Monday, November 30, 2009

With Just a Few Lyrics

"Wake up, kids, we've got the dreamer's disease..."
New Radicals, You Get What You Give

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
Semisonic, Closing Time

"I am invincible, as long as I'm alive."
John Mayer, No Such Thing

"I can only imagine..."
MercyMe, I Can Only Imagine


What lyrics speak to you, more than just words?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fiction Excerpt

From my work-in-progress.

My main character, Besty, is caught in a splendid and carefree moment, one of her first in quite some time. Her adult son has interrupted with a phone call, with his plans for the family trip she's been coordinating...

***

“I’m sending Virginia.”

Besty was weeding her garden, deep in the soil, wearing panties and a faded shirt of Silas’—not a stitch more. No custom gloves protected her smooth hands, no tools littered the bed of flowers. She didn’t have use for them. No want for them, either, not today.

The feel of the dirt, which now slimed the cordless telephone she held between head and shoulder, smudging her cheek, was like raw silk. It was a... an intimate feeling.

“Sending her? What do you mean, Charles?” The warm morning breeze, alive, stirred around her bare legs, making them long to dance.

“To the lake, Mom. I can’t come, but the wife can.”

She heard a tap tap tap, full of motivation, behind his voice.

“Virginia’s really excited about it. I'd bet she’s already packing.”

“That’s wonderful, love. But why can’t you come?” She rose to her feet, spun with experimentation. Didn’t lose her balance, hmm. She’d forever been envious of dancers, who moved their bodies with such powerful ease.

“Here’s the deal, Mom.” More tapping, woven with his voice.

Besty imagined it was the beat; she, the dancer.

“I’ve got procedures that week, there’s no telling how they’ll go, if there will be complications. And of course, there are always emergencies. I doubt things will clear up enough, Mom. I just don’t see how I can take vacation right now.”

“You’re certain?” Breathe, two, three. Breathe, two, three.

“I don’t want to make any promises I won’t be able to keep.”

A rock jammed her heel, puncturing her poise. Chagrin filled the space that had only moments before been occupied by beauty. Confidence.

She dropped to her knees. “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, Charles.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving


Look closely. Do you see them? The fingers of God? They reach thick and full and bright through the clouds, stretching toward that which is His. The land, every thing upon it, near, far, breathing, not. You, me. All is His, and He wants to touch, warm, remind of purpose and beauty. Call out His existence.
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I watch for and eagerly await those fingers. When I see them, and it's often if I'm looking, I know He's not far, not really. And I know He sees me, too, insignificant as I am from His highest perch. But I am. And you are. Each of us in this great big, hurting, beautiful, brilliant, lacking world.
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We are.
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For this, I am thankful.
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This holiday, what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Improvement? Or Just Change?

Over the weekend, I spent some time looking through my early blog posts, and short fiction and essays from a year or two (or longer) ago.

Good gravy, so much of it embarrasses me. Even the published stuff.

Once I was proud of each of those pieces. Now I don't want anyone else to lay eyes on them. It doesn't seem like the writing I know I'm capable of. And I don't want to be judged by that old stuff.

I can gauge how my voice and style have changed. And I wonder if it's those things that have changed more than it's marked improvement of my writing. Or, maybe it is improvement, which bled into the voice and style I've been working toward, and feel I've found within the last several months. I'm not entirely sure.

How do you suppose it works?

And when you look back at your old things, how do you feel about them? How and how much have you changed?

Friday, November 20, 2009

My First Time

I went to Borders this week.

I perused. I walked the aisles. And because the section I wanted was all but elusive, I asked in my most authorly tone, "Where are the writing books?"

"Right over here," the associate gushed. "We've got books that tell you how to write, and even how to get published!"

Apparently I didn't look the part.

I smiled, even though inside I frowned, followed her quietly, so as not to ruin her fun in introducing me to the world of writing.

***

As I considered the titles, my daughter plucked a floor-level book from the shelves at my back.

"This is a little book, Mommy!" she called, throwing herself across the carpeted aisle.

Too caught in the dilemma of which Grammar Girl book to choose, I murmured an unintelligible response.

Oh, and here's Strunk and White's book. I've been needing that one.

"Mommy, it's a doctor book!"

I wonder if they have The Fire in Fiction?

But then awareness set it. The trance broke, my gaze falling to my four-year-old. Who was flipping through the penciled drawings of an adult-content book of, erm, positions.

"Sweetie! You know, since you're not a doctor, let's put that book back. Hey look! I have candy!"

***

I placed my treasures -- The Elements of Style, The Grammar Devotional, Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens, a cat book for my daughter and a bucket of pink Legos -- on the counter.

"Looks like someone's writing a novel," the cashier surmised.

I flinched. No one's ever been so bold. Such things have always gone unnoticed for me before. "Er, yeah. I'm writing my second." But it felt kinda good to admit it somewhere in public. Not online, here in my world of writing, or among those family and friends who already know. Just, you know, to a person.

"What happened with your first?"

Another flinch. "It had a publisher's interest last year, but they turned it down." Dangitall. I was losing confidence, associate by associate.

"Oh, I'm sorry!"

"It's okay. Really. I've learned a lot since then. I'm moving on, trying to write better."

We had a pleasant, two-sided exhange. Turns out she's a writer herself, published in magazines. She gave up on her dream of writing children's books years back, though. I found that so sad.

I said to her, "From what I've learned, perseverance is key." To myself I said, "Don't you ever give up."

By then my transaction was complete. We wished each other luck, and my daughter and I left, happy with our purchases.

It was the first time I'd gone into a store and openly sought writing books, the experience wasn't lost on me. It was my first effort at small talk about being a writer. With another writer. In a book store, a shrine to writers everywhere.

Kinda neat.

Except for the sex book thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vacation is a Time to... Learn?

We're on a family trip.* And while I haven't figured out an analogy between snow-skiing and writing a novel, I think it's only a matter of time... *wink*
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I have figured out I do my best reading-as-research as a passenger in the car, though. For whatever reason, I can better absorb craft, technique, snappy dialogue, character development, etc.
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On our way to Colorado I read Sail, the newest suspense by James Patterson with Howard Roughin. (This was another recommendation by Melanie Avila.) While I won't get into the story itself (visit the link to see Amazon's summary), it was strung together so well, every aspect was an example of what to do.
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It was fast-paced, and what really struck a resonant chord with me was that for every step forward, there were one or two back. When the author could have made things easy, he (they) made it more difficult. While this book is suspense, and I don't write anything near that, it was a lesson in how to draw the reader into the characters' happenings, keep them engaged, and build tension.
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The storyline wasn't bad, either. *wink* (There's something in my eye. Really.)
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I also do my best brainstorming when I take my turn behind the wheel. The stretch of miles bode well to plot assessment. It's as if I can see my novel's idea on the interstate in front of me, where I define what's working and what isn't.
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I'm at a crucial mid-way point with my WIP right now, and I was happy to discover a key idea that (I hope) will turn my efforts into better payoff. I took notes, rooted the idea into the creative part of my brain, and can't wait to see the idea turn to fruition.
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Slated for our drive home is Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorite women's fiction authors...
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What are you reading now? Are you learning from it?
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And, when does your best brainstorming happen?
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*My return comments and visits to your blogs will be minimal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Now?

It's been months since our paths last crossed. She hasn't so much as acknowledged me, nor I her. Time has passed, life has been lived. I've been busy. Somewhere, somehow, she's been existing just fine on her own. And so I wasn't expecting this contact, so sudden.

I'm not sure what she wants from me.

No, that's a lie. I know exactly what she wants from me. Time. My undivided attention, all my guts and emotion. But I can't give it to her. I don't withhold it to be mean, because I do care. It's just that I have so much going on. Life won't slow down for me, let alone for her. And what, does she want me to drop my family? Forget about my commitments? My kids and their schooling, our home, social and church lives, and I'm trying to write a book, for goodness' sake. Now is not the right time.

You're going to think me so heartless when I tell you her story. She's recently divorced after a long, broken marriage. Ohh, and she feels so much guilt. So little worth. She has nothing, but can't see everything is within her grasp. She needs guidance, support, I admit, and she's chosen me, Lord knows why, to help her through.

Well.

She's going to have to be patient. It's all I ask. Because I already have a novel-in-progress, and she'll just have to wait until that story's finished.

Then I'll write hers.



Why is it new fiction ideas dig in and plant roots when you're in no need of raw material?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Words: Don't Fail Me Now

I can be talkative. I can be detailed. I can be wordy. And I'm really counting on that as I implement a new system to increase both discipline and output.

As of late last week, I'll be allowing myself internet access only after meeting a word count of 1000 words each day. No e-mail, no Facebook, no blogs. Writing first.

Thursday, my first day, had me off to a good start with 1200 words. Friday saw 1900! The weekend was a busy bust like weekends often are, but today is a new day, a new week. (I should be launching into today's production soon after this post publishes.)

I'm excited, I'm hopeful, I'm ready to get this rough draft done. By Christmas.

It can be done, I think. Because words and me? We're likethis.

***

What do your goals look like for the next little bit?

Do you have a system for your writing, and how does it break down?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Three Lives

It occurred to me with certain clarity this week that I live three lives. Three. All from this one body.

They're separate, but pieces of them overlap. Each is carried out by real parts of me.

Life in the Flesh
I am living, breathing, my body holds a spirit. I primp and present my physical self, nourish my person without regularly exercising it, drive an automatic SUV, read aloud, sing aloud, stir breakfast--and sometimes dinner--with my favorite wooden spatula, lose myself to folding laundry, loathe putting it away. I wince when the phone rings, but love to give hugs. My mind wanders while I'm in church, and I mutter ridiculous things to the family dog. I find solace and happiness and frustation and doubt in the act of writing, can't get enough kisses from my daughters, am never sated. This is real life. The one I've lived for thirty-one years, with emotion and experience and depth. Real time. Tangible existence.

Virtual Life
I am a presence. With pictures, sometimes, but most often with words. My thoughts and essence are on display, whether through blog posts or online statuses. I give of myself through a filter, the filter of this internet that is not my physical location, just designed representation. It's me, too, but with time delay. With edits. Smooth, composed. Confident. I banter, I share, I feel, I learn and love. Virtually.

Life through Fiction
I am what my mind creates. My characters are extensions of me, their stories fill me. New experiences, lived vicariously. Papered emotions, felt as if real and raw. People as real to me as the Postmaster, my daughters' teachers, the person driving behind me, my best friend's mother, because they are real, in some other place, even if only by manuscript or in Word document. Entirely made up, but true, honest at the same time. I exist so that they can exist. And because they exist.

These three Jannas, they feel individual, so different, so distinct. But I reconcile one with the others. Aren't I all of them? My three lives. Defining one existence.

What about yours?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quote to Consider

The line between failure and success is so fine. . . that we are often on the line and do not know it.
Elbert Hubbard
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Is there truth in this for you?
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Which direction from the line are you most often poised to step?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jody and Janna's Bloggy Buddy Birthday Bonanza!

So I promised something special was happening today...

Not only is it my birthday, it's fellow writer and friend Jody Hedlund's! We couldn't let the excitement of a twofer pass without celebration. And we want you to join us for a virtual birthday party!




You're invited to the comments section of this post, where cakes and decorations and excitement await. Bring your signature party recipes, silly games and special entertainment. Let's have fun!



If you don't know Jody, please visit her blog. She recently signed a three-book deal with Bethany House, which means you can both congratulate her and wish her a happy birthday. You'll enjoy her posts while you're there, too, for she's humble and forthright with her journey to publication.

Happy Birthday, Jody! And Happy Birthday, me! [This just in: It's Jenna's birthday, too! Three writers! Three Js! I never knew November 3rd could be so much fun.]

cake picture courtesy http://whinesisters.com/

Monday, November 2, 2009

Novel Troubles in lieu of NaNo

We've hit November!

It's National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo. Or NaNo, the four-letter word you can be certain will be spat from fiction writers' mouths all month.

Writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? I've yet to try it. I don't have the guts, the discipline, the time. (Any number of excuses, really. And some good reasons, too.)

I've been telling myself I'd really kick my WIP into gear instead of participating in NaNo. It's a good plan, but I've been stuck for a few weeks, and the mere promise of progress hasn't unstuck me.

The problem? My story is waiting for me to deal with the aftermath of an unexpected tragedy. (And by unexpected, I mean by me as much as by the characters.) This... thing... sort of happened, and I thought maybe it was a good turn of events, but now I'm unsure. Does it misalign the story? Will it affect the outcome I was after when I started? I think so. To both.

So I've come to this spot in the road. And a writer, at the fork, is to pick that which isn't quick and easy. And I wasn't going to, I just think the whole path may be wrong. I may have to backtrack just a bit. Find a new route, even. And then proceed.

It's a start to my November writing, anyway.

Have you ever tossed an idea, done a little backpeddling? How did you know it was the right move?



Good luck to all who are participating in NaNo 2009.

Come back tomorrow. Something special is happening...