Posts Tagged With: Novel

It’s a God-awful Small Affair

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The Man Who Fell To Earth in the 20th Century

I’m sure I’m not the only one who woke up Monday morning to the news of David Bowie’s passing. Like many in the world, I didn’t know he was sick, as he had not made many public appearances over the last several years. Or if he did, it barely made a blip on the entertainment radar which is overrun with Kardashian/Miley Cyrus/no talent nonsense. So when the illness and passing of a true gentleman and artist was announced, it collectively blindsided the world, leaving many confused with a sudden hole in their existence many didn’t anticipate being possible. Many headlines read “Planet Earth is Blue,” a line from Bowie’s first hit, Space Oddity. It perfectly summed up how we felt. There’s nothing we can do but mourn his passing and celebrate his life. And we truly have to celebrate it. Bowie knew he was dying, and he chose to go on his own terms, even releasing a new album and music video for his fans. Looking back now, the signs were there and perhaps we knew. The difference is we, as a society, rarely see the signs anymore unless they’re wrapped up in scandal. It truly is a sad reflection of humans these days.

I come to write this blog this morning after taking a self-imposed hiatus, in a manner of speaking. It’s been nearly 7 months since my last blog. To put it mildly, the last 7 months have not been kind. To quote another Brit, Queen Elizabeth II, in her 1992 speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her Accession, 2015 “has turned out to be ‘Annus Horribilis’”. And it truly has indeed. I had high hopes for 2015. I started last year with a lot of motivation and inspiration. I started the first few months strong with completing about 30,000 words on the Scottish novel, and then working hard in April with another 22k word short story as I tried my hand at erotica. I had a couple of setbacks on a personal front, with my shitty job and our vehicle not only being broken into and all electronics stolen in April, but then the tailgate was stolen a few months later. It’s those little setbacks that steals the concentration from your art and makes you paranoid about everything. But we recovered and our insurance company came through. Items were replaced. After all, in the end that’s all they are. Just items.

Then June came along and the horribilis continued. I started June with a new story idea. Yes, it’s set in Scotland again. And yes, I have ideas all the time. But what made this one special is that it was finally a contemporary romance idea. Truly a first. I don’t like contemporary. My life has always been about history. I rarely read contemporary. Find me a good, well written history or fantasy and I’m entrenched for days. Outside of the erotica short, every time I come up with a contemporary idea (and there aren’t many), my mind goes into screenplay mode. Which is why I’ve only written one screenplay. To me, I can imagine contemporary on a screen, whereas historicals have such an epic depth that they can only be written in novel format and in no less than 150k words (if I manage to contain it in less than 150k – not so much the case.) So needless to say, I was excited on June 1st when this idea hit me and I sat down to write the outline and set myself a goal of 90k and a 3-4 month timeline. It was going to be a nice break from the slump I had found myself in with the historical writing. I was jazzed and ready to go and my muse was having a field day in her new playground. All was set to be a great summer.

I may have said this before, if you ever want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are.

My father was first diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. First it was throat cancer, then a few misdiagnoses with lung and bone cancer. Finally it was about a year/year and a half ago that he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Just like all the other cancers he had, he fought and won. I kinda thought it would be the case with this one. So at the early part of June when he called all his kids and told us he wanted to see all of us we kind of had the feeling this wasn’t good. He declared he was going to stop treatment and if he was lucky he had 6 months to live. To our surprise, he called us 3 days later and said the doctor was giving him 2 weeks, if he was lucky.

I’ve never been close with my father. Those close to me know I’ve never hidden that fact. The man who raised me was my step dad and he died of bile duct cancer nearly 15 years ago. I considered losing him the loss of a parent, so when my father tells us he has a matter of days left, it left a numbness I wasn’t quite familiar with. A lot of thoughts went through my mind, not all good. But, I did what any dutiful daughter could do and I was there. I stayed in his hospital room the last 3 days of his life and prayed for him and watch him pass from this world, hoping he will find a good existence in his next one. I’m a reincarnationist, I believe that we are born again in new bodies and this is the life eternal that God promised us. So the only gift I could give him in the end was the hope that he finds a good life wherever he goes next.

I wish I could say this is the only death my family and loved ones experienced this year. Every month after my father, it was someone different. A friend in England passed away unexpectantly, again from cancer, the following month. My father’s cousin, who was a pall bearer at his funeral, died of a heart attack in October. My best friend’s grandfather, the next month, and then, the day after Christmas, my sister-in-law’s mother died in a car accident. There are more deaths, but those are the ones that had the most impact. I’ve begun every month since July praying please, don’t let anyone else die. I know we all have to go sometime, that’s a lesson I learned well when my oldest brother died when I was 15, but I feel there needs to be a break in between. And granted, I know life isn’t fair and wanting something on this level is not within my control. But the muse is feeling this all too keenly and so she’s been in hiding for a while.

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2015 Calendars Burning

I ended the year on a very quiet note. I stayed home, dared not venture out and held a calendar burning ceremony in my back yard. My husband and I sat around our fire pit, toasted the New Year with White Russians, watched the neighbors set off fireworks, and at midnight burned every calendar we owned for 2015. We wanted to lift the curse, if that’s what it was, and start 2016 a little better. Maybe it’s superstition, maybe fanciful thinking, but all I knew is that it couldn’t hurt. Bad mojo be gone and bring on brighter, better days for the new year. Amen.

However, Monday came and I had to think on all that had happened in 2015. As I said before, Bowie’s death was a shock. He was someone I had grown up with and I didn’t know how to process a world which no longer had Bowie. But as soon as I read cancer, I wanted to cry. More news came out, and then the video which he made as a final gift to fans surfaced and I realized I’m not as nearly ready to deal with death by cancer as I thought I had. I turned the video on for 30 seconds, saw Bowie in a hospital bed, obviously sick with the blindfold over his eyes and I started having flashbacks to those 3 days I stayed by my father’s hospital bed watching him die. Bowie has never been subtle and every action he ever made had a reason. I don’t think the video was meant to be a nice, cheery sendoff. And perhaps one day I’ll bring myself to watch it completely to discover more meaning and symbolism, but I can’t for now.

Much like the unexpected death of Robin Williams a year and a half ago, Bowie’s death actually brought the world together to remember everything he was as a human and his truly remarkable and generous spirit. No one can say anything bad about him. Everyone agrees he was the nicest man you could have met, gentleman to the core, always up for a laugh, an artist who was always willing to take a chance. That’s a good legacy. One that many of us would be lucky to leave behind.

I’m not quite sure how to end it today, other than I hope everyone has a good 2016. Work on your creativity every day. It’s the only connection to sanity we have.

Wendy

 

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To Be or Not To Be (or I Have No Shame in Ripping Off Shakespeare To Prove My Point)

Validation.  That’s the topic of my sermon today.

Around the beginning of the year I joined a self-publishing group with quite a collection of writers who are at various stages of their writing careers. Some have been published for 30+ years, some are on their first title. I’m really enjoying the good advice and information I’m getting through this group and it has been giving me a lot to think about as I make my journey through writing and that final question I’ll ask after I type that concluding “THE END” on my stories: “What do I do now?”

The answer comes with more questions than one might have had 20 years ago. Hell, more questions than one might have had 4 years ago. Self-publishing is finally coming out of the closet in a way. It’s no longer a dark and dirty word it used to be. In fact, many of the writers I lurk around (I don’t really have a lot of experience to share on that loop right now) seem to have the opinion that if they could do it all over again, they would have gotten into self-publishing a lot sooner in their careers. But unfortunately, the world simply didn’t have the resources and technology for writers back then that it does today. eBook and Print on Demand (POD) has opened the world to the written word that can barely even be measured anymore. Anyone can be a writer these days. Anyone can have a book for sale at Amazon. But in the end, what really resonated with me this week was a fellow writer who stated that she was ashamed to admit, but she still needed the validation of a publishing company to publish her book. It got me to thinking about what exactly validation is and why we still seek out this so called validation from others.

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The letter Julie Garwood sent me when I was 16.

As many who follow my blog know, I started writing stories as a child, and finished my first 49K word novel by the time I was 17. I was destined to be a published writer and I knew that one day I would get there. In fact, when I was 16 I wrote a letter to my favorite author at the time, Julie Garwood, in which I told her that I hope to see my own books by hers at our local Waldenbooks someday (Waldenbooks has since gone out of business. Told you, this was the early nineties.) Surprisingly enough, Ms. Garwood wrote me back, stating, “Good luck! I hope to see your name on the bookshelves at Waldenbooks too.” I was ecstatic, and from that good luck wish, I saw clearly my life goal. That was the benchmark I set for myself as “validation”. To have my book on a bookstore bookshelf so not only Julie Garwood would see it, but my family, friends, people I went to school with, co-workers, etc, and so they would know without a doubt I was a “real writer”. And real writers have a big name publishing company publish their books.

After high school, nothing much happened with the manuscript I wrote, and it eventually made its way to dust collector as I started college (and eventually dropped out of college). I still wrote, but at this time I was writing fan fiction. Say what you will about fanfic, and I’ll most likely agree. But fanfiction provided something I never had before. Instant gratification and FEEDBACK. Not to mention, I produced some significant volume of words. One fanfic I wrote was 104k words. That’s nothing to turn one’s nose up at, but it still didn’t mean I was a “real writer”. I wasn’t yet validated. I still needed to share with the world my own characters and plots, and show the world my own shelf at the bookstore, which was now at Barnes & Noble, where I worked during that time.

By the age of 28 I went back to college, because that’s the only real “validation” most of society wants to see (but also because I wanted to). I had a great experience as a Creative Writing student and produced story after story. Validation abounded. I had professors praising my work and not laugh too hard when I mentioned I wanted to write genre specific novels. (Sometimes not the best news you want to give your hard and heavy Literary Fiction profs.) I had reached a certain level of validation, but it wasn’t the big one. I still wasn’t on a bookshelf, still not signed to a NY publisher. Still had nothing to show friends, family and…Julie Garwood.

Since graduation, I’ve gone on to publish all my short stories between various print mags, online mags, literary journals, university journals, anthologies and collections. I was perfectly well validated on a lot of personal levels, but leave it to family to deflate my ego like at super bowl football.

When I told my mom I was finally being published in a magazine, she asked with all seriousness, “Like Ladies Home Journal?” No, mom, not that. “Can I go to a store and by this magazine?” No, mom, but you can buy it online. The info didn’t compute. So, no surprise after my 16th publication and a couple of weeks from returning from last year’s RT conference where I was promoting an anthology, that I was introduced by my mom to distant relatives as “trying to be a writer”. Any validation I had, real or otherwise, felt more like a sudden sting. I was in a book, and it wasn’t the first one, but when a couple of relatives asked about what bookstores were carrying it, I had to say it’s available online. There’s an unmistakable look that comes across people’s faces when they realize that your version of successful doesn’t match their version of successful. They really want to be happy for you, but they can’t because THEY have to make an extra effort to understand what YOUR dreams and goals are.

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Yes, kids, this is what books USED to look like.

So, here I am, apparently not meeting my family’s standards and still no closer to fulfilling my promise I made to Julie Garwood when I was a 16 year old. I needed to have a book on a bookshelf and the only way to do that is to get a publishing contract. After all, that’s what the last 4 years of my writing life has been about. I’m writing a monster onus in the hopes that a big publisher from New York recognizes me as the love child of Julie Garwood and George RR Martin and sign me to the biggest publishing contract on the planet with an HBO miniseries option.

And then I had an epiphany.

I spent many years turning my nose up at self-published books. Mainly because I had seen a few when they first came out and they were atrocious. I always held more pride in my craft and art than that. I was never going to go that route, because I thought I was better than that. But over the last year my mindset has dramatically changed. It’s hard to say exactly what the turning point was. I think a little bit of it came when I watched a fanfiction writer steal another writer’s work and make millions off it. All that validation I thought I needed, all those whispers in my head that I wasn’t a “real writer” unless a big time publisher published me vanished when I realized that I am in a whole different ballgame than I was 25 years ago. I want to be a writer, I want to be an author. I hope that doing so means I can pay some bills in order to have more time to write. But I don’t want to write based on what a publishing company or editor’s Magic 8 Ball is predicting to be the current trend. I know I’m a good writer. I’m not being cocky. It’s taken me 25 years, a writing degree, dozens of published stories and honest feedback from honest friends to build up the confidence to say that. I’m tired of seeking out validation, because something will ALWAYS come along that won’t be good enough for one person on the planet.  I have to change my frame of mind. We ALL have to change our frame of mind and recognize good writing regardless if a NY publisher (who’s probably roped a writer into a contract that has stripped him/her of their creative rights) has published them or not. Musicians self-produce all the time. Kevin Smith got into Cannes with a black and white film financed with a credit card. Why are writers made to feel worse if they don’t have a publishing contract? And is there really a difference anyway?

Oh yeah, writers who self-publish or even go with an independent publisher can’t get their books in Barnes & Noble and/or the you-name-it brick and mortar bookstores in the world. Many writers who have proven track records and monstrous sales who have gone the route of self-publishing for the creative freedom and extra income it provides can’t get their book on the shelves. And knowing such, I see I’m going to keep Ms. Garwood waiting for a while.

In the end, I want creative control over my work. I want my vision to be mine alone. If I fail, at least I know I failed with a story I wrote, not what an editor thinks my story should be based on their bottom line. I never, EVER want to give up the rights to my stories. Some 15 years ago I read Prince’s autobiography. His advice to the world is never give up your publishing rights. (Remember his SLAVE and TAFKAP period?) It always stuck with me. Never say we didn’t learn a thing or two from the little purple wonder.

Self-publishing is a scary thought. And I admit I’m still weighing my options. I’m more confident than I’ve ever been before and have no regrets going forward with it. I’m no longer seeking validation. I’m just going to write and go where the journey leads me and remember to have fun while I’m doing it.

Sláinte

Wendy

p.s. Don’t mistake my thoughts about publishing house editors as to say books don’t need editing. THEY ALL NEED EDITING. But just be sure you find an editor who works with you and your vision, not against your vision. Make sure that after your editor has given notes, your writing hasn’t morphed into their ideal book verses your ideal book. Remember, write the book YOU want to read. Don’t compromise your vision and art for anything less.

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Scotch Eggs and Outlander’s version of the Full Scottish Breakfast

Scotch Eggs!  #scotcheggs!

Scotch Eggs! #scotcheggs!

About once or twice a year, I get a real hankering for something called a Scotch Egg. Essentially, it’s a hard-boiled egg encased in sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried until done. The Scotch Egg first appeared on the cuisine scene in the early 1700s and over the centuries has evolved into a picnic food. I first discovered this delicacy at the Texas Renaissance Festival several years ago and it’s always on my Sunday morning, post drunken night of revelry, need something in my tummy before I start drinking again faire agenda. For all intents and purposes, it’s a heart attack waiting to happen in a tasty little time bomb, and ties you over until you’re ready for your mid-afternoon turkey leg or bread bowl. They are THE BOMB. And I encourage everyone to try it at least once in their lifetime.

So, what got me to thinking about Scotch Eggs this morning? A couple of things, actually. Earlier this week, some meme was circulating around Facebook about a bacon stuffed scotch egg that looked to have potential. But at the end of the day, what really drew me to make them for my husband and myself this morning was last night’s episode of Outlander.

If you haven’t watched it yet, I won’t give too many spoilers, but I think it’s safe to say that Jamie Fraser has officially changed the meaning of Full Scottish Breakfast. And definitely don’t interrupt him while he’s having his breakfast. Does anyone need any more innuendo than this? I have this feeling that many a woman around the globe needed a cigarette after the first 5 minutes of the episode, and with good reason. It was HOT! I suddenly want to fill up the page with innuendo, but I’ll refrain because it’s possible I’ll break the internet if I try. But watch it. Or watch it 15 times like I have so far.

Speaking of all things naughty, the erotica is coming along quite well. I’m about 2.5 chapters from completing my first official draft and then off to my beta readers. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I’ve never written pure erotica before, and especially one this dark. The goal of this has developed into a group project with a couple of friends for creating a new erotica series for ePublication. I know what you’re thinking: the world is full of countless erotica ePubs. And truly, you’re right to wonder why mine will be any different. It’s still too early to say if it is. But I like to think I’m doing something a little bit better and I have the writing skills to pull it off. Fingers crossed and pricked thumbs, we shall see in a few months when I release the first one.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Brazil. I’ve noticed over the last couple of months that outside of the United States, I have the highest number of page views coming from Brazil. So thanks Brazil for reading me/following me and I would love to see some comments. I’m always curious who I’m reaching, why I’m reaching them and why they’re coming back. I like to think this blog is more than a random thought diary. I’m really interested in those who are humbling me with their attention! So please leave me a little note. I’ve met some of my best friends over the internet and we are never too old to make new friends.

In the meantime, enjoy this recipe for Scotch Eggs. I always get asked to share it when I cook them and post the pics on Facebook anyway. Have a great week, enjoy the Scotch Eggs and enjoy a Full Scottish Breakfast every chance you get!

Sláinte,

 

Wendy

 

Scotch Eggs

I use a wok to cook my scotch eggs in because I believe in multiculturalism

I use a wok to cook my scotch eggs in because I believe in multiculturalism

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bulk country-style or herbed sausage
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 hard-boiled small/medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 raw large egg, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying the eggs

Preparation

In a large bowl combine well the sausage, the sage, the thyme, and the cayenne, divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, and flatten each portion into a thin round. Enclose each hard-boiled egg completely in 1 of the sausage rounds, patting the sausage into place. Mix the breadcrumbs and flour in separate bowl. Dip the sausage-coated eggs the raw egg, letting the excess drip off, and roll them gently in the bread crumbs, coating them well. In a deep fryer heat 2 1/2 inches of the oil to 350°F. and in it fry the Scotch eggs. This can usually takes about 15 minutes, but cut open one scotch egg to ensure the sausage has cooked all the way. Transfer them to paper towels to drain with a slotted spoon when they are done.

 

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Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From Schoolhouse Rock!

It’s not the most original title, but I’m going for it. The important issue here is that I’m back! After what is a good six month hiatus, the muse has reclaimed me and I can officially say it’s time to get my ass in gear and get some writing done.

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This past week the History Channel brought us a nice little gem of a mini-series masterpiece called Sons of Liberty. I call it a masterpiece because although it doesn’t really have a whole lot of what one might call historical accuracy (it’s about as historically accurate* as Braveheart and the show was sponsored by Samuel Adams beers, which has really nothing in common with the patriot other than his name and an old tradition that he brewed some beer when he wasn’t pissing off King George), but it did, nonetheless, provide plenty of eye candy in colonial garb for 3 nights of my existence this week. As my friend Lisa pointed out, she would have paid more attention to American History if they had told her the founding fathers were hot.  And boy, she wasn’t lying. After the final fade to black, I texted her and effectively coined the phrase “FFILF”. And joyously enough, The History Channel has been playing the show in several back-to-back repeats this week, to which I say God Bless America. As a student of history, I’ve never been much for the Revolutionary War. Hell, I’m an anglophile through and through. And most of the time if a kilt isn’t involved it doesn’t hold my attention very well. (We’ll get to my wedding later.) But I have to admit that Sons of Liberty piqued my interest in a way that I hadn’t felt since I first sat down in front of the TV on Saturday mornings in the late 70s and sang along with my favorite Schoolhouse Rock! tunes. Now I’ve spent the last two days entertaining a new novel idea about the revolutionary war and daughters of liberty. Granted, the idea will stay locked in the vault for a while, sadly. The current novel is still my primary focus, but my muse has been having fun in the days of yore lately, (point of note, did you know that Ben Franklin coined the phrase, “Bat shit crazy”. That’s just one of many history lessons Sons of Liberty taught me. But enough about that, back to the hot guys in colonial waistcoats and trousers.). Suffice it to say, I’m glad the muse is back. I miss her terribly when she’s gone and I hope it’s a good long while before I scare her off again.

*I take it back, they actually got the phrase “The Redcoats are coming” right instead of the wrongly attributed, “The British are coming”. However, some historians will argue the first phrase is incorrect as well.

 

School_House_Rock!But in regards to Schoolhouse Rock!, you have to give proper credit where credit is due. As much as I sometimes wish I was alive in the 50s and 60s during the glorious revolution that was the creation of British rock-n-roll (you know, when people knew how to put together good music – another thing I’m grateful to the Brits for), I’m still quite happy that I am in fact a child of the 70s and 80s. I was only about 2 when Schoolhouse Rock! debuted, but thanks to the heavy rotation of the series on ABC, I truly never missed an episode. Two in particular I learned so well which I could even sing as an adult was “Elbow Room” and “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”. The lyrics were easy to memorize and the accompanying cartoons, while simple, were indeed fun to watch. Perhaps this is where my love of history and grammar started. After all, the songs were catchy and it provided lessons which I took with me when I eventually started school. It’s no wonder the first full novel I ever read was Little House on The Prairie. Schoolhouse Rock! planted a seed that I am blessed to say germinated and rooted. And what a mighty tree has grown since.

weddingpic1So, inaccurate history retelling and Hottie McHotties aside, the last six months have been a bit of a hectic whirlwind, to say the least.   A majority of my time was spent planning my wedding. Although my husband and I got married last year, I didn’t have a chance at the time to actually plan a wedding. Now, I will offer two pieces of advice at this moment to those who ever want to plan a wedding. The first is DON’T. But if you still feel compelled to have a social gathering to commemorate the vows you and your partner wish to exchange, my advice is do it after you are legally married. That way neither of you can run away at the last minute. Because take it from me, there is no such thing as a simple wedding, and regardless of how simple your intentions are at the beginning, someone is going to try to fuck up your harmony. The batshit crazy will come out (thanks Ben Franklin!). At least by being married first you know you are legally stuck with each other when the shit really hits the fan. I’m just saying. Suffice it to say, it was a beautiful ceremony and we convinced 6 of our closest male friends to wear kilts, along with a very pouty ring bearer.

CaffeinePressAlthough much of my writing was put aside for the planning of the wedding, all was not a total loss. I am sad to say, however, this year I didn’t really fulfill my goal during my traditional October Wine & Write. I started strong, I will say that. I started drunk, at least. But as the month went on, I not only found little time to write, but also little time to drink. That may be the biggest tragedy of all. However, on a good note, I have had a couple of new publications which I’m quite pleased with. The  first was the publication of “The Sanctimonious Lament of The Cake and Punch Girl” by Caffeine Press. The second is a reprint of “Atonement” in Scars Publications’ collection book, The Beaten Path. The last six months of 2014 was lean in terms of publications, but at least I had publications and I will always be proud of that. I still have some great opportunities for 2015 with the monster opus which is “The Scottish Novel” (my newly adopted nickname for it and it WILL have a reference to Macbeth, so break a leg if you must.) Also on the horizon, I will take a little time to write some new short stories – some serious, some for fun, some proper and some naughty. It’s time to branch out and shake things up the bit. The muse is restless and I know better than to leave her in a box for too long.

So, I will leave you with this, “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World” while I drift off a bit with my muse to Colonial Boston, Hottie McHotties, and powdered wigs and waistcoats. Hip hip, huzzah!

 

Sláinte,

 

Wendy

 

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Inspiration is The Key

Today I sat in a doctor’s office trying to fight off the newest little bug I’ve caught in the never ending cycle of hot and cold weather that has been known as Winter 2014. While I can certainly feel sympathy for my friends in the north who have had never-ending low record temps, snow, blizzards, more snow and more cold, I’m sure it can be as frustrating as experiencing business closing snow flurries on Monday and by Thursday running the air conditioner again because the heat and humidity inside has raised to a uncomfortable 85 degrees. Along east Texas and the gulf coast region we literally experience all 4 seasons in the same week. It’s a clever joke that been meme’ing all over Facebook and your favorite social media site for the last 8 weeks, but there is a lot of truth behind it. And while in Texas, you can joke that if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change, the harsh reality is that while you’re waiting, the extreme changes in the weather is playing havoc with your immune system. Thus, we set our scene in my doctor’s office this morning and my receiving a 3rd prescription of antibiotics since the beginning of the new year.
Inspiration

While waiting for my doctor to come in so I can announce my clever self-diagnosis (once you have one upper respiratory infection, you pretty much know every time you get one), I notice a new poster on the wall sponsored by the latest/greatest anti-allergy medication diagraming the parts of the head: the nose, the ears, and the throat. One thing that caught my attention was the diagram of the Larynx. One part of the picture described the larynx as the “Inspiration” and the other as “Phonation”. As I sat there examining the picture regarding the “Inspiration” I couldn’t help but wonder why that word was used in relation to the throat. A google search later, I come to the definition in accordance to this example as inspiration being synonymous with inhalation, or the movement of air into the lungs. To breathe is to inspire. What a truly amazing thought. A few deep thoughts later, I come to thinking about perhaps the best result of moving air into the lungs – and subsequently moving it back out – and that is song. Music. Making music with your mouth. Birds have been doing it since the creation. The first human instrument was the mouth, creating a song with nothing but pursing one’s lips together in order to imitate the songbirds. Next came wind instruments, which inspired the need for more instruments until we created the plethora of percussion, brass, and string instruments and everything in between. What a glorious inspiration music is. And what this world has created simply out of the inspiration of music in itself is to feel nothing short of an overwhelming awe-inspiring shudder that shakes me to the core.

Music has always had a strange effect on me. Sometimes a well-placed song at the right moment when my soul really needs a lift, a song can give me the same exhilarating feeling as being in love. It moves me, affects my soul. It inspires me to create and create the best art my soul is capable of. Sometimes it’s nothing but an instrumental, sometimes it’s a complexity of sound and voice that I often find in Queen, The Beatles, Zeppelin or The Who. And it’s just not the rock gods of the 70’s and 80’s who move me. (Although they are the best). Contemporary artists can do the same. Gaga is one, for all her over the top theatrics and showy-showy camp style, she can sing, and she can write great music. And great music, true talent inspires other true talent.

As I’m fighting off this latest illness, it’s sometimes hard to even get out of bed and place myself in front of a computer with enough wit and motivation to be creative. When I have to take to my bed, and in those moments before Nyquil takes over, I send my thoughts into the deep recesses of my mind to commune with my muse and work out the already plotted ideas that are waiting in the vault. I’m sure every writer has that vault: a place in your head that houses the most creative ideas, patiently waiting, gestating until the moment they are either born on paper, sound or medium. It’s the ideas that you don’t have to write down because they are so powerful that you’ll never forget them. They live simply because your brain created them and they don’t have to exist on the outside just yet to be real. They breathe. They inhale. They inspire.

Despite being sick, I am still using this time to create. I’m back to dictating the chapters I wrote during the late fall. Hopefully I can wrap up the editing in the next month and get on to the next chapters. I have roughly 20+ more to finish the book. Sounds huge, and while it is, I see the end a little more clearly. I just need to keep the inspiration coming. I need to keep my ear open to the music that inspires me and creates that euphoric feeling which wills my hand to pick up the pen and put brain cells on paper.

So, what exactly might that be? What is the key of inspiration? As our fairy godmother might say: C Minor, darling. Put it in C Minor.

Sláinte,

Wendy

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My Writing Process Tour

First, I’d like to thank Jocie McKade for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. You can check out other writer’s blogs and follow the tour on Facebook at #‎mywritingprocess‬ and on Twitter at #mywritingprocess.

I have to admit I was thrilled and nervous when asked to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. As I get further into this world as a published writer, I still get overwhelmed at how vast the world is and how small I feel in it. I’ve been writing for what feels like 30 years and have only been able to call myself published for the last 8 months. Comparing myself to other writers with multiple books feels awkward and undeserving. Yet, the further I advance in the publishing world, the more wonderful people I’m meeting, all whom remind me we all have to start somewhere. I still allow negative thoughts to take over in regards to simple things: Am I good enough to participate in a blog tour? Do I have something worthy to add at this point in my career? Do I even have a fan base to make a difference? Will anyone even read this? I suppose there may be a few. But it’s for the few that I write this and it’s for the few that I always express my gratitude for following my little world.

It should come as no surprise that I am currently working on a novel. As of yet, I haven’t settled on a title other than The Heiress. I was told by a writing prof that I should avoid one word titles. However, when no other title will do, you have to stick with what feels right. When I finish it, we’ll see if anything pops out to me. The story is about a young woman who gets caught in a baron’s war in England, only to discover she has important ties to Scotland and her lineage is tied to the Scottish War of Independence. That’s it in a nutshell. A nutshell that currently has 130,000 words behind it, 3 years of writing and a nutshell that is only halfway done. Sometimes I feel there will be no end. And then I remind myself that J.K. Rowling claims it took her 5 years to write the first Harry Potter. Perhaps I am on track after all. But I’d rather take my time than rush through with subpar writing. I want to present the world my best work in the end.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? That’s a really good question and I hope to have a logical answer in the future. I’m not really sure what genre it’s going to fit in right now. The heart of it is historical fiction. I’ve spent months and months (and years when you get down to it) pouring over history books – both scholarly and peer reviewed publications – to set my characters in the right years, situations, and political climate to make the plot as hole-free as possible. I’ve studied 13th century horse breeding, clothing, food, drink, marriage customs, castle maps, land configurations, language and church law to ensure the least amount of anachronisms. The story is history. Yet, at the same time, it is a love story. It’s about human connection, human nature and the psychological implications imprisonment and death has on the mind and shapes a person into who they are. Although the story has sex, it’s not sexually driven. I am using all of the craft I learned as a literary fiction writer to write something that can’t be pigeonholed as genre fiction. So, what do you call something like this? I have no idea. I have a feeling it will be too long for romance, and some scenes too sexy for historical. Where it will land, I’m not sure. I’m sure when I start presenting it to publishers, maybe I’ll have a better idea or be lucky to find someone who will guide me in the right direction.

In regards to why I write what I do? I suppose it has to be my love of history. The first book I ever read was the Little House on the Prairie books. History settings have always been simple. They are more focused on human interactions rather than the distractions we face in modern society. Characters are more in tune with each other than their electronic devices. Campfires and candlelit rooms create a more enticing ambiance than a hectic boardroom or a disco. When characters travel together, it’s for days, rather than a short plane or train trip. When they make promises, they are kept. And romance and love is an act to be savored, rather than rushed. Courtly love and chaperoned dating brings more anticipation and appreciation than a quick hookup at the club. I typically don’t even read contemporary. It bores me very quickly. But give me a book that presents me a world I’m not familiar with and I savor every word and interaction. That’s what I want to bring to readers. Something they haven’t seen before and a world that they can call their own because it’s one they don’t live in everyday.

As to how my writing process works? I want to answer with a loud guffaw! It changes every time. When I was in my teens, I wrote by hand because I didn’t have a computer, just a word processor (yes, I’m that old). In my twenties when I came up with an idea, I committed it to memory and wrote strictly on the computer. If I had an idea, I simply thought about it, what I wanted to accomplish with it and then wrote it. I had a 104,000 word fan fiction piece I did that way. In my late twenties when I decided to write a screenplay, I realized I need to be more organized. For the screenplay, I actually created a scene by scene outline, wrote a lot by hand because that’s the only way I could do it while working, then wrote my scenes with a screenwriter program. When I got into short story writing, I spent a couple days brainstorming the idea, made some notes and typically wrote it on a computer with very little handwriting. That process changed again when I started working on the novel. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: the novel is a beast. After 2 months of initial research I wrote an outline that was 98 pages long. In other words, it was 36,000 words. It was extremely detailed. Every scene, every chapter, a lot of dialogue and every plot twist, plot hole and transition was ironed out in painstaking detail. Some think that’s crazy, but that’s how my mind worked it at the time. Now all I have to do is write out my paragraphs, rework the dialogue and fill in on what I wanted the chapter to do. I add my craft to fill in what is needed. It’s still a long process, as I’m 3 years into it and only half way done. I have maybe an hour to write a day. Somedays I get a few pages, some days several. I am often asked by other writers about how to get started. I honestly don’t know what to say. I know what works for me. When I mention a 98 page outline, a shocked, blank expression usually follows. So, I tone it down and simply suggest a notebook to get your thoughts out. My second piece of advice: write every day. Whether it’s a word, a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter, do it every day. It’s the habit that you have to build. If you have the habit, the story will get written. I’m reminded of an interview of Jack White by Conan O’Brien regarding how does Jack write so many songs. His answer was simply: create every day. I took it to heart and printed up a little sign and stuck it to my computer. CREATE EVERY DAY. Some days will be great, some days will be shitty. But you have to do it to know the difference. If you have the patience, an end will come. Expect to take a while. See it through to the end. Every writer will say it’s hard. If the only compliant you have is that it’s too hard to do it, you’re not meant to be a writer.

I hope someone out there finds what I write is interesting and brings to them a little more knowledge about the writing process. It’s never easy, by a long shot. Writing is solitary and lonely. My friends know this. I have missed social gatherings and dates because I have to get something written. My hands and fingers hurt at the end of a particularly productive day of writing. My back and shoulders hurt because I forget proper posture when I’m sitting at my computer. My eyes hurt from staring at one word on my computer screen, pondering for 20 minutes if that’s the right word to make the sentence say what I’m intending. When I walk away from the computer at night, I feel pins and needles in my legs and feet because I’ve been sitting down for hours on end. It’s not easy. But nothing you have a true passion for ever is.


To wrap this up, I want to send another thanks to Jocie McKade for inviting me again. Until next time, cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

Up next:
Ray Dean was born and raised in Hawaii. Working in live theater led her to the delights of living history and from there it was a slippery slope to creating her own worlds. Find her blog at www.raydean.net.

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A Farewell to Pens ( or Writer’s Block: Ain’t It a Bitch?)

The evil of all evils has returned. The silly of all sillies has befuddle me. The dark passenger of corruption has slipped into my backseat. And nope, I’m not talking about Congress.

I’m suffering a wee bit of writer’s block right now. It hasn’t happened for a couple of years, but it’s gripping me like bad food poisoning in the middle of the night in a house with faulty plumbing. It’s painful and downright stinks.

I was asked last month to write a story for an upcoming anthology benefiting cemeteries in one of America’s spookiest cities, New Orleans, Louisiana. What else can I say about that other than the fact that I felt honored and blessed. I’ve wanted to make my mark on the literary world since I first picked up a crayon, so I know better than to turn down an opportunity such as this: a chance to work with other admired writers, show a bit of diversity with my stories, promote it with my fellow co-authors next spring and really expand my readership as I hit the downward slope of the novel. It’s a big step in the right direction. So, why am I having trouble writing it? Guaranteed publication should be enough of a motivation, but negative thoughts are drowning out the “go me!”s.

I have a great story in mind about a grieving mother tricked by a con-man in a rather infamous cemetery in England. All the elements are there: my setting is in England, I’m writing English characters; I’m writing in 2nd person narrative, I have suspense, drama and mystery. I have a great hook. So what’s the problem?

Granted, I’ve had to take a break from the novel to take on this endeavor. And I’m at a really good place in the novel after having a great month with my October Wine & Write. Like, a really GOOD place with my characters, action, and moving the plot forward. Some writers may say it’s a bad place to stop, but I feel I have a lot to prove with this new short story, so I need to put my entire story telling focus into it. And once it’s over I can get back to the novel, which quite frankly, consumes all my thoughts anyway.

Hell, along with the plotting and writing, I’m even having trouble with coming up with a decent title.

All this whining can be easily categorized as “Writer’s problems”, I’m sure. I want to write something with meaning. I want to write something to impress. Yet, I have fear of letting my fellow co-writers down. This is normal, right?

I know it can be done. It can be done. It CAN be DONE! I’ve been writing solid for the last 2 years. I produced 20 short stories in college, half of which are published or scheduled to be published in the next year. This is only a temporary matter. Right?

Either way, I decided to update my blog today; get my head in the right space for writing and sit down and throw out the excuses. Maybe I just need to open up some whiskey, light a cigar, spear an animal and channel the spirit of Hemingway until I have a first draft. The great thing about summoning the spirit of Hemingway is that you’ll never know what you’ll get in the end. It might be a great story, it might be a shot through the leg, it might be an STD. Let’s hope for the story instead.

Wendy

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