Monthly Archives: October 2015

Narrowing My Focus

Narrowing My Focus




At the beginning of the week I tend to focus on blog posts. By Wednesday I have accrued enough, typically, that I can finish putting together the weekly newsletter and setting it in the queue to deliver at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning.

At this point, I look at my week and think, “Well, I’ve got Thursday and Friday, and time on the weekend to get some serious writing done.

Thursday rolls around and I sit there…

I squirm…

I click on Quicken and review bank balances and stress over looming shortages…

I manage to type a few lines in a story, some story, before…

Well, crap, what happens next? I need to actually have some details here and more storyline would help.

I stop, frustrated, and visit [fill in blank with time-sucking computer location – Facebook/Pinterest/News sites/etc]

I manage to write a couple more lines and obsessively check my word count. i realize I have a looongg way to go and suppress the urge to gnash my teeth and wail at the injustice of the manuscript not writing itself. I think of my daily house zone, today was dining room and art room, and mentally beat myself up for not having it cleaned already.

I do a little “research” and find myself paging through Facebook…AGAIN.

I’m taking Facebook, Candy Crush, and email off of my list of open programs on the computer or my cell phone…

Maybe that will help me focus. And then again, maybe it won’t.

I need to give up the stuff that is taking too much of my time away from writing.

I need to narrow my focus even more than I already have.

Somehow…




Oh look, I’m out of water. Time to go fill up my cup…

My Interview on Unblocked

My Interview on Unblocked





I meant to post about this far earlier and life has gotten in the way!

A few weeks ago I sat down with Charlie, host of a new podcast Unblocked – which focuses on writers and all manners of writing – bloggers, authors, and more.

We had a lovely conversation on all things writing and I truly enjoyed the experience. Charlie asked some great questions about the writing process, my blogs, and some of my current projects.

I think it was a great interview and I hope you will take a couple of minutes to listen to it. You can find it here.

I think it is also available through at least the iTunes store, but I am unsure as to how to access it. If you click on the link above, though, you can listen to it online.




Throwing Pasta

Throwing Pasta





I would love to say that being a writer pays off.

And when I say that, I know that it has, not always in money in hand, though.

The reality of life is that I don’t have the luxury of staying at home and not earning money. Even if I did, I really wonder if I would. There remains in me an incredibly independent streak – one that doesn’t feel as if I am “pulling my weight” if I’m not contributing monetary value to the family.

As usual, I’m slinging the metaphorical pasta at the wall. I thought of this earlier, while eating breakfast and thinking of a Zentangle book I would like to get published.

Years ago, riding the Muni in San Francisco, there were these quotes in the buses. I loved reading them and many stuck with me…”The way to a man’s stomach is through his esophagus,” and “Throw pasta on the wall, when it sticks, it’s done.”

Right now I’m struggling with:

  • Adding richness and detail to my writing (I tend to skim, rather than read every word, so it is actually very difficult for me to add that to my writing – but no worries, I’ll manage to get over it!)
  • Figuring out what writing pays.
  • Figuring out what writing within that “paying section” fits within my abilities and interests.

That last one is a biggie.

I recently discussed writing smut with all and sundry. I’m moving forward with it, but there are layers upon layers of smut. The erotica, all the way to the erotic romance, to the plain romance…there’s plenty of layers.

I’m learning at the moment what I can, and cannot, stand to do.

Super-kinky? Probably not for me. Heavy BDSM? Probably not.

I tend towards adventures and suspense. I tend towards strong women, good men (although bad boys work, especially those with a heart of gold), and relationships between two adults who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go for their goals – in the bedroom and out.

Back to that pasta on the wall thing…

Years ago, my husband said, “It’s like you keep throwing out ideas for income, kind of like pasta, and seeing what sticks.” And I’m still doing it.

What works?

Not just for producing income but for feeding my soul?

My friend Kerrie writes articles on parenting, kids, and more. She wrote a great book on how to write the articles and sell them, and their reprints, to local and national magazines. I tried it, and her strategy works but I quickly realized that I had no real interest in writing parenting articles. I have my blogs, and that works for me, but getting published in magazines not only doesn’t excite me, it feels like a bad fit. So I move on and try something different.

  • Writing and self-publishing the books I’ve got in my head
  • Trying out some erotic romance
  • Contacting a publisher about helping me create a Zentangle-inspired book

Yep, that will be something entirely new. Mainly because I cannot figure out how to do it self-published the usual way – Create Space (an Amazon subsidiary) doesn’t have the capability to handle an art book and I really want to do one.

So that’s another thing to do this week or next – put together a letter and send it out to some publishers who have worked with other Zentangle artists and see if I can get some interest. Who knows, maybe that will be the winning piece of pasta on the wall!



Learning Curve With Scrivener

Learning Curve With Scrivener





Scrivener Learning Curve

So I made the plunge into Scrivener the other day. I found the idea of it rather appealing – instead of scrolling through a manuscript each time I want to edit a certain section – instead I just go to the section.

It is sort of like a database for writers. You can add all of your files…Excel, Word docs, et cetera…into it for one stop editing and writing. And when your manuscript is ready to go, just hit Compile and it will put it in the correct format for uploading to Kindle, or as a manuscript for editing, et cetera.

It is, however, taking up vast swaths of hours as I import, adjust, and learn the ropes. As a result, I’ve done little or no writing in blogs or manuscripts.

Juggling of Projects? 

I envy one-trick ponies…I really do. At the moment I am in discussions on a possible non-fiction book project with an individual who recently received international news coverage. I can’t say too much more at this time other than, I would really like to work with this person and tell their story. I’ve sent a copy of my book The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale and hope to do a book that is part memoir/part call to action. One last tidbit…it would shed light on the prison industry in our country.

In addition, I’ve been chewing over the idea of writing smut for a while. I’m diving in, in a matter of speaking, and have set up a website and more as I work through ideas and more. Smut sells, folks, and I would love to make more than a latte’s worth of income on a monthly basis. More on this as things develop.

Lastly, now that I’ve finished my main learning curve with Scrivener, it is time to finish G5D (Gliese 581: The Departure). Yeah…working on that…sort of…

Interview With Unblocked

I meant to write a full post about my interview with Unblocked – a new podcast on writers. Charlie, who I have known for years through homeschool co-op interactions, interviewed me as her first guest. I was quite impressed by her list of questions – having been interviewed before by a variety of podcasters and on the Walt Bodine Show back in 2008, I can tell you that Charlie is definitely up there. She was well prepared, thoughtful, and sparked conversation on some great topics. You can find her website here, and listen to my interview as well as others.

Thanks Charlie for having me on your show!




The Big RESET

The Big RESET





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The new season of The Walking Dead premiered last Sunday. I have been an avid watcher of the show since its inception – just four episodes – that had me riveted, heart pounding with fear and dread, as the characters struggled to understand the world around them.

A few days before the season premiere, I tuned into NPR where they were discussing the popularity of the show. Why was it popular? What kept audiences coming back for more? 

Several opinions were put forth, but the ultimate reason was not. Perhaps it isn’t politically correct or acceptable for us to examine what I believe is the REAL reason so many people find The Walking Dead to be appealing (if that’s even the right word).

For me, and I think for many others, it is the ultimate reset. You push that big red RESET button and everything, EVERY THING, changes. The rules of the world we live in, with its laws, its courtesies, and its unspoken compromises simply ceases to exist.

My daughter Danielle has pointed out repeatedly that our primal minds can only really recognize a total of about 300 individuals. After that, all the rest simply become “those others.” In a world filled with seven billion souls, that’s a whole heck of a lot of “others.”

I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War. I was a teenager when the movie Red Dawn (the first rendition) came out. To my eyes, and to many others, this was not a far-fetched notion. We were just waiting for the other shoe to fall. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in the late 80s gave only a brief respite before the first Gulf War, then the Twin Towers bombings and the second Gulf War that followed rapidly behind.

Our media focuses on crime and sensational headlines to sell air space and keep people reading online and in print. And my gut reaction to all of it has been to write dystopian fiction, to dream of the big reset, and wonder just when those streets will run red with blood.

We never imagine though that hitting that big reset button will probably kill us off. No, we think of “the others” and imagine ourselves walking through the post-apocalyptic, dystopian, zombie-ridden landscape – alive, fighting the good fight, surviving the best we can.

So there you go. My thoughts on the big RESET. Thoughts? Opinions? Disagreements?




The Best 69 Cents I Ever Spent

The Best 69 Cents I Ever Spent





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Today, as we were driving to the library in Grandview, the subject of good writing versus bad writing came up. Em is reading a series of Minecraft story books that have Dee and Dave cringing (as well as complaining loudly) whenever she asks them to read to her.

“I’m reading this one on my own, Mama.” She said, after numerous rants from both of them on the poor quality of story line and writing technique.

For some reason, this reminded me of that ridiculous newsrag Weekly World News that I used to see at the checkout stand in the grocery store.

As an avid reader at a young age, I was captivated by the lurid headlines…

Bat Boy Sighted!

Aliens Sighted Living in Florida!

Two-Headed Baby Breathes Fire!

I knew the difference between fiction and non-fiction, but Weekly World News quite befuddled me. It appeared to be fiction, wrapped in the guise of non-fiction – an anachronism, bewildering.

I remember reading the headlines and turning and asking my stepfather about the paper. He called it trash and refused to answer any further questions about it.

Each week I stared at it, and grew more and more curious.

One week I brought three quarters with me to the grocery store and bought the paper, much to my stepfather’s horror and displeasure. “You are just throwing your money away,” he said, shaking his head.

It was instead the best 69 cents (plus tax) that I ever spent.

Weekly World News at that time, in the early 80s was full of absolute sensationalist crap. I read about how Johnny Carson’s marriage had just ended in divorce papers being filed and the magazine said, “We broke this story five years ago and see it was true!” I might have been eleven but I wasn’t stupid, five years is a long time to wait to be “right.” And their accuracy was anything but.

I needed to understand it – this strange hybrid of fiction/non-fiction. Holding it in my hands reading the lines that were so contradictory, so much an issue of drawing ridiculous, far-fetched conclusions…somehow it helped me understand.

It makes me wish that all of life’s lessons could have come so cheaply.

 


Hello Wall…I Hate You

Hello Wall…I Hate You





I mentioned that I was having a little problem with forward momentum on G5D (Gliese 581: The Departure) the other day, which I attempted to solve by printing what I had of the manuscript out, placing it in date order, and going through each chapter to ferret out exactly what needed to be added/deleted/changed.

Ariel Gore described it well in her book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment so I’m not quoting verbatim, but basically she said that you get to a point where you are writing your book and you are just sick and tired of looking at it. You want it done, out, finished. The relationship is over and you are ready to move on.

I think that there is also another stage that occurs…that one that stops most writers in their tracks, often creating and endless cycle of rewrites or perhaps an abandoned project. It is that moment when all you can do is stare at the manuscript and think…“It’s shit. I’ve written shit. No one will want to read it, I’m tired of reading it. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t grab my interest. Yep, I’ve just spent days/weeks/months writing shit.”

And that is where I sit at the moment. I may keep talk, talk, talking about G5D, but right now, I’ve just hit a wall. All forward momentum has stopped.

I’ve kind of got my hands full peeling my face off of said wall and trying to figure out my next step.

I’m not entirely sure how to proceed. Do I give the manuscript as it stands to my eldest and beg her to read it and give me some “atta girls?” This while secretly (or not so secretly since she reads my blogs) nursing the fear that she will say in her nicest tone…”It’s a good start,” before petering off in the face of this monumental failure to produce a solid product.

Yes, I have fears like that. Heck, I’m practically riddled with them.

I’m not giving up. But I am stepping back for a little while. Perhaps inspiration will hit and the wall will crumble. Who knows?




Frame of Reference

Frame of Reference




 

Today would have been a great day to get some writing done on Gliese 581: The Departure. I had nearly four hours, alone with my thoughts, but despite several attempts, it simply was not happening.

That’s okay, I’ve got a fall-back…well…several.

I spent some time journaling. I try to do this every day, but usually manage about four entries per week. And then I decided to pick up a book I had barely delved into, The Circle by Dave Eggers.

After two hours of obsessive reading, I’m nearly halfway through the book and let me say, it’s giving me some serious mental shivers.

I am struck by how random events in our lives connect in the oddest of ways.

This has been a bit of a tough week for me – a family member had said some pretty hurtful things and it took me a couple of days to process it all. Truth be told, I’m still processing. Thin skin, by the way, is not a bad thing. I might feel a lot of emotion, but the opposite would be far worse. I would prefer to feel hurt, recognize it as a warning that I was around someone who is toxic, and allow it to help me establish boundaries where boundaries so obviously need to be laid.

My eldest and I have talked it over, this issue with the family member, and it has brought up some memories from more than 20 years ago, when she was young and I finally got the courage up to leave my first husband. There was no small amount of verbal and emotional manipulation in that relationship aimed towards me. Note on this for future reference – Be NICE to your meal ticket, not mean. Eventually, the meal ticket gets tired of being trod upon and goes away.

As I explained to my eldest, “I had no frame of reference, no differing opinions, only the one message – that I was the one who was flawed, I was the one who was failing – as a mother, a wife, a daughter, and as a human being.”

When you are surrounded by that message, when you have no other to go on, it is a very difficult thing to extricate yourself from the situation. You might entertain the sneaking suspicion of wrongness, but in the face of no other message to the contrary, what else can you believe? And I think that, given enough time in a situation like that, enough years of that kind of mental control or manipulation, you could spend the rest of your life wondering who is really at fault – you for failing to be the person your partner or family member expects you to be, or (again) you for allowing them to carve you into something you are not?

Dave Eggers is doing an excellent job weaving a “circle” around the protagonist Mae that mimics this very same experience. A Facebook friend recently directed me to the term “gaslighting” and its description isn’t too far off from what is occurring in the book, albeit under friendlier pretenses (so far).

Returning to my story for a moment – this same family member used the term sociopath to describe me on at least one occasion, and when I challenged it, the person craftily replied, “Well, I don’t know that you aren’t a sociopath.”

That messed with my head for a while. So much so that I mentioned it to a psychologist I was seeing at the time. He laughed at me. A lot. Note: Sometimes psychologists can be jerks. And when he finished laughing he explained, “The fact that you would even wonder if you were, or be concerned about it, is evidence that you are not. Sociopaths could care less about what others think.”

Whew, not a sociopath. Well, that’s one mental condition I don’t have to worry about suffering from!

Now back to the book. I’m very curious to see where this story leads, and how The Circle ends because it is Big Brother meets Facebook meets Social Design on steroids. It is creepy, unsettling, and a look at a plausible reality in the near future. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

And as for that family member? There comes a time when we can choose to spend time with the people we hold in high esteem, and avoid those who we do not…for our own personal, emotional well-being. And that is the route I am taking…for reals this time.




A Different View

A Different View

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It seems inevitable…at some point or another, I’ll hit that wall where I know I need to add more to a story, but my writing has slowed to a crawl.

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The end is in sight, but my fingers and brain have declared a state of war.

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So here I am – 62,599 words in on Gliese 581: The Departure and feeling rather…stymied.

So I printed it out. All 198 pages. And because I have several different story lines going here, I stapled the individual chapters and sorted them in date order, by story line.

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Now I will read through them, make notes on the pages, add thoughts and ideas, and then return to the manuscript on my computer to finish working on the manuscript.

Sometimes, you just need a different view on things!

Tens of Tens – A Preview

Tens of Tens – A Preview

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My work on Gliese 581: The Departure continues and here is another chapter preview for you to read. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave your comments, I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter!

Tens of Tens

Dr. Anthony Vogt bowed his head and rubbed his temples. The conference room table was strewn with coffee cups and stacks of folders and the room was in an uproar. It was the third meeting for the selection team in charge of the final selection process for the crew of Calypso. The first week had gone smoothly, but last week and this week there had erupted an ongoing argument into the question of whether there should be a representation of the major religions of Earth in the contingent.

The room had divided itself into three factions, those of faith, the atheists, and those who felt that there was some kind of balance to be made. Dr. Mendez was of the first variety, Dr. Lowenstein was quite clearly in the second camp, and Anthony found himself in the third. As for the other five members of the team, two had left in disgust moments ago, and the other three were positioning themselves on either Mendez or Lowenstein’s side of the argument.

Sal Mendez and Oren Lowenstein stood toe to toe, red-faced and shouting.

Sal looked as if he were courting a coronary. His eyes bulged and his large beefy hands were curled into fists. He was tall, as well as wide, and looked as if he could stand to lose a good fifty pounds. His black hair bristled, and sweat flew from the tips as he shook in rage at the suggestion Oren Lowenstein had just made. From his neck up, he was bright red, except at the forehead which was actually starting to look purple. “We are nothing without God!” he shouted at Oren.

Oren was slim, also dark-haired and despite the size difference, he did not look afraid of the larger man in the least. “Oh yes, and whose God do we speak of? Hmm? The God whose Jews killed Christ? Or perhaps the Muslim’s Allah, who has extremists at every corner?” His eyes snapped with anger, “Better yet, let’s send the Mormons, shall we?”

Anthony tried to intervene, “If we could just…” Neither man paid any attention to him.

Mendez was a good man, but he was also a devout Catholic. And he had been known to argue, rather vociferously, for hours in support of the duality of faith and science. Lowenstein, whose father had been an Orthodox rabbi, was an atheist to the core and unafraid to call others, especially his fellow scientists, fools if they professed any sign of faith or belief in a higher power.

“God will judge the godless!”

“Do you believe in the tooth fairy and Easter bunny as well?”

“To send a man out into the stars without faith to guide him is sacrilege!”

“Perhaps we should also bring hexes and make sure everyone knows how to ward off demons!”

“Blasphemer!”

“Idiot!”

“ENOUGH!” Anthony’s bellow cut through both men’s shouts and startled the rest of the room into silence. The abrupt silence allowed Anthony some respite from his pounding headache, but he knew he had very little time before it started up again. “We will show each other respect, and that includes all faiths or lack thereof.”

The folder that had started today’s argument was that of Jacob Carter, age 44, a brilliant and respected psychotherapist who also held a doctorate in Ethnobotany. His age was close to the cut-off – one of the decisions early on by the Board had been that all applicants would be young, allowing for the physical advantages and adaptability of youth to adjust to the higher gravity and challenging circumstances of the new world they would be presented with.

The Board members had agreed that the maximum age should be 45 years at time of departure.

But Jacob’s age was not of particular concern. He was one of the handful of ‘over forty’ age applicants, yes, but it was his recent conversion that had sparked controversy. Applicants were given extensive physical and psychological tests as well as essay-type questions designed to elicit as much personal information about the applicant as possible. Under Personal Beliefs he had candidly written about his decision to attend seminary and become an ordained Methodist minister five years before. “It is my dream that I may take the word of God to the stars, as a comfort to those of faith in the darkness of space.”

A man who not only professed his faith but was interested in proselytizing? This revelation had raised Lowenstein’s fur, and he had said something disparaging about the religion, setting off Mendez.

“Look,” Anthony continued, ignoring Mendez’s labored breathing, the man looked closer to a heart attack than he was comfortable with, “This is about choosing the tens out of the tens.”

Sal’s face was slowly reverting from the alarming purple hue to a slightly more subdued red. Oren’s face, while never as red as Sal’s was also beginning to relax, “Jacob Carter is a ten out of ten,” he snapped, “despite being a…” he frowned slightly, “Methodist.” He couldn’t resist a roll of the eyes.

Anthony jumped in quickly, “Yes, he is. He fits into our needed skillsets – his addition will make five total individuals with degrees in the various areas of botany and the only one with an ethnobotany degree. His abilities as a psychotherapist are well known as well. He has served as a crisis counselor during the Narine conflict and has passed all of the physical and psychological tests with flying colors.”

His eyes ran down the summary page, then flipped to the back half, “Family history is negative for any mental illness, early death, or inherited diseases. His bone structure is optimal and his heart is good. Dr. Carter has also expressed an interest in studying oceanology and assisting Fuller in exploring the anomalies reported in the Decca Strait and, while he does not have any children, is fully functional and willing to either pair and reproduce with a suitable partner or adopt from an unrelated source carried by a surrogate.”

He looked back at Mendez and Lowenstein. They had both slipped back into the plush armchairs that lined the long conference table and seemed to have settled down. Mendez was still pink and Lowenstein was pretending indifference as Anthony had read out loud to them.

Anthony continued, “Let’s put him in the final 400 and move on, shall we? All in favor?”

The five men and women present each voted for Carter, even Lowenstein, who couldn’t resist adding, “At least he’s a Methodist,” he stared dismissively at Mendez, “which means he is relatively reasonable.”

Mendez’ face flushed red all over again.

Anthony sighed, next on the agenda were the couples and young families who had applied to join in the quest to Zarmina’s World, including twenty gay and lesbian couples. After such a ridiculous fight over religion, Anthony was dreading the inevitable conflict over gay unions.

He opened the first folder, “Jack Dunn and Kevin Edmonds, ten year partnership, one four year old adopted son. Jack is a videographer, historian, author and experienced sailor. Kevin is well versed in communications, and has studied extensively in Africa and South America on native building materials. It also notes under education that he has a minor in entomology and he has expressed an interest in cataloguing new species once we are on-planet.”

A murmur from the far corner of the room had begun immediately after hearing the names. It seemed that the homophobic contingent was now rearing their ugly heads. Anthony sighed in resignation and turned his attention to the elderly female board member. Might as well get this over with now.