The Sparks Fly Upward

Hi all – Please welcome my dear friend, Laura Bickle to today’s blog!

I’m privileged to host the debut of her second book in the Anya Kalinczyk series: SPARKS. Anya is an arson investigator with a most unusual familiar.

Let me tell you, you’ll never think about fire salamanders in the same way.

Please welcome Laura and make her feel at home. I just love the post she wrote for us today. As a special treat, I’m giving my own copy of Sparks to a random commenter who says what being in love means to them.

Welcome Laura!


Writing a book is a lot like being in love – good and bad.

Initially, there’s infatuation. The flush and excitement of a new idea. This is the easy part – words flow effortlessly. I can spend hours researching or daydreaming about how fabulous the idea is. I make notes, sketches, maps, cut clippings from magazines – I’ve met my characters, and am deliriously in love with everything they say. The project is, I believe, invincible.

It brings me flowers. I glow.

Then, somewhere around the 30,000 word mark, the infatuation fades. I begin to see the flaws, the inconsistencies, the cracks in the foundation of plot. I’m rolling over in the morning and staring at a book with bad breath that snores. It chews with its mouth open and forgets to say “excuse me” when it farts. It doesn’t bring me flowers anymore. It’s comfortable. Maybe too comfortable.

I sit in bed, staring at the book, wondering what to do. Should I abandon it for a newer, sexier idea? They’re always dancing around in my periphery, seductively whispering: “Choose me.”

But I know that it would be the same. I can choose another idea, but in a few weeks, I’ll be at the same place, the shiny newness and rose petals replaced by snores and scratching.

At this time, I’ve got to decide to be committed to the project, to see it through — even though my story is showing me its scraggly, unwashed underbelly. The challenge is to fall into a routine of writing that isn’t new or exhilarating — it’s to focus on the entirety of the work, good and bad, and love it enough to finish.

There are moments that test my patience. A character proves utterly useless around 50,000 words and is savagely eliminated. A timeline problem emerges that requires my heroine to be in two places at once. A loose plot thread dangles with no end in sight. But we get through it.

There are moments that are sublime. Keystrokes fly by through the last chapter. Edits clean the story up nicely, and all of a sudden, my story is standing before me. It’s shaved, holding a bouquet of flowers.

I feel the old love for it again. Not the infatuation of the beginning. But deep affection, knowing that we’ve weathered the writing process and have come out the other side of it victorious.

I straighten its tie, kiss it on the cheek, and send it out into the world. I hope that others will love it as much as I do.

-Laura Bickle has worked in the unholy trinity of politics, criminology, and technology for several years. She and her chief muse live in the Midwest, owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. More information on her urban fantasy novels is available at www.salamanderstales.com.

16 Replies to “The Sparks Fly Upward”

  1. "I'm rolling over in the morning and staring at a book with bad breath that snores."

    Yes! Yes! I am wondering if dropping a Listerine tab on its tongue will mask the fetid stench as I lean in and rest my head on its chest while it tells me how we're going to make to 100k. As I lay there, I pray that morning flatulence will not chase me from the bed before "the end."

    Fire Salamanders and Arson Investigators, eh? ~updates B&N shopping cart~
    Congrats on the second book release!

  2. I sat here and thought about what being in love means to me and came up with a lot of great poetic BS that would make everyone say Awwww. But the truth of the matter is being in love means work. Yeah, in the beginning it is all rainbows and birdsong, but you learn real quick that love equals responsiblity and commitment and it is hard. But you know what? It is the best hardest job that I have ever had. And I get to spend my life with a really awesome, sometimes PITA guy who totally gets me and still wants to be my significant other. How great is that?

  3. Thanks, K&K! The luster does come off the relationship with the book pretty quickly, doesn't it? Good luck with the Listerine…gotta try that! 🙂

    Kelly, yes! That's exactly how love is. Sometimes, it's sublime. And sometimes, it requires work and commitment. But it's all worth it! 🙂

  4. Great post – I think you summed up the love-hate relationship perfectly – it's almost like dating or getting married in some ways. How do you keep the writing fresh, even when you don't really feel like it? 🙂

  5. Welcome Laura! I loved Embers and look forward to reading Sparks soon! Loved your post, you so very elloquently described what I am going through right now trying to finish my own story.
    Being in love to me means taking the good with the bad, the bitter with the sweet. Simply stated, love is a double edged blade.
    The best way for me to describe this is to give an example from my own life.
    My husband, Jamie, is very good to me, but is often not very observant. For my 30th birthday, we were going to have dinner at 6:00 with my mother and our children at an italian restaurant (not my favorite btw). My mom went early to secure a table for the 7 of us so we wouldn't have to wait long. We were ready to leave by 5:15, but Jamie wanted to watch the end of a football game and was refusing to leave until it was over. I was mad that he was being so disrespectful to my mother and to me. Finally he was ready to go at 6:20. I drove like a crazy person to make up time and refused to speak to him the entire ride. When I pulled up to let them out and go park, I actually contemplated leaving them there and going home. I went inside and found not only my mom, husband, and children, but my best friend who lived two states away (with her family) and several other friends who were throwing me a surprise party. My mom had asked him to stall so everyone would be there before we arrived. I felt terrible that I had acted so hatefully to him when he had set the whole thing up! He took all my bitching at him without losing his cool! Now that, to me is what being in love is all about… Gretchen Roberts

  6. Fabulous post! You've summed up the writing process perfectly — if a little too vividly. I'll never look at my sagging middle quite the same way again.

  7. Fun blog!!! 🙂

    And I can definitely relate! I'm over the moon with my book until the middle… I fall back in love during the last 20,000 words in teh race to the end…

    But that darned middle! LOL You definitely have to stay committed… 🙂

    Congratulations on the release Laura!!! And thanks for the smiles!

    Lisa 🙂

  8. Terrific post, Laura!

    I can't wait to start reading Sparks.

    One way or another the muse doesn't like to make it easy. I'm convinced mine laughs behind my back when I need it most.

    Linda

  9. Hey, mynfel! 😀

    Sometimes, the writing's not so fresh, and I don't feel like it. But I do it anyway. Eventually, I can get back in the groove.

    A couple of years back, there was some marriage advice going around about having sex every day for thirty or ninety days, even if you didn't feel like it, to get back into the groove. I think it's like that. You don't have to be in the mood to do it, but doing it puts you in the mood.

    Gretchen, thank you so much! Your example illustrates exactly what it's like to be in love. Mutual forgiveness, and a willingness to overlook the bumps!

    Keena, I'm trying not to look at my own sagging middle, now that you mention it. 😉 But try to be kind to your manuscript's sagging middle. Romance it and maybe take it out on a date with some candles and nice music?

    Lisa, I'm with you in falling back in love at the end. The last chapter or two are like a vow renewal. I can see the beginning, middle, and end of the relationship.

  10. Hi, Linda! I'm often quite mean to my muse. Sometimes, I have no choice but to sit on her until she vomits up some good words.

    Occasionally, she responds to bribery. Like chocolate. 🙂

  11. Oh! I have book cover envy! That cover is *so* pretty. As for love? It's a choice. Right now, it's a choice not to strangle the deaf cat laying down an overly loud blanket meow. We either love someone, or something like a book, flaws and all or we don't. Sounds simple. But then, it has to sound simple when I'm gritting my teeth swearing I'm not going to just hit 'delete file' and go find a 'real' job.

  12. Thank you so much, Marcella!

    Hang in there. It's totally worth it. But you're right…it's a commitment. Like your deaf kitty. I have three special needs cats, so I know what you mean. But, late at night, when you're cuddling up with your book and purring kitty, it's all worth it!

  13. Woo hoo! I love being random! Wait…did that come out right? Seriously, thank you! I look forward to reading the book.

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