Monday, December 10, 2012

Life Getting in the Way...

Have I written anything since my last blog post?  No, I have not. 

T'is the season for writing procrastination. Seriously.

There's buying and wrapping and baking to be done.  There's work and condo refinancing and seasonal cleaning to be done.  There's sewing and crafting and so so many other things that get in the way of me putting something on the page.

And finally there's eating and drinking and celebrating with friends to be done.

So, yes, life is getting in the way, but in a great way.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ok, This Weekend I was Lazy...

This weekend, I was lazy, well mostly on Sunday.  Although I did watch the SEC championship yesterday while cleaning house and cooking and washing clothes.  Today, I did a bit of cleaning--I do some most every day just to stay on top of it--but mostly I watched TV and movies.  And read. 

I thought a lot about writing, but for some reason I couldn't seem to get motivated to click on that little MS Word icon pinned to my taskbar.  It's a strange psychological situation.  I want to write, but I don't.  I can't figure out if it is from fear (of what I'm writing will be awful) or from weariness or some other odd ailment.  And no, it's not writer's block.  I have scenes in my head. I just don't have the energy to put them on paper.

I'm sure this is an issue for lots of writers who aren't lucky enough to write for a living.  Or to have someone support them while they write.  We have a full life, 40+ hours a week of work, plus family, friends, and such, and on the side, we feel the need to produce a novel or five.  It can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

No, I take back the part about not knowing.  I do know much of what it is, for me at least.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sigh... NaNoWriMo NoMo

Sigh, I've totally slacked off this week on writing.  I did have several long and lovely meals with friends, and then of course, there's work.  In retail, even living in corporate, we have to work the Friday after Thanksgiving which totally took the wind out of my sails for doing anything that day.   So after work I had a fine dinner with friends at local wine bar.  And yesterday was the day to take the car to the shop and do my cyber Christmas shopping. 

So yes, I've been totally lazy.  I wish.

I do plan to write today, but it may be going back and filling in the layers, which defeats the purpose of doing NaNoWriMo.  If you've read any of my other posts, you know I'm not a disciplined writer.  I do not write linearly.  And I don't necessarily know how the story will end.  But I have an idea where it's going, and the characters are taking on a life of their own.  So I'm happy with my work.  Even if I can't write a novel in a month. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo Continues...

Have you noticed a trend?  I write (getting it on the page) on the weekends.

In class this week, I asked the instructor what constitutes writing.  Is it literally putting words on the page or is it the whole process?  She said, maybe because I was giving her a mean look, that it was the whole process, to which I breathed a sigh of relief that I am not as sucky as I originally thought.  My process is to build the whole scene in my head -- during the week -- and barf stuff out onto paper on the weekend.  It works for me.

Will I make the 50K words this time?  Probably not, but I still got more than I had at the beginning of the month.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNoWriMo Status

01 Nov 12 - zero words written
02 Nov 12 - zero words written
03 Nov 12 - 4241 words written

And the Stats page says...

Your Average Per Day: 1,060
Words Written Today: 0
Target Word Count: 50,000
Target Average Words Per Day: 1,667
Total Words Written: 4,241
Words Remaining: 45,759
Current Day: 4
Days Remaining: 27
At This Rate You Will Finish On December 17, 2012
Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,695
 
We'll see what happens.  
 
Stay tuned....

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo

If you don't hear from me for awhile, it's because I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  The gist is that I just write, for two+ hours a day, not worrying about grammar, wording, etc... to get a first draft of a novel written in one month, even if it is really shitty.  The premise is that I then spend the next eleven months fleshing it out and cleaning it up.

The problem is that what I enjoy about writing is the crafting of a well worded sentence.  So this may go badly wrong, or it may give me the outline of my next novel.

We'll see how it goes...

For anyone interested, the website is  http://www.nanowrimo.org/.  Come join me and my friend, Dustin as we pursue writing the Great American Novel.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Story

About my existing novel, well that's all still up in the air. The pity party is over, was over pretty quickly, because my new story, the one about Beryl and her brother, is starting to congeal in my head.  I know, that makes me sound as if I have a head full of gelatin, but that is the way I see it, and it's pretty close to the truth.

I still don't know how the story will end, because my characters will decide that.  But the characters are becoming three-dimensional, even Mr. Yet-to-be-Named.

Beryl's life story is developing before my very eyes, or should I say, inside my head.

The real question is how I will reveal the back story. I just finished Gillian Flynn's "Dark Places".  I found the book compelling, even though as the protagonists says in the first chapter she's not very likable.  In "Dark Places", Flynn gave us two story lines that merge in the end.  One of the story lines provides the backstory, and even though it's multiple chapters and told from multiple POVs, the backstory covers only one day.  I won't give away the plot.  It's worth reading.

My story is a little more complicated in that I also have to not only introduce backstory, but I also have to introduce Beryl's alternate personalities. I haven't decide if they will all have their own POV chapters, or if we'll see them through the eyes of others, like Mr. Yet-to-be-Named.  I love a good puzzle, which is probably why I end up writing stories that are challenging.  Challenging for me at least. 

Right now I'm reading Haruki Murakami's "1Q84".  The structure is very much the same, two story lines being told in parallel.  His stories are so entertaining, but I can't really say why.  I love how, in this story, when one character learns something, it suddenly becomes apparent in the other character's story line.  I'm not really doing a good job of describing it, but I've found it enjoyable to stumble across these parallels between his two characters.  It's like an Easter egg hunt, or a nice little surprise that you've learned to expect.

So there's lots of work to be done.  And I've set a goal to finish this novel by January 1st, 2014,  a little more than one year from now. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Down, One to Go

Today, I received a rejection from one of the agents who requested my full manuscript.  One left, and then I have to decide whether to self-publish or toss it. 

My confidence level is at an all time low.  And yes, I'm having a huge pity party.  I deserve to have one every now and again.  My skin is not as thick as I let people think.  I worked hard on that novel, and I know it's better than some of the stuff already on the shelves, but it's apparently not good enough for anyone to want to represent me, except me. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Appearances Matter

Starting a new story is interesting.  I think I've expressed this sentiment in prior blogs, but it's really come home with this writing class I'm taking.  [Did I mention I signed up for Popular Fiction II, that started two weeks ago?]

Last week, the instructor had us write -- I outlined, because I'm not great at writing on demand -- a pursuit scene, but not necessarily a typical pursuit-car-chase-scene.  The homework was to clean up what we wrote and turn it in this week (tomorrow night). I already had a scene in mind, where the guy (yet to be named) asks Beryl out on a date. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Old Brompton Cemetery, London


 
This was possibly the most intriguing cemetery I've ever been in, including those in New Orleans.  The over-grown-ness of it makes it feel wild and spooky, in a good way.






 
 




See the squirrels??



Supposed to be Writing

I'm supposed to be writing (well, something besides this blog), but I'm in paralysis mode right now.  Last Tuesday night, I started a Popular Fiction II class at UW, and I'm supposed to turn in pages this coming Tuesday.  I'm not sure it's going to happen.

Let me give you an example of what is happening.

I sit down in my favorite writing chair and pull my laptop over.  Then my cat gets in the chair with me.  So I have to pet her, don't I?  I look at the blank MS Word sheet and then I realize that I need to put a load of clothes in the laundry (or take them out).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jet Lag Sucks!

So Edinburgh is eight-hours earlier than Seattle.  We got back on Tuesday night, and I'm still waking up more on Edinburgh time than Seattle time.  Which means that I'm still moving slow, and won't be writing much here today. 

About the trip, in a nut shell, I had a great time.  I would move to Edinburgh if I could afford it.  I love the history and the people.  Scots are the only people I've found to be nicer than Australians.  I took lots of pictures and will be sharing more soon.



Edinburgh to the south-east from the castle wall.
 
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Potential Mistake, Maybe...

Yesterday morning I got an email from one of the agents that I spoke with at the PNWA conference.  Understand that I had already sent him seventy-five pages, and before I opened the email, I prepared myself for another rejection.  But it wasn't.  He wants to see the full manuscript.

Here's the problem, and maybe the mistake I made.  I wanted to do a final read through, to catch any last typos and such, but I haven't had time, what with work and getting ready for this trip to Scotland.  So today, I sent the following email:

I'm leaving in a few minutes for a trip, abroad, will be back in early October and will promptly get the full manuscript to you at that time, in a MS Word format. I hope this won't be a problem as I'm really excited about this potential opportunity with you and Jim. It's just that I've been planning most of my life to go to Scotland, and here it is, two opportunities falling at the same time.

The reason I'm not sending the manuscript to you right now, is that I want to do one last read through. I want it to be perfect, well as perfect as I can make it.

Talk to you soon....

So is it a mistake to take the time to make it perfect, or as I said as perfect as I can make it?  I hope not.  But if this agency is going to work with me, they'll come to understand my issues with perfection. 

I'd rather take the chance of sending it two weeks late, than sending in something potentially full of typos.  I'd rather look like a fool than an idiot. 

With that said, I'm off to Scotland.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Look What I Found...

Just searching the web for my stuff, you know, to see where it is in the search order, and found this:


I guess if you know what to look for, it's out there.  Now I just got to get people to know what to look for. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Am I Writing? No!

I think I've said this before, but I've all but forgotten what the beginning of the writing process is like.  So I feel antsy to write something, but have not put one word on the page -- not counting the backstory that I've been writing.   It feels weird, strange, odd, bizarre... get the idea?  But that is part of my process.  I stated last time that for me to start a scene I need to have it formed in my head first.

While I'm not writing, work -- my paying job -- has gotten in the way, a lot lately, and then there's all the marketing stuff to be done for Couillon.  I've been looking into, not only FaceBook stuff, but Pinterest and setting up my own web page.  A while back I bought the http://sara-writes.com domain, and tonight I played with setting up a page.  The marketing pieces will hopefully help me build an audience for not only Couillon, but for my novel, Counting Crows (or whatever it gets called), and for the novel that I'm not writing right now.

On top of that, I'm going to Scotland this coming Wednesday for two weeks.  And I don't really plan on doing a lot of writing there either.  This trip is like a pilgrimage for me.  My crazy mother never wanted me and my brother to know much about my father's side of the family.  It wasn't until I moved out of the house and my father was dying that I learned what I did. 

My Grandpa Stark came over from Edinburgh when he was five years old.   Line #8, that's him.




Needless to say, going to Edinburgh is one of the items on my -- yes, I'm going to use an ugly cliche -- on my bucket-list.  And it's only taken me fifty-plus years to make it happen.  I would love it if Daddy was still alive to go with us, but at least my brother, David, is going with me, and my friend Mike. 

I am taking a notebook to write on the plane and to jot down any brilliant ideas I have while I'm there.  Drinking scotch has a way of boosting my creativity.  Or at least it makes me think I'm being creative... and brilliant.  And eloquent.

With that said, it may be a few weeks before I write here again.  But I'll be thinking about writing, building layers onto the new story, and fleshing out my characters.  And drinking some fine single-malt scotch while playing putt-putt at St. Andrews and looking for the Loch Ness monster.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Percolation

Tonight, on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SaraStarkWrites) I wrote:  "feelin' antsy like I want to write, but I don't have that starting sentence.  It's all still percolating in my head."

And that's what I've been doing all weekend.  I sit down to write, and nothing comes.  I'm not the type to just write without an idea of what it is I'm going to write.  I usually have the whole scene playing in my head and a good starting sentence before anything ever hits the page.  And I guess that habit hasn't changed.

I'm working on a couple of those scenes, but the main one that's building is the one where we learn about the relationship between Beryl and her father.   I can see how it begins, with her climbing the stairs to her room in the attic, but not sure where it goes from there.  There has to be some action involved, some movement of the story.  That's where the storytelling comes in.

So with that said, I'm off to day-dream, read, watch TV, meditate, listen to music, and all the other things that, for me, promote new story ideas.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Secret Entrance to the Cemetery



This is the secret entrance to the cemetery, from the street, that the cat led me to....

Seattle Cemeteries


My friend Kathleen and I visited some Seattle cemeteries yesterday.  The cemetery on Queen Ann (that's a hill in Seattle for those of you who don't live in the area) is perfect for my story.








See the cat?  It led me to a secret entrace to the cemetery.  There's a hole through the hedges right behind the cat.  I know hard to see from this angle (and resolution), but it's there, a small path, just big enough for a human... or a cat.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

BackStory and Other Stuff

It's Sunday, and here I am, writing my blog.  Sometimes I feel like these posts are the summaries or maybe the culmination of all the stuff I write on Facebook each week.  But where FB is a blub here and there, usually something stupid like Don't cha just hate it when, as you're drifting off to sleep, you have these brilliant thoughts and then can't remember them the next day? I had the best opening sentence, and now ... it's gone (today's FB post) while this blog is a place to compose my thoughts, to calm myself and think about what it is I'm doing.  Or should be doing.

This week I've been doing research on themes in my new story.  In my real life, I should have been a research assistant to some lab geek or maybe a lab geek myself, because I love to do research, love to learn new things.  The topics I've been researching are Native American lore, and on a completely different note, schizophrenia.  I never said my stories weren't complicated.  Mythology and legend, magic and metaphysical stuff -- intangibles -- are some of my favorite topics as is everything that falls in the category of psychology and how the mind works, all intangibles, stuff we don't really know for sure.  Is it real?  Is it true?  I think that's why my writing tends to merge mysticism with mental processes.  How the two affect each other intrigues me and plays big in my stories. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Headshot: Part of this Business of Writing


Here's the headshot I had taken by a photographer offering a Groupon coupon.  I'm not that happy with it, but then again I'll probably never be happy with any picture of me.  At least I don't look like an idiot-savant like I do in some pictures.  :-)  I'm sure the photographer thought I was terrible, mostly because I'm not good in front of a camera unless I'm joking around.  I don't know if I'll use this or not.  We'll see.

I think I need a haircut ...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sundays, Business of Writing, and New Story Percolates

It appears that Sundays are quickly becoming my day to blog. What with my real job (because, sadly, I still need a paycheck) and trying to write and have at least a small social life and a clean house, Sundays are the days I finally get to sit down and think about what happened the preceeding week.

So in keeping with it being Sunday, the preceeding week has been spent, by and large, promoting Couillon on FaceBook.  I created a FB Ad that will run for a month, and I joined several writer/reader FB groups, groups where you post your latest e-book and hopefully get some interest, although I'll be surprised if I get any hits from these groups, as it appears that most of the people in the group are of the writer kind and not the reader kind.  Most of the posts are links to an e-book somewhere on the web.  There is little to no interaction between the group members, which is kind of sad. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lost

This past week, with no editing or writing or revisioning to do, I felt completely lost.  I haven't been at the beginning of the writing process in so long that I have forgotten what it was like to just be able to muse about what ifs, and in some ways it's put a lot of stress on me because I don't have the comfortable characters, the ones I've had in my head for the past few years, surrounding me in my schizophrenic state of writing. 

Now, I have to create new characters and get to know them intimately.  I have to learn what types of food they enjoy eating and if they drink or smoke dope... or worse.  I have to learn their most hidden secrets, and then like a bad friend, reveal those secrets to the world.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Other Reviews - Thanks Everyone

My friends have been very generous with their reviews on Amazon.  So far none have been posted on B&N or Smashwords, but then again most of my friends have Kindles.  My two hardest critics, and hardest working critics (they both helped edit and re-work along the way), each gave me a 4 out of 5.  But that's because they know, and I know, that I can do better. And will do better. Plus they turned around an praised my work in a way that was over the top. So in reality, they gave me a 5.  :-)

What's interesting is that Amazon is already pulling quotes from these reviews.


And then there's the entertaining aspect to all of this. The following was posted on facebook, by my friend Ann Piraino:

"Finished the review for Sara's book Coullion. It got a 4 from a guy who matched her (Nellie!!) against Stephen King - OMG what a kudo! I have read it twice in print version and Mike is buying me the Kindle version so I can carry it around!"





Stern-Rake Studio: Book Review: Couillon

My friend Ted did a brilliant (and I'm not just saying that because it's favorable) review of Couillon. Ted is a writer and wargamer.  He writes about wargaming too.  You can read all about his work on his blog at   http://sternrakestudio.blogspot.com/ 

But I really think he should be writing book and movie reviews for the newspapers around here.  He was able to sum up my story so much better than I have been able to.

You'll find the review at http://sternrakestudio.blogspot.com/2012/08/book-review-couillon.html

Wow, was I Wrong!

You know how last Sunday I said that I won't have anything to do now that Couillon has been pushed to the e-publishers and the novel was in the hands of three agents, well I was wrong.  So, so wrong.

Last weekend, I rushed to get everything done so I could have a bit of a breather, a vacation of sorts, but I screwed myself, because I was busy all week, this week, with work and personal commitments. And fretting about being a failure because I put out a flawed piece of work.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Nothing to do...

Friday, the third and final submission to agents went out, which means there's no need to edit my novel, until I get feedback.  And Couillon went to epub this weekend.  So now I have nothing to do.  I've been working so long on the novel and then the past six months on Couillon, that it feels strange to have nothing to work on, no editing, no formatting, no creating cover images.

Now I have to come up with a new story.  Count Crows (working title) started with me hearing Ode to Billy Joe -- you know, "Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge".  It didn't actually go in that direction, but it started me thinking about what would happen...

Pinocchio...

Today, I feel like Pinocchio when he became a real boy.  I've been wishing for so long to be published, and now it's happened. I'm real too.

I worked most of yesterday and part of today getting Couillon, my short story, out there, and I have a  new respect for all the work a publisher does.  After sorting out copyrights and ISBNs and formats for each individual seller, Couillon is now available for sale via Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. 

I'm having a glass of champagne right now to celebrate, but trust me, it's a ruse.  Until today, until I opened myself up to the world, not just to people who are my friends, I had a safe cocoon built where I didn't have to face whether or not I'm a good writer.  I know, whiny, but still insecurity is one of my biggest problems.  Yes, I've learned to put up a facade that makes me look confident -- thank you, IBM consulting job -- but that's all it is, a facade.  I almost had a panic attack last night just thinking about all the people who are going to hate my story.

Being real is scary.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Blog Suffers - Part 2

So I feel like I'm running nine thousand miles a minute.  I have to add the finishing touches to Couillon, my short story, and get it out on Kindle/Nook/Smashwords, and I need to package up my novel -- not just two different ways, but now three.

Remember those email queries I sent out in January, well today I got a bite from one of the agents.  She said she was intrigued and would like to see three chapters if I wasn't already represented.  I think it's lovely that she thinks I may have already found an agent.  And of course, I'm going to send her three chapters. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Flash Fiction

I was out on Writer Unboxed  today (http://writerunboxed.com/) and saw that they are hosting a flash fiction contest this summer, seven Sunday's in a row.

If you don't know what flash fiction is think very, very short short story.  Just the opposite of Couillon which is a very long short story.  The story must be complete, must have a beginning, middle, and end.  The best know is attributed to Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Normally a flash fiction story can be up to 1000 words, but the contest has two caveats.  One is that the story must be 250 words or less and the other is that the story is inspired by the week's visual prompt.  This weeks prompt was a man sitting by a baby crib holding a what looks like a baby.  Some of the entries prior to mine, made it a doll.

Here's what I submitted today:

Pajama Day

As my friend Patti says, today is a pajama day.

The PNWA conference was exhausting. I tried to absorb everything, and it was just overwhelming.  I learned a lot, and for me, was very happy that the conference this year was slanted more toward established writers (I didn't say published) and toward e-pubbing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

PNWA Literary Contest

Today, I was reading through the details concerning the PNWA conference.  In the fine print was a notice that said the first and second place winners of the literary contest will have a special invitation in their packet for a meet and greet with the agents and editors after the winner-announcement dinner.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spelling Faux Pas - reposted

I received a comment about the fact that I had vengeance spelled wrong in my description of me.  So I'm re-posting one of my original posts.  Please see below.

But just in case, let me re-iterate who I am.  Writing, a turn of a phrase, not spelling is my strength.  This blog is a place for rants and conversations, a place for me to vent my frustrations and brag about my victories.  In the real world, some people like my accent, and others think it makes me sound stupid, but if you judge me on my accent or on a single misspelled word, then you need to check into your own issues, because I'm not the problem.

P.S. I fixed the misspelled word.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Business

Tonight, for the first time ever, I started my own business.  And the name is ta-da.... Nellie Writes

I didn't want to select a boring company name, like Nellie Williamson Inc. (or whatever the letters are associated with a single owner business), but I wanted my name in it.  I also didn't want to over think it.  So I went with simplicity and called it what it is.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

e-Publishing and Other Stuff

Today, I created a Nook Pubit account and checked out the Smashwords website.  I updated the blog site and played with the cover image for Couillon.  And yes, I was avoiding writing, but I did eventually get quite a bit of actual writing done.  I got most of the what would happen if Janice destroys the doll inserts done.

So it's been an eventful day.

Tonight, I'm going to send the latest cut of the short story to my Kindle, and review it over the next couple of days.  I'm sure I'll want to add/change a few things, but I really really think it may be done.  Wish me luck.

Never Ends...

Remember when I said I'm aiming for "good enough", well I was lying, to myself. 

Ann-Marie, another friend/editor asked what would happen if Janice got rid of the doll.  And I thought, now there's an interesting point. So today, I'm adding that into the story line, not as it really happens because there are hundreds of avenues that particular plot point could go down and would constitute a complete re-write, but as her imagining what could happen.

Based on what I'm thinking of adding, I'm wondering if I should change my genre to a darker, much darker, genre like horror. 

With that said, I'm off to hopefully finish the addtions. And then one last edit.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Different Interpretations

As a favor, my friend Dustin read through my short story this past week, and besides line-editing for me, he asked me a couple of questions that threw a totally different spin on the story.  Same thing happened when I let me my friend Sid read the original version of this same story.  Sid's comment was "She killed Marie, didn't she?"  I hadn't actually planned for it to look that way, but I guess whatever was in the baggage that Sid brought to the story made him interpret the story that way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Second Sweep Done

I finished the second round of editing on Couillon.  One more, and it should be ready to go to Kindle (also, Nook and Smashwords).  Notice I said should.  I'm one of those people who could spend years, editing and re-editing a story.  Some new writers never get past the first few chapters because they are constantly trying to make those chapters perfect.

I love wordsmithing, and I can easily get caught in that trap.  So instead of perfect, I'm shooting for good enough.

Tonight, I'm going to send out this copy to several friends and get their feedback.  Then do the final edit.  Hopefully, at the latest, it'll be done by the end of the month.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Reworking...


I love the fonts (they look like my handwriting, on a good day) and colors in the first image, but the colors and fonts don't show up well when the picture is this size....

 not even with larger fonts and in black...

These images are larger, by twice, than the picture that would be displayed on Amazon.

Playing with ...



titles and pseudonyms and cover ideas for the short story....




Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Draft

Tonight, I finished the first draft of Couillon.  Even the past two days, my characters have been fighting me, and I finally gave in and wrote what needed to be written, to make them happy and let me get one night without a struggle.

Finishing the first draft means that now the editing phase begins, but it shouldn't be that horrific of a task as I've been doing editing all along, and my writing group has review and commented on the first 15 pages or so.  The next section is up for review at my next writing group.

Scrivener says that as is, it would be, if I physically published it, a 70 page story.  I'm not sure if that borders on novella or not, but since Kindle is either singles or novels.  It will be a single.  And I'll sell it for $0.99.  Just to get my name, or my pseudonym, out there.  And yes, it was a lot of work for $0.99, but if several thousand people buy it, well that's more than I have right now.

Back to pseudonyms, I haven't decided if I want to publish under my name.  I've been thinking about publishing under Sara Stark, my middle/maiden name.  [Yes, I kept my ex-husband's last name because it would have been such an effort to change all my stuff, my driver's licenses, insurance, stocks, car ownership, taxes, etc... but then again, as Bill Shakespeare said "what's in a name?" --  nothing, except everything you own.]

Plus, I think Sara Stark would look great on the cover of a novel, whereas, and I've always had this problem with my current last name, Williamson is too long.  It's a blessing I don't write checks anymore.  I never could get my whole name on the line.

With that said, I'm going to bed and read myself to sleep.  I'm going to read someone else's work. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blog Suffers

When I am in a writing mode, the blog suffers because I'd much rather create worlds and people, than report about them. 

If you don't write fiction, you may not be able to imagine how entertaining it is to create a person and the world they live in.  Of course, once you start writing the story, you have to fully define the person and stay true to their character.  But sometimes, they surprise you.  They become real, at least in my head, and sometimes they do things I wasn't planning.  The short story is a great example of this premise.  Things have changed over the course of the re-write.

The short story is almost finished. I have been doing a lot of editing/re-writing [it went from present tense to past tense]. Some of the editing has been against my will as the protagonist now has a mind of her own.  I still have one last big scene to write, not the last one, that's done [and no, I don't write in chronological order], but a pivotal one.  I want to tell what it is, but that would give away the story's ending.  It looks like it's going to end up being about 50 [according to Scrivener] paperback book pages.

Also, I'm working on moving my novel, Counting Crows [or whatever it ends up being called] into Scrivener.  Did I mention that Scrivener compiles the story into epub formats, which can then be converted into mobi format for Kindle with a free application provided by Amazon.  It's all quite nice.

With that said, I'm going to go back to my imaginary world.  I need to have a chat with Janice (the short story's protagonist) and get that girl under my control.  So in the next few hours I will not think about blogging or work or anything except when the lasagna will be done.

Friday, June 15, 2012

PNWA Critiques

The critiques for the PNWA contest arrived in the mail today.  Only two, when I thought there was supposed to be three.  One critiquer--is that a word?--gave me a 94/100, and the other gave me 81/100.  

Both are very good scores, but probably not good enough to win me first or second place.  There were a couple of constructive comments, which I think were excellent suggestions that will only make my work stronger, but over all, I got two pretty glowing reviews.

So, I'm gonna brag by posting some of the good comments. 


On plot: 

  • "In the synopsis we learn that Maggie does complete an emotional arc by overcoming her fear of a permanent relationship to make a commitment to love; this will satisfy readers."
  • "I love the crow analogies as harbingers of omens and doom.


Viewpoint:  (This one can be really tricky to get right.)

  • "The POV in the story is consistent and we feel as if we are in the narrator's body moving through the scenes.  Where you have made use of the five senses, you have enriched the setting and helped us connect with the character."
  • "No tense problems, consistent third person present tense."  (And I got a 10/10 on that particular one, from that critiquer, while I only got a 7/10 from the above critiquer.  Funny, but if I just read the comments, I would have flipped that. )


Characterization:

  • "We care immediately about Maggie.  You add nice details about each character that brings them alive."
  • "Characters are nicely layered and you are developing them slowly but consistently."


Dialogue:

  • "The author does a terrific job with dialog: it is natural and flows well."
  • "The use of interrupted dialogue is very natural and makes the exchanges such as between Alison and Maggie natural."


Setting:

  • "[referring to first line of chapter1] Descriptions like this paint such a vivid picture of the scene, we have no trouble imagining the setting."
  • "Good mix of narrative and dialog.  I thought the sickroom description of moving mom on p. 9 was especially good."


Would you read more:  (This is the really important part for me.)

  • "Yes, your story is sweetly understated and reads smoothly.  Plus I'm a sucker for crows and magical elements."  (That from the person who gave me a 94/100.)
  • "The reader enjoyed the submission and would definitely read more.  The writing is well done and the story has potential."  (And that from the person who gave me an 81/100.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Love My Friends...

Yesterday, on Facebook, I posted the news about being a finalist in the PNWA contest.  I also posted a link from this blog to the work I submitted.

The outpouring of kudos and encouragement has been breathtaking.  Several asked when it will be published, which made me feel great.  Damn those agents.  They may one day be sorry that they weren't willing to consider me a viable candidate.

To all my friends, thank you for your support.  I love you all.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some Affirmation, Finally

I received a call this morning from the president of PNWA, the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association, and I am a finalist in their "mainstream" fiction contest.  All I can say is WhooHoo!!!!   And of course, I want to win first place, but it's pretty cool just being in the top ten.  Cheesy, but true.  It helps me feel better about myself, about my writing.

I have been so down lately about no agent wanting to represent me, that I had almost -- almost -- decided to just shelve that novel and start another, that maybe I should just throw it away, write it off (no pun intended) and use the experience in writing another.

But becoming a finalist is a affirmation of my skill, that I can write.  I may never win a Pulitzer, but I know my work is publishable, and to me this proves it. 

I don't know why I can't get an agent to respond. As I've discussed in earlier blog posts, there are hundreds of reasons, but I now feel better about the rejection.  Plus the more I look into e-publishing, the more I think I should just skip the agent/publisher and go straight to Kindle/Nook/etc.  Ultimately, I'm in this to make money, to create a path to an early retirement from Corporate America.  To finally do something I enjoy for work.

e-publishing gets me there faster.

So please celebrate with me.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Short Story: New Opening

Coullion



couillion - [KOO YOn]
noun: a person who lacks sense or judgment, a fool, imbecile, idiot, dumb mother-f*cker 
adjective : crazy, funny, stupid, silly
note : can be used as a term of affection or as an invective, as an insult


*******[page break]*************************


The stupide tourists having a picnic in the cemetery rouse me from my solitude, from my daydreams and memories. When next I visit, there'll be another set looking much the same, what with their cheap plastic beads and blistered faces. I squirm around until I get comfortable again leaning against the oven vault's brick wall, the bricks warming my back while the wall's shade shields me from the late afternoon heat. The tourists come in droves to gawk at our cities of the dead or to look for Marie Laveau's tomb, to take pictures and tell each other ghoulish stories until they giggle with fear or they shiver with morbid delight. They're not the least bit interested in the factual stories entombed with the population of New Orleans' necropolises.

They sneak glances at me, a local, as they pass. I smile and wave, just a lift of my hand to acknowledge them, and then close my eyes again. If they only knew how the dead can linger, long after their bodies have decomposed. But they'd just pass it off as another New Orleans masquerade, one only that adds to their fascination with the place.

Despite their macabre imagination, they don't believe the things they say, all those things about magic and fantômes. But I do. I know he lingers. I've heard his voice, soft as a lover's whisper. So I visit as often as possible, to keep him company. It's only right that I do so.

Behind my eyelids, I can see him, his lopsided grin. That quirky, sly smile was the only thing that kept his angelic face from being beautiful. I still remember his long, lanky frame walking away in those faded Levis I so adored, the feel of his hand in mine, and I wonder whether the idea of a year and a day is absolute, whether the heat of a New Orleans summer can reduce a body to ash in so few days. It has been nearly a year. At this point if the crypt were opened, would anyone know the différence, if it was him or just another decomposing body? I suspect not, but on days like this, when I come to visit, when I look back and wonder, I contemplate whether I would have, should have done something different. Probably not. I'm not exactly known for making the best decisions—thank you, Momma—but I like to think I learned from the experience, at least as much as I benefitted from it. Then again, probably not.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only early-July of last year and hot as nine-hundred hells as I walked up to the ramshackle storefront. The sign on the door said Laveau Botanicals, and I hesitated on the stoop wondering what possessed me to come here. Standing there in the smothering humidity, it all seemed silly. In my head, I could hear Momma laughing. Or she would be laughing if she knew that I was going to some old hoodoo woman to help me get a man. You're such a homely girl. Take what you can get, for God's sake. She had said those words so many times, I could feel ugly tattooed on my forehead. I nearly turned around and headed home. After all, as Momma would have said, her words heavy with sarcasm, this wasn't exactly the best of neighborhoods.

Same Ol', Same Ol'...

I opened up the window to write, and I'm not sure if I have anything interesting to say.  It all seems the same at this point.  Not in any order, here's what's going on...

(1) Work is sucking the life out of me. I'm actually working every night this week.  Fortunately my manager lets me come and go as I please.  So I can at least sleep in after working late.
(2) I'm writing, but not as much as I should or would like to do.  The short story is coming along.
(3) I'm tired all the time. I eat too much.  I weight too much. 
(4) I did find out that Scrivener with the addition of a free app from Amazon, will format my short story (and eventually my novel) for Kindle.  It will also format for Nook and several other e-formats.  Yeah!!  That was a worry for me, thinking I would have to learn how to do each format.
(5) I've given up on finding an agent.  I don't deal well with people and bullsh*t.  I also don't grovel easily or well.  I haven't heard anything in a long time, and did not receive even a rejection letter for half of the queries I sent out.  E-publishing is looking more and more attractive.  Which makes the perk from Scrivener more attractive.
(6) And on a positive note, BlackBeary, three times now, has climbed into my lap.  I think we've both missing our beloved Pye.

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Toy

I'm preparing the short story for Kindle, and it has to be in basically text format.  So I converted to text, and of course, stupid MicroSoft decided that since "WordPad isn't a word processing tool" that, by design, it doesn't need a spell checker.  Damn, my email has spell check, and it's not a word processing tool. 

So, I bought Scriviner.  My friend Joanne introduced me to it about two years ago, but it doesn't really do MS Word format, and at the time, I was sure I'd be able to get an agent, and agents require Word format.  C'est la vie.

I'm not saying you should buy it, but if you haven't heard about Scriviner, and you plan on e-publishing, you should check it out: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

One of the perks that I just stumbled upon was that Scriviner counts how many times you've used words (e.g., realized) and provides you a list with the count.  This may not sound important unless you're a writer, or you've read a book where the author uses the same word too many times and it starts pulling you out of the story.  I have a bad habit, when I'm in draft mode, of doing that.  So this is a great tool for me.

Of course, I spent the better part of the day just getting comfortable with it.  But in the long run, I think it'll help.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Twist

It appears that the sadness I'm feeling has stirred my creative mind.  I first starting writing as a way of pulling myself out the depression that grabs me at times and tries to pull me under, and so the same happened today.

I won't tell you what the new twist is in the New Orleans story, but I think it's a good one. 

I've been writing this afternoon, and it feels good, or at least it lets me forget about how empty the house feels, about how no one is waking me up so that I'll move enough so she can lay her head on my shoulder, about how when I put the canned cat food down, there's no need to put the empty can on the floor because, unlike Pye, BlackBeary doesn't like to lick the dregs of gravy from the can.  I love BlackBeary very much.  She is my rescue kitty. I found her on a busy Dallas street and took her home when she was no more than a month old, but she's aloof, unlike Pye who was needy and demanding, and loving all at the same time.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sad Day

I may not be writing here for awhile, then again, I may be writing a lot.  Sadness is one of those unpredictable emotions that can stir or diminish the creative spirit.




Today, I did one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I did it against my own needs, even though it doesn't feel like it.  I had Pye euthanized today.  It wasn't painful for her, and it was the right thing to do.  She had stopped drinking water, and when I finally got some fluids in her, subcutaneously, she ended up with pneumonia-like symptoms. She was emaciated and tired.  She had stopped cleaning herself, even though she was always such a fastideous girl.  She wasn't going to get better.  Sixteen year old cats don't get better, not from something like this.

She had a good life.  Her full name was Pyewackette Williamson and at sixteen years of age, she had lived in both Dallas, Texas and Seattle, Washington, had flown on a plane, and had been pampered like royalty.  She especially loved good Texas 'nip and licking the gravy dregs from the bottom of the cat food cans. In bed, she had a way of pushing on me, until I woke up, and moved so that she could lay her head on my shoulder.

Of all my kitties, she was my child.  She had my demeanor, grumpy, crusty on the outside, demanding, and no patience whatsoever. She had many looks. One was the do you mind? look.  When she was pissed, she had a look that could score cold steel.  But underneath all that she had a soft, gooey center that could melt my harshest reprimands to nothing more than a request that she be better in the future. 

The thing I will remember most is her I meant to do that look which could make me literally laugh out loud. I wish I had that ability, that way of doing something silly and then walking away, head held high, proud, just daring anyone--even her momma--to point it out.
 
She was a princess, my princess, and I loved her very much. 


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Writing, some...

I've been doing a bit of writing lately, although not as much as I should.  I still haven't shook this cough, but I did go and get a pertussis vaccination (for whooping cough).

Friday night, I made a huge pot of tortilla soup heavy on the heat (chili heat) and made with home-made chicken broth.  I slept a lot too this weekend.  And I'm feeling much better.  Which means I feel more like writing.

The New Orleans story is taking on a life of its own.  Finally.  You know that everything's starting to come together when you can see the characters.  So far, there are really only six characters in this story, but they're all larger than life.

-- Janice is the protagonist, the main person, and everything revolves around her.
-- Brad is the man she's in love with.
-- And then there's her Momma, who we never meet, but whose presence plays large in what happens in the story.  I know, you say, Momma seems to be in all of your stories.  She is Rose, the grandmother in Counting Crows, and now she's the mother in this story.  All true, but get over it.  This is my therapy, not yours.

There are also three outsiders:  Madam Marie, Antoinette, and T-Bo.

I have gotten to where I can see each and everyone of them. 

Janice is a pretty girl--actually at age thirty, she's a woman, but she seems/acts more like a girl.  She's nothing special, you probably wouldn't look twice at her, which has made her a bit of a wallflower, but she has powers of attraction that she's totally unaware of. All she needs is a little self confidence.

Brad isn't a bad person.  He's a very good looking guy, but he's ego-centric, concerned about himself more than anyone else.  He likes to party and be the center of attention, not a satellite around someone else's gravity pool.

I could write reams about Momma.  She's a lot like Brad.  The word narcisst comes to mind.  Janice is just there to be a mirror, to reflect Momma's perfection. 

Madam Marie and Antoinette, both work at Laveau Botanicals.  They are polar opposites.  Good vs. bad.  Fat vs. thin.  Motherly vs. Momma-ish.

And then there's T-Bo.  I just brought him into the story.  He's a good ol' boy who runs a gumbo shop called Cooyon's.  In Cajun, cooyon indicates a dumb, ridiculous, or silly person.  His shop is called Cooyon's because when he first opened, his pére said only a cooyon would be dumb enough to eat in a dump like that when there was beaucoup better places.

I won't say how T-Bo fits into the story, but he is a key factor in how it ends.

Oh, and how could I forget Pischouette, the cat that adopts Janice. [In Cajun, pischouette means mischievous little girl.] So I guess there's seven characters in my story.


For more on Cajun slang like cooyon, visit: http://louisianacajunslang.com/language.html
[Beware.  The damned cooyon put a bunch of wav files on the site, and it takes forever to load.  Also, he spells it couyon, but most of the places I've seen it, the word has been spelled cooyon.]

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Influenced by Kurt

I'm also reading Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut.  I had forgotten how much I love his prose, his wit (the dark humor), and the way he constructs sentences.  I read Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five way back in high school (and yes, they did have printed books back then -- on paper, not stone).


Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., photo dated April 8, 1992.
Doug Elbinger, Elbinger Studios.

Now that I'm reading him again, I realize -- and I'm going to test this theory, by re-reading Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five just to make sure that the prose is similar -- that he, not Bill (Faulkner) influenced my style of writing.  I write very much like Kurt Vonnegut. Well, my style is like his. I won't say I'm as good a writer, because that would be stupid. 

I suppose that Kurt V has been somewhere in the back of my head, all these years, setting an example, pushing the gallows humor that sort of pops up in my work, but the thing that really got me thinking about it was, while reading Sirens, I kept thinking I would write that sentence exactly like that

Needless to say, I'll be studying his books to see how to improve my own writing. 



I'll leave you with a few quotes.

From Cat's Cradle:
-  Anyone who cannot understand how useful a religion based on lies can be will not understand this book either.
-  Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before... He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.
-  Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are 'It might have been.'

From Slaughterhouse-Five:
-  All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet.
-  The skyline was intricate and voluptuous and enchanted and absurd. It looked like a Sunday school picture of Heaven to Billy Pilgrim.
-  And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.
-  Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.




And from Sirens of Titan:
The bounties of space, of infinite outwardness, were three: empty heroics, low comedy, and pointless death.





With that said, how can you not enjoy an author who can invent the chronosynclastic infundibulum. I'd urge you to read Sirens of Titan, but just in case you don't, this is from A Child's Cyclopedia of Wonders and Things to Do:


“Just imagine that your Daddy is the smartest man who ever lived on Earth, and he knows everything there is to find out, and he is exactly right about everything, and he can prove he is right about everything. Now imagine another little child on some nice world a million light years away, and that little child’s Daddy is the smartest man who ever lived on that nice world so far away. And he is just as smart and just as right as your Daddy is. Both Daddies are smart, and both Daddies are right.

Only if they ever met each other they would get into a terrible argument, because they wouldn’t agree on anything. Now, you can say that your Daddy is right and the other little child’s Daddy is wrong, but the Universe is an awfully big place. There is room enough for an awful lot of people to be right about things and still not agree.

The reason both Daddies can be right and still get into terrible fights is because there are so many different ways of being right. There are places in the Universe, though, where each Daddy could finally catch on to what the other Daddy was talking about. These places are where all the different kinds of truths fit together as nicely as the parts in your Daddy’s solar watch. We call these places chronosynclastic infundibula.

The Solar System seems to be full of chronosynclastic infundibula. There is one great big one we are sure of that likes to stay between Earth and Mars. We know about that one only because an Earth man and his Earth dog ran right into it.

You might think it would be nice to go to a chronosynclastic infundibulum and see all the different ways to be absolutely right, but it is a very dangerous thing to do. The poor man and his poor dog are scattered far and wide, not just through space, but through time, too.

Chrono (kroh-no) means time. Synclastic (sin-classtick) means curved towards the same side in all directions, like the skin of an orange. Infundibulum (in-fun-dib-u-lum) is what the ancient Romans like Julius Caesar and Nero called a funnel. If you don’t know what a funnel is, get Mommy to show you one."

One Thing Leads...

When I don't feel like writing, I read because just seeing the word in print gets me motivated most days.  It also leads me to other things, like old movies, that I may never have experienced.

Today, still sick, but getting better, I don't particularly feel like writing.  (Well, I am writing right now, but you know what I mean.)  And there's nothing good on TV, not that there ever is, but I do enjoy some shows, like Psych and House.

Anyway, I'm reading a book by Haruki Murakami called After Dark. In the book there's a "love ho", short for love house (which if I understand correctly, are pretty prevalent in Japan and far more up-scale than American pay-by-the-hour motels), called Alphaville.  The protagonist mentions that it is also the name of a movie, a 1965 French (with sub-titles) sci-fi-noir movie.  How could I resist?  I first looked to see if there was a book, and there was, one that outlines the movie and has lots of quotes.  So I pulled that down onto my Kindle.  Then I realized that with today's cable system, it was probably OnDemand.  And it was.  I watched it, twice.  I loved it.  Loved the imagery. Loved the seediness that is film noir.

By the way, you'll be glad to know that in the alternate reality of Alphaville, spys (the good spys) still drive 1965 Mustangs. And computers, well, it was 1965.

I won't say that I understood the movie.  Someone could probably write a thesis on that movie and still not completely understand all the imagery and messages in it, like spiral staircases, lots of them, which evoke the idea of DNA. But how does DNA relate to the bigger theme. (Maybe I coul figure it out if my head wasn't so stuffed up.) For now, my theory is that it is a work of art.  And French. So maybe we're not meant to understand it.  Most "art" is just meant to provoke thought, which it did.  I'll give you the Wikipedia link as it explains a lot more than the IMDB page:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphaville 
 
I guess what I'm getting to is that it opened up ideas for new stories and new sub-plots in my stories.  It pulled my brain from it's drug shrouded funk (legal stuff for colds) and made me think.  Which is good, for everyone, not just writers.  I'd like to believe that everyone thinks every now and again, although I believe that is probably a futile wish.  But I won't go there.  I could write reams on how little the average American thinks, myself included.

So, go read a book, watch a stimulating (mentally-stimulating) movie, do something that makes you think.  Please.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Better, Well a Bit

I'm not better, was up coughing most of the night, but I think I'm so tired that I'm not fighting my voice anymore, and things are starting to flow again.  The five words are once again turning into fifty.

So, I've been working on re-write of the Voodoo/New Orleans short story, and I realized that I have pictures from the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

After reading through this post, it seems to have turned into more of a tour guide book than anything on writing, but I love doing research for my stories, and these pictures help put me in the mood.  I thought I'd share them, and one anecdote, with you.

The following is a picture of a new, well kept oven vault.



From Frommers Guide (http://www.frommers.com/destinations/neworleans/0020020224.html):

In 1789 the city opened St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, right outside the city wall(which no longer exist) on what is now Rampart Street. The "condo crypt" look -- the dead are placed in vaults that look like miniature buildings -- was inspired to a certain extent by the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Crypts were laid out haphazardly in St. Louis No. 1, which quickly filled up. Other cemeteries soon followed and eventually were incorporated into the city proper. Each has designated lanes, making for a more orderly appearance. The rows of tombs look something like a city, where the dead inhabitants peer over the shoulders of the living.

There are two types of these functional crypts: the aforementioned "family vaults" and the "oven crypts" [or oven vaults] -- so called because of their resemblance to bread ovens in a wall. A coffin is slid inside, and the combination of heat and humidity acts like a slow form of cremation. In a year or so, the occupant's bones are pushed to the back, coffin pieces are removed, and another coffin can be inserted. In the larger family vaults (made of whitewashed brick), there are a couple of shelves and the same thing happens. As family members die, the bones are swept into a pit below, and everyone eventually lies jumbled together. The result is sometimes dozens of names, going back generations, on a single spot. It's a very efficient use of cemetery space, far more so than conventional sweeping expanses of graveyard landscaping.


What Frommers doesn't mention is that many of these vaults are "rentals", and not just by other family members.  The poor who can't afford to purchase a family vault can rent an oven vault.  But if the family doesn't keep up the rent, the body can be "evicted".  More likely, since the bodies decay in a short amount of time -- a year and a day -- the remains would be pushed to the back and another body inserted. 



As is evident in the picture above, many of the crypts have fallen into disrepair. A group called Save Our Cemeteries (http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/) has cleaned up the worst of the damage that bruised and often blotted out the beauty of these necropolises.



(All these pictures are from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, but the cemeteries in/around New Orleans are very much the same.)


I have been infatuated with New Orleans and her cemeteries since my first trip there, way back when, when I was still young enough to enjoy the hype of Bourbon Street.





On one of my trips to New Orleans, the first time I visited the St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 (supposedly where Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen is buried), my friend and I  decided to wait until Sunday to do the tour.  What we didn't know was that it's closed on Sundays. We were leaving the following day.   So, after much hemming and hawing about what to do, because we really wanted to see the cemetery, we hoisted our butts up and over the wrought iron gateway (and yes those arrows are pointy) and, I suppose, we broke in.

 


The funny thing is that there was an older couple -- well, I probably wouldn't call them older now, they were about my current age even though I don't act it. Anyway, this couple was in the same dilemma we were.  We offered to help them climb over as well, but they slowly backed away from us with that look on their face, the one that people wear when facing a rabid dog.

We didn't harm anything, and realized on the way out (up and over the gate again) that we were breaking-and-entering right across the street from an NOLA police department. 










With that said, I'd highly recommend visiting the New Orleans cities of the dead.  There's so much beauty -- and magic -- there.  It inspired me to write my first (and maybe my first to be published) short story.

Just check the schedule.  You may not be as lucky as we were.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crappy Prose

Despite my last post, lately I've felt the need to write... something. Unfortunately, when I push myself like that -- and I'm not saying that pushing yourself to write every day doesn't work for lots of others, just not for me -- anyway, when I push myself like that, I tend to write crappy stuff, or at least it feels crappy to me. 

I've been sick this past few days, and stayed home. Understand I have to feel really bad to stay home.  My motto is that if I feel bad, I may as well go to work.  You know, work sucks, so no need to feel good when I go there.  Oh, and if you haven't noticed, I get whiny when I'm sick.  OMG, my life is so hard.  BlahBlahBlah.  I'm even annoying myself with the whining.  I'm starting to remind myself of my ex-husband. 

So all afternoon, in the back of my mind was the thought that I could at least write something.  Yes, write something even though my throat feels like an electric sander remodeled my breathing passages and my nose feels like it weights twenty pounds.  Write something when I feel crappy, sure, that'll work. 

What I ended up with was a synopsis of the story, but no visceral details, no flowery descriptions, no voice (funny, because I've almost lost my voice physically).  It's hard for me to write so succinctly.  If it can be said with five words, I can say it with fifty.  But I ended up with an outline.  He did this...  She did that...  He said...  She did something else... Boring, even to me, and I wrote it.

I know that I can use what I wrote, but I'll need to go back and layer in all the good stuff, all the stuff essential to make an outline a story.

So with that said, I'm going back to writing crappy prose.  Hopefully, in the very near future, I can put a silk dress on this pig.  Actually as bad as I feel about it, make-up and a pair of stilettos may be required.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Not that Person

Every time I take a class or go to a conference, I hear the same thing.  A serious writer writes every day.  It's not true.  And don't let anyone tell you that it is. 

Everyone has their own rhythms.  I did no writing in the past week.  None.  I've thought about it, a lot, but I have done absolutely zero writing. 

Those of us who can't just quit working and write full time, we need down time from writing just like we need down time from work.  Writing is work.  Yes, it's way, way more enjoyable than the work I'm getting paid for, but because that work allows me a good life, a life where I can write, where I have the freedom to do things that many people don't have the time/funds/resources to do, I need to make sure that I do a good job at that job.

And my paying job has been stressful lately.  Two projects are coming due at almost the same time. Yeah! Can things be more complicated?  Why yes, they can.  Now the project manager on one project--and let me say that she is a good project manager, but she doesn't understand technical people or how they work--this project manager has decided that more meetings will make the work get done faster.  I keep seeing Dilbert cartoons in my head.  "And we're going to keep having meetings until we figure out why nothing is getting done around here."

So, instead of writing, this past weekend, I did nothing.  Well, I did a bit of cleaning because you just can't let that stuff go, but I did nothing like writing, not even here on this blog.  I slept late.  I went to a friends house for Easter dinner (that's the meal in the middle of the day for you non-Southerners).  I read, drank wine, and even ate potato chips while watching TV.  I indulged myself. 

Do I feel guilty?  Yes, and no.  Yes, because not being productive means that I'm being lazy, and that imperative, that eleventh commandment has been ingrained in my being from day one.  Thank you, Momma.  But after fifty-two years, I've learned that down time is not just a nicety, it's necessary.

So when people tell you that you're not a serious writer unless you write every day, just tell them that you're not that person.  That you have a life outside of writing, that you write because you want to, because you enjoy it, because you're compelled to do so as a creative outlet.  But not because you have to.

With that said, Happy Belated Easter everyone!!


Zombie Peeps!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Good Omen

Two for Mirth


This is one of the stairwells at work.  Look who's hanging out on top...

Short Story, could turn into a Novel

Last night, I attended the Issaquah Writers' Group meeting.  The people were congenial, and I felt welcome right off.  I got my times mixed up and showed up a half an hour too early.  So the host and his wife, fed me dinner while we got to know each other.  It was a smaller group than normal last night--one lady is a CPA, busy, busy.  Actually, this worked out well for me.  It's hard to be the new person in a large group.

The interesting thing about this writing group is that they don't pre-read the work.  Each writer reads his/her work aloud during the meeting and then the others critique it.  I presented the short story I included here on Wednesday.  I knew, before I went, that the piece needs work.  It moves too slowly in places for a short story.  Their critiques were gentle, yet spot-on about what I was seeing, but there were comments that I hadn't considered, like moving things around to allow the description to stay but to speed up the pacing.  (Thank you all!!).

The one thing I didn't realize is that--understand that I'm the only Southerner in the group--no one else in the room knew about oven vaults and the "year and a day" for crypts in New Orleans.  My friend Steve calls this the curse of knowledge.  He says, and I agree with him, that we tend to assume that others know as much as we do.  Well, that theory works for all of us except those sadly pathetic people who have to be the smartest person in the room.  (No one in my writing group falls into this category, thank you God.)

When I explained it about New Orleans burial practices, the creepiness of the opening was more evident, and I went home trying to figure out how to expand that section without having to do an information dump.  Somewhere in the process of letting this information percolate in my head today, I realized that I could expand this story significantly, minimum to a novella.

Just to give you an idea, I'm thinking about having the protagonist learn how to lay bricks.  Does that give you a hint?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing Group

Tomorrow night, I'm joining a new writing group.  The organizer gave me a lovely compliment when I submitted a sample of my writing.  She said, "...after just reading a couple of pages [of my novel], I can see that you are a good writer!!! I'm eager to read the rest..." How could I not join? 

I joke about it, but actually her compliment buoyed me up from a low spot and made me feel much better, especially after the rejection letters I've been getting--two more since my last post, both lovely rejections, both stating that my story was not what they were looking for, but rejections none the less.

Tomorrow night I'm going to present my first few pages of the short story that I'm re-writing. I'm including here a few paragraphs.  Let me know if you would be interested in reading more.  I've renamed it Hindsight and am making it a bit more sinister.

***

The cement wall of the oven vault warms my back as I sit in the pleasant May sun, and I wonder whether the idea of a year and a day is absolute. It has been nearly a year. At this point if the crypt was opened, would anyone know the difference? I suspect not, but on days like this, when I come to visit, when I look back and wonder, I contemplate whether I should have, would have done something different. Probably not. I’m not exactly known for making the best decisions—thank you, Momma—but I like to think I learned from the experience, at least as much as I benefitted from it. Then again, probably not.


It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only mid-August of last year and hot as nine-hundred hells as I walked up to the ramshackle storefront. The sign on the door said Laveau Botanicals, and as I walked into the building, the cloying smell of patchouli and sandalwood loitered heavy in the air already laced with the musky smell of sweat. The lack of air conditioning made the room stiflingly hot, the humidity smothering. The shelves covering the walls added to my sense of claustrophobia, shelves holding hundreds of jars, all labeled by hand. There were large jars with what looked like herbs, barks, and roots. Medium jars with dusts and powders. Tiny jars with oils, unguents, and ointments. There were jars holding things I didn't recognize, and, even now, I hesitate to guess their use. Other shelves held candles of all colors and shapes, one shelf devoted to human shaped candles: men, women, hands, penises. I can only imagine the spell that requires some of the paraphernalia housed on those shelves.

The woman behind the counter, she knew that she was beautiful. I could tell by the way she carried herself. She also knew that I believed her beautiful, more beautiful than I could ever hope to be. She could tell by the way I carry myself. My dishwater blonde hair, fuzzy from the humidity, had nothing to attract the eye the way her coffee colored braids did. The beads of jet and gold woven through her braids only added to the exotic air surrounding her, making me feel all the more dumpy and dowdy. She wore what must have been twenty pounds of jewelry, with four or five gold bracelets adorning each arm. Gold against cafe au lait. She smiled at me, a brilliant toothy white smile broken only by a single gold eyetooth on the left side.

Her smile announced that she knew why I was there, but she asked anyway. "Help you?" she said as she played idly with a gold coin hanging around her neck, her thumb rubbing back and forth over the disk’s surface.

Fearing her contempt, I faltered, wiped the sweat from my face, not sure what to say. That fear made time seem to drag like a knife through cold honey. In my memory, the room still takes on a surrealistic golden sheen as if I am looking through that same jar of honey. The woman, the shelves, the jars, everything in the room appear in tones of gold and sepia, except for the painting behind the counter. From behind the shopkeeper’s head, a fluorescent Mary and Jesus glared at me, their cartoon-like faces reproaching me for being there.

She smirked and asked again, “Can I help you?”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Adrift...

The past couple of weeks, since I've let the endless editing go for awhile, I feel adrift, like I have no direction.  I've all but forgotten what it's like to be at the beginning of the story-telling process, to just let my mind wander until an idea leaps fully formed from my head, to not know every detail of every character in the story.  It's nice, but scary. 

Right now, I feel like I'm not being productive. Yes, I know that we all need to take a nap every now and again, but I have an internal barometer that says I need to accomplish something, that napping or reading is time wasted, that I'm being lazy if I spend the afternoon watching TV.

I want to just be.  To not care what everyone else thinks, especially agents. Even if only for a little while, I want to forget about whether the last book is publishable and whether I should attempt to start a new one.  I think I know why a lot of authors/artists take up drinking (or doing coke or whatever).  My mind is constantly spinning, and I need to find a quiet place inside me and just let it go for a bit. 

I am going to a St. Patty's Day party tonight, even though I'm of Scottish descent. [I may wear plaid, just for the hell of it.]  There will be drinking and eating, and more drinking and eating, and much convival companionship.  Maybe, just maybe, I can find that still point, even if only for an hour or two.  I hope so.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Putting it Away for Awhile

Last night, Kathleen and I watched Woody Allen's new movie Midnight in Paris, mostly because it has Owen Wilson in it, but it turned out to be a pretty good movie about a writer wishing that he could have lived in Paris during the golden age of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Kathy Bates, playing Gertrude Stein, has a great line:  The artist's job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence. This movie made me miss the fun part of writing, the creative part, the "I'm going to create a whole new world" part of writing.

I still have plans for getting an agent, which includes writing a shorter more catchy query letter and attending the PNWA conference.  And if I don't have an agent after the PNWA conference, I'll look to e-Publishing. 

But for now, I'm taking Dustin's advice and putting the existing story away for awhile.  I already have a few ideas percolating in my head, not that I'm going to share them.  At least not right now. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sigh, Another Rejection
(long, whiny post)

I've been remiss in posting, but as is evident from my last post, work has been hectic. 

Most days, I fall asleep around 2am, if I'm lucky, and get up, somewhere between 6am and 8am. Before work there is the issue of taking care of my two ancient kitties. Pye needs meds twice daily now, and both demand love and attention, and food, at least twice daily. No breakfast for me. I'd rather sleep those few extra minutes. My commute is hellish at best. I love living in West Seattle, but the twenty miles to work can take as long as two hours depending on when my first meeting starts. And if the City of Seattle is doing some new road construction project, that number increases exponentially depending on the idiocy of our city council.

Stay with me here, I'm leading up to my excuse for the big pity party I'm having. Work means juggle multiple projects for as long as I can without killing someone. There are few built-in pressure release values these days. We used to go out to lunch, to decompress more than anything, but now going out to lunch is an "event". These days I grab lunch and eat during a meeting. Once I've finally done as much as I can for one day, I usually go out to dinner with one or more friends, because cooking dinner takes a lot of energy that I don't have right now.  The problem with having dinner with friends is that I come home sated and sleepy. And useless. 

If you've gotten this far, and you know me well enough, you'll know that I needed to write this, needed to vocalize (or at least record) that I'm burning the candle at both ends. (I know, bad Nellie bad; don't use over-used idioms in serious writing.) Anyway, due to some situations better left in my childhood, situations that I'd rather not write about, I don't have a "stop button", don't have a way to say, "it's okay to do nothing today, to sleep and read, and just enjoy the day". When I try to do those things, I feel guilty. I steam cleaned the carpets last weekend with a raging migraine.  But enough said. 

Let's just say that I'm exhausted.  So when I checked my personal email during a meeting yesterday to find a rejection letter, I believe I have a halfway decent reason for the tears that came to my eyes. (I quickly blinked them away, of course.)

Maybe it was because this was one of the agents I thought would be interested, seriously interested. Maybe it was because she wrote a lovely rejection letter. Maybe I'm not dealing with the rejection as well as I thought I would. Maybe, maybe, maybe...

So I whined to several friend, who gave me good advice, especially Dustin who pushes me to be better than I am, and I told myself the story of Steve Berry, who I heard speak at a retreat in Hawaii. I'll let him tell the story. The following is from the web site of a writer who has over 12 million books in print in 51 countries: 

He [Steve Berry] made the decision to write a novel in 1990. It was something Steve thought about for years, but finally decided to act on. That first attempt was long and awful. The second and third attempts weren't much better. It wasn't until the fourth try that he began to appreciate the reality that writing novels is hard. Steve kept writing for 12 years and produced 8 manuscripts. Each one was a learning experience and, as he wrote, Steve studied the craft. His education was one of trial and error. He attended a writing workshop once a week for 6 years, where the participants would tear apart everything he wrote. Then he'd go home and put it all back together again, hopefully a little better than before. Between the workshop, the writers' group, and writing everyday Steve taught himself the craft. Not until six years into the process was he fortunate to land an agent. She kept him around for 7 years until May 2002, when Ballantine Books finally bought The Amber Room. During those years five different manuscripts were submitted to New York publishers, each one was rejected, 85 rejections all total, until eventually, on the 86th attempt, the right-editor-at-the-right-time-with-the-right-story was found. Like Steve says, 'he may or may not know much about writing, but he's an expert on rejection.'   http://www.steveberry.org/berry-faq.htm

I decided to write a novel is 2005. I'm seven years into the project, of which I've only really put any effort into it for the past five years. I have four rejections, to date. So in the words of my friend Dustin: The worst that could happen is that your book won't get published and you'll have to take all that you've learned from this one and write a better one.  The best that could happen is that it will get published and you'll still have to take all that you've learned and write a better one.

With that said, I'm still having a pity party, but at least I have good, supportive friends, and I'm in good company, rejection wise.