Friday, August 31, 2018

Just A Dreamer

In my search for something fun to post for Friday, I came across this post that I did on a now defunct blog about 10 years ago. I thought it was interesting enough to repeat here – and just so you know, the last line still holds true.

Some men see things as they are and ask, “Why?” I dream things that never were and ask, “Why not?” George Bernard Shaw

A long time ago (and we’re talking a very long time ago), someone I was very close to told me I was nothing but a dreamer. At the time, the comment hurt. It was a careless comment made to a child, and yet it stuck with me for years.

But is being “just a dreamer” really such a bad thing?

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was inspired by a dream.

In the summer of 1816, nineteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her lover, the poet Percy Shelley (whom she married later that year), visited the poet Lord Byron at his villa beside Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Stormy weather frequently forced them indoors, where they and Byron's other guests sometimes read from a volume of ghost stories. One evening, Byron challenged his guests to each write one themselves.

Mary's story, inspired by a dream, became Frankenstein.

"When I placed my head upon my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think... I saw -- with shut eyes, but acute mental vision -- I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous Creator of the world.
...I opened mine in terror. The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around. ...I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; still it haunted me. I must try to think of something else. I recurred to my ghost story -- my tiresome, unlucky ghost story! O! if I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night!"
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, from her introduction to Frankenstein

* * * * * * * * * *

The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) described dreams as occurring in "that small theater of the brain which we keep brightly lighted all night long."

Stevenson said of his now classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it was "conceived, written, re-written, re-re-written, and printed inside ten weeks" in 1886. And was conceived in a dream as he describes:

"For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers."

His wife related picturesquely how one night Louis cried out horror-stricken, how she woke him up and he protested, "Why did you waken me? I was dreaming a fine bogy-tale!" She also related how he appeared the next morning excitedly exclaiming, "I have got my schilling-shocker -- I have got my schilling-shocker!"

Stevenson wrote extensively about how his passion for writing interacted with his remarkable dreams and said that, from an early age, his dreams were so vivid and moving that they were more entertaining to him personally than any literature. He learned early in his life that he could dream complete stories and that he could even go back to the same dreams on succeeding nights to give them a different ending. Later he trained himself to remember his dreams and to dream plots for his books.

* * * * * * * * * *

Novelist Stephen King describes how dreams affect his writings in an interview with UK reporter Stan Nicholls:

Nicholls: "If the inspiration for Misery didn't come from a real-life incident, where did it come from?"

King: "Like the ideas for some of my other novels, that came to me in a dream. In fact, it happened when I was on Concord, flying over here, to Brown's. I fell asleep on the plane, and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. His skin, the writer's skin. I said to myself, 'I have to write this story.' Of course, the plot changed quite a bit in the telling. But I wrote the first forty or fifty pages right on the landing here, between the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel."

"Another time, when I got road-blocked in my novel It, I had a dream about leeches inside discarded refrigerators. I immediately woke up and thought, 'That is where this is supposed to go.' Dreams are just another part of life. To me, it's like seeing something on the street you can use in your fiction. You take it and plug it right in. Writers are scavengers by nature."

* * * * * * * * * *

So there you have it. Yes, I confess. I am a dreamer. And proud of it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

John Keats

I think the most surprising thing about Keats, to me at least, is that his poetry career only lasted three and a half years. He wrote more than 150 poems in that short time – just think what he might have accomplished had he lived!

His parents died when he was 15 and the following year he was apprenticed to an apothecary-surgeon. Keats found the medical profession not to be his liking and published his first volume of poetry in 1817. The following year wrote and published Endymion, which was based on the Greek myth of the shepherd beloved by the moon. His final volume of work was published in 1820, and he died of tuberculosis early in the following year.

There are actually two versions of the poem I’ve chosen for today. The first was penned by Keats in 1819, and the second was the published in 1820 and it’s somewhat of a mystery as to who changed it or why. But never fear, I’m only going to include one version here.

A couple of things worth noting, La Belle Dame Sans Merci translates to beautiful lady without mercy and the original version was included in a letter to Keats’ brother George. Also, the famous pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse was inspired by the poem to create one of his most famous works.

Original version of La Belle Dame Sans Merci, 1819

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said –
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! –
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Progress! I Have Progress to Report!

Words from sprints
Monday – 526 Wandering Wizards
Tuesday – 675 Magic II
Wednesday – 445 Magic II
Thursday – 731 Magic II
Friday – 529 Magic II
Total: 2,906
Blog Posts: 1797
Editing: 1 hour, 5 minutes

I wasn’t sure about breaking down the word sprints (and FYI, it’s only a word war if you’re writing against someone; if you’re just writing against the clock then it’s a word sprint) but I found the range of wordage kind of interesting.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking pretty much the same thing I am. Wow, 2900 words for a whole week isn’t really that great. But it’s better than I’ve been doing all year, so shut up. Plus a word sprint is 30 minutes, so those daily totals are for 30 minutes of writing each.

The weekend was supposed to be for editing, and as you can see I only did a little over an hour’s worth of it. I’ve been trying to adjust to a new medication and it seriously knocks the stuffing out of me for at least a day, which was Saturday, and then Sunday I kind wrote over 2300 words (which will be added to next week’s total) instead of editing.

What can I say? The ending of the new WIP I’m working on came to me as I was falling asleep Saturday night and it was good enough that I remembered most of it in the morning.

And you notice I’m calculating my editing by time spent instead of pages finished? It just seemed to make sense. And I have to admit to being a little curious as to how much time I spend editing something. I’ll bet the total time when I’m done will staggering.

To help in this I downloaded a nifty little program called TraxTime. With it you can log the amount of time you spend on your different projects, whether it’s writing or editing. Not only will it keep track of each day’s progress, it’ll keep a running total for you too and you can generate reports, if you’re so inclined. You can try it yourself for free for 30 days, just go HERE  and if you want to keep it, it’s only $39.00.

I hope you also noticed I fixed my progress bars to the right. As you can see, I took Wandering Wizards all the way back to the beginning. I’m combining both the old words and new as I see fit, which is going to make keeping track of the new words a little problematic. One of my problems last week was that I wrote down my daily word counts, but forgot to make note of which WIP they were for, so when it came to updating my progress bars I was a little uncertain. However, I’ve made a chart to fill in on a daily basis, so hopefully that won’t be a problem any more.

I would have liked to have added more words to Wandering Wizards last week, but what can I say? Sometimes it’s nice to work on something completely different, and the words just seem to be coming fast and furious for Magic II. So fast, in fact, I kind of wish I could have saved it for NaNo – I would have rocked NaNo with it. Oh, well. There’s always Magic III. ;-)

This week: carry on and keep writing!

Friday, August 24, 2018

The List of Fours

I wanted to do something different for my Friday posts, so I’m starting with a meme I did about 10 years ago. But just so you don’t think all I’m doing is copy/pasting, most of the answers have changed over the years. :-)

1. Four shows that you watch (only four??):
NCIS – NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans
Criminal Minds
Big Bang Theory

2. Four things you are passionate about:

3. Four phrases you say a lot:
Shut the f**k up! (to Taz when he starts howling at me – so annoying!)
Crappy doodles!
Get the @#*& out of my way you dumb ass! (this is usually said while driving)

4. Four things you’ve learned from the past:
He who hesitates is lost
Life’s seldom fair, you just have to deal with it and move on
If at first you don’t succeed…keep trying.
It is better to be pissed off than on (yes, I know this from experience – don’t ask)

5. Four places you would like to go:
New Orleans
British Columbia
Isle of Man

6. Four things you did yesterday:
Made tomato chowder for the grandbaby and I
Gathered up stuff to be donated to charity

7. Four things you are looking forward to:
Watching the grandbaby as she grows
Making money from my writing
The crisp autumn weather
Lowering my blood sugar

8. Four things you love about winter:
Snow, and lots of it!
Hot chocolate with a splash of Bailey’s in it.
Seeing the Christmas lights
Stew in the crock pot

9. Four bloggers who should share their list of fours:
Rather than single out four people who may, or may not do this, I’d like to invite anyone who wants to give it a shot to . . . um . . . give it a shot. :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It's Baaaack...

As part of the new and improved writing me, I figured it was time to get back to my passion for poetry on Wednesdays. Until I'm really back in the writing groove these posts will probably be a little random - sometimes old poetry, sometimes new, sometimes a form, sometimes a favourite written by someone else - but at least it's a start. Today I'm feeling a little nostalgic . . .

As you know, I’ve been writing poetry for a long time – some good, some bad. I didn’t really get going with poetry until Grade 8, when our Language Arts teacher gave us a prompt each Friday to inspire us to write creatively. Today I thought I’d share a few of the poems I wrote from those prompts.

In response to a slide show of underwater shots:

Dreamy Sea

The sea in all its splendour stood
Before me in my dream;
Beneath the emerald blue salt waves
Lies the earth of sandy cream.

Like silver flashes fishes swim
Among the rocks of purple hue,
And plants that look like octopi
Stretch their long grey arms to you.

The shells with striking beauty lie
In patterns where this splendour reigns,
The starfish and the shark they guard
The tomb where King Neptune’s lain.

Yet, as all dreams, this one must end.
The tomb, the shells, the fish must fade.
The peaceful sea, its life below
Are now just part of one dream made.

I don’t know whether I did this on my own or we were prompted by a form, but this poem illustrates the Acrostic verse form:

Frost upon the window pane
Eerie winds along the streets
Blue-grey skies across the lane
Rosey red ‘most frozen cheeks
Underneath the snowy skies
And as thermometers go down
Returning once again, surprise!
Yes you’re right, it’s Jack Frost’s frown.

This one was prompted by a short film about the Nahanni River:

The Spirit of Nahanni

The spirit of Nahanni
Haunts its every bend,
The roaring, crashing of the waves
Seem to have no end.

The evil taunting of the walls
Tell many tales of gold;
Beckoning men every day
To search its every hold.

The men that had once tried and failed
Had lost not only gold,
The skeletons without the heads,
Tell tales of men so bold.

What took their lives, and heads as well
No one seems to know;
But the spirit of Nahanni
Knows what laid them low.

The spirit of Nahanni
Haunts its every bend,
The roaring, crashing of the waves
Seem to have no end.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Secret Is In the Timing

No great epiphanies this week I’m afraid, just some kinda interesting stuff going on. Probably more interesting to me than you, but hear me out and you can decide for yourself.

I actually spent more time reading blogs than playing games last week, and while it might not seem like much of an improvement (because I really should have been writing) at least there’s a chance I might learn something from a blog. There’s not much that can be learned from a game, other than the fact that on-line games cheat.

Anyway…on a whim I checked out a few of the early posts on my other blog, and by early I mean when I first started it ten years ago. Man, those were the days! The posts were short and random, and I had about three works in progress going at the same time.

One of those WIPs was something called “Magic” and I had no idea what it was referring to. Nowhere did I give enough detail as to what it might have been, just word counts and progress reports. And there was nothing titled “Magic” in my old files. It took several more posts before I finally had an “Ah ha!” moment that let me know what I’d changed it to and then all of a sudden I started thinking up all these details for the sequel that never got past the “thinking about it” stage.

So Friday, the illustrious Jamie had the day off (she had Thursday off as well, but the torpedoing of that day is her story to tell) so I challenged her to a word war. We actually did two of them, 30 minutes each, and I was pretty amazed at how much you can write in 30 minutes. The first one I started Magic 2 (for want of a better title) for 816 words, and the second I worked on Wandering Wizards for another 689. Pretty good for someone struggling to get her blog posts done on time, eh?

But Jamie and I both agreed that the secret is in the timing. It is far easier to accomplish respectable word counts when you tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to write without stopping for 30 minutes” than it is if you set yourself a goal of X number of words.

That being said, I didn’t get any writing done on the weekend, but yesterday, despite being interrupted a couple of times, I still managed 526 words. And seeing as my daily goal is 500 words, that’s a pretty good way to start my day.

Of course that’s also why this post is a day late. Yesterday I sat outside on the deck for my breakfast, which kind of put me way behind everything else, and this post kept getting moved down the priority list. But, today I decided to get this done first, then do my word sprint, and now I’m done so off I go.

Look at it this way, I’ll finally have some words to report on next Monday’s post! ;-)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Epiphanies, Lists, and Routines…Oh, My!

I had another epiphany last week. I figured out where I was went wrong with Wandering Wizards. It wasn’t that I wrote the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, it’s that I wrote it before the previous book was finished. I had no idea what was happening/going to happen to Jessica before the end of Lucky Dog so I really didn’t know what my jumping off point was supposed to be.

**Advice for anyone who wants to write the second (or third or fourth) book in a series before the previous book is finished: DON’T DO IT!!**

After mapping out where my characters have been, I did a second word map to figure out where they’re going, and while it’s not a pretty as one of the spiffy maps I drew years ago, it’ll give me an idea of what goes where (or maybe that should be who goes where). One of these days I may get around to doing an actual map, but it’s not a priority.

Anyway, now that I know what I’m doing (more or less), I’m starting over with Wandering Wizards. I have a clean document file in which I will cut/paste the sections of the previous version that are usable (surely some of those nearly 60,000 words are worth saving) while at the same time adding new stuff that will help the whole thing make sense. The only problem I foresee is having to edit as I go because the old stuff will need to be changed somewhat to fit with the new and that’s not a job I’m going to want to tackle when the whole thing is done.

As of the end of last week I’ve added about 1500 new words to the first couple of chapters and I must say – so far, so good. The section in between still needs some editing, but not too much (I hope). The old section was an entire chapter and I might have to split it up – actually, it might read better split up so I’ve got the old and the new twisting around each other so you’re not getting big chunks of either. Hmm….

I function better when I have a routine to stick to. I know this, and yet I continue to waste a lot of time that could be put to better use if I just had an idea of what to do with it. I’m not just talking writing, either. I’m talking about all the mundane things we have to deal with. I need to go back to making a list.

I like lists. I really like being able to cross things off of a list. But a list not only lets you see at a glance everything that needs to get done, it’s also a reminder that you have better things to do than sit there playing Bubble Mouse for hours on end (or is that just me?). I’m actually going to need two lists: one made on Sunday nights for what I want/need to accomplish in the week ahead, and one made at the end of the week for what I want/need to accomplish on the weekend.

But back to routines…. It’s just cool enough in my office that I can work in there for a couple of hours in the morning, Both times I worked in my office in the morning last week I got words done on WW., so office time is going to be part of my morning routine.

I was checking out some old files and I’m kind of appalled at the amount of flash fiction I have. Enough to fill a couple of volumes I’d say…if they were finished/polished. So as part of my new routine I’m going to pick one flash story a week, finish it, polish it, and – here’s the hard part – shop it around. If nobody wants it but I still like it, I’ll set it aside until I have enough to do an anthology. One way or another, these stories have to start earning their disk space.

So. We have spending mornings in my office, finishing up one story a week, and making lists. I’m sure it looks easier than it’ll be, but I’m going to give it a try.

Great ambitions for a Monday, don’t you think? :-D

Monday, August 6, 2018

Progress Report

Anybody still out there? Sorry it’s been so long but to be quite honest up until now there hasn’t really been much to report. Writing has been slow, when it’s been going at all, and it’s been mostly unfinished flash pieces for my writers group. In fact, if it wasn’t for my writers group I probably wouldn’t even have that much to report.

This has been one of the longest dry spells I’ve ever suffered (and anyone who writes will tell you that you do suffer when you’re not writing). It pretty much started right after NaNo. First there was the rush of having completed the challenge, followed by the inevitable let down when you finish a novel. Hard on the heels of that was the realization Christmas was only three weeks away and I was totally unprepared.

I had about two weeks over the holidays (Christmas and New Years) free from babysitting, but because my family is pretty scattered I spent most of that time still working on Christmas – baking, gift buying, wrapping, travelling. Then I got sick. Then life got kind of complicated and well, here I am, eight months into the new year with precious little to show for it.

So I thought this would be a good time to maybe take a look at some of the goals I set for this year. Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as I thought.

Write every day – at least 500 word: Fail
Most of the time I was lucky if I was writing 500 words a week.

Less time gaming and social media: Semi-fail
It’s an ongoing struggle – some days are more successful than others.

Shut down by 11 p.m., 12 at the latest: Semi-fail
The idea here was to give myself an hour to read before bed, but since I’ve started to go to bed earlier so I am shut down by 11, I can’t really count this as a win.

Spend more time doing crafts: Fail

Make better use of my Neo: Fail
When I’m using my Neo the writing seems to flow effortlessly, but it’s just actually sitting down to use it that seems to be a problem here.

Organize my poetry: Fail

Wow. No wonder I’m having such a dry spell. But hopefully that’s all behind me. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading (old favourites for inspiration), and I decided it was way past time to fish or cut bait. So I pulled out what I had of Wandering Wizards (the third in my Moonstone Chronicles), skimmed over it to see what I had, and then took the time to figure out where it was going. Then I went through the previous book to track down where my character had been so I could figure out the starting point to continue on.

Moving forward, my goal is to write every day. Wandering Wizards has been sitting around long enough, time to get it finished. And if I need a break from the magic and mayhem, I have about a dozen or more flash stories in various stages of being done. I want to pick one a week and polish it up. Maybe even start trying to sell the darn things. What good is a story if no one reads it, right?

If all goes well, starting next week I’ll be able to post my weekly word counts again. If all doesn’t go well… *shrugs* Then I guess I’ll just keep trying.