LAV Blog Hop: S. E. Leder

The “Like A Virgin” contest allows aspiring authors the opportunity to present their work to a highly talented group of published authors, editors, and agents for critique. It’s a fabulous opportunity. In the spirit of the contest, they would like to get to know some “firsts” of the authors involved, so here’s my list!

1. How do you remember your first kiss?
 It was with a guy who turned out to be a real jerk … I still follow him on Facebook though. Is that wrong? He seems lovely now.

2. What was your first favorite love song?
 “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. (I just asked my husband if that’s a love song, and he very adorably recited the lyrics to prove that it is.) I saw them in my first concert, which I didn’t admit for a long time. Now it’s awesome again. In fact, when Scottish Booker Prize nominee Andrew O’Hagan found out I’d been Dollywood, he grabbed my arm with his eyes wide and said, “I … LOVE … Dolly Parton!!!” Who knew she’d be so cool again?

3. What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?
 Set myself up in our library with coffee, a dog bed (so my mini-dachshund doesn’t whine at me to pick him on), and slip on some headphones blasting some inspirational instrumental soundtrack music for the scene I’m doing. I might also try to watch a movie that’s similar to what I’m writing the night before. (See my post, How Movies Can Inspire Your Writing).

4. Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?
 I was always trying to write something my whole life, but I didn’t try to emulate anyone until I read Morgan Llywelyn’s “Lion of Ireland.” I’ve since spent a day with her IN IRELAND. It was amazing. She’s a great lady. Very Audrey Hepburn.

5. Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?
 HA! Are you serious? I rewrote the beginning 439508405493543 times, to the point that I now feel queasy looking at it. That being said, I am always willing to revise to improve my work. I’ll just wait until I have solid feedback. 🙂 The Battle of Toc prologue/chapter 1 got cut last year BUT it’s mostly been the same. That is the first official section I ever wrote for this book, in Ireland, back in 2001.

For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?
 Characters I would think. I actually wrote a section featuring Melandor Ormonde, King Cromas Morgenroth, and Selatse that I didn’t use in the book but always referenced in a historical context. That was invaluable for me to know.

What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?
 Epic. This is a cast of thousands, full of battles and betrayals, love and loss. I am hoping it’s the New Adult version of Game of Thrones.

What are some of your firsts, fellow writers?



How Movies Can Inspire Your Writing

In Book 1, I needed to create a very important, climactic scene where a character goes from “I don’t want to live anymore” to “I will burn this world to the ground” (which is, suffice to say, a complete 180 degree turn). Writing a sequence with that sort of character turn is daunting, but scenes like that do exist all around us.

In addition to being an avid reader, I’m a movie buff. Sometimes I find that watching something visually similar (rather than reading something similar) can help me write a scene. The biggest benefit is I still need to be the one who applies the words. There’s no skimping on this!

I remember one of the best bits of “research” that I did was to watch this scene from Dark Knight Rises, because Bruce Wayne goes from thinking being willing to die for a cause makes him formidable — to realizing that it’s the fear of death that makes men stronger. I watched this sequence multiple times for insight:

This scene absolutely helped me to think of how my character was going to make that 180 degree shift. I decided to go the route of chipping away at the psyche, as in providing little vignettes that gave insight into who this character was — particularly, how this character’s past translated to the future. It’s one of the most integral and (in my opinion) best scenes of the book.

Oftentimes, I’ll find myself thinking, “I’m going to work on Character X this weekend,” and that influences what movie I decide to put in the blu-ray player. I need frames of reference, even if they aren’t direct correlations.

Here are some of my influences for some of my main characters:

  • Melandor Ormonde (“The Ormonde”) and Selatse: the TV mini-series, Atilla the Hun
  • Helain the White: (my newest influence) Captain America and the Winter Soldier, as in he’s very Winter Soldier-esque. I need to see that movie again! He’s also very Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and very Tristan from King Arthur.
  • Caius Raynor: (my favorite movie) Gladiator
  • Book 1’s Peylon Morgenroth: Mordred in Mists of Avalon. Pretty much any incarnation of Mordred will do. I have a thing for brat princes. 🙂

What sort of movies inspires your characters? Do you watch specific scenes to get motivated?

In honor of the upcoming #PitchSlam, I’m going to discuss musical influences next. Be prepared. I’m a geek when it comes to instrumental soundtracks!

How to Get Back Into Writing Your Manuscript!

I write for my job, so when I work on my book on the weekends, it can start to feel like I’m never away from my laptop. So when I new I was going to miss my weekly writing group for a Chieftains concert, I decided to take the weekend off.

I reaped benefits from this, of course. I get to take a step back and look at what I’ve accomplished. I feel rejuvenated. My brain isn’t so distracted by all of the plans and characters in my universe.

But there are also down sides. I’m apart from the story, and it’s easy to feel like maybe I’d rather watch a movie or take a nap or read a book — anything besides working through my weekend again. 

Good tactic: Although I talked about how revising can bog down your forward momentum in the draft stage, revising can be a great tool to use when you’re trying to write new material. When I sat down to write the next submission for my writing group, I decided to look at my 60+ pages and implement the changes they suggested. This allowed me to revisit my story and become involved again. So on Sunday, by 5pm, I was able to submit a revised section to my group.

By 7pm that night, I had three more pages of new material already crafted. In fact, I’ve had trouble focusing on my day job because I’m so darned excited to keep going forward! (It also helps that this is Vespera’s section; she is the easiest POV for me to write, for some reason.)

In any case, that’s how I’ve gotten back into my schedule. How do you tackle taking a break and then returning to your manuscript?

~ S.

2012 Summary — And Light at the End of the Tunnel

I’m coming to you from the upstairs bedroom of my parents’ house. Today is my mother’s birthday, and to pseudo-surprise her, I’m staying overnight. I have an ulterior motive, however. Tomorrow morning, I am taking my sweet little dog to the vet to have a bladder stone removed. This is an open abdominal procedure, and he will have (most likely) a long recovery. That probably means I will be a tearful mess ala 8:30am. I just knew I couldn’t drop my terrified pup off at the vet overnight without a little support.

My dog’s sickness comes after a dying fridge debacle — which included the drama of a new delivered fridge breaking within three hours of said-installation — and a completely shattered half-bath mirror. As in, I opened the door and found myself staring at shards of mirror in the sink and all over the floor. I just … closed the door and ignored it for awhile.

I’m a singleton, so everything I do, I have to support myself. Nothing makes me more upset than when I cannot pay for something. My dog’s surgery is … hella expensive. Add on top of this the likely tax bill I’m going to get, because even though I’m by no means rich, I make too much for a single person. Does that make any sense? Then, the cherry on top is that glaring, yellow maintenance light that’s flashing in my car. With my luck, I have no doubt that will result in some enormous bill.

For about a week, I enjoyed being accepted to the Algonkian NYC Pitch Conference, which required an application. I had this elaborate dream of spending my birth-month doing something pro-active for my book … but that was before I got slammed with these expenses. I have no room in the budget for a trip to Manhattan. The good news is that I was told I could attend a later conference this year without having to reapply. That gives me time to save, because despite these setbacks, I refuse to go into debt.

So anyway, this has launched me into quests for freelance work. (If anyone knows of any, please let me know!) Right now, I have several irons in the fire, per se. Hopefully I can do my already exhausting regular job – and then do these additional jobs on the side to take care of all these expenses. Sigh.

But hark! What is that light on the horizon? I’m having some exciting work done on my house next week. Pictures I’m sure will follow.

And the really good news? Today, I got a request for my manuscript from a fairly prestigious agent. No doubt I will be scrambling to revise the book … yet again … in the coming days. You know, with all that free time I have?

But after attending a brand spanking new book club this week and submitting a ridiculous(ly fun) project for my weekly Triangle Writing group, I’m trying to tell myself that maybe I’m getting over the initial hump of 2012. Hopefully things will be much smoother in the coming days! Wish me luck, and pray that my little dog swiftly recovers from his surgery.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2011

The National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I participated the last two years. Admittedly, I dropped off the first year due to work/family constraints but last year, I participated and succeeded. Those words for a YA Southern goth novel might’ve been utter drivel, but I produced them. But here’s the best part: I met other writers at the write-ins.

Writing challenges: For me, writing 50,000 words is going to be ambitious:

  • In my regular job, I have to produce a fair amount of content. Add to that the nightly writing I do with my buddies (not for publication), I probably already write over 50k easily.
  • I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and doing a fair amount of the cooking. That means I’ll be busy doing prep things, cooking, spending time with family, and so on.
  • I’m leaving to go on a trip the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which cuts off about 4 possible writing days.

Writing strategy: This year, I have a tactic. I’m going to be working on Book 2, which is my favorite book in the three part series I have in my head. Back in my Trinity College Dublin days, I created an elaborate outline and wrote about 60 pages, which I will most likely expand. This means that I’m not starting from scratch. I’ll have a clear starting point, and a clear destination. That definitely helps when you’re staring at the blank screen.

Writing pitfall: I’ve already workshopped Book 2, Scene 1 with my weekly writing group, and I’ve already encountered the #1 hang-up that can trap a writer. They gave me some spot-on ideas, so I started revising it. I had to pull the reins, saying whoa-whoa-whoa. That’s not what I want to do at this point! My focus should be producing content (or at least a fair amount of it), so that I can revise a large chunk and not chapter-by-chapter later on. My mission is to send my writing group a different section for next week — a brand new one. So that’s forward progression.

Take-away: The following week — and I think this is great idea for anyone tackling a big project (thanks, Kerry!) — we’ve all agreed to send in brief outlines. We’re only going to be discussing the structure of our works-in-progress. Sometimes you can get bogged down in the details of line edits and not see the big picture. Seeing the big picture is what will get you to complete a project, including a NaNoWriMo project.

In any case, this is my plan for November. Check back here to see how I’m doing!