28 April 2014

My Writing Process

This is a round-robin post in a lovely idea for authors to share how they write. I was tagged by RWA (Florida) Regional Director Veronica Helen Hart. If you haven't read any of her award winning work, I highly suggest you check out Elena--the Girl With the Piano as well as her other books.

The game is on! I will tag another author at the end of my post and they will share their process next week on their blog. So here goes: 
  Finally, finally, I'm delving into the American Revolution with a tale based upon the real life of one of my fellow Welsh class members. George Chessman (his real name) was kidnapped on the streets of Glasgow and pressed into the British Navy, basically enslaved aboard ship. Once pressed, sailors such as he were never allowed to set foot ashore lest they escape for as long as the Navy deemed they were needed. The truth of what happened to him is fascinating, and I can tell you he did jump ship in Boston Harbor and hid in the surrounding maze of bogs and fens to elude capture. My fictionalization will fill in the exciting details, his relationships with the famous and infamous citizens of the Boston area, and his further adventures. Working title is No Man's Pawn.

  I love history. Always have. There is so much more to what happened than what the victors present in their accounts of battles and events. There is far, far more involved than just the dates /names they teach in school -- and it's usually a thousand times more interesting.
Here I am studying a map of Boston Commons in, well, Boston Commons (Photo by P. Bunch)

Think about this: some of the trees in the photo above were there during the entire upheaval, from the Stamp Act to the Tea Party to the blockade of Boston and throughout the War, continuing to grow and thrive even now. Imagine what they have seen, who they have heard whisper and plot beneath their branches... 

  I like to involve the senses and enrich the story with the context of the times. I try to write as people speak, such as when my Welshmen in the Dragon & Hawk series talked, they spoke English the way a Welsh person learning English as a second language would. It isn't exactly grammatically correct. I hope to share the interesting facts of the area and time period in a manner that immerses the reader without lecturing.

 I research quite a bit. For years, to be honest. I've been researching this one for the past four years, gathering information about the area, the people, and little known events. Unlike many writers, I have to go where I'm writing about. I have to physically walk those streets and hills, smell the sea, the harbor, the fens, the fires. Wood burned in New England is vastly different from what is burned in the desert southwest, and its smoke has a distinctive aroma. I've also been reading, reading, reading on the context of the times; all the attitudes and conflicts, not just of the people we've heard of but the laborers, farmers--and especially--the women. How were they affected? Did they really care about politics so much or were they sucked into the maelstrom as though a rip tide dragged them under?  Once I have all that down in copious notes, I organize the timeline of when everything occurred. 

I don't write in linear progression. I don't outline. I've tried and nearly lost my mind in frustration. I sit down and start with the scene that is uppermost in my thoughts (and dreams, because these people start nagging me in my sleep) and let 'er rip. Once I've exhausted what has haunted me, I go over everything and reorganize it into a plausible order arranging and rearranging. Then I edit, slashing out what doesn't work. Only after that do I start submitting it to different editors for consideration. 

So, for those of you who have wondered why the hell it takes me so long to write new books, here you go.


 Next up is fellow Tucson author, former police officer and animal trainer Alison Naomi Holt. She'll be posting her Writing Process next Monday, May 5th. You can check out her work in advance here:

Happy writing --and READING!

21 April 2014

Spring Transitions

This has been a beautiful spring in the desert. We had no real winter to speak of; only one or two nights of freezing temperatures, but that was it. None of the plants had time to go dormant. In fact, we did not prune any of the bushes we normally would. How that will play out through the summer remains to be seen.

Flowers are a wonder. Palo verde  (green stick) trees are loaded with tiny yellow blossoms, enough to make an entire hillside into a golden carpet. Cacti bloom now as well, from the pink buds on the prickly pear that open into yellow "desert roses" to the fleeting night-blooming cereus, whose petals open for a mere ten to twelve hours and are gone.

Prickly pear "roses" (the bud is pink)


     I think this cactus is a cereus --the bud showed up two days ago and started to open this morning; it will peak tonight and begin dying tomorrow morning.

Esperanza, a hummingbird's favorite

Our saguaros are sprouting buds already. Their white, waxy petals surround a egg-yolk yellow center when they open--and each blossom with its stem/pod weighs more than a pound. I'll post a photo when one opens soon.

That brings me to pollinators. Bees are vital, and we're happy to see them, even though most of the bees in Southern Arizona are now all Africanized and more aggressive. We simply take precautions to limit places for them to swarm close to the house-- plugging all holes in the stucco, capping exposed pipes or tubes. They can still swarm in trees, so if that happens we call the pros to remove them safely.
We <3 bees

My favorite pollinators here are the Mexican fruit bats which flit and flutter from saguaro to saguaro from dusk to dawn. They eat flying insects, too, making them good friends to humans. I've never been able to get a good photo of one.  Maybe this year I'll be lucky.

Happy spring to all, and Happy writing!


14 April 2014

Gathering Goodies

Previously I wrote about trying out Scrivener, a software program for writers. I've finally started playing with it this weekend to organize my research for a new historical. I'm not sure it's much help at this point; I'm still writing a timeline, synopsis, and ideas and putting them in a file. How is this different from what I did before? Scrivener promises I'll have this at my fingertips when I start writing. But I have my doubts that it is more efficient than the way I've worked before.

I love having books at hand to refer to--passages of information, reference notes, etc. I'm not going to copy these pages into Scrivener. Am I resisting learning a new software program just because it's different from what I've always done? Honestly, I'm not sure. Right now it seems like more prep work and less writing. I'll let you know how it progresses.

Happy writing,

08 April 2014

Hot off the Presses!

Somewhat unexpected but always welcome is the news a compilation of your short stories has been published. My three novellas involving ballroom dance--A Dangerous Dance, A Wicked Waltz and A Torrid Tango--are now available as one in ebook and print formats as Save The Last Dance. Exclusively from Amazon by Champagne Books.

Cover design by J.Ellen Smith

The story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage and a man held hostage by contract, Save The Last Dance explores how two people destined to be together learn to stand alone before they dance off into the sunset. Tragic and funny, Maggie Pearce and John Hamilton are surrounded with all sorts of crazy characters, good and not so nice. Give it a whirl by the pool this spring, then write a review if you would. It's a fun spin around the dance floor. 

Happy reading!