28 December 2010

The Emily Contest Results

My Emily Contest results came in earlier this month. For those unfamiliar with the Emily Contest, each submitted story, really the first 7k words of the story, is read and critiqued by three different book industry professionals.

I did not make the finals round, but I received useful suggestions, comments and criticisms. What have I learned from the scores and comments?
  • I scored well enough from all the judges to be confident in my ability to craft stories that people would enjoy reading, besides my husband and best friend. (BTW, thanks Al and Jen for being my story guinea pigs!)
  • I  still have a ways to go to get the mechanics of story writing under my belt. Which really isn't a surprise given that I've only written two and a half stories, taken only two writing courses, and almost finished reading a creative writing book.
  • That these two stories, under the writing surgical knife and with some tweaks, could be stories that agents would be willing to represent.

With the judges' comments, I have a good idea of what I should do in order to make each story stronger and to improve my writing craft. I already knew I would busy in 2011, but now I have some concrete direction.

So, I send a hearty thank you to all the Emily Contest Judges. Good luck to all those that did make the final round. And here's to me getting busy.

13 December 2010

Thanks NaNoWriMo 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 has come and gone, and we are a household of winners. My two oldest kids won, and so did I. Yes, I wrote my 50,000 words during November. And I'm still writing.

Part of why I haven't blogged about my progress yet is I'd hoped to be done with my story by now. I foresee lots of rearranging and deleting coming to this story, but I'll keep writing to the end before even thinking too much about any of that stuff.

Instead, I thought I'd share a few things I learned this time around in NaNoWriMo.
  • Setting a word count, then striving for it, helped keep me at the keyboard getting those words onto the screen. So, now I have a daily word count for first drafts. I'll figure something out for revisions and how to move through those later.
  • Life intrudes. Or in my case, writing intrudes on life, when time allows. So, even if I don't meet my word count, thinking of my story counts, even it's just writing a quick something on sticky note to follow up on later. Something is better than nothing. That said ...
  • I can schedule mini-vacations from writing. Taking a break from writing to read that juicy/thrilling/suspenseful/favorite-author novel, or doing some other creative endeavor, is ok, even needed. I write this here to remind myself to not feel guilty if I don't write everyday.
  • It's time to reach out to other writers. Not just the little notes via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, but getting in the trenches with folks about manuscripts, revision, setbacks, milestones and the business of writing. It's time to learn, commiserate, and celebrate with other writers.
I'm sure if I thought about it, I'd find other things that I learned or enjoyed, but that's enough for me to be working on at the moment. If you participated in NaNoWriMo, I hope you got something out of it, no matter what it was.

So, thanks for the memories, NaNoWriMo 2010, and for the lessons learned. Here's to meeting you, NaNoWriMo 2011, next November.

19 November 2010

2010 NaNoWriMo Week 3 - Still Plugging Along

Just a quick update ...

I've been busy writing, and am just now getting to the  juicy parts of the story. Makes me wonder if I should toss the the past 30k words. Of course, since this is NaNoWriMo and the first draft of my manuscript, I'll keep them ... for now.

I've discovered some cool things about my main character Alexandrea. Like she and her biological mother shared a liking for U2 even though Alexandrea doesn't remember her mother, and she loves green chili pork stew. The main character's grandmother, Maura, who I sometimes wonder if I should write from her POV all the time - she's so fun to write, is a stubborn clot heid. (Maura's words, not mine; not that she'd admit it.) The teenage character in the story did NOT like the name I gave her, Aribella aka Bella, and now goes by Emma. And Craig, I'm still getting to know him. He still hasn't told me his wife's name; she past away a while ago.

So onwards I write ... still about 15k words to go.

05 November 2010

2010 NaNoWriMo Week 1 - So far, so good.

Five days in, and so far, so good. I've been toploading, if you will, this week, writing more than the minimum 1667 words per day to build myself a little padding for the days when I don't meet the minimum word count.

Which might happen this weekend as I play hookie by going with the family to the local Highland Games and Celtic Festival. And there's a birthday party on Sunday. And next week the husband is going out of town, so I'm on my own with the kids for a few days. While I'll try to fit in as much writing as possible during that time, I'm not holding my breath about it. Probably just a little of gritting my teeth. ☺

As this is my third year participating, I've set a writing schedule and process in place that is working so far. As far as how I feel about the story ... again, so far, so good. Later during the revision process, I'm sure I'll find lots of not-so-great bits and pieces. Such is the nature of writing to my chagrin.

On the left sidebar, I have a gadget that displays my total word count. If your interested and not participating in NaNoWriMo, that's a good place to see my progress. If you are NaNoWriMo-ing, find me as AnneV on the site.


This year the two older children are playing along with me again via the Young Writers Program at NaNoWriMo. Before November started my 9 year old son set up his story file in Scrivener (yes, he is his mother's son when it comes to technology), but as of today, has yet to type a single word of his story. My 7 year old daughter, who didn't sign up until Halloween, has over 150 words towards her 301 word goal, typing them in before breakfast and after school.

So ... I'd say so far, so good all the way around.



Aside #1:  Why the Celtic Festival this weekend? No, to my knowledge neither myself nor my husband have any Scottish, Irish, Welsh or other Celtic blood running through our veins or hiding in our DNA. I'm just a Scottish enthusiast who drags her family to the event. ☺ Fortunately, they are good sports about it.

Aside #2: If you were curious as to what my story is about, here is my one sentence summary.

A surprising bequest forces an engineer to find and love
the artist within herself with the help of her deceased grandmother.

24 October 2010

500 page Stack

I did it!! I finally finished the write-in step of my revision.

Yep, that's a pic of my creation. All 500 pages of mostly handwritten, double-spaced, crossed-out, arrowed, sticky-noted words.

Now to type all those words into my word-processor of choice, tweak, line edit and prepare them for agent queries. Sounds like a daunting task, trying to figure out what all those loops and arrows might mean. But after toiling to this stage of rewriting with a binder full of worksheets and analysis, frankly this next step seems like a cakewalk.

I plan to celebrate this milestone by taking a mini-break from this revision and participating in NaNoWriMo, purchasing new software, attending a celtic festival and enjoying all that November brings. For when December starts, I'll dive into that sea of words and race to the finish.

21 October 2010

Busy and a Finish Line

Lots of writing going on around here. I'm SO close to finishing the first pass revision of my first novel. It's only days away from completion.

If all goes according to plan, I'm keeping my fingers crossed, I'll finish this first pass and take a break before typing nearly 500 handwritten pages on the computer. During that break, I'll outline a third novel and participate in NaNoWriMo. I'm still waiting for lightning to strike so I can settle on a novel idea; I have a few ideas floating around. I'm cutting it close as NaNoWriMo starts 1 November.

All this despite dealing with a broken shower stall, parent-teach conferences, the kids' elementary school Fall Festival and my 20 year high school reunion on top of everyday tasks.

So, please excuse the sporadic and short posts.

07 October 2010

Waiting

It's a part of life, nearly every day is plagued with it. You know what I mean: waiting. Waiting for the mail to come. Waiting until the latest Amazon order arrives. Waiting for the savings to build up again so you can afford the next big purchase. Waiting for something to happen.

I've never been good at it; I'm an instant gratification type of person. If I see something that I want, I want to buy/have/use it immediately. Not when the budget may allow for it, whenever that may be, but NOW.

And writing a book requires a lot of waiting. For instance ... waiting to finish my revision. Technically, I'm not JUST waiting as I'm rewriting the story, but with the current schedule, it's taking forever. Which leaves me waiting, waiting to get it done, waiting to send query letters.

And like a glutton for punishment, I recently volunteered to wait for feedback.

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd planned to submit my work in a contest. Before I submitted my stories, I figured it would be good to get some feedback, so I asked a few friends and my husband to read the beginning of my stories.

As my husband lives in the same house, I recieved his feedback immediately; that left only my friends' comments. I didn't expect them to drop everything and read my stories, they do have their own lives to manage after all.

You do see where this is going, don't you?

To keep myself busy while waiting, on top of all the other household chores and writing activities that I have, I constantly checked my email in-box from my alpha readers. I checked as I walked by the computer. I made detours to the computer to check. If I heard the new email chime, I checked. I obsessed over checking for their comments.

I'm impatient, what can I say?

Sure enough, the comments arrived, and I breathed a sigh of relief, nothing too terrible. (Or maybe I should have been worried?)

The comments have been incorporated, and I submitted my two stories, hoping for the best. When will I hear back? No idea.

So, now I'm back to ... you guessed it ... waiting. Again. (sigh)

23 September 2010

Busy

I'm busy preparing my two stories for a writing contest. More on this later when I have a chance to tell you about it, like after I've submitted my stories.

But in the scurry to get things ready, I used to Wordle to help me find keywords for titles. Thought you might appreciate the graphics. So, here you go.

For the time travel/romance story ...


For the contemporary romance story ...


PS Wordle is a great site to play with. Give it a go.

14 September 2010

Another Toy, er Tool, on the Horizon: Scrivener

I've mentioned that I use Scrivener as my word processor. But "word processor" doesn't even begin to encompass all that this software can do: outlines, corkboards, index cards, a binder to keep research with the writing project, compile manuscripts. Based on the tweets from @ScrivenerApp, I've barely touched the surface of what this program can do. I wouldn't be surprised that I've overlooked the software setting that would allow it to critique my story for me.

Today, I read a tweet, sorry I can't remember whose, about a new version of Scrivener coming out soon. Of course, I went to the Scrivener blog and read the latest post. Sure enough, in a few weeks, a new version will be released, with enhanced functionality ... like greater index card flexibility and management, cool organization tools, and ePub support.

It was a Make-Me-Smile moment.

There is a drawback ... I think I need to upgrade my OS to use this new version. And since I use the 1st gen MacBook Air, I'll probably need an optical drive, if I don't want the OS upgrade to take forever using the Remote Disc utility on the family iMac.  I'd planned to purchase these items, just not so soon. Regardless, this is just a tiny drawback and doesn't diminish my excitement one bit. (What a tech geek I be!)

So to the folks over at Literature and Latte, thanks for the smile and great software tool. I look forward to getting my literature-reading, latte-sipping and novel-typing hands on this new toy, er, tool.

08 September 2010

My New Toy ...er Tool

In my my never ending search for cool tools/toys, I plow through hundreds, nay thousands, of blog posts that encompass photography, technology, writing, creativity and pop culture each week, hoping to find a useful tool. Sure there are many cool things out there, but useful? Not so much.

I've been drooling over this product since I learned of its existence in a post over at the blog Seven by Five. And now ... I can drool no more.

Enter my new Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet. Here's a pic of it.



My take on it so far...
  • Physical Attibutes: 
    • It's slightly bigger than my laptop. 
    • The table finish matches the laptop. And friends and family will know I like things to be organized, and to match.
  • Hands-On Usage: (limited to writing)
    • The handwriting recognition is decent, except for the occasional double spaces between words and the jumbled mess of characters. 
    • It's easy to customize and adjust.
    • I have two surfaces for multi-touch: my trackpad and my tablet.
    • On a Mac computer, I can write on a Ink window program to capture my scribblings or for handwriting recognition, or write on top of a page in my word-processor of choice.  Drawings, as far as I can tell, can only be made in the Ink window or a drawing software. It would be nice if I could just draw within Scrivener.
For the days I want to handwrite out my words, instead of typing, I can just break out my tablet. And the software will take care of the typing for me. After writing 249 pages by hand and probably just as many to go, the thought of typing each page leaves my fingers aching. While using the table might take a little time to get the input correct, it will probably save my lots of time later.

My revision course requires that I must hand write my revision with pen and paper, then type my words later. I've gone through five pens and several packs of paper. But with the tablet, I can export my handwriting scrawlings as is and send them to a word-processor, like Scrivener and Pages, as pictures.

And who knew it could be so environmentally friendly? Using the tablet will help from killing so many trees as the need for printouts will be less, as I'll be able to add handwritten comments right on the screen. As soon as I can figure out how to do it.

As an added bonus, the tablet came with photo editing and painting software. I've installed the drivers on the family computer for when the urge to test out my tablet for photo editing comes upon me. And I know it will.

I am hoping the missed word occurrences will decrease as I get more comfortable with the tool. Overall, I'm pleased with my purchase and try to use it as much as I can during my writing sessions.

Anyways, just thought I'd share.

01 September 2010

Manuscript Highlights

This past weekend, I went into my office to grab something and stumbled into a unique experience. My manuscript sat on my desk completely bathed in light. I'd left the curtain open and the morning light coming through my window lit up the document. It reminded me of those images in movies where God, or some sort of divine being, shines down blessings upon someone or something. It actually glowed.

So me, being me, I took some photos. The one I've included below is from my iPhone that captured the glow off the printed paper.


Time to get back to writing to make the story worthy of such a glow.

24 August 2010

Super Brief Excerpt

I'm posting a paragraph that I wrote today because I haven't put any of my WIP here yet. And since I like to have a weekly post, this seemed like an interesting thing to do this week. The excerpt isn't especially witty or my final version, but it clicked with me. And I suppose it's because, in a sense, it is me.

When Diana Gabaldon said that her characters are her, or at least a part of her, I understood it at an intellectual level. After all, the author creates the characters, so they are part of the writer's imagination. But after writing and re-reading some of today's words, I really get it. Writers pull some aspect of the character out of themselves for all to see. Holly Lisle says that she can tell what an author was dealing with at the time they wrote their book, that it comes out in the characters' actions and themes of the book.

I'm not sure what this scene says about me at this moment, but I know it is reminiscent of me at other times. "Write what you know," they say. Well, I did - me.


A little background for this scene ... my main character, Akeva, is frustrated and angry because she wants to go back and face the danger that is coming for her. The other character volunteered to keep her safe and away from where the danger will come looking for her.

Hope you like.

19 August 2010

Photography, Writing, & Roses

I love flower photos. I love taking flower photos. And in this era of digital photography, I love the instant gratification that comes from seeing my shot only seconds after I took it. And I absolutely love it when the shot comes out better than you planned, which to be honest, happens less than I'd like. But in that case, all I have to do is fire up the photo manipulation tools in my arsenal --  crop the image to focus the eye, dodge there, a little burn over here, retouch to get rid of the rogue leaf that's sticking into the frame. Only minutes on the computer and a wonderful photo can be at your fingertips.

I took the photo below on my recent vacation, and after only a few minutes in Aperture 3, I had something I liked, if not loved. Notice the soft background and the perfect petals.



I love to read good books, and I figured I could write a good book. Writing a good book takes a very, very long time. Read: no instant gratification. This revision has taken much longer than I planned, and I'm only 45% of the way through my planned scenes, that amounts to 195 handwritten pages so far.

And then you don't always know if it is good by looking at it. Well, I don't at least. So I asked my husband to read an excerpt recently and I got an, "Interesting." Not exactly the response I expected.

I'm still learning when to delete, when to add, when to use shadows to hide things, when to expose details, what details to expose, and mostly, when to trust what I've written. And its taking too long for my tastes.

 I'm discouraged. Sometimes I think I should just focus on photography and give up on writing.

But, I'm going to push through this discouraging stage and stick with my writing. Sort of like when I stuck with engineering in college and grad school. I got through those tough years and worked with organizations that were leaders in their markets. I've got to remember instant gratification isn't everything. (Did I just write that?!?) Eventually, I WILL get there ... a published fiction writer of good, if not great, stories.

And who knows, maybe the rose above is really a portend for the Rose in my story, as well as for me.

So, I'm going to print my rose photo and place it in my writing space and use it as a reminder. A reminder of good things to come, even if it isn't instantly.

27 July 2010

Lite at My Writing Existence

Posting will be lite here for the next few weeks because...

It's vacation time with the family: site seeing, eating out, hanging at the pool and seeing old friends. I've brought along some of my writing tools in the event that while my little one naps on the non-sight-seeing days so I can keep my story present in my mind. And not have to work to remember what Akeva was doing before I left her to her own devices. I did that once and it took me longer than I care to admit to get back in the writing groove.

Then no sooner do we get back home, school begins for the kids.

So, when I get a chance, I'll post something.

And here's a pic, taken on the phone and no post processing, of some of the sights.



I can imagine Akeva looking around in a forest of these things ... I think the "new" Scotch Pine will be verra similar to these behemoths in the Muir Woods.

Until later ... 


15 July 2010

Confused or Great?

Via a post at Boing Boing today, I found this site, I Write Like, where you enter some of your own text for their analysis, and voila, it will tell you who you write like.

Using some of my previous blog posts, I supposedly write like ...
Then using some text from the first draft of my second novel ... I Write Like ... David Foster Wallace. (Need to look him up.)

So, what does this say about me ... Confused or Great? I can't be a copy cat as I've only read Tolstoy. Or maybe I'm just procrastinating?

Yeah, I know, I know. I'll go get my writing notebook now.

Who do you write like? Post your results in the comments.

13 July 2010

A Meme

Over on Charlene Teglia's blog, she posted a Literature Meme that I thought would be fun to do. So I began a post in Blogger, but never got around to answering the questions. Then today over at GenReality, Sasha White did a post on the same meme.

So before everyone does this and I get left behind, here are my answers ... Have fun.


1) What author do you own the most books by?
I think I have a tie between Rosina Lippi/Sara Donati, Diana Gabaldon, and Lynn Viehl.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I only own one of each hardback, but I buy the audiobooks for my favorites as well so I can "read" the story anytime.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Er, no.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Jamie Fraser

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
The Ring by Daniel Steel - my mom own this book when I was younger and it was the only book in the house for a very long time. I loved the time period. BTW ... this story is where I got the idea for the name for our second child.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Anything by Piers Anthony - I loved the word play.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Are there bad books?

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Can't name just one ... besides, it would depend on the person.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
 No clue.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
None of them. Now, as a Mini-series on HBO ... Outlander Series, ITW Series. I'm looking forward to the A Song of Ice and Fire Series that is in production.


12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Any of them.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
Weird dreams? Who has those? Like I would share that with you all.
;P

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
Are there lowbrow books?

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I gave up at a conversation where I had no clue who was saying what.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Showing my illiteracy ... haven't seen a Shakespeare play unless you count the one I watched on a VCR in Mrs. Beehler's senior English class, and it was a modern retelling of the Taming of the Shrew.


17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Haven't read any French authors... so I'd have to go with the Russians.

18) Roth or Updike?
Who?

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
See #18

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Since I've not read two of the three ... Shakespeare.

21) Austen or Eliot?
I've only read Austen.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Can't you already tell?


23) What is your favorite novel?
Can't have just one ... Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

24) Play?
I saw the movie for Much Ado About Nothing. But my favorite musical was Les Miserables.

25) Poem?

Don't have one.

26) Essay?
Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau ... majority of one.

27) Short story?
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charolette Perkins Gilman. I also enjoyed her novella Herland.

28) Work of nonfiction?
Nonfiction? Do all my searches in Wikipedia count?

29) Who is your favorite writer?

Not just one ... Rosina Lippi/Sara Donati, Diana Gabaldon, J.K. Rowling.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I don't have enough time to read that many books to be able to say. 

31) What is your desert island book?

Again ... Can't have just one ... Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

32) And ... what are you reading right now?
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Fire and Ice, #2) by George R. R. Martin



PS Thanks to Charlene and Sasha for the inspiration.

07 July 2010

All the Way from Scotland

I listen to a Scottish podcast from Footstompin. The host, Simon, features artists like the Red Hot Chili Pipers, Peatbog Faeries, Martyn Bennett and other Scottish music artists. As my first novel is set mostly in a version of Scotland, I've created a playlist to put me in a Scottish frame of mind. Most of the music I found through the podcast.

Now, I'm happy to say that I've found another album to add to my playlist. But I didn't come by it by listening to the Scottish music podcast. In my never ending fascination with all things Scotland, I follow a few Scottish blogs. One of them, Scotland for the Senses, recently held a giveaway for a folk music CD. And lucky me, I won! Canaich, by Dunan Chisolm, arrived last night, all the way from Scotland.


PurestGreen, author of the blog Scotland for the Senses, loves the music. In my first few listens, I can see why. I look forward to spending more time, particularly with it playing in the background while I'm writing, or on those lazy Sunday mornings where all you want to do is lounge about and read a book.

I can already see how several of the songs fit in nicely with certain scenes, almost like they were made for my story. "Caoineadh Johnny Sheain Jeaic" is perfect for when Akeva mourns all she's lost. As I'm about to write the harvest ceilidh scene, the quick and upbeat tempo of "The Exile Reels" helps me to imagine the energy of the celebration. And "Camhanaich Air Machair" seems like a perfect theme song for Akeva and Brian as they become acquainted each other - playful, wistful, then the change of melody signals something more complicated.

Some writers talk about how they come up with a soundtrack to help them get in the mood. I've done that to an extent with my playlists - just to get a feel of the environment. Akeva's story playlist is all Scottish or Scottish inspired music. With Chisolm's Canaich, I can imagine an actual soundtrack to play while reading Akeva's story, with lots of the songs coming from Canaich.

I've already put the music on the main computer, my writing computer, and my iPhone. So, thanks PurestGreen for the contest and picking my name!

A short aside ... One of my minor characters is a Chisolm. Coincidence or Fate?

30 June 2010

Tools: Bento and GoodReads

Being the tech geek that I am, I've used Bento to track the books I read during the year. The database program, which seems more like a simple spreadsheet program than a database, allows me to type in my notes ...  what I liked about the book, what I didn't, character lists, synposis (which I tend to pilfer from Wikipedia), book art, and my rating. It is completely customizable, in that I can use what ever fields I want to record my experience of the books I read. Below is a screen shot of my library in Bento.




But I've been using GoodReads.com lately to keep track of the books I read.


The service allows me to connect with other readers and see what they are reading, see their reviews, write my own review of a book, and participate in online reading groups, i.e. the Sword and Laser podcast has a group discussion that I follow. The service is a double-edged sword ...  the plus -- lots of cool bits to follow and read, the negative -- I could easily waste hours on the site checking things out.

As a writer, I miss writing down the bits about what I liked about a book and what I didn't, sorta helping me assess my own writing skill and think about techniques I might like to try. So, I'm contemplating a return to Bento while continuing to use GoodReads.com. Seems like double duty, but I enjoy "connecting," even if it is mostly lurking, with others and finding other books to read, but want the explore the detail I enter into Bento to help me grow as a reader and writer. I will just cut and paste from Bento into GoodReads if I feel the need to write a full review in GoodReads.

Just an example to two tools that overlap in their use, but I how make them work for me.

Bento would also be good to track character, stories, plots and other story bits. I've set up templates for some of these, but haven't used them. Yet. (I use it to track the recipes I download from the internet - useful for searching.)

And if you are interested in checking out my list on GoodReads, you can find me here. Feel free to friend me.

24 June 2010

Sideways Thinking at Work - Lightning Strikes

Recently, I was performing some much-delayed-research for my first story. I'd put off finding names for the houses for over a year and a half. (Yes, the houses have names. My story takes place in a time where large estates and castles are named. I suppose people may still give their houses names, but I don't know of anyone that does.)

Anyways ...

While looking up plant and tree names that grow in the Scottish Highlands, I came across a post about regions of the Highlands that are being re-tree'd, hopefully reestablishing native plants and animals. Made me wonder if they would decide to re-introduce wolves to Scotland, a politically charged topic there as it was/is here in the States.

Then literally, in my mind, I heard a voice. And no, I'm not crazy. I immediately took a sticky note and wrote down what I heard. I'd really like to share what the voice said, but it feels like a story seed. Something that would be fun to flesh out ... Scotland and wolves.

Lightning.

In the first writing online course I took, HTTS, Holly Lisle talks about how ideas come from lightning and from sideways thinking. I've mentioned it before here and here.

Lightning. Without even me calling for it. For a newish writer such as myself, this event is way cool. So now, my two sentence note is hanging in from my desk shelf, waiting for me to finish with these other two manuscripts.

Just had to share.

And for those interested in the house names so far ... The first house is named Faradach den Beithe, translated from Gaelic to English is the dwelling in the birch. The second residence is based on the Rose Clan Castle in the Highlands near Nairn, so I've used one of its historical names: Cill Rathaig, translated to mean the church at the small circular.

15 June 2010

Big Picture

I did it -- I printed it. You know the big picture that I said I didn't need.



Couldn't help it. The map sits above my little white board, and I can glance at it anytime I want or need to.

Just because I could.

09 June 2010

Today, I Love ....

... Adobe Photoshop Elements!

Why? Well, last night I stitched together a panorama of a recent sunset, which helped me to think of it as a solution for a problem in my writing today.

See, my story borrows lots of facts from our own world, one of those is the Scottish Clan system. And there is a cool map of the Highland Clans. While this is just a snapshot of the clan system, it really helps me in my planning and plotting. I wanted to be able to look at the map while not at my desk along with a Scottish clan book (while waiting for tonight's dinner was grilling, should the truth be known). But it is a pain to print out the map from the website.

In comes Elements.

I took several screen shots, then used Elements' cool panorama function to stitch together one file of the map. The finished map, were I to print it out at full size, is something like 20" x 20". However, I just needed one letter-sized map and a zoomed in version of Nairn and Inverness. After changing the print settings, voila, I have what I wanted.

Another smile worthy moment.

That is why today I love Photoshop Elements.

24 May 2010

Distractions

Lately, I've been easily distracted by things ... my new lens, new software, email. I notice it more in my writing, after all I only have a few hours a day to get any writing done.

One of the blogs I follow is Photofocus. Scott Bourne and his contributors offer great tips on photography which I try to incorporate into my photography work-flow. Lately, they've posted tips that I find applicable to writing as well. One such post is about focusing on work by reducing the distractions around your workspace, which he learned by way of racing cars.

Taking this to heart (particularly since it was one of my goals to get certain things done),  I've logged out of my RSS reader on my writing computer. No more checking the latest blog posts that come in the last 30 minutes. And doing that one thing has made a difference already.

Next up ... to stop logging into Facebook on my writing computer and only access it via the home computer and iPhone. Wish me luck.

17 May 2010

Another Lesson Done!

Just a quick post ... I finished another lesson in my revision course, in less than one week! Putting things in chronological order was easy.

This week's exercise ... looking for ways to shake up that order for interesting reading.

That is when I'm not thinking of distractions. (Read: playing with new Lensbaby and Aperture 3 trial, or wishing for a Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet. And yes, I can justify the tablet for writing ... as a handwriting input tool for writing notes and revising. No more paper!)

14 May 2010

Some Fun With My Revision

I received a Lensbaby Composer as a Mother's Day gift from my hubby and kids. I love it! And I've downloaded a free trial of Aperture 3. Love it too!

No, I haven't completely given up on writing. Honest. Yeah, I've been playing with my new photo software and new lens, but I have been getting things done on the writing front. Really! Trust me. I've completed another lesson, so now I'm on week #14 of my HTRYN course, in which I look at sequencing and timing of my scenes via my outline cards, making sure that I give my characters time to do what they need to do and don't put them in two places at one.

Don't believe that I've been working on writing? Here's proof.

Exhibit #1: Stacks of my outline cards in chronological order. (Sweet spot focus ala my Lensbaby Composer.)



Exhibit #2: Another shot of same cards, but you can see the colors I've added via highlighters and sticky notes. (The cool color effect via Curves manipulation in Aperture 3.)




I admit taking and processing photos yields results faster than revising, but I am working on my writing. Don't you doubt it.

09 May 2010

Flowers ...

for all the Mother's that touch our lives,
for all the Mother's we love.

Happy Mother's Day!

21 April 2010

Leaves and Patience

This is our first Spring in this new house, and there are lots of things to notice ... rabbits hanging out in the yard, ground squirrels running away at our approach, birds building nests on the outdoor fans (leaving their messes on the patio), quail partners chasing each other across the streets and yards, wildflowers, and new pads and flowers on the succulents. Even our mandarin tree, which in two years hasn't yielded anything, has blossoms. Then, we get to our mesquite trees.

This neighborhood goes back a long time - some mesquite trees' main trunk are as tall as some of the the two-story houses. Nearly every house has at least one mesquite, even different kinds of mesquites. Some with thorns and yellow pollen puffs, some crooked and knarly, others straight and tall. But all of them have at least little green buds of leaves sprouting, if not full leaves. Even the "green space" trees between houses shows signs of green.

Our mesquite trees -- nothing.

I silently worried that ours were dead. They don't look diseased, there aren't ant or termite infestations (anymore). Everything seemed ok in the fall and winter when the leaves fell off the tree. I'd check up close, looking for the little buds that would give me a sign that everything was fine. I'd check every few days, only to find no leaves.

Until today.



Finally buds! The smaller trees even have leaves that seem to have sprouted overnight. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I'm taking this experience as a reminder to let things happen in their own good time. For those that know me and my incredible lack of patience, I hope you didn't laugh too hard when you read that last sentence.

And this reminder comes at just the right time. Lately, I've been frustrated because my writing progress has been slow, like slower than a snail's pace slow. On a great day, I can get two to three hours of writing activity, more often it's closer to an hour a day. There are little reminders at how much progress there is still to make: it is week 21 in my online writing course and I'm just starting week 11; my goal of having both stories ready for the query process by the end of the year. It often seems like I'll never finish my revisions until the kids get into college, which is about nine years away.

Things are going WAY too slow for me, but unless I completely ignore my primary motherly and household duties, this is the pace at which this writing gig is going to happen.

So, despite the agonizingly slow progress, I'll get my butt in my chair and write - even if it's only for 15 minutes. And try to remember that, one day, my own writing will bloom and take off too.

14 April 2010

What I'm Afraid to Write

My first novel is about a young woman losing everything she holds dear ... technology, her career, her family - her father and brother.

A dear friend of mine and her family recently came face to face with one of my biggest fears - the loss of one of their young children. My heart tore apart every time I read one of her updates. I'd cry for all that my friend's family had to endure. I'd cry hoping with all my heart that I never have to deal with that. And I'd cry just imagining what would happen if one of my children left this world before me. I can only imagine how difficult it  is to deal with losing a child.

A few days later, another family friend had her son and daughter-in-law taken from them in a violent act, leaving two young girls orphans. Now the family must assume responsibility for these two little ones, little ones who are left wondering why did their parents have to die.

Beyond making me see and appreciate my own family in a new way, these events also influence my writing.

Back when I started my first novel, I purposefully chose to make my character a young woman with relatively little emotional ties to her own world. Not that losing parents and siblings is an easy thing to do, but I can't imagine anything worse than losing a child. It wasn't something I wanted to confront back then or now. Too much emotion and fear to really look at what I would do if I lost one of my children. Tears come to my eyes now as I type these thoughts.

But maybe one day, I'll write the story from my main character's mother's POV ... another woman that lost everything, her life as she knew it, her husband and her two children. Or maybe from the perspective of a family left behind to figure out how to continue living without a piece of them.

Not that I'm "qualified" to write these stories given that I've never suffered this devastating loss. But these losses my friends have endured has me thinking about it anyways.

03 April 2010

Happy Easter















Wishing you all a joyous and chocolate filled Easter.

(BTW, I know things have been slow and sparse here. I'm in rewriting an outline and managing the household. I'll make some time soon to post here. I promise.)

10 March 2010

March's Duh Moment

Back in November,  I printed my 300+ page manuscript for my revision course. Wanting to avoid killing too many trees, I printed it single spaced, double-sided, two pages per side. Actually using these printed pages has been tedious experience.

First, the small font challenges my already bi-focal-using eyes.

Second, any notes that I write, of which I've only added a few, eat up the little margin space that I have. (Looking ahead at future lessons for this course, I'll be writing lots of story revision on the manuscript. So I'll have to figure something out with extra pages tacked on to the original manuscript.)

But the worst is putting the pages in the correct order after reading them. I often have to ask myself if I read the other side or not. So I check to make sure, but then sometimes put the sheet in the read-pile with the wrong side face-down. Next time I read those pages, I have a minor anxiety attack as I wonder what happened to the lost scene or action. Then, I realize that it's all hiding on the other side of the paper and let out a sigh of relief.

So after using this manuscript since the end of November and not creating a fool-proof system that doesn't require another printout, I've finally found a solution to this annoying  last issue.

I recently purchased loose-leaf book rings for my large stack of index cards. While I was writing on worksheets last night and moving back and forth through the manuscript and index cards, I thought it would be nice to be able to turn pages in the manuscript like I can with the ringed, index cards.

DUH! Of course I can.

I immediately put one of those rings on the manuscript, after hole punching the stack of paper, and smiled at the ease of turning those pages. While those extra holes lost me some valuable writing space, it was totally worth it.

Just wish this Duh moment had happened back in December. ;-)

19 February 2010

My Progress

It's been a while since I posted about my writing progress. Here's the latest ...

Well, it only took me 8 weeks to finish Lesson 1 in my revision course. Eight weeks? Yep, eight weeks. Life interuptions (the holidays, family visits, daily life, new books to read) made it difficult to always get in my 2-3 hours a day to work on the revision. Eventually I got through it with pen, pencil, lots of worksheets and even more determination. But, man, that first lesson was a killer!

Now I'm working on Lesson 5, which is all about identifying conflict in each of my scenes. Or finding out that I have no conflict in the scene; found quite a bit of those yesterday. On scene 55, only 200+ to go. Wonder how long I'll be working this lesson? Any bets?

At this point I am only seven lessons behind with lots of completed worksheets but little new work. Everything so far has been about identifying broken and weak spots in my manuscript. I'm also supposed to find strong points, but me being me, I've focused on the bad stuff and everything else just seems ok.

No beast slaying yet, but lots of looking at my beast from different angles to find broken bones, blemishes, missing scales, grime and strange behavior. Through this process of looking at her, really getting to know who she is, I realize I don't want to kill this awkward beast. Every once in a while, I spy her potential through the mud and blemishes.

Hope and excitement are welling up again, making it bareable to review, yet again, each scene and jot notes for possible fixes. Fixes that will make my beast shiny, healthy and beautiful. In my mind, I imagine my beast looking like Saphira from Eragon ... sleek, beautiful, smart, engaging, but with attitude.

Until then, I'm off for more observations of my beast. Hope she doesn't breathe fire ... at least not in my direction.

04 February 2010

Love of Reading Month

For those without school-age children nearby to tell you, February is Love of Reading month. And I thought I'd take this opportunity to mention a book that I recently finished reading that I loved. (Get it, love, reading, Love of Reading month?)

The Endless Forest by Sara Donati, aka Rosina Lippi, is the final book in the historical fiction series started with Into the Wilderness. In the series, the Bonner Family, headed by Nathaniel and Elizabeth, have trekked into the back country of New York and Canada to preserve family holdings, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reclaim stolen children to find unknown family in Scotland and Canada and survived the war of 1812 with many scars. Characters brought together through hate, greed, conniving, manipulation, friendship, courtship and love.

I've read each book many times and now, with my Audible subscription, listened the audiobooks as well. (I'll use this month's credits to purchase the last audiobook in the series. Can't wait.) I was drawn in to the Bonner saga with that first book when Elizabeth rode into the village of Paradise and could almost feel the electric spark between her and Nathaniel. I instantly fell in love with the characters. (Thanks to Jen for introducing me to the series.)

Please forgive me if I just give you just the highlights without much background detail. Trust me, you'll want to read all the books for yourself.

Onto this last book ... it made me laugh, made me cry, made me gasp.

I chuckled when Curiosity, a dear Bonner family friend, welcomed me back to the story, letting me know that the Bonners are still around but not unaffected by change, and wouldn't I like to know what change? Of course I would, but she makes me settle in and wait for the story to unfold. She's a tease that Curiosity. I laughed out loud when Daniel Bonner gets the best of Martha, his new bride, as she found the note he left for her, letting her know he's onto her and her search for that special book he used to educate himself on learning how to please a woman. Tears rolled down my cheeks when Curiosity received kind justice from Elizabeth after Curiosity revealed her hand in preventing a love union so she could save her own future. After years of heartache, Lily and Simon finally get the one thing that's eluded them, but Lily must give up some of the art that makes her heart sing, cruel I tell you. And that 'Mima, always crass, crude and stone-hearted. Is it really possible she finally learned to love, at least a little?

And the Epilogue! Truth be told, I peeked at this section first and gasped when I read the inevitable news of Nathaniel's passing, then Elizabeth's own obiturary. After reading the first 100 pages, I read went back to the Epilogue again, it still made me sad. The last time I read it, at the place it was supposed to be read, at the end, I cried again, grieving the loss of so many ... what can I call them but friends.

This was a bittersweet reading experience ... I loved the story, I couldn't get to the end fast enough but I didn't want to get to that Epilogue. I want more Bonner stories, and here's hoping that the book fairy grants my wish. But as of now, alas, it is the end.

It's stories like this one that make me love reading. So, if you are looking for a excellent read to celebrate Love of Reading month, buy yourself this book. And heck, the rest of the series too. Then sit back with a warm blanket, a cup of hot tea and enjoy. And if you are so inclined, then head over to Rosina's weblog to join in the story discussion.

Here's to a fantastic story. Thanks, Rosina. Happy Love of Reading Month.

28 January 2010

Too much Apple Kool-Aid?

Hi. My name is Anne, and I'm an Apple FanWoman. I'm been drinking the Apple KoolAid since 2004.

My first computer was not an Apple product but a RadioShack TRS80 on which I learned BASIC programming. In college I upgraded to an IBM clone that helped me complete two engineering degrees. Connected to a phone modem, it ran iterations for cost efficient garbage pick up for a fictional city, patent discussions essays and my Master's degree on a particular semiconductor characterization technique. After many years of using the computer and learning a programming language (FORTRAN), I'd developed a familiarity with my IBM clone that let me use both DOS and the Windows OS with ease.

My first taste of Apple Kool-Aid happened during grad school and I hated it. In charge of managing my adviser's research budgets, I'd typed four hours worth of data into a special program just for the computer to crash, losing EVERY keystroke. Not knowing enough about Apple products, I couldn't figure out any of the back doors that I knew on an IBM-type machine. So, I had to retype everything, but before my adviser purchased the program for Windows based machines. With the awful taste still memorable, I avoided the Apple Kool-Aid at all costs after that.

I didn't drink the kool-aid again until I'd left the workforce and was a full-time stay-at-home mom. After  our Windows-based computer finally crashed, my husband, an Apple fanboy, suggested that we look at an iMac. Reluctantly, I accompanied him to the Apple Store, and WOW.  I've never looked back.

The best thing to say is that the devices are sooo easy to use. Be it an iPod (Classic, Shuffle, Nano, Touch), iPhone, iMac (PowerPC and Intel), MacBook Air, AppleTV, I've been happy with each and every purchase. And when our current Apple computers, devices and appliances give out, I plan to replace them with more Apple products.

And now there is the iPad. Do I need it? No. Do I want it? YES! While I could probably do with out one, I can too easily see where it would fit in very nicely in my life ... an eBook reader.

Over at TechCrunch today is a post addressing the iPad vs. the Kindle. And I'd have to say I pretty much agree with each discussion point. Even though we have a Kindle, I still do most of electronic reading on my iPhone. But if I had a choice, I'd prefer something the size of the Kindle with iPhone capabilities. And now, there is just a device; the iPad.

I can already imagine using it to catch up on shows that the cable-provided DVR missed, in the kitchen with ecookbooks and my own recipes in my Bento database, keeping the kids busy while we are out and about. Nevermind the ability to write on the go (using Evernote, WriteRoom, Safari). It remains to be seen if it would replace my MacBook Air as I use Scrivener as my primary writing tool.

Better go and get some water, I've drunk my fill of Apple Kool-Aid for the day.

17 January 2010

Between Books




 (Photo by apoxapox)

Know when you've just finished reading a book and need to pick another? When you glancing over titles and authors' names in the To Be Read pile, trying to figure out what type of book to read - sci fi, romance, thriller, historical fiction, craft?

That's where I sit right now.

Sara Donati's last book in the Bonner Family series, The Endless Forest, releases this week. Gotta be ready for that book when it arrives. (Been listening to the audiobooks while going about my daily business to get ready the book.)

So, what do I read until I have The Endless Forest in my little hands?

Something short and quick (wish I had another of Viehl's Darkyn series in my pile.) Maybe I should just finish the Wilderness Series audiobooks. I could read a few chapters in Writing Fiction or McKee's Story.

Choices, choices, choices.

Excuse me while I go look at my pile again.

12 January 2010

Yep, revising.

Yep, still revising. I haven't moved past the first lesson from the HTRYN, the course I'm using to help me revise my first novel. The course started the 29th of November, nearly a month and a half ago.

Yep, still on the first lesson. I've yet to complete the first read through in which I'm supposed to note the things that are not working in the novel. Since I'm still a newbie to this revising business, I know I'm missing a lot of things and just don't know it.

Yep, frustrating. Frustrating to be doing something without really knowing how to do it. Frustrating to be so far behind the course (just downloaded lesson 7, but not even looking at it.)

Yep, technically, I'm still slaying the beast. Well, maybe not slaying, more like poking and jabbing at it. The lesson employs worksheets on which I take copious notes of inconsistencies, bad dialogue, world-building problems and info-dumps. I've still have a long ways to go just to finish lesson 1 as I am only on page 196 of the 374 page beast.

Yep, slogging on. I can only reading a few pages a day with my limited time during the little one's nap and after the kids go to bed at night. But every page is one more than the day before, slow progress. If one calls moving slower than a snail progress.

Yep, creative juices still flowing. Great ideas for how to make the story interesting come to me while I'm writing my notes on the worksheets. These ideas tempt me to dump this revision and just start anew. But, given that I'm paying for the course, I can't in good conscience do that. Besides, what better way to learn how to revise but with a truly awful first draft of a terrible first novel? Right? Please say right.

Yep, grrrr.

Yep, revising.

09 January 2010

Looking for something funny to read?


I read Ray Rhamey's new story, The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles, and it provided me with some much needed humor from the chaos that accompany the holidays.

For those not familiar with Ray ... He's a multi-talented editor who critiques the first 16 lines of author-submitted first chapters to his blog, Flogging the Quill. He allows his blog visitors to comment and participate in the critique as well. It is one of those sites that I visit for mini-lessons on writing craft. Enlightening and intimidating at the same time. He's also an author, having written Flogging the Quill and now a new story, The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles.

Inspired by L. Viehl, Ray asked his blog visitors to participate in his experiment to get the word out about his new story. Given what I get out of his blog, I figured the least I could do was read his story and give a shout out. So, with an eARC of his story on my reading devices (Kindle and iPhone), I delved into this story.

Told from Patch's perspective, the story starts with the incident that changes him from a normal kitty-cat to vampire kitty-cat. From there we see his narrow escape from being sunburned to death, his torment of a vampire dog that is afraid of cats and his unintentional place in the political spotlight. As I read Patch's story I laughed out loud many times and stopped to read some of the cat's witty opinions to my husband, like 
  • his opinion on canines, the vampire looking teeth: "...why aren't they called "felines" -- our carnivore teeth are much better developed than what dogs have ..." 
  • his opinion on dogs: "Dogs are such losers."
  • opinions about humans: "It's a common mistake for humans to think they can own a cat." and "Now there was where cats took exception to human customs. If we don't like somebody, we do our best to make them go away. The way we see it, only fool suffer fools ..."
I enjoyed Ray's characterization of Patch - an independent cat that calls 'em like he sees 'em. Some of the human vampires were annoying, but I suppose they would be to a cat. This is not a nail-bitter of a story, but truly entertaining and fun to read, even with blood thirst and mob scenes. You don't have to be a cat-lover or dog-hater to appreciate this story.

When the book comes out, I'm contemplating letting my son, an avid reader, have a gander and see what he thinks. I can already hear him laughing.

So if you are looking for something quick and funny to read, check it out. For more information click http://www.vampirekittycat.com/.

05 January 2010

My Goals for the Year

I know, I know ... Yet another blog post about resolutions, or goals, for the year. Nearly everyone is doing this type of post. It'll be quick, I promise.

I normally don't make goals, but this year, I've actually got something I'm doing for myself - my writing.

So here are my writing related goals ...
  • I'll keep my peeks at the non-productive parts of the internet throughout the day to a minimum. I'll check the social networks, blogs, email at specific times of day (instead of checking constantly like the internet addict that I am).
  • Have both stories ready for the query stage by the end of the year.
  • Exercise daily to keep illnesses away (like that Type II Diabetes that runs in the family) and generally be healthy. (Really, being healthy is part of writing.)
  • Engage in more music activities like playing the keyboard/piano and listening music more often Writing makes me want to hear and play music, while playing and listening to music makes me want to write.

So like I said, quick. I'll post from time to time how I am doing on achieving these goals.

And if you made any resolutions, let me know in the comments.