Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gather the Ingredients, Stir the Pot and Give Thanks for the Proof in the Pudding

Not yet satisfied with the last few chapters (20-24) of Charade, I'm going to give them one more read and rewrite tomorrow before setting the novel aside to "cure."

When I was a kid, my extended family liked to get together in Sharpsville, Indiana at my grandparents' home to make homemade ice cream. After rounding up the crushed ice, the salt, and the ice cream maker in addition to cooking the ingredients just so, the time eventually came to pour the concoction into the metal cylinder, dip in the paddles and begin to turn the crank.

Everyone took turns at the crank in the beginning, but when the paddles began to resist, elbow grease and brawn took over. Of course, someone had to stand on the wooden bucket full of ice and salt above the silver canister spinning round and round and full to the brim of almost frozen ice cream to keep it steady while the crank groaned as it turned. Sometimes the ice cream expanded so much it oozed out through the top and leaked into the ice and salt.  

When the crank could be turned no more, then the whole shebang: the big wooden bucket full of rapidly melting ice, the silver canister full of ice cream, crank and all got wrapped in blankets until after supper. Anticipation of the creamy results of all that labor hung in the air all during supper while the ice cream cured.

Not until the dishes were done and put away did the adults finally make their leisurely way out back to unwrap the prize, lift the canister from the icy bucket, wipe the salt and water off, and oh so carefully lift the lid. The paddles were pulled and licked by a lucky bystander while the scooping and serving began. The secret's in the "cure" the old folks claimed, and I'm sure they were right.

As Charade "cures," I wait to see if the taste will reflect the effort, and if the anticipation of reading it with new eyes will make all the difference. The ingredients I used were fresh, and I certainly cranked and cranked and cranked until I couldn't crank anymore. Hopefully, when I get to lick the paddle,  I'll be able to tell if my readers will be lining up asking for yet another scoop of Arrowstar and Company.

Wishing you savory turkey, sweet marshmallow covered yams, lots of pies with ice cream and plenty of reasons to be thankful on Thursday. God bless Abraham Lincoln for making "giving thanks" a national holiday. Amen!

Thanking my lucky stars for all of you,

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mad Dash to Victory

I'm currently reading a 784-page novel, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm fascinated by her compelling descriptions and characterizations. Her ability to engage her readers with prose so full of meaning it's impossible to skip even a word of it, makes me wonder how I can possibly hope to reach that level of skill as a writer. I'm in awe of her talent and completely baffled at how she manages to spill out so many pages without writing one boring or unnecessary sentence.

In editor mode now, I'm pushing toward finishing Charade with a word count goal set somewhere around 70,000. I've got 6,000 more words to write to reach that ballpark number, and I want to make the prose that results worth the reader's time and compelling enough to give depth of character and place without adding unnecessary and therefore boring filler. Ugh! I hate even admitting to thinking about adding such fatty, spare-tire prose to round out the skinny creature I've got running toward the finish. How do I make this anemic second draft into a robust, six-pack-sporting Adonis?

Yes, I'm still plagued by uncertainty and hesitation when it comes to laying bare my artistic passions on the pages of a novel for discerning readers to peruse. Maybe I can console myself with the old adage that says if you're not nervous before you go on stage, then your performance won't be worth a fart. Or something along those lines. I think I made up the part about the fart.

I haven't formulated satisfying answers to my questioning as yet, but maybe the key lies in just slogging ahead with as much skill as I currently possess and hoping for the best. At least I recognize the pitfalls of adding words just to fill space. Maybe, at this point in my writing career, I have developed some degree of mastery in my craft that will allow me to reach for some small degree of what I've seen possible by reading Tartt.

Today's tidbit: Practice, practice, practice whatever your craft may be until the  melody you're making fits perfectly the lyrics of your song.

Thanks for humming along while I run like mad to the finish,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Charade's Skeleton Gets Connected!

Natalie Goldberg wrote a self-help book for writers called Writing Down the Bones. I have it on my bookshelf and have read it numerous times for inspiration and practical pointers.

It occurred to me that "writing down the bones" is a great metaphor for getting the first draft of a novel down on paper. Yesterday I wrote all the way to the end of Charade, completing over 60,000 words. With 10,000 words, give or take, left to write I'll start back at Chapter 1 polishing and rewriting what I've already written.

During the editing process I'll find connections I failed to notice during the skeletal phase of the writing. I'll be able to link these connections in more obvious ways so the reader catches them too. For instance, I might find a reference to Valentines Day in Chapter One and notice a connection in say, Chapter 10. I'll make this subtle link more obvious, so the reader might have an ah-ha moment remembering the earlier reference.

In my writing, not all these links are intended during the creative process. Much of the time they're accidental references that, when made more robust, give the reader a nice little jolt of remembrance and insight into the larger plot. It's the place in a novel when you might say, "I wondered why Star said that in the first chapter. Okay, now I get it. That's clever."

What a rush to read through the entire first draft of the novel! Creating the flow of the plot, being aware of the story arc and finding the right words challenges any writer and involves a large amount of hard work. Editing, on the other hand, becomes a wild and crazy scavenger hunt for missing descriptions, opportunities to improve the build up to a crisis and work with weak characterizations. It's exciting stuff and much more fun than staring at a blank page and fearing no words will emerge to fill it.

Yesterday when I noticed I'd reached the magical 60,000 words at just the right place and time for the characters, I jumped up, ran out to the garage, where my husband stood with greasy hands shoved inside the guts of an antique motorcycle he's restoring for one of his clients, and did a little happy dance to mark the successfully constructed "skeleton." I love those moments when I reach a personally-designed hallmark in my work and feel like celebrating. That's the real joy of the creative process.

Now, it's time to put flesh, running shorts and track shoes on the bones and sprint toward the finish line. It's good to have you as an audience along the way cheering, yelling, and offering Gatorade. I treasure your loyal support!

Today's Tidbit: "I am a rock, I am an island." NOT!

Celebrate whenever, wherever you get the chance,

Monday, November 4, 2013

On Sale Now!!!

Arrowstar and Honor Bound are now listed for 99 cents at beginning today with the price increasing in increments daily back to the list price of $6.99 on November 10. You might want to take advantage of this opportunity to read Arrowstar prior to the release of the second in the series, Charade in December.

Meanwhile . . . "back at the ranch" Charade has worked its way up to well over 50,000 words, approaching the finish line. Today the fog has cleared, and I'm ready to unravel some knotty problems plaguing one of my favorite characters. She won't be well after today's writing, but she should be well on her way out of the trouble she's been in for a few chapters - not to "let the cat out of the bag." If you've read Arrowstar you might infer something about the plot from my use of two tired old clich├ęs. Good luck!

I'm anxious to finish Charade and publish it on the Kindle platform on Amazon, so I can get busy writing more blog entries, tweeting, and marketing these first three novels and writing two more companion novellas. Please look for A Train Robber's Tale and The Storm Women for Kindle toward the middle of 2014. The first being a companion to Arrowstar and the second a compliment to Charade. I think you'll enjoy these fictional "historical" novellas written under the pseudonym Star Lance, the protagonist of the Arrowstar novels.

As I approach the conclusion of Charade, I'm feeling as if I've finally allowed myself the commitment and discipline needed to continue down the path of authorship. Maybe I'm even ready to use Amazon's Create Space to produce some physical copies of the books. It would feel incredible to place them on my bookshelf alongside works of other favorite authors. I've saved the publications containing my freelance work for magazines and newspapers over the years, but shelving five novels by the end of 2014 would be euphoric beyond my imagination.

Thanks for reading what I write both here and in your e-book collection. I hope you're eagerly anticipating more of Star's adventures in small-town Western living. Charade takes her far beyond the familiar places where you might expect to find her. By the way, there's a new sheriff in town and his name is Rafferty. He's a former Chicago cop and itching to dig into what he imagines might be a slower pace of policing in such an out-of-the-mainstream place like Mineral City, Arizona. Could be he's got that wrong!

Take away thought: There's been nothing like writing a novel as a way to discover what bizarre memorabilia reside in the recesses of the mind.

Read On!!!