There is no kiss on p. 241 of Aurelia.
This is not because yours truly felt like torturing her readers. Or because it didn’t occur to her that her readers might expect a kiss. Or because the people at Penguin did not want one.
Aurelia refused to discuss it. She said quite clearly that kissing was Robert’s job, and if I wanted to have this discussion, I could have it with him. Normally, this would be good news because Robert is much more cooperative than Aurelia, by which I mean, more polite, more willing to listen, and more willing to bend for the good of a story.
He and I discussed the issue. In the car. At 5:30 a.m. one morning.
“Robert,” I said, “you know I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t have to. I already sent in a more romantic version of this scene, and the people at Penguin still think the readers won’t be satisfied. And I am a brand new author, who has never had anything published in her life, not even in a school newspaper. So . . . is there any way we could compromise here?”
He pointed out all the things I already knew. That at this point in the book, both he and Aurelia have suffered great trauma. That he is, in fact, horrified at what he has done. And that this story is not over yet. Not even close. “I’ve been gone for four years,” he said, “and only back a week. I don’t think this relationship is ready for the kind of commitment Penguin is talking about.”
“But you want to kiss Aurelia,” I said. “I mean, you wanted to kiss her all the way through the book.”
“I did kiss her,” he said. “And she didn’t kiss me back.”
“Yes, well she was surprised. You can’t blame her for that. And you can’t deny that you still want to kiss her.”
“No. But I can’t kiss her on p. 241.”
“Are you sure? You know she’s going to be royally ticked off with you right at the beginning of Exile. This could help head things off.”
“Nothing is going to head that off.”
“What happened to the gambler? I mean, Robert, you showed up here knowing perfectly well she was a princess, and you were prepared to take that risk.”
“To save her.”
“Yes. But more than that. I mean you walked right across that ballroom on your first night here, in front of everyone, and asked her to dance. That wasn’t exactly necessary in order to save her life.”
“I’m not that person anymore,” he said. “I’m not the person who walks across a ballroom without taking into account the consequences. I gambled. And I lost. And I won’t do that again.”
So . . . there is no kiss on p. 241.
But there is a sequel.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
There is no kiss on p. 241 of Aurelia.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Aurelia: Excellent topic!
Me: I think sequels are exceptionally hard to please people with because the reader can never recreate the amazement they had when they ran across a great first book.
Aurelia: Well, aren’t you negative.
Me: Maybe, but you know, when you love a first book, you always imagine how you want the rest to go. And it’s so hard for a sequel to live up to that!
Aurelia: Then you aren’t imagining right. Because the characters have their own lives. It’s your job to learn about them. Not to change the way their stories work.
Aurelia: I mean, just because you want Ophelia to marry Hamlet doesn’t mean that would make the story better.
Me: I suppose not.
Aurelia: Besides, there are tons of great sequels.
Me: For example?
Aurelia: All three of the later Blossom Culp books. Because she is such a better narrator than Alexander.
Me: I would agree with that.
Aurelia: And In the Hand of the Goddess. You never reread Alanna, the First Adventure without also rereading In the Hand of the Goddess.
Aurelia: And all the later books in the Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden. Admit it, you thought the first one was kind of slow.
Me: Shh! We’re being polite. Though it’s true. After the first, those books exploded. You really can’t sleep when you’re in the middle of one. So what do you think is important in a sequel?
Aurelia: Besides me?
Me: We weren’t talking about yours in particular.
Aurelia: Well, I think the action should come out of the first book. That it shouldn’t be an entirely separate story, like the episode of a bad sitcom.
Me: I agree.
Aurelia: And I think the characters should grow. I don’t like those series where no one seems to change because someone is hoping the books will keep on going forever.
Me: I agree with that too. Though I admit, I read a lot of those books when I was in grade school.
Aurelia: I’m so glad you got past the Sweet Valley Twins stage.
Me: Yes, well you aren’t exactly Elizabeth or Jessica.
Aurelia: I will not dignify that with an answer.
Aurelia: I also don’t like a whole lot of repetition. I mean . . . I always read the first book. I don’t need to read it all again at the beginning of a sequel. A little review is fine but some authors go on and on and . . .
Me: Hmm. I don’t know anyone who goes on and on.
OK readers, so what do you think? What are your favorite sequels. And why?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Aurelia: Good to see you’re still living.
Me: My foot hurts. It must be three million miles between everything and the sixth grade wing.
Aurelia: So what do you want to talk about today?
Me: I want to review one of my all time favorite books that no one’s ever heard of.
Aurelia: OK, let’s hear it.
Witch of the Glens by Sally Watson
Kelpie is a sixteen-year-old thief. And a gypsy lass with the second sight. She cares nothing for the rumors of war now sweeping the Scottish Highlands, for she is far more interested in her own outrageous dreams—of becoming a real witch and defeating Mina and Bogle, the two people who stole her as a wee bairn and raised her with their own set of brutal morals.
But when Kelpie is ordered by her guardians to spy in the house of Glenfern (a place rife with the dangers of sweet wee Marie; the skeptical questions of the twins, Ronald and Donald; the open friendship of Eithne; the confounding trust of handsome Ian; and the even more baffling tongue of the wretchedly annoying Alex), Kelpie learns that sometimes dreams change. Sometimes what you know is right . . . isn’t. And sometimes war is unavoidable.
This is one of my favorite books ever! I’ve read it at least a dozen times.
IMO Witch of the Glens is the perfect blend of adventure, history, romance. And a sharp-tongued, quick-witted heroine.
Set in 1644, rather than the later and more commonly portrayed Bonnie Prince Charlie period, this book is the reason I always wanted to travel to Scotland. And finally did. For years, you couldn’t buy Witch of the Glens, unless you could afford $800.00 to purchase it from a rare book dealer online. But it is available for a regular cost now through Image Cascade Publishing at the following site: www.ImageCascade.com. And possibly through Amazon. Or you may be lucky enough to find it at your local library, as I first discovered it, or through interlibrary loan.
Aurelia: How quick-witted is she?
Me: Not quite as quick-witted as you.
Aurelia: All right then. I think I’ll read it.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Toughest question ever! Describe your novels in 7 words or less.
(whom Aurelia should be very proud of right now)
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Aurelia: You know I’m always willing to talk.
Me: School starts tomorrow.
Aurelia: No it doesn’t. It doesn’t start for two more weeks.
Me: The kids don’t start until then. Teachers start earlier.
Aurelia: Teachers don’t start until Monday a week from now.
Me: Officially. But you know what teachers do that week? Attend meetings. District meetings. Staff meetings. Family meetings. There is no way I can be adequately prepared for school if I wait until next week. So this means I will not be able to blog as—
Aurelia: You certainly will!
Me: No, really, I—
Aurelia: My story is far more important than meetings!
Me: Yes, of course, but I—
Me: Would you just—
Aurelia: (to Robert) Did you hear what she just said? She’s going to claim she can’t blog anymore.
Me: That’s not what I—
Aurelia: Yes, it is, that’s what you—
Robert: Let’s listen.
Aurelia: (sigh) Fine.
Me: I was going to say that I’m not going to be able to blog as often as I have been doing.
Me: Seeing as I will be busy teaching lots of children important things like how to value great stories.
Aurelia: That seems fair.
Me: But I promise to blog at least once a week.
Aurelia: ONCE a week?! You have three day weekends!
Me: The children have three day weekends. I often have only—
Aurelia: And then you have two day weekends.
Me: Yes, but the priority on those weekends must be helping Salva and Beth finish their story.
Aurelia: (sigh) Yes, of course, but once a week. Robert, do you think once a week is adequate considering everything we went through on that expedition?!
Robert: I think Aurelia has a point.
Me: I said at least once a week. Of course I’ll try to do better. And if any of you have something pressing to say, you know I won’t have any choice but to listen.
Me: So . . . we’re OK then?
Robert: Are we going to get some of those chocolate chip cookies you made in preparation for those family meetings?
Me: Of course.
Robert: Well, then it sounds fair to me.
Aurelia: You’re going to try to do better than once a week?
Aurelia: And you pledge to write at least once a week.
Me: I will not break that promise without discussing it with you first.
Aurelia: That sounds like hedging.
Me: It’s being honest. You value honesty.
Aurelia: (sigh) Very well. But Robert and I want to go to the awards ceremony to cheer on Aerin and Dane.
Aurelia: OK then. Moving on . . .
Saturday, August 14, 2010
We are thrilled! Our very first award!
All my characters are excited.
(who also miraculously finished her second draft of chapter 21 today despite the "sewing moment" yesterday. It's amazing how much faster a chapter goes when it's down to six pages. Beth and I are both relieved to have this one out of the way--for now, of course).
P.S. And guess when the awards ceremony is going to be held? Yep. The same weekend as Wordstock and my writing workshop at Powell's. Not to mention the Sirens: Women in Fantasy Literature Conference (you will not believe who is going to be there this year--how I wish I could go), The SCBWI-Oregon Fall Retreat, and yet another Oregon Book Awards ceremony. Yikes!
Friday, August 13, 2010
After nine years of being a good little committed clothing member, I effectively learned one vital lesson which every author should know.
And which, regrettably, I had to use today.
You see, today I rewrote chapter 21 of Salvation.
I expected to rewrite it.
My process for a second draft generally runs like this.
Day 1: Make decisions and plan out how the chapter from the first draft will change. Type up the changes. And print.
Day 2: Rewrite the whole draft. And make it sound good. Print.
Day 3: Count and cut three or more syllable words and adverbs. Print. Revise. Print. Revise. Print. Revise. Start throwing out pages that no longer scream “You need to revise!” Print. Revise. Print. And celebrate.
Back to today.
I was on Day 2.
Problem. It doesn’t sound good. I rewrote the whole blooming thing, and it still doesn’t sound good. Beth and I hate the first six pages of this chapter. She sits. She mopes. She does nothing.
In the planning stage, it looked fine. Theoretically, all kinds of things happen in these six pages. In reality, not so much.
After Day 1, I did what every respectable, well-behaved clothing member would do. I ripped and stitched—put in transitions, clarified the timeline, and dug more deeply into Beth’s head (really not a very pleasant place to be right now).
And after all this, I have come to grips with the reality that these six pages are the writing equivalent of a “sewing moment.”
When you rip out an entire six pages. And rewrite them all entirely by hand. And you still hate the scene. Cut the scene.
Because when you abhor something, it really is OK to quit.
This is the lesson I learned from 4-H sewing.
In addition to this, I signed up to moderate a panel on YA realistic fiction (Salva and Beth are thrilled!) at Wordstock in Portland at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 9th.
I e-mailed two jpegs and a workshop description for the Young Writers Workshop I'm teaching on dialogue at the Cedar Hills location of Powell's Books, also on Oct. 9th but at 4:30pm (What is with writing events and the second weekend in October?).
And I finished reading Catching Fire.
I also went for a walk, packed/drove/unpacked the car, and watched the finale of So You Think You Can Dance.
I completed one measly page of the second draft of chapter 21 of Salvation.
Tomorrow I shall be writing!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A perfect ending, which I do not claim to have written, must deal with the main dilemma in the book. It should provide closure and resolution, but not too much closer and resolution. Are you confused yet? Don’t worry. It gets worse.
Because for the ending of a novel, there are actually a multitude of endings. There should be an ending for the action, an ending for the main characters, an ending for the other characters (every friggin’ character), an ending for the romance, an ending for the theme, and an ending for the emotional arc of the story.
As I said, endings are tough.
Which brings us to Academy 7.
My first draft was complete. I had spent a year and two summers writing the second one. It was almost finished. Until the last chapter.
At which point, nothing happened.
I tried. I turned that chapter into three chapters. I introduced weaponry. I allowed a one on one face off against Yvonne (Yvonne really didn’t merit a one on one face off). I added. I cut. I blamed Dr. Livinski for talking too much. Nothing worked.
Finally I decided the book was finished. I had done my best. I was going to send it off to my critique group members and let the thing rest.
Having made this momentous decision, I went to take a shower. The water was warm; the shampoo smelled like strawberries, and I was finally free! When I remembered something: how the opening sentence of a book should encompass the entire story. I loved my opening sentence. “Aerin tried to ignore the bloodstain on the control panel of the fugitive.”
Really, it’s an awesome sentence.
And then suddenly I knew.
There I was with the water pouring down around me. And I knew that Aerin had to visit the fountain one more time.
So when “happily ever after fails,” I recommend a shower, with strawberry shampoo.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In the life of every human being who crosses my path.
When they must learn about my cats.
For many of you, this is that time.
Roll call, please.
Dance: AKA Her Royal Highness is the toughest cat on the block. There are those who have misinterpreted her gorgeous appearance and beautiful white coat as signs of innocence. These are the same people whose own special kitties are terrified of her. Dance has a penchant for cornering tomcats under the house, knocking over garbage cans when no one is looking, and waking up her human in the middle of the night. She is magnificent.
Billy is the gray kitty who lives at Mom and Dad’s and professes their house as his territory. He enjoys pestering Dance, romping all night when she comes to visit, and terrorizing mice by trapping them in his own personal gladiator arena: the bathtub.
Cinder is the king of the outside. He has survived various brushes with danger and never crosses an open space without looking both ways. His hideouts included the rafters of the shop, the cab of the wheat truck, and occasionally the very risky chicken house. Cinder has never met a screen window he could not break.
Courage, Brave, Milkshake, Soda, Rise, and the as yet unnamed gray kitties in the barn spend their days zipping under floorboards, scaling walls, and romping on thin wooden rafters high above the reach of even the most determined cat person.
AKA yours truly.
What’s your roll call?
Monday, August 9, 2010
Red-orange-violet fire defined Aurelia’s first view of the frontier. Not a polite, watered-down shade, but a drastic wildness flaming the upper echelons of the sky—a sky unlike any she had ever seen. No boundaries, or barriers, nothing to slice apart the spectacular curve of the vision. Not even the faintest wisp of a cloud. Only the ferocious brilliance of color over the landscape.
Copyright@2011 by Anne Osterlund. Used by permission of Speak, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.
Cover photo © Michael Frost, 2010, and Shutterstock.com
Cover design by Theresa Evangelista
Saturday, August 7, 2010
But she had said I had to come.
I had paid and signed up to talk to two editors and an agent; hence the terror.
Aurelia thought all this was kind of premature, but she knew I had to practice, so she let me do it. I had also carefully printed three copies of Aurelia’s book and packed them in my bag.
She thought this was just silly, but she kept her mouth shut. She wanted me to go to the conference.
On the morning of the first day, she dragged me to a class on grammar. I felt this was unnecessary as I had taken Advanced Grammar, Punctuation, and Usage in college. I was very proud of myself for knowing how to use dashes, colons, and semi-colons. FYI, five years later, after working with copyeditors, I am now quite clueless about semi-colons.
The teacher at the writing conference began talking about the difference between en dashes and em dashes. I had no clue there were two kinds of dashes! The teacher then said that one must always, always, always begin a sentence with a capital letter. My second chapter started with a lower case letter! (FYI, in this case, the teacher was wrong. The second sentence in the second chapter of Aurelia still begins with ellipses and a lower case letter). I decided there was no way I could show anyone my manuscripts yet. Aurelia thought this was wise. She allowed me to leave the grammar class. And go to something more fun.
We went to Children’s Literature. Where I learned that young adult books are not chapter books. Who knew? I also learned that Aurelia was the wrong age. Clearly, she felt this was a vital detail. Though it caused a serious problem with the plot line, one that was quite a debacle. And which freaked me out.
Aurelia thought this was good. She knew I would figure it out, eventually.
She then held my hand while we went to all the scary pitch sessions with REAL editors and a REAL agent. It turned out they were all REAL people. And they all said I could mail Aurelia’s book to them. This made me feel much better.
Of course by this time, I had also realized I had a lot of revising to do. Which made Aurelia feel better.
So she took me to the BEST class. How to Write a Page Turner by Marc Acito. Where I learned all kinds of cool stuff! And Marc Acito turned out to be the motivational speaker at lunch. And made all the people in the audience raise their hands and say out loud that they were writers. Which is SO important. And I did!
Then Aurelia took me home, where I thought about that HUGE debacle I had discovered in the Children’s Literature class. And thought about it. And thought about it. And OMG! finally figured out who the real villain in the story was.
Which made Aurelia very proud of herself.
So she signed me up for another conference.
Friday, August 6, 2010
What is a writing conference you may ask?
A writing conference is . . .
Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. (They served these at 3:00 p.m. today).
A place where you get to meet hundreds of other people who aren’t afraid to say, “Hey! I write YA paranormal fiction or sci-fi suspense thrillers or graphic novels. What do you write?”
A place where you get to say “I don’t know anything about how to get published, and I’m dying to learn!”
A place where you can meet incredible authors like Tamora Pierce and Sherwood Smith and Kristin Cashore.
Where you can learn to write a YA romance or a psychological thriller or a dystopian fantasy.
And where you can find out whether your character is slightly, or moderately, or totally insane.
A writing conference is . . .
A place where can you ask those extremely pressing questions like: “Do I need a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence that starts with ellipses? Or can I put swear words in a middle-grade novel? Or what the heck is a middle-grade novel?”
A place where you can meet editors and agents and sell your book.
Where you can have authors and editors read your stuff and give you real feedback, one on one.
Where you can walk around the waterfalls in an Oregon State Park or spend the morning chatting at a fireside on Whidbey Island or have a massage at a resort in Vail, Colorado.
Where you can meet tons of other people who read and love and write books. What could be better?
And did I mention the chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips?
Thursday, August 5, 2010
If you’ve read the book, you’re thinking. Duh. That’s like, obvious, from her first appearance.
Not so much.
You see, here’s the problem with villains. They lie.
Yvonne introduced herself as a main character—she and Paul both, actually. But Yvonne was more persistent. At the time, I must have been reading the Circle of Magic books by Tamora Pierce because I remember thinking it was OK to have four main characters.
Dane didn’t think so. Aerin didn’t either, but she was too polite to say so. Yvonne very clearly stated that she was of vital importance.
Never listen to the villain.
But how do you know not to listen to him or her when you don’t know he or she is the villain? Ah, the conundrum.
About halfway through the book, Aerin and Dane headed off for Chivalry. And Yvonne made her big move—trying to drag the whole story off on some random tangent of her own. It didn’t belong, had no relevance, and was totally unnecessary.
So I cut it.
She pouted. She sulked. And she shut up. Disappeared completely from the rest of the first draft.
Which was a great thing. I got to the end of the book, realized I’d totally scrapped her, and thought. Yay! I get to cut her.
Again, not so much.
I did my best. I reclaimed all the action she’d stolen from Dane in the center of the book (no wonder he didn’t like her). In fact, working one’s way backward through the book, I cut anything and everything she did. Until Aerin’s arrival.
Where Yvonne refused to leave. Absolutely refused to go.
OK, so now what? Why won’t she leave? I don’t like her. Dane doesn’t like her.
"I don’t like her either," Aerin whispers.
Duh! Yvonne is the villain!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
We’ll call this character “A” for the sake of this discussion.
Now the truth is you noticed this a while ago, but you ignored it.
“A” isn’t a major character and doesn’t mean much to you. Though “A” does mean a lot to your main character.
At this point, you finally pause long enough before your big dramatic battle on the cliff scene in order to spare a moment of your time. Just to think to yourself: Really, “A” ought to be saying something. I wonder why he or she is not –
And then it hits you. “A” is dead.
You’re on page 160, and you have failed to realize that this character is already dead.
What’s the big deal? You may be thinking. This character doesn’t talk anyway. Just cut him or her.
Well obviously, BUT . . .
Remember how I said “A” means a lot to one of your main characters.
And now “A” is dead. Is this going to affect your main character?
Y . . . E. . . S.
How long has “A” been dead? Clearly throughout the entire book.
So how long has this been affecting your main character?
Throughout the ENTIRE book.
So . . . what are you going to do about it?
Well, you’re going to sleep on it. Maybe if you’re lucky, this epiphany is just a temporary one, and by morning you’ll be over it.
Then you’re going to continue your first draft, from right where you stopped. If “A” continues to be dead throughout the rest of this draft of the book, you’ll know this is serious.
And then you’re going to begin your second draft.
And you’re going to explore the impact upon your main character of “A” being dead. In chapter one.
And if you’re fortunate, extremely fortunate, you’re going to find out that “A” is FAR more powerful dead. And that this lovely little surprise you had no desire to have is already right there in your story. Just waiting for you to realize it.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Here’s why. Her characters always have some wonderful quirky love or passion. Which pulls me to them.
I’m only beginning to learn about Anna (a Mercer bride in 1860’s Seattle), but I have a suspicion she is extraordinarily fond of seashells.
Then there’s Rachel, in The Measure of a Lady, just your average young pioneer woman in early San Francisco--who loves collecting and cataloguing bugs!
And Constance, from A Bride Most Begrudging, a tobacco bride in the Virginia Colony—who has a passion for creating mathematical story problems (about spiders crawling around the cabin & such).
And Essie, from Courting Trouble and Deep Into Trouble, a rich young woman in turn of the century Texas, who adores bicycling! And doesn’t give a hang if she shows her ankles.
Deeanne Gist writes romantic Christian historical fiction, but her characters are universal. Yet, so very much only themselves.
Beth totally approves .
Monday, August 2, 2010
People talk to Aerin. And she thinks back.
Working with a traumatized character can be tough. I didn’t know about this when I started Academy 7.
As a reader, I love the dramatic scenes. Go ahead! Drop your characters off the side of a castle. Stick them in the middle of a raging forest fire. Kill off both their parents and their best friend.
But as an author, if you put your main character through serious trauma, you have to deal with it. For the REST OF THE BOOK. Or the series, as Robert can attest. This isn’t like a nice little physical wound that can go away after a month. Or if you fast forward in time. (Very nice of Dane to let me do that).
Trauma doesn’t go away. At least not easily. And once your character is seriously traumatized, everything is traumatized. The stairs. The hall. The scrap of paper with the password to your dorm room on it. Here’s an example from Academy 7 to show you what I’m talking about.
Aerin was alone. She slowly crossed the room, then wound her way up the tight staircase to the third floor, and entered a stark hallway spotted with rows of closed doors. Nothing else moved in the hall, not a voice or a breeze or a scrap of paper. Her throat constricted, and she had an image of herself walking unknowingly to execution.
There. She stopped at a door identical to the others except for the number 307 etched in the chipped paint. With trembling fingers, she opened the envelope in her hand and shook out a slick piece of paper. The numbers written on it blurred before her, but she blinked to clear her vision and forced her hand not to shake as she punched the code into the keypad. The door screeched its way open.
I mean, really, an untraumatized character could walk down a hallway and push a few buttons without making a big deal about it. NOT Aerin.
But you stick this girl in a fight. Surround her with twenty hulking guys and a grenade. And she could lay them all flat in about sixty seconds.
Which is SO totally worth it.
Blogging, however, did not happen. Or walking. Or paying bills. Or lawn-mowing. Yeah, yeah, you don't care.
But as recompense, I have a treat for this morning. Christine posted my most recent interview on her blogsite, Reading on the Dark Side, so I am sending you all over there!
And for those of you wanting the summary for Salvation (so that you can actually have a clue what I've been blogging about), the summary is hidden, somewhere in the middle of that lovely interview. Enjoy!
(who will someday have to learn how to make her blog look as spectacular as Christine's, but for now is going to go help Beth deal with a phone call.