More changes

I haven't posted lately because I've been swamped. First off, as you can see, my website is different. For some reason, the other template decided to quit working with some of the plugins I wanted to use in the future. So part of my being too busy to post was me redoing my website. I'm quite fond of the new look and layout, so I guess it was time well-spent. And maybe I should thank the other layout for crashing?

I've also been busy with the big change that prompted all of this. As of October 1st, I will be an indie author (independent, self-published, and whatever other names there are for it). After an amicable parting with my current publisher, I've been busting my butt, trying to get everything ready to re-release Alaskan Healing.

I found an artist to design a new cover. Isn't it awesome? (Thank you, Lori Gnahn!)

I learned how to format for CreateSpace, so you'll still be able to purchase a bound copy of the book. I also learned all about epublishing, so Alaskan Healing will be available on a variety of ebook platforms.

The past two weeks, I've been proofreading, editing, and making minor changes to Alaskan Healing. The story is the same, some words are different, a few grammatical errors were corrected, and some punctuation issues have been rectified. I have read every word of this book five times in the past two weeks.

As you look at the cover, you'll see that there's a new line, "An Alaskan Healing Novel." Yes, there's going to be more than one. As previously mentioned, I'm working on Alaskan Hope, which I hope will be ready by Spring of 2013.

I know that's a long time to wait for a book from an author if you really like the author, but don't worry. I intend to have a different book out by December 1st, so you can buy a copy for yourself as a gift for the holidays. It's not a member of the Alaskan Healing Family, but I think you'll enjoy it still.

I'll do my best to keep you entertained.

 

Scrivener Revisited

Okay. I admit it. I was wrong. I'm not 100% sold yet, but I'm still playing with Scrivener and I've found some features I really like that are not available on OneNote. Word count. I love knowing how many words I have in a document. In OneNote, I had to use an Add-on to get word counts, and it still only counted the words on each page, there was no way to count how many words in the "draft" section of my notebook. Scrivener does word counts.

scrivener_text_statsText statistics (click on the picture to see it larger). Scrivener has the ability to tell me how many times I've used each word in a document. As a few people who have read my drafts know, I tend to have a LOT of bobble-heads who like to pat each other and shrug. In Scrivener, I can see that I used "shrug" 78 time in the first chapter and "nod" was used 24 times in the second paragraph.

Targets. It's nice to set a target word count for each scene and see a bar graph change colors as I get closer to reaching my goal.

Corkboard. And everyone's favorite feature of Scrivener, the corkboard, is awesome for rearranging scenes! I assigned a different color label for each of my plot lines and can visually see when all the "red plot lines" are bunched together instead of spread through the entire story. The same could be done with perspectives to see if Character A has more scenes told from their perspective than Character B in any part of the story.

Cross-platform compatibility. I can open my Scrivener projects on either of my computers and make changes. Some features are only available on the Mac version right now, but it's nice to know I can use either of my computers, as long as I keep the files up-to-date on Dropbox (or a similar online storage site). I'm currently using the trial version on both my iMac and my Windows 7 laptop.

If you have the same type of desktop and laptop, you can use the same license for both. If you have different operating systems on your desktop and laptop, you'll have to decide whether it's worthwhile to you to purchase a license for each. Scrivener does provide directions for syncing with SimpleNote on an ipad.

These are just the features that I used over the weekend and really loved. I saw some other stuff in the menus that I think I'll like, but will wait to comment on those until after I've used the feature.

Don't take my word for it, download your own trial version and see what you think. It's available for both Windows and Mac now! Just don't give up if the tutorial confuses you, like I almost did.

And if you decide to buy, S.M. Worth has a coupon code on his blog for 20% off. He also has lots of other great stuff!

Time to write

Once I have my idea and an outline, I start writing. I've used different software for my rough drafts, but I essentially do it the same way no matter what software I use. Often, I don't write my novels chronologically. I just pick something from my outline that I feel like writing and I write. When I run out of ideas for that scene, I pick another one and I write it. Sometimes when I'm writing, I think of another scene or occurrence that I want to include. I continue in this way until all of my listed scenes are written.

Then I let the story sit for a bit and go back to read through my list of scenes. When I did this with Alaskan Hope, I realized I just have one plot line. It's boring; you don't learn anything about any of the supporting characters and there's only one problem the main characters are trying to solve. It's repetitive. No one wants to read 200 pages about a pair of characters trying to overcome one problem.

I moped. For twenty-four hours, I beat myself up about how awful this idea was and how no one would be interested in reading it. I had to do something to make the story entertaining. I found myself back at the pre-writing stage, brainstorming ideas that I could use to add depth and interest to my story (aka "how to make my characters suffer").

After deciding what "problems" my characters would have to solve, I then made lists of the steps in each of those problems. I've interspersed those "plot points" into my original outline and will be writing those scenes. So while I said the rough draft was done, it's currently only about half done.

Starting Monday, I'm participating in September's Book-in-a-week challenge. My goal is 50 pages of rough draft. That will be about a third of the remaining scenes I need to write for Alaskan Hope.

Why do I write?

I write so I can buy more office supplies. (I love pens and notebooks.) I write so my husband remains my husband. (I'm not pleasant to live with if I'm not writing.)

I write to escape reality, even just for a few minutes.

I write to relax.

I write for the invigoration of finishing a scene, a chapter, a book.

I write to introduce other people to my imaginary friends.

I write to experience the many things that intrigue me.

I write because I'm alive.

 

Why do you write?

Scrivener or OneNote

Are you contemplating whether to purchase Scrivener to plan and write your novel on Windows? You may already have OneNote on your computer. So which should you use, Scrivener or OneNote? I tried Scrivener again last night. I couldn't even make it through the tutorial before I was confused beyond words. I hear there are some neat features on it, but I'm going to stick with OneNote and Word.

Believe me, it's hard to say that since I'm normally not a Microsoft fan. Am I the only one who isn't impressed with Scrivener? I just might not be smart enough for Scrivener.

Edited: I've been revisiting Scrivener and may be changing my mind as I get more comfortable with it.

Idea creation

I've used different methods of coming up with ideas over the years. When I used to write every day, and had lots of story ideas, most of my ideas came from my dreams. I'd wake up and wonder, "What happened to that guy/girl/dog who chased me through the corn field/pushed me down the stairs/joined me in the shower?" So I'd write what I remembered of the dream then just write whatever came to me. I was just writing the story so I could learn what happened. I enjoyed this method as it was fun for me to learn the story as I went along. However, it wasn't very organized. Sometimes I'd end up with an entire notebook full of words, but it didn't have a plot or any real point. However, I learned more about my characters and if I really wanted to, I could consider those stories prewriting now and pick the kernels from the chaff and outline it into novels. I started Alaskan Healing for a class I was taking online with the wonderful Loree Lough in 2006. It was the night before the class started and I was supposed to have an idea to work with. I'd procrastinated and procrastinated some more, thinking, "Damn. I hope an idea shows up otherwise this class is going to be a waste of money."

Grumbling about my muse's refusal to cooperate, I sat my butt on the couch to watch tv with my husband, he flipped the channel to Deadliest Catch and I said to myself, "I wonder why there aren't any women on any of the boats."

Aha! I had my idea. Thank you, Ms. Muse.

I wrote the rough draft of the hockey novel I am currently revising (no title so far) during National Novel Writing Month in 2006. I followed part of the Snowflake Novel Writing Method, but the initial idea came from watching too much hockey. (Blasphemy! There is no such thing as too much hockey!)

In August (2012), when I finally started working on Alaskan Hope (the next Alaskan Healing novel), I wasn't sure what I wanted to write. I had a good idea who my characters were going to be, but not what they were going to do. I used Freemind mind mapping software to get a bunch of ideas on paper/screen and sorted through those ideas to find the main "what happens to them" of the story.

 

There have been other various ideas between the hockey novel and Alaskan Hope, but I don't know that they'll ever amount to anything, so I didn't mention them in this post.

My writing method

  For anyone wondering how I write, the answer is simple: haphazardly.

For years, I've just sat down with my pen and paper and started scribbling, not really caring whether it amounted to anything presentable. I wrote to entertain myself.

I'd say I was quite prolific. I wrote an entire story in one weekend, multiple times. But, they would take a LOT of work to ever become presentable. I tried outlining things, but never enjoyed it. I wrote so I could learn what happened to my characters. The story unfolded as I wrote.

With the constraints I have on my time (full time job, two children under the age of 3, two dogs, three cats, various hobbies, husband, etc) I can't just muddle around until the story reveals itself and I feel inspired to write. I need some sort of plan to get me to the point where my fans have something to read and quit hounding me for a few minutes. (Just teasing. I love to be hounded. It makes me feel like my stories are enjoyed.)

Here's a quick look at the method I've developed so far. (Yes, I know it's not the order recommended by most "how to write a novel" books.

  1. Idea
  2. Outlining
  3. Rough draft
  4. Character sketches
  5. Setting info
  6. Add details to rough draft
  7. Revise until I'm happy
  8. Proof
  9. First reader
  10. Edit
  11. Proof
  12. Shove that baby bird out of the nest and pray it flies (to the bestseller list)

I'll expand on each step in the future, explaining how it worked for Alaskan Healing, and other novels I'm currently working on.

How does your method differ from mine? I'm always looking for new ideas to adapt to my process.

 

 

Another relic from the Trunk O' Writing Junk

Here's another assignment from high school. What's with teachers thinking it's a good idea to write about childhood experiences? I suspect my teacher was trying to decide whether I was a smart ass or if she should have called Child Protective Services. Again, I posted it with all the mistakes that were in the copy I found in the Trunk O' Writing Junk. (I previously posted another "childhood memory" that I had to write about in high school.) A Weekend to Remember

"Everybody get into the damn car. Now!" Dad screamed angrily. It was stunning and totally unbelievable. We were on our way to Minneapolis to see Grandmother and Dad's temper was trying to run away before we even got out of the yard. I could tell that it was going to be a weekend that I'd never forget.

We were out of the driveway and approximately two minutes down the road before my brother started fighting with me. Two minutes was a new record for us, we usually started fighting as soon as we got into the car.

"You're on my side of the seat. Get away from me."

"No, you're smaller than me. My legs are all cramped up. I'm just going to stretch my legs out on your side. Okay?" My older brother replied. I could see his point, the back seat of a two-door Escort isn't exactly room, but why should I be nice to him? He always picked on me.

"No! Get away from me. My legs are cramped too. You don't see my feet on your side of the floor. Do you?"

"Of course not. Your legs are so short, they barely reach the floor on your own side," he insulted. I couldn't think of a quick reply so I decided that action was probably the best policy. As I was trying to physically remove his feet from my side of the floor, he slugged me in the arm and killed all the feeling to my right arm. Screaming and whining, I did my very best to get him into trouble. "Dad, he hit me."

"Well then you probably deserved it," my wonderful father retorted.

As Mom turned around in her seat she gave us a tired look. "Can you two please try to behave?"

Dad was still grumbling, but for once it was aimed at someone other than me. He asked if Mom had remembered a map so we could find Grandmother's new apartment.

My brother, the five year old know it all, replied in a nauseating sweet voice, "No. Did you?"

"I don't want to hear another sound out of either of you until we get to your Grandma's," he yelled as he turned around to glare at us. "And if I do hear another sound from your two mouths, I'm going to turn this car around and go straight home."

"Hey, pay attention to the road," screeched Mom. "Are you trying to kill us?"

"Who's driving this damn car? Me or you?" he screamed right back. "Can't you control those little brats of yours?"

"They're your kids too," she tried to share the blame of our existence.

"No, they aren't! I just disowned them. I don't know which animal shelter you found them at, but I wish to hell that you would have just left them there." After hearing that, I started to bawl. I was sure that they were going to take us to some animal shelter and trade us in for a pet donkey.

Mom tried to comfort me and explain that Dad was just joking, but it wasn't very convincing to my three-year-old mind. It might have convinced me if Dad hadn't been screaming at the top of his lungs, "You better shut up back there or I'll give you something to really cry about."

I glanced over at my brother and saw that he was making faces at the back of Dad's seat. As I watched, I tried to imagine what effect the snapping gum in my brother's mouth was having on Dad. I decided that his short temper was probably pretty close to snapping and that big vein in his forehead was about to pop.

"I'm sick of hearing you chew your cud like a stinking cow, boy. If you don't knock it off, I'm going to rip your leg off and beat you to death with the bloody stump. And there's not going to be a damn thing you can do about it."

After that last threat we decided it was probably best to shut up before he killed us. So we quickly zipped our lips and settled down.

"See, Dear, all you had to do was ask nicely," my mother pointed out in a rather helpful way.

It was a rather quiet weekend since Dad wouldn't talk to any of us and none of us wanted to visit Grandma anyway. There's one more reason that I'll never forget that weekend, it was the last time we ever took a family trip.

Can an author write in multiple genres?

As I was going through things the other day (notebooks, CDs, printed drafts from 5 computers ago, etc) I found some stories I wrote that I still like. Most of them are in the rough draft stage, but I'm not sure anyone would want to read them. I'm curious what you guys think when you start reading a book by an author you like (because hopefully you all like me) and it's not like the previous book(s) you've read by that author.

Do you feel let down because they changed things on you? Or is it okay? Should an author stick to one genre or can they have books in slightly different genres? Can I go from Alaskan Healing to characters who time travel? Or believe in reincarnation? Or what if they practice magick (and it really works)?

Am I going to annoy people if I write books with different elements (that some people don't believe in)? Or should I use a pen name for them? Because, yes, they will be written. However, I only have so many ideas for pen names, and I'm not sure that all of my ideas fit into any one category.

 

**To clarify, my story ideas will only be published as novels. Short stories scare the crap out of me. I ramble too much to have short stories. Even if I refer to it as a "story", I mean really really rough draft of a novel that needs to be expanded into a novel.

Cleaning house

If you've ever been to my house, you may have seen some antique steamer trunks in various places. (We actually only have two in use in this house, the others are in storage.) One of them is full of shoes and doubles as a bench in the entry way. The other day, I went through it and donated a bunch of shoes to Goodwill since the shoes no longer fit. The other trunk is hiding in the corner of the living room, behind the kids' toybox. In there are 15 years of accumulated scribbles. Notebooks, multiple revisions of various stories are in there. I'm not sure why I've kept them all this time, but I really like looking at my scribbled up pages.

Today, I reached my writing goal earlier than normal, so I decided it was time to start sorting that out.

So far, I've scanned four stories scribbled on notebook paper, one story that's 90 pages long (typed yet not saved in my backups), and a couple of pages of ideas I'd scribbled and never developed. My goal is to clean out the trunk, yet have everything I can't part with stored on CDs. That'll free up the Trunk O' Writing Junk" for other purposes.

What about you? Do you have boxes and boxes of paper that you can't bear to part with?

Friday fun!

It's Friday! Got a question for me? Leave it in the comments. Just about anything goes.

Here's some answers so you don't have to ask the standard questions.

Married for 15 years. Two human children. Two spoiled Dogues de Bordeaux. Three antagonistic heathen cats. Computer programmer by day. Winter is my favorite season. Rolling Rock, Jose Cuervo, and Sailor Jerry are my favorite alcoholic beverages. (Not mixed together) Northwestern Wisconsin.

GO!

Something old...

This my husband's favorite piece of my writing. He read it when we were dating and still married me.   

I don’t get along very well with my grandmother. Some people find this odd, but I feel that I have very good reasons not to like her. I’ll let you be the judge.

On a bright, warm, summer day when I was seven, my grandmother was babysitting my brother and me. She’d been babysitting us for a week already because my mom and dad were on vacation.

My brother and I were playing outside. We ran around the house screaming and yelling, and as normal, we were fighting. Around noon, Grandmother called us in the house to eat lunch. I knew it was going to be something extremely gruesome. Probably something like broiled catfish heads with rotten, moldy spinach as a sided dish. Yuck! I didn’t want to eat whatever concoction she had cooked, so I just pushed around what I thought were eyeballs. Finally she said, “There are starving children in Africa that would appreciate this meal.”

“Yeah, well you can send them mine. I’m sure I won’t mind,” was my brilliant seven-year-old reply.

“You are an ungrateful little brat. You will eat this delicious catfish, the tender spinach and drink this ice tea flavored with chilled goat’s blood. Or you will sit in that chair for the next four weeks until your parents return,” the old bat replied.

I must admit, it was a rather uneventful four weeks sitting in that chair, staring at the poor bulging eyes in the little catfish head, as it turned green with age. Grandmother only let me leave the table to use the bathroom.

One day when I was in the bathroom, I took a drink of water. When Grandmother heard the water running, she broke down the door with one of my father’s axes. She then proceeded to lash my back fifty times with a stalk of rhubarb while screaming, “You’re not allowed to drink anything until you finish your tea and catfish.”

Since she had crushed my spine, I was no longer able to sit in the chair by my own power. She tied me upright in the chair with piano wire, rather tightly – I have scars on my arms where the wire cut through my skin. I thought it was great because my head drooped. I didn’t have to gaze at the pile of mold and maggots crawling on my plate anymore. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Grandmother was the queen of problem solving.

“Ah ha. A simple hangman’s noose hung from the light fixture should hold her head at the proper angle,” I heard her mutter as she cooked my brother’s breakfast one morning. She was so excited by the thought, she ran out of the house and hopped into her Amish buggy pulled by her mule, Doreen.

They trotted down to the store to buy a standard length of baling twine. After they made their purchase, Doreen galloped home with Grandmother bouncing along behind in the Amish-mobile. When she arrived, she hung my head with great pride.

My poor younger brother starved to death because Grandmother was too busy torturing me to feed him. I would have starved too, but it turned out that I was quite the escape artist. I escaped every night and ate potato chips and drank pop while the wart-covered hag was asleep.

When I was nine, Grandmother came back for a visit. Gee. Why wasn’t I as excited as my parents about her impending arrival?

As Grandmother waddled up the sidewalk, I told my mother that I had died. It wouldn’t be proper for a dead person to eat at the table with an old, smelly woman. I thought it was a great solution. I was wrong.

Grandmother decided to cook me some graveyard stew. It would make me feel better, she said and trotted outside. I stood in the door and saw her crawling around in the back of her buggy, with her large rump sticking up in the air.

All of a sudden, I saw all sorts of things flying out. Roast pig tongue, I think. There were some cheese puffs floating through the air when I heard her exclaim, “Ahh. Yes. Just what I was looking for. My famous toenail collection. Now if only I could find that bag of toadstools and night crawlers.”

At this point, I was ready to regurgitate my latest meal. I ran back to the kitchen and begged my mother to kill me. “I’ll die if I have to eat that. Just kill me now, Mommy.”

“No. I want you to suffer first,” was her unkind reply.

Grandmother concocted her famous graveyard stew. I watched with great dread as she poured two cups of blood into a small saucepan. Then she dumped in half a cup of the toenail clippings.

“But, Grandma. There’s fuzzy stuff in there,” I tried to point out.

“Toe jam. It’s good for you,” she replied calmly. “Add six of those night crawlers and nine toadstools now.” She boiled it for ten minutes, tied me to the hooks my parents had installed on the floor for just this purpose and poured the bubbling vomit down my gullet.

Needless to say, I have learned to be away from home when Grandmother visits now. I broke my leg with a baseball bat one time so I’d be in the hospital when she was at my house. Another time I sawed three of my fingers off with an electric knife. Now, I just say that I have to work.

I wrote this in high school for an assignment in Creative Writing. We were supposed to write about a childhood experience. We never did anything fun or exciting when I was a child. If you're curious, I aced the assignment. I haven't edited anything (other than a name to protect the innocent), just pulled it out of the "Trunk O' Writing Junk."

Microsoft OneNote

I've never been a fan of Microsoft or their products. However, I have a new laptop with Windows 7 on it because my MacBook Pro died and I couldn't justify spending a couple grand on a new MBP when I have a nice iMac (I'm quite loyal to Apple products.) Anyway, I'm quite happy with my $500 Lenovo ThinkPad, but I needed a few things to ensure I can get things done. Among those things was Microsoft Office. Whether I like it or not, there are times where it's needed (spreadsheets for my "day job", opening other people's documents, etc).

In the Windows version of Office 2010 is a piece of software I've never even heard of before, OneNote. Holy mother of God! I AM IN LOVE!

I don't even think it can be described, but it's like a 3-ring binder with all kinds of capabilities. So far, I haven't even tested them all, but egads am I hooked. So far tonight, I've created a list of scenes, which all link to separate pages where the rough draft can be typed. I have a list of characters which links to separate character profiles, and a list of settings that link to separate setting worksheets.Everything is stored in one place. If I want to see how many words I have in each scene, I just look at the master list of scenes. If I want to see what color eyes Joe Blow has, I just click on the tab that says "Character Profile - Joe Blow" which I created. I don't have to change what I keep track of to fit other people's worksheets. I just create it how I want it done.

I also found a map of the area I'm writing about, copied the graphic to another page in my OneNote program, and I can go in and mark up the map. Now I'll remember that Joe lives next door to Jane Doe, which happens to be 3 blocks north and 2 blocks west of the bar where they met.

Really. I cannot believe that I'm so in love with this software. I've tested various software specifically designed for writing novels and I've always been disappointed, or overwhelmed to the point where I give up.

I was going to buy an iPad for reading ebooks and revising electronically instead of printing tons of revisions, but because of this program, I'm leaning toward buying a Windows slate. And when my iMac dies, I'll replace it with a Windows desktop system.

Of course, as soon as I replace all my Apple electronics, Microsoft will make OneNote available on the Mac operating system.

Progress

I just spent about 7 hours in the truck with two kids and my husband. My husband drove and I entertained the kids for the first half of the trip. It wasn't very pleasant with the cranky monsters, but I did some pre-writing and made progress getting reacquainted with my characters. Yes, I admit it. This book (working title: Alaskan Healing Sequel), Alaskan Hope, has some of the same characters as Alaskan Healing. I'm not sure I'd call it a sequel, since it doesn't have the same main characters. Don't worry though, it's based in Alaska, and the main characters in this book were in Alaskan Healing.

On the return trip the kids slept, my husband drove, and I got most of an outline worked out, plus some ideas for future books. (I guess it's a good thing my hubby hates to be a passenger and does most of the driving when we go anywhere together.

Crazy as it is, I even bounced some ideas off my husband and he gave me an idea. When I first heard his idea I said (to myself), "Nah, that wouldn't work at all." But then I started thinking about it and it WILL work.

It'll work great plus give an unexpected twist to the story.

Now I'm thinking I need to plan a long road trip for every weekend. And maybe I should talk to my husband more.