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Saturday, March 27, 2010


Week 12 - three months into the revision. I truly thought I would be further along. I've totally blown my planned schedule. If I was my boss, I'd probably fire me - oh, wait. I am my boss, and I need to give myself a good talking to. I have Spring Fever in a big way. Spring has sprung and there's so much to do outside before the blistering heat knocks us for our annual loop. One week it's twenty-four degrees and the next it's sixty-four and the next it's ninty-four. We have such a narrow window to get outside and enjoy. Okay, that's my list of excuses for this week. How'd I do?

AFDOC got a nip and a tuck here and there, but not what I'd call substantial, so I'm working on a new schedule to accomodate my planting and painting outside. I'm ready to get this show on the road! How can I be so excited about something and not work on it everyday? I've never had writers' block in the traditional sense. I have git er done block.

Today I'm sharing a picture from my NOVEL WALL to show you what a real story board looks like. You can't see it all because it wraps around the room, but before I take it down and start over, I wanted to share with you what works for me {don't take that too literally this week.} I can see AFDOC as it unfolds on the wall and move the stickie notes all around, and that really helps reveal the book as a whole. New paper will go up in the next few weeks, so I can post the new chapter names new chapter scenes, and see how they look as a whole with weeks of revision in place.

May you have a Blessed Holy Week. Mahala

Monday, March 22, 2010

In the weird but true category . . .

I love it when I run across a story idea that is stranger than fiction. Today, I read the following on an honest-to-gosh real newspaper website:

"A crime novelist who shot her father with a 20-gauge shotgun and tried to flee with a trunk full of books to read while on the lam reached a plea deal with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office that will put her in prison for at least four years."

There are so many improbable things in that sentence, but a trunk full of books?! Her father lived, but I wonder how she managed to negotiate a deal that traded a possible life sentence for attempted murder to one that sends her to prison for only four years. Gives her a platform and time enough to write a true crime novel, I guess.

Don't tell Mahala, but I sent out two chapters to our mutual critique group recently with a promise not to change anything before they looked at the pages. I am such a liar. I've already torn up, as in deleted, most of one of the chapters. I think when I re-read my work as it's leaving the computer, I see how it can be made "so much better." I always read my work out loud so that I can hear the rhythm of the dialogue, but I miss objective assessment of content until I know someone else will evaluate the story. Makes me remember that the buyer/library patron will have a more discerning eye than I do. Sigh.

Tis the challenge of telling a good story that keeps me going.

So, keep on keeping on, folks. I'll do the same.

c j

Sunday, March 21, 2010

AFDOC 11 & Baldwin Writers

What a busy and productive week! Mailed off four contest entries, finished a book review, and met with the Baldwin Writers Group in Daphne's Library. And, no, AFDOC didn't get a lot of attention this week, but all my seeded plants are in the ground and looking fine in the spring weather. Does that count? Probably not.

First let me say that the Daphne Library is a nice place to spend some time. They were in the middle of their annual book fair Saturday, so the place was packed with people buying and sharing. If you haven't been to their library, make it a point to visit the next time you're over that way. It's easy to find and full of creativity. The entire facility has an at-home comfort and is filled with cute do-dads (a great Southern word) stashed all around. In the young adult section there is an ongoing puzzle, which will be framed once it's finished. From the look of it, a lot of people have taken in interest in finishing it. There are comfortable chairs and cozy areas to sit and chat or peruse a book, and a delightful book store. And to-die-for quilts you can buy a chance to win. All and all a delight for a reader or author's eyes. A special thank you to the kind librarian who got me a bottle of water. I was in the antihistamine desert and forgot to bring mine.

Thanks to Phil Brady, President of the BWG and Nolan White, who invited me to speak. The group discussion was on the art of critiquing - a process near and dear to my heart - and hopefully I gave them some valuable information to make their work profitable (in more ways than one.) A friendly and well versed group of established writers, newbie writers, and a most personable artist, who, like me, was visiting for the first time had a lively discussion. I won't embarrass the artist by mentioning a name, but (s)he's also a dentist, and I'll bet a darn creative one. When my son was in junior high, he wanted a cap on his incisor with a purple LSU on it - he did not get it - but I'll bet this dentist is just the one who could've helped him with that. By the way, my son did get a gold retainer with a purple LSU down the middle of it after his braces were off. He's an executive chef now and is equally creative in his formulation of menus and delightful dishes. The 50s picture this week is dedicated to him.

A special thank you to cj who went with me to the meeting and added valuable info to the discussion about genres and literary compared to commercial fiction, etc. We continued our artistic discussion at lunch with Nolan, Frank C (there are several Franks), and Donna afterwards. cj and I talked all the way across the bay and back home. I thank BWG for prompting so many creative thoughts.
AFDOC and I have scheduled some serious time together next week. Wish me well and I send you caviar wishes for champagne writing. Mahala

Saturday, March 13, 2010

AFDOC 10, Music & 50s Tidbits

The buds are bursting open all over Mobile! Spring is here and daylight savings time is upon us. This is my absolute most favorite time of year! Can you tell? Like me, my granddaughter loves the outside, so she's already spiffed things up on our patio table and chairs and candles are in the ready for a lovely meal tonight. For those of you still huddling inside with several feet of snow at your doorstep, take heart, it won't be long before you too can sit outside to review a book or eat meals from the grill. And the exciting news for you is that you will be able to do that for months while in short order, those of us on the Gulf Coast will be huddling inside to escape the humidity defying heat and swarms of mosquitoes.

AFDOC continues. I had three productive meetings - to say nothing of the excellent luncheons - when I met with my critique group and the Lyrical Pens and my good friend and editing buddy this week and got wonderful ideas for expanding the tension in the story. I ran a few plot ideas past them and came flying home to get all their excellent suggestions into my notes. It's important for all writers to excel at note keeping. Doesn't matter whether it's a composition book, notepad, or pc, don't lose those ideas as they're popping. I keep a notepad in my purse {pocketbook to you AFDOC folks} another beside my bed {where my best ideas leap to the forefront just as I'm drifting off to sleep. It's not always easy to pull myself out of that drowsy state to write them down, and I've been known - more times than I want to admit - to wake up with the pen and pad nestling next to me much to the consternation of my Cavalier Spaniel, Hannah. She woke me up one night in a frenzy. It looked like she was trying to dig a hole in the bed, but she was trying to move that dad-gum pad and pencil out of her space. I swan she frowned at me and gave a big disgusted sigh. But I digress.

Note the price of burgers

I have a notepad on my desk and folders full of articles from magazines, pictures from style books and catalogues, etc. from the fifties - all to keep me in that time period and seeing things from that perspective while I write. Hanging above my computer are two class pictures from 1950, an original ad from McDonald's and on and on it goes. One of my all time favorite wall hangings is from cj. You'll have to read AFDOC to find out why, but she brought brownies to my house covered in strips of aluminum foil {nee tin foil} and Scotch tape. It hangs next to my pc, bringing me a good laugh and keeping Caroline firmly planted in my head {as if she needed any help.}

A year or so ago, I downloaded music from the fifties, and ever anal, I have disks with upbeat dance music and one with music to grieve by - Tennessee Ernie Ford's Amazing Grace and a collection of Mahalia Jackson are perfect. Try it for whatever time period you're writing in. It is a great mood setter.

Okay, off to the races. Mahala

Saturday, March 6, 2010

AFDOC Week 9

What a busy and productive week! I'm through chapter 24 and well into the revision zone. Now that I've made it over halfway, I've gotten a second wind and can't seem to type fast enough. Changes continue to abound and I got several good ideas while pulling out chapters to submit to contests as short stories. Editing the chapters to create a well-rounded short story and formulate a slightly new twist has tremendous advantages for the editing process. It helps see the story more clearly as you reorganize it into a succinct free-standing story and slave to meet the word count required by the contest. Suddenly, the redundant words and phrases leap off the page and scream at you to be deleted, and I, for one, appreciate their alarms.

On the other side of the coin, I have a non-fiction piece that needs some significant help to make it more viable for the publisher who has accepted it. Unfortunately, my research keeps hitting dead ends and is driving me crazy. Most authorities and people with an interest in telling their story welcome the opportunity to get their story out to the public, but not in this case. Every source I contact is absolute in their ability to ignore me. Frustration!!!!! But I haven't given up and will take a new tack {or tact} this week in my pursuit of education and getting the story in print.

As cj wrote, spring is lurking just around the corner in Mobile, peeking out one day with a temperature of 65 only to disappear the next with a temperature in the forties. Don't you just love this time of year? You can almost feel the trees and flowers trembling with anticipation. My favorite season. Enjoy!

A blast from the past. Mahala

Ding Dong Avon Calling

{My mother loved their Topaz fragrance}

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good news for winter-weary writers

I do believe Spring is about to spring forth because I've seen squadrons of red-breasted robins landing at the Mobile airport for R&R on their way north. And somewhere, someone is playing baseball, either on fields throughout the South or inside athletic field houses in the North. When my son calls (he's a junior college baseball coach), I can hear the "tink" of aluminum bats at work. When Mark played at the University of South Alabama, he used to wear knit leg warmers to practice on cold February days (wonder if he still does).

Yesterday I spent six hours editing the first six pages of one of my works-in-progress . . . four times. I worry that I'm about to polish the words off the paper, but I know I am an incorrigible editor. Exact syntax and punctuation are the details that bedevil me. Now that I've taken a class in body language, there's that, too. Sigh.

I'm reading "Blood Work" by Michael Connelly as the assignment for a class in mystery plotting. Next comes a class in middle school and YA writing. I hope I never stop wanting to learn.

You all keep on keeping on. I'll try to do the same.