Blogs

Can’t Be Tamed…

finally has a completed first chapter. It took days to decide where to begin Lil’s story.

Magic Bean Cafe began with Rhea reluctantly going to a speed dating night, where she caught her first glimpse of Aisin across the room. Once There Was A Tree began where Magic Bean left off, Gwen sitting on the sidelines until Ioan walked in. In Tipping the Scales we found Minerva in her chambers, going over files to prepare for the afternoon ahead, with Simon dropping off some of his Greek specialties as a sample of things to come.

As an author, I know that the first chapter is critical. It either grabs the reader so they are inclined to read more, or it doesn’t. Most people want to know quickly whether the book is worth their time. Let’s face it, it’s usually a valuable commodity that none of us want to waste. I read the blurb first, and if it hooks, I open up to the first chapter to get a sense of the writer’s style. I envy authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her first few pages, at times quirky, at times off the beaten path, are so intriguing that I know it’ll be a great read and I tend to gobble it up in one sitting.  She never fails to pull me in.

The first chapter has to contain all the important stuff. It sets the tone, introduces the main characters through dialogue and movement, gives you an insight into the conflict brewing, creates the setting and time frame, and establishes the theme. It should pack a punch. I tend to spend the first ten or eleven pages highlighting the female lead, giving the reader a sense of who she is, where she’s from, what important to her, and how she exists in the world around her. It’s only then that the male lead comes into play. He shows up on the page to intrigue, to badger, to cast a spell, or, in Lilith and Niall’s case, to annoy.

Lilith is one of the eight original goddesses in the series and plays a big role. Niall has been interspersed through out the first three books so you might have a sense of who he is and why Lil has a bone to pick. But do you really? There’s a lot more going on beneath the surface than even Lil realizes. It’s my job to spark your curiosity, to make you care enough about them both, to want to find out what it is.

 

 

 

Good morning all

It’s Tuesday and I’ve come to the page with no real topic in mind. It’s been a little hard to conjure up magic these days. Maybe it’s because, as I sit here, my dogs quiet, my husband working across the room, I can’t use the props I normally use when writing. Maybe it’s because my fantasy world is so hard to find lately. As I struggle with the last hundred pages of Tipping the Scales, I’ve gone back to review the basics.

The last section of the questionnaire I use to develop my characters requires me to list his or her favorites. Things like song, book, movie, drink, color, TV show, sports, possession and motto. Over the last couple of days I’ve been focusing on the kind of songs that apply to Minnie and Simon. Minnie’s from Virginia so I’ve gone with country and some folk rock, like Mumford and Sons. Simon, like many chefs, tends to listen to heavy metal while cooking.

Music has always been a big part of my flow. After I choose a genre that speaks to a character, I play it to get into their head space. I’m not doing that so much these days. The Dixie Chicks aren’t my husbands cup of tea, nor is Metallica, one of the bands that Simon listens to while he’s in the kitchen. I grab minutes here and there, while he’s in the shower or gone off to the post office to check his post office box. I’m still finding my way through the new normal.

Just given a half an hour to immerse myself in music, I asked Alexa to play some Chicks and after shuffling, she began to play one I’ve always loved. In fact, it’s the one I chose for Minerva’s cell phone ring. With them such a prominent part of people’s lives, the ring is another way of revealing a character’s personality. Goodbye Earl lends itself to Minnie’s profession and friendships. It was the song that came on. Good sign. As I move forward with the edit, I’m hoping it keeps me connected to who she is and what she wants.

 

 

 

 

Just another tucked away Tuesday

I’m think I’m getting the hang of this, although I miss getting out for coffee, meeting friends for dinner, having the freedom to come and go as I please.

I do have my writing which is keeping me connected to “people” in another way. They might not be real, but the characters in my books are constantly talking to me, telling me who they are, what they like and what they dream about. I’ve just finished editing the  draft for Magic Bean Cafe and it will be going to the formatter on Monday. I’m re-reading Once There Was A Tree to send to my editor mid-April and then it’s back to Tipping the Scales and re-working that for a May edit.

The biggest challenge coming up is attending to the last three books in the series. I need to have them sketched out, not only in my mind, but on paper. The thing about a series is that you have to weave in the characters as you go. All my goddesses have shown up on the page in book one. Simon and Ioan were introduced as well. They are the men that will sweep Minerva and Gwen away. Niall has made a couple of appearances and is next on the agenda, giving Lilith a run for her money. I’ve mentioned Tihomir, who will become more visible as time goes on. Dax has made his debut and he’s becoming fleshed out with each scene. I’ve been able to create couples with built in conflict to this point, but there are two men who are underdeveloped. I’m not even sure I know who they are yet.

Let me explain the process I’ll go through to find the answers. I’ll think about the goddess, what kind of life she’s lived, and who might be a good counterpoint. Then I’ll ask questions like what are her triggers, false beliefs, fears, what are the needs that have been compromised by her life experiences. Then try to figure out what kind of conflict will provide the her the best opportunity for growth.

Brigid spent most of her life in foster care. She survived the less-than-stellar experience by writing stories, fairy tales, with happily-ever-after endings. She wants a family, roots and permanence but for as much as she’s bonded with the few people she’s let get close, she’s unable to believe that good things will come to her. What if one of the boys who bullied her when she was younger returns to Eden? Conflict, yes. What if he’s an investigative reporter whose life is now focused on truth, and he has no time for fairy tales? Conflict, yes. Over the next few weeks, I will play with this and see if it works, looking to Gabriel Bresnahan for answers.

And how about Cerridwen? She was trapped underground during a archaeological dig, and thought she was going to die. She left the field and is now working as a forensic specialist, dealing with a different kind of dead. Should the man who caused the cave-in show up? Conflict, yes. Should she be assigned a case where the body was trapped in a similar way as she was, but died as a result. Or should the corpse be in a confined space, one she’s not willing to enter for fear she’ll be unable to breathe? Conflict, yes. Will someone on her team help her get through it or will it be the man who’s returned to haunt her? Will she fight him, believing he’s incompetent and can’t be trusted, or learn that he’s changed due to the accident and is now a better man? Ioan brings a Kurd to Eden and there’s a possibility it’s his brother that caused the collapse… this one is still a work in progress.

It’ll be interesting to see who emerges for Breet and Cerri. They’re strong and resilient and will need men who can appreciate who they are and what they bring to the world. It’s my job to make that happen.

 

Thoughts from my cave

Our Massachusetts governor has issued an advisory to stay home. Not exactly a shelter-in-place, but a warning nonetheless. I’ve been home for weeks, venturing out only for food, dog supplies and pharmacy needs. My routine hasn’t changed much, but the environment in my cave has. The dogs are here, their day care provider canceling their play dates, and my husband is working from home, which means there’s now two of us working in the same room. It’s actually going better than expected. (He’s been helping with the dogs.) I told the person who comes in once a week to clean my house to stay home. I haven’t used a vacuum in years and had to go looking around the house to see if I still owned one. Today, I’ll be scrubbing toilets, bathtubs and floors wondering if I’ll get that same clean smell as Lene does.

I read a twitter post by Stephen King this morning who posited that the current situation will probably find its way into stories currently being written. If anyone can do it justice, he can. I’m avoiding the crisis in my work. It’s enough to live it on a day-to-day basis, I don’t need to be dwelling on it when I don’t have to. Besides, my intention is to help people escape, uplift emotion and moods and I believe in happy endings.

I’m nearing the end of Tipping the Scales. I have a couple of chapters left and hope to be finished by the end of the week. My first book in my Everyday Goddesses series will be formatted at the beginning of April and the second book will be going to my editor by mid-month. My life seems to go on uninterrupted, but the worry and concern for others is with me in every moment. Listening to the governor’s news conferences has become a new norm. The frustration with the federal government and their lack of response grows every day.

All I can do personally is keep my distance, stay positive, remember that all things pass, and do what I do. The series I’m working on is more important than ever. The Divine Feminine must become part of our consciousness again. If we open that door, she’ll usher in kindness, rebirth, selflessness, compassion, and the true meaning of life. It’s not money, success, greed or power. It’s common sense, giving what you can to the common good, helping others, and the love we hold in our hearts that’s important.

She’s the one who will help us get that happy ending.

 

Tuesday Tellings

I’m home today, writing in my usual spot, wishing I could be sitting in KJ’s sipping my coffee, watching the people move in and out, most with smiles on their faces. Like many, I’m staying close to home these days. It helps that I work here, have all my tools, resources, and laptop. But I miss being out and about, miss the exchange of smiles and ideas, the joy of movement.

Maybe that’s what is impacting my flow of ideas. The book I’m working on has stalled and I can’t seem to generate my usual enthusiasm. My mantra has always been just keep writing, something of value will come, some aha moment will strike, that will move the story along.

One interesting thing that has happened over the last few weeks is that my love of Greece has been re-sparked. I visited there when I was in my late teens. I was on a European tour with my grandparents. I wasn’t blown away by France, or Italy, but as soon as I put a foot on to Greek soil, I felt like I’d come home. I’ve always been partial to Greek food, loved the restaurant in the city I grew up in, that served dolmades, and a dish they called lamb garnish. The meat fell away from the bone, the potatoes were perfectly cooked, the vegetables were flavorful and aromatic. Since I began Tipping the Scales, my chef, Simon Iraklidis, has tempted my taste buds with his menu. (I read somewhere that Iraklidis is associated with the Greek god, Heracles, and it was that precise moment the surname was chosen) I’ve experimented with a lot of recipes since then, making Greek baked ziti, lemon and oregano chicken. I’ve tasted new kinds of cheeses like Halloumi, and Kasseri, and Kefalotyri. The latter added a wonderful flavor to some potato gnocchi I made with browned butter and sage. I even went so far as to purchase a cookbook The Mediterranean Table which boasts the benefits of eating healthy.

It seems with every book written, I get into some part of the story with a vengeance. Through Simon I’ve reconnected with some of the foods I love, whereas Minerva has introduced me to the life of a judge. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always been one of my heroes and I wanted to fashion Minerva after her but Minerva didn’t want to be pidgeon holed. She came from a different background, had a different mind set. She still had to learn what it meant to be a woman in a man’s world and how much of her real self to bring to the table. But her core values of integrity and fairness resembled RBG’s, as well as her strong ethical code which put her in good standing with her peers and the people who faced her on the bench. Minerva is the quality of air, balanced between light and dark,  able to see all facets of a situation, find the common ground with objectivity, and her essence is rooted in intellectual pursuit.

There are definitely parts of the story I can plot out, characters I can mold, but when I get to it, the characters, at times, have minds of their own. Writing is part strategy, technique, persistence, and expression. It’s also a flow of words that are strung together, emotions lived on the page, a story that wants to be told. It’s also a way to learn about life, love, friendships, food, and some of the wounds that affect all of us.

Minerva isn’t talking right now. She’s probably thinking, trying to align what she feels with what she thinks. I’ve got some prodding to do today, so I best get to it.