Periodically #6 – Surviving November and Planning December

cropped-periodically3.jpg

This is a week late coming out. Sorry. I had things to do… 🙂

Are we all ready for December and Christmas?

If you are not like me, you’ll be giddy with anticipation, unable to contain yourself with Christmas joy. However, if you are like me, you’ll say something like “Christmas is just another day.” “I hate winter!” – because I suffer from SAD and I despise snow (it’s already snowed in Michigan 6 inches!) “It’s too commercial for my tastes.” Or my favorite: “Bah humbug!” Winter is the season where I’m in a constant state of hunkering down. The first week and a half of December, I’ll be “dad sitting.” He’s doing better but needs a monitor. I’m hoping the skies will be bright blue in Colorado while I’m there, as blue skies help my mood immensely.

Great news in the midst of the depression that is winter: My son is coming home for Christmas! He was just here, but he hasn’t come back for Christmas since 2007. With my daughter living here now and my son coming back, we’ll be all together for the first time in ages.

Write News:

My NaNoWriMo efforts this year came in fits and starts. I didn’t do much the first few days, made up some time in the middle, and rushed to get the requisite 50K by the end of November in the last few days. However, Real Life got in the way and I couldn’t get to verifying my word count (51,200) until after I’d arrived in Colorado. Throw in Thanksgiving Day and the Leon and Lulu Artist Market (a smashing success), and you can see why I was up to my armpits in Things to Do.

This year’s effort is not a complete novel (NaNo is not meant for that), but the story line of Waiting on Charity has started to really take shape. I’ve decided for all three women to have a secret. One hasn’t told her daughter she’s adopted; one hasn’t told a family that they are moving to the other side of the country; the teenage girl in the story won’t tell anyone who the father is. I used Michelle Richmond’s Story Starter, which is a great tool. It’s filled with writing exercises. I used each one on each main character to build up an idea of who these women are. I don’t know about you, but when I begin to write, my characters seem shallow and stereotypical. They have very little depth. The more I write, the more I think about why they are the way they are, the more threads I can weave into the story line. My plan for December is to let Waiting on Charity rest a month, while I tackle that dreaded re-write of Virtually Yours Forever.

Interesting Articles:

I’d never thought about writing a memoir (really, who’s life is more blah than my own?), but this is a good article which makes me think about doing so more seriously.

For those of you who were having trouble with NaNoWriMo, there’s this sage advice for those who want to beat themselves up if they don’t make the magic 50K goal.

For those of you who shoot from the hip and blurt out what comes to mind without thinking of the consequences, here’s an article about treading lightly on social media. Once you’ve said it online, you can’t take it away.

Reading This Month:

I finished Meg Donohue’s All the Summer Girls on my plane trip to Colorado. Entertaining women’s fiction. A good beach read.

I’ve started reading Elmore Leonard’s Four Novels of the 1970s. These include Fifty-two Pickup, Swag, Unknown Man No. 89, and Switch.

Musical Notes:

Thanks to one of my high school chums, I found out that Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver fame had a short recording career. If you watch and listen to THIS, you’ll know why. I’ll never look at the Beave the same again.

Quote of the Month:

I have never developed indigestion from eating my words. ~Winston Churchill

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! or whatever you celebrate or don’t.


 

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

 

Advertisements

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

Real Life Imitates Art, and Then Some

My first self-published book, Virtually Yours, is a tale of Internet relationships. The online moms’ group featured in the novel is loosely based upon an online group I’ve belonged to since the mid-90’s. We’d met each other in an AOL chat room on our way to scoring Beanie Babies for our then-babies, and somehow forged and maintained the friendship for the last almost twenty years. (Almost twenty years – holy cow!) We have weathered relationships, breakups, hook-ups, our kids growing up, Columbine, 9-11, job searches, health issues, family loss – you name the life change, and we’ve lived through and commiserated with each other over it.VIrtually Yours (300dpi 2700x1800)

I penned the second novel in the series, Virtually Yours Forever, about a year and a half ago. (Yes, there might be a third in the works. I have ideas, lots of ideas. 🙂 Once I get a spare minute to get them down…Ah, ha ha ha….) For those of you who have been waiting patiently for me to produce VY4Ever, yes, I know. I’m slow. VERY slow. I’ve been picking at a couple of other projects at the same time. I swear, I have adult onset ADD, because just when I get going on one track, a shiny bauble tempts me from the other side of the room – or my laptop.

Now comes Real Life word that might get my butt into gear with regard to finishing the sequel.

One of my Beanie Mom friends has invited all of us to her daughter’s wedding…in Las Vegas, this September! At the Bellagio! Can you say O-M-G?

Now I have met some of the moms at various points in the last decade and a half. There are a couple who I’ve missed, for whatever the reason. It’s far easier to maintain a long distance relationship with the Internet and cell phones, a helluva lot easier than it was 20 years ago when we emailed, arranged to meet in private chat rooms, or snail mailed. Although we still maintain our email ‘loop’, we now have a private Facebook group, and we send each other group texts on a regular basis. We keep in touch using Instagram and Pinterest. It’s like we’re right next door, even though we’re all over the country.

This might be the first time we’ll all be in the same place at the same time, and you can bet I’m going to do my best to be there.

What is funny is that the premise of VY4ever is a wedding gone (partially) awry. (There are some other things going sour too, but I’m not going to spoil it by revealing too much.) While I don’t wish sweet Rachel (the Real Life bride) and her mother a wedding from hell, you can bet your booties if I make it to the ceremony, I’m going to take furious notes.

Honest to God. A writer needs Real Life. Some things you just can’t make up.

With Real Life to Contend With, How Can You NOT Write?

Once, two, maybe three years ago, I suffered from a case of Lack of Writing. I refuse to call the inability to string a series coherent sentences outlining character and plot ‘writer’s block’ – I wasn’t blocked as much as I was overwhelmed/tired/bored/busy/juggling/severely ADD. After several weeks (or maybe months) of N-O-T-H-I-N-G – not a chapter, not a paragraph, not a word, I emailed my ED, throwing him an SOS. I couldn’t believe I was without WORDS. Nice guy, he offered an online intervention, but since I haven’t been able to sign into my Yahoo! account since 2009, getting to the messenger for my wake up call was daunting.

He probably could have called me to jump start my flat-lined ambition, but he didn’t have to. While in the middle of figuring a way around Yahoo! (lowly step-brother of that demon-child Google), something happened. Something epic.

I began to write.

There was no “ah-ha” moment, no light bulb over my head. No dynamiting the log jam, or self-abuse. Somehow, some way, without prompts or nudging,  somewhere in the puzzle of getting hooked up, I wrote.

I must admit that I do love a good writing prompt. I have a whole book of them I can turn to in case of brain freeze. A writing competition is a great tool for getting the juices flowing, especially if you get a friend or two involved. But sometimes LIFE is more than enough impetus to write. Even if it threatens to bury you. (Especially if it threatens to bury you.)

The past few months have found me in that lazy/overwhelmed/tired/bored mode. Sometimes it’s  hard to get excited. Sometimes your creative energy is sucked out of you. Many times there’s no TIME. Writing, as all my  creative pursuits, is an indulgent luxury. (I hope it always is.) Many pressing tasks stand between me and my computer and three hours of peace and quiet. I’ve taken to notebooks and writing quickies when I have a minute to spare.

This is my life the last few months: business, people quitting, friends and family contending with illness or other challenges, drama and more drama, money (or lack of), a crumbling house, the police and jail (don’t ask) – with all this Real Life to contend with, how can I NOT write? The only things I haven’t experienced in the last few months would be dragons, murder (although someone did threaten my husband’s life), and vampires, but there’s always tomorrow.

Today my temporary Lack of Writing has officially ended. I’ve been writing like a fool ever since.

Look out, world.

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.

What’s In a Name? Just About Everything!

Funny this article came through my email blast today, regarding naming your characters. Just in time, right when I needed it.

(As an aside: “Grayson?” Are you kidding me? I would have never come up with such a name. George, maybe, but never Grayson.)

I’m in awe of writers who can come up with witty names for their characters. They’re also the ones with inventive Twitter handles and email addresses. I am notoriously terrible when it comes to character names (and Twitter handles and email addresses – it’s j-l-h-u-s-p-e-k for everything). I usually use something generic and stupid, until I’ve finished the piece and start the first edit. Then inspiration might hit me like a bolt of lightning and I might come up with something more interesting. Maybe. Maybe not.

Now that I’ve finished my second edit of Finding Cadence, I’m seriously considering name changes. The manuscript is almost ready for querying, and I don’t want to saddle my baby with character names that are humdrum. I can just see some agent looking at my query and saying, “Maggie? She couldn’t think of anything besides Maggie?” I must give the name process careful consideration; after all, this book is my labor of literary love. When I first began writing, the original name for Cadence’s two-timing husband was “Tom” – as in my brother Tom. I love you, Brother Tom, but the name is BORING. Then my daughter went away to college and hooked up with an a**hole surfer boyfriend from Marin named Carter. After a bit of drama which included several tickets he incurred on her car and a trip to the emergency room (accompanied by a panicked phone call in the middle of the night), I decided to rename my errant-husband-character CARTER. Fit perfectly, and gave me more than a smidgen of satisfaction to click “Find-Replace” with such wild abandon.

Actually, I labored over Cadence’s name for a long time. I started writing the story without a first name, that’s how bad I was. I wanted a musical inference, and Harmony was too cheesy. (My apologies to anyone named Harmony. It’s not personal, honest.) Melody is Cadence’s sister’s name. Then I opened up my son’s Dictionary of Musical Terms and Cadence popped out at me. Now the name makes so much sense, since she didn’t feel any harmony at all for the duration of the story, and her life’s cadence endured its shares of ups and downs.

I might have to rename “Bill,” Jackson’s (Cadie’s son) roommate. I just don’t like the name, it doesn’t fit the character. The character is a big, lumbering, old hippie type. Smart, laid-back, and mildly attractive. Teddy, perhaps? Jerry? Kenneth? Definitely not Fabian.

In Virtually Yours, I ended up renaming just about everyone. Diana became SKYE, Lori became LAUREN, Scarlett became RHETT. (In that case, there was a gender change as well. Don’t ask me, just read the book to find out.)

By the time I’d penned Oaks and Acorns and Acorns and Oaks, I’d already started with kick-ass main character names. Amberly Cooper. Maya Cooper. Clementine Bartlett. Of course, I’m not happy with the sister’s name. Martina. Don’t like it. I’ll probably change it someday. I also will have to change the name of Amberly’s love interest, Trent, and probably Grandma’s. Don’t like either one.

I tend to draw upon my real life peeps for names, which might be why I’d gravitate toward George rather than Grayson. My choices may be thinly or heavily disguised. For example, Jackson’s girlfriend’s initials are M.T., just like the initials of the Real Life girl I based her on. Or I might name someone after a place I’ve been. Blaine comes to mind.

Come to think of it, I had a difficult time naming both of my kids. We called our son “Baby Boy” and wouldn’t name him until the hospital threatened to not release him without a name. And while I came up with my daughter’s name while she was still in utero, we ended up changing her middle name from George (there I go again) to Cristina. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I wanted to keep the peace.

Perhaps I name my characters lamely because they are just germs of ideas, not full fledged people, at least, not until I take them out for a spin and slap them around a little. I saddle them with emotions and problems and flaws they must overcome. Only then do they somehow morph from a two-dimensional thought into a many-layered organism.

The Story Within The Story

I come from a very large family, with lots of siblings and even more cousins. Even though my sisters and brother and I shared the same parents (and my cousins the same grandparents), our view of our collective upbringing varies wildly. I notice this more now that I have children of my own. There’s only two of them, but according to them, their childhoods couldn’t be more different. When I get together with my sibs and relive old times, it’s like conversing with five strangers.

I’ve noticed the same with those in my high school class. Some are new friends, connected late in life by Facebook and reunion dinners. Others I’ve been friends with since the very beginning. No matter what the history, our recollections can be unique, if we can remember them at all.

We’re all different, and our stories are different, even though the principals and the plot are the same. Even though we live through the same crisis, at the same time, our brains will never see the same facts in the same way.

A good novel weaves the stories of all of its characters seamlessly, not just the antics of the protag and the antagonist. I’d never noticed the careful crafting of a good book before; I was too busy enjoying myself to take it apart, but there are typically stories within the story, interwoven like a hand-loomed sweater. You need all those loops, not just the main show.

I used to rather stupidly write from the top of my head, with little forethought to plot or character development or story lines or arcs. Hell’s bells, I was on a tear. Who had time to think? I was writing as fast as I could. Those “minor” components could be added later, tweaked and polished once the words “The End” came into view. (Boy, was I a rube!)

I now realize (after a lot of revision and editing and plot changes on the first two stories) that it’s a whole lot easier to begin plotting and character development before you sit down at the computer and begin pounding out dialogue.

Last summer, Mr. Ed gave me a series of assignments to complete before he began editing. One was to describe each character and their story. He knew each was unique, but they all came out sounding like…ME. (All of them are me, but they’re also not.)

My first thought was “Oh, come on. You can’t see them? One’s overweight, one’s a beauty queen, one’s gay, one’s down-home and honest. One’s a gadabout, one’s a middle-aged mom. You can’t see that?”

NO, he couldn’t see them that way, mostly because I hadn’t written them that way. I knew who they were and what they were doing, but no one else could see them. In deconstructing the characters, I realized I hadn’t really seen them in the way I wanted them to appear. That’s because I took the lazy-man’s way out of it and told more than I showed.

Boring.

In the last week, I’ve taken my other WIPs and done the same thing: List the cast of characters and write a sentence or two about their story. Because, you know, their view of the proceedings has necessarily got to be different than my protag. They’re not just pawns on the chessboard; they all have stories of their own. I wrote each in long-hand in my notebook (ecosystem – I’m cured from Moleskine), and when I forget about a personality quirk or trait and it all melds together, I can open it up and find my true characters.

It was a good exercise. Now back to writing.