Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I've been tagged by the always interesting YA Urban Fantasy writer, Ripley Patton, in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Ripley is the author of the popular PSS Chronicles series pictured below. If you haven't read these books, get thee to a bookstore or online. Really, you won't be disappointed. Also, check out her answers to the writing process question. I think we have some things in common.

So, here are my answers in the Writing Process Blog Tour.

What are you working on now?

I just finished writing Heart Strings, the third book in my Sweetwater Canyon series.  I'm doing another editing pass, then it's off to the final editor before going to formatting and release this Fall.  Once that goes off to the editor, I'll get back to work on Chameleon: The Summoning. It is the third book in my YA Fantasy series. I have a lot of readers begging me for this, so I'm working hard to also get it out this fall.

In addition to getting these two novels out over the next three months, I also have several short stories coming out soon as well in anthologies and magazines. Two are SF short stories and one is a bridge story between Heart Strings and Two Voices, the final book in my Sweetwater Canyon series.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My Sweetwater Canyon series is marketed as both romance and women's fiction. This is because I focus on the woman's journey to discovering who she is and how to be strong and assertive in spite of wounds in her past. However, the books also have a romance that is central to that discovery process.

My YA Fantasy series, The Forest People, leans on a combination of SF ideas and fantasy ideas based on myth and religion. The SF concepts relate to inter-dimensional travel through a unique transportation system. The fantasy world is based on the beliefs held across many indigenous cultures around the world.  The fantasy world in this series also supports the interconnectedness of all things from humans to plants and to the larger universe which is a commonality among most cultures. It is a large and complex world and, like our own, relies on both science and myth. The reader discovers the fantasy world through the eyes of a sixteen year old human chameleon and the challenges she faces to determine who she is, how and where to fit in, and what is the right path for her to take in life.

Why do you write what you do?

All of my work, no matter the genre, tends to focus on how to determine where we fit in life. I think this is a question that we ask ourselves over and over again at different stages of our life. Depending on what has happened to an individual, the answer will likely change as he or she learns and grows. I know that the directions I set for myself at age sixteen are different than they were at 25 and at 40 and at 60. Certainly, there is a foundation of belief that has not changed for me, but the specifics and my approach has often changed.

For me, it is endlessly fascinating and exciting to hear and learn the myriad of answers to the questions of "Who am I?" "How do I fit in the universe?" and "What is the right path for me?" Answering these questions through different characters and circumstances and worlds provides me with an unending source of ideas. As I learn about my characters, the places they live, and the decisions they make, it also provides insight to me (and I hope to others) about how to look at the world from a different perspective than the one that first comes to mind. Changing perspective often yields new, creative, problem-solving.

How does your writing process work?

As you have probably guessed from my answer to the question above, my process is very much one of letting my unconscious brain drive the story. I believe that our unconscious brain is where seemingly disparate things are mixed together in one big soup and as they bump into each other, connections are made that are not at all obvious to our conscious brain. The trick is then forcing my conscious brain to interpret it and put it into words, emotions, characters, and action that make sense to me and to my readers.

My process usually begins with a question and a potential answer. Then I go in search of a character who needs to find the answer to my question in order to live a fulfilling life. For example, my question for the Sweetwater Canyon series was "How does a woman's sexual experience (good, bad, or not at all) impact her ability to create long-lasting relationships?" My series explores this through four different women, and a teenager. Each having a different kind of experience in her past. In my YA series, I asked the question, "What would happen if a teenage girl was able to turn into anyone she saw?" For some teenagers this might seem like heaven, but for my teenager she has no control over when and how it happens and, needless to say, it is not fun. One of my SF story questions was "What happens if anyone can live 800 years or more by simply getting an immunization?"

In all of these examples, I search for a character who needs to know the answer even more than I do. It takes me about 50-75 pages of writing to allow the character I choose to search and discover what is most important about that question and why it matters to him or her. That process fleshes out the character's backstory, the world, and what the end goal needs to be. I call this "writing into the mist."  I enter a thick fog with my character and together we find our way at least to a patch where we can begin to see where we are and where we need to go. Others might call this "pantsing" which is writing by the seat of your pants, or writing without a plan.

Once I get through those first 50-75 pages, I then know where my story is going and have a fairly good idea of where it will end.  At that point, I go back and rework the first 50+ pages to match that more clear vision. This usually involves throwing out at least half of it. :)  I then sit down each day and write as much as I can toward the end.  I write linearly because I am on as much of a road of discovery as my character(s). Most of the time this works well and I get to the end of the book with a solid story that surprises me many times along the way.

Every once in a while I get stuck or simply lose my way in the story. This usually means that my conscious mind was not doing its job very well in analyzing and translating the story to me. The connections that my subconscious is making are not being brought to my conscious brain. When that happens, I go back and outline what has happened so far in order for me to see the structure, the direction, the characters' needs and desires more clearly. That usually removes the jam and I can start writing forward again.

At the end of the first draft, I put it aside for at least two weeks and let it settle in my conscious. Then I go back and edit the entire thing. After that self-edit process, I send it off to beta readers and my editor simultaneously. While they have it, I start the process of getting information about it out (cover reveals, book blurbs, blog posts). When I get back all the feedback, I make changes as necessary and send it to proofreading. (Someone has to catch all the new errors I've introduced in the editing process). Finally, the book goes into the final publishing process to be released into the world.

Though I've now written more than a dozen books, I'm still amazed every time I finish a book. I'm amazed at how the mind works to pull details from seemingly disparate parts and make a story that lives and breathes and works together. In many ways it is magic to me. I breathe it in and savor that magical and creative process. It renews me and prepares me to write the next book. I am the luckiest woman in the world.

I'm supposed to pass this on to two more author. Unfortunately, after checking with a dozen people I knew (all with way too busy schedules) I only found one. But she is a GREAT one, so I think she deserves double credit. Her name is Paty Jager.

Next Week check out Paty Jager. Paty has published over 25 titles, ranging from historical romance to romantic suspense and historical paranormals. She is now moving into mysteries. I know her post will be interesting and likely quite different from mine.  I'll be posting next week too to remind you to go to her blog.  In the meantime, you might want to check out her Spirit Trilogy which is fantastic and at a great price.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Audio and Video Podcasts

Recently, Windtree Press has undertaken the task of interviewing each of its authors. I am fortunate to be the first one in the queue.  The lovely Jane Killick is doing all the interviews, and I can tell you that she is truly a professional (must be all that BBC news reading).  In addition, she has a way of making me sound better than I imagined.

Both podcasts and videos are being presented. One each month.

To catch my podcast subscribe to the Windtree Press feed at

Embedded here is the video complement to the podcast.  I absolutely love it.  It is also available on the Windtree Press YouTube channel and Vimeo Channel.

Maggie-Lynch-2014 from Windtree Press on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Keeps You Going?

A good friend of mine, who is serving in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, sent me an interesting question asked by one of her students. It was "What keeps you going?" I can't begin to imagine awaking in a grass hut to face another day of hauling water, wondering if you will get a bath, and if you have to travel a few miles knowing it will take all day. She is still one of my heroes--someone who chose to join the Peace Corps instead of enjoying a potential retirement of leisure.

I'm not sure what the context was for her student's question, but it made me reflect on it particularly in light of the recent suicide of Robin Williams--a celebrity who is only two years older than me and has been a part of my adult life through movies and TV and many hours of laughter and reflection. This also followed on the heels of a suicide by someone in my area just a week ago. A young mother with small children who, by outside appearances, seemed to have a wonderful happy life.

In both cases, depression played the final role. I have never suffered from clinical depression, though I have friends who do. It is a disease that it is impossible to understand if you don't have it. It is a disease that, untreated, drives people to such despair that the pain overwhelms the desire to live. It is a disease that never goes away and requires medication and monitoring forever. I pray that if you, or anyone you know, suffers from this disease that you check on them regularly and help them to continue in treatment.

I say this because what keeps me going is choice. Because I am blessed not to suffer from clinical depression, I always believe I have a choice. Below is what I sent to my friend.

What keeps me going?

It is a good question and one that I think anyone who struggles in life (and don’t we all?) has to ask and answer all the time.

For me it is three things:
  1. I want to make a difference in the world. Though I will never be a celebrity or a politician or even a great community organizer, I believe that simple acts of kindness and listening make a difference. For every person who says “Thanks for being there.” or “Thanks for sharing that opinion.” I believe I have helped in some small way. I believe that all those small helps add up. We never know when some small act of kindness is the one that gives someone else courage to keep going, or gives someone else a resource to add to their bag of resources for when they are in need. Or gives someone else that little nudge of motivation to do something amazing—it is my nudge among hundreds or thousands of other people’s nudges that added together make a difference.
  2. I want to leave something tangible for others after I’m dead. I suppose that is partly why I write and create music and lyrics and poetry. Part of it is to give voice to those thoughts I don’t express aloud because it is too big and complex and no one would listen to me ramble on for years. :) But the other part is that in expressing those thoughts perhaps one person will also identify with them and say, “Yes. This is me too. I’m not alone.”  I know that is how I feel when I read a good book, hear a good song, or a poem captures a moment in time. Perhaps it is ego or hubris to think that my creations can help someone after I’m gone. But it is important for me to believe that. If it was solely for me, I doubt I could continue writing or creating on those days that it is difficult or I get no feedback from others.
  3. To prove I can. Every day that I get up and move my body and wake my mind and interact with others, even when I don’t feel like it, I prove that I am alive and still kicking. This is something that as a young person I would never have thought mattered, because I never questioned my ability to awake and go and do. But as an older person with aches and pains and days of cynicism, I value each morning that I wake and can still move and have the luxury of being cynical. And when I get past that first hour of pain and getting my legs to work, my feet to  walk, my back to uncurl from the fetal position, it is a moment of triumph. A moment when I think, “Yes! I can still go out and do".  I can still hope that I’ll be able to hike that trail, see that mountain, ride that boat, visit that person.

In the end, what keeps me going is Choice. Every day I make a conscious decision to get up and face the day no matter what comes. I choose to put aside aches and pains, cynicism, and all the bad I know about the world and move forward anyway. I choose to try to do something that will help someone else. Something that will make a difference. So far, I am able to make that choice. One day, I won't have that choice. My body will tell me it is too tired and I will not awake. Until then, it’s me making the choice, taking control, and simply getting out of bed.

How about you? What keeps you going?