Monthly Archives: October 2012

underwater (archived)

Posted on February 20, 2012 by msflo

Went to the EcoFarm Conference at Assilomar for research on sustainable agriculture. I learned so much and was very inspired! Besides gaining information for my story, I learned more about how to manage my own evolving mini micro urban farm, with chickens and fruit.

Currently, Ms. B is about to go Big Wave surfing. Very dangerous. I don’t get out in the water on my board much anymore, but I’m privileged to have Kim, a world champion surfer, to consult with on this! What does a two wave hold down really feel like?

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it’s my birthday. (archived)

Posted on October 19, 2011 by msflo

Finished the scene where Ms. B attends her first meeting of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch and learns about the struggle to save the Tai Property on the ocean side of Highway 1. Doing background research for this scene, I learned more about the courage, perseverance, wisdom and genius of the people who built the organic movement in this region and have saved wetlands and farmlands in our area. I am in awe of these brave and brilliant people. I hope my story can convey the importance of the work they have accomplished.

My story is a “roman a clef”, a true story thinly veiled in the guise of fiction. I need to figure out fictional names for the Wetlands Watch people and update my “character bible”. Since I’m going after Monsanto in a big way in this story, I have been told to get an attorney before I ever put the story into the public sphere. Monsanto is a very scary entity, to be sure. They are why my story is a murder mystery, if you get my drift.

Went to an excellent mystery writers workshop at Univ of SF downtown classroom last Saturday, put on by the Mystery Writers of America. Good information and advice. Nice to get out and network with other authors and wanna be’s. Among other things, we worked on our “elevator messages”:

“A teacher in an agricultural community on the California Coast discovers that the pesticides being used on the fields surrounding her school are deadly, in more ways than one.”

I stepped out of the classroom in the evening, right into the Occupy San Francisco/Occupy WallStreet march going by in the middle of Market St. So I joined in for about an hour. It was Invigorating! The cops and the spectators on the street were so so positive. Cops even smiled and flashed us peace signs. Very different from the civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the 60′s. A hopeful experience.

Recently, I’ve had some excellent time with the Watsonville Brown Berets, who are working very hard on the ban Methyl Iodide issue (the chemical proposed as an “alternative” to methyl bromide). Last night, at the Resource Center for Non-Violence, I attended a sub-committee meeting on the juvenile justice system. The people who put their time and energy into these projects for the good of the community are so admirable. My respect and love for them just grows and grows.

I’ve taken about a week “away from the canvas”, to work on a permaculture rainwater harvesting project at my casita. Joe and I went to several of the excellent, free films shown around town this week at the Pacific Rim Film Festival. Another group of astounding people giving of their time, passion and intelligence to the community. Last night, we watched a Japanese sci fi animee called Summer Wars. The other night we saw an eco surf film from New Zealand called Last Paradise. I highly recommend both films, which you can probably find by googling.

Went to a meeting yesterday to try to try to help save the Salmon and Trout Education Project. The native Steelhead have now become such a threatened species in California that Cal Fish and Game will no longer grant permits for teachers and students to incubate eggs in the classroom for release in the local creeks. The meeting was tragic, heartbreaking. It underscored the urgency I feel to tell Ms. B’s story. I feel so strongly that people need to know what’s at stake, and what is being lost, from a personal, “being-there” perspective.

Ms B and my other characters are calling me back to finish the story. I’m looking forward to introducing Ms. B and her friends to you. I think you may have a lot in common. Let me know if you’re interested in reading the story when the first draft is ready to critique.

May the Clear Light Surround You. Peace and Love.

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How Long? (archived)

Posted on August 17, 2011 by msflo

I honestly thought I’d be finished with my first draft at least by June. Well, it’s already August, and I’m at about 450 pages. I’ve been writing this novel for a year! Working on it, hacking out the words, nearly every day. But it’s been in my head, wanting to be written, for the last ten years. My editor told me I shouldn’t write anything over 300 pages max, but I think I’m only about half way finished telling the story, and I’m already over that by 150 pages. It may be that ‘cut cut cut’ is in my future, but I don’t want to think about that right now. For now, I just have to get everything on the page. Later, let the revisions begin, if they must.

The chapter I finished today felt like the famous “mid book slump”. Am I half way through? Well, I have all the main characters, dynamics, and plot threads painted in, and now just need to weave everything along to a thrilling climax. oooph. I want to be finished with the first draft so I can start showing it to people and getting feedback. I’m in love with my characters. They are more real to me now than most people I deal with.

I write every morning, walk my dogs, exercise (swim, bike, beach, kayak, hike), garden (play with my new baby chickens), and at night, I read. I’ve read a mountain of fiction since I started writing my novel. Mostly in the mystery/thriller genre. But lately, I’ve become Addicted to George Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. OH! It’s Wonderful! Five volumes, each almost a thousand pages long. Ahhhh. Finding a great fantasy series like this is like discovering a gold mine. Unfortunately, I’m almost finished reading the latest in the series, Dance of Dragons. Soon, like the rest of his fans, I’ll be anxiously waiting, for years, while he finishes his next book. (But I haven’t even begun to explore the TV series, the interactive games, and all the other fun stuff generated by Martin’s fantasy world.)

Imagine writing six big novels, in a series. I’ll be so happy if/when I successfully finish one! A series?? Don’t even want to think about that yet…..

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First Post (archived)

Work in Progress
Posted on May 16, 2011 by msflo

I’m coming along with the first draft of my novel, The Death of the Gecko. Been working on it pretty much full time since last September. Here is a brief summary of its direction:

The Death of the Gecko
by Amanda Byrd (pen name)

…a romantic eco-thriller Coming Soon.

What do you get on the Central California Coast in the strawberry fields when you combine billionaire corporate ag boys and gang bangers, homeless people and ghosts, Native Americans, surfers, pesticides and salmon, illegal immigrants, love, sex, a priest, and some elementary school teachers? How do you spell D*E*A*T*H?

“El Gecko? That’s his placa – his gang tag, you know. A street name. Kind of like a nickname his homeboys call him.”

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The First Draft is Finished!

I’ve finished the first draft of The Death of the Gecko. The elation of finishing such a monumental task lasted only about an afternoon. Then the compulsion to revise and edit, polish and ready the manuscript for release set in! I’m back to rigorous daily work on the manuscript.

I started reading from the beginning several weeks ago, looking at words I wrote over two years ago. I am amazed at how tightly the whole story, with its multiple plot threads and points of view seems to hold together. I’m very eager for others to read it now, to see if it works.

If you’re interested in reading all or part of the story in draft and adding your response and critique, please please let me know! The more the story is vetted before release, the better it will be. Contact me!

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Writing magical eroticism

The last part of my story takes part in a magical world, where the Salmon People get out of their salmon bodies and dwell in Río Abajo Río (Clarissa Estés term) in a village on the river that runs underneath this river. It is a magical and erotic section, and was very fun to write. I wrote much of it while in Ireland, around Dulin, the Cliffs of Mohr, and Dublin, which, I think, helped add to the magic. I’m currently reading Laurell Hamilton’s Faery series (Not for Children!!!!), about a Faery princess exiled in LA and working as a private detective. Very Fun, and I do think she influenced my work on the last part of Death of the Gecko. Do you think readers will be offended that my story becomes explicitly erotic at the end (finally resolving much romantic tension throughout the novel)? Do you think it will enhance or detract from the story of everyday people fighting back against the big corporations poisoning their land? Please comment! I’d value your opinion!

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I Love My Cop

Well, the story is a thriller. So of course there is a cop. Detective Sargent Charlie Rosa of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department.

Charlie is so real to me that, these days, I look into every cop car I pass on the road to see if he’s there! So, far, I haven’t found him, but – I can just feel him, if you know what I mean. He’s a living presence in the world, somehow. And he’s a really, really good guy. Competent, nice, intelligent, thoughtful, courageous… I can tell you his backstory any time you want. I know all about him, even though not all is revealed in the novel. Goes without saying.

There’s also Kelly Cavanaugh, Ca Dept of Fish and Game. She’s amazing. Of course, I’ve read all of CJ Box’s novels, which probably influenced how Kelly developed. But I also had the honor of spending time with Captain Don Kelly, CA DFG North Coast Division, who helped me understand much about game wardens – the people, the job, what’s on their duty belt… I’m looking forward to the ride-along.

The retired SC police captain down the street has also been very helpful with police procedural and criminal plotting. As have several attorneys I’ve spoken with, as I’ve come to understand the juvenile justice system.

During this polishing phase, I think I need to extract the whole crime/thriller plot thread and ask for expert readers to critique just this bit. Do you have expertise in law enforcement? Would you like to help critique the thriller elements of The Death of the Gecko? I’d love to hear from you!

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