Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valetines

   Wow, here it is, the 14th of February already! It certainly feels like the old saying is true: "The older you get, the quicker you get older."
   I'm slowly easing my way bank into writing, finally. In the last couple of weeks I've written a Science Fiction short story, added to a children's fantasy I've been working on, cleaned up up a couple of chapters in the next Queen of Darkness story to submit to my critique group, and wrote down some ideas for major plot points in the next Deluti book.
   Between not feeling well, and the nagging doubt of my ability as a writer, it's been difficult to find the joy I once had while writing my stories. I know it's par for the course as many writers feel they will never be good enough, but sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get better.
   I've gone back and re-read some of the things I wrote several years ago and think, this is better than what I'm writing now. Yet others have commented on how my writing has improved. Why can't I see it? Maybe the style of writing I enjoy reading is not the same as what others enjoy.
   Which brings up an interesting point. A topic of discussion came up the other day in a fantasy support group I belong to. The question was: "What makes good fantasy?" I was blown away by the number of folks who replied; "It has to be realistic, or make sense". Hello! Have they even read the definition of fantasy in the dictionary? If you want realism, read non-fiction. I thought about all the popular fantasy stories out there, both in print and on screen, and there is a decided lack of realism.
   What is realistic about walking, talking trees, dogs who can fly, or humans who can change into animals? "But we're talking about things like a real planet with earth and sky, and a sun to provide energy, real food to eat, that kind of realism".
   Oh really? Many years ago, I read a story that still haunts me to this day. It was about a civilization of sub-atomic energy beings living inside a light bulb. They knew their source of energy was failing and would soon burn out, and were trying to deal with the inevitability of their mortality. Some accepted their fate while other struggled to find a way to save their civilization. The light bulb shattered, and the end saw a human sweeping up the debris and dumping them in the trash. Where is the realism in that?
   Anyway, I'm always amazed at the different things people look for in fantasy.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Can A Critique Group Become Too Large?

   First of all, I'd like to thank all those folks who have come back every week to read my rambles. You are one of the main reasons I continue to share my thoughts on life and writing. I'm still amazed at the milestone I reached last week by hitting the 10,000 pageview mark. You all rock!
   The question on my mind this week, as I officially take over ownership and administration of our local writers group is: "How big is too big?" It's probably not something I really need to worry about at this time since attendance normally drops off as we head into summer anyway. But what about next fall and winter?
   Our group saw unprecedented growth this last year. People come and go as they attend one of our meetings and then decide it's not for them. However, this last year more decided to stay than leave. The positive side of this is I think it reflects on the positive attitude of our current members and the supportive and encouraging atmosphere we project. I can't help but brag a little by saying we are an awesome group.
   The negative side is with so many folks submitting and attending the meeting, we couldn't get through all the critiques in three hours much less the two hour limit we try to adhere to. One of the first things I had to do was add a second meeting each month to split up the submissions into a manageable number. We also came up with some suggestions to speed up the critique process. So far, it's helped.
   I hate the idea of setting a limit on the number of members because new blood always adds a spark and freshness to the group. I've been around a long time and been in a number of groups where eventually they begin to stagnate and become unproductive. Those groups rarely let new folks join in.
   We live in a Navy town with people coming and going all the time, so maybe the problem will resolve itself. I hope so. The last thing I want to do is restrict new membership.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Let's Talk Writing Again

   Seems like lately, all I've been talking about is my personal problems, and it's time to change that.
   A nice side effect of finding a new writer's support group online is that I've sold a few more books and received several nice reviews. I've also encouraged a couple people to share what they liked about my stories, but also what they didn't like. That is always important to me as I want to improve and grow as a writer.
   There were two common themes to the feedback: I'm not consistent with my descriptions and I didn't make things difficult enough for the MC. I happen to know the folks who felt I wasn't hard enough are also fans of Grim/Dark fantasy. Granted, I don't bloody my characters relentlessly, but that's just not my style.The difficulties I try to inflict on my characters are usually emotional, and I will continue to do so.
   The issue with my inconsistent descriptions is something I can fix, and will. I never realized how much I expanded the scenes I thought were important and glossed over other scenes that were important to the reader. The trick will be trying to determine just how much extra description a particular scene needs. From the comments I received, it should only require a few more sentences to flesh out.
   Another plus from joining this new support group is the large number of young readers and writers. Their enthusiasm for my YA stories has given me a new spark to continue those stories. The support and encouragement I've received from the group has really helped me to look past the trials of last year and focus on the future.
   In other news, today I reached a small milestone in my life. I met with the previous owner of our Meetup site and critique group to officially transfer ownership. I am now the proud owner and administrator of the Kitsap Writer's Critique Group. This is not a position I ever imagined myself in, but I take the responsibility seriously. I'm looking forward to the future and doing what little I can to help others become better writers.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Making My Way Back

   It felt good to finally get out of the house last night and spend some time with friends and fellow writers. I was disappointed having missed our first critique meeting of the year two weeks ago, especially since I'm supposed to be leading it.
   Our group has grown to the point we couldn't complete all the critiques in one meeting before the pizza joint where we get together needed to close for the night. I added another session each month to cover the overflow, and also to provide a separate meeting for those who are close to completing their manuscripts.
   I shared some ideas with the group last night on ways we might be able to speed up the critique process. Everyone was in agreement and things went pretty smoothly. We finished up six critiques in under two hours which meant the folks who live an hour away got home at a decent time.
   I'm pleased to report, words are actually being put down on paper again, and my head is filled with stories. I'm one of those folks who writes in their head. When I've got a scene worked out in my mind where it's just the way I want it, then it gets written down. With the constant pain and grogginess from lack of sleep the last couple of months, I haven't been able to concentrate enough to run those scenes through my mind.
   Dumping words on a page for the sake of word count, hoping they can be made into something coherent later, is just not my style. Some of my critique group accuse me of writing final drafts, and they have trouble finding things to critique. That may or may not be true, but it makes for a slow process. It works for me. I hope to publish two more stories this year so it had better work.
   Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Rough Start

   What is that old saying? "The best laid plans of mice and men". I've written absolutely nothing in the last week because of pain.
   I suppose I can't put it off any longer. I just need to bite the bullet and get my knees replaced. I see my doctor today to get the ball rolling. I've been hesitant to get them done because of the two gals I take care of. Fortunately, I have two daughters who will come over to help out.
  It was also very frustrating missing the first meeting of the new year for my critique group. I was looking forward to starting out the new year on the right foot by sharing my vision for the future with my friends. I did feel better after several of them e-mailed me today and said they missed me at the meeting. There are so many excellent writers in the group, and I hope to see them published by the end of the year.
   I know some of you are not happy that I'll be spending less time on google, but I feel I need to go where the action is. Participation on posts and interactions between people have dried up. Personally, I feel the abundance of negative, political BS has driven people away. I can post a question in one of the communities I belong to on google and I'll be lucky to get one or two people to respond, and these are communities with thousands of members. If i Post the same question in a writers group on FB, I may get twenty or more comments in the first hour.
   As far as I can tell, very few new people are coming to google. The communities are stagnating. Even though I have over four thousand folks in my circles. I only see posts from the same ten people each day. Since I joined the group on FB, at least a dozen new people join everyday, and discussions are going on continuously. 
   It's also been a huge confidence booster as I've received nothing but positive feedback from folks in the FB group about snippets of writing I've shared or they've actually read my stories. As a test, I made my books free for two days last week and only mentioned it in the group and on my blog. I had over two hundred downloads in those two days, and a couple sales the day after. That's more than any other promotion I've run using paid advertising and sharing on google.
   Whether all those downloads will result in a few reviews on Amazon remains to be seen, but it was fun being ranked in the top twenty for a day.
   OK, I've got to quit and put my leg up. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Attitude Adjustment

   I'm going to make a concerted effort this year to maintain a positive attitude no matter what. I'm also planning to return to my weekly blog posts starting today. Regardless of how I feel, words will be written, whether for this blog or one of my stories.
   It has been far too easy lately to let my depression overcome my ability to function the way I want to. If that doesn't change, I'll die of old age before the next story ever gets finished. Although there probably aren't many, I have to believe at least a few folks are looking forward to the next installments in the series I started.
   To accomplish this I have decided to make some changes in how I spend my time. First of all, I am going to limit my time on Google Plus. The writing communities there have become ghost towns, whereas the groups on FB are flourishing. My google stream has become nothing but political BS, and I'm tired of it. It's been a year people, grow up and get over it.
   That time will now be spent on writing, whether I feel like it or not. This will be a major change for me as I've only picked up a pen when the mood struck. Obviously that isn't working. I must find a way to get more words down on paper. If I could wrap my head around the idea of being a plotter, I might even try that, but for now I'll remain a pantster.
   I don't want to lose the many wonderful friends I've gotten to know on Google so I will continue to check in from time to time and comment when I can.
   I also plan to make more of an effort to get my stories in the hands of readers this year. More paperbacks will be ordered, and more deals run on Amazon. So in that vein, for the next two days, my e-books will be free for download on Amazon. If you haven't already, please check them out and leave me a review, good or bad. It's always nice to hear when your story works, but I can never improve if I don't know what I'm doing wrong.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Shift in Priorities

   I'm so sick right now, I can barely think straight, but I want to write one last blog before the year ends.
   It has been an interesting year to say the least. I started out in January on a high note. The final scenes to my first full length novel were written, and my writing partners loved it. I found someone to design an awesome cover and format the print version for a price I could afford. Everything was falling into place for my first book signing in a couple months time.
   The book released to mixed reviews to my great disappointment. I sold a few copies at the book signing, mostly to friends and family. The city decided to start a six month project completely redoing the street in front of our house, and then my beloved friend got sick, deathly sick. Suddenly my writing wasn't important anymore.
   The next six or seven months are a blur. She wanted to die, and I wouldn't let her. I monitored and adjusted her meds and what she ate 24/7. She was totally bed ridden. Plus it was a constant battle with the construction crews to make surer I could always get out of the driveway to take her to dialysis or the hospital. I tried writing during that time, but couldn't keep my mind focused on it. I felt bad because I wasn't doing my share in our critique group or with my writing partners.
   My friend has been back on her feet now for a couple months, though she will never be totally healthy. My writing partners and critique group stuck with me and even asked that I take over the group after our previous administrator decided to step down. I don't know if I'll ever regain the enthusiasm for writing I had before. It just doesn't seem as important to me as it used to.
   The year did end on a positive note however. I finally got to meet Debbie Macomber. When our local chapter of the RWA disbanded several years ago, which Debbie had originally founded, we maintained our mailing list, and I'd done my best to keep everyone together. I would occasionally set up lunch dates or morning coffee get-togethers. I didn't realize Debbie was on that list and had seen all my e-mails. She invited me to a Christmas function at her newly remodeled offices and personally thanked me for doing what I could to keep the group together. That was a really nice surprise.
   Being that I'm from the generation that believes in finishing what you started, I'll continue to write and someday finish the series. It might take a while as writing no longer carries the same importance as it did before.
   Hope you all had a blessed Christmas, and I wish you all the best in the coming year.
   Thanks for reading.