Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Post of 2013

It's the last hour of 2013 and I'm determined to get a blog post up for the month of December.  I haven't posted in a very long time.

I can't call what I took a hiatus, since I've been working pretty hard.  But I haven't been doing the work I love; I haven't been writing.  "Not writing" takes a toll and what happens next is something I'm sure a lot of writers experience; the entropy takes on a life of its own and then I realize, "Wow. I haven't been willing to stick up for myself. Every person, place and thing that has sidled up into my peripheral vision has been given a warm welcome into my full attention. C'mon in to the inner circle; I can't think of anything to write, anyways.  Sure, I'll watch A Christmas Story with you ... again.  Sure, we can go shopping ... again.  Sure, I'll help you wrap that ... too."

And it's all me.  I slowed down at 20,000 words with NaNoWriMo and then ... stopped.

It's 11:26 p.m. on December 31st.  This post is the last of 2013, for soon my husband and I will tune into the shenanigans at Times Square and watch "The Ball" fall.  We'll clink our glasses and give each other a smooch. We'll sing Auld Lang Syne and then he'll head off to bed (because he moved wood all day in advance of a possible Nor'easter in 48 hours, and he is barely keeping himself awake to usher in the New Year.)

And I will sit back down here at the keyboard, because the first thing I want to do in 2014 is write.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo: How Can THAT Be a Misspelling?

Clickety clickety clickety. Caught up in the writing-verging-on-mindless-keyboarding warp-spasm that is the essence of National Novel Writing Month, a weird thing started to happen.

You know that phenomenon when you find yourself reading way past your bedtime and your eyes start to cross a little?  And suddenly, common words don't look ... right?  You see the word "and" and it looks like the publisher goofed up. You think, "That should say 'and' and it says, wait ... what?!  It does say 'and.'  How could that be?" And then (because of my age) I think, "Wow.  I might be having a mild stroke." so I put my arms over my head and stick out my tongue (because, according to the internet, if you can do those things, chances are you are not having a stoke.) Then I turn off my clip-on reading light, say my prayers and generally go right to sleep.

When I wake up the next day, I check the last sentence I read.  "And" is "and" ... and appears to have always been that way.

Now I have this thing going on where I type a word and Word doesn't like it.  That normally doesn't bother me in a first draft; misspelling stuff is part of the "get it out, get it out fast, get it out now!" But twice so far I have stared angrily at the monitor, feeling strangely victimized. "There's nothing wrong with that," I think, almost seething with resentment. I do the right-click thing to have Word offer me some correctly spelled options, but the word I want isn't there.  The word I want is already on the page.

The first time it happened, the word was "annoyment," as in: Vicki felt a flash of annoyment.

"Annoyment" is a damn fine word.  What's the problem, Word?  Jealous?

The second time it happened, the word was "functual," as in: "I'm sorry.  That restroom isn't functual."

"Functual" is an even better word!  If it were one, that is.

Look at NaNoWriMo, for crying out loud. That's a word.  Blogger doesn't even flag it as a misspelling anymore. And don't even get me started on the word "blog."

Time to stop squandelling word count here and get back to work before my eyes cross for the day.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Last Post Before NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is not coming a moment too soon.

Currently, I am floating on the flat, listless sea of writer's doldrums, not jazzed at all about the upcoming keyboarding marathon.  I was so excited a couple of days ago.  What happened?

Occasionally, I suffer from the most intense lack of confidence imaginable. For years, I have tried to pinpoint the source of this numbing mindset. What an exercise in futility, because I found out that it doesn't matter why I slump.  It doesn't matter that I sometimes hate what I write.  It doesn't matter that I feel utterly uninspired a good deal of the time.  It doesn't matter that there are probably deep, underlying causes for a visitation from the lumpen lethargy goblin who bumbles in through a window and lolls about, discouraging me from doing anything that requires fortitude. His special focus: "Writing? Are you serious? And really, an entire month?  Who do you think you are, anyways? A writer?  Give me a break!"

The hardest thing I've had to learn over the last two years is this: the more uninspired I am, the more crucial it is for me to write.
from contrarymagazine.com
NaNoWriMo is important for writers like me because I have made a pact to write approximately 1667 words per day.  I used to think word counts were kind of stupid, but that was back when I waited on inspiration to write anything, even the nuts-and-bolts-yeoman stuff.  Inspiration is a frothy, ethereal thing.  Lovely and necessary at different times, but it can also be misleading.  What writer has not had the experience of writing a couple thousand words, thinking, "Oh, this is good.  Yes, indeed ... this is just amazing!" only to look the next day and see all kinds of problems.

Inspiration is a fair-weather friend. Perseverence is the virtue that holds us close for the long haul.

Perhaps on the morrow, inspiration will make a little visit, but it won't keep me from writing those 1667 words if she doesn't, because perseverence never lets me down.

And a happy and blessed All Saints Day to everyone!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Suffer the Zombies or Why We Are Not Sick of Dystopian Fiction

Why are zombies so fascinating?  Because, in a way, they are us.

You might say, "Oh, c'mon! How can we be zombies?  I'm certainly not a zombie, and neither are my friends and family."  And then you might say (quietly, so I can't hear—) "Seriously ... zombies?  She's nuts."

In zombie apocalypse lore perhaps 1% of the human race survives.  Maybe even less. Zombies (who were once human beings for the 2 or 3 people who don't know this) walk around in an "old-brain" stupor and the only time they show any spunk is when a human stumbles on the scene.  Zombies get sort of excited as they attempt to grab and eat the human.

If a human is bitten, he or she becomes a zombie.  Humans go to great lengths to isolate themselves from zombies for this very reason.

Humans survive because:
a) Zombies cannot think, they just keep moving
b) Zombies aren't very fast.  They are only a threat if there are lot of them or you are ambushed by one. But it's fairly rare to be ambushed by a zombie because ...
c) Zombies aren't very quiet.  They moan and groan and sometimes even snarl
d) Zombies are permanently neutralized when you get them in the head with a bullet/shovel/arrow/saber, etc.  It has to be the head.

I'm getting to the point.  Really I am.  Please humor me and watch this video (and disregard the political commentary below the video.  This isn't about politics.)
The super rich see us as zombies.  We want more money, but we don't know how to get it.  We,  the 99%, are losing our ability to think clearly but we try to cope by putting one foot in front of the other. We sometimes annoy the 1% when we get together in a "herd," but we aren't very fast in spite of Twitter and Facebook.  We aren't very quiet, but the 1% are okay with that as long as our moans and groans and snarls are about politics, religion and ideology.  Politics, especially, are run by the 1%.  The ultra-rich like to keep thick walls and the illusion that they are "job-creators" between us and them.

They don't want to get bitten.

They are also very glad to see us neutralized with a "shot" to the head: Horrid drivel in the form of "entertainment," bad schools where good ones are needed the most, an entire generation addicted to social media, and the underwriting of a popular culture that isn't centered on anything but "self."

Dystopian fiction is predicated on the notion that we all know something is wrong. My WIP draws heavily on the reality that so few people have so much money (and therefore, power.) That kind of thing, in the history of the world, has never turned out okay.

And no, I don't really think we're zombies. But I think the Koch brothers might.  And probably Bill and Melinda Gates do, too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

KidLit Blog Tour

This is the first time I've ever done a blog tour, so when Leandra Wallace and Vijaya Bodach asked me to participate, I was quite thrilled. Now I'm looking at these questions from the viewpoint of answering them and all that lightness and breeziness and sense of fun has just flown out the window.

I have taken a breath, relaxed my shoulders and sipped my tea, so here goes ...

What are you working on right now?
I'm working on a YA dystopian novel that takes place a couple of years from now.  The working title is Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead.

How does it differ from other works in its genre?
The only magic or power is displayed by forces that desire to control, and this is a purely technological "magic" that exists in our world today.  My protagonist, Lena, is a
thirteen-year-old girl whose only "power" is that she loves to read and write. But she must also learn to survive and she and her friends walk the fine line that exists when all mercy seems to have fled the world and survival can become yet another form of brutality.  Also, the grownups in Lena's small, isolated neighborhood are not stupid jerks and once they become resigned to the situation, they demonstrate that life must go beyond mere survival.  Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead was inspired by the book How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill.  Cahill writes of his Hinges of History series, of which How the Irish Saved Civilization is Volume I: "We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outage by outage—almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence.  And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description.  But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance."  Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead is a fictional narrative of grace, albeit action-packed.  And don't worry—no in-your-face deus ex machina plot devices.  Just coincidences.

Why do you write what you do?
I write what I do because my comprehension of the world writ large went off the rails around age 13. I am now in my fifties and I've carried this story around my entire life.  I've read a lot of literary fiction, but it's been the works written for children and young adults which have always resonated with me. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare was the first book I cried over when I was a kid.  I think I was eight or nine.  I cried the hardest when I finished it—how could it be done? The feeling of deep satisfaction coupled with loss is the hallmark of the end of a wonderful read, and I've chased that feeling my whole life.  I hope Lena will do that to readers.

How does your writing process work?
 Oy!  What process?! THAT is still in the developmental phase.  All I know is that I always have a book (or two!) on hand to read and I am always thinking about something.  I plop myself down in front of the keyboard many times during the day and start typing.  Much of what comes out is blather, so I love this James Michener quote: "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent re-writer."  An essential part of the process for me is critique.  Any "excellence" in my revisions is due in large part to these folks: Lynn Guelzow, Sarah Gilligan and Chris McAuliffe

Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?
Not every young adult novel has to start with unspeakable violence (although Neil Gaiman does this to perfection in The Graveyard Book.) So, actually, no ... I don't have too many words of wisdom.  Except write.  No matter what, write. No writing goes to waste.

Check out the writers listed below.  Perhaps THEY will answer these questions next week, talk about their works-in-progress and continue the KidLit Blog Tour!

1.      Faith E. Hough
2.      A. L. Sonnichsen
3.      Ann Marie Schlueter
4.      Laurel Garver

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Relevant Blogging and Tucking in the WIP

I just read a post at shark literary agent Janet Reid's blog that talked a bit about writers and their platforms and whether or not agents read writer's blogs/tweets/tumbls, etc.  Ms. Reid says busy agents don't have time to muck about in social media unless they are toying with the idea of taking that particular writer on as a client.  She did go on to say that just because time-strapped successful agents don't generally blog-surf, a writer's blog should not be a mess.

In other words, the blog should be well written.

Also, the blog should have something to do with the writer's work, and that's where this blog is deficient.  Here, then, is a post about my WIP (including some hastily thrown-together artwork)—

My work-in-progress is a YA dystopian novel and the working title is Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead. I've spent the summer knitting it together after a rather long period which I will call a hiatus ("hiatus" is to "avoidance" as "research" is to "Netflix binging.") Here's the working blurb:

When a suspected international cyber-attack disrupts power and communication, bookish 13-year-old Lena Ladimer is stranded along with her mother and their neighbors in a small rural neighborhood on Tootin Hollow Road in Gibeon, Connecticut.  As her mother withdraws into an incapacitating depression  and death stalks a neighbor, she attempts to chronicle the neighborhood's day-to-day efforts to survive.  Armed with a blank leather book, a supply of pens and her great-grandfather’s 1947 Thin Paper Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, she tries to make sense of events by writing about them.

The fear, uncertainty and inconveniences of daily life seem as nothing when she learns her father is dead.

She sets off for New Reading, Massachusetts to exact revenge on her dad’s killer.  She enlists the help of her best friend, neighbor Gus Lennon and two others, but does not reveal the real reason for the twenty-mile journey.  Instead, she tells them she wants to make sure her father has been properly buried. They all have their own reasons for wanting to go, and when the others finally find out Lena’s intentions, a startling connection to her father’s killer is revealed.

Back in Gibeon, the neighbors have welcomed Dana Griggs, a refugee and old college acquaintance of Lena's mom. When the children return from New Reading, they discover that Dana also has startling connections, connections that could mean the destruction of the neighborhood on Tootin Hollow Road. Lena and her friends must play a dangerous game to thwart Dana's plans and time is running out for all of them.

Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead will be an entire first draft by mid-January.  My critique group in Windsor is now reviewing finished chapters and the feedback has been wonderful.  For the first time in my writing career, I'm starting to get smiley faces about pacing.  Pacing!  Me!  "Hello, my name is R. T. and I am a recovering info-dumper. I have come to believe I am powerless over backstory, and my penchant for exposition has become unmanageable."  Compliments on pacing is a really big deal for me!

There. I have now blogged about my WIP.  Soon, I have to figure out how to do a little tab so I can post the first 1000 words of Bury the Dead, which I'm putting in for a nap with eight chapters good-to-go for review.  That will get me through November when I'll be participating in NaNoWriMo; 50,000 words in 30 days makes for a WIRP—Work In Rapid Progress. Last year, NaNo was the perfect break from all my WIP problems and gave me an opportunity to write the NaNo way: wanton, unfettered and heedless of spell check.  Yeehah! I should probably put a tab on here for that effort as well, Drum Witherspoon and the Shepherd's Treasure.

(And Janet Reid ... if you ever read this post, I just want you to know I constantly abuse adverbs here on purpose because I totally love them and if I use them in my WIP, my critiquers gleefully slash them with red pens.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cleaning for NaNoWriMo

Today I began the process of cleaning my house. I've had a long and productive summer of writing, but I've goofed off a lot as far as my domicile is concerned.  It's to the point where I'm not happy.

Part of it is due to a larger issue—we have to put the house on the market by spring at the latest.  Ever since my husband and I came to this decision, I have felt myself withdraw from the house emotionally. Unfortunately, when I get a good rationalization brewing on the back burner—"withdrawing from the house emotionally"—my penchant for sloth kicks in and the next thing I know, I'm living in a hovel.

The situation is now affecting my writing.

When the physical environment begins to sneak into my peripheral vision, I start getting writer's block. But really—it all started with cook's block, gardener's block, launderer's block and cleaner's block. All of those things I do to keep house went right out the window and I thought I was exercising freedom! R. T. Freeman, unshackled! Writing! Throw in a wonderful vacation! And a really fun wedding! And then ANOTHER wonderful vacation! And over the last few weeks, I've exacerbated the situation further by binging on the best-written show on television: Breaking Bad. (Father Barron's website reviewed the show here.) Warning: this show is not for everybody.  It's fraught with unspeakable violence, sorrow and even insanity, but there is not one gratuitous scene.  A small non-spoiler example: In Season 4 one of the main characters, recently enriched by huge meth sales and laundered money, buys a house and soon, it becomes party central.  It doesn't take long, however, for the endless party to change and after a few days, the only people showing up are strangers and hopeless addicts with their bad teeth, their urine-soaked clothes and their madness.

Netflix.  Aaaargh.

What I just did there ... that's what I do all the time.  I digress.

So, as soon as I post this, I will get back to housework. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I need to have everything spit-spot. Last November, I had another writer over and we did the middle-aged version of an all-nighter: we wrote from 7 p.m to 1:30 in the morning.  I plan to have more writing nights, plus our Library is having a writing night ... more details on that in an upcoming post.

Alrighty, then.  I can't believe it, but I have to dust the vacuum cleaner before I use it.  Pretend you didn't read that.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Of Music and Poetry and "Searchin' in the sun for another overload ..."

Usually, I don't care much for lyrics to a lot of songs I like.  I listen to the overall effect, and if the lyrics aren't too offensive, maudlin or repetitious, and I like the actual music, then I'll probably like the song itself.

The lyrics to this song also happen to be a beautiful poem about love and separation and day-to-day work: Jimmy Webb's Wichita Lineman. Instead of typing them out, I have a treat for you today.  This 2008 recording is one of my all-time favorite music videos: Glen Campbell performing it with The Stone Temple Pilots. Even though I loved Wichita Lineman back in the late '60s (I was thirteen when it came out,) the somewhat overproduced commercial version of it cannot compare to this one. This was recorded less than three years before Campbell revealed that he has Alzheimer's:

 Thank you, Holly Turkington, for hippin' me to this video last year!

Small, homely things—the most prosaic of jobs or circumstances, the most ordinary people, and the most mundane desires (a small vacation, in the case of the Wichita Lineman ...) are a thin veneer for what we all really want—to love and to be loved—for all time.

What are your favorite song lyrics?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Working In a Coffee Shop

Yesterday I critiqued a bunch of stuff in a coffee shop.  I drove to the local Starbucks, purchased my usual overpriced but delicious and addictive Chai Tea Latte, walked over to the brand new "long table," asked the kid sitting at one end doing her homework if she would mind if I sat at the other end (she said, "No, I don't mind,") plopped myself down in a chair, got out my clipboard, my pen and a piece of cardboard for underlining things, and got to work.

I loved it.

I go to Starbucks all the time, but I never sit there unless I'm meeting a friend.  I always see folks working in there, but it never occurred to me to that I could sit there and work.  Pretty funny, considering the banner I sport on this blog.

Over the course of the two-and-a-half hours I spent at "The Buckie" (as my friend Catherine likes to call it ... she refers to Dunkin' Donuts as "The Dunkie,") they played Blues, some New-Age-y mood stuff, and some pop over the sound system at just the right decibel level.

The customers played around the edge of my attention, too.  Bikers with a band came in for a Bikers With a Band meeting. (One of the bikers had a wicked southern accent ... he actually said "ghee-tar." And by "bikers," I mean the Harley-Davidson kind.)  Then a bunch of moms whose kids all go to the same dance studio came in; they were chatting about conventions and competitions and fundraisers.  Some more high school kids commandeered a table and chatted, texted and guffawed. Lots of people came in to order drinks.  It was like listening to a hybrid language invented solely for the purpose of providing a vocabulary for us entitled swillers of fancy hot beverages: "I'll have a triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, Caramel Macchiato" or "Gimme a non-fat, extra hot, extra water Chai Tea Latte" (that one is me, only I never have to order it at my Starbucks.  The delightful staff always says, "Are you having your Chai?" and all I have to do is smile and nod ...) or "Hmm, how about a decaf Soy Latte with an extra shot and cream?"

The sun shifted.  It's late September here in New England and if you go somewhere at 3:30 p.m. and it gets around to being 6:00 p.m., the quality of the light will most definitely change as the sun starts to hang low in the sky.

One of the employees started sweeping.  I moved for him and he was so grateful.  Then he started mopping and I moved again. "Thank you so much.  That's so thoughtful!" he said.

I finished the last bit of critiquing for my every-other-Monday Writer's Workshop and gathered up my things.

There was something luxurious about leaving Starbucks and going directly to the workshop with my work done and enough time to get there easily.  No last minute "put-the-wash-in-the-dryer", "chop-veggies-for-family-stirfry", "answer-phone-as-I-dash-out-the-door-because-it-might-be-my-husband" or the dreaded "neighbor's-dog's-in-the-paddock-chasing-the-horses-around-oh-no-they're-gonna-kick-him-in-the-head." Nope. Just a cheery wave to the baristas as I shouldered my trendy messenger bag and, keys in hand, headed out to the car.

Tomorrow, I'm taking the plunge.  I'm gonna work on my WIP there.

I'm bringing the laptop.

Yup.  Make it a Venti. (Buckiespeak for BIG GULP.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013


(We had to do an exercise for the Granby Library Thursday Morning Writer's Group on music, and the one I wrote brought back such a powerful memory, I decided to post it.)

I disliked my third grade teacher, Mrs. Wolfe.  She didn’t like me, either.  I spent a good deal of time shut in the cloakroom or with my head on my desk during recess or held after school, all of which were standard punishments for an unruly eight-year-old in the school year of 1963-64.

But it wasn’t all bad.

We had Music every day. Mrs. Wolfe had a series of 45’s, each with samples of well-known themes from some important work of classical music.  Every week we heard five selections, and on Friday, there would be a quiz.  The quiz was simple; she played that week’s music selections and we would write down the name of the piece and its composer.  By age eight, I could spell “Mussorgsky” and “Tchaikovsky.”

I loved Music. I loved it even more than Reading, Writing, Vocabulary and Penmanship, which, until third grade, had been my favorite subjects. Mrs. Wolfe would close her eyes when the first notes of a sonata or an aria or a movement from a symphony would lift up to the high ceiling and swirl around against the walls and windows to finally swoop and skim along the boards of the old wood floor. When the listening part was over, she’d have us write out the name of the piece and the composer.  We did this every day.

Tuesday through Thursday, she would carefully raise and lower the needle on the record player, thereby changing the order of the music.  In this manner, we learned themes from the work of Bizet, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Liszt, Bach, Haydn, Verdi, Copeland … and so many more.

One winter Monday, Mrs. Wolfe put the needle on the 45.  It crackled for a few seconds and then reality, as I knew it, was suspended; time and chalk dust and Presidents Washington and Lincoln and the Palmer handwriting strip and the blackboard and the American flag and the other children and Mrs. Wolfe … all of it folded in upon itself and in my line of sight the bare trees and the house-crowded horizon beyond the chain link fence beckoned— “Come away … this is not your true home ...” and my heart tightened with yearning and an unearthly feeling of loneliness.

But it was the beauty, the unutterable beauty, of Antonin Dvorak’s Largo from Symphony No. 9 that made me cry.

And when the last strains of the three minute sample faded and the feel of the tears on my cheek and the salt in the corner of my mouth brought me backembarrassed, Mrs. Wolfe was just opening her eyes.

Eyes that were filled with tears.

Monday, September 9, 2013


'Twas a dark and stormy night (for real)
And the wind was blowin' a gale (honest!)
And the Captain said to the First Mate (that's me ...)
Wife, are ye spinnin' a tale?
And this is the tale she told ... (to be continued on publication of first novel.)

So, I was actually working on my WIP (Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead) as the gale kicked up.  One minute, it's merely windy and the next- WOMPH!  The winds threw sheets of rain at the poor little cottage, and the ancient wooden structure creaked and moaned in protest. It was incomprehensible to me that electric service prevailed under the circumstances, but the lights merely flickered every now and then and I worked for quite a while. It turned out that this was a small gale with prevailing winds at 60 kilometers an hour.  A lot for our teeny cottage, though.

After a while, I began to feel small and exposed, sitting at my table in front of double windows with nature snarling and smacking to get in, armed with buckets of rain and sea.  Also, I was stuck. And fatigued.

It was a good time to go curl up in a blanket in a pool of light in the back corner of the cottage with Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.  The protagonist, whose point of view is the lens through which the story is told, is Thomas Cromwell, and he is rendered a sympathetic but complicated character. In the last book, Wolf Hall, St. Thomas More (one of my favorite saints) comes across as a religious prig who likes to torture heretics, but the writing is transportive.  The writing is so good, in fact, that truth leaks out all over the place and Cromwell finds himself perpetually haunted by More, though this is not the premise of the book.  Ms. Mantel has done what most writers of historical fiction have failed to do; she has mustered the universality of human nature and the particulars of that period of history to give life and breath to her characters. Her fiction is far from dry and lacks none of the grittiness that comes across as anachronism and ideological cant (think Ken Follett, Phillipa Gregory, or the writers of HBO's The Tudors) that is the currency of some best-selling authors of the genre.

Alrighty, then.  Off to the Souris Visitor Centre to post this blog entry.  The quicker we get there, the quicker we get back for a blustery walk along the cape in bright sunshine.
Gale coming in (and we thought it was clearing!)

The morning after, seas are still pretty high.

At least the beach furniture was not taken by Davy Jones.  We are going to have to dig it out, though!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lost in the WIP

For the first time in my writing life, I've been able to get lost in my work in progress. It drives home the fact that time is a gift, a gift that is finite and easily squandered. I know this is an enduring topic for me, but it's something I struggle with as I enter this new phase of my life.  Kids are grown and health of mind and body is a day-by-day proposition, a thing to be grateful for. I walked through the pioneer cemetery at St. Margarets a couple of days ago, and the average age of death back in the 1870's was late forties.  Ten years younger than I am now.

So how did I make the transition from my usual anxieties to getting lost in my work? How did this finally happen for me?

Well, I'm on Prince Edward Island and it's Semptember.  It's really quiet.  I'm at the cottage with my husband and he has his golf clubs and for rainy days, a volume of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch mysteries. If he were a large cat, he'd be purring with contentment.  I'm only cooking for two, and I'm only doing half the cooking, at that.

In addition:
No internet.
If I want internet, I have to drive eleven miles and park myself in the Souris PEI Visitor's Centre.  When I'm there, I do "internetty" stuff (like posting this blog post which I composed in Notepad back at the cottage.)  I check my Facebook account (yes, I know ... after all my whining about Facebook, I reopened my account. More on that in a later post.) And I google stuff that happened to come up in the course of working on my WIP.

No NetFlix.
This is self-explanatory.

Incredible views from every window.
You'd think this would be distracting, but it's like balm to the mind and soul.  Tortured syntax unravels, clunky phrasing smooths itself out, writer's block tumbles like a house of cards.  God's handiwork is such an incredible and powerful example of cohesiveness, unity and meaning.  Oh, and did I mention beauty? Creation is God's utterance.  His only begotten Son is Word; it hit me like a ton of bricks that writing is the act by which we take dictation, pulling all manner of logos from that which surrounds us, creating stories from the rush and tumble of words.  God utters.  We write.
The Writing Corner
Long walks.
As the adage goes, "move a muscle, change a thought." When the phlegm of inactivity begins to settle, this writer often finds it in her brain.  There is nothing in this world to soothe the lymphatic system, the circulatory system and the central nervous system like a good tramp along the beach or up and down the dirt roads and grass paths that are such a part of this shoreline.
Bob Freeman, golfer and reader of mysteries and historical fiction and walking companion..
View from Route 16

Left off of Route 16 down to the cottage.

And finally, the WIP becomes the focus AND the distraction.
I don't think I've ever been in a position to be distracted by my own work when I can actually drop everything to do something about it. So much of my life is about returning phone calls, meeting obligations, trying to solve problems that require things I do not have, like money or a plane ticket.  When I say "drop everything" here, I'm talking about putting down a dish in mid-rinse or abandoning a pillow in mid-plump.

I may not be able to bring the ocean and the lovely isolation home with me, but I am getting as much done as I can, hoping that with every keystroke, I am internalizing the memory, the feeling of getting lost in the WIP.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I Must Write

Well, Mrs. "I Can't Write Anymore" is off on another vacation to Canada ... to write.  My husband and I leave tomorrow at the crack of dawn in order to get off I-95 seven hours up the road at Bangor in time for huge lobster rolls held together with warm butter rather than mayonnaise. If anyone enters the municipality of Brewer, ME on Route 9, you are just a dang fool if you don't stop at the Eagle's Nest.

So, I'm done whining, carping and avoiding work.  Husband will be hitting the links and I will be by myself at the cottage.  I won't have internet, either. I have my own computer (no WIP on a stick this time) with all the research and character development I've done over the last four years (read: discarded prologues, annoying [for the reader] forays into world building, and info dumping on a grand scale—all this stuff is now called research and character development.)

The reality is this: I am delighted to be going on a trip with my husband of 31 years.  The last time we went away by ourselves for an actual vacation was July of 1981. We are leaving behind grown-ups and a bevy of terrific friends and neighbors who will keep an eye peeled on the homestead.

And even though I gave this post a melodramatic title, I really want to write and the stars are lining up for me to do just that.

It's just grand.
Lunch for September 1, only we will have drawn butter instead of mayo.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Can't Write Anymore

I wrote my first query letter today for the WriteOnCon online writer's convention. It was a horrible experience and I never want to write another word again.

It wasn't the critique suggestions, they were terrific.  It was my own experience of writing.

I cannot be succinct.  I just can't.

Okay, that last paragraph was pretty succinct.  So I can do it if I really need to.

So, here's the query letter with the first edits suggested by one of the incredibly generous participants of WriteOnCon (and FYI .. in real life one should never query a WIP, but they let you do it on WriteOnCon as long as you put WIP or Work In Progress in the subject line of your thread):

Dear Ninja Agent,

When an international cyber-attack disrupts power and communication, bookish 13-year-old Lena Ladimer decides to chronicle the events in her own small rural neighborhood in Gibeon, Connecticut.  Armed with her great-grandfather’s 1947 Thin Paper Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, paper and pencils, she tries to distance herself from events by writing about them.  She begins to be drawn into the community as they work together to cope with the outages, but everything changes when her father is killed.

Lena decides to set off to New Reading to exact revenge on her dad’s killer.  She enlists the help of her best friend, neighbor Gus Lennon and two others, but does not reveal the real reason for the twenty-mile journey.  Instead, she tells them she wants to make sure her father has been properly buried. They all have their own reasons for wanting to go, and when the others finally find out Lena’s intentions, a startling connection to her father’s killer is revealed.

The real trouble, though, is brewing back in Gibeon as the unsuspecting neighbors welcome a stranger who seems willing and able to help them. Lena and Gus realize that help is the last thing on her mind when they discover that she has instructions to do whatever it takes to destroy their community—and they will do whatever it takes to save it

Lena Ladimer Chronicles: Bury the Dead is a 15,000/50,000 word work in progress.

Thank you, Ninja Agent, for taking the time to read my query and for your involvement in WriteOnCon.com.  Attention from an industry professional is thrilling and appreciated!

Best Regards,

I choose not to put the original on this post.  It's on the YA thread over on WriteOnCom.

Too bad they don't have a genre called "Pseudo Literary Blather."  The Ninja Agents would be all over me like a cheap suit.
Who ever knew you could floss with a laptop?


Monday, August 5, 2013

WIP On a Stick

I wrote on vacation.

My goal was to write 10,000 words, but then beautiful weather happened.  And a boat (with a tube to be dragged in!)  Amazing beach conditions (read: no jellyfish!) And lots of people I haven't seen in years.  And the ever-hopeful (but false) notion that I can beat my sister in a Quiddler tournament.  And a hilarious game called Hedbandz.  Reading had to be done: Moon Over Manifest and half of Bring Up the Bodies. Oh, and my sister's dog needed to be walked on the beach while she did most of the cooking.  All that hake and all those mussels, steamers, oysters and scallops needed to be eaten.  Downton Abbey, Season Three needed to be watched (hated the ending and I don't care if it's a spoiler alert for the four people on the planet who haven't seen it yet) and lots of sleeping and napping had to be attended to.

So you see, I was busy.

But I was also profoundly glad my sister brought her laptop and I brought my WIP on a stick. I did manage 3,000 words, and the story is falling into place in a way I would not have imagined.  All the dead ends, discarded prologues and stripped out exposition have only served to enrich the world I'm building in my own mind.  None of the writing I've done over the last four years has gone to waste— just as in life, no experience goes to waste. I've lived with this story for so long now that I feel like I'm writing from my own experiences within the story. I don't know if I can explain it any better than that. It's probably what most writers can attest to ... it just took me a long while to get there.

Also, my sister turned out to be a wonderful critiquer. "Rosemary, you can read what you have to me ONCE.  I'll tell you what I think."  And she did.  She's an avid reader and everything she had to say was right on.

Today is a glorious day in New England.  Intensely blue sky, comfortable temperature and breezes ... much more like a summer day on Prince Edward Island than a summer day here in the Connecticut river valley. Early August is often brutal with lots of humidity and heat. Sometimes even the violent late-afternoon thunderstorms can do little to mitigate the misery.  But not today. It is truly lovely. I am headed over to the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury to see Marcie ride her sister Annie's horse in a Daniel Stewart riding clinic.  I can't imagine a nicer way to spend an afternoon.

Except for maybe whipping out my WIP on a stick, firing up the laptop and writing out on the porch.
What makes a Boston Whaler even more awesome? A tube and tow rope!

Writer's retreat as seen from the boat. Also the home of the North Shore Quiddler Tournament.

Crowded beach day.  There are approximately 10 or 11 people wandering around.

My front yard. Sunsets are time consuming, as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ray Bradbury: "You only fail if you stop writing."

I am not a multi-tasker.  I cannot do one or two or several things at once with any degree of comfort or grace. And that's what I've been doing over the last few weeks. Lots of stuff I had to do and lots of stuff I probably shouldn't have done.

My problem is this: I do not respect the awesome constraints of time, and I never have.  I tend to be tardy (although I have worked on that since tardiness is a sin against the virtue of justice ... it denies the victims of my tardiness something they should have—their time.) I never allot enough time for the things I decide to do. I waste time watching television (go-to rationalization on this one: story research.) And I do not spend enough time taking real care of myself— doing things like sleeping, eating healthy food, and exercising.

I have been a big spender.  A big spender of seconds, minutes, hours and even days.  And because I've come late to the writer's life, I'm having a hard time taking the time to not "stop writing."

Over the last few months, I've realized it's more than just acquiring good, disciplined habits.  At this very moment, I feel pressure to finish this blog post and get going with the "real" stuff I have to do. Shop for birthday presents, pack for a trip, figure out what to make for dinner and bring some stuff to Goodwill.

The way I'm wired to cope with day-to-day life is still very much to "stop writing."

The wiring is changing, little by slowly.  I'm leaving for a vacation on Saturday, and I'm bringing an old lap-top with me that will work just fine as a typewriter.  I have my "WIP on a STICK," Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies, G.K. Chesterton's St. Francis of Assisi, Jesse Kellerman's Potboiler, Jim Butcher's Ghost Story and Claire Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest (because reading is the very best motivation to write.) There is not much of anything to "overspend" time on where I'm going.  I will be surrounded by beauty, and beauty is something that almost seems to restore time.

My only sadness is that I won't be able to vote in the fabulous WRiTE CLUB contest while I'm gone, nor will I be able to read the blog posts of Faith Hough, Vijaya Bodach, D.L. Hammon, Lynn Guelzow, Gordon Freeman, Marc Barnes, Heather King or the many, many guest writers on Writer Unboxed.

But I will come back with over ten thousand new words of my WIP and I will not fail.

I only fail if I stop writing.

Where I will be writing for the next two weeks.