Time for a Little Literary Yard Work

Lately, I’ve been sending queries off to agents and spending a lot of time waiting. Not idle time, mind you, but it’s given me some time to go through, over and again, my writing and tidy it up a lot.

You know . . . fixing typos and spelling, ensuring punctuation is not only correct but consistent, making sure grammar is spot on.

No surprises here!

No surprises here!

The path through my literary landscape was well balanced and esthetically pleasing. The gate at the beginning told you this was the beginning. There was just enough color and diversity to even things out. I had little labels on all the unusual things to explain where that came from, how this grew, and even why and something exotic and seemingly out-of-place was included in my garden of words. Everything was nicely labelled and laid out so anyone viewing it would know exactly what was planted there.

A garden is a wonderful place to go and just sit on the bench and take in the surroundings. A place to relax and just look (from that ubiquitous ornate wrought-iron bench) and see everything as it is. Sometimes, that exactly what you need. You see everything from your comfortable seat and since you know it all just from that one sitting so that when you close the gate at the end of the path, you have no reason to go back.

What kind I find here?

What can I find here?

Then, yesterday morning, as I was walking down to fetch the trash containers from the alley, I looked down at the path I knew so well, and found some late blooms on the wild rose bush, and a toy that had disguised itself as one of those blooms. A rustling noise near the fence brought me to a breathless standstill. What was there? A mouse? A mole? A rabbit? Just the wind? I looked for clues but the mystery remains. Back on the pathway, the moss binds the stonework yet there was a single dandelion and I wondered at its lone presence. Why not more? Why one at all? A few steps later, the soft moss disappeared, leaving the pavers bare. Again, I ask why? What happened here that left the stones bereft of the gentle moss? Would it make a difference if I move some of the plants around so the sunlight hits the garden differently?

And I realized immediately what I needed to do.

“Show me—Don’t tell me.” Who among writers hasn’t heard that time and time again?

I don’t want just tell you what you need to focus on moment by moment. I want you to wonder what’s under that rock, what made that noise. I want you sitting on the edge of that uncomfortable metal bench, wondering what’s going to happen next. Then I want you to jump up and dig around; I want you to find out what’s happening.

I want you to ask, “How did I miss that? Was it there in the background all along”?

Of course it was there, but I want you to come back again and again to discover things you missed the first or second or third time!

So I’m pulling out the deleting hoe and weeding out not only the unnecessary words, but I’m chopping out entire scenes if that’s what it takes. I’m taking out my copy, cut, and paste shovel to rearrange events and scenes to make a more exciting and interactive garden.

There are many types of gardens and needs for every type: Neatly labelled, or motivating, or secretive and compelling.

Woodward Park, Tulsa OK

Woodward Park, Tulsa OK. Alluring beauty.

The garden path in my backyard in late September is nothing compared to the magnificence of Woodard Park in Tulsa in April but both have exciting secrets to be discovered. You may never find even find all of them.

The fun is all in the search!

What to do when you’re waiting to hear back from an agent . . .

I was helping Sarah, my 9 year old granddaughter, with a little project for Taryn, her Maplelea doll (Canada’s American Girl). We printed out an online image of the front and back of a journal and then we filled it with blank pages.

It got me to thinking . . .

Assembling the pages

Assembling the pages

Tiny Title Page

Tiny Title Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Tiny 2-½" book

Tiny 2-½” book

 

Only took me three days (working on it between calls) to get it together.

This little 2-½” book(let) is 90 pages (45 double-sided pieces of paper) and is only the first 4 chapters, formatted especially for this project. I wanted Sarah to be able to read it if she wanted to so the font is a bit bigger than if I had just scaled the pages down.

 

Tiny little bookmark with a tiny little tassel . . .

Tiny little bookmark with a tiny little tassel

 

The hardest part? The tiny little tassel on the tiny little bookmark! Okay, lining up the double sided pages so they worked out was maybe a little harder than the tassel, but the tassel almost didn’t make it!

No, I’m not giving up the search for an agent who will hook me up with a REAL publisher, but this was a kick to see it in print!

Now, back to editing and rewriting and rewriting and editing and coming up with new twists and stories within the existing manuscripts, as well as working on a great plot line for the unfinished book number 7!!

Why doesn’t this work for lottery tickets?

VHS tapes

Do you remember these things?

I have this thing that happens to me more often than not. It’s been happening for years!

It starts something like this . . .

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to pack up my collection of old VHS movies, including the ones we recorded off the TV back in the day before you could afford to buy the tape. (Back then, Dances With Wolves was $60 to purchase the two-tape set!) I’m looking at the 40+Polaroid home-made cassettes, recording the names of the ancient movies and dating them on my spreadsheet library master (like the original Parent Trap or Babes in Toyland vs the remakes. Stuff like that.)

I came across a recording of The Phantom of the Opera and wanted to date it but wasn’t sure when it came out so I looked it up. I’m sure it is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s but that one came out in 2004, and this was clearly taped back in the last century when I had the equipment to do so. But scenes and songs of ALW is all that my memory holds.

Short of digging out the VHS player and finding the cords and getting the 14-yr-old grandson to hook it up to the fancy new-fangled thing they call a TV but is clearly not what I think of when I think “TV set,” I was intrigued with finding which version I have taped . . . nothing, absolutely nothing from the 90s. I know it would have been something that came out before that time, but it’s on the same tape as a movie that came out in 1990. There was a darker version that came out in ’89, but the pictures on the computer didn’t jog my memory.

I am obsessed now. Not so much with my taped copy, but with the ALW movie. I can see the scenes in my head, I can hear the music. I didn’t see the theatrical performance of Phantom when it came to Calgary. Of course, the soundtrack could be imbedded in my memory, as I’m sure we had a copy of it, but somehow, I know the scenes. Perhaps I saw it on TV at some point after 2004 but I’m sure my memories predate 2004. One thing for sure—I didn’t remember seeing Gerard Butler as the Phantom and . . .

Oh, how I wish I could hook up the old VCR and play my tape to see which version I have! I go to bed wondering how in the world Gerard Butler pulled it off. I just couldn’t imagine The Machine Gun Preacher, or his character from Gamer in the role of the Phantom.

The very next day . . .

I got off work after dinnertime and no one’s home. I turned on the TV to see what’s on. The TV was already set on the Disney channel so I watched the program in progress, Good Luck Charlie. After ten minutes, I said to myself, “Why am I watching kids’ shows when I could watch something else?” (For the record, I love watching Disney shows and very often watch them when I’m alone. My favorite is Wizards of Waverly Place.)

I started flipping the channels.

O. M. G.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom is on . . . and had just started.

And, of course, I watch it. And, of course, Gerard Butler pulled it off better than I could imagine!

A few days later, I’m finally getting over the obsession with Phantom, and I’m flipped through the channels. Ah. The Day After Tomorrow stars my favorite actor, Jake Gyllenhaal. No surprises there. This movie is on frequently and I’ll watch it when I can. The girl looks familiar, of course, but I never really paid much attention to her. Idly, I wondered what else she was in . . . looked it up.

Of course. She was Christine, opposite my other favorite actor, Gerard Butler, in . . . wait for it . . . The Phantom of the Opera.

I wonder if I think about and obsess over lottery numbers, I wonder if it would work . . .

lottery

Where Does the Time Go?

I don’t know how Doctor Who does it. How does he manage life on multiple timelines when I find it hard to mange just one?

Right. He manages it by doing what he has to get done, then he can time travel back and it seems like no time has passed, yet he has accomplished so much!

I need one of these. . .
Click for ACTION Shot

 

 

I need a Tardis. Don’t we all?

 

 

 

I’ve been so inundated by my new job with WestJet Airlines, learning and learning, and then learning some more, that it just seems like I never have a chance to blog. I think about it but then Life comes up. Work, hockey, dance, work. Repeat. Mostly the work part. I haven’t even had time to FLY anywhere!

I’ve been writing query letters, making sure they meet the specific requirements given by the intended recipients.  Praying that maybe this time, just maybe…

In the meantime, while waiting to hear back from the agency, I’m going through the manuscripts. Polishing it up. Hopefully leaving little for a proof editor to correct. Looking for overuse of the word “of” or “as” or “which” and rewriting to avoid using them if possible. Correctly using (spaces, no spaces,) the ellipsis. Watching for Point of View and making sure it remains constant throughout the section. Completely re-writing the plot and major action in the second half of the first book, while leaving the basic story untouched, then going through the following stories to make sure all references to that original action are updated. And making sure I’m spelling names the same way all the way through, and keeping spelling consistent, i.e. using American English vs British (and Canadian) version when my Canadian computer so desperately wants to be British. It’s a challenge in itself! Every time I spell color, my spellchecker questions it and wants to change it to ‘colour’, except in WordPress, which is American and just changed my colour back to color. Just a moment while I got back and insert the ‘u’ again. Silly computers.

(By the way, I was reading through to make sure what I wrote spontaneously made sense, and found the word ‘of’ at least five times where a better phrase could be used, and I changed it.)

I took an hour or so off to visit a friend in the hospital last Sunday. Walking from my car to the building, I passed the bike racks. I was compelled to take the picture. I must share what I saw. You wouldn’t believe me if I just told you what I saw. I would love to hear from you what you think is happening here!

I have no words for this.

I have no words for this.

 

I had a theory but it really doesn’t work with the fact that we just had snow two days before this picture was taken.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Why I Chose to Write Science Fiction

sometimes I dream of living in another star system like this

Because this is what I see when I star gaze during the day.

Yes, I did enhance the picture a little, but not a lot.

But consider this. That is what writers do. They take real life and work a little magic to make it a little more interesting, enticing, enchanting, while leaving it real, believable.

The truth is there, the sundog was real, the clouds really were in the shape of Saturn’s rings but with a little imagination…

Picture yourself living in the Earth colony on a planet in star system a thousand light years from Sol, accessible only by portal travel. Your home planet twirls and dances through the dusty lanes and rings of your star, a yellow dwarf similar to Sol. The planet lying within your orbit is cloud covered, like Sol’s own Venus. Even in its current last quarter phase, its perpetual canopy of clouds reflects the light of your sun, sending brilliant polychromatic rays through space.

You live in the northern half of your planet, which is currently in the middle of what would be a twelve year winter, if one were using Earth reckoning. Yet, you find yourself looking up from the dirty frozen ground beneath your feet to behold the beauty stretching out in the heavens above you, and even though the splendid rays from your cosmic neighbor warm nothing but the cockles of your heart, the awesome beauty of the universe inspires you and you know that you can survive until the thawing times.

Beautiful snowy days 2013Until such visions no longer inspire me, I will continue to write with the conviction that one day, our kind will travel the stars.

I haven’t died.

“I still live…”  John Carter (E R Burroughs, A Princess of Mars)

I’ve been so incredibly busy between working (out of home now but still putting in more than 40 hrs/week), helping with school, hockey, and dance, and trying to get my first manuscript polished, there’s been little time for me to write in my blog, twitter, or here!

As for my books… I am getting so excited as ‘we’ (my editor, myself, and my characters) prepare to tackle the agent list again. After a few “not now” letters, the query letter and manuscript itself is getting a makeover.

I want to be the most perfect fit for the next agent she has ever seen! And of course, I need to have the manuscript in pristine condition when I send the query. It does not do well if the agent asks for a copy of the manuscript and you have to ask for a little more time. At least, not a debut novel.

Yes, some of you may be saying “But the first one was done. I read it!” And you told me it was good. But trust me, it’s even better now! The best! And in doing this, I’m rewriting major parts of it, throwing out the fluff, and I’m even throwing in a new twist or two!

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I made tea

The editing process…

Building a Story is a Lot Like Building a Road

There is a new bypass around Calgary. In the eight short years I’ve been a neighbor to the oldest part of the bypass, it has gone from a mile or two in length on the west side of town, to three-quarters of the way around the city.

a-stoney trail edits

Road Editors at Work

The road is still being built but the open parts are constantly being maintained and improved. Even near us, they’re adding an overpass and adding a parallel bridge spanning the Bow River on the oldest part of the whole road. Everything is being updated.

I realized this morning that I’m building a road with my books and stories. I first started out with one book. One story with some back stories. The book was just a small section of the big picture.

Then I opened up a new section of my story-road. The second book written took place before the first but it really opened up the possibility for new stories to be added which took place even before that and before I knew it, I was adding another section. And then another.

My road was extending itself as I worked backward in time. It wasn’t just a small road telling a small story. That’s all. The End. It was part of something big.

While I was building edits and smoothing out improvements in the new parts, fleshing out the characters’ stories by adding ramps and side roads, I realized that the original story hadn’t been built firmly enough; it had developed plotholes in what was once a smooth road.

The intersection between what had once been the last two stories really needed a massive change. The stoplight created a stumbling block, stopping the reader from continuing on and discovering the whole story. The stop light had to go.

a-stoney trail road closed

Writer’s Block

I experienced a road closure while I worked out the details.

An overpass seemed the logical solution. While adding that overpass, the story shifted. The facts in my old road didn’t line up perfectly with the new road. Something had to be done.

Eventually, my road will take my readers full circle and the series will be a circular story, one which has many entrances and side streets.so the stories could flow together. Adding a story-overpass meant I had to add a new bridge, and when that new bridge was finished, the roads lined up. Parts had to be completely bulldozed while keeping the story-road going in the right direction. New plot lines had to be painted on the fresh pavement of the story, all leading to the same original ending.

a-stoney trail - nose hill dr now

Smoothing out the Story

Every day, I navigate through the construction zones carefully, knowing that in the end, the road will be a better drive. I realized how I’m improving the journey of Caleb and Ana and their adventures.

 

Wow… I think I am now Immortal.

My dad used to tell me that the key to staying young was to never stop learning. He would know. He may or may not have coined the phrase, “Look it up,” but he certainly lived by it.

With that in mind, I have always challenged myself to learn something as often as possible. If I check the encyclopedia (-What’s that? you ask. It’s the old-fashioned predecessor to Google-) or if I look something up on the computer/internet just to make sure I got my facts right, I try to learn something new from that page or from something related to my search. My writing is chocked full of interesting things that I’ve looked up, double-checked, made sure it’s right or possible or even just feasible. I thought, “Wow, do I ever learn a lot of stuff!” I figured I was earning tons and tons of extra life credits. I really thought that I could not learn at any greater rate than what I was doing.

Then I got a job at an airline. A prosperous airline in the reservation call centre. (Yes, that is c e n t R E, because it’s here in Canada and that’s how we roll up here.) I have never in my life had a job doing anything like this. Finance, retail, data entry. Nothing in my past prepared me for what lay ahead.

dora

Sometimes they really were!!

In the last five weeks, I have sat in a classroom, cramming, I’m sure, more information into my brain than I did in all my years in high school. Eight hours a day of class. Forty hours a week, plus at least an hour or more of homework each night. Tears? You bet I cried but I wasn’t alone. Maybe I was alone in the actual tears running down my face, but I found out that many of my classmates felt the same way, and not just the old folks. Apparently, the course used to run six or seven weeks or more, and we were the guinea pigs that got it in four. Same phenomenal cosmic amounts of learning, itty bitty learning time. In my first week ‘on the phones’, most people were really nice and understanding. However, I had a handful of people that treated me poorly because I was new. One actually said, “Oh, I’d hoped to get someone who knew what they were doing,” in the first two minutes of the call. It was a relatively routine booking but I did have to check one thing. By the way, if you EVER want to get someone flustered, just say that right off the bat. It will work, guaranteed!!

chickenweek

It’s been a rough week
but I made it!

 

However, I made it. There’s still more to learn, but I have a good grasp on the overall picture now. I am not afraid to go to work now!! And I think I have learned enough to make me IMMORTAL!!

In my spare time, I have been working on a new novel while trying to get an agent for the first one or two. That hasn’t left much time for me to blog, although I am on the computer inordinate amounts of time when I’m not studying. In my breaks at work, I write out—using pen and paper!—scenes and ideas, and now I can do this between calls, then I come home and transcribe all those scribbles into breathtaking prose. Once, I tried dictating the notes to my computer. That was a real hoot! says the old lady who is now immortal. The drawback was enough to keep me from doing that very often. I either don’t know how to enunciate words in the English language or the computer just wasn’t listening. Kamahl’s name was spelled five different ways and there were so many wrong words or missed words and “I did not say that” that I just gave up on that idea. There is no punctuation whatsoever and it’s actually harder to proofread something like that than it is to just write it. Also, I find that when I transcribe my notes, I always embellish and flesh out the scene more.

AND I’m going to be revamping my Twitter and maybe Facebook and really work hard to get my name out there. And writing. And working.

the end-tower typewriter

If you don’t see me in a long while, just check my room and make sure I’m breathing, please.

Back from Kansas…

IMG_5500

I just got back from a quick little 6-day trip down to Kansas City, where I proudly watched my youngest daughter’s husband receive his doctorate in Chiropractic. Such a cool ceremony to watch. Congratulations to Doctor Dan!!

As a veteran, Daniel led the Pledge of Allegiance. Now you have to realize that, while I live in Canada, I am a US citizen and this is the first time in probably 32 years that I have been in the States when the pledge was being said. I managed to get out three words in between the cracking of my voice. I think it was “I”, “liberty”, and “all.” Even so, it was a wonderful ceremony and it was really beautiful to see all those young people who have worked for so long receive their hoods and diplomas.

Back to work on the books!!

The End of Another Summer…

August-2013-Calendar-BIRD

Wow…Where has the time gone? This is the last single digit day of the summer of 2013. The kids still have three weeks left, but I don’t.

Next week, I head off to Kansas City to watch the graduation ceremony which will turn my SIL into Doctor Dan. Then it’s a quick turnaround and back to Calgary by Monday. And then, a week later, I start a new job.

Intense training ahead. I’m looking forward to it…sort of. I mean, it sounds like an exciting job, but let’s face it, I was a SAHM for too many years to really appreciate the career aspect of life. And there’s the books…

I’ve been off work for four months which has given me lots and lots of time to work on the manuscripts. In fact, I’ve just discovered that there is a whole new book in-between numbers 3 and 4. OMG. Really? This isn’t a manuscript that I’m splitting like when I chopped the first manuscript into two separate books and had the opportunity to fine tune the story. This is a completely new story. Granted, it incorporates the backstory told in the “4th” book and it will change the beginning of said book, but it goes oh-so-much deeper, really pulling out what happened in the space between 3 and 4. I am so excited about incorporating the ideas that suddenly started cramming into my head!

I was wondering how I would ever have enough material to make another book using the same characters. But there it was. I just had to ask the right questions, look under the right rock, and listen to those small voices that keep me entertained.

Are you reading the diaries? Here’s the link again…triquetra00