Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year. New Plans. New Resolutions?

I just copied my "got-to-review" folder of pdf files from the computer to the Kindle. Maybe that will help me review them faster, since I can carry them around the house with me. I also learned I can write notes while I read on the kindle--that should make it easier to write reviews too, though I'll need the computer to post them.

New Year Resolution: Be more organized about reviews--make lists of books and deadlines and sources and try not to overcommit.

I'm hoping to finish reading Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer ready to review before she visits my blog (Jan 3rd). I'm really enjoying her writing and her ideas, and mentally preparing challenges for our writers' group's next meeting.

New Year Resolution: Be more pro-active leading the writing group.

Then I'll have to apply the ideas to my own writing life and plans.

New Year Resolution: Be a more productive writer.

Maybe I'll make this year the one where I actually keep my resolutions.

Don't forget to come back on Jan 3rd and join the conversation with Sage Cohen.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm feeling old. Youngest son has gone home and I miss him, of course, but it's not just that. It's the way he seems so very grown-up; the way he's changed into someone responsible, respectable, and really really nice. It's the way I look at him and see my brother...

Once upon a time I "produced" a baby boy. He was a pretty unfinished, unpolished production, and I'd never in my wildest dreams have imagined I could bring into being a man. But I worked with him, and he with me. We pushed and pulled, argued and agreed, approached too close and drew too far away. And now--yes, I know; it's far more to his credit than mine--now he's a handsome, happy young gentleman, pleasant to talk to, comfortable to be around, and steadily ready with his own plans and dreams for a future that's all his.

Meanwhile I'm reading Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer. And I'm editing Divide by Zero. And I'm wondering which of my wildest dreams said I could make these words flow into a tale worthy of the publisher who's accepted it. It's a sort of finished, sort of polished production. It's full of characters who push and pull, argue and agree (mostly argue) with me, approach too close (too many words) and draw too far away (those missing scenes). So maybe soon--more to their credit than mine--they'll fly the nest into a really published book and I'll know I won--and I'll feel old.

Sage Cohen advises I learn to work through my fears--learn to recognize and celebrate success (an offer! That's a huge success in my dreams). Okay, so I'll open the page and feel young enough to write. I'll practice those simple little things that get my brain in gear. I'll probably never keep a notebook because I'll never learn to read my own scrawl, but I'll get my computer files all organized. And I'll edit and write.

Sage Cohen will be visiting this blog on Jan 3rd to tell us more. In particular she'll answer my perennial question--how did she get "there" from "here." She's even offering a free book to a randomly chosen commenter, so mark your diaries; make learning to be a productive writer one of your priorities in the new year, and don't forget to visit. Jan 3rd. Here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Planning to be Productive

I finished the book I was meant to review before Christmas. It's called Homecoming, by Sue Ann Bowling, and I'll be posting reviews soon. The characters were great and the storyline's really quite intriguing, with fascinating touches of science and ESP.

Now I'm reading the book I was meant to review before New Year. It's called The Productive Writer and it's written by the very productive Sage Cohen, who'll visit my blog on Jan 3rd to offer her advice. I'm looking forward to sharing Sage's post, and meanwhile I'd better work on productively reading, in hopes that I might productively write in the New Year.

I did send a couple of letters to the paper. Does that count as productive? Does it count if they don't get published?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas gifts

My "sense of time and place" (see previous post) is all confused. Our oldest son went back to Texas this morning--another early alarm to get to the airport. But it's Boxing Day, still part of Christmas; it feels all wrong to think he's gone away. Meanwhile youngest and middle sons play computer games, which reminds me of bygone times when they all lived with us.

Then there's the board games--an essential ingredient of Christmas since the offspring learned to spring. Once upon a time I would play with them and say, "No, don't do that." Then I'd show how the move they'd planned was missing some vital point, and I didn't want them to lose just because of a mistake. So this afternoon we played and they said, "Mum, don't do that." Then they showed how the move I'd planned was missing some vital point, and they didn't want me to lose just because of a mistake... I lost anyway.

Meanwhile there's all those books I got for Christmas, plus the ones I received before that I promised to review for the New Year. And there's cooking and cleaning (and board games and watching sons play their computer games) and watching DVDs (a family affair). Will I read the 70 volumes on my nice new Kindle before or after the 20 on paper? And will reading on a machine render me more with-it and modern--maybe even reduce my failures to perceive the errors in board game moves? Nah! Probably not.

Still, the Kindle is a most excellent Christmas gift! And if I want my writing as well as my reading to be more productive in 2011, there's always that excellent book, The Productive Writer, by Sage Cohen, to encourage me. Sage will be visiting my blog on Jan 3rd with her answer to my perennial question--How did you get there from here (in her case, get to be a productive writer)?--so I'll learn even more then.

The Productive Writer is now available from Writer’s Digest.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Sense of Time and Place 2

I love to read, and I read almost any genre I come across. I love the sense of different worlds and ideas in historical novels. I love the feeling of "I've been there" in books set in England or the Pacific Northwest. And I love the wild imagination of science fiction.

I'd love to write in all these genres too, but I don't suppose I shall. I haven't the patience or attention to detail that history would require. I don't have the confidence to trust my memories of places that really exist. Which leaves sci-fi I guess.

My family used to watch movies together on TV when I was growing up. Later I watched with husband and sons. But they're all such perfectionists. Every detail that's wrong must be noted, preferably in triplicate... Which leaves sci-fi...

So now I've had a novel accepted and it's definitely NOT sci-fi. I'm editing it, and I'm still not sure I want to tie it down to a time and place. It's just a story. It's about people and community, anywhen, anywhere... Do you think it might work?

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Sense of Time and Place

Our book group read "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" last week. We all seemed to like it, but some members found the dialog distracted from the story and didn't ring true to their memories of time and place.

Our writing group listened to an excellent talk from Myrna Oakley yesterday. She told us how our story-telling plans should start with a location plus characters.

And my critique group read and critiqued my newly added sections from my novel, Divide by Zero, also yesterday. I was trying to create a better sense of the main character but the first question everyone asked was "Where and when is this set?"

Wherein lies my problem: Can anyone tell me if it's possible to write a successfully rootless novel? I know the local time and place of my story; I think I give a good enough feel for the world the characters inhabit. But I've not paid any attention to the larger world: Is this small town in England or America (or even Australia)? Are the events happening in the 60s, 70s, 80s? They're pre-cell-phones-and-internet, but that's about all I cared about.

Do you think I might get by with not telling the details, or must I decide? How do you deal with a story that's meant to be set anywhere, anywhen?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recognized from my book cover!

A dear friend asked me to mail some books to her. Since I only had one copy at home, I took it to the post office and asked, "How much would it cost to send five of these?" The assistant picked up the book to weigh it, turned it over, and said, "Now that face looks familiar, but your hair was longer then." Recognized from my picture on the back of the book! I think I glowed. (And at least she didn't say "but your hair was less gray then"!)

Still glowing, I'm writing this post with thanks to the dear friend--a real book order, for books by me! Lulu says they've already shipped them, so I'll mail the parcel soon. And it looks like sending them in a priority mail envelope is the cheapest method, just in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I love New Seasons!

Mum likes to shop at New Seasons on a Wednesday. They give you a discount if you're "better than 65," and, as she says, she's much much better. They also sell great gluten-free foods, and Mum loves to buy me treats when she visits here.

Today I'd told Mum about my Thanksgiving cornbread, made from a packet, with added cheese and salsa. It was my first ever cornbread success, so we thought we'd try to repeat it. But we couldn't find g-f cornbread mixes anywhere. An assistant came to our aid but found nothing either, so we continued on our way, guessing we were out of luck.

Ten minutes later the assistant chased us down in another aisle. "I've found one," she declared. Not only that; she'd found us! So now I can share my gluten-free cornbread with Mum, and we can share our love for New Seasons with anyone reading this.

I wonder if there's a message there for my writing--best make sure my story runs after my readers whenever I've left them confused--make them feel looked after--leave them wanting to come back for more... And eat cornbread!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pizza for breakfast

My Mum had pizza and ice-cream for breakfast, or perhaps it was lunch, or dinner, or tea instead. It's hard to keep them straight in your head when you're flying around the world. I gave her a cheese sandwich.

My Mum's head's nodding. She'll fall asleep soon, probably not in her bed. It must be time for dinner.

My Mum's flown half-way round the world with Christmas in her cases and love in her eyes. Life is good. She's over there resting in her chair, and me, I'm typing, blogging, over the moon.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heard at the Christmas Bazaar

"This lady's selling jewelry. This one's selling scarves. And this one's selling cards and paper things," (otherwise known as books).

"Why do they call it a bazaar. Doesn't that mean something weird?"

"Let's have some real Christmas music--Grandma got run over by a reindeer and all that."

"My children don't read."

"Don't eat the beads."

"I didn't bring money of course."

Many thanks to all the friends and strangers who stopped by my stall and encouraged me, especially to those who encouraged my family too by buying books :) It's been a fun two days.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Widow now on sale!

I just checked on Gypsy Shadow and my new ebook, Black Widow, is on sale. December 1st seems like perfect timing for Christmas! So if you're looking for a historical read, set in England, with mystical overtones, why not head over there? There's even a sample excerpt so you can see what the story's like.
 Black Widow: When Boudicca's sister meets the mysterious wizard, it seems like all will go well for the little British kingdom. But Roman peace demands a high price, and the people are starting to follow a foreign priest.
Refracted: The story of a young man lost in the fields of time, trying to remember what he thought he was looking for.