The Joy of Torturing Characters

Is it wrong to say that one of my favorite parts of being a writer is torturing my characters? Not just thinking up plot twists designed to force them to grown and change (aka the “no pain, no gain” theory of writing), but – and this sounds so wrong – leaving them in mid-crucial-scene. Like the time on my last writing retreat, when I was called to lunch and announced, “By the way, Ian and Darcy are REALLY not happy about me being interrupted right now. Mwahahahahahaha.” Or writing right up to the point when a character is about to have an AHA moment, only to stop there. Or – oh, this was the worst – the time I lfet my character in labor. Transition, I believe. For an entire long weekend.

Now, I realize that my characters aren’t real people and no one, other than me, will ever feel the effects of these breaks in the action. But it feels kind of real. And kind of Evil-God-like. And kind of like I should be taking a class in Highlights of the Inquisition.

I think I just creeped myself out.

But seriously, the real benefit of stopping at these crucial moments is that when I finally return, the words pour out. All the momentum of the scene builds while I am forced to wait. When I am finally able to return, there’s a feeling of urgency to the writing that (I hope) carries over to the words on the page. If I’ve done my job right, both the characters and the reader will benefit from the time away.

And if not … well … here’s a pretty picture, just to balance my karma.

mixed flowers

July at Casa Chaos

July has been a fun month here at Casa Chaos. The first week was filled with celebrations – Canada Day for me, the Fourth of July for Hubs & the rest of the family, and the release of Dating a Single Dad. We traveled to Maine (Hubs’ old stomping grounds) for the long Fourth weekend. There were fireworks, lobsters, games of dodge-the-iceberg at the beach (that ocean water is COLD!), and tons of laughs with family we see only a few times each year. We also got to experience the gridlock that is exiting southern Maine on the Sunday of a long weekend. Yowzers!
Tsarina and HRH have been attending the half-day playground program run through our town. That’s when I get the bulk of my writing work done. It ends in early August, and already, I’m freaking over how I’ll get anything done once it’s over.
We squeezed in a day trip to visit more relatives at their lake house. It was a long drive – 3.5 hours each way – but oh, what a hoot to paddle pool2around the lake and eat delicious barbecued chicken and see all the changes in scenery and kids! Tsarina discovered that a kiddie pool (the rigid plastic splash ones) makes an excellent pseudo-boat. She sat in there with her life jacket and kayak paddle while we took turns towing her around the dock.
Usually, July would include a trip to the RWA National Conference for me, but it wasn’t in the cards this time. It was certainly fun (in a jealousy-inspiring way) to see all the Facebook photos and tweets from friends who were in attendance. Next year in NYC, for sure!

First Draft DONE!

One of my favorite parts in the process of writing a book came a few days ago when I finished the first draft of the next Comeback Cove storBook Cliparty.
(Did you hear my giant sigh of relief?)
This is always a huge milestone for me. The book still needs a lot of work before I can send it to my editor. In fact, I’ve spent the days since hitting The End scanning the draft, writing notes, rearranging scenes, and driving myself bonkers thinking of ways to heighten /reveal/intensify the conflict.
But the biggest, most daunting job is behind me. I have my rough, raw, messy draft. Now I get to take everything I’ve learned about these people while writing about them, and put it to work, turning my caterpillar of a drat into a butterfly of a story.
Let the good times roll.

What’s-Up Wednesday: The Great Story Juggle

One of the aspects of this writing gig that still challenges me is how to handle the way stories overlap. I don’t mean the storiballs 2es themselves, overlapping in time, but the way I often need to be working on two or three books at once.
For example, right now I am:
• promoting Dating A Single Dad
• finishing the first draft of the next Superromance, due in mid-September
• plotting the book that I hope will come after that, first in a new trilogy, assuming the good folks at Harlequin want to buy more stories from me
• planning the other two books in the trilogy. Not in depth. Just enough that I have all the important issues in place before I embark on the first book.
• And I have this other idea kicking around in my head that I would love to give some time to.
So that’s, what – six books competing for various bits of my attention? And we haven’t even mentioned the steps that come after I hand a book in!

It’s a good thing that I have a bazillion kids. That was probably the only way that I could possibly prepare for juggling all these stories.

New Month, New Book, New Blog

So here’s the deal: I’m diving back into the blogosphere. (Cue the thunderous applause.)

Many times over the last year or so, I found myself wanting to share things with friends – things that would be difficult to do via Facebook or Twitter. A blog seemed like the perfect solution. And what better time to launch it than when I have a new book (and all the accompanying stories) to share with the world?

There was one little drawback in the plan: my days are not exactly scintillating. I’m a writer. That means I get up, get everyone off to work & school, and park myself at the computer. If it’s Wednesday, I go to the grocery store. Sometimes I volunteer at one of the schools. Sometimes I have a dentist appointment. All important to me, but not the stuff of which fascinating blogs are made.

With that in mind, I devised a plan. (Cue menacing laughter.)

• On Not-So-Manic-Mondays, I will blog about little tricks and tips that I have found useful over the past (can’t-count-that-high) decades. None of them are very revolutionary and very few are original, but I promise they will all be things that have worked for me and carry my Amazing Seal of Approval. Will they work for you? That, I can’t answer. But hey – it’s worth a shot, right?

• What’s-Up-Wednesdays will be a time to share any writing news and/or catch up on the events here at Casa Chaos.

• I have a plan for Fridays, but that will take a little longer to get rolling.

One last thing: there are certain people I refer to quite often, because, you know, they live with me (or did, until they had the nerve to grow up.) For your reference:

• Hubs – the husband. He’s here all the time, and that’s a good thing.
• The Geek – oldest son, who works/studies/lives in the Boston area with his lady love, The Geekess.
• Maestro – second son, in grad school in California.
• The Mensch – third son, doing his undergrad work at a school in Boston.
• HRH (Her Royal Highness) – eldest daughter, lives at home, attends middle school.
• Tsarina – youngest daughter, also at home, attends elementary school.
• The Fraulein – former exchange student/daughter of my heart, who lives in Germany but is still very much one of us.

(And for those of you doing the math and realizing that there’s a biiiig span between The Geek and Tsarina – not to worry. No laws of biology were tampered with here. My girls came to us through adoption – HRH from China, Tsarina from Russia.)

With the intros out of the way, let’s all grab a beverage (iced latte for moi), pull up a cozy chair, and settle in. Welcome aboard.