Thursday, August 30, 2007

Picture from Indy

I realized I never posted anything from the Indy 400! Here's a picture from our seats by the Tower.

September is the new New Year

Perhaps it's because the neighborhood kids are trudging down the street outside my window, dragging backpacks as if they're filled with time bombs, that I've decided my new year is really September. I remember, every Tuesday after Labor Day, checking out my stacks of new textbooks, wondering how on earth I was going to learn everything, panicking, until I was old enough to realize that someone was going to actually teach me. Every September was a new beginning, a new adventure in knowledge, with books at its core.

So here I go, starting a new book. I've been playing around with several plots that I've thrown onto the screen, practicing getting into different heads, under chimerical skins. One is calling me more insistently than the others, so I'll give it a go and see if it still amuses me after the first forty pages. Although I've tried, in vain, to change my process, those first forty pages are necessary. They'll end up in the trash, but until I work through them, I won't know for sure if I like these people enough to live with them in my head for the next months.

The Big Race is the weekend after Labor Day - I need to gather all the tailgating supplies and shop for two days of food that'll work on a grill. Can't wait. While I'm not a big fan of the COT, I'll be happy to see a night race again. The spring race on Sunday afternoon was a bummer. No mystery, no glamour, no sparks flying in the darkness.

If you want to read a good western romance, check out Donna Dalton's THE CAVALRY WIFE at Wild Rose Press. It's available as a download now, paperback due in December. It's set during my favorite time in U.S. military history, when the black troops of the 9th and 10th Cavalry did yeoman's duty on the Plains.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Editing Yourself

I'm a terrible self-editor. No matter how often I've worked on a project, when it comes time to bite the bullet and read the work for accuracy, I'm hopeless. Falling into the story wipes out all attempts to be brutal with my grammar, word choices, and sentence fragments. I'm terribly fond of the whole thing by that stage. Probably, there's a part of me that worries that fooling around with the last draft will shift the stars and disrupt the magic that made it in the first place. Hence, my self-editing is really just another chance to fall into the story again.

Recently, I picked up EDIT YOURSELF by Bruce Ross-Larson, which is charmingly dedicated to "Goddard Winterbottom." Anyone with a friend of that delightful name must know what he's doing, I decided. And Ross-Larson does. He lists "overweight prepositions," ( the bailiwick of most lawyers, without a doubt), weak modifiers, and wonderful tips like "you should examine a noun ending in 'ion' to see whether it can be replaced by a concrete word." (p.9) For example, instead of "motivation," try to use the word "drive." For "origination," use "source." Ross-Larson seems dedicated to clearing up muddy writing and making sure subjects and verbs agree. I particularly like his advice to avoid the "ugly" words like "electricitywise and prioritize." I smell Christmas gifts in the offing....

Last week and this have been swallowed up in the flurry of shopping and packing it seems to take to get two girls back to their respective schools. One starts a week before the other, so at least the sweaty, time-sucking work is spread out. Wait, is that a good thing? Oh well - it's August. What more is there to say?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Writing with "Voice"

I've been thinking about what constitutes "voice," and while I know it when I read it (think J.K. Rowling, T.S. Eliot, Dick Francis), I've never considered the issue of whether you can learn to write with it, or if it's embedded in your DNA. While browsing the bookstore the other day, I picked up a book that had an intriguing title, opened the first page, read it, and immediately, the author's voice came through loud and clear. Ah ha, I thought, and bought the book. Sharyn McCrumb's voice - sassy, sad, or outright funny - comes through as uniquely hers. All the authors on my "keeper shelf" have that certain way of telling a story that makes it uniquely hers or his. I may not like the story, but I sure liked the way it was told!

So, the question is, can you learn "voice," or are you born with it? It's probably half-and-half. The more you write, the more your own voice will evolve, if you're beyond the stage of trying to write like someone else. When you find the right fit of story and voice, the book will take off so fast, it's hard to stop writing it. Those days when twenty pages or more spring to life and your wrists are about to break off, you're writing so fast, are the days all writers crave. When I read a book with voice, it's almost as if there's this disembodied entity, whispering the story in my brain, and I'm there, in the moment, along for the ride as it happens. Those are the page-turners we tell our friends to buy, and we never lend them out because we're afraid they'll get lost. (SEP's Ain't She Sweet - keep your hands off my copy!)

How do we find our own voice? Write. Write some more. Drag your voice out from wherever it's been hiding, and tell it to get a life of its own. It will, if you care passionately about the work.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Indy, &(%#, and Tony Stewart

Now I can say "been there, done that, bought the T-shirt." The ending to that phrase is "I won't do that again." The Indy race, while highly touted, is really a bit of a bore. While our seats were wonderful (on the start/finish line), it wasn't much fun for the minute and a half that we couldn't see the back side of the track during every lap. Sure, the Jumbotron was right in front of us, but still - - even the engine noise disappeared! What's the fun of a race with no rumble?

Still, we had a great time (every NASCAR race has its up side) seeing Ward Burton pull in 14th. What a triumph for Morgan-McClure Motorsports. Bless Tony Stewart for being emotional about his win. To heck with corporate correctness. So let he slip a common enough curse word - it had been a long, hot, grueling afternoon, and he didn't cross any line that offended me.

I've never been to a NASCAR race farther North than Richmond, and the difference in the crowd surprised me. Below the Mason-Dixon, everyone, and I mean everyone, sports a T-shirt emblazoned with a favorite driver or track. That wasn't the case at Indy. There wasn't the same camaraderie either - people didn't seem to want to talk to strangers. At a Southern race, there's no such thing as a stranger, and tailgaters invite anyone who strolls past a tailgating party to stop for a drink or a hot dog. Chatting about drivers, stats, and the day's prognostications is standard fare for the Southern fan. Not so at Indy. Half the people we tried to talk with didn't have the vaguest idea what a NASCAR race was about, much less who was driving what car, and why did Bobby Ginn give up and merge with DEI? Don't know why they were there, unless it was just the prestige of being at an Indy race.

On the writing side, The Golden Oars, about a women-only crew club, is rowing along. The characters, with all their quirkiness, live in my head at the moment, urging me to get them down faster. I'm trying, ladies! My good friend Kat Jorgensen and I are collaborating on the book, planning a series, and keeping ourselves immensely amused as we plot what happens next to our foursome of wild women over the age of fifty.

It'll be a huge relief when the Richmond race rolls around again, and we can rub elbows (and butts, LOL, in the too-small seats) with fellow NASCAR fanatics. Come on, September!