There is this great theory that you can set everything up to post automagically on a weekly schedule, and stay a strong online presence. I can say, honestly, it is a great theory! I am sure it works. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out the magic (yet!). I will, but apparently this means that my ‘weekly schedule’ has slipped to monthly. It won’t stay that way, dear reader, but it may have to go to every other week for a while until the house is purchased and the other challenges in my life have an end.
Yes, it is June, and that creative writing experience called report cards is upon me.
Report cards are the quarterly report where you want to say: Little Johnny doesn’t do anything except argue that he should not have to do work because he has green eyes. Saying that, of course, is politically unwise for oh so many reasons, so you write things like: Johnny struggles to stay on task, and rarely completes the required assignments in a timely manner. Johnny has really expanded his ability to argue a position, but rarely listens to others and their opinions. Report cards are an exercise is writing with wit and humour and honesty, but with grit and tact as well. There are ways to write them, and there are ways NOT to write them.
However, I digress.
In my writing life, I have also been writing–moving forward on many projects. On the good side–writing writing writing! On the bad: I am studiously ignoring my writer’s ADHD, because yes, I am not finished the Super School Story’ I am not even started on The Finder, and don’t get me going about the editing of the Duodeca Project.
I started the How to Write a Series Expansion Course with Holly Lisle, and that is where the magic is happening in my writing life. My series centers around the city of Cardonne, a city rumored to be the retirement home of some underground organization that no one every mentions but everyone knows exists.
In the first story, a blood mage moves in to town, and frames Paul, the grandson of a famous mage but not a mage himself, for the abduction and murders of four women. In the second, an unexpected off planet visitor causes roommate and romatic chaos during the Thanksgiving holiday. It is an experiment in writing and online publishing. And it should be fun.
Life is busy, and everywhere I look, it is getting busier. Today is Mother’s Day here in Canada (and the US), and most people are out celebrating their families and their mom’s contribution to their lives. People have managed to carve out that little bit of time to celebrate who they are and where they come from, the roots and wings of their lives.
Sometimes, though, carving out those same pieces of time for writing is just ‘too’ hard. We carve time out for the important things–like Mother’s day, or Christmas–but do we honour our own need to give voice to all those words that float in our souls? How do we carve out time to honour ourselves, and that gift of words we carry? (Yes, it is a gift, even when you feel a little schizophrenic because the words and pictures that float through your brain simply do not turn off when you want them to stop and let you sleep.).
I’ve been struggling to carve out those minutes or hours to write for the last few weeks. I have still been writing, but writing feels like slow molasses in January up the long hill. My muse wants to edit all of it as it comes onto the page, to make it be perfect first. I never noticed how much that happens until I started to have to write for only fifteen or twenty minutes at a time each morning. I have to convince her that writing it down first will still give me time to edit afterwards. So the writing has been continuing in fits and starts in the mornings, fifteen minutes at a time.
The editing of the first book is at a bit of a standstill. The plan to seriously edit it this summer took a left turn signal to the face, so a back up plan may need to be put in place. An opportunity dropped into our lives, and we will be buying our very first house this summer, twenty five years into marriage. I actually never thought this day would come; now that it has arrived, it is a little terrifying. It means packing the house and moving, and somehow doing it without giving up writing. I gave up writing once before. I am not ever going to do it again.
I am working on finishing my first draft of Super School, and it is actually moving along well. Another eight thousand words, bringing it up to about 64 thousand, and I can see how some of the pieces will fit together. I have a huge plot jump where I don’t know what happens between A and B, but I know what happens from B to the end of the story (in theory, at least–my muse likes to throw in those twists I never expect when I finally sit down and write). I love the story in Super School, and how Marietta is so convinced she is normal, but she is so obviously not as normal as she thinks. I love the way she becomes part of the community, and how her existence creates the determination to maintain community in spite of all the situations that arise. She is the character who continually asks–why do you think that child will turn out exactly like his father? Why should it be that way? If I do nothing else this year, finishing Super School and the Duodeca Project both will be a huge accomplishment.
I’m also continuing to do some research for the Finder which is slowing the project down a lot. And I am looking at writing a series of linked short stories for another series, because it is a good way to trial balloon how to write a series, and to get some experience with publishing. There are enough stories floating around in my head; I don’t know if I have the focus to accomplish all the things I want to accomplish, and still have enough brain cells to teach full time. And then there is the whole other side of writing, the marketing piece, and developing a coordinated plan for the marketing part of the writing business. All authors (who become successful authors, with a career at least) need to do marketing, a part of the business I know next to nothing about. I have been poking around, and am learning lots just listening to the experts. There are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do. All of it takes time.
Still, it is definitely time to honour that gift of words I was given. And give myself the gift of time and put my bum in the seat and write.
Yesterday after singing our Good Friday service (sight singing as an alto, no less!) we went to Wendy’s hang out to eat and chat. It was fun, awesome, and interesting as always. We brought a couple extras from the youth group with us. While the adults were chatting about life, the universe, youth group and everything else under the sun, I watched as the boys made a stop motion film in the restaurant.
An 8 second stop motion film that told a complete story.
They had an idea, experimented and ran with it (through the whole restaurant). The final results were awesome. And, it was easy. They didn’t get caught up in the technical, the story boards, the details, the minutiae. They simply used their medium and told the story.
Writing used to be like that for me–easy–and somewhere along the line I made it hard in the same way that I thought stop motion film was hard. Creativity should be easy. Not perfect, not shooting for excellence, but an exploration of ideas and words and gifts. Becoming and experiencing more deeply, sharing that laughing silly muse and its imaginary friends.
Now that I’ve let them out of the box, those imaginary friends of mine want to keep coming and playing. Sometimes that isn’t so convenient, but I can live with that. I like my imaginary friends. I like spending time with them, and letting them tell me their stories. If I just tell their stories, it is easy.
My writing took a interesting turn this week. My muse decided that I had started my story about The Finder in the wrong place, and demanded that I story card from a totally different spot than I expected, starting with the retirement of the police officer who found her when she found the first body, and running from there. I can see the story, and it is not what I expected. But, starting in that different place, the story suddenly became easy to tell.
After looking and reading different information about Witchcraft, Wicca, and psychic abilities, I realize that my character is far more complex and far less complicated than most of the research I’ve come across would explain. Nothing against most psychics, but reading them has made me understand why my character isn’t them. Grounded and centered in reality is probably her middle name. She isn’t going to take or accept an explanation of ghosts or voices that is shrouded in crystals and letting someone else take over anything, let alone her body. She already listens to enough voices, thank you very much, she doesn’t want to live with them inside her head running her thoughts, or driving her body like a car. And she is really definite about that part of her abilities. She hears voices, and sees connections in the web of life, and disturbances in that web, like others see auras of health and illness. She has a firm belief that Healing hands must manipulate energy of some kind. It stuck me last week that maybe the whole ‘hearing who is on the phone’ thing attributed to psychics could be a way of hearing energy. I wonder if the new digital phones make it harder to hear that wavelength of energy.
So, this week, I’m just going to try letting the writing be easy, and see what happens. Even if it is punctuated by things like replacing a dead car and doing taxes, I think it will be fun.
This weekend, I spent three days at Ad Astra 2014, talking with writers about writing and ideas and concepts and all those things that make a difference to writing! My brain is full, my fingers are fumbling with all the ideas running out the tips and I am tired from brain overload. I feel a bit like the boy on the tricycle at the end of ‘The Incredibles’ movie yelling ‘That was totally wicked!’
To start my weekend, I spent Friday evening with Marie Bilodeau, and a variety of other authors including Stephen B. Pearl, talking about Myth and Legend in Fantasy and Science Fiction. That panel morphed into the next one, discussing balancing a full time job and a writing career. Stephen B. Pearl was fantastic, and gave me a list of solid reference suggestions for research sources on paranormal and occult. Marie and I had a great chat about the fact that many authors using legend and myth allow themselves to be hemmed in by the myth, instead of building their own ‘outside of the box’ variation, or simply expanding on a theme.
Saturday morning, I got a change to meet, and listen to Patty Briggs talk about characters and character building, and then listen as she and her co-presenter gave ‘new author advice’ to another attendee. I got a chance to talk to quite a few published authors, and get advice about how to begin to build my connections in the world of publishing. And I had a blast. I can’t even begin to say how much fun I had, and how much I learned. I love Patty Briggs, and her husband Mike, even more now that I’ve met them and listened to them.
Sunday morning, my early morning coffee with Marie became an early morning chat with Nicole and a whole host of others because Marie had food poisoning. I had a great discussion, and learned lots, and came away with some major goals, and a deadline or two. All in all, it was a great weekend, and I am totally glad I went.
I can’t wait to go to CanCon!
Something I read recently reminded me that writers, ‘real writers’ (whatever that phrase means) write because they have to write. Even if no one ever reads their work, or hates their work, or everyone lauds their work, they write. Why? Well, because writing is really like breathing, absolutely necessary for life.
I’ve always written. Characters romp through my head and through my dreams and writing them down is the only way to get them out of my head. This is why I have a gazillion muse bombed manuscripts hanging around my house, and my kids know the stories I tell in all their variations. Except for a very few short years when my babies were young and I was struggling with a long term potentially crippling illness, I have written. My muse spews stories from one end to the other in a mostly linear line (well, most of the time, anyway; I can’t say the Finder is following this pattern) and I rush to keep up with the scenes running full cinema through my head. But can I say this thing I call writing actually adding something to the world? There are days I don’t know, days that I think that my writing is just a series of vignettes, not a story that shows how and why the character changes.
Let me explain. Recently, I read Write Your Novel From the Middle. James Scott Bell argues that there is a moment in every character’s life when they look in the mirror and have to face the big choice, and that moment both sets up the whole question and drives the change for the rest of the book.
The novel manuscripts I’ve finished all have this ‘mirror moment’. I can find it. I know exactly why it is there, and how it causes the rest of the story to unfold. For Desie, my main character in CHOICE OF DESTINY, it was the moment when she chose to use what she knew to protect her two very young sons from being murdered by the Usurper Emporer. The rest of the story is her accepting her destiny as a result of that choice.
In THE DUODECA PROJECT it is that moment when Jo realizes that only the information in her head will be able to stop the coming pandemic, if she is willing to face the cost.
In THE FINDER, it is the moment when Isabelle accepts her own truth, and choses to use her skills to save herself and the woman caught with her. Everything after that moment unfolds because she decides to fight to save herself.
The manuscripts that are still in muse bombed pieces don’t have that moment, or the moment isn’t clear. The lack of mirror moment totally explains why they are 60k word long vignettes and not finished novels. Just learning this concept is helpful, because now I can see how to fix them. I understand how to make them coherent wholes, with beginning and end. That is exciting, and helpful, even if it is a little daunting. I don’t regret writing them; they are huge vignettes of characters I love to hang out with. I had to write them because writing is like breathing for me. But, if I want to make them into pieces that will be ready to launch into the world, they need work to have more than just vignettes. In the end, that is a good thing to learn.
Time once again for a check in.
I have only accomplished a mere two thousand words on my current projects in the last ten days. I could make excuses (the stomach virus going around school hit me hard, and I ended up in bed for four days, followed by a dreadful week at work), but I’m not going to do that. Excuses don’t really get the writing done, and the writing is the point.
This week, it is time to get back onto the horse and just write.
I do have some work done on Super School, just a few scenes. I am still working on fleshing out the middle of second and third year, along with the ending. Why is her skill important? What is it that makes her a super hero, and not others. There are muse bombs all over the place in what I have written so far, and I want to find out! My villain suddenly became two, and it is exciting to see it all take shape.
I have also worked on a few background pieces for The Finder: the first time she finds a body (and the police officer who finds her), and how she tries to figure out where she fits in with all the other psychics by going to a psychic fair, and meeting the woman who later becomes one of her mentors. Enjoy.
The Beauty of the Cards
Isabella Maynard wasn’t sure what she thought she would find at the psychic fair, but it wasn’t what she saw in front of her. She paused as she held out her ticket to the bored man at the door, staring at the ball room, awash in crystals and bejeweled perfumed women. Everyone she saw seemed to be desperately seeking something, some meaning, some way of justifying the value of their frantic lives. She was searching for some way to understand why she heard those voices calling her, pleading with her to find them. Sighing, she moved off the heavily traveled walkway, and just stared up and down the aisles.
Here were jewels, and stones, and dragon statues. Here were collections of tarot, sold by jeweled and exotically draped women with low and mesmerizing voices. Here were the astrologers, promising easy futures with fortune and love if you just did the right thing on the right day, and serious faced men selling angel statues, and promising divine help with the right choice of picture or figurine. Here were the palm readers, and the jeweled daughters of gypsies, seeking silver for blessings.
Nothing she saw, from the crystal ball reader to the tarot card vendor, seemed to have anything to do with the voices or connected to that overwhelming sense of the awe and wonder of the creator and the connected intersections of the people around her. The fair around her seemed mercenary, frantic, restless, unconnected.
“Fun, isn’t it?” a voice said to her side, and she turned to look at the dark haired middle aged woman, in the dark pants and bright shirt with a quiet, sensible, pair of shoes on her feet. “All this panoply.”
Isabelle shrugged her thin shoulders and stuffed her hands into the back pocket of her worn jeans. “I guess.”
The woman looked at her for a very long time, seeming to see beyond the teenager to the questions she hid, and then nodded, still smiling. “Not into angel guides and crystal channeling, are you?”
She shrugged again, not wanting to hurt the feelings of this stranger if she was into it. “Not…really,” was all she said.
“Why don’t you and I have a cup of coffee at the cafe there, and you tell me what you are looking for, then. Sometimes I have a bit of luck with that. Finding what people are looking for, I mean.”
Isabella wasn’t sure why she followed the woman off to the side of the room where the bored women in orange and brown polyester chatted in Spanish as they poured hot water and coffee. Somehow, coffee seemed like a neutral idea. She couldn’t imagine something important happening in the brightly lit cafe sectioned off by blue nylon curtains. The excited chattering women in front of them took hot water for their Celestial Seasonings teas, and started enthusiastically showing off their tarot card collections.
Mona smiled as she carried her cup of coffee and orange over to an empty table. “I like the tarot cards myself,” she said after introducing herself. “The art is usually so beautiful. But the power isn’t in the cards, and not everyone understands that.”
Cradling her coffee as she sat down, Isabella just sighed. “Sometimes, I think that people who use the cards want the easy way, the way that gives them what they want but doesn’t change them, not inside. Real power doesn’t work like that.”
“No,” agreed Mona, sipping her coffee. “It doesn’t. It isn’t that easy, but it can be beautiful. It helps when the seeker is grounded, and centered. You need to understand and respect your own boundaries, and to know and to deal with your own pains and hurts first. Otherwise, you project the things you don’t accept about yourself onto others, and do harm. The first rule, the one all of us with power must learn, is to do no harm.”
“But, is it important–all this stuff? The crystals, the tarot, the knives and herbs and spells and stuff, I mean? Does all this stuff help make the power make sense?” Her voice was hesitant as she asked, carefully cradling her cup of coffee between her hands.
Mona smiled. “For the right person, the tools can be a useful focus point, a way to understand and organize their universe and explain how their world differs from the way others see it.” She looked around. “Just like wearing symbols like the pentagon, or the cross, are symbols for others to see and understand that these are people who don’t organize their world the way others expect.”
“What about the ones who …. don’t need .. or want the … toys? Where do they fit in all of this? Or, do they fit?” And Mona nodded slowly, hearing the question that the girl with the dark blue eyes wasn’t asking.
Mona smiled, and the girl sensed that this woman understood the power in a very practical way, and had experienced the touch of the divine. “Each of us finds our own way.” Then, Mona grinned as she looked around the room. “We come and sift through all of this to find that one connection that called us here. It helps to not take it all so seriously.” She peeled her orange, offering a small piece to Isabella. “To remember the joy in the connections between us, and the holy that calls us together, no matter what name we give it. It helps, too, not to take it all so seriously. And to remember, sometimes, that the whole point can be the beauty in the art on the cards.”
Hello dear readers!
I’ve been plugging away at a whole host of writing related things this last week or so, including the first stages of the big edit for ‘The Duodeca project’, research, and planning pieces for my novel ‘The Finder’ (my HTTS project), two flash fiction vignettes, and going back to work on another older novel: Super School.
The Finder is currently in research ‘no man’s land’ and planning purgatory. My main character is a psychic who found her first dead body at four. Her antagonist is a serial killer who is currently stalking her because she found two of his bodies, and he is afraid she might be able to catch him. During the planning phase, my muse decided I needed more information on everything before I could properly plan–police procedures, psychics, serial killers, everything. Yes, yes. I know the rabbit hole of research is easy to get lost in! I decided to limit myself to five good books. I ended up with three on psychic abilities, one on serial killers, and one (a basic reference book) on police procedures.
There is a lot written about the paranormal, and the development of psychic abilities, but most of it has little or nothing to do with someone like Isabella, who has been psychic from childhood. Or for that matter, the people in my own family. As my mother often tells me, I am related to a tribe of gypsies who made a living fortune telling before they escaped the old country. My view of being psychic is a lot more pragmatic and a whole lot less ‘woo-woo’ than nearly everything available commercially.
In The Rational Psychic Jack Rourke discusses his own experiences as a psychic. He does a lot of debunking of various theories and phenomena. I really liked how he emphasizes the need for appropriate emotional boundaries, and doing your own emotional work so that you do not project your own issues onto others. It was a good read, and a useful resource, His experience is a whole lot closer to my own family experience of psychic, (although no one in my generation has gone on to become a psychic on his level).
The Reality of ESP by Russell Targ is fascinating. It presents proof of ESP from the point of view of quantum physics, but it isn’t a book for the faint of heart, or for someone afraid of science. Russell Targ is a physicist who originally worked with lasers; he and a number of others pioneered a program to develop ESP, in order to spy on ‘non-visible’ targets during the cold war. The work he cites in the book is amazing. He presents his work with a low key but reasoned approach. I found it helpful, particularly how he organized the different levels and layers of skills, and their development.
Growing up psychic by Chip Coffey looks good, but we will see once I start reading it in more depth. What I have read seems pretty reasonable, but I haven’t gotten very far. If I start sputtering, or muttering, I will let you know. It is one of the few that actually talks about parenting childhood psychics.
I decided to limit my research on serial killers to psychology and development. I could spend years on true crime stories, but I don’t need that much detail floating through my already vivid imagination. Serial Killers: the method and madness of monsters by Peter Vronsky is a very thorough walk through a difficult topic by an experienced journalist. It is one of the few books that includes the psychological development of a serial killer, but there is a whole lot more in his book than just that, While I find it an emotionally challenging topic, the book is extremely well written, and well researched. I’m just not speeding through it.
I also picked up a reference book for mystery writers called Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland, a police veteran. The book is a solid basic text with a whole lot of information about police procedures with a US flavour. It is just something to be aware of if you write in a Canadian or international setting. What it doesn’t do is go into a lot of procedural details, or flow charts or checklists. I may let myself pick up one of the Canadian Police Procedural manuals, or Detective Procedure study guides I saw which do, eventually, but for now this is a good place to start.
I also wrote two flash fiction pieces this week, both little vignettes of Isabella’s life. It is so exciting to see her develop as a person.
One of my big goals is to finish things and get those muse bombs into order and out the door as proper finished manuscripts. So, while I’m doing research for the Finder, Super School is getting the attention it deserves. So far, I’ve added nearly eight thousand words to the manuscript. Another twenty thousand words, and the first draft should be done, I see the end, and (way more exciting) I know how it is going to end, or at least mostly how it is going to end. I can hardly wait to finish it.
I’m sure, dear reader, that most of us who are writers have a stash of partial manuscripts hiding in different places in our house (life, garage, files, you name it…). I know I do. Another writer I know refers to these as muse bombs. These last few weeks I have been unearthing and filing my muse bombs–partial manuscripts, first chapter pieces, notebooks with good ideas and a few pages. I have filled one box of hanging files and am starting on box two. On the good side, I will never run out of stories. I will always have a backlog. On the other? Well, apparently, my muse likes to drop her toys all over the place and just leave them there, while she starts playing with other toys. I have muse bombs littering my life.
These muse bombs are affecting my other writing, too. This week my muse threw a muse bomb at me and took my writing for a ride, literally. The new story starts with the protagonist being picked up by a truck driver on a long haul, and taking her along with him, and I now have 10K words on yet another manuscript. Since the story started from the black box exercise in HTTS, I’m not complaining. But, it doesn’t get my other pieces finished. And finished and out the door is the goal of this year.
The Finder is turning very dark, with body parts and flowers as part of the stalking and psychological torment. The previous boyfriend has now arrived at the hospital, and been the required jerk. My DH muttered about me writing horror. I don’t write horror, but this one is…definitely darker than I expected it to be. I was aiming for thriller. I think I’m getting horrifying thriller. I need to do some more research on a few pieces before the manuscript goes much further, however, so that piece is in a temporary time out.
Organizing and cleaning has still not unearthed the first half of the manuscript that was finished, Here be Dragons. This is the manuscript I was going to take through editing with HTRYM. This is the story that inspired the dragon theme in my Flash Fiction Collection, and it is a solid piece. I have read it aloud to my primary editors. However, three weeks of looking and I still have only page 1, and pages 90-200. My dear husband (forever known as DH) continues to assure me that it must be somewhere in this house.
Organizing has, however, revealed four different versions of the Meningitis Plot, all starting at different places in the story arc, three different versions of The Reluctant Princess, and nine versions of Return of the Empress. I am also 80% through Super School, and have a printed version of it. (We won’t talk about the other mumblety number of pieces in the blue filing boxes, dear reader). Like I said, I will never run out of ideas.
So in self defense and desperation, I have once again returned to using Flylady. I am working on getting the house back to easy to take care of and able to have company without stress. I’m trying to build Space into my system and my life. I have discovered that keeping the sink cleared and the dishes done takes far less time if I do it every day. I don’t know why it surprises me that keeping it up takes less time than getting it to go in the first place. So far, the habit is sink/dishes and 15 minutes in a zone. I am trying to add put things away as I go, but that one is proving to be harder than I expected. Perhaps my muse is following my inner diva’s lead?
In other news, I now have a fourth short story out for consideration and for some editorial review (my first piece for this kind of feedback). It isn’t a long piece, but I am excited to see what the editor will think of it, and what kinds of suggestions she has for tightening it up. I have also taken some time to go through the catalog of writing contests I purchased from Brian Henry at Quick Brown Fox and have started to enter them into my calendar so I write to a deadline. No news on the first three, and that should happen any day now.
Hello dear readers.
I’ve accomplished a lot this week! I started a new online course, went to my very first writing seminar, wrote a very short piece which I have entered into a contest, and started working again on one of my outstanding manuscripts: Super School.
Super School: What makes someone a super hero? Marietta believes someone made a mistake when she was accepted to attend ARCs, the North American Super Hero High School; she is normal. But, then someone starts trying to kill off students at ARCs and Marietta, and her special skills, are all that stand in the way.
Today, I am sharing a squee. Maybe it will be looked back on as a self indulgent squee, but honestly, I think having this written somewhere is important, particularly as I start my rejection letter collection.
I got my first beta reader feedback on my recently finished novel, The Duodeca Project.
A summary of the novel:
The Duodeca project, an unstoppable biological weapon decades in development, is about to be unleashed on the world. Jo, unsuspecting and lost in the backwoods of North Dakota, stops for a cup of coffee and finds herself vaulted into the middle of the international bio-terrorism conspiracy. Can she, and others, stop the potential pandemic before it is too late?
My beta reader got the first draft, and the request to tell me if there were places that didn’t make sense or it dragged. The draft is just under 115K words in length.
This was her feedback:
I loved your novel so incredibly much!!! Hurry up and write the sequel (I’m only half kidding) You are very talented and I look forward to reading your future works! I finished it last night at work. For my 15 minute breaks I made a comfy reading fort in the insulation I really truly loved it and it didn’t lag anywhere.’
I cannot put into words, dear reader, how I am feeling right now. While I am sure (since it was a first draft, and I am a recovering perfectionist) there are errors and things that could be tightened up in the manuscript, the fact that I have a reader who loves what I wrote in the uncut version fills my heart.
This is really what being a writer is about: having readers who love what you wrote, who are enjoying the world your characters live in, and who can escape their own lives to live, fifteen minutes at a time, in the world with your characters. Readers who only have 15 minute chunks to read, and who choose to make a space so they can read your books, and who celebrate getting an extra 15 minutes to read so they can keep reading your book.
I am a writer.