Archive for the ‘Writing’ Tag

The Write Stuff   Leave a comment

vintagewomanofficetypewriter

I’m totally grateful I have a job that allows me to work from home. Really. I. Am. As it is, we used a cooperative workspace pre-COVID and all of our files are in the cloud, as is our software, so we’re fluid to begin with. We’re not tied to one place or server. That makes it so easy for us to access whatever we need, create new documents and do all sorts of neat stuff. Wherever I am, I’m usually writing or researching for hours on end. All those words add up to a bunch of sentences that forge into paragraphs and before you know it, there’s a whole document just waiting to be edited by my boss.

When 9:00 am strikes, there I am at my kitchen table, checking the email and social media messages. Usually by 10:00 am I start on my assignments for the day. And when 5:00 pm hits, I’m often in the middle of something so I keep at it until I finish. By then, my eyes are incredibly bleary and dry from staring at a blue-lit screen. So when the evening rolls around, my eyes are too gorped up to write anything. Besides, my creative well’s pretty dried up then, too.

Even writing this blog presents its challenges. Sure, I’ve got plenty to say but no ambition to say it. I really, REALLY hate this whole COVID thing. It’s thrown a monkey wrench into my plans. My Twitter feed is loaded with writers who’re meeting and exceeding all sorts of goals. If I included the number of words I put down daily, I’d beat them all.

Unfortunately, only a select audience reads grant proposals, press releases, blast emails and social media posts. So far as I know, there’s no real story arcs or plot twists in letting the world know my place of employment is hosting a virtual event on Zoom, and in the accompanying press release I’ve sent off to the media to announce it. Although, there is something to be said about the nail-biting, stress-inducing grant proposal…but only after it’s been sent off to the foundation or government agency offering it.

Today’s gorgeous. So was yesterday. Thought I might sit outside and have a cup of something and maybe write some. Within a half-hour, my lungs betrayed me. Damn asthma! Damn pollen! I’m on an inhaler but it only goes so far. It also doesn’t help that the unending roar of motorcycles streaming through my town destroys my concentration, although I’m getting better at ignoring them.

Here I am, in the lower Hudson Valley, and we have so many COVID cases with its share of sorrowful deaths, yet few seem to be paying attention. I took a brief drive yesterday so that my poor car can have its engine kept in shape and I can go someplace in a protective bubble without worrying I’m going to catch anything. Thousands of people were on the road – no lie – and squeezed between all those vehicles were an equal amount of motorcycles. Then those riders hopped off and stood in groups, close, no masks. As I drove through a few towns, loads of people, also maskless, stood around and gathered, no social distancing between them, chatting away as if this was last year.

My town is one of those places that fills up with city people on the weekends and the summer, so it’s no surprise that we have our fair share of COVID cases in town. Even today, people are out in droves, chatting, walking, no social distancing. I really can’t blame people for a little freedom from their homes and worries. But seriously, folks, use a little caution!

Fed up with just about everything, I decided to risk something myself yesterday. I ordered takeout from a restaurant just across the way. I ate there often when things were normal, as they’re good, close and affordable. The last time I ordered from them was March. A day later, on my Facebook page, some well-meaning friend posted a story about how risky it was to order takeout, how one should remove the meal from the bag and cartons and the proper way to disinfect one’s home and self upon placing said meal on your own plate, and to NEVER eat from the original container. I freaked out so much after reading that I swore I’d never do that again. But eating one’s own cooking for too long causes its own level of agitation, so I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed a nice serving of meatloaf, fresh mixed vegetables (not frozen or canned) and a healthy pile of mashed potatoes with gravy. Even went so far as to order a slice of cheesecake that was amazingly delicious. I felt better instantly.

So here I sit now, writing this blog and after I publish it, will go back to my edits for my book that my agent has surely forgotten that I’ve written. My sister has helped me out a great deal trying to get my story into excellent shape. I think about returning to it often, but just can’t get into it for whatever reason. Yet the story lives on in my head, and the characters are beating me up trying to get on with their plots and storylines. I owe it to them to breathe life back into them, and maybe too, my life as a writer.

Stay safe and inspired, friends.

My Summer Reads   Leave a comment

1930s-girls-in-swimsuits-reading

Since I write speculative science fiction with strong female protagonists, I’d thought I’d spend this summer reading female sci-fi writers writing books with strong female protagonists. You know, to see how they do it. Maybe I can pick up a few tips here and there.

So what’s in the pile?

All of Elizabeth Moon’s “Vatta’s War” series. I accidentally picked up the fourth book in the series, “Command Decision,” not realizing it was a later entry in the storyline when I bought it. I read it anyway. Sure, I didn’t get some references but it didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve got four other titles to read so I know what’s going on. Then after that, Ms. Moon added “Vatta’s Peace” to the collection. I’m looking forward to adding that to the list as well.

Last winter, as I sat on the examination table waiting for my doctor to see me, I occupied myself by reading “Command Decision.” The doctor walked in and noticed the book. He immediately pulled it from my hands and said, “This series IS AMAZING! So what did you think of the others?” That’s when I admitted I hadn’t read them. He then goes on telling me the plot lines, characters’ foibles and a few spoilers. While I enjoyed his hearty endorsement of the series, I fortunately forgot most of what he said. I’d love to find out for myself what dangerous situations Kylara Vatta has to dig her way through.

Octavia E. Butler, “Parable of the Sower,” “Parable of the Talents,” and “Kindred.” Oh, wowThis writer has me gobsmacked. No wonder she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and two-time winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Not only is her prose wonderful, her stories will leave you on the edge of your seat. One can never be certain about anything in her worlds. Twists aplenty. Beloved characters die. In her worlds, nothing is certain except uncertainty.

I read “Parable of the Sower” first. Butler predicted the present measles epidemic when it was written in 1993. In “Parable of the Talents,” she predicts a Trump-like character who runs and wins the office of president, and the ensuing rise of racism and rabid Christians  wreaking havoc on an already fragile America.

Butler’s foresight all those years ago gave me chills. I’ve actually put sticky notes in the pages where her words ring close to true. But my favorite is the sayings she created in the books, and one in particular:

“All that you change, changes you.”

Right now I’ve begun “Kindred.” I’ve only read the first chapter and the range of detail and emotions she conveys has me hooked.

My sister teaches college. Her school offers a course on Octavia E. Butler’s literature. I only wish I lived nearby. I’d audit the class!

Happy Summer Reading, Folks!

 

 

 

 

Many Happy Returns of the Day   Leave a comment

rocket-happy-birthday

A birthday cake of dubious function and flavor

Tomorrow is my birthday. Amazing how they creep up on you. It’s not like I wasn’t prepared or anything; February 16 seems to come every year, at least once. And sure, I’d like a cake like the one pictured above, although I think I’d stand a fair distance from it, should the attractive brunette choose to light it.

I’ve heard the expression, “Many happy returns of the day” said to me on my birthday. It sounds really nice, if you ask me. But what exactly is getting or being returned here? I did a little investigation, and here’s what I came up with:

  1. The Earth has gone around one time and arrived at approximately the same place as it did a year ago, so made a return.
  2. It’s the name of numerous television show episodes, films and songs.
  3. One’s birthday will be full of happiness and joy, necessitating a wonderful return on the “investment” of a birthday.
  4. As found in Wikipedia’s entry for the phrase:

    …by Lady Newdigate in a letter written in 1789 (and published in Newdigate-Newdegate Cheverels in 1898)[1]

    “Many happy returns of þe day to us my Dr Love”

    The letter was written in London on the 31st of May 1789 by Hester Margaretta, Lady Newdigate to her husband, Sir Roger Newdigate, 5th Baronet, and refers to a wish for their wedding day.

  5. Winnie-the-Pooh preferred using this greeting as he wished his friends a happy birthday.

Now, I’m not one of those who gets all teary-eyed when I’ve gained an extra year or two. I mean, I can’t help it, nor can anyone. I get more upset with circumstances surrounding my life than the actual years marking its passage.

But there is something I can do, and that’s celebrate. It’s an abbreviated vacation from all the woes, sufferings and stupidity that seem to fill my life these days, and it’s an excellent excuse to eat all of the things I shouldn’t be eating (except on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, National Potato Day, etc.). Plus, I get to hang with my friends and complain about things in general, all while overindulging.

So what will I do on my birthday? Get up, go to the gym, continue working on my second novel, eat, get dressed, go out, eat, have some fun, eat cake, drink and otherwise be merry.

Life is rough. Why make it any harder by not celebrating a birthday?

 

The Surreal Life   Leave a comment

sleep

I’ve been asleep at the wheel lately. Dali’s picture best describes how I’ve been feeling as of late: melted, propped up, in a barren landscape far from any civilization save for a remote outpost of questionable value.

Life isn’t always fair. It splays out an awful lot of unwanted changes, blitzkrieg-style. For the past year, I’ve been caught in that proverbial rock-in-a-hard-place spot that makes it hard to go forward. Seems like I’m forever exhausted. Depressed. Unmotivated and uninspired.

Last autumn, I shared these sentiments with a fellow writer friend. He’d been thrown a horrible loss – his father was killed – and said that writing was the best therapy to work through his grief.

Took me a long while to sink in, but yes, he’s right. Absolutely right. I have to force myself to lose myself in dreams, not to sleep, but to write.

It’s been so long that I’ve created anything meaningful that I nearly lost faith in my abilities. What if my words amount to drivel? Shapeless streams of verbiage? Worse, an over reliance of adverbs?

I sat down with my second manuscript, still uncompleted, and gave it a good, hard look. It’d been months since I added anything to it, plus I have about two-thirds more to write before it’s finished. Sure, there’s a lot of changes I need to make, stuff needs to be tightened up and fleshed out. But you know what? It’s not bad. It’s not even a real first draft yet.

As I read through it, I gathered the plot’s flow in my brain. The characters arose from their long rest and seemed refreshed to resume their roles in my imagination. They even gave me a few clues as to how they’d like to beef up their storylines and get that action rolling once more. After going through it a few times, misty sketches became solid outlines. And here’s something positive: once I got that manuscript back inside me, the holes in the plot that dogged me so much are now filling in. No more potholes, but real patches to sketchy patches that vexed me.

My sister Gwen’s been egging me on, too. Said I need to get on with it. Claim my talent back from the dead and stop crying zombie. Get on with it already. Of course, she’s right.

Perhaps the best words of wisdom I found was from a friend on Facebook, yet another writer. He posted this link from Cracked.com – “How To Be a Better Person.” It’s REALLY hard to admit to the truths in it, but the short of it is that if you want to be a success, you’re going to have to work your ass off, accept failure as a learning opportunity, and expect to keep working until you either give up or shrug off frustration, obstacles, naysayers, pests, pessimists, and your own laziness and limitations in order to succeed. See, the longer you work at something – and it doesn’t have to be writing – the better you become. That, and all the losers quit, therefore opening your field a little wider. And that, my friends, is where an opportunity might show up.

Now, I need to take my own advice. I’ve been out of the writing loop so long that it’s a little scary sticking my feet back in the icy pool. It’s going to take a few dips before I get used to the numbness, but after a while I’ll get used to it again. And I’ll swim.

Here’s to 2017. My year of literary triumph, and yours too.

 

 

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: