By necessity, my last few posts are going to be short. I’ve got about 36 hours to make arrangements to get to my cousin’s out-of-state funeral, and prioritization of tasks is key.
The two things I focused on this week in my new novel were setting and character, specifically the development of my antagonist. When I think of villains, I often come around to the most exquisite Don John from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. He has no particular reason to cause trouble except that it suits his mood. In real life, I don’t believe that this type of villain is common. Humans are complex and there are many reasons for the way we act and react. In fact, one of my pet peeves is the use of the word “monster” to describe criminals. I think that labeling someone a monster marks them as so “other” that we relieve ourselves of the responsibility of trying to understand them. And if there’s one thing I do believe, it’s that ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. Humans who commit crimes do so for a reason, and understanding that reason helps us to understand how to help them OR prevent them from doing it again.
Research is a key component in both my writing and my home improvement project. I spent so much time last week and at the beginning of this week doing research for the house, that I had to redouble my efforts for my book. So, I spent quite a lot of time researching locations, and specifically resorts, that one might choose for a relaxing vacation. I have a vision in my head of how the setting will influence the characters and the conflict, but I don’t’ have a specific place in mind. Now that I’m so close to drafting, I need to nail it down.
(Anyone want to recommend a vacation destination in the continental United States that might provide some relaxation and also a chance for adventure?)
And while we’re on the topic of resorts (and retreats) why does everything have to be tied to romance? It’s not that I’m against romantic getaways but since my goal is to have sinister things happen to my characters at their location, romance isn’t exactly high on my priority list. Though sexual tension is always fun. Hmm…
My book outline expands and contracts as the vision becomes clearer in my mind. I love this part of the writing process! It’s fun to play with the details and try out scenarios, poking holes and playing devil’s advocate. Revising the plan as I go along….it’s getting very exciting!
As I work on my next book, I’m also querying agents with a completed thriller based in North Georgia. I just started the process a few months ago, and when it comes to querying, it’s hard to predict how long it might take. But I would guess I’ll be at it for a while. The good news is that I’ve had several full and partial requests, so keeping my fingers crossed. Well, actually they’re uncrossed, because I have a new book to write and I can’t type with them crossed. So maybe cross your fingers for me, yes?
My family has been watching the Netflix production of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I loved those books and this version is so good. So so much better than the Jim Carrey attempt of yesteryear. Anyway, we just watched the episodes where we meet the Quagmire triplets. Needless to say, the word keeps coming up in the conversation. And since I’m writing about writing and querying and home improvement projects, I think quagmire is an effective visual for how some days can be. A soft boggy area of land that gives way underfoot?…OR, a sagging piece of floorboard in a new kitchen. An awkward, complex, or hazardous situation?...OR sending your book baby out to persons unknown and awaiting feedback with bated breath. Hey writers! Do you ever feel stuck in the bog? Me too, sometimes. But the feeling fades and then I move on with a smile on my face.
And finally, the Questionable Quotes archive on Snopes. Because it’s just a fun read J https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/category/quotes/
Doing the AtoZ Challenge this year has been a stretch, given my already hectic schedule, but I always enjoy the way it forces me to sit down and just write. The end project may be a little bit insane and choppy, but I appreciate you reading and hope you’ll stick with me to the end.
See you tomorrow for R day!
It’s crunch time. My parents will be here in a month and a half and there is so much to do. I setup a phone number for the new house yesterday. That was actually pretty easy. Then, after reading the new draft planning & zoning regulations, I spent the morning reading forms and doing research and setting up accounts and generally doing the legwork required to get everything up and running. This will be my life for a while. I’m seeing double already. *another BIG sigh*
On a planning note, in addition to planning this project with my parents, I’m outlining my new book. That’s right, this pantser is doing some experimental outlining to see how I like it. Eep! With so many things swirling around in my head, I think I need the added structure if I want to get this first draft down on paper by June. Fingers crossed.
I spent a fair amount of time pontificating this morning once the panic subsided. I am not comfortable with uncertainty. Thankfully, my husband knows this about me so when I go a little panicky, he steps in with a calm and level head. That being said, I think that local government (and really any governmental body) has a really tough job trying to appease the masses and the special interests and those in positions of power without going completely loony. I’m curious to see what kind of response the draft planning & zoning regs get. The area I’m interested in seems like it would be difficult to enforce, so I’m struggling to understand how the City expects code enforcement to stay on top of things. BUT, I got most of the exasperation out of my system this morning and am ready to move on to more pleasant things.
And more planning.
And less panic.
And maybe some pancakes.
I’m reading Joe Clifford’s third book in the Jay Porter series Give Up The Dead (Joe’s featured on today’s #WhatsYourStory post on my blog – check him out!). Given all the things going on in my life right now, I was struck by a comment in the book about the name of a restaurant – Julie’s – even though there had never been a Julie. That’s the scenario we’re expecting with the new business. “So, who’s Melissa Leigh?” “Er, there’s no such person, but here’s the story…”
The story behind the name is actually really simple. My parent’s wanted to name it Melissa’s, which is my middle name. And I wanted to add my sister, so it became Melissa Leigh’s. It’s a family company and its name is rooted in family. Of course, someone suggested yesterday that I make up a story about a woman who died in one of the rooms and that got me to thinking, maybe I’ll make up several stories and pick the one that seems right for the audience. What Melissa Leigh would you like to hear about?
When I was born, my parents named me Amy Melissa knowing that my initials would spell my name. Of course, when I was learning to write, I wrote my M upside down so they still call me Awy from time to time…even my sister, who wasn’t even born yet!
What’s the point of all of this? Naming is important. Or sometimes it’s totally arbitrary, but we tend to want to see significance in the names people choose. For instance, right now my children go to school with three Tenzins. I certainly wasn’t the only Amy in my age group and Isaac and Lily have both gone to school with their share of kids by the same names. Why do people choose the names they do?
Which brings me to writing. As writers, we have to name characters. I personally hate having to come up with names and I think I’m pretty horrible at it. I ask my husband and my writing group and even my children to help me come up with names for my characters. If a character was inspired by a real person, I invariably name the character using the same initials and don’t even notice until someone who knows me well points it out. (Now you’re wondering if you’re in one of those books, eh?)
In a craft class several years ago, the speaker talked at length about the use of symbolism and theme in naming, stressing the importance of choosing strong names that reflect our characters traits, desires and/or needs.
Well, suffice it to say, this is not my strong point. Though I did enjoy naming my children (one after a Bible story and one after a Smashing Pumpkins song…go figure).
I’m reading the Harry Potter books with my daughter and so magic and muggles come up regularly in conversation. This is my fourth time through the series, and it’s amazing to me how seeing the stories through a set of fresh eyes changes it for me. The last time I read it, I was more concerned about how my son would handle the emotional situations (he’s very sensitive). This time through, I’m marveling at how Rowling crafted her adventures and enjoying the heck out of watching my daughter make the inferences that Rowling clearly intended her to make. It’s fun reading books as a writer.
My muggle concerns today include more work toward getting the new house setup, finishing up edits on a short story so I can submit before April 30 and starting my new manuscript. I attended a book launch today (that’s where the murder comes in – congratulations to Becky Clark on her book baby!). I’m going to head into my office first thing tomorrow morning (that’s Monday while we’re on the M thread) and start putting all the pieces together. It’s always an exciting (and something manic time), starting a new manuscript., so here’s to some ccreativity and endurance.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! The #AtoZChallenge is on the downward slope to the finish. Glad you’re here with me
My first purchase for the new house was an easy choice: a Keurig. Because if I’m going to work, there needs to be easy access to coffee. I’ve been on a strict elimination diet for the past 9 weeks and I’m fairly particular about my coffee. I have to make it myself and it has to be just so. I’m especially fond of the almond milk I have at home (coffee shop almond milk isn’t my favorite), so making my own coffee is key. AND, I don’t drink a lot of coffee—usually just one cup a day—so the Keurig is ideal for me.
For the purposes of the new house, I ordered a fancy new Keurig that does single cups and carafes. That’s a clue, by the way.
I’m a high-maintenance coffee drinker on the best of days. I like a little bit of coffee with my milk and sweetener. In college, my friend Becca and I used to have mocha Tuesdays. If it’s swimming in cream and chocolate and there’s just a hint of a coffee flavor, I’m there. When I gave up dairy, I settled on almond milk as the best alternative. When I had to give up Splenda, I settled on Sugar in the Raw as my favorite sweetener (I tried Monkfruit but it was a fail and I can’t stand Stevia). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to take my coffee slightly less creamy and sugary, but not much. And an after lunch coffee is my favorite afternoon treat, especially when I’m writing.
When I’m in the middle of writing a book, my coffee consumption goes way up. I try to stick with decaf after my first cup of fully caffeinated coffee, and I try to keep total number of cups below 3 so I’m not a jittery mess all night. BUT, when I’m in the middle of a project, I get absorbed. When I finish off a cup, I often get up to make another as an excuse to stretch. But my brain is so wrapped up in what I’m working on that I don’t always keep track of how many “stretch” breaks I take in one day. My body reminds me later when I can’t get to sleep.
So, coffee is both an essential part of my creative process, and a crutch. My Keurig is my best friend and my dealer, depending on the day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I start spending more time in the new house in May, my cup of coffee will be ready for me.
Today, I went shopping for party supplies with my friend Crissy and her sister Jill. Crissy tells me that Jill is a favorite at her school because she is a ball of sunshine, and I agree. Jill is silly and sweet and a fun girl to visit the craft store with. Now, my friend Crissy is an artist and she may have a teeny addiction to art/craft supplies (and honestly, she knows what to do with them so more power to her). What I learned today is that Jill can give Crissy a run for her money anyday. Jill loves to paint and one of her projects while visiting with her parents is to do stencil designs outside the art studio Crissy is working on. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
Spending the afternoon with Crissy and Jill was a nice reminder to look for the joy in everyday life. Jill’s spirit is so bright and shiny, it’s impossible to hang out with her and not feel happy. It was fun to watch her shop—to see what she found interesting and hear her opinions on the things we found. It reminds me a little bit of watching a movie you’ve already seen with someone who hasn’t. I don’t know about you but I LOVE doing that! I will happily watch the same movie over and over if I get to see your reaction to it. At the end of our shopping trip, I was rewarded with a big bear hug from my sweet new friend.
As I look back over my day, I can make you a long list of all the things I accomplished. And that’s awesome! Yay! But my favorite part of the day was my outing with Jill. And by some twist of fate, today is J day so this post is for you Jill!
Believe it or not, today’s topics don’t go together (although they could, but since I’m looking at buying new furniture, I’d rather not think about forensics during that particular process). When my husband heard my topics, he said “sounds like bloody carpet.” Um, no. Just no.
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see Friday Forensic Fun Facts posts. These posts came about for two reasons: 1) I’m studying forensic criminology and I think it’s fun so I decided to share, and 2) I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers so forensics come up pretty often both in my reading and in my writing. I got my first glimpse at forensics as an undergrad in a physical anthropology class where we got to examine skulls and bone fragments to determine gender and estimate age. Then, as a graduate student, I took a forensic science class that was AMAZING! Recently, I was reading Jeffrey Deaver’s book The Bone Collector and couldn’t help but fall in love a little bit with Lincoln Rhyme and his love of trace evidence.
So, if you’re interested in forensics, you might appreciate the Friday fun facts.
If you think about forensics too much when shopping for furniture, you might never want to bring new items into your home. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. That being said, my husband and I spent an hour in a new furniture story yesterday looking at tables and cabinets and things for the new house. While most of the furnishings are staying, there are a few specific pieces we’re looking for. A cabinet for the entry and one for behind the living room couch. A round table for the entry (or maybe a square one - still on the fence). A bed frame for the master suite that has both a bookcase headboard AND underbed storage - at the foot of the bed, not the side. How’s that for specific!
I love furniture shopping. I can really appreciate the craftsmanship, especially in wood furniture. The house I live in is so modern, and when we were furnishing it, our focus was completely different than it is with the new house. It’s a lot of fun to walk through the store, run my hands over the fabric and finishes (probably leaving fingerprints and trace evidence all over the place….ugh), and daydream about where a piece would go and how it would/could be used. It’s easy to dismiss pieces that are just completely not my style or the house’s, but other pieces require more consideration. Here are a few of the things I found during our shopping trip (these are just ideas…we’re not ready to buy anything yet).
In my estimation, emotion can alter our expectations. OK, I admit it. I just really wanted to say that.
Just spent a few hours working on the new house, including a walk-through with our contractor to get estimates for some of the remodeling work. I felt excited (another E word) but was also a little sad for the previous owners who are starting to say goodbye to their home of 15 years. While this project is a fun adventure for me, both my parents and the previous owners of our new house are embarking on major life changes. As a result, I’m trying to keep by excitement in check with consideration to the bittersweetness of the situation for those around me.
In good news, our contractor said the words “that’s going to make it easy” more than once, and easy is a really really REALLY good E word to hear when you’re getting ready to remodel a house, especially a 100 year old house. Phew! Lots of work to do but it looks like many of the things we want to do are feasible.
Oh, and I got 100% on my final exam! Yay for E day!
In terms of expectations, I continue to work on keeping mine realistic. In every part of my life, there are a lot of people whose wants and needs are intertwined with my own. So rather than spend too much time with expectations, I try to keep close company with hope. I hope all our plans for the house are possible. I hope I can get my next novel drafted by June. And I hope that I find a literary agent who will join me on this fantastic, completely un-ordinary writing journey. I expect that if I stay positive, keep working hard, and take care of myself and the people I love, that no matter what happens, I’ll find myself surrounded with love and hope and possibilities.
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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