Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spring Cleaning - It's for the Birds!

I belong to a small writing group which meets once a week. We get a writing prompt every week and (usually) write on that subject. One week, it was spring cleaning. This is what I wrote.

"Effie!" Mama screeched from the back porch.

I'd almost made it. I was halfway over the fence between us and the Mason's when I heard her. Had I been on the other side, I could've claimed I didn't hear her, but she'd see me in a second if she looked.

"Effie Marie!"

"Coming, Mama!" I hollered, pouting. "Dang it, just about got away!" I shuffled my feet as I approached the porch.

"Where you runnin' off to? Today we start spring cleaning."

"Mama, we just cleaned up the house last week."

"But that was just regular cleaning. Now we got to open up the house, freshen the air, beat the rugs, scrub the floors...."

"Why, Mama?"

"Because it's spring. Need to greet the new season with a fresh house."

Pouting and griping, I followed her inside. She handed me an armload of dirty rugs and told me to go beat them clean. I took 'em to the side of the house and whacked 'em against the corner until she fussed at me and took over the process.

"Go mop the kitchen," she ordered.

I got the mop and bucket and marched into the kitchen. I slopped some water around and left big puddles of grubby water on the floor. Mama came back in while I was shoving the pools around and fussed some more.

"Swear to God, Effie Marie, you can't do nothin' right! Give me that mop!"

I handed it over. "Sorry, Mama."

"Go sweep the front porch. Can't tell me you're not able to do that right!"

"Yes, ma'am." I took the broom and went out to the front porch.

There was quite a wind blowing. Every time I got a pile of dirt together, it blew away before I could sweep it up. I went and got Daddy's leaf blower and fired it up, blowing the crap off the porch that way. Mama came out screaming.

"Effie Marie, what're you doing now?"

"Sweeping the porch, Mama. Wind kept blowing it all back around...."

"You're more trouble than you're worth, child. Go on up to your room and stay outta my way! If you want something done right, got to do it yourself!" She griped & grumbled as she finished working.

I went up to my room with a sly smile. I closed the door and lay down on my bed to watch some TV. Yup, there's sure something to be said for incompetence. "If you want something done it wrong so Mama will do it." Boy, do I love spring cleaning!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sharing Ideas

I was reminded yesterday of how important it is for a writer to have someone to bounce ideas off. My son's girlfriend is an aspiring author. She's smart and creative and I'm sure she'll go far with it. That excites me. I enjoy talking to her, sharing a little advice and getting advice from her as well.

Yesterday, she had the idea for a new story that she wants to write. It's a sci-fi scenario and sounds really cool! If I were a horrible person, I'd steal it and write my own novel, that's how good it is. She started bouncing ideas off my boys (I was napping) and by the time I got up, things were getting interesting. Brainstorming with a bunch of creative people, whether writers or not, can be a lot of fun. However, there's a danger there.

What's the drawback to brainstorming like that? Being overwhelmed with ideas and seeing the direction you'd thought to take change and warp into something else. Each person sees the story going his or her way, not the author's. The more aggressive insist that it must go in a certain direction. Frustrating in the extreme!

When I first started writing my sci-fi series, I asked for my husband's input. He's been an avid
sci-fi fan for many years. Unfortunately, he and I saw the story going diametrically opposed directions. He wanted to play up some of the sub-plots that really didn't need expansion. He got upset with me when I didn't use his ideas, so eventually I quit asking for his input. Though it made things easier in the long run, it also cut me off from a lucrative source of ideas. I liked the repartee the young people engaged in yesterday, and contributed my own perspective. It was fun and, I hope, helpful to her. Having other writers around to discuss stories with is very important. That sort of back and forth exchange is necessary in the creative process.

Authors are, by nature of their career, somewhat solitary individuals. Even in a group of "regular people", the author is watching, listening, categorizing and cataloging the others, filing them away for future use. However, get a group of authors together and you generally can't get them to shut up. They talk about their characters like they are real and discuss subjects, often in public, that would shock and appall "regular people".

For example, the NaNoWriMo group I attend was discussing killing Cliff Brooks. This is one of the challenges presented by the NaNo boards and several of us like to take the challenge every year. Each of us had a particularly grisly, horrific end planned and we discussed it loudly and excitedly in the Panera dining area as we sipped coffee and ate cinnamon rolls. Other patrons actually got up and moved. I guess they thought were were either crazy, demented or serial killers. (Or a combination of the three) It was funny, at least to me.

One reason I love doing my radio shows so much is that I have the opportunity to talk to authors from all over the world. Regardless of our background, genre or country of origin, or writing style, we all have one thing in common--We look at life from a unique perspective. It's that outlook that sets us apart, making us who we are.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Candid Chat with Michelle Izmaylov

As many of you know, Michelle and her sister Nicole, were supposed to be on my show July 11th. Through the quirks of Blog Talk Radio, they were unable to get on the call. I asked them both to answer what would have been my interview questions. I am trying to get them scheduled for another time and will post the date and time when it's been settled. Meanwhile, enjoy the interview! ~ D

Dellani Oakes: Michelle, you have an incredible list of accomplishments. Why don't you share that with our listeners?

Michelle Izmaylov: I’d say “incredible” might be a bit of a strong word since I feel I still have a long way to go before I’m really “accomplished.” What I’ve done so far is published three books, two of which were traditionally published, and now I’m an editor at FutureWord Publishing and an illustrator at World Castle Publications.

DO: I have to ask, out of my own curiosity, which of you is older?

MI: I’m older in terms of age, but my sister is older in terms of brains.

DO: With such an impressive list of accomplishments and awards, I'm sure our readers are wondering how you got started writing so young?

MI: I’ve been writing (and doodling) ever since I could hold a pencil. And I’m serious. My first stories were kept locked up in my head because, back then, I didn’t know how to write . . . but the minute I learned my first language (which was Russian), I started to turn my thoughts into words. It’s something I’ve kept at ever since.

DO: What inspires you?

MI: It’s not “what” so much as “who” inspires me . . . and that’s practically every person in my life. For example, my sister is a huge source of inspiration and encouragement. Whenever I’m stuck on a writer’s block, some quirky comment she makes always sparks fresh thoughts. But I also think love is the soul of genius . . . and I think I’ll leave it at that.

DO: How do you work? Do you know the story before you begin writing, or do you let the story develop?

MI: Before I’ve written one word of my story, I come up with characters. After all, the “plots” of our real lives aren’t set out for us in advance. It’s how we face the problems we encounter in life that determines how our lives develop. In my books, I aim for the same approach. I create characters who work their way through ten major scenes I plan around their personalities, but all the space in between those scenes is filled with the results of the characters’ actions. Sometimes the nature of those major scenes will change based on my characters’ decisions in earlier scenes. And so basically, I only have a fuzzy idea of what the story is going to be before I start writing. My characters write the story for me.

DO: What gave you the idea for your first book?

MI: Watching a whole lot of TV and playing a ton of video games sparked my imagination . . . but getting the idea was the easy part. Then came all the work of actually writing!

DO: What is your writing process? Do you write start to finish? In episodes?

MI: I write according to my emotions, and I think that’s part of the reason my more recent (and better) books have taken longer to write. I won’t write a tragic scene in my book unless I’m feeling the pain of loss. I won’t work on a part that involves romance unless I’ve recently had such an encounter myself. So I actually do find myself writing in episodes and then filling in the more neutral details at a later point.

DO: If I remember correctly, you are an illustrator as well. Do you do your own illustrations? Do you ever do illustrations for others?

MI: I’m actually an illustrator at World Castle Publications, and the first picture book I ever illustrated for another author (aside from my sister) is coming out really soon. It’s called “Squazles” and was written by Bob Holton. Also, and don’t laugh when I say this, but I’m thinking about maybe becoming a syndicated cartoonist one day if I get good enough at comics. I’m going to be starting a webcomic series shortly. I mean, there’s just too much crazy stuff that happens in my life for me not to draw about it.

DO: Do you see writing as your future career?

MI: Yes and no. I see writing as something I do out of passion more than as a career path. My main career goal is to become a pediatric cardiologist, but there is actually an entire category of people called “physician writers” who are medical doctors who write creatively in addition to practicing medicine. So that’s one possibility I might pursue.

DO: Do you find yourself talking to your characters? What might a typical conversation be about?

MI: Okay, here’s a question for you . . . are there writers who don’t talk to their characters? My characters are really the ones dictating the story to me . . . and I just write down their thoughts.

DO: Do you purposely use symbolism in your stories?

MI: I do use symbolism, but usually it’s my inner symbolist getting the better of me and slipping in these things when I’m not paying attention. Sometimes, though, I do include certain symbols on purpose when those representations have special meaning to me.

DO: Do you consciously pick a theme before you begin writing?

MI: Usually not. I actually surprise myself sometimes by reading back over my work after I’ve finished to see the themes emerging—so many themes appear that I didn’t even mean to incorporate. And then I emphasize the themes I find during the revision phase of my editing.

DO: What age group are your stories written for?

MI: Depends on which story we’re talking about. My more recent work has focused on teens and is even edging closer to the adult level . . . and I think that reflects my own changing perspectives on my life. The older I grow, the more I understand about the world and the more serious my writing becomes. That’s also become more true as I learn more about science (since I’m a chemistry and biology double major at Emory).

DO: What are your current projects?

MI: I’m in the initial editing stages of my most recent manuscript, which is sitting at around 150,000 words at the moment . . . a bit too much, I’d say. Without giving away too much, this latest book chronicles the story of a teen growing up in a post-apocalyptic world—that and the car racer with whom (she thinks) she falls in love. At the same time, I’m also co-authoring a book with my sister.

DO: What is your latest release?

MI: That would actually be a book I illustrated called "Dart and the Squirrels". My sister’s the author, and she can tell you a whole bunch more about that story.

DO: Where can your books be purchased?

MI: Most anyplace (like Barnes and Noble and on Amazon).

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Wit and Whimsy on Gather

I've started a new group on Gather and hope my friends & fans will join me there. I encourage all authors, writers and readers to hop over and say hello. I will be posting discussions, though I hope members will also do so. I also want members to post random thoughts, excerpts of works in progress and so on.

Please join me on Wit and Whimsy!

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 51

Mrs. Bannister bustled in a couple minutes after Obi and Clive arrived. "Thank goodness you're here," she said to Clive. "...