Friday, April 30, 2010

Can You Dodge the Pot Holes?

In Saskatchewan pot holes are considered a valid topic of conversation - probably because we have a lot of them.  Between the care and maintenance or lack there of, pot holes can become an all encompassing topic.

There's a ton of potholes on my front street.  In fact, I'm sure that it is set to be voted the most pot hole filled street in the city.  In fact, one year a duck spent the good part of April swimming in the lake that arrived temporarily after the snow melted.  But considering what I have seen in my travels, I can be thankful that it is a paved road.  But darn it, I hate potholes.
Plains of Bagan, Burma

This week was full of potholes.  So many that there was just no dodging, things fell apart.  My plan was to finish the first half of the latest novel.  That didn't happen.

I started out with good intentions - last Saturday to be exact was when I decided I could meet this goal.  The writing was moving along, that was before the phone call.  The one that involved locating a clinic that would do stitches - hubbie, eight stitches all told in his hand - did I mention I don't do emergency well?

Well that was last Saturday so where's the rest of my excuse?  Let's call it Income Tax.  That's no excuse, I know.  After all Income Tax has been due on April 30 since the beginning of time - or for as long as I've been doing it anyway.   Which seems like lots of time, lots of time to put it off.  So this week was crunch time.  Let's just say that after a long day at the office, income tax shows no appeal, or more truthfully - it never did.  But thinking about it is an exhausting thing and after a few days of gathering paper, asking the right questions and then pulling out the calculator... the week was over. 

So in the meantime, the writing stalled and it was only today that I actually got some work done.  Well I did for a good two hours until I had to stop for a quick visit to the vet.  Yes, another pothole.  A small blip that had me sneezing after we left  - having waited with three cats.  The dog's fine but did I mention I'm allergic to cats? 

But despite this week's events proving that life has the ability to laugh at my goals - I'm setting them again.  It's what keeps me in the chair - that and did I mention I love writing - most days.

So I'm back at it with a fresh cup of coffee, ready to blitz through those 10,000 words standing between me and the goal.  But first there's just one request - pass the kleenex.

Any potholes in your day?  What throws you off track?

Ryshia on Twitter

Friday, April 23, 2010

Honey - The Dog's Puking

"Honey, the dog's puking."

Not a line to start out any meal.  But it definitely gets ones attention.  First liners, one liners, great beginnings or bad beginnings what's your take when it comes to the books you read?

When I'm choosing a book on spec only - just a cold call into a bookstore, author unknown to me, the opening of a book has got to get me.  Now it doesn't have to be dramatic or too punchy.  In fact too blunt and punchy can be a bad omen of things to come - a lack of depth.  I'm a great lover of description but I want the story to move too.  Sure there are other factors in picking a book but left wandering aimlessly in a bookstore, the opening rates pretty high.

Here is what the American Review rates as some of the best openers in history.  See if a few of those don't want to make you buy the book.  I'd forgotten that 1984 had such an interesting beginning, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."- maybe time for the reread.

But my particular favourite:
 "It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not."  City of Glass.   There was something about that relatively mundane line that was rather disturbingly intriguing.  It's simplicity twisted into something deeper in the way the words were played with and gave the whole scene a feel as if the character is not connected with himself and the reader is viewing it all from a distance, a distance that you want to span quickly to find out what's going on.  What a fantastic sense of things to come in just those few words.  Now I just have to read the book!  

First lines are more loved than I thought.  Here might not all be history's best but there's a thousand openings to go through - should you find the time!   

Do you like your openings  with punch and vigor, strangely evocative or a 
slow descriptive ease in of what's to come?

Oh and re the beginning of this post - no, the dog didn't puke.  A few dry heaves, a tummy rub, his not mine, and everything was good.  And thanks to a cast iron stomach I was able to return to dinner and a glass of wine after the ordeal.  The dog - well he napped on the couch.

The books blog at the Guardian had a few thoughts on opening lines and some faves too.

Did you check out some of the best openers in history?
What's your favourite opening line?  

Ryshia on Twitter

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fear and Loathing at the Library

Let's get one thing clear - I neither fear nor loath libraries.  In fact, just the opposite, I may be suffering from library addiction.  Besides being a fantastic first-stop reference for any work in progress (WIP), they're a great place to relax during a lunch hour, to discover new authors, old authors and books out of print, read current magazines for the latest trends or some of North America's biggest newspapers or the latest in any small town that publishes a newspaper in the province. 

I buy some reference books but for many I go to the library.  When I check out a book that appears useful for more than the current WIP, I usually buy it.   I found a keeper just the other day.  But an online search indicated that not only is the book rare, the few that are available are prohibitively expensive.  So this reference book I will check out  for the longest period allowed to me.  Which always brings me dangerously close to the world of library fines. 

So why fear and loathing?  Fear comes in not being able to contain myself surrounded by so many books.  I mean, there's only so many I can read at any given time and obviously I misjudge that consistently - check out my library fines.  Hah - you thought I'd give you a link for that.  Let's just say that the other day I dutifully paid the local library $9.

Loathing - well there is none - it was just a good title - don't you think?  Surprisingly, at least to me, I've met many people that rarely enter a library.  Yet some well-known names spent considerable time in libraries as librarians.   I get that they aren't for everyone.  Some people just aren't readers.  But what about the movies, the exhibits, the music, reference materials (want to know what's happening in your community - just ask the librarian) or for those with no internet access - there's that too.  My home library offers almost every option for accessibility.

That's not all, there's library blogs - a lot of them.  So why are libraries a rarely frequented stranger to some, particularly to those who are readers?  Is it fear, loathing or are libraries a thing of the past?

Maybe this quote explains why some readers rarely shadow a library's door:
Seventy million books in America's libraries, but the one you want to read is always out.
- Tom Masson

Ryshia on Twitter

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Procrastination - Big Breath - Dive In!

A Friday or so ago one of those helpful reminders landed in my inbox - how to stave off procrastination.

Procrastination - I thought.  Who has time?   On that particular day I managed a full-time job, an interview, a last minute look through a novel to ensure it was ready to go out the door, an update to my website, the usual mad dash to the grocery store, oh and social time - it was a Friday night.  Procrastinate?  I don't have time...  or do I?

A jumble of phone and electrical wires - Cambodia 

Okay, so maybe I do.  Maybe I didn't need to flop onto the couch for two hours of watching "Firestarter".  So something has to go and that day something did - social time.  But for Firestarter?  Hey, I was tired and yes it's an old movie but it was taped free on TV and it is based on a Stephen King novel, so what more can I say.  Could I have used that time better?  Probably.  Was I procrastinating?  Maybe. 

So I decided to read on and discovered that I only need one thing to prevent procrastination - simplify.  Okay - I can agree there.  My life could probably be simpler than it is.

So simplify, get rid of stuff.  Not just physical stuff but the stuff that eats at your time.  The movie that you already saw and that wasn't so great the first time round.  Seems overly simplistic.  What about procrastinating because you just don't want to do something or because it appears too difficult.  The article never touched on that.

I know sometimes I'm guilty of over-thinking,  complicating the issue and stalling.  Maybe it doesn't matter how you get from point a to point b - maybe it's just a matter of beginning the journey.  Hold your breath and dive in.  Kind of like writing a novel.  If one chapter is balking, slip into the next.  There's nothing wrong with a little random order.  A novel works rather like life - trim the fat, simplify and the task will look easier.  Now for the rest. 

Trim, pair, simplify.  Well - there's only one problem.  Where do I find the time?  And is it really that simple?

Ryshia on Twitter

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Good, The Bad and the Unhappily?

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.  Oscar Wilde

Romance fiction guarantees a happy ending.  But even in a romance someone may have an unhappy ending. After all, a happy ending is only guaranteed for the hero and heroine.

I love writing romance not sweet I love you, you love me but that edge - adding that dark element to the journey.  Whether it be the setting or a villain or two or a situation that is dark and foreboding or all and more of the above, and combine that with the inevitable happy ending.   Why?  Well horror was really my first love.  But I have no inclination to write the dark, murky, the macabre without a hope for humanity.  Yet I love the stuff!  Go figure.

And still, I love the happy ending.  But a great love story will get me as much as a happy ending.  "My dear,  I don't give a damn", that line gets me every time and it really wasn't the most most romantic of lines.  With his last line "Gone with the Wind's" Rhett should have been the villain of all time and yet he wasn't - why?  Well, definitely that is a subject for another post.  But Rhett was one of the ultimate heroes.  A character that the reader had developed an empathy for, they could have forgiven him anything.  And Scarlett - well with her "tomorrow is another day" line we knew that she still loved him in her own broken way.  So in the end we knew that their love, despite the black cloud that appeared insurrmountable, never died. We just weren't sure how it was going to go from there and so we wandered and hoped, long after the end.  

Kind of like spring in Saskatchewan - sunshine and crocuses after just a bit of late season snow.  And we're never quite sure if that's it - is winter over or...

Maybe there's something wrong that I can't stand too much happy in my fiction.   I like a crisis or maybe two and the bad boys and girls, often they're one of my favourite people in the story.  Just because sometimes they leave you wandering what if...  The story ended happily for Max and Jane but what about...

And that's what I love, the dichotomy of it all.   What do you love in your fiction?

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