A Writer's Top Ten
In the spirit of David Letterman, I thought I'd share the top ten reasons why I write...
10. The 90s movie says it best..."Reality Bites."
9. It's cheaper than therapy.
8. For some reason, I just really love rejection.
7. My characters can't sue me for the terrible things I do to them.
6. It's my secret way of teaching the world proper grammar.
5. I'm addicted to my keyboard.
4. No sport involves reading books.
3. My mom loves my work.
2. No better excuse to drink coffee.
And the number one reason I write...
1. To quiet the voices in my head.
*rimshot and thunderous applause*
Good night, ladies and gentlemen.
A Tweak to Perfection
At what point does one finally sit back and say, "You know what? That's done. I'm happy with it. And I'm not touching it again."?
Do you know how many times I've been there? I've written several plays. Even had them produced! And it would never fail--I would always find a typo or a needed improvement after the final script was printed. Doesn't that just irk you to no end?! And even when rehearsals would come about, sometimes we'd need to tweak a line to fit the actor's representation of a character, or the use of a prop, or to get a better laugh.
My published book, Asylum, has several errors. To see that in a printed book is rough on me. Breaks my heart. I've gone back through the document and corrected them, so when I get a chance to re-do it, I will.
That's the beautiful thing about this. Writing is art. And art is fluid.
As I've just put some final touches on the manuscript for my first book (for the 100th time!), I started delving into the second book's manuscript. I actually worked on them a bit together to align the stories. I wrote the second one prior to the first--the first one was borne out of backstory. Shameful, I know. But when the characters started whispering to me in the dark late at night, I had to do something to get them out of my head.
Crazy author talk. It happens.
And after examining Book #2, I'm realizing that I need to re-work some parts of it. If I remember correctly, it was the second novel I wrote. (My first one--Book #6 in the series--is horrid. That will take tons of work! Solid story, but amateur writing.) It's neat to look back and see how much I've learned through this journey.
Now, I'm nowhere near perfection. I'll be the first to agree to that! But I can say with pride that I am a writer. And I'm improving my craft daily. It's a good thing.
I foresee years of tweakage ahead. Even to that which I may deem perfect. Done. Not touching it again.
You know what? I will.
Do the Math
My dad was a math professor. Okay, he was the math professor. He was amazing! He could make algebra look like addition. He could make calculus comprehendible. He won Teacher of the Year at his school quite often. And one day, my mom brought home a sign from work that read, "Do the Math." Oh, my dad loved it!
You'd think the math gene would be passed down. At the very least, I might enjoy math. Must have gone to my brothers, 'cause I surely didn't get it. I can do math...when forced. I love patterns in numbers and the logic behind them, but overall, math is just not my thing.
And yet, the last week, I've been doing some pretty major calculations.
My series, The Crown's Call, spans nearly 600 years through 15 books. I had a general idea of the timeline, but I never sat down to figure it all out. So I decided to do a mass merge of my storylines into one document and delineate which events fall where.
Pretty intense, let me tell you.
I found some big discrepancies and worked through those. I even fine-tuned quite a bit. Down to 4 or 5 decimal points! After I got that all arranged, I blew it back up to reflect years only, unless the story takes place within a single year.
I revised my first novel according to the new timeline, and I feel good about it. Now, I'm setting off into #2 to do the same thing. Polish, polish, polish.
So...if you are thinking about becoming a writer to avoid computations, think again! As a friend of mine said, "You can never escape math."
Much to my chagrin...
The Importance of Story
So...I picked up this new book. It looked like it would be right up my alley, aligning with my tastes. I started into it with the greatest expectations...
...but within just a few pages, I was completely put off by the editing.
Now, let me say this--I wouldn't call myself an editor. As a writer, though, I understand the importance of good editing. I look forward to the chance of working with an editor to learn how I can improve my writing.
But I forced myself to press on with the book, despite the POV errors, lots of telling, and repeated use of the same word. (These are the rules I try so hard to follow, so they stand out when they are disregarded.) And I've found myself wrapped up in the story.
I haven't even made it through the first chapter. And I have to ask...
Does story trump technique? If you have a first-class story, does it matter if you head-hop or give an info dump? If your characters are solid and strong, does it matter if you use flashbacks or overuse dialogue attributions?
In my opinion, it depends on the reader...and the story. I've had books I've given up on for the same reasons I've listed above. But I'm going to give this one a chance. I'm intrigued enough to stick with it. But the second it loses my interest, it's done.
Again, as a writer, I fully believe that I owe it to my readers to provide them with the very best story I can, executed in the very best way. This may involve collaboration with an critique group or an editor. It certainly involves a lot of long hours, profound thought, and immeasurable emotion to create a product worth reading. Not to mention a little bit of luck to get it out there.
What about you? Would you invest the hours it takes to read a book that wasn't properly written and edited? What keeps your interest?
I have found the best graphic designer! I give him an idea of what I envision for my books, and he creates these awesome concept covers.
I am pleased to reveal the concept cover for Spider.
Romancing the Classics
This evening, my son told me he is learning about the War of 1812 at school. He loves history, so he was rather excited about it. And I got to turn his small talk into not only a history lesson, but a music lesson.
I know I've mentioned before that my dad was a stereo lover. He had played the trombone in high school, and then in the Air Force. His vinyl collection was amazing! And I cannot recount how many nights I watched him conduct his imaginary orchestra with a very real baton. He even taught me how to keep tempo. I loved those nights when he'd pass me the baton, and I could join in his reverie.
Tchaikovsky is one of my favorite composers. His up-tempo pieces are so captivating. They fill you with excitement and empower in ways that you feel like you can do just about anything.
So tonight, I shared the 1812 Overture with my son. From the church bells to the cannons, he loved it. This led to looking up Tchaikovsky's bio. Such a sad, tormented story. But the article mentioned Mikhail Glinka, which reminded me of another Russian composer I loved.
My dad had an album called Romantic Russia, and I remember nearly every piece recorded on there. The pieces that stood out the most, though, were the ones written by Glinka. (It's so much fun to say that name out loud!) And sadly, he's not nearly as famous as the classic Classical composers like Beethoven, Mozart, or even Tchaikovsky himself.
So I'm going to share with you my favorite Glinka piece. My son listened intently as we read about Glinka's life. We talked about minor keys versus major keys, as well as modulation. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do.
I may craft words into stories, but these men crafted notes into magnificent works that will stand the test of time. I am forever grateful...
For the Love of Hans
Just like the rest of this nation, I have been completely caught up in the movie Frozen. I have two little girls, so we have the dolls, the dresses, the music. We frequent YouTube often to enjoy glimpses of the movie. And we're eagerly awaiting March 18th when it's available on DVD.
Yes, I say "we" because I'm equally as excited as my girls.
I fell head-over-heels in love with Tangled. What a perfect story, in my opinion. I even thought Brave was an intriguing story. And at first, Frozen wasn't ranking at the top of the list for me, but after two viewings and multiple listenings of the soundtrack, it has won my heart.
I'm a Broadway fanatic, and this movie has Broadway all over it. The news recently hit social media sites that Disney will be taking it to Broadway, and I can't wait! With the stage magic revealed for Rodger and Hammerstein's Cinderella last Tony season, it will be interesting to see what Disney does with Frozen on stage.
The music is fabulous. An up-tempo love song, a ballad of hope and wonder...the songs carry it. Although I would have liked to hear more songs in the latter half of the movie. And let's talk about "Let It Go." This song has resonated with so many people, it's become the anthem of multiple generations. My girls sing it word for word and note for note. And every word swells in my heart on a much more personal level. When the first few strains start, I am immediately taken to every instance in my life when I wish I could have said, "I don't care." That song fills me, empowers me, and thrills me. If you haven't heard it, I highly recommend checking it out.
And how many of you out there were totally taken in by Hans? I knew from the start that he was "the bad guy," (I read through one of the kids' books beforehand!) but I refused to believe it! He was perfect. Wonderful. Chivalrous. Everything a prince should be. And then he stabs you in the heart! Perhaps it's just my love for him, but I have to say that he can't really be blamed for his actions. He saw an opportunity, and he took it. Human nature, right?
I'd like to suggest that the real bad guy was Anna and Elsa's father. For the way he treated Elsa. Of course, it was a natural reaction, but the way he injected fear into their lives, especially Elsa, created the whole ice storm, if you will. Without this, there would be no story, but it's certainly a lesson we parents can take away. Nurture your kids. Don't isolate them because of their differences. Help them find a way to embrace who they are.
And yes, I know these are fictional, animated characters. But when you're listening to the "Ice Breakers" (as my kids call the opening sequence) for the 1000th time, these thoughts go through your head.
It is pretty awesome having two female protagonists. My girls are both enamored with Elsa, so I get to sing Anna's part during their duets. And I don't mind that one bit! I love Anna! Of course, I get to sing Hans during the love song. Good thing I can handle harmony.
All this to say, if you haven't seen Frozen, you should. There's something in it for everyone. Strong females, daring heroes, deceptive villains, comedic sidekicks, and trolls. I'm waiting for the troll merchandise to hit the shelves. Although I must commend the merchandising of this movie--it hasn't been over the top. Just enough to whet the appetite and make parents crazy to find items right before Christmas. (Shop early next time! Thankfully, I found the full set of dolls before they disappeared!)
Thanks, Disney, for another solid story. Can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve next!
I don't know about you, but I'm really good about heaping extra guilt onto my shoulders. That guilt comes from a number of sources, but I think the main source is the "Supposed To"s.
Oh, there's a long list of "Supposed To"s I encounter every day:
As I started thinking about all my "supposed-to"s, I realized these were all demands the world makes on me. Mankind. I asked myself, "What is really important? If I couldn't fulfill all those demands (albeit self-imposed), what is the one thing that I should be doing all the time? What does God tell us we're supposed to do?"
And it all came down to one commandment delivered by Jesus in Matthew 22:37. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
If we do that, don't you think all the important "supposed-to"s will fall into place?
When that thought came to mind, gone was the guilt of my failed "supposed-to"s. There's only one thing my God wants from me. He wants me to love him in every way possible. He doesn't want me to feel badly about messing up here on earth. He wants me to trust in His goodness and mercy. He wants me to follow Him. And (how cool is this?!)...He wants my love! My puny, confused, sloppy, blind love.
Yours, too, for that matter.
So let go of those "supposed-to"s--or at least the ones you can without shirking responsibility. And focus on loving God in all the awesome ways He allows us to. I'm certainly going to try. I imagine we'll find a much lighter load when we hand off those "supposed-to"s to much bigger and far more capable Hands.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Another Christmas has come and gone. We're now embarking into my least favorite time of year. It's not my intention to complain, so stick with me. I'm just ready to skip ahead a few months to get to more interesting holidays and celebrations. Fall is the best time of year for me. I love cooler temperatures and long sleeves. The smell of chimney smoke and falling leaves. But that's now in the distant future.
And Fall ends in the best way. Christmas!
I could live Christmas every day of the year. Yes, I'm like Buddy the Elf when it comes to Christmas. I get excited when store aisles get cleared out every July for school supplies. Because following school supplies is Halloween costumes. And following Halloween costumes is Christmas décor.
I love the lights. The sounds. The smells. The joy. The kindness. Although I did notice those last two lacking a bit this year in the rush and bustle. But with something as simple as plugging in a string of Christmas lights, all the tension melts away, and I can dream of Santa and snowmen.
Of course, I do know the real meaning of Christmas, and I cherish that just as much.
This year was particularly special. I introduced my six-year-old to The Nutcracker Ballet this year. The ballet has always been special to me. My dad was a stereo nut. He had a huge system with speakers taller than me. He is responsible for my love and knowledge of classical music. His LP collection could put many to shame. He had one LP that I treasured--The Nutcracker Suite on one side, and Peter and the Wolf on the other. Conducted by the great Leonard Bernstein. When my dad pulled that out, I knew we were in for a treat.
I saw the ballet for the first time in 1985. My mom took me around Thanksgiving. When we returned home, we learned my grandfather had had a stroke that would soon result in his death. And although that might leave a bad taste in some people's mouths, the beauty of the music and the ballet overcame the sorrow that accompanied that day.
I got to stage manage the ballet with the Anaheim Ballet when I worked for Disneyland. What a dream come true! The lighting and costumes were beautiful, and the dancers were phenomenally talented. My lasting memory of that? Tumbling down a flight of cement stairs from the booth. I still have scars from scraping my hands.
Perhaps that's why I love the ballet so much. I severely lack the grace of a dancer.
But this year, I was determined to make a very special night for a very special girl. I started by purchasing a Nutcracker figure. They're in every store now, so that was easy. I wrapped him up and found a basket for him to live in. We went to dinner before the performance, and I gave her the present. She held it all night long! Being her first trip to a real theatre, I explained the lights and the stage. When the ballet started, she was enthralled. It was perfect!
And beyond that, after years of loving this story, I've come up with the neatest idea for a book! I don't wish to disclose much at this point, as it's in development, but I'm really excited about it. If I can pull it off, I think it will be a really intriguing story. I'm going to give it a whirl, anyway.
So now that we're into the season of resolutions and new beginnings, I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I have revisions to work on for Once Upon a Heist. That turned out to be super fun, and I can't wait to share that one with the world. I have the Crown's Call to work on. And this new one to write. And of course, there's work and momming duties.
24 hours in a day, and another 353 days until next Christmas. May as well make the best of what I've got.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3