Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Working It Out

Sometimes - in my eagerness to constantly produce - I stress myself out with too many projects.  Well, I've just experienced the ultimate in that exercise.

I have been busy with queries and the synopsis and the sending out to agents and publishers, all in the hope of getting my first novel sold.  At the same time, I was researching and trying to draft my second novel - totally new ground for me as far as the content, so quite absorbing for my brain.  In addition, I have tried to keep up this blog, work on several essays and short stories for submission to other publications.  All this while attempting to keep current on all the other issues and chores of my life.

Not working.

I became so stressed that I didn't even want to pick up a pen and do my daily entry for my journal.  The thing I love to do became the thing I dreaded.  Then, the day came when I just sat staring at my computer screen and had no energy or interest in typing a single word.

It took me a few days to work out what my problem was; I needed to decide on one thing to work on now and give it my best.  I chose the most obvious for me; get the first novel sold.  I will still be doing quick entries in here - as I find time - and, of course, you will be the first to know when that novel is on its way to press!

I'm enjoying life more in the last few weeks, and even got energized to write a short story this morning.  When I have time, I can do that.  And the great thing is - I'm enjoying writing again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Veterans Day Salute

My salute begins with a huge "thank you" to all who have served or are presently serving our country.  I am ever grateful for your protection and devotion to duty.  And, to all our close friends who have served, I know what your work and sacrifice meant, and you are all heroes to me.

The focus of my salute today, though, is to one particular veteran; my husband.  While in the U.S. Navy, he braved combat duty in Vietnam twice, once before we were married and, again, a few months after our wedding.  The Vietnam War was new to everyone when he served his first tour, not monopolizing the headlines or causing protests at home.  In his letters to me, he didn't talk about the action much.  In later years, I understood why.

Unlike his father, my husband didn't come home to cheering crowds or waving flags.  By the time he was discharged, Vietnam had become a "dirty word" at home, and he was vilified for having been there.  He had lost his two best childhood friends in the war, and seen much more that prompted nightmares.  But no one wanted to hear about it.

It took decades before the public began acknowledging what our military endured in Vietnam and to give thanks to those men and women for their sacrifice.  My husband could finally wear his Vietnam Veteran status with honor, and there were many times he teared up when someone would thank him for his service there.

At the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, I have had to explain to our children why Daddy was crying as he stood there remembering those who fell.  He still suffers from medical problems, including PTSD. And it has only been recently that he has shared with me what really happened during that war, and when he did, we wept together.  But he left the house this morning proudly wearing his Vietnam Service medal.  What I've witnessed in him, and the way he survived, give me even more reasons to be proud of him.

I am only one of hundreds of thousands of Veteran relatives, no matter where their loved ones served, who know how much this day means to them.  Don't pass up an opportunity today to salute and thank a veteran.  And don't ever forget how lucky we are that they accepted the call.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Anniversary Message

On this day nine years ago, our only son stood with the woman he loved, at the altar of an historic church in Lexington, Virginia, and vowed to love and honor her for life.  It was a perfect fall day, and we rejoiced at their union.  From the time we met Sande, we considered her the perfect mate for Sean; it took him a few years to figure it out.

He met her in a drama class at Florida State University and they became friends first, always the best way to discover a relationship, I think.  It wasn't until they were both graduates pursuing their careers, she in California and he in Chicago, that the spark ignited.

Since their marriage, their lives have taken several sharp turns and detours, some brought on by circumstances they couldn't avoid, and others by choices they made for the better.  They've managed to weather all of them. 

Adding to our delight, they completed their family nearly five years ago with the arrival of Fletcher.  That tiny dynamo gives another dimension to their lives, weaving entertainment, exasperation, exhaustion, but ultimately fulfillment into their world.  Observing them as they learn all the pitfalls and triumphs of parenthood brings back memories of Sean's childhood but also shows me how much more today's world demands when it comes to raising children.  I applaud their efforts.

In their hundred+-year-old bungalow, they've created a happy menagerie that includes cats and dogs, where even on the most chaotic of days, it is clear a loving family resides.  And it just seemed right, on their special day today, to tell them that I never cease to admire how they make it all work.

Sande and Sean, you are unique to yourselves, unique to our family, and we're all richer because you chose each other.  Happy Anniversary!        

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Query, The Synopsis Perfected - Almost

I've had a query letter written for quite awhile now; still haven't submitted to anyone.  Why?  Because I know it's not "good enough" yet.  I've been re-writing it for about a week, went to the library and did more research on just what a query should or should not contain, and I'm still not totally satisfied with my efforts.  I have, however, made the decision to polish what I have this week and then Just Do It - send it out to the first few agents I've targeted.

My synopsis is in a state of overwritten inertia as well.  I presented my rough draft of it to my writing group yesterday, apologizing in advance for its condition.  As usual, got honest critique - actually, I think they were kind considering the mess I presented to them - and I also got some excellent ideas on how to hone it into something that would interest an agent to read the actual manuscript.  So, I'm back to working on that today.

Bottom line to the above confessions: writing a query and a synopsis is ten times harder than writing my novel - and we all know what I've been through there!  So, to all you writers out there who are ready to submit your work and are getting ready to navigate the "query/synopsis storm", be assured as you struggle with them that you have not forgotten how to write!  It's just that so much depends on them, and you only get one shot, so it tends to paralyze your efforts and make you doubt yourself.  Don't let that happen. 

Wish me luck; I'm submitting this week.  Having that goal in my head is going to push me to get it right.  No excuses.  What I have to remember is; right doesn't necessarily mean perfect.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Characters

I'm in the throes of working on the first draft of my new book.  I had a great idea for this one some time ago, and the members of my writing group agreed (which encouraged me) but I realized, after getting a couple of chapters down on paper, that I didn't know enough about my protagonist to make the story work.

In thinking about this dilemma, I reasoned that I've spent so many years honing the characters of my first novel I just wasn't "comfortable" with these new people I really didn't know.  This probably sounds strange to someone who isn't a writer but it's true.

My remedy for this kind of writer's block involved creating a written character backstory for each of the characters I've introduced in the first three chapters.  It included their physical characteristics as well as details like education, employment background, living arrangements, lifestyle, personality quirks, and specific life circumstances that occurred which place them in the situation we find them at the start of the novel.

Molding these backstories, I drew from both imagination and real life people, something every writer does.  It was fun, but also eye-opening because I suddenly found ways to craft the story that I hadn't previously considered - all based on who these people really were once they took on a "real life feel" for me.

This exercise has given me new interest in this project, and I'm proceeding with abandon now, as eager as I hope the reader will be to see how it all turns out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Anniversary Weekend

Can't help myself - have to brag: my husband and I will be celebrating our 46th year of marriage tomorrow!  When people learn we're having an anniversary, they usually ask, "How many years?" and when they hear the answer, most respond with astonishment followed by a "Good for you!"

Definitely 'good for us'.  It hasn't always been easy but it's always been worth it, and I love that man more today than I knew it would be possible to love him when we said our "I do's" in 1965.  I think the past three years have been the most harrowing as far as finances are concerned, but we give thanks that we have a roof over our heads, the light bill is paid for and we have food in the pantry.  Our priorities change with the current situation - maybe we wish that weren't so - but we deal with it.

Take this weekend as an example of the resiliency of our relationship.  Because of two recent and unforeseen jobs my husband recently had (he's a freelance artist and those have been unheard of during this Great Recession), we had decided to splurge a bit going out for drinks and dancing this evening, then dinner out tomorrow night.  All those plans evaporated when we learned, on Friday afternoon, that all the money he'd made was going to have to go into unexpected car repairs.  Were we disappointed?  Of course.  Were we angry about our plight?  Briefly.

BUT.  Because we work constantly on helping each other weather the unexpected, it didn't take long for us to come up with an alternative, stay-at-home evening that would not require any money outlay but would give us some special time together to mark our important occasion.  No, it isn't what we planned but wishing things were different won't make them so, and expending energies moaning about it won't result in changing what can't be changed. So, with the strength of my partner, coupled with attitude adjustment on both our parts, we make do and enjoy what we can.

I don't want to sound like some wise sage, or somebody who is always happy about dealing with the unexpected; neither of those is true; I am human.  I've just learned, over many, many years of living with a man who can always make the worst situtation in the world livable - and who's taught me how to accept that edict - that as long as we never miss out on what could be because we're too busy lamenting what might have been, our marriage is the better for it.  And that's what we'll celebrate this weekend and toast to many, many more years of the same.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Piles of Books

The title of this blog describes the state of my study - and my bedside table - and my living room, on occasion.  My husband and I are avid readers, always have been (it's one of the things that made me know we were meant to be together), but I carry it to extreme.

I never go to the library without coming home with a bagful of new pages to read.  I'm always looking for work by new fiction writers - to check out my competition as I pursue selling my first novel.  I look at the new books section; something always catches my interest there.  I'm big on biographies, books on theatre, travel, history, how-to's on writing, books about writers, magazines that contain stories or info. I want to research, and the list could go on.

Once at home with my new stack of tomes, I peruse them all first and sometimes discard ones that prove to be not as interesting as I originally thought, or not very well written.  The rest I divide into books I need in the study for research, those I might read at night go into the bedroom, and a few are placed in the living room for scanning when I have some free moments or want reading matter while I drink my morning tea and examine the new day from my picture window.

My son, Sean, shares my affinity for never having enough books, and, when he is combing his local library, he usually has Fletcher (his almost 5-year-old) in tow, who will have his own pile of books and videos to check out.  I love that all the members of my family are voracious about books.  And I agree with Sean that always having a variety of things to read is a plus, and worth toting heavy book bags, and paying the occasional fine for the ones that get returned late.

I believe in the Stephen King maxim that a good writer is a good reader.  I feel I become a more accomplished writer every time I read a new novel, or discover something I didn't know about the world in the pages of nonfiction.   I never have a day when I don't read something.  I'm always rewarded by books, and I don't plan to change my habits in their regard. I recommend the practice highly - and having stacks like mine are not required!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day Of School

Our two older grandsons begin school this morning.  For one, it is a return to the same school he attended last year, now a sophomore therefore much wiser.  For the other, it is his first day of high school, luckily with some friends he made last year in middle school, but still a new experience - and he has to deal with the inevitable question from students and teachers: "Are you Alex's brother?"

I remember this social pattern from the times when our daughter (Alex's mom) and her brother were in the same position.  They were 3-1/2 years apart in age, so they were separated by a larger grade difference, but the question was always there for our son.  At times he didn't mind the comparison but, on occasion, he resented it, especially when it was a teacher who was asking.

The ramifications from such an innocent inquiry can range from teasing by a classmate to an unfair parallel being made about personality and intellectual acumen.  I don't remember any serious problems occurring because of it, but I do think it makes for one more adjustment in an already crowded social agenda.

Being an only child, I never had to deal with the question when I was in school.  But, it seems to me that a better way of getting to know someone in that "sibling situation" would be to say, "It's great to meet you.  Do you have any brothers or sisters who go to this school?"  That way, the new student has a chance to present himself and his sibling in a manner that makes him the topic of conversation rather than an addendum to someone else's personality.

Keep in mind, this is just a personal quirk of mine, and I hope I don't make too much of it.  I just feel that, in today's chaotic and complicated world, an adolescent doesn't need to worry about whether he measures up to what people expect of him before they even know him as an individual.

Your thoughts on the subject?  I'd love to hear them, including your own personal experiences.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feedback Is Vital

I'm always thinking of subjects I could discuss on this blog; I discard many of them.  Why?  Because the mind of a writer is constantly filled with "ideas" that never develop into a finished product, either because they really aren't interesting enough when the idea becomes words on a page, or because they are too self-serving and not really something anyone else would want to peruse.

Trying to maintain a balance about what interests me and what might interest others is difficult sometimes.  I get passionate about things, and, as a writer, I want to put that passion into composed form.  But it doesn't always work.  Rereading my posts before putting them out there is a necessary exercise, not only for grammar and spell check reasons, but it allows me one more chance, before pressing the key to post, to take an unbiased (hopefully) look at the work and decide if it will be something my readers will identify with.  Yes, I want them to have an insiders look into my life and writings, but it's way too easy to get carried away with nonsense sometimes.

One of my favorite things about this blog are the comments I receive.  I do read them all and am always interested in another person's insight on my compositions.  So, please comment if you're touched, or enlightened, or just entertained enough to want to come back to my blog again.  It helps me to know what does spark about this endeavor - and gives me new directions to follow.  All writers need feedback, whether they admit it or not.  I not only admit it; I look foward to it.  Thanks in advance for making me better at this wordsmith profession.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Joy of Grandsons

When our daughter, Dawn, was pregnant with her second child, she and I both dreamed of it being a girl; one we could dress in frills and bows.  Not that we didn't love her firstborn, Alex, but a part of us longed for that female offspring.  Instead, she gave birth to Christopher, her second and last child.  It only followed that when Dawn's brother, Sean, was awaiting fatherhood, we revived our conversations about his family addition being female.  It was never to be.  That birthday brought Fletcher to the family.

Each of these grandsons is a delightful and unique addition to our creative households.  Alex, now almost 16 and pushing six feet tall, is the quiet and introspective one, yet still quick with a sarcastic jab.  His 14 year old brother, Chris, is the outspoken, comic relief of the family.  The two of them have a special bond with their mom - who raised them most of their lives as a single mother - and they also share a great relationship with my husband and I.  They are spending a week plus with us now; always fun and a treat - even if I don't get much work done while they're here because we're playing games, watching movies, creating in the kitchen, sightseeing in our beloved Chicago, or just talking and learning more about them.

The youngest of the grandsons, Fletcher, at four-and-a-half, is the smallest but a dynamo that can keep up with his cousins and he adores them.  Fletch's nonstop conversation and exploration of the world never fails to bring a smile, and time spent with him always reminds me of how fleeting these young days are.  I try to make as much time as I can to be part of his discoveries.

Seeing Alex, Chris and Fletch together is a rarity these days because the older boys live in another state, and school and other responsibilities don't allow for it.  When it does happen, I'm reminded of that time when I longed for a granddaughter, and I really can't imagine what I was thinking.  These three males have given me a new dimension in my life; one that I wouldn't trade for a dozen girls.  I have been given the best gift of all; the chance to be part of the maturing of these special lives - and their gender never enters into that at all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Reflecting On The End Of An Era

I just finished watching the movie, "Apollo 13".  It's not the first time I've seen it and definitely won't be the last.  I consider it Ron Howard's best directorial effort.  The performances are so moving that I never fail to sob at the movie's closing scenes even though I know the final outcome.  For me, the most touching portrayals are given by Ed Harris, Gary Sinise and Kathleen Quinlan for their characters must endure the waiting on earth.

In the spring of 1970, when the events took place on that fateful Apollo mission, we experienced all the drama along with the rest of the U.S. and the world as we waited to learn what would happen to astronauts Lovell, Swaggert and Haise.  Whenever I watch this film, I am reminded of those long days and the relief and elation we felt when they returned safely to earth.

For twenty years, we lived only fifty miles from Cape Kennedy (Canaveral).  There were many mornings we were awakened by the "boom boom" of the shuttle as it re-entered earth's atmosphere so close to our home, causing me to sleepily respond, "Shuttle's back."  And we were witness to many launches we could see from our back yard.  We'd watch the countdown on TV and, as soon as we heard the words, "We have lift-off", we'd hurry outside and wait until the spacecraft cleared the horizon and we could watch it climb majestically into the sky.

Then there was that morning in January, 1986, when I watched the Challenger vapor trail hang in the wintry air all day.  Usually such trails disappeared shortly after launch but, on that disastrous day, it remained almost as a testimony to the lives that were lost.  It is a visual memory that is still vivid and emotional.

These sense memories began back in 1969, as my husband and I pulled off the highway to view Apollo 11 as it left the Cape carrying the first men to land on the moon.  There wasn't a single car moving on the busy turnpike that day.

I guess that's why I was so sad to watch the televised video of the final shuttle landing yesterday.  It brought to an end an era of U.S. exploration that we must be certain to teach the next generations about.  My daughter, who now has teenage sons, wasn't even born when the drama of Apollo 13 occurred.  But she was raised, as was her brother, to appreicate what the space program meant to our country.  Our explorers were the first on the moon, weathered tragedy as well as triumph, and exemplified the best of what the United States can achieve.  That's what I hope we teach our children and grandchildren.  Watching "Apollo 13" would be a great way to introduce it to them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Defense of Cursive Writing

It was recently announced that the state of Indiana will no longer require cursive writing to be taught in their public schools.  They reason it is more important to teach typing for computer use than to try and read "scribbling".

I'm not against teaching typing, nor am I foolish enough to think that having students master cursive writing is going to get them to abandon e-mails or texting.  But I do have a list of arguments about the need for future generations to know how to write in cursive.

First of all, I like the terms joint writing and real writing which are commonly used for this type of penmanship in the UK (I often think the Brits have much better words for things than we do, but that's a subject for another post).  Those expressions denote exactly what the joining together of letters with a pen on a page do.

The next thought that comes to mind is: how will they sign their own names to legal papers or documents of any kind?  Oh, yes, I suppose signatures could be done with an electronic fingerprint, but isn't that sort of a dumbing down of society?  What comes to mind are those in previous generations who never learned to write and signed with an "x".  Is that what we want to progress to in our electronic rush?

It also occurred to me that our future society might not even be able to read historical documents like the Declaration of Independence, or archival letters and such in museums.  Again, I would predict that these could be replicated in bold print letters, but at what loss to their appreciation and even their self-esteem at interpreting the original script?

My curiosity about just how widespread this opinion about cursive is led me to some research and some heartening facts.  It appears that cursive is still being widely taught between grades 1-3 in U.S. public and private schools.  There are exceptions such as Tennessee which teaches practically none, and there are teachers who claim they are too busy to teach it.

The most interesting fact I learned, in support of continuing to have students learn cursive, is that it's been proven to be conducive to brain development and language fluency.  It allows a child to overcome motor challenges by causing both the left and right sides of the brain to work together as he masters the exercise, activating parts of the brain that lead to increased command of vocabulary, while stimulating intelligence and improving neural connections.

As that previous paragraph states in academic terms, there are sound reasons for the instruction of cursive far beyond the obvious ones, and the arguments against it, including the influence of the internet, the pressure of teaching standardized testing that leave no time, or the push to be technologically literate don't wash with me.  Regardless of what else our young people need to learn to survive in the twenty-first century, real writing needs to stay in their curriculum.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts on it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dialogue Voices

This won't be the first post where I've extolled the invaluable help of the members of my writing group, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Each time their critique and counsel aid me in improving my writing, I want to pass on my added knowledge.  At yesterday's meeting, I experienced one of those sessions.

The first draft of a book, for me, is written quickly and without much serious thought about the details.  I'm lucky because, by reading the draft chapters to my fellow writers, I gain wisdom about what I might be failing to notice as I pound the keys to get that story on paper.

Yesterday had to do with the dialogue I had penned, involving the protagonist and her parents.  It was pointed out that the words sounded too formal for a family just talking to each other, and that my characters voices all tended to sound alike.  My son, Sean, who is a member of my group, did say that the father's voice (whose character name is Gene, which was my father's name) did remind him of his grandfather; that tickled me that he made note of the similarity to name and voice.  His suggestion was to leave his dialogue as is because that was how he spoke, but work on the other two.

I certainly didn't mean to make it too wordy, nor did I realize that I was creating dialogue clones.   This is a major reason for every writer to have a group of wordsmiths to review your work as you go, and help make it better.

Ultimately, as our group agrees, what goes into a writer's work must be that writer's decision, but a good writer should always seek and value the opinion of other members of his group.  I hope I never fail to remember that lesson.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day Revisited

It was troubling to hear that, according to a recent media poll, only 58% of those questioned could identify the year the Colonies declared their independence from England.  And many did not know what country we broke away from!  I could do a lengthy blog on my frustrations with the education system but that's not the focus of this post.  I do find it an upsetting statistic, however.

This most recent July 4th found my husband and I (and our daughter-in-law, Sande) viewing a local parade, waiting for the appearance of our son, Sean, and his son, Fletcher.  They were riding one of the last floats in the parade.. Sean recently portrayed John Adams in a theatre production of "1776", so he had donned his costume and wig for this appearance, and Fletch wore a shirt, vest and cap that reminded me of a 1930's waif; he was adorable.  They both happily waved and called out to the crowd; Fletch loving the spotlight as he usually does.  That moment spoke to me about what this day means; about freedom, and family, and the many reasons we have to be thankful for where we find ourselves, despite our hard times.

But it also brought to mind again the nights that I sat in the audience, watching Sean and his fellow actors (including my husband, R.J.) recreate the lives of the men responsible for our Declaration of Independence.  I was cheered by the positive reactions of the audience, including their standing ovations at the end of the play.  I wondered what percentage of them were learning history as they sat there.  It gave more than inner pride for my son's talents as the lead character.  It brought me joy and satisfaction to realize that this entertainment venue, with its first class production values, was giving those patrons a glimpse into all the reasons we should feel proud and strong on every July 4th.

If you've never seen "1776" onstage, you've missed something.  And I'm sorry you couldn't have seen my son as John Adams because he captured the role brilliantly.  But, if you're curious about this drama and you can't find a production of it being done, rent the movie.  It stars some of the original cast from Broadway, and is similarly moving.  I defy you not to feel national pride after viewing it.  And, should you know some young people who aren't schooled in the beginnings of our national history, have them view it with you.  Sean grew up with that movie, and always wanted to be part of its cast.  When he and R.J. (who has acted in two previous productions as well as this one) were chosen to be onstage together in this one, it was a dream come true for them both. And the memory of it will always be a cherished part of our family history.

Yes, it's personal pride I've been talking about, but it's also national pride.  And this play, first created over thirty years ago, is one of the best ways I know to instill a sense of that kind of pride in anyone.    

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Characters

Beginning a new novel is daunting, especially after living with the characters from my last one for so long.  They became real to me - which is a good thing, I believe.  It's important to have "real" people one is writing about; else how can you expect the reader to accept them?

My new writing adventure is a total departure from my last, and, though I have an idea of plot and a couple of the major characters, I'm still forming others.  Also, because this new novel jumps from one time period to another, I've struggled with my first chapter; trying to get all the exposition in that I felt the reader would need to understand what is coming.  BUT - I overdid it.

Sharing those first pages with my writing group a few days ago, they pointed out that I was giving too much away.  After all, as one remarked, "This isn't a short story; you have an entire novel to get this information out."  All of them gave pointed ways to hone what I'd written, and I'm working on that today.  Even as I was reading the chapter to them, I knew it sounded too formal and full of discourse, and the men of my group have put me on the right path to continue.

So, back to work on that - and thinking about those other characters I need to bring alive on the page.  Always challenging, but fun as well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Inspiring Friend

Last week I was lucky to have my best friend, Holly, visit me for four days.  We hadn't had time together - except by phone and e-mail in about a year - so we made the most of this vacation from responsibilities.  My favorite hours were those spent talking, uninterrupted, about all manner of things.  And during one of these conversations, she mentioned that she missed my blog posts.  "You haven't done one since March," she chided.

I did have excuses for the lapse.  We have moved to a new home in the last month, and that significant change with its multitude of exhausting chores attached, was enough of a distraction.  It meant I had neglected refining my query letter, writing my synopsis, and doing research for my new book.  And blog entries weren't even on my radar.

It's easy as a writer to get off-track.   I was eager to get going on the new novel, to find that perfect agent to sell my first novel, and yet I do allow household tasks, family matters, correspondence, phone calls, the internet, a good book, a long walk, the library - well, you get the idea; there are many things that divert my focus.

But when Holly left, I sat down in my new study - an improvement over my old one - and made a concerted effort to refocus my priorities.  She had given me, without realizing it I'm sure, the "kick" I needed.  I have this wonderful, inspiring new space to work in, lots of projects to intrigue my brain, and I said out loud, "It's time to get to work."

So, in the last week, I've organized notes, sat at the computer and got Chapter One of the new novel on the screen, made some important entries in my personal journal about my time with Holly (and we did have a fun four days!), and now it's time to get the blog on the go again.  So, thanks, my friend, for being an inspiration when I needed one.  Funny how you do that for me often.  And I'll try not to stray too far from center again.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Business End

I am mired in the "business" of getting my book sold.  That means endless hours researching potential agents, reading how-to's on drafting the perfect query letter, and preparing a synopsis of my novel that will spark the right interest while not being too detailed - just detailed enough.

Sound like fun?  It isn't.  I'm a writer - that's my passion and the reason my brain never shuts off with story ideas, characters and possibilities for "the next" work.  But, it's a fact of life that writing the queries and synopses, and dealing with the important folk who can get my hard work read is work that must be done well.  And it takes time - lots of time - if you're doing it right.

So, while I'd much rather be fashioning the opening chapter of my next book, which is racing around in my brain day and night, I am focusing on the business end of the writing world at present.  I'll let you know when I'm ready to mail out my first queries.  Should be soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Normal" - What I'm Not!

I heard a "journalist" (I use the term loosely these days, especially with TV reporters, because I find very little that qualifies them to be called that) on a morning show make the statement about a certain celebrity that "he certainly isn't normal".  Granted the man he was talking about has exhibited quite unorthodox behavior, but my first thought was, "So what?"

Roget's synonyms for the word include "conventional", "traditional" and "average", and Mr. Webster defines "normal" as "conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern".  Well, then I'm definitely not "normal" - and proud of it.

I'm not saying that I don't have responsibilities, daily tasks that occupy me, but every day is different from the previous or the upcoming, and it's what keeps me involved and happy.  As an added plus, I also believe it keeps me younger than my chronological years.

Being a voracious reader of autobiographies, I'm always drawn to the "independent" personalities; the ones who push the envelope, as they say.  They defy convention, not just for the sake of doing so, but because their self-esteem is strong enough to allow them to pursue their life as they want, rather than what social standards dictate they must do.  I learn from those lives, and my work is inspired because of them.

Ever since I was a kid, I can remember incidents where I was called out for being atypical or rebellious - not in a destructive or hurtful way - but warned that my behavior defied the norm.  I said it then, and I still say, "So what?"

I like who I am.  I like my life.  I like my family (who are all unconventional, in one way or another).  I am a caring individual who sees life as a constantly renewing adventure.  I cannot envision an ordered, routine existence.  I don't judge others who choose to live that kind of life; I just wouldn't be happy doing it.

Taking unknown paths, or questioning the rules, can result in difficult consequences on occasion.  But, looking back and analyzing those times, I know I wouldn't have done anything different.  I've never broken the law, done anything purposely hurtful, or sacrificed the well-being of those I love.  And I've always pursued each new experience with a glad heart.

When my life is over (decades from now, I hope), I won't be saying "I wish I had.......".  That would be the saddest elegy I can imagine.  I would hope people remember me as an independent spirit who pursued every avenue of life with abandon.  But "normal'?  That word certainly won't be heard. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Busy - And Changing - Month

A month ago, I told you that my novel was finished.  That was a true statement at the time.  I took my re-edited last chapter to my next writing group meeting and the members gave me some excellent pointers and ideas to improve it even more.  I thought about their advice, pondered some ways to strengthen the ending, and have worked to do just that.

I'm still doodling with word choice, etc., but the book is really done now.  I have been researching agents, publishers, checking out the market to see who's buying the type of writing I'm trying to sell, and I've also been scouring the internet for article and short story markets.  So, I haven't been idle; I've just waited until I was sure I'd done my final editing on that memorable last chapter to share my thoughts about why I did it. 

I read recently a blog by one of my inspirations, Hope Clark, who is having her first novel published this fall.  She shared her journey, which also included several rewrites of the ending of her book.  So, I know I'm in good company!  I suppose the reason for this post is to help other writers realize that they can't just put their work out for sale until they're completely satisfied with the end result.  It does take more than one draft, or two, or three - it takes what it takes to make it your best, and you have to be wise enough to know when you've done it right.

So, back to work on my synopsis.  I'm sure I'll have lots to share about the next part of my quest.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Done!

I know there's been a long interval between my last post in October, and today.  But, in that last post, I did promise that I would let you know when my novel was completed - and today is the day!

Actually I finished it several weeks ago, but I wanted to present it to my writing group, then make any revisions, and be certain that I was happy with the final result.  Reading the last line aloud this morning, I declared (to my dogs, Shayla and Molly - no one else is home), "Yes, I love it!  It's right - and I'm done!"

"Done" required several more rewrites of my last two chapters, and a completely different ending page - in fact several different ending pages.  It was in my head; it just took awhile to get it right.  But I'm pleased that I no longer feel that further changes will improve it (that's sometimes hard for a writer).

Of course, being done with the creation of my beloved work does not mean I'm finished with it.  Now comes the business part, seeking an agent to represent me, and getting the novel sold and published.  This is the hardest part for a creative type like me.  Granted, I did have a former career in the entertainment business, and was told I was great at getting all the details right.  Let's hope I haven't lost that talent.  I have to admit, though, that creating is much more fun than business.

My focus now is on a query letter, a synopsis of the book, and, when that is done, and agents are being queried, I will be working on a few short stories for submission, and begin research on my next novel (it's only an idea just now - doesn't even have a working title).  So, I'll try and keep my blog current with my many efforts and, of course, you'll be the first to know any good news about publication.  Think good thoughts for me!