Saturday, February 28, 2009


I've heard this is what an agent's life is like. What do you think?

(Thanks to Rachelle Gardner at WordServe!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pushing for words

My main excitement these days is the romance rewrite, so there's not a lot of variety in my life. There isn't room for it when I'm pushing for 3000 words a day around customers, sales dudes, and freight trucks. I admire folks who can work all day and still put out a meaningful set of words regularly in the evening. My brain just shuts down. (My kids used to call 10pm Mommy Pumpkin Time, but I have to admit 9pm isn't much better!)

Looks like I'll be up for teaching a workshop at Forward Motion in May, so I'm mulling over that and will soon have to start doing more than mulling and actually start planning!

In other news, my website redesign is coming along nicely. The old one is still what's showing when you click over, but I'm hoping to launch the new-and-improved version sometime in March. My daughter is doing the design and tech work on WordPress. Adding static pages is my job, and one I've already started. Coming soon to a near you!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Winter Walk

It's been a couple years probably since I've posted a photo tour of where I walk daily. This morning it was -15 Celcius (about +5F) and the hoar frost was intensively beautiful. I waited till the sun came up (after 9) to walk Brody and grabbed the camera. We've had only a couple of small snowfalls since the first week of January. Since then, most days have been about the same temperature (cold!) and foggy and/or cloudy. It's nice to see the sun. Here it is peeking through a frost-covered tree at the end of our driveway:

Not far west on our one-mile-long road is what I call The Sentinel. Remind you of anyone you know?

A bit farther west there are trees on both sides of the road:

Our road ends on private property just beyond the irrigation channel, so it's Brody's and my turnaround spot. Here we've just turned back. The neighbors have been enjoying the speedway of the channel!

Here are the neighbor's corrals:

Somebody I know loves the snow and isn't near as tired of the cold as I am!

That same somebody loves to eat rose hips; I'm surprised there are any left on the bushes.

Just about back to our farm.

And when I look south-east again, towards the sun, I see there are still wisps of fog in that direction.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual walk. I'm sure it was warmer for you than it was for me!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rewriting versus Revising versus Editing

Seems like folks have different definitions for these three terms. Today you get mine.

Editing a novel is the final polish. It's the act of catching typos and clarifying confused sentences and adding in a bit of five-dimensional senses. If your novel is in good enough shape that all it needs is an edit, you can expect to make speedy progress through this draft.

Revising is where most of my second (and sometimes third) drafts live. I need to shift scenes around, rewrite some scenes completely to get more depth, maybe change up the pov character. When I'm revising, I've got the bones of the story pretty well but still need to wrastle it into shape.

Rewriting is more drastic yet, and that's where I am this week with the romance novel. Some scenes in this book needed revising, mostly in depth of character point-of-view. But the scenes that needed replacing really really needed replacing in their entirety. As in, parts of the over all novel plotline worked and parts didn't. This week I'm in the midst of a section that didn't. (The lame part that had me scrawling Seriously???? in the print-out margins...) I've added a complete new subplot and other new bits to amp up this part and help to complete the whole.

Still, to get through the entire 60,000-word novel by the end of March means I need to keep to about 10K a week. This week that 10K has been all new material. Take out a day to intensely revise a one-page synopsis in chat, and suddenly you're looking at 2500-word days instead of 2000. Lose a second day to customers, and you're mighty thankful you got a bit ahead last week. However, I've made 3K each of the last two days and if I can pull off 2K tomorrow, I'm still pretty much on track. Big if, being as it's a half day. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Tour--Cyndere's Midnight--Day3

I'm always interested in a novel's hook. The first few paragraphs go a long way in either enticing me to read more or allowing me to set the book down for *later*. Of course, sometimes later never comes. An author such as Jeffrey Overstreet, whom I've already learned to trust may get a bit more of a break than someone I haven't read before.

Cyndere's Midnight starts with a brief prologue. I'm about as much of a fan of prologues, in general, as I am of omniscient point of view. This prologue reveals Auralia (though not named) working her colorful magic in The Expanse, proving that she is still there but choosing not to be seen.

Chapter one starts with Cyndere (pronounced SIN-der):
Cyndere walked down to the water to make her daily decision--turn and go back into House Bel Amica, or climb Stairway Rock and throw herself into the sea.

Okay, I have to pause here. As first sentences go, that one is an attention grabber. We have a character who has a habit--a habit of choosing every single day whether this is the day she will suicide or not. I don't know about you, but I kept right on reading. What had happened to her to make this sort of despair a part of her routine? And why, if it was so very tempting, hadn't she done it yet? Back to the opening:

It had become a habit. Leaving her chambers early, while the mirror-lined hallways were empty of all but servants, she would traverse many bridges, stairs, and passages and emerge on the shores of the Rushtide Inlet, escaping the gravity of distraction. Today in the autumn bluster, she wore her husband's woolen stormcloak at the water's edge. She brought her anger. She brought her dead.

While the fog erased the wild seascape, waves exploded against the ocean's scattered stone teeth, washed wide swaths of pebbles, and sighed into the sand. They carried her father's whispers from many years past, mornings when he had walked with her along the tide's edge and dreamt aloud. His bristling gray beard smelled of salt, prickling when he rested his chin on her head. He would place one hand on her shoulder and with the other hold a seashell to her ear. "Hear that?" he'd say. "That's your very own far-off country. You will walk on ground no one has ever seen. And I'm going to find it for you when I venture out to map the Mystery Sea."

He had done just that. While Cyndere's mother, Queen Thesera, stayed home to govern her people within House Bel Amica's massive swell of stone, King Helpryn discovered islands, sites for future Bel Amican settlements.

A shipwreck took the king when he tried to cross a stormy span between those islands.

Most all the reading I've done about opening scenes says not to give too much backstory right up front. First the reader needs to care about the character NOW before she gives a rip how the character came to this moment of their lives. Yet after this sordid beginning Overstreet goes on to document, albeit poetically, the demise of Cyndere's brother and husband. How does he keep our attention through what is basically three pages of history? Because of the strength of that opening sentence. Let me repeat it:

Cyndere walked down to the water to make her daily decision--turn and go back into House Bel Amica, or climb Stairway Rock and throw herself into the sea.

In her book Beginnings, Middles & Ends, Nancy Kress provides us with The Swimming Pool Theory:
Structuring fiction is like kicking off from the side of a swimming pool. The stronger and more forceful your opening kick, the longer you can glide through the water. The stronger and more forceful your opening scene, the less your reader will mind a "glide" through nondramatized backfill.

I think Overstreet's opening sentence is strong enough to propel us through three pages that show us what led up to it. Do you?

As near as I can figure out, there are two more strands to Auralia's Thread. Strand 3, Cal-Raven's Ladder, is due out in 2010.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book Tour--Cyndere's Midnight--Day2

I've spent much of the past week mulling over Cyndere's Midnight. What did I like better than Auralia's Colors? Was there anything that didn't live up to the potential of the first book?

What I liked better, for sure, was the more defined third person point-of-view, getting closer to the characters, getting into their skins, feeling what makes them tick. I also liked that there was more action, and a more discernable plot line. I'd loved the poetic grace of Jeffrey Overstreet's prose in the first book, but I have to say that it wasn't greatly diminished by the faster pace of book two. This is a strong, well-written book.

The Christian Manifesto posted an interview with Overstreet in which they discussed Cyndere's Midnight. Feel free to read the whole thing, but here are a couple of bits I'd like to explore further.

Overstreet says:
I was five years old. I saw an ad for Jaws in the paper. You know the ad—that famous image of the swimmer, and the beast rising up from underneath. That picture still scares me. It made quite an impression on my five-year-old imagination. And for the first time, I coped with my fear by writing a story about it. It was called “The Sea Monster,” 9 or 10 pages of green paper with felt-tip pen drawings, stapled together. I have it in a file somewhere. It was just a story in drawings, but I turned it into an epic battle between a swimmer and a thing with massive jaws. I just had to resolve that tension, that closing gap between the woman and the monster.

Now, Cyndere’s Midnight is in bookstores—and what is it? Well, on one level, it’s a story about a beautiful woman and a monster with big teeth… and that scary space between them.

I have to say I didn't see anything of the movie Jaws in this novel, so I found it intensely interesting that Overstreet sees this novel as his interpretation of the concept.

The interviewer asked again, more specifically, what this book was about. Here is the answer:
After Auralia’s Colors, I wanted to explore what might happen if a beastman came into contact with the same mysterious beauty that Auralia unleashed upon the world. Right away, I realized that this story was a strange variation on “Beauty and the Beast.” But in my version, “beauty” meant something different. Here was a woman broken by grief, and a man broken by a curse. Both were drawn to the same magical, beautiful place. Their shared experience of that beauty became the core of the story.

From this quote I gather that Overstreet's theme for Cyndere's Midnight is that of healing the brokenness. Many people have difficult things in their lives. Some--a few--have been truly broken by deep pain. It is to these that Overstreet extends his story of healing. Tomorrow we'll look at the opening sequence, where you'll get an idea of what pain is found in the midnight Cyndere endures.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book Tour--Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet

In the past few years I've had the privilege of reading quite a few speculative fiction releases by various Christian authors through the Christian Science Fiction Fantasy Blog Tour. There have been very few that I simply didn't like, but there have been equally few that I have loved. The Sword of Lyric series by Sharon Hinck are amongst the truly loved...and Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet. Even though it was written in omni.

I talked about Auralia's Colors here and here and here when I read it just over a year ago. I looked forward to the second novel in the series and have recently completed reading it.

Cyndere's Midnight is the second *strand* in The Auralia Thread series. At the end of the first book Auralia herself disappeared. Not in a way that smacked of foul play, just that her initial job was done. So while she doesn't really play an immediate role in this second novel, the mark she left on The Expanse is still growing and still affecting everyone she came in contact with.

About the only thing I didn't love about the first novel was Jeffrey Overstreet's use of omniscient point-of-view. I quickly got sucked into the novel anyway and found it didn't bother me once I was immersed. In Cyndere's Midnight I found that Overstreet used a limited third viewpoint and that it helped me to feel closer to the characters.

There are four major players in this novel, some of whom we knew well from the prequel: the ale boy, who still doesn't have a name; Cal-Raven, now king of the remnant of Abascar; and the beastman, Jordam, whom Auralia's colors had *tamed*. Cyndere is new--I don't remember if she was mentioned in the previous novel or not, but she definitely wasn't a player.

Cyndere and her husband had a dream to help the beastmen to throw off the curse that had brought down their house, but Cyndere's husband was killed by the beastmen while trying to make contact. Devastated, Cyndere swings between severe depression and hints of hope that the dream might yet become a reality. When she and Jordam meet at a mysterious well where Auralia's colors are prevalent, the world of The Expanse is set upon a new course.

Tomorrow we'll have a look at some of the prevalent themes in Cyndere's Midnight, but if you are interested in reading what other bloggers are saying about this book in the meanwhile, check out these links:
Brandon Barr, Keanan Brand, Rachel Briard, Melissa Carswell, Amy Cruson, CSFF Blog Tour, Stacey Dale, D. G. D. Davidson, Shane Deal, Jeff Draper, April Erwin, Karina Fabian, Andrea Graham, Todd Michael Greene, Katie Hart, Timothy Hicks, Jason Isbell, Jason Joyner, Kait, Carol Keen, Magma, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Eve Nielsen, Nissa, Wade Ogletree, John W. Otte, John Ottinger, Steve Rice, Crista Richey, Alice M. Roelke, Chawna Schroeder, James Somers, Rachel Starr Thomson, Robert Treskillard, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Fred Warren, Jill Williamson

Friday, February 13, 2009

Multiple Genres

The romance revision is going well. I cleared 12K this week, officially 20% of the rewrite. I've written a couple of all new scenes, ransacked some old ones for usable information, and rewritten some that just needed wording beefed up. Looking ahead at the outline, about the next six or seven scenes are all new material, taking the place of the section I mentioned in a previous post (where the original scenes got Seriously???? scrawled in the margin!) I'm pretty pleased with the results thus far.

So, some may think I'm crazy entering three novels in three different genres into the Genesis contest this year. I may well be. I know the official wisdom is that it's hard enough to make a go of writing in one genre, and that writing in several (unless you're REALLY FAST, like PaperBackWriter) is a ridiculous concept. It confuses your readers (should one be lucky enough to ever get any, lol) and makes focusing your marketing difficult.

Well, that's all true, but at this moment no one is beating down my door offering me any publishing deals, so I'm still experimenting and finding my voice. I love fantasy, but in the process of writing several speculative novels (and having a few more in the wings) I'm finding the types of it that I like to write--and won't bother focusing any more on the ones that don't call me as much. And while I don't read a lot of romance or *women's fiction*, I've met some I really enjoyed a lot. So I'm experimenting.

I guess this means that whichever genre door opens for me (if any) I'll walk through. Maybe at that point I'll try to juggle more than one, maybe I won't. But for now it's a moot point.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Revision Outline

As near as I can remember, I am currently working on my sixth novel revision. By the time I'd written my first novel, I'd figured out that an outline would be a huge help. Why did it take me so long to understand that the same thing would be true of revision?

In 2007 I spent most of the year revising one novel, and I'm happy with the result. The process, however, was like pulling hair out by the handful. I worked through from beginning to end, going back and forth as I discovered issues. For instance, realizing something needed to be foreshadowed, then searching out the best place to put in a mention earlier. Realizing I'd dropped a thread, and looking for places to tie them off later on without drawing undue attention. Or should this thread have become more important rather than dwindling? Back and forth, back and forth. Just keeping track of all this (in my head, of course--where else?) was headache inducing and there were days I simply couldn't face the mental gymnastics required.

Holly Lisle talks about a one-pass revision. I thought I was doing this, for the most part. But I was so bogged down I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Many days, I couldn't see the trees for the twigs and leaves in my face.

About a year ago Margaret taught a workshop at Forward Motion about using a revision outline. I could see that this method worked with what Holly had been trying to teach. Since then, I've taken Holly's How to Think Sideways online writing course (highly recommended, by the way!) and feel that the process has clarified for me.

I guess the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I've read through Chloe this past week using techniques learned in the Think Sideways class, and analyzed my scene list with all the insights I've learned since the last big revision. Today I deleted scenes (in outline form) that were either weak or misleading or pointless, and replaced them with ideas that add greater conflict and move the story forward more forcefully. I've still got about the last 20% of the outline to rework. There are several really lame scenes coming up that need to be reworked, but I think I've got the underpinnings in place to deal with it.

This is all going in Scrivener. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this program for Macs? One thing Holly teaches is something she calls The Sentence Lite, in which one tries to get to the central kernel of the conflict of the individual scene. This Sentence Lite is what goes on the front of my Scrivener notecards, but, being as they're virtual notecards, there's plenty of room on the *back* for additional details, such as what subplots are carried in this scene, what additional characters are present, etc.

This is giving me the best of both worlds. I used to simply write *about* the scene on the notecards, and then wonder why the scene, when written, fell flat. Well, some of them weren't really scenes, didn't have solid conflict, didn't do any thing that pushed the whole story forward. They had good information in them and were often needed to a degree, yet still fell short of the goal. Spending a bit of extra time to focus on the core conflict of each scene ahead of time helps me to clarify the path through the scene.

At least, that's the goal. I wrote the new first chapter to Chloe's story yesterday, then went back to the re-outlining today with a new sense of purpose. I have a much clearer vision of where this story is going, and what I'd like to accomplish with it. Having this version of an outline is energizing!