Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hey, Sunshine: Good and Talented?

Maria Popov's review of Samuel R. Delany's new book, is well worth a read -- even though my inner critic leaps out of my forehead to say, "You'll never be done. You'll never be done!"

In About Writing: 7 Essays, 4 Letters and 5 Articles, intransigent Delany says, "Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t."

Well, Delany, a nine-time Nebula Award winner, does live in New York. 

So I'll click my heels three times out here in the boondocks, and continue researching yellow fever in the 19th Century. Found a great book to read (already ordered it) this morning:  The Sooterkin by Tom Gilling. I think this guy may be a 'talented writer'. He moved to Australia in 1983 and writes with precision and grace.

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

On the bright side, my blog got the Sunshine Award. Now, for the 10 questions the award requires and my nominations of 10 outstanding blogs: 

10 Random things about you:
What inspired you to start blogging?
I started blogging in 2004 as a way to share my travel adventures. When I began writing my novels, I started blogging to have a place to talk about writing. The results have been much more than I expected as I’ve met wonderful writers from everywhere. We may never be famous, but we share a passion for writing, revising, publishing, and even the dreaded marketing.  Then along came A-to-Z Challenge and A Round of Words in 80 Days. Now I’m a committed blogger!

How did you come up with the name of your blog?
The travel blog’s title, “On the Road Again,” came right from our daughter. Her exasperated cry (“You’re on the road, again?”), met with our excitement of leaving (latest trip October 2012 to Africa for three weeks). My writing blog carries just my name. Still working on that marketing thing.

What is your favorite blog to read?
I do read many blogs, partly for ROW80 and the A-to-Z Challenge, but KM Huber’s blog is the one I turn to again and again for her reflections on simply being.

Tell us about your dream job.
My dream job is where I am now – retired. When I think about all those hours I worked in a corporate setting and then a classroom, I’m very grateful for what I learned and contributed. But now is good. Now I have time for my first love, writing.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty?
In the mornings, my glass is half-full. In the afternoons, if I don’t watch what I eat, I suffer the slough of despair. By evening, that darn glass is half-full again! I don’t quite have the energy to do as much I once did, so I miss volunteer work, but I’m still very grateful for this life, these glasses (the ones I can see out of), and a positive way of seeing tomorrow.

If you could go anywhere for a week's vacation, where would you go?
Hah! It wouldn’t be for one week. I’d love to spend two months with my hubby in Tasmania (where my current novel is set). Next – Paris for a month. I’m remembering a small town in Greece and another in Turkey, along the Mediterranean, where life is sunny and slow.

What food can you positively not eat?
Except for pepper, I’m omnivorous, a survivor, a follower of the ‘see-food’ diet, and an experimental cook.

Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Chocolate in any form, the drink of royalty, supposedly helpful in communing with the gods. Count me in, especially ice cream, my current temptation.

How much time do you spend blogging?

Although the writing comes first, I strive for twice a week on all my blogs. Each entry takes 1-2 hours. Reading blogs is so integrated into reading e-mails, I can’t count the time. But I would suffer from computer withdrawal if the power went out.

Do you watch TV and if so, what are your favorite shows?
I have three shows I watch regularly  – The Big Bang, Smash, and Person of Interest.  DVR means I can fast forward right through all those commercials.

Delany’s voice is in my head: 
This is NOT talented writing. 
Nobody cares. But I care about the next 
10 bloggers I nominate for the SUNSHINE AWARD:

KM Huber’s blog http://www.kmhubersblog.com for the sheer beauty of her photographs, writing and and reflections on Zen and the Buddha.

Sarah Corbett Morgan’s A Gringuita in Costa Rica http://www.scmorgan.com/  Wonderful writing from an expatriat.

Dawn Goldsmith’s Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles http://www.subversivestitch.blogspot.com/ takes me to those links between women, textiles and creativity.

Katherine Lowrly Logan’s Notes from Tabor Lane http://www.katherinelowrylogan.com Writing advice on so many different levels – always inspirational, always helpful.

A Round of Words in Eighty Dayshttp://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com/ “The writing challenge that knows you have a life.” This blog helps with setting writing goals and makes participants accountable. We post our progress 2x a week!

Blogging from A-to-Z Challengehttp://www.a-to-zchallenge.com Each April, participants write a blog entry a day, challenging but ultimately satisfying.

The “Ultimate Blog Challengehttp://ultimateblogchallenge.com/ offers a writing challenge each January, April, July, and October.

Jessica Page Morrell’s The Writing Life Too http://thewritinglifetoo.blogspot.com/  another Oregon writer who writes on writing. Morrell says, “If you’re reading this, you’re not writing!”

Karen Woodward at http://blog.karenwoodward.org for practical how-to writing advice.

Rachel Abbott at http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com/ who guides indie authors through the publishing process.

Thank you, Jai, for the nomination and the chance to recognize these great blogs!

Friday, May 17, 2013

I think I'm in love . . . with Oskar

The last two days I've been working on a PowerPoint intro to The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales just to see what this might look like and how it might work online. So far, the sad fact is I haven't yet learned how to post the PPT so it shows up as a slide show. Aha! Two hours later . . . Maybe. Oh the joys of PowerPoint.

But in the process of relearning PowerPoint with all the gnashing of teeth that entails, I discovered this wonderfully creative German pianist, Oskar Schuster, who integrates sounds from typing and cameras into his piano music. It would have been a wonderful addition to my PPT as Herr Schuster posts his music under a Creative Commons license. 

Enjoy this video of Sneeuwland.  Listen for the sounds of the typing!

And here’s my PowerPoint slide show. 

Enjoy the images that inspired me to write about mermaids. And CLICK on the small box on the far right of the Scribd menu bar below to view the slide show full screen.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Women Writers -- Just for Fun

Well, before getting started this morning, I got sidetracked by a Twitter from Mike Wells. He posted this short and somewhat humorous survey. 

So IF you are a female author, why not take this little quiz. It's fun. I get nothing from it . . . except a reveal at the bottom of this post. You get to find out which author I am! I was surprised. The questions were interesting. Thanks, Mike.

Now it's truly time to get to work. 

I made absolutely fabulous progress last night on my Marketing Plan. My goal is simple: When I publish, I want to know exactly what to do to promote my book that works for me. People can be so snarky about what is needed -- You MUST use an editor. You MUST use a professional cover designer.  And that's before deciding how many promo copies are needed, when the book should be launched, what's the best venue for the launch, and many, many other questions. Well, that shoe doesn't fit this princess!

So much information is available online and elsewhere that, at times, designing a realistic marketing plan seems daunting.

What was my breakthrough? The trick for me is to simply DRAFT a list using all the sources I've gathered. Don't worry about which ones I'll actually do. Just put ideas in a list. It's DRAFT first, then REVISE. I could knock myself on the head. Of course, I know how to do that!!!!

PS. I'm Harper Lee.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

There will be blood . . . but how much?

Yesterday I was reading about convict life in Van Diemen's Land and was reminded again of the use of floggings in prisons and aboard ship for what may well seem to modern readers as mild infractions. 

So in my stories, how much blood? One account had a poor fellow sentenced to 300 lashes (a fairly common sentence). After 100 lashes, the authorities decided his back couldn't take any more punishment, so they switched to his buttocks. After another 100 lashes, they finished the sentence on the backs of his legs. The writer said more than likely the prisoner was sentenced to further flogging when he couldn't work to quota in the following days. One beta reader told me she knew these things happened, but she couldn't bring herself to read about them. 

So in historical fiction, while action drives the story, how much 'true to life' does the writer include? Does violence advance the story?

Writers are advised to write what we know. I'm not a violent person, haven't been in fights, nor do I want to. But I was knocked around as a kid. I remember being 6 or 7, and my mother joking that when she lifted her hand, we kids ducked. That detail could be worked in. 

I was hit once when I was a teenager for mouthing off. One minute I was talking; the next, my head buzzed. I couldn't figure out what had happened. Everything hurt. My lip puffed out, and everyone screamed. I got an ice pack and an apology, but now I realize it was because she didn't want anyone to know.

Years later, on my way home from work, I was attacked. A young man came up behind me just as I was putting my key into the door. I turned to face him, and just as quickly, we scrabbled on the ground. His face inches away from mine, I yelled obscenities at him (at a time I didn't swear at all), and he ran away. Within minutes, I was shaking so hard, I could barely speak. Hours later, I felt every bump and bruise. 

So adrenaline in the moment of a fight could block pain, but the shock of being hit or hitting generates an immediate survival response. And there's always the aftermath where the person takes account of what happened, why, and what possibly could be done -- revenge or flight. In prison, running away would not be possible.

I've also been thinking about simple animosity

Various accounts of male and female prisoners reveal both class awareness, a rough pecking order, and discrimination based on nationality. English prisoners, male and female, were assigned out as servants and workers first. Scottish and Irish prisoners were harder to place. Add to this mix the animosity and distrust between those who came from a convict background, colonists, and those who emigrated or who comprised the upper class.

A TV reality shows shocked me with the depth of such disdain. The storyline was about conflicts between 19th Century English nobility and a slew of servants on an isolated estate. The actors had gathered to 'play their roles', and the nobility treated servants with chilling disregard for any modern sense of justice or fairness. One 'lady' admonished her son not to play with that sort. She was dead serious. 

Prejudice is insidious. Is it any surprise that the Australian 'convict stain' has taken generations to heal? 

Morning thoughts. If you write, what role does class awareness or violence play in your story-telling?

Monday, May 06, 2013

May: Plot Hole Month

This may well be the toughest month for me. 

Plot Hole Month. I'm picking through Years of Stone just one last time. The whole story resonates complete. I just want to doublecheck that my characters really are the feisty characters they say they are. That they aren't fighting their way out of a paper bag. That they really do cliff hang to achieve their goals.

I'm using James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure to guide my work.

By Sunday, I want to identify 3 scenes that need rewriting in Section 1. As Deidre follows Mac to 19th Century Van Diemen's Land, is she a woman who faints or fights? How exactly does she make friends in places high and low? As Mac is pulled into the prison system, does his temper again place his survival at risk?

Have I sacrificed internal conflicts (which we all have) for obvious, external obstacles? Do these conflicts and obstacles really challenge my characters?

Are any characters or scenes superfluous?

I also want to draft a MARKETING PLAN that cuts through the conflicting advice online and lets me know exactly what I need to do by when. 

Some say the first step is in setting up a PRODUCTION PLAN (final book editing, cover design, target audience, print plan, distribution plan) with target dates. This Production Plan supports and drives all other promotion which can then be divided into a pre-launch phase, actual launch, and a post-launch phase. Each one of these phases can have many steps. Some writers launch without a plan at all.

But coming up with a good production/marketing plan is the business side of being a writer. I've heard groans, gnashing of teeth, and sighs. Who wouldn't simply tell stories? I can't speak truly to what impels anyone to write. I only know that so begins the morning. Younger writers may be cautioned to go the traditional route. But I'm an older-than-average writer. And I'd like some readers to read my work. Each novel takes me about three years from idea to finished story.  It's time to let these first two books venture out in the world.

If you're a writer, what are your preoccupations for this first and lovely real month of Spring? What essential steps would you include in a Production/Marketing Plan?

My work space (Camp 2013)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May Day poem . . .

Now the green leaves vie
with little white apple blossoms, 
and the trees sprout 
tiny parachutes of green and pink.
Even the pine trees 
offer the smallest of cones
at the tips of branches, new growth.
The red-winged blackbirds have returned,
their call half-chirp, half-melodic trill. 
I wander by the wetlands,
yesterday’s snow forgotten.
Hoping for a glimpse of a shy killdeer,
I find a yellow-beaked mallard standing guard
as his brown-feathered hen rests
in a cup-like nest among the reeds,
and I am content.

Mallards by Carl Friedrich Deiker (1875) (Wikipedia)

National Poetry Month has ended, as has my effort to write a poem a day. Yet spring has truly begun. What better way to celebrate the beginning of May than with another poem? May the sun shine and the rain fall in the proper round of seasons, bringing you joy and peace.