Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I apologize for the re-post from my blog, but it's Halloween and I want to talk about monsters. Please comment and share your favorites!

Inspired by a post on the Enchanted Inkpot, as well as Halloween, I want to talk about monsters. I LOVE MONSTERS! I love reading about them and writing about them. Erzebet in The Blood Confession is about as monstrous as you can get – so obsessed with her own beauty that she’s willing to kill and bathe in her victim’s blood. In The King’s Rose I had some very different monsters to write about: King Henry, and – perhaps even more so – the dowager Duchess of Norfolk. I knew that whenever the Duchess swept into the room and appraised Catherine with her ice-cold eyes, sparks would fly.

As implied above, it’s the human-variety of monster that intrigues me the most. As for my favorite monster from literature, the first that came to mind was Carmilla, the titular character in J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampiric masterpiece. Carmilla’s monstrous identity is concealed behind a pretty, endearing facade. Carmilla’s affection for the main character makes her true nature that much more unsettling: they’re constantly walking arm and arm or whispering secret confidences. That’s awfully close proximity to a monster. And the blood-drenched nightmares “warning” the narrator still give me chills!

What about the monsters that are ourselves? I read Stephen King’s Carrie as a teenager, and I think it affected me so profoundly because the sad sack, depressed, troubled Carrie White was so sympathetic and repulsive – she was everything I feared I was, worthy of ridicule. What could be worse than our own fears about our true selves? And then, when she cracks and unleashes havoc on her tormenters – sweet revenge! Also, quite terrifying. The movie, in particular, scarred me at the age of thirteen.

Speaking of fears of self, I’m so glad that Ellen Booraem mentioned the Dementors and their connection to depression in the Inkpot post. This is much scarier than the scaly skin or eyeless faces: “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

And speaking of Potter, I love a monster that has a connection to our hero. Voldemort’s mind-connection to Harry manifests itself in terrifying dreams. Also, Harry fears that he inherited some of Voldemort’s powers during their first face-off. Likewise, Wilhelmina Harker carries the mark of Dracula (the bite marks on her neck, the burn of a holy sacrament on her forehead) which is both danger and boon – they use this connection to track Dracula down. But they must be wary of any changes in the brave Wilhelmina; the evil aspect taking over her otherwise pure soul.

This comes up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too: she’s the good guy, slaying vampires. But that makes her sort of magical, not like a normal human – and therefore maybe a bit more like her fanged enemies than she would like to admit. Could she really belong to the night, like the demons she slays?

So not only do I love a good monster – especially one in a human guise, with true evil lying beneath the surface – but I also love a hero with some monstrous aspects, as well. It’s all a metaphor for the human condition: there is the potential for true good or true evil in all of us. Sometimes the scariest thing on earth is the face staring back at you in the mirror. We could all be monsters, if only to ourselves.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Working weekends.

As a full time writer, I work the normal week, Monday through Friday. I start my day attending to emails, checking sales ranks, publicity stuff, and other business involved with writing. Then I get to my five pages, which can take anywhere from 90 minutes to many hours, depending on how things flow. Then I spend time reading, because I consider reading to be part of my job as a writer. I never feel I'm wasting time if I'm plunged into a good book, reacquainting myself with modes of story telling that are different from my own approach. Sometimes my best ideas come from other books. This describes my average work day, with room for messy schedule changes. Ever since I became a full time writer, I've taken the weekends off.

But lately I've come to realize that always, my Monday mornings are slow. It takes me forever to get back into my book because over the weekend I lose my fire. And sometimes I don't get it back for several days.

Usually this isn't a serious problem. Until recently I've always been one of those writers who takes as much time as I want to write a book, and then when I feel it's ready, I submit. But having sold my science fiction series, now titled THE SKY CHASERS, suddenly I'm a deadline writer. I've got a year to turn in Book Two when it took me two years to write Book One. When I'm in the midst of a slow Monday morning, I feel as though time is ticking twice as fast, and I just can't type speedily enough. I'm starting to think I need to take a page from On Writing by Mr. King, who advises the new writer to write every day, even on weekends. That's what he's been doing for decades, and clearly it has served him well.

So for the first time since I gave up my day job, I'm a weekend writer. I did my five pages yesterday, a Saturday, and I'm about to settle in for five more today. Surprisingly, I'm finding that working more actually decreases my stress. With my momentum a constant, I feel that this book is writable. I'm willing to give up my days off for the next several months in exchange for the peace of mind. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

my writing process

I am sinking (slowly) into my revision process. I've typed up a bunch of notes, typed up an outline of the current draft (what the book is right now), and will now attempt to apply these notes to this outline. Ideally, this will create an outline of what I want the book to become.

Then I have to actually write this new book.

I often wonder if there are better ways to go about this process. Do other authors sit down, struck with inspiration, and start typing their novel on a blank page, with no notes to guide them? Is my devotion to my outlining process just a way of being lazy, or a control freak?

That said...this process has worked for me in the past, so why doubt it now? Maybe because I'm in the thick of it, staring at a lot of brightly highlighted notes and feeling daunted by all the work that lies ahead. It's exciting work, but it can make an author sink a little bit in her chair to think of it.

I'm planning on spending a lot of time on the book this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes.