Wednesday, July 4, 2012

ideas, motivation, energy

Our blog has not been forgotten; it’s just that we don’t have too much to say.

I spend Mondays researching agents and try to get one query out a week. Right now we have two submitted and are awaiting responses.

In the mean time, we’re working on the next book, which is painfully slow. Not sure if we’re lacking in ideas, motivation, or energy, because it takes all three to plunk ourselves down and write. I got a scene from Larry yesterday, so it’s my turn.

Two weeks of 100 degree temps have driven me indoors, so I will have more time to do write. Now I just have to come up with an idea…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do you, too, suffer from irregularity?

Since we’ve been TERRIBLE about keeping up with our blog, a quick update: we’ve received our first rejection. Yes, it was a form letter, but it was extremely polite for a rejection. Sort of takes the sting out when people are nice.  
So it’s back to the drawing board researching and finding other agents to send it to. Actually, I should have been doing that all along, but summer has been really good to me, getting a lot done outside. Once the heat drives me indoors, I’ll be spending more time on the computer and hopefully keep up with the blogs a bit better. And agent queries.
Until then, thank you for keeping up with us even though we’ve been less than regular. Irregular.
Those of you who know me well might be expecting a Metamucil joke now. Ha! Fooled you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hiatus? No, not really...

“So, are you and Larry on hiatus?” a friend of mine asked at lunch.
I chewed my lettuce more slowly while I thought about the answer. “No, we’re just really, really slow writers.”

Which got me to thinking…I’m not really a slow writer. I’m a slow idea-generator. And Larry? You’ll have to ask him.
Since we started Book Two, we’ve been churning out a scene about every two weeks. At that rate, it’ll take us about five years to complete Book Two. Actually, that’s how long Book One took. Although, we did take a hiatus while I went back to school.
Maybe it just SEEMS slower than the first one. On it we didn’t pick up the pace and begin producing a chapter a month until close to the end. We were motivated. The end was in sight!
Right now, we’re at the beginning, maybe 30 pages in, and moving at a drunken slug’s pace. Sprinkled with salt. On a sunny day. It won’t last. Once we get a few more chapters under our belt and all of the characters introduced, we’ll be able to pick up the pace. Maybe instead of five years, it’ll take, oh….I don’t know…let’s go with ‘fewer’.
In the mean time, I’m back to researching agents and hopefully (this time, I know I’ve sad it before) get our manuscript submitted somewhere. I have a few names I’m considering and a query letter almost complete. Just a few tweaks.
And instead of spending five years on tweaks, I aim to actually take…

Monday, May 7, 2012

She purports...

“She purports that…”
“Wait, what was that word?”
“Oh, reports.”
“No, purports. P-U-R-P-O-R-T-S”
“Never heard that. What does it mean?”
“Claims. Well, claims implies it isn’t true. Says? Reports? Yeah, reports probably works.”
He sat there looking at me with his mouth open. “Then why not just say it?”
“It didn’t occur to me you wouldn’t know purports.”
Then that very night I saw purports in a book I was reading. See? I’m not the only one who uses it. Vindication is mine!
Word choice. The English language affords us endless opportunity to tweak a meaning or add connotation. The word “dispatch”for instance. Connotation implies a stressful, busy, loud environment. Which is why I didn’t apply for a job I was qualified for. Give me a quiet cube in the corner, and I’m golden.
New words are fun to learn, and generally you can glean the meaning from the context of the sentence. But every now and then I run across an author that really annoys me by throwing in LOTS of words I don’t know. Depending on my mood and access to a dictionary I’ll either tough it out and hope they stop or just put the book down.
So I guess the lesson I learned here is to keep in mind my audience when I’m both talking and writing.
And now I know my audience knows the word purports!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“Excuses, excuses! Just sit down and write!” Not sure if that’s my own internal beratement or if somebody actually said that aloud but it’s been racquetballing around in my head a lot the last two weeks.
Blogs don’t come easy to me, but usually I have at least a germ of an idea that I can develop into something. Met with Larry yesterday and some germination finally took place. Maybe the disconnect of distance between us has dulled my creative blogging spark.
We’ve been working on our second book, and I use the word “working” very loosely. He’s mostly retired, but has a job, and I’m actively looking for work (preparing for and going to interviews is mentally EXHAUSTING, particularly when you keep getting Dear John letters). We both have other irons in the fire, so sitting at a computer and producing endlessly riotous passages slips to the wayside.
Maybe I haven’t been writing because of an annoying health condition that leaves me exhausted and/or listless after what most people would consider a “normal” amount of activity.  Also, there are the chronic migraines which are a separate health issue, but equally debilitating. So I might have two good weeks a month where I feel mentally sound and physically capable during which I race around catching up on all the chores I wasn’t able to do when my health had me down.
So, are my conditions excuses or reasons not to write?
Even for me, that’s hard to say. Are my headaches really always that bad? This week they have been. I’ve been fighting a string of them since Saturday (four days). Even now I need a pain pill, but keep putting it off because they make me loopy and I fear addiction.
Other days I just flat out forget. That’s right, those catch-up days when I feel well enough to be outside doing yard work I forget to fit writing into my schedule. Then I sit down at the end of the day, tired but feeling good about my physical accomplishments, and it occurs to me, “When was the last time I blogged?”
Reasons or Excuses?
Only I know for me, and only you know for you. Don’t let writing snobs make you feel bad when they say, “If you want to, you’ll figure out a way.” They haven’t jogged a mile in your Keds.
Only you know. Just be honest with yourself. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Who messed with my agent list?

Monday, March 25th, I decided: “This week I’m getting our book off to at least one agent!” Still in my pajamas, I tromped off to the computer full of committed drive and caffeine. Larry and I had already perfected a pitch, and I had a whole week. How hard could that be?
I decided to research agents as much as I could and select several potentials, because Rejection is Publishing’s middle name, right? A couple of days later I’d researched until my eyes ached and my back rebelled. Time for a break. Go outside and enjoy the sun. I had three more days. Plenty of time.
Unfortunately, Life has a way of interfering, and it did. A lot.
So last week I was back to, “This week I’m getting our book off to at least one agent!” I pulled up my list of agents, chose one, went to the website to confirm submission guidelines, and…
…couldn’t for the life of me remember why I’d chosen this guy. I scanned through the rest of my list thinking I’d just written down the wrong name. Turned out, I couldn’t remember why I’d chosen the next guy, either.
Frustrated, I sent an e-mail to a writing friend of mine, and she made me feel a tad better. She said, “Scary, isn't it? How you put all this time and effort and know-how into researching the perfect agent...then you leave it and come back and wonder who tampered with your list, 'cause else, What Were You Thinking?”
The following day, I went back to my list and found somebody I DID remember. So I reread through submission guidelines, and he said to include the target market and why our book is unique.
Our book is very unique, so that ought to be easy. Right?
Not so much when I tried to put it into words. It was easy to pick out ways that it’s similar to Tim Dorsey or similar to Dave Barry—quirky characters who get themselves into unlikely situations and we laugh while they take care of the bad guys.
This morning I decided, “This week I’m getting our book off to at least one agent!” I still have to write how our book is unique, but that’ll be easier having picked one of my beta reader’s brains over the weekend. I have a few more brains to pick for more clues, but by the end of the week I should have enough fodder to finish the letter.
Hopefully it’ll really happen this week. At any rate, once I produce the paragraph I need, I can include it in all pitch letters bettering our chances for acceptance. For me, writing can’t be rushed, which is why journalism never appealed to me. Paul Masson said, “No wine before its time.” Becky Lawson says, “No query before its time.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How many !!! are enough?

I just remembered that I have a blog due! Tough to write a blog when I haven’t really been doing any writing! I’m still researching for a project and research basically means reading, and this was a book on poltergeists!
And in my reading I’ve discovered I really hate exclamation points!
I’m not kidding!
The poltergeist book writer includes so many !!! that it’s distracting. The subject matter itself is enough to make the stories dramatic. He does not need exclamation points!
Kinda makes me wonder how I’ve used them in my blogs. I’ve always felt that if you can’t get the emphasis across without !!!, then maybe you need to rework your sentence. If that doesn’t work, then maybe there’s a bigger problem, so look at your scene. What’s supposed to be causing tension? Use that to make your point not an exclamation point.
There are of course exceptions, and even though I made “exception” plural, I can really think of only one—they’re okay to use in dialogue. Sometimes. For instance, maybe there is more than one way a character’s statement can be taken.
Let’s say you’re having a party. And your buddy brings over that strange girlfriend who drama queens everything. The easy-going, well tanned body builder says. “Dude! Your dog pooped on the floor!” Granted, it’s a big dog, so it’s a pretty big pile of poo. But it’s not big deal. You head for the kitchen for carpet cleaner and a roll of paper towels. That’s when the drama queen pipes up. “He pooped on the carpet? Oh no! How will you ever get it out? That stuff won’t work, you’ll need to steam clean it! Nathan tell him! He’ll have to have it steam cleaned!” Of course you can see the whites all the way around her irises and her earnest expression makes you roll your eyes and chew your lip as you spritz.
So basically, if your character is a drama queen you want to have to have overreacting to something fairly tame, then throw in an exclamation point. But use them sparingly, like hot pepper flakes on pizza. Easy to overdo. I overdid it in my example because I love hot pepper flakes. Clears the sinuses, especially in the spring when I’ve been working in the yard.
Dang it. That reminds me, I have yard work to do. You know what that means? Pizza for supper!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monkey Wrenches and Stirred Pots

“Our story is boring.” Larry has said this to me a couple of times recently. Thing is, I totally agree. Our second book is starting out to the tune of a big snore.
Since we’re writing as Pantsters, there isn’t anything guiding us. I think the reason we did so well with the first one is because it started with action and it didn’t let up. We had something guiding us—questions. Who is trying to kill Casey? Why did they want him dead? These questions presented themselves early and often and led to all kinds of amusing and occasionally gruesome situations.
But this story? The only question I’m asking is, “Where is this going?”
Part of the reason we don’t know is that we agreed we wouldn’t pigeon hole it into a genre. We’d just let it flow and see where it went. Well, now both of us agree it’s not going anywhere. You can’t string together a bunch of amusing anecdotes and call it a book—at least not a good book.
So I stirred the pot and took the story in an unexpected direction. Can’t tell you what it is now, because I haven’t heard back from Larry. Which means 1) he really, REALLY hates it, or 2) he’s just been busy. And if he really, REALLY hates it, then we have to talk. We both have to like what’s happening, because if we don’t, our mood will reflect into the tone of our scenes and ultimately, the whole story.
That’s what happens when you have a partner. If it were only me, I’d have thrown in something bloody and gruesome early on. If it was Larry, he’d have thrown in a hard-bodied woman wearing a short dress and a potential love interest. I’m drama and gore and he’s romantic comedy. That’s just the way we roll.
Interestingly enough, that’s what made our last book so good. He tempered my characters’ enthusiastic bloodlust and I tempered his characters’ innate need for romance into a romantic-thriller-comedy-drama-esque story, although it’s true genre is mystery.
Now into the second book, you’d think that we’d have learned what works and start this one out with a bang. Apparently not. And although I don’t think that necessarily makes us slow learners, it makes us Pantsters. Pantsters rarely know where they’re going. It’s the nature of the beast.
It’s also the nature of discovery-—of uncovering something fun and vital that has a life of its own and drags the writer along for the ride.
So far, this one doesn’t, but hopefully with the twist I’ve thrown in, it will give us questions to answer that will get us through the rest of the book.
That is if Larry doesn’t really, REALLY hate it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

IPT Wedgie

Our blogs keep getting further and further (farther and farther?) apart. Spring has sort-of arrived in the Midwest, so I’ve been outside moving decorative rock, preparing flower beds, and picking up tree debris in preparation for mowing. Last week I plopped down in my lawn chair and said to the squirrels, “I don’t care if I ever go back to work!”
Today the phone rings and I have an interview for a full-time, permanent position.
Morning is my writing/research time. Snapshot: I get out of bed, clean the litter box [wash hands] eat breakfast, and settle in front of my SAD light and go to it for a couple hours. And I occasionally revisit it an hour or two before supper time.
This morning I had an idea present itself from a dream. I’ve been working on a project independent from Larry, and I’ve decided to plot this one out before I begin writing. You know, just for grins to see how it goes. (It’s my “busy” work while I’m waiting for an installment on our joint effort from Larry!)
But a job…it’s going to eat into my Intellectual Pursuit Time! Just like Larry’s eats into his.
I’ve worked full time before and written novels. It’s definitely slower going, but it gets done. I’ll just have to rework my schedule. As many writers will tell you, it’s all about priorities. And scheduling.  

And priorities. 

So when I go to work, I’ll be exultant, because even though we’re not destitute, a bit of extra cash wouldn’t break my heart.
I’ll will, however, be sorely disappointed giving up my current Intellectual Pursuit Time.  It’ll still be here somewhere in my day, I’ll just have to wedge it into the schedule.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shaken, not stirred

Getting attached is bad—bad, Bad, BAD.
At least it is when you have a pantsing partner who lives to shake things up. Things that maybe you thought should only have been stirred.
“Pantsing” always makes me think of a basketball court and a skinny kid with his shorts around his ankles. That’s neither here nor there, but now I have a (not-so) lovely mental image that I’m stuck with for a while.
          Or maybe that’s how I felt and it IS actually here and there. Maybe I’d felt exposed for the incompetent pantster I truly am. A pantster can’t plan and I’m a planner.
          So here’s what happened: I’d introduced a character and had a vision of him being a certain way. Larry on the other hand, had a RADICALLY different idea, which left me miffed. How DARE he mess with my vision! (mutter mutter mumble) The NERVE.
          Oh, wait. I forgot. Pantsing precludes planning. (Say that three times fast.) No plotting ahead and trying to guide the partner, and no creating the characters, because with pantsing they create themselves.
          So now I have to re-envision the character as being what he has become, not what I thought he should or would be.
          What goes around comes around—in the last book Larry’d written a character that I had changed fairly dramatically by the end of the story. So now it’s my turn. I suppose I had it coming.
          But the lesson here is far less Karma-ish than I’m making it out to be. It’s about me and my control freakiness and my need to over-think everything.
          “Just have fun with it,” Larry says. Well, for me fun is being freaky, in only the most controlling and writerly of ways, of course.
          Today it’s my turn to write a scene. I will be obliged to include this character and his less than charming ways, unless I do something dreadful and dastardly. Like give him a split personality.
          So for today, this is Freaky Control Freak, signing off.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crazy as a S***-House Rat

Why do I keep reading? Or actually, the bigger question is this: why would I put a book down?
Used to be that I would finish a book out of stubbornness. Apparently the older I get the less patience I have and I give the book about 50 pages to grab me. And if I’m grabbed, I stick with it.
This book I’m reading now started out KER-POW. So good, in fact, that I recapped the first chapter for my husband who (bless his heart) appeared interested. The “bad guy” is actually a woman who has lost touch with most reality and is a danger to anyone around her. She does manage to hold a job at Burger King, but that’s about all the normalcy there is. I was absolutely floored by this woman’s chapter, and wished I’d been the one who wrote it. “Holy cow!” I thought. “Hope the rest of the book is this good!”
Well, it wasn’t. The next chapter introduced a pregnant housewife whose husband is fooling around. I should feel sorry for her, right? Heck no, all I wanted to know was more about the crazy lady.
Every other chapter I got swept away by the insanity. Then the off chapters I’d try to stick with reading every word because I was afraid I’d miss something important, but it was just so stinking dull that I flipped like crazy until I got back to crazy.
Then about half way through the novel, I found I was reading only the crazy chapters and barely skimming the heroine’s scenes. Because, honestly, she wasn’t interesting and I didn’t identify with her in any way.
But I identified with the crazy lady? What does that say about me?
Action. At least in this case, that’s what it said. The heroine sat talking to her girlfriend at lunch. She sat talking to her husband at supper. She went to the hospital and had a baby and lay talking to her parents. BO-RING!
I’d had enough. I put it down with no intention of picking it back up. That was until read a book on schizophrenia and thought, “That’s what’s going on with the crazy lady!” Now I want to continue reading and see what happens, because with that particular mental disorder, anything is possible.
And actually, I did learn something from this book and this author. He writes a good villain. I want to write a character like that.
I don’t want to make this guy sound like a horrible writer, which is why I’m not including his name or the book title—maybe he had a reason for making the heroine so white-bread boring. Maybe balance is what he was going for, to show the disparity between two women of the same age from the same town. Balance is necessary, but this was just too much.
So I’m giving it one more chance. And if I have to hear one more whining moment of “poor me” from that boring lady, I think I’m going to just skip her chapters altogether and just read the crazy ones.
Maybe because I’m not completely over being stubborn.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Character Pantsing Game

         Consideration 1Pantsing versus Outlining: Larry and I write by the seats of our pants, whatever comes out, comes out. With pantsing characters reveal themselves to us (no pun intended). Character complexity develops as the characters grow in their roles thanks to plot complications.
          Outlining gives authors plenty of time to decide the characters’ strengths weaknesses, etc, but character growth can be limited by the plot thrust upon them.
          Consideration 2 – Infodumping versus Rainbow Sprinkles: Information dumping is something Larry and I rarely do, not by design, but because we don’t know enough about a character TO infodump. I would define a character infodump as a Who’s Who that takes two pages every time a new character is introduced. “Mary lived on a vast estate, rich with green splendor and white capped mountains. Mary loved to take long walks with her yellow labs, Sir Barfsalot and Ms. Yacksamuch. Because, you see, Mary didn’t like to be alone, not after what happened to her when she was eleven years old, living on the streets of London eating only stale rat from the alley and brown grass she pulled from the cracks of the sidewalks” and on and on and on for two pages.
Just because the author knows every single thing about the character doesn’t mean the reader needs to know. At least not all at once, and maybe not ever…
          Rainbow Sprinkles – MMMM. How can this NOT be yummy? I’ve been on a reading binge lately, and such immersion led me to realize something: my favorite novels are filled with rainbow sprinkles. I’m thinking of one book in particular, and even though the plot was carefully outlined, characters were revealed to us in sprinkles, throughout the whole thing, pieces of their lives that made them who they are.  This is helpful to me as a reader, because I remember things about the characters when they are fed to me in occasional spoonfuls as opposed to expecting me to digest a ten-pound banana split at one sitting. 
          Conclusion: Pantsters and Rainbow sprinkles go hand in hand. You can’t info dump if you don’t know the info. That’s what’s so much fun about being a pantster. You get to discover new layers as you go.
          A friend recently asked if I’d ever outlined anything. Yes, way back, my first novel. But I found that outlining and character development took the fun out of the actual writing—that when it came to putting the words on paper, I was bored. Nothing new to be discovered, just regurgitating what I’d already been buried in for weeks. (I’d outlined pretty tightly, so as to avoid writer’s block).
          Then it occurred to me…what if you combined pantsing and character development? What if you knew who all the players were going to be, fully developed with flaws and dreams and challenges, and then let them discover the plot for you?
          No idea, haven’t tried it. That’s just a thought I had this week, something to wonder about and test to see if there’s a way to be sure your characters are all complex and well developed enough to carry the story, but still have fun when it comes to writing the novel. This game is new to me, and one I haven’t played. Yet.
Let the games begin!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bad guys, cookies, and cold fingers

This is a writing blog, not a book review blog. So trust me, that’s not where this is going. That said, I just finished reading THE HELP, and I can’t stop thinking about it. When I had to put it down, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. It was on my mind when I went to sleep and when I woke up in the morning. Some parts were so gripping that I gripped my Kindle until my fingers grew white and cold.
All books have to have some tension, even comedies. BIG TROUBLE by Dave Barry has tension and much of the humor comes from that. But where does the tension come from?
The characters.
          Just before I picked up THE HELP, I was reading another novel by a really famous author that should have been every bit as good as THE HELP—better, in fact, given his track record. In this book, people were dropping dead from an unidentified cause, but I never really cared. I was too busy trying to figure out what the heck was killing them. He spent a huge amount of time telling us all about their lives, their loves, their disabilities, but still…With so much effort given to character development, why didn’t they develop? Too little yeast in the dough? There was no depth, like they were caricatures instead of characters – dry crackers instead of fluffy rolls.
Near the end, I was just reading the first and last line of every paragraph looking for SOMETHING to wrap up the plot so I could quit reading and go on to something else.
I want to care who I’m reading about – like or hate, doesn’t matter, as long as I feel some emotion, and it’s okay to like a bad guy and hope he wins. Do I want a cookie cutter good guys and bad guys and hope the plot carries them? And what’s with all the food metaphors?
THE HELP has tension which comes from the characters in scenes that ranged from horrifying to others that were so sweet tears leaked onto my pillow.
The writer knew that characters would make the plot work and she created really good characters.
Crap, did this just turn into a book review? I want a cookie.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It is to laugh...

            How did I end up writing humor? Completely by accident.
           The first person I made laugh with my writing was a comp teacher my freshman year. After a semester of positive reinforcement, I continued injecting humor into my assignments all the way through grad school. Some professors liked it—others didn’t. I adjusted for their tastes, because a high GPA beat out my love for humor and sacrifices had to be made.
I’ve continually heard that humor is difficult to write effectively. Everyone might agree on what’s sad, but it’s more difficult to agree on is what’s funny. I mean, we would all concur that a boy stung to death by bees in “My Girl” is a tear-jerkers delight. But fewer people I know think that “Cannibal the Musical” is comic genius. When “The Three Amigos” first came out, a girlfriend of mine said it was stupid and not to don’t bother. I watched it anyway and laughed until I cried. I mean seriously—how are the singing bush and the invisible swordsman not funny?
Nonsense. “Cannibal” and “Amigos” are all about nonsense. That’s what I love.
Back to humor being difficult: the hardest part of writing humor for me is feeling “funny”. If I get out of bed with a migraine, the only way I can be funny is completely by accident. I have written term papers with migraines and still gotten A’s. I have taken many tests while on pain killers and done well. However, when it comes to being funny, if I force myself to sit down and write I produce garbage so rank that even I can smell it.
          That is not to say I have to be in the middle of a giddy sugar-buzz to write humor, but I need to at least feel sharp and have access to parts of my brain that are dormant during a doped-up sick headache.
If I were all about production, I would write serious material because I can manage that even when I feel bad.  Humor is just like you’ve heard—it’s tough to write and even tougher to do well. I write humor because laughing makes me feel good. Making other people laugh makes me feel even better. And most importantly, because after years of experimenting, humor is what I’m best at. I may not produce as much or as often as I like, but when I do, I’m having a grand ol’ time.
And on a good day, somebody might actually laugh.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Predictable? Me?

In our last blog, I alluded to the challenges Larry and I faced writing a novel with series characters and how it wasn’t really a whole lot of fun.
So he and I have decided to try another stand-alone to see if we could get back to having fun with writing. We are three scenes in and the good news is that yes, we are having fun again. Actually, I’m having a great time, and he’s busy trying to predict what I’ll write.
          Silly man.
          For those of you unfamiliar with our methods, I write a scene, send it to Larry, he writes the next scene, sends it to me, then I take my turn, and we work back and forth until we’re done with the story. There’s no editing as we go, no plotting, no planning. The only loose rule is that we try to surprise each other.
Larry didn’t disappoint. I laughed out loud at his scene more than once. Then he decided (without me knowing it) to write a scene three at the same time I did, to see if what I produced was close to his. After he saw mine, what he said was this:  

“I read your scene, it wasn't predictable, it was far different from what I wrote.  I'll attach what I wrote so you can see how differently we think…” 

“I was sure you'd go that direction but I was wrong. In my warped mind that seemed to be the most obvious way to go...” 

The first thing I thought was, “When have I ever been predictable?” It is always my ultimate goal to surprise the reader with my fiction, even if that reader is my writing partner. Then I thought, “We are VERY different people.”
It is our life experiences that make us who we are and influence what we put down on a page. The people we’ve known, our personal hardships, blah blah blah. This is not a literary novel where we are continually examining the human condition and bemoan fates and foibles, but who we are absolutely affects what we think is an “obvious way to go.” Because I didn’t think his scene was particularly obvious,either.
Now I’m waiting for his next scene. He said he has an idea, so I have to be patient and allow it to germinate and see what kind of craziness he produces. Because honestly, Larry is the predictable one—he seldom disappoints.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Series Novels or Standalones?

           I’ve often heard that serial novels sell well because people are already into the characters, writing style, and genre - like old friends to visit and revisit.
          For me? Definitely! Most of my favorite books are series novels, including Kim Harrison’s The Hollows and Dan Butcher’s Dresden Files. I’ve read them all more than once. On a yucky day when I need comfort, I settle in with some hot tea, a Snuggie, and old friends.
Writing them? A different story.
We’ve begun book 2 in our series, we’re on about page 24, and Larry wrote to me yesterday, “I'm not wild about our story so far. It's tame compared to the last one. I feel like I'm trying to steer it where I want it to go instead of writing stuff to throw you.”
And I agree.
Last time we were just writing for fun, deliberately throwing in cliff hangers and challenges for the other person to complete, creating new and interesting characters as we went along.
So the challenges for us are:
·       Interesting characters: will there be enough new characters to keep us interested in writing it? Creating characters is the most fun part for me.
·       Comedy/drama balance:  Drama is easy. Comedy is hard. I’m not saying we’re comic geniuses, but I think we’re funny. There just hasn’t been enough funny in this one.
·       Maintaining reasonable goals: Yes, we’ll try to make this one as good as or better than the last one. But we’re only on page 24, for heaven’s sake, we should just relax. It’ll come. Because, after all, we are comic geniuses. (Okay, fine, I’m saying it.)

I think it’ll take us a while to get our writing legs back. We’ve been beached reworking the old stuff so long that we’ve forgotten how to just let loose and have fun with it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Do you smell smoke?

“Liar, liar, pants on fire! Larry’s a fibber!” When I’m writing, my pants are burning up. I think I’m a pretty honest person but when I’m writing, I’m lyin’ my ass off. All fiction writers are (including Becky). We tell of things that haven’t happened, at least not exactly the way we claim. Some of it may be based on fact but embellished some---or a lot. We make up stuff all the time and try to pass it off to our readers like it actually happened… that’s the fun of it. We don’t really expect them to believe our lies but we sure hope they enjoy being lied to.

You can tell when Larry’s been writing because he’s racing around Sears, naked, searching for Levi’s. I, on the other hand, believe truth is relative. If you ask two people to describe a man leaving the scene of a crime, you won’t get the exact same description. Mary Lou Retton might say the gunman was tall. Shaquille O’Neal might say the gunman was short. Neither are lies, only perceptions. In our case, Larry perceives his stories are embellished lies based on fact. I perceive mine as truths based on how real people might act and why. Doesn’t matter who is right, though, because he gets to lie, which makes him happy, and I get to tell the truth about my relatives. -- Becky

Friday, January 6, 2012

Money Mouth

           Recently Becky and I took a tour of the Decatur Sewage Treatment Plant. In the next book some of our characters work there, so it makes sense for us to learn about how things operate. The man who gave us the tour, Harold, really knows his shit. (You knew I was going to say that). I think he must be a shit-plant genius.
He started the tour where the raw waste flows into the plant. The first building contained number of Parsons Screens. The screens look like big wide belts with a series of fork tines ¼ inch apart. They travel down beneath the floor through the sewage, and come back up with whatever debris went down toilets, sinks, and whatever. When the tines travel over the top of the machine to head back down, they deposit whatever was gathered into a chute where it slides into a dumpster on a lower level.
A variety of things are gathered by the screen. The employees used to feed the pop machine with coins or bills gathered from the dumpster. Harold told a story about the pop man when he came to empty money from the machine. When asked to make change, the pop man freed up his hand by placing a coin he’d taken from the machine between his lips.
No one told him where the coin came from.
Another interesting item collected is dentures. They save them in a lost and found to be claimed. And people actually do claim them. I couldn’t imagine it! Who would want something in their mouth that has been swimming with the sewer bass? Harold informed us that they can take the well-traveled dentures back to where they got them and exchange them for a new set.
Other items recovered included jewelry. I can see fishing out a ring for a birthday gift for my wife to wear, but I don’t think she’d go for the dentures.
Seeing how things work at the plant was eye-opening. And this was just the first stop on our tour!