0

Am I insane?

Ocean_at_the_End_of_the_Lane_US_CoverLast year, I got the opportunity to see Neil Gaiman.  He was doing a reading and book signing for the release of his book The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  It was a great experience, he is as smart and funny as you would expect, but more so.  I can’t begin to explain how amazing he is while at the same time seem like a normal everyday person.  A few nights later my almost-niece, Andia, attended a similar event in LA, except she got the opportunity to meet him during a small reception before the event.  She’s exceptional, so her special time with Mr. Gaiman was well deserved.  I mean, the girl brought him homemade chocolates with book themed decorations.  C’mon!

 

I saw this quote from him earlier this week and I couldn’t quite get it out of my head.  It was so close to what I talked about last week that it just stuck with me.  I can’t quite give up on being a grown up but I can surely follow the sage advice of someone who knows what he’s talking about.

Just-be-an-author

Plus, I think I’ve already got insane covered so it’s all uphill from here, right?

**UPDATE**

Check out Andia’s website SteamCupcakes

 

0

Good news and…

Keep calm writeOk, the good news is that I am writing again, but it’s not on my current work in progress, the novella.  Instead, I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts.  I currently have three blogs; this one for talking about my everyday stuff and writing, a second one that I use to post about homeschooling and craft projects and the last one I started preemptively as an author blog.

It’s a little nuts, having three blogs, I realize this.  The crazy thing is that I really enjoyed setting each one up, I must have changed themes ten times until I found the one that worked exactly the way I envisioned it.  I did that for all of them, in fact, I had a theme on one blog and realized it would work better on this one and changed them out.  I really like how each of them look, they are all different but have a similar bright, clean look.  Every time I publish a post I have a moment of creative giddyness because I like how the blog post looks, and more importantly because I am writing.

Writing has been something I’ve done since I was a kid.  Being a writer is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I started writing.  Even though it was what I wanted to do I don’t think I let myself really think about it as an actual possibility until just recently.  I talked about it and let it roll around in the back of my head but I don’t think I ever really believed that I could do it.  My father was my biggest champion, and yeah, dad’s are supposed to be supportive and all that.  I’d like to think there was a little more to it though.  My dad was pretty smart, he came out of college with a double major, Social Studies (History and Political science) and Kinesiology (the study of human movement).  He was also playing college football on a scholarship at a smaller college in California. He followed the Bachelors degree with a Masters, and taught at a Catholic Prep high school.  I actually had him for Honors English and U.S. Government/Economics and also P.E., he was also the head football coach but also coached track, swimming and was the weightlifting coach for all sports.  He was a Renaissance man though, he was a published poet, he could repair any vehicle, build almost anything and he came up with amazing solutions to problems that seemed unsolvable.  When I was a kid he designed and built on an addition to our house that was bigger than the original house.  Looking back it amazes me because he learned it all from reading and talking to people, there was no internet or You Tube videos to learn how to do things.  I remember helping him build a brick wall and platform for our wood burning stove, it was really neat to see it coming together, I mean literally seeing a brick wall built brick by brick.  How many eight year old girls know how to split a brick in half?  I learned a lot from my dad, not just in school but all of those other things like building and problem solving. **

I mentioned all of that to explain this next part.  When I was in college, I was having a stressful moment, I think I was struggling to get classes scheduled and I was full doomsday mode.  My dad sat down at the table with me and said, “Why are you going through all of this?”  Of course, I responded all frazzled talking about classes and grades and how I was never going to graduate.  He told me to quit worrying about my classes and get back to writing. I was bit surprised, my dad was all about getting a good and thorough education.  I told him I was going to school so I would have something to fall back on.  It seemed like a logical plan, go to school, get an education, get a job so I could, you know, eat.  I figured the writing would come later.    He says to me, “Forget about the back up plan, go write,” and then walked out of the room.

My father passed away in 2007 after a 16 month battle with lung cancer.  It took a year or so but all of those conversations I’d had with him over the years about writing kept coming back to me.  I had been writing off and on for years, I mean, I could wallpaper Brooklyn with pages from my unfinished projects.  It wasn’t until November 1, 2009 that I got a serious push toward writing.  I read a post from Jennifer Crusie about National Novel Writing Month (NaNo).  I logged onto the website and signed up.  I spent November writing my 50,000 words and I was very proud of myself.  I planned on getting back to writing after the holidays in January but, you know, sometimes life happens.  In the middle of May, I remembered that I could get a free proof copy and I spent most of June hunched over my computer finishing my story.  When I got my proof copy in the mail, I did a little happy dance and then burst into tears.  It was the first time that it seemed like writing was something I could actually do.

After that first story, I realized that I had the perfect idea for a story that would come before the one I’d just written. Not long after, I had a plan for a series of books set in the fictional town I had created in my first NaNo project.  I’ve used the opportunity of subsequent NaNo’s to work on my ideas for the different books.  I’ve been trying to rewrite the first in the series, it’s been a bit of a struggle after a large timeline change along with a few plot point changes.  I’ve rewritten the beginning and the next step is to get an new outline that incorporates all of the changes.

The important thing is that I write, and it can be hard.  I’m pretty busy trying to keep my house clean, the lawn mowed and food on the table and then homeschooling takes a lot of of prep and teaching time too.  It might be blog posts   I am going to do this though, I am going to find those minutes. I will get my butt in the chair and I will get my words on the screen.

I figure if I keep repeating it, that it will eventually happen, right?

**My dad helped me design these matching L – shaped desks.  It was one of the first projects that I constructed from beginning to end.  Sully was duly impressed.  🙂

 

KC Desk

My desk, cat usually included

Desk Sully

Sully’s desk, always neat and tidy.

 

 

0

No problem, oh sure…

Camp NaNo 2014-Participant-Vertical-Banner blueSo July was supposed to be the month where I got my act together.  Camp NaNo started July 1st and I had come up with a fabulous idea to help straighten out a particular issue with my work-in-progress.  A short story or novella would be the perfect way to get my characters to my fictional town and a fun way to kick off the series.  Two birds, one stone, how could this not turn out awesome?

I had already signed up with Camp NaNo setting my word count at 30,000 words.  I figured 1,000 words a day would be pretty easy.  During NaNo in November, I write 2,000 words a day so 1,000 words should be no problem.  In the first few days it wasn’t a  problem, in fact I didn’t get started until about July 6th and I was writing 1,500 words each day to catch up.  It was going well, I was excited about two new characters that I’d added that filled in some gaps in the backgrounds for other characters.  I’ve been using Scrivener for a little over a year now, not consistently but I finally feel like I’d gotten a good feel for how to use it and had even spent some time setting up character and location templates  I was really feeling positive about how it would all turn out.

Dust storm

Dust storm hitting Phoenix. July 3, 2014

It was all good, my word count was on track and then we had a monsoon storm.  I live in Arizona and we have these nasty storms in the summer that start with a wall of dust blowing across the Valley of the Sun with high winds often followed by torrential downpours.  Sometimes we get dust and some wind and just enough rain to make the windshields on our cars really spotty.  This time though it was bad, thunderstorms with high winds and microbursts that hit several areas east of Phoenix.  Unfortunately, we live east of Phoenix and lost a good chunk of one of the trees in our front yard.  We were watching from our front porch and half of the tree had folded down on itself.  My husband went out and moved his car since the wind was blowing in the direction.  A few minutes later the wind wooshed in from the opposite direction and folded section broke free and fell into the street.  We waited about ten minutes and although it was still blowing out, the crazy wind has subsided.  We really wanted to get the tree out of the street it wasn’t quite dark yet but we could see it being a potential hazard.  We live about four houses from the main turn into our subdivision, in the dark I wasn’t sure if that was adequate distance for someone to see it in their headlights and safely react in time.  We were able to push and pull it into the yard and out of the street but at one point I slipped on the wet grass.  I fell straight back onto my tuchus and stupidly put my hands down as I fell.  I was laughing before I landed knowing how I looked, scared Sully have to death.  What I didn’t know though was that I had severely sprained my left wrist, I guess the adrenaline overpowered the pain.  About an hour later, I was nearly in tears, I got some ice on it and it started feeling a little more normal.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not sure which, I have a lot of experience with spraining my wrists, and in fact dislocated the left one when I was in high school.*

I ended up wearing a stiff, immobilizing brace during the day and an Ace bandage while I slept.  There is no good angle in a wrist brace in which you can type, honestly the same goes for the Ace bandage.  I tried different scenarios with my laptop; on my desk propped in various angles, on my lap, on a bed tray, knees up, knees down.  There just wasn’t an angle that would work with the wrist brace that didn’t put the other wrist in a weird uncomfortable position.  I finally gave up and started writing in a notebook.  My word count when I got injured was about 16K so at least I was halfway there.  I remember from previous years that many people write their stories out by hand and how they should proceed to validate their word count.  I used the easier method, I counted the words on three of my handwritten pages to get an average word per page, I probably should have done more but after three my patience began to wane, a lot.  Anyhow, I took the average and multiplied it by my total number of pages.  Somehow I had met my word count and I was able to ‘win’ Camp NaNo.  Yay me!Camp NaNo 2014-Winner-Facebook-Profile

Today was really the first day that I’ve able to type without any pain on my wrist.  I know, it’s not a huge thing but when you’re supposed to be writing it’s terribly inconvenient.  This weekend I’ll have to type up all of the scenes and notes and get them organized into Scrivener.  Hopefully, once it’s all typed out I will still have reached my word count goal.  Of course, the chances of me typing straight from notebooks is very slim, the urge to edit as I go will be really strong.  It’s probably best if I just stick to my original figures and not dwell on matters that were out of my hands.  In the past I’ve always managed to reach my word count.  This time it was in a different way and I can live with that.

Happy writing!  See you next week.  🙂

 

* Yes, I dislocated my wrist and in the most stupid way possible.  I was on the softball team my sophomore year, and while I’d love to tell you that I sprained it hitting a home run or sliding into home scoring the winning run, that is so not the case.  During practice after school we were waiting for the coach or something, all I remember is that we were all standing around.  Several days earlier some of us had been talking about stuff and somehow I mentioned that I could do a cartwheel on a straight line.  So while we were waiting someone suggested that I do a cartwheel on the chalk line.  No problem, I do that all of the time.  I’d shown people all over the place, sidewalks, bleachers, lines in the parking lot, curb stops in the parking lot.  For whatever reason that day when I did my cartwheel it really hurt my wrist.  Whether I dislocated it then or just sprained it and then further injured it during practice.  And yeah, you’d think I would have mentioned the hurt wrist and stayed out of practice but I couldn’t tell my coach, ‘oh hey, I can’t practice I hurt my wrist doing a cartwheel..’  Super responsible, right?  I still can’t imagine having that conversation.  I had to have my wrist taped up for the rest of the season.  So much fun…

 

0

I had one job…

I am sorry that it’s been so long since I have posted anything.  And while I am sure that no one was losing any sleep wondering when I would post next, I know that posting here is important to me and I need to work on that.

SunflowersAnyway, things have been busy and crazy and at times, crazy busy.  At the end of March, we had the opportunity to switch jobs.  It was a sudden and unexpected opportunity and we were a bit freaked out when it happened but apparently the Universe has a plan for us.  The first two weeks of April was all about the interview process for Sully and everything else fell by the wayside and yes, that includes my writing.  Once he was back to work I had a little bit of a freak out, which, in a way, is kind of normal for me.  In an emergency situation, I am the person who is totally calm and gets everything under control, then when everything is settled and every one is ok again, I fall apart.  Of course, this time I kind of did it in steps, when he first went back to work I kept myself super busy doing a pretty thorough cleaning of the house, I even cleaned windows.  I know, crazy, right?  He was in training for four weeks and then moved to his permanent position, that’s when I suddenly just shut down.  It took me a couple of days to figure out that I’d been mentally holding my breath until he was out of training.  It was unnecessary, training wasn’t a graded sort of thing and he was doing great anyhow.  He’s still doing great, he’s won several of the contests that have been held and he seems to be on track to be one of the top people in their group.  The best part is that he loves his job which makes me really happy because as long as he was at his previous job he absolutely hated it, and that was from day one, so this is huge.  Of course, his happiness at work has shed light on the fact that I haven’t been writing and I feel decidedly unhappy and unfulfilled about that.

I actually did get some writing done right after he started the new job.  I was continuing my rewrites and slowly starting to gather information about self publishing.  At the beginning, I was mulling over whether I would use my name or use a pseudonym.  I had planned on starting a blog/webpage with that name just to get a head start on everything.  Since I hadn’t decided on the name part I figured I could use the town from my books as the blog title, in some form or another.  I thought up some ideas and did my usual Google searches to make sure I wasn’t copying something that was already out there.  Unfortunately, my Google searches brought up a series of recently published books from Harlequin using the same name.  That was really disappointing, I wrote that first book in 2009 so I am fairly invested in my imaginary town.  It just got worse because, of course, I blamed myself for not getting the rewrites done and the book finished.  Never mind the logic of the real life situation with terminally ill relatives and everything else going on.  Anyway, it really got to me, it took me a week to deal with that and then another week or so to get myself to move on.  Finally, after some research and more Google searches I decided on a new town name.  I set up a blog for it, not that I’ve done much with it but it’s set up and I am planning to buy the domain name at some point.  I figure at least it’s out there that the new name is already a part of a series of books.  I’ll write more about it here once I get the site up and running with regular posts.

So, now it’s June, the middle of June even, and I was supposed to be done with my rewrites already and I am not even remotely close to being done.  It’s ironic, the most recent piece of writing advice I’ve gotten was that the important thing is the writing, the more you write the better you get and the more books you sell.  I just want to scream, because it was the only thing I didn’t do.  It’s very disappointing but I am trying to tell myself that I can’t change what has already happened.  I can only go forward from here.  Hopefully, I will get my butt in the chair this week and get back to it.

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying summer.  Here in Arizona it’s all about staying out of the heat.  So keep cool everyone!

 

1

New eye…

screechowl

 

I’ve been reading a lot this year, which isn’t actually a new or surprising development.  Normally, I read two to three books a week depending on how crazy my life happens to be.  Sometimes when I am knee deep in a project, like the crazy Pirate costumes last summer and fall, I hardly read at all.  For the most part this isn’t really good for me, after a couple of weeks of not reading I start feeling…well, funky.  It’s the same thing with writing, if I go too long without writing I start feeling restless, it’s like my imagination starts going a little stir crazy.  The craft projects are good for my creativity but they don’t help me get the voices in my head to quiet down.

This year in addition to my pledge to make a concerted effort to get my work-in-progress rewritten and finished, I also set a goal at Goodreads to read 52 books this year.  It’s only a book a week but I figured that was a good start and that it would cover any crazy times that popped up that might cause me to read less or not at all.  So far I think I am about six books ahead of schedule.  At the recommendation of a fellow writer I have been reading a lot of contemporary romance since it’s the genre I am attempting to write.  To be honest, it’s not just a lot but almost exclusively contemporary romance.  Since January, I’ve read 25 books, of those one was an autobiography (Carrie Fisher), one was a book on writing and getting published, and a single young adult paranormal for teaching, the rest were all contemporary romance.  Over the last six to eight weeks I have noticed that I am reading with a more critical eye.  I don’t mean critical in the regards to the writing in the book being read, instead I am noticing so many things that went unnoticed before.

Previously, I wrote in first person point of view, which I have discussed before, in my rewrites I have decided to change to third person point of view.  And while it is easier to work on character development there can be some serious problems writing the inner voice passages.  In first person you battle the ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that’ but in third it’s ‘she, she, she’ all over the place and it gets worse when you have two female characters in a scene together.  You end up with a lot of  ‘Liz did this’ and ‘Mary said that’, and when using a pronoun it takes an extra minute of backtracking to make sure that the pronoun is referring to the correct person.  I am not saying it’s not what we should all be doing anyway, just that it gets a little ‘who’s on first-ish’ after a while.  In reading these other contemporary romances I’ve gotten some good examples of how to manage the inner voice parts so that it’s not repetitious and not so narrated that it sounds more like stage direction.

Another critical thing that I have learned is that I need to start off with the major event that gets my main character in motion.  This was kind of a happy/sad revelation for me, happy that I realized it and understood the dynamics of it and sad that it means the first six chapters that I just rewrote will be rearranged and rewritten…again.  Some parts will have to be dumped completely, once I move the critical scene to the beginning some of the other scenes just won’t be necessary.  The basic concept of the story is that my main character is going back to her home town after several years away.   Currently, my first few chapters are about the circumstances that cause her to leave, her decision making and finally packing to leave.  She doesn’t even get to her hometown until Chapter 10.   Also, if I wanted to do the point of view of the hero then he wouldn’t show up until Chapter 10 or 11 that seems awkward.  It doesn’t make sense to have it drag on that far when I can get her there by Chapter 3 or 4, I totally see that now.

The final thing that I’ll mention here is the hero’s point of view.  This is the part where I am going to sound like a designer on Project Runway, when they complain that they’ve never made men’s wear.  It never fails and I feel like screaming at the TV, ‘they have this sort of challenge every season. How can you not be prepared for it?’  I feel the same way about third person point of view and writing the hero’s side of things.  I’ve never done it and it makes me nervous knowing that I will be writing a few of those scenes soon.   And yet, everyone of those 20 plus books that I’ve read since January were in third person with passages from the hero’s point of view.  It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, or at least shouldn’t have seen it coming, I am going to blame a healthy combination of procrastination and denial, with a touch of insomnia just for fun.   In the most recent books that I have read I am realizing that the male point of view isn’t so different.  I’ve written dialogue for male characters including the hero when I was writing in first person, taking that same character and expanding on it should be fun.  I keep telling myself that I am making things harder than they need to be.

For the most part, I have really enjoyed writing this year.  Every time I learn something new or find a helpful tool it makes me feel like I am that much closer to my goal of being a writer.  It might be a little safer to let my procrastination take over but I know that just takes me farther away from where I want to be.  I also know there is so much more to learn and I am excited and looking forward to those opportunities.  For now though, I am going to take my recent lessons to heart and keeping working on my WIP.

0

Big picture…

For the last three to four weeks I have been writing about 2,000 words every day.  It had been going pretty well until about three days ago when I sort of ran aground.  A month ago I worked on a rough outline of the beginning chapters and I ran with it.  Since then I have avoided anything to do with the story that wasn’t directly related to my daily word count.  I didn’t want to get distracted and spend a lot of time on character descriptions and backgrounds or mapping out the timeline beyond a rough time span of summer vacation.  I figured this is a rewrite so I didn’t need to do anything that could be a time waster, avoid procrastination and just get the words on the page or in my case on the screen.

dump

As it turns out those things I usually do aren’t quite the time wasters I thought they were.  I am seven chapters in and I feel a little like I am in a revolving door.  Without a more in depth outline I am not sure how to proceed, back story information needs to be in there but how much and where?  Clearly, it has to be part of what moves the story along, I don’t want it to feel like an info dump.  If it’s not relevant to the characters and their role in the scene then it’s like slamming the brakes on the flow of the story.  I am probably mixing my metaphors there but hopefully I am getting the point across, no one wants to read the blah, blah, blah stuff.  It’s boring.  Any back story details or story details in general need to be nearly invisible.  Or disguised as character development or additional conflict.

I need a new and improved outline so I can get an idea of where to scatter the details.  If I go through them too early then the rest of my characters’ inner dialogue is going to look like stage direction.  If I wait too long then it may be confusing to the reader.  A new outline will help me remember if I’ve already gone over something, nothing worse than hearing the same stupid episode from a character’s past repeated a couple of times.  I’ve had moments where I’ve thought, “Seriously, not this again.  Yes, we got it.  Bonnie doesn’t like using public restrooms after the time she trailed three feet of toilet paper behind her when she was in high school.  Get on with it!”  Now that I am writing every day I have to wonder if the author didn’t have a moment where she truly wondered if she had written that part already and just wrote it again to be safe.  Probably not, but I have moments where I have to skim through previous chapters trying to figure out what details came out and where in the story.  It’s a complete waste of time and somewhat exhausting.

My words for the week are…

Outline, flow and relevent

0

Camp NaNo – April

April is here and along with it, another session of CampNaNo.  Brought to you by the same people at National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), Camp NaNo is much less strict version of the November event.  In November, participants spend the 3o days writing 50,000 words towards finishing a novel.  Offered in April and July, Camp NaNo allows campers to pick their word count goal for the month as well as pursue other non-novel projects.

For April, I picked a word count of 30,000 words.  I’ve already been writing about 2,000 words a day so I thought giving myself a daily word count goal of 1,000 words would be fairly easy to achieve, and without adding any extra anxiety.  Three days in and I’ve written an average of 2,500 words each day, so… so far, so good.

Overall, I’ve kept at my writing and although it can be really frustrating at times, I am totally loving writing every day.   I’ve been wanting to rededicate myself to my writing for a while but told myself that this year was going to be my year.  So far I’d been dealing with various things that needed to be done around the house and putting off writing.  I promised to post here every week and that’s been a bit hit and miss too.  Apparently though I found my ultimate motivation, trying to help my husband.  Almost two weeks ago Sully had a difference of opinion with his boss and without going into too many details my husband and his employer parted company the following week.  I’ve been procrastinating about writing and this just seemed like the kick in the pants I needed to get my butt in the chair.

After two weeks, I’ve got over 20,000 words and I am really enjoying it and I am hoping that I will keep it up.  I’ve already developed some elements of my process.

Here are my top two…

 

My writing notebook –

.It’s a Mead Five Star Stay-Put Folder, it has prongs inside and is made out of the tougher poly material, rather than paper.  I tucked a legal pad into the pocket on the right.  The left pocket holds daily word targets, and any loose notes.  I secured the legal pad with a binder clip, which also doubles quite nicely as a pen holder.

180725_1785968696471_1960015_n

notebook   180952_1785968616469_4114111_n

 

The legal pad is home to notes on story outline, characters, locations, chapter notes and anything else story related that isn’t actual story.  I take this anywhere that I might end up waiting for any period of time.  It’s a sure bet that if I am sitting quietly waiting for doctor’s appointment or for the oil in my van to be changed and my brain will suddenly work out some plot point that I’ve been struggling with for days.  Being able to make notes when it’s actually in my head is essential, before I get distracted by the doctor talking about prescriptions or the mechanic’s recommendations about new brakes and tires.  In a pinch, I can type some notes into my iPhone or iPad but putting pen to paper can be so much quicker.  I also think making notes quickly can be key, there’s something about that peppering of ideas that has it’s own life.

Monitor –

The other fun thing I’ve added is an additional monitor to my computer.  It’s great to see my Mural.ly corkboard, or an inspirational picture or even just having iTunes open where I can easily scroll through my library.  Right now I’ve got an older non HD monitor and it works well for what it is but it’s more of a square shape and somewhat awkward.   It was free and therefore I am not really complaining.  I just know that eventually I’ll want to get an HD monitor that will fit on my desk better.

monitors2

This is my basic setup, ignore the bad photography.