Linear Thought Process

I know for a fact that there are writers out there that are capable of writing in a straight line. I'm not one them. In fact, there is very little about my entire thought process that can be deemed "straight-forward" or, even (gasp), logical. I try with the best of them to work to expectation, but frankly, I've always pretty much been an "out of chaos comes order" kind of girl. And, after almost 17 years of writing I don't see this changing anytime soon. But the lesson for me is always the same, no matter how many time I try to change my modus operandi... Stay true to myself and my convoluted methods. They have worked for me in the past and will continue onward from here. So, if your looking for logical and rational you'll have to go someplace else. I'll be the one buried under a pile of thoughts and ideas and working to bring order out of the chaos.

Steampunk Anyone?

 

If steampunk has a mission, it is, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world.  ~

Ruth La Ferla, New York Times

Steampunk Moves Between Two Worlds - New York Times

This is a link to an online article from The New York Times from May 8, 2008.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT STEAMPUNK IS???????

I hadn’t been at the RWA National Conference in Washington for long before I heard the word that was circulating with both enthusiastic jubilation and awed murmurs. Steampunk. The “hot” “new” thing in romance fiction. The thing is… it’s not new, at least not to fiction. Steampunk in one form or another has been around for quite some time. Steampunk is most often set in the Victorian Era and have an esthetic of the time period, but they incorporate steam powered gadgetry to rival today’s machinery. There are goggles, airships and corsets. Suzanne Lazear, author and teacher of a recent Steampunk Workshop, described it as “Jules Vern on crack”. But even this may be too broad a term for a genre that ranges from dystopian empires to Victorian clockwork menageries. There are vampires and time travel and alternate realities. And there is dieselpunk, gaslight and Young Adult Epic Adventures. In fact, there are just as many ways to describe it as there are facets to the genre.

What to do some research of your own? Check out these links…

http://www.steampunk.com
http://www.ageofsteam.wordpress.com
http://www.steampunkwriters.ning.com

Or check out some of these authors…

Cherie Priest
Gayle Carriger
Scott Westerfield

There are many more not mentioned above. It is worth the time of browsing the shelves of your local bookstore or online shelves to check out the latest and greatest.

Best wishes and good reading ~

Lobster ports create Christmas trees — from traps - Yahoo! News

 Just in case you think we have nothing to do in our off time here in Maine… Or that we lack a competitive nature… the story of the 50 ft lobster trap tree will prove everyone wrong.  Read ‘em and wheep… or at least get a good chuckle out of it.
Lobster ports create Christmas trees — from traps - Yahoo! News

In the name of research

I love history. I always have. I was exposed to it at an early age and developed a keen respect for those people and events that have come before us. But up until now, very little of that love of history has shown in my writing. This last week or so has drastically changed this.

Enter Steampunk...
I started taking an online course from LARAonline, taught by Suzanne Lazear, that outlines the mystery world of alternate realities, rayguns, dirigibles and aether. It also offers me the chance to incorporate some of that strange compilation of historical mix that I've been torturing my family with for years.

Stay tuned as I jump headlong into my latest strange adventure...

Deathly Turn of a Phrase

I thought that I had the perfect phrase for my book. It came to me in a unearthly shot of inspiration and I was sure that it was perfect. Start with the dead man, another mystery author suggested. Start there and tell the story that will lure the reader through the maze of who, what, when and where... The problem is that the phrase I wanted to use sounded all too familiar to me. I don't believe in original thought. The whole "there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them". But I certainly didn't want to be guilty of coining a well-used phrase until someone screams in terror. We wouldn't want that... So, for now, as far as corpses go... this phrase is a dead in the water. Or at least until I can resurrect it :)


A simple truth

As writers, we are often told to "write what we know". To write what you know if to bring a certain level of knowledge to the subject, a sensitivity and awareness that may not be there for a topic we haven't yet experienced. But the simple truth is that sometimes this popular axiom is not as easy to put into practice. Often, the choice to write about a personal experience can be too painful for anyone to get the proper perspective or distance in order to write whatever that is... and do it well.

It wasn't long after my mother's death that a fellow writer friend told me that I should write about the experiences of dealing with my relationship with my mum and her eventual passing from colon cancer. I tried to write the story. I truly did. But I couldn't come close to capturing the pieces that were laying around me like puzzle pieces waiting to be put together. Even now, eight years later, I'm not able to write about those last three months of her life. I'm too close to it. Too emotional. I lose myself and my voice when I write about it and become someone else.

There are those writers out there who can write about their lives and experiences and do it well. Look at Eat, Pray, Love and you'll see a fine example of a woman who is able to transform her choices onto the page and transfix an audience in the process. There is a fierceness that happens with certain life experiences that allows us to be able to share and captivate others with the story. Maybe that is the key... that fierceness.

And then there is the vulnerability. To truly search your soul and put it on paper is to be put a piece of yourself onto the paper for others to see, love, hate and often criticise. That's not always the easiest prospect. To put it out there is like offering your child up for others to pick into pieces. Our natural instincts are to protect our children, ourselves and our creations with a guarded heart. Quite the opposite of what is needed.

I recently took part in a workshop where we talked about recurring themes in our lives. The issues that we continue to work on and deal with again and again. Mine is grief. It as suggested to me that I write down my journey dealing with grief. A task I've taken to heart. There is a very real possibility that this book will neither be completed, or ever seen by anyone, save myself. But isn't the journey worth it? Shouldn't writing, whether seen by others or not, be something that stretches our soul, shakes our core and offers us a mirror in which to see the deepest part of ourselves?

So, what is your journey?

Mystery Monday

Today I'm bringing my love to my love of mystery. Last week, my daughter's English class took a trip to Newport, Rhode Island. And, because she's such a sweetie, she couldn't resist bringing me back a book that she found by John T. Brennan called Ghosts of Newport, Spirits, Scoundrels, Legends and Lore.

In Ghosts of Newport, Mr. Brennan gives us a detailed tour of some of Newport's most fascinating locations. His love for Newport and his background as a tour guide make this book a quick and interesting read and had me wanting to make the 4 hour trip to see the locations in person. In short, he wrote this book with the same kind of voice and passion that I've been trying to instill in my own non-fiction book. And it shows.

He covers the more well known locations of The Breakers, Beechwood, and The White Horse Tavern (The oldest in the U.S.). But he also covers some fascinating history of gravestone carving and the legend of the Palatine.

Like local legends and lore? Check out Ghosts of Newport... it's worth the read.

Friday Free-For-All

First, let me say... I know I should be writing. In fact, there are a lot of things I should be doing, such as laundry, paying bills, cleaning house... the list goes on and on. But I got sidetracked and now I'm having a hard time getting back to it. You see, I just found out some big news!

The Good News: Manchester United is playing some preseason games in the US!
The Bad News: There is no way I can afford the tickets or the trip to Philadelphia (closest local) to see them.

I confess that I'm such a new fan that I continue to ask so many questions that it really bugs him. But I can't help it. Of course, when you see pictures like this you can see some of the appeal :)


Thursday is...

a day for giving you all a little taste of heaven. Hope you enjoy my view of Maine...

Official... Whatever Wednesday

I've made it officially "Whatever Wednesday". This came out of the current misdirection I'm experiencing in my life. But something happened tonight. I went to my son's school presentation for their Civil War projects. I watched an auditorium filled with 11 and 12 year olds who were all struggling to present their projects in a way that would interest the audience for the evening... the parents.

For the most part they did a wonderful job with their presentations. Some where clearly very comfortable talking with the adults and communicating what they had learned, while others choose to let their projects stand for themselves and stand quietly by. It was easy to see which kids became passionate by what they learned and those that did it because they had to. I went around and asked the same question of all the students I talked with... "what did you learn from the project that surprised you?" Some where able to readily answer it and other struggled with it. My goal wasn't to embarrass anyone, but I was looking to see if there was a kid there that felt so strongly about their projects that they wanted to share it all.

So, here's what I picked up tonight:

1. A project worth doing is worth doing well. This isn't a new phrase in our house, but it's adaptable according to the subject. Usually, it's homework of any sort. Know your subject, be able to relate to the subject and be a present it in a way that doesn't overload, but does entice the audience.
2. Be passionate about something. There were kids there that covered the battles and there were kids that covered the life of soldiers during the war. There were representions of uniforms, food and even an incredible life-sized Gatlin Gun (non working, of course). But probably the most interesting was Henry, who presented his project on the medicines used to treat the wounded after the battles. He gave great detail about chloroform and a rousing rendition of "I Will Survive" that had been adapted to the point of view of an amputee soldier. He must have sung it 10 times while we were there. But there was definitely a passion behind his performance. Whether it was for the performing or the subject, I'm not sure.
3. Sometimes when you are lost you just need to muddle through until you can find your focus again. This little life lesson came from my own son who despite a deluge of interesting facts about Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, still struggled to find something to be passionate on his own about the topic. Maybe he gets his focus from his mother, God help the boy. He's going to have to find his way to muddle through just as I did, and still do at times.

So, I've given you my tips for Whatever Wednesday on making things work when they just don't want to... Got any tips you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them.  

Twitter Tuesday

Twitter Tuesday

Follow me has become more than just a catch phrase for those who use Twitter as a marketing goldmine. Authors such as @ElizabethSCraig, @YasmineGalenorn and @lynneconnolly are adept at using this social network to it's greatest advantage. If you follow me at all you've heard me mention Elizabeth before. She continually lists blogposts that will benefit writers... several times a day. Yasmine uses Twitter to connect with readers and give them tidbits of her upcoming work to entice them. Lynne is passionate about sharing the latest books and industry information.

If you want some inspiration, I'd suggest you run on over to Twitter and follow their tweets... it's well worth the time and effort.
First, before I go any further... I need to tell you about Elizabeth Spann Craig's latest post on her blog Meanderings and Muses. She's staring down the barrel of summer vacation and all it's temptations and diversions and has come up with some wonderful ideas about how to avoid the procrastination traps. Check it out! And keep coming back to her blog daily because it's worth the trip.

Second, I'm going to talk about my battle with writing...
It's no secret that the last year has been hellish in more ways than one for my family. I feel as if we've come through a fog and only now are seeing the other side. I also know that there are plenty of other families out there that are in worse situations then we are and have been. I was checking out Sherrilyn Kenyon's post on Facebook last night and she was talking about making it through the tough times. She was heartfelt in her words and I've heard her story before, but hearing about how she persevered despite her pitfalls. After reading it I realized the very important thing that I'd forgotten for awhile... the writing keeps me sane. I need to write and I need to continue to write. I can't get bogged down in the cosmic crap that happens everyday in my life. I need to raise my chin up and look forward, past the obstacles that are at my feet. Most people would be happy with the minor success that I've had. I'm certainly grateful for it. But I'm greedy enough to want to share more of my stories. I want people to cry and laugh and live with my characters. If I can do that then the rest will fall away...

Living Courageously

Living Courageously: Here's How | Psychology Today

My mother spent her entire life living in fear of anything that she couldn't control. It dominated her life and her health and I'm fairly certain it contributed to her cancer. When she was told that they could do nothing more for her cancer she took the news as stoically as she did with anything else, and then buried herself in fear. My sister and I encouraged her to do the things she'd always wanted while she still could, before the effects would limit her. But she threw away those dreams because she was scared. She even refused to go to Boston for a second opinion because it would have put her outside her element. But in the end, she was calmer than I'd ever seen her. I believe that she'd come to terms with her mortality and there was comfort for her in her belief that there was something else beyond this life.

Today, I made an appointment for a colonoscopy. This will be my third in the 7 years since Mum passed away. I was told it would be October before they could get me in for my procedure. They are booked way in advance because of scheduling issues. Normally, my fear of making waves would have me just accepting it and waiting scared until October. But today I remembered the lesson Mum taught me and I pushed back. I didn't get far, but I did get on a waiting list for cancellations. And I did let them know that this kind of scheduling only advances peoples fears and causes more problems. I did it nicely. I was polite. But I made my point.

When we let fear into our lives we give it a power over us that nothing and no one should have. I've included the article from Psychology Today because it's well written, succinct and urges everyone to Live Courageous.

Know your family's health history.
Make sure that you take the precautions necessary to stay healthy.
Be your own advocate. Don't wait for someone to champion for you.

and lastly, don't let fear take control of your life....Live Courageously.

Mr. Darcy with a James Bond Edge...

Strange title to be sure, but not when you consider that this is how author C.S. Harris describes her Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries. Ms. Harris' books have been on my "to read" list for quite some time, but it was only after a trip to the library today that I was finally able to pick up her book What Angels Fear.
As it happened, I had taken the kids to the local drive in for dinner and I started reading the prologue aloud to them. (They are used to my eccentricities). Somehow reading it aloud enabled me to really focus on the brilliance of the words. Within a few paragraphs Ms. Harris managed to set theme, tone, character and station and all with incredible tapestry of textures, emotions and senses.
I've been very lucky this year, I've discovered some incredible mystery authors. Deanna Raybourne and C.S. Harris are new to the top of my list. A debt of thanks goes out to you. You make me want to be a better writer.

Check out http://www.csharris.net/ for more on her mysteries...

More themes, past life, secrets and writing genuine stories...

I was listening to a podcast tonight that covered reincarnation from the Pair a Normal Guys. It was an interview with Rebecca Anne Locicero who is a psychic medium. I tune in quite often to these podcast since I find them great inspiration for myself and my writing. But this interview touched something in me about the recurring themes in my own life.

I've already talked about grief. But one of the things that I have really talked much about are the impossible connections that have been made in my life. If I'd ever been a skeptic when it came to fate then these instances in my life have made me a believer. My theory has always been that we are brought into this life to learn lessons and that if we don't learn those lessons then we are "doomed" to repeat them. I also believe that there are those people who we will make a connection with despite all obstacles because they are meant to be in our lives. This is much about what Rebecca touched on in her interview.

If you read my stories I have a tendency to add family secrets into the stories. Not because I think that they are essential to a story, but because this is what I grew up with. There were so many secrets in my family that it's a wonder they didn't buckle under the weight of them. Some of them were mentioned in whispers because my mother insisted that certain people didn't need to know our business. The worst part was that none of these secrets was enough to damage anyone. But by making them secrets they were given the power to change, interrupt and even impair our lives. By keeping up a good front those secrets became the "ghost" in the room. It was there for holidays, birthdays and just plain old everydays.

I've been thinking a lot about writing books that I call "genuine". This is going to sound as if I'm knocking the work of other writers and I'm truly not. But the stories that resonate, that touch the soul are the ones that are "genuine" and "true". The good, the bad and the sometimes tragic are all presented realistically. May I always be able to write a "genuine" book. And may they always resonate with hope. Because without hope even the "genuine" would become boring and everyday.

I've skipped a round a bit on this post, but there are a few nuggets of inspiration here. I hope you can discern from my rambling and that they give you a bit of guidence both in life and writing.

Recurring Themes...

It seems as if there is one particular theme that seems to come into just about all that I write. It doesn't matter what I set out to put to paper (or computer screen), but somehow it becomes a base of my stories. It's grief. Perhaps, it's because I've had such a personal relationship with this emotion, or that it's something that seems to revolve and evolve with greater intensity with each generation in my family, but either way, I seem to embroider this emotion into my stories with greater intensity.

Some would think that this denotes a sense of depression, but I actually think it's a way for my mind to evaluate and deal with the emotion. Even when I was involved with Maine Ghost Hunters I found that the cases that had the greatest pull on me emotionally and physically were the ones that involved a family's sense of grieving. To have that need to react and reach out to those that have passed can bring a family or loved one to the greatest of efforts to continue the bond.

Yesterday, two of the younger people that work with me, a brother and sister, lost their mother suddenly. I grieve with them, though I hardly knew their mom. But I do know about the emotions they are experiencing. Grief affects everyone differently, but the sense of loss is the same. That difference is in how our minds handle the emotion. The seven stages of grief are 1) shock and denial, 2) pain and guilt, 3) anger and bargaining, 4) Depression, reflection and lonliness, 5) The upward turn, 6) Reconstruction and working through it, 7) Acceptance and hope.

Very few will experience these stages in order. Some jump right to anger and bargaining, others with work in a numbed shock until the body can no longer deny what it needs to assess. But it's important to remember that just because someone doesn't experience a certain stage it doesn't mean that the emotions aren't real.

This past summer we lost my dad-in-law. He was an incredible man who is greatly missed. Each of the 9 children and my mother-in-law... not to mention the daughter and son-in-laws an assortment of grandchildren, have all experienced the grief in their own way. Each plays a role with the process and each has to find that way that works best for them. Sometimes, as in the grief of losing my own mother, it doesn't ever go away. It's the same for my husband's family.

This kind of emotion is among the strongest that any soul will ever experience. This speaks to others when it's written well within a story. I guess for now, the journey and the inclusion of grief within my stories will continue. 

It's 11:30pm...

and I'm still up. I worked all day knowing that what I really needed to do was come home and write. I need to finish my short story for the Level Best contest, but tonight I ducked out of the work and indulged in a little research. I watched Julie & Julia. I know. I know. It's been out for awhile, but usually the choice of movies is not left up to me. This time I was the one possesion of the Redbox code.

I confess, I wasn't really sure what to think of the movie. I remember well seeing Julia Child cook on WPBN's Boston feed. This was back when we only got four channels. Three regular and the public broadcasting channel. I watched shows like This Old House (Norm's my hero) and Victory Garden and Julia. I've never been a cook. Never took the time to really learn, so the Julia experience was wasted on me growing up. I had a mother who was a Home Economics major in college, but she never really taught me to cook. Something she admitted to me as an adult.

But watching Julie and Julia did make me realize something tonight. I realized that if I possess I trait that will make me endure, if not succeed, in this life... then it's perseverance. I wrote for almost 12 years before selling. Most would have given it up long before that. I've written through the birth of my son, the death of my mother, the loss of jobs, the gain of jobs, the good times, the bad times and those times when I'm merely holding on by the edge of my fingernails. And through it all I just kept moving. Or writing.

In the movie, Julie states that she's not a writer because she hasn't published. It shouldn't have been the published status that determined her "writer" status, but her perseverance. To do something half-hearted is to offer a half-hearted gift. It was only when she persevered that she got her publication. And so much more. Perseverance is about staying with stuff, even when it so hard that all you want to do is something else. I've had people ask me if I ever wanted to give up. I can honestly say that I've never considered giving up. I can't. It's too much a part of who I am. Even if I never published again I would continue to write. It's as much an exercise in sanity as it is a lesson in perserverance.

Julia Child wrote, edited and cooked for years, working on determination and perseverance. I think tomorrow I'll be starting with a new determination. And possibly and new resolve. And we'll see where this leads me...

Bon Apettite'

Photo from TVGuide.com's bio of Julia Child

Not enough coffee...

It's been a very long week. Come to think of it... it's been a very long couple of weeks. We've had a multitude of committments that all seemed to fill up our calendar. DD went from two weeks of play production that kept her at the high school late, sometimes until 11pm to having softball practice everyday after school until early evening. My DS's projects are wrapping up as well as they count down to the end of their elementary school years and work toward getting geared up for middle school. Through it all I've been checking off tasks left and right and still finding it hard to fit in the things that I need to do or want to do. Hubby and I are rallying best we can, but sleep seems to be going by the wayside along with other struggling issues.  Getting time to write is one of those things. I'm sure I'm not alone.

The short mystery that I'm working on was going really well, but I find myself going back again and again to the beginning and tweaking the first few paragraphs. I know that I've only got those couple of paragraphs to not only catch the reader, but set the tone for the story and outline the crime in question. That's a lot of pressure. I know that I have something special here. I just want to make sure that everyone else sees it as well.

So, for now.. it's back to the coffee pot for more fuel for me. Wish me luck.

Going Kindle with Three Truths

Three Truths

Three Truths was formerly published through Wings ePress as The Three Truths of Katie Talmadge. After much consideration over finding it a good second home I decided to put it on Kindle. I did this after listening to a discussion from a few mystery authors on the Murder Must Advertise list about finding homes for their darlings.

The set up was harmless and the experience relatively easy. I did create a new cover for the book since the last was designed by the previous publishing house. The cost is $1.99 for a download. Reasonable I think for a story with such heart. If you have a Kindle or download to your computers you can follow the links I've provided to check it out.  I hope Three Truths finds it's way into your heart as much as it did to mine.


Magic, destiny and fate… Katie Talmadge has had her fill of all three while living in Salem, Massachusetts. Now, she wants nothing more than her little flower shop to occupy her life. But when a mysterious woman promises to change her life with three fateful truths, Katie begins to believe in magic that can only come from the heart. Simon Thorton knows his aunt is crazy for enlisting his help with guiding Katie. He’s perfectly content with his antiques and his memories of his deceased wife. But fate and his aunt have their own plans for him when he begins to look beyond the past and look forward to the future… a future with Katie.

Buy the Kindle edition at Amazon.com

P.S. If you already own Three Truths I'd love it if you would leave a comment on Amazon to let others know what you think of it and thank you to all for your support.

Blessings...

It's no secret that I'm Irish. You don't have to be around me long to figure it out. There are also some smatterings of Ulster-Scot and Welsh. But for today, I'm all Irish. I've forgone my usual post of the John Ford's The Quiet Man (A Portland, Maine native) and instead I offer this blessing to all...

May you always have work for your hands to do,
May your pockets hold always a coin or two,
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane,
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain,
May the hand of friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Slainte'

Mystery Monday

Forgive the lack of blogging for the past week, but I've been in Tax Hell trying to get things set for the deadline. That doesn't mean that I haven't thought about writing, but nothing truly makes me want to write more than knowing that there is something much more important to be done. It's not been a total loss. I did work quite in a bit in my dirty work journal and discovered that I still have a few holes to fill. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a fabulous blog post that I ran across today...

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist: They Aren't Really "Cookie Cutter" Murderers...

Ms. Kinberg talks about a particularly intriguing topic, murders who are not the horrifying stereotypical killers we expect. Instead, she refers to the ones she calls "the unassuming personality". They appear congenial, even non-threatening in their demeanor. Hardly a worthy oponent? Many writers would say that they are worthy, even for such illustrious writers as Christie... it's a way to tap into the "killer next door".

How many times have you seen the interviews after the murders, the ones where the people surrounding the suspect all tell how "normal" they appeared. In many ways, that appearance of the normal is more horrifying because it could be anybody, anyone you pass on the street, or speak to in the grocery store. Anyone.

In my workshop that I gave at RWA Nationals last summer I talk about making believable Anti-heroes. In many ways, the startling realization that tortures the reader is that the normal conditions of life hide insidious secrets. And the realization that given the right... or wrong... circumstances... or choices we are all a step away from being in the place of that particular character. By creating characters that mirror our own morals and characteristics we can create characters that entice and chill.

Mystery Monday

In my search to find great information on writing mysteries I've come across quite a few fantastic blogs. Today, in honor of Mystery Monday I'm going to share a few of my favorites.

The Kill Zone - This one touts 7 top mystery and thriller authors and they carry through on their claims. Claire Langley-Hawthorne, Katherine Lilley, Joe Moore, Michelle Gagnon, John Gilstrap, John Ramsey Miller and James Scott Bell. They continue to amaze me with their up-to-date and in-depth information on all aspects of the genre and writing.
The Blood Red PencilWith a host of incredible authors, Blood Red Pencil works with the combined knowledge of some fantastic (and might I add prolific) authors. Look for posts by Charlotte Phillips, Dani Greer, Elsa Neal, Heidi Thomas, Helen Ginger, Kathryn Craft, L.J. Sellers , Linda Lane, Maryann Miller, Morgan Mandel, Patricia Stoltey and Shon Bacon. In February they featured articles on such topics as grammar, editing, continuity and social media... just to name a few. Expect to spend extra time reading their previous posts. It's worth it.
Make Mine Mystery- This blog is made up a great host of authors including Robert W. Walker, Mark Troy, Tony Burton, Marilyn Meredith, Ben Small, Vivian Zabel, Libby McKinmer, Earl Staggs, Marvin D. Wilson, Jean Henry Mead, Christine Duncan, Dana Fredsti, Morgan Mandel, Chester D. Campbell and Austin S. Camacho. I am always enlighted and sometimes surprised by their great takes on writing, promotion and just daily life.
Mysteries and My Musings - They have great interviews including this week's interview with Diane Stuckart who writes both mysteries and historical romance. She's also giving doing a great giveaway this week.

I hope you enjoy the links I've offered. If you enjoy their posts then take a moment to let them know by commenting and passing on the links. If you know of any great blogs you would like to see included on my Mystery Monday you can let me know at teagan@teaganoliver.com

Sunday Night Detour

For some reason, Sunday nights for me are a time to follow my muse... or inspiration... or just downright eccentricities and see what kind of odd things I can research. Tonight, it's cows... to be more specific Scottish Highland Cattle.

I have no idea why they came to mind, but I came to the sudden conclusion that I wanted to photograph one. There used to be some in Freeport, but hubby has informed me that they are no longer there. (Actually, it was more like "They've been gone for years. Where have you been.") Anyway, I went on a search for Scottish Highland Cattle in Maine and came up some interesting stuff.

First, they generally don't use them for milk. Apparently, they can be a bit temperamental and touchy about the task of milking. That doesn't mean that it can't be done, but I'm not sure how many brave souls there are out there that are up to the task.

From there I went to see sites like bumpypasturesfarm.com. They have incredible pictures of the cows and show the different colors that can be bred. I also liked their pages on the chickens, but that's for another detour.

According the Maine Highland Cattle Association website, they believe the breed came from the Western Isles and Highlands of Scotland (Ironically, so did part of my family). They have short legs and deep frames (again, like most of the males in my family) and they vary in colors from black, white, brindle and dun, but the most common is red. (Hmmm, grampy had red hair). They can also withstand extreme weather and have two layers of hair to shed water and retain heat. With the uttmost respect I have copied a list of their attributes from the Maine Highland Cattle Association site:
•Quiet, docile disposition
•Thrift and ease of management
•Longevity
•Adaptable to Maine and northern New England's terrain and climate
•Disease resistant
•Productivity and ease of calving
•Therapeutic value
•Picturesque physical appearance
•Lean, low-cholesterol beef
 
There's enough there to sell a lot of people on raising the beautiful beast. However, I'm not sure my town ordinance will allow for the new pet. In the meantime, I'm going to have rethink the whole keeping chickens thing... enjoy...
Another piece of my childhood disappeared this weekend. It was a small piece, tucked away mostly in memory. But still such a part of my life. During the storm that struck the coast of Maine this past weekend the winds struck with such force that the islands in the midcoast region were hard hit. There were plenty of trees down and as usual the power went out. The power outages have become a common thing even though the islands that I speak about are connected to the mainland through a series of bridges. When I talked to my father he was matter of fact. He's ridden out many of storms and some of them were atop a huge dry dock structure used to rehab Navy ships and submarines. I've also mentioned before that he's a former Coastie who spent his time on lightships and icebreakers off the New England coast. He's seen his share of storms. But this one made him tired. The biggest casualty was something that most wouldn't have even known existed. It was a long garage like structure that sat on the hill behind my grandparent's house. My guess would be that my grandfather probably built it in the forties when he returned with my grandmother to the harbor. It may have even preexisted it by being an outbuilding for what was a large summer hotel that sat further on the ledge. But to me it was Grampy's workshop. Sometimes I would go with him and he would let me dig through coffee cans filled with nuts and screws. He had all manner of tools in there, mostly dusty and forlorn. But it was there that he spent his time putter and creating. For me, the creative escape is the pages of a story. For my grandfather it was usually puttering around at fixing a small tractor engine or building his greenhouse. He was an avid gardener. When I was little that shop seemed to be huge, with rafters that stretched miles above my head. But I haven't been in it since long before he passed and he's been passed about 15 years. During the storm an ancient tree came down to settle on top of it. According to my father he fears it's totalled. He believes that the only way the walls still stand is from the bracing of the tree within. For me, this is almost as if I'm mourning him again. I always could believe that he was there puttering in his workshop if only I had looked. Maybe he is. But I still miss him. It's funny that something so simplistic as a well-worn structure can bring back fresh grief. Maybe if I try hard enough... when I go to sleep tonight I will return in my dreams to being that little girl who ran up the path to see Grampy putting away in his shop.

Dirty Work and Writing Short

A couple of weeks ago I talked about what I call "Doing the Dirty Work". In an attempt to make sure that I had the best grip on this book that I realized that I needed to be as organized as possible. It would be the only way to keep it all in line. I have two projects going right now, both have their own level of complications. The first is a short mystery that requires me to use the smallest amount of words to the best advantage and still be able to leave as much mystery as possible. Not an easy task. Just watching the word count alone is enough to scare the crud out of me. But I learned a few valuable lessons while working on his project...

1. The KISS analogy does apply. Simple is better. I usually add a paranormal element to my stories, but in this case I found that the word count didn't really allow for it. Ditto for including extraneous information on processes or background.
2. Isolate your characters. Agatha had it right when she put them all on a deserted island together. Less change of venue means less words new areas to describe.
3. Start with the crime. I figured this one out right away. Save yourself some headaches and start off with the dirty deed. All those lovely bits can be just as easily distributed throughout the story.
4. Kill your darlings... Write out the whole thing and then be ruthless in your editing. It's the only way to save your sanity and still get the words on the page.

All in all, I know that I will get this done. As long as I write a story that entertains myself I'm sure to find those that will enjoy it.

All write with coffee...: Novel Transitions and Tie-backs - Part I

I've been following this blog for awhile and found that the author has some great insights into what makes fiction work... or not. I was happy to see that the latest topic had much to do with what I'm currently struggling with in my work. Transitions and tie backs. With my current work in process I'm dealing with three separate storylines that merge into one piece. It's more important than ever that I provide a plausible and satisfying plotline that doesn't just drop the information in at random spots. There are two different posts on the subject and I'd encourage you to read both. It's well worth the time.

All write with coffee...: Novel Transitions and Tie-backs - Part I

Literature: The dark side of the boom - Times Online

Literature: The dark side of the boom - Times Online

After a recent email between myself and a member of the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland, I become curious as to the influence of Maine Irish Writers on the fiction genre. I ran across the above article from Times Online in which they give an indepth description of Irish Noir and the role it plays in influencing both past trends in genre fiction and the current ascent of stark portrayals of a country with a verdant aura of realism.

Want to know more about Irish Noir? Read on...

Murder, Mystery and the Paranormal from the News Files...

Sleuths unravel 16th-century Italian murder mystery - Yahoo! News:
"Sleuths unravel 16th-century Italian murder mystery"

One of the things that truly fascinates me is when new technological advances can possibly be used to solve old cases. In this case, it's being used to find the clues behind a 16th century murder.

In 1563, Baroness Laura Lanza and her lover were murdered, their bodies buried in a common grave below the local church. The case has never been completely forgotten and now, along with an urging from the mayor of Carini, Italy, they are hoping that modern technology will help solve the case.

Could we truly solve a case where all involved have been gone for centuries? They are betting that science can clear the case. Science along with a little supernatural help. Supernatural help? Surely not? But if you read the last paragraph of this article you will see that even modern science is hoping to have a little help from beyond...

"Several years ago we tested areas of the castle we knew the Baroness lived in with electromagnetic field meters, and the results were very strange," La Fata said. "In certain rooms it was as if there were ghosts in the castle, as if the murdered Baroness lives on."

If the Italians can see a possible corrolation between the advances in scientific advances and advances in the parapsychology field to find long forgotten clues, then maybe we have a chance of opening up a whole new world of the unknown.

Searching for the view

It was only when I started thinking about analogies that I realized that I was working my way through a fog so thick that I could only trust that there was something on the other side. I'm working on the plotting or "dirty work" and I really feel that it's coming together. And, it was during this time that I remembered something that had happened on a trip to Vermont a couple of summers a go. I had taken the kids on a spur of the moment trip to Vermont. On the last day of the trip I had gathered the kids up early and made our way down the historic Route 7a from Rutland to Bennington. We'd enjoyed a brisk morning view of the surrounding mountains as I led the kids on a historic adventure. But we still had a long way to go. And, since this was before I had bought my GPS, I found myself plotting a course on the Molly Stark byway. Now, to be completely honest, parts of the trip did seem very familiar to me. It wasn't uncommon for my parents to take us on trips to Vermont growing up. But as we began to climb and the road became steadily tilting in a northerly direction I had that niggling sensation that was creeping up my spine. There was that odd familiarity knocking at my door. And, it would seem that it knocking on my sons door as well. Despite the fact that Will had never been on the road before he was becoming increasingly anxious from his spot on the backseat. The fog began to close in around us and my speed reduced and we all began to edge forward in our seats. As we crested the top of the mountain the fog had created a shield around the car leaving only a few feet of viewing. But at that moment I knew exactly where I was. I knew perfectly what it looked like without the fog and I was able to reassure my son that beyond tha fog and beyond that fear was a beautiful view. Hogback Mountain. I remember it from my childhood. (if you'd like to see it clearly you can check out Steve Borichevsky's Shooting My Universe Blog with beautiful views of the mountain.) Anyway, we descended the mountain with little problem other than some harsh wear on the new brakes my husband had installed just before the trip. I remember very clearly the moment we came out of the fog. To our right was an orchard and it sparkled with the mist. Totally beautiful. Our reward for perservering. Writing this mystery is very personal, very hard to deal with emotionally and sometimes I can't quite see where I'm going. But I do know that when I come out the other side it will be worth the experience.

The Hunt for Clues

Last week I wrote about doing the "dirty work". Now, more than ever, I'm beginning to realize that by not doing this "dirty work" I'm cutting myself short. I'm not giving myself the opportunity to write a fully realized story. Every single time that I've sat down to write a story and had it fall flat I know that it's because I failed to write a fully evolved story. Either the motivation of the characters is unrealistic or even uncharacteristic. Or the there isn't enough conflict to fully sustain the storyline.

The same could be said in my hunt for clues. Many times I have no idea that something that I've written will become a clue for the story. But when I come to a point that I know the characters motivation is lagging I know that I also haven't given the characters enough to work with, either emotionally or physically. The story I'm currently working has two murders, one old and one new and they mirror each other. I won't go into details about it, but I've been wanting to play with the idea that an old murder can be solved because of the efforts put into a new murder. The other large part of this story is secrets, tons of them. Everyone's got them and frankly, keeping them straight is beginning to be a task. So, this is where the "dirty work" comes into play. I MUST log everything as I go along, all the clues, all the secrets, all the details that could prove fruitful for the storyline. So, when I get to end I can wrap up all the details and settle all those clues.

I'm off to do more "dirty work".

Doing the dirty work...


I was shamed into it really. I read a recent blog post from someone who had been asked by a teacher to show the work that she puts into her YA mysteries that she writes. It was an attempt to show a student that the prep work is beneficial to getting the best story possible. The author had laid out all of the work and graphs that she'd created in her attempt to create a plausible and fulfilling story and photographed them for the posting.

It was then that I realized that the reason my story was floundering was because I hadn't done the dirty work.
I've been doing research online and talking with many who have experience in the psychiatric field, but I hadn't gotten down to putting the reasonings of the characters to paper. I started with the old standby, a GMC, or Goal, Motivation and Conflict chart and I did one for each of the main characters. I then went back and started with the murders in the story. After all, they are the reasoning that pulls them all together and gives them a common goal. But it wasn't until I put the information side by side that I began to see the mirroring in the story. I'm still working on the dirty work. There's lots to be done before this story can even truly begin. But this is what is going to make it strong. The story is all about what happens when the secrets overwhelm us and become the controlling factor in our lives. But secrets have a way of coming to the surface, whether we want them to or not. I want to show what happens when they can no longer be denied.

On a personal note...


It started when I got books from the library and they printed out the little slip to let me know when to return the books. It said 01/20/10. I looked at it, noted that it was some important date that I should remember and then went on with my life. The date came up again last week and again. I wondered what it was that I was supposed to be remembering about 01/20/10. I briefly thought of my sister, but her birthday is not until the 24th (Happy early Birthday, Sis). But it was only about half way through the day yesterday that it finally hit me what the significance of the date was. It would have been my parent's 50 wedding anniversary. Granted, were Mum still with us it still would not have been a celebration since they had divorced some years ago. But she did always note the date with a passing bit of wistfulness since they went their separate ways. I'm sure she'd be a bit sad today. Me? I'm thankful and consider it a time of reflection, if not celebration. Were it not for that event 50 years ago I probably wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have a wonderful father and sister and I would not have continued on with the legacy that is my family. So, for me... I think I'll probably shed a tear or two, but I'll also raise a glass in celebration.

Typically British Reading Challenge 2010


Really, who could NOT be drawn in by a face like this?  And when it comes attached to a challenge then I'm all for it. The challenge, posted over on Book Chick City, challenges readers to partake in some classics. Here's the info:
Timeline: 1st Jan 2010~ 31st Dec 2010.
Only books started on
 January 1st count towards this challenge.
Details:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. There are four levels:
• "Put The Kettle On" – Read 2 Typically British novels.
• "Gordon Bennett" – Read 4 Typically British novels.
• "Bob's Your Uncle" – Read 6 Typically British novels.
• "Cream Crackered" – Read 8 Typically British novels.


3. Any book format counts. Must be fiction not non-fiction.
4. You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone!
5. The books you choose can crossover into other challenges.
6. If you decide to participate in this challenge please use the link I have set up below with the button to post on your sidebar, this way others can find their way back to this post and join in the fun.
7. If you decide to join this challenge be sure to create a post telling others, please make sure you add a link back to this post so others can join in.
8. There will be a place for you to link your reviews, but this is optional.
9. Obviously only British authors count!
 
Want more info on the challenge and to sign up Click on the bulldog button on the right and it will take you to the Book Chick City Post. (or here). Good luck to all who participate!

Taphophile. Not a dirty word...


Hello, my name is Teagan and I'm a Taphophile. No. Don't panic. It's not as bad as it sounds. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necrophilia. It is, however, an addiction of my own choosing. A taphophile is a person who loves cemeteries. (Also, they usually have a fondness for funerals, but frankly, I don't fit into that characteristic.) Usually, the addiction manifests itself into someone who spends inordinate amounts of time on cemetery crawls, looking for fascinating stones and revelling in the history. For myself, this addiction led to paranormal investigating. After all, it's fairly hard to explain why you like to walk through old cemeteries as a way of tension relief or just sheer curiosity.
There are entire websites devoted to Taphophiles. Sites like Taph.com and Yahoo list groups such as Gravestones. For myself, the addiction started when I was searching for my ancestors in the local cemeteries. I began to realize that there were so many out there that no longer had anyone to take care of the plots. There are entire cemeteries that are fading into the landscape as they become forgotten. I'm determined that those people not be forgotten. The stones themselves are a link to the past with history and characteristics that reflect the person. The sheer siz and material used usually reflected the wealth and status of the occupant. A particular cemetery near where I grew up has quite a few stones that have a hand pointing upward. After researching it I found that it was often used to signify the path or righteousness. The way home or ascension to Heaven. Want to know what certain stone carvings represent? Check out Grave Addiction. Want to know more? All you have to do is Google to find all you could ever need to know. And in the meantime... My name is Teagan, and I'm a Taphophile.

From Publishers Weekly Daily Digest

-- Publishers Weekly, 1/8/2010 11:41:00 AM


Kensington Publishing has appointed Alicia Condon to succeed the late Kate Duffy as editorial director of Brava Books. The announcement was made Friday by Laurie Parkin, v-p and publisher of Kensington who called Condon’s appointment the next step in the evolution of Brava. Condon “will be in a terrific position to move the existing program forward and define its future as she leads it in new directions and nurtures its new talents,” said Parkin.

During her career Condon helped to launch Silhouette Desire, and for the past 24 years she has headed up the editorial team at Dorchester Publishing, where, among other accomplishments, she created the Love Spell line of paranormal romances. She will report to John Scognamiglio, editor-in-chief of Kensington.

Featured Post

Writing from the Dark Side

Heh! I started out calling this blog post "Blogging from the Darkside" and then went to "Writing from the Darkside" ...