Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April IWSG

Happy April! Were you fooled on Monday? My twelve-year-old got me good. She ran into the kitchen right before bedtime--or rather, an hour past--looking for her backpack and muttering about a homework assignment she forgot to do. Instantly livid, I was about to yell emphasize that I don't feel like doing homework at 10-freaking-o'-clock she should be more mindful of these things, when she stopped, smiled, and said, "April Fools'". 

Good one, kid. 

Of course, as writers, we fool people all the time, or at least, we try. So, it's time for another post for the IWSG,  led by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and his merry crew of co-hosts: J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken! 

First, the IWSG optional question:

If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

Once Upon A Time

I'd pick the first five pages and have some magical super-fairy sprinkle writerly intoxication powder all over that sucker to make it irresistible to agents and publishers. Ooooo, they'd think, I've got to represent/publish this one, for sure! A 110K word count? No problem.

College of Charleston grounds
Image: denisbin

The first draft of my current work-in-slomo-progress is still clunking along. It's set at a college campus, and is it just me, or are there a lot more novels and movies about high school than ones set at college. Why is that, you think? 

Besides wanting help on those all-important first five pages, I'd also take some pointers on the parts of the novel between big scenes. Writing about specific things like fights, kisses, chases, or death are the fun parts. It's the lulls in between that can be tricky. You don't want to think of those parts as "filler" or else, chop-chop, they need to go. But you can't have things going full blast, 100 mph all the time, either. Or can you? 

speed 1
Image: Hsiung/d6487coke

Being able to write the lower intensity scenes so that they are just as interesting and as important story-drivers as the high intensity scenes is a skill. In fact, I often find myself enjoying those parts the most when rewatching/rereading things.

I mean, face it. Most of us went to our first viewing of Titanic to see the boat go down. But fess up. Who here kept going back to enjoy the evolution of Rose and Jack's love story, hmm? And whenever I reread Stephen King's IT, it's the characters and their backstories that I linger over much more than the final destruction of the monster. 

Can you name a book or movie that took place at college besides Animal House? Any book or movie you love for the development more than or as much as the climax?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

March IWSG

Wednesday, March 6. The dream: Spend a quiet day blogging and writing while the kids are at school and the husband is out of town. Enjoy the snow as it falls gently to the ground and the sound of sweet purring cats snoozing in their beds. 

The reality: Scratch cornea trying to pull out damaged contact. Locate granny glasses. Listen to child tell me they can't go to school because their ankle hurts. Call doctor. Realize basement toilet has a leak and carpet pad in room next door is soaked. Call plumber. Need to finish blog. Needs more humor. Need to save Dove from kitten. Noche's fangs are in her butt, again.

Why isn't husband here when chaos breaks loose? Why is it so freaking cold and snowy when I have to take my hobbling kid out? ARGGHH!

Welcome to another installment of the IWSG, led by Alex Cavannaugh and co-hosted by Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard! 

This month's optional question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I started writing in first person many years ago and now I can't stop. So, I usually end up writing from the main character's point of view, and my main characters tend to be more heroic than villainous.

After a long hiatus, I've forced myself to get back into writing fiction. I've given the advice that if a writer is stuck, one way to get through is to write anything, no matter how horrid, just to get the creative juices flowing. Spew forth and clean up the mess in later edits. Looks like this:


So far, that process has been working and I've got about 90 pages of new stuff. Absolute raw sewage. I'll fix it later. I'm not going to even think about the word count and I know this thing is going to bloat like nobody's business.


I should have stopped at 90K!  Image: Gerard Van Der Leun

Before leaving the writing chair, having an idea of what the next scene should be about is key. First, it gives me something to brainstorm about while washing dishes or taking a shower. Second, it stops me from sitting in front of a blank screen thinking, "Hmmmmmm. I have no idea what to do now." For me, getting started is more than half the battle.


I also took the unprecedented step of writing while my children were in the house! Once I even kept typing with one of them sitting right next to me, doing the "Mom...Mom...Mom" chant.

But back to perspective. This MC doesn't see himself as a hero. In fact, he's made some awful choices, which derailed his life. He feels like of villain of circumstances and is striving for redemption.

To get back into the habit of writing daily (or close to it), I've been slapping down things that happen and dialogue, following a loose outline and making almost as many notes as prose. In later drafts, I'll focus on inner dialogue, feelings, and something which is going to be a challenge: writing a character suffering from bipolar disorder. Should be interesting.

Have you written a character with a mental disorder? How's your Wednesday going?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February IWSG

Happy February! How bizarre is the weather where you are? Last week it was subzero temps that had us lower in degrees than Antartica (yes, really), yesterday it was a record high that let me jog in shorts, and tomorrow? Ice storm. Alrighty then. So, if the weather's got your head spinning, how's the writing going? Feel free to dish.

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for awesome ninja skills on this wonderful writer's platform along with his merry band of co-hosts: Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

February 6 question - Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?

1. Procrastination

I can find thirty different ways to avoid unpleasant tasks in a heartbeat. Don't want to make a phone call? Sorry, time to clean the litter box. (Hmm, that seems a little backwards, but I'm an odd bird.) Need a reason to avoid the writing desk? Oh, I've got a million of those, including fatigue, shopping, kids wanting to come home sick, fighting cats that need separating, housework, and scavenger hunts for lost items.

2. Clutter arranging/hiding

It's horrifying amazing the amount of crap dearly beloved keepsakes I can cram into the storage areas of this house. Send Maria Kondo, stat!

3. Wildlife Photography

Here's our neighborhood friend, Foxy, a beautiful red critter that's been visiting for a several weeks now. He (or she) is gorgeous.

Noche and a harbor seal, holding paws. Awww. Who says stuffed animals are just for kids?

Have you ever seen a kid whose adult teeth come in behind their baby teeth, sort of like a shark? Well, guess what? It can happen to kittens, too. Here's a shot of Noche with double upper fangs. I hope it's not hurting the little guy. It's the same on the other side of his mouth as well. I wonder which is the baby tooth and which is the adult?

Our girl, Dove, impersonating a harp seal. She is the only cat I've ever met that actually allows belly rubs. I can even brush her tummy and she loves it!

Can't leave out the fish friends. I can spot three here: two orange and one white.


Do you take pet pictures or other wildlife? How crazy is the weather in your town?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

January IWSG

Happy New Year to you. Happy New Year to me. Happy New Year, dear writers, may we all write with security. And if not, then let us know all about it during the IWSG monthly blog hop, hosted by the illustrious Alex J. Cavanaugh and his band of web-surfing maestros Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!

January 2 question - What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

Least Favorite: So, how's the writing going?

Answer: It's not. The world has conspired against me having the time, energy, or brain power to string together letters into anything resembling coherent thought. But thanks for asking!

Favorite: Um, could I read your (unpublished) book?

Answer: Sure. Let me give you a pencil. Feel free to circle any typos you may find. On second thought, take the whole box. They're pre-sharpened!


Ho, Ho, HELP!

Down Through The Chimney

I owe my commenters from last month's IWSG an apology. Usually I can return comments within a few days to a week. Not last month. Instead of being the most wonderful time of the year, December was brutal. 

How bad was it? Here's a small sample: (Sung to The Twelve Days of Christmas, final verse)

On the 31 Crazy Days of December, here's what happened to me:

Too many presents wrapped in a frenzy.  (Because family Christmas was on the 15th due to travel)

Eleven days my husband had the shingles, (Poor guy)

Ten days before my daughter got chicken pox, (From him)

Nine (plus 12) humongous anti-viral pills,

Eight days of pill splitting,

Seven (times 4) hours before pox reoccured, (Damn it!)

Six more days of pill splitting, (More like 12 at the rate we're going.)

Five hours on a plane.

Four horrid migraines. (For me, best-timed of which happened thirty minutes before leaving for the airport. Really?)

Three school concerts,

Two nervous breakdowns, (There were serious doubts on whether we could fly due to the chicken pox both going and coming home.) 

And our brand new kitten lost in the Christmas Tree......Touchdown!

At least there's some good news. Meet our new fur baby: little Noche, which is Spanish for "night". 

And if you're wondering about the "touchdown" reference, watch our family's favorite version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.


How was your December? Get anything amazing for Christmas or Hanukkah? 

(I've also posted on the Parallels:Felix was Here website this week. As if you didn't have enough blogs to visit. ;)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December IWSG

Ah-Ah-AH-CHOOOO! and blow, Ah-Ah-AH-CHOOOO! and blow, Ah-Ah-AH-CHOOOO! and blow. Don't you hate colds? I predict there will be a mountain of used tissues everywhere before this post is written, but so be it. Onward!

First allow me to thank our host, Alex J. Cavannaugh, and his wonderful co-hosts,  J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey. You're all awesome.

Today’s question - What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?

Besides Kleenex? I have no idea. Wait! There's lots of papers which keep piling and piling and I'm sure at least one or two of them are really, truly important and I'll dig in there and find them some day soon. (Right.) And there's the laptop, phone, and printer, but those are boring. So let's get to the interesting stoof:

1. A Gem (or two) of a find:

The purple one is a polished hunk of amethyst in the shape of a bear. The rock behind him is calcite, which I love because its clear greenish color reminds me of a cresting wave. We go to a gem and rock show every October, and these were my picks this year.

2. Dead Pets Society:

This did not start out so grim. I had the picture of Sidney (white kitty) on my desk way before she passed. She is perched on the chair I'm sitting in right now. That was her favorite spot while I typed, and hey, she made a great neck warmer on cold days. More recently, my daughter added the pictures of Mr. Mistoffelees, one of him waiting outside our door in the snow back in the days when he was a stray, and the other after he had joined the household, tuckered out in front of the tree, Santa Hat set right behind him.

3. Inspiration #1

An illustrated Harry Potter! How cool are these? I know there are illustrated versions of the 2nd and 3rd book as well, but I've told myself, firmly, that I'm not allowed to purchase them until I've read the first one. These puppies ain't cheap. (Of course I've read the series through older versions--more than once--but I haven't read this particular copy yet.)

4. Knitspiration

For years, I've wanted to learn to knit and I finally did it this past summer by watching YouTube videos. Since then, I've only worked on two pieces. The is the second. The first is completely hideous. Excited about my new hobby, I quickly stocked up on way more yarn that I could possibly knit for the next ten years. Sigh. 

5. Inspiration #2

This is Poe, the raven, the last of his kind. I found this guy mis-shelved after Halloween somewhere in the bowels of Michael's. He was too soft to leave in such dreary circumstances. I knew he'd be much happier perched on the Raven Edition of Edgar Allen Poe's works--copyright 1903.

Tell me, great bird, when will I start writing again?

Don't say it, buddy, or I'll banish you to the basement with the rest of the Halloween decor.


Now I'm off to see what wonderous things my fellow insecure writers have around their writing spaces. And do have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

Do you keep your desk neat and tidy or does chaos reign?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November IWSG

Good morning, writers! Are you ready for the Christmas season? Every year, stores start throwing out their Christmas wares earlier and earlier, but this year was the first that I saw Christmas being pushed a full week before Halloween! And it wasn't just stores. My kids' orthodontist had her office completely decorated for Christmas. What's the rush, peeps?

Anyway, it's time once again to share our insecurities via the monthly IWSG. A big Ho, Ho, Ho to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his merry band of elves co-hosts:  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

This month's optional question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I was somewhat creative before I started writing. I took fine arts courses in college for sculpting, drawing, and painting. I liked to decorate. 

Writing, however, makes me stop and consider how to relate the world and my experiences in it with all the words stored in my brain. (Unfortunately, some of them tend to get lost these days.)

For example, this past month has been difficult. My dear cat, Mr. M, passed away after a long battle with thyroid disease. Our family is devastated. 

Mr. M is the third cat I've lost to old age and illness in the past five years, yet his passing really threw me deep into the dumps. Why is that? Unlike my other two kitties, I didn't pick Mr. M out from a shelter. He introduced himself to us shortly after we moved into our house waaay back in 2003. He showed up at the front door, peering in, and, being a cat lover, I couldn't have been more delighted than if a unicorn had appeared. 

I started leaving out food for this magical cat, and he repaid our kindness by staring into our windows and sliding glass doors with an eerie, Buddha-like calm, until our indoor kitty, Sidney, would wake us all from a deep slumber, yowling as if some fiend had broken into the kitchen and was chopping her into pieces with a hatchet.

After a few years, our fluffy moocher earned a name: Mr. Mistoffelees. Eventually, he decided we were trustworthy enough to pet him. But it had to be on his terms. I stopped petting him one day in the yard and turned my back to resume some yard work. Well, let's just say he went full-on assassin ninja with his claws and teeth into my bare legs.

At the seven year mark, I started letting him into our house. Or rather, he decided to grace us with his magnificent presence. Winters in Rochester can be very bitter and nothing pleased me more than seeing him snuggled up on the couch with one of my daughters.

As the years passed, he became more calm and less bitey around us. In fact, he became a total lap cat. I would lay down on my bed, bringing the covers up to my chin. He would crawl the length of my body and settle down on my chest, his nose two inches from mine, his claws kneading my neck. I'd rub behind his ears, along his cheeks, and under his chin until drops of smelly, tuna-scented drool plunked down on my face. Sometimes he would rub his nose all over mine. 

Good times. Great times.

He could have done some serious damage to my eyes or face, but he didn't. I trusted him, and apparently, he trusted me. This cat was well known throughout the neighborhood and had many fans, feeders, and providers of outdoor cat homes. Our neighbors have stories and memories of his visits dating back to 2000. (He once slid open someone's screen door, to let their cats escape.) He was Jasper. He was "The Mayor." 

Yet, for some reason, we were the lucky ones. He picked us as his home and I am so grateful that he did. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October IWSG

Is time speeding up? It seems like just days ago I was typing up September's post for the IWSG. A huge thanks to our host, Alex Cavanaugh, and his co-hosts this month: Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken! Co-hosting does take time, but besides seeing lots of interesting posts, you will get valuable traffic on you website, so consider volunteering. 

This week's optional question: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?


Distracted Writer Here...Please Hold

Hmm... First I gotta think about what major life events might have occurred while I was writing. There have been illnesses, a move, trips, and various milestones. Honestly, if something comes along that demands my time and attention, writing is kicked to the corner. Characters must wait, zip their lips, cross their knees, whatever...until the crisis in "real world" has passed. It may feel unfair, but I'm not the breadwinner in this household, and thank goodness. I'd make more money collecting loose change off the asphalt of parking lots.

Image: DanDucharme

The doctor will see you now...trot this way.

On another level, do major life events color my writing? Well, yes. I live with a bunch of zebras. No, not the huge black-and-white striped variety, but medical zebras. You see, if something goes wrong, doctors (and vets) have been cautioned to consider common diagnoses before the more rare and unlikely possibilities with the saying, "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras."

I won't spew out all our medical maladies, since many in my family probably want their privacy, but for example: my husband's splitting headache and vision problems turned out to be a brain tumor (he is fine now.) Also, one of my cats distinguished herself by being the first feline my vet had ever seen with kidney stones after practicing for 24 years.

The idea of a common malady turning out to be something incredibly serious has shown up in my writing more than once. I love stories that start off with characters and situations that seem completely normal and relatable and then take six left turns into the bizarre, terrifying, or supernatural. It's so less fun when it happens in real life though. 

Dire Troll Mauler
Image: Matt Cole

Me, taking a too long break from writing:

Clean your room, do your homework, eat your veggies! Or else!

Has writing helped me through something? I know I am a happier person when I write. Without that creative outlet my alter ego, Grouchy Greta, can take over and make life for me and those unfortunate souls who live in my house quite miserable.

How do you feel when circumstances separate you from writing?