Saturday, August 30, 2008

Raising the stakes

After writing about vampires on an earlier blog, I thought it was important to mention I'm not talking about the kind of stake you drive into someone's heart. I'm in the process of editing a manuscript with some requested changes. The editor has asked me to raise the emotional stakes in the novel by having a secondary character die. Currently the book ends with everyone alive and happy or heading toward happiness. There have been bumps and bruises along the way of the physical and emotional kind, but everyone heretofore has survived. Well, not after tonight.
Tonight someone is going to sacrifice it all for the betterment of the book. It's not a scene you can just write in and then leave the rest of the book the same. Every scene thereafter will have emotional aftershocks of loss and grief. The happily everafter will be a little less joyous. The ride into the sunset will be a bittersweet.
Will this make my book a better a story? First of all, it's what the editor whats so it's going to happen. I'm going to trust her on this one especially if she then offers me a contract. Second, I know that many books I love do have the bittersweet element combining loss and enduring love.
When I write under the name Susan Gourley in the fantasy genre, I do add those bittersweet elements. Even if the good guys do win in the end, it won't be easy and they won't all see the peace after the war. My fantasy series that starts with The Keepers of Sulbreth, will see the loss of many lives before the series reaches its end. On the other hand, my romance series with New Concepts Publishing has all the main characters surviving their tribulations on their difficult way to a HEA. But in my newest in that series due to come out in 2009, A Ruthless Good, will see the death of a beloved secondary character. This character appeared in The Greater Good and The Lesser Evil.
I'll be interested to know what fans think of that. I guess I'll have to wait and see. Right now, I'm off to off someone. I already decided who it will be, I just haven't told the character yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Classic" Books

As my children prepare for their school year, they're both finishing up their required summer reading and writing papers. I'm not surprised my son has let this go until the last minute, but my daughter is such a voracious reader, I expected her to have her completed long ago. Though I actually know why she put it off.
The book she had to read, not to be named here, is BORING. It was written half a century ago by an author from a dysfunctional upbringing who grew up to be a bitter, cynical adult. He writes about the darker nature of man and all the nastier things people do to each other. The world he creates is sinister without even one character possessing any redeeming qualities. Such a glum outlook on the world does not make a book a work of literary art. Yet if you ever see which books school require students to read, they mostly fit into the description above.
Why do we do this to our children? One of the things I loved about Harry Potter was the entertainment it provided young people. It was fun to read. Fun! Interesting! Good won out over evil! And millions of youngsters read all those books cover to cover and often more than once. How can we expect children to love reading when the books we force them to read leave them with the impression that all people are inherently bad and the world is without hope? Why can't we ask them to read something that will have them begging for more to read?
This is a huge peeve of mine when it comes to schools and their reading lists. The books are dry, boring and seldom connect with students. If we must force the students to read such grim fare, can't we update their choices to something written in their lifetime?
At least as adults we can be selective in what we read. I try to make my characters as realistic yet entertaining as possible. I hope you'll check out my previews and blurbs. The Keepers of Sulbreth has many characters who are people doing the best they can against great odds. And in my books, no matter how grim it becomes, I promise the good guys will win. They may have to sacrifice and of course not all of them make it, but evil will not prevail.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Casualties of Fiction

I'm working on some manuscript changes suggested by an editor in the hopes I'll get offered a contract. She asked me to kill someone. Not a main character of course, but a close relative of my beloved heroine. It hurts. These people are important to each other. It's going to change all their lives.
And that leads me to the challenge of writing in this change. Such an emotional toll will echo through the rest of the book. An undercurrent of sadness and loss must now mute the final victory. Feelings of guilt and failure will need to be shared and expressed. The stakes are higher now. The happily ever after will only be won with a price.
Why ask me to do this? Why kill that good person? Why kill that innocent? Must my heroine suffer so much?
The answer is yes. When I first saw what this editor wanted me to do I fought against it mentally. I took a few days to think about it before agreeing to make the changes. Deeper emotions will be explored. The bonds of love will be forged in the hot fires of grief and shared hardships. It will not come easy. And for that, this novel will be a better book. The characters will have added layers of ties to each other and the secondary characters in the book. The good guys will be less perfect. They're going to make a mistake and someone will die because of it.
It's difficult to change so much after a novel is completed, but by working with this editor, I have learned so much about creating internal and external tension.
I promise to tell you more about this novel should I get a contract. I can tell you, I think it's going to be good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School Sales

It's so tempting! All those sales ads from Office Max and Staples, rows and rows of school supplies at Walmart and even Borders has a back to school table. All those cheap notebooks, pens and pencils of every type and color and the folders are enough to overwhelm a poor writer's sensibilities.
Now I don't need any pencils. I have enough paper clips for my next reincarnation. I never use spiral notebooks. I only have two children left in school and they no longer need those really cool, mutlipocketed trappers. Pens tend to last me forever so I have enough to last me until some of them dry out. I already have a pair of colorful scissors in every room. Okay, I really do need some paper for the printer but there's no excuse for buying the 12 pack of legal pads. It's way too early to purchase a new date book. I know they'll be on sale when I really need to get one.
So what am I doing out cruising around the school supplies? What writer can resist? Post-it notes in every color and size. Sharpies for those envelopes. Of course, get those hand santizers from Bath and Body works. I might never use those pink highlighers but they are so cute. And I better get a new pencil holder to match the new letter trays I bought. I have those stacked so high on my desk I can hide from all views for complete privacy.
I know so many writers share my weakness. I really didn't need a single thing but somehow I ended up with two bags of supplies. I tell myself the deals were too good to pass up but really I probably could have waited for the same ones to come around next August. For now though, I have to rearrange my storage cabinet to fit in all those really clever tools of my trade.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So much about writing is the waiting for a reply. You hope for that contract but often what you get is a rejection. I feel like I spent the last two months checking my email three or four times a day in hopes of receiving those replies. It's been my greatest single method of procrastinating.
In the last two weeks I finally heard from two of my hopes. One was the release date for my third novel in The Solonian Chronicles. A Ruthless Good will be released in January of 2009. This third book in my futuristic romance series from New Concepts Publishing carries on with the story of a futuristic earth and man's struggle to rebuild and survive. You'll revisit the heroes and heroines from the first two books, The Greater Good and The Lesser Evil, and meet some new interesting characters and their story of love and sacrifice. I'm still waiting on the cover art for that one.
The second reply I received was from an editor at Samhain about the first book of a fantasy series I hope to sell to their fine company. She asked for more edits. That's my next project. I'll be starting tomorrow and hope to finish those within four weeks.
The third reply I'm still waiting for is from Medallion Press on the second book in the fantasy series I have with them. The first book in that series, The Keepers of Sulbreth, will be released in 2010 under the name Susan Gourley. I use that name for my work that is not romance. I'm waiting to hear if they want the second book, Beyond the Gate. If you haven't read anything released by Medallion Press you should give it a try. Every book I've read from them as been excellent.
As all writers know, the way to wait for those replies is to not wait. Get busy working on the next novel. So, I'm going to work on my edits for Samhain and then take that rough draft I just completed for another fantasy series I've started. And I will be checking my email for word from Medallion but maybe only twice a day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Summer Ending

Can't believe the summer is winding down. My children started the fall sports seasons last week and they have their first scrimmages later this week. I love many things about the fall but I miss those hot days of summer. I always make big plans in the spring for some painting that needs done, some landscaping that needs revitalizing and even plan to increase my exercise programs. Well, summer almost done and the painting isn't. The weeds have taken over large parts of my flower beds. I won't even confess how much I didn't exercise.
I did finish writing the first book in new series. I did edit a book for Samhain. I did have a book signing. I did rearrange my office and shampoo that carpet. Does that count as writing work? I did update my website a few times. I did start this new blog(at the last minute before the leaves turn).
So with fall I must set some new personal and professional goals. I'll be back teaching again in a few days so I'll be visiting my favorite blogs less and having fewer hours to write. But sometimes being really busy keeps me more focused during the times I have to write. So tomorrow I'm starting the next round of edits on that book for Samhain. I'm giving myself four weeks and three gallons of coffee to get it done.
And I'm going to remove the wallpaper in my bedroom during that time too. That might take a gallon of wine.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A New Blog

Okay. I did it. I went off the reservation and decided to create a daring blog where I can actually link to other people. I'm sitll feeling my way around, but I hope to link up with my friends and soon. Give me a few days.