WritingNotWriting #Mondayblogs #amwriting #amknitting

The title of my post is a riff on the fleetingly popular #SorryNotSorry. I’m writing but not really writing. I mean, I haven’t been writing but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. As usual.

What I have been doing is … knitting.

This purple and gray wrap will soon be wrapped up and sent to a friend who has cooler temperatures this time of year than I do.

This purple and gray wrap will soon be wrapped up and sent to a friend who has cooler temperatures this time of year than I do.

 

Just finished this cowl in time for a friend's birthday.

Just finished this cowl in time for a friend’s birthday.

 

The beginnings of a shawl for a relative who lives in a cooler clime than I do.

The beginnings of a shawl for a relative who lives in a cooler clime than I do. And off to the lower left … my foot.

When in doubt, I knit. Not only is knitting a meditative practice, it is also quantifiable. It moves linearly (for the most part anyway). There’s a definite beginning, middle, and end to my knitting. I don’t (often) feel that way about writing.

I have also been studying Spanish, for the nth time since I was in high school. I’ve become a bit obsessive, loading countless learning apps onto my iPhone, logging hours on Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, and downloading videos on learning Spanish from The Great Courses.

And, yet, my fluency leaves something to be desired. Yo tengo tres gatos y un marido.

And, yet … with both knitting and studying Spanish I persevere. I make a knitting error? I just rip it out and start over. I stumble over my grammar in Spanish? I can retake the lessons as often as needed. But writing is different. When I hit a wall in my writing, everything stops and it feels near impossible to get going again.

Quality of writing seems so subjective. I can quantify the number of words I write, but I can’t speak to their quality. With knitting and Spanish, I can see a steady progression of quality as a beautiful pattern takes shape or my review lessons become easier.

The subjective appreciation of writing trips me up every time. And I’ve been working at it as long as I’ve knitting and studying Spanish.

Now, this post will continue on to a rant I wrote almost a year ago. I’m sharing it now because it speaks to my frustration with literary and popular criticism. I had just finished listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and needed to get a few things about the novel off my chest. If you haven’t read The Goldfinch and plan to, you might want to stop here since my rant includes some spoilers. If you have read The Goldfinch and loved it, you might want to stop here because I didn’t. The rest of you may proceed as you wish.

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I’m a pretty sensitive individual.  I internalize everything.  Let’s say I wrote a novel titled The Goldfinch and not only was it published, but it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.  Sure, I’d be happy for the publicity and the money and probably both would be enough to keep me in a bubble, safe from the knowledge that most buyers of my novel couldn’t finish it, the awareness that some of those who could were not just disappointed but dismayed by it. All the hype, the publicity, the Pulitzer for a novel that is too long and too uneven and too clever.  Near the end of the novel, one character complains about “relentless tedium.” That pretty much describes the pace of The Goldfinch for me. At another point Theo, the narrator, says to a character, “It’s a long story. I’ll try to keep it short.” I laughed out loud at that line. Was Tartt poking fun at her own book? The novel is full of “relentless” litanies and extended dialogues that sound like something out of soap operas. You know the kind. Where the characters keep talking around each other and asking but not answering the same questions over and over until you want to scream, “Oh, just answer the bloody question!”

Only at the end does the reader learn that Theo has been keeping a journal all this time, since his “childhood”; yet, there’s never a mention of him doing so in the earlier parts. I found that so odd given how much this young man moved from one place to another, never once losing a journal apparently but also never mentioning his journals and what might happen if they fell into the wrong hands.

And The Goldfinch itself? I never really felt Theo’s connection with the painting that he claimed to have. Too often it seemed as if he had actually forgotten about it.  He’d have all kinds of adventures with his Ukrainian friend Boris, never once mentioning the painting. Then, suddenly, briefly, he’d describe how he thought about it all the time. And oddly, those descriptions always seemed to occur about the same time I had almost forgotten about the painting myself. Did Tartt have to remind herself that the painting was supposed to be pivotal to the story?

At one point, the reader gets the idea that Theo and Boris might be in love with each other, not an unimportant realization for two teen-aged boys. Yet, the idea goes nowhere. Theo has no problem taking up with women when he returns to NYC and eventually he forgets Boris until they have their odd reunion.

The pace picks up when Boris admits that he stole the painting which has now been stolen from him and he needs Theo to help get it back. But the plot is convoluted and the miracle of it progressing at all is simply because Theo has access to money. I know it’s a given in some genres, like romance novels, where the reader wants to escape into a world where money is not a problem, only love and lust. But this is literary fiction (I think).  Maybe I’m being a “reversed snob” but it’s a pet peeve of mine when a character who heretofore has been nearly destitute comes into a large inheritance and suddenly, money is no longer a problem. He can hop a jet to anywhere, stay in a luxury hotel for days on end, and never worry about the bill.  Boring.

And that’s another thing: Theo seems to suffer illnesses that go on for days, yet he doesn’t die. Somehow he always comes through, but these “relentless” illnesses were part of what pushed me to lose patience with the character. He is unsympathetic, perhaps even a sociopath, incapable of understanding anyone’s feelings but his own.  Often, there didn’t seem to be any there there with Theo.

Now, I actually listened to an audio version of The Goldfinch and I think that’s one reason why I stuck with it. The narrator was quite good and his rendition of Boris was wonderful. And I was listening as a writer, trying to hear how the story ebbed and flowed. I did enjoy many of the other characters, but overall the novel sounded to me as one in a series of drafts, not the first, crude draft but not the final, polished draft either. There was so much that could have been edited out of the novel without doing a whit of harm and, more importantly, doing it much good. Theo’s journal writing would have been a nice thread to have had throughout the novel.

There was a surreal aspect to the novel, which made me cast about for comparisons. Dickens did not come to mind as anything more than Tartt “borrowing” some of Dickens’s characterizations. What I kept thinking about was Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. In both novels, two naïve young men go astray, one is spurred by his desire to be among the better classes, the other by survivor’s guilt and his desire to numb it. Both commit crimes without seeming to have the full sense of their consequences, and both seem naïve to the point of being led about by the “wrong” people. But whereas I was struck by the timeless quality of An American Tragedy, with The Goldfinch I was only struck by how long it took me to suffer through it.  Oh, and that it got an effing Pulitzer.

What’s the Worst That Can Happen When I Don’t Write? #MondayBlogs #amwriting

I don’t like complaining … in public, anyway.  And I don’t like making excuses.  Unfortunately, complaining and excuses seem to go hand-in-hand for me.  The thing about complaining is that there is always someone worse off than me, which should give some perspective.  And the thing about excuses is, nobody cares.  We all have excuses.  We all have reasons why we haven’t done this and why we’ll be late in doing that.

Lately, all I’ve been doing is complaining and making excuses: to my husband, my coworkers, my cats. Because of that, I haven’t been writing for my blog.  I want to, but when I’m being tormented by the demons of Angst, well, I don’t think my writing is very entertaining or fun to do.

You see, I have very little to complain about.  […]

In fact, I just deleted two whole paragraphs where I complain about … something.  This is my desire for privacy kicking in.  My deep-seated belief that some things just should not be shared publicly.  Not that anything awful has happened.  No, no, no.  It’s just the usual issue of balance and I’m not talking about yoga.

So let’s be positive.  Or, rather, let me in this blog post try to retake control of my life.  The thing is, I’m getting too old for this, among other things.  I want to slow down.  Everyone seems to want to speed up.  I want to simplify my life.  Everyone seems to want more and more things, more bells, more whistles, more distraction.  I want to minimize the distractions in my life.  And I write this after having sent out a slough (for me, anyway) of tweets.

Maybe I want others to feel my pain.  Maybe my use of Twitter and Facebook isn’t so much because I want to “connect.”  Maybe I just want to assault people with the same brain-numbing bombardment of tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions that I experience after one of my WP posts goes live.  But that’s not true.  For one thing, I don’t receive that many tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions after any of my WP posts.  And I can choose when I respond, should I choose to respond.  So what’s the problem?

You see, there really isn’t any problem.  When I write down my angst, it suddenly seems so trivial.

A couple of decades ago when I was a doctoral student, I fell into a depression.  A mental one.  I once literally fell into a depression and sprained my left ankle.  It occurred about the same time.  Anyway, I digress.  I was seeing a counselor at the university, a wonderful woman recommended by another student.  During one session, she asked me what was the worst thing that would happen if I dropped out of the doctoral program.  How would it ruin my life?  I thought about it and realized that my life would not be ruined if I left the program.  I would be fine.  Although the program was a big part of my life, it didn’t contribute to my happiness … like my husband did, or my knitting, or my friends, or my cats, or my writing, or my walks in the neighborhood.  That one question changed my whole perspective.  I had control.  I could decide to stay, or to go.  I didn’t have to let the program rule me.

Eventually I secured a “real” job (that is, one with better wages than that of the lowly student research assistant), finished my coursework, and simply drifted away.  I admit I toyed with returning to the doctoral program on occasion.  But deciding not to return is a decision I’ve never regretted.

So, what is this about?  Just that I do have control.  I have some control over how things run my life, or, perhaps I should say, whether things do run my life.

I think of my counselor and that pivotal moment in her office, and I ask myself, what is the worst that can come of this?  What are my priorities?  If writing a blog post is not in the top five of my priorities for the day or even the week, what bad will come of that?  If I choose a morning yoga practice, reading The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen, grooming my cats (alas, they have fleas even with Revolution), going to the gym with my husband, and (finally) knitting while watching a movie with my husband, all of that ahead of writing a blog post, who is there to fault me?  Do you think I’m spending too much time with my husband?

Yes, there is so much writing I want to do.  I started working on a revision of Clemency a few weeks ago.  And I’m writing book reviews in my head.  But there’s time, isn’t there?  Does everything have to be done now?  Taking control means that I believe I have all the time in the world.  It means that I don’t live as if this day may be my last.  It means that as long as I enjoy what I am doing when I am doing it, then I am having a good day.  And if that means I don’t get to my novel that day, well, you know, I think I’ll live.

And what about you, dear Reader and dear Friend?  Have you found a balance between living your life and writing?  Share any and all secrets 🙂

 

 

Apropos of Nothing #MondayBlogs #MerryChristmas #HappyHolidays

I’ve been lurking offline of late, infrequently skating by a few blogs or Facebook status updates or tweets.  I’ve several reasons for my grayish absence, and only a few of them may redeem me.  Guess which.

Reasons for being absent from social media:

  1. In a pre-holiday funk, which seems to always come around this time of year
  2. Post-NaNoWriMo funk which coincides with pre-holiday funk
  3. Reading
  4. Workplace funk, which is not unusual (pretty much my steady state) but this month particularly funky since my coworkers and I have been scheduled to move back to the building they moved us from two years ago.  There may be something positive about this when it’s all said and done, but the process puts me into a funk.
  5. Major funk because the office move is scheduled for the days between Christmas and New Year, when I had scheduled time off.  So instead I will go to work for at least for the time it takes to ensure that my furniture is moved and reassembled properly.
  6. Christmas shopping online
  7. Knitting
  8. Combing my cats for fleas (damn you, global warming!)
  9. Heat and humidity putting me into an itchy funk
  10. Facebook funk because, well, facebook.

So you could say I’m in a funk, but I’ve managed to be somewhat productive with reading, shopping and knitting.

Some good news is my husband and I have entered the 21st century and finally bought iPhones.  Granted, they are iPhone 5S but we got them at a steep discount, and we’re still using a pay-as-you-go plan (no two-year contracts for us).  Interestingly, this came about because my husband was recently prescribed hearing aids which are bluetoothed enabled.  With a iPhone app, he can listen to podcasts through his hearing aids.  Finally, we found a good reason for him to buy an effing iPhone.  (I have to bite my tongue because, although I’ve wanted one for a long time, I never would have gotten such a good deal as what my husband found us.)

Now I’m scheduled to get new hearing aids (after 10 years of running my old ones into the ground).  At the moment I’m wearing a demo pair.  Unfortunately the brand is different from my husband’s.  With mine, I would need to buy an accessory ($$) to “link” my hearing aids with my iPhone.  That’s disappointing but since the hearing aids are quite small compared to the ones I used to wear, I can actually wear earbuds at the same time.  Ah, modern technology.

And by the way, my husband says people can now stop thanking him for his military service.  His hearing aids are coming to him free, courtesy of the VA.

Okay, enough of the funky personal stuff.

In reading the Sunday NY Times, two articles stood out for me (as a writer) …

  1.  From Fashion’s Gaze Turned to Joan Didion in 2015:  “I think she very early on carefully crafted an image for herself and understood that personal style was all part of the package of being a writer.”  And the article goes on to note that these days, people fascinated with Ms. Didion’s style might know nothing of her writing.  Is that okay?  A good thing?  A bad thing?  Inconsequential?  What if you have no style?
  2. From Garth Risk Hallberg, the Literary Wunderkind of 2015: the take-home message seems to be that hype does not always equal success.  Yes, more than 30,000 copies of the book have sold, BUT, according to the Wall Street Journal, the novel “would need to sell about 75,000 hardcovers, 75,000 paperbacks and 150,000 e-books to break even.”  Would I want this to be my introduction into the literary world?  My book touted as being the “Great American Novel,” before the tome (900-plus pages) is even out, and then seeing my Amazon ratings hover around 3 stars?  Would I be laughing all the way to the bank, or worried that my lack of expected success will result in a dropped contract and an undesired lengthy tenure as a writing professor?  (Nothing against writing professors.  I just imagine most of them would prefer to make their living solely off their writing.)

I continue to muse about these and other issues relevant to the world of publishing, and, no doubt, such musing does nothing to alleviate my funky moodiness (or moody funkiness, whichever you prefer).  My friend, Kevin Brennan, got me off on a good rant with one of his posts about the economics of writing.  Read it and weep if you think  all you need to do is pour blood, sweat, tears, and some $$ into your work and the fame (even modest fame) will come.  It’s a crowded field, and failed bets for the Great American Novel only make it harder.

And speaking of Kevin Brennan, part of the reading I’ve been engaging in was Town Father, his latest novel.  And I’ve posted a traditional review, which you can read here.  Yes, you have to go to Amazon to read it because, you know, you’ll want to buy the book.

Now, see, given the funk I’m in, I was thinking I probably shouldn’t post at all until after the holidays.  Just call me “Debbie Downer.”

To make it up to you, here’s one of my favorite holiday songs sung by one of my favorite singers.  Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy New Year.  See you all in 2016 (hopefully, with bells on).

 

 

Course Review: Flash Essay on the Edge #MondayBlogs

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I’ve mentioned that Luanne Castle of A Writer’s Site and I recently participated in an online course for flash nonfiction, offered by Apiary Lit.  Well, we’ve survived finished the course and want to share our experience with all you dear Readers.  We put our heads together and created the following list of Pros and Cons.

First, let me share with you Luanne’s lovely shout-out to our instructor for the course:

The course instructor was talented writer and teacher Chelsea Biondolillo. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity, Passages North, Rappahannock Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shenandoah, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and is a 2014-15 O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University. You can check out Chelsea here http://roamingcowgirl.com/ or do a search for her pieces in online magazines. Her knowledge of the genre and generosity to share that knowledge with her students was outstanding.

PROs

  • The teacher prep was outstanding. She provided a wealth of readings, which were useful in showing me what flash nonfiction can look and sound like.
  • The course was only four weeks, so I found that to be very manageable. If it had been longer, I would have been too stressed during the summer and at this time in my life.
  • The instructor generally gave useful feedback, seemed qualified in the subject, and was very nice. She seemed to love her subject.
  • The instructor was accessible, responding within the same day if there was a question or concern.
  • Other than a problem I will list under CONs, the website was pretty easy to negotiate.
  • The online classroom had various forums that enabled you to share your work with the other students and have discussions.
  • The writing prompts were generally interesting, but I didn’t feel tied to them, which was good.
  • The course was not graded. I could focus on what I wanted to turn in, not what I thought I had to turn in in order to get an A.
  • The course got me writing without adding stress to my life.
  • I got more writing done in this past month than I would have otherwise.
  • I feel that I know where to go with flash nonfiction now. It would be ideal to get more feedback down the road on attempts at Flash Nonfiction, but at least I feel much more comfortable with the genre from taking this course.
  • Above all, I had fun with the readings and the writing.

CONs

  • Although there were forums available, we had no real discussion of any of the readings. We were not strongly encouraged to interact with each other. We had maybe one discussion prompt during the whole course.
  • The readings and essay examples were available through either some kind of Adobe program that took a bit of time to figure out, or through hyperlinks that weren’t always easy to download.
  • We posted our written assignments privately to the instructor so I had no way of learning from what others had turned in or from reading instructor comments on the work of others. I didn’t care for this method as it diminished what I could learn from the course by a hefty percentage. I suppose this is the difference between the workshop method and a traditional style class.
  • We felt isolated in this class and had little interaction with anyone but each other and the instructor.  In the discussion forum, one other student interacted with us, and another made a couple of independent comments.  Other than that, it was a strangely quiet class.
  • Two platforms were used for the course: an online classroom and a blog,so sometimes I had a little trouble negotiating the course. Sometimes I had to login in two places. This inconvenience turned out to be less of a problem than I first anticipated, but it could be streamlined. The blog material could have been included on the classroom platform.
  • Since I don’t know how many people were in the course, I don’t know the instructor’s workload. My belief is that in a course that is short in length, the instructor should return assignments in short order. The lag time between turning in an assignment/beginning reading for a new lesson and getting the instructor’s feedback on my previous assignment was a little too long for my comfort.
  • The price at $199 was a little steep for four weeks and no discussion/no workshopping.

 My personal riff on the course:

Whether fair or unfair, I kept comparing the structure of this course with one I took on poetry a few months ago.  The poetry course was free, but if I fulfilled certain requirements, I could order a certificate of completion.  Those requirements involved participating in discussion forums as well as providing feedback on other students’ assignments.  I learned a lot from the online discussions and from the feedback I got from other students (many of whom were published poets).  It made for a dynamic learning environment, similar to what one would expect in a writing workshop.

What I missed in the poetry course was having a direct relationship with an instructor/mentor whose purpose was to critique and guide my writing.

So when I heard about this course through Luanne and saw that the instructor would provide individualized feedback, I jumped at the opportunity.  And although $199 was a bit steep for just 4 weeks, Chelsea’s feedback alone was worth every penny.  I also happily “discovered” that creative nonfiction is just as boundary-less as poetry.  There are rules and then there are rules to be broken.  You are limited only by your imagination.

But.

I am still looking for that perfect-for-me online writing course.  My biggest challenges, as always, are Time and Organization.  I complain I have little time but that’s in large part because I’m not very organized.  Hence, my need for structure, for someone/something setting deadlines for me.  I learned that through NaNoWriMo:  if I don’t have a deadline, I don’t write.  I know I would be better at this if I were retired from my day job, but until that happens, when I do have time, I tend to procrastinate. (Although my procrastination takes the form of household chores and errands, which, sadly I have no one to do for me.)

I would consider taking another course with Apiary Lit (and definitely with Chelsea), but I want to try another venue if possible.  If any of my dear Readers have taken an online writing course that you truly found beneficial, please let me know in the comments.

Not Letting Go, Part 1 #MondayBlogs

Several months ago I went on a trip down memory lane, posting images of work I did during my college years. Click here if you want to read/reread that post.  I’ll wait.

Well, here I go again, and this time a little further back in time.  1976.  Spring semester at the community college I was attending.  I had joined a literary guild the year before, and every year we published one or two volumes of a journal.

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The guild was a very, very nice group of students with a faculty adviser.  They welcomed me immediately, were kind and tender with my highly sensitive nature, and were my first introduction to professional criticism.  Mrs. Hazel Swartz, the adviser, adopted each one of us.  We frequently had meetings at her house, and once she took me to dinner to explain to me why “peeping” wasn’t the best word to use when describing the sun coming up over a mountain.

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It was a very small world I lived in.  I quickly learned that my next-door neighbor had had the dubious pleasure of teaching Hazel to drive a stick-shift many decades before.  I remember he said something about fearing for his life as they sped up and down the hills of Queen Anne Road.  Few of the students were from my neck-of-the-woods, so to me they were savvy world travelers, even if they had only come from as far as Long Island.  They seemed so much older, wiser, and sophisticated than me.  I had a crush on one, a poet who seemed to genuinely like my writing.  But, of course, I  thought he was too good for me so I took up with someone else.  That was unfortunate.  My first lover could have been a poet.  Instead I wound up with a narcissistic, emotionally abusive loser.  Ah, the idiocies of youth!

Anyway, for the last almost 40 years, I’ve carried from my home in upstate New York to various apartments in California and finally to my house in Florida two volumes of our journal.  The second one is my favorite.

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With this one, I was starting to feel like a writer.  Recently I sat down and leafed through the contents, cringing at some of my feeble attempts at poetry and fiction writing.  But I paused at one bit of prose.  It’s not fiction because the people and the circumstance were real.  But, in this piece, more than any other, I recognize my voice.

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Those very early years, 1975-1976, I could imagine only being a writer.  I had no imagination for any other kind of employment.  I was naive, ignorant, but I was who I still am.

WIP Blog Tour!

Many thanks to Luanne Castle at Writer Site for tagging me to participate in this special blog tour.  It comes at a good time for me because I’ve been wrestling working on my WIP, Clemency, A Novel.  Before you read my post (or after if you prefer), please do read Luanne’s post on her WIP:  http://writersite.org/2015/02/12/read-all-about-it-here-the-work-in-progress-blog-tour-stop/ Luanne is working on a memoir, “excavating” her memory to “create a new story”:

My book is the story of an old family secret that infects the present and creates a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship–and the quest for answers that allows the father and daughter to learn and forgive.

Now, doesn’t whet your appetite for more from Luanne?  Indeed, it does mine.

But before I lose sight of my own purpose in participating, let me proceed with the rules and my contribution to the tour.

The work-in-progress blog tour rules (which we all know are made to be bent or broken):

  1.  Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
  2.  Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress.
  3.  Nominate some other writers to do the same.

Brief description of my novel:

Clemency is a story about Misty Daniels, a young girl (~18) in prison for allegedly killing her live-in boyfriend after he beat her up, causing her to miscarry.  Enter Sarah Mansfield, a newly minted attorney who believes in Misty’s innocence and wants to secure her freedom.  But not everyone believes that Misty is innocent.  Not even Misty.  And there are some people in Misty’s poor small town that want to see her stay in prison.  And they will do anything to make sure that happens.  Even if means someone has to die.

Only in her mid-twenties and alone in an unfamiliar southern city, Sarah finds her life on the line and with few people she can trust.  Her boss and mentor, Lucas Danforth, seems to know more than he lets on and brushes off Sarah’s concern for her and Misty’s safety.  Michael Daniels, Misty’s half-brother and a former Marine, is more interested in hindering Sarah’s investigations than helping her.  And the people of Oyster Point, led by Sheriff Cooley, harbor more than a general mistrust of strangers.  They are all hiding something, and Sarah suspects that what they are hiding is the key to Misty’s freedom. 

Status of my novel:

Still in that primordial stage that is particularly gross and sticky.

Excerpts from the first three chapers:

Prologue

Misty Daniels cradled her small round belly as she collapsed onto the sticky linoleum floor. She huddled against the kitchen wall, her damp brown hair covering her tear-streaked face. Her mouth was frozen in a silent scream of pain, her eyes shut tight against the blood that dripped down from the cut on her forehead.

Chapter 1

This wasn’t quite what she had expected. The room was dusty with boxes of documents lining the short space of walls against the sloped ceiling. The desk reminded her of the big clunker her father had for the thirty years that he taught English. At the thought of her father, Sarah pulled a framed photo out of her gray Timbuktu messenger bag. She stroked the simple wood frame that bordered the last picture taken of her parents and her, at her graduation from the small private college where her father had taught.

Chapter 2

Sarah sat at the concrete beach table, watching Lucas through tortoise-shell Wayfarer sunglasses that she had found while hiking around Juniper Springs. Lucas read the note again, his lips curled in a slight smile. Someone had typed on the small piece of paper: “Let Misty rot in prison. Or you will go to hell.” Sarah had immediately called Lucas after opening the envelope, and he had gallantly rushed over to Tully House.

Now, time to announce the other participants in this tour.  I am so relieved happy that these wonderful writers have agreed to participate.

orl40223S.K. NICHOLSS’s debut, Red Clay and Roses, chronicles the trials and tribulations of a group of characters grappling with inequality in the Jim Crow South. It is set in 1950s-60s Georgia, and explores civil rights, interracial relations, and women’s issues. An avid regional crime fiction reader, Nicholls’ next project is a series of crime novels with colorful characters who take you on a fast-paced adventures through Florida.  You can find Nicholls on her blog where she also posts awesome photos of Florida, discusses writing and books, and shares updates on her many writing projects.

 

helena-h-bThe enigmatic HELENA HANN-BASQUIAT dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.
She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.
She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populace or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
Earlier this year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell – VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com

Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat

BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia!

 

Katie 33 0935 rs1KATIE SULLIVANWriter, mom, real-food foodie, reckless gardener and wannabe spy, Katie Sullivan is descended of pirates and revolutionaries, and a lover of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. Today, she lives in the American Midwest with her son, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). 

Katie’s first book, Changelings: Into the Mist, a young adult historical fantasy, is available in print and digital from AmazonShe can also be found writing with said character weekly at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.

Changelings: Into the Mist is now available! This historical fantasy, filled with pirates, magic and kings, is not to be missed. “It’s a love letter to Ireland.” ~ Helena Hann-Basquiat, Memoirs of a Dilettante.

“Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad” ~ Norm Papernick

 

J. S. COLLYER is a Science Fiction writer from Lancaster, England. Her first novel Zero was releJ S Collyerased by Dagda Publishing Aug 2014 and was listed in Northern Soul’s Magazine Best Reads of 2014. The sequel, Haven, is due out Oct 2015.

Zero is available in paperback or for Kindle through Amazon: http://a-fwd.com/asin=B00MRACF86

Find out more about her and her other titles and upcoming booksignings through any of her websites:
jcollyer.wordpress.com
facebook.com/jscollyer
twitter.com/@jexshinigami

Throwback: I AM therefore I write

Following is a post from May 24, 2008.  I had had my blog for several months, but was still finding my way.  [And, frankly, I’m still finding my way but the journey is fun.  I don’t know that I really want to make my destination.]  I’m re-posting for two reasons: (1) to remind myself how quickly time goes by; (2) to remind myself (and perhaps others) that first you write for yourself.  Cheers!

***

This is my new “slogan” for my blog. I know it’s not original, that you can find this phrase in use on thousands of websites (albeit with varied punctuation and case); but, I think the sentiment of the phrase captures why I write, or rather, why I cannot not write. I’ve gone through periods of not writing. I’ve had my dry spells, and, during those times, my sense of self would suffer. I’d feel lost and anxious. Lost because without writing I have no bearings. Anxious because words would still be welling up inside, waiting for an outlet.

My writing really dried up while I was a doctoral student in the social sciences (long story short: I bailed out of the program once all my miserable coursework was completed). Although I was considered a good writer by my professors, I hated the kind of writing I was expected to do. It was tedious, monotonous, one-dimensional. My school was neck-deep in quantitative studies, the kind of studies that attracted federal funding, the kind that reduced hundreds, even thousands of people into one data point. Any student who proposed a qualitative study, one that might involve in-depth interviews of a handful of subjects, would be encouraged to seek their degree elsewhere.

For a fiction writer, this was a lousy place to be, and because I had to struggle so hard to not tell stories in my papers, I eventually became depressed. I knew I had to drop out of the program when I found that I was no longer able to write, that every time I sat in front of my computer and tried again to work on my “specialization” paper, I’d break down and cry. I could never get past the first paragraph.

So I dropped out (unofficially, of course). My road to recovery involved one English course with a wonderfully encouraging professor, two years with a writing mentor, and now this blog. Now I find it difficult to not write whenever I’m on the computer. Now I feel more fully myself than I ever have in my life . . . because I am therefore I write.

What’s your story? What was the worst dry spell or writer’s block that you ever experienced? How did you recover?

A New Year Begins …

Well, it began several hours ago (or longer depending on where YOU live).  And how did I spend the first day of the new year?  Cleaning, doing laundry, reading blog posts, making dal for dinner.  You know, fun stuff.  (Well, making dal is fun in part because I use a slow-cooker.)

But perhaps the biggest, most important thing I did was close out all the Clemency novel-in-progress posts.  Remember, I said I was going to do this.  Now it remains for me to print the thing story and proceed with *reading, reviewing, editing, repeat from * until finished.

I do hope everyone has had a Happy New Year’s Eve and an even happier New Year’s Day.

Cheers!

Author’s Note: Post-Clemency

This has been an interesting experiment. I’ve posted poems and short fiction and “formal” essays before on my blog, but never a whole novel. Well, I still haven’t done that.

You see, my plan originally was to just post a couple of the early chapters and then throw myself into NaNoWriMo. Then I got the feeling that it wouldn’t go over well with some readers if I stopped at Chapter 3. So I challenged myself to keep posting. But I didn’t want it to go on for months. NaNoWriMo officially ended on November 30, and I wanted Clemency to finish up about the same time.

So I went ahead and posted every day, but not everything. I’ve left a lot of stuff out. So, no surprise if the pace is erratic, the character development inconsistent, the ending lame.

(Really? “Sara smiled” is how I end this novel? Cue Hall & Oates.)

As a reader, I’d be wondering why Misty didn’t get more attention, why not more of Melody who was pivotal to Misty’s case? But they do, Dear Reader, just not in the parts I decided to post. I had to leave things out in order to keep to a schedule and to not overwhelm you all with tortuously long posts. As it was, some of those posts did get kind of long. But I also got desperate. I didn’t want this to fall over into December, at least not by much.

So. I think I managed to pull this off without too much angst from my dear readers. And how dear you are. A few of you left comments now and then that were like mini-pep talks for me. They did help keep me going.

Others of you let me know you were reading but not commenting, and I appreciated that too. Some days the best I could muster was to “Like” someone’s comment and just move on. I could tell from my stats whether Clemency was being read, and I know some of you read a few posts at a time.

And others let me know you couldn’t keep up with daily posts.  And that was fine, too.  This wasn’t a test of reader loyalty.  This was a test of my own conviction.

You see, in the past, whenever I got any encouragement, I’d run the other way. Other people (i.e., normal people) embrace encouragement, grab it and hold it up as proof that they should continue writing because So-and-So said they should. I don’t know why I would run the other way. But, now at 57, I wonder if I knew I really wasn’t ready, at least not back then.

So now I’m feeling that I’m ready BUT I won’t be in a hurry. I can’t get back the last 20-30 years of self-doubt and plodding along, but that’s no reason to rush into something and make an ass of myself.

First, I’m giving myself a month off.  Clemency will stay up for December, and then all those posts will come down.

I’m not giving up my day job or yoga or watching TV with my husband and the cats after dinner.  Revising and editing will be, as they say in these parts, as slow as molasses in January …

Boston_post-January_16,_1919,Unless you live in Boston.

Many thanks to all of you who have hung in there with me, whether you were reading or not.

And tomorrow I will return to my regular irregular schedule …

On the trail at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore Park, California July 2012

Because mentally I’m still here.

Cheers!

The Plan, From Someone Who Hates Planning

I hate planning because, more often than not, my plans get upended by unforeseen circumstances.  For example, …

I plan to finish a painfully detailed and tedious project at work by week’s end only to find an error in my SQL query which means I will have to fix said error and then redo several days’ worth of work. To add insult to injury, I crash our server in my effort to fix said error and then have to wait until the next day before I resume my work on the project.  As of this post, I am still behind on that project.

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