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May 2011 – Darby Rae

Archives for May 2011

Merciful Law is in New York without me

While I am in Indiana this week winding down the school year with my teens—helping them with finals and final projects, my book is experiencing the excitement of New York City without me at The Book Expo America (BEA) Conference.  Doesn’t seem fair.

I’m sharing my days with our house of teens and creatures—reptiles, dog, cat and now a ferret—and my book is in the company of John Lithgow, Julianne Moore, Roger Ebert and a host of other writing celebrities.  Seems I may have to plan better for the 2012 Expo and join in the fun with my next literary creation (that would be Killer Coordinates).

Even though Merciful Law is hundreds of miles away I am certainly excited it is a featured title in the New Title Showcase.  The entire showcase of authors ranges from previously published authors to newly published authors, best-selling to first-time/up-and-coming authors and represents a full spectrum of topic areas.  Also attending the event are publishers, librarians, domestic and international buyers and of course, avid readers.

Next year’s event is June 5th through June 7th.  I will hire a house sitter for my little house of creatures.  “I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps…New York, New York!”

The Weekend Sloth

Last Monday my teens wrangled me into adopting a charming and energetic ‘free ferret’ from the pet store…complete with food, cage and toys.  They begged, pleaded and promised; I denied.  They pledged; I vetoed.  They appealed and negotiated; I hesitated, then firmly counter negotiated.  They agreed to my five non-negotiable terms, each signed in permanent black marker, and voila…newest member of the family: Nixon the ferret.

This past weekend, however, I was not energetic like our new family member, Nixon.  I was a sloth, the world’s slowest moving mammal, moving only when necessary; perfect description of me this weekend.  They move 6 to 12 feet per minute, depending on the species.  I moved 6 to 12 feet per minute depending if I was entering or exiting a restaurant (12 fpm for entering…6 fpm for exiting).  Saturday was Ruby Tuesday’s all you can eat soup and salad (nothing that begins with ‘all you can eat’ is good for me, by the way).  Sunday was Bob Evan’s country fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, country green beans…oh yes.

My omnivore diet varies from the sloth’s herbivore diet, but I am certain more similarities exist.  As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth’s body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take a month or more to complete.  So much for bathing suit weather…maybe I should create my own “Sloth-line Swimwear,” a tad catchier than the tank-ini.

Sloths rarely come down from their tree; I barely came down from my room.  Sloths can sleep up to 18 hours a day and I can read and write for easily that long.  I caught up on some emails, read a few blogs, and did some research for Killer Coordinates (my next novel).  But in the spirit of total relaxation and rejuvenation, I read fiction most of the weekend.

Anybody else rejuvenate sloth style last weekend?…anyone?…anyone?…just me?

Sushi and Shakespeare

Since I have only been reading fiction (for my enjoyment) for the last two years, I missed out on quite a bit of great literature.  In high school and college, I would read the cliff notes to pass a test, but obviously cliff notes are just that, notes.  So last week when my daughter asked me to read Shakespeare with her, I jumped at the chance, especially since the teacher provided notes on the characters.  Admittedly, I was a bit worried I would have trouble following along with this 10th grade reading assignment.

The first night we cracked open A Midsummer Night’s Dream we spent an hour and a half reading the first act and discussing what was happening in the play.  We took turns reading aloud and laughing while each of us tried to sound poetic but failed miserably.  Occasionally, we would both shrug our shoulders not being able to decipher what was written into plain English.

Though we enjoyed the first night of reading together, there were several interruptions by my other looming teens. Two days later when Rachel asked if I would read the second act with her, I decided to take her out of the house for some one-on-one mother- daughter-Shakespeare time. 

So there we sat for easily two hours at the Sushi House (great sushi, reasonable prices and fabulous service, by the way) eating sensational sushi and reading Shakespeare. Who knew reading Shakespeare would be so much fun? While none of my sons were envious in the least not to be included, my daughter bragged to her friends about our evening out.

Shakespeare and Sushi…an unlikely combination, but truly an evening both my daughter and I will remember for years to come.

The Middle Challenges

In the last two weeks I’ve blogged about my biggest challenge writing Merciful Law (writing the beginning chapter–posted on April 19th) and my second biggest challenge (writing the last chapter– posted April 26th).  Admitting in this blog that there were several challenges writing the middle/body of Merciful Law makes me feel like a tennis player who admits her top three challenges with tennis are her forehand, her backhand and her serve. 

However, in the spirit of ‘misery loves company,’ I’ve asked other authors what challenged/challenges them in writing the middle/body of their stories.  And the number one problem is…length of our manuscripts…and by that I mean too lengthy.  Case in point, the original manuscript for Merciful Law had over 800 pages.  I obviously didn’t keep my eye on word count/page count and I didn’t account for the difference in formatting (word doc verses book layout). 

While too much content is overwhelmingly at the top of the list, other issues I share with fellow writers are remembering physical details of characters and keeping track of the particulars regarding minor characters.  For example, in Merciful Law, Deborah had two sisters.  They were mentioned by name once in the first part of the story.  Later when I needed to refer to them by name again, I couldn’t remember their names.

My lessons learned were:

-Have a target word count or page count.

-Create a basic outline of what events have to happen before the story ends.

-Keep a log with character information including:

·         First and last name

·         Physical description

·         List of relatives

·         Page number the character was introduced

·         Other information—character’s age (even if it isn’t mentioned in the story), personality quirks, interests, hobbies, nervous habits, basic temperament…

I have promised my agent and editing team that Killer Coordinates (the novel I am currently writing) will be infinitely easier and quicker to edit than Merciful Law.  A promise I can easily fulfill by reminding myself while I write—less is more.