Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's Thursday!

...and for the first time in a long time I didn't have a post ready to go up bright and early. My bad. Except, of course, it's not "bad."

I've been very busy writing, and just finished a big revision. Not big as in sweeping changes throughout the manuscript, but big in significance. So I am in that glow of "having written," which is one of the special moments we get as writers. And it feels especially good to be clearing my plate, as it were, for Easter weekend, setting daily life aside to focus on what, on Who, is most important to me.

Happy Passover/Easter, everyone.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What the Moon Said, by Gayle Rosengren

Set during the Great Depression -- an era we are often told is overdone in historical fiction -- this wonderful MG novel follows ten-year-old Esther from Chicago to a Wisconsin farm after her father loses his job in the city. From the beginning, it's filled with specific details that surround Esther and her sister as they make their way to a movie theater for a Rin Tin Tin matinee -- streetcars, a bread line, childhood games of the 1930s. But no details are as vivid to Esther as the signs her mother notices: a ring around the moon, dropping a spoon at supper, seeing a spider before breakfast, putting shoes on a table. All of these, and many more, foretell the good or bad luck that will befall their family, and Esther is proud that her mother learned so many important things back in Russia. Now, if only her mother would hug and kiss her. But Ma is a serious, even stern woman, and seems even more so toward Esther than her siblings. Wondering why she isn't loved as much as the others, Esther makes it her objective to please her mother so much that she'll win the affection she longs for.

It's this affecting goal that forms the through line of the story that follows Esther's adjustment from city to farm life. There are ups and downs, hard work and fun, until the day Ma "reads" a sign that Esther knows must be wrong. If she defies Ma she'll never gain her love, but can she be cruel to a new friend on Ma's say-so?

I loved the mother/daughter aspect of this story, the love of the family members that shows through despite the lesser physical affection true to the era, and the fact that Ma, as well as Esther, has to learn the hard way that not everything she thinks she knows is accurate. Heartwarming and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Random Thoughts on Revision

  • I love to revise.
  • Since revision often means writing new scenes, maybe a little more love will bleed over into drafting, too. You'd think, right?
  • When two books mash up against each other, I find that in the revision stage it's not terribly hard to switch from one to the other. I'm trying to think if I ever drafted two books at the same time while writing series on deadline. I don't think so. When it became clear that the order of two books was going to change, I set the one aside to write the other first. Either that or I have willfully blanked out the experience. 
  • Extended time in the revision cave has either turned me into more of a night owl or reawakened the night owlish-ness of my youth. My college roommate, a true morning person, got up at 6:45am seven days a week and was in bed every night before 10:30 with almost no ceremony. By which I mean she pretty much announced "I'm getting ready for bed" and immediately dove under her covers straight from her desk chair. I, on the other hand, often got up on weekends just in time to make it to lunch. This changed when I had kids (a shock, I know) -- but I was happily a morning person for a long time afterwards. And I've never been the die-hard night owl my two older children are. Guess I'm a hybrid. Anyway, I find the switch interesting, and I'm enjoying the quiet of late night to write. And for whatever reason, the temptation to waste time online is less then. 
So what do you think -- drafting or revising? One book at a time, or two at once? Have you noticed any changes in your writing life, maybe after having done things a certain way for a long time?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Below, by Meg McKinlay

This novel set in Australia has a wonderful beginning sentence: "The day that I was born, they drowned my town." The cover, first line, and premise form an almost irresistible triple hook. Twelve years ago, on the day of Cassie's premature birth, the mayor of her hometown, Old Lower Grange, flipped a lever and buried the town under 200 feet of water. The citizens celebrated the formation of this man-made lake from inside the borders of their new town, New Lower Grange, amid balloons and barbecue and a brass band. Except Cassie's parents, and their perfect two-child family, couldn't go. Because Cassie's parents were rushing to the hospital to have the baby who was doubly unexpected: Not only had they never intended a third child, but she was surprising them by coming way too soon.

Cassie's lungs were underdeveloped at birth, and her doctor requires her to swim six laps a day, every day, to exercise them. But the pool is always overcrowded, and Cassie is tired of people doing cannonballs on top of her when she's just trying to swim her laps. So one day she goes to the man-made lake. Not only is it fascinating because it's Lower Grange's own personal Atlantis, but because her family history lies there, a history that her parents and adult siblings made together that she, a late intruder into their lives, cannot share. Day after day, Cassie begins to swim in the lake, soon joined by Liam, a boy just enough older than she to have been born in Old Lower Grange, and whose family suffered a tragedy there. It doesn't take long before the kids realize the water level is sinking; the top of the fire lookout tree is now several feet above the surface. And then they start diving, and the mayor catches them, and gets way, way too upset. The rest of the plot is concerned with dredging up what the mayor's been trying to keep submerged.

I loved the language and writing style, especially since just prior to this book I'd tried to read another one that was so "loud and chatty" I had to put it down. Also, the midpoint of the plot is absolutely riveting. I had some quibble with the pacing though; I found it a bit slow to get underway and at the same time too rushed in the end. There was some symbolism that just kind of came and went. It's a short read, which in a sense I liked, but in another sense I'd like to have seen way, way more done with this material and these characters. All in all, I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's on the Nightstand

What a nice place to retire to in the evening.
My nightstand is actually not as overburdened with books as it once was. I've found that if the pile is high enough to teeter, I tend to give each book less chance before I give up on it. What that means, I've realized, is that a tall TBR pile, at least these days, represents pressure to me. Well, perish the thought! It's taken discipline, but I've decided to have fewer books here at any one time. All the better to savor each one. But what's on the pile? Let's get closer.
That's CS Lewis's Mere Christianity, the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, another Bible with a pretty cover and a compact size that's easy to carry, and my journal. While Mere Christianity isn't always there, the other three are constants on the nightstand. And on the other stack:
Which means I can try some spine poetry:

What the Moon Said
Ghosts at Tupelo Landing
Ice Dogs

What's on your TBR pile?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My B&B Writing Retreat

Along with a writing friend, I spent Monday afternoon through Wednesday morning here, at the Audubon Inn, in Mayville, WI.

Yes, it is that gorgeous. And due to get even gorgeous-er, since they are updating the decor and making great new plans for the restaurant. All the rooms and suites are named after birds, and I stayed in The Falcon.

Yes, that's a falcon picture above the writing desk. And while I'm partial to the lace and flowers, I spent a lot of great time at THE DESK making good headway on my WIP. In the evenings, we visited over dinner (Chinese the first night, Italian the second), then repaired again to our respective rooms where, for me and I suspect also for her, there was more writing sandwiched between whirlpool sessions spent reading other people's fiction. We may have to make this an annual event!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

In Which Not Having Time to Blog Results in Blogging

I am swamped! In a good way. There's lots of revision, and processing beta comments, and thinking about my story six ways from Sunday, and family phone calls, and planning my strategy for an upcoming writing retreat, and a manuscript to reread, and time to pray and dig into the Bible, and -- Must. Exercise. Must. Move. More! What's great is that walking, my exercise of choice, is great for both prayer and story-mulling.

What's also great is that DH (what's fun about calling him that is these are his initials) is perfectly content, nay eager, to be our main contact with the outside world. By which I mean he runs All The Errands. I tease him that the library ladies, who've taken to calling him "Mr. Marcia," would be disappointed if I showed up myself to check out the stream of books I normally keep on hold. Not all men would do this -- and with such a completely willing heart on top of it. Some men would bristle at the "Mr. Marcia" joke. Some people, frankly, would hear that phrase and suspect our family is "out of order." But he receives it in the good humor with which it's meant, and brightens others' days as he runs here and stops there. That's the man with whom I have been blessed.

So -- I am swamped, but in a good way. Do stay tuned, though, because next week I'll post about a friend's and my writing retreat at a B&B. Can't wait!