Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's the best I can do at the moment

I'm happily in my writing cave working on #2 murder mystery - "Invitation to Kill". (My first one has been renamed "Party to a Murder".)

Funny how at the beginning of a new book I've only got ideas that may, or may not turn into anything worth while. There's always that certain fear of simply starting the book. Toying with scenes and characters in my mind, turning them over, trying to see which way to go with them. Once I feel certain that my brain cells have fired well enough over this, I open a document and begin to work.

Anyway, I'd had the beginning of this one written out in my notes. Definitely rough, and still things would change, certain aspects and details, but I put it into the new document, happy to commit to this. And since then I've worked on that scene, adding or changing something. That's fine. I think every writer has to have instinct on how to proceed, how they want to write. After so many years, one gets the hang of it. There are some writers who wouldn't think of going through their work until they've got the whole thing finished. I can't do that. I have to meddle with it until it suits me, until everyone and so forth is in line with the way I want it.

I go by the adage that "no one can teach you how to write." I've seen and heard this echoed throughout my writing life.

There's another saying which I just heard only yesterday--in all places on a "Murder She Wrote" show. Not so surprising, since JB Fletcher is a writer and she connects with writers all the time.

It is title of today's post. "It's the best I can do at the moment". Somewhere someone had to have said this to a class, to him/herself. Anyway, it's good and I'm borrowing it for now. Mainly because it's so true for a writer. We don't become over-night successes (some of us never become really successful), but you work hard at writing, at making it better today than it was yesterday. You are doing the best you can do at the moment of inspiration, or when you go in to correct. Hopefully you are better than you were a year ago, five or ten years ago. You keep getting better, but at the moment you are as good as you can be.

It also occured to me that writing is like movement. Like walking or jogging. Sometimes you can only take baby steps, because you're unsure. But that's okay. Being unsure is all part of being a writer. And that's where this saying comes in handy. You have to give it your best shot and say to yourself, "This is the best I can do at the moment".

And once you get beyond your fears, you're walking (writing) at a good gate. My husband goes for a brisk one hour walk every morning--prefers before sunrise. I, meanwhile, do my yoga. We're different in what we need to do in order to get our hearts pumping. I like walks, sure, but my knees can't take the punishment of a brisk walk in the park.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is everyone is different. We all have our way of getting through a manuscript. Whatever you are comfortable with, do it, or find it. I like to make notes in the evening while drinking a light wine and in between reading a John Grisham--or whatever--novel.

The next day, I look  at the notes, already thinking about how to approach the object of the scene ahead, or have a character figured out and can add that to the notes. It's a process of notes, mulling, and then writing it all out, and then later on, my editing, adding or taking stuff out. If I can get even a little bit down, just a thousand words, or maybe only 300, I'm okay with it. I'm not a marathon runner, and so I'm not pushing myself beyond my abilities.

I'm doing the best I can at the moment.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Autumn Sounds, and thoughts

I'm sitting here, after dinner, my window is open, and across the road are the farmers--a huge tractor and a semi with an open trailer. Into it the trailer the tractor dumps harvested corn, and it sounds nearly like small pebbles going in, hitting against the metal.

These are sounds of autumn I remember growing up with. Something I know I missed when I lived in town. I did not like living in town where I couldn't see a sun rise or sun set. The farmers--you know they do feed the world!--are busy now. Trying to get in the harvest. There's a lot to get done, as yet!

And me. My harvest is still a work in progress.

I'm pages--PAGES! away from finishing "Crypt of Death" (formerly known as Vampire/Dhampire Legacy). 

This book has been a marathon. Actually it's been more like a triathlon from hell. Only, not so much hell as pure work. I've touched on the history of this book once or twice before, so I won't go into that here. Coming up with the ending of any book can be exasperating, unless you know in advance what you want to do. In this one. No. I had some ideas, which were trashed many times. I've rewritten the thing so much that it's sort of like taking old clothes and making new ones out of them, and trying to hide the wear and tear and patches. That will be my hocus pocus on this, and if I succeed, then, well, that's just half of it.

So, I've worked along these past few days, knowing the ending was right over the next hump. I worked slowly, made notes for the next scenes, wrote them, and halted, and had to think about how to end this thing. There's probably something in a seasoned writer where they know they'd better stop where they are and think about it. Which is what I do. I don't want to keep on writing and see that it's all crap the next day. Not that I don't go over my previous day's work and rewrite. But I don't like scrapping what I've written, unless it definitely has to go.

Speaking of which, I did scrap about 10 pages in the earlier part of the book, because I felt it went nowhere, and what was covered could be covered in less pages. Plus, I know no one will miss it. I'll have to go through the whole thing again when I've come back to this. Possibly when snow is flying.

At the moment, this 500 page monster is my supernatural thriller which I have to bring to a satisfying close, and as I sat reading a novel with a glass of wine earlier this evening, I made more notes as to what had to happen in Crypt. I already knew who and what days ago, it was the how, and at what point these things take place that was thumbing its nose at me. But, I think I've got it to where I can finally write the ending, and put it to bed for a few months. I don't plan on pushing it on to my publisher until next year, so I've got plenty of time.

Ah. The farm equipment has moved further out into the field, and the semi, which was loaded down has gone back to the grain bins to unload it. He'll be back. I've a feeling I'll be hearing them well into the night, here. Nice, comforting thought of things coming to a close, getting something which was hard work, now taking shape and you know will be done.

Good night, and sleep well, my friends!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Finally... A Bookstore!

Hello, my gentle readers, I join you today with good news! Two weeks ago a bookstore opened up in a nearby town (DeKalb, IL), and they are much MUCH better than those bigger snooty stores--we shall not name them.

My husband, Dennis, and I went in to see it the other day after lunch. It's a very nice place, has everything you'd want, and yet it isn't too big or overwhelming. 

Here is link to their facebook page, and there is a nice little slide show of their offerings.

While I was perusing the shelves for my favorite authors (I've many, but they are mostly in mysteries and fantasy, but also I found Grisham, as well), Dennis was looking around, wanting to buy a brand new atlas (which he did find). And someone came up to him asking him if he needed help in finding anything. I could barely hear this from several rows away while trying to decide on one of the Murder She Wrote books or one of the books in the alphabet series by Sue Grafton (I went with Murder She Wrote: "The Ghost and Mrs. Fletcher").

I meandered over as Dennis and the gentleman stepped with him. We shook hands over introductions. Dennis is basically my manager and will speak to anyone about me and my books. I let him do that because I'm somewhat shy and don't like to brag about myself a lot. But I do in times when it's needed.

Anyway, we spoke about getting my books into the store. Found out they don't order the books, but I can bring them in and they sell on consignment. Well, golly gee! This is like when I was in the crafting business. He said getting my books into the store will give people a chance to see and buy them, and as a sort of advertisement to a future book signing. The consignment is a 60% - 40% split. He told me that I would have to determine if it would be a good enough profit for me.

Well, I have been in touch with my publisher, Miika, and he thought I could make "a nice little profit" off them.

I'm working on figuring out which ones and how many. I thought small amounts at first. I don't want to overwhelm them with all 6 of my books--Spell of the Black Unicorn being the only non-Sabrina Strong one. I thought maybe two of the first books in series and see how it goes.

I've also posted about it, asking if anyone in my area, who can get to the bookstore in DeKalb, wants/needs one of my books, could tell me, and I'd order and get it into the store for them (and maybe a few more to make sure).

So, this is the news. My last best news was the new cover for my first book. I think it came out really well, and I can see it sitting on a shelf in a new bookstore soon!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dear World;

I'm reaching a milestone. In age and in writing.

I'm never sure if I should count those early years, I was just messing around, at first, and took a creative writing course in high school (you know the one where when I told my English teacher who taught it that I wanted to become a writer/author, and she said I should find something else since my spelling and grammar was so bad).

That was 1972. Which makes 44 years I've been messing around with words. As I've said, my first attempts were mostly childish poems (I still have them), and some really silly stories that became a marathon of words, since I had no idea how to plot, and that there was a "beginning, middle, and ending".

I often thought myself on some sort of stage, and I was an actor in a play. So much has happened to me in those years. I've touched on a few here. But like everyone, I've got baggage up the ying-yang. Some of it has managed to just go away (divorces and deaths tend to do that), but my main thing has been, throughout, WRITING.

I wrote through the worst of times, when my father passed--before and after--back in 1999. Oddly enough, I was writing the book I'm currently on (and re-writing still). This book has been with me since almost the beginning. And for the sake of writing and taking it seriously, and having my first piece published by ByLine in 1983, we'll say for argument's sake, I've been writing this same story since then, on and off (mostly off), since then. It was very different back then. The whole thing was a totally different take on vampires, and a young teenage girl becoming infatuated with an older man. (that was one of those baggage things I mentioned earlier, which I used, and have used in my stories from time to time.) And her father who becomes concerned because this man keeps odd hours, owns the old mansion nearby, etc. And, of course, this older man is a vampire.

In a way the basic story didn't actually change, but I've reworked it, many times, rewrote the hell out of it, went back and forth a number of times on what to do where. At one point it was actually so long, no one wanted it (800 pages). I believe that was the 1999 version.

In 2013, I dragged this story out again--I needed a bulldozer to move it around. I was determined this story would get published some day if it killed me doing it. I took all the pages from various versions, I know I had more than 1,000 pages strewn on the floor, bed, an 8 foot table, and worked for a month or so trying to put it into some sort of order. After which I chopped, rewrote, rewrote, and chopped again.

But, since I was so busy with the Sabrina Strong series (and trying to find a new publisher), I couldn't do too much with it at that time. But, I had time to write the story anew. However, I didn't put an ending on it. As it stands, I'm working along in it and will finish it at some point in September (unless I have an unseen delay).

But for now, everything is okay. I just don't usually have much time after my job, what with doing all sorts of things when I get home. But the weekends are mine.

Speaking of which I'm having another UN-Birthday!
I'm gonna need a bigger cake than this to get all the candles on it. However, I'm happy, healthy, and all is well over here at the old Afton Homestead.

Have a good weekend all!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In Bed With the Devil--or Almost

Hi, all, I thought I'd share this quote from Steve Martin: 
"I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper."
Steve Martin

Let me take you back in time. It was 1983, I was a struggling writer and was working on something I called "Vampire Legacy". It might have been called something else at one time, but this would be the working title ... for the next umpteen years. I was looking for some way to get published. It was my dream. Has been all my adult life.

I was in contact with a writer who said he had a writing circle he taught. We'll call him John. This was in Dubuque, Iowa, and a 3 hour drive from where I lived. I was a novice. Green as can be, trying to "break" into published author. I had been writing to him (back then, we didn't have the Internet, and you wrote letters or called) (on a land-line phone). You with me so far? Good.

I told him I couldn't be expected to drive out to Dubuque every day (3 times a week) to attend this writer's circle, but I did want to attend. I knew rubbing elbows with other writers/authors would be the only way to learn anything. So, John arranged it for me to stay in his house--it was an old house, of the Victorian age, or there about. Painted charcoal gray with white trim. It had a gable on one side which reminded me a little of the "Amityville" house. There was a number of stained glass, too. The house itself was situated on a hill, and let me tell you it might have been a few rooms short of a mansion (which requires 33 rooms), but it was pretty damned big. 2 and 1/2 baths, a small kitchen, with John's office situated in behind this and a laundry room.

I did pay rent to him. Come to find out John had a wife and 3 grown children still living there--his son was still in high school, his two daughters had jobs. The wife worked in an insurance place. I understood that John once was an agent of said office at one time, but chose to become a professional writer. And he had a New York agent. He did get a horror book published, and it was what I would call a more-or-less rip off of The Exorcist.

I had told him what I was working on dealt with vampires, and this intrigued him.

Anyway, I sat in on not one, not two, but three different writing circles. Each one one echelon higher than the next. In the highest degree, the third group, had those who were either better writers, or had books published. One had just gotten her romance book picked up by Zebra. Yeah. I was excited to be included in this bunch of authors. We'll call her Deb. She came into our circle one night in a rabbit fir coat, new glasses, and smoked these little black cigarettes. Her advance must have been pretty good.

I said I was green, in more ways than one. First of all, I'd been divorced for about 8 years, at this point. To say I was hopeful in getting something larger than a mere article published  (I'd been published in ByLine) a few times, no big deal. But at this point in time I wasn't so desperate I'd sell my soul. Or anything else.

John had read my first chapter and told me "Pretty good, some of the mechanics need help, but that's something to worry about down the line." Or something to that effect.

I had a room upstairs adjacent to the room his two daughters shared. Funny story, there was one of those "secret" doors that you could go through my closet to their room (visa versa). One night the girls had been out late. And there I was in a hard single bed hearing her come through that secret door and proceeded to lay down beside me. I had the feeling this might have been her room, or something, at one point.

Her sister went and got her mother, mother quietly urged daughter #2 out of my bed and bedroom, and I lay pretending to sleep through the whole thing.

Anyway, we all laughed it off in the morning. Ha-ha.

Everyone would be gone during the day to their jobs, and that left me and John in this big house. We sometimes did "brain storming" where we'd talk about what I was working on. I had some problems in plotting. To begin with, I really didn't know what I was doing. And, instead of any real help in this, he tells me to change the name of one of my characters.

It wasn't long before I was tired of being there. Sure, at first the family was nice, and his wife sweet, and could cook, but after a while, even as bad as I wanted to be away from home, I was homesick. I did go home every weekend, and returned for three days to Dubuque.

It was February. I was fighting off a cold. I got up and went downstairs for something to eat. John asked to join me. Sure, I say, although I was really sick of his smoking either a cigar or cigarette. He talks about himself a lot, and sometimes his thoughts about life, marriage and sex. This morning was no different. He was telling me that sex and love wasn't the same thing. I said I agreed with that, but in the back of my mind I had had this growing sense of unease about him putting the moves on me. There I was, alone with him while his wife was away at work, and he was talking about sex. Not only that I'd been getting these little hints that Deb and John have been having, or are having an affair. Call it woman's intuition. I just had a feeling there might have been some sort of agreement, since they were both married, and she was always bringing up the fact (in our writer's meetings) she wanted to get her husband out of the meat packing plant soon. She was working on the second book in her romance series. I'll add that she was an excellent writer, and I did envy her writing abilities.

So, today he talked about affairs, and he actually told me about a woman whom he worked with he'd had an affair with. He kept on saying "It didn't mean anything. It was just sex."

Of course, he was setting the stage, maybe hinting at the fact that we could have a fling. Sex. Means nothing to him. Here I was dealing with a relationship that was going nowhere and I'd been divorced (because my first husband had slept around).

And then, when I didn't expect it, he'd cornered me and kissed me. Nothing passionate, just a peck on the lips.

At this point he asks me to join him "upstairs". I told him I didn't do such things, for one.
He asked me later on if I was mad at him. I said no. This was the first time anything like this had happened to me. In these situations I never know what to do, what to say--at least then. Now I'd tell them to go take a flying leap.
He tried to kiss me again and I said no and hurried up to my room.

I think he was a bit nervous about my saying something. Crap. I should have blackmailed him, but it would have been my word against his. And in reviewing this, and the other events surrounding my stay at John's house, I could only wonder if I had gone to bed with him, would I have wound up with an agent, and maybe eventually a publishing contract like Deb? I sort of doubt it, but who's to say?

Ah, well. Life goes on. I'm sure John, and probably Deb are long gone (dead) by now. I was in my twenties, they were much older than myself.

At least I never gave up on my writing. This manuscript has gone through a multitude of rewrites. And my frustration with what happened in Dubuque (there's a lot more to the story, but I'm saving that back), had me quit writing for a while, as I didn't know if I should have trusted someone who kept saying Stephen King couldn't write.

As of this writing, "Vampire Legacy" has a new title, and new life. It won't be ready until next year, some time, but I'm excited about it. I WILL finally see this book published!

What do you think? One I borrowed from a JB Fletcher novel title--which are all fictitious, of course.

"The Crypt of Death" 
"Crypt of the Dead"

I'm playing with it. I'd rewritten this puppy in 1999-2000. Tried to sell it to an agent, and at the time it was 800 pages long. It really needed to be chopped in half, and I did so for one agent who had seemed somewhat interested. Long story short, no one picked it up. Boohoo.

I worked on major, MAJOR rewrites in 2013. But other works had me busy at this point, so, I went on and concentrated on those. Once again, this book got stored away again.

Now, I'm working through this manuscript. Seeing where it fails, what I should do with it, and keep the word "vampire" out of the title. I'm thinking it would make a horror/suspense novel, if I worked out the kinks. And I've already made some changes and pulled a chapter out of the beginning. Not wanting the vampires to be shown in this too soon. I want readers to learn along with my detective, and another character what's going on in this town.

Well, that's my story of what happened in Dubuque, and my manuscript "Vampire Legacy" so long ago. I guess you could say this book has a story behind it all its own. I still wonder what would have happened had I went to bed with John. Just so you know, I was NOT attracted to him at all. At one time I thought about writing about it in some version and selling it to a rag (changing names, of course). I think I'll just keep it as a memoir project at some point down the line.

Have a good week, fellow writers!