Books From Beyond The Grave

One of the bargains in my newsletter of the day was a Boxcar Children Book–Legend of the Irish Castle, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. (Apparently, if you’re a minor, you celebrate by reading. Who knew?) I was just intrigued enough to go look the book up, since I read a lot of Boxcar Children books when I was a kid, and I don’t remember any Irish Castle.

Turns out that Legend of the Irish Castle is book #142 of a series the original author only wrote 19 books of. It was released last year, which is pretty good, considering that Gertrude Chandler Warner has been dead since 1979.

I’m going to say that as a personal “thing” I’m not all that crazy about the idea of having other people keep on writing my characters, after I’m dead.

Part of that is just… I don’t want to be dead. And part of it is that I spend so much time getting my characters to be the way I want them. I don’t want them shipped to places and plots I never intended them to go. I mean, come on! They’re mine!

And while we’re at it, let’s pretend that I’m very deep and philosophical, and say that there’s something bordering on Hubris about the idea of my characters being so spectacular that someone else should be writing them, instead of their own.

I’m not sure what Gertrude Chandler Warner thought. She was a first grade teacher, which may actually mean that she’s happy just as long as the kiddies are reading. I tend to think of grade school as dear, saintly creatures who really might be that unselfish.

Then, I saw all the common core, ATOS, and Accelerated Reader bullshit **ahem** foo-fer-alls and thought again. I don’t know what Gertrude’s opinions on each and every individual one of those would be, but you can bet she’d have opinions. And I don’t think they’d support micromanaging children’s reading.

So, now, I’m thinking about what a writer’s educational philosophy–or their politics, or their personal beliefs– should mean for their books, and the way those books are managed after their death. For instance, is it really fair to use Sherlock Holmes to sell fried chicken? Or should you really add Zombies to Pride and Prejudice?

I’m bordering on an intellectual property rant, now, but the general question… if I have one… is how do you feel about your characters having adventures without you?

Introverts Are Me

I’m an introvert, and among other things, that means I benefit from several of the American Introvert’s Association’s widely publicized membership perks.

For instance, I just paid my phone bill. For the entire year. I have one of those little pre-paid numbers, and I never run out of minutes. Just service days. And data. I wind up paying about ten bucks a month, and less, if I were willing to give up the data.

I use the money I save to buy headphones and earplugs to use in the workplace break room. It keeps all the random sports celebrations and potty-training stories on their own side of the skull. And allows me to work, or at least stare dejectedly at my revision project for an hour.

When I’m lucky.

There’s something particularly motivating about work in a break room at a job that you’re hoping to replace. Something that keeps you moving forward.

I’m doing my cutting at home, and the revision of my latest chapter at work. The cutting is moving faster. Got about a hundred pages into chronological order, yesterday. And some rearranging of that one chapter at lunch.

There are issues, of course. Cat eats the headphone wire, and leaves me in silence. One of my co-workers has a new year’s resolution to work on her own book. (I am working on believing this will actually happen. I am an optimistic introvert.) Obviously, I must talk to her. And that means taking the ear plugs out…

And there goes my lunch hour.

Why I Don’t Write Down My Ideas

I read another one of “those” articles, today. The kind that talks about how to choose which idea you want to use for your next novel. You know the ones–keep a notebook with you all the time. Write down your ideas. Later on, when you have time, or energy, or when you want to go spelunking for ideas…

Blech!

I don’t want to go spelunking for ideas. Occasionally, I do, but in general, just for short stories. Maybe a blog post, or two.

When I’m looking for a book idea… I’m not looking for the kind of idea I’ll forget in a day or two, if I don’t write it down.

I’m looking for the one that keeps gnawing at me all day… The one I still remember the next morning. The one that other ideas wrap themselves around.

I won’t find that kind of idea in the long list of things I thunk up and wrote down, and would have forgotten entirely without a pen and paper.

Did You Ever Know That You’re My…Jim Bowie?

Once upon a time, Jim Bowie was a mortal man, or so the story goes. Since then, he’s become a “folk hero” which means that separating out truth and fiction is a little tough, and mot people don’t really want to do it, in the first place. Make no mistake, I’m talking about the legend, here. A little fact, a little fiction, and a whole lot of whisky and temper.

Bowie was one of the defenders at the Alamo. That would be Texas vs. Mexico, for those of you who are just tuning in on our International Channel. Bowie and the Texans were massively outnumbered, and more than that, Bowie was sick as a dog.

He was can’t-stand-up, confined to bed, crawling around the fort on his hands and knees sick. Yellow Fever? Cholera? Late stage cirrhosis of the liver? Whatever it was, Bowie was in bad shape to begin with, and winds up giving up command.

There’s a point in the siege when things go from bad to worse. It becomes very clear that the men who stay to defend the Alamo will die. The commander (whose name was Travis, by the way) calls the guys together, and tells them the situation is bad. He gives them the chance to leave while they can.

He draws a line in the sand, and tells the men to cross it, if they are willing to die with him for their cause.

Bowie demands to be carried over that line on his stretcher.

Legend has it, anyway, and plenty of good, sensible people will defend this truth, as if they were there, themselves.

And legend also says that when they found his body, he was propped up against a wall and out of ammo, with a knife in his hand, and surrounded by the many bodies of the enemy soldiers he had killed.

There are plenty of people out there who will use circumstances to explain why they didn’t fight for their goals. I’ve seen that. Sometimes, I do that.

I have friends who don’t. I have friends who amaze me, and keep me on point, and who inspire me.

New baby in the house? Three kids? Elderly parents? Health problems? Learned English at the age of 83 and wrote a book? Became a marathon runner, despite having only one leg, and retrograde amnesia?

No excuses. They do it, anyway. They play through the pain, they fight through it, and they become that person. The one you look at, and you’re amazed that they can do it, and stunned that they can do it that well.

They look at that line in the sand, and pull themselves over it. They’re in. Even if it looks like impossible odds, even if it is impossible odds. No excuses.

And suddenly, my excuses all look so much smaller. Ridiculously small, in fact. They start to look like the kind of things that someone who didn’t want to write a novel would say, not something that someone who can’t write a novel.

And I want to write a novel.

So, suddenly, I’m over the line, and all-in, too.

If I didn’t Want You To Be Happy, I Would Have Married You.

So, today is one of my ex’s birthdays.

I haven’t seen him in years, but he was my first real, serious, this-could-end-in-actual-marriage-and-eventual-death boyfriend. Obviously, I was terrified.

He, on the other hand, was not terrified. He was full-speed ahead, I have a schedule to keep, and it is time to get married ready.

He’s the perfect person to think of once or twice a year… uhm… From another state.  He deserves to be happy, and that’s the way I picture him. Wife and kids. A dog, maybe two. Baseball games and camping.

Apart from the kids, the dogs, the baseball, and the camping, it’s not a bad life.

I had the chance to ask a while back. Ran into his father.

I didn’t ask.

I think I know. There’s just enough overlap in our social groups that now and then, I get a whiff of something through a friend, or a newsletter from a shared organization. The most recent update said North Dakota. And a career. It didn’t mention the wife or kids. And it probably would have, if they were there.

He was not cut out to be in a relationship with a creative.

He found my art-folders, once. You know, those big manila things with the plastic handles? No, not really polished enough to call a portfolio. I had two, and naturally, he had to see the one that was labeled “dirty.”

Charcoal dust everywhere.

I’m smiling, but I’m not going back.

And I’m wondering… If he saw me, now. Neck-deep in a day-job, still chasing dreams I’m not even I ever told him I had… revising the novel, collecting the rejections… You know… Would he perceive me as happy?

IWSG: My Five-Year Plan

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

I just fell off a miserable word-count failure of a NaNoWriMo. I hit 14,000. The end. I don’t always do well with Nano. Most of the time, it hits while I’m in the middle of other projects, and dragging myself away doesn’t do much for me. But, every now and then, I get a real, live draft out of the deal.

So, my insecurity right now, is finding myself in the sea of all the things I want to be able to do with my life, and getting as many of them done as I can.

Finishing things, boys and girls. Finishing things is the goal. It’s the insecurity, too. I never, ever feel like something is finished. And then, there are the things I know aren’t finished.

I have a desperate need to work faster. Get more done. Revise faster.

The Question of the Month is Where do I see myself  career-wise in 5 years, and what do I plan to do to get myself there?

This is a tough one for me. I would like to be agented, and published, or at least moving in that direction. I’m finishing up a novel that I think might get me there. I also want to work on publishing short stories. In actual magazines. Somehow, those always seem to wind up here on the blog, and I’m not sure that’s the best use for them.

I’m hoping to get back into the routine of writing after a bad year, and also to keep up the blog, which is finally gaining a little momentum.

So, what about you? Plans and strategies for your careers? New Goals and Resolutions?

Yes, I Actually Think I’m Funny…

I just sent in my story for the annual Independent Bookworm Advent Calendar. I decided to go with “funny” this year, because I don’t have much “heartfelt” left in me, right now.

And I did manage to find an idea. And it was the kind of idea that I was chuckling over the entire time I walked home, so I have the sense that it has some mileage left in it. (Home is about three miles, so at least that much.)

So, I got home, and I started writing, and that’s when it stopped being funny.

Or maybe, I just stopped being in the mood for that brand of humor.

Either way, the doubts kicked in.

A thousand words of “funny.” Wow, that’s a lot. And I do have an off-beat kind of sense of humor. And, quite frankly, between a long day at work, and a long walk home, I was really just too grouchy to tell whether anything was funny or not.

I went to bed.

Thought about it.

Sent it in, anyway. (I did send a note with it, saying I’d send something else, if it’s not up to snuff.)

I’m still not as confident about the piece as I was, when I first came up with the idea.

Idea’s great. Or maybe not. Or possibly, I should be in insurance sales, and not a writer in the first place. At any rate, there we go. One holiday-themed, semi-funny, worst-gift-ever type story.

I’ll be checking my email with great trepidation in the morning.

Maybe I should have sent something with elves.

Who’s My Main Character?

About a week ago, I started a new project. It’s a cute little thing. About ten pages long, barely talking in complete sentence fragments, yet. I’m also revising my last project, working through what I have, and trying to get it all to sit still in some kind of order.

The two projects are very different. The old one is third person, multiple points of view, and basically becoming a sprawling wasteland of revision. The new one… well, maybe I’m looking for something simpler, right now. It’s first person, one point of view, and–from an ethical standpoint–a lot more right and wrong.

First person really narrows my focus. The main character–the one who’s going to spend the most time on stage–is the I character. (Haven’t named her, yet. Of course.) Yes, you can find exceptions. But in general, that’s it. And that’s it in my new project.

I’m hoping that focusing on ONE character will reduce the revision time. And that first person will force me to do that. Can you tell?

In my last project?

There were five major characters in the last project, and that leaves me with two suspects for THE main character.

And three, if I’m allowed to count the world as a character in its own right.

It’s a big story.

But I’m still not sure whose story it is.

That makes me wonder if some of it’s more repetitive than I’m seeing. The two story lines are pretty closely intertwined. In the end, I’ll pick one, or reasons will appear and make one a clear winner.

Writing, Giant Pandas, and Staying Ahead

Between my shitty day job and my writing schedule, I’m an early riser, most of the time. It’s a little past three in the morning, right now, and my white noise machine hasn’t gone off, yet. Today, I’m writing the blog post I forgot about yesterday. Oops.

Even so, I don’t usually think of mornings as my most productive time. A little writing, here and there, but mostly, I’m up so I don’t have to rush getting dressed, and there’s time to eat a real, grown-up people breakfast and read some news.  I’m in a better mood all day for knowing the Giant Panda has been breeding like mad and is no longer on the endangered species list.

Or maybe, I’m in a better mood for that second cup of tea.

Right now, I’m thinking solid, lucid thoughts about quitting my day job. They’re not well-funded thoughts, but at least they’re a little more structured than just a series of gripes about what’s going on there. (Incompetent higher ups, who create the problems they’d like me to solve, and then complain about how I do it.) And let’s be honest–it’s not a career worthy job by any stretch.

I was never one of those kids who knew exactly what mainstream, 9-5 job I wanted from day one. Nope. I knew I wanted to be a writer (which is not exactly what the public schools have in mind) and I always cringed at the idea of… well, anything else. But I could still use a better class of day job. So, I’m trying to track down a few marketable skills. Thinking about where to volunteer to boost that resume.

Thinking about writing short stories, and actually marketing them.

Thinking of creating my own line of un-baby shower party games and supplies. Reveal cake? Pink for a girl, Blue for a boy… Green for dual incomes, no kids, and I just wanted to have a party. After that I could expand into “Didn’t marry the wrong man” showers and “Stopped having birthdays, so Happy Tuesday” Parties.

In the world of etsy, that might actually take off.

September Goals

I keep seeing goals posts coming in on my reader. It seemed like a good idea, so I stole it. Not like I’m not planning ahead, anyway. Might as well make it public.

Writing Goals

  1.  I need a new project to work on RIGHT NOW. Something to get me out of treading water with the projects I already have. I’m declaring them finished, except for scenes that are objectively missing.
  2. I am going to focus on writing at least one short story a week. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with the stories, yet.
  3. And I need to start thinking about what my NaNoWriMo project will be.

Revision Goals

  1. I need to get the Lepterian story into something resembling chronological order
  2. Begin revision on that with the intent of getting it finished by the end of the year. Because it’s just dragging out too long.

Blogging Goals:

  1. I need to get ahead of the calendar a little bit, so that I have wiggle room for busy days or days when the unexpected comes up. I already have a couple of posts scheduled for days I know will be hectic, but I think scheduled posts are the only way I’ll be able to weave blogging goals and writing goals together.
  2. Get into the habit of reaching out to other bloggers. Comment on at least three blogs daily. (Which, by the way, is also a stolen goal.)
  3. Figure out something to do about the novel I’m blogging. I want to pull it back into some kind of privacy, but I’m not exactly sure of steps on that, yet.