Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who, me?

Honestly. What a month this has been! I don't know whether to adjust my tiara as I hobble to the podium in my strappy heels or wonder where the flower wreath came from around my sweaty neck as I stand, sides heaving, in the winners circle. I'm a NaNoWriMo winner! And, completely unattached to NaNo, Sarah has given me a scrappy award. How timely is that? (pls take a scroll down)

I never thought writing 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days was a sane proposition. I entered National Novel Writing Month a few days before it began, mostly because so many other people were excited about it and I thought I should find out why.

What I found out is going to be the subject of another post. I want to let the dust settle before I mouth off. But my gut feeling is I learned some important stuff about the writing process.

And I love my new novel, Sea Daughters, begun Nov. 1. The idea had been brewing a long time and the walls of my writing room are covered with pictures of girls riding seahorses, turtles swimming, fish navigating kelp beds. There are piles of collected sea shells around me and a pink jellyfish in a glass paperweight (huh? It was a gift and it's pretty, especially in sunlight).

And there were signs everywhere all month. The best was me finding an old, plain seashell, worn by time in the dirt of a mountain trail many miles from the sea. I decided that meant I'd chosen the right story. And besides, the characters have been talking up a mammoth wave of words.

My Honest Scrap award comes from the hilarious Sarah With a Chance. If you don't read her blog you are missing out on great fun. The award also comes with rules. I'm supposed to tell 10 honest things about myself and pass it on to 10 bloggers. First Honest Thing: I am contrary about rules. So I propose to tell five things and choose an unknown number of bloggers (which is terribly difficult when there are so many people whose blogs I haunt). I leave the rules open for them, too. They can go 10 plus 10. Or five and five. Or they could divide again and go for 2.5. Can you tell half an honest thing?

2: (see 1 above) I am a Buffy fan forever, my personal BFF. How can I not be? Here's a quote after Buffy accidentally almost stakes Cordelia, who yells, "What is your childhood trauma!" So for all of us with childhood traumas, there is laughter in the dark.
3: I have a lifelong attraction and fear of the ocean. I can't stand to be far from the sea for very long, but I almost drowned as a small child before I learned to swim. Sometimes when I even look at photos of giant waves my heart races, and yet my NaNo novel takes place mostly in the sea.
4: I have a passion for art and love museums and galleries. I'm not an artist but I take photographs and have also created lost-wax jewelry, watercolors, collages and one stained glass piece.
5: I am not organized. I live in chaos but tend to get a lot of things done and on time. I may bend rules but I meet deadlines.

I herby pass this award to these scrappy bloggers:
Andrea Cremer
Karen Denise
Linda Kage
Wendy Prior
Karen Amanda Hooper
Corey Schwartz

And one last BIG ol' shout out. Thank you so much to the new followers and people who have commented on this blog while I have been splashing around this month. I really appreciate seeing you here--Liza, Victoria, Shannon, Stephanie, Angela, Julie, Tamika, Teri, Mary, Barb. *waves* *waves more*

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

At home in the universe

Earth. My planet. My home.
In all the universe, amongst white-hot stars, red dwarfs, black holes, nebula whirls and endless unknowns, there is Earth.
On Thanksgiving when many of us express gratitude I humbly suggest we remember what makes any of us possible. We get to fall in love, raise babies, play with puppies, read novels, press the keys of a piano, listen to waves rumble and collect shells. We choose lipstick shades, dive from cliffs, reel in fish, slide down mountains, fall from the skies, kiss baby feet, smoke turkeys, whip cream and snuggle under comforters.
We do all we do because this planet, our home, nourishes life. Love her back, remember and protect her so life continues to flourish in this outpost in space. Happy Thanksgiving.
This photo of a crescent of Earth courtesy of NASA Image Science & Analysis Laboratory.

Monday, November 23, 2009

That's what friends are for

Is this not a lovely award? Blogging friend Robyn at Putting Pen to Paper bestowed it upon me. Yes, bestowed upon, is the proper language for this. It's so enchanting I feel like I've been given visiting rights to Faerie.

Thanks, Robyn!

And something so pretty ought to be passed along, as well. So I offer it--with no binding agreement to any fairy--to Terresa, Shelley and Natalie, all of whom are lovely visitors and exquisite bloggers of very different styles and subjects. Drop in, enjoy their sites.
And if you haven't, ahem, noticed my sidebar, I'm kicking it on NaNo. As of this moment, 41,379 words in 23 days. And I didn't make any bargain with the fairies. At least, not that I recall.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One step leads to another

Walking leads me to places in my mind. There are two kinds of walking. One with a friend--chatty and all about catching up on gossip, listening to rants, sharing joys and sorrows. I'm talking about the other kind of walking where I'm alone, just me and my mind gone strolling. Sometimes I write whole scenes of my novels while walking.
Today, this California buckwheat caught my eye, rust-colored in its final stage of life but gorgeous against a granite boulder. I stopped to take its picture and began thinking about how death can be beautiful.
Leaves turn red and yellow when trees block off their sap supply to prepare for winter freeze. The leaves have to die to protect the trees. But it is most glorious, is it not?
In such a case, death is a sigh, a rustle on the wind, a sweet release. What would life mean if there was no death? It will take me many walks to ponder that.
As I got close to home, a man sat alone on his porch in the twilight playing a saxophone. I lingered a moment, letting the richness of the notes lead me like a Pied Piper to the streets of New Orleans. I can walk a long way in my mind and never get tired. Do you?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bridges of the mind

Memory is such a curious thing. I've begun to think of it as little bridges we can cross where we see some bit of what's on the other side but may have to travel to find whatever we're looking for. We may get lost. We may get confused. We may change the scenery.
Do I sound obtuse? Sorry if I do, but memory isn't particularly clear cut. Ask several people about the same event and you get different viewpoints, sometimes conflicting.
I have just spent a glorious few days submerged in events with friends and family. Memories were an intense part of the experience, but I began to realize how much they differ from one person to the next. Part of that is what we choose to remember, I think, and part is that there are an awful lot of bridges and distant places in our minds. How could any of us follow the same trails? Or perhaps we know where the dragons live and are sure to avoid that direction. At one event we memorialized someone by recalling his talent and charisma, but we clearly chose not to cross the bridge to where his dragons lived. When I saw a much younger me pop up on a slide show of his life, I waved at her. I thought of her with bittersweet fondness. But I stopped halfway across that bridge and turned back. The room was filled with people whose lives were making new memories. That was the glory.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Universe and you

The Universe has smiled on Lisa & Laura Roecker. They have a publishing deal for "A Kate Lowry Mystery: THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN," a novel that involves e-mail from ghosts so you know the Universe has its fingerprints all over this baby. LiLa also have themselves a Kindle, which appeared so miraculously as to hint at the Big U again, and as they are generous, highly amusing and probably superstitious, they've decided to give away this Kindle in a contest. Friday the 13th, dear reader, is your last chance to win this unique connection to the Universe. Go check it out!
In other news, I am retreating from view for two days for family things, but don't even begin to think I'm giving up on NaNo. I'm almost half way! That story will just simmer on the back burner and, hopefully, not explode all over the kitchen before I stir the pot again. Bad analogy. I'm all writ out.
Friday morning OOPS: I thought the Kindle contest lasted through today but it ended midnight. Sorry if you missed it, but don't miss out on the fabulous news posted on the LiLa blog. The Universe is doing a happy dance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm out to sea

Have you ever walked out of your shoes? Gone Away to the Other Place?
Do people give you odd looks as you sleepwalk through supermarkets or try to remember why you came in the first place? Perhaps, someone sends you gentle e-mails asking how you're doing. Or leaves a little food offering on your doorstep.
I confess I've been immersed in the watery world of Sea Daughters, my new novel-in-progress begun for NaNoWriMo.
I'm sticking my head up to shout out that last night I passed 20K. How this is happening I don't know, because sometimes I'm sure I can not keep up this pace. But here I am and I chose to think it has to do with that magical Other Place.
In celebration I will share a page from what I've been channeling through my mind and fingers. For your reading pleasure, hopefully:
The sun was newly risen, shedding golden light on the sand and water. Hallie had left home as soon as her dad drove off to work. She was wearing a bikini under old sweats. She would have to tuck the clothing in a safe place where she could find it later.
She tried to spot Ondine in the water. A line of pelicans swooped in sync along the lip of a cresting wave, their wing tips almost brushing the surface.
Where was Ondine? There were a few surfers out, mostly down at the pier and T Street. She and Ondine had picked this area south of there where they could use Seal Rock as a landmark. She could hear the sea lions barking and the echo of waves projecting off the cliffs behind her.
She also saw her secret door. Ever since she was small and discovered the metal-mesh door that closed off a narrow passageway into the cliff, she had imagined it was a pirate's escape route or a sealed-off entrance to the land of Faerie. That's where she would stash her clothes, she decided. Whenever Ondine showed up.
A couple of surfers crossed the railroad tracks towards the water. If Ondine didn't hurry, there would soon be a crowd and somebody would notice a girl in a bikini swimming out to sea and not returning. Wouldn't that be just great if the lifeguards and Coast Guard got called?
A hand waved half way between shore and Seal Rock. It had to be Ondine. She must be a good quarter mile out.
Hallie shrugged out of her sweats, rolled them in a ball and hid them, with her flip-flops, under a bush near the secret door. She scurried across the tracks, hip-hopped over the cold morning sand and ran straight into the chilly Pacific Ocean. As she dove under the first wave, she felt like she'd been tossed in an ice bath. She emerged, gasping.
This was either the stupidest or bravest thing she had ever agreed to do.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Once there was a goal

Once there was a goal strong enough to build this tower. I hike often up Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside, Calif. At the top is the Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge. Kids love to climb up the castle-like stone stairs. People read the plaques.
In 15 years it will have been a century since this was built by residents of the city to honor a local leader who tried to promote world peace. It was in the wake of World War I, which was called then the War to End All Wars. It wasn't, as we know all too well.
But the goal of peace, the desire, the motivation lives on as people are reminded whenever they climb up and see this monument.
Motivation is the backbone of novel writing. If your characters don't have it, you've got an empty shell. Sure, you can write compelling action and lyrical prose, but without motivation it goes nowhere.
There's a great quote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut: "Every character should want something even if it's only a glass of water."
If that character is tied up by kidnappers in the desert and hasn't had a sip to drink in a day, that desire becomes critical. The story needs a Big Picture goal as well as smaller ones that lead to it. So that once the character escapes the kidnappers and gets that drink of water he can go back to stopping the alien invasion of the planet or whatever.
On the Literary Lab, Lady Glamis did a great post on the dangling carrot. She developed a motivation map to track how she is driving her characters and creating tension.
I'm reminded of all this as I strive for my own goal of writing 50,000 words of a brand-new novel this month. I've made motivation lists for my characters in hopes I can keep those threads strong as I go. It's a huge challenge, and I don't know if I will make the word count or if I will have written something viable by the end. I do know that it's another invaluable experience.
As of last night, which was the seventh day of writing, I had reached 14,511 words. I'm motivated, and hopefully, my characters are, too. How about you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Keep looking up

Does not a sky like this lift your spirits, make you want to sing and dance and smile at strangers? I feel like today will be glorious and, I'm sharing that hope with you.
Confession: I shot this photo (with my uber-cellphone) last evening not this morning but since the glory has lasted, it must be true.
Stats: I wrote another 2,035 words yesterday, bringing my total to 8,322 in four days. Not bad, huh? Now admittedly a couple of my NaNoWriMo buddies have shot past 11K!!! And a couple of others are struggling to get started. I'm just trying to keep a pace that makes 50K by Nov.30 within the realm of possibility.
Things I've learned or reinforced: We can do more than we think we can. Deadlines really do motivate. The buddy-system gives you strength. Hmmmm, I sound like a motivational speaker or Army recruiter.
Answer to nay-sayers: There are people who poo-poo the NaNo approach, saying all you end up with is a pile of poo. And it is true that by writing non-stop without percolation time and editing will result in some crap, but there have been novels published that were first-drafted in NaNo. The trick is to toss out what doesn't work and plan on heavy revising, which are not really unusual tactics for writers.
What I hope to come away with is the fun of slamming out a story and sharing that experience with other writers, along with a better understanding of how to self-motivate. We all know how easy it is to find excuses. If you play the NaNo game you must work around, over or through the excuses.
And you've got to hope your muse doesn't get tired of being pushed and say, "Later, dude." Anyone have tips on how to keep your muse happy? Plenty of sleep. Walks under pretty skies. Music on the i-Pod. I'm working it, believe me. That finish line is a long way off.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gone word fishing

Some days are about being quiet.

Sunday I tore into NaNoWriMo by writing more than 3,000 words. Monday I added more than 2,000. Today it was about 1,000.

I needed to think, to ponder, to consider where this story is going. So like an egret, I stilt-walked through the water, stirring up the bottom with my foot to see what might be worthwhile.

Tonight I went to my critque group and shared what I had written. And, yay, they liked it.
Tomorrow is another day. My word count stands presently at 6,287 out of the 50,000 I'm trying to reach by month's end. And so I'll say good-night. I'm going to sleep and hope my night-walking stilts stir up some hidden morsels about my characters and their story that will set my fingers blazing across the keyboard with the rising sun. Wishing everyone a beautiful and satisfying day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Catching the wave

I'm feeling all woo-hoo. Yesterday, the first day of NaNoWriMo, I typed 3,157 words of a new YA fantasy novel with the working title, Sea Daughters. In the most simplistic description, it's about a surfer whose mother died at sea and who finds a family she didn't expect.
The goal of NaNo is to write a rough draft of 50,000 words in one month. I was freaking out the night before until I realized all I needed to do with this draft is tell the family's story, not worry about all the details of research and fleshing out that I will do in the second draft. That was a freeing realization. I promised occasional snippets and will give you this one, which comes about page seven after Hallie's father tells her an unsettling story and takes her out to sea to show her where she was born and where her mother died. Hallie's refuge is surfing so that's where she takes herself afterwards.
The afternoon winds had died so the waves were smooth and sharp as glass. Perfect. The water was still cold in April. She ran into it, board held in front of her until she bellied on to it and paddled hard. She went under the first wall of white water, feeling the shock on her face. She shook droplets off her hair, glad as always that she kept it short. Another wave loomed in front of her and she went up and over seconds before it broke.
Her adrenaline was pumping. The waves were good-sized and moving fast. This was going to be fun. She spun her board around as a wave approached and paddled fast as her arms could go so she would be caught up in the wave's momentum. She felt the power of the moving water grab and propel her board, and she rode down its face like a slide. With a slight shift of weight she brought her board up to the lip and then drove down again. She was flying. When she finally kicked out over the top, she whooped.
Hallie lost track of time as she caught wave after wave, each peeling perfectly. After awhile, she realized no one else was in the water and the sun had doused it's light in the endless sea. Well, she was going to get a lecture tonight. But this was totally worth it.
As she waited for another wave, she noticed a dark shape swimming underwater in her direction. Her heart thudded. What was it? A seal? A shark?
Hallie's mouth went dry as it swam right up to her board. And then a girl's head popped out of the water. Hallie felt her jaw drop.
Now it's back to NaNo-rama. The goal is to try for 2,000 words a day, knowing there are days when life gets in the way or days when the muse loves you. Who knows how much I will spew today.