Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Writing Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I’m happy because I’m looking over my 2014 Writing Resolutions I wrote and posted a year ago, and all of them have been accomplished!! Yay!! Okay, a couple of them were accomplished in a slightly different way than I anticipated, but I can still check them off. Ticking off each from my list of resolutions, I…
·      Finished that YA novel and sent it out on submission. Still waiting to hear from a couple of publishers.
·      Completed the edits for the debut novel, set up promotions, and had a successful release. Yay!!! Lifelong dream accomplished—CHECK!
·      Did some major rewriting on the prequel for the debut, finished it, submitted it to my publisher, signed a contract for it, and have a Spring release date to prepare for.
·      Started working on a new YA novel, though it is not the book of my heart, as I said in my resolutions—it’s a new one that snuck up on me and said, “ME, ME, ME, write ME first!” I should be finished with it by now, but for one reason and another I have a ways to go yet. So, yes, I feel like I can check off ‘start new YA novel’—it just isn’t the one I thought it would be.
·      Have a lovely website, up and working and looking very official. This one was only accomplished due to the hard work of my talented techie friend, but hey, it is done, so CHECK!
·      Had moderate success with the personal stuff that supports my writing: time management, exercise, relationships, and reading. This is the one that was the hardest, and will continue to be a focus in 2015. Time management: I sucked—Really need to work on this. Exercise: Did well but not showing much for it. Relationships: A passing grade, but still a focus. Need more time with friends. Reading: A+++ I read so many wonderful books this year! Looking over this report card, it looks an awful lot like the ones I got in grade school! Haha!

So now it’s time to turn to 2015 and ask myself what I want from my writing life this coming year. Last year my list was nine resolutions long, and it looked and felt very daunting after I wrote it. This year’s feels even more overwhelming—not sure what I’m thinking.  But here goes.
I will:

·      Have a successful release of the prequel novella, Miss Austen’s Vampire, with the right promotions all in place prior to publication.
·      Finish the current YA WIP. This means finish the first draft, rewrite, polish and prepare for submissions. This time I may try the agent route.
·      Begin the YA novel of my heart. Really. This year.
·      Try to concurrently write an adult romance while writing the YA. I have two paragraphs of the romance written at this moment. It’s a story I’ve been wanting to write for at least three years. Might as well give it a try now.
·      Dabble in writing short stories. This is an area I know nothing about, but I think learning to write short would be good for my overall writing. I have one story in mind, and would like to try my hand at it.
·      Keep up with this blog, as well as the YA blog my critique partners and I write. (YA Triple Scoop—Reading, Writing, andReviewing YA Fiction)
·      Focus, focus, focus on time management. The only way all of the above will ever be accomplished is to manage my time much better than I have this past year. Writing time must be a priority, and I must organize myself in such a way that it really is a priority.
·      Keep up the other things that support my writing: exercise, relationships, and reading.
In addition to this ridiculous list, I will continue to attend workshops and conferences, as I’ve done each year since I started writing. Also, I’ll continue my active memberships in two national writing organizations, and one local one. Plus there will always be a craft book with a bookmark in it, waiting for me to read a bit before I put fingers to keyboard each day.
Phew. That’s a lot, so I’d better get to work now.

P.S. I’d love to hear some of your writing resolutions! Please add a comment to share with readers—it may be something we all need to work on. :-)


Monday, December 1, 2014

Who Am I Going To Call? Ghostbusters?

It’s official.

My house is haunted.

It’s no longer just about pictures throwing themselves to the floor, after happily sitting on shelves for years. 

It’s no longer just about someone tugging on my sweatshirt—when no one else is at home.

It’s no longer just about someone pushing aside everything on my husband’s desk—and it wasn’t me. (For my humorous take on these events, see my earlier blog post here.)

No. There has been a sighting.

During the middle of November, we had family members (names will not be used to protect the innocent) staying with us for ten days while they waited for their dead furnace to be replaced. One member of the family slept downstairs on the couch in the family room, along with their family dog.

On Thanksgiving morning, a week after they had moved back home, we were all doing the local Turkey Trot Walk. While we were going up a steep hill, the family member who had slept downstairs said to me, “Is your house haunted?” Or maybe she said, “Did you know your house is haunted?” I really can’t remember now. I laughed and told her that we had been having some strange things happen, and were starting to wonder. But in a Ha Ha sort of way. Prior to this, I had never told her about the strange occurrences we had experienced.

She went on to say, “Well, one night while I was downstairs, I saw a ghost. And felt it.”

About this time, I started to think if the steep hill didn’t kill me, this news just might.

Subsequent questioning revealed that one night she saw a foggy cloud that had formed not far from where she was sitting. There was no form to it, so she couldn’t say whether it was male or female. She said again that she could feel something—something not normal, something ghostly. She showed me exactly where it had been. It was less than two feet from where my picture had flung itself to the floor. Remember, she knew nothing about that prior to this discussion.

I tend to believe that we do indeed have a ghost/entity sharing our house with us. Today, I took measures to come to grips with this new reality. First, I Googled ‘how to live with a ghost.’ I can’t believe how many excellent, well-written sites there are on this topic. Interesting ghost facts: 

  • 9 out of 10 ghosts are benign. It is thought that if the person was nice in life, they are also nice in death. Let’s hope so.
  • Ghosts can reside in a house for any one of a number of reasons. They might have died in the house. They might have lived there and been attached to the house, and chose to come back to it to spend some of their death in the house. They might be attached to a person currently living in the house. Under this scenario, moving doesn’t usually end the haunting, as the ghost moves along with the person.
  • Ghosts usually leave if you tell them in a forceful voice that they must leave. Some sites say that this must be followed up by a command to never come back. Seems ghosts can be sneaky about those little loopholes, and use them to their advantage.
  • Ghosts often become active when there is remodeling going on in the house. Our ghost’s activities began shortly after we started some minor remodeling jobs.
  • Ghostbusters really exist, and there is an unwritten code that they NOT charge for their services. These are people who find the ‘science’ behind hauntings so fascinating that they will help you free of charge. I don’t think they promise to get rid of the ghost; they just help to verify whether or not a ghost has taken up residence in a house. All those cool gadgets you see on TV and in movies really exist. There seems to be a lot of measurement of temperatures involved.

Second, I met up with a friend who is exceptionally comfortable with the paranormal in order to discuss the situation in a very matter of fact way. We could have been discussing a school fundraiser for all the emotion in our chat. She wasn’t at all surprised about the sighting since she was already sure we had a ghost or other entity residing with us. After going through the various types of ghostly attachment, she thinks it’s probably a family member of mine unrelated to the house, not some stranger who happened to die here. That would be okay.

We carefully reviewed the ‘happenings’ and concluded that the ghost doesn’t stay downstairs, and I would prefer that it did. So my friend suggested burning a sage candle upstairs—sage is supposed to keep the spirits away. Can’t hurt to give it a try.

Today was the first day I’ve been alone in the house since the news of the sighting was shared with me. The power company probably loves me—I’ve had just about every light in every room turned on today. But I hope that as time goes on I will be able to go back to a non-ghostcentric existence, where life continues on without a thought about the other member of the household.

Now, I just need to channel this into a good ghost story book…

Monday, November 17, 2014

All-Time Favorite Books on the Writing Craft

I'm cheating!!

Once upon a time, back in the days when I was just starting to write, I thought I knew all there was to know about the writing craft. HAHAHA! When the dark realization hit me that I didn't know squat, I started devouring books on how to write fiction. I've posted my all time favorite craft books over at my alter ego's blog, in case you'd like to find a fantastic book on writing!!

This list, and its accompanying commentary, is something I've wanted to post here at Random Musings for a long time. With NaNoWriMo in full swing, now seemed like a good time. But it found its way to the other blog I'm involved with, YA Triple Scoop--all things related to Young Adult fiction. 

If you're looking for a great book on the craft, these are some of the BEST out there! I hope you'll take a moment to check them out. 

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 29, 2014

OUTLANDER: Season 1 Episode 8: Both Sides Now

First off, purists take a deep, cleansing breath! Yes, this episode took some liberties with the book, but all liberties were taken with the blessing of the creator herself, Diana Gabaldon. More on that as we go through the episode.

This episode, liberties and all, worked for me, and by the end it felt like the right place to put the midseason break. Though I may have wailed a bit when the credits rolled because I now have to wait until April for the story to continue. At least that gives us time to re-read the first book and maybe one or two more!

Jamie, we hardly know ye.    OUTLANDER STARZ TV
Jamie and Claire and their growing love and affection for one another were sweet, but there wasn’t enough of it. I still worry that there hasn’t been enough for the non-reader audience to understand Claire’s increasing love for Jamie. Since this great love is the basis for the entire series of books, it is imperative that the audience knows that though she loves Frank, her true, forever love will be Jamie. That needs to be built up a bit more. As I said in my post on episode 6: By this point in the book the reader knows Jamie Fraser to be an excellent man, loyal, brave, strong yet gentle, intelligent, and a man of his convictions. As readers we cheered when Claire was ‘forced’ to marry him. (My friend, Anne Hartley, who also has strong feelings about this, has written a short guest post that I’m including with this one. You will find it at the end. I agree with her wholeheartedly.)

Frank’s search for Claire is what has the purists in an uproar. But as Diana Gabaldon has said, since the book is told from Claire’s perspective the reading audience couldn’t have seen what Frank must have been doing while she was missing. I liked seeing that part of this episode! And while the two of them going to the stones was pretty melodramatic, and made for a midseason cliffhanger, it was still fun. Fairly sure he wouldn’t have heard her calling his name, however. And did you see a little of Black Jack in Frank a few times in this episode? That was chilling. First, in the police station as he coldly put the detective in his place, and later with the con artists in the alley where he lost control and nearly killed the man. And Black Jack was just as vile as ever in this one. He makes your skin crawl. Again, hats off to Tobias Menzies for amazing acting in both roles in this episode!

There is concern that all these Frank scenes are making viewers feel a certain sympathy for him and that people are tending to be more Team Frank than Team Jamie. Again, a little problem with the screen version that isn’t there in the book version. Book readers are always Team Jamie, as if there could be another team!! Ha ha! And it ISN’T just the sex!! (See above comments re the character development of Jamie.)

I loved seeing Claire learning to defend herself with a knife—one of my favorite parts of the book, too. In that scene we not only get the feeling that she’s now fully accepted by the men of the party, but that she, too, is comfortable with them and truly feels like she belongs.

Of course that knife lesson comes in handy very soon after. The attempted rape was handled well. We also get that much needed glimpse of Jamie gently caring for Claire afterward. She’s pissed as hell at him for his inability to keep her safe—an emotion she’ll pay for soon. But it’s a passing emotion—dinna fash yeselves. 

What will you do, Claire?  OUTLANDER STARZ TV
As mentioned earlier, the BIG moment in the episode, aside from the very last moment of the very last scene, is when Claire finally makes it back to the stones and the hope that she can travel back to the 20th century. After weeks of trying to get to them she finally sees the hill and its stones, and suddenly she isn't so sure what she wants to do. A decision is made and she runs for the stones only to have her hopes dashed once more. A lot of melodrama here, but it works.

As if Claire facing one attempted rape in the episode isn’t enough, she gets the attempt by Randall, who dripped with evil throughout that scene. Ms. Balfe’s Claire must be growing on me because I could actually feel her fear and revulsion. But fear not, sweet Claire, your knight in shining armor will swing in through that window and save you from the mustache twirling bad guy!! Oops, wrong story. But, uh, same staging! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always LOVED Jamie’s rescue of Claire, but that was a little too Errol Flynn for me. Funny that she had mentioned him earlier in the episode!

While this midseason ending episode was oozing with drama and romance, and that touch or two of melodrama, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE moment was when we finally got to see wee Roger Wakefield!! How adorable is he?! I know many of us were disappointed when there was no mention of wee Roger in the first episode, so YAY for letting him appear in this last episode of the first half of the season!

LONG wait until Outlander returns for the second half. If you’ve never read the book, this would be a great time to do so. It is a rich and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. If you have read it, time to revisit it. Until April then…

Slàinte mhath!

Anne Hartley’s thoughts on Jamie’s character development:

            In the first eight episodes of STARZ adaptation of Outlander I have loved the lush Scottish scenery, the comradery of the MacKenzie Highlanders and the absolutely perfect casting of Ned Gowan.  Where I think the series has fallen short, to date, is portraying the character of James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser.

            The casting of Sam Heughan is not the issue.  I feel he embodies the character as I envisioned but the show has given Mr. Heughan little more to do than look good in a kilt (which he does indeed) and make love to Claire(also accomplished admirably). Jamie Fraser is more than that though and it is the depth of this man as written in the books that the series has lost. The lack of development of the Jamie Fraser character places viewers who are unfamiliar with the books firmly in the Frank Randall camp believing he is the great love of Claire’s life while readers of the books at this point were clearly routing for Claire to stay with Jamie because they had already come to know him as a character.

Jamie Fraser’s character- his morality, strength, passion, and heart- are what endear him in the book and what viewers have yet to see in the series.  Dougal, Claire, Frank, Black Jack all have more of a presence so far and I’m hoping the viewer finally gets to meet the real Jamie Fraser in the second eight episodes.

Thank you, Anne!! I agree!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

OUTLANDER: Season 1 Episode 7: The Wedding


Has everyone’s breathing returned to normal?

The Wedding episode was everything I could have hoped for: romantic, sensual, emotional, dramatic, even humorous at times…it had it all! Though book purists may not have been completely happy, due to some changes that were made from book to screen, (okay, I’m one of those dreaded people), I have to say those changes didn’t ruin the experience. And this is an experience for which I’ve been waiting for nearly twenty years!

I think this particular episode lends itself to lists—of the highs and lows as I see them.

·      The wedding. It was lush, and romantic with the hundreds of candles and gorgeous, rich cinematography. Exactly what this scene required. YAY!! The exchange of vows and blood vow, and the kiss were absolutely perfect. I admit to a few tears.

·      The wedding night nerves. Poor, virginal Jamie. Poor morally conflicted but lusting Claire. Both enter that chamber knowing what needs to transpire, and both are terrified in their own ways. 

·      Jamie telling Claire that he remembers every moment, every second of the wedding ceremony. That isn’t something a man being forced into a loveless marriage says. 
·      Claire is charmed by Jamie as he tells his stories of his family, and as the night progresses she’s surprised by how much she enjoys him and his stories. Leading to…

·      Claire’s suggestion that they go to bed, but not to sleep. Which brings us to…

·      The undressing. How sexy and sensual was that?! My favorite part of the undressing was when he gently untied the ribbon at her neck and his fingers softly brushed her skin. Ahhhh…

·      Claire’s breathing as they approached the moment wasn’t fear, but full on desire. She’s deeply concerned that she’s cheating on Frank, but at the same time knows that this must happen. And she's experiencing stirrings of true affection for Jamie.

·      Jamie’s confusion as to how humans do it. Poor Jamie. He was going to consummate his marriage the way ‘horses’ do it, and after the quickly over coupling his ‘huh?’s and ‘hmmm’s were verra endearing. 

·      Afterwards, when Jamie asks if she liked it. Her initial reaction saddens Jamie, but moments later in a moment of uncomfortable self-awareness, she tells him, “I did enjoy it, Jamie.”

·      Their subsequent lovemaking. When Claire is clearly enjoying herself, Jamie is surprised. Pleasantly surprised. I could see the beginnings of a true and enduring love in these moments when she introduces him to all the joys of the marriage bed.

·      The comedy relief. As Rupert and Angus and Ned were all going about their assigned tasks to get the wedding together, we were treated to some very humorous moments, the best of which was, hands down, Ned in the brothel!! A favorite scene!

THINGS I DIDN’T LOVE, BUT COULD LIVE WITH: (all because I’m a bit of a book purist, don’t you ken)
·      Claire’s and Frank’s wedding. They were NOT married at a registrar’s office! They were married in the same ‘kirk’ that Claire and Jamie celebrate their wedding. Claire faints when she sees the church she’s led to for her marriage to Jamie Fraser, because she recognizes it as the very place where she exchanged vows with Frank, thus increasing her guilt over cheating on him. I loved this in the book, and found it verra moving. So of course I missed it in the screen version.

·      There was no need for the banns. Dougal took care of getting a special license for their wedding to avoid the need to wait three weeks for the banns to be read. (Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are married by a special license in Pride and Prejudice as well, so there is a literary precedence here.)

·      The ring! The ring is supposed to come quite a while later, and the manner in which it happens is lovely and special and now it won’t happen!
·      The pearls!! Ugh. First, that type of long strand of pearls wasn’t in vogue until the 1920’s. He gives her his mother’s treasured choker of Scottish freshwater pearls BEFORE THE WEDDING, as a tribute to his mother and her memory. Not a long strand during sex like some sex prop! NO NO NO!

·      Dougal’s suggestion. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this. A purist will tell you his suggestion that she now sample some other pleasures never happened. But, I think by this point in the book, readers have an idea that Dougal is a bit jealous of Jamie as he fancies Claire himself, and this scene is a device to let the viewers in on that. It felt right to me, but I know there are a lot of book readers who are verra unhappy with this scene. And by the way, I loved the way he came in to the inn and told Claire he had ALREADY visited Randall and told him of the wedding. Very chivalrous, so it kind of offsets his lewd suggestion that follows it.

All in all a wonderful episode! I’ve watched it twice, so far, and loved it more the second time than the first. It’s a keeper. And I look forward to the last episode before the midseason break. I just hope we get more of the honeymooners!

Slàinte mhath!

Monday, September 15, 2014

OUTLANDER: Season 1 Episode 6: The Garrison Commander

Captain Jack Randall: the stuff of nightmares OUTLANDER STARZ TV

I’m reading the tealeaves, as Mrs. Graham taught me of course, and I see Emmy and Golden Globe awards in Tobias Menzies’ future. His performance in The Garrison Commander, was one of the most chilling I’ve ever seen. As a long time fan of the books, I had a well-formed vision of just how evil Black Jack Randall was, but my imagination didn’t come close to the evil that dripped from Menzies’ every word. He terrified me. And I hate to imagine how well he will perform in episodes we will see in the future. He could bring on nightmares.

Claire’s story arc in this episode takes her from ill-advised glee when she comments that she is at last with her familiar British army, albeit two centuries earlier, —people who ‘look upon her with respect rather than suspicion’—, to fear and loathing as she listens to Randall recount his flogging of Jamie, to shock and despair when she learns she is to marry a man she hardly knows.

Claire is escorted by the army, to Fort William. There, enjoying a lovely, civilized, mannerly dinner with the British officers—like something right out of an Austen movie—the temperature in the room drops precipitously when Black Jack Randall enters it. As her eyes lock with his, she sees her chances of escape to the standing stones disappearing. And yet, she stays loyal to Dougal and the Mackenzies during the dinner conversation/questioning—which I liked, but really wasn’t a wise move on her part.

In fact, throughout that dinner party I was shouting at Claire a lot. Why can’t she be more circumspect about what she chooses to say? This isn’t just a problem with the TV rendering of the book, it is a problem Claire has in the book as well. She’s a smart character, well educated with a lot of worldly experiences under her belt. Why does she say things that can so easily be used against her? A wise person would keep their mouth shut and quietly watch what’s going on, and keep all incendiary thoughts to themselves. Claire is too smart to be acting so stupid.

Though Claire knew that Randall was a bad guy prior to arriving at the fort, watching her dawning realization that she was sitting with a sadist, a truly evil and sick man, was painful. Silent tears ran down her face as she was forced to listen to him graphically recount how he had tortured Jamie. This wonderfully acted, but horrible to watch scene will be an important foundation for much that is to come.

Favorite moments in this episode: Dougal coming into the room as Claire lies on the floor, beaten and battered, and he shoots a look at that poor corporal that could stop a person’s heart. Dougal as the avenging angel—I liked it. Then there was the lovely scene where Claire and Jamie first speak after learning that they must marry in order to keep her safe from Randall and the English army:
“I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing,” he says after Claire asks if he minds that she’s not a virgin and he answers by confessing that he is one. 


As every Outlander book fan out there is doing, I’m cheering that we’ve finally arrived at that most wonderful part of the book. However, for those viewers who have never read the book, these next two episodes could fall flat. Why? Because very little time has been spent on developing the character of Jamie. By this point in the book the reader knows Jamie Fraser to be an excellent man, loyal, brave, strong yet gentle, intelligent, and a man of his convictions. As readers we cheered when Claire was ‘forced’ to marry him. But viewers do not fully know the man that Jamie is, so may feel neither here nor there about their marriage. Also, a few more hints of growing chemistry would have helped. Thank you to my dear friend and fellow Outlander fan, Anne, for pointing this out to me. I hope we see much more of Jamie’s true character in the next two episodes.

I’m taking this week off from my regularly scheduled rant about Claire’s wardrobe. But by the looks of some of the message boards, I’m not alone in my concerns.

The next two episodes are what I’ve been waiting for—I see multiple viewings in my future, as I again read those tealeaves.

Slàinte mhath!