Friday, September 28, 2007


During this little hiatus, I've been catching up on my reading. Currently, I'm enjoying Shirley Damsgaard's Witch Way to Murder. I've also been re-reading some of Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, and working my way through several books by Dion Fortune. One of these days, I'll post a list of the books I used when researching myth, folklore, magical/psychic practices, etc. for From the Ninth Wave.

Also, one of these days I'll post my playlist--the musical "soundtrack" I picked for Ninth Wave. Ambiance is important to me when I write, and sometimes picking out a song as the theme for a scene is my reward for finishing said scene. It's kind of fun, and then whenever I hear that song, I remember that scene, from that novel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Loss

Robert Jordan died Sunday. A quick google search will take you to his blog, where you can find the latest news and offer condolences if you wish.

In 1990, I moved to Idaho and was introduced to the Wheel of Time series by a friend. I was so young then--a twenty-something with something to prove. One of the things I wanted to prove was that I could write in his arena and give him a run for his money. Other authors emerged in the interim, as did new, revised goals for me. The important thing, though, is that in the intervening years, his example gave me a brass ring to aim for. A brass ring, and a lot of happy hours reading his books, trying to learn how it was done, or how a pro would do it. He'll be sorely missed. The gifts he gave readers and writers alike are invaluable--he went beyond mere fiction and into the realm of legend.

He was quoted as having said he'd keep writing until they nailed the lid shut on his coffin. It seems he was true to his word, writing at every possible opportunity, even through his last days. I stand sobered, humbled, and in awe. Blessings to him and to his loved ones. He was and always will be an inspiration.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Play Time

I figure I've got at least a couple weeks before I hear back about the rewrite of From the Ninth Wave (formerly Beyond the Pale), so while I can, I'm going to play.

My first love in writing was epic fantasy, and I still have half a book to write in order to finish the third book of my Oantran Triad. So while Bob's reading the UF rewrite, I'll be cranking out more scenes for Shifts of Perception. Here's my logic:

If Bob says Ninth Wave is ready to go out this time, then I'll need to start thinking about what new book I'm going to write next. I already have an idea for a second Brenna book, which of course will be UF like the first. If the rewrite's okay, then I should start doing my scene cards and figuring out an outline of events for the second Brenna book, just in case we get a nibble on the first one.

The first two books of the epic fantasy trilogy haven't sold, so the third book is dead in the water without a publisher's contract for the prior two. If Ninth Wave sells, then assuming it does okay in the market, the publishers are much more likely to want another Brenna book than to take a chance on the Oantran Triad. And if I'm suddenly busy (let's hope so!) cranking out Brenna books, then Shifts will never be finished--I won't have time for it. By the time I do have a chance to finish it, my voice might be different. I want the third epic fantasy to fit with the other two, so I need to finish it now, while I can still remember the characters' voices. And somewhere in there, if there's time, I'll go back and try to revise the first book one more time to see if I can get it shorter. I'm wondering whether its length is what killed it. Unless Bob hasn't told me about the brutal rejections, none of the publishers hated it. From what he said, many liked it but couldn't find a place for it. Just wasn't in the right place at the right time, I guess. That's the roulette wheel any book faces. Sometimes it's all in the timing, and if the timing just happens to be a day or even an hour wrong, it's a no go. So...if I want to finish Shifts, now's the time to do it. It's a narrow window, but I'll take it.

I had fun jumping back into it. I wrote half a scene last night from the villain's perspective, and my next will be from the POV of a different but good minor character. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to change POV characters with each scene. This'll be good, harmless fun to keep me from bouncing off the walls while I wait for the verdict on my rewrite.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The manuscript is finally off, as of this afternoon (Wednesday the 12th). I've been playing single mom for a couple of days while the Huz is out of town, but he gets back tomorrow (Thursday). Of course, we've had a very busy couple of days. What else could they be when I'm trying to mail off a manuscript?

This afternoon I dropped the girls off at their piano class and went to the post office to mail the package. There was no line. But I realized that I'd forgotten to include the cover sheet for the manuscript, and I still needed to figure out the final word count. The P.O. wouldn't let me purchase postage for the manuscript and then just come back and drop it off later. Apparently when it's over a certain weight, then they have to receive it in person, across the counter. (Why that doesn't apply to the self-service kiosk, I have no idea.) So I rushed home, did my word count, printed the cover sheet and hurried back to the piano class to pick up my kids. Then I dropped one of them off for a different class and hurried back to the post office to try again to mail the package. This time, there was a line--a long one. Of course. When I finally made it to the counter, the clerk encouraged me to save money by using a flat rate box. I could just rip my labels off the manuscript box I had and reattach them to the outside of the flat rate box, and it would save me about $7. I had no intentions of ripping the labels off and/or re-packing my manuscript. No freaking way. Usually, I care about saving money. Today, I'd just had enough hassle. Slap the Priority Mail label on my box, dang it, and shove it in the mail. I'm done. Just...done.

Bye, bye, nice manuscript. Make me proud.

Monday, September 10, 2007


We as readers will either demean or romanticize a character in our heads based on our very individualized impressions of said character no matter whether the writer envisioned the character the same way or not. I'm sure that for every fictional character ever created, there is a reader somewhere who, if they were to meet that character on the street in flesh and blood and living color, would say, "I thought you'd be taller."

I've recently had the chance to see this dichotomy from two different perspectives. The first was as the writer. For example, I found my main character (MC) to be completely sympathetic, and everything she did made sense to me. However, aside from the aforementioned skimpy emotional layer, one of my crit partners had some trouble with my MC when I made her less of a skeptic about magic. Seems like every time this particular crit partner tries to write fantasy, one or more of her characters ends up with a blaster gun instead of a wand. The lady is very down-to-earth, practical, and of a scientific bent. Her characters' magic usually takes the form of advanced tech, rather than actual mysticism. So she wasn't prepared for my character to accept the magic in my story as quickly as she did. She'd have rather seen my MC cling to her skepticism longer. My other crit partner tended to see one of my secondary characters as more of a jerk than I'd intended him to be. She even wanted me to change his language in a couple of places to make him meaner. If I'd done so, he'd have become closer to her image of him, but he wouldn't be the guy I envision him as. As always, I value the ladies' opinions very much and will alter details if I think the change is important to clarify or improve the plot or characters. But ultimately, the characters have to be who I need them to be for plot purposes, whether they completely fit a reader's ideal image of them or not.

From the reader's perspective, I've been lurking on a couple of other authors' message boards, and I've watched threads that ranged from heated discussions to out-and-out flame wars because the readers/posters had differing opinions on character motivations and personality traits. And many's the time I've heard someone say, "My gosh, that character's blond? I pictured him as having dark hair." We all do this type of thing. As readers, we just can't help ourselves. We form our impressions of the characters and then often cling to them despite what their fans, detractors, and even authors perceive them as. In short, it's the same way we form our impressions of friends, neighbors, and strangers. And then eventually a curious thing happens. Readers sort of "adopt" their perception of a character, so even if they hear that the character's creator sees him/her differently, readers will often continue to nurse their own vision of that character, as if in a sense, the character has somehow become theirs.

I think the tricky thing for a writer is to let go of the character and accept that your readers will read all sorts of traits into the character that you never meant to put there. And as a reader, it may be equally as tricky when you learn that the author never really liked your favorite character as much as you did, or that he or she in fact adores the one you love to hate. If anything, it makes me want to strive to be even more open-minded as a reader while still retaining my right to like or dislike another person's character as I see fit. And as a writer, I'll write them, dress them up and send them out the door knowing that someone somewhere is going to fall in love with my villain or hate my heroine's lover's guts.

Monday, September 03, 2007

New Opening

Okay, time to take off the kid gloves. I changed the opening of Chapter One--again. I hope that the new version will not only orient the reader just as well as it did before, but will connect the reader to Brenna's emotions right at the outset. Maybe if they can see just how much her trip to Ireland means to her, then they'll already be on her side when the **** hits the fan on page two. It didn't take much to change--just switched around her feelings about being in Ireland so we open with that feeling of connection and see that that feeling even eclipses her frustration at being lost in the dark. She's lost, but she's lost in Ireland. She isn't being bitchy, tired and put out. She doesn't like being lost, but as long as she's in Ireland, lost is a relative term.

Take that, hah! Me are a writer, dammit.


Today was the Moxie meeting. The ladies brought me their crits of the manuscript, and none of it was anything irreparable. A few details here and there that are easily enough addressed. The only part not so easily addressed was not having a character the ladies could fully relate to.

Say, what? If my own crit group can't relate to my main character, that's bad. After the initial shock (NOW you tell me?) I went about figuring out what went wrong, where, and why. They say it's not that bad. They say they'd still happily buy the book even if it wasn't mine, and they'd read it more than once. But they wouldn't make the same choices my character does, they don't always jive with her take on life and her reactions to events, and apparently they failed to connect to her because I'd failed to put in one of the layers of emotional content found in the sequels to some of the action scenes. They felt distanced from her because she wasn't internalizing enough.

That's a tough one for me. I was trying to hone my craft a little. I know how to give a character an internal monologue and make her analyze what she's feeling. But this time I'd tried to do a little less internal monologuing and instead put more of her emotion in visceral, physical reactions. I could say "She was shocked." Or I could say, "She sucked in a breath, unable to do more than stare. Moments ticked by while she waited for the punched-in-the-gut feeling to pass."

Both convey the emotion of shock. The first one merely tells, while the second one shows. That's the kind of difference I was trying to achieve. Where you don't need to openly state the emotion because you show it in the character's physical reactions. If my heart rate speeds up, I doubt I'm perfectly calm. If my breathing changes or I clench my fist, shouldn't that give some clue as to what I might be feeling? I'd have thought so. But maybe I screwed up somewhere. If I did, I'll fix it.

I'll go through and edit in another layer of emotion where I can. It's possible I did truncate my sequels (or ends of scenes) a little too much. In trying to tighten up the middle, I left my character with scarcely a breath between scenes. But there are some definitely emotive moments, and I'm shocked (shocked, I say!) that those moments that seemed emotional and poignant to me failed to touch my friends.

I hate problems with a manuscript. I hate them, hate them, hate them. Especially when no one is able to tell me what to do to fix it. Every time I think it's fine, someone waits until the last minute to tell me its not fine. And I'm out of time. Maybe it'll never be fine. And maybe not fine is still pretty damn good. I don't know. Dang it.

Maybe we've all seen this manuscript one too many times. I need hot tea. I need fresh eyes. I need Bob to read the book and give me some clarity on it. Tonight, I'd go kill something if I thought I could get away with it. But then I'd hate myself in the morning.

Arrgh! Back to the drawing board.

Moving on....