Do you ever look into the deep green shadows of a primeval forest and wonder what those secret depths hold? Do you like to write about your new and inventive discoveries while sipping a glass of fragrant wine? Do you enjoy the creative process? Then I hope you will stop a spell, enjoy the adventure, and travel with me as we imagine the possibilities...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Designing Woman

Menoly Anne Arnau, proud Floridian of Minorcan descent, Anthropologist by degree, government employee by day, and sometimes knit-wear designer, learns that not every twig holding mankind’s heritage was in her text books.  In a week, she witnesses a bloody murder on the steps of a church, meets Antoine de Chevalier, Interpol Agent and Les Gens extraordinaire, and becomes embroiled in the midst of an international investigation centered in Tallahassee, Florida’s capitol city.  Through all of her adventures in Les Gens: Into the Night, as she experiences horror, murder, and romance, she wears her knitted designs. 

Menoly is a designing woman.

And that is a good thing.  Knitting makes her happy, and it makes me, the author, happy.  It is also a marketing tool.  (BIG cheesy grin) 

When writing, It is much more interesting to have characters who are as real as people seen on the street, at work, or in the local knit shop.  My folk, and the people in books I remember and enjoy reading about, have loves, hates, homes, friends, acquaintances, families, hobbies, and on and on.  I read Anne McCaffrey said for characters to have a present, they have to have a past,or they will not be grounded.  I agree.  Characters won’t leap off the page unless the author gives them a complete life.  Raison de vivre… a reason to live.  That reason to live gives the author a plethora of opportunities to spread the word about her/his book.

Does your character like to play guitar?  Do you have music the character has written?  Right there, you have a place to advertise.  What about paint?  Share information in watercolor/oil/acrylic groups in your town and on the internet.  An author I know writes about a woman who works with her Sheriff’s Department as an adjunct diver and helps solve crime.  She joined a national diver’s association and attends their conferences selling her books.  Glynn Marsh Alam – sets a fine example on marketing her Luanne Fogarty series.  See?
Menoly knits, and not only knits, but designs garments.  I’m making designs for Menoly.  Some will be offered free, some will be for sale on this blog, or, if I can ever get one set up, through a website.  Now, I take designing seriously, having already sold some of my patterns.  I'm not blowing smoke, and nor should you.  Do your research. 

Take your writing and share it with others.  Look in your book to find places and people who will be interested in these wonderful characters you’ve written about.

But most of all – have fun as you breathe life into your characters!

Imagining the possibilities,


Sunday, January 23, 2011

The JOY of Research

There is a body on a steeple.  I’m not going to tell you how it got there, nor how it came down.  Neither the before nor after is very pretty, though it is quite interesting.  I guess you figured the guy is dead?  Yep, shore ‘nuff.  What I’m going to tell you about is the research involved.  (Did I mention that this is in my book, a fictional fantasy?  No?  Ooops!) 

Okay, I’d already decided a body would be on a steeple in the middle of good ol’ T-town.  Next, I needed to decide which steeple.  Our fair city is full of beautiful churches whose spires reach to the heavens and are topped by various styles of crosses.  I needed a church that would be visible from a wide area and have a cross strong enough to hold a body for four to six hours.  At least until our heroes spot it.

After checking out Tallahassee from the 22nd floor of the State Capitol, I found two churches that fit the bill.  The first Saturday morning I could, I drove downtown, parked, and investigated the grounds around the churches in relation to the height of the steeple and the effect it will have on the story.  Great.  Decision made.  No problem.  I go home.  Type.

Now I’ve got the dead guy on the steeple, and need to get him down.  That sounds easy, but wait!  Even though I delve into fantasy and fiction, I like the real parts real and to make sense.  That way when I need people to suspend belief for the fantastical parts, they will.  There are options, therefore I need to find out how tall that beautiful spire is so I can see if the Fire Department is able to reach the steeple.  Phone call to church goes somewhat like this: 

“Good morning, I’m Peggy, a local author.  I’m writing a book that takes place in Tallahassee.  Can you tell me the height of your steeple?  Please?”  Now, you may ask why I didn’t mention the dead body?  Well, what church is going to tell me the height of their steeple if they know there is a body draped on it?  And then, you see, I can’t lie to the church.  Do NOT want to piss off God.  Bad form, there.  Omission is a wonderful thing.  The young lady, after placing me on hold, came back with the information.  Very nice lady.

Now to contact the Fire Department and find out how high their ladders reach.  (Do not read further if you work in the capitol or one of the other tall buildings in town.)  Another question – have you ever tried to call the Fire Department just to talk to someone?  The only number I could find was 911.  Okay, I am NOT calling 911 to ask how high the Fire Department’s ladders go.  Not in this lifetime.  So at lunch one day, I hop in my beautiful red jeep and drive to the firehouse just off Tennessee Street, park in an appropriate spot, and walk to the large cavernous opening exactly in time to have the sirens blare and two huge red trucks to go barreling out two feet from my startled nose.  (My nose is still not happy with me after that, I assure you.) 

After the fire trucks leave, I carefully ease my upset nose around the corner and quickly follow it with my entire body.  There is a door waaaay in the back and I can see shadows through the milky glass which signifies people, or one very large Dalmatian.  The two men who opened the door, sans dog, after my knock, were very nice.  I introduced myself with my full name, that I was an author, and needed some help with research for a book.  Sure, they say and lean back in their chairs, grinning at each other.  One crosses his hands on his chest and tilts his chair onto the back two rungs.  (A little further, I think, and he’ll need the services of his own EMTs if that chair falls.)  I ask how high their longest ladders reach.  They ask, “Why?”  Oh, dear, here goes…  “I need to know if they can reach a body on the gold-bricked church’s steeple.”  It would be difficult to tell you how quickly those men leaped from their chairs, looked at each other, then sideways at me, and all but pushed me out of the way to stare outside.  “Not that steeple, I say,” and point to the majestic one slightly to the right of where they were looking.

“But there isn’t a body up there.”  They look accusingly at me.  “Of course there isn’t, I told you, this is fiction… in a book?”  Now they move a little bit away from me and once again look at each other as if to say… we’ve got a live one.  I know that look, I’ve more than likely had it on my face when someone calls my office and the first thing out of their mouth is:  “I’m not crazy….” 

After a moment of silence, I decide to remind them.  “Um, the size of your ladder?”  They tell me.  I thank them and, being the conscientious person I am, ask their names because I’d like to publicly acknowledge them in my book.  “Oh, you don’t need our names,” they both say and back away from me, hands palm out in front of their bodies.  “We’re happy to help.”    

So you know, the ladders in the fire trucks do not reach to the top of the steeple – not even close.  I did check out cranes, and they do, but it would take a long time to get one through downtown during Sunday morning traffic.  Awesome.  I now know how my guy gets off the steeple.  You know what they say, what goes up, must come down.

And I still want to say thank you to the Tennessee Street Fire Department for answering my question… and yes, I do know, they are always happy to help.

 Imagining all the possibilities,


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Say It Ain't So!

You've probably heard, as I have, that one of the best ways to edit your writing is to read it out loud.

Don’t do it!

If you like the way your writing is when you sit at your computer and read it; don’t do it. If you enjoy the action and characters as you hold crisp white pages in your hand, feet propped up and a beverage nearby, again; don’t do it. If you think it is perfect and says exactly what you want it to say, and everyone who reads it will send rave reviews to Amazon/New York Times/NPR, well then… Don’t Read Your Book Out Loud! Because if you do, nine times out of ten, you will find things that need changing no matter how excellent you thought it was when you read it.

See, our wonderful minds see what they want to see.  We'll add the correct endings of words automatically.  Fix the descriptions, and because we are the almighty being creating new and wonderful worlds, we will know exactly what we meant when putting ink to paper.  If you read it out loud, the oddest things jump out and grab you by the throat.

If you decide to read your marvelous writing, don’t read it to the dog – he’s going to love it. He’ll wag his tail and look at you like you are Hemingway, Charles Dickens, or J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe even J.K. Rowling or Steve Berry. Remember – the dog loves you so much, he’ll think everything you say is perfect. Read it to the cat. Cats won’t tolerate crap from anyone… not that your book, or even portions of it, are crap. If you don’t have a cat, imagine one sitting in front of you, eyes slanted half shut, tail twitching. Cats like rhythm, and will get all antsy if what they hear does not suit them. Oh yes, read it to the cat.

See, the written word is like a river – it ebbs and flows, swirls when needed, builds to thunderous waves, and throbs with the beat of a deep bass drum. When speaking, it’s easier for an author to hear that fluidity, or see the snags in the way. And when we make needed changes, readers will find our book more compelling and be willing to follow the current all the way to the end.

So, here I am – sanding and polishing, and reading to the cat. Neither the cat nor I like stagnant pools.

Imagining the possibilities,