Wednesday, February 03, 2016

IWSG February check-in: Beginnings and endings

We've moved far from snow, down the Gulf coast to Corpus Christi, trading freezing slush for balmy skies and palm trees. So begins February. Beginnings in a new home for the month. And an ending of winter.

What does it mean when all I have with me that's connected to my writing is a small laptop with limited memory? And a rough draft awaiting those hopefully final much-labored-over edits? Nothing has really changed. Each day I will find those precious hours before others awake to keep working.

Maybe I will start something new this month.

Maybe I will finish a chunk of those final edits.

I only hold this constant: each day I will set aside some time to write.

Tomorrow we'll go out on some kind of a skimmer boat to see the birds. Egrets, great blue herons, osprey, brown pelicans, a few spoonbills. Maybe I'll bring home a new story idea. For now, I will cherish each day. Watch the wind buffet the palms and the black-headed gulls fly low over the canal on Padre Island.

This first Wednesday of the month, for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, we're supposed to check in, to report what challenges we're facing and to encourage others in the group.

Check out what other IWSG writers are doing HERE.  Persevere. Write those good words that make up your unique stories. Make it a good month!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Giveaway starts Jan 25 for Standing Stones' NEW Audiobook

To celebrate my just released audiobook through Amazon for Standing Stones, here's a giveaway!

Between January 25 and January 31, you can enter to win a free download code for the audiobook version of Standing Stones by completing the form below. 

Winners will be selected by Rafflecopter at random. Once I receive the winning names, I'll send full instructions and that download code so you can receive your audiobook!

Darryl Kurylo, an extraordinary voice actor, did an outstanding job of narrating my story, adopting a variety of voices to bring the characters of 19th Century Scotland to life. 

You can listen to a five minutes sample of the audiobook for Standing Stones, available on Amazon 

Thank YOU for following along my writing journey. I wish you many happy hours of writing, reading, and/or listening!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

POP #3: Of tango and lost poems

Perhaps today's post began when a friend told me of her love of tango, and I remembered a visit to San Telmo, a small neighborhood in Buenos Aires back in 2009, a blissful Sunday afternoon filled with music and tango dancers in the streets.

I had forgotten the poem entirely but remembered the music, the dancing, and the photographs -- and so found this lost poem.

Sunday in San Telmo

She sketches a circle
with the tip of her shoe,
an invitation.
He nods his head,
accepts with a bow.
He presses a button 
on a boom box.

The tinny music of tango
fills the air
to the delight of passersby 
from the neighborhood
and tourists who have come
to San Telmo in Buenos Aires
to see in these dancers
those moments 
we now remember from our youth.

She arches her back;
he twirls her around,
their steps pause
and repeat,
their knees and ankles brush,
an intricate embrace
of precision and passion;
her head thrown back,
the music, the music revolves
a rondo,
and we are lost again
in the moment.

This week’s Poets on the Page prompt, posted on Monday, challenged us to look at a poem that we had abandoned in some way, revise it, and then share it. 

I thought about the poems I had written last year, not remembering even how many or what I might ‘do’ with them. Maybe someday I would put them into a little chapbook, or build them around family history,  a poetry memoir. So I collected them, rewrote some, organized them, and now have a working draft of 46 poems.

This once, this year,
these poems are not lost;
paired with photographs,
organized into a round of seasons,
these little troubadours
shine of this past year’s musings
and sing of light.

Stop by to read what other writers have posted for this week's Poets on the Page.

Or just maybe, watch the tango dancers!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Poets on the Page #2: Into the Woods

Into the woods we go, an April walk
past towering pines along a ridge trail,
peopled by spring grasses and flowering
yellow Arrowleaf Balsamroot,
its leaves, roots, and stems once infused
into a steaming tea to ward off colds or fever
by the Blackfoot, Salish and Cheyenne.

We stroll under late spring sun along this meandering trail;
the woods quiet, these hills innocent of snow,
all memories of winter crunching under our feet,
the sweet smell of pines and mossy,
volcanic boulders around us
unaffected by the round of seasons.
For this moment, we listen
for the chatter of chickadees,
that signal we have negotiated winter
once again.

Dishman Hills, April 2015 (Camp)

Monday’s Poets on the Page poetry prompt: To write a poem that explores walking into senses and memory. Drop by the Poets on the Page blog to read what others have written – and join in! 

It snowed today, reminding me of a walk in nearby Dishman Hills last spring, far from winter snow and today's flurries.

Book Review: Death Goes to the County Fair

How do readers show appreciation to writers -- especially indie writers? One of the best ways is to write a review.  

January begins with cold weather and after tromping around in the snow, I wanted nothing more than to cuddle up next to the fireplace with a nice cozy read.

Annette Drake's novella, Death Goes to the County Fair (An Ogallala Mystery), has been on my to-read pile for a little while.

This cozy mystery begins with a runaway house fire as Joni, a newly hired reporter/photographer for the Ogallala Gazette, is sent out to photo the scene.

Joni, just out of college and not quite sure she fits into this small town, carries out her assignments with enthusiasm, even when misspelling the mayor’s name or taking a picture of the largest pig at the county fair. But she finds herself caught between small town intrigues and her rising curiosity over a murder – discovered right at the biggest income producer for Ogallala – the county fair. 

Heartfelt characters combined with a realistic small town feel and a neatly twisted plot lead to an entertaining 4.5 star read.

Annette Drake, a former Spokane writer now relocated to the west coast, has long been active in supporting other writers. 

This story, her fifth book but first mystery, was inspired by her own experience as a journalist just out of college -- and embarking on her first job.

She writes engagingly of the mix between fiction and personal experience that led her to write Death Goes to the County Fair on her website HERE.  

Why not check out Annette's books? Available on Amazon and at your favorite bookstore, on request.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

IWSG, a Snippet of a WIPpet, and Doubt

Last week, my quilting buddies and I were headed down to lunch in an elevator, when one asked, "Beth, when will that book you're working on be done?" Another chimed in and said, "And will it have a happy ending this time?"

I guess I'm well past that visceral flash of self-doubt that seems to emerge from time to time:  How-do-I-say-I'm-a-writer. But new doubts seem to flicker awake without me even trying. These last several months, my recurring doubt has been:  Will-I-ever-finish-this-story!

I'm a pantser with plodder tendancies who writes historical fiction. What that means is I have a germ of an idea, begin reading research, write every day but in no order, build outlines as I go, and continue research and writing until I reach that happy point where I have enough words. Then begins the editing -- mostly a 2-3 year stretch of digging into the story to make it stronger.

Right now, I'm rereading scenes for continuity and transitions and to catch doubled words (common in my first drafts), the usual work on editing that surfaces when my overall strategy is rather like that of a flea, not always good when writing historical fiction. But past the surface, I'm asking what kinds of story structure issues affect this section? What are the deepest concerns Cat (my heroine disguised as a boy who's traveling across Canada in 1840)  has at this point in this story?  

For example at the editing level, I could have known when they switched from York boats to canoes. But who wants to worry about which conveyance when Cat gets lost in the woods? It would be silly NOT to worry about it now. Thank goodness for search & replace, the intuitive writer’s friend. 

Which brings me back to the elevator and my friends. For I had no real answer for them, no exact date. I only know this: One day, this story will be finished and another will beckon. That is part of my identity as a writer, my promise to myself -- and to my readers. 

WIPpet Wednesday: Some of you may know that every Wednesday (or most Wednesdays), some writers post a snippet from their work-in-progress (WIP). Here's mine, based on the date this way: 12 sentences for the two sixes in the 6th of January and 2016.

I'm celebrating a new character that emerged this week. Finally, a M├ętis wife. I had missed her and she's a bit shadowy in the story, but suddenly, the brigade had just started paddling upstream, and there she was, Mary, mixing bear grease up to repel mosquitos. 

"Take some of this," called Thurston. He held out a handful of thick salve.

“What is it?”

“Bear grease from Mary. It will keep the mosquitos off. Rub it everywhere you can.”

Cat took a handful. The salve stunk to high heaven. "Thanks, I guess."

Thurston smeared his face, beard, neck, and hairy arms liberally. "By St. Anne, you don't want the mosquitoes biting your ass all day."

“Maybe the smell will scare them off,” said Cat. 

And so the writing goes, sometimes slowly, with uncertain starts and stops, and sometimes many words on the page. The process of writing is unique to each of us, and we each will face doubt as we write. 

May 2016 be the year your writing sings!

Check out what other WIPpet Wednesday writers have posted HERE.

Read what other writers in the Insecure Writers Support Group are thinking about this month HERE.


Monday, January 04, 2016

2016: First poem . . . "Open"

This year, let me open
like a flower, petals uncurling,
like a dream of the sea, endless water,
like an unfolding of days,
each complete to itself,
infinite in the rising and setting
of the same sun,
the same me,
the same you
through these days of winter
into the promise of spring. 

Horsetail Falls,
Columbia Gorge in Winter
by Doug Beghtel 

Poets on the Page: 2016 begins with a new online writing community for poets. Poets on the Page offers a weekly poetry prompt each Monday. Why not read what others have written and jump right in with a poem of your own?

This week's prompt: Write for ten minutes asking yourself this question - What if you stop trying to be who you aren't, let everything that isn't you drop away, and embrace the real you? Word Prompts: direct, frank, candid, open.

Visit Poets on the Page blog for more information!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Snippet for WIPpet: Farewell to York Factory

This morning, three-foot icicles dangle outside my office window, about a foot of snow on the ground, and temperatures in the 20s promise a quiet day. I found an amazing article online by Eric W. Morse on Fur Trade Routes in Canada/Then and Now that includes notes from Sir John Franklin's journey up the Hayes River in 1819. 

So many details of Cat's journey downstream were simply wrong. I'd left out the first portages and the first waterfalls. Luckily I knew about the mosquitoes, so many, Franklin reports, that they were unable to shoot snow geese for dinner for they couldn't see through the clouds of mosquitoes. I've camped a time or two and swiped bees off my food, but imagine being out in the wilderness without Deet to ward off mosquitoes. I know. Toxic chemicals. But I'd rather not hear that nasty whine and barely can imagine "clouds" of mosquitoes. 

Except once when we traveled to Inuvik near the Arctic Circle and took a side trip to a small town just because its name was intriguing. We literally ran from the car to the tourist information center to escape that summer cloud of mosquitoes. Seriously. No camping. One night in a hotel and then back to White Horse.

Today's snippet for WIPpet Wednesday picks up the start of Cat's journey west from York Factory in Manitoba in the 1840s. Based somehow on the date, I give you five paragraphs for the 5 in 2015.

Cat sloshed over the muddy beach, waded into the Hayes River, and scrambled into one of the three boats, her legs dripping wet. She sat close to one of the mail packets in the middle of the 40-foot boat, well out of the way of the six oarsmen. Charles Alcorn nodded at her. “Heard you were coming, Cat.” Two ministers she didn’t know at all were bundled heavily with blankets over their coats, sitting behind Charles. Just off the ship from London, they swatted at the ever present mosquitoes and talked only to each other in low voices, as if they weren’t quite awake.

Back on shore, a group of men gathered around Mr. Mactavish and Mr. Hargrave to consult on last minute instructions. Then, three voyageurs carried Mr. John Rowand, a bear of a man, short but weighing over 300 pounds, out to one of the waiting boats. Once hefted into the York boat, he sat alone in the center, morose and nearly buried in blankets. Muchk had told Cat the Blackfoot called Rowand Iron Shirt, but he was also known as One Pound One. Some said for the way he walked with a decided limp; others for his temper. “Watch your way west,” Muchk had said. “He has a loud bark, but he has daughters.”

Mr. Hargrave and Mr. Mactavish stood with a few of the Cree to watch their departure. Cat looked for Muchk, but he was not there. She waved at Samuels as with a cheer, the York boats, heavily laden, launched into the Hayes River, turning south to the Nelson River and Norway House.

Samuels had shown Cat a map of the trip, his fingers tracing the route from York Factory, south some 200 miles on the Hayes River. Samuels tapped his finger at the Painted Stone Portage. "Ye'll have a bit of a walk here to get over to the Echimamish River, but it's easy going down the Nelson River to Norway House after that."

Cat didn’t really care about where the boats would go. She was finally leaving York Factory. She did not look back at the few who stood on the bluff above the river near York Factory. She shivered as she glanced at the burial ground south of the whitewashed buildings. I won’t think of it. May the child be at peace in this cold place, and may I never return.

York Factory 1853 (Wikipedia)

Check out what other writers have posted this morning for WIPpet Wednesday. Thank you, Emily Witt, for hosting! May 2016 bring you good reading, good friends, and happy endings.