Well … More Delays

LIFE LOVES TO THROW ME CURVE balls … all the time. I’ve gotten used to it.

This newest one is more of an announcement … sorta.

But I’ve had a very hard time focusing on the galleys—there are so many formatting errors it isn’t even funny. I’m afraid, if I ever manage to get through them all, it will be late Summer, 2015 before The Scymarian is available.

So, instead of wading through the galleys like a good little author … I have turned my attention to my artistic side. I have a one-day workshop to help permanently (hopefully) burn the multi-stepped process of creating photopolymer plates from my photographic images. I spent all day downloading and sorting through photos, looking for images that stood out as exceptional—ones I want to turn into special works of art, rather than simply enlarged, framed photos. It was exhilarating. I had so much energy—even after spending some time weeding the raised garden beds at Open Ground Studios. I do love gardening—even weeding, but usually I end up rather spent when I’m done. Not today (insert huge grin). I was having entirely too much fun to be tired.

Tomorrow’s workshop will hopefully be the last one I need to take to feel proficient at this plate-making process. I want to be able to come in, decide on an image, play with it in Photoshop to make it “proper” for the process, then confidently create the etched metal plate so I can play with ink colors for my prints.

I’m thinking that I may take the images I’ll be using tomorrow to create large framed photographic canvases to hang along side the photopolymer etched prints so people can see the difference. And perhaps, this fall I’ll have my very own exhibition at Open Ground Studios, displaying my photography, my photopolymer etchings and other artistic endeavors—plus of course, a display of my books (…hopefully three by then!) and books to be signed and sold.

Teehee … so, that was the announcement—well, two I guess. Short an’ sweet. Relatively speaking.

Please enjoy your Friday and the upcoming weekend. May it truly be a blessed weekend for all of you. I know mine will be (wink).

Still Editing, Folks…

STILL EDITING, FOLKS, BUT …  only about 30 pages left — that is, until I get my two remaining part-two critiques (wow…that was a tongue-twister…sorry).

I truly am excited, because I am nearly ready to submit for the professional edit. They will have it for 3-4 weeks (at least, that’s what they said…), which will give me time to concentrate on the cover design, interior layout and an author’s photo for the back.  Oh…and all of the other little blurbs they want me to come up with…
Then, it’s back to me for corrections before I sign it off as ready for publication.

This process can easily be compared to a pregnancy.

Ooh, so easily!

The thrills and excitement during the conception and growth of the beloved story, the anticipation, the waiting, the preparations…the stressful rush to finish, to meet deadlines, exhaustion…need I say more?

Though I’ve only been pregnant once, I vividly recall all of this.  I  remember the last few months, lugging my precious cargo around — and how much I was looking forward to it being in the past so I could start enjoying the next journey that lay ahead.  It was a long and hard journey — one I would have done again, in a heartbeat.

The same is true of the adventure I’m experiencing with this manuscript.  Despite the major hiccups I’ve encountered as a novice author, I’m excited that there will be more to come — with the experience gained and knowing that it won’t take the decade-plus that this one required, there is hope for a complete series (two or three are already in the works) within a year or two!  And knowing I already have a growing interest in my first one, even though it’s not published yet, is truly exciting.

So, as soon as I post this, it’s back to editing.  Can’t keep the readers waiting, can I?

May your day be blessed with sweet anticipations.

 

And Now, My Final Edit…

THE BETA READER CRITIQUES ARE trickling in, allowing me time to review each a little before the next arrives.  Soon, I will have all of their comments and corrections digested, notated and will begin my last edit before presenting my manuscript for the publisher’s editor to carve up.

Yes.  That is how I envision it.  In my mind’s eye, I see red pen in hand, ruthlessly slashing sentences, mumbling under his (or her) breath and shaking the head in disgust…my beta readers are been fairly kind, gently pointing out flaws and obvious errors, making kind suggestions — and some glowing comments — that bolster my confidence.  The professional editor, I am sure, will not be so generous.

But, I keep telling myself, this will make it a better book for you, the reader.  I still feel, after it is all said and done, this is a good story.  One that will catch the readers imagination and will create a desire for more.  And more is coming.

The ideas keep flowing in my mind like an unstoppable flood.  I have affectionately dubbed it my ‘never-ending story’.  I have at least four more plots to work out…and more are forming in the back of my mind as time passes.

I am looking forward to getting the initial editing done, getting it out of my hands and into the hands of the publisher.  Then, my focus can be turned to all the little stuff — cover page, tag lines for advertising…and maybe a little time to myself.  Perhaps a trip down the coast, with my camera to refresh my mind…in preparation for the return of the manuscript — so I’ll be ready to once again hunker down to the long — final — editing session.

I’m still hoping for a Fall publishing date.  As I get closer, I will be able to give an actual date.  Until then, dear readers, please be patient.

May your days be filled with the anticipation and joy of life.

Squeeee — It’s Almost Ready…

Beta Readers copy, part one

Beta Readers copy, part one.

IT HAS BEEN A VERY, VERY LONG time in the making, but finally, I have (at least the first ‘half’) the manuscript ready for my four Beta Readers.  One Reader already has hers, the others will soon be distributed.

In the meantime, with tea at the ready, I continue to work on the remaining ‘half’ of the manuscript.  I want this to be a series and am hoping that I can manage to divide this into two reasonable stories.  (And create even more from there.) My Beta Readers will help me determine if this will be possible.

This is an exciting stage to be at — almost there, yet not quite.  I can feel the excitement welling and find myself spending more and more time (as much as I can tolerate) in front of the keyboard, transferring my written corrections to my electronic copy.  The entire manuscript is edited (on paper) for those pesky typos and grammar.  There were a few glaring continuity problems that I finally figured out how to resolve, thankfully.  As I continue making the changes to the electronic version, I will make those drastic changes to smooth out the continuity issues  (saving at the end of each page — am I paranoid?  YOU BET — and at the end of each day, it goes onto a memory stick!)

It’s interesting that the continuity problems are all in this second ‘half’ — well, it’s probably better to say it’s divided into one-third, two-thirds (over 60,000 words in total, the first ‘half’ is only a bit over 20,000…).  But, like I said, it’s all in the second half.  I know most of this portion was written using the pressure of NaNoWriMo’s “writing with abandon” — the goal being to get the elusive thoughts on paper.  It was an amazing adventure, but somehow (oh, I know how…), I ended up repeating myself a lot.  I still managed to greatly exceed the 50,000 word requirement by the end of the month, then finishing it in February of 2013, using the word war concept.  I’ve edited out a fair portion, gleaning the gems from the chaff to create the strong storyline that is my story.

It is my understanding that the publisher will accept anything over 10,000 as a book.  We’ll see what they say when I submit the first bit.  But, that’s a solid month (plus) away.  I eagerly await the return of each manuscript from my beta readers, to sift through, evaluate their comments and make corrections accordingly. Then, and only then, it will be sent on to my publisher.

Excited?  You betcha!  Anxious?  Of course.

Ready for it to happen?  Absolutely!

Half-Way There!

I HAVEN’T POSTED IN AWHILE, BUT THAT’S BECAUSE I’ve been busy editing.  It’s been a challenge, since Life seems to have a way of butting it’s nose in regularly:  doctor’s appointments, working on getting my taxes done (still not ready for the accountant), mundane house/yard work, meetings, art classes (I’ve cut it down from four to two, and was given permission to play hooky as needed–that made me happy)…and I’ve started to walk to clear my mind and make a healthier me.  All of this cuts into time to work on the editing process.

I have found that (up until this week) my editing has gone smoothly–just minor spelling, sentence structure and descriptive changes, plus adding a bit more depth to the characters and plot.  And, I’ve got a new title for the book — I’m keeping that a secret for now.  Only a few people know it and I’m keeping it that way.  So far, only really positive responses to the new title!

But now, I am at the point where I have a major problem in the story — I was trying to write without having the manuscript in front of me (the ideas hit me at odd times) and am finding all sorts of inconsistencies and timeline issues.  At least I am at the half way point and once these issues are resolved, I’ll be able to present the first half to my four beta readers for their stamp of approval and critique.

As a matter of fact, I think they will receive it — fingers crossed — by the end of the month, barring any major Life intrusions…that alone makes me happy and excited!  Knowing that I am actually nearing the end of the process is what’s keeping me going.  It is truly a wonderful feeling.

So, I will bid you adieu so I can get back to work!  I’ll keep you posted with more personal musings later.

Happy Spring to you all!

 

Word Weaver

WRITER, STORYTELLER, WORDSMITH…those are only a few words one could use to describe someone that is obsessed with putting words to paper — or in this day and age, to electronic paper…

But I have another word:  word weaving, which I like immensely because (at least for me) it describes me perfectly when I do storytelling with children.  It’s an interactive form of storytelling, where, most of the time,  I have a very basic storyline in mind.  I glean names, descriptive words, sounds and animal characters from my young audience, then the magic of a new story begins.  I take those words and ideas, creating threads and weave them through the warp of an invisible loom, producing a visibly textured story, with the children providing sound effects, such as screaming in fear, growling, running, laughing — whatever the story requires.  They love it — especially if we are in a library, where they’ve been taught to “use your inside (whispering) voices, please”.  Loud talking, let alone screaming, is “verboten!” (except, I let the librarian know ahead of time & receive permission for boisterous participation).  Always, I  feed off of their enthusiasm, wanting to draw the story out, but am usually limited to about twenty or thirty minutes from start to finish because of time constraints in the school schedule.

We are all sad that it’s over, but their imaginations have been given a magical jump start.  Now, they see that they can create their very own stories.  Of course, it certainly helps to have thousands of stories crammed into your brain from years and years of reading and experiencing life.  But they can use what reading and life experiences they’ve crammed into their short lives and create something amazing, too.

That’s my lesson for these brilliantly pliable, open young minds.  As Dr. Seuss said, “Oh, the places you’ll go!  …And the magical things you can do…”   I’m just there to open the doors for them to go through.

 

Creating Imagination…

FROM THE OUTSIDE, I MUST LOOK HILARIOUS yesterday.  Still in my pjs and robe at 2pm, wearing a toasty warm Santas hat (it is almost Christmas) as my head bobs in and out of view. I am, after all, sitting very near the window on my aeRobic Rider, that ancient style of exercise equipment that is like a rowing machine and…well, not sure what else, but instead of maintaining a horizontal forward and back, it moves me up & forward, then down and back.  It’s funky. But, it gets the job done, exercising arms, back, legs, hips and waist.  And get a the heart rate up too boot.

But still, for someone outside, it must look pretty peculiar.  Especially with the red hat.

It’s cold in the house. My single paned windows just don’t hold the heat in, so the poor heater keeps cranking it out, only to be sucked away before I can enjoy it. So, I decided that I’d work the ‘internal heater’ a bit via some good old fashioned exercise.  It worked, sort of. It’s still cold in here and my body won’t allow exercising long enough to warm me for more that a few minutes.  And I keep finding myself returning to my writing (well, blogging–I’m still in ‘procrastination’ mode for my novel) — the stillness of sitting in front of the computer chills me even more.

For me, the positioning of the equipment was important. Yes everyone can see the foolishness, but more importantly, I can see out to my beautiful, naturally landscaped front yard. No, I don’t mean weeds. Well, yes, there are those. But what dominates the landscape are graceful, gnarly oak trees that have been here since before we moved in some 40 years ago — the landscape peppered with a few much younger ones also.  The bed of rich brown decomposing leaves, against their craggy brown-to-almost-black and mottled with greyish, striated trunks, and capped by their green foliage is quite picturesque.  Behind that, I can see a small hillside and ledge, made of a natural stone outcropping, then my neighbours manicured garden (I only see small glimpses of this). Off to one side, peeking through the branches, I can see wee bits of another neighbour’s home, painted an aesthetically pleasing green.

The beauty triggers my imagination. I am renewed just by sitting and staring out at it.  I am invigorated by this exercising to my visual ‘music’ that reaches out beyond my view to both sides, and it leaves me to imagine what lies beyond.   And what plantings I could paint the landscape with to improve the view.  And then, my imagination dances with ideas for my blog novel…

Oh, I love my imagination. If only I could harness it.  Fully.  Dominate it.  Completely.  Be the master.  Forever.  It’s like a wild horse, prancing just beyond my reach, daring me.  Taunting me to try. I’ll never catch it, tame it, train it completely.  Not in this life time, at lease.

All I can do is dance with it and see what happens.

Tidbits & Teasers…

WELL, I DECIDED — AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT — to post a tidbit of my first draft of my novel.  Please, please.  I must remind you:  my internal editor was turned off for this so that I could produce the volume of words, not the quality (in any way, shape or form).  This is extremely rough, but it will give you an inkling of what kind of story I am trying to write…but please remember, this IS my work, please do not copy in any form, fully or in part without my written consent.

Enjoy:

Two excerpts from Beyond the Shimmer (working title):

…Mrs. G’s warm laugh filled the air, putting Amy at ease.  She had decided tonight that Mrs. G’s gift must be that beautiful laugh.  Turmoil and frustration seemed to melt away when she spoke — and especially when she laughed.

“Dear Amy.”  Her words seemed to wrap around her like a warm comforter.  “He is not here to answer all of our questions.  Life goes on and we must learn how to deal with it, especially with our new found gifts.  It was hard for the four of us when we were young — just like you.  We wanted the Guardian to answer all of our questions.  To smooth the way.  To make all wrongs in the world right.  That is not his job.  He is there as our — and your — counselor, our guide, so to speak.”

It all made so much sense when Mrs. G said it.  But her head was beginning to spin.  And her headache came back with a vengeance.  Her hands went to her head and she moaned.  She wondered, why now?

Ty bristled, as did Ms T and Mr G.

Something is going on, thought Ms T.

Ty nodded, but what?

Noticing that his father had also reacted, he wondered aloud, “Father, what is it you feel?”

“Like you, Ty, sometimes it is hard to discern — yes, I too have that gift and have yet to master it completely.  This is something new.”  He turned to their teacher and posed a question, “Do you hear anything from the Portal or the Guardian?”
“I’m not sure.  It is so strange.  Like something beckoning.  But it doesn’t feel right.”

Ty nodded in agreement.  “Now would be a good time for Rocky to talk to — “

In her pain, Amy was the first to hear Rocky.  He was calming her and she was surprised to see Ty at her side, hand on her shoulder, just as he had that first time.  And, again, he had that far off look.  She accepted it, closed her eyes and relaxed in the chair.  The tingling spread up into her head and down her arm to her throbbing wrist.  Slowly, the pain subsided.

The adults looked on in amazement.

***

…Before she could respond, he added, you will have to wait.  Take this time to be observant.  What do you see?

The mountain above us, the valley below.  The beautiful colors…

Is that all?

Well, no, from the corner of my eye — it’s frustrating.  I can’t see it straight on, but there is something absolutely magnificent out there that I just can’t seem to hold in my sight.  I saw it in my dream while we were sleeping, but I can’t really remember it.  It’s weird.

It is always just out of our reach, Amy.  We can endeavor to do what we can to “catch it”, to pursue it wholeheartedly.

Is it something we can hold onto?  To actually see, straight on?

In our minds, and our hearts, while we are in this world — or even when you are in yours.  But, no, not with our eyes.  Not now.

Amy was formulating a response to that when she let out a scream.  Her hands flew to her head, trying to stop the pain she felt.  The thoughts and feelings pouring into her head were beyond belief.  The pain, anguish, fear — it all flooded at once, like an unstoppable breech of a dam, into her head.

She could feel Rocky trying to quell this onslaught of emotions that hit her.  She could feel Ty grabbing her, holding her tightly to her, trying to sooth her.

She sobbed uncontrollably.  No, no!  Noooo, she moaned.  What is happening?

Shhhh, whispered Ty as he stroked her throbbing head.  She buried her head into his chest and continued sobbing.

Why?  Why?

It will be alright.  Breathe, Amy, breathe.  Slow it down.  It will help.  His hands shook as she sobbed.  Not from her crying, though.  He saw and felt what had happened.  They were so connected, it was unbelievable.  Please try to relax.  Relax, he kept repeating it under his breath, trying to get some semblance of calm restored.

Rocky– he began.

Yes, I know.  We must leave.  Immediately.  We will take a short cut.  I will have to shield you completely.

Fine.  Just do it.

The ledge around them grew rapidly to enclose them completely.  The only light was a slightest bit of a shimmer emanating from the dome surrounding them.  Enough light for Ty to make out Amy’s sobbing shadow, resting against his chest.

He continued to hold her, to soothe her as they journeyed home.  Bit by bit, she calmed.  Her body shuddered occasionally as she rested, held tightly, comforted by her friend.  Her breath evened out, and with one final long, deep shudder of a sigh, she moved slightly, pushing herself gently away from her friend.

“The pain is gone”, she said with a weak, shaky voice.  “Oh…” she didn’t dare finish the thought.

Ty asked how she felt.  She rolled her eyes and moaned, “like I’ve been pulled through a key hole?  Tied in a knot?   Beat — “

I’ve got the picture.  I mean, are you feeling better?  Well enough to talk?

Amy pushed herself up against the wall, looking around at the faint shimmer that surrounded them.  She was glad for this low light.  But she also could feel the calming effect  it had on her.  It washed over her, filling her with a sense of peace.

Sucked-In to Writing…

MY NANOWRIMO ML (municipal liaison) kept telling me (and everyone else) to kill a character.  For the past two years I’ve attended, this seemed to be his mantra.  Kill a character.  And he had a method: with a shovel.

Well, you don’t kill characters with shovels in a kid’s novel, right?  I had a number of people point to Harry Potter and a few other kids’ books for examples of multiple brutal killings.  Well, not in my novel, you don’t.  And that’s that.

Well, I found out last year that characters have a mind of their own.  They do not go where you planned for them to go.  They don’t “stay with the script” that you’ve planned out in your head.  They go, do, and say what they need to as a character.  And I am fine with that.  It has helped me grow as a writer.  It has helped my story line, and it has helped my characters.

But, I was frustrated with where they had taken the storyline.  I needed them to be back at home.  But, noooo.  They had to go traipsing off to their ‘Never Land’…I was driving down to the last Write-In, having already reached my 50,000 word goal–such a wonderful, euphoric feeling in itself–when it dawned on me how I could solve several problems at once…not only get them back to where they needed to be, but help one of the characters do a little bit of growing.

And then, I laughed.  I was going to kill a character?  You’ve got to be kidding!  No.  I could not possibly kill a character. I did much soul searching.  This started as a children’s book..that now reaches up to the middle school age group, not unlike the Harry Potter series.  I don’t want to be responsible for younger kids’ nightmares!  What to do…listen to the character or my alternate storyline…

Uh, oh…spoilers?  Well… I guess you’ll just have to wait till the book is published to find out, won’t you?

But, what I really wanted to talk about was how my characters have pulled me in.  I don’t know if all writers feel this way, but when I write, I feel my characters’ joy, their pain and frustrations.  I laugh at the things they do and occasionally find myself a bit sad.

It is a beautiful thing, to have such alive characters — at least in my head.  I know I have much “fleshing out” of each character to make them more believeable to everyone else.  It is only a first draft.  There will be more to come before I am comfortable in showing it to an agent (if I can find one) or someone that can help constructively to polish it into a final product that I might just self-publish.

I am thinking about them, day and night.  An obsession?  Who knows.  This is one obsession I don’t mind having.  I’ve been working on this for so long.  I started it just before my mother died and tried to write as I took care of my dad, but ended up shelving it for quite awhile.  I’d occasionally pull it out, trying to edit it, then do some writing, but couldn’t get motivated.  Or captivated by the story or the characters.

Finally, I’m captivated.  I believe I have invested my heart and soul in the characters in this story.  The last two years (and especially this last month), I think I’ve managed to dive in and create what may be the beginnings of a trilogy…or, at least I think so.   And my mind is not done with this story.  No, not by a long shot.  And that makes me happy–and frustrated, because I must find some sort of ending so I can say it is done.  Done, but left ‘open-ended’, so that I can easily continue it on. That way, I can stop what I’m beginning to call the ‘never-ending story’ and begin the process of editing my first draft.   I will keep making notes when thoughts arise for new material (that means continuously), but my focus must be on completing this one first.

I love my characters.  How can I not?  I’ve been told to focus on one, dump the other–I have two.  They are too engaging to get rid of one.  They work very well together.  I was told to write from the viewpoint of one.  I chose to write from multiple viewpoints…it was necessary.  If you ask me who my primary character is, I am not be able to tell you — at least not now.  Maybe after re-writes, I’ll know.

Like I said before, I think about them all the time.  How can I get them out of the trouble they always seem to get into?  What characteristics do each have?  How can I grow their characters as the story progresses?  All of this seems to float around in my brain all the time now — especially during and after NaNoWriMo.  I’m excited about this story, as I should be.  But…

Perhaps, I just might, sometime in the future…yes, I just might post some excerpts.

I will now let you get back to your normal lives — away from the rambling of this deranged woman.  Sorry to have kept you for so long.

Peace be with you as we get closer to the frenzy the World calls Christmas.  May you find quiet, and the real reason for the season.

 

Two-in-one

Oh, got busy yesterday and forgot to post my musings, so here are two days (an early bit from the crack of dawn this morning & yesterday’s) — you may want to read from bottom up to say with the timeline, but it is your choice:

2June12
Alright. That fine. I’ll just have to put the blame directly where it belongs!  It’s now 3am and I’m completely awake.  Dublin, it’s all your fault.

Hmmm.  Not unlike a tiny crack in a dam wall,  it started out with a wee little thought–I was half asleep then, not even aware that it had crept into the room. But as my mind started to nurse that little thing, weaving it, pulling it back and beginning again…never fully advancing beyond its beginnings — that’s when my mind began to fully engage, trying to direct it here and there so that it might make sense. I could hear a lilt in the voice that didn’t sound true, so my mind sat up and looked around to see who it might be.

I’m thinking it’s the Writers of Dublin, all having a nice little chat in my head, trying to tell me to get off my keester and get this story of mine done–and to fully engage in my writer/storyteller side.

Now, I know what I just wrote probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but I’ll post it anyway, since it rings true — in my mind, at least (now you’re sure this one’s gone a wee bit off–LOL!)

In about seven hours, we will off, in our adventure into and beyond Galway. I’m looking forward too it, but a few more hours if sleep would be very nice, thank you!  So I’m off to make an attempt. Night–or should I say, ‘mornin’ to ya.  ^o~

1June12
It’s just 9am. I’ve checked out of the hostel (they will hold my luggage for €1,25 so I don’t have to lug it around with me–yay).   The weather is a lot like at home: cool and overcast, with the feel of rain hanging in the air.  Indoors is too warm for me. I am thoroughly enjoying the chilly fresh air. I do have my sweater with me, but doubt I’ll use it. The long sleeved shirt that I use as a “jacket” is more than enough…and when inside, that comes off.

Today is my last “free” day before my tour begins.  I will be making full use of my hop on-hop off privileges today, as I need to be nice to my knee–the walk into the City Center area was not fun.   Yesterday’s tour “guide was Damien–there are apparently thee of them!!  I don’t remember which one, though,

Breakfast at LaPizza was good: scrambled eggs, tomato & cucumber, toast, coffee and OJ. Perfect way to start the day.

It is also the beginning of a challenging new project — 365: A Photo Journal. I will endeavor to take one photo a day, for the next year, to document a “day in the life” of your truly.  This is a project being done worldwide. Some will post on a dedicated site.  Others, like me, will keep it more local. I have established a login for the site, but just not sure I want to go global.

As I’ve mentioned before, taking a photo should not be an issue–choosing which one and finding the right title–and remembering to post, will be the challenge.

Well, polishing off the last bit of coffee, then off to begin my adventure today.

Things I’m missing because I am tied to a tour:  Dublin Grand Prix, Dublin Writers Festival…There can be a lot said for spontaneity. all of my previous trips have been “unscheduled”, allowing for whatever comes up. So it is with a sad heart that I found out about these two events!  But after a brief “mourning”, I am over it!

Political signage is something new for me this time around.  A very important referendum was scheduled for 31May, regarding the issue of the EU’s euro.  And the billboards and posters are everywhere, urging voters one way or the other.  I haven’t listened to the news to find out how it turned out, but I’m sure the decision was historic.  Must find a newspaper!

Cheers!

And I’m off again!

I cannot believe it has been over a year since I posted in this blog!  My apologies!

So much has happened in the last year, but in summary, once I returned from my trip to Europe, my daughter announced she’d found the man of her dreams — after a whirlwind “courtship” period, and some crazy, last-minute planning for the wedding, the in-love couple tied the knot in front of friends and family in the fall.

I didn’t have much time to recover, as the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) began on 1 November.  This month-long writing frenzy netted me an almost-complete first-draft spin-off  for my already-in-progress novel.

November’s Thanksgiving and December’s Christmas, January’s New Year’s Eve — they all flew by without me taking much notice.  Where was time flying, anyway?  This getting old(er) is a challenge, but such a wonderful experience.  I love the adage that, like wine, women only improve with age!  Oh, yes!

So, in this new year, I get an email from a friend about a tour in Ireland.  Again, you say?  Well, if I had my way, I would either have a second residence there or have the funds to afford copious travel back and forth.  Ireland is the most beautiful country.  As is Scotland.  And England…and Germany…where do I stop?  I love to travel and meet people from different cultures, take in the extraordinary beauty of their homeland — the different gardens, buildings that are so ancient that stories dance in my head when I am around them — it is all so wonderful.

Of course, I’ll go!  A tour.  Something I said I’d never do…like being in a cattle car, shuffling from one “oooh, lookie” spot to another.  This one promises to be different.   There will only be ten of us.  Our musical guide (Marc Gunn, a musician) and his wife, plus eight others.  The tour will be focused on the musical side of the people.  We will tour Galway and westward by day and sing and laugh and drink pints by night.  So, this blog will get some good posts coming up soon.

I’ve spent little time on my manuscript — I still need to finish that first draft!  There has been no time (my fault) and this makes me sad….

Instead, I have procrastinated — found other pleasures and pursuits to follow.  I’ve been spending time behind my lens, working in the yard, going to classes to improve my artistic skills…

But mostly, my focus has been getting ready for this delightful trip and getting ready to be a mama to about 12 young chickens.  I’ve raised chickens before, but failing health required finding new homes for them.  I was called the Egg Lady at church.  There was always someone that needed some eggs.  Which was a good thing, because I had quite a few very productive hens, laying daily.

Now that my health has improved (finally), I have decided to start up again…but not until I get back from my trip.   I must say, I have some terrific neighbors, because, they help me out when I’m gallivanting off to other continents.  They love on my dog and cat while I’m gone.  Without them, my traveling days would be naught.  And I would be very sad, indeed.

So, as I said, heading to Ireland in June & blogging the trip (I still need to figure out how to post photos–my brain can be so lame sometimes!).  Working on my manuscript.  Starting a new project called 365: a photo journal on 1June — which you will be able to find on my Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/creationsbydjamesonsmith/ (hope this is a link — if not, copy and paste to your address bar).  I may post a few of the photos on this blog. And beginning to put together new pr material for my local schools to promote my storytelling.

I am thinking 2012 is going to be one very busy year!

Until next time,

Slainte!

Stories, finally

Enough of the personal insights. Back to why I started this blog in the first place. Stories!

My creative writing class has opened more doors (hence the personal stuff, which I’d never have dreamed of writing in the past) and excited my “writing gene”. Our last challenge –well, actually the last two, given together — was for our class to write a personal essay AND at least one 101 word story. We could write up to three of the stories, but I opted for only two. We were to submit at least one of the stories to the local weekly paper — and, no…I haven’t heard anything back yet on them. The personal essays were to be read in class. Both were more fun than I expected — I dreaded each up until pen went to paper. Then the words poured out–to my relief and excitement!

Each of the stories had a few requirements:  obviously no more than 101 words (less was okay) & must include key words or phrases the newspaper provided. Daunting, I thought.

The personal essay could be on anything. I thought I knew exactly what to write about but when I read it in class, the instructor told me it was not a personal essay but more of a memoir.  Drats.  So I appropriately tweaked it, turned it in again with happier results & here are all three writings–sorry…will be a long post):

(For the 101 word stories, the title is the word/phrase that was required to be injected into the story and each story ended up being 100 words–only one word short of the maximum requirement!)

Truth

Long strides crunch in the morning snow, meandering.  Searching.  Chopping wood in the stillness of the morning; chips fly in all directions.

Deep footsteps trudge with its prize as the tree gently sweeps the steps, heading homeward.

The fire snaps and pops quietly, enveloping the room in warmth. The piney scent of the freshly cut tree seeps into every corner as it is jostled into place.

Ornaments, lights give the room a warm and festive look.  Triumph. And now, ready for another Christmas.  But in truth, perhaps a little sadness at the loss of another beautiful tree from the woods.

That’s not normal

He leaned back, closed his eyes and listened to the music playing softly.  He sighed.  Over this tranquil setting, the jarring sound of screaming launched him off of his bed and to the door of his tiny room.

He threw open the door to find a whisper of a woman, dressed in a flimsy nightgown in the hallway facing his door.  She let loose with another blood curdling scream, nearly knocking him over.

“What the heck?!”

The woman smiled at him.

Meekly, she said “Hi” before tottering off down the hall.

Staring after her, he proclaimed “Now, that’s not normal!”

And the personal essay–the instructor never got back to me with a grade or comments on this one because I was unable to make the last class, unfortunately:

On Stupid Things We Do

Everyone has done something stupid at least once in their life, whether they know it or not; whether it was accidental, just “having fun” or out-right planned.  I certainly have had my fair share – from all categories, like when I jumped off the hood of a moving car…it seemed like an okay idea at the time. I have one friend that seems particularly good at this sort of thing.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  She is an extremely intelligent, fun-loving person, but sometimes things just don’t go the way she planned, especially where cars are concerned.  But more on that later.

There are those accidental ‘foot-in-mouth’ moments, when the filter between mind and mouth is in the off position, resulting in things said that make absolutely no sense or are hurtful when that is certainly not the intention.  That’s when I usually humble myself & pop a prayer to God, asking Him to remind me to taste my words before speaking them — and wishing others would do the same.

There are times others goad people into doing ‘stupid’ things.  A salesman trying to sell “unbreakable” glassware approached one of my friends, who owned an auto parts shop.  He detested these solicitors, so he called one of his employees—yup, you guessed it, my fun-loving friend—to watch the demonstration, knowing full-well what the results would be.  The man went through his spiel and her response was to pick one up, give it a once-over and try what he had just done—tap in on the edge of the counter.  It shattered into a million pieces and she shrugged and walked off.  Maybe stupid, but effective.  The man mumbled his apologies, cleaned up the glass, gathered his wares and skulked off, with the owner laughing the whole time.

Then there are those stupid things people do that put themselves – and possibly others – into danger.  Driving down the road, talking on the cell phone certainly qualifies, and I have to admit, I have been found with phone to my ear, feeling that I am more capable than those other drivers.  It’s a scary thought of all the distracting things in a car that can cause an accident.  It’s not limited to the cell phone.  Reaching for the radio/CD changer to adjust sound or station, concentrating on a map – or even the GPS, shuffling papers in the passenger seat – all of these can be distracting enough to create mayhem.  “Joy riding” is another act of stupidity, usually performed by pre-adolescents and teens.  They don’t think of the consequences – merely the adrenalin rush of ‘borrowing’ someone’s car so they can experience the rush of driving illegally, usually without the experience of driving to aid their endeavor.

Then there’s my dear friend, Mary, who loves speed.  So she puts herself at risk anytime she climbs into her race-prepared Datsun 280-Z – or anyone else’s car – and goes onto a track.  It’s not as dangerous as some people think, because the “track” consists of a course set up using those big orange traffic cones in a very large space, but there is room for things to go wrong. Seriously wrong. Even the time she was a passenger during a “fun run”, after the actual autocross in my simple, ’65 stock Lotus Elan, she danced with danger.

You must understand that my Elan was a nimble little car, capable of much speed and very agile in corners, but with a very simply-made body.  The windows are the ultimate in manual – you push/pull the windows to open and close.  There are no metal hinges screwed into door and frame to secure and open/shut the door, just simple pin hinges, one on top and one on the bottom. The door latch on the interior is nothing more than a lever handle – push down, it opens.  Simple as that.  And, it being a “convertible”, the windows are required to be open while on the course.

She was instructing me on braking into corners and during the first lap, I stopped the car on course so she could refasten her seatbelt.  Then, as I continued practiced accelerating, braking and turning, she started to goof around, grabbing at the door, pretending she feared for her life.  We both laughed as I came into a left-hand sweeper, but honestly, I would love to have had a camera on us as she clutched at the door, hanging her helmeted head out of the window.  Such a goof.

Fully into the corner, the door opened – that foolish little latch of a door handle had accidentally been bumped – and the door flew out of her hands, breaking free of its meager hinges and sailed across the airport’s asphalt runway, taking out three cones with it.  It finally settled in a weedy patch.  Accidental, yes.  But potentially with dire consequences, since she could easily have followed that door to it’s resting place.

My goofing around on the hood of a car when I was about eighteen or nineteen has caused long-lasting effects.   Facing the windshield, I stupidly jumped off of the moving car, momentarily landing on my feet, then my rear and came to rest, hitting my head.  Nerve damage and the ensuing early onset of arthritis in my neck has been my penalty.  The daily reminder makes me wonder if I would have done anything differently, had I only thought before I acted.  What about my friend’s actions?  Probably not.  Young and impulsive, neither of us not prone to much forethought, means we probably would have done the same thing.

Didn’t someone famous say that stupidity was the act of doing something over and over again and expecting different results?  I am thinking that each of us is instilled, to a certain degree, with one form of stupidity or another and we are destined to keep repeating those acts – or at least similar ones – expecting things to work themselves out.

Those ‘accidents’?  Again, forethought is required.  I wonder – whether it be an accident, “just for fun” or a deliberate act – who  would want such a safe and sane – but boring life anyway?  And isn’t it is this kind of stuff that helps shape who we are?

fin

I realized that my personalized stories are much like the 101 word stories, only much longer and in greater detail, with parameters set by someone else.  So, if you’d like me to create a story for you or your child, go back to the storytelling page to the bit on personalized stories — or send me a note if you want more information about it.

D

Now I’m in the Groove!

Aaah!  Finally.  Poetry unit done, now on to fiction.  You get to see my assignments as I do them (boring, I know, but I am so excited — just gotta share them)!

writings by debra smith

(assignment: no more than 300 words, describe something that evokes specific emotions/feels w/o using the word & no people in it)–I was enjoying myself too much…over-achiever…did two of ’em:

#1

Wind sweeping up from below, catching hold of anything in its path, strikes relentlessly against the few tattered bits of vegetation that manage to grab hold and survive here.  The sun is cloaked in a fog that wraps its icy fingers around and seeps into every crevice, leaving only ghostly shapes to haunt the memory.

A singular silhouette of a tree, bent over backward, shudders against the ever-present wind, protesting in silence.  Tenacious droplets of water harvested from the fog hiding in the craggy bark of its branches, enabling wisps of lacy, pale green lichen and patches of bright orange fungi to struggle for their very existence.  Exposed roots of this solitary tree cling desperately to the imposing cliff.

The jagged prominence stands as a lone sentinel, laid out in front of the oncoming barrage of waves and wind, bracing itself against the inevitable wasting.  Pebbles and boulders alike tumble to their final resting place, mounding up beneath the churning waves to create their own gravestone.

Nothing save the moaning of the wind through hollows and branches and the bombardment of crashing waves, not one sound — not even a single bird calling out in distress, fighting against the wind to find sanctuary — can be found in this place as the storm approaches.

(word count:  213)

#2

Where once stood tranquil orchards and fields set upon rich, soft brown earth, now, well, now everything is larger than life; buildings of all sorts towering over and surrounding everything like giants.  Some were dark and sinister; others like mirrors, reflecting nearly everything that touched them, especially the beautiful blue, cloudless sky.  The sun glinted on others, almost blinding observers.  Even in the glaring light, the neon signs vied for the viewers attention.  “Come Here!”  “See Me!”

All around, rushing to unknown destinations, there is pushing and shoving without a thought to the comfort or discomfort of those around them.  Cares everywhere:  revving engines, honking horns, screeching tires and some drivers yelling above the din to protest some unseen calamity.  The heat from the pavement and sidewalk is so stifling that any plantings that usually survive were wilted beyond recognition.  Feet danced from the heat soaked up through the soles of shoes.  Standing in one place could result in blistered feet — or a trampled body.

All of this made navigation through the throng of souls daunting.  Finally, through this wave of bodies, a portal opens, allowing one to escape to a calmer, quieter, alternate world within one of the massive buildings.

(word count:  201)

Now, the assignment I get to work on tonight is to take my description (s) above and weave a person into it (them).  I read #1 to the class, so that’s where I will start…but I will do it with both of them.  My #2 description actually had a person in it, but the rule was no people, so I had to pull her out & adjusted the description.  Now, I’ll put her back in, but may not change the description back to the original…it turned out too cool to do that ^,^  I have till Tuesday to get this right.  I am loving it.

Hope you are enjoying my writings.

Homework

I am taking a creative writing class to improve my writing skills — a neverending task — to keep from becoming stagnant.  The course would cover poetry (which I never really enjoyed or wanted to do, even in high school), fiction (I can hardly wait!!) and non-fiction (oh, dear…memoirs, etc).

LOL…so, I must endure the poetry section of the creative writing class before they get to the fiction writing — so you get to share in my misery.  My first full-fledged homework assignment was to write 3-5 original poems & one had to be formal (that’s to say, had to follow the dictates of the style I chose) — the rest could be free-writing.  So, here they are.  Enjoy (or endure):

(Haiku Poem — my chosen formal poem, must have 3 lines, 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, then 5 again.)

Waterfall (hmmm…usually no title in Haiku!)

Thundering, misting

Tumbling down over rocks

Into bab’ling brook.

(Free-style Poem)

Gone

Four years, sometimes fleeting–sometimes agonizingly slow

Lonely nights, days without

Learning to live alone.

Trying to find a new identity

Doing this and that

Dismal failures, jubilant successes.

Faith, family and friends: my security net

Keep me alive and thriving

Looking ahead, not behind.

The anniversary comes, less pain now

Everyone mourns The Towers

I chose to celebrate Life

I’m free

At last.

Cinquain (another formal poem style, 5 lines, syllables: 2,4,6,8,2…more rules, but I don’t think I got that part right, so I won’t bore you with them ^,^)

Autumn

Flutter,

Falling softly,

Golden leaves cascade down.

Crimson, crinkled, t’is the season.

Piled high.

I did one more but it is monster-long, so I won’t bore you (and I really messed it up, even though it’s free form!)

Have fun reading.

NaNoWriMo:National Novel Writing Month

Hello, all!

This will be a first for me — I’m diving in (already signed up) and participating!  NaNoWriMo is all about writing — beginning November 1, ending November 30 at midnight, anyone that wishes to sign up and join in, commits to (attempt to??)  write a 50,000 word novel.  The goal is not quality, but quantity — so that opens it up to anyone that wants to give it a try.  This quantity over quality is something very foreign to me, so I consider it quite a challenge!

I will post my gibberish here — or at least excerpts — for your reading pleasure.

If anyone is interested, here’s the link to the NaNoWriMo site:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano

Let me know if you decide to give it a try!  If you register, my online name is djamesonsmith.  See you there.

New Information!

Here’s some stuff I’ve been doing recently–some for fun, some serious:

New Storyline Created for Middle-Schoolers.

I just finished a personalized story created especially for the 13-15 year old age group and am excited at the potential it creates. A fantasy with a bit of a moral twist, your pre-teen might find this a good read.  It takes them through the highly possible situation of a friendship tiff and the moral solution.

One Day In May

Apparently, this theme was done in 2003, internationally.  A specific day was chosen, then from the time each photographer (whether amateur or professional) arose, they took one picture every hour until they went to sleep and finally posted them online.

It was repeated on May 10, 2009 — I am not sure who has participated this year, but I chose to try it for the first time.  Below, you’ll find my One Day in May, 2009.  Some photos were taken in situations where I could not use flash or the effect would have been lost…so I  manipulated them to create black and white images, which then enhanced the images.  I also found myself sidetracked and missed a few “hours”…

 

Too early to get up!   IMG_0042.JPG Daily routine of meds...        IMG_0723.JPG Last things to put on after getting dressed!    IMG_0043.JPG

5:42:55 am             6:02:50 am                6:32:36 am

Too early to get up!  Morning meds… Last to go on in AM

Feed me!          IMGP0427.PEF

7:38:14 am

Feed me!

worship at church      IMG_0725.JPG still in worship service -- close friends & their son & his girl friend         helping in Sunday school 1st graders          IMGP0428.PEF

7:58:32 am             8:34:21 am         11:19:29 am

(L) worship at church;  (Ctr)still in worship service — close friends & their son & his girl friend;  (R) helping in Sunday school 1st graders
driving home         IMGP0429.PEF
12:21:39 pm

driving home
easterly view on Sunday at home       IMGP0431.PEF relaxing in living room: a view        IMGP0433.PEF being chauffered to Mother's Day dinner        IMGP0435.PEF

1:06:02 pm          3:17:26 pm                    4:01:39 pm

easterly view      relaxing in living        being chauffered to      at home            room: a view          Mother’s Day dinner

We're early, so wandering in plaza before dinner        IMGP0436.PEF

4:33:00 pm

We’re early, so wandering in plaza before dinner

Flying Fish decoration         IMGP0438.PEF on our way out the door -- lovely dinner          IMGP0441.PEF

5:27:32 pm                                6:36:21 pm

Flying Fish Restaurant         on our way out the door                decoration                               –lovely dinner

I forgot to shot two hours -- this is the last thing I saw before lights out: "n

9:31:42 pm

“nobody’s perfect”

…and the end of this experiment.

W E L C O M E !

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