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Archive for April, 2016

If there is one thing you get out of all those random writing articles, online writing tips, and even tips from writing friends, it is that – these days – you are supposed to establish an online writer’s presence before you even get published. Apparently your agent is going to look online for you to make sure you will be able to market yourself or some such nonsense. Really, I think it is stupid consider most writers are introverts and hate pouring their souls out to people. You, my readers, don’t count, because I don’t know you, and therefore have no fear of judgement from you. Don’t be offended. Be complimented. You know things about me my family doesn’t even know. 🙂

But in any case, I can’t get around the fact that, as a serious writer, I am supposed to get myself “out there” via twitter, blogging, and Facebook. Ugh. I absolutely refuse to make a Facebook page featuring myself as a writer until I am actually getting published. Otherwise it will just be too humiliating to be touting myself as a writer when it is years and years before I actually get anything published.

Twitter- well – I try every now and then. I tweet something random and then forget about the service for a long time before remembering I am supposed to be tweeting every day. I’ll work on it. Probably.

The blog thing? Well – I don’t really want to advertise this blog because – it is my sanctuary. Once everyone I know knows about it, it becomes another fear instead of my forest retreat. I’d really prefer to just keep this blog between us. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion I need another blog. I know – I’ve said this before – but I made the mistake of forcing myself to publish excerpts of my writing before I was ready. So, my thought NOW is that I can revamp that blog to be one I don’t mind actually sharing with people. The trick will be to do that and still enjoy writing the posts so that it doesn’t go the way of twitter where I write one post and forget about it for three months. So – here is the thought I am currently having: I have to do research for my books, right? Well, the best way to reinforce research results is to write about it yourself. So what if I take various subjects I am researching and turn them into blog articles? Like fashion in the 1890s, or the Oregon trail route – things like that. Then, I not only have something to write about, but I reinforce the results in my own mind, and I help other writers with their books in case they are looking for the same information. So, I think I will give that a try and see if it works. We’ll see how long that lasts.

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So I have decided to work on my fantasy novel as my main concentration for now while I do researching/editing on Picture of the Past (the novel I just finished) as more of a side note. Mostly because – well – one, because I am actually having more fun writing the fantasy novel than I did Picture of the Past! I feel like it is just flowing more naturally. We’ll find out when we view both completed products though, right? Although they couldn’t possibly be two more different books unless I wrote horror, which I don’t. Seriously – a tragic romance set on the Oregon trail about a girl finding herself vs. a divorced man traveling to another dimension and going through a series of adventures, during which he . . . figures out who he is . . .ooooh – yes, yes I guess I do have a trend with my stories. Oh, well. Most people do. 🙂

Anyway, but also because I want to have a repertoire of finished draft stories on my hard drive that I can be working on at all times and have available for samples when the day finally comes that I start seriously trying to get published.

I am alone this weekend – Daniel is gone camping, but the introvert side of me desperately needed this. I don’t even mind that it is rainy. It is kind of awesome to sit here on the couch and watch the rain come down while I type out a random blog post and listen to Michael W. Smith’s beautiful worship music.

It is a strange life, here, in some ways. I feel the need for time alone a lot because – well – I am never alone. I am with coworkers most of the time, especially on travel, and then with my husband when I am at home. Much as I adore my husband and hate being apart from him, he can usually tell when I need time alone because I start getting antsy and indecisive and generally irritated for no reason. Yet, at the same time – despite needing time alone – sometimes I get kind of lonely too. Lonely for a friend, that is. I have one friend out here – and she is 30 minutes away in good traffic and has a baby. I have 4 other people I would consider good friends, two of which live in Colorado, one of which lives in Mississippi, and one of which lives in Canada. Yup. Canada. As lovely as it is to have good enough friends that we are still friends despite living states (and countries!) away, we all have busy lives and don’t talk nearly enough. I miss you dearly, girls!

Sometimes, I would just love to have a friend to randomly go out with me for coffee or wine or to the library, and sit and chat and shop, and get manicures, and talk about writing and reading. But if I really want a friend out here, that means making a new friend – and I hate the thought of that more than not having anyone to go to coffee with. It seems the less I talk to people (outside of work) the less I want to. I think I am more introverted than I was before I went to college. And that is saying something!

Okay – I am sure this post is long enough to glaze your eyes over, so if you got this far, I am impressed. Thanks for always letting me ramble!

 

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Finishing a Novel

I DID IT! I finally finished a full-size novel! Yup. 99,146 words of fiction. I have finished novels before – but – more like novellas because they were pretty dang short. So this is the first full-length novel I have actually written.

Now comes the lovely revision process. I am already thinking of dozens of ways to revise the book – lots of mistakes I need to correct – random changes in the middle of the book, plot gaps, thin plot lines, all the research I pushed to the side so I could just write, and oh so much more. I estimate between 6 months to a year’s worth of revision. But the point is, I finished the first draft!

Now, I am trying to decide if I should set the book aside for now and work on my fantasy novel or other things before I start editing the book or just start editing immediately. I figure it is a  good idea to put the book aside for a short while so I can start again with a clear mind, but at the same time I kind of want to keep going while I am going strong.

For tonight, in any case, I am just going to enjoy having written a book.

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So, almost needless to say I didn’t win the story contest I entered in January. I say needless to say because you know I would have been on here bragging had I won it, or even gotten some type of honorable mention (I don’t know if they even do that. . .). But I refuse to regret entering. And I figured I would go ahead and share my story with the rest of you since no one else gets to read it anyway. 😛

The Struggle

Dying embers in the western sky cast a glowing light over a young woman seated on an old wooden porch. Her only knowledge of the sinking sun was subconscious as she squinted to see the words of the poem that held her attention, murmuring aloud the beloved ballad.

“They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shallot. . .
for ere she reached upon the tide,
the first house by the waterside,
singing in her song, she died,
The Lady of Shallot.”

With a sigh, Sheila leaned back on a wooden chair at least as ancient as the cabin, closing both the slim volume and her eyes. No more hurt, no more pain, no more wondering. Somehow the death of the Lady of Shallot sounded so – soothing. Death. The word did not hold the alarming significant of ending a loved life. No – for her it held an escape from a tortured world with nothing in it but suffering. A cold breeze drifted across her sallow cheeks and sunken eyes. With a weary sigh, she forced her eyes open. The last traces of light had faded from the sky. Standing with the fatigued posture of a woman at least 60 years older, she made her way into the house, ignoring the creaking door as it fell from one of its hinges yet again.

Stepping inside the lonely cabin, she flipped on the light, but lifted her hand to shield her eyes from the sudden flood of brightness. Too much. She switched it off again and instead turned on a dim lamp. Absentmindedly, she picked up her the pile of unopened mail. Unpaid electricity bill. Turn-off notice for her phone. Another bill from the funeral home. Pangs shooting through her, she set it aside, her father’s last days coming unwanted to her mind. He’d lain in his own bed the last days before the cancer finished its deadly job, preferring his cabin and only daughter to a sterile hospital ward full of impatient nurses. The night he died, he held her hand tightly when she came to check on him for the evening.

“I love you, my daughter.” He’d whispered stroking her wan cheek with his withered hand. “When I die, remember to look to God for grace – life will get better.”

He smiled weakly and squeezed her hand. “Marry that soldier boy of yours and be happy again.” His hand fell and his eyes closed in final sleep.

Sheila stubbornly held back the tears that formed and threw away a few more bills before reaching a letter. She frowned as she looked at the unfamiliar return address. Opening it, she pulled out a small piece of dirty stationery.

“You don’t know me, but I knew your fiancée. By now you’ll have received the news of his death. I cannot even pretend to imagine the pain you must be feeling even now at the mention of him, but I needed to write and tell you how he changed me.
“First, I should explain – I grew up around coarse, rough men who did little work, preferring instead to talk about themselves and how their government never gave them enough. My dad sent me to join the army only so I wouldn’t keep getting into trouble. I don’t mind confessing I was a sullen teenager, who believed that I was rarely given everything I deserved.
“One of the first people I met was your fiancée. His eyes held a peace in them I had never seen before and when he spoke it was always to encourage – never to hurt. He made me realize that there were still good men who really cared—that a few people truly believed in the ideals and virtues portrayed in history books.
“What struck me most, though, was the love that emanated from him no matter where he was or what army life threw at him. When he spoke of his country, it was not to criticize or complain, but to talk with reverence of the greatest opportunity a man had ever been given to defend a country whose very foundation was based on principles of freedom and happiness. He spoke of a God I’d never heard of before. One loved and cherished us as his creations, and held accountable those who did wrong, rather than indiscriminately punishing humans. And he spoke of you. Oh, the light in his eyes and the softness in his voice when he spoke your name! Just watching him, I learned that it was possible for a man to truly love a woman – to be faithful, true and loyal without shame
“He looked at me right before he died, telling me, ‘I do not regret my decisions. I am willing to die to protect my country and my beloved.  Tell her I loved her always.’
I’ve never known a man like him and I never will again. I convey his message to you with both deep sadness and joy in being able to do one last thing for him. May God be with you.
Your servant,
“R—”

She sat staring at the letter for a moment that seemed forever. As though she hadn’t had enough, she had to be reminded once again of her most recent loss. Of the news she had received the very day after her father died. How she wished that she, like the Lady of Shallot, could lie in a boat and die peacefully, with no more reminders.

She laid the letter on the couch and slowly rose, walking to the mantel of the ash-filled fireplace and lifting up the last letter she had received from him, staring at his signature. The last word he ever had or ever would write to her. Holding it, she walked back and forth, her shoes echoing on the wooden floor. How long she paced she didn’t know nor did she care. What was she to do? Utter despair and hopelessness filled her as she realized she felt nothing but dread for her life ahead. No father to walk her down the isle. No groom to walk to. No God who cared. Almost blindly, she wandered to the window and pulled aside the curtain to look out. The soft shadows from the moon fell onto the deceptively gentle looking river. The cold clear water moved ever so softly. Ever so temptingly. She cast an almost frightened look behind her at the dark, empty house surrounding her and then back at the almost welcoming stillness of the one thing that could drown all her feelings forever.

Then she drew herself up and purposefully, steadily, turned away from the window, and pulled on her shoes and jacket. She walked out of the house, leaving the door open without a backwards glance. Down the quiet path to the dock, she walked until she stood at the end of it, staring down into the water. She knelt. Leaned over. Let her hand run through the soft, cold wetness, feeling the compelling strength of the underlying current. Numbness, despair, but mostly utter weariness pervaded every inch of her soul at once. She stood again, keeping her eyes on the water. She moved to the very edge of the dock and stepped off

Wait. Her hand clung to a post, stopping her. Unbidden into her mind flew the last lines of Tennyson’s poem.

“God in His mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shallot.”

She froze, the words arresting her in some odd way. Mercy. What mercy? God had no mercy – not for her. There was a silent moment of struggle as she bid her stubborn hand to release the dock post.

I am here. The words seemed to be whispered on the breeze. “No, no you aren’t! You’ve taken everything from me! You aren’t here, you were never here!” She shook her fist at the heavens, her voice ringing aloud through the night, breaking the numb spell that lingered over her and the waters. The sound of her own voice startled her, and she stepped back, almost frightened.

And then, as though the sound of a voice had been all that was needed to break through the shell of hurt surrounding her, she crumpled to her knees on the dock, weeping. “Oh, God. Oh, God.” It was all she could offer repeatedly as she sobbed.

The moon’s light shifted over the lake, falling on the figure of the weeping girl as through the night she let herself feel the full extent of her pain. Finally, as the first strokes of light appeared on the eastern horizon, she rose and again stepped to the edge of the dock. A bird swooped down from the sky, skimmed the water and went back into the air.

With a face full of a new determination, eyes filled with pain, but the knowledge of hope, she turned and walked back up the path to her house, the sun’s rays slowly rising to light her way.

 

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That moment when you’ve been writing your book with only a few issues for hours and you know what you want to say and where you want to go with your story but all of the sudden you just can’t get your fingers to type any words . . . .

And then you look up quotes on writer’s block to make yourself feel better only to find out that most quotes on writer’s block say it is your imagination and to get over it and you feel like an utter failure who can’t even get writer’s block right. . . .

And then you have this pressing need to talk to someone about writing but have no one to talk to and feel dreadfully alone and depressed and need to write about it on your blog to make yourself feel better.

Thanks for listening, random cyberspace. I feel much better now.

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