Saturday, August 29, 2009

After the big hooray

I find very few moments of peace to use for writing, let alone time for thinking these days. My daughter has some special issues and that sometimes makes for a difficult week (or month, depending). When it all hits the fan, writing is NOT my top priority, and even if it were, it simply is not possible.

You may have a child like this, too. One who needs special attention, and a lot of it, and often for extended periods of time. A child is a greater calling than a book or article, a richer reward in every way than a million-selling book, or a NY Times best seller (does that even count these days?), and a much more wonderful "product" at the end of our lives. To feed into the life of another can be difficult--and sometimes for great lengths of time, unrewarding. But in the end, I fully believe it is the most important endeavor of my life, and that keeps me plugging away.

So, right now I don't have a lot to say about my book, and my book is not gaining many words. This is a season of working through, hanging on, and wrestling with difficulties. But it is also a season of great laughter, because my daughter is one of the funniest people I know. And humor helps the whole family get through the windy spots.

When the winds calm a bit more, then I can turn back to my book, but in the meantime, we will batten down the hatches and weather the storms.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the big hooray

There is just nothing like a really productive day at the keyboard--one that produces hundreds of words that are actually useable and advance the story. It's the satisfaction of getting moving after a string of very slow writing days. Some days the story just bursts out and heads on down the road; other days, it drags its feet and keeps backtracking, zigzagging, then squatting in the middle of that road. Those days I search for ways to kick it in the behind. "I do not have writer's block," as my heroine tells her publisher, "I have too many choices."

Today, my MC (main character--an abbreviation I'm stealing from Becky Levine--do check out her blog wraps up a meeting with the hero, and gets a phone call including devious plans from her best friend, as well as one from her irritating stepmother, who is the intended victim of the devious plans.

We move onward with hope. A character who had no name now has one, a question about what to do with a certain plot element becomes clearer, and my heroine is left smiling, "an evil smile, filled with victorious malice." She's not an evil character, but it's fun for her to enjoy the thought of getting her stepmother wrapped up in confusion and situations that will discourage Stepmom's current intentions. How does one write an evil laugh here? Nya-ah-ah. Let the fun begin.

Now, if I could just solve the mystery of why my typeface sometimes changes font and size on its own, although it looks fine in the composing window! I've no idea how to get an answer from blogspot, although I've filed a question in the discussions. AAAUGH!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm writing my wish

I moved to the Silicon Valley of California in 1983 after grad school in Oregon, the state I consider my home state. Military brats get to choose their home states, since they often don't feel they really belong in any particular spot. There were no jobs in Oregon, so...I ended up in Calif. That said, my heart belongs to a tiny town in the Willamette Valley that has only 800 people. It's boomed up from about 700 when my family settled there after my dad retired from the Air Force. I never really lived in Scio--just sort of camped there between terms at OSU and U of O, so my idea of what the town is, is probably rather romanticized. I remember the six-party phone line when we first moved there in 1968, and the friendly people at the two grocery stores, the P.O. (we were general delivery at the time), and the bank.

Scio is the model for Baxter, Oregon in my book. But I needed a private college, so I selected Linfield College in McMinnville--just for its looks. In my mind, Linfield is the perfect Preston College for Anna's journalism department. I love the brick buildings, the white pillars, the grassy lawns. I even took photos to use as inspiration when I write about Preston. As far as I know, Linfield is nothing like Preston. I am taking abundant liberties with both Scio and the college to mold them into Baxter, Oregon and its Preston College. In actuality, I have only stolen my *impressions* of these places, since I never spent a lot of time in either, and certainly was never involved in the town politics or the newspaper in Scio--and I have only driven through Linfield. Nothing about Baxter is really Scio. Baxter is bigger, has more shops and, of course, the college. But I hope that Baxter will feel to readers the way Scio feels to me. Small, cozy, friendly, full of pickups and normal people. It is a place where you have to slow down on back roads because there's a tractor in your lane. It's a place where just outside of town, you can drive up on a hill that gives you a view across a beautiful green valley, and where there used to be several covered bridges scattered like little jewels over wide streams. I love Scio and its environs, and I'm working to make Baxter the kind of small town my readers will love. It's the place I wish I could live.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Of plants and bridges and research

What plants will win a spot in my book? I have a landscaper (or IS he?) hero, advising my heroine on plants in her yard. Granted, this does not further the plot, except as an excuse for the two of them to meet, and meet again, and talk, and wander around the backyard together, and for her to notice his green eyes and other attractions. But I can't just stick any old plant in the ground!

My story takes place in Oregon--the Willamette Valley, specifically. I live in California--in the South Bay area--Silicon Valley. Plants grow better one place than another, so talking to a landscaper here can only give me input on how he approaches his business, not on any plantings. As for my personal gardening expertise: I seem to be able to kill plants in two different states with equal skill (or lack thereof). So, ages ago, I contacted a Master Gardener in Oregon. Neil was very helpful, but I really wasn't ready to ask too specific a question. Now I am, and hope to be able to reach him again, or find someone equally cooperative. Ahhh, research.

My favorite research email was from a city engineer in Portland, OR who gave me the rundown on the bridges in that city. He was a godsend, although I originally worried that he might interpret my email as being from a terrorist who wanted to clog up the city commute. Luckily, nothing untoward happened shortly after he sent his answer to cause him to notify Homeland Security. Sometimes writers ask weird questions. I'll bet if someone were really paranoid, mystery writers would show up on all sorts of alert lists for some of the stuff they research.