Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year or a Year to Take a Leap?

I’m fairly certain a high number of blog posts today will refer to leap year or the fact that it’s a leap day in some form or another.  It’s difficult not to comment on something when it comes up only once nearly every four years.

If I were ever asked, I’d have to admit I have never taken much notice to leap year, or the fact that it’s a leap day.  It’s always just been another day to me.  I know of no one with a leap year birthday, a leap year anniversary or any other reason to think about the date except to recognize that it’s an extra day of the year.
An extra day…

Now, if I were given an extra day in a week or even in a month, I might take more notice.  But who ever notices an extra day in a year?  After doing some research, I understand why the extra day each leap year is important.  If we did not have leap years, we would soon notice a shortage of days.  Without leap years, we would actually lose almost 6 hours every year and after 100 years our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days. 
It’s bad enough losing an hour when we have to set our clocks forward, even if we do get the hour back later in the year.

So what do you do with an extra day every four years?  Do you treat it any differently than any other day?  Maybe not; unless you are able to claim you have a leap year birthday or even an anniversary.  Did you know that in the past, leap day was actually viewed differently than any other day?  And that the reason for this discrimination was largely based on the opinion that the day just did not count?
Here are a few fun facts I found while researching about leap year:

·         Years divisible by 100 but not by 400 will not be considered a leap year.  According to that logic, 2100 and 2300 will not be leap years.  The longest time between two leap years is 8 years and the last time this happened was between 1896 and 1904.  The next time it will occur will be between 2096 and 2104.

·         February 29 used to have no recognition in English Law so it was “leapt over” and ignored because it had been decided that the day had no legal status.  Because the day had no legal status, a break in tradition was acceptable and women would be allowed to propose to the man of their choice.

·         In Scotland, if a woman proposed to a man and he had the audacity to refuse her proposal, he would be punished and required to pay a heavy fine with either money or a fine dress.

·         In England, because February 29 had no legal status, any crime committed on that day was considered no crime at all.
Imagine having only one day every four years when a woman could take charge of her life.  Or a day that could result in a financial obligation against a man for NOT accepting a proposal (rather than after he marries and later divorces).  Or, inconceivably, a day when anyone could commit any crime and essentially get away with it just because the day did not legally exist. 

I’m sure many would love to leap over even one day a year if they could but instead of treating the day as if it does not exist, it might be better to treat the day as if it counts for something.
As fun as it is to research the reason and history surrounding leap year, the whole concept of leap year made me think about how important this year has been to me and how I happened to take a “leap” of faith during a leap year.  In taking a leap of faith, I managed to:

·         Make writing a book possible and continue to work towards becoming published

·         Make public to my family and friends the fact that I wrote a book

·         Put myself out there by creating and maintaining this Blog to share my journey

·         Make the decision to change things up by going back to work at a full-time office job
The results of all the chances I have taken and the changes I have made will not be known for some time but I move forward with great enthusiasm.  Some of the leaps I have taken were after first testing my toe in the water while others were taken feet first but in taking a leap of faith, it is necessary to hurl yourself into the unknown with the belief that the leap will take you somewhere, even if you don’t know what’s in store for you on the other side. 

Taking a leap of faith also requires taking action to make something happen even if you cannot predict the results.  Faith is the continued belief that the results from the decisions we make or the leaps we take are going to be rewarding and worth the wait. 
It is, therefore, poetic that the year I decide to take a leap of faith happened to be a leap year.
It is a coincidence and that’s all but think about it if you have an inclination to leap into something new or make a change in some way.  You have an extra day this year.  What will you do with it?  What about taking some time to think about your life, tally what you have, what you desire, what you hope to do and who you hope to be, and use the days that follow to make some changes to work towards your ultimate goals in life?

It really doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend the day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Novel Beginning, Weeks 14 & 15

These weeks of my writing journal involved some time management issues due to the holidays but I was writing whenever I could find the time.  I was also researching more about writing advice, building a platform and how I would eventually make contact with agents.  The first thoughts of finally starting a blog came into play, as did the fear of making my writing life so public.   It was also during these two weeks when I realized I was closer to the end of the book rather than the beginning. 

Week 14

I found a terrific new blog with some very useful information and the best part is he regularly writes so there are always new and useful tips.  My Name is Not Bob is the name of the blog, written by Robert Lee Brewer.  I have found many useful entries on his blog.  There are other blogs I have checked out and some I still visit but overall his is my favorite right now.  At some point it is apparent I will have to start a blog, rather than write privately here in my Word document but the whole concept makes me anxious.  Who would want to read what I have to say?  What do I have to offer?  How will I keep people interested?  All valid questions and what I will soon be researching before I decide to jump in feet first.


I’m on the downhill slope towards the ending of my book and while that’s an awesome thing to admit, I’m frustrated by the fact that I’m not quite sure how I want to end one of the stories inside the story.  I had an idea but haven’t quite figured out if that idea is going to work.  It’s great to have a sounding board at home with my husband as he lets me bounce ideas off him and he gives me feedback, while at the same time saying, ‘now don’t let what I say determine what you finally write!’  I have to remind him I’ll write what I want…I just like his opinion and I enjoy discussing ideas with him so I can hear myself speak them out loud.  I have been writing without overanalyzing too much but now I’m getting to a point where I feel I am thinking too much and it is slowing me down.  I had been able to just let the story come out as it wanted to but recently there were some issues with the murder in my story I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to deal with.  I think, now that I’ve discussed those concerns with my husband, I have a better idea of what I want to do.  If my idea is a good one, it will easily work itself into the story.  So, off we go…

Because I am still new at writing and I feel I must learn from those who have already mastered the craft, I have been reading various books, blogs and website material on writing tips and techniques.  I have to say, I cannot take everything to heart or my mind will explode from all the possible ways I can potentially screw everything up!  However, I do take to heart what others say has worked for them and if it’s something I think is a good idea, I try to use it and learn from it.  I do find some writers more agreeable than others and I suppose it’s due to how I find myself writing anyway.  One of the details of writing where there appears to be some disagreement is how much detail to put into a story about a character with regard to their appearance or what they are wearing.  I have come to the conclusion that I don’t mind offering some limited detail, such as hair color, eye color, vague height and build…but I will not go into great detail about their clothing or other personal descriptions unless it is absolutely necessary.  I feel that many readers often know someone who is similar to the characters they are reading about so that they quickly form an impression of the character in their imagination.  As an avid reader myself, I really don’t enjoy having to focus too much on the details of a character’s description or what color pants they happen to be wearing at the time.  I do agree with mapping out in my notes a character chart so that I myself know what my characters look like, act like, etc.  But I’ll keep that information to myself and divulge what information is necessary at the time it is necessary, if it is necessary.  I will not, however, go so far as to describe the shape of a character’s eyes, the length of the lashes and the shape of the brows, which was actually suggested by an author offering advice on writing.  I would rather give readers the right to use their imagination so that they lose themselves in the story and not in the details.

Oh, the holidays are here and they sure do throw a wrench in the writing schedule.   I’ve been able to write about every other day but really, I need to write every day.  For anyone who loves to write and who writes well enough to make a living at it, I am both jealous and in awe.  As my story moves along, I find myself already mapping together some ideas for two more books.  I shouldn’t be thinking ahead so much, maybe, but the thoughts are running through my mind and one way or another they have to be put down on paper.  Now that I’m getting close to the end of my mystery, I find myself looking forward to beginning another in that series plus a book on one of my new ideas.  Can I do both?  I expect writing more than one book is difficult.  When I write and I have to leave, especially if I’m in the middle of the scene, I find myself thinking about the scene, seeing the characters and moving the story along in my head.  Can I do that with two books?  I don’t know…but I’ll try. 
Week 15

I decided to purchase some additional writing books today.  I have a number of them but these two books will apparently provide more information on building my platform, which is something I have put off due to fear of the unknown.  It’s also something I’ve put off because I haven’t yet gotten used to the idea of telling everyone I’m a writer and I hope to someday be published.  Some people will be surprised, others will not.  Eventually, I’ll have to let the secret out…I want to publish a book someday but until then, I will continue to write and write and write.  I think it’s the fear of failure that possibly stops me from telling everyone I know that I’m writing a book.  If you tell everyone and you don’t finish or accomplish your goals, you feel like a failure or maybe, you’ll just jinx the whole idea by letting the cat out of the bag.  I’ll have to trust some individuals who are close to me because I will need an honest opinion of my book.  Oh, the thought of letting anyone read it is…terrifying!  Do I doubt myself?  No, I believe I have a good story with likeable characters and an interesting plot but opinions about books and writing are very subjective and while I should take criticism seriously, I also fear that I’ll receive various opinions that may not only confuse me but make my head spin. 

I have one more month to finish my book if I want to edit it before entering some book contests.  I’m up to 266 pages and the word count (according to Word) is over 75,000.  I also hope that I’ll be able to submit my work to some potential agents but I’m not yet sure how I’ll go about that.  I’ve been researching and reading on that part of the writing process and I hope to come up with a list of potential agents I might possibly be able to send my work off to for review.  For now, I need to continue with a regular writing schedule because the holidays, winter break for my boys, Christmas shopping, my youngest son’s birthday, a funeral for my great aunt and who knows what else might come up, will certainly cause this month to be limited when it comes to the amount of time I’ll be able to write.  Life gets busy but should not completely dictate whether or not you have the ability to write.   It is, after all, life’s experiences that should give a writer motivation and inspiration to write. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From Hermit to Optimist

I realize I’m tardy with my mid-week post but my blog was put on the back burner because when I had any spare time at all, I had to work on my book.  Of course, you might mistake me for Wonder Woman if I had been able to work on my book, update my blog with a mid-week post and prepare for Friday’s post all while I tackled my first week on the new job and spent time with my family whenever we managed to be at home at the same time.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.

I do wonder about things and I am a woman…but I’m not Wonder Woman. 
This was quite a week.  I began my new job on Tuesday and really, the rest is a blur.  The new routine is tiring and sometimes a bit overwhelming but overall I’ll admit going back to an office job isn’t all that horrible.  The change to my daily routine was the hardest part for me but I’m sure I’ll eventually forget the perks of running my own business from home and how cozy it was to work in my home office…

Okay, I guess I may not forget that part any time soon. 
While there are perks to being self-employed, there are also perks to working in an office.  One perk I had not really thought about was the day-to-day contact with co-workers.  My job as a private investigator included some regular contact with professionals but not the same people on a daily basis and it certainly did not have to be in person, as much of the contact was easily made over the phone or by email.  In all honestly, I began to prefer it that way. 

I think in some ways this made me more like a hermit. 
Yes, a hermit.  One who lives in a solitary existence.

At least professionally, that is.  I did not have regular daily contact with the people I worked with and there was no time, no reason, no inclination for me to offer anything but the professional side of myself.  I believe I learned to distance myself.
After only three days, I realize how much I enjoy the benefits of having daily contact with co-workers.   I remember now why it was so difficult for me to leave my job with the law firm where I had been employed for 9 years before I branched out to work as a P.I.  They had become like family to me.  Although I was excited about the prospects of spreading my wings and running my own business, I was afraid to leave what was familiar to me.  I was afraid to leave what felt like home.  Although they would always be like family to me, I knew that losing the day-to-day contact with them would change the status quo with regard to our relationship.

But eventually you have to take that first step, hoping it will take you where you want to go.  You can’t let your inner voice, your doubts or your fears hold you back.  If you find your inner beliefs ever holding you back, here’s a quote to keep in mind:
“Human beings, by changing the inner beliefs of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”  By William James
My doubts and my fears were no different this time when I had to make the decision to leave my home office to work someplace else.  I was leaving something familiar; something comfortable; I was leaving my home.  I was changing one routine for another.  Where it will lead, I’m not certain but I have optimism for the future and I can think of no better reason for change. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Presidents' Day...My 1st holiday

Tomorrow is Presidents’ Day…another day off from school and time off from work for many employees.  This year it means more than that to me; selfishly is means the last day before I start my new job. 

It still feels strange saying that…my new job.
I guess now I can look forward to the holidays just like everyone else.  Being self-employed the past 12 years, holidays did not guarantee a day off from work; it just meant I did not have to bother with getting my boys out of bed and off to school.

Now, holidays will actually mean taking a day off; although any day off for me will mean a whole day I can spend on writing.  It’s a good trade off, especially if it means I’m earning holiday pay while I get to sit home and write.  That’s quite a bonus, now that I think about how many holidays there are throughout the year.
Another aspect with my new job is the condition that I work around someone else’s schedule before I take a vacation.  On the plus side, I’ll actually get paid to take a vacation.  Now there’s a concept I’m not used to as a business owner.  I’ve been able to take vacation whenever I want to but the stress involved with making it possible to take a vacation is not something I’ll miss anytime soon.

The last real vacation I took was a two and a half week road trip through nine states.  This was actually the third of three long road trips we were able to venture out on with our boys.  While road trips aren’t for everyone, we enjoyed ourselves very much.  I’ll get more into detail about the actual trips during a couple of Friday Favorites posts because the trips truly are one of my favorite things when it comes to what our family has been able to experience together.
The main goal for the road trips was to view national monuments, national and state parks, museums, amusement parks and other large attractions.  On our last road trip, we traveled to South Dakota where we finally saw firsthand…

Can you guess? 
We saw Mount Rushmore, of course.  It is Presidents’ Day tomorrow, after all.

I will admit, out of all the monuments, parks and museums we visited, Mount Rushmore was not high on my list of must-see attractions.  Other than looking at enormous rock carvings, I certainly did not think it would come close to the beauty of the Utah state and national parks or the breathtaking views surrounding the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming or the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  I assumed Mount Rushmore could not possibly capture my interest as the ghost towns did in Montana or the Winchester Mystery House and Hearst Castle during our travels in California.
But I was wrong.  Yes, believe it or not…although I am an Aries, I will admit when I’m wrong.

Up close and personal, Mount Rushmore was an awesome sight to behold.  It was remarkable.  The feat of carving out the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln is difficult to comprehend, especially now that I have seen the enormity of the monument first hand.  This was a job that took 14 years to complete after 800 million pounds of stone were removed from the mountain; talk about tenacity!  Workers carved out eyes that measure 11 feet across, mouths that are 18 feet wide and noses 20 feet long, giving us an almost perfect likeness to each president with a 60 foot carving of each face.  The carvings sit 5,500 feet above sea level and the workers had to climb 506 steps daily just to reach the top. 

Imagine climbing 506 steps just to get to work! 
I think I’d be asking for a raise.

There are days when I may feel as if my goals or expectations in life are an uphill battle but in fact, like the 506 steps the workers at Mount Rushmore had to tackle every day, it just takes one step at a time to reach your goal or to eventually meet your expectations.  Indeed, it’s something to remember as I resolve to accomplish as much as I can on a daily basis; just one tenacious step after another and eventually, I will get there.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Novel Beginning: Weeks 10 thru 13

Weeks 10 through 13 were quite an emotional rollercoaster for me with many ups and downs…

Frustration: I had an eye injury which limited my time on the computer; Satisfaction: once my eye was better I was able to get in some good blocks of writing time so that I felt like I was moving ahead at a good pace; Excitement and Anxiety: I entered my first short story into a contest, causing me a huge amount of excitement and anxiety all rolled into one; Grief: my emotions were dealt a blow after hearing about the death of a loved one; and Apprehension: after keeping my writing life a secret from friends, I finally gained the confidence to tell someone.
Week 10

I truly hoped to finish my book so that I could enter it into a contest in November but I guess my hopes were a little high.  One major distraction recently was an injury to my eye so that I’m having a very difficult time working on the computer, much less writing.  Typing is difficult due to the strain it puts on my eye so I have to take time away from the computer for awhile.    

Week 11

On to a new month of writing.  I have bills to pay so I hope to be working more this month but with the holidays coming up it is most likely a possibility that work will slow down.  If it does, I guess I will have more time to write.  I should make a New Year’s resolution now because if I wait until the first it will be too late…I resolve to finish my book and enter it into contests the first part of the year.  Then, I will move on to my next book while I wait and hope and pray. 

I’m finally at 200 pages now so I’m getting close to being finished, I think.  I find as I write that I sometimes need to go back a few chapters to remember what a character said or did or who they spoke to and when.  The main topics of conversation and scene development are not the issue, it’s the little details I might forget about but which the reader will easily notice.  I am now working on a timeline of what the characters have done in order to easily track their movements.  I should have done this from the beginning so it’s just another lesson learned. 
Week 12

I love my story.  I truly hope others do too.  I would be disappointed if those in the know say no to my book but I have faith.  Of course, I’m going up against others who also believe in their stories.  However, my book, once it is completed, will be an accomplishment, whether it’s published or not.  Only time will tell.  Until the book is done, it’s not ready to be read by anyone.

Today is a holiday and I’m taking the day off…from real work anyway.  I decided to spend the day writing and it was a very productive day.  I think I wrote more today than I ever have and I even worked backwards and edited some.  I know I planned to wait but as I continued to write there were areas I wanted to touch back on based on how the story was coming along.  Plus, I had to finish with the timeline of what the characters have done/said already.  Now the timeline is up-to-date for future reference and I can continue to add to it as I write.  Overall, I am very pleased with the amount of work accomplished.  If every day could be like this, the book would easily be finished by the end of the month.  Life, though, is a fickle thing so I’ll just take each day as it comes along.

Week 13

I received an email today from one of the magazines I regularly read.  The email informed me about a contest for a short story.   The catch?  The context closes tomorrow!  I went through my book of ideas and found one I thought I might be able to condense down to a short story.  Only after I began writing did I realize how difficult it would be to write a short story.  The limit on the word count was only 1500 words.  By the time I wrote the first draft I had 2500 words.  This was a very tough exercise but a good one because it gave give me a better understanding about how to eliminate words or phrases or even whole scenes in order to make the story move rapidly.  I spent most of the afternoon on the story, getting down to 2000, then 1700 and finally close to 1500 words.  Once you play around with something long enough you begin to question yourself:   Did I do enough?  Did I do too much?  Is it good enough?  Should I change it again?  I finally had to set it aside so that I could read it again in the morning. 

I have never felt my heart thump as hard as it did today.  I finished my short story and went through the process of filling out the application.  It took a few minutes before I felt brave enough to click on “submit” and I was surprised at how terribly scared I was of the whole process.  What is it about putting yourself out there?  You want appreciation but you don’t want your hard work to be criticized so much that you decide it wasn’t worth it.  You don’t want to put all your time and energy into a project you truly believe in only to have someone tell you it just isn’t good enough.  This was just a short story, no strings, just submit and wait and hope.  If you win, it’s great.  You receive money and publication in a magazine.  If you don’t win, you don’t receive any type of criticism or feedback so the only negatives will be the rejection.  It’s just ONE contest.  There are many.  Will I have this feeling every single time I enter my work into a contest?  Do I really care that much to have my work published?  Do I really care what others will think of my work?  Yes, yes and yes, is what I believe the answers to be.  I will always be anxious about releasing my work, I would love to be published (who wouldn’t?) and you have to care what others think because it’s others who will read, criticize, enjoy, and ask for more.  I write for myself but ultimately, my work will be for the enjoyment of others, I hope, and it will be their delight in my books that I will greatly benefit from. 

Last night before heading to bed I received a phone call.  Late night phone calls usually aren’t good.  As it happens, it wasn’t.  The call was from my grandmother to tell me my great aunt had just passed away.  My great aunt was 93 and she had a wonderful life, enjoying each moment and each day like it was her last.  My great aunt had a very, very strong faith and she had already made it clear to those she loved that she was ready to go Home.  It is the family and friends she left behind, who loved her so much, who will feel the greatest sadness because we will miss her company, her love, her laughter and her wisdom.  Her memory will live on because of how much she meant to us.  Strong characters like my aunt give writers great ideas for the characters they bring to life in their books.  Maybe one day I will include a character who is much like my great aunt so that I can share with others how much of a wonderful person she really was. 

Although I’ve told some family about my writing, I haven’t told any of my friends.  Quite awhile ago I told a good friend that I “wanted” to write a book but that was before I finally took the plunge and made the decision to do it.  I have had the fear of telling people, whether it’s because I’ll have to explain my desires, explain my future plans, try to explain I have more than a dream…I don’t know.  I’m sure most of my friends would be supportive so that’s not what I fear.  It’s just that I haven’t been willing to share that part of myself.  Today, however, I made the decision to finally tell one of my good friends.  She has always been there for me and will always remain a truly dear friend.  Whatever her response might be I hope she appreciates the fact that I have literally bared myself to her as I have done for no one else at this point. 
It is weeks like these that can make writing difficult. However, my eye did get better, the contest was a temporary distraction but also a learning experience, I miss my great aunt, which is a loss only time can heal, and obviously, since the last post, I finally made my secret about writing known not only to family but to all my friends and now even strangers.  No matter what happens in life, we heal, we move on, we learn as we go and we even find the confidence to battle the doubts raging inside of us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

First Impressions

First impressions… 
They are important but they sometimes lead to the wrong impression. 

There is the saying; you only get one chance to make a first impression.  But what if your first impression is wrong?  What if you ignore something or someone based merely on a first impression? 
I recently did just that.

The occurrence was not on a grand scale or anything life-altering but it was an instance which made me think…how often do I do this?  We are all so busy and our attention span is fairly short due to the multitude of daily chores and to-do lists we feel we must accomplish.  It is therefore not surprising that I would quickly dismiss something I felt I had no time or need for. 
The other day I was searching through my favorite blogs, catching up on some recent posts and I was directed to a blog called write to done which included a post titled: “Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2010-2011,The Winners.”   

Of course, I had to check it out.  After looking over the list, I realized I had already visited over half the blogs so I took a few minutes to visit the rest.  There was one in particular I had heard of before but I had not taken the time to visit. 

Honestly, my decision was based solely on the name. 
The blog is called Men with Pens and although I regularly view other blogs written by men, my first instinct was that I did not wish to view a blog with regular posts by many men, if the name was any indication.  Would they have useful information just like women writers do?  Sure.  Could I make use of their information?  You bet.  Will I only read blogs written by women?  Heck no.  But I already read enough blogs and my time is limited as it is.

Regardless, I decided I should check out the blog.  I mean, hey, it made a top ten blog list so they must be doing something right.
At the Men with Pens site I got interested in a few posts about blogging with a byline only offering “Written by James.”  As my eyes wandered towards the bottom of the last post, I saw a short blurb about the author, named James Chartrand, and alongside that was a photo of…

Hold up…
It was a photo of a woman?  I’m sure my brows furrowed as my brain quickly registered that the photo of a female must be a mistake.  I finished reading the short introduction which ended with the sentence, “She loves the color blue, her kids, and ice skating.”

Well.  Okay.
I love a good puzzle.  It’s one of the reasons I have always loved mysteries and enjoyed my job as a private investigator.  This was a puzzle of a different sort but I decided I had to find the answer as to why a woman was blogging under a man’s name. 

As I was reading one of her posts titled, “What to Do When You Hate Your Blog” (I don’t hate my blog but I was certainly drawn to why someone would post about hating their blog), I noticed there was a link included with her statement, “And then there was that thing.” 
You can bet those words drew my curiosity, as I’m sure they were meant to do.  I clicked on the link, only to be taken to another website,, and a post on their blog titled, “Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants.”

All right, so now we’re talking about a man wearing women’s underwear? 
I read the post only to discover that “James” is a woman who, after going through some hard times and finding it difficult to find an adequate amount of work with good pay, decided to use a male pseudonym and…voila!  She began getting more work and earning more pay.

Some might argue the matter of men vs. women and how much validity there is to whether either may earn more or less for the same job but it would appear “James” discovered her own truth to that argument.  Although it’s a matter up for debate, it’s not one I wish to make here. 
The point is it worked for “James” who, according to her posts, still uses the pseudonym and does not wish to divulge her true name so as to keep her life private.  I have to admit that’s a bit surprising to me, only because I have to agree with the concept that many writers have a bit of an ego and if they become published, they would most certainly want everyone to know about it.  That’s hard to do if you don’t want to use your real name. 

To each their own, what works for some might not work for others, live and let live.  I don’t care that a female author wishes to write under a male name and now that I’ve read her blog, I will return to it because I do find what she has to say interesting and useful. 
Lesson learned for the day, at least for me, is that it’s never too late to give a first impression a second chance.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Day Job...

I made a comment in my last post regarding the fact that my day job is about to change. 
Change…it is something I sometimes avoid like the plague.

Some who know me might disagree.  They’d say I always avoid change.
Even when I finally decided to plunk my butt down to write a book, it took some time to gather the nerve because I knew it would involve change in my life.  It is just not possible to take on the task of writing a book (or books) without accepting the fact that it will change your life. 

Of course, that’s only if you take it seriously and stick with it.
Which I do and I will.

But sometimes change happens whether you want it to or not; it happens whether the change is set in motion by yourself or someone else. 
I have been a private investigator for over 12 years and it has been a great ride.  I loved being my own boss and I have always enjoyed working as a defense investigator in criminal cases.  Even more important to me as a working mother was the ability to have a very flexible schedule.   I have been able to work around my boys’ schedules throughout their grade school and middle school years and even into high school for my oldest son.  I was able to attend every doctor’s appointment, baseball, football and basketball game, school meetings and assemblies and I believe I participated in just about every single field trip both of my sons ever took. 

Yes, I was very fortunate to have been there for my sons.  As quickly as time passes when it comes to how soon a child grows up, I’m grateful for the time I had with them during their younger years.
Now, my oldest is in college and my youngest will be attending high school next year.  I’m not sure how much my new job will affect them but I believe they are old enough to understand and accept the fact that I will not be around as much as I used to be.

If anyone were to complain, I believe my dogs would completely oppose the change. 
Seriously, I’m not kidding. 

Two of my dogs, Piper and Mandy, have grown very accustomed to hanging out with me while I work in my home office.  If you have animals, you understand they can get used to a routine.  However, while Piper and Mandy might not understand the new schedule, I know eventually they will get used to the new routine.
Here’s a shot of them hanging out on their Harry Potter blanket while I write:

They are great company.  I wish I could take them with me to my new job but I’m betting it’s out of the question.
The good news about my new job is that it will still involve criminal defense work and I will be working with people who I have professionally had contact with for over a decade.  It is the time spent working in another location that will be the biggest change for me.  The question of the day then is how I will continue to write books if I’m gone ten hours a day.  I have grumbled enough about time management issues while writing so this will certainly put my time management abilities to the test. 

However, many people write books while they work full-time jobs. 
I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

It can be done. 
If something is important enough, you find the time to fit it into your life.  Change happens.  I will adjust.  I now have a new chapter in my life to look forward to and to learn from.  As I continue to use my blog to share my writing journey with you, I will also share any obstacles I face as I work a desk job and continue to write and, hopefully, as I become skilled with brilliant time management techniques. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Favorites: Favorite Blogs

I’ve decided to include an addition to my blog which may or may not have anything to do with writing.  I love to write, I consider myself an author and I do aspire to be a published author but I also have more depth than that.  I have other interests beyond writing:  I have hobbies.  I have a family.  I have pets.  I have a day job, which is about to change…but more on that later.

And I have moods. 
Sometimes, based on my mood, I may not feel like writing what I believe I should be writing about. 

Sometimes, I just want to write about something interesting, funny, or thoughtful and not necessarily about writing.
To keep my various moods happy, I’ve given myself the option of adding posts to this new addition to my blog so that I can take a break in order to write about something else when my mind is wandering and in need of a break.  Although I might need a break on any given day of the week, Fridays are usually when I like to lay low, gather my wits after a hectic week and take on only what I feel like tackling when I feel like tackling it.    

Therefore, the new addition to my blog will be posts titled “Friday Favorites” so that I can share with you my favorite things; whether they are favorite blogs, websites, books, hobbies, places I visit or anything else I think might be interesting to write about and share with you. 
Today I will start with ten of my favorite blogs.  I honestly did not begin reading blogs until last year, when I was furiously researching about writing, so many of the blogs I follow are about writing in some form or another.  However, some of the blogs may be helpful to many individuals and businesses who are interested in social media, platform building and also with regard to marketing a business. 

Here are ten of my favorite blogs:
  1. My Name is Not Bob by Robert Lee Brewer:  this is the first blog I became hooked on due to the seemingly endless amount of writing advice available on Brewer’s blog, from writing tips to social media insight to motivation and beyond. 
  2. A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by J. A. Konrath: Konrath is a self-published author with an enormous amount of insight surrounding the publishing world.  He is also not one bit afraid to speak his mind and the results of that are interesting. 
  3. Ask Allison by Allison Winn Scotch: Allison is a freelance writer and author and her blog is filled to the brim with writing tips and advice. 
  4. Cat’s Eye Writer by Judy Dunn:  Judy is a writer, a blogger and a copywriter and her blog is for writers who blog and bloggers who write.  She focuses on quite a few areas, including how to attract more blog visitors, how to engage the reader and using social media to get your brand out there. 
  5. Jane Friedman, Being Human at Electric Speed:  Jane is a media professor and speaker and the information found on her blog with regard to writing, motivation, creativity, social media and marketing are just the beginning of the limitless advice she has to offer.
  6. Writer Unboxed is a blog with multiple contributors and is largely based on the craft and business of fiction.  This blog also offers a very large list of other useful blogs.
  7. The Prosperous Writer by Christina Katz:  I have found her blog and her books to be very useful.  Christina has a wealth of information she is more than willing to share on her blog, which focuses on writing well, selling what you write, building your platform, learning and prospering from writing.
  8. Wildfire Marketing by Rob Eagar: Wildfire Marketing is a consulting firm with the goal of helping “individuals and organizations spread their message like wildfire.”  Rob Eagar’s posts relating to marketing are very helpful and very informative.  A recent post from him last month titled The Dark Side of Social Media was very interesting and I learned something I hadn’t been aware of with regard to this topic.
  9. Alexis Grant, The Traveling Writer:  Alexis is a journalist, a social media coach, an entrepreneur and a travel writer.  I found Alexis’ blog only recently but I enjoyed reading her past posts and I especially look forward to reading the upcoming posts she will be sharing as she journeys through Nicaragua and Costa Rica. 
  10. PsyBlog by Jeremy Dean:  This blog has nothing to do with writing but everything to do with research when it comes to how the mind works.  Jeremy is a researcher at University College London working towards his PhD.  There are many interesting articles on this blog about why researchers believe we do the things we do.
And there you have it.  I read other blogs and could come up with another list of ten, I’m sure, but this is a good amount of my regular favorites.  I hope you enjoy perusing through them while possibly learning a thing or two as you do.
If you have any favorite blogs, whether they are about writing or any other interesting subject, I’d enjoy hearing from you about them. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Novel Beginning, Weeks 7, 8 & 9

This post includes Weeks 7, 8 and 9 from my writing journal.  I added an extra week because one week had limited entries and because I would like to get to the end of this journal sooner rather than later.  These three weeks I dealt further with character development, introducing new characters, the issues surrounding time management and my first act of bravery at finally allowing someone else to read some of my work. 

Week 7

I am beginning to worry that some of the details in my story might muddy the water.  Whether or not certain facts should or should not be included, whether the character should or should not know certain information, whether the information can come out now, in a later chapter or in a later book…there is much to think about.  Today I am happy with the amount of writing I was able to complete but towards the end I began to feel lost.  Whether I was feeling lost with the characters or feeling lost in the plot, either didn’t feel good as I thought my character was floundering a bit.  It could be due to the fact that she is just beginning to gain the knowledge that things are not as she thought they were.  She doesn’t know it yet but someone close to her has lied to her.  How will this affect her later?  How will it affect their relationship?  After thinking about it, I believe I became upset as I wrote out the scene where the character lied to the main character.  This particular scene wasn’t what I had initially intended to add when I made notes on the subject of their conversation.  It could be this conflict that I’m getting lost in because I am concerned with how it will affect the main character.  I care about the main character and I feel bad about messing with her life.  It is odd to say but it is true.

I don’t know how any writer can sit at a desk for 8, 12 or even 15 hours a day.  Working those hours would be very difficult and I can imagine that writing for long periods of time would actually be hazardous to your health.  I believe a writer has more issues than writer’s block to deal with (if such a thing even exists).  Much like a secretary who has to avoid the ‘secretary spread’ I believe a writer has to avoid a big bottom, if you will.  There is a saying, ‘if you don’t make time for your health, you’ll make time for illness.’  That’s a great quote to remember.  Writing is something I want to do but I don’t want to end up gaining weight or affecting my health because I’m sitting at the computer too many hours during the day.  Priorities are an important part of many aspects of your life, whether it’s regarding your job, your family, exercising or just taking care of yourself.  So, I am going to work on my writing but also figure out a way to keep myself moving when I’m not writing so that I maintain good health. 

I had fun introducing a new character today.  Not one that will stick around, I don’t think, but one who gives my main character a very important piece of information.  While I was writing, a new thought crept into my head about how I could switch up the story just a bit in order to change the facts with regard to an important event.  I mulled about it for awhile as I was typing out my scene and I finally decided to just let it go.  Again, having a brief outline is much better than a firm outline, which would be too restricting when thoughts like this come and go.  If I decide to use a new idea, it may change things up but not knowing what’s going to happen is what entertains me as I write.  I hope the reader will also feel the same way.
Week 8

My husband has challenged me to reach 200 pages in my book by this weekend.  Today is Monday but I have case work I need to complete this morning before I can begin writing.  Tomorrow I am scheduled to be a guest speaker at my son’s college class in criminal justice so I will spend much of the day preparing for that.  At this rate, I’m not sure I’ll make it to 200 pages by the end of the week.  Life happens; however, the life in my book needs to continue on as well so I will do my best to find some good blocks of time to write and get as close to 200 pages as I can.
Week 9

I’m so disappointed with how life can wreck havoc with my attempts to maintain good time management skills.  I did not make it to 200 pages last weekend.  It has been difficult to set aside any good blocks of time to write these past two weeks due to other issues I had to deal with.  I think I might get through tough times much better if I can “hide” inside my book but the opportunity just didn’t present itself.  There may be more times such as this but I surely hope not.  I need to keep the story alive in my head and I need to have contact with my characters every day.  I miss the characters if I don’t check in with them every day.  That sounds funny; but it’s true. 

I’m probably just over half way through my book and I finally got brave and sent a portion to my cousin for her review.  Okay, I’m lying.  I only sent her the prologue.  I haven’t had a chance to edit the actual story and I’m not sure I want anyone else to read it before I get a chance to review it first.  Either way, it was a big step for me to finally let someone else see what I’ve been working on.  I’m so private and almost protective about my writing.  I have told some family members what I’ve been doing but I do not yet plan to show them what I’m working on.  Do I value their critique?  Honestly, not yet, especially while the book is still in the infant stage.  I don’t want to hear anything negative about my work yet.   I’ll wait to hear any negativity when it will actually do me good, as I attempt to make the final draft even better.  Right now I feel like a mother bear trying to protect her cub, willing to fight to the death to protect it.   
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These three weeks of writing were fairly difficult for me.  Not only was I working with new ideas and feeling "bad" about upsetting the main character's life (although I was happy with how it moved the story along), I was dealing with a stressful time in my personal life and as a result the feeling of disappointment at not accomplishing my page goal for that time period.  Of course, the issue with time management is nothing new if you've read my other journal entries.  I may have been expecting too much too soon after writing for only two months and at the time, I did not realize it would still be another two months before I would finally complete the book.  However, it was my motto "Don't let life rule your passion" that helped me continue to find the time to write when I could and kept me going regardless of what was going on around me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We Write and We Rewrite

I think I’ve found another description for the Terrible Two’s…that term would define the combined labors of editing and rewriting. 

I’ve been rewriting my book now since the middle of January.  At first, I felt very proficient as I began making the changes I had scribbled all over the first draft.  The task did not seem all that burdensome since I had already read through the book and made notations regarding changes I wished to make.
At first, I think I actually enjoyed the rewriting portion of writing.

But then the inner critic took over, which brought me back to the task I did not especially enjoy…editing.
As I made the first draft changes, I was in fact reading through the story again and in doing so, I was also editing…again.  Not only am I making changes based on the first edit, I am also making additional changes I feel are necessary while I read over the story again as I rewrite.

Of course, I never thought my book would be prefect the first or second time around.  It will most likely take more than a few edits before it is worthy of publishing.  Thankfully, I’m on no one else’s deadline but my own.  I just hope I can stick to my own deadline because while I rewrite the first book I am working on a second book.
Some might wonder why I would start a second book before finishing the first.  That’s okay; you can wonder, worry or choose to believe I’m being hasty.  I just have certain goals and I’m trying to stick to a plan.

To multi-task or not to multi-task, that is the question.  It may be a good subject for another blog.
Here is what multi-tasking looks like:

I would call this “creative chaos.”  Actually, my desk has looked worse so this was a good day.  When I am in the middle of various projects, my desk will appear to explode but believe me, for the most part I know where everything, and I mean everything, is located. 
I have always been good at multi-tasking so I don’t really doubt myself in that regard.  It’s just that one story can so overwhelm your thought process, along with all the other little details and chores of everyday life; it will soon be determined whether I can skillfully rewrite one book while also writing a new one.  However, spending time on my second novel is a nice break when I tire of rewriting the first and I like the option of moving back and forth between the two tasks.

When it comes to rewriting, I will keep in mind what the experts say:
“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten…”  Michael Crichton

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”  Justice Brandeis
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon…”  Robert Cormier

Or how about, “It’s perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.”  C. J. Cherryh
Garbage is a strong term and one I personally would never use to describe my work, but you get the gist.  It is the editing and the rewriting which both ultimately deliver a superb story.

To persist is to prevail and when it comes down to it, the light at the end of the tunnel is really not so very far away.