17 September 2014

A Brief Announcement

I've got a writing gig for a local, regional newspaper called the Tanque Verde Voice. I submitted my first piece and accompanying photograph yesterday. Proud writer right here.

Life plays funny games with us humans. This material science engineer never thought I'd write for a newspaper, that I'd be publishing my musings about living in the Tanque Verde Valley, that I'd have to learn how to use watermarks on my photos, or that I'd gain this opportunity through volunteering at the school. Yep, Life likes to play funny games alright.

I'll still work on character development, plot, and conflict as I continue developing my novels. I'll occasionally write in my journal and muse about writing on this blog. Now, I add personal essay writing and supportive photography to the mix.

20 August 2014

#WiskyWednesday, Outlander, and My Life

According to the Hash Tags that Be, today is #WhiskyWednesday. So, I sit with just a wee dram of 10 year old Glengloyne* single malt whisky trying to think of a blog post. When I looked at the bottle of whisky, the idea for this post came to me...

A long time ago, in the Left Armpit of America**, my best friend suggested I read a book that she'd discovered and devoured. That book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Like the dutiful friend that I am, I bought it. I loved it.

Since then, I've purchased all the hard bound books, most of them signed by Herself, and have listened to the audiobooks many a times. Like any great story, it provided me an escape, let me be with characters that made no demands of me other than to enjoy their story, immersed me in history, gave me food for thought, and inspired my own time-travel story.

But the story didn't stop there. The book series has had an incredible effect on my life. I could try to be poetic about it, but that's not my way. Lists, bulleted lists, that's my way. So here is a list of ways that the story has influenced my life ...

  • A love for another book series that starts with Into the Wilderness
  • The chance to be internet friends with the writer of the Wilderness Series
  • The chance to have Wilderness Series author as my editor (Squee!)
  • A love of all things Scottish especially shortbread, Edinburgh, and Stirling Castle***
  • A whole new group of songs in my music library: Martyn Bennett music, techno bagpipe music, Hey Donald Set by Scottish Women, The Red Hot Chile Pipers (listen to them on the How to Train Your Dragon II soundtrack as well), my favorite traditional Scottish music podcast, Duncan Chisolm, Julie Fowlis, and a soon-to-be-favorite Salsa Celtica
  • A place to enjoy the first weekend of November: Tucson Celtic Festival and Scottish Highland Games
  • Bagpipes
  • Two Irish Dancers in the family, because the older daughter/dancer saw Irish dancers in their blinged-out dresses at the Celtic Festival
  • Because of all the waiting during the girls' classes at the Irish dance studio, a group of dance moms that I am glad to call my friends
  • An unforgettable trip to Scotland with my family, my best friend, and her family
  • A new TV show to watch over and over again
  • An appreciation for single malt scotch (so long as it isn't peaty)
  • A career writing stories (I hope)
Who knows how else my life will be enhanced by this book series? Could be that one of my stories does this for a future reader.

All that from a hash tag and a book.

* For those that can get it, the 18year Glengloyne is much better than the 10 year.

** The Left Armpit of America = Cleveland, OH. I know it has cleaned up nicely and is quite livable. I lived there 1994-1996 and loved going down to the Flats and dancing at the Smart Bar.  I also met my husband and best friend while I was at CWRU during that time. What mars the whole experience for me is surviving two break-ins (one in which the thief came into my bedroom while I was asleep and woke me up) and two winters of lake effect snow.

*** Well I don't know about haggis, as I haven't tasted it.

31 July 2014

Musing about Journal Writing

Yesterday I met a friend for coffee. We talked about family and related issues, kids and the roller coaster ride they put parents through, you know, life experiences. Some of those situations can be filed in the "way less fun than an amusement ride" folder. Over the summer, my family lost five relatives. My friend and her family are dealing with changes and challenges as well.

As my friend has experience editing stories, the topic of writing came up in our conversation. We noted that many writers mention how they have to write or die. While there's an infinite number of reasons to write, the few that stood out to me given our conversation were...

... to distract one from Life's overwhelming issues
... to have something to do while waiting for balance
... to work through emotions
... to share heartbreak
... to relate with others

While the conversation wasn't meant to be thought provoking, apparently it crawled its way into my subconscious. So much so, that when I sat down at the computer and told my husband that I didn't know what to blog about this week, the snippets of the conversation bubbled up.

While fiction writing can be a avenue for these writing reasons, given the topics of today's conversation, journal writing seems more appropriate to me. I've never been a journal writer despite the writing advice to do so. Adding a journal into my writing practice when I can barely fit in my story writing sounds crazy. Never mind that I've tried to journal a few times, but couldn't maintain the activity.

Yet, when I participated in writing challenges that asked the writer to pick from a list of reasons to write, I enjoyed the freedom to rant, to complain, or to love just with my written words. I didn't have to share what I wrote, so I could be as candid as I wanted. A few of the reasons I wrote were to get things off my chest, to write about things that can't be said, and a few of the reasons listed above. The experience was cathartic and heart-wrenching, but was freeing as well.

So, now I'm wondering if I will use that journal for something more than a photo subject...

18 July 2014

Life, Books, and a Corollary

I hate to admit it, especially since I love books, but I finally I had to put a book away unfinished. Here's another admission: this was my second time giving up on a book.

The first time this happened to me it was a college-bound reading list book. The story started with a group of old men talking about I can't even remember. What I do remember was the frustration at not knowing who was talking as there were no dialogue tags. None. There was no way the reader could've picked out who was saying based on character biases because we had only just been introduced to these gossiping gentlemen. I tried and tried to read that scene, but I just couldn't figure it out or get past it. (I realized long after I'd donated the book that it might not have been important to know who was saying what, but rather what they were saying. Despite that hindsight, I'm not going attempt to reread that book. Just the thought makes me cringe. Sorry Henry James.)

Just this week, I had to put another book in the donate pile. (The 2nd book in the series is in the pile too - because I'd do that, buy one book, see the next one, and assume that I'd want to read it.)  I'd actually gotten quite far into the story, about a third of the way through, by sheer willpower. The medieval England locations are a places I'd loved learning about (especially after spending two weeks in London this summer). Deceit and treachery laced themselves in and out of the story. It was the characters that just didn't grab me. I couldn't find anything likable about them, nothing to pull me into the story. The two things that kept me reading: the idea that I'd spent good money for the book and that it had to get better. It didn't.

I had to tell myself that life is too short. Life is too short to read books that don't grab me, that don't make me question, that don't make me feel.

That I spent that much time on the book is crazy. I have an entire bookshelf of unread books, I could've read at least two in the time I spent on the one I didn't like. However, I did learned a few things about another author's style, a way that story can be pieced together, and what doesn't work for me. But still.

As this is my place to muse about writing, I discovered a corollary about life and books: Life is too short to write books that don't grab me, that don't make me question, that don't make me feel.

If I'm not moved by the story I wrote, how can I expect my readers to be? I won't be able to touch every reader, but if I start with engaging me, then someone else is bound to be at least intrigued. While I've seen and heard the advice about writing a story that you want to read, I now have a deeper understanding of the tidbit.



09 July 2014

Back At It

It's been a long time since my last blog post. I won't bore you with all the reasons and excuses for my absence. I'll just say that Life has been trying to tell me something. I'm finally starting to listen.

See, it seems the more I plan, the more Life decides that I had the wrong plan and dictates a new one for me. I like knowing what's going on, to know what my day will entail. I like setting my own schedule, even if it is full of to-do items. I don't like ambiguity. You can see how I might have "issues" when Life doesn't go as planned.

But after serveral Life events and changes this summer, I'm trying to learn to take Life's twists and turns as they come with grace and poise. I'm not always successful, I'm human afterall. (That's what I whisper to myself when the dust settles.) But I am learning.

Because of all the shuffling of schedule and activities, my regular writing sessions and my blogging have taken a back seat. Sometimes I've been able to fit in the odd writing session or clean out email, but mostly I've had to focus on the Life's Other Stuff. While I'm not exactly happy about it, I'm learning to be ok with it.

So, even though our summer break is half way over, and I still haven't found a routine or rhythm, I'm sneaking in some writing when I can. Yes, I'm still working on Akeva's story, at a snail's pace, but working just the same. Yes, I'd love to be done with the revision/editing process for this story. And yes, I still have my ever-present-cheerleader quote with me -- "Keep at It. It will Happen when It's Ready to Happen."

And while I'm Back At Keeping At It, I'll see about making a new poster too.