Editing, Fiction, Process

April Fools Day … Joke’s On Me

So – I have good news and I have sh*tty news. Because I’m pragmatic and my crappy news colors the rest of this narrative, I’ll start with that.

It’s April 1st. My latest round of edits for After Life (AL) is not done. I’m 3/5ths through the book and I’ve had some really great insights as I’ve been going through my story in preparation for my beta readers, but that’s not done and I haven’t hit the really scary parts of my book yet – the parts that were added later and still need some work.

I’m not happy with this news, but I’m also pretty honest with myself and the progress that I’ve made. I have a major work project that’s sucking the life out of me. I am a mom and while I think my kids fart rainbows, it’s really hard to get anything personal done during their waking hours. (Let’s not even talk about the stuff I’m happy to ignore – looking at you, laundry pile.) I have a triptych of priorities that I established after my kids were born: 1) Family/Friends Who Double as Family, 2) Fiction, and 3) Work. There are days that #3 edges over #2, but since #3 provides my paycheck, I’m not going to get too pissed off about it.

What am I going to do about this? Here’s the good news: My problem child of a work project will go away on April 13th (its due date). I’m going to take a couple days of PTO that week and ask the babysitter to stay late on a couple of days so I can power through the rest of my draft. The new deadline is April 15th.

Life is good. I am on the right track with my book. I wish sometimes it was a speedier track, but it is what it is. I also have some good things that have been happening with meeting some other AWESOME writers and my Twin Cities Sisters in Crime group, I’ll share those tidbits on Friday!

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Fiction, Random

TBR Pile – The “You Gotta Be Kidding Me” Version

20150331_202433A couple random nuggets of knowledge about me:

1) I am an incredibly fast reader.  I’m not as fast as my one college professor who had taught himself to read three lines of text at a time, but I am speedy.

2)  I am the mother of a 32-month-old and an 18-month old.  My eldest has currently decided that now is a good time to potty train.  This is while his younger brother has decided that it’s a delightful time to show whose genetics won out in his creation and has turned into my mother’s revenge.  I love both of my children, but most days I feel like I’ve conducted a three-ring circus by the time the babysitter has shown up at our house at 8 A.M., and host a repeat engagement when she leaves again at noon.

3) When in doubt, I read books on topics that might educate me.  Thus – my new To Be Read (TBR) pile.  I have everything covered from potty training to no-cry discipline techniques (although it is funny to hear my almost three-year-old tyrant mimic my “NOW!” to the Cat).  And most importantly (and probably something I could write a book about) – how to encourage curiosity in one’s child.

4) I’m not all “kid” and no Play – apparently, I reserved a copy of V.E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic.”  I don’t even remember what it’s about, so … it must be good if I’m finally getting it from my reserve list at the library.  Right.  Right?

Fiction, Marketing, Random

Marketing Madness

A couple things to share … first, my business cards for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in April:

bizcard

Got these from VistaPrint and went for something that was simple and classic.  I thought about using a different color of cardstock, but this is what felt right to me at the time and I’m pleased with the end result.

Another item that I’ve created in my continuing attempts to build my author base and to give myself a crash-course tutorial in Canva, I created the following header that I’ve put on my Twitter feed:

MaurA WALTONThis isn’t as simple of a design as the business card, but it was a fun starter project to familiarize myself with what Canva has to offer.  (Plus – it shows sunshine.  Oh dear Lord, I miss warm weather.)

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive – I spent less than $25 on the business cards that are evergreen and can be used beyond my upcoming conference.  And basic designs in Canva are free to use.

Hope you all are having a WONDERFUL day!

Editing, Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFare On Fridays, I post a round up of the various posts and articles that have been of interest to me during the week:

Kristi Belcamino, a fellow Minnesota author, gave a shout out to this website for creating graphics.  I’m looking forward to trying this out and integrating into my social media efforts.

Fidgeting = productivity?  The Wall Street Journal had this article regarding how “creative playtime” may spark new ideas.  The note that I made to myself after reading this was that while I didn’t necessarily agree with this idea (I don’t think that I can play with a Slinky and still type at the same time –  not that coordinated), I have found that music is important for sparking creativity.  If I feel like I’m in a slump, changing a playlist can make my mind skip in a productive direction.

And because I’ve re-discovered that my other creative outlet is cooking and because my sons and I are all getting over colds, I riffed on this chicken noodle soup recipe this week.  It was pretty damn good.

***

Listening to: As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a playlist of Alison Krauss from YouTube, starting with her duet with Robert Plant (“Killing the Blues”), wanting to listen to this song on constant repeat, and then getting some gratification that I’m not the only one who appreciates Gordon Lightfoot.

Reading:  Truthfully?  I’m reading some Highlander/time-traveling smut right now, so I’m not going to be proud about announcing my reading choice right now.  I’m working on a Dean Koontz novel, still need to finish “Skellig” (heading to Chicago and spending an unexpected extra night has thrown a lot of my life off).  Stay tuned … on Tuesday, I’m going to share a shot of my TBR (to be read) pile.

Fiction update:  My work life is ramping up again and it’s causing me a little bit of anxiety.  I have five proposals due before April 13th.  How do I balance this with my own internal deadline (pages in the hands of beta readers by April 1st?).  What I did was print out a fresh copy of my manuscript and I’m taking another run at reading and making edits as I go.  Mentally, I liken this process to my winter driving adventures during my 16th year of life, when I would have to back my Pontiac Sunbird into the field approach across the road from my parents’ farm and take the driveway at a run if I hoped to get up to the top of the drive.  I usually had about a 50% success rate.  Let’s hope that I’m more adept at driving / editing some 20 years later.

Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFare On Fridays, I post a round up of the various posts and articles that have been of interest to me during the week:

I loved this article about Nora Roberts from the New York Times’ “By the Book” feature.  I’ve wrote down many of the suggestions and have added them to my Goodreads.

Sometimes I add recipes of things that I plan to make on this blog, since cooking is one of my other creative outlets.  I made this soup from my writing hero J.T. Ellison this past weekend.  Since my kiddos don’t touch it, it makes a ton of leftovers.  Which means I don’t have to cook for most of the rest of the week.  (WINNING.)  And I got a kick out of this post regarding Joan Didion’s cookbook.

***

Listening to:  I wrote a blog post awhile back about listening to music while I write.  To that end, I made a Spotify playlist of the songs that have inspired me / contributed to the muse for After Life.  The songs are a little all over the place (Bowie!  Off-Broadway!), but they all have a spot in the canon.  (Let me know if the link doesn’t work … I’m new at this Spotify thing.)

Reading:  Still on Deborah Harkness.  Took a (very) quick detour to the first Pendergast novel “Relic” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  A boyfriend of mine from high school had loaned me that book during my senior year and it was an absolute joy to rediscover it.  It also reminded me how important pacing is in novels.  I am a fast reader by nature (and necessity – I’m the mother of two toddlers) and I slammed that book in four hours.  It was exhilarating.  I’m going to have to visit the library and read the rest of them as well.

Fiction update:  Editing, editing, editing.  I’m past the “this is shit” phase from last week and I remain cautiously optimistic.  The deadline I have set for myself is pages in hands of beta readers by April 1.  I can do this.

Accolades, Editing, Fiction, Process, Random

Is this microphone still on?

I’m sorry for my absence. I recently read a statistic that said that nearly x(*)-percent of blogs were abandoned within the first year of their founding and honestly – as someone who has written and contributed to a number of blogs over the past several years, I was not surprised to see that number. Blogging is a commitment. And while I’m going to grant myself some grace in regards to my blogging practice (Demanding full-time job! Two toddlers! Good fiction is going on from my fingertips!), this space is important to me.

So … haaaaaiiiiiii. Happy New Year! How are you all? What’s good that’s going on in your worlds? What is inspiring you?

My family has gotten through the first part of winter without succumbing to flu or other crud (*knock on wood / strikes head*). We had a great time with our family members over the holidays, ate too much food, drove many miles, and just had a good time seeing people we don’t get to see as often as we like to. (My parents are about 2 hours from where my family and I live; my husband’s parents are 3 hours away.)

And things are going gangbusters on the writing front:

Version three edits of Afterlife (AL) were finished before the Christmas Eve deadline that I set for myself. AL is currently resting on my brain’s back burner and will be picked up again in a week or so to start the next round of edits.

AL also received an award! Right before the New Year, I received an email from Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter (MWA Midwest) that the critique of AL that I submitted was one of the entries selected for the Hugh Holton Award!

_Hugh Holton
Being called a “promising writer” will never get old.

From MWA Midwest: “Hugh Holton was a Chicago mystery writer and member of MWA Midwest. He wrote eight books about Chicago Police Detective Larry Cole, all of which drew on his experiences as a Chicago cop. When he died in 2001 the mentor program was launched to remember his contribution to the writing community.”

To say that I’m honored and thrilled is an absolute understatement. (I just made my news Facebook official and I’m getting a little verklempt as the “likes” are rolling in from my friends and family, as well as the awesomely random comments I’m getting from folks. Getting. Teary.)

What’s next?

So while v3 is marinating in its own weird thought process, I’ve decided to treat myself to a little bit of a diversion. No, I’m not binge watching old episodes of Quantum Leap. (That was at the tail end of November. And yes, that did get in the way of the deadlines I had set for myself. Darn you Scott Bakula!) I’m going through and outlining a story idea that I had a few years back and have a few chapters written on.

Although AL is a marriage, I’m having a wonderful little fling with this story that I call “Summoned.” Again, I want to give AL a month’s worth of rest, so I’m doing a little bit of research on Summoned, working on an outline (I’ll talk about my crazy writing process in a future post. I always thought I was a pantser – and I am! – but man, there’s something seductive about writing an outline too.). I am aiming to be done with the outline by the time I pick AL up again.

So … life is good. Life keeps rolling on. And I keep setting deadlines. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

(*) Of course, now I can’t find that random statistic regarding how many blogs are abandoned in their first year. But if you Google “abandoned blogs,” various articles state that 95% of blogs are abandoned.

Editing, Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFareHere is my random group of random Internet musings and links that I’ve discovered
recently and want to curate for the rest of the world:

Ha!  I knew there was a reason beyond the fact that I’m the mother of two toddlers that I wear the same thing everyday.  I’m trying to achieve simplicity!

I’m a huge Stephen King fan.  The recent articles in Rolling Stone magazine are lush with details and research. (As a bonus, the first sidebar linked to this story about King’s sons Owen King and Joe Hill.  I’ve read Joe Hill and have enjoyed his work, need to read Owen King’s debut novel.)

I only caught the tail end of the whole “Alex from Target” … phenomenon … thing?  New York Times takes a look at the flip side of achieving viral fame.  I said this in a Facebook comment – I will never understand death threats.  You hate a guy because he’s on the Interwebs.  So you make a death threat?  Seems a little irrational.

And because no Friday Fare is complete without some offering to foods that I hope to cook someday (see my note about being the mother of two toddlers above), here’s something that could make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table.

***

Listening to: I’ve been binge watching/listening to YouTube playlists.  Alan Jackson singing at George Jones’ funeral?  Old 1990s country music videos (think Reba McEntire with BIG HAIR, Vince Gill with a pseudo-mullet, and Mama Judd herself in what looks like a cross between pleather and latex.)  Why 1990s country music?  Well, this happened:

Garth Brooks. Minneapolis. Fourth Row Seats.

After seeing Garth Brooks and attending one of the best concerts of my life, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic for the music I used to hear on the radio – on the school bus, while busing dishes at my great-aunt’s diner, in my dad’s barn …

Reading:  Just finished the final book in Nora Roberts’ “Dark Witch / Cousins O’Dwyer” trilogy.  I read it in a day, so it must have been good.

Fiction update:  I’ve hit something of a wall.  After reading this blog post from Chuck Wendig, I’m taking these words to heart:  “And that, I think, is one of the things that separates the Aspiring Not-Really-Writers from the Really Real Writers — the latter group writes even when it’s hard, even when the motivation is a dry well, even when the inspiration seems like a dead or dying thing. They hook the car battery jumper cables up to the coyote’s car-struck carcass and rev the engine and make the damn thing dance yet again. Seems dead, but isn’t. Every day then is an act of revivifying your own abilities and motivations. The act of writing becomes clarifying to the act of writing. To restate the principle for the third time: momentum begets momentum.”  I work to be a Really Real Writer, even when that means I have a little voice parroting in my head: “This is shit.  These words … shit.  You are shit.  Still shitty.”  One foot in front of the other.  One word at a time.

I’ve had some incredible moments during revisions – I’m not currently experiencing that.  But I can do this.  And if I show up every day, I’ll make progress.  Progress can be revised.  Progress is the goal.  Completion is the goal.

Editing, Fiction, Process, Random

Perserverance

Dear Yoda,

It was great seeing you this past weekend. And thank you for the kind words that you wrote in your book to me.  I can’t tell you adequately what it meant to read that.

I’m struggling today. Part of it is exhaustion from the kiddos.  They are great, but between parenting and work and trying to make the needle move on the novel edits, it doesn’t leave time for much else.  And then there is the editing process itself … one foot in front of the other, all while trying to ignore the inner voice that tells me that each word that I place on the page is shit.  And while some people think that writing can be taught, they forget that I really have no mental capacity to retain the words in the writing books that I’ve read.  In the meantime, I want to read some more Craig Johnson.  When I read the first Longmire book, I felt electrified.  His voice was so unique and genuine.  How do I capture that and find my own genuine voice?  But more accurately – when the hell am I going to find time to read? 

Sorry that this has turned into a regular ol’ bitch session.  I had wanted to get some pages to you by the end of the year.  And I think that I’m almost there.  But as I keep revising, I can see a couple of spots that just need a little more love before I let this baby out into the world.  How do I deepen the relationship between my heroine and her father?  How do I transition naturally into a romantic relationship between her and Travis?  How do I amp up the tension, but keep the B-story progressing?  How do I know that this book is not shit?

I’m not going to stop.  This is what I do in my “free” time. I try to move that needle and inch closer to my dream of being a published fiction writer.  But god, sometimes it’s hard. 

Hope that the bird hunting went well and that your hunting buddies didn’t give you too much grief that you had to postpone your trip to attend your book signing.  It’s going to sound stupid when I say this, since you are old enough to be my dad – but I am so very proud of you. 

-sk

^^ An unsent letter to my mentor.  Today’s a tough day, but if writing was easy – everyone would do it.  I am getting so close, but the edits are taking longer than I anticipated and there are just a few problem spots that need time, love, and undivided attention.

I will get there.  I will persevere.  But damn, there are days that I think my spirit animal is an effing tortoise!

*~*~*~*~

OK – now that my rant is over.  Here’s what’s good:

  • My author platform is limping/wogging (walk/jog – get it?) along.  I’m aiming for a January 1, 2015, launch.  Kind of scary, but I embrace it.
  • I entered the first 20 pages of AL to a writing competition that is hosted by a state chapter of the MWA.  To be honest, I do not anticipate to win, but I basically invested $25 into a brief critique of the opening chapter of AL.  And you know what I realized through that process?  I do need to tighten up some of the exposition a little bit.  That re-read in getting those pages ready for submission provided a great moment of clarity.

That’s what’s good in the writing world.  When it comes to everything else, life is pretty damn good.  My BFF gets married this weekend.  It’s fall in Minnesota and the tree out in front of our house is a beautiful tangerine shade.  My husband and kiddos are healthy.  And there’s a lot of love in my world.

Fiction, Process

Plan your work, work your plan

20140729_100849I completed the second draft edits of “Afterlife.” To give you a clue at the lack of fanfare regarding this event, my husband doesn’t even know that.  And in his defense – I just decided that I was done with the edits on Sunday night after about a week’s lull of activity regarding my WIP.  I was sitting at my desk when it hit me … I’m done with the second round of edits.  In fact, I had finished edits when I was in a hotel room in Colorado the week before.

But this should also give you an idea of how long I still have to go with AL.  The internal deadline I had set for myself with AL was that she’d be ready for beta readers by the fall.  Conservatively, I’d say that she’ll be ready closer to Christmas.  There are still some holes, there are some exciting things that I discovered during the second round of edits that I’m going to go back and flesh out.

Next steps?  Mentally, I decided that I finished the second round of edits on July 18th.  I’m giving AL a month to rest and then I’m picking her up again for version 3.  (As you can see in the photo above, I have the binder for v3 all ready!)

Here’s what I’ll be doing in the meantime:

  • Reading “Write Your Novel From the Middle” by James Scott Bell.  The middle of my novel has issues.  There’s some pacing concerns that I’ve grappled with during v2, so I’m hoping that this helps.
  • Dammit … I wanted this to be a bulleted list.  And to be honest, that’s really the only thing I’m doing in preparation for v3.  There are other things that I’ve done to further AL.  Those include (subbullets!)
    • Reread a lot of Patricia Briggs … Mercy Thompson is one of my favorite characters in paranormal literature. Plus, the way that Briggs presents her stories in the same POV that AL is in.  It’s a good primer to see what I want to accomplish with my own work.
    • Finished rereading Elizabeth Lowell’s “Always Time to Die.”  For some reason, that novel has been stuck in my head and I re-read it on my flight back and forth to Colorado.  I tried to pay particular attention to how Lowell unfolded “ATtD” because she has a lot of story threads moving through this novel and I wanted to see how she managed all of them and still presented a pretty gripping story.  (Even if some of the romantic dialogue leaned heavily towards the cheese territory.)

Starting August 18th, I’ve taken three days of PTO from work and I’m going to devote that time to kickstarting round three of edits.  My goal is to complete that round of edits by October 11th.  It’s ambitious, but not impossible.

In the meantime, I’m going to take my hiatus from AL to switch gears and start outlining a story that I started a few years back.  I have a big problem with starting and abandoning projects.  As a result, I have about four orphaned stories that I’ve been working on over the past 10 years or so.  This story (the working title is “Summoned”) is one that has been niggling at my brain lately and I’m very much looking forward to going down that path again and setting up a road map that I can refer to when I go back to writing that particular tale.

Plan your work, work your plan … Happy Tuesday, everyone!