Category Archives: The Chronicles of my Chronicling

Last weekend…

… This weekend? Er, the most recent past Sunday? I talked to my Mom. (Hi, Mom.)

This is not an unusual sort of a thing. I call every weekend unless I’m travelling or working.

Anyway, the first thing she asked was, “Have you finished your book yet?”

Well, no. I haven’t. But I’m working on it. No, really. I am.

A couple of weekends ago my local RWA chapter brought in Jodi Thomas who has, over a 27 year career, published 40 books. First of all, I’d like to tell everyone to go out and buy her books whether you think you’d like to read about Texas or not. Why? They’re great books, of course, but also, she’s an incredibly nice person. She was friendly, giving, and honest. I bought three.

The best thing she said – the most memorable thing she said, was this – “Stop stacking paper.” Basically, she means stop procrastinating, get the butt in the chair, and write. There was a story behind the phrase but my paraphrase wouldn’t do it justice. If you ever have the chance to meet Jodi, ask her to tell you the stacking paper story. It’ll stick with you.

What have I done to stop stacking paper? I’ve gotten my butt in the chair. A while ago (November 2014), I re-wrote the first half of “Separation Point” – haven’t touched it much since. Probably because I’m afraid of how much work it still needs. I’m afraid that what I’ve done isn’t good enough. Again. I’m afraid I’m throwing time at a project that will never see the light of an e-reader screen besides my own. (And maybe my Mom’s – she promised to buy a copy.) I’m afraid that the longer I take, the less likely I’m going to find an audience for my book – it might be a little bit of a niche market book.

Fear, fear, fear. That’s all there is holding me back.

In the words of my sage friend, Alex – “The first step is acknowledging the problem.” Okay, that might also be a bit of a paraphrase, but Alex is very smart and quite wise and he did say something like that to me.

I know, this isn't a convincing rainforest...
I know. This isn’t a convincing rainforest…

So, that’s where I am. Hacking my way through the overgrown Rainforest of Fear.

I may need some help sharpening my creative machete in the near future.

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Sometimes I…

… wonder if I’m really cut out to be a writer.

Or to write.

It’s not that I don’t have some measure of talent at it. Some people tell me that I’m great! (Thanks, Mom!!) But writing is a somewhat solitary thing to do. Unfortunately I need feedback and I need it on a steady drip.

I’ve been getting a little more of that from the group I call BFoWWR on FB. I’m also looking for it locally, but sometimes asking the right way can be something like a minefield. I don’t like to come right out and ask people to read my stuff. I’ve done that. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. I also have a terribly uncomfortable relationship with personal debt – you know the debt I’m talking about. You ask a friend for help with moving a couch from one room to another and suddenly you’re watering their plants for three weeks at their house which is now thirty miles from yours. Twice a day, please, because it’s really hot. I know someone who calls this inability to draw a line “being a people pleaser.”

Within this FB group we’re beta reading each other’s work, which is great. Since we’re all in the group, we all have similar tastes in reading material. I don’t have to put a disclaimer on it – which is really nice. I finally scrounged up the courage to ask someone in the group to look at my short. And she did it gladly – with great feedback. I revised it (scratch that, I rewrote it) – then she read it again. This time with a glowing review and just a couple of specific notes. I’ve read a couple of things for her, too, so I feel good about the ‘personal debt’.

When someone asks for betas I almost always raise my hand. As long as I’m not working twenty hour days, I’ll do it. Reading is one of those things that’s easy for me. It’s something at which I’ve always been quite fast. It doesn’t cost me anything but a little time and I usually end up learning something – whether it’s a new word, or just a chance to see a different technique.

I’m relatively new to novel writing and writing words on a page does nothing to train me. People need to see those words and they need to give feedback for me to learn what I’m doing wrong – as well as what I’m doing right. Writing for yourself is great and all, especially if that’s how one processes life, but my end goal is not to die under a hoard of journals that no one ever saw.

I want to share my stories, preferably not only for free, but if that’s all it ever comes to be, I guess that’s okay.

My short…

… story has been released upon an unsuspecting fellow FB group member.

I finally got to the point where I could no longer stand to smash my forehead upon my desk and have asked for help.

Writing is a solitary thing to do and I am a solitary kind of person. Except when I’m not. Sometimes I really want to share and I want pats on the head. (Getting a ‘like’ on this blog is a virtual pat on the head.) Sometimes (most of the time?) I want to know that I’m not just wasting my time because if I am then I should move on to something else. Sometimes I just need one little word of encouragement. Words of encouragement are like catnip!

My short story is a condensed version of the third idea I had for a book. A single day out of the main character’s life. It’s probably one of those things that’s been done to death, but I’m still catching up on my reading so I’m not completely sure about that.

I sent the piece this morning and I’ve been preoccupied about it since. I just hope she doesn’t open it up and after reading a paragraph have her nose wrinkle in “Oh, this is bad.”

There have been many books I’ve tried reading within the last year that have made me do that, including books by people who have agents and big three publishers. Sometimes I push on through. Sometimes I toss the book over my shoulder and try the next. The thing I need to get better at is figuring out whether the book is actually bad or if it simply isn’t my taste. I may have a very narrow taste. I like books with cats in them.

Over two…

…months after having emptied our house of everything I’m still putting things back into their spaces. Today I marked the wall, hammered nails and hangers, then finally placed my prized photos.

My favorite photos from years of pointing my camera at things
My favorite photos from years of pointing my camera at things

Of course, I’m beginning to wonder just how ‘prized’ they are considering it took over two months to get them out of their storage box. I also cleaned one of two display cabinets and placed our prodigious collection of shot glasses inside.

For a long time we would buy a shot glass in every city we visited. I suppose that might sound clichè, but shot glasses are the easiest souvenir to find. I think there has been only one place we weren’t able to find one and that was Monaco. We ended up with a tiny piece of pottery that had a picture of Monaco on the side. It was about the size of a shot glass, so it fits into the cabinet just fine. It seems that we end up in a lot of the same cities now, so the shot glass collection has mostly stagnated except when we go international. I also just realized that despite having been to London and Newcastle-upon-Tyne twice last year I do not have a London or a Newcastle shot glass. Guess I’ve gotta go back! 😉

In other news I’m up to 6,000 words on my submission to the thing I was so vague about last Tuesday. That’s frightening for some reason. Maybe it’s because I won’t have any excuse not to try? I know some of the others submitting (maybe all… probably all…) are published already which is making me run around in circles waving my arms over my head in … something… fright, maybe? I’m not great with pressure or competition so why do I keep falling in to high pressure occupations? Glutton for punishment, I guess.

I’m participating…

… in a thing.

Vague enough for ya?

Yes. It’s true. A thing came up in a group I’m part of on Facebook and while my tendency toward thinking I am nowhere near good enough for anything keeps trying to take me down like a cheetah takes down a wildebeest – I’m not listening. At least not right now. (I’ll research whether or not cheetahs take down wildebeests later. Right now, must focus!)

I have to grab those moments of clarity and ride them through to the end. Sort of like any time I feel like throwing junk out I must drop everything I am doing otherwise and toss, toss, toss.

By taking hold of that word surge I spat out 1,147 words today on a to be 5,000 – 10,000 word story that involves food. And I have until August, so I’m optimistic.

My personal record is up around 3,500/day during the final stretch of NaNoWriMo, but I think a lot of that ended up on the editing room floor. It is possible that a lot of the work I produced during NaNo was gibberish, but it really did move my WIP#1 forward. Did I mention total rewrite? Well, it’s been totally rewritten up to … roughly the middle. I haven’t had the oomph to get much past that as yet which is unfortunate because people in that same FB group are being encouraging and saying things like “interesting concept” and “good world building”.

I would like to think I’m not the only person in the world whose ego is so precariously balanced on the approval of others. Sometimes I feel really idiotic for wanting validation. Maybe validation isn’t what I mean. I want people to say “Great job!” and I want them to mean it. I want them to believe what they’re saying. I want them to turn to their friends and say “Here. Read this. It’ll knock your socks off.” (Or maybe some other things, since I’m writing romance.)

I think, all in all, this might make me very normal – which is also something I’m not comfortable with. Normal is something I’ve never wanted to be. Make me above average. Make me below average. But not average.

Oh look! A cute kitty!
Oh look! A cute kitty!

What I…

…learned from watching “Guardians of the Galaxy”. (Erm, this is where I should say “spoiler alert” because I type, at some length, about things that happened in the movie. Consider yourself warned. If you haven’t seen “Guardians of the Galaxy” you should wait to read this until you have. But really… Go see it. Now.)

1. Start with a heart wrenching origin story. – Seriously, even I – the hard-hearted-child-disliker – felt a twinge of sorrow at the sound that came out of the kid when his mother died.

2. After flipping through Marvel comic pages have a career exploding opening sequence. – Chris Pratt became an instant, bona-fide movie star when he picked up that space rat and started lip synching into its ugly little head.

3. Use good, recognizable music in the score. – Yeah, the music in this movie has a beat and you can dance to it. You try to stay in your seat while “Come and Get Your Love” is playing. I challenge you.

4. The hero needs to have faults. They can’t be perfect. – I’ve read this directive on many occasions but I’ve only seen it portrayed (written?) so extremely well once or twice. Peter Quill is a womanizer. He is sarcastic. He’s a “thief”. Yet, he has a code he lives by and you can’t help but like him in spite of his faults.

5. The secondary characters don’t have to be uninteresting. – Rocket the raccoon was referred to by someone I know and respect as “a gimmick”. Well, let me tell you – Rocket was the one who made me cry. Yes, I identified with the raccoon.

6. A heroine who can hold her own in a fight is not a bad thing AND she doesn’t need to wear high heeled shoes!!! – This drives me nuts. Women having to fight in two+ inch heels. Just… so… infuriating. Sure, people used to say that Ginger Rogers was great because she had to do everything in heels and backwards, but how many of them really meant it, and how many of them thought they were making a funny joke? I’m curious why they saw the need to put Gamora in heels in the second half, though. Was it the fight with Nebula? I mean, sure, Karen Gillan is a thousand feet tall and maybe putting Zoe Saldana in heels was to reduce the height difference, but I prefer to see the short person winning without heels. Maybe I am hung up on society’s love of high heeled shoes because I cannot walk in the damn things without looking really awkward. Except.. okay… I have a pair of knee high boots with a wedge heel and they make me feel like I can take on the world, but I’d still look like a newborn giraffe if I had to run in them…

7. Just because a guy came from MMA and WWE doesn’t mean he can’t do the job. – I was not sold on Dave Bautista. I thought he was simply going to be a wooden, uninteresting, muscle-bound placeholder. This is where the talent of the casting director comes in to play. When I think of ‘actors’ Dave Bautista is not the first name that comes to mind, but because of the way the character was written he did perfectly well, and I thought he was completely believable.

8. Anything and everything has potential for humor. – Because… prosthetic leg. Hahahahaha. Ha!

9. (This one is for real life) If you’re going to do something, do it. – Don’t count down, just do it because before you get to “one” something will happen to derail your plan.

10. Pop culture references are great opportunities for comedy. – Especially if they involve Kevin Bacon.

11. Characters that are willing to sacrifice themselves for others make the movie. – When the Collector’s attendant in Knowhere grabs the infinity stone, Quill grabs Gamora and knocks her into a pit (Yes, yes, would’ve been better the other way round, but we can’t have everything.) Groot picks up Rocket and runs. I’m glad I don’t put myself into such positions so I don’t have to find out whether my friends would do so.

12. Friends forgive friends for doing stupid things. – Drax sends a message to Ronan and gives away their location which, in real life, would be a dumb move, but Groot revives Drax after dragging him out of the (ick) brain fluid pool and the others come around. It’s heartwarming.

13. There is no #13.

14. Slow motion hero walks. – ‘Nuff said. (Could be replaced with villain walk – think O-ren Ishii’s introduction in “Kill Bill”. I prefer heroes, though. I root for the good guy – it’s a weakness.)

15. Sometimes a really cool ship can be distracting. – Ronan’s ship was awesome, but I never got the point of the design other than to look cool, so I spent some of the movie wondering why it could reshape itself around a stationary core.

16. Comic relief is a requirement. – For me to enjoy a movie, lines like “They got my dick message!” and “We’re just like Kevin Bacon!” at tense moments are necessary for me to not come out of the theatre with a headache. It’s stressful enough for me to put myself into a dark location with strangers I cannot see, add to that having characters that I’ve come to care about being put into dangerous situations … I need the pressure taken off for a moment.

17. A little beauty goes a long way. – See the scene in which Groot lights up the interior of the Dark Aster. It is beautiful and the image sticks with me.

18. Story teaser equals sequel! -Who is Peter Quill’s dad?! Will Groot grow up into a good tree? Is Rocket’s life span long enough to make it to the second movie? Perhaps we’ll get the answers to these and more in GotG 2: Raising Groot.

So, those are the things I learned. Do you have anything to add?

Oh, and just in case, HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Feline Friday may become Feline Thursday this week – just so you have something else to do besides eat a lot and bicker with relatives on Christmas day. 😉

The rain…

… is falling, and it is wonderful.

Before we moved to the desert someone told me I would come to be very excited when it rained. What they didn’t know was that I am always excited when it rains.

After more than thirty days of sunny, cloudless skies I must say I welcome it more than I have in the past and as I stood on the back patio sipping a drink, watching the drops bounce in the pool, I think I may have finally come up with the opening line of my “Great American Novel.”

I won’t share it with you at this point for two reasons – A. I don’t want you all to tell me that my opening line was already taken. I have to get the story on paper first, and worry about logistics afterwards. B. I’m a suspicious sort.

For now, it is post-it noted to my monitor. Maybe I’ll save it for next year’s NaNoWriMo. Maybe I’ll start working on it in the new year.

Rain through the back windowEither way, after having had the flooring replaced we moved my desk to the back window where I can sit and stare at the backyard. The rain is plopping down to make small bubbles on the pool as it hits the water. The drops that hit the window leave trails as they make their way down the glass. Some go quickly. Others go at a much more leisurely pace communing with other drops before they all collect at the bottom of the pane. Where they go after that, I’m not sure.