Writer’s Regimen

For a while, almost a year, I had formed a good routine. I was putting several hours a day into my career as a writer. That is not to say I wrote fiction every day. Some days were spent searching for markets, some days doing blog posts, interacting with other writers or possible readers, or working on my webpage. Mondays I wrote a short story from a prompt; most other days I did a mixture of editing and marketing. And then I stopped.
It was a few months ago. And now I can’t even remember why I stopped. I have some issues with mania and depression. Maybe I found something better to do, or maybe I thought writing was pointless. Whatever the reason, one day I decided not to write. The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months. The longer I went without working, the scarier it became to go back to it. I started to not feel like a writer at all anymore.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. I thought of all the work I had done, and how no one was ever going to read it if I could not make myself get back in the saddle and finish it. I put “Writing, 1 hour” on my task list. This is not the first time I have done it, but I guess it was the first time I meant it, because here I am, writing. Editing my novel might be the most important thing I could be doing, because I can’t have a career as a writer without a product for people to buy. However, that seemed much too hard to jump right back into. I don’t have any short story ideas and I don’t know if I am up to writing something fresh from a prompt right now.

A blog post about my life, thoughts and feelings is always pretty easy, as I love talking about myself. I know very few people will read this today, or maybe ever. But that is not the point. The point is that the clock is ticking down an hour and my fingers are clicking on the keys. It feels good, still a bit scary, but good.

Maybe I will finish this post in less than an hour. Then what? There are so many things I could do, so many paths I could choose to take back up Awesome Author Mountain. Maybe I could go read and comment on some of my favorite blogs (which I have also been neglecting). Maybe I could at least open my novel and read a bit. Maybe I could organize all my finished and ready to publish stories and start looking for people to buy them. Maybe I could start on another blog post or order business cards. Perhaps making a list is in order. Today it does not matter what I do, as long as I am doing something. Today is one day, but the days will turn into weeks, and the weeks will turn into months, and soon I will feel like a writer again.

I love reading about other writers’ routines; some of them are so strange, with weird superstitions, ticks and habits. Daily Routines is a great blog to check out if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Other than a timer, I don’t have anything that always happens. Some days I feel the need to write with paper and pen, some days I light a candle, burn incense, or turn on the salt lamp. A few days I got really drunk first, which worked out better than I want to admit, but I don’t plan to make a habit of it. I keep a keyboard (the musical type) beside my computer, and I have found that playing a song or two when I am frustrated with something I am failing to write correctly is helpful. If a certain food, action, time of day, or weird habit forms I will let you know here.

Please tell me about your writing routines in the comments.

Rabbit Pays a Debt

This story is for Trifecta’s April Fool’s day prompt:

rain (transitive verb)
1: to pour down
2: to give or administer abundantly
3: to take a lot of money in bill form and toss it up in the air. This is most effectively done at a strip club for the effect of raining one dollar bills on the dancers (and it makes them feel so pretty), or to snub a hater by throwing money into their face that then falls to the floor like rain (use this when paying a debt to a punk bitch who keeps asking for their money to the point that they are ruining your friendship or when dumping someone who has been bankrolling you for a while now that you’re making money).

It was also inspired by the carrots which are coming up both in the rabbit pot I painted as well as the garden beds. I love carrots! Carrots make me think of rabbits. They are strongly linked culturally, though my friends who keep rabbits tell me they don’t actually eat that many carrots. Rabbits are perfect for April Fool’s Day because like Coyote and Anasi,Rabbit is a great trickster. SAM_1729

***
When you do mischief like Rabbit, you get in trouble. Money, everyone knows, gets you out of trouble. Stealing a carrot can land a body in jail, but a rich man can steal a whole farm, if he has money to buy police.

Rabbit borrowed money from everyone, a little from each, hoping they’d forget. Times being hard none forgot. They all looked for Rabbit when they had need of their money. But one thing Rabbit can do is hide.

Rabbit was resting in a briar eating fresh blackberries, when he heard voices.

“Have’ya seen Rabbit?” asked Possum

“I’ve not seen him since I let him a few dollars” said Fox

“I sore need the money I gave him” Said Possum

“Have’ya talked ta Bear? He gave me what Rabbit owed, sayin’ he’d get it back from Rabbit along with what’s owed him” said Fox

“I’ll go see him now” said Possum, hurrying away.

Rabbit was afraid. Bear had a long memory and was mighty fierce. Rabbit added up what he borrowed all together. It was enough money to fight over.Rabbit made a plan.

He told Chicken, a known gossip, about a beautiful lady at the hoochie-coochie show on the edge of town.

That night Bear came to the show. The girl came out, hiding behind two fans. She danced ‘round the stage, everyone hottin’ and hollerin’. Bear didn’t see too good, but he knew this must be the lady he’d heard of. To impress her he made it rain, emptyin’ his wallet. Later Bear tried to find her, but she was gone.

Next day Rabbit found Bear sighing in his cave.

“Why do you sigh?” Rabbit asked

“I lost all my money, to impress a lady. Now I have no money or lady” Bear said
“Good news! I’ve come to pay you back. Lucky I waited or you might have lost this too” Said Rabbit, giving Bear almost as much money as he had thrown at the mysterious lady.

Which Home?


Up until now I have always written something new for the Trifecta prompt, that is sort of the point for me.  While I am editing this novel I don’t have much chance to write new stories, and I fear the creative parts of my brain meats will dry up like beef jerky.  Writing something fresh with the prompt lets me just run wild with it, as opposed to editing with is soul numbing. However I have been neglecting the editing, so today I decided to post something from the novel instead, to encourage me to do better work on it.  It took almost as long to edit this passage (which started out at 500+ words, lots of which were so, really and very) as it does to write something new.  I tend to be uselessly wordy, over describing things and babbling. Having word limits has helped me work on this problem.

The following is from “Lost in Reflection” which will be released later this year.   The story is about Marney, a 16 year old who ends up trapped in a another world.

***

You can’t survive alone.  Most people stay in dense, walled towns like Derry, where the buildings touch and the people know each other.  The gates lock at sundown every day. Only in numbers do people have safety, because out there are dangers and temptations of darkest dreams and delightful nightmares. Every fairytale agrees about that.  There’s a sort of magic here which some humans even learn to use. A wizard lives in Derry to help keep the town safe from magical threats, native beings, and for lack of a better word, monsters.

I’m lucky the worst thing I met were cranky chickens.  There are so many scary things here that many don’t even have names.  There are rules: Don’t be alone outside a city at night.  If anyone offers you food and you’re not 100% sure they’re human, don’t eat it.  Don’t play games with non-humans, just to name a few. Most rules have exceptions.  If you’re out at night, light a fire, unless you think you might attract Fireflies. Don’t follow bouncing lights unless you’re already lost and think it might lead to safety.   There are too many to remember, and I have a feeling they change anyway.

Mrs. Shaw let me stay and work at the Milk Maid.  The work wasn’t hard; cooking, cleaning, and gardening.  The sort you do with your body while your mind thinks about other things.  At first I was always thinking about getting home, but soon I realized I was thinking about home less and less.

This place was great.  No one had called me fat or questioned my sexuality.  I didn’t miss school, and loved being treated as an adult.  I liked the people, inn, and town.  The happier I was the guiltier I felt. Mom had a hard time raising me alone, after my father left. Even twelve years later she has trust and commitment issues. When he left, it broke her heart in half, me disappearing must have shattered what was left.

Socially Transmitted Insanity

I wrote the following for this week’s Trifecta prompt “infect”.  This piece is not clean or polite.

***

Writing was the calling and fetish of the mad.

Those with demanding demons and dangerous desires took up the pen when the pressure of being, being alive, being buzzy broken, being bold, being beaten, became too great, ejaculating misspelled, grammatically incorrect, beautiful, tragic, hot life onto paper, and into the minds of the lifeless.

Mom read a bit of Kerouac after putting little Timmy down to nap.  For an hour she ran away from spit up, jello molds and obligatory missionary sex.  She huddled in the bed of a rusted out pickup truck, smoking reefer and looking up at the endless desert celestium.  She had freedom of the open road from her comfortable chintz sofa or mint-green kitchen chair.  She went to the clinic of depravity where Doctors Lovecraft, Shelley, and Poe injected dried up wickedness to vaccinate her from smothering her tow hair cherub-cheeked darling with a stuffed bear while he slept.

Dad spent the night on underage heroin addicted hookers with Hunter, while never straying from the sanctity of marriage. He learned to appreciate his own comfortable life after embracing loneliness, alienation, and self-loathing with Salinger and Falkner.

Sane people could open their wet willing minds and pull in a little insanity.

Everyone needs a release.  Society can’t function if all the drones have hum-drum blue balls.  The masses jack off with words to stay proper, and all it costs is the minds of a few mad ones, who fuck themselves raw, lubing up with cocaine, reds, alcohol, acid, and opium.  A few crazy bastards burning, pumping out their souls for everyone.

Now the mad ones take mood stabilizers and SSRIs, trimmed wick, limp-dicked.  The vaccine no longer produced, because it turns out normalcy was the disease.  You infect us, self-help books on my shelf, coffee in my mouth.  Your suburban fantasies slip in as you stroke my hair, whispering sweet goals and profit projections.

Sane people in creative writing classes train for a proper vocation.

Madness is epidemic.

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No Easy Path

Path

My goal is the top of the mountain, but I can’t seem to stay on one path walking straight up. I walk around it, paths crossing and forking, sometimes turning in on themselves. Often I’m going back down towards gray cubicals and financial statements, where heavy air is pumped in to keep alive hands click, clicking on keyboards, where flickering computer screens illuminate glazed eyes and tight jaws. Down there, I’m grounded, approaching stable.

At the top of the mountain the air will be light and dizzy. I will be standing on winners peak looking out at 360 degrees of possibility.

Currently in the forest I pick my way among roots and rocks. In eternal green-gold dusk time is meaningless. Hours and days melt together, each one different and unique in the same way trees are, ways not worth mentioning, that don’t matter when you have a forest of them blocking your view in every direction. Here is both tranquil and terrifying. I’m accustomed to the solitude and cool moist air smelling of decay. Woodland creatures play out fantasy worlds created and destroyed by my thoughts. I could be happy here, in that crazy aunt in the attic with origami birds and cuneiform trees way, but for the wolf.

She always around, sometimes so far away I can lie saying she’s the wind rudely shoving tight knit branches. Sometimes she’s so close I smell her breath. She snaps at me, closing off this path, hurrying me down another, The wolf howl’s screaming “NOW” when in my mother’s voice I think “too late, too late”. This is the time to become who I am going to be, to walk back down or find the smooth path up.

But wanting and doing, knowing and achieving are not the same things. I have turned so often I’m not sure which way is up.

I whistle a bit of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and keep walking, my woodland friends keeping me company in top hat and tails.

This was written for this weeks trifecta challenge, click above for the details and to read more submissions.

People Farming

veggiesEveryone on the writing sites, blogs and communities are talking about “fans”.  Some say that social media is the way to get them; others talk about the “million fan fallacy”.  Some talk about “true fans” as opposed to people who just ‘like’ your facebook page.  You can find countless people talking about the correct marketing strategy to get all these fans.

It occurred to me today that this is farming, with people as the crop.  When you friend as many people as you can on every social media site possible, start a blog or Youtube channel you are planting the seed.  When you comment here and there, show an interest in other people life/work/family, write blog posts, read blog and comment, make a new video or put your stories up as podcasts that is the fertilizing and watering.   The idea is that if you do this enough you will get “fans” who are harvested when they buy your books.

If your books are good then the “fans” will buy each new book.

I am doing this.  There is a good chance that you are doing this.  Many of the blogs I read are those of other writers.  Most of my communities are for writers.   All of us say we are there to learn new skills and make friends, but really we are thinking “I am a reader, I read tons of books, all writers must be readers, I bet writers will buy my book”.

But there might be a big problem with this theory.  I don’t think about buy and selling at the same time. This is not like going to a WoW merchant, where you sell all your old stuff and buy new stuff in the same window.  I don’t often think of reading as work/research.  Sure, each time I read a book it sparks my imagination and helps me be a better writer.  But when I am “working” I am not actively looking for the next book to read in my leisure time.

When I am farming for people that is work.  Marketing is the most worky work I can think of involved with writing.    So far, I think I have only bought two books while doing people farming; one because the book looked interesting and the other because I liked the blogger.  So, it can happen, but I have looked at the pages of maybe a few hundred people, so don’t hold your breath.  I don’t think a single person I have met from writing communities or blogging has ever bought my book. So far people I know in person buy it. Some of them just because they want to support me emotionally, not because my writing interests them.

I have two goals that don’t play well together:

-Find my future “fans” when I market and convince them to give my work a try.

-Find the best new writer each time I finish reading a book.anne-geddes-cabbage-kids

There are people out there who would love my stories or want to be my “fan” because of how awesome I am.  I am a fan of lots of people, but honestly very few of them are indie writers. I know there must be indie writers out there I would love, but I mostly read popular, established writers because it is easy to find the ones that matches my tastes.

Here in lies another problem; the soil in which we plant our seeds.

You might not ever be a fan of my writing, and I might not ever like yours.  You can market to me all day about, a Christian romance novel or a sports related mystery, and no matter how good it is I will not buy it.  Ever.  If you don’t like sci-fi, fantasy and feminism you will never like my books.

The big publishers marketing works for them, because they can throw so much advertising out that some of the seeds will have to germinate even if they don’t try to find the right soil at all. They put up posters of their new books in the book stores, we can’t do that.   They send their author’s out on book signing, advertising it on the radio and newspapers. I don’t even have a physical copy of my book to sign.   They send their authors to conventions, where I am just possible person to farm.  They make deals with movie people and famous readers.

As indie authors we don’t have their reach or resources to do that sort of throwing to the wind marketing, and yet we try so hard, wasting our efforts.   But there must be something we can do.  I can’t think of anything right now to try to make you love me (other than be lovable  which I am rocking), but I do have an idea of how to maybe find some indie authors I might like.

My mind is fertile soil, come plant your seed.

Off the top of my head my favorites you have heard of are Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Christopher Moore, Susan Collins, Neil Gaiman  Octavia Butler, Lovecraft, Douglas Addams and Poe.

I like fantasy and sci-fi with a nice amount of action, but not all action.  I like humor thrown in as well as the strange or absurd.  I am a big fan of YA novels, especially with strong female characters.  I like urban fantasy, steam punk and weird westerns.  Creepy and dark, without being gory torture porn, is also a favorite.

I don’t like the type of fantasy that is centered on romance/sex.  Some romance and sex is great, but if that is the main plot then I am not your audience.   I don’t dig non-consensual sex especially  or women being abused.   I am not a big fan of books where sadness is the goal.

If you like at least half of the above authors and you think your work or something you have read is what I am looking for then comment here.  I will check you out.  If I buy your book I will review it honestly.  So don’t try to trick me.

Why do I write?

I have ideas.  Yes, I know everyone has ideas all the time.  But I really like my ideas. Some of them are silly and playful, some are so creepy that I am afraid to be alone in a room with myself.  Some are beautiful, others are grotesque.

An image might fly by of a rainbow arching over blue surf, under which swim sharks with bloody teeth.

I might picture a monster, a person deformed and alone with a heart like a cobbler, two layers of hate crust with love and kindness filling.

Sugar plum fairy fashion shows, the infant spirit of humanity starving from the lack of the milk human kindness, or blue grass, green skies and giant rampaging sheep.

Ideas fly in and out of my ears all day long.butterfly 2

Tiny butterflies.

Bright colors, many textures, sounds and smells.  The world I wish was, the world I fear might be.  I think about all the people I could have been: the opera singer or the serial killer, or maybe a serial killing opera singer.

Each of my butterfly thoughts wants to just flutter away, maybe to enter your mind for a moment, or to join the stars in the sky.

However, as I said before, I like my ideas.  I am the type of person who takes pictures; a picture is a frozen memory of a place, a moment that I can keep forever.  My ideas are the same, memories of worlds I have never been to and moments I never lived.  But I want to keep them all the same.

So I reach up into the air and grasp the tiny, delicate, struggling insect. Then I shove a big pin through its thorax.

That is writing.

Some of these dead butterflies I lacquer and mount in pretty cases to share with you.

Others I keep in dusty notebooks just for me.

Writing Inspiration – The Places I Go

There are lots of different ways you can be inspired.  Sometimes I get ideas from dreams, books I read, movies I watch, conversations with friends, art, gardening, or watching strangers in public places.  Inspiration can come from just about any place, so you have to be open to it all the time.  Keep a notebook handy and write ideas down, or take a picture of things that you might need to look at later.

Today I want to talk about travel.   As you might know from reading my blog or if you know me in person, I am an introvert with some social anxiety and a fear of leaving my house.  There are days when it is so bad I can’t even work in my gardens.  I sometimes don’t leave my house for weeks.  Given this, the fact that I love to travel might seem a bit of a contradiction.  And I guess it is.  When I am traveling I am at a higher level of anxiety than at home, and sometimes I have to hide someplace quiet and take deep breaths.  While traveling I call my housesitter often (normally Jeff, one of my best friends) and make him send me pictures of my cats.

Traveling is hard for me.  Very hard.  I cry when I leave the house and have all sorts of horrible thoughts.  I sometimes will be in a wonderful place and be wishing I was in my cluttered office like I am now.  But all the same, I try to travel some place new every year, because the value of travel is worth the price of being a little scared and homesick.  My husband travels a lot with his job, so I normally just go to a city he will be working in so I have a place to stay without spending money, because this being a writer thing does not pay well.  He works and I get to have adventures on my own.  Exploring a new place alone is my favorite way to do it, because I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s timetable or interests.  I once sat in the beaver room at the Biodome in Montreal for nearly an hour because it was what I wanted to do at the time; with another person that could not have happened.   I also like cemeteries, old ones.  There are not many people who are good companions in a cemetery.

I like seeing some places with other people too.  There are some experiences that are best shared, some best alone.  So if there are other people who want to do stuff with me I try to find a balance, spending time with them doing something, alone for others.

The value of travel is many faceted.  Seeing new places, trying new foods, smelling different air, and meeting new people are all part of the package.  When traveling to a new place, even just a state away, you can see the world in a different wayand learn skills you might not have learned at home.  One of the most important things for me is the inspiration, the ideas that can be sparked when you see or experience something new. Those images and sensations get filed away until sometime I am writing and all of a sudden a place comes back to me and it is the perfect place. It is where this story has to happen.

There are two scenes in my novel “Lost in Reflection” that are based on real places I have been.  Places that I would not have been able to see or experience if I was home.

SAM_0790

One of them is Muir Woods near San Francisco.  I had seen pictures of redwoods, and I knew the general idea of a rain forest.  But understanding and experiencing are two very different things.  The smell of this place is something so hard to describe, as well as the how wet and cold the air was.  Being from the south I know hot air is humid, and cold air is dry; that is just the way it is.  But this place was as wet as the hottest Georgia day, but so very cold.  When writing the book I remembered this place and it was perfect.

Here are some excerpts from “Lost in Reflection”.  Keep in mind that this is still in the editing phase, so it could change a lot.

“Once my eyes adjusted to the light I found that I was in a forest, old growth from the look of it.  There were some big evergreens, sort of like pictures I had seen from the Pacific Northwest, not like the spindly pines of home. The ground was a spongy bed of brown and green needles and the air was wet and heavy with the pleasing smells of clean dirt and fresh compost, mixed with the less pleasant odors of mold and rot.”

“It only took a few minutes for me to find a good game trail, cutting through the ferns and emerald green moss that covered everything .  It was sure to lead to water eventually, and it might not just be a trail used by animals. It was old and wide, not as wide as a road, but it looked easier to follow than the paths through the woods around my grandparents’ house that I walked every time I visited them.”

“At some points the trees were so thick that I couldn’t see the sun, just light glowing around the leaves.   This place would have been peaceful in another situation.  I loved being in the woods; the sounds, the smells, and the fresh new feeling of the air.  The place we used to live had a lot of woods around it, but not like these.   At home, even in the woods, the air was still normal and dry.  Here the air was very wet, and I don’t mean humid, at least not the hot southeast humid I was used to.  I mean the air was actually wet.  So wet that in few places it was raining without clouds, little drops of water falling from the trees.  Each drop catching the sunlight and turning to molten gold.”

SAM_0783Another place that shows up in the novel is a hallway from the hotel I stayed in while I was writing a large part of the book — just the hallway, not the hotel itself.   I am not going to put in any excerpts from that part in because it would be hard to do so without giving anything away, and I have not edited it at all yet.  But when you read the book you can come back here and see a picture of the place I wrote about.  Mirrors are creepy, that is all I am saying.

Traveling and seeing these places in real life makes the stories more real for me, and hopefully helps me write them in a way that is more real for you.   There are lots of places I would love to go that I likely never will, because travel is so expensive.  But maybe someday I will get lucky and have the chance to see China, Romania, or England.  I bet there is a story idea waiting around every corner and behind every door in all of those places.

I went to Hawaii a few months ago (lots of kindness got me there), which was an amazing experience, and will show up in my stories for years to come.  I have been meaning to post some pictures and tell you about it. I will do that soon.

Winning NaNo

I won NaNo!  Yay!!!

This means I wrote over 50,000 words on a novel in the month of November.    The novel has a beginning, most of the middle and an end. It is an ok story that mostly makes sense.  Hopefully after editing it will be a good story that people will enjoy reading.

I am 15 pages in to editing, with all the emotional swings that come with it.  I can go from loving this novel to hating it in a few minutes and then back again.  Editing is way harder than writing and much less satisfying.  For me the writing is almost play and the editing is the actual ‘work’ of being a writer.  That and marketing, but not all writers do their own marketing.  The rest of editing is intimidating, but I hope to finish it this month.  Then have it proof read and edited for grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I have a few great ideas for new novels, but I have to finish this one first.   If I work hard it will be out in February.

I loved the graph and having daily goals.  I normally just write however much I want to write and then edit when I edit.  Aside from actual deadlines for story submission I don’t normally have goals.  Sometimes I have time goals like “Write 2 hours today”  but not word count.  I loved having goals and a way to track the progress, it kept me working hard to stay on track.  If I slacked off for a day or two then I would put in 5 or 6 hours one day to get back on track.   I need to do this with my editing.

I only went to one NaNo event and hardly posted anything on the forums.  One of the reasons I choose to do NaNo was for the social aspect, but I failed at that part completely.  Next year I want to be more involved and make friends.

Did you do NaNo?

Did you ‘win”?

What are you going to do with your 50,000 words?

Was there a hard part of NaNo for you?

What did you like and dislike about it?