So apparently, this twenty-six-question “meme” has been making the rounds through the blogosphere. My dear Bane tagged me yesterday, so I guess it’s my turn. I’d say phooey on him – “tag” was one of my least favorite games as a child (gave me heart palpitations, I kid you not) – but it does give me a “thoughtful” post for today, so here goes...
1. What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?
Well, I guess the last thing I finished was Hollow Souls, my first completed novel. But the first thing I wrote? Wow, that’s hard. Technically, the first thing I wrote for pleasure (and not for school) were these snarky sketches about my family, but if those were still in existence in August 2005, then Hurricane Katrina slurped them from my old bedroom. I still have a myth that I wrote when I was about thirteen – as well as a short story called “The Peace.” Spirituality was once a big theme for this here atheist.
2. Write poetry?
I have indeed written poetry. But what you really want to know is “Was it good poetry?” Surely not.
3. Angsty poetry?
Angsty poetry, no. But I did keep an angsty diary when I was a kid – managed to save it from Katrina’s clutches – what a laugh riot that is today. There's even a passage written after an argument with my mom, in which I wrote something super-melodramatic like, "I'll show her! I'm never coming outta my room... one day, she'll miss me, and she'll find me dead on my bed, and won't she feel sorry then?!" Or words to that effect (it's in storage at the moment, so forgive the misquote). I told you - priceless.
4. Favorite genre of writing?
Wow, that’s tough. I don’t have a favorite per se. I love horror, fantasy, crime thrillers, mysteries, Westerns, and literary/mainstream fiction pretty equally. "What's your least favorite?" is the real question. That would be romance - hands down.
5. Most annoying character you’ve ever created?
I’d like to say Seth, Devi’s flighty musician brother, in Hollow Souls, but Devi might actually be my most annoying character – certainly my whiniest. Hence, the need for a revision (among other reasons).
6. Best plot you’ve ever created?
I don’t know if it will be my best, but I’m pretty fond of Devi’s long, winding journey to Ruby Hollow.
7. Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?
For now, the coolest plot twist is Olivia’s discovery of her mother’s old love letters from Jesse Littleton – who she’d formerly believed was the made-up hero of Devi’s bedtime stories. After the discovery, Olivia realizes three things: that Ruby Hollow actually exists, that her married mother is in love with another man, and that that's why Devi is so miserable.
8. How often do you get writer’s block?
What’s writer’s block? Hehe. More likely, I suffer from “writer’s flood” – too many words (at least for today’s publishing market).
9. Write fan fiction?
Well, the fact that I had to look up “fan fiction” should tell you something. Although now that I know what it is, I might be tempted to write a sequel to the Firefly television series.
10. Do you type or write by hand?
Both. I write notes and scenes by hand – you should see my “serial killer notebooks,” as Dan likes to call them – and type multiple drafts on my laptop. Haven’t used a typewriter in years.
11. Do you save everything you write?
I sure try to – mostly, in digital form (on my laptop and on jump drives), but I have printed out a couple drafts of my novel, just in case an EMP renders all electronics useless. This is why Dan lovingly considers me a “pack rat” – I live in fear that he’ll accidentally toss out my papers during his next downsizing frenzy.
12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?
Sure thing. My “second” novel, which I’m currently contemplating, was actually supposed to be my first. But my passion for Hollow Souls overtook it.
13. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
Do erotic short stories count?
14. What’s everyone else’s favorite story that you’ve written?
As Bane and Matt have said, “That remains to be seen.”
15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
Hollow Souls and Red Road Crossing certainly have romantic elements, but although “never say never” is sometimes apt, I don’t believe that I have it in me to pen Harlequin-type romance and, no offense to Stephenie Meyer, but I’ll never do what she did to a vampire, much less a teenaged girl.
16. What’s your favorite setting for your characters?
Ruby Hollow, of course – the secret underground community in southern Kentucky that dominates Hollow Souls. So much fun to draw (yes, I have maps) and to describe - some might say a little too much fun.
17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Besides my travel guide to the Keys? Technically, two, I suppose. Revising my first novel, Hollow Souls, and outlining my second, Red Road Crossing.
18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Beyond high school, not that I can remember... but I hear you lose brain cells in your thirties.
19. What are your five favorite words?
Ooh, this is the toughest question. I love words! But, after much thought, I’d say that my top five (at the moment) are cornucopia, onomatopoeia, serendipity, ukulele, and mishmash.
20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Devi and Olivia (mother and daughter in Hollow Souls) are the two halves of me.
21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?
Um... me, myself, and I. All my characters are either versions of me or amalgams of people in my life.
22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Some of my dreams are so memorable and/or psychotic that I write them down, and parts of them inform my writing – which admittedly frightens my husband a little. I have some of the most disturbing, violent dreams of anyone I know – it’s been known to freak him out. Sorry, honey.
23. Do you favor happy endings?
Not necessarily. The ending needs to fit the story, which sometimes means bad things have to happen to good people. Atonement wouldn’t have had the same impact with a so-called happy ending, but if Andy Dufresne hadn’t escaped in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, I’d have been utterly pissed. Depending on how you look at it, Hollow Souls has a happy ending – an ending that fits my main character’s journey toward a sense of peace.
24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Spelling and grammar are, unfortunately or not, my strengths, so I’m never concerned about them – they come rather naturally. So, I guess you could say I’m very aware of them. In fact, I found it difficult writing the word “angsty” up above.
25. Does music help you write?
Definitely. But only classical music and movie scores. Lyrics – even lyrics I know well – usually distract me from my writing. In fact, the only song that I could listen to while writing Hollow Souls was the song “At This Point in My Life” by Tracy Chapman. Somehow, it became Devi’s anthem.
26. Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops into your head.
Although I’m tempted to post a part of the erotic short story that I managed to sell, I’ll try to keep this PG-rated. One of my favorite parts of Hollow Souls is Caroline’s ill-fated journey into the caves:
Caroline sensed a huddle of hushed voices. As the whispers loudened, her mind awoke from a hazy slumber. The fog was lifting, retreating into the shadows, revealing her true environs. The voices became clearer, crowding her with their intensity. She felt warm and comfortable, as if covered by blankets and lying on a pliable surface – unlike the cold, hard earth upon which she’d fallen. Perhaps she’d dreamed the previous escapade. But the aches throughout her body quickly dispelled the fantasy. Recalling the boy’s face in the darkness, she wondered: If she were no longer crumpled facedown on the grimy, unyielding stone in that final chamber of terror, where was she?
Gradually, she opened her eyes. Her head, resting on a pillow, faced a rocky cave wall, aglow with a flickering amber light and a host of agitated shadows – presumably belonging to the incensed voices behind her.
“Really, Forrest, what were we supposed to do? Just leave her there? She would’ve died!” The unseen woman spoke like a mother, with equal compassion and ire.
“They’ll keep looking for her, and you know it!” The man – undoubtedly Forrest himself – sounded older than the woman, and more enraged.
“I agree with Forrest. It’s too dangerous letting her stay. We’ve heard them above, they’re doing everything they can to find her.”
“Roland, not you, too! The girl was bleeding to death. If Jesse hadn’t found her, she probably would’ve died of shock or starvation. Would you want that on your conscience?”
“Well, if your son hadn’t found her, we’d never have known she was there.”
An older woman, with a raspy voice, asked, “What were you doing up there anyway, young man? How did you get out of the Hollow?”
“Leave him be, Lilith! I can deal with my own child, thank you.”
“Apparently not. Really, Marybeth, you should be more careful with your son. What if someone had seen him? Then, where would we be?”
“But no one did see him.”
“A little girl did, and now look.”
Caroline stared at the flickering wall, listening to the heated discussion, enjoying the solace of her new bed. She kept her head and body perfectly rigid, hesitant to reveal her consciousness to the huddled visitors, scared by those who apparently didn’t want her there.
Suddenly, a much younger voice pierced the room’s tension. “Mom, can she stay?”
“Not now, Jesse. We’ll talk about it later.”
“No, the boy’s right.” Forrest’s voice was gruff, virulent, no longer a whisper. “We should talk about it now. Many of us aren’t sure the girl should be allowed to stay down here.”
Down here? How far below the ground was she lying right now, and how many people were living in this strange place? Had the silly old park ranger been right after all?
“What do you propose we do,” Marybeth asked. “Put her back where we found her?”
“I’m not saying we let her die in the caves,” Roland replied, “but she can’t stay here.”
A new voice, perhaps belonging to the oldest woman present, tossed an opinion into the fray. “Let’s bring her to the surface. Ken, Charlie, or Ralph can pretend to find her. The other rangers will think she wandered up from below and give our boys a medal for bringing her to safety. Then maybe they’ll stop searching the caves.”
“You know, that’s not a bad idea,” Forrest said.
Roland guffawed. “Not bad at all.”
“I can’t believe you all. You’re suggesting leaving a young girl in the park by herself! No one will believe she got out on her own... not with that ankle of hers. It could throw even more suspicion on us, and put her in even greater danger.”
“So, can she stay, Mom?”
“Hush, Jesse. The grown-ups are talking. And you’re in enough trouble as it is.”
P.S. What a dummy I am. When I posted this, I failed to “tag” a couple other folks to take this little questionnaire. So, without further ado, I’d like to tag Deb, Donna, Martha, and Jennifer. Tag, you lovely ladies! Now, you're it!
1 hour ago