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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - POV

In the interest of everyone doing what works best for her, let's talk about point of view. And then let's talk about why it's not as important as some people think. 

Okay, so, we know that point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. The narrator perspective. There are three types of narrator (more or less, let's keep things simple):

Omniscient - this is an outside narrator, one who is not participating in the story. The word means "all-knowing," and an omniscient narrator is a source-less voice that relays all the events of the story, showing intimate knowledge of all the characters. This POV was much more popular a long time ago, and is not en vogue now.

First Person - I, my, me, we.

Third Person - He, she, they.

Then you've got your tenses.

Present - The snow falls, and I dance through it.

Past - The snow fell, and I danced through it.

I write in third person limited past tense, using multiple narrators, and scene breaks to shift between them. In the nineties, it was common to come across third person narratives in which the narrator shifted between paragraphs, the perspective hopping from head to head to head. I always figured it out, but it's more confusing, I think. So I like to end a POV with a clear scene break before I go on to the next. Only one character narrates each scene that way. Much more tidy. This also enables the writer to keep characters and readers in the dark for suspense reasons - if you don't know what the villain is up to, he can surprise both the character and you later.

Apologies - that's about the most rudimentary breakdown possible. But now we're getting to the part that I think is more interesting. That is, my point that POV is essentially unimportant. Because POV is a stylistic choice, and what's most important is that the story be told in a way that best conveys the author's intentions. A way that stirs the most emotion in the reader, and endears the characters to them most effectively. An author should always stay within the proper POV rules once choosing one, but it's the other aspects of his or her prose that snare readers and sell the story.

There's an even mix between first person and third person narrative style in the work of my favorite authors. Lestat tells his own first person stories - how could he not? He's the Brat Prince! He could never settle for being spoken about when he could do the speaking himself. Whereas in the Song of Ice and Fire novels, all the prose is in third person perspective. Is either story less intense in this instance? No.

I've been told that first person POV helps readers feel more like they're inside the world of the story, really living the action. I don't think that's true. I can be thoroughly engrossed in a third person story. What accomplishes this feat is an author's attention to detail, their development of a sensory experience within the text.

I'm going to write out the same scenario, in several different ways.

First Person Present Tense:

I sit astride my horse, waiting for my number to be called. I'm nervous, and so is the horse.

First Person Past Tense:

I sat astride my horse, waiting for my number to be called. I was nervous, and so was the horse.

Third Person Past Tense:

She sat astride her horse, waiting for her number to be called. She was nervous, and so was the horse.

Third Person Past Tense With More Detail:

She laced her fingers through Bedlam's mane, and felt the rippling of his skin beneath her knuckles. He twitched his withers, like he was shaking off a fly. "Easy," she murmured, and with the tip of her tongue tasted the film of powdery dirt that had settled on her lips in the warm-up ring. Her peach lipstick was coated. Just like the tops of her boots, her wool coat sleeves, the creases in the leather of her white gloves, pristine no more. She took a shaky breath, and the horse echoed it, massive ribcage swelling between her legs. "Easy," she repeated, as the sweat trickled down between her shoulder blades.


More than anything, realism, attention to detail, and physical manifestation of emotion sell a story. When we talk about POV, we should talk about finding consistency within it - no jumping between first and third on the same page, no swapping of tenses. My point isn't that POV is unimportant in general - it is! Consistency is key! - but that POV isn't important when it comes to creating lovable, believable characters. Go forth and write in whichever POV makes you most comfortable, and your comfort will shine through in the way you deftly handle the text.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Southern Snow

I have spring fever. I have it bad. Yes, I'm glad I don't live in Boston, and yes, I'm glad I'm not buried under feet of snow, that this morning's snowfall is just a crunch underfoot, and the horses have already slid through most of it down at the barn; its just deep red skids in the clay, now.

But I don't like winter. I always say I like it aesthetically - winter images do wonders for creativity - but I don't like living in it. Summer is holy down South, and snow just these rare miracles that send children dancing in circles down the street, heads flung back, tongues held out to catch the falling flakes. It melts the moment it hits the asphalt, and then freezes again, invisible ice sheets that can't be plowed or scraped or bit into with snow chains. It shuts the world down, when it snows in the South.

I'm not ashamed of that. The South wasn't built for snow. It's for layered-up humidity, and jeans with real holes in the knees; red clay powder settling against your lips on those dry horse show days; that old dying charm, the shriveling soul that still cares about architecture, and literature, and creeping wisteria and flower-decked melancholy reminiscent of the British elite that once settled this rich elbow of the country.

If I do nothing else as a writer - and most days it feels like that - I want to write the South properly. The South that sometimes feels as if its dying beneath the wheels of bad country music and self-imposed embarrassment.

I'll take this last rally of winter, and use it to my advantage. I'm yearning to get this book finished, because once the flowers start to pop, and the air currents begin to warm, I need to be outside again. I need to get tanlines and get back in the saddle, and allow myself a brief moment to feel human again, and less like a pair of hands glued to a keyboard. Writing is my port, my passion, and an outlet for the guilt I often feel - I don't have much of anything to offer to much of anyone, but I can write, and write I will. But it will be nice, for a little while, to enjoy the melting of snowflakes into springtime, once Angels is finished. Not long now...Just a little more to go...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Music Monday - 2/23

Story inspiration songs today. It's been my hope, as I share tidbits and teasers, that I'm not presenting Angels as a religious story, because it certainly is not. But thanks to the nature of it, I do love playing up the imagery of wings, of flying, of unearthly grace. There's something ethereal and special for me in this book, and so the music becomes reflective of that. There are section of the narrative that feel bluegrass and melancholy in my head, so that's where I went with today's picks.

"I'll Fly Away" - Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch

"Dust to Dust" - The Civil Wars

"If I Die Young" - The Band Perry

"Blackbird" - Sarah Darling

"Wayfaring Stranger" - Jack White

Friday, February 20, 2015

Price of Angels - Chapter Two

If the teasers are making it harder to wait for March 25, then reading this may not be the best of ideas. :) Otherwise, please do enjoy Chapter Two of Angels. Trigger warnings for violence. Typo warning because this is raw text. Thank you, dear readers! I hope you like it.

Chapter One if here if you missed it.


Price of Angels
Copyright © 2015 by Lauren Gilley


Matches. Michael kept innumerable packets of the things in his gun safe at home, all lined up in rows in a shoebox. Matches from restaurants and liquor stores, saved up over the years. Matches were the trick to this whole operation. He collected them like rare stamps. Because without them, he’d just be putting a body in a hole, and that was too crude and negligent to serve his purpose.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Romantic

There's only so much you can know about a character until you get inside his head. Up till then point, you're just reading the reactions of others, seeing him from the outside. But when you slip into his skin, you see him for who he really is. It's what makes writing a new book like unearthing treasure.

Listen to me. I'm absolutely writing in the wrong genre.

Writing Michael has been a surprise from Day One, primarily because I've realized that he's such a romantic character. Not romantic in a superficial way. No worries - there's no heart-shaped boxes and red roses and candlelit dinners. He's romantic in an elemental, emotional way. I do love Byronic heroes, after all. Michael has a touch of Heathcliff in him - he feels things deeply, in a way that doesn't make logical sense to him. Red rage and cold hatred and deep, moving sentiment like waves rolling on the inside. He's not charming and he's not sweet; he's also not the trash-talking badboy, or that tattooed renegade; he's old school romantic.

I didn't expect this from him at he beginning, and in so many ways, I'm disappointed, because he doesn't fit into this genre like I wanted him to. I guess I'm not surprised - things going the way they're supposed to would be too simple. And I guess I can't do simple. My Achilles heel.

So I suppose this is a warning...? So you're prepared going into Angels. This isn't an MC novel. It's a character novel that happens to center around members of an MC. You were warned...

Price of Angels - March 25, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - Your Indelible Stamp

From Crimson Peak (October 2015)
Pardon me while I fangirl for a moment -

About a year ago, word started going around on geek internet circles that Guillermo del Toro was beginning work on a new horror film that was a Gothic hearkening back to old fashioned ghost stories. Awesome. I was on board immediately; him directing a Gothic period horror film? Sign me up. And then they announced the cast; and then the behind the scenes photos started making the rounds on the web. Suffice to say I've been waiting a year for a glimpse of the movie, and the trailer came out this week.

I am so excited.

Crimson Peak doesn't hit theaters until this October, but the trailer makes one thing abundantly clear: this is a del Toro film, no doubt about it. The blend of rich dark and vivid color, the opulence, that slight fantasy bend to everything that makes it seem not quite of our world. That bit of steampunk; and  - the fingers that curl over her shoulder at the end. Oh my God.

I don't know anything about the movie, but all I really need to know is who's starring in it, and who's directing it. I love del Toro's movies because they're his movies, and not someone's facsimile of trend. He puts his own indelible stamp on all his films; he puts into them a creative energy that is all his own, and the style is something that stands out.

All creatives strive for this, don't we? Filmmakers, artists, actors, musicians, writers...we want to leave our indelible stamps on our passion projects. We want to tap into those deep recesses of our creative souls and produce art that is ours and ours alone. We don't want to do what everyone else is doing, just because it's the "it" thing to do.

Staying on trend will get you the quick attention. It will guarantee you a certain audience. But that stamp...that's what keeps viewers like me waiting over a year for one trailer. The stamp is lasting, it's yours, and it can't be duplicated. When it comes to creating, don't ask yourself, How can I be popular? Instead ask, What is weirdly special about what I can create? And the right audience, they'll find you. Maybe not right away, but they will come, and they'll understand what you're doing, and that's a glorious thing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Music Monday 2/16

I made a mistake this weekend. I had a little bit of down time for reading and I just picked up a paperback that was recommended to me, thinking to unwind. Everything about the book - the writing style, the character portrayals, the extreme lack of detail - conspired to make me feel sluggish, uncreative, and not at all like an author is supposed to feel. I didn't realize what was happening at first, and then, ahhh! This book's so crappy it's making me not want to write!

Quickly, I tossed it aside, and now I'm getting back on track. So today's music picks are all about getting in the right writing mindset.

"In For The Kill" - La Roux. There are two remixes of this song that I love and which make me want to write action sequences: one by Skrillex, another, by Skream, is more subtle and haunting.

"Leave My Body" - Florence + The Machine

"Relax My Beloved" - Alex Clare

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lines 2/13


Price of Angels
Copyright © 2015 by Lauren Gilley
“No, baby, you don’t understand.”

            “No, baby, you don’t understand,” Mercy countered. He stood in the threshold of the kitchen, arms folded, smiling like a goofus as he watched her, clearly not understanding the severity of the situation.

            “You know I think you’re adorable,” Ava said, sighing, as she turned to him.

            He shrugged. “Naturally.”

            “But you are so not right now.”

            He feigned affronted.

            “These cookies,” she continued, “are a reflection of me as a human being. If they’re all misshapen, it means I’m a sloppy mess of a person.”

            “That’s stupid.”

            “That’s my grandmother for you.”

            “Tell her to go to hell,” he suggested.

            “I can’t do that; it’s Christmas.”

            “Okay, so let me do it.”

            “Mercy!” She regretting snapping immediately, closing her eyes and swallowing down her useless, hormonal aggression. “I’m sorry,” she said, glancing at him again. “It’s just that...I haven’t visited with her since I got back home.”

            He leaned back against the doorframe. “Since August? You moved back home and haven’t seen her at all?”

            “No, and I should have, and she won’t let me forget that. Add to that all that’s changed…” She gestured between them.

            “Please tell me she at least knows we got married.”

            She winced. “I didn’t exactly tell her…”

            “Ah, shit, Ava.”

            “But I’m sure Mom told her.”

            “How sure?”

            “Pretty sure.”

            “This isn’t going to go well for me, is it?” he asked with a wry, sideways smile.

            “I’m afraid not.”

            He shrugged again, as if to say oh well. “It won’t be the best thing that ever happened, but it won’t be the worst either. Is there something in particular you want me to wear?”

            Ava felt the faint pressure of a smile at her lips, and was glad for the brief humor. “Don’t take this the wrong way….but you don’t exactly have a diverse wardrobe.”

            He gave her a mock-offended face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

            “I can’t ask you to put on your nice sweater, because you don’t have any nice sweaters. You don’t have any sweaters, actually.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Writer's Toolbox

When you're a writer, there are some standard tools of the trade. A computer, a comfy spot to sit, heaps of notebooks, and large quantities of caffeine. Throw in some variables, but those are all pretty much givens when it comes to writing.

But being a writer is only one part physical. You need other tools, too; the intangible, mental and emotional tools that help you craft the perfect multi-dimensional story. These are artistic tools; I don't believe in step-by-step guides or scientific approaches to fiction writing. There is no set process that guarantees a certain quality of work. Rather, these tools are ways of thinking and processing that will make you a more sensitive, artistic writer, so that you can write organic, realistic stories.

Ready? Let's open up the toolbox:

- Empathy. It's important to be able to put yourself in your character's shoes, because unless you're writing a memoir, you aren't writing about yourself, but a collection of made-up people you hope your audience will see as real and knowable. Since the goal is for each character to be unique, you'll have to identify with each unique personality and viewpoint. The question you ask yourself is not "what would I do in this situation?" But "what would Ava do in this situation?" "How would this character react to that event?" You want each character to be relatable; you want your characters to feel like humans, with their own codes, opinions, and perspectives, rather than ciphers.

- Attention to Detail. No matter your writing style, the goal is to create an immersive reading experience for your readers. You want them to sink down into the world of the story and feel as if it's a real place and time; a world where they can learn the climates and anticipate the seasons (real or metaphorical). This world includes both the setting and the culture. Attention to detail is a mindset. To strengthen your perception of the world around you is to portray it more realistically with words. You can work on this by carrying a notebook around with you. Sit quietly and observe the goings on in a public place. Write down what you see, hear, feel. Eavesdrop on strangers' conversations. Absorb the colors and textures around you, and pretty soon, you'll be much more aware wherever you are, and your writing will reflect it.

- Honesty. I always stress the importance of imperfection. The world is a messy place; pretending it isn't can turn the most normal of writing subjects into fantasy. Acknowledge the dirt, the awkward moments, the flat tires, the bad hair days, the bad habits and regrettable decisions. This makes characters feel human.

Any topic can become the focus of a fascinating, entertaining novel full of loveable characters. It's the artistry and emotion that make the story memorable and special. Happy writing!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lines 2/11

I promised to post this yesterday, but time got away from me last night. My computer is back! Yay! Please enjoy this little snippet from Chapter Two of Angels. Raw text, as usual, so apologies for typos.

Price of Angels
Copyright © 2015 by Lauren Gilley

I want to understand, Holly wrote, because she couldn’t settle down and relax. I didn’t know a man had it in him to refuse. Deny himself? Or else he doesn’t like me. Yes, that has to be it. He doesn’t like me. Then I won’t have another shot with him. No means no. What will I do? He was my best hope…

            The telephone on the end table rang beside her, startling her, sending her leaping from her spot on the couch.

            “Damn,” she murmured, pressing a hand to her stuttering heart. The journal had flown out of her hands and landed with a smack on the boards. She bent to retrieve it, closing it up tight and holding it to her chest, before she answered the old curly-corded landline.


            “Holly, dear,” Mrs. Chalmers’ voice filled her ear. “Are you alright? You sound out of breath.”

            “Fine, ma’am.” She took a deep breath and forced herself to smile, knowing the expression would work its way into her voice. “What can I do for you?”

            “Nothing,” the kindly old widow assured. “But someone rang the doorbell in front.”

            Holly hadn’t heard it, above the rumble of her TV. She felt something like panic twirl through her. She couldn’t afford to be so lax. Couldn’t miss a single sound, couldn’t let herself be surprised.

            “There’s a young man down here,” Mrs. Chalmers continued, “who’s here to see you.”

            “Oh,” Holly said, and all the breath left her, the panic heightening, closing around her windpipe with a relentless squeeze. So this was it, then. They’d found her, finally. It had taken longer than she’d expected, but it had to be them. She had no friends; she didn’t go on dates. There were only three possibilities as to who might have come ringing doorbells in the dead of night looking for her…

            “He said to tell you,” Mrs. Chalmers said, “that his name is Michael, and that he wants to ‘pick up where you left off.’ ”

            Holly released a deep breath, shoulders slumping, the terror turning loose in a rush that left her light-headed. “It’s Michael?”

            “That’s what he says, dear. Very stern-looking fellow.” Mrs. Chalmers lowered her voice to a whisper. “Unpleasant, really. But I told him I’d ring you and I told him he could wait in the parlor for you to come down.”

            Her relief was so great, she could have done cartwheels across her loft. Instead, she said, in a too-bright voice, “I’ll be right down to see him, Mrs. Chalmers, thank you so much.” As an afterthought: “I hope the doorbell didn’t wake you.”

            “Oh no.” The old woman made a dismissive sound. “I couldn’t sleep. I was doing my night baking again.”

            Holly thanked her once more, then hung up.

            And went straight to the bathroom mirror.

            She hadn’t showered yet, so her careful makeup was still intact. Her hair she’d tied up, though, and she’d changed into baggy gray sweatpants and a shapeless black long-sleeved shirt. It would have to do. She didn’t want to keep him waiting, especially if he wanted to “pick things up.” She didn’t know a man to care what covered her body. She pulled the elastic from her hair, shook it out so it fell in dark waves down her back, and stepped into her slippers before she disengaged all the locks and let herself out.

            She loved her slippers. About three bucks at Target, they were lined with fluffy fake Sherpa, and looked almost like real leather, if you squinted. They were soft. Comfy. She’d never owned a pair of slippers before, and she hadn’t been able to resist them, an impulse purchase when she was shopping for milk and detergent.

            Light, silent steps down both staircases, and her heart was hammering by the time she swung around the post at the foot on the main floor. The house was mostly quiet and dark around her, save Eric’s record-cutting noise and Mrs. Chalmers’ soft business in her back rooms. The foyer was illuminated by a series of table lamps, set on antique pieces flanking the walls. By their light, she had a view into the parlor, the front-most room of the house, one that had been kept as a public space where residents could meet with guests.

            It was a dainty, feminine room. Long, tufted white sofa against the far wall, bracketed by ornate rosewood tables, lamps with belled, beaded shades. A sequence of old portraits marched along the wall above; Mrs. Chalmers had no idea who any of the subjects were, just dead people, she’d said. In the bay window, two French-style chairs of pale blue velvet framed another rosewood table, another lamp. The floor-length drapes filtered the light from the streetlamps outside.

            This was where Michael was sitting, in one of the chairs in the bay window, one ankle propped on the opposite knee, so his jeans rode up and the spur strap of his heavy black boot was visible. He had his elbows resting on the arms of the chair, hands draped loosely over the ornate curves of wood. His head cocked a fraction at her appearance, eyes narrowing even more as he studied her with unself-conscious intensity. People don’t look at other people like that, she wanted to point out to him. It seems rude. He didn’t seem to care, though, just stared at her a long moment before he finally turned to glance at the chair beside him, and then back at her, a silent request for her to come sit down.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Music Monday - 2/9

I think I’ve shared this song before, but oh well, sharing it again. It’s what my rainy Monday morning needed to get started. Get the creativity flowing. I had a 20k word week this past week, and I’m hoping for a repeat. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 6, 2015

If You Ever Stop Loving Me

"My old man's backhand

used to land

hard on the side of my head;

I just learned to stay out of his way."

When I want to get in the biker writing frame of mind, I listen to these guys every time. Love them. How sad they're never on the radio anymore, because there is such an authenticity to their music that sings right to the heart of hard-working, making the best of it America. And like I said, most of their songs, but especially this one, launch me straight into that world of cracked pavement and dust-on-the-lips and hot sunburned shoulders where my characters live.

I've spent some time this week mapping out the rest of my Dartmoor series, thinking about whose stories need to be told in which order, thinking about where all these guys and gals have come from, and where they're going, how they fit into this sprawling family of outlaws. And I thought about this song because it touches on what I think is the most important theme of this whole series: the love, support, and acceptance of one another. Because it isn't a story about bikers. It's a story about a family...which happens to be made up of bikers.

If you do your research into the 1%er world, you quickly realize that these men have not come from privileged backgrounds. No one who approaches this lifestyle lightly ever makes the cut. And so in writing of that world, and thinking about men who've had it a little rougher than most, it seems essential to me that the women in their lives be the bright spots, the warm home fires, the places to land. Loving their girls makes them stronger, not weaker. The goal is never to keep love out, but to let it in, and allow it to keep some of the darkness at bay, for a little while. At least, that's how it goes in Dogland. Ghost needs Maggie, and Mercy needs Ava, and Michael's on his way to finding that out about Holly...

A quick thank you to my readers. You guys are wonderful. I can't express enough gratitude. Thank you for making this series a true delight to work on.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Shaking It Off

Coming to you today from my ten-year-old, Office 2003 equipeed, dearly beloved laptop, because I have tech troubles yet again with my main computer. This laptop, for reasons unexplained, only lets me blog if I post a video. So, okay, I can live with that. And I shamelessly love this song. It's appropriate - shaking off the terrible frustration of hitting another technology roadblock, one of many in the last few weeks. Yesterday morning, my computer wouldn't let me log on, and I'm in the process of getting up and running again. I had a moment of utter despair - I have to get this book finished! - but then I regrouped, busted out the laptop, and I've gotten almost 10,000 words written in the past 24 hours. Shaking it off indeed. I chanelled my anger into something productive.

Look forward to to video posts until I'm fully-operational again. Oh well, I needed to concentrate on writing anyway! We'll look at it as a blessing in disguise.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lines 2/2

Price of Angels
Copyright © 2015 by Lauren Gilley
He happened to catch a glimpse of his reflection, as he pulled a towel from the cabinet and laid it on the counter. He almost didn’t recognize himself, the way his eyes were bright, almost feverish, gleaming with a strange light inside a face that was clenched tight with an active, vibrating tension. He looked wild, unpredictable, pulsing with energy.

            Ghost was wrong. He didn’t need a break; this wasn’t the look of fatigue, overwork. This was purpose. This was, for the first time in a long time, something more than obedience. This was revenge. Revenge by proxy, but no less driving.


            The archangel was awake.

            As he turned toward the shower, he had a fast, indistinct glimpse of the wings inked into his back.

Music Monday - 2/2

Oftentimes, a song will inspire a moment in a story I'm writing, but is too distracting to listen to while writing. Anything with catchy lyrics becomes more of a hindrance than a help. The words I'm writing become eclipsed in my head by these vocalized words.

So I like to listen to instrumental albums when I'm writing. Here's what's powering me through Angels:

Some of American composer Aaron Copland's songs have become really familiar, thanks to beef commercials, more than anything. I love his pastoral, Western orchestra pieces. This album is a great compilation.

I mentioned this movie a few months ago, and I admit I got a little obsessed. There was so much about it that left an impression. The soundtrack I love. It's got that grungy, throbbing sound you expect from Detroit rock. It's a little spooky, and a lot melancholy, and it's great listening while I work on this book.