Looking Under the Begonia

Standard

stockvault-easter-rabbits98697(Dealing with both a headache and a dog who decided the household (i.e. me) had to be up and operational at 5:30am. This canine in question is now sound asleep while I am obviously NOT. So, if this post has no redeeming value whatsoever, please blame the dog. Thank you.)

Found myself a bit of an Easter egg yesterday.

No, not the gaily painted, hard-boiled variety left behind by giant bunnies. I’m talking the kind that programmers often hide in their digital wares.

For example, clicking 18 times on the eastern-most begonia in scene 343 of the DragonWars video game will get you a blooper reel from the game designer’s senior prom. We’re talking that kind of value here, folks.

So, I was busy scoping out my next project Thursday, a novel I’m thinking will stick to the same Revolutionary War-era vibe I’ve got going in The Hushing Days, when “Surprise!” I found a sparkling gem of an obscure fact that will make one of my more troublesome Hushing Days’ ladies finally pop from the page.

This is a good thing.

This is an unexpected thing.

No giant bunny could have brought anything better.

Look for Easter eggs wherever you go, dear writers. The big Programmer in the Sky has got them hidden everywhere.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

POST NOTE: The 18-click-begonia-thing is merely a hiccup of my imagination. Again, blame the dog.

Netting the Big “R”

Standard

fish-story-06Religion is a tricky scoundrel to net in a romance novel.

Oh there are ways to do it, of course, but short of making it another full-fledged player in the story, it is rather hard to do.

Sure, if you choose to make one of your lead characters a priest/former-priest/priest-wanna-be then his struggle with his religious vows is key in the plotline. No problem there. Just tell the story and the readers will get it.

Or if you are writing in a series particularly targeted to a Christian crowd, per se, then the limitations and extremes are fairly well-defined for you. More than likely you will not turn off a reader by leaning hard on the aspects of the character’s beliefs.

But, if the chosen faiths of the cast are important to the characterization of each person but not necessarily to the whole Romance (Big “R” #1) of the tale, a quandary is often had as to how much religion to include?

An up-and-coming author can rarely afford to alienate a large chunk of their audience. And that is a risk when you linger a little too long or a little too heavily on the whole Religion (Big “R” #2) of the thing.

Writing a novel set in the late Colonial era, a time in which religion was a driving factor in most everybody’s life in some manner or another, I’m finding myself a little unsure about how to address these issues of faith. How much do I include? How much do I turn a blind eye to?

I have no answers here.

Bummer, I know.

But sometimes just asking the question, admitting there is an issue to be discussed is a start, right?

After all, (to circle cleverly back around to the opening analogy), you must admit there is a fish before you can net it.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

The Spider Web Plots

Standard

Spider WebBeyond the silk ribbons, the heavy-duty worsted yarns and the strands of brightly colored floss, a really good novel usually has at least one more goody weaved into its tapestry.

Guesses, anyone?

(In my case with a furry, four-legged muse constantly on the job, a dog hair or two can be expected in the mix. But since most authors don’t have fuzzy-faced muses with big attitudes and bigger hearts breathing down their necks, we’ll overlook that component for today.)

While I suppose there are many correct answers to the question, my favorite answer is this…

Spider webs.

Frighteningly strong, eerily transparent threads that can disappear into the story with remarkable ease, the Spider Web Plots are the surprises waiting behind the door for your readers.

The antagonist’s storyline does not always have to be obvious. It does not need to be identifiable, nor does it need to offer contrast. Sometimes the best plotline is the one that is not seen until the end, until its spider crawls up on your pretty finished tapestry and sneers a sinister “Boo!”

Keep this in mind while you weave, dear authors.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

Homespun -or- The Character Spread

Standard

crafting-02I’m sure there is a system.

There’s bound to be some kind of formula a writer can just plug into her manuscript and see if the Character Spread works. If there is, I don’t know it. In fact, I’m not entirely sure the concept of Character Spread exists anywhere outside my own OCD-tainted brain.

While I hold a Master Degree in Art History and a minor in Literature, I have never taken a single Creative Writing course in my life.

Some might dub this a hindrance. I think of it as a strength.

Yes, I may know all the proper terms and proper strategies toward storytelling from an academic standpoint, but my employment of these terms and strategies are entirely homespun. I believe this makes my writing efforts memorable, as quirky as my characters, as dumbfounding as some of my less than successful plots.

In a world that has a gazillion or more authors clamoring for that publishing call, I feel it is very important to be unique. To play within the rules but bring your own bat and ball to the game.

Anyhow, Character Spread is my idea that no major character in a book should go more than two chapters (once introduced) without a significant presence on the page. This might seem like child’s play when you’re working with the traditional one-two punch of a 50k genre romance, but when juggling 6 major characters in two distinct and distant locations things can get a little squirrely…

Or so I think.

But, really, what do I know?

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

Properly Shelled

Standard

800px-Nine-banded_ArmadilloSunday was productive.

Yes. That’s what I’d like to call it.

Quite literally tons of “administrative” work was done on The Hushing Days. With one of the three chief relationships all written up and fleshed out, I am ready to tackle Couple #2. This lucky pair’s plot has been carefully removed from the story-whole and is ready for some one-on-one time with the author.

This should leave me ecstatic.

Should.

But…

Yesterday was a foul mind day. Indulge me for just a moment and I’ll explain.

Consider the life of an armadillo.

He lugs around a big, unwieldy, leathery shell that protects him from most un-Volkswagen-sized nasties. That’s all well and good, but have you ever considered how much that ugly contraption weighs? Really. Have you ever seen a truly giddy armadillo?

Living with a mental illness is a lot like an armadillo’s life. The shell that we are forced to wear to survive in this world (i.e. Prozac, coping techniques, desperate patience, oftentimes desperate hope) is exhausting to carry around all the time. Really. I’m mentally pooped each and every night of my life.

Well, yesterday, the little armadillo named Chloe flagged exhaustion and crawled out of her carefully-orchestrated shell.

Yep. I didn’t even try to stop the OCD tendencies, the doom brokers, the little hairy beasts of depression from running me over.

Soft little underbelly to the sky, I rolled over sans-shell and said to my mental nasties, “Go ahead, flail away!”

So, that’s what they did.

I worked and worked and worked from pre-dawn to 60 seconds to bedtime, manically attacking this book, the next book, three books thereafter…

*sighs*

It was all rather stupid of me.

I need my shell.  Even though it’s a pain to crawl into every day, there’s a reason I’m an armadillo.

So, the shell is back on this morning. There will be no more flailing by any nasty, thank you very much.

And here ends today’s rather hard-crusted tale.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe in shell

A Feathered Faith

Standard

birdhouse-02(Metaphors ahead. Prepare yourselves.)

Faith comes in many different feathers.  It is not one simple condor that sweeps you up and carries you to heaven on its back.

No, faith is a flock of birds, each with its own bone structure, wing breadth and song.  For example…

a.) The BIG faith (i.e. God and the ever-after):  Although I’m sure Biblical scholars would argue that this bird should be a dove, my BIG faith is more bald eagle-ish. Elusive at first, but once sighted glorious to behold. I cling to this fellow’s back every day, just closing my eyes and holding on for dear life.

b.) Career path faith: I know I am meant to be a writer. It is as certain to me as the seagulls squawking noisily over the shore. Whenever I start to doubt, I simply need to look toward the sea.

c.) Success faith: Whether or not I will ever succeed financially as a writer is as foreign to me as an Asian Crested Ibis. I’ve seen pretty pictures of this fellow but have as of yet to catch glimpse of him myself. I keep looking though. In fact, I believe my field binoculars have melded with my face. It’s not a pretty picture to be sure, but I and my muse search on.

To end, I’d like to say that I have no idea where this posting came from. I simply started to write and wrote.

Hmm… I fear my stream of consciousness is a little different than most folks’. Apologies for that.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

The Well-Known Stage

Standard

Garbage ContainersIn an ever-so slight continuation from yesterday’s post about writing women, I’d like to announce that finally one of the three female leads in The Hushing Days has reached that wonderful Well-Known Stage.

For those of you lucky enough to exist entirely outside of the inner-workings of my really odd brain, let me explain what I mean by “Well-Known Stage.”

When I reach a point in writing a character where I know what he or she will do in any situation I might plop them into, they become “well-known” to me.

Unsurprising to all, the situations I can invent in my scurrilous little imagination are quite challenging.

Oh, these “scenes” I drop these poor, unsuspecting characters in rarely if ever have anything to do with the novel in which I am writing.

This is by design.

Knowing if these players can exist outside of my story’s parameters, knowing how they would react given any off-the-wall authorial ploy I might lob at them, is the only way a character is deemed “well-known” to me.

For instance…

If I can toss the female lead in my Revolutionary War-era romance into an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and know she’s been fleshed out enough by me to survive that post-Apocalyptical madness intact, the lady is good to go in my book. Pun intended.

This is all quite possibly nonsense, but I share it just the same. After all, one never knows when a smidgeon of true value can be found amongst the day’s rubbish.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

Gender Bias?

Standard

women-06(Feeling a little jittery this morning, folks. So please excuse the occasional rattle. I’ll try not to let it go too out of hand. So with a wish of luck to us all, let’s carry on…)

Writing women is hard.

Admittedly this might have more to do with my being out of practice (17 novels in m/m romance will do that to a girl) than the actual degree of difficulty involved, but let’s not bicker about the details. We’ll just accept the statement as fact (consider it a spot of blogger omnipotence, *rolls eyes*) and move on to examining why this is true.

Being a woman myself, I identify with the female persuasion. One would think this would be a help, but it’s not. I have firsthand experience on how complicated, knotted, rationally irrational a gal can be. So I judge my characterizations of the gender VERY hard.

While I can hardly understand myself half the time, I try valiantly to understand each and every motivation of each and every one of my women.

This is lunacy.

Just because we share girl parts, does not mean we share anything else. I could no sooner identify with Aileen Wuornos then I could with Ted Bundy (and I thank the good Lord for that).

Gender bias?

Heck, if I know.

I’ve just got to get over myself, get over my womanhood and become simply a writer again.

Easy as pie, I’m sure.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

Leaning Skyward

Standard

stockvault-constrution131221I have just crossed the halfway point in writing The Hushing Days!

*waits for the confetti to fly, the trumpets to sound, the balloons to fall from the ceiling… and waits….*

*four-legged, furry muse rolls eyes; the impatient “Get on with it, you goof” is unspoken but clear*

Fine. Getting on with it, dear.

It’s funny but I feel I’m much farther along in The Hushing Days. A three-quarters mark seems imminent, if not just popping up in my rearview mirror. In fact, that finish line should be within a long-jumper’s reach.

Hmm… Let’s examine the reasons for that, shall we?

1.) While I’ve only been really writing on the novel since January, I’ve been working on it since last July. The crafting, outlining, selling the idea to my agent, selling the idea to my aforementioned fuzzy muse started in the heat of last summer. With a new summer rounding the corner, it feels very odd to still be working on the same project. (My previous novels averaged 2 ½ months each.)

2.) For the last few weeks, I’ve basically been on cruise control with the book. While the word count has been steadily moving along on pace for a late April finish, there has been a severe lack of wrestling with storylines of late. With every scene, every character’s every move laid out like the blueprint of some freaking skyscraper, my “big picture/grand scheme” tools have been idling… And these guys don’t do idling very well.

3.) To placate said-idlers, I have begun scoping out my next project. Rarely does this scouting happen before the current book is at least three-quarters done. This “already looking to the future” thing is weird, unsettling but kind of cool.

4.) Not only am I crazy, the muse is a little nuts too. Hence time management suffers.

So, while I keep a hopeful eye to the ceiling for balloons, I’ll let you get on with your day.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

Fanciful Deconstruction… A Writer’s Method

Standard

Abstract background of colored petals.One silk, cornflower blue ribbon has been removed. I lay it gently upon my writing desk, careful not to wrinkle or soil the delicate strand.

A quick glance over to the remaining novel finds it holding together just fine. The strips of rugged, sun-bleached leather and the warm, worsted yarn of deep mahogany seem unbothered by the silk’s absence. I have no idea if this is good or bad so I simply sigh and move on.

The silk now lays before me. All my considerable, OCD attention on this lone storyline.

It is the simplest, the freshest, the brightest of the three love stories in The Hushing Days. It needs little work but a gentle iron. The silk has been neglected for far too long.

So it is with a reverent hand that I begin to work on the ribbon, insuring its color remains true, testing the inner strength of its outer brilliance…

Doesn’t it sound oh-so fanciful?

I have never done such a thing to a novel before. The whole is far greater than its parts, I know. But if the parts are classic, stunning and quite dazzling won’t the whole be served all the better by them?

That is what I hope.

For the last few days, I have removed the storyline of my gunsmith and his young lady love from The Hushing Days and worked on it alone. The novel is so tightly pieced together that the lone plotline’s absence is obviously marked and will be easy to slip back in once it is ready.

Or so I hope.

Hope is a scary thing for a writer.

I’ll keep you updated on this fanciful deconstructing strategy of mine.

Until tomorrow…

Chloe