The Package

What can I say about the package? I knew no good could come from it as soon as I saw it. Sitting there on the coffee table, gleaming smugly in the dim light, I knew straight away that this was a package that I wanted no dealings with, even if it did strongly call my name.

I tried to ignore it. I really did. Outwardly, I only just succeeded, but inwardly I was already a quivering mess. Going about my evening chores, my mind was possessed by the evilness trapped within the confines of the package. Would I be a willing partner in crime and let it out? Or would I make it suffer for all eternity? Because only if the package was opened could it reap its nastiness.

The pull was too strong and I succumbed to the pressure. I even tried to convince myself that I was wrong. But in truth, May has always been a bad month for me – for many, many years – so why would May of 2009 be any different? I guess I hoped that the cycle would be broken in the Year of Change.

But no. Cat’s Eyes has been rejected by Random House. But the news isn’t all bad. Buried in the evilness were words that I must believe were meant to lift my spirits so that I can survive this thing called Being a Writer.

Those words were: “…while I think your writing is of a high standard and the story would appeal to young girls, I didn’t feel that it was quite strong enough to stand alone on our list.”

My writing is of a high standard and the story would appeal to young girls. Those are the words that will encourage me to do more than throw the manuscript into a dark corner and forget it.

In my heart, after spending some time at the Kids at Random House website, I had already determined that my story did not fit their list so I am not surprised by the contents of the package in the slightest. Of course, I would have preferred to discover a wad of legal documents, such as contracts to be signed, but that will have to wait for another day.

The next step is to find a publisher where my story will fit snugly on their list.

The Travelling Writer

I’ve been writing on the train for a couple of weeks now and I thought it was about time I gave you an update on how I’m going.

At first, as I mentioned in a previous entry – I Wrote Today…On the Train, I felt strange about the entire thing, but that strangeness only lasted a couple of days. Now, mainly because I’ve changed where I sit so I feel less conspicuous, I write to my heart’s content. I usually manage an hour and a half (or a little more) each day, which is working extremely well.

It took me a little while to get used to the keyboard on the Aspire One, but that hurdle has also been crossed.

I’ve been working on Mirror Image. You might remember that I had decided in a moment of genius to separate my manuscript into individual storylines. My intension was to concentrate purely on one individual at a time. It’s the first time I’ve done this with a manuscript so I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work out. Mirror Image was the perfect story to experiment on though, as each character’s storyline really needs to be separate and clearly defined. I think editing in this way was a success (for this story). However, I believe trying to do this for my other manuscripts might prove too hard.

Anyway, I completed all the storyline editing and yesterday morning I spent the entire train trip merging them back together. Now that was hard…and time consuming! Luckily, I used the original draft as a guide but it meant a lot of copying and pasting between eight files. I was fully aware that an error could easily be made so I took my time and tried to remain focused.

This morning, as a precaution I compared the first draft manuscript and the latest draft…and discovered no errors! Working systematically as I did was the key.

My original plan was to read the full manuscript now and edit as I go, but another part of me would love to see the manuscript printed so that it can be read it that way instead.

What to do?

I think I’d be better off sticking to my plan and doing a read and edit on the computer first. It’s the sensible thing to do as I know I will need to smooth out the transitions between scenes, so why waste the paper? I’ll do what needs to be done and then I’ll have a “cleaner” printed manuscript later.

Dragonfly

DragonflyLast week I finished reading Dragonfly by John Farris, but I didn’t have time to write a review until now.

On the front cover of the book Stephen King is quoted to have said that nobody writes horror better than John Farris. A blurb like this gives the reader high expectations, so I was a little disappointed to discover that the book isn’t even horror. If I had a point system for rating books, points would definitely be taken off for that bit of misleading information alone. So let me begin by saying that despite what you may have been told elsewhere Dragonfly is not a horror story, it is a mystery romance.

Now that has been clarified, let’s move on.

The opening scene grabbed my attention and the following scenes kept me interested. The story and characters are well defined. The author’s style of writing is readable; I felt comfortable and could easily become absorbed in what was happening, which I feel is important. I liked the characters and felt attached to them in some ways, so I was eager to learn what the future held for them.

My only real grievance with this book was that I felt it was much longer than necessary. To me, this means that the “middle” lacked something. Actually, it was the last quarter of the book that could have been condensed, in my opinion. I got to the stage where I went passed caring and eventually just wanted the book to end. There’s a difference between putting your characters through the wringer and just not knowing when to stop. What I think happened was that the author had so many threads to tie up that it took a lot longer than he planned to provide the necessary resolutions, which spoiled the book.

Despite that, the book was enjoyable and I would try reading something else written by the author.

Author Interview: Deborah Woehr

Today’s interview is with Deborah Woehr, the author of Prosperity.

Thank you for your time, Deborah. Tell us a bit about your writing background.

I’ve always kept a journal of some sorts since I was eleven, but I didn’t start writing fiction until after I turned 30. Since then, I’ve had one short story published and self-published three books, one of which was an anthology by various bloggers.

Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

There were two moments, actually. I tried to write my first story when I was 16, but couldn’t get past my intimidation over the blank page. So, I kept writing in my journals until I turned 30. I had lost my younger brother that year and was having a difficult time coping. My grandmother, who had been writing children’s stories for years, gave me a book entitled, What If?. The book contained a bunch of exercises. I maybe completed one of them before I started writing on my own.

Please accept my condolences. I will have to keep a look out for that book as it sounds interesting. Please tell us about your latest publication?

I published Prosperity in January 2008, a ghost story I had been working on for 10 years. It’s about a clairvoyant woman who must solve the mystery behind the haunting of a small town, while battling her own ghosts.

prosperity

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Prosperity. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a sequel, called Shades of Evil. In this story, Amanda must find out what happened to her estranged father in order to help find her missing brother.

It sounds like an interesting story. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

Yes, although I make my characters’ experiences much worse than my own.

Good. I like to hear that! Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

With Prosperity, I recalled a story about a lynching that occurred in San Jose sometime in the early 1930s. I first heard about it from my eighth grade science teacher, who told the class about how the citizens could smell the sweet stench of burning flesh for at least a mile. That story obviously made quite an impression with me because it stuck. I had several false starts with Prosperity and didn’t come up with the lynching idea until the seventh or eighth draft.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

I usually have a general idea, but have come to accept that it might change, depending on how the middle progresses.

Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I usually work on one story at a time, unless I have a complicated character that needs a solid back story. That was how God’s Last Twilight was conceived.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It’s hard sometimes, because I’m obsessed with writing. I could spend all day in front of the computer, if I didn’t have a family and a job. I write for at least an hour every day. My writing sessions don’t always involve my books. I also write articles, when I can think of a solid idea for one.

I’ve read many of your articles and know you put a lot of thought into them. They are always interesting to read. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Get a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, a good dictionary and thesaurus, the Strunk & White style guide, and The Chicago Manual of Style. I have two shelves of how-to books on writing, but these are essential for every writer. Make a point to write everyday, so that you can strengthen your skills and develop your own unique voice. Don’t rely on family, friends or writer’s forum buddies for feedback on your work. Your best bet is to start a blog and write short stories and/or articles in order to give readers a sample of your work. Be sure to engage your readers in conversation so that they will get to know you.

That’s excellent advice. Now, here’s a question that always intrigues me, who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a wife, mother, Internet junkie and aspiring graphic designer. When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my kids, watching TV with my husband, or trolling the Internet for various information or artistic inspiration.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

Yes. I believe it comes from either lack of self-confidence or stress.

What are your writing goals for the future?

My first goal is to publish Shades of Evil by next year. Then I would like to explore different avenues of writing, such as copywriting.

I wish you the best of luck with your next publication. Do you have anything else you would like to mention?

I think that’s it. Thank you for interviewing me, Karen. It was a pleasure.

Thank you. It’s been wonderful getting to know you a bit better.

If you would like to find out more about Deborah or her books, please visit her website – Deborah Woehr.