Making Stuff Up

You could write a book on this topic. Writing fiction … from the beginning … to publication …
But hopefully, my personal journey will reassure you, perhaps a beginning writer, that it’s possible. I had been a non-fiction writer, a free-lance journalist for over 25 years raising five amazing children on three continents. I was a stay at home mom endeavoring to keep my skills honed by freelancing articles. Moving often, it seemed prudent to be on tap to help children adjust to new cultures in Europe and South Africa. But that’s another book waiting to be written.

For now, suffice it to say that switching to fiction seemed in the beginning to be a piece of cake.

Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting down and making stuff up.

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I started years ago, but I got serious ten years ago, attending writers conferences, joining writing organizations, interviewing writers and participating in a welcoming critique group through the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. Never before had I had that kind of support.

Which leads me to say this: If you think you can’t do it, stop reading. But if there is a part of you that wants to find out if you could do it, you’re who I am looking for.

When an idea hits you — like creating another world, or putting a new story into a world you’re familiar with, enjoy. But, if you aren’t having fun, then go knit or start an aquarium or find something else that turns you on.

Above all else, don’t tell me “I think it would be fun but I just don’t have time right now.” You can search the web and read writers’ experiences and comments on that topic. Finding time.

Perhaps the turn on will be a moment when the right person at the right time says the right thing.

“If you write one page a day, in a year you’ll have a book.” Something so simple. But that was the moment for me. When I heard the lack of time commitment, the simplicity, I was hooked.  I had five children under my roof in New Jersey and simply decided to get up earlier and write one hour every morning. My whole day went better. Why? Because my personal goal, my passion for writing would be fulfilled first before my hectic day ever started.

Tons of people who work full-time write their stories while traveling to work on the subways or trains or planes. You do it where you are. When you can. You have to figure it out. Make it happen. I promise you a great ride.

Let your imagination soar. Find your passion. If it’s raising fruit flies, begin there. You hate commuting? Write about a world where teleporting is available. If you have a place where you left your heart, start there.

One last thought. Don’t expect your book to stay within your original parameters. It will take on legs of its own.

During an online class from Gotham Writers, with my book well on its way to being finished, the professor gave us an assignment. “Spend two or more hours researching, discovering information you’ve never seen before.” That research led me and eventually my readers into a world of muti killing, where innocent women and children become victims when their body parts are sold. The final product supposedly brings good luck. Not so much for the victims. And this practice continues today in South Africa.

So my point is do not presume to know what your book is about. There’s more. Much more. Look for it.

HAPPY DAYS …

 

 

FINAL COVER
Midnight in Malamulele,my long awaited breakout novel is now on Amazon and Smashwords ready to be downloaded to your Kindle, Nook or your PC.  The book is a South African murder mystery which begins with the death of a religious nun in a locked down convent in Malamulele. American crime reporter Annabelle Chase joins local Detective N.F. Baloyi to search for the killer, leading them into a savage and unexpected world of intrigue.

This is the first book in the Mamgoboza Trilogy. The second book will be out early February 2015 with hard copies to follow.

Enjoy and watch for the next blog about my journey to publication.

FLATTENED DAYS

My novel is finished. My birthday is finished. This morning my body decided it was finished. It simply crashed. My body didn’t want to do anything I wanted it to do.

I texted my friend in Africa and told her I’ve been going in circles with nothing accomplished today.

My nun friend from Sierra Leone texted me back:

“Even in circles something is done.”

 

Whoa! Sounded like a Zen Master. I took a deep breath, resigned that my body had the right to take a break. It over rode my desires. It shut me down. It’s got a grip that won’t let go and so I befriended it. What else can you do?

It’s amazing that we women, American women in particular, feel we cannot stop for anything but our own personal day-to-day agendas, many of which we have no control over. Unless, of course we come down with the flu. I distinctly remember when my own children were growing up I looked forward to my annual sinus infection because it gave me an excuse to be a slacker for a week. That’s if you can be a slacker with five children.

Now that I look back at that, I continue to be astounded that we women feel pressured to perform, even out perform, to get it right, to get it perfect … whatever “it” is … to pick up kids, to work in the marketplace, to volunteer if you’re not holding down a full-time job. We never feel comfortable to take down time. It’s like we have this insidious virus inside us that propels us into this constant state of frenzy.

One of my problems is I have a desk littered with things I need to do. Contacts to contact, bunches of stuff to put away, file (yes, I still file a few things), including a Wonder Woman notebook to help me think I can do it all. And you notice in the picture she is sitting right next to St. Jude.

 

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On the back of the St. Jude card it says: “when one seems to be deprived of all visible help….” St. Jude inspired Danny Thomas early in his career and then Thomas built St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in gratitude. If it was good enough for Danny Thomas …. And then we all know about Wonder Woman. (Should I have switched that around?) St. Jude has been around longer than Wonder Woman.

It all goes back to what it is that gives us peace in our minds, encourages us to feel optimistic and grateful. What about you?

What do you do to help you through the flattened days?

 

 

Negative Presumptions

In Maputo I struggled down sidewalks navigating the crushed concrete while sight-seeing. As I tripped, two African friends rescued me, leaning me against the side of a storefront.

A Mozambican man apparently glued to a folding chair near a small table four yards from us studied my agonizing situation. I swayed, then bent over struggling to regain my equilibrium. My two friends, the principal of a South African school and her administrative assistant, grabbed my arms and wrapped them around their shoulders as they carefully pulled me down the street.

Taking a breather, I turned to look back at the inconsiderate jerk one more time. Why had he not had the common courtesy to assist me, give me his seat, anything?

I presumed he was rude.

I was wrong.

I presumed he didn’t care.

Probably I was wrong about that as well.

I may have presumed he was lazy.

Then I realized all my presumptions were wrong.

Staring at him from the side, no tablecloth to hide him, I saw.

The man had no feet.

That vision has stayed, as well as visions of the torture he had endured. I’d heard the tales of how the enemy would simply cut off a hand, a leg, two feet.

That was the day I decided to take a second look. To not jump to conclusions that danced in my head. That was the day I realized there were negative presumptions and I had to let go.

As writers, we all have Negative Presumptions. Let me name a few.

  1. We’ll never be published. Hogwash. Total nonsense. Of course we will. Write more. Read more. Work smart.
  2. We’ll never be able to talk to a roomful of people. A book signing? Holy cow. Talk to people, actually stand up and pull our stomachs in? Wear presentable clothes? Never mind we’ve been writing in our robes for the past eight years.
  3. Social Media????? Are you kidding me? What’s that all about? Believe me, you can learn the basics. Get a friend to assist you. Take a three-night course at the local community college. It’s fun. Enjoy your profession. You are a writer.
  4. Teach. “Who Me?” Now you’re really kidding me. No, no. Think about it. It’s not fair. If you have info gleaned from years of struggles, you need to pass it on to others. It’s a duty. And, yes you can!

 

“THE CHIEF DANGER IN LIFE IS THAT YOU MAY TAKE TOO

MANY PRECAUTIONS.”

Alfred Adler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING SOON! INSPIRATION!

Inspiration is everywhere. Ah, but whether you stop and notice, that’s the issue.

Mindlessly watching television, I found the end of a tennis tournament. Suddenly, there’s Kevin Spacey being interviewed. Quick blurb. “Defeat, failure, falling on your face, falling on your ass are the only things that teach you how to win.”

That applies to us all. Does it inspire you?

Read it again.

“Defeat, failure, falling on your face, falling on your ass are the only things that teach you how to win.”

Heck yeah it inspires whether you’re running the next marathon, competing for a client’s business, or writing your first novel. Or your next novel. Or your short story.

A few days alter, Inspiration surprised me while walking through the boy’s  department in a popular store.  I snapped a picture.

 

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What inspires you? Whatever it is, take advantage of it. If it’s a sign on Pinterest or the World Cup stage or a blurb in a magazine. Use it. Make a copy. Put it in your office or in your kitchen where you love to write. PUT IT UP. See it every day. We are visual creatures. Remind yourself that what you are doing is important. What you are doing is important. Do I have to say it again?

In an earlier blog, I took a picture of a tiny plant driving itself up through the concrete to about three inches on the side of the street where I walk everyday. The picture stayed on my board for a year.

The other evening I discovered the same plant like a familiar friend. It had come back and was bigger and stronger. I walked past it. Had second thoughts. Then I turned around with my iPhone and snapped a current picture.

It reminded me where I’d been last year. The umpteenth draft. Now I was finished with my book. I felt miles ahead of where I was last year. And the plant was a visual reinforcement. It made me feel stronger. It made me proud of myself.

Just think of inspiration as a coming attraction.

“”Coming Soon. Inspiration. “”

Don’t wait for it.

But, do watch for it.

 

 

 

 

NOT WRITING — NOT AN OPTION !

What is it you tell yourself when you’re supposed to be — but you’re not — writing?

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9 EXCUSES

  1. The smoke alarm went off all night. No fire. Too high to replace the battery. I need a nap. I’ll write better after I catch a few.
  2. I’ll watch “Murder in the First.” Then I’ll start writing. It’s research!
  3. The leaves on my weeping fig tree need cleaning. I can think and plot as I clean.
  4. Look at all the books on my shelves. I’ve never read half of them. Reading is essential to writing. I’ll spend a few hours reading.
  5. I need to sit on the deck and think about the ending to my book. Maybe  I’ll get some new ideas.
  6. Wonder what Plato said about excuses? I should research that.
  7. My blog is what’s important. Helping other writers learn to write better. That should come first, shouldn’t it?
  8. My pro bono editing. The client is waiting half a world away for corrections.
  9. What about all those people waiting on my novel? Hmmm.

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JOY IN MUDVILLE

Nothing can match the joy I felt when I opened a brown box with no return address. Thinking about it now, I suppose I should have been cautious. Not me. I instantly ripped right into it.

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An anonymous reader miraculously found the exact cup to replace my broken one. (See blog before last)

“There was joy in Mudville tonight.”  Why did that quote come to me? Why did I  say that?

I thought I had heard it before. It came creaking into my brain from somewhere. Oh, yeah, it was a poem. Junior High School.

As a writer, I became curious. I looked it up. The quote was in reference to a baseball player named Casey who struck out. The correct quote was  “But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”

As a writer, I became curious.

Who wrote something so long ago that had resonated with me on some level even today and stayed with me for more years than I want to count?

Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Born in 1863, died in 1940.  Edited Harvard’s satirical magazine, the Lampoon. Worked on the West Coast in the newspaper era for the San Francisco Examiner, contributed occasional humorous columns to the paper under the pen name “Phin”–derived from a college nickname, “Phineas.”

Although he had poor health, he continued to write for the Examiner, much of his work syndicated by the Examiner.

DeWolf Hopper, a comedian/actor read his poem at the Wallack’s Theatre in New York City. That particular evening was a “baseball night.” The crowd loved it!

For years no one knew who Phin was, but in the early 1900’s it became clear the author of the famous poem was indeed Thayer.

As writers our work comes in many stages from many directions and inspirations, easing out into the public in many forms. And we may not know what people think of our work right upfront. In some cases, we may never know.

As a columnist for years, I received instant feedback. As a blogger, I receive instant feedback. But if you’re writing a novel, not so instant.

Thayer’s story can teach us one sure thing. If you’re writing and no recognition should ever come, would you still write?

If you are a true writer, yes.

So get to it.