Waiting for the universe to cough & the #ROW80 report

Earlier this evening, I had an idea for a post. I knew the first line. I was confident I could write the middle without too much suffering. I didn’t know how it would end–I never know the ending when I start out–but I believed what I’d already written would lead to an appropriate close.

I opened WordPress to the Add New Post screen and put my fingers on the keyboard. And wrote–nothing.

Brain 1
Brain 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d forgotten everything: topic, first line, the whole shebang. I think the topic had to do with a comment on a post novelist Terry Shames put on Facebook, but I’ve forgotten which comment. Re-reading her post didn’t help.

I stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, then moved on. Obsessing over memory lapses guarantees the thought won’t return. It’s more effective to go on with life and wait for the universe to cough it up.

As to the #ROW80 report, only one day late: I ate refined sugar (but not too much, not every day), didn’t write, didn’t visit and comment on Writing Wranglers and Warriors and #ROW80 blogs every day, or visit Malvern Books.

I added a few words to the WIP (work in progress) but then realized the ending I’d planned will not do. So far I haven’t worked out an alternative ending, but that’s all right. The universe will cough one up when it’s ready. If the universe doesn’t, Austin Mystery Writers will. That’s what I keep them around for.

I did

  1. finish reading Mark Pryor’s mystery novel The Paris Librarian.
  2. have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

The Paris Librarian is on my list of 20 Books of Summer. It’s a pretty good book. That’s pretty good as in I-sat-up-until-two-o’clock-this-morning-reading-because-I-had-to-know-who-done-it. So there’s one I can check off my reading list.

In addition to The Paris Librarian, since June 1, I’ve read Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue ThreadSarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, and Isabelle Allende’s The Japanese Lover. I began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing but set it aside in favor of Librarian.

At MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, for a signing last week, Mark told two stories behind the writing of the mystery. They’re well worth reading. Find them on his blog, D. A. Confidential.

Silver Falchion Award
Silver Falchion Award

Concerning #2 above, I had a blast visiting with Kaye George at the BookPeople coffee shop last Thursday. Conversation meandered through a number of topics, but we kept coming back to (more Blatant Self-Promotion) Austin Mystery Writers’ Murder on Wheels and the Silver Falchion award it won for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology at the Killer Nashville conference. To those who’ve read about the Silver Falchion before, I apologize for bringing it up again. The excitement hasn’t worn off yet.

Kaye is the author of four popular mystery series. She writes the Immy Duckworthy mysteries, the Cressa Carraway Musical mysteries, and the People of the Wind mysteries under her own name. She writes the Fat Cat series under the pen name Janet Cantrell. For more about our visit with her, see Gale Albright’s post on the Austin Mystery Writers blog.

To sum up my progress on the earlier #ROW80 buffet, I’ll say this: I did what I wanted and not much else.

August 29 #ROW80 Buffet 

  1. Read James Ziskin’s Heart of Stone
    Another book that cut in line before Homegoing
  2. Finish reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

If I read both books, I’ll have finished seven of the twenty I set out to read by September 5. Of course, I didn’t really set out to read twenty. I got a late start and set out to read what I could. Seven, or six, will be what I could. I fear I’ll not have Mark Twain’s Autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex read before Monday, but Tuesday is another day. I read The Second Sex in graduate school. It’s worth reading again, but not this week.

And so ends this post. As a writer who forgot what she intended to say, I think I’ve done well.

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Read more #ROW80 posts here.

The Silver Falchion (Again) & #ROW80

Good news on both personal and professional fronts:

silver falchion emblemMURDER ON WHEELS, Austin Mystery Writers‘ crime fiction anthology, has been awarded the Silver Falchion Award for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology. Member Laura Oles accepted the award from author Anne Perry Saturday night at the Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference 2016.

 

The eleven stories in MURDER ON WHEELS were written by six Austin Mystery Writers–Gale Albright, V. P. Chandler, Kaye George, Scott Montgomery, Laura Oles, and me– and two guest authors who graciously contributed stories–Earl Staggs and Reavis Wortham. Ramona DeFelice Long edited the manuscript. Kaye George handled the business end of the project, no small task. Wildside Press published the anthology in 2015.

Laura Oles accepts Silver Falchion Award from Anne Perry. Photograph by Manning Wolfe.
Laura Oles accepts Silver Falchion Award from Anne Perry. Photograph by Manning Wolfe.

If you’ve already heard about the award, my apologies. I’ve spread it all over Facebook. That’s called BSP–Blatant Self-Promotion–but self, in this case, refers to everyone involved in the anthology’s production. We’re surprised–we didn’t know we’d been nominated until three days before the awards ceremony–and honored and excited, so we’ve announced it at every opportunity.

I like to think that someday I’ll develop the air of dignified detachment that is the hallmark of the professional writer. Maybe I will. Maybe.

(In case the word falchion isn’t familiar–Wikipedia says it’s a “one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the Persian shamshir, the Chinese dadao, and modern machete.” The Silver Falchion seal, above, displays crossed falchions.)

The second item of good news isn’t mine–it’s my husband’s. His video “Invisible Men Invade Mars,” starring cats William and Ernest, will be screened at the Walker Museum Internet Cat Video Festival on Wednesday, August 24, at the Texas Theater in Dallas. David is pleased, but he isn’t bouncing off the walls, as I am over the AMW’s Silver Falchion. He’s taken videos to film festivals, and his Alien Resort Christmas card won John Kelso’s contest. And he’s always been dignified and professional.

Third on the list: I’ve completed five days of radiation treatments. That’s five of a projected twenty–25%. I learned today that I’m doing in twenty days what is normally done in thirty. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask. This is another area requiring detachment, and I’ve found that detachment and too much information don’t play well together. The doctor kept using the word if –“If you do well with this, then we’ll…”–and upset the balance between optimism and uncertainty I try to maintain. If is too much information. So I pronounce the situation good and move on.

(Before I move on, and I really shouldn’t publicize this, but while I’m being unprofessional–since the first of June, I’ve lost twenty-nine pounds. Disclaimer: twenty-nine pounds equals the nineteen I had gained from taking steroids during chemo, and the ten I lost from having no appetite during chemo. The doctor doesn’t like it, and I understand why. It’s a hell of a way to lose weight, but with a net loss of ten pounds, I’m happy, and I’m taking credit for every one of them. I like being able to take my jeans off without unbuttoning and unzipping them.)

From August 7th List: I dood it.*

  1. Boycotted refined sugar and starches, including starchy vegetables, longer than necessary before the PET scan. Blood sugar was normal. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t be, but still…
  2. Critiqued and returned AMW stories I had at the time.
  3. Wrote and posted on AMW blog, but not exactly on time. I traded post dates with another member, then realized I hadn’t traded. It’s complicated. I posted on the 20th instead of the 15th, but got it in before the Silver Falchion winner was announced.
  4. Wrote and posted on the Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog on the 16th. This one I got right.
  5. Continued reading Mark Pryor’s The Paris Librarian. Good book.
  6. (12.) Cooked chicken and rice, intended to be one decent meal for David. It was horrid. We ate it anyway. I didn’t cook anything else.

#ROW 80 Watermelon Buffet for August 22

  1. Eat no refined sugar. Period.
  2. Critique and return one last AMW story.
  3. Work on draft of “Texas Boss.”
  4. Finish reading The Paris Librarian.
  5. Post #ROW80 report on Wednesday. If I feel like it. Otherwise, post next Sunday.
  6. Visit three #ROW80 blogs a day and comment.
  7. Comment every day on Writing Wranglers and Warriors post.
  8. Visit Malvern Books.
  9. Have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

Might as well face facts. I’ll dust the piano if I dust it, organize books if I organize books, and shred if I shred. They’re more likely to get done if I don’t write them down.

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I dood it was “one of Red Skelton’s radio catchphrases” of the 1930s and ’40s. It was also the title of a song written by Jack Owens for Skelton in 1942, titled “I Dood It! (If I Do, I Get a Whippin’),” and the title of a movie released the next year.

Skelton originated the line for a character, The Mean Widdle Kid,

a young boy full of mischief, who typically did things he was told not to do. “Junior” would say things like, “If I dood it, I gets a whipping.”, followed moments later by the statement, “I dood it!”

My mother told me about Skelton’s I dood it line when I was a child.  She thought it was funny; I thought it was funny; I still think it’s funny. I never heard him say it–until today, when I watched the movie trailer on Youtube. The first part is devoted to introducing the cast, so it takes a little time to get to Skelton.

Wikipedia refers to the movie’s rather ungrammatical title. I agree: it is, rather.

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Visit other #ROW80 bloggers by clicking here.

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Objection & the #ROW80 Report

We begin with a question:

Before airing tonight’s Inspector Lewis mystery, PBS issued the usual disclaimer, something like, This program contains material that some viewers might consider objectionable. Viewer discretion is advised.

Now. Every program contains something potentially objectionable. Objection is a matter of choice. (Why doesn’t the same disclaimer run before afternoon soap operas and tacky prime time reality shows? I choose to object to their content.)

It’s reasonable to warn parents about content they might not want their children to see, I suppose. Some PBS programming does fall into the PG range. Some people might not want their children to see as many murder victims as Robbie Lewis does. At times, I wish a firm hand had turned off the television before I saw the bisected woman in the first episode of The Tunnel.

Portrait of Jane Austen
Portrait of Jane Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the same disclaimer ran when Masterpiece Theatre presented a series of adaptations of Jane Austen novels. What could be considered objectionable about Jane Austen novels? 

Well, anyway, that’s one of the questions bouncing around my brain, taking up space that would be better occupied by more pressing concerns. Anyone who has an answer is welcome to leave a comment.

But first take note: They’re boring is not an answer. It’s not even accurate. Jane Austen is not boring. Attempts to change my mind are futile.

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Now for #ROW80. The past couple of weeks haven’t been conducive to doing anything, productive or not. I didn’t dust, organize, or shred. But the most important item is behind me.

The July 27 Buffet

  1. ♫♫♫ Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique
    I reversed the tampering, re-edited the story. When Kaye George sent her critique, excellent as usual, she added, “OK, stop fiddling with it, OK?” OK. After the other critiques are in. Next stop, the independent editor. 
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
    Brahman Baby.
    “Brahman Baby” by Lea Maimone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    I wrote several hundred words in a doctor’s waiting room, then two days later realized that I’ve left no place for the incident that gave me the idea for the story in the first place. I can insert it–I hope. But if I can’t make it work, I’ll have to leave it out, which comes under the heading of Kill Your Darlings. I would prefer not to.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    I finished Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover and began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing
  5. ‼Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    I’ve already dropped Sundays. This is the Wednesday report, late. The upside: If I’d reported on Wednesday, I’d have had nothing to say about #2.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. ?Take three naps a week
    I napped. Don’t know when or how often, but I napped. The question: Is it acceptable to count naps I took because I couldn’t stay awake?
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. /  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 10. Dust the piano. / 11. Get rid of ten things a day / 12. Collect and organize books / 13. Shred

 

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Carrying on:

August 7 Buffet

  1. Eat no refined sugar. Eat a minimum of carbohydrates, including starchy vegetables and fruit. (I ate an ungodly amount of sugar over the weekend; had a reason but let things get out of hand; in other words, went crazy). A PET scan is scheduled for Wednesday, and, for the most accurate results, I need to be as sugar-free as possible. Bottom line, I hope I didn’t run up my blood sugar. Shouldn’t have but you never know. Cancer cells like sugar.
  2. Finish critiques of remaining AMW stories and return to writers
  3. Write post for August 15 AMW blog
  4. Write post for August 16 Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog
  5.  Continue drafting the second half of the story “Texas Boss.” Revise enough to submit to AMW for critique
  6. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  7. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears below.)
  8. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  9. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  10. Take three naps a week
  11. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. /  12. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 13. Dust the piano. / 14. Get rid of ten things a day / 15. Collect and organize books / 16. Shred

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20 Books of Summer Buffet

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My thoughts on Anne Tyler appear here.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Saw it, liked the cover, bought it. Serendipity.

√The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
Loved it. Allende tells more than shows and makes it work.

Homegoing - Gyasi - Amazon 51s13capmsL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Homegoing by Yaa Gyassi

Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning by Sol Steinmetz

White Heat: The Friendship Between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

To see what other #ROW80 participants are up to, click here. Or begin with the list below.

A.E. Browne

writing what i can when i

Weaver of Words

Lila Leigh Hunter

Harpwriter’s Blog

A Book a Day

shanjeniah’s Lovely Chaos

ReGi McClain

The Writerly Reader

Sammy PJ Writes

Denise D. Young

 

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Related articles

Tampering with perfection & #ROW80 Report

Tired
Tired

I am so tired I ever could.

Because last night I waltzed up to the watermelon buffet and chose

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique

If I’d been taking naps, #1 would be only a memory. But there’s more to do.

Weeks ago, I edited out a couple of sentences but later realized I’d removed a bit of necessary information and created a contradiction. The error would be so difficult to resolve, and the lapse in logic was so subtle and so trivial, and the remaining text flowed so smoothly that I thought about saying, with Walt Whitman,

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;”

and leave it alone and hope no one would notice.

But someone always notices. Sometime, somewhere, some reader would say, But the character says this is going to happen, and this doesn’t happen, or maybe it does, but whatever happened, she never says another word about it, so it sounds like maybe both things happened, and she should have told us… 

So I tried a number of fixes, none of which pleased me, settled on one, and moved on. In a few days, I’ll go back and try again.

Just wo-ahn out
Just wo-ahn out

In moving on, I went from editing/revising to tampering. The official word is polishing, but I tampered: with words–thank goodness for thesaurus.com running in the background; with phrases; with sentence structure… Tampered with things better left untouched.

Tampering–especially when you think you’re polishing–is doomed to fail. It usually takes place near the end of a project, when you think everything is perfect, but not quite. So you make one little change, and then another, and another, and soon, part of your brain–the part where judgment lives–shuts off and you go on automatic pilot. You keep on clicking that mouse, cutting, pasting, copying, deleting, inserting…

Do this long enough and you can drain the life out of a story.

I’m most likely to tamper when I’m tired. I was tired last night. I should have watched Acorn TV or read or, better yet, given in and gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But I didn’t. Hyperfocused on the manuscript, I lost track of time and stayed up long after midnight. Then, in a perverse turn of events, I woke today up at 7:00 a.m.

So, as I said at the top of the page, I am tired.

A deadline approaches. I need to finish that story.  First, though, I’ll let it rest. Several days. A week. Until I’m sufficiently rested. Until I don’t hate it with every fiber of my being. Until I’m detached enough to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly.

#ROW80 Update

The July 20 Buffet

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
    Tried but didn’t finish, might have created a monster instead. See above, if you haven’t already.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique–Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”–Nope.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    Still reading Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, 68 pages to
    By Mutari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsgo. I used the calculator to figure that out. I didn’t have to. I can still subtract in my head. But I don’t want to think that hard. Sad.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    It’s Wednesday and I’m posting.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.–Nope. I don’t know why, but nope.
  7. Take three naps a week.–Nope. And I’m so sorry I didn’t.

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The July 27 Buffet

They don’t change much. The point of the buffet, per shanjeniah, is to have choices and plenty of them. So I’ll add more watermelon.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. Take three naps a week
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m.
  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David
  10. Spend an afternoon at the Blanton Museum of Art
  11. Play the piano
  12. Dust the piano
  13. Get rid of ten things a day
  14. Collect and organize books
  15. Shred

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

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Fort Worth Indie Film Festival & # ROW80 Report

Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016
Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016 – Family Shorts Block – “The Places You’ll Go”

It appears to be Wednesday–the scheduler from my doctor’s office had to tell me it wasn’t Thursday, but since her call woke me up, I take no responsibility for mixing up the days–and thus time for the #ROW80 report.

If I were playing by the rules, I would have reported last Sunday, but we’d been out of town all weekend and there was little to say. And since #ROW80 knows I have a life, I play by my rules.

I probably shouldn’t post today. I’m not in the best state of mind. I feel the way many of us do when we did the right thing, and because we did, life went all to you-know-where. But that’s another story. For anyone wanting more information, check the end of the post.

Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016 - Family Shorts Block - "The Interview"
Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016 – Family Shorts Block – “The Interview”

On a brighter note, which I’m sure will be welcome, David’s “Alike and Different” was screened at the Fort Worth Indie Film Festival on Saturday. There was a good turnout, and the audience laughed in all the right places. The one drawback was that two of the other films starred very cute children and thus received an inordinate amount of attention. I’ve advised David to include William and Ernest the Cats in all future videos. Children, no matter how cute, are not as cute as our cats.

 

*****

The #ROW80 report:

The Buffet set on July 13 with updates:

(The Buffet is explained in “Writing, Reading, and the Watermelon Buffet,” on Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)

  1. Edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique
    On the way home from Fort Worth, I scribbled on the manuscript. No major changes, the kind that will make a difference, just little changes in wording that will make no difference at all, but that will keep me doing the Should I? Shouldn’t I? dance. Just north of Waco, I put the ms. away to look at when I don’t care.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
    Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe,” the story I started last week
    Nope again.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list.
    I’ve read about half of Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover. I’m glad I made the effort to see Allende when she was at BookPeople several months ago. I’m glad I bought the book. At the time, I felt guilty for buying a hardback I don’t have room for when I could have spent less for a Kindle “copy.” But after I read the first few pages, guilt atomized. It’s a delightful book, one that, for maximum enjoyment, must be read from paper. I  still don’t know where I will put the book after reading it.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    I skipped Sunday. See paragraph #2, above.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.
    Started this but fell along the wayside. 
  7. Take three naps a week.*
    Not too bad. Napped Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (on the way to Fort Worth; I think that counts), Saturday (practically passed out, so maybe I can’t claim credit), and Sunday (on the way home). Sad but true, I can’t remember what I did Monday or yesterday. But that’s five naps, two more than I set for myself, and four more than I expected to take.

*Start as soon as this has been posted.
I did, with a nap.

*****

The July 20 Buffet:

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.
  7. Take three naps a week.

*****

A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

*****

"Alike and Different"
“Alike and Different”

 *****

For the curious: The reason for my nasty state of mind: I flossed out a crown. And had to get it put back in. As I said, you do the right thing, and still…

What Have I Done?: The #ROW80 Wednesday Report

“watermelon” by Harsha K R is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0
“watermelon” by Harsha K R is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0

My #ROW80 goals posted on July 10, plus progress:

  • Edit the AMW story for its last (I hope) critique;
    Not yet, but tomorrow I’ll get a critique from another partner. It’s better to have everything in before making changes.
  • Write and schedule the WWW post at least two days before the July 19 deadline;
    It’s finished, and SIX days before the deadline. I’m going to the doctor to see what’s wrong–I never finish a piece SIX days before the deadline. I’ll continue to change little things, but it’s polished enough to be posted today. So I’m putting this one in the Watermelon Met* column.
  • Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and turn in to AMW for critique;
  • Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe,” the story I started last week;
  • Complete the piece for the AMW blog and schedule it to post before midnight tonight.
    I posted it. Not before midnight. At 3:00 a.m. But I met the AMW deadline, and that’s close enough. Watermelon Met.

Summary: I set out to meet two deadlines and met them. The three remaining tasks aren’t time-sensitive. They carry over. The first, polishing the story for the proposed AMW anthology, must be finished by August 1, so it’s priority.

I’m adding three new goals to the list. Then I’m going to take a nap.

  1. Edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe,” the story I started last week
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. 
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays. 
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.
  7. Take three naps a week.* 

*Start as soon as this has been posted.

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Read about A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80)

Read posts by other #ROW80 bloggers–check the list on today’s #ROW80 Linky.

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Watermelon Met will be explained in my Tuesday, July 19 post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

No Complaints

Here’s how ROW80 has gone since Sunday:

  • Monday: Late entrance into ROW80; post took two days to complete; goals set, not attempted.
  • Tuesday: Type type type type type type type type type type…316 words.
  • Wednesday: Type type type type type type type type type type…323 words.
  • Thursday: Type…type…44 words; one word was XXX.
  • Friday: Type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type…551 words.
  • Saturday…Type…Play Poppit…type…Check email…type…type…Check Facebook…type…type…type…Play Poppit…Play Poppit…type…type…type…Check email…Check Facebook…Check email…Play Poppit…Check Glassboard…Play Poppit…type…, and so on…505 words.
  • Total: 1739 words / 5 days = 347.8 words per day

That’s not exactly what I set out to do–an average of 347.8 words per day isn’t the same as minimum of 300 words a day–but I’m not complaining. Having put in the promised five days and produced the promised 1500 words, I owe myself no more words until Tuesday.

Tomorrow, however, I owe Travis County an afternoon of jury duty. This is my third summons in four years. I don’t complain about that, either, though the summonses are beginning to seem redundant.

I do complain about being called down to the courthouse, where there is practically no parking, on a blazing summer day, when walking to the bus stop would turn me into an ambulatory puddle of sweat.

The first time, I took a taxi. The second time, David was on holiday and drove me. Tomorrow, he’s going to pick me up and drive me downtown on his lunch hour. He’s very kind and is also probably tired of hearing how standing outside waiting for a taxi–I don’t trust the cabbies to negotiate a certain turn–renders me a stationary puddle.

Anything more on this topic is premature. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll gather material for future posts or future fiction. But my goal is to end the day with nothing more remarkable than the weather to write about. I’ve served on juries before. Deciding the dispensation of other people’s lives and treasure, though a civic responsibility, is not something I relish.

***

To see what other ROW80 writers have to say, click here.

Mama and the Ground Glass Resurface

English: This is Alpine, Texas with the six-th...
This is Alpine, Texas with the six-thousand foot plus Ranger, Twin Sisters, & Paisano Peaks in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Monday’s post, I announced my goals for Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80):

    • To write 300 words a day, five days a week; and
    • Not to haul myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to write the 300 words.

So far, the latter goal has been easier to accomplish than the former. Nonetheless, I made my 300-word minimum and then some both Tuesday and today.

I’m working on a short story that began as a ten-minute timed writing at the Writers’ League of Texas Summer Writing Retreat at Sul Ross State University in Alpine a couple of years ago. I spent the week in Karleen Koen’s class, Writing the Novel: The Basics. That was probably the most productive week I’ve ever had. Karleen told us she couldn’t teach us to write, but she could teach us to play. And she did. She’s teaching the class at this summer’s retreat later in July. She also teaches for Rice University’s Continuing Education Department in Houston. Anyone who has the opportunity to take one of her classes should do so. Lots of writing, lots of fun.

The timed writing that I hope becomes a full-fledged story begins, The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the eggs she was about to scramble, I took the eggs away from her and called a family conference. When I started, I had no idea where it was going. Back at home, I added to it and showed it to my critique group. They said I should work it into a novel. I still didn’t know where it was going. Or where I could make it go. But it didn’t seem like novel material, at least in my hands. Last summer, I tried to turn it into a ghost story but kept running into obstacles, the chief of which was that the plot was forced and downright silly. Now, a year later, an invitation to write a different kind of story has come along. Once again I dragged out Mama and the ground glass. And this time I think I can pull it off. It’s not over till it’s over, of course, but I’m optimistic.

It takes time to get some things right.

***

To see what other members of ROW80 are writing, click here.

Mystery Novelist Janice Hamrick & Death Rides Again

The day Eddy Cranny got himself murdered started bad and went downhill from there . . . especially for Eddy. ~ Janice Hamrick, Death Rides Again

Janice Hamrick
Janice Hamrick

When I reached the second floor of BookPeople for the June 19th launch of Death Rides Again, Janice Hamrick’s latest mystery novel, my day turned around and started uphill at a gallop.

Janice, who lives in Austin, made news in the writing–and reading–communities when the manuscript of her first book, Death on Tour, won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Published in 2011, the novel was nominated for the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award.

Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival
Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival

In 2012, Janice followed Death on Tour with Death Makes the Cut. Now she presents the third in the Jocelyn Shore series, Death Rides Again.

Critics have been complimentary. So have readers. From her tour of Egypt, to the high school where she teaches, to a family reunion at her Uncle Kel’s ranch, main character Jocelyn Shore has a talent for solving murders and gathering fans as she goes.

DeathRidesAgainCoverWebAt the book launch, Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator of MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, interviewed Janice before an audience of mystery lovers. This was the second time I’ve seen the two together: at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, Janice appeared on a panel Scott moderated. The subject was using humor in mysteries, something Janice does well. (See quotation from book, above.)

I took copious notes, as I always do on such occasions. The conversation ranged far and wide, however, and my notes comprise two pages of scrawl, on the diagonal, a series of jottings devoid of connective tissue. Turning them into paragraphs would take several hours and considerable energy (for reason, see “Why I Am Not a Journalist”), so I’ll share a few bullets:

  • Janice got the idea for Death on Tour from a trip she made to Egypt (during which no one was murdered). The idea for Death Rides Again came from a setting–her family’s ranch near Brady.
  • Some reviewers class the Jocelyn Shore novels as cozy mysteries; others don’t. Janice is glad the books aren’t easily categorized. She describes them as funny but hopes they have more depth than the typical cozy.
  • Asked what she learned while writing the series, she said that between Death on Tour and Death Makes the Cut, she learned, “I can do it.”
  • She’s working on another book–not a Jocelyn Shore–but she doesn’t talk about that one yet.
  • Janice rises about 5:00 a.m. and writes before going to work. She sets out to write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week. On a bad day, she says, she can produce 300 words and feel okay. On a good day, she can “blast right through” her goal.

DeathMakesTheCut_cover_webNow this is where things get personal. I began this post by saying my day went uphill because I attended the book launch.

Goals have never been my friends. Most people find them energizing. To me, setting goals is stimulus for digging in my heels, heading off at a 45-degree angle from the rest of the group. When my CP, who likes goals and thinks I should like them too, makes me set some for the coming week, I growl, scribble in my notebook–almost, but not quite, singing Nyah nyah nyah to myself–and then ignore them.

But Janice’s description of her 300-word goal–low enough to attain and feel good about, low enough to sometimes blast right through–spoke to me. Her system is so logical, so sensible, so humane. Sitting there in that folding chair, I heard the little light bulb above my head click on, and I said to myself, Well, d’oh.

So, on that basis, I’ve decided to jump into Round 3 of  A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, with the following goal:

  • I will write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week;

and this stipulation:

  • I will not rise at 5:00 a.m. to get the job done.

Now back to the book launch:

deathontourcover

The question on the mind of nearly everyone in the audience was, What happens next?

When you’ve spent quality time with a character like Jocelyn, gotten to know her and her family, watched her fall in–and maybe out–of love, deal with matters of life and death, turn shaky post-divorce self-esteem to strong self-confidence–you don’t want the relationship to end. Three books, the number Janice contracted to write, aren’t enough.

So what might influence Janice’s publisher to ask for a fourth Jocelyn Shore novel?

Here’s Janice’s answer: Buy the book! 

***

You can follow Janice’s blog at blog.janicehamrick.com.

The Jocelyn Store mysteries are available from booksellers listed on Janice’s website.

On Saturday, July 20, Janice and Hopeton Haye, host of KAZI Book Review, will appear at the Pflugerville Library for an interactive discussion about the Jocelyn Shore series, mysteries, and writing. On Saturday, August 31, she will sign copies of her books at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble.

***

For more information about A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) click here.

To read what other ROW80 participants are writing, click here.

***

IMG_2264

Nets of Silver and Gold

Fern Bisel Peat illustration for Wynken, Blynk...
Fern Bisel Peat illustration for Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (Photo credit: Crossett Library Bennington College)

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea —
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
Never afeard are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam —
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea —
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

~ Eugene Field

“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” is one of the poems my mother read to me from the Bumper Book every night at bedtime when I was very young. I didn’t want to sleep then any more than I do now, so she read a lot of poems. I heard this one so many times that I was reciting it from memory when I was two years old. I’ve always had a tape recorder in my head.

Since the first of the year, I’ve written for an hour a day, one of the suggestions I made for myself for the first week of ROW80. But I continue a slave to my habit of night-owling.

I’m not the only one.
“I write this from a swivel chair at 4.17 a.m.,” says Matt Shoard. “Twitter has gone quiet. There is darkness for miles. I can hear a watch tick. It’s the longest night of the year, and if I time things carefully, I could avoid daylight for 48 hours. What’s more, research suggests it won’t just be me. There’s a mislaid family of readers and writers at night, and at this hour there’s nothing else to do but search for them.” He goes on to  list writers who worked at night: Robert Frost, Charles Dickens, JD Salinger, Stephanie Meyer, Danielle Steel, Barak Obama, Kafka, Proust.
But there our similarities end. The people Shoard names are personages. They’ve demonstrated their ability to lose sleep and yet do fine work. I’ve demonstrated my ability to go lose sleep and then run aground. I’m not a personage. I’m still the ornery child whose mother made me take naps and go to bed early at night because she said without enough sleep, I was grouchy.
I’m way past grouchy now. Restraining myself, but teetering on the verge of crotchety, cross, and choleric.
Furthermore, the flu has hit town with a vengeance. One more late night and my ravelled sleave of care won’t be worth knitting up. Neither will my flu shot.
So good night.  I’m off to sail on that river of crystal light and rock in the misty sea.
*****
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The Eight Suggestions for 2013

"New Year suggestion" - NARA - 515064
“New Year suggestion” – NARA – 515064 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I said I would post my Seven Suggestions for 2013. Copying them, I found there were eight.

Here it is, the unalliterative but expanded version of The Eight Suggestions.
1) Finish the @%%&$@!% novel (aka either fall in love with it again or chuck it);
2) follow through on the Sacred Writing Time Pledge  ) to write one hour a day;
3) write a daily blog post, and if that becomes too difficult, reduce to three posts per week;
4) participate in at least one A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge, which is no problem for anyone who sets out suggestions and then blogs at least once a week;

5) fix up an office in the spare room;

6) go to bed before midnight so the rest of this list has a chance of being done;
7) keep a timesheet;
8) trim this list to #s 1, 2, and 5 if necessary; do some calculations and acknowledge that #s 1-6 won’t be a burden if the person doing them just gets up and DOES them.
Amen.
***
For the first week of A Round of Words for 80 Days, I’ll focus on Suggestion #2.

ROW80, AMW, Dorothy, & Tallulah

Promotional photo of Tallulah Bankhead.
Promotional photo of Tallulah Bankhead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I owe A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) another Wednesday check-in. Fortunately, I finally have something significant to report.

My original goals were to sleep (get to bed before midnight, I believe); eat well (get off the white stuff, processed foods, added salt, sweeteners); and show up at critique meetings with  something to be critiqued (in other words, write).

Before I discuss progress, I’ll note that Austin Mystery Writers (AMW) is alive and well. Several members have been on hiatus, dealing with other projects (such as work), another can’t attend regularly (again, work), and this week our Grand Pooh-Bah moved a hundred miles to the north. Only two non-Pooh Bahs remained to stay the course, and we considered four eyes insufficient to ferret out the flaws in our respective manuscripts.

Last night, however, concern vanished. Two new members joined us, a third has promised to drop in next week, and two others have listed themselves as maybes.

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being in a critique has been a good experience for me. In addition to ideas and advice, I’ve received  encouragement and support for my writing and for my personal life. My partners have helped me over some rough spots in the past couple of years.

I’ve also learned a lot. Since we’ve been together, one partner has published a novel and has more in line for publication. Two others have completed manuscripts. While in one sense I’ve been stalled–scrambling down bunny trails, trying to get my plot under control–I’ve learned about the business of writing.

As to my own WIP: Pieces continue to fall into place. Listening to a presentation at the Austin Sisters in Crime meeting last Sunday, I had a brainstorm–a detail that would make a central character’s motivation much more credible. I flipped to the next page in my notebook and scribbled it down. I’ve also had another idea about reframing the novel to update it a bit. When I realized that Molly hadn’t once, in nearly three hundred pages, gone online, I pulled out Chapter One and inserted Internet.

Today I retyped Chapter One. The experts say not to do that–especially considering the number of times I’ve rewritten it, trying to get the foundation right–but I’m not revising so much as remembering. It’s been through many incarnations, and typing requires me to read more closely than I would if only my eyes were involved. I’ll continue this process for three or four more chapters, inserting new segments where appropriate (I hope!). Projected changes add originality. They give Audrey Ann, a minor character, more opportunity for mischief-making. Audrey Ann is a hoot, and I look forward to spending more time with her.

(One of my critique partners suggested Audrey Ann would make a good victim, but she’s too much fun to kill. Very much like my first intended victim, whom I couldn’t bring myself to knock off. If this becomes a trend, I’m in big trouble.)

I’ve added a progress meter to the sidebar on the left. Five percent represents progress on the current draft–in other words, what I retyped today. I’ve been working on this project, and talking and writing about it, for a long time. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve eked out just four thousand words.

Now, as to my plan for eating real food: Sometimes I have and sometimes I haven’t. I have, however, dropped nineteen pounds since the first of the year, so I claim at least modified success.

(Who am I trying to kid? I rock.)

Regarding sleep: It’s after 1:00 a.m. No excuses.

One last thing about Austin Mystery Writers: When the other left-behind critique partner mentioned we might need to put several of the coffee shop’s tables together to handle the potentially large turnout, it occurred to me that if we works things right, AMW could become the Austin equivalent of the Algonquin Hotel’s Round Table. A heady thought. Critique partner said I could be Dorothy Parker. She wants to be Tallulah Bankhead. I wish I could be the glamorous one, but with my evil tongue, Dorothy P. is right down my alley. More’s the pity. I’ll try to be nice.

*****