Taking a short hiatus until November to recover and regroup from recent health issues. Thank you for your understanding
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So for the last three weeks, I have been pretty much in radio silence as far as blogging, or even interacting on the internet. This isn’t always my standard MO when I am upset about something, but in this case it has been my approach for two reasons: First the issues involved are about my health, which is a sensitive topic at best for me, and the last thing I wanted was to be seen as whining – because no matter how big the issue seems to me, it is MY issue. (Apparently I was so good at this not whining bit that I left several friends out of the loop as to what was going on and inadvertently hurt some feelings with the unusual silence – and I am really and truly sorry for this as it was not my intention at all.)
The second reason is more complex – until today, with results and diagnosis in hand, I had no idea what to DO about the health issues aside from wait for test results. Ask my husband – I am TERRIBLE at waiting around with nothing to do. I am a get it done and move on kind of person. I don’t mind doing the work, and while I am a big planner, I also try to keep things as fluid as possible as long as we aren’t just standing around waiting to make a decision on if something should be done or not. Therefore, when my doctor wanted to do biopsies for cancer, I was all for getting out the scalpel right then and there.
Now you would think I would know better really –having not only been down the cancer road before, but also having worked in hospitals for several years. Nothing happens that quickly in the medical world unless there is CPR involved, and even then, once they get you breathing again, there is going to be a delay. It takes time to set up the procedures, to run lab tests, for doctors to get results and interpret them, and then finally to get back to you about what is going on. In this case, from the time that the Doctor looked at me and observed that the strange lump where it shouldn’t be was not only causing pain and general unhapppiness in my life, it was probably cancerous, to the day she finally gave me the results was about 5 weeks. Along the way, we got several others involved and drew enough blood to feed a vampire family of four for a week. We even found a couple of bonus problems I didn’t know about. I fussed and fidgeted and showed up 15 minutes early to fill out forms, and generally drove my husband and best friend bonkers trying not to obsess about the possibilities. I found that sitting down to write was nearly impossible – my focus was shot and I ended up just rewriting the same things repeatedly. Yesterday, we finally got around to the part where Doctor Q was able to tell me that while there are issues; cancer is not one of them anymore for which I am greatly relieved. There are issues, but now we have a diagnosis, we can start on taking action again. Unfortunately, these are not quick fix actions. The problem took years to build up and the treatment is one that will take two or three months to see results from. When I went to see my primary care doctor today, about the secondary issue we found, he said I was the first person who has ever responded “Oh, good” when he told them they have diabetes. Why is this good (aside from the whole not having cancer again thing)? Because diabetes has an action plan involved with it. 41 million people in the U.S. alone have Diabetes, and there is a lot of research that is happening every day. For me, there are new dietary rules to learn about, new things to pay attention to, and a whole long list of things that need doing now. Yes, it is a big, life-changing thing. I am more than a little intimidated by it, but I have my list in hand of things to do right now. (And amazingly enough, I came home and wrote another scene as well.)
If I was more philosophical, or spiritually mature, I would no doubt find a lesson here about how pointless my desire to control things is, how fleeting and fickle the physical world is, and learned a great deal of patience from all of this. I am sad to admit – the relief I have at having something to do, shows I haven’t really gained any of that. I still don’t know what to do, but now I know what to research and can go into the next phase with focus. Tomorrow it will probably hit me just how big a change this is going to be, but today, I have a renewed word count and a to do list. I’m good.
This has been a long week, so long in fact that I just realized I was in danger of not posting either of my updates for ROW80. A lot of what happened was boring busy work that just seemed to pile up and needed to be done all at once, so nothing exciting to report, but combined with a summer cold, it just makes the days go slowly.
I am still “on track” for my projects, but I am not necessarily generating a large word count – one of the things I realized was that I didn’t really know my characters, and that since I didn’t know them well, the plot I had etched out for them, wasn’t working because I suddenly found that they all were acting quite predictably and honestly I was getting a little bored with the story. If I am bored, that is a very bad sign because it means that anyone who reads it will be bored – and worse, I caught my MC whining.
So this week has been about character development. I have been metaphorically sitting down for a cup of coffee and talking to them (Well the coffee wasnt metaphorical for me but you know what I mean.) It has been an interesting week. I asked them about where they grew up, how they got where they are now, pulled pictures off the internet for them and even talked about favorite foods. I’m probably scaring the neighbors since this means I have been spending a lot of time walking around talking to myself, but I now feel that I know them better and I can only think that will translate to a better story. Of course this also means that I have spent some time reworking the plot a bit too.
Plotting always seems to be the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. I know people who are adamant that plotting is evil and that it ruins their creativity, and a first draft is all about making your mistakes. That may be true for some people, but as Terry Brooks, says in his book on writing Sometimes the Magic Works you will either solve the problems now or later because you will have to solve them eventually. The question for me is never IF I need to plot, but rather HOW.
Some people use index cards, others use sticky notes. I have a very large sheet of glass in my office that I scribble all over with dry erase pens, but I am always looking for better ways to work things out. Do you do a synopsis of the story first like Margaret Weiss does for her books, or do you take a very long view and map out the major events in all 20 books in your series like Jim Butcher says he has for the Harry Dresden series? I read an article yesterday that J.K. Rowling wrote scenes from all seven of the Harry Potter books before she even really started on the first one, and then went back and built the plots for all of them. Are you putting every scene on index cards and rearranging them? Do you use bullet points or maybe an excel sheet? Do you develop your characters back stories first and let that determine your plot, or do you come up with the scenes first and then let them tell you from there? How do YOU plot?
As many of you know, I am not a huge romance reader, so it will probably surprise you that I’m going to say up front – I really liked this book. 4.5 of 5 stars liked it. This will be available on Sept 27 from Samhain Press. Or you can pre-order here
Aryk is the leader of a clan facing a hard reality. The constant in fighting between the clans of Isadorijka causes endless, needless deaths, prevents his people from any real trade and ultimately keeps them living as barely more than barbarians do. To the outside world, they are nothing more than barbaric Rievers. Aryk is on a quest to unite the clans under one leader –himself – but to do that he has to not only overcome generations old traditions, but the army that a rival daq – clan chief- is building. Aryk knows that he cannot bring peace alone. In an attempt to prove to other nations that not all Isadorijkans are rievers, he forms new alliances, including the beautiful warrior Verdeen. She is conflicted – about her future, herself and most of all about the unexpected and intense attraction she feels for Aryk.
Wildes has created a wonderful and complex world in this series, and knows her way around it well enough that even though I have read only one other book in the series, I never once felt like I needed a map to know what was going on. In fact, it stands alone quite nicely. The story was told mostly from the point of view of Aryk, who didn’t know the back stories of any of the characters and so we are given just enough information to make this story work. Wildes did an excellent job of portraying the essence of the characters – We see a flash of the deep hatred Queen Dara has for rievers, the love that Cianan and Maleta share but since it is not relevant for Aryk to know the long back stories, we aren’t bogged down with them either. This story stands alone perfectly well. Wildes knows her characters well, and it is obvious that as each player steps on the stage, there is a fully formed personality behind it. (and it inspires you to want to read the other books in the series, where they have more staring roles.
The pace is fast, there is no filler here, and that includes the sex. This is a solidly built fantasy story, that could easily sit on the shelf with other fantasy series. There is of course a lot of sex because this is after all an erotic romance novel, but the sex is important to both plot and character building. The one thing I dislike that seems to be a recurring theme in many of the romance novels I have read – otherwise strong women who suddenly turn into raving sex kittens at the first sight of the Hero, and end up turning into jellyfish – is the very thing that Wildes has avoided. Verdeen, even in the midst of passion still has control of her senses and still makes smart decisions. She is conflicted, and second guesses herself, but it seems perfectly in keeping with her character. Verdeen is strong, but young even for an elf, and she notably grows throughout the book. There is also a great deal of set up for future adventures, and at the end, I found myself already wishing for next book.
4 out of 5 stars this time.
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This one is yet another short update. I have been very quiet on the twitter/Facebook/blog front lately because I have been really busy this week, and with limited time available, I would rather focus on the writing. My close friends already understand this, and well, those who are going to ‘unfollow’ because I was quite for a few days, probably were going to eventually when I wasn’t entertaining enough anyway.
On Monday, I was in a small accident. Someone stepped in front of me in a very narrow space and I jerked the wheel to miss him and ended up hitting a very sturdy metal gate instead. Aside from a very ugly scratch on the paint, scaring me to death and finding out that my inhaler needs to be refilled, everything is fine. Of course there has been some time devoted to taking to the insurance company and so on. (and explaining it to my husband several dozen times who swears HE wouldn’t have scraped the truck) As I told him and the insurance company – I’m human and the sight of a living being about to be mowed over by my vehicle scared me and I veered away to prevent it. The guy I missed didn’t even realize his near miss until someone started yelling at him for stepping in front of me. I’m OK with this outcome even if I do have to get the truck repaired. For the record, it is one really sturdy gate that I hit- didn’t even scratch the paint let alone cause damage to it.
On the plus side, I did get a lot of things done this week while I was in my busy mode. First and foremost, the deadline I was working on is finished and I actually did submit the work I intended to submit. Yay me right? Now to wait for the reply.
Part of the experience of this was that I asked Donna Newton, whom I respect tremendously, to go over the story for me before I submitted it and she was gracious enough to do it for me. I was thrilled that she liked it, but even more so, it was really impressive to see the master at work. A few sentences smoothed out, a couple of little details added, and suddenly my story went from pretty good to nearly shiny. I am very pleased with the result, and it was like getting a crash course in setting the scene and knowing which details need to be included.
I also was asked to do a review for a book that will be released in September. That review will be posting on this site tomorrow, and I have been adding the review to my accounts everywhere else I can as well. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to be allowed to review Riever’s Heart, especially since Renee Wildes, the author, is not only a wonderful writer, but a wonderful person.
Very proud of myself – I have managed to not only stay on track with my writing goals, but I am actually getting ahead of myself now, and have found a renewed enthusiast for my other work in progress. The next few days will offer little in the way of writing time for me, but I am still confident I will make my daily goals. I’m going to develop a little more backstory on my characters before going forward again.