Thursday, October 30, 2008

The End... for now

I did it! I wrote the last two scenes of Kindred today, and reached my goal of finishing the last section by October 30th. I'm pretty wiped, having a hard time finding more words to type this blog post, but I wanted to get something down to mark the day. I wrote the last sentence a little while ago, stared at it, then got up from the computer and burst into tears. It's been little bursts of laughter and tears since, as I've wandered the house and various super markets and craft stores (although I managed to contain those in public).

Lots of thanksgiving going up heavenward. Four years and nearly seven months. Now I have a tome. A little monster of a book that's twice as fat as it ought to be, or so I'm told by Those Who Know. I don't care. Not today. I'm proud of my baby. I'll whip it into shape eventually.

After all, it's not truly The End. Not for me and not for these characters. Their story spins on in my head, and I mean to eventually write it. But I did try to wrap this book up as a stand alone novel and give it a sense of closure. Hard to gauge whether I succeeded, since I can't experience it without the knowledge I have of What Happens Next. If there's anything at the end that is hard to take--and some tough moral decisions were made, let me tell you--I have the comfort of knowing it won't always be that way for the characters. God has a plan for their lives, and He's working it out... though not on their timetable.

Now I'm talking about my characters as though they are real people (they are, of course, I'm just not sure I'm meant to admit that in public....) so I'll stop rambling.

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The End in sight

Over 2000 words written today.

One day left to go.

Two scenes left to write.

Lots of things will change on Friday. 1. I'll enter a new decade. 2. Our Indian Summer weather will break with a series of fronts bringing rain and wind (and likely the rest of the leaves down off the trees). 3. I won't have any more first draft scenes of Kindred left to write for the first time since April 2004.

Big Day. Someone else can cook dinner!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One week countdown, and I make a scene

I've finished writing for today, Thursday. There's a week to go before my self-imposed deadline of October 30th. By then I hope to have the final chapters of Kindred written. Not polished, mind, just written.

Knowing my pace (even this current breakneck pace) and how much I have left to write, it'll come down to the wire. I wrote the last of the story climax scenes today, in which plot threads come together and lots of action happens. It's still more than a little rough. It doesn't yet carry the emotional punch I hope it will. But it's out and, as writer Diana Gabaldon has said, "You write first... and then the magic happens."

That certainly holds true for this writer. I have to get something, anything--no matter how rough--onto the screen before my mind can sink below the surface of a scene and start uncovering the deeper layers.

Speaking of scenes. Yesterday morning I sat down to write a confrontation where Ian and one of my villains finally have it out, a conflict that's been brewing over the course of the book. Then a violent disaster follows on the heels of that fight. The scene wasn't going be one of those that come tripping out almost faster than I can get the bare bones of it down. Not at all. What I'd written of it so far had come word by reluctant word, teased, cajoled, yanked, forced out of my head. When I sat down yesterday morning to continue that battle, I couldn't shake a very different image from my mind. It was a golden, pensive image of Ian in a tobacco barn alone. The smell of the leaf and the warm fall of the light was so vivid, the wistful sorrow in Ian's chest and the weight of regret upon him was so compelling, I knew I needed to pursue that image and find out what it was about, and where it might fit into the story.

Talk about words flowing. This little chunk just about wrote itself. A rare and beautiful thing. An hour or so later, I was emailing a 700 word scene off to a friend who has three children, because it ended up having a lot to do with breastfeeding (how'd I make the jump from Ian in a tobacco barn to breastfeeding? That's for me to know and.....). Since I've never had children, I always run these sorts of scenes past someone who has, to be sure I have the details right.

With that unexpected bit satisfactorily out of my head and onto the screen, I moved on to that fight scene. Fight scenes are tough for me to write. As my friend, Joan (author J.M. Hochstetler and owner/publisher of Sheaf House Publishers) said in a recent email conversation, "fight scenes and battles are tremendously hard to write. You have to "choreograph" them step by step so the reader can see the action clearly, but the description takes a lot of words and space. So you have to somehow make it read fast to give the impression of the scene moving along in real time so the reader doesn't get bogged down."

At dinner last night I told my husband about my writing day, which had gone well but not totally according to plan. I talked about how much work I still had to do, how every moment counted between now and the end of next week, but how pleased I was with that unexpected inspiration first thing that morning, and the results of an hour's work.

After I'd gone on at some length and with increasing intensity, about how this image of Ian in the barn wouldn't leave me be, and how I threw caution to the wind and spent an hour writing an almost dialogueless (is that a word?) exchange between Ian and Seona, even though I really needed to press on with the plot-heavy climax scenes and then what lies beyond them, my husband swallowed a mouthful of the vegetable stew I'd thrown together for dinner and said, "So... you're saying you made a scene today?"

Guess you could put it that way, dear, and thanks for making me take myself and this book a little less seriously. Sometimes I need that. *smile*

Saturday, October 18, 2008

my view

This is the view I have outside the window where I write. I love this tree in October!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kindred mid-month check in

October 15th? Already? Say it ain't so!

My goal has been to finish the last chapters of Kindred, at least in rough draft form, by October 30th (the following day being my 40th birthday).

So, Lori, how's it going with that goal thing?

Glad you asked! It's going all right. I'm cautiously optimistic that I can make my self-imposed deadline. I have a short bridging chapter to write tomorrow, then a section already written to edit through. Then comes the climax scenes to write, then the denouement (or winding down/wrap up) scenes. If I can get the climax scenes written next week, and the wrap up scenes the week after, then I'll make my goal. It's quite all right if I don't. I'm not going to rush through these crucial scenes to the point I sacrifice the quality of my writing process, just for the sake of a number on a calendar. But it's fun to push myself a bit more than usual, just to see if I can do it.

It's a strange feeling, being so near the end of this journey. A part of me doesn't want to cross that finish line. Not that I'm going to be leaving these characters behind any time soon. There's still a major edit to get through, and then the (likely very) long search for an agent and editor. Still, it's strange to be writing scenes I first envisioned, and sketched out, in some cases three or four years ago.

It's been a long journey, long enough to come to love Ian and Seona, and Thomas and Lily, and Judith, and Hugh, and Malcolm. Even Rosalyn, who at least got to deliver a good parting shot.

Pressing onward.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Let it snow... let it snow... let it snow

A non-writing related post, except to say that while these photos were taken this afternoon, I was snug at home in a quiet house getting some writing done.

On Wagner Butte. Season's first snowfall. Photos by Brian.

Looking over the mountains to the west

Snow on Mt. Ashland. The skiers should be pleased.

Brian thought I would like this photo. He was right. Where's Bev Doolittle? Is there a face in those rocks?

But I like this one even more.
And my favorite....

Our new dog, Dargo, wearing his panniers.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Visit with author Bonnie Leon

Historical fiction author, Bonnie Leon, paid a visit to the Rogue Valley this weekend. I've known Bonnie many years through Oregon Christian Writers, have taken her fiction writing course, and lately have come to know her better through regional meetings of American Christian Fiction Writers. Plus, she likes to come down from her home in Glide from time to time and hang out with us Southern Oregon writers.

Bonnie had a book signing at Evangel Family Bookstore at the Rogue Valley mall on Saturday. I dropped in for a visit, bought a book (The Heart of Thornton Creek, first in the Queensland series). She signed it and we talked for quite a while. She had a drawing for a beautifully decorated didgeridoo, which I didn't win, but what a generous prize to offer folks just for showing up and entering.

Photos were taken while I was at Evangel, but I've yet to get copies, so here's a picture of me and Bonnie taken on her last visit.After the signing we went to our friend DJ's house for a pizza/potluck dinner. I baked my signature cake (huckleberry/lemon pound cake). It was a great day, and good to see Bonnie again.

Check out Bonnie Leon's books at her link in the post, or in my list of author sites over in the sidebar. Bonnie is a multi-published author, and her books are set in such diverse places as Australia, Alaska and Russia.

**I forgot to mention--Bonnie is currently running a contest at her website, with two prizes, another authentic didgeridoo, and a set of aboriginal clapsticks.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Most Needful Thing

I left our church service today in tears. They weren’t tears of sadness or hurt, but an overflow from my spirit at the goodness of God, and the sweetness of His voice, and the many utterly cool and precious things He had to gift me today in one short hour of my pastor’s teaching.

I am as thankful as a human being can be for my church. I’m thankful for the constant through-the-Bible teaching (chapter by chapter, verse by verse, Genesis to Revelations and back around again), and for the uncompromising message of grace and forgiveness that goes out every Sunday, Wednesday, and Tuesdays and Thursday and Saturdays too. I’m thankful for our pastors and teachers. I’m thankful for the body who not only sits there and hears the word, but actually puts it into practice.

My pastor spoke today about the Patriarchal Blessing. This blessing is recorded in the Old Testament, given from father to son. The three components of the blessing were a touch (the father would place his hand upon the head of his son), a studied evaluation (the father has studied his son, learned his strengths, his leanings, his weaknesses and knows him), and a prediction of what the son will become. This blessing was normally reserved for the eldest son, but there are examples of it being given to younger sons, the most notorious being Jacob, who tricked his blind father, Isaac, and stole his elder brother Esau’s blessing.

How important still is that blessing from our earthly father? How influential is it, and what can be lacking in a young man or woman (or even an older one), who never had that blessing bestowed? Never heard words from a father or a mother, words of affirmation and encouragement, words of identity that could help a young person along the path of who God intends them to become, what He intends them to do?

So there I was sitting, taking in this teaching on at least two levels. One for myself, in thankfulness that I had parents who constantly affirmed me, recognized what talents I had, and encouraged me to pursue them, made me feel that they thought I was special, that I would succeed if I only pressed on. The second concerns my main character from KINDRED, Ian Cameron (and the reason I’m posting about this here on my novel journal).

Here it is over four years since I began writing this book, and every day of those four+ years I've spent thinking about Ian, or actively writing about him, pondering his history, his soul, his spirit, and not until today has it hit home to me that what Ian has lacked all his life IS THE PATRIARCHAL BLESSING. I’ve thought of him as a prodigal, and in many people’s eyes I suppose he is—including his own. But that never sat exactly right in my heart. He never set out to rebel against his father and family at first. Circumstances conspired against him, and (due mainly to 18C male notions of honor) he was unable to explain himself, or seek his father’s aid. Therefore his father was left to think the worst of him, and withheld what guidance he might have given at a crucial crisis point in Ian's late teen years. Thereafter Ian felt himself cursed, not blessed, by his father. Which accounts absolutely for his “unsteady conduct” as they would have put it in the 18C--his lack of direction, wasting of time, allowing events and other people to toss him about like a bit of flotsam on a flood. He doesn’t know who, or what, he is meant to be. His father never told him.

So I’m sitting in church, already sending up a Hallelujah chorus in my heart to the Lord for this most needful insight. And then, as if that weren’t enough good stuff for one Sunday, my pastor read 3 John: 5-6. “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well….”

Ah... so we can all be “fathers” in the sense that as a church we get to pass along this blessing to one another. We get to be those who touch, who pay attention, who make a study of each other for the purpose of expressing words that build each other up, that encourage, that define, that bless, that help each other along on our journey toward heaven. Yes and amen! But yanno what popped into my mind when this verse was read (remember I was taking all this in on more than one level today)?

The Underground Railroad.

“If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well.”

As I’ve mentioned here before, the grass roots beginnings of the URR is a topic I explore in KINDRED, mainly through the character of Thomas Ross, Ian's free black boyhood friend, who goes south to Carolina with him and has his own adventures. I can't help seeing how these verses can be applied to those who helped escaped slaves reach freedom and sanctuary in the north, and in Canada. This scripture applies both to the spiritual and to the practical in that harrowing situation. There’s a novel in there, to be sure!

As the service concluded, I was eager to hurry home and write all this down, so I wouldn't lose a bit of it, not the inspirations for the book, nor what the Lord had stirred up in my own heart. And THEN, as if all this wasn’t enough, within five minutes two people took that message to heart and spoke a word to me (in one case, literally one precious, defining word) that blessed and encouraged me. I'm telling you, it works. Pay attention to the people around you, and bless them by speaking out the good that you see in them. I take this exhortation to heart.

As for this notion of Ian’s having lacked the Patriarchal Blessing, and who it is that ultimately pronounces it upon him (I have two candidates in mind), how he recognizes it and what he does with it, I'm going to let it stew for a bit, and see how I can work it in when I begin my next edit. If things stay true to form, I'll find that the framework for it is already there, embedded in the thousands of words already written. My prayer is that God makes that framework pop out at me as I edit, so I can strengthen this theme.

To learn more about the Patriarchal Blessing, why it's important, and how to bestow it, check out my pastor Jon Courson’s teaching from today at the Applegate Christian Fellowship, HERE. You’ll want to click on the link to the left that says Recent Service – Sunday, October 5. Audio and Video versions available.


Friday, October 03, 2008

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good writing day. One of those rare days when more than I expected got written, and I liked it, it did what I wanted it to do, and more so. All sorts of foreshadowing of the book's ending popped up in the dialogue between several sets of characters. I love it when that happens, when the characters speak and I simply listen and write down what they say.

That happens to some degree in every scene, usually on a second pass after I've written down the bare bones of What Happens Next*, and my mind is freed up to see layers and nuances, or to catch dialogue and motives I hadn't considered on the first pass. To get deeper into the viewpoint character's mind, and consider more closely what the secondary characters are feeling and thinking so I can show that in their speech and body language.
*The first pass at a scene is a matter of getting down the stage business and basic emotional push and pull between the characters. Sometimes this comes out choppy and rough, little more than my initial, present tense outline turned past tense, and transformed into a semblence of modern English grammar.
So yesterday I finished a new chapter that bridged two older chunks. Now another chunk awaits another bridge. I've looked it over this morning and plan to begin work on it tomorrow (when I know a scene or chapter has to accomplish several things, and there's no absolute certain way in which it much be done, I tend to need an afternoon and a night's sleep for my brain to mull over the best and most concise approach).

Hopefully it will be a short chapter, and then I'll snowball into the final acts of this crazy long book.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Goals and stuff

A few days after I learned I'd placed third in the ACFW Genesis contest, the judges score sheets showed up in my email, compliments of Camy Tang, the contest coordinator (thank you, Camy, for answering about a dozen questions from me over past few months, and all your hard work). The judges for this final round, in the Historical category, were editors from two major Christian publishing houses. I'm particularly glad of that, because they had a lot to stay about Kindred. Long story short, it still needs a lot of self-editing.

A lot. But I knew that. I did. So I read all the comments (which were anonymous, I can't say which comments were from which editor), and saw that my two overall scores were right around the average mark, one a little above, one a little below. Some elements scored quite high. It seems I have a good command of language, grammar and punctuation, a distinct and unique voice, I show rather than tell, and have a handle on setting. Conflict is good, each character is distinct.

On the negative side, I'm trying to be too literary (although I have a hard time knowing what to do with this crit, since I don't read literary works--to the best of my knowledge--and wouldn't know how to try to be literary any more than I know how to stop trying). The main criticism is that the manuscript is still (still!) heavily overwritten. This after my editing a novel's worth (71,000 words) out of it.

After the first crestfall of receiving the negative comments, I realized that what I was feeling was gratitude... and determination. Being overwritten is not the worst thing in the world, in my book *smile*. Given time away from the manuscript to gain objectivity, I can slash and burn with the best of them. I did it once. I can do it again.

But not yet. I'm still working on the final section. My goal is to have it complete by October 30. It's progressing well, and so that's not an Impossible Goal.

Discipline is one day at a time. Bum glue. Blinders to shut out distractions. It's telling that I've spent more time in recent weeks at the computer in that my back and neck are sore almost all the time now.

Working on that posture. No slumping!