Friday, March 20, 2020

A Deleted Scene

I have now posted 31 excerpts. These are only short reminders of where something happened in the book. It’s the notes with them that I hope are interesting, where I’ve tried to share a little of the thoughts and ideas that went into that part of the story. I try to grab scenes from early chapters and avoid significant plot points so they should be free of spoilers. But they are intended for people who have already read the books anyway.

As I was thinking of bits I might share from recent books, I remembered something that didn’t make it into the final copy. I can’t post it with the others because it’s kind of backwards. Usually I share something I wrote and why. This is something I didn’t write and why not. Fortunately, I have this blog where I can post whatever I like and (obviously) don’t worry about any post fitting in with other posts. I can put that thought here.

This non-excerpt would have been in By Its Cover but is related to Everything Old. Both of those books have been available long enough that I’m sure this won’t be a problem, but I’ll give enough lead in that you can stop reading here if it feels like you want to read one or both books first. (But you have to actually read them. No thinking you should read them and then going to do laundry or something. That’s no fun.) Ruth was a main character in Everything Old. She talks about a past event involving Eric, who becomes a main character in By Its Cover. I intended for him to describe his version of the same event in the later book. But this event was far less significant for him. I ended up leaving it out because I couldn’t find a place it didn’t feel forced. I still had parts of the scene scribbled in my notes. That’s what I’m about to write here. The plan was for Julia (who is “I” in this excerpt) to ask if there had ever been a girl he considered a good friend and nothing more.

    “Well, Ruth. Sort of. I think.”
    I considered Eric’s fumbling answer a fairly definitive no.
    “Ruth is my friend,” he said.
    “Have you ever done anything just the two of you?”
    “Really?” I was surprised and preparing myself to admit I was wrong.
    “Once,” he said.
    I wasn’t wrong. “Only once doesn’t count as a friend.”
    “We’ve known each other as long as I can remember, but most of the times I saw her our whole families were together. Then when we were in college and I wasn’t hanging out with Adam so much, I saw the Zieberts over Christmas and realized I missed the rest of the family. I called Ruth, who was right there at the same school, and we had lunch. It was good. But it was also right around the time she and Gabriel had some sort of falling out so I didn’t call again because I was afraid she might try to talk to me about that and put me in the middle. They’ve only recently reconciled and… What?”
    I was shaking my head at him. “I see,” I said. “She’s a friend who’s not allowed to talk to you about anything important. Some friend.”
    “Hey.” Eric sounded defensive. “She can talk to me about anything that doesn’t involve feelings and my brother. That’s a perfectly reasonable boundary.”
    I had to laugh at the look on his face. I accepted his argument because it proved what I wanted. Eric and I could be friends as long as I avoided that fluttery feeling I got from looking him directly in the eyes. And as long as I didn’t question the reasonableness of that boundary.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Who's full of questions today?

I haven’t gotten very far on the next love story.  I confess it’s frustrating me.  How do they meet?  Or do they already know each other?  What did she do to capture his attention?  What does she do that annoys him?  How can it take most of the book for them to get together without feeling like I’m dragging it out?  You know I have to ask that.  If they’re a happy couple in the first chapter, then I have to hit them with some sort of tragedy or awful problem to overcome.  That’s not a book I’ll find very uplifting.  When I start a book crying or angry, by the time I get to the resolution, I’ll feel only marginally better than before the book made me cry or rant.  That’s not very satisfying.  Maybe it sounds selfish, but when I write a book I spend a lot more time reading it than anyone else.  I want to enjoy it.

I’m not enjoying this project yet because there are just too many options.  I have to keep asking myself questions about what I might like.  What are some sweet words they might share?  What keeps putting them together?  How in the world am I going to come up with names for these characters?  And most importantly, how do they make each other laugh?  I know, I know, “someone who makes me laugh” is a total cliché.  But it’s a cliché for a reason.  Have you ever known a woman who described her dream man as a prickly sourpuss?  “Things were going great until she started to laugh at my jokes,” is something no man has ever said.

Unless I want to plant my main characters on a deserted island – which would be something I’ve never done before – they’re going to have to interact with other people.  This means more questions.  Do I give them friends they can count on?  Family that provides countless opportunities for service?  Can I write irritating people who are funny because they aren’t actually in front of me?  Can I squeeze in a few drops of the joy of living the gospel without anyone complaining that the book is too preachy?  Will a few drops receive complaints that it isn’t preachy enough?  (Seriously, I’ve heard both.  There’s no pleasing everyone.) 

I want to write stories that make people smile, people including me.  Love makes me smile.  If I can touch on all four loves, I hope it will be a truly uplifting read.  Speaking of uplifting and laughable segues, Everything Old is featured on 1531Entertainment today.  The site is compiling options for uplifting entertainment.  Options that are in this case a good thing.  Because not everyone finds the same thing encouraging or uplifting.  Is a happily ever after a must for you or will a bittersweet ending still tug at your heart?  Do you prefer first love or second chance?  Does a sappy romance kind of make you want to gag?  Is a thrilling adventure better for propping up your weary soul?

What is it that makes you smile?  If it isn’t my books, maybe you can find something there that works for you.  But if it is my book, that’s okay, too.  You might need to look for something to read while I’m trying to get my act together on the next one.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Switching Gears

This month I’ve decided to take a metaphor and beat it to death.  Why?  Look how long I’ve been doing this.  It’s difficult to come up with 77 things to write about that all have to do with what I’m currently working on or writing in general.  I don’t think I’ve ever driven a metaphor into the ground before so this’ll be new.

I’ve been working on the Love in Andauk series for about two years.  The last book releases this month so I need a new direction.  I just took a few weeks off for Christmas.  That was neutral.  I need a few days of overdrive to grind out some formatting that I should have done before the break.  Then I plan to downshift for as long as necessary. 

I promised my kids I’d write another Wisherton book when I left Andauk.  I’ve been cruising through the existing books to keep a smooth ride into the next one.  This writing will cover different terrain.  I’ll need to engage the action gear in place of the romantic one.  It’s a little overheated right now anyway.  Hopefully, I can keep some humor turning during this adventure. 

I’ll be planning my next love story while I’m in Wisherton.  The teeth of these two gears will alternate as I make time for them.  I haven’t made any decisions yet about that next love story.  I have considered going in reverse.  I could return to Hartford to pick up some minor characters to populate a new series in an old town.  I seem to be spinning my wheels with that idea.  I’ll keep swapping out gears until one feels like it has some traction.  In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys What Goes Around more than my metaphor butchering.  But hey, at least it wasn’t personification.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Ziebert Family Christmas

(I borrowed a few characters from my latest series, Love in Andauk, for this very short story.  It’s set about nine years before the first book so no worries on spoilers.)

Ruth kept her feet at a deliberately moderate pace.  At fourteen, she felt she was too old to run down the stairs on Christmas morning.  But her eyes had opened more easily than most mornings and her heart had been running since she pulled the red-and-green striped slippers onto her feet. 
She stepped into the family room and frowned in disappointment.  Her family was not sitting around waiting for her as she’d expected.  Her two oldest brothers were fraternal twins.  One of them, Isaac, was home from college for a few weeks and was sitting on the couch reading a book.  It had a plain brown cover.  No sparkles, no picture of Santa.  There was nothing festive about it or the studious expression on his face.
Neither of Ruth’s parents were in sight.  Banging and running water in the next room suggested one or both of them was cleaning up the kitchen.  The only person who seemed to be aware that it was a holiday was her sixteen-year-old brother Adam, who was doing something weird with the presents.  He wasn’t shaking them or otherwise trying to guess the contents.  He was just stacking them against a wall.  “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Christmas present Tetris,” he said.  “Do you see one that will fill in this space here?”
Ruth rolled her eyes and moved into the kitchen instead of answering.  Her mom was sitting at the table sipping coffee while her dad was loading plates into the dishwasher.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” her mom said.  She gestured to the counter.  “We saved you a plate of pancakes, but you’ll have to warm them up.”
“When are we going to open the presents?” Ruth asked.
“We waited for you, but now Joseph is at church so we have to wait for him.”
Ruth groaned.  “Why didn’t he go to midnight Mass with the rest of us?”
Her father shut off the water at the sink and turned around.  “The same reason you didn’t want to go at 9 am.”
She grudgingly conceded the point.  Her brother worked odd hours.  Midnight for him would be more like getting up early than staying up late.  She grabbed the pancakes and popped them in the microwave.  She made herself some hot chocolate to go with them.  The pancakes had been devoured, and Ruth was savoring her cooling drink when Adam wandered into the kitchen.
“Mom,” he said, “why don’t any of the presents have tags on them?”
Their mom’s eyes widened.  “Did you move them?”
“He was in there building a fort out of them,” Ruth said.
Adam flicked the top of her ear.  “Present Tetris,” he corrected, as though that was far less ridiculous than a fort.
“I was running out of tape last night so I just set a tag on each present until I knew if I would have enough.”  She winced.  “I forgot to warn everyone not to knock the tags off when you picked them up.”
“I guess you didn’t have enough,” Ruth said.  She hoped no one was going to mention how much tape she had used wrapping her gifts.
“No.  In fact, there are two presents that have the paper held on with the ribbon.”
Ruth’s dad put his hand on his wife’s shoulder.  “You should have sent me out for more tape.”
“At ten o’clock on Christmas Eve?”  She sighed and stood up.  “I guess I need to sort this out.”
When Ruth followed the others back to the family room, she immediately noticed little red tags strewn around the floor under the tree.  “Adam, the tags are all over the place,” she said.  “How did you not notice them falling off the presents?”
“I was focused on their shapes.”  He had already begun to gather up all the tags she pointed out.
Their mom started to dismantle the Tetris wall as she taxed her brain to remember what was inside each box.  Adam handed her an appropriate tag whenever she identified a recipient. 
They had sorted through about half of the presents when Joseph walked in.  “Hey,” he said, “looks like Baby Ruth finally decided to get out of bed.”
She knew she frowned a little, but she said nothing.  She wanted him to think she was bothered by the teasing and not the nickname.  She wasn’t a fan of being called a candy bar.  It was best to stay quiet though because her brothers were using the nickname less and less often.  She knew them too well.  If they knew it was starting to annoy her, they’d try harder to use it.
Isaac finally put down his book.  “She’s really anxious to get to the presents.  Maybe she has plans to see her boyfriend when we’re done.”
“Gabe is not my boyfriend,” Ruth said.  Honestly, she kind of figured she’d marry him someday.  He’d have to get a lot less goofy first though.  “And we already exchanged presents yesterday anyway.”
 “What’d you get him?” Joseph asked.  “And did you have to go back in time to find it?”
“I don’t know,” Ruth admitted.  Gabe was fascinated by old technology.  “I found something that looked pretty old at a thrift store.  He didn’t know what it was either, but he seemed excited to try to figure it out.”
“Sounds easy to shop for if you don’t even have to know what you gave him,” Isaac said.
Their dad groaned skeptically.  It was the most skeptical groan of the year.  “Tell him how many thrift stores you asked me to drive you to.”
“That was kind of a long day.”  Ruth smiled sheepishly, then tried to quickly get the attention off the trek.  “Did you get Jessica something?” she asked Isaac.
“I did.  But she wouldn’t accept it yet.”
“Yet?” Ruth said.
Joseph tossed his coat on the arm of a chair before he sat next to it.  “Is this the same Jessica who shot you down last month?”
“She’s warming up to me,” Isaac said.  “I almost got her to come to my black belt test last week.”
Ruth snorted.  “What makes you think she’d be impressed to watch you beat people up?”
“Sparring is not beating people up,” Joseph said.
“It’s not about the…”  Isaac paused to consider.  “It’s the commitment I wanted her to see.  Back me up, Mom.  Girls like work ethic, right?  It took me seven years to earn that rank.”
Before their mom could answer, Joseph said, “It took me six.”
Isaac began to argue, and Ruth turned back to the kitchen to retrieve her last few sips of hot chocolate.  Her brothers had been having the same argument since they graduated from high school, about a year and a half ago, about whether a fulltime job or a full college coarse load was the bigger time commitment.  It didn’t have anything to do with which was better or more important, only a worn-out discussion on who had more time to throw other guys onto the mats.  Ruth had thought the matter would be settled when Joseph earned his first.  But he insisted that was because he had different hours, not fewer.
It seemed that everyone was looking at Ruth when she reentered the family room, everyone except Adam, who for some reason was on his belly with his head under the Christmas tree.  “Did you get anyone a book this year?” Ruth’s mom asked her.  She was holding a present that did seem to be shaped like a book.
Ruth pointed at a small pile next to the tree.  “My presents are all over there.”
“It definitely feels like a book.”  Her mom wrinkled her forehead in thought.  “I’m sure I didn’t get anyone a book.”
“There aren’t any other tags,” Adam said as he crawled out from under the tree.  A piece of tinsel clung to his red hair.
“Why don’t you go ahead and get us started by opening that one, Mom?” Isaac said.  “Then we’ll see if anyone wants to claim it.”
She glanced around the room for confirmation or countersuggestions.  Seeing no opposition, she tore off the shiny red paper.  Everything Old,” she said, holding up the book for everyone to see the cover.
“Oh, I’ll take that,” Ruth said.  “I hear it’s really good.”  She made a move towards the book but was still checking for signs of recognition. 
“No one remembers buying this?”  Ruth took the book from her mom, who asked if she could read it next.  Still no one admitted to stashing the book under the tree.  “Oh, well,” Ruth said.  “Thank you and Merry Christmas to whoever had this great gift idea.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hoping for Dawn

Someone in my house busted out the Christmas music about halfway through October. Someone else started complaining that it was too early for Christmas music about ten seconds later. I was not either of these people. I waited all the way until November to begin thinking about Christmas.

Unfortunately, my thoughts have not revolved around joy-filled music. I’m not decorating with anticipation. I’m focused on a single familiar scene. Everyone knows the Charlie Brown Christmas by heart, right? Remember when he puts an ornament on his cute little tree and it collapses? I’m feeling nearly as overdramatic about my next book. “I’ve killed it. Everything I touch gets ruined.”

I’m working on the fourth book in the Love in Anduak series. I scribbled out a rough draft of this one before I started on the third one. I didn’t try to make it a full-length draft. I just had some ideas I wanted to get on paper. When I picked it up a few months later I knew it was short so I read through it with an eye towards what I could add. I wrote a few new scenes and inserted them here and there. Then I began to move blocks of text where characters were talking about things that hadn’t happened yet or explaining things that no longer needed to be explained. I’ve never written a book so out of order. Now I’m afraid there are several parts that don’t make sense and I keep making it worse and… I’ve killed it.

But I have not killed hope. I’m hoping this is one of those darkest before the dawn situations. After all, Charlie Brown’s tree only needed a little love to bring about an impossible transformation. I love the story I’m trying to tell. I love finishing a book. I love being stubborn in the face of frustration. If I channel all that into hard work, I’ll be at the point where I can start putting the book back together soon. And then I won’t be a blockhead anymore.

Friday, October 25, 2019

How NOT to Make a Book Cover

I haven't done a video for a while, which means I haven't done a video for a while.  That's all it means.  I guess I thought that was a good enough reason to recap the somewhat embarrassing number of tries it took to create a satisfying cover for my latest book, By Its Cover.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My next book is having an identity crisis.

It’s my husband’s fault.  Sort of.  I’m totally blaming him regardless.  Here’s what happened.  Sort of.  This isn’t a story so much as backstory. 

There’s a pattern to the titles in the Love in Andauk series.  You’ve noticed the pattern, right?  Raise your hand if you noticed the pattern.  I will explain in case there’s someone in the back not raising a hand.

The titles are parts of familiar sayings.  Not clichés.  They come from familiar, wise sayings because that sounds a whole bunch better than pointing out that my titles are all clichés.  If that was your answer when you raised your hand, you can put it back down.  Everything Old finishes with is new again.  Out of the frying pan comes before Into the Fire.  The third book was going to be called Mind Over Matter. 

I settled on that title some time ago.  I think it fits the book very well.  Recently, my husband pointed out that mind over matter is a complete saying and not only part of one, therefore, it does not fit the theme.  I knew that by the way.  I decided it was more important for the title to fit the book than to fit the theme.  I thought it was close enough.  But my husband was having a hard time letting this go.

The fact that it didn’t quite match the other titles started to bug me, too.  And it didn’t only bug me that my husband kept bringing it up.  I really didn’t want to start over.  I already went through a hundred or so sayings trying to come up with something I liked, and going back would mean admitting I missed a good one the first time.  But if the titles are going to have a theme, they all need to work within the theme.  I reluctantly went back to the figurative drawing board. 

I came up with two possibilities.  This is a case where two is not better than one.  I only needed one title, which meant now I had to choose.  The first one, By Its Cover, felt more like it went with the story.  The second one, To Those Who Wait, just looked prettier.  When I slapped those titles on any of the fifteen or so different cover backgrounds I’ve created, the capital Ts and Ws have similar loops and show up in pairs and line up without any descenders trying to intrude on the lower line.  It’s so much easier to place.   

That’s really not a good reason to choose a title.  I might as well pop random letters on the cover until something looks nice.  By Its Cover isn’t necessarily an ugly title.  It just isn’t playing nicely with my non-artist’s eye.  The y wants to drop down and punch the C in the face and the I is overpowering the tiny word its leading and that last word is an awkward length because I can’t figure out if it’s too long or too short.  Of course, when I asked for help I got conflicting opinions.  Guess how much that helped.  And at least one person insisted I should keep Mind Over Matter.  So helpful.

I am confident, however, that those words will start behaving as soon as I stop being cranky at renaming the book at such a late stage.  Because that’s also the good news.  It’s late enough that one way or another, somehow or other, by hook or by crook, this cover will soon be finished and the title permanent.