Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trials and tribulations of trilogy

This post is about the difficulties an author can encounter in writing the third book of a trilogy--or I suppose the last book of any series. Unless you're the type of writer who has outlined the entire story and knows what will happen in each book these rules will apply. And since I'm what's known as a 'pantser' I do not fit in the aforementioned category.

1. Staying true to what you've already written--no matter how much you wish you hadn't put in the bit about (fill in the blank), it is down in black and white and there is no denying it.

2. Adding new characters--don't know if I read this somewhere but from my standpoint adding a bunch of new characters into the last book of a series detracts from the ones you already have and can be confusing. (Game of Thrones notwithstanding).

3. Making sure the plot is not the same as the first two--each book of a series in unique and to repeat plot lines is boring despite how hard it is to think up a new one. Try and make book 3 unique and a surprise for your readers.

4. Making sure the characters stay true to who they are--if Mary has been a scatterbrain in book 1 and 2 it makes no sense for her to suddenly become organized--unless there is a major reason why and this transformation is part of the plot.

5. Adding background material--adding background material for one or two characters who have not been previously developed is okay as long as it doesn't end up taking over.

6. Weaving in what has come before--as hard as it is to do, a writer needs to act as though each book is a stand-alone. This can be done in a prologue or just woven in artfully as the story unfolds.

In the course of writing book 3, these 'rules' have come to my attention, plaguing me. But to look at things positively, the story line has been laid out already--all the author needs to do is to finish it. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

help with writer's block

I am stumped at the moment with my third book of the Gypsy series. I've decided that I cannot under any circumstances use the same plot themes of last two books--and so, what to do? that's why I've decided to put the question to those of you who have read Gypsy's Quest and Gypsy's Return. I now know the end but how to get there is a wilderness filled with thorny bushes too dense to move through.

Who would you like to see more of or learn about in this last book?
1. Kafir
2. Rifak
3. dragons
4. Vanatru
5. Loki/Freyja
6. Brandubh
7. Ella
8. Satyrs
9. Gypsy
10. Gunnar
11. you fill in the blank

Is solving the dilemma of having a child and the man she loves far in the future enough to sustain your interest in Gertrude's plight? Is the craziness going on in the future getting tedious? Time-travel is a tricky business and I've thought of several plot possibilities but have discarded them due to paradox or various other confusing issues...I've consulted Einstein's theories but I'm not a scientist! (nor a science fiction writer) I may just plow ahead, paradox or not, with one idea that interests me...if it doesn't work out I'll discard it to. Better to keep writing, I tell myself. Surely the characters will come to my aid like they've done in all the other books.

Thanks for any and all ideas!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Themes raised in the Gypsy series

These are the first two books in the Gypsy series. A third is in the incubation stage but should be in the works very soon. The setting is the fictional town of Milltown, Massachusetts and a Norse world far in the future. So what are the main themes of these books, you ask?

One of the main protagonists, a woman in her early fifties, has written a book to help change the future for the better but finds out it's had the opposite effect. (Yes, this is a time-traveling story and includes a magical boat called Gypsy.)

Somewhat dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic, this series is about how the present can impact the future in various unforeseen ways. The narrative is told through the two main characters who have been separated by time. Their love story is what underlies the rest of the themes, that and the child who was thought to be dead.

In addition to the two main characters, Norse gods and goddesses, dragons, and a sorcerer move through this bleak future doing whatever suits them. But the economic hardship created by a repressive society run by corporations, the loss of clean water and food, and technology run amok, have put this world at risk.

So how will this situation be resolved? I don't know the answer to this yet but I'm hoping to find out as soon as my characters give me the green light. They run the show--I'm only the conduit.

Name suggestions for the third book, anyone?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

empty nest syndrome

So now that book # six has been sent off to the formatter I am left with a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I could use this time to catch up on housework (dust bunnies everywhere), or get some reading done (two books partially read), or get my office organized (total mess and filthy), or even get my consignment sheets filled out and up to date (scribbled mess on the back of the written sheet), or I could kick back and do nothing.

Anyone had empty nest syndrome? Last baby has moved out and there's an empty room in the house and a hollowness that refuses to go away? Instead of doing any of the things I mentioned above I think it's time to get pregnant again. I have to have a baby in the house or what am I living for? Whoa! you say, looking at me askance. Are you sure you don't want to enjoy some leisure time?

I have two more projects on the back burner and one of them needs to be in gestation. Okay, enough with the pregnancy and birth metaphors--the third book of the Gypsy series is merely a glint in it's mother's eye.  (sorry, I couldn't help it!) I have barely begun to think about what happens next although I do have a few ideas. Is this the time when I need to outline? Because trying to write this one by the seat of my pants is going to be hard. For one thing I've set up a situation that needs to be reconciled--but I cannot use the same format as the first two. (Gertrude has already written two books that have impacted the future). And since it will more than likely be the last book in the series (although who knows?), it needs to take in all the tiny details from book 1 and 2 and expand on them. And there must be tension!!! Without a dilemma to solve there is no story.

So, shall I start out in the future or in Milltown? Who will be my main protagonist? Will it be Gertrude again or will it be Rifak or some other peripheral character? (one of the Vanatru?) How do I figure this out? (sigh)

I think the only way out of this is to start writing. I know for some of you writers this seems like lunacy, but I don't know any other way. Hopefully the muse will take me through this one as she has taken me through all the others. Her name changes but whatever she calls herself she is still there to inspire and cajole, to pull me out of funks and keep the story going. (Muse? do you hear me?)

How do you deal with a finished book? Do you take a break or start another?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Which one?

Here are three versions of blurb for my new book--without knowing what this book is about, which one would make you want to read it? or if none of them, why?

Coyote yearns to be human but when his wish is granted he discovers that the shaman left out one tiny detail—as soon as he falls asleep he will always return to animal form.
Meeting the human female Sara further complicates Coyote’s life as he is drawn to her in a way he can’t explain. Ignoring Raven’s warnings that he should stick with his own kind, Coyote-man finds himself heading to Sara’s house at odd times, her essence impossible to ignore.
When a cruel trick of fate separates them, Coyote seeks council from a Navajo man who promises to help. Will this man trick him like the other shaman or can he be trusted?
Walking the spirit trail brings answers but not to the questions he asked.

What will happen if Sara learns the truth? Will she turn away from this strange-looking man with the yellow eyes who seems like he comes from a different planet?

Coyote smelled the fire before he caught sight of the flames burning hot and bright in the black desert night. The man in sitting in front of the fire wore a coyote skin over his shoulders, the animal head resting on top of his human head. Coyote had heard of these skin walkers who took the pelts of his brethren to use in ceremonies. Disgusted, he was turning away when the man began to speak.
 There was once a coyote who wanted to become a man, but before he could be granted his wish the shaman asked him for three things.”
Coyote pricked up his ears. He wanted to become a man. Coyote nearly danced with joy.
“You must bring me a star,” the man continued, firelight flickering in his dark eyes.
A star? Coyote gazed upward into the darkness where stars blinked blue and white, wondering how he could ever manage this task.
“Now don’t be discouraged,” the shaman said, noticing his tail go down, his ears drooping. “Think of it like a riddle.”
What was a riddle?

  Coyote wants to be human, but when he’s granted his wish he finds out it’s harder than he thought. He doesn’t understand the behavior of these two-legged creatures who walk by him smelling of rosewater. And when they salute him with one finger extended he's perplexed--does this mean they like him or not? He tries not to listen to Raven’s dire predictions about his future, the bird’s insistence that it is his karma to be a coyote.
When Coyote meets Sara all bets are off. Her sun hair and sky eyes draw him to her in ways he’s never experienced. But what he’d hoped for is dashed when he discovers the shaman’s cruel trick—he will always revert to animal form when he falls asleep.
When the shaman’s mutilated body is discovered on a mountain trail, animal control goes after the lone coyote that’s been hanging around. Despite Sara’s claim that this particular animal saved her life Coyote cannot escape the roaring smoke-spewing beasts or the stinging dart that puts him into darkness. He hears the words 'relocated' and 'euthanize' but doesn't understand their meaning. 
By the time Coyote finds his way back, Sara is gone. Raven tells Coyote that she left with her mate and traveled to the cold country and according to Raven this is a sign. Coyote should forget Sara and focus on his own kind. But Coyote can't forget her. 
Will their paths ever cross again? And if they do will Coyote tell her the truth?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

despondency and disillusionment

Writing is a lonely endeavor. What I said in my last post is true--we cannot control or know how our writing will be perceived or even if anyone will read our books. This can be very disturbing depending on our mental state at the time and can stop us in our tracks.

If we are constantly checking on our ratings, our reviews, how many books have been purchased or downloaded, we forget why we're writing in the first place. Facebook and Twitter can pull us into it as other authors tweet their 5 star reviews or talk about their successes. I don't begrudge them their success but if I begin to compare myself I can get into a seriously bad mood.

In my yoga class on Sunday the teacher talked about expectations and how they can take us out of the moment and drive us nearly mad. The only thing in our lives we really have control over is our thoughts and our speech, which includes writing. If we think we should sell 20 books on Sunday and we sell none our spirits go down, especially if we've taken steps to make this happen. Why didn't it do better? What's wrong with it? Why doesn't anyone like my writing?? Thinking positive thoughts is not the same as expectations. We set our books free and then visualize someone picking them up and enjoying them--an entirely different approach. Being attached to the outcome is the problem.

On the way home from that yoga class I began to think of my books as children who have grown up and gone out on their own. As a mother I want to remove any obstacles that might get in their way but ultimately they have their own karma now.

Of course that doesn't mean we ignore them. Just as we pay attention to our children, we have to look out for our books. We have to tell people about them as best we can without spending hours each day promoting or boring the heck out of our friends. Each author has to find his or her own tribe. And sometimes this takes a while.

I recently listed one of my books on Story Cartel, a site that brings readers and authors together. The main gist of it is to get people to pay Story Cartel to list his or her books for free in return for an honest review. And the cost is not insignificant. Are reviews really that important? Now that I've uploaded my book and paid them I'll have to wait and see.

All of us experience disillusionment from time to time. The trick is to pull out of it before it takes over. When my husband responded to my complaining by saying, "Well, you could just write and not publish",  I looked at him aghast. "No way!" I write because I love to write but I also write because I want my writing to be out in the world. And that psychological piece of it is a subject for another blog.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your comments on the subject.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the inner critic and what to do about it

We all have an inner critic who whispers in our ear from time to time. But how much criticism do we need to listen to? What is too much and what is not enough?

When I'm writing I try to let go of the critic, at least while I'm working on new material. It's not helpful to the creative process to be constantly second guessing and going over every little detail the moment the words are down on the paper. This stymies and clogs our progress more than anything else.

Think of an idea as a tiny seedling that needs to be nurtured to have it sprout. To yank it out of the ground before it has even formed a diploid is just plain cruel! At least give it water and sunlight and let it grow. See what it turns into. It may be a weed but then again it may be an unexpected exotic flower. Give it the time it needs.

If you have trouble with this watch for these little destructive sentences that form in your mind--this sucks, I can't write, I'll never be able to write, why did I start this? who am I to think someone would like what I write? Why am I sitting here wasting my time? No one will ever read this, ____ can really write, why can't I write like him?...and so on and so on...

For one thing the writing isn't about others, it's about you. Unless we're writing formula we can't know that anyone will like what we've chosen to write about. First and foremost you have to please yourself. Write what you love to write about. Forget the adage to write what you know--to me that's boring. I would much rather explore a topic that I'm interested in even if I know nothing about it. The research is half the fun! Tell your inner critic to take a hike while you're writing. Light a candle and call on your muse.

Save the inner critic for the editing part of the process. Once you've got the words down and you feel like the story has progressed to the point where you can go back and take a look at it without crumpling it up and throwing it away, that's the moment to redo a sentence here and there, to add more clarity or to expand on a topic. If you do it too soon you'll block that seedling from growing, cutting off the supply of water and sun it needs to blossom.

And do not under any circumstances give your work to someone to read before you know where you're going! That is unless you trust this person with your life! We are all our own worst critics. Once the work has grown sufficiently you can cut it back, take branches off, weed it, shaping it into your own creation.

Once the pruning is done you can you hand it off to a reader or an editor and be able to take in what they have to say. But even then you have to keep hold of your original intention. No one else has the right to hack away branches that you think add to the beauty of the plant.

Listen to what others say and take their advice or not. The main thing with editing is to make sure the narrative reads smoothly and isn't confusing and that the grammar and spelling errors have been corrected. How you want the plant to look is ultimately up to you and you alone.