Category Archives: Update – You Ask?

Time to Edit

Time to Edit

A spot of joy in my crazy little world occurred last night when I realized I had written the last words in the last chapter that still “needed something.”

Schicksal Turnpike is now ready for editing!

I will accomplish this in several steps…

  1. A read-aloud edit. This will include my husband, which accomplishes the dual purpose of letting him hear it audiobook style (something he prefers over conventional reading) and the act of editing it on the fly. Saying it out loud really helps get any awkward word combinations out of there.
  2. Beta readers who will also edit. I’ve got three lined up, ready and willing. I’ll ask them to read through it, note anything that is misspelled or awkward sounding, any conflicting information, and also ask them to write a few descriptive sentences. What was it about? What did they like about it? What did they not like?
  3. After I’ve updated the manuscript with any fixes they have found, it will be ready for content and line editing.
  4. Then a cover letter and prep for packaging.

Yep, I’m going shopping for an agent. You hear that, Casie Blevins? I’m going shopping for an agent!

A couple of weeks of reading out loud and edits and it will be off to my army of beta readers.

Prepare yourselves!

And if you are interested in joining my army of beta readers extraordinaire, volunteer by commenting on this post or sending me a message through Facebook. You can find me here: Facebook Author Page

Like a Taxicab Ride in Panama

Like a Taxicab Ride in Panama

As I write this, I am sitting in a rented room in Bethania, a section of Panama City, Panama, listening to my dad snore peacefully behind me.

And if you had told me two weeks ago that this is where I would be today, I would have told you that you were batshit crazy.

For a summary of the complete story, you can read And…I’m in Panama at my other blog The Deadly Nightshade.

And as for my writing projects, let’s just say that they now resemble something similar to a taxicab ride in Panama.

If you have not been to Panama then I will describe it. The taxis, as well as the rest of the cars, weave in and out of traffic in incomprehensible ways. The drivers laugh when I squeak in terror. They find it amusing. However, most of the cars I’ve been in are in varying states of damage, including one that had a spiderwebbed front windshield from an impact on the passenger side. Not terribly reassuring. It is also isn’t reassuring that THEY have seatbelts but I usually don’t.

But I was talking about writing projects, wasn’t I?

Sometimes your goals get to take a major weave and shift from what you planned. From the moment I answered that phone call on December 19th, I’ve been weaving in and out of shifting priorities in all facets of life.

In the end, I’ve found myself keeping a log of all of my Facebook updates as well as starting an actual manuscript that details this “beautiful mess.” (Thank you Jes, for that apt description). The manuscript is titled When God Laughs and I hope that it will serve first as memoir, but also as inspiration and even a cautionary tale.

I have called it this because, less than five hours after announcing, “Today is a WRITING day!” I received the call that would change all of our lives and send me 2,000 miles to the south, to my father’s side in the hospital. And ever since the saying, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans,” has been repeating in my head.

What would you do when faced with a terrifying challenge? I found myself tasked with leaving the USA for the first time in my life, traveling to a foreign country, and learning to get by without speaking more than maybe 30 words in Spanish. I had to find my father’s hospital, assess the situation, and then work on getting him back out of the country with an expired visa.

It has been a wild ride, believe me.

I’ve also been very, very lucky. Dad has good and generous friends here who have helped out in a myriad of ways. They have been lifesavers.

I have a couple of days left here in Panama. We fly out first thing on Sunday morning. And my dad is not well. He is frail, malnourished, and faced with multiple medical issues.

When God Laughs will be a story that nearly all of us can relate to. At some point our bodies will break down – either through natural use or abuse. There will be a time when we might not be able to do the most simplest of actions – cook for ourselves, clean ourselves, or maintain a house.

And what do we do? How do we structure our lives in a way that allows for a smooth transition from independence to dependence? What are our expectations for that day?

When God Laughs will detail our own journey – mine, Dad’s and our immediate family – as we learn our way, find our footing, and learn to thrive within this new paradigm.

And I’ll keep working on Shicksal Turnpike too.

For as long as I am able, my father will always have a place with us. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Update and True Life Story

Update and True Life Story

Update

If you were wondering this morning as you dressed and ate your breakfast, “Huh, I wonder how the edits on Book Six are going for Christine?” – then I have read your mind and I am here to give you an update.

Work is going slow but sure, and I’ve got my hands full and my mind working away on…The Cottage.

No, that isn’t a book title. Sorry. And no, I haven’t been editing. Three things are filling my days: work on The Cottage rehab, homeschooling Em, and preparing for the Homes Tour on October 15th.

Yes, you too can see the house I call home, along with five others, all for the low price of $15!

But I digress. Mainly I’m running around like some crazed chicken, missing that proverbial head, as I struggle to get everything done.

So the update is that there is no progress on the edits. I hope to give you better news soon. Give me three weeks and I’ll see if I can’t manage to work editing back into the mix.

Meanwhile, all of these police shootings brought to mind a parallel story, and a true one at that, which I will now share with you.

A True Life Story

I left home at the age of sixteen. To be more exact, I ran away.

I had screwed up in school, been caught cheating, and my dad was beside himself and pissed. He told me I would be going back to my mom’s in Arizona and repeating my senior year of high school there in public school.

That wasn’t what made me run away, it was the phone call that night, and his remarks directly after, that sent me fleeing.

My mother had called, reminding him that they had agreed to never change custody during times where it might provide an escape for me from a problem. He got off the phone and instead of telling me this (he was pissed and frustrated) he said, “Well your mom doesn’t want you. So I guess I’m going to have you declared incorrigible, made a ward of the court, and send you to a juvenile facility.”

Just writing this makes me want to laugh. How did I ever believe him when he said this?

Two reasons.

A “sort of” friend had had this happen to her. I didn’t know the circumstances of what she had done, but her mother did get her locked up in a juvenile facility. And her mother knew my father, of course, he knew the story even better. I reasoned that if it could happen to this girl, it could happen to me.

And the second reason was rather simplistic – to my knowledge, my dad had never lied to me. He had never told me that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or even God (my dad is an atheist) – was real. He had also stated on more than a number of occasions that he would always tell me the truth.

I believed him. As far as I was concerned, he was going to have me locked up just like my “sort of” friend had been locked up. And the next day, before he left work, he told me to start packing. I did. I grabbed what I could carry and I left home.

We lived in Pacifica at the time, and I headed for San Francisco, where a friend was living in some residence hotels. These places were rented out by the week or month, each floor had several shared bathrooms, and it was some rather simple, basic living. A hot plate, maybe a refrigerator if you were lucky, and maybe a sink in your room to do your dishes in. They also had a restriction, no one under the age of 18, but my friend was 21 and he was determined to help.

“Just meet me in the city, we will figure it out.” He promised.

There I sat on a bus, my bags clutched close beside me, heading through the Tenderloin. The area was riddled with crime, violence, shootings and drugs. Each time I rode through it I was tense and scared. It was a bad, bad area at the time.

The bus stopped near a corner store and passengers disembarked and others came in the front, paying the fare and moving deeper into the bus. I was in a single seat, some of the busses had them at the time, and the bus was relatively full. It was a bright sunny day in April 1987.

The bus closed its doors and inched forward to the crosswalk, but the light was red. At that moment, a convertible sports car screeched to a halt beside the bus, immediately to my left, and I saw the passenger jump out, a gun in his hand. He was white, dressed in a shirt and blue jeans. He made no attempt to hide it and I watched as he ran in front of the bus. The light had turned green and the bus had begun to move forward. It just as quickly lurched to a stop when the driver saw the man run in front.

What sent me into a panic was what happened next. The bus driver actually opened the front doors. I’m sure it was an automatic response, one that he quickly rectified as the man with the gun continued past the bus and towards a man standing near a pillar at the corner market. He reached the man, a black man, slammed him against the pillar and placed the gun against his head.

Here I was, not quite seventeen years old, running away from home, and convinced this was a drug deal gone bad and that once the guy with the gun finished off this poor s.o.b. he was going to come for any witnesses, i.e. all the people on the bus.

It turned out he was an undercover cop. As the bus pulled away I could see his partner racing over, the car still running and parked in the middle of the street, and silver handcuffs flashing in the sun.

 

So there you go. A real life story that you probably never heard me tell before. Got one for me?

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.

Time to Get Serious

Time to Get Serious

Today I am nursing my second major headache in less than two days. Yesterday was a massive one that nearly had me yakking at my client’s house. No bueno, I had just finished cleaning that toilet! And I wasn’t functional until nearly 5 p.m. afterwards.

Today, waking up with yet another headache, I got up, headed toward my computer and started working on our budget. Before any major decision, I tend to hit the file in Excel – it allows me to fiddle with numbers, trim here, fix this other number over there, and keep us on an even keel. I made a copy of the current worksheet and started with a couple of premises, one that included me making no money on a monthly basis.

How I wish I could do that! But the fact is, we have more expenses than one job outside the home can handle. If we didn’t plan on paying off our mortgage until our late 60s, or having any kind of savings, or traveling or ever eating out – well maybe my not earning an income would work, but not otherwise.

I played with the budget until I found a plan that satisfied me, and that included some of these highlights:

  • Dave finding an excellent paying position (there’s one in the works, and I’m really hoping it pans out)
  • I will take over Dee’s cleanings once she is full-time employed (this seems quite likely to happen in the next couple of weeks) for the rest of the year.
  • I will finish the edits on Gliese 581: The Departure (go Like this page, will you?) and get it up for sale on Amazon
  • I will write Book #6, edit it, and get it up and published this year and begin work on Book #7. (It’s a numbers game, folks, write enough good stuff and the money will follow)
  • Reduce my cleaning clients down to a small handful by the end of the year (no more new clients).

By building up some savings during the rest of this year, we have something to fall back on at the beginning of 2017 when I reduce/eliminate my cleanings.

My body is telling me – enough is enough. I have to listen to it. It’s time to get serious.

4th Edit in Progress!

4th Edit in Progress!

I’ve got to write a quick note here and then jump back into edits.

Last Saturday, my editor-in-chief (my eldest daughter) got the manuscript back to me. As silly as it might sound, especially considering this is my 5th book, I’m still getting the hang of the editing process. More specifically, when I receive an edited document in Word, I have to “Accept/Reject Changes” -something I hadn’t done in the last round of edits.

Oops.

No wonder she looked frustrated and said, “You haven’t taken any of my suggestions from my last edit, and the words are all smooshed together and weird!”

Lesson learned. I spent over two hours the other day just going through the basic little wording changes and clicking “Accept Changes.”

So now I’m diving into the more difficult parts. My worst sins?

  • Telling instead of showing
  • Omnipotent/narrator voice
  • Flipping back and forth with points of view

So I’ll be tackling those, and then doing an “oral edit” – reading the manuscript out loud to my husband. This will be the first time he has heard the story. And due to his dyslexia, he prefers audio to text any day of the week.

So when will Book 5 be on the metaphorical shelf?

That’s a great question.

As we move out of winter, I’ve got my hands full of classes to teach and a half acre lot to plant and sculpt. It could be a week, or it could be a month. Believe me, I want it done. But books are finished when you can no longer point to huge sections and say, “Oh damn, that needs fixing.” Until then, it’s not leaving my side.

I will be looking for reviewers. If you have a Kindle, I will be saving this file in .mobi format and possibly other formats (just have to learn how). This will be available to you for free, with the understanding that after you read it, if you could please post a review (good or bad, but geez, I hope it’s good) on Amazon and Goodreads.

Sound fair?

Contact me for more details or to put your name on the list.

And now, back to editing!

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.

Neil Gaiman is Right

Neil Gaiman is Right





I’ve written nothing for well over a week, possibly two. Instead, I’ve created more house projects (or worked on the dozens already begun), scheduled a holidays party for the 19th, and watched an egregious amount of television (Continuum and Hemlock Grove, to be specific) and felt the beginnings of full-blown panic over my writing, or lack thereof.

And as I was further practicing avoidance this morning, surfing Facebook and checking emails, I ran across this article from the Huffington Post with Neil Gaiman which addressed whether writer’s block is real or not.

“I don’t really believe in writer’s block, but I absolutely believe in getting stuck,” Gaiman told HuffPost Live on Monday. “The difference is one is imposed on you by the gods, and one is your own damn fault.”

Yup. I’m right there with him.

“If you turn around and go, ‘I am blocked,’ this is just something writers say because we’re really clever. It sounds like it has nothing to do with you: ‘I would love to write today, but I am blocked. The gods have done it to me,'” he said. “And it’s not true. Cellists don’t have cellist block. Gardeners don’t have gardener’s block. TV hosts do not have have TV host block. But writers have claimed all the blocks, and we think it’s a real thing.”

So completely and totally agree.

The kicker was when he shared his strategy for getting past a stuck spot:

“I always like to have another story, another introduction, another work, and I’ll just go and work on that, while somewhere in the back of my mind I’m churning over why I’m stuck and what went wrong and figuring out how to go forward,” he said.

This was a vindication of sorts. I have so many friggin’ projects going at one time it isn’t funny, but it is a coping mechanism. If I feel stuck on one, I move to the next. And the next. And the next.

Sometimes however, it just feels like too much. As if all of the “I don’t know how to proceed with this” catch up to me and I can’t stand to look at another one. That’s been these past two weeks.

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?




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?!