Living vicariously through your characters

Authors note: My third novel z2 is currently on blog tour through the fine folks at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The post below is part of that tour and it appeared a a couple of weeks ago on a blog called My Devotional Thoughts. It was inspired by a post I wrote here back in 2012, three whole books ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but apparently other things haven’t changed much at all.

Should you write about what know already, or about things that you wish you could do? Conventional wisdom says that your books should be about things you know. However, writing a novel takes a tremendous amount of research, planning and day dreaming. I’ve decided to use that energy to enter worlds I barely know but have always wanted to visit.

sailboatWith my first novel, x0, I adhered to normal perhaps a little too well. The hero of x0 spends her days largely doing what I do, interpreting seismic data for an oil company. She loves her husband and three children, plants flowers and loves to travel.  Okay, she also spends a little time reading minds, but other than that she and I both have similar lives.

By the time I started y1, the second novel in this collection, I was getting restless. I have always wanted to learn to sail, and to visit the South Pacific. My husband has no interest in the first and little in the second. That’s when I discovered one of the reasons that I write.

Guess whose second book takes place on a sailboat in the Pacific? y1 let me not only learn to sail, it let me hear the sounds of the gulls and feel the plunk of the waves hitting my boat. I woke many mornings to the smell of salt air as I studied navigation charts and planned my routes. It was a wonderful year at sea, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Maya 2Of course, my second book took a lot more research than my first and it took longer to write. It got me over being shy as I sought out beta readers who really had sailed, traveled though and even lived in the areas I wrote about. Now they are part of my life, having enriched it with their details of places I may never see.

I once considered being an archeologist, visiting exotic ancient tombs and solving mysteries from times long past. I don’t do that, but as I wrote z2, I swatted mosquitoes in Belize with the best of them as I uncovered artifacts and learned to read numbers in Mayan while I was at it.

Did I mention that I once wanted to climb Mount Everest? I know now that it’s a dangerous and expensive undertaking, but my latest novel c3 boasts a young woman attempting to summit the world’s third highest peak. I climbed every step with her, and I never had to leave my front porch.

It is true that my research slows my writing down, but I consider myself blessed to have the chance to create stories that enable me and others to enjoy alternate existences that would come at too high a price in our real lives.  To me, that is what a book does best.

y1 makes it to the semi finals!

I’ve avoided entering any of my three books into contests so far, because the contests open to books not published in a traditional fashion have all struck me as mostly money makers for the contest organizers. I looked around a fair amount but entry fees were high and prizes slim. If I wanted to spend a couple of hundred dollars getting my book noticed, it made more sense to me to just advertise it.

I think the final straw came when I discovered that it costs only $50 to try for a Pulitzer Prize, and considerably more to enter most of these contests. (Unfortunately self-published works are not eligible for the Pulitzer Prize 🙂 and yes of course I checked.)

joyI was delighted to discover, however, that for a very reasonable $20 I could enter my novel y1 in the Kindle Book Review 2013 contest. I have used these folks in the past to advertise my free give-away days on Kindle and they do a nice job.

Today, they published their list of semi-finalists and I was delighted to see y1 RIGHT HERE in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category. (The list is alphabetical so of course y1 is last.) Do most entries make it to the semi-finals? I have no idea, but I’ve learned as in independent author to take my joys wherever I can find them.

Check here for news on z2 out in paperback and here for news on x0 making it onto 1670 people’s to-read shelf on Goodreads.

You’ve got to have a dream

From the Musical South Pacific

From the Musical South Pacific

The world has changed a lot since  that day in late July in the early sixties when my younger sister had a Hawaiian party for her birthday. We wore hula skirts made out of pink tissue paper and piled into the station wagon to all see “South Pacific” which was making a second run at the town’s only theater.

Check out at least the beginning of this video showing a Polynesian woman trying to get an American soldier in WWII to fall in love with her daughter.

It’s over fifty years later.  Yes, movies have clearly come a long way.  Yes, the concept behind the scene could be considered offensive.  And the message of the song itself?

musicYou’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream? How you gonna have a dream come true?

Yeah.  Still right on the mark.  Thank you Rogers and Hammerstein

write about what you do, or what you wish you were doing?

The hero of my first novel, x0, spends her days largely doing what I do. She interprets seismic data for an oil company, loves her husband and three children, plants flowers and loves to travel.  Okay, she also spends a little time reading minds, but basically she and I both have similar lives.  It’s a very nice existence, but it’s not the only one I find appealing.

y1, the second novel in this collection, takes place largely on a sailboat in the Pacific.  Have I been there? Barely. Do I sail? Not really. But I did wake up one morning about twenty years ago filled with a fire to sail around the world. It came out of nowhere and there was no explaining it.  I had to do it. When I wouldn’t stop talking about it, my family finally bought me sailing lessons.  Looked at maps with me.  Agreed that it could happen. Then slowly it became apparent that my husband could think of few things he would rather do less.  He hates being confined on anything, gets seasick, yearns to run around playing any sport involving a ball.  My children were growing up and their wasn’t a budding sailor among them. I had to face the fact that while I could still do this thing, it would be years spent on a solo venture, far removed from all those I loved.

And then I discovered a secret.  That’s what my writing was for. Those of us who create stories are blessed with the chance to enjoy alternate existences that would come at too high a price in our real lives.  Conventional wisdom says that you should write about the things you know. That makes a certain amount of sense.  However, writing a novel takes a tremendous amount of research, thought, planning and plain old day dreaming. Why not use that energy to enter a world you barely know but yearn for? y1 let me learn to sail well, let me hear the sounds of the gulls  and feel the thunk of the waves hitting my boat. I woke to the smell of salt air, ate cold canned goods when I was too tired to cook, studied navigation charts and planned my routes.  It was a wonderful year at sea, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And, just like my hopeful readers who might also enjoy sailing around paradise, I never had to leave my front porch.  That’s is what books are for.