A-C-C-O-U-N-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y

I’m having one of those mornings where I really don’t know what to write about. After having a six-week lapse in blog posts in September & October, I’m hesitant to just let myself have a week off. Having a self-made deadline is both good and bad… I can give myself a pass–oh, you’ve had so much going on, take the week off!–or I can hold myself accountable, which is, admittedly, much more difficult.

I find I give myself a pass a lot… and with so much going on, it’s no wonder. But, I need to stop doing it. I made a commitment to write a blog post once a week, by Monday, a few years ago. Most of that time, I’ve done pretty well… Lately, not so much.

Sure, a lot of my brain power right now is being taken up with debating the merits of a non-malignant bone marrow transplant with my son. What’s left has been shifted into writing a project that really shouldn’t be getting written right now. Out of all that time, I have 30 minutes or 45 to write a blog post, but when I’m sapped, who wants that?

Despite what’s going on, though, I made a commitment. If I were to have a book deal, I’m sure my editor wouldn’t say something like, “Oh, Liberty, we know you’ve got a lot going on right now. Just get us your manuscript anytime you wish. We’ll still be here.”

Yeah, fat chance of that one happening.

I’d be out of a contract and have a bad name in the industry faster than you could whistle Dixie.

And, on the publishing front, if you follow my Facebook page, you know I did hear back from the agent who asked for my partial. “Too dark for a cozy” is about what it amounts to. So, in addition to writing this novel which really shouldn’t be getting on the page right now and weighing the benefits of a BMT on my son with the negatives, I’ve got to make sense of what to do next.

One of my critters thinks my novel’s not ready… which I can sort of see… but what to do with it? Still, I have this agent, a fairly well-respected agent as near as I can tell, who expressed that I have some good writing. What do I do with that?

I’m not sure I’m willing to let things calm down enough to give myself breathing room to contemplate it. I need to keep moving forward, even if it’s millimeter by millimeter, rather than by leaps and bounds. I’m not willing to come to a standstill (which I sort of feel I’m at now), or, worse, move backwards.

Which is why I do feel like I need to keep blogging–to keep my brain active, and not let myself fall behind.

Maybe it won’t make a lick of difference, but for now, I need that accountability.

And, it may not hurt to have a place to vent.

Until next time,

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Always with the Questions…

“What do you write?”

My husband and I were in a doctor’s appointment with a doctor who may potentially perform our son’s bone marrow transplant. He had asked me if I would be the primary caregiver while in the hospital. “Yes,” I reply. “I’m a stay at home mom and a writer.”

That’s when I got THE QUESTION.

I’ve gotten it over the years, so the reply has started to just roll off my tongue.

“Murder mysteries, book reviews, and the occasional sci-fi,” I say with a smile.

The doctor and transplant coordinator laugh, and the doctor says, “Well maybe while you are here, you will get an idea on something to write!”

Sadly, I thought later on as we left for the parking garage, he’s probably not far from the truth, especially given my propensity for hating doctors and hospitals in general, and this situation in particular. And, I tend to have a running list in my head of things that will be useful down the road where stories are concerned.

But, then, you never know where that one little detail may come in handly. So, it’s good to stay on your toes.

So, will a scenario with a murdered doctor in a children’s hospital come up in my writing? You never know… Most of the time, I don’t always know where my brain is headed. 🙂

———————-

By the way, if you’re in the United States, don’t forget to vote tomorrow. And, if you’re a Republican, a new law passed by Congress gives you the right to vote twice, three times if you’re in Chicago. 😉 j/k

Until next time,

Liberty

Growing On Up: 5 Lessons on Writing Learned in the Garden

I started a garden this year.

It was sort of a last minute thing, and I really didn’t prepare like I should have, but despite it all, it’s been fun to see my plants grow… a few taller than TMOTH and myself (and TMOTH is 6’4″/1.93 meters tall!!)

My garden at the beginning of  the year

My previous gardening experiences have left much to be desired. I grew up with a large garden in our backyard, where my mom would (sometimes) plant a ton of tomatoes, and occasionally other things like corn, peppers, and melons. But, since I married TMOTH, I’ve mostly had a black thumb. I can’t start seeds to save me, and many plants I’ve bought at the store die.

This year, I was actually successful (at least up to now!) Eight tomato plants, five sweet pepper plants, and one lonely chili pepper plant. Oh, and an ever-expanding patch of oregano.

Of course, my water bill has been going up thanks to the huge drought Kansas is in… *sigh*

TMOTH was adamant–he wasn’t going to tend to my garden for me. I have a tendency to not go outside at ALL when it gets hot. So, having a small garden seemed reasonable.

And, I’m kind of glad I started small.

So far as I write this, my city has had 20 days in excess of 100° Fahrenheit. We’ve had less than 4″ of rain since June 1, 2012. Normally, we’d have had about three times that by now. I’ve had to be out pretty much every day to water, occasionally twice, or my plants start wilting.

Homegrown, home-canned tomato sauce

Because of the extreme heat, I’ve forgone any trips of any lengths of time. My plants would be dead or close to it, I fear, if left for four days (and yes, I know I should get a water timer, but that hasn’t happened yet.)

Of course, all this has led to some fruitful results. I’ve picked a few peppers so far, but even more tomatoes. And, I’m flexing my canning muscles. So far, I’ve canned my own tomato sauce, and am hoping to soon have enough tomatoes again I can do my own salsa, too.

In the midst of it all, I’ve learned quite a few lessons, some that I can translate into writing lessons.

  1. Plan Ahead — My decision to do a garden was made hastily. If I’d started working on it earlier, I could have had much more space cleared, and hence, more plants/more produce. As a writing lesson, this is translated to outlining. I’m not a firm believer in outlining, but it’s growing on me. Especially given this experience.
  2. Give Me Space — You can probably see that my first picture, I had things planted kind of close. I was ill prepared for how well my plants would grow, since my previous attempts at growing tomatoes and the like had produced straggly-looking plants. Writing lesson: don’t jump right into editing. Let your writing sit for a while.
  3. A Mariana’s Peace Tomato from my garden — not a Roma!
  4. Do Your Research… or Not — I bought 8 tomato plants from a local grower. I’d been adamant–I wanted Roma Tomatoes, the kind best suited for canning sauce. The grower told me she’d give me some Roma’s, but she also had a different kind of Roma called a Mariana’s Peace. So, I bought four of each. Well, the Roma’s grew like I knew they should, but when the Mariana’s Peace started to get big, I knew I’d been sold a bill of goods. These weren’t Roma’s, but beefsteaks! After I’d harvested quite a few of the tomatoes, I researched them–something I should have done right off the bat. However, I was pleased to learn they’re an heirloom variety, have a lot of meat to them, great flavor, and seem to have mixed well with the Roma’s. Writing lesson: I’m not huge on research, never really have been. Being a pantser, I rely on intuitive or stored knowledge, occasionally a blog by Lee Lofland, Wikipedia searches, or my small writer’s reference library in my bedroom/office. Really have to stop doing that. I’ve had to rewrite more scenes because I later learn of major inaccuracies. Which is why I’m contemplating asking a couple of my legislator friends to allowing me to shadow them come January–despite the fact I’ve been a legislative intern twice–since I’ve got two new ideas for novels that would involve a legislative setting. I need to be a bit more disciplined about research.
  5. Deal With Your Circumstances — I had no idea I was going to deal with a drought like we’d had. Even though I follow Gary Lezak who came up with the LRC (Lezak’s Recurring Cycle) which is a weather theory I believe has a great deal of scientific merit, I didn’t see us having a drought as extreme as we’ve had. I figured it’d be hot–we had a mild winter, more rain than snow, and I think I was wearing shorts as early as February. So I was prepared for the heat. But, I’ve had to be out every day, usually in temps nearing 100°, and that’s not something I’m used to. I actually hate the heat. But because I saw my little tomatoes growing, and had visions of maybe supplementing our food sources in a significant manner, I was out there, watering, tending, trimming, and harvesting, even if I was tired, hot, sweaty, or sick. Writing Lesson: Your circumstances are your circumstances. Deal with them as best as you can. If your schedule is unpredictable, fit in 10 minutes of writing between appointments.
  6. My tomatoes quickly became overgrown.
  7. Learn From Your Mistakes —  I desperately needed to have about twice as much space for my tomatoes as I ended up having. I can access them only from the perimeter, otherwise, I have to crane my neck and sometimes reach in blind to find my ripe red fruit. Next year will be different. Come fall, probably in October, I plan to Round-Up a significant part of the yard (probably much to our landlord’s chagrin!) and add compost to all our areas that I’m clearing after a couple of weeks of killing off the weeds and crabgrass. I hope to have twice as many tomato plants next year, maybe even three times as many, spread over at least four times the amount of space. Writing Lesson: As I detailed in last week’s post, I made the hard choice to give up on my project “Homebody”. It was a tough decision, but one that needed to happen. While I’d hesitate to call “Homebody” a mistake, I definitely learned from it. Maybe I’ll detail some of the lessons learned in a future blog post.

Question for you: What lessons have you learned about writing from your outside activities?

Until next time,

Tough Decisions, or, I’m Not a Quitter–Honest!

Being a writer means making lots of choices. Why did Uncle Melvin kill off Cousin Carl? How will Detective Haskins discover the killer? Why did Sarah run off with Luigi? And on and on…

One of the toughest things about being a writer is knowing when to quit. Not necessarily for the day, but when is the story done. Or when it’s not done, and there’s nothing you can do at this point in your life to make it done.

by Astroboy_71

I’m facing one of those times right now.

For the last 6 1/2 years, I’ve been working on a novel project. It’s had a lot of names, but right now, it’s “Homebody”. This novel predates my children being born, and the two main characters actually predate my marriage.

Over the last year or so, I’ve struggled with the book. I’m on like the 7th draft or some crazy thing, and I keep feeling like I’m circling around when it could be considered done, but just not quite there. Those who have read it say the same thing. But I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it, not now at least. For a while, I thought it was done: I submitted it to agents, and have received a few nice, even encouraging replies, but nothing that would have me thinking I’m almost there.

In a last-ditch effort, I asked Texas Momma (aka Linda Yezak) to take a look at it this spring. Between all her battles, she read a few chapters, but life happened and she had to return it, mostly unread, but with a few very helpful suggestions.

Then, last week, I got that niggling feeling again, like it was time to let it go.

I’ve had that feeling off and on for a while. I’m not sure why, but after it came back stronger than ever, I decided I’d e-mail Texas Momma about it. Even though I asked, I wasn’t quite prepared for the blunt reply:

“Give up on Homebody. Save the personalities for another book, if you’d like, but I’d quit on it.”

My stomach clenched reading those words. This book has become so much a part of my identity the last several years. How can I just give it up? It’s almost like abandoning one of my children at the grocery store.

One thing you should learn early on as a writer is to kill your darlings. In other words, that turn of phrase you think is so clever, or that scene that you love but doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the book. Perhaps it’s the same way with this book–it’s become my darling in many ways.

When I first started it, I was a completely different person than I am today. I had different goals, different aspirations, different worries. And, writing… and rewriting Homebody was cathartic in many ways. In the past six years, I’ve started work on several other projects, most of which I’ve finished, one or two I haven’t for whatever reason–my creative juices ran out, I lost interest, etc.

Homebody wasn’t the first novel I wrote. No, that disgraceful thing happened back in my teens. I pray it never again sees the light of day. A couple more came in between, both before and after a hiatus in my last semester of college into the first year of married life. Perhaps Homebody is that transition for me–the one I needed to get out, but isn’t yet worthy of being published. Perhaps the next one or two books I’ve got on my plate will be it. I hope so.

For now, I must say goodbye to this story. Thank you for helping me grow as a writer. I’m sorry I had to use you to do it, that you never reached your full potential, that I wasn’t the writer you needed me to be. Just know that even though you will remain on my flash drive, and I may never open you again, you’ve been valuable. I will always have fond memories of writing you.

As for my characters, Amanda O’Flannigan and Richard “Rick” Pierce, I think they’ll be around again. Almost as soon as I made the decision that it was time to cut it loose, I got a new idea which would be perfectly suited (I think) for them. And, Homebody definitely allowed me to come up with a great deal of back-story for these two. I hope it comes to fruition, mostly because I love both of these characters dearly. I’m not quite ready to quit on them, even if I have to quit on one of their stories.

For the time being, I’m going to get back to work on “Reprisal”. I’m mid-way through the 3rd draft, and it’s lingered far too long as I’ve had two children, done NaNo, and tried to get that OTHER book done. I’ll try to post monthly reports, even if they’re brief, on how that’s going. Once I’ve completed the 3rd draft, I’m going to go back to my 2009 NaNo project, “Beyond Dead”. It’s very short–just barely over the 50K minimum to win NaNo, and ideally I’d prefer it around 80K. That’s a lot of words to add! But, one thing at a time.

If you’re a writer, how do you gauge when it’s time to cut a story loose permanently and stop working on it? Have you ever had to do it? Did you mourn for the story and/or characters as I feel I’m doing a bit of now?

Happy trails,

Mind Ramblings

I realized last week on Monday mid-day that I didn’t do a post. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to talk about.

So, I stared at my computer, decided to ignore it, then for the next couple of days, felt guilty about it…

*sigh*

So here I am, not really sure what to write about still. I hate days like this.

The problem is, I have a lot to say. My opinions are wide and varied.

But, sometimes, I feel that since I’m a writer from home, and a stay-at-home mom to boot, I don’t have much to say.

And, that’s where I’m at now.

Maybe I should just talk about how much I loved “The Avengers”. That’s a trending topic. 🙂 My husband and I went to see it opening day–in 3D no less–and loved it. Especially the scene at the end of the movie credits where NO ONE SAYS A WORD.

Four words: Joss. Whedon. Is. Brilliant.

I don’t know for sure if I’d ever seen anything by Mr. Whedon prior to being coerced into seeing “Firefly” and “Serenity” last year. But, I think I’m a fan now. Between the misfits on “Serenity” and all my favorite super heroes (especially Tony Stark), I honestly can say I love his work. Yeah, I probably need to go see some of his other stuff. That’ll come. I’ll get obsessive before too much longer, and cherry-pick from his listing on IMDB.com what to borrow from the library near me.

In the meantime, if anyone has any suggested viewing selections of Whedon’s previous work, post them here. 😉

And, Oh! Did you see the “Castle” finale? I’ll be rewatching that one again over the summer… probably several times (along with the two prior to it, especially the one with Adam Baldwin.) I was thinking this morning as I got up how much a young Nathan Fillion (from Firefly era) would’ve made a great choice to play the role of Rick in my novel “Homebody”. Now, he’d actually probably be a good choice for Mark from my project “Beyond Dead”… at least then, he’d actually be able to play a real cop!

Until next time,

Craziness

It’s been a bit of a crazy couple weeks.

First, we found out that I’d been published–yea! 🙂

Then, our little guy came down with a mysterious ailment that we’re still not 100% sure what it was–acted fine, but ho-boy, was his skin broke out! Every day for about a week, I was on the phone to one or more doctors offices.

In the middle of this, our daughter came down with a 102° fever for some inexplicable reason. Ugh…

A friend called that day… said another friend of ours has stomach cancer which has spread…

Five hours after that, I learn an old friend of my mom’s had passed away, someone I’ve known for the better part of my life, and still run into his wife and daughters periodically.

And, if that weren’t enough, my grandfather, who is 91, went into the hospital with pneumonia.

Ay-yi-yi.

I’m not writing this as a woe-is-me piece. Just venting.

But, it’s been a long couple of weeks.

Texas Momma has been encouraging me to work on my novel to tweak it up a bit, so I managed to get a bit of that worked on. Actually made it to my favorite coffeehouse to do so! And, I bit the bullet and asked Texas Momma if she’d look at the whole novel… Hopefully in the near future, that’ll happen.

I had hoped things had calmed down, but oh no… The tornadoes in Kansas this weekend? Damaged the facility where my dad works. Haven’t heard when he’ll be able to go back, but the pictures coming out of Wichita are kinda scary–thank God no one was hurt! I can’t count how many times I’ve been in that area, and to see some of the pictures… really tugs.

God has kept me sane the last few weeks, just barely. (It’s been a tough job!) Probably what’s been most helpful is the fact I’ve been reading in II Samuel and I Chronicles about the trials of David the last few weeks. If he could get through all kinds of junk happening, so can I. Sure, I don’t have to slay a giant, or stay on the run from my father-in-law who wants to kill me, but I can keep things together because God’s with me. He’s in control.

And, that’s what’s most important.

Until next time,

A Punch In the Gut

Everyone needs a punch in the gut once in a while. Whether it’s physical or mental, something that brings you back to reality is never a bad thing.

I got my own slap in the face last week. I was lamenting (okay, I was whining) to a writer friend that even though I’d “improved” my query, and done some tweaking to my first pages of my novel, that I was still only getting form rejections to the agents I was sending to.

She offered to take a look at my query (both old and newly revised) as well as my first five pages.

Now, this writer friend is kinda like my Texas momma, and I’ve told her so on several occasions. We laugh and joke, and I know without a doubt that if we ever have the chance to meet, after the initial awkwardness, we’d have the same relationship offline as we do on.

So when the first line of her reply was, “Get out the rifle, you’re gonna wanna shoot me”, my heart sank.

What do you mean my story isn’t ready yet? Really? I’ve been querying and making a fool of myself–again?

Basically, in all my editing, I’ve managed to leave some B.I.G. beginner errors in my novel… which is probably why I’m not getting any nibbles.

Seeing as my TX Momma is published, and works as an editorial assist to a small press AND her lit agent, I’m inclined to take her advice.

So, here’s to hunkering down–again–and doing another MAJOR pass on “Homebody”… and hopefully, I’ll get it right this time.

Until next time,

Liberty