Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ups and Downs of Writing: From Deadlines to Revision

Deadlines, deadlines. They help motivate and drive you to your ending point. With the end of the second book in sight, I strive towards that ending. Finally, having started Chapter 11, I can feel the end in sight for the second book "The Lost Secret of the Green Man."
But there is more to writing than deadlines. It's all about the revision. Once that first version of the book is finally in black and white, than the fine tuning and polishing begins. Most people don't get much revision techniques taught in school. It is the hardest part of writing to teach. So, it is also the hardest to learn, because just like Math, it takes practice.

But I also think the revision is the most fun, because that is where an author can add layers. The theme is brought out more, character details are added, and the manuscript is fleshed out. One of the many things I've learned from writing my first novel and now it's sequel, is that there is always more to learn about writing.
If you want to find out yourself, I've posted the first of different writing projects onto my website for new or established author's to try out. They are even encouraged for children as well. Having been a teacher for over 10 years, I have developed Writing Workshop projects over the years that I find are very effective to get those creative ideas following.

My website can be found at:
Keep looking for new projects to be added each couple of months. You never know what you can create until you try it yourself.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Braving Moaning Cavern: Experiencing Research

It’s amazing how a simple vacation can help with writer’s block. You never know how your own experience will relate to writing. Take charge and go on an adventure. Sometimes it relates back to your writing.

My current project, the second book in the Crystal Keeper Chronicles series, had reached a dead point. My character had reached a maelstrom of energy that I had to sort out. Over a month had gone by, and still no break in the storm. I needed some inspiration to get over the writer’s block.

So, off I travel to my mother’s cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Nothing like some good mountain air to sort writer’s block. A few days go by along with endless Scrabble games and Texas Hold’em. Still nothing.

Quality time with the family is part of vacation. So, spending time with mom for the day, we both decide to explore one of the local caves as an adventure. Never had we stopped and turned at the signs for the caves up in Gold Country. So, off we go to see what the Moaning Caverns held as an adventure.

We buy our tickets at the gift shop just as the 2:30 p.m. tour leaves to take you 165 ft. down into the earth. But upon the entry, the granite and quartz rocks surround a steep stairway. The stones close in on my head as I progress slowly down followed by others on the tour. My mother decides it is too narrow and leaves. So does another on the tour. I push on, nervous, as others on the tour try to bluster the courage to continue. It is not an easy feat for someone with a fear of ledges. But after climbing castles in Ireland, France, and England, not to mention the Eiffel Tower, I held onto the edges of the rock knowing that it would be a bad time for an earthquake.

But fears must be faced, and I continue on. After the first 65 ft., the narrow passageway opens to a small viewing ledge. Here I glimpsed the stalactites and formations of my first, real crystal cave. Most of my research has been through movies, TV and reading. But first hand experience is priceless for descriptive writing. Of course, if it comes with a fear factor, it turns it into an adventure.

The cavern has another tour that allows you to reppel into the cavern through the natural opening. Needless to say, not an option for me. The tour stops to watch some of the reppelers go down next to us into the cavern.

One of the repplers gets nervous about going down the edge. She stops as the 20 people on the tour watch. We are all next to her on the first level. I feel for the woman. I couldn’t do what she was doing with 20 people staring at me.

The group goes on ahead down the spiral staircase made from a WW1 ship’s steel plates. I’m hoping that they made metal better in those days. I hold onto the side railing and caged sides of the staircase tightly. The rust rubbing against my hand doesn’t qualm my fears, but steadily I continue on the research quest.

Reaching the bottom, I gaze up at the limestone formations feeling I had accomplished something. I had made it alive. The lower level felt secure under my feet as I looked into a crystal clear pool of water, a reservoir from the work of Mother Nature. The Chocolate Waterfall, a limestone formation similar to the name it implies, loomed above as well as a white mushroom formation. The granite and quartz stone circled the whole cavern.

(Picture of the Chocolate Waterfall in Moaning Caverns.)

(Tiffany Turner at the bottom of the cavern next to the 100 yr. old metal staircase.)
I rested for what I knew would be a hefty hoof up the staircase. I noticed the lone repeller had gathered her courage, along with one of the instructors. She was making her way down the Chocolate Waterfall ledge. Suspended from only a rope, with a 100 ft. drop below her, she methodically eased her way down to the lower level.

Applause greeted her from our tour group. She had done something we had not. We had taken a more easy way down, but difficult for those afraid of heights. I related this to how I felt going down the stairway. I had been fearful, but faced that fear. This gave me an idea for my character.

I know I had been nervous walking down the staircase. Suspended in the middle of the cavern, it worked an uneasy feeling on the natural urge to be away from edges. This is my greatest fear. I don’t think I could have been as brave as the one woman I saw ease herself with merely a rope. But at least I had made it to the bottom. I had braved that challenge. It was time to face another, and weave this into my character.

Facing my computer, the writer’s block broke as I used my thoughts from the experience to get my main character Wanda through the energy maelstrom. It is also an inspiration for a later setting in the new book. How it all works completely into the novel is the joy of writing. Sometimes I don’t know what will happen until I write it. But sometimes I found that research can come from the most interesting and unexpected places. Sometimes even something as simple as your vacation.

-Tiffany Turner’s new book, “The Lost Secret of the Green Man”, will be available next year. It is the second book in her Crystal Keeper Chronicle Series. Her first book, “The Lost Secret of Fairies”, is available on
**The Moaning Caverns can be found in Vallecito, Ca off of Highway 4 near Murphys, Ca. It is open every day, year round.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reflections Before My Knighting

In just a few days, I will be knighted within the Renaissance Faire World in California. This is a great honor within the Renaissance Community. It makes me a "Dame", a lady of honor with others that also participate in faire. But what does it mean? Is it real?
To a person being knighted, yes it is real. It's a way to be rewarded for helping out in a Renaissance Acting Guild. It is part of acting and entertaining the public, but it also is a way to recognize people that do this as a hobby, and in a way, have made it our lives. Truly, being First Lady in Waiting to Mary, Queen of the Scots is rewarding. I present children to meet the Queen at Faire. It is a wonder to see their faces light up. But it is also a fabulous way to do research. I have had to do a lot of digging around for information on Mary's Ladies in Waiting, and how woman lived in the Renaissance. Yeah, I smell a future book too, maybe a YA book. But I feel I need to add a few books to my Crystal Keeper Series first.

Renaissance faire, as a hobby, is a great way to get away from it all. I get fresh air, exercise, and get rid of extra stress. I've noticed lots of weight dropping from my waist. Pictures from 3 years ago when I started show a dramatic change. I look younger, skinny, and happy. I think it's the best way to face off the age of 40.

So, as I approach my knighting, I check to see if I've made enough favors for my friends that are participating. I double check the list, look at my brand new gown made for the occasion. I make sure my heraldry shield is packed. I think that is the surprising thing of all. Finding how much I've learned about my heritage. I found Scottish, Irish and Welsh blood flows in my veins. I've gotten my family tartan made into an arisaid. An arisaid is a traditional way to wear a kilt for a woman, with less yardage and drapped as a half skirt. It is worn over a gown or dress. These things are reasons to celebrate this weekend. I look forward to kneeling at Woodland Scottish Games this weekend, at 3pm, ready to except this honor.

And thinking upon this, I'm proud to be writing the next book in my series to be including Irish Heritage, the legend of the Green Man. Faire gave me the idea to use heritage and legends to teach in my stories. Each book in the Crystal Keeper series will be focusing on an area and it's legends. The second book will be Ireland, the third book Hawaii, and the fourth book will be a focus upon Ancient Egyptian Legends. Of course, being a teacher, I can't help to teach. Maybe that is why I spend my weekends teaching history and my week days teaching 3rd graders.

If you live near Sacramento, CA, the Woodland Scottish Games will take place at the Yolo County Faire Grounds on April 26th. I will be knighted on Sat. at 3 pm in the Living History Section. The tartan I wear proudly salutes my Hall Family heritage. I would be honored to have any fans or readers attend.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Progress of Second Book

Well, I've been working on the second book, "The Lost Secret of the Green Man". I've finished Chapter 3, and have been working with a critique group through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators to get some feedback. Plus, I'm heading to a Writers Conference this weekend hosted by the local chapter of SCBWI. This group helped me get started on my writing path. All the feedback and support I get from conferences is unmeasurable.

I even had a spirit journey workshop help give me ideas on how Wanda will travel the fairy paths in the next book. Dare I say unicorn? Plus, there will be help from Brewford, her opinionated cat. And the questions about school, and what new path might lead Wanda are starting to come together. A new character being introduced, another Crystal Keeper Wanda's age named Edina, is adding a whole new perspective on the book. Now, Wanda is no longer alone.

What adventures will they be up to? I'll be posting more hints as they come about into chapters. Until then, try to follow your own path, where ever it may lead you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Started my second Goth Phase

Last week, I was surfing YouTube and found a video from 1983 of Ministry playing at First Avenue in MN. The first Ministry album, With Sympathy, is the basics of any 80s Goth Teen. So this sent me on a pilgrimage to find other Goth Bands from the 80s, and a complete redesign of Myspace/Facebook profiles followed. I've been sent off in a Goth direction to deal with the stress of work and life. Thus, my second Goth Phase has officially begun.

Now, keep in mind I'd like to forget I'm almost 40, and people are rumored to have a mid-life crisis about now.
And Goth or Dirge is a style of music and dress popular with teen-agers back in my old school days. It's the ultimate dark rebellion and goes hand-in-hand with punk and pirates. Goth is not dead, since I still see teens in black trenchcoats going down the street near the high school I drive past to work everyday.

So, I wondered, if I'm in a second Goth phase, it must be triggered by some sort of rebellion, some sort of frustration in life. Then it hit me. My day job is a teacher, and really, teachers have little or no power in education. It is all ruled by administrators and the government. Which, right now, is in a panic because of No Child Left Behind Law and the state cuts for California. There is talk of heading to Sacramento and protesting at the capitol again.

So, is that what mid-life crisis is about? Rebellion against what has happened or what is going on? Or just frustration of where you are in life? Or just life in general? When younger, it's about trying not to be placed in the same category as everyone else. You rebel against society's expectations. But right now, society/politicians are not being reasonable towards children and the teachers that are trying to teach them. So, digressing and going inward into a safe world of Goth might be my mid-life crisis answer.

Ok, I was never a truly dark goth, like suicidal. I always enjoyed the rebellion and way of dealing with stress through music, dance, and dress. It helped I worked in a Goth Dance Club in the 80s too. So, where does that put me? With a downloaded album of "With Sympathy" on my Ipod. A Gothic Playlist on my Mac of Souxie and the Banshees, Strawberry Switchblade, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, and Soft Cell. Entertain Me by Soft Cell starts out with "Trying to please all these people around, is trying to reach for the moon." It's nice that you can think this, nodding to who you have to deal with at work, and secretly thinking that your black sweater/black pants and black/blue patterned sweater has a secret message.

Tonight, I go for sushi and while waiting for my food, I feel compelled to walk down over to Cost Plus/World Market. This store is a staple for Goth designs since it has alternative/culturally different non-American items. And who is behind the register but one of my best friends from then and now, who is like a sister to me. My friend Tracy and I hug, and I go on my shopping spree for international nibbles. But I notice as she's helping check out, she's got her hair dyed black, and she's dressed all in black. I tell her, working at Cost Plus is the dream/cool job we both dreamed of when younger. We secretly knew that both of us had wanted to work there, and I remember applying back in the 80s too. I ask, "Tracy, are you in a second Goth Phase too? You're wearing all black?" And she says, "Yeah, maybe, I've been listening to lots of 80s stuff and went back to school. I'm going to West Valley now(A Local Jr. College)." Maybe after raising 2 kids, getting married in 92', she's ready for her second Goth Phase.
If that is what it takes to help me sort out life as I turn 40, bring it on. I'm ready to go Goth again.

Dedicated to my good friend Pam Fulton, who when I first met her, was my close Goth friend. She entered the ultimate goth reality on Sept. 19, 1997. I know she's in a better place wearing her leather jacket, dyed her hair black again, and is dancing to "Everyday is Halloween."