Friday, August 26, 2011

Rattle! Rattle! Rattle!

Where in the world did that come from?!

It’s a valid question and one that my family and friends have asked many times while reading my work. It’s true, family and friends can make for a “safe” first audience. They love you and so naturally they want to love and understand everything you do. But sometimes that can be difficult, at least from my experience. I’m not talking about family members suffering through subpar work. I’m talking about loved ones feeling uncomfortable actually reading your work. You see, family members come with baggage. They “know” you, and because of that they think they know what you should be writing.
When I first announced I was working on a novel, my family just assumed it was a children’s book. Their dismay literally bounced off the walls when I informed them that it was actually a paranormal romance. But, but … you’re a mother?! You work with children?! You’re … (brace yourself for this one) funny?! All of which I’ll admit to … except the “funny” label. That one’s debatable. Just ask my husband. He has to live with me, poor soul. The fact of the matter is that it can be difficult for family and friends to separate from their connection to you, to see beyond what they think they know. And that’s why for me, at least in some instances, it’s almost easier to hand my manuscript off to total strangers than to loved ones. Total strangers tend to focus more on the plot and less on trying to analyze how or why it got into my head in the first place.

Of course, it took three long years and some pretty hefty encouragement from my editor, mentor, and dearest friend Claudia Suzanne to put an end to my internal censoring. To get to that point where, as an author, you just write whatever comes to mind without pausing to question who it might rattle? Talk about your game changer. It’s a wonderful feeling, and one that actually washed over into other parts of my life, as well. Suddenly, I found myself speaking my mind everywhere. I stood up to bullies at work. I began to question things I’d never questioned before. I formed opinions—actual opinions I never knew I had. Basically … I became an author. And once I did, everything else fell into place. My family even felt the effects of my change in mindset. Now they know to expect the unexpected, which is a pretty darn cool place for everyone to be … especially me.
Do I still have work to do in this area? Of course. Are there still people out there who might be uncomfortable with my PG-13 level of work simply because of my “labels”? I guarantee it! But I can’t worry about them right now. I’m up to my ears in book II. My characters are calling, I’ve got chapters to write, and yes—cages to … rattle, rattle, rattle.

What can I say? (Shoulder shrug) It is what it is. But I'd love to hear your opinion.    

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random socks, coffee, chocolate, and screaming metal? Seriously?! Seriously.

                I’d like to say the reason it’s taken me so long to follow up on my last blog is because I’ve been knee deep in peach cobbler. Mmmmmmmmmm. (Cue dream sequence music—record scratch) Ha, ha, ha, ha. Uhhhh, no. Actually, what I have been “knee deep” in is the creation of my second novel. I’m in the process of writing the first draft which means I’ve been eating everything in sight—minus the peach cobbler, of course, because ... well ... when would I have time to bake any? No, I’ve had to resort to eating my “other” snacks of choice: Wheat Thins, Butterfinger candy bars, brownies, strawberry milkshakes. Why??? Because that’s what I do when I write. Especially first drafts. It’s all part of the process.

                So what is my process? Well, it looks and soundsyes, “sounds” … a bit like this. From sunup to sundown, I’m “Mommy” to two precious little boys. They keep me moving. Everywhere. And at high rates of speed. In between refereeing their minute-by-minute disputes, I try to get to know my characters better. This usually happens when I’m folding clothes, whites to be specific. There’s just something about all those mismatched socks. Some of my best ideas are wrapped up in those buggers. The frustrating part is that I can’t do a darn thing with any of those wonderful ideas, those epiphanies, until approximately 10 PM later that night when both of my boys are tucked in for the evening or at least until one of them has to go to the bathroom.
               That’s when I bring a piping hot cup of coffee up to my office, plunk myself down in front of my computer, and crank up my iPod. Yes, I write to exceedingly loud music during first drafts. Music is my muse, or at least one of them and the emotions I pull from the music I listen to helps me get into the right headspace when writing difficult scenes. I always have a “soundtrack” that I write to. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even begin to start working on novel two until I found a suitable collection of songs to accompany it.
I listen to everything from classical and opera, to screaming metal and alternative music. I know, (sighs), the screaming metal usually throws everyone off. Just being honest, folks. Actually, (suppresses a laugh) I remember a point during the writing of Courting the Flame when I was struggling with a very difficult scene. Gracie, my leading lady, was beyond upset about something, and I needed to feel her anger in order to do the scene justice. So I turned to music. Yup, I drug my 82-year-old mother along for the ride. We went to the nearest department store and I purchased a CD. Don’t look at me that way; stores still sold CD’s at that point. And I knew exactly which one I needed, too. I’d heard I’m So Sick from Flyleaf a million times on Sirius XM. Salivating like a child with an unwrapped present set before them, I ripped off the cellophane and slammed that puppy into my car's CD player. My poor mother’s eyes bugged out of her head. With a look of panic she shouted, “How in the world are you going to write with that stuff screaming in your ears?!” I politely hollered back, “Ohhhhh, but it’s perfect, Mom. Just perfect.” And it was. Emotionally, Lacey Mosley’s anger level was exactly where I needed to be.
Later that night when my kiddos went to bed, I slid into my normal routine of coffee and Wheat Thins, but on this particular evening I had a guest, Lacey Mosley’s voice screaming “I’m so sick” over and over again in my head. Maybe the reason this process works so well for me is because I’m not only a writer but I’m also a singer, same diverse background … opera to rock. Maybe it’s because I’m hypersensitive to people’s emotions. Maybe it’s just because the song rocks. For me, it doesn’t really matter why it works. I’m just happy that it does. And I’m absolutely positive that when Courting the Flame is published in June, 2012, my future readers will be, too.
Here is just a sampling of the songs that have/still do inspire me while writing. They may not be your style of music, but they work for me.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blink. Blink, blink.

     I’m certain my family thought I’d lost my mind the day I casually announced my plans to write a novel. To the best of my recollection the conversation with my sister went something like this:
    “Hey, want some peach cobbler?" She waved a steaming dessert bowl under my nose. "I just made it.”

     “Mmmmmmmm. Smells yummy.” I graciously accepted the piping hot pastry. “Oh, and by the way,“ I took my first yummy spoonful. “Did I tell you that I’m planning on writing a novel this Summer?”
     (Blink. Blink, blink)

     Okay, so perhaps I took a little creative license with my memory. But hey … I’m a writer and this is my blog, so I’ll remember things how I want to.
     The bottom line is that the response from the rest of my family pretty much mirrored that of my sister’s. I’d enter a room, and suddenly everyone in it became afflicted with some sort of a rare nervous condition. My poor family. I tend to have that effect on them. Thankfully, their bout with twitching and silent blinking was short lived. I really do have the best family in the world. After the initial shock wore off, they quickly jumped onboard. It’s just how they operate. I needed their support, so they were there. I needed their encouragement, and they gave it. But most of all … I needed their eyeballs. They were my guinea pigs, after all … my first readers.

     At this point, I’ve lost track of how many times I've written/rewritten the first chapter to Courting the Flame. FYI, I’m a pantser: I write by the seat of my pants. It’s how I find my story. Perhaps it’s not the most efficient method of attacking a novel. I’m sure there’s merit to sitting down and plotting out your entire story before you write it. I’m sure it would save me a lot of revising in the end. But pffffffffffff … where’s the fun in that?!
     For me, writing is very much like reading. Sure I have predictions about where my story is going. But just like when I’m reading, those predictions don’t always pan out. Sometimes my characters throw me a curveball. (waggles eyebrows) I love when they do that. There have been many evenings (early mornings) when I’ve actually found myself arguing with them. “But … but … Oh my God. You can’t do that!” (sighs) What can I say? They usually win. Just like that time when Gracie, she’s my protagonist, absolutely insisted on—oh, dear … there I go again, getting ahead of myself.

     Discussions about characters are best left to another blog. Which I promise to write. Just as soon as I finish my peach cobbler.

     Blink. Blink, blink.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who Would Have Thought ...

     If you would have asked me three years ago where I'd end up at this point in my life, soon-to-be-MuseItUp-published-author would not have been my first response. Actually, three years ago the mere thought of completing Courting the Flame seemed a bit far fetched. I mean, really ... how on Earth could I, an unpublished nobody, ever expect to be able to capture this level of story?! The kind of story that oozed from your fingertips and took over your mind? With lots of hard work, unparalleled support from family and friends, and a kick-butt editor/writing coach that settled for nothing less than my absolute best! That's how.

     And to think that it all started with a picture of Pierre-August Renoir's 1883 Dance at Bougival. Looking back, I still can't believe it. At 39 I knew I wanted ... needed to write at least one of the novels floating around in my head. It had been a lifelong dream. The only thing I didn't know was which one. And so the journey began.

     Absolutely positive that if I could find the perfect novel setting the rest of the story would fall into place, I searched and searched the universe and eventually it came back with a resounding, "Booooooston." And it sounded just like that, too. "Booooooooston." So I googled the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and they kindly sent me a wonderful packet of information. The day it arrived on my doorstep I eagerly tore it open, tilted it sideways, and poured out its contents. Yep. You guessed it: out popped a pamphlet from Boston's Museum of Fine Art featuring ...  
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Dance at Bougival.

     And the rest, my friends, is well ... the rest of the story. But that's an entirely different blog.