Archive for August 2010

Beat the Clock

August 29, 2010

Timing is Everything

Yesterday afternoon at 4:29 CDT I crossed the finish line.

Okay, this wasn’t the Boston Marathon, an Olympic sprint, a state swimming meet, or power-walking  race.  If I’d been in this year’s Boston Marathon I wouldn’t finish until 2020.  In a swimming meet, I’d sink before I’d ever finish—only I can sink in salt water or hanging on to a floating device.  As for power-walking?  Let’s just say my power walking days ended in 1990.

No wonder no one was around to provide the hurrahs…

But I did cross a finish line—one I’d established for myself and in a timing that beat my personal best.  So what was this feat?  Finishing my revision which I promised myself I’d finish no later than 11:59 CDT of August 31st.  By my calculations I was 3 days, 7 hours and 31 minutes ahead of my goal.  Oh, my, your clapping just thrills my heart.

This last week in the rush of immersing myself into my story and never wanting to shift away, not much got done.  I skipped a few meals.  Of course I didn’t starve as I had my energy reinforced with several heath bar Blizzards(thank you, dear hubby).  Pure, unadulterated muse food and great energy source for tired digits chained to polishing the unfolding events and glued to the keyboard.

During this past week, sleep might have been something I needed and even craved, but my muse’s force burned bright.  I wanted these revisions done and to get this story off to my editor.

Last night after a small celebratory Grey Goose, I looked over my ending.  Still love it as much as I did when I first wrote it.  It’s one of the items I didn’t tinker much with.  Sometimes you just know you can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t.  I listened.

We all set goals whether as writers or busy people living hectic lives.  Achieving them makes us feel better about ourselves and our lives.  I really didn’t need “others” at my personal finish line yesterday.  I had them.  I’ve been living with them for weeks.  They are Maggie, Seth, Emily, Ed, Ellen, Jeanne, Patrick, Irene, and Virginia.  They’re all very pleased I’ve tweaked, prodded, and polished them and their lives to get them out of the tough spots they were in.

Early Evening Visitors

I’m glad, too.  That’s the best part about writing fiction.  I can control the lives of those in my fictional world.  It’s also one of the best parts about deadlines and meeting them.  I’m able to control my own life and surroundings better if I meet mine or exceed them.  Believe me, this feeling is a great reward.

Oh, how am I spending my day off?  Why, writing this—and maybe getting one of those blizzards for a job well done.  🙂

Thank you, Neighbor Bob,  for this last photo. 🙂  Click on it, folks, to enlarge and tell me how many critters you see!

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A Conundrum

August 21, 2010

Two Choices

A few weeks ago I pulled off my bookshelf, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  Now the first time I read this was many years ago, before Oprah found it, and I borrowed it from the college library where I worked.  Now this was a very good thing because as a faculty member I didn’t have to return the book in two weeks.

It’s a huge book but I was teaching full time, being busy as a wife and mother and all the tasks that was part of those roles.  And while I read every day, my reading time was limited—so I needed more than two weeks to finish the book.

Because I loved the book so much the concept and the general plot stayed with me all these years.  A few years ago I purchased the soft cover version as I knew I wanted to read it again.  I pulled it off my shelf and started reading it, discovering all over again why I remembered this book.

But my hands objected.  My hands have developed some arthritis and holding that large book became very difficult.  Because it’s so heavy.  And the print is small.  Instead of becoming engrossed once again in the story, all I could think about was how much my hands hurt, how heavy the book was, and the eye strain.

You guessed it; I set the book aside.  Fear not, my hubby picked it up and is reading Pillars now. But I wanted to read it.  So I checked to see if it was available on Kindle.  You guessed it.  I’m happy because now I have it on my lightweight Kindle where I can adjust the font to the best size for me.  Sure Pillars will take me a while to read it, but it will be so much easier.

The situation brought home to me a very important concept.  Any books I buy in the future will have to be light weight and NOT in incredibly small print.  I guess that’s a reason why I’ve been drawn to trade size paperbacks—the print is generally larger, darker and the book while larger than the usual size paperback still fits in my purse but is easier for me to hold.

Anyway, I’m very happy with my Kindle and today I was at my writers’ group picnic meeting and a spontaneous discussion evolved about e-readers, who has them, what they like and don’t like about them.  I’m not quite sure how this discussion developed but I added why I liked my Kindle.  Others were talking about the ones they have.  So here’s a group of writers who are also talking about digital book readers of various kinds and investing in them.

Which brings me to a few news items I’ve read in the last few weeks. For example two print publishers, Dorchester and Medallion, are going to digital versions of all books first and after a few months, then maybe a print cover book.  Amazon’s Kindle books outsold hardcover books for the first time.  The publishing world as it was twenty years ago, even ten years ago, is changing.  Even Barnes and Noble appears to have its problems.

Sailing Choices

What does all this mean to me as a writer?  I suspect I’ll be learning new ways of doing things.  The process for getting published may be an even more difficult journey than it is now.  The steps are likely also to have changes.  And that’s just what I think at the moment without deep thought.  But I know I will find excitement in the journey.

What I know will stay the same?  That writers will still write great stories.  We will find our readers.  And we will find new methods of connecting our stories with them.

What do I know as a reader?  Whether I read a book or a digital version, I can depend on the writers in this world to keep those books coming in whatever format evolves.  I will be waiting.  I know others will also.

A Puzzlement

August 15, 2010

Developing a Reader Base

The above photos are my two most recent and youngest “readers.”  Nothing like getting them interested in my stories at a young age.  🙂

Actually, these two are my great-niece and nephew.  Their mother says they’ve picked up Black Ribbon Affair several times since she’s reading it.  Each time she tells them I wrote it.  T the most recent time she had her camera at the ready.  I love these two photos and had to share them with you.

This week has been a busy one, busy with family responsibilities and with revisions.  It seems lately that the more commitments I have beyond my writing the more I write.  I think that’s because I know my time is limited so I make sure I get my writing in each day.

Maybe what I’ve learned is that if I have “free” time I might be more likely to waste it, but if I know my hours each day have many tasks to accomplish, I organize my time better.  Thus I get more work done.

Now this makes me think about my goals because I’ve always thought I’ve been one to organize and plan my time and get work done no matter what comes up.  But since I’ve had so many unexpected issues come up this week along with all I’d planned and still managed to get more revision pages done than I expected, I’m wondering.  Was I very fortunate?  Or do I need to plan better from now on?

Upcoming Reader X 2

It is a puzzlement.  🙂

Maybe I’ll have my conclusion next week when I post. 

On a different note, last week I talked about all the dragonflies.  This week they disappeared for about three days.  I noticed a few again yesterday and today a few more.  Another puzzlement; did they leave, die, migrate?

What we have in abundance this week are butterflies—and still the heat, humidity and haze.  Perhaps the weather helps me stay focused on my writing because it’s so miserable outside I’ve no desire to leave my office—if I don’t have to.

I have a busy week again.  I’m hoping I’ll get more pages done than I expect, just like I did this week.  Wish me luck.

Dragonfly Daydreams

August 8, 2010

Resting for a Second

This past week I’ve been very aware of dragonflies.  They’ve been darting around our yard from early morning until I can’t see them any longer.  I don’t know if they still fly during the night because then I’m watching fireflies.

The variety of dragonflies amazes me.  Their agility astounds me.  One mid afternoon when I was mulling over how to rework a scene, I saw a dragonfly aerial expo that kept me watching for fifteen minutes.

My mind wandered as I watched, and in those minutes I solved my revision issue and allowed my thoughts to wander to the good these insects were accomplishing with their tricks.

Here in Wisconsin we’ve had a major hatch of mosquitoes lately and biting flies.  That’s what’s drawn the dragonflies.  They’re nature’s hit men and they’re very efficient.  And deadly gorgeous.

So once I got back to work and finished my scene, I did a bit a research on these beauties—because while I could identify them immediately, I didn’t know much about them.

For example, did you know they spend most of their life span in the water?  And while swimming around, they feast on smaller insects and aquatic critters tinier than they are.  When they leave the water, they metamorphose several times until they become the flying aerialists we all know.

Oh, I learned more, like some species are much bigger than others and one species in particular is on the endangered species list in Wisconsin.

Dragonfly and Tomato

Those facts made me think about how they compare to my characters, how they develop and change and become more formed as we go through developing an idea that becomes our plot, writing the first draft and then revising and polishing to produce a product that we and our readers will love.  (And this we is my characters and me)

Sometimes my characters are incredibly lovely, agile, maybe deadly.  If they are memorable, they will grow and change—or they won’t survive or axed in a revision or if it’s a suspense, they might get killed off.

Dragonflies only live a few weeks once they reach the stage that we recognize.

In that respect they aren’t like us or my characters.  Most of us will have many productive years as an adult.  Most of us will never attain the agility of these tiny but might fliers, but we will live longer.

Or are a dragonfly’s few weeks equal to decades for a human?  How might we ever know?

You can see this dragonfly issue has been on my mind.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have enough to think about.  Or maybe it’s because when watching these flying beautiful bugs, I let my mind wander and unleash my creativity.

Or maybe I’m just thankful they’re around to help keep those pesky mosquitoes under control.

Spider webs; I don't like them

I wonder if they kill spiders?  I’d love that, too.

Now, let’s see, maybe I could develop a story where mutant ninja dragonflies take over the world.  The leader would, of course, be a kickass female with the most iridescent of wings…maybe Angelina might be interested in playing her in the movie version…

What do you think?