Monday, June 27, 2011

New day, new blog title

I've had it! I'm changing my blog title and stepping up my blogging habits! I've spent the last who-knows-how-long souping up my blog's design and I've trashed the old "Writing and Reading" ho-hum header to this new header, which might more appropriately describe my entries. Beginning in August, my plans are to post on Mondays and Thursdays. Monday entries will be about writing while Thursday entries will be on other topics (hence the broad "life" description in the title of the blog). I'm quickly discovering how much non-novel-writing work is involved in being a writer!

Last weekend, I truly enjoyed a book event at the Lockwood Folly Marketplace in Brunswick County. If you're ever in the southeastern part of North Carolina, drop by and pick up a copy of Storm Surge (now available on the store's shelves). In addition to singular, eclectic gifts (I found the perfect Christmas gift for my mother-in-law and must return to the store with my wallet), the marketplace also sells delicious sandwiches. The store simply is a fun place to be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Incoming! Preparing for criticism, looking forward to sharing

I’m almost ready to open myself up for attack – did I say attack? I meant constructive criticism – on my draft of the sequel to Storm Surge. As soon as I’d finished final revisions on Storm Surge, I began writing the next book.

And now that the second Jonie Waters mystery is at a place where I’m fairly pleased with it, I’m tentatively excited to hear back from the few readers I trust to point out my most obvious failures, the huge holes in the plot that my readers’ suspensions of disbelief can’t possibly bridge. And, of course, they’ll come back at me with more feedback than just pointing out my writing’s glaring gaps in logic. As always, I find myself nervous and excited. What will they find? Will they laugh at the jokes I’ve planted? Will my first few chapters suck them in? Will they love the last few paragraphs as much as I do?

Finally, I’ll have some folks to discuss my work with after I’ve kept it from them for months and months! That’s what I’m most looking forward to: finally, I can talk about what I’ve been working on for so long with readers – even if those readers are just my trusty, tell-it-like-it-is husband and my sweet, try-to-take-over-the-dialogue-and-make-it-more-sexy mother. Both are great readers (for different reasons), but I’ve learned I can’t share my writing with anyone – not even them – too early. If I do, sharing can bring sudden death to the project.

Sharing: I’ll be so entranced with an idea or an aspect of my writing, and I’ll try to discuss it, and the person across from me will give me the look. The look of the person who doesn’t “get” it (and probably rightfully so as my verbal explanation garbles the translation). Sometimes the person with the look will respond to my descriptions of my work-in-progress by beginning sentences with, “Maybe you should…” or “I don’t know about…” And self-doubt will instantly overshadow my enthusiasm. Or I’ll be frustrated that someone else isn’t infused with the same excitement I feel. I’ll wonder if it’s not just my description of my writing that’s at fault but the writing/idea itself. And I’ll be tempted to abandon the project and begin anew.

So I keep my work under wraps until it’s ready to share in its intended format: printed out on a sheet of paper – or, in my Storm Surge sequel’s case, a ream of paper. And then if the written version doesn’t captivate my reader… then I’ve got problems. But by then, I’m also invested enough in it not to scrap it entirely. Regardless, more revision work is coming my way, and soon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book signing near the beach

What could be better than a vacation to the beach? Meeting readers while vacationing at the beach!

Every summer, I enjoy visiting the beach. Not only does my family take its own vacation to the beach, but both my parents and my husband’s parents also invite us to spend time with them while they are on the beach, too.

And during one of those trips to the beach this summer, my #1 fan (my mom) has arranged a book signing at a local store near her neighborhood. She’s inviting her friends, and the members of her neighborhood’s many book clubs. I can’t wait!

The event is scheduled for June 25, beginning at 10:30 a.m., at the Lockwood Folly Marketplace off Stone Chimney Rd. in Supply, NC. I’ll be reading from Storm Surge. I most look forward to talking with readers during the Q&A session and following the event. I’ll also be signing books.

I hope to see you there! I’ll be the tan one with all the books.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The witching tree: more to it than imagination?

My oldest son asked me if I wanted to see the witching tree this morning.

“The witching tree?” I asked.

We were in our fenced backyard, enjoying the bearable coolness of the morning before the blanket of stifling humidity descended. He was trying to hit plastic golf balls with a lavender thrift shop club that was a few feet too large. (The club was the only leftie I could find and cost $3 - sold!). My two-year-old was tiptoeing about the grass holding a squishy football in each hand. I set down my watering can and glanced at the trees behind our property, wondered if he was referring to the tree that disturbed me, also.

Indeed he was. I know oaks and maples and pines, tulip trees and dogwoods, even trees of heaven and mimosas. But I don’t know what type of tree the witching tree is. Gangly and unevenly branched, the tree stands about 40 feet tall, but its branches seem to reach no more than four feet out. Curved at the top five feet, like a carnival funhouse fingernail, the tree seems to grow warped branches akimbo. While all the other surrounding trees flourished green this spring, the witching tree remained barren, leafless, until at last it proved it wasn’t dead. Perhaps it had read my mind – I’d fantasized sneaking onto the sewage easement and chopping it down, bare gray branches and all.

“What makes you call it the witching tree?” I asked

“Because it watches you.”

I nodded, momentarily at a loss for words.

“And I saw a green monster climbing on it just this morning. But it watches you. The tree watches you.”

I remembered when I was a child. In the bedroom of one of the houses my family lived in for a few years, the eyelike pattern in the wood grain on a closet door haunted me. In the dim dusk light, the surrounding patterns would morph around the eye into whatever demons feared me most. I would lie awake thinking, “I’m so scared of horses,” though actually I wasn’t, just so the wood grain and the shadows would transform into a horse instead of – instead of something else.

Is there a witching tree in your life?