Friday, October 20, 2017

Fiction Friday: Book Brain

For the past couple of weeks, I've had a bad case of book brain.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to the severe absent-mindedness associated with being deep into writing a novel.

The reason for this is that humans are capable of holding five to nine (or about seven) pieces of information in their brain at the same time. If you use five of these slots to track what's happening in your book, that doesn't leave much for real life.

Under the effects of book brain, I have:
  • Forgotten appointments
  • Burned dinner
  • Completely forgotten to make dinner
  • Missed my turnoff
  • Missed birthdays
  • Looked up to realize Old Dog has been waiting for a response for a really long time
And it can be even worse. This didn't happen to me, personally, but I know a writer who rear-ended someone and wound up in traffic court.

On the plus side, under the effects of book brains, I have:
  • Solved knotty plot problems
  • Created inticate characters
  • Described settings so real you could be there
  • Written some really great stuff that, even when I went back and re-read it months later, I still thought was great stuff.
Have you ever had book brain? If so, what's the worst and best thing to come out of it for you?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fiction Friday: Getting It Out of My System

I'm currently working on the second book in my Touched by a Demon series, The Demon's in the Details. 

So far I'm liking it. (Which is good, because that is not always the case.)

One thing that I suspect isn't so good are the jokes I'm writing into it.

Some of you are now thinking, "Jokes are good. And Jeanne's pretty funny, so they're probably good jokes."

These jokes are really goofy. They take a dopey premise (the physical act of a demon possessing a human--have you ever given any thought to just what that choreography would look like?) and wring every last drop of comedy gold (and silver and copper and tin and lead and that grody stuff you have to scrape from the the crack between the stove and the countertop) out of it before I let it go.

When I hand the book over to my beta readers, they are going to ask me, probably unanimously, "Why is this crap in here?"

Um, because it's funny?

No, they will assure me, it isn't. The first time was mildly humorous. The next fifty iterations under varying plot conditions definitely weren't. And the last hundred made us want to punch you in the face.

And I will believe them, because they've been my beta readers for a very long time and are generally on the money with their critiques. And I'll edit out all those really-not-that-funny jokes.

So why, you ask, am I putting them in in the first place?

Two reasons:

1) It just seems to be something I have to get out of my system. For whatever reason, I can't ever let them go until someone tells me, "Jeanne, they're Not Funny."

In the last, book, there was this absolutely hilarious joke about the demon coming Aboveworld (Hell's term for Earth) in a kind of animated mannequin body. Said body was equipped with an enormous penis. It was a send-up of that romance trope where the guy is always well-endowed. The joke was touched upon throughout the book, cracking me up with every reference.

Right up until my first beta reader said, "Why does he have to use a mannequin body? What's wrong with his own body?" And I realized there was absolutely no reason for it, other than to set up the joke. I removed the references and never looked back.

2) What else are beta readers for?

If you're truly listening to the Girls in the Attic (Jenny Crusie's term for one's writing muses, comparable to Stephen King's Boys in the Basement) you're going to put a lot of stuff in your first draft that doesn't necessarily fit with the finished story. By the time you've written three or four hundred pages, you won't necessarily be able to tell what belongs and what doesn't.

At least, that's true for me. I find it really tough to tell what belongs on the page and what's just back story that needs to remain as subtext. My beta readers are great at telling me what works and what doesn't, what needs to be clearer, what needs to be more subtle.

But mostly I just have to get it out of my system.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fiction Friday: A Quick Quiz About Conflict

Today we're going to have a quiz.

Let's pretend you're reading a book by a very popular author of contemporary romance.

It features  a young woman who discovers the guy she's been engaged to for many years in bed with another woman. She flees the scene without confronting him, but just down the road, her car breaks down. She calls an old friend who, it turns out, has been in love with her lo these many years.

Despite all the salt water and snot she's producing, they hook up that night. This upsets everyone within shouting distance--her brother, who thinks Lover Boy took advantage of her, her former fiancee, who hasn't gotten the word that they broke up, and his mom, who still thinks Mucus-Girl would make a peachy daughter-in-law.

A week or so later, Mucus-Girl and Loverboy are sitting on the floor of his living room, waiting for the pizza they've ordered to arrive. By now, all three of the antagonist players know about the hookup and/or breakup by now, and they're on the warpath.

Now it's time for our quiz. The doorbell rings. Is it:

a) Her brother?
b) Her former fiancee?
c) Her former MIL-to-be?
d) The pizza guy

Before I give you the answer, let's talk about fiction. In the very first novel-writing class I took at my local community college, I learned that fiction is about conflict.

In fiction, if one character says, "Let's get pizza for dinner," the other character should never say, "Sounds good." You know why? Because that's not conflict. If character A wants pizza, then character B must want KFC. Or different toppings. Something. Anything.

Because otherwise THERE'S NO CONFLICT. If they both want pepperoni pizza, don't waste my time telling me about it. Just order the damn pizza offstage and let me see them eating it while they talk about something they do disagree over.

Okay, back to the quiz.

The correct answer is: anything but D.

It can be her brother at the door, who pops Loverboy one for banging his baby sister when she was upset and vulnerable.

It can be the fiancee, coming to find out why he got dumped and fling counter-accusations.

It can be the once-future mother-in-law, coming to beg Mucus-Girl to forgive and forget and marry her cheating son.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to speak up in the comments!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fiction Friday: September Progress Report and a Sneak Peek

I was hoping to show off my brand new author website today, but it’s not quite ready for prime-time. It’s getting closer, though!
It’s been over 4 months since I made my down payment to Spark Creative Partners (formerly Bemis Promotions). When I went to write my blog post last month, I realized that, aside from the occasional “we’re working on it and we think you’re going to be thrilled,” I hadn’t heard from them.
So I emailed them and said, “When?” The next day they sent me a link to the draft site that’s currently running on their test server. And they were right–I was thrilled.
A closer look revealed that the site still needed a lot of work, but I loved the concept. Here’s a sneak preview of my header:
On the working site, there’s very cool animation around the apple and the snake, but more than that, I think the header perfectly captures the darkly whimsical nature of my Touched by a Demon paranormal romance series. I plan to release the first one, The Demon Always Wins, next September.
I popped the link off to Jilly and to another writer friend, Nicole Amsler, for their input. Both had some suggestions around making the site look and behave more consistently, but they loved the overall concept at much as I did.
My background is in software development. so I know the best way to ensure software operates according to your expectations is to write a test plan that lists each feature and indicates whether it functions to spec. Here is a page from my test plan:
No.PageObjectTest CaseResult
1HomeLatest Book boxHome page layout displays boxes at bottom of screen without scrollingChange requested
2HomeUpper Nav BarMenu items take user to appropriate pageSuccess
3HomeWelcome boxText is easily readFailure
4HomeLatest BookDisplays cover, title, series and release dateFailure
5HomeNewsletter boxBox captures all necessary informationChange requested
6HomeLatest news boxDisplay heading and link to latest newsSuccess
There’s another column I titled “Notes” that explains, for changes and failures, how I want it to work or what it’s doing wrong. I’ve been popping out to the site since I sent the test plan over, watching the objects start to line up to my expectations.
Once the site functions to specification on my Windows 10 desktop, I’ll need to re-executed the plan on my Android phone, my Windows 8 Surface, and my Android tablet. I’ll also need to find friends to execute it on a Mac and an iPhone and verify that it works correctly in those environments.
Then, and only then, will I fork over the rest of the money.
I hope to be able to show off the rest of the site next month. One takeaway from this exercise has been: Leave LOTS of extra time in your project plan for things that are out of your control: website work, editing and cover design.
Any thoughts on websites (mine, yours, others) you’d like to share?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fiction Friday: Why I Don't Write Erotica

This week, I tried to write a scene where Jake and Taylor, the H/H of my Contemporary work-in-progress, play out a little bondage scene. They've just been to dinner at the home of Taylor's boss, a real estate developer who's trying to take Jake's land by whatever means necessary. Jake dislikes him very much, but he likes Taylor a lot, so he not only goes to dinner and behaves (reasonably) well, but even goes out and buys a dress shirt and tie for the occasion.

Why would he do all that? Because he was promised "positive reinforcement" for good behavior. While he was out shopping, he picked up some extra ties for just this reward. Taylor's kind of a control freak, so allowing someone else to have that much control is a big step for her.

Sexy and fun, right?

Wrong. Instead of a sex scene, it turned into a story problem: If Jake has four ties, one king-sized hotel bed and a 5'7" girlfriend, will he be able tie her to the bed?

Width of King Size bed (76"/ 2 = 38") + Height of mattress and box springs (23")  = 61"

Taylor’s arm span (58"/2 = 29") - length of her hand (7") = 22"

61" – 22" = 39" to tie down one wrist.

Length of an average tie: 62"

62" - 39" = 23"  That gives us 23" of fabric to wrap around her wrists and the bed legs.

23" / 2 = 11.5"

Her wrists are probably 7" in diameter (Mine are 6" and they may be the smallest adult female wrists on the planet. Why couldn't that trait have landed on my hips instead?)

Assuming that the bed legs are no thicker than Taylor's wrists, that allows us 4" of cloth to make each knot. Doable, although the wide end of the tie will probably have to be folded vertically to make it work.

A king size bed is 80 inches long, approximately 13 inches longer than Taylor is tall, so he'll need another 13 inches to bind her ankles.

So now he's going to need 6 ties instead of 4. Unfortunately, Jake's not much of a planner. I can't see him figuring all this out ahead of time.

At this point, my really hot sex scene kind of collapsed on itself.

At this is why I can't write erotica: too much math.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Six, No, Make That Ten-Week Check-In

It's been ten weeks since I stepped off the cliff that is retirement. Eight weeks ago, I was wondering how I'd do with my new life.

I love it.

My favorite part is Sundays. Sunday used to be the day that I'd look back over the weekend and realize I hadn't gotten nearly enough done and I had to go back to work the next day. Now Sunday is the day I look back over the weekend and realize I haven't gotten nearly enough done--and then relax, because Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday look just like Saturday and Sunday.

Things that are working well:

1) I'm defintely more productive in my writing. I'm not getting in quite as many hours as I'd hoped, but a lot more than I was. Not only that, but because my writing time occurs in uninterrupted blocks, I get a lot more done during my writing time.

2) The house is cleaner, the food is better and the yard looks fabulous. (I took over the lawn duties from Old Dog and I love doing yard work. It's a great change from sitting still writing.)

3) I'm seeing friends every week, so I haven't turned into a hermit yet.

Things that are working less well:

1) I'm having some physical challenges. Mowing the lawn with a walk-behind mower, even though it's self-propelled, puts a lot of strain on my hands. I've started waking up in the morning with the middle two fingers on each hand too numb to type.

2) Likewise, I'm having some problems with the sciatic nerve in my lower back. I suspect that's from too many years of desk work. I've joined a couple of yoga classes, and I have some rehab exercises I hope will remedy the problem.

Things I haven't figured out if they're good or bad:

1) It turns out it's a lot harder to get up and go to the gym in the morning if you don't have a job looming at 8 o'clock.

2) On the other hand, if you get enough sleep, your brain works a lot better. Before I retired, I was starting to worry about dementia. I was like I was 50 First Dates--I would get into work Monday with no recollection of what I was doing on Friday. I kept leaving myself increasingly elaborate notes, but despite that, the time to restart was getting longer and longer.

Now, with enough sleep and one huge category of stuff not to have to remember, I can keep track of what's going on in my work-in-progress AND manage the various tasks around the house. Mostly.

On balance, I'd have to say I like this new life.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Little Town Tuesday: Eintracht Park

Over the years, I've levied criticisms and poked fun at the leaders and public servants of Riverside for various things, including the time the SWAT had a twelve-hour standoff with a parrot. Now that they've done something I heartily approve of, it's time to give praise where praise is due.

On Saturday, they dedicated a new public park, the Eintract River Access Park. This beautiful paving stone path leads is perfectly designed to lead an idle wanderer down to the water.

As its name suggests, the park is designed to provide river access for canoes and kayaks.

I don't canoe or kayak, but anyone can enjoy the chance to walk along the river and enjoy the beauty there--maybe even do a little wading on a hot summer day.

My section of Riverside, which is a sprawling suburb that encompasses anything along the north-eastern side of Dayton that isn't claimed by some other locality, borders Old North Dayton, where immigrants have historically made their homes. There's a Polish Club, a Czechoslavakian Club and a Lithuanian Club.

The park is built next to the Eintracht Singing Society,

This view makes me think of that scene in Anne of Green Gables where they play Lady of Shalott.

I foresee some outdoor writing afternoons in my future.


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