The Stories We Tell

I had planned to spend the entire weekend writing a short story. Unfortunately, my story had other ideas. Turns out that the story idea I’d envisioned isn’t a short story at all. It’s a novella. And while I like the story and think it’s going to be a good one, it doesn’t fit the requirements for the contest I’d been writing for. So…I’m back to square one. I’ll be working this week on finding a more narrowly focused story. Eventually, I’ll come back to my novella idea, but for now it’ll go on the shelf to make room for something new.

In order to switch mental gears, I need to clear my thoughts. Every story for me begins with daydreaming. But in order to daydream about something new, I have to empty my head of the old. Three things are effective ways of accomplishing this. And they sort of need to be done in order. Call it a ritual if you want. I just know this is what works.

  1. Take several hours to do a repetitive task that you don’t do every day. Knitting. Making jewelry. Woodworking. Gardening. It doesn’t matter what it is, but the more repetitive it is the better. It should be something that doesn’t require a great deal of thought, but which keeps your body and hands occupied and allows room for your mind to wander free.
  2. Long walks. Outdoors. With music. No talking. Dogs are great for this. Again, it’s rhythmic movement, repetitive, leaving your thoughts open to drift. And by long walks, I mean over an hour.
  3. Quiet Meditation. Be still. Close your eyes. Count your breathing. Relax your body. Silence your mind. Let go of what occupied your thoughts in the past. Find your stillness.

It’s like cleansing your mental palate. Sweeping away the old to make room for the new. I find that if I do these three things, then get a good night’s sleep, I am much more open and able to generate much better and more creative story ideas.

Blood Alone Remains Writing Playlist

To get my mind into the right headspace for my characters, I use music as inspiration. I love using 8tracks to create atmospheric playlists that I can add to or modify as needed. This is the playlist I’ve been working with for my current WIP. All of these songs have been running through my mind as I write. Hope you like them as much as I do! Have a wonderful Sunday!

Steady as She Goes

Writing Stuff

My vacation at the beginning of August sparked an idea that’s been on the slow burn in my brain all month. I was going to put it on the shelf to write during the month of November, but then I got an email about a short story contest that made me rethink that plan. Since the entry date is October 15, I’m revising up my writing plans. With a three-day weekend coming up for Labor Day, I’ll be spending it working on this project. That will give me all of the month of September and half of October to edit it into something I think will be worthy of submission. I’ve done my prewriting, and tomorrow I’ll do my research. Starting Friday morning, I’ll be on radio silence until my 5,000 words are down.

I’ll return to work on Book 2 once my short story piece is finished. I’m still excited about the story, and I cannot wait to see how it ends!

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Yes, I did it. Yes, I donated. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive and deadly neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Though the disease is rare, I know three people who have been directly affected by it–one who has it, another who discovered she was a carrier after her father died of ALS, and another who lost a cousin to the disease. Donations as of today are up to $94.3 million. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

Other Things

Yesterday was National Dog Day, but I didn’t get the chance to post anything here. Therefore, belatedly, I give you Layla and Mustang Sally.

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Mike Doughty’s new album, Stellar Motel, is on its way next month. I helped crowdfund the project, and I cannot wait to hear the whole thing. Meanwhile, you can hear the first single here.

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I’m a huge Doctor Who geek. The fact I am still knitting a Fourth Doctor scarf should have been your first clue.

Every time the Doctor regenerates, I go through a period of mourning for the actor who portrayed him previously. Matt Smith didn’t start out as my favorite Doctor, but I became very attached to him over the years, and it was actually quite painful to let him go.

That being said, the Season 8 premiere last Saturday gave me confidence that the role is in good hands with Peter Capaldi.

His Doctor is clearly a departure from what we’ve seen before, but that’s part of what keeps the show fresh and exciting for viewers. I love that we have no idea how he is going to react or whether or not we can trust him. He’s much darker than the last few incarnations, and definitely a different brand of madman in a box.

I’m very excited to see what’s in store this season, and I’m confident the show will keep fans glued to the screen week after week.

 

I’ve been watching Outlander on Starz every week, and with three episodes down, I am certain I’ll be tuning in regularly. If you haven’t seen it, just go do it now. Seriously. It’s that good. It follows the books faithfully, and I am absolutely loving every minute.

 

Finally, I have to mention the end of True Blood. I saved it for the end because…ouch. true-blood-season-seven-posterThis marketing campaign poster was kind of prophetic.

I hated that I hated it, but I really did. I wanted to be satisfied with the ending. That doesn’t mean wish fulfillment. I mean sure, if I had my druthers, Eric would have been the main focus for Sookie from Season 4 on. Clearly, the writers didn’t see it that way. I can respect that decision. And I don’t think that they “owed” the fans a specific “happily ever after” scenario. Unfortunately, they seemed to think so, and that’s where they fell flat. The writing became more desperate as the season wore on, as though they just gave up after episode four and threw together quick wrap-ups for every plotline that was going on. It just didn’t work for me, and I’ve heard from several other fans who agree.

The show had so much talent in one place, but I think after the death of Russell Edgington, the show spiraled out of focus. Perhaps this was due to the departure of Alan Ball. I may not have agreed with all of his decisions when he ran the show, but the seasons he worked on were much more effective and dynamic.

I will miss Sunday nights with True Blood. But after sitting through this final season, it was easier to let the show go than I had thought. And that realization made me sadder than the actual loss of the show.

That Time that Dropbox Saved my Life (And by “Life,” I Mean Book)

My old iMac finally gave up after seven long years of service. Not one virus in all that time. I loved that machine. But when it gave me two white screens of death in as many days, I knew that it was time to make the switch to a new computer before it was too late to transfer the files.

Thank god I am the backup queen, or I would never have made it.

Five years ago, I bought massive terabyte sized external harddrives, and all of my music, movies, TV shows, and photos were moved there for safekeeping. Three years ago, I got a Dropbox account, and all of my writing has been backed up there. I got Scrivener two years ago, and those files are backed up on Dropbox as well.

That’s why switching to a new computer and setting it up with my old configuration and my manuscripts intact took only a couple of hours. What an enormous relief! The only thing I’ve really lost are my browser bookmarks, and I never really used them anyway.

So thank you, Dropbox, for saving my life. And my sanity. And my book.

JuNoWriMo and Beyond

10386293_659876230762898_4937453897515353660_nSomeone asked me “Why do you have to do this JuNoWriMo thing?” Have to was the phrase that stuck with me. I have to because I want to. Because I need to. Because I have a story that I want to tell that’s bursting out of me. And because if I don’t set deadlines for myself, it never gets done. Without deadlines, it joins an endless stream of “somedays” and “shoulds” and “ought tos” that never reach fruition. I don’t want to look back on my life and feel like I’m disappointed that I didn’t put in the effort to reach for my goals. I might not achieve what I hope for, but working at it is going to get me a whole lot closer than if I waited for a more convenient someday that may never arrive.

Therefore, I’m telling myself this:

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That was written at the beginning of June. Obviously, this summer has been too busy for me to blog since that time, so I never finished that post. I accomplished what I set out to do, and by the end of June I was at 40,000 words. I’ve sent that section off (about 150 pages printed out) to my editor in preparation for The Stanley Hotel Writer’s Retreat in October where he and I will sit down to talk about it.

I’m continuing on with the next section of the book, but July and August have been so busy, I haven’t had time to bury myself in it once more. However, today I start back with my night schedule at my regular job, and that will give me more time to make forward motion again. My goal is to reach 60,000 words by August 31 (two weeks from now), and by the end of September I want to be finished with the manuscript.

Some other things that are upcoming include a trip to Scotland in December (exciting!) and traveling to the Tucson Festival of Books in March for a Writer’s Retreat and attendance at the festival with one of my closest Facebook friends. That’s a lot of travel in a short amount of time, and I’m thrilled about all of it.

Writing-Related Notes:

Book One was sent to an agent at the end of June, and she was intrigued enough to ask to see the first fifty pages. I hope to have some news from her soon. Fingers crossed!

Book Two is going extremely well, I think. I have a working title, Blood Alone Remains, and a working cover. BloodAloneRemainsCoverI can promise more action, more suspense, more chills, and more romance. It’s strange how I start with a brief outline, but as I work, the characters often have their own ideas of how to get to those plot points I had in mind. What I thought would be one chapter might turn into three or even five before they’re happy with themselves. They really are fully formed in my imagination and full of their own opinions and stubborn plans. Every time they lead me down another road, it’s better and more complex than my original idea.

I also have an idea for a story (not sure if it’s a book yet or something shorter) that I plan to begin work on during the October retreat. This story is still in the beginning stages. I’ll be working on it in November for NaNoWriMo and plan to hand fifty pages of it off to my editor for the March workshop in Tuscon. It’s something completely different from my series, and though I want to finish what I’ve started before I begin work on it, I am champing at the bit to get it going. I’ve done the research to prepare. In October, I’ll do some outlining and prewriting, and then the real work can begin in November.

Personal Notes from the summer:

  • My best friend moved, and I’ve visited him there twice.
  • My niece got married, and I gained a wonderful nephew in the process.
  • My nephew moved to Los Angeles to start a new career. I’m very proud of and happy for him.
  • We had concrete work done at my house, resulting in new sidewalks and steps that are safer and easier to clear in winter.
  • I had a vacation in Eureka Springs and got to see some family while we were there.
  • Work has been very busy, and we’ve started training the new student workers for the fall.
  • Classes start tomorrow.
  • Today my seven-year-old iMac is in it’s death throes, and I’m in the process of backing up my files and replacing it as I type this.

It’s been busy, but I’m ready to get back to my regular routine at last.

Episode 2 of The Real Delia Podcast: Interview with Mimi Schweid, Part 2

Episode 2 of The Real Delia Podcast continues with Part 2 of my three part interview with Mimi Schweid. We’ll talk about the television shows she likes and about her reaction videos on YouTube. The final part of this interview will be live on May 23rd.

Check out her YouTube Channel (morganstein17) and her Facebook author page (The Morganstein Chronicles) to find out more about what she’s doing.

Congratulations to Kelly Jo Davis who won the backpack of books in our Rafflecopter drawing!

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If you are interested in being interviewed on this podcast, or if you would like to be a guest host, email me at deliaremington13@gmail.com to discuss details.

Midweek Miscellany

Already Missing Miranda

This is the last week before my intern, Miranda, graduates. I’m thrilled for her, though I will miss her like crazy. Working with her has been a joyful privilege. She was insightful, funny, knowledgeable, capable, dependable, and creative. Wherever she goes in the future, I wish her the very best. I am confident that life holds happiness and success for her as she goes out to make her way in the world.

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Book Stuff

How the Public Library Is a Refuge for the Restless Mind by Nancy Scola

I found this article relevant and relatable. Certainly, when I was a child, the library was a quiet oasis, and I looked forward to my time there purely because it was a stabilizing and safe place to be. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in thinking so.

Music Stuff

Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty is doing a PledgeMusic campaign for his new album Stellar Motel, a fact which makes me very happy indeed. I’ve pledged my support, and if you’re a fan of his music, I encourage you to do the same. The new song “Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future” is fantastic, just as catchy and fun and relevant as some of his other work, including my favorites from the Haughty Melodic album. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s this. You need this in your life, even if you haven’t realized it up till this point.

Growing Things

Lastly, my garden is in full swing, and I’ve gotten the first fruits of my labors already. Here is my first strawberry. It was small but delicious and tasted like sunshine and happiness.10330487_643587962391725_875596538993313022_n

 

The Real Delia Podcast, Episode 1: Interview with Mimi Schweid, Part 1


This is part 1 of a three part interview with my friend and fellow writer, Mimi Schweid. In this episode, we talk about some of her favorite books and how reading influenced her writing. Part 2 will air on May 9, so check back for the next installment!

Check out her YouTube Channel (morganstein17) and her Facebook author page (The Morganstein Chronicles) to find out more about what she’s doing.

Also, in celebration of the 2nd anniversary of my Facebook page, I’m giving away free stuff! It’s an amazing backpack full of free books! It’s free to enter. The winner will be announced on May 9th.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

The Thing About the Writing Thing

I write stuff because I don’t know how to not write stuff. It’s just something I have always done. I tell stories. Sometimes, when I think they’re interesting enough, I write them down. I would write for myself even if I thought no one else would ever read it.

However, I’m going to be honest right now. I want other people to read it. Not in an academic sort of way. I don’t care if something I write gets put into a textbook and studied 100 years from now. Well, okay, a teeny part of me would be flattered. But let’s be serious. That’s about as likely as winning the lottery. I just want to write stuff that people like. Things that entertain. And, yes, I would like to be paid for it. Because if I get paid for it, I can afford the time to write more of it.

Keats Life and LettersI don’t care about writing a book that has a “moral” or a “message” for the reader. Frankly, if a writer cares more about a story’s message than about the characters and whether the reader is entertained, I’m not interested in reading it. That doesn’t mean entertaining books can’t teach us something. I’m just saying, I don’t believe that should be the primary goal of fiction.

Keats wrote in his letters about the purpose of poetry, saying that:

We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us—and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject.—How beautiful are the retired flowers! how would they lose their beauty were they to throng into the highway crying out, ‘admire me I am a violet! dote upon me I am a primrose! (Selections from Keats’s letters, Poetry Foundation)

I think you could substitute the word “fiction” where he says “poetry.” I don’t read fiction to be lectured to. If I gain some sort of insight after reading  a story, that’s a bonus. But first and foremost, I want to be caught up by the words. I want to find the book so engaging that I can’t stop reading it. I want to be excited enough to share it with others.

That’s what I aspire to do as a writer. To create something that fascinates the reader. To tell a story that is worth the telling.

Character Questionnaire from The Script Lab – Whenever I get stuck and can’t seem to make forward motion on a story, I work on character. For me, character is where all story comes from. If you know the characters deeply, then every action and reaction flows from that. You can anticipate what they will say, how they will react in given situations, ways that they will challenge other characters, etc. Sometimes, knowing your character means doing research, though it may also mean simply digging deep within to conjure up those details that make the character come alive for the reader.

One last thing about writing that I want to share is this TED talk video with Amy Tan talking about Where Does Creativity Hide, which is a question I find fascinating as well:

Spring has Sprung

Mom and I in the Lake District of England

I’m in the midst of a flurry of Spring cleaning in every part of my life.

Now that all the rooms in my house are finally finished, I am going through the last of the things I had in storage at my parents’ house, trying to determine what stays, what goes, and how the last two rooms will be organized. My exercise room has been filled with boxes all winter. Some of it has old essays I wrote as an undergraduate. I’ve found all my photo albums and journals (the photo to the right is one I found there), and it’s been a treat to sort through them.

Other boxes are strange assortments of things from previous moves–makeup cases I’d forgotten I’d owned, a hairdryer with a British plug on the end which came in handy during my many trips there in my 20s but which now is useless (unless I go again…), old zip drive disks from back when I was a web designer. Most of it needs to be chucked out, but once in a while I come across something I’ve been missing like my calligraphy paper, pens, and ink. Because there are a few buried treasures, I need to go through all of it, and that takes time.

In addition, I have several posters and framed works of art that need hanging. And by several, I mean over twenty things. However, the rooms are big, and if I look through them carefully, I have ample wall space to manage all of them. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at hanging things on my own, so I’m hoping I can enlist some help and do them all in one day.

It’s also time to begin putting in the garden. I’m hoping to have some seeds in the ground this weekend. Nothing tastes better than a lunchtime salad made from fresh veggies picked that morning. My mother and I love planting things and watching them flourish. Because I don’t have much backyard space, I’m plant everything in containers, and we’ve had great success in past years.

Also, next week is time for Layla and Mustang Sally to get their seasonal “big buzz” haircuts. They’re both looking pretty shaggy after letting their hair grow over the long winter, and I’m looking forward to seeing them both looking (and smelling) their best.

I’ve also started walking again now that the weather is nicer. I have really missed being outside in the fresh air.

As for my job on the campus, we are in the last four weeks of the semester, and the students are in a frenzy. This year, we have six students who are graduating and only three who will be returning to work next year, so I’m in the middle of the recruitment process and grieving for the loss of such a great group. It will be hard letting this group go. There’s also our annual book sale coming up, and I have bed and breakfast guests coming for campus events on the first two weekends in May.

Still, with all of that going on, I’m determined to make time for writing and working on launching my podcast.

My plan is to have the first draft of my next book project completed by the end of June. It might go faster once the school semester is over, but I’m trying to be realistic about my time constraints for the next month. I’m also hoping to get edits back shortly from Book 1, and once the changes are made, I’ll be sending out queries.

As for the podcast, I’m hoping to have two of them posted this month, but it may only be possible to complete one. It’s a big learning curve. I have done video editing before, and I know how to do audio editing as well, but there are a lot of parts to the process of producing a podcast that I’m still working on streamlining. That will get easier with practice, I know.

It’s a lot happening all at once, but I love being busy, and all of the projects are things that make me happy. Still, I’m looking forward to having them behind me because the summer is not far away, and I’ve got big plans.