Monday, September 24, 2018

My Tsunami Summer

Summer is officially over. Thank God!

This past summer I couldn’t get enough of tsunami videos. I stoically watched 2-3 hours a day of YouTube footage, mostly of 2004 Indonesia and 2011 Japan. It wasn’t until the end of July when I finally acknowledged my strange summer obsession and looked up from the floodwaters long enough to question why. Answer: my summer had become wave after wave of losses. It all began with my husband’s sudden loss of health the third week in June.

He had earlier scheduled four weeks off this summer for vacation and study leave, including our second-ever cruise. It turned out to be not a vacation, nor study leave; not even staycation. It was a summer-long sickation with his mysterious illness continuing to baffle doctors as of this writing.

Included in this summer’s losses were the cruise and the money for it because, always being fit and healthy, we had not considered travel insurance. Our spare refrigerator-freezer quit working. Of course, since it’s not often used, I didn’t notice it had stopped until all the food was spoiled. Our second car (25-years-old) became no longer dependable. We sold it for parts, but have not gotten a replacement. We sold our boat of 13 years because he could no longer trailer it. This was the first summer that family has not visited us, nor us them. My husband’s dizziness made him unable to drive; I became chauffeur. He lost 30 pounds since the illness began. (Yay, weight loss; boo, unintentional.) I gave up knitting since I only knit at night while watching dramas with him, but he was not up for watching TV. I gave up gardening – the first time without veggies in our yard in over 40 years. We also loss power for six hours one evening, but no big deal. I gave up singing and playing guitar, but worst of all, stopped writing.

Unexpected positive things also came as a result of this past summer – spending hours together without distractions; unburdening ourselves of big material things; my husband could sit, so sorted and shredded 40 years of bills and receipts; I couldn’t concentrate to write, and didn’t want to be far from him, so began making miniatures (HO railroading scenery and buildings, D&D and gaming, and a miniature house for my grandkids, of their own house). Also, surprisingly, three places asked me to do book signings without me even contacting them.

With the dozens of medical tests, we know all the things which are going right for my husband. A bit of self-diagnosis, what ifs, and insisting on certain tests…we aren’t there yet, but we feel we’re getting close to finding answers.

My husband’s only about 50%, but able to drive himself to work. I began writing on my next book, and am very excited about it. I also quit watching tsunami videos.

Going through periods of loss is tough. Seeing the hope of light at the end of the tunnel is hopeful. May you, who have gone through or are going through loss, see some encouraging hope of light. Keep on writing. Keep on reading.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Villain in the Story by Victoria Chatham

I write historical fiction and was so pleased to co-author with Anita Davison on Envy the Wind, Book #11 in the Canadian Historical Brides collection. My preferred genre is mostly-sweet Regency romance but even in a sweet romance, there needs to be some issue to create conflict for the characters because, without it, there really is no story. Think of a piece of string. If it is laid out flat, it is boring, uninteresting. Nothing is happening. Now imagine there are several knots in it. Who tied that knot and why? Why did they choose to tie the knot in that particular place in the string? The whole picture changes.

In the same way that we construct three-dimensional characters for our heroes and heroines, our villains,
if they are to be credible, need to be three-dimensional too. It isn’t always the guy with half-shut left eye or scarred cheek who is a villain, nor the woman with perfect make-up and too-white smile. Just as our H/H’s come in all shapes and sizes, so too do our villains. Making them credible comes from creating their backstory just as you have
done with your H/H.

What happened in your villain’s life to make him/her the way they are? Just as the branches on a bonsai tree are formed and shaped with wire, so a villain’s character is formed and shaped by the circumstances he/she grows up in or by what happens to them. You only have to look at some of Disney’s villains to get the idea. Think Maleficent, who is betrayed by her lover Stefan’s ambitions to become king. To reach that end, he sets out to kill her, but at the last minute can’t do it so instead cuts off her wings. Easy to see why Maleficent became ticked off by that.  And then there’s Captain Hook, bent on revenge after Peter Pan cuts off his hand and feeds it to the crocodile. What about Scar in The Lion King? All the elements in those Disney villains are examples of how you can build your bad guys.

Villains walk like us and talk like us, for the most part. They can be intelligent and likable, the veritable good guy. People (your readers) quite like him when he’s on the page, maybe mirroring some of the better characteristics of your hero. He’s often kind, except that behind the kindness is the determination to get what he wants – usually at the hero’s expense.

While I have no problem creating a villain’s back story and showing some human element in them, I’m think I’m much better at making them more twisted than terrible, even though they might do terrible things. And the villain in Envy the Wind? I'm not telling. You'll have to read the book to find out!

My Tsunami Summer Summer is officially over. Thank God! This past summer I c...