Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thinking on Thursday: Writing Christmas by Christine Locke

I suppose there are two Christmas novels for me:  A Christmas Carol and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Both capture two elements of the Christmas story well: what it is to be lost, and what it is to be filled with wonder and, thereby, saved.
If you celebrate Christmas, what are your favorite Christmas stories?  And if you celebrate another holiday, what fictional works capture it best for you?

Have you ever written Christmas or another major holiday into your own stories?  I'm including Halloween and Thanksgiving in In Time, which is in the final stages of revision (finally!).  And my planning for the last book of The Legacy Series includes Christmas and perhaps another holiday.  I'm fining the holidays packed with activities that pull me away from writing, and yet nonetheless inspiring.  Often a hymn, decorative display, or a child's trusting request give me pause as I find myself building a story around the experience.  As often as the holidays pull me away from writing, they draw me back to it again with inspiration. 

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"
Charles Dickens

Monday, November 19, 2012

Magic on Monday: Cut from In Time by Christine Locke

Here's a chapter that did not make the final cut into the new novel.  I decided it adds nothing to the action of the plot.  However, I do like the chapter.  And, it gives you a taste of the magic, mystery and menace of the new book...so, here you go!

October 21, 1988
The soft evening air rustled around rough corners at Mallace Mansion, where Carin, wrapped in an old jacket, rocked to and fro on the verandah, watching the light alter through the oak boughs.  Fall florals mingled with the aged aroma of tumbled leaves, many-colored and glowing in the evening sun.  All about the mansion, they fluttered gold, ochre, and russet, to the ground, as if the oaks were elegant ladies shedding bright evening dresses before a long winter sleep. 
Behind her, the great door to the mansion stood open.  Carin loved the autumn temperature in Eureka Springs and kept the windows and doors open as much as she wished, which was almost all the time.  The arched hall, warmed by the last of the day’s sunlit gusts, felt still but not yet cold.  The night chill crept in behind her brother, the warm autumn afternoon.  Deep within the house, in the parlor and a certain bedroom, embers stirred under andirons, flickering to life and catching at bits of newspaper, but Carin thought nothing of this.
Her brown hair swung loose behind her, brushed over the back of her rocker.  Beneath the ruffle of the gown she wore, her bare feet stretched toe to heel, toe to heel, moving her body in the chair.  Only thin thong sandals protected her feet from the gathering chill; Carin did not feel it.  Her slight but graceful form hid under the copious jacket.  When the sun’s setting glow struck Carin’s face, she closed her deep almond eyes to enjoy its warmth.  At one time, Carin would have carried a small tape player with her, sitting with headphones covering her ears.  But now she heard the tiny rustle of every fallen leaf; the soft scurrying of the squirrel she knew accompanied the swish of his tail.  The wind played music in the trees—her trees—and she no longer wanted the recording of others, the battery-powered canned crooning would never soothe her now.

The light failed in time.  A gathering mist drew strength from the evening dark and cold.  Beyond the property line of Mallace Estate, outside the containment of its gates of heavy iron, a fog gathered, dense and impenetrable at its center.  But the evening darkened, and Carin’s eyes were closed.
Trailing away somewhere below, a car’s red taillights blinked through the gloom, signaling a relieved farewell to steep roads and sudden turns with cliff-like drops characterizing her beautiful, if occasionally treacherous, hometown.  Her candle sputtered, and Carin almost opened her eyes, her lips pursed with slight annoyance.  The light went out, still but for the forlorn apology of its smoky trail.  Carin stayed in her chair, rocking, although she did feel the wet chill on her feet.  The air thickened and threatened rain.  A rumble sounded in the steep hills behind her home.
Perhaps blown by the breezes carrying the storm sounds to her through the parlor’s open windows, the heavy door creaked on its old hinges until it nearly shut.  A frustrated sigh rose and fell beneath the folds of the jacket, which Carin, in spite of herself, grasped more tightly.  Warm smells floated to her from the house—a fire in the parlor, tea brewing in the kitchen.  The grandfather clock struck the hour.  She sat through all eight chimes, rocking to their rhythm now.  The darkness fell with misleading finality; after all, it would endure just until sunrise.  Yet, no more cars escaped to wink “farewell,” and the squirrel now slept warm under his tail in the hole beneath strong oak roots.  Carin’s large eyes opened, adjusting to the dim light as she rose.  She hesitated, not wishing to relinquish her autumn evening.  The increasing cold caused her to doubt she had many of them left this year-- her first year at Mallace Mansion.
On a sudden impulse, Carin ran down the steps and out into the drive.  A few leaves swirled, increasing the chill on her feet as her thin soles crunched the white rocks, the sound crackling startled exclamations in the still air.  The squirrel raised his tail and popped out his nose to sniff in alarm.  Somewhere on the street, the fog shifted to reveal a dark figure, watching, but Carin did not see him.
Carin turned to face the front of the mansion.  She backed a few more steps, searching for something in the aspect looming before her.  Mallace Mansion rose as impressive and foreboding as on the day she first viewed it from her mother’s car, peeking through the gates and the oak trees.  But Carin tried to imagine her home now as a more welcoming place.  She tried to discover it as a visitor might.  She did not know how odd this truly was; unlike every past owner, she was not raised within the walls of Mallace Mansion.  Carin only knew she must welcome her visitors; she did not take that to mean she should never have any.  And she considered that now: visitors.   What brought on this sudden whim, this afterthought of hospitality?  Carin recalled what month it was: Carin remembered Halloween.
The end of the month approached.  Carin considered it with a thrill: trick-or-treat, goblins and ghosts, witches and brew to make sport of what scares you.  But the mansion had done with waiting now.  The door swung wide, pushing against the draft from the back gardens.  It struck the wall behind with force.  Carin’s lips twisted in an amused, if annoyed, smile.  When she spoke, her voice was soft and clear and teasing.  “Alright,” she said, and she laughed, tripping across the stones and up the steps, entering her home.
Carin hurried to the parlor where she knew a warm fire waited for her now.  She assumed no one would be on the street in front of her home; Carin thought no one observed her front door swinging unaided to latch itself and lock against the chilly gloom.  She was wrong.
Coming Soon...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Authorgraph is Awesome! Adding Widgets, by Christine Locke

Recently I tweeted a question to Authorgraph: how do I add a widget?
They emailed directions:
Go to Authorgraph and log in to your account.  Click on your picture and then on "Author Tools" and you will find the code for adding the widget--and it is already tailored to your book!  So neat.  There is even code for you Wordpress people :)
You can see how it looks right here...look to the right :)  Better yet, if you have a copy of Open Door--or even if you don't--send me a request!
Happy Writing!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing on Wednesday: What's YA? by Christine Locke


Young Adult: It’s Sooo 100 Years Ago…And I Love It!
I found myself responding to a writer friend’s complaint that she was blocked with the recommendation she read one of two books: Jane Eyre or Huckleberry Finn.  They are two go-to books from two of my go-to authors.  A few lines from either one can send me powering through a block like Felix Baumgartner smashing the sound barrier.  In fact, I’ve been keeping them both handy, of late.
In Time, the sequel to my YA gothic horror novel Open Door, will be out later this year.  That’s the novel I’m currently revising and the reason Huck sits on my nightstand.  I write Young Adult fiction; I love everything about the genre.  I love the age of the characters, on the verge of life and all its challenges and promises.   I appreciate that my audience’s age requires I avoid gratuitous sexual scenes and abundant profanity.  I never thought either added much to a story.  And the Buffy fan in me loves, loves, loves that YA readers have a hefty appetite for the paranormal.
                My first novel manuscript, completed before “Young Adult” existed as a stand-alone genre, featured new college graduates and definitely possessed paranormal flair.  Like Darius Rucker writing country (“Let Her Cry”) while he was still a-rockin’ (Hootie and the Blowfish), I guess I was YA when YA wasn’t cool.  Yet, what about my go-to novels for writer’s block cure?  What did Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain write?  They wrote about young people on the verge of life’s toughest challenges and most attractive promises.  Bronte avoided gratuitous explicit content.  Can’t say the same for Twain, but we are less likely to forget the harsh history of life for young people in this country due to his candor.  Both sprinkled paranormal content through their stories, even if both tended to do so by debunking it. (Why, who knew?  That ghost haunting me isn’t a ghost at all: it’s my fiancĂ©’s mad wife rattling about the attic…).  So if my writing has always been paranormal Young Adult, I guess my tastes have, too.  Thanks again, merry mentors, for setting me on the right path.
                But here’s what I love most about YA as a genre: Young Adult novels and Young Adult writers give reading back to young people in a way that was missing for many years.  When I was growing up, there were children’s books and there were adult books.  Then R. L. Stine and J. K. Rowling came along.  Add a dash of Stephenie Meyer and you’ve got a whole generation of young people who have taken ownership of reading again.  It’s just cool to be a part of that.
                I’d love to hear what you think is the best thing about the Young Adult genre.  Why do you love to read it?  Do you think many authors of classic novels were actually YA authors?  Thanks for reading, and thanks stopping by!

photo credit: NemesisINC/shutterstock