Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Writing is such a solitary occupation. Wandering in the world of the imagination can sometimes be depressing. What every writer needs is a company of peers. Other writers who share the same goals. Finding them can be both difficult and hard. There are writer's organizations but often they are casts of thousands where the general is the norm. Often these groups have conferences and retreats. There are writer's workshops to perhaps visit and maybe find those who are akin to you and your style. The internet has brought ways for writers to come together and share their loneliness with others who feel equally lonely. What happens when you find such a group? Maybe nothing but often a lot.
Some writers depend on friends or relatives to help push them forward in their writing. Problem is friends and relatives aren't looking for the same things as other writers would. Sometimes they praise when there are problems only another writer can see.
I've noticed one phenomena in belonging to a group. If the group is interested really interested in seeing the flaws and being honest about pointing them out, the writers in the group will improve. Not all members though. Some choose to belong to a group that critiques only because they want praise for how wonderful their writing is. When a flaw is pointed out they feel as if they're being dissed. Writers need thick skins, very thick skins to deal with the rejection of strangers for that is what editors and readers are. So find a group and listen to what they say. A group of peers can point out flaws in the plot, inconsistencies in character development, the absence of setting and a dozen things, They can also give you the lift when you receive a bad review or a rejection. They are there to celebrate victories with you.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Meander 1 - This one is a hard one to write. My friend, goad and sometimes writing partner Jane Toombs died this past Wednesday. I'll miss her companionship though in the past few years it's been more on the phone. Jane and I were Astrological opposites. Her Capricorn and My Cancer somehow found a way to balance our opposite approaches and also found some the same. I wouldn't be published again if Jane hadn't stepped in. I first met her when Hudson Valley Romance Writers had a one day conference across the river from my house. A few years later I felt frustrated since all I received was rejections for my stories. She, during a meeting with one of her editors, sold my book. Though that line faded, Jane kept at me and sent me into exploring electronic publishing. She was completely convinced this was where the publishing industry was headed. Together and along with many others published electronically fought the slings and arrows of other writers who refused to believe this was where the publishing industry headed. Jane moved from the Hudson Valley but we met at conferences run by The Electronically Published group. During one of those times we. in a silly mood, created the titles for what finally became out joint book Becoming Your Own Critique Partner. We had the titles and I'm not sure we ever intended to write the book. Then I was giving a talk about showing not telling. I wrote what became the chapter and sent it to Jane. Not to be undone, she edited and added some suggestions and sent me the second chapter. I returned the favor. Finally we'd completed the book and sent it off to publishers. In 2003 we won the EPIC Award for the best non-fiction book. Not expecting to win, we had no speech prepared and managed to fumble through. We did collaborate on another collection called Moon Pool. But mainly out conversations centered around helping each other with ideas and talking them out. Her significant other Elmer said the other day when Jane answered the phone and said "It's Janet." He knew there would be at least an hour of conversation. I'll miss these times. I'll also miss a great writer and new books she won't have the chance to write. Most of all I'll miss my friend who constantly prodded me to try new avenues in my writing career. The only area she never managed to guide me into was horror. She was a mistress of the scary story with satisfactory endings. I'll never be able to express all the things our friendship over the twenty plus years meant.
Meander 2 Promotion. I've decided to start catching up on promoting my stories and doing all those little things I've neglected in the past by doing one thing of each a day. We'll see how long this lasts.
Meander 3 Moving toward the end of the final write on Melodic Dreams and then all I'll have to do is check for mis spellings and other errata. Then I'll begin Toth's Pharaoh.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014
London, January 1663
After nine o’clock in the morning, daylight finally peeped its dreary head above London. Clouds and coal smoke wisped low to obscure church steeples and house rooftops. Men pulled carts piled with goods, their ironclad wheels making an unholy din against the icy cobblestones. People clogged the lanes, their chatter loud as they competed with the ringing cartwheels.
Wrapped snug in a heavy cloak and hood, and a woolen scarf slung around her neck, Celia Barber and her half-sister, Priscilla, slogged along City lanes filled with snow and ice. As they met clusters of passersby, Celia gazed into their faces to see if she would recognize her mother. When a bairn of three years, her mam had cast her to the streets--shoved her out the door and locked it tight. Dressed only in a nightshift, barefoot and hungry, Celia remembered pounding on the panel until her hands bled.
Like a dark specter, her frightened screams still echoed across the years. Almost every night she dreamed of it, felt the searing terror when lost amidst so many skirts, breeches, and shoes as folk trod along the muck filled lane. Even today, years later, she’d awaken with a sob in her throat.
Suddenly, Celia bumped against her half-sister.
“Ach!” Priscilla cried. “Do keep thyself upright.”
She and her sister worked their way to Whitehall Palace, and to a high lady there. She was ill with a fevered finger, and must be tended to at once. Why Priscilla’s aristocratic employer hadn’t called for a palace physician, Celia could not reckon. If they found her, a low person and a woman, doing surgery on a high person instead of barbering, they’d have her head.
Men of physic who tended the king and his ilk were an arrogant lot. She’d be safer to stay within at Papa’s shop whilst he practiced barbery and she tended to the sick.
Her foot scraped through a pile of rotten giblets, and she slipped. With a yelp, she straightened and continued to trudge through lanes that were quite horrid. The last two winters had been green wherein it never got too cold, but this year told quite another tale. Ice floated in the River Thames.
They rounded a corner to a lane that stank to high heaven. Rubbish and muck steamed in the kennel whilst pigs and curs fought over fouled meat. Windows opened and shouts came from above. They warned, “Gardy loo,” before piss and shit rained onto the street. The dogs yelped and pigs squealed as they shot away from the streaming stench.
Frozen to the bone, Celia wished they had coin to travel by hackney coach, but at least most houses along the lanes provided cover where their eaves jutted overhead. It prevented them from being thoroughly doused. Only small splashes of the muck dirtied their skirts.
“`Tis frosty out here, ain’t it?” Priscilla huffed as she skimmed along the outside of the eaves nearest the kennel. “Me foot’s awash with piss. I could do with an extra coin for a coach. We’d be cleaner upon arrival to me lady’s.”
Friday, March 7, 2014
The plot is absolutely the 6th element of fiction, and the most important. Everything intertwines into the plot. It's the core, the soul of the story.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
When I come up with the story line, the major character must be part of it. His/her story should suffer through the conflicts. The other characters are attached as required and sometimes show up unannounced. In The Barbers, Celia suffered her whole life from cruel rejection. Priscilla showed up as a periphery character, and at times, almost took over. I had to reel her in so that Celia could continue on as the main protagonist.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
Sometimes. For The Barbers, I knew Celia’s conflict and how she would work through it. Before I wrote Twins, I had run into a little known superstition that a man can sire one child at a time. If a woman had twins, she was clearly an adulteress, or a complete wanton. In this case, the conflict came first, then I added the twins, fraternal – a boy and a girl – to make things more complex.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
Yes, I always know how it will end. It’s important for the cohesiveness of the story, a build up of the plot, development of the characters right to the end. Without knowing the end would put my story in jeopardy.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
It depends. When I wrote The First Apostle, which is of the French Revolution, I went to Paris. Much of what was during the late 18th century is still there, today. My stories of London deal with the time prior to the great fire of 1666. I went to London once and knew there was nothing really left of it that had been (the Tower and Westminster, perhaps, but little else.), not even a nook at the end of a narrow lane. Everything burned to the ground within the ancient walls of the city. The London I write of, even a half century later, was still Elizabethan London. I have an Elizabethan street map of London, and use that. It’s the type of map you see in old churches of a parish. It is an extremely handy tool, and gives me a real feel of the area, of the period, although by the mid-17th century, the fields north and west of the City were filling in with houses, taverns, the theatre district.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Both. When I’m doing research from a source I like, I look at the Bibliography, go online to see if I can find it, then either try to download it or buy it. Some used bookstores are a wonderful source of historical information. I’ve even gone to Canada and England to find good resource texts. Once, while in England, I went into a university library, and found the perfect source for one of my novels. It sat bereft in the stacks; hadn’t been checked out since before WWII, but because I was not a student, nor a citizen, I was not allowed to check it out. I left the library and within a week or so, filled a sock with as many 5 pence pieces as I could. With those, at the photocopier, I made copies of every single page of the book, some 350+ pages. You cannot keep a determined girl down. ‘Where there is a will there is a way’ is my motto.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
I’ll sit down to write with an idea of how it will go. Once a chapter is down, later, say the next day or so, I’ll reread it, make changes as I see fit. Working the previous chapter marks the way into the next chapter. Since I know how the story ends, I try to make the chapters weave together like a basket.
I’ve tried sketches, outlines, but they don’t work for me. During the writing journey, unexpected turns and twists take place that really quite surprise me sometimes. I’ll sit back and murmur, “I wasn’t expecting that, but I like it.” Those moments are quite the thrill of one's creative juices.
I don’t plot by the seat of my pants, though. I know what the conflicts are, who are affected by them, and the conclusion. The characters give their own personality along the route, but they must adhere to my final word.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
SHORTCUT TO LOVE
The mob of creatures waving signs circled him, leaving no room for escape. His frustration level soared. No matter which way he turned, he faced another sign.
"College debts. Medical school loans. Credit cards. Condo. Car. Money for the house he planned to build."
A deep voice, akin to his father's, chanted words that gradually rang clear. "You must pay the debts. You must pay the debts."
The strange creatures joined the chorus. They twirled the ends of Dali-like mustaches.
From a distance, his mother's voice added to the cacophony. "Michael when will I see grandchildren? You know how badly I want little ones to hug."
Michael West bolted upright and stared at the clock. He rubbed his eyes. This wasn't Saturday or Sunday. He was going to be late for his first day as the junior partner of
's premier group
of surgeons. He threw back the covers and strode to the bathroom. Grandvue
As he showered, the nightmare circled in his thoughts. "Sorry Mom," he whispered. The stack of debts had to be liquidated before he chose a wife.
He grabbed a towel and briskly dried. He had a plan. Five years would see it to completion. Then he'd be ready to give the woman he selected for marriage the things he believed she deserved. He dressed in new gray slacks and a black blazer, grabbed his medical bag and headed out the door.
Though he wished he had time for a hearty breakfast, on the way to the hospital, he stopped at the deli for coffee and a croissant. Ten minutes later, he sat in the doctors' parking lot and ate his meager meal.
After stuffing the trash in the take-out bag, Michael pulled his long frame from the car and strode toward the entrance. Just as he reached the door, the senior partner of the practice called his name. "Slow down."
Michael waited for Dr. Probst. "Good morning, sir. I didn't expect to see you here this early."
The gray-haired man smiled. "Always first in. Good to see you're of like habits. Three cases on the schedule this morning."
"Will I assist with them all?" Michael asked.
"Eager to get your hands in?"
Michael grinned. "Sure am, sir."
Dr. Probst chuckled. "How well I remember those days. Before we head to the O.R., we’ll make rounds and I'll show you around the surgical unit.”
“Then I'll introduce you to the new nurse manager. Young woman's a marvel. Been here six months. Shaped up the place and the staff. Not only smart, but quite a looker, too."
Michael's grin broadened. In November when he'd interviewed and toured the hospital, the nurse manager had been a starched older woman whose cold glare and thin-lipped smile made him think she detested young doctors. Young and pretty was more his style, especially if she was a woman who would be content with the company of a man with a five-year plan.
They left the elevator on the second floor and strode around the corner. When Michael saw the nurse seated at the long counter surrounding the open station, he abruptly halted.
"No," he whispered. “It can’t be.” He nearly bolted.
"Something wrong?" Dr. Probst asked.
Michael cleared his throat. "Nothing. I never expected to see--"
"Zelda, come meet the latest addition to the group," Dr. Probst called.
"Zelda." Michael groaned. The bane of his youth sauntered toward them.
His throat tightened. So did his gut. "You work here?"
He could have kicked himself. Why else would she be here dressed in a white uniform? A uniform that fit her slim body to perfection.
Dr. Probst beamed. "Michael, this is Zelda Carter, the miracle nurse manager."
Figures she’d find a way to plague me, Michael thought. The man was right about one thing. Zelda was attractive and probably efficient, but she was also a disaster attuned to Michael West MD. Like the visions seen by a drowning man, incidents flooded his memory. She had dynamited his high school romance with Ann and dive-bombed his summer fling with Bette.
Every time Zelda neared his vicinity, strange things happened. He tripped over invisible cracks in the sidewalk, dropped drinks and fumbled plates of food. In her presence he became an accident primed to occur.
He glanced at Zelda. Boy had she changed. Short, curly, brown hair. Blue eyes. Slender figure. His gaze lingered on her kissable lips, and he felt an urge to taste them. He sucked in a breath. Zelda? He jerked his eyes away from her mouth and forced himself to concentrate on his partner's briefing on the patients on the unit and the cases awaiting surgery.
His gaze and his attention strayed toward her. She kept her gaze on his partner. Zelda discussed the cases with Dr. Probst. Michael realized she was ignoring him more effectively than he ignored her. Still, he felt sure plans for destructing his life roiled in her head the way they always had.
A note, he thought. He'd write one and leave it in her office. Strong words designed to head her off. He pulled out a pen and scribbled on his prescription pad.
Dear Zelda, Nice to hear you're doing so
well. Let's work to keep our relationship
strictly professional. Unless you need to
talk to me about a patient, ignore me.
Your former neighbor, Michael.
After rounds, Michael followed Dr. Probst to the stairs. He paused at the door of Zelda's office. "Just a minute. I need to drop something on her desk."
Dr. Probst arched a brow. "Something brewing between you two already?"
"We used to be neighbors."
"Aha, the girl next-door."
Michael nodded. He wasn't about to explain the tangled past he shared with Zelda. He stepped into the office and placed the note on her desk. That should stop any problems, he thought.
As he and Dr. Probst reached the stairs, the stairwell door opened. A tall, gorgeous redhead exited. "Dr. Probst, good morning."
Her throaty voice, not to mention her voluptuous body, captured Michael's attention.
"Morning," the older doctor said. "Grace Lubke, this is Michael West, the newest addition to our team."
"Pleased to meet you, Dr. West." Grace's smile held interest and promises.
"Same here." Michael would have stayed to explore the possibilities, but his partner headed down the stairs. Michael started to follow and turned. "Grace, I'll see you around."
"I'll make sure you do."
Michael caught up with the older man. "Grace seems nice."
"She's a looker. Smart, too. Clinical Psychologist for the Mental Health unit."
Now I know where to find her, Michael thought. He intended to look her up very soon.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
To become a writer there are some qualities needed. Writing is a lonely business. Sitting at the computer hour after hour with only the characters in your stories can be the most fulfilling and also the most frustrating of times. There are also the people around you who look at you with strange expressions on their faces. No, you have not entered a time warp or have stepped into madness. Just because you speak and listen to people who aren't real doesn't make you strange or even crazy. So look at these qualities you'll need.
Enthusiasm- Loving what you do and thinking each story you undertake is the most wonderful story ever written is necessary. Don't know about you but there are times when the enthusiasm for a project fizzles out. I've started stories that have suddenly been not interesting and my zeal for them ebbs. What to do is put it aside and come back to the story later. One problem with enthusiasm is the writer can be steamed up about too many projects and have to haul back since each one starts with that spark of this will be the best thing I've ever written a hundred different times during the year.
Another quality a writer needs is Sincerity. Each story you write has to fit your view of the world, The words and characters must fit your emotional take on what's happening. If you don't believe in the premise of your story the story won't seem sincere to the reader and the book is flipped into the garbage or sent off into the internet limbo. So write about what you believe. For me this is a story where the characters succeed in some way.
Quality 3 is Discipline. Every writer has to sit and put words on paper. Writing every day when you'd rather be playing or doing other things is a must. But I have to wait for my muse. If you have a muse and the muse doesn't arrive every day, kick them out. Just apply yourself to the computer or pen and paper and get those words down. Set goals and don't stop until the goal is reached.
The last quality is Being Yourself. There are a lot of writers out there and there are some each of us has pegged as favorites. The thing to remember is you are the one writing the story and all you are goes into this story. Sure you can learn tricks by reading other writers but becoming a copycat isn't what you should do. Approach each story with the unique that's you.