Friday, May 30, 2014

Tighten Up That Iron!

After dropping off the kids at school and am too tired to write, have dishes in the sink, and an (almost) overwhelming desire to eat popcorn and watch The Sound of Music for the millionth and one time, I hear my Creative Writing teacher, Dave Holper, calling whimsically out over the land from northern California:


So, I trudge my way over to the over worn but not overly comfy chair and start writing.

Damn that Dave Holper.  If it weren't for him and that class in which he also demanded that we write at least a line a day, I would be basking in a bag of Spice Drops--the only decent candy left in the world--and laughing about piano playing cats on the internet.  Life would be much more decadent and lazy, as well it should be.

And then, to add more to the cauldron of teachers with wickedly good advice, my picture book instructor, Diane D'Andrade, from long ago whispers firmly in my ear to tighten up my writing.  Okay, I whisper back. But can't I keep this one little tiny paragraph that has absolutely nothing to do with the story but shows how great of a story teller I am? Can't I keep at least that? I mean, give me something here, woman.

And into my ear, from years ago, she kindly, mildly, screams NO you may one keep that paragraph.
And that adjective? She adds, cross it out, not needed. 


Okay, I meekly respond.  And I highlight and delete the words and my ego. Now stricken from public view for an eternity.

At the end of a rough draft of each chapter, when I go back to review, there is a third teacher who haunts my tales.  Her name is caught somewhere in the mysterious folds of my brain, meaning I do not remember.  "I don't know where I am in your story. Give me setting. Ground me."

So, I dutifully go back and place her spirit gently on the floor in the middle of the story and show her where she is.  She is blindfolded, so I have to describe every silly little detail.  

Now that I think about it, Dave used to tell me the same thing.


Hand in hand, step by step, word by word, I show them.  We travel about the room, smelling, feeling, touching, sensing, seeing where we are.  We look out every window and examine characters in every mirror.  Finally, we all breathe sighs of comfort when we gain the grounding essence. It is a magical moment.

It is not until these past demanding teachers have been appeased every day that I can grant my self rest. And yet, I still search out writing classes and add more teachers to my list of words to attend to. Why am I so crazy? Oh, that's right, I almost forgot. It is because I am a writer.

And for that, I have only myself to blame.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hippo Secrets and Crocodiles

Okay, so my newest kids story is COMPLETELY hush hush secret.  But let me tell you this--research has never been more fun!

I was never into research in school and especially not college.  Everything I was looking into was boring and the topics were chosen by the teacher.  Oh, I am leaving out that WAY back then, there was no internet or google to glean information from at the tip of my fingers. I actually had to go the the library, for gosh sake. From there, books had to be hunted down from a computer catalogue and then found by myself or a helpful librarian. It could take an hour to find the necessary books for just one subject and then only get a paragraph worth of information.

And my sons complain that our internet is too slow!  If they only knew.

Now when I desperately need to know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, it is within a moment's lightening speed. Even funny images about how a croc eats babies with its mouth opened with a 'C' shape and an alligator with an 'A' shape.

Research life in this era is so grand.

Even doing freelance article writing is fun. For every one I write, I just google the subject, and there is a plethora of stuff already written about it. All I have to do is a bit of reading, put together what I've learned, and then spit it out onto a new Word Document.  People actually pay me to do this!

The things I've learned, too--stuff that makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about during bar conversations.

Back to my new hush-hush book.  Okay, the stuff I am learning has nothing to do with non-fiction newsworthy stuff. It's for a kids chapter book. But oh is it funny! I'm looking at images of creative stuff other people have done and boy are people crazy.  I want friends like this who would do the kind of silly stuff I am downloading pictures of.

This is making me scream with a desire to tell you what I am writing about.  But, as I swore a blood oath with friend CJ, I am not at liberty to tell. I will just have to hold in this hippo sized secret until the book is ready--hopefully in the Fall. It had better be, I don't know if I can wait any longer than that!

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Philosophy, Mud Pies, and Therapy

Talking with a long time friend and fellow writer recently, she revealed that finishing her young adult novel was proving to be a challenge.  She just keeps adding and adding and adding to the pot and the soup is never done.  As everything in writing is about what is going on inside of you, this is an outer display of some inside challenge.  I don't mean to throw philosophical mud pies into this blog, but there you have it. Authors have stuff going on in their core, and it is going to show up in their work.

Which slams open a variety of topics. Such as: you nor I have any idea what her challenge is on why she is not making an easy, neat and tidy, efficient ending to her story. Why she cannot wipe the dust from her chapped finger tips and declare the tale she has undertaken as concluded.  We can assume, conjecture, and imagine, but only she will ever know the complete truth as to her inner wrestling with the beast called The End.

The young adult novel that I just posted on Amazon, Black Licorice, is so much better than the first in this trilogy. Does this mean that I am getting better as a writer, that I am sick and tired of writing so just sticking up stuff on the inter net so I won't have to face it anymore, or that I have obtained Writer's Enlightenment and can pump out perfect stories in a single weekend?  My ego will definitely go for the latter of these choices.  Probably, however, it has more to do with the fact that I have had more practice at writing a novel than when I wrote Red Nectar.  That, and the reviews that sweet, kind, generous people bestowed on me helped me to know what to do and not to do in subsequent novels.

I find it fascinating to read reviews of my stuff. It's like being the fly on the wall to people talking about you. Reviews by people I've never met are the best. They are not holding back due to some fear that we won't be friends if they say they don't like the way I wrote something. It is a chance to gain insight into my character, personality, and relationship with the world through words.

Scout and Ellie, a middle grade chapter book of mine, ended a 10 book giveaway through last week. I'll be sending out the books to the winners this week.  Once readers check out the book, they will most likely log on to and post a review. Yey! More insight as to where I am in life from outsiders, and how I can improve my writing.

In the last giveaway that I did for Red Nectar, a very insightful reader said she would have given the book 4 stars over the three that she assigned it if it weren't for the interruptions that I made in the telling of the story.  Seems my talking about political and environmental situations that were not necessarily relevant to the story, well, they weren't wanted.  On a personal level, this means to keep my topics of discussion with others connected to what we are talking about--not to interject with my own biased views.  And as a writer, I see the importance of the words of one of my favorite writing teachers, Diane D'Andrade, "Stick to the story--no one wants to hear your 'message'."

Writing and casting my stories up to the public eye is like having the general public as my personal therapist. If I manage to shove aside my ego, I can gain profound inner knowledge. Of course, I have to remember that each reviewer has their own 'stuff' inside of them that is affecting how they perceive what I write. But somewhere between my ego and their stuff, glimpses of core stuff both personal and writing-wise can be seen.

Wow, all of this stems from writing words on a computer. One of the biggies of why I LOVE being an author--and why everyone should write at least one book in their life time.

Heather Leigh
aka author of the freshly posted Black Licorice

Thursday, May 8, 2014

BIG Questions

There is a small bird perched on a street lamp outside my window. His song is a sweet chirp that is amazingly loud in comparison to his tiny size. How do birds chirp so loudly when they do not seem to have the lung capacity to make enough for anyone to hear them more than a foot away?

Another question for you that can never solved: on what day did my boys go from being in need of a hug every time they scraped their knee to becoming Freshmen in college and high school? This is one of the great mysteries of life, never to be solved by any parent in the Universe.

What happened to the days when the most passionate discussion in our house was whether or not the Incredible Hulk was a legitimate Superhero. Can anyone tell me?

Okay, I'll quit with the nostalgia whining.  Here are some more questions that have stumped me but perhaps you can answer:

Why has Alan Rickman not asked me out when I have told all of my friends that he is my movie star crush. I mean, what other hint does that man want?

How is it that Harper Lee was able to write one book, To Kill A Mocking Bird, and retire in Hawaii from the profits? Has anyone else ever done something so clever in one shot?

Why are we still using cars rather than a huge network of mass transit? Am I the only one who gets that traffic sucks?

Why do people say that cats are aloof and impersonal when mine YELL at me for attention every night. They are so demanding--you wouldn't even believe it.

How can an ex-boyfriend send one silly little e-mail to say hello and make me realize that I still like that big old stupid jerk. What the heck is up with that?

Why is the sky blue? Okay, just had to add the obvious question.

Who invented chocolate covered caramels and where can I send my eternal gratitude for this godly treat?  And did you know that now they offer it with a touch of sea salt? Where are these genius candy makers?

Why have I never met a leprechaun? Do they really store their gold at the end of the rainbow? What about when there is a double rainbow--are there two pots of gold?

Has anyone done a truly thorough search for unicorns, dragons and fairies to be sure they are really gone from the earth? It is a worthy quest.

Anyone have any answers for me, please let me know. And, if you have any questions for me, post it on my face book.

Heather Leigh