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!

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Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: March Madness

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.

This was a post from Criminal Minds that I found earlier this month.  The question is a good one: If you had to name one single book that inspired you to be a writer, what would that be?  It’s hard to limit myself to one single book, but if I had to go back to the very beginning of my reading adventure – Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the first writers who captured my adoration as a reader and the person who gave root to the idea that I’d someday be an author.  (Honorable mentions go to L.M. Montgomery and Stephen King.  Why yes, that’s an eclectic list.)

This is another blog post that I read a little while back and while it came from a cooking blog that I frequently read, it resonated so much in regards to how I sometimes feel when it comes to progress that I’m making in my writing life.  Basically – feeling jealous on the Internet and 12 ways to make it stop.  There’s a lot of good wisdom out here, but the important one for me is #12 – Gratitude.  At the end of all things, I’m a ridiculously blessed person and while I move at a snail’s pace when it comes to writing fiction, I’m making progress.  And I do this despite all the other wonderful distractions and obligations I have in my life.  I’m also lucky to have found tribe members that share in my struggles and a lot of support amongst my non-writing friends and family.

***

Listening to: Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch are still in heavy rotation on my YouTube stream.  I have a sense that it’s going to take me some time before I’m sick of these guys.

Reading: Anne Fraiser is still on my counter.  In the meantime, I read two books from a different Anne:  Anne Bishop’s “The Black Jewels” have been making its way through my Kindle.  I don’t typically read fantasy books (George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien are the exception), but I’ve really been enjoying her books.

Fiction Update: Got my short story submitted for consideration in an upcoming anthology. I was happy to have accomplished this given how hectic work was the past few weeks.

Happy weekend, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: In Like a Lion

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.

OK – so the weather in Minnesota has been delightful – 60 degree days where I can send my hooligans outside to run off the energy they’ve been conserving over the winter.  But in terms of work?  My lord … as I told one of my co-workers, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel – just hoping it isn’t a train.  But there were still good things to read this week:

I’m a huge fan of articles that are part of a larger series.  Sunday Routine from The New York Times comes to mind, as does the Grub Street Diet from GrubStreet.com.  (I mean – everyone should know that Judy Greer and I are now soul sisters because of our shared love of Panera Bread’s chocolate chipper cookies.)  The latest series I’m into and have subscribed to is called My Morning Routine.  I have no clue why I like to read about what people do during their days (probably envy – I think they all are getting more sleep than I am); but it’s something I enjoy a lot.

A website / blog that I’m a fan on is Scary Mommy.  Their recent post “19 Ways Work-At-Home Moms Lie to Themselves” was a character study in my … erm, routine.

And falling under the category “GET IN MAH MOUTH,” here’s a recipe from Sweatpants & Coffee.  I like brown butter.  I like rice krispies.  And I love bourbon – this recipe just screams “win” to me. (Might need to bring this to my next writer’s meeting …)

***

Listening to: This killed me … what an amazing concept – remaking songs using instruments that were only available in the 1930s.  Oh BBC – I love you.

Reading: Anne Frasier’s “Pretty Dead” is on my counter.  The same spot it was when I hauled it home from the library, but I’m looking forward to reading it.

Fiction Update: I met with my South Metro Writer’s Group this week and it was invigorating.  We have a new member that brings great energy to our already vibrant group and I appreciate all of the insights they’ve given me on my work.  This week, I workshopped a short story that I had sent in for consideration in a different anthology.  It was rejected and while I knew that it had been passed up for good reasons, I wasn’t sure what those reasons were.  Getting their outside perspective was extremely helpful.

And – now that I’m exiting my season in (proposal) hell, I’m looking forward to cracking open some “After Life (AL)” and starting a new round of edits.  Deep breath.  I got this.

Happy weekend, dear friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Excuses, regeneration, and shenanigans

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’ve had a wonderful week that hasn’t left much room for reading, outside of books I’m trying to get through and the regular news / gossip that I consume on a daily basis.  Last weekend, my mom and I took a girls weekend and went shopping.  Which was ridiculous – I’m not fond of shopping, but I adore my mother, so the opportunity to just hang out with her (something that doesn’t happen a lot now that *I’m* a mom) was wonderful.

On Tuesday, I had dinner with a dear friend of mine who’s a watercolor artist.  We respect each others’ creative processes and we’re kindred spirits, so hanging out with Cathy is just a treat.

This weekend, I have a phone date with my former college roommate / soul sister.  She’s a ridiculously awesome and busy corporate attorney, so our phone dates are infrequent, but necessary.  And then the Urban Family is coming over for dinner on Sunday, so that’s another event that I need to prepare for.  But hey – the holiday cards are stamped and addressed, my Christmas presents are basically purchased and are just waiting to be wrapped, so I’m (tentatively) ahead of the eight-ball.

Unfortunately, this busy period (and my regular work deadlines) are hell on my writing regimen.  But other than figuring out how to clone myself or inventing one of J.K. Rowling’s “time-turners,” I gotta figure out where I can carve out more writing time and how I can better guard that time.  Because yes – I’m very busy, but I also spend way too much time on social media.  So the time is there – just gotta work on the discipline part.  But having said all these things, I’ve so enjoyed the time I’ve been spending with friends and family lately, I think it’s recharging my mind in different ways.

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Listening to: Prince did a killer cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.”  Check it out here.

Reading: Just finished Alexandra Sokoloff’s “Huntress Moon,” the first of her FBI Thriller series.  Sokoloff is known in the fiction world for taking the lessons she learned from screenwriting in Hollywood and utilizing them in fiction.  I’m not sure if that background knowledge that was in my head when I was reading “Huntress Moon” or if this is just the reality of my life, but I really read books anymore as a writer.  I’m intrigued to see how a writer described a character or unraveled a plot line.  Very fascinating.

Fiction Update: I was feeling antsy the other day and I realized that too much time had passed since I had worked on edits for “Dragonfly.”  (And “too much time” is only a matter of days, but that’s how I feel about writing on a daily basis.  [Sidenote: Wish I felt this way about exercise. Sigh!])  So I tackled a chapter and it didn’t go great.  But … I’m going to back the truck up and take another run at it.

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!

 

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?

Fiction, Random

A sense of belonging

MWAAt the tail end of last week, I submitted my memberships into the following organizations:  Sisters in Crime and the Twin Cities chapter of Sisters in Crime.  Tomorrow, my loving husband will send out my membership application for Mystery Writers of America (MWA).

What do I hope to get out of these memberships?  Does this bring me one step closer to publishing my novel?  I’ve always been hesitant about sharing my work with other people, so why am I clamoring to join associations that will bring me closer to other writers and maybe (GASP!) cause me to share my word-babies with the universe?

I’m not sure what the answers are to these questions.  But in the meantime, this is something that I’ve done for me.  I’m putting my money where my mouth is and I’m taking steps towards the goals I’ve set for myself.