Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I have to admit, this is my second-favorite holiday, Christmas being the first.

Naturally, I remember well my own days spent trick-or-treating: the year I wore my dad’s flight suit and helmet, all the badges and rank stripes carefully covered with tape, and clomped around the neighbourhood in his big black boots; running from house to house with my friends (because, of course, it was perfectly acceptable by the time I was about 11 to go out with them, while my parents stayed home to hand out candy); being stumped when the old guy on the corner actually demanded a trick before handing out the candy (we sang a stumbling rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer); and trading intelligence such as which house was giving out just apples or, gasp!, toothbrushes, and which was giving out full-sized chocolate bars.

Now, I’m the one trailing behind the herd of kids in the cold All Hallows Eve, cup of tea clutched in my mittened hand, as they race from door to door. (I’m the killjoy also yelling at them to use the sidewalks and walkways while the other monsters and goblins gleefully swarm over lawns – I’m just anal that way.)

My kids -- the four of them range in age from 10 to 17 -- are a creative bunch. While they enjoy a store-bought costume as well as the next ankle-biter, they also like to mix-and-match from Halloweens past, or try to come up with something on their own.

My eldest, in particular, likes to make her own costumes. This year, it’s an elaborate creation complete with robes, hat and Venetian mask – a doctor from the Assassin’s Creed video game. She is totally running with the whole trick-or-treat thing, since one of her teachers told her he thought it was perfectly fine for older teens to trick-or-treat, as long as they went to the effort of dressing up. I told her if she was still doing it at 30, I’d have to do something. (There’s that killjoy vibe again, rearing its ugly head. :lol )

My eldest son, 15, has been “too cool” -- and I’ve absolutely no doubt that particular term dates me -- to trick-or-treat for years now. However, he does like to roam the streets with his buddies, hanging and talking and doing whatever cool things 15-year-old boys do.

My youngest two, 10 and 11, still go with me. One’s a witch with purple hair, the other Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies. (And if it isn’t a sign of the times that spellcheck doesn’t blink at the name of a movie monster, I don’t know what is.)

As a way of gearing up for the night, Son No. 1 and I went out Saturday night to see Paranormal Activity 3. I was pulling for the remake of The Thing, to no avail. Now, here I freely admit I am a big suck when it comes to scary movies, particularly when it comes to ghosts or demons or anything with a supernatural bent. I think it’s probably because while my thinking brain says, nah, never happen, my lizard brain says, Run, you fool! Lizard trumps logic any day. Or night.

All that is my way of saying I was completely creeped out by PA3. I saw PA1 with Daughter No. 1 when it was in theatres and, yup, was scared silly. I was skeptical that PA3 could deliver. How many times can they do the video-camera-in-the bedroom thing? (I know, I know – thousands, perhaps millions, of videos abound on the internet to put the lie to that!) However, despite a few roll-your-eyes moments, I was scared. Wimp, right? I think the most terrifying thing was the child trying to tell her mother what was going on, and her mother didn’t believe her. If that’s not a nightmare, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, time to hit the sidewalks with my own little monsters. I’m attaching a pic of a zombie dragon created by Daughter No. 1, who is quite the artist. It's titled Beings Are Arisin'.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Say what?

Everyone has a particular challenge to overcome in their craft.

I like to think that description is my strong point. I love setting the scene and making it come alive for my readers. My bĂȘte noir is dialogue. It is something I work very, very hard at.

I envy writers who create natural dialogue, witty repartee, snappy exchanges. Oh, to be like that!

I remember being at a workshop with an author who said she mentally recorded everything she heard around her – the example was a beautiful young woman dining with a much older man who was obviously not her father, and throughout the meal called him, “Daddy,” in a little-girl voice – and stored it away in a mental file to use someday in her own books. Maybe I just don’t get out enough. :lol

My best trick to writing good dialogue is to simply imagine myself as a fly on the wall, looking on as my characters interact. Then, I just type whatever I imagine them saying, free-flow, no punctuation or dialogue tags. It goes pretty quickly that way, and comes out more naturally than anything I’ve tried yet. Afterwards, I go back and add dialogue tags where needed, and include what Diana Gabaldon refers to as “underpainting” – the actions and scene markers that give the dialogue life, weaving it seamlessly into the story.

Occasionally, I do think of fun, dramatic or illustrative phrases I’d like my characters to use. If possible, I write them down to refer to later. I may not use them at all if they don’t come naturally when my dialogue’s flowing, but it helps in my own mind with the pictures I draw of individual characters as the story builds. The dialogue may wind up getting pared down or cut in the final draft, but that’s all right. The more real my characters, and what they say, is to me, the more real they’ll be on the page.

And, hopefully, the more real they’ll be for my readers.

All the best,


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sound of silence

I know writers who create playlists to listen to while they write – martial for action scenes, upbeat and happy for light-hearted scenes, love songs for romantic interludes. It is fun to see, when those authors choose to post them on their websites, what went into some of my favourite books.

While I didn’t go so far as creating playlists, I did at one time have music I liked to listen to while I worked on certain scenes. For example, the soundtrack for Lord of the Rings – Return of the King made for great listening while I was working on a high fantasy about a shapeshifting snow leopard. I also love alternative rock, so would listen to commercial-free radio over the internet while I wrote.

One year I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms, so wrote my first published book, Serena’s Song, out longhand to the sound of whatever station was on the radio – generally easy-listening – or musak coming over the office’s sound system. In the wee hours of the morning, after ending the night shift at the paper, I’d transcribe what I’d written to the sounds of new age music mixed with nature sounds. Very soothing.

I don’t know what’s changed, but I can’t do that anymore. I really do need silence to write. If I’m stuck, and I’m in a public place, I put classical – nothing too raucous – on my headphones to basically block outside noise.

I’m also one of those writers who can’t talk while I’m writing. I know some who can type, pause, type, pause, and create fabulous stories. Not me! I get in a groove and just go. If someone talks to me, or the kids come into my office to say hi or whatever, it’s like someone’s spoked my wheel. :lol I’m completely thrown out of my story.

Perhaps that’s why I do some of my most constructive writing at about 2 a.m., when the kids are sleeping, the animals snoring softly, the house silent except for the hum of the refrigerator, and nothing more musical than the wind sighing through the trees. But that's pretty nice all on its own.

How about you? What do your write to?

All the best,

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How I write

Whether one is an experienced writer or an old hand, I think we all love to discuss craft – brainstorming, plotting, research, even the day-to-day nuts and bolts of stringing words together on a page.

One of the most hotly discussed methods is pantser versus plotter. Do you wing it, just start typing and see where the characters or story bring you? Or do you plot with all the skill of a master cartographer the map of your characters’ journey through their adventure.

I know writers who just wing it, and come up with the most captivating stories. It boggles the mind. I also know writers who religiously plot the action, write up full character bios, create timelines … that, too, boggles the mind.

I am firmly on the fence. :lol

Sorry, but it’s true! I use elements of both when I’m writing. All of my stories begin with what-if, usually involving a scenario or character. For example, drawing from Three Wishes, what if an office worker with a secret crush has the chance for her dreams to come true in a very unexpected way? From there, I know how the story begins and how it ends. I know some major points in between, which I sometimes type out as bullet points, and that’s about it. I’m ready to begin writing. Once that starts, I can flesh out the characters as I go, add to the plot points, maybe add more conflict if it needs it.

That said, I do a lot of internal writing, if you will. I think about a scene, working it out in my mind, to the point where by the time I turn to my computer, it usually writes itself. My books, so far, have all ended the way I intended, no major surprises for me there.

I often think being a plotter would be far easier. I do sometimes get stumped about what to do next. A great plotter would know exactly what happens next, no hesitation. Sadly, I can’t seem to plot.

Oh, I’ve tried. When I do, I angst over the plotting, get stalled, and it just produces frustration. As it stands, if I’m stuck on a scene, I skip it to come back to later, and move on to what I do know happens. Doing that also means getting swept up in less self-editing as I go, though I’m not always as successful at that as I could wish.

Bizarre as it sounds, it seems to work for me.

The most important thing to realize is what works for me may not work for you. You must find the mix that fits best with your own writing, and go with it. Putting word to page is what matters in the end, not how you get there.

All the best,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Voting - your right and duty

If I could just get up on my soapbox for a little bit ...

The residents of my home province, Ontario, head to the ballot boxes Thursday to cast their votes for Ontario's new government. There has been ample opportunity, as well, to cast a ballot at the advance polls, if you can't make it out on election day.

Unfortunately, predictably, the turnout will likely be shamefully low. Municipal, provincial, federal -- doesn't seem to matter what it is, people begrudge the time and effort of voting.

"I don't know the issues."

"What's the point, when nothing will change?"

"Oh, my vote doesn't really matter."

"I'm not very political."

"I have to work, I can't get to my riding to vote." (A clanker for sure, even if you don't consider that the polling centres are open from early morning to late at night: Canadians are guaranteed the right to time off work to vote.)

I am constantly amazed by how few Canadians exercise their rights and, more importantly, do their duty in determining who will make the laws, protect Canadian values, represent their interests and run their town, their province, their nation.

Recently, the women of Saudi Arabia were granted the right to vote and stand for public office -- hurrah for King Abdullah! -- yet in other parts of the world, such a privilege is only a dream for men and women alike. Wars are fought to ensure people have a chance to control their own destinies. Even in places where citizens are supposedly allowed to vote, many defy injury and death simply by standing in line to cast their ballot. Candidates might as well draw a bulls-eye on their backs, since declaring themselves for any but the strongest party makes them a target of much worse than filibustering and mudslinging. Even then, the election process can be corrupt, tipped in favour of the ruling regime.

When people around the world are willing to die for a privilege we already have, surely we in Ontario can afford the cost of a little time.

Please vote.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ta da! The website redesign is done

Welcome to the revamped edition of my blog and website.

Web designer Andy Tomec, of Atomec Productions, has done a fabulous job of creating the new look. Hopefully, the site is much easier to navigate now, a little less cluttered. I especially love the different banners at the top of each page. Don’t they look divine? And the thumbnail book covers on the Books page are a great addition. Simply click on the cover to jump to a more complete summary of the title, read excerpts and, if available, watch a video.

As some of you may know, I have so far not been the most dedicated blogger. Well, here’s hoping to turn over a new leaf.

So, what am I doing now?

I’m putting the finishing touches on a contemporary erotic fantasy called Three Wishes. Actually,it’s a bit hard to slot into a genre. The base story is contemporary, featuring office worker Cassie who has a secret crush on a consultant, Michael, whom she’s been working hand-in-glove with at her media communications company. Then Cassie discovers an anonymous gift on her desk: an exotic bottle of perfume. When she gets it home, a genie – whoosh! – appears to fulfil three erotic wishes … While Cassie is a romantic at heart, she naturally chalks it up the next morning to bad wine and a weird dream. From there, Cassie embarks on a nightly journey starring Michael as the man of her dreams, first as a medieval knight, then as the twin bar owners of a smoking-hot nightclub, and finally as the triplet consorts of a galactic princess. There we have historical, contemporary and futuristic scifi thrown into my fantasy genie-in-a-bottle story. You see now why I said the genre is a bit tricky to describe?

Another thing I have on my plate is judging duties for Launching a Star. This is the third year I’ve helped with the contest, which keeps getting bigger and bigger. One of the entries I judged last year won the contest. As an editor and avid reader, I love the chance to see the work of such talented unpublished writers. It takes me out of my writer cave for a while.

Finally – and this will sound truly mundane – I’m waging war against an invasion of houseflies. It’s true! Every fall, when the weather turns cold, I have to cope with an influx of flies looking for somewhere to wait out winter. I just wish they could find somewhere else. It drives me nuts! One would think the cats (we have two) would take care of business. Sadly, even they can’t keep up. It all comes down to fly strips and patience. Ugh!

Three Wishes is calling me, so I’ve gotta run. Please enjoy the website’s new look, and by all means check out the Free Reads in the Extras section. I also love to hear from readers, so take advantage of the Love Letters form to send me a note (and check the box provided if you’d like to receive my sporadic newsletters).

Wishing you all the best,