“Hello?” Beth said into the telephone, then sighed as the perky soft rock resumed. She was on hold again.
When Ell had collapsed two days ago, the ambulance crew had taken her forty-five minutes away, to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. The doctor said Ell and the baby were fine, but she should take it easy for a while. So while Ellie sequestered herself in her room, Beth worked off the invitation list for the wedding reception, calling everyone to let them know about Chris’s death. It was an awful job, breaking the news to old friends, but it would be even worse for her sister to do it.
More. . . .
I’ve been away from my computer for a bit visiting with family. It was my MIL’s 75th birthday and Mother’s Day so the kids and grandkids all gathered for a big weekend on Catalina Island off the coast of California. It could not have been more perfect — even if I did lose hours of my life watching most of Episode 3 of Star Wars. (What was George thinking!)
Despite its many flaws, Episode 3 is actually pertinent to the subject of family. It was Anakin’s fear of losing his family — again — that turned him to the dark side. So it’s possible for something wonderful to become twisted.
Which is the origin of many a great tale. Among other things, the Witch of the West wanted vengeance for the death of her sister. (I once read a TV Guide description of the famous movie: Teenage runaway kills, and with the help of three strangers kills again.)
For good or ill, there is little we are more passionate about than family. Family brings us joy and makes us crazy, sometimes at the same time. This should be true for our characters as well. Family makes characters real, gives them depth, and provides motivation.
When family calls, we answer — and so should our characters.
Filed under Life, writing
I’m still cleaning up some formatting issues for Veiled Mirror, but soon that will be done. Then what? Oh, I’ll have to review the gallies, but that won’t take more than a week. It’s time to decide on my next project.
I have at least four different books simmering in the back of my head, not to mention a revision of Lightbringer. My choices include a variety of traditional fantasy elements: faeries, shapeshifters, nomads, and quests; unusual romantic arrangements; trust, betrayal, love, and loss; and a new/old look at werewolves. (But absolutely no vampires, sparkly or otherwise.)
How to decide? At least two writer friends have said I should work on something new before I go back to do more revisions, and I’m inclined to agree. I spent a lot of time revising various manuscripts the last couple of years, so it’s been a while since I’ve written anything new (except for this blog).
I’ve decided to write what calls to my heart, rather than choosing a project that might do the most good for my career. For one thing, I’m not sure at this early stage that I can know which project will be most successful. Professional editors don’t always know which book will take off and capture the attention of the reading public, so how can I? For another, if you’re not writing something you enjoy, the “juice” won’t be there. I had a hard time with Lightbringer for that very reason. And third, life is short. It takes me at least a year to write and revise a full length novel. If I’m going to spend that much time with the people in my head, I’d better like them.
Currently, I’m fascinated with the subject of how people find their own unique paths to success. There is no shortage of advice out there on the topic. You could spend the better part of your life reading blogs and books and by the time you got to bottom of your list, another twelve hundred would have been published on how to be happy, make decisions, find your passion, be successful.
This coming Saturday I’ll be giving a talk to my local Romance Writers of America chapter called “Adapting The 4-Hour Work Week to the Writer’s Life.” I’ve been reviewing Tim Ferris‘s book to that end, but also incorporating concepts from several other related books. In fact, just today I found out about yet another book by Simon Sinek, Start With Why, that seems to apply to the topic. Obviously, I can’t thoroughly incorporate the ideas from all my sources in a 30 minute talk. Indeed, at this point I should be winnowing my notes, not adding to them. But the search for just one more piece of information is seductive.
Tim Ferris recommends going on an information diet. He suggests that too much information can be paralyzing (as Barry Schwartz says in The Paradox of Choice). Set a short deadline for yourself, Ferris says. Gather just enough info, just before you need it, then make a decision and go forward. That’s how I used to write my papers in college, and it works, mostly.
However today, as a professional writer, I don’t like the idea of limiting the amount of information I see and read. That’s one of the differences between writing non-fiction and fiction: I never know when something will become the seed for my next story. Like many writers, I keep an Idea File of newspaper and magazine articles. Sampling a variety of ideas is part of my job.
I can’t argue with the fact that gathering information can become an end in itself, and a substitute for action. Eventually, there comes a time when you have to say, “Enough.” Usually when a deadline is looming. 🙂
Filed under Life, writing
Somehow Friday, the day I usually blog about writing, just evaporated for me. Saturday I went to a memorial service for the husband of a friend, and I didn’t think about anything else. So here it is Sunday, but let’s pretend it’s Friday for a few minutes instead.
“Let’s pretend.” That’s how writers get started, even before they learn how to put little black marks on paper. (We all start out that way, but some of us never grow out of it.) Gradually, “tell me a story” changes to “let me tell you a story” but the joy of discovery is still there. That joy is the best reason to write.
I’m experimenting with ways to recapture that joy. As Hugh McLeod observes in Ignore Everybody, it’s liberating to work on something that doesn’t have a commercial angle, that isn’t motivated by ambition, that belongs just to you. (If you want, you can turn it into something marketable later, but don’t think about that now.)
That’s one way to liberate your creativity. Tell yourself the story you want to hear, asking, “what happens next,” and “then what?”
Obviously there’s much, much more than this to writing salable fiction. But the joyful process starts with saying, “Let’s pretend.”
It may be my destiny to offend people. I don’t want to, but I can’t help myself. Every one of my as yet unpublished novels deals with religion in some way. When I build a new world, it just seems reasonable to put some kind of religious belief system in place for my characters. There’s no culture on earth that hasn’t been influenced by at least one religion. Why should fiction be any different?
My first two novels, Dangerous Talents and Forbidden Talents, are about the descendents of a lost Vinland colony and their adventures in Alfheim. So far, so good. Not many people will be troubled if I take a few liberties with the old Norse religion. (Cultural drift changes beliefs over time, you know.) But remember, the Vinlanders had been exposed to Christianity. They don’t follow that religion, but they do have an opinion about it. Not satisfied to stop there, I also populated Alfheim with the descendents of the Anasazi Indians. (The Anasazi disappeared as a distint culture from Arizona about 800 years ago — I say they went to Alfheim.) Their (the descendants) beliefs are derived from those of the Hopi Indians — the Anasazi’s actual descendents — but I couldn’t leave them untouched either.
My third book, Veiled Mirror, only deals with ghosts — but how can you talk about ghosts without asking questions about the afterlife?
In my lastest book, Lightbringer, I go all the way. I have a fallen angel trying to protect a psychic from a demonic assassin. How could I let the characters ignore the obvious questions?
Religion isn’t necessary for a book to be compelling. If I’m swept up in the story, I may not notice its lack until later — as I did with Souless by Gail Carriger. Souless is a lot of fun — I highly recommend it. It’s what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should have been. The heroine, Alexia, is souless. She is a proximity antidote to both vampires and werewolves. When she touches them they instantly become mortal. The plot hinges on this fact. Yet I realized as I began writing this blog that the author had barely touched on the existential questions that should arise from the premise.
I don’t know if readers will be offended by anything I’ve written. I hope not. But there is a vocal minority who aren’t very tolerant of differences of opinion. I guess that’s just another reason why authors need to grow a thick skin.