Monthly Archives: December 2013

Reflections and realizations

After sending my submission for the Author Quest, I fully intended to get right back to work.  But as it turns out, I was a bit spent and needed some downtime.

I spent Christmas Day at my parent’s acreage, which is about a 30 minute drive from my home.  It’s a nice drive and being out there is very calming for me.  Talk turned to the Author Quest and my father posed a question that gave me a lot to consider.

“You must have learned a lot.”

As it turned out, I learned a great deal.  First and foremost, I learned that I am more than capable of the task at hand.  I set a deadline and stuck to it, but more importantly I couldn’t be more proud of the work that I did.  I am extremely happy with what I have come up with so far and can’t wait to see what is still to come.

I also learned that a binder is definitely the way to go.  I was using notebooks, but the issue I had was that the information wasn’t organized, but rather just written in the order it came to me.  Notebooks and journals are fantastic, don’t get me wrong.  But because you don’t have the option of moving the pages around, it can get rather frustrating when you go back and have to hunt something down.

For example, I had written something in particular and was pretty sure it was for the story I was putting together for the Author Quest.  I searched and searched but couldn’t find it in my binder.  Then I went through the notebook that I used last and found it.  For another story that I am working on. 

I will definitely keep my notebooks, as they’re great for jotting down ideas as they come to you.  But moving forward, a binder is a must.  You can divide it into sections which organizes you further.  A section for character profiles, another for the story outline, and yet another for your list of names.  You may want one specifically for research or perhaps mapping out the world you’re creating.  For the Author Quest, I had 6 tabs in my binder which kept the approx 100 pages of notes that I had made over the span of my research (which seems to be ongoing).

Author Quest - organized binder

I also learned the importance of having something to focus on while you wait for feedback.  I was actually about to sit down and get serious about my next novel the very day that Brian Froud posted about the Author Quest.  So that project was set aside.  But I can assure you, it hasn’t been forgotten.

In fact, I have a new binder which is now organized and filled with paper (did you know you can get reinforced filler paper for your binder?!?).  I also took some time to transcribe all my notes from my notebook and print some reference photos I found online (including a very snazzy title page), so it’s off to a fine start.


A really interesting character came to me two nights ago, so I spent part of yesterday and today doing a bit of research as well as trying to find a name that would fit.  All of that is also now tucked into my binder.  (squeal!)

So it seems I have found something that works for me.  So tell me… what works for you?  Is there anything that is such an intricate part of your process that you don’t think you could possibly write without it?



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Shelfie Saturday !

Actually it’s more of a “Deskie”, instead of a shelfie.  But like the Faeries, I am not big on playing by the rules.

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My sister made this for me and gave it to me for Yule.  She found the card when she was in Tofino, BC.  The shadowbox was done by her.  See all the little mushrooms?  She made those out of clay.  There are also butterflies and a ladybug in there.  I opened the case and you can smell the moss.  She’s so talented.  I absolutely love it!

I had some time to reflect over the Yuletide, both about the Author Quest and future projects.  Some interesting characters came forward, new goals were set, and realizations made.  Stay tuned for more…

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182 days.  That’s how long it’s been since I found out about the Author Quest.

Last night, I spent the better part of three (or maybe it was four) hours doing a final read-through of my submission.  The first 10 thousand words that may change the course of my life.  It’s already had a huge impact.  I would be lying if I even attempted to say otherwise.

So I sat here in the glow of my laptop screen, staring at the “submit” button for what seemed like a lifetime.  In an effort to block out the world and calm my nerves, I put on my headphones and turned up “Celtic Mystique”.  I looked over every part of my submission.  Triple checking and then checking again.  Making sure every detail was exactly as I wanted. 

Then, I did it.  I clicked the button.

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There was no turning back.  No more revisions.  No more proofreading.  Nothing left to do but wait.  182 days of pouring everything I had into the world of Thra and those who dwell there.  Evenings and weekends secluded in my kitchen, flipping through the pages of my beloved binder, making notes, meeting new characters and creatures.  An entire Saturday several weeks back spent pouring over the film, making detailed notes of things that I had not yet noticed before.  Pausing the DVD over and over again because the fact is I cannot physically write as fast as my thoughts come pouring forward or as fast as I catch glimpses of something on the screen that may hold great importance later on.

I loved every moment and am beyond grateful that Brian Froud posted the announcement on his Facebook page 182 days ago. 

So much so that I have decided I don’t want it to end.  So, I have set a new deadline and am going to finish the story.  I thought I might be burned out and need a break.  I considered moving on to my next novel.  But that would mean abandoning the Gelfling, the Mystics, Augra, and even the Skeksis.  I just can’t do that.  Based on the number of ideas that came forward today, I don’t think they’d let me.

I promised myself that if I made my deadline I would take a day off and treat myself.  I went to see “The Hobbit” today with my parents and my nephew, then out to dinner at a fabulous restaurant called “Famoso”.  It is, quite simply, the BEST pizza I have ever had.  Definitely food for the creative mind.  Don’t even get me started on the gelato.  If you have both a “Famoso” and a writer in your life, take them for dinner.  Believe me.  They need it and they will thank you profusely for it.

After an absolutely wonderful day, it’s back to work on “The Gelfling Gathering”.  I only have until Feb 1 to finish and I have another 40 thousand-ish words to write.  But thankfully I seem to have hit a groove and am really looking forward to the rest of this journey.

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Shelfie Saturday !

This week I learned of a new social media phenomenon.  The “Shelfie” is to bibliophiles what the “selfie” is to Rich Kids of Instagram.  So, without further adieu, welcome to Shelfie Saturday!

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This is a shelf in my bedroom.  I am not entirely certain why this collection of books ended up there.  I must have meant to do research before bed and never actually ended up doing that.

Three books on the Celts, one of which (An Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology) I am overjoyed to say I got for FREE when I worked at Chapters.  One of the perks they used to have were “Dreampoints”.  You got them for achieving sales goals and positive feedback from customers.  Once you saved up a certain amount, you could get store credit and thus FREE BOOKS.  Let me repeat that for those who may have missed it.  FREE.  BOOKS.  From any section of the store.  On any topic.  I’ll give you a moment.

There is also a copy of “The Tree Enchantment”, which I did use for research purposes.  You can also see one of my prized possessions.  “Mists of Avalon” by MZ Bradley.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  I have read it at least a half dozen times and remember being completely forlorn the first time I finished it.  Yes.  That good.  So those two books make up for the fact that I haven’t really dug into the other three yet.

You will notice the spines are not cracked.  That is because I consider it a crime against literature and no book of mine shall be subject to such abuse. 

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Aaaaaand… scene!

I just completed the last three character profiles for my submission of the Dark Crystal Author Quest.  (there are 31 in total)  Of all the Gelfling Clans, the Dousan were the most challenging.  I’m not entirely certain if that is because they are so secretive that it took a while for them to trust me, or if they simply require you to still your mind in order to listen.

All that remains is to read over my submission and triple check everything.  Then I have to format it and ensure everything is exactly how I want it before I send it in.

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I use Scrivener and absolutely love it.   Although I have to admit, I don’t use it to its full potential because I just haven’t taken the time to experiment.  

I am sitting with a long list of mixed emotions at the moment.  I am elated to finally have a finished product to present.  I am excited to work on the rest of the story.  I am nervous, anxious, sad, exhausted, hopeful, and in this sort of dreamlike state – all at the same time.  Although I have a new project that I can’t wait to get to work on, I am uncertain about what the next step will be.

I am going to give myself the next few days to get everything finalized.  Then I may need a few days to just sit with things before I am ready to decide where to go from here.

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Meet the Hooligans!

I share my home and my heart with four dogs (three Italian Greyhounds and a Whippet), as well as a cat who would be happy if the dogs moved out.

I come from a dog show background.  Interestingly enough, the film “Best in Show” is actually fairly accurate and my Mom had an opportunity to be in the film, but she declined.  As a result, I have always lived with multiple dogs.  I thought my max was three and was determined it would stay that way, but I ended up with a fourth last summer.

I will probably mention the Hooligans from time to time.  Like the fact it’s great that they’re trained to ring a bell when they need to go outside.  Unfortunately, they soon learned that if they ring the bell, I will get up and go to the back door.  Which, coincidentally is also quite near the pantry where the cookies are kept.

A black Whippet has a minor role in “Believe” and a project that is still in development features a Scottish Deerhound as a major character.  I will probably work a Sighthound into everything I do.  It’s hard not to.

Anyhow, I felt it an introduction was in order so that when I do mention them, it’s not out of left field. 

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This is Ari.  He was the first to arrive at the age of 4 months and is 8 yrs old now.  Where does the time go?

Trance and his toys in the sunbeam

Then Trance joined the crew.  He was over a year old at the time and the same age as Ari.  Every day, Trance brings a selection of toys into the kitchen so he can sit with them in the sunbeam.  Not sure if he just likes to be surrounded by toys or if he’s trying to take up as much space as possible.  Sun beam hog.

My love of Sighthounds started with a Whippet named “Diana”.  When she passed away, I was offered a “spirited” puppy and (like the idiot I am), I said yes.  I love her, but she’s nothing like her aunt.  It may be because Diana was already 7 when she came to live with me and I had never experienced the wonder of owning a Whippet puppy.  They don’t call them “landsharks” for nothing.  More on that another time…

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“Hello!  My name is Tango.  I like to comb the kitty’s hair… with my teeth.”

Izzy was the last to join the Clan a year ago, at the age of 11.  A former milldog, she has a lot of healing to do, needs to learn to trust people, and has taught me many lessons in patience.

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Last, but certainly not least.  This is Fergus.

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Looking impressed, as always.  Seriously, Fergus is a lovely kitty.  Although I love him a lot less at 4 am when he suddenly decides that he needs to go out.  NOW.  Or he will die.  Horribly and with a lot of fanfare.                                                                                                                                           

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And you are… ?

So how important is character development, anyway?

When it comes to your main characters, most will agree that it’s crucial.  But what about the peripheral characters? 

Like the extras in a film, they serve a purpose and even if that purpose is to offer a small peek to a single thread of information.  No matter what their role, they need to be believable.  The need to have as much (or in some cases, more) depth than characters that the reader gets to know over the course of the story because the reader spends so little time with them.  The writer, on the other hand, often spends a great deal of time getting to know them.  Why are they there?  Where did they come from?  How did they happen upon this information?  Do they have an ulterior motive?

The Gelfling Gathering 2 (1)

Even if all the little details never make it into the story, they’re important.  Like the fact that the character’s father was killed by a milk truck on the first day of school or how they take their coffee or their habit of never wearing matching socks.  They will have an impact on how that character interacts with others and how they may react to events that take place.  What’s important is that you as the author know these things because that is precisely how you can determine how large or small a role they will have in your story.  These details will also help your characters evolve from a cardboard cutout to a memorable part of the story and perhaps make the reader want to know more about them.

I write commercials and part of that job often means voicing them, as well.  I enjoy character work much more than I do “straight reads”.  One question I often ask is “what is my motivation”?  I have under 30 seconds to establish the character, make it believable, and sell it to the listener.  But it doesn’t end there.  They all have a backstory.

Here’s an example.  The lines in the script are : “She painted her bathroom cotton candy pink!  Can you imagine?”

This can be read in many different ways.  But in my head, the character believes one can never be too rich or too thin.  She is a gossip and can often be found at charity events with a martini in one hand and one of those long thin cigarettes made especially for women in the other.  She has black hair, often done in a French twist, is impeccably dressed, and finds children “sticky and obnoxious”.  She speaks with an affected English accent, although she’s from Massachusetts.  She drops the Kennedy name into casual conversation, yet has never even met them.  No one challenges her on it because she’s so intimidating and the less you dig the better off you are.  All that for two lines.  But it works.

The same goes for literary characters.  You never know where they will take you, if they will pop up again later in the story, or if you will only ever get two lines out of them.  But if they are developed properly, they will always fit no matter where they decide to show up or what they have to say.

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