Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I miss the green

It is still November, but the weather doesn't seem to care. Sure, it starts to get cold here in Wisconsin in late November, but it's brutal out there.

Single digits (Fahrenheit) this morning, and still a wind chill near zero. It's going to be to be a long winter. I'm so glad I have my photos to remind me of the explosion of green that will return, eventually ... I think.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cozy Fantasy

When I say Cozy Fantasy, what comes to mind? Do images of Agatha Christie surrounded by flittering fairies zoom across your vision? Or maybe, you see favorite scenes from a beloved movie like Shrek or the Wizard of Oz. Thinking more contemporary? What about Once Upon a Time? A current hit on US television?
To me, a cozy fantasy allows the characters to take center stage. The plot is tight and little or no gratuitous death occurs. Sure they are non-human creatures, and magic is a part of their reality, but the ugly need to describe in titillating detail each and every wound is simply missing. Cozy fantasy focuses on the protagonist and her journey to change. One last element is humor, appropriate to the character and setting.

I read a lot of fantasy, and I'm worried that the cozy fantasy is fading away, a relict of the past, but it can't be.
When I read, I want to enter the head of the characters, feel what they feel, laugh when the laugh, and cry when they cry. That's the way I write. I don't know any other way.

Comment below if you agree with me. I'm feeling like a dinosaur in an ugly world.
"There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it."
Alfred Hitchcock

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Reckoning

It's my birthday, and no, I'm going to say which one, but it a way to personally judge my progress toward my ultimate goals. What had I done to improve my skills, and grow as a human? So while I chomp down on my chocolate cupcake, sprinkle covered of course, here's my list.

  1. I completed a year-long photography challenge, and I can now say that I really do know how to use my camera effectively. It took tenacity to keep going especially after I felt I had already learned to use the camera well, but I stuck it out and now I can hold my head high and say I did it.
  2. I completed a refresher course on grammar and although it remains a difficult subject, I have a solid base under me.
  3. I completed a second writing course with Steve Alcorn, a wonderful mentor. His teaching always helps to tame my wild imagination, and my readers are the benefactor. His five star review of my work sure made my day.
  4. Along with the compassionate determination of my doctor, I finally determined what was causing my months long asthma flair. I know what to avoid to stay healthy. It feels like a miracle.
  5. I watched the sunset over the Mississippi, alone with my camera and thoughts. It was spiritual.
  6. I saw my fourth short story published in the Stoughton Press. Oton has taken me places I never dreamed existed.
  7. I set up and published my first website to highlight my many projects. Visit Gnarled Roots to check it out.
  8. I have finally unlocked the secret to orchid blooms. Want to know what it is? Ignore them, let them dry out, hell, call them bad names, but give them plenty of light. Both of my orchids have tiny flower stems jutting from their sides, again. It's going to be a colorful Christmas.
  9. I have fallen deeply in love with my old dog, again. He won't be around forever, and he means more to me than I can express without crying. I'm working hard to give him more of my time.
  10. I joined GoodReads, SheWrites and Support-a-Writer communities. It feels great to call myself a writer.
  11. My first book was accepted into The Wishing Shelf Book Award. School children in England are judging my book now, and I can't want to hear what they have to say.
  12. And about that book. I published my first novel in May. Blue on the Horizon is getting great reviews and I still can't believe it's mine.
  13. I'm more than half way through the first draft of book two. My dreams are filled with dragons and trolls and creatures without a name. I can't wait to share it with all of you.
  14. I donated a copy of Blue on the Horizon to my local library. I looked for it the other day, but couldn't find it. Makes me smile to think of Blue in some readers hands as she flips the pages, going along on the incredible adventure, and falling in love with Gaven, just as I did.
  15. I'm in a good place. I love writing, love dreaming up quirky characters and amazing adventures, and love knowing that you are reading this, right now.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Anybody Out There?

Hellooooo ...

I peer, deep into my monitor. Dust bunnies drift by, catching in the cobwebs hanging from the corners. Where did everybody go?

It's lonely being a writer in November when the NaNoWriMo virus runs rampant through the community. No, I don't NaNo, never will. I have enough stress in my life. Besides the non-conformist in me tucker her  chin as my finger bones fuse into flippers. I can't think of any process less conducive to my creative process. Oops, there's one, popping her head up for air. Sounds a little rattled, crazed even. There she goes, back to the tribe. Come back, little writer, I miss you ... Oh well.

Good luck to everyone who has signed up for what amounts to a worldwide writer's boot camp. I'll be here, right where you left me, waiting to read your stuff.

Meanwhile, my own WIP has organically grown to 30,000 words since the last week of October. Writing comes to me in spurts, and once I unplug the creative tubes in my imagination, words and images pour out and go splat on the page. Feels fantastic, and with a week of vacation just around the corner, I imagine I will nearly double that count, but no pressure, the words will come, if I just relax and listen for them. That's what works for me, and I have no plans to change it. Is anybody with me?


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Halloween to Forget

So what would you do if a troll asked you to take him treat or treating?

It was at one of my now infamous Packer parties where it began. During halftime, Oton pulled me aside and asked, “how do I get the candy?” He had already downed a baker’s dozen of sprinkle-plastered donuts, chocolate of course. “What are you talking about?” A wicked grin snaked across his gaunt cheeks. “You know ... when the little humans put on crazy clothes and demand candy from strangers.”
Little humans? I knew what he meant. It was mid-October, and Oton has spent more than a hundred years observing the people of Stoughton, but there was no way I was taking a troll trick-or-treating, no way, period. Okay, so I’m made of pudding and relented, but only after endless nights of begging. I was afraid he was going to go out there on his own. I had to do something to control the situation, but what. “Fine, but there are rules,” I said as my shoulders slumped. “1. I’m going with you. 2. You need a bath, and 3. No Magic, None. If you so much as sneeze a spell, we are going straight back to Elvsmyr.” He flung his arms in the air, and started sputtering. “Nope, you do this the human way, or not at all.” I should have known better. The next few nights were a blur; Oton was impossible to please. He wanted to wear a costume just like the little humans he saw each year, but have you ever tried to put a Halloween costume on a troll? Let me tell you, it isn’t easy. First, we tried my idea. I figured a cut up sheet and viola, a ghost. “This is not what I had in mind,” he growled from under the delicate pink blooms of the sheet. I guess plain white was the way to go, but I didn’t have one.

 However, I did have a plan B: Mummy, but I may have wrapped him a little too tightly because he fell over after just a few steps.
 Next, we tried his idea. “I want to be a Viking.” It wasn’t what you think. “You mean like Clay Matthews?” He wiggled, dancing in place, obviously in love with the idea. “Oton, I keep telling you—Clay is a Packer. Not all football players are Vikings.” He furrowed his brow and looked at me from under hooded eyes. “They’re all Vikings.” I gave up. I had introduced the trolls to football last year. Their first game was the Packers vs. Vikings. Something about that blasted Viking horn is stuck in their troll brains and now every game is a great battle of so-called Vikings. It all makes my little green and gold heart cringe, but on the bright side, Oton and the others cheer wildly for the Packers. Anyway, back to the Halloween fiasco. Oton wanted to be a tiny Clay Matthews so I tried to imagine that in my head. Let’s see, a jersey, toss on a blonde wig, and leave his hair spiky on top so it looks like he’s flinging it just like number 52. Yikes.

 It was October 25, and I was getting desperate. If I didn’t think of something, and quick, this thing was going to get out of hand. Then it hit me. Oton is a costume—just slap a mask on his face and he’s a walking ghoulie.

The big night was just hours away, and Oton showed up, as promised, for his bath. Sure, he tried to bargain his way out it, but I held my ground and hosed him off in the backyard then plunged him into a bubble bath. That’s right—clothes and all—I dunked him repeatedly in a tub of frothy bubbles. I may never get that ring out of the tub, and he wasn’t what I would call clean, but at least the stench had been neutralized. Through it all, he smiled. I should have known.
We hit the streets as soon as it got dark. Every time a prancing cluster of kids headed one direction, we went the other. I couldn’t risk an encounter with a curious child. The first several houses opened the door, politely complimented him on his “amazing” costume, and tossed a few treats in his bag. That is until somebody opened the door, shoved a giant bowl of chocolate bars in his face, and said, “you can choose.” Uh-oh. Before I could stop him, he had yanked the bowl from the squealing old man’s arms, dumped the whole thing in his bag, flashed a giant smile of gray teeth, and beaming, said, “thanks.” The look on that man’s face will stay burned in my memory for years to come; it’s the stuff of nightmares. However, Oton was already down the sidewalk and hollering, “we’re burning moonlight.” I mumbled an apology and stomped after the troll. “He meant choose one. That was rude.” Oton was already on his way up the front walk of the next house. “He said choose, and I chose. You humans have funny rules.”
It was going to be a long night, but he was good for the next few houses. Then a young mother, home with a squalling baby opened the door. Oton dropped his pumpkin of goodies, ripped a pair of mums from the pot near the door, jammed one in each ear, and started flapping his arms. The baby instantly quieted and started to giggle. I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the next house. “Why did you do that?” Oton looked puzzled and said, “I didn’t want her to be scared.” I shook my head and trailed behind him as we rounded the corner. Right in front of us, stood a little girl dressed as an adorable purple fairy and what I assume was her brother, posing as Wolverine. They made quite a pair. I wasn’t worried about Wolverine, but the fairy was going to be trouble. You see, trolls and fairies don’t get along. In fact, few humans know this, but Elvsmyr, where Oton lives, was the site of the Great Fairy Battle. I felt the troll take my hand. He was shaking and I whispered, “easy, it’s just a little human. She’s not really a fairy.” However, this particular little girl seemed to be convinced that she really was a fairy because she skipped up to Oton, tapped the troll on the forehead, and said, “a fairy kiss for you.” My stomach bottomed out and Oton began to scream, a horrible rasping scrape of a scream. The girl recoiled and started to scream as well. Her brother flashed his rubber claws and ran bawling into his father’s arms. I escorted Oton in the opposite direction as I waved my arm overhead, “Sorry, it’s a scary night for the little ones,” and then grumbled to Oton, “I knew it, I just knew it. I never should have let you talk me into this.” He was squirming wildly as I drug him up the street, away from the “fearsome fairy” of Stoughton.
I had had enough, and most of the houses had already turned the porch light out, but we were a long way from home. I wanted only to avoid people at all cost, but I wasn’t that lucky. I heard the steady slap of running shoes coming up behind us, and turned to see a young woman jogging with her fuzzy dog. If you’ve been following along, you will already know this meant trouble. This dog, a lovely, floppy dog, knew exactly what lived under that colorful mask. He lunged at Oton, jaws snapping, hackles rigid as the woman held him back. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. He’s usually so good.” I knew exactly what had gotten into the dog. “Oton,” I snarled under my breath. “Don’t do it…” Too late. I should have known.

I’m not making excuses, but Oton is really—really sorry. He assures me the horns will fall off in a few days.

Are you curious to learn more about my Packer Parties with the trolls? Enter Green Bay Packers in the search box.
Want to learn more about the Great Fairy Battle? Blue on the Horizon reveals the hidden history of trolls. Purchase your copy today at Amazon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sadness with a Tinge of Glee

I did it. I've posted my final photo! Oh, I'll be posting more as this virus called photography has no cure, but If you have visited my website, you already know that I have undertaken an insane year-long challenge to photograph a randomly chosen category each week. It's been hard, what with writing and publishing a book and starting another
during this same year, but it's been worth it.

I took this challenge to force the mysteries of the camera into my brain. I had bought a nice DSL and while I could manage a good photo, I struggled to remember how to use the dang thing. Not anymore, like my writing, it has become part of me. I can envision the photo even before removing the camera from the bag. My fingers glide across the settings, choosing what I need to make my vision become reality. It has worked, but I'm so very relieved it is over.

Passion drove me through the first half of the year. I would contemplate the category for hours, search the roadside as I drove here and there. Each shot a tiny story of its own. But as summer died away, I longed to focus on my writing. I persevered, and I so very happy I did.

I end the challenge a photographer. Not a hack, a real photographer who can feel my way through the world with a keen eye. It has helped my writing, saturated it with deeper images. The two passions meld together into the Legends of the Aurora.

Follow me, my vision is only just being to show itself to the world.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Author, Step Aside

Maybe you won't understand this, but I've been experiencing something wonderful. As I start to write each time, I like to go back a chapter or two-- just enough to find the loose thread of the story. I fight to keep my mind from nit-picky edits at this point, but I have to do this or I tend to lose my way.

Today, as I read the passage I blogged about a few days ago, I'm stunned by my reaction. Did those words really come from me? The quicker I step aside, allow the characters to speak for themselves, the deeper my response to my own work. I must forget how I would react in the same situation, how my friends will feel when they read these words, what my mother might think ...

I'm a weekend writer, and it's almost time to return to this fledgling world I've begun to craft. I struggle to stay away, only making furious notes as the week drags on.

The power or world building is intoxicating.
Call me addicted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Book Titles

I'm pretty new to this writing thing, and while I'm extremely proud of Blue on the Horizon, I made a few rookie boo-boos.(Is any author ever 100% pleased with the final draft?) The one that bothers me more than the others: I didn't wait to title the book.

Blue on the Horizon is a great name, and it applies in a very appropriate way to my first novel, but later, I thought of a different, stronger title. Damn. Too late to change now.

This time I'm being very careful to refer to the next book as Book Two. That's it, Book Two in both my writing and mind. Why? Because as I write, key phrases or powerful images bang into each other in my imagination, each a better title than the last. I like this approach. I have no preconceived ideas to force the novel into a box, and today I proved that this works better, for me.

I was writing a scene. Something needed to happen to my protagonist, and he/she (no hints) needed to respond to it. Simply put, that is all any book is, but because I have not boxed myself in, this simple scene morphed into something quite profound. I didn't know it was going there, I didn't plan it that way, but just like "THAT WORD" from earlier this summer, this scene has changed how I think about Book Two.

I can't wait for my next flash of inspiration.

Read about my first flash of inspiration regarding Book Two

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's almost time for the next Oton article

It's November and Oton's next adventure is just about to publish. If you're local, look for it in Downtown Stoughton. Stacks of the Stoughton Press will be appearing any day now.

If you're viewing from afar, and so many of you are, you will have to wait until I release the post. Oton has been having fun this summer and fall, and you will not want to miss this new adventure.

How much fun can one little troll have in Stoughton Wisconsin!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jack-o-lantern trees

Jack-o-lantern trees gap at me as I walk the familiar streets of my neighborhood. Our lovely maples, now burnished to golden orbs glare back at me.

A series of killing frosts have left the noble trees of Stoughton no option. Yesterday, they were lush and beautiful--today it rains pure gold.