Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Christmas Eve!

There are so many beautiful Christmas songs out there that it makes it hard to choose. But here are a few of my favourites:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Solstice!

Just to warn you, there probably won't be any writing related posts until the New Year. Between baking and crafting and the enforced visiting, there's not much time for writing or writing related things. You know, like getting An Elemental Earth read through for the last time and sending it off for formatting and publishing.

Soon, my pretty new book, soon ...

In the meantime, here's some Christmas cheer for you, starting with the traditional tree picture. Aside from the Hello Kitty on the top, the lights, and the two cats jockeying for space underneath it, all the ornaments are hand made. This was a tradition started many years ago by my daughter and I - we'd make a new craft each year and sometimes we'd even make enough to give to friends.

Next we have some traditional Christmas videos. And by traditional I mean my tradition - I always start with the funny ones. Next post will be more serious Christmas videos, and on Christmas day I go with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Writing Versus Christmas

I’m sure there’s a way to balance the writing and the holidays, but I haven’t found it yet. NaNo’s finished and then all of a sudden, EEEK! Christmas is just around the corner!

I still have one big scene to write before I can call the NaNo draft done, but it’s being very illusive. And after making a list of stuff I have to get done before Christmas I’m pretty sure it won’t get done any time soon. And while I’d like to think that once the holiday madness is over I can settle into a routine, I’m already starting to feel like I’m losing my momentum.

I guess it’s time to start putting my money where my mouth is, eh? I give all this advice on finding time to write, and making time to write ... and by writing I don’t mean letters, emails, and blog posts. I mean actual writing.

The time I was hoping to have set aside for writing every day isn’t exactly working the way I expected, so I’m going to have to find a new time. Maybe even a new story as well - something shorter perhaps that I can fit in between all the baking and crafting and shopping.

You know, it’s kind of like the exercise thing. It seems like it takes forever to get into the habit of doing it every day, and it doesn’t take long at all to get out of the habit again. I fell off the exercise band wagon back in the summer when it was so hot and humid, and my last check up with the doctor has proven that I need to get back into it again. But it’s hard.

Baby steps. Instead of 45 minutes a day on the bike, I’ll start with 15. Maybe even 15 a couple of times a day, just to get me back in the habit. With the writing, instead of looking for those big chunks of time I’ll try finding smaller ones spread throughout the day. It sounds good in theory, we’ll see how well it goes in practice. ;-)

Meanwhile, for the rest of the month I’ll probably still post at least once a week, but I’m not going to do a wordage report per se. There’s just no point when my writing schedule is so up in the air. I spent the weekend going over the notes my editor gave me on An Elemental Earth and making the editing lama face as I made changes. You know the face, this one:

At least I think it’s a lama. Whatever. The point is, that was the face I was making as I read her notes and realized she was right. There may have been a bit of fist shaking and a few “Damn you!”s in there as well. ;-) But I only have one more read through, just to make sure the changes I made make sense, as well as one last check for typos, and then I can send it back and the wheels of publication can be set into motion.

Which is, I think, a blog topic for another day.

In the meantime, here’s another excerpt from my NaNo novel, just because. :-D

“A day at the beach?” Maykayla repeated thoughtfully. “I used to love the beach as a kid - I can’t remember the last time I spent any time at the beach. It sounds great.”

“Did you say beach?” Jeffy’s voice came from the door to the kitchen. Jonathan cursed under his breath. Abraham appeared behind their little brother and spread his hands wide, mouthing “I’m sorry.”

“Can I come too?” Jeffy wheedled.

“No, you can’t,” Jonathan said forcefully. At the same time, Makayla said, “Sure you can.”

They looked at each other. Jonathan barely managed to keep his ire in check. Couldn’t she see the beach was just a ploy to get her alone again? They’d had a great time out on the island and even if they weren’t soul mates he saw no reason why they couldn’t repeat the experience.

But there was Makayla looking surprised at him turning Jeffy’s request down, and Jeffy looking all woebegone, and he had the feeling he’d just gone down a point or two in her estimation. He glanced over at Abraham who studiously ignored him, helping himself to breakfast instead.

“Fine,” he said with a long-suffering sigh. “You can come with us. But you have to promise to stay out of trouble.”

“Great! I’ll go get my stuff.” Jeffy was about to take off, but Makayla snagged him by the arm. “Breakfast first, young man.”

  To Jonathan’s surprise, his little brother acquiesced immediately. Apparently he was quite taken with Makayla. It made him almost wish they really were soul mates, she fit into the family so well.

“Why don’t you come too, Abraham?”

Jonathan almost choked on his coffee. Was she going to invite the whole damn family?

“Oh, I don’t think...”

“C’mon,” she urged. “The more the merrier, right Jonathan?”

They all looked at him and he mustered up a weak smile.”Sure,” he agreed, really having no choice. Then it occurred to him that if Jeffy started getting tired or too annoying, Abe could just take him back to the castle and he’d have his alone time with Makayla. This just might work out after all.

“Kay’s right,” he said with a little more enthusiasm. “The more the merrier.”

“Well, I really should...” Abraham waffled, but Jonathan gave him a faint nod to let him know it was all right.

“You can’t spend all of your time squirreled away in that lab of yours, you’ll turn into a mushroom,” Makayla said.

“Well, we wouldn’t want that now, would we?” Abraham said weakly.

“What’s a mushroom?” Jeffy wanted to know.

“It’s a kind of fungus that grows in dark places,” Makayla said with a smile.

“What’s a fungus?”

“Oh, how do I explain that one? A fungus is a living organism, like a plant, but it’s more like a soft, white, spongy mass, usually attached to trees in the woods. Mushrooms usually have stems and rounded tops to them like hats.” She sat back with a laugh. “If I had my sketchbook with me I’d draw you a picture of one. Remind me later and I will.”

“Okay,” Jeffy said happily. “Hey, Abe, Makayla thinks you’re soft and spongy.”

She sat up straight in her chair, looking alarmed. “No, that’s not what I--”

They all laughed, and Makayla reached over to tweak Jeffy’s ear. “I can see where I’ll have to be careful around you!”

They finished their breakfast and went their separate ways, agreeing to meet in the main hallway in half an hour. Jonathan was already making plans on how he could salvage the day.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Is It Over Yet?

There were times, over the past few weeks, that I didn’t think I was going to finish the NaNo challenge. Times like when I got sick and had a zero word count for four days in a row, or when Netflix just had to release the Gilmore Girls reboot the last weekend in November.

If you’re registered with the NaNoWriMo site, you can look me up (I’m Lady Cat) and check my stats. Apparently my usual pattern is to get off to a slow start and then halfway through the month I start catching up. This year was no different.

What was different for me this year was the way I wrote my story. I started at the beginning, but then I had an idea for the ending so I skipped to the end and wrote that. Went back to the beginning and fleshed it out a little more, but got an idea for the scene just before the end so I wrote that. Worked a little on the beginning again, and got an idea for the scene before the last scene I’d worked on at the end. And so on, and so forth.

At some point I made a list of what was supposed to happen between the beginning and the end and I looked at this list and didn’t think it was enough to make it to 50,000 words. I think there was like three or four scenes listed. But surprisingly, these scenes ran really long.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the challenge, but I liked my story enough that I really didn’t care as long as I was able to finish the book. And I think the thing that surprised me the most about it was how there are no plot holes. This is almost unheard of for me during NaNo, especially given the way I was jumping around in the story. I have one more scene to write and then it’s done. It may not be pretty, but it will be complete.

So that was the best part about NaNo. The disappointing part was the local NaNo experience. When I learned we had a couple of official Municipal Liaisons I was really excited. And that excitement lasted for the first couple of write-ins, but went downhill pretty quickly after that. The MLs had a lot of enthusiasm, and they used their own money to book places for write-ins and provide snacks, but they weren’t very well organized. And the one was pretty chatty during the write-ins.

Seeing as I haven’t been doing any blog posts lately, I didn’t see the point of doing a wordage report - as you can see by my NaNoWriMo widget on the right, I got over 52,000 words written for the month of November, so that should be enough for anyone.

And because you’ve been such a lovely audience, here’s an unedited excerpt from my NaNo novel, The Eros Portal. This is near the beginning where my main character is out looking for her friend’s cat (that she’d been looking after while her friend was away) who’s escaped from her house:

Makayla trudged on for another twenty minutes or so before she could no longer see where she was going. Had she been able to, she would have seen how the tracks circled back towards her house about fifteen of those twenty minutes ago. What she thought were tracks were really just the indentations made when small clumps of snow fell off of the tree branches in the faint wind that had sprung up.

“Damn it!” She looked around and realized the sun had set. With no clear idea of how far she had come, she could be in serious trouble here. She’d always wanted to live out in the country, so the surrounding woods had been a big selling point of her house. And while it was great in the summer to have the privacy and few neighbours, in the winter it felt very isolated.

Everything looked the same in the dark. If she was lucky, she’d be able to retrace her steps. If not, she’d be as lost as Mittens.

“Stupid damn cat,” she muttered under her breath.

A flash of blue light off to the right caught her attention. It flickered, like the light bulb was about to burn out. It couldn’t be from the highway, could it? She’d been walking for a while but she didn’t think she’d walked that far. And she hadn’t been going in that direction, unless she got turned around somehow.

Didn’t most people walk in circles when they walked without something to guide them? But that didn’t really make sense either, she didn’t have a blue light in her house. Shrugging, she made for the light anyway. Light meant people, so even if it wasn’t her house it was bound to be one of her neighbors, not that she had many of those.

The light was further away than she thought and she was getting dangerously chilled. Her fingers were totally numb. What kind of an idiot took off in the dark in nothing but a sweater? No hat, no gloves ... But the sweater had been right there and she would have lost precious time going back through the house to the back door for her coat. This is what came of being in such a rush. She was probably going to end up frozen to death while Mittens was curled up on her porch having a nap.

The light was still ahead of her, and the woods were growing denser. Had the trees been this close together on her way in? She pushed through some shrubbery that still had a few dead leaves attached to it and stopped to stare. A doorway of iridescent blue light filled the space between two slender trees.

“What the hell?”

Makayla took a single step forward and stopped again. Then she took a couple of steps to the side and the door seemed to disappear. Moving back to her original position, the door shimmered into view again.

As curious as the cat she’d been looking for, Makayla moved forward, one step at a time. A ripple went through the shimmering blue and she paused for a second. The light settled back into a staticky glow, like the snow on the TV when the cable went out.

Another step closer and the snow turned blue again and seemed to clear a bit. It was almost translucent. One more step and she could see vague images in it. It wasn’t the woods in behind it, it was something else altogether. Some place else.

Maybe it was some kid’s science project - holograms or something like that. His parents probably made him set it up out in the woods in case of accidents. Like, if something shorted out and set fire to something. It was pretty advanced looking, if that’s what it was.

One more step and she was able to reach out and touch it. It tingled on her fingertips, a ripple effect spreading out where she touched. It wasn’t until she tried to pull her hand away that she realized what a stupid thing it had been to do. She appeared to be stuck fast.

Makayla yanked her arm back but her fingers remained glued to the shimmer. In fact, it actually seemed like the shimmer was pulling her hand further in.

“Oh, no no no!” She twisted and turned her hand and her fingers turned easily, but they wouldn’t let go. “Hello? Is anybody out here?” What kind of person set something like this up in the middle of the woods and then just abandoned it?

“Hey! I could use some help here,” she yelled. Surely whoever made this couldn’t be too far away. Wouldn’t they need to monitor it or something? “Look, I’m sorry I touched your experiment or whatever, but I need you to shut it off.”

There was no answer. Millimetre by millimetre her hand was being enveloped in the glowing light. No matter how much she pulled it refused to let go of her again. Digging her heels in she tried to wrench free, but slipped on the damp ground and only succeeded in causing her whole arm to become enveloped.

Panting from the effort, she glanced around but she was surrounded by darkness. It was getting really cold out. It was starting to hurt to breathe. She didn’t bother calling out again, if there really was someone out there it was obvious they were only going to watch, not help.

While the point of contact with the light tingled, the rest of her arm didn’t seem to be affected at all. She tried wiggling her fingers, but the rippling effect made it impossible to see through the door. Looking at the ground where the light made it easier to see, she looked for an electrical cord or whatever was powering the thing. There was nothing that she could see.

There weren’t many options here. Maybe she should just get it over with. Steeling herself, Makayla took a deep breath and then stepped through the doorway. She was aware of light and heat and then nothing at all.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Still NaNoing...

Yeah, the picture pretty much says it all. :-D

Hmm. If a picture is worth a thousand words, does that mean if I add some illustrations to my NaNo novel I'll be all caught up?

I didn't think so.


Monday, November 7, 2016

NaNo, Week One

So ... last week was an utter failure in more ways than one.

First off, as you’ve probably noticed by my official word count widget, I'm way, way behind in my NaNo words. It didn’t start out that way though. Day one of NaNo I went to a write in at a local restaurant and did 1400 words in 2 hours.

I’ve never been to an official write-in before and it was totally awesome. The restaurant was licensed so we could have a drink if we wanted, the Municipal Liaison sprang for some appetizers for us to share, and I met some great fellow writers. We chatted and wrote and had a good time.

The second failure was that I missed both my posts here. Not just my quotes post on Friday, but my wordage report on Sunday. But I have a good excuse, honestly!

Wednesday I came home from babysitting and I wasn’t feeling so great. By dinnertime I was definitely sick. And I stayed sick pretty much until yesterday. Basically, during that time all I was able to manage was babysitting and sleeping. I was able to suck it up for the babysitting because it was only for a couple of hours on two days, and my granddaughter is obsessed with Paw Patrol so I may have let her watch a few extra episodes.

I did try to get some writing in on Thursday and Friday but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. And I managed about 1,000 words over the weekend. It might have been more, but I was struck by the sudden urge to clean my closet and dresser - thinning out the clothes and re-organizing as I went along.

So this week will be all about catching up on the NaNo words. You know, unless I have a relapse or something.

Some people will do anything to get out of writing. :-D

Monday, October 31, 2016

Here’s The Thing . . .

Yes, I know I’ve missed my wordage reports for pretty much the whole month of October. The thing is, I’m in the midst of a word drought. Other than blog posts, I haven’t written much of anything lately.

Now I know that technically blog posts count as writing, but the report is supposed to be all about the fiction words. Of course I could lie and tell you how well the writing is going, and that would be fiction, but I also promised in the side bar that I’d be honest about how the writing is going.

However, that being said I finally started to catch up on my book reviews so I could log the books I’ve read into my Goodreads account - fourteen books down, six to go. And I’m hoping to get those last six done today so I’ll be all caught up.

It may surprise you to learn I still intend to do NaNo this year. I’m actually getting pretty excited about it. There’s even a write-in tomorrow night at a local bar that I plan to attend. And I’ve ordered a NaNo tee-shirt that should be arriving any day now. This will be my third tee-shirt - I’m running out of official swag to buy. I already have two tee-shirts, the hoodie, a travel mug, a thermos, and the USB bracelet.

Believe it or not, I still don’t know what I’ll be writing. I even went so far as to troll the NaNo site for ideas. They have a forum where among other things you can “adopt a plot”. I did find a couple of ideas for short stories, and one for a trilogy, but nothing for NaNo. Then I went back through some of my own ideas, found another couple of short stories I’d like to write, one series of stories, and finally found two ideas that have potential of being NaNo worthy.

Or maybe not. We’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow. :-D

Friday, October 28, 2016

Musing on Questions
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It was a long week, but the bright spot was the fact Jamie and I still managed to send our daily quotes to each other. I almost called them nags - in the beginning that’s what they were, a daily reminder to write with the expectation of a report back with a word count at the end of the day.

Perhaps someday we’ll get back to the end of day word report, but that day is not now. For now we’ll still enjoy just the inspiration we send each other. My pick from Jamie this week is short and sweet, and I swear I didn’t pick it because it was the shortest one. :-)

I start with a question. Then try to answer it.
—Mary Lee Settle

My first thought about the quote was that the author must be a mystery writer (she wasn’t). But then I started thinking more about it and really, doesn’t all fiction start with a question and goes on to answer it?

Will the detective solve the crime? Will they fall in love? Will the politician uncover the conspiracy in time? Will the knight defeat the dragon? Will the ship make it to a new world? The list goes on.

This quote actually got me thinking. When you think about it, a book doesn’t just ask one question, but a series of questions - the answer to the first question leading to the next question. In fact, that might be an interesting way of trying to write - start with a question and answer it in a way that leads to another, slightly more complicated, question until your characters reach their objective.

While it was really tempting to use the quote I sent to Jamie from Thoreau, who was comparing postponing writing to using a cold iron to burn holes, I really had to go with this one:

My Muse sits forlorn
She wishes she had not been born
She sits in the cold
No word she says is ever told.
― Stevie Smith

In fact, when I sent this quote to her, I might have made a facetious remark about crocheting my muse a blanket to keep her warm.

Of course my muse and I haven’t exactly been on speaking terms lately. She ignores me, I ignore her, we have this whole mutual ignoring thing going on. Don’t worry though, I’ll bake her some Spritz cookies at Christmas and we’ll be good again. ;-)

From what I’ve heard/seen from other writers, I’m not alone in the lack of communication with the muse lately. It’s not so much we’re ignoring our muses, it’s more they’ve all gone on vacation together and they’re having too much fun to come back any time soon.

With me, as those familiar with this blog well know, this has been going on for a while now. However, the month of October always tends to be a slow one, words-wise. I call this the “pre-NaNo drought”. Even last year, when I didn’t do NaNo, there were very few words written in the month of October. I think subconsciously I’m saving up to start November with a burst of words.

I still have no idea what I’m going to write about for NaNo this year, but I’m not really worried. This isn’t my first NaNo, nor is it the first one where I’ll be starting with no ideas. Not only do the words dry up just prior, so do the ideas. One year it was November 2nd when a name finally popped into my head, followed by her story. One year I was 10,000 words and several days into NaNo when I realized the story just wasn’t working. So I took a couple of days to think about it and started week two with a whole new story - and I made my 50,000 word deadline too.

There’s just something about NaNo that creates magic.

So ... got any ideas yet?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Whimsical Deadlines
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Jamie and I both had a couple of “have I used this quote before?” moments last week, but when a quote is good, it’s good. Whether or not she’d used them before, all of Jamie’s quotes were good and I chose this one because I love Alice in Wonderland. :-D

"Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
― Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland

At first I was going to tell you that this is the best writing advice you’d ever receive, but then I started thinking about it. While it sounds in theory, it’s not always possible in practice. Sometimes what you perceive as the beginning of a story isn’t. And sometimes it makes more sense to start in the middle or the end of a story and work backwards.

On the other hand, maybe it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you keep going until the story is done. Once you set foot on the story path, it doesn’t matter how twisty it gets, you keep going until you get to the end. So maybe the King is right after all.

I think we can all be grateful that Lewis Carroll did so, how else would he have been able to give us such gems as Alice In Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and What the Tortoise Said to Achilles? And if you’ve ever read these novels, or Jabberwocky or even The Hunting of the Snark, you’ll know that knowing when to stop must have been a bit of a challenge.

My quote of the week is a little more mundane:

A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most kick-ass form. It's a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path. This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits.
― Chris Baty

And Chris Baty should know, because he came up with the ultimate deadline - 50,000 words in 30 days, which is better known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. If you haven’t heard of NaNo, just click on the link for more information.

Chris came up with the idea for NaNo in 1999. Having worked as an editor he had seen first hand what kind of impossible deadlines writers were capable of. So he challenged 20 of his friends to write a 50,000 word book in a month. They had so much fun that the next year he created a website and invited others to join in. From there it grew faster than even he could have imagined. Last year there were over 400,000 participants.

I’ve been doing NaNo for ten years now, and have 7 wins under my belt. I missed last year, but I’m going to participate again this year.

But that’s a post for another day. ;-)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Unlimbering the Typewriter
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Tough choices this week, but it finally came down to: which ones stick in my mind the most? And interestingly enough, although the quotes I picked have only the fact that they’re about writing in common, we sent them to each other on the same day. First, Jamie’s quote of the week:

A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter.
― E.B. White

This advice makes a lot of sense. When you’re writing about something that interests you, when you enjoy what you’re working on - whether it’s a story, an article, or even a poem - it’s going to show. Your interest will make whatever you’re working on more interesting because you can’t help but wax enthusiastic over your topic.

Nothing will limit a new writer more than following the advice to “write what you know.” Better advice would be write what interests you. This is where research comes in handy. Find something that piques your interest, research your topic well, and then write confidently about it. You probably won’t use more than a small fraction of the information you’ve gathered, but the very fact that you’ve researched it so thoroughly means you “know” what you’re talking about.

My own quote of the week is something you probably already know:

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
― Ernest Hemingway

There are as many different ways to write as there are writers to try them out. It’s a fact of life - what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. Sometimes you have to try out several methods before you find the one that’s right for you.

But even when you find that perfect method it doesn’t guarantee success. Words and ideas are tricky customers. Sometimes they come flowing so fast you can hardly keep up, but sometimes they’ll hide behind a wall, teasing you. Those are the times you need to get your drill and blasting caps and just forge ahead.

Writing what interests you, in whatever fashion you choose, also helps to get the writing flowing. Give it a try.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Distractions and Lurking

Yesterday was a perfect day for editing and I spent most of it working on An Elemental Earth. It’s close, so close. But it won’t be finished today. Today I have to finish this post, cook enough carrots and sweet potatoes to feed between 10 and 19 people, and get to Fabricland up in the city north of us. And be home again by around 4 to go to dinner. Can we say tight schedule?

The food is for dinner at the in-laws tonight (it’s the Canadian Thanksgiving). And Fabricland doesn’t open until noon. My carrots and sweet potatoes are cooking as I type this to save time. But the good thing about being so busy with other things today is that it leaves me with the holiday Monday for more writing. :-)

I might have actually finished the edits on Earth yesterday if not for the constant distractions. It was a cold, mostly rainy day, so instead of working in my office I worked in the livingroom - a lot of editing involves reading, so I might as well be comfy, right?

But while I was able to resist turning on the television, I was not able to bring myself to off the internet. So in that case it wouldn’t have mattered where I was working. Ah, the internet - email, Facebook, MSN Games ... although I’m kind of proud of myself that I could only play games after editing a couple of chapters, and I limited my time. Give the author a pat on the back! ;-)

The internet, however, was a totally different matter. It’s always there, just a click away, with its blogs and its social media and its information overload. And even when you’re a total lurker, like I am, checking out the internet can be really time-consuming.

The best place to lurk is blogs. I have a list of blogs I visit saved in my Favorites. Actually, I have several lists. And I visit these blogs on a regular basis but like most people I rarely leave a comment. Why is that, why are we so afraid to acknowledge that we enjoyed what someone else had the courage to put out there for the world to see?

I have no answer. But I will tell you a story. A few years ago I frequented a writers forum called Absolute Write. And someone in the blogging section started a thread posing that very same question, with the suggestion that we take a deep breath an comment on someone’s blog. So I did. And she commented back. And we started commenting back and forth and discovered we have a lot in common. I’m not sure when commenting became emailing, but now I can’t imagine life without my best bud Jamie.

So give it a try. You never know if your best bud is lurking just around the corner. ;-)

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
2,224 words total
Down by about 1,000 words from last week, mainly because I didn’t have a movie review. Funny thing happened on the way to that review ... I had this wonderful plan to do classic horror movies this month because of Halloween, figuring to access the movies through YouTube. Only YouTube let me down. So did Netflix. However Walmart has an awesome, seasonal, display of horror movies, including the classic ones I was looking for. Now my only problem is picking which movie to start with.

0 words total
Still haven’t been doing the reviews of the books I’ve been reading, but I am keeping track of them. Not a lot of time for reading this week, but I did finish this creepy, really twisted fairy tale that was written more for middle grade or young adult. And I base that solely on the fact the heroine was only 12. But a really tough 12.

many hours total
As I said earlier, I spent most of Saturday working on Earth and I only have about 40 more pages to go. But don’t worry, once I’ve finished editing Earth I have several other novels that need to be worked on. ;-)

New Words
1,955 words total
Nothing added to Wandering Wizards, however I’ve added over a thousand words to Earth during the editing process. I also wrote around 500 words on that creepy story I came up with a few weeks ago. AND almost 500 words on a new idea that might be NaNo worthy. Yes, I’m seriously considering doing NaNoWriMo this year. Maybe. Probably.

Weekly Goals:

Last week:
Did not finish Earth, but I’m close.
Did not catch up on my book reviews.
No new words on Wandering Wizards, but I did get words on other stuff
This week:
Finish the edits on An Elemental Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 new words on Wandering Wizards.
Catch up on my book reviews. I mean it!
Find something new to edit.
Comment on at least one blog a day.

The excerpt this week is going to be from Earth this time, just because. In it, our Earth Elemental Chloe is performing a test given her by the mine master Gannon:

There was a pounding on her front door and her eyes snapped open. She’d been so caught up in what she was doing she’d been unaware of the passing time. It was no surprise that Granny had once more disappeared. As soon as her mother was safe she needed to have a long talk with that old woman.

The knock on her door repeated and she hurried to answer it. Ulrik smirked at her.

“Your stalling tactics won’t work with me. Let’s go.”

He reached for her arm but she jerked it away. “Don’t touch me!” she hissed.

“You’d do well to start being nicer to me. I’m Gannon’s right hand man now, and he listens to what I say.”

“Good for him. I don’t.”

Chloe got into the hover car beside the driver, leaving Ulrik to crawl into the back. She wasn’t overly worried about him - he wouldn’t dare to try anything in front of a witness. She’d just have to make sure he didn’t catch her alone.

They didn’t talk on their way to Lightning Strike. Chloe watched the scenery speeding past, while the driver - she thought his name was Kefton, one of Gannon’s flunkies - focused on his driving.

“Not too close,” Ulrik ordered. “We don’t want anyone from Lightning Strike to spot us.” Kefton glanced at Chloe for confirmation. Clearly he was not pleased to be taking orders from Ulrik.

“If you can get us about a mile from the mine, that would be perfect,” she told him.

He did as she asked while Ulrik fumed in the back seat. Once they were parked, Chloe left the vehicle.

“Stay here,” she told the two men when they would have followed. “I have to do this alone.”

“Gannon said--”

“I don’t care what Gannon said,” she told Ulrik. “If you break my concentration at the wrong time there’s no telling what could happen. Would you like to be the one telling him that it’s your fault I messed up?”

“Fine, just don’t go too far,” he ordered.

Chloe wished at that moment she’d been blessed with Zephryn’s gift. She’d have smacked that superior look right off Ulrik’s face with a blast of wind. Instead she had to content herself with just ignoring him and moving several yards away from the vehicle.

She knew every move she made would reported back to Gannon so she needed to make this look good. Kneeling down, she placed her palms flat on the ground. On a whim she had the plants around her bloom, just for effect. A fleeting smile crossed her face as she heard a gasp behind her.

The gas had done its work, she was fairly certain the mines were cleared of workers. Hopefully there hadn’t been enough time for a team to suit up and be sent in to investigate. Opening herself up to her gift, she searched out the faults under the mine. There weren’t many of them so she was forced to create her own.

It wasn’t easy. The ground deep under the Lightning Strike was solid bedrock, making it the safest of all the mines. She was forced to go deeper, which made the land underneath them unstable as well. Ignoring the tremors she focused on the mine itself, caving in tunnel after tunnel. They could hear the roar of the collapse from where they were parked, and seconds later the cave-in siren.

Keeping Granny’s advice in mind, Chloe sagged where she sat, feigning a tiredness she did not feel. If Gannon believed collapsing a small mine like this one had her on the brink of exhaustion, perhaps he would not think she was as useful as he hoped.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Joy of Eavesdropping
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It was a tough choice, choosing a quote from Jamie this week. There was really cute one from Winnie the Pooh, but in the end I went with this one:

We have all been little pitchers with big ears, shooed out of the kitchen when the unspoken is being spoken, and we have probably all been tale-bearers, blurters at the dinner table, unwitting violators of adult rules of censorship. Perhaps this is what writers are: those who never kicked the habit. We remained tale-bearers. We learned to keep our eyes open, but not to keep our mouths shut.
- Margaret Atwood

I remember when I was little, overhearing my mother make a comment about my aunt and how I innocently repeated it to my aunt. My mother was mortified - little pitchers indeed! Was it possible that even at that early age I was showing signs of my future as a writer?

Actually, eavesdropping is a great way to generate story ideas - especially if you’re in a mall or a restaurant or any place you can overhear snippets of a conversation between strangers. Whatever you hear is going to be out of context, so you can put your own spin on it. Let your imagination run wild!

Eavesdropping also comes in handy if you’re having trouble writing dialogue. Listen to people talk. Write it down verbatim and then go back and take all the “ums” and “ahs” out, but leave in the run-on sentences and sentence fragments. There you have it - authentic dialogue.

But people don’t just sit or stand stiffly and talk - not when they’re having a conversation at least. Pay attention to how people interact as they speak. They nod, or shrug, or gesture with their hands. I had a friend once who waved her hands around so much when she talked that when we wanted her to shut up we’d tell her to sit on her hands.

For my own quote there was really only one that stood out for my this week:

Tell the story as if it were only of interest to the small circle of your characters, of which you may be one. There is no other way to put life into the story.
― Horacio Quiroga

What a great idea if you’re having trouble making your story come alive! And it makes good sense, too. Your story is about the characters, after all. Who else would find it as interesting as they would?

Write your story for them. When you’re done, read it out loud and pretend they’re listening. Imagine what their opinions would be. What kind of criticism would they have? Think about it.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How Procrastination Became A Challenge Between Talent Vs Effort

I confess. I totally forgot about this post last night. A lot of things didn’t go as planned yesterday (not exactly on track today either) and the fact that I had a blog post to write just simply slipped my mind. Maybe I just got spoiled by the fact I had last week’s update written and scheduled well ahead of time. Oh, well. I’m here now and that’s what counts right? :-D

Sad to say though, I don’t have a whole lot to report for my week. Well, not much writing-wise anyway. What can I say? The spirit was willing, the mind kept wandering off.

I read several articles while researching my quotes post for Friday. And while I did copy down the links as I went along, I didn’t save them once the post was done. Mainly because while they started out promising and I was able to use a tidbit or two from them, they seemed to segue into something totally different. Like the one that promised tips for overcoming procrastination and turned into a diatribe against the school policy that makes every kid a winner. Say what?

When there are no winners and no losers, when every kid is guaranteed a prize, where’s the challenge in competing? Who cares if Billy worked his ass off to get first place, I got a ribbon just for showing up. This produces a generation of kids who see no need to rise to a challenge. And it also produces a work force that needs to be constantly supervised and praised because they’ve never learned the joy of a good challenge.

At first I kind of gave a snort of derision, but as I continued to read the article (see my post about procrastination) I found myself agreeing with the author. Most would-be writers tend to be at the top of their English classes because reading and writing comes so easily to them. They really don’t need to put a lot of effort into their assignments, just dash them off. There’s no challenge. And the teachers go along with it, praising them for their natural talent. What it’s teaching them is that natural talent is more important than honest effort.

And while this may get you through the school years, once you’re out in the real world you’re competing with every other kid who was at the top of his English class. OMG! You actually have to put some effort into what you’re writing. And that’s when the procrastination starts. You start putting your writing off because if you don’t finish something, you can still pretend you’re the best.

When you race ahead in your reader and are praised for being smart, you’re learning to equate being smart with finding things easy, not overcoming challenges. So when school is done you may have the talent to succeed, but you don’t know the first thing about putting it to work for you.

Here’s the honest truth. Talent is all well and good, but without the hard work to back it up, it’s pretty much useless. You can be the most talented writer in the world, but if you don’t write, who’s going to know? But by the same token, hard work will only take you so far if you don’t have the talent for something. You can spend weeks painting a technically perfect picture, but if you don’t have the creative talent to back up all that hard work, all you’ve got is a picture, not art.

The true challenge to success comes from finding a balance between talent and effort; you need them both.

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3,955 words total
All right! Up by 100 words or so from the week before. And furthermore, I got all my blog posts up on time. Unlike this one. :-D

0 words total
Still haven’t been doing the reviews of the books I’ve been reading, but I am keeping track of them. I read a different kind of Seal romance - this was centered around a security agency that used disabled veterans. Then I read a nice, mellow contemporary story about a girl who got pregnant and left home to become a success. Not overly romantic perhaps, but it was a relaxing kind of read.

0 hours total
I haven’t really been keeping track of the amount of time I’ve spent editing, but it was a lot. At least I’m making progress with Earth. It would have been a lot more, but my weekend kind of got derailed so ...

New Words
3,067 words total
Okay, you’re probably wondering why the progress bar on the right doubled, yet I’m only showing a few thousand words above. That’s because I finished incorporating the NaNo words into the book, and the 3,000 I’m acknowledging are brand new words. The rest of them were pretty much old words. Now the pressure is on to keep going. ;-)

Weekly Goals:

Last week (or two):
Did not finish editing Earth.
Did not catch up on my book reviews.
I surpassed my 2,000 word goal for Wandering Wizards by 1,000 words
This week:
Continue, if not finish, the edits on An Elemental Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 new words on Wandering Wizards.
Catch up on my book reviews. I mean it!

Since it’s really the only thing I have going on at the moment, once again the excerpt is from Wandering Wizards. In this scene, Jessica’s friends Ellen and Howard are on their way to the Wild Woods Elven Realm, accompanied by the bard Sebastian and the elf guardsman Kaelan. Epona is the name Ellen gave to her horse:

Ellen could hear Howard and Sebastian murmuring to each other, but they were lagging too far behind for her to make out what they were saying. Maybe it was just as well, she thought with a fleeting smile.
She studied the elf riding in front of her. Damn, he looked just as good from behind. He’d been nothing but courteous to her, but the air seemed to sizzle between them every time they got too close. She wished Jessica was here. Of course she knew what Jessica would say. Jessica would tell her to stop being such a wuss and go for it.
Normally she wouldn’t hesitate. She’d had a number of boyfriends but things never got overly serious with any of them. But Kaelan . . . there was something different about him, and it wasn’t just because he was an elf. She could very well lose her heart to him, and that scared her more than anything. Because it could only lead to heartbreak. She couldn’t stay here, and he wouldn’t want to come to her world. Would he? There was only one way to find out.
Stretching upwards, she whispered to Epona, “Do you think you could move up beside Kaelan please?”
Epona’s ear twitched and she whickered, but her stride lengthened.
“Thank you,” Ellen whispered.
Kaelan looked over at her in surprise. “Is anything wrong?”
“No,” Ellen said, trying to control her blush response. “I was just curious about the Wild Woods Realm. Is it like the Darkwood Forest Realm?”
“No,” he shook his head. “For one thing it is much smaller and there is no city as there is in Darkwood, just a handful of villages and a town in the center. Truthfully, it has been a long time since I have been there.”
“You don’t visit your family there?”
“The visits became fewer as I became older. There never seemed to be time.”
Ellen was trying to picture Kaelan as a child. She’d bet he was just as cute as a little kid. Elf. Whatever.
“Didn’t your mother’s family ever visit you in Darkwood?”
“My mother’s family did not wish her to marry my father, despite the fact he would be able to provide well for her. To marry meant she would leave them.”
“But love will out,” Ellen guessed.
He glanced over at her. “It did indeed. They have been very happy and my mother never regretted her decision to follow her heart.” Smiling, he faced forward again. “My father says they met when he was delivering a set of silver gauntlets to the lord of the Wild Woods Realm. There was a festival and he was invited to stay over for it. Mother was with a group of young women who kept fawning over him, supposedly because he was from outside the realm. Mother was the worst of the lot and wouldn’t leave him alone until he danced with her. After that she was determined to make him hers and chased off every other woman who approached. Apparently the magic was strong in her blood. By the end of the evening he truly was hers, heart and soul.”
Ellen laughed. “And what does your mother say?”
“Ah. Mother claims this cheeky apprentice silversmith noticed the setting up for the festival and wheedled an invitation from the lord of the realm, who gave it to him only because he was so impressed by the quality of his work. He was making such a nuisance of himself, pestering all the young women for dances, that she took pity on her friends and made the supreme sacrifice of dancing with him herself. By the end of the festival he proved his way with silver also included a silver tongue, because he sweet-talked her into running away with him.”
“And which story do you believe to be true?”
“The one that my grandmother tells, that my mother noticed my father lurking on the fringes of the merry-makers and, feeling sorry for him, went over to see if she could convince him to join in. From the moment their eyes met they were lost to each other, and my grandmother knew she had lost her daughter, but gained a son.”
“I think I like your grandmother’s version best,” Ellen said with a smile.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Dreaming and Procrastinating
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Jamie’s quotes last week were for the most part short and sweet, but inspirational nonetheless. My favourite of the bunch was this one:

You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills.
~ Jim Rohn

Pretty straightforward, right? I look at writing as a learning experience, one where we strive for constant improvement. We aim high, dream big, and build the skills we need to reach our goal. But if we’re not willing to learn, then we need to dream a little smaller.

Often writers are accused of being nothing but dreamers. I take that as a compliment. Dreams, fueled by our imaginations, are where we get our inspiration. We dream big because that’s what it takes to succeed. And we continue to learn so we can keep up with our dreams.

In contrast, the quotes I used over the past week seemed to be on the long side, and as none of them seemed to go along with the quote of Jamie’s for the week, I went with the one I liked best:

As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.
― Paul Rudnick

It’s a well known fact that writers make the best, or maybe that should be the worst, procrastinators. But I have to wonder why this is. We must enjoy writing, otherwise why do it at all? So of course I did some research to see if I could come up with some answers.

It’s human nature to put things off. Sometimes we’re not even aware we’re doing it. But just as there are many different ways to procrastinate, there are many different reasons why we do.

Often fear is one of the most common reasons why we procrastinate. We have a fear of looking bad or foolish when we don’t reach our goal. A fear of failure. But sometimes we also have a fear of success. Success comes with its own pressure of having to do better next time, of perhaps stepping out of our comfort zone.

Another reason we procrastinate is that we’re perfectionists. As long as we don’t finish something, then we’re not risking others seeing something that’s less than perfect.

Hand in hand with perfectionism is our tendency to judge ourselves too harshly. We don’t like what we’ve written so we put off finishing it, or even working on it. Maybe we’ve received some unfavorable criticism in the past so now everything we write is suspect.

Sometimes our procrastination stems simply from a lack of time management skills. We convince ourselves that we need a big block of time and have only little blocks, or we get a big block of time and don’t know what to do with it. So we put off the writing until a more auspicious occasion.

Or maybe we’ve just been working too hard. It can be draining to work on something that has very little return for the hours we spend on it. Procrastinating can give us a much needed break, but it also makes it more difficult to get back into the writing habit.

It’s not easy to overcome procrastination, especially once it’s become a habit, but here are a few things to try:

Try to find a distraction free area to work in. Turn off that phone, disconnect from the internet. Maybe find a place outside the home like a coffee shop or library so you’re not tempted to clean house instead of write.

Set some realistic goals. Not something like “I want to write a best seller” or “I want to be as rich as J.K. Rowling”. These can backfire by putting too much pressure to succeed on yourself and make you procrastinate more. Instead, make a list of the reasons why you should write instead of doing anything else.

If time management is a challenge, try breaking the writing process into manageable chunks. Write a single scene, or even a single paragraph, at a time. Set a timer and write only until the time runs out. Give yourself a daily word goal. Once you’re back in the habit, gradually increase the length and duration of your daily goals, but remember to keep them reasonable.

Reward yourself on a regular basis. Finished that chapter? Meet some friends for coffee. Wrote 500 words a day for an entire week? Treat yourself to a movie. I bought myself a book that I don’t get to read until I finish the edits on one of my WIPs.

Make yourself accountable to someone else. Maybe it’s a writing buddy, maybe it’s a family member, but if you have someone who checks in with you on a regular basis, it will help you stay focused on the finish line. Maybe you can even join a writers group that will give you positive feedback.

You may not ever completely eradicate your procrastination, but with time and effort you can keep it to a manageable level.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Writing Vs. Rewriting Vs. Editing

Wandering Wizards is really starting to tick me off. As I’m sure I mentioned before, I wrote the first half of it during NaNoWriMo, but I wrote it with only a vague idea of what was going on because it was part of a series and I hadn’t finished the book before it. And now I’m paying the price.

There were changes to be made; it was almost a whole new book. But silly me, I thought it would be faster/easier to incorporate as many of those 50,000 words into the new version than to just start from scratch. And yeah, a lot of what I’d written can be used pretty much verbatim, but a lot of it can ... not.

Along with a lot of little changes, there were a couple of big ones. One of these changes involved a crucial piece of information that was found near the beginning, and then repeated later on with no indication we’d read it before. Would it be better left in the beginning or later on? Decisions, decisions. I spent about a week changing and re-changing the beginning to set up the inclusion of the crucial information later on, and then started reading from the beginning, and ... almost immediately ran into another section that needs to be changed, this time to agree with something I wrote in the previous book.

Man! And I thought the previous book was the story that never ends! Although I guess it’s not the story itself, just the writing of it that seems never ending.

So why, you may ask, don’t I just soldier on and finish the darn thing, then go back and make changes? Because that’s what I did with the previous book, and the editing was a nightmare. Changing stuff as I go along is more like just a very bad dream. LOL

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3,811 words total
Not bad if I do say so myself. Although I missed last week’s update post so the word count is from the week previous to that. But this past week not only did I get all of my posts done, they were up on time. Mostly.

0 words total
Still haven’t been doing the reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately, but at least I’m keeping track of them. I finished a boxed set of SEAL action/romances on the Kindle - man, were they good! If you have a chance to read anything by Sharon Hamilton, do so. You won’t be sorry. Then I found another from that series and kind of devoured it in one sitting. And I finished A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain - it was a nice change from all that SEAL action. ;-)

0 hours total
While I did get some editing on Elemental Earth, it wasn’t as much as I’d planned. But any progress is good progress at this point. I even went so far as to buy myself a carrot -- the latest Lynsay Sands book. I'm not allowed to read it until the edits are done. I’ve come up with a vague idea for the cover, too. I just lack the PhotoShopping skills to make it happen. ;-)

New Words
11,752 words total
Before you get all impressed with the large number (for a change) remember that we need to spread that over two weeks. And I have to be honest here and admit that some of those words were already written, just needed some judicious editing.

Weekly Goals:

Last week (or two):
Did not finish editing Earth.
Did not start An Elemental Spirit.
I surpassed my 2,000 word goal for Wandering Wizards, but only because it’s been two weeks since I updated here (again).
This week:
Continue, if not finish, the edits on An Elemental Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 new words on Wandering Wizards.
Start catching up on my book reviews.

Since it’s really the only thing I have going on at the moment, once again the excerpt is from Wandering Wizards:

The hour was growing late and it was decided they would stay the night as Aracelia’s guests and start off in the morning. While Howard and Aracelia chatted amiably about magic, Ellen remained quiet at dinner that evening. Without her anger to sustain her, she was finally feeling the impact of what had happened.

“You are troubled,” Kaelan observed.

“I was just thinking that my parents must be going out of their minds with worry,” she said, picking at her food. “I didn’t exactly have time to let them know I’d be going away.”

“I’m sorry,” Howard said, looking a little guilty. “I should have told you what I was up to.”

She waved him off. “What’s done is done.”

“Perhaps I could get a message to them,” Aracelia said thoughtfully. “I am sure I would be able to open a portal small enough for a wind imp to slip through.”

“A wind imp?” Ellen asked.

“Each of the elements have creatures linked to them. A wind imp is the most useful of the air elemental beings.” She sent one of the servants for a quill and paper.

“This is so cool!” Ellen said, dipping the quill into the small bottle of ink. She wrote a deliberately vague message to her parents about a sick friend who desperately needed her help, apologizing for the short notice and asking them to let the boutique where she worked know that she’d need a leave of absence.

When it was dry Aracelia folded it carefully and summoned the wind imp. It was smaller than the letter the elf gave it to carry, invisible but for an indistinct outline of its body. “Hold the image of your parents’ home in your mind,” she told Ellen.

Ellen did as she was told and Aracelia muttered a gutteral sounding incantation under her breath. A small hole opened up in the air in front of her and the wind imp, carrying the letter, slipped through.

Ellen couldn’t hold back a smirk.

“What?” Howard asked her.

“Gives a whole new meaning to the term, ‘air mail’, doesn’t it?”

The pair of them laughed while the others at the table remained mystified as to what was so funny.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wild and Weird
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

For a change, I chose one of the longer quotes Jamie sent me last week. In fact, this was yesterday’s quote:

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you can't catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, "Simba!"
― Annie Dillard

And isn’t that just the problem I’m having with one of my drafts lately? I let it sit for too long and now it’s gone feral. And taming it back into submission is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

While I’m an advocate for letting a finished draft sit for a couple of weeks before you go back to edit it, you really don’t want to do this while you’re still working on it. Granted sometimes you run into a roadblock of some kind where you get frustrated or blocked or have to rethink the entire story and have to set it aside for a while, but the longer you do this, the harder it will be to get back into it.

My own quote for the week has absolutely nothing to do with Jamie’s:

You know, it's hard work to write a book. I can't tell you how many times I really get going on an idea, then my quill breaks. Or I spill ink all over my writing tunic.
― Ellen DeGeneres

Okay, you might wonder why I chose this particular quote. It’s because of the image it evokes - the quill and the writing tunic. Though I haven’t written poetry in a while, I used to write a lot of it. What’s the first image that springs to mind when you think of a poet? Are you seeing the emaciated figure in the flowing poet’s shirt, using a quill and ink to scribble on parchment in a lonely attic? I see a Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting, or maybe one by John William Waterhouse - very dreamy and romantic.

I love reading about other writers’ writing habits. Barbara Cartland (author of over 700 books), for instance, always dressed to the nines and reclined on a divan while dictating her novels to a bevy of secretaries. Mark Twain wrote lying down in bed. So did George Orwell, Edith Wharton, and Truman Capote. Victor Hugo wrote naked.

On the other hand, Ernest Hemmingway liked to write standing up, as did Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and Lewis Carroll. Wallace Stevens wrote his poetry on slips of paper while walking. James Joyce wrote most of Finnegans Wake using crayon pieces on cardboard while lying on his stomach in bed.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote his final drafts on separate pieces of paper made into a running scroll with sealing wax. John Steinbeck wrote his drafts in pencil and always had exactly 12 sharpened pencils on his desk. Vladimir Nabokov composed on index cards. Alexandre Dumas wrote in blue for his fiction, pink for non-fiction, and yellow for poetry.

The list goes on and on. Let's face it, we writers are a pretty strange bunch.

So ... what are some of your weird writing habits?

Friday, September 16, 2016

What’s Your Excuse?
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

You can always tell I had trouble picking the quotes for the week when I’m late with this post. Once I decide which quotes I’m going to use the rest of the post seems to just fall into place. Unless, of course, I pick a quote and then change my mind, which happened this time.

I started out with a different quote from Jamie from last week, but I had a lot of trouble expressing why it stood out for me. Darn you Jamie for making me think! LOL They were all good ones though, and this one was my second choice:

What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you - what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind - you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.
~ Jeff Bezos

This certainly applies to me - the “complaining isn’t a strategy” part. Not that it stops me, but complaining about something is almost counter-productive. All that time spent complaining about the spanner life threw in the works would be much better spent working on a solution - how do I fix this?

Life rarely runs smoothly - how boring would it be if it did? There are going to be ups and downs and unexpected events that impinge on your schedule. Instead of bewailing your loss of writing time, you need to face these changes head on and learn to work with them or around them. If your writing is important to you, you’ll find a way.

My quote for last week kind of dove-tails into Jamie’s, because aren’t excuses born of complaining?

Fiction was invented the day Jonah arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale.
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Talk about your excuses! It ranks right up there with “the dog ate my homework.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m a champion at making excuses. Why haven’t I been writing? It’s too hot, too cold, the stars aren’t in the right alignment.

To be perfectly honest, for the most part excuses are just a way of covering up sheer laziness. Like my excuse from a couple of weeks ago for not writing: it’s too hot and the bathroom renovation is too noisy. Well yes, that was true. But the hubby was home doing the renovating that week, which meant the car was home. There was nothing stopping me from driving to the library to get some writing in. Not only would it be quiet there, it’s air conditioned.

Excuses are the gateway drug that leads to more dangerous things, like procrastination. It’s too hot to write, I’ll put it off until it’s cooler. I really want to write, but I have to do seven loads of laundry first. I’d like to write but my family needs me. And once you start putting it off it gets easier and easier for other things to become your priority.

Homer Simpson said, “I wasn’t lying, I was writing fiction with my mouth.” That pretty much sums up what writing fiction is all about - getting paid for telling lies. And the lies we tell ourselves that prevent us from writing are just the excuses that keep us from getting paid.

So ... what’s your excuse?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Update ...

Have you ever noticed how Sundays just seem to pop up out of nowhere? Well, they do for me anyway. I missed my update post completely last week and this week it was my movie review post. So ... what happened?

Well, I missed the updates post a week ago because I really had nothing to update. I only got half my weekly blog posts done over the last couple of weeks (my Monday and Friday ones), and only a couple hundred new words added to Wandering Wizards.

Now granted the last couple of weeks have been busy - we’ve had visitors a couple of times and hubby took a week off to get a start on the bathroom renovation (I say “start” because this bodes well to becoming a never ending story). The bathroom in question is across the hall from my office, and it was impossible to focus in even my secondary office (the living room) - do you know how noisy a renovation can get?

And let’s not forget how insanely hot and humid it was for the last couple of weeks. I’m a winter person thru and thru - humidity is most definitely not my friend. It makes me lethargic and ill and sucks the life right out of me.

But the biggest impediment to being a more productive writer was a singular lack of motivation. Staying motivated to write is difficult at the best of times. There’s little to show for it so people don’t consider it a real job. And even for a lot of professionals the pay isn’t that great. The inner motivation needed to get you (and keep you) writing is greater than for any other job and these last few months it just seems to be more of a struggle than usual.

It’s cold comfort that I’m not alone in feeling this, I have a whole slew of writers sites I surf to on a regular basis and it’s surprising how many of them are feeling the same thing. One author posted that she was going to take a few months off to gather her scattered thoughts, another just stopped posting - right in the middle of her serial story. A lot of sites the posts are few and far between.

So. How can we better motivate ourselves?

1. Take responsibility for your own actions; acknowledge that you’re the only one that can do this. The world is waiting for your story and only you can tell it.
2. Create a deadline and stick to it. Mark it on your calendar.
3. Set a daily goal - a word limit, a number of pages, a number of hours - something to strive for.
4. Get rid of distractions - phone, internet, TV - unplug the electronics and hide away if you have to.
5. Find a carrot - set yourself a mini-goal and reward yourself when you reach it.
6. Find a writing buddy - you can egg each other on.
7. Find a time and place that inspire you - everyone has a time of day where they feel more creative, and the perfect setting will help persuade you to write.
8. Make yourself accountable - tell family and friends what you’re doing and let them be your cheerleaders. At the very least you won’t want to let them down.

I think I need to print out this list. ;-)

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3,239 words total
This is kind of an unfair total. Though I only counted my regular four posts, one or two of them were a couple of weeks old. Overall I think I was up by about 100 words.

0 words total
I set aside Lord of the Flies for a bit, but I’m halfway through Inkspell and I’m on the third of a boxed set of SEAL action/romances on the Kindle. I think I may have read a couplf of other books on the Kindle, but I forgot to write down the titles and/or authors. I’m also about halfway through this book I found in the stack beside my chair called A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain - I’m not entirely sure where it came from, but it’s pretty interesting.

0 hours total
Out of sight, out of mind - I tell you what. The sad part is, there’s not a lot that has to be done before Elemental Earth is ready to be set loose on the world, I just seem to be having a bit of trouble doing it. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing - once I’m finished it I’ll have to come up with a cover. And I have no clue what to use as a cover. ;-)

New Words
3,444 words total
Ha! Fooled you. I bet you thought I’d have no words to report, didn’t you? Well, the week the hubby was off, the writing urge was strong but the noise was too distracting so I only got about 500 words done. The rest of the words were kind of in a burst of a couple of days that petered out as quickly as they appeared. I also started what I think will probably be a flash fiction piece. I have the beginning and the end, I just need to work on the middle. And I suspect it’s going to be a creepy little story (as most of my flash pieces are).

Weekly Goals:

Last week (or two):
Did not finish editing Earth.
Did not start An Elemental Spirit.
I surpassed my 2,000 word goal for Wandering Wizards, but only because it’s been two weeks since I updated here.
This week:
Revive my interest in An Elemental Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 words on Wandering Wizards.
Work on new story, tentatively titled Frog and Scorpion.

Back to Wandering Wizards for the excerpt this week, because I really don’t have enough of the new story written to extract anything from it yet:

A slight scuff on the path made her turn her head. It was without surprise that she saw the elf Kaelan approaching. There was something about him . . . it wasn’t just that he was so beautiful, or that he seemed to find her fascinating. It was something else. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. Or maybe the truth was she didn’t want to put her finger on it.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he drew closer to her. “I did not wish to intrude.”
Damn. Even his voice was beautiful.
“It’s all right,” she told him. “You’re not intruding. And actually, I’d kind of like the company.”
He sat down beside her on the bench leaving just the right amount of space between them. Once seated they were on more of an even level, so to speak.
“Are you having trouble sleeping too?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered honestly. “I cannot help but wonder what has happened to the elves of the Wild Woods Realm. Different possibilities keep running through my mind.”
“And each one worse than the last,” Ellen finished for him.
“This is true. I thought perhaps some time in the garden might clear my head.”
“Then perhaps I’m the one intruding,” she told him. “If you’d rather be alone . . .”
“No!” The flush on his face was apparent even in the moonlight. “That is, I would much rather talk with you than be alone with my thoughts. But tell me, Mistress Ellen, what thoughts were you thinking that had you looking so serious?”
“It’s just Ellen,” she told him. “And I was thinking it seems that everyone else is just dripping with magic - everyone except me. I feel the odd man out.”
“Ah,” he nodded. “I know the feeling well. I, too, have been curse with a lack of magic.”
“Really?” She was surprised. “I thought elves were magic in themselves?”
He smiled at her. “Alas, no. And it is this lack that has made me the odd man out as well. I have three brothers and a sister, all, as you say, dripping with magic.”
She thought about it for a moment. “It must have made it very hard, growing up in such a magical household.”
“You have no idea.”
“Oh, I think I do. I have five brothers, all of whom take after our Irish mother - they’re big and brawny and every one of them a ginger.”
“A ginger?”
She grinned. “They have red hair. Not only am I the only girl in the family, I’m also the only one who takes after our Chinese father.” At his confused look she said, “Asians are smaller in build with straight black hair and a tilt to their eyes.”
“I think your eyes are beautiful - dark and mysterious, holding the wisdom of the ages.”
“I . . . thank you . . . I--” she broke off what she was going to say, blushing.
“Surely you have received many compliments on your eyes,” he said, with a teasing grin.
“Yes, but no one’s ever accused me of them being full of wisdom,” she said dryly. “Certainly not any of my brothers. In fact, they’d probably say just the opposite.”
He laughed outright at that and she was mesmerized by the sound. How anything could sound so musical yet masculine at the same time was beyond her.
“Are you the youngest in your family?”
She nodded. “Yes, and that just makes it worse.”
It was his turn to nod. “I, too, am the youngest. When I realized I could never hope to compete with my siblings with magic, I begged my father to allow me to learn to fight. He was not happy, though he gave his permission. He had hoped I would follow in his trade as a silversmith, but without magic my work would be mediocre at best.” He shrugged.
“My father runs a dojo - it’s like a school for the martial arts,” she added at his confused look. “When I was five years old I begged to be allowed to learn, but it took my mother putting her foot down before he’d teach me. She told him that the world was not a safe place, especially for a woman and that one day I’d be a woman out on my own and by then it would be too late to teach me.”
“A very wise woman, your mother.”
“She has her moments,” Ellen said with a grin. “Anyway, I’ve been taking lessons ever since. And if I’ve had to work extra harder than my brothers, it’s because I wanted to make sure I could beat them.”
“And can you?” he asked.
“All but one of them,” she said with satisfaction.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Of Imagination and Trees...
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your BEST BUD. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It’s kind of unusual for Jamie and I to send each other quotes for a week that have nothing in common (other than their writerly inspiration) but that was the case last week. Her quotes, in particular, were really good ones, despite the fact she thought a couple of them were repeats (only one of them seemed familiar to me).

It was a tough call, but of the quotes she sent me I finally picked this one because it’s one I can relate to:

Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.
- Ann Patchett

I spend a lot of time in my own head, maybe too much, but it’s an interesting place to be. Just like reading, writing can be a wonderful escape. In fact, it can be an even better escape than reading because you can mould the world you escape to into whatever you wish.

I think all writers have a secret place in their heads they can go to. Maybe it’s to escape the daily grind, but maybe it’s the place where we generate our ideas. Or maybe it’s the place where we can have a drink with our characters to see what they have to say.

While I don’t have an imaginary friend to take tea with, I do enjoy having adventures in my own head. My imagination can keep me entertained for hours - when I’m bored, or trying to relax, or trying to fall asleep. It’s like a movie on continuous play in my mind and I’ll refine it with each pass. Sometimes I refine it to the point where I just have to write it down, but sometimes I just let it go.

Now, I have to be honest here. I didn’t like any of my quotes from last week. After staring at them for a while, I finally had it down to two. I ended up picking this one for the simple fact it was the shorter of the two:

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You can never go wrong with a quote from Stephen King. ;-)

And you know, he’s right on with this sentiment. As writers we do spend an inordinate amount of time on the trees - the little things, the details, of a story. But once we’re finished we have to step back and look at the big picture, to make sure all these little pieces come together to create a whole.

You start with the forest floor, that consists of leaf litter and soil. For the writer that means sifting through your thoughts and notes, casting about, then settling on an idea.

Next comes the herbaceous layer with the seedlings and non-woody plants. Here the writer begins to flesh out the idea he or she planted, watering it with care and nurturing it.

Then we have the shrub layer filled with immature trees, shrubs, and animals. This layer adds detail to the forest, just as you begin to add detail to your story.

The understory contains trees that aren’t quite mature; they’re close, but still have some growing to do. This is the revision stage, where things aren’t quite right yet and need to be polished.

And finally we have the canopy of the tallest oldest trees, exposed to all the elements, and protecting everything below it. Your story is finished and ready to be exposed to the world. This is the culmination of everything that has gone before.

So ... what kind of forest will grow of the seeds you plant?

Friday, September 2, 2016

A View to the Journey
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud.  But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

One of the things you’ll often find me checking out online is where other writers write. I also enjoy learning other trivial stuff about other writers, but where they write will keep me going for hours. There’s such a variety, some of it unique and some just plain weird. You can have a look at a few of them yourself HERE.

Jamie’s quote this week seems to fit right into this:

The ideal view for daily writing, hour for hour, is the blank brick wall of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do, cloudless if possible.
- Edna Ferber

Edna’s got the right idea. Staring at a blank wall or a cloudless sky is the fast track to boredom, and when you’re bored that’s when a writer’s vivid imagination is a blessing. With nothing to distract you, you’re going to be making stuff up on your own. Of course she died in 1968, so she never had the internet to deal with. ;-)

But I know for myself the writing goes much better in my office than it does in the living room (my two regular writing places). Even when I can resist the lure of the internet, the living room still has that other pesky time-waster, the television. My office does not have a television in it, and the view out my window is the unchanging house across the street in the winter, and the leaves of the birch tree in the summer. Good for staring at as you contemplate your next words, but not exactly distracting. And let’s face it, no one gets distracted as easily as a writer. Or maybe that’s just me. ;-)

My quotes were rather long this week, but when it came to choosing a favourite I was stuck between the two shortest ones. One had to do with a way to write, the other more about a reason to write. I finally went with the latter because it seemed to speak to me in a louder voice:

You know, they ask me if I were on a desert island and I knew nobody would ever see what I wrote, would I go on writing. My answer is most emphatically yes. I would go on writing for company. Because I'm creating an imaginary — it's always imaginary — world in which I would like to live.
― William S. Burroughs

Having chosen that quote, I find myself strangely tongue-tied (so to speak) when it comes to explaining why. These days pretty much anyone can write and publish a book. And with the right promotion it can become a best-seller. But would they bother if they knew no one would ever read it?

I don’t think success is necessarily measured in dollars - although who among us wouldn’t like to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King? I think real success is measured from within, that feeling of satisfaction you get when you complete that novel or story or poem. Maybe it sells, maybe it doesn’t, but the point is you did it.

I’ve published several books and the reason they haven’t sold more than they have is because I am very lazy when it comes to self promotion. But I keep writing anyway. I have all these words and ideas in me and they need an outlet. So whether anyone sees them or not is a moot point - I’ll keep writing until I run out of things to say.

As Harry Kim on Star Trek Voyager said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Technology Anyone?

I think I was late with all of my posts last week, and obviously this one is no exception. Ironically, I’m off to a better start this week because my Monday post on my other blog was up on time. And I have every expectation of being on time with the rest of them. *knock on wood*

I mentioned in my quotes post that when I started writing I used a pen and paper and typed out my stories when I was done. For some reason I found it almost impossible to compose on the typewriter, despite the fact it was electric and therefore a lot faster than writing by hand.

The problem with a typewriter is if you make a mistake or change your mind you have to retype the whole page. And unless that correction takes the same amount of space as what you corrected, you could get to the bottom of the page and find you’re left in mid-sentence or you’re a line too many or too short. And that means you have to retype the rest of the pages too.

Now with a computer, of course, you didn’t have that problem. Everything was done on the screen - if you made a mistake or didn’t like the way something was worded, it just took a click of a button or two - no harm, no foul. But even when I got my first computer and my typing speed doubled, I still wrote by hand. At least for the first couple of years. There was just something about the computer that seemed to inhibit my creativity.

I did eventually get over my fear of technology and learned to love the speed with which I could compose on the computer. In the early days I fully embraced the computer age, but technology began moving faster than I was able to keep up with. I’d just get the hang of a program and the newer version would appear. It just kind of snow balled from there.

That was one of the things that led me to buy my Alphasmart Neo. It’s better than a typewriter but not as complicated as a computer. But I digress ...

In an effort to try and do a little technological catching up, I decided to treat myself to the electronic device even children are using these days - a tablet.

This is actually a good time of year for this kind of purchase, there’s all kinds of tablets on sale for Back to School. After more internal debate than research, I finally settled on the Samsung Galaxy Tab E. I’ve only had it for a few hours and already I’m feeling the stirrings of intimidation. During the set up I enabled the password thingie for the screen, not realizing that the screen does dark after just a few seconds of inactivity, necessitating using the password every time you wake it up again. I need to figure out how to go back and change this because it’s getting really old, really fast.

It would be really easy at this point to just return it and just resign myself to being a luddite, but I’m not ready to give up quite yet. After all, these things are so easy a child could use them. Maybe I just need a child to show me how. ;-)

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3,159 words total
Down by about 200 words from last week. Not only fewer words, but as I mentioned at the beginning, my posts were later too. I really have to start writing these things earlier.

0 words total
No progress on the Lord of the Flies but I did start reading Andrew Lang’s Grey Fairy Stories. I also read a couple of books on my Kindle, but I haven’t reviewed them yet. And when the battery runs out on the Kindle when I’m riding the exercise bike, I’ve been reading Inkspell, the second one in that series.

0 hours total
Wow. I have no idea what’s going on with me here, but I didn’t even give the editing a second thought last week. Okay, maybe I gave it a thought, but not enough of one to actually do anything about it.

New Words
500 words total
Yup, you read that right. Just a measly 500 words and they weren’t even all during the same session. What the heck did I do with all my time last week? I don’t even have any epically long letters to use as an excuse.

Weekly Goals:

Last week: No editing, therefore Earth was not sent out to the Betas.
No point in searching for another Beta when the book’s not done.
2,500 words short on my goal for Wandering Wizards.
This week:
Finish edits on Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 words on Wandering Wizards.
Start An Elemental Spirit.

I guess there’s no law that says I have to use an excerpt from a current WIP, so this week I’m giving you the beginning of a story I finished a while back and have no idea what to do with. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory:

“And then, he kissed her passionately into submission and they sank down into the embrace of the feather bed.”

Amber Keyes closed the book amid thunderous applause from the group gathered at the Likely Stories Book Store.

“Well done. I think several of those old biddies wet themselves,” a deep, masculine voice whispered in her ear.

Amber made no sign she heard, though the sound made every nerve ending in her body tingle. Theo usually avoided her readings/book signings. She stepped down off the podium and made her way over to the book signing table where a line was already forming.

“I hope you brought extra Sharpies,” Theo’s voice continued. “Your latest book is so hot it’ll dry those pens up as fast as you can sign with them.”

Studiously ignoring him, Amber seated herself on the hard wooden chair. Why was it always a hard wooden chair?

“The way these women worship you, you’d think the store would spring for a throne. Or at the very least a cushion.”

“Theo, would you shut up!” Amber hissed.

“Pardon me?” Janice, her publicist, asked, pausing in the act of unsealing an extra carton of books.

“I said, I can’t believe this line-up,” Amber said smoothly.

“No kidding! I hope we don’t run out of books - that would be a disaster.”

“Only for her, she’s the one that under-ordered,” Theo said wryly.

For the life of her, Amber couldn’t hold back the faint twitching of her lips at that all too accurate assessment, turning it into a full blown smile as she greeted her first fan.

Two hours later, her smile was starting to turn a little brittle around the edges and she had the beginnings of a migraine. Doing a reading was one thing, all she had to do was stand up there and read from one of her books, but the book signings afterwards were always draining. Even Theo’s running commentary, sometimes very amusing, sometimes totally inappropriate, failed to buoy her spirits this time.

“I wish I could do that for you,” he said with sympathy as she massaged the back of her neck.

“So do I,” she said with a sigh. There were a great many things she wished he could do, but his powers as a Muse were limited. She should be grateful that she was able to see and hear him, even if no one else could, but sometimes she couldn’t help wanting more.

Five years ago, Wilhelmina Jamison, aka Amber Keyes, was an aspiring writer. Today she had three books on the bestseller list and a loyal following of thousands of readers. And she owed it all to a wish made with an allegedly magical coin . . .

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pen to Paper, A to B
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Despite the fact that Jamie and I sent each other very similar quotes (on the same day no less), I chose this one as my favourite for the week:

I like the process of pencil and paper as opposed to a machine. I think the writing is better when it's done in handwriting.
- Nelson DeMille

I may have mentioned this before, but when I first started writing I used a pen and paper. I don’t want to date myself, but this was back in the day when computers were pretty much unheard of in the home. While I did have a typewriter (an electric, self-correcting one at that) I didn’t use it to compose on, I just typed out what I had hand written.

Even after I got my first computer, I still hand wrote my stories. In fact, it took several computers before I felt comfortable enough to compose on one. I still make my changes when editing in hand writing, typing them in when I’m done. My poetry is all written by hand before it’s typed up on the computer. Normally I use a pencil to compose poetry with because it’s easier to make changes.

There’s just something about the tactile sensation of pen (or pencil) in hand, writing on paper that is inspiring. I’ve been in somewhat of a writing slump lately and I’m seriously thinking of getting back to the basics and hand writing a story. Lord knows I have enough pens and paper! ;-)

My own quote this week is short and sweet and has nothing to do with Jamie’s. I liked all of my quotes, but I liked this one best even though it’s not really about writing - although it could be. :

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
~ Albert Einstein

You can write in a logical manner, you can lay your thoughts out in a proper sequence and be grammatically correct. Your story is technically perfect and your facts lead the reader from point A to point B, taking the most efficient route. There’s nothing wrong with the story, per se, it’s just ... well ... boring.

On the other hand, you can let your imagination loose, have it follow a winding path that twists and turns on itself. Maybe you take a few detours along the way from point A to point B, but you get there all the same. You engage your reader, keep them off balance, and they can’t wait to see what happens next.

Which do you think is the better method?