Talking Out Loud to Myself in My Head

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Talking Out Loud to Myself in My Head

A couple weeks ago, I had this idea for a new novel. The entire story is told via the running dialogue in the main character’s head. For one thing, it would definitely prevent “head hopping” – the (controversial) “practice of switching point-of-view characters within a single scene.”* Of course the character would interact with other people, which would occur as it does in virtually every other novel, with dialogue indicated by quotation marks. But what she was doing would be constantly narrated. Maybe it’s been done before, but I’ve never read that book.

I think she might be a nurse who develops a drug problem – of course, Edie Falco already nailed that character, so maybe just a school teacher. Oh, wait. Walter White. Well, I’ll figure out some profession that hasn’t yet been depicted with an addiction issue.

So I told my husband my idea, and then I put it on the back burner, or so I thought.

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Been working really hard to get Stan done – and I was having trouble with two episodes I want to depict in this final chapter I’m writing, about his experience in Brazil. So while driving the other morning, I decided to turn off the radio to see if I could work out the details in my head. Suddenly, the strangest thing happened. I noticed myself narrating my thoughts. Instead of just noticing that white truck over there with a dented tailgate, I thought in my head, “Look – that white truck over there has a dented tailgate.” Likewise with the school bus with its tail light out. And the motorcyclist without the helmet. Instead of just noticing and grasping the information, I was silently narrating it all to myself.

WTF?

Do I do that all the time? I’d never noticed it before. Is that because I can’t hear the narration with the radio, or when I’m actually having a conversation with another person? Is this a habit, a temporary phenomenon, or something that comes and goes? I still haven’t quite puzzled out the answer.

But it’s interesting to think about, both as it relates to this new novel I’m contemplating, and as it relates to Stan. Stan’s the main character, to be sure. There are secondary characters, namely his friend, Paula, and his dog, Isis. And plenty of tertiary characters. But the story is about one guy traveling around the world. So he’s by himself, a lot. And he thinks things to himself, a lot. I tried not to overdo that aspect, and indicate his unspoken thoughts with italics. That works pretty well, except in the places where there are a lot of foreign words, as those also warrant italics.

I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have three dogs and a cat – all of whom I talk to with some regularity. They don’t have to be there, though, for me to talk out loud. I’ve been known to talk to the vegetables as I’m chopping them, the plants as I’m watering them, and the clothes in my closet as I’m trying to decide which ones will get to venture out in public on a given day. I’m guessing that not everybody does this. But I suppose it does make sense that the character I am creating talks to himself and his dog. Partly because it’s a behavior with which I am personally very familiar. But also as a device to let the reader know what’s going on in Stan’s head. I hate the omniscient narrator – so I want the reader to have a reason to know what Stan’s thinking. I can get away with those italic quasi-thought bubbles once in a while. But when no one’s there and you still need to know what’s in his head, one of most practical ways to do that is to have him talk out loud. Like this:

Typically a day trip for Guadalajara tourists, Tequila is just shy of 40 miles from the second largest metro area in Mexico. When Stan books his “Tequila Tour,” he’s shocked to find it’s just 14 American dollars. “The whole trip, things I’ve expected to be expensive have been cheap, and things I would think would be affordable have been expensive,” he mutters to Isis, who licks his ankle in agreement.

***

To the group’s pleasure, the tour concludes with the opportunity to drink just about as much tequila as they can consume. Recalling his Chicago experience, Stan limits his intake on the tour to a cursory tasting. That’s what the name says – TASTING, he thinks, looking around at the rest of his tour-mates who obviously perceive the concept of “tasting” differently.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer first-person or third-person storytelling? Are you OK with an omniscient narrator, or would you prefer to see the story through the eyes of one character – or one character at a time? Post your thoughts in the comments section!

*As defined by Randy Ingermanson on AdvancedFictionWriting.com

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

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Phoenix’s Fetish for Name Changes

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Phoenix’s Fetish for Name Changes

Name changes

I don’t know if this is a phenomenon specific to Phoenix, or if it occurs a lot of other places, but I noticed recently that we seem to have a fascination with changing the names of locations around the Valley. Here’s a list, off the top of my head:

(1) In 2008, Squaw Peak became Piestewa Peak, named for a female Native American soldier fallen in the Iraq War.

(2) Christown Mall, which had that name ever since it opened in 1961, became Phoenix Spectrum Mall in 2000 in attempt to modernize – but it then changed to a hybrid of Christown Spectrum Mall in 2006. Everybody still calls it Christown.

(3) The outdoor amphitheater that was originally Desert Sky Pavilion has since been:

  • Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion (1996-2001)
  • Cricket Pavilion (2001-2006)
  • Cricket Wireless Pavilion (2006-2010)
  • Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion (2010-2013)
  • Ak-Chin Pavilion (2013-present) Current naming rights are held by the Ak-Chin Indian Community, although the venue is not located on tribal land.

(4) Opened in 2002, the Dodge Theatre has since sold its naming rights, becoming Comerica Theatre in 2010.

(5) What started out as America West Arena in 1992 became US Airways Center in 2006 when the airline merged and changed names. In 2015, it sold naming rights and became the Talking Stick Resort Arena.

(6) Cardinal Stadium had its name for two short months when it opened in 2006, until the naming rights were sold and it became the University of Phoenix Stadium. However, it was announced in April 2017 that UoP is pulling out, so the hunt is on for a new sponsor – and a new name.

(7) The new hockey arena opened as Glendale Arena (2003–2006). Then it also sold naming rights and became Jobing.com Arena (2006–2014). It then became Gila River Arena. Is it any wonder gambling’s a big industry here, with three out of four of the local pro teams’ venues affiliated with casinos?

Don’t get me started on the college bowl games. Three Arizona games appear in the top 14 on this list of the 40 bowl games, ranked by the absurdity of their names.

What’s the point? Getting it right can be difficult for even the most diligent of authors. Stan visits a LOT of venues over the 18 months of his trek, which takes place from April 2011 through October 2012. One place he stops on his way home is Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros and formerly known as: The Ballpark at Union Station, Enron Field, and Astros Field.

facts

I did my best to research and fact-check every detail, but in this world of near-constant change, I’m willing to bet I got something wrong. Maybe even a couple of somethings. The goals was correctness, though – and I’m going to print this coming Spring with these facts in place. If readers find things that are off, I’m sure they’ll let me know.

What’s changed in your community since you moved there? Pictures are even better – so send us your links!

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

Weathering the Weather Around the World

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Weathering the Weather Around the World

Fall in Phoenix.jpg

This and similar memes have been going around my Facebook feed the last couple days. It’s probably only funny – or freaking frustrating! – if you live in Phoenix, have escaped the inferno that is Phoenix, or know someone who still slogs through 27 months of summer in the Valley of the Sun. Sure, it sounds petty when you stack it up against blizzards and other cold-weather challenges, but month after month of searing heat weighs on you. Unless you’re one of those freaks who mountain bikes or hikes in the middle of the day in – literally – 120-degree heat.

I grew up in Phoenix, moved south to Tucson (where it’s anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees cooler) for college, and then moved to the East Coast in the early ’90s. I moved back to Phoenix in December 1999 – and spent nearly all of the year 2000 in an extraordinarily cranky mood. It wasn’t until the heat broke near the end of October that I realized what the problem had been: I was hot. And I’d forgotten what Phoenix summers were like – especially without air conditioning.

Yep – I grew up and was living in a house with what we locals call a swamp cooler. It’s a setup more formally known as evaporative cooling, where a fan blows air on wet pads, which circulates cool air throughout the house. This is actually a very good system for a lot of the year because everything you’ve heard about the “dry heat” of Arizona is true – except for the monsoon season. The problem is that swamp coolers stop working when the humidity hits much above 20 percent. (Although an article on air-n-water.com says they work up to 50 percent humidity – that was never my experience!) So back to the heat – I was miserable. But over the last 17 years, I’ve become reaccustomed to summers in Arizona. I don’t think I’ll ever love them, but the heat no longer puts me into a murderous rage.

The interesting thing is that once we’ve been in a place for a while, we learn what to expect. We know that summers in Arizona aren’t just hot – they go on for what seems like forever. Those from the Pacific Northwest know that they have to capitalize on the rare sunny day because they’re few and far between. The Midwest prepares for tornado season as best it can, while residents of the Gulf states know that hurricanes take their sharpest aim at them from late August through September.

Stan, the main character in my novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, travels from New Jersey all the way around the world, and finds himself in a wide variety of weather, some of which he’s expecting, and some of which nothing can prepare him for. He needs extra layers in Greenland in May and a bathing suit in Brisbane in February. Because he’s carrying only a rucksack with him, his clothing options are limited, so he must shop for specific apparel as he needs it, and sell or donate it as he finishes with it.

What if we had to carry our whole wardrobe on our back? Could we do it? I’m sure I’d figure it out if the choice was learning minimalism or staying home, but it’d be a steep learning curve, to be sure.

The good news for Stan is that he makes it. And the good news for us in Phoenix is that while the daytimes are still crazy hot, the nights are becoming temperate and wonderful. Send a shout-out if you’re ever in the area and want to get together for a chai latte at my favorite indie shop.

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

Pooping to Communicate

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Pooping to Communicate

Traveling with your pet, no doubt, has its challenges and rewards – Stan does it, takes his Jack Russell terrier, Isis, around the world with him. But I have three dogs Baileyand a cat. So most of the time, when we travel, my husband and I need to hire someone to come hang out with them while we’re gone. We’ve been blessed to have a good friend nearby who loves dogs and is happy to be here when we’re away. She has her own dog, Bailey, who she brings with her when she stays with our dogs.

We just got back from a 5-day trip to Franklin, Tennessee, for the Tribe Conference. Things went a little more smoothly this time for Donna than they did when we went to Pacific Grove, California, in August. On day 3 of a 6-day trip, I received a phone call at 6:45 a.m. A neighbor back in Phoenix was calling because she had my dog, Sugar – meaning Sugar had escaped without Donna knowing about it! We’ve lived in our house for 2+ years at this point, and as far as we know, the fence around the backyard has been well dog-proofed. No incidents of escaping, to date. So maybe Sugar got out of the house when Donna left, and Donna didn’t notice? Possible, but unlikely. She’s similar in size and breed to Bailey (pictured).

I immediately called Donna, and she didn’t answer the phone. I sent a text message: no response. So I started to worry. The person who found Sugar was very nice. She had gone by our house and said everything appeared to be locked up – meaning Donna wasn’t there at the time. We went to breakfast, texted Donna again, and tried not to fret. About an hour later, Donna called us. She had been in a meeting and was rushing over to pick up Sugar and take her back to our house. She got there, looked around the yard, and didn’t see an obvious places for an escape, so how the dog got out remained a mystery.

Until the next morning, when Donna called me at 7:15. Sugar was missing, again. “I was just feeding the three dogs, and then I turned around and Sugar was gone!” She felt so bad about it, too – like somehow it was her fault. This time, however, Sugar came home on her own – within 20 minutes, Donna heard her scratching at the front door. Donna again headed out to the backyard and saw a spot she thought must be the place where Sugar was getting out. She shored it up with some trellis and brick, and we’ve had no further incidents. But what a scare – for both Donna and us!

No such episodes occurred during this most recent trip. Until last night. We’ve been home since Monday night (see my last post about that), and at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, I found a pile of poop in the hallway. Deliberate poop – not “almost made it to the dog door but missed” poop. These dogs are well trained. They have a dog door, which they use every day. There was no reason or excuse for poop in the hallway, except to tell us that someone was upset about all our recent galavanting.

When I asked, “Who did this?” I could tell immediately it was Molly because she ran into the bedroom and cowered in a corner. She’d never done this before, either. I felt bad – not at all angry with her – because I’m pretty sure I understand why she did what she did. Dogs don’t have human words – so they tell us how they feel with the tools at their disposal. And because they don’t have words, we can’t use them explain why we’re going to be away, that we’ll be back soon, that we’re leaving them in good hands, and that our travel doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

The third dog, Lucy, is very vocal when we come home – almost like words, but not quite. And then the cat … well, she’s a cat. She comes around when she feels like it, eats, and leaves again. Although she did sleep on top of me last night.

If I had just one small dog, like Isis, I think I’d be quite inclined to take her everywhere with me, too. Given that our pet family is quite a bit larger, we’ll make do, for now, with a pet sitter and trying to keep our trips further than 3 weeks apart.

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

Packing Your Bags – and Packing on the Pounds

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Packing Your Bags – and Packing on the Pounds

Stan, the main character in my novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the Woman exercising on steeper vector illustration.World, actually likes exercise. It’s easy for him and he feels better when he does it. He goes out of his way to find places to run and ways to keep in shape while he’s traveling.

I have more of a love-hate relationship with exercise. I’m not its biggest fan, yet I love its results. So I do it with some consistency. Fortunately, I have two big pluses going for me that help me keep going even when I don’t want to. One, I am blessed to have a fabulous trainer in Miles Beccia. Not only is he good at the physical fitness, but he knows his nutrition, too. His patent-pending ThermoMetabolic System really works.

The basics are things you already know:

  • Move more than you eat.
  • Paying attention to your daily caloric intake really does make a difference.
  • Doing a little bit every day is better than doing nothing.
  • Eating BREAKFAST every day is essential!

Then there are things you might not know:

  • Get moving early in the morning (or at the start of your day) to raise your metabolism for the day.
  • Eat a combo of both soluble and insoluble fiber at every meal to help you stay full and eat less throughout the day.

The second plus is that my husband is training with me – so we’re in it together. When one of us gets off track, the other keeps going, which eventually and inevitably encourages the one who took a pause – for whatever reason – to get started again and, more importantly, to keep going.

We just got back from the Tribe Conference – a relatively intimate motivational get-together for writers and other creative souls (hubby is a professional musician). The last speaker of the 3-day event was, for me, the most powerful. Jon Acuff is the author of a book called Start, which was published a few years ago. As is perhaps the case with you, I don’t have a problem starting. I do have a problem with finishing: Stan has been “forthcoming” for a long time, now. So Acuff heard that feedback from a lot of readers, which was the impetus for his most recent book – Finish – and the topic of his talk at the conference.

He said that most people’s reason for not finishing is perfectionism. That’s not really my issue. Mine, generally, is trying to do too much, or too many things at one time. With Stan, though, it’s a combination of factors. The great news is that I’m closer than ever to finishing this novel that I’ve been writing for far too many years. And I PROMISE I will tell you all about it the second the first full draft (there are many, many unfinished prior drafts) is done.

Acuff suggests that the only way to finish anything is to make it fun. And the only way to make it fun is to know what motivates you – fear or reward. In the case of motivation for exercise, you may fear having a heart attack and dying before your kids grow up and go out on their own. Or, like me, you may be motivated by reward. My reason goes something like this: I cannot wait to slim down enough to have the confidence to approach any ride (theme park, hot air balloon, zipline) knowing there won’t be any doubt or hesitation that I can just get on without first considering the weight limit. And to fit into cute jeans.

So according to Acuff, perfectionists make a habit of quitting the first day their plan derails. That’s how I know that’s not me. I get back to it right away, even when I miss a few days. Here’s the proof: I had great intentions of exercising while we were in Tennessee for this conference. And I did – the first two out of the five days we were traveling. We got home last night about 10 p.m., had some food – because (a) they don’t feed you on the plane anymore and (b) 10 p.m. is the perfect time to eat – and then we went to bed.

This morning, I got up, ate breakfast, put on my sneakers, got back on the treadmill, and walked 2 miles. Then I gave myself the gift of waiting till tomorrow to get on the scale.

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World IS forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

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