Archive for October 2009

Eyes, Heart, or Both

October 31, 2009

“There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.”  G.K. Chesterton

Eyes 3

Baby Blue Eyes

I’ve been thinking a lot about characters this week.  And real people who are characters.

I’ve been thinking also about what makes me take a second look at a person and think: I want to get to know more about you.

My mind kept circling back to two items.  Eyes and heart.

For eyes it’s not so much the color or the shape, but it’s what those eyes reflect.  Such characteristics as joy, sadness, intelligence, illness, age, youth, goodness,guile, evil.  You get the picture.

Eyes 1

What about these?

As for the heart?  Well, some of the least healthy hearts are really those that have the greatest amount of love and joy in them.  They are heart healthy in personhood if not in cardiac terms.  In know several.

On the other hand, some of the healthiest hearts I’ve known appear the most selfish.  They might have perfect hearts, but not perfect personhood.

I play around with these ideas as I flesh out my characters.  Just as an excellent cardiac surgeon and cardiologist might be able to repair and make healthy a sick heart, as a writer, I can do the same to a character whose got some personhood that can sparkle if I do my job well.

Ah, but what about those eyes?  Well, modern medicine can make tired, old eyes look better, and I guess a writer can do the same.  But somehow I think the essence of who and what a character is emerges from his or her will and intellect.  So as a writer, I can’t do much to change the essence in my characters’ eyes and what they express.  Only my characters can lead the way in that process.  Their eyes are direct links to their souls.

Eyes 2

Dark Eyes

I guess that’s true in real life also.  We can change our eye color with contacts, get rid of puffiness, bags and dark circles with a variety of methods from Preparation H to cosmetic surgery.  But that light from within is ours alone.  Only we can change it.  Or keep it aglow.

I must remember that as I work with my characters and as I react to those around me whom I love.

What’s your view on hearts and eyes?

Characters–Love ’em or Not

October 24, 2009


Trick or treat moose

Trick or treat moose

As writers we deal with them in our books.  As TV and movie watchers we bond with some on the screen, detest others, and remain neutral about others.  As members of a family we see characters within our family circles.  As friends, we see them emerge within our friendship circle.

No matter what our perspective, we all deal with characters.

As a writer, I am often asked how I find my characters.  I’ve taken classes which explain how to build characters and how you must know them well before you begin writing.  Sometimes that process works for me.  But not often.

Sure, when I start a new project I have ideas and jot down some basics, but really each character builds on his or her own energy.  Sure, I know some very important elements about my characters, their demons, their flaws, their strengths.  Or I think I know.

But often in the course of working with them for hours each day, I discover layers and issues I had no clue about before I began.   Usually, I worry about this.  Could these new discoveries, these new twists of character ruin my story, kill my character uniqueness in the view of my readers?  Will what I find so intriguing and special about my characters turn off others or worse, leave them totally neutral?

But those characters keep bugging me if I don’t be true to them.  So I listen to them as the world on the pages I write is their world, not mine.

I think I’ve been true to this concept in my just released book, Black Ribbon Affair.  Two people who’ve read it and have known ME for years, have remarked that the voices they heard, the world they read about in Black Ribbon wasn’t me or the world they know I inhabit.  They entered the worlds of Caitlin, Mike, Rachel and others.

I believe this is high praise.  Not for me, but for my characters.  All I did was listen to them.

In the project I’m working on now, I have a character I really thought I’d be killing off in some way.  Just because he’s so selfish and self-destructive.  Instead, I find he’s insisting on staying alive and putting himself into greater trouble.  All that ripples out to his family.  Maybe at some point, he’ll allow me to sideline him—somehow.  But for now, he’s still in my chapters.  Always hurting himself far more than others.

Trickerster Moose

Tricker Moose

I guess I won’t know him completely until I get to the end of the story.

What about you?  Do characters in your lives, your stories, or family or friends rule you?  Do you continue to find new layers to them as you continue your interactions?

A Visit at the “White House”

October 18, 2009

So what was it?

An afternoon tea in the White House, “the people’s house,” as Mary Todd Lincoln referred to it.  She was the tea’s hostess.  Her feature guest, Mrs. Cordelia Perrine Harvey was the widow of the Governor Louis Powell Harvey, Wisconsin’s recently deceased governor.

Okay, no dream here. Or time travel.  Just a very informative and entertaining afternoon at Kenosha WI’s new Civil War Museum.

Mary Todd Lincoln hold a tea

Mary Todd Lincoln hold a tea

Mrs. Lincoln was most gracious.  She even granted me permission to snap a few photos of her after she had finished her presentation.  She looked charming in a light blue flower patterned frock with a short jacket of a solid blue.  She marveled at the camera which didn’t require long minutes of posing absolutely frozen until the shot was taken.  She showed more amazement at the immediacy of seeing the results and approved my photos.

Mrs. Lincoln talked a bit about her mission to redo the White House which in her words was nothing more than a “stinking pig sty” when her family arrived.  She so enjoyed that task though it has brought her no amount of distressing newspaper coverage and a marital discussion about finances with “Mr. Lincoln.”

She mentioned her enjoyment of the only house in Springfield, IL that she and Mr. Lincoln owned.  How Mr. Lincoln complimented her on her purchase of “gee-gaws and doo-dads” for the Springfield home as well as the Executive Mansion.  She informed Mr. Lincoln and us she never purchased “gee-gaws or doo-dads.”

A very personable and at times very humorous in a very ladylike manner provided tiny details of her life with such a man as her husband.  His worry about her weight, his love letters when he was away, how they handled the death of their son.  She left us for a time as her two surviving sons were ill with a slight fever and she wished to check on them.  While Mrs. Lincoln was gone, the staff served us our tea, sandwiches, salads, and a most delightful assortment of desserts.

When the First Lady returned, she indicated the boys were doing better.  She provided a bit more background about Mrs. Harvey to introduce the widow’s subject of discussion.

A study in contrast to Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harvey wore stiff black heavy silk and a small black hat.  Her only touches of color were a white lace handkerchief attached to her belt, a bit of white blouse, and a tiny white feather in her hat.  Even more petite than Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harvey bustled efficiently and spoke clearly but more quicker.  A study of northern woman vs a daughter of the south.

Mrs. Cordelia Harvey, Wisconsin's Angel

Mrs. Cordelia Harvey, Wisconsin's Angel

Known as the “Wisconsin Angel” for her service to wounded and ill Union soldiers, Mrs. Harvey was in Washington to plead with Mr. Lincoln, Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton.  After Mrs. Harvey’s death the new Wisconsin governor appointed her to the mission of seeing to the needs of Wisconsin soldiers serving in the western zones.  Her husband had died an accidental death while visiting infirmaries housing Wisconsin soldiers.  His last letter to her mentioned the despair of the men who were receiving neither care, food, or the concern of loved ones while they lay on dirty cots and died of disease.

Armed with her husband’s last words and a need to serve, Mrs. Harvey entered the camps with more authority than just being a worker.  She had a title and the Wisconsin governor’s backing.  What she found appalled her.  She quickly realized while the injuries and deaths from bloody battles along the Mississippi River states (and she went as far south as Vicksburg) were high, higher still were preventable deaths due to disease, unsanitary conditions, fevers, and diarrhea.  No one talked to these men who longed for home.

She believed moving these people out of the hospitals and sending them north to “clean, disease-free northern air” would hasten their recovery.  So would better supplies of food and clean supplies which were almost non-existent in the camps.

That’s why she beseeched President Lincoln, over the period of several days.  Her story showed her determination in meeting with him and his conflict with justice, politics, and dwindling resources.  Her meetings were much the same with the Secretary of War, but her determination impressed President Lincoln.  She won her request and recovering soldiers were moved north to hospitals near families and supplies.

Two strong and determined women, but different in their approaches.  A genteel setting.  A most interesting afternoon.  You can learn more about either woman with the links I provided.

What a Week

October 10, 2009

Black Ribbon in Hand

Black Ribbon in Hand

Last week I posted a short excerpt from Black Ribbon Affair.  This week I have more news.

First, I received my author copies I mentioned last week in the post, and I actually held my book in my hand for the very first time.  What a thrill.  That three word sentence sounds so tame considering the rush of emotions flying through me, hovering around my head and buzzing in my ears.  It was like birthing my first born son, my wedding day and finishing grad school all rolled into one. 🙂

I haven’t been able to settle down since then.  And this is SO not like me…

The next event was discovering that the buy sites were active on, The Wild Rose, and Barnes and  My book, my baby was now OUT THERE.

What if no one liked it, much less loved it as much as I do or my husband does?  Yeah, it’s his favorite; then its sequel which he takes ownership for the idea that started it.

So I’ve been on a real roller coaster this week.  Up and down like the proverbial yo-yo. But loving the angst and joy all bundled together.

Then yesterday, I got an email from a friend who’d ordered the book and now had it in her hands.  Her email thrilled me as she indicated how excited she was.  Yesterday evening, my niece called—screaming.  I thought something was wrong.

NOT!  She’d come home from the hospital to find the book she ordered in her mailbox.  She was more excited than I was, but she inspired me once again.  After she screamed some more, she indicated she was so glad she wasn’t on call this weekend because she intended to read it. ALL WEEKEND.  She even mentioned something about not feeling bad that her boyfriend wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be coming to see her this weekend.  While I hope he doesn’t have the bug that’s floating around, I’m chuckling that she will be with MY book this weekend.  I’m so terrible. 🙂

Anyway, this past week has been heady and emotional.  However, I better get down to business and work on my next book.  Otherwise, when Lady Luck taps me on the shoulder again, I won’t be ready.

Have a great week, everyone.

Release Date Is Looming

October 3, 2009

Something really exciting happened this week.

The Leaves are Changing and Falling

The Leaves are Changing and Falling

I received an email from my publisher that I could pre-order my book, Black Ribbon Affair, as of that date.  I immediately did so as I have my first book signing scheduled in November. Of course, this email notice will pale in significance once I actually get my books in the mail and hold one in my hands.

Since October 23 is fast approaching, I’m including an excerpt today to whet your appetites.  I hope you enjoy this tidbit.

From my bookmark:

A smart woman.  A sensitive man.  A second chance at love. But danger stalks.  Death looms over her.  But their love triumphs all.

Excerpt:  Black Ribbon Affair:

The door latch clicked. She looked up and confronted…liquid smoke, fringed with thick dark lashes. Her breath caught; her heart skittered to her toenails. Killer eyes. They always had been. Recovering quickly, she extended her slender hand. Those lapsed years had honed him into a man worthy of an appreciative look.

“Hello, Cait…” He stared right back and grinned, a heart-breaking one like she remembered. But this was not the place, or time, to walk those old paths.

“Mike…it’s been a long time.” Was that her voice, all husky, almost sultry, and foreign?

He moved toward her as though his knees bothered him. She inched closer to him, fighting his pull but losing the battle. They shook hands, but he didn’t release hers.

She didn’t object. His hand warmed hers, but it always had.

“You two know each other?” Keith asked.

“Years ago, in college,” Caitlin answered. “I wondered when I saw your memo, but thought it was too much of a coincidence. There must be several Michael Sean Raffertys in the world.”

“Cait. I…never thought we’d meet again…especially like this.” Mike still hadn’t released her hand. Was he as unwilling to break the connection as she was?

Keith eyed them, an eagle measuring his territory. “Is this going to be a problem?” His words shattered the moment.

“Not for me,” she answered with professionalism she didn’t feel. She slid into the leather chair nearest her coffee mug. She swallowed a gulp, hoping to dislodge the tightness in her throat. Mike appeared…wonderful. Calm. Mature.

And totally off limits.

“Nor me.” Mike sat in the remaining chair.

“There’s another mug, Mike, if you want coffee.” Keith pointed to the carafe and cup but made no motion to pour.  “We’ve a lot of ground to cover this morning.”