Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Places In My Head

When I was a little girl, my mother despaired of getting me to spend time in the real world. I was so far away somewhere in my head most of the time, I had a hard time paying attention to what was going on around me.

This past Sunday, a sweet woman at my church asked if ideas for novels ever came into my head when I was in church.

Um...yes. I haven't really changed much since I was a little girl. I still have a hard time focusing on things in the real world when my imaginary world calls. I can zone out in the middle of a conversation, a sermon, a tv show.

I lead a very vivid internal life. At the moment, most of my daydreams revolve around a hotel and a high desert and honor. And at any second, my mind will leave the real world and return there.

So, my question for today is: Are you a daydreamer? Have you been known to check out of a conversation or sermon or meeting in favor of a fictional world?

And in a side-note, I'm blogging over at The Writer's Alley (hosted by a bunch of super-sweet gals and great writers all) about handling changes in the publishing industry.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Friday Five

Today's Friday Five is:

My Five Favorite Disney Heroines:

1. Belle from Beauty and the Beast. This might be because this was my daughter's favorite Disney movie for several years, but I love Belle and the supporting cast and the tormented prince who needed Belle's love to set him free.

2. Mulan. Not only is the movie fun, but Mulan isn't a damsel in distress. She is tough and proactive and brave, and yet, she falls in love.

3. Rapunzel from Tangled. I know this one hasn't been out all that long, but I thought Rapunzel was adorable.

4. Lady from Lady and the Tramp. I'm a sucker for Cocker Spaniels.

5. Jasmine from Aladdin. I like that she has a tiger! How cool is a princess who has a tiger???

Who is your favorite Disney heroine?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Whimsy

Snowed here this week and got wicked cold.  How's the weather where you are?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bits and Pieces make a Character

For several years now, I've posted every Friday, five things about me. In looking back at the posts, I see lots and lots of pieces of me. Favorite foods, Favorite cartoons, Favorite smells.

I'm a college basketball fan (go Jayhawks!) a novice quilter, a history geek of the first water, pursuer of new words and phrases, Psych addict, Criminal Minds fan, and seafood avoider.

All these pieces and bits make up who I am. Alone, they're random lists. Arranged correctly, they're me.

Like fictional characters. The ones that are the most interesting, the ones we relate to the best, are not any ONE thing. They are a lot of things. More than just a waitress or a rancher or a photographer or a cop.

My current heroine is an Irish/Norwegian lass of immigrant parents who longs to do something big and amazing. She's a crusader. She never backs down from a fight, and she likes to sew. She's a quick study, and a loyal friend. I'm not sure where she stands on the cartoons or college basketball, but she's more than just a waitress.

When someone says interesting characters, I think of Sherlock Holmes, brilliant, addicted to cocaine, musician, lonely and driven. Jo Beth Sidden, independent, loyal, dog lover, smoker, domestic violence victim, and not afraid to break the law to help out a friend. Kit Fielding, jockey, powerful personality, resourceful, twin brother, and grandson.

Lots of pieces put together to form a whole picture, a whole character who is interesting and different from anyone else.

So, who comes to mind when you think of an interesting character?

In other fun news, I'm hanging out with Jessica R. Patch over at her blog: We'd love it if you stopped by to chat!

Oh, and today, my Baby Boy turns 16. Happy Birthday, Jamester!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'm currently addicted to the TV show Psych. My amazingly wonderful husband got me the first five seasons as a belated Christmas gift (after I'd borrowed season's 1-4 from my amazing nephew, Joe A. - designer and webmaster of my website {link at the left} )

So, Five Things I Like About Psych:

1. The 80's references. As a child of the 80's, the references to Airwolf, George Michael, and Debby Gibson crack me up.

2. The relationship between Sean and Gus. Sean can talk Gus into anything.

3. The relationship between Sean and his father, Henry. Henry is demanding and has a hard time showing approval and affection. Sean is sarcastic and resistant to anything his father says, but underneath, they both care for each other.

4. The whole fake psychic routine. Sean uses his powers of observation, his complete disregard for any rules or laws whatsoever, his considerable charm, and a fair amount of luck to solve crimes.

5. The pineapple. There is a pineapple in ever episode. It's fun to try to find it.

Do you watch Psych? What TV show is currently tops on your list?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Character Arcs

When the promotional commercials for the action-comedy Chuck first came on four years ago, my husband immediately took notice. The show looked hilarious. A Nerd-Herd computer geek becomes embroiled in matters of national security and international intrigue, all without having a clue how to be a spy or foil espionage and terrorist attempts on the nation.

And the first season lived up to expectations. Chuck was endearing, inept, and as he used his special skills (High scorer on Chopper Command and Asteroids, a savant's knowledge of the movie TRON, and a genius's ability with computers) to aid his spy buddies in circumventing evil all while trying to hide the fact from his family and co-workers, he became even more endearing.

However, season two began, and there was a subtle shift in Chuck's motivations. In season one, he just wanted to figure out how to get the 'Intersect' out of his head and return to his normal life. In season two, he kind of decided he likes the whole spy thing, and he wanted to become a fully sanctioned US Spy. By season three, he's got spy-game. Gone are his bumbling attempts, his fear, and most of the fun of the show. Now, in season four (the final season,) we aren't even watching anymore. Sad. Because we used to enjoy the show so much. (In an aside, the network has shown they have little interest in the show Chuck - it's been on life-support for the past two seasons- and I think that has something to do with the show's decline in ratings as well.)

Compare that to the TV show Castle. A best-selling, uber-famous novelist, Rick Castle, finds new inspiration for his novels by following around NYPD Detective Kate Beckett. He creates a fictional character based upon Kate, and in the name of research, he gets to hang out at the police station, go to crime scenes, and use his powers of observation and knowledge of character motivations to assist in solving crimes. As a novelist, the premise intrigued me. As a fan of Firefly, the fact that Nathan Fillion was the main character guaranteed that I would watch. (He's so swoony!)

And like Chuck, season one lived up to the premise and more. LOVE! I was even happier to see that season two maintained the same chemistry, the same wit and intelligence, and the same character motivations. Then season three arrived. The first half of the season = terrific. Then the character's motivations changed. Instead of focusing on the weekly puzzle of solving the crime and the amazing push-pull of the Castle-Beckett-will-they-won't-they relationship, the show shifted gears. The mystery of the murder of Beckett's mother several years before became the ongoing focus. The show got darker, lost its humor, and I found myself saddened, praying the show wouldn't go the way of Chuck.

I think the writers and producers must've listened to audience feedback, because the first show of season four was the WORST ever tv show example of telling, not showing, and reeling in the Beckett back-story and returning to the show's basic premise that all it's success had been built on. Episode 4.1 was dreadful. In one hour, they covered three months of story time, had Castle tell Beckett to back-burner the search for her mother's killer and focus on current cases, and had Beckett agreeing. Basically, they informed the viewers that the next week would be business as usual and no more weird stuff.

Though the episode was terrible from a viewers and writer's point of view, it was so necessary to the future success of the show. If season four had picked right up where season three had left off, the death-knell for Castle would've been ringing steadily.

So, how does this relate to writing fiction? Think of the best multi-book series characters in history. Sherlock Holmes. Miss Marple. Inspector Monk. Cadfael. What makes these long series work is that the main characters are consistent. If they do change, it is slowly and in ways that don't fundamentally alter the character. What would the Miss Marple mysteries have been like if halfway through the series, Miss Marple decided to she didn't want to live in St. Mary Mead anymore and knit mufflers and attend teas, rather that she wanted to become a fisherman on the high seas? What if Cadfael abandoned life in the monastery and embraced the religion of the Druids? What if Sherlock Holmes abandoned his search for intellectual fulfillment, settled down in the country, got married, and fathered a passel of little Sherlocks?

Answer, I'd have quit reading those series. Like I stopped watching Chuck. Chuck has broken faith with the viewers by changing Chuck so radically, he doesn't resemble the initial character at all. He wants such radically different things, he behaves so differently, it's like a different show.

Castle nearly made the same mistake, but the writers were able to pull it back from the precipice in time. And boy am I glad. :)

Are you a Castle fan? Do you read a long series with a single main character?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Friday Five

Over the holiday season, I stumbled across some booksellers who were offering for sale a series of books I had read and loved as a teenager. The series first appeared as magazine serials in the 1940's and 1950's under the pen name of T.W. Ford. These were shoot-em-up westerns of the golden era of westerns. The stories were compiled into novels written by Abel Shott (is that not the BEST western fiction writer name EVER???) Each story centered around Solo Strant, "The Silver Kid" and his quest for justice, law, and rescuing the damsel in distress.

I loved these books as a kid, and when they started to arrive in those yellow envelopes over the past couple of weeks, I jumped into the stories with the same abandon. I was taken right back to those summer afternoons in the Salina Public Library.

I have long been a fan of westerns, so for today's Friday Five, it's my five favorite Western Writers:

1. Zane Grey. The mac-daddy of western authors. Favorites include: The Drift Fence and The Hash Knife Outfit, as well as The Trail Driver and 30,000 on the Hoof.

2. Louis L'amour. His Sackett series, particularly the first three in the series. Sackett's Land is a textbook on how to keep the action moving at a breakneck pace.

3. Robert B. Parker. His Appaloosa series taught me a lot about show, don't tell, though the prolific use of 'Said' in his dialogue can drive someone up the nut-tree.

4. Abel Shott. You can't beat Solo Strant.

5. Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove series. This is a powerful set of books. It must be, because NOTHING good ever happens to the characters, and yet, I could not put these stories down. I had to know what was going to happen next.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Whew! Back in the saddle again...

I'm such a creature of habit, enjoying my schedule, content to do the same thing day after day. When things get a bit wonky in the schedule department, I tend to get a bit wonky myself.

The end of the year is always a busy time, lots of bookkeeping, trips to the accountant, government forms and files. Very little writing. Throw in the holidays, having the elder kid home from college, and lotsa basketball, and there is VERY little writing.

But, holidays are over, the kid is back at college, and the regular routine can now re-commence. Ahhhh. That's me breathing a sigh of relief.

I'm now free to, and even expected to, spend hours every day inside my own head, documenting the lives and stories of my fictional characters. And boy howdy, am I ready. I've missed Meghan and Caleb and the El Garces hotel.

Since it's the time of the year to be listing goals, and I tend to try to do that at the beginning of every month anyway, I'm going to throw some of my 2012 goals in general and my January goals in particular.

2012 Goals:

1. Finish and revise my current WIP, exceeding my deadline as prudent.

2. Polish up three proposals and submit them to my agent.

3. Start up and continue my exercise regimen. 30 mins a day, 5 days a week.

4. Attend the 2012 ACFW Conference in Dallas.

5. Travel to Florida to visit my folks.

6. Possibly go on a train trip this fall???

January Goals:

1. Finish the first draft of A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA.

2. Read two novels.

3. Blog, here and where I've been invited to guest.

I mentioned in my last blog post that there might be some good news I could share with you when I came back to blogging. Unfortunately, the opportunity I hoped to tell you about fell through. Still, my loss is another author's gain. :) And I now have another story idea to add to my proposal repertoire.