Interrupted by nature

The weather forecast said it would be warm Saturday, so I planned on doing yard work. A LOT of yard work. I had bulbs to replant, bushes to trim, limbs to pick up in the back yard …

I wanted to transplant some Easter lily bulbs to a better  location, but not until much later in the year.  To my surprise, they were already popping up, thus they were on my to-do list. I dug new homes for them and only managed to kill half of them. Ugh. those bulbs are deep and the little new growth is fragile. Still, I have enough re-homed to make up for my mass destruction.

Then I found a trespasser in my potted hyacinth that I had taken inside for the winter. I pulled it out and discovered that some squirrel had planted a pecan and it had take root. So I decided to plant it where the pear tree once stood. While doing that, I saw that the Japanese lilies I had planted out back a year ago had suddenly come up — not only where I planted them, but pretty much all over the yard. I had thought they were dead as they did not come up last fall when they were supposed to. Anyway, while planting the pecan seedling, I saw my preferred site was taken over by fire ants, so I had to treat the mound.

On to chore number two. I clipped about a fourth of the growth and was growing an impressive pile of branches. My goal is to be able to reach the privet that has taken root  in the very center of the quince bush. A quince bush is very spiky, so I couldn’t just reach in with the clippers because i would have had my arms torn to pieces even with gloves and a long-sleeved shirt.  It started to rain and I worked on, thinking a little sprinkle wouldn’t hurt me, but then it came down harder and I had to abandon my plans and come inside to change clothes.

The fallen limbs remain in place, as well as the hundreds of sweet gum balls that the last wind tossed down. I could almost hear the trees snickering.

I can see how this year is shaping up. I will be outside more than inside, raking and weeding and pruning more than I am reading or writing.

The good news is, I am this far from completing my third historical novel. I need to write a bridge scene, then go over it and make any changes and go over it again and again until I feel ready to send it to my favorite editor and beg a few people to be beta readers.

I know I need to balance my time. Sunny days for yard work, rainy days for writing.

Housework? Forget about it. That is for the day before company is expected.

What positively, necessary chore keeps you from tackling your work in progress? What can you safely ignore while listening to your muse?

I’m just wondering if I am a “normal” writer — if there is such a  person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello 2020!

I am always curious about a new year will bring. When I was younger than I am now, I anticipated love and adventure, success (whatever that meant), happiness, and, of course, financial security.

Dreams change with age, although I still hope to find some of them this year. Love doesn’t mean romance any more, but love of friends and family. Adventure — maybe. I didn’t think I’d go to England and Scotland or California in 2019, so who knows what opportunities for new adventures will come my way in 2020? I’m open.

I’m happy where I am now, and can’t see my getting happier without becoming positively giddy. Maybe a better word is contentment. As for financial security, that depends more on the government than anything I can do, so let’s agree to let that one go.

Success? That’s debatable. I’ll never hit the New York Times Best Seller list (I’m being realistic, but I wouldn’t mind if it happened). Maybe success isn’t measured in lists or how many books are sold, but by someone telling you they enjoyed your last novel and asking if you plan another. That little conversation can keep my heart warm for weeks.

I think I have successfully raised a family. The “boys” are all happily married, and having launched their own offspring into the world, are looking at empty nests and all that goes with it.

I had a chance to visit at length with my two grandsons over Christmas and am delighted to announce they are both fine young men. And let me tell you, it is a rite of passage when you go to brunch and your oldest grandson picks up the check!

So whatever 2020 brings, it can’t get much better than this. I haven’t made any resolutions, knowing I won’t keep them, but I do plan to keep on keeping on. I will finish the current WIP and start working on that family history I’ve threatened promised my family for far too long. If a chance comes along to travel, I’ll take it, whether to another part of the country or that new winery that opened down the road.

I hope your new year holds all that you wish and hope for.

 

 

When it happens to you

When I saw the message in my inbox, I was excited. I had been waiting for this issue of a well-known magazine that caters to indie writers. Three months earlier, I had submitted “Morven” for a review and now, here it was.

I was devastated when I read it.

Yes, I had expected better. “A Question of Time” received 4.5 stars; “Riverbend,” 5.0.”  But “Morven” received a mediocre 3.0.

I had never received any  review less than a 4.0.  How had this happened? All my readers had told me this was my best book ever. I suppose the praise went to my head, making this review that much more of a bitter pill. How could the reviewer have so misinterpreted the scene she damned with faint praise?

I have blithely written before in this and other places that a writer should not take a bad review to heart. The reviewer may have had a bad day. She may not really like the genre she was critiquing.  And so on.

Yet I know this reviewer had plenty of time to read the story, so one bad day would not have influenced her. And the magazine carefully pairs the story to reviewers in that genre. So those excuses were empty.

Is it a poorly-constructed story? Were my readers and friends attempting to spare my feelings? Should I send it out for another impartial review? Should I even care?

I am nearly finished with the sequel and the first thought I had after reading the review was, “I should just quit now.”

But after two days of moping, I decided I would not stop so near the finish line. I will complete the novel and then go over it to make it the best writing possible. Beta readers will be asked to give their honest opinion. I will make changes even if they hurt.

Looking back, it wasn’t a bad review. It just wasn’t a good one. I can take it in stride and let it encourage me to do better.

And I will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Christmas Tree

I haven’t decorated a Christmas tree in years.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy decorating it once the lights were strung, except for hanging the tinsel. I hated that part of decorating, but I loved the effect, so I painstakingly strung each shiny foil string on the branches, one by one. I once asked the kids to do it, and found the half the tinsel in lumps on the branches and the rest on the floor. I think they stood across the room from the tree and lobbed fistfulls at it.

But, after the kids married, and especially after the grandkids came along, we usually were away for the holidays. It didn’t seem reasonable to put up a tree no one would see, at least not the floor-to-ceiling one. I still wanted some kind of tree, though, so I bought a three-foot one to put on a table top. It came with lights that changed colors due to a small motor in the base.

Then two years ago, I couldn’t find the base. I searched and searched, but if it is in the house anywhere, it is hidden so well not even Sherlock Holmes could find it. So I tossed the useless top in the trash and bought another tree. Alas, I could not find one that made the transition from green to blue to red, so settled for plain white lights. I added some small ornaments and put it in the window.

Last year, I couldn’t find  the tree and after another fruitless search, I trudged off the the local Walmart and bought yet a third miniature tree. This one has different colored lights on it, although they stay the same color. I don’t know why they stopped making the kind that change, or maybe they do and our local store just doesn’t stock it. Anyway, I added ornaments and put it in the window.  After the holidays, I put the whole thing in a giant trash bag and stuffed it on the top shelf of the closet in the guest bedroom, thinking I wouldn’t have to decorate it again.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag, took the tree out, and discovered all the ornaments had fallen off during the year. How had that happened when no one had touched it? My life is filled with mystery.

Then, while searching for a jacket I hadn’t worn since last winter, I found the other tree stuck in the corner, behind the one long coat I own. I suppose next I will be plundering in a closet and will find the long-lost motor to the tree I threw away.

So now I have one tree in the den and and the other in the living room.  And best of all, l don’t have to buy one this year.

I still miss the big tree, though. Maybe next year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What rules do you follow?

Here are four things writers should do:

  • Read outside your genre
  • Study your craft
  • Write every day
  • Set goals

There are many more you can add, but these are what popped into my head. Do I do them?

Surely, you jest (makes frowny face).

But I do read every day, and I enjoy many different genres: historical, biography, science fiction, fantasy (no, they are not the same), thrillers , and mystery.  I read books from the library and books on my Kindle app. I read magazines and newspapers and cereal boxes and directions on detergent bottles. I am one of those people who panic when there isn’t a book in the house I haven’t read and the library is closed.

I subscribe to Writer’s Digest and study the articles, even if they don’t apply to me. Last weekend, I attended a workshop on writing narrative poetry with former NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti. I don’t intend to write a narrative poem, but there was so much more I learned that I can use.

Do I write every day? I know this is the rule that sets professionals apart from wannabes, but truthfully, it just isn’t possible. Life gets in the way. This week, I had meetings six of seven days. But I did manage to write most of those days. I believe setting up a goal to write every single day without fail is  setting yourself up to fail. Sometimes we need a breather.

Conversely, writing every day is like going to church. You miss one Sunday, then another, and pretty soon you aren’t going at all.

You see where I am heading with this.

Goals are good, though. I made my goal of writing 30 pages before our next writers’ club meeting. Then, since we don’t meet in December, I vowed I would finish my first draft before the January 26 meeting.

I think I will make it. I am near enough the end that I am eager to get it all put together. Today I wrote a crucial scene. It needs tweaking, but the bones are there.

I also did something I have never done before. I am a straight-line writer. I start at point A and end at point Z. But the ending of the story was so strong in my head that I went bravely forward and wrote it down before the impetus and excitement faded. Yes, excitement. I feel exhilarated when I can literally feel the story come alive.

So I guess thing number five would be, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

Happy Thanksgiving all, and don’t forget to skip that second helping of candied yams to leave room for the pumpkin pie.

 

 

 

 

 

When yours is the book under discussion

I belong to two book clubs. They are polar opposites.

One is serious about discussion and books are chosen by recommendation — that is, if someone has read a book and think it worthy of discussion, it goes on the list. Not all of us like every book. I have struggled through some, and been blown away by others. It’s a way of getting us out of our comfort zone to consider genres we might not read otherwise. This group meets at different homes for a pot-luck lunch and  little wine may occasionally be served.

All right, wine is always served. And, we can get a little bawdy. We laugh a lot. Sometimes if a member is going through a hard time, we call an emergency meeting and offer sympathy, tea, and hugs.

The other is African-American and accepted me as a member after inviting me to talk about one of my books. This group is spiritually-based and even if we don’t get around to talking about the assigned book, I come home feeling uplifted and at peace. They share amazing stories themselves — we don’t need a book to get the conversation started! We meet for breakfast at a restaurant and while people may stare and wonder what this disparate group of women is doing at that back table, it doesn’t stop us from laughing and interrupting each other, everyone as eager to be heard as to listen.

This week, the latter group decided to read my latest novel, “Morven.” I was a little apprehensive, since it is set in the South on a large plantation. I wrote about slavery and its evils, and how the protagonist’s life is changed when she sees a slave being abused. How would these women, descendants of slaves, see this book? Was I being presumptuous?

They discussed the first few chapters, and I was amazed at their insight. They saw things in the characters that I hadn’t seen. They searched for motivation. Was the main character really guilty of murder by failure to act? The question became: What would you have done? Then they began to defend their positions.

As I listened, I realized how powerful a story can be. I explained why I wrote a certain passage, admitted I wish I had not written some things, and explained things that I perhaps had not made clear in the narrative.

I did not feel that I was on trial. Loving friends can point out flaws without making you weep with shame. It’s called constructive criticism.

Although they had nothing but praise for “Morven,” because of them, my next book will be better because I will keep their comments in mind.

Two groups, different as night and day, but alike in their love of books.

And their love for each other.

 

 

I

 

 

No NaNoWriMo — this year

So it is here: National Novel Writing Month. And for the upteenth time in as many years, I am not joining in.

I have the same, well-worn excuse: I am already in the middle of writing a novel and refuse to drop it to start another, no matter how tempting the challenge. Maybe some year I will be in between novels and will welcome the chance to jump-start a new one. But not this year.

Still, writers often need such a challenge to keep them on course. I admit I have been goofing off this past week. The weather has been too beautiful to ignore, and it is pruning season.

Image result for drawing a name from a hat

At our writers’ club, we also have a little challenge going on. Nothing as ambitious as churning out an entire novel in a month. We set a monthly goal and at the next meeting are forced to admit, not unlike Weight Watchers, if we have met our goal or not. It could be completing a poem you have worked on for weeks (or years), a page count on that ongoing short story, bravely submitting a piece to a magazine or contest, or whatever.

Winners occasionally net the lump sum of $7 or $8, because we only put a quarter in the pot. But as you have surmised, it isn’t the monetary goal that is — well, the goal — but the satisfaction of knowing you accomplished something you set out to do.

That, and the applause and congratulations from fellow members.

So at the last meeting I set a goal to move on with my manuscript. I tried to pick a number of pages that would be doable, but not too easy. It’s not a challenge if you set a goal you know you can reach without much effort. On the other hand, setting a goal too high results in burnout and giving up, with the subsequent feelings of failure and inadequacy.

Achieving my goal doesn’t mean I will win. My name will be put in a pot along with all the other members, whether they reached their goal or not, and someone will draw out a slip of paper and read a name. If that person didn’t make their goal, or is absent, the pot is moved on to another month, with the addition of several more quarters. Exciting times! We may never get to Las Vegas, but we do know how to gamble … on ourselves.

I guess we could call our challenge JuWriMoMo.*

So I need to get busy, ignore the enticing outdoors or the dusty furniture or the laundry piled up and start writing.

*Just Write More Month

 

 

 

Previous Older Entries

My Mad Siberian Gulag

Hostage to Two Siberian Huskies

Blue Ridge Vinlandia

The Wineries of the Applalacian Foothills

Summer in New Hampshire

NH - America's Vacationland

Mimosa Mornings Writers

Writers Wearing PJs, drinking coffee, dreaming mimosas

Jennie Spallone

MYSTERY AUTHOR, SPEAKER, AND BOOK REVIEWER

thedreamwell.wordpress.com/

Dream Well, Be Well

Ozark Pagan Mamma

Folk Magic, Druidism, Heathenry, & Pagan Parenting

WTFville

Sketches and Journaling

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

Pam Grout

#1 New York Times best-selling author

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Book Ends and Odds

Mary Incontro blogs on books, pop culture, and criminal cases

Writer Unboxed

about the craft and business of fiction

%d bloggers like this: