Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is It Thursday Already?

My computer tells me so. Not convinced.
I think I need more sleep to believe this one.

I had another coyote sighting early this morning. It was still dark outside when I saw him trotting down the sidewalk just outside my kitchen window. Creepy. Do you think coyotes are as afraid of me as I am of them? Based on their behavior I'd say the answer to that question is yes. But if I had sharp flesh-tearing teeth and an enhanced animal instinct I'm sure I wouldn't act nearly as skittish as they do.
I wish I saw them more often. Twice in one week isn't enough.
Coyotes! Why can't we be friends? Is it because the foxes are also afraid of me?

I'm being stalked by my next story idea and I have to keep telling it, "please come back and visit when I have time to write you." Which isn't good. So I think it's time to restructure my schedule.
Idea 1: wake up earlier, sleep less
Idea 2: stop time from moving forward
Idea 3: stop sleeping altogether
Idea 4: ??
Ideas anyone?

Not sure I can keep this one away much longer. It's rather stubborn.

Fall arrived much faster than I was expecting. I know I've been talking about Fall a lot lately and one would think I was prepared but yesterday while I was driving I noticed a whole heck of a lot of leaves on the ground. My heart did this little stop, shake, shimmy thing and suddenly I was surrounded by snow, cold, darkness. Sigh. Why does Winter always have to follow Fall? Why can't we just change things up a bit every once in a while. Wouldn't it be fun if we got Fall and then Spring and then Summer and then Fall again? Just once?
I mean. Can't we just skip Winter? Can we? Huh? Can we? Please?

There's a whole lot of talk about book banning all over the internet. Again. Not sure why banning books is ever an option. If we're going to start banning things in this supposed non-banning country could we start with horror movie previews that air while I'm watching TV? Or can they at least put up a warning that flashes two seconds before the preview begins. I need a warning, People! I choose not to watch horror movies for a reason. I'm a wuss. My mind and horrific images don't mix well.
And for all of you book banners out there, just don't read the book! I mean, come on. If something offends me I steer clear of it. Chances are I'm not the only one. But just because I have an opinion doesn't mean I get to decide for everyone else.
I read Speak. Why is this book causing such an uproar? Did the person who wants to ban it even read it?
I thought it was a beautiful book. It made me cry. Books rarely make me cry. I even went out and rented the movie, which was okay. Kristen Stewart did a great job.
But the book was better. Did I have to tell you that?
I remember finishing the book and thinking, if only I could write like this. Laurie Halse Anderson writes with sincerity. Her characters are real and beautiful and heartbreaking.
So what's my response to all this book banning nonsense?
I think they should stop forcing The Scarlet Letter on high school children and instead make them read Speak.
What did I learn from The Scarlet Letter? How to analyze a book to death, a book that has yet to slip back into my thoughts.
What did I learn from Speak? Writing is beautiful. And storytelling is therapeutic. Melinda's story still sneaks up on me. Take that Hester Prynne.
Soapbox + Me = Done

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review!!

Yes. It is that time again.
Now for all of you keeping score at home I'm about to shake things up a bit. Today's book isn't a Young Adult book. Hard to believe. I know.
So I have this friend, Michelle, (Hi Michelle *waves and smiles*) who loves to read. Don't know how she manages to. She has two young twins at home and two beautiful boys as well and...enough said. She's busy.
But she highly recommended The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Insisted actually. And WHEW! BOY! Was I unprepared for this one. When I checked it out at the library — because, honestly, I wasn't so sure I was going to like it — I almost had to ask the man at the reference desk to help me carry it out to my car. Yes. It's that heavy. In fact I'm pretty sure my wrist is in need of some physical therapy now that I've finished reading it. 832 pages. WOW. Michelle should have warned me to work out first.
The Bronze Horseman is the first in a trilogy. And if you plan on having a life in the near future don't, I repeat, DON'T read this book!
About 25 pages in I was hooked and only because I was rather distracted during the first 25 pages.
Her writing is simple and beautiful. Young and intuitive. And Tatiana, the MC, is as strong as they come. I've been searching for a young female protagonist that doesn't bore me, annoy me or ultimately end up as a complete and utter wimp.
The relationship between Alexander and Tatiana is quite intriguing. She's young and naive. And he's not.
Oh. And there's a war too. World War II in the Soviet Union. During winter.
I found myself hoarding food between chapter breaks. I think I gained 5 pounds just reading this book. After finishing the Hunger Games trilogy I didn't think it was possible to feel hungrier while immersed in a book. But I was wrong.
Now, I'm off to find book 2. Cause I'm crazy that way.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Music!! And A Whole Bunch of Random


So I hope you all enjoyed last weeks music selection! I know I did!

Today we're going to feature a band I've never seen live. Crazy. I know!
However, they were truly inspirational while I was working on Book 2.
I listened to Local Natives over and over again while I was working out some important details such as plot, character development and oh yeah! romance. All very important elements when throwing together 77,000 words.

The best thing about "writing music" is that it adds to the story going on inside your head without intruding upon what's going on inside your head.
Yeah. That.

So now everyone go on out and give this band a listen. Cause I said so.

In other news I'm still out on submission. Both books are still out in that place I like to refer to as What If-land, a land where everything we want in life floats just out of reach. Some days I like this land, it gives me goosebumps and a jittery stomach, while other days I curse it and do my best to pretend it doesn't exist.

I've decided to be optimistic. For most of my life I've believed without a doubt that I was capable. Capable of anything.
Yeah. So I'm going with that.

The brainstorming is coming along. Every opportunity I have my mind is working working working.
Yesterday while driving home with the Adventures of Pooh playing in the backseat I didn't yell, "Tiggers are wonderful things!" at the appropriate time.
So. Progress.

I have a new TV obsession. (Which isn't exactly helping with the brainstorming.)
My husband and I have started watching Friday Night Lights. We've been streaming it on Netflix. 18 episodes in I'm hooked. And I don't even like football. Thank goodness there really isn't a whole lot of football in the show. Although, husband seems to have issue with that.

Oh! And right now it is raining and the trees are no longer Summer green.
Fall has arrived.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Easily Distracted

Every once in a while I answer a photography question. I don't mean to. Usually these questions are directed at my husband. If you want to know anything technical about cameras, camera gear or photography ask him. He knows the answer. I, on the other hand, don't talk shop. And there's a reason for that. I don't pay attention to the technical stuff. It's not that I don't know the information. I just don't think about it. I'm too caught up in the story.

Yesterday was a big day here in Shariland. You see the new Tinker Bell movie came out. Number three.
We were all very excited. I've always loved Tinker Bell. I'm a huge Peter Pan fan. Read the book and loved the movie when I was a kid. I even made sure to snap a photo of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens when I took a trip to London a lifetime ago.
So after a very exciting jaunt to Target we unwrapped the movie and slipped it into the DVD player. We were not disappointed.
The movie was beautiful as always and as sweet as the rest of them. But I mostly enjoyed watching my daughter watch the movie.
If you could bottle innocence and awe I'd have a lifetime collection.
She doesn't just watch a movie she disappears into them. The scenes, the dialogue, the colors.
She is so much like me. She gets caught up in the story.
I wouldn't say I'm easily distracted. I can focus on a project like no other. But if there's a hint of a story brewing around me I'm lost forever.
Some people find it difficult to write with music or any other noise around them. They need silence. I find that certain music is very distracting. Music that is too story-telling, you know like country music or folk. Or Wilco, whatever category they fall into. I don't need other stories complicating my own.
But some music has a mood or feeling. And you all know my infatuation with feeling.
So finding the perfect mood music can be a bit of a struggle. Not only does it have to match what I'm working on but it has to inspire me. And sometimes it leads me somewhere I wasn't expecting. The story takes over, travels down a path I didn't even know existed. New characters pop up, the plot twists and suddenly I'm writing a completely different story.
This is why I don't outline.
Perhaps I am easily distracted.

Monday, September 20, 2010

NEW! Monday Music!

Yep. It's that time of year again where I find that a rather large pile of sweatshirts and light jackets are making their way into my car.
I love Fall.
I especially love when you slide into your car and it's that perfect sun-heated temperature that makes you want to close your eyes and take a nice little kitty nap. (Not recommended if you're driving at the time.)

So we're going to try something new here on Daily Distractions! Every other Monday or so will be Monday Music where I mention a band or song or CD that has inspired me to write. Perhaps these suggestion will either help with whatever creative venture you are on or at the very least add to your collection of music.
Sound fun??
Yeah music!
My husband introduced me to Sigur Ros quite a while ago. And I love them. I really do. The music is haunting. Some songs help with writing while others I love to listen to in my car. Really really loud. And I try not to think at all.
But I'm not going to write about Sigur Ros today. I'm going to write about Jonsi. You see Jonsi is the lead singer of Sigur Ros and Jonsi is his solo project. All I have to say about this new CD is that without it I never would have finished book 2. Nope. Never would have happened. I listened to this album on repeat hour after hour until I typed the very last words. Some songs more than others. In fact the song Grow Till Tall is responsible for a rather important scene, a crucial scene I was struggling with until I heard this song.
I'd love to make a book trailer and use this song.
Jonsi, if you're reading this, please call me.
Over on my little playlist thingy are some Jonsi songs but I really think you should all go out and listen to the entire album. Yes. Every last song.
And then go and buy tickets to one of their concerts.
I've been to many many concerts. So many I feel as if I could have bought land and built a house with the money I've spent on concerts. Sad to think about in retrospect.
If you have the opportunity to see this tour, the Go Tour, you should go. I mean seriously. It has to be the best concert I've ever seen. Better than seeing U2 in Vegas. Better than every sold out show that got rave reviews and left me smelling like other people's sweat. And hair products.
Visually it is stunning. And the music, well, just go.
Perhaps you'll come away inspired.
Now wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Dressed In Front of Strangers

So today I had to go into a federal building of some sort. I won't bore you with the details. And thank goodness the signs posted in the lobby warned me to leave my guns and knives outside the security check. WOW! That would have been embarrassing! But I did have to remove my belt.
I don't usually wear a belt. Most days I walk around yanking my shorts or jeans up around my waist, occasionally flashing some innocent mom at the park or mall. (Cause that's where all moms hang out, right?)
But today I wore a belt.
The man at the security check very politely asked me to remove it. Well, he didn't exactly ask. It was more like, "remove your belt."
And of course I did. With a "swish" reminiscent of a sword fighter. (In case that didn't make sense to you I removed it rather quickly.)
So up up up I went in the elevator, desperately trying to slip my belt back into the tiny belt loops on my jeans while perfect strangers observed me.
Apparently they knew better than to wear a belt inside this building.
The reason I'm even telling y'all this story is that there are days when I feel like I'm naked and struggling to get dressed in front of a room full of strangers. Days like today for instance. When I go to check my email and find an incredibly, horribly evil and downright rude rejection just lurking there for me to read and I feel as if the child I carried for twenty-four months, birthed twice and then spent the next ten years primping into perfection has been bitch slapped. Yes. That is what it feels like. And then! And then their favorite toy is ripped from their grasp and thrown into a ditch.
Yes. Rejections. They can truly ruin your day.
And just in case you were wondering, the most painful rejections are not the ones that tell you how horribly bad you are. Nope. It's actually quite the opposite.
They're the ones that explain in detail how much they liked the manuscript and how it was "so close."
I know all about "so close."
Right now I'm "so close" to losing my mind.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Something Is Brewing...

I know. I know. I said I was going to continue book 2 and now book 3 is pushing its way into the forefront of my mind. It began yesterday. The day was gloomy, slightly cold, even though the weathermen forecasted sunny and seventy degrees.
The trees are just beginning to change, mostly green with a subtle splash of color.
It felt like Fall.
And strangely enough my husband, kids and I were at a Fall Festival down on the Green. But it really wasn't so much a Fall festival, it was more like a Summer carnival. I mean, where was the apple cider? The smell of apple donuts?
Perhaps it was camouflaged by the overwhelming smell of pizza, fried dough and cotton candy.
We were hanging out by the rides — my four-year-old has carnival ride radar and can locate a carousel within a twenty-mile radius — and that's when I noticed that the backdrop to the wall of dingy carnival rides was our local cemetery.
Creepy, right?
While I was watching my daughter ride around in circles, her face lit up with a smile, I would occasionally notice a group of teenagers wander off into the graveyard.
And that's when it hit me.
The feeling.
Dark and foreboding. Chillingly exciting.
Yep. You guessed it.
Book three has arrived.
You see my books always start with a feeling. Rarely in the beginning do I meet the characters, never do I get to know the ending. It's as if I'm on a need-to-know basis.

So now I'm collecting music — my writing playlist is very important — and brainstorming ideas. I'm so drenched in this feeling it puddles at my feet.

I can't wait to find out what happens!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why I Write

Lately I've been frustrated with this whole writer-thing. The process is mind numbing and I'm feeling broken. After reading around on the internet I find I'm not alone. Authors, no matter whether or not they are published, are struggling. We are in a creative field. A competitive, creative field where everyone fears that one day they will wake up and either discover they are no longer creative or realize they were never that creative to begin with. Trends have been set. And the world has moved on without them.

This industry is constantly changing. Are werewolves, vampires and faeries a flash in the pan or are they outstaying their welcome? I know I've never really been a fan of faeries and until recently vampires and werewolves were a bit too gruesome for me. So perhaps I'm not the best person to answer that question. But here's what I do know...I'm a storyteller.

And that's all I am, folks. I tell stories. Always have. When I enrolled in photography school I had one goal in mind. Become a photojournalist! Travel the world and use my camera to tell a story. But by the time I graduated I wasn't so sure I wanted to head on out to places unknown so I figured I'd tackle New York and Connecticut. There was this elusive enchantress I had to capture first, the bride. She dazzled me, flirted with me while I struggled to capture each provocative moment. It was a fun story to tell. Colorful, emotional and engaging. And it helped pay the bills.
Even though I still find myself drawn into that world it truly isn't the story I want to share anymore. I have new voices in my head. They moved in right around the time my father passed away and until their stories are told they won't be silenced. And that's okay. I like them. Behind their dynamic pleas to be heard is my father's softer voice. He tells me I should keep trying. He's always believed I should write.
I may not write for everyone but the stories I tell are those I would have read when I was a young adult. Forget that. I'd read them now. I guess I'll never grow up.

And this blog. It helps. While I'm writing or not writing I feel like I'm connecting with people. Getting thoughts down. Polishing my chops until I have more reasons to write like deadlines or readers or when more voices move in and replace the voices I hear now.
Yes. That's why I write. In the end it will all be worth it. I believe that. If not for the voices, for me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wandering Characters

Last night I sat down and watched a movie. Big night, I know! I'd collected a few movies on Netflix and figured since I'd finished my first successful read through of book 2 I deserved a break. I was also feeling a bit brain dead and I find sometimes you just can't force creativity. Not only is it virtually impossible but it's also quite ugly to look at!
So I turned on Jane Campion's Bright Star.
Now I love period movies. Especially if they are set in England or Scotland or, well, pretty much any country that ends in -land.
I also love movies that look like moving photographs. So many times during the movie I found I was distracted by the colors and scenery, like I was the one holding the camera and would occasionally change the vantage point the way I do when I'm on a shoot. And since the movie moved quite slowly I was able to enjoy each visually stimulating scene.
Now this movie wouldn't make my top ten list, even though I was very entertained, but it did bring to mind something I've been spending a lot of time thinking about. Character development.
You see the female MC in this movie had a very strong personality and from the very first scene she came off as overly confident and headstrong. But then every once in a while these crazy insecure moments would pop up and get me thinking...wait? what did I miss?
Now I'm not sure if this was just a quirk of her character or not. Nor will I ever know. But I do know that this occasionally happens when I'm reading. I often pause and think, I don't actually believe the character would say/do or think this.
It's very important that characters don't wander. I mean I get that people are strange and unpredictable but when I'm reading a book or watching a movie it's crucial that I figure them out. The characters, I mean. Even if I don't like them. I need to know them.
Characters should be nailed down, set in a coloring book where their colors are within the lines of reason.
Leave the surprises to the plot twists.

Old Friends

Even though there are a whole lot of books coming out over the next few months I find I'm in the mood to revisit old friends. You know the characters you fell in love with the first time you read the book and when you reread it the second time around you realize just how much you missed them.
Yes. This happens to me a lot. In fact there are certain books I go to when I need some quick instruction on how to:
a. create chemistry between the two lead characters
b. add insight or sincerity to a character
c. make that voice sing a whole lot louder
d. move the book along at a much quicker pace

This is one of the biggest reasons I've fought the whole ebook situation. As cool as it would be to carry my extensive collection of books around inside a hand held device I love to walk on over to my towering bookshelf and take in all the beautiful book covers and boldly printed author names.
There it is! My favorite Judith McNaught novel! This will help me get my male MC to grip the reader in just the right way! And Sara Zarr! If I have time I will read all three of your books! Nothing is more inspiring than the sincere heart behind an author. You can't learn that in school, friends. Nope. No, you can't.
So right now while I'm reworking book 2 I find I'm revisiting. Stopping in here and there just to say hi and remind myself how to not only sell a book but get a reader to come back and visit again and again.
So you tell me...
What books do you revisit??

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Reader Fan #1!!

Well, hello there! While everyone around here will be celebrating Labor Day I will be celebrating my mom's birthday! (HI MOM!) Today she turns, well, she turns a year older. Unfortunately, since she lives way out west in Utah, and I don't, we will not be eating cake together. Instead we will talk over the computer where she will watch my oldest child sing her heart out while the youngest one screams. That's pretty much how he shows his enthusiasm. And everything else he feels. You get used to it after a while. Kind of. So happy birthday, MOM! We'll be screaming at you soon!

In honor of my mom's birthday — seeing as she's my biggest reader fan — we're going to talk a little about readers. How important it is to have them when you are writing and what makes a good one.
I know you're all asking, "what's a reader?"
And I have to say, "Hey, thanks for asking!"
A reader is someone who:
1. wants to read your book
2. tells you how it is
3. still loves you 12 revisions later
I think my mom has read my books more than I have. *applauds mom*
As lovely as it is to have a mom that loves me and my work it is also important to have readers that will read with a critical eye. Luckily in my family I have three sisters who tell me straight, actually enjoy telling me straight and do it often. So there's that. Yeah me! And I'm also blessed to have some great friends who read A LOT!!!
I always seek their advice before I send it to my agent. In fact once I have compiled all their suggestions I sit down and work out that final edit. And then I leave it alone. And don't read it. But think about it a lot. And then go back after days and days have passed and the material is no longer fresh in my mind and then I tweak it some more.
And that's how I work.

Update: Almost done with my revision on book 2! Looks like I just might be writing book 3 soon!! HIP HIP!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hello Friends!!

So I'm revising book 2. No, I wasn't told to. Not yet at least. I just miss them! My characters that is.
They were inside my head for a solid 5 months and now they only pop up occasionally. Like when I'm eating lunch and dinner or when I'm driving in my car or trying to sleep. Okay. They pretty much harass me all the time. Except breakfast. The only thought that enters my mind first thing in the morning is, how can I get more sleep?
And since you asked the real reason I'm revisiting book 2 is I really really really want to continue the story. I know. Bad Shari! But too bad. I'm doing it. I'm not ready to move on yet. I want to keep writing about my friends. They have so much more to experience. There's a whole heck of a lot of story left to write. Can you tell I'm excited? Can you? HUH?
Normally I would discourage this kind of behavior — you know continue a series when the first book hasn't sold yet — but my mind won't move on.
Do you know the other really cool thing about revisiting a book?
I have a fresh perspective! Suddenly I'm seeing things I never saw before! I'm adding danger and more mystery! And LOVE!! Yes. It's like I'm a chef adding ingredients to a stew. Or. Um. A writer revising her book.
Holy cow! For a moment there I was all excited about cooking. Don't worry. It passed.
So stay tuned.
And. Um.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

With Fall just around the corner (yes I know it's like a 100 degrees outside right now) and kids throughout the neighborhood returning to school I am reminded of that time in my life when I first discovered my love for reading.

Now I'm going to skip right over the Encyclopedia Brown days and try not to mention how many Sweet Valley High books I owned (all of them) and focus on the books that got me thinking, one day I'm going to be a writer!
It was probably just after I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
And right around the time I read The Pinballs by Betsy Byars and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
For the first time I felt like what I was reading was significant. I was fascinated by the real people featured in these books. They were young, imperfect and faced with real life problems. Finally something I could relate to.
Now don't get me wrong...I really do love me a good escape novel. But you have to give an author a whole lot of credit if she can make you feel something you wouldn't normally feel. Or don't want to feel. In-your-face reality isn't something I usually race to the bookstore to buy but I can't help but be impressed by writers who can pull it off.

Now I definitely don't want to forget about Lois Duncan or Judy Blume.
Judy Blume had me convinced that every single odd characteristic or personality quirk I possessed was not only completely normal but strangely appealing. And Lois Duncan...well she got me all kinds of obsessed with ESP and telepathy. So much so that I occasionally freaked out my friends at slumber parties with my strange mind games.
Yes, I know. I was a weird kid.
But thanks to these authors my love of books and reading began. And now I can thank them when I grow up and become a writer. Yes. They will definitely make the acknowledgment page.