Saturday, January 28, 2006

Promises, Promises

So much for my keeping my New Year's resolution to blog more often. Now it's been ten days since the last entry, and I didn't even notice until now. Despite my lack of blogging, it's been an interesting month so far.

The eBay business is going pretty well, actually. It won't make me rich or anything, but it's not bad. And the book is going well enough for a book I don't have a particular deadline on. I have the first four chapters pretty well done, and a beginning section for the fifth. Character's plotlines are becoming clearer as I go along, and I'm looking forward to seeing them play out. I really like the opening for this book, and it may be the only one of the three that doesn't need a major rewrite of the first 50 pages before being ready to go. We'll see; I don't want those to be famous last words but as of now, I think the chapters are pretty good. For the time being, we'll go with that.

I also need to decide what I'll be writing next, after this third book. I've heard that YA is really the way to go, but I'm just not sure whether my writing can fill those shoes. Instead, though, I'm toying with the idea for an urban fantasy romance. I'm aware of the problem of writing to whatever market happens to be hot at the time and then falling on your face in the process, but I'm thinking that as long as it's a book that I'd write whether it happened to be a hot topic or not, then I probably should go for it. It actually ties into a screenplay project I attempted several years ago. I'll have to leave it to stew for a while and then see what happens.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Shifts Playlist

As I go along, I make soundtracks for each section of a novel-in-progress. Each section has a basic theme, and I pick a song that seems to fit with that theme and then I write it down and build it into a playlist in Windows Media Player. So here's the playlist for the first three chapters of Shifts of Perception. Later when I have more time, I'll post my playlist for Shadows of Memory. I never made one for Aspects of Illusion, but eventually I will.

Shifts of Perception, Chapters 1-3:

Phaedra (Tangerine Dream)
He Moved Through the Fair (Sinead O'Connor)
My World (3 Doors Down)
A Heart in Winter (Laura Powers)
Final Showdown (L.A. Allstar Orchestra)
I Don't Know You Anymore (Savage Garden)
All In a Day (The Corrs)
Ambush (L.A. Allstar Orchestra)
Many Roads (Clannad)

So, for other writers out there, when you write, do you use music to set the mood, inspire the Muse, document your progress or otherwise add to your creative experience? And if so, what types of music do you like to work with?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Interim Progress

My eBay situation has improved; I actually sold a few things yesterday. All the better, because I'm about to take the plunge and buy a new color laser printer--probably within the next month. I've wanted one for a long time; I would much prefer knowing that my Pookatales books were printed with fused toner instead of hope-it-doesn't-smudge ink. If I wasn't able to get a color laser printer, I'd get some of that new ink instead; apparently there's a new kind of ink for inkjets that smudges less and is of a better archival quality. I'm wanting to expand my product line a little, and having a good quality color printer has become a very important part of that.

I'm still waiting for a novel contract, obviously, and I've decided not to let the grass grow under Pookatales while I'm waiting. There are people out there who enjoy owning my little books, and it's a good feeling to know I'm actually making at least a little money from my writing and artistry. The potential of a book contract in the future won't pay my bills now, so high ho, high ho, it's off to work I go. (Well, I work at home and on the internet, but you know what I mean.)

Novel-writing-wise, I'm about to start Chapter 4 of the third book in the trilogy, currently called Shifts of Perception, or Shifts for short. It reads quickly and gets off to a racing start, so we'll see how things go from here. So far, my first draft material has been cleaner and tighter than with any of my previous manuscripts, which is good news from the perspective of how many drafts it'll take me to get the book to marketable shape. The fewer the better, as long as the quality remains strong.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Light and Dark in the New Year

I'm not sure whether I like New Year resolutions or not. On the one hand, they might keep people motivated (for a week or two, anyway) to do things they really ought to do but can't seem to find the discipline for otherwise. On the other hand, maybe they just create more performance anxiety, a thing which many people have more than enough of anyway. But nevertheless I plan to try to stick with a couple of the ones I made, at least. I want to blog at least once a week and possibly twice. If I manage every other day, I'll have exceeded my own expectations. I want to write at least every other day, and if I can manage more, I should be able to move this third book along at a pace I haven't managed in years. I also want to put in more research time and organize my time better in general. I'm tired of always feeling like I'm running about two days behind. Maybe if I could just organize my time better, I could get everything done and not feel that I'm neglecting some things in order to finish others. That's all for now; we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I've been doing some reading about the shadow side of the human psyche, and it's been quite the intriguing subject. The idea that our shadow side, which some might interpret as our "negative" side, can be a helpful and strenghtening force in our lives (if used correctly) just flies in the face of everything I was taught as a child. Back then, I was told not to examine any of the negative sides of my personality too closely because I might get "sucked in" by them. (Being a grumpy b**ch is so tempting, yes?) I was told to turn the other cheek. I became a bit of a doormat. Goody Two Shoes ruled. But now I'm seeing things differently, and I'm realizing that darkness isn't necessarily a thing to fear, even when it's your own darkness. It is, however, a thing to respect and a thing to learn to work with in a positive way. It's when either your good side or your bad side gets out of control that you have a problem. There's a time and a place for Grumpy B to come out to play, and a time to shove her back in her cave for a while. The trick is in knowing the right time. Sometimes you need Grumpy B to shut up and let Goody T play nice in the sandbox, and sometimes you need Grumpy B to help Goody T stand up for herself against the bullies of the world. You need them both. You need all the parts of yourself whole and united in order to be a healthy person, and denying the darker parts isn't going to make them disappear.

An artist paints in a combination of light and shadow, without which the picture would come across as rather flat and one-dimensional. And as all writers know, (or should!) a character needs some sort of problem to solve or the book just isn't very interesting. Sure, there are some children's classics where the main character goes through what amounts to a series of experiences without much in the way of trouble or opposition, but there's a reason why most of us grew up and started reading adult fiction. Even those of us who enjoy the sweetness and light of certain children's stories will usually also seek out stories of challenge and strife--that's how we learn and grow. Of course, this is precisely what was wrong with my first few attempts at writing--no major problem in the plot, or villains so wimpy that they were easily overcome, or even a Deus ex Machina type of reprieve for the main characters just when things seemed relatively dire. One time (NOT in this current trilogy, I assure you) I put in a village of kindly centaurs who healed my characters and helped them in the middle of their quest. And while it was a bit reminiscent of things Tolkein tended to do with his characters, (Rivendell, the Beornings, etc.) it stopped the action for too long. Now, whenever I'm tempted to give the characters too long of a peaceful interlude, my husband reminds me, "no more centaur villages."

We humans need challenge to live. We need the feeling of overcoming challenge and living to tell the tale. Each of us is a combination of good and bad, success and failure, light and dark, goodness and evil. Let's move forward into 2006 and see what we make of that. It may be horrifying, it may be joyful, and it will probably be all sorts of combinations of both. However it turns out, it will make quite a story!

And Happy New Year to you, too!