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November is over, and as the dust settles (quite literally) December has come upon us to take hold of our lives.

Ugh.

 

With NaNoWriMo 2017 finished, the first thing that had to be done was rallying the troops, my unwilling participants (aka the family), into a day of binge cleaning.

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Custom hat made at Lids

We did my birthday.  Happy birthday to me.  The best present being the custom made hat from Lids and Tuxedo cake from Costco.

Then the dreaded mall crawl.  That ovicerous mental and physical torment that involves traipsing through crowds to buy presents for the people in your life, who you have absolutely no idea what to get for them because a) they can’t think of anything they want, b) they don’t do anything, no hobbies, no interests, and c) your gift picking skills leave something to be desired, namely actually having gift picking skills.

 

P.s.  I just completely made up that word.  Ovicerous.  There is no word in the English language that describes my dislike of crowds over-filling the too small aisle spaces in the aimless pursuit of shopped for products.

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The #BigDumbBunny aka Roxy the shelter dog no. 2

I came home to find the furniture rearranged.  I now have a desk view of the back yard and the rascal, the wild rabbit that lives under the deck and continuously teases and torments the #BigDumbBunny, aka Roxy the shelter dog no. 2.  It’s better than looking at the wall, although It’s only dark Monday to Friday and all but between the hours of too late in the morning to way too early in the afternoon.

 

Now, nine days into December, and the dust that settled over November only to be disturbed at the start of December is finally starting to settle.  We had to do another mini purge, this time getting rid of furniture to make room for a Christmas tree in our new to us house with less space than the old one.

Yeah, after fourteen years living in a small town not far from the city, we moved inside the world of city living.  Sort of.  More on the outskirts, but still within the bubble of city life.

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Mouse pad at Cafe Press

 

I made a mouse pad.  It’s not bad.  Great for home, a little thick for on the go.  I refuse to learn how to use the mouse pad built into the laptop because it makes me swear too much.  A pair of runners gave up their life for me to get the photo used for the mouse pad.

P.S. you can buy this mouse pad here

 

So what now that it’s December?

Today, we will find the tree and decorative remnants among the boxes of still unpacked debris of moving and put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house.

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I am making pancakes.  Oops, in thawing them out, the package of breakfast sausages sucked into itself like a bowl of half soggy wieners intent on avoiding being eaten.

 

 

 

And it is time to prioritize and sort out what projects to concentrate on.

The Gypsy Queen is in final edits.  A read through, an upload and download on Kindle for another read through.  Then I can decide if it is good enough (is it ever in the eyes of the questioning uncertainty of the author?) for anyone else to read it and brave the opinions of the beta readers.

I need to finish my NaNo from this year.  The next installment and hopefully the last (except for White Van which is a standalone) of the McAllister series.

I also promised a book two of the Latchkey Kids.  That is a work in progress.

And I made a promise to myself to focus on editing and finishing the myriad of completed, mostly complete, and semi-completed drafts that have been left to sit over the years.

And there are my more beloved projects that I just don’t want to leave sitting on the back burner.

There is also that one immitigable truth.  Editing is not fun.  I would much rather be immersed in the spell of some dark scene flowing through me spontaneously onto the page than endlessly editing and re-reading the same words more than a hundred times over.

Unfortunately, like every author I know, I don’t have the luxury of saying, “Wow, I am making so much money off this writing gig I can just quit work and do it full time!”

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I don’t expect to have a lot of time this weekend to get done what I need to do for me, for my writing.  Laundry, groceries, house cleaning, and all the other drudgeries of real life.

 

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We also have only a few short weeks to consider finishing the Christmas shopping, baking (it’s not Christmas without some damned Christmas baking!), the endless list of various donations to everywhere you live, work, school, play, etc joining the cause of bettering Christmas for the less privileged, and the family get togethers.

 

 

Next month is January, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the nonstop Christmas merry-go-round has stilled, and greet the NaNo start of the “What Now” months with the making of an official promise to revise your NaNo novel.  Are you game?

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It is Saturday morning, and the house is sleeping except for me and my dogs as I sit and ponder #NaNoWriMo2017.

 

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Which coffee?

First, the most important question.

Which coffee cup will I use?

 

 

 

Next, what plots do we brew today?

 

A seemingly sweet innocent little girl, who reveals a hint of evil.

A softly whispered voice in David’s head which only he can hear.

Thickening tensions between the elderly William McAllister and his son Jason, who William on more than one occasion swore he should have “put down” that day in the woods.

The delightfully wicked elderly Mrs. Bheals, who is new to the series and William and Anderson broke out of the care home along with William’s wife Marjory.

 

What plots are thickening and brewing up a storm of coming suspense in your #NANO world?

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I’m one of those writers, the kind who have multiple writing projects on the go.  I have more than I can keep track of.

Ideas come to me all the time and at any time.  I have lost more good ideas than I care to remember, because they came to me when I was not in a time and place to be able to jot them down.

And then there are the times when I can let the idea flow, living and feeling it, getting it down.

When I can get the ideas down, it is not always handy to add them in at the right place in the right story.  They become the odds and ends, bits and pieces; the homeless scenes that need to be relocated to where they belong.

 

Which leads us to the dilemma:

The lost story bits.

 Working on one of my current works in progress, I cannot let go of the feeling that I am missing something.  Literally, not figuratively.

The_Latchkey_Kids_Cover_for_KindleThe problem:  I have a vivid memory of writing a particular scene to go in this story.  I also remember the scene feeling right, thinking this is it, this is *the* scene.  Thinking it is good.

 

It is a pivotal scene too.  The scene leads the reader on to learn more behind the bullying behavior of the character, Dylan, from the first story (The Latchkey Kids), and opens the story to lead up to his dark secret (The Latchkey Kids book 2).

 

Do you think I can find this scene?

Nope.

 

I have committed myself to thorough and random searches for any possible file, folder, and key words that might lead to the discovery of where this mislaid scene is hiding.

I am searching every possible dark corner this scene can be hiding in, files on the laptop including Word and backed up notes from my phone.  Emails. My phone.  Every scrap of loose paper I can find in the house where I might have wrote it down.

The scene exists.  I know it.  I feel it as certainly as I feel the lips on my face.  As certainly as I taste that sip of coffee.

Somewhere, in the dark murky depths, in that soulless cold world, with the faint hollow ringing of words crying out in your subconscious, that scene waits.  Lost.  Alone.  Desolate.  In the lost world of story bits and forgotten scenes; right next to the Ruins of Incomplete Stories and the ruination of the stories that went nowhere.

 

Someday, little scene, I will find you.

Unfortunately, by then I will have already rewritten a new scene.

 

 

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email vomitWe all want to wow people into following us. Whether you are a published author, a professional reviewer (aka you write reviews on various products either for monetary compensation or in exchange for free stuff, with the expectation of getting some form of compensation for ever review), some form of professional or quasi-professional, or just blogging for kicks, it’s the reason you blog. It’s the reason I blog. Otherwise, we’d all just be giving out TMI and posting pics of our pets and suppers on Facebook and not bothering to write blogs.

 

want more followersProducing good and interesting content is the way to go. The blogosphere is the boxing ring and we are doing the dance off, yelling “PICK ME! PICK ME!”

Successful blogging means not just getting your articles read, but gaining followers and keeping them. It is writing articles they want, and sharing articles that will interest your followers.

 

Whatever the content you share, you need to do it often enough that your followers don’t forget you exist. When that happens, you sink into the black abyss of the web.  You don’t want to go there, because I’ve heard ugly rumors of what resides there. Yes, ugly.

Things like this.spider monster

It is a dark and terrifying place. Cold too, very cold. Or is that the chill of fear dripping down your spine?

 

Finding interesting content to share means following others. Successful blogging also works on a quid pro quo, only without the expectation of always getting something in return. No, it’s not squids gone pro. If you don’t know what quid quo pro means, you can Google it. Basically, it means you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

In blogging, you follow others, who may or may not follow you back. You share their content because you liked it or think your readers might. You follow rules of decorum. In other words, play nice.

 

blah blah blah

But, every now and then, you encounter the over-sharer.  This is the blog world’s equivalent of the Facebooker who spams your feed with so many posts of their kids, their pets, their meals, what they did, are doing, and are about to do, Oh, very large hammer.jpgand what they are doing now, and now, yeah you get it … until you find yourself so sickened by their posts that you want to put your own eyes out, cancel your FB account, and put your computer out of its misery with a very large hammer. (Wow, that is one heck of a run on sentence, just like those annoying posts without end. OMG, there was a period in there but it still never really ended, did it?)

 

The blogger over-sharer will put up a mass of posts, their own or shared; at this point it really doesn’t matter. The thing is, unlike FB, when a blogger posts a vomit of blog posts and you do not have your notifications turned off, each and every post will ping your email inbox.

Yes, each and every one. So, you can turn off notifications and not know when one of the sites you follow posts an interesting blog, sending them to the bloggo black hole and likely forgetting to check and follow them (because you are so darned busy and these things just happen).

Or, you are subjected to having your email inbox spammed. Bloggers who spam you with 36 blog posts, each pinging your email inbox individually, because you made the mistake of following them, just aren’t getting it.

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Now, when I get 36 bog posts from the same blogger spamming my email inbox, they have effectively vomited in my inbox. Yes, I had 36 one day, all at once, an incessant ping ping ping ringing and pinging. I had to shut my phone off and count the toll later.

 

 

Delete and unfollow. Yes, Virginia, there is such thing as too much.

 

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You need to strike a balance in your blogging.

balance

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fish & lureI’ve noticed a new breed of phishing scammers lately. They’ve gotten more sophisticated in their attempts to trick, cajole, and outright scare you into falling into their trap. The emails are written by someone fluent in English and are even doing a pretty good job of mimicking the company they are pretending to be.

The scammers of old seem to have fallen away, those all too predictable and obvious pathetic attempts with poorly spelled words, atrocious grammar errors, and the glaring obvious that they know very little of the English language and are completely oblivious or just don’t care.

As published authors we have to put ourselves out there, always marketing and schmoozing online like the girl at the young teen dance who so desperately wants to be asked to dance, but no one seems to notice her in the corner behind all the other girls desperate to be asked to dance.

The problem with making yourself visible to as many others as possible in the hopes that just one or two might actually buy your book, is that you are also making yourself visible to the spammers, phishers, and hackers.

Apparently a phisherman of this newer breed noticed me on Amazon. I suddenly am getting all these urgent messages that my Amazon account is in dire peril.

How do I know it phishing? It’s not that hard to figure out, really. Just be smart and stop and think before you panic and click that link or give any information. And when in doubt, just back out. Stand up and take a step back and close that email. Picking up a phone to call customer service (if they have one!) will sort it all out. If they have no real people working for them, then go to the actual legitimate website and contact them with all the details. They will no doubt tell you that you just got phished.

Keys and tips to protect yourself from phishing:

  1. Don’t make your email public. Really, how many of your “fans” need to email you? There are safer ways to do set that up. Do you think Stephen King put out his private email to the public? Not a creepy clown down the sewer chance! Of course, that’s sometimes easier said than done whenever media site defaults to publishing your email.
  2. Use multiple email accounts. Use a spam email for social networking sites where you know you are likely to get spammed by the site or phishing scams. Never use the same email that you use for banking and other important business.
  3. If the email is asking for personal information, bank account or credit information, passwords, or for you click a link to log in securely – IT’S A PHISHING SCAM! As soon as you log in through their link they have your username and password, giving them full access to your account.
  4. It doesn’t matter what the account is: your bank, Facebook, Paypal, Amazon, etc they will never contact you asking for you to click a link and provide information that gives access to your account. They will instead direct you to visit their legitimate site to access your account securely or contact them.
  5. Check the IP or senders email. Big red flag: all the Amazon’s calling and your account is in grave danger and has been shut down emails are coming from “noreply@amazon.ca”. Now here’s the dead giveaway: the sender’s email shows up as “noreply@azon.ca“. But that is almost Amazon you say? Yes, but do you not think a multi billion-dollar corporation would get that right?
  6. Did it even come to the right email address? I’ve had plenty of warnings that my bank accounts are in imminent danger. Usually the first giveaway is that it’s a bank I don’t have an account with, or sent to the wrong email.

The phishermen may have gotten smarter and more sophisticated, but common sense is pretty smart and sophisticated too.

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I get incredibly lazy about character development in my first draft.  This especially happens when it comes to secondary and background characters.

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When I’m in the throes of pounding at that keyboard, the words flowing through my fingertips as the story flourishes, or banging my head on the contraption in frustration, my focus is on the story.  The big question of what happens next is what drives that first draft.

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 In most of my stories I have no better idea than the reader does about what is going to happen next or even who the characters are.  The story often changes from that initial hunch of what it will be about as the events play out.  Hell, I’m just along for the ride, wherever my imagination decides to take us.

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Just like the reader I’m experiencing the story and meeting the characters as the events unfold.

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This is why it is perhaps even more important for someone who writes like I do to never forget that every character is somebody, no matter how small a bit part they play.

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What is more memorable?  The story where everyone is a faceless nameless blank except the three or four main characters?  Or one where old Mrs. Appleblossom down the street always wears a white flower either in her hat or tucked into her button hole, the absence of which could be a hidden (subliminal) hint of trouble to come?

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What about Mr. Commely, who’s only purpose in the story is to deliver the letter that gives your character the bad news?  Does the reader need to know that Mr. Commely has returned to work after retiring because he’s lonely after his wife passed away, that he always has a gentle pat on the head waiting for even the most fiercest of mailman hating dogs on his route, or that his behavior is sometimes strange and erratic? It doesn’t drive the story forward, so some would argue this is just extra words that should be cut.

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The girl serving coffee through the drive through window probably doesn’t need to tell you that she’s having a bad morning.  You can see it in her face.  You don’t know her name and you probably don’t need to.  But you can make the reader wonder why she’s having a bad day.  Did she have a fight with her boyfriend?  Was she reprimanded at work for being late again when she’s dealing with a serious crisis at home?  Maybe she has a parent or child who is deathly ill.  Why she looks unhappy isn’t important to the story.  But just making the reader notice her sadness and wonder about it because your character did draws the reader further into becoming one with and sympathizing with your main character.

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When you go through the drive through yourself, that girl behind the window touches your life when she hands you your coffee and takes your money.  It may only be a thirty-second moment, but those thirty seconds still touch your life.

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None of these bits about small characters drive the story and most of it can be left unsaid, back-story for these people who make only brief appearances.  But dropping these little observations can add a depth of understanding and reality to the world your characters live in.

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If you write with a sense of familiarity will all your characters lives, the reader will pick up on it.  Like watching someone waving to someone walking by from across the parking lot, you can get a sense if they are familiar with each other or just passing a friendly wave to an acquainted stranger.

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Some characters develop through the writing of that first draft.  The main characters mostly get a lot of their character traits and flaws because their reactions and needs are what push the story forward.  But with the rest they are lucky if they get dubbed as “frontdeskguy” or “girl2” as I write.  Sometimes they are nothing more than a mention of “the other guy”.

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As the story unfolds, so do little hints into the characters that show up for repeat appearances.  And as I learn more about where these bit players fall into the story, I also get a better understanding of how each of them can bring more life to the story.

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Like the young man in Men of Twelve (working name of a W.I.P.).  The young man is an unimportant player, like the Start Trek guy who wears red to beam down to the planet.  I know he’s going to die and the reader may get a sense of it too.  That the trees mock him for being a nameless bastard without a father moments before his death does not drive the story, but it does add a layer of depth to the scene and the world the characters live in.

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It’s in the editing, when I go back over the story to re-write, revise, develop more, and delete than I put the emphasis on picking out each character from the biggest to the smallest and give them a little touch of personality.

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Bringing your characters to life brings the story to life.  And, remembering that behind that blank nameless place holder in the story every character is somebody adds a touch of real life to your work.  Behind the blank nameless face every person you see today is somebody too.

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Tomorrow is the first day of March; the month legend has it Mother Nature totally plays us with a game of lions vs. lambs.  If it we enter into March with weather that is calm and quiet like the lamb we can predict the month will end with the weather roaring like a lion, wreaking Nature’s vengeance on us all.

Of course most of us don’t actually believe any of this stuff and year after year Mother Nature has let us down and forgot her game by the end o f the month.

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I do have my own prediction for March and it has little to do with the weather.

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March is three months after NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where writers around the globe pledge to put aside the daily vanities of life and throw themselves heart and soul into trying to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish in only the thirty days of November.

If you are like me that is three months during which you have completely put that NaNo novel out of your mind to focus on other things.  For myself December is spent stressing over Christmas, worrying over the lack of money to afford what is required of you, and getting little else done.  The other two months I focused on writing and editing other projects, giving no thought at all to The McAllister Farm.

Three months sounds like a good break to me.

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March also happens to be a free month, falling between Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you celebrate around that time and the busy spring and summer time.

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I predict March is as good a time as any to go back and tackle that first revision of the NaNo novel.  A no holds barred attack in the same spirit of NaNoWriMo.

After three months of pointedly not looking at it or even thinking about it, it’s time to give that NaNo novel its first dose of merciless and aggressive editing.

Don’t stop to think or analyze.  First impressions are everything.

This is not a carefully thought out edit meant to fix grammar and spelling or smooth minor flaws.

MAIM (March Amend & Improve Mayhem) that NaNo novel.  Attack it without care with a big fat red marking pen (or the electronic equivalent).  Cut and slash anything that on first impression is off, weird, doesn’t work, or just seems like extra baggage.

Scribble notes all over it, whatever strikes you as you tackle the beast.  It doesn’t matter if the notes make much sense, impressions can lead to something later.

Anything that comes to mind: observations, ideas, questions, random thoughts, character traits, back story, behind the scenes story, what should have been, things you should link, etc. Anything goes.

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EDIT: edit, deconstruct, improve, and transform that novel like you don’t care how perfect the final outcome is.  This is only a first edit anyway.

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Take one month, March, to completely go over the WIP start to finish and tackle the obvious.  Amend, research, and outright challenge yourself.  “What the hell was I thinking when I wrote THAT?!”

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Starting tomorrow you have thirty-one days to beat that NaNo novel into submission, the iron master pounding a strip of iron into a shape that resembles the finished sword it will become.

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It’s madness, but it’s my madness.

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So tomorrow grab that NaNo WIP, put on your Mad Hatter hat, and pour the tea (wine in my case) and let’s have a writers’ editing party.

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And maybe just for fun, the next time you write/edit using the services of your computer accessed dictionary and thesaurus, try running it in a foreign language.  Oh, the madness just never ends.

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