Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jimmy Choos and Fast Food

I've actually entertained the thought of writing a story based on quantum entanglement. Wait...before your eyes glaze over with the same physics that used to give you hives in twelfth grade...picture this:

QE is basically the reverse arrow of time. If a woman picks up a glass vase and throws it at the wall, say, because she ruined her new Jimmy Choos, she has sent the initial wave of energy from the impact out into the universe. But physics states that everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Scientists call this an "echo wave," a measure of energy that comes backward through time. The reality we experience is where these two waves meet.

Translation into fiction? Maybe not. But think of the possibilities for characters. Perhaps they experience a "reversibility" where they see the vase particles coming together, reassembling as if they never happened, trapped in the echo wave. Maybe in this unseen place is a reality only the hero and heroine can see.

I can almost hear the nagging critic who's said to me before, "Why do you have to write things so complicated?" Maybe that's why the idea remains scrawled across the same notebook I use to spy on mall-goers wolfing down plates of lo mein for character studies. I'm not sure why my ideas don't come packaged up in neat fast-food containers, fit for quick consumption. Maybe I believe readers love to learn about life through fictional worlds. I love historical fiction because I come away with more knowledge of the time period than when I started. Maybe readers want to be taken on a journey and come to a greater understanding of their physical world at the same time.

This week :: The "what day is this?" revision stretch to the end.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Black Sharpies and Love

Chasing Midnight is a finalist in Romance Writer's of America's 2007 Golden Heart contest!!

Yes, I did check the "official" list today, just in case I had an out-of-body moment yesterday. Then, I called my mom to make sure she hadn't judged.

I keep thinking back to something Lori Wilde said at our NT meeting last month. The most wonderful things happen when we're not seeking them out (ie: falling in love). Deciding to enter the Golden Heart was something I did in a quiet moment late at night, not because I believe it's the Holy Grail of Unpublished Writers, or even because I crave the spotlight--I can almost hear everyone who knows me laughing--but because it was on my "list".

Bold, black sharpie line through "Enter the GH" on my goals list. Forgotten past the point I'd judged the entries I'd volunteered for. For me, it had all but dropped off the radar, the glare of more pressing goals blinding me. Maybe the key to success in writing (and life) is to focus on what we can do, the things we can control, then send it out into the world and let it go.

It's not quite falling in love, but it has the "heady" echo.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fanning the Flames of Rejection

"Rejected by 121 houses before its publication in 1974, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance thrust Robert M. Pirsig into stardom, selling more than three million copies in paperback alone." ~New York Times

All writers need these nuggets of hope to cling to like a industrial-strength raft in the sometimes frigid ocean of the publishing business. I can picture Mr. Pirsig licking the stamp on the 121st envelope before trudging off to the mailbox. What must he have told himself? That the other 120 editors who couldn't find a market for it were blind? That, somewhere, someone, would see the flame of his story the way he saw it? Would he have made it to stamp number 150? 200?

The novels we write may not be for everyone. I can count on both hands the number of people who've said to me, "Why can't you just write something simple?" or "People don't want to think that hard when they read a book." While I respect their opinion as a potential reader, I think it takes a special courage for the writer to dare to see things differently and forage ahead despite the 120 people who've come before and said, "Not for me." Maybe these unenthusiastic responses are the spark that ignites the storyteller, motivated by the challenge to prove them all wrong.

It worked for Mr. Pirsig. And, it worked for me, too.

When you write today, find the courage within and protect it. Someday, that spark could be a 3 million copy raging inferno.

Music::Don't Make Me by Blake Shelton

Monday, March 19, 2007


Last night, while indulging in my latest craving--dark chocolate dipped potato chips--I watched a show on the history channel called "Final Days on Earth." Fascinating in a depressing, apocalyptic kind of way, but the countdown investigated all of the catastrophic events that could lead to the end of life on our planet. Number four: an asteroid colliding with the planet.

The most thought-provoking moments in the documentary involved real people articulating how they'd spend their final days knowing the equivalent of the impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs hurtled toward them.

In the year 2029, an already-name asteroid will enter the Earth's orbit, narrowly missing an impact with the planet's surface. Seven years later, ironically on the same April 13th date, that asteroid will collide with the Earth with devastating effects. The number of world scientists working on ways to avert this collision? No more than could fit in an elevator.

If scientists are unable to find a way to divert the first orbit path, the planet's civilizations will have missed the window to stop the impact. People would know definitively they had seven years left on Earth. Some might use the time to burrow underground--construct massive subterrainian communities to try to preserve some form of human life. Some would keep their families close at hand and seek out an understanding and belief of what would follow the end. Others might embrace it, party, live to the limits without heeding the law. A total breakdown of the structure of society--the final days plunged into looting and chaos.

I, myself, have infinite hope, but it does beg the question. How would you spend the next seven years knowing they were your last?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Labyrinths, Skyscrapers and Sewers

I found this fun science website when searching for the name for the half-bull, half-man creature who roamed the Minoan labyrinth in ancient times. Why did I need to know the Minotaur's name? Long story, bloated metaphor. Anyway, the Museum of Unnatural Mystery is a treasure for people who are captivated by weird science, like me.

Who wouldn't want to know how Jules Verne predicted submarines and skyscrapers long before the scientists of his time or the truth about alligators roaming the sewers of New York City? From geology to UFOs to ghost ships, this site tackles them all. Great inspiration for paranormal stories or those of us who love weird science.

"Many ideas grow better when they are transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Depth and Story

I'm fascinated by depth in a story. Layers of subtext, symbolism and theme that weave a deep emotional experience for the reader. No one workshop or writing class has ever quenched my need to explore or understand this aspect of fiction writing. It's the part of my own storytelling I value the most. What I want readers to remember when they're standing in front of the bookshelf at Barnes & Noble, staring at hundreds of book spines looking for the one that will not only give them a great escape for six hours, but stay long in their minds. Linger like a puzzle they're not quite sure they put together correctly.

I gravitate to the same experiences myself. Movies like Memento and Donnie Darko. Television shows like Lost. All create the same mystique people crave. The thirst to go beyond the superficial social candy of a Sex in the City and answer the universal question of why we're here. Our role in this lifetime.

I believe the next trend in the romance will be not only books that cross sub genres and provide a fresh blend of experiences never coupled together, but the resurgence of depth in stories. The backlash of the romantic comedies and chick-lit. A quasi-literary tone borrowed more from mainstream fiction. An honesty that will resonate with readers looking for something more in safe folds of a great love story.

Someday, hopefully soon, this will be my niche. But what will I have to say when asked to speak or give a workshop? Can layering and depth be broken into digestible parts and taught? I certainly hope so. Someday, I hope my contribution to other writers will be the exact thing I feel so passionate about in my own writing. Maybe today is the day to start thinking about it.

What have you been taught about layering a story?

Thoughts I'd rather not ponder :: Nebraska and Kansas...don't ask.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Perfect Box of Crayolas

Writers look at colors like spices in the batter of their descriptions. A little, well-placed and grounded in the character's perspective, gives the batter just the right flavor. The wrong one sits on the tongue, indigestible.

Maybe it's because I slide over the random Crayola on my way through the kitchen at 1 am. Words like cerulean and bittersweet clog my workspace along with a half-dozen stick figure drawings of me in every conceivable shade of a triangle dress. Somewhere in my files is a list of a hundred plus words divided by the basic color spectrum. Although well meaning, the writer who compiled this list is the literary equivalent of the chef who dumped an entire jar of nutmeg into the batter.

What hero would use the word "Tyrian" for red? Even "vermilion" is a stretch for most men. On the other hand, a Texas cowboy who uses the word "saddle" to describe the heroine's hair color comes from a place of authority. Staying true to character is where description sings.

Tone and atmosphere is also crucial. Symbolism and imagery resonate when each line of description is grounded in the character's emotions, internalizations and perspectives. Use it as a way to tie key scenes together. Description of snow, water and darkness weave through pivotal moments in Chasing Midnight, my time thriller set in Colorado. Even if the reader can't remember in the inciting incident whether or not it was snowing, her subconscious will find the connection--the sense of something deeper woven throughout the story.

Stephen King describes a cliche as anything you've ever heard or read before. It's the lazy writer within that settles for "blood red" (my crime). Only your character's back story and experience will determine the color palette he uses to see the world.

Surprise your reader by using non-color descriptions steeped in texture and smells. Forage a relationship with them that says you trust them enough to bring their experiences to your description. Like a test smear of paint on a wall, they'll weave the perfect hue into your words. The symbiotic magic between author and reader.

What's your worst Crayola-offense?

Crayola that best describes my mood today:: Wild Blue Yonder (now that's something the cowboy would say)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Silent Lucidity

Some writers have a different flavor of music for every scene--a tune with the power to draw them into the characters and setting immediately. Blistering guitar for action scenes. Smoky jazz for intimate scenes.

For me, silence has sound. The same sweet absence of noise I experienced standing on a blackened street in nowhere, Kansas. Three am. Snow falling. A perfect harmony of stillness and solitude.

I hoarde moments of silence, stealing them away--craving them like an addiction stronger than any force pulling me in my life right now because they are so rare. For it is in the silence, I find my story. My voice. The total stream of consciousness where the magic happens. Lucid moments of dialogue and emotion that have the capacity to alter time itself. Where two hours can pass in a heartbeat, obligations fall by the wayside and the outside world pauses for a breath so I can reconnect with myself again in a way only writing can.

What's the sound of your magic?

Music in my head :: Silent Lucidity by Queensryche
Noises keeping the silence at bay:: distant car dealer commercial, truck rumbling down the street, hard drive humming.