Wednesday, December 27, 2006

WODE Writing challenge

Write Off the Deep End is having a writing challenge in the month of January. While inspired by NaNoWriMo, it's different in several ways. We set our own individual goals; daily, weekly, and/or for the month. It can be a new project, an existing project, research, setting up a writing space, or organizing the rest of our lives so that writing is a priority. Like NaNo, we have a yahoogroup to help support each other, and keep a database charting our individual progress. Most of the participants are from my local writer's group but I have extended the invitation to other writers I've met in the Quest for more knowledge, support and insight into this creative process. The more people involved, the greater chance for success. So many of us are competitive creatures. Simply knowing other people are reaching their goals can spur us on to complete our own.

If I come on here over the next month, babbling about how my characters are refusing to co-operate or that the weather is interfering with their action in the forest or asking what kind of insect eats its young or any other odd comment or question, you'll know that I'm in the midst of a writing challenge. I will also be in the midst of house renovations and in dire need of a vacation midway through the month but that's the kind of chaos that gets my creativity hopping.

If you know what kind of disease chestnuts can rebound from, please save me the research time and let me know. I'm going to send a horde of insects into the grove to finish them off while they're in their weakened condition so I suppose knowing the appropriate insects would help too. Hey, I don't have time to research, I'm plotting my goals, plot and arcs so I at least have some clue which direction I'm headed in January. Want to join me?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Classic movies

I've been on a bit of a classic movie kick. The dialogue alone is worth the price of admission (where did that expression originate?) It's sharp, witty and fast-paced. There are some interesting reminders that times have changed but it amazes me how tough and in control the women were of their hearts, minds, and destinies - not to mention their men. Cary Grant, William Powell, Bogie all more than held their own.

Smoking and drinking to excess were the norm, not frowned upon as they are in today's society. Lots of name-calling and face-slapping. Very little swearing or graphic violence. There were dark themes, and farsical schemes. A little bit of something for everyone.

Especially writers. Because the most important element to every classic movie I've watched over the last month has been a good story told well. Without nudity, profanity or special effects to rely on, the writers used words. Descriptive words, intelligent words, word twists and riddles, banter and repartee to move the plot and characters along in a way that invested and entertained the audience.

I have a few presents to finish making, all the wrapping to do and a little bit of baking left. I'm going to watch Suspicion, Vertigo, maybe even To Catch a Thief in my last minute rush of activity.

It's all in the name of research.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Writing through the holidays

It's the time of year when we're stretched in every possible direction. Family, work, friends, acquaintances, characters - yes, even our characters are part of the melee that demands our time right now. But most of us will likely give more time to the post man or paper boy than we will to the characters who bring our stories to life. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to fit everyone and everything in. I've given up a decent night's sleep in the attempt to get it all done but am still way behind. Nine more shopping days. Ha ha h - oops ho ho ho.

To a certain extent, I resent the time away from my writing. The fictional world is part of my coping mechanism for the rest of my life. Right now, in the crazy season of holiday cheer, shopping, eggnog, baking, decorating, whine, visiting and wrapping, I need that world more than ever. The longer I'm away from it, the harder it is to get back into the story and characters that sustain me. Like an elusive dream in the pre-dawn hour, my fictional world lingers on the edge of my consiousness.

Excuse me while I back away from the blog and capture a few moments of bliss in a world where the only demand is that I give it life.

And keep my sanity.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Why I blog

One of my critique partners asked me why I blog. I told her it helped me marshall my thoughts. She understood the idea of journaling to brainstorm but followed with the question, "Why make it public?"

I've been thinking about that for a month. There's no doubt a blog is a good time sink. Once committed to a blog, it's important to update it on a regular basis. It's great practice for meeting a deadline. If you take too long to post, people will yell at you about it.

A blog is also a great forum to try out an idea and get feedback. It's also an excellent way to build readership. If the goal is to be published, or stay published, than a blog can be a useful tool.

Plus, I like the attention.

According to the flower lore - "You stand up for what you believe in, even if it gets in the way of what other people think. You are proud of yourself and your accomplishments and you enjoy letting people know that."

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The devil is in the details

The other morning, my mind drifted to the crisp Autumn day after the Don't Look Down conversation. It was the same park with the same friend but every image I latched onto was isolated. The bright red leaf of the vine that twined its way through the metal lattice of the park bench. The chartreuse Osage orange that hung on the bare branch like a tennis ball. The smooth round orange stone in the field of pebbles and rocks. And my friend's hands, so much younger looking than his age and occupation would suggest.

It occurred to me that my hero only sees my heroine in details. Her smooth, round ass. Shimmering, pulsing wings. Small perfect breasts. Red eyes that see through his soul. He doesn't see who she is, only that which will bend him to her will. This could have a lot to do with why I still don't picture her clothing. When Alex looks at her, he focuses on what's important to him.

And that's where life and art meld. Photographs take us out of a moment, highlight an image that gives it significance for the rest of time. Scenes do the same thing. If you're showing it, then it's important.

Nea is a fractured character. And the more she disintegrates, the more Alex will see of her. Her true self will emerge from the wreckage of her identity crisis. Because in her case, the devil, or demon if you will, is truly in the details.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I was standing in front of the mirror this morning brushing my hair before I jumped into the shower. It was the perfect pose for admiration, very flattering. And my first thought was, "That is a much better body than you think it is." It's soft and round and generous and I rarely look at myself like that. I'm usually critical of the excess weight, the effects of gravity and scars of life.

I stripped the bathroom last night in preparation for this weekend's paint job. With so little to distract me, my focus naturally gravitated to the mirror. Such a clear unobstructed view made me look at myself differently. Less critically.

As writers we're critical people. We're always trying to improve our projects, our style, our craft. Critique groups were formed for that very purpose. Critique, critical and criticize have the same root. And we sometimes make the mistake of thinking they're all the same thing. We focus so much on what doesn't work that we ignore what does. As a result, we occasionally ruin the good stuff when we're fixing the bad.

My body and I have had our differences over the years. I'm not as good to it as I should be. I focus on the negative, on the ways it has let me down when in reality I'm blessed with this body. It gets me where I need to go, allows me to express myself in the ways I most desire and is reasonably attractive in the process.

My writing is the same. It tells a good story, is reasonably entertaining and allows me to express myself in the ways I most desire.

Today, I'm going to appreciate all that works well; not just in my writing or my body, but my life as well. Be less critical, and let my attitude mirror my life.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Jennifer Talty wrote a good piece about writer's voice on her blog. While it's true that many writers struggle to find the writing style that sets them apart from other writers, I think the bigger problem is that people try too hard to sound different. Every single person who writes to me, whether it's a note, letter or email sounds exactly the same on paper as they do in person. They're not worried about their "voice", they're simply using it. Instead of spending too much searching for the right feel, the right rhythm, the right combination of words, be yourself. If you're light and airy, write that way. Don't try to be something you're not. Be yourself. It's as true in writing as in life. It's the best way to be successful at what you do.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't look down

It's not just the title of a collaboration from Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, apparently it's my own personal philosophy.

I rarely look down. I didn't realize this until my friend had to keep pointing out stuff on the path that I was about to step on, like the raccoon. It wasn't until I was told to step aside that I realized the raccoon was dead. I was too busy looking up in the trees. My friend, on the other hand, didn't look up. Not much anyway. I was looking up or into the distance, seeing the big picture, trying to take everything in. My friend was focused on the path we walked, on what was right in front of us, on the details.

Between the two of us we managed to see both high and low, near and far.

We were talking about our writing the next day, specifically our characters and their evolutions. We discussed every little trick we've ever read about understanding them better; their goals, motivations and conflicts; their perceptions and they way they are perceived. I thought about our own walk in the park and how differently we experienced it. What of our characters? Did they see overviews or minutiae? Are they focused in the present, looking ahead to the future, or perhaps mired in the past? Do their viewpoints complement or conflict each other? How does it affect their relationship, the plot or story if their styles are the same?

I try to look down once in awhile to get a better sense of what's in front of me. Like my demon's wings, my hero's exuberance and the knotty branch blocking the path.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"She's a writer"

I went away last weekend with a couple of friends. I gathered enough information on that road trip for several blogs, more about that later, but one of the most interesting was that the phrase, "She's a writer" seemed to be the answer for every situation we encountered.

"How do you know each other?" - "She's a writer." I'm the writer in question and just for the record, I work with one girl and live with the other(no, not like that, sheesh). My relationships with them does make for some interesting situations but apart from this blog, none of them have ever ended up on any of my manuscript pages. Yet.

"Why didn't you fly?" - "She's a writer." The answer had more to do with cashflow, which, as we all know, is something with which writers struggle. My friend's answer was a more interesting response. The road trip provided us with sleep deprived giggles, the unforgettable image of a ghost deer leaping across the road in front of us, and the opportunity to brainstorm my story in the wee hours when everyone else slept.

"What do you want to do?" - "She's a writer." Apparently only the writer can make a freakin' decision. When in actuality, only the writer is looking at new and interesting situations for research purposes. In all fairness, the writer is the one who wanted the picture of the statue because it almost looked like her demon heroine. So that was a fair response.

When it comes right down to it the response to "What do you want to eat? Where do you want to go?" and "What did you purchase?" truly was "She's a writer." My characters, settings and situations are heavily influenced by my experiences, and vice versa. I can't separate my writing from my self. The need to put words to page are integral to my identity. Everything I say, do, think, and feel is guided by that truth.

Some of the questions may have been altered for storytelling purposes. :Shrug:
I am a writer.

Here's a photo of the not quite Nea statue. The body is right; the legs, wings and arms are not, but the statue has given me a lot to think about.

Monday, November 13, 2006 the details

Do you ever have a phrase stick in your head, minus an important word? No matter how hard you try to remember it, nothing sounds right. the details. I was fairly certain it had something to do with writing. For two days, I thought the missing word was beauty. The beauty's in the details. True enough when you're writing. Individual snowflakes, the light against the tree trunk, a crooked smile. Together those details layer a scene, really make it come alive. And I'm pretty sure I heard Bob Mayer say something similar in one of his talks with Jennifer Crusie. Although in Bob's case, I'm sure his details had more to do with the satisfying click from removing the safety on his glock.

But beauty didn't flow quite right. It didn't have the proper rhythm for that phrase. I tried clarity. Details provide a great deal of clarity. The shimmery wings on my character's back are an important detail about her appearance that provide some clarity to her identity. She's definitely not human but that detail takes it another step further.
Demons have wings, nymphs don't. The clarity is in the details.

Still not right. Serenity in the details? Essence in the details? Confusion in the details? After awhile every single word I tried had a strong arguement for why it was essential to the details. The details started to overwhelm the phrase with their own ideas of what they did, where they belonged. I dragged other people into my internal discussion. I like to share the insanity.

A friend suggested that the devil was in the details. My initial reaction was hey, just because we're talking about demons....But then the more we played with the phrase the more sense it made. It sounded familiar. But it didn't sound like a writing phrase. I suppose those details can be devilish to describe. But don't beauty and clarity make better sense? Not just from a writing standpoint but from a position of truth. Of course Google proved my friend right.

But I like beauty. And clarity. And serenity.
What about you? What do your details enhance?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

First Kiss

I discovered tonight that one of the reasons I can't write at my parents' is it makes me uncomfortable to be thinking erotic thoughts while my mom is in the other room. She laughed at me but really I couldn't do it. There is a lot more to my wip than sex but right now that’s what the characters and I are dealing with. And that’s something I just don’t want to be thinking about at my parents’ house. Yeah, I know where I came from and what a wonderful night that was for them but some things are better left undiscussed. And for the record, I feel slightly weird writing those scenes with anyone else in the room.

Then Mom asked me about writing kisses. She’s going great guns on her NaNoWriMo entry. The love scenes are slowing her up, so I guess I’m not the only one with the squee factor. She wrote, "They kissed passionately, ardently." And I said, "Show that". Which is where it got weird. She wanted examples. I wouldn't give her any. I suggested she do some reading, perhaps ask herself questions. How did it feel, physically and emotionally? What did they taste like? What physiological response did the characters have to said kisses? Did they want more, less? Did the kisses drive all other thoughts out of their minds?

I've been thinking about kisses for awhile. They are so huge both in real life and fiction. The first one has to be almost perfect. And if it's not, in fiction there better be something that makes the hero and heroine try it again. Every kiss means something. The first kiss, a kiss of anticipation and anxiety can taste like fear, or panic, even be over-eager, too worried about making a good impression to actually do so. Or the lead up that draws out the moment; breath mingling as mouths slowly come together, feather light touch of lips. Kisses can say so much.

So, Mom, I’m sorry I wasn’t forthcoming last night. This blog is an attempt to make it up to you. Just don’t read it while I’m in the room.

Here’s an example of a first kiss from Heaven Coming Down. Not a lot of description, mostly introspection but I think it sets up the situation between the hero and heroine. In the end, it is their kiss that saves the world so the first kiss needs to hint at that, even though poor Ki-ennu has no idea what he’s gotten into.

He could only think of one way to stop her from speaking.

Ki-ennu tightened his fingers in Gabriela’s braid, pulled her in close, and kissed her.

Her lips were smooth and sweet like the tender inside of a freshly peeled orange. He should have guessed that her tough exterior and acidic tongue would harbor such gentleness. Nothing with Gabriela was as it initially appeared.

Her hands came up to grasp his forearms, whether to push him away or draw him closer was unclear. Gabriela moaned.

The sound changed the tone of the kiss. Flipped a switch inside him as emotion took over from practicality. What had started as a way to prevent her from repeating the spell shifted to relief.

She could have died.
If her grip on the tree trunk had slipped, Gabriela would have fallen, impaled on a tree branch. It would have been an excruciating death. Her loss would be devastating, not only to the Quest, but to himself.
Ki-ennu pulled her in closer, tightened his grip as his tongue sought to banish the taste of fear from them both. He would shield her from harm, use his own body to keep Pzuzu at bay.
Her hands slid up his arms in a caress. Her mouth opened and Ki-ennu felt the kiss change again.
Gabriela pressed herself into him. She wound her arms around his waist, hooked her leg over his calf. She did not cling, nor devour, but met him head on, an equal exchange of passion and energy.
It was a kiss unlike any other.
With a woman unlike any other.
If this was how humans kissed, no wonder Inanna had been willing to forgo her throne for one. His mother’s sacrifices to be with a human suddenly made more sense.
Another moan, only this one came from him.
Stunned at the display of emotion she wrung from him, Ki-ennu wrenched himself free.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Perceptions, perspective and POV

As people prepare for NaNoWriMo, the writing challenge that encourages you to write 50,000 words in a month, I have been engaged in an unusally high volume of writing discussions. Despite the fact that I am neither published nor taking part in NaNoWriMo.

The recurring theme has been point-of-view. How to be a POV purist, head-hopping and how to know the best POV to be in for each scene. We even discussed what POV is. POV in movies, books, scenes; POV from the hero, the heroine, the villain, the antagonist and the dog. I even dreamed in someone else's POV the other night.

So you would think that I'd be a little more cognizant of the fact that not everyone shares my POV. But I don't think that's the problem. The issue is that not everyone has my life experiences, nor I theirs. It's a good thing because it helps us to learn more about life than we possibly could all on our own.

My perception of events is coloured by my previous experiences. Like Pavlov's dogs, I expect certain things to happen when I slam the door on my hand. Screaming, swearing, discoloration; stuff like that. I don't necessarily have to have experienced that previously to know it's going to hurt but it helps me be more cautious if the pain has been mine, not observed.

If I'm standing off to the side and watching someone slam the door on their hand, I'm naturally going to relay that experience somewhat differently than if it is my hand turning purple. I might even be able to forget about it as the day goes on. it was a minor incident that had little or no impact on me, other than to extract a moment of sympathy. It's not my hand throbbing and turning a kaleidiscope of colour, constantly reminding me every time I try to execute a simple task that I slammed the appendage in the door.

Both perspectives are valid. Whichever one you choose to write from will reflect that character's perception of what happened. The observor may view the experience as an unfortunate incident, forget about it and move on. Or they perceive the whole thing to be the fault of the person who wasn't paying enough attention to the way the door swung. How does the other character react? Was it the door's fault? Were they too distracted to notice the door? Are they grateful this now gets them out of a week's worth of chores? Is it preventing them from something they really wanted to do?

Did you notice how I shifted from first person to third? Did it jar you? POV shifts are important. When they're done well, you never notice. When they're done poorly, it can make you seasick from all the head-hopping.

Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo. It's a great challenge. I'm sure you're up to it. That's my perception and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Barefoot Girl and The Demon

My heroine is naked.

And has been for every scene I’ve written so far. She’s a demon. With wings. It’s not that I haven’t been able to figure out how to dress her. It simply hasn’t been part of my thought processes. For the first third of the book, she’s stripping the hero and having her wicked way with him. She uses sex as a weapon and believe me, her arsenal is well-stocked.

Delving into my junk drawer for a way to dress my heroine, I came across a memory from the other day. I was wearing my turquoise skirt that swings in a fun, flirty and sexy way. I like fun, flirty and sexy. Those three words belong together in my mind. It’s hard for me to say one without the other two. Because I was walking to work, I wore the flat blue shoes instead of the sandals I usually wore. On the twenty minute walk, it occurred to me that despite the way the skirt played around my legs, flirted with my knees, and slid across my bare thighs, it was neither fun, flirty, nor sexy. It was the sandals that made me feel that way.

This realization was quite the shock to someone who prides herself on being Barefoot Girl. Socks, shoes, stockings and boots all feel like torture devices to my bare feet. My toes like to wriggle. Grass tickles, sand burns and mud squishes. There other less enjoyable sensations I’ve experienced as a result of my barefoot status, but they’re part of the package. It’s not all one way or another. Life is a blend of textures, and experiences.

Which leads me back to my heroine. Clothes don’t matter to her. She couldn’t care less what she wears as long as she can hike it up, tug it down or shimmy out of it. More often than not, she doesn’t bother with such impediments. Temperature control is not an issue for a demon. She can manipulate climate and appearances in order to project whatever image she wants. As the book develops she suffers a major identity crisis. Her clothing can illustrate this as she lets go of who she thinks she is and embraces her true self.

If Barefoot Girl can wear fun, flirty, sexy sandals, my heroine can wear clothes.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Junk drawers

A blog is a lot like a junk drawer for a writer. You toss stuff up on the screen that doesn't have a home anywhere else. Stuff that you might need somewhere down the road. Stuff that is incredibly useful but rarely needed. Analogies that shine light into the basement when the bulb burns out. Metaphors and similies that act like batteries for that flashlight. Random thoughts that work like paperclips to hold scenes together. Character traits that stretch or connect conflict and motivation like elastic bands or bits of string.

Like any good junk drawer, a blog needs to be sorted through, or cleared out to make sure the candles didn't melt, the matches didn't get wet or the ideas grow stale. Which is one of the many reasons I've resisted a blog for so long. Just one more procrastination tool/chore that keeps me from writing.

On the other hand, I had a great insight the other day about shoes and characters that I lost because I didn't write it down anywhere.

What's in your junk drawer?