Saturday, July 24, 2010

Colorado Research Trip

View of Lake Dillon from the Mesa Cortina Trail
My novel is set in the wilderness of Summit County, an area that I've visited every year for the last six years or so.  Unfortunately, the majority of my time has been spent during the winter months, when skiing is great, but hiking is not really feasible unless you have snowshoes and feel like walking in below freezing weather (not something I particularly enjoy).  Since my characters start out hiking in early August, I needed to learn more about the mountains in the summer.  I needed to know what the trees and rocks and ground really look like.  I needed to do some research.

I'm lucky; my parents live in Colorado and have a vacation home in Breckenridge.  All I had to book was a flight to go out there and visit.  I arrived last Friday, spent a day at their house near Denver, and then up the mountains we went.

Fantastic bakery in Silver Plume.

First stop was at the town of Silver Plume, a teeny, somewhat run-down town right off the highway.  There we discovered the cutest (and tastiest) little bakery, Sopp & Truscott Bakery.  This will be a future frequent stop whenever we pass by.


Georgetown Loop Steam Engine.
      The Lebanon Mine tour.  I look pretty good in a hard hat!

Saturday afternoon was spent riding the Georgetown Loop Railroad, a three mile trip between the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume.  Halfway through the downhill trek, we stopped and took a tour of the Lebanon Mine.

On Sunday, we hiked the Iowa Hill trail in Breckenridge.  Not only did the hike have fantastic scenery, but old mining equipment, pipes and buildings dotted the trek up the hill and plaques explained what they were used for in the placer mining operation that operated on the hillside in the late 1800's.

A water cannon from the place mine operation on Iowa Hill.
We got a late start on Monday, but drove down to Silverthorne to try out the beginning of the actual hike that my characters take in the novel - the Mesa Cortina trail.  Unfortunately, mosquitoes ran rampant, and we had to turn back after about a mile.  We had forgotten to bring bug spray.  (Bug spray is now going to play a minor role in my novel.  I had thought that at that elevation there wouldn't be many mosquitoes, but apparently I was wrong.)

Section of the Mesa Cortina trail.
After cleaning up the cabin and getting everything packed, it was off to the airport on Tuesday, where I almost missed my flight.  For some reason I thought it departed an hour later than its actual listed time.  I had 30 minutes from checking my bag to make it through security and onto the plane before take off.  I was also informed that my bag might not make it home with me.  After literally running to security and then from security down the terminal to the gate, I managed to make it with a few minutes to spare.  I thought my lungs were going to implode.

But I made it, and so did my bag, and now I'm home enjoying a relaxing down weekend with nothing to do but incorporate the scenery and mining operations into my novel.  Here's to a productive writing weekend! 

(More pictures posted on Facebook.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Genre fiction can still be literature. Honest.

As I stated in my post a few weeks ago, sci-fi and fantasy - and practically all of their sub-genres - are my cup of tea when it comes to books I love.  I make no bones about it.  When you ask me what I'm reading, 95% of the time it will be something within this realm of literature.  However, as we all know, genre fiction is often looked down upon by academics.  It's considered "low-brow" and unsophisticated; inappropriate for an educated person to be caught reading.  Of course, as a well-educated woman who gobbles up the stuff, I have to politely disagree.

However, I do agree with what Laura Ann Gilman said this on the other day:

"... in my experience, urban fantasy—more to the point, modern fantasy—is at its heart not about the fantastic, but the everyday: the intensity of the real world drawn in the most vibrant colors possible, so that what was mundane and ordinary takes on a new depth and meaning."
To me, taking mundane things in our everyday lives and making them new and exciting is what makes fantasy so fun.  So, okay, you have an adventure set in some alternate medieval period, with talking cats and ghosts.  I get it, some people can't suspend their disbelief that far.  But what's the story really about?  It's really about a young woman making her way in the world, falling in love, and finding her destiny.   (Note: I just finished reading The Poison Throne and The Crowded Shadows, the first two books in the Moorehawk trilogy by Celine Kiernan, and they're fantastic.  Highly recommended.)  There are swords and crossbows, court politics and adventure, but the fundamental story is not about the action, it's about the journey and the relationships that are developed between the characters.

Misty Massey, from Magical Words, had this to say: 

"Some of the genre fiction I’ve read is more well-written and brilliant than any ten literary doorstops, but kept from the eyes of the literati merely because of the genre label."
Genre fiction sells, which means people are reading it.  Considering that one in four American adults failed to read a single book in 2006, shouldn't we consider this to be a good thing?  Shouldn't we celebrate the written word, in whatever form it takes, and encourage people to find the value in it for themselves?  Better yet, why don't we take a closer look at genre fiction to understand the power of escaping the real world through a good story?  Maybe it will even teach the literati a thing or two.

(Side rant: isn't "literary fiction" a genre in it's own right?  Sure seems like one to me.)  

Woo Hoo! 
Word count on the novel: 40,221  !!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reading habits of the average American

I read today on Pub Rants, one of the many blogs I follow, that the average American only reads 2-3 books each year.  Mindboggling!  So I decided to do a little research to see if this statistic is true, or if it's one of the 80% of statistics that are made up on the spot.

While I didn't find that exact statistic, I did find this horrifying article from the Washington Post back in August 2007: One in Four Read No Books Last Year.  

Personally, I read at least 15-20 books per year just for fun.  There was a period of time before I started writing when that figure was even higher.  That's not counting all of the articles, news, manuals, presentations, etc. that I read for work or school.  As a kid I was grounded from reading because my mom couldn't get me to do my chores.  I can't imagine what my life would be like without good novel.

But apparently 25% of the American population doesn't even read one book each year, and the average person "claimed to have read four books".  (By the way, "books" includes the Bible and non-fiction as well as novels, and doesn't differentiate between personal and business/work-related reading, so we're talking about a pretty wide range of material.)  I know that TV, movies, and the internet take up increasing amounts of our time and provide plenty of entertainment, but is it really possible that the written word is being ignored by such a large proportion of our population?  If so, how sad!!

What about you guys?  How much do you read for fun?  How many books have you read this year so far?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why oh WHY am I not making progress?

The last few weeks have been busy to say the least.  From my anniversary, to a work trip to London that required 12+ hour days, and Venessa & Ryan's upcoming wedding this weekend (hi guys!), plus a large amount of regular work, there just haven't been enough hours in the day.  Add to that a minor case of writer's block and you have a recipe for slow progress on the novel.

Very slow progress on the novel.

But I think I've finally figured out my real problem.  I'm too Type A.

See, here's the thing, I don't really have writer's block, it's more like writer's overload.  I'm getting to the big scenes in the novel: my hero's first shift to her new furry form, her brother's realization of what's happened to her and the ultimate betrayal.  I'm at the good part!  I know where I want the story to go and I should be writing like mad, unstoppable as my fingers fly across the keys.  But I'm not. Because I want it to be perfect.  And it's not.  At least not yet.

I keep changing my mind on the details of the scene.  When do I want the brother to show up?  How should he react?  What's the scenery like?  Where is everyone standing?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

As one blogger friend wrote after I commented on her post about the causes of writer's block; "Leave the scene alone and work on another! If you re-write to much to early, you can be in danger of deleting some gems."

I need to take her advice.  It's good, solid advice.  I need to sit down and pound at the keyboard for a few solid hours and move past this hurdle.  Edit later.

Unfortunately, that's much easier said than done.  First I need a few solid hours to work.  And I don't mean the 30-45 minutes sitting on the train, even though I'm often productive during that time.  What I really need is a complete afternoon or evening to put on the headphones and do nothing else but write. 

Once I manage to set aside the time, I need to force myself to keep moving and stop looking back to edit what's just been written.  It may not sound that difficult, but there's an emotional element to this particular scene that has to be expressed correctly or the whole thing is going to fall apart.  Of course I'm now justifying my own perverse need to get the scene just right and therefore not move past it.

I don't think I've entirely solved my issues yet, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Interview with Carl Franklin, author of Bloodlines

As part of my review on Bloodlines, by Carl Franklin, I had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about himself, about his novella, and about the charity that he will be supporting. 

1. First, please tell us a little information about yourself...
I'm 23, obviously enjoy writing and reading literature- From poems to book reviews and most fiction. I do like some non-fiction, but there's nothing like escaping reality!

2. Where did find the inspiration for Bloodlines?
I found the inspiration for Bloodlines from God himself! It was my yearning to see the message get across to the world that being hateful is wrong. No matter who or what anybody believes in, I'm humbled that they have "something" to believe in or worship; and most assuredly that "something" is unity and love driven just like the honest, true words of Jesus.

3. How long did it take to complete the novella, and what was your writing process like?
It didn't take very long to complete given that my imagination and writing is fast paced. It includes most of my premature writing as an Author, however, so a span of a couple years combined into one manuscript. My writing style, you could say, matured since Bloodlines.

It was a bit difficult in some ways, because I did share two personal events that affected my soul. 1- the death of my own mother, even though I put fictional characters around the story... it hits close to home. 2- the death of my only supportive grandfather, again with fictional characters around the story... it as well is close to my heart.

4. Why did you decide to self-publish in a digital format instead of going through the traditional publishers?
It isn't just in digital form. While it can be found on the Amazon kindle, now with perfected formatting without the errors with chunks wrongfully italicized. The print version is of course the longer process and should be publicly available through several cataloging outlets and beyond just the USA store.

I have done every bit of work myself for Bloodlines- writing, publishing, marketing legwork, public relations. Except thank goodness, distribution. I wouldn't want that task. I self published my first Novella because regardless of its content or structure, I wanted to be one of the first to tackle the subject that being Gay doesn't discount one person from another in God's eyes, rather it is what a person does in their lifetime that makes them the person they are. God wants people to love each other- and the other message is as prior mentioned, being hateful is counterproductive and unnecessary. Love is the most powerful energy in the universe, so why not strengthen it even more?

5. Can you tell us a little about your current project(s)?
I am in the works of my adult and much matured works of writing. It is Book 1 of 4 in my suspense series. "Monetary Discretion" and I also beta read for other writers. "Monetary Discretion" is a suspense filled work following the interesting protagonist (main character) Henry Waterstone, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities) with a quite diverse slew of alter egos. Aside from the basics, I can't share much further information until readers have the chance to find out for themselves. :)

6. What is Smile Train?
Smile Train is an organization that is multi-national centric and holds the basic mission of correcting the cleft palates of several children. May they be in third world countries or here in The United States, clefts hold many challenges both health-wise and personally as well. Children with cleft lip and cleft palates, if gone uncorrected, live unhealthy and scrutinizing lives. They cannot eat or drink properly, they are more prone to bacterial infections and autoimmune diseases and they don't have the luxury of what you and I have- a smile!

7. How did you become involved with the charity and how will your sales support their work?
Several months ago when I decided to link my work and all future works of fiction with charities so I could help give back to the world, I came across one of the Smile Train commercials and was so affected, I did further research on their website to see what they stood for. Being further moved to want to help put a smile on those children, I decided that they would be my first charity to work with.
A percentage of each royalty from my Bloodlines work will go toward the benefit in putting a smile on hopefully more than a few children. It takes as little as $250 and 45 minutes to correct a child's smile. That in itself is enough to put a smile on your face, I hope!