Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Primordial Soup Stagnant

The primordial ooze of creativity has not been bubbling.  I struggled with getting flow while working on my 2014-NaNoWriMo. It was work. Every sentence, thought, idea was a struggle to type and completing 50,000 words was a battle. For December, I had been planning on writing Flash Fiction, writing blog posts, editing my other novels, critiquing on Critique Circle and in general writing. The blob of stagnation is putrefying in my brain as there is less and less sunlight to brighten my way.

Here, this is it. This is an attempt to bubbling up out of the stagnant water and to write, again.

Watching local dancers create the magic that is the Nutcracker, I receive a small bubble in my primordial soup. I envision Tchaikovsky banging away on a piano forte, penning notes and ideas in black splotchy ink, cracking old stale nuts in the mouth of a nutcracker soldier. The nuts moldy creating hallucinations of sword wielding rats, a blossoming girl in love with a nut eating prince, and twirling gooey sweats. He collapses on the floor giving into his hallucinations and his masterpiece which will become a Christmas time tradition is complete.

Without knowledge about Tchaikovsky's creative process nor even a good historical fact about him, I do know his music for the ballet, The Nutcracker. It is strung through the Christmas music station on Pandora that I play every day starting on the first day of December. I have listened to variations while holiday shopping. Perhaps, it is the sound track for the month of December, though I like a good sprinkling of Peanuts Christmas tunes in the mix. The feeling I get when I hear it is part maniacal exuberance and part panic. 

Maniacal exuberance and panic are odd words to use at Christmas time, but when I watch the 'Snow' dance, it is a mixture of what the season is: the rushing to and fro, joy, a swirl of white, faces with smiles, and sometimes a stumble or a crashing of the dancing snow. It is wondrous and beautiful and I am always a bit sad when the dance and December are over.

By enjoying live performances makes my creative juices start to flow especially when it is just music without words to interrupt a bubble or two of primordial soup. Going to a concert of George Winston or Ethal stimulates my imagination and I need to remember to seek such entertainment when the grey matter is stagnant.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Primordial Soup Ingrediant - NaNoWriMo

The first NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) I entered, I won. What a feeling of accomplishment. I did it for the pure challenge of writing a completely realized novel. I didn’t even know about NaNo until it had been going on for four days. Starting behind (thousands of word behind), I completed 50,000 words, two hours before the midnight deadline for my time zone. What a rush!

I have four novels in various stages of editing because of NaNoWriMo. Writing in this intense manner took my writing from disjointed scenes to full fledged fully actualized plots-beginning, middle, end. I am going for it for the fifth time, though if you look at my author page on NaNo, you won't see previous novels writing wins. I am writing under my pen name for the first time.The blank slate is a different level of motivation.

I’m a come from behind winner for NaNo and every year I have intentions of keeping on top of my word count. November is extremely busy month with holidays, plays, and rehearsal. But, I will complete 50,000 words towards a novel by months end. During this intense writing time, I will post unedited excerpts from the 2014 NaNo novel. I hope you will enjoy these months blog updates. Happy November!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Primordial Soup - Published Books

Artist-Ann Reishus
I sat for this painting in my teen years.
I recently read two books which were like reading my own personally owned piece of art. The lush covers and color art reproductions within Sacred Bleu by Christopher Moore and An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin screamed that the publishers knew these books would sell. The publishers would never considered them if Moore and Martin had been first time authors and unproven to deliver sells.

Christopher Moore made his fan following with such titles as Lamb and You Suck. The first book I read of Moore’s was Coyote Blue. Fans of Christopher Moore will buy his books without even reading the back cover because they know he is a wordsmith that delivers. Sacred Bleu’s cover of a blue naked women lounging on an artist's palette with the Eiffel Tower and a man in the background would definitely warrant a pick up, back cover read, and thumb through from many bookstore patrons including a few middle school boys. If you thumb through it, the art reproductions and the blue type would, most likely, intrigue you further.

The initial whiteness of the cover of Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty would attract a bookstore patron. The second impact are the large letters revealing bits of a red painting. When you pick up the book the tactile ridges gives the feel of canvas invoking a reader curiosity as to its contents. If you didn't know that the comedian, actor Steve Martin writes, you might question if this was that Steve Martin. If you knew Steve Martin authored books then you probably had read or at least watch the movie, The Shopgirl. The cleanness of the type and modern art reproductions within would indicate further what the book could be about without reading the back cover.

These two book covers and a quick thumb through tell a potential buyer about the book. The object gives you the sense that its contents are worth your time. The popularity of the author names guarantees the purchase of the objects will be worth it even if the buyer couldn't handle the books because of looking online. The publishers probable didn’t even blink when handed the manuscripts containing color art reproductions.

As an artist and an author, perhaps, I am jealous that my first book could not be a printed piece of art, but neither of these books are the author’s first either. The business of publishing is exemplified by these two books. Once proven that your books sell then the level of expense to produce a book becomes a non-issue. These books suggest it is not just the author’s name that sells the book but cover art is a big part of marketing a book. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Primordial Soup Ingredient - Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction-What is it? In encountering this genre in all different forms, I've been curious about it-How to write it? How many words constitute a Flash Fiction vs a Short Story? How is not like poetry?

My curiosity led me to delve into it without research. In the tabs above, The  234th Time, is my first Flash Fiction writing. I wrote it for a Flash Fiction prompt from the blog site terribleminds: chuck wendig which is a site I’ve enjoyed reading for a time. The prompt was to write a 1000 word Flash Fiction using someone’s sentence that was written the previous week.

And, yes, I wrote a sentence for that prompt - She banged her head on a sign, the lizard scattered and her day went to rot.
And, No, it was not chosen by another writer as their prompt.

In writing a Flash Fiction, I found other sites with similar writing Flash Fiction writing competitions. I recognize that these are great ways to lead writers to your blog and the benefit to the writer is that it leads people to your blog when you leave a link in the comments. Some of the Flash Fiction blogs encourage writers to enter with prizes for the best while others are about self promotion for all involved.

I notice an increased in traffic to my site from entering my Flash Fiction to the mix. It was also fun and encouraging, but should I continue to engage in Flash Fiction blog writing. The benefits are increase time spent writing, increased blog traffic, and discovery of the depth of writing short pieces. The downside is the time away from editing my novels and from working on critiques to receive critiques on Critique Circle. Critique Circle has also been encouraging to the writing process. I am also worried that I have too much, other than working on editing and getting my novels published, busy work distracting me.

The questions I will have to wait while the golden leaves fall and I turn my attention to NaNoWriMo. The loyalty I feel towards Nanowrimo has given me several manuscripts with which to work and I plan to use this years novellas as my first self-published books.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Primordial Soup ingredient: Travel and Steampunk

Capital Building in Victoria

My recent trip to Victoria, Canada and writing plans for the upcoming Nanowrimo has really put my head into Steampunk. When I first discovered this genre, I just couldn't believe that I had been missing out on something so excitedly fun. I went to my library looking to read Steampunk novels, and only found one collection of books within this genre. And what a collection - The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. I was hooked.

Looking at the movies and other books that were my favorites, I discovered that I liked Steampunk before I knew the labeling -timetravel, mechanical machines, Victorian era, Edgar Allen Poe, Sherlock Holmes, and HG Wells. I also discovered it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is Steampunk and there are sub genres within this genre. I’ll I know is that it is a very creative fantasy/sci-fi genre that is an inclusive world of history, manners, and imagination. There are books, movies, music, gatherings, and tea dueling. And, I do not feel that I have come too late in discovering the Steampunk world because it is populated by a wide range of ages.

I am editing a Steampunk fairy tale and for this Nanowrimo, I will be writing a set of three Steampunk novellas set in Yellowstone National Park. I have been reading history for these novellas about park rangers, Theodore Roosevelt, and Yellowstone.

During my visit to Victoria and my head full of turn-of-the-century history, I couldn’t help but see Victoria as the perfect place for Steampunk adventures. It is a lovely city with a Victorian historic hotel, a small china town area, waterfront with boat taxies, and brewpubs in historic buildings. It was a great place to let my imagination run wild and to fuel me for the next busy month of writing.

With renewed energy of a fabulous visit to Victoria, BC, historical research, and Steampunk fuel imagination, I am excited about the busy fall months of writing and holidays.

Water Taxi ride

Monday, September 22, 2014

Primordial Soup Ingredient: Maxim Show Don't Tell- Part 2 Showing

I was hoping to have my showing blog post out last Friday, but I’ve been terrified to write it. When finished the telling half of the post, I was sure I was ready to stretch my writer’s wings and write good examples of showing.

Why am I frightened to write showing?  It is because I don’t like personifying objects and I don’t particularly like flowery language and I fear that my showing will be those two things. When I draw, I think in shapes, light and dark, and forms. I want my showing writing to be an image which shows the viewer/reader a clear view of what I see as important and not every twig, blade of grass or stone.
photo 1-1.JPG
Showing?-Resting my bike on sandy, barely covered with grass spot, I’ve reached my destination and the halfway mark of my ride. As I walk towards the rocks with my camera in hand, I look and listen for rattlesnakes. A bunny scurries under a rock; I jump and my ankles tingle. My nerves relax while I watch the white tale disappear under a rock. I stop, sit on a rock, and drink from my water pack as the wind cools my face. The view is of expanse where I am the only sign of human life looking at a never ending sky.

I don’t know; have I done it? I still feel the need to add a few look at the bush or the sky moments. When you paint, you put in the sky and the person sees it and hopefully gets that the painter wants you to see the sky is never ending. Or, if I put a lone person or bike in a painting, then the viewer, hopefully, understands there is little in the way of human presence in this spot.


Showing?-Black heads peer towards me as I slow down. I speak gentle words letting the cows know I am human though I move quickly and oddly on my two wheels. Spotting the cows flanking the two track, I place my fingers on the breaks. As I pass, they twitch but do not move. They are the wildlife on this ride and I miss the prancing antelope that usually cross the path in flight from the fast moving but silent bicycle.

I have read that showing is easiest to write when you writing a conversation or action. Perhaps, I have chosen the wrong way to practice writing showing. Having placed before me pictures that, though I was active as I biked through, are now still scenes. As I said, I don’t want to personify objects, so I won’t write a conversation with the grass. One more try and I’ll leave practicing showing.

photo 5.JPG

Showing?-A line of dirt and the rustling of grass leads me along to the last climb. My bike starts to jostle and peddling becomes pushing as the single path turns to hoof prints left by the cows. Cursing each jarring indentation, I am reminded of the snow that fell a week ago. The trail tells of each season. The wet spring when the grass is fresh life showing the results of heavy winter snow fall. Now, the bumps, brown shades, and whistling wind tell of short days and rest.

Showing feels a bit like poetry and I still feel frightened by it. I don’t quite feel that I have an understanding of it at my finger tips. As I explore this writing world instead of a quick brush stroke, I will search for words to give a reader my vision of a story.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Primordial Soup Ingredient: Maxim Show Don't Tell- Part 1 Telling

As an artist, you are observing the world from a distance and creating your interpretation of it. Your sketch pad separates you from the action. Your final product is an exhibition of your art.

Since I am a fine artist trying to write stories, critiques of my stories say that I am telling, that my characters are stiff, and that my writing lacks intimacy. Therefore, I must be writing from the outside the world and not placing the reader in the story. 

Can a long time observer of the world become capable of putting a reader in a story instead of the reader perceiving a story from a distance?

While taking you along on one of mountain bike rides, I'll explore the maxim - show don't tell. 
Part one will be telling.

Telling -The first stretch of the ride is along a rutted road in the high desert. It is slow going, but I know the reward of a my favorite single track awaits me. I peddle avoiding mud puddles and bike eating crevices. Taking in the views of mountains with a bit of snow on their peaks and seeing the height of brown grass, I am reminded it's been awhile since I've ridden this trail. 

Telling - My bike lays before an invisible drop off of 14 inches. I have watched other riders peddle down it and I know the technique of riding drops, but I refuse to attempt it on a solo ride in fear I will fail and wind up a concussion or broken limb. I have taken many pictures of this spot and enjoy the view of the distant mountains. Watching the grass turn green or the snow disappear off of the mountain peaks is a sign of spring, but now the grass is golden, snow is on the peaks and fall approaches.

Telling -  On bike rides, I tend to stop in the same places; at the top of a long hill, where the trail switches from single track to two track, and when there is a giant boulder that I must push my bike around. I stopped here for the first time and took this picture of the prairie leading up to the mountains. It is a view of my life being an east of the Rockies dweller. 

In writing these telling paragraphs, I now understand that telling is exhibiting your pictures of a vacation; this is what I saw. My next post will be showing my bike ride. It will be interesting to see if I am capable of showing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Experience: A Primordial Soup Ingredient

This weekend, I bicycled from the east gate of Yellowstone National Park to Buffalo Bill Reservoir. It was about 45miles and was for a charity annual bicycle ride called Wild Horse Century. Riding my bicycle down a road I've driven dozens of times was a new experience on several levels. On one level , I feared riding where I could encounter buffalo or grizzle bears. On another level, I relished seeing a scenic highway at a slower pace.

Below is a post I made on a forum that pertains to experience.
I think it’s interesting when writers say-I don't read this genre because it’s not what I write; or-I don't read that genre because I don't like it. When I was studying and painting art, I couldn't imagine saying - I don't look, read, or learn about that artist because it’s not what I paint.

I have read something in a lot of genres. I would critique almost any genre because storytelling does have basic common elements that you can address. I do understand not wanting to read horror because it gives you nightmares or erotica because it bothers your Puritan sensibilities. There are classic and well written examples of these genres - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Little Birds by Anais Nin.

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

The Sylvia Plath quote sums gathering experiences up poetically though she ends it with a sad line, ‘And I am horribly limited.’ I think she was saying her life was limited in that she had to keep a house and take care of her children instead of experiencing life. I would argue there is a world of experienced in such a life. Also, imagine the experiences one can feel, think, and be a part of in reading a variety of books in a variety of genres.

If I critique, read, or write in a genre I am not familiar and is not my favorite, then I have read the books I never imagined I wanted to read; I experience the people I might want to meet and lived the lives there are possible to live; and lived and felt all the shades of life. Books are an incredible way to inexperience life and enrich one’s writing craft. Why limited yourself to one type of experience?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Editing: The Primordial Soup of Creating a Story: it takes as long as evolution.

My editing process combines advice I’ve read, what I learned from editing kid’s writing, and …... I really have no idea how to edit. I want to tell a fun, adventurous stories where reader sees the story unfold before them. Editing is working towards that end.

While editing, I try to match the story in my head to what’s been written. One of my favorite methods of 2D art is the reduction woodblock print. With each cut into the wood, you create an image which is mirrored when printed. You cut out what you want to remain the previous color. The first printed image is your lights and with each additional cutting and printing, what is printed is darker. You need to be careful with each cutting and printing because you can't correct; you can't add where you have cut away, you can't correct a color once it’s in place, you can't correct a misprint where you didn't line up the paper correctly. When I first learned this printing technique, my classmates marveled that I didn't plan. I cut and print, cut and print, until the image I imagined appeared.

Writing is a much different process because editing is pulling the story out of a rough sketch. It takes many adjustments in words, thoughts, and grammar.

Below is the first few paragraphs of the first chapter of Whether. Whether is a story of an university hidden within the row houses and Vinsula, a town near Boston. The protagonist falls into the university world where her ability to organize anything is in conflict with organic university.

“The witch hops on her bike and rides through….…”

Stop, stop, stop this annoying drivel. I can’t believe my sister sent me this fairy tale crap. A New York publicist thought this would ease my commute through the Boston traffic? It would relieve the daily headache that the dullest job in the world gives me?
Why is there and hag on a bike?
I wish my commute was within biking distance. I have 45 mile commute which takes me an hour and half at 7am. The same commute home takes me 1 hour and 2 minutes, if I get out of the office building and into my car by 5:15. When I sneak out quietly down the backstairs at 4:30 and get into my car at 4:45, I can be at my favorite brewpub at the edge of Vinsula by ...yep... there it is, The Storm and Tree, and a parking place... and only 5:45. The pub is just 2 blocks from my dinky apartment. Perfect, I’ll just leave it and walk to my apartment.

This paragraph doesn't  tell the reader anything about the story they are about to read. And, neither does the edited version below.

  “The witch hops on her bike and rides through….…”

     Stop, stop, stop this annoying drivel. I can’t believe my sister sent me this crappy fairy tale cd book. Why would a New York publicist think this would ease my commute through the Boston traffic? How could it relieve the daily headache that the dullest job in the world gave me? And, why was there a hag on a bike?
    Wishing my commute was within biking distance, I have calculated various scenarios. Calculating commute times distracts me from the tedium of my drive. My 45 mile commute to work takes me an hour and half when I leave my apartment at 7am. If I get out of the office building and into my car by 5:15, the same commute home takes me 1 hour and 2 minutes. Though, neither of these calculations take into account where my car is parked. Today, I have managed to sneak out down the backstairs at 4:30pm and got into my car by 4:45. I can be at my favorite brewpub at the edge of  Vinsula by ...yep... there it is The Storm and Tree and a parking place... and only 5:45. The pub is just 2 blocks from my dinky apartment. Perfect, I’ll just leave it and walk to my apartment.

All I’ve managed to give the reader is - a woman, who doesn’t like her commute, lives in an oddly named town outside of Boston, and she has a sister. Dull! Why would you want to read further?

Two courses of action:
A. Scrape this, because I’ve obviously started the story in the wrong place.
B. Write an exciting prologue showing the reader what an intriguing mind-blowing story they are reading.

And, yes, the first paragraph is present tense, and the second is past which is another decision.
Which tense to use?

Though the whole novel is written, the first few paragraphs of it are like the final reveal of a reduction woodblock print. If it has not precisely done, the image will be muddled. The beginning of Whether is muddled.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Confusing Gibberish

Primordial Soup    

When you use a stranger to critique your writing, it is about trust.

I research and read blogs, ebooks, and websites about how to self publish your first ebook. They screamed at me -Don’t Publish Before You Have A Professional Editor! Looking up professional editing services for a 60,000 word Young Adult book, it would cost me at least $1000. Yikes. It is not that I don’t see the value in what a professional editor does nor that I want to publish unedited crap, but I just don’t have $1,000.

Briefly, I pondered - Okay, I’ll publish the traditional way. The knowledge of the gallery world reminded me why the big five publishing companies weren’t for me. When a gallery represent you: A. They take a large percentage of your profit which I don’t deny them for the work of getting your art bought by a client. B. They may never sell your art, yet the gallery might have had you sign a contract not allowing you to sell your art on your own. C. You will barely be able to buy materials to keep making art. As I understand it, when you work with an agent and a publisher: A. They take a large percentage of your profit. B. They may never sell and or promote your book. C. They own the rights to your manuscript.

More research lead me to find web sites where beta readers or other writers are willing to spend their time to read a strangers writing. You might be asking yourself, why not have a friend read the novel? Or a writing group? These might be helpful in their own way, but they won’t slap you into reality. What you thought was a well written, edited story is a novel full of holes. What you thought of as clever writing is confusing gibberish. The comments awakened me to the possibilities of what my writing could be. I could not image art school without having art critiqued by peers. And now, I can’t imagine having my writing being published without a beta reader or three, reading it or having critical fellow writers read it.

This blog was going to be about the laugh-out-loud funny things some critiquers wrote about my work. I wanted to share how their critique writing outshined my writing. In sharing embarrassingly bad writing and entertaining critique comments, I hoped to help other writers feel empowered to share their writing with a stranger.

Courtesy and manners in the writing world say it is a big no-no. Why? Because of trust. If a writer wrote a critique and thought I might blogged about it, they wouldn’t critique it honestly or at all. If a beta reader agrees to read your novel and make comments, you trust them not to share your manuscript with anyone nor even tell anyone what they are reading. And, they trust you won’t lambaste them on your blog. The useful world of online critiquing would cease to least it would cease to exist for the writer who bad mouthed his critiquers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I am a visual thinker; why am I drawn to writing?

I am drawn to writing because my style of painting is about color and patterns, and not an Hieronymus Bosch paintings telling a story with many figures. I started to write bits and pieces of stories in a black and red notebook. It excited me. I can make characters live in a world where anything might happen. Writing became a creative outlet that was an escape. Then, NaNoWriMo found me. One November, I wrote a complete rough draft of a novel.

Wow, I liked my story even though working with words instead of color was difficult. The papers, written in school, came back covered in red. Writing more than three pages was a daunting task. Spelling confounded me; my brain saw words as pictures and not as letters. When I write, a slide show plays out in my head showing me a story. I translate it into the alien world of words.

I started to edit without knowledge of this process and researched how to submit it to publishers. If it was rejected, it would be part of the process. Sitting in art class and having your peers critique your art has to be more heart wrenching than a piece of paper saying, ‘This story is not for us at this time…” But, submitting work felt like writing a research paper and looking for a job all rolled into one. I hated updating resumes and writing cover letters, therefore a book proposal was tedious. I procrastinated. Excitement returned when self publishing became an acceptable form of publishing a book.