Chandeliers, London Fog and Saturday Mornings

Reflections on my week of writing:

Living in Interesting Times:

“In what could be a landmark moment in the struggle between old versus new technology, Amazon has announced that it now sells more copies of its Kindle ebooks than traditional paperbacks.”  (Richard Adams in The Guardian)

Word Count: Steady 

Body Count: Increasing

Social Media: Check out my new website, http://www.Jo-AnnCarson.com.  It took a lot of blood, sweat and curses but I did it!

One of my favorite places to write:

It’s become a ritual. On Saturday mornings I  slide out of the house, at dawn, with my laptop on my back and a few coins in my pocket. I wander along the harbor taking in the stillness of the ocean and the freshness of the salt air. There are only ducks and a few people out this early. I pass the man who does his karate Kata’s with a sword in an open space, the odd dog walker and a few street people. My destination is a cafe downtown. The staff  welcomes me in from the cold, like I’m a long lost member of the family. I order a medium London Fog (Earl Grey tea, steamed milk and a half shot of vanilla). The tall ceilings and large windows give the room a feeling of spaciousness and freedom. The large chandeliers give it a touch of the eccentric. Music plays in the background. I settle into the back corner. People come and go, enveloping me in a steady human hum of  laughter and camaraderie. I relax into a working frame of mind. Words begin to flow, characters swirl in my head and my elusive plot opens up. I love my Saturday writes.

Do you escape to a favorite writing spot? What’s it like?

Alpha Male meets Janet Evanovich

Normally, I keep my romance writing “thing” away from my six foot five, alpha male husband, but Saturday I wasn’t feeling normal. I wanted to see One for the Money, a movie adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s novel. I wanted to see it badly. My daughters and girlfriends were busy, so I twisted the arm of my other half.

What can I say? He likes my cooking. He agreed to go.  There are no tanks, or cowboys in the story, so I kept telling him it would be funny. It was my only hope. My stomach twinged as I imagined his response to Stephanie Plum, the bumbling, kick-ass bounty hunter.

I think I patted his arm one too many times, because he began to furrow his brows. “It’s not like The Black Swan is it?.”

“Ugh, no.” I winced, wondering how he would respond to the steamy Ranger character.

“And it’s a love story?”

“Yeah, kinda. There’s one heroine and two,” I coughed, “handsome heroes, and…”

“Uh huh.”

But his response to the movie surprised me. He laughed at all the funny spots and cracked up when the Grandmother shot the turkey. In short, he thought the characters were great and enjoyed the zany plot.The finances of the bond company irked him, but that’s a minor detail.

I enjoyed the movie, but not as much as the book. Evanovich brings her characters to life, so brilliantly they live in my head long after the story is over. On the screen, I found them two dimensional. But that’s me. Make no mistake, I did enjoy the movie. I recommend it and would give it 7 stars (on a scale of 10).

So why am I writing about this?  My movie date reminded me that good writing transcends genre. It reaches out and captures the heart and imagination. …and in Evanovich’s case –the funny bone.

Comments?

One for the Money – Movie Trailer on You Tube

My Synopsis Fantasy

Looking back on my week of writing:

  • Idea: Don’t worry about all the books I want to write, focus on the one I’m writing. (paraphrased from Norman Mailer)
  • Word Count: Growing.
  • Social Media: Hooked. Isn’t admitting it the first step?
  • Research: This week, I learned, that Centrale Bibliotheek, the public library near Centraal Station in Amsterdam is the largest library in Europe.
  • Gripe: The limits of my creative energy.

My Fantasy

Fear comes  in the wee hours of the night, haunts your dreams and  eats away in the corners of your mind. It stalks you through your day like an unwanted shadow. It knows your weaknesses, for you are its prey.  Make no mistake, if you are not careful fear will rule your life.

So what do you fear? Creepy bugs, monsters under the bed, random terrorists, …running out of chocolate…?  Fear. We all fear. Some of its big and some of it’s little, but it’s all paralyzing.

My greatest fear, at the moment, is writing a synopsis.  Compressing my sixty thousand word baby into two thousand words takes more than a well structured girdle. I don’t want to leave out characters I’ve been living with for months, or amputate pieces of plot that have swirled in my head so long that they have melded with my internal circuitry. So what can I do?

I have a fantasy. I will hypertext the lot.  Wouldn’t that be nice? Imagine my whole synopsis neatly typed on one page. Every second word would link to other pages, but I would have managed to stay in the proper ‘word count’ and said what I wanted to say.

My fantasy goes farther… Imagine a computer that could take my hyprertexted synopsis analyze it, with some random algorithm a fifteen year old savant who doesn’t need to shave yet has  devised, and instantly know whether it’s sell-able. Who knows what the future will bring.

Yeah, I know… I need to get my head out of my digital fantasy and write the wicked thing.

Do you have any advice on synopsis writing? Any favorite drinks to help me through it? Maybe a preferred chocolate treat? How do you do it?

Stephen King’s Basement

Dover Castle, Kent

Stephen King talks about  inspiration:

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust …He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level… You have to do all the grunt labor… while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you….[But] he’s got the inspiration…[He’s got] the bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me. I know. ( Stephen King, On Writing, Scribner, 2000, p. 144,145)

Before I go to sleep, at night, I don’t talk to a cigar smoking guy in the basement. He’s not mine. He belongs to Stephen King.

I talk to the ladies.  Wearing sexy, black lace lingerie held together with red ribbons they listen to me. There are at least three of them and more in the background, and they look like they came out of a saloon on Gunsmoke. They have long, dark  curly hair pulled up into loose buns, with tendrils falling down, and wise eyes. Why are they ladies? Why do they look like that? Who knows. I tell them what I have to figure out for my story, and they  surprise me in the morning.

The power of the subconscious fascinates me. I’m trying to not analyze it. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I understand the creative process as long as it works.

My thoughts on craft for this Monday morning.

What’s in your basement?

My Muse Drools

Chester

Reflections on my week of writing:

  • Time slips through my fingers like water. I struggle to hold onto it, but I can’t.
  • Word Count: I’m coming up to the half way point, rounding the corner, looking up at the twisted path to the Dark Moment and trembling in my slippers. Pushing the first draft through is like dragging a jagged rock up a hill side, mottled with sneaky pits of quicksand. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. But I struggle with the process and uncertainty of it all.
  • Social Media: Is the seduction of SM hurting, or helping my writing? Time will tell.
  • Research: This week, I learned, “stiletto” is an Italian word for a small metal dagger. (Who knew?)
  • Gripe: Using”text” as a verb sucks. It’s necessary for plot but hits the ear like shards of shattered glass. As in: He texted, “I love you.” (Uggh.)   or… His text read: “I love you.” (Better, but I don’t like to hang out in the past tense.) I swear, “text” is a noun that the gods, of all that is right in writing, never meant to be mangled into a verb. Couldn’t we change it to something easier on the ear like cybered?

Chester: My muse is a hundred pound, drooling Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Chester. My husband could time the steaks on the barby by the length of his drool which hung down both sides of his mouth. Three inches was about right for a medium rare, Costco tenderloin. He was at peace with his drool. I’m sure he knew it wasn’t his most appealing feature, but he shared it anyways. His  favourite spot for rubbing it was on my skirts. He had a thing about dresses.There were  many  mornings he chased me around the house while I screamed, “Nooo Chester, Nooo…”   Chessie drool smells foul. Believe me, once you’re  marked by a Chesapeake, the world knows you have a big  hound dog in your life. That or a sewer.

So why is Chester my muse? I could tell Chester anything. He was a devoted  listener. He made me believe that anything I said was a pearl of wisdom dropping from heaven. His soulful eyes looked at me with a depth of love that touched my soul.  I would tell him the secrets of my heart and read him my writing. He listened to it all. It was like he understood me. And no matter what I said or did, he loved me. He saw the family through many of life’s speed bumps, and was like an anchor in our stormy world. What more could I want from a muse?

Chester passed on to doggy heaven last spring, but he will be forever the best dog I ever had – and my muse.

So…my muse drools. What does yours do?

7 Steps to Making Great Sex

The Kiss, by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)*

“Where most beginning writers screw up (you should pardon the expression) is in thinking that sex scenes are about sex. A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids.” (Diana Gabaldon, Chatelaine Magazine, Feb. 2012, p. 160)

When it comes to writing great sex scenes, Diana Gabaldon is considered a master. Her article in Chatelaine  makes the writing of ‘the steamy stuff’ seem do-able. Armed with my mighty, yellow highlighting pen I reviewed every detail and came up with what I call Diana’s Big Sexy 7:

  1. “A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids.”
  2. It, “… can encompass any emotion.”
  3. Lust gets boring. It’s not an emotion.
  4. Show the emotion through dialogue, expression or action.
  5. Dialogue is, “the most flexible and powerful tool…What people say reveals the essence of their character.”
  6. “Anchor” the scene with physical details. Choose sensual not overtly sexual ones.
  7. Use metaphor and lyricism, if possible.

“In essence, a good sex scene is usually dialogue with physical details.”

Gabaldon has sold over 19 million books worldwide and is well known for her Outlander series.  She makes writing sex sound easy, but it’s not.

Deconstructing a moment in time that is so intensely personal, and powerful is difficult. I want it to change my characters’ lives, but that’s easier said than done. For me, it’s about making love.

Got any tips to add to Diana’s Big Sexy 7?

______

*(Depicts lovers from Dante’s Divine Comedy condemned to wander Hell for eternity. http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/collections/sculptures/kiss-0)

Slapped Silly by SoMe

It's been one of those weeks.

Yes, this week I was slapped silly by SoMe (Social Media). I’d been toying with the idea of creating a writing platform for some time, but last Sunday, after hearing multi-published author Mimi Barbour talk about Twitter, I couldn’t hold back any longer. The dam holding my digital inhibitions shattered into a million pieces.

I’m kind of a shy gal, so I thought I’d take it slow. I set up a free blog with WordPress, reactivated my Twitter account and dipped my toe into Goodreads. OMG. Two days later I was up and running and getting great support. For example, my tweet announcing my baby blog was retreated to over 600 fellow twits. Imagine! The power of SoMe hit me. HARD.

On another note, my manuscript is  meandering along. I’m working on the first draft of the second book in my contemporary, category, Romantic- Suspense Series. I’m calling this one, Hidden (at the moment).  I hope that it’s ending doesn’t remain that way for too much longer:)

One of the  wonderful things about being a beginning writer is that I can see my writing improve by leaps and bounds, basically because it’s got so far to go … and I keep meeting up with great workshops, talented writers, books, critique partners and life. It’s exciting and fun. I feel like a kid who’s discovered a new playground.

I hope the words I wrestle with in my pajamas will  someday make sense. That’s my reflection on my week of writing.

I’m ending the week with a video clip of Steve Jobs talking about what it takes to succeed: