Wednesday, July 26, 2006

L. L. BEAN AND ME: Story Characters

I never, never, never EVER use people I know or any other real people as characters in my stories.

So where do I find my story characters? In the L. L. Bean catalogue. Or Land's End, or J. Jill, or Macy's, or Nordstrom's or any other catalogue I favor. I flip through the pages and look for smiles or eyes or a hair style or color, or any face that jumps out at me and says, "Use me. Use me." If the look fits with the plot elements I have in mind, I'll choose it.

Then I'll give that character a name. Or if I already have a name, a sort of psychic sense draws my eye to a face that naturally goes with it and with the plot. Then I tear out the page, or clip the image and tack it on the bulletin board over my computer. Once I have the look, I'll give the character flesh and bones and a personality.

Now even though I never use real people, there are times I might be inspired by something I know about a real person and use that to portray someone in a story, like maybe a character trait or some other element of a real person.

My book, "The Charmstone" due for release next April, takes place on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Monument Valley, Utah. I lived there for a time as a VISTA volunteer, and found that I used isolated impressions of the real people I met there to define some of the characters in that book.

In the story, Amanda Bell notices that Durango Yazzie wears a watch with a chunky silver and turquoise watchband. She finds it and the man wearing it very attractive. That watch is worn by my Navajo friend Don Mose, but Don is not Durango.

Amanda herself represents the essence of my VISTA mates, three strong, adventurous, courageous and bright young women. But she doesn’t look like any of them, nor does she have any facet of their personalities.

My secondary characters come alive to me just as my central characters do. But they are all created in my mind—Jack Rice, Judy and Jeremiah Moon, Elliott Sheffield, Sallie Rainwater and her two hunky sons Larry and Albert, Cammie Drew, Noah Tucker, Buck Powell. The others, the various Navajo Elders and Medicine Men and wannabes, all typify those I met or saw on the reservation, but no one in particular. In the story, they are all true to themselves.

Albums added to my iPOD:
Graceland by Paul Simon

Podcasts added to my iPOD:
Joe Frank
Joel Osteen

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Me and My iPod

I bought an iPod a couple of weeks ago. It was strictly an impulse purchase. I went to Best Buy for a new stereo, and as an after thought asked about iPods, and ended up with an iPod Nano. I didn't know how to use it, wasn't sure what I'd use it for, but omigod! I love this little thing!

I didn't know how to work any of the controls, and it didn't come with instructions, so I bought a "Rough Guide to iPods" instruction book. That helped a lot. Also, the Apple website has instructions and a tutorial, but if you're impatient like me, you won't sit still to wade through it.

To be honest, my iPod purchase was influenced a little bit by Kristen Nelson, an agent in Denver. I'm in the habit of reading her blog and everyday she mentions the name of the tune playing on her iPod. I'm always interested in knowing what music people listen to just like I'm curious about what books they read. By the way, you might want to check out her blog. She's been explaining and analyzing agent and editor contract clauses.

I probably won't use my iPod while I'm writing, but now that I've learned how to put my own music on it, I'll use it mostly while working out at the gym. Here are the albums I have on my iPod so far:

- Play by Moby

- Indigo Spirit by Higher Octave Music
- Myth by Chorus of Tribes
- Life by Simply Red
- A Decade of Steely Dan by Steely Dan
- Music by Madonna

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Charmstone Edits

I'm working on the first edits of my romantic suspense, "The Charmstone," scheduled for release next April. I actually enjoyed the process, though it was made a bit more time intensive because the manuscript had undergone some revision since it was first submitted. As a result, I had to go through the edited copy and the revised copy page by page by page, word for word making the changes. There were more than I remembered. Events in the first three chapters had been rearranged. A new chapter had been added at the end, and a chapter in the middle lengthened by half. In between were word or phrase changes, and some minor rewriting.

But I like that kind of intensely focused work. Turn off the phone, put on the coffee, hunker down, and just do it.

I'm not familiar with this edit software, though, have never seen it before, so I'm sure I gave my very thorough and capable editor, Diane Kirkle, fits with all my questions about how it worked. I hope I didn't make a mess of it. She hasn't said anything, so either I used it correctly or she's too polite to tell me how badly I screwed it up.

I also enjoyed reading the story again and becoming reacquainted with my characters, lapsed socialite Amanda Bell, and Navajo Cultural Center director, Durango Yazzie. They found themselves thrown together in Monument Valley, the remotest part of the Navajo Indian Reservation, and had to come to grips with exactly where in the world they belonged. Amanda, on a mission to fulfill her deceased father's last wish, turned her back on her life in a gated mansion in Beverly Hills. Durango, newly returned to the reservation, was committed to reconnecting with his Navajo culture, a way of life he had previously cast aside.

They work it out, though, but not without a whole lot of turmoil. You'll see when you read the book.