Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ROW80: Wednesday, Wednesday . . .

This week's lesson from NaNoWriMo: Write where the story takes you!

WEDS WIPpet. Since we're near the end of November, this snippet from Rivers of Stone comes from near the end of the story. Catriona (Cat), disguised as a boy, has finally made it to Fort Vancouver and has found Dougal, but to her surprise and dismay, he is married. The scene:

"My wife's family lives here along the Cowlitz River. Yes, I will stay here." Dougal reached out to her. "I'm sorry, Cat. If I can be of any help, you have only to ask."
"No need to worry." Catriona pasted a smile on her face. "As you see, I am fine. I will make my own way."
She turned away.
Dougal pulled on her arm. "Wait, Cat."
She broke free. For this she had traveled so far? She walked fast out of the crowded store, not watching where she was going, afraid she would start crying if she stopped. 
"Watch where you're goin', ye pissant."
Someone backhanded Cat, and she hit the floor. She licked her lips and tasted blood. She slowly got up to stare down a river man, Metis from the looks of him, black hair, scarred face, burly, big, and advancing toward her.
"Sorry. Wasn't lookin'," said Cat.
"Well, you should a been. Nobody pushes me around, specially not someone as runty as you."
"Looks like he did, anyhow,  Flint," said the man next to Flint. Both looked as if they had been drinking the night before or had been on the road a long time. Like me, thought Cat. Too long.
"Sorry. Won't happen again." Cat pulled herself up, hoping that Dougal hadn't seen. How was she going to get past these two?
"You bet it won't. I'm tired of being pushed around."
"Ah, don't pick on the runt. He might have friends."
"I got an answer for that," said Flint. He pulled out a whip and stroked the long cured rawhide strands. "Teach you a lesson now."
"Fight," someone called. "We gotta fight."
A tall Hawaiian unpeeled himself from the porch. He stood in front of Cat. "Wouldn't do that. This one may have more friends than you."
Dougal squeezed through the crowd and stood beside the Hawaiian. "I can attest to that, Flint. Now's not a good time."
Flint sneered at Cat. "You better not let me catch you off by yourself. Without your friends." He pushed past the Hawaiian and Dougal into the store.
Slowly, the crowd dispersed. Dougal stepped close to Cat. "Maybe you best come with me. My wife, she'll see to you."
Cat shook her head. "I'm not going with you. Not now. Not ever." 

Read what other WIPpet Weds folks are writing HERE.

With special thanks to K. L. Schwengel for organizing and inspiring WIPpet.

ROW80 check-in and Goals for the coming week:
1. Write those 500 words a day on Rivers of Stone.Yes. Steadily. Maybe late today, but I will make this goal.
2. Work on book reviews x 2 for the coming week.
3. Keep working the final edits for Standing Stones. This was the hardest goal to realize that I would not finish this goal by the end of November, but I will keep working on this goal (and pre-launch) before the end of Round 3.
4. Participate in ROW80 x10 for the week. Read only 5 for this week, but next week . . .
5. Follow blog schedule by posting 5x out of 7 days. Done. Having somewhat of a schedule seems to help me stay on track. Discovered how to draft in blogger, so actually have half-a-post started.
6. Declutter, quilt, cook good meals, exercise 3x, and cherish each day. Doing pretty good here. Actually got some quilting done this week. Exercised only once. Hanging in there. This week's book is Orphan Train. Haven't gotten far enough in to fall into the story, though an interesting double plot contrasts the 1920s (the orphan) with the present (a Goth girl). Movie day is Tuesday and saw the very well done Dallas Buyers Club.
8. Don't listen to that nagging inner voice! Thanksgiving cooking calls, so I'll close by wishing EVERYONE a very happy respite from nightmares and a wish for a family meal that brings joy.

Rachel and me

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What if Thursday were Wednesday?

Hard week, steady progress. Just not in all categories.

Progress on ROW80 Goals for Weds update. 
1. Write those 500 words a day on Rivers of Stone.Oops. Nothing for 2 days.Maybe this morning.
2. Complete pending book reviews x 2. Two reviews done, one posted. Other one goes up later today.
3. Keep working the final edits for Standing Stones. Top priority but no progress since Sunday. Maybe draft pre-launch activities. Still would like to publish before my birthday -- and that's December 6th!
4. Participate in ROW80 x10 for the week. Checked in on 8 folks.
5. Follow blog schedule by posting 5x out of 7 days. Wrote a poem for the writing blog on Monday that still resonates, even if I did get brain coral wrong (now corrected). Thanks, Magrit.
6. Celebrate Egypt presentation behind me (due day Monday, Nov 18). Presentation complete!!!! Audience of about 20. Figure I invested maybe 15-20 hours, or nearly an hour a person. Still learned a little somethng along the way, including more grist for the travel blog.
7. Declutter, quilt, cook good meals, exercise 3x, and cherish each day. Doing pretty good here. Actually got some quilting done this week. Exercised only once. Hanging in there. Reading  Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones. She certainly likes her metaphors and dishes up some beautiful imagery. Still a tough read..
8. Don't listen to that nagging inner voice! As a goal, this didn't work at all. But the good thing about mornings is that fresh start. So I now have about 2 uncluttered hours for writing. OK down to one hour after making breakfast for the fam.

What inspires us every day?

Here is Sherry Pryor's "Not Your Grandmother's 9-patch". Just looking at this quilt makes me want to dive right in. My version would not have the embellishments, but the curves in tones of batik, appliqued leaves, a central moon. Beautiful.

"The purpose of art is to wash "the daily dust of life off our souls." --Pablo Picasso

Not Your Grandmother's Nine Patch

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday ROW80: NaNo, Conflict, and a snippet . . .

Lesson from NaNo this week:  Write even when I don't believe I can.

If I work at the micro-scene level, sinking down into the character and 'feeling' what his or her greatest concerns are, the scene develops. Understanding what my characters feel -- positive and negative -- help me tell their story.

External conflict remains my biggest challenge, but if I recognize that some people really are just jerks, my story can have one or two of these folks. But I see a difference between someone who is an insensitive bully, though, and someone who is intrinsically evil. It's that second category that I have trouble with.

For example, one of Yahoo's lead stories today is about the 10 top companies who, despite high profits, pay the lowest wages to their employees -- excluding management. The list includes WalMart, Sears, Kroger, somewhat expected, and then Starbucks, MacDonald's, and Macy's, unexpected.

Here is where I take a lesson for conflict. For what bothers me is that calculating decision that sets aside the human factor. Management defends itself by saying it's about the business of making money.

How this relates to my story can be seen in 'business' decisions that encouraged 19th Century voyageurs and fur traders to marry Native wives so that trade would function more smoothly. So I need to put this hat on when thinking of the Chief Factors at each post as well as remembering the very clear social class lines that affected everyone. For the children of those 'mixed marriages' were not promoted. Were they angry? Hah! More research needed.

BTW, my best research this week: Nancy Marguerite Anderson's neat site that chronicles journal highlights from fur traders. Her work is based on her study of her grandfather, the famous explorer of the Pacific Northwest, but takes in much more history, all of it fascinating to me. Most likely Alexander Caulfield Anderson was a Swede, most likely not related to my great-grandfather, a doctor in Chicago, also an Anderson. Can't wait to read her book, The Pathfinder.

Snippet from today's Nano 500 words for Rivers of Stone

Dougal found Colin sleeping by one of the canoes. He unpacked a blanket and rolled in it, but even as he slowly warmed up, he lay, looking at the star-filled sky and thinking of Cat. Someone took slow, careful steps toward the canoes. Dougal raised up. "Who's there?"

"Touchy bastard, ain't you. Thought I'd find you here. And no surprise, Colin as well." Louis squatted beside Dougal. "Yer in luck. We're short a few men. Colin's back in."

"Thanks, Louie."

"Don't worry. He'll carry his weight, or you'll make up the difference. Best get him up. We leave in a little bit."

Dougal rolled his blanket up and gathered his kit into a bundle. He nudged Colin. "Hist, are ye packed already? We're going out."

"Now?" asked Colin. "Don't worry. I got my stuff right here. I slept on it." He sat up suddenly. "Really? I'm really to go?"

"Aye," said Dougal. "Thank Louis when you have the chance."

Around them, the voyageurs made their way down to the canoes, surly from hangovers, some still drunk.

"You got any more of that rotgut?" called one of the men. "My head hurts something fierce."

Progress on ROW80 Goals this week. 
1. Write those 500 words a day on Rivers of Stone.Still writing over 500 a day! Whoopee, a miracle!
2. Complete pending book reviews x 2. Finished one review for Mike Young's Kirk's Landing; nearly done reading the second one.
3. Keep working the final edits for Standing Stones. Maybe draft pre-launch activities. Still would like to publish before my birthday -- and that's December 6th!  Two days of editing, then nada. Maybe next week.
4. Participate in ROW80 x10. Done!
5. Follow blog schedule by posting 5x out of 7 days. Surprised myself! 6 out of 7 days on three different blogs. :)
6. Celebrate Egypt presentation behind me (due day Monday, Nov 18). Almost. Hard at work on revisions.
7. Declutter, quilt, cook good meals, exercise 3x, and cherish each day. Doing pretty good here. No quilting, but I made a really good chicken/pasta/broccoli dish that will last 3 days. Exercised 2x. Hanging in there.
8. Don't listen to that nagging inner voice! Keep writing. I need this statement tattooed on the inside of my forehead!

Make it a good week! To read about those 10 Companies, click on Yahoo! And may your writing go well.

God's River
God's River (near Hayes River), Manitoba
Picture by Redpaddle on Flickr 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

ROW80 Check-in: Day late and day sorry

Does the morning after the night before count?

WEDS Check-in for ROW80: Still writing that 500 words a day for NaNo on the Rivers of Stone draft. Up to an unbelievable 8,289 as of yesterday. This will be successful for me IF I can do that 500 words a day. Still chipping away at final review of Standing Stones with three chapters left. Wrote a short flash called "The Bench" (don't know where that came from -- except a random writing prompt from Writer Wednesday Blog Hop).

Still to do: Write poem for Poets on the Page sometime later today. Still far too easily distracted by research. For example, did you know that the average winter temperature (that's between November and April is minus 7 F in and near York Factory in Upper Manitoba? No wonder the polar bears have double layers of fur.

Thank you to everyone who so generously gave me very helpful feedback on my draft cover for Standing Stones posted last Sunday. I've editing fonts, resized font sizes, made a commitment and may use the second-runner-up for the Smashwords version. Dunskey Castle was the favorite.

I'm babysitting this week until after 10 pm each night and feel I can't get everything done.Yesterday went for a walk with DH and he got very tired. Sometimes I deny what I see.

Goals to work on by next Wednesday:
1. Write those 500 words a day on Rivers of Stone.
2. Complete pending book reviews x 2.
3. Keep working the final edits for Standing Stones. Maybe draft pre-launch activities. Still would like to publish before my birthday -- and that's December 6th!
4. Participate in ROW80 x10.
5. Follow blog schedule by posting 5x out of 7 days.
6. Celebrate Egypt presentation behind me (due day Monday, Nov 18).
7. Declutter, quilt, cook good meals, exercise 3x, and cherish each day.
8. Don't listen to that nagging inner voice! Keep writing.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, Iceland, during a night with aurora borealis
seen from east beach by Moyen Brenn 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

ROW80 Sunday: NaNo and Polar Bears . . .

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo and I'm chunking right along -- at least until today.  My commitment is to write 500 words a day. Surprise! One day I topped 1,000, really amazing for me. Most days I doubled  my ordinary output of 250 words. For 6 days of NaNo this week, over 3,000 words (not counting today).

But yesterday we attended Disney on Ice, a three-hour flamboyant retelling of classic fairy tales with several thousand folks shepherding little girls in Ariel, Snow White, and Cinderella costumes. By the time we got home, we were exhausted. This morning, I was not able to write at all.

For NaNoWriMo, I'm working on a draft for Rivers of Stone. Book One is set in the 1840s at York Factory in Manitoba, Canada. In today's chapter, Catriona, our intrepid heroine in disguise as a young boy, goes snow goose hunting on James Bay and befriends two Cree brothers.

Somehow polar bears crept into the story. They are stealth hunters, I learned, along with several other fascinating facts. The polar bear is a ferocious hunter, preferring (thank goodness) seal to human. They are quite hungry in October when the ice first begins to form in Hudson's Bay and splay out on the ice, looking for the airholes of seals.

I found several several videos of polar bears playing with dogs and hunting. Looking at Youtube was a very helpful research tool because these videos give me a clear sense of SETTING, scale, colors, moods. Even discovering that Churchill -- and York Factory -- are both above the treeline is quite helpful, even if it's not quite what I imagined when I began this story. Forests will have to wait until Cat heads west. Can you tell that active procrastination has taken over? Here's one of the polar bear videos from youtube.

What I've learned from NaNo so far. 

  • Simply writing to a specific (and larger) word goal surprises me. Am I more accountable? 
  • The largest output on a single day was spent on plotting (something I did not do before NaNo), but I now have a clearer sense of the story, its main characters, and, most particularly, their relationships.
  • Not every day is easy.
  • The more I know about my characters, the more complicated their interactions are. And they surprise me! 
  • Dialogue and setting help me unbundle what my characters are like because I begin to understand what they face and how they react.
  • I hate conflict. But making my characters get angry was fun!

My other challenge this week: Trying to decide on a good cover. Final revisions are on schedule, and I've been working on covers for Standing Stones this week. Here are two more for a little feedback, if you are so inclined. I'd love to put something a little more dramatic on the cover, but so far my technical skills and budget have not led me to find that "knock-me-out" image.

Which of these two do you prefer? Why? Which one would you be most likely to pick up?

This draft cover features a picture I took of a fisherman's croft
in Kirbuster, the Orkneys, Scotland
so no worries about copyright.

This cover features a picture of Dunskey Castle,
Scotland from The Commons at WikiMedia,
again no worries about copyright.
ROW80 Goals for the coming week: Hope to keep this simple as my babysitting schedule is tight.

WRITING. 500 words a day x 7 days on Rivers of Stone. 4 Chapters a day on Standing Stones. I'm behind on beta reads x2 and hope to finish these by Thanksgiving. Make final preparations for presentation on Egypt, which includes at least 2 blog posts this week. I did, for the first time, sketch out a schedule for posting on my three blogs at least once each week.

RESEARCH. Only when I'm stuck with any writing goal. Reading 3 books just now.

COMMUNITY/OTHER. Read at least 15 posts for ROW80 and Poets on the Page. Attend one NaNoWriMo f2f this Monday night. Quilt on Thursday with my quilting group. For sanity's sake, clean up my office and get the laundry done.

May your week go well!

If you are a writer, why not jump in on ROW80, A Round of Words in 80 Days?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Little of NaNoWriMo . . . A Lot of Writing

Here's my Wednesday check-in to ROW80, A Round of Words in 80 days, that heady process of setting goals and then attempting to carry them out, despite the intrusions of real life!

Day 6 of NaNoWriMo. My personal goal is just 500 words a day, double my normal output.

So far, so good. On Monday, I cracked over 1,000 words on a daily write, and, for the first time, I have a real working outline for Rivers of Stone. But this morning, after about two hours of reorganizing, that nasty inner voice is saying I don't know enough about the research to really write the story. Not even 500 words would come along this morning. So far. But I am a stubborn writer. Sometimes we persevere through stubbornness. Sometimes we let the story percolate. So I'm sliding sideways first by checking in here at ROW80. Short and sweet.

WRITING. Rivers of Stone is bouncing right along at 3,337 words -- until this morning, for a total of 24,250 on the first draft. The final edit of Standing Stones is also on schedule as I'm editing a minimum of 4 chapters a day. Began blogging about Egypt on the travel blog. I actually miss writing that poem-a-day. I plan to start the creativity series on the writing blog. Busy, busy.

COMMUNITY. Reading other ROW80 writers continues to be useful. Met my commitment to read 10 others this week. Didn't go to the NaNoWriMo meet-up here because of snow, but maybe the next one.

MARKETING. I read in a recent writer's mag this incredible statement about the distinction between writing and publishing. This nameless writer actually said once your book is published, "you can plunge in and enjoy the social aspects of publishing, the fellowship of doing readings and interviews and talking with other nice, smart people about art." Sorry. He's NOT talking about the gritty world of an indie writer who self-publishes and who would like to build an audience larger than friends and family! That article almost made me swear off reading writing craft magazines.

Marketing seems such a daunting task that I was intrigued by an idea from this week's e-mail from that suggests we spend just 5 minutes a day marketing. Certainly that's more than I did all last week. So this week, I have updated my Amazon book description for Mermaids, and I continue to cast about for ideas on cover design for Standing Stones. At this point:

  1. Free sounds good, so it's do-it-yourself.
  2. Need high impact cover that attracts the reader AND communicates the theme.
  3. Standing Stones is historical fiction so photograph may not work (though I have a few).
  4. Best covers have PEOPLE on them or a compelling image. Not sure what the compelling image should be, but I will know it when I see it. Looking at LOTS of pictures of the Orkneys, standing stones, scattered stones, etc.
  5. Apparently a clever FONT is important -- as is some sort of TAG LINE on the cover.
By Sunday, I will put up another draft cover or two for Standing Stones.

READING. Still reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones daily. I'm about 150 pages into The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan and not sure whether I'll continue because I don't quite care about the characters or the situation they find themselves in. Is this story a barely disguised essay on the ethics of raising someone from the dead? Each chapter tells the story from a different point of view, so I'm never quite attached to anyone (Some of the characters are not at all likable, so I'm plodding through those chapters). Maybe I want to find out what happens next, but so far the book reminds me why I'm happy to be retired (no office politics). Next up is Christina Baker Klines's Orphan Train.

OTHER PROJECTS. Steady progress in closing down books for my volunteer public relations job. Wrote an article this week (and got it accepted) on scrap quilting. All else is well. We had our first snow, ate Italian out (fabulous meatballs I will learn how to make some day), and dear daughter is now able to walk for about an hour without icing her ankle. I think my African violets are suffering a bit from the cold.

So I'm curious to know: How are you doing now that the snows of November have begun? Does your writing productivity change with the weather?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

ROW80 Sunday afternoon, NaNo and Covers!

NaNoWriMo has started! I'm not sure how many other ROW80 folks have jumped in as NaNo rebels, but I have -- and at the last minute.

Normally I write somewhere between 250-300 words a day and move on to other projects. For this NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I'm committing to write 500 words a day, a real stretch for me (so far, doing great!). Participating in NaNo is how my rough drafts have begun for my previous books, so I'm eager to jump in, even though I'm going right ahead with plans to publish Standing Stones before my birthday on December 6.

Already my ROW80 Goals for Round 4 have started to drift, but for the coming week, writing is the top priority: 

WRITING. Write 3,500 words this week (500 words a day x 7 days) for Rivers of Stone (ROS) draft. Attend local meet-up for NaNoWriMo right here in Spokane.  Research x 2 articles for ROS. Blog 4x on travel blog re Egypt and 3x on writing blog re Nano. I'm wondering if short daily updates on NaNo on the writing blog are too much. Complete the final edits for Standing Stones (that's 4 chapters a day or 28 chapters by the end of this week). Haven't begun to input any pages for Reaching.

COMMUNITY. Participate in ROW80 with twice weekly updates and reading 2-3 others each day. Continue active participation in Book Review Depot, GoodReads, Facebook, and Twitter.

CRAFT. Read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones daily. Read 2 writing craft magazines.

MARKETING. Follow suggestions from DuoLit's Weekend Marketing Makeover and Eric Michael's Pimp My Kindle Book.  Write reviews for each and report on my own marketing progress. What am I learning and what I am doing.

PERSONAL. Cherish each day with family and friends. Quilt. Exercise 3 times this week. Work on Egypt for November 18. Catch up on filing and revise timeline for public relations for WSQ this week.

A question for writers/editors who might stop by. A colleague has released a Kindle e-book. The preview reveals many, many grammatical errors and a few missing transitions. Do I simply lurk and say nothing? Do I jump in with a private note? Perhaps the wrong version was uploaded? What is a writing buddy supposed to do?

About covers. Earlier in the week, I posted a possible cover for Standing Stones. The result (illuminating for me) was that readers thought the cover was a little bland.

I did review the top historical fiction covers on Amazon and fell in love with Edward Ruthurfurd's nostalgic covers, BUT he is an established name. So, as a novice, I need to 'grab the attention' of readers, and I'm not sure how to go about this.

Here are two potential covers for Mothers Don't Die, definitely not historical fiction, but still slated for release in 2014.

Which do you like and maybe why?

For those of you who've accepted the NaNoWriMo challenge, how are you doing?

For ROW80 folks, may the week go well.