The #mywritingprocess Blog Tour
The only thing more fun than an email from Ned Hickson is an email from Ned Hickson inviting me to be part of a blog tour, specifically the #mywritingprocess Blog Tour. I’ve been following Ned ever since I began blogging myself–and don’t think he hasn’t been glaring over his shoulder at me the entire time, too–because his blog is one of the funniest I’ve ever read. The thing I’ve regretted the most about being so busy writing is not having enough time to spend reading my favorite bloggers, but I’m in the process of setting that to rights. I’m trying to visit Ned’s blog often, and you really should, too. I’m pretty sure we can all use more laughter in our lives these days, and Ned’s blog is guaranteed to provide some. Check it out. Follow it regularly. You’ll be glad you did. Thanks for inviting me to take part in this, Ned. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Ned’s Blog: Humor at the Speed of Life
Ned’s Book: Humor at the Speed of Life
Each person taking part in this blog has four questions to answer. The questions are all the same, but remarkably, the answers vary wildly. Okay, not remarkably at all, given the fact that each and every author participating varies pretty wildly, too, from genre to genre, and approach to approach. Here are my wildly varying thoughts, for what they’re worth.
1. What am I working on?
My second novel, Swamp Ghosts, just went live on amazon a week ago, in Kindle format, and since I’m self-published, I’m now busy formatting it for the print version, which should be available in another two weeks or so. In addition to planning my marketing strategy for Swamp Ghosts, I’m already starting on the sequel to my first book, Wake-Robin Ridge, and outlining a proposed sequel to Swamp Ghosts, as well. Tick-tock. I’m not getting any younger, here. Gotta write while I still remember what letters and words are!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I like to think I combine the elements of very dark suspense–sometimes including a bit of the paranormal–with the redemptive quality of a good love story. Of course, I also like to think I’m a sexy, 35-year-old babe in her prime, and that’s a baldfaced lie, so you should probably keep that in mind.
But I digress. Back to my books. My characters are often lost, while wanting desperately to be found, and their journeys are not always easy. Whether real, or other-wordly, you can usually count on someone from the Dark Side showing up to give them trouble, and often trouble of a very disturbing nature. It’s my goal to fill the darkest scenes with plenty of suspense and a few lashings of evil, but without graphic violence–in other words, you’ll get a pretty clear idea of how bad it is, but you won’t have to wade through the puddles of gore often found in today’s tales of murder. Plenty of fear, sans the nausea.
Surprisingly, perhaps, I approach love scenes the same way. No, not with fear OR nausea. Just that I want all the passion and emotion I can create, but again without the graphic details, which so often sound clinical and, to me, somewhat repetitive and voyeuristic. I’m not offended by books with those types of scenes, by any means, but that’s not what I’m interested in writing. I want to explore human emotion more than human anatomy.
3. Why do I write what I do?
For me, it’s definitely a case of “write what you know,” and after seventy years, I like to think I know a thing or two about love and hate, pain and loss, innate kindness and soul-shriveling evil–and the extremes to which the human spirit will go to find meaning in a world that often seems to have none.
My goals aren’t really all that lofty, though. I’m not worried about creating something with serious redeeming social value, or in writing the Great American Novel. There are plenty of others out there tackling those weighty projects. Mostly, I just like telling love stories with believable characters readers will find themselves invested in. Sometimes, those characters get caught up in dangerous situations, and may have to walk a difficult and rocky path to find peace and redemption, but don’t worry. I’m a big fan of happy endings–if not in fiction, then where?–so they usually get there via one route or another. I’m also an incurable romantic, and believe absolutely that anything is possible when love is the power motivating us.
4. How does my writing process work?
In fits and starts all day long, with a ton of hard labor, and lots of repetitive stress syndrome from sitting twelve hours a day at my keyboard. As Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
I’m a “what-if” person. What if a frustrated librarian jumped up from her desk one day and screamed, “I’ve had it! I can’t spend another soul-sucking day in this building doing this thankless job!” What if she decided to move far away from her little home town, to her favorite part of the country? What if she ended up in a deserted cabin on the side of a mountain in North Carolina, and started writing her own stories? And what if there were an enigmatic man with a dark secret, living by himself on the very top of the mountain, across the road from her? When I reach that point in my what-if’s, I’m already writing, and sometimes the answers to those questions come to me as I go, in an organic manner. Other times, I think far enough ahead to make an outline of where the story is headed. I’m neither a “pantser” nor a “plotter,” but some weird hybrid of the two–a plantster?
I write in a completely silent room, the better to hear the voices in my head, as the characters tell me what they are going to do, and then wait patiently while I take it all down.
One thing I did learn the hard way is to keep a detailed calendar for every book, with a timeline of when each scene takes place. Otherwise, I find myself realizing I’ve just written something that doesn’t fit into the frame of what’s already been laid out. I’ve used up all the Saturdays before Christmas, say, and have nowhere left to put my next pre-Christmas scene. Ooops. I thought about adding an extra week to the month last time that happened, but I suspected my vigilant Beta readers weren’t going to buy it.
I also like to have a map in front of me, as well, where I can sketch my fictional town, to be sure I’m not plopping it down on something that’s already there. I sometimes put houses in place, and draw out property lines, roads, creeks, and anything that will factor into my story, so I avoid inconsistencies later. I connect these to real towns or landmarks while writing, so that I can anchor the fictional one in the real world. Characters from Swamp Ghosts live in the fictional town of Riverbend, Florida, but they often shop in the real towns of Sanford or Orlando, for instance, just to add some realism to readers in this area.
My research includes everything from looking up the history of local landmarks and events, to checking on legal matters to be sure I’m not having someone do something that’s not even allowed in a particular state or county. I don’t want to be called on that later by a reader who knows it couldn’t have actually happened that way. I’ve also been known to spend some time researching guns and weaponry, too, and even what happens to bodies under certain conditions. In point of fact, I needed to check out all of these things for Wake-Robin Ridge, just to be sure it rang true to readers, who can be very perceptive, and quick to let you know if you mess something up.
For Swamp Ghosts, I had a lot of my own personal experience to call upon, as I have canoed many a mile over the years on Florida rivers, and even led interpretive tours for Florida Audubon, back in the day. (And in the night. Moonlight canoe trips are a special kind of magic, believe me.) But in addition to knowledge gained during those years, and during my time as a docent at the Central Florida Zoo, I found I still had to double check facts on specific things. For instance, I wanted to be sure I was current with information regarding albino and leucistic populations of alligators and other reptiles, and any state laws concerning them.
You wouldn’t think you’d have to do much research to write a basic love story, but you’d be wrong about that. At least, you’d be wrong if you wanted your book to be mostly accurate in various regards, and not make you look like a laughing stock to readers who might know better.
Bio sheets on every character even minor ones, are critical. I list physical descriptions, personality traits, birthdays, age, background history, and any dates that will be mentioned in the story, such as prior weddings, deaths of relatives, and so on. It all has to jibe later, because if you say a certain character is 25 years old in Chapter 2 and 24 years old in Chapter 15, someone will notice, and comment on the inconsistency. And trust me on this, you will forget what you’ve said earlier, as you get more involved in later chapters. Play it safe, is my motto. Work it all out first so you have a quick and easy reference for those character details.
And the last, and most fun, thing I do is have a large inspiration board over my desk, where I pin photos of scenes, animals, vehicles, and people from my story. I like finding someone that fits the description of each of my main characters. It really does work as I’m writing, by giving me a concrete image to focus on when I’m creating a scene. And happily, since I write Romantic Suspense, my inspiration boards also give me an excuse to have pictures of good-looking men all over my desktop, without everyone accusing me of trying to relive my giddy teenage years! I just tell them it’s perfectly legit. After all, one can never be too inspired when writing love stories, right? *wink-wink, nudge-nudge*
And now to introduce the three authors I’ve invited to the dance.
Anna Celeste Burke
Anna, in her own words:
Life is an extravaganza! Figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is the challenge. On my way to Oahu to join the rock musician and high school drop-out I had married in Tijuana, I was nabbed as a runaway. Eventually the police let me go, but the rock band broke up. Our next stop: Disney World, where we trained to be chefs. More education landed us in academia at The Ohio State University. For decades I researched, wrote, and spoke about a number of gloriously nerdy topics. Retired now, I’m still married to the same sweet guy and live with him near Palm Springs, California. The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series is set here in the Sonoran Desert, a spectacular place to ponder life’s mysteries while relishing the delights of the desert resort cities.
Fair Play by Gunnar A. Lawrence
After years of ghostwriting thrillers, conspiracy novels and mystery books, Gunnar Angel Lawrence has published his second thriller. He is the author of Fair Play and the sequel The Perfect Day. He is a native Floridian with a love for writing thrillers, mysteries and action stories with fast pacing and a unique twist. He lives in Saint Cloud, Florida with his dogs and is currently single. Most of his time is spent working on the sequel to The Perfect Day which is entitled The Consortium.
Shiftless by Aimee Easterling
Aimee Easterling has been spoiled by four dogs, has spoiled six cats, and has largely been ignored by two guinea pigs, four turtles, and a slew of fish during her thirty-some year life. Studying biology and working as a naturalist have both informed her writing, but she’s quite willing to let reality slide in favor of a good story. When not writing, she loves to read and always keeps books by Robin McKinley, Patricia Briggs, and Elizabeth Peters on her shelf. She is currently hard at work writing the sequel to Shiftless, her first werewolf novel.
I hope you have enjoyed reading a bit about my approach to writing, and meeting some new authors and bloggers. I’ve had a great time sharing with you all.