Sunday, April 20, 2014

a story to root for

One of the things I have mentioned before is how I never really understand what readers want or don't in books. I read about these stories readers adored where they describe how the hero treats the heroine badly all the way through but her kind/feisty/determined/_____  behavior convinces him finally to change his ways. IF a person, male or female, really believes that is realistic to human nature, I hope they didn't pick their life partner that way. I am sorry, but it's unrealistic to expect someone to change because of someone else's sweetness.

Now there are reasons people change. They decide they want a different sort of life, and they are willing to work to get it. Life events can dramatically change someone's life path. But their basic character, if it's mean, it's not going to change due to someone else's sweetness. It's how you get these horrible stories of man or woman who thought they could make a difference and end up murdered. 

You know I write because it's what I do. But I consider what I put into my romances to be a responsibility to tell a good story, give emotional satisfaction but also put forth a healthy view of life. Sure I want interesting characters but always with something more. There are going to be obstacles. I have to want these people to succeed or why would I be writing their story? The more obstacles, the more interesting that book is for me to write. 

BUT (and this may be one of those things that romance readers don't like so much about my books) I don't write about heroes or heroines who are tamed by the other. I believe relationships do a lot for us, teach who we are at a core level as they challenge us. I believe we can, for assorted reasons, choose to end our own destructive behavior when we recognize it through a core relationship. I do not believe we can change another person.  I also believe that sometimes in relationships, we should choose to run like heck. A good example is dating someone who puts you down to feel better about themselves. It's a good example of-- run!

My stories won't have a hero/heroine being victimized or mistreating others. No Taming of the Shrew for me. If I purchased a book and the lead characters are mean, making me want to throttle them, it's heading for the garbage or these days the delete button on my Kindle. I like fairy tales, but not ones that are destructive for the attitudes they teach. As I've written here many times, garbage in garbage out. 

Because this is a break for me, before I start back into editing or begin writing the fourth Oregon historical, I decided I'd write a blog a day about the reasons I wrote each of my contemporary books. This won't be in any particular order although those that have continuing characters will show up together. This won't be about their plots but what led me to find these stories worth putting my time into telling I thought my reasons might inspire other wantabe writers to look around at what interests them and see the potential for a book they could begin.

One contemporary a day will take me to when I bring out the new contemporary paranormal novella May 1. If you are interested in more about one of the stories, about their plots, click alongside here on their images, which takes you to their sample chapter and blurb, visit Rainy Day Romances or hit my book trailer site-- Rainy Day Trailers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Titling a work

Finding a title for a work is something writers, painters, sculptors, and photographers run into. The work is finished. It's what you wanted it to be. If you intend to present it to the world, it needs a title. It can be as simple as Canyon I or a lot more creative. It might be named for the place you painted or the energy you felt and what you hope someone else will also find when reading your work.

Through the years I have titled paintings, sculptures, books, and blogs. Sometimes I know the title before I even start. Sometimes it comes to me as I am in the midst of it. Once in awhile I have to dig for it after the work is finished. Once I had a book out and was forced to retitle it due to the original title, which I had seen as relating to the story, which used the legend of Prometheus and dealt with love. Golden chains seemed apropos. Readers thought it was erotic. Since it was not (it had nudity in the artistic sense not sexual, I both lost it readers and had some not happy who bought it. I changed it to Bannister's Way which was also fine given the characters. He was a secondary character in Desert Inferno and not known for being reluctant to do things his way.

For paintings, sculptures and photography, titles might not matter so much-- other than to keep track of the work. For books, titles are key to getting someone to even look at the pages. The writer has an image and a couple of words to convince a reader they would like to know more.

Before I began the recent Arizona historical, it had a title. It came before the first word was written. The title still worked when it was finished.

But it was a little more complicated with the paranormal trilogy. When I wrote the first one, it had its title as soon as I finished the book. The second title came during the writing. I began writing the third with a title in mind-- finished it thinking it would be its title. Except...

A trilogy, like in paintings, is linked together in a unique way. It's not just about common characters but has to have stories which are tied together. Mine are separate, each comes to a conclusion, but they are tied to a problem that is not resolved until the last one. 

That meant, I needed a title for the whole, which would be different than either of the three eBooks. I am going to offer all three only as a paper book-- partly because of Amazon letting readers take a Kindle, return it within a week for no reason. It has also led me to hold off on my Oregon historical series which I may bring out in paper but not electronic. In the case of this book, I had another reason to bring it out as a paperback with the possibility it might appeal to metaphysical type bookstores. Anyway that meant four titles, with the book being the name of the trilogy. (confused yet?)

Late one afternoon, my writing done, nothing I could start editing (too soon), I sat in our garden yard. I was enjoying the sunshine, looking up through the oak trees at an intensely blue sky, sipping some red wine, wondering how long before Farm Boss would be in from the barns, and mentally trying out different combinations for the paper book's title. After awhile, it came to me that it'd be easier to retitle the third then taking its title for the paper book.

So they will be When Fates Conspire, The Dark of the Moon (due out end of April), Storm in the Canyon (probably early June), and late in June a paper book-- Diablo Canyon.

If you don't write, you might not think titles are such a big deal. Well you probably know based on which ones draw you to try a book. As a writer, you want that title to interest a reader but also depict something important in the story. It doesn't have to be an actual event but can instead be the feeling behind the story. It has to have the right energy and not be deceptive. Add to that, ideally you'd prefer it not have been used by another writer. Since there are millions of books out there, the last part can be impossible which is where series names as part of a title can help.

Diablo Canyon is kind of a mystical place. It doesn't actually exist, but its image needed to appear both powerful and beautiful. The photo above, a joining of two of my own photos, will be on the paperback cover. The eBooks will each have an image that depicts the couples their stories center around. 

Doing a trilogy as a novella series is a little more complex than I had expected. A friend asked if I ever thought I'd be doing one when I began writing. I didn't think I'd be doing one before that dream in November! I've written series books where they take the same family or secondary characters and go forward, but trilogies have a different set of expectations in that there needs to be an ongoing problem that is threaded throughout them-- while each one, at least in mine, provides a satisfying conclusion.The final paper book will be almost 99,000 words which is a good length for a novel.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

from where it comes

Reading one of the places I check now and again, they had put up some western music which led to my remembering my own childhood and how much both western music and movies influenced how I think and who I am today. To make sure I am understood, when I say western music, it's not country-western I am talking about. It is something like this.

I have that 78 RPM of that song as well as my real favorite on the flip side-- Single Saddle. My gosh, I can still sing Single Saddle and haven't heard it for years and years. It was music like that as well as by the Sons of the Pioneers that were what likely formed my values and underlay what I write today.

 I am not embarrassed by it either. Were those westerns realistic? Not usually. Did they always have the good guy triumph over the bad guy? Generally. Some hold up well to today and can still be watched. Some not so much.

Here's the thing-- entertainment, all of it, has a set of values. Whatever we put into our minds feeds something in us. That's not debatable. The question is what will it be? What I got back then fed dreams of romance, adventure, doing right, importance of being strong. My dreams didn't get in the way of my going to college, meeting the right sort of man, having children and living as I do today. Some of my dreams were fulfilled-- others I live out through my characters. Not such a bad deal :)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

credible villains

For every dark there is a light, rose a thorn, yin a yang, good an evil. In writing, that dark will be the bad guy, the villain, something evil. Now it doesn't all have to be zombie level bad, but it has to be something that presents a conflict. It's what makes the stories zing.

Okay, if you are writing chick lit,  a coming of age story, covering an historical period or cultural time, etc., there might not be a villain per se. There must be obstacles or what is the point of the book? They do not have to be from an individual. They could even be from within the character's own personality.This is where the character develops strength, totally becomes who they are most capable of being-- through conflict and overcoming.

As a writer, developing the character of some villains can be really fun especially if part of the story comes from their point of view. Other villains are just stereotypical villains. They are place holders. Their personalities don't have much significance to the story beyond something for the hero/heroine to overcome. However, creating challenging, interesting and dangerous villains provides the counterpoint to the heroes. 

My mind is on the subject of villains because with the third paranormal novella, I had three different levels of villainy. It really did take me into the depths of what it means to be regarded as bad by a culture. The complexity of this story with a lot of characters and villains is why I began writing it almost immediately after finishing the rough draft for the last historical romance. I thought I'd wait but I began to wonder. How am I going to make this work? Now that it's done, the question is did I? That is something I'll know better when I get back to it in a month or even more so when others see it.

In general, human villains don't look like villains and should not in a book anymore than they do in life. When you look at someone like serial killer Ted Bundy, or I could name a lot of others, you know that villains can be handsome and look very innocent until they have their victim helpless. 

Not fitting a stereotype and being sometimes hard to recognize is the nature of villainy. It should be just as true in books as in life. To get an image for my various villains, I have often gone through the royalty free model photos and picked handsome men. It makes me feel a bit guilty as obviously these look like nice guys, but there is something in the photo that lets me also see them as having two sides.

To do the last novella, I researched Native American monsters, witches and ghosts (one of my levels of villainy). One character that is particularly interesting is a Plains Indian monster called Two-Faces. Some describe Two-Faces as an ogre but others say he appears as an ordinary human except he has a second face on the backside of his head (actually he can also be a she). You though only see that second face when it's too late. 

When I was writing this novella, I kept uncovering new villains like peeling an onion. I'd think I had the last layer and then realize I hadn't seen the actual core. It made the writing a lot of fun as villains are fun to write and to vanquish through noble deeds and sometimes sacrifice of the hero or heroine.

Two-Faces is a lot the way I see villains and what they hope to accomplish in hiding their true reality. Of course, in writing a romance, they can't succeed. Unfortunately in real life they often do-- for awhile anyway. 

The goal of humans is to be insightful regarding true character-- to see behind the image (especially where it comes to voting for leaders). The person who looks like the most danger may actually not be.

The evening sky photo above kind of suits my theme on writing villains. It was March, our last night at Yachats and the dark sky took on a very different look than from the other nights with the layers and light shining through in different places. I have a series of five photos taking it through its stages. Which was the ultimate representation of what we saw that night? They all were and yet none was. I put the first one on my Rainy Day Thought blog for Saturday-- and this is the last one. I've seen a lot of very interesting skies in my many years of being at the Coast, but I'd say this is right up there at the top.

Update: regarding villains, I saw this piece which I think says well what I feel about them.[losing villain too soon hurts] Now I don't watch this show, but my kids say it's based on great books. I have a hard time with shows where you care for characters and then they get zapped. Sorry, but I get enough of that in reality. But this article says what I think-- villains matter to exciting story-lines. Guess they will come up with another villain to hate-- sooner than later. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

outside my window

Even though I really thought I'd take a break from writing, I didn't actually do that. I did an edit of the paranormal novella, 34,000 some odd words, due out the end of April and went right from that into writing the third paranormal in that series.

This actually happened because I began to wonder how I'd make this work. I had figured out the heroine and who the monsters would be; but it all seemed pretty complex. I had to get into it to get a feel for it; and then, as so often happens, I got the feel. Which means despite our beautiful weather, I have been writing more hours a day than I had expected. 

It is a wonderful spring in my part of the Pacific Northwest. I look out my window, sniff the air (other than the allergy issues) and just love it. I used to say summer was my favorite season, but I am learning now that it's spring. 

Spring is when things change so fast and in a positive way. Trees and bushes are budding out. The grass is growing. Bulbs are pushing from the ground to yield lovely flowers. Every day is a little bit longer. 

So instead of writing more here about the monsters and danger I am entwining into this love story, I thought I'd share some photos from around here. I am having a hard time finding good monster photos anyway-- the royalty free kind that I can use in a trailer. Writing their part of the story has been actually fun as the stories by the tribes yield a lot of material as to the personalities of their gods, monsters, witches and ghosts. 

Why aren't these beings still around? Is that a problem to them? What might bring them back into a power with which to be reckoned? That's what this new story is about-- well that and a love story. If I find some good-- that is bad images to use, I'll share them in the blog also... 

In the meantime, this is my part of the world-- outside my keyboard and monitor at least.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

working or not working

If you are into writing, you already know that there are as many ways to approach it as there are writers. Some work every day, eight hours a day, and consider it their business. Some write when the mood strikes; and if that's a year between books, so be it. 

Then there is talk about being blocked. An author might have written twenty books but suddenly they feel blocked, and it stops them from writing more-- at least for awhile. 

A few writers steal from other's books. I know this seems unlikely on a high level, but yes, it has happened even among well known writers who you'd think would never do such a thing. Plots do get recirculated; so it's not surprising to see similar plots, titles, characters and covers. But there is a point at which it's not just a coincidence. It's a writer desperate to get more books out but without any of their own ideas at the moment.

Some writers have more ideas than they will ever be able to use and their only problem is fitting that writing into their daily life-- not always easy.

Currently I am in a very prolific stage of writing in that every day's work is visible and out there where I can see the results. There are times I consider just as prolific but there are no words added to a file somewhere. It is then that I am working out plot details, doing research, or just thinking about who these characters are and what makes sense for them to do. I remember being in a museum years ago where they had a quote alongside one of Monet's paintings. 

For years i have looked for the quote but never seen it again. Paraphrased, it was that a neighbor had once looked over and seen him sitting in the garden. 'I see you are not working today.'  Monet said 'oh but I am working.' Another time when he was busy painting, the neighbor said, 'I see you are working today.' And Monet said, 'no, today I am not working.' 

Basically that's how I see writing. What looks like is happening isn't always when it really happened.

The above photos seem to illustrate how a book begins with a fuzzy vision, that gradually grows more detailed, and finally there it is. 

They were funny how they came about. I turned on the webcam which I often use to put on make-up as the lighting is good here. It had gone to a totally fuzzy image with almost no focus. I liked it. Took that photo, brought it halfway to focus, and finally to one as sharp as it can get.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

the path of life

After a month of writing long hours, several months of research (off and on), a lot of thinking and serendipity, it felt so good on Thursday to finish the rough draft of what will be my third Arizona historical romance (with a short story for the anthology tucked between second and this one). 

It was fun to reconnect with these characters from earlier books, to see a new romance blossom, a new hero's journey begin and come to a completion. Once again so many things that have interested me over so many years fell into place. I LOVE writing and the research that enriches it. A lot of the research I never even know I am doing when I do it and then suddenly it fits into a new book.

An example comes from my dreams. I am blessed to have image and story filled dreams, often symbolic, sometimes in movie form. I had one September 19, 2006. I remember it well, wrote about it my journal at the time.
The dream was full of symbols. Then I was in a room with a group of people. They were explaining to me who had been in my Yaqui family in a prior life. The man behind me had been my Yaqui father. I was told that my lover, who I never saw, was in the other room. An old woman said the miracles and symbols were only get my attention; so I would listen to deeper truths.
I did a computer portrait afterward, seeing myself as a Yaqui woman. Although I was interested in the culture, knew the Yaqui people had a presence in Tucson, I didn't do much more about this. 

Then came this idea for a historical book where the hero would be from the Yaqui culture. Unsure how long the story would be, I went from thinking short story to novella and finally full novel. 

January, while in Tucson, I visited two museums, bought several books (Yaqui Deer Songs by Maso Bwikam and Yaqui Myths and Legends by Ruth Warner Giddings. Because of time constraints, I decided against visiting the Yaqui museum which is in an old house in Pascua (in the center of Tucson). I wish now I had done that. At the time I thought the Yaqui aspect would be a minimal part despite knowing from the beginning that the name of the book will be Yaqui Moon

Well it turned out the Yaqui culture and one (fictional) family became very important to the story. As has happened so many times when I write-- once I begin, even if I know the bones of the story, it's the journey with a lot of wonderful surprises that makes the writing fun. 

I am not sure when this book will come out. I need at least two good edits of my own, have several beta readers who will be looking at it; so maybe by late summer? (We have a Yellowstone trip set for July). I am not sure how others will see it. I never know that. For me though, it is the book I have loved writing the most of any. I loved my hero and heroine and that feeling only intensified as I wrote.

I began it March 6 and concluded its rough draft April 3, a lunar cycle-- not that I intended it that way. It didn't begin or end on a full or new moon. It ended when the story had been told.

While writing it, I had included time for my characters in cliff dwellings in Arizona. In the research to be sure of what I planned, I came across a book that I HAD to have, found a used copy through Amazon, and it came Saturday-- Echoes in the Canyon The Archaeology of the Southeastern Sierrra Ancha Central Arizona by Richard C. Lange. Skimming through, it delighted me for all the information but also because it made me confident that what I wrote about their time in cliff dwellings was right on.

To be honest, I wanted this book more for us than the new book. Seeing such places, being responsible in how we visit them, respecting those who built them by not desecrating what remains, are still among our interests. I can't describe what it's like to be in such dwellings.. Okay I did try to get some part of that across in my future Arizona romance.