I resolve.

iresolve

The prefect New Year's resolution. It hits on every aspect of my life.

Write more.

In my profession, I need to focus on writing with determination. Even on days when I don't want to. Even when I think what I'm writing is crap. Even when it won't be seen by another person. The only way to get better is to practice. Plus, writing makes me happy.

Eat less.

Even though I don't feel like I over eat, I somehow manage to gain ten pounds (or more) in a year. I know what I need to do, how to eat healthy, I just don't do it. This year, I am going to focus on eating smaller meals more often, and eating clean. I know better than to set an exercise goal in stone. I'll just ignore it. But, I can't ignore eating.

Read more widely.

I read 102 books in 2013, an accomplishment I'm happy with if not entirely proud of. I liked many of the books I read and even loved a few. But, overall I was reading less for enjoyment or enlightenment or education than for speed and numbers. Call me pretentious, or a book snob if you like, but I don't read for entertainment, or at least not primarily. Entertainment is a byproduct, not the goal.  I enjoy books best when I have learned something or felt something. With too many of the books I read this year, I learned and felt nothing. I was entertained, for sure, and that was fun and fine, but less than satisfying. In 2014, instead of setting a number goal, though arbitrarily I'd like to read one book a week, I want to read more widely. Books from other countries and cultures, specifically. More non-fiction and classics. I want books that will make me feel intensely - love, hate, anger, happiness, horror, astonishment, disgust. I want to read books that will stay with me days and weeks and years later. You know what? I think this goal will be more difficult than 100 books in a year.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't set the goal of being published. Of course that's a goal, but unlike these three whose attainment I control, so much of whether or not I'm published is out of my hands. I'll do whatever I can do make it happen, but the achievement of that goal doesn't rely solely on me or my actions. However, I firmly believe I will sign a publishing contract this year.

Do you set New Year's resolutions? If so, what are they?

On Writing - Starting from scratch

It's been a while since I've started a story from scratch. STILLWATER was a re-write of a NaNo novel from four years ago. PALO DURO was the completion of a novel I started in 2008. The sequel to STILLWATER I started last summer felt more like a continuation of the novel than a story from whole cloth.  (Duh, Melissa: it was a sequel.) Since November 1, I've been trying and failing to settle on a story. Doubts are starting to creep in. Will I ever be able to finish another MS? Is that it for me and creativity? Are those two MS as good as it's going to get? No. Of course not. But, the doubts, they've been a creeping lately. This morning, I finally figured out why.

My first drafts are horrible.

Maybe everyone's first drafts are horrible, but mine sure seem to be almost unreadable. There's lots of standing, staring, looking and moving. Tons of dialogue and very little narrative. True characterization or voice doesn't tend to kick in until about halfway through. I jump around, write scenes as I think of them, then inevitably have to completely re-work the scene or delete it all together. My writing mentor, Mark, jokes that I write 2 1/2 novels worth of prose before I settle on the story. He's right and it sucks. But, I can't seem to write any other way.

I know I will edit out all of the garbage, tighten it up and make it better. I know I should allow myself to write badly. But, it's hard to do that. Well, it's easy to write badly, that's become painfully obvious these past two months. It's hard to not worry myself to death about it. It's hard to make myself write in the beginning of a story, when the story hasn't solidified, the voice is weak and indistinct, when the flow just isn't there.  I have to force myself to write, to trust it will all come together, like it has before.

Until then, I cling to the encouragement of my friends and family, like this remark from my husband after reading John Grisham's new novel:

"It's not any better than yours. Wait. That didn't come out right."

"Do you mean, mine was a good as Grisham's?"

"Yes," he said, with a sigh of relief.

Good enough. I'll take it.

Classics Club Spin - The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

augie

I did not like this book. I did not finish this book.

I will never pick this book up again.

Besides not having enough story to keep me interested past page 60, Bellow describes every character in detail. In so much detail my mental snapshots were muddy, confusing and seemingly contradictory. These complex descriptions bogged down the narrative - what little narrative there was. So, I won't be checking this book off my 1001 Books list. I suppose it's in good company, with Moby Dick and Middlemarch.

In the good news department, I did learn something from what little I read:

In writing, less is more.

"Big secrets run deep." - STILLWATER website up and running!

Today I'm excited to announce the project I've been working on for the past couple of weeks is ready for public consumption!

I have created a website to promote my unpublished novel, STILLWATER.

Check it out, let me know what you think. Subscribe to receive news as I go through the publishing process. Comment to show potential publishers people are interested in the novel. Forward the link to your friends, family and social media followers.

Don't worry. I'm not going to spam you every day with posts about this website. Now that summer is officially over (I should probably go change out of these white capris) I will be posting semi-regularly here on the Swamp again about books, movies and fitness. Notice I've switched ice cream out with fitness. Self-explanatory, don'tcha think?

Working on the website was more fun than I expected. I tried to look at the novel from a place of ignorance: if I knew nothing at all about STILLWATER, what information would intrigue me and make me want to read this book? It was an interesting exercise with an unexpected consequence; my creative batteries are recharged. It also made me realize how much I miss my characters. I'm ready to get back to the sequel.

Which means enough with this post. Check out my website. I hope you like it as much as I liked creating it. And, don't forget:

Big secrets run deep.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow!

EK_0009

Mrs. Slaughter's second grade class, 1977-78. I am the blonde on the left, looking at the boy to the right. Mrs. Slaughter did not like me at all. My mom says I had stomach trouble the entire year. I'll take her word for it. Tomorrow is the first day of school and I am stoked and not because my kids will leave at 8 am and not return until 4:30 pm, though that much alone time sounds like Nirvana. As much as I joke about refereeing my sons' fights, they're good company most of the time. Of course, that's going to change pretty soon. My oldest is a freshman in high school and my youngest is in his first year in middle school. Attitude will be flying around here very soon. Don't worry; I stocked up on red wine and beer at the store yesterday. I'm ready.

When my boys leave for the first day of school, my excuses walk out the door with them. Honestly, there's never been an excuse or distraction I didn't like. Soon, though, nothing will stand in the way of my writing. I can get back into my routine and get back to work on my sequel. I'm ready. I miss my characters and Stillwater.

I haven't been totally unproductive. I'm working on a website for the manuscript my agent is shopping to publishers. It is a sort of hybrid; part book website, part author website since I'm 1) not comfortable focusing totally on myself, 2) haven't done much of note to warrant a website dedicated solely to me and 3) think my book is more interesting than I am. I should have it ready to go live in the next couple of weeks and will be asking for my followers here to check it out, give me feedback and follow me over there.

Today, I'm going to clear out my DVR so there will be nothing whatsoever to distract me.

Throwing caution to the wind and announcing some good news, a month later.

I've sat on this news for a little over a month because a part of me is afraid it was all a dream. That it is too good to be true. That an email with the subject heading, "On second thought..." would hit my inbox any day.

Read More

It's July! We are halfway to 2014 and it's National Ice Cream Month. Yea!

Actually, I'm not excited about 2014, but National Ice Cream month does excite me.  I wish it didn't because the pounds are creeping onto me again. They wouldn't if I would just Work Out like any sane forty something woman should do. But, I don't want to work out. Or run. Or eat better. I want to make ice cream and sit on my deck at 5 pm and drink a beer! Which is what I'm doing right now because it's 84 degrees at 5 pm on July 1 in Texas. That? Has never happened in my lifetime.

Hey, at least I'm drinking a Michelob Ultra.

Anyway. Three things are going to happen on the blog this month. One, I'm going to post every weekday. Two, I'm going to make ice cream and tell you all about it. Three, I'm going to read Historical Fiction and do a better job of writing reviews for each book. I'm going to have to if I want to post 23 times. I might even post about writing again since I haven't in a while. I've been a slacker for the entire month of June in the writing department but that stops tomorrow! I need to do a little revising of my MS then get back on the wagon with the sequel.

But, back to ice cream because, really. Ice Cream.

My first ice cream post will be about a fool proof, inexpensive chocolate ice cream recipe I found. Except nothing is fool proof when it comes to me and cooking. More on that later.

I want to find a banana pudding ice cream recipe because, really. Banana Pudding.

I also want to make Peach Ice Cream because, really. Peaches in the summer is nirvana.

What's  your favorite ice cream flavor? Do you make homemade ice cream? If not, why?

Also, unrelated to any of this: Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon was the stupidest movie I've ever seen, and I've seen my fair share of stupid movies.

On Writing - Having someone that will call you on your bullsh.

After write a lot and read a lot, Having Someone is the third hard and fast rule of writing. Why? Well, because we writers are an angsty, navel gazing lot. And, we spiral. Sometimes we run around and around the snow covered maze with a crazy, ax-wielding writer chasing us, chanting "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It is imperative we have someone we trust to pull us out of the land where confidence goes to die: our mind.

Read More

On Writing: When do I choose the gym over writing? Apparently at about 36,000 words.

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/337629962083393537 That was a week ago. I'm roughly 36,000 words into a 80,000 word novel and I'm stuck. I know where the end is, but how the hell to get there is the problem.

I've never been much of a plotter, unless knowing the beginning and the end before I start is plotting. Which it's not. In my mind plotting is a detailed outline of every itty-bitty thing that happens and strictly adhering to it. Just the idea of that makes my skin crawl. It works for countless people, but not me. My way works, but it isn't very efficient. I typically write 2 1/2 books worth of prose before I massage the story into the final form. Or maybe I push, pull, slap and throw it into form. Lord knows sometimes it feels like it.

The two MS I finished in the past year were technically re-writes, stories I started years ago and re-visited. By the time I polished the final drafts, I had jettisoned everything but the idea and the characters. The current MS is the first wholly original story I've worked on in two years and it's an idea I didn't have until I finished Stillwater.  This book is the first real test of what my style is, which is why I'm stuck. I want to make sure I know what happens before I keep going. I'm already a little worried that of the 36,000 words I've written, 10,000 or more will be re-written.  I do not want to write 2 1/2 books worth of narrative again. It's a ridiculous waste of time and energy. Maybe that is my writing style, but Lord I hope not.

I hoped writing about my block would break it. That's not happening. Instead, I'm about to take a break and go to the gym. You know I'm in desperate straits if I'm choosing the gym over writing.

Tomorrow I meet Mark and will beat him down with a bunch of woe is me complaining. He will slap me into shape and I will coerce him into brainstorming with me.

One day, dear reader, I will be able to write educational posts about writing that will assist new writers in achieving their goal. Unfortunately,  today is not that day.

(In the good news department, my spell/grammar check for this post turned up no misspellings or passive voice problems. Win!)