Friday, September 30, 2011


AB Keuser interviewed me on her blog. I had a lot of fun doing the interview. Click here to read it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I’m almost finished with the first draft of the Screwing Up Time sequel. But I hit the final chapters and ran into a brick wall. Not that I didn’t know what was going to happen, I did. I know the final solution, but it was all the sub-plots that stymied me.  Because I’m a “pantser,” I write as the characters lead, and since the characters all have their own agendas, there are a lot of sub-plot threads that all need to come together at the end. Not an easy solution.

So here’s what I do. I list all the plot issues in a notebook with a fountain pen. (It’s about the only time I write longhand besides editing.) Then I figure out which plot threads fit together. Afterwards, I brainstorm solutions. Several pages later, I arrive at the legitimate possibilities. Then I hone them. This is always a scary part of the novel for me. What if I can’t figure out an answer for all the sub-plot twists? This is my version of writer’s block. But once things start to fit together, it’s also the most exciting part. It’s not until the end that some characters reveal their hidden motives. For example, in the sequel Granddad spends a lot of time studying ancient texts and is very furtive. But I didn’t know why. I knew he was hiding something. But since I write from Mark’s perspective I didn’t know what it was. Now that I’m at the climax, Granddad finally reveals what he’s been hiding. I was shocked—just as shocked as Mark. Of course, now I get to go back into the text and hide bits of information, a bread crumb trail of clues that hopefully will make you wonder what’s going on and still say “Oh, I should have seen that coming” when the reveal happens.

Right now, I’ve got almost all of the sub-plot issues solved. This afternoon I’m going to start writing the climax. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Do You Read?

Okay, raise your hand if you read the back of cereal boxes. Yep, just as I suspected—lots of hands, my own included. Boredom readers. Breakfast is a boring meal at our house. No one’s had their coffee yet, so we sit at the table staring at one another and hoping that caffeine and sugar will jump start our brains.

Sometimes I read the newspaper, other times I don’t. I really don’t care what-actress-dumped-what-actor-for-what-reason. There’s always the front page, but I’m sick to death of politics and economics. The novel that I’m reading is infinitely more interesting (even the cereal box is more interesting if my brain is too befuddled to remember where I left the novel I was reading). Which leads to another reading reason—escapism. I love to take a break and visit another time or place or other people whose faces aren’t glazed with sleep.

But I have another reason for reading, beauty and thought. Sometimes I set aside time to experience words and their stories—poetry and classic literature. (BTW, the Aeneid is a total Iliad knock off. Homer should have sued.)

And sometimes I read to laugh. I like Dave Berry, though I feel sorry for his mother-in-law. And I love PG Woodhouse. Someone has said of him, “It is impossible to be unhappy while reading the adventures of Jeeves and Wooster. And I've tried.” It’s true. Try it.

What about you? Why do you read?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moaning Monks

A lot of writers listen to music when they write. I never did. In fact, I find music so distracting that I couldn’t figure out why anyone would find it helpful. Not that I don’t like music. I love music. And I’ve got very eclectic tastes. I listen to everything from classical to big band to Southern rock to indie. I’ve even *gasp* begun to like some country. But still I never found writing and music to mix.

Then things changed. My writing schedule for the sequel to Screwing Up Time is pretty intense, at least for me. And some days it was hard for me to focus enough creative energy to get my word count. (I write a 1000 words a day, five days a week. A 1000 words is four pages, double-spaced.) I needed something to help me get “into the zone.”

Enter the Moaning Monks. No, that’s not really the name of the group. That’s want my kids call it. I listen to The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), which is polyphony and the words are Latin. Not exactly that kind of music that you think would inspire a modern time travel novel. But I don’t listen to the music to develop the “voice” of the novel. I use it to find my creative center. The sad music quiets me and allows the plot of a novel to flow. If you want to put it in literary parlance, it helps me find my muse.

The problem is that I live in a house with five other people who find that the Lamentations do NOT help them with mathematical proofs, chemistry equations, Calc2, and logic. Apparently, different muses respond to different music. (I have been told that Calc2 responds really well to Julian Smith, especially “Racist Coffee.”)

A compromise has been reached. My daughter has now fitted me with an iPod shuffle and ear buds.  And in the end, listening to 16th century music on 21st century equipment is a time travel journey in itself. So maybe it’s not so strange after all.

I've included the Tallis piece and Julian Smith's song. Enjoy the musical time travel.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Colors of Time

Several people have asked how I got the idea for the colors of time. Here’s how it happened: When Mark was traveling through time, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like. I couldn’t believe he’d move through time and just “be there.” Surely he’d have a sensory experience of time passing by. Then I saw time as a stream of colors flowing by. Whites. Blues, Yellows, Orange. Greens. Time was a whole palette of colors. But not just colors. Time had texture and fluidity. Time had temperature that could be felt. And I knew it wouldn’t be quiet. Time would have sound—whispers and screams. When I knew that, the Colors of Time were born.

Of course, in Screwing Up Time, Mark has only begun to understand the Colors of Time and how they work. In the sequel, he discovers a lot more. Most of it not good.