Monthly Archives: November 2013

Writing Blessings of Thanksgiving 2013

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It’s been quite a year. I’ve received many blessings from family and friends. You know who you are, and there will be hugs and pie later.

What’s foremost in my mind right now is how many writing blessings (is that a thing?) have come to me lately.

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Did I mention I “won”?

My first writing blessing has to be National Novel Writing Month. Long ago in a galaxy far away, I used to write a lot. Then life, and a personal confidence crisis intervened. Some time after that, I learned about National Novel Writing Month from my friend Cheryl. Participating in 2010 helped my regain my mojo. Now I have a whole blog about it—the mojo, that is. You happen to be reading it. I suspect mojo hangs around longer when you celebrate it. It’s kind of like a muse that way.

Writing Blessing Two – The Writing Journey, an all-year writing group which grew out of the local Naperville region of National Novel Writing Month. These were the first people who helped me realize that you don’t have to figure out the writing stuff all by yourself. If I tried to name everyone in the group who’s helped me, we’d be here all day. All the same, special thanks should go to NewMexicoKid, KatherineWriting and Whitey.

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Cat Rambo

Blessing 3 – Cat Rambo, who allowed me to read a beta version of her new book Career Building for Writers: Building an Online Presence. The Kindle version is now available on Amazon with a print version to follow soon. I’m taking her class on the topic in December, and I suspect there are more online classes with Cat in my future.

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MRK image © 2012 Rod Searcey

Blessing 4 – Mary Robinette Kowal, who taught a positively kick-ass online workshop last weekend, called Short Story Intensive. She’s taught the subject both as a weekly offering and as a weekend workshop. I had no clue how I’d handle something like that in November (see National Novel Writing Month, above) but: wow. She managed to be exacting, informative, and nurturing all at the same time. I feel as if I gained both skill and confidence fast, fast, fast! The workshop was over too soon. To keep me from going into a decline, BK (my husband, if I haven’t identified him before) offered one of Mary’s workshops, Writing the Other, as a Christmas present. I snapped it up, and will be in Chattanooga next June. As NewMexicoKid would say, huzzah!

Blessing 5 – My talented fellow workshoppers, who also helped make the weekend great. Mary said we were a good group and should keep in touch, and we’re planning to do so. Coming soon: blog posts about their forthcoming published works and other triumphs.

There’s always more to be thankful for than I can remember, but you’re in a hurry, and I’m not that smart.*

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

*I totally stole the tagline from the Writing Excuses podcast series.

 

I Feel So Validated!

It’s been a hella crazy couple of weeks. Mostly in a good way. Among the good news: I’ve validated my novel. All this means, of course, is that I’ve written enough words (50,000+) to officially “win” National Novel Writing Month. Woo-hoo!  *tosses streamers and confetti*

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Virtual Swag

The caveat: I put some stuff in my novel that doesn’t, strictly speaking, belong there.

This past weekend I took an online workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal. It was spectacular. I wrote a ton, learned a ton, and got about half as much sleep as I might have liked. More later. The workshop deserves a post all its own–maybe more than one.

Anyway, many of the 6000+ words I wrote  this past weekend got copied into my NaNoWriMo project. It’s okay. Mary Robinette Kowal said I could do that, and she’s a real author. Only some of these words have anything to do with my novel, but since I knew the workshop was happening this month, I decided before the month even started that I was one of those NaNo rebels who was going to write what I pleased and damn the “rules.” So this year, for me they were more, um… “guidelines.”

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They’re more guidelines than actual “rules”

So good luck to my fellow NaNoWriMos, and congratulations to others who have already “won.” But I have to say (to crib from the inimitable Chuck Wendig) writing a novel isn’t a game of Monopoly. If you don’t finish it this month, it’s not going anywhere. You can win any time you want to.

More NaNoWriMo Write-ins

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Still writing

One can have the best intentions in the world, but sometimes stuff happens. Case in point: this blog. When I started, I was going to be fierce about posting twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. No matter what. Then NaNoWriMo happened. I’m doing okay with my novel. I’ve accumulated over 30,000 words, which means I’m on track to finish. But blogging is starting to slide a bit.

I did post on Monday this week. Woo-hoo!

As I write this, it is Friday. That’s a day later than Thursday, for those of you who are keeping score. If I manage to post this today, I’ll only be a day late. That’s something, right?

Here are the exciting NaNoWriMo write-ins and other events I’m attending this weekend.

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The prop of the inebriated writer

Friday night in Lemont, I’m attempting something I’ve never tried before–collecting my DWW (Drinking While Writing) badge. Miranda, one of the newer people in our NaNo region (or maybe just new to me) has set up a write-in at a bar/club/lounge kind of place, called Orange 13. Not so sure about this idea. There’s a proud tradition of DWW among famous writers, but then, those writers don’t/didn’t always end up so well. I was iffy about the whole idea, until I talked to my daughter. We started tallying up all the Irish writers who allegedly drank like fish, and she was all, like, “You’ve got to try it, Mom. Honor your heritage!” I’m not exactly Irish. More like, one-half Irish-American. I guess I’m honoring half my heritage.

Miranda may also hold another Friday night write-in at on the last Friday of the month, so if you’ve always wanted a DWW, that could be your chance to see if it works for you. (DISCLAIMER: if you shouldn’t be drinking for whatever reason, then please DON’T try to see if it words for you.)

And as noted before, I’m hosting another write-in at the Woodridge Public Library Saturday November 16, from 1:30-4:30. There will be cookies, prizes and hats.

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Check it out…cookies!

Come and write with us, if you’re so inclined. We’re meeting up for dinner afterwards, too, but if you haven’t already RSVP’d for that, it may be too late to join us. We had to make reservations, because it’s a good sized group. If you want to join us (and in case it isn’t too late), try nano-mailing me (Cee-Bee) on the NaNoWriMo web site, and I’ll see what I can do. Or show up at the Woodridge write-in and bug me about it there.

Letters from NaNoWriMo Land – A Sample of my Novel

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Yup…still writing

Don’t have time to write a lot of new blog content right now, because I’m in the thick of novel-writing. I’m adding to my novel from last year, so far titled Dr. Miracle’s Medicine Show. It was missing entire scenes, though in some cases, I needed to completely rewrite scenes. It’s historical fantasy, set in the American West. Our hero is named Slim Holloway. Well, hero is definitely overstating it, but the plan is for the guy to become a better human being eventually.

So, for better or worse, here’s a chunk of first-draftiness from an early scene. Be kind, please!

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A portentous cigar…

Slim wondered why the congressman seemed so interested in hiring him. The only thing he could think of was that moment, back at the poker table, when he had looked at the congressman’s cards, using his Gift. The change in Routledge’s eyes had been chilling.

If he was wrong, he might kick himself for it later. On the other hand, how would he ever know? He decided to go with his gut. “Gus, I hate to drink a man’s bourbon and then have to tell him no, but I just don’t see myself in politics.”

“Slim, I’m the one in politics. You wouldn’t have to do much as far as that goes. I have a lot of other business, too.”

That statement really didn’t ring true. Routledge might well have other interests, but why would he try so hard to hire Slim, who was clearly uninterested in a huge part of his work? He hadn’t even said anything along the lines of “how do you know until you try it?”

Slim went from considering to fully decided. “I thank you, sir, but no. Now, I’d better get to bed. As I said, I want to be rested in time for the stage tomorrow.”

Routledge’s hand tightened around his glass, and his smile once again didn’t reach his eyes. “Well, if you’re sure.”

“I am, sir.” 

“You’re staying at the rooming house by the stage depot?” Routledge asked.

It wasn’t as if there was much of anyplace else to stay in this benighted spot. “Yes, sir, I am.”

“I’m headed in that direction myself.” Routledge bolted the rest of his drink.

Slim stifled a sigh, and stood up. It would be too pointed altogether to refuse to walk with the man. He waited as Routledge put some cash on the bar. The bodyguard stood at the door. After looking at the street outside, he held the door open and nodded to Routledge.

“After you, Slim,” said Routledge.

Slim entered the street. The sun had set while they were inside. The night would come on in the slow way of early summer. For now, there was enough light to see their way to the rooming house. The townsfolk all appeared to be inside, most likely at their suppers. A few parlor lamps were lit. Fish Creek clearly closed down as early as most villages of its type.

Routledge joined Slim on the wooden sidewalk. “I do like the quiet of early evening, don’t you?”

“It’s peaceful,” said Slim, just to be agreeable. In truth, little places like this reminded him of the River Glen, the town he’d grown up in. Since he’d left that town as soon as he was old enough, it was unlikely he’d find any other place that resembled it to be at all enticing. Fish Creek didn’t even have the rosy memories of early youth to cast a pleasant glow in Slim’s mind.

“I don’t suppose there’s any way you’ll reconsider my offer?” said Routledge.

Slim had known this was coming, and was ready for it. “No, sir, but I thank you. Of course, if I were to change my mind, you’d be easy to find, being a public figure and all.”

“True enough,” Routledge chuckled.

He took a cigar case from his pocket, opened it, and offered a cigar to Slim. Slim shook his head. He’d tried cigars when he was younger, and had grown violently ill from his first experience. Other boys had tried again, and had come to like them, but once was enough for Slim. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d prefer not to take anything else from Routledge since he wasn’t accepting his offer of employment.

Routledge stopped and felt for something else in his pockets, finally producing a box of lucifer matches. He struck one on his boot sole, and lit his cigar. Slim heard something behind him—sudden footsteps. As he turned to look, he caught a glimpse of Routledge’s big bodyguard, Jensen. The man had something in his hand, which he raised towards Slim’s skull.

Slim sidestepped, and eluded most of the blow. Still, his ears rang and he had to fight to keep his footing. Jensen was caught off-balance as well. He went a step past Slim and spun around.

Slim backed up and was just able to see Routledge’s face. No longer jovial, the congressman had set his jaw. Slim had no idea why Routledge had ordered Jensen to attack, but it was obvious that he had. Slim reached for his pistol. He pointed it at Jensen, but when he spoke, he addressed both men. “I don’t know what you want from me, but that’s no way to go about it.”

“I’m sure Mr. Jensen was mistaken about something, Slim,” said Routledge. His customary smile was back. “Maybe he thought you were about to attack me.”

“I’m sure he didn’t,” Slim said. “I think your lighting the cigar was a signal. I wouldn’t move, Mr. Jensen.”

“You want me to shoot him?” Jensen already had his gun out. It was probably what he’d used to hit Slim.

“No, Mr. Jensen,” said Routledge. “Mr. Holloway won’t shoot either of us. He knows how stupid that would be.”

True enough. Even if he were able to get off two lucky shots, the noise would bring attention. And even if he were able to get away after that, enough people had seen him talking with Routledge. The bartender had seen Slim leaving the saloon with him. He’d have to hide the rest of his life, which likely wouldn’t be long.

“What is it you want?” he asked Routledge.

“I’ve told you, Slim. I’d like to employ you. There are young men who’d give their eye teeth for such an opportunity. If you don’t like it, you can always quit.”

“How long do you want me to try it out?”

“I think a month might be fair, don’t you?”

Slim thought he’d rather sleep with a bed full of rattlesnakes than work for Routledge even one day, but if agreement was what it took to get out of this pickle, he’d say whatever the congressman wanted to hear. Once Routledge trusted him, he would find it easier to slip away.

“Seems reasonable,” Slim said.

“Good. Why don’t you put the gun away, son?” said Routledge.

Jensen’s hand still held the pistol even as he put it in his holster. Slim looked at Jensen, and then at Routledge.

“Stand down, Jensen,” Routledge said.

Jensen took his hand away from his Colt.

Slim holstered his own pistol.

“That’s better.” Routledge put his cigar back in his mouth and puffed contentedly. “Look at it this way, Slim. You’ll get to travel, and you’ll save on stagecoach fare.”

Missing Cookie Day

Have I mentioned that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? No? Well, I am. NaNoWriMo starts on the same day every year, on November 1.

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This year is no different

I’ve met people (Hi, Liz!) who are of the opinion that November is probably the worst month to write a novel. They may be correct. There’s Thanksgiving, after all. And Black Friday, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not.

And in my family, there’s also Cookie Day.

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We didn’t really make these cookies

Cookie Day started in 2003, when my cousin Cecelia thought it would be a fun tradition for her daughter Emily to grow up with memories of baking holiday cookies with her aunts and cousins. Emily was about to turn 5. At first, the event was so small that the bakers just divvied up the cookies among themselves.

The 2nd year, Cecelia’s sister Camille (who is also my cousin, and Emily’s aunt) thought of shipping cookies to siblings who weren’t there. That was a lot of shipping, as Cecelia and Camille have 8 other siblings. We’re talking about a nice, Irish Catholic family, after all.

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Yeah, we didn’t bake these either

Eventually the recipients of the cookies morphed from siblings into parents, uncles and aunts (relatives we’ve taken to calling the “wiser generation”), and nephews and nieces who were in college. The number of people who joined in the fun of baking increased as well. My sister Liz and I have made it a habit to schlep into Indiana for Cookie Day many times over the last few years.

Liz and I were probably there in 2005, a watershed year. In any case, I bet Liz was. That year saw the highest number of bakers (12) and the most varieties of cookies baked (27). Another record year was 2012, when we shipped 15 boxes of assorted cookies to various relatives.

Cookie Day has seen a lot of changes over the years. There were 3 years when Cecelia’s neighbor let us use her oven to accommodate the huge numbers of cookies being baked. Then in 2011, Cookie Day became somewhat easier in Cecelia’s gorgeous, newly remodeled kitchen.

Cecelia has always mobilized for Cookie Day as if she were in charge of the Normandy Invasion. This is swell, because when I warned her I would be blogging about Cookie Day, she sent me this information:

My crazy, geeky spreadsheet has been narrowed down to about 70 kinds of cookies and if we were to bake them all, would need 96 sticks of butter, 53 cups of sugar, 22 cups of brown sugar, 102 cups of flour and 88 eggs.

I had to miss Cookie Day this year. it got scheduled for the same weekend I was hosting the first NaNoWriMo Woodridge Write-In this year. You can’t blow off your own write-in, after all. Liz couldn’t go either, since she was on call at work.

Cecelia says she’s sending us cookies anyway.  Isn’t she lovely? I just hope next year, Liz and I can return, NaNoWriMo or not, work be damned, and once again revel in the glory that is Cookie Day!

NaNoWriMo 2013 – A Report from the Trenches

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Prizes, Strategy Discussions, and Hat-Choosing

One of the things that initially got me through National Novel Writing Month and out the other side with over 50,000 words was going to write-ins. I wasn’t at all sure of my ability to finish, so I grabbed inspiration and help wherever I could find it. Of course I read books like No Plot? No Problem! And part of my motivation my first year (2010—ah, it seems like only yesterday!) came from my fellow Novelistas.

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Fearless Writers

But the best help probably came from my Naperwrimo peeps. I got to know them partly from pre-NaNo planning workshops, but mostly at write-ins. At write-ins, you get the opportunity to see that you’re not in it alone, which is very reassuring. In case that isn’t enough, though, you can compete for prizes!

The first write-in I attended was run by one of our Municipal Liaisons (aka MLs), KatherineWriting. She had a grab bag of fun, sometimes-goofy, writing-related prizes, and held word wars about twice an hour over a session that went for 3 hours. The rule was, once you won a word war—which you did by writing more words than anyone else during a period of, say 10 minutes—you weren’t eligible to win another prize that day. So usually by about the 4th or 5th word war of the morning, I’d win something. I’m a sucker for swag, so this was enough to keep me coming to write-ins.

Fast forward: a couple of years ago, I decided I needed to host write-ins, too. Give something back to the community, and all that. There are at least 2 things different about the write-ins I’ve hosted. First of all, I don’t try to find prizes anymore—at least, not the usual kinds of prizes. Another of the MLs, NewMexicoKid, makes really creative prizes from scratch, like Plot Bunnies and NanoBots. His handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items are not normally available at any price, and can only be gained by winning a word war or doing something else NewMexicoKid deems especially fabulous. I decided early on I was not competing with that, and beat NewMexicoKid into submission—oops, I mean, talked him into bringing some of his prizes to the write-ins I hosted.

Secondly, the unique feature I brought to my write-ins was the opportunity to wear a fabulous hat. I figure if it worked for Chris Baty, it was bound to work for the rest of us. The way you get to wear a hat at one of my write-ins is to win more than one word war. At my first write-in this year, the winner of hat-wearing privileges was typesetjez.

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Doesn’t she look dashing in this lovely bridal pith helmet?

There’s one more write-in at the Woodridge Public Library this month, on November 16 from 1:30-4:30. If you’re from the Chicago area, especially the western suburbs, come write with us and/or at one of many other available write-ins. If you’re not local, check for write-ins in your home region. It’s a great way to share the misery…oops, I mean, connect with your fellow writers.

Write on!