meeting the mentor

The romantic hero in my current WIP has a mentor that has always been very clear in my head. Imagine my horror when I arrived at the scene where this mentor, Dave appears and there were no words on the page that described him. Dave is an important player in the story and was introduced as a faceless, formless, energy who tossed out a few words and the hero gallops off after his lady-love.

This is the point where a novelist must giggle. It is also the point where we thank our stars we are revising (again!) prior to handing our text over to more than a few trusted friends.

At this point in the story, the reader knows Dave is in his 50’s and the father of one of the other characters.  He will be described again through the eyes of another character but here’s how the reader first sees him:

In his standard uniform of brown twill pants, and a green, beige and white plaid flannel shirt, Dave seldom gave the appearance of a master mechanic. Grease and oil barely ever stained his clothes and even his fingers bore few traces of stain in the calluses or around the nails. It took little effort for Dave to change from marine mechanic to jaunty sailboat captain for the monthly romantic rendezvous Dave stated were requirements to keep his prostate healthy.

It doesn’t quite do justice to the image I have in my head, and some of the words are really lame, but what do you think?

Key of Solomon

Key of Solomon by Cassiel Knight is the first book of the new Relic Defender series. It’s a paranormal romance of the Angels and Demons genre and it can be found at the Samhaim Store which I’m going to have to check out in case there are more fun books like this. It’s only available as an ebook right now.

It’s a kick-assitude story of choices with mystical and historical elements. There are a variety of paranormal characters and some fascinating world building. Even some of the settings are paranormal like the Chicago strip club-that-allows-belly dancing where we first meet Lexi and Mikos.

Once Lexi (and readers) meet Rocky-the-changeling-imp the subtle shifts from dark and dangerous to surreal entertainment begin. The angel-demon politics are a bit bent, the dark angel wings are majestic and the vampy-cat-demon wears some great costumes that could horribly clash with her hair and eyes, if she was human.

It’s a quest story with surprising twists and Lexi is a sensual and reluctant heroine who can curl up in a chair and pout a bit that she really just wants to finish the quest and return to her life. If she really has to save humanity in the process, oh well, there are one or two humans worth saving. This reader would have liked a little more belly dancing.

The suspense is not where it was expected (which I liked) and the world building was fascinating. The novel has some great quotes and is lightly peppered with clichés delivered with precise timing. The story had its own style arc from dark and tense to surreal and suspenseful to wild and wacky while still being dark and tense.

It was an interesting and entertaining read and bodes well for future books in the series.

brave writing

Last night I met with my new critique partners for the third time, the second time where they actually had chapters of my novel to critique. It was affirming that they agreed with my self discoveries this past month about my own writing. It felt wonderful that I could present clear and honest encouragement about their writing as well.

Our only point of contention is whether my heroine is dry for the initial cute-meet with the romantic hero or if she looks like a drowned rat after having fallen into the icy Columbia River. I’ll be considering this because first contact is always a big deal, not just for the characters but the readers.

Today I had that on a personal level (not by plunging into icy waters)  because I met with the editor who’s worked on my memoir. I researched editors (I have many contacts) for the past two years and finally approached Marian Pierce.  She checked out my website and agreed, yes, it was a project that interested her.

The initial meeting was fun and professional but still two strangers meeting for the first time. She was impressed at the scope of the story and the extent of work I had already invested into the project. Today we had already exchanged emails regarding the overview of what we would attempt to cover in our two hour meeting.  I was pleased to know there were some things she thought were absolutely stellar and others that were horribly clunky.

It was a glorious moment in the day as I walked along the side of the Active Space building. The sun shone, the temperature in the 50’s, the breeze light.  Then I reached the corner and turned. Marian was standing on the street chatting with a friend. Then she saw me and her face lit up and she came toward me and embraced me in a hug. (I LOVE HUGS!)

“I feel I really know you, and your parents,” she said. And we laughed and made our way up to her friends bigger office, with couches, and had tea, and chatted about how to make the details of my life well presented in words.

Two hours later the little voice in my head was trying to count how many times she used the word “brave” in reference to me (six?) while being tickled that my stronger voice appeared around page 60 (instead of page 135 as the first editor claimed).

Then there was the topic of half a chapter that could be a whole book of its own. Yes, I am considering two other (brave!) memoirs. But the delight was how Marian stumbled over how invested she was in my story and wants to see it in print. She’ll discount her rates and invest hours into getting it polished. This is so awesome! I’m imaging future events where readers want to hug me! How cool is that?

The primary issue is, I know many consider my memoir as the ultimate horror story while also being the ultimate love story. The difference is – I think it is a rather common story.  Therein lies its power, it’s so common it is untold.

advice

I do my best not to give advice because I know advice is wholly based on the experience of the adviser and doesn’t always translate well to the receiver.  My daughters will laugh at that because I’m full of advice and will toss it out with little encouragement.

When I see the word ADVICE – I see AD and VICE. So it was interesting to get a message from a young man seeking my advice. Whether I see the AD as an acronym for “advertisement” or “addition” will vary according to the VICE in question.

I’m often approached for advice and do my best to do a whole lot of listening before I speak. It is in the listening that an adviser will get a clue about what the querant really wants to hear. What my daughters didn’t notice is that prior to offering my advice I’d gotten an ear full, maybe for weeks, of the advice they wanted to hear.  All I gave them was what they already knew in a blunt statement but they had the bonus of blaming my advice for their choice.

When my advice is sought I try to focus on my role as AD VISOR and a VISOR is a protective shield from damaging brilliance.

Irish Goddess

We ate corned beef today but skipped the cabbage and I am wearing my tight green t-shirt with “Irish Goddess” stretched across my boobs. No, you really don’t want to see a picture.

The moon looks full but we have two more days of this potent energy, to be followed by the Spring Equinox. Check out Mark’s forecast for more information.

Aries is the pioneering spirit and the initiator of new cycles and when the sun enters the sign of Aries, it is spring. We are all affected. Watch and listen because you will see a whole lot of springing. Some of your friends, family or coworkers may be jumping out of their skins. Advise deep breathing.

Mercury is the trickster of the galaxy and already in Aries. Jupiter is the amplifier of energy and also in Aries. Uranus represents eccentricity and innovation and guess what, yep, just entered Aries.  This is why many people are already springing all over the place. Then here comes the sun!

A full moon is on the opposite side of the chart, so it’s just glowing on Aries but alas, in two weeks it will be there too.  The new moon may be hard to see but it’s initiating energy and the waxing moon is when to plant seeds.

All this activity is taking place in the 9th house of my personal chart. Planets that occupy the 9th house spur activity in philosophy, spirituality, higher learning, travel, in-laws and more (as if that’s not enough).

The 9th house represents publishing. So here’s how all these energies are working for me. Mercury represents communication and my friend and I submitted our marketing workshop proposal to two writer conferences. I’ve had some “light bulb” revelations recently and am enjoying revisions which is the good luck Jupiter energy.

Sudden changes and surprises are Uranus signature energy and will align with getting my memoir back from my editor.  I will be juggling three publishing related projects; one in nonfiction, one fiction, and one on the business of being published. Which means I am using all that awesome energy in Aries as it should be used and will (hopefully) avoid jumping out of my skin.

If you want to know what house Aries rules is in your chart, get a free chart at Astro.com. If you want some keywords regarding a specific house feel free to ask.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

dissecting a book

Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency was a dynamic presenter with strong opinions and clear examples of how to dissect novels and dissect our own writing to determine where it will fit within the ever shrinking publishing markets.

I could sense unrest among attendees over some of his opinions regarding indy and epublishers yet there was respect and appreciation at the whole body of his message. He was all about sharing tips and tools to make authors more targeted on what they write and where they submit to avoid an excess of rejections. It’s awesome to get views from the other side of the submission/publishing process.  Scott knows why and how he picks a few clients a year out of the hundreds of queries he gets weekly.

The clue he revealed that hit many with stunned disbelief was to write what you read. One example is Jessa Slade who reads historicals but writes urban fantasy romances.  She knows she doesn’t have the historical voice – she’s got edge. :)

I stared at my own bookshelves. They are full of novels written by my friends (all genre styles and publishing formats!) and an overload of nonfiction topics that would suggest I’m too schizophrenic to write anything. However I also had to step back and look more objectively not just at the books but also my journey as a writer and my intent to my craft.

In the 1990’s I was submitting manuscripts to Harlequin American Romances but it was my hobby with intent for a retirement career as a Single Title Author in the very distant future. There were a handful of nonfiction books on my shelves then and I took a few weekend writing classes. It was 2003 before I began attending monthly workshops and annual conferences. Then there was my learning curve to write a memoir. Personal events during the past ten years in my family life have also mirrored The Hero’s Journey in too many ways.

The nonfiction books on my shelf today (beyond dozens of writer craft books) cover astrology; dreams, crop circles, fairies, Feng Shui, The Tarot, and numerous mythologies. I’m also interested in archeology, architecture and physics. There are guides to various spiritual and religious practices past and current. Then there are the practical health guides, a variety of cookbooks, and books specific to a single place or event.

Yet once I looked past those books I realized there is a certain type of novel that I read. They are accurate, adventurous, and uplifting stories. These words apply to every novel I’ve enjoyed from Marc Acito’s Theater People to Trish MacGregor’s Esperanza. I read books where the characters have a passion for something and a reason to do something on the pages beyond kick-but-action. And this is what I write.

So while Scott’s advice would have been invaluable for me years ago, it was also enlightening for me today because I realized the most important thing. I don’t have to go back to my hobby plan of targeting a specific line or editor, instead I’m shooting straight for the Single Title Author career.

Which made my rewrites on my contemporary romance in-process much easier and productive because I wrote an accurate, adventurous, and uplifting story. Now I’m just adding my new voice and embellishing the craft. I’ve learned enough not to balk at the specific words used in the advice but to see how it applies to me.

Story Engineering

Natural disasters in the news always make me feel clouded and sad. Photos of the devastation in Japan began my day with the subsequent Tsunami warnings along our Oregon Coast. I’ve always been fascinated at the engineering for the Kobe airport. I haven’t seen a current photo.

I’ll probably feel sad and clouded for a few days as news continues but I also hold the hope that news will filter through at how much more devastating this could have been, but was not. We will see.

Still, I had to tunnel inward and focus on something I felt was within my control and proactive. Today I was fortunate to already be engaged in a marvelous new writing craft book called Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

The subtitle is Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing. I must take issue with those last two words because writing is an art that spans everything from Haiku poetry to technical manuals and success is a personal benchmark. However these 6 Core Competencies are the benchmarks for a narrative, whether script or book, to reach an audience.

Larry Brooks was a dynamic teacher and a rather commanding presence at the intimate writer conference I attended in June with my sisters. My personal life was in a high trauma phase that weekend and I really needed the retreat. I just wasn’t absorbing all the stellar information presented then so it’s a good thing Larry published this book.

I find it fascinating that the first time I had access to these 6 Core Competencies presented by Larry Brooks in the room, they didn’t compute because my attention was distracted by a personal trauma. Instead, today while seeking distraction from a natural disaster that clouded me with sadness, the words Larry wrote on the page were in my living room and the inspiration I needed.

That is why I am a writer.

Letters from Home

Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris follows four unsung WWII heroes during their personal transformations while the second war to-end-all-wars shaped the history of our world. I’m familiar with many WWII movies from The Bridge over the River Kwai to Saving Private Ryan, and the Band of Brothers miniseries.

Kristina brings an additional WWII flavor to Letters with the focus on three women whose lives were forever changed by the war. I personally feel the mastery behind this novel is the romance between Liz and Morgan through letters. Without her letters with Morgan, Liz would have not been transformed by the war. Instead, she may have taught the history of WWII as a professor instead of the potential life to unfold at the end of the novel.

Julia has a fiancé solider and Betty becomes a WAC and they make their choices and change specifically because WWII events affected their lives and this adds great depth and flavor to the story. But Liz doesn’t even know she’s fighting a war within until her contact with Morgan as he is living the war in the trenches.

I personally found the letters as presented to be compelling and very true to the art and craft of letter writing as it existed in the 1940’s. The censorship on personal communication that also existed during WWII meant that both writer and reader needed to truly read-between-the-lines. Bits of poetry and childhood memories shared with the ever present horror of war hanging over their heads truly does reveal a lot about the soul of the person, and love can bloom there.

This novel is enchanting, well paced, and strongly written. Readers will be avidly turning the pages and willing to discuss it for many years to come. There’s even intriguing recipes at the end. :)

The website had additional stories, real WWII letters, and more information about the United Through Reading organization.

The Adjustment Bureau

Great movie! The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt was a delight on all the genre levels listed in the blurb for this movie.

Genres: Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller, Adaptation and Politics/Religion

The premise comes from a 57-year old short story by Philip K. Dick that appeared in Orbit Science Fiction.

I knew there was a reason I have a stack of old sci-fi magazines…

James Berardinelli of ReelViews is concerned all the trailers will misdirect the potential audience into thinking it is more of a science fiction thriller than a romance.  However, this is not a “chick flick” so it is a great date movie. We both liked it.

Here’s some quotes from his review:

Nevertheless, although the final act may not be as intellectually fulfilling as what precedes it, it is emotionally satisfying. Viewers may come to the movie because of its sci-fi premise, but most will stay because of the love story.

The story toys with the concepts of free will and predestination – an argument that has befuddled religious scholars through the ages – but the filmmakers are believers in true love and, as a testimony to that philosophy, this movie needs no adjustment.

Yep, romances do all that and have a happily ever after at the end.  :)

 

revision track

I’m totally on track with revising my novel. Scenes blocked out, characters redefined, themes and analysis typed in. Deborah Cooke describes her process and except for the knitting, I’ve been doing the same. There’s nothing left to shift in rooms, which has gotten me happily settled into my chair, hands on keyboard.

Larry Brooks is posting 5 analogies for writers which is a great checklist for revising. I wonder what the other 4 analogies will be. :) Story is a vehicle that needs to start with the turn of a key and rumble strong.

These past few months I’ve felt like I was living the last chapters of a Dickens novel. Dickens wrote his novels in serial episodes and those last chapters were full of wild surprises and twists. Characters that served their purpose were lost at sea (in case they had some value for a future story) and many died of the multitude of fast and terminal realities of the day.  Dickens had so many stories to wrap up, and characters to disperse, before the end that he used a broad sword and swept many slates clean.

I’ve had contact with many who feel they’ve lived the same Dickens denouement energy and there’s this sense of completion. Others are tap-dancing in delight at the new that’s been created.

I’m personally in a strange space of discontent. It’s important to recognize discontent. It means the creative well needs to be nourished.

REvision  is a term to apply to more than the story project in process.

I’m currently revisioning myself as a mermaid in need of a vacation.

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