Monday, August 31, 2009

Creative or Scientific?

I believe there are two types of people — scientific and creative. The creative ones are the dreamers, the ones who, well, create. The scientific ones are the fact-regurgitators, the ones who can kick your butt in Trivial Pursuit. I also believe the scientific/creative thing is a continuum. No one is 100% creative or 100% scientific.

The more creative someone is, the more hobbies and the less routines they seem to have, as well.

Take my husband, for example. He's been known to read the encyclopedia for the fun of it. Lucky for me, his memory isn't what it used to be, so I still have a shot at Trivial Pursuit!

Me? I lean more to the creative side. I am always doing something. In addition to writing, I read a lot (and then I blog a book review at my own site). But I don't really think of that as creative.

My creative hobbies are as varied as possible. I take china painting classes. (This tile just got a second place ribbon in the fair. I'd show the piece that got first place, but it's a gift for my mom and she sometimes reads this blog!) I knit and crochet (yes, I'm on Ravelry!) I make soap and candles. I sew and embroider (currently, we aren't eating meals at the kitchen table because the embroidery machine is in use there!). I draw and paint. I cook.
To me those are all creative outlets and I enjoy them all. I have to keep my mind busy to keep my sanity and these hobbies help me do that. I'm able to put one aside for a bit when I get bored (which happens.... trust me!) and pick up something else.

What about you? What are your hobbies? What ones should I try next?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Topic of the Week

"Hobbies -- what I do when I'm not writing."

Monday, August 24, 2009're it.

I watched as she climbed out of the yellow cab into the rain, the same way she did every morning at three a.m. after her shift ended at O'Malley's pub thirteen blocks away, all legs and stillettos. I'd been watching her for weeks. She was tall, unusually so for a woman, almost six feet, with auburn hair and doe eyes. Pity that, I prefer green, but an artist must make do from time to time.

I fell into step behind the cocktail waitress, several feet away, keeping time with the sway of her hips. She seemed to sense something wrong and walked faster, until her fear forced her to run. She tripped on her pointed heels and fell to the ground, screaming. She looked at me as if to say why, when I reached for her with the knife... "AND CUT" the director said, "Who wants to be it this time?"

Murder and mayhem are a special kind of horror. The tension and terror reads best when built early on and can be just as effective in my opinion from the killers pov as the victim. But how do you choose the victim? Is he or she a paper character whose only scene is death? Or do you give her a history so that you endear her to the reader? Why do you choose them? And what if you choose wrong?

That's happened to me before. In Blood Shield, the first draft, Special Agent Gabriel Spiller (FBI) was a throwaway character, a would have been lover of Jack's late wife Serena. In the big raid on Niccolo Gueraldi's fortress estate, the two killed each other. Spiller while trying to save Jack's new love, Liv, pushed her aside and the kingpin's bullet killed him. Later, I decided I really liked the guy, in a love/hate way and decided to bring him back from the dead and kill off his less wise, younger partner instead. Spiller gets his own story with To Take Up The Sword and a new love. So... choose your 'victims' wisely.


I'll kick your a$$!

I don't really like violence, although mayhem seems to (at times) characterize my life.

I doubt anyone really likes violence, but I prefer mine to take place off-screen. There's just something about the power of suggestion, isn't there? The same rule applies in novels or movies. Maybe it's just me and my twisted mind, but I can usually come up with something more frightening then what the writer or producer can. Even though I know it's just chocolate syrup, there's very little more frightening then the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

My aversion to violence, however healthy that may be, doesn't mean I can't dish it out. I can disassemble and reassemble an M-16 (though not in the dark, much to my father's disappointment). And, while I never qualified as a "marksman" I can hold my own. I prefer the handguns my husband and I use for target practice and can out-shoot the love of my life, though he doesn't like to be reminded of that. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, giving me an understanding of hand-to-hand combat and the amount of damage that can be caused just with kicks and hits.

But when I read or watch TV or pay big-bucks for a movie ticket, I do so to relax. To escape from the stress of everyday life. To forget about the real evils people are capable of committing all over the world. So I don't want to have the violence in my face.

Mayhem, though, is another topic. As a mystery writer and reader, I enjoy the mayhem, the confusion, the misdirection, the puzzle. To me, this is a part of everyday life. Don't think so? Try explaining your favorite topic to someone who isn't interested -- it's like me trying to explain knitting or painting to someone who doesn't value creative expression. Or explaining colors to someone who is color blind. Talk about confusion!

In my opinion, it's mayhem that keeps life interesting. Violence, though, I can do without!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Topic of the Week

"Damage control...violence and mayhem"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Supporting a writer's life

Being a writer is a lonely business. You create the ideas for the books. You spend endless hours toiling in front of a computer screen as you type endlessly away. You put in the effort doing edits before sending your book out to a publisher.

…and waiting for word of rejection or acceptance.


With only the voices in our heads for company.

Sound familiar? I think writers by definition are solitary beings. We pretty much have to be in order to concentrate on building new worlds and carving out relationships between our characters. However, there is another integral part of a writer’s life. The support system.

First on my list is my hubby. I can’t tell you how many times my guy has to listen to how wonderful or annoying my hero is or sit with a straight face when I run a plot point or story idea past him (*grumble grumble. Sandra, romance has no place in sci-fi*) But he’s my biggest fan and would probably like anything I wrote no matter when it really stinks.

Next on my support chain is my critique partner. She’s there for me in the gap, keeps me and my writing honest, pulls no punches when she doesn’t think chapters are working and will praise my work when she likes it. She lets me rant about a bad review or when I’m feeling down about the writing and she’s proud of me when things are good.

After that come the women in my critique group and my beta readers. They get first crack at my work once it’s passed the CP. The crit group is for the most part honest and the beta readers (a mix of writer friends and non-writing friends) are a great core group who tell me what they like or hate.

Everyone has different levels of support, but for me, I couldn’t do any of what I do without each brick in the wall. There are many more friends and acquaintances that support me along the way, and I'm grateful for every one of them. Love you guys!

Maybe a writer’s life isn’t as solitary as I thought…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The System of Support

Everyone needs support. (I say this as the girl that's been told to stay on the couch for her weekend with a heating pad under her butt, forcing the Hubbs to do all the 'running') Be it emotional support, intellectual support, or sometimes, even physical support.

Support when you're writing is a little different. I know if I have a plot problem, which as we know, happens to me a lot, I can always call my sister and get a new perspective. I can ask the Hubbs for input any time. I can even call my Mother and ask her what she thinks of what I've written.

But the writing is still ultimately up to me.

And that's the hard part right now.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Behind the scenes...

As a writer, I create mulitiple worlds filled with any number of people, places and unusual things. Yes, they are ink and paper people, but there lives are important too. It's up to me to make sure all the balls stay in the air. So who takes care of the real world stuff when I've retreated into my head. And boy is there alot to do.

My mom is the go- to girl for appointments, errands etc, and editing questions. If I need Saturday night off, she takes the kids.

When it comes to the house, my husband Jackie sees the kids get their homework done while I'm still at work, feeds the pets, and watches the brood while I eat dinner that my fifteen year old son usually cooks. He loves to cook. (I'm taking daughter-in-law applications for the next 15 years or so LOL) Jackie watches them while I put on my 'contractor's hat' to go up to the new house and paint, hang paneling, ceilings and a hundred different things he can no longer do because of his disability.

Not to mention hundreds of net friends who give advice, crit, help with reasearch and tons of other things. Y'all are awesome, thank you! I tip my many 'hats' to you all.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Better support than an expensive bra!

Support: 1. to carry the weight of; hold up 2. to encourage; help

Support can come in a variety of ways, and those of us in a solitary occupation need to seek our support systems out. It's not like a writer can hang out at the company water cooler to gather the latest gossip, is it?

So we find other means of support. I firmly believe that people come into your life for one of three things: a reason, a season, or a lifetime. No matter which of the three, the person in your life is important.

Here are a few of my "best" support systems.
  • My family: First and foremost, my husband is supper supportive of my writing career. Without him, I wouldn't be doing this. At least not at the level I am now. Then there is our youngest daughter (the oldest doesn't live at home anymore), who lets me bounce ideas off her and has no problem helping me scour the area for places to dump the bodies. Talk about support! Thanks, guys!
  • Local writers' groups: I belong to one local writers' group (big "shout-out" to the Black Hills Writers' Group!) and we meet once a month. Without them, I might truly grow crazy without people to bounce ideas off. Who else would understand a question like "How deep would you have to bury a body so that a helicopter wouldn't notice anything, but that a hiker might notice a week or so later?"
  • Online writers' groups: I'm a member of MANY online groups. They help for the same reason that the Black Hills Writers' Group does. It's a way to ask questions, get advice, know that I'm not alone. They even offer critiques and I certainly need that!
  • My friends: I will admit that I don't make friends easily. Acquaintances, I got. I just don't let people get that close. But the ones who do, are there for me in almost all aspects of my life -- from raising a teenager to getting out an exercising to drinking coffee or going out for ice cream. They're the ones who get me back to the "real world."
So that's my list. It's not an all-encompassing one by any means. (The owner of the local yarn store could be considered part of my support system since my knitting hobby certainly helps my stress level & mental state, for example!)

And for everyone who supports me and my writing, THANK YOU! You have no idea how important you are to me.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Topic of the Week

"Our support system --- as a writer or otherwise"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is it...or isn't it?

World building is a big part of writing. You need to immerse your reader into your world quickly, seamlessly, and so nicely that they aren't aware they've just left their own world behind.

In my paranormal books, I use my everyday world then add a paranormal element to that existing world.

Take my upcoming release for example. The Haunting of Amelia Pritchart (releasing 9-30-09 with The Wild Rose Press). In this book, it's set in the present day with one exception: the heroine meets a ghost. Then the story shifts back to 1918 and we are allowed a glimpse of the ghost's story.

Or in The Art of Fang Shui (releasing 01-08-10 with Eirelander Publishing) I chose the backdrop of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park for the setting of most of that book and as the hero (a vampire) and the heroine try to hike their way out of the forest, they encounter fairies, a witch, a goat man, etc.

Remember, you don't need to physically build a whole new world with foreign sounding names, rules, etc. Oftentimes, you can use the real world and just sprinkle in paranormal elements.

It's that balance of believable/unbelief that makes a good book!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I live in my own little world, but that's ok, they know me there!

My world is always easy to build. It's the one that's right in front of my face, though I do add a few extra features.

Since I tend to write people that I already know, ones that I'm comfortable with, my is the one that I already inhabit. My heroine has a facebook account, my dashing hero a motorcycle (much like my husbands, hmmmm), my characters have mortgages. That doesn't make the world I write boring, just more realistic.

As a reader, I love the books that you can get lost in. But the ones that have too many fantastic elements, ones that you have to remember what is in this world and what isn't, usually loose me within the first hundred pages. I guess I like to have a healthy dose of realism in my fantasy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

World Building...the what, when and where

World-building, where do you start? I like to look at this part of writing as endless possibilities. You have your hero and heroine, plot, and specifics all ready, but where does it all happen? I start with the type of plot. Is it contemporary? Then I can use the real world as a foundation, but create a fake city etc. Paranormal? Well, here's where all the doors open. It can be the here and now, with alternate rules or an entirely different fantasy reality.

Setting is important not only to the story, but to me as well. I tend to always have several different stories going at one time. If I don't compartmentalize, the lines and rules tend to blur. Each story is like one of those solar system models. Every little world is different, with its own characters and ideas. Is the grass green, blue or an alien red? What does it resemble?

Say your world allows twelve year olds to have license to fly a 747, or maybe your cat talks, or you have a world where nothing electronic has every existed. (okay is that one horror?) Whatever you fill your blank world with, above all, follow the rules of the world you create.

Beth *smiles*

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's going on in my world?

Have you ever been going along, minding your own business, and found out that something just wasn't right? All the sudden the sky is green and grass is blue? (In that case, you might want to see if you've fallen and landed upside down!)

But seriously, the rules of your world are important. As authors we can't decide half-way through that the sky will shift from a light lavender to neon pink, can we? The Harry Potter dynasty wouldn't be what it is if J.K. Rowling kept changing the rules.

In my writing, the overall world is right here in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. The streets are mostly real (hey, we don't want the bad guys on our REAL streets!) and the terrain is VERY much real. You won't find a swamp here, nor will you find a lake on top of George Washington's head. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out the second National Treasure movie.) The things I get to change are in the spirit realm.

And that's OK. For me, that grounds my writing. Sure, I may create a fictional construction company for my victim to work in, but it's on a real street (near two real construction companies, I might add). Is that a good thing? I think so. It ensures that Rapid City natives and visitors alike can believe that Cerri is a real person and really lives here. But no one who works for a certain construction company needs to fear for his or her life, either!

Authors who can't follow the rules of their own worlds are the authors I don't re-read. They're the ones I can't bring myself to recommend to others, either. What about you? Do you expect authors to follow those rules? Or is "anything goes" okay in your reading?


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Topic of the Week

"World Building: Endless possibilities, intricate necessities"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Leaving the paranormal behind--for now

Last week I told you I was finishing up a novella regarding demons. I did finish it and for awhile, that will be the last book that has any paranormal connotation.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing in the paranormal genre, but in an effort to not become burnt out on it before I need to write the last book of my trilogy, I'm switching gears and taking a dip into the contemporary world for awhile.

Taking a look at my writing schedule, I won't do a paranormal until the first of the year--that is, that's what the plan is. Unless I get a severe craving before then ;-)

What do you do as writers to challenge your brain and prevent burn out?

What do you do as a reader? Do you get bored with one genre and leave it behind for awhile until you crave it again?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Finding the Para in the Normal

Were taught from a very early age that we are special. No one thinks or acts just like us. That we have the abilty to do things that no one else can do. For some that great dream is to be president. Or a doctor. Or work with animals.

For a very special few real and imagined people, that 'specialness' is the abilty to see and understand the magical in the world around us.

As a reader I love characters who see the special in the mundane. If there well written, personable, it makes me want to see the world the same way they do. Abby for instance in the Abby and Ophelia mysteries, sees the special in the world. She knows that spirits walk, that plants can heal us, and occationaly concedes that faries are around us. Sookie in the "Southern Vampire" books is the same. She KNOWS that there are forces in the world that are beyond the norm. She can pluck that right out of your head!

As a writer though, I have a little trouble with this. I prefer to write about fantastical characters (vampires, warewolves, and the like), rather than the vague parts of the paranormal world. For me, it's easier to write about something that's larger than life, than something that just maybe could be. A guy that turns into a dog, no problem, but a plant that can make me feel better (that dosn't have Bayer etched on the side), that I find a little difficult.

This is something I'm considering working into my story however. I think a Kitchen Witch would be a great addition to my little cadre. Perhaps I'll work on that tonight. It is a full moon after all...