A recent review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.
Monthly Archives: January 2015
Chasing Down the Night gets the Thumbs Up
Beta-reader extraordinaire has completed Chasing Down the Night and she tells me this:
Your readers are going to be thrilled with this third book in the Crater Lake Series.
You can imagine who is thrilled by that comment
Happy Dance all over the place this morning. She is in the process of putting together her detailed feedback and when I get that I’ll be able to determine how much time is still to be spent on rewrites. The third draft of the novel is also with my number two reader, husband Bruce. He’s a whiz at catching me out on any technical glitches.
I’ve already been working on some notes for the fourth and last book in the series. I had no idea when I first met these characters that they had the stamina for four books. A writer’s life is one of continual wonder.
I’ll leave you today with a shot of my current view. The beautiful Golden Ears Mountains in Maple Ridge – snow covered and reminiscent of my childhood. This is a view I grew up with. I’m having an unscheduled and thoroughly enjoyable visit with family.
The Biennial Office Move
(All moved and loving it!)
At least every two years, I pick up stakes and move my entire office space to another area of our cabin and occasionally, over the years, to other geographical areas. While working away for a couple of years, I lived in two different apartments. Then there was my time at the university – a dorm room and two apartments over a six and a half-year time span.
But the majority of these moves (ten out of fifteen) have been within the confines of this 1400 square foot home. I’ve been upstairs, downstairs, east, west, north and south.
(A short-lived try at working in the entryway.)
Why this urge to move around? I haven’t tracked the whole process thoroughly enough to give a definitive answer. All I know is that now and then I have to move.
Since I reinvented myself as a self-published author of fiction, I have moved four times within the cabin. I was upstairs at a nice built-in desk that overlooked the downstairs with my big writer’s desk commanding a view of the lake. I suppose, I should state, for the record – I do require two desks to survive. One is a beautiful, walnut writing desk that is long and spacious. For my laptop, I’ve used various standard desks. Right now I have one we got from the local library for a great price when they decided to upgrade.
(Writing desk upstairs in front of a beautiful view)
For a number of reasons, working upstairs wasn’t my cup of tea. I began to feel closed off and closed in. I started hauling my laptop down to the kitchen table, which sat in a ten by eleven space off the galley kitchen. This room has the best views of the lake. It often feels like sitting out on a deck with the large windows and abundance of natural lighting. Before long, I was spewing my stuff everywhere and running up and down the stairs to get things from my desk at an inconvenient rate.
By mutual agreement – even I could see things were getting out of hand when we could no longer find a spot on the table to eat – I gave up the kitchen table and moved both my desks into our dining room and we moved the table from there outside to our garden. After all, how many spots do two people need when it comes to eating?
I lasted in that location for over a year and during the winter months there was much to recommend it. Oriented inwards to the cabin, it was near the wood-burning stove, so nice and cosy. Close to the bathroom – always convenient. But, I confess to mentioning on more than one occasion that I missed the view from the kitchen nook and once again, I began to feel closed in.
(We took the picture before we moved the writing desk down. It went in front of the window and the desk for my laptop swung out at a ninety degree angle to face into the living room thus blocking the nice flow we use to have from one room to the other.)
The other day we found a large, leather recliner at the ReStore for a great price and Bruce wanted it. Once we had that chair in the living room things felt squished. We threw a few ideas around and out of the blue Bruce suggested we move my desks up to the room off the kitchen – make that my office space – and put our table back in the dining room. We’d free up space in the open design living room/dining room and give the whole area a less jammed feeling.
(It worked – nice traffic flow. We enjoyed eating out here last night – first time in a while.)
I jumped at the idea. Working in the room off the kitchen is perfect for me. Tons of space for both desks, enough room left over for two glider rockers in the corners – perfect for those times we want to chat – scads of natural light and wide, expansive views of the lake and the mountains. The room is near the back door so I can run out for a breath of fresh air anytime. Oh, and did I say easy access to the coffee pot – always a plus.
(It does really feel like being out on the deck!)
Maybe, just maybe, I won’t ever want to move again. But wait – we have tossed ideas around for an addition off the dining room sometime in the future. It could be an office and more. I would definitely think of moving to that space. It would have all the advantages of where I am now plus a door. Open concepts don’t always work for stay-at-home writers. But for now, I am a happy camper in this new space.
Do you ever get the urge to pick up and move your work space to a new area? What reasons motivate you to desire a change?
Moving from First Draft to Second and Subsequent Drafts
Oh the joy of rewrites – there should be a book by that title that could be stored right up on the shelf beside The Joy of Cooking. Most writers probably don’t see the process through that happy, happy lens, so I’m betting the book would get our attention.
A resting period is an important consideration. The moments after the raucous cheering that came about when one typed the words THE END is not the time to start a second draft. Through the first draft process it has been all about weaving a believable story together, getting that story from the opening pages through the ups and downs and pushing the whole kit-and-caboodle to the finish line. Rewrites and second drafts are a different beast. You have to prepare yourself for that.
Second and subsequent drafts generally entail a good deal of picking apart. It’s definitely a deconstructive process. The main consideration for me is whether the work makes sense. I read through my work asking questions. Have I got my facts straight? Could this really happen the way I’m saying it could? Is this behaviour, dialogue, thought pattern consistent with the character I created?
Questions related to structure emerge. Should this piece go here? Should this chapter end there? I move, eventually, to looking at individual paragraphs and even sentences. Is there a deeper meaning to the way I have constructed this novel? Can I strengthen that meaning by changing things around?
Then, of course, there is the cutting. I’m working on my fourth novel, so I’ve made my peace with the cutting process. I tend to over explain and since that is something that drives me crazy as a reader, I’m fairly brutal seeking out those instances in my own writing. Weeding out the unnecessary repetitions is part of this stage. Stephen King has his formula and I think it serves as a good rule of thumb: first draft – 10% = second draft. The wordier among us may have to think 15%.
On Chasing Down the Night, by the time I got to those beauty words – THE END – I’d already had two rounds of feedback from my go-to beta reader that led to significant cuts.
Here is a sample of the kind of input that is so important to me at this stage of writing:
I am amazed how you are able to weave the threads of the story together so tightly that connections are made, characters are developed and plot is advanced. For me, it is ironic that the ability you have for making every detail essential to the story, also gives rise to the need for you to decide what is most important.
After this feedback, two storylines changed quite radically, there were some significant structural reworking and a character hit the cutting-room floor eliminating almost fifty pages of the work-in-progress.
In second and subsequent drafts, I read my work for themes. Believe it or not, I don’t always see these connections and links when I’m writing. All that is golden is not planned, my friends.
I received this feedback partway through the first draft writing:
The underlying theme of running is being developed in a natural way through the activities of various characters, dream sequences, races and escapes. The end of the novel promises to relate that theme to the title of the novel.
I was taken totally by surprise. Any effort to draw out this particular theme was completely sub-conscious on my part. When I re-read and have those ah-ha theme moments (or have them pointed out to me), I start looking for ways to strengthen those parts of the novel.
So – that is me moving myself into a second and subsequent draft mind-set. Since I need to do this, I thought I might multi-task by sharing the process with my readers. How do you shift yourself from a first draft writing mode to rewrites? Does anything I do ring true with your own process? Have you got any special gems to share on this topic?
The Lights are on but Nobody’s Home
A writer’s life is not for the weak-kneed or faint of heart. Well, I suppose I should speak for myself. Each writer brings his or her our own personality into the mix. For me, it is most certainly a roller-coaster ride at times.
I always wanted to be one of those people who had a regular schedule for household tasks so I didn’t get behind or one of those people who savoured a good novel a few pages at a time every night before bed. Alas, that was not meant to be. I am the marathon, clean until you drop person because everything has gotten so out of hand and company is arriving soon or the devour a book, not being able to put it down, holding it one hand while stirring a pot on the stove with the other or dropping it into the bathtub.
Thus, it is with writing. I am in a stage now, where if I could, I would write twenty-four hours a day until the entire story is out of me just to get it out of me. Sometimes my head feels so stuffed with these characters and what they are determined to do and say that I feel like I’m walking around the real world in a fog. I use to get a feeling akin to this right before a big exam when I had crammed so much in my head that the desire to spew it all out on the page was so intense I could hardly wait for the test booklet to plop on the desk in front of me.
I’ve come up with a new way to explain things to friends and family. During this intense period of writing, consider me out of town working for five day stints. Whatever you get from me in those five day periods in the way of nagged after tasks done or simple communication is a bonus and be grateful. But take heart, I can only maintain the pace for five days at a stretch and then I’ll be back – off the road, home for a few days to catch up on things and re-enter your worlds.
Now, I’m not saying this isn’t challenging. Who accepts someone is out of town when they’re sitting right there? Albeit, looking somewhat vacant and acting deaf but still . . . right there.
I’m coming down the home stretch on the completed manuscript for Chasing Down the Night – only one chapter and then the ending to go. At this stage I never know if what has spewed out in such a rush is inspiration or crap. This isn’t the time for too much analysis on that score. The story is in a rush to be told and nothing can stand in its way.
It’s a day in the writer’s life, my friends, and as someone much wiser than me used to quote – all will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.
5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about
This post by Dylan Hearn is making the rounds and I’m going to jump on the reblog bandwagon, too. He’s so right on about his five self-publishing truths that we really owe it to our readers to give this post a wide reception. Let’s get realistic, accept things as they are and get busy writing good books. There are no short-cuts in the self or traditional publishing world. Hang onto your money and get busy 😉
One of the hardest thing to watch on social media is an author, usually a debut author, getting excited about their upcoming book launch and knowing they are about to get hit around the head with a hard dose of reality.
They’ve done the right things, built up a twitter or Facebook following, blogged about the book, sent copies out for review, told all their friends about the upcoming launch, pulled together a promo video and graphic, maybe taken out some adverts. The first few days after launch are filled with excited tweets, mentions of early positive reviews and chart rankings. Then, after a few days, maybe a few weeks, the positive tweets stop and an air of desperation sets in as the reality of life as an indie author hits home.
Part of the problem is that the authors most vocal on social media are those that have already seen self-publishing…
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Home Sweet Home and Kicking off 2015
Is there any feeling as wonderful as returning home after a great time away? Good memories of Christmas with grown children, their spouses and grandkids fuelled the joy of my first two nights back in my own bed.
As I usher in 2015, I’m feeling ahead of the holiday season curve. My suitcase is unpacked – that usually takes me at least a few days to attend to. I’m not down for the count with a cold, flu or cough. Most of my Christmas gifts have found a spot to take up residence. Life is good.
January the first puts me in a reflective state. Thoughts of the past year and plans for the upcoming one fill my mind. WordPress tells me, in my annual blog report, that my blog was viewed 19,000 times in 2014. Whew – that apparently represents seven sold out shows at the Sidney Opera House. Go figure! My most popular post of 2014 was a piece for my Location, Location, Location series on Dianne Gray’s book, Wolf Pear. The most commented post was Shaken Author Syndrome – haha – one of my favourites and with a title like that who couldn’t resist commenting. Three out of my top five posts were from 2013, thus proving my writing has longevity. I was viewed in 128 different countries and my day of choice to post is Sunday. Do check out your own WordPress Annual Blog Review. The fireworks at the beginning make it worth the effort.
Looking back, 2014 was a productive year for my writing. The Light Never Lies (2nd book in the Crater Lake Series) came out in February and my book of short stories, Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope was self-published in May. I got two-thirds of the way through a first draft on the 3rd book in the Crater Lake Series, Chasing Down the Night and all the way through the first two drafts of another novel, Maelstrom – both of which are scheduled for publishing in 2015.
I managed to squeeze in a few trips out of my lake-side sanctuary to visit with kids, grandkids and friends. Bruce and I treated ourselves to a ten day holiday travelling in the mountains of BC and Alberta. We had more summer visitors this year than we’ve had for a while and our 2014 garden was an over the top producer of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and green beans.
My small list of accomplishments plays itself out against the backdrop of community both far and wide. On a sad note, more than a couple of tragic deaths rocked nearby communities and these touched me and wove their way into my year. The world revolves around me in ways that both frighten and confuse me at times.
But still, I move on with thoughts of the coming year. Resolutions often seemed doomed to fail but I don’t think we should chuck out the whole concept. Consider the root word – resolve. Something we all need. My main resolution for 2015 is not to be making the same resolutions in 2016.
I wish family, friends, fellow bloggers and all my followers a healthy and happy New Year. May we all sow and reap a good harvest whatever and wherever we choose to plant.