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,

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,

Hectic

When did life get so hectic? I mean, really?

Between the fact that I’ve been spending a ton of waking hours working on writing projects, it seems everything else has been pushed to the wayside, up to and including normal housewife duties. TMOTH often asks what I managed to get done in any given day, and I give him a blank stare. How can I say that most of what I did involved editing, writing, outlining, etc.?

Oh well.

This week probably won’t be much different. However, there is one thing this week that’ll get me away from the computer.

First, two writing-related things happen this week.

The fabulous Jeannie Campbell, AKA, The Character Therapist, is going to have my male lead in my next publishable novel on the couch. I’m so excited! Back in October, she had Tamryn, my female lead, on the couch, so I’m really interested to see what she says about the hero and how they’ll interact together. Bridger’s couch time is slated for tomorrow, so be sure to check it out.

Thursday is to be the latest day at which I’ll learn whether Homebody made the first cut for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I’m hopeful, but I don’t know what kind of competition I’m up against, either. Well, I take that back. I do know TWO of the novelists I’m up against–two of the members of my local critique group have also submitted. This part of the contest is all about pitch, which I’m a bit more confident about than the actual novel, just for the simple fact that I’ve had some recent critiques from a new critter that have already drastically revamped the first few chapters of the story. Oh boy.

And, finally, Friday… our little boy has his bone marrow biopsy, provided he doesn’t get sick. He gave TMOTH and me a cold in the last week, so hopefully, we don’t give it back!

I don’t know if I’ll give an update until next Monday about any of this, but we’ll see.

Until next time,

Liberty

Living Research

How many times have you been in the middle of something major in your life, and thought to yourself, “Gee, this would make an interesting story”? How often do you act on that and go sit down and write your story?

While I’m no memoirist, and have actually yet to read a memoir (I’ve got one on my Kindle–I think,) there are times when odd things happen to me and I think it would may make an interesting addition to a story, or a story in and of itself.

With my son having been in and out of the hospital so much in the last few months (we had #4 admission last week), I find myself pondering what I’ve learned by being at the hospital.

Let’s get one thing straight: I absolutely HATE hospitals. Up until I was 25, I’d never been admitted to one. The only reason why I ever have been is due to having babies (or complications thereof). I avoided hospitals like the plague.

Maybe not the best strategy for a mystery writer. Look at all the research I missed out on.

My son’s condition doesn’t necessarily mean that my experiences lend themselves to mystery writing. He’s hardly been rushed to the hospital, a victim of a stabbing, shooting, poisoning (and let’s hope he never is!) But, the anxiety of not knowing what’s going on, the waiting, hoping that my son will get better… that’s something I can draw on as a writer. Even though I try to take everything one day–sometimes one hour–at a time, and I don’t worry in the traditional sense of the word, I understand.

He’s never been in serious enough condition that his life is hanging by a thread, but I can understand better now how the parents of a child with leukemia may feel. And, even though I have no plans anytime in the future to write about something of that nature as a topic (at least, not in a novel format), I do feel that the experiences I’ve had as of late will make me a better writer.

When you get right down to it, all writers draw on their own experiences. You have to. Especially when you’re writing fiction. Fiction is about an experience, whether bad, good, or ugly.

You tell me: what was the last real life experience you used to draw on for your writing? It may only be related by a smidge, but did it help you write a more believable scene?

Until next time,

Life Gets In the Way

Over the last few months, I’ve found life getting more and more in the way of my writing. Yeah, I’ve kept up with my blog posts. I’ve sort-of kept up with my book reviews.

But my books? My plans to do freelancing? Eh, not so much.

Photo by ~in-door (not an actual representation of my bathroom)

This is frustrating for me. I hate feeling like I’m behind, even if it’s in my own mind. Yet, I look around my apartment, and see the floor that needs vacuuming, the boxes that still need unpacking (or better yet, taken to Goodwill or our storage facility), the bathrooms that need cleaning, and then I feel behind in my housework.

Yes, I realize I’m a mom.

Yes, I realize I’m a mom of a little boy who has some special needs. And a mom to a toddler. And a mom to a chocolate Labrador. And a wife to TMOTH.

But I still feel behind. Okay, I am behind.

Oy.

Let’s face it right now: life will try to get in the way of your best laid plans. I didn’t think this time last year when I was newly pregnant with my son that my new home-away-from-home now would become the hospital. To date, my son has been admitted three times since November, the shortest stay being one night, the longest being seven days.

Yuck.

But in the midst of it all, I can still see my other priorities.

Sure, it would help if I got more cooperation from TMOTH. I’m not complaining; he’s as frustrated by everything as I am.

Photo by ~underawartorsky

But, it sure does help if I plan my day and try to work some of my priorities around the family priorities. For instance, I’m writing this blog post at 8:15 in the morning a couple weeks before it’s supposed to post. My husband’s at work, my kids are asleep. It’s going to snow later today, so we’ll be stuck inside. When I’m done with this, I’ve got another post to write, then, hopefully, I’ll get to do some editing on Homebody.

I’m having to train myself to be more of a morning person so I can get things done. Dr. Pepper helps tremendously!

Have you had to make changes in your own life to get done your goals? How has that worked for you? Do you regret it, or are you resigned to the fact that this is how it will be for a while?

Until next time,