Archive for the ‘#amwriting’ Tag

First Among Favorites   8 comments

From all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite and why?

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Wow, this could be a hard one simply because I’ve been writing since I was 12 and a lot of characters have been my “favorite” at one time or another. How to choose a favorite among favorites? That’s like asking the parent of a large brood of children to choose their favorite. You love them all and a good parent would love them equally. But some of them, you might like a little bit more than everyone else. You might want to spend time with them slightly more than you want to spend time with others. Or, if you’re like me, and you have had different best friends over the course of a lifetime, it’s a similar situation. I had a best friend when I was a child and we still know one another, though we aren’t really close friends now. I had a best friend in high school and into college and we are still Facebook friends and I will go out of my way to see her if we’re in the same geographic area, but we don’t talk every day. I had a best friend when I was in my 20s (she’s was the matron of honor at my wedding), but she moved away just prior to the Internet getting underway and I haven’t been able to track her down, so that friendship has withered. I have a best friend now and I’m married to him. I like spending time with him, but if I were to be honest I can think of some other people I’d rather spend more time with. His “best friend” status has to do with how long and how well we’ve known each other, not necessarily about shared interests. We share some, but not all. Trust me – when I start talking quilting or writing, his eye lids droop and I only pretend to want here about his technical endeavors.

So, clearly this “favorite” thing is complicated.

Who is my favorite character among the hundreds that have traipsed through my mind in my writing career and why?

It’s a tossup between Shane Delaney of Transformation Project and Peter of (the yet-unpublished) What If Wasn’t? Since readers can’t go out and get to know Peter (yet), I’m going to focus on Shane Delaney. These are two very different characters and I like them for different reasons. Shane gets the “favorite” label because he’s published, but it was a hard decision to make.

Why do I like Shane? He’s someone I could sit down with over coffee and interview and enjoy spending an evening getting to know. Not that he would talk to me or tell me his secrets, because Shane doesn’t do that. He’s dark and complex, which is also sometimes why I don’t want to write him. He’s a mercenary who was forced to work for the government, which in turn forced him to work as a mercenary, and he doesn’t like either of his two masters. He’s loyal, but he’ll cut his losses in a heartbeat if he needs to — and mourn later, if he has time. He’s got PTSD from the things he’s had to do that haunt him. He’s the ultimate realist who will make the pragmatic decisions no one around him wants to make. He’s the non-believer in a devout family, but he’s not angry at his family. He still loves them and (mostly) respects their beliefs, even though he has rejected them. He’s the serial monogamous in a family of faithful men. He’s totally male and yet he enjoys the female mind (and body, but this is largely a PG series). He’s 26 going on 96, but he wasn’t born mature. He is still a work in progress. He’s stubborn, but he can learn from his mistakes and the mistakes of others. He is tough and can take physical and emotional pain, but he has a breaking point and he came home to avoid shattering, only to have circumstances force him to keep going and resist shattering. Shane is brutally honest about his failings and does not indulge often in denial, though he does often tell those who want to help him that his inner life is none of their business.

A third factor in why I like Shane so much is that I don’t absolutely know where he is headed. I do know he’s coming to a crisis and that several of the big questions of his life will need to be answered … if he survives. I can’t see beyond that crisis, so I don’t know his outcome. The character has surprised me a few times, so I’m not at all certain what choices he’ll make.

As a discovery writer, I love when my character’s hijack their plot and take it in an interesting direction. Not all characters will do that and that’s okay, but when I have a character like Shane who is very much his own man — that’s golden, and that’s what makes him my favorite — for now.

Posted May 20, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Finding Time   10 comments

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

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This is kind of an easy question for me because I can almost not sleep during the “midnight sun” period of May 15 through July 15. I can sleep two or three hours a night and feel just fine, energized by the sun, which only goes below the horizon for about two hours a night. We barely experience civil twilight.

Unfortunately, it’s a trick you can’t sustain. You do have to sleep occasionally. The human brain requires sleep because you need to dream. If you don’t dream while you’re sleeping, you’ll start to hallucinate while you’re awake. So while you can stay awake fairly easily here above the 70th parallel during the summer, sooner or later, you have got to sleep to replenish your acetylcholine levels. If you don’t do that, you’re going to end up in the psych ward. It’s usually what happens to bipolars who crash and burn.

I only need about six hours of sleep a night and I can function just fine. In the summer, that stretches to two or three hours a night with about every third night needing six hours. A psychiatrist I worked with in Community Mental Health had a theory that people like me can short ourselves on sleep because we are very imaginative and that is sort of like dreaming while awake. And maybe that’s what’s going on. I don’t know for sure. During those times when I’m not sleeping and other people are, I am … of course, writing or researching for writing. Sometimes I’m reading a book by another author.

The Alaska lifestyle is a little different. It’s not unusual for us to get off work at 5 pm, grab some food from the grocery store and set out on the hiking trail. The wilderness is so close here, we can be in the woods within an hour. And we can hike until midnight because the sun doesn’t go down until about 1 am during the solstice. Then we’ll flit home and sleep until 7 am. It’s not unusual. Lots of people walk around with that glowy look that says they haven’t sleep a full night in weeks. It’s just the way it is.

Therefore, if I didn’t have to sleep at all, I’d probably expand what I am doing now – read, write, research, hike, maybe quilt (in the winter) – although maybe our lawn would get mowed more often or our car washed occasionally. Eight hours more of life would be quite a gift. And, I would definitely need to build some more bookshelves because I’d spend a lot of that extra time reading.

I wonder what my fellow authors would be doing if they didn’t need to sleep.

Posted May 13, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Buying Stock in Kleenex   6 comments

Have you ever made yourself cry (over what you did to a character) while writing a book?

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Oh, yes!

Easy answer. Of course, there is so much more to it than that.

Let’s start with the knowledge that I am not a particularly sentimental female. I didn’t cry at the end of Beaches, for example, though two of the men who came to that movie with their wives did get a little shiny-eyed. I was with them while the other two ladies were wetting tissues like crazy and the third guy announced a sudden need to warm up the car even though it wasn’t particularly cold outside.

I did cry during Schindler’s List – that scene where they destroyed the ghetto and the little girl in the red coat haunted my dreams for sometime after and I still choke up if I see it now. The inhumanity toward our fellow human beings can make me cry.

I’m pretty sure the last book (by another author) that made me cry was when Paula broke up with Jordan in Whatever Words You Want to Hear. It wasn’t that she broke up with him so much (he so absolutely deserved that!) as the knowledge that she knew his enablers were pulling back and he was going to flounder and probably end up shipwrecked. I felt what Paula felt at that moment and it touched me as deeply as it did her. So 25-30 years ago I didn’t cry at a sad movie (though I did feel the ethos), I cried over the inhumanity of humans, and I did cry over a girl-coming-of-age-while-loving-a-guy-who-wasn’t-going-to-come-of-age book. Just not a crier unless something hits me at an extremely deep level. In some ways, that’s good because I know when I’m writing a scene that if it makes me mist up, it’s going to make many women cry and some men feel it in their adam’s apple.

Generally, when I kill a character it is because he or she stops talking to me. I often characterize writing as characters show up in my head and want to tell me their story. If they stop, then what do I do with them? If I can send them on a long journey from which they never return, I do, but sometimes the answer is to kill them. And kind of like a friend who has decided they no longer want you as a friend, I sometimes mourn the loss of the relationship. It’s hard to let go of a great character. They’re a little like people in real life. Nobody wants a beloved friend to move away or die. They do, though. So in life, same in fiction. But that’s not a crying event for me because they broke off the relationship. I regret the end of my relationship with them, but if they don’t want to be my friend, I won’t waste tears on that. And in fiction, often that means the character’s death and that’s just a consequence of them not talking to me any longer.

Transformation Project is an apocalyptic series. It wouldn’t be realistic for my characters to not die during the apocalypse, but even living is painful. Being inside Shane’s head can be depressing. The guy has PTSD and he started the series with a gun in his mouth. That was literally the first scene I ever wrote for him and I kind of thought he might be one of those characters who died before he even got started. I didn’t cry during that because I remember being pissed off that this great character was not going to be around to share his story. He’s found a reason to stay alive in that his family and their town need his skills, but things aren’t getting easier. He’s had to kill people in sleepy Emmaus, his hometown that was too boring for him to stay in after high school, where he came in hopes of healing to emotional scars of war. He’s not getting to do that and the reality of what he and his fellow townspeople are living through touches his soul and it touches my soul. If I mist up while writing it and still feel like crying when I reread it, I know I’ve hit a sweet spot. The thing is, Shane rarely cries from his pain. He thinks he deserves it. And since all characters are really me, I often don’t cry while I am writing his viewpoint. It’s later, when I reread it that I go “Why am I so mean? I stink as a deity. I truly truly suck!” Or sometimes when I’m writing his family’s reaction to his actions, I feel what Jill or Cai feels for him and then I cry. If that sounds a little disassociative identity disorder, you don’t know many writers. All our characters are really us and so we can cry for what one character feels about another character who would never elicit tears from us.

I’ve brought this book up before because I truly plan to publish it someday … and that day is getting closer – What If Wasn’t – is a new adult novel about Peter, a young man who will have to deal with the consequences of his drunken actions killing someone he loves. That story is tough to write and I do cry. I hate that I’m putting a nice person with a drinking problem through all this pain. I want him to get well without hitting rock bottom and bouncing a few times. Peter hates it too. I can hear him saying “I will go to rehab. Just don’t make me do this.” Sadly, he has to because that’s the story he told me initially and so his fate is sealed. And, though the character does seem to want healing, I’m not necessarily going to give him a happy ending. Because, you know, that’s not how real life works

I let my son read a section a while ago. Keirnan is a sweet kid (well, 20) who isn’t afraid of feeling emotions and when he finished, his voice was all hoarse and he said “Wow, Mom! Readers are going to cry over this.”

There you go. I figure if I can make me – a not-sentimental person – cry while I’m writing it, readers ought to need to stock up on tissues. And the whole point of good literature is that it makes us feel at a deep visceral level.

Job done!

Posted May 6, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Daydream Writer   6 comments

When you are daydreaming, what do you dream about?


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Daydreaming is a controversial topic. When I was a kid, schools really hated daydreamers because they thought we wouldn’t learn whatever nonsense they were trying to teach us. Yeah, I mean you, Mrs. Fischer.

And apparently, some neuroscientists worry that adult daydreamers may fixate on negative emotions and harm themselves, so they suggest we don’t daydream.

Other neuroscientists point out that we’re more likely to be creative if we daydream and that some of the greatest leaps in human intellectual history may have been a result of daydreaming.

I think there’s merit to all three of these arguments, but I also see problems with all three. The fact is daydreaming is a great creative tool that can distract from the world around us and can lead us into dark places … or light places as well.

I love to daydream. I get a lot of writing done while I daydream. And my best daydreaming times are:

  • 1) when I’m trying to fall asleep at bedtime;
  • 2) when I first wake up in the morning;
  • 3) when I’m on a long car trip;
  • 4) when I’m doing something boring and mundane at work.

Seriously, the more boring the job, the more productive I will be at writing when I get home that night. Filing doesn’t really require a lot of mental effort, so why not put my brain to productive use?

I try to spend at least a half-hour stretching before I get up in the morning. There are health benefits to this, but I also tend to daydream/pre-write while I’m doing it.

I almost never fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow, so why not use that half-hour or so to think about something writing-related?

Alaska is a big state and it takes 5-7 hours (depending on season) to drive from Fairbanks to the “big city” of Anchorage. And, while most of my attention is on the road while I drive, daydreaming keeps me from zoning out and potentially falling asleep at the wheel.

I don’t often plan what my mind will work on in the daydream state. It’s whatever my imagination wants to focus on. Sometimes it’s a conversation between characters. Sometimes it’s a beautiful scene of fantasy landscape. Sometimes it’s a character having an emotional rant about something that is unfair in his/her “life”. I welcome it. I embrace it. And then when I’m able to, I sit down at the computer and I transcribe it. Sometimes I’ve spent days working on something mentally and when I sit down at the computer, 2000 words will spill out in an afternoon. So, yes, daydreaming is highly productive for the writers among us. We only look like our minds are wandering.

Posted March 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What If Wasn’t   10 comments

We are writers. This is our time to shine. What are some of your favorite lines from your books?

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You can tell which lines of my books that I am the most proud of because they tend to become the titles of books.

Objects in View comes from a line in the third book of Transformation Project in which nonagenarian Jacob Delaney (the wisdom in the series) tells his offspring that they should “focus on the objects in view.” They could waste a lot of time and energy worrying about distant events they couldn’t control or deal with what was going on right in front of them. 

From The Willow Branch (Book 1 of Daermad Cycle)

“Fate took Maryn ap Trevellyn, crown prince of all Celdrya, by surprise. Naught warned him that he’d been marked.”

“It must be nearing middle of the night, for a moon hung like a golden banqueting plate just above the southern trees and the cool air scented more of dew than spring flowers.”

“Death took him by surprise as he looked down at the two feet of dressed wood protruding from his chest. He couldn’t feel his legs, but he knew that he was staked to the tree like a squirrel.

“I’m done for! I thought death would be more painful.

“Pedyr bellowed for aid and the camp came alive as Maryn died, staring up at the moon with his life leaking away into the dirt by his feet and wondering why the shaft that killed him was the only one to fly.”

“Inside the door to the great hall, Deryk paused to shake water from his cloak, decided it was a lost cause and hung the sodden mess on one of the many waiting pegs among the myriad damp cloaks, quite a few of them plaid, but a notable number also striped. The merchants thought there‘d be war and war was usually good for them, so they loitered about the dun to be the first to know, the first to get in at the trough. Merchants cared little that war meant death. They cared only for profits.”

“The noble-born often show little care for those who fill their bellies and cellars,”

From Mirklin Wood (Book 2 of Daermad Cycle)

It did remind him somewhat of the statues he’d seen of dragons, but that was a bard’s fancy and those did not fly to your rescue that often.

Erik didn’t like how the jals stroked their beards and held their piss while he talked. He couldn’t invade the southern continent without their viks and their silence made him feel like he’d stepped on an ant hill. When his speech ran to a close, he waited for comment, questions, or arguments. He had prepared for those. Samling was all about debate. Silence shivered his bones.

Gravity dictates the fate of a dragon dancer. Miss a handhold and gravity wins.

From Life As We Knew It

Smoke and mirrors meant making the right hand so flashy that the mark never noticed what the left hand was really doing. Grant couldn’t stop the main event, but he could make this little side drama so entertaining that nobody saw through it until it was too late.

Shane swallowed audibly. Jacob sat down on the opposite end of the wide wooden stair and waited. Shane excelled at silence. He always had. Jacob didn’t try to outwait him.

“You’re not okay, are you?”

“Was your first clue that I’m actually here?”

From Objects in View

“What’s going on out there?” she asked. Right. Honesty. I promised honesty. He restrained his trained inclination to dump the screen. “Weird.” “That’s not communicative,” she said with a giggle. He smirked. The rest of the shelter was quiet. They were the only two awake. “Bear with me. Learning a new skill here.” He rubbed the back of his head. “Dylan said the same thing. Maybe you can make sense of what is confounding us.” “Oh, sure, honey. I know so much about terrorism.” She sipped her coffee. “Or is this espionage?” To Grant, this was just workaday life. Terrorism and espionage ran together in his mind.

A small throb of pain pulsed when he prodded it. That’s an injection site. I never blacked out before. Maybe I didn’t this time either. A dream before waking – a desperate whispered conversation between Marnie and Rob, a memory of sitting on the church steps and peeing in the bushes with …. Dad roofied me?

He had never slept this rough in his life. He felt like crap. He worried he’d been sleeping in it all night.

My favorite line from all of my books is still unpublished, but is the title of my new adult drama “What If … Wasn’t.” Peter is a second-chance citizen (a recently-released felon) who has a horrible history to overcome and whenever he is tempted to indulge in a fantasy where his actions did not cause significant damage to the lives of others as well as himself, he smacks himself with that phrase – “What if wasn’t, which means I have to  live with what was and is.”

It’s my favorite line because it is also one of my life philosophies. You can moan and groan about how crappy your life has been and how you should have done this and could have done that if only you would have known this, but why? It won’t change the past. What if … wasn’t, so why not live with what was and what is?

Posted December 10, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Keeping It Fresh   4 comments

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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This was actually a hard question for me because I am always trying new things … new recipes, new hiking trails, new ideas, but those seem like they aren’t all that new because I’m always doing them. Does it count if I make a new recipe using techniques I’ve mastered decades ago? I didn’t think it did.

I eventually hit on what I am doing this November. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before as a challenge with a friend and wrote a deeply-flawed novel I have no interest in ever rescuing. I wrote myself into a corner and the main character refuses to speak to me, so it will languish on a disc in my archives and that’s probably it.

This year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo to rewrite a novel I think could be a great story with a main character that has been talking to me for two decades. When I write, I usually loop back to re-read portions of what I’ve written and to rewrite so things flow in context, but the rules of NaNoWriMo are that you write it in one run and you don’t edit. There’s no way I could do that with a new novel. I am firmly convinced the flaws of that earlier novel are a function of that process and it’s dead to me since I can’t write if the characters don’t talk to me. Apparently, I can’t even rewrite without character interaction.

This current novel concentrates on a young recovering alcoholic getting out of jail for a crime he deeply regrets. He wants forgiveness but knows he’ll never receive it. It’s loosely based on a  friend’s unfortunate years that deeply affected me when he told me about it. My novel is not his story, though he has been an adviser for some aspects of it.

What If Wasn’t has been written over several years. The plot makes sense, but a beta reader pointed out a lot of flaws. It’s episodic. The main scenes don’t appear to build on one another. It’s filled with bumper-sticker recovery language and way too much self-analysis by the main character.  A romance buds in it but I never pursued it because I was focused on the MC’s damage and painful past. The story itself needs to be deepened and made emotionally compelling.

So I’m going through and rewriting some scenes and then adding scenes that link the major scenes together. In the process, I’ve discovered a larger backdrop story that I didn’t realize existed that can act to drive some of the narrative. This time, I’m concentrating on making Peter more human and focusing not on his past, though he still has to haul that rotting baggage with him, but his way forward.

What I’m doing is a complete rewrite, save for a couple of scenes that impressed that beta reader, and I’m not looping back. Looping back is part of my established process, but this time I’m not doing that. I’ve written/rewritten 70,000 words this November and I’m getting to a great place in the story where the climax is about to happen. Peter thinks he’s ready to move forward and he’s about to be blindsided by a tidal wave he doesn’t see coming. I already wrote that – it was a point the beta reader thought worked well, but what follows it needs a huge rethink, to resolve that romance and to point Peter down the road to his future. I know there are continuity errors and that has me itching to loop back, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to write those scenes this coming week. November 30 I’m going to close the rewrite, hopefully with the last scene written, and take a break from that story.

I’m learning a new skill, a difficult skill, a discipline I am not certain I will use in the future and know I won’t make it a centerpiece of my process, but I want to see if it can be a useful tool that improves my final product, maybe something to be added to a rewrite process. It certainly has sped up the rewrite and we’ll see if the novel is improved by it. I know this rewrite is better than what was written before. I also know it won’t be the final draft of this novel.

So when was the last time I did something for the first time? I’m doing it right now. 

It’s a Marathon   4 comments

November 12, 2018

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a writer ?

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First off, if you want to write … write. You are therefore a writer.

Front Cover of Days End KDPI was a writer for about 40 years before I was an author. There is a difference. I wrote for my own amazement, stories that I wanted to read. At the time, it really wasn’t an option to be published. I tried and it was really hard.

Let’s say  you want to be an author. That’s pretty easy these days thanks to Amazon and other self-publishing companies. If you decline Suggestion #1 – just write for your own amazement, here is some advice if you want to be an independent author.

#1 Read everything and try to write it. Don’t just read your favorite genres. Read history, political science, philosophy, science and anything else factually based. Think of it as building a foundation for excellent writing. But also read fiction, especially classical fiction. Again, you learn how to write well by reading great writing.

#2 Write most days. Keep a diary, write a blog, write short stories and poetry and song lyrics. Practice your skills as often as you can. Yeah, a lot of what you write will be crap. Don’t delete it. Keep it. You can go back and edit it or you might find a smack awesome sentence in the middle of a couple of pages of awful writing.

#3 Join a critique group, submit your writing and listen to the advice you get. You can find lots of people help who are writers just like you and who may have strengths that balance your weaknesses. Plus it is really good practice for when you are getting ready to publish and you are submitting your manuscript to beta readers and an editor (and, yes, you will need to run your manuscript before several second pairs of eyes).

#4 Open a PayPal account and sock some money away there — or in a savings account — because you’re going to need it. Just throwing up a book on Amazon won’t get a lot of traffic. You’ll need to be prepared to advertise to get some attention on your book.

#5 Don’t be in a rush. Take your time. Go over your manuscript as many times as you need to. You want it to be a good book and there simply is no substitute for hard work in the pursuit of quality.

#6 If you can manage it, join an author’s cooperative because there is power in publishing with several other authors under the same publisher. It gives indie authors legitimacy that they are automatically denied simply because they are indie authors.

#7 Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. It took the Bible a few centuries to be accepted and it’s now THE #1 bestseller of all time. Tolkien spent decades writing Lord of the Rings and the associated publications in that universe before he had a chance meeting with a publisher at a dinner party. Most successful authors are 20-year overnight successes.

#8 You will need to develop a social media presence, but don’t overdo it. It’s far more important to write the next book. Set up some sort of schedule so you are occasionally in the public eye, but it’s way more important to be write than to socialize on the Internet.

And, there you go. Those are the things I would do if I was a writer who wanted to become an independent author. Some of them are things I did as I transitioned from writer to published author and some of them are things I wish I had done during that process.

Speaking of which, my 8th novel Day’s End (Book 4 of Transformation Project series) publishes next Tuesday November 20 and the latest Clarion Call anthology Fairy Tale Riot features one of my short stories. All of Transformation Project is on reduced price currently.

Amazon

Posted November 12, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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