Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What I Love About Hidden Creek

Okay, so I know I complain about the fact that I'm working on the sequel to Secrets of Skin and Stone when I'd planned to be working on my Dystopian. I know I whine about being stuck in Piper and Gris's heads because the southern accent is sometimes so hard... and Piper's OCD thoughts sometimes feel too heavy to work with... but I was lying in bed just now and thinking about how much I love the way these books work.

For those that don't know, both these books are in first person POV which alternates between Piper and Gris. One chapter inside Piper's head... and then one inside Gris's. What I love about this is that I can explain why Gris is about to do something in his POV... and then have him doing it while in Piper's POV and have her completely misinterpret his motives. This also happens vice versa of course. Also, I can have them both trying to figure out other characters and have Piper's thoughts sooooo obviously female and Gris's just the opposite. It feels like, as the Writer/Reader, we are the only ones who know all the secrets. It's very secrety. I love knowing secrets like this.

(Knowing all the secrets is actually one of my favorite parts of being a writer. Seriously. You know them ALL. Well, that and you can make up words and own them. Like "secrety." You all bought that because I'm a writer, huh? *fist bumps readers* )

Looking back, I'm glad I've done the books this way also because when you get a healthy dose of Piper's worries that her OCD makes her a freak... it's balanced with Gris's thoughts about how much he loves her just how she is. I like that. I know other people thought I was okay and loved me when I was a teenager but I was too wrapped up in my own OCD to see that. So, in this way, writing these books continues to be a bit of a catharsis for me. It's okay that I was the way I was. Seeing it through Gris's eyes has really helped me realize the truth of that. Piper's quirky behavior isn't as abhorrent or freaky as she thinks. She's not as obviously dark and broken as she thinks she appears... in fact, she's neither. When you ARE Piper... you can't see that. I wish everyone got a chance to see their character through the eyes of somebody who loves them.

So, there are things that I really love about writing these books and the way they are. I do love Gris's POV more than Piper's... and Piper's POV still sometimes makes me cry, but that's okay too.

Anyway, I'm still hoping to get out of Hidden Creek soon... despite the fact that I'm realizing if there is a second book... there is a third book unless I rewrite how I think this one will end. (Secrets of Skin and Stone was written as a stand alone, but my brain doesn't want to get out of Hidden Creek.) I'm hoping finishing this second book won't catapult me into the third book. I really want to finish off some of these WIPs this summer.

BTW, I've got awesome non-Secrets of Skin and Stone news that I hope to be able to share soon. Sorry for the tease, but even though I like secrets... I like being able to share them even more. (Hence why I'm a writer.)

In the meantime, I need to finish Promises of Light and Dark... hopefully today. *fingers crossed* It'll need a heavy revision for voice and to make sure I've threaded enough description and hints throughout, but the rough draft will be done. Yay! Then, maybe I'll be able to move on to my Dystopian. Double yay! Well... after I do a revision of it. Subdued yay!

Monday, April 25, 2011

High stakes, apple shampoo, grave-robbing, and a glimpse into the occult...

So, I'm still working on Promises of Light and Dark (55, 539 words right now) but I'm holding onto the hope that I may finish it in the next two weeks. It'll need to have a thorough revision before it's shelved for six months to "think about what it's done."

This isn't the first follow-up book in a series I've written, but it's the first book I've written when I hadn't intended initially for it to be a series when I wrote the first book. Writing in a series is different...

First of all there is the continuity issues. I totally forgot the name of one of my minor characters and had to cheat and look it up... then, I changed the scent of Piper's shampoo to strawberry. Luckily, I caught the shampoo thing and fixed it to apple. It's a little thing, but it's not... Gris has associated the scent with her for months.

I'm also trying to remember their dialogue quirks that I've established. For example: Gris never uses the word "though" and he uses the word "because" and "leastways." Piper uses the word "though" and drops the first of "because" and says "cause" and she sometimes slips in a "fixin' to." There are anybody vs. anyone quirks and folks vs. people to remember. Yikes... that's even before you get to their body language. With established characters with a regional dialect... it's a heap of yikes whenever I sit down to write. Their voices have to be consistent... and some of that is just going to have to be fixed in the rewrite.

Then, there is the stakes. In the first book, there was a murder mystery and the constant threat of violence hanging over their head. It's expected that there would be some escalation of what is at stake in a second book. I've escalated the emotional impact of everything because Piper and Gris are now an established couple and I've killed a slew of chickens; I'm about to do some grave-robbing; finally, we've messed around in the occult (thanks to some help from friends on Twitter.) Is it enough?

I just don't know.

Will I have to murder someone?


Last week I went to a book signing with my sister. Jayne Ann Krentz had a new book come out under her Amanda Quick pseudonym. My mom is a huge fan and so I grew up reading her books. For those who don't know much about her, she is a very prolific and established writer. (Her complete book list) She has several series of books set in established worlds with interconnected story lines. I simply can't imagine this. Several people there were HUGE fans and one of them had brought a little list of suggestions for her. Several had comments about her use of characters called "dust bunnies." It was interesting to watch her field questions about her "worlds" and know that writers who write series have that to look forward to. The thought of having to keep track of all that she does... makes my brain explode. Too many balls to juggle.

(BTW, my trip to Seattle did also provide the opportunity to try a Peanut Butter Bacon Burger. (Piper's Special) It was really good. I've conned several people on Twitter into trying one should Sarah sell my book.)

Anyway, so books in a series... are different. Really. And I really should be writing things down. (One of the few things relating to writing that I can't stand... it feels too much like work.)

So, my plans for this week are to continue working on Promises of Light and Dark and hopefully get some house-cleaning done. My kids have been very complicated lately so the house has suffered in a major way. They've made my brain melt. I swear, they have. This week has got to be better than the last two... right? RIGHT?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Idea is Born

I don't know how other writers begin a WIP. Well... clearly they begin with an idea. The plotters sit down and plot it out. The pantsers begin writing. As you know, I'm a pantser, but I think even for a pantser... I'm pantsy. No. Really. Not only do I not plan things ahead, I throw things in without even knowing what they mean.

This morning, I woke up with an idea... Last night, I was rereading a romance set in regency times... (sue me... I'm a girl... I read these things...) and they were listing off how many servants worked at this Duke's mansion and I realized that you rarely read the stories about these hundreds of other people in the story. His primary residence had a hundred servants in this story. When you couple that with the fact that I've recently realized how few dukes there really were during that time... Why do the dukes get the stories? It's not fair. What about the scullery maids? How about the grooms in the stables? Did they not have interesting stories? Crap, there were all these invisible people with lives that just didn't matter because they weren't one of the few dukes around.

An idea is born.

My ideas walk in fully-fleshed with even strange little details that I have no clue what they mean and that's how they start. I type them out of my head and, if I'm lucky, they'll leave me alone and I can go back to working on whatever I'm working on... or... not. Or the next scene drops into my head.

Since I'm probably doing a lousy job explaining it, why don't I just show you. Here is this morning's idea in rough draft form and it would be like a "prologue" to a four part anthology of novellas. (Yes, oy... exactly.) This is how my ideas are born... screaming and ready to keep me up at night. (BTW... I have no idea what the ogre or the whispering ring have to do with anything... therein lies a tale apparently. I'll know when I get there.)

I believe the title of this is "Off the Page" but I'm not sure. Anyway, here it is--and it's rough:

Of Note:

In the world of fairy tales the word “only” is thrown around cavalierly. She was an only child. The only entrance was through the tower’s window. The only way to break the spell was true love’s kiss. He was the king’s only son and heir to the kingdom. Only. Only. Only. Only.

Only… that’s not true.

There were other stories. There were stories that were, how shall we say it… off the page.

Dear reader, what would you think if I told you that Cinderella was not truly an only child even before her horrid stepsisters came to stay? People were not as cold-blooded as when they lay flat on the page for your perusal. Before Cinderella was even a thought, there was a baby boy born to her mother. The midwife said the child did not live the night. The midwife lied.

What would you think if I related the tale of the other way into the tower and told you that Rapunzel was not the only one who’d been held captive there? Why do you think the tower was originally built? Surely you didn’t imagine that the witch just happened to have a tower laying around that would work perfectly. Besides, hadn’t you reasoned out that it must have taken quite a while for Rapunzel’s hair to grow long enough to use for a rope? The window was not the only way.

Thankfully, true love’s kiss was not the only way to break the spell. Magic is far more flexible than that! If you waited around for that, you’d either be stuck with a load of dwarves or in a castle sleeping for a hundred years. What a misery! How unimaginative! Also a love that shallow wouldn’t last much beyond that kiss. No, it was not the only way. Anyone who knows a shred about either magic or love must realize that.

While I won’t deny that princes weren’t littering the ground, it should strike you as slightly perverse that there seems to be only one of them per royal family. Well… only one of them whom they talk about.

Dear reader, imagine the possibilities if you knew the stories off the page. Imagine if there were no onlys. Entire worlds would open up. You’d find out about the ogre and the whispering ring. You’d know that Cinderella’s brother sent the fairy godmother in the first place. You’d realize that you’ve been as trapped in a tower as a certain long-haired princess when, in reality, if you only knew where to look… you could rescue yourself.

There are no onlys and once you know that… you’re ready to journey off the page.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Unamused with the Muse

I just got the most brilliant idea for a novel. I mean... this is truly just amazingly vividly brilliant. I just want to hug it and love it and dive into it.

*eyes WIP list*


Yes, I wrote it down... and I'm hoping that'll put it out of my head, but that may or may not work... who knows. This kills me. I could get into it about 15K before I even took a breath... *sighs* This Restless Brain Syndrome is an awfully cruel way of musing. I find myself un-a-muse-d with my muse.

On the bright side, I also know where I'm going with the next scene in Promises of Light and Dark. That manuscript just hit 30K this week. I should stop pretending I'm not writing it and just embrace it, but I'm still in denial.

In other news, I turned in my final, final, final revisions of Secrets of Skin and Stone to Sarah and I'm assuming she'll be pitching it within the next month or so. (I've decided denial on this point may be the best idea also.)

The family and I have been off vacationing and just got back. (T came down with a nasty fever sickness at the beginning of this week so their Spring Break fun was condensed into just a short time.) We went to a nearby place and stayed in a room with a giant indoor jacuzzi... and the motel had an indoor pool. (B spent hours snorkeling... and T got the quiet he so desperately needed.) The husband took the kids to a nearby drive-thru animal park. We checked out an old abandoned fort as a family... because we're weird and scary that way.

I took a bunch of pictures because it was really inspiring in a post-apocalyptic sort of way... as well as it was just amazing from an artist's perspective. I really want to pull out my paints, but I'm not sure if I could do it justice. The mix of rust and old paint... was just... awesome. I might print out some of the pictures at some point or post more on here.

While on vacation, I took a break from writing to catch up on some of the reading in my TBR list. I read The Body Finder among other books. I'd been looking forward to this book for quite a while. It was a really good book, but I wish she'd gone deeper for the POV at times. It was in third person and it just felt too passive a POV for some of what was happening. It's one of those times when being a writer feels like it handicaps you from just "enjoying" a book. You want to just read it and turn off your writer's brain. It was really a good book, but I wanted more. Maybe that just means I need to pick up the second book.

Unfortunately my TBR fiction list just seems to double on a daily basis because I keep on tackling my TBR non-fiction list first. (Non-fiction doesn't mess with my inner-voice so it feels less threatening to my writing muse... also I really just like reading non-fiction.) I just finished reading Outliers for my book club... wow... THAT was an amazing book.

This has been a really emotional week for me for personal reasons... even before all the stress of T's fever (it hit 104 at one point) and the kids being on break, so if I'm less... Twittery... that's why. I did make the first cut in a short story competition and was notified this week. I should know later on this month if I made the top ten and thus into the anthology.

So, that was this week... I hope you guys had a great week. *hugs everyone* I'm looking forward to the kids being in school next week. Spring Break is rough on parents sometimes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Autism and its Impact

April is Autism Awareness month. I know that there are many "months" out there... some silly and some serious, but I hope that some of you will take this to heart. Unlike other causes, this isn't just about research... this is about a misunderstood epidemic.

Yes, it's an epidemic. Autism is an epidemic.

One in one hundred and ten children will retreat into the quiet of their minds. The number is greater among boys. It's as if you've lost your child. If our children were dying in this number... you would know the symptoms and the world would be reeling. To a parent, having a child with Autism can feel that devastating.

If your child has Asperger's (which is currently on the Autism Spectrum) you may see unexpected rages in an otherwise happy child. They may come across as angry or unaware of social awkwardness. Their violent outbursts can make you feel like an awful parent.

Autism can make you feel like an awful parent. You can't imagine the guilt... you simply can't.

Autism can destroy marriages. Since B was diagnosed eight years ago, I've seen so many marriages fail among those I've met. Overall, eighty percent of marriages where a child has Special Needs... end in divorce. Until you're looking at bills for therapy that you can't pay.... Until you have to go without therapy because you just can't afford it and no one else steps up to pay for it.... Until you're thinking "what did I do wrong... was it something I took while I was pregnant... was I not there enough... did I not do enough?" every day for years... you can't imagine the stress on an individual which transfers to a marriage.

My husband and I are very lucky... both because we've made it through so much and remained married and because our kids are both high-functioning... now. This wasn't always the case.

Once upon a time in May of 2003, we sat in a room and listened to a doctor tell us that B had Autism. It was our diagnosis day. Even though we'd expected it for months... you can never prepare for such things. B was completely nonverbal at 2 years old. She never responded to her name. She never pointed. She had burn marks on her leg from where she'd burnt her leg on the baseboard heater and never made a sound. We asked questions: "Will she ever hold down a job? Will she ever leave our house? Will she ever get married?" His responses were overwhelmingly pessimistic.

In effect, we were told not to dream because we'd just be disappointed. It was like being told: You've just entered the world of Autism. Please check all your hopes and dreams at the door because you won't need them here.

The doctor also looked at T on that day and said: "No, there is no way this child has Autism. Look how social he is." Three years later, he'd be saying, "Your son has Asperger's. If you'd like a formal diagnosis, you can get it, but it won't do you any good; school districts don't recognize it as something that will benefit from therapy."

Ours isn't a sad story, though. We dove into therapy and intervention. If we could find a basis of science behind anything... we tried it. We saw specialists and did diets and vitamins after approving them through a wonderful pediatrician. We got a second mortgage on our house in order to pay for private therapy when our insurance would only provide so much... and the school district/government programs gave minimal support. I drove my kids from place to place for intervention... constantly. Our lives became a great battle. While I won't say we won... my children are both main-streamed completely and none of their peers know they have Autism.

Little by little, I've begun picking up the hopes and dreams I left by the door when I entered the world of Autism. I won't say this is happily ever after... both my kids still have Autism. T still has unexpected rages. B still doesn't understand social behavior. I'm crying while I write this and if they were here... they wouldn't recognize or understand why.

Autism is a life sentence. At this point, my kids will have it their entire lives.

There is no cure for Autism.

I've been lucky. I've been blessed. We had B diagnosed the day before she turned two years old. Most parents are not that lucky. Most parents struggle to get that all-important diagnosis. The average age for diagnosis is around three years old. It's much later for Asperger's. When you have a child with a developmental disorder... your clock is ticking. Every day you can't reach them is a valuable day lost. The early years will determine whether you can save your child... or whether they're lost to this other world.

If you raise awareness this month in no other way then in learning the symptoms yourself, you've done more than enough. As an Autistic child's parent, I want the world to understand... and I want to save more parents from the heartache of losing a child to Autism.

Hug a parent of a child with Autism. Some days... suck. I have a mental calendar of the worst days, but there are other days that I just hope will fade away and be gone without being marked.

Hug an Autistic child--if they'll let you. They might not. They might not want to be touched. This is the reality of Autism.

Change your porch light blue for the month of April (blue lights can be purchased at Home Depot.) My sister told me that they have a blue light because her husband is a policeman. I found it interesting that Autism and an emergency service are linked in that way. Autism is an emergency.

Learn the symptoms: http://www.autismspeaks.org/ Without early intervention, my children would have been lost forever to their own worlds. I can't even begin to tell you how vital early diagnosis and intervention are. By seven years old, the neural pathways are in place and therapy becomes drastically less effective. The clock is ticking. If you have a child with Autism, you can nearly hear the ticking every day. Every day. It's there in the back of your mind... tick tock tick tock Have I done enough today? tick tock tick tock.

Save the next generation of Autistic children who are being born right now. Most researchers suspect that the number one in one hundred and ten is being optimistic. Some suspect it's closer to one in seventy or even more severe. With early intervention, many of these children can be helped immeasurably. Your money, time, emotions are worth saving these children. Their lives and happiness are beyond price. They need us today. They need us right now.

It's an epidemic. Hug, love, save a child with Autism. I've done that with two... it's your turn.