STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
The picture is of one of the many hidden or almost comletely hidden stairways that wind their ways up the hills of Sausalito. Note the Bay and Angel Island at the bottom of the photo.
It’s been another busy week of working on my new mystery novel about my town, Sausalito. I’ve written 100 pages now, so it’s going fast. Let me tell you how my process works. Every author had a different one, and I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to say this is how you should do it. It’s just what works for me.
I have a lot in my head before there’s anything on paper—setting, protagonist, and in this case who gets murdered and why. I write bios for main characters. When I start writing—brainstorming, I try not to judge, writing all sorts of possibilities down. I have a general outline. For me, I’ve discovered that to try to write scene by scene outlines before I write the story doesn’t really work. It’s too right-brained, and inhibits the inspirations, surprises and creativity that can flow if I use a more organic approach. I sometimes feel as though my fingers are channeling the story. I may start a scene not knowing where it’s going at all, just that it fits within the general structure of my plot. I am continually surprised and delighted! After writing a few scenes, I fill in my outline, because that is really useful as a reference later on.
Comments welcome from other writers.
Hope you’ll stay with me until this new novel comes to life.
The hills in Sausalito looking down at the Bay. Angel Island in the distance.
I’ve missed a few weeks; I’m sorry. I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve been so involved in writing my third novel—a mystery about the town I live in—Sausalito. It’s a fascinating place with a very interesting history. I picked the period of the 50s and 60s to write about because I’ve always kind of wished I lived here then. Full of artists, poets, philosophers, people living the free life on house boats jerry-rigged by left over boats and materials from the ship building era during WWII, Sausalito drew the imaginative and inventive. So I’ve been researching through books, Google and old-timers who remember those days. Today a friend gave me a tour, of the ‘gates’ or entrances to water with its now more refined houseboats, commerce and marinas. We also went up in the high hills above the town where there are many multi-million dollar homes. I took a lot of pictures, and plan to share them with you. So I’ve been doing ‘field’ work, research and writing. I have about 85 pages of the new book written. This book is so much fun to write!
Today I had the very enjoyable afternoon giving a home book launch party. Except for an opportunity to give an event at my church, there had not been a reading in Marin (my home county.) So I did that today for an intimate group of 8 women, all of whom bought at least 1 book. (Some bought Mother Lode as well.)
We started with refreshments and conversation, and when everyone was here I talked about my connection to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, read part of the first chapter, (which you can read on this site). Everyone was very engaged with the topic; we discussed it for an hour or more. Several had a Michigan connection. A very friendly group, if we didn’t all know each other to begin with, we all felt like friends by the end.
If you’re a writer, I strongly suggest offering readings/signings in your home, or your community center. There’s a lot of satisfaction in communicating with a grateful audience in a small group setting. If you’re a reader, I suggest you support your local writers, and attend their readings. They’ll be happy to have you, even if you can’t afford to buy every book you encounter.
’til next time,
The last place I read on my trip to Michigan was my traveling partner’s brother’s restaurant. Mike’s café is in the small town of Dimondale, near Lansing. I hesitated when asked, because it’s a lively place, and I could imagine dishes clattering, loud voices as orders were given to the waiter. Ah, but none of this happened. Mike has two spaces, and the second room was reserved for those who wanted to hear about the book. About twenty were in attendance. They were so quiet and attentive. They were eating or had eaten, but I never heard a spoon drop or a fork scrape a plate. After I read and talked about the book, they asked intelligent questions, and more than half of them bought a book. A very pleasant experience indeed.
For you writers out there, it was an interesting exercise in expanding the potential venues for sharing your work.
(That’s me with the microphone in my mouth, and my friend Stuart sitting in front of me with the baseball cap.) Thanks to Dianne Gnass for the lovely photo.
‘Til next time,
ps. If you’ve read DRIVEN TO RAGE and liked it, I’d appreciate a review on Amazon! If you haven’t read it, you can order it from this site. Thank you!
Memories of my trip to Michigan continue to warm my heart as friends I met in the Keweenaw Peninsula send me pictures and beautiful comments about my books.
This picture is of the exhibit Joanne Thomas created about Annie Clemenc for the centennial year of the copper strike. It is in the Copperdom Museum in Calumet. I met this engaging woman the day I was there. Like so many devoted to Annie’s valiant efforts to bring fair labor practices to the copper mining industry, Joanne has lovingly researched and created this exhibit to share with locals and tourists alike.
Not too long ago I was asked by my friend and mentor Teresa LeYung Ryan (Writing Coach and author) to define my “brand”, or “platform”. What’s a brand? It’s a statement that defines you, or what you write about, or what you do. Although speakers at my various writers’ organizations have said that it wasn’t really necessary for fiction writers to have a brand, Teresa pressed on me its importance, until I finally looked for a theme in all (or most) of my writing—both plays and novels. I realized I do have a common motif, and that is human rights. In my play, “Last Call”, it’s the right to die, (or not.) In my novel “Mother Lode” it’s the rights of children. I have not emphasized that in sell sheets, or even in my blogs, but “Mother Lode” takes place long before Child Protective Services existed, or the law was willing to intervene in domestic violence. “Mother Lode” is really about child abuse, which is still an issue in today’s society. My new book, “Driven to Rage” addresses the right to fair labor practices, including safety, length of work day and wages. All of the issues I’ve written about—past or present, are still very much alive today.
Although my readers may be held to the book with its story plot and the characters who inhabit it, I hope they will think deeply about the important social issues addressed within.
Don’t forget–you can now read Chapter One of “Driven to Rage” right here! If you’ve read the book, I’d really appreciate a review on Amazon. Thanks.
I PROMISED YOU THE FIRST CHAPTER OF DRIVEN TO RAGE ON MY BLOG, AND YOU CAN READ IT NOW! Just look above at the menu under the picture at the top, over at the right side and click on First Chapter of DRIVEN TO RAGE. Please share with anyone you think might be interested.
I’m including here a map of Michigan, so if you’re not familiar with the Midwest, the Upper Peninsula is above Wisconsin. The area I’m writing about is called the Keweenaw Peninsula which is at the very northern tip, pointing like a finger out into Lake Superior. My mother was raised there, in a little town called Ripley, next to Houghton. We used to make trips there from the Lower Peninsula to visit my grandmother.
The ancient lava flows of the Keweenaw Peninsula were produced during the Mesoproterozoic Era. This volcanic activity produced the only strata on Earth where large-scale economically recoverable 97 percent pure native copper is found. Michigan’s copper was first discovered by ancient Native Americans– ‘float’ or solid copper on the surface. They made many tools and utensils with it. In the mid-1800s, white man discovered it, and though there wasn’t much to be found on the surface, they soon learned to mine it, following the veins imbedded in conglomerate. The Cornish, who had long been mining copper in England, came to the Upper Peninsula. They were the first of many immigrants, and the most skilled of all in the mining of copper.
‘Til next time, read the first chapter of Driven to Rage, and watch the conflict unfold.