Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Of Schedules and Short Stories

A few days ago I was feeling frustrated that I was falling behind on my list of tasks to set up Gargoyle Girl Productions (for example, it still has no website). Having radiation EVERY DAY this month has put a crimp into my days. But I reminded myself that one of the reasons I wanted to publish my books myself was for this very reason: so I could be on my own schedule regardless of what health issues I might be facing. But… it still felt frustrating!

Trying to follow my own advice, I threw my schedule out the window. The next morning, I woke up with freedom. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. For the last couple of months, there's been a short story idea bouncing around in my head. I didn't think I had time to write it.

This week, I'm writing that story.

I knew this idea should be written as a short story, rather than a novel, because the idea centered around a locked room mystery. In "locked room mysteries," also called "impossible crime stories," the whole idea is based around the twist that makes it possible for a seemingly impossible crime to have actually occurred—such as a man found dead inside a windowless room locked from the inside with no possible way for anyone to have escaped. Locked room mysteries provide a great twist, and in a short story, a twist is key.

I've loved these types of puzzle plots since I was a kid. They're so fun in part because they're fair play mysteries, where the reader has all the clues they need. They're also fun because you know you're in for a satisfying resolution at the end.

There are novels that feature locked room mysteries—John Dickson Carr, the master of locked room mysteries, wrote many of them—but in a short story the focus can be on creating everything that leads up to that "ah ha!" payoff moment. When I have an idea for a locked room twist, the pieces fall into place for me as a short story.

Time to get back to writing that twist.

Friday, January 6, 2012

12 Resolutions for 2012

Last week I wrote about 11 lessons from 2011, so now it's time for 12 resolutions for 2012.

Actually, there's really just one big resolution I have for 2012, but it can be broken down into 12 smaller pieces. Last year wasn't such a fun year. This year, I resolve to have fun. 

1. Make sure writing stays fun. As I move from writing mode to publishing mode, I can see how easy it would be to get caught up in the stress of relentless promotion. But you know what? I'm not going to do it. Yes, I'm going to put in a bit of time researching book review venues and I'll tell people about my books. But when I come across something that sounds more stressful than fun, I'm not going to do it. If that means I sell fewer books, so be it. That's not what I want my life to be about.

2. Be a tourist in my own town. I can't travel as much as I want to this year, but I can have fun exploring locally. I'm going to take advantage of all of the things around me in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anyone up for a trip to the Asian Art Museum's current maharaja exhibit?   

3. Cook delicious healthy food. I'm on a health food kick to make sure my cancer doesn't return. There's no reason food can't be healthy and delicious. It's no fun to eat bland food, so I'm going to figure out all the delicious recipes that are also good for me. I've already discovered that kale and avocado salad is heavenly. I'm serious!

4. In August, I'll publish my first mystery novel, Artifact. The launch date coincides with when I'll be finished with my main cancer treatments. It's been a long journey getting here, so I'm really excited. Artifact is the first in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series. Here's a short teaser: When historian Jaya Jones receives a mysterious Indian artifact sent by a dead man, she discovers the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. More details about the book can be found here.

5. Finish editing the second book in the series. I made myself cry when I wrote one of the scenes in this book. That had never happened to me before with something I'd written, so I can't wait until I have time to finish editing this book.

6. Parle Fran├žais. After stalling out at intermediate French, I'm going to try out Rosetta Stone's higher level courses. When I'm in France, people usually switch to English as soon as they hear me speak, because my French is so bad. The next time I make it back there, it would be great fun to be able to converse with people in French. Wish me luck!

7. Send more physical letters. The post office is dying, I know. But we're all dying, so why not go out with a bang? Until mail dies, I'm going to send more fun letters, like the mail from a Mail Art workshop at the San Francisco Center for the Book (at right). 

8. Keep Twitter fun. There's one school of thought that says it's good etiquette to follow everyone who follows you, and there are even apps to help you un-follow everyone who hasn't followed you back. That doesn't make sense to me. I follow Neil Gaiman. He's never going to follow me back, but who cares? I really enjoy his tweets, so why would I want to lose that? When I only have a few minutes, I check out my list of friends and chat for a minute. If I have longer, I check out the rest of the people I'm following and do some tweeting and re-tweeting. But I'm never going to want to spend enough time on Twitter to follow the thousands of people I see some people following. I'd only be faking it to gain more followers in return, which isn't right for me. I do follow new people, but not as an automatic reflex. Everyone can use Twitter in the way that feels right to them, and keeping interactions with people fun rather than strategic is what's right for me.

9. No Facebook. I'm still not going to join Facebook. I get that it could be a venue for exposure, since I have a book coming out. But it has never seemed fun to me. I haven't given in to peer pressure thus far, and this isn't the year to do so.

10. Keep a sketchbook. I keep various notebooks, but always mean to keep a more general notebook/sketchbook. It's funny, but I think that of all big resolutions I've got here, this will be the hardest one to see through.

11. Wear high heels more often. I stole this fun resolution from Nicole Peeler. I don't mean uncomfortable heels. I mean heels like my rubber-soled Fluevogs (at right) that are both cute and comfy. I'm six feet tall in heels, which I gotta say is a lot of fun.

12. Write more blog post lists! I have fun structuring things into lists. It's a form that works well for me. So stay tuned for a year of some lists.