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Friday, January 31, 2014

Never Say Never

For a very long time, going way back to childhood, I thought I could be a writer. I dreamed of writing books and having them published and maybe even make a living at it.

In adulthood, I gave it a real go, writing books and hoping to get them published. If it gets published, people read it, right? I feel fortunate to have started my endeavors just as e-publishing began to take off in a big way. Suddenly, getting published was an easier thing to accomplish. Makes sense. With e-books, a publisher doesn't need to judge manuscripts based on how many copies they might sell or worry about warehousing unsold books or how to promote and advertise, etc., not to mention author advances which might never be equalized with sales. In the old days of print-only, this meant that readers never saw some really good books because what would sell took precedence over what was good and was determined by a handful of people. Now, it's a new world where books get to readers in numbers once unimaginable. This is a two-edged sword, however, in that the book-buying dollars of the public are now spread among many more books.

Anyway, I achieved my goal. I wrote books, got them published, and even sold a few. But reality has come a-knocking on the door of my conscience. My expenditures in the name of promoting my published works has outstripped income from them by a factor that makes me cringe. I think ten-fold might be understating it. Paid advertising, brochures, business cards, membership fees, conferences and fairs, supplies, and hours upon hours of writing, editing, polishing, proofing, cover designing, and online promotion. In short, it's less a living than an expensive hobby. Added to that, I looked around at the rest of my life and saw rampant neglect. In the face of these realizations, the last time I opened my in-progress ms. to work on it in early December, I stared at the screen and asked myself, why do this? All the time, effort, and expense seemed like a waste. The situation became intolerable and had to change.

My plan is to resurrect my Information Technology career, and this will absorb much of my time going forward. My free time will be devoted to attending to all those facets of life I let slide while I chased my dream.

Have I quit being a writer? I don't know that that is something one can quit. The urge to spin stories is wired into the brain, I think. Will I ever write for publication again? Who can say? Never say never. (Oops, I just said it.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Fun of It

Made excellent progress on "Mongan Manor" yesterday with Stefanie and Paul in the heat of the treasure hunt. Their search took them back to the tower of the title manor where there is supposed to be one or more clues to a family secret and/or buried treasure. They put their talents together and uncovered some major clues, but there is still one element missing. 

At the same time, as they get closer to solving the mystery, various members of the Manor's family are weighing in with information and subtly revealing which side they are on. As with any secret, there are those who want it revealed and those who want it to remain secret. It's a lot of motivations to juggle. 

Very soon, it will be time for a Big Scene, one which has been percolating in my imagination for weeks now and was at the heart of the inspiration for the book. I try to stop myself from looking at the word count on my computer screen as a guide to how far along I am in the story. By that measure, I am at about the half-way point. I know I shouldn't pay any attention to it. (Maybe MS Word will let me turn it off?) I always go back and do major edits after the first draft is done anyway. Still, since my work on the ms. comes is spurts, it's hard to know if I've got the pacing right or not. 

Hope to have word pretty soon on "Where Power Lies." I was talking with my husband the other night, and he was telling me some of what he read in the newspaper. I only look at the weather page usually. Anyway, some of the things he read about were ideas I incorporated into "Power" and its future setting. I don't put myself in the same visionary class as Arthur C. Clarke, but then, his predictions for 2001 and 2010 didn't totally hit the mark either.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Updates, and Some Observations

After a break over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I've gotten back to writing "Mongan Manor." Some history got laid down this morning, and I'll keep pressing on today.

I've commented before on the whole zombie craze that seems to dominate Hollywood's output these days, and it was a trailer for the movie "World War Z" that triggered a further observation about it, or at least a question. Beyond the fact that any sort of monster is, in my opinion, an easy villain in fiction. No background to develop, no motivation to explain, the concept itself is enough to tell a reader what side the character is on. Some traditional monsters--vampires, werewolves--have recently begun to straddle the line, sometimes becoming the actual heroes of a story with background and motives that people can embrace enough to make them good guys. But zombies--they're dead people reanimated that need to feed on human flesh. Mindless, soulless, a danger that must be destroyed.

But they were once people, weren't they? I don't watch zombie movies myself, but I'm sure they frequently use the device where a one-time good guy turns into a bad guy which must be obliterated in a desperate decision to be made by the remaining good guys. (Case in point, the movie "From Dusk Till Dawn," although it was vampires in that one. While violent and gory, it was raised to a higher level, I think, by comparing the bad guys in the first half--killers on the lam--with the vampires. There's evil, and then there's EVIL.) But the point I was getting at was that with zombies, a story is saying that we're our own enemies. Anyone you see can suddenly become evil and dangerous. Ordinary folks become the enemy in an instant and can therefore be killed. Anyone who can kill the zombies, those formerly ordinary folks, is a hero. So what does this say about the state of humanity? Has our hunger for control over our destinies reached a point that we feel righteous at seeing multitudes of enemies slaughtered? Violent computer games have come under fire as possibly influencing the isolated and disturbed individuals to act out the same actions in the real world. With a movie, you don't get to control the action as in a game, but you do get to root for the hero(es) out there slaughtering what amounts to other people who are different. While it may be simplistic to say that violent entertainments beget violence in real life, I still find it deeply disturbing that the masses actually enjoy watching it.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Been so-o-o busy lately, something had to give, and I guess it's daily blog posts that gave. I figured that as long as I was producing new pages of "Mongan Manor," I should concentrate on that within the time I have to work on writing each day.

Got past the stuck places and events are now unfolding at a furious pace. Almost at the turning-point scene that's been in my head for a while, but with a few revisions to the original form. Still waiting to see how the whole thing comes out.

I've also found my thoughts drifting to future projects. There are many of them:

  • Finish third book in Jack Watson series. I stopped before because (1) the timing of it was off, (2) I wasn't sure where to go with it next, and (3) the inspiration for "Mongan Manor" was tempting me.
  • Revisit manuscript of my first and second completed-but-not-published novels, both science fiction. Oh, do they ever need work . . .
  • Another paranormal idea that's been shuffling around in my brain. This one would be really different--a male victim who gets involved in an investigation with a female cop and a paranormal investigator (also female) in an uneasy alliance against a new sort of creature. Still very much in the formative stages.
  • Return to an unfinished manuscript from a few years ago, a medical thriller.  

But I'm trying to stay focused here and do one thing at a time. Maybe if I could clone myself...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stuck Again

Well, not really stuck. Now that an important member of the "Mongan Manor" family has been introduced, I've been wrestling with what she will initially reveal that will lead to solving the mystery of the treasure. Previously, I was still working out her character, but I think I've got that down now--nearly 100 years old, but still sly and a bit mischievous. She and Stefanie have just met, and I need to work out what get said in this first passage.

As usual, I want to get past this point and on to the more exciting stuff that's coming up. I suspect there are some authors who could work out of sequence and get to "the good stuff" but I can never quite bring myself to do that, no matter how eager I am to write the big, dramatic scenes. Surprising--to anyone but me--is the fact that I still don't know how the story ends! Really. No clue. But experience has shown me that the inspiration will come at the proper time, and the scenes will practically write themselves.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Different Sort of Antagonist

I'm at a point in "Mongan Manor" where an antagonist, of sorts, is coming onstage for the first time. I realized that even though I have mentioned her repeatedly in the first part of the book, I had little idea about her personality. Now, before her first active scene, I need to define her better. This person started the trouble at the heart of the story while unaware of what she was starting. Do I make her innocently mischievous or deviously manipulative? Should she be failing in her mental faculties since she's almost a century old or be sharp and cunning? Nice or nasty?

And how important is it to determine her motivations? And should those motives be complicated or simple? At this point, I have to decide how important they are to the plot. Regardless of why this lady stirred up her family with the notion of hidden treasure, the goal is to find it and settle all the disputes. Her motives will have to fit her personality and vice versa. What keeps coming into my mind about her is a character portrayed in a movie that's a favorite of mine, mainly pertaining to her appearance and manner, but that's just the surface.

I have some other activities planned for the day, things which occupy the hands while letting the mind roam.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Why

I sat down this morning with the intention of putting something on my blog but with no ideas about what. Distracted by hunger, I got up and made some scrambled eggs. Since it's easier to read while eating than to write while eating, I went into my email to read some messages from The Write Practice. There was an article titled "The Odds Are Against You, Might As Well Get to Writing." While it presents some daunting statistics about the scant chances of commercial success for a writer, it encourages authors to write all the same. It triggered some thoughts about why I do this.

First, it's not for the money. Yes, I get paid when people buy my books. I wish more people would to get me to the point where I make a comfortable living at it. Do I expect to move into a mansion and have servants and all that? No. Comfortable would be just fine, but I'm not even to that point yet.

Second, I know the odds are against fame and a Pulitzer Prize, and neither of those things ever inspired me to write. Recognition is certainly nice, and I get some of that now and again. Nobody stops me on the street or in the grocery store to indicate they recognize me. I'm not a household name and wouldn't expect to be unless I get more books sold.

Third, I've already proven that I can write a novel, get it published, and get paid. Therefore, what drives me is not a sense of accomplishment from doing once what many are never able to do.

So what, then, is the point? Why do I do it?

As I imply on my websites, I can't NOT write. It goes on in my head whether I want it to or not. Story ideas, scenes, bits of dialog, characters and their relationships--my imagination keeps generating the stuff. The only way to control it is to put words together in a "permanent" way. Only, that just makes room for more stuff to gush out of my brain. It's as if there is a story that must be told, and since I don't have throngs of people waiting with bated breath to hear me tell it, into print it must go. Once it's in a manuscript, why not try to get it published? I have, and it continues to be a rewarding experience. Just not monetarily rewarding. Yet.

I've often heard advice from big-time authors who say not to try to write to the market. Just because Young Adult vampire/shapeshifter/zombie/wizard stories are the rage one day doesn't mean that the thirst for such books won't be quenched by the time YOUR book finds its way to the marketplace. The best advice I ever heard was, "Write the book that is in you."

Which is what I do. There seem to be many of them in there waiting to get put down in words. Fine by me. I would continue to do it even if nobody wanted to publish or read anything I wrote. But I think someone who writes stories of any length actually taps a common well of human experience which stands to ultimately touch others. Writing stories is a high form of communication, of human communication, of sharing experience and ideas and emotions. Perhaps that is the bottom line of why it feels so rewarding.