Thursday, December 20, 2012

A certain day became . . .

A certain day became
the beginning, 
child of my heart.
For the first time I see 
the end of my days
and a beginning for you, 
my daughter, and now, your child.
Dearest child, what lies before you?
I am privileged to watch you both
unfold into each day, 
blossoms unending.

Today's poetry prompt came from Julie Jordon Scott over at Facebook's Writing Poetry Group. Thank you, Julie. What else could I write about but Leda Rose who's just a little over 6 months old? Today also marks my last entry for the final ROW80 (A round of words in 80 days), a writing challenge for writers who are willing to post goals and check in twice a week.

So this has been a week of reflection and some work between sad, national news, snowfall and still coming to understand the joy of being a grandmother! This is my second round with ROW80, and I love the sense of community of writers and care about writing that has emerged -- as well as my own sense of accountability. One of the charming aspects of ROW80 is the recognition that our goals change constantly -- and that is OK. So here goes my last entry for 2012 with more to come in 2013.

WRITING:  I did reread Standing Stones and feel affirmed that this story is complete. I hoped to read the first draft of Years of Stone (YOS) before year's end (still have one week). Majorly revamped the opening for YOS. I think the goal of starting research for the next book in this series is too ambitious, though that still pulls me. Interlibrary loan came through this week. I found Lucy Frost's Abandoned Women: Scottish Convicts Exiled Beyond the Seas (Allen Unwin, 2012) impressively useful for YOS, set precisely in my time zone, even to including measurements for the Cascades Female Factory and insights into the staff there, as well as many other useful bits that help me flesh out that time and place, 1842, Van Diemen's Land. Another goal: to blog the Africa trip daily was a bit ambitious, but I'm still processing pictures and experiences, just maybe 2-3 times a week for the travel blog.

READING/CRAFT/MARKETING: Perseverance furthers. My goal to clean out a backlog of several years of writing magazines is not complete. But I did make progress. The stack is now only 6" high, so I have a chance to complete this goal before year end.

I now have my own copy of Bell's Plot & Structure (very useful). I'm getting more comfortable with LinkedIn and Twitter as resources for finding good articles on writing craft. Yes, I actually Twitter now several times a week. Amazing.

GoodReads has become another online writerly community. My list of "to reads" is longer, and I want to write at least 1 review a month for GoodReads. I ran into a snag when I began reading a well-loved writer's latest release and just could not finish it because the characters repelled me. I'm continuing to critique works in progress through the Internet Writing Workshop and did sub the new opening for YOS there. Surprise: Three points of view in the first chapter that I just didn't see!

I just joined LinkedIn's Fiction Writers Guild (excellent discussions here re online marketing). Marketing remains a challenge. I will work on more measurable steps, but I learned that asking folks to consider my books takes a raw act of courage. But one reader told me my stories brought tears to her eyes!

May you reach your writing goals in the coming year. May words come easily to bring to life those deepest held stories. And may we all celebrate and share each day with joy and hope.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Angels weep . . .

Angels weep as
sparrows hop along the white patio fence,
knocking off little drifts of snow
by the light of a pale moon,
their feet too small for frostbite
this cold, spare morning
with more winter on the way.
The bird feeder sways empty.
The house is quiet;
Sunday rounds the week
with dreadful deaths.
We fill the bird feeder
and mourn.

Who is not affected by the shooting deaths in Newtown, Connecticut, as the circle of violence and grief expands out to include us all. Yet each day begins anew. My report in for ROW80 will be mercifully short. I'm writing and making slow progress. Feeling sad.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Let us travel to Zanzibar . . .

Forodhoni Park, Zanzibar

Let us travel to Zanzibar,
wander the streets in Old Town,
past open air stalls, beaded crafts,
past women draped in brightly colored kangas,
down cobbled streets edged with
plumeria, tree ferns, and flamboyant trees 
filled with flame-red blossoms. 
The music of a language we don't understood
follows us to Forodhoni Park,
where men wear long white aprons and
lean over open pit fires to turn skewers of fish.
The boats come in from the sea, safe.
When the day is done,
we’ll return to our rented room,
draw the mosquito netting close,
and tell stories. We’ll remember
the sweet tastes of fresh coconut,
the smell of cinnabar and mint tea.

As I look at the pictures we took in Zanzibar, there's so much that is hard to put into words. We're home now, it's snowing here in Spokane, and Africa seems very far away. But the writing focuses everything else and it's time to close down this Sunday with my ROW80 check-in

  • WRITING: pretty good progress on reading/making notes for Years of Stone; lots of work on Author Info sheet (bio, market plan, deadlines).Can't quite blog daily re the Africa trip, but a few poems are starting to emerge, posted on this blog (See more photos on the Travel Blog here). 
  • READING/CRAFT: Goodreads turning out to be very useful in identifying books I really do want to read. I made a commitment to post reviews for the books I do read. So far, so good. Just finished M. J. Rose's The Book of Lost Fragrances and now must try to read J. K. Rawlings' The Casual Vacancy in three days (can't renew at the library as it's a new book).And The Writer mag just came in.
  • MARKETING/PUBLISHING: Taking a dive here and hope to submit by Jan 5, thus avoiding the black hole of the holidays when no one wants to read anything from anybody. Google+ is picking up steam a bit (or I'm learning about circles). All together, it's been a pretty good week, birthday breakfast and food poisoning notwithstanding. 
To all ROW80 participants, may the end of the year go well for you and your writing projects!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Birding in Tanzania . . .

Flamingos in the Ngorongoro Crater

I never saw a crocodile bird,
nor the village weaver with its round bush nest.
I missed the Eastern Paradise Whydah
and the little red-billed fire finch.
I looked unsuccessfully
for the yellow-eyed babbler,
and the red-cheeked Gordon-bleu.

But I saw waves of pink flamingos rise from a marsh,
one Gray Crowned Crane, far from home,
and a Masai ostrich court his mate.
I fell in love with the bright blue eye patch
of the friendly Helmeted Guinea Fowl,
watched baby Francolins skitter away in the grass,
and admired the stately walk of a Secretarybird.

I once slept in a tent in the grasslands of the Serengeti,
and heard lions cough at dawn.  
The long-tailed widowbird never appeared. 

Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Slowly, slowly, I'm putting together pictures and stories about our three-week stay this November in Tanzania in my Travel Blog, On the Road Again. Words don't seem adequate to describe the scope and depth of what we saw.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

ROW80 update . . .Weds check-in

"One must also be able to dance with the pen." So Nietzsche once said. This quote stares me in the face when I'm drinking tea or coffee, especially nice now to soothe my sore throat.

But, the point is that somehow we writers must shake loose those doubts and dark days when little goes well. Writing can bring joy, especially when we simply let go of expectation and write. So we begin with hope and vision. We pursue those glimmers of poetry and story that slide between that 'next big step.'  Participating in ROW80 with daily writing and daily goals (and accountability to writing colleagues) helps me to keep thinking about my writing and what I really want to do to improve my writing craft, marketing, and publishing skills.

This morning, I'm dancing. A little. I found an indie publishing house for Standing Stones to investigate further that I really liked. Their website has a rich historical fiction flavor, and their author information form requests a nicely fleshed out marketing plan -- including a summary of the research that's been done. So before the end of the year, I will submit to this currently nameless publisher.

Meanwhile, back at the keyboard, Years of Stone gets another read through, also before the end of the year. I'm working on synchronicity, that coming together of inner and outer events, that weaving together of threads that will make these two stories cohesive.

Standing Stones tells the story of the exodus of the MacDonnells from Scotland in 1842. In Years of Stone (nearing final draft at 80,000 words), Deidre follows Mac who's been transported to Van Diemen's Land (1842-1844). Sometime in 2013, I will begin researching the third book in this series, Rivers of Stone, set in the Pacific Northwest (think Dougal MacDonnell, violins, the Hudson's Bay Company, and Mary Margaret, his sweetheart, disguised as a boy).

ROW80 winds down sometime in December, but it's been a good round and a good year. May it be so for you.

Monday, December 03, 2012

ROW80 Update . . . Cinderella redux

I put first dibs on the crust when I was growing up. No one else wanted to eat that often dried out, unwanted end piece. Except me. I was voraciously hungry all the time. At 11 and 12, I could out-eat my 6' 4" stepfather who worked in a steel mill and wore steel-tipped boots to work every day.

I'm thinking about Cinderella as a muse for writers, thanks to Elizabeth Anne Mitchell from ROW80. There she is, Cinderella, sitting in the ashes, hoarding her crusts, just one more starving, unpublished writer, hoping for transformation, that wave of a magic wand, yet bemused by the array of choices facing her just-finished novel.

Anne R. Allen's excellent article on the state of e-publishing/publishing in general, "Indie Publishing in 2013: Why We Can't Party Like It's 2009," intimidates as much as it informs. Amazon's recent spate of changes, Allen intimates, marginalizes the small, indie writer.

After what I thought was a careful comparison of Smashwords to Amazon as e-publishers, I chose Amazon to trial publish The Mermaid Quilt and Other Tales, largely because of their stand on DRM (the digital rights management debate). E-pubbing on Smashwords, with its multi-platforms, could allow the unscrupulous to carry off all those hundreds of writerly hours of hard work to new markets.

So I learned how to set up Kindle and paperback formats via Amazon (KDP and CreateSpace) and ventured out into the big marketplace. I'm still learning -- and will re-e-pub (if there's such a word) my collection of short stories with Smashwords and Kindle (taking a lesson from another ROW80 Colleague, Alberta Ross), on February 18, 2013, my personal liberation day from KDP Select.

If this Cinderella is sitting in the ashes of the fireplace, tearing her hair out and gnashing her teeth, it's because all of this is prologue. Publishing The Mermaid Quilt was a trial balloon to help me decide if I should e-pub my historical fiction, now up to two books. And the writing goes well on my main works in progress: I'm just finishing a "final" read through of Standing Stones, editing critically one last time. Do I sub to indie publishers? Do I self-publish? I honestly cannot decide. Your two cents???

Brown spotted hyena taking a mud bath
ROW80 UPDATE: WRITING: Looks like I'm on track to finish reading Standing Stones (95,000 words) and Years of Stone (80,000 words) for continuity before December 31st. Yipee! Or should I say Yahoo! I've been able to blog most days about the trip to Africa (despite a nasty cold) in my travel blog, On the Road Again,  MARKETING: Slow but steady. This week will write a press release and have posted some funny tweets re mermaids and stocking stuffers. CRAFT and PUBLICATIONS: Doing fine with reading writing magazines/books. The latest Writer's Digest reports that several "breakout" authors went through 40-60 submissions. So, I think I've only done about 20. Maybe time to dive in again. Standing Stones made me laugh and cry this week. I still believe in this story.

May your writing week go well.