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.