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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing as Therapy and Vocation

I have been doing some reading – mostly about writing. I have also been doing some writing, though nothing that I intend on publishing. I’ve gone Jungian (well, I’ve been courting an archetype and doing a dance with it).

It is an exercise in torturing this one character (not a specific character as much as a type). It’s not a hero, but wouldn’t feature as the Big Bad in a story either. The character is a study in red herring – a distraction, an interruption to muddle a journey for the hero of the piece.
A trickster, a jokester, a minor demon in a pantheon of gods and demigods, this character is more an archetype that I am toying with it so I can use it later.  It’s not always the same person. I use a variety of influences for an infinite array of annoying little rats. They pop their pin heads into the action and turn it into a bizarre circus -- and then there's panic, fear, self-loathing, and horror.

The idea is that I need to keep writing even if it’s not something marketable. I am honing my skill because practice makes better (perfect is a fantasy).
In the middle of a blizzard, I could contemplate ways to castigate while I waited for the ice cream I made earlier to harden in the freezer. This is awesome, considering we started the year in the midst of a plumbing emergency.
I tried to document the emotional toil of that adventure, but I found it was stressful though hardly interesting. The problem, in my estimation, is not that the scene lacked drama but rather that I was too close to it. It was too soon to look at it with clinical detachment.
You can imagine how leaving the Food Goddess with a kitchen without a stove and a fridge transcends the totality of Greek tragedies!   
While there was some stress involved, I believe I met it with enough levity that it dulled the inner fanfare and the virtual Greek chorus of keeners. 
A person who imagines a virtual Greek chorus of keeners who, in my head, goes from the solemn and turns into a funky tribal dance will always have trouble depicting serious drama. Apparently, I can find jocularity everywhere I go, no matter where life takes me.
Ultimately, the Snowmageddon they promised us didn’t affect us – there appears to be less than a few inches on the ground. My first batch of ice cream was a disaster, but as soon as we go out to get cream and some fruit, I’ll try again. 
We have sprung a leak from the skylight over the stairs on our landing. This may lead up to a whole new level of drama and an opportunity to write about the dangers inherent in that! The likelihood, though, is that I’ll find a way to have the contractor’s pants fall off as he reaches the top of the ladder, and mooning us all in lacy thong… 

It may not make for something I can package and sell, but it is awesome therapy and it keeps me writing and learning and surviving. The odds are someday I will use all of it. For now, the writing serves me well: my sanity demands it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Camels Do All The Work

I didn’t know anything about leaving cookies for Santa—he was an adult and could get his own snacks! As a kid growing up in Puerto Rico, though, I did gather handfuls of grass every fifth of January.

The sixth, Orthodox Christmas or the day of the Epiphany, is the date that allegedly the Magi reached the baby Jesus. In Latin American countries, the Three Kings bring gifts to good little boys and girls – much like Santa does – and much as they did for another child many moons ago.

The tradition is to leave a handful of grass for the camels. I insisted on water too. My grandmother objected to the fact that I insisted on using her good china for this, but she did not want to break the fantasy.

She did not understand why I’d go through the trouble and then not leave anything for the Three Kings, “They are traveling very far to bring you toys.”

“But the camels do all the work!”

She’d just let it go, because every once in a while she’d see no end to the argument and no point in trying to reason with me.

This year we may not celebrate the way we wish we could, as resources are limited and we are in the midst of a situation at the house – the tail end of drama that involves exploding pipes and dead appliances.

The whimsy is still within us and we will feed it later, when we can afford to do something adorable.

Right now, I have one of my journals open and I am documenting the events of the last week or so. I have tentatively titled the journal “The Gift” as a personal nod to O. Henry and in hopes I can be as prolific as he was . . .

. . . or, at the very least, that things settle soon and we can go have a drink at Pete’s Tavern! 

I plan to roll with whatever 2015 throws at me.

Whatever our future holds for us, here’s hoping you all have a year full of fantastic surprises and in which you lack absolutely nothing. And if life throws plumbing emergencies and all kinds of chaos, write it down and torture one of your fictional characters with it (and then laugh and laugh when Amazon reviewers accuse you of hyperbole). 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Even the Sorrows are Gifts

I don’t mind admitting that it has been a brutal year and I am certainly glad to see it go.

There were good moments. Some great, in fact! But, at the same time, it has been an uphill struggle for a better part of the year and with little to show for it.

This year felt like being stuck in a bad marriage to a traveling salesman: cheap, boring, with enough simmering resentment to fuel bad poetry.

I exaggerate, of course. I am a writer. I have an inherent need to dramatize, to tweak, and then to give it a noir shine…

If I simply told you that there have been some challenging months where all I did was apply for dozens of jobs (full time and freelance) and got little yield… Who cares? Everybody has a period like that. But a bad marriage to a traveling salesman? You’ll remember that!

So, yes, there have been lean times, but also awesome opportunities, creative surges, and hope that everything will balance out in the end.

At the end of this strange year, I am grateful for freelancing to keep me afloat, creative juices to keep me writing, and great friends who make the journey so much more fun.

I’ve pulled some shorter works from the online bookstores (the works still exist in compilations). I have reformatted every book and added updated back matter to all.

For those interested, there are a few new covers:

I also reformatted the cookbook (e-book version only) and I think flows better. It is slightly re-edited, but the recipes remain the same.

The biggest update has been in reference to the Food Goddess blog. I have created companion pieces for some of the entries (it started with the piece about butter). I’m still working on the updates to the blog itself, but you may find new and fantastic curated boards here (you can click on each image to link to it):

Happy holidays to those who celebrate and here’s hoping 2015 brings us all health, fortune, and more joys than not! And the sorrow? Make art out of the sorrows!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Managing Bookmarks

In my research, during my travels, and as part of different ongoing projects, I will sometimes come across articles, blogs, books, periodicals and other resources that I may not need immediately but will at a later time.

With Chrome and other browsers, you can type in a word into the address bar, and get a list of relevant bookmarks and possible search options. To match your bookmarks, it is contingent on you making sure the search terms are part of the link’s name (because the thing you are looking for may not always be part of the URL).

I know somebody who literally collects bookmarks “for future reference.” There is nothing wrong with this, but if you do not curate your lists, you will make it virtually impossible to find what you need. Ever.

I have hundreds of bookmarks! If I need something, I cannot open each and every link. That’s not efficient. And you know after the first dozen, if you managed to stay focused that long, you’ll lose your train of thought.

The best thing, I find, is that if you use good SEO in filing and naming links, you’ll need not spend much longer than if you Google it.

At the moment, I have folders on Writing, Business & E-commerce, E-book Marketing, Learning, Research (General), and Resources (Art, Cover, Fonts). There are more, but not all writing-related.

Each new project I start gets its own folder, so that I can refer to my personal repository of data when I need it. I also create a document with links (but am not as consistent about maintaining it).

I have also created Pinterest secret boards of links that I will use as research for current and upcoming writing projects. I’ve written about these, and suggested that you may release these after you publish (for fun, for book clubs, as part of the ongoing conversation with your readers).

If you prefer to synch your data, you can save bookmarks to Google.  

For a few minutes every once in a while you can be your own sexy librarian.

I find it particularly helpful to review my bookmarks from time to time – create new folders, move links, check the viability of sites and content, etc… Clean house!

Sometimes in managing your links, you will find new content to bookmark. You can let go of the lessons you’ve already mastered.

Do you have to do this? Of course not! It is, in my opinion, an excellent aid to help you reach clarity in your search for inspiration and help you feed your creativity.

This is also possible in the midst of chaos. It’s just a different experience and a whole new story. 

How do you manage the variety of articles, sites, artifacts, blogs, pieces of art or music that you use for each book?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December is for Revisions

Another year, another 50,000 words. This year it was a little difficult to get through the last 10,000 words. It tripped me up a bit.

I have December to revise and tie it all together, maybe release it as an introduction of the character before I send her into space. The 50,000 words I wrote kept my protagonist earth-bound.

Digging through my early notes when I first chose to do the story and I had different names for the characters and I need to decide whether to keep or change them. I have to say it enough times to see if it sings to me.

Then there is the second volume that follows. The planning for the writing needs to start soon. It helps with continuity (and there is no rule that commits me to it).

Was it fun? Yes. Was it maddening and insane? Yes. Will I do it again? Oh, yes!

It’s about commitment and discipline, confidence and creativity and a combination of craziness and adventure.

No day job doesn’t make it easier. In fact, it may fracture your loyalties in ways an 8-10 hour a day job might not. This is because you spend so much time weeding through job boards, updating resumes, tweaking the CV and cover letters…

Then there is the freelancing. I’m thrilled I can get some business, but if you are going to freelance, it requires a thick skin (you will write and rewrite proposals and submit dozens that will never get any response).

These activities take a lot of time and energy!

That does not mean that you let the writing slide. It means you have to readjust to what time you have for yourself and dedicate some of it to writing. But write you must: it is therapy and escape.

It is also a way to hone your craft, so you keep doing until you come close to a high level of excellence.

December is for revisions in other ways too: besides tweaking NaNoWriMo manuscripts, it is the last ditch to salvage the year or improve on the good stuff to end the year on a high note!

Do all your holiday shopping at Smashwords and Amazon

I need to release new work, and I have plenty of work to do: some writing, mostly edits, and a lot of transcription! But for those new to my work, I did create new PDFs for Justified, One Night with B.B., Chronicles of Ash, The Scent of Honeysuckle, Remembrance of Dingbats, and Kali, The Food Goddess: Volumes 1 & 2

Authors ready to publish: if anyone needs help formatting manuscripts to electronic formats (EPUB, MOBI, PDF, etc.) for submission to Smashwords (premium catalogue), Kindle, CreateSpace can check out my professional services page or contact me through elance.

Keep me busy! Help me keep the economy going!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 Days of Madness

Every year you take the NaNoWriMo challenge it is a different experience. The manuscript of my first novel was so bad I killed it with fire. The second one resulted in my first published novel. Last year, it was a disaster: I could not finish.

This year I outlined a story and I have followed it to some degree, but it’s very “first drafty” and I know that a lot of it will not survive rewrites. One wants the words that flow to be beautiful and poetic, and ready for publication!

(I know. I know!)

The ongoing joke, as I shared my status with friends, was that I had not yet used the unicorn. This is the idea that if everything else falls apart, you can always add a unicorn.

Magic and fantasy changes everything.

Last night, as a joke I threw in a unicorn reference… There is a festival taking place and the headlining act is a cover band called Monkeys on Unicorns.

The ensuing comments after I announced the unicorn development resulted in the following dialog (shortened here) which made me laugh out loud:

“At any rate,” Gábor was saying, “after I figured what it was, I was almost disappointed because there just was no way these guys could improve on my first assumption. But it’s not a bad band, I liked them.” 
“Why disappointed?” she asked. “I don’t understand.” 
“Well, when you called, I thought you said we’d go watch monkeys on unique corns.” 
“Monkeys on Unicorns,” she corrected. 
Gábor raised an eyebrow and said, “You say that like it’s supposed to be perfectly logical. Monkeys with Razor Blades makes more sense! Monkeys Wearing Boots makes more sense.” 
“Don’t you know what a unicorn is?” 
“Yes,” he said, annoyed. “And no…” 
“Explain, please.” 
“I did not discover children’s stories until I entered school,” Gábor said. “And I rejected most of them as ridiculous. My education, therefore, is rather incomplete in terms of whimsy.” 
He was standing over her as her swing came to a full stop. 
“Well, what did you think monkeys on unique corns would be?” 
“Monkeys riding perfectly cylindrical ears of corn,” he said a little too quickly. “Like some retro circus act.” 
The image alone made her let out a belt of laughter that echoed across the park. She threw her head back and the neon colored oval swing began its oscillation, then she kicked at the ground and she was off again.

“So, at what point did you realize it wasn’t going to be that?” 
“I saw their band logo,” Gábor said, crestfallen. “At first I thought it was even better: you know, monkeys on horses; then I looked closer, but without my glasses, and figured the horn could be an ear of corn on a horse’s head, because there was corn! But I quickly realized that was just ludicrous.” 
Maya was laughing so hard she was struggling to hang on and gasping for air.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Writing Life

There is this cool wind of euphoria that comes when you are in the zone and the words are coming fast and furious. There’s clarity and joy, and you write faster than you can even think, it becomes an instinct.

It’s like a drug, but better: it’s legal, has no side effects, and it costs absolutely nothing. 

I think that is part of the allure for NaNoWriMo.

I’m almost in love with the process right now. Almost halfway through the novel and I have yet to stall (or resort to throwing a unicorn in the story to save a failed plot or faulty research).

I say “almost” because along with NaNoWriMo I am spending time writing dozens of cover letters to send with tweaked resumes, as well as dozens of proposals for freelance projects. Making more progress on the novel than the day job search is a little discouraging and balances things out in the joy department.

So life becomes an exercise in patience where I can be fertile in creativity but fruitless in efforts to move ahead professionally, at least for the moment.

Of course, I realize that the moment I start working full time, it will take time off the writing because it will be the bulk of my day. At this point, it looks like it may not be until after the holidays that I find a desk of my own.

What's a little multitasking amongst us girls, right?

That means I need to put more effort into freelancing and I’ve seen many projects cancelled in the last few weeks. It’s brutal! I am getting invited to submit proposals by clients, so it’s not like I am competing with the whole field out there, just the experts. This is excellent and promising, as long as I remain patient.

This is still not a work blog, but the freelancing does involve writing and publishing services.

So, let's review: I have no news, yet, except that I am still in the running because I will not give up. Also, I write, and I love the process.

NaNoWriMo progress: The story has become a side-by-side/alternating tale of the two sisters as they move through life and become stars on their own right – which may not all survive in editing, but is helping me flesh out both characters.

A plot twist suggested itself in dream form last night (yes, I dreamed I was writing). It isn't what I outlined, but I will allow the story to go in that direction because if feels organic to the story as it develops. (Don't you wish life were that easy and malleable some days?)

As long as I remain disciplined and patient, rewards will find me: the words will continue to grace the page, projects will be offered, interviews may start to materialize.

I remain hopeful in all fronts.

Now, what shall I call that unicorn, in case I need one later?