Monday, September 29, 2008

Warning: Books Can Make You Crazy by Michele Ashman Bell

Authors are an odd bunch. Some would even call us “crazy.” Sometimes we spend more time with ficticious characters than we do with humans. We laugh, cry, get frightened and experience a myriad of other emotions, all while sitting in front of our computers. Just us and our imaginations. It’s a very bizarre and magical thing.

In the olden days weren’t people like that institutionalized?

The creative process for writers is psychotic and schizophrenic and dementia-"ic", all rolled together. And those who write for the inspirational/LDS market, even try to add spiritual elements to their stories as well.

Betcha didn’t think there was so much going on inside a writer’s brain, didya?

Of course, who am I to speak for the whole writing community, but I’m willing to guess that to some degree, all writers share similar experiences.

One of the most fascinating phenomena for a writer is when the plot is flowing, the characters are acting, reacting and interacting, and suddenly you find yourself (your characters, I mean) clear over in left field, doing the complete opposite of what you were planning them to do. Yes, even authors get surprised.

Suddenly the author finds herself having to make a choice. Does she go with the new direction, letting her characters be true to themselves, or does she rewrite the scene and get them back on track according to her outline? I’ve done both. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised at the new direction the story goes, but sometimes I’m not really excited that a character is going to change course, or . . . even die (I know, scary isn’t it? But it has happened.)

Which takes me to my next point. Control. Do you have any idea how much fun it is to be able to create your own characters and plot and totally control the story? (Except when the above happens.) It’s absolutely, wonderfully, splendiferous. Since I avoid confrontation and get tongue tied in awkward situations, I am able to live vicariously through my characters who always seem to have just the right thing to say at just the right time. Or, they get to travel to exotic places and do daring and crazy things that I would never do, except through my characters. I love it!

For me personally, writing is very visual. Remember the psychosis I referred to at the beginning, yea, well, the truth is . . . I see in my mind what I am writing. It is as if the movie is playing in my head and I am just recording onto the computer what I’m seeing. (Don’t call 1-800-YERNUTS just yet). I guess you could say, “I see dead people.” Actually, I mostly see live people, and all sorts of people, and places and events and all the details too. I can even imagine the smells and tastes and noises. (Not all crazy people are dangerous. We use our writing for therapy too, which is another blog for another day.)

Every writer approaches the craft differently. Some have a detailed outline (me) and some shoot from the hip and just go with their gut. I revise the daylights out of my manuscript, and some get it right the first time (I hate these people – just kidding. No, I actually do.)

Writing is an awesome experience and every day I am amazed at the mind’s ability to create and imagine. And the really even more amazing part is that a reader can take the words a writer has written, and re-create the story in their own mind. Then, just as it is visual for me to write, it becomes visual for the reader to read. It’s all very wonderful and mind-boggling. Of course, this visual reading experience explains why movies made from books are rarely as good as the book. You can’t get into the character’s head or heart in a movie like you can in a book. The people and places you imagine as you read the book aren’t always the same way you imagined them in the movie. (For instance the Edward in the upcoming Twilight movie is SO NOT the Edward from my mind.) But, on the other hand, that’s what makes a book so magical and personal for each reader. What starts with the author’s imagination, ends with the reader’s imagination. What became real for the author, becomes real for the reader.

So I guess what I’m saying is, craziness is contagious. And you get it from books. Isn’t that wonderful! Bless all the crazy authors and their wonderfully, equally crazy readers. Together we really do make magic happen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Am I posting a comment or a blog? I'm having problems navigating this new and different terrain but wanted both of you - Jennie and Nancy - to know that I loved your blogs - and will try to get creative when it is my turn! :) Lynn


Since we agreed we’d all take turns blogging and I came up second, I get to have a say right at the beginning of this venture. As a group we’ve been together a long time. We’ve seen a lot of sunshine and rain together. We’re all published authors and sometimes we will write about writing, other times we’ll write about what we’re reading, and sometimes we’ll simply share our thoughts, our testimonies, and our love and appreciation for the many gifts God gives us. You might hear some of our frustrations too, since we’re certainly not exempt from those. Of course, we’ll love hearing from other members of the writing community, after all, the LDS writing community is fairly small and most of us know and admire each other, but I’m hoping that we’ll receive comments, questions, and suggestions from other readers as well.

Hm-m, do you mind if I start out with a blatant commercial? The last book in my Bracelet series is due to be released next week! I’m really excited about it since it has been a year since I had a new book published. It’s my nineteenth novel, but I’m as jittery, hoping it will be liked, as I was with my first. It’s titled The Ruby and has a bright red cover. My signing schedule is posted on my web page. Then just a week after The Ruby lands on bookstore shelves The Spirit of Christmas will be released. It has a lovely black and red with gold cover. I didn’t write this Christmas book by myself. Two of my favorite writers are co-authors, Betsy Brannon Green and Michele Ashman Bell. (You’ll hear more from them later).

Nancy caught you up a little on what she’s being doing the past few years, so perhaps I should do that too. The biggest change in my life is a call to serve two days a week in the Jordan River Temple. I love it, but it’s a lot more work and much more rewarding than I ever imagined. Actually, I’d given little thought to ever working in the temple until the call came, but now I’m the first to suggest to everyone eligible you ought to march right into your bishop’s office and volunteer to work in the closest temple.

If you’ve seen my web page, you already know something about my family, so I’ll just say my husband and I have five adult children who are all married to wonderful companions and they’ve provided us with ten grandchildren. When they’re all here it probably sounds like twice that number, but we love them and our family is the center of our world.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Newbie Again!

What's a girl to do when she's been out of the game for four years? Bravely jump back in.Back in 2004, I was feeling pretty good about myself as a writer. I had just finished the fourth book of my Faith of our Fathers Civil War series. Life was good, the painful research was done, and I was ready to move on to something else for a while.

I had a baby.

Mmm hmm. No big deal, really. My husband I had two girls already, and they were 12 and 9. I figured I'd done it before, I could do the baby thing one more time. And it really did feel right, but cute as he was, he refused to sleep. So my writing came to a screeching halt.

Then husband went back to school for a Masters in School Counseling.

Mmm hmm.So with no new books out and royalties beginning to decline, I decided to fall back on that reliable degree and teach for a bit. I taught 4th grade and still didn't write. I knew if I ever wanted to be a writer again, I had to get back into the groove.

So now I teach preschool three mornings a week and write while my almost 4-year-old son...still doesn't sleep much. But now he plays well while I type away.The best news of all is that my newest book will be released in October. Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel has been a long time in coming and it is, so far, my favorite of my 9 published books. The setting is 1865 British Colonial India, and the main character was a character in my Civil War series, so readers of those four books will recognize her.

My website will be up and running soon- I'm putting the final touches on it now. To my readers who have been so incredibly patient, I say a million thanks and I hope you enjoy Isabelle Webb.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A New Venture

Hi there! We're a friendly group of writers off on a grand adventure. We decided that we wanted a place to post our thoughts on reading, writing and just about anything else under the sun. We hope you'll feel free to respond- ask questions, make comments, and we really just hope it'll be a fun place to spend a few minutes every day.