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The stories here change from time to time. Please return to visit often!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks This Week

It's Thanksgiving Week and a cliche to give thanks in a blog, but all my characters are feeling thankful. Where else would I go? ;-)  At the risk of falling into the cliche, let me count some writer's blessings:

#1. I'm Writing Again. After nearly a decade of writer's burnout (not block, not for lack of trying, the ideas just wouldn't come!), I am writing again--filled with creative ideas and unable to keep up with the characters who are all chattering so fast, demanding attention for their stories.

#2. I'm Publishing Again. After four years without a new book, I just yesterday signed the addendum contract for my next paperback, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, to be published by Covenant Books next summer.

#3. I'm Making Time. During the period of burnout, I committed myself so fully to the "day job(s)" that I had little time to give to those yammering characters inside my head. I am now backing away from some "day job" assignments to spend time playing with my imaginary friends, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

#4. I Have Support. My dh says he's starting a Fan Club. My sister says she will happily read anything I write. But it isn't just the folks who "have to" love me. I have new Twitter pals I've never met who have read and loved my work and now Re-Tweet everything I send them. A few folks who've read my books have listed me on Goodreads among their favorite authors (yes, right next to the review with 1 *. Sigh). Okay, I'm admitting to being insecure and needing the praise, but let's face it:  Most of us aren't like Emily Dickinson who wrote for her own enjoyment and put it under the bed. I write to be read, and it's rewarding when an author knows she has readers. (You feel that way too, right? Honestly. Tell me you do!)

#5. I Have a Great Agent. (Thank you, Jane!) She's known in the industry as a "shark" when it comes to getting the best deals for her people, and I'm grateful to have her on my side.

MOSTLY, I'm grateful to have a mind and a heart, financial well-being that allows me a little time to play, and the years of work with good people who have helped me to grow, learn and hone skills. Thank you to all who read, who write, who support literacy everywhere. May this be a great week of Thanksgiving for us all.


Susan Aylworth's first eight books are available in digital form at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=susan+aylworth, at Barnes & Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan-aylworth?store=allproducts&keyword=susan+aylworth, at Smashwords, http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=susan+aylworth, and at other digital book outlets.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New WIPs keep things exciting!

Taking Maggie (from MAGGIE RISING, my current Work in Progress) to the Butte County Jail last week got her rolling faster than ever. The ideas are flowing for the book I'm calling "not your typical reluctant psychic turned detective meets reluctant ghost turned witness story." I couldn't be happier with the progress.

Meanwhile Marcie Carmody is reappearing after some eleven years away in RETURN TO RAINBOW ROCK and that book is practically writing itself. Then, a couple of nights ago, when the beginning of some uninvited virus was keeping me from sleeping well, I thought through the whole plot for a sequel to Marcie's book. Who knows? There could be a whole new Rainbow Rock series!

Occasionally when I've done presentations to writing classes or library groups, people have asked, "You're a writer? Where do you get your ideas?" It's a question that baffles all the writers I know.

We may wonder how someone knows to wear X color with Y (a combination that looks terrific, but we would never have thought of it) or how a person did that calculation so quickly in his head (many writers are number-challenged), but we have no trouble coming up with ideas. Maybe that's part of what makes us writers. The ideas are there. It's making the time to try to get to them all that poses a challenge.

Just now I'm trying to make more time to play with all my imaginary friends. It's the only way I know to quiet the demanding voices of characters who wish to become. Stay tuned to hear how it goes!


Susan's first eight books are available at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=susan+aylworth, at Barnes & Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan-aylworth?store=allproducts&keyword=susan+aylworth, at Smashwords, http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Susan+Aylworth, and many other online sites.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spending the day in jail

My characters have taken me to some fascinating places: Florence, Italy; the top of Pico Espejo in Venezuela; the Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon. Last week a character in my new WIP took me to the Butte County Jail.

Captain Andy Duch, the jail commander, is a great guy I've met several times. When I called and told him I'm writing a novel that involves his jail, he was pleased to show me around. He invited Correctional Deputy Janice Young to accompany us, since he has never booked a woman.

What I learned was amazing, but mostly I learned there are all kinds of good reasons for staying on the right side of the law.

Of course my heroine, Maggie, is falsely accused, but it makes no difference to the people who do the booking. They don't even know what the charges are (or will be) for the people who come in. Every prisoner, no matter his or her alleged crime, is treated exactly the same.

It isn't pretty. The stuff you've heard about strip searches? All true--and necessary to try to keep dangerous contraband out of the facility. Deputies don't touch any more than needful, but there are ways . . .  Standing in the hallway, listening to the deputy describe how the patient is standing in front of the shower fully naked and vulnerable during an intense exam (mouth, between the toes, body orifices) made me feel pretty vulnerable myself. How can it not be demeaning?

During my visit, I learned a few fascinating facts:

  1. Our county jail dresses inmates in 14 different colored jumpsuits. Deputies can tell in an instant that the woman in the dark green quilted one-piece is threatening suicide and know not to mix colors X and Y or Y and Z, identifying members of rival gangs.
  2. Prisoners in single-cell housing (those considered most potentially dangerous) are inside their cells 23 hours out of every day. When they are allowed "yard time," they are out there totally alone except for guards.
  3. Every prisoner is required to do a census check twice a day. The guard walks down the hallway between cells and calls last name. Using a "headboard," or registration sheet, she checks each name as the correct prisoner answers.
  4. One of the major punishments to being in prison is the boredom--hours every day with little or nothing to do. Inmates may read (anything examined and approved by guards) and write (anything that can be produced in pencil) so long as they are not being disciplined. Under discipline, such privileges are removed.


One of the more chilling moments in my visit came when Deputy Young opened the heavy barred door to one single cell and pulled it shut, letting the CLANG ring through the hallway. "That's a pretty scary sound when you hear it behind you," she observed. I agreed. My character, Maggie, feels that way, too.

Most prisoners are cooperative once inside. "They just want to do their time and not have any trouble," Captain Duch told me. "We try not to hassle them and they try not to give us any reason to." It was heartening to see how he recognized several of the prisoners and spoke to them quite pleasantly, by name. With more than 600 at a time in his facility, that was pretty impressive.

It wasn't impressive enough, however, to make me want to stay. I'm just hoping my one tour was thorough enough that I won't need to go back there -- ever, ever again.

Susan's new Work-in-Progress is called MAGGIE RISING. Her first 8 books are available in digital form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other online sources.




 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Just Like Me -- Only Different

When people ask how I come up with different characters for multiple books, the anwer is always the same: I make them all just like me, only different.

I suspect it's the way most novelists work. The question "What if...?" motivates most fiction (as in "What if there were real vampires, only they were sexy and beautiful and one fell in love with a mortal he wanted to eat?" or "What if a futuristic central government used the old Roman style of putting down rebellion by taking the children from the tribute districts and requiring them to kill one another in an elaborate gladiatorial game?")

The natural spin-off question then becomes, "What would I do and how would I behave if I were that age and in that situation?" Of course it's an ideal "what if" situation, so Katniss is the perfect personality for an unwilling-volunteer gladiator and Bella is the ideal victim/love interest for Edward, but there remains some realistic motivation the author herself (or himself) would feel if he/she were that unreal person in that unreal situation ... if any of that makes sense.

Thus Meg (RIDE THE RAINBOW HOME, Book 1 in the Rainbow Rock series) is just like me in the sense that she was the principal's daughter in the small town high school where she spent her teens, but she is unlike me in some critical ways. While Golden Weddings run in my family (my parents were married 63 years), Meg is the daughter of a serial-marrying mother who has grown up afraid of commitment. Naturally the guy who attracts her comes from a family like mine.

Alexa (AT THE RAINBOW'S END, Book 2) is just like me in her ambition to be a writer. Unlike me, she put the career ambition ahead of her dreams of home and family--at least until she meets a man who is all about family. Sarah (DON'T PROMISE ME RAINBOWS, Book 3) is a turn on Alexa: she married young, had her dreams shattered, and is skittish about ever committing again, especially with cute, younger Chris.

Cretia (Book 4, A LITTLE NIGHT RAINBOW), took it one step farther: she married too young, suffered as a result, and has finally gained some independence when Max comes into her life. Eden, from Book 5 (A RAINBOW IN PARADISE) faces a different quandary. Although she considers herself "allergic" to marriage, it's all she wants when she meets Logan, who is unwilling to be part of a cross-cultural romance.

I came back closer to me when I wrote Angelica (Book 6, THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS). The only child of parents old enough to be her grandparents, Angelica has grown up completely out of touch with her peers and misunderstood by them. It's only after he returns to town widowed, with two young children, that Joe ever gives the high school Ice Queen a second look. My reasons were different, but I was as shy and out of place as she.

So how do I write the heroes? They are the perfect pairs for the women I create which, of course, means that all of them have some of my husband in them--different, but the same. It's just how we roll.


The six Rainbow Rock books, as well as Susan's other novels, are all available in e-book format for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers, at the Apple I-Store for Apple devices, and at Smashwords and other sites for home computers.