I thought I'd revisit the past this week, to see how much I've change or stayed the same. I found this blog post from 2013 (published by Kat @ ARe on June 30th, 2013) and have edited to match today's me.
I’ve always seen myself as a grounded person, not overly emotional, but I think I was living in a fantasy land. Immersing myself in the life of a writer has made me question some things I had always seen as hard realities. The world in my head seems to differ from everyone else’s. I know about existentialism and a number of other theories and I know everyone’s perceptions make their world a different place to everyone else’s, but most people don’t live with people in their heads – people I know don’t exist because I’ve just made them up and popped them in there to entertain me.
Sometimes I become so immersed in the stories forming in my head, the line between reality and fiction blurs.
For example, when I was writing What About Him, a novella featuring snakes, I was very jittery. I’d arrive home from work and carefully check the front steps up into the house for snake activity. I have brick steps and a tiled porch so there weren’t going to be any snakes lurking under the floorboards waiting to slither out in front of me, but it didn’t make any difference. I still did the rounds every time I arrived home to make sure I didn’t have any unwanted snake visitors.
The Just Life series found me spending hours in a café watching the way the employees interacted. By the end of those stories I had to consciously stop myself calling some of the employees by names I’d chosen for my story. It’s not that they looked like my characters but I’d been using those bodies to block out my characters actions and, for a while, my world inside my head became more real than the one I inhabited.
I spent hours sitting in the emergency ward of the local hospital when I was writing that scene in Just in Time; so much so that the nurses began asking me questions about my hand and why I was holding it so stiffly against my body. Security increased their presence in the waiting area while I was there.
A visit to a cemetery had me spontaneously bursting into tears for nearly two months. David and Carl’s story (Between Love and Honor) was so heart-wrenching to write I had to put it aside for more than a year before I could talk to David again and help him find his own happy ending. The Courage to Love was released by Dreamspinner Press in August/September 2014.
After that I wrote Just the Way You Are which is based around domestic abuse that turns into stalking that I found extremely difficult. I started checking the doors were locked numerous times during the night. If I heard a car on the street I had to check where it was going. I woke in the middle of the night and listened to the noises the house made to make sure there was no intruder. I started when the phone rang. It was getting so I wanted to put the story away but I couldn’t. It was already more than a few thousand words playing around with a new idea. The characters were formed and meant something to me. I had to help them find a way out of the mess they were in and toward a better life. It was the only way I’d get a full night’s sleep again.
I vowed the next one was going to have to be something soft and furry to make me feel better. That was The Planet Whisperer, and Tapioca might not have been furry but she certainly made me laugh.
Warrior Pledge also gives me something to laugh about, and something to make me feel good about life. Checa and Heath are meant to be together--Heath knows it, he just has to convince Checa. There are also adorable chubby dragons who love adventures. I've just finished with the Galley of Warrior Pledge. In no time at all, it'll be on the coming soon pages and I'll be able to let everyone know how they can get their own copy. I can't wait.
Beautiful prose, vivid descriptions, evocative narrative are all phrases used by people I know when they recommend books. They're talking about the way the author describes things. Usually it's the setting. I always think to myself 'I want to write like that'.
I want my writing to evoke that tone of wonder in people's voices. I want to see that look of bliss on someone's face when they're describing one of my books.
I have what I see are two barriers to achieving that. Firstly, I don't write literary fiction. My stories are more concerned with getting my characters from one place to the next, whether it be a literal place or an emotional one. Secondly, while I have a reasonable, occasionally extensive, vocabulary, when used in the books I write, it simply sounds pretentious.
I also believe that most readers are less interested in reading lengthy tracts of perfect prose than they were a century ago. I don't know if it's because our lives are lived at a faster pace, or a more fractured pace, but we seem to spend less time sipping at a book, tasting its myriad flavours, needing instead to devour it so we can stay on track with everything else happening in our lives.
Does that mean we can leave the description out? Can we focus completely on the action or the emotion, and disregard the place? I don't believe so. I think description is still a vital part of a novel with a number of different roles.
Firstly, description gives a sense of reality to a fictional place. It give the reader a way to visualise where the characters are. It helps readers work out how the world in the novel works and what the character's part in that world is. It gives depth to an otherwise two-dimensional concept.
Secondly, description helps the reader learn more about the character by watching them react with the place they're in. It gives the reader a context for all the smaller elements of character they've been gathering as they read and helps them slot it into the character puzzle or plot puzzle they've been building as they read.
Thirdly, description helps slow the pace of the novel when it's needed. Readers need time after an intense battle scene or love scene to take a breath, to come down from the high, to re-evaluate where we are now.
I was going to give you an excerpt from Warrior Pledge, which will be released by Dreamspinner Press on 3 October, but it's in the final stages of edits and I don't have a clean copy to share yet.
Instead I'll share with you a slice of description from the novel I'm working on at the moment. It's the sequel to Warrior Pledge and tentatively titled The Lonely Isles.
The scene shows Fisher (an Exile in Warrior Pledge) arriving at Linspar, the capital of the Lonely Isles.
The briny smell of the sea thickened the closer they came to shore, mixing with the nose-curling odor of dead fish, sweet fruit-bat feces and unwashed humanity. Fisher shifted from foot to foot as the tenders were brought alongside the ship and cargo was unloaded. Finally, with the air still and the sun high and hot, passengers were led down the gangplank and onto the last tender. Fisher sat where he was directed, his gaze never leaving the land they headed toward.
The broad, clipped tones of the Lonely Isles, so similar to those of the Grewin Peninsular, washed over him as the other passengers talked. As he listened, he silently practiced the tones, determined to sound like a local within a week.
Fisher’s breathing quickened as, with one last wooden groan and bump, the boat settled against the jetty. He’d been first on, so he had to wait for the others to disembark before he could. He jostled forward, never allowing more than a few inches between him and the person in front. His first few steps off the boat were stumbling ones as the boards on the jetty refused to move in time with the waves, as the boat had for the three days he’d been aboard. Fisher’s pack bumped against the upper curve of his buttocks as he overtook the other passengers and crew transporting the last of the cargo to the waiting warehouses along the shore.
The boards gave way to sand, and he scrambled up the worn slope to the compacted gravel road that ran parallel to the shore. Across the crowded road was a neat line of faded shops, their awnings up to protect their wares from the noon-day sun. The skies were clear, norrgel-free, but Fisher still felt antsy out in the open. He slipped between two shops, the narrow alley providing both shade and comfort.
Sweat dribbled down his back and he clenched his hands against the desire to hide in one of the garbage bins lining the narrow alley. It wasn’t all about the norrgel. The last time he’d spent more than a few hours under the unending skies, he’d been ten. The catacombs in the desert, no matter how dangerous the people in them might be, never left him feeling as unprotected as an empty sky.
He used to live in the open. There were no catacombs in the icy wastelands, just miles upon miles of undulating plains, green in the spring, brown in summer, and eye-blinding white throughout winter. He could live in the open again. He stared at the strip of sky visible above him. It would be easy if there were no norrgel here. Knowing that didn’t make the edge of panic slide away. Fisher slipped his pack off and rested it atop his feet as he leaned against the rough brick wall. Gradually, the lack of norrgel screeches became less scary and the sounds of sellers hawking their wares and buyers bargaining for the best price brought its own level of comfort. His breathing slowed and he began to separate the smells and noise around him into identifiable actions.
Finally, his mind cleared and he reviewed his plan. Time to go to work. He’d need food he could carry easily and enough of it so he didn’t have to keep stopping and talking to people. The fewer people who noticed him, the better.
He watched and listened, practicing the speech patterns and adjusting his clothing as much as he could so it looked enough like the locals that he’d blend in. Finally, he left his position and matched the pace of the crowds of people wandering through the market-place. He made one pass between the stalls, then doubled back, using the busy groups to camouflage his movements.
The shadows had lengthened by the time Fisher had acquired all he needed. He stopped briefly at a gem merchant but quickly moved on, stepping in front of a large and noisy group of men. He ignored the cry behind him. “Wait! Stop!” He ducked into a nearby alley, swiftly moved to the other end and wound a cream scarf around his head in the local style. A few more seconds saw the food, water bladder and gems moved into a hidden compartment in the bottom of his pack. By the time he left the protection of the buildings, the gem merchant was once again at his stall, more vigilant than he’d been before Fisher had paused there.
I haven't been writing. Not one word for three weeks. It's easy to tell myself that my writing is a business and I should just do it, regardless. I can tell myself that I have a plot so don't need to anxiously imagine every single scene; I have enough to begin. I can tell myself that I'm okay, not emotional, so writing won't be hard.
But still it doesn't happen.
I open the program and stare at the last words I wrote. I look at the other scenes already written and I know I was going to change them around and delete a couple so the plot moves forward the way I want it. I move some scenes around. I compile and print the scene map again. I read through it all.
I feel like I'm reading a language I don't understand. These words can't be mine. They're unfamiliar. Uncomfortable. That bubbly feeling I get when the scene is coming together well and I can't wait to see what happens next is nothing more than a distant memory.
I wake up in the morning and sigh because I can't imagine why I need to get up if I'm not going to write. I read a lot of books and mark all the errors, style, grammar and proofreading, but none of them make me get up and do better for myself.
I open my work-in-progress again and stare at it some more, but nothing comes.
I go to work and make a list of things I need to do but can't start any of it. I grab onto one task that isn't urgent, but needs me to leave work and head to the shops. I grab my keys and my laptop and I'm out of there before anyone even realises I've arrived at work.
I do what I need to do for my job, then I sit in a cafe, order a pot of tea, and open my document. A blank page glares at me. I grin at it. This morning I'm going to win. I start easy. I describe the landscape, the weather, what he's doing. It's bones; no flesh, no emotion.
After 30 minutes, I have 372 words. The first words I've written since my mother died.
I go back to work. I can see clearly again. There's no fog burrowing into all the nooks and crannies of my brain. I have a busy day.
I wrote words - 372 of them.
I can do anything.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Deanna Wadsworth’s characters from TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE A 1NightStand Story
Hello, Tim and Elliot! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
1. What do you find attractive in a man?
Elliot: Well, I think you’re looking at him. Isn’t Tim the hottest thing ever? All those muscles and his dark hair… whew! If you could only see what’s under that t-shirt!
Tim: (laughing) Oh stop!
Elliot: Why don’t you tell them what you find attractive? Go on, tell the truth.
Tim: (blushing) Elliot, behave!
Elliot: (leans in to whisper) Tim likes feet! And you should see how much he likes them.
Tim: I can’t believe you told them that!
Elliot: (shrugs) They’ll find out when they read the book!
2. Tell us the first thing that went through your head when you saw each other.
Tim: That he had the most gorgeous green eyes I’d ever seen.
Elliot: Aww, that’s sweet. When I first saw Tim he was busting in and saving me from kidnappers, so I kinda saw my knight in shining armor. (smiling) And he just keeps on saving me every day.
3. Do you think you’ll insist Deanna visits you again?
Tim: Well I don’t think Deanna will revisit us any time soon, buy you never know with her. But my dear friend Rita is supposed to be the heroine of Wendy Burke’s next 1NightStand book, and seeing as we’re roommates, Elliot and I will definitely be in that book.
4. Before you met each other, what was your ideal man?
Elliot: I wasn’t sure I’d ever meet my ideal man, but I always dreamed I would find a guy who could accept everything about me, especially my health issues. I never imagined he would be tall dark and handsome like Tim though.
Tim: Those other guys were all idiots not to snag you up the second they met you. But lucky for me I found my ideal man too.
5. You’re going out for dinner. What’s your favorite food?
Tim: A nice juicy cheeseburger and fries.
Elliot: (gagging) Yuck, do you know how many preservatives are in the oil that fries those fries?
Tim: (patting his belly) Yummy preservatives.
Elliot: I need to get you to eat more vegetables.
Tim: I like vegetables. If they’re battered and deep fried.
Elliot: You’re lucky you’re cute…..
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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