Monthly Archives: April 2012

When inspiration strikes – inconveniently

I was having a lovely day yesterday with my children. The baby was in a delightful mood and my eldest son was all earnestness and wanting to please; the sun was out and we were able to all play outside for a while. When that got old, we went back inside, the baby had a nap and my son started reading his new Dr Seuss book aloud.

Then it happened. Inspiration struck.

This wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill inspiration, either, where you get a few ideas for scenes or the perfect bit of dialogue. This was changes-the-whole-novel-for-the-better inspiration. This was significant.

I’m all for being inspired. God only knows that I’ve been neglecting my manuscript lately, what with school holidays and public holidays and any number of other things that have been occupying what had previously been writing time. But I have been thinking about it more over recent days, working through plot holes in my head, figuring out the best order for the events in my story (does the baby come before or after the engagement, for example) and getting back into the heads of my main characters. I even found myself dreaming about them, which is always a good sign. However, I wasn’t prepared for inspiration just then. It was a bad time. You know, inconvenient.

All was not lost, however. I grabbed my notebook and started scribbling madly, trying to make sure that I didn’t lose the ideas. As I mentioned above, it was one of those uncanny, feverish type of inspirations, when things just start falling together and you know that a significant hurdle has been overcome. I couldn’t write things down fast enough.

Of course, real life was going to be a factor. Yes, the baby was in bed, but from having Dr Seuss in one ear I can see a few idiosyncrasies in my notes this morning. I suppose this was always going to happen when I’m writing a scene of high tension yet all I can hear is that if you want to go bump, bump, then you should jump on the hump of the Wump of Gump.

As such, I have some deciphering to do this morning. For example, “Ned” appeared in my notes, yet I have no character by that name. He was in the Dr Seuss book, though, so I think I can safely scribble him out. The Yanz that opens cans can also, I think, be eliminated. Yet there are other things which I’m not really sure about, whether they were from my head or the book I was listening to, so I’m going to have to do some thinking about those. I have set aside much of today, though, to do this. No, it’s not my usual Writing Day, but hopefully my mind is still close enough to where it was yesterday to make sense of my scribblings and make some real progress.

So, what do you do when inspiration strikes at an inconvenient time? How do you make sure you don’t forget any brainwaves that come when you’re doing anything other than writing? I think I survived yesterday’s onslaught intact, but if anyone has any bright ideas about what to do next time (Dr Seuss notwithstanding), I’d love to hear them.  :)

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Author interview: Kathleen S. Allen

Today I’m interviewing Kathleen S. Allen, author of a number of books in genres including poetry, fantasy, zombie, historical fiction, and murder mysteries. Kathleen has a new fantasy novel coming out TODAY, called Lore of Fei, and she has very generously agreed to answer a few questions about it. Here is what she has to say.

Lore of Fei, by Kathleen S. Allen

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it?

Lore of Fei is about the race of faeries who are trying to hold onto their land of Fei where they have lived for generations. The warmongering humans know that the Veil of Enclosure, the boundary that separates Fei from Hege, is dissolving. This allows the humans to travel to Fei to steal faerie children in order to enslave them. Ariela is a mutant faerie, she has no wings. She is mistaken for a human child believed to be stolen by the faeries when she was a baby. The warlord, Kel, kills her faerie parents and takes her to Kel’s Lair, the village he governs. She escapes but the Faerie Council wants her to be a spy for them and pretend to be human. They also want her to fix the Veil of Enclosure, but only a silver winged faerie can repair it and no silver winged faerie has been born. But, because Ariela has no wings, she has no faerie magic (magos) – or does she?

It will be released on April 27th  -today – by Muse it Up Publishing. Check out the book trailer on You Tube here: http://youtu.be/V1GF3KP6gGI

I have a webpage at: www.loreoffei.weebly.com set up for the Lore of Fei series.  My other website,  http://www.gaelicfairie.webs.com, has information about each book and also features my Jane Eyre mash up, Thornfield Manor: Jane Eyre and Vampires for your enjoyment.

What is it about the fantasy genre that interests you? How did you enjoy the process of world creation?

I love the idea of a world close to our own but different. As a child I believed that if I could time it right, I would see a faerie. Alas, I never did. So I have to write about them instead! The process of world building is fascinating. I had to be careful and go over it to make sure I didn’t break my own rules. I included a glossary at the end of the book because I use “faerie” words for a lot of things. I don’t usually plot out my novels, I am more of a pantser—writing by the seat of my pants—but for this book I had to plot it using a timeline, characters, time frame etc. I even made a family tree for my two main characters.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?

I wrote my first book of poems at the age of eight. I remember writing as soon as I learned I could. My mother insisted it was when I was three but I think it was more like when I was five. I’ve always taken my writing seriously but didn’t always have the time to put into it. About a year ago I had an injury that caused me to be off work for a year (now resolved) and so I decided to write and publish some of my novels.  I had my first poem published when I was 15 and my first short story when I was 21. I published two of my novels, Witch Hunter and Please to See the King in 2006 with a publisher but I got the rights back and published them myself this past year.

You’re a veteran of both self-publishing and using traditional publishers.  What have these experiences been like?

I like the freedom of self publishing a lot. I like choosing my own book cover and making my own book trailers and choosing when I will publish it and to what formats. The issue I have with it is having to promote without much money. I’ve done all I can and hope the readers find me but it’s difficult with all the authors out there. I have gone with two smaller publishers and the experience with both has been positive. Of course with smaller publishers again, the promotion is not there as much. Would I like an agent who would send my stuff to “the big six”? Of course. I am actively seeking an agent and have four novels “out there.” An historical fiction, a Dystopian, a zombie book and a contemporary, all young adult. If I don’t get any interest in the next few months I will probably self-publish again.

One of my novels, Fitzroy: The Boy who Would be King is about Henry VIII illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and is my second best selling book. The first is Aine, which is about a girl who discovers she’s a banshee.

I just finished book 2 of the Lore of Fei series, called War of Fei. I am going to do a third book in the series (untitled as of yet).

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Don’t stop writing, no matter what and never give up on your dreams. You have to make it happen, you can’t just hope it will. Learn all you can about your craft and write every day. Get beta readers who will help you write to your best ability, join a writing group (even online is good). Don’t be “married” to your words, listen to your betas, listen to your editor and take what they say and use it to make your book better. If you decide to self-publish, get a professional book cover designer, make sure it’s formatted properly for each venue (Kindle, Nook, Smashwords), and this one is important, hire a professional editor to go over you manuscript. This can be pricey but it’s worth it to give your readers the best possible reading experience. Build up your fan base so readers will expect a quality book from you every time.

————–

Thanks, Kathleen! If this has whetted your appetite to read Lore of Fei, you can find it, along with Kathleen’s numerous other works, at Amazon.

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A rose by any other name …

Pondering character names

Yes, I know that’s a mis-quote, but it’s a very common one, and it gets the point across. Today I want to talk about naming your characters.

Some people go to a lot of trouble finding the perfect names for their characters. They read baby name books, check out meanings, possible different spellings, whether the number of letters in the name is auspicious, the works. Okay, I may be exaggerating here, but you know what I mean. “I chose the name Jemima because my character is quiet and a pacifist, and it means dove.”

Others go by themes. For example, JK Rowling tended to favour old-fashioned, floral or Latin names in the Harry Potter series; Suzanne Collins chose rare botanical names and unusual spellings in The Hunger Games; and Jane Austen‘s scallywags invariably had a surname starting with W. I’ve known people who take first names from their favourite bands and surnames from their favourite sporting team. It doesn’t really matter what the theme is – just having one can make some people feel more comfortable.

Still others pick names at random, without thought of meaning or motif. “Jenny? That’ll do.” Or, “I might call him Fred. I don’t think I’ve used that name before.”

Me, I’m a little from column A, a little from column C. For my WIP I did take a while to get some of the names right, but that was often because I didn’t want people in real life thinking the characters were based on them, so if the names were similar at all (including in theme) then they got changed. I had a character called Jane, for example, who my friend Anne may have thought was a reference to her. Personality-wise they have very little in common, but since they are such similar types of names I changed Jane’s name to something that didn’t resemble “Anne” in the slightest. Similarly, I realised halfway through NaNo that my hero had a similar name to my husband. He is not based on my husband at all, and I don’t think my husband himself would have seen a connection, but other people I know would have. Again, the character name was amended.

My heroine was slightly different. In early drafts I called her Emma, perhaps because I saw a similarity with Jane Austen’s character of that name. The similarity has now disappeared, and the name didn’t feel right at all. I played with different options but finally decided on amending Emma as slightly as I could, simply by adding a G to the front. “Emma” just didn’t fit properly; “Gemma” fits perfectly. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that everyone is different, and there’s no right or wrong way to name your characters. Essentially, whatever feels right for you as a writer is the way to go. I’m curious about you, though. How do you name your characters? What method works best for you? And what difficulties have you come across in the process? I’d love to hear.  :)

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Author interview: Shayna Gier

Today I’m interviewing Shayna Gier, author of Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse. Shayna is both an author and book reviewer who is just as dedicated to helping other authors promote their work as she is to promoting her own, and she very generously set out some time to answer a few questions. Here is what she has to say.

Shayna Gier

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it? What has the response been like?

Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse is a really fun book, at least the first 30 times you read it. I must admit that while I love the characters as much as ever before, after all the read-throughs I no longer find it as fun, but I highly doubt that anyone but me and my editor will ever read it to that point.

It’s about a young bartender, Marti, who is married and, due to an increase in medical costs and such, chooses to go off of the birth control shot. Within three months her body has still not returned to normal, and what’s worse is that despite having a series of negative pregnancy tests (once she figures out how to actually take the test correctly), her body is showing all the signs of pregnancy. To make matters even worse, between frequent trips to the bathroom and unexplained exhaustion, she’s definitely developing cravings, and not just for food. Despite her happy marriage to her husband, Spencer, Marti finds herself more and more flirting with the cute and young new bartender who has just joined the team… and her best friend, who thinks life is to short to stay with one guy, just doesn’t help any at all.

What inspired me? Basically, I wanted to write a book in which the doctors were all wrong. Around 1/3 of the way through the book Marti goes to see her gynecologist, to see if the tests are faulty. Dr. Duck (I love that name!) tells her she’s experiencing a perfectly normal “puberty” maturation, just a bit earlier than it usually hits women. This  happened to me, only it took me over 500 dollars worth of doctor bills to be told that. In the meantime, I was searching the internet and trying to figure out what was going on. I ran into a ton of stories about people not finding out they are pregnant, despite frequent testing, until well into their 2nd trimester. Then, when I was told what was happening, about the effects of estrogen and how it controls both the puberty stuff and pregnancy, I looked into the science of what else estrogen does to women, and used that as a framework for Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse.

The response has been overwhelmingly good if you don’t include my inner circle. A lot of people find Marti entirely relatable and really enjoy the book. My inner circle goes either way – my friends love it; my family…well, most keep equating me with Marti and advising that I don’t drink when/if I get pregnant, or else are “disappointed with what (I’ve) made of (my) life” based off the decisions of Marti and her friends. They don’t seem to understand fiction is made up, or how the writer’s mind works, or any of that.

I can see that the book was a collaboration with another author. What made you decide to co-write it? How did the experience work for you?

I give Carissa Barker credit publicly, because if you saw my first draft (available on my website in the archives) you wouldn’t really recognize it. Marti started out as a teenager at Applebees. She was, of course, still going to struggle with pregnancy symptoms and the craziness of hormones, but that was really hard to write, even with her being 19. (I was 21 when this puberty thing hit me… and that was still really young.) So I wrote the actual story. Carissa is my editor, and was able to take my idea, and put it on the paper. It just wasn’t there in the first draft. It was apparent, to a point, in the second draft, and by the third and fourth draft we were working at what I’d consider a typical author/editor relationship. Before the final drafts started to show up, however, I commented to my husband that “I feel like a ghost writer. It’s my ideas, granted, and my words, but Carissa’s done all the work!” And so, in honor of all her work, I listed her on Amazon as having a collaborative part of the story. Because, really, she did.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?
I’ve always wanted to, and always have written something or other. My first “published” work was in kindergarten or first grade entitled Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk which was an assignment that everyone had to do, of course, but mine was good enough to get published in the district’s “outstanding literature” book they put together each year of the student’s works. So either everyone else sucked, or my writing was decent for y age even then. Take your pick.

After that though, I didn’t focus on writing until I was in 6th grade when I started turning out book after book (and starting even more) of fan fiction. Not yet confident enough to invent my own main characters, I thrived off writing my own Jimmy Neutron fics that were just as long as any young adult book at the time. (Now there’s more novels. But if you remember the days of Encyclopedia Brown, you’ll know what I”m talking about in length. I was good too. I didn’t think so, and I don’t know either, but others did. I actually received fan mail several times telling me how much they liked my stories. Some even follow me today as a writer. And, I suppose if I’m honest my fan fiction was at least a cut-above-the-rest of normal fan-fiction… I just compare it to now and squirm though.

After fan-fiction died off, I didn’t really pick up the pen (or computer as it may be) until I was 19 and my best friend, and then ex-boyfriend dumped me. That “caused” me to start writing Lilliana’s Story, and led to a bunch more incomplete works but that are now original fiction. Stuck in Estrogen’s Funhouse was the first to be completed and then published. I’m hoping that more of the current ones will make it to paperback and e-book as well… but at the moment I’m suffering a bout where my writing is painfully bad since my grandma’s death… so I don’t know if the others will make it or not. I hope so, because I love the characters so much!

Why did you decide to self publish? How has your experience been?

Honestly? I suppose there are two reasons. The most important is that I cannot stand the fact that publishers want you to literally sell your rights to them. I love the idea that my book would be read by more people, but there’s a cost to that. In my mind, I don’t care if I get 50 million dollars from having it cooperatively published, it’s not worth selling my ideas and giving up my rights. I understand “risk” to them if I should decide I want to give my book away all around the internet, but as a writer, if I decide to do that, that is my prerogative. I went to a book fair with a ton of authors recently, and they announced over the intercom that “All authors can buy their books at 20% off.” And that itself almost made me lose it. They freaking wrote it. Without them you wouldn’t have the book to sell. The least you can do is give them rights to their own work and give them free copies.

Now, I do realize that most authors are given a few free copies, but if you ask me an author should be able to ask for as many copies as he or she wants, whenever they want. Again, it’s their work. I shouldn’t have to pay for something that comes out of my own head. And with self publishing, I do call all the shots. And while I have to pay for printing, I do get free copies of my work for all intents and purposes. I just pay shipping and handling and production costs.

I’d say the experience of self publishing has been about what I expected. It’s hard to get your name out there, and to market your book… but it can also be incredibly fun! I love having all rights to my work, and while, yeah, I’d love to sell a million copies, I’m seriously just thrilled when I hear of another person that I didn’t know before reading my work. That is awesome. And I love talking to the readers after they’ve read it as well.

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Write. Simple as that. Participate in National Novel Writing Month in November, or otherwise turn your inner editor off. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to “don’t talk about your work” because that drives me crazy. Tell people the general idea, and then when you find someone that is just as excited about it as you are, release it to them chapter by chapter as you write it. I find that writers tend to be needy. If I’m the only one excited about my work, it wears off. But if you have someone there to bug you with “what’s next?” and “You have more, right?” Then you find yourself excited to answer their questions and share whats in your mind, with them. This is great motivation to actually writing it down. Just, at least for the first draft, tell them that while you want happy-feedback, it’s not time for constructive criticism — or criticism of any kind — yet. They can tell you that when you’ve finished the first draft, if you feel comfortable with that, or if you ask for it along the way (say you are stuck and you want to know when they think it “went wrong”). Better yet, after the first copy, read it over beginning to end by yourself, no asking others about it while you do so. Take notes. What do you love, what do you think “um… did I really write that?” Were your characters’ motivations clear? Questions like that. Then, start revisions, when you are done re-writing the second draft, have the same person that read it as it was written read it. This is the ideal time for criticism if you elected to not hear it at the end of the first draft. After this, go on to editing and such. But I think that if you follow the above (and nothing tragic happens in real life) then you can easily see your dream of being published come true.


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Tales of the unexpected … oh, and please vote for me!

VOTE FOR ME!!! Please?

In what? I hear you ask. Good question.  I dare say that most people in the blogosphere aren’t familiar with the Sydney Writers’ Centre‘s competition to find the Best Australian Blogs of 2012. Well, the competition exists, and I entered it. If nothing else, I figured I could find some great blogs to follow from fellow entrants.

Anyway, there’s a People’s Choice Award as part of the comp, and that’s where you come in. You don’t need to be Australian to vote, so there’s nothing to stop you, right? All you do is click on the pretty badge below or in the sidebar, or, if the link doesn’t work for whatever reason, then you can just click here: VOTE HERE

You’ll have to scroll down to near the bottom of the page – just look for “Emily’s Tea Leaves” and tick the box.

While I have no way of knowing who has voted for me (if anyone, hahaha), if you do you can rest assured I will be forever grateful. And, if you have a blog and I don’t already follow you, leave me a link (in the comments section on this page) and I’ll head there pronto and hit “follow”. Promise!

People's Choice Award

And now, back to business. Today’s topic is unexpected subplots.

I was doing some writing yesterday – just sketching out a scene in my notebook, because it’s school holidays here at the moment and getting to my computer for any length of time is proving tricky – when it took an unexpected turn. Essentially it was a basic office/workplace scene, when my MC and another character started going off on their own tangent. This is a character for whom I have very little back story beyond a name and physical description, who was pretty much there to populate the scene and not do much else. However, contrary to all my expectations, halfway through the scene in question I noticed that what was was initially a minor disagreement had turned into outright hostility. There is history between these characters, and there is definitely a significant conflict. The question now is, what do I do with this?

Don’t get me wrong, the new tension is great. It’s something that I can really get my teeth into, and it adds a delightful aspect to the story that wasn’t previously there. (By delightful, I mean for me as an author, not for my MC.) Sure, I need to work out what this conflict is all about, but I can do that. Office rivalries are nothing new, but they can make the mundane of the workplace much more interesting to both read and write about, so the scenes that by necessity had to take place in that environment are now just that little bit spicier.

On the downside, it means that there’s a lot more writing to do in this story than I had originally thought. I think it will be the better for it, but my fingers are not thanking me. My imagination, on the other hand … who doesn’t love a nemesis? Even when it’s an unintended one.  :) My mind is going at a million miles an hour, and by the time this posts I could well have this character’s back story and her beef with my MC all worked out. Integrating it into the narrative is just another challenge.

Who else has had their story take unexpected turns when new and surprising subplots have arisen during the writing process? How did you deal with it – embrace it and follow it through, or try to quash it? And how did it turn out? I’d love to know. :)

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Book review: The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman

The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman

This is a review of the book The Light Between Oceans, the haunting debut novel by ML Stedman.

The main thing that struck me about this book was the emphasis on choices, and the ramifications they can have. Every choice made in the book was realistic, believable and understandable, yet in some cases horrific in what they meant for others. The tagline, “a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same”, absolutely captures the essence of the book.

Without giving too much away, the story centres around Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, who maintain the lighthouse on a remote Western Australian island in 1926. One day a boat washes onshore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby, no older than two or three months. The Sherbournes, still reeling from two miscarriages and the stillbirth of a son just two weeks prior to the event, decide not to report the incident, instead burying the man and raising the child as their own. Things come to a head, though, when they discover that the mother is still alive and searching for her missing husband and daughter.

As a mother myself, I could totally understand the decision to keep the baby, especially when it seemed she had no family of her own. Equally, I can understand the birth mother’s determination to find her family no matter what. Some of the choices the characters make in this story are unbearable and would be unconscionable under any other circumstances, yet,  heart-wrenching as they are, they are also logical for the situation and within character for the people concerned.

Finally, the emotion that so charges the situation was palpable. I could feel each character’s hopes and fears, and what drew them. I was reduced to tears at the end (perhaps not a huge sign, as I cry at everything. To quote The Simpsons, my husband tells me that I cry when I do long division and have a remainder left over) as these people faced to an outcome that was ideal for no one yet had to be acceptable for everyone. This was a compromise that affected people’s lives to the core.

There were some parts of the novel that didn’t quite sit right with me, though. I was puzzled at the occasional use of present tense, as it seemed to serve no purpose and instead just distracted me from the story. In addition, there were large swathes of back story at the start that I felt might have been better incorporated in another way, so the reader didn’t feel fatigued by the weight of information. All in all, though, I thought this was an incredible book, and I am totally unsurprised that it is being released into so many markets, and there is talk of a film option. If any debut novel deserves that treatment, it’s this one.

———-

The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman
Published by Random House Australia & various international publishers
362 pages (paperback)
Available from Amazon.com as ebook or hardcover, or Booktopia (Australia) as paperback

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Assorted writing tips #3 – Read. Keep reading. Then read some more.

Image by Adrian van Leen

 

It seems so obvious that you may well be wondering why I’d bother writing a blog post about it. Really, though, it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your writing. Reading a lot not only broadens your overall experience, but can give you a number of handy hints for your writing career.

This is something I noticed when I started taking my writing seriously. I’ve been a reader all my life, and have rarely been without a book or two on the go.  My mother even used to put old magazines in my cot when I was a baby to occupy me when I woke up, giving her fifteen or twenty precious minutes before I called out to her. Reading is a huge part of who I am.

Anyway, once I started thinking about writing, I started to notice things about the books I was reading. Storytelling techniques (both good and bad), use of dialogue, examples of show rather than tell – all of those basic stock things that you have at the back of your mind when you write, were there when I read.

I’m a lot more critical now, I admit that. I have read books by previously adored authors and pulled them apart as I read, thinking of ways the plot could have unfolded more smoothly. I have looked at published books and been astonished at their predictability and the corners they cut in exposition. I have, in short, been critiquing them in my head.

Of course, the opposite has been true as well. There are books I’ve read where I’ve been in awe of the work that went into them. Accurate and detailed research cannot be faked, and as someone who has done that sort of research for a particular niche I appreciate the effort involved. I have been amazed by plot twists and been left hanging after every cliffhanger, dying to know what happens next. As such, I have begun to appreciate the quality of what I’m reading, especially when it’s by an established and successful author, and I’ve learned a bundle from it.

So, read. Read because you enjoy it – because if you don’t enjoy reading, then what are you doing writing in the first place? Read as a reader … but also read as a writer. Think about not only the content of the narrative, but also how it’s been put together. Think about how the sentences and paragraphs flow, and how you might be able to apply the techniques used to your own writing. Think about what you can learn from them. I know I do.

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Guest post: Toby Neal, the reluctant crime writer

Today I am thrilled to introduce to you Toby Neil, who is the author of Blood Orchids, a crime novel, and the ebook Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything, which is FREE on Amazon this weekend 7-9 April.

Toby Neal

Toby was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5 and has been published in magazines and won several writing contests. After initially majoring in Journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”

She enjoys many outdoor sports including bodyboarding, scuba diving, beach walking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Hawaii with her family and dogs.

Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series.

Thanks for guesting on my blog, Toby – you can take it from here.  :)

———————–

How did this happen to me? I’m studying Forensics for Dummies with a pack of Post-its. I’m cutting up a chicken in the kitchen with a butcher knife as “research” for a paragraph on dismemberment, leaning in close to listen to the wet thunk and gristly snick of the knife. I’m looking at gruesome pictures of autopsies for accurate descriptions. I’m pulling over to the side of the road and sniffing roadkill, trying for accurate words for the scent of decay. Oh, and I’ve watched about a dozen YouTube videos on handgun cleaning, shooting, loading and handling (still never have touched a real one.)

I’m putting out FB questions—“Anybody know a real policewoman I can interview?” A friend puts me in contact and I meet this intrepid soul for coffee and flattery,  studying her body language, stance, and verbiage while peppering with questions about procedure and the mysterious accoutrements on her duty belt. I’m jogging with my (tiny, fuzzy and idiotic) dogs, imagining myself as the physically fit, badass Lei Texeira, my protagonist, with her Rottweiler.

Through it all, and four books into it, I’m still baffled that I’m writing crime mysteries—but I’ve passed through the denial, bargaining, and anonymity stages and am well on my way to acceptance.

Here’s how it happened:

I wrote a short story on my anonymous blog about a policewoman who’d been sexually abused, who was brave and a little crazy in her persuit of justice. I wrote about the drowning of two young girls, a situation  that I’d dealt with in my real life role as a therapist, helpless to do anything but grieve and help others grieve. I wrote this story to try to work through the trauma of it, to understand it all better somehow.

People wanted to know what happened next so I posted chapters. About 60 pages in, further than I’d ever made it on any of my other attempts, I realized I was so into Lei’s story I was going to be interested enough to actually finish a novel (after about 10 aborted novelets? Novelinas? No-vellums that petered out.)

And I finished Blood Orchids.

I found Lei had more to learn, more cases to solve, more islands to explore, healing to experience and sex to have—and I was still totally into her story. Four books in, and I haven’t lost interest in the seedy underbelly of humanity (did I mention I’m a therapist?) and the dual faces of Hawaii—paradise, and purgatory.

I’m a little embarrassed by this. I’m a nice person, a people helper—staid and a little matronly in my flowered pants and tank tops with pearls.  This fascination with fighting crime really seems…unseemly.

But what I’ve also discovered is that I have a side that loves to root for the underdog, that revels in justice, and that wishes I could be more active than wiping the tears of victims. It’s that side that revels in Lei’s ass kicking of psychologically sick perpetrators… and so in a funny way I guess it all does make sense.

Anyone else surprised by what they like to write—and what they like to read?

Blood Orchids is ON SALE at Amazon (US) for only 99 cents through Saturday April 7!

A little bit about the book:

Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water— but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. The girl’s harsh life and tragic death touches a chord with Lei, and she becomes obsessed with the case. The killer is drawn to her intensity and stalks her, feeding on her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers. She finds herself falling in love for the first time—but the stalker is closer than she can imagine, and threads of the past are tangled in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he already knows where she lives.

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Shooting myself in the foot

See no evil

Image © Fredgoldstein | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

I have a confession to make. I refuse to watch videos online.

There is no logical reason for this aversion. I will happily watch something downloaded from YouTube or whatever, but only if it’s saved to a USB stick and then put in my television to watch there. For some reason, I just won’t watch on my computer.

It’s possible that this foible of mine stems from the early days of the internet, when dial-up connections meant that images and videos took forever to download, and then (in the case of videos) were constantly interrupted for buffering when you did watch them. However, this was ten years ago. You’d think that I would have got over it by now. It’s also possible that I’ve become so regimented in allocating my time that I have different mindsets for computer work (primarily writing, in its various forms) and watching things, and never the twain shall meet. It’s just my bad luck that the two have converged in recent years.

I used to think that, while eccentric to say the least, my aversion was harmless.  After all, what would I really be missing out on? Sure, there were some things that people in various online communities talked about all the time, but I found that if I did a download and watched it later it worked out fine. More recently, however, I’ve realised that my stubbornness comes at a cost.

I was at a conference a couple of months back when one of the speakers talked about research for her book, and how she had utilised YouTube to find out how the place and era she was writing about looked. I was so taken aback that I actually made a note of this. After all, to someone who never watches videos online, the idea of YouTube as research was absolutely alien. Thinking about it, though, it made sense. There are large swathes of my novel set in places that I’ve been to a grand total of once in my life. Surely watching footage of these locations would only add to the atmosphere I’m trying to create?

There are other things, too. I’ve noticed recently that I make the decision not to learn about something rather than watch a three minute video explaining it. I skip all introductory videos, even when they are part of an online learning process I’m part of and apparently essential. I avoid webinars, even when the subject matter is something I find fascinating. In short, if it’s in video format, I don’t watch it. No matter what.

Of course, these recent epiphanies of mine have made me realise that I do need to get over this aversion and start making the most of what the internet has to offer. Not everyone is like me and responds to words on a page rather than images. (This is true for everything, by the way. I’m much better at following step by step instructions than flow charts, even if they contain the exact same information.) The internet is as much a visual experience as it is a verbal one.

The trouble is, I’m not sure how to re-train myself, save force- feeding myself a dose of YouTube every day … and even the thought of that is making me cringe.  However, it is necessary, I think. I would be a fool to forever avoid a resource that could help me with my writing. So re-training it is, something which potentially could take a lot of time.

If anyone else has been in this situation and has successfully re-trained themselves, please let me know how you did it. I’m open to any ideas or processes you can name. After all, if I’ve made it to 2012 without watching internet videos, then clearly I have an awful lot of catching up to do.

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