Archive for the ‘#bloghop’ Tag

Writing Passion   7 comments

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

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So, I wrote this great article on this topic and accidentally swapped it for last week’s blog hop article. Have I mentioned I suck at math? Yeah, I do. And calendars, apparently.

Here’s a link to the original article, and I’m starting this one with the same intro. It was a great article in which I explore novels written by Artificial Intelligence. Yes, that’s really a thing, though neither a good one nor a real threat to legitimate novelists, in my opinion. It’s probably before its time, just like my article was. Great ideas are always jumping the gun.

Do I believe a writer can be a good writer if they don’t feel strong emotions?

Absolutely!

Let’s define our terms first. A writer is someone who writes. An author is someone whose writing is published. A novelist is someone who writes fiction.

Do we assume the author who wrote Essentials of Modern Refrigeration (a book on my husband’s shelf in the family library) had strong emotions about refrigeration? How about the Chilton’s Manual on Ford Taurus 1995-2010?

Yes, writers produced those books and I’m thinking neither of them wept over any chapter of them, although I can assure you my husband has shed a few tears over that stupid California car in our driveway. Essentials of Modern Refrigeration didn’t even put me to sleep (I am my husband’s study partner, so I am obligated to read his technical manuals before he has to take licensing tests, so he can use me as his pre-tester). So, yes, a writer can write without feeling any emotion whatsoever about a topic that really doesn’t stir a lot of emotions. Trust me, absolutely nobody is passionate about how to change an oil filter on a 2005 Taurus.

I think the question we’re really asking is “Can someone be a novelist if they don’t feel emotion strongly?”

In my other article, I focused on the writer’s job to draw out the emotions of the reader regardless if we feel the emotion. Yeah, I’m not writing the same article, so go read it if you didn’t already.

I don’t think you need to have experienced the exact same emotion your character experiences in order to illicit an emotional response from your readers.

Writing about a hot mess doesn’t mean you have to be a hot mess yourself. I work a responsible job and have managed to stay married to the same man for more than 30 years. I raised two reasonably well-adjusted children (okay, one of them is a gypsy musician, but she’s a functional gypsy musician. I did MY job and she’s feeding herself, though the roof-over-her-head thing is still debatable). I would not define myself as a hot mess.

On the other hand, I’ve lived a life. I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it. I’ve been scared. I’ve faced loss. I’ve been angry. I’ve been lonely.

But I’ve never killed anyone in a drunk driving accident and I’m writing a character who has. How can I write that character if I’ve never felt that emotion? Well, maybe I can’t. We’ll see how the readers like it when it’s finally published.

I’ve never shot anyone in a war either and I don’t suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from an experience I’ve never had. Yet readers seem to think I do a believable job of portraying Shane because they read all the published books in the series and enough people have read the most recent book in Transformation Project that I’m guessing they were waiting for it to come out. Do you think they read the whole series (to this point) because I did a bad job of conveying emotions I’ve never experienced?

Probably not.

Though I’ve never actually experienced those emotions, I know people who have and I can sense by what they say and, more importantly, what they don’t or can’t say what some of their emotions are about those past events. My job as a writer is to give expression to the groanings of a soul that has no words for what has wounded it. And, yes, of course, I feel empathy for their emotional turmoil, but frankly, if my response was to weep, I’d not be able to interview them dispassionately and that would, I believe, harm my purpose. If you’re feeling too deeply, it’s hard to put the words on the paper. It’s hard to even understand the other person’s emotions. As an author, I need some distance from the character to write their pain effectively.

My job as a writer is to give expression to the groanings of a soul that has no words for what wounded it.

When I experience the emotion is when I read the manuscript as if I were a reader. And, if I get that tingling sensation in my soft pallet and my eyes start to gloss up, then I know I’ve done my job, because if it makes me cry, it’s going to illicit a strong response from the readers who encounter it for the first time.

I trained and worked as a journalist where you typically have less than 350 words to convey something to a reader – the horror of the car accident, the fear of the burning building, the passion of the City Councilman. In my day, journalists were supposed to report the news, not insinuate their opinion or feelings into the news, but certainly good reporters understand word choice and how to tug on a reader’s emotions without saying “Hey, cry about this.” My News Writing professor used to say “Be dispassionate to bring out the passion.”

I don’t have to feel the emotion strongly to write strong prose, but absolutely, I have to understand what elicits emotions in others in order to draw an emotional response from them. But there comes a place and time where writers must not manipulate the readers into feeling passionate about the character’s experience. Instead, we need to set up a scene where the reader follows the character through an emotional roller coaster and then provide an opportunity for the character to reflect on that now-past shattering event. While the character is unpacking their own response, the reader may process theirs as well, if they choose, and if I’ve done my job as a novelist correctly.

Cat Herding 101   11 comments

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

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Defining Terms at the Outset

Absolutely!

Let’s define our terms first. A writer is someone who writes. An author is someone whose writing is published. A novelist is someone who writes fiction.

Do we assume the author who wrote Essentials of Modern Refrigeration (a book on my husband’s shelf in the family library) had strong emotions about refrigeration? How about the Chilton’s Manual on Ford Taurus 1995-2010?

Yes, writers produced those books and I’m thinking neither of them wept over any chapter of them, although I can assure you my husband has shed a few tears over that stupid California car in our driveway. It will someday be replaced by a nice sensible Subaru or a Jeep that’s old enough to vote. (We both hate modern electronics and want cars that we can work on).

Can someone be a novelist if they don’t feel emotion strongly?

Can AI Write Novels?

That’s a more nuanced answer, isn’t it? Afterall an AI recently penned a road-trip narrative novel and some of its lines made me go “hmm, that’s interesting.” Starting with “It was nine seventeen in the morning, and the house was heavy”, 1 the Road reads like a Google Street View car  narrating a cross-country journey to itself. It’s a tour of the built and noisy world interpreted by a machine. It’s surveillance-technology fiction, written by the same species of technology that is conducting the surveillance and processing the data. What might an AI teach us about a world already so totally impacted and sculpted by the data it gathers that a human writer can’t? For the record, to a natural-rights libertarian who believes in human individuality, it was … pause-worthy. I didn’t consider it great literature for some of the same reasons I don’t think Jack Kerouac’s Benzedrine-fueled On the Road was great literature, but the AI’s view of the American highway system did make me think, and unsettled me enough to stir dystopian sci-fi novel possibilities in my imagination.

For now, let’s just focus on the humans.

Novelists deal in the arena of feeling and emotion. Our books thrive on the conflict wrought in the character’s emotions. Obviously, a novelist must understand emotion and the best way to understand it is to feel it, but is the writer required to be a hot mess with internal conflicts similar to the character? I hope not.

I am currently working on a YA that is the start of a series that will follow the young adulthood of Peter – a hot mess whose internal conflicts are going to lead to dark places. I’ve never been a teenage boy and I’ve never engaged in some of the behaviors Peter engages in. I keep giving my 21-year-old son chapters of the first book to read and he’s starting to say “Mom, did you read my mind when I was 17? You’re scaring me.”

Write What You Know?

Or Understand What You Write?

Clearly, I am not writing what I personally know. I was last a teenager decades ago, but I’m not Peter. I am drawing off of my own experiences and conversations I had with my kids and their friends. I’m feeling Peter’s emotions, but they are not my emotions. To a large degree it is a cerebral process of applying knowledge in the arena of emotions.

I worked in community mental health for almost two decades. I was an administrator, not a clinician, although that line blurred often because I wasn’t afraid to interact with clients. Much of what I say in the next few paragraphs pertains to what I learned from that experience.

Feeling requires introspection, which necessitates identification with the character and empathy for what he or she faces. But, the story’s action and its characters are vehicles through which the reader creates her own emotional experience. The goal is not to get readers to feel what the characters feel per se, but to use the characters’ emotional conflict as a device to get readers to feel something on their own.

Recent neurological research suggests the mind must assess a feeling in order to experience it fully. Despite the modernist advice to “show, don’t tell,” readers need some processing of feeling by the character to register it meaningfully. This means allowing characters to think about what they’re feeling, which makes the feelings both more concrete and more personal and creates time and space for readers to process their own feelings. If the writer attempts to connect the reader to the character’s feelings, then the reader must be able to ask if they feel the same way or if their feelings differ.

Does this mean a cerebral writer be a good novelist? Hemingway was a pretty strict advocate of “show, don’t tell” and his novels impacted me powerfully. I love reading Hemingway, but I long ago departed from his journalistic just-the-facts style to a novel style that focuses on revealing a character’s emotion through a particularly dramatic scene or a series of scenes that culminate in a devastating reveal or reversal, plunging the character, and hopefully the reader, into a powerful emotional event, followed by a scene that has some introspection, permitting characters and readers alike to take a breather and process what just happened.

I use that technique a lot in Transformation Project. There’s a traumatic event or series of events followed by a time of the town turning inward and characters analyzing what just happened. Within those “resting” scenes, the point-of-view character often registers and analyzes the emotional impact of recent events, comes to a somewhat logical conclusion about the meaning of those events, and makes a plan of how to proceed going forward.

Peter will do the same thing, though this younger character will have fewer skills for how to analyze his emotional experiences because 17-year-olds live “in the moment” and it’s hard for them to see what tomorrow might look like.

If You’re Going to Herd Cats, You Must Understand Cats

My hope is readers will process their own emotions and interpretation of events while the character is doing so, not necessarily in parallel or even consciously.

And there’s a proviso here – it needs to be brief because I don’t want to bore or alienate readers who may be ready to move on. The point isn’t to over-analyze the character’s feelings, but to clear a space for readers to examine their own feelings. And, frankly, in most of our lives, we spend very little time in introspection because we’re too busy cleaning up the messes our actions cause.

A character changes through the emotions he experiences and through the evolution in self-awareness this process allows. This gradual metamorphosis creates the story’s internal arc, providing the character an opportunity to move step-by-step from being at the mercy of his emotions to mastering his feelings, providing a means for the reader to traverse an arc of her own, expanding her emotional self-awareness … hopefully.

I can only write it. Herding readers is a lot like herding cats. You have to set up the conditions where they think it’s their idea to go in the direction you suggest — which leaves open the possibility that they will choose a direction you didn’t plan. I love when someone gets a message from my books that I didn’t consciously intend.

So, yes, you can write if you don’t feel strong emotions, so long as you understand how to evoke strong emotions in others, but I think you have to have some feeling at some level to know how to pull on the heartstrings of others. I don’t think we need to worry about artificial intelligence replacing novelists.

Posted February 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Con Artists, I say   1 comment

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

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As a libertarian who believes in free-market principles, I categorically support the right of a publisher to engage in whatever business practices they think will make a profit.

Now, turn that around. I also categorically support the right of the authors who deal with that publisher to engage in critical thinking and to reject business practices they think might harm them.

Members of the publishing industry—authors, publishers, peer reviewers—should be held accountable for maintaining ethical practices. We’re not talking laws here, but voluntary exchange between parties. Yes, it’s not always easy keeping others on the straight and narrow. Whether in search of financial or personal gain, some bad eggs do exist within the industry, attempting to bait-and-switch unsuspecting authors.

Stop being unsuspecting. Educate yourself so you are not taken advantage of. That is wholly within your control, though I readily admit it’s not a fun process.

How do I know this? Well, I encountered some of those bad eggs in my journey to self-publication as a novelist.

Predatory publishers, publications, and conferences proliferated in the past decade amid the increase of self-publishing (sometimes called open-access publishing). These predators offer various “pay-to-play” models with benefits that you can’t possibly refuse – and a lot of authors fall prey to these con artists.

Predatory Publishers

So, let’s say an author stumbles upon this brand-new, full-service Open Access publisher. It looks stellar – cheap and convenient. Nice. But, hold on. How do you know it’s not trustworthy – otherwise known as predatory?

Predatory publishers don’t care about quality. They care about netting a quick profit through various charges or a one-size-fits-all fee that equals your mortgage for a year. These publishers may even willingly take unpolished work, especially if they offer in-house peer review and/or copy editing services. Be cautious of publishers guaranteeing acceptance after paying a fee. Be double-cautious if the publishers lacks review transparency and/or offers a short turnaround for publication. Although this all sounds wonderful, it is not sound publishing practice. If they’re promising your novel will be published for a low-low fee of thousands of dollars and they have the juice to make it a best-seller, hit pause and think.

Too good to be true = con artist.

In the end, after about my third query with one of these wolves, I decided to self-publish. I wanted to maintain control of my product, to assure its quality and to own my publication rights. I had a bit of an advantage because I had worked in an adjacent field of publishing, so I already knew such practices existed — there have always been predatory vanity presses out there. But, man, it’s scary out here in the cold and dark by myself.

Learn to Trust Someone

I eventually started a discussion with an author friend who is part of the author cooperative Breakwater Harbor Books which is my publisher of record. We each still own our books and we each still have to find editors, cover creators, format-services and marketing firms to help us where we need it, but we also can help each other from time to time and if a reader cares about whether a book has a “publisher” they will see a dozen other authors published under this boutique publisher.

Which, by the way, is the only advantage of most self-publishing companies. You give them your money, they take control of your book, they may screw it up or improve it, they may stick a great cover on it or a bad one, they may market it or they may expect you to do all of it (and that’s usually the case), and you will get five percent of the royalties rather than 70 percent … after you pay them thousands of dollars.

I held onto my rights and the quality of my work. What did I give up to join the cooperative?

Some trust. Because we use each other as beta readers, we have to trust that our fellow stable members are not going to steal each other’s copyrighted manuscripts. My ISBNs are listed in my own name, so BHB can’t claim to own them, but I have to trust that Scott and Cara and the other authors are not going to take me to court to claim they own my published books. Although we have verbal agreements to that effect, we didn’t involve lawyers and frankly, we didn’t need to.

Ethics absolutely matter

Far more important than the law, ethics (or morality) are the foundation under-girding society. The law can be absolutely on the side of the predatory publisher who has taken your money, somehow relieved you of the rights to your book, and is now letting it languish in their basement. Ethics, however, are on your side, so it’s best to avoid those unethical publishers and be brave – step out on your own and make your own choices, accept your own risks, and leave the con artists standing there with their hats in their hands.

Posted February 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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A Leaning Tower   5 comments

How do you keep track of the books you read?

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I’m old-fashioned and prefer my books of the paper variety, although I also read books on computer because they’re cheaper and easier to carry with you on the airplane.

In the Event of An Earthquake … RUN!

Keeping track of the books I read is pretty easy, then. There’s this double stack in the corner of our bedroom. One stack are books I want to read or am in the process of reading. The other stack are books I’ve read. Eventually that stack will be distributed to the bookshelves in our house because – well, that stack gets so high it starts leaning and that could be an injurious situation. We do have earthquakes here, after all. Our shelves are (loosely) organized by genre. My anal husband wants them to be alphabetized. I wish him well in that endeavor.

If I want to know which physical books I’ve read, I can just look through the earthquake-risky stack or check out the bookshelves in the house. Except for my husband’s shelf of technical manuals and my daughter’s double shelf of books in the living room (my son has a similar shelf, but he keeps his in his bedroom), I’ve read just about every book on those shelves — some of them multiple times. And we literally have hundreds of books. For years, we kept a spiral- bound notebook where we wrote down titles. I’ve been working on an electronic version so the books will be Excel-searchable, mainly because our daughter acquired some books that were already on our shelves.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Although I prefer books I can hold in my hand and smell the paper and ink, I do sometimes read e-books. I’ve recently been trying to learn how to write a romance and to me, the best way to do that, is to read some (good) romances. Since romance tends to irritate me (and did even when all books were physical), there’s no reason to seek a visceral experience from them. I am, after all, analyzing them to improve my own skills rather than to enjoy a bit of escapism (though that’s part of the analysis), so I buy them electronically. Kindle keeps track for me. Easy-peasy. And, I am not a member of Kindle Unlimited because I prefer to own the books I read. I conducted an analysis of my reading habits and determined that KU would be an extra expense because I’d still go out and buy most of the books I read.

Some books are EXPENSIVE to acquire in hard copy. Most non-fiction books are crazy priced and then you have to factor in shipping time to Alaska (it can take a week with “overnight” shipping) and shipping costs to Alaska (the Jones Act adds 30% compared to the Lower 48), so electronic is often easier and the only way to read non-fiction affordably. Pretty much my entire library of libertarian literature is electronic. Some are acquired through Kindle, but a lot more are free downloads from Mises Institute or one of the other generous libertarian think-tanks. Those are stored on a disc under a file “Books to Be Read” and I keep track by moving the books I’ve read into a sub-folder listed “Read”. I recently created another sub-folder titled “To Read Again” because there are books that I know I only scratched the surface on. I’m on my third reading of Lysander Spooner’s “Treason: The Constitution of No Authority” and I feel like I’ve caught 10% of what he wrote in what is essentially a long essay. And, you might be catching a theme — few books are ever read-and-done. If they’re good books, keeping track of whether I’ve read them is immaterial because I’m likely to read them again. Hence, why I prefer to own the books I read.

Ethical Considerations

I don’t borrow books from the library much anymore. I prefer to own, but the primary reasons for not borrowing from the library are two-fold.

As a libertarian, I’m ethically challenged by a library supported by property taxes paid by people who may never use the library — so why am I using it? Well, I’m working on not using it. That’s a topic we can discuss outside of the blog hop.

For this article, my principle reason is I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I want to be efficient about it. While I can tear through a non-fiction looking for the ideas and information I need for my next novel, I am going to slow down and enjoy a fiction read, recognizing that it’s going to take longer than the two weeks the library allows. There are a few fiction books out there I read decades ago that I wish I could find now, but I can’t remember the title or the authors name. It would have been so much better if I’d bought the book. Yes, there’s a cost to buying books electronically, but if it’s a good book, I’m going to want to own it anyway, so borrowing from the library is just an extra step I’m not convinced is worth it (nor am I sure it’s ethical). Our library here is thoroughly in the 21st century (now), so I can borrow books electronically and listen to audio books (which my brain isn’t patterned for). My library account comes with an electronic system for keeping track of the books I’ve read, whether I’ve returned them (useful!), and it also pesters the snot out of me to read related books (not so useful). Again, easy-peasy, except I get halfway through a good book and go to Amazon to buy it because, again, I prefer to own the books I read.

Old Fashioned Methods

So, I keep track of which books I’ve read by browsing my home library, scanning through Kindle, or my computer. I want to be a real nerd and have an Excel spreadsheet because it’s tiring looking through hundreds of books and because about a year ago I bought “Ender’s Game” for my son only to find my copy of it tucked back into the second rank of books on a bottom shelf in our sci-fi section where I’m pretty sure I looked before I bought him his copy.

I wonder how my fellow blog-hoppers keep track. Maybe I can learn something.

Improving My Craft   6 comments

What are your favorite writing-related blogs?

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I don’t write about writing.

There are countless blogs and so-called experts online with advice. While some of it can be helpful, I’m going to be honest and say outright that I don’t really spend a lot of time on writing blogs. I’d rather spend time writing.

Some people might think that sounds arrogant, but truthfully, I’ve worked as a professional reporter/writer and I’ve been writing creatively since I was 12. When it comes to the technical tips on writing these blogs provide, I tend to want to see something I don’t already know and that’s not going to happen very often. I go to writing blogs for marketing and formatting tips, not for writing advice, though I do occasionally pick up a useful tip.

Consequently, I spend a lot more time on blogs about ideas having nothing to do with writing. Lew Rockwell, Foundation for Economic Education and Mises Institute are far more helpful to me as a novelist than any of the writing blogs.

That doesn’t mean I don’t check them out occasionally. So which ones are my “favorites”? I have no idea, but here are a few that are saved to my favorites bar.

The Book Designer

Joel Friedlander is responsible for The Book Designer, which is one of the truly great writing blogs. He was who I turned to to learn to format for print. He provides a helpful view of the publishing aspects of being an author and writing for a living. He offers sound advice to help you get turn your manuscripts into published novels.

The Book Designer covers a wide range of topics, include self-publishing, marketing, and general writing tips. And one-stop-fits-all is worth my limited attention.

Every Writer

Richard Edwards’ Every Writer presents information on many helpful tools for authors, from building a website to starting a literary magazine. Edward provides information and tips to escape writer’s block and increase your productivity!

Jerry Jenkins

I’ve been a fan of Jerry Jenkins’ blog since before I started publishing. I originally was attracted there by his Christian insights, but he also provides tips and resources for authors.

Over the last half century Jenkins has been an editor, a publisher, a nonfiction author, and a novelist. He offers a 20-Step Guide on How to Write a BookHow to Develop a Great Story IdeaFind the Right Writers Group and How to Write Dialogue

Become a Writer Today

Through his blog Become a Writer Today, Bryan Collins focuses on the needs of new writers. I’m clearly not in that category, I still learn something from my occasional visits. Bryan is a non-fiction writer, blogger, and podcaster, and also focuses on self-publishing. He’s written two 3-book series, “Become a Better Writer Today” and “The Power of Creativity.”  A team of writers cover the business side of writing and such topics as writer’s block, formatting, and best practices. 

DIY MFA

DIY MFA serves as a do-it-yourself manual for the equivalent of a Master of Fine Arts in writing without the expense. It centers on writing with focus, reading with purpose, building your writing community, and how to discover available writing tools.

Founded by author and podcaster Gabriela Pereira, the site posts on everything from play-writing to surviving rejection, travel writing, and numerous other writing topics. She offers a writer igniter that generates writing prompts. 

Writing Tips are Great. Ideas Are Better

Pereira’s prompts generator is well worth visiting. While these are ones I’ve been impressed with enough to save to my favorites bar, there are many more that I’ve stopped into, gotten what I needed from them and moved on. As I said, I don’t blog about writing. I write about other ideas. So it makes sense that I’m not spending a lot of time visiting writing blogs.

Posted January 27, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Sparkly Objects All Around   14 comments

January 20, 2020

What are your top three distractions and how do you deal with them?

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Life is Distracting

Life is incredibly distracting. There’s the kids, the spouse, the house, the pets, the Internet, the phone, Netflix, Hulu, my friends, my siblings, books, church, the gym, summer, the furnace, making dinner, my friends at Bible study, the woodstove, the houseplants, my coworkers, the news, the Democratic debates, Trump’s antics, the hysteria of both Democrats and Trump supporters, Facebook, Twitter, Austrian economics, Medium, You-Tube, Word Press, my husband’s company, my father-in-law, my-mother-in-law, (occasionally) my brother and my recently-discovered sister, Ancestry.com, the neighbors … yeah, I could go on and on.

Yup, it might be easier to say what isn’t a distraction these days. We live in the Age of Distraction. We’re constantly trying to amuse ourselves. Amuse – a (meaning “none) + muse (meaning “thinking”) = no thinking. We are surrounded by things of less-value that constantly try to distract us from things of greater value.

And I’m trying to publish two novels this year. Yeah, I don’t need distractions in 2020 and I definitely can’t be a-musing. Writers need to think. I need to think. I need to get into the head of my characters and bring forth their stories.

My Big Three

The OP asks for three top distractions. Selecting from hundreds wasn’t easy, but here we go.

  • My husband
  • The news
  • Social media

Husbands – Am I Interrupting You?

I used to be able to say kids, but our 27-year-old daughter is a gypsy musician traveling the Lower 48 and our 21-year-old son, while he lives at home, is a quiet person whose most distracting behavior is playing guitar in his room (he’s actually getting quite good).

I love my husband Brad and he is very supportive of my writing, but sometimes he can’t seem to understand that there are times when, in order for me to get an idea from my brain through my fingers to the electronic page, I need him to SHUT THE HECK UP.

I’m really good with distraction. I grew up in small Alaska houses where everybody lived in one room, television blaring, conversations swirling, and you retreated to your bedroom only for bed (or algebra. I never could do algebra, carry on a conversation, and watch television all at the same time). I’m really good at screening out distractions. I can write while watching television, while the neighbor is mowing his lawn, while the kids were jumping around in the living room or while the dog chased her stuffed animal across the carpet. I really am good with distractions.

Except when I’m not. Sometimes, there’s just thoughts, turns of phrases or descriptions that I really need to concentrate on to write it the way I want. And Brad is really, really, REALLY good at interrupting my thought-flow right when I don’t need him to.

He means well. Last night it was a simply question –

  • Brad – “Do you want tea?”
  • Me – “Yes.”
  • Brad – “What kind of tea?”
  • Me – “Doesn’t matter.”
  • Brad – “But there’s four different kinds here. Do you want the Bengal Spice, the Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland, the Orange Spice, or the Apple Cinnamon?”
  • Me – “You’re interrupting my thoughts.”
  • Brad – “It’ll just take a moment.”
  • Me – (The image is fading. No, come back.) “How about you make the decision and let me think?
  • Brad – “So you don’t want tea?”
  • Me – (Urrggghhhh!) “No, never mind. Let’s now have a conversation since the thought I was trying to capture just ran off to the Delta Glacier, never to be seen again. Yes, make me tea, I want the Bengal Spice, and let me close my laptop since I’m going to get nothing else of worth accomplished tonight.”

Brad and I just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. We’ve been making tea for each other for 35 years. He KNOWS what tea I like and that I stop drinking caffeine after 7 pm. He also knows that he could give me any of those four flavors and I’d be good with his choice. Heck, he’s given me just hot water before and I didn’t complain – scarcely noticed if I was chasing a powerful image out of my mind onto the page. But, yeah, at least once a week, he is a major distraction.

News

Say what you will about the times we live in – the news is hyperbolic. It’s been going on for a while now. Clinton (Bill, with Hillary as the wind beneath his wings) was going to destroy America. Bush 2 was going to destroy the world. Obama was destroying the middle class. Trump is going to implode the galaxy.

I studied to be a journalist and worked for a couple of years at our hometown newspaper, so I have an interest in the news. When we had cable television, the news was on a lot. Then we cut the cord and now the news is only on if we go looking for it on You-Tube. But my god, you could get so caught up in it all — watching Nancy Pelosi try to stage a coup and Trump try to avoid the knife and the 357 Democratic candidates try to throw each under the bus, while the CNN anchors turn blue waiting for World War 3 to break out while freaking out over Trump’s latest twitter storm and whether Bernie is a sexist or if the statements his Iowa field supervisor made on tape are a sign that at least some in his organization want a Marxist regime. Thank God we only have You-Tube and not CNN, Fox, MSNBC, PBS, and BBC.

I don’t watch the news all that often anymore. I do scan Reuters and our local newspaper daily and there are a few libertarian analysis sites I go to more than once a week, but for the most part, I don’t hang on every moment of the news because — DISTRACTING.

But Brad does like to catch some news programs on You-Tube. Remember what I said about being really good with distraction. That doesn’t bother me. I can watch a news program while writing a book – usually. Except he sometimes wants to talk about it and he figures his wife — former journalist with a political science minor — probably would like to weigh in. After all, I do know something about the topic — more than the average viewer. I show that when I write Transformation Project. So why don’t I watch the program?

Well, sometimes I am writing a story that has nothing to do with political science. The YA I’m writing currently has a main character who knows nothing about politics and doesn’t want to. That is so appropriate for a 17-year-old!

I began publishing Transformation Project before Donald Trump became president. I never really saw that coming, so I have to constantly remind myself that he’s not part of the mythology. The deceased President Dotson is based on a Michael Bloomberg-like character with a dash of Richard Nixon thrown in. It’s hard to keep Trump out of Transformation Project when Brad is watching the Milwaukee Keep America Great Rally on You-Tube. Then he cuts to the protesters and counter-protesters outside and pretty soon, I’m not writing, I’m watching and so long as I leave Trump out of it, I can get some great ideas about how people act stupidly when they come to believe the pageantry of the elected nobility matters in real life, but ultimately, I am distracted from writing.

It’s a Village at Your Fingertips

Social media is a great societal good and an immense societal disaster. It’s insta-community and I have over 800 followers. At least 50 of them weigh in regularly to my discussion openers on Facebook. I enjoy doing them and I often get attitudes that are reflected by characters within Transformation Project. Sometimes phrases even work their way in. It’s a great source for inspiration.

And a massive time-suck.

If I let it be. I have easily wasted weekend afternoons that were prime writing time discussing topics that I already have plenty of source material for. People ask you questions, they wish you happy birthday, they post their own stuff and I want to respond … Distracting!

How Do I Deal With It?

Life is about accommodations. If you’ve got a family, you’re blessed. You can’t just leave them to go live on a mountaintop where you can write without interruptions. You shouldn’t desire to do so. Brad interrupts me and sometimes I’m frustrated by that. I remind myself that he can’t read my mind and sometimes his distracting behaviors are because he’s lonely. That will happen to author widowers. I sometimes need to set aside a project for an evening so we can spend time together. I also try to encourage him to pursue his own hobbies when my muse is throwing fast balls and most of the time that works.

Shutting out the world is impossible and probably not helpful in the long run. Brad has a shtick about someone we know who never pays attention to the news emerging from his cave to discover the zombie apocalypse has occurred and he was utterly unaware of it and completely unprepared. Paying at least some attention to the world outside of my writing is a good thing and it makes my coworkers less nervous that I might walk in front of cars while I daydream. But really, unplugging is not a bad thing either. Most people today are WAY too attached to the whole Trump-is-going-to-implode-the-galaxy back-and-forth hysteria. Go do something else and stop freaking out. It’ll resolve itself — and, hint, neither side is particularly right at the moment and perhaps we ought to be more concerned about what they’re trying to distract us from.

Social media – yeah, where the freak-out is really occurring. Yes, I use it for research. Am I on it too much? Probably. Can I let it go? Not entirely. But I also don’t take it as seriously as some of my commenters tend to take it. I also don’t need to “win” the debate. I will keep dealing in principles and making points and letting people be wrong if they want to be wrong. And, even people who I mostly agree with are sometimes wrong. I’m sure they know that experience too.

I relax my grip and don’t sweat stuff I don’t control. And, that’s how I deal with it.

Posted January 20, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Personhood   4 comments

January 13, 2020

Your characters have been placed in Witness Protection. What three truths about themselves do they want to keep?

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Boomerang Ideas

This is an interesting topic. Someone else sent it to me and I submitted it to our fearless leader PJ MacLayne, not expecting her to decide to use it immediately. YIKES!

Transformation Project

I can’t think of any of my characters who would enter the actual Witness Protection program because most of the people entering that are criminals who have rolled over on other criminals. Some of my characters aren’t as pure as the fresh-driven snow, but none of them are rolling over on the Bononno family. I really had to think long about this question.

Spies Live a Similar Life

I have characters who have changed their identities to go undercover working for the government. Shane Delaney is also Eric Faraday and Joel Rhys. He lived for four years as Eric “Ric” Faraday while Joel Rhys was a paper identity to hide his assets. As “Eric”, Shane kept a lot of his past identity. He was vague about what state he grew up in (somewhere in the Midwest to explain his accent) and he just didn’t say the names of family. But he kept that he’d graduated from Embry-Riddle with a degree in aeronautical engineering. His name was a compilation of his real middle name and his mother’s maiden name, chosen for the ease of remembering them. Shane explains to someone who was a friend during his undercover days who has discovered his real identity “I didn’t lie much beyond my name because the more lies you tell, the harder it is to keep it all straight.”

Returning to Real Life

Javier Chavez is also Francis Xavier and Martin Pulgarin. Javi was much further undercover with some really dangerous people. Francis Xavier was technically a terrorist because terrorists only allow other terrorists to get close enough to collect information on their terrorist activities. Javier kept almost none of his identity for that role — his age and his gender — because those are hard to change and fairly intrinsic to who most people are.

His next identity of Martin Pulgarin didn’t last long and he added being a Spanish speaker. Now that he’s decided to be Javier Chavez (his real name) it is a bit like being in Witness Protection because he hasn’t been Javier Chavez in more than a decade and even that identity is pretty thin. He grew up with no family, an orphan in foster care with a string of custodians. He barely remembers his parents and has had limited romantic relationships. He isn’t sure what he values now that his job as a spy is over. He’s building a brand-new identity, made more poignant because he’s going blind and he may have found a woman who seems to accept him for who he has never had a chance to be.

Currently, he’s keeping a few things. He’s a male in his early-to-mid thirties. He’s keeping his name because he’s come to realize that living lies has negative consequences. Speaking Spanish is the one thing he got from his parents and it’s a valuable skill he can still use when he can’t see. Another tenuous connection he’s keeping is Ami, his lover. Is he keeping her because he loves her or because he’s going to need her help when he can’t see at all? Well, we’ll find out when the time comes. And because I am a discovery writer, I don’t actually know that answer. I’m not even sure why he’s going blind. I know the science behind his medical condition, but I don’t yet know the story purpose behind his blindness. I’m pretty sure if Javi could vote on it, it wouldn’t be his choice to give up his eyesight to become a new person.

Asking Myself

This topic forced me to ask questions of myself — what would I keep if I were forced to forge a new identity. My answers are different from what my characters answered and that’s important because my characters aren’t me. They’re merely the voices in my head that want their stories told.

Inside My Mind

My name is Ryan Langdon and I accidentally blew the minds of over 10 million people.

Happiness Between Tails by da-AL

Tales + Tail Wagging + Book Love + Writing + Art + Food + Dance + Travel + Joy

Fairfax and Glew

Vigilante Justice

The Wolf's Den

Overthink Everything

SaltandNovels

Sprinkling wonder into writing

Remmington Reads

A book enthusiast bringing you all things bookish

MiddleMe

Becoming Unstuck

Magical BookLush

A New Dimension to Explore!! Love for books and series is all we need. Life can be lonely without books. All I love is books, series, and talking about serious causes like bodyshaming. Do join me if you love to live your life to the fullest

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

It's All about the Romance 💕💕💕

Not Very Deep Thoughts

Short Fiction and Other Things

Ediciones Promonet

Libros e eBooks educativos y de ficción

the dying fish

Book info, ordering, about me etc. in upper right

STRAIGHT LINE LOGIC

Never underestimate the power of a question

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