Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: 4/29/16

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.

“Jane Eyre” is one of my favorite books.  Letters of Note is one of my favorite websites.  The two together made me very happy this week.

50 books a woman should read before she turns 40.  In July, I will have two years left to finish these bad boys … might need to get cracking.

This article seriously pissed me off.  (So much so that I actually commented on Facebook.  Don’t get me wrong – I like the FB, but I try to be a positive member of society.  In this case, I let my snark shine through.)

And damn … my resume needs updating, but will never look this cool.

And yes, this is a writing blog.  But cocktails!  This beverage sounds like it’s up my alley.

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Listening to: Yup, still adoring Sturgill Simpson, but since he’s down towards the bottom of my Windows Media Player queue (am I the only person who still uses Windows Media Player?), I’ve been getting down to the “Ts” in my music collection.  Toad the Wet Sprocket anyone? (P.S. – Seen them three or four times in concert.  And I fangirl.  Every.  Single.  Time.)

Reading: Stephen King’s “IT.”  How does he do it?

Fiction Update: Edits!  I’ve been kinda stuck on the ending of Act I, but I’ve been having some weird mini-breakthroughs that are immensely gratifying.

Enjoy the weekend!

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

Process, Random

Novel Playlists

When I was a kid, my brother and I would regularly climb up on the bench seat of my parents’ stone fireplace and entertain the masses (eh-herm, my parents and maybe the dog) with our performance of Kenny Rogers / Dottie West songs. Another early musical memory that I have is cranking up my parents’ 8-track player and blasting Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night” and then go hide under the couch. Because – you know, after the second or third time that this happened, I’m sure that my parents had no clue who the perpetrator was.

OK – so I’ve established that I was a goofy kid. The other thing? While I didn’t turn out to be a virtuoso musician, music is something that’s really important in my life and to my creative presence as a writer.

In September, Sisters in Crime had an interesting group of questions for its blog hop and since I’m apparently immune to deadlines – I figured I’d respond to one of the blog prompts: Do you listen to music while writing?

Oh absolutely, I listen to music while I’m writing. I currently have over 130 hours of music saved up in Windows Media Player and if I’m working on my day job or if I’m writing fiction, there is always music playing. I also have a little mp3 player that has a mix of music on it – that’s for airplane rides, gym trips, and writing evenings at Panera Bread when I’m not feeling the easy listening that pipes through their speakers or I want to tune out the noise that’s around me.

What’s on your playlist?

Before I delve into my personal playlists that I’ve constructed from my Works in Progress (WIPs), there’s one author who really does playlists well: Deborah Harkness. In fact, when I met her at a book signing – I stuttered my thanks for introducing me to the music of Florence + the Machine. “Of course!” she replied.

Ms. Harkness is the author of the “All Souls Trilogy” that chronicles the journey of Diana Bishop, a thoroughly American witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a mysterious and prestigious biochemist who also happens to be a vampire.

Harkness’s playlists are stunning and chronicle her inspiration for her individual characters, as well as the books themselves. As someone who is an avid reader and as someone who really loves music, Deb Harkness’s Spotify playlists are a little piece of heaven. (Find Ms. Harkness here on Spotify.)

Two of my WIPs have their own playlists. The music therein serves a couple of purposes – one is to evoke a certain feeling in me while I write. It’s not unheard of for me to play a certain song over and over again while I’m writing a certain scene or trying to get into a character’s head. The other purpose is to mentally transport myself to a certain time and place that inspired me in the first place. My novel “Afterlife” is set in 2002-03. No, I’m not going through and finding the “NOW” CD compilations from that time, but I remember what CDs I was obsessed with when I was 25 years old. Listening to Moby’s “Play” album transports me back to the tiny house that I rented when I was a broke journalist. U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” had been out for a couple years at that point, but I had just discovered that album – the song “In A Little While” in particular.

There is a tricky father-daughter relationship that weaves its way through my story. One day I was scrolling through my mp3 player and came across Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.” That was like a visceral punch to the gut. The anguish in Stevens’ voice helps me understand some of my characters’ misunderstandings. Pearl Jam’s “Man of the Hour” also helps.

So yes – music is a constant of days and of my work.

What about the rest of you? Anyone else out there who builds playlists for their writing lives?