Sunday, June 25, 2017

Looking Good On Paper

Most writers have experienced this at one time or another–you get an idea, do your research, plot the major points that make this a sound book idea and get to work, only to realize that what looked really good on paper won't fly when the nuts and bolts of the story start coming together and something's not right.

That's what happened to me last week. The house contract looked sound so I made a quick trip to North Carolina in search of my next adventure. I'd done my homework and had narrowed my choices to two potential cities, one of which I'd been to numerous times, the other a new to me city. I had decided renting was the best option, giving me time to settle in, and to fit in. However, two things were getting in my way–rents were more expensive than I thought they'd be, and the town I'd picked as my first choice didn't feel right. No warm fuzzy. I even asked total strangers what they liked about this particular town and they seemed puzzled, couldn't come up with an answer. I liked how they decorated the sides of the downtown building with images from the past. The historian in me appreciated the nod to the way things used to be. But it was not a good enough reason to consider relocating there.

So I moved on, a bit further south, to the town I'd visited many times over the years. Sliding into this little town felt like I was coming home. However, since it's close to a military base, rents are really high, even more so than the first town I was in. And housing prices are up there too, since it's a desirable location. I spent a couple of hours with a realtor, inspecting various houses, but my pickings were slim.

When I returned home, I got the news that the potential buyers backed out of the contract, since the home inspection turned up too many things that needed fixing. Even though I'd disclosed all the problems beforehand, it didn't seem to sink in until the home inspector laid it out to them. Back to square one.

So, what to do?

I threw away the paper on which I'd laid out my plans, realizing what looked good on paper wouldn't work in reality. But it's still a good idea. So, I'll rework the plan, come up with some different plot points, do some more research, and put my nose to the grindstone to get it done. After having seventeen books published, I know how to do this.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Gypsy's On The Move

I don't know why I have this personality quirk, but every seven years or so, I like to upend my life. Since I've never married, it's not men, but locations that suffer from my seven year itch syndrome. It must be my gypsy blood. I wish the Tiny Home concept happened years ago. Then I could have taken the house with me as I tour the country, always eager to explore what's over the next hill.

I met a wonderfully supportive group of writer friends in Ohio and launched my career here, with my first book in 2012.
An agent told me recently I have an amazing publishing history and my writing is top-notch. Not something I could have accomplished without the love and support from this group. I will truly miss them.

My sister lived with me for the first time in our adult lives. We spent four years together, nursing each other through major surgeries, but she's now returning to Phoenix, where she spent so much of her life. Since I don't do deserts, she's going to be on her own. I'll miss her, but I also realize she needs her own space.

So where will I end up? This is where it gets exciting. I don't know. I explored some of North Carolina years ago when I first contemplated retirement, but couldn't find anything I cared much for. I've had gobs of time to research cities in the state now, and have sort of narrowed in on a choice, but I have yet to get there, boots on the ground, and check out the city I have in mind. As soon as my house passes inspection and I can be assured the potential buyers don't back out of the deal, I'll be on my way, scouting out a new location. Just as I did when I made the move to Austin years ago, I'll know when I pass the city limits sign that this city is the right one for me. At least that's my hope.

I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A New Set Of Eyes

After the big garage sale weekend, I still have a house to sell. Admittedly, it's got a lot less stuff in it, but still. I worked upstairs today, moving things around to make the spare room look not so spare. Pat's stuff is all packed up in the basement, but she's now going through the kitchen and separating out her things there. We've been living together for four years now, so a lot of our stuff has co-mingled. But now I'm starting to look at the house with a new set of eyes, as if I were seeing it for the first time. I'm trying to remember what about the house appealed to me in the first place and play that up. Which I can now do, since the clutter is gone.

So the basement has been cleared out, and by today, when the next potential buyers come through, Pat may have enough stuff packed so her room will look organized. It's been a challenge to trim the fat from the house, but it feels really good to know that now everything I am left with has a purpose and a reason for me transporting it hundreds of miles.

Which, of course, got me to thinking about my editing process. Clearing the house has been so similar to what I go through in my writing, it's almost eerie. In the months it takes me to write a first draft, I add things in along the way, some good, some brilliant, some really bad. I leave it all in, carting it around with me, until it's time to clean things up, to edit my messy first draft. Just as I've gone room by room through the house, paring things down, I do so with my draft. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, I start cleaning, tightening, and making certain everything I keep has a purpose, a reason for being in the book. Then I'll let my beta readers take a look at it with their fresh eyes.

My rule of thumb for deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it in the house has been if I had touched it in the past eight years or not, the length of time I've lived here. It amazed me to see the moving stickers from my previous move still on way too much stuff. Which means, it hadn't been used since I've been here. As I work through my draft, I try to apply the same logic. I cut out the things that don't work, that aren't needed. Lines that sound wonky either need to be kicked to the curb or cleaned up.

Look out, wonky wordage. I'm here to take you down.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Character Studies

This weekend was our big garage sale. Initially, I opposed the idea of a three-day event, thinking it was too much time away from my writing and I was getting to a really good part of the WIP. But by the end of the first day, I realized it was a great opportunity for studying characters. Who knows? Maybe one or two of them will make their way into an upcoming novel.

There was the mother/daughter tag team who looked so much alike it was eerie.

They finished each other's sentences, acted as a team to load the heavy objects into their cars, kept the two little boys with them under control, even though they were escape artists, and were very sweet together.

Then there were the two men, one black, one white, who kidded each other the entire time they were here. They were middle-aged, and acted like they'd known each other for years. They came back three times to see if there was anything they missed. Gives me hope that someday we can all get along as well as those two did.

Next came the Blonde family. Mother and her three kids. The two little girls sported thick blond braids to their waists. The boy wore a t-shirt proclaiming "Kindergarten--2017." All had the exact same shade of blond hair and the mother spoke to her well-behaved children in a foreign tongue. Swedish? German? Pennsylvania Dutch? We couldn't tell.

The very sweet woman who lives up the road spent 1/2 hour or so here, not buying anything, but talking our ears off and helping herself to our free books.
Anyone who loves to read is okay in my book, so to speak.

The man from across the street who never fails to say hello when we walk past the apartments dropped by. His mother lives in the unit, but he drives over every morning to check on her. He's retired, and I think he hangs out at Mom's just to have something to do. But he's nice and friendly and obviously a loving son. He'll be a welcome addition to a future manuscript.

All in all, it turned out to be a good way to pass the time. We made a few dollars, got rid of a lot of stuff we didn't need or want, and met some real characters, who may someday be fictionalized. This weekend was proof that you never know where inspiration will come from.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ready for the Garage Sale

My sister and I have moved our cars to the driveway and have been loading up the garage in preparation for our mega garage sale.
I liked the way we were going about this–leisurely picking up things from each room as we wander around the house and depositing them into the garage. Saturday, we had to kick it into a higher gear, since we have two young men scheduled to arrive this afternoon to move some furniture to the garage, so drawers had to be emptied and table tops cleared.

I'm in the midst of revising one book and editing another, which is probably why this purge of the house reminds me of the writing process. After I write my first draft, I start cutting out superfluous words, flowery phrases, redundancy. My house is being decluttered a bit at a time, just as is my manuscript. If my house is anything like my writing, I'll need about twenty passes through a room before it's clear of clutter.

The beauty of all this is what I'm finding hidden away in those drawers and closets. Items long since forgotten are emerging. Little nuggets of beauty or nostalgia are literally coming out of the closet. And, since the house is being purged, these little things are being seen in a brand new, uncluttered light. Same goes with my writing. A little gem of a phrase suddenly comes to light once all the clutter leading up to it is removed.

I hope by doing all this, I can make a few bucks on the sale. And, I hope my decluttered and polished manuscript will attract the attention of an agent or publisher, and make me a few bucks, too.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Finding The Lemonade

As most of you who follow this blog are aware, I'm trying to sell my house in order to downsize to a two-bedroom place rather than the four I now have. The home has been on the market for three months now, with several nibbles but no bites.

Rather than panic at the delay, I've decided to look on the bright side. To make lemonade from the lemons. This delay gives me time to leisurely go through all my books, clothing and pictures and determine which I'll keep and which Goodwill will get. Second, I'm taking the time to research places to move to, weighing the options of not only the city and state, but rather to rent first, do I want a ranch or will one set of stairs be okay, will Mary still have a yard to play in, etc. And because I never know when someone will want to see the house, it stays clean.

I'm also trying to find the lemonade in my writing. The edits for my next book seem to be taking forever. As I looked over the latest round, I decided rather than complain about it, I'd accept the fact the book was to the halfway point in the editor's comments. So I'm half done with it. I'll go through the remaining pages and try to circumvent any other problems and send it back. Instead of having half the book to go, I'm halfway done. Glass half full rather than half empty.

So, the house is being gradually decluttered, the process of finding a new place is being winnowed down, my book is halfway through the editing process, and my new WIP is taking shape, 1000 words at a time. Summer's on its way, so it's a perfect time for lemonade.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Forever Friends

In our busy and portable lives, we meet a lot of people who become acquaintances. You know, the kind you send a Christmas card to each year. Then, there are the people who you might hear from via phone a couple of times each year. But there is no better friend than a forever friend. Like my friend, Linda. In the many decades of our friendship, we've been through a lot with each other, regardless of which state I happened to be living in. She knows me better than my sisters do. And she's the only person I wanted to visit after three years of medical issues.

My trip began with another trip–down memory lane. Shortly after we had moved to DC back in the day, Linda and I rented a house together. Or part of a house, anyway. We had the English basement and first floor of a townhouse on Capitol Hill. Two men shared the top two floors. We were very close to our old stomping grounds after visiting the National Arboretum, so we took a slight detour to see what the place looked like today. We loved living on the Hill. Our house was only a block from our favorite bar and the neighborhood was safe for those nights when we staggered home.

But, as an author of romance, and historical romance at that, I couldn't get this close without paying homage to the great Nora Roberts and touring a battlefield. We made a trip to Boonsboro, MD to her Turn The Page bookstore, where I spent way too much on books, of course. We saw but couldn't gain admittance to  the historic Boonsboro Inn featured in one of her trilogies, and had lunch at Dan's, the restaurant owned by one of her sons. The other restaurant in town, Vesta, is owned by her other son, Jason. 

And then, we were off to the Antietam battlefield. Bearing the distinction of being the bloodiest single day in the history of any American war, our ranger told us that bodies were falling at the rate of one per second during the height of the battle.

The battle ended in a draw and was the turning point of the war, since France and England were about to help fund the Confederates had they succeeded in trouncing the Union Army. Such a huge price to pay. We walked around the quiet fields that afternoon, walked on the Burnside Bridge, one of the major battle sites, and tried to imagine the horror and chaos that faced the men that day.

Having made the move from this part of the country back to Ohio, I realized this trip that, while I don't miss the congestion and traffic, I do miss the vibrancy and history of Virginia. That may be why I write historical romances today. 

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. And to everyone's forever friends, give them a special hug today.