Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Click

"It's a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do." ~Stephen King

Today as I was reading over the wide spectrum of writing histories in the First Sales column of the Romance Writer's Report, I pictured the shape and form of my own in, hopefully, the not-to-distant future. How will the words wrap around the hopeful masses and will they read into it the same as I do now? How is it possible some sell on their first manuscript, having written for no longer than the gestation period of an elephant, while some labor ten, fifteen, even twenty years before the elusive "publication"? I've heard the average apprenticeship for writing is nine years. Does this, my ninth year, mean I'm pushing against the grain? Becoming more experienced, or merely slipping past something honest I can no longer ignore?

From the moment I found my college professor's flowery memo sheet clipped to my essay, the words "Let me know when your book comes out" scrawled in blue, I made writing my path. I wrote my first book, a young adult novel set aboard the Titanic, and heard the Geiger's "click." I absorbed myself in author biographies and plunged into a dark romance set during the turbulent times of Colonial Massachusetts and in the emotional density of the piece, the Geiger clicked again. I tried my voice at a historical, a humorous ensemble cast of women traveling across the American West and heard nothing. To this day, I can't recall anything redeeming about that book aside from the fact it redirected me to where I am today as a writer.

And now, with my first "time thriller" firmly in my pocket and its sequel dwelling in my head, I hear the click. Faster and louder with each word, each page, every plot milestone, I know without a doubt I've found the writing I was built to do. It doesn't come as a lightning strike, but the mounting whisper of a collective body of work. For some, it came swiftly. For me, I hear the steady, creative pulse nine years later.

So what will my First Sale entry read? Whatever the magic number becomes, it will ring honest. No pretense of some God-given talent stumbled upon in a flash of brilliance. The number will represent dead-end detours and a life that sometimes cannot be ignored. Disappointments and a rising slope of awards, each more meaningful than the last.

And the static click will be deafening.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Hunka Hunka Burnin' Symbolism

Each time I write something, Elvis creeps in. Sometimes, I suppress it, like trying to force a sequined jumpsuit in tiny, attic trunk no one knows exists. Other times, he leaps on the page and refuses to leave. In Chasing Midnight, a little-known song of his plays in a diner scene. In The Lost Highway, "It's Now or Never," became an important echo of the decision the protagonist faced.

I'm at a loss to explain it any further than to say Elvis is firmly entrenched in my frame of reference. Sunday mornings of childhood spent watching his movies with my Mom and cross-country treks set to his music probably play like a soundtrack to distant emotions and memories in my subconscious. How else can a cultural icon who died before I had solidified memories of my own make his way into the wildly off-center, non-women's lit stories I write?

Some artists forage a secret society with those who become faithful observers of their craft: a tiny thread connecting books, an obscure medium on the canvas or a brief image of the creator in a film. These fleeting glimpses into the mind of the artist become a reward to those willing to return again to see what comes next. Were these conscious choices on the part of the artist, then, or something that merely could not be contained in an attic trunk?
For now, in my current work-in-progress, Elvis has left the building. . .
Do you have any reoccurring symbols or items that surface through your work?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Needles in a Haystack

Some scientists believe mini-wormholes are everywhere. These beliefs are wrapped tightly in theory, not in the actual observation of the phenomenon. We cannot know when or where to find them because the enormous force needed to create an opening cannot sustain for long. It's the equivalent of the sun glinting off a needle in a haystack at precisely the right moment to capture a glimpse of what's inside. But what is a wormhole, exactly?

The best explanation I've read comes from a book called Weird Science by Michael White. In it, a diagram of a two-sided funnel stretches lengthwise. Because of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, the measurement of time is dependent upon the velocity of the observer. Picture a stick-figure man rotating around the bottom of the funnel in a clockwise motion at the speed of light. This man is "here" in present time, but by looking through the worm-like tunnel, he can see himself in the future, assuming his future stick-figure self on the opposite funnel is rotating at the same direction and speed.

If the two men are moving at different speeds, the two ends are at different times, creating a time machine capable of turning a seven day cycle, for example, into what would seem like the blink of an eye.

Of course, the human body is incapable of withstanding the force needed inside a wormhole. Science is working on creating receivers that could transmit past or future information, where holograms from the past would appear clearer than nebulous images of the future.

The moral and political implication of such a discovery is staggering and the basis of the stories I gravitate toward. Certainly within the next two generations' lifetimes, such a thing will be possible. Who will regulate this kind of power? I can't think of anything, save an apocalypse, that would so dramatically alter the scope of a human lifetime. The capacity to re-write history or steer clear of future events makes great fiction for now, much as tales of space travel captivated our ancestors. How long until the time travel stories of today become an antiquated part of our history and we must face choices in the climate of an altered reality?

Today :: thunderstorms and suitcases

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Class 5 : The Novel

I surround myself with a fantastic group of writers, each with strengths that far outweigh my abilities in certain aspects of storytelling. One is a realist, one a free-spirit. One understands my other-worldly creative pulls, one is the positive force that keeps the inertia of our writing moving ahead. Countless other individuals have contributed to the writer I've become and have paved the way for the next segment of my journey. But as much as we rely on each other for footholds and anchors, there comes a time when we must scale the project alone.

A novel is the equivalent of a solitary pilgrimage. A climbing expedition no less important than conquering a class 5 peak. At landmarks along the way, the writer must confront weighty choices and learn to interpret the instinct that bubbles up from within. Long and winding, the path to completion begins to ring hollow with isolation and the characters in the story become the companions we rely on for guidance. Wisdom. Inspiration.

No stack of manuals on writing craft, no clocked hours in workshops, no amount of preparation or pre-writing rituals can prepare us for our journey. The path to writing is writing. And the end result is more spectacular than the clearest summit vista because it came from within.

"One learns by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try." ~Sophocles

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Released This Week

A fast-paced story steeped in sensual heat, debut author Sandra Ferguson delivers a riveting first tale of intrigue, danger and suspense. Alex Harmon, a devastatingly sexy body-guard and reluctant hero, charges back into Victoria's life as a man of extreme honor, who finds himself battling the smart, headstrong woman from his past and the attraction he was never able to satisfy. Harm's Way takes the reader on a trek through the lush landscape of the Pacific Northwest, the twisted mind of a madman and the deep recesses of the human heart.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Romantic Hero Always Ignores Sensor #15

Writers know capturing human senses are essential for everything from a character's deep point of view to description that immerses the reader in the story world, suspending disbelief. Often the standard list of five senses isn't enough. Our bodies have at least a dozen ways we can clue into our surroundings thanks to sensors.

Sensors are cells that receive and respond to a signal or stimuli. Each sensor is tuned to one specific sensation, so to track all the different senses in the human body, understanding where these sensors are located is essential. Science has detected the following:

  • Eyes (2 sensors): light intensity, color detection

  • Ears (2 sensors): sound, orientation in the gravitational field

  • Skin (5 sensors): heat, cold, pain, itch, pressure

  • Nose: smell

  • Tongue: taste

  • Kinesthetic/Muscles and Joints: body position, motion and tension of the muscles

  • Bladder

  • Large Intestines

  • Hunger

  • Thirst

  • Nausea

Beyond scientific proof, some suggest the human body is capable of detecting weather changes, the notion that someone is watching you, and the "eyes in the back of the head" talent our mothers seem to have all mastered.

How is this important to writers? As humans, our experiences come to us primarily through our senses. Writing sensory description, then, becomes a key to unlocking reader's emotions, a gateway to that vivid place where writer connects with reader. Across time and often great distance, the imagery becomes the common ground where magic happens.

Blog I'm reading:

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Biological Tides

Back to work on the sequel. I'm scanning my notes and the random, always painful-to-read rough draft and realize the WIP has a thread I hadn't remembered carried over from book one. Fertility. A powerful, epic concept when the desired end-result of a biological weapon is the extinction of a targeted group, as it is in this book. At first glance, totally unrelatable to time. But it did start me thinking about the impact of such a weapon on men vs. women.

A biological clock is a fundamental division between genders. Women spend their entire lives past puberty absorbed in the rhythms and cadences of their own bodies. This internal timepiece dictates emotions, desires--even choices substantial enough to last a lifetime. When this clock is at its end and has served its purpose, we feel adrift. Lost, until we can find alternate means to reestablish what time has stolen. Men, however, have no physiological way to mark the days, months or years. Does that make them less attuned to the changes around them?

Is a strong sense of time, one that guides and pulls some more than others, a conditioned response to missed events in their lives or something far more internal? Advances in medical technology have found ways to harness this time, trick the human body into behaving in alternate ways, but is such a thing within our control?

All around us, nature is guided by these rhythms. The sun, the tides, the seasons--all beyond our power to regulate. Someday, will the pendulum return on all the ways humans believe they can manipulate the natural world?

And does this explain why men don't notice new caramel-blond hair streaks or a two-shades removed taupe slathered on the wall? Can they claim the biological clock defense for missing a birthday or anniversary?

Women would find a way to alter the tides before that would happen.

Today :: lost in a sea of nineteen different colored post-its