Crawling back out of the rabbit hole…

First, let me say that if that image there was my rabbit hole I would never come back out. Ever.

Right, so back to the topic at hand – rabbit holes. I am using this term not to describe an underground warren, but a distraction one encounters while trying to be productive. For me, social media is a big rabbit hole that I try to avoid while working on my current round of edits. But today I encountered an even bigger and deeper hole – Scrivener.

*Quick disclaimer: I am not in any way financially supported by Literature and Latte, the company that makes Scrivener. I also hold no grudge – if anything, I desperately want it to work because I feel like it would improve the quality of my work, if only it would behave itself and start working for me.*

I used Scrivener a few years ago after a Nanowrimo win that led to a discount on the software. I downloaded it and used it during a Script Frenzy – the Office of Letters and Light’s now-defunct scriptwriting month – and loved it, but never went back to it because, at the time, I wrote with Word. I still think about going back to that big white ‘W’ on the blue now and then, just because I used it for so long and understand how it works.

A beta reader and editor suggested that I write in Google Docs after working through edits in between Google and Word and finding Google to be easier. I was already saving my work in that cloud after losing half a manuscript to a bad hard drive, so it was not a huge leap to writing in GDocs. I write everything there now and love it. I even spent an hour today learning how to compare versions of documents! So when voices that I trust from the other rabbit hole, Twitter, suggested Scrivener, I decided to give it a try. After all, I have a 143k word document that needs to be divided into three novels so that I can see where I need to add more meat on the bones and I’m SO VERY TIRED of holding the button on the touchpad while it highlights half my manuscript.

So now I find myself in a new diversion – four hours of my life given to uninstalling and installing Scrivener, watching tutorials, waiting for the program to open (5 minutes) and to import a .doc (10 minutes, I wish I was kidding), and I just don’t see the point. The latest version of Windows mentioned in their help files is Windows 8, and I’m on 10. Maybe it was just not meant to be.

Sadly, I’m too stubborn for that and it’s back to the Scrivener Rabbit Hole for me. Ugh.

On Daylight Savings Time and Writing Workshops …

I hates it, precious. I HATES IT!

For the record, it isn’t Daylight Savings Time I necessarily hate. It is the tampering with time, both forward and back, that I hate. I especially hate it when it causes my alarm clock goes off at a time that my body thinks is TOO EARLY. (Though let’s be honest here – it is always too early. I hate mornings, I am 100% certain about that.)

This year, DST had to come on a Sunday after I have travelled a considerable distance from home alone in my car on Saturday and was exhausted well before the time the great invisible THEY took an hour away from me and my sleep. So it was not going to be a good day, that was a given.

I remember being a kid and having to go to church on Sundays when it turned DST. Not my finest moments, and I should probably apologize to my mother RIGHT NOW for what I’m certain was a fantastic temper tantrum – but the worst, without a doubt, was when DST fell on Sundays that happened to be EASTER Sundays. There is nothing worse, in my estimation, than having to get up to go to a sunrise service that does not actually include sunrise because someone thought that we didn’t need all the hours that Sunday and held one of them back. Is it any wonder I once snuck away from the service and instead tried to find a way to help the United Methodist Men work on the pancake breakfast in the church fellowship hall? Clearly, I was trying to save the rest of the congregation from the aforementioned tantrums. Sadly, I was the only one that saw it that way.

Before an hour of my life was stolen, however, I attended the Writing Day Workshops Atlanta Writing Workshop. This was my first professional writer event, and I was a hot mess going into it. But there was so much information presented that I had a blister on my finger from taking notes by the end of the second workshop. I came away with some important information that did not end up in my notebook – it is okay to be self-published. In fact, one of the writers that taught on Saturday started out traditionally published is now doing both, each for a different genre, and it works.

Something that people have been telling me for ages cemented in my mind on Saturday: All you have to do to be a writer is write. You don’t have to publish, even. Just write. Enjoy the craft of writing. That’s it! I went, ready to be intimidated by my fellow workshop goers and to some extent, I still was – but I also experienced the same feeling I have at interpreting workshops, of being with ‘my tribe’ and in the company of others who get me. Now if only I could find a fellow fantasy writer that is also a visual language interpreter and I think my life would be complete!

I also have more confidence to query and pitch and think that I have a pitch ready for the first book in the upcoming Baskervilles series…I just need to finish the manuscript first. I had some time to think over lunch, and while I still have a fairly robust publishing calendar for the Orana Chronicles books I’m going to work in some time to polish up the Baskervilles. It would be a good experience to pitch that one because while I love the story and the characters it is not my baby, if you will, like the Orana Chronicles. We will see how that goes.

For now, though, I’m reading over my notes, planning a potential thriller or suspense novel as a one off just to see if I can pull it off, and generally longing for a nap. Happy Monday, y’all. Happy Monday indeed.

New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year’s Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time – set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn’t count.
I’m writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I’ve come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.
Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It’s called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact – I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so – I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above – a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.
I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That’s Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth’s podcast, it is.
I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I’m having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than ‘liz, as I have known her since uni, so there’s no way I’ve got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.
And y’all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share – and what she doesn’t.
Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today – the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse – and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, “You want to do that? Well, why not?” that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job – so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.
Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.
But this morning’s listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I’m doing and how to do it…if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig…even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don’t love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.
The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy – cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.
Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.
So while I’m still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won’t be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me – a work in forever ongoing progress.

Yes, Virginia Woolf, I am an author…

So, I was working on some prep for an upcoming class I have to interpret and I stumbled upon a passage in an essay that not only struck me but absolutely blindsided me in its perfection and appropriateness. In fact, this is going to be my go to now when people ask me what it means to be an author or, in her lovely parlance, a novelist – which sounds far more like the image I have of myself – sequestered in a lovely, seaside town with a leather chair, a fireplace, and my laptop, writing and writing and writing.

Of course, this image flies in the face of my reality – I’m usually on the sofa, holding off anywhere from one to three dogs who DESPERATELY  NEED MY ATTENTION RIGHT NOW and answering questions from my husband while trying to find the right way to describe a creature that heretofore exists only in my mind. That, of course, is luxury; there are also the harried moments of trying to get a sentence typed while simultaneously trying NOT to slide off the seat in a moving bus, or typing out THE BEST DIALOGUE I HAVE EVER CREATED with one hand at whatever desk I can find at work – as the other hand tries not to drop my lunch onto the keyboard.

Anyway, enjoy this passage from “How One Should Read a Book,” by Virginia Woolf. She is, as per usual, spot on. I will have some thoughts to share after you’re done.

The thirty-­‐two chapters of a novel—if we consider how to read a novel first—are an attempt to make something as formed and controlled as a building: but words are more impalpable than bricks; reading is a longer and more complicated process than seeing. Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words. Recall, then, some event that has left a distinct impression on you—how at the corner of the street, perhaps, you passed two people talking. A tree shook; an electric light danced; the tone of the talk was comic, but also tragic; a whole vision, an entire conception, seemed contained in that moment.

-Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read A Book

Right, so anyone that has written anything will tell you that this is one of the more challenging aspects of the craft – take what you have experienced that inspires you and turn it into words, with all their “dangers and difficulties.”  While I do agree that it is difficult, it occurs to me that I have an advantage that I hadn’t thought about until today – I am fluent in English, but also in American Sign Language (ASL).

I know, it’s a stretch, but stay with me.

ASL, like all other signed languages, is a visual and spatial language – English, and other spoken languages, are more linear in their approach to conveying a message. It is part of the language to describe things, to make the building that Woolf mentions in that passage. You can’t convey the meaning, TREE without conveying what the tree looks like. It is built into the language!

I haven’t gotten to the advantage yet, so if you’re still lost, that’s okay. Here we go.

In order to express TREE in ASL, I have to visualize the tree. Whereas in English I might say “the old oak tree with the outstretched branches” to describe the tree I’m picturing now, I would use one sign in ASL:

As you can see in this image by The Tree House, my arm would be the trunk and my fingers the leaves, so in a way, I’m expressing everything that took me eight words in English with one sign. But in my mind, I am visualizing the tree and hanging onto that visualization because I need it to correctly represent the tree.
That was the advantage – did you miss it? ASL requires me to hold onto images of things that I have seen and subsequently want to talk about later. That is such a useful skill for a writer, especially one like me born without an eidetic memory. Do I capture and store everything that I see/hear/experience? No, my internal hard drive that is my brain is far too limited for that. But part of what I do as an ASL user is to slow down for a second and consider the visual aspects of something that strikes me – and that helps me later describe it, sometimes first in ASL and then in English.
My life is weird – and wonderful, and I hope that this will make me a better interpreter AND novelist.

Scorched and Clobbered on my way into 2019

Yeah, that’s what I look like in my head – but less blonde.

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Yeah, so I’m a little behind, but no blog of mine would be worth its collective weight without a farewell to the old and promises I plan to keep break for the new around this time of year, right? Like here, two years and change ago, when I made the decision to go to grad school…again… Or here, where I acted like a big-time fancy pants writer and announced a book cover on the blog, promising to keep to a deadline. Y’all have met me, so stop laughing and keep reading.

This past year has been a different beast. I lost my dad in April. I lost my mind, more or less, in the summer. I lost my office around November. I lost the regular and pain-free use of my right elbow somewhere during the fall semester. For once, as I said in a very maudlin post on Facebook, I was not desperately clinging to the previous year on New Year’s Eve and was ready to kick that biz to the curb. Roll on, 2019!

For the however long New Year’s Eve took, I was standing between two realities, in a way. New year, new me, right? Sort of. I’m not making specific resolutions, save the generic ones like, “Enjoy life more and read more and so forth.” I’m going to live my best life (so far) in 2019 because really, that’s all we can do, right? That’s all I have been doing, trying to live my best life – perhaps the resolution is to let less of the stuff of life get in my way.

Oh, and to the writerly stuff:  I will have a Clobberpaws book coming out in the spring/summer of this year and at least one Orana Chronicles novel out by May, if the scorching and clobbering process (that is writing and editing) doesn’t kill me first, that is.

Well, that escalated quickly.

[Disclaimer: Nothing like that, no books were harmed in the making of this post. It’s just that my nano has taken off again, rather like a house – or, in this case, book – on fire. Book burning is still awful and closed-minded and useless. Don’t do it. Read. There we go.]

So for a few days, I was stuck – horribly stuck – at best, my nano word count was falling behind. At worst, I had lost my voice as a novelist and all of Orana had abandoned me. Same thing, really, if you throw a panic attack in the middle over a poorly elbow in your dominant hand when both of the things that define you (interpreting and writing) involve the pain-free movement of your right hand and arm.

I did what any rational adult in my shoes staring at a blank page would do – I hit the panic button and freaked WAY the heck out for a little while, and then I started thinking about my support system as a writer. You may think that we sit at our IKEA desks all alone in our writing sheds, surrounded by lovely greenery and sipping a mug of tea as the ideas just flow out of our heads into our novels, but I am here to tell you this: if that is the truth, I’m not sure what it is that I am doing because it involves sitting on my worn leather couch, laptop on my knees, wolfhounds clambering about on clobberpaws and crying. Lots of crying. Anyway!

I have recently gotten to know someone that I’m fairly certain I already knew from another time in my life – a fellow novelist who attended the same college I did in the mountains of northern Georgia. So after all the crying and panicking, I sent him a simple text that said that I was struggling to find an antagonist and that my protagonist was stuck, sitting on a horse in the Outlands and watching someone ride toward her. For two days, I literally did not know who it was that was riding toward her. His responses led me to my antagonist, and to the rider who is merely the catalyst for the main story arc. Since then, I have written more than 10,000 words, and even though I am not at my daily wordcount target it is in sight. I still am not sure what the antagonist’s story is, but at least I’m back heading in the right direction.

So writers, lean on each other. It doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to write or that you are a phony (impostor syndrome, anyone?), it means that you are using the community we find among like-minded individuals. You are doing the work, and you do not have to do it alone. Now, get your characters off those lonely roads and into some good plot points!

It isn’t writer’s block, it’s writer’s uncooperative neighborhood.

You know that feeling when you have started another Nanowrimo and you’re cruising along and your story is basically WRITING ITSELF and… Wait, no? Yeah, me either.

It has been going relatively well until I was sidelined by an outrageously strained elbow over the weekend (it’s a thing, y’all, and I’m almost certain it came courtesy of my day job but moving on…). I’m now 4,000 words behind the target for today, but that’s not the worst of my troubles.

THERE ARE NO BAD GUYS IN THIS STORY SO FAR. No bad hombres. No tortured and vengence-seeking souls. So far there are three characters. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I’ve written 16k plus words with only three characters, shall we – FIND MY VILLIAN!  While this sort of pantsing – a nanowrimo term for writing by the seat of your pants, with no outline or anything – is fairly normal for me, this is the first time that I haven’t been able to come up with any sort of climactic plot point…so I’m scared, really scared.

Okay, not really. Maybe a little. My point here, though, my Brave Lettuce Readers, is to heed the words of your English teachers (or, in my case, my mother) and DO THE WORK – in this case, an outline ahead of time. My main character has been begging for an origin story since before Wanderer so I give it to her and what does she do? Wander around in the Outlands on her magical horse and THINK DEEP THOUGHTS.

I’m telling you what, if she doesn’t stumble into something awful soon I’m gonna have to start killing off characters, and since I only have three – three and a half, actually, since one is only writing letters – it isn’t going to be pretty.

Are you working on a nano this month? How’s it going? I’d love to hear about your projects in the comments – maybe that would help me kick her in her robes and get this story going.