Friday, November 28, 2014

TGIF

I'm so glad it's Friday! You have no idea. Work has been going great (touch wood), but it's been super busy and I havent been feeling well. Same old, same old. So I drag myself out of bed every morning and punch my 7.5. Not much of a week... I'm looking forward to a restful weekend... With some turkey. :)

And hopefully a productive weekend too. Last week my editor sent me a list of author and character interview questions. The author questions were no trouble, but answering the character ones is proving to be a tad more difficult. I mean I'm a writer, right? It shouldn't be that difficult to put myself in my characters shoes and speak for them. I only did it for an entire book. Lol... So that's my plan. Finish my answers and send them back ASAP.

Plus everything else on my list that only grows... I've come to the conclusion that I won't finish my list until I'm dead and then I won't care. The stuff that needs done, gets done, and nothing else really matters.

What does matter is my family and they don't get added to my to-do list. Anyway, TGIF - make it count!




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Watch Out For Vampires

That's what my four year-old son tells me every morning when my family drops me off at my day job.

He learned the concept of vampires from a Halloween special of Magic School Bus, but what he doesn't realize is how close to the mark he hits. Not that my co-workers are blood-thirsty creatures of the night - or are they? (Insert doom music here!) My current WIP is actually about vampires. So when he says "watch out" - I agree. For nearly three months now, I have been nurturing and caring for my own special vampires. I have watched them grow and evolve during the development of the story. I have been watching out for them every step of the way.

Now their story is coming to a close. I have reached my 50k mark. I am ready to start some self-editing before I enlist the help of my writing group for feedback. Thanks in advance, you guys!!!

What a journey writing this story has been. I completely changed my strategy from process-focused to creativity-focused. It may mean a ton more editing is required, but I captured the essence of my story in less than three months.

It probably took me a year to write my 22k novella. I got caught up in the details, in the structuring of the end product while I was still developing the story. I wanted every chapter to be approximately the same length. I documented all the chronological events and planned out the next sequence before I wrote it. Talk about stifling the creativity! I needed to just spit it out, get it down on paper (screen). I've heard it described as "word vomit" and I agree. Let the words flow while the ideas are hot. Any errors can be ferreted out during the editing process.

I also omitted the use of chapters to define sections of the story, my WIP takes place over the course of a week so I used the days as placeholders and plan to add chapters during my self-edit. Without chapters I didn't need to worry about chapter length or ending each section on a cliffhanger. Do you know how hard it is not to end a chapter with your character going sleep? Especially if you know you shouldn't. If your characters go to sleep, your readers will too. The objective of a chapter is to spur the reader on to reading more. I'm sure you've read a book you just couldn't put down. Yup, that's the idea.

I also wrote the entire book using my iPad. I did periodic backup saves to my laptop after the one time I lost my story on the iPad and had to re-create 6k words. A mistake you only make once. I found the iPad was a more assessible tool and I could write more - sometimes in as short as five-minute intervals.

So I wrote like crazy and I didn't use chapters or an outline. I did correct spelling and grammar along the way because that would have drove me completely batty. And I wrote a book. An interesting book about vampires.

Every weekday morning at my house we have the same hectic schedule. We all scramble to get ready for work or school no matter how early (or late) we get up. When the kids are safely buckled into their booster seats and we are taking the five-minute drive to my office, my husband and I can finally breathe. When we reach our destination, after all the "eat your lunch" and "have a great day" comments are exchanged, my young son yells out his window as I'm walking to the front door, "Watch out for vampires!"

And now maybe you will.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow Days and Other Good Days to Think

I'm always trying to bring realism into my writing. One of the things I love about blogging is I basically write about whatever is on my mind. It's the cheapest therapy I've ever had and it's completely real.

I pick a topic at random. It's snowing, do I write about snow? About winter? Christmas? Are there any Christmas / holiday writing contests / blogs? Is my writing group doing anything for Christmas on The Nuthouse Scribblers? Once ideas start flowing, I am an unstoppable force.

How do I add realism to my fiction?

I pattern characters loosely after real people. Never piss off a writer... You may become the villain in their next book. I adapt characteristics I like (or not) and apply them to my creations for dimension and consistency.

I incorporate my experience. I work in an office, my character works in an office. I have kids, my character has kids. This goes along with the advice of writing what you know. If your character is an astrophysicist, you better know your astrophysics!!! Writing takes research. It does. So keep your facts straight.

Then I take all my good advice to myself and throw it out the window! I imagine my story unfolding in my mind like a movie and I capture it in words. I have complete disregard for my careful plotting. But when I review my work, I find I have included elements from my life, people and events, and what I've written has become personal and revealing to me.

Writing fiction is my therapy too. Everyone needs an outlet. I don't talk about my feelings. I have seen several therapists, but I internalize the major stuff until it manifests into a physical ailment. I do. I am guilty as charged. I don't take the time I need for myself. I have family and work responsibilities. So I write. I write until it all makes sense.

Know of any Christmas writing contests?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

We keep waiting for life to begin. Finish school, buy a car, get a job, get married, buy a house, get a dog, have some kids. There's always something else around the corner. We'll do this after... We'll go there when... Another repair to make, another bill to pay. A trip you want to take, something you want to buy. But it'll all be over in the blink of an eye.

This week I shared some wise words with my six-year old son. He is crazy about collecting Pokemon cards and we recently bought him three of the highly coveted "EX" cards. Every second word out his mouth is "EX" lately. He was so excited when we gave him the cards, but now he wants us to buy him more. We explained to him that the cards are expensive and we gave him those as a treat, but he continues to beg, to conjol, to charm. He wants more "EX" Pokemon cards and he won't be happy until we give in. Which we won't. Of course. So I shared some wisdom with him.

The secret to happiness is being content with what you have.

We all want more. I'd like to pay off the mortgage and go to Hawaii. But I'm happy with my right now. I know with hard work and time, we will eventually own our home. I know with planning and patience, we will eventually visit Hawaii.

I do not plan to spend my life pining after the next version of the latest and greatest. If there's something I want, I will set a plan to achieve it. And even if I never buy another "want" or take another vacation, I am happy with my life. I have a wonderful husband and two precocious little boys. This is as good as it gets. And, as the song goes, I could not ask for more.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

24 Hours

Life is busy. Understatement of of the year. Day job. Kids (if applicable). Spouse (if applicable). Pay bills. Clean house. Take out garbage. Cook dinner. Wash dishes. Sleep. Repeat. Spare time? What's that? What if you had twenty-four hours to yourself to do anything you wanted?

My husband and kids went to a friend's cottage for a night on the weekend. They left at 1 pm and returned at 1 pm the next day. I had twenty-four hours. I haven't been home alone overnight since the boys were born. Well, I wasn't all alone. I had my dog Buddy for company. It's amazing what you can accomplish with an empty house. Don't get me wrong - I love my boys (all three of them) - and wouldn't change my life for a minute. Still, I wasn't sad when I found out I'd have some time alone.

In the first ten hours they were gone, I had a coffee, wrote 3k, washed and dried two loads of laundry, watched three episodes of Hawaii 5-0, did yoga, made dinner (the frozen variety), ate dinner in front of the TV, washed the dishes, walked the dog, played with the dog, and swept the floor. Then I slept for seven hours, naturally waking up at 6:30. I spent thirty minutes checking e-mail and social media before getting up for breakfast. In the last five hours, I wrote another 2k, dusted, took out the garbage, and walked the dog. Then they were home, returning in a tornado-like fashion, dropping their coats on the floor and not putting their shoes on the mat. But I was so happy to see them, giving them tight hugs until they complained I was squeezing them too hard.

I would have liked to write the entire time, but I had to use my gift responsibly. There's always something to be done, no rest for the wicked. What would you do with a gift of twenty-four hours?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Inspiration Is Everywhere

I'm a writer, but I'm also a reader. I love to read, I love books. I'm trying to instill the same love of reading into my young boys. So far it's working.

I find my inspiration everywhere.

Part of the reason I write is to emulate the writing or genres of my favourite authors. The first book I attempted to write was a sequel to Willliam Goldman's "The Princess Bride". I was about eleven years old and had watched the movie about a dozen times and read the book cover-to-cover, re-reading my favourite parts again and again. I decided the story wasn't over when the credits started rolling and thought I would try to capture the rest. Like most of my early works, it was never finished, but I did develop quite the complex plot complete with a drawing of a map for the new world I created. Inigo Montoya became the Dread Pirate Roberts, Wesley went on a quest to find his brother William, Williams's love interest was a princess named Opal. It was full-on adventure romance.

Books I've read inspire what I write, but have also helped form the person I am. As well, when you read the same book at different stages in your life, it means a different thing. The first time I read "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch to my oldest son, I cried the entire time. My mom had read the same book to me numerous times when I was a child, but when I became a parent it took on an entirely new meaning for me.

The genres I enjoy to read are the genres I enjoy to write. With the exception of historical... I love historical romances, especially from the Regency era. I recently read the Hellion's Den series by Alexandra Ivy which I throughly enjoyed. I've written historical short stories (the latest one was posted on The Nuthouse Scribblers blog this summer), but they require an intense amount of research to get the details just right so I am content to enjoy the works of others.

I mainly read romance these days (I love a happy ending) in the sub-genres of fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, and historical. I've been reading a lot of vampire books lately which have proven the inspiration for my latest WIP. I read quite a few Amanda Ashley books over the summer, including "The Children of the Night" series. There are so many versions of vampires. From Bram Stoker to Hollywood, the 'vampire' takes many forms. I decided to throw my creative two cents in the ring adopting my favourite traits.

Even though I read everything from the edgy romances put out by Tara Taylor Quinn to the fantasy thrillers by Karen Marie Moning, I enjoy the common theme of happily ever after... Or at least some semblance of closure for the characters. In the case of Karen Marie Moning's 'Fever' series, I waited on the edge of my seat until the next book came out and then I read it as fast as I could.

And there are some books that haunt you forever because their author saw the truth of their future which is now our present. George Orwell's "1984"was assigned to me for an university English course. I didn't fully realize it at the time and I'm no conspiracy theorist or anything, but there are many parallels to the events of that book and our reality. 'Big Brother' is watching... Does it make you feel safer or not?

Good fiction makes you believe. Like good science fiction is based on good science, a good book in general can stretch your imagination but, at the end of the day, must be believable. I remember walking out of the movie theatre after watching 'The Matrix' for the first time. Enough said.

I draw my inspiration from the world around me, from places I visit, from the books I read. I want to create my own  plausible new world and invite you to visit sometime. All you need to do is believe.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Change is in the air...

Maybe it's just that time of year. Maybe it's the clocks changing or the leaves falling. Maybe it's the ongoing transition at my work. But I feel change in the air.

I switched to my light winter coat this weekend from my spring/fall jacket. Hey I live in Canada! I have about ten different coats of varying warmth. I'm not joking. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is it freezing in the morning and warm in the afternoon? That's why coats come waterproof and in layers. Anyway, putting my lighter coats, hoodies and fleece jackets away this weekend made me feel contemplative somehow. We're nearing the end of 2014 and what have I done?

My lofty goal is to make the world a better place for my children. I foster change one step at a time. We're teaching our children to be both fiscally and socially responsible. We lead by example. But I still feel like there's more I can do.

The pen is mightier than the sword. I write. Mainly fiction. Okay all fiction except for my blog which is basically a semi unorganized collaboration of my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Maybe writing can be a tool? Can I hope to solve all society's problems? Homelessness, hunger, poverty in general, disease, war, abuse, crime? The task is daunting. I have no faith in government to solve these issues and help the minorities. I am losing hope in churches that care less about helping people and more about maintaining their buildings and status quo.

I want to believe in the goodness of the human race. But I am no Pollyanna with rose-colored glasses. I am jaded and realistic. Still I hold on to my hope and faith that change is possible.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Guest Blog from author Alannah Harte

Today I'd like to welcome guest author and friend Alannah Harte. She'd like to tell us all about The Best Part of Breaking Up, her book just released. Also, Alannah is giving away a free ebook for every comment on this blog post... Very exciting stuff!

Without further ado, here's Alannah...



The Best Part of Breaking Up - Alannah Harte 
Blurb

Rafe McGraw is a tough rancher who spends his time farming a wild and untamable cattle ranch in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Jenna Davidson is bright, feisty, and not afraid of a little hard work. She's not going to let anyone get in the way of her dream to be a flying vet.
Rafe has cattle to get certified for export by the flying vet during his cattle muster. He is expecting his usual vet to show up but the person getting off the plane is not what he expects.
Jenna has encountered all kinds of farmers and their attitudes since starting her job, but the gorgeous, sulking, arrogant grazer is a definite challenge. If that means flying in a week of living outdoors with a sexy grazer growling at her, then she's up for it.  

Excerpt 

After eight hours, during which they moved more than sixty kilometers over wild terrain to seek out more of the herd, with general consensus from everyone they called it a day. A camp was set up beneath a glen of trees and a campfire lit. The trucks had generators and each cabin had a sleeping berth, but the men preferred to sleep under the stars and they would cook on the fire tonight.
Jenna would have loved to crawl onto a soft mattress herself in one of the truck's sleeping cabins, shut the door on all the alpha men, and get some desperately needed sleep, but that would  just be giving into what they expected of her. She was going to rough it like everyone else.
Rafe handed her a small bag with a grim smile. “Your tent,” he told her unnecessarily. 
She could see it was a tent. It was a two-man dome tent used for hiking, because it was lightweight and easily erected, but certainly not as comfortable as her bed would have been after leaning over fences all day. Jenna's back ached and the bottoms of her feet were tender, having perched on fencing poles all day.
“Get that up and you can have a good rest,” he told her, his face a study of seriousness.
I have to put up my own tent, too? Fine! 
She had put up tents before. She knew he was ascertaining his authority and illustrating his little regard for a woman who couldn't pull her weight like the rest of the men in the caravan.
“Do you think you can manage that?” he asked her.
“I can manage all sorts of things.” Jenna let her voice drawl over the words and she raised an eyebrow at him.
Rafe smiled at the corner of his mouth. “Good, I wouldn't want the boys to have to do extra work.” 
No fear of that. She had done all of the crazy work today and the men had let her. 
With a thump, the pegs and a small hammer dropped out of the bag. Jenna stepped over them and shook out the tent.
How hard could it be? She glared at the various poles that needed to be fed into the canvas to make the frame and took an educated guess at the right one. Within a few moments she had a good representation of a dome in front of her and Jenna pulled it across to a site she liked.
“I wouldn't leave it there.” The grazier's voice carried across the camp, hands on hips. He appeared to be laughing at her.
“Why ever not?” she asked gruffly. 
“You're the vet, Jenna. Surely you recognize anthills when you see them. I suggest you bring your tent closer to the campfire if you want to save yourself from being bitten.” 
Shaking her head and muttering under her breath, Jenna dragged the tent behind her, its light weight helping it to flap in the breeze. She dropped it a few feet from the campfire and on a flat piece of dried earth, clear of all signs of anthills, then she went back to retrieve the pegs and hammer. 
“Let me do that for you,” Grey the drover said. It was the first time he had spoken to her all day and Jenna looked at him with mild suspicion.
“I should really do it myself. I wouldn't want your boss accusing me of not pulling my weight.” 
“You've done more than pull your weight today, missy. I've been watching you. Never mind the boy. He's new at playing the boss and is trying to ascertain his authority.” 
“You're sure about that? I get the distinct impression he doesn't care for me. Or maybe its women in general he doesn't like.” 
Grey barked a laugh that made Rafe stare over at them, his expression dark and unreadable. The drover took the hammer from her hand. It looked like a toy in his large grip. With quick and assured strikes, he pegged the tent into place.
“He likes women enough—don't be mistaking that he doesn't. You would be just his type if he wasn't going around with a chip on his shoulder.”
“Well, that's fascinating, but he's not my type, and I didn't come out here looking for romance and certainly not with someone who had a block on their shoulder either.” Jenna wanted to ask what was Rafe McGraw's problem but she had been brought up to mind her own business when it came to the private lives of others. She wasn't about to start asking the drover impertinent questions about his boss.
“Out here in these wilds it's never about the romance, missy, it’s all about the loving.” Grey's eyes twinkled mischievously and Jenna had the good sense to blush to her roots. “But that is not talk I should be having with a lady such as you.” He continued smiling benignly at her, though she didn't believe he was that innocent at all. 
“I don't think so either,” she scowled.
“Hmm, well, we will see.” Grey returned the hammer to her, and whistling gently, he sauntered off across the camp to his own swag.
See what? She brought her hold all into the tent and rested on her knees for a minute, enjoying the little privacy the tent could afford her against the eyes of all the men outside. A cough sounded at the entrance and alerted her that Rafe was waiting. She pivoted on her knees and pushed the flap of the entrance aside. A floor mat, sleeping bag, and pillow were roughly handed in.
“You'll be needing these,” he told her gruffly.
“Such a host! You think of everything.” She felt silly for betraying her true feelings with the sarcasm dripping in her voice but the man was bringing out the worst in her. 
“Well, seeing as you're the only vet to be had around these parts, I better make sure you can continue the job tomorrow.”
“Ah, so I can do the job now then? What happened to ‘this is no place for a woman’?” She threw back his words tartly.
Rafe knelt and pushed his head through the open flap. Jenna had to lean back into the tent as he crowded the space with his large frame. 
“This is no place for a woman, but here we are and here you are, and I'm putting up with it.” 
He really does have the most gorgeous eyes. The errant thought came into her head and Jenna clenched her fists. She did not find this Neanderthal attractive, she really didn't. Of course she was still aware of him, had been all day as he straddled the top of the cattle race fencing with those trunk-like thighs of his. He had even gotten in between the cows with his broad shoulders when they wouldn't move by themselves. His jeans were ripped at the knees and he wore a black cotton shirt, sleeves rolled up to his biceps, and several buttons left undone, so that the thick column of his neck and the hint of those torso muscles were on show. He was rugged and bad and infuriatingly handsome. He was not going to distract her with it! She was determined about that.
 “You have got to be the most gracious and grateful person that I have ever met,” she said sarcastically, with a pronounced inflection, and smiled serenely back at his scowling face. Rafe's eyes narrowed dangerously and his lip curled in distaste, but instead of withdrawing as she hoped, he crawled into the tent forcing her against the back canvas. She sat down on her bottom with a bump.
“You managed fine today, Miss Davidson, but we'll see how you do tomorrow. How are your feet?” He took a booted foot in his hand, startling her as he rested it in the cradle of his thighs and began to unlace them from around her ankle.
“They are fine,” she lied, attempting to pull her foot back, but his grip was firm and unyielding.
“You're a terrible liar, you know that?” With gentleness that she had not expected, Rafe eased the heavy steel-capped boot from her foot. “Not only have I noticed you limping slightly since you came down off the cattle race,” he continued conversationally, “but you’re also taking pleasure from this foot massage.” He manipulated her foot between his two palms, and despite her best intentions Jenna sighed in relief.
Jenna's eyes widened in horror. “I am doing no such thing!” This time she did remove her foot from his grasp and pulled it beneath her bottom.
Rafe shrugged a shoulder, “Be a martyr then. Your feet won't thank you for it. I am an excellent foot masseuse.” 
“I'm sure you say that to all the girls.” 
“You know me so well.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.
I don't know you at all. The unspoken words hung between them. For a moment they simply stared at one another. Jenna raked her mind for something sensible and straightforward to say but her brain and her body were not in a generous mood. Most of her wit and sensibility was lost in her sated foot. 
Rafe seemed to have none of those problems, much to her annoyance. He crawled backward out of the tent. 
“There is supper and coffee up for grabs. Come when you're ready, but I wouldn't leave it too long—those boys are ravenous and won't leave leftovers.” She heard him whistling for his dog as he walked away, but he was whistling as if mocking her.