Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Synopses

I just had to share this method.  I read it today on author Mike Wells' The Green Water Blog: A "Secret" Formula for Creating a Short Synopsis For your Book "  It made me giggle, it was so danged easy.

Edit:  After my writer friend, Johanna Copeland Garth , author of "Losing Beauty" read my post and brought up a very valid point, I chose to add her comment (from below) in the body of this post--so that it is not missed.

"This is good but I'm confused. Is it a pitch or a synopsis? I thought a synopsis was supposed to be longer...off to Mike's blog to answer my question myself."

Yep...inclined to agree with her.  A little plug here:  Check out Johanna's blog filled with her wonderful musings on the writer's life....

I do find the method Mike employs to be incredibly simple and easy to do--whether writing a pitch, or a short synopsis.  And right now I am having a lot of fun with it--and while doing so, learning and growing as a writer.

If you know anything about my first book, you know how I have struggled trying to write a synopsis and a pitch for such a complex story.  And to try to keep it short?  Exceedingly difficult--had thus far escaped me.

In less than ten minutes, here is the unpolished version--using Mike's trick...

"Called insane by everyone who knows her—and even most who don’t, Marissa Kradle is trying to find her sanity.  Diagnosed delusional, she struggles accepting that her dreams are not really memories.  But  her dreams refuse to let her go--trying night after night to convince her that she did travel across the stars--she did fall in love and take a mate there--and that her dreams are the answer to her missing child and two years of her life for which she cannot account.  Finding her missing memories, and getting a firm hold on reality is what she seeks--but will the truth of her dreams change her reality forever?"

Be gentle. This was written in a few minutes, and is unpolished.  And please, check out Mike's blog. :-) 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oddball Amongst Us

"So, you wrote a book?"

"Yep. I did"

"What's it about?"

"About a woman who gets abducted...wait, it is about a woman who thinks she is crazy...well, she can't sort dreams from reality and..."

And there they stand, rapt in wonderment, as I go through the plot.

Friends and family. Their reactions to my chosen "side profession" as a writer is often off the cuff--knee-jerk, so to speak.  This was the last thing that they expected. They didn't birth a writer.  They didn't marry a writer...they didn't hire a writer.

But...it is way cool... "Can I read your book?"

:-)

The thing is, I don't really travel in any circles that are full of writers. In fact, I can't think of a single person I know (in the real world) who has written a novel.  Don't misconstrue what I write here. I don't think it makes me a celebrity at all--It might make me more of a local oddball...or an impractical sort who spends her spare time writing books (that have not been published). lol... I can't help the laughter.  The journey has been a hoot, and I am still on my way.

The reaction of friends and family, along with new acquaintances, has been funny.  It has been humbling. It has been sweet, It has been encouraging.

People are usually the most interested in knowing where the story came from.  How can I explain it? The inspirations are as varied as the people who write stories.  But, I try. And I am just as forthright as can be when I tell them that I have no idea. That might be fueling the local oddball thing. 

I was timid at first...afraid to have someone read my work.  And it wasn't so much about them possibly not liking it--as it was about what they might think about me after they knew I did this--about such an impractical pursuit.

My mom was one of my earliest readers, buoying my sense of self-worth as a wordsmith.  She kept journals...a writer at heart, I reckon--if she had ever had the time to do it.  So, perhaps, that is where the writing comes from...the compelling need to set down words, to spill a story in my mind onto digital pages in front of me.

Bless her heart, hope she is writing beyond this world right now--or at least reading something she totally enjoys.

I used to visit her and hand her a stack of papers clipped together. That was back in the day before...before...today. Back in the day when I thought I knew what I was doing but had no idea at all.  And today...well, I think I know what I am doing, but hold out for the possibility that I might still have no idea.  But, that's okay. All part of a writer's journey--as long as we keep on writing, keep on learning... we will get there.

Back to my mom. So, back in the day...before I knew the difference between an alpha reader and a beta reader...  she was happy to be an alpha reader without even knowing she was one.  She would read the latest chunks of the story.  And then...she would critique them for me. Oh, I am smiling hard.  It was my post about writing the rituals of death  here:  that got me thinking about those visits with mom.

She would suggest who should die--and why they should die. :-)

She had one villainous character in book 3, marked for death.  I had to explain to her that it must be someone wonderful...someone who--even with their flaws, has captured the reader's hearts.

"Why?" she asked.

I went on to explain--"For maximum emotion, mom. If I kill off someone who the reader despises. Someone they think really deserves it...then, yes, the reader will feel good about it--for about 20 minutes."  I know--that twenty minute "guesstimate" might be extremely optimistic--or even truly beyond any grasp of reality.

She listened without arguing. "BUT, if I take out someone the reader is attached to, then wow! An emotional earthquake 7 point 3.  Or higher.  They will think about it for days..."

She nodded her head, letting me know she knew exactly what I was saying, then went on to tell me that she wanted the villainous character taken out. She didn't care about emotions at stake. He has been mean to the protagonist. He was an even greater threat to the group of people that she liked in the book. So he had to go.

I had so carefully laid down the groundwork, built up the story of the cold, sick, and cruel things he had done; the reader knew what he was capable of.  Then suggested after all of this, that he was clinically, mentally ill.  Then I had begun to slide in bits and pieces of his tortured childhood.

Mom was having none of it. She didn't like him. He was going to do nothing but bad things in the next two books. He was going to kill some people she liked. "Kill him off...that is my suggestion." were her final words about that.

I recall sitting and talking with an elderly neighbor--an old farm girl. She had asked what was new--what I had been doing with myself. She was over 90.   I told her about writing, about the first book I had written. She wanted to know all about it.  And as I told her, I could see something in her eyes, lol, something that was trying to ask, "Why aren't you out picking wild blackberries, or weeding your beans and tomatoes or something useful?"  Oddball much?  Yes...

If that is just part of  being a writer, well, I hope that none of it ever changes... Each and every one of us is an oddball in our special way...     :-)

You are It!

This is a sort of mini-bloghop. :-)I was, "Tagged--you're it!". by Rebecca Hoffman.  She is a very talented young woman who looooooves to edit. :-)  The idea is to get people to visit other people's blogs, see what they are up to, and to share the blogosphere.  Rebbecca asked me to answer some questions--which makes this game of "it" easy and fun.  She has provided the writing prompts by asking the questions. Here goes:

1. What is one "mistake" that has changed you the most?  Changed me the most?  There was a time when I should have stood my ground and made people give me answers.  I took the high road in stubborn silence.  Now, I don't just walk away.  There is something to be said for clearing the air.
2. What is your dream car?  This one is easy... and I am not hard to make happy.  Since the first time I saw one in the early 90s, I wanted  a Chrysler LeBaron convertible. Red.  I have had one since 1998.  It spends winter in the garage, sunny days in the summer I drive it to work.  I fancy it to be our "old geezer" car, lol, the one that old couples tool around in while younger people cuss under their breath--wishing we'd drive faster ;-)
3. What one thing do you wish to achieve in your future? Humble...I want to get a few books out there, and I want to have readers email me and tell me that they cried, they laughed, they stayed up all night to finish the story...
 
4. What inspires you? Arthurian Legends I have read, old love stories, the ocean, the stars...the thing that makes us humans hopelessly vulnerable--love.
5. Do you prefer to write with a pen, pencil, keyboard, or some other utensil?  The wise guy in me wants to say..with my toe...in the sand on some distant shore :-)  But...I do prefer the keyboard for getting the job done. I love cursive for short notes inside cards. Or for love notes to my husband. :-)
6. If a multi-millionaire offered to buy you one thing, what would you choose?  I would like an old farm--a bit more rural than where I live.  I would build a pond, hiking trails, get horses, build cabins and then invite  underprivileged kids for two week summer camp vacations.

7. What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?  Write. Get outside and listen to the birds, check the gardens and flowerbeds, walk on the community trail, take photographs...
8. Do you sing in the shower or dance in your living room?  During a very rare mood, perhaps both  . :-) I like to do my singing in the car or at work. (I work alone most of the time :-)

9. Quick, write down the first song lyric you think of!  When I read this the first time, the same dang lyric came into my head!  "I'm singing in the rain...just singing in the rain...what a glorious feeling...I'm happy again." lol, I don't even know if those are the correct words! I picture Gene Kelly a man dancing around a street light.  Here:  Gene Kelly Singing in the Rain  I think the last question about singing in the shower did this to me, lol..so if you watch the youtube...it will probably get stuck in your head too.  Ah well, there are worse songs to get stuck on...   ;-) 

10. If you could share one bit of advice with the world, what would it be?  You only go around once--and there are no dress rehearsals in life. This is it.  Chase every rainbow you can.   (And you may as well sing in the rain while you are doing it ;-)
Now, I am going to alter this just a bit--because I know how busy people get, If you want to do this, then please, consider yourself tagged.  Just leave me a comment below so I can find your post and read about you. 
Questions:
1. Tell me what you think of love--is it overrated or underrated?.
2. Dogs or cats?
3. If you could have either a helicopter or a bulldozer to play with for a day...which?
4. What is your earliest memory?
5. Your favorite book?
6. Can you name all of your primary school teachers?  
7. Are we alone in the universe?
8. What do you think when you look up at the stars?
9. Are you a little bit "off" when the moon is full?
10. Does the Cadbury bunny really lay eggs?
That's it--you can see that I was really grasping at straws there at the end.
Thanks for reading.  Leave me a comment--love to hear from you. 
Teresa

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Writing: Rituals of Death and the Universal Language--Emotion

When I read a book, I want to escape.  That just might be the reason that my preferred genres are scifi and fantasy--with a touch of romance.  So, when I read a book in which the author has done incredible world-building--one that knocks my socks off, it often includes details of the rituals of said world-- birth, coming of age, mating, and death. If they are odd, foreign, even freakish...they are captivating.  But, most of all, the treatment of death.

It waits for us all... and many of us avoid the subject--uncomfortable with the morbidity involved. Perhaps it is because of the deep emotions surrounding it--fear, sorrow, even doubt...  Still, when I read a book, if the author has woven in a death, it brings the story to life--smacks me with emotions that grab me and shake me.  And if it wasn't handled with brevity, but instead with the rituals of a culture, foreign or alien, it becomes fascinating.


Here, in the real world, everyone and everything dies.  And in a book, unless a protagonist is immortal, everyone and everything dies too.  It is an inescapable part of how things work.


My first lesson in the power of a fictional character's death--in a book, was Matthew in,  Anne of Green Gables. It may as well have been a real person quite dear to me who died in that meadow. And for years, I read fictional characters' deaths. In time, it became a sort of measuring stick for me--the impact of those deaths.  I didn't know how to explain, or the writing terms for it, but it was obvious:  if I didn't care about the death, the author had done a poor job of writing the book.

Years of thoughts followed, about life, about humans, about death and about how that translated into the stories we write, the stories we read, the stories we love...and the other ones...the ones that don't pass muster...   It doesn't matter on what world--or in what place in time a character lives, even if the mode of death is strange, the rituals surrounding what is done with the body, and the god question--what happens to a soul if there even is such a belief, are all secondary to this:  the emotions.

That's it in a nutshell.  All else can be foreign.  They can have three heads, be unisex, and eat helium for breakfast, but if we love them...if the author has done it well, then our hearts break when they die. And when they lose a loved one, we feel their pain, their loss, their sense that the world (no matter what world and where it is) can never be right again.  And that is because emotions are a universal language.   And we all understand the emotions surrounding a ritual such as death; we can relate.


Everytime I read a scifi/fantasy book,I hope the author has been creative with bizarre details, with ritual design, with creating life that barely resembles something here...but is full of oh-so-relatable emotion.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Writer and Love: Happy Valentine's Day

On this day, the 14th of February, love takes center stage.  Happy Valentine's day to everyone. 
I was going to post a photo of cupid shooting darts, or even just a photo of hearts-- the symbol of the love we feel for one another.  But, it seemed much better conveyed if we looked into the face of that little girl who loves that dog.

What really makes the world go round?  The cynics would say, "Money, of course." But...the answer is "love". No matter how you fight it, deny it, or define it... it is love.  Whether we feel it for a spouse or significant other, a child,  a pet, a friend, or bless you if you can feel it for an enemy, nothing on this planet is so motivating as love.

Love.  Humanity's most powerful tool.  Love...the writer's most powerful tool.

With something so universal to humans, love is the thing that every reader can relate to when developing a sense of a character's worth.  Whether it is the motivation in a murder/mystery, the catalyst in the twisted crimes of a deeply flawed individual, or the springboard for a lifelong quest to find a lost love...or just the happily ever after in a romance, humans seek it. Not just in real life, but in the pages of a book.

Love can be beautiful. It can give you wings with which  to soar. It can plunge you into the deepest despair. It is tragic; It is triumphant.  It is hopeless.  It is the ultimate hope.  It is elusive. It is tenacious, envious, happy, unhappy, certain, uncertain, gives you strength, makes you weak.

It is the exposure of our very souls...an open door into the most vulnerable places in our hearts.

It is all things...

So, on this day, I acknowledge how blessed I am that my world is going round.

And...okay, one mushy, gushy, romantic song. I sang it as a lullaby to my own three when they were babies, and I sang it to my granddaughter.


                        ♥ So this is Love ♥ 


 




    Now...go tell someone that you love them! :-)   Happy, happy Valentine's Day.  May your heart know the
      joy of love, today and always...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stopping by My Memories on a Snowy Evening

Yep, a little play on Frost's words.  I can't help but have my thoughts drift that direction on just such an evening as this.  The snow falls outside my window, silent as prayer falling from heaven.  The skies are heavy and thick--the night enveloped by a darkness that denies moonlight.  And the world outside has the kind of hush brought only by snowfall.  While the voice is silenced, the mind is brought to a raucous.  We turn inward, and look at ourselves.  We stand on a precipice; behind us--the daylight and the frenzy of getting ready for the snow.  Before us, the darkness that hides what our imaginations can only picture of the morning light.  Hmm...  Little children we are, waiting for snow angels, and snowmen, and a sled or a toboggan.

Okay, little children forever in our hearts. But, my grown up imagination is picturing the morning light, birds in a frenzy at the feeders, while I watch from the warmth of my kitchen,  the snow fall. All this as I sit in my rocking chair with a cup of hot tea in my hands, feeling unbridled pleasure at the world in front of me.

Snow quite effectively transcends time.

When I was young, it was such a thrill to get a big snowfall.  There were sleds in the yard--we lived on a hillside--and some have said (my father among them) that we grew up with one leg longer than the other from trying to stand level.  We would dash outside and get the sleds, and the one old aluminum flying disk, and proceed to turn the path to ice.   I know; we were to ride down across the "pathless" area beneath the big maple tree, but the path was just so perfect for riding sleds.  Then dad would "holler" at us.  We would scram to get away from his unhappiness, then reappear later to do it again. But, <sigh> dad had the remedy for icy paths, the cinders from the fireplace.  Since we slacked it down with coal at night, the cinders were the perfect grit to make a human move across ice like a goat moves across a mountainside.  But, alas, cinders stopped a sled in its tracks.  Unfortunately, just because the sled stopped didn't mean that the person on the sled stopped with it.

Years went by as years do--in a perfect life.  We were a little older and had graduated to riding the sleds outside of the yard.  There was the hill behind the outhouse.  If you did it just right, you didn't hit the old Case Tractor or the pile of pipes beside it--or worse, that big rock in front of the corn-crib.  But if you went too far the other way, you could actually hit the barn.  The broad side of the barn. :-)  My brothers were masters of maneuvering just right. And that hill was steep.

It was only a couple of years until we began a new winter sport.  There was the hillside across the little "crick" that flowed through our hollow. No-not-never mind that it had big rocks at the bottom, and if you made it around the rocks, the creek was waiting for you.  We had no toboggan, and with eight kids looking for a way from the top to the bottom--with little effort, car hoods turned out to the just the ticket. Those old hoods from junked cars...I tell ya! The front of the hood was upturned just like a toboggan, once you laid them upside down.  And all eight of us could fit inside one. And the best part for me was that eight of us just could not pull it back up the hill.  There was not enough room for eight strands of braided binder-twine with a kid tugging on each.  So we younger ones only had to drag our little butts and short legs up the hillside. The older sisters and brothers tugged the hoods back up to the top. Little effort flying down the hill, but not the case going back up.  We didn't go out and ride the hood all day like we did the sleds.  My goodness, it wore out the older kids.

Then...at long last, we were old enough to ride down the "big hill" on the lane.  The one with the bend at the bottom. The one with the big old hollow oak tree on the outside of the bend at the bottom. The one with the deep and wide ditch just past the oak tree at the bottom--and the big rock setting on top of the pipe that fed the big wide ditch at the bottom. 

I know...they were "steering" runner sleds.  But, in hindsight, that "steering" part of it was advertising propaganda.  There wasn't much steering to it.  I think we had to drag our legs with our toes scraping the ice beneath us to get any kind of directional change.  And...sometimes the change was too late, or just as bad, not the direction we needed to change to.

We had to take turns on the "steering" runner sleds, and I don't think that I ever actually went the whole way up to the field lane--a half mile from the house. But others did.

And others bled at the bottom of the hill. And sometimes, others cried the whole way to house.  It lasted long enough for them to get patched up and then head back out to do it all over again.

Ahhh...when you're a kid, ain't life grand?

Memories...they make me smile, make me shake my head...

I think tomorrow, I might just venture out and be daring.  I might give it a try again.

Making snow angels. 

Maybe not.  Pretty risky. I could get snow up my back... or anything.

Must be a reason that as we get a little older, on a snowy evening such as this, we excitedly picture the morning...the snow, the world magically transformed beyond yesterday's precipice...the birds in their feeding frenzy...hot tea...the rocking chair...  ;-)