09 June 2014

Writer's Guilt

I've been fortunate that since finishing college I've been a stay at home mom.  Within two years of completing college, when my oldest was four, we started home schooling. I might not have been producing an income like Mr. W but at the end of most days the five children had a bit more knowledge in their heads. If anything we usually made a mess doing something fun. Then the youngest two entered the teen years and need less and less oversight from me. So I started filling in bits and pieces of time with writing. But I was still a home educator and still felt I had something to show for the way I spent each day. Now the youngest two are at the high school. Other than the evening check of “what homework do you have?” my work of teaching is over. This gives me oodles of time each morning to write. Of course this is to the exclusion of house hold tasks like dishes and mopping and weeding.

And this is where the guilt comes in.

Mr. W will come home and the dishwasher is still full of clean dishes which means the sink is now full of today’s dirty dishes. Or the laundry is piled on the bed, not folded.  You know how it goes.  Other than X number of words in a computer file, there is nothing to show for how I spent my day.

Maybe I should be like Jo in Little Women, holed up in the attic all day, and when Mr. W comes home he could see my ink stained fingers and a sheaf of hand written papers on the desk.  It’s not that Mr. W has ever begrudged my writing, but it seems to puzzle him and saying “I got 2000 words written this morning” has very little meaning to him as to what was actually accomplished.

The other part of guilt comes from society’s perception of work. Work is often presented as drudgery. As something you do so that you can then go and do what really want to be doing.  The mantra is often “do what you love” and most people may enjoy some aspects of their work very few actually enjoy all of what they do. Except for writers- the vast majority of writers I know, or know of, like actually they love what they do. [okay- except maybe the query letter, but even that can be an intellectually stimulating exercise and when it pays off in an offer off representation or publishing is quite rewarding]

So I sit here and love my work - ignoring the dishes in the sink and weeds taking over the flower beds and craft stories. One keystroke at a time. Someday I’ll have a printed and bound book in my hand and I can show family and friends, “See, here is what I do.”

21 May 2014

My Writing Process

A HUGE thank you to Jodi at My Literary Quest http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com for inviting me on this blog tour.



1)     What am I working on?
I have several projects going right now. The one I’m focused on is a collection of stories where the some minor characters in one book are the main characters of the next. Stars Bright is ready for publication and focuses on Sophia, an organic flower farmer, and Ryan, a reformed Hollywood bad boy and world renowned actor. The story is set on Sophia’s farm in Oregon and also in the Los Angeles/Malibu area. Moonlight Sliver is in the revision stage. It continues the story started in Stars Bright, but takes place in Brazil where Ryan is filming his next movie. The main spotlight is on Cait, Ryan’s daughter who is majoring in journalism, and Tommy, a young man Ryan has been mentoring and is majoring in film studies. Though the story is mainly about Cait and Tommy we do read about a crisis in Ryan and Sophia’s relationship as well as spend a bit of time with Sophia’s teenage sons. The third book in this collection, Skies Blue, is still being written. This story centers on two of Sophia’s farm interns Chas and Melissa. The bulk of this story takes place in Los Angeles and Montana on Chas’s cattle ranch. Other than that- anything more I say is spoilers. There are a couple of other stories in this collection being outlined. I also have an ‘it takes place on earth’ sci-fi trilogy sketched out, but it’s on the back burner for the moment.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
The biggest difference in my stories from others in the romance category is the touch of environmental awareness. Romance with a light eco-fiction undertones. In Stars Bright Sophia farms in an environmentally friendly organic way, she teaches classes in sustainable agriculture, and sells her products locally through farmer markets and other direct source methods. It is written in such a way that the person who is really into natural living and the person who can’t be bothered to toss their can in the recycling bin will both enjoy the story. No preaching, just the characters living their lives.

3)     Why do I write what I do?
Fame and fortune (yeah, right!) The biggest reason, the characters and their actions start clogging up my mind. When I write them down they leave me alone, for a while, they are kind of like toddlers I can appease them for a time but they always come back demanding to be heard. The stories are also what I would like to read. It makes me happy to do this work. And I want to help others be aware that doing right by the environment around you isn’t hard, it just takes a bit of thought and the start of new habits.

4)     How does my writing process work?
My actual writing process starts with an idea, spun out of something I saw or read, often in the news that sparks my interest. Sometimes a person I meet or a situation I encounter will cause a scene to play itself out in my head. From there the story starts.

I write all my first drafts in Scrivener. It is a word processing program combined with features that can be found in OneNote or Evernote and additional helps useful to writers.

I often write a bit, sketch out the main characters or a few key scenes, and make up a few note of where I want see the story going. I will then start writing in earnest, usually in chronological order, but at times the story will surprise me and I’ll jump ahead to a scene further into the story. Before I get too far into the story line I’ll write up a more detailed outline. I say outline but really I’m making notes on the corkboard feature in Scrivener.

I am not a slave to my outline and if an idea comes along or a character whispers to me they’d really like do “this” I will modify things. I find having the outline (or note cards) helps me keep the writing at a steady pace
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Another trick I have when writing the first draft is to turn off the spell check. My spelling is as Winnie-the-Pooh says, “wobbly”. Yes, it makes for one heck of a clean-up in the editing phase, but my goal with the first draft is to get the ideas down.

Once the draft is done I will set that story aside story A and work on the draft for story B. Then I’ll go back and clean up and finalize story A.

There is no magic to completing a novel as the old axiom goes you must put your butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard.

Thanks for visiting with me today
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Next week’s stop on the #WritingProcess Blog Tour is:
Ali Cross  www.alicross.com
Ali Cross likes to say she holds a black belt in awesome since the only kind of kicking-butt she does is on paper. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one samurai dog and four zen turtles.

She writes dark and angsty fantasy/sci fi and adventures for middle grade readers under the pen name Alex Banks.

19 May 2014

Triumph

Parenting:
Moments of hope and despair
Moments of triumph and defeat
Moments of dependence and independence
Moments to love, hug, laugh, cry, do over, pick up, plan, be
Moments to take your breath away

Last week I received a note from my twenty year old daughter who has spent the last sixteen months in New York. She’s my spunky middle child who is so much like me that when she was little we’d butt heads. She was also the only child, out of all five who were home schooled, to never go to any form of public school. Home schooling adds another dimension to the parenting equation – another worry, another reason to say “I really can’t blow this”, and another element where as a parent I would have to step back and let them sink or swim on their own.  As most parents do I tried to teach her the value of work, play, compassion, respect (for herself, others, the environment), things of God, and things of learning- math, reading, history, science and such.

Then I got her note which says, “Thank you for helping me know how to be myself and be happy with being ME (something I have found to be a rare attribute to have). I love my life so much!”

Though it wasn't intentional in the midst of 1+1=2 and ABCs and "say your prayers" and "take out the trash" she learned one of life’s most important lessons.

There is no formula for parenting. It’s a mix of being present, encouraging, allowing freedom within safe boundaries, giving a helping hand when the fall is too big, and cheering, hugging, and letting go.


What is a moment of triumph you have experienced as a parent? 

09 May 2014

01 May 2014

Meeting the Stars Etiquette OR how to Not Be An Idiot

“Don’t hug Nathan Fillion,” the girl scanning our ticket said. I rolled my eyes. “We've already had an incident,” she continued by way of explanation.

18 March 2014

Exquisite Sadness of Life

The phrase ‘the exquisite sadness of life’ keeps running through my head today. One of Webster’s definitions of exquisite is ‘marked by deep sensitivity’.  Today we buried a neighbor, teacher, brother in Christ; tomorrow we bury another such soul. Two good men doing the right things: being fantastic husbands, awesome fathers, exemplary brothers, and so much more. Though our lives touched each others lightly it was a touch that with each encounter was leaving a lasting impression. This exquisite sadness- a feeling of deep sensitivity comes from the ability to also experience exquisite joy, exquisite contentment, exquisite passion because without the descending into the ‘valley of shadow’ one cannot stand on the mountain at sunrise and see all the beauty of creation. Without those moments that cut and cause tears to flow and flow, one cannot roll on the floor, clutching the belly and laughing. Life and all its many forms is a creature to be cherished, not locked in a gilded cage and kept safe (for there is no sure path), but to be grabbed hold of and lived to its fullest. For now, and for many days to come, I will ‘mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort’.  We will all breathe in and breathe out each moment rolling into the next as we live a life exquisite.

22 January 2014

The Purpose Beneath the Story

The goal of a writer is tell a good tale. One in which the reader is drawn in, the cares of the real world drop away, and they connect the people and places on the page. At times a writer will have a deeper purpose to the story they are telling. This undercurrent is usually related to a passion or deep interest the writer has in an issue. 



In Night on Moon Hill by Tanya Parker Mills the reader meets characters with Asperger’s and obsessive compulsive disorder. By the end the reader is rewarded with not just a well written, moving story, but with a deeper of understanding of what it could be like to live, to thrive, in spite of these disorders. 








With  Dancing on Broken Glass Ka Hancock has us crying and laughing and triumphing with Mickey, man who is bi-polar.









Ali Cross, aside from telling a gripping story weaving together Norse myths with modern day in her Desolation series, shows the reader that it is possible to find forgiveness for seemingly unforgivable acts, that everyone is deserving of love and most especially one should love themselves and extend the same mercy they give others to themselves. 





Sarah Eden in her proper romance, Longing for Home, draws the reader into Wyoming Territory in the 1870s with a rich cast of characters while bringing to light the discrimination and violence the Irish faced both in Ireland and America.  






In my series of books, starting with Stars Bright, the reader will find gentle undertones of environmental issues, from the importance of sustainable farming methods, to urban gardening especially in impoverished areas along with the importance of bee keeping. One story even takes the reader on a wild adventure in Brazil while at the same time highlighting environmental concerns that affect the indigenous peoples in the Amazon.  

I enjoy stories that go beyond the telling of a good tale. I love to learn something new, or see an issue I thought I understood from a different light.

What are some books you have enjoyed that take the story one step deeper and seek to make a difference in the world? 

18 January 2014

18 January 2014 Photo Diary

At 4:15 a.m. NAW’s alarm went off. I felt cheated as according to my calculations we should be able to sleep until 4:45 and make it on time.

08 January 2014

Yummy Winter Foods

As a writer I spend a lot of time sitting (still haven't gotten that treadmill desk- I have used the treadmill at the gym a few times and it makes me dizzy, not sure how a treadmill desk would work for me- bummer, but anyway...) I spend a lot of time sitting so to balance that I try to eat healthy. I drink plenty of good liquids, mostly filtered water or herbal tea because there is to much sugar in juices and to many chemicals in the no calorie flavored drinks.

Here are a two of my favorites this winter:

06 January 2014

Cousins




My mom sent me this photo taken at a family gathering in a small mountain village in northern Italy. Cousins. Years ago a met a few of them. If I showed up and announced who I was, who I belonged to, I’d be welcomed with open arms, fed, housed and fed some more. And I’m not even related by blood. My step-dad is related to these people, I'm not sure how, the family lines get murky so cousins covers it.

Around the table are a few of my kids (dark hair) and my three half siblings (light hair). The last time we were together was two years ago for our father’s funeral. We recently gathered together with their mom and her new husband.  My oldest half sibling is the same age as my youngest child. Technically they are aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews.  The kids get confused especially the seven year old “uncle” to the twenty-five year old “niece”.  Cousins fits better. A less completed way to explain the connection.

Here is my some of my family with my mother-in-law’s cousin’s child and her husband and their children. Something like my husband’s second cousin once removed. Not sure what my kids would call her kids. We opt for cousins. We get together as often as we can. This is so much easier to do now that we both live in the same state.



On paper the blood relationship my family has with each of these people is thin to non-existent. In the heart the feelings run thick. And for me causes my breath to catch and tears to form when I think of how many people I get to love. I see beautiful golden threads linking between all of us, entwining us and holding us close throughout this generation, the generation gone before, and the generations yet to be. 

What special "heart connections" do you have? People you think of as family though the genetic connection might be thin.