Archive for the ‘#amwriting’ Tag

What If Wasn’t   10 comments

We are writers. This is our time to shine. What are some of your favorite lines from your books?

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You can tell which lines of my books that I am the most proud of because they tend to become the titles of books.

Objects in View comes from a line in the third book of Transformation Project in which nonagenarian Jacob Delaney (the wisdom in the series) tells his offspring that they should “focus on the objects in view.” They could waste a lot of time and energy worrying about distant events they couldn’t control or deal with what was going on right in front of them. 

From The Willow Branch (Book 1 of Daermad Cycle)

“Fate took Maryn ap Trevellyn, crown prince of all Celdrya, by surprise. Naught warned him that he’d been marked.”

“It must be nearing middle of the night, for a moon hung like a golden banqueting plate just above the southern trees and the cool air scented more of dew than spring flowers.”

“Death took him by surprise as he looked down at the two feet of dressed wood protruding from his chest. He couldn’t feel his legs, but he knew that he was staked to the tree like a squirrel.

“I’m done for! I thought death would be more painful.

“Pedyr bellowed for aid and the camp came alive as Maryn died, staring up at the moon with his life leaking away into the dirt by his feet and wondering why the shaft that killed him was the only one to fly.”

“Inside the door to the great hall, Deryk paused to shake water from his cloak, decided it was a lost cause and hung the sodden mess on one of the many waiting pegs among the myriad damp cloaks, quite a few of them plaid, but a notable number also striped. The merchants thought there‘d be war and war was usually good for them, so they loitered about the dun to be the first to know, the first to get in at the trough. Merchants cared little that war meant death. They cared only for profits.”

“The noble-born often show little care for those who fill their bellies and cellars,”

From Mirklin Wood (Book 2 of Daermad Cycle)

It did remind him somewhat of the statues he’d seen of dragons, but that was a bard’s fancy and those did not fly to your rescue that often.

Erik didn’t like how the jals stroked their beards and held their piss while he talked. He couldn’t invade the southern continent without their viks and their silence made him feel like he’d stepped on an ant hill. When his speech ran to a close, he waited for comment, questions, or arguments. He had prepared for those. Samling was all about debate. Silence shivered his bones.

Gravity dictates the fate of a dragon dancer. Miss a handhold and gravity wins.

From Life As We Knew It

Smoke and mirrors meant making the right hand so flashy that the mark never noticed what the left hand was really doing. Grant couldn’t stop the main event, but he could make this little side drama so entertaining that nobody saw through it until it was too late.

Shane swallowed audibly. Jacob sat down on the opposite end of the wide wooden stair and waited. Shane excelled at silence. He always had. Jacob didn’t try to outwait him.

“You’re not okay, are you?”

“Was your first clue that I’m actually here?”

From Objects in View

“What’s going on out there?” she asked. Right. Honesty. I promised honesty. He restrained his trained inclination to dump the screen. “Weird.” “That’s not communicative,” she said with a giggle. He smirked. The rest of the shelter was quiet. They were the only two awake. “Bear with me. Learning a new skill here.” He rubbed the back of his head. “Dylan said the same thing. Maybe you can make sense of what is confounding us.” “Oh, sure, honey. I know so much about terrorism.” She sipped her coffee. “Or is this espionage?” To Grant, this was just workaday life. Terrorism and espionage ran together in his mind.

A small throb of pain pulsed when he prodded it. That’s an injection site. I never blacked out before. Maybe I didn’t this time either. A dream before waking – a desperate whispered conversation between Marnie and Rob, a memory of sitting on the church steps and peeing in the bushes with …. Dad roofied me?

He had never slept this rough in his life. He felt like crap. He worried he’d been sleeping in it all night.

My favorite line from all of my books is still unpublished, but is the title of my new adult drama “What If … Wasn’t.” Peter is a second-chance citizen (a recently-released felon) who has a horrible history to overcome and whenever he is tempted to indulge in a fantasy where his actions did not cause significant damage to the lives of others as well as himself, he smacks himself with that phrase – “What if wasn’t, which means I have to  live with what was and is.”

It’s my favorite line because it is also one of my life philosophies. You can moan and groan about how crappy your life has been and how you should have done this and could have done that if only you would have known this, but why? It won’t change the past. What if … wasn’t, so why not live with what was and what is?

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Posted December 10, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Keeping It Fresh   4 comments

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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This was actually a hard question for me because I am always trying new things … new recipes, new hiking trails, new ideas, but those seem like they aren’t all that new because I’m always doing them. Does it count if I make a new recipe using techniques I’ve mastered decades ago? I didn’t think it did.

I eventually hit on what I am doing this November. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before as a challenge with a friend and wrote a deeply-flawed novel I have no interest in ever rescuing. I wrote myself into a corner and the main character refuses to speak to me, so it will languish on a disc in my archives and that’s probably it.

This year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo to rewrite a novel I think could be a great story with a main character that has been talking to me for two decades. When I write, I usually loop back to re-read portions of what I’ve written and to rewrite so things flow in context, but the rules of NaNoWriMo are that you write it in one run and you don’t edit. There’s no way I could do that with a new novel. I am firmly convinced the flaws of that earlier novel are a function of that process and it’s dead to me since I can’t write if the characters don’t talk to me. Apparently, I can’t even rewrite without character interaction.

This current novel concentrates on a young recovering alcoholic getting out of jail for a crime he deeply regrets. He wants forgiveness but knows he’ll never receive it. It’s loosely based on a  friend’s unfortunate years that deeply affected me when he told me about it. My novel is not his story, though he has been an adviser for some aspects of it.

What If Wasn’t has been written over several years. The plot makes sense, but a beta reader pointed out a lot of flaws. It’s episodic. The main scenes don’t appear to build on one another. It’s filled with bumper-sticker recovery language and way too much self-analysis by the main character.  A romance buds in it but I never pursued it because I was focused on the MC’s damage and painful past. The story itself needs to be deepened and made emotionally compelling.

So I’m going through and rewriting some scenes and then adding scenes that link the major scenes together. In the process, I’ve discovered a larger backdrop story that I didn’t realize existed that can act to drive some of the narrative. This time, I’m concentrating on making Peter more human and focusing not on his past, though he still has to haul that rotting baggage with him, but his way forward.

What I’m doing is a complete rewrite, save for a couple of scenes that impressed that beta reader, and I’m not looping back. Looping back is part of my established process, but this time I’m not doing that. I’ve written/rewritten 70,000 words this November and I’m getting to a great place in the story where the climax is about to happen. Peter thinks he’s ready to move forward and he’s about to be blindsided by a tidal wave he doesn’t see coming. I already wrote that – it was a point the beta reader thought worked well, but what follows it needs a huge rethink, to resolve that romance and to point Peter down the road to his future. I know there are continuity errors and that has me itching to loop back, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to write those scenes this coming week. November 30 I’m going to close the rewrite, hopefully with the last scene written, and take a break from that story.

I’m learning a new skill, a difficult skill, a discipline I am not certain I will use in the future and know I won’t make it a centerpiece of my process, but I want to see if it can be a useful tool that improves my final product, maybe something to be added to a rewrite process. It certainly has sped up the rewrite and we’ll see if the novel is improved by it. I know this rewrite is better than what was written before. I also know it won’t be the final draft of this novel.

So when was the last time I did something for the first time? I’m doing it right now. 

It’s a Marathon   4 comments

November 12, 2018

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a writer ?

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First off, if you want to write … write. You are therefore a writer.

Front Cover of Days End KDPI was a writer for about 40 years before I was an author. There is a difference. I wrote for my own amazement, stories that I wanted to read. At the time, it really wasn’t an option to be published. I tried and it was really hard.

Let’s say  you want to be an author. That’s pretty easy these days thanks to Amazon and other self-publishing companies. If you decline Suggestion #1 – just write for your own amazement, here is some advice if you want to be an independent author.

#1 Read everything and try to write it. Don’t just read your favorite genres. Read history, political science, philosophy, science and anything else factually based. Think of it as building a foundation for excellent writing. But also read fiction, especially classical fiction. Again, you learn how to write well by reading great writing.

#2 Write most days. Keep a diary, write a blog, write short stories and poetry and song lyrics. Practice your skills as often as you can. Yeah, a lot of what you write will be crap. Don’t delete it. Keep it. You can go back and edit it or you might find a smack awesome sentence in the middle of a couple of pages of awful writing.

#3 Join a critique group, submit your writing and listen to the advice you get. You can find lots of people help who are writers just like you and who may have strengths that balance your weaknesses. Plus it is really good practice for when you are getting ready to publish and you are submitting your manuscript to beta readers and an editor (and, yes, you will need to run your manuscript before several second pairs of eyes).

#4 Open a PayPal account and sock some money away there — or in a savings account — because you’re going to need it. Just throwing up a book on Amazon won’t get a lot of traffic. You’ll need to be prepared to advertise to get some attention on your book.

#5 Don’t be in a rush. Take your time. Go over your manuscript as many times as you need to. You want it to be a good book and there simply is no substitute for hard work in the pursuit of quality.

#6 If you can manage it, join an author’s cooperative because there is power in publishing with several other authors under the same publisher. It gives indie authors legitimacy that they are automatically denied simply because they are indie authors.

#7 Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. It took the Bible a few centuries to be accepted and it’s now THE #1 bestseller of all time. Tolkien spent decades writing Lord of the Rings and the associated publications in that universe before he had a chance meeting with a publisher at a dinner party. Most successful authors are 20-year overnight successes.

#8 You will need to develop a social media presence, but don’t overdo it. It’s far more important to write the next book. Set up some sort of schedule so you are occasionally in the public eye, but it’s way more important to be write than to socialize on the Internet.

And, there you go. Those are the things I would do if I was a writer who wanted to become an independent author. Some of them are things I did as I transitioned from writer to published author and some of them are things I wish I had done during that process.

Speaking of which, my 8th novel Day’s End (Book 4 of Transformation Project series) publishes next Tuesday November 20 and the latest Clarion Call anthology Fairy Tale Riot features one of my short stories. All of Transformation Project is on reduced price currently.

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Posted November 12, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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In Praise of My Editor   1 comment

An editor fulfills an important role for an independent author, providing an objective second pair of eyes on a manuscript that the writer cannot help getting too close to. And there are all sorts of editors available through a variety of sources. Some focus on content, some on copy-editing while others will take you all the way through the formatting process. Editors can be expensive, but consider them a business investment that will bring your book to the next level. An editor provides clarity and a new reader’s perspective on reading your book.

Manuscript EditingFor my latest book, I hired Dyane Forde of Christian Creative Nexus primarily as that objective second pair of eyes. Dyane and I had a previous relationship as writers under the Breakwater Harbor Books cooperative imprint. I knew she would be professional, caring and not avoid dealing with my weaknesses.

Her turnaround time was quick – less than two weeks for a 100,000-word manuscript. I’m sure that might vary depending on how busy she is, but I was impressed because it was nearly a week shorter than we had agreed upon.

Dyane concentrated on content and copy-writing while also proof-reading the manuscript and she performed wonderfully. This was my 8th published book, the 4th in this series and there are issues with that. You don’t want to rewrite the entire series in this book, so that can make it difficult for an editor to orient themselves. I provided a synopsis of my prior books and she figured it out. Dyane flagged when she thought I needed to explain the back story a bit, she pointed out some pacing issues and a story line that I really had gotten sloppy with. And of course, that meant I had to go back to the manuscript and do some rewrite to make it better…which is the reason we hire an editor and I was thrilled to do it.

I instituted almost everything Dyane suggested and I’m glad I did. My book Day’s End comes out November 20 and is on pre-order currently, and the entire series is on price reduction until then.

Transcending this Lifetime   6 comments

What do you want people to remember about you?

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We all hope to leave a legacy. It’s sort of a human ambition to leave behind something that has people remember who we were a decade after our deaths or a century. It’s mainly only the infamous who are remembered millennia after their deaths. Alexander the Great is not remembered because he was a good guy who promoted peace and love, for example. Had George Washington not headed the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he would be no better remembered today than Lemuel Haynes or Roger Sherman.

Proverbs 31 womanAt not-quite-60 I probably have another 20 years to forge my legacy (my mother’s family routinely push 90 when they pass to the next realm), so I am thinking more and more of what I want people to remember about me. I don’t do bucket lists, but today’s post calls me to consider this, so, here goes!

I would want people to remember me as an imperfect (that’s actually important) mother who loved her children enough to let them find their own paths, but who imparted saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to them. If our daughter ever fulfills her potential and God’s leading, you will know her name and not because she’s infamous. To say more would sound arrogant, but there are reasons having nothing to do with me or her for why I believe she could light up the world stage … or that she might be one of those people who is not famous in her own lifetime, but whose work will transcend her own life.

When folks stand around at my memorial service, I hope they remember my faith was in Jesus Christ and that I lived that out in my life even when it was sometimes hard and I wasn’t rewarded for it. Yeah, I think I’m on a theme here.

I would like people to remember my books. I put a lot of myself and my faith into them and so, of course, I want them to live on beyond my lifetime.

Last, I hope my blogging is remembered by the people who have read it (or might read it in the future) and that it helped them to see new and better ways of doing things that leads us away from the current vitriol and insanity of our present schizophrenic society. I’m not alone in occupying a 3rd way that is neither Republican nor Democrat, but seeks to align with economic reality and individual liberty and I pray God that people turn more in that direction before the whole mess slides off a cliff.

So, I think that’s about it. A faithful Christian, an effective communicator, an entertaining novelist and a good mom. Basically, I want to be remembered as a humanized Proverbs 31 woman.

Staying on Track   2 comments

What tools do you use to organize your writing life? Keep track of deadlines, blog appearances, guests appearing on your blog, etc.? What have you tried that didn’t work for you but might work for someone else?

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Calendar ImageI am not a huge “tool” writer. I think simplicity is an overall good thing in this way-too- complicated era. It’s not that I don’t know how to use technology, but that sometimes I just feel it complicates the process. I don’t, for example, use Scrivener, even though a lot of writers swear by it. Word works for me and keeping it simple means I have more time to write … in my opinion.

But I do have a few tools that I rely on to keep myself organized.

A calendar. I used to have a wall calendar that sat on my desk. It included kids’ appointments and writing events and deadlines. But these days the calendar is on my phone because that goes with me almost everywhere and it is similar to the calendar that rules my work day.

Sticky Notes“Sticky Notes” is a Windows’ program that allows you to put virtual “sticky notes” on your desktop. This is really useful for me because I leave all sorts of notes for myself where I will be confronted with them every time I open my computer. This “in sight, in mind” approach works really well for me.

So what hasn’t worked for me that might work for someone else? One Note seemed like a great idea when I first heard about it, but it’s not worked out for me. I’m not sure why. I just prefer to open a Word document and keep notes there. But it does have a lot of functionality that I suspect would be really nice to use if I hadn’t already gotten into the habit of using Word for that function. I think other people might get more out of it than I do.

I know … kind of boring and low-tech, but it works for me. I bet my fellow writers use more entertaining tools. Go check them out.

Posted September 24, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Practical in All Ways   8 comments

What’s the best purchase you ever made and why?

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ponchoI’ve bought a lot of things in my five decades of living from cheap $1 items to a house now inexplicably worth nearly a quarter-million dollars.  It’s hard to inventory all the purchases of my life and come down to “the best” and for what reason. Some things just give me joy. I like the look or feel of them. Other things are practical or were a great investment with a good return on value. It would take a great deal of soul-searching to narrow that most-worthy item down from the thousands of purchases I’ve made in my life. In fact, I am overwhelmed at the prospect because Brad and I are known among our friends as not being very consumer-oriented. Most of our “stuff” is second-hand and we are frequently asked if we ever plan to put furniture in our family room. Maybe … someday … if some neighbor in our garage-friendly neighborhood is looking to sell a sofa for cheap. Does a family room really need furniture beyond a bunch of bookcases and some cushions on the floor?

But not answering the question would be disingenuous, I suppose. Let me tell you a story.

Thirty years ago this summer Brad and I were working for a company that thought it needed our undivided attention, but we needed our annual salmon catch, so when they let us go for three days for the 4th of July holiday, we scrambled to load what we needed into the car and get headed on the 600-mile journey to Chitina Alaska and the red gold that are Copper River salmon. And, I couldn’t find my raincoat. I determined I would do it in a sweatshirt if necessary, even though I knew that would mean a miserable wet weekend.

Brad stopped on our way out of town to buy Meals Ready to Eat — military-issue rations that often find their way into the local military surplus stores. While he was deciding which of the menus to buy this time, I spied a shelf of Army ponchos. Jokingly, I said “These would make great tents.” Brad thought I was serious and he grabbed one and threw it on top of the box. Cost? $10.

The closer we got to Chitina, the darker the sky got. O’Brien Creek was running so hard we decided not to risk driving over it. I donned the poncho before we headed out. Except for the hood, which consisted of a Velcro closure under the chin to keep the rain out and a bill over my forehead to shed it to either side of my face, it fell shapeless to the tops of my Xtra-Tufs. The sides could be left open or there were grommets to hook together by any means desired. I had run lengths of 550 cord through them to form some sort of closure. It was so large on my tiny frame that I put it over my backpack to keep it dry.

We hiked in 2 1/2 miles to “the glory hole” and we caught 45 salmon in 2 1/2 hours. By pulling the 550 cord this way and that, I configured the poncho so that it kept my clothes dry while I clubbed fish to death as Brad was catching them two at a time. And meanwhile, it poured buckets of icy rain from the sky, flung sideways by the glacier wind out of the Wrangell-St. Elias ice fields.

When the fish had been caught, Brad began to load them into his “moose bag” backpack and it quickly became clear that he could only take half the load. I weighed less than the remaining fish. I would have to stay behind with them while Brad hiked the first half to the car.

It was dark and growing darker and I didn’t really feel that brave out there in the forbidding wilderness, but I told him I’d have tea ready for him when he got back. We both knew it would take two hours for him to hike out, at least a half-hour to pack the fish in the ice in the coolers in the back of the car and another hour to hike back to me. A part of being an Alaskan woman is not turning into a clingy suburbanite when your husband suggests he leave you in the rain-soaked forest beside one of the deadliest rivers in the world with 20 salmon and, possibly, grizzlies in the forest. Nope, I’d be fine. I’d have tea ready for him when he got back. I watched his Helly Hansen fisherman’s coat disappear into the darkness and didn’t ask him to come back.

Despite the monsoon-like ice bath occurring in the outside world, it was dry under my poncho. I could do this.

As anyone knows who has ever spent time in the woods, the key to building a fire is dry wood. Did I mention it was pouring and had been for several hours? I hiked around the cluster of wind-tough cottonwood trees, looking for twigs and leaves that weren’t soaked and I found some. Under a cut-bank near the river, I found a sheltered cluster of roots that I could hack off with my knife. Up in the forest, I found a spot sheltered among three trees that was less wet than the surrounding forest. I piled up my fire-starting treasure, sat down on the ground with my back against one of the trees and pulled my legs up into the sheltering tarp that was my poncho, protecting my treasure hoard from the deluge.

Rain dripped off the bill of my poncho, dropping onto my covered knees and rolled out into the wet ground. I dozed, buying time. Occasionally, the tree behind me would bend, groaning in the wind, and I’d be pelted with icy droplets, but my poncho didn’t move and my hoard stayed dry, warmed by the heat of my body. Time passed and stood still. My watch told me two hours had passed. Time to act.

I tied one end of my poncho to one of the three trees, pulled my head out of the hood and tied the other end to my back pack, creating a slanting roof. I knelt under the shelter to scrape sand together into a makeshift firepit and create a little nest of grass and leaves. Using strike-anywhere matches from the chest pocket of my poncho, I started a little fire, feeding dried twigs into it until it wouldn’t blow out at the faintest gust of watery wind. I warmed my hands over its tenacious warm. Smoke rose up to slap into the underside of my poncho and then seep away into the night. I filled the little tea kettle with rainwater as it ran off the edge. I sat with my knees drawn up to my chest, watching for steam to rise and listening to the steady drum of rain on the makeshift roof. Time passed and stood still while my socks dried above the little fire in the shelter of my poncho.

I was kneeling by the fire, preparing two cups of tea when I heard boots scraping on gravel near the trail. I was alone, a woman in the wilderness on the edge of one of the most deadly rivers in the world, guarding 20 salmon in grizzly country. I held my breath until Brad emerged out of the gray dawn, water pouring off his Helly Hansen coat.

“I have tea ready, just as I said.”

We sat on opposite sides of the fire, my poncho as our roof, sipping our hot beverage and eating a breakfast of pilotbread slathered with butter. While Brad caught an hour’s nap with his back against my tree, the weather broke, the rain stopped and sunlight spilled from heaven like liquid gold, sparkling through the wind-tough trees and casting the world in watercolor hues. I knocked the rain off my poncho and bundled it up loosely on top of my backpack. Brad stretched and groaned. I carried the camping gear and he carried the salmon and we turned toward our car that was 2 1/2 miles away, both of us dry and comfortable … because of my poncho.

That chance purchase 30 years ago still lives in my outdoor wardrobe. It is a constant companion, always packed for every expedition, though used only when necessary — as a coat, as a tent, as a tarp, sometimes a blanket to sit on. Once we bundled one of the kids in it on a canoe trip when she got cold. It’s kept backpacks dry, provided some protection from the damp dog that insisted she join us in the tent and been used as a bellows for building a bonfire. It still doesn’t leak and the only maintenance it’s required is replacing the 550 cord closures occasionally. And, thus it is the most useful $10 I’ve ever spent.

 

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