Friday, March 30, 2007

Novel openings - The Light of Eidon

I've had so many crits now on the opening pages of Marks of Repentance that I'm more confused than enlightened! There are so many things that the first few paragraphs must do: catch the attention of the reader, provide a sense of setting and a sense of the character AND a sense of the conflict to be explored. But please don't data-dump it. That's the biggest no-no of all.

So what's a gal to do?

Read, of course. Pick up books published relatively recently and concentrate on the first couple of pages. Is there a catchy hook? Can I see the setting? Can I see the character? Can I feel the tension? And was this all accomplished without data dumping? I thought you might like to explore with me. Today's opener is from The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock, Bethany House, 2003:

"Why do we serve the Flames?"

"To ward the realm from Shadow."

"Why must we guard our purity?"

"To keep the Flames strong and bright."

They sat cross-legged on the barge cabin's single, narrow bunk, facing each other--Novice and discipler--their voices alternating in a steady rhythm of question and answer that had gone unbroken for nearly an hour. Since the noon prayer service they had been reviewing the six codices of the First Guardian Station, codices Eldrin must know tomorrow for the final test of his novitiate. He had long since learned them so well he could answer without hesitation, but he didn't mind the repetition. Right now it was just the sort of superficial mental occupation he needed to keep his thoughts of...other things.

"What is the source of the Shadow?" asked his discipler, one bony, ink-stained finger pressed to the page of the open catechism in his lap.

"The arrogance of Moroq conceived it," Eldrin replied. "The passions of the flesh sustain it."

"Who is Moroq?"

"The dark son of Eidon and Lord Ruler of the rhu'ema. The Adversary. No man can stand against him, save One."

"And that One is?"

"Eidon, Lord of Light, Creator of All, Defender of Man. Soon may he come, and swift be his judgment."

The rhythm ended, and the silence that filled the void after it made Eldrin's ears ring. He noticed the heat again, the sweat trickling down his chest beneath his wool tunic, the stifling mantle of his long, unbound hair weighing on his back. A fitful breeze danced through the high, open portal of the bulkhead, carrying the river's dank odor and a disharmonious chorus of voices from the crowds on its bank. Thunder rumbled out of the distance.

Anxiety, held at bay by the long recitation, came oozing back. Soon they would be docking, disembarking, and marching up to the temple to begin the long ritual that would end with his initiation as a Guardian of the Holy Flames. Or not, if things went badly.

This takes up less than a page of text. Does it work for you? What sense do you get out of this opening? What are you expecting out of the story? Can you see Eldrin, see where he is? Does anything feel data-dumped?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New beginnings

Opening scenes are HARD to nail. As the days tick by and the contest deadline looms closer, I poke and poke and poke some more. As was the case in February, I've had a cold this past week and thus my thinker isn't very clear. How can it be when I'm constantly blowing all my brain cells out into a soggy kleenex?

Last week (at my mom's) I did get a few hours of progress on the revision before we began disassembling the apartment and before my most recent round of crits showed up in my inbox. This version is closer, that's for sure. But it's not perfect yet. There's so much that has to go seamlessly into the first few pages it makes my head spin.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Thanks for the prayers and well-wishes this past week. I got home Sunday evening from seven solid days at my mom's. I'm happy to report that she is doing better than I would have thought possible. Her health has been sliding since October or so and then they changed up a bunch of her meds a few days before Christmas. Some of these really didn't work out well and created more problems. She had a crisis in early January and then again a few weeks later in February. She's complained more of being light-headed and dizzy and I know for a fact she spent 99% of her day either laying in bed or on her sofa.

With Mom in hospital for five days after her tumble the doctors were able to finetune the meds again and I'd say this time things are much more in line. Even with all the stuff going on after she came home, she still felt better than she has in months, sitting in her rocker sometimes and even wanting to play Rummikube with me one evening. And when I say *all the stuff going on* I mean sorting out her apartment from one end to the other and clearing space in the second bedroom so that a care-giver can stay there without feeling claustrophobic. It was very disruptive and I was (am) not popular for doing it; she didn't see the need. However many things she needs on a daily basis are now much more accessible and a lot of junk (that she helped to sort) is gone out the door.

We had a long term care assessment done Thursday which had been scheduled for several weeks. At that time we'd believed that Mom needed to get into full-time care asap, but with the new meds seeming to be better balanced (all 16 of them) I think she has bought more time to live at home with some help from Home Support (such as bathing). Meanwhile a family friend is arriving today and plans to stay for a couple weeks and see how things go. (I hope she appreciates the cleaned out bedroom!) As far as the assessment went, Mom is fine mentally (which we knew) but has physical challenges. The results should be available later this week; I'm curious to see what the government will kick in for.

So I caught a doozie of a cold (again) while I was over there and of course Mom caught it too. I'm a bit worried about that but there was nothing I could do but keep going.

So. It was a long and tiring week and I'm glad to be back home. I missed my hubby (saw him Thursday evening to Friday afternoon) and my kitty. Jim hung a new front door to the house while I was gone; I'm glad that's done but some cleanup remains. And of course I came home to a mostly ripped out kitchen as well. The cabinets will be arriving in about a week.

Meanwhile at work, the guys had just locked the door for a week. As near as I can tell, there wasn't even a sign saying when we expected to re-open. So I'm having a Monday morning times ten at work.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Family Issues AND Book Tour -- Double Vision

On Thursday my 84-year-old mother took a tumble, landed on her face, and knocked herself out. Apparently she called 911 and then hung up and forgotten she'd done so. She was quite astonished when an RCMP officer entered her apartment followed by 2 city police officers followed by an ambulance crew. They convinced her that she needed to go to the hospital where she was checked over and admitted. Jim and I went over (couple hour drive) Friday to see her. She has an impressive purple and black eye (left) as well as a bruise over the bridge of her nose and under her right eye. Her nose looked a little crooked but x-rays apparently show it was not broken. She also has a small circular bruise on her left shoulder which may be from falling against her walker handle (if the walker was against the wall and didn't budge?) It's hard to know, because she doesn't remember any of it. She's living alone in an apartment a few blocks from my sister's house and has become increasingly unstable over the past couple of months and has just consented to having the walker at all.

Now we're believing it is unsafe for her to live alone. She gets out of hospital Monday and I will stay with her for the first week. A family friend is coming after that to pinch-hit while we all work through more permanent options. So I won't have internet access and won't be blogging.

Meanwhile Monday-Wednesday of this week is the blog tour for Randall Ingermanson's book Double Vision. I'm sorry I will be missing the tour because I really enjoyed the book and wanted to point folks to Randy's site and his free writers' ezine.

I did ask Randy about some rumors I'd heard around the internet, that a person's advice is only as good as their last book and that it had been a couple of years since his last publication.

He said,
Actually, I had two out in 2004. One of those was a Christy finalist
and the other made the BookList Top Ten Christian Novels list. So I
don't think I'm quite over the hill yet!

I had a book that was due out in 2005, but I pushed it back a year so
I could deal with my anxiety disorder. Then it was cancelled
completely, but if you ask the editors why, they'll tell you it had
nothing to do with quality. In 2006 I was relocating with my family,
selling a house, and buying a new one. It wasn't a good time to be
trying to write and sell books. I'll publish more books when my life
gets back to normal. But I can assure you that my lack of new books
out in the last two years has nothing to do with quality. As Arnie
Schwartzenegger once said, "I'll be back!"

I have two proposals circulating right now and hope to sell both of
them this year. And my plan for 2007 is to write another novel.
The last two years were an anomaly, due to disruptions in my life.

I'd hoped to follow through with more discussion with Randy but my mom's fall has taken priority in my life. I don't have the list of participants yet, so I'll just say head over to A Christian Worldview of Fiction and follow Rebecca's links.

See you all later!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Book Tour -- The Reliance

The Reliance appears to be the second book in a series of three by MaryLu Tyndall

As life would have it, my copy of the book showed up this morning so of course I've only had the chance to glance through it yet. About the book:

A YOUNG BRIDE separated from her husband just as a child has been conceived...

A GRIEVING HUSBAND tempted to take his anger out through the vices of his past...

A MARRIAGE AND A SHIP threatenend to be split apart by villainous Caribbean pirates...

In THE RELIANCE, Edmund Merrick tormented by the apparent demise of his pregnant wife Charlisse, sails away to drown his sorrows. He turns his back on God and reverts to a life of villainy, joining forces with the demented French pirate Collier. When his mind clears from its rum-induced haze, will Edmund find the will to escape?

Seemingly abandoned by her new husband, Charlisse battles her own insecurities as she is thrown into the clutches of the vengeful pirate Kent, who holds her and Lady Isabel captive.

Will she be swept away by the undertow of treachery and despair? Can Edmund and Charlisse battle the tempests that threaten to tear them apart and steer their way to the faith-filled haven they so desperately seek? Or will they ultimately lose their love and lives to the whirlpool of treachery and deceit?

So...a CBA book about pirates in 1668. Interesting premise. Hopefully I'll get a chance to at least start the book yet this week and give you a bit more information.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Revised Word Count Goes Up

Marks of Repentance now sits at 8986 words revised, and the first 5K is off to critiquers. Again. The good thing about THAT is it renders more polishing of those first two chapters pointless for now. The only direction left is forward. At least, that's the only direction worth considering. :P

A few weeks ago when I received back my last round of crits, I came to the conclusion that I needed to eliminate Shanh's point of view from the first few chapters. I had a short scene from his pov in each chapter alongside longer ones from Taifa's. Now everything is from her eyes until they actually physically meet. She's seen him already, decided what kind of person he must be, and just realized she has no decision but to join her fate with his. Tomorrow will be the first scene from Shanh and I think it will be fun to revise. Because in the original the reader has already met him, I have a few areas to flesh out in this new first scene, but I do believe he is coming out with a more rounded personality this way. Strange but true.

In other news, I pulled out an idea for a hen-lit last night that I've played with on and off for the past couple months. I found that the Palm and its keyboard fit nicely on a hardcover and that the typing height and angle works well in my recliner! So I spent awhile *interviewing* my new main character Dorothea, commonly known as Dottie. The working title will be Connect the Dot. Not sure when I'll start writing. I'm not actually in any hurry, as most of my brain cells are occupied with Marks for now, and I don't want to rush that. I just need something new to turn over and now I've found her.

Poor Dottie. She doesn't know what she's in for.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Writing update

I'm back to 5K on the Marks of Repentance revision. 2 chapters, 25 pages. Again. Have we covered this ground before? Oh. My. Yes.

In fact, a month ago I was all the way to 13K. Now, not so much. But it's better; it's tighter; it's stronger.

I think.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Welcome to Blog Land!

Many of you have *met* my daughter Hanna online at Hanna's Life is Cool.

A couple of months ago, my daughter-in-law began blogging at Inside a Student's Head. If you are curious what goes on at the University of Victoria--and what an environmentally and politically aware student thinks of it all--pop on over and say hi to Jen.

Recently my mother-in-law started a blog for the purpose of joining the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Yesterday's blogging lesson included filling in a meme and learning to comment on other people's blogs (look out Hanna and Jen, I've turned Gramma loose!). Please visit Dea at Been Farmin' Long? and say hello.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Irlen Syndrome

Have you ever wondered if you were dyslexic?

Our doctor is the kind of guy that remembers his people and would gladly stop on the street corner to chat. So when I went in to see him about my sleep issues a couple weeks ago he asked how hubby was doing and how the out-of-town job was going. I said pretty well, that he'd been taking his Industrial First Aid course and in fact was taking his final exam at that exact moment. Doc was interested and assured me hubby would do fine. I said, well, he's a bit concerned because he's a bit dyslexic. Doc had just been leaving the examining room but turned on his heel.

"Have you ever heard of Irlen Syndrome?"

Um, no. I hadn't. He recommended looking it up and gave me the name of a woman in a nearby town who is a licensed screener for Irlen's. When hubby got home the next day (with high passing marks, thank you very much!) we looked Irlen Syndrome up on the web. Just glancing through the basic info caught hubby's attention, so we printed off the five page test. Hubby scored fairly high on this test (not as positive a thing as scoring high on the first aid test!) and spent the next couple hours testing his parents and then pacing the floor talking about the possibilities and what it might mean to him if the Irlen lenses really worked. It was obvious that we needed to pull this to the next level.

Yesterday he had a two-hour consultation with the screener. Then he continued on his drive to work while telling me all about it on the phone. He's EXTREMELY excited about this possibility so (you guessed it) we're moving on to the next level, in which a professional from Toronto comes to Calgary every couple of months to go through the testing in greater depth and figure out which color lenses will make the biggest difference. This will be sometime in April; we expect to get a call next week with an appointment date.

This doesn't seem to be covered by our health insurance (though hubby's gonna double-check). The screening cost us $150. His next appointment (including the glasses) will run about $800. It's a lot of money, but if it makes the words stand still on the page for hubby, if the numbers don't keep jiggling into different columns (or becoming different numbers altogether, such as 6s and 9s), if more than one word is visible at a time--isn't that worth it? We think so.

Is it a scam? No. Hubby was tested with around 50 colored lenses and as soon as the blues rolled around, he relaxed. Suddenly he saw things clearly for the first time EVER. At his next appointment they will finetune the color; he expects about 700 colored lenses that day.

He has terrific eyesight; this has nothing to do with that. This just allows those bothersome little words and numbers to hold still to be analyzed and read. He reads a lot of fiction, but I think he kinda skips across the surface of the words, if that makes sense. And he sees the action happening rather than the words marching. Non-fiction--technical--is much harder for him. At any rate, I'll let you know what develops.

If you've ever wished you could see the world through rose-colored glasses--check it out. It may not be a bad idea!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Clarity requires sleep, which thankfully I've had a bit of the past three nights. I think there are stages in writing where you can make progress even if you're extra tired. However, when you run into a brick wall and start deleting entire scenes, even whole chapters, change up point-of-view characters--that requires brain cells that actually bump into each other. That's basically where I was a month ago when I stopped sleeping, so working on the Marks of Repentance revisions has been close to non-existent in the meanwhile. I've opened (yet another) new file this week and am writing the first chapter from scratch (again). I know the information that needs to be in it but there were parts of the previous setting that interfered with moving ahead. We're now set in a marketplace (instead of at the city wharf) and it seems to be pulling tighter together. It took me three days to write about 1700 words and there are definitely horrible parts in there. It's hard to look at this as first draft when I've revised the entire novel a couple times and this chapter something like 8 times. However, first draft it is and needs to be treated as such. Treated how? Like something that just needs to be WRITTEN already--so I can fix it. It's difficult to fix something I haven't written yet.

I think it's a solid start. Now I just need to get some momentum going.