Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The best laid plans. . .often turn into more!

What started out as a 40K word novella is moving toward a full-length novel. Ruthann’s War was going to be a ‘fun write’--a break from the hard work of putting together two series in three years. The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series spun into six books, while The Dreamland Series wound up with only three (thank goodness!). With a book and a sequel needing to be formatted for publication, I decided I’d earned some R&R, which for me meant some no-stress-no-pressure tale spinning. Hence, the idea for Ruthann’s War.

The entire point of the new story was to give ‘blogging a book’ a try. I’d done it before with plenty of views but then ended up taking it down and making it book #1 of a series. This was going to be just for fun, you understand. Alas, as the poet Robert Burns wrote prophetically, The best laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley. And mine did.

Oh, yes, I brought in the finished story quickly and under 50K words, but in the process I fell love with the two MCs--Ruthann and Jeff--and I couldn’t give them short shrift. So the revisions began, and I added a bit here and a bit there, and I’m still at it!

Ruthann  Her fiance died when his B-17 went down over Germany in 1943. She doesn’t want to admit it was just a wartime romance, but now she can barely remember him. When she arrives for her first teaching position in Camden, she meets Jeff and sets off a storm of controversy in the small town.

Jeff  A German shell knocked him head over heels during the war to end all wars years before Ruthann was born. He’s held onto the ruined leg and a past which haunts him. One look at Ruthann convinces him he’s finally ready to move forward to being more than just the superintendent of the Camden Schools.

Joan is devoted to the father who raised her, she’s not ready to give him up to anyone--much less Ruthann who’s only a year older than she is. And she’s not ready to confess her secrets to her father either.
Rena  doesn’t hide her ethnic background because she’s ashamed of it but because other people wouldn’t see her as the same person if they knew the truth. She owes Jeff for her narrow escape from a mistake that might have shattered her life, and she knows Ruthann is right for him.
Julia  helped Jeff raise Joan and has hidden the truth about them for  years. But her desire for revenge against the person who took the love of her life may explode a ticking time bomb.
Merle takes what she wants and doesn’t care about the wreckage she leaves behind. And she wants Jeff.
Nathan knows Merle killed his brother no matter what the coroner’s jury ruled, and he’s not going to live the rest of his life with justice denied.
Ricardo Cabrera  didn’t have the chance for an education as the son of impoverished immigrants, but his ability to run the school plant and fix anything that goes wrong has earned him the respect of the entire faculty and staff. But he can’t fix what someone is doing to Ruthann and Jeff.
Tomas Cabrera did his duty for Uncle Sam and returned to enter law school at the University of Texas. He has a bright future, but his heart is in Camden with the girl he’s loved since sixth grade.

Coming Soon. . .Somewhere. . .Watch for it!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Killing Characters--Can a nice old lady do that?

What to do? What to do?

  When I wrote fan fiction for the Big Valley site, I acquired a reputation for killing my characters with diabolical determination. I don’t think I was quite that bad, but I’ll admit to a certain ability to disperse with characters who didn’t toe the mark in my stories.
  Let’s face it--you may start a story with a full stage, but at some point some of them really need to exit stage left--or stage right--or even face forward into the orchestra pit! So, let’s see what I’ve done.
Wait--if I tell you which characters I’ve offed in my novels, you’ll have no reason to read them! So let me just tell you how I did the dirty deeds:

·        an explosion on a ferry full of tourists crossing the English Channel
·        a sneak attack from the rear using a neck-breaking technique taught for close combat purposes
·        a purported suicide by hanging
·        a cold-blooded shooting with just enough time for some tender last words
·        a skidding car on an icy road
·        a push from a balcony
·        a broken neck from a fall down the stairs after a head-bashing with a wrench
·        being ‘scared to death’ by a ghost from the past
·        a car bomb

  But here’s the problem, you see. In my application to The Writers’ Colony in Eureka Springs AR, I had to submit a proposal for what I wanted to work on during the two weeks in November I requested (and got). I unearthed Blest Be the Tie, the “great American novel” I’ve only been working on for something like forty years. Yes, f-o-r-t-y years. And why have I never finished it? Because I love my characters so much I can’t bear the thought of turning loose of them forever, that’s why!
  Oh, I’ve “finished” it. It spans a time period from the Depression (with roots in WW I) through the 1990s, and I’ve tied up all the loose ends and sent all my characters peacefully (more or less) to their final reward with many tears and lamentations. BUT. . .
  If I really, truly go back and do the rewrites and the revisions, then I’ll have to let them go. . .and I’ve already cried buckets as I’ve written death scenes and remembrances. So if  don’t write THE END, I can keep spinning new scenes and events in their lives and. . .
  Oh, yes, I can “kill” with the best of them, and sometimes it’s okay.
  Sometimes it’s not okay.

  And since I don’t have another forty years to deal with Peggy and Vic and Francie and Tank and Peaches and Bix and Dutch and Miss Grace, I’ll have to figure it out, won’t I?
  Or not.

   Meanwhile, visit my website and check out my books. Some of my characters remain alive and well, believe it or not! 


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Friday Five: Listen up!

September is Classical Music Month. (See this wonderful calendar for tons of writing ideas!) While I’m not that knowledgeable about music, I know what I like--which is all that’s important. When I’m writing, I tend to pop in a cd for company and inspiration. Here are five of my favorites.

1.      Vladimir Horowitz: A Reminiscence (piano) which includes Chopin’s “Mazurka, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and Schumann’s Traumerei.
2.      Leilia Josefowicz: Mendelssohn & Glazunov Violin Concertos (violin with the Montreal Symphony conducted by Charles duToit). I could listen to her violin sing Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, op. 82 forever!
3.      Frederic Chopin’s Nocturnes played by Tamas Vasary (piano)
4.      Emanuel Ax (piano) Hayden’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 29, 31, 34, 35, 49. I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Mr. Ax perform in person at the Houston Symphony.
5.      Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma, and Emanuel Ax combining piano, violin, and cello playing some of Shostakovich’s masterpieces

While I love most kinds of music, including Southern Gospel, 30s-40s-50s classics, and more, classical music is much more soothing for concentrated writing time. My car radio stays tuned to a classical music station in Little Rock (as it did in Ft. Worth), and when I hear something that touches me, I try to joy down who and what and look for it to buy for my own music library. 

I remember listening to my small table radio (a gift from my grandparents) while I did homework in the evenings. Somehow in my younger days I didn’t get distracted by the lyrics of Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and the Kingston Trio, and other pop singers of the day. But my aging brain doesn’t process two sets of words anymore--song lyrics and writing words--so I stick to classical music. 

Am I weird? Is anyone else out there weird, too?

Visit my website!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Unguilting Judy

So the Dreamland Series is relaunched. I did the marketing thing. I’m done. I did next to nothing when I launched the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, and it sold like wildfire. Inexplicable. If Dreamland does half as well, I’ll be a happy camper.
But here’s the bottom line: I’m retired. This is my time to do all the things I never had time to do before what with teaching, raising two boys on my own, and later taking care of my parents when they both became terminally ill at the same time. I spent a lifetime feeling “guilty” in one way or another about not doing enough for my students, my children, and my parents. Refer to paragraph #1: I’m done.
Oh, I have a slew of WIPs (works in progress) which will eventually see the light of day, and yes, I’ll ‘put the word out’ when the time comes. But spend a ton of money? Nope. I’ve never done that anyway. Make the conference circuit and ‘network’ or ‘connect’ or whatever the current buzz word is these days. Nope. I’ll go if it looks fun. That’s it. Set up/participate in ‘events’--maybe occasionally but then only to meet other interesting authors and find out what they’re up to. Lugging a ton of promo material and setting up only to have to tear down again is o.u.t.
I’m not writing for a living but rather for the love of writing, and somehow that’s come close to getting lost this last year or two when I started feeling like I had to do more. What more is there to do besides doing something you love?

View of the Arkansas River from atop Petit Jean Mountain

So what have I done this post-launch week? Monday I drove about 60 miles to beautiful Petit Jean State Park and enjoyed the sunshine, took some pictures, and met a lovely older couple (probably MY age, actually) who noticed my comfy t-shirt with the logo CAREFUL OR YOU’LL END UP IN MY NOVEL. She wanted to know about my books and wrote down how to find them. I didn’t even have a card on me!It was a conversation,  not a sales pitch. 
Being in no hurry, I took a different route home and got ‘the lay of the land’ for another trip someday soon. Finally, I retired to my big chair with the laptop and did some revisions on Ruthann’s War, a novella I’ve really gotten into--and not because I hope it ‘sells big’, but because I’m in love with the characters and invested in their lives.
Yesterday I did some reorganizing and getting rid of in my house. I enjoy keeping a clean, organized house. It’s my home, my nest, my refuge. In the afternoon I attended an informational meeting and came home to the budding romance between Ruthann and Jeff, Joan’s secrets, and the wicked Merle Fulton!
Today I’ve folded laundry, put away summer quilts, done a mid-week wastebasket emptying, loaded the back of the Trailblazer with the recycling, and sat down with something cool to drink and the inspiration for this blog--which should have gone up earlier this morning, but who cares? I don’t.
I’ll stop at the recycling place on the way to the library for some browsing in that wonderfully welcoming place. Then it’s back home to Ruthann and Jeff and. . .well, you get the picture.
Tomorrow I’ll be able to help out my d-i-l by picking up the Small Person and the Wee Bear Cub from school (always a joy). Friday, there’s a webinar on my calendar--always fun to learn new things, and it keeps the aging brain active.
I have at least two trips to anticipate this fall, and as the weather changes, they are more reality than thought.
Young or old, today is all we have, and I’m not going to fall into the chasm which almost engulfed me when I began to fancy myself a writer. Of course, I’m a writer. I write, don’t I?
And, I’m going to enjoy it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Happily ever after and then some

Read the fine print.

Recently I read an article by Dean Elphick entitled “6 Clever Ways to Achieve the Perfect Ending to Your Story”.  I actually use three of them in a confabulated sort of way.

  • First, I use the resolved ending because I like all my ducks in a row. It’s HEA for my characters--the nice ones anyway--and justice for those who aren’t so pleasant.

  • Then I write the twist in the tale because I don’t want to make whodunit that easy to figure out.

  • Finally, I take advantage of the crystal ball because the end of the book is only the end of the beginning for my characters. Elphick cites the final scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in which we learn Ron married Hermoine, Harry married Ron’s sister Jenny, and they all have beautiful children who will attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry like their parents before them. That may have been my favorite part of the entire edge-of-the-seat saga. I like knowing what happened after the author wrote “The End”.

I like epilogues. In ThePenelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, I tacked an epilogue onto the end of Book #6, Sam’s Last Stand. It seemed to go over well since several reviewers made positive mention of it.

 Read the fine print.

 So it was a give that TheDreamland Series would also have an epilogue at the end of Book #3, Ghostly Gambit in Dreamland.

 Read the fine print.

In a sense, the sequel to Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? was written because I just couldn’t leave my characters where they’d landed in the final chapter. Finding Papa’s Shining Star is, in reality, a book-length epilogue! 

 Read the fine print.

Years ago I wrote what is probably the best thing I’ve ever done: Four Summer Days, a saga based on an old family story. It’s going to see the light of day this fall, but I just couldn’t leave it alone. Therefore, Return to Morgan’s Mountain will follow! 

Read the fine print.

And, of course, I had to move forward 50 years in the final chapter of Dancing with Velvet because I couldn't leave Celeste and Kent just hanging. After all, they'd been through a war!

Read the fine print.

My philosophy of writing life is summed up in this poem--which is included in Off the Shelf,a small volume of short-stories and poetry recently published.

The Trouble with Writing
The trouble with writing is
you can never finish.

No matter how much you write,
there is always more to be written:
another scene,
another conversation,
another crisis
lurking in the wings
of the writer’s mind.

The trouble with a story is
it never ends.

So if you think you’ve written
the last chapter
of your Great American Novel,
solved the problems,
killed off the villains,
wedded the heroes, and
tied up the loose ends
of all the characters’ lives,
you are mistaken.

After the book
has gone to print
you will lie awake and think of more.
You will dream
of the unwritten scenes
and unspoken words.

In your mind
the story will go on

It isn’t over,
and as long as you live,
your story will live, too.

 It's always good to read the fine print.

Use the contact form on the left to request a free copy of the first book of any of the series listed above or the short story book and consider reviewing it--like it or not!