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Archive for June, 2010

I kid you not.  But not here, run on over to CJ Redwine’s blog where she has a wonderful interview with the talented and witty Sara Rees Brenna!

Did I mention Captain Jack? How could I forget?  I did say rum and pirates though. ; )

Go on now, you won’t be disappointed.

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Land Ho!

The last few months have not been exactly productive for me writing-wise. As most of you know, I’m working almost full time writing articles for the Examiner and Demand Studios, plus whatever other freelance work I can find. Coupled with the household and yard chores, the kids and life in general, my writing hasn’t just faltered, my sails hung limp and lifeless. Becalmed.

I’d committed to writing 500 words a day on my fantasy WIP. Quite honestly, I was lucky if I got to 500 a week. But it wasn’t just the amount of words I was getting on paper that bothered me. The enthusiasm was gone. There was no magic. I kept waiting for that moment when the characters breathe in for the first time and attempt to yank the reins out of my hands. For those times when I just couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with the banter between characters. Instead, I was forcing myself to sit down and stare at a blank screen day after day. 

Everyone has a different method to the madness that is writing a manuscript. What works for me, may not work for you and visa-versa.

I tried a few tricks that usually work for me, closing my eyes and imagining the characters, listening to music that had originally inspired the characters to life, writing character profiles to figure out what made these people tick…. Not a puff of wind. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Empty sails.

So I stepped back and took a good look at my life, because, folks, publishing isn’t just my dream, writing brings me joy.

I write for at least 6 hours a day, mostly non-fiction, well, okay… all non-fiction. When I am done with my self-imposed, and bills-imposed, quota, I ‘let’ myself write fiction. My thinking was that since fiction is my heart, I will be motivated. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Quite frankly, after 6 hours of writing, I’m burnt out. I can’t string five words together in a way that would make even me want to read them.

So was this it? Did I put writing fiction aside until the kids were older, until I was more stable financially and could take the time to indulge my creative side? No, I didn’t consider it giving up, but facing life. The weekends are as busy, or busier than, the weekdays. Remember, no significant other, which leaves the yard work, the grocery shopping, car repair, the cleaning and the kid wrangling to me.  And the fact was, in circumstances as they were, as hard as I stared at that blinking screen, I wasn’t writing anyway.

And yes, I know writing is a job, but it’s one that necessitates creativity. It’s also one that doesn’t pay well.

This was more than a dry spell, more than writers block. There was water all around me and not a drop to drink.

And please don’t tell me if you love something, you’ll find time to  do it. I love to garden, but there have been times I’ve let my plants die because my priorities were else where. I love to bake, but throwing a batch of cookies together happens about once a month. Those detailed menus I love to put together after searching my cooking magazines? Haven’t seen one in about a year. 

Writing is my heart’s joy, but paying the bills so I have a house over my head comes first.

So I took another look, this time at the finances, and decided that for one week, I’d put fiction writing first and see what happened. I ignored blogs, twitter-for the most part, promotion for my alter ego, etc. For one week, writing was my priority.

I sat down on the first Monday and read through the files that I’d collected. I was again reminded how strong these characters were and how much I liked them. I found some plot holes and called a friend to say, ‘Let me tell you about my book’, which is a method of getting the ball rolling I hadn’t yet used. After getting off the phone, I made copious notes and signed on to the bank to pay the bills. This was the first hiccup. I’d forgotten about a check, one not-so-little check, that rendered the account down to nothing. I admit, I faltered, but I could sense that excitement building for my story again, so I shuffled money around and reaffirmed my decision to write.

I kept a running total. When I started I had less than 17K. The first day, I wrote about 1K, the next, a little over 2. By Day three, I was writing 4K; yes, 4K. The total for the week, including deletions and time for research is over 16K. Yippee! I mean Yippee! But that’s not the best news. Last week I went back to ‘work’ but with a slight change. Before I get out the non-fiction, I’m giving myself one hour to write first thing.

Now, I’m not getting anything like 4 K done in that hour, but I am averaging between 800 and 1200 words–good words, damn-I-like-that words. Do-I-have-to-stop-now? kind of writing.

Do you feel that? It’s a breeze.

It feels good.

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Well, I did it!

After thinking about it for quite some time, I finally applied for and received the Fresno Gardener Examiner position. You may or may not know I already write for the Examiner’s Family Entertainment Section, but gardening is near and dear to my heart.

So, please, stop by and read my first article, comment, subscribe, let me know what you think.

Thanks!

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You’ve probably heard me say that when I moved into this house there was very little in the backyard. This was actually a point in favor of this house. After signing the papers, I got my grid paper, garden catalogs and dreams out and planned a garden. I divided it into sections. The one that stayed true to plan is my east-facing garden. This receives 6-8 hours of sun but is sheltered from the afternoon sun, which, here in Central California, is a pretty good thing. Can you say fried flowers?

In my defense, I didn’t over plant, I took care of the plants too well. ; ) That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

This is a good example of over-crowding. Starting at 1 o’clock and going clockwise, I have my bearded iris (the tall sword-like leaves) Louisiana iris (long, thin leaves) Daffodil leaves (folded) an almost hidden coral bell (the purple leaves) cranesbill geraniums in the foreground (with finely divided leaves) and calla lilies.  What you can’t see is the azalea. Yes, there is an azalea in there somewhere.  Oh, the spiky balls on the right are from my clematis. I love the way they look even after the flower has faded.

When I look at this picture, all I can see is work.

I’ve already thinned the irises and the calla lilies last fall. The cranesbill was only supposed to reach 18 inches high and wide; it is much larger than that. This fall, I’ll cut it almost down to the ground to see if maybe it will control its growth, but I will trim it down now.

If you know anyone who wants calla lily bulbs or bearded iris rhizomes, let me know! I may move some of the irises to the front yard, but I’ll wait until the weather cools down… I’m in the process of turning one of my annual beds into a perennial bed to, hopefully, decrease the work load.

Although I like a messy, natural garden, over-crowding is a problem because the plants will start competing for nutrients and moisture and some, or all of them, will begin to weaken. So far my garden isn’t showing any sign of stress but the azalea you can’t see isn’t getting enough sun because the other leaves are covering it. I like my plants; I want to keep them around.

I guess you know what I’ll be doing this fall.

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Guest Blogging

Today I’m guest blogging over in Jinxie’s Kitchen. That’s right. Not only do I write, parent and garden, I cook too! ; )

Come on by and check it out!

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What’s in a Name?

I may have miscalculated. I’ll admit it.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t even consider the issue of branding. I should have.
Branding is important. It’s the name, symbol, saying, etc, that identifies you as, well, you. As most of you know, my blog address is writermomof5; when I signed up for twitter, it seemed logical to use writermomof5. Almost everywhere on-line, I’m writermom.

The problem? I am not publishing under writermomof5. It may seem like a simple thing, but these things are important. For instance, I have Google alert set up for my pen name so I’ll know when either my name or my books are mentioned on-line. This alerts me to reviews, blog mentions, etc, and I knew immediately when my book was listed on pirate website.

I decided to set up a similar alert for Shawna Thomas. After a few weeks…Nothing. I thought it was odd because I’m active on-line, until I realized it was because everything I post, etc, on-line is under writermom.

I’ve added my name to my blog and am in the process of changing my twitter name. I like writermom. It’s both descriptive and true, but I’m trying to look long term.

That brings me to another issue. I had originally planned to publish under the name: SJ Thomas. My personal email is under this name and it’s on most of my manuscripts. I’d even practiced the signature. : )

And then, not too long ago, I decided to purchase a book. I had to Google the writer’s name that just happened to contain initials. I couldn’t find it. Now if you’re JK Rowlings or JR Ward, this won’t be a problem, but, well here, let me show and not tell.

SJ Thomas
S J Thomas
S. J. Thomas
S.J. Thomas

Get the idea?

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about that and, fortunately, or unfortunately, I have some time to figure it out. I like the idea of SJ Thomas, but there’s nothing wrong with Shawna either. : )

So, if you’re a writer, what do you think about branding and even if you’re not…do you have an opinions on the subject?

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I’ve been tagged by HC Palmquist. In her defense, she’s still medicated from surgery, but without further ado:

Ten Things that Make Me Happy (In no apparent order.)

1. A clean house.

2. Flowers blooming in the garden.

3. Writing ‘The End’ on a manuscript.

4. Emails from editors with good news.

5. The smell of coffee in the morning.

6. Chocolate!

7. My kids laughing together.

8. Being the first one to open the peanut butter. Yummy.

9. Bringing a dozen books home from the library.

10. Hearing someone loved my writing.

And now I’m tagging you. Yes you! List 10 things that make you happy and please, link my blog so I can read it too!

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This is the tale of the avocado tree.

If you’ve read this blog, you probably already know how I feel about my avocado tree. Just in case, I’ll give you a brief history. When I moved in here, we were having one of the coldest winters in a long time. I thought the avocado tree was dead. It proved resilient and came back. I don’t eat avocados, but whenever I mentioned cutting the tree down, my friends and neighbors protested adamantly so I left it. Also, I confess, I don’t lightly kill any plant or tree. I must have really good reasons. Well, this tree gave it to me.

As the seasons progressed, what I got from the tree was a lot of fallen leaves in the spring—leaves that do not compost well–and maybe 2 avocados a year. These leaves got in my pond, shaded my vegetable garden.  None of the people who begged me to keep in volunteered to clean up the mess the tree made all year long. And I found out the sucker could easily grow to 60 feet tall in my climate. Um. No.

This summer, I decided it had to go. I have a beautiful lilac bush that needs to be moved. It won’t get too big, will not shade my garden; will not drop its beautiful heart-shaped leaves into the pond.

Last weekend I went out to the tree to determine which branches to cut first before I needed to borrow a chainsaw. This is what I found:

 I counted 30 avocados without trying hard. 30! Most of them are the size of a pea but many are as big as a grape.

How am I supposed to cut it down now? It has babies! Maybe I should learn to like guacamole.

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Clarism

First the set up:

Today, I went into the garden to find that the weight of my abundant apricot harvest had broken a large branch on the tree. Now I’d thinned the fruit but I couldn’t reach the top branches and the surge in temperature caused those suckers to get big faster than I expected.

So I was out today with my pole picker, thinning the fruit at the top of the tree. I was barefoot as I often am in the summer in my backyard.

Claire was helping me pick up the fallen fruit and warned me that there was a patch of stickers on the lawn (getting rid of those is on my to-do list.) I said thanks… a little preoccupied with reaching 10 feet above my head. Oh yeah, and the un-ripe, hard-as-a-rock apricots raining down on me.

She went on to say. “Yeah, cause you wouldn’t want to get stickers. That would hurt. And it’s not too good for your blood pressure, is it?”

I chuckled, thinking that was one I was writing down, but said: Well, I don’t know about that.

I don’t know what in my tone gave me away but she was quiet for a minute before she said, “don’t tell anybody I said that, okay? Okay mom?”

What? She can’t read… and I didn’t promise.

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100-word story

A forum on Goodreads is sponsering a challenge called Thimbletales. You are supposed to write a story in exactly 100 words. The concept intrigued me so I sat down and tried to do it.

The results:

If Only…

I knew it couldn’t last, but one can hope.

Or maybe that’s where I went wrong. Hoping.

Laugh, love, loss. Isn’t that the progression?

Heat turned the pages of a book before the flames consumed the paper.

Consumed.

A smile turned my lips. That’s how she read them too. I would remember the good times.

An image of laughing hazel eyes and long fingers. Wine-laced kisses and promises.

Lies and then blood pooling on the kitchen floor.

This was the last of it. Her life drifting into heaven like an offering.

If only she hadn’t smiled at that other man.

So what do you think? I also dare you to try it.

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