Where do you find your characters?

Last week we talked about showing up to the page and those people you might see on your way to work, or during the course of a day. Another thing I liked doing was going to some place and eavesdrop conversations. Some people have an inflated view of how important their stories are and talk loudly as if wanting others to hear, another group really doesn’t intend to be overheard. I find the latter far more interesting.

When blue tooth was wildly popular and seemed to be everywhere, I frequently visited a particular coffee shop with comfy chairs and sat next to a woman fairly regularly who always seemed to be mid-conversation. She had a gorgeous head of fluffy dark hair and I was never one to stare. I sat in the next chair over from her, plugged in my headphones and started writing.

What she didn’t know was that I didn’t always turn on my music. I thought she was a counselor of some kind, because she seemed to be advising, repeating questions and statements back to a person on the other end of the line. She sounded thoughtful and kind. Rarely emotional, never loud. She often looked as though she concentrated on every word the caller spoke, in order to glean some insight. She would pause, nod her head slowly and say, hmmm. Mhmmm. She seemed so caring, a great listener, very stoic.

After months, I finally introduced myself hoping to learn more about her coffee house phone counseling sessions and even then, I didn’t notice. She never had a phone, or a Bluetooth.

You bet a wrote a vignette about her. It was a great exercise to capture the essence of her. Not so much what she said, because I don’t remember the words of her one-sided conversations; mainly her demeanor, and that–if you counted her drink cups–the table next to her looked as though she’d camped out there most of the day.

So, What people do you remember from your summer vacation or travels? Where are you hanging out? Where do you find your inspiration? What interesting characters have you discovered?

Message me, I’d love to hear about your observations.

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We now return you to this blog already in progress…

Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keys, Typing Away Madly

Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keys, Typing Away Madly

I’ve been missing in action. I should have warned you that my daughter (also a writer) was about to have the most beautiful (translation: first ever) grandson in the whole of my universe. I got sucked into Nani-hood (yes, I am waaaay too young for this.) We are smiling here and so enamored that I forgot about life outside this bubble.

My life has always been a bit of a whirlwind. Lucky for me, I’m married to a man who can handle the high and low tides of such an adventurous life.  Lots of positives lately. I also celebrated an anniversary with my husband and best friend (another writer), Jack. To be so loved is truly a blessing.

I was out there, doing summer, which is all too short in my book, especially here in the great Midwest. If ever I thought there was a time when people might not be paying attention to a blog, it’s summertime. Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere. Please let me hear from you.

All that to say… I have been a less faithful blogger since I took up fiction writing. I’ve been trying to reconcile the two (blogging and fiction writing) as if they are split personalities of the same voice. What do I know? But, I realize how much I miss touching base with those 500 or less words a few times a month, and your insightful feedback.

Lately, I’ve been coming across some great information that I’d like to pass along to you, let you in on how I write, since I get a lot of questions about my process from various other writers and encourage you. I’m recommitting to writing here once a week (it could evolved to twice a week, fair warning). Also, this will be the place to find out when I’ll be doing book signings. (Still a hazy concept…) and this will gel at some near future point.

I have not failed to write, however. I have notebooks everywhere, slips of paper everywhere, and despite the summer whirlwind, have managed to finish another book, the first in a series, and get a novelette to paperback proof status. (The Great Divide: A Novelette should be available in paperback on Amazon by the end of September.)

In the meantime, BiCFoKTAM is my primary process. Doesn’t that look absolutely profane? It means But In Chair/ Fingers On Keys/Typing Away Madly. Show up to that page same time, everyday. Set a timer and write whatever comes into your head for twenty minutes. It’s a great warm up. Or, pretend you’re writing a letter to someone, your future self or your past self. While you’re laughing about BiCFoKTAM, write 500 words about why YOU want to be a writer. Go!

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Please Welcome Our New Arrival!!

ImageSo, the waiting is over and we welcome the new arrival! When Jack got home last night I had celebratory offerings next to a headscarf on the kitchen counter. He almost lways welcomes an adult beverage in the evening. He even noticed the head scarf. I encouraged him to pick it up and when he did…

“The book? How WONDERFUL!” He was all smiles as he picks it up reverently and holds it like a father with a newborn baby; eyes wide with awe–just like mine. Oh, he gushed over it and me for at least five minutes. It was bliss! Then we left it on the counter between the two of us just gazing at it, admiring it. I felt like Geppetto, the puppet maker, when his doll finally becomes a real boy.

It’s nearly a pound, 6×9 trade paperback and 365 pages! Three dimensional pages that you turn by hand, with a real ISBN number and a cover!  I’ve heard writers say that there’s no feeling like seeing their book, all those hours of work, the polishing, the edits, the rewrites, “in the flesh” if you will.

ImageAnd now, I have joined their ranks as author, novelist. Wow. Amazing. Just amazing. When I got home today, he’d already called Barnes and Noble about a book signing! As soon as I know more about that, I will let you know too.

Okay, I just wanted to update you. I’m going back to work in the next book, working title: A Dancer’s Tale. It’s always great catching up with you.

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Tick, tick, tick…

Have you ever had to wait for anything? It seems the more you want it, the longer it takes. I’ve been writing for years, and seeing my first real book in print was something I could barely imagine. It also took a lot longer than I ever imagined.

My very first book proof is being printed as you read this. This is the final hurdle to make sure that the book looks right. It’s funny, when I started writing, I never thought about all the things I’d need to learn along the way. There are different facets to getting your book out there. Writing a book is just the beginning.

Revisions, formatting, e-publishing, Kobe, Mobi, E-Pub Kindle, Nook… What an education. But I’m glad for the knowledge.

I discovered that I can format books in all sorts of ways. Though I never considered myself  an editor, I did a fair amount of it. In the end, I decided that the reason I was afraid to print the book  was because I needed a real editor. A real editor requires real money. It’s an investment. If the book is out there for 5 to 15 years, it needs to be right. To me, Sean Patterson was worth the cost.

The cover became another hurdle. I used an image I took while I was in New Mexico and with the help of my husband Jack, who is quietly a photo retouch-er, we were able to modify it enough to fit the story. Then, Ed Coles and Gene Tenbrink helped me with title lettering and sizing the cover respectively. Thank you men, for a job well done! I’m glad to know them because I’m not done writing. I intend to keep going with this, and these gentlemen were professional all the way. I look forward to working with them again.

Publishing is a huge step obviously and had to be done in some way that will get the book to your readers. And that leads me to marketing. That’s something I’m working on myself.

The trick to being successful, I think, is to keep learning, while you’re waiting.

The good news: I can begin taking preorders (if you’re interested send me contact info–it will not be published–in the comment section after this post.

And now, with a little advance notice, I can do book signings and sell books! Wow! I’m going to have an adult beverage to celebrate this milestone, and then, I’m going to go write on the next book that’s been simmering on the back burner for a few days. Thanks for tagging along, I always like talking to you.

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Excerpt From Book in Progress

“Is it really your last night?” Uli asked.

“Yes it is.”

“It won’t be the same around here without you!”

“It’ll be better,” another girl joked. After the laughter died, she put a hand on Callie’s arm. “Really, Echo. I wish you all the best in your life.”

“”I hear you’re going into films,” another one said. She looked like a beach girl: long blonde tresses, evenly tanned and smooth skin. Callie didn’t remember ever telling anyone that. In fact, she certainly had not.

“Cinematography,” she corrected.

The girl looked her up and down and cocked a brow. She slowly nodded her approval.

“Yeah, I can see that. You got what it takes.”

The remark threw Callie, but she thanked her all the same and strode quickly down to her door. She closed it behind her and sat in front of the mirror while the music thumped beyond her dressing room. Last night. Finally.

After her last set, she considered taking the name from her door and maybe, press it in a scrapbook. Life here would go on as always here without her. The names and faces would change, the dances and routines would be the same. She had come to a point where it all felt cheap and tawdry and she wanted out while she was still anonymous. She felt almost certain that she would be able to return to her real life and put this to rest. It wasn’t fun or exciting after Trish died. Callie was all too glad to box Echo up with the rest of her costumes and move on.

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Unlikely Houseguest

It was a balmy 50 degrees in Bangalore, India when a young man, Ravi Kumar, took the call of a frantic and nearly fainting woman freaking out about a her computer issue. Her recent life work of 8 years locked in an uncrackable backup file. The file-under normal circumstances-should have opened. Except for one thing.

She’d been informed recently that Windows XP was going the way of so much technology, uselessly extinct in the wake of newer progressive programs. As far as operating systems go, XP had a good run. She stood at a crossroads really. The most currently available operating system now Windows 8.1. That sort of leap was not recommended, so she opted for the forward motion that skipped up to Windows 8.

She backed up all the critical data on her external hard drive, as recommended, which took three hours.  With the file secure, she had located the site online and downloaded the program. Three hours later, she discovered that download had failed. A level of panic set in.

She opted to forgo all preferences and re-download the upgrade. For the sake of successful download.  Three more hours later, at midnight, the upgrade had been installed and she went to bed. The next morning, as she began to navigate the new program, she felt as though she had landed on a fantastic sci-fi planet. She was dedicated to certain programs and uploaded them in preparation for opening the backup file. In her mind, it was like packing boxes and moving into a new house. Programs were the rooms you unloaded certain boxes.

But the moving van was locked. Ten years of photos. Years of writing ideas, books, essays and thoughts. Journals. Her entire music collection.

She searched the internet and came up with nothing after an hour and a half. She relented and called the software company. Ravi Kumar answered. She hoped that this group of people had the answer. If anyone, knew anything, it would be the people who put the program together. Of course.

That woman felt a glimmer of hope, even though she breathed shallowly and her fingers were numb. The loss of feeling seemed to be spreading as she began to realize the enormity of this loss. She was afraid not to hope but if they couldn’t open it… she didn’t want to over think it. That freaking out woman is me.

And Ravi is a kind hearted young man I have never met. But he saved all of my files. While I watched him remotely navigate through the new download, my adventure into windows 8, I doubted. I was afraid. My stomach was in my throat. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think of anything else but that back up file.

It’s like moving. You have your treasure, your trinkets and the expendables.  I had backed up many times before. Back ups of back ups. Jump drives, terra books, clouds and emails. So there you have back up upon back up. Many files were reduplications upon copies. I could afford to lose a few. I knew some of them were saved multiple times outside this particular back up ( up to a dozen or more times in some cases).Trouble is, none of the backups seemed recent enough. The most recent locked file, contained all the books I’ve written and am writing now.

Ravi told me that before he got into this tech support role, he had lost 15 years of photos from a hard drive. He said he was 99% sure he could save me. I wanted to believe him. I never wanted to  believe anyone so badly in 10 years.

We stayed on the phone for just over four hours. We talked about my current job and the one before, in collections. We talked about the beaches in Goa, India and what sort of computer he liked. The beaches reminded me of all the photos I had taken, some 5,000 images: weddings and vacations and my kid growing up… 

Ravi worked quickly and gracefully, the cursor barely rested. It’s always a little disconcerting to see someone else moving a cursor around in your computer. Amazing, that they are able to do recovery half a continent away.

It was night time and quiet where he was. It was snowing and silent where I sat. He insisted that I eat even though my stomach was in knots. I did, leaving my phone on speaker while I cooked and he searched and clicked and never once sighed.

“Are you making yourself something to eat?”

“Yes, I am!”

In this unique way I felt as though I had a guest from India in my home for several hours. In the end, after we had both eaten and talked much of the day, Ravi saved the files. Over 35,000 files. I expect the sign of relief I breathed out put the butterfly effect to shame.

Really, if he had been present, I would have hugged him (asking permission first of course!) But maybe, if he ever finds himself in our unpredictable weather, I will be allowed to show him my total gratitude and buy him dinner. Thanks Ravi!

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Baby In A Box

Baby In A Box

Sending my first baby, Painting the Rain, out to the editor for a final. After that revision, it’s off to the printer for actual handheld books!

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