Weeding Through It

This past week I was struck with plot problems, which coincided with both a beta reader critique as well as a Revise and Resubmit from a publishing company. One major issue was pacing and the other was that I missed the mark on a key turning point for two main characters, which in turn reflected on other issues needing to be strengthened. Yes, this is for book one in the Gothic family saga that’s possessed my time, energy, and effort the past two years. And since this issue was pointed out in the first manuscript the effects will ripple through the seven other stories in the series.

After my initial freak out—which I let simmer over night—I read through the critique/suggestions again and decided to turn to the place I go when I need to plot: the yard. Yes, it’s January but on the Gulf Coast there’s always yardwork to be done. After the last freeze, the remainder of the lantana plants were ready to be pruned for the season and the flower bed was in need of weeding.

So I took my pensive thoughts, grabbed the wheelbarrow and pruners, pulled on my gloves, and set to work. By the first half-hour I knew the problem wasn’t as big as I feared. The situations, people, and history were there already, I just hadn’t dug into that corner of the character’s past thoroughly because I didn’t want to wallow in that part of his dark life. As I worked, I allowed my mind to wander and focused on two despicable people associated with the character in question that I knew could be involved. It was easy to narrow down the right one once I gave myself permission to dig deeper.

After about an hour, I knew which minor character would be the catalyst and began forming the outline of a new character from the shadows of the past I’d kept locked away. The new character was always there, just not named or explored.

With the situation, characters, and history mapped, I processed where in the manuscript the information could be placed. As organically as the history came to me, it was clear to see that there were natural places to insert the backstory into the manuscript without jarring or taking away what was already there. Looking at the coming manuscripts, the revelation only solidifies the anguish and choices he will make in the stories as the saga unfolds. The history was there all along, I only needed to prune away the unnecessary layers hiding the base of the character’s life.

When all else fails, go to the garden.

Where do you go to think?

Silence is Golden

Silence on the blog means I’ve been busy.

How busy?

I did the math and in twenty-one months I wrote 718,447 words and edited six manuscripts between three and fifteen times (the newest one only three times so far.) My last project totaled 105,689 words in fifty-three days. The most cumbersome one finished the first draft at 132,768 words. I’ve whittled it down to 123,787 in six drafts but it still needs more tidying up.

Do I have anything to show for all this work?

The satisfaction of knowing I can now fast draft.

Larger than life characters living in my mind.

Massive amounts of notes/research/photographs/mood music.

Some amazing critiques from writing buddies.

A few rejection letters.

Several “we want to see more” notes.

And patience, lots of (anxious) patience.

If you’ve followed my journey on social media or elsewhere, you’ve probably heard that I’m working on a historical Gothic series for adults. That’s what these hundreds of thousands of words are for, that’s what has caused my housekeeping skills to lapse, and my brain to forget other things. I’ve been living, breathing, and following these characters through the Edwardian Era in the Mobile Bay area for almost two years now and I look forward to the time I can share more with everyone.

For now, you can see sneak peeks at some of the inspiration for the characters and settings on two Pinterest boards. And on Wednesdays from my Twitter account I participate in #1linewed, which shares one line from a work-in-progress based on the chosen theme for the day. So check there for tidbits from these characters. (This week, August 16, the theme is “song.”)

Here’s to hoping all this blog silence turns to many books for you to read in the months and years ahead. And, of course, extra information and news can be found when I send out a monthly-ish newsletter.

And, as a side note, check out this fabulous list by The Grateful American Foundation for Best Books for Kids. (Hint: FORTITUDE is on there!)

Decade in the Making

I’m halfway through the second round of content edits on Corroded (Surge Imprint from Anaiah Press, April 2016), which makes it at least the fiftieth revision. It’s been a learning curve, to be sure! Even though it’s coming out second, this is the oldest “book baby” of my adult life. My first born, but she had to stay in the ICU so that the second child, Fortitude, will be out in the world four months ahead of her.

Corroded has been through two different critique groups, a full manuscript critique by Laurie Halse Anderson, and a handful of beta readers. Not to mention that it went through two rounds of submissions—and rejections—in the past four years (when I thought she was mature enough) before she was accepted this year (on the “first” try.) I’ve swaddled and re-diapered this story more than anything else I’ve ever worked on. Early readers will recognize the story, but Corroded is now so much more than I thought possible when she was formed a decade ago.

In the beginning, I was too close to the main character. By separating myself from her, I was able to dig deeper. How is that? Probably the same way you can find yourself by losing yourself in service. I had to give up my own ideals to find the true complexities of the characters. And in doing that, I maneuvered through the layers of the story to find the heart. I journeyed so far that I ended up with two main characters and dual point-of-view novel.

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Thought it all, I couldn’t give up on Corroded. The story needed extra nurturing and that took time off and on throughout my other projects. Even now, there’s work to be done, but I’m confident the book will be the best version of itself when it’s finally released from the nursery. Anaiah Press has given me a stellar editor to make sure that happens. It’s been a longtime coming and I’m grateful for each step of the journey.

Backyard Musings

Creatively, it’s been a rough month. Literary rejections and a house full of visiting kids are the two biggest factors. Both of these can provide inspiration, but dished out simultaneously over the course of the past few weeks, my soul was beginning to wilt.

What could I do to find peace and inspiration while keeping watch over seven kids? Trek around the backyard, while tuning out the noise of the kickball game for a few minutes.

My goal was twofold: find examples of FORTITUDE in nature as well as the beautiful patina of CORRODED metal.

Mission accomplished, spirits lifted!

With the help of my camera, I recorded these wonders in abundance and will share them over the next few posts. Today, I’m skipping Fernando (though there is good news from his neighborhood) and going straight to the back fence. When my family moved into this house nearly two decades ago, there was a tree growing through the fence, just one or two links worth. We left it alone, and now it looks like this.
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It’s sad, in a way, but a powerful example of growing despite trials and perceived road blocks.
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What could have halted progression became woven into its life, making the core stronger. (It’s survived several hurricanes.)
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Not only is this tree still growing, it’s providing a craggy surface for other living things. Love that moss!
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The textures are amazing.
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Where can you find inspiration today?