Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Christmas is a time for friends and family. They ARE the holiday. It draws families together, and makes friends appreciate just how lucky they are to have these special people in our lives. It’s a manic time, rushing to get presents, wrap them, decorate, parties and dinners. But it’s a happy time, for giving is what makes it rare, special. It’s giving love, and that always warms the heart, so much more than getting.
As we age, the kids grow, then it’s a little harder to hold onto that magic of childhood Christmases. Why I love watching A Christmas Story and Ralphie’s quest for a Red Rider BB gun. Times were simpler then. It must affect Ted Turner the same way, since TNT runs twenty-four hours of the movie every Christmas.
I cherish images from Christmases past. Those memories live bright and shining in my mind.
Times change. Christmas is no more the hunt for a Barbie Doll, a bike or a BB gun. Kids want their own computers, cell phones, I-phones, MP3 players…lol, stuff that was only seen in Bond Films when we were kids. And this Christmas is harder than most for so many. I have so many dear friends going through troubled times. Several have had surgery, others face surgery come the first of the year, and too many of our sons and daughters are still overseas fighting in a war that is coming to parallel Vietnam. We little understood that war; we little understand this one. We just know our precious children are dying in some foreign place and have no real idea why. BRING THEM HOME. American needs to take care of America. The billions spent on this war could do so much good at home.
Recently they extended unemployment because of the recession. Recession. It’s been a long time since we have heard that word, but that’s what the US economy is seeing. While the US government is wasting billions in fighting a war with no end, people on unemployment were seeing it run out. Families face a bleak Christmas this year because our government would rather send billions overseas, than millions at home for the people who are in need.
Some of you are asking me how Diane Thompson is doing. She is the sister of Dawn Thompson and lost her job while nursing Dawn in her final hours and hasn’t been able to find a job since. Diane “Candy” has a hard time walking, has no car and is far from a bus line, so it’s really made it hard. One job was perfect for her, but they took one look at her wobbling gate and turned her down. The world is just not accessible to someone who cannot get around good, who cannot stand for eight hours at a cash register. Her unemployment was extended 7 weeks, not 14 like most of the nation. New Yorkers didn’t get the full extension. It’s allowed her to stay in her apartment until January, at which time she faces an eviction notice. She is 61 ½ years old, not old enough yet for Social Security. So she is facing a very dismal start of the New Year. She won’t get Social Security until she is 62 (July). She needs medical help bad, but the government won’t give it to her until the unemployment runs out. So she is getting by…just barely. Christmas is very bleak for her. I sent her a small gift, a music box to cheer her. Not too expensive as I knew she could use the money to make ends meet. I used the rest to pay her phone bill so they wouldn’t cut it off. I found a wonderful place that makes delicious meals, which are sealed and can be delivered, so she will have a good Christmas dinner. It’s so sad that Dawn had such a struggle the last year of her life, and now her sister is going through the same thing.
Why friends and families are so important. They are there in hard times. It’s a Christian duty to help, and truly, giving makes you feel so good.
So treasure those precious friends and family…we lose too many of them.
Then it’s too late to say I love you.
My Best for you in 2009,
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I remember what it was like to be a new writer. I tell myself that often. Some days, when I'm learning something new about the NY machine or something similar, I believe the lie that I remember what being new was really like.
Then comes days like today. I signed onto a contest forum and started reading the threads. Many of the questions were things I wouldn't have had to ask, and I passed over them. They're new authors; they're doing what they should...asking, learning... I remember that. That's what being a new author is; that's the process.
Then I came across a set of questions from first-time novelists, anguished... "What do I do? What does that mean? How can anyone learn this? I'm going to fail, because I don't understand..." It's heart-wrenching, and I find myself reaching out to those new authors and offering information...mentoring, anything short of editing them, because I just don't have time to do it.
Was I never that scared new author? Was I always like I am now, save with less personal experience and information at my disposal? Or have I simply forgotten what that panic and anguish was like?
Assuming I was once that scared newbie... Does it make me less to have forgotten something so elemental and stomach-churning? Or does it mean I've just grown and see it with a clearer eye, the internal voice that assures me: "Asking is all right. It's not the end of the world. The worst they can say is 'no.' I can learn this. I want to learn this, to improve my craft and my professionalism. If I fail today, I move on and succeed tomorrow."?
And does it make me a better mentor or worse that I can assure them that "This too shall pass." while I seem to have forgotten how horrible this phase is...or never knew it?
Friday, December 19, 2008
1000 words a day everyday for the month of January.
Well it’s time for me to get back on track and write regularly. My baby is here, and I have no more excuses, but plenty of deadlines piling up in my near future. To make this work as a career, you have to do two things. Write regularly, and promote what you write. If you are missing one or both parts of the formula, your sales are going to suffer, and you will never get better. Craft is perfected by practice..
There are always reasons to put it off, family should come first. Then you have to prioritize. Money second or third depending—but if you’re writing to get rich—Ahem—you may be in the wrong field. This year we had a lot of setbacks personally, my husband went blind in his right eye, and had multiple complications like glaucoma and extremely painful migraines. I had gotten pregnant as well, and now have a newborn to care for. We had to replace the drainage pipes under the bathroom floor. I didn’t write much of anything. Most of my published books had been written the year before. My time, energy, and pocketbook has been drained, but I will always come back to my first love of writing despite the barriers.
I need to set some achievable goals to get my writing all done. So, for the month of January, I plan to make it a month where I write everyday. 1000 words a day will be enough to finish a novella—and more than enough to get my two major projects done.
Paris Bites rewrite ending lost on computer--20,000 words
Untitled (my first m/m story)—10,000 words
Some people are already doing great, writing 10 pages or more everyday. Others, may be lucky to write that in a month. You may set your goal higher or shorter. This is my goal, because I feel it’s the right amount and that my family won’t suffer for 4-5 pages a day. Fellow authors, please feel free to join me if you can. Tell me what you are working on and post how much you were able to write today. Being accountable to someone will help motivate you (and me).
I plan to post all the updates to my yahoo loop. So join me here:
Unleash your passion
French Kiss—A passion in Paris protects Sarafina from a dangerous murderer.
Available at Phaze Books
One Touch, One Glance—a sweet anthology that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside after you read it.
Available at Freya’s Bower
I sent out an SOS to a NY pubbed friend asking about her process. How does she start a new project? I thought I might get a tip or two that would propel my muse and me in a new direction. I got that and more! Wow! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!
Her example and comments simmered for a few days and my muse took notes. When the muse was ready, I experimented with a few new tools.
Believe it or not, the main tool I played with was pen and paper.
"Oooo," you say with a sarcastic tone. "You actually set your computer aside and wrote with a pen? How...radical!"
For me, it was radical. I hate to write by hand. I have a nervous condition that causes my hands to shake. Writing by hand neatly (which is strangely important to me) requires a lot of energy. BUT my friend had commented that writing by hand in the early stages slowed her down, forced her to inhabit the characters longer, to get to know them on a deeper basis.
Considering that writing by hand is irritating and hard work for me, I avoid it like the plague, but something in her words struck a chord. I decided to play with that particular tool, reasoning that if I was uncomfortable, I might actually discover why my character was uncomfortable. A very good thing for me to know considering I tend to want everyone to be happy, and happy characters don't provide the tension needed for good reads.
The experiment went well. I discovered things about my characters in those hand written notes that had never occurred to me before. I learned that my hero's motivations were nearly 180 degrees off of the standard ones I'd assigned him in earlier character studies, and...wait for it!...my muse revealed that I had the wrong character being killed and refusing the Light in order to save the world from an unexpected evil.
No wonder I hadn't been making progress. My muse needed to stall me until she could tell me I had everything backwards! Since we're still learning to play well together, it took slowing down with the hated pen and paper to allow her to speak.
Note to self: Slow down at the keyboard. Relax. Don't be so focused on where you think you're supposed to go that you drown your muse's voice.
Note to muse (who is also myself!): Learn to shout!!
To learn more about Debbie, visit her at her Flights of Fantasy site.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Whether it’s in an interview, a live chat, or an author’s corner, there’s one question I get asked more than any other: “Where do you come up with your ideas?”
Most writers have their answers, ranging from dreams to song lyrics to spontaneous explosions in the frontal lobe. Really. For myself, there is no set answer, I often free associate. I’ll see an image, that leads to a thought, which leads to another thought, and then a scenario begins to take shape.
I used to think that I had a pretty rich imagination, till I entered the world of speculative fiction. Now I’m humbled on a regular basis, and even further humbled that I speak with many of these brilliant people on a daily basis. So needless to say, blogging about creativity feels a little wrong. But there are a few things tossing around in my brain.
So, you want to write a story. You have an idea there in your head, but it hasn’t come to fruition, or you simply have that pent-up, frustrated need to say something…to express yourself. Where do you look for inspiration? How do you convince the Muse to whisper in your ear, to light that spark in your heart? Once it arrives, how do you hang onto it?
I’m feeling pretty dry these days. October was its usual brutal self, reminding me that all the really awful things in my life happen in October. November just reminded me that the holidays are coming and I’m broke, because of some awful thing that happened in October. And December…don’t you just want to kick her jolly red butt?
Hey…there’s a story there somewhere…
I pried the January novella from my hard drive and sent it in, now I have to come up with something for my March slot. I’ve got the beginnings of three novellas and none of them want to fly. I’m frustrated, angry. I’d spit at my screen, but in all likelihood, the goober would run down and short out the laptop. I yell at the dog, who decided that the laptop is simply an extension of my lap, and therefore, fair game. Never mind that he's a full grown Siberian Husky.
I give up and go lie down, pull the covers over my head and try for a nap.
Paydirt. There it is, the missing element to that Vamp novel. Right there in Technicolor and surround-sound. But it’s not my priority right now. I get up and take notes, my nap aborted by my imagination.
Back to the computer, and instead of writing, I go wandering around the stock image sites. Again, paydirt. There’s my werewolf, looking at me with ominous splendor. Quick as a wink, his personality quirks come into the picture; his character sheet begins to fill out. He wears black silk shirts and a bolero hat like Stevie Ray Vaughn used to favor. He was a high school music teacher, but lost his job because the girls (and some boys) couldn’t deal with his potent and alluring pheromones. He’s macho, virile, and so very shy. The principal’s daughter hid in his car after school, showing up in his house later that night.
Good thing he plays the guitar.
Back to mental wandering. I go out and take a walk in the newly frigid air. We’re having a cold snap, and it feels good to stretch my legs and look at the changing landscape. How did people cope with Redding before air conditioning and central heating? Brutal hot summers and wet, miserable winters. I think about my family before they came to California, when they lived on the reservation in Washington, and how during the winter, the baby’s wet diapers froze on the clothesline inside the house.
I swear to everyone that a day doesn’t go by when I don’t write something. Well, that’s true, I’ve written two blog entries today, but I haven’t worked on a story for quite some time. That’s because my creative self needs a re-charge now and then. Just because I’m not writing doesn’t mean that I’m not creating.
This week has been personal. My daughter called from St Maarten with the stunning news that she won a huge, international culinary competition. In between Googleing her pictures and talking on the phone, I cobbled together a book video, spent time at a chat, and made some jewelry while watching Ghost Hunters.
While all this is going on, a story is growing at the back of my mind; characters are taking shape, dialogue bubbles through my awareness. In a day or three, I’ll be back at the keyboard, completely oblivious to the annual misery of October and the dry spell that followed. March’s novella will go in; I’ll meet that April deadline, and continue to develop my workshop project.
Do you sort of see where I’m going here? Writing is a discipline. Most arts are. It’s hard work. You will not accomplish anything unless you put your hands on the keyboard and start.
But there is also an element of creativity, when you simply must unleash your mind, turn it loose to wander and process and scramble things around. You must feed your mind, as surely as you feed your body; exercise your brain, or that muscle will become weak. Nurture your soul as the precious treasure that it is. Tend to your body, feed it well, take it for walks, (or work-outs) and get enough sleep.
So here is your tip for the day: Take fifteen minutes every day that is “between time.” On your way home from work, stop at a park or somewhere else that inspires you. Simply sit and be alone for those fifteen minutes. Read a bit of a book, write some poetry, pray, meditate, or do whatever eases your soul.
If you work from home like I do, leave. Go out and get away for a few minutes. I like to go to the lookout over Shasta Dam, it’s close to home, safe, and the view of the Three Shasta’s is beautiful.
That’s it. Fifteen minutes of between time. A little daily gift to yourself.
To learn more about Belinda, or to find her books, visit her website at: