Tag Archive | solving novel problems

It Happens Faster Than You Think

Hi Everybody! I hope those of you who followed me in the past are still willing to do so. I’ve been away to dedicate my time to writing three books. One is the second edition of my first attempt at a novel. During the past several years and six other books, I’ve learned a thing or two. I still like the story, but the writing—not so much. The second book is a sequel to “Finding Gessler.” And the third is the more difficult tale to tell—“Barbie and Ken, A love Story.” This book chronicles our journey through Multiple Sclerosis. So you get it—I’ve been busy.

But I had to write about an important subject—aging. This summer I will have a milestone birthday. Yes, I will turn 65. I think this birthday is tougher than turning any other milestone birthday like 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60 etc. Inside, I feel no different than I ever did, but for the first time outside, there are tell-tale signs—gray hair, glasses, and moving a bit slower. What I didn’t count on was the government and different professionals reminding me almost every day  I’m getting close to the big 65.

It started when my Medicare card arrived a month ago. Following that memorable event was a plethora of advertisements for Medicare supplement plans. Next came the phone calls from every insurance agency that sells the old fogy plans. Okay, I’m tough. I can take it. But when my family doctor came into the exam room saying, “So, Barbara, how’s the hip?” Weeks later, the optometrist said, “You’re eyes are in good health, but I do see the start of cataracts.”

It’s bad enough to look at my birth certificate and KNOW I’m getting older, but to have all these outside influences reinforcing the fact, well, it is a bit overwhelming. And considering my birthday is not until the end of July, what’s the rush?

For all of you who are younger than I am, don’t hurry to grow up. It happens sooner than you think. Just saying’.

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Looking Back and Going Forward

Book cover 1

I spoke with my brother Mark this morning. I hadn’t heard from him in a week, so I was concerned. During the course of our conversation, Mark told me he had taken my first book, “Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” to the Veteran’s home where he works, and according to Mark, the book is a big success. Veteran to veteran pass the book around, and I guess the book is probably well accepted because its time period is when most of these people were young.  I’m curious about what they think about what they read. I’d like to hear their experiences at the time, and I wonder how close I came to the truth of the time.

“Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” was my first published book, and like all “first” works, I wish I could revisit parts of it and write it again. Since its publication, I’ve learned so much about writing. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need help with editing and proofreading. Writing in a vacuum doesn’t produce the best product. Oh, I believe the “yarn” (as my Scottish friend calls my stories) is good, but some of the techniques and writing style could be better.

Growing is all about getting better at what we do. The first time we do anything will never be as good as subsequent attempts. I remember the first time I drove a car. I had to think about every move I made. I gripped the wheel with white knuckles. I made wide right-hand turns, and I nearly took the mirrors off the side of the car as I attempted to put it into the garage.

Now, I get in a car and drive. The maneuvers are easy. I don’t think about what to do as I weave through traffic, and I can park in the garage without worrying about knocking off the mirrors.

When we write, we constantly evolve. We learn in school “writing is a process,” but do we believe what a continuing process it is? I doubt it. It isn’t until we look back and review our prior work with critical eyes. Doing so may be a learning experience, but being too critical of early work really isn’t fair. We did the best we could with the tools and experience we had at the time we put pen to paper. Going back is all right, but going forward is what is important.

An Impending Interview

interview_in_progressI had a big surprise this morning. Greg Berg from the local public radio station called and requested an interview to talk about my novels! I’m always excited to talk about my writing, but to have a public forum like this is very special. Right now I’m basking in the afterglow and saying my thanks to the writing gods.

We’ll record the interview over the phone next Monday morning. The radio program is on the air early in the morning–I think he said his show is aired from eight to nine o’clock in the morning. He asked me whether I had anything going at that time, and I replied, “Other than sleeping, not a thing.” That got a laugh. Little did he know I was telling the truth. This retirement gig has its perks.

So, next Monday I will be talking about all my “girls” and their men who go through World War II like no other generation. As I continue to research and write about this time period, I am always awed by the way a divided America came together overnight after the Japanese attack. People assumed roles they never would have in any other circumstances as they all faced an uncertain future.

We also talked about the fact I teach at the college where the program is broadcast. I made the comment teaching basic writing and grammar has made me a better writer because I’m conscious of the building blocks of our language.

Perhaps this interview will also spur me on to get back to writing my latest project about. Lately I’ve lost my drive to write everyday and crank out at least a chapter a day. The carpal tunnel really derailed my efforts, but then the malady became an excuse. And the excuse became a bad habit.

After the Thanksgiving festivities, and as I stay out of the craziness on Black Friday, I will once again get back to work. Now that my intention is in writing, I WILL get back on the writing track. Carpal tunnel be damned!

What is Carpal Tunnel, except for a Pain in the Wrist?

Today I am attempting to post this blog with a brace on each hand. I’m beginning to think the doctor might be right about me experiencing problems with my carpal tunnels. By wearing the braces to bed last night, I slept through without waking. That was the first time in over three weeks! Needless to say, though, this new development is putting a damper on my writing.

I’ve been a pretty good typist since the ninth grade when I taught myself how to use the keyboard. At the time, I was marooned at home, recovering from a broken tibia, and I was restricted to bed rest.  It was a devastating experience at the time. I lost the lead of the school musical because of my injuries, and I was isolated from all of my friends, which was certain death to a thirteen year old girl.

During that time, though, I learned so many important lessons I never would have experienced any other way. I quickly recognized my true friends. and I learned how invaluable they were to me.  Since then, I’ve cultivated and maintained many good people in my life. I also learned I could improvise. Even though I was sequestered to my bed, I developed different ways to do things. I saw the difficulties as challenges to conquer. I also recognized I could teach myself anything I wanted to learn.

Four months later when I returned to school with a toe-to-hip plaster cast still on my leg and a pair of crutches, my good friend Debbie stayed with me, carrying my books and helping me in any other way she could. The popular kids at school who tried to hitch their wagons to my brief shining star didn’t remember my name by the time I returned to school. Before I was anybody, I was a nobody. I learned the “importance” of popularity and from then on chose my friends by their character, not their status.

Even now, the lessons I learned almost 50 years ago still resonate. Now that I’m experiencing a temporary limited use of my hands, I recognize I cannot do things the same way I did in the past years. I will have to limit my computer time or perhaps invest in a tool like “Dragon” to help me keep “writing” my books. I’ll have to wear support braces until the issue is healed or resolved by surgery. But in no way, will this little setback of tingling, painful hands keep me down. I may not post everyday, but when I do, I hope I can share something that is useful to you.

Please excuse the typos, though.

Stephania Hits the Presses

Stephania Comes to America0001Yesterday I signed off on the final manuscript of  my most recent novel — “Stephania Comes to America.” When I do my final review, I pray I’ve caught all of the typos and missing words that my brain didn’t catch the first time around. Much to my chagrin, after the book is finally in my hands, I haven’t caught all of the mistakes. It’s my most frustrating part of my writing.

It turns out I’m fighting my common brain. Yeah. That’s right. My brain fills in the missing words, and it doesn’t allow my eyeballs to see all the typos. I understand this because of a  program on the Science Channel called, “My Bleeped Up Brain,” This program demonstrated why this happens. It seems our brains can’t process EVERYTHING it takes in, it edits for us. In the case of editing, our brains automatically fills in words where they haven’t been written. How do we fight that?

I thought the answer was to have my eagle-eye buddy Linda proofread the manuscript after my editor had passed her critical eye over the book. I’ve had many people tell me that they have enjoyed my stories, but the missed typos have driven them nuts. I assure you, my friends, this frustrates me as much as it does others.  When I see mistakes in a piece of writing, I also think the author must either be careless or hurried. Now I understand it’s neither. It’s humanity frailty.

So from on, I am more tolerant of other’s typos (and my own, too). Perhaps someday, I’ll have an omniscient editor who has better eye balls than I do.

What is Writing Excellence?

writing excellence

When my first novel was published, I thought I had achieved excellence. My family and friends said they loved the read, but now as I study the book, I wish I could take another whack at it. Typos and other annoying things jump off the page and taunt me. The story is good, but I wish I had a magic wand to improve the novel with the help of my editor and my proofreader.

Book cover 1APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS hit the shelves in 2010, and I had visions of being as prolific and successful as Stephen King or William Paterson. So far, though, I’m hardly a household name, even though four more of my books have gone to press. With 40,000 books published everyday, I’m hardly a whisper.

Am I a failure in pursuing excellence because my books aren’t on the best seller list?

Yes and no. I failed to bring in royalties so far, but I achieved a childhood goal to be labeled an author. I failed to create a big national buzz, but I spoke at our local library’s “Breakfast with the Authors,” was featured in the local newspaper, and interviewed on the local radio station.

A writing career is a journey, not a destination. A writer is a life-long student of observation of  life. This self-education is then explored on paper and shared with other to inspire, inform, or entertain. To build a reading audience writers make themselves vulnerable every time they publish. Reviewers and critics of all kind have the ability to make or break them. What’s more, the public eye causes people to scrutinize not only your work, but you. Still, public exposure is a necessary evil.  Failure to advertise is fatal because without it authors will remain invisible.

Through this journey of writing, I have learned not everybody loves my subject matter. I write about what fascinates me. That’s why my novels are all set in the 1940’s, a time when the world went crazy and emotions of every kind were at a fevered pitch. Each story can stand alone,, but certain characters may pop up again and again from book to book. I wanted it this way because the novels can be read in any order, but cohesive links exist.  For example, the next release, STEPHANIA IN AMERICA, is a prequel to the second book, STRANGER IN THE SPOTLIGHT.  LOVE IMMIGRANTS is a sequel to TEA & BISCUIT GIRLS.

But let’s get back to the question—what is writing excellence? I believe excellence to be an allusive quality like perfection. I also believe excellence means different things to different people. Someone might find excellence in a book which keeps them turning pages. A good yarn to one is drivel to another. Something deeply thought-provoking to one person is hard work for another. Excellence boils down to personal preference, but critics get the last word.

My goal is to write the best story, article, or post I can at that particular time and space. As I explore and share my ideas, I hope to touch my reader with something they may remember, and hopefully, they will return wanting more from me.

So you see, true success for me is not quitting. Being willing to fall is not failing,; striving to improve is a constant challenge; and facing a blank screen day after day is courage. That’s true excellence in writing.

A Note from a MIA

I’ve been MIA for the past couple of days because the great outdoors has called me to put my energies into making our little space in the world more beautiful. Yup, time to cut the grass–again, water the plants and roll waterproofing the ramp, which I lovingly call “the deck.”  Physical work is satisfying, but tiring. After I’m done cutting, pruning, and fertilizing, I usually plop myself my weary carcass down in one of the patio chairs to catch my breath and inspect my handiwork. About this time, I could use a nice cool margarita!

Yesterday, I put a leaf blower together. Why yesterday after the thing sat in the garage in a water-logged cardboard box for about five years? Well, I needed some easy way to blow away the gunk from the gutters that were cleaned last week. The rotting leaves finally dried because we had two days without rain.  I needed to clear the stuff from the driveway, patio, and deck, so I could get to the rest of the chores on my Saturday list. The blower was easy to assemble (once I read the owner’s manual), and easy use once I strung together three or four extension cords and turned on the  power. I doubt whether I will hall it out again in the fall, though, because I think God never intended us to rake leaves. Eventually, they will blow away.

Beside the outside chores, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my next novel. STEPHANIA IN AMERICA has been in the works for about a year. My other books poured out of me and I had the draft down in a couple of months, but Stephania was my first character I didn’t like. In fact, she turned out less evil than I originally intended, but I can live with her because I understand her motivations. The story has gone through about four rewrites, a pass by my editor, and another pass before my proofreader. The next step is to approach the publisher and then my sister-in-law should have the cover art ready.

So, please be patient with me if I don’t post everyday; sometimes my day jobs get in the way of writing something worth posting. I feel guilty when I have no good stories or true words of wisdom to pass along.  . . like this post. I just thought you might want to know I am still around, just doing some different activities that need my attention.

Hopefully, I’ll “see” you tomorrow.