Fiction, Friday Fare, Random

Friday Fare: 5/6/16

050616 - Books

Although the Interwebs have been ripe with all sorts of interesting article (some of which I’ve actually been able to read!), I didn’t have time to assemble a formal Friday Fare today.  So I’ll leave you with a picture and a quick story.  I’m re-reading Stephen King’s “IT” (for the zillionth time?), because I want to see how he does it.  I was in high school the first time I read “IT” and I remember being too scared to look out my bedroom window, because I was sure that I’d see Pennywise the Clown looking in at me through the screen, his Ronald McDonald hair illuminated by the yard light next to the lilac tree.  Now as a writer, I want to figure out how he did it – what senses did King play upon to scare the bejesus out of me?  Was it the backstory?  Character development?

So, I’m sitting in the sunshine while my kids are playing in the sandbox.  My eldest (3 1/2) comes running up to me.  “Let me see, mommy.”  (Usually, he calls me mama, but eldest has been binge watching “Caillou” again, so my given name has taken on a Canadian inflection and borders on whiny.  Damn you Caillou!)  Not thinking, I lift my book so he can see the cover and I hear a little gasp.

“What are those claws doing down there?”

Dammit.  “Um … that’s a dinosaur.”

“What’s a dinosaur doing in there?”

My husband had been snoozing in a deck chair next to me, and at this he opens eyes and gives me a look.

I give my eldest a hug.  “That’s a very good question.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Happy Friday!

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Random

Will you NaNo with me?

h/t to Pilcrow & Dagger for the graphic, posted last week on their FB page.
H/T to Pilcrow & Dagger for the graphic, posted last week on their FB page.

Ah yes – November 1 is looming.  For a lot of writers out there, that means participation in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – in short, getting your arse in chair and cranking out a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 PM by November 30th.

In regards to my writer friends, the concept of NaNoWriMo (seriously, I’m just going to shorten that acronym to NaNo from here on out, OK?) produces split reactions.  A third of my friends gasp because they are daunted by the prospect (which, if you write daily, susses out to a little over 1,600 words per day); a third of my friends scoff and say that there isn’t anything good that can come out of a binge writing session like NaNo; and then the final third of my friends are a bunch of happy worker bees who exude sunshine and effective word counts. (I’ll let you guess which third I fall into.  Definitely not the third, erm … third.)

I’ve been “participating” in NaNo since 2009 and honestly, I’ve never fit into any of the categories that I list above.  In 2012 and 2013, I was knee deep in mothering mode for my newborns, so sleep trumped writing.  And in the other years, I was usually in editing mode or doing my own half-assed attempt at NaNo that didn’t really involve keeping word counts.

Despite my apathetic showing in regards to NaNo, I do think that it’s a good concept.  The world is full of people who want to be published writers.  How does one get published?  Well, that’s a blog post for another time, but unless you put words on paper, there’s no chance in hell that your work will be published.  NaNo encourages writers to get into a daily habit of writing.  And at the end of November, people will have a shitty first draft (SFD) of 50,000 words to craft and hone into a better draft.  It also fosters a sense of community, which is great when you consider how solitary writing can be at times.

The NaNoWriMo official website has a TON of great resources that writers can leverage as they prepare for the November 1st start date.  They also provide different prompts and exercises to help writers if they get stuck on their drafts.  Another blog that I’ve been reading and absorbing lately (and for more than just NaNo) is K.M. Weiland’s website “Helping Writers Become Authors.”  (Seriously – this is like an MFA on a webpage.)  Ms. Weiland has had some killer posts lately on helping folks prep for NaNo.

So … 2015.  Will this be my year to NaNo or will I be as apathetic as I’ve been for the past six years?  Weeee-lll.  Here’s the deal:  My goal is to finish a draft of Dragonfly in November.  Keep in mind that it’s already about 75% done, but I’m hoping that the prep work I’ve been doing for the past couple of months will have me in good shape for cranking words out in November.  I’d be doing it, even if it wasn’t NaNo (and seriously … that’s one of the “points” of NaNo, establishing a regular and sustainable writing practice).  But it’s fun for me to cheer my fellow writing friends on and to feel like I’m part of the game too.

OK friends … let’s get ready to NaNo.  Asses in chairs, fingers on keyboards – luck to you all!

 

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random

Friday Fare: Hallelujah

Friday FareFriday Fare is my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week.  Here are the articles that caught my attention and maybe made me a smarter person this week:

Wow – apparently my life has been all about memes lately.  (And following political stories … bor-rrring.  Although it beats reading about the Kardashians.)

I had to dig hard for this article that I had posted on my Facebook wall last week.  Neil Gaiman on why our futures depend on libraries, daydreaming, and reading.

Otherwise, the only articles that I forwarded and actually read this week was this piece from the Huffington Post asking the question that’s on everyone’s mind:  “What’s A Skoliosexual?”  (I emailed my BFF and asked him if he was my “zucchini.”  Yeah … that was a weird message to send to someone, I admit.)

And then, let’s file this under “I can’t make this shit up”:  There was a woman in Champlin, Minnesota that was pissed off at her neighbors and their children, so she wrote them anonymous notes that said her children looked “delicious” and sent them magazines that were addressed to “Your Tasty Children.”  I emailed one of my other BFFs and told her I was glad that she moved out of that particular ‘burb, she responded that her husband gave the woman props for creativity.

Yes folks, the truth is usually stranger than fiction.

***

Listening to:  In honor of today’s post title, Rufus Wainwright’s take on Hallelujah.  It may be heresy, but this one is my favorite version.

Reading:  My cousin Cheryl invited me to be part of a Facebook society that is devoted to L.M. Montgomery and I found out about this book: “L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys.”  I’m not going to lie, when I found out about these essays that chronicle Ms. Montgomery’s Ontario years, I was having a shit-tacular day and had to fight the mighty urge to Click.  Buy.  Devour.  Truthfully, the only thing that really stopped me was the realization that there are a TON of books that are devoted to the “Anne of Green Gables” author’s life, inspiration, etc.  I’m thankful that my local library has a robust interlibrary loan system.  I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing some academic reading this winter about one of my favorite authors.

Fiction Update: I’m making good progress on outlining “Dragonfly” and noodling on the mushy middle parts that need to coalesce into something that resembles a story and not the end result that looks like my toddlers had a field day on my laptop’s keyboard.

Happy Friday, friends!  I am wishing you a blissful day and weekend. Today I am heading north to St. Paul to eat some borscht with a beloved college friend. I’m looking forward to not checking work emails and soaking in some good conversation.  It will be good for my soul.  Do something good for yourselves today!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random

Friday Fare: Random, random musings

Friday FareFriday Fare is my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week.  Here are the articles that caught my attention and maybe made me a smarter person this week:

William Kent Krueger wrote an eloquent blog post a while ago regarding his decision to temporarily shelve the sequel to his New York Times bestseller “Ordinary Grace.”  The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a piece that included him and some of Krueger’s thoughts on that decision.  Very interesting.

This has nothing to do with writing, but I loved/hated this piece on Ina Garten.  I thought it was one of the most insightful pieces on her, but the writer has a serious problem with Martha Stewart and barely concealed their snark.

And finally – I would be remiss if I closed this “Friday Fare” without being cognizant of current events.  It’s been an ugly week.  Another school shooting.  This time in Oregon.  I haven’t read a lot of the coverage of the issue for many reasons.  But I did read this:  The Daily Beast article that urges people to forget the zero who pulled the trigger, but to honor Chris Mintz, the Army vet that charged the shooter.

***

Listening to:  For some reason, Ashlee Simpson’s “Pieces of Me” was in my head this morning.  So I pulled it up on YouTube.  Yeah – I won’t link to that.  That guilty pleasure is all my own.

Reading:  Almost done with Ann Rule’s “Stranger Beside Me.”  This book is lauded as the ultimate true crime novel, partly because of the late author’s relationship with the subject of this book – notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.  This book is incredible.  I’ve literally had some trouble sleeping because of it.

Fiction Update: Progress on outlining / reviewing “Dragonfly” has been a little slow, but I’ve made myself a deal … I cannot have another Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte until I’m done with a read-through.  And seriously – the TGL is one of the tastiest things I’ve ever drank, I will try to finish my read-through by middle of next week.

Happy Friday, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random

Friday Fare: Woo! Friday!

Friday FareFriday Fare is my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week.  Here are the articles that caught my attention and maybe made me a smarter person this week:

I have yet to get on the Sara Paretsky bandwagon (which is kind of pathetic … she lives in Chicago, is a member of Mystery Writers of America – Midwest chapter, and is the mother behind the Sisters in Crime organization).  But for the reasons I’ve parenthesized and because of this article, I’m looking forward to getting caught up in her backlog of V.I. Warshawski books.

I have a lot of love for Dave Grohl.  My high school gym teacher had posted this on his Facebook wall – it’s worth the eight minutes of your life.

So – who didn’t read the New York Times’ account of Amazon’s cutthroat / “bruising” work environment?  (My parents don’t count …)  Since then, I’ve read that the government is wading into the fray (that oughta be good …) and then I read this piece from Forbes where the writer says: “Journalists enjoy the right to be selective, conducting long interviews and then using only short segments in an article. They enjoy the right to interview wide ranges of people and then to build the final story around a small subset.”  That line resonated with me because of my former career as a journalist – the challenge to take all of that information and drill it down to something publishable, accurate, and palatable … it was a challenge that I relished.  But it’s also a good warning to take everything that you read in the media with a salt shaker … you never know what ends up on the cutting room floor.

Finally, I recently wrote about how much I loved the movie “Real Genius.”  This time around, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of “The Usual Suspects.”  There are not enough words for me to accurately describe how that movie made my mind explode the first time I saw it.  Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, the late and amazing Pete Postlethwaithe … every member of that cast was just so spot on in their roles.  It is funny to hear the director’s memories of the movie and to read the reviews – some scathing – that were published 20 years ago.

***

Listening to:  John Prine and Bonnie Raitt’s duet of “Angel of Montgomery.”  Discovered a new band last weekend – Lucius.  Right now as I’m writing, I needed some Ray LaMontagne.

Reading:  I reserved “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Bibliography” by Laura Ingalls Wilder at my local library and picked it up the other night.  I’m only through the acknowledgements and the introductory chapter, but I’m really enjoying the book.  Because I grew up in the Midwest – my entire first grade class was raised on this stuff.

Fiction Update: I made a read through the story that I call “Dragonfly.”  I’m hoping to take some time this weekend to sketch out an outline of what I have written (the story’s basically there – just need to string some lines between the tent poles.)  I have another idea that recently crawled into my head space, but I’ve just been jotting down notes on that, going to let it marinate for awhile before I commit to paper. (PS – Have I ever told you that I love this writing life?)

Happy Friday, friends!

Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: It’s on the Internet … must be true

Friday FareFriday Fare is a round up of my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week. Enjoy!

There were a couple things I read that got elevated to “Post-It” status on my desk this week.  Sure, I had to unearth said Post-It from my desktop, but these items were important enough for me to remember and post for your reading enjoyment. 🙂

First is this post called Slow Berkshires from Alana Chernila at “Eating from the Ground Up.”  Ms. Chernila is known for her incredible recipes and their reflection of the “farm to table” movement and while this post is a departure from the typical fare of her blog, it is in line with the aesthetic of her recipes – local, organic, intentional.  The post is a reflection of the hike that Chernila and her husband took from one end of the Berkshires to the other.  And while I know that such a jaunt is a few years from my present life (hel-lo, mother of toddlers!), it is something that’s on my bucket list.

The other three things I jotted down are a little more random … one of them is down below in “Listening,” while the other two are food related.  1) If you have an abundance of cucumbers right now from your garden or CSA, make these pickles.  Now.  2) I’m kind of obsessed by the concept of turning zucchini into noodles.  It seems like a travesty, but it sounds like a tasty one to try …

BUT THIS IS NOT A COOKING BLOG.  Now to the articles that enriched me as a reader and writer this week …

I grew up in the Midwest and I was reared on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  (Do not get my mom started about the side trips I begged to go on during our bi-annual trip to South Dakota where I would seek out random LIW-related sites.)  So this literary mystery about whether or not Pa Ingalls brought a heaping helping of vigilante justice to some serial killers was interesting (even if unlikely).  Side note – I still need to read “Pioneer Girl.”

Here’s another bandwagon I’m late for:  Ann Rule.  Turns out that one of my FB author friends was real-life friends with the late author so upon Ms. Rule’s death, I found myself reading a lot about this amazing ex-journalist, turned author.  And while it seems that everyone and their mother has a Ted Bundy story in the Midwest, I need to get my hands on “The Stranger Beside Me.”

Finally – Facebook, it’s ability to stalk me via whatever “feels” I’m having and its targeted ad suggestions should squick me out, but I tune out ads as handily as I ignore whining children.  However, I’ve noted that FB thinks I should take James Patterson’s “Master Class” for writers that is offered online.  Luckily, another writer did that for me.  Joyce Maynard’s piece is light on the snark and her conclusion is surprising …

***

Here are the other mediums that have been inspiring me:

Listening to: One of my coworkers texted me an article the other day about the television debut of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.  I’m in love.  Jimmy Fallon said that their music is pure barroom soul and he’s not too far off the mark.  NPR is currently streaming their upcoming album.  I have a sense that this album is going to find it’s way into my home soon.  And hopefully, my children won’t start running around singing “S.O.B.”

Reading:  Just finished “Winter Garden” by Kristin Hannah.  I’m still processing this one … it was an incredible read and it’s the kind of book that an aspiring writer can learn a lot from …

Fiction Update:

Wine and song ... er, outlining
Wine and song … er, outlining

This was the scene at Casa de My Kitchen Table the other night … I unearthed the folders that had the notes for my “resort story” and I started to page through them.  I was surprised to see how much I had written (I apparently went on a jag with this project in October 2012 through February 2013 … my eldest son would have been three months through eight months old during that time … no wonder I barely remember anything!) and even more thrilled to discover it wasn’t total shit!  Woo for some postpartum progress!

Happy Friday, friends!

Fiction, Process, Random

For the Summer

My dad ... circa 2009.
My dad … circa 2009.

I am admittedly late to the Ray LaMontagne bandwagon.  It happens to me frequently – there will be a musician or a band that is burning up the charts or have become the indie darlings of the radio and I’ll find out about them five years later.  Then I become a little obsessed with their music and email all of my friends something along the lines of “you need to hear this band!”  And then … crickets.  Because they typically will have heard of said band when they were relevant.

Anyway … Ray LaMontange.  Love his music.  And although I’m just writing about him now, I’ve been listening for a couple of years.  And as I’ve written in the past, music tends to inform a lot of the atmosphere around my writing.  Some writers need absolute silence to write.  I’ve heard that Stephen King likes to listen to heavy metal when he’s penning his work.

I’m in a bit of a limbo right now in waiting to hear feedback from some of my beta readers.  I have a couple of items that I want to work on in my writing life, but I’ve been thinking about using this time to start outlining the next full-fledged fiction project that I’m going to work on.  To give you an idea where my head is right now (beyond trying to come up from air under the amount of boxes and crap that my husband and I need to unpack … bleh), it vacillates between a story set in my heart’s home of northeast Iowa or the story that’s set in the lake country of west central Minnesota.  The northeast Iowa story starts in the fall – it always has had its starting time frame in the fall, when the trees along the Mississippi River bluffs display their quiet riot of fall colors and when the farmers are in the field, trying to harvest the last of the corn.  But the west central Minnesota story is a resort story – it belongs on a place called Dragonfly Lake where time is moving on, despite the memories that would keep Marv Carlson trapped in the past.  And when Ray LaMontagne’s “For the Summer” cues up on my mp3 player and when I think about the summer I spent cleaning resort cabins on weekends for a couple extra bucks, my heart knows what story to tell next.

PS – The picture above is of my dad.  When my mind isn’t thinking of Minnesota lakes, Mr. LaMontange’s song makes me think of summer on the farm – one arm out the rolled down window of my mama’s pickup truck.  Spring Grove pop.  And I think of this particular day on a long ago vacation when my dad and I found a riot of flowers in South Dakota.

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random

Friday Fare: It’s on the Internet … must be true

Friday FareFriday Fare is my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week.  And it’s been so long since I’ve written one of these, I had to look back to see the format!  Uff da.

Without further ado – these are the articles that caught my attention and maybe made me a smarter person this week:

Forbes ran an article about what is considered to be “on time,” “late,” etc.  I hate to admit this, but I’ve become terrible about making appointments on time.  I could blame my children because readying for an outing, loading two toddlers in a car, and refraining from drinking is probably the closest thing I’ll come to competing in a triathlon in my life, but this is something I need to be better about.

Lee Lofland, the mastermind/force behind the Writers’ Police Academy, published these “6 Police Apps for Writers.”  I’m upgrading to a better phone in October, I think some of these are going to find their way on my phone …

And this has nothing to do with writing, but a lot to do with who I am as a person … one of my all-time favorite movies is “Real Genius.”  And it turns 30 this year.  Kids and writing have cut back on my movie watching bandwidth, but “Real Genius” is a movie that I could watch over and over again.  It’s eminently quotable and it has Val Kilmer in it.

***

Speaking of movies, I’m making time to take one in this weekend – Ricki and the Flash.  I’m not one of those people who fawn over every film that Meryl Streep makes (and honestly, I have never seen the older films that put her on the map), but some of my favorite movies from recent years feature her: “Julie and Julia” (dragged my hubby to that one, he didn’t complain) and “Mamma Mia!”  Plus Kevin Kline is in it … this can’t be a bad thing (“In and Out” is also one of my favorite movies.)

Otherwise, this is what has been inspiring me lately:

Listening to:  I’ve been on an Old Crow Medicine Show kick recently.  I went to see them in concert in May and it is in one of my top five shows.  Here are a couple of YouTube concerts that give a glimpse of how talented these guys are.

Reading:  Sheyna Galyan gave me an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of her latest book “Strength to Stand” (will be released on Sept. 1.).  And damn … it was a good read.  I’ll be posting a review on my Goodreads feed soon.  I’m also reading “Winter Garden” by Kristin Hannah.

Fiction Update: Right now, I’m filling the well back up and reading good books, getting ready to beta read a friend’s novel, and mentally weighing what project I want to start outlining next!

Happy Friday, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random

Friday Fare … But not today!

Friday FareI have read articles this week, but it’s been one of those weeks where time is short and what has captured my attention has to be pretty damn good.  This is what spoke to me this week – a Tumblr feed from my home state of Iowa.  Someone wrote on Facebook that they thought the pictures of all of these old, abandoned buildings were sad, but I see a lot of pride and beauty of the old lines of these buildings.

Have a good weekend, dear friends!

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?