Saturday, April 23, 2011

Interviewed by My Character

I joined the April blog chain at Absolute Write, and now it's my turn. It's hard to be clever or even competent on cue. Improv is not something I aspire to.

The rules of the road:
This month's prompt: The Character Interview
Part one is optional: describe one of your characters in 50 words or less. 
Part two is where things get fun: have that character interview you! 
(oops, did it backwards!)


Oh gee. Since I'm writing a murder mystery, I could be interviewed by a murderer, but then everyone would know whodunnit, so that's not a good idea. Hmm ...

Hey, what about me?

Hi there, Tasmin, do you need your ears scratched? Jump on up here.

No, I mean, I can interview you.

Ha ha, that's cute, Sweetie. But I don't think you know how to conduct an interview.

Why not? I watch those news shows that Mom and Peter have on the TV. And I'm smart. I keep my eyes open, when I'm not sleeping that is. I know the score. And I don't see anyone else willing to give up their Saturday night to spend time with you.

Ok, then, Tasmin, what would you like to know about me, your creator?

First off, I want to know where you got my name. It's a little odd for a Chihuahua, don't you think?

I've always liked the name, and when you made an appearance in the novel, I knew you were the reincarnation of my own little blond dog, who'd recently gone to the Rainbow Bridge. Her name began with a T, so yours did too. And it fits you, don't you think?

I guess so. It's unusual and memorable. That sounds like me. Ok, second question. Why do I live on an island that doesn't really exist? Why couldn't I live on Martha's Vineyard, or Cape Cod? I hear those are nice. 

Well, I think your island should exist, in real life. I like seeing islands just off a coast. Yours is modeled after an island in Maine, and you should be glad I designed it the way I did. It's a beautiful place, don't you think? People seem happy there.

Not everyone. Someone was unhappy enough to bash in that guy's head. 

That kind of goes with the territory, in a cozy mystery. A nice place with some nice people, and also some who do not-nice things. 

You could have written an urban fantasy. Then I could have magic powers. I'd like to fly. And be able to knock the litter out of that big Maine Coon cat who lives in Marcie's barn. Maybe I could scorch off his fir with my laser vision. You wouldn't be hissing at me then, Nekkid Boy! Oh no, you'd be running from the SuperTaz! Heh heh heh. 

Tasmin, I didn't know you could wring your paws together like that! You look rather vindictive, so full of piss and vinegar. You seem pretty meek, usually. I didn't know you could be such a bit--

What's that you're calling me? What's that!

Uh, nevermind. Let's get back to the interview. Do you have another question for me?

Yep. When do I get a boyfriend?

Not anytime soon, I don't think. Isn't Brogan good enough as a playmate?

He's my stepbrother! 

Ok, then, how about Jack?

That old mutt? Although he was pretty cute as a pup, I gotta tell you. I had my eyes on him from the moment Marcie brought him over, but then when he hooked up with Old Rocky, and starting doing the hermit sidekick schtick, I knew he might be good for a night or two but nothing longterm. 

Why not just enjoy being a pampered gal? Dr. Meg takes really good care of you, and she loves you dearly. You don't need a man-dog to be fulfilled.

That's right! I'm a grrrrl. Don't need no hound. Ok, then how about letting me solve the murder?

Well, I think you might play a role. What do you have in mind?

I could fly over the spruce trees and use my laser vision to see through the underbrush, what's hidden there. And then I could see through the walls of that rental cabin,  find out what's really going on behind those logs. I've been sniffing around - I think you'd be surprised. 

Tasmin, you can't fly and you don't have laser vision, remember? This is not urban fantasy! I know that genre's really hot, and I know you'd love to see your muzzle on the cover of a hardback bestseller at Barnes and Noble, but you're going to have to be content as a minor character in a cozy. 

Can I at least have a new squeaky toy?

I think Mack's bringing you one this week. I saw him go to the pet store.

Ah, Mack. Now there's a fine fellow. Why he's playing it so cool with Shasta?

Shasta's gun shy, and Mack can see that. She just went through that nasty divorce with her cheating husband and had to sell her condo, she lost her job -- now she's nervous about commitment and also nervous about losing this job, too, because of the murder. She thinks Bradley will blame her for not keeping the artists safe. She's attracted to Mack, but she's also attracted to Caleb. So give them some time to work it out. 

A threesome! 

No, that would be a different genre, called erotica - hey, what would you know about that, anyway, Missy?

That poodle who comes over on the weekends - she lives in the city. And she kisses and tells.

I see. I think there's some editing I need to do tonight. A certain Fi-Fi is heading toward delete. Is there anything else you want to know?

Am I in the next book? I'm assuming this is at least a 7-book series. 

Tasmin, you are always in my heart, and I'll always find a place for you in my novels. 

Case closed, then! 

Tasmin is a blond Chihuahua mix who spends much of her day snuggled in the arms of her caretaker, Dr. Meg. She lives on a small, isolated island off the west coast of the United States and although often she may appear to be asleep, she's actually keeping her keen dark brown eyes trained on the community and her velvety black nose to the wind. At night, after Dr. Meg goes to bed, Tasmin sneaks out the doggie door to meet up with her canine cohorts in plotting the eradication of the cats from the island. Her inspiration is St. Patrick, who drove the snakes out of Ireland.


Thanks to orion_mk3 for starting the blog chain. Here are the other participants - please check out their blogs!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why Blog?

Why do people blog? All kinds of people blog these days - geeks, stay-at-home-moms, artists, critics, agents, writers, especially writers - and why?

Is it mostly for themselves? A way to kill time? A way to work out their emotional baggage? To put into words the ideas jumbling up their brains? To promote those ideas?

I've been thinking about this lately. I have several blogs, most of them abandoned along the way, on a variety of topics under a variety of names. I've tried different host companies: started with LiveJournal (quit them when the ads appeared), went to WordPress, which I still use for a couple, and now on Blogspot.

Why so many blogs? Why some that started strong and then faded? Why some that started out with an idea and a name but never evolved from there? Am I such a complex person? Or just too scattered? Trying to do too many things in my limited time?

Why this new writing blog? What do I hope to accomplish here? So far I've just been working out some of my questions and concerns about my own writing. Nothing important, really, to anyone else. Maybe tangentially helpful to those few who've stumbled upon me here.

Why the recent push for writers to have blogs? This article in Salon was rather depressing for someone who'd rather be home in sweatpants, reading, than going on the road, or the Internet, to self promote. But it's the way of the New World of Publishing.

I try to keep up with blogs I like, but it's time consuming. Amanda Hocking wrote how "... the hours spent in self-promotion are hours spent not writing." On the flip side of that, the hours spent reading other people's self-promotion are hours spent not writing, too. 

I'm sorry if I'm not the best at following all the blogs on my "to read" list and making comments and playing along with blogging games. Sometimes I read blog postings I like but just have nothing to add, so I don't comment. Do I wish people would comment on mine? Well, yeah, so I have to make the effort too. 

Do I feel as if I'm just talking to myself here? Most of the time. Do page views matter? I'm not sure. Do page views, the stats that show how many people have clicked on my blog,  translate into anything useful or important? Perhaps it will when I have books or stories I want people to buy. When I have something to promote. 

For now, I'm just writing out my thoughts. And that's ok with me. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Pruning, and Editing

A few days ago I spent a couple of hours pruning the deadwood out of a Japanese laceleaf maple tree. It's a beautiful tree, but hasn't been well groomed for at least the four years we've lived here. Not sure about its previous history.

I wasn't familiar with these trees until I moved to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago. They're quite marvelous, little fantasy trees with soft, fine foliage that turns a brilliant dark red in the fall before they drop their leaves for the winter. And twisting, winding, gnarly branches that define their shape.

When not pruned, they have a tendency to look like Cousin It from the Addams Family. (If that's before your time, sorry!) The beauty of their structure is lost behind all of the fluff. Here's what it's looked like in a previous summer, the mauve one behind the lime green:

And here's what it looks like almost naked, in the late fall:

When trimmed, you can see the architecture, the truth of the tree itself. The tree reveals itself to you, becomes accessible, understandable, the character of the tree ...

Oops - what did I just say there? Character. That brings me back into the realm of writing.

While I was pruning this tree, I thought about how I also needed to prune my work in progress, my mystery  novel that has just gotten way too bushy. It started out as just a seed of my imagination, a tiny little kernel that had promise but no substance. I watered it with my daydreaming, and gave it sunshine when I pondered it walking to work, and gradually it began to sprout. The leaves appeared, and then more, and some branches started poking out to the sides at odd angles, and twisting back on themselves, and now I need to do some good editing on it.

And as with pruning my maple, different parts need different levels of edit. In some areas, there's just some deadwood that can be trimmed away easily, without much thought at all. Clip it off and toss aside. And some small branches that haven't gotten too out of sync can be gently trimmed, guiding them back into the structure. But some places, well, they're bigger and need more consideration in the pruning. It's tempting to just cut them way back, to the trunk even, to the place where they started to have a life of their own. But maybe that's not the best way. After all, those big branches, or subplots, have a lot of little twigs, or character or action sequences, of their own. Just hacking them off will destroy all of those twigs as well. 

In some ways it's easier to prune a tree than to edit a novel. It's visible, right there in front of me. I can see the shape, the twisting branches are clearly visible, and it's easy to tell how the twigs are attached to the branches. I can physically touch them, my fingers following them from tip to trunk, feeling how any pruning would affect the whole tree.

On the other hand, editing a novel is easier, because the whole structure can be saved as a "first draft" file and reinstated if I decide the edits were too extensive. Just copy/paste and bingo! Those clipped twigs and sawn off branches are magically restored.

But then the issue becomes when to stop. When to stop second-guessing the edits and just let the novel be itself. With pruning, you get one chance. You make a decision, lop off the chosen piece and it's done. Over. No waffling. No super-glueing it back together.

Thinking, and pruning, and editing.