Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Hate History!

I Hate History
    Okay. So it’s no big secret--I’m not a history buff. That’s my husbands job. And he knows so much trivial irrelevant historical crap it isn’t even funny. But all of those facts and figures, dates and places are the bane of my existence, my arch nemesis. Besides, what does a writer need with historical fodder?! Ha! The laugh was on me. Who knew?
The Internet - We all want to sound like we have a clue what we’re talking about, even in our make believe worlds in our heads. In order to get into my character’s heads, I needed to research where they came from. Sabre is from the mid-1700’s, from England. So how did he get here? Well, he was a captured orphan brought to the U.S. on one of the slave ships. Once he got here, he needed a history of his own. The ships captain became very fond of Sabre and raised him as his own. And when Sabre was grown, I made him a militiaman in the Revolutionary War, and focused on one battle in particular, the Paoli Massacre. Nick is from the early 1900’s, and a little research online and at the local cemetery provided a great back story for him. And suddenly, history didn’t seem quite so boring any more.
    I discovered that to make my ‘dream weavers’ believable, I needed to research dreams, sleep stages and brain waves…and weird things like whether or not it is beneficial for a person to view the body of a deceased loved one…and (yes, I’m a bit morbid) embalming techniques from the early 20th century. Isn’t the internet awesome?!
Hell’s Belles Interviews - For those of you ‘out of the know’, Hell’s Belles is an all girl, ACDC tribute band that totally kicks ass. My friend, Heather (who Ivy is loosely based on) is friends with the former lead singer of the band, Jamie. So, after a show at the Knitting Factory here in Spokane, we went out for drinks with her. Such an awesome lady. I also contacted bassist, Mandy, who corresponded with me via email and helped me do email interviews with the other girls in the band. All of this info is used in Dream Weaver’s second book, Rock Star and one of the characters is named after Mandy’s son, Kylen--just cuz I thought it was a cool name.
Internet, Interviews, Info, oh my! - The internet has info on just about anything you can imagine…and some you really don’t want to. The library and your local book store have books on everything, too. And, sometimes, people ‘in the know’, like rock stars and cemetery receptionists, will make themselves available to answer any questions you might have. Whatever resource you choose, history can definitely plump up a flat character.

Special thanks to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website for comprehensive information on the subject and statistics of rape in America.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

UGH! Editing
Murdering Children, good words we must crucify - So, you come up with a beautiful scene for your book, full of descriptive imagery and a new found word. It’s poetic, profound, perfect. But it’s fat. Irrelevant to the story arc or the character. It felt good to write it. Even better to reread it. But it’s still fat. So, as painful and excruciating as it is, you take your little rodent, highlight the passage and hit ‘delete.’ STOP! Sure it’s fat, but it’s pretty. Keep it. I have a document for each of my manuscripts called ‘excerpts’. I take those deleted passages and tuck them away--just in case. And even if I don’t use them, I still have the little jewels of my creation to glance upon.
It can be a painful thing. ‘Like murdering children.’ And I don’t suggest the band-aid approach. It may be over quicker, but you want to make sure you remove just enough so you don’t damage the surrounding words. Like a surgeon removing dead tissue. OK, gross, but you get the picture. After a painful rejection of a full manuscript submission, I followed the advice of the agent. In so doing, I cut the entire first two chapters of Dream Weaver, including a poignant and beautifully written nightmare scene. But I was able to move that particular scene to another location and still lose the fat. As well, I turned several ‘memory weaves’ into dialogue for Nick. And whaddaya know? It sure made Nick sound intelligent.
The Queen of Seems - At my first conference, there was a speaker named Elizabeth Lyon. I’d heard a web broadcast she had done before the conference, so I was vaguely familiar with her. She gave an excellent seminar on editing your work. And I really enjoyed learning what she calls ‘riff writing.’ After her seminar, I went to purchase her book, Manuscript Makeover, and got to meet her and get my book autographed. Her book has been a godsend. And she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me via email.
In her book, she talks about using the word ‘seems’--as well as others. So, I did a word search and discovered I was the queen of seems. I had no idea how much power that one word robbed from my story. I also went through my manuscript and looked for redundancies, and again thanks to, I was able to replace boring, overused words with more colorful, descriptive words.
There are a lot of great books out there on editing and I highly recommend Ms. Lyon’s books ‘Manuscript Makeover’, and ‘The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit.’ As well, a friend gave me a copy of an English composition textbook called ‘Writing with a Purpose’ that has been helpful. There are LOTS of sites on the internet to help with grammar and punctuation questions, and just about anything else literary. And, Stephen King actually has a book out now on writing…I bet it’s not too scary…except the part about murdering children.
AS A SIDE NOTE - I just happened across an author named Sarah Darer Littman when I googled ‘confessions of a closet vampire’ on a whim. Ms. Littman was also kind enough to respond to my emails, so I checked out her website. She has some really great tips for writers. Thanks Sarah!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Greek and other languages - Naming characters and worlds can be a thrill or a headache. Agents and editors don’t necessarily care for complicated, hard to pronounce names with all kinds of wonky characters in them. In Dream Weaver, there are two kinds of Weavers; the Onar Caphar (the good guys, also called Dream Weavers) and the Rephaim (the baddies, also called Nightmare Wraith). Once I decided on what type of immortal I wanted to create I went to my Strong’s Concordance of the Bible and found the Greek words that translated as closely as possible to Dream Weaver. I also used a notated Bible that shared the information about the Greek word for giants, Rephaim, to come up with a name for Wraith. In the second book, Rock Star I used the language translator on to find out the name of my protagonist’s band; Cuimhnigh which means ‘remember’ in Irish.
The Cemetery - Several character names came from headstones at a local cemetery. I would wander the older sections of graveyard and jot down first and last names from the headstones that caught my attention. Nickolas Benedetti is a combination of two headstones. His wife, Felicia Morrow, is the product of many years of morbid curiosity and a nearly paranormal drawing to one head stone in particular, along with research in the cemetery office. I also discovered some of Nick’s story in this research. At the risk of sounding arrogant, in the hopes that my novels will be a big hit, I changed some of the info on these characters so they couldn’t be too easily found. “Felicia” and I have been buds for most of my life, despite that she’s been dead for nearly a 100 years.
Plain Ole Imagination - My oldest daughter’s name is Aundraic. Not sure how I came up with it and it’s been the bane of her existence all her life. She goes by Leo now…long story. But the name is very unique. With my protagonist, Emari, I was just messing around with names for her and there it was. Only later did I realize that Emari is my own middle name rearranged. Totally unintentional. When I named her puppy, Eddyson, I was thinking of a variation for Edison, as in Thomas Edison. Again, only later did I discover I had named the dog as a combination of my daughter’s beloved pup, Eddy, and my own beagle, Dyson. Oops. Still cool though.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Off the Blocks: Getting Started
Confessions of a Closet Vampire…OK, I’ll confess straight off, I was inspired to write by Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. I’ve always been a bit on the dark side and totally into vampires since Jr. High. I even researched Vlad Tepes the 15th century warlord whose name was used for the most renowned vampire of all time, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. All this aside, after reading the Twilight series I was inspired to create an immortal of my own and place him in the world as we know it. My manuscript (hereafter MS) began on scraps of paper and receipt tape as pondered this story. I began to write and ended up with a 67 page MS. Boring. Going no where. So, I began to research and learn, conduct interviews and now after 3 years and more edits than I care to remember, I have a 97K word 179 page manuscript that’s one final edit away from submissions to agents.
Just Do It…A friend at work told me he thought about writing, even had some ideas in a notebook. Every time we talked, I used the old Nike slogan: Just Do It! All of the talk, all of the thinking about will never get you anywhere. Just Do It! It doesn’t matter if it sucks. You can make it better. Learn, research, rewrite and know that even when it gets into the hands of an agent or editor, more than likely, you’ll have to do it again. But it can’t get that far unless you start.
    Know your reasons for writing. Is it because you love to write? Or because you want the next Twilight Saga with all the movies and hype? Realistically, the majority of us will never land a movie contract. We could, but not likely. And even a greater number of us will never get published unless we do it ourselves. So you have to know deep inside yourself why you write. Dreaming is great. My motto is Dare to Dream, but even in my dreaming I must remember, I write because it’s an innate part of me. It is an outlet to those dreams even if no one else ever reads a word.
Writing Styles: Story Boards or Vomit…To be honest, I don’t know a lot about story boards. I’m more of a puke it all out on the computer and sort it out from there. I did something I call a ‘skeleton’ in which I documented the action in each chapter. Then, I used that ‘skeleton’ to graph the action of my story. Agents and editors like to see a story arc, so this helped me to see if my story had an arc. With my second novel, I wrote out a summary of the story beforehand. This short summary can also serve as your synopsis when you start pitching, and querying agents.

Check out this week's book pick under 'Su's Book Picks' and quotation of the week under 'Su's Quotables.'

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Greetings family and friends

Welcome to my brand new blog. I will be posting about my experiences and what I've learned as a tyro writer. Most people don't take 3 years on one novel, but hey, I was kinda starting from scratch. It has truly been a learning journey from the writing itself (the best education a writer can have), to conference trips and researching on the web.
As well, I'm planning on giving helpful websites and books, Su's weekly book picks, and quotations of the week.
To top it off, I will be adding DREAM WEAVER quotes (because sometimes 'Sabre's an ass') and excerpts for a sneak peak at the manuscript.
Thanks for reading. Have a great day! Su