Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Monday

Good grief it's--I mean Good Morning, it's Monday! And this post is going to jump topics all over the place. I'm at the computer on time today, still on my pneumonia meds, which have not played very nicely with me even though they are slowly clearing up my lungs. I will be glad to be through with them tomorrow and hope that's that, as far as antibiotics are concerned.

Been editing Kindred since March 18th and am over halfway through. Word count: 146,000.

You know how exciting it is when you find an author whose writing just sings for you, one who's been around long enough to have quite a few novels published, so you can dive in and feast on her stories? I found one such this weekend. Susanna Kearsley. The book I'm reading is The Shadowy Horses. It's a contemporary, romantic suspense, set in Scotland (always a plus, Scotland), but it feels like a historical because the story is centered around an archaeological dig from Roman times and the past is, quite literally, haunting the present. I love this quality in fiction, whether it's supernatural or just a strong sense of the past shaping the present (the latter being an element I did my utmost to bring to the forefront of my own novel, Kindred). If you don't mind a few ghosts... you might enjoy Kearsley's book. Love, love, love her writing. Reminds me strongly of Mary Stewart, another old favorite.

Edited to add: I received a kind email from Susanna Kearsley's publisher, and at their request am including a link to the listing for The Shadowy Horses. They are planning to reissue the book to coincide with Mother's Day. Love how small a world the internet makes for! 

I've also been enjoying a new TV series which airs on NBC, Fridays. Who Do You Think You Are? On this show celebrities trace their ancestry, discovering the answers to long held family questions, or simply filling in the blanks of "Where do I come from?" So far they've aired a show with Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith, Lisa Kudrow, and Matthew Broderick. In each episode I learned a bit of history, saw the kernels of several possible stories, and enjoyed the journey. But I'm a genealogy junkie, so no surprise there.

Also, one of those episodes provided the most surreal moment of my recent years, as I sat here and watched a celebrity trace their lineage back to the early 1800s... and cross paths with my own. Wonder if anyone can guess which celebrity it was?

Friday, March 26, 2010

“Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.”

The title of this post is a quote by Henry Miller. I had no idea who Henry was when I read his words in Liz Curtis Higg's guest post at Novel Matters blog earlier this week. However, being in the midst of another major edit of a novel that originally topped out 325,000 words, those three words encapsulate the way in which I'm spending my work hours. I'm halfway through the edit and the word count for Kindred is down to 149,000.

That may seem a very big number, but it's one I once seriously doubted I'd ever see. My goal is to shave at least another 10,000 words off the back half of the story. More if I can manage it. And then... I'm keeping a list of scenes that are left in but could be cut out, if push comes to shove. Scenes I'm just not ready to let go of. Scenes that add so much layer and depth to the story. You know, those scenes that are really going to hurt to cut away.

On another topic entirely....

Today is my anniversary. Eleven years ago, March 26 of 1999, I was told I had cancer. While I'm totally looking forward to heaven and holding tight to my invitation to a certain marriage feast, I'm so very thankful to have had these eleven years, to have had the time to write Kindred (and Bear Country, my teddy bear story, the first thing I managed to write through the chemo fog). So much has changed in that 11 years. I've changed, the world around me has changed. The publishing industry had certainly changed. I have an agent now (still need to pinch myself to be sure that one isn't a dream!).

Here's to another year! I pray the wonderful inspiring circle of writers I'm linked to see their best work yet written and their dedication to and passion for writing bearing much fruit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I WILL learn.....

Day 4 of trying to kick this pneumonia in the butt. So far it's kicking back. Having no energy to do anything much but sit at the computer and work means I've done a lot of editing over the past week. On both Kindred and what's written of Willa.

I wish there was some sort of counter for novels in progress that worked backwards. Say, for instance, that you have a finished first draft of an eighteenth century historical that's a whopping 325,000 words and you know you have to edit the heck out of it in order to make it remotely publishable.

So you do. You edit it nine times over the span of two years and get that puppy down to 154,000 (as of today) and the words are still falling. It would be nice to have a counter over on the side to track that progress.

I WILL learn not to overwrite.
I WILL learn not to overwrite.
I WILL learn.....

THANK YOU for all the wonderful comments left in the last post's thread. Ya'll blessed me big time, and I appreciate every one.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Time for Snoopy Dancing

In the months since April 2009, when I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (blogged about here), my historical novel, Kindred, has been sitting on several agents' desks. I've spent most of the past year waiting to see if one of these agents who showed interest in the first few chapters would fall in love with Ian and Seona, my characters (I've been doing a lot more as well, but the waiting thing has been going on in the background all the while).

As part of the agent hunting process, later in the year I entered Kindred in the Audience with an Agent Contest, held by the writers of the Novel Matters blog, all represented by Books and Such Agency. To my delight, agent Wendy Lawton chose Kindred as the winner of that contest and in December of 2009 requested the entire manuscript. I continued waiting (there is a lot of waiting involved in this writing journey, especially considering I began writing with the dream of being published back in 1991, before I knew what email was).

I'm happy to announce that the waiting (at least the For An Agent part) is over. After emailing back and forth on Tuesday of last week, on the following day, St. Patrick's Day, Wendy Lawton telephoned me with an offer of representation. I'm usually not at my communicating best on the phone, but Wendy was warm and sweet and encouraging and immediately put me at ease.

And just in case it isn't clear, I said "Yes," to her offer. It's all still sinking in, but my heart is so very full, and I'm excited and blessed to have the chance to work with Wendy and be a part of the Books and Such family.

Here I Am

I know it's been very quiet around these parts lately. That cold I was battling has gone into pneumonia, but as of yesterday I'm armed with a bottle of antibiotics... or half a bottle. Turns out so many people in our valley are ill right now the pharmacy could only fill half the prescription. More to come soon, though.

But I'm still working on Willa, and have gone back to editing Kindred again (I think this is the ninth major edit), and filling up the corners with research and some good novel reading. And I hope to have a special post up in the not too distant future. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New books galore

Two wonderful newly released historical novels landed in my mailbox today.  

Here Burns My Candle, by Liz Curtis Higgs, and Her Mother's Hope, by Francine Rivers.

Got your copies yet?

For fans of Laura Frantz's debut novel, The Frontiersman's Daughter, be sure to check out Renee's blog on Thursday March 18 for a sneak peek at a scene from Laura's upcoming novel, Courting Morrow Little.

Lots of great fiction to look forward to this year. For now, I'm still getting over this no good very bad cold, so I'm going to fix a cup of tea and curl up this evening with my new books by two of my favorite authors.

Dilemma: how can I possibly decide which to read first?!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where I Am

Between my husband being sick last week with a bad cough and cold (and home from work), and waking up today to realize I have failed to escape catching whatever he had, AND a tougher-than-usual-nut-of-a-Willa-chapter I've been trying to crack since last Monday, I've not posted here in nearly a week.

Happily, I did awake with a couple ideas for the scene that's giving me the most challenge. Nothing like a little character motive insight to throw a needed spin on a situation. And I'm feeling just well enough at the moment to be here at the computer. Not sure how long that will last so... I'll be in 18C New York, if anyone needs me.

And I'm packing DayQuil!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Between getting my own new desk and thinking about quiet spaces that inspire (thanks to Laura Frantz's post today) I came across this video of author Laurie Halse Anderson's new writing space. I've enjoyed several of Anderson's historicals for YA readers, the two latest ones being

Fever 1793


Take a look at Anderson's journey of creating the perfect writer's retreat. A girl can dream....

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Toughest Day

My toughest writing days aren't Mondays, unless that Monday happens to fall on New Chapter Day, as it does today. I'm passionate about editing, if 'editing' is even the right word for it. I love how deep into the story I can plunge, how absorbed I become in character, how much clearer I hear their different voices, see the setting through their eyes, understand what is important to them in each scene... after I have something already down on the page. A rough draft, even a very rough draft written in present tense (as my first drafts usually are), is enough. Then the story is truly alive and singing to me.

The toughest day of writing any new chapter is the day I plot it, make decisions on what needs to happen to drive the story forward. What inner conflicts and external conflicts need to come into play. What possible bits of story I must discard, or save for later. I tend to procrastinate on such days (I'm doing it this minute). I put on socks. I take them off and try slippers instead. I sweep the kitchen floor. Fix one more cup of tea. Read one more blog post. Answer one more email. Read one more post on the ACFW main loop about pesky hidden messages in our fiction, or whatever.

I usually give myself ten or twenty minutes of this mental girding of the loins, then I dive in with a prayer that I will be focused, disciplined and work harder than I feel like working.... because if I do, I'll end the day in relief and satisfaction, maybe even standing up from this computer with a laugh of delight. And tomorrow will be a joyful day of diving deeper into whatever I wrote today.

So here goes. May today be a day of grace for each of us, in whatever project we've set our hands and hearts to.

Inspiration comes during work, not before it. The hardest part of the morning is the first half hour or so when I will put off for as long as possible the actual work on whatever book I'm currently writing... put off the moment of plunging in. But after I've dipped my toes in the cold water for long enough, I hold my breath and jump in. And once I'm in, if it is a day of grace (and it often isn't), then something will happen, and just what that something is remains, for me, a mystery.

~ Madeleine L'Engle, Madeleine L'Engle {Herself}

Friday, March 05, 2010

It's Friday (again... go figure)

It's Friday again. The house smells like fresh cleaned laundry, because I just got in from my weekly trip to the laundromat. I won't think about laundry again for a week.

It's been a good week of writing here at my new desk. Hope that bodes well. I wrote an entire chapter this week, a longish one (5000 words) from a new character's POV. Well, he's not new, but writing from his POV was. That makes three POV characters for this book, more than I had in KINDRED. We'll see if it works out well. In any case I enjoyed the challenge and think his scenes will add good texture to WILLA.

But on to important topics, like weather! Though my pal Karen Ball recently posted about it being Spring here in our valley (and truly it was, for a bit), those who predict such things are saying that Winter is poised to make a return visit. We may have snow on the valley floor early next week. While I welcome the much needed snow, my heart goes out to all those lovely blossoms I've enjoyed this past week, around town, in my own yard. Ah well.

But it's Friday, and I feel like giving a couple or three shout outs from the past week. The first goes to an inspiring blog post by author Athol Dickson, over at Novel Journey. He talked about beauty in writing, not just in theme or character or plot, but in the very words themselves. "The best friends of beauty in a novel are deep contemplation, honesty, intentionality, originality and love." You can read it here. Hope you will.

Athol also posted his thoughts on beauty in the American Christian Fiction Writers main email loop. If you're writing Christian fiction, and aren't a member of ACFW, you might just want to check them out. You can do that here. Lively craft discussions happen. It's a place to cheer each other on, or ask a research question, or get encouragement.

Last but not least, my week has been made extra special by a wonderful wonderful (wonderful!) little book recommended by my friend, author Laura Frantz. It's a book about Martha Washington. I've never been particularly interested in Martha's life, but after reading Laura's review of this book, I had to give it a peek. I'm SO glad I did. This book reads almost like fiction, it's so engaging and chock full of tactile, sensory, practical every day details about the lives of Virginia/Colonial planters' wives. If you have an interest in that subject, or in Martha Washington, or just want a vivid peek into the way things were in this country 250 years ago, don't miss Martha Washington, An American Life, by Patricia Brady.

I have a chapter to edit. Fun for me! Have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Historical Fiction You Don't Want To Miss

Author Laura Frantz is featured on the Seekerville blog today, talking about what makes a hero in fiction. Head on over for a lively discussion.

If you haven't read Laura's debut novel, The Frontiersman's Daughter, and you are a fan of historical fiction with vivid settings, complex characters, unpredictable plot and rich prose... whatever are you waiting for? From the TFD's cover:

This epic novel gives you a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman who would not be defeated. 

That young woman is Lael Click, daughter of a celebrated frontiersman, and I hope you get to meet her soon.

As for me, I'm eagerly awaiting Laura's second novel, Courting Morrow Little, releasing July 1, 2010.

You can find Laura blogging here. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Trading Spaces

Last Thursday I took delivery of my new writing desk, my first new desk in over 15 years. My first desk that isn't made of particle board!

My old work space:

My new work space!

Same corner of the living room, but now facing the wall. That will take some getting used to, but the extra space created, the extra storage space, and the smell of real pine wood... worth it.