Category Archives: Current Projects

ARBITRARY DEADLINES

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Last night I met my goal of adding at least 30,000 more words to the novel I started in June. I’m glad I did because it pushed me further along toward completing another new book.  I had a goal last month of writing 50,000 during Junowrimo, but could only get 42,500 words as I had to work out the plot, characters, etc. This month, I’ve taken a lighter load so I could at least get it done. I’m still writing. My new goal will be to finish this novel in August.

Hate not finishing a challenge. The above quote is similar to what I was taught as a child. “If you say you’ll do a thing, then do it.” I grew up in a large family, and each of us had chores and tasks to finish. We learned early that it mattered if we washed the dishes when it was our turn and put them away. If we didn’t, it made getting breakfast cooked and eaten harder and might make us all run late to school and work.

There was always the threat of a whipping, but I don’t remember any of us ever getting one for chores. (There were plenty of switchings or paddlings for fighting, for breaking things, for doing badly at school, etc., though they mainly stung our pride, not our legs or bottoms.) We wanted to do our share and were proud when we did something to help. Sweeping, dishes, emptying trash, helping to cook, making beds, hanging clothes, putting away food, cleaning the car, feeding the animals, carrying in wood, etc. The list was long and changed with the season, but we knew each job was important and needed doing. Our parents worked so hard, we wanted to help them.  I feel sorry for children now, so little needs doing, and so little is asked of them. But the world changes.

It’s funny about these goals. Being retired, I pretty much can do anything I want, whenever I want. The problem is, the farther into retirement I get, the lazier I become. Really appreciate these little challenges. There are no whippings, but if you make the goal you get a little pat on the head, even if it’s with your own hand. Life is better with a goal and some meaningful work to complete. Tomorrow will be the last blog and I’m eager to finish blog 31. It’s not like anyone will see them or probably read them, but even if the deadline is an arbitrary one, I intend to get it done.

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WOOL GATHERING

 

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My word count was short last night, and again tonight. Stopped to write this post, already 11:40 so pretty good odds it will post after midnight. I am at a major turning point and keep changing directions and taking out scenes and replacing them with others. Not what Nano is about, it’s supposed to be writing in a blind, white hot continuous flow to complete a rough draft. I know I should stop now, but still, I’m dithering.

Will write after posting this and try to at least make the measly thousand words for today. Pitiful. It never gets easier. This is book twenty-two or so, plus there are four or five shorter works, and these are the ones I’ve written and published after retirement. There are still a dozen projects completed and many abandoned that I never sold but believed they had promise. I’m sure they are so dated if written, or less than worthy if abandoned, that I just plow ahead with new things. At times like tonight, I wonder if I should just go digging through the closet and see if there’s something easier to write.

It is never easy, at least not for me. I’ve focused on a genre, preferring to write the books that sell. They seem to all be historical romance. I may break free next month and try a short mystery, but probably not. Wait, maybe I could write a mystery set in the 1800’s or early 1900’s. I love that kind of book. But no, I set a goal to write a series of novels featuring civil war wives, one from each of the thirty-four states. I’m only on book three.

So I sit here dithering, wool gathering, procrastinating, and in general not accomplishing a lot. Well, at least when I’m blogging, it gives me something else to write.

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PAID WEBSITE

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I watch and listen to far more infomercials or online webinars than any human should. I’m eager to learn and ready to be transformed after each session. I seldom bite on the offer, because if it sounds any good, it probably sounds better than it is.

Blogging is like that. Every few months I decide, “yes I can,” and I get excited and interested in trying to make an interesting web page, and blogging – because – as every expert tells you, it helps you gain readers and sell more books. All also point out if you are to grow and become more successful, you need to attract readers who share their email so you can contact them when the next book is ready, or whatever you’d like to sell

The real hang-up for me is that you have to buy a website and pay the host (usually four or five dollars a month) for the rest of your life, or until you give up on your own website. I’ve been very happy with the free version of WordPress for over three years now.  But you can’t collect emails on a free site, or at least I’ve never figured out how and I’ve given it a couple of tries.

So I listened to a spell-binder at and signed up for a lifetime secure host for a one-time payment of about $40. Now, I will be wasting most of the day, trying to figure out how to transfer the old blog posts onto the new site without losing everything. Wish me luck.

 

Well, I admit, I have zero internet skills. Will have to punt this project until tomorrow in order to make my word count on my book tonight. More to follow.

MAKING A PLAN AND KEEPING TO IT

Thought it would be a good time to share my management tools since I read and hear a lot about them on other writer’s blogs. Have a friend, Eric Beaty, in our local writer’s group that swears by Trello, a management app that is available online. I think it’s free since I signed up for it and usually only sign up for things that are free. Clicked on it just now, and it opened up with the same board I created back in September 2015. Have about ten postings on it, then I gave up. The trouble with management tools is you have to visit them and use them before they help you manage anything.

If I have to figure out what I’m going to do, break down all the steps, write them down, and record my progress, or the lack thereof, I’m probably not going to be using it. It works great for him and might work for you too. I’m just clearly too lazy, or too undisciplined, or both.

Have one simple tool I use every day.   Jerry Seinfeld did a funny rift on how to be productive and called it not breaking the chain. Print off a sheet with 365 days and try to put a check or x over each one for that day if you did your creative work.

Simple, because you feel like “s–t” when you break it.  Tried it and made several months before missing a day.  You do feel really bad when you’ve worked so hard and been so good and then break the link.

Modified it a little. I use a free bank calendar with big empty squares. Each night before I turn off the computer, I record the number of new words, current total on the book. If I’m editing, I put the page count for those days. Working on a book cover, I make a note of it and how many hours I worked. Simple. It works well for me.

I also enjoy these challenges. Favorite is Nanowrimo and variations. Doing second Camp NaNoWriMo now, 9179 words so far this month. Pretty good since my goal is 30,000 words. Thought I might slow down since I missed last month’s Junowrimo goal by a few thousand, and it is summer. I like this because it is just posting my word count on one other site and there are people to talk to and whine when you have an off day or to ask questions if you hit one of those can’t move forward days.

The second challenge this month is the Ultimate Blogging Challenge, one of these postings every day for a month. They have a little sheet, UltimateBlogChallenge-31DayTracker, where you check off a list of four things: write it, Tweet it, pin to Facebook, comment on other posts. I’ve not had to miss one yet this month so it does help. Honestly, would not post if it weren’t for the challenge. Hear it’s good to blog and I always want to be good. Would never Tweet or Facebook my progress unless I were doing this challenge.

If you have something that you use, please share.

MOVING FORWARD

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As a nonathlete, there are few things I admire more than those who shape and chisel their bodies to perfection. Bruce Lee always seemed like that to me, the way he could jump and chop away at any opponent, moving with a grace and speed that was magical. The other thing I admire about him was his philosophical nature. He tried to codify and define what he believed and was trying to teach to others. Love this quote. Wish I could be this flexible, at least in my mind and view of life.

Instead, I’m pretty much the opposite. I fret and worry about the inconsequential and often lose my mind over something I see or read tweeted somewhere. Not a good thing for a writer. Tonight, after watching movies (two of which were cartoons), I’m back in my restful frame of mind enough to write.

A few words over twelve hundred tonight which puts me over 5600 for this month’s challenge. Last month as I mentioned before, I fell short of writing 50 K by eight thousand. Instead of writing 1667 every day, I averaged about 1400. So this month, I’ve set my goal at 30 K and am trying to write at least one thousand a day. More relaxed and manageable. Like last month, I intend to write every day.  We’ll see.

I’m a little old, as is my daughter, to be watching cartoons, but in the great debate over what to watch there seemed less to offend one or the other of us. If you haven’t seen it, Moana is a wonderful film. The gorgeous ocean scenery and great music made up for the usual Disney trope of the woman as the hero. Would love to see a film again where boys and girls are allowed to be equally heroic. Realize that’s not pro-feminists, but I think we’ve probably seen enough of men as idiots who need a strong, smart woman to guide them. My daughter took the opposite view and thought films are finally depicting real life. Oh well, so much for becoming like water.

Hope your summer is going well. We had the usual heavy rain in the middle of the day. Not forty days straight yet so I’m not building my own boat.

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Renewed Challenges

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I have just finished Junowrimo, a 30-day writing challenge on the Facebook page with the same name. I tried to write 50,000 words on my new novel, Katherine of South Carolina: Going to War With a Picnic Basket. I didn’t finish the book or complete my goal, but I did write 42,101 words and put some down each of the thirty days.

I find these goals, whether I reach them or not, increase my productivity. One of the wonderful things about retirement and being a senior (turn 69 this month), is not wanting to do that much anymore, and to only work when and if I want to.  Since my lifelong goal has been to be a successful author, that kind of schedule doesn’t lead to very many books. I’m pleased to have twenty-five up on Amazon since retiring and hope to add one or two more this year. This, if I finish it, will be the third in my new Civil War Wives series.

Two challenges, which I’ve accomplished in the past, but may do me in this year, will be the Ultimate Blog Challenge (31 daily posts) and CampNaNoWriMo where I hope to add at least another 30,000 words to my current project or as many more words as it takes to complete it.

I’ve given up on three lifelong goals.  Staying young, losing weight, and becoming super fit. Just trying to maintain, not increase my round shape, and stay active and mobile. My husband assures me I will not become any younger and I’ve had to agree he is right about that.

Hope you are still challenging yourself with whatever your goal may be. Good luck to us all and have a safe and Happy 4th of July weekend.

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THINKING TOO MUCH

Believe it or not, my husband has always accused me of doing this, thinking too much. I have trouble falling asleep because my mind just keeps churning. Reading helps, but not when I find a really good novel to read, then I’m awake even longer trying to finish it.

Found this article very thought provoking, because I wrote last week about judging myself. It is something we all do more and more these days. With social media often our only social input, it is hard not to be confused by it all. See a lot of bullying and hate in what flows past in the polluted streams. Shame, but everyone seems much more judgmental than in the past, of ourselves and of others. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/16/escape-overthinking-trap-stop-juding-yourself?

NEWS CHANNELS JUST AS CONFUSING

On Twitter and Facebook, I saw followers praising and ranting about President’s new orders. Also in my feed, were well written articles stating diametrically opposed reports.

One argued security feeds have reported increased risks, these were countries previously targeted by last President as security risks, and last President had a six month’s ban earlier in his administration against a Muslim country without a single protest. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/29/isis-finds-success-infiltrating-terrorists-into-re/

Other article stated undeniably that there had been no Islamic attacks in U.S. in the last ten years. Called this President racist, anti-Muslim, and a hater. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-terror-attacks-muslim-ban-7-countries-trump_us_588b5a1fe4b0230ce61b4b93?

Not sure if the truth can be published any more, or if there is anyone willing merely to state objective facts without telling us what they mean and how we are expected to feel about them. The already prejudiced viewpoint of the reporter seems to color all they report. Last year’s divisive election year rhetoric has not died down.

Would like to read the facts and truth – like the good old days. I’m pretty sure we had a Boston Marathon bombing, a terror attack on a dance club for the LBGT, and a recent attack at a Florida airport. Sure there are many I can’t remember. Think each of the attackers announced the attacks were for Allah. But maybe that wasn’t Islamic extremists, maybe immigrants given citizenship so no longer citizens from these countries, or all may have been attacks by radicalized Americans.

My memory is not as good as it used to be, so I’d like to read a list, a report, some facts. I miss the integrity of the fourth estate and objective reporting. I’ve always loved reading, taking in a string of facts, and developing my own opinion. I no longer get a major newspaper, or a local one, had little but a reprint of Internet news and police reports of local crimes. Read my news online from three or four networks and social feeds these days, because the television sources seem far too biased for me.

But now, a good liar can write and post anything they want on the Internet, and fake news looks like real news and I can’t even tell the difference. They all read like fiction to me.

OBTAINING PEACE

So late at night, when I should be sleeping, my brain that craves answers and logic churns. thfr3g3qhcImage of art by Alex Grey

Making it hard to slip back to 1861 in my novel. Did sketch out the contents for the first two chapters. Of course, am blogging late. Will try to catch up on the posts tomorrow. When maybe all the news, will be good news.

Peace to all and keep smiling. Always found when I smile, I actually feel happier. Think brain scientists have now proved it to be true.

 

 

 

 

WORKING OUT MY STORY

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Busy working out some details for my next Civil War Wives story, now that the first is due to be released in a day.

Always start with images. Know my girl will be one of the thousands of Irish immigrants running from poverty to opportunity in America. It opens in 1861, the year the war begins and unfortunately she meets her true love on the boat from Ireland. Brendan Conner is more than a charmer and has already plotted his destiny upon landing, but he can’t resist sweet Erin Quinn and doesn’t see any reason he should.

Almost as soon as they arrive, he is swept away in the fever of the emerging war and joins old friends to enlist in the Union cause under the charismatic Thomas Meagher. He is excited to be part of the fighting Irish of the 69th. She of course is terrified. Although her sister has sent the ticket and she promised to join her in the linen mills to work and repay her, her heart is breaking that he will be thrown in harms way so soon. Unwilling to be separated, she comes up with a daring plan to enlist too.

My great niece sent me an article last year about the many women who fought disguised as men during the war and I have been excited to write a story about one ever since.

Sorry about not posting a blog yesterday, will try for two tomorrow.

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SPINNING A NEW STORY

So I sit, spinning stories in my head. Gathering more silk for my web by  busily researching history, which I love to read and study. There are diaries and accounts that document people’s lives, both the immigrants, and those who fought in the war. It is easy to get lost in the beauty and horror of imagining the circumstances of their lives. War is a tragic world in which so many young flowers bloomed only to die on blood soaked fields for causes that most little understood or truly believed in.

Not sure when I’ll ever get into the writing but need to start soon or I’ll never be done. Wish reading and noodling wasn’t always the fun part. Names, places, dates will change, but some scenes or elements are already vivid in my mind and probably won’t change. Others I won’t know about until I write the story. Exciting, fun part of writing is when all I’ve planned starts to change as the characters come to life and take over the book.abrahams

Found another useful article or checklist, this by Erik Bork, an outstanding Emmy winning screenwriter for HBO. http://www.flyingwrestler.com/2017/01/20-script-must-haves/

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DIVIDED

shenandoah-valley1Have been lost in this brutal war too long. Can’t help comparing it to the current division being whipped up between Americans by the media. If they would stop their twenty-four hour a day rants, would there be so many people marching on what is usually a day of celebration for the inauguration of a new President? Not sure, since it has been the most polarizing election in recent history. Still, disturbing to see so many demonstrating and a shame about elected officials not showing up. Embarrassed for them and for our nation.

The last time our nation was so divided was when the country split over the issue of slavery, with the Democratic states refusing to give up, crying state’s rights, and the northern Republicans demanding the end to slavery. They had all been stirred to passionate positions by a sentimental novel written by a school teacher and staunch abolitionist, named Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The statistics listed on Wikipedia are extraordinary for this little book.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.  In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States; one million copies in Great Britain. In 1855, three years after it was published, it was called “the most popular novel of our day.”The impact attributed to the book is great, reinforced by a story that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln declared, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

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REFLECTING

The President and his family in front of the Lincoln Memorial made this moment in history a little more poignant. A man who has been married to two immigrants, whose children are first generation children of an immigrant. Toby Keith and Americans singing patriotic songs and watching magnificent fireworks were powerful and inspiring images.

Writing about politics is dangerous. Don’t wish to offend anyone.  But protestors are passionate too, stirred up about issues that began as Tweets but have emerged like vultures to rip at out unity and peace. Such ardent passions stirred are not so quickly diffused.

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Fires Down the Shenandoah, Joanna of Virginia is the first book in my new Civil War Wives Series. Like most of my other books, it will look at the lives and struggles of young women in a simpler but harsher world.

The stories focus on the effect of the war on women and the men they love. Casualties during the dreadful Civil War, were over 1.5 million, more than all other American conflicts combined. Over 620,000 were killed on the battlefields, 476,000 wounded, and over 400,000 captured or missing. Many more lives were destroyed as families lost their lands, livelihood, and hundreds of thousands of Americans descended into poverty.

Writing about, living in the war-torn nation has been difficult. Part of creating fiction, but it was so terrible. It’s a shame, that a few politicians and their allies would want to divide Americans again. I’m praying that Trump means what he says about unifying the country, but it is looking like a heck of a job. This election has been horrendous and rending. When it ended, I expected the hate-filled rhetoric to stop. It seems to be amplified.

It is important for writers – whether in the press, on the news, on comedy shows, talk shows, or merely tweeting or posting on Facebook to remember.

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HOLIDAYS

Love holidays. My husband and I were recalling valentine’s day the other day. Looking at all the cards that were fancy and pricey, and remembering the little one’s you punched out and sent to your classmates. Most were silly or funny, with little skunks with red bows offering kisses, or boys holding a box of candy behind one hand and a frog in the other. Well, maybe I don’t remember either.

But all the holidays were always celebrated at school, with a week before making signs and decorations or drawing a picture on the chalk-board. Had a school party and treats. Everything revolved around what we would do on that day to celebrate.  Hope they still do the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc. party things. Some of you teachers tell me it’s so. Hope they don’t celebrate all the holidays by getting out of school.

HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY

 

Adopting the tactics of nonviolent protest, this charismatic man led to tremendous social change in the Civil Rights Movement, just as Mahatma Gandhi created change for India with nonviolent civil disobedience. He definitely deserves to be remembered and honored. Not seeing that in all his followers this week and it’s a shame. Wonderful to credit love, respect, and kindness to bringing positive changes for all.

BOOK WRITING

Ready to post book on Amazon, I thought, then last night I started thinking about a couple of sections, so rewrote those today. Also rewrote my back copy. Here is what I have now.

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Rewrote copy, yet again and playing with another title. Would love some feedback.

TELEVISION

I’m considering giving up television completely. We got our first set when I was five. I can remember all of kids sitting there watching that test-pattern with the Indian head, waiting for there to be television. Pinky Lee, then later Soupy Sales. I mean bad television, but it was so exciting to be able to turn it on and watch. Weekends there were old westerns, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, or sometimes Hop Along Cassidy. If it was a drama, Mom would yell turn it off and rest the tubes. If they got over-heated, we’d be sorry. At night, we always watched the news, the man with the watch that kept on ticking, Edward R. Murrow. Then some kind of variety show, Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour or Milton Berle, or Jack Benny. About an hour in the morning, the same at night.

I miss watching television, have always loved movies, and reading magazines. But this relentless torrent of hate just seems to color everything, even Facebook and Twitter.

Thought when the election was over, some of the unrelenting hate speech would stop. But I’ve never in my life seen so much bullying and name calling. Whether you voted for him or not, this media assault is unprecedented. Praying for new President, our nation, and all of you.  Let us follow MLK’s example and come together peacefully. God bless, and good night.