The journey to “the end”

Our writers’ club instituted a new challenge about a year ago. We make goal for the next month and throw in 25 cents each. Winner of the draw, if he or she accomplished their goal, takes the pot.

No one has won in the last six months. Maybe our goals are too lofty. I’ve had to confess I missed my goal (but I don’t confess by how much) the last few times.

Image result for goals, the end

In May, I wrote that my goal was to finish the edits on my WIP.  I was fairly confident I would be able to do this. I’m pleased to announce I did.

I will be even more pleased to announce it when we meet this afternoon.

It seems that when I begin a a story I procrastinate. I can find more excuses to do something else — anything else –than sit down and write. It’s achingly slow. I delete more words than I write. I moan and groan and decide this story was a mistake and I will never finish.

But somehow, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, chapter by chapter, it grinds its way to the end.

Then I start the second draft process. The bare bones of the story take on a new life. I add conflict, flesh out the characters’ backstory, add a few twists just for the fun of it.

I’m not creating the story any more. I’m just hanging on for the ride. Instead of forcing myself to sit down at my desk, I am looking forward to it. Phone calls are no longer a welcome interruption, but a distraction. I love how my characters lead me down new paths of discovery.

I know this is the opposite of what I hear from other writers. For them, it is the first draft that comes easily, and the re-writing that becomes the chore.

The trick is not to become so engrossed in re-writing that I spend the next 10 years rearranging paragraphs and adding and subtracting plots and characters. I have to know when I’m done.

So when I’m asked if I reached my goal, I can say yes. But the truth is, the goal was never the point.

It was the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Ashantay Peters

ashantayI met Ashantay about five years ago in Charlotte. Her enthusiasm is one of the first things you notice, next is her sincerity and finally her sense of humor. Her books reflect her twisted sense of life’s random calamity and often make me laugh out loud. When I met Ashantay, she was yet unpublished, so it’s been a joy to watch her success grow with each year with each new book!

First, introduce yourself:  Hi! Im Ashantay Peters and I live in Western North Carolina, just south of Asheville. I’m retired and spend as much time as possible outside. That is, until the mosquitoes send me slapping and cursing back into the house. Born in the Midwest,  I’ve lived in multiple areas of the country, including a year traveling in an RV.

Here’s a mimosa – now let’s sit and chat!  More

Too darn hot

What my manuscript looks like

Cole Porter wrote a song years ago called “Too Darn Hot.” Maybe some of you remember the lyrics from “Kiss Me Kate.”

It’s about being too hot to coo and pitch the woo with my baby tonight, but I can’t help thinking it’s too darn hot to do anything. At least outdoor work, and that’s what I’m not doing right now. The painting is half done, the hedge needs trimming, and I’m staying inside where it’s cool

Because it’s too darn hot.

Which means, I’ve had time to sit at the computer and work on my novel. Yep, no excuses.

I’ve been putting off working and thankful for the excuses I’ve managed to come up with until now, because I need to end the darn thing and I’m trying to come up with a believable ending.  Someone once said you shouldn’t start a book without knowing how it will end and of course I know it ends with the two main characters working out their differences and getting together for that Happy Ever After.

What I want it to look like

It’s the part in between that takes work. I’ve set up some situations that the characters have to solve and that means their coming face to face with their deepest fears and conquering them. But how do I get them together again when walking away seems the most logical answer? To them, I might add, not to me.

Obviously, they have to realize walking away isn’t what they need.

I want to make the ending believable in light of what has happened in the first 200 pages. And to do that, I have to go back and make sure all the clues are there so that the reader (hopefully) will say, “Of course!”

And not depend on a deus ex machina to swoop down to make everything right. That might have worked for the Greeks  (the phrase is a Latin translation) but modern readers demand a more realistic solution.

I told a friend that people who have never written a book think it must be easy. It isn’t. Frankly I’d rather mow the yard or trim a hedge than sit down and try to make my characters behave. Writing isn’t a smooth journey from Once Upon a Time to The End. It’s constantly going back and forth, changing a word here, a paragraph there, so it all flows seamlessly to the conclusion.

If these characters do realize they can’t live without each other, it has to come from something more than, “Gosh, I’ve changed my mind.”

So…pondering and re-writing, and x-ing out and starting over. I come tantalizingly close to an answer and then realize it won’t work because…

And start over again.

That’s the trouble with being a pantser rather than a plotter. We pantsers like to say it’s more fun this way, but we also set ourselves up for just this kind of situation.

I’ve no doubt I’ll figure it out. After all, it’s too darn hot to do anything else.

(My apologies to those who live in cooler climes and wonder what I’m complaining about. It’s been in the 90s with no rain and I’ve had to trudge outside every night to water my flowers, and my ankles are mosquito bitten and itchy and I’m not in a good frame of mind.)

Maybe I’ll just kill off the two ninnies a la Romeo and Juliet.

Ah, no, that wouldn’t be believable either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Un petit moment…

Every once in a while, you come across a spoonful of wisdom that is so perfectly seasoned it needs nothing more. This from Brené Brown:

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

~ Brené Brown

 

The best-laid plans…

I decided that while the weather was a little cooler I would paint the front deck and ramp.  I should have realized that if it took four

My son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons busy painting the deck and ramp. I had the trim on the house painted last year, so now I’m painting the deck to match.

people a full day to paint it, it might take me a little longer. So I painted for three days and then today I ran out of paint. So I’m taking a break and writing this.

You may think painting has nothing to do with writing, which is what this blog is about unless I digress (as I did last week), but it really does.

 

Painting, mowing the yard, ironing clothes … that’s when I do my writing because that’s when my mind is free to imagine.

I promised a few weeks ago I would let you know how my Amazon advertising campaign went. The truth is, it never started. I signed up for their marketing plan in which they put an ad for your book on other sites so that when people are searching for something they see your ad and think, “Hmm, maybe I’ll click on this.” Then they go to your page, fall in love with your book description, and buy it. The idea is that you pay so much for each click.

 

I am not out a dime. No one clicked. Not even me when I saw the ad for “Riverbend” while searching for summer sandals.

Maybe it was the cover. Maybe it didn’t appeal, or get anyone’s attention. Maybe people looking for shoes don’t get sidetracked and think, “Oh look! a book!”

 

 

Who knows why it didn’t work?

I did submit the book for a review in InD’tale magazine and a review was recently published in Uncaged magazine. Reviews help but it does take a long time to get them.

So as far as marketing, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. Sometimes something works and sometimes it doesn’t.

As I said, I”m not looking to spend a heap of money because I don’t have heaps of money lying around. So I have to do the free stuff, like annoy all my friends with posts on Facebook and Twitter.

And the second best thing, which is write another book. Each time I put a book out there, I think this is the one that will get noticed and then people will look at my others books and then I will be a NYT’s Best Seller and…

Pop! See that daydream vanish in mid air?

 

Seriously, I do have a small coterie of fans and they are already asking when the next book will be ready. So maybe I should be content to be a big (well, middling-sized) frog in a very little pool.

It’s not a bad place to be.

 

 

The sins of my youth

When I was young, a hundred years ago, I thought I needed three things: a gorgeous tan, blonde hair, and adoring boyfriends.

I got the blonde hair from a bottle, and the tan from hours of lying in the sun in my teeny-weeny bikini. No, it wasn’t polka-dot.  And sometimes the sun tan turned into a sunburn, with accompanying blisters. The boyfriends came and went, not all adoring but faithful enough for brief periods of time.

Image result for sunburn meme

Then I married and had children. No time for tanning, no time to redo the roots of my hair. I let it grow back into its mousy brown.

As I got older, I began avoiding the sun. In the past few years I do my yard work protected by sunscreen, a floppy hat, and long pants. I get my various moles and other blemishes checked periodically by a dermatologist. I became especially vigilant after my younger brother died of a melanoma he’d had 20 years previously. They thought they got it all, but during those years it had metastasized, unknown to him and his loved ones.

So just before I went on my annual trip to Pennsylvania to visit my sister (my excuse for no blog last week) I got a call from my dermatologist. She’d removed a suspicious mole during my last appointment and sent it for a biopsy. The results were melanoma in situ.

It wasn’t that big of a shock. I knew the risks. I knew that in spite of the care I’d been taking, my foolishness 50 years ago had more than  likely set me up for something like this.

Of course, we didn’t know back then of the danger. Baby oil and iodine? Slap it on for a deeper, browner tan. Hours spent on the beach or on a towel in the back yard. A sunburn was a small price to pay. Sure, it hurt, but the blisters eventually went down. And then we did it all over again.

I went back Tuesday to have more tissue removed to make sure that all of the cancer was gone. It wasn’t fun. The area was numbed and then I lay on my stomach, my arms slowly falling asleep, trying not to twitch as she cut and cut … and cut. The the stitches. I didn’t ask how many, but it took a long time. The wound is covered with steri-strips, so I can’t see the damage. Yet.

And I’m waiting for word of the second biopsy. She was cheerfully confident it would come back clear, but I’ve heard that song before. I had to go for a third surgery when I had breast cancer because the margins weren’t clear the second time. Hopefully, that won’t happen again.

My back is sore and it hurts to stretch or move suddenly, but I tell myself that’s a small price to pay if the threat is truly gone.

Now I must be ever more vigilant because what happened once can happen again. I told my three sons they also must take care. We now have a family history of melanoma. I’m sorry to pass that on to my children and grandchildren. Fortunately, the grandchildren’s parents have been more cautious than I was, and slathered on sunscreen whenever the kids went outside.

I’m writing this as a warning. If you have children or grandchildren, please, please, make sure they are protected. They, like me, won’t think ahead. They think they will always be young and anyway, who cares what happens then they are “old.”

They will care. And it’s up to us to protect them now.

 

Author Interview: Sandy Bruney

SandyBWho doesn’t enjoy reading interviews about other writers and what they reveal about their process? We all come from such diverse backgrounds, embrace words and tell tales. I’ve also throughly enjoyed the Q&A James Lipton asks on the Inside the Actor’s Studio TV show; so, I thought I’d add these same set questions from Bernard Pivot to the end of the Interview. The questions were originally asked on the French series: “Bouillon de Culture” hosted by Bernard Pivot and James Lipton added them to the end of his show. What the answers reveal can be insightful, amusing, intriguing or simply brilliant.

I met Sandy in Charlotte, NC in a writer’s group over four years ago. Sandy is also my blog partner. She is hardworking, disciplined and reliable –traits I have lost over the years and I appreciate her always enjoyable Sunday posts. This week Sandy is on a well-deserved vacation and her Interview takes the place of her usual post. Enjoy! More

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