Sodaro's Stories

February 19, 2018

Names…

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 3:11 pm
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So, I have never had tiny humans of my own, but I have had many many many fictional characters who I created (who all came into existence without any bodily fluids or screaming) and names are…well sometimes they are the hardest part of a novel. Just kidding, but it does come in close sometimes.

In Arianna’s Honor, the prince changed his name four times. Four. Arianna started off by introducing herself. “Hello, dear author. I am Arianna Collins. This is my sword…and this is Prince Whatshisname who you are going to make me keep alive.”

In my other books, Ali was always Ali, Sam was always Sam. Dillon for a while was something else for a while and her daughter, before announcing she was Lilly and telling me I was silly, was Jamie. The other characters have kept their names for the entirety of the series, for which I am extremely grateful because keeping track of that crew was chore enough.

The novel I am revising now was my NaNo in 2014, so three years ago. The names of the characters have been set in my mind for three and a half years…well, the female protagonist had to convince me her name was Madison, but I am pretty comfortable with it now. Ironically, one of the key character’s names is the name of a friend I made in May of last year (and her uncle’s name is the same as her fictional brother’s name…weird). My male protagonist’s name, I had no connection to one way or another, but it fit him…and now I know someone with his name and I can’t say I am a fan of this person at all…but I do like my fictional person quite well…so the name stays if I can make it through…

Naming people is tough business…I give parents kudos…well, the ones who think it through…the ones who don’t think it through, I hope they are setting aside money for their kid’s therapy sessions. After 20 years of teaching, there are some names I will never ever use. After however many years of dating, the same applies…or at least I will be very careful which novels those names appear in…both categories may come in handy when I write one of my serial killer novels.

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May 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Author

41 years ago I was born. In my time on this planet, I have had more blessings than scars, more smiles than tears, and more friends than enemies. Seems like I am doing something right after all.

I have taught for 19 years. The class that just ended for the part-time gig, reminded me that I still have a passion for the career, which has helped the full-time gig. It’s easy to get lost in the bureaucracy of the education world, especially when, like me, you are a purist when it comes to education and learning. I think school should be all about learning, the student, and getting an education that is worth a damn. We will see what the future holds for me as Ms. Sodaro, teacher…but I know I will continue to do what I do, the way I do it…

In 2011, I published my first book, Whatever you Make of It. Holding that first book…everything changed for me. All my novels collectively sighed in my head and then screamed, “ME NEXT!!!!! PICK ME!!!”

In 2012, I published Arianna’s Honor and seeing my girl, Ari, in print was exhilarating because I was so proud of all she had done.

In 2013, I didn’t have anything ready to publish, and this gap is going to pointlessly bother my OCD forever.

In 2014, Ari cut in line and I published Arianna’s Destiny and I am happy to say there is a 3rd one whispering around in my mind, but she will wait her turn this time…or at least she is waiting her turn for now. Once she starts practicing with her sword, my other characters tend to give her space.

In 2015, I published Broken Trust and the world got to meet Sam and Ben and, of course, Ali.

In 2016, after getting my life right side up again, I will be publishing Redeeming Trust, which is Broken‘s sequel and Ali’s chance at love.

I am working on my Lucky Charms series and as of right now have budgetary plans to publish at least 2 of the 3 books in the series in 2016.

With all of this…have to say…year 41 is looking damn good.

November 23, 2015

30 Days of Author Gratitude: Characters

Kind of along the same lines as my gratitude for readers blog, I suppose a novelist could have a book without characters…I am just not sure how that would work…

So I love my characters. I love to see what shenanigans they are going to get into in this chapter. Love to see what predicament they are going to solve. Love that they come visit me at odd and sometimes awkward times. Try having a conversation about your job performance and have a character come whisper in your mind some bit of dialogue which would be PERFECT for their next scene. And you don’t want to forget that bit of chat…but you also want to give your full, undivided attention to your boss. (My boss is completely supportive of my writing and would let me pull out my phone and put it in ColorNotes, but I try to not abuse this privilege.)

When I am going shopping…I see things and I’m like…ooh, Ali (Broken Trust/Redeeming Trust) would like that, or wow…that is TOTALLY something Lilly (Lucky Charms series, to be published) would like…or Chris should get that for Stacey…or that is something that needs to be in Seducing Cupid, to be published). While THAT is something for my serial killer, Aleena (Black Widow, to be published).

The good thing about having so many characters (and so many respective books) is that inspiration can hit for one or many of them, no matter where I go or what I am doing…consequently, this is also sometimes a bad thing. But I love my characters. I am grateful for them acting out scenes where my job is to just stay caught up and get it written down.

I always picture them in my head….like the world’s best picnic. They each have their own table, but they intermingle and are supportive of each other when it’s their turn to get published. Someday, I want a characteriture of my character picnic drawn. I will hang it over my desk in my office. (Okay, so I don’t currently have a desk or an office…but I will…and then I can put all my characters above it).

November 3, 2015

30 Days of Author Gratitude: Friends and Family

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 12:38 pm
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(So to balance out the blog from yesterday, because I would not be who I am without my friends and family…)

I think every author has to express loudly and often just absolute gratitude for friends and family. In general, it has to be, if not awkward, at least less than ideal sometimes to be friends with or be related to an author.

For every time we were talking and I got out a notebook or my phone to make a note of something for one of my projects…Thank you. From the bottom of my distracted heart; I am so grateful that you understand (or pretend to) that ideas don’t keep and they need to be recorded.

For every time we had plans and I cancelled because I was in a writing zone…thank you for continuing to invite me out. I am so grateful that you understand (or, again, pretend to) that the writing zones can’t always be flipped on and off like a switch. Believe it or not, I DO try to cancel as rarely as possible…because I DO love you dearly — I just also love my writing zones, which then turn in to pretty novels, which I also love.

For every time I talk about my characters as if they are real people or my plot points as if they are actual events, thank you for humoring me (and not calling the crazy bus) and for even trying to keep straight which character is in what story. I am so grateful for your efforts.

No person is an island…and I would not have gotten where I am without those of you who support me and tolerate my eccentric behaviors.

October 26, 2015

Forcing a Fit (thoughts about a book’s ending)

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 9:51 pm
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I once went on a first (and last) date with a guy who told me I would be the perfect fit for him if he could just shave off some of my rough edges. While he was a horrible date, he did give me a good lesson (as most things do) for my novels.

If you are trying to force a book to flow a certain way, or especially END a certain way…you are doing what Mr. Creepy wanted to do to me (metaphorically). He wanted to take off the parts of me that didn’t fit with his preconceived idea of a mold for the perfect girlfriend instead of letting things develop to see if it could be better than the pre-existing list of what was needed for a girlfriend (yes, I am glad this conversation took place on date one).

When I am planning out my novel, I do a rough sketch of a kind of outline which is written both literally and figuratively in pencil…as in subject to change as the story grows and the characters develop.

“But wait,” you jump up and say, “isn’t this MY story? Don’t the characters have to go what I say?”

“You are fricken adorable.” I say as I pat your head. “Now sit down.”

Your characters chose you to tell THEIR story (if you want it to be YOUR story, write a memoir or autobiography). Trust me on this — this novel you are writing is about them, not you, not your ego, not your control issues. Let go of the “rough edges” you want to shave off your story and just let it become the perfect mess it was meant to be.

I use to try to command my characters take the plot this certain way so we could get to the “perfect” ending that I was SURE was what the novel needed. Now I am getting ready to self-publish my 5th novel and I can promise you — the most valuable lesson I have learned is to just let the plot happen and not try to force anything on the characters, the plot, and especially the ending.

I have learned to trust the system…part of that trust and not forcing is to let the novel percolate a bit and wait for the ending to come to me…it happens when it’s ready, like all things. With each novel, I get to the point of typing “The End,” I hope that this time, the ending won’t appear to me at 2 in the morning. Maybe this time.

And to the guy who didn’t like my rough edges…I really hope you found your perfect girlfriend.

October 9, 2015

Plot Twist

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 5:39 pm
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As a writer, I have learned the importance of chapter breaks, (and like so many things, things that apply to writing apply to real life as well). Sometimes where you end a chapter changes everything. At the very least, it will determine whether or not a reader will be content to stop there (hopefully not stopping for good) or will push on to read one more chapter. That need to know what happens next stronger than the need to sleep or clean or socialize…or whatever it is people do when they are not reading.

Plot twists are good ways to do chapter breaks (they are also REALLY effective in real life situations when it seems you are in an impossible position– and of course the best plot twists in real life are in the hands of the ultimate author/creator). In fiction, plot twists help reveal character motivations and true character desires. They take a character who is at his/her absolute end of their patience, their wits end, they have the very last drop of hope in their cup and the chapter ends…and then with the new chapter, there is a previously unseen solution — another way to go or a know tied at the end of the rope.
Plot twists keep the hero going, just as surely as they keep us going in real life.

So if you…or your character is in a desperate situation, just know there is a plot twist coming that is going to make a whole new ball game. Hold tight…you’ll make it.

September 10, 2015

My heart

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 6:17 pm
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“A big heart is both a clunky and a delicate thing; it doesn’t protect itself and it doesn’t hide.” Anne Lamott Bird by Bird.

I have always thought my kind heart has made me a better teacher and a better author…and I stand by this thought. It has helped me to have empathy for my students and to cry after 19 years of graduation. My heart in my classroom allows me to celebrate every one of my students’ victories and feel the pain of every one of their sorrows.

Having a big heart also helps me write more believable and three-dimensional characters. I can feel their joys and their hopes as if they were really in front of me instead of inside my head. I think it makes my stories more real because I feel for all of my characters their happiness and sadness are all real to me (and hopefully my readers).

While it makes me a more compassionate teacher and a more authentic author, having a big heart does tend to cause me problems in my personal life. I tend to see people’s potential rather than their realities. This had gotten me into trouble more times than I care to admit, but even with the mess I am currently cleaning up, I am still working to keep my big heart whole and open.

I know my life might be easier if I was more sheltered with my hart, but I just got the thing back out of hiding. After the loss of a love in 2010, I put my heart away — never wanting to hurt or feel that much again.

But this affected my relationships with people and it affected my writing — and those are both unacceptable to me, so I brought my heart back out again and I got it banged up — again.

More material to write about.

August 4, 2015

Flying

“Now her heart’s a mess — praying she’ll find a way to make it.

So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake

Just keep on reaching though the limb might break.

We’ve come this far, don’t you be scared now.

Cause you can learn to fly on the way down.”  “Fly” by Maddie and Tae

I came upon this song accidentally on Pandora who had connected it to something I liked (or however the magic works). After hearing it, I was so moved by the lyrics, I had to listen to it again. It brought to mind the quite by Kurt Vonnegut (other authors have their own variation of it as well) “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

One of the things I have fought to have more in my life is the power to be more fearless, to face my fears and do the things I fear the most. To fully live the life I am meant to live and to not let fears keep me from the things I need and want to do. I need to be flying and finding my wings on the way down.

I need to be fearless with meeting new people. Evidently, I will never find another chance at love if I don’t go out and meet people. I have tested this theory. Plus, think of all the potential future characters for novels.

I need to be fearless about sending my novels out into the cruel, cruel world. I hesitated sending my first novels out to agents. Whatever you Make of It and Arianna’s Honor/Destiny were not as easy to put into a specific genre other than fiction (though there are elements of magical realism in all of them). Broken Trust and Redeeming Trust are most definitely romance and so will be the entire Lucky Charms series. I need to create and send out query letters for them. No more excuses, Sodaro. Face this fear.

I need to be more fearless about my author life. I need to be protective of my writing time and my resources. I need to embrace my author life as fully as I am able to do so and increase this as I can, given my other responsibilities.

I need to be absolutely fearless with my budget and my health.

Everything I have ever wanted in my life, I have had to take a leap of faith and be fearless. I have always found my wings on the way down. Time to fly again, Sodaro. Watch me go!

July 29, 2015

One, Two, Three…

Filed under: Writer's thoughts — michelle sodaro @ 9:40 pm
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A one…A two…A one, two, three…

One of the best parts about embracing my author life more fully is that I get to talk to more writers more of the time, and as anyone who has ever talked to me about writing can attest to, I absolutely LOVE to “talk shop.”

Recently a friend and fellow writer (and ex-student) asked me about the number of drafts I put into my novels.

My first novel, Whatever you Make of It, went through about 10 drafts before I was ready to let it go, but since then I’ve significantly streamlined the process. Now it is down to three drafts.

First Draft is me writing/typing the novel. There are days when it is as if my characters are acting out their scenes and my job is to just transcribe, be quiet, and keep the hell up. Words go down on paper in a blur and I don’t shower for days. I’ve eaten only what I can shove into my face with my left hand, my wrist brace is on my right hand, and I just shut off my brain and my critics and I just write and then type and POOF, the word count multiplies and what started as an opening scene, now has scenes and chapters and rising action and an actual plot…and I haven’t read a word of it.

Second Draft — First Edit So here’s where I actually become aware of the words I wrote and typed. This is where I do more than just watch and record my characters acting out the scenes. This is where I actually read my novel. Now some of you may be questioning that. “What does she mean, she’s just now reading her novel, didn’t she write the damn thing?” To be honest, during the creation phase, if it went well, I have very little awareness of the events of the story. I just filled pages with words from my pretty pen. Now in the second draft, I make notes as I read for details and consistency. Oh, she had two brothers in chapter 3…hmm, where did this 3rd brother come from in Chapter 17? Oh, oops…I changed Jyn’s name to Steve. Yeah, people might notice that…this is where I make changes and type them up.

Third Draft — Final read-through This is where I read the story out loud, check for how the story SOUNDS. Are character voices distinct without tags after every line? (He said. She said. He said. She said.) Does the conversation sound like people (not English teachers) talk? Is the swearing level appropriate? Is the sex adding to the plot and believable? Here I fix any remaining grammar rules — we can bend the rules — we can’t disregard them completely.

And then it’s done, unless I discover a plot hole or the beginning needs to be stronger or I wake up in the middle of the night with a better ending line…but then it’s time to click send.

July 5, 2015

Sequels, anyone?

So I know I touched on this when Arianna’s Destiny was my primary project, but I thought I would touch on it again now that I am 6 chapters in to editing Broken Trust’s sequel.

The nice thing about a sequel is the characters are already created and developed…the difficult thing about a sequel…is the characters are already created and developed.  hahaha

With Arianna’s Honor to Arianna’s Destiny, I discovered I didn’t like the name of Nicholas’s best friend, but Arianna’s Honor was already out, so the name remained for the sequel. People who had died, had to stay dead (although a zombie twist would have been interesting). and the unresolved issues that made Arianna so unique needed to either stay unresolved or have made mention on how they were dealt with…and my girl Ari definitely has some issues.

With Broken Trust to Redeeming Trust, there is a shift of focus from Sam to Ali, but there is also that need to stay consistent. Problems that happened, may rear their ugly heads, because as in real life, if you don’t deal with things from your past, they tend to come back and bite you in the ass.

From the beginning, I have known there would be a sequel to Broken Trust. I think that makes a difference. (I also knew from the beginning that Ari would have a sequel) Knowing this, you can leave some things unresolved with the idea that you fix them in the sequel (yes, I do have a list…why do you ask)

A problem (for me) is when you don’t know offhand if a set of characters has another story to tell (Whatever you Make of It — I love Jac and Jyn so so so much, an would LOVE to play with them again, but I don’t know if they have another story to tell…I honestly don’t know). (Same with Arianna — I could see a 3rd book just as clearly as I can see her just getting a well-deserved rest.)

Another issue with sequels is backstory. I have read some series/sequels where I feel like I am re-reading the entire first book (too much backstory). I have also read sequels where the author almost assumes I haven’t read anything between the book and its sequel (too little backstory). It’s all about the balance between the two…and I keep this in mind constantly as I edit.

I love that Ali and Sam get a sequel. Love that I get to keep playing with them…it’s like going back to visit old friends and picking up like no time has passed at all.

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