glen. I've picked up an extra shift a week with Science Diet, and I'm going to Dayton, Ohio at the end of the month for the Agnes and the Hitman book signing for Bob and Jenny.

It's not exactly my slowest month.

Thanks to last weekend's meeting with my witty and talented critique partners, I finally have a great working order for the pile of scenes that are sketched out. I was shocked to discover that I've actually written more than two-thirds of the book.

I'm going to a conference in New Jersey in October to pitch this book. It should be written and polished by then, don't you think? With that in mind, my goal for August is to finish writing Hell to Pay. Completely. From beginning to end, take out all the little notes and show instead of telling.

September will be the polishing month.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Margaritaville

Alex and Nea's father are in a bar having a few drinks and discussing how the demon can make amends for all of the evil he's wrought over time. As the scene has some other duties to perform, I'm fairly certain they will be there for awhile. These two are going to get skunk dead drunk.

I know what Alex is drinking. I want Pzuzu to try every weird concoction he's ever heard of, based solely on their names. I've got a rusty nail, tequila sunrise, slippery nipple, erotic dream, sex on the beach, and screaming orgasm(thank you Mary for the last two, although I must say thanking you publicly for such sounds, um, decidedly more interesting than it actually was).

I need some more. Please. Drinks for girly girls and manly men. What are fun sounding alcoholic beverages?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ticking Clock

I decided that I need a ticking clock in this story. It's set over a four week period, actually a moon cycle. The goddess Inanna set the timeline and the challenge at the beginning of the book. Then I dropped her completely.

Last evening, I was staring at the ceiling, thinking hard about how to utilize Inanna and heighten the tension as the story advances. I'd just finished reading the latest Artemmis Fowl - The Lost Colony, in which the intrepid hero attempted to dismantle a bomb while the space/time continuum collapsed around him. That's a bit extreme for my story (extreme says the woman whose hero is fighting a demon on almost every page). Sunlight refracted through the window to play in the corner of the room. It was very pretty. Somehow it made me think of Alex's soul (I blame Harry Potter for that one).

The more I thought of it, the stronger the image grew of Alex's soul trapped in a clear sphere by Inanna and suspended in the corner of the room where he could watch its transformation. Once it reachs a certain stage, the demon will own his soul. I've been playing with it and really like the possibilities.

Originally it was a golden bird whose colours would fade, feathers drop and body shrink to a dried-out shell. But Alex is a creature of the water. He's not really a fish, he glides along the top rather than beneath the surface. I thought of a sea mammal but have yet to find the right one. I'm thinking something with long, colourful, fancy fins.

What kind of fish should his soul look like? If not a fish, which mammal is more at home in the sea than on the water? Giant river otters, while playful, are not dynamic enough in appearance for the visual I intended. It's not aquatic enough. Hmmm, maybe TFFKP could stand-in as Alex's soul. Tropical frogs are eye-popping in colour, especially the poisonous ones.

Suggestions?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Creativity comes in many forms

I rescued a tadpole a couple of days before my Indiana company arrived. I asked Katie, "the little artist" as my five year old niece Sarah called her, to name the tadpole/frog. On the long drive, the three of them named him The Frog formerly known as Prince. Katie was going to draw his symbol for me but she was busy drawing other things while she was here(two of which are framed in Canada)

The Frog formerly known as Prince(FFKP)loved to sit inside the orange and yellow lily on top of the pad in his little tank but he looked so lonely on the buffet beside the wine. To his credit, and my surprise, Bryan didn't make a single comment about which wine went better with frog's legs. Now that FFKP has moved over to Grover's tank, he's not as comfortable as he was. There's a big fish poking at him, trying to get him to play. I thought perhaps if he knew his roots, he'd gain confidence. So I drew a prototype for his unpronounceable name. I'm hoping Katie will embellish and add colour to my creative endeavour.


The lily shaped crown rests on the lily pad while the root trails through the water in an "F" shape. He can always rappel down the side if Grover gets too inquisitive for him.













Cathy and I are having an unrelated-to-writing discussion over on her blog where she invited me to guest post. Most of the discussion is happening in the comments. It would be interesting to have another Canadian chime in as I feel incredibly weird speaking for an entire nation. Thank you and have a nice day :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Alex's view

I was running around Niagara Falls this past weekend. I tried to park as close to Alex's home as I could so that I could refresh my memory about background elements he deals with every day. It's vastly different in the summer from the winter but I snapped this picture quickly. I think he might launch his kayak from this spot.

It's hard to tell but the lip of the falls is right below the mist. The speed at which the river races towards the crest might be too quick for what I have in mind but it's fiction. I can manipulate the distance. But really thirty-seven degrees celcius is a far cry from the hypothermic conditions in which Alex is barely functioning. How do you empathize?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Inspiration

There are days when words rattle around in my brain. Great words, like lexicon and value, and zephyr, but they never connect into sentences. Or fit into the context of my story. My brain plays with those words, twists and distorts them beyond meaning and sound into a jumble.

Those are the days I play with the dog. I toss him a ball, sometimes a word, and he runs off to fetch it. He can play that game for hours. It frees me from the endless reptition of word-twisting.

Sometimes I play on other blogs. Dogs and Goddesses is my new favourite as it combines beloved authors with dogs, Mesopotamia and words. Jenny has spent an inordinate amount of time researching Mesopotamian dog art. Of course I had to go look for Ky after that. Sure enough, this is what I found.

My darling boy ready to pounce on all the recalcitrant words that I can't organize into any sensible order. Perhaps because the zephyr is actually a vortex.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vortex

I was out with friends the other night, drinking beer by the pool and discussing the ill effects of overindulgence. Particularly "the spins". One of the girls wanted to know what caused the world to spin so dramatically, often violently. I tossed out the word vortex, not for any particularly scientific reason but because I liked its sound. Several were impressed with my word choice.

We decided it constituted my word count for the day. Not only did it have an x, one of the most difficult letters in the alphabet, but it also contained a z. It also conveys a maelstrom of activity that brilliantly sums up the last moments before one passes out.

The conversation continued to evolve about how many words vortex should count as in my writing journal. I was happy to let the silliness sweep us away from my genius. I didn't really have much to show lately for the time spent with my characters. One word was about the best I'd done in several days.

That one word swirled around in my head through the night.It churned through my dreams and woke me up to scribble down a scene. Not only that, the vortex sucked me deep into the perspective of our little weevil as well as Nea's father. It gave me a view I'd missed on different passes through some scenes.

It never ceases to amaze me the connections my brain can make, seemingly out of the blue, to writing. I have other words to toss onto the page. In the meantime, here's a photo that reminds me what winter feels like while I write in the summer. It was taken a few miles from Niagara Falls, and Alex's home base.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Right in Front of You

My friend and fellow CB, Jennifer Talty, is celebrating the release of her first book Right in Front of You. I had originally pledged to stand in Chapters and direct everyone over to Jen's book. Triskelion Publishing just recently reverted back to e-books only so I'm doing my bit to get the word out. Go. Download. Let Jen be your first (e-book that is)

Isn't that a gorgeous cover? I'm so thrilled for Jen.




Right In Front Of You:

Restless and bored, NYS Trooper Jared Blake accepts a transfer from his current position in Lake George. Jared lives on the edge and his present post just isn't cutting the mustard. Just when he thinks his life is as it should be, his long time friend is threatened by an unknown source. Jared has exactly two weeks to find out who is behind these threats. And in two weeks, he will lose his heart forever.

Ryan O'Connor has the world at her fingertips. She's strong, feisty and has everything she's ever wanted, except the right man. Jared represents everything Ryan doesn't want. He's controlling, overbearing and now he's moving. Having had a crush on him for years, Ryan decides to seduce Jared. What harm can it do? But when Ryan's life is on the line, she realizes Jared might not be perfect, but he's the perfect man for her.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Game Plan

I like to follow my muse and see where she leads me - to the statue of not-quite-Nea that I shared with you several moons ago, the article in the paper about the Toronto Power Generating Station, the trip to Clifton Hill and the weevils encased in acrylic - all the places that smite me with inspiration.

Planning things tends to interfere with that process. Or so I always thought. A few months ago, I wrote out a story outline. I broke the book down into four weeks and a list of elements that were going to change over that time period. Then I forgot about it and followed my muse around North America.

Now that summer and an extended work schedule are underway, I need to allot some dedicated writing time. It's too easy to just put that off like I do exercise(although, writing feeds my soul in a way nothing else does)when I'm exhausted.

I dug out the old outline and started to enter it into an Excel spreadsheet. (Thanks, Bryan for guiding me through that process so that I didn't lose another day)What did I discover? My muse and my outline have been working in tandem. The genesis of some things started with the chart, others with the muse but they've been helping me expand on all of it.

The blog has played a role as well. I've mentioned things here that are nowhere else in my documents, notes or charts. I've been able to come back and see what I can develop, what I can lose. Very good tool this blog. And I was worried it would steal valuable writing time.

Armed with all these tools,I'll be able to set reasonable deadlines - and more importantly - make them.

The book isn't done yet, thanks for asking, but it's much closer. I have a game plan.

Here's a photo for you to admire while I write. Alex can see this out his side window.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Deadlines

JoAnn Ross suggests that unpublished writers give themselves deadlines to write towards, and more importantly, keep. Not only will it prepare one for the demands of publication, it also helps keep the writing fresh. She writes every day and has done so since the beginning of her career when she was a working mom.

The last few weeks have been somewhat hectic for me and I've neglected to set some deadlines. Last week Dee challenged me to three days of exercise and one scene in a week. Considering I was in the midst of a long work spell with one day off in eleven days thanks to two jobs, it seemed unrealistic.

Here it is the night before my deadline expires. And I've written seven sentences. On the end of an existing scene. They're good sentences though. The dialogue came to me while I was walking home from work today(I like to multi-task). I should have stopped along the way to write it all down as it was coming pretty quick but it was so real, and a great tie-in to the early morning epiphany I had about Nea, that I wasn't concerned about losing any of it. Yeah, I know, but I did retain a fair portion.

It's tempting to stop where I am and wait for the rest of it to unfold. A lot of times the stuff I recapture is a murky imitation of the beauty that I let slip through my grasp. But the deadline looms.

And I know that the dialogue in this scene not only illuminates Nea's motivation;it reveals facets of Alex's personality that were somewhat unexpected. The plot is moving along. The characters are plunging ahead despite their reservations about their own behaviour. The conflict has taken a turn with Alex's reaction to Nea's pet bug.

Despite my inclination to call it a night and retreat into the book I'm reading - No Safe Place by JoAnn Ross - I'm going to wade back into the conversation between the characters I'm writing.

And make the all-important deadline. Because it prepares me for publication, keeps the story fresh in my mind, and gives me a success in a week full of perceived failure.

JoAnn Ross has written over ninety books following her own advice. She knows what she's talking about. Not to mention the woman knows her way around shoes. I'm gonna listen to her.

How are your deadlines coming along?

Update - who knows Morse code? It appears that Clio the chestnut weevil communicates by tapping out Morse code with her antennae. And of course, Alex knows some of that because...do we still use Morse code? This is why I shouldn't wait until the night before the deadline - a damn monkey wrench tossed in by a bug. Like there aren't enough kinks in this story. Not that kind of kink; plot twists, character turns. Sheesh. I'm not even going to ask about whether weevils can communicate. She's the pet of a demon. Clio can do whatever I, er, Nea, wants her to do.

Further Update - Thanks Me and McB. Morse Code is used far more in music than the average listener would imagine. Considering how much Alex moved as a child, and that his mother was musically gifted, I can use this. That would have been a cool way for him to communicate with his mother;something special only the two of them shared. That translator link was a lot of fun, perhaps too much.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Writing & travel

I thought of Alex and Nea on the 17 hour drive home from Memphis. Specifically, I thought about the fact that nothing about that trip triggered a single scene or idea for them. They are not Memphis characters. I thought they would be. The Blues City is hot, sexy and vibrant as well as steeped in history; all of which is true about both my hero and heroine.

As much as my characters think they live in the here and now, wring every ounce out of the moment; they are dragged down by the way things used to be. They are both desperate to return to a time that they understood, a life that required little of them.

Both Memphis and Niagara Falls are defined by the rivers that run along the shorelines on which they were founded. The former is slow and steamy, laid-back and ripe for savouring. The latter rushes and stumbles its way to a precipice that takes your breath away.

Last night I dreamt I had to go write a pivotal scene for Nea in which she struggles with the nymph she has become. That's all I remember but I think it's enough. Because nymphs are more at home along the banks of the Mississippi. It's the demon who enjoys being shoved headfirst over the edge of Niagara Falls.

I'm home. I know what to write. All is good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What's sexy?

Everyone has a different idea of sexy, arousing, stimulating - take your pick.

I'm partial to a barefoot man, clad only in worn denim. His shirt, if he's wearing one, will be unbuttoned. But that's merely visual.

Alex's idea of sexy has as much to do with the scent of Nea's arousal; the sound of her uneven breathing; the taste of her. All of his senses are engaged.

Nea has always used sex as a tool; a means to an end. If you ask her, she has no idea what's sexy. Until she met Alex. There's something about the way he reacts to her that stimulates her. She doesn't understand it; doesn't understand him. It's the way he touches her; strokes her wings at the point between her shoulder blades. He doesn't mean to arouse her. He's offering comfort but it's that very act of putting her needs above his that she finds so sexy. Desirable. And incredibly arousing.

Sex is about so much more than the physical. This is a foreign concept to Nea but one that Alex is happy to help her explore; even though she terrifies him. That's sexy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For OH

This is it. I'm done. I can't do the excerpt challenge any more. Stop shrieking. I have to write. I can't do that if I'm always trying to figure out what to put on the blog and what to save for myself. So while I was originally going to share what was written on the back of my shower wall - I have no idea why I get scene ideas when I'm in there - I decided I'd be able to hear the screaming all the way on the other side of two countries.

So here you go OH. I wrote this today. For you. Now go do your homework and let me write in peace. :sigh: it was worth a try.

With a dramatic crash the patio doors in his bedroom were flung open. Nea swept in with a blast of bitter wind and a swirl of leaves. Her hair and wings were tattered as if she'd been violently shaken. An unholy grin was lit from within.

"Good evening, Alex." She trailed a long nail up his thigh. "Are you ready to play?"

Every muscle clenched as he fought to keep blood flowing to his brain. "No, thanks."

"Really?" She leaned in, let her breath caress the sensitive skin beneath his ear. "I could help you relax."

He wasn’t some hormonal teenager she’d dragged off the street. He could resist her advances. She licked his ear.

Any second now.

A leaf fell from the demon’s hair and skittered across her breast. With her wicked tongue driving away coherent thought, he never would have noticed the leaf his gaze hadn’t been fixated on that tempting part of her anatomy.

The leaf gently undulated then reversed gravity to skitter back up Nea’s neck and tuck itself beneath her hair.

Alex eased away from her. Leaves didn’t skitter. But that one had. Twice.

“What the hell was that?”

Nea delved her fingers into her hair. Smiled, and withdrew her hand.

“That’s Clio.”

How he’d ever taken the ugly brown beetle for a leaf was beyond him. His only excuse was the distraction Nea herself had provided.

“You named it?”

She scowled at him. “Of course I named her. She’s been with me since I was a kid.”

A slender finger gently stroked the shiny brown carapace. The bug’s long nose was almost the length of its body and he watched in mingled fascination and revulsion as it burrowed into Nea’s hand. The affection between the two was out-of-character for the demon.

Tiny wings flicked. Nea inclined her head then it skittered up and disappeared beneath the fall of her hair.

A chill raised his skin as understanding dawned. “That bug lives in your hair?”

“Where else would she live?”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Naming characters

Sometimes a character shows up fully formed,complete with backstory and well-named. Others are less defined, especially secondary characters. You know the ones I mean, the guys who walk on, deliver some important information then exit stage left. They can't all be called stranger number three. Some of them are good friends. Or doctors. Doctors imparting earth-shattering, life-altering news.

Instead of writing that scene, I've been thinking about the doctor. What kind of man he is, where he comes from, how well he knows Alex. He's not a throwaway character. He has to know Alex well enough to anticipate his reaction to the doctor's dictates and demands. Alex is not going to accept the prognosis or prescription easily.

Alex has gone into this scene with a smile on his face. He's walking better, stepping lighter than he has since the accident. His morale is up. He has a game plan. You know he's not going to take it well when it's the opposite of the doctor's.

Remember the old Muppets character, Dr. Bob? He always made me laugh. Always. Alex is conditioned to smile the same as I am whenever he hears, "Paging Dr. Bob." Don't ask me why I still giggle all these years later. I simply do. Dr. Bob is Alex's specialist. He has to be a man that Alex respects enough to get past that lighthearted response. How many Bobs do I know? How many do I respect?

How important is the character's name to my interpretation of him? Fairly important because what Dr. Bob tells Alex is the first link in the chain reaction that has Alex seriously contemplate joining forces with Nea to become a demon.

The doctor's name? I'm sure some of you figured it out. Dr Bob Mayer. You know he's going to be tough, pull no punches and be absolutely correct in his advice, no matter how painful it is to implement. But you're also going to smile when you hear,"Paging Dr. Bob."

It might be awhile before you get to read it though. Because I'm mean that way.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Writing support

Writing has been called a solitary profession. All the words, ideas and characters live inside my head. No matter what kind of input or support surrounds me, it's up to my brain to transcribe my chaos and assemble it into an entertaining format.

There are a lot of days when that doesn't happen. Those are the days that I call my friends, email my writing buddies or read writing blogs. Some days I simply read. It's natural to compare myself to other people. As long as the competition is healthy, it drives me to improve my craft. It always inspires me to write faster, funnier, and with more heart.

There are days when I feel like I can't measure up. I am blown away on a regular basis by the talent of my writing friends. I occasionally threaten to burn my manuscript because there are only so many publishing slots and so many of my friends deserve it.

Then there are the kids, the next generation of writers, who have such enthusiasm for the written word that I have to suck up the insecurity. Some of them look to me for guidance. What kind of example would I be if I gave up when the writing got hard? Finishing the first book is the most difficult. Once you have that confidence under your belt, it becomes easier.

Oh, who am I kidding? Each book presents its own set of challenges - and rewards. Support from other writers, from potential readers,and from people I respect, is what keep me scribbling on the back of my shower wall, sitting up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas or recording snippets of dialogue.

Thank you. Here is a tiny excerpt for those of you :ahem CBs: who have asked so nicely. I have little idea where, if anywhere, it's going.

He had strong hands; wide, blunt-fingered and calloused. They were the kind of hands that would be equally capable of gripping the fraying knot-end of a zip line or stroking the soft underside of a woman's breast. They were the hands of her next victim.

I told you it was short.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An excerpt for Mary

The rest of you look away :-)
This scene has been permanently deleted for several reasons 1)Alex is physically injured and therefore incapable of this kind of activity 2)Nea doesn't walk away 3)I wrote this scene seven years ago when Alex was going to save the world, a quest I've since given to his sister. But I like it. I like this version of Alex. Alex before his sister's heroics made him feel insignificant. Alex before the accident. The carefree, laid-back Alex who lived each moment fully. This is backstory Alex.
Enjoy him.


The steady phwap, phwap, phwap of the helicopter blades usually drowned out the sound of Alex’s heartbeat as he prepared to jump out of the chopper. Not today. He stared down at the snow covered mountain top and wondered what was different.

Ice cold fingers of the altitude tugged at his wind suit while he braced himself in the open doorway. He watched the ground rush past 10,000 feet below. Overwhelmed by the erratic rhythm of his heart, Alex welcomed the rush of adrenaline like the lover’s caress it had always been.

He shook off the aberrant thought and focused instead on the task ahead. With precise movements, he went over the safety measures vital for a drop like this one. He had packed both the main chute and the auxiliary himself. He checked his bootstraps, helmet strap and snapped the goggles into place.

Once he shoved off there would be nothing between him and the mountain but air. The perfect moment in time. He reveled in it, fed off it, craved that moment like he craved nothing else in life. He nodded to the spotter and let go.

Air raced past him with a loud swoosh.

He screamed out a war cry and stood tall on his snowboard.

He curled his body around the wood and rolled with it through the air.

He’d been doing this for years. Jumping out of planes, careening over cliffs, surfing through walls of water to come through triumphant over nature at its most primitive.

Alex let loose with another whoop but it contained little of the fervor of the first. Something was missing.

He executed a brilliant back flip.

No one cheered.

No one grinned back at him.

No one returned his victory salute.

Freefalling through the sky, Alex had his moment of truth.

And it was nothing like it usually was.

His heart still raced, his breath still caught in a combination of awe and ball busting fear but it had little to do with the loss of control skydiving gave him.
There was none of the exhilaration he’d felt in a different moment.

A clearer moment.

He pulled the ripcord and ended his wild ride.

He didn’t want silence, didn’t want to be alone.

All the excitement Alex craved had walked out of his life two days ago.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Writing - not as easy as it looks

Thanks to everyone who had a comment on my last post. It's been a conundrum. Apparently, I had discussed the concerns about Alex's growth and motivation at great length with my critique partner. Once I finished inputting the notes, I realized we had dealt with his issues quite well.

While I was out shopping with my sixteen year old nephew tonight I found a weevil pendant. I have no intention of wearing the real bug encased in acrylic but it did remind me of Nea's pet - which in turn reminded me of the incident that shoved Nea out of the grove, the nymph world and away from her mother. There is some really heavy stuff in that moment and the weevil is a constant reminder of her mother's betrayal. Ultimately, the poor little weevil will also be proof of her father's true demonic nature. So it all works.

As soon as I have it finished, I'll post an excerpt for Mary(the rest of you can read it too :D ) It involves a tornado, a trailer park and a few unfortunate - wait, I can't tell you that it will spoil the surprise. It's nasty, but understandable. Isn't that what you said? You would forgive her anything if you could identify with her? Oh, I hope so. Cause this whole writing thing is no where near as easy as Bryan makes it look with his whole oh-I-just-thought-of-this-and-posted-it-without-reading-it-through posts. Yeah, I'm bitter. I'll simply channel it into Nea's character.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Truth

I've spent the last ten days talking. About writing, about life, about truth. I'm understanding the snag I've encountered in my book much better. And it begs the question, which is more important - the story or being published?

My heroine is a demon who wants to convert the hero into a demon. Is it a romance with paranormal elements or a paranormal with romantic elements? Answering that question can have a significant impact on the first one. Each publisher has different guidelines; elements they're looking for, others they abhor.

Cathy's thoughts about love led us to a conversation about truth. In love and life. About self-truths and the way people respond to that honesty. Some embrace it while others flee. It takes courage to be that truthful.

Redemption is impossible without soul deep sincerity. Right now Nea has neither. My fear has been how to make her a demon yet sympathetic at the same time. She's done some rotten things but nothing reprehensible.

I've known some people who've done some truly horrible things. People who struck out in anger, in anguish, in self-defense. People who confronted the ugliness within and eradicated it. Their redemption is sincere, and believable. I'm not sure that would fly in fiction, particularly romance.

Everyone has their own opinion. Everyone has their own life story. Everyone has their own triggers as to what they would never read in a book. Jenny Crusie had to create two posts to manage all the comments on that one.

I've been easy on Alex and Nea because of a concern that my original intent would alienate some readers. I think this makes the story weaker. So now I'm thinking about putting it all back in. Demons are nasty creatures but not Nea. If she really hates and hurts as much as she does, why has she been so careful with her rage? Furthermore, I've set up her backstory to suggest that she's feeding people's evil expectations of her. It's a fine line and I've failed with the darker aspects. For both of them.

Is it better to be true to the characters and story or true to publisher demands? It won't sell if Nea killed people. Who will believe that love showed her the error of her ways? What drives Alex to the point where he seriously considers becoming a demon? Someone dies. Part of the flaw lies in my timeline. He wouldn't be over that trauma in the two weeks that follow that revelation.

Alex's black moment isn't black enough as it stands without the death. Without any true evil on her part, he's not horrified enough by Nea's existence, nor his own actions in a situation that drove him to this moment. The way I've written it doesn't ring true.

Despite the fact that I'm not published and likely shouldn't take a big risk so early in my career, I'm convinced I have to write the story, and characters, with as much honesty as I can. Nothing irritates me more than when a writer isn't true to their characters.

But how do you feel? Would you expect the demon heroine in a romance to be nicer than your average demon; no matter how well motivated she is to commit evil acts? Regardless, Alex must plunge into a pit of despair and seriously consider Nea's offer or the reader will not believe in his black moment. Or Nea's redemption when she saves them both.

I have more thinking to do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Can't blog. Writing

Nea and Alex are each sitting on a shoulder, giving their own personal versions of what's going on. While it may be informational and entertaining,it's also distracting as hell. I'll have to blog more another time.

My most sincere apologies.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Motivation

I was just inputting some of my notes and came across the word hurt. I had underlined it three times so that I would remember how intense it had been. When I transcribed it, I changed the font to bold. Which got me wondering how to convey everything that I meant with just that one word. We've become so used to text messaging and all the word processing that allows us to make shortcuts.

But I need to show the who, what, when, where, why and how of that hurt. I tend to write with the radio on. Primarily country music because each song is a short story. While I was thinking about Alex and how he hurt, I want you to live by George Canyon came on the radio. The words are evocative and heart-wrenching. The video doubly so because I know the air force base at which it was filmed. But the lyrics do a brilliant job of showing all the emotion contained in the title.

And while the song is full of a hurt so different from Alex's, I realized why I underlined and bolded that word. Alex thinks his hurt is physical. There's a lot of pain in his body. But deeper than that is the pain in his soul. He's been bruised and battered in ways he can't comprehend. He doesn't understand and that, as much as the pain itself, leads him to behave in such an uncharacteristic way.

Despite the above link, I can't watch the video too often. Alex can't look beneath the surface of his hurt to the wounds that run soul deep. But both are excellent studies in motivation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Worth the drive

It was a ten hour drive that prompted my friend to ask me if the bowl of chili we were eating was worth the drive. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of peppers, garlic, assorted spices and the secret ingredient. Flavours danced on my tongue. The muted roar of the race reached us from the television set in the living room. A grin lit the face of a friend I hold dear. Of course the chili was worth the drive.

On the excruciatingly long drive home through severe thunderstorms I thought about my answer. With only CDs by Spirit of the West, The Tea Party and the soundtracks to Cars and Dreamgirls to keep me company, I thought a lot.

Barnes and Noble where we studied each other's selections was worth the drive. Watching the cat return time and again for a chin scratch even though he got a shock every single time he touched me was worth the drive. Going to see the movie 300 together (scantily clad men for me, scantily clad women for him, scantily clad men for me, violence for him) was well worth the drive. Shopping in a grocery store with so much selection it boggled my mind was worth the drive. A Discovery channel marathon of "Dirty Jobs" was worth the drive. Getting to know a good friend better was worth the drive.

Then I thought about how all of the above related to Alex and Nea(what did you expect? This is a writing blog after all) Writing is almost always about the journey, not the destination. Characters think the story is about their goal - reaching the chili so to speak. Readers want to know how the characters reach their destination. What sacrifices they make, how they interact, grow and change each other in the process of attaining their goal. As writers we have to make that journey as entertaining and suspenseful as possible for the reader. The drive must be worth it or they will stop the car and get out.

I plotted my route home with the help of Mapquest,The Weather Channel and one of those old-fashioned, folding papers with lines, squiggles and numbers on it(road map). A cup of tea and bottle of water were placed in the cup holders. I broke my no-food-in-the-car rule and filled the front seat with snacks (I don't recommend peeling your own banana while you drive,that's what navigators are for)The gas tank was full.

As with writing, all the plotting and planning had to move aside for the unexpected glitches that made the journey more interesting. The torrential downpour that lasted through four states, turned into sleet and made the driving treacherous. The car's reluctance to shift gears while making the upward climb north through the Pennsylvania hills. A missed turn for the gas station, detours for construction, a long line of haulers and the frantic blinking of the low fuel indicator. I had to adjust my plan, stretch my brain and stay focused on my goal - to get home safely.

Nea wants to drag Alex into hell as her playmate. I drove the route this weekend. Alex wants to get back to Belize and his old life. I saw a road sign for that trip. Neither one of them will reach their destination. Despite four days of exploring, there's still so much for me to discover. But for all of us, yes, it's been worth the drive.

The chili was delicious.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Synchronicity

I've been doing a lot of reading. It's writing related. I'm looking for a publisher. I want to find one that is a good fit for my kind of paranormal. No vampires, werewolves or shapeshifters here. Just gods and demons, saving the world kinda stuff.

I found one that seems like the perfect fit. And to be quite honest, I've had a few authors I respect tell me to submit there. After reading the guidelines, again, I sat down today to do just that. But thoughts of drowning in the slush pile stopped me. There has to be way around it.

How do you get to write requested material on your package? Have an agent, win a contest, or dazzle the editor at a conference appointment. This is not a house that spends a lot of time with contests or conferences but I googled them anyway. Imagine that, not only is the senior editor going to be at a RWA conference in June, one of the guest speakers is my good friend (that's what all of her stalker fans call her) Lani Diane Rich.

A sign from the gods that I should attend? It's in Wisconsin. Not exactly around the corner for me. But considering the amount of travel I've been planning lately for pleasure, it seems reasonable to go an equal distance in pursuit of my goal to be published.

Then I read the rest of the editor/agent list. 4 out of 5 are on my dream list. I'd be a fool to stay home.

I've already talked one of my writing buddies into seriously considering this wild road trip with me. It didn't take much effort on my part. All of the pieces are lining up. Effortlessly.

Maybe it's time to tap into that synchronicity and run with it. All the way to Wisconsin.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Out of chaos

I feel like Alex and Nea are slipping away from me. I haven't had time to write more than a sentence here and there for weeks now. I've always maintained that if it's important to you, no matter what it is, you'll make time for it. But my brain can't process these days. Paint. Work. Move. Paint. Work. Move. Work. Unpack. Work. I vaguely remember staring at the television in a fog the other night.

There won't be any more time this weekend either. Missing my characters is a good sign. It means my brain is coming back online. I hope. There's a section in the sagging middle that I can work on in my head while all this chaos gets straightened out. Imagine that, it's the section of the book that is filled with chaos and confusion for the characters. All their preconceived ideas are turned upside down.
Nothing is what they thought it was. They aren't where they want to be, physically or emotionally. I can use how I feel right now when I'm stuck for a description. The main difference is that I know how wonderful life is going to be once the dust settles.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spider Web

I've been painting all the walls in the house the same off-white colour. It's called Spider Web. In some lights it has a hint of blue, in others it looks green. It depends upon lighting, time of day and where you're standing. Very strange, and brings us back to perspective.

That's a big thing in my life and in my writing. I try to see situations from the other person's point-of-view so that we can come to a better understanding. I try to write scenes from the character who has most to learn.

This project started as Alex's story. He was supposed to save the world but I let his sister do that instead. When she defeated a demon the germ for Alex's story embedded itself in my psyche.

I haven't had a lot of time to write while I paint. This house is bigger than I thought. And while Spider Web doesn't sound like it would be, it's actually a bright, fresh colour. It gives the rooms a different look. Considering the fact that we're taking several individuals and weaving their lives under this roof, the name is appropriate. I like the connections we're making. Spider Web in both apartments.

Alex and Nea have been relegated to the background but they're still lurking in my brain. Nea has taken more thought than Alex, because she's newer to me. She's had a lot to learn, been given a lot of scnes in order to show that. I was a bit concerned that the story had shifted ownership to her. I shoved the thought aside and focused on painting. Spider Web in the common room.

Alex appeared in his sister's story. The seeds of Nea were sown there. Wings and rivers, kayaking and flying - images that tumbled around as I continued to apply paint. There were connections between Alex and Nea, between the stories and once I found the link between ripping Nea's wings off and sending Alex over Niagara Falls in a kayak, I realized the story belonged to both of them. Their connections are integral to each other and the story in much the same way painting all the rooms in the house the same colour reminds us that we rely on each other's strengths to balance the family as a whole.

Threads weaving throughout the house - and the story.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Flying

I made an amended version of my goal for the January writing challenge. Instead of writing full scenes, I wrote notes, dialogue and descriptions for the entire book. I not only know where it's going, I know how it's getting there. Now I have to work on the details, those pesky demonic details.

Nea loves to fly. She loves everything about it - the wind in her hair, the steady beating of her wings, riding air currents, and scaring the crap out of people when she comes up on them. I've been playing around with her wings. I know they're pale, translucent with tiny veins visible. I want to stick with the leaf motif but also want them to be creepy.

What kind of texture do they have? Alex not only has to touch them, he's going to fondle them. Yes, like that. So it better not be too gross. And I don't want him to damage them either. There's some thought still required on this subject.

But flying. Where does fly? Why? When? Not how. I can picture how. The expression on her face is pure ecstasy.

Which is why it's going to demoralize her when I ground her like the nymphs - rip her wings off her body.

Writers are evil people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Home is where the heart is?

I've been thinking about Home a lot. My personal living arrangements are in flux for one thing. My characters have no idea where they live for another.

Is where you live home? Not for Alex. The son of a diplomat he's grown up all over the world. As an adult, he has a home base but lives out of suitcases and backpacks as he travels the world chasing one extreme adventure after another.

Nea was booted out of her mother's home when she was young. Her father took her in, but as a weather demon, had no fixed address. They went wherever his mood took them. As an adult, her vagabond existence never changed.

I couldn't set the story all over the place. For various plot and health reasons, Alex needs to be grounded in one spot. It's driving him crazy. I was nice enough to put him into a converted version of the old Toronto Power Generating Station at the top of Niagara Falls.


The inside is even more spectacular. Whenever I get stuck, I can drive over there and look at Alex's view. The building is perched right on the edge of the Niagara River, close enough to drop a kayak into the water. The roar of the Falls fills him with despair.


Nea grew up for a few short years inside a fairy forest. As soon as I saw this picture, I knew she longed to return here among the moss. Secretly and so deep down inside her consciousness that even she doesn't know she longs. The scene of a traumatic life defining moment, it holds great power over her. But it's not home. She has no place she considers Home.

Neither does Alex.

And neither one of them seem to be attached to any one place over another - despite her secret longing and his determination to return to Belize. They are children of the earth. The whole world is their home. With neither one of them knowing where - or who - their heart is, they are destined to wander.

Eventually they will make a home together. Likely some time in the future after the story is told. And that home will probably be wherever their suitcases and backpacks fit. Neither one of them would be happy settled in one spot. There home base will be determined by convenience not comfort, nor familial ties. Bits and pieces of their hearts are scattered throughout the world. Together they will gather them up and reform their own definitions of heart and home.

I took the photo of Alex's home, Nea's is courtesy of Bryan J Weitzel at bjwcreations.com

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

And the winner is....

...Curculio Elephas


A gift from Nea's demon father when she was a child. She thought the little grub was Clio.
She had to feed Clio. And all of Clio's 45 brothers and sisters. They destroyed an already weakened stand of Spanish Chestnut trees. Nea got in BIG TROUBLE for this. Trouble from which she has never bothered to extricate herself. The entemology may be a little skewed for the botany but it's fiction. I get a little artistic licence, right?

You get two points if you know where the name Clio came from. Another two points for guessing which insect is the curculio elephas.


That's right. It was the Chestnut Weevil (sorry guys, the nose convinced me)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Insects

I'm trying to decide which insect Nea would have as a pet. I haven't figured out all the reasons she has one but I saw it on her shoulder, looking somewhat like a brooch pin. It's her reminder of a life-changing incident that set her on the demonic path. But I don't want it to be an insect that comes with a public preconception. I don't want it to be ugly or icky. I've narrowed it down to the Japanese Beetle



which is partly responsible for the decimation of the American Chestnut, looks good as a brooch and doesn't send me screaming into the night. I like the way the carapace shimmers and I think I could do a lot with it.

Then there's this guy - the Chestnut Weevil. I like his proboscis(nose). It's almost cute. He'll blend in with her clothes, hair and other surroundings


There are pros and cons for both. Which one has a higher ick factor for you? I'm not sure that's what I'm going for but I'm going to give this some consideration. Everything has to serve more than one purpose in a scene, chapter, story. Does he have a name? Yikes, he'll have to arc too.