Data Processing (Book Trivia, Part 2)

Writers are often asked things like, “How’d you name your characters?” and “Where’d you come up with that idea?” When I’m asked, my answer is often along the lines of, “I don’t know. The characters simply told me, and that’s how it is.” Which is usually the case. The second installment of Book Trivia is about

PROCESS

How’d you come up with the big idea?
Would it disappoint you to know that I don’t really come up with ideas? Or, I never feel like they’re my own ideas. As stated above, the characters told me and that’s how it is. Sure, I might have a thought… but it’s less like my own idea, more like something I was told and then remembered. For instance, as I wrote Book 1, I began to “fall for” Robert, a supporting character. And his story emerged. It was as if someone had once mentioned this guy she knew, and told me all about him, and I only needed to remember what she’d said. And write it down.

As a matter of fact, sometimes as I’m writing I think, “NO! What are you doing?! That’s a terrible idea!” and also, I have been known to get mad at characters who don’t do what I want them to do. Miranda has a not-so-great idea which causes a little tension in Book 2.  Back when I was writing the first draft of Book 2, I wrote in my journal, “I hate Miranda. How could she screw things up so badly with Robert? … And I hate crying. These stupid people break my heart. And now I feel sorry for Miranda. She knows how badly she screwed up. and her heart is breaking too, so I’m sitting here crying at my computer, feeling all her feels. devastated.” *edited for brevity–there was a LOT of vitriol involved that day. 🙂

How do you get started at all?
Well, I see a scene in my head, and try to describe it. I just start writing and whatever happens, happens. I might think I know what is going to happen, but I’m sometimes surprised–or perturbed, or even horrified–at the direction a scene or character takes.
Some writers are Plotters. They have an idea and from that kernel, they begin an outline. As they see the story, they take notes, building a plot. They basically know what’s going to happen from beginning to end–not necessarily each detail, but the biggish plot-points. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. 🙂
I’m what is known as a Pantser. (Writing by the seat of my pants.) I write Romance, therefore I know these few things:
1. Boy and Girl meet
2 (or 3). They fall in love
3 (or 2). There are misunderstandings
4. Despite the misunderstandings, all comes round right and ta-da!
5. Happy-Ever-After (HEA).
I’m okay with this! Though I have flirted with plotting occasionally, it’s just not my type. I start at the very beginning, maybe write a little bit about Boy and Girl to get to know them a little, but then, as soon as I “see” the first scene, I’m off. And I just keep writing until I find my–I mean their–HEA. I’m only 3 books into this writing thing (mid-stride on the third) but I have never once known exactly  how it was going to end, or how we’d get there. I like that. I like that the story is as much a surprise to me as to the reader.

Well, that sounds easy! Why doesn’t everyone do that?
BWAHAHAHA! easy… yep. I might have left out a few things… like how I stop if I get stuck (or most recently, how I stop if I don’t like the direction of the story. Dumb stubborn do-it-their-own-way characters). And the crying and self-doubt. The self-editing multiple drafts, and then further rounds of editing by trusted other eyes. More crying… Yeah, I left those parts out. Because drudgery is not glamorous. (And when I cry, my face gets all red and puffy. I wouldn’t like you to see all that. 🙂 )

Oh, well then, why do you do it? It sounds like a pain.
My dear friend, you have no idea. It IS a pain! Just like raising kids. Or puppies. And it’s glorious and wonderful, and, yep, painful. There’s so much that doesn’t make it onto the final printed page; just like in life, there are so many moments that don’t make it to our photo album. The messiness, the tantrums, even the stillness… and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

I’m Sorry

Oops, I hurt your feelings. I’m sorry.

Oops, I didn’t mean to run into you. I’m sorry.

Your cat is sick? I’m sorry.

You’re angry/frustrated/irked at your life? I’m sorry.

You dropped your books. I’m sorry.

You spilled your (extra large) drink all over me. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry…

I say it a lot.

Not just occasionally, I mean a LOT. I recognize that the phrase ‘I’m sorry’ is also used to mean ‘excuse me’ and that sometimes we say ‘I’m sorry’ when expressing condolences (I’m sorry for your loss) or when commiserating with someone who’s down. I use it that way, too.  And if something happens, through no fault of my own, which causes you embarrassment, or pain, or frustration, I’m sorry for that.

Are we having an argument? I’m sorry. Even if you are clearly in the wrong (for the sake of this post’s argument), I’m sorry. Whatever I did to cause this tension, I’m sorry. Even if you have been deliberately rude, or mean. I’m sorry.

There isn’t anything wrong with apologizing when one is in the wrong, when one has made a social blunder, or even to express condolence. As a matter of fact, it’s social lubricant. It’s a good thing. Relationships work well when we take responsibility for our actions, apologize and move on.

However…

I started this post because I remembered something that happened last night, and it reminded me of this unfortunate habit I have. Saying I’m sorry when I have nothing to be sorry for, and when, sometimes, I am the one who should be receiving the ‘I’m sorry’.

Last night my husband’s alarm went off. It’s was an ungodly hour, like 1:30 AM or somesuch. But it wasn’t the radio alarm. No, it was an annoying beep which morphed into beep-beep, then into a panicked beepbeepbeepbeep. It was enough to send someone over the edge. He valiantly tried to fix it, but it was late/early, and it was dark, and the clock is newish, and…well, I’m better at seeing in the dark. So I scooted over, meaning to help, and quickly turned off the alarm. And he sat back on the bed, right on my leg. ouch. guess what I said? I’m SORRY! I’m helping, and he sits on me (It’s okay, Honey, it didn’t really hurt) and I’m apologizing…

Not the first time it’s happened. Won’t be the last. The other day, he dropped a glass. Give you one guess what the first words out of my mouth were. Sweet Hubby calls me on it, too. He and both my kids have told me I say it too much. They are right. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.

So if you hear me apologize unnecessarily, maybe you could nudge me. I’m trying to stop. It’s kinda like learning how not to breathe…but I’ll get used to it. I catch myself now. And with help, maybe by the time I’m fifty I’ll be cured. Fingers crossed!

The Name Game (book trivia part 1)

Writers are often asked things like, “How’d you name your characters?” and “Where’d you come up with that idea?” When I’m asked, my answer is often along the lines of, “I don’t know. The characters simply told me, and that’s how it is.” Which is usually the case. On the other hand, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I get to choose, and I like to make choices that amuse me. Just for fun, I thought I’d share a bit of ‘behind the scenes’ trivia on my second novel. The first installment is on the most-asked-about topic:

NAMES

Main characters reveal themselves to me already named. For better or worse, I don’t get to choose those. I might finagle them, but often it’s just best to leave well enough alone, as evidenced by my struggle with Miranda, the heroine of More Than You Know.

  • The surname Adama was chosen by my husband while he was on a Battlestar Galactica binge. In book 1 (If You But Knew), Mark Adama was meant to be a minor character. But then book 2 began to form, and I was stuck with it. Luckily, it’s a cool name.
  • Miranda gave me fits. I knew who she was: Miranda Rogers, Mark’s recently-divorced younger sister. But because of that maiden surname, I really really wanted to rename her. Why couldn’t she be Stephanie or Christine–Miranda Adama is a tongue twister! Alas, nothing else seemed right. But a nickname stuck in my ear, and Mimi Adama seemed a perfect solution. However, her ‘married’ last name didn’t quite fit . (Does Mimi Rogers sound familiar? Think Hollywood and Tom Cruise.) My Mimi reverted to Miranda for the 15 years post-wedding, though once back in her hometown, most people start calling her Mimi again, despite her insistence on Miranda.
  • Robert is another character who was named in my first book, and it’s all his fault that we have a book 2 to begin with (thank you, Robbie). I fell in love with him, and he needed to find his HEA. Although it isn’t much mentioned, his last name is Campbell. Robert’s parents reveled in their Celtic heritage, and saddled him with quite a mouthful: Robert Jameson Buchanan Campbell. Sounds like a laird of some craggy bit of the highlands, doesn’t he? Robbie Campbell is so much easier. And doesn’t Robbie sound like a rollicking fun sort of guy? I only wish I’d gotten to see him in a kilt…

The minor characters are where I get to have some fun, or where I’ll ask others for ideas and input. I may not tell someone they’re naming a character, but that’s the fun part! (Beware if I ask you a seemingly random question–the information might end up in a book!)

  • “Friend”-ly Cameos: EA Kim is named for an actual EA that works with my Hubs. Todd is the middle name of a friend who wanted to be a baddie in one of my books. Russell, Warren, and the chicken video lady (who goes unnamed) are nods to a few of my writing group buddies.
  • Miranda and Amy love a certain best-selling novelist, and I had to come up with a fictional author. Luckily, I had one up my sleeve. When I first began writing, I chose a pen-name, intending to use it instead of my given name. Fast-forward a year, and I was too giddy about my work not to share it under my own name, and the pen name went by the wayside. But then I needed an author, so Gillian McGregor stepped up to the plate. 🙂
  • Stacy… fully inspired by the songs 1985 and Stacy’s Mom (yeah, she should rightly have not been named Stacy, but it’s such a great name!)
  • Ben and Harold: I didn’t get to name them. They introduced themselves to me, monikers already in place. But I thoroughly adored them, and wish I’d gotten to spend more time loving on these boys. Perhaps in another book…one never knows!

 

Did I miss anyone whom you’re curious about? I’m happy to answer other questions. (I love talking about my books and characters!)

Haven’t read More Than You Know yet? Links are on the Books Page (see bar above) for the format of your choice.

Kindness & Generosity

In a effort to “write with honesty” and to “write from the heart” (catchphrases/buzzwords I learned from the internet) I thought I’d give this topic another go. I actually had the title, and nothing else, a year ago. I suppose I figured the title would trigger a post, so I didn’t take notes or write anything in the draft.

The title is taken from an article my hubs told me about, regarding successful relationships and what makes them work. Guess what the top two traits are? Yup, Kindness and Generosity. Now, in honesty, I haven’t read the entire article for a while. So, if I say something that disagrees with it, take it with a grain of salt, and pick the stance you like better. Or pay more attention to the article. They did all the research, after all.

The other day month, I wrote a post on finding one’s superpower. and a comment by a friend prodded me on toward this one. Funny how all these things coincide, isn’t it?

Anyway, meandering aside, Let me tell you what I’ve learned in my few years of marriage. And you can take that with a grain of salt, too. I mean, aren’t I cute–married 22 years, and I think I’m an expert… oh, wait. I am…

Kindness

I think it ought to go without saying that one should be kind to one’s spouse. But it bears repeating. Be kind to each other.

I’m not talking about bending over backward to do whatever they want at the expense of your own sanity and self. I pray you do not have a relationship that is such a one-way street. I’m talking about basic courtesy. Are you going to the kitchen for a glass of water? Offer to bring one back for your Love. Did you see something in the store that reminded you of your spouse? Pick it up for them, or perhaps take a photo and send it to them (I presume, I admit, that most of us text nowadays) if purchase isn’t feasible. Did your spouse just spend 2 hours in the grocery store with the kids? Meet him/her at the door and unload the car. Or take the kids to the park to run while your spouse enjoys a moment of blessed silence while unloading the car at leisure. Little things, huge helps.

Listen when your spouse speaks. Really listen. Acknowledge their efforts, their feelings, their jokes, their being. You might be surprised (or perhaps not) how discouraging it is in any relationship to feel ignored or marginalized. And how it warms the heart and strengthens bonds to feel as if you really matter to someone. Be Kind. Make sure your spouse knows that he or she really matters to you!

Generosity

Whatever you do (that is kind), do with a generosity of spirit, with such graciousness and sincerity, that whenever your spouse speaks of you, it is with the warmest affection, and they will be deemed the luckiest of people to have found their soulmate. (Soulmates are a topic for another post, but I believe they are more often made than found.)

From the article itself, an essential quote:

“Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.”

Retreat

I hate confrontation. Hate it. Avoid it at all costs. So much so that I cringe at the thought of even having to correct someone’s wrong notion.

Today, I ran from such a situation. It wasn’t a big deal, really. Except that it was, and I sit here holding back tears, because I felt personally attacked (I wasn’t) with no idea how to defend myself (remember, I wasn’t attacked) or my thoughts (which are just as legitimate as the others’ in the conversation) in a rational discussion.  It didn’t feel rational. Not to me, because I was emotionally charged by the feeling of attack.

The feeling of ‘fight or flight’–remember that from psychology class? I choose flight, almost every time. Why? I don’t rightly know…I only know that if I don’t fly, if I stay and choose to fight, the fury of having held emotions at bay for so long might overtake me. I might say something I’d regret. I might resort to personal attack (which is never fair in a rational discussion). I might unleash the dragon inside myself. I hold that creature tethered within me with the tightest grip. She should never be let out, or she might destroy and devour everything in her path.

And I believe I’ve come to the true reason I avoid confrontation. Retreat is easier. Kinder, and I live to be kind. Because what does it truly matter if one disagrees with me on the merit–or lack thereof– of one genre of literature? What does it truly matter if we do not see eye to eye on things of such trivial nature? It matters not.

Kindness matters. Building up and supporting one another matters. Unkind words cannot be taken back, nor truly forgotten. We remember hurts, whether we want to or not.

Does this mean I’m a coward? I wonder sometimes. Learning to be more assertive is hard for me, but I am learning. Being assertive doesn’t mean being unkind, it is simply enforcing boundaries, which is never meant to hurt others, but to protect. Protecting myself and others is brave, not cowardly. And learning when to stand and fight, or walk away… I  know if it truly matters, I will fight, and woe unto him who awakes the dragon.

Being Wonder Woman

A few days ago I read this article by Whitney Johnson.  The author posited that each of us has a Superpower, and invited us to look for the superpower hidden in plain sight–in those around us and in ourselves.

Because I am the way I am, I looked inward first, teasing apart my actions, my strengths, and wondering what my superpower might be. I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. Not because I don’t think I have one, but because mine seems… not very super.

I’ve looked around me, as well, to those I interact with most. Somehow it’s easier to identify others’ superpowers.

I have one friend who is terrific at motivating others. When I’m around her, nothing seems impossible, and the craziest ideas seem logical and do-able. She’s persistent, for herself and for others, and amazingly, things get done when she is around!

I have another friend who has a calming influence on everyone she’s with. One can simply sit in her company, and feel the weight of cares slide from one’s shoulders. I love being with that friend. (Thinking of her, I believe it’s been entirely too long since I’ve visited with her, and I must make a phone call.)

And I have a few friends I think of as energizer bunnies. They seem not to need sleep or a day off. They keep moving and doing, whether they are at home or at work. Frankly, the thought of constantly doing leaves me exhausted, but where would we be without those who do when the rest of us have conked out?

One woman I know is the most hospitable lady on earth. She knows just how to make others feel welcome whether in her home or out in the community, and is constantly arranging meals and hostessing gatherings.

I have always loved Wonder Woman. Wanted to be her when I was little, jokingly compare myself to her now that I’m grown. I have used her as my Facebook profile picture when feeling particularly unstoppable, and tease that she is my alter-ego. But in truth, she’s much more independent and self-sufficient than I. She also knows how to fly a jet, and I don’t.

But that doesn’t mean I lack a superpower. Mine’s just less obvious, more like Ninjapower. After deliberation, and thinking about what I’ve been complimented most on lately (compliments to which my reply is usually, ‘it was nothing.’), I think my superpower is caring for people. Showing up for them, because ‘that’s what friends do’ or because they need a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, an extension of lovingkindness. It seems trivial to me. I would rather be an energizer bunny. I would rather be an indomitable spirit. I would rather “get things done.” But what I am is good, too. I keep reminding myself of that. People need love, as much as they need food and water and shelter.

What about you? Think on it for a moment. What’s your superpower? Are you a powerhouse of stick-to-it-iveness or determination? Are you a detail-oriented planning Boss? or the Big Idea guy, who gets the ball rolling for everyone, and oversees projects to the end? Do you have a quieter sort of power–a ninjapower? Flying under the radar, encouraging others, welcoming them, or loving them.

Let me know–I want to hear you acknowledge your gifts, own your greatness, and generally love who you are!

Broken bones

I broke my foot once. It was over five years ago now. Most of the time, I don’t notice. I forget. It’s like it never happened. But sometimes, it aches. Bone-deep, naturally. It feels as though it is still broken on really bad days. Or, maybe more like newly healed. Tender. A little itch I can’t quite reach. A bruise I cover to protect, or poke at while wondering at the discomfort.

How often are old friendships the same. The seasons change, friendships fade. My mind is so busy with my everyday Now, I forget those who were, often, so very important to me I couldn’t then imagine my life without them. Yet here we are. Like the pang of a long-healed break, it sometimes only aches, sometimes jars with sudden intensity. And I remember.

remember you and I remember us.

Your laughter, that wonderful bark of sudden delight, or the infectious giggle, which scattered across my days with you.

An inside joke, taking me right back to the moment it was made. That I can never explain to anyone, because it really isn’t that funny. Except to us.

The song that always reminds me of hot July days with no air-conditioning. And you, with your feathered hair, sly smile, and swoon-inducing wink.

The way you listened and held me while I cried over some long-forgotten disappointment. And the way I did the same for you.

So many friendships have gone to the wayside, yet they are treasures stored up in my heart. Perhaps that season of our life is done; you and I have drifted apart, through no fault of our own, by simple circumstance; I will never forget you. You, my friend, are in my bones, and have made me who I am.