Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Elections and Characters

My characters are having a field day with the upcoming elections. One is telling me which candidates remind him of which former world leaders – including Stalin and Hitler -and laughed at the Muppet's meme that went around social media. Another is finding England's departure from the EU fascinating and making comparisons to the USA Revolution. And then there's Jess.

Who's Jess? Jess is my first and most beloved character. She's wildly independent, stubborn, unfetterd and doesn't give a damn what others think. My kinda girl! She's the one who forced me (she wouldn't shut up, especially at 3:00 a.m.) to write her story. Jess also swears like a sailor and loves picking up new insulting terms. She's having a field day with all of the mud-slinging, name calling, and fear mongering this election round.

New terms are being flung around my brain like so much confetti. She keeps repeating her favorites over and over, terms like “butt trumpet” keep popping up at inappropriate times. This is distracting at best, inconvenient at worst as she makes me laugh in the middle of conference calls or while troubleshooting an issue for a client. 

Her BFF isn't much help as he admonishes her for her rancid mouth and penchant for speaking in a bad British accent when using her newly discovered phrases. As soon as Paul starts in Jess ramps it up, getting more foul until he throws his hands up in disgust and walks away. This of course has me belly laughing uncontrollably while my husband threatens to dial the local psych ward.

I'm not sure if this is normal behavior for characters or not, it is certainly normal for mine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Inappropriate Inspiration?

There was a recent tragedy in my state, perpetrated by a reportedly “sane” man. The court is waiting for evaluation results for good measure.

Regardless of what the state determines, the suspect has an interesting story on the "why" of his crime. As soon as I heard his explanation, my writer brain took off with a potential story line along a paranormal/conspiracy theory/mystery twisted line. At first I felt bad, getting a story idea off of a tragedy even though I often borrow pieces of real life to incorporate into some of my stories. Then I decide, what the heck, and asked some friends what they thought.

I got an interesting mix of responses back. Some people thought it was totally inappropriate to write up a story that was inspired by such an evil act. Others told me they thought Stephen King may have already done a story along the same line, only a few thought I should go ahead and tackle the storyline, thinking I might be able to have an interesting take on it.

When I read that Stephen King may have already done something similar, it started me wondering. Where does King get his inspiration? Are they from inappropriate places, such as real life evil doing or do they just come to him like many of my other characters do? Then I really began to wonder, how many other writers may get their ideas from “inappropriate” sources of inspiration – whether it be personal tragedy, global tragedy, or local tragedies perpetrated by humans – and whether or not they feel guilty or bad for basing a story off of a real life event.

I'm still debating whether or not to write up the story line. I have notes jotted down and luckily I have more than enough WIPs in the queue that I need ot work on that I can let it sit for awhile before making a decision.

So here's my big question: is it “normal” to feel uneasy about a story idea that jumps out at you from today's headlines? How would you, as a reader, feel if you throughly enjoyed a story that you discover is based off of a real-life tragedy?

Monday, December 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo Failure

It's been sometime since I've blogged and it's been some time since I failed a NaNoWriMo, but this year I did. My day job interrupted my writing time and I ended up finishing with about 35,000 words (I didn't validate my novel).

The good news is I'm still working on a new book, new characters, new Cozy series. This one is a true cozy - strong female lead characters, a romantic interest and a murder to solve. I'm hoping to have it finished up this weekend and then I'll be making a concerted effort to polish it up, get out some synopsises to agents and hope I get a bite.

One thing I am really hoping for is that the publisher will use the photo that prompted the story. It was taken by a dear friend of mine and it's the second photo of his that gave me my NaNoWriMo project for the year.  I love a lot of his work, I love that they give me story lines, but I regret that they give me entirely new book series ideas. I simply don't have that much time to write, given that - like the vast majority of writers - I have a demanding full time job, plus extended family and pets galore.

I really don't care which book series get picked up first, by an agent or publisher, as long as one gets picked up I'll be happy. I won't forget the rest, that's for certain. Jess, who started it all, deserves to have her stories read, even if I have to self-pub them, save money up for cover art to be created, and market them all by myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Everything I learned in English Class

Has been forgotten.

I have a new critique partner, which is awesomely wonderful. He is very honest, giving me the good, the bad, and the ugly about my work. Exactly what I asked for and needed. With his input I'm sure I'll be able to get my writing to that level needed to be worth publishing.

However, I've realized everything I learned in English classes in high school and college has left my "building". I've had to look up Protagonist and Antagonist again to get a more detailed idea of where I'm missing the mark. Being a techie, my writing revolves around user interfaces, system consoles, ROI and cost-benefit analyses, not fictional writing.

I find myself wondering why I "think" I'm a writer. But then something funny, odd, somewhat hysterical happens: characters invade my space with story lines, new problems and genres I rarely read let alone have the vocabulary necessary to write a story that will pull the reader in.

For example, Hallmark Channel was having a Christmas in July movie-thon and I was listening (and swearing profusely at an uncooperative server), when an entirely new character sauntered into my brain, plopped herself in a comfy chair and snarkily fed me a story line. A romance story line no less. I believe she actually belongs to Simone Anderson, but for whatever reason this character has decided I'll be the one to write her story.

That's when I remember why I think I'm a writer, because I have to write. Sure, I don't know all the rules or remember all the terminology, but it's the only way to shut up all of the people in my head.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Confederate Flag

I'm okay with the Confederate Flag. Some folks may take umbrage with this statement. But I'm okay with the flag. Just as I'm okay with the Pride Flag, that gorgeous rainbow flag that represents LGBTQ communities across the globe. I'm even okay with the other countries flags being displayed - as long as none of them are flown above the American Flag. No need to insult our veterans who have fought and died for the American Flag, our right to say our minds, and our safety.

Banning the Confederate Flag (how many times can I type that?) won't resolve the underlying issues. Banning it also has us running the risk of forgetting what it represents. We should never forget ANY part of the Civil War. I happen to be old enough to have a grandmother who was old enough, with a grand-father (my great-grandfather) still alive that had fought in the Civil War. He told her the ugly stories of the war, glorified nothing about it, and made sure she, her siblings, and cousins understood they needed to share these stories with their own children and grandchildren. Because, as he said "We never, ever want another drop of blood spilled on this soil as a result of an internal war." My family had family on both sides of that fight, as so many families did. But ours is a country that fought to free people from slavery and we should never forget that.

Rather, we should teach our kids about our flags. Teach them what they stood for, the truth about the wars fought on this soil, no glorifying either side, and let them think for themselves about what it means to have war on our own soil. Let them know how fortunate we are, that we are not a perfect country, we have work to do still, but don't forget where we've been, how far we've come and how far we have to go.

So leave the flag. Don't drown out or water down the history of our bloody Civil War, or the Revolutionary War, or the Indian War. To do so begs us to forget the lessons learned and dooms us to repeat our mistakes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

So Many Device Sizes, So Many Formatting Woes

(Note: this is a repost from my post at GRRWG)

I suspect that a "simple" novel or short story will not create the same pain as trying to convert a complex format book (such as my cookbook) into an eBook readable on multiple devices. My cookbook is my lesson in self-publishing and yes, I worked with a layout person the first iteration through. Even then, the format varied in success depending on the size of the device. Also spacing , paging and text formatting wasn't consistent across the various devices I used for testing. I'm not sure what software they used, as I didn't get a source file back, just a .PDF.

Since I wanted to add a new recipe \to my cookbook I decided to update the Kindle version first. Without the same software or source file, I had to start over with the .doc file I'd provided to my layout person, basically a Word document. The added recipe and reformat has been a trial and error project with lots of lessons learned. I figured I'd share what I've learned with you.

Lesson #1

Take full advantage of the Styles in Word (because Kindle only accepts .doc and .pdf formats) and save yourself the headache. I have repeating text layouts for things like ingredients lists, equipment lists and directions. This also comes in handy when using titles that you don't want to include in the overall table of contents. Styles allow you to make a universal change to a chunk of text and come in handy when have to go back and forth between reviewing the imported file and the .doc file.

Lesson #2

Don't use tables unless you actually want the borders to be the same across the board and show up. The spacing is consistent but no matter how hard you try, those borders will show up.

Lesson #3

Give up on trying to view your book on every device you have that can view the book. Go with what the previewer shows you and realize that the reformatting on the fly can have a funky effect on the layout. Just paging back a page in the previewer will give you a different result than what you see moving forward in the previewer.

In case you didn't realize it, Kindle and Nook both have free apps that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and PC's (yes, the term PC includes the Mac line as they are also Personal Computers...don't get me started on computer history!). PCs/laptops/notebooks can have average screen sizes from 10" and up. Since the applications will size to the screen size in use, the paging can change drastically. You'll go crazy trying to make sure it works "perfect" on every screen. Changes are it won't anyway, so save yourself the headache.

Lesson #4

Hard page breaks are you friend. The best lesson I learned was to use a hard page break between each recipe and chapter page. I removed the rest of the page breaks, so in that sense the layout is very similar to a traditional novel which would only have a hard page break at the chapter end.

Lesson #5

Leave it alone for a day or two. When you think you have it "done", walk away for a few days. Come back and review it again. You'll be surprised at what you may have missed or find that you are ready to finalize the copy. Either way, give yourself a break.

Last, but not Least

Select the DRM (Digital Rights Management) opton when setting up your eBook the first time. You can't change you mind after you publish. Without DRM, your eBook will be pirated even faster. Make it a bit harder for them to pirate, select DRM

I hope this doesn't scare you off from creating your own cookbook for your friends and family. It's still worth it if they're scattered to the four corners of the world. That's exactly why I set mine up as an eBook. With friends across the globe, it's the easiest way to get the book distributed to everyone.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Puppy Mayhem

We bit the bullet and got another Great Pyrenees puppy. Boy, have I forgotten how much work a puppy can be! Our last puppies came as a matched pair so they entertained themselves and are very bonded to each other, since they're still alive and with us, they're not taking to the new member of the family as readily as I'd hoped.

Part of why we decided to get a pup is that our 8 year old female Pyr has so much going on with her - a heart arrhythmia, hypothyroidism, bad hips and now Lyme disease - we have no idea how much longer we'll have her. Our male on the other hand, also 8, presents as if he's 5 instead of 8 because he's so healthy. He's also so bonded to our big girl that he whines and pouts when she goes for a vet visit or just a walk down the block. So we picked out a new female for him to bond with in the hope that he won't die of a broken heart when it's his sister's time to go.

It's been a week...I'm somewhat sleep deprived as I'm on-call this week. Tonka Tala Tama (Tala for short) knows to pee when told "go potty", understands inside/outside/treat/bone and comes and sits on command, no leashes needed. Pooping outside remains a challenge, just like with our big girl and we're still learning Tala's signs for when she needs to potty.

My mother's day started off with cleaning up a poop pile full of dead round worms (it's actually a good thing), rescuing a variety of shoes from being destroyed, redirecting her chewing to a small rawhide and a bone. The rawhides have to be swapped out as soon as they are flexible enough for her to chomp a piece off...I don't want her to swallow it.

No paper is safe from her shredding puppy teeth, I have cuts all over my hands and arms from her razor sharp teeth, and I'm getting a heck of a workout carrying her downstairs to go potty. She can come up just fine but down is a challenge. She weighed 20.5 lbs. on Wednesday, I swear she must weigh close to 25 now and I've had to size up her collar and harness twice now.

On the plus side, she's a ton of fun, very sweet, loves everyone and is giving our neighbors a chance to enjoy the puppy experience that they missed out on with their youngest dog. She's also smart as a whip, evaluates what the big dogs are barking at before chiming in and will change direction or stop what she's doing when she hears a stern "no". And she's super soft.

None of this has anything to do with writing really, other than that the spare time I used to have is being eaten up by puppy care.