Periodically! – #4 – Time For Fall

cropped-periodically3.jpgSeptember. Now that was a fast month! One day it’s 90 degrees, the next day you awaken to 50 degree weather and automatically reach for the nearest sweatshirt. Because of the brief thirty days and the nearly overnight change in climate, September whizzes by faster than, let’s say February, when you can’t wait for March’s lion’s roar.

Good God. February.

While I shake off that shivery promise of a future, I’ll update you as to what’s been going on in my world.

Write News:

This month saw my Editor for Life return an edit for Virtually Yours Forever, meaning I really should get off my butt and start editing. With the day job and personal family issues to deal with over the summer, I stood back from making any serious changes. I’m now glad I waited until I saw what he said at the end. This is going to take some major thought. I wish I could say the novel will be ready for prime time by the end of the year, but it could take longer. (Damn it.)

However, I’m in the process of coming out with a print version of Virtually Yours. I plan on using the copies in giveaways for the new book.

Can I share with you my feelings about the whole self-publishing scenario? If you’re an artist like I consider myself to be, the entire technical aspect can be daunting. I’m one of those learners who can’t do it by reading. I have to learn by doing. And yes, I realize that it’s the operator. I don’t understand templates and megapixels and the Internet. Remember, it took me at least eight months to learn WordPress! And I couldn’t figure out Twitter for the longest time. If you don’t make the application stupidly easy, I’m lost.

Oh! I have been invited back to the Leon and Lulu Books and Authors Event, to be held on Sunday, October 25, 2015 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you’re in Southeastern Michigan, plan to stop by. Meet local authors, and visit the store, which is an experience in itself.

The Guerrilla Urban Garden:

It’s been all-out war between me and the rodents. The squirrels won the battle of the pear tree. Despite my constant tending, my squirrel prevention measures – including bagging the pears, mothballs, shiny, noisy things in the tree, and a Boston terrier on premise, I ended up with NO pears this year. (I really want to hurt someone over this.) I managed to salvage enough cherries from the tree (first time ever!) to make two tarts. DEE-licious.

The potatoes, however, have been a banner crop this year, probably because we had so much rain early in the season. I also mulched with coconut mulch, and that seemed to repel just about everything. Sweet potatoes – just digging these up now. (I planted them in my flower containers, where they trail nicely.) YUM! You can grow sweet potatoes in Michigan, but they need direct, hot sunlight.

Of course, the Swiss chard and hot peppers have been going crazy! No pomegranates this year, but the fig tree is bearing.

Not bad for a person who doesn’t weed much after June. 🙂

Interesting Articles:

Here’s one in defense of light reads. Personally speaking, I don’t know how people can read the same genre all the time. If I want something deep, I’ll reach for it three out of four times, but sometimes I want something light and fluffy and fun. Likewise, I don’t write in one genre either. Not all writing has to be “literary” – whatever that means. Good writing is good writing and makes for good reading. In that same vein, you can really learn a lot from other genres.

And here’s a good article from RachelintheOC about censoring your writing. If you don’t follow her, you should; she posts a wealth of great info online about writing, relationships, and social media.

I’m not against the use of adverbs (obviously!), but when in doubt, a strong verb works just as well.

Music:

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, my husband and I have been watching reruns of The Wonder Years. This has prompted my husband to drag out his old sheet music from the time. I’ve been listening to him pound out classics like Burt Bacharach, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and of course, the Beatles. I’m probably prejudiced, but I think the best music came out of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, that sacred space between Top 40 bubblegum and disco.

Read this Month:

When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner. A friend suggested this book as a possible way for a family member to get through rough times. In reading it, though, I realized this is a gold mine of information for me to use in a novel I’ve been toying with since last summer. As a writer, you have to realize that there are other experiences out there beyond your own. It’s difficult to put yourself into another person’s shoes and write about an alternate experience convincingly. (My problem is all my characters act like me and sound like me.)

Quote of the Month:

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet. ~Anonymous

Have a great month!


Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

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Sorrow and Art

Originally posted December 22 at joannehuspek.com. Please follow me there.

I’ve been Facebook chatting with several people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives right now.

Suicides, break-ups, aging parents, adult children with mega-problems.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I have difficulty speaking. It’s not that I can’t maintain a conversation, it’s just that I’m not as coherent as I wish I could be. I rarely say witty things on the fly. Writing is a much better outlet, because if the words aren’t just right, you can erase them, make them better, add some zing and pizazz.

There are some things in your life you don’t want the whole world to know, but there’s a desire in all of us to hash things out, try to analyze and puzzle through to a solution. That’s why I don’t post my sordid business on social media, whether because I’m ashamed or embarrassed or afraid of what people will think of me. I realize that the private chat is more intimate, like having coffee with a friend. My friend with his break-up, I could palpably feel how upset and hurt and depressed he was. (His lady friend, I’m not so sure.) I felt the same with my suicide survivor. My friend whose daughter suffered domestic abuse, yes, I’ve been there with my own children.

What can you do? These are situations that YOU can’t fix. All you can do is listen.

The experts say that if you’re depressed, you should work out, fire up those endorphins. I did that for thirty days straight, and would only feel blah while on the treadmill. The rest of the time, I could have burst into tears at some sappy commercial, or if I couldn’t get a damned weed out of my garden. (Yes, it’s that bad.)

If you’re artistic like I am, you try to channel some of that angst and sorrow into something creative. My best poetry was written right after breaking up with a boyfriend. However, getting creative after an emotional upheaval is sometimes easier said than done. I found it so much easier to force myself to run 6 miles than I could to sit at my computer and actually write.

But I have to.

Because that’s what I do.

So I have pledged to get through this damned edit of Virtually Yours Forever by Christmas. I’m going to sit here for as many minutes, hours, and days as it will take and conquer this, to the exclusion of all other things. I love my characters, I love the plot and where it’s going, but like all writers, I have a fear of not being able to accomplish my goals.

But it’s the final trimester, and it’s time to push this baby out. And I’ve done that before.

Wish me luck.

Why Writing is Better Than Talking

My good friends know that I’m depressed this winter, partially because of SAD and partly because of family issues.

I think of myself as a warrior woman. Machine gun me with nails, I’ll spit them right back at you. Say I can’t and I’ll prove that I can. I create out of a deep need to express myself, and with a vengeance. You can try to chop me into pieces, but like the burls of a redwood, I’ll just multiply and conquer you a little at a time.

But not this time.

Depression has kicked my ass.

So I have sought out help. I have medications, which don’t seem to be helping one bit. I have a therapist, but confronting the things that are bothering me results in a sob fest. I’m not sure if talking helps.

I’m not good at speaking. I never have been. I signed up for Mr. Dionysio’s speech class in high school and spent the entire semester in silence. When I took speech in college, I had one successful speech, one that was rather “meh”, and one where I bombed completely – end grade, B-.

I couldn’t speak on the phone, and therefore gravitated toward factory jobs instead of those involving customer service. I thought I didn’t like people, and that people didn’t like me.

(Imagine me now, on the phone all the time. You can teach an old dog new tricks.)

I’m not stupid, I’m in the low Mensa range. I have coherent, cogent thoughts. I read smart books, funny books, inspirational books. But speaking, either publicly or privately…I’m the stereotypical writer, an introvert who’d rather hole up with my laptop or pen with a hot cup of green tea by my side.

So I have decided to write (again) about these deeply seated feelings. Get them on paper. Because I sure as heck don’t want to burden my friends and family with the intimate details.

Plus I can’t.

Last night, I had a Facebook “conversation” with a friend in a similar position. I received more insight in that thirty minutes of back and forth than I did the last time I saw the therapist. Why? Because we were typing. I don’t think I could have the same conversation in person. I cannot verbalize my sadness. Not yet.

And this is why writing is better than talking.

Hunting and Bagging the Elusive ‘Write’ Time

It’s Monday, and my Real Life plate runneth over. Our office survived four days of painters, which is no easy task.  (Think trying to paint around an explosion, and you’ll know what the painters had to deal with.) Today’s enrollments are way up (must be between sport seasons, or the fact that the snow is finally melting – now everyone wants to drive). It’s a payroll week. Last Thursday, we got our curriculum approved by the state (finally), so I’ve spent the last three days making manuals – through the obstacle course that was my office full of painters. The house hasn’t seen a thorough cleaning in I don’t know how long, which caused my husband to dust my bookshelves yesterday. It was either that, or the spider building a high-rise cobweb condo was going to make his digs permanent.

When I tell people I write, they wonder how I can squeeze it into my day. I can firmly attest that it’s not easy. Making time to write is like going on a safari. There’s only so much time to get things done.

Writers write. Dreamers talk about it. ~Jerry B. Jenkins

As a writer, you have to do more than WANT to write. That part is easy. The hard part is sitting your butt into a chair and making it happen.

You don’t find time to write. You make time. It’s my job. ~Nora Roberts

The thing I’ve learned since beginning to write again: Writing is a commitment. It’s a flower you have to water, it’s a pet you have to feed. That means daily, people. I find if I skip a day, I feel terrible, like I forgot to breathe.

If you don’t write the book, the book ain’t gonna get written. ~Tom Clancy

Unless you are fabulously wealthy and have gobs of money to live on while you write, you’ll have to work. This means there must be a conscious effort to carve out a niche for your “write” time. For example, I’m doing it right now. I’m taking a half hour break from the disaster that is my life to write this blog post.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. ~Richard Bach

Your “write” time doesn’t have to be hours. You can find it in shorter segments. Right now, I’m doing the Writer Mama 21 Moments, because right now, 250 to 400 words a day is all I can spare. I find myself looking forward to the prompts each day. The upside is that my little moments are shaping up to be the basis of my new novel.

Technique alone is not enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder. ~Raymond Chandler

It’s true that the more you write, the more you write. I’ve spent the last year in a massive edit. There was an urgency to finalize my work. At first, it was hard to commit to an hour or so (or more) a day in order to see to the end of my goal. With practice, exercising your mind on a regular schedule is much like exercising your body. It gets easier. You get an adrenaline rush.

Writing is hard work; it’s also the best job I’ve ever had. ~Raymond E. Feist

The best thing that a writer, like any other artist, can do is to fill your time with creativity. I’ve given up on most TV. I don’t have time for it. I’d rather fill my head with my own creations, or the creative works of others. If you’re serious about writing, you’ll keep your eye on the prize. Use whatever precious moments you might have to hone your craft. And if you need a word of encouragement, reach out to other writers. Yes, even me!

You’ll find putting yourself on a schedule will be time well spent.

Real Life Bulldozer

I have to admit this, but as a writer, I’ve been really bad.

No, really, really bad. (Note the use of that adverb. It’s doubled, italicized, and bolded for a reason.) In fact, I’m almost a non-writer.

I won’t go into the grim specifics, but let’s just say that Real Life is kicking my ass.

The older I get, the more I realize there aren’t enough minutes in a day. Honest to God, it was just February and my return from the San Francisco Writers Conference last week! Wasn’t it?

I have three edits printed and waiting for me to slice and dice. Okay. So I did get to one of them about a month ago and made some significant progress, but then… yes. I ended up nowhere near my computer as I raced from one end of the world to the other.

So what do you do when life bitch-slaps you and leaves you with no time?

This is what I’ve been doing.

1. Write in my little notebook. The one I carry in my purse, religiously. I jot down ideas, lists, emotions, character traits I want to use later. Names. Places. Smells. Sights and sounds. It takes just a second. Sure it’s not a novel, probably it’s not serious, but every little bit helps.

2. Read. Here, I’m not doing so well, even with Kindle on my iPhone. BUT… I have discovered Audible.com. I am listening to THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand. I’m up to Chapter Three. I mostly listen in the car or…

3. While exercising. Because if you’re not going to exercise your brain, you might as well work out. Not that working out has made this aging hipster a babe. In fact, while losing a pants size, I have gained two pounds. Go figure.

4. Channeling my creativity to other endeavors. You don’t know how beautifully I can scrub soap scum off my shower tile. Of course, I have to break the chore up into four days. I can’t hack away in one sitting. Cooking is another way to expand on creativity, and it doesn’t take much time. Cooking, however, is fraught with pitfalls. According to my husband, who rails against my creme brulee or cherry duck, I should stop cooking altogether. But when I do, he gets mad.

5. Gardening. It is somewhat time consuming, but at least there are edibles at the end of the season.

6. As a writer, you should give yourself a simple, stupid-easy to accomplish task to achieve daily. Mine is THIS. I know. It’s frivolous, it’s silly, it’s dumb even, but it only takes me five minutes.

7. Buy a tool to help you in your quest to write. My current is 642 Things to Write About. I picked this book up at the airport in San Francisco on the way back from the writers conference (like I needed extra books? my bag was stuffed full of books -and wine), for a couple of reasons: 1., I am a HUGE Chronicle Books groupie, and 2., I often find myself without writing prompts. In fact, I just filled out a page yesterday.

Writing during real life can be done, although, the road isn’t exactly a scenic drive on new asphalt.  When the bulldozer threatens to mow you down, push back, even if the only tool you have is a child’s beach shovel.

It’s the only way to write.

Let’s Clear The Air: Editing is a Bitch

My New Year writing resolution would be going quite swimmingly, except for the fact that I’m editing (for the seventh time) Finding Cadence. I signed up for a mentor’s class at Savvy Author, and received the final edit back mid-December. So I’ve been industriously working on her suggestions as to plot and pacing, as well as tightening up my sentences and eliminating all of the unnecessary words. My goal is to finalize the edit and streamline The Epic Tome to 120K words. Should be easy, right? I’ve been working on this baby since 2007. I’ve taken classes, I’ve let BETA readers take a stab, and editors. I’ve bookmarked every helpful writer site on the Internet. This book should be just about finished. Armed with this kind of firepower, I should have the edit sewed up in no time.

Heh…

After this weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that editing is a bitch.

Saturday afternoon was spent on an entire chapter. After three hours of painstaking concentration, I was nearly ready to throw in the towel. (Yes, I have felt this way about this particular book many, many times in the last five years.) I had to get up, do something else. Changing the sheets seemed like a good idea, especially since I suffer from night sweats and my husband sleeps with a heating pad under his knee. Refreshed by the freshness of Bounced bedding, I returned to the computer, only to struggle for a few more hours.

I took out sentences, I shortened long, cumbersome ones. I reworded and eliminated gerunds and “justs” and questions and empty words like “oh” and “well.” (And “oh, well.”) Still, this particular chapter was a huge struggle, and I felt as though I wasn’t getting anywhere. Especially when I reached the end of the chapter and found my editor’s notes (she must have nothing to edit in between, they are always at the end). She thought I had to pick up the pace in order not to lose readers.

*sigh*

We’re talking Chapter 6 here. There are thirty more to go.

All of a sudden (I know…so cliche), I looked up and realized it was dark. I hadn’t even started dinner; heck, I wasn’t hungry. My husband was on his way home from work; I implored him to pick something up from the grocery store. (My normal modus operandi is to cook from scratch, which is probably why both of us need a crash diet. He was not amused that I hadn’t even planned a meal.) Luckily, I had just wrapped up Chapter 6 (for now), and rushed to put my computer away.

Sunday was a much better editing day. I actually breezed through three more chapters. Still, I’m on a search and destroy mission to pare the first part down. 7K to go. Oh, my.

Cross your fingers, and your toes.

Regrets and Resolutions: A Writer’s End of Year

I honestly don’t understand how some published authors are so prolific. Especially mind boggling are those who have small children, businesses or day jobs, health problems, and the like. My life (especially the last few months) is at times so chaotic, it’s sweet relief to fall into bed at night. As a result, writing as taken a definite back seat.

Yet I try to squeeze out some writing time on a regular basis. I could be doing other things, like being more productive in my business(es) (totally boring), working out (uber boring), or maintaining my house and yard (not so boring, but time consuming). I could promote my writing more, but I’d feel like a huckster on a street corner peddling apples. Plus I’m too laid back (i.e. lazy) to do real promotion. I’m an artist: you either love my work, or you don’t. No hard feelings.

If I have one writing regret of 2012, it’s that I haven’t written MORE. Unfortunately, life threw me a couple of obstacles this year, and precious time was taken up by other more pressing matters. Maybe I was hoping the Mayans were right and I’d have no qualms about my absenteeism if I didn’t wake up on the 22nd.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The sun came up the next day.

2013 is starting early for me. Like TODAY.  My writing resolutions are as such:

1. Write more. I know. I say this all the time, but I need self-flagellation on a regular basis. Perhaps I should pencil that in on my calendar? While I’m throwing that idea on the fire, perhaps blogging more would be a good idea too.

2. Write more carefully. (Excuse my probably bad sentence.) Use what I’ve learned over the last few years to prevent writing mistakes before they happen. That way I won’t have such a heavy burden when it comes time to…

3. Edit more carefully. I’ve been working on Finding Cadence since 2007. I’m on my sixth edit, and I’m amazed to find errors and awkward phrasing even now. While I’m not exactly pleased as punch with Virtually Yours, the book served a purpose, mainly to remind me that editing never ends.

4. Study more. I love the Savvy Authors web site. So far, I’ve taken two classes and found them to be most helpful. The support and feedback are wonderful.

5. Network more. While I don’t write genre romance (my work does have romantic elements) I belong to the RWA and the Greater Detroit RWA and I’m a terrible member. I need to attend more meetings. I might need to branch out and find a serious critique group.

6. And finally, finish all of the half-baked projects I have hidden on my hard drive. I’ve got excellent ideas and compelling stories, but they won’t finish themselves. Time is short; I am old. I really need to start writing as fast as I can. After all, if someone with children under the age of 5 can do it, I should be able to.

For writers, writing is life. It’s the air we breathe. We have to channel our imagination somewhere, or we turn into tortured souls.

Leaving now to find my source of oxygen.