Sunday, June 27, 2010

my first interview

Congratulations to Doreen, winner of Laura Frantz's historical novels!!  
The interview is still up and I'm still checking back for comments/discussion, so please drop by if you can.

Keli Gwyn at Romance Writers on the Journey blog has posted an interview I did with her here, where I talk about my writing journey... some speed bumps in the road, a roadblock or two, a detour, and finally.... a green light.

Come on over and leave a comment. Doing so will enter you in the drawing for two wonderful historical novels, both by Laura Frantz.

Her debut historical, The Frontiersman's Daughter: Lovely and high-spirited, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's ties to the Shawnee Indians and her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded. As she faces the many trials of life on the frontier, Lael draws strength from the rugged land. But the arrival of a handsome doctor threatens her view of her world, her God, and herself. Can the power of grace and redemption break through in this tumultuous place? 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.

And her new release Courting Morrow Little: Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop you as it takes you from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness of the West.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Christy Awards tonight

The 2010 Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction will be given tonight. If you can't be there, like I can't be there, you can follow the awards ceremony live* at the Christy Awards Live Blog. There's a tab on the site that lists the finalists too.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

*I hasten to add, yes, live, but it looks like via text updates, not video. Still, for those who don't want to wait until someone gets around to posting the results, there you go. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter Titles

This post is short because I'm in a good writing zone and mean to stay there for the rest of the day. Sweet!

Titling chapters. I do it. I'm not sure how many other writers do. Here's why I do it: I usually don't have a handle on what element should hold a chapter together as a unit of scenes, what image or theme or emotional arc or whatever should be given the main focus, until I've found a title. Maybe it's another symptom of how chemo changed my writing process. I never felt the need for titling chapters before chemotherapy, so Kindred is the first book in which I titled all the chapters as I wrote them (I removed the titles before I sent the manuscript to my agent, since most books I read these days don't have titled chapters).

But I like chapter titles. I like them a lot. At least to help me write the first draft. They're also nifty for hunting down certain sections of the book as it grows longer, and longer, and longer. When did Willa visit the lake? Oh, I think that was in Lost and Found.

Today's title: Two Blue Beads

PS: added a really sweet, lovely song down in the blog footer, featuring Zachary Levi, who plays Chuck, on Chuck. Yep. He sings, too. Is there no end to his adorableness? Thank you for this one, Ruth. Mwah!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm Committed

To the ACFW Conference in September. I've registered. I've bought my airline tickets. I'm committed. Gulp.

It will be my first ACFW conference, though not my first conference by far. I've been to... well something like four or five OCW (Oregon Christian Writers) Summer Coaching Conferences, where we had great keynote speakers like Lonnie Hull Dupont and Francine Rivers, and I've attended one Mount Hermon Conference, which was so peaceful and laid back, situated among the redwoods near Santa Cruz, CA, that it felt a lot like attending a summer camp, only with a bunch of writers, editors, agents, teachers. The class I took on fiction writing, taught by author Davis Bunn, was one of the best I'd ever sat through. Got the CDs. Even listened to them again, twice.

I blogged about that experience here, and here, and other places.

Now though, it's ACFW. Indianapolis. It's going to be held at a ritzy-looking hotel that is way over my normal glamour ceiling. I mean, there's going to be a banquet, where I'll probably have to wear a dress. Something besides blue jeans anyway. I better check my closet. Do I own something besides blue jeans? Rustic Oregon Girl Buys Dress and Goes to the City. But first... she goes to Nashville, and takes a road trip with her friend Joan (aka J. M. Hochstetler, author of the American Patriot Series and publisher and editorial director of Sheaf House), from her home in the Nashville area north through Kentucky and thence to Indy. I'm so looking forward to this part. Road Trip! And on the way back from ACFW we plan to visit Locust Grove, a 1790s plantation house in Louisville. I Can't wait to step foot in this house. Living way out on the Left Coast, it can be years between my chances to do this sort of on the spot 18th century research.

A few other things I'm looking forward to in Indianapolis:

~ Meeting many writers in person I've known on line for months or years. Topping this list is my dear crit partner, Laura Frantz.

~ The Early Bird session with James Scott Bell. I already know this will be instructive because Jim Bell's books (The Art of War for Writers, in particular) are some of the best writing craft books out there.

~ The glitz and glamour (you may laugh, but it will seem like g & g to me, who am much more suited to a cabin in the redwoods). Being intimidated is no reason not to look forward to it. :)

~ Meeting my agent in person (though we did meet very briefly a year before she became my agent).

~ Learning. Can't get enough of that.

~ Hanging out with other writers for a long weekend. It doesn't get more fun than that.

So who else is going? What are you most looking forward to? Have you been to an ACFW conference before? Got any pointers for an ACFW newbie?

Friday, June 18, 2010

One. Of. Those. Days.

Monday and Tuesday of this week were stellar writing days. I wrote about 2500 words over the span of both days. New-Willa-words.  That's a lot, for my pace. Wednesday and Thursday things slowed a bit. I wrote perhaps 600 words each of those days. Did a little plotting on the scene ahead. The scene I'm meant to be writing today. Friday. The day when Every. Word. Is. Like. Pulling. A. Tooth. With. A. String. And. A. Doorknob.

But I'm going to sit here for another hour and write them anyway. Every now and then on a day like today, if I just stick with it no matter how tempted I am to go watch a movie or ride another 5 miles on the bike (even exercise seems a better way to spend this next hour than writing), or go shopping or read myself into a nap, I might just push through this and find something surprising flowing onto the screen.

It's happened before. :)


And it happened again. I seem to have to learn this at least one day a week, if not more. So chalk this up to another day of learning that even on days when the writing is nothing but work, if I just get something onto the screen, no matter how little it resembles the fragrant, urgent, nuanced scene that's in my head, I can make it better.

Now I can stop and go make the pot of soup that will be my dinner. So glad I won't walk into the kitchen and look at the carrots and onion and ham steak and pinto beans and broth and rosemary laid out on the table and wonder how in the world will I make that into a meal?

One ingredient at at time. Then just let it stew for a while.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I'm Reading Just Now

Yesterday I finished reading Laura Frantz's new historical, Courting Morrow Little. As I mentioned in my last post, the book's back cover promised a "sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness." Now I can tell you, it most certainly delivers on that promise. Both the romantic and spiritual threads and themes in this novel are powerful. Morrow also delivers a setting so vividly rendered I felt like I was walking the forest trails, crossing the rivers, and scaling the ridges and mountains, feeling the cold and the heat and marveling at the fierce beauty of the frontier terrain these characters cross and recross in the course of this story. Morrow's journey is one of faith and overcoming fear, and as for the man who ultimately wins her heart... he got mine too. I read this book over three days, which is fast for me. I took it everywhere and read it in every spare moment I had. I love that tension of wanting to devour a book yet not wanting it to end. It comes so rarely. Thank you, Laura, for the years of work that went into writing Morrow's story, so I could have three wonderful days of reading it. This is a book to return to and savor. And I certainly shall.

I'm also reading a huge 800+ page tome about Thomas Jefferson and the Hemingses, by Annette Gordon-Reed, which delves into exhaustive detail and lots of speculation about Jefferson's relationships with his slaves. I don't think I could have waded through this work, as fascinating as it is for my research, if I hadn't got it on audio. There's a lot of repetition, but given the vast amount of information packed into this volume, this reader is glad for the repetition. Makes absorbing it a bit easier.

I've started Spunk & Bite, A Writer's Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language, by Arthur Plotnik (yes, really). I've read the Introduction and already know that I should have read this book a long time ago. It's going to be fun.

Better late than never.

And I've read the first chapter of Siri Mitchell's historical, She Walks In Beauty. It's not a time period or setting I'm normally that interested in (late 1800s, upper class folk), but Siri's writing is wonderful and will likely draw me in soon anyway.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Muffins and Morrow

It's finally arrived! My copy of Courting Morrow Little, author Laura Frantz's new 18C frontier historical.

From the back cover of Courting Morrow Little: 
Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?
Ah... the 18th century frontier... forbidden love... and (as the cover promises) a sweeping tale of forgiveness. It doesn't get any better. I made a batch of raspberry cheesecake muffins, and now am going to settle in and enjoy them, and Morrow's story.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I can't hide from you who I am

It's been a busy week so far (with our two cars and a Boy Scout van in the shop, two printers failing and a bathroom switch to replace, among the regular business), and I've been meaning for some time to share a quote from a book I'm reading now, Shouts and Whispers, Twenty-One Writers Speak About Their Writing and Their Faith.

Of the twenty-one authors I was familiar with only four, Walter Wangerin Jr., Jan Karon, Silas House, and Anne Lamott. I'm only halfway through the book. Some of the writings are dense, deep, intellectual, and frankly stretching to my simple brain, but in each so far has been a nugget of truth that has resonated. Here's one such from Jan Karon, author of one of my favorite fiction series, At Home in Mitford. Her words express my own heart as a writer:
I also write to let readers know something I learned for myself in a very personal way, nearly twenty-five years ago. And that is simply this: God really does love us. That's the kernel around which all my stories are wrapped. It's the single greatest truth I know and so, I share it in book after book....

There isn't any way I can't write about Christianity in my books because by it, I see everything else. Consider that a cup of coffee is the human individual and the shot of brandy is the Christian faith. One pours the brandy into the coffee, and voila! they can't be separated again. They can't be separated. My faith can't be separated from my work. Even if I never mention the name of Jesus Christ, I can't hide from you who I am and what I'm about as an author. In truth, the work that has no faith is, for me, not a whole work. It may be an amusing or credible or clever work, but not a whole work.
Jan Karon, The Miracle and the Myth

Does that ever tug a Amen from my soul, and leave me feeling both comforted and vulnerable as a writer. I don't have to strive to work hope or grace or redemption into my stories. Because of what I believe (and Whom), and who I am at my core, those things will find their way into the stories I write. On the other hand, what I believe and who I am at my core are going to find their way into the stories I write.

Yikes! There's no hiding me.

Speaking of Mitford....

Once upon a time, my friend Doree and I took an epic road trip from Wisconsin to Tennessee (and back again). On that trip we visited Blowing Rock, North Carolina, which was the inspiration for Jan Karon's Mitford series.

This is a photo of "Father Tim's" church, taken by Doree while I minded our not quite legally parked car on Mitford's Blowing Rock's bustling main street.
What fun it was to visit Blowing Rock after having read (or in my case listened to) the Mitford books (read by the extraordinary John McDonough). The resemblance to Mitford is so strong, I expected Barnabas to come bounding up and put his paws on my shoulders, or to see Uncle Billy coming up the sidewalk, heading for the Main Street Grill, rehearsing one of his famous jokes.  

Monday, June 07, 2010

Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling

Author Kaye Dacus has a post on her blog today that is just too good not to give a shout out and share.

Let Me Tell You A Story, #5 in her series on Top Ten Writing Tips.

Go on and read it. You won't be sorry.

She quotes Madeleine L'Engle, for goodness' sake. :)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Music to weave by

There's a certain kind of music that I can story-weave to, the kind I like to play on long road trips in the car, or simply daydream to. The kind of music that could play as a soundtrack to the stories that have captured my heart and passion and that I most want to tell. It most often has a Celtic or folk flavor to it, or perhaps an African or international sound. There should be a tin whistle or a fiddle, or a bodhran or African drums. There might be Gaelic sung, or a haunting voice singing English with a marked Scots or Irish lilt.

This is one of those songs, by a new (for me) find, violinist Vanessa Mae singing and playing the Scottish song I'm A-Doun for Lack O' Johnnie. With its blend of wistful, soaring violin and driving drum rhythm, for me it was love at first listen.

I've moved this video down to the bottom of the blog. It wasn't playing nicely with the new site design. If you haven't seen it, scroll down.

I'm a doun, doun, doun
I'm a doun for lack o'Johnnie
Gin Johnnie kent I was nae weel
I'm sure he would come to me
But o gin he's forsaken me
Och hone what will come o' me

The lyrics are in Scots, by the way. I love that dialect and tend to use it in my writing whenever possible.

Do you have a favorite type of music for story weaving? Or for reading to, or that you simply find inspiring? Leave a link to a video, or mention the genre, title or artist in a post.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Reimagining a Character

"A story is only as strong as its villain."

That quote (or one like it, I'm paraphrasing) has caused me some discomfort for the past few months of writing Willa. I suspected there was something lacking in this regard when it came to my antagonist, and when I got around to noticing recently that he had dropped out of the story for chapters at a time, I knew it. My villain, my antagonist, the character I meant to throw a wrench (and the whole toolbox) into my protagonist's plans, had faded mid-book to a mildly threatening shadow. A dog with some bark, but no real bite.

For a couple of weeks I stewed over this problem, prayed about it, mentioned it in emails to my crit partner, Laura. Then late last week it hit me like a fat raindrop on the forehead. I'd never made the very needful leap inside the man's mind and stayed there long enough, unpleasant a place as it is, to study him until I knew what he's willing to do, what lengths he's willing to go to, to stop my protagonist from reaching her goal. And, just as important, to find it in me to sympathize with why he is how he is. 

Now I know this guy has depths and layers I'd only glimpsed before (thank you, Lord, it was worth the wait). I'm giddy with the "rightness" of it, and ready to take a deep breath and head back to the early chapters of the story. I have some reworking of scenes to do, some rewriting, probably a few new scenes to drop into place. I wouldn't halt the forward momentum of first draft writing for just any little revision, but this is a big one. This is going to affect the outcome of the rest of the book in ways I can't predict yet.

So (takes that deep breath) now that the long weekend is behind us (and I hope yours was a good one!) it's time to make my antagonist as complex on the page as he now is in my mind, and as any character worth writing deserves to be.

Have you ever been nearly half done with a novel and realized you were shortchanging an important character? Not looking deep enough? Not allowing them to fully live on the page? Were you able to flesh them out? And if so, did it change the course of the story at all? I suppose that's the question I'm most eager (and a bit nervous) to find out. 

A housekeeping note: You may have noticed a delay on comments appearing here on Past Perfect. I've had to switch to comment moderation due to the attentions of a persistent spammer. This is my way of keeping the place clean for everyone else. Sorry to have to do it, as I like the instant gratification of seeing my comments on other blogs appear right when I post them and would rather provide that to everyone who visits here. Until or if I decide to take more drastic measures against this spammer, comment moderation seems the best solution.