Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Problem with Bad Guys

Oh, I love suspense novels. I love the building tension, the conflict of characters, and the constraints that continue to pile up for the protagonist. And if you can throw in a villain for good measure, all the better. That is, unless you have to write that villain.

It's no secret that writers have to delve into their characters' minds in order to be true to them. Amy Tan puts on a new pair of shoes for each identity she writes about; I listen to music and think really, really hard. But you also have to do the research. Notice all the psychology links on my page? This is where bad guys start to cause problems. When you think and write as your villain, your villain starts to invade your head, which makes being an author quite creepy at times.

Due to the subject matter of my last book, I've had a pedophile running around in my brain. Yuck. Most of the scenes I wrote for this guy had to be deleted the first time because he's so disgusting. I found that it's quite easy to write horror and evil once you've read the reports; the hard part is doing it with restraint so that your reader is intrigued and worried but not slamming the book shut in disgust. In other words, the reader gets the abridged, TV-clean version of the bad guy, while I'm stuck with a full-frontal offender. That's not a nice thing to live with.

So you learn to cope. You listen to different music for your other "good" characters, you read lots of books "for fun" after work, and you take lots of breaks from your project. Remember the song lyrics I changed, turning them into fairy tales? Or the Madame Zorba contest I entered? Both of those were intentional diversions to escape my madman.

Still, I don't think I'll ever write a villain this degenerate again. It showed me just how sick and suggestive the mind can be. Without discipline, a person could get really screwed up thinking about the wrong things for a prolonged period of time. I feel bad for law enforcement workers who have to deal with this daily. Besides, I've been worried lately. With all the Internet research I do for my characters, there are some pretty bad searches recorded on my computer. I was laughing with the hubby the other night that if the police ever confiscated my computer, I would be hauled off to jail. What can you say when you've visited sites on pedophiles, child abuse, women's shelters, schizophrenia, duplicate identity disorder, off-shore accounts, money shelters and various travel sites? It wouldn't take long to link all that into a story with a bad ending for me. Yeah, I think I'll concentrate on my romantic heroes from here on out. That research is a lot more fun, and have you noticed, those characters are SO MUCH CUTER. Happy reading!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Snow Days

It's ineviteable that we will get snow here in Indiana, and always a possiblity that it will disrupt school, which is why they schedule three snow days into the school year. But what boggles the mind is that we have used four snow days so far, and none of them have been because of snow. We get stuff cancelled here for any reason: ice, snow, fog, or just because it's too darn cold. In fact, I'm thinking of cancelling school because it's still dark when the kids catch their bus. Isn't that fair? Who makes these rules?
Over the past month or so the excuse for the delays and cancellations has been ice, ice, baby (sorry, couldn't resist). It's enough to make you scream--you might have heard me. I hate ice. Ice is the worst. Ice is like the jerk that grabs your arm during a scary movie, laughing at you as you flail your arms throwing popcorn everywhere. You never see ice; it just sits there waiting for the right moment to put you in a spin. So I was driving Bryce home from school Wednesday and it was snowing on wet streets that were starting to freeze. He didn't think it would be too hard to drive in bad weather (he's a teenager; what does he know?). Well, as we approached a four-way stop that I've known to be dangerous in cold weather, I put on the brakes. Immediately the ABS kicked in and you could hear the clicking as the brakes tried their best to stop. I knew it would happen and had been keeping my eye on the empty intersection. We stopped five feet past the stop sign and I gave him a superior look. "That's why you're not driving," I said, and for once he didn't try to talk his way around me.

However, there are some good things about having an occasional day off. When school gets cancelled, everything else on the calendar seems to cancel out too, allowing us the time to do some fun stuff. Take a look and see. We did another donation drive for the animal shelter (Bryce says this was not fun) and stayed to play with our furry friends. Rachel and Jason went roller skating, and the little kids are loving those rare days when we really do get--snow! Ah, winter. Now, if we could only get our temperatures back into the teens, we might enjoy it more. Forty degrees sounds nice, but that won't be here for a while. Better to stay indoors for now. I think Monday we'll go bowling, and I say, the last one to bowl a strike has to bake a batch of cookies. Yeah!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On Second Glance

As it states in my blog header, this is a blog (albeit a weekly blog) on our family adventures and on the life of a writer. Today I'm concentrating on the writing side and thought I would send out a little preview of what's coming down the pipeline.

After spending spring break last year in the mountains near Ashville, NC, and visiting the Biltmore Estate, I couldn't resist using the setting in a novel. With dark, shadowy mountains, forests of rhododendron, and romantic hideaways hidden away off the beaten track, it was perfect for romantic suspense. I didn't have any story ideas then, but suddenly I've been struck by plot points that want to be strung together, bits of dialogue that need to be recorded, and characters that invade my sleep. Maybe all of this sounds strange to you, but as any writer knows, when that happens, you know you've hit pay dirt and you drop everything else to follow the Muse. So after starting what I thought would be a simple book outline on a piece of scratch paper a day ago, I now have four full pages of scrunched, hand-written notes covering every detail of the story. Talk about inspiration; I've never had a book come so easily. So what next? Time to flesh out my characters and get all this onto the laptop before my momentum fades. Say goodbye to house cleaning (as if I was doing that anyway), and hello to fast food. The kids will have to do their homework next to me at the desk while I give helpful hints like, "Read the directions again," or, "I think you're smart enough to figure that out yourself." Erik might feel neglected, but come on, with basketball season gearing up, he won't even notice my obsession. As long as the laundry gets done and we don't run out of toilet paper, I think we're good. Oh yeah, but I still have that other novel I'm finishing the editing on. Well, I guess it will still be done within the next couple weeks, but I'm already resenting it for stealing time away from what I'd rather be doing. I suppose I should shut up and be grateful for multiple book ideas before I get cursed with writer's block. Such is the writer's life this week. Anyway, here's a picture of the Biltmore Estate, my inspiration (but not the house in my novel), and a short description, very gothic sounding.

On Second Glance (romantic suspense): When Sara first meets Collin Everheart, the attractive architect is everything she could hope for. But when he proposes after one week, the shock pushes her away. Not willing to be put off, Collin Convinces Sara to visit Everheart Estate, the family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. There she meets his siblings, Kurt and Caroline, and sees the privileged life she could lead as the future Mrs. Everheart. With Caroline's instant friendship and the opportunity to make her dreams come true, Sara starts making wedding plans. But all is not well. Caroline suffers an unexplained malady, Sara's veil disappears, two prized thoroughbreds are inexplicably sold, and Kurt coldly suggests that Sara return to her former life. Unwilling to leave Collin, Sara becomes watchful and soon fears Kurt is involved in something sinister. His insomnia does not explain the bumps in the night or his secretive meetings in the guest house. He controls Caroline's every move, and when Collin is called off to a distant business site, Sara fears Kurt will use his control to remove her. Caught between her love for one brother and her fear of the other, Sara's remaining days at Everheart Estate are tainted with truths she never could have guessed at first glance.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sad End, New Beginning

As an end to 2008, we have some sad news to share. For those who know, we adopted two cats from the animal shelter in July. Mykell was doing community service there get the idea. So we ended up with a black kitten, Phantom (the one that destroyed our Christmas tree), and a young blind cat that we named Lyra. Unfortunately, Lyra died December 26.

Lyra was a special project for our family. Blind from birth, she was abandoned and found in a 7-11 parking lot, where she was reported to the shelter. Her situation had been so traumatic that she lost most of the hair from the back half of her body and she was extremely thin and sickly. Her life at the shelter was dull, since she was not allowed to leave her cage or the other cats would beat up on her. But she was so loving. We decided to take her home and see if we could bring her back to health.

At first, Erik thought we were nuts (we didn't ask his permission), and wanted us to take Lyra back, but I couldn't do it. We had had a foster care adoption fall through in the past and somehow that experience echoed this one, brining up all kinds of memories for us to reexamine. The kids pleaded, almost in tears, not to give her back because they didn't want to feel that sense of failure and regret that we had after the foster care ordeal. They would watch Lyra walking contentedly around the laundry room, which we made her domain, and they couldn't bear to think of her being sentenced to a tiny cage at the shelter again. Each one of the kids took opportunity to talk to me privately, convinced Lyra was happier with us, and that we couldn't give her back. So I put it off . . . and off . . . and off.

Over the next month we saw a complete transformation in Lyra. With great pet food from Erik's work, and strong antibiotics, she started to regain her health, grew back her hair and learned to get along with Phantom enough that we could let them roam around the house together. It was incredible to see how well she could navigate through the house, watching her learn to manage stairs, follow sounds to find people, and try to play with toys that kept rolling away. Even Erik changed his attitude, saying that Lyra was the best cat we had (we now had 3). She stayed on the floor instead of jumping on things, she was entertaining to watch, and the most trouble she got in was tripping people up as she tried to be part of the action. But she was never completely cured. Every month she would develop the same respiratory problem and would have to get an injection to help her along. Eventually, she succumbed to that same sickness, and she stopped breathing as I held her, trying to make her more comfortable.

It was a sad morning when she left us and we still miss her. Jason says we need to go back to the shelter and get another blind cat, but I think she was one of a kind. We don't usually get this sentimental over pets, especially ones that die within six months, but Lyra was a special case. She helped us show compassion, taught us that disabilities aren't always disabling, helped us heal after an emotional injury, and most importantly, she gave us the chance to make a difference. We will never forget the good that we were able to do, bringing a sick, neglected cat back to health and making her part of a loving home.

As we look ahead to 2009, we see many great milestones coming for our family. Jason will be baptized, Rachel will have her first dance recital, Bryce is waiting for acceptance to the Academy, and Mykell is seriously looking at colleges. Many good things await us and it is exciting to watch the kids grow and progress. But as we look ahead, make our resolutions, and outline some goals, we are also trying to look outside our own family. Taking our lesson to heart, we hope to reach out to others this year and see where else we can make a real difference.

Wishing you a hopeful and rewarding 2009
The Aidukaitis Family