Writing is a journey, not a destination.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Best Advice

This is another post I should save for NAF, but I hate finding pics to go with topics.

Finish what you start writing. It's that simple.

I should have taken the time and energy 23 years ago to finish the stories I am trying to write today. I didn't have the discipline back then, but that would have been an excellent thing to practice, too.

When you're 19 years old, and you come up with a story idea, odds are it's going to be fairly simple. Doesn't mean it's bad. Just means it's not going to have the same kind of complexity that a writer with more life experiences can add (nothing like a job, a mortgage, and 8 mouths to feed to teach you about layers of conflict). Fewer characters. More direct, obvious plot ideas. A thick, black Sharpie line of a story. That's fine when you're 19 years old. You earn your million words of practice, so you may as well earn it finishing such ideas as jumping from idea to idea and only writing the "interesting" parts, which is what I did. That's why I have a bunch of story "fragments" I used to consider book-worthy.

Problem is, when a writer tries to take those 23 year old ideas and mold them into what she now considers "book-worthy," more often than not, they don't fit. There are some good ideas, and a dollop of passion or conflict, but she's learned that's not all that goes into a good book. They might make novellas. They might make fine short stories or chapters, but they aren't going to carry 100K words into the hearts of her fans. "A closet nerd takes an unexpected trip through time with a robot assassin" is a good elevator pitch, but if you don't have more than that to back it up, you're humped.

But what if you want your older self experience to make something great out of those old ideas? Well, good luck. I suspect if you finish them when you're young, you'll clear the way for bigger, better, more complex ideas that grow with you. Like Aslan. 

I have a lot of 23 year old story ideas, but those may not a book make. Dangling Justice is about that closet nerd, but my 19 year old self didn't know about Ah'rahk, or Caissa, or Rhami when she thought of that idea with the robot assassin. Now my 42 year old self has the job of turning a simple idea into something worth writing, and hopefully, worth reading.

Happy Thursday, dear readers.  Finish what you start writing. Words to live by.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Embrace the Angst

I should type this up for NAF, but I'm just too lazy.

I've railed for a while (two years?) about how hard writing is, how I don't know where the plot is going, how I have too many choices, blah, blah. "It's not like Star of Justice!" I whine. "Even with Elementals, I had a final scene." Boo hoo.

I want my writing process to be all clinical and rational and easily contained in my current schedule. I don't want to get obsessive, like with Star of Justice, or painful, like Elementals. I just want to sit down and write a nice, complicated, thought-provoking, rollicking ride of hilarity and bittersweet depth in an hour a day without any hitches or interruption of regularly scheduled programming.

That isn't too much to ask.

Except I don't think that's how it works for me. I think all my books will be therapy books. They will emerge from chaos, frustration and inconvenience. Creation is hard. Ask a mom in labor, if you can get that close without bodily harm.

It's like trying to garden without breaking a sweat. Rarely happens. Most times I come in looking like Sasquatch.

So I'm not going to fight it anymore. I will embrace the self-loathing, the false starts, the wrong turns and rewrites. I will stomp around and snarl at the cats. I will even stay up past 9 (gasp!) if the words start flowing at 8:30. Yeah, I might be snappy at work, but I'm back in the corner, so who cares? 

Have I resolved this before? I don't think so. This feels like a moment of clarity. Which is good, 'cause it may be the last I have for a while.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. May your day be as easy as you make it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not Much On Stamina

Endurance is not my thing. I'm great with quick projects I can start and finish in an hour, or a night. Occasionally a week. I don't have the patience for long-term investments of time and energy (which is a real problem where writing is concerned).

This is a devolution of character. I used to blame Farmville, but I suspect it's more a factor of age and environment. I rarely need to keep going, so I don't. I tend so many cats just so I have a reason to get up most days.

The garage sale pile grows, but it should have grown even more last night. Problem was, I got home, I sat down, and I didn't want to get up again. I know the laws of thermodynamics. If I want to stay in motion, I need to be in motion.

Or, I need to break it down into tasks I can finish in one night. Clear this closet. Go through that bin of bedding. I have 10 ten days. Surely I can force myself to clean house for 20 hours over 10 days. I'm already liking the more open feel of the basement, and seeing the bottom of the guest closet. Isn't that enough reason?

We'll see.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. What's in your closet?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Back to Faith

This was one of those "anxious" weekends, where the little issues of life log-jammed against a wall of "what will I do now?" I don't know about you, but I can carry a bit of that before I identify the nausea as "worry."

I'm buying new glasses. I want a new mattress. I want to renovate the Guest Room before the next guest gets here. All that costs money, and we know the Turtle doesn't like being reminded of her limited resources.

I have a book to publish. I have a rose bed to transplant from one suburb to another. I have Summer in The Swamp to contend with. I have no zucchini sprouts. I have a front room full of garage sale stuff that, God willing, will leave in two weeks, but what if it doesn't? I'm stepping over a houseguest for the next 9 days, who isn't really a problem, but he's a pea-sized difference in schedule that this Princess does notice, especially when he gets underfoot as I'm carrying boxes.

My dreams this weekend (when I was able to sleep) were endless pruning of rose bushes and searching for lumber and losing cats in warehouse-sized mazes. That's not good. 

It's time to pray. Some people love to quote that "God helps those that help themselves" maxim, but it's a load of compost and, as far as I can tell, completely unBiblical. God helps those who cannot help themselves. None of us are adequate to any task without Him, except possibly rebellion. I need to bring the Big Guy in on the plan, and then hand it over to Him to solve as He has done time and again for me. All that worry time needs to become prayer and trust time.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Hand God your problems today. He's ready for them.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Procrastination Makes the World Go 'Round

It never ceases to amaze me what I will do in an effort to avoid doing something.

I have a book to prepare. What have I been doing instead? Rearranging the house. The Guest Room, specifically.

Part of it is Grace's advent. Part of it is the rainy weather that prevents me from working off my daily stress outside. But part of it is absolutely procrastination about the next book.

I rationalize this by telling myself the Guest Room will become The Writing Room. The place where my laptop and I go to "get away" from the cats and the TV so I can hunker down and be all productive. It might even be true. That was my intent with the porch.

I just dropped a huge wad of cash on new glasses because I now need bifocals, and I'm starting to seriously notice the fact. I've been having problems with headaches and tired eyes, and I hope the new glasses will help (I also use artificial tears to combat dryness and that helps a bit).

I would like to buy a new mattress, but the one I'm considering costs $1200. The salesman called it $1199 to make it more palatable, but I worked retail and I know that trick. With sales tax, I'm looking at $1317, which is steep. Maybe too steep, now that I write it out.

I should look at book production as a way to afford that mattress, and perhaps I should mentally tie the purchase of the mattress to book sales. As in, I won't buy a mattress with anything other than book money.

Yeah, right. 

Anyway, this sudden outpouring of cash has made me reconsider the Guest Room renovations in terms of steps: what I can afford now vs. what can wait, and what I can likely do by myself vs. what I would want help with.

Building requires planning, so I sit in the guest room and plan a pipe dream instead of executing another pipe dream, thus achieving a state of perfect procrastination.

Happy Friday, dear readers. May you be as productive as you wish to be.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I mentioned on FB that I might have to call in the "guilt chip" on The Brothers in regards to my Guest Room plans. That led to the comment from a cousin that brothers are generally willing to help if the guilt chip isn't used too often. That led to counting, which is odd, because I don't like math.

I've lived here 14 years. Big Brother has, in order,
1) built my library stacks in the basement
2) replaced all my kitchen cabinets and counter tops with leftovers from a nursing home contracting job (and it's SO BEAUTIFUL!)
3) built a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit for my bedroom that replaces a chest of drawers and provides sleeping cubbies for the cats.
4) replaced my bathroom vanity and toilet
5) built the front room catwalk

That rounds up to 1 project every three years. Is that excessive?

I have 3 more projects, though:
1) new deck stairs. The current ones are...not good.
2) replacing windowsills, although the foam insulation filler I sprayed in this winter is currently doing a fine job of keeping the birds from nesting.
2) Guest Room plans, which might take a couple of weekends, although he's pretty quick.

That's 3 projects in one year, which means I couldn't ask for another thing from him for 9 years.

He might be amenable to that deal.

Of course, I keep forgetting to mention that while Big Brother is a former contractor, Elder Brother is an excellent hobbiest woodworker, and has built all manner of shelves and desks and whatnot for his home. I could get a two-for-one if I play my cards right and buy enough steak.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Be nice today. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Change of Plan

Over at Virtual Buttercups, I posted about some screened-in porch plans I kicked around. I've changed my mind. I'll tell you why over there (eventually), but since the plans evolved to inside the house and The Swamp is outside, I'll give you the new plan over here.

I've mentioned how small my house is: 823 square feet upstairs, according to the mortgage. While I generally consider this a comfortable size for the Turtle, I see many opportunities for better utilization of space.

One of these opportunities is what I call The Guest Room. It's a 10' x 11' foot "second bedroom." I assume it was intended for a nursery that a normal family would grow out of with the advent of Child Two and move on to another house. The biggest problem with The Guest Room is the set of double wide windows (like 80 x 80 inches, if you're buying curtains) that form the wall facing the street. Hardly evokes a sense of privacy, and causes all manner of heating, decorating and security issues.

TT: If I really had my druthers, I'd remove those windows and replace them with a solid wall and a small bank of windows or acrylic blocks at eye-level. That's a pipe-dream that will only see fulfillment if Mom wins the lottery and shares the wealth.

In the fourteen years I've lived here, The Guest Room has served to house ferrets, a fish tank, a make-shift solarium, all the clothes that don't fit in the master closet, one Kiwi, and currently the upstairs litter box. It tends to be the room all "stuff not currently in use" goes to collect dust. This is a complete waste of 121 square feet (did I do that math right?) out of 823.

I'd love to use it as an office, or an art room, or an upstairs library or a real guest room with an actual bed, but I've never sat down and done the planning. Until last night.

I pulled out my tape measure, graph paper and all the pent-up, not-playing-Farmville-at-night-anymore energy I could muster and started planning.

I'm pretty happy with the results. Not only do I think this can be done for far less money and effort than building a screened-in porch, I believe it will finally allow me to use a space I've avoided for 14 years and give the cats and I an almost-screened-in porch feel.

I'll be posting about this more in the next few weeks, I'm sure, especially if the current rainy weather pattern that is keeping me inside continues.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Enjoy your not-Monday.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Farmville Isn't the Problem

I knew it wasn't anymore. These two weeks proved it. My problem is addiction to mindless activity.

I didn't want to quit FV only to take up another game, but that is what has happened. Instead of watching TV and planting and harvesting, I've been watching TV and playing solitaire or Bubble-spinner. That's no improvement.

I can tell the FV addiction is gone. I'm fine doing something else when the TV isn't on. I'm relieved that I'm not tackling tasks or vulturing feeds or waiting for harvest time. It's liberating.

But as any good therapist (or Jesus) will tell you, you can't just stop doing something. You have to do something else as well. The goal is to make the "something else" worthwhile. Ultimately, we're all exchanging one addiction for another. My addiction used to be writing. During The Depression, it turned to FV. I'm trying to turn it back to writing, but my brain has atrophied.

I've repurposed Virtual Buttercups for recording the ups and downs of life out in The Swamp. That will get me back into writing regular posts about a topic I enjoy in a place I like, and playing with media (videos), as Grace Bridges once recommended. The Turtle is best appreciated in 3D surround-sound, but it's a start. Slow and steady, right? Maybe I'll attract a following of fellow swamp-dwellers.

Happy Friday, dear readers. May you use your brain well today.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Idea of Heaven

A couple months ago, I was musing about eternity. I want to spend it in a small house in the middle of a huge garden (I'm talking Rhode Island-sized), taking care of all the cats, squirrels, rabbits, turtles, frogs, etc. that were abused or destroyed by thoughtless, careless humans on Earth. I see myself alone in this scenario, other than the animals, and Jesus' daily stop-in.

TT: Jesus is incarnate now, so I constantly wrestle with how He can be everywhere at once. It seems clear to me that after the resurrection, He is a "new creation," both fully God and fully man, transfigured. God the Father and the Holy Spirit remain spirits only, but Jesus is something else.  I don't see His return to Heaven means He shed His new body, which the gospels go to great lengths to show was physical, which also means Heaven is a physical place, even if it exists in another dimension. But this is another post.

This realization surprised me. I have a lot of loved on The Other Side, and I'd like to see them again, but it seems I don't want to spend all eternity living in their pockets. Why should I? They don't want to live with me now, why should they share my comfortable hole in the hill forever? Get your own hole. It's Heaven. There's plenty of room.

Now I've read Revelation. I know all about New Jerusalem, but I also know it "comes down out of Heaven," meaning it isn't Heaven. It's a city in Heaven/on Earth, whatever. I'm totally willing to visit, but I don't want to live in a city for all eternity, and I don't care what it's made of. I hate the city. I only live in a city because I'm unwilling to kill my own meat. And because I don't want to star in a horror film about a cabin in the woods.

Jesus knows me. If He's preparing a place, it's going to be someplace I will love. I guess I'm just surprised at what that definition currently is.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Put your galoshes on. Gonna be a wet morning in Kansas.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Elementals To-Do List

If I want Elementals out to "the public" this August, I have a few things to do.

1. Read it. Again. For final edits. This is the hardest part. I don't feel any urge to read this book one more time. I'm a little sick of it. That's why I haven't looked at it for two years. On the other hand, it may as well be out there potentially earning money while I ignore it instead of waiting on my hard drive.

2. Choose a cover image. I have something I like, but it's not my original pic, so I either need to draw/create something close myself or find a similar pic I can buy. Frankly, after the complaints with Star of Justice, my cover concept excellently rendered by Keven and DeAnna Newsome of Newsome Creative and completely trashed by nearly every reviewer, I just don't care as much as I used to.

3. Choose a font. I'm really hoping Grace will latch on to this item. I hate font-choosing.

4. Read up on formatting for ebooks. Caprice Hokstad, Terri Main, R.L. Copple and maybe even Grace have all written on this topic, and I saved every email. I'll need a week, probably, to go through all of them, but it sounds fairly easy once you get the hang of it.

5. Read up on CreateSpace. This seems to be the vehicle of choice for printing books. I like physical books, and I am willing to put up the money to create them.

6. Buy ISBNs. I hear the price has gone up. Not too much, I hope. I want a few, just in case I get back in the habit of this writing thing.
    An ISBN costs $55?! Holy crap! Gonna need to figure that into the break-even cost. Sheesh.

7. Write some cover copy. I'm not nearly as concerned about this as I should be. My goal is simply to maximize searchability while trying to keep it slightly interesting to a potential reader. How hard can that be?

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure I'll be adding to it. I may even blog about the journey.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Keep an eye to the sky. Today could get rowdy for some of us.