pitfall

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Today was almost a loss thanks to dealing with my Internet provider and Direct TV, but I got the problems solved, though it took all morning and made me late for starting on today’s bullet list of 7 to do’s. Got 4 of them done now, except for the priority: typing in the handwritten pages of a new short story. Will do that as soon as I finish this post, which is not on my bullet list, but it’s been a while since I wrote anything here.

I’ve got a number of writing projects to do and was stressing out so I decided to try something new to me: the Pomodoro system (write for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, write for 25 more minutes, take another 5-minute break, write for another 25 minutes, take a fifteen-minute break). I downloaded the Focus Time app to help me improve my productivity. I hate to have the day disappear without my having made progress on something, especially something at the top of my list like the short story. But dealing with Customer Service is exhausting, rattles my zen, and I usually need a relaxing cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) at the end.

It rained this afternoon, much to my cat Loki’s aggravation. She was outside, I was in my office, and she got a tad damp. When I opened the front door, intending to check the mailbox, she came running in, complaining, looking none to happy with the change in weather. Oh well. Her zen was rattled too.

I’m taking an editing class online, learning how to clean up my prose. I never know where or how to start and can’t tell if I’m improving the manuscript or making it worse. Now I have a clue. Discovered I need to cut back on the figurative language and adverbs (not all adverbs end in -ly, didn’t know that and found more than I care to admit in my manuscript). Me and my red pen are now buddies.

While working on Runaway Heart, I realized it was in the wrong point of view. Have to refocus the narrative, which means major rewriting of a completed work. May let it sit for a while. October’s sliding in view and I’ll be planning A Fall of Diamonds for Nano. I was hoping to have Runaway Heart ready by December 31st, but that might not happen.

I’m also supposed to send out a short story this week.

the fig and the Nimue vine

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Last week a mini-disaster helped free the fig tree in my backyard. My newly installed waterline for the fridge’s ice maker snapped and Niagara Falls was happening under my house. I discovered it just as I was leaving to run errands. Thirty seconds of panic, a sprint to the water shut-off valve, and then I called the plumber. While waiting, I decided to clear my fig tree of the lovely strangler vine with its musky honey and grass-scented white blossoms. IMG_1458

The plumber was on a job out of town, but promised to get to me by  noon or shortly thereafter. Brooding about my water bill, I got my orange-handled garden clippers, the business end a scary looking pair of wickedly curved steel blades, and set about murdering the strangler vine.

I worked in fair comfort despite the heat of the day. Humidity wasn’t as high as it had been and the pecan tree cast a soothing shade over my backyard. Like Nimue’s spell on Merlin, the blossoming vine was twined about the fig, enchanting and ultimately deadly.

Sometimes an idea creeps into your story and turns into a Nimue vine (as I’ve dubbed it), sprouting pretty flowers that beckon you with the power of its spell. Like Merlin, you fall under its sorcery. The new idea takes over your novel and pretty soon you are struggling with its snaky tenacity.

When you’re writing a discovery draft, this can be a good thing, but it turns into a hell of a lot of work once you realize your novel is suffocating. Has happened to me so many times. What to do about it? Nothing while its happening, just keep writing, but once you’ve reached the end of the draft, get out the wicked editing shears and shield your ears against the cries of your written darlings.

Am I not the master of my fictional world? Yes, yes I am.

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road trip

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A fierce rainstorm occurred Saturday, the first night in Arizona, closing a long run through the desert. A slanting rain battered the front side of the motel, leaving the other two sides dry as the desert we’d just driven through.

IMG_1412The route through New Mexico went quick as a blink, but we paused long enough for me to buy a pair of silver and turquoise earrings at a roadside shop, then Texas, the state with two time zones. Are we out of Texas yet?

To my surprise, Texas turned green as we rolled farther east, leaving behind miles of desert landscape peppered with sagebrush. The countryside became lush and pastoral, woods and fields and ranches tucked back from the long gray tongue of highway, giving me a view of Texas I didn’t know existed.

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We reached Houston well before noon on Monday, and rolled onto Beaumont, finally leaving the Lone Star state, after a somewhat anxious run through El Paso.  I stopped just before the end of El Paso and filled up–thank goodness because ahead was a long passage where there was nothing but miles and miles of empty land, beautiful beneath a wide blue sky. (By the way, gas prices drop dramatically once you leave California.)

Louisiana at last! (My home state which I have not been to in decades.) Unfortunately we hit Baton Rouge during rush hour and was caught in the confluence of traffic clogging the 110, 10 and 12 eastbound freeways. Realizing our choice was to crawl for possibly 85 miles maybe or get off in Baton Rouge, have dinner and try again on Wednesday morning, we opted to escape the coil.

The next day Wednesday we blew right through Mississippi, barely noting its casinos and fishing trawlers, crossing two state lines and entering Alabama on the wings of a rainstorm, thunder and sheet lightning flashing on the horizon.

We arrived in Andalusia before 9:30 a.m. and was at my new home via back roads (’cause I missed the exit I was supposed to take and picked up the next one which sent us through winding country roads on a pleasant scenic route.)IMG_1421

drip, drip

Jacaranda

Southern California this week is under the sun gun; the weather has been scorching. Loki, my normally ADD cat, has taken to napping against the porcelain throne. Only a few days ago June gloom grayed the skies and kidnapped the sun. Today is “cooler” than the previous four. It’s 93 degrees F right now in Long Beach, but will go up a couple more to 95 until evening, according to the weather report. But hey, what am I going on about? I love hot, sunny days!

Heat however can be distracting to my writerly focus. Another form of resistance.

In between all the moving to do’s, I’ve managed to fit in some time for A Fall of Diamonds, my historical fantasy romance trilogy, currently at 31,555 words. I’m looking at 100,000 words – 120,000 for the first book. I’m making progress little by little, but not much will get written until after I’m settled in Alabama.

Also edited a scene in The Foreigner.

Some writing is always better than no writing.

 

South

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The days are spinning down to my last day in the Golden State. In six weeks, I’ll be moving South to Alabama, a hop, skip and a jump of 389.2 miles from Louisiana, where I’m originally from. So I’ll be close to aunties and cousins once more and the passed on spirits of grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, and my father, who is buried in the hometown cemetery. I’ll be leaving Mom in her final resting place in Riverside, California, but I’ll have her with me still in heart and memory in my new home in Alabama.

Meanwhile, my last month and a half here is a long list of things I must do in preparation for the Great Move. Dad was in the Air Force, so I spent my childhood and adolescence moving state to state, country to country. I’m used to adjusting and adapting to new places, people, flavors of life, but Southern California has been my home for four decades and I’ve put down roots which I’m about to tear up.

I’ll be leaving a host of good and treasured friends whom I’ve come to know and love over the years. This is heartbreaking for me because I spent a good bit of my life without enduring friendships. I passed through other people’s lives like the proverbial ship until coming to Southern California where Dad retired out of March Air Force Base, and we were all finally rooted in place.

I enjoyed growing up on the move, but it meant never getting to know anyone or any place for an extended period of time, never forming relationships, friendships. I remember that it felt strange to still be in the same place for more than a year or two.

I will miss certain things about California–the golden weather of course (I’m a sunbunny.), the variety of things to do, places to go, things to see (but must confess traffic and the familiarity of knowing I could always go to this venue or that often kept me home.) You can guess the thing I won’t miss–traffic, traffic, and traffic, the irritation of how long it takes to get to a place that is, in real time, only thirty minutes away. There are other things I won’t miss, but I’m not going to rant. California is a lovely state in many ways.

I will miss my friends the most, but the Internet closes the distance. They may no longer be physically within reach, but e-mail, text, phone, and social media keeps connection going.

So that’s all I’ve got to say for now. Oh wait…the writing. Not so much because I’m busy with packing and working my way through my personal due diligence list, but I’m managing to keep my hand in. I have two writer’s group meetings this week, and I’ve been reading. And this week I received a rejection for a flash fiction submission too.This morning I finished Steven Pressfield’s enlightening and informative Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t. I highly recommend it.

jacarandas and emily dickinson

Jacaranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacarandas make me think of Emily Dickinson. Even in my own mind I find it an odd association since Dickinson’s poetry reflects her fascination with illness, dying and death–a striking contrast to the joyful beauty of the jacaranda tree. But also she wrote much about flowers and gardens too.

There are various lines in her poetry that echo my feeling about jacaranda trees. From Poem IX, “Purple finger on the slope…,” and from Poem XII, the “tune is in the tree.” Out of context, but somehow fitting these purple heralds of spring in southern California.

Jacarandas are like the “unaccustomed wine” Dickinson writes of in Poem XXVIII. The flare of lavender against a blue spring sky soothes the soul parched by winter.

Dickinson’s poetry sings with the same beauty a jacaranda flings against the sky. (Although her original poems were frequently altered by publishers to suit traditional poetry conventions of the time–wtf.) But, if you are a fan, you can find 1082 of her poems at the PoemHunter site. Dickinson wrote nearly 1800 poems during her lifetime. It is a good thing that her younger sister Lavinia did not follow Emily Dickinson’s request to burn her papers upon her death.

One of the things I shall miss when I move to Alabama in a couple more months is the  jacaranda catching the eyes in its lacy lavender branches.

 

that’s a first

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Don’t know how I did it, but I think I’ve written the middle of A Fall of Diamonds, or at least a good portion of the middle, without writing the beginning.

This week I participated in a five-day online writing event, writing hour to hour on my novel and posting the hourly word count, and was surprised to discover:

  • During the course of a day, I can write 4000 – 5000 words, at a rate of about 600 words an hour.
  • I know a lot about the story, but not enough to really drive the plot. Why?
  • I think because I start with the love triangle, bringing my main characters onstage and setting them in motion before the reader gets to know them. Who are these people really? Why should the reader care? I make it a given that Caroanya, Coron, and Prince Laimond are the closest of friends and confidantes, and I try to illustrate this in the early scenes, but it is not enough. The reader needs more character front-story. (Just made that up, but you know what I mean.) Character setup–yes.

Prince Laimond is the closest to being a villain yet he isn’t; he is anti-heroic (and I like anti-heroes). Coron is the hero and Caro the heroine. I also have a number of important secondary characters: Lord Iancarron, friend to Coron and Caro; the Dowager Princess, Prince Laimond’s mother, a woman of wisdom and judgment; Lady Valdina, who starts off as a minor character but is becoming important; and the Princess Royal of Lenore and her father, the king.
I’ve written 30,557 words (17,710 words during the event) but don’t yet have the story–seems like. I thought I did. I’ve got a completed beat sheet and a detailed outline, character sketches and story notes, not to mention having thought about this book for a long time. (I realized I could not pants a 100,000-word novel and so took a more structured approach.) And it looks like I’ve written the middle before the beginning. I know the end. And this is only Book 1.
A Fall of Diamonds is character-driven. I need to build my main characters before I set the plot in motion.