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By Leslie Lindsay (image source: www.alphabetart.com on 9.4.13)

When it comes to priorites, you could say Matt Wertz has them; he’s pretty driven.  You could also say the guy can belt out some tunes, resulting in a fantastic melding of melodies ripe for this era.  His new album, HEATWAVE was released yesterday, August 27th.  You may say Mother Nature was on his side.  Seems the nation is being swept with a heatwave–whether that is the acid-washed, jangly pop sounds of his new album, or the actual searing heat, but it’s fair to say the two events are a trippy coincidence. 

With tracks like Shine and Sunny Day, you may think Matt was channeling the giant star in the sky, but in reality the album isn’t inspired by any one event, person, or theme, but rather a general sound he was shooting for–that of the late 1980’s.  Think Richard Marx and Bryan Adams.  Think boom boxes (hey–weren’t those once called ghetto-blasters) and lace.  Matt admits that to get the sound he wanted he had to change the way he wrote songs, which was  bit challenging.  But the sound–and the feeling–these tracks evoke are positively epic. 

Although I did reach out to  Matt to provide a little piece on defining home, he graciously declined.  “Practice for tour is really eating up at lot of time, plus there are a slew of publicity events…” all of which I can completely appreciate. 

But I can tell you this:  Matt Wertz likes his Tennessean home, a 1920s-era bungalow  where he’s lived for the last twelve years writing, practicing, and entertaining.  In fact, there are several YouTube videos showing Matt doing just that (I adore the friendly banter between band-mates, and the acoustic sound is fantastic).  Take a peek into his life: the mindless ring game on the front porch (Matt indicates this is his favorite place  to unwind and let the new lyrics and sounds percolate–it’s also where he wrote new track, “Get to You”).  You’ll also glimpse the bike riding, the coffee gulping, and a peek at his ever-growing shoe collection in these videos. (He once wanted to design shoes for Nike).   www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsI6SmMwUnk

But there’s more:  be sure to read this Trib article from years past–same house, same musician, another little look inside the place he calls “home.”  http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/chi-matt-wertz-snoop-1012oct12,0,3258691.story

In the meantime, be sure to pick up a copy of HEATWAVE, pop it in your computer, iPod, or cassette player (yes, there is a cassettee version) and see what writing inspiration you get from this number–I assure you, it’s a throw-back, and a good one at that!

So, Write on Wednesday! 

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By Leslie Lindsay (image source: www.alphabetart.com 9.4.13)

How do we define home?  Is is an actual building?  The people we surround ourselves with, or is it tangible pieces of things that bring to mind the comfort and stability of home?  Today, we hear from author Amy Sue Nathan on just that:

“For me, home means things I can see and touch. Photos on shelves, pre-school artwork next to high school graduation pictures, a china platter that belonged to my grandmother that sits on the middle of the dining room table. Home is being surrounded by sights and sounds and also, by textures. I often sit with a crocheted blanket on my lap as I write. It’s made up of squares, and baby-size. My grandmother made it when my son was born almost twenty-two years ago.
 
Let’s face it, crocheted blankets can itch! I never put it on him as a baby, but it has follow us through five homes in five states. It hung over the back of the rocking chair in the nursery when my daughter was born too. And while it’s not the softest blanket in the world, it’s the best one I have. And I think as long as I have it with me, I’ll be home.”
 
For the sake of extending Amy’s concept of home, here’s an exercise to help you hone in on the things that remind you of home:
 
  • Close your eyes and drum up some of the items from your past that signifiy “home” to you.  For you me, it’s the water-logged Baby Beth doll I carried everywhere–even the bathtub.  There was also my imaginary friend, Jenn-Jenn, but also the antique dining room table, the old sewing machine, and the slanty part of my closet where I used to hide out and read. 
  • Now go a little deeper.  What were some to the items you held onto into your adolescence and college years?  Was there a particular item that went with you to your first apartment?  Was there an item that stayed with you for a season, only to let it go once you felt more comfortable, confident? 
  • How about your characters in your work-in-progress?  What do they hold onto?  An old key?  A diary?  A person?  A memory?  A book?  A photo?  Make a list for each of your characters, but especially your protagonist and antagonist.  It can be very telling what these “people” hold onto in various parts of their life.  Go ahead…what did your protagonist value when she was a child?  A teenager?  Young adult?  Adult?  Now, in your story?  Can you see a pattern 

[Exercise created by Leslie Lindsay] 

Special thanks to Amy Sue Nathan for sharing her lovely words about her son’s blanket.  For more information on Amy and her books, please see:

 Up Next Week on Write on, Wednesday: Memoirist Tanya Chernov talks about her place of home…at summer camp.
 
Till then, Write on, Wednesday! (image source: www.amazon.com 9.4.13)
 

Write On, Wednesday: Keeping Tension on Every Page

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By Leslie Lindsay

You hear a lot about tension. It’s in the news. “Tension in the Middle East,” the bug-eyed Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writerbeauty behind the camera chirps on your  television. It’s in your shoulders after carrying the world right there, spread between your shoulder blades. Middle East and all. Tension is in your exercise band during your weekly “Body Sculpting” class at the gym.

Tension is also in that novel your reading. Or writing. At least it better be.

So what’s the deal with tension?

Well, no one wants to read about unicorns and puppies. Well, maybe 2nd graders do. But you better believe that even in that early grade chapter book there’s bound to be some trouble with those puppies.

Trouble is intriguing.

Trouble is fun.

Trouble keeps you turning the pages.

Okay, so it may not be “trouble” as in something a child gets into. “You got into trouble again?! What am I going to do with you?” Trouble is a loosely generated term meaning “conflict,” or “tension.”

Think of what you are currently reading. Does it keep you up at night? Then you must be turning the pages, dying to find out what it going to happen in the next scene, right?

Now think of a so-so book you’ve read of late. You could sit it down at the dentist’s office and not give one hoot that you left it there. That book might be low on tension.

There are some other writerly words that go along with trouble/conflict/tension and they are:

DESIRE: What the character wants. It could be anything from a new car, to being heard, to getting a new job. Make it clear and make it matter.

STAKES: the consequence of not getting what the character wants. Your character needs to matter (to you the writer, and to you the reader. Successful characters clearly matter to both reader and writer). Let’s take a brief lesson from James Scott Bell for raising character stakes:

  • How can things get emotionally wrenching for your lead?
  • What threatens not just defeat, but may destroy her spirit?
  • Psychological death (loss of some kind)
  • Who does your lead care about? How can that person (character) get in trouble?
  • Is there a “ghost” from that past that can show up and lead the character to inner grief?

SYMPATHY: Okay, so if you’ve successfully spelled out your character’s desires and added stakes. Then you’ve created this elusive thing called character sympathy. And that, my friend is what will keep those pages turning.

Oh, and the next time you’re in Body Sculpting class, opt for the green bands; they are much easier than those blasted red ones. And guess what? They still keep the tension.

Next week: So excited to have Elizabeth Little here talking about her debut fiction/mystery/thriller DEAR DAUGHTER (Viking, July 31 2014). Stay tuned…

[for more information on tension and James Scott Bell, see WRITE GREAT FICTION: PLOT & STRUCTURE by Writer's Digest Books, 2004. DEAR DAUGHTER cover images retrieved from author's website, http://www.elizabethlittle.com on 8.20.14]

Write On, Wednesday: 4 BIG Questions for Writers

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By Leslie Lindsay Ireland 2014 171

Just when I was thinking of what I ought to post for my weekly writing post, I got this tag (Tweet) from a colleage, David Ozab who writes in the Pacific Northwest. It has to do with four questions that are floating around in the blogosphere about–what else–writing!  At the end of this post I’ll tag three more writers.

Question 1: What are you currently working on?

I often have my hand in many pots, but this time I have learned to focus on one project at a time. Okay, well that’s not entirely true with two young kids, an aging basset hound, and well everything else that needs doing. But you want to know what I am writing?! Oh, that’s easy.

A ghost story.

Oh, you want more information? Okay, how about a ghost story based on an urban legend originating in St. Louis, Missouri. We’ll call it a “Midwestern Gothic.”  But there is so much more going on: orphans, miscarriages, the ghosts of Christmas’s past (Well, what I’m getting at is: most ghosts are the result of human suffering, metaphorical haunts scare us more than anything)…and the possibility that psychic abilities can be inherited.

It’s all fiction, but the legend is real. Folks in St. Louis  claim the place I am writing about has been called “Zombie Road” since thr 1950’s, but it has been teeming with spirits long before then–Native Americans, Civil War soldiers, and escaped mental patients.

I also continue to blog regularly on the writing life as well as bestselling and debut author interviews (Wednesday), share fiction excerpts (Friday) over at http://www.leslielindsay.com, and keep up a blog on Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), my first “baby.” (www.speakingofapraxia.com)

Question 2: How does my project differ from others in the same genre?

Ah, always the BIG question. And a good one. This is different because there are a lot of different voices (POVs). Most haunted house/ghost stories have something to do with “old” things, this is a brand-new McMansion on the banks of the Meramec. So that begs the question, can a new house be haunted? And if so, how or why? We also dive into the past. It’s a work of fiction that teeters between contemporary and historical, mostly contemporary. 863d4-img01365-20110811-1712

Question 3: Why do you write/create what you do?

Because I can’t stop. So it sounds a bit cheesy and cliches, but I love ideas and words and capturing them on paper. I find it fun to re-live past experiences, too. Even if I didn’t exactly “live” them myself. For example in my current WIP, there’s a scene from 1984 in which a bunch of teenaged boys are partying in the woods.  Have I ever been a teenage boy? Nope. But my hubby has. Have I ever been a partyier? Uh…no. But I did live in the 1980s. Piecing it all together is somehow oddly satisfying, what can I say?

Question 4: How does your writing/creating process work?

Honestly, I don’t know! I wish there were a magic formula I could tell you.

Well first, you take an idea mix with equal parts creativity and grit. Toss in some tension and genius. Get little sleep. Multitask till you’re blue in the face. Fold in a critique partner. Read a multitude of genres. Bake at 350 for inordinate amount of time. Sprinkle with copious self-editing and then allow to be read by an agent. Sign multi-book (and dollars!) contract.

In reality, it’s more like: Have ideas. Put butt in chair. Wear the letters off  keys on laptop. Read. Write. Read about writing. Get frustrated and attempt to throw laptop out of second story window until supportive folks insist “this is good stuff, you can’t do that.” And so you sigh and roll up the sleeves cause you got work to do.

Question 5: Which Three Writers Am I “Tagging?”

Oh gosh! It’s like picking my favorite kid. Nearly impossible. But here goes:

  1. Mary Kubica author of THE GOOD GIRL (Mira, July 2014) because she writes in the hybrid women’s fiction/thriller genre, is a busy mom of young kids and debut author. See my interview of Mary here.
  2. Tanya Chernov, author of A REAL EMOTIONAL GIRL (Skyhorse Publishing, September 2012) cause she is real and writes in a very authentic voice–memoir–another genre I just adore. Read Tanya’s Guest Post here.
  3. Jennifer Weiner, bestselling author of well, many! Most recently–ALL FALL DOWN (Atria, June 2014) about a very real issue–addiction to prescription pain meds. Why her? Well, why not?! Because I’d love to hear what she has to say. Because I love her quick wit and snappy come backs. Because she can weave a fun read around a very serious issue.  See my review of ALL FALL DOWN here.

Read the rest of this entry

Fiction Friday: Excerpt from “Zombie Road,” Chapter 1

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By Leslie Lindsay

Let’s take it from the top. Here’s an excerpt from chapter one from my WIP. We meet one of several POVs. This is James, an old man in a nursing home. Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

CHAPTER 1

The End

1984

The baby woke James McCullough. He struggled to a sitting position, kicking the pilled institution-issued blanket from his pale, knobby feet and then twisted his frame and sat on the edge of the bed, listening.

That goddamned baby wasn’t crying anymore.  

He rubbed his eyes and blew out a breath of air. His chest wheezed and rattled. Death’s cough, the nurses around here called it. He wasn’t supposed to have heard them murmuring at the nurse’s station, but his suite was so close, he couldn’t not hear. That was one thing he still had—his sense of hearing, unlike so many of the other old folks around River’s Bluff Retirement Home. In spite of the nightlights plugged into every outlet, he couldn’t see the hand in front of his face, thanks to glaucoma and cataracts; but sometimes he’d see others watching him, casting a glance of sympathy or a soft smile of pity.

When he’d pass by the mirror on the way to take a leak, he’d peer at the image. He knew that man; the face taut and tanned, gray-green eyes twinkled back, and hair as dark as coal and thick, so unlike the wisps that remained on his spotted-balding head. He wanted that younger man back. Instead, he was stuck here, in this hell-hole waiting.

Waiting for death.

On cue, the baby cried again.

James’s hand scrambled over the covers searching out the call button. Arthritis had misshapen his spotted, yellow hands, making it impossible to reach for anything. Instead, he called out, “Help…nurse!” His voice came out in long thin shrieks, nothing like the booming quality it once commanded.

A moment later, the night nurse rustled in, adjusting her starched pinafore. “Mr. McCullough,” she said. “What’s the matter?”

“The baby’s crying. Aren’t you going to take care of him?”

The nurse fussed behind him, turning pillows and gathering miscellaneous items—paper straw wrappers, plastic cups, and Kleenex. “There are no babies here, Mr. McCullough, you know that.” She looked down at him. Her frosted pink lipstick shimmered in the night glow of the room, her hair feathered along the side of her face and a starched white cap sat atop of the hairsprayed nest.

“Don’t you hear it?”

She cocked her head, “It must have just been a dream,” her eyes conveyed concern, if not disbelief. Perhaps she felt he was just suffering from dementia, but that wasn’t the case. Memories are locked in tight. Too tight. “Now, why don’t you try to get some sleep? You’ve got a big day ahead of you.”

[Please remember this is an original work of fiction and not to be taken as your own. Comments welcome. Thanks for reading.]

Write On, Wednesday: Back on the Saddle

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By Leslie Lindsay

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Since May I’ve waffled. I didn’t want to write. The kids were home from school. I simply didn’t have the time–and on some days–the inclination to haul out the laptop, open the manucript doc and tap away on the keys.

“Once I go on my retreat at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” I told  myself, “Then I’d want to write.” I  didn’t. In fact, the whole week in Madison just drilled in the fact that writing was hard. Damn hard. Perphaps I’d be better off without it.  My well-meaning and devoted critique partner supported me.  No, she encouraged me to re-think my statements, my intentions. I hated her for it. Throwing my laptop out of the window and lathering myself with Hawaiian Tropic sounded like the better option.

Yet for some dumb reason, I persisted. Maybe it was because I had already. spent so much time and effort on the manuscript? Sunk cost and all of that. Maybe it was because I knew there were only about 2 or 3 chapters left to write before I could consider the thing done, nevermind that editing and more rounds of revisions were needed, plus the agent submission process before it actually (hopefully) became a book.

And then I went to Ireland, home of W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, other well-known literary figures. Maeve Binchy, Jonathan Swift. Ireland loves their writers. They used to have their faces on dollar bills, before the Euro. My darling hubby would look over at me in the tiny rental car, me the passenger on the opposite side of the car from what we are accustomed to here in the U.S., on the other side of the pond and say, “So, what stories would you write about this area?”

I sat the guidebook down, marking my page on castle ruins of County Limerick and looked to him, “Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously,” he responded.

“Well, I…don’t know.”

“Too foreign for you?” He pressed.

“Something like that.” More like, I’m on vacation and how dare you try to make me work. But the fact was, my brain was already spinning tales, asking questions, looking for answers the muse would provide. It was too much almost to recount those story ideas to my husband, because doing so might actually mean I can’t get away from it, it might actually mean I had to write.

The words and descriptions of the countryside filled my head as it blurred past in a series of green and brown and blue. And even though I toted my journal along, I didn’t really use it. Blasphemous? Maybe. But honestly I was too busy reading the guidebook, taking in the sites, experiencing things that I just wanted to get away from it all.

And when we returned to the States, my fingers were itching to write. Not on the laptop, mind you but on notes, paper, lists…just something to whet my appetite. I wrote travel reviews on TripAdvisor. Does that count? Eventually, several days after being home–and several dozen loads of laundry, picking up the dog from the kennel, the kids from the grandparents, I anxiously opened the manuscript.

It wasn’t half-bad. In fact, it wasn’t nearly the mess I thought it might be. Being away from it actually renewed my passion, let me look at it with fresh eyes. And that, is a good thing.

So what are you waiting for? Write on, Wednesday!

 

Fiction Friday: Little Sally Water

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By Leslie Lindsay

I have a senior basset hound named Sally. She has a kidney issue and that means she has some house-training accidents from time to time. Okay, a lot. Was it because little Sally was peeping on the floor that my brain recalled this old nursery rhyme, Little Sally Water or was it the muses at play?

In any case, this old childhood game, jingle, rhyme–what have you–has been floating through my head of late. So I got curious, like all good writers do and did a little research. Here’s the rhyme/song: 

Little Sally Waters sitting in the sun
Trying to find her love
The one & only one
Rise Sally rise
Open up your eyes
Look to the east
Look to the west
Maybe you’ll find the one that you love best

The lyrics actually continue and are quite extensive.

Seems the rhyme/children’s yard game has something to do with marriage. Little Sally Water is sitting in her saucer. In fact, the real story goes: Sally was on her way to her wedding, when she had to step over a saucer of water. Now, is this akin to jumping over broom handles or some other marriage tradition, I don’t really know. Folks believe this nursery rhyme originated in the 1800s–England and has been in the U.S. since at least 1848.

Yet, more contemporary interpretations indicate a name change for Sally. She was Sally Walters in more northern climes of the US, Pennsylvania and New York, for starters. In the South, Little Sally Ann(e). Others say, no, no, no Sally had a last name and it wasn’t Walters, but Waters.

Still others maintained that Sally was of African American (black) heritage. But then that goes to dissuade the England-Marriage version. So, it’s really hard to tell what the meaning and interpretation of this nursery rhyme is.

Little Sally fits into my WIP because, well I found the sing-song sound of it haunting. There’s also a water aspect to my WIP, so it just worked:

“Well, then maybe I’m not alive,” she responded.

Don’t be silly! You’re as much alive as I am.” I reached my toe forward, a playful nudge, a sideways grins.

My toe went right through her.

I startled, glanced back at Leelah and gasped, a surge of panic racked my body as her leg began disintegrating. Help! She needs help. My words would not come forth. Leelah smiled coyly, a smattering of freckles splayed across her face, and a glint in her eye I’d never noticed before. I couldn’t tell if she was crying or laughing.

She heckled and tossed her head back, the wavy hair breaking off in a wisp of clouds. A sinister stare penetrated my gaze. But Leelah, you’re my friend.

My brow furrowed. I screwed my face into a pinched pout, my stomach twisted, my ears rang. “Why? Why are you doing this to me?” I shouted, grabbing my bike, leaving the food, mad as a hornet.

She didn’t respond in words, yet her voice sang softly, deep within my head and yet all around me at the same time. Some childhood song. Little Sally Water…turn to the one you love best. Bye baby bunting. Father’s gone a-hunting.

FOR  MORE INFORMATION:

[this is a work of original fiction. Comments appreciated. Sharing and copying as your own is not. (c)]

 

Write On, Wednesday: Injecting Symbolism, Part 3

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By Leslie Lindsay

The fiction writer knows that there is a lot that hinges on a good story. Some of these elements just happen in the prose, but some of them are more deliberate–but hopefully the reader doesn’t detect that. In fact, injecting symbolism into your work should be very organic and surprise you–the writer–as much as it does the reader and for that matter, the characters.

No pressure, right?

In carefully crafted and researched novels, symbolism just appears because well–it’s been ingrained through your research and comes through in terms of osmosis.  

My little ghost girl, Evelyn brings with her a ragdoll from generations past. In my mind’s eye, I saw a small cloth doll created from scraps of fabric and wrapped in a maroon cloth. She has no face. Evelyn drags this prized possession around with her. She loses her, she deliberately places her in the view of her “chosen one,” in a look at me kind of way.

And so I worked with her. The doll, the ghost girl. I let them know I was there to help tell their story. They listened. They cooperated. (Well, some days, when the writing was flowing). And then I got curious: what are the origins of rag dolls? And what history do they have in the US? Other places?

What I learned may or may not surprise. The small, faceless dolls are that of Amish origin. They don’t have a face because, as one story goes: a little Amish girl received a doll for Christmas. The doll had human-like features. She loved the little doll. Her father snatched it away, cut the head off and said, “Only God can create people!” Yikes. He then replaced the doll’s head with a plain stuffed sock. The doll was now faceless.

This is the exact reason the Amish don’t allow their photos taken. It has a lot to do with graven images and one should not have their faces imprinted on film or other media because it mimics “those in heaven” and “in the ground below.”

Well, this all thrills me to death (okay, bad pun)–because you see–Evelyn is a ghost girl who was accidently buried alive. She graps her little ragdoll and is “in the ground below” with her faceless ragdoll until she is “released” by the protagonist.

Pretty fascinating, huh?

Till next time, Write On, Wednesday!

See also:

[image source: http://www.nantucketcountryantiques.com/antiq/category_client.php?category_id=86 on 7.18.14]

Fiction Friday: What’s in a Name

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By Leslie Lindsay

I read recently a list of things that indicate you’re a writer. It went something like: Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

You know you’re a writer when…

  • Everything you do is considered “research” for your novel (or a future one).
  • You proof-read emails
  • You rush to jot down an idea lest it leave you before you can do anything with it
  • You have a baby name website bookmarked on your computer

And so the list went. I found myself nodding and uhuh-ing. But it was the last one–the baby name website–that got me. You see, ever since I can remember, I’ve had a fascintation with names. What they mean, their origins, their conotations, etc. And so it’s no surprise this is one of my most favorite parts of creating a novel. Not that I’ve created that many, mind you but well–you get the idea. Names are easy for me; they just appear. I don’t deliberate, I don’t do much of anything but take what I get. And then I look them up.

One of my characters, Melanie is sensitive–like psychic sensitive. She doesn’t know it until well, the “imaginary friend” from her childhood tells her she’s not really alive and that perhaps she’s a ghost. This imaginary friend/ghost is named Leelah, which has roots and meanings  along the lines of “play, imagination, psychic abilities.” Again, both of these names “just came to me.” (Melanie, by the way, means “dark or black.” As in black magic? Possibly).

And then Mel(anie) grows up. She has weird experiences–ghostly things that haunt her. She gets married, has a baby. Finally. After a series of miscarriages. She names that child Enye. It’s a Celtic name that means Grace. I didn’t know that when the name “popped” into my head.

There are a few other folks in the book as well. Some are just general names–nothing special–but I did look them up to make sure they were consistent with the time period they fell into (James and Benjamin, for example work for contemporary times, but were also very popular boys names in the late 1890s). Della is a ghost woman (bright–as in light? Also, noble). She lived in the mid-late 1800’s. The name checks out (most popular in the US in 1951, but it was ranked 68 out of 1,000 in the 1880s. And the little ghost girl–Evelyn–well, it means “beautiful bird.” And birds, interestingly play a semi-significant role in the book.

But truly, what struck me most was the name of the “imaginary friend/ghost,” Leela(h). And so I write about it:

“….I go to babynames.com and type in Leelah. There are no exact matches, but there is Leela. No “h.” It means “night beauty” on this website and on another it equates to “devine play,” and also “amorous play” and “amusement.” I smile. Yes, that is what is. Was. Someone to amuse and play with me. As for divine, well it goes without saying that this Leelah is somehow celestial, heavenly.

Who are you, Leelah?

The baby name website says if I like Leelah, then I might also like the names Layla and Ava, Lola and Amelia. I do. It says the name is similar to Leila. All I can think of is the Eric Clapton song, Layla. It runs through my head over and over again.

When you’re lonely and you’ve got nowhere else to go.

Leelah.

The name is not popular. It’s not in the top 1,000 girls’ names in the U.S. and it certainly doesn’t make any International lists. Authors gave this name to exotic female characters in the early 19th century.

On yet another website, I find the name Leelah without the ‘h.’ It says a woman with the name Leela is one who is abstract, spiritual, utopian and dreams of sharing ideas with humanity. She desires to help mankind with some abstract commodity—religion and spiritualism. The occult. I shudder. And yes, even psychic abilities. My eyes dart right then left. She wasn’t here to tease, torment, or make me feel crazy, not like Mother thought.

Leelah came to help.”

For more information, websites to help you name your characters, check out:

[This is an excerpt from my WIP, currently titled "Zombie Road," about an urban legend set in the hills of St. Louis County, Missouri. This is original work and not to be taken as your own or shared as such. (c). Image source for baby names retrieved from http://www.namesforbaby.org/categories/celtic-names/ on 7.18.14]

Write On, Wednesday: Meet THE GOOD GIRL Author Mary Kubica

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By Leslie Lindsay

With about a million accolades already brewing for this dark, gripping psychological thriller set alternately in Chicagoland and rural Minnesota, Mary Kubica is here to chat with us about her debut, THE GOOD GIRL (to be released July 29th, 2014). It’s the most perfect summertime thriller. Read it at the pool, the beach, on the plane. You won’t want to put it down. THE GOOD GIRL

Leslie Lindsay: Mary, I am in the midst of reading THE GOOD GIRL and I must say…I love it! It’s raw, it’s authentic, and highly engaging. Can you explain how you came up with the premise of the book?

Mary Kubica: Absolutely. But first let me say what an honor it is to be here with you today at Write On, Wednesday. Thank you so much for having me, Leslie!

I’d love to say that there was some big, defining moment or event that sparked the ideas behind THE GOOD GIRL, but the truth of the matter is that it was a very conscious effort. When I began writing, I had this notion of a kidnapping that was not exactly what it seemed. I knew I wanted to write the novel in a non-linear, multi-perspective format, but other than that, I wasn’t entirely sure where the novel would go. The bulk of the ideas came to me as I wrote, and on any given day that I sat down to work, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to happen in the lives of my characters that day. But I found myself completely consumed by them – thinking of the characters at all hours of the day and night – and feel fairly certain that they’re the ones who told their story to me.

L.L.: From what I understand, you wrote this book almost entirely in isolation. Your family and friends didn’t even know you were working on a manuscript. How I wish I could keep something like that a secret! Was it fear of the unknown/fear of rejection that kept your lips sealed? Something else?

Mary Kubica: You pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Leslie! I’d definitely say it was the fear of rejection – or rather, the likelihood of rejection – that made me keep quiet about my work-in-progress. I’d been writing since I was a young girl, though as a hobbyist and nothing more. I understood that the chances of having my work published were slim to none. When I began writing, I wrote for me and only me, never imagining that something would become of my work. And so I began THE GOOD GIRL in secrecy, only telling my husband about the project. It wasn’t until I sold the manuscript to Harlequin MIRA that I spread the great news to family and friends – not only had I written a book, but it was going to be published, too! They were certainly surprised!

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.” From THE GOOD GIRL, 2014

L.L. There’s a wealth of insight a writing community can provide—feedback, instruction, plot twists. Don’t tell me you’re one of the rare lucky ones who can pull it off without a “village.”

Mary Kubica: When I wrote THE GOOD GIRL, I didn’t belong to a writers’ group, and my creative writing education was limited to one college course that I didn’t particularly like. I didn’t have a beta reader; no one – besides me, of course – read the manuscript before it was sent off to agents. That said, I found my village in the publication process. THE GOOD GIRL would certainly not be what it is today without the tremendous effort of my agent, my editor, and the many other brilliant people at Harlequin Books. I’ve connected in the past year or so with a number of authors – both in person and online – and I’m a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, which has offered much advice and enthusiasm throughout this process. I know authors now who I can go to for questions or lean on for support. Fellow Harlequin MIRA author Heather Gudenkauf is certainly one who must be mentioned; she’s been an amazing mentor to me this past year!             

L.L. I had to smile when I read somewhere that you fell in love with THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB series by Ann M. Martin…I’m so there! My friends and I devoured those books and then thought we could start our own club. Or at least write like Ms. Martin. Is this when your love of writing began?

Mary Kubica: I love this question – and I feel obligated to say that my sister and I did begin our own babysitter’s club back in the day; we printed up fliers and passed them around the neighborhood, and earned ourselves quite a few babysitting gigs! But yes, absolutely, this was the time in my life when I first decided I wanted to me an author. It was a cousin of mine who I accredit with my early love of writing; she shared with me a story she had written when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Until then I had no idea where books came from before they magically appeared in bookstores. They were just there. I’d never really thought much about the author behind the book, but I knew then and there what I wanted to do: I wanted to write books.   

L.L.: So, Chicagoland…ironically, it’s where we both live. In fact, several recent books have been set there—even ones featured here—what qualities do you feel Chicago authors bring to the literary table?

Mary Kubica: This is a great question! I can think of many notable Chicago authors off the top of my head – Veronica Roth and Gillian Flynn are two that come to mind, as well as Lori Rader-Day who you spoke with recently and whose debut THE BLACK HOUR I cannot wait to read – though I think every city and state across the country has its own set of notable, distinguished authors. I might be a bit biased here, but I feel Chicago is a highly cultured city, deeply rooted in Midwestern values, and that the cross between urban, suburban and country can make for a very diverse landscape in literature. Our people are unique, too, and stem from all walks of life, a fact that has likely inspired many remarkable characters. All in all it’s a great city, and I feel very proud of the authors who have come from Chicagoland.       

L.L.: And then you toss in Minnesota. Funny, cause I lived there, too! In fact, I’ve been to Two Harbors and Grand Marias—not in the winter like in the book—but in “mosquito season.” How did this remote cabin come into play?

Mary Kubica: It was really about logistics. I needed a remote wilderness where Colin and Mia could disappear – someplace far enough from Chicago where they wouldn’t be found easily, but close enough that they could drive there. Until recently I had never been to Grand Marais or up the Gunflint Trail and relied solely on research to describe the setting in THE GOOD GIRL. My family did, however, just take a trip to northern Minnesota (Yes, in mosquito season! I believe we went through three cans of Off!). I was dying to see the region in person, and on the eve of book publication, it seemed like the right thing to do. I was thrilled to discover the area was exactly as I had imagined it to be, and so excited to see streets and landmarks that are mentioned in the book in person. We even saw a moose and bear!    

L.L.: You’re a mom, a wife, a suburbanite. Even an animal shelter volunteer. As a writer and mom myself, I find I’m constantly juggling things—dropping balls, even. I think of characters at dinner and plots while at soccer games. How do you make your writing life possible…and keep all the balls in the air?

Mary Kubica: I’ll admit I’ve been dropping more and more balls of late, Leslie. Nothing vital, thankfully, but laundry gets done less and the house is not quite as clean as it used to be. These days my writing life happens between 5 and 7 a.m. Once my kids are up and awake, I pack my writing career away and become ‘mom’. My youngest is in half-day kindergarten; the few hours that he is in school are filled with errands and housework, and volunteering as much as I can at the animal shelter. But my mind is always busy plotting and carrying on conversations with my characters in my head, whether I’m at home or watching soccer games or swimming lessons, or driving the kids to and from school. It’s not easy; I’ll be the first to admit it. A few years ago I was the woman who could do it all, and now I must concede that I can’t do everything. I have to rely more and more on the help of family and friends, and I’m so very thankful to everyone who has stepped up to make my dream a reality.

L.L.: I suppose I could go on and on, but I’ll stop with one last question: what’s next?

Mary Kubica: I’m finishing up my second novel, which is about a Chicago mother who encounters a young homeless girl waiting beside the ‘L’ with a baby. She feels a strong desire to help this girl with her plight, and as she does, she discovers more about the girl that perhaps should have remained uncovered. Like THE GOOD GIRL, it has plenty of twists and turns along the way that will hopefully keep the reader guessing!  

Bio: Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.  She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.  The Good Girl is her first novel.

For more information/connect:

 

Write On, Wednesday: Injecting Symbolism, Part 2: Doors & Gates

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By Leslie Lindsay

If you happened to catch last Wednesday’s post, then you know I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the themes that have cropped up in my WIP. Last week, it was the (now extinct) passenger piegeons that cropped up, darkening the skies of my fictional world. At the time they were written into the manuscript, I had a little knowledge of these creepy birds.

Today, it’s all about gates, doors, thresholds.

At a recent workshop in Madison, Wisconsin a fellow critiquer read an excerpt of a chapter. An old creaky gate blowing in the wind triggered a moment of weirdness for the main character who happened to be looking out her bedroom window at the time.

Another person in the group admits, “I don’t get the gate. What’s the deal with that?”

“Well…” I hemmed and hawed. “I like it.” Plus, it has something to do with the rest of the book. There’s an old gate to an orphange, which we’ll “meet” later.

The first woman said, “Oh, you’ve got to keep it; oftentimes, gates represent a bridge from one life to another. They are very symbolic.”

“They are?” I asked, mildly amazed I pulled out some symbolism without even realizing it.

“Yes. Very.”

And so the gate stays. And it has story purpose. Here are some more things I dug up regarding gates/doors/thresholds in literature, and also the human psyche.

  • According to An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, J.C. Cooper notes a guarding and protecting nature of gates, stating, “they are the protective, sheltering aspect of the Great Mother.”
  • She also goes on to confirm that they are indeed, “symbolic entrances into new worlds…entrances can be into a new life or they might represent communication between one world and another world, between the living and the dead.”
  • In yet another study of the symbolism of gates we learn: “Imprinted on the human psyche, [gates] herald the possibility of a new life, a new experience, or a new identity. They offer an opportunity for communion between different worlds: the sacred and profane, the internal and external, the subjective and objective, the visible and invisible, waking and dreaming.”
  • Not only do scholars find gates fascinating, but they make an appearance in Shirley Jackson’s classic, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (1959). I can only assume Ms. Jackson knew this about gates, or did her own homework before dumping them into her novel.

So, you see…there is something to my squeaky gate in Mel Dunbar’s backyard. Now, the hard job of capitalizing on that, making it even creepier, and keeping it all in mind as I plow through this manuscript. Easy? No.  Greater satisfaction? You bet.

[Fall gate/stone wall image retrieved from Fliker on 7.07.14, farm gate from drakensview.blogspot.com  on 7.6.14]

Fiction Friday: Long, Strange Trip

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By Leslie Lindsay

My father-in-law lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He reads the newspaper religiously. And actually, today–July 4th–just happens to be not just the birth of our nation, but his birthday, too. Happy birthday, Pop! It only seems appropriate I’d share this article he clipped from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and sent my way (dated Saturday, June 21st 2014).

The day it arrived in my mailbox, I needed it. You see, I was thinking of shelving the whole “Zombie Road” book and calling it done. It’s not. Far from it. I just wanted to be ‘normal,’ you know enjoy summer, raise my kids, read a book, go on vacation. I didn’t want to slave work on this nebulous thing called a manuscript.

But the article–small that is–stirred the muse within. I showed my hubby when he walked in the door at the end of the day, “Hey, Pop sent this. It’s about Zombie Road.” I waved the clipped article in his face. Eye roll. Mine, not his.

Jim grinned over the clipping, “Hon, you’ve gotta write this book. I want to see it, to hold it in my hands. You’re almost there.”

“First draft, maybe,” I mumbled.

Okay, and so the article:

Blogger Darcy Strange (great last name, btw), noted the top five “weird” spots in St. Louis:

  • The suicide history of the Lemp Mansion
  • The City Muesem
  • Mastadon State Historic Site, visitors can picnic in the former mastadon bone field. Yuck. Hey, wonder if you’ll find any passenger piegon skeletons there, too?!
  • The Alter of Answered Prayers, at the Shrine of St. Joseph in downtown St. Louis, and the areas only recognized “miracle site.”
  • Finally, “Zombie Road,” a spooky 2.3-mile hiking trail in the Wildwood area.

I’m batting 4/5 of these places…never been to the Alter of Answered Prayers, but perhaps I ought go and put forth a petition that this manuscript gets finished.

[Lemp Mansion image retrieved from www.legendsofamerica.com on 6.28.14, for more information on Darcy Strange's Weird places to visit on her Roadtrippers blog, see https://roadtrippers.com/blog/offbeat-guide-to-st-louis-5-best-places-to-get-your-weird-on-in-mound-city. Tree-lined path image retrieved from Roadtrippers/Darcy Strange, American flag image from http://www.united-states-flag.com/valley-forge-brand-koralex-ii.html%5D

The 5 best places to get your weird on in Saint Louis