Archive for January, 2010

Good news . . .

January 31, 2010


I turned in my novel! Yes, UNDER THE LIGHT is now in the hands of my beloved editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kate O’Sullivan. Stay tuned for a teaser in the near future. Ah, it’s nice to have a short rest.

Other good news? The movie option for A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT has re-sold to Kristin Hahn (producer of THE DEPARTED!) I’m delighted!

More news soon . . .


come to a reading

January 27, 2010

If you are in Portland, Oregon this Saturday (January 30th) come to a free reading of a new play written by my sister Cynthia (C.S. Whitcomb) at the Artist Rep Theater at 2:00 pm. The play is called The Wilde Boy and is about Oscar Wilde and his lover Bosie. It’s an excellent play and how can you beat free live theater? The A.R.T. is at the corner of SW Alder and 15th Street. See you there!

(By the way, I finished my rewrite of UNDER THE LIGHT and got very good notes from sister Cynthia and I’m rewriting one more time before I send it to my editor. For you new writers, it probably seems boring how often I rewrite the same manuscript. But being a novelist is mostly about revision. Luckily, I love the rewriting stage.)

midway haze

January 16, 2010

Ah, yes, I’m halfway through my UNDER THE LIGHT rewrite #1. Here are the kinds of thoughts that come to me during this sort of crunch:

1.) Hey, how come my manuscript is getting shorter? No fair. (It’s from tightening up the writing.)

2.) Did I say this already? (Sometimes I discover that I accidentally inserted a good idea into two different spots in the first draft. I usually detect this when I see the section the second time and remember having revised a certain phrase already.)

3.) Do the chapter breaks really go here? (As I revise, sometimes one chapter plumps up and another one tightens up — sometimes they get so off balance pagecount-wise I have to adjust. And then I have to remember to make sure the new chapter closing has a cliffhanger.)

4.) Should I email my editor that I need an extra couple days now . . . or wait until Monday?   =)

5.) How many cups of coffee have I had so far today?

6.) When’s the last time I took my dog out for a widdle?

7.) It can’t really be 4:30 already!

8.) It might clear my head if I did something else for a few minutes. Like write a blog post.

9.) Maybe I’d better check my email again to see if there’s any news from my agent.

10.) Ooh, I just had a good idea for my NEXT novel — I’d better jot that down.

Well, I should get back to the rewrite. I’ll check in again when I get all the way through.

Under the Light, rough

January 12, 2010

Well, I finished a rough draft of UNDER THE LIGHT.

Now I’m going through, chapter by chapter, and in addition to revising for the big stuff (answering questions like, “Do I love this part? Does this feel right?”) I’m also checking for the following things as I read and rewrite:

Is the voice right? Jenny (my first person narrator) needs to sound like herself.

Am I aiming at the crosshairs of the chapter? (See my blog post from 10/30/09 to learn more about crosshairs.)

Are there any transitions between scenes that I need to fill in? (Sometimes, to help my writing speed along faster, I skip the transitions and mark the spots so I can go back later and write them in.)

Are there “inserts” I need to include? (Sometimes I get good ideas while I’m running errands or watching a DVD and I write down the tidbits on scraps of paper and then insert them later.)

Is the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter good enough?

Are there questions I need to answer? (Sometimes I can’t remember a detail so I type in a question mark for a minor character’s name from a previous scene or what day of the week it is. Now’s the time to get those things right.)

Fitch x 2? Okay, this one’s harder to explain. It means . . . like Janet Fitch (author of WHITE OLEANDER) do I say something fresh and fascinating at least twice per page?

Does this chapter support the novel as a Stand Alone? Meaning, if someone had not read A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT, would they still be able to follow what’s going on in this chapter in a significant way?

Am I giving SLANT fans what they crave?

Am I being true to the main characters’ emotional arcs?

Are my pay-offs set up right or do my set-ups have satisfying pay-offs?

Are the settings described vividly and are they interesting enough?

Can I make the bad stuff worse? (See my blog post of 11/26/09 on how this heightens tension.)

Yesterday I got through chapter one. By this time next week I want to have rewritten the whole manuscript. I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, best of all great good wishes to those who started novels in November (for National Novel Writing Month) and who are now finishing those manuscripts. As my dad used to say, “You’re doing a terrific job!”

The Art of the Supernatural Tea Party

January 6, 2010

Since I sense that you’re dying to know, I’ll tell you how I came up with the Supernatural Tea Party. It all started when I was volunteering backstage at the Portland Christmas Revels in 2007, a show that was set in a haunted castle. My friend Don Stewart Burns (actor and magician) was playing one of the leads, and one evening during the intermission (the house was already open, so we had to be quiet) I found Don talking with one of the teen boys in the cast, telling this lad about a prophetic dream he’d had years before. I love these kinds of conversations and so joined them and shared a couple of personal experiences of my own. 

Don and Julie, Halloween 2009

Don has always seemed to me to be misplaced in the twenty-first century — I feel like he’s actually from the nineteenth century, perhaps because my sister met him when he played the lead in a play she’d written about Lewis Carroll. For this Revels show, Don’s character was dressed in period tweeds and I think it was a combination of these things (a castle of ghosts, period costumes, the fact that the two were speaking of paranormal things in whispers) that put me in mind of the popularity of seances a hundred ago. I thought, I should have a tea party especially for talking about supernatural topics — people love chatting about those kinds of things. 

Susan and Jessie with Earl Gray

Well, it took me ten months, but on Halloween 2008 I established my now monthly practice of hosting Supernatural Tea Parties. For the first, since it was Halloween, we chose Ghosts and Hauntings as the theme. I invited friends that I thought would enjoy such things, in addition to Don: Julie Stroyzk (a storyteller and SCA member  I’d met through Revels and Renaissance Faires), Goody Cable (owner of the Sylvia Beach Hotel where every room is decorated for a different author and Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse – she’s also gathering a story from every country on earth), my sister Cynthia (playwright C. S. Whitcomb and screenwriting teacher), Pamela Smith Hill (YA author of The Last Grail Keeper), and Susan Fletcher (YA author of The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles.) Sometimes we have a special guest like my niece Molly, our friend Jessie, or Goody’s childhood pal, author Ben Hoff of The Tao of Pooh

For every tea I decorate the living room with theme-worthy décor and we use my good china. (Why waste the fancy stuff by leaving it in the closet?) There are certain staples I (almost) always serve, like fresh scones, Devon cream, Earl Gray tea, and curried egg sandwiches, but we always seem to have at least one food that we’ve never included before. 

Goody and Cyn attack a cupcake

After we eat and share stories (feeling free to go off topic whenever we wish, of course) Don provides some theme-related excerpts from movies or documentaries – clips of possible ghosts, UFOs, signs of fairy folk, and so on. Extremely fun, this is! 

So here is a recap of our first year or so of STPs (Supernatural Tea Parties): STP #1 = Ghosts and Hauntings, in addition to our traditional foods we served cucumber sandwiches and chocolates, we started with personal experiences involving spirits, moved to secondhand tales, then went on to just stories


STP #2 = Fairies , Julie brought tiny fairy cakes, Susan brought tulips, I told my peculiar dream of the drifting continents that brought on the division between fairyfolk and humanfolk. 


STP #3 = Mysteries of the Mind, sardine sandwiches and macadamia nut cookies, we touched on Déjà vu, premonitions, and mind-reading.   


SPT#4 = Past Lives, chicken salad sandwiches, Kristi Burke (owner of Opal Creek Press) came and brought See’s candy, I told the tale of the childhood games I’ve known since I was two yet that no one seems to have ever taught me. 


SPT #5 = Cryptids (undiscovered creatures), tuna with apple and maple bacon sandwiches and berries, Susan talked about dragons and their eggs. 


STP #6 = Earth Mysteries, pastries and tarts, we shared stories of crops circles, vortexes, ley lines, and chalk horses. 


STP #7 = Paranormal Potpourri (bring your own question or story) ham sandwiches and fresh peach slices, we discussed everything from the Etruscans to Men in Black. Goody talked about how some experiences or bits of knowledge seem to be hard to remember for a reason, as in they are built that way. Curiouser and curiouser! 


STP #8 = UFOS, actress Peggy Walton Walker visited, we had strawberries and cake, and we were surprised how many of us had had personal experiences with possible UFOs. 


STP #9 = Halloween again so we revisited Ghosts and Hauntings, and ate graveyard cupcakes as well as home-made gingerbread from Don. 


STP #10 = Artifacts, Cyn made chocolate covered pecan squares, we talked of the Holy Grail, the bones of saints, and signs of ancient civilizations. 


STP #11 = Mediumship & Channeling, Monte Cristo sandwiches and almond cookies with glazed pear, Pam brought toffee, we talked of séances and writers channeling their novels. Fascinating, as always. 


Hmmm, what should we talk about next month? Mythic Places? Healers? Time Travel? And what shall we eat?! 

Don, me, Julie

January Give-Away!

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year, everyone!

The winner of the December Give-Away was Judi of Colebrook, New Hampshire. I’ll send Judi the signed copy of THE FETCH right away.

The January Give-Away is a Grab Bag of five surprise YA paperbacks.


To enter the drawing, email your name and address via the “Email Laura Whitcomb” link on my website ( and let me know if you do NOT want to be on my snail mail list (for receiving bookmarks and other publisher-provided goodies when I have new books coming out.)

 Have a wonderful 2010!