Writing is like Tuna Fish . . . sorta

Sharon Ashwood
September 21, 2011  •  No Comments

When you are a writer in the midst of a project, everything in the wide universe relates to writing. This past weekend I was left in charge of feeding my friend’s two cats. Yes, somehow I managed to make this all about my book because the Work In Progress, as every writer knows, is the very hub of the solar system.

One of these fluffy felines (they’re both built on the dandelion-puff model of fur styling) has the yowl of a sumo wrestler. She also has the fastidious food preferences of a dyspeptic restaurant reviewer. When presented with dinner, she either screeches like I’m attempting murder or turns her back with a sniff of disdain. Yes, thinks I, she’s just like certain individuals posting on book-related web sites. Nothing pleases.

To raise the stakes, my understanding this past Saturday was that the anti-food campaign had been going on for some time. “Great,” I say to myself. “It would just be my luck if Miss Mew keeled over on my watch, accusations of cruel starvation to follow.” I could see my future: All the other cats would be laughing behind their paws as I was carted off in manacles, branded as the Cruella de Ville for kitties.

And hence the gauntlet was thrown down. The wretched furball simply had to give in and eat before I strangled her.

unknown

If all else fails, there is bribery. I noted that the rattle of the treat bag perked her right up, so I did the only thing I could think of. I stuck a treat in her food dish, burying some of it beneath the squishy food so she had to eat her way down if she wanted to get it.

She did.

So I stuck another treat in, burying this one a little deeper.

And she ate her way down to this one, too, forgetting herself enough to have a few extra mouthfuls along the way. What seemed to happen, though, was that she easily lost track of what she was doing. Distracted, she’d forget to eat until I rattled the treats, bringing her back to the task at hand. Only as long as I was on the job, tempting her to the next mouthful, would she keep going. But, with us working together, she cleaned her dish for the first time in ages.

When I came back the next day, we carried on with the same routine, and she ate everything again. The secret was that she needed frequent incentives.

13-cat-food-bowl-300x200

Which brings me back to the Work in Progress, as it relates to a bowl of cat food. “Eureka!” I think, jumping up and down. “We writers need to bury treats in every scene! That means action, sexual tension, hooks, story questions and all the thrills and spills we can dream up packed in there thick and fast. Riddle the prose with payoffs galore! Readers will eagerly consume everything in between!”

Which seems obvious now that I say it, but a brain beleaguered by the dreaded WIP is a little dim.

I just hope my prose smells better than raw fish.


Novella update

Sharon Ashwood
August 5, 2011  •  No Comments

Draft of Hidden: the Dark Forgotten

Progress

Definitely going to go over the expected word count, but this is normal for me. Once I’ve got everything on the table, I can and do trim. And really, there are only two scenes left to go.


Hidden progress

Sharon Ashwood
August 1, 2011  •  No Comments

Draft of Hidden: the Dark Forgotten

Progress

Spent much of the weekend on a thorough editing of everything up to this point. Not so many new words, but much better words now.


More business

Sharon Ashwood
July 29, 2011  •  2 Comments

Draft of Hidden: the Dark Forgotten

Progress

Second try since I tossed the initial beginning. This is the horrible first draft stuff, but at least now there’s some decent starter dough.


Down to business

Sharon Ashwood
July 13, 2011  •  No Comments

Draft of Hidden: the Dark Forgotten

Progress


RITA® and me

Sharon Ashwood
July 6, 2011  •  2 Comments

Last week I went to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York and was astonished, delighted, and bewildered to find myself the winner for 2011 of the RITA® award for paranormal romance. (Note this slightly blurry photo was taken after consuming the champagne in the glass next to the award)

071

It’s kind of like winning the Oscars in romance writing, except they give you a maximum of two minutes to make a fool of yourself in public. Hollywood could learn a few things from the rigorous management of the RWA’s ceremony.

The perils:

1. My chair leg was sitting on my hem, and I nearly pulled off my swishy chiffon palazzo pants as I stood up. That would have been, um, memorable.

2. I was sufficiently convinced that I would not win that I failed to prepare any kind of speech. Thankfully, I know very well to whom I am grateful.

The rewards:

1. My chapter mates were there to help me celebrate.

2. I got a cool piece of shiny gold hardware.

3. With any luck, the win will inspire some new people to take a chance on The Dark Forgotten series.

imgp0006

It was the cherry on top of a wonderful week. This is the view from the hotel window, right in Times Square. I’d never been to NYC before, and I have to say the city treated me very well. I did a little conference-going and a lot more sight-seeing. There wasn’t enough time to do more than taste the Big Apple, but it was enough to make me a fan.


From the library

Sharon Ashwood
June 29, 2011  •  No Comments

For those looking for some fun summer reading, here’s some recent reads that I’m giving my personal stamp of approval:

The Bunnicula Collection by Deborah and James Howe

I encountered this 25th anniversary edition as an audio book read by Victor Garber. It contains three short novellas: Bunnicula: a Rabbit Tale of Mystery, Howliday Inn, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. These stories are told from the point of view of Harold, the family dog. Other characters include Chester, the well-read, haughty, and over-imaginative tabby and the family rabbit who quite possibly is one of the evil undead. Blanched zombie vegetables are also a sinister feature. The phrase I keep coming back to in describing these tales is simply charming. They’re loopy, smart, and light-hearted–great for kids and adults.

The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

The best I can do to describe this book is dystopic steampunk alternate history with vampires and magic. I was hooked. There’s a streak of romance that’s touching and surprising. The authors have created fabulous characters for this adventure, and I’ll certainly be reading the next instalment. Highly recommended for readers tired of the same old vampires.

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Steampunk again, but this time set in nineteenth-century London’s Ministry for Peculiar Occurrences. The protagonists are archivist Wellington Books and his slightly off-the-rails partner, Eliza Braun. From the cover, I was expecting a frenetic romp, and it does make me grin as I read. But, I’m about halfway through and there’s a solid plot in amongst the magical artefacts hidden in the Ministry’s underground library. As well as being fun, this book has an entertaining cast and a cold case mystery to solve.


Tick, tock

Sharon Ashwood
June 22, 2011  •  No Comments

As I write this, it’s the first day of summer. The warm weather has been dragging its heels to arrive here. This is the first week I’ve actually worn a light coat, and only the second day I’ve worn sandals. I look at the calendar and think someone’s playing tricks.

clockface

I mention this, not just because complaining about the weather is a favourite occupation in the Pacific Northwest, but to illustrate how slippery is that beast called time. Although we have devices to measure microseconds, time remains perceptual. There’s always either more or less of it than we think. We try to kill it. It slips away. It’s always hang heavy on our hands until … well, it runs out, doesn’t it? Then one wonders where it went, and whether it was wasted.

The effect is magnified by creative endeavours. I am great at promising things that will occur in a misty future only to find the deadline is breathing down my neck. Due dates have a way of making the future accordion into a frightening present. When I am in the zone and doing great work, time zooms by unnoticed. I’ve come out of a white heat of writing only to notice that I’ve lost a whole day.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always been fascinated by timepieces. Apparently, they’re magical machinery quite beyond my control. And, they’re thematically appropriate to the turning of the year, when I tend to get a bit philosophical anyway.

In my constant battle to tame the fleeting hours, I have learned this much: If there is something I want to accomplish, waiting for circumstances to be right doesn’t work. I hesitate, time flies, and I’m no further ahead. Even if I never reach my goal, moving toward it puts me on a better path. It’s like the universe waits to see if I’ll commit before coming on board. That’s when happy “timing” might occur—after I’ve done 95% of the work.

Think of it this way: It’s the first day of summer and the start of a new season. The wheel is turning, but toward what? Where do you want to be on the first day of winter? Even if you know you can’t be there, can you be closer? What do you need to do to make it happen? What are you willing to put on the line?

If you want to do something, don’t wait. The sands of time are running through the glass. Be brilliant, brave and take no prisoners.


New book nerves

Sharon Ashwood
June 15, 2011  •  No Comments

Last week, I launched FROSTBOUND, the fourth of the Dark Forgotten series. I’m not totally out the zone of guest blogs and promo contests, but the initial push has passed. Now I’m eyeballing the dates for the RWA Conference in New York and wondering if Air Canada is still going to be on strike when it’s time for me to get on a plane. File that one under “never a dull moment.”

In the meantime, I’m in that odd post-book launch mood.
hangover_dog

It’s two parts fatalistic, one part empty nest. We wind ourselves up to be dynamos of energy and, once the confetti has settled, feel let down. We’re no longer the centre of attention. Another book has come along, displacing our moment in the sun. All that’s left is the anxious wait to find out how our baby is doing in the big, bad world. Will people treat it kindly? Will my hero and heroine remember to wear mittens and cross only at the lights?

I’ve never learned how to effectively deal with this state of mind, other than to plunge back into writing. Put another way, the only antidote for present nerves is future plans. I did the same thing when I was entering contests prior to publication—I always made sure I had one more entry out there, because if entry A didn’t do well, entry B just might. Having lots of irons in the fire kept my nail-biting at a bearable level.

And while I fret and wonder and wring my hands for my newborn novel, I’m also jubilant because a story I desperately wanted to tell is now in the hands of readers. How lucky is that?


Time out

Sharon Ashwood
June 1, 2011  •  No Comments

imgp0105

One of the recommended activities for writers is to “refill the well.” Cryptic, but I think that means “have fun every so often.” As a working adult with writing ambitions, time is scarce and usually fun gets left till last. Trying to co-ordinate with friends in a similar situation is almost laughable.

However, after a year and a half of stalling around, it happened. A friend and I had a weekend excursion away. I wanted to visit Granville Island in Vancouver, which I envisioned as a setting for a story. As I am a crappy photographer, I cleverly put my friend in charge of the camera.

imgp0079

What I like about the location is the mix of industrial, artistic, and natural scenery. It has a bit of a carnival atmosphere. There’s an arts school, a farmer’s market, many restaurants ranging from funky to upscale, and a lot of interesting boutiques. What it doesn’t have is enough parking, but that’s another story.

After a miserable spring, the weather turned warmish for the day. Although the area isn’t actually that big, there was enough to see to keep us walking for hours.

imgp0076

imgp0110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I picked up for the story wasn’t everything I needed. In some ways, it was too cheerful—I do better atmosphere with fall weather. But it was what I needed as a human being—a couple of days without responsibility.

imgp0133

imgp0109


Page 9 of 27« First...7891011...20...Last »