Thursday, July 30, 2009

Inspiration in the strangest of places

Writers are often asked where they get their inspiration. What led you to write that scene that changed my life forever? That moment when all the planets aligned and the readers saw that you had planned it from the very beginning. Was it divine intervention? Was it your love of research? A pivotal moment in your life?

Who knows? I am often surprised by what causes my best stuff to appear. It is normally a moment that is so inconsequential to every one around me, but yet, sends my poor little brain on a tailspin. A trivial little glance that balloons into an entire chapter. A scent that makes my typing fingers ache under the need to get it down before it leaks through my pores.

One night, I was laying on the bed and working on a scene that was severely lacking. It needed something to give it depth. Something to show a sense of symbolism for how different this particular character sees the world. I gave up and moved on, knowing that I would come back to it later. I knew that if I try to force it, well – it will seem forced. And we don’t want that, now do we?

So as I moved on, I heard this buzzing--the very distinctive hum of a fly. I watched the annoying critter in his confusion of trying to locate the best place to sit. Have you ever really watched a fly? I swear it is like the perfect illustration of ADD. "I think I will sit here, oh wait, blinds." 

I slid from the bed and went to the kitchen to retrieve the flyswatter. I came back to find that he has disappeared. Now, I have played this game before. So instead of wasting my time – I sit down on the bed knowing that as soon as I begin concentrating the insect will begin his annoying song once more. He does not disappoint.

I ease from the bed and watch him as he dances from one surface to another, teasing me as he hovers over a surface and then takes flight once more. I track him like an avid hunter. He rests on the door frame. I lift the flyswatter mere inches from his little body, trying my damnedest not to disturb the air, and in a swift movement I flick my wrist and watch his lifeless body fall to the floor.

I do my victory dance and look up to see my husband staring at me like I have lost my mind. My only response is not to admit that I am crazy, and instead, sing a song about murdering this poor critter.

After I have celebrated my kill, I use the flyswatter to scoop up the stiff remains. When the fly is at eye level, I catch a glimpse of the insect in the light. I take a closer look to see how beautifully painted this insignificant little bug is. When you see a fly, they appear black and you never notice their iridescent wings, the green covering with  gold flecks, and the details of the gigantic eyes (better to see you with, my dear). And in this moment, I have found my answer. The death of a fly gave the depth to the character for which I was so desperately searching.

And if you ever read Iron Thirst, I hope when you reach that chapter you are not too distracted by the image of me chasing down a fly--ninja style.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stalking: All in a Day’s Work

As the novel draws closer and closer to its grand finale, I have begun the tedious task of researching the gazillion agents that exist. Website after website. Page after page. Many are so impersonal and you don’t learn much other than the basic info: submission guidelines, genre types, etc. Aw, what’s in a name?

But yesterday I stumbled over my own personal kindred spirit. A woman that enjoys her work, is able to laugh at the horrible query letter, and even offers love and support to first time authors. I will not disclose her name for she is mine. All mine! Actually, I won’t release her identity just in case I don’t win her heart as she has won mine. I won’t offend the poor sap who gets stuck with me as I prattle on about the moment that I realized that the periodic symbol for Iron was “Fe” and that was also the nickname of the main character in my book (Fee) titled Iron Obsession. It was a proud moment. A real face palm experience. I digress.

I was so impressed by this woman’s site and her personality that I instantly started crafting my first query letter. Not to send – oh no – it is not time. Just a chance to play with it and see if I am able to sum up why you should read a 300 page book in about two paragraphs. AND – She does not ask for a synopsis. Did I mention that I love her? For those of you who are not familiar with the author’s arch enemy, the synopsis – let me summarize. (That was punarific!) A synopsis is when the agent or publisher asks an author who has spent months and most often years perfecting a 70,000+ word piece of art, something that has required them to ignore friends and family and washing dishes to create, and summarize it in about, umm, five pages. All of it. Even the cliff-hangers. Even the secret BAM at the end. (Shakes head.) I understand why. I understand it is often needed – you know the whole “so many books, so little time” thing. Doesn’t mean you have to like it. We write them, because they ask for them. And if it gets the manuscript read – then so be it. But not her. She wants the first 30 pages of the manuscript. If impressed, she asks for the whole enchilada. Love her!

So, now I’m off to research other agents. What? Can’t put all your kittens in one basket! Kittens get up and run away.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You're writing a what, about a who?

Well, let me start at the beginning...

On December 31, 2008, I sat up in the bed and looked at my doting husband and said, "Wouldn't it be cool if someone wrote a story about DragonCon? You know, playing on the idea that some of the fantasy exists there was actually real?" And instead of saying - "Woman, you're nuts!” he said, "That is a pretty cool idea."

I continued getting dressed and let the idea dance around a little more inside my head. By the time I arrived at the office, I had pretty much laid out the outline for the first chapter minus character names. When I arrived home that afternoon, I read him chapter one. And so the journey began.

While working full time, going to school full time, and still being a pretty decent mother (who am I kidding, I rock!), I wrote the bulk of the novel in about 4 months. The idea became much more than a book about DragonCon and more a love story that was plagued with obstacles while maintaining a humorous tone. My logic - laugh or the world will kill you. And in this story, oh does it try.

I had heard of this horrible thing called, shudder, writer's block, and I knew it was coming. I feared it for the beast it was and was terrified that it would come and rob me of my story. The story that I desperately wanted to share with others. At the end of the four months, the ideas began to slow and then trickle, and then be tiny little thoughts rather than what was once mind-blasting, must get to keyboard, pull the car over or I will write with my teeth balancing the notebook on the steering wheel, breakthroughs. It had arrived. Or so I thought.

Let me back up. I write mosaic style. Although I started at the beginning, I didn't write chronologically. I start with an outline, and I then write what I feel. Put the scenes on the page as they come to me. I think I finished the ending before I wrote chapter 4. When the ideas stopped coming, what I thought was that horrible creature that I dreaded was actually a mostly complete story.

A month later I decided to start at the beginning, begin my first read through, and connect the scenes. When I finished three chapters, I then inflicted them on three people who so lovingly volunteered to read and critique what I had wrote. This has kept me on track by holding me accountable. This brings me to where I am now....

I can see the end of the book on the horizon. It is within my grasp. I have seven more chapters to clean up and send out. Step 2: Actually correct my horrible grammar and punctuation. Once that is complete, then it is time to dive into the deep end of the agent pool hoping to find my mythical creature to swim along side of me as we deliver Iron Obsession to the world.

But first, finish the next seven chapters! Hope you join me on this journey.