Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"There's a someone that I'm hoping to see."

The Gershwins



Note from the house piano player: You can play almost all of this line with ascending black keys if you start with F sharp. Or G flat. Your call.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-12: 0
04-27-12: 2774

Saturday, April 23, 2011

That's What I'm Tolkien About

In a previous post, I blogged about someone's (not mine) theory that there are only 3 stories in the world: Road Trip, Stranger In Town, Person Meets Person. Not sure I buy that, but it does seem to apply to 90% of the stories I know.

For today, let us speak of Road Trip. What's the best road trip novel ever written? I vote for THE HOBBIT. The protagonist goes on a very long and wearisome trek (yep, that road DID go ever on and on!), but the author kept it exciting and moving along the whole way. Well, at the risk of being sacrilegious, maybe almost the whole way. But that's the challenge of writing a road trip.

Even a real life road trip, say a solo drive from Texas to California in a '97 Chevy with a broken tape deck, can be mind-numbingly boring. So many cacti... oh my gosh, is that a Stuckey's???!!!

I've decided to start working on my 4th novel, a post-apocalyptic YA road trip. I need to be careful to not get bogged down in the details. I must remind myself that I don't need to document every single step of the journey. That is a trap that I fall into as a writer so I need to watch myself in that regard. On the flip side - as a reader, I hate it when authors merrily skip over big chunks of narrative/plot/time and don't provide ENOUGH details. Oh, well, I suppose it's all about balance. Or maybe it's about some of us like details and the rest of you probably haven't read this far anyhow! (ha)

But even though my Oh So Logical Brain is thinking of this story in terms of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc., I can be creative with the structure of the novel. Right, Pinky? Just like I'm creative with the characters, the plot, the dialogue. I hate to say it, but my brain has ideas for at least 4 other novels kicking around inside it. (it's very loud inside there) One of those has an untraditional structure, so it may have inspired me for the PAYA. (post-apocalyptic young adult (YA) novel) I've had a title for this book for almost 2 years, but just recently I've been having a major argument with myself about that title and am now not so sure. (yes, you are! no, I'm not!) So for now, I guess PAYA is as good a name as any.

If writing a novel is like going for a swim, then I've got my suit on and sunscreen applied, I've got a "good" chaise lounge staked out with my towel and I'm dipping a toe in one end of a very, very long pool. The idea for PAYA came to me around July 2009, so I've been scribbling notes here and there for awhile. I know the beginning, middle and end of this story. I know the major plot points and twists. I may or may not know the title. And, of course, I already have thoughts on the cover art!

I just need to begin. And hey, I might even use this blog to keep track of my progress. (Wednesday Word Count, anyone?) Unlike Bilbo, I'll be alone on this epic journey, but at least there won't be any kram!

And so #4 begins...

*&^%$#@!

I just wrote a whole post and it disappeared. Criminy.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"

"The same thing we do every night, Pinky - try to take over the world!"

Pinky & The Brain

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What The Dickens? (ramblings on Bleak House)

I finished reading BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens today. I'm a big Dickens fan. Haven't read all his works yet, but - like Desmond - hope to in my lifetime. I very much enjoyed BLEAK HOUSE, but it is also notable (to me) for perhaps being the longest book I have ever read. My paperback edition came in at 933 pages. (Middlemarch much?)

Some say I am overly fond of the ellipsis... The last sentence of BLEAK HOUSE does not contain an ellipsis, but I can imagine Dickens's editor frothing over its punctuation. It's a really long sentence, so I'm going to pick it up from right after the semicolon. I doubt this qualifies as a SPOILER ALERT, but just in case, you have been warned I'm about to quote the last few words of BLEAK HOUSE: "and that they can very well do without much beauty in me--even supposing--."

Ha! Dickens cracks me up and that sentence did it again. Ending an almost 1,000 page novel with a dash!!! You crazy son of a biscuit! That sentence was perfect for that character, though. (of course! he's Dickens!)

There are lots of rules for grammar, punctuation and for writing in general. It's a relief not to worry about them while writing this blog. I've had to give up on several beloved writing "rules" that were burned into my brain when I learned to type at age 8. What?! There AREN'T two spaces after a period? W. T. F... There's no comma needed in the sentence "I'm getting older, too"??? Say it ain't so, Chicago Manual of Style. Which, speaking of cracking up, can be a hell of funny website at chicagomanualofstyle.org - seriously! If you're a writer or lover of puns, check it out.

I'm a fan of rules in general. (Because if you don't have rules, how do you know who's winning?) I want my novels to be well-written in every way. And the publisher, of course, has standards set for every book they publish. So I pay attention to those kinds of rules (mostly) when I'm writing a novel. Some rules are just dumb, though. I mean, why not end with a preposition? What's the big deal?

BLEAK HOUSE also struck me because much of it is written in the voice of a very young woman. Charles Dickens was not a very young woman. He totally pulled it off, though. If the narrator is a different gender than the writer and I'm thinking about that while reading the story, that's a problem. It was no problem during BLEAK HOUSE because Dickens was a genius. I am not a genius according to many people who are not geniuses, but I have plans to one day write a novel in the first person with a straight male protagonist. Should be fun...

About a hundred years after BLEAK HOUSE came out, Vladimir Nabokov (who never learned to drive, type or fold an umbrella according to Wikipedia) (one must LEARN how to fold an umbrella?) was teaching literature at Cornell. My hefty paperback included excerpts from his lectures on BH. Here are a couple of quotes I liked a lot:

"A writer might be a good storyteller or a good moralist, but unless he be an enchanter, an artist, he is not a great writer." An enchanter - wow, I dig that! A good book certainly puts me under a spell while I'm reading it.

"A great writer's world is indeed a magic democracy where even some very minor character, even the most incidental character...has the right to live and breed." I am such a sucker for minor characters! I want them all to be memorable, to have a moment, to live during their brief time on the page. I love seeing that in other people's books and strive for that in my own. Minor characters need to know their place, so to speak, and not outshine the major characters, but in their very limited roles, I enjoy seeing them be unique and/or robust without being overwritten or cheesy - minor characters are people, too, right? In SHADOW POINT, I loved writing the scenes involving minor character Patricia Klein, the preschool teacher. A minor character with even less "face time" was Madison's ex, Isabel - although I purposely said very little about her, more than one reader has told me she found Isabel quite intriguing and wanted to know more... stay tuned on that one, Dear Readers!

Just as there is a subtle homage/reference to THE TURN OF THE SCREW in SHADOW POINT, there is a (probably not so) subtle Dickens homage/reference in HEAVENLY MOVES. (I'll be curious to see if anyone catches that!) I managed not to rip off any 19th century novelists in ROMEO FAILS, but there is a reference to Bruce Springsteen in all 3 of my books. Clearly, I'm a very confused person. Yes, I read classic literature (some of it), but I've read a lot of less-than-classic fertilizer, too. I look forward to a future blog post discussing some of the worst fiction I've ever read - and how I learned a lot from it! In closing, to paraphrase Esther from BLEAK HOUSE, I'm sure you can very well do without more blogging from me tonight--even supposing--.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"I'm getting older, too."

Stevie Nicks

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Just finished (again) editing the manuscript for my work in progress, HEAVENLY MOVES. I don't mean I've finished doing my daily bit of editing - I mean I finished the whole dang book! Again! Could this time really be the last? Could my baby I mean novel actually be ready for the world?

Could be! The first draft came in at approximately 116,000 words. It's now 108,500. And I still find it gripping and witty and poignant and mysterious and rockin' and FUN! Of course, I'm biased, but I have sometimes got to the point with other projects where I was sick of the plot, annoyed with the characters, bored with the whole thing. But HEAVENLY MOVES feels special and I don't say that lightly or often.

And now it's time to Set It Aside. Whew!

(pause for jubilant sigh)

Wait - what the heck am I supposed to do now? It's always a weird feeling when I finish a huge project like this, one that's taken over my life for so long. Almost like awakening from a dream. I'm disoriented, but in a good and happy way.

Perhaps I shall attempt a short story next, something to clear the literary palate, so to speak... You'll be the first to know if it works out, Dear Reader.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Never Is Heard A Discouraging Word

So, this is encouraging, right? (It is, because I know they started with more than 5!) Please keep those orders coming, Dear Reader! And if you like the book, please tell a friend - word of mouth is the most precious, powerful and effective promotional tool there is. I heart ur WOM.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"The feeling that it's all a lot of oysters and no pearls..."

Counting Crows

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"...so tired of the straight life..."

Sarah McLachlan
(at least that's what I heard)