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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Terroir of the Heart

by M.L. "Matt" Buchman


One of the things I always enjoy about writing, and living for that matter, is the strange confluence of events. My world a few months ago was all about new beginnings. In my life I was moving and leaving a 30-year career to become a full-time writer. Every time I turned around, some other factor was feeding into that, news articles, random contacts from friends who had just made similarly drastic changes unaware that I was doing the same, and so on.

This time everything is pointing at place and time, especially in my writing.

Recreation: I have moved from the city of Portland out to the Oregon Coast. I love being out in nature and have missed that the two years I was living in the city. As much as I loved walking through the woods up to the Rose Garden (one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest), that's not being out in nature. I now often take my laptop down to the beach to write, that changes my scenes in interesting ways because when I need some new setting, it includes water, beach, people moving at a leisurely pace, birds, etc. My wife has also been exploring the area and has led me to wonderful isolated bits of woods and nature preserves. It's as if I can breathe again.

Learning: Then I took a week-long workshop about character voice, an intense immersion class for seasoned pro writers to move you to the next level on, you guessed it, where the character is from. Accent, attitude, opinion, pacing and how that is communicated by the character in the written word. Compare mid-West to New York to Italy. Mix in meek, wild, pushy, thoughtful. Add in superior, self-effacing... And suddenly place comes to life.

Speaking: This weekend I'm speaking about "Writing Your Way into Romance" at the Terroir Creative Writing Festival in McMinnville Oregon. (Terroir [per their site] (terr whah) refers to the site- and region-specific characteristics of a wine. Climate, soil and landscape define the wine grapes’ character. Like the vines that line the hillsides of Yamhill County, our words take on the qualities of place, growing rich in the soils of life experiences.) I'm hoping to talk about the shape and texture of romance.


Writing: Then I've, oddly in the same week for an odd confluence of reasons, finished two books, each of which were started separately months ago. Next week watch for book #2 in my Angelo's Hearth contemporary romance series, Where Dreams Reside, and the week following, a novella in my Night Stalkers Special Forces military romantic suspense series, Frank's Independence Day (no cover to show yet, sorry). These have led me to Seattle and Alaska for the former and the latter has had me doing some intense research on the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Panama City, and Bissau, the capital city of Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.



So, to say that I've spent the week thinking about the texture of romance as a landscape, would be an understatement. I find that writing romance is about both the texture of setting to bring the story to life, but it is even more so about the Terroir of the Heart. The shape of who we are and who the characters are. I do love the journey to new place and, hopefully, I can through the vehicle of the printed word, share a tale of romance that will take you on its own journey through the heart as it has taken mine. That's my goal as writer, perhaps as clearly as I've ever figured out how to express it.

6 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Wow! You have been busy...and productive!

Was the workshop you took on line? or in person? Interesting, intense and informative week.

Thanks for sharing your journey. It is inspiring to me.

Sarah Raplee said...

'Terroir' - what a wonderful word! I love the way you apply it to writing.

Congratulations on your move to the Oregon Coast, Matt - one of my favorite natural regions on earth. Can't wait to read your new books!

terri patrick said...

Your immersion class of time and place with setting and characters mirrors the message from the recent workshops I've attended as were presented by Cathy Lamb and Donald Maass.

The other cool tidbit I just learned is that readers around the country (and globe) consider Oregon as an exotic location. :D

Diana Mcc. said...

I'm curious where you took the immersion class? I love the OR coast, how wonderful you've moved there. You are quite the busy guy! How do you manage to work on two books at the same time? I have a hard time working on one and keeping everything straight. LOL!

M. L. Buchman said...

I live in "exotic locale"?! Cool! Guess I'll have to use it soon.

I'm typically working on 3-4 books simultaneously, it just doesn't look like it.

Book #1: An idea cooking along in the back of my head. I'll pull it out when doing an exercise walk or something and take a peek. This is also the book that I'm doing any research reading on. Some series I will read a dozen different books as research, others I just write. (I had one science fiction novel with a 3-page bibliography!)

Book #2: It's really just like book #1 except that I finally thought up the opening scene and characters. For example, I was deep in "Where Dreams Reside" and I took a day to lay down the first 7,000 words of "Frank's Independence Day" that I'd been "working on" for several months by that point.

Book #3: I'll have a book in copyedit, or marketing, or production or any of those kajillion other distractions.

Book #4: The one I'm actually writing on.

So, last week while starting serious writing on "Frank," "Where Dreams Reside" was with the copyeditor. When she turned it around to me, I spent a day buffing it up and moved it into production. Meanwhile, I have the opening 10,000 words of my next fantasy novel (I'm very excited, it will be my first chance to play in that genre in a couple of years) and I'm tinkering in the back of my mind with my next full SOAR novel (and have been for some time) that's due at my publishers in about six months.

Paty Jager said...

Great post! You have some great things happening. I love the coast. Only get to visit it a couple times a year but I find the sound of the surf and the movement of the water a good catharsis for writing.

Good luck with all your new books!