Monday, March 19, 2018

Reading as a Writer

I admit I've begun reading strictly to study style. As a result, I rarely finish a book, but get the gist of it in the first few chapters, skim, and flip to the end. Yes, I'm spoiling my reading enjoyment, but I'm not reading for enjoyment. I WRITE for enjoyment. I have a lot to read, and never have time to read it all, so......begin/skim/finish. In some books, when I read the end, it seems like I haven't missed a thing by skipping the middle. The ending ties up all the threads begun at the start and it all makes sense. So, what happened in the middle? Should this book have been a novelette, then? An editor and publisher thought it was worth printing 250+ pages.

I've found a book, recently, which captures my attention so that I can't wait to pick it up. I don't want to miss a delicious word. It's not that it's unpredictable, it's not full of cliff-hangers, but reading it is like delving into chocolate mint truffles. We know the ending because it's a necessity in romances: happily ever after. How does the writer keep us engaged in a book where we know the ending?

The book is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, but there must be others. Knowing that many (even all?) romances begin with antagonistic leads, I would never have bothered with this apparently 'yet another' riff on the old trope. It was recommended by a writing blog I read, so I got it. Thorpe makes it work.

  • The pace moves along: not so much in plot, but with zippy dialogue.
  • The heroine, writing in the first person point of view, is flawed, full of doubts, and constantly over-analyzes herself and what happens.
  • Descriptions are not flowery literature, but languid, like we've suddenly slowed the motion down to not only see, hear, and smell, but analyze. They're funny and very human,. 
  • When something happens that contradicts what the heroine knows to be true, she's still not convinced. She's easy to relate to, because who is absolutely certain about anything? 
She doesn't find a word she likes--"burbled" comes to mind--and overuses it, either. I'll keep looking for more evidence, but I know it's a good read. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Don't Go Into That Barn

I'm turning in a short story today to the teacher of a college class I'm taking. I'm not enrolled in college; I have more degrees than I'm using, but I work at a college that lets me audit a class a semester and I'm taking Fiction Writing. It's a second-level creative writing class: small with only us 4 students. It feels good to share my writing and, of course, this is not a romance. It scared me, writing it (not sure why, since I knew what was coming) so, I hope it will scare someone else. I attach the first page here:

Don’t Go Into That Barn
By Kathleen Day

As soon as Daddy mentioned the barn, the story of my great granddaddy's death came
back to me, turning over in my brain like Ma's fried onions, turning brown and shrinking
like a salted slug. The old guy died years before I was born, but a kid who hears a tale
like that remembers it. The worst part was dying alone, I always thought. Worse than
hanging dead from the old barn rafters for two weeks, worse than skin-shriveling and
muscles drawing in was the idea that no one cared to witness his last wheeze. And he
knew it.
Uncle Billy's pick-up jerked to a halt on the gravel drive, scattering gravel and yanking
me out of half a dream. As soon as I realized I’d sagged against Daddy while I drowsed,
I pulled myself upright.

"C'mon, boy," Dad said. "Move your ass." The door protested some when he opened it
and, as I scooted over, I tumbled onto grit and dust with a push from behind. My cousin
Tom giggled and lept over me, pointing to our dads’--hell, and their dads’-- childhood
home: an abandoned plantation house, two stories high, that watched us like a wary
farm cat. Hemmed in by giant pillars shedding crusts of white paint, the porch collected
leaves and neighbors' trash. What remained of a chicken hung by one leg on the double
front door. It had hung there a good piece, upside down, losing its juices to time.
Even from the driveway, I could see a dark brown mat of feathers beneath it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Liberty's Pursuit of Happiness

My first novel, Liberty's Pursuit of Happiness, is ready to submit. That means it's been edited by me and others numerous times, I've checked the character arcs and plot timeline, looking for plot points and pinches. Of course I've researched as necessary: traveling by cargo ship, Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, the beach area of Busasn, South Korea, Shambhala, Buddhist healing techniques, the Himalayan mountain range, Nepal's earthquake of 2015, and Fort Scott, Kansas.

(Partial) Synopsis of Liberty's Pursuit of Happiness:
LIBERTY “LIBBY” VALENZA. 26,  joins a university tour to the Himalaya in search
of a genetic link between human and yeti. She knows nothing of science or academia,
but she has to do something to escape her predictable small-town life. SLADE KENWORTH,
tour director and mountain guide exemplifies the life Libby wants, but he has his own
demons from to a childhood trauma. They meet when boarding the cargo ship that will
take them to Asia. He undermines her fragile confidence by suggesting that, as a plus-sized
woman, she is not in shape for the rigors ahead. She determines to prove him wrong.
CODY WILLIAMS, ex-boyfriend, surprises Libby by coming along. He’d rather be
home, and tempts her to return to the familiar and comfortable. ALEJANDRA AGNEW,
wealthy organizer and underwriter of the excursion, has secret plans that, if fulfilled,
will make this the worst tour of  Slade’s career.
Libby begins her career path by writing travel logs for the hometown newspaper,
and from there, she plans to write books. Intent on having adventures with the places
she visits, Libby begins to take reckless chances. Her curiosity and proactiveness attract
and infuriate the guide.Alejandra steps up her plan to sabotage the group’s purpose with
stories of Shambhala, a mythical, mystical city. Slade must help them find it, she says,
because he has been there. Slade declines, stating that it isn’t the perfect society longed
for by a weary world. It is a dark hole of chaos which still haunts his dreams.
In Busan, their first shore leave, Cody plans to set up a scenario that will show him to be
Libby’s hero, but he bungles it.  Slade arrives to save Libby from falling and later, as they
walk along the shore, he kisses her and everything changes.

Slade denies his attraction to the young woman without a clue about how the world works.
Libby trusts too easily, disregards common sense, and seems to flit from one interest to the
next. When Libby is left alone to explore Bangkok, their next stop, two men kidnap her
and t plan to enslave her. Slade finds her and, together, they escape. In Kathmandu, Slade takes
them to a hotel owned by an old girlfriend, QUEENIE. As they go off together, Libby borrows
a bus and lets Cody drive the group on a tour which she leads. Monkeys bouncing off the
windshield end in a bus wreck. Libby, certain she will be sent home, joins the group for one
last night out, but Slade shows up. He relaxes with the group for the first time and, when he
and Libby share a show dance, the kiss they share is anything but goodbye.  

And they haven't yet begun their trek through the Himalaya.

The Earth Moved: Ruby and the Little People

My novel, The Earth Moved text is complete! While it got its ongoing edits, I am just beginning my deep edit: check for misplaced modifiers, junk words, awkward phrases, and overused words (she thought, he felt, I knew, etc)(maybe, probably, pretty, and kind of).
"She thought she knew how he felt, but probably it was a pretty long shot, kind of like intuition." Okay, that is out of my system!

The Earth Moved concerns Ruby Stiffbeard, a Dwarf, from Irth, jumping into modern Earth, only to land in a reality dating show for little people. She learns what being a dwarf is like here in the 'land of the free.' She meets Thorn Bierman, a cameraman who is fleeing justice after committing environmental terrorism (or activism, depending on your point of view) against a fracking operation in Texas. Ruby speaks out so much against the humiliating activities the dating contestants must do to win a "tiny but handsome" bachelor that she gets kicked off the show. The victim of Thron's sabotage comes to California to get revenge. Ruby begins her own talent agency to help dwarf actors and others who are usually relegated to 'character parts' get roles normally reserved for average-sized pretty people. Thorn's house is blown up when Texas refuses to extradite him for trial and he is hospitalized. The fairies in charge of transporting agents to Earth to improve the planet they all share insist that Ruby go back with them. Can she/will she leave the man she loves or risk a reversal of all she's accomplished? Can her fledgling talent agency survive without her at the helm? And if she stays, will her sister, being raised by elves back home, go through plastic surgery on her ears to fit in?