Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 - Both Feet Into the New Year

The quiet lull I was enjoying only hours ago is heading into the celebration of the end of one year and the beginning of another.   New Year's Eve.  A new year, is it the beginning of new things or the continuation of things as they were?

Today I have a beautiful poster of writing goals.  I think we all need that, not writing goals necessarily but a reminder of where we are going.  I knew that before I was e-mailed the poster but I never realized the impact of having things so creatively worded.  Set for hanging, right in front of me where I can be reminded very day that I promised before the second week of January ends I will have the latest story ready for critique.  I'm already squirming at that - surely the third week of January or maybe the end - not!  And the poster reminds me that no that's not good enough - get with it.

There's reminders everywhere but I'll mention one - a blogger who reminded me to shoot for the starts.  Bob over at Satisfying Retirement surely has.  Check out his blog post where he's laid it on the line.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And Oh over at This Writing Life...  I'm late in checking in but make mine a cup of peppermint tea - sounds lovely and I've never tried it - a new year, what better time.

Me, I'm going to settle in to a toast to the new year, a beautiful supper with friends and stay in out of the cold which has dived to uncomfortable lows even for my hardy prairie taste.

Happy New Year all!  How are you planning to make your mark in 2011?  One goal at a time or with gusto?


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolutions or Goals - Same Old Muse

The lull between Christmas and New Years is one of my favourite times of the year.  The excessive hype of Christmas preparations is over and there's time to sit back and relax.  It's the one time of the year when the decadence of chocolate and a good book can be enjoyed without guilt that the afternoon has slipped by and the dishes are still in the sink.

It's this quiet time when the passion that began a story comes back.  When again I find myself awake at six a.m. without the bleat of the alarm clock.  Unlike the alarm clock, it's a softer awakening as the story is calling to me, announcing what now appears to be an obvious fix. 

It is in these last few days of the old year when my good friend aka my critique partner and I make 2011 writing resolutions.  Goals really, completion dates if you will.  And it felt good.

"If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."  Milton Berle

So today as the new year slides closer, I celebrate one year older.  Fortunately, the goals for half the year are already made.  And my gift to self - I'm letting the muse do the writing. 

Structure and goals are important but when it comes right down to it - it's the muse that has all the fun!
"What is The Subconscious to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, 
for writers, The Muse."    Ray Bradbury

So in the waning days of the year I may just carry on and let the muse have full rein.  Let's see how long she lasts.

And you - are you rushing or sliding into the new year?


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

There's Tinsel On My Keyboard!

The crazy days of pre-Christmas planning are finally winding down.   The presents are bought, mostly.  And the tree made it up just four days ago.  It's a small tree and because of that you wouldn't think it could cause much grief but it did.  The three strands of lights that tangle with each other every year and would be a puzzle addicts dream, takes an hour to unravel.  But the lights are up, and glowing in true Charlie Brown glory.

No, I'm not the Grinch but it is true that I once used a Dieffenbachia as a Christmas tree.  I've upgraded since then but lets be truthful here, decorating, except for Halloween, really isn't my thing.  Besides, I'm pretty sure no one would appreciate my macabre collection at this time of year.  

All that aside, I  am the queen of creative wrap having wrapped gifts using anything from shells and stones for decorations to material from well-loved but obsolete garments.  So while hubbie makes this year's rum balls I'm wrapping and wrapping and...

And the writing, well I still need to get a word count but I've learned to be slightly more flexible.  The pre-Christmas whirl means that over this last week no morning's work is complete without a phone call for one reason or another.   It means getting up a tad earlier, in order to get out the door before the shopping crowds.  It means sneaking to the freezer at ten o'clock for just one more frozen treat. And it means that I've almost broken my neck twice over that missing pair of scissors that just happened to be lurking on the office floor.  Yep, I'm being much more creative in trying to get that word count over the last week. 

And for all you writers out there and even non-writers, here's a contest from Gotham Writers' Workshop.  It caught my eye right away as there's an iPad and Amazon kindle up for grabs, as well as a whole collection of other prizes.  Here's the link:  The Writers' Wishlist Sweepstakes. 

Happy Holidays!

Or are you looking forward to the boxing day wind down?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reviews - I'd Rather Be in Jericho

What's on the boombox?  Yep, it's a big old yellow boom box that I used to think was so state of the art, that plays the tunes in my basement office. This morning I listen to the classics as I work on the latest story but last evening it was the Zombies as I updated a mailing list.

But all that isn't what today's post is all about.  Today I was griping about book reviews, bad reviews, not mine but another author's whose work I love.  

Now there's lots of good reviews on this author's books and how couldn't there be considering they've spiked best seller lists again and again.  But it's the bad reviews that intrigued me.  What had I missed in a story that I thought was told better than any story I had read in quite a while?  Why for that matter, after I'd purchased the book, did I care about the reviews?  Well, if I weren't a writer I wouldn't have this penchant for looking up reviews post read but I do.  There's much to be learned from reviews and there's much to be discounted as well.

I've never agreed with those writers that say they don't read their reviews, especially the bad ones.  I want to shout, please read the reviews, especially the bad ones.  There's been authors I've followed for a number of books and suddenly the stories slump.  Readers only have so much staying power.  I know I'll stick to a favourite author through a couple of stories that have fallen flat.  After that - well for most, I'll turn to other authors.

But the stories that missed the mark - what's going on?  Could the truth be hidden in an ignored bad review or two?  I know good reviews are every bit as biased as bad reviews.  Maybe it's the whole picture that really matters.  After all how else do you improve if you don't balance the bad against the good - the nay-sayers against the cheerleaders.

As a reader, I'll tell you a quirk of mine, if I discover a well-reviewed book I'm immediately suspicious.  It's that one bad review that puts my suspicions to rest that this is a solid book and not a book whose sales are held up by good will and hype.  I've read one to many well reviewed books that were disappointments.  Of course too many bad reviews and the reviews need a closer look. Is the book controversial and has the masses screaming as a result or is just plain bad?  Either way, those bad reviews have me paying more attention to that author and their book than a bevvy of good reviews ever could.
And for those of you, that like me are hankering to travel, here's a view on a foggy day
of Jerusalem on the left and Jericho on the right all taken from the shores of
Jordan - courtesy of a friend who is currently on the road..

Good reviews, bad reviews, reader, writer - there's something to be learned from them all.

Reviews - read them, write them, ignore them?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dance in Rangoon - Dance Anywhere

You know the days, when it's one thing after another.  As you're juggling one ball, three more come at you.  Or the days when the bad news seems to have received no expiration date.  It just keeps flying in and you think the universe has either narrowed its sights on one mortal - what are the odds with six billion or so to choose from - either that or life just has a warped kind of humour.

Annual School Parade, Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma
When life gives you lemons make lemonade.  You know, I'm thinking, put a little gin in that lemonade then call it good.

Today was one of those days, minus the gin.  And that is the reason for this post and the question - What else are you going to do other than juggle those balls and keep on going?  Well, there is one other thing.  Dance.

That's right, dance.  Wildly, out of control and preferably alone.  Why, because at the end of a not so great day, because you can, because it just makes you feel good.  Alone?  Why subject anyone else to what is obviously not going to be a performance of Dancing with the Stars.  Shake your head at me, call me crazy.  Give it a shot.

Meantime, I'm back at it, the next chapter not in my life but in the lives of my characters, those fictional people I like to persecute from time to time.  Yep and that new chapter - I'm thinking I might want to re-read before getting at things tomorrow.  Who knows what I may have written but hopefully it wasn't in a fit of pique.

Until tomorrow.  Dance.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Courage to Dream - Across the Globe to Jordan

Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end 
of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.  ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Amman, Jordan
Today a friend is heading off to Amman, Jordan.   It's a long way to go but it's part of a dream she's had for many years.  A dream and a passion to conserve the past, the history of buildings.  It's a lot more than that but the gist of this story is that she took a calculated risk to attend a conference half way around the world as another step in the fulfillment of a dream.  For most of us flying that far by ourselves would be challenging enough but to arrive prepared to present at a conference populated by some of the world's best in their field, well that's another story entirely.  

"At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable."   Christopher Reeve

If you're a dreamer, odds are you aren't always living in the moment.  I completely admit that often, to use an expression of my mother's,  I have my head in the clouds.  Like the other day, Rourke and I were taking our customary walk.  Rourke prancing along with an aura of pride in his stride.  Yep, he had new duds and if you don't think a dog feels pride, you haven't met Rourke. 

Rourke in his new gear
Anyway, Rourke was concentrating on the sights and smells and how good he looked.  I was concentrating on what havoc my latest antagonist was going to mete on my hero and heroine.  I think it was just about the time when I thought,  he's going to kill now with the gun in...  when I heard the crunch of a heavy foot on hard-packed snow,  swung around and was faced with a man directly behind me.  Where had he come from?  I must have had fear on my face for he was immediately apologizing.  Just a jogger, who I normally would have heard a block away.  And in my defense - Rourke jumped too.

What a pair we make.  I sure hope the jogger wasn't a blogger or Rourke and I might be featured as the scaredy-cat duo.  Seriously, I don't dream all the time but when I'm cooking up a novel the tracts between reality and fiction can get mighty thin.

Realizing a dream is a whole lot of work, a one step at a time process.  And some of those steps can be intimidating, like flying half way around the world or slightly smaller like taking a walk and dreaming up a plot.  Big steps, little steps, it doesn't matter as long as they're in the right direction.

 Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.  Elvis Presley



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Craft Sales - Promo Gone Loonie

I never go to craft sales.  Ever.  Okay, mostly never.  

Until this weekend.

This weekend I was at a craft sale.  Not just at a craft sale, I was a vendor!

Yes, that's me smiling.  Not such a bad time after all.
No wait, it gets worse.  I shared a very small table with the local horticultural society.  Now all that aside, the company for the weekend was great.  That is after we were done arranging our tiny space so the wilting Christmas Cactus, the Roughrider toque, the two entry boxes, books and related paraphernalia didn't explode off the small space.  But we got it arranged in time for the opening bell.  Did I mention that the wilting cactus belonged to the Horticultural Society?  It provided a laugh or two throughout the event, when we weren't waving plant flies away.

But let's back up, craft sale - I've never had an interest in craft sales.  I hear craft and think knickknack.  I didn't realize how uninformed I was until a well-meaning friend assured me that craft meant another venue for book promotion.  On second thought, maybe it wasn't a bad idea.  I mean from a book buying point of view, I'll buy a book pretty much anywhere.  I've bought books in hospitals, airports, garage sales, online, offline, from street vendors, libraries and, of course, authors - for a book lover I didn't see a craft sale as much of a stretch. So surrounded by some amazing knitting, crochet and other crafts I, the master of "how not to knit", began the latest promotional venture. 

Did you know that there's more to a craft sale than just books?  Nope, I'm serious, there is.  There's all sorts of crafts - imagine that.  Crafts created by some talented people whose output makes my two published novels with others in various stages of pre-published bliss, look like the underachiever.  I've learned that there's a lot of knitting going on during those Rider Games and in the long winter months that follow the end of football season, knitting and crochet and beading and...   And there's more things than kindling that can be done with an elderly crab apple tree in your front yard - beautifully carved pens for one.   The pens and the bookmarks, I purchased one of each - for gifts of course.  Knickknacks?  Well, I was still looking when I had to end my search and return to my table. 

All in all it was a good experience and more importantly, post sale, more people know that this author exists.  And really, that's what promotion is all about. 

And the prize for comment of the day goes to the man grumbling about the entrance fee of a loonie or one dollar.  As he put it; 
"Paid a loonie just to get my wife out of here."

On either side of the table - Any craft sales in your future?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Passport to Edmonton

Edmonton skyline.
A few months ago I was dusting off the passport but life has a strange way of derailing plans.  So while the passport simmers it was a trip over the border - provincial that is.  Edmonton, Alberta is not exactly international travel but it's a beautiful city to visit despite unseasonably cold weather, that I'll say I griped about - a lot.  

My friend claims no responsibility?
The fire exit that started it all.
If you want to really see a place sight see a little outside the norm.  So we did.  First off there was the fire exit - always know your way outside the hotel in case of emergency.  However, note to self, if there's a sensor box on the top of the door and no sign - don't open the door unless there's a fire.  Unfortunately, I opened the door.  So with a siren wailing, I had to admit my error to the hotel concierge.
A bus window view of things.

With a bad start behind us it was off to the bus stop.  I rarely travel by bus but my friend insisted that it was the way to go.  Unfortunately on Saturday the buses only run every half hour.  We found that out as our toes began to curl trying to preserve what heat there was left in our feet.

The bus is a whole other world and you're only getting a brief glimpse.  Who is the young man that keeps hiding behind the hood of his hoodie?  Who is the older woman who is chatting up the young man with the heavy accent?  Are they lovers or...   Then there's the girl with the sad eyes and the bleached blonde hair with the heavy swathe of blue cutting across one side - what's her story?  Overhead are the signs warning against bad behavior on the buses.  I glance warily around the bus for the culprit that may have instigated such persistent warnings - for the signs are everywhere.  But the ride turned out uneventful.  Instead we soon discovered that like foreign travel, even when English is the first language of everyone involved, there can be communication break down.  This time it meant a six block walk in the cold.
Musicians, Edmonton Farmers Market
Edmonton's Farmers Market

It was then that we discovered a real find - a farmers market.  Again, not something I'd usually tour while in Edmonton.  I'm glad we did.  It was fantastic.   A group of musicians greeted us at the entry with a variety of warm and vibrant down-home music.  They set the tone for the visit.  We nibbled our way through the displays that ranged from the usual vegetables and meats to homemade cotton candy and designer hats, while we listened to lively music and chatted with local merchants. 

Edmonton was cold!!
By the time we reached the West Edmonton Mall it was near the end of the day and the beginning of sore feet.  As a result, I walked out of a store I have mentioned more times then my hubbie wants to remember with no bags in hand.  How could I go there and buy nothing after all that hype, he'll ask later - I'm sure of it.  But a cold beer and a warm Irish Pub just seemed like a nicer ending to a busy day than one more shopping bag.  And it was only one more bus ride away!

There's a world out there, outside the norm.  And this weekend I found it.  As a seatmate said on the return flight, "it was a change from what we were used to".  By this she referred to emigrating from the UK and coming to Canada.  Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone!  A trip to the West Edmonton Mall hardly seems worth mentioning.  But in the end it all makes for a good story - big or small a story is just a step outside the norm.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Get Mad

The other day I blogged about rejection in Rejection Bites.  My thoughts there did work for that one rejection but since then things have changed.  That post was before I knew rejection was going to strike again a few days later.   But when you have a story making the rounds rejection is a reality.  Not everyone is going to love your story or even like it for that matter.  You can only hope that one editor and one publishing house will.  But until that occurs, there's rejection to look forward to and it's phrased in any number of ways.

There are some good things about all this.  If nothing else, the manuscript made it to the publishing heart of NY if only for a brief slide across an editorial screen or two.  But now isn't the time for failed attempts at humour, now is the time to get angry because that's what it's going to take to get to the next level.

Not temper tantrum angry - we're not in a schoolyard anymore.  The rejections are real, not personal and the editor had valid reasons.  Hold back those catty little thoughts - oh what the heck do it, they make you feel better.  Then get mad - productive mad.  This is your story and your life and you're not going to let rejections sideline it - not even for a day, not this time.  Remember, you're not the only one that believes in this story or in you.  If you're lucky there's an agent buffering the first blow before sending it on to you.  And if you're not, gather the others who believe in you close family, friends, acquaintances - heck, befriend the postal carrier if she happens to be an avid reader. 

Okay, you're mad now what?  Well you do what any self-respecting writer would do.  It's a battle and while your story continues to rush the front lines, you open up your weapon of choice - power it on, whether it's a MacBook or a PC, and begin pounding those keys.  And you have my permission to hit them just a tad harder and faster than usual as you pound out that next story. 
There - that will show them.

And whatever you do, if you write to music change it and if you don't have music - start.   But this is no time for the gently sophisticated muse of the classics.  Chopin is booted to the curb and AC/DC or its like is the way of it and the volume is cranked.  And remember - the only way to ensure that you lose a battle is to take up arms and go home.  So, as the post at Terribleminds blog said, I must warn you quite colourfully - it's time to "staple your rejections to your chest and wade into battle with them as your armor.   Click here to head on over to read the rest.

Rejection - is that what makes success so sweet?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rejection Bites

Rejection in whatever form is immobilizing.  For however brief a moment it makes us doubt ourselves.  There's no way to soften its blow.  If you have a dream of any sort you know this.  A dream is fragile.  Reality is tough.  And the writing industry is a stellar example of the often long ride to success through a mine field of rejection.

Publication doesn't make one immune to rejection.  Publication just reminds us that we have met success once, twice, three times - we can do it again.  With the exception of a few wildly successful authors, there's always rejection and it can come from all sides - from another publisher, an agent, an attempt at another rung up the ladder, a different genre, a different story - the list is endless in its mutations.  What is real is that every attempt to succeed exposes one to the possibility of rejection.  But the only other option is quitting - and that might sound tempting when the rejection blues hit but ignoring and not nurturing a talent is a soul killing proposition.

A dream to act - circa 1920
one of the finds from my Grandma's scrapbook
So what do you do when you experience the bite of rejection?   

First remind yourself that if this hasn't happened before it is definitely going to happen again - the only way it won't is if you quit.  And we've already determined that quitting isn't an option - not if you're reading this blog and not if you were listening to my critique partner this morning who pretty much shouted at me in our chat - even though I was only threatening to quit in a brief pique of self-pity.  But after almost a decade together she knows me well and knew the threat was a lie. 

Often the naysayers have some valuable bits of information to move you forward to that next level because whether you want to admit it or not, that rejection more than likely had valid reasons behind it.  It wasn't personal.  Take a breath and listen, there is something there even if it's just the courage to keep moving forward

But before you do that - mope - lick your wounds and analyze your position, remind yourself of your successes and the people who are firmly in your corner.  Then push forward because no one has the power to kill your dream except you.

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I woke and found that life was duty. 
I acted and behold, duty is joy."   Rabindranath Tagore


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Take a Breath and Remember

Some days you just have to take a breath and take a break.  Today was one of those days.  A day to recharge and focus on things that have nothing to do with stories or characters.  But as you can see, I couldn't steer completely clear - I haven't banned the blog.  But during prime writing time I am not writing and that's a good thing.  Stepping away gives me a different perspective. 

Poppy - the national reminder
Tomorrow I have no doubt that I will be more determined than ever to push forward.  Already there is a new plan in place that will take me to the same goal that I had before the road block, just in a different way.

While my initial thoughts were on what I would and would not do today, I was reminded of something much bigger.  Of the constant conflicts of mankind that are complex, seemingly unending and that sometimes put us all in jeopardy.  And that fact alone is sobering but more importantly today as the eleventh hour comes and goes,  I think of the sacrifices so many have made to protect the freedoms we all cherish and I send a silent thank you.

Today is Remembrance Day a day to remember why we have the freedom to forge our life path in almost any way we choose.   It's a day to remember something bigger than each of our individual lives and challenges. 

Sometimes it's all about perspective.

Lest we forget.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Road Block - Veer?

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle 
with human emotions." ~James Michener

I don't think it could be said any better and occasionally a writer needs a reminder of who they are and what they love to do.  I know I do.  And right now is one of those times.  

Why is it that when life is chugging along without a hitch, the road blocks appear?  That's what the last week has been for me.  So what to do?  Life isn't without the unexpected, I suppose that's what keeps us from slipping into auto pilot.  Every so often we must veer around something.  I suppose that's why life is called a journey or maybe more aptly a road trip.

When life's road trip hits a pothole or two or even a boulder, do you change course or just keep pushing forward?  I know that's a wide open question.  The decision is different every time.  The  recent road block  I think will require some rerouting of the journey.  Plans made, habits forged are no longer working, time for a change.  But that's not a bad thing - it keeps everything fresh and interesting.

For me - one of the changes is more exercise and with that thought I promptly discovered a blog post on how to exercise anywhere, check it out here.  Exercise anywhere - hmmm - even when life isn't chugging quite so smoothly. And a start this morning I actually took that coffee go-cup further than my writing desk - I headed outside with go-cup in hand and Rourke prancing along ahead.  Eight in the morning is usually when I'm parked at my computer, instead I was watching the antics of school kids as they surged like a school of small fish for the school entrance threatening to smother the waiting teacher.  And I smiled as I watched two stragglers who sauntered up the hill metres away from the others.  I remembered doing the same as a child - refusing to be corralled by the sound of a bell and following the theory that by the time the herd gets through the door, I would have enjoyed five more minutes of freedom and still have arrived on time. 

So with snow on the horizon, I ask what's new in Saskatchewan, it's time to get out the map and reconfigure.  Just another step in the process of shifting gears.

And you - do you push through the road blocks or do you shoulder through?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thirty Words and a Story

A thirty word story, the idea was from a contest I mentioned it in my last post.  The idea intrigued me.  Thirty words, how hard can that be?

I found myself eating those words as I sat in the waiting room of an overcrowded doctor's office and no inspiration was forthcoming.  Across from me the constant dings and rings of an online game distracted me.  I looked up and met the bland gaze of a middle-aged woman who then returned to the game on her blackberry with all the outward enthusiasm of a child who has been told to finish off their least favourite vegetable.  Then a phone began ringing and she set the device aside to pull another mobile from her overstuffed purse.  When I looked up next, the game was dinging away and she was texting with methodical fury.  Somewhere in the back of my mind a bell rang and a voice recorded the single word "character".

Nearby a man sported a bandage across half his face and a scowl that threatened that he might not be adverse to creating a matching wound on someone elses face.  Beside me a woman avidly read her magazine, yet she never turned the page.  Another point to ponder.  Of course you can only ponder such things for so long.  So I turned to the mystery of my thirty word story.  Five minutes, one notepad and a complimentary pen later - no where near the word count.  I'm shocked.  This was supposed to be a breeze. I figured I'd have four or five stories to choose from by the time the wait was over.

 So back to the story.  I remind myself that writing a thirty word story before leaving the unending waiting room is doable. And  there was Ernest Hemingway's clever little story for inspiration.
 "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."  Ernest Hemingway
And if he could do it... wait - Hemingway?  Who am I kidding?  But I tell myself that his was a story in six words, I have twenty-three more to play with, definitely much easier than six.  So I have an advantage - only fair considering who I'm playing against. 

Finally there it is - I've written the story but there's an obstacle.  First, thirty words longhand has to be counted by hand.  When was the last time I didn't use word count?  I'd almost forgotten that old method - 1,2,3,4,5 slash, record count over the grouping and repeat.  Yes, I had too much time on my hands but what else are you to do in a waiting room where the last National Geographic has been removed from the magazine rack?

And just as my brain began to connect with another idea - the wait was over.

So the story - first, it's not quite thirty words and second, it's not the best not-quite thirty word story you'll ever read, but hopefully it's not the worst.  So here it is, my one attempt before I go back to the form I do best - long.
She loved him.  Now all that stood between them was one dead body 
and the murder weapon she held in her hand.

But if any of you are interested - click here for the contest.  If nothing else, it's a great little experiment for those holding patterns we all find in life - whatever waiting room you happen to be in.  It beats a three year old Family Circle magazine - that's for sure.

We all end up in the waiting rooms of life for one thing or another.  How do you fill the waiting hours?


Monday, November 1, 2010

Wanted Dead or Alive - 50,000 Words

NaNoWrMo starts today and I'm not participating.  That fact feels strange.  For me, NaNoWriMo was the event of November.  This year I'm a no show for a number of reasons.  First, I'm in the middle of a WIP that is chugging along quite sweetly and another 50,000 words might just be a problem.  And, while I love NaNoWriMo, I think the best compliment I can give it is that I've outgrown the event - it did its job and thank you!! 

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic event and because of that I hung around a few years longer than I probably should have.  But I loved the fun and hype of the online community, and the fact that it always raises money for worthwhile causes. 

NaNoWriMo provides a community where the habit of writing every day is painlessly acquired.  If you're a writer and you aren't sitting at that desk every day - do NaNoWriMo!  I can't stress enough that if you have a competitive edge at all you'll push for that 50,000 words.  I know I did.  I  still remember that first year,  I had over 50,000 words that took five months to straighten out, but I did it!!  And in the end - does anything else matter?

And on another take on shifting gears I discovered a fiction contest that piqued my interest.  A story in thirty words.  Interested?  I know I am.  Check it out at Smokelong Quarterly.  


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween and Counting

It's almost impossible for me to fathom that it's hours away from October 31.  Where has the time gone?  I admit I've been busy and time passing seems to be the bane of adults the older we get.  But this is ridiculous.  Time has found a broomstick of its own making and headed off to that caldron in the sky.

So with only hours standing between me and my trick or treaters, I have to admit that I haven't even considered what ghoulish attire I will don.  Not that props are a problem.  I have my trusty stack of makeup that can make me look like road kill in a matter of minutes.  But I have no vision - unlike most years.  So I'm hoping inspiration hits me as I pull out the skeletons and rats that adorn the front step, to come up with a spooky theme that the neighbourhood kids have come to expect.

It will be different this year.  I think instead of going all out on decorations there might just be a little more drama at the door, after all it is all about the effects.  Later, when the outside lights are all out and the kids have gone home, well there's a bevy of movies befitting of the season from Halloween to all three episodes of Poltergeist. 

I'm sensing that with this massive injection of horror, the black moment might be no trouble in any of my stories over the next little while.  Seriously there's nothing that takes us into that secretive world of the imagination better than a horror movie.  It's scene after scene that's just not reality in any of our lives and yet we sink into it as if this is a realistic occurrence.  Horror movies leave reality at the door and we're happy to do so even without the promise of the happily ever after.  This may sound contrarian but for a romance writer, that's worth studying. 

And you - any ways you're doing Halloween different this year?

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finally - A Snow Day

It was a day to pull out the heavy socks, close the door and stay inside.  A sudden and unseasonable blast of winter, that one news report referred to as the weather bomb, had spread massive fingers over the prairies.  And as weather is key to my current novel it definitely fired my imagination.  So I headed downstairs to toil away out of sight of the rising wind and driving snow.

On the prairies it's rare for anything to shut down within a city's limits over such a mundane thing as snow.  Blizzards, weather bombs, doesn't matter, we all get to work or school.  So today this was my first ever snow day.  I can't tell you what a great feeling that is to watch the ever worsening weather and realize you don't have to go out in it.  Not if you don't want to.  Only if you're crazy enough to say - want to walk the dog.   And I did - despite the weather bomb.

The bomb - it's not something you want in a weather system but as an opening for a book - maybe.  Possibly - okay I raise my hand I want the bomb, something to make the reader sit up and notice or just keep reading. 

Now, what was that I heard about this type of weather system not usually developing over land?  Hmmm.   Truth or speculation - what ifs are ringing loud.   Do I have a use for such information?  Is that a story I hear rattling at the window or is that just the wind?

Looks like I'll have some time to consider, the weather isn't turning for a day or two.

In the meantime, any offers on a snowed in lawn ornament?


Friday, October 22, 2010

Another Take on Success

Construction workers, Thailand
While on a break from the WIP (work in progress) I found something I thought I'd share.  The break this time, unlike a few days ago, was legitimate - my fingers were sore.  For a writer this is a good thing.  So in another foray into the web I discovered an interesting post at the Crime Fiction Blog.  It's the brief story of various crime writers and their journey to success.

We all know that succeeding at anything usually equals hard work.  But every once in a while it's nice to be reminded that overnight success is not the norm.   Click here for Overnight Success?

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Play Outside Your Genre

I'd forgotten how liberating it is sometimes to go backwards.  In this case, backwards to my roots and where I started as a writer, short stories and poetry.  I still write the occasional short story but the poetry - I seem to have left that behind.  So yesterday, with the early morning writing hours donated to other things, I was left with the afternoon.  But I don't write in the afternoon my subconscious whined.  My head kept going to the unseasonably good weather that I was missing, the recent book I had been reading, the grocery list I hadn't finished...  The current WIP (work in progress) was not humming forward, the writing wasn't happening.
It's been ages since I went horseback riding - alas no inspiration here

Desperate I procrastinated and cleaned up files.  It was there that I tripped on poetry.  I began reading works of days gone by and mentally air brushing a verse here and there.  But curiosity soon won over nostalgia and I began writing - dabbling really and was completely surprised.  By now the current WIP had been shelved in an e-drawer as I admired my latest creation.

I discovered something, poetry reminded me of my love of words.  Not that I usually forget but it does get hung up in the background of the every day must dos.  It's been ages since I've scribbled bits of muse inspired phrases along the edges of exercise books while sitting in a lecture hall.   In the days before cellphones and classroom laptops - monotony was cured by a bit of creative writing on the edge of a binder.  At least for me.  Anyway, back to the poem - yesterday's poem that inspired me to get back at my WIP.

Dabbling in poetry gave yesterday's mid-afternoon blahs a jump start. Okay, it inspired this morning's run at the WIP and a good run it was.  That poem inspired me to dig deeper than I might have normally for that's the beauty of poetry. 

Play regularly - and the muse just might start waking you up at night. 

Hmmm - does one really want that?

Ryshia Kennie
Ryshia On Twitter


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Idea of a Novel

Over at the Romance Studio's Halloween Party Spookapalooza where I'm spending the days leading up to Halloween, one author left a question.

How do you find your ideas and what does it take to develop it into a story?

I had my finger hovering over comment and then I realized that this was a much more complex question than I thought.  The first thing I realized was that the idea portion of things was easy.  That was something that came to me by stumbling on an obscure news article to an incident in life, a comment from a friend, a dream or even a walk in a graveyard, a great view, from any number of places.  Often my ideas come from my travels and evolve from a setting.  But the idea is only a small kernel.  There are no characters, no plot, no black moment, no nothing, just that one idea what would happen if...

The Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan Oct. 2010
If the setting didn't generate the idea than the next step - setting.  After that I  create and connect with the characters.  Taking a walk or two or three and some fresh air prods the characters to make that first tentative appearance.  Not all of them, of course but the primaries have to be there before I can even start.  After all it's their story.  When they appear that's when I'm anxious to get at that blank screen.

But not before the title.  That's the easiest part and of course it's subject to change at the end and sometimes a number of times. 

The Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan Cemetery
The process of writing the novel has changed for me with each book.  I used to just sit down and write, okay I still do - but now it's through chapter one only and just to get the feel of where I'm going.  Then I write a short synopsis that is subject to change and these days I create a chapter by chapter outline.  Very sketchy I have to admit and not followed to the letter for I'm still a pantser at heart.  But it's something to keep my creative spirit in line so that rewrites are somewhat curtailed.  So now I have a plot - a rough blob with a trajectory, a black moment and a happy ever after with a bad guy or two thrown in for good measure.

Then I write - and I stop and pause as one character disappears and I realize I've lost their voice.  So I have to listen - if I keep writing I force them to be who they shouldn't be.  It's up to the character to direct their version of the story and that comes from somewhere deep in my subconscious.  I know all that sounds somewhat airy-fairy but that's the way it is.  The writing isn't always a straight line and as I now write romantic suspense, I have to go back and connect the dots as the secondaries create havoc with the hero and heroine.

It's an evolutionary process.  Writing is as much a craft as an art so there are mechanics that must be learned.  Grammar, character arcs, techniques of all kinds become the tools in the writer's toolbox.  The more tools the better equipped the author to write a good book.  That aside, the tools are just that tools, alone they can't create a living, breathing story.  There has to be joy and passion in the words.  Maybe that's the crux of the whole thing - love writing every moment of that book no matter what your process and do it every day, and in the end you'll have a novel.

And that's it - what it takes for me to write a novel. 

So short answer; an idea, knowledge of the craft, discipline, imagination and a love of words = novel.

Now I'm off to walk and get some more ideas.  You?

Ryshia on Twitter

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Multi-Tasking - a Fine Line in a Story

Thanksgiving at the lake - not a bad place to give thanks.  It's not often that I get to the Qu'Appelle Valley these days but it never disappoints.  So there I was in the valley on a beautiful fall day that was still hanging tightly to the edges of summer.  And like usual, the conversation ranged in a multitude of directions.  So when exercise seemed to be on everyone's mind, my SIL mentioned that the  stationary bicycle could drive a multitasker like her over the edge.  That is if you pedaled with nothing else but the non-moving bicycle to hold your attention.  So we got her hooked up with the idea of an ipod audio book and laughed over the image of a multitasker driven over the edge with only one task to focus on.  But that comment hit pretty close to home and my current story.
I too am a multitasker.  Even a dog walk isn't just a walk for the dog, it's exercise for me with a short jog worked in the middle and time to think, plan, resolve any number of things while watching for the inevitable trouble spots; other dogs and squirrels. 

So it dawned on me.  The solution to what was wrong with the latest story.  If you're thinking how did I know something was wrong?  Well the flow that had me anxious to get to the keyboard every day had trickled away - the urge was gone.  Temporarily I know, disconcerting none the less.  But my SIL's comment had me thinking. 

Was it possible to focus on too many things even in literature?  Had I multitasked my protagonists into corner stage?

It was a completely unexpected revelation and it was true.  I was enjoying the secondaries so much they slipped into the limelight a moment longer than planned and the story lost focus.  So it's time to dance those characters into a quieter role in the sidelines. 

The good news, at least for me, since I came to that conclusion I can hear my hero in the background beginning to direct his destiny.  A destiny that got lost for a moment in other characters taking the stage when it was supposed to be for him alone.  

And I have to say that a walk on the hill with nothing but nature, lake, hills and beautiful warm fall air, I didn't do anything but enjoy the walk and it was blissful.  Sometimes multitasking is just more unnecessary noise.  And sometimes it's necessary, or is it? 

Multitasking - bane or necessity? 

Dress me slowly, for I am in a great rush
—Napoleon Bonaparte

Ryshia on Twitter

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Last Chance - For All Time

It's the last day to enter my Halloween Contest and a chance to win a great package of movies and books, For All Time.   If you haven't entered or you want to take advantage of an opportunity to enter again - check out the rules.  Remember, just entering twice on the entry form won't do it - you need to be a tad more creative than that.  But it's not that difficult either.  If you're in the mood head on over to For All Time.

Yesterday I burned the last dregs of "work".  Isn't it interesting that if you love doing something, it's not work.  Writing for me is that something.   What's your something?

Ryshia on Twitter

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Delay Tactics - Promotion Qualms

I was up early this morning - set to begin the WIP (work in project).  But first I had to head on over to the party room at the Romance Studio and post for the Spookapalooza party that starts today and goes to the end of the month.  Then - well there were e-mails to deal with, a bit of playing around with my blog - and my story sat open, waiting.  Disasters are happening, killers are on the prowl and a romance is pushing for room amidst it all but none of that was grabbing my attention this morning.     

Today I've been faced with a fact that most days I don't consider.  The market seems to be overflowing with romance books.  It might be a tight market as far as the big houses are concerned but there seems to be no shortage of books.  How does an author not become like the telemarketer that you feel for but you still aren't buying a thing that they're selling as you push back annoyance that they even bothered you in the first place.  Bothered you for the fourth time that day!  Of course on a bad day - you just hang up.

The noise of promotion, is it me or is it gaining momentum?  As a reader I find it overwhelming and as a result I've bought a few duds and unearthed a few gems, so far I'm batting about 50/50 on unearthing previously unknown authors.  As an author I find it incredibly frustrating.  How does one get seen above the noise? Selling my "first born" is not an option - besides I don't think he'd approve.

Promotion - some days you wake up just a little hoarse and a tad jaded when all  you want to do is write that darn book.  A better book than the last one and hopefully not as good as the one that will come after.   In the trajectory of a career, each book should teach the author something that will improve the one that follows.

Selling - it's a gift that few of us have.  It reminds me of the door salesman and if you ever watch the Walton's you'll know what I'm talking about.  Some people just have that gift.

It was one of those days when reality poked it's grumpy little nose right into my writing space.  So I stopped and considered my promotional dilemma.  It's probably nothing that money and a good promotional agency couldn't solve but right now that's not an option.  So it's do it yourself all the way and I'll forge on.  There's always a unique idea, a new twist and I've tried a few myself - some with great success.  Today is just not the day for that light bulb moment.   So while I wait I think I'll have another cup of coffee then continue on writing what I hope will be a better book than the last.  In the end, what else is an author to do?

Oh and I'm still on the path of change.  Yesterday in my quest to change gears I made stew.  This might not be monumental for some of you but for someone who has always sworn she doesn't cook it was.  Not only that, the stew was edible.  Hey, it was a virgin recipe - anything could have happened.

When the road gets bumpy do you delay?

Ring of Desire 2009
From the Dust 2007

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shifting Gears

Change is in the air.  Actually its been in the air for awhile but now I feel like it's time to put some momentum into that feeling.  The summer is over and it's time to get serious. I don't know about you but I get bored with routine.  And the fall is the perfect time to change things up just a little bit.   So it began with a new exercise plan, an addition to the daily walk. 

Day 1 -Took the usual three mile dog walk and added an extra few blocks for good measure.

Dust off the roller blades that haven't seen use in two years.  There I find a pair of socks that I thought had been swallowed by the dryer ages ago.   Let's say I carried those puppies gingerly to the wash.  Although to be fair they didn't smell - really!  So I was off,  only to discover that the time of year with leaves and twigs everywhere, as well as the city street repairs - soft fill that stops a skater dead, weren't a good combination.  Although I remained upright, it wasn't without avid concentration on the road.  I really regretted not grabbing that bike helmet.

One hour later -  I still need to get some photocopying done.  So it's off to the library on my bike.  After all, when changing routine it's best to move forward full throttle.  So I'm off, into the wind and the traffic with a few shortcuts and a jaunt down a boggy easement that reminded me that I might be sporting a skunk trail by the time I arrived.

Two hours later - There's leaves to be raked and the dog is still full of energy and wants to be chased a couple of laps around the yard.

Three hours later - My roller blades are resting downstairs - preparing for next year's jaunt, the washer is running and I've discovered muscles that were previously undetected.   Apparently one is supposed to ease into exercise programs. 
Note to self - when shifting gears - take it one gear at a time.  So change is still in the air - it's just going to take a bit more time to settle. 

Change - one gear at a time or full throttle ahead?

Looking for some Halloween fun - authors - books and prizes?  Check out The Romance Studio's Spookapalooza begins October 6 through October 31. 

And don't forget my contest For All Time - you have until October 7 midnight CST to enter.

Ryshia On Twitter

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

E-Silence - A Resume - And a Deadline

I've been off-line for a few days.  I'm not sure if that's ever happened before.  But there it is - a total disconnect and I can't say whether it was refreshing or not - what it felt was strange.  But a combination of good weather after weeks of bad, other obligations and a bout of summer flu led to the whole event.  But now I'm back.

So in the e-silence what did I learn?  Well, first off I learned that when a deadline is a month away that isn't that far off, a month goes by in no time - October 1 is the end of this week!  I decided weeks ago that maybe it wasn't a bad idea to apply for a writer's grant.  I've never applied before and as a last minute decision, I've missed the pre-planning sessions.  Not to let that stop me.  I'll just apply my own interpretation to the application process.  Yeah, we all know how that works out.

Anyway, on to the next dilemma - I need a resume.  A writing resume - who would have thought.  That meant hours of going through my files, e-trails and other odds and ends.  Three hours go by and I have finally cobbled a rough draft together and move on to the polish.

In all this I learned many things - but one that stands out.  If you're serious about something, anything - in this instance a writing career, start recording your progress now.  It's not that easy to discover the  name of that instructor who taught that fantastic course on - insert any number of question marks here or the link to that online magazine that was the first that actually paid for your work.  The information was filed ages ago on a computer now defunct - I guess that would be another lesson.

It's been an arduous tour of collecting remnants of facts but finally it is all pieced together.  It's rather like a photo album dusted off and gleaming that reminds me that in the chaos of being published, struggling for a foothold and taking another tentative step that there's more.  There were all the bumps and curves, the successes, the amazing people that have reached out and helped at the most unexpected times - the resume has unraveled it all.

Not to use cliches - never mind I will - I couldn't see the forest for the trees.  The small steps sometimes become so numerous that you can't see where you may have traveled or if you made any progress at all.  The process of creating a resume made it all clear.  Even if I'm not where I want to be - I've come a long way.

So to de-stress - I'm looking forward to one of my fave things - a made for TV disaster flick.  What can I say, we all have our vices.  Yours?

For All Time
Ryshia on Twitter

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Ending and a Beginning

You'd think for someone who has been talking about Halloween since August, that the first day of fall wouldn't be much of a push.  But it is.  Despite what the weather has been saying for weeks, I can't believe that summer is officially over and today fall is here.

Fall can be unpredictable on the prairies and already the weather has been inclement enough to hint around the edges of an early snow.  It's rained here more days this summer than I can keep track of and that's not usual.  If it's one thing we can boast - it's hours of sunshine.  So this year I'm feeling slightly jilted that fall is already here when summer arrived for such brief moments. 

When I was a kid there was a mystery and excitement to fall.  It was a time of new beginnings, motivations and commitment.  That was the time when school began and everything was new; new wardrobe, new books, new everything.  It was easy to forget the long lazy days of summer that were quietly left behind.  But now it's different.  I'm an adult with no need of new fall clothes, no new books or pens, just the same basement office and the same commitment I made to write each day that I made earlier this year as spring merged into summer.

With nothing new - it would be easy to keep trudging along the same path.  But something has changed.  Call it an attitude that correlates with the calendar but this morning I'm shrugging off the lethargy of summer's lost promise.  Fall has always been the time when excuses are shelved, and goals are brought out and dusted off or new directions plotted.  Today it's time to move forward and get it done, make up for the lack of a new fall wardrobe and replace it with a summer version - for that research trip!

Life is an adventure and the ending of one season and the start of another that is full of unpredictability adds an edge.  Today I can feel the anticipation in the air.  The past is over and just like when we were kids - the future stretches ahead.

The magic is there.  It's only a matter of finding it.  This fall I'm shifting gears doing things a bit different from travel to promotion to a daily exercise routine.  But all that is fodder for another post.  In the meantime - today's walk will take a new direction, a path never traveled and a fresh look at the season we call autumn.

And you?

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it. Boldness has genius, power 
and magic in it, Begin it now. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For All Time
Ryshia on Twitter

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dogs, Cats And Vets

So here I am again, yesterday morning to be exact, in the vet's office.  Now there's nothing seriously wrong with my pooch, just a case of itchy skin that none of my home remedies seemed to cure.   So off we went Friday morning hoping for the "first come/first served" vet's office to be having a light day.  No such luck.   A simple visit ended up to be hours long and most of that wait time.  But while we were there it was a window to the world.

First off in the crowded waiting room there was one seat left between a woman sniffling with a summer cold and a man rocking a kitten.  So, I'm adverse to summer colds and allergic to cats but I figure it shouldn't be that long of a wait.

Next bit of bad news occurs when I realize that there are only two vets and one looks like she may have just graduated vet college and then only if someone advanced her through school on the rapid acceleration program.  New, young and dedicated - each patient seemed to be getting a minimum of a forty minute visit.  So I settled in, after all I'd made the drive, got up early and battled the traffic - no point going home and doing it all again on another day.

Parked with only a fish tank between me and my cat allergy I watched the micro-environment play out - people and their animals - people and people and everything in between.  Beside me, the man rocked his sleeping kitten and every once in a while he would kiss it.  Others chatted back and forth with endless stories about their dogs and the calmness of the kitten surrounded on all sides by dogs and followed that up with a micro-analysis of dog interaction.  On my other side the woman continued to sniffle and proudly proclaim how delightful the antics of her puppy were.  It was disturbingly close to listening to the ravings of a parent on the abilities of their toddler. 

Then Animal Protection arrived with a ceased cat.  And everyone in the room was for a brief time, silent as if reflecting on the luck that had their animals doted and cared for and the misfortune of so many animals.  Or in this case, maybe relief at the possible turn of fortune of one lone cat.

Things returned to light-hearted talk fairly quickly as a woman and man arrived with their basset hound.  The woman was a laugher - she laughed about everyone and everything - continually.  She also had the biggest dog in the room who was terrified of everything.  So with a basset hound scurrying for her lap and safety - she laughed and gave it a bear hug. 

A woman arrived with her baby in a baby carrier which she parked on the floor.  Her cat was in a carrier that she placed on a chair - let's not even go there.  Fortunately after a time, when the baby began to fuss, she took her from the carrier and began to pace the floor which caused howls of laughter from the basset hound laugher who seemed to be under the impression that every dog in the room was fascinated with the baby.  I didn't bother to tell her that mine was sleeping and the puppy seemed more interested in smelling what I would consider off-limits areas of the other dogs' anatomies.

Then the pregnant woman arrived and a discussion began about morning sickness between her and the previously quiet kitten man.  She looks slightly green but, while her dog hid under the chair, she didn't seem inclined to head to the nearby washroom.  With a cold on one side, the allergy inducing cute as a button kitten on the other side and right next to that someone threatening to upheave their morning's breakfast - it was  looking bad all around.  The laughing woman continued to do what she seemed to do best - laugh.  In the meantime, my head has begun to pound - would anyone ask why at this point?  That's when my nose began to twitch and I sneezed - it was over - the allergy had set in.  Meantime the woman with the cold is replaced by a young man and a half-grown rottweiler with whom he has an ongoing wrangling match as the pup insists he wants to visit, fight, play, anything - he just wants at the other dogs.

Fortunately, after over an hour wait, we were called just as a noxious and horribly familiar odor settled into the room.  Someone had relieved themselves - dog or baby I'm not sure.  I scurried after the vet and the inner sanctuary.  The door closed behind me.  The vet - bless her, gave me the option as she filled the prescription of either waiting in the examining room or going back to what she called "that madhouse."  I chose the former.  And even with the door closed I could hear the laughter lacing through the barks of the many still waiting.

When I left - the laughter followed me and I passed the man still cuddling his kitten that I learned was only there for her shots.  I think he gave her a kiss as I passed by.  I'm not sure what to make of it all but it certainly was a gold fish bowl view of human behavior.

The seeds of a character are everywhere.  Today alone was enough for a book.  Any characters in your day?

For All Time
Ryshia On Twitter