Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NaNo, to me, is like a new flower garden

NaNoWriMo July Camp is my first NaNo. It's a lot of hard work but I'm having a great time. The brand new garden my husband and I put in on Sunday is amazingly parallel.

I do not (repeat not) have a green thumb. I've had to learn a lot of craft in order to not end up with brown shriveled houseplants and flowerless weed-infested outdoor gardens. Every plant that thrives is a miracle, and flowering is just plain inexplicable but cause for rejoicing.

I've learned a few tricks from watching real gardeners. The first thing to do is prepare the soil.  With a brand new garden what this means (to me, remember, not an expert) is breaking up what's there so it's manageable chunks. Then I level it off and pile as much good topsoil on as I can reasonably afford on top. Sunday, that took about four hours.

Then comes the fun part, picking plants. Real gardeners grow theirs from scratch but I can't tell a weed from a rose until it's grown (and has a helpful label :) so I buy them or gratefully take what friends offer.

Then comes the almost-as-much-fun part, placing the plants. I remember my theater director saying, "Clumps, people! No straight lines!" so I arrange the pots in little triangles and diamonds on the smooth dark (prepared) soil. When it looks good hubby & I start digging holes.

Next comes the secret my gardener friend gave me--fill the holes with plant root grower. There are a number on the market but mine turns the water a very pretty blue, added bonus :) Splash some in the pots too. Put the plants in, water some more. Cover with mulch (we used bark nuggets this year) and voila! Looks almost like real gardeners had a hand.

So how's this like NaNo? Normally when I sit down to write, I try to read through what I've done before so I have a nice continuity going, and I try to have the scene plotted before I write it. Like doing a garden a bit at a time, it's painstaking and slow.

NaNo has given me freedom to just write. It's not always the prettiest of prose and certain plot and character points clash like fighting mutant ninja trashcans, but that's okay. Right now I'm spreading topsoil, getting ideas for where the plants will go. There's a joy in pouring out words that I don't have the other way. That joy is like the gardener's secret, the fertilizer going into the holes that will make richer, stronger character and plot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Concrete prose: chiseling down to specifics

I recently asked a very smart man to read one of my manuscripts. The story is about a dying witch and a jinni fighting together to stop an EBG (evil bad guy or evil bad gal) from destroying the world. Near the end they break into the EBG's lair and are smacked in the nose with the "rank odor of destructive magic."

Okay, we all know what "rank" means. Nasty, icky. But it's pretty general. What kind of nasty is it, the sharp bite of acid or the over-sweet of decay? So I refined it to "acetone" but really, how many of us sniff nail polish and think "uck, acetone." Yeah. We want concrete, and not esoteric concrete but something most readers can relate to. So the very smart man said how about the smell of burnt hair? It's concrete and everybody has (or has had :) hair, and we have the added bonus of a nice shudder along the spine (think about it. If you haven't experienced it, seeing your hair go boof! is pretty darn scary. If you have, you know what I'm saying).

But even specifics themselves have to be concrete! Another bit of the story had the witch saying she was a "level four". Which, the very smart man pointed out, didn't mean anything. It's arbitrary specificity, like saying "I got five stars" which is good in book ratings but would make a very small galaxy. So I changed her to a "full" witch, still not completely defined but hey, it was a short-short story and at least "full" has specific meaning.

Another example: I originally started this posting with "In the battle to show not tell, one siege stone you can throw is making your words concrete. Hazy, vague writing can instantly snap to attention by chiseling down to specifics." Nice idea words but this is not a paragraph you can sink your hands into and knead.

So slash paper with red ink or prick nostrils with pig stink--keep it concrete!

Author update: I've got a new paranormal witch/shifter story started as part of NaNoWriMo Camp, and 6000 words on the Nixie & Julian short story freebie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Friends Have New Releases Today!

And at opposite ends of the spectrum too!

Vivi Andrews continues her top-rated fun paranormal Karmic Consultant series with A Cop and a Feel, the story of a touch-psychic and the cop she must save to have. It's a short story, a great way to dip into Vivi's pool!

Keith Melton's novel-plus length gritty vampire noire Ghost Soldiers reveals hit man Karl Vance has a new target, a rogue, charismatic sorcerer--and it will forever color his relationship with Maria. Ghost Soldiers is the exciting followup to B&N PN/UF forum Featured Author Feb 2010 book Blood Vice.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Winner June Blog Contest!!

Thanks to everyone for commenting on my June Contest post. Pachelbel is definitely a fave, and we do it for a lot of brides. Funny story--the Canon starts with the cello alone and after 2 bars the flute enters. So that's Gregg & then me. F# is a hard note to tune for me, so I concentrate VERY hard to get it right. Well, every once in a while at rehearsal (rehearsals ONLY) Gregg'll start the thing in Eb instead of D. Hey, I don't have perfect pitch and it sounds the same, but when I come in with my F#, focusing like sumbiche, and it sounds like a minibus thrown off a cliff,and well, it's like stepping on a stair that's not there. Husbands is such fun...

And the winner of the contest, chosen by random number, is Jen B! Jen, congratualtions! Please contact me at mary @ maryhughesbooks.com for your prize!