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The Writer Writers...What's in a Name

A local writer of my acquaintence came in today.  They asked some valid writer questions and I did my best to answer them.  Then they told me why they were asking these questions and what they were hoping to achieve, and I reminded them the bottom line was to write what you want to write and write what you enjoy writing.

"You don't make money that way," was their response.

Well, yes and no.  The truth is there is just a tiny percentage of writers who can honestly make a living off fiction.  It is, in fact, easier to make money with non-fiction (to a degree) since information is still key in our society today.

Fiction. It is a hit or miss thing.  I have been publishing short fiction, novellas, novelettes and novels since the late 80's.  I was doing nonfiction before that.

And I am still working at my day job.

I am no less proud of my writing.  Yes, I spent many years (and occasionally still have those monents) fighting Imposter Syndrome, the belief that I don't really deserve to succeed as a writer.  We are creatures with fragile egos, we writers.  We have to have a thick skin and a sensitive heart, and that sometimes makes for a fragmented human when it comes to success.

I don't really envy other writers their success anymore.  There was a time in my writing youth when I did.  Problem with that sort of envy is it can choke you as a writer.  It can interfere in your desire to create and make you bitter.

There was a time when I wrote every single day.  When the idea that I did not produce at least a few paragraphs in my allotted writing time made me crazy.

There was a time when I thought commercial success was the only reason to write.

I know better now.  I write because I want to write.  Because I have to write.  If I get paid for it, that makes it better, but I stopped competing with myself and with other writers ages ago.

If people want to read what I write, it is a good thing.  But if people say, "I have never heard of you before," I don't let it blow me out of the water.  I just smile and remind people there are a LOT of writers out there (too many with unicorn dreams about the industry making them rich and famous), and one cannot possibly know EVERY one of them.

The zen of writing is that I write because I am and because I want to.  Not because I have to.  It has taken so much pressure off my brain to just write because I want to write.  It does not mean I will stop trying to sell what I write.  But I won't be so bummed out when it doesn't.

While I still think young writers SHOULD at least attempt to sell professionally before becoming indies and shoving their own stuff out there, because frankly, there is nothing better than an editor to help you mold your writing into a truly readable product, I no longer care how a person got published anymore.

I am even dipping my toes in the self-publishing waters.  But I plan to do it the right way.  Make sure I have a perfectly readable product.

Nothing worse than disappointing readers.

The Writer Writes...How Time Flies

Things in my world are starting to calm down a bit.  They say time heals all wounds, and that we get over loss.

I don't really think we ever do, but we do learn to live with it. ;-)

I am trying to get my writing back on course, of course.  Still have a lot of distractions, but they are minor these days.

I have a couple of new dolls, for instance.  One is a giant, while the other is diminutive.  The giant, I chose.  He is an Impldoll Gnaeus, and he is my Ardemus Alden (whose name may be familiar to anyone who has read my novella "The King's Wind").  For the moment, however, because I do not have any clothes for him, he is just hanging around in a great kilt.

The smaller doll.  Well, I did not order him.  In fact, he is one of two dolls I got in a surprise bag.  The first one was a Dollzone Coral, which is a sort of cat/deer with wings.  Very cute in a strange way.

But the other one...he wormed his little resin way into my heart the moment I saw his face, and I named him Beebo.  He looks like a little space robot with a human head (he has a helmet that fits over the human head like something out of a futuristic biohazard story).  But his adorable face is what got me gushing when I opened my HaoQi bag from Mint on Card and found him.  I seriously thought I would only get clothes.  Nope.  Got another doll, and Impldoll Jozo, and I was delighted.

Without his helmet, he reminds me a little of the old Megaman cartoons.  Or Astroboy with more clothes.




At any rate, I now find myself bringing him to work to sit on my desk.  And already, I see myself writing a story about the future world he lives in.  I prefer to write fantasy over sf (some say that is a lazy thing, but I just see it as a preference--I do have science interests like astronomy and geology, as my mother and I both liked the idea of other worlds and interesting rocks, and I do like caves, but I have no desire to use those in stories), but I think Beebo is going to change that a little.

So there you have it.  My life is moving on.  I am preparing for Halloween (because I like Halloween), and I would also remind you readers that Demon in the Bones is available from Yard Dog Press, and if you liked Ard Magister, you will enjoy the sequel.

The Writer Writes...Never Enough Time...

Seems like I think I am catching up, and then things get wonky.  But I am a determined person.

I will get it done. ;-)

I am back to writing.  Some of it is journaling.  Some of it is editing.  And some of it is poking a stick and stirring up ideas to see which ones fly and which ones sink.  That image may seem a little strange, but it is true.  You poke ideas...more than one...and the ones that are good will fly up and demand a story.

At the moment, I have finished editing Shadow of the Faolan, a short novel that takes place almost immediately after Demon in the Bone (the print edition is available from Yard Dog Press, as well as the new electronic edition--go buy it and make my publishers happy.  Seriously, if you want them to publish more books by me, you have to buy the ones they have already published and make it worth their time).  I am very pleased with it, and hopefully it will get published.

I am also looking over Son of Stone and First Winter.  The former will be the next book in the Ard Magister arch of things, while the latter sort of tries to fill in a gap or two.  Then again, the latter may just end up as backstory for Son of Stone and the story that follows that one tentatively titled Shadow and Light. Eventually, I hope to get on to the final tales, but I will not spoil those for you at the moment.

I am also looking at Sons of Wexor which follows the "Demon Bound" duology.  And if I can get my act in gear, I am going to finish The Hob of Cooley Glen and look to a reprint of Hounds of Ardagh as well as finally getting around to putting together To The Flame.

Of course, I hear Anwyn whining in the background because I still need to finish the rewrites of Songs of the Magister, which is being renamed Magic's Song (not to be mistaken for the collection by that title that included the subtitle of "Tales of the Harper Mage") because I think it is about time to get Anwyn's story done.

I have a lot more time now to write.

Just gotta get it in gear.

That is, as long as fans keep asking "What Happens Next?"

The Writer Writes...and Writes, and Writes

It has been a strange few months, as most people who know me know.  I went through dealing with Mom's illnes, Mom's death and now the stuff one has to do after death.  We had a nice little memorial (though one of my sisters immediately went on Facebook and belittled it--no, I won't name names, but she knows who she is).  A lot of people came, which was nice.

Now I am just cleaning up and catching up.

Back in June, I went to SoonerCon, where I was surrounded by wonderful friends who made me feel welcome and treated me with respect.  My novel DRAGON'S TONGUE has been reprinted with a brand new cover (and I am told they might ask the artist to do a new cover for WANDERING LARK as well).

What I am proudest of is the release (FINALLY) of Demon in the Bone.  This is the sequel to Ard Magister and though it was previously released as an ebook, it got little attention.  It now has a kicking cover and my Writer Heart is singing.  So much so, I went on and edited Shadow of the Faolan (which immediately follows Demon) and to start looking at Son of Stone (which takes place several years later), and even thinking about a couple of other books that must be done in this series.

Suffice to say, the Writer is writing again.  I no longer have the mental trials and tribulations to keep me thinking straight.  Admittedly, taking care of Mom was a career unto itself.  When I brought her home to do hospice care, she sighed and said she wished she could have just hired me so I could get paid for taking care of her.

I assured her that having her around was payment enough. ;-)

So head over to http://www.yarddogpress.com and look at my books.  There are going to be more of them in the making.

The Writer Writes...RIP

Back in February, life seemed rather grand.  But at the end of that month, my mother ended up in the hospital.  Her CoPD was causing her serious breathing problems.  She had also noticed a lump in the area where her cancer surgery was.

We had been in the hospital at the end of January, and she mentioned the lump.  They looked at it and told her it was probably just a swollen node or something minor and gave her antibiotics because she had a strep infection in her blood.  Two weeks after we left the hospital, that unimportant lump burst open and started draining.  And causing Mom a lot of pain.  She ended up going to her doctor, who got her an appointment with the oncologist who did her original cancer surgery.

The conclusion was it needed to be biopsied, but Mom was in such pain, they decided it could wait until the antibiotics had finished.

But no.  Mom ended up back in the hospital.  The oncologist refused to come see her because she was there having heart and lung issues, and they did not see it as important.

After nearly two and a half weeks in the hospital, we *finally* convinced the oncologist to look at it again because the drainage had gone from clear to pure pus.  Wound care was called in to pack the wound, and Mom was sent to a nursing home for recovery.

She was in the nursing home from the middle of March (I had to cancel my attendance at MidSouthCon) until late April.  She came home for three days, and then went back to the hospital because thanks to a persistent nurse at the nursing home, the oncologist had to take another look at the wound and admit that it was a vulvar cancer.  Mom was scheduled to have surgery.

However, the day she went into the hospital, she went into congestive heart failure.  She ended up in ICU for three days, then was transferred to PCU for a couple of days.  I had to speak to her oncologist, who decided there was no reason to do surgery as she would not be able to handle it.  I had to speak to nurses and doctors who kept acting like she would get better, and hospice care folk who seemed convinced she would not.

In the end, I took my mother home.  She lasted five days.  On the fifth of May, in the wee small hours of the morning, she left me.  Quietly, in her sleep.  I was sleeping on the couch to be close to her while doing hospice care.  I had checked on her just a couple of hourse before.  She was having a lot of difficulty breathing.  I fell asleep and woke up because things were suddenly too quiet.

At first, I was numb.  I called the on call nurse from the hospice care group that was helping me.  I ended up sitting with my mother's corpse while several people came over.  I helped clean her and dress her before the funeral home arrived to cart her away.

It some ways it has been a relief.  In others, not so much so.  I muddle along each day.  I stayed off work for so long that I wondered if I would be able to go back.  I tried to straighten up the house, but I just look around and get weepy when I do.

I know that eventually, I will manage.  I am a strong person, and it may take a little time to get over my loss (and no, I am not belittling the fact that I have siblings who also are suffering from her loss), but I was the closest to her.  I took care of her.  She was a big part of my life.

In many ways, I have not just lost my mother.  I have lost the best friend I ever had.  When all is said and done, my mother and I enjoyed one another's company.  We were doing fine after my stepfather passed away.  We were making plans to travel more.  None of my siblings will ever really understand the relationship my mother and I had.  She was a funny person, full of wit, highly intelligent and at the same time, very goofy.  Yes, she had her opinions about everything from politics to television.  She believed in some pretty silly things.  But at the same time, she made good sense about others.

I had her cremated.  I have the main portion of her ashes in my possession.

And I plan to do some of the trips she and I always talked about...with Mom in tow.  Strange as that may seem, she loved to travel, and I would not dream of leaving her behind.

So I do apologize for not being out here as much.  Life just had some obstacles for me to overcome.

And overcome them, I will.

The Writer Writes...Just So You Know

March is the Month of MidSouthCon, and I have been given the honor of being this year's Toast Mistress.  This is a big thing for me.  I have done panels at conventions for years.  I have been keynote speaker at Writers Conferences, but this is my first Big Gig at a SF Convention.

MidSouthCon has always been good to me.  The people are down home and friendly.  The con puts on a good show.  I have never felt unwelcome, so for them to offer me this chance to stand up and be counted as a pro (which I should say, I have been a pro writer since I got paid for my first article at the tender age of 18) is a thrill and an honor.

So of course, I am telling you people out there that you should come to MidSouthCon this year.  It happens in Memphis.  Need information?  Try going to this website:
http://midsouthcon.org and take a peek.  They have a really good lineup of folks who will be GoH.  Christie Golden, Anne Stokes and of course, Yours Truly.

As I understand it, my job will be introductions, panels and in general having a good time entertaining the audience.

So I hope folks will attend.

It would make me very happy to see you.
In days of old, when Knights were bold...

When I first started writing stories...and I do mean first started writing because we are talking about someone who is 61 years old...I used pencils and notebook paper.  It was all we had, except for typewriters (remember those?).  As I saw it, if it was good enough for Edgar A. Poe and Samuel Clemens, it was good enough for me.

But of course, I was only a child, and the one typewriter of my acquaintence belonged to my Great Aunt Evelyn, and none of us were to touch it because she was a secretary.

At any rate, I wrote on notebook paper, and all my stories ended up in notebooks, and I would watch the pages go yellow and brittle (because of the acid in the ink and in the papers they sold in those days), and wish there was a way to preserve these things better.

When I decided I was going to write professionally (and I did that while I was in my teens--I just knew I was going to be famous in those days), I moved up to typing my stories on that old Royal Upright that my great aunt had allowed us to have because she had moved on to IBM electrics.  In some ways it was like beating rocks on paper (the description my mother often used when my younger sister was using the same typewriter to practice for her typing class and would sit it on the floor upstairs to work).

I had a Smith Corona Galaxy XII by then.  It was a Christmas present from same great aunt (though she was appalled by my choice as she thought nothing beat a Royal).  But I was still writing all my first drafts by hand, and retyping things as I went.  Those were the days of erasers and carbon paper.  Things I still get nostalgic about when I look at my collection of old portable typewriters.

My SC was a portable.  It weighed about 35 pounds and had a hard case that I used as a table when I sat on my bed typing.  I remember taking it on trips because I started traveling and going to conferences, and it was a burden to haul around, but I was a professional writer in my own mind, and that is what pros did...

So when I got my first electronic typewriter, I was astounded first by the lack of weight and the fact that it had a screen so I could type the line and look it over before I sent it to the paper.  From there, I moved to an electronic typewriter that was one step away from a computer--it had memory and used floppies--and then I bought my first laptop, a Bondwell B200.  It was a marvelous machine.  640kb RAM.  Two floppy drives (one for programs and one for saving to).  I used a writing program called Easy Working Writer that let me edit my work.

I got my first printer, and I remember hooking them up and watching my words being placed on paper.  My mother watched as well, and asked, "Isn't that cheating?"  When I asked what she meant, she explained that the machine was doing all the work...

Yeah, Mom was never a techie.  I had to gently explain that I did all the work of putting the words *into* the machine, and it was merely spitting them back out.

I advanced, getting a desktop, more laptops, discovered PDAs, netbooks and tablets, and still I find that when all else is said and done, I start working on stories on paper.  My brain works better that way.  With the computer, I just spit the words into it, and then rearrange them.  With the notepad and pen, I have to *think* about what I am writing.

In the end, I think that is what I miss about typewriters and notebooks.  The thinking.  One did not just spew out words, one carefully selected them.  Writing was (still is) an art form that requires proper selection of words.

It is the reason I think I am going to start my next novel in a notebook.

I miss those days of thinking about what I wrote.  They made me a better writer.
It was a really good Christmas at my house this year.  By that, I mean that there was no drama, no illness and no problems.  Mom did not have her usual moment of getting depressed because it was over.  Instead, she was elated and looking forward to next year.  The family who were able to be there had a good time.  Good food was enjoyed by all.

It was just fun.

The shed I ordered should be here in a few days.  They are supposed to call me Monday to let me know what time to expect the builder to stop buy and set the shed up (yes, it is one of those they build on your site in a few hours--we are also getting it painted to sort of match the house--I say sort of because I just guessed at the color that looked closest to me).

I got a lot of my stuff moved upstairs over the holidays.  It is just sitting around taking up space for now.  Once we get the shed, I can start moving stuff into it to store, and then start arranging the room upstairs.  I will get a new mattress for the bed first (because, frankly, the one that is there still holds a bad odor, in spite of my mother's assurances that it was covered in plastic for all the time my late stepfather slept on it.

What I liked best was the fact that I started getting writer ideas again.  I have been working on stuff, but it is more going through the motions of editing and rereading and pondering what to do next.  All still chores a writer must perform, and I do have a lot of stuff written that really needs to get finalized and put into the publishing pipeline.

But ideas were not flowing, and I was not really thinking of new stories.

Now, I am getting ideas again, and I am happy with the ones coming into my head.  I am jotting them down, collecting them together, sifting through the sands of my imagination and keeping hold of the gems I find therein.  It is kinda nice to get that muse juice flowing again.

I am always writing in my head.  Not always on paper, mind you, but again, it is part of the process.  I have always been perceived as someone who sneezes a lot of stories out at once (and there was a time I used that metaphor to describe myself as a writer), then cleans them up and ships them off.  As I get older, there are many other things standing in the way.  Life as it is being the most prominent one.

My life has been upside down and inside out for the last 16 months.  First with Mom's cancer, then with her surgery, and then the death of my stepfather.  I had to become a caregiver for my mother, taking care of all manner of things.

I am pleased to say she is getting over a lot of the crap.  She will never be physically perfect.  She really wasn't perfect before the surgery.  She had been having trouble breathing for quite a few years now.  She is 80 years old, so it is allowed.  ;-)

As for me, I am in my 60s now, and still pushing beyond normal limits.  I take on a lot more tasks to keep my mother from hurting herself, and I don't mind.  It just means I have to "schedule" my own stuff for evenings and lunch hours.  And I manage that easily enough.

Life as it is...getting back to what it should be.  And though I know there are roads ahead of me that could easily turn into tangles, I have a really big machete ready to hack my way through.

It is what I do best.

Life...I live it.

The Writer Writes...The Wonder of a Child.

I was listening to NPR on my way to work a few days back, and they were talking about children and Christmas.  I do not remember everything that was said, but I know there was a mention of the Wonder a child feels this time of the year.

I remember that wonder.  It was magic.  It was icicles and tinsel and cookies and believing that Santa would soon be there to bring gifts.  I believed SO much.  I had a wild imagination as a child as it was, and Santa was just a big part of that tradition.

As I got older, I heard the rumors that he wasn't real, and I thought back on things from my earlier years that made me wonder in a different way.

My father was big on trying to keep the magic going (as my mother still is), and would lie through his teeth about things.  Like the night I heard a squeaky sound that kept me from falling asleep, and when I got up and wandered into the livingroom of our old house, Dad was trying to make a puppy be quiet.  I was shocked.  Why was the puppy here?  Wasn't that what I asked Santa for?  Clearly, Santa had not been here yet...

My dad boldface lied and said, "Santa travels around the world in a sleigh, and it is too cold for a puppy to ride along, so he came early to drop the puppy off so it wouldn't get cold."

I believed.

I know better now, of course, but I believed.

Time, of course, takes away that child-like wonder.  The child grows and soon has more adult concerns, and suddenly Christmas is no longer a time of wonder but a time of commercial frustration.  What to get for who, mostly.  We are so into the "giving" of gifts, we sometimes slide into the world of cynical reality , and get tired of slogging through crowds in stores.  We talk about tidings of comfort and joy, but we are fighting for the last Cabbage Patch doll or kicking ourselves for not buying the latest Monster High doll when she was available.  We get into the frustration of deciding what to have at the Christmas feast, and we look forward to getting the family together but dread all the drama that ensues.

We take a hit in the wonder department because we are too busy dealing with things that concern adults.  Most adults forget what wonder even was.

Still...

I am a writer.  Wonder is part of my daily routine.  I know I still have it.  Waves of it hit me every time I watch a flock of geese flying overheard, see a shape in a cloud, watch the sun play across the wall.

You see, writers never let go of the wonder that we usually consider to be in the ball court of children.  We still believe there are elves in the forest, and trolls under the bridges.  Just because we cannot see them doesn't mean they are not there.  We know there are dragons in the far reaches.

For us, wonder never ceases.

If it did, we would stop writing and fall into the mundane routines that eventually lead to the grave.

I don't plan to turn into a curmudgeon (though there are times I think I am already there).  All I have to do is pick up a rock, know that it is as old as the world and certainly older than me, and that it has endured.

One day, I might find that dragon.  One day, I might finally see the real Santa Claus.

I just have to keep writing and believing.

The Writer Writes...Playing with Dolls

I am sure people are getting tired of me talking about dolls.  They would rather hear me talk about writing, but I think I talk about writing all the time, and worry that people get bored with me in that category...

I found an interesting article in a British publication about a woman who "plays with dolls."  She is near my age (not sure which direction) and turned a garden into a photography area for shooting pictures of her dolls in various situations.

Now to me, one of the fun and fascinating aspects of dolls IS photography.  I personally used to fancy myself a good photographer.  I used to go out with a variety of cameras, everything from a really old Brownie box camera (which I still own) to more modern digital camera and take photos of everything.  Mostly of scenery (like my mother, I am fascinated with trees, and how they are shaped and especially what they look like in the winter time).  I am also fascinated with mountains and streams and forests.  I used to hike alone, sometimes even taking my harp into the woods.

I don't do that anymore.  For one thing, it is dangerous.  As a younger person, I was pretty fearless, but I was also cautious enough not to do stupid things like step off trails without leaving some form of a marker to find my way back, or torment bears with the odor of food.  I usually took water in a bottle, and maybe something I could keep the scent of well disguised just to fuel me, and I stayed on fairly populated trails.  In this day and age, you cannot hike alone without risk.  There are too many crazy people who would look at me as an older woman alone and think I was fair game for whatever.  They might learn otherwise (even as an older woman, I am pretty fearless, but I am also wise to the ways of the world).

But I love taking pictures, and one fun aspect of doll collecting is photography.  I take pictures of my dolls when I bring them to work.  I take pictures of them at home.  I set up backdrops and photograph scenes.

In a way, it is a form of storytelling.

And oddly enough, taking photos of my dolls inspired me to write.  Since many of them are designed and based on characters I have created and written about for a long time, they provide a means of continuing to craft stories.

So yes, I play with dolls.  I make clothes for them, paint their faces, design boots and wigs for them to wear.  I take them places where I can set up and take pictures of them without worrying that people will think I am a nut job, because surprisingly, people who don't play with dolls think people who do are creepy or crazy.

But playing with dolls is no different from collecting and playing with action figures (yeah, I am looking at you) and playing video games.

At least I DO know what reality is.  The leading cause of stress, for the most part, but I don't lose sight of it.

The late Terry Pratchette, when I approached him about one of his books to answer a patron question, asked me if people asked me "those" sorts of questions often, and I said yes, and went on to cite a few examples of the sorts of questions I had answered for the public at large.  We librarians are taught to believe there are no stupid questions, but I can tell you for a fact, that a lot of mundane people have NO grasp on reality.

His response was, "Why do they think we live in the worlds we create in our heads?  Don't they realize that in order to write we have to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground?"

I think about that every time someone asks me why I play with dolls.

Everyone needs a little escape from reality, but one should never lose sight of it.  I keep both feet on the ground even when I am playing with dolls.

But we all need a distraction, and dolls are mine.  They keep me creative.  They keep me moving.

And I like that.

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