Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let the Re-Writes Begin

This week, I started the editing on Counting Crows (the novel, not the band).

But as usual, life got in the way.

Some of it was pure procrastination, like creating a Twitter account and setting that all up.  And checking it every ten minutes to see if I have any new followers. And then I decided to play around with cover art for Counting Crows. AND then I spent several hours looking at fonts because the font I used for Couillon's cover won't work. Counting Crows isn't legible in that font.  See what I mean:

See my FB page [] for the more on photos and fonts and changes.  BTW, I took that photo in London in the Old Brompton Cemetery.  That's just me playing around with Gimp [photo editor], but I may end up using something very similar.

On top of all the artsy-fartsy stuff I was doing, I also had to do some real world stuff, like finishing my taxes, ugh, but glad that's over with for another year.

I had quite a tax scare this year.  You see I tend to stash all the letters that say "important tax information" unopened in a shoe box until I'm ready to do my taxes. Well, the City of Seattle expects business owners to file their Combined Excise Tax Return by January 31st.  If they don't, they get penalized a certain percentage for every month it's late. Needless to say, I was already nearly a month late when I opened the letter.  But since I have received zero royalties  [they have to add up to a certain amount before Amazon or B&N or Smashwords will send you a check], and this is the only good side to the zero royalties situation, I got a walk on the Excise Tax I owe.  X percent of nothing is still nothing.  Just imagine how much I would owe the City of Seattle if Couillon had been a block-buster.  There's some irony in that, somewhere.

The other reasons doing taxes was more of an ordeal this year was (one) I have a Coverdell Educational Savings Account [like an IRA, but for education only] set up for my nephew, Ian, for college.  This is the first year that he's taken any funds out of that account which means lots of receipts and tracking stuff and accounting for this and that.  And (two) I started a business this year [see ordeal with Excise Tax], which meant I could deduct certain business expenses like purchasing fonts and ISBN numbers, which in turn means lots of receipts and tracking more stuff and accounting for everything else.

My tax folder this year is about ten times thicker than the previous years.

So it wasn't until this morning that I sat down to edit in earnest.  I did a bit in the evenings over the week, but today I decided I wanted to re-do part of the hospital scene.  I realized that Liz's actions/reactions just didn't ring true, especially considering everything that had happened.  I got a first draft of most of the re-write, but I'm stuck, and need to do some more thinking on actions versus reactions.

The new bit starts out like this [remember, it's a first draft]:

     Maggie curls up behind Liz, spooning her, and Liz snuggles further into the curve of Maggie's body, pulling her body into a knot.
     Her voice just above a whisper, Liz says, "Tell me a story?"
     Maggie imagines this request is very much like the ones that started the story telling when Liz was a little girl nestled in Momma's bed, the formal beginning of many a night of fables and fantasy, the telling going on until Liz drifted off into one of the worlds her Gram created.
     Maggie whispers in return, "Your Gram was the story teller in the family."
     Liz is quiet for several long moments, and then with a sadness in her voice that makes tears well in Maggie's eyes, she says, "Just make something up."
     "Ok, let me see what I can do." Careful not to put too much pressure on Liz's mid-section, Maggie pulls her closer, whispers in her ear. 
     "A long, long time ago, there was this beautiful young princess." Maggie pauses, not sure if she's ready to tell this story.
     "This princess, she isn't me, is she?"
     "Nope. Absolutely not. You are a princess. And the hero of this story. But this is not you."
     "Is she you?"
     "Me, maybe, since it was a long, long time ago. I don't know. Just making it up as I go along."
     Liz sighs, making Maggie wonder if it's from frustration at her inability to tell a good story or if it's just an I'm tired sigh.
     She combs Liz's hair back with her fingers as she continues, "Anyway, at the time, she was the last of a long line of powerful, red-headed queens, and she lived in a castle next to a beautiful swampland—and before you ask, yes, there are beautiful swamps, all green and overgrown and burgeoning with wild life."  Like the one near our house, Maggie wants to say. "Beside the castle grew a thousand year old oak tree, just dripping with mistletoe and Spanish moss.  But what you don't know is that this tree was magical. It possessed the power, just by climbing way up into its branches, to make problems of the heart go away."
     With those last few words, Maggie realizes that no story worth its salt is any good without at least a hint of magic. Her resistance to all things magical is the reason her stories have always been so awful. Too much truth can hurt.
     "Is there a wicked—" Liz's voice hitches. "Is there a wicked witch in the story?"
     "Well, that all depends on your opinion of me?" Maggie wishes she could be the magical oak and take away Liz's heartache.  "There's a troll. Will that work?"
     Liz pauses for a moment. "It's not me, is it?"
     "No. Never, darling. "
     Maggie slips her arm under Liz's pillow.
     "Even though this princess loved the oak and the castle and her mother, the queen, she tired of the beautiful swamp, of her surroundings. You see, as she grew she came to realize that if she looked closely she could recognize evil things in the swamp as well as all the extraordinary things she loved.  There were hurtful, malicious things, things that grew quickly, quick enough to ensnare her and smother her if she wasn't careful, quick enough to steal her life away.
     "So even though she had a good life, she decided she must leave the castle and her mother and the tree which made her life easy and problem-free behind.  The old queen, her mother raised herbs, but only knew of the herbs that lived in the beautiful swamp.  The young princess, foolish as she was, decided she must know more, must discover a way to counteract the evil growing in the swamp.  At the time she didn't realize that some things can't be killed."
     Liz's breathing has grown regular during the telling.  "Are you asleep?" Maggie whispers.
     "No." Her voice comes out hushed and ragged like her Gram's did toward the end.
     "You okay?"
     "Yes... no." Liz squirms around until she's laying on her back, but she doesn't look at Maggie. "I don't know."
     "Should I stop? Let you get some sleep?"
     "No. I want to find out what happens." Tears well in Liz's eyes as something between a grimace and a smile forms on her face, as if she's trying to be happy and can't quite remember how.
     "Well, the foolish princess left the castle by the swamp and traveled for a long, long time, to a far away land of tall mountains and endless winter.  She learned much about the different plants, about how they grow, about what promotes and what kills, but she didn't learn anything about herself, not until she met an evil troll. The troll—who is not you—well, he used a glamour—you know what those are, don't you?"
     Liz nods, but Maggie says it anyway. "Anyway, he used a spell to make him appear a handsome prince. See there, I've been reading a bit of your Gram's book." And learning more every day.  

With that said, I'll stop for the evening, do some thinking, maybe have a glass of Cabernet.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's Been Awhile, but I'm Back

Today, I forced myself to open the Writing folder on my computer and traverse down the tree to the WitchStory folder, where my many versions of Counting Crows lives.  I copied everything into a folder called old except the full manuscript document that I sent to the agents, the one that was rejected because they didn't love it.

To be honest, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  I started by reformatting the word document so that it will work with Kindle; you know--or maybe you don't--setting all the smart quotes to straight quotes, making everything single spaced, and so on.  That felt pretty good, like I had actually accomplished something.  And maybe I did.  Maybe just by reformatting for the Kindle, I have thrown off the misery and self pity (both regarding writing and work) I've been rolling, nay, wallowing in for the past month or so.  It was so bad, I think I scared some of my friends.

And I have to say I have the best friends around.  I got all kinds of pep talks and ego boosters, both in person and in emails, and many kind words.

Anyways, enough about them, this blog is all about me.  [That was sarcasm, btw.]

I then opened an empty word document, the old word, not that damned new notepad editor docx crap, and I jotted down notes about all the editing thoughts I've been having. About what to add, what to get rid of .  I won't tell you what it says, because it will give away the story, but I think there are some good things that will enhance the story.

After all that, I checked Facebook of course, anything to postpone the inevitable editing needed. And then I put the sheets in the wash, and unloaded the dishwasher, and petted BlackBeary (who, btw, now has her own FB page). Started writing this blog.

Finally, I opened the manuscript and started editing.  And you know what? It wasn't as horrible as I had imagined.  After being rejected so much, I had built the idea that it was all shit.  Instead, I realized that my writing is pretty good.  I doubt I'll ever displace Stephen King, but I'm a good writer, and better than some of the authors I read.  I don't head hop.  I don't mix past tense with present, and I don't mix first person and third person.  I just hate it when I'm reading a book written in past tense and suddenly the author jumps straight into the head of the protagonist, taking me into present tense, first person.  It's too jarring, even though it seems to be an acceptable form of writing, and used frequently.  Personally, I think it's a lazy way of writing, and it annoys me. If you need to do that, then write the damned story in present tense, first person.

But enough ranting, I have editing to do, story lines to dream up, characters to talk to [in my head, of course].  I have writing to do.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pep Talks Sometimes Work...

Got an email from a friend of mine today.  I won't share all of it with you, but I loved this part.  It made me literally laugh out loud.  I may even use it.


As for work--keep your favorite color crayon nearby--maybe in your pencil holder.  And every time work gets you down, imagine writing your resignation letter with it!  My crayon is purple (of course), and my resignation letter says, "You're not the boss of me!"

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Still on a Break...

Every day I come home and think, tonight I'm going to write or at least start editing Counting Crows, and so far, every night, I've come up with a way to avoid doing said writing.  I've gotten lots and lots of things on my to-do list done, but I've also added some things like the memory quilt I'm planning (and will be making over the course of the year) as a gift for a loved one.  And don't forget the fact that I signed up for NetFlix (turned off cable TV) and am watching a bunch of old movies and TV shows.  Seriously, who doesn't love Columbo?

Right now, I'm in that phase where I'm vacillating between beating myself  up for not writing and rationalizing that I need a break.  The thing is, one side has to win eventually.  Right now the rationalizing side has a heavy advantage because I come home mentally tired from work.

As the years have passed, I've become less and less tolerant of politics at work.  Not the Democrat vs. Republican type of politics.  No, I mean the bullshit-ass-kissing-to-get-ahead politics, the fact that some people are protected no matter what they do while others, no matter how hard they work or how much they produce, never get a break.  And I'm not just talking about me.  I'm tired because I take the role of the protector, fighter for the underdog, and I'm getting worn to the point that I want to just stop, want to not care, but I can't.  I can't be that person.

Just like I can't ignore these rejections.  They bother me. I want to believe that hard work accomplishes ... something.  But the older I've gotten, the less I believe that to be true.  With publishing, it appears to be as much the luck of the draw as the quality of writing.  Again, I'm not just talking about me.  I'm confounded when I look at what is being published these days.  I don't like what it says about the average reader. While with work, well it's more about how long you can hold out against selling your soul.

So, when will I get back to writing?  I don't know.  Hopefully soon.  Maybe never.