Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Side Effect of Being an Author

I've had a rough weekend: my cat, Mack Fu, the one in the picture that looks so much like Mr. Bond from Madison, got sick on Friday. Technically, I believe he started getting sick on Wednesday, and by Friday, it was definitely time to go to the vet. They discovered blood in his urine and now he's on a prescription diet and lots of wet food so that he doesn't develop crystals in his urine, get blocked up, and have to have surgery (and I don't even want to go into what they do in surgery to male cats so that they can pee again). I've had the joy of watching him every time he goes to the litter box, and a abnormal excitement when he actually goes to the bathroom (I'm sure parents can understand this--at least I hope you can; it's such an odd thing to get excited about!).

There's a couple of things you must understand about me for this post to make sense (and why I'm divulging information about my cat's urine with this is supposed to be a post about writing). First off, I don't particularly like western medicine. It has its uses, but I'd prefer another route, if available. So going to a vet rather than a homeopath for my cat was an emotionally wrought decision (one that I had to make over an over again with each procedure the vet suggested). Second, the moment my cats become ill, I go from being an optimist to embracing doom--in all aspects of my life. Which makes me a real fun person to be around and leads to much weeping and unnecessary stress about everything (mainly about the poor cat that is sick, but it can include everything from bills, the environment, politics, work, etc.). The combination of those two things tends to make rational thought scarce. And yet, no matter how stressed or upset, no matter how indecisive or decisive, excited or angry I got during this entire process, there was always this little voice in the back of my head saying, "Remember this [emotion/situation/phrase/color/painting/person]. You can use it later."

I call this the side effect of being an author. It doesn't ever turn off. It doesn't ever stop, not if you're really driven to write. There's always a part of you that is observing and nearly unconsciously redrafting reality into fiction.

Already, I know there are things I'll be changing in the first Madison book during my final rewrite--scenes with Dr. Love, Mr. Bond's vet--and new information that I "learned" about Dr. Love for future books. (There is also a video that shows in cartoonish detail the way fleas feed off cats that I will never forget either. Who knows, that might make it into a book, too.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dictation from My Muse

I've taken a break from synopses and query letters until I can pinpoint publishing houses and agents I want to send my work to and then tailor both for ultimate appeal--something I plan to start this weekend. I've also been looking at contests. You know, most authors say research is one of their favorite things--they feel like they're really accomplishing something when they're gathering facts for a book. For me, it's the opposite. Maybe it's because I haven't been so much as researching as I've been looking at potential marketing avenues. I'm sure if I was reading Witchcraft & Practical Magic or The World's Greatest Buildings--two books I did recently buy for research--I'd feel like I was accomplishing a lot more than I do when I'm looking through listings and listings of contests. It's like looking for scholarships all over again. Most are for short stories written by people living in Idaho in second-story apartments with a secondary hobby of kite flying and who also have a body of work that embraces the theme of a dying social structure. (Okay, I exaggerated, but I truly was hoping to find more genre-based novel contests!) In the meantime, I've started freewriting again.

Freewriting is when I sit down with no objective in mind and write down book ideas as they come to me. I'm focusing this time on Madison and her whole world. The strange thing about freewrites, is that I feel like I'm learning information as I go--like I'm taking notes while my subconscious or my creative mind or my muse (whatever you want to call it) dictates. So this week I've "learned" about some future conversations Madison is going to have (with who, I don't know, but it sounds like with Mr. Dark and Deadly, one of the male leads from the first book. If you go to my website and click on "The Adventures of Madison Fox" tab, you can see a list and a little information on the main characters from the first book). I also "learned" a little about what it means to be a real Illuminant Enforcer. (Geez, I wish you all had read the first book already! You don't even know what an enforcer is. You'll just have to trust me that Madison Fox is an Illuminant Enforcer, and an enforcer is something pretty cool to be.) I explored some options of future abilities she'll learn, characters she'll run into, friends she'll make, shopping trips she'll embark on, and challenges she'll face. It is so nice to be back in a writing/creativity frame of mind!

In less than an hour during the first freewrite, I had three different book ideas, but only one that might work for the next book in the series. I'm continuing to flesh out the idea (and learn so much more about Madison), but I think I'll be able to draft up an outline and possibly a synopsis for book two soon. Maybe even one for book three. How marvelous would it be to be able to sell two books at once! Full-time author here I come!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Queries and Synopses

Query: How do you condense a 200+ page book down to one page?

Query: How do you condense a 200+ page book down to three paragraphs?

Anyone? Anyone?

This is what I've been working on for the last week and a half. I've finally managed to condense Madison down to 1 page and 4 lines for the synopsis, and I just wrote my first query letter draft where I condensed it down even further to 3 mere paragraphs. Every day as I've worked on these two things I've been surprised at how quickly the time passes, which means I've at least been enjoying the process and into the moment. Of course, at the end of every day, I think how lovely it would be to be a famous author already and to send an outline of an idea to my editor, which she would approve and roll me out an enormous check. Then I could spend most of my time writing and editing what I write. Heavenly, right?

In the back of my head is always the nagging thought: if it was this troublesome to condense short little 68,000-word Madison down, how much harder is going to be to condense 400,000-word Areia down? Which makes me giggle . . . and want to get back to writing and editing!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recommended Authors

Hi all!

The recommended authors page of my website is now up! When you visit it, you'll find a whole slew of new great authors to read, including:
  • 45 Fantasy Authors
  • 9 Paranormal Romance Authors
  • 8 Contemporary Romance Authors
  • 8 Historical Romance Authors
  • 6 Writing Reference Authors (and the titles of their books I like)

These are all authors that are on my shelf and that I read regularly. A few have fallen out of favor in the recent years, being books I enjoyed in my high school and college days but have since outgrown. My tastes these days run toward light-hearted paranormal romances and contemporary fantasies, but the occasional historical romance and epic fantasy still find their way onto my library shelves every so often.

I hope you find new favorite authors from these lists!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wine Woes

Everyone who knows me knows I like wine. Not in a crazed, unhealthy way (unless you're talking about my budget after I've been wine tasting), and not in a snobby, wine connoisseur way, either (mainly because I'm too lazy and underfunded.) I simply enjoy it (mainly reds, with the occasional white dessert wine). Plus, I'm a lightweight, so give me the doctor-prescribed, healthy 5 ounces, and I'm tipsy and talking in accents. Everything is funnier and some of those pesky inhibitors have been sloshed aside. I'm even usually warmer, which has its own charm on these cold (80 degrees and below) evenings when my fingers and toes can turn to icicles. All in all, this logically seems like it would make a good state to write in, right? Funny, uninhibited, and warm. The perfect combo for the next great American fantasy.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work. I've tried. Multiple times. I'll be sitting at my desk, writing away, and think, "You know what would make this better? Wine. And chocolate. Oooh, wine and chocolate." After that rattles around in the back of my thoughts for a while, until it becomes louder than the story in my head, I get a glass, break off a hunk of Hershey's dark chocolate, and return to the desk.

Here is where I always expect some drunken inspiration to take hold, and in some Hunter Thompson-esque (minus-all-the-drugs) haze of creativity, I would pound out page after page of mind-boggling brilliance. In actuality, what happens is I get tipsy, completely lose my focus, lose my drive to stay seated in my chair and write, accidentally smear chocolate on the keyboard, and eventually decide that something (the book I'm reading, a TV show I never usually watch) is vastly more appealing, and that's the end of my wine-induced genius.

For a while, I found it vaguely depressing. I mean, I love wine, and I LOVE to write. I should be able to combine these great things for exponentially greater enjoyment. Or was it just a recipe for alcoholism? Maybe it's not so depressing after all.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Final Beginnings

I've been working this week and weekend on a synopsis for Madison. A synopsis is a one-page recap of the entire novel that I'll send off with query letters to editors and agents to entice them to offer me loads of money for Madison. I thought when I got to this stage, I wouldn't enjoy it. I was wrong. Every step I take at this point brings me one step closer to seeing my novel on the shelf, a paycheck in hand. Granted, every step I took when I was writing and editing got me closer to this moment, too, but it was a lot harder to see. Now that I've begun the marketing/sales portion of it, I can feel how close I am! It's all wonderfully exciting!

I've written two synopsis—one on Friday, one today. I'm going to pick and choose phrases I like from both, then edit the crap out of them. It's like writing a short story all over again. Every word counts. Every verb has to be active (unlike this sentence). Every noun unique and descriptive. It makes me want to go back through the book and do a similar check on the entire novel, but that will have to wait until I've finished the synopsis. Then I think I'll do a pass on the novel for dialog and for verbs and nouns. And I've got to change Rose's car to a Hummer. I mean, she lives on the edge of Granite Bay. Doesn't everyone who lives on the edge of Granite Bay drive a Hummer? A bright yellow one? (Who is Rose? She's one of Madison's coworkers. Human, but not exactly normal.)

Hum, I should go eat. I'm just rambling. Excited and rambling. I want to do this full-time now! Just think how quickly I could crank out books if I had 8 hours a day to work on them! Okay, now I'm excited, rambling, and daydreaming. Food consumption is a must.