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Page & Paragraph
December, while being a hectic holiday time, is also a time of reflection. At least, it is for me. Between December 25th and January 25th, I make a point of reviewing the events of the past year to see how close I came to achieving my goals.
I also ponder on what I would like to accomplish in the new year. These are not resolutions. Resolutions are lucky to last a week or two. Instead of drunken promises made on New Year's Eve, I make a written list of goals that I would like to attain during the next 11 months. Be they personal, professional, or physical, I'm more likely to work toward them if they are written down and put in a prominent place where I can't help but see them and be reminded to make an effort.
It's a rare year that I check off everything on my list. It's also a rare year that I don't check off the majority of items on my list. The list gives me a direction to turn when I'm floundering. The list keeps me on track. The list is a constant reminder of the "promises" I've made to myself.
List making is one of life's constants for me. Over the years, I've collected thirty--give or take a few--annual lists. I keep them in a small file folder where I can review them every five to ten years. If the same goal pops up year after year, yet never gets accomplished, I have to ask myself why? Maybe, I write it down because I think it's something I should do, but would really rather not. Maybe, it's another's expectation of me. If it's something I want to accomplish, but don't, then maybe it's time for some professional help or a severe reality check on my part.
Some of the goals from my twenties are laughable to me now that I'm in my fifties. What seemed so important thirty years ago has little meaning in the world I live in today. From my lists, I can track my growth or the lack of it.
Lists are not for everyone, but they work for me.
How do you view the end of one year and the start of another? Do you have any traditions or rituals that have evolved over the years? If so, what are they? If you don't, might I suggest making a list?
In April, I had foot surgery and was confined to my bed for two weeks.
Even after my bed rest period was up, I continued to write and within four weeks I had written 25,000 words!
That may not seem like much to NaNo people who write 50 to 60,000 words in the same time frame, but for me I set a personal record.
Yesterday, I printed out those 104 pages to read through and organize.
Rather than write linearly (from beginning to end), I skipped around and wrote scenes that piqued my interest. Some characters are well-developed, while others are sketchy outlines.
My next step is to put these scenes in a linear sequence, and figure out the gaps. Once I know what's missing in terms of plot, I will fill in the plot holes. This method should also allow me to see which characters have been neglected and need further development. I've never written this way before, but it seems a lot faster and more productive. This is actually my fourth novel, but only one of them is finished. In the past, I wrote from beginning to end, but would stop when I got bogged down on a particular scene. I was writing like a champ on my third novel, Spared Parts, until I reached a scene that takes place in the Beijing airport. That's when inspiration flew out the window. I've never been to China and I floundered. My cousin was living there at the time and graciously offered to help me with the details. However, since she was not supposed to have email while in China, I didn't want to be the reason she ended up in a Chinese prison. (She's far too cute for that!)
In the next two weeks, I hope to make a list of what I'm missing and then prepare for another writing frenzy.
I have another foot surgery scheduled for late July, so my plan is to make good use of my bed rest time.
Wish me luck, and I'll keep you posted.
My writing took a serious hit during the last half of 2015. It wasn't pretty. The flashdrive on which I kept my creative writing crapped out on me. At first, I wasn't even all that concerned since I had been diligently backing up my computer. HOWEVER, I was living in a fool's paradise. While I was backing up everything on the laptop, my flashdrive with over five years of creative writing was not included as part of the laptop even when it was plugged in.
Apparently, everyone but me. When I bemoaned my loss, I found little sympathy among the more technologically advanced.
I tried several data recovery programs and took the flashdrive to various local computer stores. Nothing.
I finally decided to ship the flashdrive to a place in Florida which advertised recovery for about $100. I could afford that. It wasn't until a few days later, the Florida recovery team emailed me with the bad news that my flashdrive was a "more complicated" model called a monolith. To recover data from this type of flashdrive would set me back $500 with no guarantee as to how much or how little they could find. Either way, the price was $500--a sum I couldn't afford. I asked that it be shipped back and it now sits in a drawer that I don't like to look at.
Reeling from the loss of my "babies" (yes, I labored to create each short story, novella, and novel), I couldn't write. I fixated on what I lost even though I couldn't remember everything that was on the drive, even though I found copies of some of my works. Until I had thoroughly mourned their loss, I couldn't put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Instead, I read. I read books by authors who hadn't lost their flashdrives or at least knew enough to back them up or put them in a cloud. I read good fiction, bad fiction, and dare I say it? Romances.
Here's my 2015 Reading List:
2015 Reading List
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric
First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple by Cameron West, PhD
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo
by Chuck Palahniuk
Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain by Kirsten Menger-Anderson
Women and Ghosts by Alison Lurie
The Widow’s Walk by Robert Barclay
10. Chasing Rumi by Roger Houseden
11. The Short
Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie
12. The Robe of
Skulls by Vivian French
13. Invisible Boy
by Cornelia Read
14. The Bone
Church by Victoria Dougherty
15. Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton
16. Cane River by Lalita Tademy
Writers School by Steven Carter
18. In the Woods by Tana French
19. Me, Dead Dad,
& Alcatraz by Chris Lynch
20. The Junk-Drawer
Corner-Store Front-PorchBlues by John R. Powers
21. Going Away
Shoes by Jill McCorkle
22. Incantation by Alice Hoffman
Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
24. A Shortcut In
Time by Charles Dickinson
25. Temptation by Jude Deveraux
26. Daughter of
Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
28. High Tide by Jude Deveraux
29. Hope: A
Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
30. The Mystic
Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
by Charlie Houston
31. The Right
Hand of Evil by John Saul
32. Travels in
the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
33. The Twelve
Terrors of Christmas by John Updike
34. Gossamer by Lois Lowry
35. These Is My
Words by Nancy E. Turner
36. Black Magic
Sanction by Kim Harrison
37. White Witch,
Black Curse by Kim Harrison
38. The Gift of
Years: Growing Older Gracefully by
Sister Joan Chittister
I found some new authors (to me) and re-read some of my favorites. I mourned for my lost works, and slowly healed.
Today, I wrote about 3,000 words on a story that didn't exist even in my mind until a few weeks ago. It felt good to write again. Perhaps, someday when I have an extra $500 laying around, I'll pay to get the data off that flashdrive, but until then I'll have to content myself with producing new and hopefully, better works.
Who knows? Maybe a fresh start is exactly what I needed.
Before entering the contest, I watched
the video on the Manuscript Evaluations page on her website. After all, who wants to win a contest from someone who doesn’t have credentials
or doesn’t gain your respect? Not me. My time is valuable.
Fortunately, I truly
appreciated her presentation. I learned from her. I enjoyed her straight forward
approach. She didn’t sugar-coat the writing process, but at the same time,
she wasn’t derogatory. She understood that each manuscript was someone’s baby.
A baby that had consumed large portions of the writer’s life. I got the
impression that even if the plot had holes large enough to drive a Hummer through,
Hummer Plot Hole
she possessed the ability to let the author know what needed to be done without wrecking
their self-esteem or desire to write another word. That’s a pretty fine line. Somehow, she managed to convey that in seven minutes. Can you imagine what she
could do in an hour? If I'm wrong, then someone needs to let me know.
Grand Prize: A Full Manuscript Evaluation
NANCY RAVEN SMITH for Land Sharks
2nd Prize: A 50-page Evaluation
MATTHEW PHILLIPS for Warrior Son
3rd Prize: A 25-page Evaluation
MAUREEN L. BONATCH for See No Evil
Unfortunately none of these three was me. While I didn’t win,
I still feel that it was worth the effort of entering (she made it very easy). I also feel as if I’ve made another valuable and accessible contact in the writing
I can't wait to see the final product of these manuscript evaluations. Can you say Best Seller?
The Best Part of This Week?
Roasting marshmallows at the park with my family.
One of my short stories. "Kingdom of One" will be published in the October issue (#28) of The Caribbean Writer.
The Caribbean Writer (TCW)--The Literary Gem of the Caribbean--
is an international, refereed, literary journal with a Caribbean focus,
founded in 1986 and published annually by the University of the Virgin
The 2014 edition of The Caribbean Writer, Volume 28, highlights Time, Place, and Memories, so "Kingdom of One" was a good fit.
I hope everyone who reads it will enjoy or at least, appreciate the story. Like most of my work, it's dark and leaves the reader questioning the distinction between right and wrong.
I can't wait to see what it look like in print! You can order a copy of Issue #28 here. I hope that any and every one who reads it will send me some feedback. I would really like to hear your thoughts on it.
As an unexpected bonus, its publication in the journal puts me in the running for a literary award. It will be a year before the 2014 award winners are announced, but wouldn't it be great to get an award from a university located on one of my favorite islands?
Who wouldn't want to be here? I have fond memories of vacationing in St. Croix with my son when he was a child. We had such adventures there!
My next topic has to do with critiques. I take part in several critique groups and at times, I've walked away from them feeling as if I'm not getting serious feedback. Other times, I've come away feeling guilty that I've perhaps been too harsh with my comments.
Without construction, honest criticism, I don't see how my writing can get any better. How will I improve? Maybe, others aren't at the critiques to improve, but rather to have their works lauded. If that's the case, it's a game I don't play well. I'm honest. Brutally honest. If that means saying, this piece needs a lot of work and here are some examples of what is wrong and some suggestions on how to make it better, then that's what I say.
Fortunately, I'm not the only one who believes this kind of honesty is the best policy. A writer whose work I admire and whose critiques I take to heart,Harvey Stanbrough, has generously allowed me to lift a paragraph from one of his blog posts. Here goes:
Social Graces — Yeah, well, okay, I just don’t have ‘em, I guess. I
keep getting emails telling me I should be more gentle with my
criticism when other writers ask me to critique their work. Sorry, but
I’m just not that guy. When someone tells you only what you want to
hear, maybe on the surface it makes you feel good but you learn NOTHING.
What’s worse, you never know whether that person is telling you the
truth about anything. What you get from me — but only if you ask — is
the plain, unvarnished truth, good or bad. When I tell you something
could be better, I’ll try to explain how to fix it. Maybe best of all,
when I pay your work a compliment, you’ll know I mean it. The
professional (or the aspirant who will become a professional) gladly
suffers criticism in order to grow in the craft. The aspirant who would
rather hear unearned praise than be afforded an opportunity to grow will
never be a professional. It really is as simple as that.
On a personal note, I got to spend some time in Mexico this summer. I always have a great time when I'm there and this time was no exception. I got to experience my first deep sea fishing trip and came home a winner as you can see below.
My catch-of-the-day was a 25 pound black fin tuna! Not bad for my first time.
Mundo cut it into steaks. The Chef cooked it for me!
I also got the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. It's something that's been on my bucket list for several years, but just couldn't seem to make it work until now.
Me and Nautica.
I strongly encourage you to swim with a dolphin if you ever get the chance. It was AMAZING!
On a final note, I'm off to see Gone Girl with my daughter. We've both read the book and are curious as to how well the movie is done.
|Below you'll find the review I posted on both Goodreads and Amazonfor Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.
Love, love, LOVE this book! I've tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, blogged, and reviewed this book. If I do anything more, author Robin Sloan is going to have to put me on the payroll!
I rarely get this excited about a book, but Mr. Penumbra's really resonated with the bibliophile in me. This debut novel abounds with quirky, intelligent characters on a quest. I truly adored Ms. Lapin! How could I not? She is me and I am her.
Rarely do technology and literature met and mesh. Just think about the ongoing debate over e-books. However, if technology and literature had a love child, this would be it. Even the cover glows in the dark!
From first to final page, the reader becomes part of a journey that he/she may not always understand (I'm not that technologically advanced.), but is always willing to follow. There are parts that are more bookish and in those sections, I felt like I was leading, guiding the others along the way. From Google headquarters to age-old libraries, Sloan blends the old with the new, and makes it work.
The truth he reveals/exposes is one you may have heard and forgotten. If it's your first time to see it, then enjoy and drink deeply of it.
I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who loves books, reading, technology, architecture, mystery, secret societies, libraries, independent book stores, gaming, and magic realism. Did I leave anyone out? In other words, this book is for everyone.
Buy it, read it, enjoy it, sleep with it under your pillow to inspire good dreams.
Some of you may have noticed an ivy-like vine decorating my
home page. It’s also on my business cards, letterhead, and most anything
related to my writing. Ivy—it’s not just pretty, it’s a tough plant. Have you
ever tried to kill ivy? I have. I failed repeatedly.
Years ago, I planted ivy on the side of my brick
house. I was in love with the idea of an ivy-covered castle. In my case, the
castle was a small brick ranch, but still I loved the idea of it, the romance of it.
My next door neighbor, a woman wise beyond her years
(and she had many) said, “You’re going to regret that.”
Of course, I blew off her advice. I was young—er and
thought she was speaking out of dementia. (Oh, to be that young and convinced
that I knew everything.)
I ignored her words, planted, watered and nurtured the
ivy sprigs until they were growing well and then, left them to do what they do
Did they ever!
Within two years, it had grown up the
side of the house, reached the gable and was heading for the roof line and shingles.
Suckers attached the vine to the brick and mortar, firmly anchoring it while
tendrils crept beneath the siding on the gable and entered the attic. Other
tendrils search for the smallest of openings around the basement windows trying
to find a way inside.
From that point on, I trimmed the ivy, pruned it, cut it,
chopped it, all in an effort to get it under control and keep it that way. No
matter how much I cut, it always grew back with a vengeance. Annual cutting
turned into twice a year, then more and more often.
My neighbor never once said I told you so, but every
time I started trimming, she would appear on her porch swing with an amused
smile on her face. While I sweated and worked and cursed, she swung and smiled
and sipped iced tea. I guess I deserved it.
<-- Imagine this is ivy.
Or perhaps, this -->
When I realized the ivy was damaging the brick and
mortar, I committed an act of vegetational homicide. I ripped every vine from
the wall, and cut them back to two inch stumps in the ground.
Next came a
hatchet job to rival Lizzie Borden’s. I literally shredded each small stump
with the hatchet until only a fibrous mass remained. Finally, I poured weed
killer over what was left in hopes that it would reach those determined roots.
That was fifteen years ago.
I don’t have an ivy-covered wall any more, but every
spring a small, but determined vine will appear and reach for that wall. I
maintain a vigilant eye for it and get out the hatchet as soon as it appears. My neighbor has long since passed away, but I swear I can hear her laughing at
me each spring.
My writing is a lot like that ivy. Determined, with
a will to live. Fortunately, it’s not destructive and instead of a hatchet, my
weapon of choice is my computer. I don’t kill my writing “ivy”, but over the
years I’ve trained it to climb a trellis and follow a pattern of my choosing
instead of running wild all over the page. Instead of a hatchet, I clean my
writing “ivy” with careful editing and a critical eye toward spell check.
The result? My writing blog complete with ivy logo. Now
that you know the story behind the ivy leaves you find on my website, you’ll
never look at an ivy leaf the same again, will you?
I love when I get the opportunity to discover new talent. Okay, maybe I didn't discover them, but I did just recently find them.
Mr. Penumbra's is a book lover's dream, a bibliophile's paradise. It references other books, drops hints and clues to an even greater book loving group while incorporating quirky characters (I am Ms. Lapin.), the Google campus, art, bookstores, and a quest. How can anything get any better than that? Don't just take my word for it, check out the reviews and comments on Good Reads. The book also glows in the dark! There's nothing I don't like about this book!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves books or loves reading books (and yes, there is a difference).
I personally love books on so many levels. From reading to the way they are made, the quality of paper, the illustrations, type setting, the endpapers, and so much more.
I love to hold a used, but well-loved book in my hands and imagine all the other hands who've held it before me, all the other eyes that have read the words, the fingers that have traced a particularly intriguing line. A book with a well-broken in spine shows the love given it when it was first purchased. A book losing its pages shows me that it wasn't taken care of properly by someone who either didn't know or (dare I think it?) didn't care.
What was your favorite book of 2013?
P.S. I have another previously undiscovered talent that I hope to bring to you in 2014. This one is totally my discovery, and doesn't have to do with books, but will captivate and fascinate you in addition to leaving you in awe of his talent.
Torture, isn't it?
It's easy to get discouraged when writing. Sometimes, that discouragement comes from a lack of recognition for what you've done. Other times, discouragement comes from a lack of support for what you're attempting to do. Some people see the desire to become a writer as a pipe dream
. Some see it as a waste of time better spent doing something more concrete. Yet, the dream, the desire, the need to be a writer is
overwhelming and concrete
in the aspiring writer. For me, writing is as essential as breathing.
Yesterday was one of those days when I was discouraged. Not by people, but by events out of my control and memories of those events. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the death of someone I loved. The sadness always sneaks up on me despite my attempts to head it off. So yesterday I was broadsided with a sense of loss, a waterfall of tears, and a mental slideshow of memories from happier times that only seemed to emphasize what I don't have now.
Yesterday could have been a real bummer...
But, it wasn't.
In fact, yesterday turned out to be a great day. Why? Because of the people who love and care about me. My family, friends, and writer friends know that December 6th is difficult, so they came to my rescue. Individually and with no prompting other than a feeling they should call or stop by for a visit.
As a result, I went from down in the dumps to having a great, productive day.
Sadness in one area of your life can seep into other areas causing doubts and negative thoughts that generate more negativity until a person is sucked into the abyss of a depressive funk.
Thanks to the people who love me and showed me that love yesterday, I can face today with a much more positive attitude about everything. I look forward to get some writing done, both the necessary and the creative.
Writers tend to be a solitary sort, but that doesn't mean they don't need friends. I highly recommend finding similar writer types and forming a critique group that will improve your writing skills and in all likelihood become a group of friends that will be there for you when you need a boost.