Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Building Scenes

Somebody had asked me (well, and everybody else), on the Compuserve forum, what the "legos" of building a scene are. How do you do it?

Given that there are undoubtedly as many answers to that as there are writers...this is a brief example of how _I_ do it. Fwiw. [g]

[Section ? God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise]

OK, I began this—oddly enough --with the first line. I had a good-sized chunk—25,000 words or so—written and assembled, which (again, oddly) begins the book. That was neatly tied off, in structural terms, though. So I needed a way into Whatever Happens Next.

So I began with the worms. Claire's generally the default voice for me, and since at least part of What Happens Next would be on the Ridge, unless I specifically "heard" Jamie or Young Ian, it would likely be her explaining what the state of the wicket was. So I began to sink into her. Well, I knew it was now spring, because we'd been waiting for the snow to melt when I finished the earlier chunk.

This being Claire, she didn't say, "It was spring." She said, "Spring had sprung."

So what happens on a mountain in the spring time? The snow melts. You get water. Hence, the first line:

Spring had sprung, and the creek was rising.

(Which of course brought to mind the old country saying, "God willing and the creek don't rise," which I at once put up top, knowing a good chapter or section title when one shows up .)

So at once I have the notion of a rising creek, fed by snow-melt. So that's where I began to dig, feeling my way into the descriptive details.

Spring had sprung, and the creek was rising. Swelled by melting snow and fed by hundreds of tiny waterfalls that trickled and leapt down the mountain's face, it roared past my feet, exuberant with spray. I could feel it cold on my face, and knew that I'd be wet to the knees within minutes, but it didn't matter. The fresh green of arrowhead and [ ] rimmed the banks, some plants dragged out of the soil by the rising water and whirled downstream, more hanging on by their roots for dear life, leaves trailing in the racing wash. Dark mats of cress swirled under the water, close by the sheltering banks.

Now, I'm writing this slowly, picking and choosing words, reshaping sentences, while re-entering the personal memories I have of snow-fed mountain creeks and adjusting these for the different vegetation patterns of North Carolina (my memories being of Northern Arizona ). And then—a toadstool popped up.

And fresh greens were what I wanted.

Well, of course she does. A) this is Claire, who would almost never be outdoors without taking note of what might be edible or useful in her surroundings, and B) it is spring, which means we're just coming out of a winter with no fresh food. You bet she wants fresh greens.

So I started thinking along those lines—she's not just watching the creek, she's out gathering. What's she gathering? How? I see the watercress in the creek; I know she wants it.

My gathering-basket was half full of [ginseng roots?] fiddleheads, ramp shoots [ck.] and wild asparagus [ck.]. A nice big lot of tender new cress, crisp and cold from the stream, would top off the winter's Vitamin C deficiency very well. I took off my shoes and stockings, and after a moment's hesitation, took off my gown and jacket as well and hung them over a tree-branch. The air was chilly in the shade of the silver birches that overhung the creek here, and I shivered a bit, but ignored the cold, kirtling up my shift before wading into the stream.

That cold was harder to ignore. I gasped, and nearly dropped the basket, but found my footing among the slippery rocks, and made my way toward the nearest mat of tempting dark green. Within seconds, my legs were numb, and I'd lost any sense of cold in the enthusiasm of forager's frenzy and salad-hunger.

Now, again, I'm writing this very slowly, integrating the information (what kind(s) of plants are likely to be there) with the sensory aspects, balancing sentences, choosing the paragraph break (not positive yet on that. It's a little longer paragraph than I prefer, especially when being descriptive; I might go back and break it after "tree-branch," but I do like beginning the next paragraph with the simple declarative sentence " That cold was harder to ignore." The rhythm is better.

That I can mess with some more next time I go back and forth through here. For the moment….

She's moving, she's doing something, and I've got well stuck into the sensory impressions of the scene; if I need backstory/explanation, this would be the place to do it (remember the comic-book model; you have the intro panel which establishes the character and situation, and then you have the 2/3/4 small panels beneath to do any backstory needed, after which the character(s) must be in motion).

So, a quick recap, for the benefit both of readers for whom this is the first book, and for those who don't necessarily reread the whole series before a new one comes out.

A good deal of our stored food had been saved from the fire, as it was kept in the outbuildings: the springhouse, corncrib, and smoking-shed. The root-cellar had been destroyed, though, and with it, not only the carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes, but most of my carefully gathered stock of dried apples and wild yams, and the big hanging clusters of raisins, all meant to keep us from the ravages of scurvy. The herbs, of course, had gone up in smoke, along with the rest of my surgery. True, a large quantity of pumpkins and squashes had escaped, these having been piled in the barn, but one grows tired of squash-pie and succotash after a couple of months--well, after a couple of days, speaking personally.

The next bit I just heard, as I was inside Claire's head (that "speaking personally" kind of pulls you in there), and this is what she was thinking:

Not for the first time, I mourned Mrs. Bug's abilities as a cook, though of course I did miss her for her own sake. Amy McCallum Higgins had been raised in a crofter's cottage in the Highlands of Scotland and was, as she put it, "a good plain cook." Essentially, that meant she could bake bannocks, boil porridge, and fry fish simultaneously, without burning any of it. No mean feat, but a trifle monotonous, in terms of diet.

My own piece-de-resistance was stew--which lacking onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes, had devolved into a grim sort of pottage consisting of venison or turkey stewed with cracked corn, barley, and possibly chunks of stale bread. Ian, surprisingly, had turned out to be a passable cook; the succotash and squash-pie were his contribution to the communal menu. I did wonder who had taught him to make them, but thought it wiser not to ask.

So no one had starved, nor yet lost any teeth, but by mid-March, I would have been willing to wade neck-deep in freezing torrents in order to acquire something both edible and green.

OK. Young Ian's in her head, and given what's happened in the previous chunk of story, she'd be paying particular attention to him. I can't (of course ) tell you what did happen , but this is what she's thinking:

Ian had, thank goodness, gone on breathing. And after a week or so, had ceased acting quite so shell-shocked, eventually regaining something like his normal manner. But I noticed Jamie's eyes follow him now and then, and Rollo had taken to sleeping with his head on Ian's chest, a new habit. I wondered whether he really sensed the pain in Ian's heart, or whether it was simply a response to the sleeping conditions in the cabin.

Hm. OK. Well, now, here I have a choice: I've opened the door to describing the sleeping conditions in the cabin, and I sort of want to do that, both for backstory and what you might call "forestory" (because I have another, partial scene that takes place in spring on the mountain, and think it may link up with this one)—but we've been doing backstory long enough. I need to pop back out of Claire's memories and into her physical present.

I stretched my back, hearing the small pops between my vertebrae.

OK, we're back. Now what? Well, we've just been looking back—let's look forward, as I don't see anything vivid happening right in the moment.

Now that the snow-melt had come, I could hardly wait for our departure. I would miss the Ridge and everyone on it--well, almost everyone. Possibly not Hiram Crombie, so much. Or the Chisholms, or--I short-circuited this list before it became uncharitable.

At which point Claire said:

"On the other hand," I said firmly to myself, "think of beds."

I left the sleeping conditions unexplored, but evidently she's still thinking about them, though willing to go along in the forward-looking with me:

Granted, we would be spending a good many nights on the road, sleeping rough--but eventually, we would reach civilization. Inns. With food. And beds. I closed my eyes momentarily, envisioning the absolute bliss of a mattress. I didn't even aspire to a feather-bed; anything that promised more than an inch of padding between myself and the floor would be paradise. And, of course, if it came with a modicum of privacy...even better.

OK. Interesting practical question; given that we have ten or twelve people crammed into Roger and Bree's old cabin, and the weather prevents any outdoor forays, and we assume that Claire and Jamie weren't willing to go for three or four months without sex—what were they doing?

Jamie and I had not been completely celibate since December. Lust aside--and it wasn't--we needed the comfort and warmth of each other's body. Still, covert congress under a quilt, with Rollo's yellow eyes fixed upon us from two feet away was less than ideal, even assuming that Young Ian was invariably asleep, which I didn't think he was, even though he was sufficiently tactful as to pretend.

At this point, my innate sense of rhythm and pacing is getting restless and thinking, "Enough with the backstory, description, and thoughts—something should happen!" So it does:

A hideous shriek split the air, and I jerked, dropping the basket.

Another toadstool. Fine—but what now? Do we find out immediately who shrieked and why?

No, this is Claire, she's after food—and she didn't just hear a shriek, she dropped her basket! So--

I flung myself after it, barely snatching the handle before it was whirled away on the flood, and stood up dripping and trembling, heart hammering as I waited to see whether the scream would be repeated.

Well, only two alternatives here: either the scream will be repeated, or it won't. If not, though, she's going to have to go looking for what made it. The story's focus is fixed, at this point—you can't ignore the scream and do more backstory or interior monologue or whatever—you have to deal with the scream. (Now, by this time, I do myself know what the scream was—remember, I know where and when we are—so the next bits were written with a knowledge of what was coming—which I didn't have when I began the scene.)

It was--followed in short order by an equally piercing screech, but one deeper in timbre and recognizable to my well-trained ears as the sort of noise made by a Scottish Highlander suddenly immersed in freezing water. Fainter, higher-pitched shrieks, and a breathless "Fook!" spoken in a Dorset accent indicated that the gentlemen of the household were taking their spring bath.

OK. Well, now we have fairly clear sailing for a bit, because of course we want to go and watch. The only thing to bother with, really, is simple craft things like description, detail, sensory impressions, imagery, and emotional undertow. (And I think I need to revise the next bit to include her wringing out her wet skirt and getting her shawl, but leave that, for now…)

There are few things more enjoyable than sitting in relative warmth and comfort while watching fellow human beings soused in cold water. If said human beings present a complete review of the nude male form, so much the better. I made my way through a small growth of fresh-budding river willows, found a conveniently-screened rock and spread out the damp skirt of my shift, enjoying both the bright sun on my shoulders and the sight before me.

Jamie was standing in the pool, nearly shoulder-deep, his hair slicked back like a russet seal. Bobby stood on the bank, and picking up Aidan with a grunt, threw him to Jamie in a pinwheel of flailing limbs and piercing shrieks of delighted fright.

"Me-me-me-_me_!" Orrie was dancing around his stepfather's black-furred legs, his chubby bottom bouncing up and down among the reeds like a little pink balloon.

Bobby laughed, bent and hoisted him up, holding him for a moment high overhead as he squealed like a seared pig, then flung him in a shallow arc out over the pool.

He hit the water with a tremendous splash and Jamie grabbed him, laughing, and pulled him to the surface, whence he emerged with a look of open-mouthed stupefaction that made them all hoot like gibbons. Aidan and Rollo were both dog-paddling round in circles by now, shouting and barking.

I looked across to the opposite side of the pool and saw Ian, evidently answering this invitation, rush naked down the small hill and leap like a salmon into the pool, uttering one of his best Mohawk war-cries. This was cut off abruptly by the cold water, and he vanished with scarcely a splash.

I waited--as did the others--for him to pop back up, but he didn't. Jamie looked suspiciously behind him, in case of a sneak attack, but an instant later, Ian shot out of the water directly in front of Bobby with a blood-curdling yell, grabbed him by the leg and yanked him in.

Matters thereafter became generally chaotic, with a great deal of promiscuous splashing, yelling, hooting, and jumping off of rocks, which gave me the opportunity to reflect on just how delightful naked men are. Not that I hadn't seen a good many of them in my time, but aside from Frank and Jamie, most men I'd seen undressed usually had been either ill or injured, and were encountered in such circumstances as to prevent a leisurely appreciation of their finer attributes.

From Orrie's round bottom and Aidan's spidery, winter-white limbs to Bobby's chunky, black-furred torso and neat little flat behind, the McCallum-Higginses were as entertaining to watch as a cageful of monkeys.

Ian and Jamie were something different--baboons, perhaps, or mandrills. They didn't really resemble each other in any attribute other than height, and yet were plainly cut from the same cloth. Watching Jamie squatting on a rock above the pool, thighs tensing for a leap, I could easily see him preparing to attack a leopard, while Ian stretched himself glistening in the sun, warming his dangly bits while keeping an alert watch for intruders. All they needed were purple bottoms, and they could have walked straight onto the African veldt, no questions asked.

They were all lovely, in their wildly various ways, but it was Jamie my gaze returned to, over and over again. He was battered and scarred, his muscles roped and knotted, and age had grooved the hollows between them. The thick welt of the bayonet scar writhed up his thigh, wide and ugly, while the thinner white line of the scar left by my treatment of a rattlesnake's bite was nearly invisible, clouded by the thick fuzz of his body-hair, this beginning to dry now and stand out from his skin. The scimitar-shaped swordcut across his ribs had healed well, no more than a hair-thin white line by now.

He turned round and bent to pick up a cake of soap from the rock, and my insides turned over. It wasn't purple, but could not otherwise have been improved on, being high, round, delicately dusted with red-gold, and with a delightful muscular concavity to the sides. His balls, just visible from behind, were purple with the cold, and gave me a strong urge to creep up behind him and cup them in my rock-warmed hands.

I have some reservations about the rhythm of the next bit, but this is what she thought:

I clapped a handful of shawl to my mouth to muffle the snort of amusement at thought of the standing broad-jump that would likely result if I did.

OK, the preceding several paragraphs have all been internal description, but the broad-jump sentence—whether I keep it or not—has pulled me back into Claire's mind—and I catch the implied thread of the "sleeping conditions" issue from above.

It occurred to me, with a small sense of shock, that I was so struck by him because I had not, in fact, seen him naked--or even substantially undressed--in several months. Owing to the weather and the cramped and semi-public nature of our accommodation since the Big House had burned, what lovemaking we had managed had been mostly accomplished at dead of night, mostly clothed, and under a blanket.

But now...I threw back my head, closing my eyes against the brilliant spring sun, enjoying the tickle of my own fresh-washed hair against my shoulder-blades. The snow was gone, the weather was good--and the whole outdoors beckoned invitingly, filled with places where privacy could be assured, bar the odd skunk.

OK. That's probably the end of this scene; we'll jump and take up further matters with a new one, because I don't feel anything of a dramatic nature happening with the guys bathing in the creek. But we'll see.


  1. I've always enjoyed the flow of your scenes, and how something simply mentioned at the beginning of a chapter can be the undertone throughout. I'm also very grateful for your example topic! Who doesn't like that sort of visual?

  2. I didn't realize until just now how much I've missed Claire and Jamie. :-)

    I find it very interesting to "see" how a writer's mind works. I know how my academic writing happens; I've never thought about fiction writing and how that would progress. Thank you for the visual! ;-)

  3. This was a very, very helpful to read from a writing standpoint. Thank-you.

  4. That was very interesting indeed. Funny... our creek is rising right now thanks to the remnants of Fay.

  5. Thank you! I was going through withdrawls, lol. Nothing like the vision of a naked Jamie bending over to get your blood moving.

    I find your writing methods absolutely fascinating. I dont know of anyone else who writes like you, with the unorthodox methods turning out a higher quality of work than pretty much any other author I have ever read.

    Now I can go back to my online book club and start blabbing about Jamie and Claire again... I think they are planning an intervention.

  6. Very informative. Thank you.

    FYI, birches here in NC are never silver. They tend to be river birches, with beautiful shiny reddish pinkish bark on the young trees, grayish on the mature ones. Ramps are a form of onions. I've never heard of wild asparagus growing here.

  7. Thanks, Diana. I needed a good giggle. And I love to watch how you write. You're so generous with your time and advice. Thanks.

  8. Actually we have several kind of birch trees in North Carolina. I think the mountain paper birch could be seen as silver-like. They're not as common now though.

  9. Your writing is so vivid and detailed, drawing in many senses...I wonder if I'm seeing what you're seeing. I love the imagery and the movie that you build in my mind.

  10. Promise, last post - here's a good source about wildcrafting: http://www.wildcrafting.com/ - what Claire does.

  11. Wow, I'm impressed that you managed to dissect your own scene so thoroughly. Writing a scene is such an instinctive, intuitive process - it must have been interesting actually taking it apart and looking at how it works.


  12. Dear Gator and Karen--

    Thanks! "Silver" was my impression of the bark (I have a few twigs picked up on my first trip to NC), rather than the actual name--I do check the vegetation against my assorted guides, but that usually doesn't get done 'til the copyediting phase--thanks for saving me a step! [g]

  13. Dear Cat--

    Well, I can't do it at all while I'm working--but _ex post facto_, I can see it. As I said, it's organic, but there really _is_ a logic underlying everything, whether I'm using it consciously or not.

  14. Fascinating. You do write like a tree growing. Trunk first (Jamie and Claire), then all the branches(Bree, Roger, Ian),then it leafs out into all the side stories.  Each one makes for a beautiful tree in the end.  Thanks for sharing this gift with us.

  15. Oooh, yay! I really enjoyed that...I'm not having a great morning, so that was a nice distraction. Really looking forward to reading the rest of the book!!! :)

  16. Diana,

    I finished this with a slight breathlessness and a stinging of tears in my eyes. I have missed Jamie and Claire desperately. I have missed you and the grace and gift of your words. And there is nothing like a peek into your mind.

    I don't recall where or in what forum you've discussed your writing process before but, whenever my son asks me to edit his papers, I fall back on this method and it's been a tremendous aide to him. He has now qualified for Honors/AP as a freshman in high school, and he attributed you and your method as the basis for his success.


  17. I love Claire's inner voice in the books. I very much enjoyed reading the process of writing this scene, but I was wondering if you would ever write about how you keep the various voices separate. I think it's incredible how I can read a scene and know just jumping in whether it's Claire, Jamie, Roger, or Bree. Not just by what they are thinking but how it's written.

    I can't wait for more Jamie and Claire!

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog segment, Diana -- from your writing process to actual story. Loved the scene! As the reader I was reminded of a hit-and-miss engine -- thoughts/direction being gathered and then the story hit its stride and coasted along. For the maze of directions you may encounter writing, I remain in awe of the flow and tidy finished product.

    Lastly, just a comment on your use of "Good Lord willing and the Creeks don't rise". Maybe it's the Georgian (Trial of Tears) or stenographer in me, but I'll mention that I know that phrase as an 1800's reference to the Creek indians referencing an uprising. Language and interpretations are interesting.

    Thanks again for the snippet trip to the Ridge.

  19. Dear Merrymags--

    Congratulations to your son! I'm glad the "method" (if it could be dignified by such a term [g]) was useful to him! It all depends on how one's mind works--people who are linear writers usually look at one of my explanations and inform me that I "can't _do_ that!" [g[

  20. Dear Angie--

    Thanks! That's fascinating--didn't know that (and plainly, neither did Claire [g]). I'll keep it as the chapter/section title, but may eliminate her thinking it's an old country saying, since it isn't! She'll probably still think it, though.

    (Oh, and renewed thanks for the excellent tote bag, which was _very_ useful in hauling stuff back from Grandfather Mt!)

  21. Dear Stephanie--

    Hmm. OK, that sounds like a fun thing to talk about. Later, though--gotta do a little work today, first!

  22. Wonderful post, Diana. I am amazed, as always, at your talent. I check your blog daily for updates and last night I was rewarded for my efforts! Hopefully, when your latest book is done you'll come down (or over)to the DFW area so I can attend one of your book signings!

  23. Diana, from your explanation I can totally see how your thoughts run through this scene. It is fascinating how you build on each little incident to make it whole. You made my day, my coworkers were laughing at me because I couldn't pull myself away until I finished reading.

  24. Ahhh - Jamie, Claire and lust delayed - doesn't get any better than this!


  25. You're kind to reply, Diana, and I believe one can't have too many totes.

    Please know I'm not offering a correction, just commenting on a different interpretation. Here it fits well with your content and I believe it's usually used in reference to water anyway. (And I'm a poor proofer to later catch my 'Trial' instead of Trail of Tears, BTW):)

  26. Fascinating! Though I've read your descriptions before on how you construct your scenes, I'm always floored by the way you can write out two scenes, neither building on the other and yet, your ability to connect them is amazing.

    I am that linear writer you mentioned. I start with a few sentences at the beginning of the story and have no idea where it's going except that I do know the last few lines. But everything in between is an adventure that has to go from scene to scene or I can't write it with any coherence.

    I tried to incorporate a scene once that I'd written out early on, a winter scene that came several chapters into the book. I wanted so much to use that scene but it took me two weeks to get it to work properly and by the time it did, I'd changed 75% of it.

    I don't think I'll ever be doing that again! :lol:

    And thank you for a little bit of Jamie and Claire. I miss them.

  27. Thank you, Diana, for sharing this thinking process with us. As I read along, I couldn't help think how this sounded like a workshop with an instructor helping a writer along with a piece of writing (though with the caveat, of course, that your writing is _much_ better than what would be seen in such a class).

    It's an internal dialogue that can only help aspiring writers develop our craft.

  28. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH for the post! It was just the fix I needed. The writing as always is perfection. Its amazing to me how the process works and the fact you write as if your in character. Please keep posting excerpts from the next book bc 2009 seems so far away.

  29. Dear Keighley--

    But I _do_ write in character--how else could one do it?

    I agree that fall of 2009 seems far away--but December of 2008 seems all too close! That's when _I_ need to have this book finished--keep your fingers crossed!

  30. Thank you for that generous look into your writing process! I can certainly see the scientist in you as well here. No wonder your scenes are so vivid they take over one's imagination- you've touched on all senses.

  31. Good morning,

    I was under the impression that the "Trail of Tears" was the Cherokee removal to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). The Creeks who I thougt were primarily in Alabama and Mississippi.The other "Civilized Tribes" of the Southeast were also forced by PresidentAndrew Jackson to migrate to Indian Territory in the 1830s

  32. Dear Scott--

    Yes, the "Trail of Tears" does refer to the Cherokee removal. Angie isn't attaching that to her mention of the Creek rising; just adding a parenthetical note regarding her own geographical proclivities. [g]

  33. Dear Diana,

    I have missed Jamie and Claire so much, thanks for the post. I am breathless.....

  34. this is so beautiful and moving, the way she can still love her man. thanks.

  35. Dear Deav--

    Well, I've had mine for 37 years now, and I'm still right fond of him. [g]

  36. Diana, what a generous treat. Thank you so much. I loved it!

    --Debbie in San Diego

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. Thank you so much Diana. I didn't realize how much I had missed Jamie and Claire. What a lovely treat! Now, of course, I'm longing for more.

    Please tell me the book starts by addressing the issue of who's name is on the box?????

  39. Dear luann--

    You _know_ whose name is on the box; it says so in ABOSAA.

  40. Yes but who is it? I thought it was Jerimiah, but then they were confused when they saw the name! My sisters and I have been waiting since we read it for the answer.

  41. luann

    It IS Jemmy's name on the box ... my take on that (it was Brianna who wondered who it was, not Roger) was that she was confused because Jemmy is with them - and the box is from Claire & Jamie's time - so of course, she is probably wondering (or worrying) that Jemmy at some point will go back through the stones ... of course, I could be wrong ... anybody else have a thought?

  42. Dear luann--

    [sigh] I get this all the time. Look...

    If someone came in and handed me an object that was clearly very old, and that I'd never seen before, and it had "Diana Jean Gabaldon" burned into the lid--

    I would probably not pipe up, "Oh, that's _me_!!"

    I would probably...[lifting hands in expectant prompt]...say...

    "WHO'S THAT?!?"

    Which is exactly what Brianna said. Geez, guys. Particularly since they then _open_ the box, which is full of stuff from Jamie and Clarie--WHO THE HECK ELSE WOULD JEREMIAH BE?

    That clear it up enough that I don't need to put a Special Explanatory Note in the beginning of the next book? Or a scene in which Roger says, "Oh, dear--you remember a few months ago when we found this box? Why were you confused about the name on it?" And Brianna then gives him a look and says, "What do you mean, confused?"
    "Well, you said, 'Who's that?' when you saw it...so I thought..."

    Real gripping stuff, that.

    I'm sorry--I'm sure this sounds as though I'm being cranky at you, and I'm really not. And plainly there are a lot of people who were confused--as I say, people ask me this same question All The Time.

    It just seemed (and seems) perfectly obvious to _me_. But then, it would, I suppose. [wry g]

  43. AH-HA!!! The light comes on! Now I understand..thanks SO much and NO you don't sound cranky lol. It just seemed like a cliffhanger ending the book that way...I scrambled back thru the books in search for Jemmy's full name to make sure it was him and not perhaps one of his decendants. I just can't wait to find out what happens next!

  44. Okay, that was great, Diana! I could just see her sneaking up behind him and cupping him by the balls! Totally cracked me up as it reminded me of a few times that I have snuck up behind my hubby and done something like that! I know, I'm evil. But it's such fun. ;o)

  45. Hi Diana,
    Thanks for sharing your writing! I love your style of writing! I was just wondering though, why are so many people crammed into the cabin? I know that the Big House has burned down, but, for example, doesn't Young Ian have his own cabin?
    Can't wait for the next book to come out!

  46. Hi Diana!
    Awesome, as usual!!! Thanks so much for sharing your "building scenes" info with us...as well as another visit with Jamie and Claire! Writing has been a bit more of a challenge lately for me... besides life, work, a DH with a bone infection in his knee and on IV antibiotics... we got a kitten a few weeks ago. She is about 2 1/2 mo. old now... and loves to jump onto the keyboard in the way when I try to write! Remids me of Adso!!! ; )

  47. Dear Vicki--

    Yowch! A bone infection sounds Very Nasty; hope your husband's feeling better soon!

  48. Thanks Diana!
    Hope Doug is feeling better!!!
    Randy's problem started almost 4 yrs ago. He broke his leg on Sept. 11, 2004 at a Cub Scout Campout Obstacle course. It was a rope swing. Someone tied up the rope wrong and there was slack in the rope. When he swung out he came down on his leg. He broke a chunk off the tibia plateau and put a bunch of vertical cracks across the bone. Now he has no cartilage left and the joint is a mess. He had to get the 2 plates and 12 screws out in preparation for a knee replacement. That surgery was in July. When it finally stopped bleeding and seemed healed (a month later), he started feeling like he got the flu and it then began to seep. Like always, it was over a weekend. He saw the knee doctor, who sent him to an Infectious disease doctor. They started him on the antibiotics... 2 by IV. He had an allergic reaction to one of them and ended up in the ER from anaphylactic shock. He is doing better. They did an MRI too. We have to go to the knee doctor on Tues. to see what to do next. Too bad... it seems neither maggots or leeches will help at this time. He said "No Thanks!" when I mentioned it! ; )

    I did manage to write a little piece for the SiWC contest. I have to finish editing and email it.

    BTW, the Trail of Tears/Trial of Courage/Trail of Death was also in Indiana. It affected the Pottawatomi Indians here.
    Take Care!

  49. On the subject of rope swings, I had a friend in college on a biology field trip which somehow also included swinging out over a river on a rope swing with too much slack, thus causing her shoulder to be neatly dislocated. Because they were in a remote location, the only doctor they could find fixed her up with a cast/contraption/torture device that apparently was last used in the 1930's in Outer Slovenia (this according to the orthopedic surgeon she saw when she got home three weeks later). It looked like a plaster tube top with one shoulder strap. My friend instisted on remaining with the group for the rest of the trip, despite her discomfort, but had to endure being called "fossil bra" the whole time.

  50. Beths,
    Well, my DH did think he dislocated his knee at first... well, he DID dislocate a big chunk of bone. Your friend was lucky! I am sure she was in a lot of pain tho! 'Fossil Bra'.. that is funny!!!!

    Vicki (aka Piper Mom from the LOL boards)

  51. wow. this was amazing to read how you think when you write!

    i am not a writes by profession, but purely for fun.

    i have admired your books since only two were there, and have enjoyed each one deeply. and now getting to read your blog is a special treat. you become more human, and wonderful

    thanks for sharing!!! this was wonderful to see how your mind travels along a path.

  52. Thank you for the insight into how you work your magic!

    Any word on when the excerpts you mentioned earlier might be posted? Sorry to be pushy, but even kind people tend to be a little crazy about their addictions. :)

  53. Vicki: I think the take-home message is to stay off of rope swings. I am sorry for all of your troubles. If my fossil-bra story made you feel better, should I tell you that the second part of the biology trip saga involved hordes of seed ticks invading places that only a very close friend should be asked to reach?

  54. Beths:
    Yes, gotta watch those rope swings. Maybe Diana can work that into a story! : )

    Ah yes... seed ticks. I have worked several summers outdoors (in the past) I had a tick in a very personal and private place one time. Ouch!

  55. Oh My Goodness that was so marvelous. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your thought processes as you wrote that scene. It's always amazed me, as I've read your books, that you've not only been able to create a pleasing visual picture, but also an emotional one, a linear one (presenting then, now and what's to come), and with each character's voice so clear and discernable. Wonderful!

    These characters are so full and rich and inhabit such a warm place in my heart, thanks for sharing your process in bringing them to life for me. Of particular endearment, for me, is feeling Claire and Jaime growing older and feeling their love deepen and mature, while still getting lost in their physical connection. It's so beautiful to read.

    Thanks for allowing us to be a fly on the wall and watch you as you work your craft.

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