Anticipation

The day before NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. I signed up to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Ambitious, exciting, foolhardy. I remember feeling this last year. At odds about what I was planning to do. Too early to begin, yet not enough time to finish anything else up.

One manuscript is off in two directions. With a Beta reader, and being considered by a publishing house. Tonight I heard from the Beta. She loved it. I hope the publishing house falls in love with it as well. But they will hold it for 90 days. In the meantime, I will go bat-shit crazy waiting for a response.

Another manuscript is screaming at me for a rewrite of the first 30,000 words. My mind, in its continual state of OCD grinds over and over the endless possibilities of new beginnings. But, 30,000 words cannot be written in a night, and this challenge must wait until December.

The third lies dormant on my computer, leaving my main character alone in the outback of Australia for yet another thirty days. I hope his supply of food lasts. I hope the dingoes don’t eat the cows he’s been sent there to care for.

But tonight, I feel restless, anxious and adrift. I’m concerned that tomorrow my allotted 1,500 words for the day won’t come. What if I spend the entire month rewriting the first 75 words? Worse yet, what if my new manuscript consists only of one word, typed over 50,000 times. ‘HELP!’ Yes, that could be the title too!

But then, Halloween is meant to be scary. It’s a good night for it.

 

 

 

Is It Spring Yet?

spring yard

Ahhhh. The sun is out. I want to put shorts on and go lie in the grass. Take out a good book, or my e-reader and spend the day reading in the sun. I have my hat somewhere that I use to shade my eyes from the delightful rays of the sun. Then the sun screen–I need to check the expiration date. But oh. The grass is still soggy. The wonky patio is filled with puddles. The downspouts are still dripping…ugh! I am told I still have ten days to wait.

Then it’s off to my manuscript. It’s spring there.

Creative Obsession

Studio

I have been asked how the creative process works with me. Where my ideas come from, when and where do I write, and the most basic question of all: why?

You can ask Becky. When I’m not working on a project, when my mind is not engaged in a story, I am impossible to live with. Yes, the nice little lady you know as Fai becomes a bundle of nerves seeking out problems to solve. Becky would much rather see me working out imaginary problems for imaginary people rather than inspecting our walls for cracks, timing the draining cycle of our washing machine, and counting our forks yet again.

But my mind is like that. It seeks things to solve and it ponders what could go wrong. I’m learning to train these obsessive thoughts (since I can’t seem to stop them) into turbines of creativity. I find when I’m working, I don’t obsess. My mind automatically works through my fictional characters’ drama step by step. It’s when I reach the end of the creative process and enter the editing and marketing phase that I drop off into the abyss. But that’s a challenge most creative people struggle with.

My ideas come to me when I’m busy doing something else. While I’m washing dishes, I watch Pepe outside stalking a squirrel. Absurd conversations and schemes of squirrel chaos pop into my head and soon I’m drying my hands and grabbing pen and paper to record their dangerous secret plans. Pepe of Noswad and his mission becomes real. Forget Me Not came to me as I was driving home after taking Becky to the airport. The point of inspiration: passing a hitchhiker. Beyond the Black Stump was inspired by cattle stations in the Outback, Australia. Please Understand grew out of a dream I had after I fell asleep listening to a song I liked in the 70’s.

I fall in love with the characters. I write their hopes, dreams, fears, lives onto the page. Words that are strong, words that are weak, words that describe the people and places that populate my mind are woven together. It’s a scary place, my mind. It makes me vulnerable to open it up to you. It’s a very humbling experience.

I’ve carved out a small space in a room that had once been a small attic storage room. I can stand in the center of the room. My table loaded down with computer and printer is under the sloping ceiling. The rain comforts me as it falls, as often happens in Washington State. The guest bed is in there, and sometimes Pepe curls up on the quilt to encourage me. Moxie guards me in the hallway outside the door. She reminds me when I need to eat or go for a walk to clear the emotion out of my heart. It’s good in my studio.

Oh. And the why question. The only answer I have is very simple. I simply must.

Forget You Not

Forget-me-nots

Where do characters go after the story is complete? While the manuscript is shopped to agents and publishers? What space do they fill as the file awaits comments from the editor I hire to go over the words yet again?

Jaime, I miss our daily talks. Our arguments over whether you would return to Paris. I won that argument. Finally, the last word was typed, the file dated and closed. Where are you now, Jaime? I became very attached to your French accent over the last three years. You became an important part of my life.

And now, a new character speaks to me. His name is Cody and he is alone in the Outback of Australia, near Alice Springs. I must write his story now.

I will see you again, Jaime. In January we will open the Madeleine Diaries. Together, we will write what we find there, and we will see the cherry trees bloom once again.

Researching My Research: My Characters’ Homes

french chateau

In most novels, we get a glimpse into the homes the characters live in. Sometimes it’s detailed, sometimes it’s left up to the reader’s imagination. But chances are, the author had a definite idea of what the home looked like and the basic floor plan as the characters went on with their day to day life.

Part of this attention to detail is due to continuity issues. You want to be sure that the green paint in the dining room in chapter three doesn’t somehow turn into blue wallpaper in chapter seventeen. That the blue bedspread they lay on doesn’t change to yellow. In LeMarais, Maggie’s rental home in Seattle has pink bathroom fixtures that Jaime finds repulsive. Apparently, the Bungalow’s bathroom had been remodeled in the 1950’s. It’s very important to make sure that the house is old enough to have such fixtures, or to have been remodeled in this way. And so, it’s not just about the story line. Logic is an important piece of the creation as well. If the world that surrounds the characters isn’t believable, then the characters aren’t believable either. The author becomes untrustworthy.

But it is Jaime’s house that fascinated me the most. I fictitiously placed his home on Queen Anne in Seattle. A four-square, three story house, built in 1911. He has painstakingly renovated it over the five years he has lived there. A project, in part, to occupy his mind and body to keep him out of the liquor bottles that are stored neatly in a beautiful cabinet in his dining room. I know how his home looks, inside and out. Some of it is mentioned in the manuscript, some of it is not. I know he uses sandalwood and lemon oil on the oak mission style furniture. I can smell it when I write about it. I know how many steps he has to take to get to his home office on the top floor.

Does this house really exist? No. But I’ve been in four-squares before, and I know how they feel. I began ‘building’ his house in my mind by looking up four-square house plans. I chose one, and moved some rooms around until it seemed right. The bright yellow bathroom in the downstairs hall, the library off the living room. The dining room, living room and library separated by large oak sliding doors that open into one large space. It was waiting for him to move in, to begin the adventure. As I open the door into his library, I smell the leather bindings of the books with French titles.

And then, there’s the manor house in Versailles. Waiting, always waiting for his return. The curved staircase going up to a room that holds secrets, the cherry trees which can be seen through the cracked kitchen window. For this, I went to www.French-property.com, and wandered through houses that were for sale in France.  I mentally put two or three of these together, and drew out a floor plan that would fit into my story. I fell in love with one of them and wanted to buy it.

My Sci-Fi Writer friends call this ‘world building.’ It’s a process that has no end. You can easily be drawn into the world you create, build your castle, and move in.

Research: Jaime’s Car

Porsche Spyder Boxter Jaime Wolffe

For my manuscript, LeMarais, I needed to choose the right car for my main character, Jaime. He has control issues, perfection is paramount, price no object. In my mind, there was only one choice. I had seen one on I-5 one day, and nearly ran into it because I was mesmerized. I stayed along side of it for as long as I could. When he hit 90 I decided to slow down. Absolutely perfect for Jaime. The Porsche Boxster Spyder.

High end surround sound system, manual transmission, adaptive sport seats plus, interior in Carrera red natural leather, roadster top in red, exterior in Basalt Black Metallic, and the Carrera S Wheels in Basalt Black.

Need I say more?

 

Researching LeMarais: Synagogue de la rue Pavée

I have written several ‘drawer novels.’ Manuscripts that never see the light of day, and live their dramas out inside a closed drawer. Journaling has been a part of my life since I was about ten. Some of these I still have. Most were destroyed over the years.

But while driving home from the airport one day, a story began brewing in my mind. One that wouldn’t let me go, and I began writing the manuscript for LeMarais in March of 2010.

Most of it takes place in the Pacific Northwest. But some of it, the past and the future, take place in Paris. The Internet took me there many times.

Originally, this land was a deep, dark swamp. In 879, the Emperor donated the land to an Abbey, and the swamp was drained. Although still marshy, the Abbey planted the fertile earth with vegetable gardens. Time passed, and the area was built up, eventually beautiful structures were built. As usually happens, the city center moved elsewhere, and the area declined.

There are twenty arrondissements (districts) in Paris. LeMarais is a historic district and is located within the third and fourth arrondissements. You find the oldest churches, temples and art galleries there. As the district revived, hotels and pricey restaurants were opened. The Jewish community is still centered on the Rue des Rosier. Close by, is the Synagogue on 10 Rue Pavée, which is mentioned in my manuscript.

Jaime tells the story of how he, as a small child, went to the Synagogue one day to ask God in person for protection from his abusive father. But all he found were closed gates, and he was chased away. He later learned that the building had been damaged during the bombings of WWII. Jaime questions if God couldn’t protect his own Synagogue, how could He have protected a young child? But we will not deal with that question now.

Synagogue_de_la_rue_Pavée-Paris

What I want to share now is the picture I found of this massive structure. The curved lines, gray stones, and black wrought iron fence adds to the mystery of the building. It gives us no clue to what the inside looks like. I want to open these doors and go in to the holy of holies. I want to find the answers to the questions of faith that I seek.

Because ultimately, that is why I placed young Jaime in front of the locked gate. For I stand beside him wishing to speak with God.

Fai’s Friday Rant

Cat rant

 

The Lowly Adverb

It is so sad, but the adverb, contrary to what I was led to believe as a child, is a thing of plague and ridicule. Notice the ‘so,’ in the sentence above. It tries, in a pathetic way, to explain just how sad it is. But look. It is not needed if I change ‘sad’ to ‘woeful.’ Very true. Beef up the verb and the lowly adverb can crawl away into the cave where it was meant to spend its life.

I am not mourning its going. I am merely irritated why we have these worthless things hanging around in our dictionaries, schools and books in the first place. Shouldn’t we have been slapped silly whenever we used them while we were learning the basics of writing? Shouldn’t they have been kept locked in a vault so we never would learn them in the first place? Shouldn’t they be listed as an illegal word?

Au contraire. We were given gold stars at a time in life when carving out these warts of the English language would have been easy. Now. Well. Let’s just say I have developed a fetish for them that is going to take more than 50 Shades to get rid of. Sigh. Please let me list a few, so I can see them on the printed page one last time. I’ll just choose one for each letter of the alphabet:

absolutely, blissfully, courageously, down, eagerly, fondly, greatly, how, intently, just, knowingly, less, madly, nevertheless, once, politely, quite, respectfully, somewhat, too, uselessly, very, warmly, (is there an adverb that starts with x?), yearly, zanily.

Most everything that has an ‘ly’ added to the end must go. Die. Be gone. Disappear. Why have them in the first place? Can’t we just rip them out of word lists so we are not tempted to try them on for size in our writing? Mark Twain insisted that they die. Steven King thinks the road to hell is paved with them. I’ve been down that road a few times.

If you look through this post, you will find them. I am trying to train myself to ignore their siren call. But it is so very impossibly hard. Oooops! It is extremely difficult. Ooooops! It is difficult to find just the verb to show you what I mean. It takes time to look something up in my worn Thesaurus to intensify the verb rather than allowing little adverbs to carry the sentence, like ants carrying away my piece of cake. In other words, I am lazy. And that makes my writing lazy.

I understand the concept, but I love words. Any words. I tend to take too many to tell a story. Give me a 500 word story, and I can tell it to you in 2,352 words. If you’re lucky. The idea that some words are not worth celebrating is a concept I’d rather not think about. But I must.

And so. Tonight, as I finish the rewrite and subsequent edit, I have made a list of all the unnecessary adverbs that have given their life for the project. They feel unappreciated, used and discarded. I will cry over their graves.

 

Maze to LeMarais

Fai's glitter pen rendition of the labyrinth of Chartres

Fai’s glitter pen rendition of the labyrinth of Chartres

I allow myself to get lost in my story. To go where I’ve not gone before, to allow myself to ask why and celebrate my curiosity. Pushed aside are all the adults of my younger life, gagged so I may never hear, “Because I said so.” HA! Be gone with you.

Why is a good word. One we should never stop asking, even when the answers stop coming. It is then we must address those questions ourselves, to take the labyrinth set out in front of us to discover the answers. When we find them, the answers are truly interesting.

Why did I take this literary journey to LeMarais? Why is a good word.

In many ways I have taken this journey with my characters with my own list of whys. The story is not autobiographical, but with many of the same emotions. A redemptive journey. And yes, I have found some of the answers. My dreams are easier now. As Jaime would say it, his fears are not “… commandeering my dreams at night to stage my nightmares.” (LeMarais)

I took on this project with love, curiosity and a high level of fearlessness.

And I have found so much in the process! People I have met along the way that I would never have found otherwise. These people I proudly count as friends now. I have a better understanding of the lady whose eyes I meet as I look in the mirror. A more sympathetic view of the past, the labyrinth that brought me here, to my own LeMarais.

Then there is the research. Google Maps allows me to wander the streets of Paris on street level. I have spent days trying to find my way (on virtual foot) to various hotels, museums, tourist sites. Good thing is that when I get lost, I can zoom up overhead and find where I am in the maze, relocate myself and continue. I’ve never been able to do that as a real tourist. I want to see where Jaime walked, where he took Maggie. At the moment I can’t physically go there, but I’ve had the luxury of the internet that is truly my magic carpet. I wish there was a button somewhere in the sky we could push when we lose our way in life.

And the adventure continues. Sending out query letters is not for the faint hearted. Sending manuscripts to Beta readers, no matter how gentle and sympathetic they may be is still a daunting, ego threatening task. Maintaining equilibrium when people ask how the manuscript is going when it will be eight weeks before you hear anything is an exercise in practicing a strong belief in myself, my story, and the answer to my question, ‘why?’

Then There’s Spelling

Oh yes. Then there’s spelling.

Someone just pointed out my spelling challenges, and suggested, gently, that I go through my work. Oh no!

I found several, so yes, the qualifying word was ‘rife’ with spelling errors. And so it was. Thank you for the comment; that was a good catch.

However, it got me started thinking about how difficult it is for me to check over my own work. I can edit someone else’s pages quite well, red-penciling, asking questions, helping firm up what they have created with abandon. But not so much with my own. I even have a speller-check available that I can use day or night at my convenience. Yet, still, the little spelling errors creep in and mount up, creating their own havoc with my words.

I have looked through my work and hopefully found many of the mistakes that my reader was snagged on.

I look back over my life, and see many mistakes I’ve made. By lack of attention, willfulness, thoughtlessness, my decisions have been ‘rife’ with errors that are much harder to go back over and correct. No easy edit, highlight and retype. Alas. There is no dictionary, no decision check to know if I got it right.

But still, the days march on, and I am still typing words. Words, as the song says, are all I have. . .