Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When Everything is Just Right

There are days when everything is just right. Here's one of them.

Blue sky.

Perfect 80 degree temperature.

A breeze stirring across a field of poppies.

And I have the chance to be there.

The desert treated me like a queen this trip.

If you have a minute here's a short video of a few flowers that survive desert cold in winter and desert heat in summer for this one perfect time in spring. The contrast between the rock and the petals has to inspire poetry or at least a novel, right? Now it's back to work. Oh. And I had some good news right after this field of poppies and I parted company. My second novel will be published this fall.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Death Valley Beckons

The wildflower alert is out and I'm heading south to oooh and aaaw at the fields of color. I'll take pictures and post them when I return next week. 

Wish me luck. I'm going to renew my writing spirit which expired last month. 

In the meantime here's a lovely moment of MUSIC to enjoy this fabulous spring week. A very good friend shared this with me this morning and it came at exactly the moment. I needed a bit of inspiration. Hope you take the time to listen. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Contest News

I have to jump in while I'm waiting for my W.I.P. to settle down and start behaving and tell everyone about a great contest over at Steena Holmes' and Stina Lindenblatt's blogs. I hate to up the competition for the prizes, but it's only fair.

Plus I'm working on that positive thinking angle right now and I'll win anyway.

Jump on over and enter. If you, uh, well, win the chocolate are you willing to share a little?

Good luck!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Day is it Anyway?

I've been buried in the middle of a book since last Friday . . . mine!

Remember a few weeks ago when I was jumping up and down, vowing this was the going to be the greatest book in the world?

I'd love to recapture that moment, brief as it was, because as of today my enthusiasm meter is registering 0.

So what to do? Here are my choices and they're by preference.

1) Take a hike for sure, except it's cold out there and threatening rain and I hiked yesterday and I'm kind of talking myself out of bundling up and striking out again, aren't I?
2) Read somebody else's book, preferably one that's an award winning novel, so I can "eat my heart out."
3) Eat.
4) Sleep.
5) Revise something old so I can realize how badly written it was and how much gooder I write now.
6) Build a fire. (You know what that's for, right?)

I'm up to #5 and my desk has almost disappeared under the fall out of today's labor.

When you're stumped or when you've lost the through line in your W.I.P. what's your plan for getting back on track? Send me something, anything. Help!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 12 and 13 and 14

The print out worked. I saw HUGE gaps in the story. I saw MAJOR places for character deepening. I even wrote three more chapters--well, almost. 2.5 or 2.25 (Something in that neighborhood.)

I discovered I'd fallen in love with a minor character, Nyla, the fat girl with the brain. She really got to me, so she's no longer minor. Here's a bit of Nyla. Tell me if you like her as much as I do. Be honest. If you don't think she fabulous, tell me why, okay?
(The main character is meeting Nyla off the school campus. )

     "Nyla and me never meet unless it’s in the cafeteria or home room or on that bench where she sits a lot after school like she’s waiting for somebody. I’m the only one who comes by. I’m the only one who sits with her while she explains stuff I need to know. I try to make it look accidental or, like, I need to borrow something or get an assignment from her. Sure sometimes Meeker gives me a hard time about dating a Jelly Belly or chatting up the fat girl nobody else talks to, but he don’t make nothing big out of it. It’d be different if her saw me here in town with her.
     When I look up she’s crossing the street. The sun comes just right to throw her shadow on the asphalt. It makes it’s way ahead of her, swaying side to side kind of like an elephant having a hard time on two feet. She don’t see me yet, so I wait, thinking how I still got time to disappear without her knowing I ditched at the last minute. Then I remember how ticked she got when they busted me and I didn’t show up that Tuesday. I don’t want the dark feeling again, the one I had until she talked to me, so I stay where I am and wait.
     She spots me and smiles. It’s gotta be the slant of the sun because for one minute there, Nyla is purely beautiful. She brushes her hair back from her face. It’s shiny with lots of red the way the light comes down on it.
    A horn honks and I push away from the building. As she comes closer Nyla’s back to being the fattest girl in Larkston, a two-footed elephant who smiles at me.
    I take a quick survey around to see if anybody I know is headed to the movie, but there’s only an old couple buying tickets. " 
Copyright C. Lee McKenzie, 2010

Now what's next? Well, there's probably going to be a small break because, guess what? I've been called to jury duty. I expect I have to go on Friday . . . my major writing day. But all is good. In this book I have court scenes, and if I'm lucky I'll be able to take some notes. They let you take notes, right? Help, anybody who's actually been on jury duty.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The First Print Out

 A while back I set out to post a day-by-day account about creating a novel from the first, "OMG this is a great idea" to the reality of slogging through the middle to the end. In this case, I'm slogging backward, because if you read the earlier posts I wrote the end after I wrote the beginning.

I'm picking up at Day 11, and since I've had a long break in writing, this is the time for a printout. (BTW the Days I'm counting are only writing days, not those I'm off diddling around doing other stuff, like staring at the fish the blue heron hasn't snatched yet.)

I usually do a single spaced draft and carry it outside or to another room. Somehow switching where I sit while I'm editing helps me pick up glitches or logical gaps. Sometimes it helps me find a better way to weave in a thread or to dig into a character a bit more deeply.

For me a printout is still the best way to read in large chunks and to "get" the flow of a piece. I seem to be able to figure out if I'm building the tension or letting it sag, if I'm bringing out what I want in a scene or missing the heart of it, and if I'm generally heading toward that end that I wrote last month. I also realize that this is not going to be the last time I go to paper, so when I start to read at this point in the process, I'm not looking for any details like punctuation, spelling or grammar. I'm out to get the BIG PICTURE.

If you want more information about how the experts proofread, here's a good checklist from ehow that you might bookmark.

So this is the day for cranking up the DeskJet and using another $30 in ink. Have you noticed that the cheaper the printers, the more expensive the cartridges?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back! And with an Interview with Graham Best

I'm so glad to be home. I love to leave and I love to return. When I arrived, I had mail . . . real mail and in the mix was a box with my copies of Graham Best's The Tightrope Walker's Dream. How wonderful to come back to a treat like this.

I thought that while I clear my head from all the Easter Bunny excitement and before I settle in to do some writing of my own I'd post Graham's interview and let you see what a great book he's created. So, here it is. Enjoy. (BTW, and this is absolutely true, Graham and I met online a little over a week ago.)

The Tightrope Walker’s Dream is about trusting your heart to guide you.  The story begins with a tightrope walker who can’t walk anymore, not until he makes sense of some puzzling advice from a daring trapeze artist who also performs ceaseless demonstrative acrobatics for him.  Following his example, the tightrope walker rises to new heights of mastery and walks on the stars.  His immense gratitude concludes story.

WriteGame: I loved your story when I first read it online, Graham and I loved it again today when I received my copies and could actually hold one and turn the pages. Can you tell us what inspired you to write The Tightrope Walker's Dream?

Graham: My heart wanted to tell me something.  It wanted to tell me to trust it and follow it.  It wanted to remind me.   So it spoke to me as a deep children’s book about trusting your heart, and I listened.  I hope my readers will too.  I know from their responses that a lot of people are inspired by the book’s message (and the illustrations), and I’m moved by that feedback.   I think this message is a perfect thing to share with children so they follow their hearts all along.  Imagine a world where everyone behaves that way.  I call it the future.  

My heart just said, "Yes." And I suppose that's because I think your message is truly from your heart.

WriteGame: Why did you decide to use online marketing? Can you share how you set it up? 

Graham: As the internet transforms the publishing industry and increases the distribution channels available for authors, my attitude is to embrace and celebrate multiplicity.  Publishing a book with a big-name publisher is great.  Generating an online presence for your work is also great.  Do both.  Do them in whichever order is available to you.  I’m one of those oddball artists with a wide technical streak, so I can make the geeky portion happen with my own hands, and I like to. Look out for the iPhone app of The Tightrope Walker’s Dream in early June 2010.  It will be part of the PicPocket Books catalog, where Pic is a pun about images for the web.

I set up my online presence by making the book’s website.  My case is a bit unusual. I had a full website for the book where you could read it for free in its entirety before I had a printed version of the book for sale.  There was no printed version of the book, but there was a full website offering the entire thing!  I wanted to share it that badly.  I still do.  You can still read it at my website for free, but now you can also click a link there to buy a printed copy.  Ultimately there’s no substitute for a printed copy of the books you love.

But where did the printed copy come from?  I used to make the book, a San Francisco based print-on-demand company that delivers high quality books that rival anything you buy in the store.  In my case, because my book is very rich in illustrations, it cost too much to stay with Blurb, so I created a version with  I managed to keep the quality up, but significantly lower the price.  I am now charging market rate for my book and it is selling well, especially when I pay attention to marketing it.

I have a mailing list, a lot of social network channels, some literary blogs, I’m on amazon, and I’m part of a blind distribution network where I often sell multiple copies of the books and I don’t have any idea who bought them, which is actually a lot of fun.  Whenever I read those sales report, I guess to myself that my book is gracing a shelf in a library somewhere in a town run by brilliant children.

WriteGame: Is this your first book? Any W.I.P.'s?

Graham: This is my first children’s book.  I have others in progress.  I’ll give you a hint what they’re about.  See if these glimpses stimulate your imagination to write your own.  Imagine: angry sheep, whale helicopters, philosophical vegetables, and gleeful pig farmers.  Go!

WriteGame: I can imagine them all and I'll expect to see them pop up as you complete them. What led you to writing for children?

Graham: I’ve always taken deep delight in those rare children’s books that speak on both levels at once, the ones that satisfy the   wondering child in me and the thoughtful adult.

WriteGame: What are your favorite children's books?

The Little Prince, The Phantom Tollbooth, Horton Hatches a Who.  One illustration in my book has four elephants in the corners as a tacit tribute to the four climactic lines from Horton Hatches A Who: I meant what I said./ I said what I meant./ An elephant’s faithful/ one hundred percent.”

WriteGame: You were inspired by the BEST . . . Wait! I think I just made something like a pun, didn't I? 

Readers, buy Graham Best's book because it is wonderful. Give one to your kids. Give one to your good friend. Keep a copy for yourself, just in case you need to be reminded about following those whispers in your heart. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Time For a Break

IT'S SPRING, at least that's what my volunteer peach tree thinks. This pink display came from a pit I tossed a few years ago and forgot. I probably won't get any fruit, but man do I get the blossoms and the fragrance. The bees are dancing, they're so happy about all that sticky sweet nectar.

So, after snapping these pictures and taking a walk around my garden I realized it's almost Easter. Good grief. I don't have the New Year's Eve confetti out of the carpet yet.


I'm off to join my family and friends in some R &R, a hunt for some colorful eggs and bunny stories. Can't get enough bunny stories, right? My favorite is still Peter Rabbit with Br'er Rabbit a close second.

Do you have a favorite? 

 I'll be back by the 7th to return to "My Writing Life," you know that saga about slogging through from beginning to end on a novel. Then I'll have a couple of interviews to spice up those days when . . . ahem . . . I'm ready to toss that said novel. 

Happy Easter. Happy Spring.