Category Archives: The Writing Process

In Moments Like These

In Moments Like These

The Good

The good news first, shall we?

I spent a huge part of yesterday in the planning stages for Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World.

I waded through my list of characters first. In each book I write, I maintain a list of characters as well as a timeline. The list of characters is a table which lists:

  • First Name, Last Name and Maiden Name (if applicable)
  • Hair and Eyes
  • Born and Died
  • Location (I only use this when I’m dealing with multiple locations – like Gliese, Earth and Mars)
  • Notes – this might include information on their lineage, what they do, and their strengths

If I need to, I will add a character page into Scrivener as a sub-page of the character table. So far, I have added just one. A new character, Syn Travani, who is on Earth.

So yesterday was spent figuring out WHO was still alive (that plague was a doozy, after all) and where they were at. I listed the characters out and delineated whether they were on Earth, Mars or Gliese. I also added a handful of characters that I know I’ll need.

I also spent time re-acquainting myself with the story. This may sound silly to you, but I have forgotten a lot of what I have written. Which is always a nice surprise – I opened up the book, saw all of those neat words arranged on a page and got a satisfying, “I wrote that!” thrill. I’ll let you know when that grows old because so far, it feels GREAT every time I crack open one of my books.

I came up with some, but not all, of the major (and minor) plot points I want to weave into the book.

And finally, sore from sitting and typing and writing, I tottered off to fold laundry, read to Em, and then read a small bit for myself before I was off to bed.

Note to self: I really should re-read the entire Gliese book and take notes on avenues to explore in the new book.

The Not So Good

I woke up at 4 a.m. thinking about STUFF. In particular, I thought of my maternal line, one I swore I would do differently than generations before.

I will explain.

Growing up, my mother and my maternal grandmother were endlessly at odds. Mum (my name for my grandmother) would say something to Mom – it was usually judgmental, meddlesome, or downright manipulative. She would do the same to me and I hated it. I watched my mother wrestle with two opposing imperatives – be respectful to her mother and yet protect/defend herself.

As a result, Mum and Mom didn’t spend much time together. And when they did, it was strained and full of thick, tense air, words and deeds.

Mum has been gone for 16 years now. I wonder if her relationship with her mother was much the same. I know that my great-grandmother did not ever live with Mum. Instead, she lived with her eldest daughter, Beulah, until she died. I haven’t heard much, after all, it is poor form to speak ill of the dead, but I get the feeling she was a difficult person to get along with.

Growing up, and seeing this relationship (or lack thereof) between my mother and my grandmother – I knew I wanted different. I remember thinking, with the simple idealized hope of youth, that I could make things different. I would not have the same relationship with my mother. My daughters and I would not have the same relationships either. I would do better, I would be a good mom, maybe even a fun mom, and when my kids grew up, I would back off and not continue to try and parent (i.e. nag and judge) them forever after. I would honor their transition to adulthood and return to the sidelines and enjoy a new relationship with them based on respect and equality. I would not end up like my mom and grandmother.

Or so I told myself.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night, pregnant with my firstborn, in hysterical tears of fear, scared I wouldn’t be a good mom. My husband would laugh then, tell me I would do fine. Later, years later, even before I left him, he diligently remembered my fears and reminded me of them at every turn. “You’re an awful mother.” I believed it for years.

In the ten, now eleven years since my eldest turned eighteen, I have walked the razor’s edge. Do I tell her when she is with some guy I think has serious mommy issues or is dysfunctional? Do I say anything when she drops out of school yet again? Do I offer advice or stay silent?

I have chosen again and again to stay silent. Partly because I believed it would harm not help to give my opinion or unasked for advice. And also because, in the end, it is her life, not mine, to live. Perhaps it is best to kiss some real toads rather than have a parent giving you unasked for advice while seeing only half of the picture.

Even as I stayed true to my beliefs, as I kept my silence, my mother would make an appearance. She would tell me (without any prompting from me, thank you very much) how to live, what to wear, and send another wave of judgment my way. Just experiencing it kept me steady on my course. I would be different. I would be better.

And then I received a letter in early February from my child, doing the SAME THING that my mother had done to me all of my life, something that my mother’s mother had done to her, and god knows how far back. The letter labeled me, dispensed unasked for advice, and was generally dismissive of who I am and what I have done. And I was absolutely floored by it. She had lived with me for 18 months. We had been at peace through much of it, but the letter basically gave me two options: agree with her on her points and I don’t know, apologize for being so busy dealing with my unwanted father (the grandfather she hated) when he was at death’s door that I hadn’t come to visit her, or accept that I had somehow screwed up royally. And honestly? I couldn’t take it anymore. Not another human being, one that I had actually raised, sacrificed and provided for long after she was grown, telling me I was insufficient, that I was lacking, that I was LESS than the ideal mother she wanted.

Just like I couldn’t take my mother’s new and weird assertions that her granddaughters (especially the sweet little ten-year-old) didn’t want to spend time with her. Something I tried pointing out she would make a reality if she continued to voice it. There is nothing like being labeled, it makes the person want to be exactly what they are being called, after all, what point is there in being anything else? It isn’t as if you have disproved anything by living your life differently – others will believe what they want despite your best efforts.

I broke ties with both of them.

But it isn’t as simple as that. It never is. Do you excise the love along with the hurt? Do you make your heart a patchwork of No Trespassing signs and roads that you can no longer drive upon?

So here I was at 4 a.m., obsessing over mistakes I made when rearing my firstborn, fearing what seems like the inevitable curse of my maternal line, and I realized…

My fears – that fate has a far stronger hand in our future than I would care to admit – are what I write about and what I live.

Every day.

I don’t want to continue the pattern. I’ve tried like hell to break free of it. I’ve consciously worked at being different for the entirety of my adult life, and despite my efforts, I find myself in the same position. I can’t help wondering what Em thinks of it all. What her internal dialogue is saying as she watches my relationship with her sister and grandmother teeter and falter. Does she promise herself the same thing?

“It will be different. I’ll make it different.”

Does she promise herself that when she sees me mourning the relationships I wished I had?

It also makes me realize that the Kapalaran Universe (kapalaran is Filipino for “fate”) is an extension of these questions. That, not unlike the Philosophy 101 test question I agonized over some 20 years ago is still bouncing around in my head.

Do we have free will? Or is some pre-destination involved?

I have always thought that I could change the paradigm. I believed it with the fervor of the newly baptized. I wanted it to be different, agonized for a new reality free of judgment, hurt feelings, and resentment.

Fate, if it exists, and exist it must because damned if I haven’t tried my best to shake it, is a many-tentacled bitch of a beast.

It Isn’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

It Isn’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

I want to be clear, that what I say next, needs no helpful advice on your part. Feel free to read it, and then carry on with your day.

So, after spending something like the fourth day in a row, drilling out words on the page, ticking off the “to do” labels and watching my word count surge from a few hundred at the beginning of last week all the way to over 30k today, I was on top of the world.

I even managed to net two more reviews on Gliese 581: Departure, bringing my total up to thirteen total reviews.

You know, someday I’m going to read that number and just smile and smile, folks.

I was feeling good, feeling ready to take on the world. If you read my last post, I think my enthusiasm was quite evident.

I drove off to a playdate, and as I drove home, the thought occurred…

I’m writing the Chronicles of Liv Rowan series next – and it ranges from 2001-2016 – but then there is War’s End, which starts at the end of 2017. I’ve dated myself, haven’t I? People are going to read this and be like, “that was so last year.”

And on and on. In fact, I spent most of my twenty minute drive trying my best to NOT think about it. My foot kept pressing down on the accelerator. I needed to get home, get back in front of the computer and break the cycle of self-doubt before it took hold.

I got home, stared at the computer, and began the loop that I do when I’m feeling full of self-doubt or angst:

  • Check Facebook
  • Check email
  • Check Amazon stats
  • Check website stats
  • Look for more reviews of my book
  • Read through the reviews I’ve got
  • Check Facebook
  • Check email

You know, the loop.

A non-productive, increasingly obsessive loop of pointless pointing and clicking.

The same, non-active, busywork I typically engage in when I can’t figure out what to write.

Worse, it’s indicative of that steep dip – in productivity, belief in self, the works.

I recently read about a guy who says that one of the best way to power through these dips or, dare I say writer’s blocks, is to write about them. And that is this post here.

My ego and self-doubt – they get to warring with each other and the result is I’m stuck in limbo.

I tried again, and just could not get back into the story, so I sat back to read a little from a suspense/thriller book I had picked up from the library. Dave came down and asked if I wanted to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which I couldn’t resist, having loved the first movie so much.

I think it was just the shot in the arm I needed.

And now it’s back to work for me…at least for a few minutes…before I head off to bed. I needed a good laugh, happy cry, and time away to remind myself I can actually do this.

I Found the Flow!

I Found the Flow!

One of the biggest difficulties I encounter in writing is finding the flow.

It is a state of mind, perhaps a taste of higher consciousness, when the words just spill out and the words leap willingly onto the paper.

When it happens, it is bliss. Liquid gold, the best damn chocolate you’ve ever tasted, a moment of glory.

The words don’t stutter and stop, the ideas make sense, and I find writing to be the joyful experience I wish all work could be.

I’ve been struggling for weeks with only limited success. For now, however, I seem to have settled my intention on what promises to be a novella-size story – Schicksal Turnpike.

Set mostly in the 1950s, I’m currently at 5,500 words, so I have a way to go. A novella is considering anything between 17,500 and 40,000 words. I’ve finished two of the eighteen chapters so far. Some chapters have been started, others have only notes reviewing what the chapter is about.

Every time I think of doing something else, though, the story pulls me back in.

And believe me, I’m breathing a sigh of relief over that!

I wonder if I will ever stop doubting myself. If I will ever stop thinking, “That’s it, obviously [insert most recent book title her] was it. My swan song, if you will. I’m done, my creativity spent. I’m no writer.”

I hate feeling like that. I’ll do just about anything to avoid those thoughts – eat a pound of chocolate or suck down a quart of homemade coffee ice cream with chunks of Heath Bar and chopped pecans. I’ll clean my house from top to bottom, or begin weeding my (yet again) overgrown weed-filled garden.

If you come to see me out of the blue and my house is pristine and my garden perfect – know that this is a sign of literary ennui. It is a dangerous thing.

I’ll happily settle for a cluttered, dusty house with overgrown jungles in my yard if it means that my fingers are dancing across a keyboard, my mind filled with details, plots, and imaginary conversations. If you look at my desk and see random notes scattered here and there, with a sheer dozen internet tabs open to my various research, know it is a good thing.

And now back to work.

New Changes

New Changes

Happy Holidays to YOU!

Happy Merry ChrismaHannuKwanzakuh to you.

I received a brand spanking new Kindle Paperwhite which I love and also feel quite conflicted about.

Pros:

  • I’ve gotten several books from the library instantly for free
  • It lights up in a dark room so I don’t need to have a light on
  • The text enlarges so that my aging eyes don’t require reading glasses to see the print
  • I can switch between books with just a couple of flicks of the finger and it remembers my place in each one

Cons:

  • It doesn’t smell like a book
  • It doesn’t feel like a book
  • It doesn’t look like a book

I feel vaguely guilty for using it. But I really like not having to find reading glasses, perch them on my nose at just the right angle and wonder if I’ll ever get used to the feeling of these metal and glass things.

5,000 Words

I’m reading a new book, 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox which promises to put my writing up to a new level – that of an efficient writer.

Apparently it starts with five-minute sprints. I’ve downloaded a timer to my ‘puter and have been avoiding trying it out for the first time for about two hours now. Avoidance should be my middle name. I’ve started dozens of projects in order to avoid my writing goals, I’m an expert at avoidance!

Speaking of Projects

So I mentioned over on The Deadly Nightshade that I would be writing less in my blogs and that is because, like my eldest, I’m going to try something a little different and give writing books if not all of my attention, a heck of a lot more of it than I have been.

I’ve been using my blogging as an excuse. I’ve been telling myself, “I need to write more, finish my book projects, but first I’ll just go over here and blog.”

And the book projects aren’t getting done.

I set myself a goal of finishing two books in 2015 and getting at least one of them published by the end of the year. I finished ONE book project, at least the first draft of it, but it needs some significant edits and will not be up and live by the end of the year.

So I’ve got some different goals now:

  • Blog posts come second to book writing
  • My “weekly” newsletter is now going to be a “monthly” newsletter
  • I’m going to work my way up to writing 5,000 words per day minimum, possibly, possibly working my way up to 10k per day
  • I want to write, edit and publish a total of seven books this year

Okay, yeah, that last one is crazy and very possibly unrealistic.

But here is the deal. I dream, and I stare off into space, and I imagine what it would be like to just write. Not have to teach, not have to clean toilets, just…write. And some part of me has to wonder, am I just in love with the dream of it? Could I really have that?

I don’t know.

But I think it is time that I found out.

Don’t you?

P. S. You Need Music

I’ve got a fantastic set of tunes to listen to when writing all of this. My former stepson (the best son I’ve ever been lucky enough to have) is a talented musician. I was there when he first picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play as a teen. He has been keeping me happily typing away with his recent albums on YouTube. You can check them out here.

The Bodies Must Be Piling Up

The Bodies Must Be Piling Up

I think that the coroner’s office is a pretty busy place. I tried calling them on Tuesday and the woman who answered the phone told me she would have to take a message because the phone was ringing off the hook. I tried to follow up by sending an email today. By the end of the day, still no love.

The bodies must be piling up!

Meanwhile, since I’m at a standstill on Gliese 581…I could still work on it, but I really want to get that specific chapter finished and it’s undone state is putting me off from wanting to work on it at all…I picked up my Start Your Own Housecleaning Biz book and got to work.

Cleaning a house today with my eldest made me think of it. I had plotted out an outline for it a while back (read that, YEARS back) and just hadn’t gotten around to writing anything out yet.

I could write this book in my sleep I know the material I am writing about so well!

I typed up the Introduction and moved into Getting Started. That garnered me over 3,000 words in short order. Then I went ahead and popped in the contents of a handout I have on making your own non-toxic cleaning products and that popped it up to over 4,600 words for today.

I don’t hold myself to the same word count requirements that I do for fiction. Whereas my personal preference is to write at least 80,000 in a fiction book, when it comes to non-fiction I write whatever is necessary to convey the basics. I think my first book Get Organized, Stay Organized was probably around 40,000 words. The War on Drugs: An Old Wives’ Tale was probably around 60,000 words.

I guess with non-fiction it becomes more of a “just the facts” and with fiction I want something for my readers to chew on for a while.

Now wouldn’t it be a hoot if I actually DID manage to get both books written and published this year?!




Progress Is…GOOD

Progress Is…GOOD

Progress

A week ago I decided to get cracking on the writing (and the marketing of said writing) side of things. And I have to say it has been going pretty well.

Probably the biggest take aways I have for this week are that, writing takes…writing.

Just like organizing, or working at a job, or driving a car, it takes time and energy and constant exercising of those writing muscles.

So in case I hadn’t mentioned it, my goals for my writing were to:

  • Write six blog posts per week in my three blogs/websites (The Deadly Nightshade, Homeschool Advocate and here)
  • Write daily in one of my personal journals (I have over 20 and I just randomly write in them, crazy but true).
  • Write 500-1000 words on Gliese 581 every day

Have I met all three goals every day of the week?

Nope.

Most of the time I have not. Other times, I’ve exceeded them.

Take Wednesday, for example. I set myself the goal of 1,000 words and ended up writing around 1,750. And the next day? Around 1,000 again before I packed it in for the night..

I need to keep this pace going. If I do, I’ll be done with the first draft of Gliese 581: Departure in about two weeks. Prior to this week I had been hovering at just under 41,000 words. Last night? 45,400. Hooray!

Hand Slaps

And I am definitely smarting from a sharp hand slap from Mail Chimp. Not that I didn’t have it coming, but still.

It all unfolded kind of like this…

Reading Tim Grahl’s Your First 1,000 Copies I latched onto the first goal, get a subscriber mail list.

And I cheated, I’ll admit it. While Grahl was reminding me to ask permission, and start with getting subscribers the good old-fashioned way, I decided to jumpstart the list by importing my Gmail contacts, which apparently included every person I had ever emailed for pretty much anything. That meant that I was looking at a list of about 875 subscribers, which I then whittled down to around 490 subscribers. Unwilling, willing, whatever.

I sent out the first newsletter on Sunday, 8/16. By the end of the day I had an email warning from Mail Chimp over the number of unsubscribes I had received. It threatened that if my unsubscribe rate rose, my list might be in jeopardy and my account would be suspended.

There was pretty much nothing I could do except wait it out. And last night, I received another email from Mail Chimp. At that point, they suspended the entire list, which included the 30+ folks who had voluntarily signed up on their own in the past week. [sigh]

I was allowed to send out an email through Mail Chimp requesting all folks double-opt in again. At that point, late last night, my email subscriber list had been reduced to a total of THREE subscribers by Mail Chimp.

Ouch!

So if you have gotten the email, and DO NOT want these weekly emails, then do nothing. However, if you DO want to be on the weekly list (which has giveaways to my books and other benefits) then you will need to either respond to that email or fill in the form below to subscribe…

 

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When Living Inspires the Writing

When Living Inspires the Writing

I don’t suppose it is any great surprise that everything, including the daily mundane, inspire my writing.

I was at my computer this morning when Emily called to me, “Mama, come find me!”

Predictably, she was in my bed, under the covers. She was wiggling, and I patted her rump. “How do you always find me?” she asked, almost indignantly.

I just laughed, because she is so incredibly predictable at this age. And simply said, “I just do. I’ll always find you.”

I realized I had a scene, right there, and went back to my computer to write the following, to appear in the chapter “Collision”…

Jacob suddenly remembered being five and hiding from his mom. “Come and find me!” he had called while huddled under the blankets.

He had heard his mother’s steps on the floor, she stood for a moment by the bed and then reached out and patted him, her voice had a playful lilt as she said, “Ah, there you are, kiddo!”

“How do you always know where to find me?” Jacob had demanded.

Jess had suppressed a smile. After all, he always hid in the same places, over and over, and she had smiled at him and said, “I just do.” Her smile faltered for a moment, probably thinking of all of those she had lost, “I’ll always find you. I’ll always come for you. You can depend on that.” How many times through the years had she told him that? Not just when he was playing hide and seek, but when he had gotten separated from her at the town picnic a year later, or when he had wandered off in the woods? She had always found him. And when she did, she would wrap her arms around him, kiss the top of his head and say the same thing, “I’ll always find you, Jacob, how could I not?”

The wound on his head from where Cooper had struck him was aching painfully. Jacob felt tears coursing down his cheeks. He closed his eyes, repeating silently, over and over, “Please come find me, Mom. Please.”

 

World-Crafting

World-Crafting

I’ve written a couple of hundred words today in WE2 (War’s End, Book 2) but mainly I’ve been looking at my Timeline file and using it to flesh out the basic outline of the book.

I don’t know how other writers write, but mine is in fits and starts, big circles, little circles and the occasional wandering curve ball.

With both War’s End and my outlined Chronicles of Liv Rowan I’ve started with a simple exercise…

It usually entails the following thought, I’m going to write something descriptive.

That’s it, that’s all the thought that goes into it. In the case of War’s End I wrote the chapter “Morning”, which is in Book 2. What always stumps me is the question that inevitably follows my writing a ‘descriptive scene’ – Well, great, I like this. But…what happens next?

Now in both War’s End and Chronicles of Liv Rowan, the what happens next? question stumped me for YEARS.

However, I truly believe that the reason I was stumped had nothing to do with my writing ability as it did with my lack of belief in my writing ability. I allowed myself to be fearful – to fear that I didn’t know the answer or that I simply didn’t have it in me to write a book.

I had a good giggle the other day when I read the following part of a book summary in my Chronicles of Liv Rowan series:

[solution] The epicenter of the earthquakes is in the Range of Zarah, a line of impossibly high mountains rivaled in height only by the Newo Crag mountain range to the north of the Glass Forrest. Within the mountain range, of which she must enter with a band of locals, along with Trevor and Pert, is a magical disturbance that she will fix with something from her purse.

To say my book outlines can sometimes be brief and scanty on details is an understatement. However, this particular ‘solution’ is to Book 3, so I have a while to think about it until I come up with a more detailed solution than ‘something from her purse’.

Imagine my terror when I realized that Chronicles was a twelve book series. I actually looked at it and reasoned, I can’t really do this, they will actually end up being six books, because how could I possibly find enough filler to make each individual story a full novel?

Plainly put, it’s bullshit.

It’s bullshit to believe I cannot write. It’s bullshit to sit around and wait for the perfect story from beginning to end to magically pop into my head. It’s bullshit to question every day whether or not I really can do this.

The questions are time-wasters and delays. Delays that can eventually mean the difference between DOING SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE or sitting around with your thumb up your ass.

And the same applies to you.

If you want to go to the moon, build a spaceship and fucking go to the moon.

If you want to teach yourself Spanish, then DO IT.

If you want to write, then write. Every damn day.

Don’t sit there reading this and dream about might-have-beens or ‘if onlys’ and get off your ass and do something about it.

That’s my four cents (used to be two cents but…inflation, man, inflation)

Now back to my world-crafting. No more delays!

Two Thoughts

Two Thoughts

Two thoughts, Christine? That’s all? Just two thoughts this morning?

Shut up, you!

So I have just two quick thoughts to share and then I’m off to write, then once E wakes up, fix breakfast, tidy, vacuum, go to Science City, and so much more…

 

Energy Level – Activities

I have been hitting the activities with Emily hard and heavy lately. Yesterday it was story time, well child checkup and then a couple of hours at the Overland Park Arboretum. I distinctly remember being exhausted when I was younger. Falling asleep at the drop of a hat, just…tired.

Nowadays? I do three times as much and still seem ready for more. I mean, sure, there are some days when I do nothing, just rest and recuperate. But most days sees me up by 6 am at the latest (usually 5-5:30) and going strong until 9pm. Multiple activities, work, cleaning, kid wrangling, you name it.

So…what changed?

I would assume it would be reversed. After all, at 41, I don’t exactly have the label of youth on my side.

I think there is a lot to be said for the Happiness Factor. When you are stuck in a job that you hate, or a relationship that sucks, or are a single parent struggling to find time for everything – you suffer. My eldest, Danielle, noted that she couldn’t walk three feet or more inside my house without seeing some project I have done. Cross-stitch, handmade items to decorate the house, writing projects – you name it, it is here.

I think my ability to get things done is directly related to my happiness and satisfaction levels.

Breaking the Rules

I woke up this morning thinking of writing. But not in fiction…oh no…I was thinking of my blog posts. So, depending on how much time the Princess gives me before she wakes, I’m going to write on blog posts for next week. I made up the original rules, and now I get to break them. They are my rules, after all, and they are meant to help the writing process. So…if I’m writing…it’s a good thing, whatever shape that writing might take.

Which reminds me…I really need to work on the family newsletter and Emily’s first “All About Me” book (I’m planning on sending one out annually to immediate family).

Story Formation

Story Formation

While Emily attended her ballet class I worked on several key areas of Book 2 of War’s End. The book will be divided into two parts. Part I is centered in the time directly after Jess’s return to Warsend. Chris and the Perdues will have their own struggles in Tennessee. Part II will pick things up ten years later.

A lot can happen in ten years.

Births…

death…

and so much more…