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Archive for the ‘Blog Entries by LaShawn’ Category

It’s been pretty busy for me, personal wise and publishing wise, so instead of the usual thoughts on the writing life, I thought I’d post links to some actual stories I wrote. They’re all in the speculative/fantasy realm, but hey, they’re free and quick to read.

1) Light as Gossamer, published by Mytholog (www.mytholog.com), a webzine that’s sadly folded but still has its material online. The first story I ever published–a different take on the Cinderella story.

2) The Autumn Queen, also published by Mytholog. The Queen likes her tea hot.

3) Daughters of Sarah, published by Third Order Magazine (www.thirdorder.org). Story about a social worker confronting her past through non-existent women.

4) Crimson, published by Tales from the Moonlight Path(www.moonlit-path.com). A flash story that might not be about vampires.

5) Crowntree, published by Ideomancer (www.ideomancer.com). A coming-of-age story of a boy who realizes his friend is not who she seems to be.

I will also have stories published in upcoming issues of Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k) and The Town Drunk, so if you wish to be notified when they come out, subscribe to my blog, Cafe in the Woods. It’s always open and the food is mentally delicious…

Thanks for reading!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about investing.

Not about money. Hearing words like rollover and portfolio and 401k options make my eyes glaze over, much like when people attempt to explain how the Bears did so well last year only to supersuck at the Superbowl.

Congratulations, by the way, to all you New Yorkers. I’m not bitter.

No, I’ve been thinking about investments in term of time. I just finished a game which I thought I was going to win (and I was proud too, because I had done the whole thing without cheating. Well, okay, maybe just a little. But it was a hint, I swear.) but just as I got to the end, I realized I didn’t have all the items I needed. I couldn’t go forward without it, and the game wouldn’t let me go back to retrieve that missing item. So I was stuck, literally. Oh sure, I can go back and play the game again, but you know what? After all that time I put into it, I just didn’t have the energy to play it again. But it’s my nature to not give up, so I’m going to wait a couple of days before trying again, just so I can have the satisfaction of winning.

Writing is like that, sometimes. We get ideas for stories that we absolutely have to put down. We work on our novels, writing, revising, editing, re-editing, re-revising, spell-checking, giving it to our readers, ripping out endings, writing up new ones, re-sending it our readers, re-re-re-editing, re-re-re-revising, until we get the stories as perfect as we can get it.

And then, we get so sick of the story, we sit on it for a while.

It’s not like giving up. It’s always good to put away something for a bit so you can look at it through new eyes. But here’s another way to consider it…you’re giving the story a chance to work for you. Think on it–while you concentrate on something else, your story is sitting on the back of your mind. Percolating. Getting stronger. Gaining more interest, so to speak. It’s up to you to decide when to pull the story out again to work on it. Pull it out too soon, and you lose the benefit of the passage of time. Leave it for too long–and you’ll actually lose interest (haha…maybe I do have a little handle on money-making after all) and the story sits in the drawer, never able to earn its full potential.

The investment analogy can also be carried over to when the story is done and gets sent out to markets. Even with long response times or form rejection letters, every story that you submitted is working for you, bringing in more interest (of an editor)–and if it doesn’t, you send it to the next market. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, an editor will tell you why the story is rejected, which will help you make the story stronger, and over time, actually does capture the interest of someone who wants it.

That’s what I like about writing. It’s not like those get-quick-rich schemes that promises lots of money with a minimum of effort. You have to work hard at it, and it takes time. Lots of time. But the effort is worth it, in many cases. You get a return of–at the minimum, the satisfaction of writing a story. At the maximum, it gets published.

Over the past couple of months, I sold three short stories, all of which will be published within the next couple of months. Which is wild, considering that I haven’t written a thing since November–I’ve been concentrating on getting my house ready to sell. But it’s nice to know that even when I’m unable to write, the stories I have floating around various markets are still working for me.

That’s the type of investment that makes it all worthwhile.

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Happy New Year indeed.

This is, of course, the time where you will find New Year’s Resolutions on minds and blogs. There will be lots of entries on how time will be used to lose weight, quit smoking, get organized and be more happier than the previous year. This time writers will set many goals: this year I will write that book. This year, I’ll write five pages every day. This year, I will become the writer that I have envisioned myself to be!

Bleah.

Around this time last year, I wrote what I felt my writing goals would be. It was the second time that I did that, and I felt pretty good when I looked back at the previous year and saw all the things I accomplished. I have yet to pull up my 2007 goals. I have yet to make goals for 2008.

I have yet to figure out what I’m going to be doing tomorrow.

I’m currently writing this after a hectic month of hosting relatives, finding realtors, and scrubbing down a house to sell. Trying to write during that time was like knowingly going in to get a root canal, without any anesthetic. I couldn’t concentrate so well. I spent many days working on a single scene, staring at it over and over, writing and rewriting…until I realized that I was in no state of mind to write. Heck, my mind’s wandering even as I’m trying to hash out this blog entry.

But there were days when I felt so off-kilter, so unbalanced, that I had to sit and write anything. Journaling. Freewriting. Handwriting the lyrics to a song. Sometimes, I only had five minutes to write for the whole day. And yet, strangely, when I finished writing, everything felt *right* again. Even that tiny chunk of time would bring the world back into focus again. I felt like my feet were back on solid ground. And I decided, you know what? Screw it. So I’m not working on my story. I think I’ll just write for fun. So I did that for some days.

And then, one day, I get the urge to work on the story. After the past failure, I didn’t really want to (not to mention that it was a couple of days before Christmas), but I decided, eh, why not, so I worked on it. I worked on it Christmas day. I worked on it day after Christmas. And that scene came out perfect.

At this moment, I’m playing my writing schedule by ear because that’s how my life is at the moment. I know that once we get settled in our new place, then I can get a better sense of the future. Then I’ll be able to plan, to set goals, to figure out what I need to do.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on writing. That’s one thing I can see myself doing in 2008.

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I dislike the onset of winter.

I don’t mind the cold. Actually, yes I do. It’s a bummer to go from mid-80s to a teeth-chattering 30s within a month. But once I get used to it, the cold’s not that bad. I like snuggling under blankets, making kettles of warm soup, taking it easy when it starts getting dark around 4pm.

But I do dislike the fact that my writing productivity plummets along with the temperature. The end of November to the end of December feels like one long, perpetual Holiday. It seems that I can never get things done, much less focus on things to write. And for a stay-at-home mom like me, that says a lot.

But you know what else sucks the productivity right out of you? Changes. Big changes. Big, big, massively big changes.

My husband has just accepted a new job. It’s in Madison, Wisconsin, which is roughly 130 miles away from where we live in Illinois. Taking the job means, of course, that we will be moving up there.

Moving is probably the number 1 worse writer’s nightmare. Having a baby would be first in most people’s minds, but with the house market being the way it is, I’m sticking it at number 2 (and no, I’m not, BTW. I got enough stresses for now.) Having relatives come over to spend the holidays in your house would be nightmare number 3 (that would be the other stress I mentioned in the previous sentence).

But here’s the clincher: there’s a good chance that once we make the move, I will need to go back to working full-time again. The possibility of going a stay-at-home mom to a full-time working mom again… well…that sends all the other nightmares shrieking off to suck their thumbs under the bed. That’s the mother of all writer nightmares.

So with all the cleaning and searching for housing agents and arranging for inlaws coming and worrying about the future, you bet that my writing productivity went down. I couldn’t focus on any of my projects. When I did sit down to write, I’d be so frazzled, I couldn’t think straight. I spent more time freewriting than actually working on something constructive. I felt like I was getting nothing done.

That’s when I realized that, instead of haphazardly working on whatever I felt was screaming the most, I needed a plan.

So I took a night to go to Panera and hash out a writing schedule for the next couple of months. I gave myself lots of leeway–I don’t have the scads of time that I had before all the changes occurred (not that I had scads of time to begin with, but I did have at least a couple of hours every day that I devoted to writing). I scaled back the projects I’m working on now to just my novel and a short story (and thank God my novel is in the early editing stages–I don’t think I could’ve handled all this chaos and finish a novel at the same time). Working on something for 15 minutes a day when I used to have a couple of hours hurts, but I’ll adjust. At least I’m getting something done.

And I’m choosing not to worry what will happen once we get to Madison. That will come in its own time. And who knows, maybe by then I would find a way to work from home, or we won’t need me to find another job, or my husband goes insane and runs off to Canada…

I’m not afraid being forced to stop writing altogether. I know for a fact that won’t happen. Writing’s in my blood now. It’s what keeps me going. When I don’t do it, I get itchy, twitchy, grumpy. It’s a fix that I gotta have, every day. The only thing that might change is the amount of time I spend on writing, that’s all.

And even then, who knows what the future holds?

I would love to get some advice from you other writers. How do you deal with changes in your writer life? How do you discipline yourself when things are going crazy around you? Do you barricade yourself in the basement? Write between the hours of 3am to 5am? Steal a few moments to use a Blackberry and hash out a sentence at a time?

And while I’m asking, anyone wanna buy a house?

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On this date last year, I had churned out roughly 8477 words on my novel. I had plunged into NaNoWriMo with both feet, and wrote up a storm. My personal goal at the time wasn’t so much as to write 50,000 words, but to see how many chapters of my book I could write. In November 2006, I wrote about 8-1/2 chapter worth of words.

One year later, exactly, I’ve stripped nearly all of those chapters out.

It was bound to happen. After I finished writing the book, I assessed what needed to stay and what needed to go. There was a whole subplot that I felt could be assimilated somewhere else, so it needed to go because it was bogging down the story. Ironically, these were the same chapters I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

Does that mean that I wasted all that time last year? Put all that effort and energy into something that I wouldn’t even use in the final project? What’s the point of NaNoWriMo if you’re just going to throw it out later on?

The point, my friends, is that you’re writing. You’re not listening to the self-editor. You’re not opening yourself to doubt (Where the heck am I supposed to go in this? ) nor are you questioning your instincts Man, I suck at this). You just write. Get words down on the page as fast as you can, sometimes without even thinking. Getting that first draft out is a major hurdle. So you don’t think. You do.

And once you finally get it down, then you can step back and look at what you’ve done. Then you see what works and what doesn’t. Yes, there will be some stuff you won’t use, but you wouldn’t have known that until you wrote it. All that stuff you wrote is bare bones for the muscle you lay down in the second draft, the nerves in the third draft, the skin in the fourth…

I don’t regret writing all those chapters I took out. There are some places where I know parts of those chapter will crop up again. But mainly, I’m glad I wrote them because they gave me an idea of the world I created. And that will go with me as I head into the first edit of my book.

I won’t be doing NaNo this year. Too much stuff going on. But for all you writers doing it, I cheer you on. Good luck and keep writing!

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There’s something about seeing your work in print that screams, “You’re a writer!!!”

I know that ezines and podcasts are the wave of the future in the writing world. There are hundreds of websites that have become literary powerhouses. It’s wonderful to be published by them–because they’re easily accessible; in some cases, their stories are free to view. It’s an good way to break into a market when you don’t have any publishing credits to your name.

And yet…and yet…

There’s something strangely tangible in picking up a literary zine and seeing your name printed on it. You can physically touch it, trace the letters of your name with your fingertips. Open it up and see the words you slaved over for several months bonded on glossy, smooth paper. It even smells real.

This month, I got a story printed for the first time. On paper. In ink. And it’s a mind-blowing experience, let me tell you.

I read somewhere that it’s important to get your stories out not only in print, but also on ezines too. Both have their place in the literary world. Both have their own particular tastes and their own sets of readers. A writer needs to learn how to cater to both groups. Still, I think there’s something about a printed story that pounds it into a head that you’ve broken into the writing business. You can hold it directly in your hands. If the power goes off and you can’t access the Internet, it will still be there. You can take it and show it to that uncle who always scoffed at you and shove it into his beady little eyes. “See? I told you I can write!” You know, that uncle who boasts about getting online every night, when actually he means line-dancing at Murray’s. Yes, that uncle.

So if you want to read my story, head on over to Kaleidotrope and purchase Volume #3. It’s only 4 bucks: the same cost as a cup of coffee (in some cases, even less). Then curl up at your favorite coffeeshop/library/park bench/closet in the basement that you go to escape the kids/toilet and give it a read. Can’t do that with a computer…unless you got one of those fancy phone…and even then, you’d probably have to squint…

Me? I’m going to go smell my name again.

Ahhhhhh. Heaven.

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From CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/books/09/17/obit.jordan.ap/index.html?iref=newssearch

“‘Wheel of Time’ author dead at 58

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP) — Author Robert Jordan, whose “Wheel of Time” series of fantasy novels sold millions of copies, has died of a rare blood disease, his aide said Monday. He was 58.

Jordan, whose real name was James Oliver Rigney Jr., died Sunday at the Medical University of South Carolina of complications from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, his personal assistant, Maria Simons, said. The disease attacks the body’s major organs; in Jordan’s case, it caused the walls of his heart to thicken.

He wrote a trilogy of historical novels set in Charleston under the pen name Reagan O’Neal in the early 1980s. Then he turned his attention to fantasy and the first volume in his Wheel of Time epic, “The Eye of the World,” was published in 1990 under the name Robert Jordan.

Jordan’s books tells of Rand al’Thor, who is destined to become the champion who will battle ultimate evil in a mythical land.

Book 11, “Knife of Dreams,” came out in 2005; there was also a prequel, “New Spring: The Novel,” in 2004. The other titles in the series include “The Great Hunt,” “Lord of Chaos” and “The Path of Daggers.” Jordan was working on a 12th volume at the time of his death, Simons said.

He is survived by his wife, Harriet McDougal Rigney.”

———————–

I would count Robert Jordan as one of the top fantasy authors who got me into writing in the first place. Many criticize that his epic style of writing went overly long–and I myself only got as far as book six of his “WOT” series. But it still is sad to hear he passed away just as he was working on the last book.

This, coupled with Madeline L’engle’s death a week ago, is truly shaping to be a sad month for the fantasy world indeed.

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http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/books/09/07/obit.lengle.ap/index.html

I would count Madeline L’Engle as an author who got me into writing. I read her books as a kid, yes and deeply loved them. But it wasn’t until I read “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art” several years ago that I began to seriously think about writing again. I had always meant to write a letter to her thanking her for writing the book, but I also knew she was sick for the longest time, so I didn’t.

Rest in Peace, Ms. L’Engle. Your books were such a great inspiration to me. I know one day we’ll meet in heaven and we’ll talk face to face, you and I.

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So September is upon us. I’ve been feeling like I’m in a back-to-school mentality mode, though I have no reason to–my only child isn’t in school yet. And I’m not planning to start the edits on my novel until October, giving me a full three months for it to sit and percolate.

I haven’t been completely bored. I’ve been working on some fun freewrites that have turned into stories. Some of them I’ve been doing for contests, some just out of pure fun.

Mainly, though, I’ve been pondering how long I can do this. This whole “full-time writer”, work at home mother thing.

Don’t get me wrong. Being a stay-at-home mother is awesome. In staying home, I’m doing something valuable for my son. I’m extremely grateful for my hubby, who works very, very hard at his job, to allow me to do this. I really have no desire yet to re-enter the workforce. Granted, I had fun and I was good at being an administrative assistant. In staying home and working on my writing projects, I have a chance that so few writers get–some allotted time to focus on their work (albeit it is interrupted many times by “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”)

But being the worrywort that I am, I’m also looking towards the future. My kid won’t be a toddler forever. He seems to be racing towards independence faster than I can chase him. Just this week, we finally took down his crib and put up a bed, and that has opened new avenues for him to race down (with his mommy desperately panting behind him). Soon, my kid will be in preschool, and I will find myself with wondering, what now?

Should I continue to be a stay-at-home mom? Is it possible that I can bring in some extra money working at home? How can I do that and focus on writing at the same time? I know that you could never get rich writing fiction, but at the same time, I don’t want to get burned out working as a freelancer. I don’t know how to teach, nor do I have a desire to. So if I need to go to work and continue to write, what are my options? What, exactly, is a perfect job for a writer?

Perhaps the whole point will be moot. By the time next year rolls around, I could be flat on my back pushing out another kid. Or I could be working part-time at a cafe. Or full-time as a secretary again. Or maybe, just maybe, my novel will be such a big hit that I will become the next J.K. Rowling, and I will be rolling in money. Maybe get a huge house with servants. Make it so I will never have to work again. Just sit on the beach and crank out books.

Or maybe the Apocalypse will come instead.

Time is precious. What is happening today could be completely different a day, a month, a year from now. As writers, we need to be strong managers of our time, whether the time we allotted for write is only 15 minutes, or whether it’s several hours. We need to decide when we should work hard and when it’s okay for us to take time off to rest. It’s all equally good. But whatever we decide, we need to use the time wisely.

Hmm. Maybe I should move my novel editing phase up by a week. Then again, I do want to finish these stories and get them out the door. But I shouldn’t rush through them. Oh no. I think I’ll just take my own, sweet time.

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I had planned this to be quite a long rambling post on the Midwest Writer’s Workshop, which I went to last weekend. However, it appears that my son has decided to welcome my return back to the house by giving me a pretty nasty cold. So I’ll have to shorten my post quite a bit before the Nyquil takes hold of me and starts me hallucinating about piranhas. You can find most of my thoughts on the workshop anyway at my blog, The Cafe in the Woods. Take a jog over there after you read this. The Cafe is always open.

But what I wanted to talk about here is the necessity for writers to get together with other writers. You heard it all before: writing is a lonely business. The only co-workers a writer has exist purely in his/her head. Getting together with other writers keeps them sane. Blah, blah, blah.

For those of you who roll your eyes and think, I’m fine in my own little world, thank you very much. I don’t need anyone else to invade this space…my question for you is, why are you sabotaging yourself? Seriously, get thee out to meet some writers. It’s not only good for your soul, but it’s good as far as networking.

We don’t like to think about networking. Writing is a ‘creative’ business, one that comes from the gut, not the head (though we spend much of our writing time deep in our heads…hopefully). The word ‘networking’ has too much of a business connotation to it. One that’s left for the world of cubicles and water coolers and listening to your boss rambling on about his daughter’s upcoming recital. We don’t like the word ‘networking’ because it implies that our work can’t be based solely on its own merit. It means we have to talk to other people, other people who can look at our work and immediately judge it as not something they really care for. And for the ones who do look at it and clap and rain praises on it, we immediately become jealous. Surely they don’t mean that. There must be something wrong with it.

As writers, we need other writers. And not just those we meet online, but we need to see other writers face-to-face. We can only talk to our spouses/partners/S.O.s about writing for so long before their eyes start to glaze over. And try to talk to a non-writer about writing. Just try.

When we get together with other writers, we commiserate with each other. We talk about our writing habits. We discuss idiosyncrasies that only work for writers. When I was at the workshop the other day, we all participated in a writing contest. Never have I felt more at home with other people who understand the need to sit and stare into space before scribbling madly, wildly, oftentimes talking to themselves, and still be considered the normal thing to do.

And we learned from each other. One of the best things that happened at the workshop was when I really learned what it meant to ‘show vs. tell.’ One of the speakers had someone sit down and describe an incident that happened next to his hotel room. He was doing a good job with his eyes closed, describing the scene. “So when I banged on the wall, nothing happened, so I turned up the volume on the TV…”

The speaker said, “Stop. How did you turn up the volume?”

The man frowned and replied, “Uh, I pushed the volume control on the remote and the green bars appeared on the TV, zipping horizontally across the screen…”

And right there, I saw it. I swear, I saw those exact green bars. It was so poetic, described so perfectly, I wanted to weep, I got it. And all around the table, you can see people’s eyes widening, writers nodding their heads up and down, saying, “OooooOOOOOHHHHH! I get it! I get it!”

Some things you can learn by reading. But when you’re with a group of writers and you learn something like that, it gets burned into you. Nothing can’t erase that experience. Nothing.

So go out and meet some writers. Find a writer’s group. Go to a writer’s conference. Do something to get you out of the house and shaking hands with another writer. Your writing life will be all the more richer for it.

Ah, and a yellow striped piranha just floated by, which means that the Nyquil has kicked in and that I’m done writing for now.

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