Thursday’s Children May 16, 2013

Inspired by fog…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Last week, Jessika Fleck’s TC post about snow sparked my idea for this post, in addition to time at the beach, during which I snapped these photos.

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

When I was in high school I wanted an airbrush, just so I could paint realistic mist and fog. Last week, on my way home, the sunny skies five miles inland gradually gave way to a thick fog blanket at the coast. It took only a few wisps drifting across the road to make my pulse race.

Fog is…atmospheric…transforming…disorienting…the sky brought down to our level. Otherworldly.

Sometimes, at the beach, people materialize out of the fog, right in front of me, like magic.

Fog makes an appearance in almost every book I’ve written.

Here are some excerpts about fog (which will also demonstrate that I don’t always write from a dark and twisty POV).

Unquiet Souls

The muffled sounds of waves lapping the shore enveloped us as we walked along the path. Clammy, salty-tasting mist turned the evergreens into feathery shadows. Our feet made almost no sound on the pine needles.

A slight puff of air on my right hand, like someone’s breath, raised goose bumps on the backs of both arms. I glanced behind us, but saw nothing.  Somewhere in the woods beside me a twig snapped. 

And later in that scene…

We kicked off our shoes and sat on a big boulder, above the seaweed line marking high tide…Droplets of moisture, like tiny crystal beads, collected on his hair. If only this moment could last indefinitely, the two of us in a cloud world, isolated from everything and everyone else.

If TENDRIL were actually a real book, mist might drift out from between the pages. It takes place in a fog-bound Maine town.

TENDRIL opening…

Sporadic blasts of the foghorn heralded our arrival at the lighthouse. The headlights illuminated the mist shrouding the island but couldn’t penetrate it. Once we were out of the car, fog clung to my skin like a veil. The air was thick with the smell of sea creatures, both living and dead.

Later in the book (“Pegasus” refers to her rickety bike)…

The fog was so dense I could taste its saltiness. Between the island and the mainland I flew among clouds, riding through the sky on my elderly Pegasus. The bleating of the foghorn and the disembodied cries of Canada geese seemed to come from the mist itself. I could see no more than a few feet in front of me… Had I not traveled the same route so many times I might easily have gotten lost.

Still later, in the voice of the male protagonist-

“Wait. Will you go out with me on Wednesday?”

“Yes…if I can…then I will.”

The way she said it gave me goose bumps. The bad kind. “What does that mean?”

“Well, you know, if I’m…free. There’s a chance I might not be. Goodbye, Dylan.” Before I could think of what to say, she disappeared into the fog, almost like she was part of it.

So, as you’ve read, I love the way fog can set a mood…ominous, romantic, mysterious. I think I need an “I ❤ Fog” bumper sticker. Or as we say here in Maine, bumpah stickah. Here’s a photo I took last fall. Those are my editorial assistants, getting a closer look at the boat.

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Does fog appear in your writing? Do you like fog?

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Thursday’s Children February 14, 2013

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Inspired by blizzards, and local history…

Last week I lost track of time and had to scramble to get my TC post up. This week Snowmaggedon/Snowpocalypse/Nemo made it virtually impossible to leave my house for the two days of the storm, except to shovel and drag my reluctant doggies outside to do their business.

I’ll be going stir-crazy by Monday, just itching to fly the coop. So, I ‘m actually writing this on Saturday the 9th.

Storms make for great writing opportunities within stories too. They’re dramatic. Primal. The wind screeches and trees snap-and if you live by the ocean, the waves roar like a raging sea monster. Bad weather forces people out of their comfortable routines and behavior patterns. The isolation of a storm may lead some to feel more vulnerable, and some to feel less accountable. Being trapped in a house by a Nor’easter is akin to being marooned on an island. It’s just you and the people trapped with you, or with whom you are trapped.

Tension builds. Anything could happen. 

In 1978, a very dramatic incident happened at Goat Island Light, which is about three miles down the road from where I now live. Here’s a photo from the late 19th or early 20th century. I’m not sure when the one below it was taken, though clearly it was taken after the invention of airplanes!

GoatIslandLightOld

US Coast Guard Photo

US Coast Guard Photo

Below are photos of Goat Island Light taken this past weekend by their webcam.  That tall white structure is the new fog bell tower. You’ll be relieved to know the lighthouse is no longer “manned”, because in the middle photo all that black stuff is sea water that’s breached the rocky base of the island. As is the foamy white stuff in the last photo.

goatisland2913jpg

goat island stationjpg

GoatIslandFeb2013jpg

The passageway on the right connects the lightkeeper’s house to the lighthouse, which is out of view in the picture above.  The passageway is quite new. It wasn’t the first one to be built.

Back to 1978, or more specifically the Blizzard of ’78.

Martin Cain was the lightkeeper at that time. He had just stepped from the passageway into the kitchen when the entire passageway was swept out to sea. I used that incident in my book TENDRIL (but with different characters, a hurricane not a blizzard, and a different, fictional lighthouse). In real life, a rescue helicopter came to evacuate the Cain family, but there was room for only one adult and one child. Martin’s wife took the baby, leaving her husband and two year old son behind. Can you even imagine?

By the way, many claim the lighthouse is haunted by its last resident lightkeeper, who died in 1992. Presumably a rogue wave capsized his boat when he was a short distance from home. But that’s another story…

A few days ago, on neighboring Vaughn Island, human bones were found by a person walking his dog. They may belong to the college students who went missing just before Christmas. Some of their clothing was found on Goat Island, shortly after their disappearance. The bones were found above the usual high tide mark, probably deposited there by the the thirty foot seas we had during the storm.

Yet another tragic and mysterious story…

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer Portland Press Herald

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer
Portland Press Herald

Are there any events from local history that have inspired your writing?

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Thursday’s Children 2/7/13

Inspired by Adolescent Boys (and Music)

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

My book TENDRIL is written in dual first person POVs, one of which is that of a seventeen year old boy. Humans are more similar than they are different, but still… I joked around on Twitter about listening to Green Day and eating Doritos to get my brain in the right place.

kinopoisk.rudoritos

That wasn’t entirely a joke. One of the primary ways I got into my narrator Dylan’s head was through music. Fortunately for me, his character plays guitar and he had a brother, also a guitar-player, who died in the early nineties. Music is Dylan’s way of connecting with a brother he never got to know. Nineties music is his sweet spot for that reason, but he likes more current music too.

Listening to music while I write doesn’t work for me. I get easily distracted by it. I need silence, or white noise – the sound of clothes flopping around in the dryer, or the grinding hum of the dishwasher, or the snores of two temporarily exhausted terriers.

Listening to music BEFORE I write is inspirational.

I’d write a Dylan chapter, then I’d find a song for its title. Then I’d listen to the song, and sometimes the music inspired some revisions. A couple of times I knew what song I wanted to use, and wrote the chapter with that in mind.

Here are the songs

1. Disappearing Boy (Green Day)

2. Creep (Radiohead)

3. Endless Deep (U2)

4. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)

5. Violet Eyes (Meat Puppets)

6. Trouble (Eddie Vedder cover of Cat Stevens)

7. Longing to Belong (Eddie Vedder)

8. Beautiful Freak (Eels)

9. Brother (Alice In Chains, unplugged)

10. What We Don’t Know (Linkin Park)

11. You Can Close Your Eyes (Eddie Vedder cover of James Taylor)

12. Butterflies and Hurricanes (Muse)

13. Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)

14. Lights In The Sky (Nine Inch Nails)

15. Be Still My Love (Bush)

16. Collide (Howie Day) shout out to fellow Maine-ah…

How many of you have playlists for your books? Or maybe a single theme song?

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The Claw, er, The Call…

This is the post I honestly despaired of ever writing.

Three completed books and two years stumbling in and out of the query trenches brought me to this moment. Finally!

Yes, I’m about to throw another Toy Story reference at you. Here it is…I feel like one of the aliens. Except that bratty Sid plays no role in my story.

If you’re reading this and you aren’t a writer, then you may have no idea why anyone would want/need an agent. Or why agents aren’t lining up at writers’ doors/inboxes offering to represent them. They stand to make some cash if they sell the book, right? Or can’t a writer just “hire” an agent?

Trust me when I say – that’s not how it works.

A decent agent receives a deluge of a few hundred query letters from writers, EVERY WEEK, in which the writer describes her awesome manuscript and anything about herself she thinks might hook the agent (namely previously published work). Out of those queries, the agent might ask for a few partials or even a couple of full manuscripts to read.

The overjoyed writer says a prayer, or lights a candle, or whatever, and fires off the submission. And then waits. And waits some more. Most of the time the agent writes back a couple of months later and says “Thank you, it was very nice, but I didn’t fall in love with it enough to offer representation.” Or something to that effect. The typical agent will actually offer to represent only a few people during a year. She hopes (usually) that these authors will be “career” writers, not just one book wonders. A busy agent might have thirty clients. Period. No room for more. Until somebody dies. And even then she’ll keep representing that author’s estate, trying to make more money for that estate, and of course herself.

An author wants an agent because, with the exception of smaller presses, publishing houses will not even read a query from an unagented author.  The publishers rely on agents to filter, or gate-keep. And to find what the publishing house editors have told the agents they want. So, for the most part the only way to get a book into readers’ hands without an agent is to self-publish, or query a small press. Self-publishing and small presses work out very well for some authors, but I prefer to go the traditional route, at least for now.

Of course having an agent does not guarantee getting a book deal from a publishing house. There’s a whole lot of submitting to editors, gnashing of teeth, chewing of nails, ranting at anyone who will listen, and eating of chocolate. Yes, writers do a lot of waiting. And eating of chocolate. Agents probably do too. Mixed in with frantic bursts of revising, synopsis-writing, etc.

So, now non-writers and writers alike will understand why I am delighted to announce-

I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!

I’ve been doing a lot of this…

The Backstory-

Yes, I entered a bunch of contests this fall. I got some requests, but no offers.

I mailed out a few small batches of queries.

I got a “revise and resubmit” with a verbal intent to offer for TENDRIL. Then from a different agent I got an actual offer, also for TENDRIL. After a whirlwind of querying and follow-up “nudging” a week or so later (stating that I had an offer), I got a bunch more requests. Eventually I ended up in that enviable, but unexpectedly difficult, position of having more than one really good offer. There are still agents who have fulls, but didn’t get back to me by the deadline I set.  And I also have a few partials out there for FOOLISH.

On December 22, I accepted the offer from Stefanie Lieberman at

Janklow & Nesbit Associates in NYC.

Until today I kept rereading her emails to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

But today there was something outside my front door.

Fedex

and inside the envelope was the contract…