Writer resurfacing

003I haven’t posted for a good long while. It’s a reflection of the lack of flow I’ve had in my writing lately. It’s not that I stopped writing, not at all. But I ran into a problem with the details in my book. I’m on page 260 of the final book in a series, and I need to wrap things up, and refer back to previous events. I kept running into road blocks. So, instead of backing up and re-reading the first two books, straightening out facts and timelines chronologically, I tried to forge on, inserting question marks and highlighting info I’d have to go back to later. It got to be a real grind. So, I stopped fighting the lack of flow, and have started the re-writing process from page one of book one.
It’s pretty fun and exciting to revisit the characters from their inception. I am reinventing myself now, using writing techniques I’ve learned along the way, and doing away entirely with other devices I’ve learned turn off literary agents and editors.
Now, I can’t get enough time with the books, and what feels like minutes pass as hours. Heehaw. I’m back!

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Writer Gone Underground

6 April, 2013
When I write in my favorite coffee shop, Barista, the web is automatically connected. You’d think this was a good thing, and I do too. But, when I’m focused on my writing, it’s the worst thing ever. The temptation to check fb, twitter, etc. is pure evil. And, unfortunately, writing a new blog entry is dangled in front of me like the proverbial carrot. So, lately, I’ve taken to getting in the Smartcar and tooling the short trip to Peet’s. Yes, Peet’s has Wi-fi capability, but I have never asked for the code to get online. My hand flinches towards the Explorer button, then falters. Then I open my book and write. It feels like going underground. Forced into what I came to do. It’s to the point and I love it. Plus, the coffee is great.
I don’t have this problem with my practicing. Nothing can distract me from my music. Discipline is my middle name. But my writing is more delicate. I’m not happy about that.
I’m at Barista today, connected to the web and to my blog, which I love.
The plot in my book has taken me underground to a spooky place called an oubliette. A small confined space, in this case, part of a dungeon, two floors under the main floor of the castle. That’s where you’ll find me this afternoon. That’s as soon as I disconnect from you. Adieu.

Writer Ready

16 March, 2013

Am I ready to stare at the Pacific Ocean for three days? Heck yeah. I’m always ready for that. We’ll be spending two precious nights in Cape Kiwanda, a name that’s sure to please. Isn’t that something Kathy Bates yells in Fried Green Tomatoes? Kiwanda! Close enough.
My book is more than two thirds written, in its first incarnation, anyway. The last third is poised to get out of my brain and onto the computer screen. My hopes are always high when I get away. I’d like to see dozens of pages added to what I’ve already written. But, beach walks with the pups and my partner beckon. Then there’s bird watching, and although taking time for a bird hike is always worth it, it takes a big bite out of a short stay. Then there’s that relaxing element which seems to elude me wherever I am, and always has.
But, the main character in my book is in a serious predicament, a life threatening situation, and really needs to get on with it. The next 100 pages will reveal all. Will the roughness of the surf filter through my brain into the story? Will a comet sighting over the Pacific horizon thrill this writer so much, an element of awe will insert itself into a scene? Geez, all I can do is hope.

Writer Turned on Her Head

7 March, 2013
I miss my old writing schedule: practice piano until around 10 pm then write until I stop. It would go sometimes until 2 am. Usually though, I’d get to bed by 1:30. I wrote my first book in a year that way, and the second followed in the next year. I had my little “traditions” that helped focus me. A candle, some music (which would usually seep into the book somehow), and mint tea prepared in my little blue teapot I bought especially for my writing hours. It worked, it flowed. But, I got sleepy.
Somewhere in there, I discovered the coffee shop. The constant din provides the perfect background which helps me focus. And it gets me out of the house (I teach at home so I get jumpy if I haven’t left the premises for a while).
Something has shifted now though, and I fear my writing habits have been taken hostage in the process. Yet, it’s as exciting as waking up at the Grand Canyon just when the sun rises over the rim. (My partner and I once parked our VW van in a spot on the south rim the night before so we could wake up to the unknown of the next morning. The vast space, fresh air, morning birds, and orange light were shocking, leaving both of us dumbfounded.) Hoping for something inspirational, anticipating movement in the heart, later to find an even greater beauty than imaginable… isn’t what we’re all looking for?
Back to writing… Suddenly, I’ve been turned on my head, I want to get up in the morning to write. I haven’t changed so thoroughly that I get up with the sun….yet. But, if I didn’t have to consider my teaching and performing schedule, I would give that a serious whirl. Someday.
So, my third book seems to be taking longer, but I suspect it’s also because I’ve started to write in a different style, and the change has uprooted me. It feels great, but I wish so much that I’d started to write long, long ago. I wish someone; a teacher, a parent, a friend, encouraged me to explore the inner world of words. I remember two teachers who were amazingly inspirational when it came to English class and poetry though. One of them wasn’t one of my teachers exactly, but watched us during homeroom. (I wonder if they still have homeroom these days.) He read a poem, usually of the “Casey at the Bat” length, before school every day. The other was my English teacher in 5th grade. I loved her, but I’m afraid I was known as a musician even then, and got slighted when it came to developing other interests.
My dad was an avid reader, one of those true genius types that could do the NY Times crossword in ink. Lots of books were in the house. But, for me, my world was so encased in music, it left little room for anything else. No regrets with my music, please understand that. It is my entire world. I am my music. But I wish someone had said “There’s more.”
That’s all I’m saying.
So, like my spring veggie garden, I’m turning the soil onto my own head. Let’s see what sprouts.

Premonitions and Foreshadowings: Writer’s Friend or Foe?

22 February, 2013

They come in phases: Premonitions about little events, sometimes big ones. I’m sure this is a normal part of the human condition that most of us simply ignore or slough off as something else: a subconscious signal picked up by the brain that forms into full thought a second after the event has occurred, feeling like it happened before the event. Oh, you know what I mean.
It’s different than deja vu. That’s a conversation for another day.
So, I was walking to the coffee shop this morning, all bundled up against the winter storm, Pacific Northwest style. Rain, wind, tons of snow in the mountains, pounding surf at the coast.
I was reminiscing about a project I did as a child in my 5th grade class. I created a thick book describing outstanding features of all 50 states. I remembered that I thought Oregon was a very distant place, somewhere I’d probably never see. (I moved here in ’88 and never looked back.) I had pictures in my book of the state capital in Salem, Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge, and cowboys somewhere out “on the range”. I flashed on the picture I’d cut out of a book which I chose to glue into my big book of states. The cowboy wore a white hat tilted over one eye.
As I walked along, I side-stepped a puddle and looked out from under my hood to see a man walking towards me on the sidewalk. He wore a white cowboy hat tilted to one side! In the rain! For those of you not familiar with Portland garb, we see a lot of things (keep Portland weird), but this was very unusual.
That was the first premonition. Maybe that’s not the word for it, but I love when that happens.
Then, as I turned the corner, half way to the coffee shop, the yard on my left caught my attention. As I walked, it seemed to swim and spin slightly. I’m healthy and feel great, so this wasn’t anything like a cold coming on. It reminded me of train travel, how, if you stare out the window for a long time, the scenery has the same effect of swimming and spinning. Closing your eyes won’t get rid of it, but the insides of your eyelids will swim and spin in the opposite direction.
Back to the story: right after I thought about how the yard’s movement reminded me of train travel, a train whistle went off!
My neighborhood isn’t very near the tracks, but close enough to benefit from a whistle now and then.
So, I think that this sort of premonition, or rather, foreshadowing, is a wonderful thing. Yes, I like that word much better. Foreshadowing.
The big question is: would you believe it if a character in a story had this happen to them? Would it seem like magic or real life? I think it’s real life for characters in a story as much as it is for me. If the reader decides it’s poppycock, so be it.

Writer on the River

01218 February, 2013

I sit and look out at the Columbia River, one of the widest and longest rivers in the US. Water flows past in unfathomable quantities. But today, the scenery is slow to change. The clouds saunter by in a sky reluctant to give up its steel-grey facade. Freight trains, their length reaching beyond the scope of my picture window, carry cargo westward on the Washington side of the river. They offer a shift in scenery, as well as a soothing, distant rumble.
I’m at the Vagabond Lodge in Hood River, Oregon. For me, these few days are a writing retreat by default, having forfeited time with my partner and our pups for the sake of her job. But I simply cannot fill an entire day with writing. Can’t be done. So, I’ve enjoyed plenty of time outdoors birding and hiking the hilly trails on the bluff of the river. The Columbia Gorge is one of my favorite places. It’s great to spend time here.

I woke early, excited to calm my mind by getting words down on paper. (I miss that phrase. “Getting words onto my computer screen” just doesn’t have the same zing.) After a pause to walk the trail along the bluff and get a few photos of the local birds, I wrote some more. Lunch. Then….TA DA! One of the highlights of my day … macchiato in a cappuccino cup at Doppio Coffee. Those guys had no problem with the half pour! And yum. Stayed there and wrote a couple more hours, pushing the action forward in my book by leaps and bounds.
Okay, since this isn’t a diary or journal, let me skip to the point. It was only 2:30 and my writing brain was spent. Practicing piano for hours is a breeze in comparison.
Tonight’s plan: write, write, write. Tomorrow: write, Doppio, home. Write?

Macchiato in a Cappuccino Cup: Writer’s Cup Half Full.

16 February, 2013
Macchiato in a cappuccino cup! This writer’s cup is half full, and I like it that way. It has taken me about two years to figure this out, and to convince my baristas that I’m not kidding when I ask for it to be served this way. “My baristas.” That’s pretty funny.
Actually, I find that baristas who know my taste in mind-bending coffee easily go down this road with me. How hard can it be to pour a macchiato into a bigger cup? Why should this pose a problem? There’s no need for coffee art, just scoop some foam on top so that there’s a neat rim of brown around the edge. There’s more surface area, more crema, more nose. And, I like how the cappuccino cup sits in my hand. A macchiatto cup is so bitty. My new way is less like a girl’s tea party, more like a coffee drink with a deep secret.
Writing is like having a macchiato in a cappuccino cup. There’s more than enough room to fit the ideas, and when they are fully hatched, they edit down to about half the word count that originally appeared on the page, or screen.
But my drink isn’t really half a drink. It’s a fullblown, intense, eye-bugging-out experience. It’s a full drink in a cup twice its size.
I hope my writing gives the reader a similar experience; a personal twist on words we’ve all seen over and over, served up in a special cup.