Sunday, February 10, 2008

Uncle

Uncle.

Chapter Nine of The Foundling Wheel, my Dickens Challenge experiment in progress is not going to be ready this week. I’ve had too much going on this week to let Tracy and Aaron and Natalie back in to show me what happens and how. The interesting thing is that I have had just as much time to squeeze in the work as I always do. The chapters have been averaging around 2,800 words – but the time isn’t the issue, it’s my inability to shift mental gears. I’ve got part of a rough draft, but not a first draft. I wrote the last chapter I posted on the flight coming back from DC a couple of weeks ago, so I may find the time to do this sooner than I think, but as of right now I’m planning to be back on schedule next week.

Tonight, Scott and I attended a fundraiser for The Pendulum Foundation and an airing of the Frontline Special, “When Kids Get Life”. On January 21st, I started a new blog called Compassion in Juvenile Sentencing and I’ve been Googling my fingers to the bone, trying to research the issues – if you’re interested, please check it out and email me your thoughts on the blog. There are so many parts and pieces to this issue that trying to address it at all is like trying to boil the ocean.

It was a sobering, but was also a nice experience that gave me a sense of community and brought home the reality that what these families are going through, could happen to anyone. I met several of the parents and family members of people who were convicted of crimes as teenagers and sent to adult prison for life without the possibility of parole. People don’t talk about it much, but most of the parents know that not only will their children die in prison, but they will die while their children are in prison. These mothers and fathers come from all walks of life and they are a group that most people don’t think much about, but they are us. I met a retired Colorado State Representative, the columnist who write a piece in the Denver post in January about Erik Jensen, and a number of young people who heard about the event and who believe that what we’re doing with children in this country is wrong.

Tomorrow, I fly out to Washington, DC and go immediately to meet with a young man who I hope to hire to work with me on my sales team. Tuesday, I’ve got a meeting with a government agency to work out how they’ll purchase the product I sell – and I need to finalize my PowerPoint presentation and email it out to them tonight because I can’t take a laptop into their facility.

Friday we take off for four days in Estes Park with Wes and Nicole Hyde, two of our artist friends and then the following week, I’m flying down to my corporate headquarters for our annual sales meeting. Bonus: It’s in San Antonio and I also have plans to meet Patti from The Patti-O while I’m down there.

I was honored with the Excellent Blog award by Liz Fenwick and there are so many excellent blogs out there that this it’s awfully tough to choose, but I’m going to name five of them that I find excellent: Kristen Spina, Charles Gramlich, Carleen Brice, and Iyan and Egusi Soup. Each of these bloggers has posted about something recently that I especially needed to hear.

My friend Yogamum tagged me with an interesting book-related meme:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)

I Killed Hemingway, by William MCranor Henderson. I just finished it last night and had naturally not shelved it yet. Bill Henderson has a great writing blog and is a participant in the Dickens Challenge.

Find Page 123.

Find the first 5 sentences.
The main character is having a conversation with a young woman about a friend of hers and her odd fear that extraterrestrials are eventually going to come and take her.

Post the next 3 sentences.
Okay – I’m going to cheat here and post an excerpt further down the page because the next three sentences were very short. Call me a cheater if you want.

“Smiling, Valerie sits back and pulls in her legs. All of a sudden I’m noticing a cuddly self-awareness in her movements that I wasn’t picking up on before. I think she’s about to come on to me. But what could possibly be the aphrodisiac? My ineluctable sexual modality?”

Okay, I can’t count either.

I’ll go ahead and tag five more people to do this (probably the only part of the directions I can follow). How about Larramie, Patti, Shauna, Rebecca and Karen. Let’s see if you can follow directions any better than I can.

And although I’ll be out of town for the big day, Tuesday (I believe) is a very big day for Carleen Brice with the release of Orange Mint and Honey and Therese Fowler with the release of Souvenir. Support your fellow blogger authors and tell everyone you know to buy these books!

It’s kind of weird that I’ll only be “off the grid” for a couple of days, but it’s amazing that it feels like I’m getting ready to go on a safari to some no-man’s land and I’m going to miss something terribly important! I’ve thought about our constant connectedness quite a bit and how it impacts what we write. For example, in a story told in the present day, it’s nearly impossible to write a realistic scenario where a character can’t contact someone or be contacted almost immediately. Conversely, when I joined the Air Force in 1980, went through basic training, then technical training and on to my first assignment in England, I was virtually unreachable except by letter. Even when I lived in Germany from 1985 to 1989, I didn’t have a telephone. There was no reason to take on the expense because it was too expensive to call the States or for them to call me (answering machines were also not in common use yet).

So my question is, how do modern means of communicating find their way into your writing – or not? Or, if your writing takes place in the past or in another world, how do the available means of communication factor in? Sometimes I think that the instant communication that’s so prevalent in movies and books provides an unwelcome deus ex machina that makes it harder to stress the characters out and makes things a little too convenient. What do you think?

19 comments:

kristen said...

Wow, I love your parting thought here--current technology is definitely a factor in my work in progress. My main character spends a good part of the early chapters wanting to be alone so she leaves her cell phone uncharged and forgotten. But, she has a computer and wireless and spends a lot of time googling information and even reading blogs!!! It is fascinating how much this stuff comes into play. I know what you mean by "too convenient" but I also think it's possible to allow characters to ignore or turn off the technology. Just because it's there, doesn't mean they have to embrace it.

I can't wait to catch up again with Tracy and Aaron--whenever you're ready--and thanks for the lovely blog award.

steve said...

Hi Lisa,

I'll be awaiting your next chapter. We've had communication at the speed of light for the past 150 years or so. The old TV series "Have Gun Will Travel" makes a point of it. The protagonist's card read,"Wire Paladin," advising clients to telegraph him. (The name Paladin also alludes to the Song of Roland, which I used in my DC novel.) Of course, once he gets the telegram in his swank San Francisco hotel, he goes off into the country where the fastest communication is by horse.

I've used phones and faxes in my story so far, but haven't dragged in cellphones or the Internet. I think I had an answering machine in "A Bath at the Gas House," set in 1959--at least it was in one of the drafts. They were bulky and expensive then, but the character who had it could afford it. ("Bath" is at Ellery Queen awaiting judgment.)

Best wishes in all your upcoming travels and pursuits.

Melissa Marsh said...

You sound like a busy woman! Nothing wrong with that, of course. ;-)

Since I write during the WW2 period, and my current book is set in America, the phone is what is used the most. And I have already used it quite a bit to help my characters communicate.

Patti said...

next week, baby! i am so looking forward to our meeting each other...

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Well, I'm missing my Monday fix of Tracy and Aaron, but I applaud you for knowing you needed to take a breath and step away from it (not like you're kicking back and really relaxing or anything!).

Your point about instant communication is a good one--this past week, with the events in my town (for those who might be wondering, I live in Kirkwood, MO, where we had the city hall shooting that killed 6) I was astounded at how quickly I heard from friends and family all across the country who'd seen the news on CNN or MSNBC almost as soon as I had heard it actually happening. In my writing, I have to double check things to make sure what was available when.

Carleen Brice said...

Thanks and double thanks! Yes tomorrow is the *real* Super Tuesday! :)

Good luck in DC and have a great time in Estes!

Shauna Roberts said...

Good luck in DC. Don't worry about your chapter being late. Learning not to get freaked out when you miss self-imposed deadlines and to get back on track without self-recriminations is an important part of writing.

Thanks for the tag. I was going to write this week about the Joyce Carol Oate's talk I went to Friday; now I'll have more time to think about what I want to say.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, you sound amazingly busy. I'm feeling better about my own level of business. Thanks very much for the mention in this post. I much appreciate it and am glad I could say something of interest.

I hope your work with the "When Kids get Life" foundation bears fruit.

Yogamum said...

Enjoy your various travels!

I'll be anxiously waiting for the next chapter.

Ello said...

Lisa - I am bummed that I don't have my latest installment but understand why! You are flying my way again but this time it sounds like you are doing a fast in and out, yes? Your new project sounds awesome. Best of luck with it.

Larramie said...

My Internet's been down all day -- horrid weather -- and all I could think: I'm missing Lisa's next chapter!

Travel safe and have an umbrelly drink for me with Patti. ;)

debra said...

Happy trails, Lisa, and safe journey.
I am in the same neck of the woods as Larramie. C-O-L-D today. Tomorrow 4-8 inches of snow and maybe a bit of freezing rain to top it off, then 2-4 more inches of snow.
The foundation work that you are doing is so important---so many kids are thrown away by one system or another. And once again, the culture blames the victim. ENOUGH.

Sustenance Scout said...

WOW lots to think about here; I'll be back soon...enjoy Estes Park!! K.

Jennifer said...

Have a great time in Estes Park, Lisa! We spent our honeymoon there--lovely place.

I know what you mean about having the time, but not being able to move from a rough draft to a completed first draft of your Challenge piece. I'm there too and had been beating myself up about it, which is just silly. Sometimes it really can't be helped, and you have to deal with higher priority items. I hope everything goes smoothly for you over the next week or so!

Thanks for sharing the link to your other blog; I've added it to my reader and will be sure to check it out as soon as I can. I think it's just outstanding that you're doing this.

I usually don't have any trouble keeping to the communication technology of the time my stories are set in, but occasionally there are small challenges. For example, in one of my present-day short stories, a boy makes a prank phone call. I keep coming back to that, though; it's not so easy now with caller ID, etc. I'm considering pushing the story back in time so that I can keep this scene, it's that important to the story.

Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on the award! :)

Sustenance Scout said...

Jennifer's comment just brought back vivid memories of my friends (mostly boys; yes I was a tomboy!) making prank calls from a phone in one of their basements. The late '70s would definitely work for that! K.

liz fenwick said...

So much to comment about!

Last first. Modern communication is a big part of my books - as in the part of cornwall I write about it is unreliable (that is mobile phones).

Good luck with the travel, when kids get life meeting, work, holiday..........all of it. Don't worry about missing the deadline - says she whp missed last week!

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Every best wish with the multitasking
- and pondering the question of communication, and the dimension of realism it adds to, or detracts from a work.

Fascinating how the type of communication has to be spot on nowadays in terms of set time period.

usman said...

You are busy.

My WIP caused me some consternation about having cellphones or not. Eventually I had to include it. It was evidence of a crime scene.

Enjoy your travels.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf