Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When your own characters become your inspiration

I was recently inspired by one of my own characters. You see, in most of my writing there is an undercurrent. I have always been aware of the differences with which men and women are thought of and treated, and the differences in the opportunities afforded each gender, not just in my home country here in the U.S., but globally. These differences have never been subtle, in fact, it was at the tender age of seven that these differences began to rankle. Seven. How obvious do things need to be for a seven-year old to be able to notice. And so my antagonists are usually women and my writing usually highlights ability and self-reliance to a degree, but also what can be achieved through friendship, and people having one-another's back.

And so when the Women's March on Washington began to be organized several months ago, my first thought was, "I have to be there," - for me, for Yazidi girls and women, for child brides, for victims of FGM, for the woman who is controlled by her boyfriend/husband, who is abused by her boyfriend/husband, for victims of sexual assault and violence, for the woman who is suddenly afraid of that man walking behind her, or who suddenly has to calculate her every word or gesture because things at the party, the bar, her workplace just became questionable. And the list goes on.

The only thing is that after having bouts of feeling really terrible over the past several years, I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Which sucks. I used to be really active but I've slowed down quite a bit lately because of the hurting all over thing. Getting to the march (from northeast Ohio), and then marching seemed like it might be kind of painful.

Then I heard about the pussyhat project. That made me really happy. I'm a knitter, so I knitted a lot of hats grateful that I could do this to contribute. But as the date for the march drew nearer, I can't tell you how deeply I felt I was letting myself and my convictions down by not attending. And then my daughter suggested that we go. She's newly married and lives a couple of hours away. How could I not go with my daughter who is strong and doesn't take things from anybody and wanted to be a part of this wonderful thing.

So I thought about it. And my character Gwyn from my book, "The Errand Rider," came to mind. She is traveling alone, by horseback at one point in the book and is injured. I'm sure she's tired and uncomfortable and pain is involved, but she goes on. She has quite a big journey still ahead of her and she will be in even more uncomfortable places and have to deal with other aches and pains, but she never complains and she doesn't stop. She goes on and gets the job done, and in the process saves a little prince and two realms to boot.

Now, by myself I can't save anything, but as part of a collective movement, who knows what can be accomplished? So in the end, my daughter and I followed all of those hats I made to Washington and together with hundreds of thousands of others, we got the job done. We added our voices to the millions around the world who roared with the message that women will be heard. And we're not stopping there. We will do what we can when we can to further women's causes and voices around the world.

So thank you Gwyn, for being an inspiration to me.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My new book is out!

My new book is now available on Amazon! The eBook version is available now, and the print version will be coming soon.

Feeling unappreciated at home, Gwyn embarks on a routine errand which quickly becomes anything but, as war brews and she is drawn into the middle of it. Gwyn finds that her survival suddenly relies on her abilities – which may also prove key to saving the life of a young prince, and the entire realm.

This is yet another self-published book. I sent out only one query on the manuscript. It's still out and I don't know if I'll hear back anytime soon. I sent it to a new press and they were overwhelmed with submissions. They focus on strong female characters and this book in particular I thought might be a good fit. I decided to go ahead and publish it myself after waiting for quite a while for a response. I wish the press well and am excited that they are out there. I hope to see some good titles come out from them in the future.

So, in the meantime, here is my book. It's a quiet little story about a young woman who has a bit of an adventure while running an errand for the queen. I hope there are a few people out there who will like it - I enjoyed writing it.

And while eBooks don't generally have back covers, here is a peek at the back cover that will be on the print version:

You can click on either image to see a larger version. I'll let you know when the print version is released!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Map fiddling

In the last post, I said that I'd fiddle around and see what kind of a map I could come up with for my newest manuscript. Well, an investment in a new drawing pad and several YouTube tutorials later, this is what I've come up with (click on it to see it larger):

The inspiration for this fantasy world sprang from the park right next to my house. It started with walks in the park. Just about everything on the map has a corresponding place in the park and it's nearby environs. As you enter the park from where my house and yard are, (Cider Spring on the map), you can see in the distance the top of a barn and silo from the farm that used to be located where the park is now. The top of the barn and silo look very much like a castle to someone with an over-active imagination. The barn and silo became the castle in the city of Landerin. The character that I dreamed up needed to get from Cider Spring to the city of Landerin, and so the story began...

I turned to YouTube for help in turning what I had created in my head and made several rough sketches of, into a real map. There is a really good and rather straight forward set of fantasy map-making tutorials by author Jessica Khoury that I found really helpful. Here is a link to the first of her five tutorials: Fantasy Map Tutorial.

It's kind of fun to play around with map-making, but also a little nerve-wracking when you need to try to keep distances correct, etc. This is my first attempt, but I think it's not too bad. At least it conveys all of the important information that the reader needs to follow for where things are happening in the story.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Working on a cover design for the new novel

My newest novel is finished. I have exactly one query out. It's taking a long time to hear back. Several years ago, before the self-publishing boom took off and when email queries were starting to become the preferred way to reach an agent, wait times to hear back really fell off. Sometimes you would hear back within a couple of days. It started to become a rare thing to wait as long as six weeks to hear back from a query. I guess you can get spoiled and when it takes a while to get a response nowadays, you get antsy.

I've been working on a cover design for the new novel because I have a feeling that I'll probably be going the self-publishing route with this book. Anyhoo, this is what I've come up with so far:

There will need to be a map, too. I'm no good at maps, but I'll fiddle around and see what happens.

Monday, February 8, 2016

World Building

I've been working on a new novel, it's a YA fantasy set in a land of my own creation. The inspiration for the setting is literally right next door. I live right up against a 60 acre park that has ball fields, soccer fields, walking paths and a pond. It was once a farm and the early 1800's farmhouse, barn and silo are still there. Upon entering the park from where my house is, you can see the silo off in the distance, and the top of the barn. When you have a vivid imagination, this becomes a far-off castle. The location of my house becomes a town, the apple tree in the front corner of my yard becomes an orchard, the walking paths in the park become roads of the realm, and various other sites in the park become important locations in a story.

Below, you can see the park slowly turning into a realm or two:

And now below you can see a roughly-drawn map which shows the realms of Korthis (central), Dolgoland (upper right) and Rhodheim (lower left):

So, over the past year or so  on my walks in the park next door I slowly created a world which became the setting of a novel. I recently finished writing that novel and it is in the hands of a couple of readers. I'm awaiting feedback so that I can put some polish on it.

Here is the preliminary elevator pitch:
A young woman feeling unappreciated at home is drawn into a brewing war and learns that the things she feels unappreciated for may prove key to saving the life of a young prince, and the entire realm.
I'm willing to admit that the pitch also needs some polishing : )

Anyway, the point of this post is, sometimes everyday surroundings can be an inspiration if you let them.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Review: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

When this book first came out, the few things I heard about it made me not want to read it, and I thought I never would. I thought it was going to be about a whiney, stupidly ill-prepared woman who bit off more that she could chew hiking the PCT and wrote a book about it. In my youth I enjoyed the outdoors and was a backpacker and maybe a little bit of a snob in that I had little patience for people who went into the wild unprepared. But my book club chose this book as the read this month and I decided, against my better judgment, that I would read it.

Well, actually I listened to it, and I was hooked pretty much from the beginning. Everybody sees the books they read differently from everyone else because of what they bring into them regarding their own life experiences. A lot of the reviewers saw this book the way I originally thought it would read, whiney and self-indulgent. But I ended up not seeing it that way at all. Yes, she was stupidly ill-prepared for such a monumental endeavor, and yet she was also very well prepared in some ways, having read the guidebooks and prepared packages for herself, etc.

What it really comes down to is that her life was on the cusp of something when she decided to do this hike. And the thing of it is, this was HER life, not yours and not a story made up to please anyone. This book is her life laid honestly bare. The book is about what she did to figure out which way she would ultimately nudge herself to go while her life teetered on that cusp.

And, putting all of the very personal stuff aside, just making a decision like the one to hike the PCT alone takes moxie. To actually go through with preparing to do it takes more. To sell everything you have to be able to do it is almost unimaginable. To do it with increments of $20 parsed out to yourself along the way because that's all the money you have in the world is just plain brave. And to get to the trail ill-prepared, with bad boots, a too heavy pack, in the Mojave in summer, begin, and not quit in the first week, much less the first couple of days, is outright bold. To actually finish hiking over 1000 miles of challenging wilderness alone with all of the above being true, is absolutely heroic. And to come out of it at the end having gone through something of a cleansing crucible is absolutely wild.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Wedding and then Thanksgiving!

In just under a week my family and I will be flying out to Phoenix for the wedding of my niece. We'll only be there for the weekend, a whirlwind trip, and when we get back? Time to get ready for Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving around the corner and the start of the holiday season, many of you may be thinking about holiday gifts. My Twelfth Christmas is just the right size to tuck in with other gifts that are being sent away, or in a gift basket, or as a nice little surprise on someone's new eReader device.

Hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful!