30 April 2015

Z is for Zeroth

I learned a new word today: ze·roth ˈzi(ə)rōTH,ˈzēˌrōTH/adjective 

Immediately preceding what is regarded as first in a series. 

In other words, a prequel. I happen to have one for News From Nowhere, a steamy romance novella that my main character, J. Lindsay Calhoun, compelled me to write before I started the first book in the Morristown Mystery series. Apparently he needed more sex than I was willing to write into the murder mysteries. It gave me an opportunity to not only get comfortable with writing love scenes, but also to explore family interactions with the main characters, even as they were developing their own relationship. Here's a tame excerpt from the zeroth book, From This Day Forward:

A tenuous silence hung between them. Megan had no intention of filling the void with mindless babble. Let one of the men break the tension. She knew how to play this game as well as any lawyer.

As it turned out, the silence was broken by a waiter with menus.

 “Welcome to the Flagstaff House. My name is Steven. May I offer you some libations before dinner?” He looked at Megan first, then Lindsey. Megan noted the other Calhoun men at the table had already ordered drinks, no doubt single malt Scotch from the look of the glasses, all served neat.

“I believe I’ll have water for now, thank you,” Megan replied.

“The usual for Mr. Calhoun?” Lindsey nodded in agreement. No surprise that the staff would be familiar with the desires of the whole clan. Of course not.

“You are a very beautiful woman, Dr. MacGregor,” said the elder Calhoun, piercing her with a look.

So he was going to take that tack, was he? “Thank you, Mr. Calhoun.” She looked directly into his eyes and gave a slight nod of the head in acknowledgment. Lindsey gave her thigh a small squeeze under the table. He knew a drama unfolding when he saw one, and for now, he’d let it do just that. Megan seemed to be totally under control, and not the least bit intimidated by his father.

“What an interesting brooch you’re wearing. Is it my aging eyes, or is that a spider?” The sterling silver legs on Megan’s lapel pin extended delicately from a shining orb set with a round yellow topaz cabochon.  “I understand you’re a child psychologist. Isn’t jewelry of that sort a bit intimidating to your young clients?”

“It depends on the age of the child, Mr. Calhoun. Very young children most often haven’t been influenced by their parents’ own fears, and therefore are fascinated by all kinds of creatures. This is just one bug in my jewelry collection. I wore it today because the little boy I was working with happens to like spiders. He also finds my vintage VW, Dr. Doodlebug, quite entertaining.”

“How charming. And how else do you entertain your small clients, Dr. MacGregor?” His belittling tone was palpable.

“I juggle balls, Mr. Calhoun.”

©Dani Greer 2014
(First published here on October 5, 2014)

29 April 2015

Y is for Yearning

This morning on a lovely walk down one of the long country roads that surround me, I thought about my yearning for exactly this sort of life. That was when I lived in the city and long country walks didn't happen often. My husband and I both yearned for the rural life with a small acreage to grow some crops and the peace and quiet and slower days that came with this lifestyle.

Now that I have it, I'm still yearning for something that didn't quite manifest for us. Perhaps that's why I have book characters following a similar path. Except they're a lot younger and have a lot more money. Both of those things are important tools to fulfilling dreams.

But youth and money and even time aren't enough, and to that end, I started really exploring my protagonists' very deepest yearnings.

When I first met my hero and heroine, I knew their story would be about a shared vision, more than working out personal conflicts. They are both stable and successful people, each without the other. They don't really have strong needs that require another person. Or so I thought.

But I didn't get very far into writing the first book, when Lindsay Calhoun told me very clearly what his life was about: creating his kingdom. And taking care of his subjects which included the queen. That's why working as a principle attorney at the family law firm was never enough - his father was the king, and he would always be no more than a prince.

The heroine, who in this modern story is a successful psychologist and writer, doesn't have a strong urge for family, at least not until she marries.Then giving her husband a child becomes paramount, and her heartbreaking miscarriages from book-to-book, accelerate her fundamental desire to fulfill the queenly role - bringing forth an heir to the throne. This despite their shared belief that limiting population growth is of vital importance to the health of the planet. The fundamental yearnings of nature will not be denied.

Talk about getting down to basics!

I got in touch with these deep, inner urges reading Robert Olen Butler's excellent fiction-writing how-to:

In the author's words:
Yearning seems to be at the heart of what fiction as an art form is all about. It’s based on the fact that fiction is a temporal art form—it exists in time—and it’s also an art form about human beings and their feelings. Any Buddhist will tell you that as a human being on this planet, you can’t exist for even thirty seconds without desiring something. My favorite word is yearning because it suggests the deepest level of desire. My approach [to teaching writing] tries to get at essential qualities of process for the aspiring artist beyond what is inherent in the study of craft and technique. This notion of yearning has its reflection in one of the most fundamental craft points in fiction: plot. Because plot is simply yearning challenged and thwarted.
Read more about this author and the fiction writing process in this interview at Fiction Writers Review.

Now off to continue building my book kingdom, and challenging the yearnings through thwarted plots!

How's your book coming along? I'm not anywhere closed to my word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo, but it looks like I'll complete the A-Z Challenge with flying colors! Thank you all for visiting during the month. My blog hits are 5X higher than usual.

28 April 2015

X is for Xenophobia

XENOPHOBIA. : fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

You can bet when the white-collar liberal protagonists in my novel move their new business venture, Viridian Organic Farms, to the GMO and feedlot beef country of eastern Colorado - sparks are going to fly. But will it cause murder? When there are guns, the likelihood increases, according to this opinion in the LA Times.

Just for fun, here's a comprehensive phobia list.

27 April 2015

W is for Windmills

Earlier in the year, we traveled to northern Colorado to scope out an imaginary town for Viridian Farms, the intentional community created by my book protagonists, and the setting for life... and a few deaths... in my murder mystery. I expected to see a lot of cattle since this is ranch land, but I didn't anticipate quite so many wind farms. I knew they existed, but driving through the depth of them, rather than just along side a row along the highway, was a rather dramatic and intense experience. See that shadow on the road above? That's from a windmill blade. They all move toward you, creating a surreal feeling of vertigo as you travel. It felt incredibly unpleasant.

Modern windmills are massive in size. My mindset about them before driving through this metal forest was definitely positive. After all, wind energy is more efficient and kinder to the environment. Right? I started questioning that premise when I viewed, up close, the incredible size of those metal towers, and the astounding amount of energy it must take to manufacture as well as transport them to their final locations. Wow. Just wow. 

There could be another book in my Morristown series related to the wind energy industry. It might not be the bucolic answer to fracking (another burgeoning energy industry in Colorado) I thought it might be. More research is required.

More importantly to the first book in the series - would my book characters want to live in the moving shadows and intense energy of these turning giants? Would you?

25 April 2015

V is for Vintage

When you own a vintage automobile, life is an ongoing adventure. If I weren't sleeping with my mechanic (who also happens to be my husband), I might not enjoy driving Miss Poppy quite so much. This whole experience has inspired the mechanic and Steampunk character, Tripper George, in my novel. They might not look much alike, but the artistry and fix-it talents of my character are driven by this man.

How's your A-Z adventure coming along? It's been another challenging ride for me!

24 April 2015

U is for Uriah

... as in Uriah Heep. You're probably familiar with the character from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

Or you might remember the 1970s band of the same name.

Now meet one of my newest novel characters, Sheriff Uriah Heep. (Pictures in this previous blog post.) Here's an excerpt from the book that tells more about him:
Uriah Heep never meant to come back to Morristown, Colorado. He certainly never planned to become county sheriff. His grand escape came straight out of high school and into a big city college on a ROTC scholarship.

 Not that he was much into the military coming from a long line of ranchers. He certainly wasn't interested in flying an airplane or maneuvering a tank. That was way too much like ranch work. Somehow, without really knowing how it happened except without a lot of thought, he ended up as an officer heading up a military police patrol unit.

It seemed like an okay job until he shipped out to the Middle East and ended up on checkpoints that saw way too many explosions. And shattered body parts. And death. Three tours of desert duty were enough for any man. His time was up right about the time his father died. They called him home for the funeral.
After that, it was an easy jump to take a part-time position with the county sheriff’s office. He’d needed more time to settle his dad’s estate, a considerable one that included a cattle spread. Ranching wasn't how he wanted to spend his time, so the job as deputy sheriff gave him a good excuse to avoid 10,000 acres of wide open range land that was now all his. He didn't have a damned clue what he should do with it.

Then the old sheriff died, and he’d inherited that position too. A couple of years passed, most days in relative peace and quiet. Before very long, the job and the ranch fit him like a pair of comfortable shoes, though he couldn't figure out how that had happened.

Planning for his reelection next year had already started. The Denver firm he’d hired to handle his campaign had come up with a great slogan: Stay on the right side of the law or you’ll be in a Heep of trouble. He figured his 5,000 county neighbors would get a chuckle out of that, and a little humor along with a real, planned promotion couldn't hurt. Not that he thought he’d have a tough time winning an election.

Everything in his life seemed to be going well enough. But Uriah Heep wasn't one to take anything for granted. Ever.
Do you think names like this are a little unkind? I sometime wonder what parents are thinking when they give their children "clever" monikers that might mean something to the parent... but not necessarily to the name-bearing child who has to live with it all their life.

23 April 2015

T is for Tarot

When I was in art school decades ago, one of my professors created the Tarot of the Spirit deck which was published by U.S. Games and continues to be part of their popular line of cards. Recently at a write-in meeting of Colorado Writers and Publishers, I compared this deck to the award-winning Darkana Tarot deck created by Janden Daniel Hale.

Why my sudden interest in Tarot? One of my book characters, LeAnn Baker, reads Tarot cards. She's the Steampunk tattooed woman who is the personal chef and baker for Viridian Farms. Her personality and hobbies will give the conservatives in my local rural community plenty to talk about, and maybe even inspire some murder!

But first this author has to learn a little more about Tarot. I confess, for all the beautiful artwork on the many card deck selections, and the fascinating symbology, I've never studied Tarot. Nor have I played the card games still popular in parts of Europe. It's a very complicated and detail-rich game/system. I decided I'd better give myself a little help and so bought this yesterday.

One of my favorite things about writing is research and learning about new things. What have you researched lately to help you write your latest novel?
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