Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part Two

If you’re familiar with my blog, you may remember this post ,where I shared some amazing music that is great for writing to, or as inspiration for writing a scene. Since there is so much sensational music to be had, I had to split up my list. So without further ado, here is some more music to fuel your creative fire:

Faun

Egil Saga

Faun is an excellent source to turn to for fantasy writing or something with a Celtic or ancient feel to it. Their lyrics are often in languages like Latin, German, Scandinavian, and Greek, which adds to this old feel. I really enjoy this song, imagining a woodland realm of my creation as I type to the beat.

 

The Piano Guys

Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody)

This is another amazing band with cellos, can you tell I’m a fan of strings? I really love the beat in this one. It’s a familiar tune to Star Wars fans, but has a twist in the music with an up beat that will keep your head bobbing. An intense but fun scene comes to mind, perhaps a chase and formidable fight. The possibilities are up to you.

Adele – Hello / Lacrimosa (Mozart)

There’s something so beautiful and sad and about this piece, sometimes I just close my eyes and listen, letting the images wash over me. Often times I imagine and end up writing memory scenes, something poignant but adds to development, action, something; it builds, just as the music does. Or perhaps it’s the background to a harrowing journey where the hero or heroine is continuing despite all odds. You’re the writer, you decide, but give yourself a moment to experience this music and see what comes to your page from it.

 

Celtic Woman

A New Journey- Reels

Mairead Nesbitt is another amazingly talented musician that I adore watching play; she beams like the sun itself while she dances and flies over the stage, and it’s the same energy and heart that makes me want to give to my writing. There are so many possible scenes to write to this finger and toe-tapping if not feet flitting song; it’s wonderful for a warm and jovially setting or mood.

 

Epica
Sancta Terra

There’s something mysterious and intense in this beautifully delivered song. I’ve loved Epica for years, Simone Simmons has a voice that rings like glass (I got to meet her and the band once too, which was amazing). I find myself picturing different scenarios if I close my eyes and let myself feel this music; when I set myself to page to write, there seems to be an intriguing dark undertone at times, but it’s always a bit of a surprise what will come out. Sometimes I just soak up the majestic notes and hope they later somehow filter out through my fingers in my work.

 

Black Violin

Dirty Orchestra

For some reason, the first bars make me think of snowflakes falling, and soon after a white blanketed wood comes to mind, with running feet and snow flurries in the air behind fast freezing footprints, and off I go! There’s something fun and dark in this song that just begs for a dark yet scintillating story to accompany it.

 

 

Ramalama bang bang

By Róisín Murphy

Perhaps it’s the beat, perhaps it’s the overlay of her voice over the rhythm, who is to say? What I do know is that there is something incredibly fun about this song that gets my fingers twitching and makes me want to start typing out a story if not dancing around my apartment.

 

Simply three

Demons (Imagine Dragons) Cover- (violin/cello/bass)

Yes, if you still haven’t caught on, I’m a big fan of stringed instruments…but can you blame me? I mean, listen to that beauty….there’s no other way to express or describe things the way music does, but the images this song paints for me ignites my desire to try. Instead of with color or notes, I use the words I can find to describe the sensations and moments I want to capture and express, to encapsulate the essence of this song that is a story of its own. This one makes me think of homecoming, returning from a long journey with a myriad of mixed emotions.

 

Counting Stars (One Republic) Cover- (violin/cello/bass)

Something about this music makes me think of friendship and a general sense of joyfulness and activity. Closing my eyes, I imagine a vibrant and busy village nestled among the trees, ready feet kicking up dirt and grass in excitement while laughter rings among the strings’ notes. I wish my fingers could move as deftly and quickly as the thoughts that are stoked by this lovely music.

 

And there you have it, Part 2 of music to write to! There’s a good chance you’ll see another of these pop up as I remember and find new (or old) music that sets my writing fingers to tapping and my imagination whirling.

What did you think of this list? Do you have a favorite, or a scene that comes to mind?

If you feel like a fun little challenge, write the opening line to a scene inspired by one of these songs and share below in the comments!

music post

A Look at Publishing Options and an Interview with Jewel Leonard

There are so many options in publishing today that it can be daunting sifting through them all to compare and contrast to find the best option for you. There are many considerations to take into account when you are exploring your options, and whether you’re going the traditional or self-publishing route, both have pros and cons. Here’s a quick rundown of each:

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Traditional

Pro

  • No upfront cost, money flows to you
  • Editor will edit for you (no charge to you)
  • Design and layout handled (no charge to you)
  • Publishing house handles: distributing to B&N and other stores, assign publicist, make it available for ebook, keep track of sales and pay you

Con

  • Moves slow
  • Much is out of your hands; often at the whim of others
  • Confines of genre and length
  • Payment good at first, but bad later

Self-publishing

 Pro

  • Lots of options or both print and ebook
  • You are in control; you can work different places (nonexclusive rights)
  • Better royalties
  • Speed
  • Length and genre no longer matter

Con

  • Too much control can be bad
  • Quality can be inferior
  • Stigma
  • You pay possible upfront costs (design, layout, editing, etc.)
  • No help with subsidiary rights
  • Tougher with bookstores and book fairs
  • Biggest issue: visibility and promotion

(many of these points are from a handout from the conference I attended in February, the talk was given by Chuck Sambuchino)

Now that we have those basics out of the way, I’d like to go into a little more detail about the ebook side of self-publishing. I’ve put some serious consideration into and have ultimately decided on a dual publishing approach, which means a lot of research and information.

jewelDoing research is great, and the Google gods are immensely helpful, but I decided to speak to someone that has taken this route themselves. She’s pretty wonderful, definitely sweet, and she is one of the many fantastic people I’ve met through Twitter. Her name is Jewel E. Leonard, and she was kind enough to let me pick her brain about her experience self-publishing her first book Tales by RailsTBRBookCoverPreviewGood-1

DMG: Tales by Rails is your first published eBook? How long is it and did you intend to publish it as an eBook?

JL: Yes, it’s my first published eBook. It’s about 27,000 words and I never even considered publishing it traditionally. I understand that short works are notoriously hard to sell and I was just writing this as light-hearted fluff.

DMG: How long did it take you from finished novel to published ebook?

JL: I wrote it in about 3 weeks. Once I started it, the words flowed better for me than they usually do. I wrote it in August, edited in December and decided to publish around Valentine’s Day for (I think) obvious reasons. So from start to publish, 6 months… Though I certainly could have done it faster. I had planned to publish it in December but I ended up participating in NaNoWriMo when I was going to edit it… Editing took about a month, when I finally got around to it because I was very undisciplined. I was too busy chatting on Twitter with new friends from NaNo.

DMG: How did you handle formatting? What considerations (if any) needed to be made?

JL: It helps to have the proper programs. I use Open Office as I don’t have Word anymore and the learning curve with Scrivener is so steep I couldn’t make it past the welcome screen… So I ended up getting help from my wonderful Ashley (@ashleygraham55) who did my formatting for me. However, I ended up discovering through experimentation that OO will save as PDF and once you save as PDF, you can convert to mobi and epub formats using free programs like Calibre.

But Amazon and Barnes and Noble will have you upload your file and then they will convert it…. Which don’t go without glitches and difficulties. Amazon, BN and Smashwords all give you a chance to review the file once converted: it is imperative to not skip this step or you’re risking complaints in your ratings and reviews.

DMG: Where is your book available for purchase? (You mention Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords?) How did that work?

JL: Just those three places. You have to upload to each individually which includes creating accounts, setting up payment and tax info… Really obnoxious work but the good news is, once the account is set up, it’s done.

Amazon had the fastest set up, B&N allows for the highest royalty. Amazon also has exclusivity options, which I chose to pass on.

Also, B&N didn’t have a pre-order feature and took about 5 days to process the file so plan accordingly.

DMG: That’s some great information, thank you. Did you create your author profile for each site as you created and uploaded your book, then? Could/would you maybe elaborate on what you mean by “exclusivity options” as well as your decision?

JL: Yeah, I worked one vendor at a time though really there’s no reason not to.

Amazon offers options where your book, for a certain amount of time, is sold through them exclusively. I skimmed the perks to that program and decided against it but that’s a personal choice. Obviously many others choose to do it.

I liked the idea of having multiple platforms… So that, for instance, my Nook possessing friends could read my novella the day it was released. And I know many readers are loyal to Smashwords, as well.

It made sense to me to offer through as many sites as I could easily access but, as they say, YMMV.

DMG: How was your blog tour arranged, how did it work and coincide with your book release?

JL: Ashley helped so much with the blog tour–she was a wealth of information. She set up the Google sign up form, told me the kinds of things that are normally done during blog tours and I got in contact with those who signed up and provided the content they asked for. She suggested the week prior to my novella’s release for three days which is what I did. (You don’t question a genius.)

To be honest I still don’t really know how blog tours work! Lol! The whole thing is a learning process and you just kind of have to accept that some things won’t come easily… May have glitches… And you just go with the flow.

DMG: Do you plan to continue publishing novels this way?

JL: Absolutely. My vendor accounts are set up, I know how to format my documents, I know (more or less) how to do the blog tour. Second time around should be far easier. That’s the great thing about experience!

I understand self-publishing is largely a numbers game and if you have any aspirations for success, you’re going to need to put out more than a single title.

DMG: Do you plan to keep to the romantic/erotica genre, or do you have plans to branch out into others?

JL: I really don’t feel like I’m capable of completely abandoning what is at the heart of my stories. Having said that, the second of my Rays of Sunshine series seems to be leaning a lot more toward drama with focus on interpersonal relationships and some erotic elements.

If I cannot find traditional representation for my other book series (I have 2 in progress) those will be self-published as well and the heat level of the romantic elements in those are definitely lower than Rays.

DMG: Anything you’d like to add?

JL: That the journey to publication is a personal one. I know writers who wouldn’t dream of putting themselves through the querying process and I know writers who would rather scrap years of hard work if they can’t get an agent than self-publish. Each journey has perks and pitfalls. But whatever you choose is good as long as YOU are happy with your choices. The most important thing is, as the lovely supportive writing community on Twitter will tell you: always keep writing.

 

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Sensational Music to Make you Write: Part One

 

Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part One

Everyone who sits themselves down to face off with their manuscript, short story, essay, or other, has their own preferred setting. Some are incredibly specific and strict in what they require in order to fill a page with their words, either the time, tools, the place, the silence, or the music. Others may have their preferences but can generally make do with circumstances at hand, whatever they may be. Then of course, there are some that don’t think and just do, sometimes it’s the same, sometimes they deviate from their norm. The point really is that everyone is different. Today though, I speak to those that enjoy or even use music as their inspiration when it comes to their writing.

Personally, when novel writing I do enjoy listening to music. Many times I intend to listen only as inspiration before I start, but there are often times that I my fingers just start flying while the musical spell is still at work. Truly, music is an experience in itself when given the time it deserves. Sometimes I get too into music and I feel like I’m about to combust because my physical body cannot hold everything a certain note or song makes me feel…but anyway, I thought I would share some music that has fueled me while writing or given me inspiration before diving in to my world of words.

2Cellos

If you’re familiar with my blog you can hardly be surprised that 2Cellos are on this list; I got to experience a sensational concert and watch them play live. But here are two particular favorites to write to.

Celloverse

Something about this melody (and the background of the video if you watch it) just invite movement, action, creation. I’ve often found myself swaying along to the music only to realize that my fingers are dancing across the keys.

Hysteria

If you follow me on social media at all, there’s a good chance you’ve seen me share this at least once if not more. The plaintive and hauntingly beautiful notes in this evoking song strike a chord within me that cannot be easily explained. This song often sets my fingers aflame and results in pages of emotionally charged words.

 

Lindsey Stirling

Shadows

I love watching Lindsey Stirling play just because of how much she enjoys it. This song in particular always puts me in mind of a hero or heroine on a harrowing journey, but determinedly on their way with spirit and drive. So, that’s often what I write when looking to this one for inspiration.

 

Irish Party in Third Class and Johnny Ryan’s Polka

This duo of songs will get you up and moving no matter how the day has started. I love writing a fun and merry scene, jovial talk, and dancing feet to this sprightly tune. I happen to also love this type of music and have many characters that hail from such hills and moors these songs call to mind.

 

Apocalyptica

Hall of the Mountain King

No matter how many times I hear this song by Apocalyptica, I get chills and as if I will explode without somehow channeling the energy this song builds within me, into something else. When I write to this song, I think of intense scenes of an epic tale, escape, loss, perhaps even battle or war, but the writing comes fast and I’m always a little breathless when I’ve finished.

The Path

The alternating pattern and charged energy in this song put me in the mind of opposition; the cellos seem to be answering each other as they play against their own shadows, so I enjoy listening to this when there’s controversy or something unexpected may happen.

 

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star from Dead Space

I may not necessarily listen to this while writing, that greatly varies, but one thing I can be sure of, this song inspires eerie imagery and macabre scenes that make your spine tingle and pull your blankets close at night.

 

Pentantonix

White Winter Hymnal

I’ve been a fan of Pentantonix for a while now, I have a hearty appreciation for well-done a cappella, but this song in particular really enchanted me. When I close my eyes and listen, sometimes I focus on the lyrics themselves and others I just float along with the melodic voices and move with the rhythm, feeling the energy and the beauty without the words; from that I see visions of fairytale forest chases and snowy woods, red capes whipping in the breezes with the snapping of trees’ fingers…

In effort not to overwhelm anyone, I’ve decided to split this post into…however it many it takes to share all of the soul tinging music that makes this writing soul surge. These are some long and recent favorites that can really help me with a mood or a scene, or even give me an insight to a character. It truly is amazing what the power of music can do. I hope you’ve enjoyed!

What do you think of these? Do you have a go-to song, band, or type of music when you’re writing?

 

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My First Writing Workshop and Pitch: What You Need to Know

 

My First Writing Workshop and Pitch:What You Need to Know

February 20th marked a milestone on my writing journey, and that was attending my first writing conference, and pitching in person to an agent for the first time. If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that I’m speaking of the Atlanta Writing Workshop, and it was definitely an experience.

The Workshop

This particular conference consisted of five talks that were reminiscent of college lectures. Each of the topics covered a different aspect of  a writing career, but each were intended to give knowledge, suggestions, and options to writers in every stage of the game; I will say that someone just starting out probably would have gained the most from attending this conference, but there’s always something new to learn.

The subjects covered at the Atlanta Writing Workshop were publishing options (traditional and self/e-publishing), information about querying and pitching to agents, a critique on a handful of randomly selected first pages, marketing and how to build your platform, and finally writing practices to help you succeed as a writer.

Though I was unable to stay for as much as I would have liked, even being there, by myself, was a huge deal for me. It honestly reminded me of college days where I had a presentation to give in front of the class, as far as what the nerves felt like while waiting for my time to pitch.

I arrived more than a little early (they were setting everything up), but it was lucky I did, in Hyatt-House-Atlanta-Cobb-Galleria-P002-Exterior-Daytime-1280x427large part due to parking. The hotel parking lot was not particularly big and there were no other marked lots nearby for parking, though there was a “helpful” sign that said to ask the person at the front desk….the woman I spoke with was of little help and cared even less, her response being to tell me to “be patient and wait for someone to leave”…I even remarked about the fact that more people were coming to the hotel as we spoke for the conference that I was there for; she also seemed completely unconcerned when I mentioned that I had a disability and couldn’t walk from another lot across the street (which was my second option, according to her), so I was not overly impressed with the hotel staff.

Thankfully, someone else moved and I was able to grab one of the last actual parking spots in the hotel lot before things got hectic. Once getting into the conference hall, I managed to find myself a good seat near the front on the aisle where I could leave for my pitch, and near a door so could I slip out mostly without disturbance. Also, from my vantage point I was able to hear and see who was speaking much easier.

I joked briefly with a few of the other first comers that were waiting for the sign up table to be setup to grab our folders and sticker name tags. Someone else spoke to me first (of course) while waiting for 9:30 to roll around and the talks to start. We had a brief chat that caught the attention of another author. We all conversed, I shared some information with them, and my cards, and chatted until Chuck Sambuchino grabbed up the mic and started talking.

I didn’t do much other networking or chatting than that after my pitch, which I’m a bit sorry for now, but at the same time, I was honestly drained. I left soon before lunch, and not too long after my pitch; between being an introvert out in a crowd of people outside of my comfort zone, and the fact that I have multiple chronic illnesses and a myriad of issues that come with them (add two herniated discs from a car accident), I was worn out and tired with a migraine starting. (I know, it’s super lame, but do what you can, right?)

So what are some things I learned?

  • Get there early– I live by this rule, probably too much, but at least I’m usually thankful for the positives that being early provides such as parking and good seating. Plus, I like to get the lay of the land, take a few minutes to collect myself.
  • Know your schedule beforehand– While you might get some handouts and information about the schedule of talks the day of a conference, it’s best to know your schedule before the day arrives. I say your schedule specifically because, if the event is big enough, there may be more than one panel or discussion happening at once, and if you don’t know ahead of time what you most want to attend, you are bound to kick yourself later. This was not the case so much for me, but it’s good practice. However, I did need to know when my pitch was before I got to the event so I could leave the lecture in time.

Some takeaways and things to remember:

  • There is no “right” way to publish– If this wasn’t already clear (and I was considering taking a dual route prior to this conference anyway), it was vehemently stressed at the very beginning of the conference that there is no right way to publish, especially these days. That doesn’t mean you should take an “anything goes” approach to what you publish or how, but self/ebook publishing are just as viable as options as traditional publishing these days. Chuck Sambuchino even said that anyone telling you otherwise is selling something, so remember that.
  • Pricing mysteries– A random tidbit about pricing eBook mystery  novels(and something to keep an eye on in other genres too) was that 0.99 is too low, it won’t sell well at this price; this is because of a tendency to believe that a novel priced at 0.99 must not be very good, but $1.99, 2.99, even 5.99 seems to produce better results…food for thought.
  • Start small and early on platform- This is one of those things where you kick yourself a year later, wishing you’d started then; you’re always going to have wanted to build your platform sooner rather than later (though importance of platform differs between fiction and nonfiction; vital for nonfiction, by the way). With fiction though, starting your platform is also how you can begin to build your writing community; you don’t need to be published to need and deserve your writing community, so start soon, start simple, take it one step at at time.

Between the speeches and the handouts, which were basically outlines with some additional information such as site links, I learned a smattering of things I didn’t know before. But I have to admit that my pitch is what took up most of my mind.

The Pitch

How did it go? The room was surprisingly small and there was a good team of agents present. Add in chairs and a table between agent and author, and you had a packed room. It seems obvious, but it became incredibly noisy in a heartbeat once everyone started talking at once.

I think I did pretty well for my first pitch ever. I feel I can be proud of myself, not to mention the fact that I ultimately achieved my goal, which was to be invited to query. I gained experience (I leveled up!!!), as well as knowledge about the genre my book mostly fits in. I also gained an opening with the agent I spoke with, not just about my novel, but a picture book I’ve been working on as well.

Even though I didn’t ask all I’d hoped (ten minutes goes by fast!), and even though I mumbled a bit (at the start), stumbled, and bumbled, for the most part I got through it well enough. Some things you should know?

Pitch Tips:

  1. Know your pitch times– no one is going to call your name and escort you to your pitch, you have to know when you need to be where.
  2. Do your homework– know who you’re meeting, know what they’re looking for, know who they work for, etc.; this helps you as much as them.
  3. Speak up– I had this same issue with public speaking in college. I have a soft voice (which I forget), and I dislike loud noises and raised voices so my inclination is to talk calmly and softly; this does not work in a pitch session. You don’t want to project across the room, have mercy on the others trying to be heard by their own agents, but remember to speak up enough that the person you want to hear you, can.
  4. Index cards– It’s best if you remember what you need to say and can have a conversation with the agent you’re speaking with instead of having to read off of index cards, but they’re a life saver in that gut wrenching moment your mind blanks and you’re grasping for any collection of words you can think of. If nothing else, they’re great for practicing before your pitch, when you’re nervous and anxious and need something to focus on; write down important info about your novel, questions you have for the agent, important info about the agent, etc. The key is to have them there as back up…and something to do with your hands
  5. Practice– Whether it’s with someone else, by yourself in front of a mirror, or just alone and out loud, be sure to PRACTICE your pitch! You need the words to feel natural on your tongue and be the default setting of your brain (or try anyway). This makes it easier to feel like a conversation about something exciting than recalling facts you have to share with the class.

Have you been to a writing conference or had a pitch session? Tell me about your experience. If you haven’t yet, what’s something you’re looking forward to and maybe a bit scared of about attending your first conference or having your first pitch session?

If you want some more fantastic tips and information about writing conferences, take a look at the fabulous Kat McCormick’s blog where’s she’s still releasing the last couple of her 7 part series!

 

 

 

Amazing Writing Community Benefits and Why You Need Yours

 

Writing community can be narrowly or broadly defined, depending on how you shape it and what you consider to be your writing community. It can be a scary thought when you’re just starting out, before you’ve launched your first site, page or blog, before you’ve first reached out to other people. I’ll admit it, it’s still a bit scary (but I’m silly like that).

Your writing community generally consists of people that are mutually interested in each other and/or each other’s writing. It’s wonderful when it’s mutual, and even more so when there is interaction. The trademark of a great writing community involves interaction and connection with other authors, writers, and readers.

When building your writing community, don’t mistake connection for selling, there’s a very big difference, so don’t go shoving your work in everyone’s face repeatedly asking them to share, or buy while of course doing little other sharing or interacting of your own (yes, there are sadly too many people that do this).  Be sure to visit and support your fellow writers as much as you would hope they wish to do for you. Do what feels right to you, but just keep that in mind. Here is a recent post I wrote for Writer’s Digest on how to connect on Twitter without selling out your community, where sales pitches are sometimes mistaken for connection.

I was unsure where to begin myself, I’d done some research, read a few books, but actually actively seeking out people I’d never met seemed just as scary as walking into a room full of people I didn’t know…okay, maybe not as, scary, but I’m sure you understand. Regardless though, I was willing, I just wasn’t sure how to begin…

Lucky me, last fall I found the October Platform Challenge (if you’re familiar with my blog, you’ve heard of it)….where do I even start on what I gained? Not only did I learn some important and amazing things, but it’s how I formed the base of my writing community. (If you’re curious, here are a collection of the blogs from the participants of the challenge.)

When October ended, however, a few people from the challenge banded together and formed a group for those that had participated in the challenge and wanted to stay in touch, keep up with each other’s work, keep the inspiration and support going that had marked the October Challenge for so many of us.

Truly, I gained so much the day I started that challenge, and had no idea what I was getting into. The second of January, a solid chunk of our platform plathcal people spent the day sharing thanks, love and support for each other. It was, and still is, so very touching. I believe verklempt was the word of the day, proffered by Kim (one of the many friends I’ve gained as well), and felt by most if not all involved in the impromptu love and support fest.

It’s incredibly wonderful, and useful, to have such a loving and helpful writing community to turn back to, no matter how else each of our communities grows from here. If you aren’t sure what exactly you’re gaining, here are 5 benefits of a writing community, one you actively interact and participate with, not sell to:

  1. Opinions/Thoughts/Options– don’t know which title sounds better for your story? Ask your group. Think a sentence sounds off? Ask your group. Need a ruling on a name? I think you might get it by now, ask your group! They’re a wonderful source of people that have their own opinions, are possibly your future readers, know how the writing game works, and if you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, more than willing to help. Even if you don’t use an idea offered, it can get your brain churning and you may come up with the perfect thing, just needed to stimulate your mind the right way.
  1. Resources– If you’re looking for some particular or specific information on a topic, tap your writing community for information. It’s possible someone else has gathered some really helpful resources, or you could all do a share dump day per requests for certain materials. Of course, don’t be lazy, do your own research too, know what you want some help with, don’t make everyone trying to be nice sorry because you just don’t want to do the legwork. But your community is a wonderful resource.
  1. Beta readers– okay, now it’s likely that as many writing projects as you have, everyone else in your group has at least that, not to mention everyone’s lives beyond the written or read word. However, it’s possible that a couple of your cohorts might be willing to read over a fresh short story you’re thinking of sending off, or read through your book to help make it stronger before you publish. Be as willing to help as you are willing to ask it of others, at least that’s a rule I try to follow. No one appreciates someone that only takes and never gives. A great writing community is full of givers, and beta readers can be vital in helping to tease out your best, expecting more of you than you realized was there to give.
  1. Support– Moral support can be a vital thing for an author. Writers are notoriously hard on themselves, at least the “real” ones are according to this: real writer real artist vs counterfeitIt’s hard to disagree, I’ve seen this be true first hand. The important part of that fear though, is pushing through it and writing anyway, submitting anyway, and this is where support from your writing community can be infinitely helpful in becoming the best writer you can be. Knowing how many others are going through the same difficulties, and seeing that those that keep going are the ones that achieve their goals, and encourage you to do the same, is one of the best things a writing community can do for you.
  1. Collaborators– Sometimes you find someone that has a similar style or a sense of humor that just clicks with you, or a handful of you have a shared idea. With a good writing community, you’re bound to find at least one of these, and though there is nothing wrong in sticking with a solo gig, being open to the possibility of collaboration could lead you down an amazing road you hadn’t expected. There’s no pressure, but don’t say you’re going to commit if you don’t plan to either. The point is that you have community bursting with ideas, ideas that may be fun to collaborate on.

These are only five, I don’t doubt there being more, but no matter what, the point remains the same: writing communities are a valuable part of the writing experience, and with the right people, it’s enriched by them. I will probably become a broken record on this point, but never underestimate what a writing community can do for you. I know it’s daunting to start, but it’s well worth the plunge.

Tell me about your experience with your writing community. What’s something you love (or find difficult, life isn’t all sunshine) about your writing community?

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Review Corner: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Follow Up on My Productivity Challenge

February is here, and if you’re familiar with any of my posts, you know that it’s a big month for me in that I get to see 2Cellos live at The Fox, as well as attend my first writing conference, including a pitch session with an agent! You can, of course, expect posts about each in the future, BUT first! It’s time to review my Productivity Challenge, which was the attempt to implement a schedule and writing routine with hopes of increasing my productivity.

So, how did it go?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that I may never be a writer with a precise schedule, and I’m okay with that!

Week One

I had some mixed results the first week. The New Year began on a Friday, which means it was in that awkward limbo land of holidays where some places celebrate and have the day off and others do not; it’s a very confusing time.

Either way, as so often happens with the writing life, I didn’t take a holiday, I spent most of the day in a state of partially focused work also known as multitasking; this means I had Netflix on with something I was mildly interested in and had my laptop open, or other work to do at my fingertips, the entire day. This resulted in a slow, but somewhat steady stream of content being created in one form or another, whether it was writing posts, brainstorming, research, submitting, writing short stories or poetry, or reading a book for review, things were slowly being accomplished.

I did this throughout the weekend, not wanting to take a break because I was still itching to work…I mean come on, every day is a writing day, am I write? 😉 (I know, that was horrible, it should be *right, that was so wrong…but anyway)

So, come Monday morning, I basically hadn’t had a weekend because I had a “working weekend”, as it were. I may not have been completely focused on work, but from the time I woke up until going to sleep, I was thinking about working, and often enough, was making it happen, even if it was in spurts.

But Monday, I had my schedule, and I was planning to keep to it….did you catch that? Planning to? Yeah…that didn’t work out so much. I had every intention to keep to something resembling my schedule for the day, and I did, except for the fact that I did more than twice the hours on each of the areas I had designated to focus on that day.

This left for an extremely productive Monday, but unfortunately, the rest of the week suffered. Tuesday was a half-hearted attempt to work half as long as I had Monday, but by the afternoon I was over it. This week also happened to be the week I attempted to try a new medication for my fibromyalgia, and instead of being of help, by the end of the week I found myself in a rather deep depression, and very much lacking in motivation.

 

Week Two

The week of the 10th did not start off well; I stopped the new medication because of how depressed and off I felt, but then, I got news that a cousin of mine passed away. She’d been fighting cancer, and when I say fighting, I mean it, she was amazing. Needless to say, that did not start off my week well, and then of course, the world lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman as well.

For so many reasons, this trinity made for a week of barely passable productivity. Not much got done, though I did manage to keep up some kind of stream of progress, no matter how incremental it may have been. It was something!

By the end of week two, I had more done than the beginning of the week, which is always the ultimate goal. I didn’t keep to my proposed daily schedule, but I keep up with some of my monthly/weekly goals. And so, on to…

 

Week Three

Going into the final half of the month, it was safe to say that I hadn’t really kept to my daily schedule….really at all by this point, but still, I intended to.

What came of week three was more of the same, steady, slow progress. I managed to submit some of my work, even had a guest blog post accepted (yay! And stay tuned!!). The biggest issue I faced, honestly, was myself (isn’t it always?)

By the end of the week, and after a careful review, I realized part of my problem, and it’s not a new issue; I overwhelm myself with all of the things I want to do.

I love lists, seriously, I collect notebooks that are perfect for my plethora of lists. So when I write out a list of to-do’s of the week…I tend to be…a bit overzealous….you know, like having 20 things on the “get done this week” list, literally, and another 20 on the “extra to-dos”…you know, for when I need more to do….If the sheer number isn’t enough for you to understand just how badly I drown myself, let me explain that at least half of the items on that list require at least 3-6 hours of work…I scheduled for 5-6 hours a day on the schedule.

This, obviously results in a mountain of things to dive into, which I enjoy, but not when my I somehow expect myself to deliver on all of them. The biggest issue is that I end up doing nothing because I am not able to settle down and focus on one, or even two things to get done before moving on to the next; this is something I have been working on all mymeme-all-the-things1 life. I get so excited that I want to work on EVERYTHING at once, which usually results in little to nothing getting done. I will start to work on one thing, but feel guilty about not working on something else, and so I switch, and repeat. It’s a mindset and a practice I’m actively working on correcting.

I often tend to bite off more than I can chew because I love being busy, I really do. I love having a list of things to do that I can check off, it probably feeds into my OCD, but I choose to focus on the good it does. I just need to stop getting in my own way and find the line for myself and stick to it. So, with this little realization in mind…

 

Week Four

Started off the week with some work, but I had a busy week outside of my home too. I was feeling a bit off early on, which should have been an indicator but I shook it off (even now, nearly 10 years later…anyway). By Wednesday evening, I really was not feeling well, and not much happened that day.

Turns out I had strep, and thankfully I had antibiotics by Thursday (moms are amazing), but needless to say, I was allowed a break.

But as happens with me, too much lying about doing nothing makes me feel weird, so I IMG_20160130_223458253finished my second edit after a month away from my manuscript by Saturday, which made me feel a bit better. Though I did rest, by Sunday, I was ready to do a bit more, so I did a few things to my Home Page, including a Giveaway!

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Giveaway ends 2/21!

I also submitted a couple of pieces and hope to hear back soon. I wanted to enter February with vigor and momentum. I have so much to prepare for, and it’s honestly time I stop letting myself get in the way, so, we shall see. And thus ends my interesting attempt at a more determined writing schedule.

 

Take Aways and Moving Forward

I definitely learned a lot about myself, and relearned a few things too. Something really great about this challenge was that it showed me that I am capable of keeping to some kind of schedule, as long as it is VERY flexible and broad, which means I need to revamp how I look at my weeks (more on that in a minute).

As always, I’m too hard on myself, I set impossible limits and then get angry when I can’t deliver, and honestly, when I stop and ask myself why, it’s very easy to find the answer. It’s overcompensating for the things that aren’t as easy for me to physically do, even the things I can’t do, or that I need assistance to do, things that are simple for most adults. It’s a horrible habit left over from my teenage years…and well, pure stubbornness.

I plan smart, but I don’t actually keep to it. Instead of keeping to the hours proposed, I give myself reasons to keep going, saying I haven’t been focused enough, and just not realizing that it means adapting how I work or evaluate my progress. I won’t give myself a break, and if, by chance, I do pick up my book, even one slated for a review or a post (so it’s definitely still considered work too), my inner voice is berating me for all of the things I haven’t yet accomplished. You know that voice, and oh, can it be vicious.

The point is, I need to find a way to keep up my productivity, but lose some of the hours, and quiet the peanut gallery.

Some other things I learned I need to highlight and focus on in moving forward:

  • Big Picture­- focusing on things that needed to be done by the end of the week so that I could ultimately keep to my monthly goals became how I focused. Now, I haven’t kept every weekly or monthly goal so far, but I hit a few and that’s a start!! This is the first month I’ve ever tried to dedicatedly work on my writing like this. It’s very easy for my mean side to point all of the things I haven’t done, but that would belittle everything that I have done, which is a lot, and deserves to be appreciated by myself. But the point, is that this slightly bigger picture view is what helped me focus and act, which equals productivity.
  • Realistic Weekly Goals- Realistic being the operative word. I’ve since reworked how I “categorize” certain lists in my head…I mentioned OCD, right? These things are important!…anyway, I leaned to focus on realistic goals, allowing myself to make a “just in case” list is fine too, but make them attainable; that’s goal setting 101.
  • Subject by day- Going back to The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen slivering the slicecrop it seems I do a bit better with a subject for the day to focus on instead of breaking it up in to bits a day. I tend to dive deep into what I’m focusing on, which serves better for taking up most of the day than only hours; switching to subjects by day means I can do that a bit easier, and perhaps will results in more productivity in the future.
  • Hierarchy of What is most important- This essentially boils down to what I would be working on if nothing else mattered, which is fiction- writing novels and short stories. This is important, because it means that when I’m not sure what project to focus on, I can more easily find my answer by reaching for some fiction.

What this means for future scheduling

So, will I be utilizing a schedule in the future? Sure…it just won’t be quite the same. I’m definitely not a writer with a routine in the sense of sitting down at the same time every day to put something to paper. My life is a series of dice rolls and flexibility can be key, as can be giving myself a break, seriously, I’m bad about it. So many writers are entirely too hard on themselves and I’m certainly among these, though I am trying to wean myself of such unhelpful ways.

I know what goals I need to meet weekly so that I can meet my monthly goals, and in turn meet my yearly goals, and so on and so forth. The point is to build and make steady progress. By tweaking some of the parameters, I’m hopeful for my future productivity and success.

Tell me something you’ve learned from scheduling or not scheduling? How has it helped or hindered your writing progress and productivity?

 

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A Novel Update and How to get from Here to Published

 

A Novel Update and How to get from Here to Published

It’s been about a month and a half since NaNoWriMo 2015. Some people began to edit and revise instantly after hitting their total word count whether or not they hit the 50,000 mark while in November. Some have not touched their manuscript since that final strike of the keypad signifying victory, and good on those giving themselves a rest, goodness knows so many deserve it. There are others who are staring around unsure what to do now, as if they’ve never put thought into the steps after finishing a novel. So, it’s about time for an update.

I have to say that I’ve never had a NaNoWriMo experience quite like this one, and despite the challenges that arose, I can only hope that in the future, this same experience is repeated each time I sit down to novel writing. There were definitely some incredibly difficult and trying moments, everyone has, but even still, I’ve never had over 65,000 words result in a full length novel that I didn’t want to burn or delete, that I could even say I was a bit proud of, my first draft of my first completed novel….

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I finished my novel originally at 65033 a bit under two weeks after November, or more simply December 12th. The actual plan and “outline” for my novel was constructed the last two weeks or so of October when I officially decided to go for NaNoWriMo 2015. The original idea caught me about two years ago, but it’s become a very different story than the original, and all the stronger for it. I did my first edit and revision within a couple of days and by the 15th I had something worthy of calling a novel. Current word count is 65,626, but I have one more edit and revision before I will feel it’s ready.

Halfway through writing it, the name of this book finally caught up with me: The Foretelling Spark. Given the response I’ve received so far, it seems to be a title gaining some interest, which is definitely great to hear.

So, what now?

That big scary question that arises once you’ve conquered the first mountain on your way to that far off land…of a published novel…Depending on which route you decide to take for publishing your labor of love, the next step is finding the people that will care and giving them a reason to invest their time and energy into your novel.

Three recommendations:

  1. Research– Whether it’s looking up your publishing options, figuring out what shelves your current or future books belong on, or what agents to consider sending queries to, research is a great place to start. Don’t waste yours, and especially not an agent, editor, or publisher’s time by pitching a clear YA Fantasy to a Mystery/Thriller market. You can easily refrain from making this mistake by being thorough in your research of who you plan to send your book to on the road to publishing.
  2. Query– A query is important in regards to finding an agent if you want to go the traditional publishing route, mainly because it’s supposed to get their attention and make them want to invest their time, and eventually their energy, into getting your novel published. I have finally written a passable synopsis, which means querying became that much easier, though I will fully admit to still audibly gulping while trying to form these reader grabbing and sometimes self-trumpeting introductions (don’t ask how many times I’ve rewritten these so far..). There are many articles on query writing, but here is one that I found helpful.
  3. Writing Conferences and Workshops– Another way to further your knowledge, network, and possibly have the chance to pitch to an agent is through attending writing conferences and workshops. I am fortunate enough to be attending a writing workshop that is being held in Atlanta in February of this year (thanks to my generous and supportive mother and stepdad, early Christmas present). It’s the Atlanta Writing Workshop and it is all about getting published; there are multiple workshops as well as opportunities to get 10 minute pitch sessions with agents. I find myself, again, thankful to my mother to have secured such an opportunity (I’m equal parts excited and terrified). I would encourage anyone in the area or able to travel to it to sign up now, or soon! Or find one in your area! The closer it gets the quicker spots disappear, and there is a limit, so it’s best to sign up early. If you click here  and scroll down a bit, you will see a list of some other writing conferences in 2016.

Of course, if you are self-publishing, you do not really need an agent. For now, however, this is my chosen path, but there are definitely other options out there if you are so inclined.

I’m nervous and excited about what happens from here, how about you? How are you doing with your NaNoWriMo 2015 project?

 

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Slay the Monster: 10 Things to Try When You Want to Cry from Writer’s Block

There’s a bit less than two weeks left before the final day of NaNoWriMo, the day you enter your final word count, and take a well-deserved break…but right now, you’re probably still doing what I’m doing if you too have taken on the challenge: alternating between maniacally typing out pages of work, then desperately preventing myself from deleting more than 2/3’s of them, only to once again believe that maybe I do have talent for this writing thing, and return again to banging my head against the keyboard begging the words to come out, or essentially, this feeling:

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Now that we’re nearing the home stretch, one of two possibilities usually arises: a mad dash to finish off those last 10,000 in a night because you downed all the peppermint flavoring mixed with all coffee you could find and now feel colors through your ears as you pound out one word after another…..or you meet that boogeyman of every writer’s nightmares, writer’s block.

Every writer knows it, fears it, and has or will experience it in their lives, though that is of little comfort when within its clutches. Knowing that you will eventually be able to put words to page again doesn’t help when it’s hours or days since the last time you typed out a paltry “the” or have yet to do even that, and that’s not including dealing with a deadline. Sometimes it’s hard not to pout in your pajamas before your computer screen wishing your imaginary friends would come back.

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You could Google all day till your finger’s fall off and you would still see new articles and ideas for how to beat writer’s block…and this post shall be added among them. Perhaps you currently do or have used some of these before, but hopefully at least one will be something new to try for when the words just aren’t meeting paper the way you hoped or intended. Some are best used to keep the spectre at bay, while others when navigating the murky depths, but here are 10 things you can do to move past your writer’s block:

  1. Take a walk – A change of scenery (and hopefully you get a chance to enjoy some nice weather), a chance to find a new place to read or picnic, the chance to breathe some fresh air. get your body moving, and your idea generator generating. Truly the wonders a simple walk can do cannot be expounded upon enough. I must admit I, personally, have trouble with this one, not having the energy I used to and needing to avoid the Sun, but on an overcast day, or if the weather is right and the area is shaded, I too can stretch my legs and enjoy a walk outside. There are really no downsides here, and if you’re an artist too, use the chance to soak up some more inspiration, or bring your art supplies and enjoy!
  2. Exercise– Yes, technically you could put these two together, but I see them as separate things. When I’m going for a walk, it’s to enjoy a walk, not generally to exercise. For exercise, I do things like yoga, hula-hooping, or 4-minute workouts. I choose these, a) because my body is less likely to throw a royal hissy fit,  b) they’re simple to do just about anywhere (…okay maybe not hula-hooping, but it’s still worth it!) and c) they all get your blood pumping and your body moving, not only in some way, but each in different ways. Ideas can only be generated to a brain that’s effectively functioning, and there is tons of research reporting the benefits of exercise on the brain, including creativity stimulation! You don’t need to commit 30 minutes to a treadmill or gym, just take 10 minutes and do a few stretches, jumping jacks, or pushups, dance around to a fun song, let your cat control the red dot for once…whatever your choose, let it be what works best for YOU!
  3. Coloring books– You read that right. Coloring books. Load yourself up with them, grab some color pencils, markers, or crayons and let yourself loose! All of those that proclaim lack of artistic talent can still enjoy adding tint to some of the fantastical coloring books out there, and some even specifically for adults. You would be amazed ata709ce4b8789f4b7426a48051a082253 what 20 minutes of coloring can do for your creativity, not to mention your stress…plus…it’s fun! Also, it gives you a solid reason to build a blanket fort to color in. I don’t care how I old I get, blanket forts are cool, but I digress. Anyway! Coloring books! Who says no to an excuse to color? A few minutes of color a day can boost your creativity, and if I am able to find the article I read supporting this, I will be sure to include it.
  4. Change of scenery– Take your laptop, notebook, sketchbook, whatever have you, and go somewhere different to write. Try some new outdoor scenery (I like to sit on my balcony), or go to the cliché coffee shop (just because it’s cliché doesn’t mean it doesn’t work), or a bookstore, anywhere that you don’t see every day, or haven’t been sitting in the last 10 hours straight. Even if it’s a room in your house you never use, give it a try, sometimes the shift in scenery in your peripheral can start generating some new ideas.
  5. Watch where you stop for the night– You’re trying furiously to make word count, and you tell yourself you can be done for the night if you just finish this chapter…which you do, because you’re awesome, and you pack up for the night and head to bed. This is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing, or at least some people shouldn’t. Nothing is harder than diving back into a novel when you’ve rounded off whatever you were in the middle of. Essentially, it can feel like starting on the first word of the first page again when returning to a project only to need to start off the next chapter. If you stop, however, when you’re excited about a scene and have ideas of what to do next (by all means jot them down, I keep a running notes document for mine, personally…until I utilize Scrivener properly, but that’s another story), so that when you wake up, your mind has been marinating in your ideas all night; sometimes you wake up with the exact line of dialogue or a great segue to the next plot point delivery; the point is, you aren’t cutting your legs off the night before every time you stop, you’re giving yourself a spring board to dive back in.
  6. Different project- It seems counterintuitive to put time and effort into a different project than the one you’ve been working on that has a deadline, but if you’re in the midst of writer’s block, sometimes redirecting your focus on something else (oh, say a blog entry *cough cough*, or an article, an email asking for an interview, etc.) can do wonders. If you happen to have a mind like mine, just because you’re working actively on another project doesn’t mean ideas for your main project aren’t just soaking until your return to them…because that’s definitely what happens with me, I just sometimes forget this works. So switch gears and try getting some other work done, still being productive, and it may help more than you think.
  7. Try a different scene- Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner and just don’t know how to get out of this particular situation. You have ideas for the next scene, next chapter, the ending, whatever have you, just not the scene you’ve been staring at the last 45 minutes. Now, doing things out of order may naturally work for some people, but it can seriously mess with the wiring in my brain pan, however, I cannot deny the fact that sometimes, if you’re feeling a different scene, you should just go ahead and write it down, it’s still progress, and if you’re inspired to write, then do it! Who knows, maybe while you’re finishing off that resolution, the dialogue you’ve been practically weeping in frustration over may suddenly come to you. Just have to try.
  8. Take a break- It’s a duh, but it needs to be said to stubborn you refusing to take a break when you HAVE to get at least another *insert word count* done. Maybe you’ll feel like this is a horrible idea since you might as well have been on a break all day since you got nothing done. That is not a break, that is hours of you berating yourself for not magically finding the words today. A break involves being away from your writing, perhaps your computer, maybe even your home, but you need to get away from your project. When you fight, sometimes you need space to breathe, it’s no less true of a writer and their craft.
  9. Movie homework- If you really feel weird about taking a break, tell yourself its movie homework instead. How many times have you had an amazing idea while watching a movie? Not to mention, if you’re just finding yourself in a bit of a bog with your setting, characters, or story, find some movies that make you think of a character or a feel you’re trying to present in your book. What things do or don’t work for the movie, what elements may be used in application to your novel? Possibilities abound!
  10. Read-I saved the best for last because it’s my favorite pastime and go-to suggestion to most of life’s issues…regardless of the fact that it rarely helps solve them, reading makes me incredibly happy and puts my anxiety at ease. Reading is inspiring, thrilling, and it can teach you a lot about your own writing voice; questioning something you may have done differently, or if you would had a character behave differently than the author. Do I really need to go further? You can never go wrong with reading.

 

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Hopefully you’ve taken yourself a breather and are ready to jump back into the fray! One of the hardest things to remember when you’re frustrated with writer’s block is that you will eventually be able to move past it, even if you don’t believe it right now. Now get to work (or take a break), you can do it!!!! (And here is a compilation of some other NaNoWriMo resources and help from Kat McCormick! Thank you Kat!)

Veteran’s Day Tribute: A Man Named Art

Today, is Armistice Day, better known as Veteran’s Day; a day of honor, thanks, and remembrance of all of those who have served their country in times of War. Sadly, most people only think of veterans on this day, if ever at any other time when a reminder isn’t directly in front of them. (The history of this day can be found here on the Veteran Affairs official site.)

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As much as I may be tempted to use this moment to recite the numerous disconcerting facts concerning veterans returning from combat and the mental health “treatment” they receive, how many dispossessed veterans make up the homeless population, or any other soapbox worthy spiel, that’s not what I want to post about today. Today,  I want to tell you about a man I met over seven years ago. A couple of years ago, I wrote the story of how I met him, and why I will never forget him.

This is the story of..

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A Man Named Art

When I was 19, I decided I wanted to move as far away from my home town as I possibly could. This led me to move to California, about 3,000 miles away from home, to live in San Diego.

My boyfriend at the time, we’ll call him J, worked at a fast food place a few minutes from the apartment we lived. I usually drove him to work. There is one big main street in the little city we lived in of Mira Mesa, with lots of stop lights. Down this road you will find homeless people on just about every corner.

There was one man I grew to recognize by sight. He had a big bushy brown beard, tanned and leathery face repeatedly baked in the Sun, a worn and patched camo jacket, and raggedy pants that looked like they’d fall to pieces. He also wore a baseball cap, and walked with an extreme limp.

Some of the homeless had signs, some did not, some of them looked like drug addicts, others would fall asleep while holding out their cups of change. But this one man, I remembered.

On this big main road, I had to make a left turn down another street in order to get to my apartment. It was an annoying street in this way because the lights to turn left took a long time, at least 10 minutes, by the time all of the other lights had a chance to change.

It was at this light that I would first speak to this one raggedy looking homeless man. I had my window rolled down partially, for the breeze. I didn’t realize it was still down by the time I had stopped at the light. I saw the man limping up the line of halted cars, he had no sign or cup, was just walking past the car windows. A car or two in front of me rolled down their windows just far enough to shove a $1 bill out of them. When he came to mine, it finally dawned on me that my window was down. I’m not a confrontational person and was not looking forward to telling this man that I would not give him any money. Most homeless people I’d encountered were drunks or druggies, usually just trying to find more money to slowly kill themselves with.

However, this was the beginning of something else. He stopped at my window, and looked at me. I looked back at him, trying to find my voice to say “no”, when he looked at me and said, “I hope you have a most blessed day,” and he gave me one of the most genuine smiles I’ve ever seen, and then he limped past me. He didn’t ask me for money, or a smoke, or shove a cup in my face and jingle it. He just wished me to have a good day. It touched me.

Sometime later, after a couple of more light stops and “hellos” back and forth between this man and me, one day, he didn’t travel down the line of cars as usual. This day, he turned to me, smiled, and started a conversation. He’d grown used to me, and I to him. A time or two I gave him an extra dollar I found in my pocket or left over change. But this day, he said “so, how’ve you been doing?” I replied “Not too bad, I suppose. How are you holding up?” To say that I had no idea how to talk this man so casually would be an understatement. I was afraid of offending him, or reminding him that I had a home I was going to, and he did not. He looked at me and said “Well, I have air in my lungs, so I take that as a good sign”, then he chuckled, gave me a smile, and then limped off down the street.

A month or two of these casual greetings led to a “hello” one day that ended in me learning his name, Art. I liked the name. I’ve always loved art, and have explored what I can do with art since I can remember. It was a good name.

One day, I was making chicken for dinner. The packets at the supermarket came with four, even though I was only cooking for two. Sure, I could have saved them and had left overs for the next day, but I had other plans. I told J he was to go find Art, and bring him here. J looked at me, surprised. I told him we had plenty of food, Art might as well have a nice meal for once.

It took about 20 minutes for J to track Art down, but he did. Over my threshold limped the bearded, camo jacket clad man I’d said hello to so often. The old book bag on his back was coming apart at the seams. He looked nervous, unsure of what to expect. I smiled at him and asked him to sit down at the table. Then I asked him if he liked chicken and macaroni. He nodded, and then looked at the table. I brought him over a plate with the two extra pieces of chicken and a big helping of macaroni. He looked at the plate, then at me, and said “Is this all for me?” I told him yes, and that he should dig in before it got cold.

It was over this meal that I learned much more about Art. He was a veteran, had served in Vietnam. On one of the bases he had been stationed at, he had been hit by a Humvee, which had almost completely shattered his hip bone. The medical facility he was taken to had decided to just put a pin in it, which was very painful to walk with, and of course, was the cause of his limp. Between the pain in his hip and the pain in his mind, he drank, heavily. He’d had a couple of children, to be honest I don’t remember how many. His wife had died. He knew he had a grandson, but he had never met him. He told me that he was not a good man when he had been drinking. He didn’t know what else to do with himself. He’d tried to get jobs doing construction, since that was a trade he knew, but with this hip, he was a liability, and no one would hire him. I also learned that he hadn’t touched a drink in nearly 2 years. He hoped to prove to his son (the father of his grandson) that he was worthy of another chance. He told me when he’d been sober for 5 years, he would track his son down and go see him. That was his plan. To live and be sober for 5 years, and hopefully he would get his family back.

I wanted to cry. It was one of the saddest stories I’d ever heard. This wasn’t a movie or a book, this was real. This man had served his country, and when he came back broken, they told him to deal with it all himself. It’s a sickening thought. No one who has protected and served their country should be treated like this.

Art ate everything but the second piece of chicken. He wanted to know if he could save it and take it to a friend of his, another homeless man. They sometimes pooled their money together after a week or two, and rented a cheap hotel room, so they could get a shower and a bed for at least one night. I packed up the piece of chicken and gave him the rest of the macaroni with it.

We took him back up to the main street. As he got out of my van, I handed him some blankets I wasn’t using, an old sweatshirt, and J even gave Art a pair of jeans that didn’t fit anymore. I also gave him a little money, not that I had much myself, but I felt that he needed it, and would use it for something other than alcohol or drugs.

Whenever I saw Art on the street, I waved and smiled. If I had the chance, I’d stop and talk to him, check up on him.

One day, I didn’t see Art in his usual spot. There was another homeless man. He’d taken the prime spot because Art wasn’t there.

More days passed without seeing Art anywhere. I was worried. J found the man Art sometimes pooled money with, and asked him about Art. We were told that he was in the hospital.

I found the hospital that Art was at and decided I would go visit him. Before going, I got a book of crosswords, word searches, a pack of pens, and a “get well” card. If anyone knows how unfun hospitals are, it’s me, so I thought something to do to keep his mind off everything might cheer him up.

When we walked into the room, Art teared up. He couldn’t believe we’d come to see him in the hospital. I handed him the little bag of things to do, and his get well card. He gave me a big smile, and a most sincere “thank you”. He told us he found out he had colon cancer. They weren’t sure what they were going to do yet, since everything had to go through the VA. We stayed for an hour or so before leaving. Art took my hand, and thanked me one more time.

A week or so later, I called the hospital to talk to Art. They informed me, he had died. I was so angry, so sad, and so heartbroken that he didn’t get a chance to finish those 5 years and that he never got the chance to try again with this family. My only comfort was that, at the end, he knew at least one person would remember him, had cared about him.

It’s been almost 5 years now since I met him, and I still remember and think about him. It still makes me angry to see how a country can ask men and women to fight for it and die for it, but if they are unlucky enough not to die and instead come back injured, that the country they fought for would do the least it could to help them.

But, for ever and always, I will remember a man named Art.

thanks-vets

Some Resources and Things to Remember about NaNoWriMo

For those that may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During this month, should you participate in NaNoWriMo, you are challenged as an author to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. You can practically hear the pencils etching, pens scribbling, and fingers typing furiously across the world since the challenge began four days ago. You can find the official NaNoWriMo site here.
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No matter what way you dice it 50,000 words is one daunting goal to hit in thirty days. The average necessary word count per day is 1,667, and your average 5-page college paper is roughly 1500 words or less, if that puts it into any perspective for you. Since I graduated this past May, I still vividly remember late night paper writing sessions where I cranked out each every one of a 1500+ word paper in a night…so it’s that experience multiplied by thirty, and unfortunately, the only way you will be able to have a day off or enjoy the Holiday is to plan ahead and have a few days where you double your word count, if not more…As I said, daunting, but absolutely possible.

My first try at NaNoWriMo is, ironically, the only time I’ve won so far, and I honestly wasn’t particularly thrilled with my last 30-40,000 words, to the point where I still have trouble saying that I “won” anything that year other than entry into the awesome existence of NaNoWriMo, which I can live with. Anyway, that was in 2010 or 2011. I vainly tried again in 2013, and truly I say vainly because it was appalling timing. November is a hot month for school papers and my attention was sorely split and well, I had money riding on getting a degree so NaNo lost that one.

So finally, this year, I am giving NaNoWriMo a more planned and prepared go. My profile can be found here and I’m welcome to having more writing buddies! At four days in I’ve already managed to stumble into a veritable writing bog that I’ve been slowly wading through so I must redouble my efforts to push ahead.

Even though we’re a few day in, it’s never too late to start and definitely never too late to find some new resources. An excellent source I found is a compilation of indexes from Writer’s Digest, which I utilized to help get some of the more important aspects of my novel-to-be down, and so far they’ve been infinitely useful; those can be found here. If you haven’t ever utilized worksheets like this, you should do yourself a favor and give them a shot. At the very least they can help get your brain moving in the right direction. A complete copy of how to write your novel in 30 days can be found here.

I learned a lot from the last two times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo and I’m sure I’ll learn even more this time. Going forward though, here are a few things that I think are important to know and to remember about NaNoWriMo:

  1. Plan ahead– from the obvious suggestion to strategize and outline character sketches and plot points, to letting your family and friends know what you are attempting so they don’t get worried when you disappear for the better part of a month, planning goes a long way in your bag of tools for completing this challenge and your novel. Especially since November includes a holiday for those in the US, planning ahead can be your rescue.
  2. You’re probably going to fall behind, at least for a little bit– That first rush of words to page is exhilarating!! And you should absolutely celebrate every goal you set for yourself and meet. It gives you encouragement and a feeling of accomplishment. However, don’t let it distress and depress you when you find yourself six, eight, twelve hours later and only four miserable words further in count. At some point, this is probably going to happen. Even when you have a fantastic idea you’re excited about, chances are a time will come when you’re not making as much progress. It can be really disheartening, but you have to remember that if you keep at it (after giving yourself a break), you’ll make it through and start racking up the words again.
  3. This is part one on the path to a complete and ready to publish novel- You are going to be over the moon once you hit that 50,000 word mark, even more so when you reach whatever is the magic number you end your tale on, and you should!! You will need to before you return to your lair and begin the next harrowing process which is a first read through, edit and revision, so you can do it all again till it’s THE story you want to put out there. Don’t rush it.
  4. It’s never too late to start– Yes, technically if you just hear about NaNoWriMo on the 29th of November and decide you want to do it *right now*, you probably aren’t going to hit 50,000 words in one 24-hour period (if by some strange cosmic event you manage it….I’d like to chat…). But really, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter if you’re coming in a bit late to the game. The point really is that you want to be here and are willing to try, and that’s AMAZING! The best part is that, while you can always wait till next year and regroup with writing buddies and soldier forth the next time NaNoWriMo comes along, you can, and that’s awesome! But you can also take what you learn from the experience and use it *any* month, including one that gives you an extra day 😛
  5. Have fun and give yourself some credit- This is particularly important for so many reasons. If your inner voice can be anything as cruel as mine (and I’m sure there are some contenders), you need to remember that, while this is a challenge, you should be trying to enjoy yourself. Be proud of what you are able to do, and don’t be too hard on yourself for anything you don’t manage. You can always keep trying, and that makes all the difference.

NaNoWriMo is one hell of a challenge, but with a good attitude, an idea you’re passionate about, and especially with a good, supportive writing community, you can make it happen! Now get to work!

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