SPRING FEVER

I think it’s finally spring here in west Michigan. The birds have been returning, led by the robins and geese. A random snow shower might still pop up uninvited; Michigan can be, after all, quite tempestuous. But the grass is greening up, the horses are finally shedding their heavy winter coats, and the ORV park out at Silver Lake opened this month.

Which means it’s difficult to concentrate on not only my work at the library, but also on my book, Lift. First in the Flying Ponies series, it’s sitting on my old desk in my office at home, waiting for me to complete its editing. I know I need to buckle down and get to it, but the warm weather keeps calling me outside. Our kids are taking lambs to the county fair this year, and last night we worked on building their pen. No editing was accomplished.

I don’t actually mind editing. I know whatever I do now will only strengthen the story. My first reader gave it a good review, and also pointed out some things that need fixing, which is what a first reader should do. I have a plan of action to fix what’s broken. Now it’s just a matter of getting down to it.

The first story in the Pentallian Chronicles is coming along. The rewrite is much better than my first attempt at telling the story. And I’ve started making notes and finding character pictures for a future story (more on that in a future post). Unfortunately, none of that is helping get Lift edited. So it sits on my desk, half of it highlighted, the other half waiting. The highlighting is to help me make sure all of the various plot threads make it all the way through the book, and don’t suddenly drop off or stop. So far, everything looks good.

But the sun still calls, and the dunes are beckoning, as are the trails. My horse needs brushing to get all his winter fuzz off. There are so many other things I’d really rather be doing than sitting at good old Wellington (my desk) and pouring over a manuscript. Still, it has to be done. I have to find the motivation. The Flying Ponies deserve a chance to shine. Their story should be told.

So in the end, the dunes and trails will have to wait. My XJ and my horse can chill in the sun a little longer. And once Lift is done and sent off to my publisher, then I too can go play in the sunshine.

 

Legal Pads and Highlighters

The time has finally arrived: the time to edit. I’ve let Lift sit for five weeks, and now it’s time to get out the yellow legal pads and different color highlighters, and get down to brass tacks. 

Editing may not be as much fun as the actual writing, but this is when your story will really start to come together. You’ll be able to trace all your subplots and see what is working and what really needs to be scrubbed. I am looking forward to the read-through of Lift because it will be new again. Will my characters be as fun and crazy and whimsical as I thought they were? Will the carousel horses be as magical as I remembered? It will be interesting.

So onward to the editing, and may the book not be in as terrible of shape as it could be. 

Whirl – a Prequel

I am proud to announce that the short novel Whirl is available on Wattpad. Whirl is the prequel to my upcoming novel Lift, which is the first book in The Flying Ponies series. The first chapter of Whirl is on Wattpad, and as I finish chapters, they will be uploaded. 

Choosing to become an indie author has been both exhilarating and scary. I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out, but it’s exciting. I hope to garner interest in Lift by offering Whirl on Wattpad. I would love for you to check it out and let me know what you think. 

Have a wonderful week!

The Ponies Are Taking Flight

So I know I haven’t updated this website in quite a while, and I apologize for that. I do, however, have some big news about the Flying Ponies. I finished the first book (as yet untitled) on Valentines Day, and am letting it sit for a few weeks before taking on the task of editing it. The rough draft is now in the hands of my first reader, my oldest niece. She is an aspiring writer, too, and she’s good – I have no doubt she’ll become a best-selling writer.

After doing research on the best ways to get published, and looking at scores of agents’ websites, I decided to be brave and become a self-published writer. K. R. Conway, author of the best-selling YA series Undertow and owner of Wicked Whale Publishing, is helping me along on my journey. She is walking me through how to become an indie author, and I feel confident being in her capable hands.

I will keep you updated on the progress of my first novel. My other writing plans include finishing the rewrite of the first Pentallian series, and beginning research for a dieselpunk story.

Last Light – Updates (stop screaming)

Dear Reader, Let’s face it . . . it’s been a year, almost exactly, since True North came out and you’re getting anxious. “Where’s Last Light?” you demand. “…

Source: Last Light – Updates (stop screaming)

Research, and Why It’s Good

As many of you writers know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or for those who like acronyms: NANOWRIMO. I’ve been a semi-active participant for the last few years, as have been a few of my coworkers. It’s fun, and sometimes I do get fairly far with whatever project I’m currently working on. This year, since I’m already 176 pages deep into The Flying Ponies, I decided to write a diary from the viewpoint of my main character’s great, great grandmother. The diary is really just meant for me so I know the backstory on the Flying Ponies Grand Carousel, but who knows – if the book takes off, perhaps the diary will someday be published.

The diary is being written in a pretty cool leather journal I scored at Barnes and Noble a few years ago. I have a gel ink pen that looks like a giant white feather to write with, and that’s fun, too. It’s been quite a while since I’ve handwritten anything other than notes for a story. But the real fun, for me, has been the research. Adara, the writer of the journal, lives in Brooklyn during the Roaring Twenties, and she frequents the infamous Coney Island. I’ve been a fan of the place for quite a while now, because I love amusement parks and carousels, and the Island has quite the storied past.

I’d heard of the Dreamland fire, in 1911, that completely wiped out that beautiful park. It was never rebuilt, leaving only Steeplechase (which burned but was rebuilt) and Luna Park to dominate the Island, along with the infamous Boardwalk and Bowery, but I’m learning a lot more. Coney Island still operates, and a few of the historic rides are still there, including the newly-refurbished B & B Carousell (that’s actually how it’s spelled), and the Cyclone coaster. But I doubt it’s anything like it was back in the twenties, when a million people would come to the Island to lay on the beaches and take spins on all the rides.

I also doubt that a lot of people like to do research; I feel that a lot of writers think it takes time away from the writing. And it does, certainly. But to get that authenticity for your  story, to really get inside a character’s head who’s in that time period, it’s absolutely essential. I have pages and pages of research on Coney Island, and have books coming that talk about the park during the different decades of operation. I need to know what roller coasters and carousels and dark houses were on the streets of the Island so that Adara and her boyfriend can move through them and have it be real.

Without doing your research, your story will fall flat, because guaranteed, someone out there reading it will know something about the subject you’re writing about, or the time period your characters are in, and if it’s not right, you’ll hear about it. If I’ve learned anything at all from writing fan fiction, it’s that the fans LOVE to tell you when you’re wrong. And with fan fiction, because there are so many stories out there, if you get it wrong once, you’re likely to lose that reader forever. And though I’m not yet published, I’m guessing it’s the same with published books.

So whether you hate it or love it, do your research. Do it because your story, and your characters, are worth the time and effort. And you’ll learn a lot, and thus, so will your readers.

See How They Fly

Each writer has a different process by which they make their stories.  Some eek out a few words or sentences a day. Some are capable of great paragraphs and chapters per day. I am, most days, somewhere in-between. While working on my fantasy series, I’ve suffered from the neurosis known by all writers as “writer’s block.” I’ve also had joyous days when I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my characters and all their words. Those are the best of days, when I wish I had no other responsibilities but writing.

Working on my new WIP, The Flying Ponies, has been nothing but pleasure. I realize I may be cursing myself for admitting this out loud (I did just knock on the wood of my desk), but it truly has been. I think for every writer, there is that one book or story or poem that is just right, that seems to come knowing who it is and what it is meant to do. I don’t mean it won’t need editing – everything needs that. But you can feel it deep within yourself. It resonates throughout your whole being, and you can’t imagine why you never wrote of it before.

I wrote an earlier blog post about the magic of the carousel, and I think because I’ve always been a horse person, loving the old wooden horses is ingrained in me. They feel right to me. Writing a fantasy story about them feels right. And I think that’s why so far, the writing has been easier than with my other fantasy series. I love my Pentallia characters, of course, and hope to get them out in book form soon. But the Flying Ponies keep calling and talking to me, and I can’t ignore their voices. They’re overwhelming.

And so the words have been flying too, and there’s just not enough time in the day to get it all down. Maybe some day I’ll be wealthy enough to make writing my full-time job, but for now, it has to share with my librarian job, which I love. I work at a great place, with great people who are more family than coworker. Still, old Wellington, my beautiful desk my husband bought for me at a second-hand store, beckons all the time, and I wish I could just park in front of him and write. Don’t we all wish we had nothing holding us back from writing?

My weekend will be busy with my son marching at the home football game tonight, and then watching him play with the high school jazz band at two different concerts tomorrow. Tomorrow night is dinner at the in-laws (who are fabulous people), and then on Sunday is church and taking my dad to see Sully. So when do I get any writing done? Maybe Sunday night, after the rest of the family is in bed.

But the best part? When I do finally get to sit down at Wellington, the words are going to fly, just like those magical, fantastic Flying Ponies who have nestled deep into my soul.

Give Me Heart

Last night my husband and I watched our son, now a freshman, march during his first football game with the Shelby Marching Tigers band. Our daughter was there too; not being interested in football (yet), she read her book. And the band was great. Really, especially for it being their first performance of the year on the field. They did what my husband and son both refer to as “park and blow,” when the band marches onto the field, but then stands in formation and plays, instead of doing an actual show. Weird term, I know, but dating back at least as far as when my hubby played trumpet (which is what our son and daughter play) in high school.

But it wasn’t the marching band last night that was so striking for me (don’t tell my son that). It was the fact that though our football team was outgunned and outclassed at every maneuver, they never gave up. And that’s remarkable, given that these boys are probably between the ages of 16-18 years old, and they lost every single game last season. Let me say that again: every single game. On top of that, they only won two games the year before. The Shelby Tigers were a force to be reckoned with three or four years ago, but then, as it happens to every good team, the seniors kept graduating, and Shelby lost the boys who had made it the team to beat.

Last night, in the face of being down some forty points to zero, I watched and listened as the Shelby coach gathered his boys into a huddle, and told them to never give up. To dig deep and find the heart that he knew they all had. To play the best they could. And after that speech, those boys went out and scored a touch down. It was beautiful. It really was. And the celebration on both the field and in the stands was amazing. Because you see, our team is little compared to a lot of the other conference teams. I don’t mean in height – some of the boys are over six feet. There’s just not a lot of them. But they do the best they can. They dig deep, and they don’t quit. And that’s something to both admire and respect.

I know football isn’t for everyone. Getting excited about a small town team making one TD, and getting a one point conversion, wouldn’t wow everyone. But it wowed me last night, because the Shelby Tigers varsity football team made do with what they had, and they deserved that touch down and conversion. And the greatest thing? They did it with heart.

The Magic of the Carousel

Sometimes you have characters, and those characters just know, instinctively, where they are going to live, what they are going to do, etc. I thought I knew where the Flynn family was going to be living –  in a giant mansion in Smoke City. But that wasn’t where Charlotte (the second oldest) wanted to live, apparently, because now they’re living in a giant old mansion out in the middle of a dark wood, with a mysterious carousel that Charlotte finds.

Funny how that works, huh? And maybe funny that there’s a carousel, of all things, out in the woods. I’ve always liked carousels, with their painted ponies and carnival music that shades toward the creepy side sometimes. Frozen in mid-stride, or perhaps mid-leap, those old wooden horses spin around day after day, playing in a world increasingly less in awe of their mystical powers. Because I dare you to take a ride on the armored horse or the leaping prancer and not feel something magical. Go on. I can wait. But it might take you a while to find one of these old carnival relics.

The idea to write something about a carousel horse has been floating around in my mind for a  very long time. Being a horse person, I’ve always been drawn to the wooden ponies. But it wasn’t until I took a picture of an old unrestored (he has been now, as far as I can gather) carousel horse and paired it with the Flynn family that their story really started to take shape. And it’s still taking shape as I write this. Being only six or seven pages into the manuscript, it’s difficult to tell where they’re really headed. But I bet it’s someplace magical and haunting and okay, maybe a bit creepy. After all, the carousels of old held honor in places like the White City (Luna City, later) and Coney Island, places where creepiness was just part of their charm.

But can you take that charmed creepiness, that weird mixture of magic and spookiness, and make it into something worth while? Will people want to read it? It doesn’t really matter. The best advice as far as writing goes that I’ve ever read is write for you. Don’t play to the trends. Whatever it is that makes you tick, that infinitesimal stuff that makes you you, is enough to create good stories. And for me, right now, it’s a fascination with wooden flying ponies that started the very first time my mom put me up on one at the local county fair.

Because, you see, there’s still some magic left in the world. And no, I’m not talking sorcerers and flying brooms, or witches and cauldrons. I mean the magic that, when you were a child, you didn’t struggle to find – it was just there. It was part of you. And it’s still there. You just have to find it. For some, it’s a trip to Disney World or Land, or going back to the place where you spent your summers.

I find the magic, my magic, in the wooden ponies of the carousel, resplendent in gold and silver and jewels, with fierce expressions and eyes that, if you choose to look into them, will transport you to worlds you never knew existed. And maybe someday, I’ll be able to share that magic with you.

 

Harry vs. Gandalf: the Issue with Magic

So I’ve been kicking around this question in my head for some time now. I have seen the The Hobbit trilogy as well as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Haven’t read the books. I know – I can hear the gasps of disbelief. You, a fantasy writer, have never read JRR Tolkien?! I’ll be honest with you: I tried reading Fellowship of the Ring and after at least ten pages of descriptions of the Shire, I was done. Where was the movement? Where were the characters? Okay, ten pages might’ve been a stretch, but those of you who have read those books have to agree – Tolkien describes everything to the nth degree. That’s not really my thing. I care more about how characters are moving and learning and interacting than what the grass and trees all look like. My own writing is pretty light on descriptions. I give you just enough to see where we are, and then I get on with the lives of the characters.

But the abundance of description in those books isn’t what I wanted to talk about. No, it’s the magic. Magic plays a big part in the Tolkien books. And it’s not just Gandalf’s light magic, either – there’s dark and powerful magic in there, too. Who can forget Gandalf fighting off the demon Balrog? That’s pretty dark. Yeah, the great wizard wins, but he’s still fighting off a force of great evil. A demonic force, no less. And I know plenty of Christians who have read those books and seen the movies, and LOVE them, even with all those dark forces at play, which is great. They are great movies (I’m sure the books are – I’ll take your word for it).

These fans, if asked about reading and watching something with such great evil in it, will usually answer, “Well, the good magic wins.” And so it does. But you know what? There’s another great series, of which I’m only just now reading the very first of (I know, I know), and that’s the Harry Potter books. What, you say? You can’t lump that in with Tolkien’s master work! Why, Tolkien was a Christian himself! Yeah, he was. But he also wrote about the forces of good and evil – the exact same thing that JK Rowling does. The good wins in that series too, I’m assuming. I have to assume, you see – only reading book one. But I have seen the first three movies.

What gets me is that these same people (not all of them, just some of them) will rail on about Gandalf and the good magic, but mention Harry Potter and his own sense of good magic and they turn an about-face and rant about it being a dark series, and that it brings evil to those who read it. We all remember the massive book burnings down in Texas, right? Baptist churches “ridding the world of Harry Potter?” Well, I do, anyway. And it made me sick. It still does. I am a Christian. But I also believe you should be allowed to read whatever you want. I’m a librarian too – we’re kinda big on the whole banned books thing here. I am a Stephen King fan – gasp! I don’t read a lot of his work, because it scares me, which is the point of the books. I don’t think someone should be able to tell me I can’t read them.

But back to the main discussion: why is it the Tolkien books, with their dark and evil magic, along with the good, are so revered, and the Harry Potter books, which also have good and dark magic, are not? Are actually reviled by some? Rowling is an excellent writer. You can argue against that all day long, but the fact remains: that woman is an amazing writer. So what does it really come down to? The magic? Why? Why shouldn’t you read both series? If the magic gets you all riled up against Harry, then get rid of those Tolkien books, too, while you’re at it. I know Tolkien was a Christian, and those books were written from that perspective. That’s totally terrific. And no, I don’t know what religion Rowling sways to, if any. But really, what does that have to do with the books? With the stories? The characters in the Tolkien books aren’t Christians (if I’m wrong, please feel free to let me know, in a pleasant manner). I sure didn’t see any evidence of them going to church or reading the Middle Earth version of a Bible in the movies.

So if those characters aren’t Christian, and they’re still involved in magic, how is that any different than the Potter characters? I’m quite confused by the whole “I love Tolkien and hate Rowling” thing. Really, I am. Mystified, actually. Because to me, those books are just about characters moving in their world and some of those characters use magic. Someone made the comment to me that they didn’t like the Rowling books because there were “good witches and bad witches.” Yeah, so? There are good wizards and bad wizards in the Tolkien books. But yet this person LOVES them. So what’s the difference? You could argue that of course the good magic will win in the LotR books, because Tolkien was a Christian. I could argue back that any sane person, who loves their main characters, isn’t going to let the darkness beat them. Harry Potter and Co. beat the darkness. It might take some doing, but they get it done. I do know that there are Christians who love the Harry Potter books – quite a few of them go to my church, and have no problem with Rowling not being a Christian writer.

This is probably one of those arguments that will never have a clear winner, so I guess I’ll wrap this up now. I love fantasy books, and that includes the urban fantasy genre. And fantasy books have magic. So I guess you either have to decide to only read the Christian ones, or realize that hey, magic isn’t real, so it’s okay for you to read non-Christian fantasy books, too. That could be a whole new discussion, right? Maybe a couple of new ones. So: I don’t get why people revere Tolkien and revile Rowling, and I never will. But I’m going to enjoy Harry and Co., and cheer when they, too, beat the dark forces of magic they face. Wizards they be, and good they are.