Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: 4/22/16

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

I’m not going to lie – I’m one of those annoyingly “glass is half full” kind of people (unless it’s a cup of coffee and then I actually get kinda panicky when it’s getting past the halfway mark).  So’s my BFF Paul.  He posted this piece on Facebook the other day and it resonated.

I had to read Gary Snyder’s work during an undergraduate post-modern literature class.  His work has stuck with me all these years – glad to hear he’s still out in the world.

In my estimation, Rolling Stone took a dive in credibility after the botch job they did on the UVA rape case.  However, I couldn’t help but read this piece about some college kids who became immigrant smugglers.  As a writer, I read pieces like this to help inform future characters.  Sometimes articles I come across get archived as future story ideas or things that help me with research.

Celeste Barber recreating celebrity Instagrams – this was good.  Provided much needed larfs.

And not gonna lie – been spending way too much time wrapped up in the mania surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday.

And no – this is not a cooking blog, but damn … might need to break out the skillet for these pork chops!

***

Listening to: Prince.  2016 – you suck.

Reading: Finished Brian Freeman’s “Immoral.”  It was good to revisit the book, I had totally forgotten the ending.

Fiction Update: Edits.  Edits.  Edits.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Editing, Fiction, Process

Adventures in Editing: Clunk.

_AdventuresinEditingAfter several years of toiling, I finished a SFD draft of After Life (AL) in July 2015.  I let it set on the back burner until March 2016 and am editing in earnest.  Adventures in Editing is an occasional feature that chronicles the travails of trying to bring a bunch of muddle into a more cohesive draft.  Thanks for reading!

I think the following picture tells a pretty decent story:

clunkAs my mentor mentioned in my earlier “Adventures” post, reading your draft out loud is an effective way to catch any parts of your story that are … well, clunky.  As I read through my draft of AL to see how the story flowed together, I marked the sentences / sections that were clunky upon reading them out loud.

Still don’t believe me?  Check out what the experts say in the hyperlinks.

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Still effing cold in Minnesota

Friday FareFriday Fare is all about the links.

I shouldn’t complain, because it’s spring – which, in Minnesota, means anything from blizzard conditions to 80-degree weather.  But man … I am ready for some sunshine.

Beverly Cleary turns 100 on the 12th.  While she wasn’t my favorite writer when I was a kid, I fondly remember Ramona and Beezus, her long suffering sister.

I’m frequently critical of the media, but this reporter just kicks ass.

Two of my fellow Mystery Writers of America-Midwest members are nominated for this year’s Mary Higgins Clark Award, Jungle Red Writers did an awesome round-up with all of the nominees to get their take on how their stories fit the MHC criteria.

This article had life advice for struggling artists.  A wonderful, wonderful piece.

Finally – a Ramen Burger?  Yes please.

***

Listening to: I literally just started streaming this album from Sturgill Simpson.  But I think I like it.  A lot.

Reading: I’m currently reading to inform – re-read “Interview with a Vampire” to find out how Anne Rice made the world of Louis and Lestat real enough to give this world staying power some 40 years later.  A book about exorcism.  Some books about the writing craft (I finished “Revision and Self Editing” by James Scott Bell.  “Plot Perfect” by Paula Munier is next.).  I have Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and Stephen King’s “IT” out from the library – again, how do the masters build their worlds?

Fiction Update: I want to write “editing, editing, editing.”  But this week hasn’t been kind for my fictional pursuits.  I will not despair, I’m just looking ahead to Sunday when I can devote a large, unbroken amount of time to my work.

Happy weekend, friends!

Editing, Fiction, Process

Adventures in Editing: In One Sitting

_AdventuresinEditingA little back story, after several years of toiling, I finished a SFD draft of After Life (AL) in July 2015.  I let it set on the back burner until March 2016 and have started the process of editing in earnest.  Adventures in Editing is an occasional feature that chronicles the travails of trying to bring a bunch of muddle into a more cohesive draft.  Thanks for reading!

I do believe in the adage that to write is to be a constant student of the craft.  I see this as I discover new writers or glean some nugget of information in the writing blogs that I peruse.  However, while all things can be good in moderation, I have found that too much information causes creative paralysis.  I rediscovered this as I started thinking about how I was going to approach the editing process on AL.  My current draft is hovering around a chunky 113k mark.  I feel OK about the beginning, I’m a little meh about the ending – it’s there, but it needs some loving, and the middle?  Uff da – don’t get me started on the middle.  There’s good stuff there, but there’s flab.  Oh sweet Lord, there’s flab.

But as I’ve purchased my red pens and have mentally been gearing up for the editing process, I found myself paralyzed.  First and foremost – do I have the tools to accomplish my goal?  This goes beyond red pens and Post-It notes.  Do I have the knowledge to bring draft one to a better second draft?  That question tends to paralyze me.  It’s not only do I have the knowledge, it’s also a question of efficiency.  Gestating a book and getting it ready to send it off into the world takes time, but do I approach the editing process correctly?  Are there things that I should be considering as I read my draft that I don’t know about?  Should I take a(nother) class where I learn more about the editing process?

There was one concept in particular that kept me procrastinating on the start of my current round of edits.  Somewhere along my journey, I read you should read your draft from stem to stern in one sitting at the beginning of the editing process.

I don’t disagree with this concept and I think that the intent behind this is so that thoughts and perceptions remain fresh in the author’s mind and that any mental progress isn’t interrupted by having to read your draft in several different sittings.

And I really, really tried to do this with my latest draft of AL.  I did.  So how long did it take me?  Four days.  So do I think that my novel is now doomed because I wasn’t able to follow the advice of the experts?  Nah.  I think in my dream world, I’d have endless amounts of time to chase my dreams of fiction and publication.  But in my real world, the world that fills me with ideas and introduces me to potential characters and … well, pays the bills … it took me four days to read my draft and rediscover my old friend Kate and her father Simon.  I realized that there were a couple extraneous characters that could be jettisoned.  I saw plot threads that were started and then fizzled out.  I got what I needed.  And now I’m crafting my action plan to go forward.

So the moral of the story?  I’m learning to cut through the noise and I’m finding what works for me on this creative journey.

I’ll leave you with the following thought. I came across this status update in November on Facebook from Louise Penny.  I liked this … this encapsulates my hopes as I hop from a shitty first draft to my second draft and beyond: “Started the second draft of the next book yesterday. The first few chapters are, of course, the ones that need the most editing. When I started this book, I knew the outline of the plot, and some of the themes, but as the book went on things evolved. These first chapters drag their knuckles on the ground. Need to have them stand upright. And in the next draft will make them lean and strong and swift. And, if I do a fourth draft, will see if I can teach it to make cappuccino.”

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Done with Winter Edition

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

On Sunday, I was rambling the woods on my parents’ farm; on Thursday, my corner of Minnesota got about a foot of snow dumped on it.  I am done with winter.  Let’s be done with snow, m’kay?

It’s been a quiet week on the work front and I’ve been finding all sorts of readables on the Interwebs:

I’m pretty verbose about my love of L.M. Montgomery and “Anne of Green Gables.”  One of the fan sites on Facebook linked to this 1986 New York Times article talking about the American debut of the beloved Canadian TV series.

I’ve probably missed about 90% of the shows / movies / etc. that James Franco has been in, but I like him all the same.  This was an interesting article from Rolling Stone about a brilliant artist.

Obligatory George Clooney article.  (Seriously – I think that I’m stuck in the 1990s or something.  I have referenced Clooney in my fiction on TWO different occasions.  He is my measurestick of hotness.)

This will be on my (To Be Read) TBR pile when it’s released:  Nora McInerny Purmort’s memoir “It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too).” Like many Minnesotans, I followed the love story of Nora and her husband Aaron Purmort, who died in 2014 after a fierce battle with cancer. (This love story might have stayed in Minnesota, but gained national recognition after Mr. Purmort’s obituary ran in the Star Tribune.  Seriously, read it.  Best. Obit. Ever.) Mpls St Paul magazine ran a feature on Ms. McInerny Purmort in a recent issue.  It’s worth the read.

***

Listening to: I remember reading Loretta Lynn’s autobiography, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” when I was a kid.  My grandpa Stan wasn’t big on books, but this was one that he kept at his house.  So my heart has a huge soft spot when it comes to Loretta Lynn.  This recent duet between Ms. Lynn and Willie Nelson?  Impeccable.

Reading:  See below.

Fiction Update:  Monday marked the beginning of edits of what is either version five or six of “After Life” (AL).  I’m already encountering self doubt and Microsoft Word shenanigans, but I’m in it for the long haul, babies … I’ve been jotting down some future blog post ideas, so I’ll share more through my “Adventures in Editing,” but for the time being, I’ll just leave it at this brief update.

Happy weekend, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Dreaming of spring

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

I guess the biggest news of my week is that in August, I’m going to be caravan-ing with some fellow members of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime and will be attending the Writers Police Academy in Green Bay, WI.  Or, as one of my fellow toddler moms/writers IM’d me: writers + guns + weekend without kids = AWESOME.

Have you written a good short story and want to submit it somewhere?  Check out this article from the Mystery Writers of America – New York Chapter. (While this is from an MWA chapter, there are some listings that aren’t limited to the mystery genre.)

If all goes well today, I plan on visiting this old coot tonight (Friday, 2/26/16) and cheer him on at his latest book signing.

Why yes, Chrissy Teigen’s new cookbook has nothing to do with writing, but this cookbook is going to make its way into my collection soon.  I just love her philosophy on food and her smackdowns on social media typically border on awesome, if not epic.

***

Listening to: I’ve become something of a YouTube junkie.  I love to listen to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and shows from KEXP, a Seattle radio station.  This song from the Dave Rawlings Machine has been in pretty heavy rotation lately.

Reading: I read another J.D. Horn book in a day.  Then I revisited childhood with some a recent Christopher Pike novel.  (I was OBSESSED with him when I was a teenager.  I actually ordered one of my favorite books of his to rediscover why I liked him so much.)

Fiction Update: I finished my short story and I feel pretty good about it.  Even if it doesn’t make it to the anthology I’m pitching it for, I think it has legs and a chance elsewhere.  I really enjoyed the process of discovery with the story and characters.  I also enjoyed the discipline of taking something that started out at 5,700 words and trimming that down to a lean 3,900.  In terms of my larger projects, I ordered this book in preparation to start editing the next draft of AL.  That’s been on the back burner since July – I think it’s past time that I revisited it.

Random

Seven things …

Source: morgueFile photos
Source: morgueFile photos

My fellow Sister in Crime, Sheyna Galyan, tagged me on Facebook the other day to talk about “seven things about my writing habits.”  It was a fun exercise and since I don’t have any of my craptacular pictures to share with you, I thought I’d repost this here:

Seven things about my writing habits:

1) I have to play music while I’m writing. In fact, I tend to build playlists for my books as I go along. Music is essential to my character building process, it also helps me set the scene.

2) I like to edit my stories by printing off my draft and using a pen to mark the hell out of it. I don’t have a problem creating a story on my computer, but when it comes to edits – I think better when I’m dealing with hard copy.

3) I have a terrible habit of abandoning projects in favor of “greener” pastures. So, right now, I have three fairly fleshed out stories that I’ve been working on over the past ten years or so. As you can imagine, this causes lots of problems when I come back to the projects that I’ve shelved. So, anymore I work on one thing at a time.

4) The current story that I’m working on (I call it “After Life” or “AL” for short) is the first book that I started writing in my adult life and I will be so happy to get it done. Every time I’ve set it up on a shelf, it’s the story that keeps bugging me to be written.

5) When I first think up a story, I just the story go where it will take me. But the older that I get (and the less time I have), I’ve found that I creating an outline of my story helps immensely. It helps to keep me on track and it helps when I have to switch my focus from working on fiction to other tasks.

6) Although I feel like I’ve been writing stories my entire life, I’m really awkward about admitting that I’m a writer. Which is weird, because it’s what I do in my professional life, but I’ve always worried that folks would think I’m delusional if I told them that I write novels in my spare time. Then I realized that they probably already think that, so that’s a hurdle I no longer worry about. 🙂

7) I’ve been writing since I was a kid, I’ve been a professional writer for over 15 years, but I’ve only been treating the novel as a “career” for the past three years and I’m constantly amazed at how much I learn every year that I write. I just sincerely hope that my next book won’t take so effing long to finish.

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!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFareI was a little early heralding the arrival of spring – we got nine inches of snow dumped on southeast Minnesota Sunday night (March 22nd).  My friend Jerry warned me, but I was too busy basking in the sun to pay heed to what I should remember about winter in the Midwest – March is a harsh mistress (or as Jerry put it:  “… that raucous, heartless wench.”

What have I been reading lately on the interwebs?

Anyway … New York Times’ Sunday Routine is one of the series that I follow faithfully in my newspaper reading.  This one with Tim Gunn was spectacular.  Not sure if it was Mr. Gunn, what he does for his Sunday Routine, or what it was about this one in particular, but I liked it.

This article regarding coffee and how it can negatively i impact a person’s productivity is bunk and I refuse to believe it.

I found a couple decadent recipes on the Interwebs this week:  Inspire(d) Magazine is a periodical out of my homeland of Northeast Iowa and the Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala is going to happen this weekend.  And then a friend of mine posted a recipe for Elvis Cheesecake – and it features a Nutter Butter crust.  I have an unhealthy love for Nutter Butter cookies that I can largely dismiss unless I hear the product name.  But while I fixate on the NB, this cheesecake features peanut butter, banana, and bacon bits.  While I do not think I’m going to make this, I would gladly order this off of a menu.  Or if my friend Jenny goes into the baking/delivery business – I would be happy to have this show up at my doorstep.

***

Listening to: Every once in awhile I try to educate my sons in the “finer” music in life (beyond my usual folk fixation and their love of anything Sesame Street or secular Veggie Tales.)  This song got some heavy rotation this morning.

Reading:  I kind of abandoned Skellig.  Which means I should likely put it back on my “to be read” list for another day when I have the focus to finish it.  In the meantime, Sheyna Galyan is a member of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime group that I belong to and we met over a morning involving firearms training.  I’m currently making my way through her debut novel “Destined to Choose” and I’m enjoying it – Galyan is a Jewish author and in her words, her books are written to “answer Big Questions.”  The former religion minor geek in my psyche is enjoying this in depth look at the Jewish faith.  And her story is well constructed, so bonus!

Fiction update: Editing.  And it’s going well.  There are some good things that are happening on the page and I’m getting ready to release my baby out to the beta readers soon!

Happy Friday, dear friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFare First and foremost – HALLELUJAH, it is Friday!  And secondly – IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!  Winter wasn’t as bad as it could be in the hinterlands of Minnesota, but when you’re the mom of two toddlers – any extended periods of time spent indoors is just cruel to all involved.

Without further ado – here’s the articles that piqued my interest this week:

What common editing mistakes are you making?  Lourdes Venard is a member of the Sisters in Crime Guppies (Great Unpublished) online group that I am a part of.  Recently, she wrote a blog post that encapsulated some of the common mistakes that editors see when editing fiction.  Confession:  I know I’m guilty of a couple of these!

Wow – I haven’t read any of Adrian McKinty’s books, but need to start based on the soundtrack for his Detective Sean Duffy’s books alone.

I do a decent amount of research for some of my stories – I’m nowhere near as detailed as someone like Diana Gabaldon is, but some of the things that I write prompt me to consult subject matter experts or look up articles / various sources to find out random things like the history of embalming (don’t ask.)  Sometimes, I’m simply bookmarking articles for future information – storing little nuggets of information in my head that could be relevant in future stories.  Like this article about a super-secret policing gadget that can listen in on cell conversations.  Hel-lo big brother.

***

Listening to:  As I finalize this post today, I have Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park playing.  My parents had this album on cassette when I was a kid and I wore it out.  If I ever had to exist on a desert island, this is probably one of the albums that I’d bring with me.  This one and Paul Simon’s “Negotiations and Love Songs.”

Reading:  I have a couple of books that I picked up from the library – Sanctum by Sarah Fine and The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty (see the link above that got me interested in reading Mr. McKinty’s books).  I am 99% sure that I’ve read Sanctum, but need to page through it to see if that is the case.  If so, I’ll do a quick re-read since this is part of a larger series of Young Adult (YA) fiction.

Fiction update:  Edits, edits, edits.  I’m still on my April 1st deadline.  Just got to keep plugging away to that goal line and not let life derail me.

Also – I’m getting ready to go to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference next month in Minneapolis.  I had been on the fence regarding my attendance, but they have a Saturday pass for $40.  With my work schedule and with my family, that’s going to be the best option for me.  I’ll be writing more soon regarding what I hope to get from the conference, but honestly – I’m just looking forward to rubbing elbows with some of the Minnesota writers that I’ve befriended over the past few years and drinking with my Writer’s Guild at the conclusion of Saturday’s festivities. 🙂