Saturday, June 28, 2008

Inspiration from Ashes

Sometimes, inspiration for story ideas come from the strangest places. This time, it was from the haze of smoke that has obscured our blue skies for the last week. It's turned the summer into murky, elongated days, where the ambient lighting makes any daylight hour after 6:00 PM feel like it's a minute from sunset. I imagine it's a little like being in Alaska when the days are so long that the sun doesn't set for 20+ hours at a time. For a while, I was thinking the only good thing to come of all the ash particles in the atmosphere was the slightly cooler than normal temperatures. Then my mom sent me a picture from her house that sparked a whole new storyline idea for Madison.

My parents' estate (yes, Mom, I hear you laughing to have me call it that) has always been a place for the imagination to run wild. Twenty minutes from a local family owned and operated grocery store (thirty-five+ minutes from the nearest chain supermarket), it's a wild, natural place filled with trees and deer, tractors and horses, gardens and (lately) skunks. I grew up with a room that looked out to a forest, and at night, I could watch the movement of the galaxies through the canopy of oak trees outside my open window. The whole place has a lot going for it as far as inspiration for a fantasy author in the making. For example, there's this:

That's now the view outside my old bedroom window. Of course, the rainbow isn't always there. When I was growing up, the forest I previously mentioned obscured the view quite a bit, but a fire several years ago burned up to the very edge of the house, so now there's a lovely view up the canyon.

With all the fires burning upstate in California, my parents' place has been under a thick layer of smoke for the last week or so. Here's the same view as above, only take a few days ago:

This picture was taken in the middle of the day. Though the picture is small, you can see the sun in the branches of the tree, sitting there like a jewel caught in the limbs.

It was this picture that inspired the idea for a future story in the Madison series. First, it looks so lonely--empty chairs in what looks like a fog. Especially the one chair near the center of the picture. It's like just through the fog beyond the chairs is the ocean, dark, cold, and mysterious. But it was the sun that caught my fancy. It looks like part of the tree, like a portal or a creature, or even a creature's nest. I'd already planned on having a plot revolving around fire two or three books down the line, but seeing this picture, it all came together. How cool is that!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Final Edits

I'm down to the last major run through of Madison. I'm so close to being done and getting on with selling it (and writing the next book, and working on Areia, etc.) that I can see it, sitting like a shinning beacon in my head, a goal almost obtained. So why do I feel like procrastinating?

Maybe it's the Wii. I just got one for my birthday, along with a few great games. That's sucked away a lot of time, in a good, happy way. Maybe it's a new book. I just finished a non-fiction book and started Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen. She's a new author for me (and for the world--this book was just released in 2006), and she's really good and funny.

Maybe it's laziness. With all the birthday celebrations, I didn't work much, and that felt really, really nice.

Most likely, though, it's that pesky delayed gratification gene that I have. If I keep delaying completion, then I'm holding off on the final gratification, which in its own way is gratifying. I know. It's like a sickness. I'm working on it, though. It's one of my goals: have more immediate gratification. Yes, I'm weird. But it's also made me push through all the distractions I keep inventing and get my daily amount of Madison work done. Score one for me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Clutter Begone

It took me over a month to finish the edits of chapter six of Areia. That's not exactly impressive. Especially since the chapter is only 48 pages. It took me far less time to write it than it did to edit it. Of course, so much changed in the world, my way of thinking, even a bit of my writing style between the original text and the end of the book that my "edit" was more like an intensive rewrite and the previous material was the equivalent of a character/scene sketch. But it's done and emailed to the select few who are patient enough and nice enough to read it chapter by chapter as I finish it.

They've got a long wait for the next chapter. It's Madison's turn

In preparation, I did a something I've not done before: I cleaned up my desk. Really cleaned it. I cleared off the walls, removing every single last scrap of Areia from the surfaces. No longer are there Areia characters staring at me or scraps of notes for future chapter edits. All storyboard note cards for the first Madison and the second Areia are filed away. I weeded out the random sticky notes with jotted story idea and I took down most of the notes Cody left me, though a few are still up for inspiration. I filed away all the paperwork and pictures into the Areia folder, shut it, and placed it away on the shelf. I won't be touching that for at least another two months, maybe longer. I even went through all my notes for Madison and organized them in their binder. Then I dusted. (Yeah, that impressed me, too. I'll post a picture soon to document the proof.)

My desk hasn't been this spotless since the day we moved in and put the computer together. Everything is ready for the final Madison 1 edits and Madison 2 writing.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Madison is rattling around like a one-man-band in my head. The first one is ready to be sold (well, not physically ready, but mentally ready, and so close to physically ready that I can taste it). Better yet, the next book is perched at the forefront of my mind, eager to be put to the page. I have pages of notes on villain ideas, friends for Madison to meet, locations and powers to be explored, loves and flirtations to flush out, and humorous catastrophes to befall our spunky heroine. I have enough to fill two, maybe three more novels. I can't wait to begin the next one! (And I REALLY can't wait until you all can read the first one in print, and I can actually fill in some solid details in these posts and not be so terribly, frustratingly vague!)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Lamp Massacre of '08

Something strange is happening in my house. Something electrical and peculiar. If I were a more superstitious person, I'd say it was ghosts messing with me. I'm not, though. I'm rather practical. I live in a thirteen-year-old apartment that has already killed two blow dryers (one it melted the prongs of the plug right into the socket!). I thought I had the apartment's MO down. It just didn't like blow dryers. No big deal. I don't use that particular socket anymore. We'd reached a compromise.

In the last two weeks, the body count rose, and if I was an FBI agent (and a very weird one at that), I'd say the killer's profile changed. Or maybe this is a copycat that doesn't know all the true facts of the original crime. Either way, my blow dryer has been spared, but there's been a surge in lamp murders, almost like there's a serial light killer on the loose. First it was one socket in a three-socket floor lamp. Then it was the second socket. Fine, I thought. It's just the lamp. It was cheap and now it's giving out on me.

When my favorite (and relatively new) table lamp in the shape of the Eiffel Tower blew a socket, I could no longer attribute the deaths to old age. Interestingly enough, the Eiffel Tower lamp is located in my career section. (For those of you who don't Feng Shui, the career section of your house is the center front section of your house on the same wall as your front door.) I say interesting, because while the other floor lamp has slowly been dying (the first socket stopped working almost a year ago), the Eiffel Tower lamp stopped working the very week that I had a perturbing experience at my 9-5 job (the one that currently pays my bills). Was this actually something to be superstitious about? Was my apartment reflecting real life events?

No sooner had we (Cody) replaced the socket in the Eiffel Tower when my desk lamp in the office stopped working. Coincidentally (or not), the lamp was situated in the career section of my office room. Now, that poor lamp had been with me longer than Cody--which is saying something--and had been painted by me several different times to update to my current tastes (it had a lovely painted grass base and some yellow sun writing on its top). It was a bedside lamp/desk lamp for me when I lived with my parents. It was my only non-ceiling source of illumination when I moved into my first studio. It has provided illumination for me for every writing project I've ever worked on.

We weren't able to save it.

I need light to write by. I need light to read by. So off we went to a local lamp store that claimed to have lamps up to 50% off. Shortly thereafter, we went to Target to find lamps under $350. We ended up with this lovely Thomas O'Brien lamp. In the designer's picture, my lamp is the one on the left with the swivel arm, only I selected a white shade instead of black. I searched all of to find a better picture and they don't have one, so either this is a new item or I just got the last one. I feel a little like a traitor, because my previous lamp was so very childish and old, and this one is so sleek and modern, glass and metal (two of my favorite things to stare at when I'm lost in thought), and I love it so much already. I'm sure my old lamp would have wanted it this way.

Feelings of lamps aside, there's still the unsolved mystery of the serial lamp killer. Is it ghosts messing with my mind? Is it my energy and emotions reflected by the energy of the house? Is it cheap lamps and too much use? Is it faulty wiring in the apartment? I suppose only time will tell.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Size Matters!

My original computer came with a 15" monitor. That tiny screen (okay, that decent-size screen) saw me through my college years, several short stories, a screenplay, and the first few hundred pages of Areia. Then one fateful day as I was taking out the trash, I saw someone had deposited a beautiful 18" CRT monitor to the side of the Dumpster. On a whim (and feeling especially strong that day) I carted the 48 lb behemoth up two flights of stairs and collapsed on my carpet feeling as if I'd never move my spindly arms again. Twenty minutes later, with much help and sniffing from my cats, I moved the monitor into my office. When Cody got home, he hooked it up and it worked! There was a faint flickering on the right side of the screen occasionally, but for the most part it was completely unnoticeable, especially when using Word. I finished Areia on that monitor and wrote the complete first Madison novel with the text filling those 18 inches.

All the while, though, I had a dream of a glorious 22" monitor! Twenty-two inches meant two word documents open side by side for easy viewing (I like to have my characters/places document open at the same time that I'm writing my novels). Twenty-two inches meant bigger text without it running off the sides of the page. Twenty-two inches was just plain cool!

Which is why last weekend, during the Memorial Day sales, I bought myself the most beautiful 22" flat screen monitor ever made.

(Desktop image not mine)

After we got it home and installed, and I'd cooed over it like it was a newborn baby, I called my mom to tell her the wonderful news. As I was chatting away on the phone, staring with wonder and love at my gorgeous new Samsung, I heard the faint sounds of an ethereal woman's voice singing a song of joy. It was a faint song, like the downstairs neighbors had their music on. I turned to Cody and asked him if he heard it too. Nope. Neither did my mom on the other end of the line. It was only me. Me and my beautiful monitor. I guess it was singing to me.