Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Awesome Sauce -or- Joining the Tips for Tuesdays Bandwagon

Good morning to any and all who read. Thank you for being here. Just a quick one today because I am scattered to the four winds. How do you promote your blog? Share your best ideas with me, I would love to know your secrets!

Here are some not-so-secret ideas from Girls With Pens who pointed these out on their facebook page. Thanks Girls! Awesome sauce to lube the writer's efforts:

The Secret Sauce to Building an Uber-Popular Blog | Goins, Writer - Jeff Goins

Top 7 Reasons Blogs Fail and What to Do About It | Social Media Examiner - Michael Steizner

Here's a great prompt to write to from the Girls as well! Writing Prompt #12 « Girls With Pens. I was very impressed by free2soar's writing. It grabbed hold of me. I want to know more about the characters than just this little snapshot from their lives.

Kristen Lamb's blog features Twitter Tuesday and today's tip #27 is particularly relevant to that one vital ingredient for the writer - friendships on social networking sites. Great post, Kristen!

Blessed Tuesday, all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cul-de-sac

Wikipedia tells us: a cul-de-sac (literally "bottom of bag" in French) is a word of French origin referring to a dead endcloseno through road (UK, Australian and Canadian English) or court (American and Australian English) meaning dead-end street with only one inlet/outlet. 


I've been looking at my house lately as if it is a cul-de-sac. I feel a bit as though I'm getting lost in it and in the work we must do to make it comfortable, not merely livable. We re-did my second son's room - new paint, new floor, new area rug... new bed that my renaissance hubby built all by himself. We are going to spend a good portion of this week on my daughter's room before our oldest son comes home from far away to start up college again at the end of August. This means that for two weeks, my daughter's stuff will be in #1 son's room while both #2 son and daughter will be sleeping in the living room because it is air conditioned.  We hit 103 degrees last week! The upstairs, even with an air conditioner in our room, can be unbearably hot.


We ordered the new floor for her room which we will lay down ourselves. After doing four rooms of the house already, we've gotten fairly good at it. I know we won't get to the upstairs hallway this year, but I tore up the rug there in anticipation. My husband came home, stared up the steps that day and said, "I did not authorize this!" He cracks me up. I took down the last of the closet walls this past week. Poor Fred, again coming home in the middle of my demolition, stood gape-mouthed at the bottom of the stairs. I called down, with mischief in my smile, "What? Didn't you authorize this either?" Poor guy.


Sometimes it feels as if there is no outlet in my house for all the changes I want to make, all the things I want to do. Sometimes, I am certain, that the house sucks up all my time and the only way out is to get out completely. That's not possible, of course. Not yet. Too many people relying on us, too many things yet to accomplish in this place and time. I am thankful for that. God is good and constant. He gives us what we need when we need it. And, honestly, I enjoy demolition so very, very much! There is nothing quite like taking a crowbar to some 2x4s.


I have also read in Wikipedia, that in military parlance, the term "cul-de-sac" refers to a situation where an army is "hemmed in on all sides but behind." I have had that feeling too, lately.  Especially in regard to my writing. While trying to rewrite a short story that started out at just under 900 words, I've managed to make it 5,000 words; but, I am not sure that it's better yet. I feel, more or less, as though I am surrounded by words and the only way out is to retreat to the original story and start over again. 


The cover art for the tale is fantastic, however. An idea I had for it was taken to the next level by Robin Lythgoe, fellow author and artist whose magic with manipulations is simply divine, pun respectfully intended. That very accomplishment - more hers than mine, yet somehow still ours - gives me the vague feeling of helping others achieve things rather than doing so myself. While the world may think so, I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Yet, I fight against the notions of the world and often feel as though I must conform. This blog may even be a level of that conformity. Sometimes that troubles me. I confess to being eager to take that step myself of work available to the public. In that positive vein, here's a pretty little glimpse of the cover over which I am, all selfish paranoia aside, extremely excited! 


"Cul-de-sac" is also used metaphorically to mean a line of thought or action that leads nowhere. I have been considering the value of my efforts at writing. What is the goal? Who am I promoting when I write? Writers desiring to sell their books would answer that they promote themselves. The many blogs about social media - all enjoyable reads with a plethora of good advice - would say the same. So, am I to promote myself? That goes against the grain of my core belief: that Jesus is Lord and it is God alone I must glorify and promote with my life and all the talents he gave me. That life is inclusive of my writing. I am not a writer who also happens to believe. I am a believer who also happens to love the written word and storytelling. I am not alone. Before me, there have been many others who are indeed famous: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, John Bunyan, G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L'Engle to name a few. I've been reading a book about my conundrum. Written by Dave Harvey, called Rescuing Ambition. In this book, Dave explains how we are all on a quest for glory. The question is, whose glory? Ambition is not a bad thing. It is a God-implanted drive to "improve, produce, develop and create." The book is easy to read, but I am having a hard time with it because it speaks to the core of my own drive and ambition to simply ... be known. I never thought I had that. I always believed I didn't really care if anyone read my stories. The truth is, I do. And I care even more if those stories glorify God. I think, that both things are possible. I think that my ambition, nurtured and put to work for the glory of God will satisfy all the dreams I have ever had in ways I couldn't possibly imagine.


I also think that Dave Harvey has a pretty good promotional video.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wrong Turns

Okay, blogging is about consistency, isn't it? This should have been a Wednesday post about something bloggy and important regarding writing. Here's my downfall, recorded here for all to know: Angry Birds.

I played today for hours. Totally lost myself in the entire concept of birds whose eggs were stolen by green pigs and had to jump on the bandwagon of revenge. Don't tell anyone, but it was awesome.

Here are some other blogs of wonder, amazement and helpfulness, however! Thank God for these folks:




Enjoy! Goodnight, sleep well... I'll most likely kill more Angry Birds in the morning. Except - I have a date!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Road to Pandemonium: What?? No Page Numbers?

I watched the movie Pandorum quite late last night. Good movie for suspense, though some elements were very familiar. I could go into more detail, but this isn’t meant to be a review of the movie. The title of the movie refers to a psychosis discussed at one point by two characters in the film. This psychosis, called pandorum, is brought about by spending too-long in hypersleep. The resulting paranoia can be catastrophic.

So, this morning, I woke up with a serious sense of panic and paranoia based on the fear of copy errors in my text. I’ve decided to call this Typorum.

In my state of abrupt awakening, this fear immediately equated to packing for a trip. Here's how that train of thought works: my son is in another state. We dropped him off in June and at the beginning of next month, we have to pick up him and his stuff and bring him home to prepare for college in the fall.  We have a lot of planning to do to squeeze this into our budget. Taking enough supplies, making sure we stay in cheap inexpensive hotels, that kind of thing. For me, preparing for part of this journey into e-publishing has been merged with that trip. I'm dreaming about duffle bags and auto-correct functions. I spent the last two days thinking about packing and "packing" as it were. You know, setting up my word processing software to follow the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. You know how it is when you pack - this goes, that stays home - "But, I can't LIVE without that!" Breathe, don’t panic; yes, you can. Besides, if you forget you’ll just pick one up at the front desk.

"But, page numbers??" Typorum!

Sure, I get it. The design of e-readers is such that page numbers just screw things up with potential screensful of white space and links to the table of contents are all you’ll need. This, of course, doesn’t hold true for print copies. Those still need the familiar old friend the page number. When I realized that my books won’t need page numbers when e-published, I panicked. I thought I couldn't possibly live without page numbers, I really did. Don't laugh! That’s how I learned things should be set up way back in the Dark Ages of my life when being a Published Author (it needs the caps, it is that important) was insanely out of reach. But e-publishing has made the possibility of being a Published Author literally days away instead of years.

But no page numbers… Wow. All my life I've been hopeful that "some day" I'd be quoted chapter and page number. I thought how impossibly cool was it that Spock referenced Hamlet in Star Trek: The Voyage Home, by Act and Scene. Of course, Star Trek is famous for literary references since its beginning which was a contributing interest in my love of Science Fiction.

What’s this got to do with panic and travel and writing? Only this: suddenly, this morning, it hit me that my expectation was never accurate in the first place! You’re thinking about now that I need more sleep … Maybe, but follow this: I have lamented for years how no one encouraged me to do what they used to insist children do in years gone by - memorize things. Scenes from plays, poetry, philosophy … I’ve got some of that, but not a lot.  Scripture, yes. I learned lots of scripture, for which I’m very thankful and know I could do with a bit more of that. But I can’t just spout things off anymore. Antony's Speech is a vague memory. Juliet's Solioquy? I've forgotten most of it even though I acted it out in theater class. In fact, I’ve forgotten a great deal of what I memorized in my youth and those things I never learned, I fear I may never learn. It is harder as we get older, right? Memorizing Poe’s “The Raven” is on my bucket list* as is learning to play the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But, wait! All is not lost! If it is a whole new world with e-publishing, if I, who despaired of ever getting a foot in the door with traditional publishing houses can potentially upload a book and have people read it - then, isn’t anything possible?

Back to my fear, greatly lessened by my realizations this morning …When I say copy errors, I don't mean spelling errors, mind you, but honest-to-God mistakes. Boo-boos. Those things that happen when we've read our own story too many times and that "your" that's supposed to be "you" doesn't get our attention because there's no little red line under it telling us it is a spelling error. That's because it isn't. It's a typo. We don't engage the grammar check (don't ask me why, we're tired maybe!) so it goes unnoticed. Next thing you know, it's out there in our print copy or our electronically published stories making our audience say, "Oh my, that's sloppy, isn't it?"

Yes, frankly, it is. I read a sample on Smashwords that surprised me because it had two glaring errors in it. It was … discouraging. Still, I am reminded that perfection is rarely attainable. I know this despite also knowing that there was a time when my author idols, (Tolkien, Lewis, McCaffery, Silverberg, Seuss and Kipling - it's true I tell you!) seemed perfect to me! I wanted to be like them. Maybe I needed them to be perfect so I could imagine I could be. It is better now that I'm all grown up and I realize that my perceptions were a little bit skewed. Okay, a lot skewed.

Here's what I have learned from this:
1) Panic is no one's friend. Have some strawberry pie, like Neil Gaiman, and relax.
2) I made typorum up. Frankly, it's still scary.  However, though I still fear it, you don't have to.
And …
3) E-publishing is young yet. It is going to grow out of its infant stage to be a gawky teen, then to be a fit and trim young adult. This is a great time to be a writer. Author. Both. I suspect there were a few typos when Gutenberg printed his first sheets on the press, eh?

Revelations are wonderful things. Have a great weekend.

(*Note from the future Jan 7, 2012: I have a Nook now and there's a bucket list app. How cool is that??)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Land of Vanishing Self-Esteem (My Closet)

This is a short journey.  The fact is I’m not horribly fond of the topic.  Exercise. I do not like exercise.  I do it – sometimes – because it is worth doing.  Occasionally, my closet reflects when I haven’t done it enough.  The clothes get too tight and I search for the biggest things I have to wear; the things I’ll feel most comfortable in when I wriggle into them.  Usually, I blame the clothes for this, not the “me” (who I like a great deal) that eats more than she should because she loves food.

Editing is like exercise for me.  I don’t like it much.  When I do it, I often start out discouraged that I have to do a LOT of it.  Still, it’s necessary and I do it because it is what makes the story I am writing (and like very much) into a story the reader will like too.  A good, healthy tale. Secretly, I’m thrilled with my story as I write it, but sometimes there are things in it that aren’t so good for it, as much as I might like them. This doesn’t mean those things are bad, of themselves, they just don’t belong in *this* story at *this* time.  So I exercise my book.  It tightens up the muscles of the body of my work, making it more effective, more attractive – consequently – and more efficient. 

Have you exercised your work lately?  When you struggle with editing, what helps you?  I'd like to hear from you!

Here's a terrific blog post about Making Your Writing Work by Robin Lythgoe that has helped me with editing.  Have a read!