Tag: A Kiss Out of Time

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To Write, Observe

 

Pay attention to your surroundings. It’s not always easy these days especially with the distractions of mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. As a writer, I often need to find those quiet moments and special places for writing, such as a library, a park, or my home office, but sometimes I need to write on the fly wherever I can. That’s why I began to bring along a small journal or notepad for jotting down ideas. It also helps to be aware of your surroundings because they can inspire ideas too.

Recently while enjoying a morning walk in a park in my hometown of Nutley, New Jersey, I forgot to notice those wonderful sounds like birds singing, the gurgle of the brooks, and the topple of the water over the falls in Kingsland Park. Shaking me out of my daydream was the sounds in a nearby treetop. I thought either squirrels on a mad chase or a raccoon shimmering down the trunk caused the sound, but to my astonishment a few feet ahead of me came a loud crash and a huge branch fell. My heart raced at the sight and the realization that I could have been struck by the branch. A fellow traveler in the wooded area noticed this too, and we both thanked the heavens that we’d been spared. It also woke me up to the necessity to pay more attention to my surrounding. Indeed it could be a matter of life or death!

The sights, the sounds, and the feelings of my surroundings have inspired me in my writing of settings for my books. Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, New Jersey are the settings for my two young adult books, A Dance Out of Time and A Kiss Out of Time. Although I haven’t been on the pioneer trail to Oregon, the setting for my western historical romance, Wildflowers, I have visited several western and mid-western states including Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Taking photographs, enjoying visits to local museums and art galleries, and writing in journals has helped me to capture my ideas about those surroundings.

I heard long ago that to be a writer means to be an observer. I believe that it’s true. It can also save your life!

 

Excerpt: A Kiss Out of Time

“Come on, Mary, it’s hot.”

“Hold still, Eric, or it’ll get hotter.” She held the paintbrush in her hand, studying the patina of colors. Gray for the uniform, black for his hair, and tawny for the glow of his skin, and then glanced at her beloved friend.

Friend. Had it been so long ago since the soldier boy who’d run off from his troop wandered onto her family’s farm? Since she ministered to his wounds and come under his spell.

Standing before her now, his musket in one hand, the other tucked into the jacket of his uniform, he struck an imposing figure against the backdrop of rolling farmland, its green hillside dotted by red barns and pastoral fences.

“Your daddy oughta be here by now. I’ll catch holy hell for standing here, especially in this uniform. You know that’s asking for trouble.”

“Aw, but it’s worth it. Someday this portrait will hang in a gallery.”

He put down his musket and headed her way. “Yes, I reckon you’d have your own gallery in the museum of art–paintings by Mary Claythorne.”

“Wait, you’re stepping out of it.”

“Stepping out of what?”

“The portrait…go back.” She pushed him away as he advanced in for a kiss and ended up kissing her hand instead. “And I will be a famous artist one day.”

“Lordy, Mary, it’s hot here, and when I’m with you,” he whispered, “I feel hotter still.”

This time he pulled her in and held her in a steam-filled embrace.

The ground felt weak beneath her feet as she composed herself and gathered her resolve to finish the portrait; it had taken weeks to work on. He’d be off soon and she needed this to keep her company until his return. Tears fell unannounced, and she brushed them away with the back of her free hand while the other steadied the canvas.

“Whoa, what’s wrong, girl?”

“I’m frightened ’tis all. Poppa told me I spend too much time with you.”

He held her again, moved a stray lock of her red hair off her forehead and caressed the side of her face beneath her straw bonnet. “Your poppa won’t have no say about us once we’re wed.”

“Married?”

“Reckon I got to do things proper. You’re a Yankee lady after all.”

She guffawed at that but was thrilled as he held her hands and his blue eyes shone bright with the love in his heart. On one knee he proposed. “Mary, will you marry me?”

Her mind recalled her earlier conversation with her father on the subject of Eric Toomey. “I’d a sooner see that rebel in the ground. You’d do better, girl, with the son of Henry Greene. At least his family ain’t responsible for your brother Will’s death in Gettysburg.”

“I won’t marry the minister’s son,” she’d argued. “Even if his father’s the county magistrate and got more money than us.”

“Girl, you’ll do as you’re told,” her father had shouted back and slapped her across the face, then locked her in a room. Only she’d had a secret key and means of escape.

“Mary, what’s wrong?” Eric’s voice broke her thoughts. “You haven’t backed down cause of your Pa?”

“No, of course not.” She pulled him toward her. “I don’t give a damn what Poppa says or thinks. This is my life, not his. Anyway, he’ll come round after we’re wed.”

“That’s the spirit, Mary,” Eric said and kissed her lips until she pulled away.

“Do you feel raindrops? There’s a horrific storm brewing, and I’ve got to get this painting inside. If only we’d more time.”

They rushed to the open barn. With her easel and paints Mary reached the barn first, bubbling with laughter as the rain soaked through her white cotton dress. Eric followed, empty musket in hand, and a grin broad enough to brighten even the grayest summer day. He put the musket and his cap by Mary’s painting, and held her, whispering of eternal love.

 

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To Plot or Not To Plot

To plot or not to plot? That is the question when I start a new story. Most times, I write a fast rough draft after I have a sketch of an outline.

When I wrote during National Novel Writing Month in November, or NaNoWriMo, I wrote as quickly and frequently as possible without revision because the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month. So, it’s more important to get the story down and save revision for later on.

I completed two novels, A Kiss Out of Time and A Dance Out of Time, both YA paranormal books by that method.They needed editing, and I went through them several times before they became publishable, but I enjoyed the free flow of ideas and quick writing it took to meet the NaNoWriMo deadlines.

However, my first romance novel, Wildflowers, a western historical set along the Oregon Trail, took several years and versions to complete before publication. I wrote the draft in a small notebook while commuting to my job as a copy writer in New York City. I did tons of research which I kept in a notebook, used index cards to write notes on characters, and created a timeline for events along the route the characters followed to get from Missouri to Oregon.  I typed the novel on my first personal computer, and it went through many revisions with critique partners before becoming published.

I’ve met writers who don’t start writing a draft until they’ve done extensive research and meticulous outlines.  I’ve also met writers who I identify with as “pantsers” and write the entire draft and then follow-up with research and revision.

I find myself doing a combination of the two with using  some kind of an outline or notebook  for ideas, a brief synopsis, and then writing as much as I can. I do research as needed.  I also keep a photo collection containing photos from magazines, postcards, and street maps to help visualize the story.  I enjoy using Pinterest and created a few boards to visualize settings, characters, food, and even music which might set the mood for a story.

To plot or not to plot? I think the answer is you need to plot, but you can approach it several ways from a few lines on a Post-It note to several detailed pages. Whatever works and gets you to write the story can determine the approach to plotting.