Blog Posts

Week 2 2016 – Mostly Migraines

 

IMG_0330Only 2 weeks into 2016,and I barely made it though the last week. Winter is here and kicking my butt. It started with a Migraine last Sunday, followed by all sorts of cold and death. David Bowie and Alan Rickman both died. Cancer blows, and it has robbed us of two great and inspirational artists. I will let others write their dedications more adequately than me. 

I was much distracted this week, not just by the migraine which kept creeping back over the week, but by the oppressive cold. I really want to hibernate until this winter foolishness is done. 

My daughter and I stopped for coffee this weekend at a wonderful place called the Land of 1000 Hills. This was the ending and bright spot of the week. My daughter visited and we went for brunch, a little shopping, and coffee at the nearby Atlantic Station. I got a cappuccino and the barista created a remarkable bit of art in the foam. With one sip, the lovely swan faded and disappeared. Such a delicate and beautiful thing this art in my coffee. Life feels like that now, just a single delicious taste, and it begins to grow cold and mutate. I feel old. I feel time slipping away. I feel I need to write faster before my whole world fades away like a swan drawn in the foam of a cappuccino.

 

Week 1 2016 – Dragon’s Milk

IMG_0166The theme for the first week of 2016 is Dragon’s Milk. It’s a mead that mixes well with winter and enhances your desire to hibernate until spring.

In a nutshell, here’s what went down this week in my little writing world.

  1. 1. Revisions – yes. They are proceeding- worked on them Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. About 20 hours total. Getting closer.

2. My exile to Carkoon is now over. I hope it lasts. Refer to Janet Reid’s Blog to see if I run afoul of the great shark again.

3. Wrote some blog posts, this blog post even

4. Wrote a bit on other works outside my current revision. That helps keep me going when my invisible friends stop talking to me. I just make up new friends and problem solved.

5. Entered a flash fiction contest. This will seriously help your writing, even if you happen to write epic fantasy. Try it. Don’t worry about winning. Although, it’s very cool to win. I won back in October. It was very exciting.

Now there is Mead and winter is coming. No, I am not talking about Game of Thrones. I meant that literally. I am actually considering hibernation. Go have some Dragon’s Milk and get back to me. If you can still stand after.

Putting Away The Past

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Frankie with her Christmas present

I took down the Christmas tree today. It’s like putting away my past. Every year since my daughter was born, I have obtained two ornaments- one with the year on it and one that is associated with some memory or other of that year. It was a pug ornament this year, a standard baby’s 1st Christmas the year my Kate was born. She is a December baby. We have been on our own since she was a baby, just the two of us in a crazy world.

Books and stories helped us survive, and the mundane pace of everyday life faded into great adventure. It is all there on our tree every year. There are Harry Potter ornaments, ballet slippers, Mickey Mouse, snow globes, etc- a recounting of the years.

All the petty things that life threw at us were countered by dragons that could be slain (The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien), a boy raised by a sorceress to slay an evil god (The Belgariad by David Eddings), a boy kept in cupboard under the stairs who was really a wizard (Harry Potter by JK Rowling), a genius boy used by his government to wipe out an entire alien species (Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card),a little hobbit entrusted to overcome temptation and destroy a great evil (Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien), wardrobes with whole worlds within (The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis), journeys back in time with vivid descriptions of the Dark Ages (The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis), witnessing the building of Canterbury Cathedral through imagination blending with history (Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet), and hundreds of great tales on pages of black and white. How the world expands when we read and when we write.

My daughter is traveling back from spending New Years in New York City. In May, she will graduate from college and plans to move to New York to find and follow her dreams and make her own stories. I think 2016 will feature some sort of NYC ornament. Of course, it is impossible to know what will happen next. Still, it is time to put away the past and look forward. Always, there will be more stories to tell, to read, and to live. Each year I spend here in this time and place will yield another ornament with its own tale to tell. So until next year, the past is put in its place.

 

 

Scary Movies and Herbal Tea

 

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Frankie awaiting scary Movie

Writing today involved revisiting chapter 8 of my WUS (Work under submission). I rewrote it between the beta reader period of my book and submitting it. I am in the middle of an R&R (revise and resubmit), and this was part of trying to do that. There is a continuity problem in chapter 25 which relates back to chapter 8. My brain is all jumbled today so I have not fully repaired the issue in chapter 25. I suppose the holiday has taken its toll, but there are still hours of dark to go. I need to clear my brain.

Last night I watched the special episode of Sherlock. You know Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman? That did not clear my head because it was simply brilliant. I couldn’t stop thinking about it  to start thinking about my own work. The principle writers, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, are magnificent in their adaptation and creation. Gatiss has done a great deal of writing for stage and screen in the sci-fi arena so I have immense admiration for the man. One of my projects is a screenplay of that general genre. I wish I could pick his brains for an afternoon, but the British frown on kidnapping almost as much as we silly Americans do. Even for art’s sake.

The Sherlock writers are true to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original text while adapting these tales to modern day London flawlessly. The series is perfection. Gatiss also plays the part of Mycroft Holmes with impeccable precision and humor. If you have not watched the Sherlock series, stop what you’re doing, fire up Netflix, and cancel all engagements for the next 36 hours. That will leave you at least 8 hours sleepy time. It’s just that good.

However, if you are trying to be a good little writer, forget I ever said anything. Instead, if like me, your brain has gone bye-bye, try reading a book. I did that and it didn’t work though dear Patrick Lee (Ghost Country – 3rd book in Breach trilogy)  did his best to shake me out of my verbal paralysis.

Now, I am going to try an old stand-by that has worked in the past. A scary movie and herbal tea. Not a slasher film. I don’t want to be nauseous. I want to be scared witless. You see that causes an adrenaline rush. And I suppose that is why it works. I don’t want to go to sleep after. So I write to escape whatever boogie man has been shoved into my psyche so that I can eventually sleep. Temper that with herbal tea to keep me calm, and most times, this works like a charm. We will see if this works come tomorrow.

 

 

Pug in a Pub

PugInPubTwo great things happened for me in 2015. I rescued a pug that my daughter and I named Frankie. And really there’s nothing better than a pug at a pub. And I discovered Janet Reid’s Blog. This is a life line for writers anywhere in their career. If you don’t know about this blog, go there now. The regular blog readers (Reiders) and commentators are a friendly enough bunch and we hardly ever bite.

However, I am dissatisfied by my general life progress. Most of this is due to my own weird inclination to be mostly a hermit. I need to stop spiraling in this endless nothing ever changes rut I am in.

I never do resolutions. The most useless pile of manure to ever infest the planet. Life is too damn unpredictable, and I end up ranting at myself like this at the end of each year. Instead I have goals. Some of them lofty, some of them not so much. You will hear the sagely advice, break your goals down into realistic, achievable small bits. That works great. If you’re dieting. Less so if you’re dying.  And we are all plummeting towards that inevitable eternal dirt nap. Regardless of angels singing (they do have lovely voices, even some of the fallen ones) or pitch fork yielding hell beasts, nobody has any idea what you are doing once you leave this world. Here, time works against you.

So this year, I will strive to kick my ass to do the following…

  1. Write every day. Even if it’s just 100 words to say I had a shitty day or that I am too tired write.
  2. Expand my body of work
  3. Finish the revision on my book and resubmit the damn thing
  4. Write a better query letter
  5. Write a better synopsis
  6. Write better. Keep writing.
  7. Get an agent
  8. Attend at least one writer’s conference (even if agent is attained)
  9. Read more. It helps with the writing.
  10. Query until the pain of it is unbearable. For every rejection, send out another query.
  11. Stop making excuses. Just write.

I am going to use this blog to be my monitor. If it goes silent for weeks at a time as it did at the end of 2015, something is wrong. I am making excuses, avoiding getting things done. Maybe I have a migraine or the flu (both those things happened after November 2015), but unless I am on my actual death bed or the internet collapses (both entirely possible), then I better be writing something and recording that I did so here.

Let’s see where this leads. Shall we?

Introducing Frankie

IMG_0190Meet Frankie, the newest addition to my motley crew of a family.

Two years back, my little Japanese Chin, Seymour passed away. He was twelve and suffered from a heart condition. Since his death, for the first time in my life, I have been without a dog or cat or fish or goat or horse. My daughter went off to college and I was traveling a lot and grieving. I finished my book, took care of some long time goals in my life, but it all felt a bit empty. I can’t stand not having a dog. It had gone on long enough.

My daughter has been obsessed with pugs forever, but we agreed that we should rescue a dog. On an ordinary working Thursday, a bit of a miracle occurred. A pug came into rescue and appeared on my PAWS application (great little app for matching people with pets in need of rescue). And she was at a rescue that is run out of my neighborhood. It was meant to be. We adopted her on Saturday

IMG_0194Frankie was found a few weeks before wandering the streets. Animal control took her in, but failed to locate her owners. They handed her over to a rescue and immediately a couple adopted her. They brought her back two days later because she shed or something. That is when she was picked up by the rescue in my neighborhood and put into the PAWS app. I happened to be looking when she was uploaded. There was not a lot known about her. The vet estimated her to be between 2 and 4 years old, and she had no name.

IMG_0210We toyed with the name Trixie (Beatrix), a prominent character in my WIP. My daughter would not go for it. She worries that any day I will go all George R.R. Martin on my characters. After going through a slew of names, my daughter called her Frankie (I think from the pug in Men in Black).

Having a dog again is so wonderful and calming. Maybe I will rescue a greyhound next. And as a writer, I am told that it is good to have pictures of your pets on your blog.

Check out Janet Reid’s Blog if you don’t believe me. And if you are a writer and don’t read her blog, you are handicapping yourself. Just do it. And go rescue a dog or cat.

 

 

 

A Writer In Instant Gratification World

IMG_0149 I am a writer. By day, I work as a software engineer to pay the bills. I am also a single parent. There is no other means of supporting myself.  As I am not published yet (and I am getting closer), when I tell someone that I am a writer, they give me this dismissive look. I will explain I am looking for an agent. This has been going on for a while now, but for years it was, I am still trying to finish the book.

Inevitably, the non-writer will then suggest I self-publish or insist I go around the agents and go to some small publisher. And there are plenty of writers who do this. Not my path. I want to go through the gatekeepers and get published with someone who will put me on the bookshelves in both small and giant bookstores. Then they look at me like I ought to settle for whatever I can get. I’m stubborn so that’s not happening.

I also write epic fantasy. It’s not something you chug out in a year. Some of the early drafts of many chapters in Shadowed Castles were written when I was a wee kid. I have over 100,000 pages of notebooks, early drafts, scribbled maps, index cards with characters, creatures, and world history that I have been collecting since 1981. These records take up most of my attic. This is not some tea cozy mystery (which I happen to love). This is my life’s work. Now granted, I have about twenty books worth of great stories of research and ideas.

Shadowed Castles took me years to put it in a publishable state. I put it through a workshop back in the late nineties. Then I abandoned it for a good while. I simply was not ready to write that story. I wrote screen plays, short stories, and even tried a couple of literary pieces before coming back to what  I truly wanted to write. Once more I went to the workshops. Those early drafts were seven years ago. Now, I have something that I feel really good about, but it took so much time to get there.

So I am a writer living in a world of instant gratification.  This is particularly difficult when I turn down invitations because I am busy writing or when I take a day off (I do this a lot) to polish my manuscript or to respond to a request for more pages or a full. I do not do vacation. I write.  Non-writers do not seem to realize the hours of work it takes to finish a book, to revise that book as you attend conferences, interact with agents and editors and other writers, meticulously pour over each detail.

The non-writer lives in the world where if you want something, there is a great shortcut to get there. Yes, this even exists for writers (self-publishing). It’s not for me. I know there are success stories in self-publishing, but for me, it’s more than being in print. I want to squeeze my book into the company of David Eddings, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan (may he rest in peace), Mercedes Lackey, Patrick Rothfuss, and the like. I hope to tell stories that do for my readers what those writers have done for me. So I will remain a writer looking for a home in a world with little patience for me.