Tag Archives | Halloween

Otherwhere: Thus Beginneth

Goofy Halloween GuyHappy Halloween!

And so we come to the beginning of a new blog feature called Otherwhere.  (It's a word, for real, I found it on Thesaurus.com.) In my travels around the internet, I find lots of interesting things that I post on Twitter, or once in a blue moon, on Facebook.  But I've realized that you and I might not connect on those sites.  (Though we should.)  So I decided to save up the links during the week and share them here.  Sound good?  Okay, let's get started:

Puzzled as to how to write a compelling beginning? Janice Hardy of Fiction University has you covered.

And here's another Janice Hardy post.  Do you have a book of your heart?  I do.  It's my MFA book, the novel I wrote while studying fiction  for two years, Language of Trees and I still love it so much.  But nobody else did.  Well, that's not true.  Readers did, but the publishing world gave it a collective, "meh."  Anyway, this blog post discusses why you should love the book of your heart–and move on. 

I'm a Barbara O'Neal groupie. I love her writing and I read her monthly blog posts on Writer Unboxed avidly. Since I'm always trying to find time to get creating art of some kind into my life, the title of this post about Barbara's art days caught my eye.

I just moved my office, so I read Anne Wayman's article on Decluttering for Writers with interest.

Jane Friedman always has reliably good posts and I particularly enjoyed this one, on what it takes to be a career novelist.

Hankering for a writing retreat?  Author Joyce Maynard is now taking applications for the tiny house on her property.

And finally, here's a link to a post about Paris from one of my favorite Paris bloggers.  Because, Paris.  'Nuff said. 

What interesting things have you found on your travels this week?

The photo is one I took of my favorite goofy Halloween decoration.  It's about the only thing I've managed to get up this year. 

 

 

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Five on Friday: Happy Halloween

IMG_20151025_174656It is a wonderful rainy, blustery day here in Portland as I write this–my favorite, at least for once in awhile.  And here’s what’s going on:

What I’m Reading: Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie and The Untethered Soul, both of which I’m pretty sure I was reading last week.  Things have been busy around here!  Next up is After You, which I can’t wait to dive into, and Rise of the Machines, a book on marketing.

What I’m Working On: Settling into my downstairs office (see photo) after a marathon work session on Sunday in which I unpacked a ton of boxes.  Alas, its been pointed out to me that there are still some unpacked boxes upstairs that never got moved.  But, honestly, I haven’t missed any of that stuff for a few months now, so I’m thinking most of it is going out the door.  I’m also writing my next novel, working with several clients and I have a new sort-of ghostwriting project.

What I’m Struggling With: Sugar.  There were sugar cookies in Halloween shapes for the adorable granddaughter to frost last week and that meant I had to eat a couple also.  And I’m baking pie tomorrow.  My chiropractor just reminded me that sugar aggravates inflammation and that it and this weather system that came in overnight were probably why my hips hurt so bad when I walked yesterday.  I’m going to be good starting Monday, I swear it!

What I’m Excited About: My blog redesign, a new feature here starting tomorrow and best of all A GIVEAWAY OF J.D. FROST’S NEW BOOK on Tuesday.  So come on back here to join in.

What I Want to Remind You About: If you live anywhere near Nashville, I’ll be there in January for the Room to Write retreat. Its a chance to have lots of time to write, meet other writers, plus get some good writerly info from moi and two others.  Read all about it here.

And of course, Happy Halloween to all!  What are you doing to celebrate?

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A Wednesday List

Punkins

Punkins, ready for the big night

So, I've had this idea lately. 

What might that idea be, you ask?

I shall tell you.  It's that maybe, once in awhile, more often than a blue moon, maybe even weekly, I'm not sure yet, it likely depends on you all react, I shall write a post that is more personal in nature.  In case you hadn't noticed, I just about always find a way to relate my posts to writing. 

Like, always.

Mostly because it is my firm belief that when you are a writer, everything does relate back to writing. But, still.  There are other aspects of my life that might be fun to comment on once in awhile.  

Thus beginneth the idea of the Wednesday List, with today's post being the first one.  Consider it a glimpse into my world beyond writing. Are you ready? Here we go.

1.  I'm cooking a lot.  Ha, news flash!  To some of you, this might not seem like much, but I am a Lazy Ass Cook Extraordinaire.  As in, buying something to throw on the grill and a prepared salad at Whole Foods.  Or even better, convincing my husband we need to go out.  (This generally does not take much work.)  But in France, I appreciated sun eggs (that's what they called them) so fresh they didn't need to be refrigerated, and tomatoes that tasted like they used to, back in the dark ages.  And so I vowed to cook more when I returned, and I have.  Mostly soups and quick breads so far, but still. And I have purchased two pieces of cooking equipment–a gigantic crock pot and a Madeleine pan. Haven't actually baked any Madeleines yet, but I will.  Maybe this weekend.  I shall report.

2. A story about how knitting saved my writing.  I am a knitter from way back, like birth, even. And yet I don't have much to show for myself, because I, um, tend not to finish things.  It's the idea of the finished object I like, apparently, and the process.  I am trying to change this, but in the meantime, I was recently reminded of how beneficial a knitting project can be.  Because I am trying diligently to finish my projects, I had my most recent one, a sweater made from lovely heathery blue/purple yarn sitting out within easy reach.  Thinking I was procrastinating, I sat down to knit.  I was procrastinating because I was stuck in the writing of my novel, trying to figure out how to fit in a couple of new scenes.  I shall think, I told myself, in order to justify the procrastination.  And guess what?  It worked! Within minutes, I had it all set in my mind.  So then, of course, I didn't get much done on the sweater.  Julia Cameron advocates repetitive activity as a creativity booster in the Artist's Way but I hadn't experienced its benefits in quite some time.

3.  My crazy Tub Wad cats.  They are two tabby brothers we rescued from the Humane Society

TubWad

Lieutenant, the fattest Tub Wad, in his favorite position

several years ago and they are fat.  I mean fat. (See photo for proof.) I used to tell people they were just big-boned, and they are, but I have to admit that even factoring that in, they are fat. And they love to eat.  Their evening feeding time is 5 PM, and long about 2, they start complaining that they are hungry.  But the other day, they were both happily asleep on the couch at that hour and I couldn't figure out what was going on.  Then I remembered the strange noises coming from the room we grandiosely call the library (if you could see it now you would laugh because it is serving as a storage and junk room) where their food was stored in a gigantic plasticized bag.  (We have to buy special food from the vet for them.)  I had secured the top of the bag with a clip, but Captain and Lieutenant made quick work of that.  Turns out they were helping themselves to food at all hours of the day and night. I'm pretty sure it was Captain who figured it out.  He's the smart one.  I always say he's studying to be a human in his next incarnation because he's constantly observing, with his ears perked up so you know he's listening to every word.

4.  Halloween.  I love it.  And its this Friday.  Yay.  But I'm not even sure why I like it so much.  I don't eat the candy, preferring dark chocolate or something more dessert-ish.  And I loathe dressing up in costume.  I think it is the fall color that I like, and the feeling of the crisp air, and all that (though this year our color here in Portland is the worst I've seen in years).  I even like–wait for it–the time change, so that it gets dark early.  Blame it on my Danish heritage, but the dark days of late fall are my favorite time of year.  This year, as always, I'll make my famous chili with the secret ingredient that makes it the best chili you've ever eaten, and my family will come over and the grandbabies will go out trick or treating (maybe–they are still a bit young) and there will also be wine, and beer for the men.  And fat Tub Wad cats lying in the middle of everything.

5.  Overwhelm.  I've been in it since I returned from France.  And I realize I do not handle it well. When I'm overwhelmed, I procrastinate.  Since I'm having problems getting things done, why not make it worse by not doing anything?  Yeah, it works real well, let me tell you.  I'm starting to climb out of it, with only two manuscripts left to read this week (and don't get me wrong, I love reading my client's work) and some forward progress on the rewrite of my novel.  Part of the reason I get overwhelmed is that I have a busy social life, with obligations to family and friends.  Obligations, ha! It's pure pleasure and I know it.  But every once in awhile I have to call enough and quit saying yes to things.

Owlies6.  I got a tattoo.  You can see by the accompanying photo that is it the best thing ever.  Owls are the family symbol because my Mom collected them for years, long before they enjoyed their current moment.  My daughter got a huge, complicated tattoo on her upper arm featuring an owl, and my sister is getting one in December (she had to get an old tattoo removed first). My tattoo is in honor of my grandchildren, with the symbols of their astrological signs in the body of each owl.  And guess what?  It didn't hurt much at all.  I was lying on the table squeezing my eyes shut, telling the tattoo artist to be sure and warn me when he was going to start, certain I was going to flinch and ruin it all. And then when he began I said, "Is that all there is to it?"  Now I'm ready to get another one.

Okay, so a whole novel later, that's what's going on in my life at the moment.  What's up with you, writing or otherwise?  Please leave a comment!

 

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How to Go Places That Scare You In Your Writing

Webcomics_webcomic_scary_449578_lThe Halloween spirit is in full swing at my house and all around the city.  I love decorating for Halloween, though I don't go nearly as all out as some of the places I see which feature scarecrows and witches and ghouls rising from tombstones.  Love it all!

Halloween is supposed to be frightening, with many people (not me) watching scary movies and wandering through graveyards or impenetrable corn mazes.  But I've been thinking about scaring yourself in a different way–through your writing.

Specifically, going to the places that scare you in your writing.

This may be writing about something bad that happened to you in your past, or writing a fight scene when you have an aversion to conflict. Maybe sunshine, lollipops and rainbows scare you (okay, I couldn't resist–see below for the video of that song.) 

Whatever it is that scares you, it is important to go there.  Why?  For a number of reasons.  Because once you get it out on the page, it won't scare you anymore.  Because there's fabulous gold to be mined in the scary places (stories are nothing without conflict).  Because if you're not going there, you're probably not putting your true self on the page.

But how do you go there, when it's too scary?  Below, find some of my best tips for doing so.

1.  Cultivate uncertainty.  We all assume that we know with certainty what's going to happen tomorrow.  We'll get up, go to work, come home, have dinner.  But we don't really know that for sure. You might wake up sick and not go to work.  Or get out to the car and it doesn't start so you decide to take the day off.  Instead of clamping down on this (i.e., feeling you must exert control), learn to live in the knowledge that nothing is certain.

2. Make Friends With Discomfort.  When I flew to Paris by myself this summer, I was nervous. When last I was in France, the people were, um, there's no tactful way to say it…they were rude.  I don't speak the language, either (well, haltingly).  Finally, I realized I was afraid of my own discomfort.  I'm not rich, but I live a pretty cushy life compared to most of the world, and I reckon that most of you reading this can say the same thing.  We don't have to experience discomfort very often, and thus we protect ourselves from it.  So, instead of running from it, go towards it, especially in your writing.  (And by the way, I found the French people absolutely lovely this time around.)

3.  Free Write Lavishly.  Getting into that space where you are not really thinking but your hand is moving across the page is the best way to get into the scary places.  Once more with feeling, the way you free write is set a timer, begin with a prompt, and then have it–let your hand move across the page without stopping.  Did you get that last part?  Without stopping, even if you are writing one word over and over again.  It's this constant movement of the hand that accesses the deep parts of the unsconsious.  Oh, and don't worry about sticking to the subject of the prompt.  It is just there to get you started.

4.  Keep it Private.  Remember that just because you are writing the scary stuff down, it doesn't mean you have to share it with anyone.  Nobody has to read your journal entry, your halting attempts to write that scary scene, the episode of your memoir.  You might eventually get it polished enough and feel brave enough to share it, but that's in the future.  Right now, it's just you and the pen and the paper and neither one of them is going to talk.

5.  Trust the Process.  As a wise soul (maybe Emerson, but don't quote me on that) once said, "The only way out is through."  Yeah, it's true.  You've got to walk through the fire to get to the other side, and if you go around it, you don't get the same benefits.  You get to stay stuck and so does your writing.  And we don't want that, do we?  You will survive writing about the scary things.  Nobody has ever died from writing in private in their own little room.

So there you have it–my recommendations for getting to the scary places.  And here's that video (you can thank me when you wake up singing this song tomorrow):

How do you get yourself to write about the scary places?

 

Photo by I'm Fantastic, used under Creative Commons 2.5.

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Is Your Writing Voice Masked?

Everystockphoto_204443_mYeah, so, that headline is a clever attempt to tie this post into Halloween.  In case my efforts are obtuse, mask=costume=Halloween.  I know, I know, a bit labored. Except that writing voice is an important subject. (Along the same Halloween theme, last week I wrote about Fear and Focus.)

And writing voice is a topic that sometimes causes writers angst.

Because everyone wants a unique voice.  Every writer wants to write in one, and every agent and editor wants to discover one.  After all, there's really nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes, so  the ability to write in a fresh way is truly important.

However, like all desirable things, voice can be elusive.  You put words on the page and they sound blah and dull.  You despair.  You wrestle with the words a bit more and they sound even duller.  You despair some more.  And then slink off for a little nip.  Thus ending your writing session.

Ah, but it doesn't have to be like this.  There are ways to encourage your natural voice to come out.  How, you ask?  Let me tell you how I think it naturally arises, in a two-step process:

1.  Glumping, as in glumping it all on the page, letting the words flow out of you in a mad rush.  This can actually seem counter-intuitive to finding your voice, because let's face it, when you write like this, sometimes what comes out is crap.  But within that dung are jewels to be found, and these jewels continue glimmers of your true voice.  The more you allow yourself to write, just write, the more these tiny glints of voice will shine.

2.  Honing.  After the first draft, wherein you glump, you write another draft and another.  As many as it takes to get the story right.  And then you get to the point where it's time to tinker, when you are looking at every single word and every bit of grammar.  This is where you polish your voice.  A wonderful editor, Chris Reardon says that "writers smother their voice in ineffective writing habits."  Those habits would be things like using a lot of adverbs (I, myself, am the queen of them), writing in passive voice, using cliches, and so on.  Learn what your bad habits are and edit them out. 

As you can see, the process is one of expansion and contraction.  You throw the words on the page and then you go through and edit every single one.  And, most importantly, you remember always that these are two very different processes and keep them separate. 

Et voila, a sparkly, shiny voice will appear.

Do you worry about voice? What do you do to encourage it?

 Photo by clarita.

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Happy Halloween

I'm in the process of cleaning and cooking for a Halloween party we're having tonight.  Somehow, my610px-Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31
annual chili dinner for one or two friends has turned into a last-minute shindig.  Alas, this means not a lot of time to write today.  However, I did rise early to work on Emma Jean,inspired by comments from my critique group last night. And I've made huge progress on my ghostwriting projects this week.  So you know what that means?  It is time to party!

Meanwhile, I've been racking my brain for a clever Halloween post.   Or a trick or a treat. I heard that Bruce Springsteen has a free download for Halloween on his website, but that seems a bit off-topic.  A couple of internet marketers have offered me free Ebooks, but they've turned out to be not worth the time it takes to download them.  And since I'm busy cleaning and cooking, I don't have a lot of time to figure anything else.

Ah, but light has dawned as I am writing this.  Seeing as how today is Halloween, it is a Friday, and tomorrow is November 1st, when many of you are starting Nanowrimo, how about we all give ourselves a huge pat on the back and take the day off?  We could start a movement to have Halloween be National Take the Day Off From Writing Day. 

Are you with me on this one?

I suppose you have to be a crazed workaholic like me in order to really get behind it, or at least a person who feels guilty if they don't write every day.    I know there are many of you out there.  So, c'mon, stand up and be counted.  We can make this happen.

The thought occurs to me that by writing this post I am, um, writing.  So I've got to knock it off.  See you all tomorrow, when I expect reports from everyone who has begun Nanowrimo (Kate and CJ, this means you, and I know I'm missing others so stand up and be counted.)

Photo by Toby Ord, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5.  I found it on Wikipedia.

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