Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

And I’m Feeling Good… May 7, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Life,Writing — justwritecat @ 4:32 am
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One of my favorite Buble songs (yes, this is another post that references Michael Buble) is I’m Feeling Good.  My favorite part of the song is this:    

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

(sing it with me, loud)

Whenever I’m having a ‘good’ writing day, I listen to that song and belt it out loud for my entire family to suffer through enjoy.  Oh, who am I kidding – they suffer through it no doubt.  I am NOT a singer.  Sure, in my own head I sound okay.  Not off-key too much, can almost carry the tune.  In reality, I suck. 

But that’s fine with me – the point of singing isn’t to sound good (unless you are Michael Buble, in which case you sound mighty good, oh yes, mighty good).  For me, it’s all about feeling it.  Letting the words and the sounds take you to wherever you need or want to go at that moment. 

In my ‘real life’, that means to a place where I can accept myself as a writer.  Where I can be okay with the writing life.  With all the worlds I’ve created (or want to create) swirling around in my head, with all the voices of my characters talking to me and sometimes yelling at me to tell their stories, with all the…possibilities.  Being a writer is scary and exhilarating.  Often, at the same time.  But when I hear that song, everything’s okay.  I see the road I’m heading down, not knowing where it will lead, and everything seems right somehow. 

Then there are times when I think about what I’m doing – or trying to do – and I tell myself – ACKK, where are you going?!? Turn back, idiot, turn back.  It’s not too late.  Go back to teaching, or baking, or something you know you’re good at.  But lately, those moments are fewer and farther between.  Which I think is good.  And anyway, this post is not about the demons of insecurity.  It’s about Feeling Good.

I mentioned my ‘real life’.  But music also helps with that writing life by creating the right mood in my mind, which hopefully translates to setting the right atmosphere in a scene.  Example – when I wrote chapter one to Set ‘Em Up, Joe, I listened to Frank Sinatra’s version of One For My Baby over and over again.  Like over a hundred times, seriously.  One reason is that the scene opens in a bar, with Joe easing into his night with his favorite scotch (and his favorite gal).  I figured a ‘bar song’ (or rather, song about a bar) would work.  And I think it did.  But the main reason I listened to that song is because my character (a vampire) was turned in the 1960s and was a huge fan of Sinatra.  Hence the name of the novel, which is a verse from the song.  In fact, my hope is to write a series with each title referencing a Sinatra song.  But I digress…

 So what about you?  Do you use music to help you write?  Any songs that motivate you (either when you write, or at any other time)?

By the way, when (not if, when) an agent falls in love with my work and extends the offer of representation I’m going to send out a post called “And I’m Feeling SO Good).  I’m also going to dye my hair auburn, but that really has nothing to do with music.

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Bar Scene Blogfest Entry April 11, 2010

Filed under: Where Did That Come From??,Writing,Writing Contests — justwritecat @ 1:25 am
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Ooh, another blogfest!  This time it’s BAR SCENES, hosted by Tara over at Secret Story 

Well, now.  A Bar Scene.  Oh, yes….goody, goody.  Joe likes his booze, that he does.  Below is my entry, an excerpt from the first chapter of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  Set-up  – Joe’s taking it easy, enjoying his fine single-malt scotch, basking in the beauty of his favorite bartender and regular gal Pamela.  Enter the bad guys.

             I raised my drink and took a sip; the hint of smoke and sea salt teased my tongue.  I took a few more, letting the booze work to quiet my senses.  I leaned forward and set my glass down on the smooth oak bar.  Our eyes met, and Pamela gave me one of her half smiles. 

            She picked up the bottle, her soft, amber hair slowly falling across her shoulder as she leaned forward to fill my glass.  As she topped off my drink, the front door banged open.  The bottle trembled in her hand, and I watched as a drop of thirty-two-year-old single malt missed my glass and hit the bar. 

            “They’re back.”

            I looked up.  Pamela’s head was turned towards the front of the bar; her hand gripped the bottle, her knuckles white.  Worry flashed across her deep blue eyes. 

            Two goth looking wannabes had walked in, accompanied by a late summer breeze and a scent that seemed oddly familiar.  Cloves, maybe.  One of them sniffed the air and then looked at his buddy.  If they were human, I’d drink a Cosmopolitan.     

            I looked back at Pamela, who was still holding the bottle.  “Easy now, angel.”

            She looked at me, and then set the bottle down.  “Those are the kids I told you about.  They had trouble taking no for an answer when I refused to serve them beers earlier today.  I could’ve sworn one of them growled at me when I threatened to call the cops.”

            The first one walked up to the bar.  Just on the outside of sixteen, I’d bet.  Tallish, with blazing green eyes and spiked reddish-blond hair.  Looked like a damn rooster.  The second one stood close behind—appeared to be about two years younger and an inch shorter, with jagged jet black hair and eyes to match.  There was something grimy about the air around them.  And while their scent was familiar, their faces were not.  Didn’t think they knew me, but if they were trying to cause trouble, it was time I got to know them.  And if they were in any way involved with the reason I came to this town, then yeah—introductions were in order.  I was back on full alert.     

            “We’re starving.  Make it two burgers,” the older one said.

            I looked back at my glass of scotch, contemplating the drop that got away.  “Heard of a thing called manners?” 

            The second one snickered; the first one didn’t do a thing.

            “I said two burgers. Rare. And two beers.”

            I looked up at Pamela, who stood motionless behind the bar.  Still looking at her, I coughed lightly and said, “And I said, how about some manners?”

            The one with the green eyes turned to look at me.  I returned the courtesy.  That’s when I noticed something wrong with his eyes.  They were on fire.  Not because of his true nature, not because he was probably full on human blood, but for another reason.  Sick?  Not very likely, not for our kind.  Had to be drugs.    

            “Keep it to yourself, old man.”

            Mr. Jet Black hair snickered again, sniffed, and then put his arms around himself and shivered.  Drugs.  What the hell were these two thinking?  Drugs and our kind don’t usually mix.    

            “The kitchen’s already closed.  Besides, you know I can’t serve minors,” Pamela said.  “You’ll have to leave.” 

            Green eyes stared at her for a long moment, like he was cataloguing her image for later.  And that, I didn’t like. 

            When they didn’t move, I said, “So you don’t do polite, but maybe you also got a hearing problem?  The lady asked you to leave. Why don’t I show you the way out?” 

            His sidekick shivered again, then said, “Let’s go, Jeff.”  

            The first one stared at me, this funny look on his face.  Like he wanted to bite me.  Well, hell—let him try.  I laughed at the thought.

            “Laughing at me, old man?”  That was twice now.  When you’re blessed with immortality, age is irrelevant.  I hated being reminded of that fact.

            “Maybe I am, Jeff.  Now, be a good boy and listen to your friend.”  I looked at the other one.  “Your name’s not Mutt, I suppose?”

            “Huh?”

            “No, I suppose not.”  I set my glass down on the bar, pushed back my barstool, and stood up.  “Guess you do need help finding your way out.” 

            Just then, the double door that separated the bar and restaurant from the kitchen swung open.  A young waitress by the name of Daisy sauntered through and worked her way up to the bar.  Though at least a decade younger, Daisy was one of Pamela’s closest friends.  She was a cute young thing, a brunette with cocoa eyes, though a bit too cheerful for my tastes. 

            “I forgot my gym bag in the break area.”  She walked over to my side, stopping right in front of the two punks.  “I heard voices up front.”  She smiled at me.  “I’m not suprised to find you here, but who are the kids?  Friends of yours?”

            I heard a low gutteral sound from Green eyes, and in less than a second he grabbed Daisy’s wrist and sniffed it.  As he was about to lick her wrist, I moved between them and grabbed his arm.  I squeezed quick and tight, and said, “Let go. Now.”

            He let out a deep growl, like a dog makes when he’s about to lose his bone. 

            I squeezed tighter and heard bones snap. 

            He growled again, though it was more of a wimper, and let go.  As I pushed Daisy behind me, Pamela rushed over to her side. 

           He looked at me and I started to see the tips of something white and sharp poke out from under his upper lip.  What the hell was wrong with this one?  Pulling that kind of crap in front of humans was not only stupid—it was dangerous for all our kind.  Don’t call attention to yourself unless you need to use it.  Vampires fare best when following that rule.      

          Yeah, that’s what I am.  Vampire.  And it was time for my own fangs to come out.

 

Murder Scene Blogfest Entry April 9, 2010

Heh, heh, heh.  I get to kill someone today.  I LOVE when that happens. 

O.K.  – so before you think I’ve gone all ‘nutso-crazies’, I’m referring to the Murder Scene Blogfest hosted by Anne Riley.  You can find the details at her blog.  Check it out, then please come back and read my entry.  Let me know what you think!

This is an excerpt from Chapter Three of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  In this scene, medical examiner and vampire Joe Cooper has just received a call about a fire in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  Remains of something that might be human were found after the fire was put out, so he’s off to investigate. You can read the first chapter of Seeing Red here: Chapter One

Broadway Pier—one of over a dozen in the area—juts far out into the water, making it a popular parking spot for the schooners and water taxis that traverse Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  None were docked tonight, which had probably helped contain the fire.  As I walked to the end of the pier, the smells of the Harbor intensified.  Thanks to the infestation of algae that hit every summer, the water reeked of decaying fish.  I took a deep breath and got an idea of what triggered Mells’ warning bells.  There was a faint whiff of something—musky, like going deep-woods, that lingered in the cool night air.  Catalogued and mentally filed—with all the other vamp scents I knew—for further consideration. 

While all vampire senses are finely honed, and more intense than any human could possibly handle, the one we rely on the most is the sense of smell.  The way I see it, the faster you can detect someone’s scent, the better chance you have of staying one step ahead of ‘em. 

The end of the pier was cordoned off with a stretch of grey, fraying rope.  As M.E. on the scene, anything on the other side of that rope was my domain.  I lifted it up, stepped under it, and got to work. 

Every person deserves to have the full attention of another at least once in life.  I looked at the mess in front of me.  This was its time.  And it had my attention. At first look it seemed the tangled mass of grey and black was anything but human.  But it was, or had been.  Telltale signs of Homo sapiens—charred organs, broken bones and several teeth—lay in the debris.  I dismissed the sounds and smells of the others—the cops and firefighters and onlookers whose hearts still beat in time and whose blood still flowed in their veins—and focused on the victim’s scent. 

I inhaled deeply.  The scent of charred flesh hit me first—but then, not much can cut through that kind of stench.  Somewhere in that smell was a hint of copper, but it should’ve been stronger since that’s the first thing you usually detect if blood is present.  Even with a body burned almost beyond recognition, there should be enough residual blood in the corpse.  Something must’ve significantly drained the body of blood prior to chopping it to pieces, and that had me concerned because there’s only one kind of something that can do that—my kind. 

Goddamn.  One of my own had gone rogue, and in a bad way.  Targeting other vampires, leaving their remains out in public view.  And bringing unwanted attention to us all. 

I called over one of the forensic techs and told him to get to work.     

“How should I bag the—remains?”

“Carefully.”

 

Change is Good…. March 4, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Writing — justwritecat @ 10:16 pm
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I’m extremely overdue for posting an update on my revision work.  I apologize – I’ve been working hard on the revision…which is going much better than I originally expected.  When I first received the developmental editor’s feedback, I was um, a bit…miffed.  There were some suggestions that seemed so contrary to what I envisioned for my character, that I couldn’t get past it.  That was at first.  Now…now I’m much more o.k. with making the changes (most, not all – you have to stay true to the vision of your story).

I’m an impatient person.  And stubborn.  And I’d rather be in control of what happens to me than not.  Not necessarily in control of a situation – I can go along for the ride if someone else is in charge.  But I need to know – or like to think I know – what my role in something is or might be.  I don’t like to go into anything with blinders on.  And that’s exactly what you have to do when you turn your manuscript over to someone.  You never know what he or she will like/hate/feels is not essential to your storyline.

And that’s o.k. – because if you desire an honest, professional, objective opinion on your work (and you should), then you have to be willing to give up some things, be willing to open your mind to the input and suggestions.  And to the possibilities.  Because after giving serious thought to the editor’s suggestions, I realized he was right about so many things.   And so the next several posts will cover the changes I made based on the editor’s feedback and a ‘re-vision’ of my characters and the plot.

Here’s the first one…

I’d been told by three editors and one agent that my opening was good, but the pacing needed attention.  The opening lines grabbed their attention, but then the scene quickly spiraled downward (not their words, they were much too kind…but that was the gist).  One editor said it felt as if I was setting up a scene, rather than letting the action play out.  And that comment made perfect sense.  In the original opening, my protagonist – Joe Cooper – is having a drink at a bar.  He’s listening to the bartender tell him about some creepy teens that were in the place earlier (it’s also a restaurant).  The teens had tried to hit on one of the younger waitresses – in a way that suggested the teens were of Joe’s kind (he’s a vampire).  As the bartender is relating the story, the same teens come in and the action starts.

The feedback I received suggested I get rid of all the set-up and just have the teens walk in and start acting in a way that quickly gets Joe’s attention.  I made the changes – and wow, what a difference in pacing and tension.  So really, a simple change but one that I would never had made without that outside feedback.  It’s tough to see the problems in your own work.  And even when you do, it’s not easy to know how to make a change for the better. 

Sure, looking at the original scene now I see the problems, but before, I couldn’t.  I thought setting up the confrontation was o.k., but it just made things drag.  Lesson learned – don’t set things up more than you need to, just go with the action if you want a fast-paced opening (or any scene).  If you want to slow things down, that’s different – but you don’t want slow right out of the gate. 

What about the opening to your book?  Does it get reader attention right away?  More importantly, does it keep their attention?  Think about it – how many times have you picked up a book at the bookstore or library, read the first few lines, and then put the book right back down.  What about those books that draw you in immediately, and never let you go?  You know the ones I’m talking about  – the ones that keep you awake until four in the morning, even though it’s a weeknight and you know you’re going to pay for it the next day?  Or that make you forget about your family, your other responsibilities, your own life because you simply cannot put the book down? 

That’s the kind of book I want to write.  And with the help from the developmental editor, I’m closer to that goal.

 

Letting Go… February 2, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 2:46 am
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My manuscript will be undergoing a rather significant revision over the next few weeks.  Based on comments received by an agent (an agent who is willing to reread/reconsider my work upon revision), I decided to work with a developmental editor.  I did some research – and after hearing about him via a tweet by an agent – decided to see if Alan Rinzler would be open to working on my manuscript.  He read my work, sent me an email with his initial thoughts and estimated fee, and offered to field any questions/concerns via a phone call.  We talked, and then decided to move forward with the developmental editing. 

Let me pause to explain that developmental editing is not the same thing as copy editing.  A developmental editor offers something substantially different  – he or she considers the totality of your work.  Plot, characterization, pacing, dialog, subplots, marketability – so if you are considering working with such an editor, be ready to possibly make significant changes to specific aspects of your novel.  And that is what this blog is about.  The willingness to make those changes.  For more on this, please visit Alan’s site here: http://www.alanrinzler.com/home.html 

I’m a control person.  Maybe not a freak, but certainly someone who would rather be in control of my life than not.  At least to the degree than I can have any control over my life!  I’m also accustomed to working on projects alone.  Yes, I’ve experienced the challenges and benefits of teamwork, but usually everyone has their own ‘mini-project’ to work on and then we all come together and viola – the whole thing is done.  Yeah, working with an editor isn’t like that.  You do your part, he does his – and then the real work begins.  This is just the start of the process for me, so some of this may change, but…from what I gather, some back and forth is a necessary part of the experience. 

And while all the changes made are, ultimately, up to me (read, in my control) – if a better book is my goal (it is), an openness to his input and a willingness to make changes is essential.  And that’s hard.  Not because his suggestions aren’t good/great/so fantastic I wish I’d thought of it – but because sometimes you want to hold on to those ideas or to those chapters or to the images you have in your head of your characters.   It’s your story – and while you may beg for input on how to tell it better, it’s hard to make some of those changes.  But, not impossible.

And that’s where I am.  Deciding which changes to make, and of those I want to make – the best way to do so.  When Alan sent me the marked up manuscript, he suggested I read his comments/changes SLOWLY, and more than once.  And then I should count to ten, read them again – and then wait ten days to set up our phone consult.  Wise man, experienced man.  He certainly knows writers – or at least, this one who admitted during our first phone call patience was an elusive virtue for me.  He must also have picked up on other of my lesser qualities – hot-headedness for one.  My first read through of his comments, I misunderstood some of his suggestions.  Another read  – and several tears – later, I realized some of his suggestions were not what I first thought and were, in reality, quite doable.  So if you work with a developmental editor – don’t take any comments personally, don’t jump to any conclusions.  Take a deep breath, read any suggestions slowly and with focus – then cry if you still feel inclined (or yell, or whatever you do to work through your frustration).  And then, get to work.  Chances are, the suggested changes will make your book better – but it’s up to you to accept the challenge.

Hint:  It’s easier if you just…let go.

 

Nothing to Complain About… January 6, 2010

Filed under: Agents,Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Life,Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 6:26 am

A blog in which I rant about not having anything to rant about.

I’m rather fortunate.  Blessed, in all truth.  In 2009, I decided to follow a decades-long dream and become a writer.  I’d been a writer before – but never of fiction.  And boy, is the transition from writing nonfiction to fiction a huge one!  I’ve had rather positive experiences with my “writer’s life” so far, but the true reason I feel so very fortunate — my family.

From day one, my family has shown support in so many ways — encouragement, story ideas, peace and quiet time so I could write….you name it, they’ve probably done it.  And to give full credit where due, my husband is the one who finally convinced me I should ignore my fears and give in to my desire to write.  Support has come from other places, too.  My Mom’s constant praise and encouragement, my neigbors’ enthusiasm to have a ‘real writer’ in the neighborhood, even the electrician who wired and installed our ceiling fans.  Yes, I talk about my writing to everyone.  And so far, not one person has shook his head or questioned my sanity (not to my face, at least).  All have asked about my novel, offered to read it, shared their love of books…basically, convinced me that this endeavor was only ever possibly foolish to one person and one person alone – me.  But a life of not taking risks tends to do that to a person.  And writing very much involves risk-taking.  Which is not a bad thing.

Back to my lack of things to complain about, though…

I often come across comments in blogs that suggest many beginning writers do not have such positive experiences.  The comments suggest that the writer is anything but satisfied with how things are going – from their lack of finding an agent to lack of finding a publisher to lack of finding anything positive to say about any aspect of their experiences.  And I know some writers are not as fortunate to have such a strong support system in place.  Still, it seems a few writers — especially those new to the life — are simply, and forever, unhappy.  Not me. 

I wrote a novel last year.  My first one.  Is it great?  Of course not – certainly not yet.  Is it good?  Parts are, I think.  Does it have potential?  I believe it does, given some of the responses I’ve received.  Enough potential that there is at least one agent out there open to reading it again.  One agent who was kind enough to take the time to give me feedback on my work.  And another agent who is also waiting for the revised manuscript.  I’m going to work with a developmental editor this month on my manuscript.  That should be quite the adventure…and one I’ll blog about over the next few weeks.  All in all, I feel things are heading in the right direction.  Meaning, forward.  Not that I mind taking a step or two backwards, but so long as I’m improving as a writer and continuing to put those voices in my head down on paper….well, that’s moving forward to me.

And about those agents…sometimes some of those posts I mentioned above suggest agents aren’t nice.  Or that they’re even mean-spirited.  I’ve honestly not found that to be the case at all.  Any agent I’ve come into contact with has been polite/kind/encouraging/helpful/a regular person (i.e. approachable).  Guess that’s just another thing I can’t complain about.

So — looking forward to 2010…revision of my manuscript.  Probably major, which is fine.  I would rather be working than not.  Family support strong, attitude positive, complaints — zero.

Happy Writing!

Cat

 

Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies…Oh, My! Part One October 28, 2009

The first in a three-part commentary on Mythical Creatures.

Before I get into this, let me state that I love vampires.   Unequivocally, unabashedly, eternally.  And yes, I realize they’re not real.  Let’s move on.

Vampires

My first novel, completed this year, is about vampires.  A tale of longing and hunger; of lust and regret.  My story introduces medical examiner Joe Cooper-a vampire with an insatiable appetite for booze, blood and women.  And a hunger for justice.  He represents many of the qualities I’ve always admired in (fictional) vampires.  Inhuman abilities-check.  Rugged good looks-oh, yeah.  A thirst for human blood-absolutely.  He’s dangerous when he has to be; charming when he wants to be.  He also has (forgive the pun) a heart.  Because one other thing that’s always drawn me to certain fictional vampires is their sense of loss.  Of what might be, of what can never be.  I’m a sucker for a sad story.  

Let me also say that I adore the Twilight Series.  Just like many others out there, I quickly found myself caught up in the story of Bella and Edward.  I felt like a teenager again, except only the good parts.  And while many have said that her vampires weren’t fierce enough, or that the love story wasn’t graphic enough – hey, it was intended for a young adult audience.  Just because those of us who are…um…not young adults, also fell in love with the story, does not mean we should judge it as if it was meant for us.  Don’t judge it at all.  Just enjoy the story.  Because it’s a great one.

But…my novel is for a more mature audience, and as such, brings vampires back to the darker side of their existence.  In other words, Joe ain’t a vegetarian.  And he likes sex.  Nothing smutty, mind you.  But I did worry about sending the first draft to my mom to read. 

I’ve heard the complaints – “if I have to see another vampire on t.v. or read about another vamp book, I’m gonna hurl” (or something to that effect).  O.k. – so you don’t like vampires.  Or maybe you’re just tired of them, you want something else to entertain you.  Fine, but you’ve got to admit that vampires are one type of mythical creature that’s not going anywhere.  There’s an allure there…the vampire mythos speaks to us (women and men, both).  For different reasons, and in different ways, but still–the appeal remains relatively constant. 

And there are so many ways for writers to explore this legend–to sculpt their characters and build their worlds in ways that reflect that which they find the most alluring/seductive/frightening.  Writers write about vampires to appease the multitude of readers out there who are clamoring for this genre.  But we also write about vampires to satisfy our own creative selves. 

Urban, paranormal, supernatural – call it what you will, but this genre of fantasy fiction is popular.  And for good reason. And while vampires are but one of the many creatures that can be given life in such fiction, to me–they’re the most beguiling.

My thoughts on Werewolves and Zombies later this week…

Happy Writing!

Cat