Friday, May 22, 2015

Go to Your Room!

For those authors who write middle grade or YA, how much thought do you put into the character's bedroom? If the story doesn't need to focus on that part of the house, probably very little. But even then, do you, as an exercise, visualize what that room might be like?

A child's or teen's bedroom, as the only room in the house that they can be thought to 'own', usually has indicators of his or her personality. Is it messy? Very organized, with everything in its place? Totally chaotic with only a few clear spots that a parent dare step in?.

Are there bookshelves with actual books? Or are the shelves only places to put toys or trophies? What types of posters or pictures are on the walls? Are they the parents' choices (usual for children's rooms) or the teen's?

Being sent to one's room used to be a punishment, but not if the child's room also contains a tv and dvd player or computer or game system.

My youngest sister and I shared a dormer room. She was the super-neat child, with everything in its place. My bookcase was always spilling over with books, while her bookcase had some books, but more stuffed animals and dolls. The top of my dresser was where the statues of horses and my rock collection were displayed. Hers had her brush and comb, barrettes and rubber bands for her hair. The shared closet floor was tidy on her side, cluttered on mine. The room was so small we had to do our homework downstairs at the kitchen table. Our play area was down in the basement. Until our two older sisters moved out of the house and I was able to move downstairs into what had been my oldest sister's room, I felt that I wasn't able to put any personal touches into my 'space'. And yet I see that we each did.

If the story is set in a boarding school, there's probably very few options for expressions of personal taste. Dorm rooms in college used to be the same, usually containing two beds, two desks and, if you were lucky, two closets and/or chests of drawers (sometimes the chest of drawers was inside the closet). Then students were able to bring mini-fridges, microwaves and tvs. Now, with laptops and smart phones, the tv is no longer taking up space in a college dorm room, but other items are.

There would probably be even less space on a spaceship. Perhaps the bed might fold into the wall when not in use. Ditto a desk or clothespress.

How much do you plan ahead? Or do you just list each item in the room as you need to? As readers, how much do you recall of a character's room? Does it add to your understanding of the character?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I'm cross posting this from my other blog because I'm so far behind in everything. We've been having wonderful rains that we desperately needed. (More about that in a minute) Unfortunately, with the rains have come storms, lightning, etc. Evidently lightning struck the tower of my Internet provider and I was without the Internet for 5 days. Yes, I went into withdrawal symptoms. I used the WIFI at the library, but couldn't do everything. I am changing providers Tuesday. Yay. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the story of my signing and the results of our rainfall.

Saturday, I had fun. A book signing at Hastings, Books, Music and Videos. A few people stopped by and some even bought a book. I bribed the wee ones with finger puppets and small basketballs, baseballs, and soccer balls. My hand puppet, Frankie, is a hit with the kids. My biggest seller was ... are you ready for this? DARK CHOCOLATE CANDY KISSES. Yep. Chocolate is a winner every time. One girl walked by my table, eyed the chocolates and went over to the shelves where candy sold. She came back in a few minutes, a dollar bill in her hand, and asked me if the store had any candy for less than a dollar. I told her I didn't know, but my candy was free. She went running back to her mother, (yes, I only gave candy when the parents approved) then back to me and asked how many she could have. I told her five, and she went away happy. In a couple of minutes, her younger sister came over and I gave her the freebies too. I didn't make any money, but the smiles on their faces was priceless

Even better, one of my former third-grade students was at the store and we had a nice visit. He had his father take pictures of us together so he could show them to his friends. And he bought a book for his daughter and one for himself. When a former student recognizes me, it's so much fun. It happens quite often because I taught a lot of children.

Next,  our area has been in a five year drought, and our use of water has been limited. Like we're fined if we use more than our quota a month. I know many other areas are having the same problem. Our son that lives in Southern California says they need rain desperately. I say, keep praying. We had the wettest April this year that I can ever remember. May is well on it's way to being the same.The lake levels are rising. Our water usage is still restricted, but that may change later.


Our pond has been dry for five years. Take a look at it now.

These milkweed were on dry land. A few days after I took this the flowers are no more. I guess they drowned. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the milkweed and the caterpillars use the plant for food.
The dragonflies are back.
My son has stocked the pond with fish.
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Plot or Character - which comes first?

It's like the age old question. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, as I said to my kids the other day, "Which came first, the chicken or the horse?" (Yeah, I don't know where that came from either, it was just one of those days). Anyway, when you are starting a story do you start with the plot or the characters?

It almost doesn't matter. In the end you need both.

A great plot without characters to carry it will go nowhere.

Great characters without a plot to propel them forward will not make an interesting story.

I've started stories both ways.

In one work in progress of mine the plot completely came first. I knew I wanted a story about a person who could see evil, as in evil actually manifests itself as something she could see. (And frankly, that's a premise, not a plot). But I didn't know who that character would be. Eventually she became clear in my mind and I was able to write the story.

In another story of mine the character came first. I knew I wanted to write a story about a Princess named Fritzi whose days as a princess might be numbered. I knew she was red headed and feisty and then I had to develop the story to go along with her.

In ALWAYS ALI, which will be coming out this summer,since it is the fourth in the Ali series, I knew who the character was, but I had to find a story to go with her for this book. In this case it has to do with a new girl in school who claims to be her sister.

Whether the plot or the character come first, the two elements need to work together to make a compelling story.

What about you? When you write a story which do you find you come up with first, the character or the plot?