For the past three years, I have looked forward to an event created by and for writers. Writers in the Field (WITF) is an opportunity for writers to get inside the head of experts in all manner of disciplines without kidnapping, torture, and self-incrimination. Many of these experts are also writers (or are related to writers) so they understand the strange browser histories which put writers on various watch lists.
The first year was at the tail end of a true Texas summer–hotter than your oven on broil. Last year’s event is fondly referred to as Writers in the Flood or Writers in the Mud since Mother Nature decided to dump a load on our heads, complete with tornado. But still we slugged our way to the experts as they did for us. A few didn’t make it, including the food truck, but those that did were rewarded with fond memories of slogging through the muck, ruining our shoes, and going mudding in our cars (that was fun).
This year, Momma Nature made up for the first two years. For the past two days, the weather gave us lovely fall-like temperatures (which only last about 5 minutes in Texas). The rain came in early, leaving the ground only slightly squishing in certain places. Life is good.
So, off I went (with mi espouso and Myrtle the Younger in tow) with a clean notepad to attend WITF, intent on meeting like-minded people and experts, to discuss methods of murder and mayhem without threat of suspicious eyes and ears wondering just what the hell was going on out there. There sword fights, loin-girding, Renaissance dancing, lock-picking, blade-smithing, weavers, and dyers (to name a few) mix with experts from the FBI, Secret Service, police, and bomb squad to answer ALL our questions and insane ideas for our story lines. They offer suggestions on how to make our life–I mean writing–more interesting and realistic, while suggesting (gently) that perhaps that plot twist might now work the way we think it will (sigh).
So, why am I blue? Well…I dyed.
I know, it’s shocking, but after years of vague ideas on how to make a tie-dyed shirt, I participated in several dying sessions and dyed my very own mustardy yellow-y handkerchief. Over 2 days and under the watchful eye of Willoc the Dyer, six of us helped to dye a length of hand-woven, wool fabric a deep, rich blue-y purple or purple-y blue. I had the task of being under the wet cloth, dipping the cloth in the dye, ensuring it didn’t get tangled on the turning dowel, and basically getting dripped on. One day one, my hands were red. Today, I was blue.
Very blue. As in Smurfette blue. And it DOESN’T COME OFF! (Pics on Instagram)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really enjoy short stories. I like to have a little more meat–which is also why I don’t like ribs or wings. There’s too much work to get so little to chew on.
Last time, I mentioned wrote a children’s story. It started as an attempt at a short story, because the idea plopped its hindquarter into my head in its entirety. No additional meat necessary. When I completed the story at 1200 words, I figured I’d edit it to a 1000-word flash fiction because there are local flash fiction contests. (I haven’t ruled out the possibility–just so you know.) As I worked on it, the visual of a picture book formed and I couldn’t convince myself otherwise. Others agreed. However, I know NOTHING about writing, editing, targeting, etc. anything related to children’s books.
Well…Myrtle the Younger is my resident (literally) artist and oversees any and all artistic endeavors since I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life. So, I figure I’ve got a built-in illustrator for my little story. She agreed and rendered some delightful concept art. At the same time, I get an invite to a workshop on writing children’s books.
The workshop was today. Off I go with my lovely jug of hot tea. (Yes, I know it’s summer in Texas, and it’s roughly about 1000 degrees in the shade at 8am. You have your caffeine fix, I have mine.) One of the first things I learn is that this author has a studio less than a quarter mile from my mother’s tiny-town home (by tiny, I mean about 300 residents). It’s a small world, folks.
After about three hours, I have a couple of take-aways: 1) I have a children’s story, and 2) I don’t know what to do with it.
One of the recommended steps is to determine what age child my story is geared toward. I can honestly tell you–I don’t know. I know my main character is a child. If you push me, I’d say he’s about 7-8 years old–ish. Part of my problem is that I view this as a story to be read TO a child, not the child doing the reading. If that’s the case, why does the character’s age matter?
The next step is to plan, plot, and write said story. Done. However, current day children’s books are between 300 and 800 words, preferably under 500. Mine sits at 1100 words. Now, I haven’t worked with Myrtle the Younger yet to determine how much of the story can be illustrated, so 500 might be doable. Stay tuned.
A word about the illustrations–don’t. This is a problem. The accepted wisdom is to have the agent/publisher pair the writer with an illustrator. If that’s the case, then how am I supposed to get my work under 500 words and submit a complete concept without pictures? I’m missing something here. Along with not submitting illustrations, an children’s agent or publisher apparently likes to have multiple story submissions to keep the cash flow going. Understood. (I have one.)
It’s okay. I’ve got this. Right after another cup of hot tea.
Hello, all. It’s been a while. A year to be exact. Sorry about that. It’s hard to relate what I’m doing when I truly don’t have a clue.
It’s been a productive year, methinks. I finished the sequel to Healer and am in the process of editing and proofing. The book cover is…a work in progress? (She tells me she’s working on it. Sigh.) My goal is to publish it soon. That’s about as close to a commitment that I can muster.
My work-in-progress list has grown. I still have the two Daemon series additions, as well as the final two of the Spiritual Gifts series to finish, and I’ve begun a paranormal suspense series that I’m calling The Corona Chronicles. That’s the one I mentioned in my last post. It’s proceeding differently than my other works, so I can’t wait to see how it comes together. I’ve now started two other pieces: one a non-fiction based on my work and philosophy as an occupational therapist, and the other appears to be a children’s story.
The non-fiction is interesting. I do not consider myself an expert on much of anything, but this piece insisted that I was the one to bring it forth. For the moment, it’s called Need and addresses basic truths about health. Writing non-fiction is different than writing a novel, so I’m on an interesting learning curve.
As far as learning curves go, the children’s story is another level of What am I doing? The story was easy (and based on a true story), and I actually have a vision of the final product (for once), but I am clueless on how to proceed with editing because I need to gear the story toward an age or reading level. I attended a panel discussion of children’s writers a few years ago, but my take-away isn’t helping me now.
My primary thought during and after the panel was the focus on who would be reading the children’s book. The writers assumed the child would be doing the reading. At the time, I had spent time with my brother as he sought books HE wanted to read to his daughter. Yes, he wanted her to enjoy the book, but he also wanted to have fun as well. He looked at books from the stance of What silly voices can I make up while I’m reading this to her? and How many times will I read this book before I want to throw up?
Mi espouso and I have two daughters (both grown now–not sure how they survived us). One of the stories their daddy read to them was Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. Mi espouso aspires to do voice-over acting and especially loved the many animal noises he could incorporate into reading this book. The girls thought he was hilarious and helped him out with each oink, moo, and bark. If that’s not father-daughter bonding, I don’t know what is. That’s what my brother sought, but had difficulty finding.
Hmmm…that was a soap box, wasn’t it? Okay, then. I’m done. Back to writing adultish stuff and figuring out what to do with this kiddie thing. (Suggestions welcome.)
I must say that writing is exhausting work. My brain doesn’t shut down except when it must. Personality tests say its due to being an INFP. If I had ever undergone psychological testing, I might have been diagnosed with some version of attention deficit disorder. The bottom line is, I can carry on a conversation, drive, eat, and watch TV while brainstorming book scenes without breaking a sweat.
This might explain why I’m trying to write 5 books at the same time. Insane, I know, but it’s my reality. I have two more books each for the Daemon series and the Spiritual Gifts trilogy, plus the beginnings of another series.
Needless to say, the past few months have seen much time spent researching everything from Viking weaponry, Renaissance country dancing, the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team), and various Texas myths, legends, and murder mysteries. In my zeal for information and ideas, I’ve visits a few cool places and events, and collected a few souvenirs.
I mentioned previously that I attended a gun and knife expo, searching for information and inspiration on knives. While I didn’t find reference material, I discovered a love of custom knives and purchased my first.
Did I need a knife? No, I don’t. Do I love my knife? Yes, yes, I do. Ain’t it pretty?
In May, mi espouso and I went to Scarborough Faire, one of the biggest Renaissance festivals around. While most women go there to eat turkey legs and get their hair braided, I really wanted to buy a sword, but demonstrated admirable restraint. Instead, I focused on the tour of a dungeon, various forges, maps, and anything that might help my quest.
The woman in the tapestry shop called this guy a library dragon. I called him the Book Wyrm. After she thought about it for half a second, she realized I was right. I’d like to think she will forever refer to this piece correctly.
Yes, I found a few book-related goodies and spent way too much money, but more importantly, I came away with usable ideas for sequel to Healer.
A week later found me in Waco, with mi espouso and the Mimi, headed to the Texas Ranger Museum. I came away with a buzzing head and confirmation that my new series might just work after all. I’ve collected a few books for research purposes (and curiosity of the absurd).
Don’t judge. I’m a writer. (I saw a tshirt today: My Browser History Can Get Me Arrested. So true. Too bad they didn’t have my size.)
The past 2 days have been spent at my first DFW Writer’s Conference, complete with agents. I haven’t tried the agent route, so being in the room while they played the Query Gong Show was an interesting experience. (Panel of agents are read an anonymous query letter. They hit a gong when they’ve heard enough to reject. Three gongs & you’re out. At least, you hear the reasons.)
So for 2 days, I have attended lectures about screenwriting, the hero’s journey, editing, marketing, book covers, challenges, writing courtroom drama, and historical research. Each topic could have had another 30 minutes tacked on. To say the speakers were excellent would be an understatement. The keynote speaker was Scott Westerfield, author of The Uglies. His topic was amazing: the evolution of the novel and teens into the current popularity of Young Adult fiction.
While I am still processing all the information and ideas from the event, I did come away with a few souvenirs.
Mi espouso can never have enough tshirts.
I think I’m done for today.
We as humans tend to ask useless questions. Probably the most common one is “How are you?”
The recipient’s knee-jerk response is usually a generic “I’m fine.” This answer might or might not be followed with the same question asked back, and we repeat a circle of lies. Sometimes the conversation is left at that, which is fine, but if two friends are meeting, they might delve into the muck underlying the answer to get to the juicier bits. (Yes, this was my lunch yesterday with a friend I hadn’t seen in 6 months. Had a great time catching up!)
Some questions are asked with true intent, but are equally useless in getting a response. The one which I especially abhor (yes, abhor) is “What do you want… (for your birthday/Christmas, to eat, to go/do, etc)?”
My answer to that question is a resounding blinking cursor. I don’t care what is being asked, but those words in any way, shape, or form are asked of me, my little brain wipes clean. As a whistle.
I can tell you what I don’t want. I don’t want anything slimy on my pizza. I don’t want jelly beans or anything gummy. I don’t want to watch reality as entertainment (if you tell me I would love a certain movie or book, I probably won’t). I don’t want to be in a large crowd of people I don’t know.
As a result, I typically don’t answer the want question with anything serious which frustrates my family to no end. My typical answer for what kind of gift to get me includes a winning lottery ticket and a best-selling novel (mine). Two years ago, that was my answer and mi espouso presented me with a scratch-off worth $2 and The Fault in Our Stars. Yes, it was a winning lotto ticket, and yes, it was a best-selling novel (not mine). He’s so funny and thoughtful.
I made him return the book (because a book/movie about two cancer patients is too close to reality for me) and use that money to win a bigger lottery prize. (He didn’t win.)
I have found a better question to ask: What do you need?
It’s easier to consider what is needed than what is wanted. Maybe I am simply a here-&-now type person, but a need is something I can identify. Something that is tangible in my little mind that is easy to verbalize: I need an umbrella today (too bad it’s sitting in the car, prepared to do its job when I need it to get to the car), I need to finish Daemon book 3 and Spiritual Gifts book 2 (yes, they are in to works; no, I don’t have a publish date yet), and I need new socks.
What a person wants, while it may be tangible like wanting red boots (ooh, maybe I need), tends to be more of a pipe dream. Mostly, I think “wants” equate to esoteric or unrealistic dreams. I want a small house, on a beach or in the mountains, with a housekeeper/cook and no bills or maintenance. I want huge royalty checks. I want everyone who has ever read my books, to write a review or share their thoughts with me.
Like I said, unrealistic.
I did something today I haven’t done in my adult life: went shopping with friends. And they had no idea what a big deal that was.
Those who know me well (the Mimi, mi espouso, the Myrtles) know that shopping is torture for all involved. My mother is saintly(-ish). She usually takes me shopping for my birthday and buys anything and everything that fits. She learned a very long time ago to shove me into a dressing room and bring anything in the store that remotely resembles my size. Sometimes we make it out of the store a couple of tops and, maybe, just maybe, a pair of pants. There is usually frustration, yelling, and maybe a few tears involved. (For some reason, the sales clerks think we are hilarious.)
We are talking about a pseudo-phobia here. My shopping experiences are akin to the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts goes into a store and the clerk says, “I don’t think we have your size.” (or something to that effect, don’t quote me on quotes, but you get the idea) Don’t even ask about online shopping. (Really? So not happening in my lifetime.)
The curious-minded might ask why? Why indeed. Why can I not walk into a store, find a pair of jeans, pay for them, and walk out? Because I only look normal.
You heard me.
I am tall. Not overly tall (IMHO), but enough for people to notice. No one believes me when I tell them my height. Arguments ensue when I say I’m anywhere between 5’10-6′ (I do not claim 6′, in spite of my mother’s insistence). Not that it matters…except when buying pants (and shirts and anything else). The average inseam for women’s pants runs up to about 30″. I can get by with 33″ but preferably I look for longer. Do they measure women’s pant length by inseam?
Why no. No, they don’t. We lucky women get to guess if we are petite, regular, or tall/long. Long usually works. (I say usually because the past few years have seen fashion designers make pants to include a heel, which I don’t need.) Regular length might work if I add a ruffle.
Unfortunately, the powers that design clothing think tall/long equals toothpick. I am NOT a toothpick. ‘Nuf said.
Whether it be shirts (short-waisted, narrow-shouldered, let’s not discuss the girls), pants (see above), or shoes (did I mention my left foot is larger than my right)…anyway, I do not have a size. In all my years of shopping (aka torture), I have found I have many sizes for each body part. I have come to a conclusion–one size fits none.
So…back to my morning excursion. Here I am, shoe-shopping, with two friends who are smart, savvy, and more fashionably aware than me. I watch them try on some adorable, and slightly wild, shoes while wandering around, hunting for my usual fare (comfortable, multi-purpose, but with style/interest. Cheap is good, too.)
Imagine my surprise to find a pair of brown ankle boots with embroidered red flowers. They fit. They are comfortable. They were on clearance. I had a coupon. My friends said to get them.
So I did.
I’m on a roll. I might go shopping again.
As a writer/author/manipulator of verbiage, I consider myself an experienced newbie. Yes, I’ve published 3 books and 2 short stories. Yes, I’ve blogged for the past 4 years or so. That said, there’s a lot I don’t know. I’ve mentioned before (I am cursed) that I only look like I know what I am doing.
As with any other field, I have to keep learning. Writing is no different. This weekend was spent meeting other writers, discussing various and sundry issues related to writing, and researching. And, of course, I dragged the spouse and Myrtle the Younger along for the ride (because they need to know this stuff ’cause I said so).
Writer’s Organizations ‘Round Dallas (W.O.R.D.–clever) was created by all manner of writers to give each other a chance to cuss and discuss. We’re talking screenwriting, play writing, novels, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and everything else are accounted for, which means they have absolutely brilliant ideas.
Take this weekend: WORDfest 2.0 was an event designed by writers, for writers. All of the member organizations got to strut their stuff and we writers had the opportunity to meet and learn together. They also host a weekend hand’s on retreat for writers in which you get to handle stuff like armor, weapons, guns, pick a lock, court dancing, and wine tasting (you can guess which ones I signed up for).
Up next for a weekend of writing research included a jaunt to the Lone Star Knife Expo, which just happened to be inside a gun show. Who knew?
Why a knife show? Because there are sharp, pointy things there and I must write about sharp pointy things. You know…RESEARCH.
So, Mi Espouso and I trek to Dallas Market Hall in search of books and peoples willing to discuss daggers, swords, battle axes, and the ilk, only to find pocket knives, straight blade razors, and fishing knives.
Now one might think that these might be the run-of-the-mill Swiss Army knives and the like. One would be incorrect. These were hand-crafted knives made by people who LOVE their craft. In other words, my kind of people.
There were some gorgeous knives for sale. Most had traditional blade forms and handles made of high-quality rock (crazy lace agate–nice) or wood (you name it), but others…whoa…alligator gar skin! Cactus! Pinecone! (I bought that one, it be pretty!)
While I didn’t find any reference materials about Viking era blades and practices, I came away with my very 1st handmade knife, one birthday gift, and…
TA DA! Meet Hugo: a Lego-compatible Viking figure, complete with a period battle axe and shield. (This is his happy face. I can turn his head around to have a grumpy Hugo.)
I guess you could say that I have found my writing inspiration and partner. Yea me!
Apparently, author-hood means being the proud owner of an insatiable curiosity for the oddities of life. I find I am no exception.
A fellow writer posted this on their page:
While these are not MY searches, I’m now curious enough about Canadian police procedures regarding werewolves to do a little side research. Who knows where that yellow brick road will lead.
However, if one happened to be curious about what my searches consist of, one only has to look at my Pinterest page. In the lovely world of suggestions based on previous searches and pins, Pinterest thinks I’m in desperate need of Wiccan spells, materials, and clothing. Just because I research a lot of mythology,astrology, cemeteries, history, art, weaponry, and medicinal herbs and oils (to name a few) does in NO way mean I want to cast a few spells (although the one for invisibility is intriguing, I’ve always wanted that to be my superpower).
A certain big name (who shall remain unnamed) bookstore puts suggestions for future purchases on their receipts. Today I left said big name bookstore with reference books about angels, ancient healing practices, and an illustrated history of pistols. My receipt suggested I might have missed out on the excitement of tarot cards, a book about angel therapy, and oracle cards (I have no idea what oracle cards are, but I will be looking them up as soon as I’m finished here).
Now, if you will excuse me, I must resume my study of demonology.
If I followed family tradition, I would be a pilot, gardener, musician and visual artist to name a few. Despite many opportunities and attempts over the years, my genetics are suspiciously absent when it comes to some important aspects to my family history. Or maybe I’m just a late bloomer.
I should be a 4th generation pilot. I think my grandfather ruined that for me when I was 3 weeks old and decided to get the noisiest plane he could find to transport my mother and me from Lubbock to Killeen for the holidays. I paid them dearly for that effort; I screamed the entire way. When my grandmother (an FAA inspector) was teaching my brother to fly, she took me up “just to see” if I had any interest. My response? You guessed it. Poor woman never let me live it down.
Gardening? How simple is that? Anyone can make a simple garden. Ha! I kill cactus, people.Literally but not intentionally. Despite coming from generations of gardening experts, including my father’s relatively recent Master Gardener designation, I can’t keep anything alive. I’ve tried (and I do mean try) herbs, terrariums, pots, succulents with nary an ounce of luck. If they do survive longer than a month or two, the poor plants are decidedly unhealthy and do all sorts of weird stuff like leak sap all over the place.
Music and Art? My lack of talent is not from lack of opportunity or encouragement. My mother and her brother are professional musicians. Both grandmothers, a great-grandmother, my uncle and brother are/were fantastic painters. I even married a creative and had 2 artistically/musically-inclined daughters. After studying piano and singing for most of my life, I can read the notes and have a good ear, but I can’t keep a rhythm to save my life. Tagging along to painting sessions and attending art lessons did not teach me how to draw a stick figure. Harrumph!
For some mysterious reason, I feel the tides changing. For better or worse remains to be seen. Last night, my cousin arranged a painting class for us to celebrate our grandmother’s 105th birthday. Luckily we had wine and the instructor was good enough to say, “Put a square here.” I could do that! Hallelujah!
So after two hours of step-by-step instruction, here is the my interpretation of Cezanne:
Yeah, me! I might actually try this again. Please don’t send me a plant as congratulations, though. I’ve committed enough herbal and floral homicide as it is.
SXSW, better know as South by Southwest Music and Film Festival is an international event held in Austin, Texas. This year I had the opportunity to go for the sole purpose of watching my daughter (and cover artist) and her high school animation team screen their animation short, Out of Reach. Their’s was one of 24 short films (of which 3 were animated) chosen out of who-knows-how-many to be screened and juried. A second team from her high school was also selected for their animated short, Goin’ Nuts. We will find out a winner on Tuesday evening.
High school students can come up with interesting (and dark) material to compete with anything a twisted adult can dream up. Maybe more so. Most of the shorts involved disturbing subject matter: cutting, shooting, throats cut, child abuse, kidnapping, torture, to mention a few off the top of my head. Weird, blood-letting videos aside, there were several redeeming and “pretty” films that I understood and enjoyed. There was one music rap video which I actually understood enough to enjoy. A few shorts were PSA or documentary material including one amazing video by an autistic boy on what it is like to be autistic (He said his mother made him do it. Go Mom!). I happened to sit directly in front of the 3 jurors and overhear some of their comments. The only comments I paid attention to were regarding our 2 teams.
Out of Reach earned several laughs and giggles from the audience and jurors, with a final collective comment of “Wow” from the judges. Goin’ Nuts got a resounding “That was nice” from one juror with agreement from the other 2. (YES!!)
Now, I do not care if either team wins the prize, in fact it is unlikely when compared to some of the live action shorts presented. I understand and do not envy the jurors decision-making to choose an overall winner. The fact that these 2 talented teams were selected for this prestigious event is a fine addition to a respectable portfolio or resume any day.
A mama was never more proud of her baby. I can’t wait to see what Myrtle Sue comes up with next.