Friday, December 16, 2016

This Close

What do I know about writing? I laugh aloud as I write the question. What do I really know? I know that I can. I know that I really want to write. But some days, like today, I don't think I know a single thing about the actual writing. I can form an adequate sentence and string together a bunch of them to make an adequate paragraph. If I work at it, I can actually string a bunch of those together and make a good story. I can't seem to finish them. Until now.

I'm this close to finishing The Long Summer Run, one of my favorite NaNo novels. It is exhilarating and intimidating. There is so much work still to do, even though I'm this close.

Is it a good story? Will anyone like it? Will anyone actually want to read it? Have I provided all the necessary components? Is it missing any vital details? Oh my stars, does it suck?

It's missing a whole lot of details. But the basic story is almost done. It has a beginning, middle, and almost end. Of course, the middle is a muddle but my middles always are. They are why I have trouble finishing a story. I can write the first and last of the thing but the middle seems to bog me down. I've been working on that, reading things by various authors that I hope will give me insight. I've run across some really good ones. What have I learned?

I just need to write it. Stop worrying and thinking about it and just do it. The story is all there. That's what I decided over the course of the last few months and attempted to do in November. It was going pretty good until some kind of monster cold nearly slew me. I was down for three weeks and by the time I got up I was only 5000 words in. But it was 5000 words I did not have on November 1. I estimate I have about 5000 more that I actually need.

So, what do I know about writing? Actually, a lot. I know good writing when I read it. And I know sucky writing when I read it. I'm a good editor so when I get to that point, I hope my abilities don't fail me. I know what I need to know to do it.

Knowledge is power, right?

I'm this close.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The War of Art

Sometimes things happen that just blow my mind. I stumbled across a book this week that totally changed my perspective about the difficulties I face in my writing and I feel as if I've turned a corner.

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, is written for writers who struggle to write and he nails the real reason we fail. Although the book appears directed at writers, the premise and principals he writes about can be applied to anyone who struggles to succeed. Pressfield identifies the culprit responsible for all failure, not as writer's block but Resistance. And according to Pressfield, Resistance isn't futile, it is evil and we are at war with it.

I am listening to a 2-hr audio version of the book. Last night I got halfway through and I learned so much about resistance in just that hour that it energized me. My brain felt as if it was flooded with some kind of euphoria. I wanted to jump out of bed and go write.

No, I didn't. It was nearly midnight and I had to be up at 6:30 a.m. So, needs must. I stayed in bed and listened for a while. This morning when I was getting ready to go to the write-in I had scheduled at the Mall, I found it wasn't as hard as usual to think about having to write. I have been sick for weeks and I'm still dealing with the cold but I found I was excited about writing. And I wrote when I got there. It was awesome. I came home and had been able I'd have written some more but by then the general fatigue I deal with struck and I sat down to rest. Pressfield would have said that resistance overtook me.

I want to finish the book tonight but I want to write even more. What to do? Pressfield says to identify what is a priority and what is important. Then do what is important. Writing is important.

If you're a writer struggling to write and want to attack the problems you face writing, I'd encourage you to get The War of Art. Pressfield knows whereof he speaks.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Get Well Soon!

I suspect by now you can tell that for me, NaNoWriMo is a wash. Yes, we're only halfway, just a bit more than but let's face it, writing 45K words in 15 days is only for times of extreme necessity.

This ain't the time.

I'm slowly recovering from my plague (severe cold). I've thought a few times that I was going to cough up a lung. For several days now, my head felt as if it would explode when I coughed. My chest hurt. My sides hurt. I couldn't breathe because it felt like my lungs were covered in Saran Wrap(c). I couldn't even use my CPAP machine to sleep. I wanted to sleep, all day, every day.

Life doesn't stop just because you can't function. You pull up your bootstraps and keep marching.

So, I did.

Today things are mildly better. The Azithromycin seems to be working. I'm coughing less and the congestion seems a bit better. It is a beautiful day outside and I wish I had felt like going out. I almost feel like writing but I'm just so tired that I want to lie down instead.

I think I'll just go away for a bit and try to get some rest before tonight's online write-in.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 11 of NaNoWriMo 2016

I finally broke 5000 words mark. We're almost at the halfway point and I've just got 1/10 of the total done. So, this year will be a loss. I'm oddly OK with it and that's the first time that's happened.
The cold is still hanging on. I am feeling rough today. My chest is congested and I am coughing and my nose is still runny but I think less so. Doesn't matter. I have to keep going. The good news is that I'm making some progress getting the story completed. Of course, it is going to need tons of work. Not sure it is even worth finishing.
Yeah, I'm at that point. You know the one where you question ever dot and tittle. Yes, that is a word. Where you mutter as you write, "This is junk. No one will read this garbage. What was I thinking?"
Still, I like the story and with over 75,000 words it would be stupid to stop now. It will be done. I dread revising it. But I'll do it.
Truth is, I want to feel better. I feel so bad today that everything seems bleak. I know that's the cold but it really sucks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Lost Scene

The following was created 11/05/2003. Originally intended as a different story, I modified it to be used in another. And it ended up a solitary file on my computer. I'm placing it here because I still like it. It isn't perfect but I like the story it tells.

Jamaica sat in the middle of the floor with memories surrounding her, staring up at her from a hundred photos of dead loves, hopes, and dreams. She didn't remember what day it was, couldn't remember what yesterday had been or where it had gone. A cold wind tapped at the window glass, slipped uninvited around the sill and across the floor. It stroked her ankle and draped itself around her neck like a scarf.
The faces laughed, smiled, and mugged for the camera but there was no sound of laughter in the house. This was a house of defeat. A house where dreams had shriveled up, died, and turned to dust. The very wind that slipped along her arms stirred and blew the dust away. Away, as if it had never been. 
She wished it were as easy to brush away the memories and the pain. But those remained, shrouded in the darkness of the long night of her life. Never in all the years she had lived could she remember a time when she felt such utter despair. To the contrary, her life was filled with brilliant moments of light and laughter, as the photos arrayed around her bore witness. She was 70 and she was so tired.
She picked up the photo of a laughing, sparkling boy, whose mischief glittered from beautiful blue eyes. His smile had warmed the hearts of anyone who passed within its glow. Even now, just looking at his picture she could feel his little arms circle her neck and hear his sweet voice whisper, “I love you, Mamaica!” He had been such a love. She had adored him.
She laid the photo with the rest and shuffled them around until she found another of a group of boys about 10. He was there among them, still laughing, with eyes still full of mischief. And still the darling of everyone he met. Everyone thought he would become something brilliant, a doctor, a teacher, a president. Nothing was impossible for him.
She lay this photo down as well and selected another from beneath the array. This time, the same boys were older and girls clung to the arms of some of them. They were all 16 or 17 years old at the time, as she recalled. The church had taken them all to one of those theme parks and this was taken just after they arrived and had climbed off the bus. They were all laughing, except for some of the girls, who were attempting their first chic look. Their hair fell across one eye and they tried in vain to slouch and pout the way the models did. It was equally unattractive on them.
She saw him, there in the center of the group with two of the prettiest girls, one on each arm. His head was thrown back and his mouth shouting his laughter. She could still hear it. Abandoned, joyous laughter. He had had a beautiful laugh. The mischief was not visible here but she knew it had still been present. But it was changing and she had not seen it. No one had.
She knew what the sound meant the moment she heard it. Anyone who had ever come to the house had asked the same question, “Why don’t you grease that hinge, Jamaica?” But she could never bring herself to do it. The familiar creak of the screen door was a sound that harked back to her childhood. It was a comforting sound that reminded her of the smell of biscuits in the oven, sheets on the line, and her mother’s voice, but not now, not today. Today, it was the sound of death.
She watched the doorway and waited. The sound of his feet was muted on the thick carpet in the hallway. She wondered he made any sound at all. He had always been able to slip up on folks. She remember when . . . but no, she wouldn’t go there now. It was too late. Time had run out. She had thought, had hoped even, that he would wait until she was asleep and then, perhaps smother her. Or that he would have slipped her something to put her to sleep. He could have come when she was unaware. But that would have taken some of his own pleasure. It would have robbed him.
Then, he was there, in the archway, smiling at her just as he always did. Except, for his eyes, those beautiful eyes. She marveled again at the way those eyes ran in that side of the family. They popped up here and there, giving away a relationship everyone may have forgotten or wanted to forget. But she never forgot. She had loved the man who had fathered these eyes. She had loved the boy, too.
She watched him as he approached her, trying to see the little boy from long ago, the one who had smiled up at her and tugged on her apron, asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But she saw no sign of him. He was back there, in the past, captured only in the photos around her.
“Hello, Jamaica. I see you are reminiscing again.” He stopped, squatted, and looked at the photos scattered around her. He smiled. “Lots of our old friends, I see.”
She didn’t reply, just watched and waited for what she knew must be coming.
“Ah,” he reached down and picked a photo from the floor, “Sunny Harper. Now there was a girl. Beautiful, sweet, kind, loving. Everyone’s darling. I do miss her, don’t you?” He slipped the photo into his jacket pocket. “You won’t mind if I keep this one, will you?
She sat silent. This was typical for him. He liked tormenting his prey. He would tire of it but if he thought she would struggle, he would take his time. She didn’t want to die but if she must, she wanted it to come quickly.
“You know why I am here.”
It wasn’t a question and she didn’t answer.
“You see I have the feeling that you are getting a conscience. Amazing, really, at your age. You have gone all these years and minded your own business but now, you want to unburden yourself.”
“I said nothing because I didn’t know nothing to tell. I only suspected and the police won’t listen to an old woman and her suspicions.”
“But you know now.”
“And you will tell someone.”
Again, she didn’t answer. She saw the flicker of emotion flash across his face but she didn’t know what it was exactly. Not pleasure, not anger, not even puzzlement. Disappointment? Could he be feeling remorse?
“You need help, darlin’. Really, you need to see a doctor. Now-a-days, they help folks like you all the time.” She knew, as she said it, she had made a mistake but it was too late.
He was angry, his eyes flashing, “Folks like me? What folks like me? You ever seen anyone like me around here? No, of course not. I’m an aberration, a freak. You think I’m crazy.” He paused a moment then added, “But you’re the only one who thinks that.”
She shook her head and looked at her photos. So many people she had known. So many children. “No, I never thought that about you. Never. I loved you. But you hurt folks, hurt them for pleasure.”
“Pleasure? You think I like to see people in pain? I didn’t hurt anyone. I gave them great pleasure. They hurt themselves by betraying me. I loved Sunny. All she had to do was love me back.”
She looked up into the handsome face. Surely that beautiful boy was there somewhere. She pleaded one more time, “Sweetheart, let me help you. I’ll go with you. I’ll stand by you whatever it takes. I won’t let them hurt you.”
He threw back his head and laughed with the abandon of the boy in the photo. But it was like looking in a fun house mirror. He was twisted and distorted. Not the boy she remembered at all. And then, her heart broke for the last time. Jamaica clutched her chest and gasped.
The sound silenced his laughter and he looked at her. “What’s wrong?”
She didn’t answer, partly because she wouldn’t give him one moment’s warning and partly because the pain was so great. She had planned everything to the moment. He couldn’t know until it was too late. She had done all she could to do the right thing and now it would be up to someone else to see justice done. She hoped it was enough for her own redemption. The pain tightened and she clutched her chest, groaning in pain.
“Jamaica?” He reached out and took her arms and shook her. His voice became a snarl, “You stupid woman, what have you done? You can’t die yet. I’m not done yet. I want to tell you about the others. You can’t die.”
“I told them. They’ll know what you are . . . what you’ve done.” Breathing was so hard but she had to get the words out, had to let him know. “I wanted to protect you . . . I loved you so much. But I couldn’t bear it. You had no right to do those things. I saw you . . . I saw . . .saw . . . Sunny.”
“NO! No one saw. You’re just guessing. I made sure.” She didn’t answer and his anger escalated. “Die you old fool! No one will ever know. I’ll burn the place down and you will be burned to ashes. The wind will blow you away and no one will ever know what happened to you . . . to anyone!”
The pain of his words tore through her, and if felt as if her were ripping her heart through her chest. Jamaica looked into his eyes and wondered when they had begun to look like chips of ice. They were so cold, so cold that the warmth of her body was sucked away. The pain in her chest spread and penetrated her bones. She had to say it, one final victory. She opened her mouth but words, sharp as knives, seemed caught in her chest. She prayed for one more moment, just one.
She pushed the darkness back and leaned close to him, “I hid it. I hid it and they will know.’ Then she smiled at him, “I didn’t take my medicine just in case. They’ll know you did this.’ She fell silent and then, “I forgive you, love.”
The room fell silent as she crumpled into a heap in the center of the floor. The only sound was the wind whistling around the window and the harsh breathing of the man kneeling in the floor.
“Jamaica? Jamaica! What did you hide? What?” He reached out, shook her until her head rolled around and her own fixed blue eyes looked up at him. And for the first time that he could remember since he was a child, he was frightened. He felt them, all around him, tugging at him, and prodding him. For years he had kept them appeased and at bay and tonight they had anticipated what was to come. But she had deprived them . . . she had deprived him. And now they were angry . . . he could feel it. The room was filled with their anger.

He had to leave, to get out, now. They might still be satisfied. There might still be a way. He got up, looked down at the lifeless form at his feet. Perhaps she would be enough for tonight. Perhaps they would allow him time to make up for the miscalculation. Jamaica had always had a soft spot for him but he had underestimated her. Surely, they would understand that. He hurried from the house, locking the door behind him. Only when he was safely in his car did he remove the latex gloves he had worn. No one would ever connect him with this night. No one could possibly know. No one. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Writer's Blah

I just noticed that I haven't posted here since the middle of August. My only defense is that I've been busier than a bricklayer on the Great Wall of China.

In case you weren't paying attention, I haven't been writing either. A smidgen here and there but nothing to brag about and a lot to hang my head about. My friend, Loraine, and I have joined together and formed Write Our Way. We're holding one another accountable and checking in with one another regularly. She's doing better than I and she has a baby and a toddler.

Shame is my constant companion.

The positive here is that I feel better than I have in years. Really. The Cymbalta is keeping pain at bay and I am able to do dozens of things I couldn't do before. We cleaned the garage this weekend. Mike, Becca, and I all worked moving things, tossing things, arranging things, and sweeping it out until it looks like someone else's garage. I went out twice that night just to look at my garage.

I have hopes this week to get some writing done. I have been working on something, a personal prayer journal that I'd like to share on my other blog. I'm not quite done yet but with any luck, it will be done in another week. We'll see.

I suppose that counts as writing. I'm having to write, design, and layout. Ok, so I have written something for several weeks now. It just doesn't feel like writing.

NaNoWriMo will be here in about 14 days and I'll have a mad dash for the next 30 days to write a novel. I haven't decided what I'm going to work on yet: a new novel or a work in progress. In theory, I'm supposed to do a new work but I have pulled a rebel a few times. I might this time too.

I'm headed to bed now. I need some extra sleep I think.

I hope you're writing something.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Pain, A Migraine, and Rain

It has been a truly horrible day. In fact, I've had a horrible week. My RA has beaten me up. Today it stormed and I was assaulted with a migraine and joint pain all over. Moving hurt and when I stood up, my feet would crack. Sarah even heard them and commented.

I've made plans to start a writing schedule but I keep getting these road blocks that circumvent my intentions. I still have to finish my windows in my bedroom and the trim. Until I'm feeling better, that's impossible. I also have a disaster in my den, where I write. All the stuff I've been clearing out since the bedroom project has, once again, landed in the den. Junk is everywhere. I'm getting better at getting rid of stuff, however. I have even decided to get rid of some small nick-nacks. I just want to get rid of all the stuff and fluff. I feel buried.

I've moved things in the living room and nearly killed myself in the process but some things are better. I have to paint this room soon. It is really bad. But what color? And what to do about the drapes? There is nothing that goes with navy blue but yellow. Believe me, I've tried. I could go stark white. It will be a real change for me.

Now, I just want to get the den emptied, get my desk organized and write. I did clean the desk today. Had to. Bills were piling up. They're mostly paid now but I still have statements to do. Aaaaaiiiiieeeee! I hate the financial side of living.

The problem is that I have to work in small spurts. I worked all day Saturday in the living room and I'm still paying the price today. Of course, I got a lot done but it cost me 4 days. I used all my spoons up. And my reserves.

My goal this week is to clear out the den. I've done some small stuff today as I passed through the room. I've printed off a novel no one has heard of in years. I realized I only need about 8 chapters to finish the first draft. Thanks to Alice for bringing it up. The ending was written a long time ago. I can do this and I'll have a hideously horrible +80K word draft. I don't even know if it is possible to make it work but it is a whole story. Alice keeps prodding me about it about once a year. So, I've notified her she has to be ready for feedback and brainstorming and editing.

One thing of note, as I read over some of the "story that shall remain nameless" I realized how much I've grown as a writer since I started it 9 years ago. In four chapters I was able to peg passive voice, incorrect usage, shifts in POV, and spelling errors in a snap. It was quite encouraging. I know what I'm doing now.

Now if I can just do it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Learning My Lesson

The last two weeks have been a very busy, painful time for me. I started work on repainting my bedroom two weeks ago. Storms rolling in nearly every day have made it almost impossible to do a lot at one time. I worked during that time as well, with a couple of days off each week.

In my old life, before rheumatoid arthritis, I'd have knocked out the room in a couple of days and had the furniture back in. It took me a week to prime the bubble gum pink walls. The windows.... well, the stain bled through each coat and I was concerned I'd have to strip them. I put an experimental topcoat on them and I think they'll be ok. Yesterday, after two weeks, I put the first coat of color on the walls. Afterward, I took a late lunch around 2 p.m. and nearly fell asleep over my Freddie burger. Obviously, I wasn't going to get the second coat on. I came home and sat down in my recliner and was out for about three hours. I woke, still exhausted.

What does that have to do with writing? Nothing. No writing got done. In fact, I'll finish Camp NaNoWriMo with about 1000 words. Pitiful.

Here's the thing. I'm learning, after all these horrible years of trying to do everything, I simply can't do everything. I have to pace myself. If you're familiar with RA, you know that mornings are hideous.

This morning is a great example. I didn't work yesterday. I just painted four walls. I slept a bit in the afternoon. I had a good night's sleep. I woke at 7:30 and could hardly move. It took two hours to unlock my muscles and joints. Once this passed off, I'm not in a lot of pain but my energy is low and I'll need to move around another few hours to boost that. I have to do some more painting. It won't be much. I'll probably just trim out the walls. I have to do baseboards, door trims and finish the windows. I might have to put a second coat on the wall. The room is coming together but it won't be done today.

The process has taught me something. I probably already knew it. I have to treat my writing the same way. I've got to pace myself. I have to schedule what I'm going to do today, write it, and move on to tomorrow's schedule.

I started listening to some podcast this weekend about writing and every author I've listened to seemed to reinforce this in some way. Managing time seems to be their key point. For me, that's pacing myself. I remember when I retired in 2013 I set up a schedule to write 5 days a week. It worked great for several weeks until my son had a motorcycle accident in January and broke both bones in his leg and had to have a rod put in one. He had to move home for 6 months and I had to care for him.

Things happen for a reason and I should have learned my lesson then. I didn't. The first two weeks I almost collapsed from exhaustion. He was in horrible pain and needed almost constant attention. I actually had to call in help so I could rest. As a result, my writing schedule fell apart. Once he was able to go home and care for himself, I didn't go back to my schedule. The holidays were on me and so was NanNoWriMo. A Municipal Liasion's life is busy from October through November.

After my podcast binge this weekend, I realized that I have to manage my time better. I have to go back to the schedule. I have one week left to finish the painting and work on my job. The last week of the month I'll be out of town and I want to return with a schedule in hand to structure my time, particularly my writing time. I think that is what works best for me.

I want to start today but the physical act of painting a room is going to wipe me out every time. I have to get it done and all the furniture in the room before next Saturday. I'll be out of town for a week. Writing won't happen but I'm going to keep listening to the podcasts. They've given me a lot of food for thought.

Podcasts I'm Following:
10 Minute Writer's Workshop
Michael Hyatt's This is Your Life
Writing Excuses

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summertime and Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

Summer is upon us, or so the calendar says. I just got back from a week's vacation to find I'm ready for the next one. That's a month away, at the end of July. However, before that, there is Camp NaNoWriMo 2016.

Think cabins, campfires, and marshmallows. Think dark nights in the woods, biting flies, and creepy sounds beyond your window. Not feeling it? Well, not to worry. This camp is much more relaxing... in some ways.

There are no real cabins, campfires, or biting flies. No woods with creepy sounds, or creepy crawlies, or bears. Marshmallows are, of course, up to you.

No, instead of the above you will be in an imaginary cabin - cooped up with 11 other people or isolated if you go solo. You can even go naked if you like, just keep the camera off, please. It is more fun with a group. You'll have someone to talk to in the middle of the night. Keep the lights off and use a flashlight to write by to make the experience more real. Sit on your back deck, patio, or porch at midnight and sing campfire songs around the fire pit while chatting with your cabin mates.

Or stream a YouTube campfire on the smart t.v. while you snuggle in your cozy writing space and write. After all, that's what all versions of Nano are about - writing.

So, I just finished setting up my profile, novel, and cabin. I'm notifying all my friends that I have 11 slots open in my cabin. If I don't hear in 10 days, I'll make it public and let CampNaNo give me a cabin or I'll go solo. Either way, I might get some actual writing done. Commitment is important to me and maybe committing to myself will be a catalyst.

I'll leave you now with this....

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's a Comma Problem

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

They're such cute little things. Someone put a little tail on a period and it helps you organize your sentences. You could put a little face on them and they'd look back at you, so innocent, so sweet, so helpful.

The truth is they're horrid little beasts that gnaw at you and taunt you. They snap that little tail at you and well, let's just say I have a hostile relationship with them. You might almost say toxic.

Yet, I sprinkle them liberally throughout my writing without rancor. I accept the generous help they offer, only to find they don't belong in half the places they appear. It is very frustrating. I mean, I know how to write. Yet the common comma defeats me time and again.

I have several grammar books, some really good ones, in fact. I keep them all in the room with me. They're my only defense against the comma attack. I don't even trust Grammarly! I suspect they're in cahoots sometimes. Seriously, in the second paragraph of this post, Grammarly said I needed to use "their" instead of "they're". Seriously. It was quite insistent. However, I know enough to grasp the use of pronouns and to be verbs.

This morning, I pulled my Strunk and White, 3rd Edition, from my shelf and decided to brush up on my comma mistakes. It isn't the first time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't improving but it is embarrassing to admit that after all these years, and one semester with the evil Von Furhman in 1989, that I still have problems with it.

There are so many rules of grammar that it can be overwhelming. In fact, the first chapter in my Strunk and White is Essential Rules of Usage. There are ten rules in this chapter. At the end of Rule 6 is a statement that says, "Rules 3, 4, 5, and 6 cover the most important principles that govern punctuation. They should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature."

Do you know what those rules cover? Yes, commas. The most important principles of punctuation. When I break a rule, I go big.

What I find amusing about this is that the most important rules are not 1-4. No, they come after 1. Forming singular possessives, and 2. The serial (Oxford comma). Truthfully, I'd put that Oxford comma first and make those possessives last.

In light of my review of Strunk and White's rules, I think the gist of it is that comma mastery is paramount in writing.

I'm screwed.

So,I strongly advise you buy a copy of Strunk & White... whatever edition it is in now. You can also find free editions online. Here is one copy: Strunk and White, There are many other grammar books out there. As I mentioned, I have several rather large ones. But really, Strunk and White is only 80 pages and the above copy is free.

Incidentally, Grammarly didn't didn't find any major issues with this post. Of course, I use the free Chrome plug-in and the fact that it wanted to make an erroneous substitution of a pronoun means it isn't wise to rely on it too much.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I Hate Math

I've been working on the novel in what seems to be a hit or miss fashion to me. I'm totally unsatisfied by what I've accomplished. In a perfect world, I'd get 1000 words every day. By that logic, in 50 days, I'd be done. I could do it... in my dreams. I could do a couple of thousand a day... in my nightmares.

I've forced myself, convinced myself, that even 300 words are an accomplishment to be lauded. I tell myself that. I do. I pat myself on the back. "You wrote 20 words today, my dear! Wonderful job. Best 20 words you've ever written."


No, I don't know why authors are so obsessed with word counts. Well, I sort of do. I mean, you have to keep up. There is a kind of math about it all. I hate math.

There are average lengths to stories... short stories, flash fiction, novella, novels, super novels. All have a word count range determined originally, I suspect, by publishing houses. So, one must do the math. Then, there are those "beat" thingys. I'm still trying to wrap my head around those. Fortunately, Jami Gold's website has some awesome and simple explanations. She's apparently good at math. She gives you these nice spreadsheets that do the math for you. I hate math.

Of course, daily word count goals are a different math. That's where you kind of set this goal - that's a promise to yourself - and you strive to write that many words that day. At the end of the day, you tally it up. I use Scrivener and it does the math for you. You just click that little target and it tells you how many words you've typed. It also tells you how many total words are in the novel. And, if you're really, really obsessive, you can actually put your daily target in there, and it is will beat you with a club if you don't meet your goal!

Nah, I'm lying about that. It just throws it in your face in a little box on the screen. If you ask it. I don't set those targets.

I should think about that. I hate math.

Where was I? Oh, yes. So, I was curious. I have been chewing on posting my word count every few days, at least. I like to humiliate myself like that. I'd love to see it rise daily but let's face it, it isn't happening. So, I've opted to post it when I think about it. That means when I write. I only remembered it today, after three days of writing. It sort of popped into my head.

"You've written for three days and not kept track of your daily word count." Yeah, that's true.

Then I got curious. Exactly what is the total count of the story? Well, you know, I had no idea. I rarely look at that number. Because until it is finished, the total count doesn't really ... well, it doesn't count. So, I went back and looked. 60,080 words. Now then, that's a different horse of a color.

I tried to remember what the word count was at the end of last November when I finished NaNoWriMo. I had to have at least 50,000 to win. I remember winning. Of course, I could have had more than 50K. I had no idea. In order to clarify this issue, I trotted over to the website to get my total.

As of November 30th, 2015 - 50,071 words. Oh.

As of March 12, 2016 - 60,080 words.

Well, that's progress. That means I've written 10,009 words in 104 days. That's sounds wonderful.

Let me see, that averages out to 96.24 words a day. OK, that wasn't as exciting as I anticipated.

Well, it averages out to 667.27 words a week. Hmmm, still not very exciting.

In  the course of 3.5 months, I averaged 2859.71 words each month.

I really hate math.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Tell Me A Tale - Follow Up

Weeks ago I set for a challenge here: Tell me a Tale, that no one took as far as I know. Tonight, I decided to take it myself.

I took the photo and stared at it and felt cold air soak into every pore and into my soul as I remembered. The dusty, cobwebbed attic faded and time snapped backward until once again I stood on the bank of Smuggler's Creek.

I watched a leaf drift along on the current, turning and bobbing along until it disappeared around the bend. The stream moved so slow that there was barely a ripple to mar the dark, glassy surface, only an occasional swirl as something impeded its progress. 

Although quite narrow, the water was deep and black with tannin from forest runoff. I tapped on of the pilings that lined the bank with my foot and stared into the water. Impossible to see the bottom but my reflection stared back at me with wide dark eyes, an almost pleading gaze. 

I sniffed and looked across the way where the thick, nearly impenetrable forest crowded the bank. Cold winter winds had long blasted away the leaves, leaving thick knots of vines that would defy the best sailor. All around me, in every tree, they hung so thick it would take a machete to clear them. I glanced down at the one in my hand and turned to stare at the shed that stood at the edge of the stream. 

As sheds went, it was in excellent shape. The weathered siding showed no signs of rot and the windows were all intact and tightly closed. Even the small row boat inside was in good condition. And yet, no one would easily stumble upon this place. I doubted anyone even remembered it was here. 

Dead grass crunched under my feet as I made my way back to the shed. The rusty hasp made a rasping sound as I pulled it and the door hinges screamed.  I had to clean up and get rid of everything. There could be no sign I was ever here. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Taking Time

I've had a crazy week of writing. I didn't write each day but on the days I wrote, I wrote about 1000 words, and one day, nearly double that. So, while I wish I'd done it every day, I'm not disappointed with my progress.

Somewhere this week I mentioned that I had an epiphany of sorts when I looked at my overall word count. I'm at just over 57,000. That's not actually a novel length work. In fact, it is barely a novella.  I still need roughly another 70,000 words in the draft. That revelation had an unexpected and unusual effect on me. I felt relief and exhilaration. I know I have a nearly complete story arc and that alone is exciting, but I also know there is so much more I need to say to tell the story and to realize that I had another 70K words to do it was . . . well, that was awesome.

There are, of course, wrenches in the works. I only worked two days this week but I've been fighting fatigue. Some of you will now that I'm now using a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea. It works most nights quite well but this week has been a mixed bag. For some reason, I've been getting plenty of hours sleep but I'm still feeling extremely sleepy. Yesterday, I came home and got in the recliner and slept for about 3 hours ... like a rock. I didn't feel better when I woke up. I experienced the wobbly drunkenness that I suspect is fibromyalgia. Sleep apnea and fibro produce some of the same symptoms. Brain fog, unsteadiness, and severe fatigue are symptoms of both. Today, I'm still fatigued but not as severely as I have been the last five days.

Naturally, very little gets done during these times. I began sorting 10 days of laundry today. I managed to put some of it away before my back simply rebelled. I just can't stand next to the bed to sort laundry and sitting isn't much better. I have to get up and down to hang items. So, today, I sorted items that go on hangers from items that go into drawers. I put the drawer stuff away. I'm left with hanger things and I divided those between my stuff and Sarah's. I can't go to bed tonight until I clear my bed. I have three loads of sheets and towels in the living room.

I keep saying I'll watch television and fold them but I am trying to finish Felicia's throw by the end of the month so I've crocheted instead of folding clothes. They mock me from their chairs. I laugh at their calamity.

I haven't digressed from my point. Really. I have these health problems. I didn't ask for them. I can't change them. They're running my life, like it or not. So, I've started being nicer to myself about the writing. I reminded myself that this is something I love to do and beating myself up about not doing it is robbing me of the joy of it. So, I've given myself permission to write as little or as much as I can, when I can, and be proud of what I can. I can't fix me, but I can fix how I handle it.

The other thing I decided today is to put a stop to all my Facebook digressions. I spend too much time there of late and in playing a game online. When you don't feel well it is easy to just sit and scroll mindlessly on social media, reading every scrap of other people's lives and your own scrolls away with it. My writing suffers when I'm doing that but so does my life. Truth is, reading books is very hard these days. Concentration suffers and as a result so do other areas of my life. These diseases rob people of the things that make them happy.

I remembered my Site Blocker extension and turned it back on today. I've blocked out times when I can and can't be on Facebook and if I miss my time slots, well, I need to just get over it. They're very limited - noon - 3:30 and after 9 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. I did this last year and it did make a difference in the time I spent writing. Although, I can get on using my phone but I tend to spend less time on Facebook on my phone than I do on the computer.

My time is valuable and limited. I shouldn't waste what I have left on foolish pursuits while the things that define me are left behind. I may not be able to do some of the things I really want to do but I need to take time to do what I can and I need to be kinder to myself when I can't.

If your health has put you in a rut, remember ruts slope at either end. Walk out of it. Take your time but walk out of it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cherry Cart Living

It would be really nice if I could actually schedule my life. You know - work, writing, family, business, crochet, reading, RA flares, fibromyalgia flares, fatigue, sleep, etc.

I should make a chart. I like making charts. Maybe a real planner or my Google Calendar. It isn't as if I can't plan anything. Work gives me a schedule the week before. I already put that on the calendar, along with other appointments. So, writing time could be slotted in, crochet time, reading time.Today I spent the day paying bills, working on the bank account, figuring out where the money goes. No, I did not find the hole. And I got nothing else done. I still have to do the statements for January and February will be out this week.

Most of the stuff I do could be scheduled, of course, but I can't schedule the RA and fibromyalgia flares. I can't predict when the sleep apnea will disrupt my sleep, or the machine will give me a problem - both resulting in poor sleep and extreme fatigue the next day. No. These are the bumps in the road. They upset the apple cart. . . if you equate my life with an apple cart. Cherry cart? Yes, cherry cart. Cause it is also full of pits.

Sarah has been sick since last Thursday. A sick child makes a tired Mawmaw. She goes back to school tomorrow. I worked two days this week and will again tomorrow. The rest of the time, I alternated between joint pain and exhaustion. On Tuesday, I worked a 4 hr shift and thought I'd die before I got out of there. I was so tired. In fact, I spent several evenings just sitting and crocheting a throw while I watched television. Gradually, I'm getting back on track with sleep but it takes a few days to get my brain sorted and it seemed a more intelligent decision today to do the checkbook and pay bills. Just so they don't turn off the lights, ya know? And that crocheted throw is coming along nicely.

All the writing I seemed to get done last week mocks me from a distance. I should have planned it, not left it to fate. So, Friday is upon me and no words to show for it. I'd be annoyed but I'm so tired that I really don't care.

And tomorrow is another day. Sarah will be in school and if I can stay awake long enough after I get off work, I might get some writing done. I'll only be working 2 days next week. Surely I can plot something.

I get so angry with myself for not writing. It doesn't matter why I didn't write. I didn't write. I should have written.

What kind of things interfer with your writing? 
Do you schedule writing time? What kind of things disrupt that?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Who's Counting?

I suppose I shouldn't be so excited but I wrote almost 500 words yesterday. When I realized this, it was exciting for some reason. They were 500 hard words. It took a while to get them on the page.

For the first time in weeks, weeks with no computers, weeks of guest, weeks of sickness, weeks of exhaustion, I was able to sit down and write 500 words.

I stared at the story for a while, reading and wondering how I was going to get out of the doldrums that I felt like I was in. Then, I simply started moving things around, adding things, clarifying things. I have the most complete NaNo novel ever and it is more like an edit but I've got to connect quite a few dots before that happens. I'm working on two story lines that have to converge soon and it is tedious but thanks to Scrivener's Collection features it is a bit easier to work with than it would be otherwise. So 500 words feels like a thousand.

Were they good words? Yes. The fact that they were words appearing on the screen, in a logical sequence that drew pictures in the brain makes them good words. The fact that it took me forever to get them on the page means they were hard words. 500 good hard words. Awesome.

Usually, I don't do a word count when I'm working like this. NaNo is really the only place I keep track. But I've decided to change things up a bit. I've been reading some really great writing books that have given me some new ideas to keep me moving forward and thinking differently about the story.  I read 2,000 to 10,000  before Christmas. Eye opening ideas on getting the most words in a shorter period of time. I've taken a few of her ideas to heart and they work. I want to read it again soon.

Currently, I'm reading Martha Alderson's Plot Whisperer. I bought this over Christmas as a gift to myself. This book is heavy. I wasn't sure I was going to like it but now I realize that there is so much good stuff in here that I have to read it twice. I'm making notes in the book as I go and once I'm done I want to go back and read it again, using the method to work on my story. I'm already thinking about it in the terms she uses but it is simply too detailed to jump into all at once. As a pantser, plotting isn't my strong point so I'm hoping Alderson's book will be a revelation to me. So far, I'm not disappointed.

I also have a third book on character development I got for Christmas I would like to start next. I don't have a problem with my characters. They're usually very well defined but one never knows too much.

I wish I could have written more than 500 words but they're great words.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Writer's Chicken Salad

When I'm writing, I like foods I can munch easily. Once I get the muse talking I hate to shut her up just because I'm faint with hunger. I've had times when I was in the flow and gone without eating so long I became ill.

So, to appease this fickle daughter of Zeus, I try to find edibles I can access quickly, with minimum prep time so I can get back to work. It is easy to fall into a habit of reaching for unhealthy stuff.

Since I retired, I've tried to make changes in what I eat that won't mess up my lab numbers. I still grab junk food but I've started buying things that are better for me and fast. I like sandwiches for that reason but processed meat is not good for you.

I'm also limited on what meats I like. I like ham and salami but not turkey or baloney. My grocery store stocks a wonderful chicken salad but that thing cost the earth. Just a pound cost more than $8. That will buy lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, including the drink and tip!

A few weeks ago, I needed something and after scrounging in the cabinets and refrigerator and finding nothing fit for mortals, I found Sarah's canned chicken. I never cared for canned chicken but I bought it because her other grandmother told me when Sarah is at her house, she loves to eat it.

So, I went back to the cabinets and fridge and scrounged some more, racking my brain trying to remember what they put in that wonderful salad at the supermarket and wondering if I had that in my larder. Turns out, I have better stuff than they used and it taste better than the store version. The important thing is that it's healthier than Reese Cups, and it's fast. I can be back to the desk in under 30 minutes.

And now, I'm sharing my receipt with you. Enjoy and get back to writing.

A Writer's Chicken Salad

Prep time: 15-20 minutes


1 12.5 oz (354 g) can *Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast-Or brand of your choice. (chop fine)
1/2 cup diced celery*
1/2 cup Ocean Spray Craisins*
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2-1/3 cup *Mayo or dressing of your choice (amt needed for desired consistency) 
Lettuce, I prefer a blend to enhance the flavor.
Favorite bread

Mix well. Store in an airtight container. 
This will make about 4-5 sandwiches. 

* Notes:
*Chicken: I used Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast from Wal-mart but you can use the brand of your choice. Yes, it is still processed meat but without nitrates. You may find a healither version. You may use fresh grilled, roasted, or fried checken and shred it. I take a chopper and chop my canned chicken rather fine because I don't like chunks. It makes a smoother spread that way. I'm going to eventually try a Sam's Rotisserie chicken. Remember, if you're cooking, it adds to the time and expense.

*Celery: Don't worry about waste here. It stores amazingly! When you get your celery, take it apart, wash it thoroughly and dry it, and wrap it tightly in Reynolds Wrap (or a cheaper foil if you prefer). I mean really wrap it well. I use two sheets and press it all around the bundle. Now, store it in your crisper. It will keep for weeks. YES! It will. I've had the stalks in my fridge now for over three weeks and it still is fresh.

*Craisins: You can substitute red grapes for the Craisins. I like both but Craisins have their own health benefits.

*Mayo: You could substitute Ranch Dressing, Miracle Whip or something else. Don't use Lowfat anything.  They have a high sugar content.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Who Remembers?

I hear it all the time. Different voices but the same question. When are you going to publish a book? "I don't know."  I can't stop writing new things. Before I'm done with one, a new one presents itself.  I have notebooks of ideas that came and went as well as those novels.

Over the years, many things would interfere with writing but I never stopped, not really. Marriage, military, children, school, work, and now illness have all sown tares in my writing life. I do not regret these things at all. I have had a relatively wonderful life.

Now I'm retired, what every writer dreams of, and should be able to write as much as I want. Reality is seldom what you dream.  In my case, health has become a bigger hinderance than any of the others. I'm doing better these days but it has been difficult for a long time. This National Novel Writing Month I wrote what is probably the best story I've ever written. I've stunned by it and that just doesn't happen. However, the overwhelming task of finishing a book after you've been away from it for a while is hard to cope with, but I'm working on it. And the romance returns slowly.

Today, I picked up one of my favorite books. The Poems of Longfellow. It is a book long out of print that I bought at a used book shop that has since burned. I bought it to replace another copy given to me by my step-father when I was no more than 10 or 11 but lost in a move many years ago. That copy was old and had not been cared for as the covers and title page were gone when I got it. I read my favorite Longfellow poems over and over for many years until I lost it. When I found this copy in that bookstore it was like finding a long lost relative.

Today, I opened it up and the yellowed pages fell open to a poem I've never read. There are many in the book. Longfellow was prolific. Of course, I read the first poem I saw. It is about a French poet by the same name. I've never heard of Oliver Basselin. I've never read his poetry. Longfellow apparently knew of him. The poem spoke to me in an unexpected way.

Oliver Basselin
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the Valley of the Vire
  Still is seen an ancient mill,
With its gables quaint and queer,
  And beneath the window-sill,
      On the stone,
      These words alone:
"Oliver Basselin lived here." 

Far above it, on the steep,
  Ruined stands the old Chateau;
Nothing but the donjon-keep
  Left for shelter or for show.
      Its vacant eyes
      Stare at the skies,
Stare at the valley green and deep. 

Once a convent, old and brown,
  Looked, but ah! it looks no more,
From the neighboring hillside down
  On the rushing and the roar
      Of the stream
      Whose sunny gleam
Cheers the little Norman town. 

In that darksome mill of stone,
  To the water's dash and din,
Careless, humble, and unknown,
  Sang the poet Basselin
      Songs that fill
      That ancient mill
With a splendor of its own. 

Never feeling of unrest
  Broke the pleasant dream he dreamed;
Only made to be his nest,
  All the lovely valley seemed;
      No desire
      Of soaring higher
Stirred or fluttered in his breast. 

True, his songs were not divine;
  Were not songs of that high art,
Which, as winds do in the pine,
  Find an answer in each heart;
      But the mirth
      Of this green earth
Laughed and revelled in his line. 

From the alehouse and the inn,
  Opening on the narrow street,
Came the loud, convivial din,
  Singing and applause of feet,
      The laughing lays
      That in those days
Sang the poet Basselin. 

In the castle, cased in steel,
  Knights, who fought at Agincourt,
Watched and waited, spur on heel;
  But the poet sang for sport
      Songs that rang
      Another clang,
Songs that lowlier hearts could feel. 

In the convent, clad in gray,
  Sat the monks in lonely cells,
Paced the cloisters, knelt to pray,
  And the poet heard their bells;
      But his rhymes
      Found other chimes,
Nearer to the earth than they. 

Gone are all the barons bold,
  Gone are all the knights and squires,
Gone the abbot stern and cold,
  And the brotherhood of friars;
      Not a name
      Remains to fame,
From those mouldering days of old! 

But the poet's memory here
  Of the landscape makes a part;
Like the river, swift and clear,
  Flows his song through many a heart;
      Haunting still
      That ancient mill,
In the Valley of the Vire.

I don't know that a stone will ever mark my residence for posterity. A book may never be on the shelves but I've shared my words with many people. So maybe someday, when the bookstores are burned, today's books are out of print, when the movie stars and politicians are all dead, maybe someone somewhere will remember my words.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Gone Too Long

I hate this time of year. This is when I have to spend weeks convincing myself that I am a writer. I do it every January.
In general, after the insanity of National Novel Writing Month, Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, and New Year I'm pretty wiped out. It takes me weeks to get back into a writing mode, much of it spent berating myself for my inadequacy, cursing my RA, and generally feeling rotten about the whole mess.

The last several months have been exceptionally frustrating. First, I had my NaNoWriMo, a month of writing madness, fun but stressful because in the middle of that is Thanksgiving, which I spent in Atlanta with family this year. So add travel and four days away at the home stretch of NaNo. About two weeks later my son, his wife and two children blew in and we were six in the house, plus dog and visitors. They left the day after Christmas and two days later, Sarah's mother came to visit so Sarah could meet her baby sister. She stayed until the 4th of January. Sprinkle in shopping and just visiting and you have a whirlwind holiday season, during which time my RA was raging.

But I'm not done yet. In the midst of all that, actually the first two weeks of December, both computers died. So, the best NaNo novel I've ever written languished on a disc. Thank goodness for that foresight. You can find details in other posts during that time. I think I whined a lot.

My new laptop showed up on December 24, when no one is going to be writing, even if the computer was ready for it. It took me another three weeks and two tech support calls to get it writing ready. Then I got the call to start a new job.

Well, shoot.

At last, yesterday I sat down with All That's Holy on Blue's screen. Yes, that is the name of my new laptop. The last one was Red. The new one is a pretty shade of blue. I was so excited I even bought a new mouse with a blue geometric design on it and a blue mouse pad.

I got Sarah off to school, got dressed for work, and sat down at the desk. I opened the file and put the story on the screen. I froze and stared at it and couldn't figure out what to do next or where to start. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the scope of the thing. It was a terrible sensation.

When I recovered a bit I decided to print it out to review it and see if that helped. So, I printed it and took one look at 183 pages of chaos and lay it carefully on the corner of the desk. It was 9 a.m. I went to work.

When I came home the pile was waiting. I ignored it and decided later that evening would be better for me. I don't know what I did the rest of the day. However, after getting Sarah to bed last night, I cranked Blue up and pulled up the story and was again overwhelmed by it.

I realized I'd been gone too long. I'd let the story sleep for over a month and despite everyone saying this is what you should do, it was the worst thing I could have done! My brain simply felt dazed at the thought of working on it. I'd kept writing after NaNo until the laptop blew up. Then I'd moved to the desktop and two days later the hard drive failed. Then, holidays and a full house hit me. So, from mid-December until mid-January, I had been unable to sit down and write. And now that I was raring to go... the car wouldn't start.

I don't know how long I stared at the screen; it could only have been minutes, but at some point, I began to read. The words rolled around in my head and images formed. Sights, sounds, and smells filled my head. Faces took shape. Gradually, I fell in love again with the characters, the place, and the story. I started adding things here and there. A scene was in the wrong place and I moved it. I saw one POV that has to go. Some scenes need to be cut, expanded, or added.

Something called me back to the present. I didn't want to return but I had to go to bed.

But... this morning, I'm packed and ready. It is a long trip. I've missed Whitehaven, Nick, and the king who goes barefoot in the palace. I want to see the hidden caverns of the Host. And I want to know how it all comes together.

You know, I have been gone too long.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tell Me the Tale

Your Grandmother died and your Aunt Mary asked you to come and help clear out the house. When you get there, she is working in the attic. She's sitting on a stool and rummaging through a huge trunk and invites you to take the other stool and help her. 

The first thing you pull out is an old manila envelope that appears to be filled with papers. You dump them out and a legal-looking document and several photos fall into your lap. The photo at left is the first photo you pick up. 

You turn to Mary and ask her about it. She glances at it and pales.

So, tell me the tale.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Beginning

At last, the first blog post of 2016. I'm actually relieved to be writing it. I kept wracking my brain for something to write but couldn't come up with a thing. I finally decided to just jump in and sink or swim. You'll have to be the judge.

The new computer arrived the day before Christmas and as of today, has everything I need loaded and ready to write. It feels very odd on several counts. I feel as if I don't know where to start. I've looked at my novel a few times in the last week but it felt foreign to me. Proof that you shouldn't leave a work in progress to lie fallow. I'll get back into it but I suspect it will take some hard work to get the creative flow back.

I also am missing my faithful Red. That was the laptop that died. The new one, named Blue, is nice and functional but everything is unfamiliar. The keyboard feels better but I've missed my lighted keys several times. I hate the number keypad. And all the insert, delete, home, PgDn, PgUp, and end keys are in a ridiculous place and I can't find them. The mouse pad is larger! I hate mouse pads of any size. This one doesn't disengage when I plug in my wireless mouse and so I'm getting errors in my typing every time I type. Yes, I tried to disengage it. I know how and it says it is but each time I start up the system, it resets. Then, there is the screen. I hate shiny screens. My old one had a great screen and everything was very clear and sharp and there were no reflections. This one... not so much. I'm telling myself that I only need it to write. That's it. And it really is a beautiful shade of blue. I do like the blue.

This is the first Christmas I actually got gifts related to writing. I loved it! I got a new writer's book for Christmas, Character, Emotions & Viewpoint, along with those lovely inspirational paintings my daughter-in-law made for me. The paintings are hanging in my den and I'm constantly imagining my certificates, degrees, and NaNoWriMo winner certificates surrounding them. I need to paint the room and get things back in order now that the holidays are over. The writing bug is gnawing at my brain.

As a treat to myself, besides the gift of Blue, I bought two other writing books I've been wanting: The Plot Whisperer and The Writer's Thesaurus. I'm about halfway finished with the Plot Whisperer. That is a good book. I will probably have to read it twice to really get the full benefit but already I understand some things I didn't before about plot.

The last of my Christmas guest will be leaving on Tuesday and after that things will settle down to more normal routine. I hope. I've had a wonderful holiday with all the family here and I am so glad they could come. But I'm ready for the holiday to be over and life to calm down.

I leave you with the hope that your new year has begun with great joy and excitement and promise. Keep writing, no matter how difficult it gets. When pain gnaws at you, let your mind build worlds filled with interesting characters who each have their own story to tell.

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