Tag Archives: writing

Popular!

1BH

When I was in 8th grade, the most popular girl in school approached me on the first day of classes and invited me to an event. My excitement must have showed because she kind of chuckled. It didn’t take long before we were BFFs and just like that, I was popular. In with the clique. On the fringes, for sure, but suddenly everybody in the school knew my name. One day, we were in my room, just hanging out, and she picked up my diary. “Where’s the key?”

I had written extensively about this girl and my thrill at being popular in this diary and would not allow her read about how much her friendship meant to me. Also, I might have said a few things I didn’t want anyone to know about my ever-changing love life. For whatever reason, I would not give her the key. She persisted. She got a little angry, even.

“Why can’t I see it?”

She was thinking the opposite of the truth. That I had written bad things about her. Nope. I had gushed out my gratitude for finally being accepted with the In crowd and my utter adoration of her. I thought she’d laugh at me and tell everyone all the details of my diary. That should have been my first clue that trouble was brewing.

I stayed semi-popular until I dropped out of that bitchy crowd to bond with a new group of friends who liked listening to music, smoking pot, and disdained the whole idea of “popular.” I stopped writing journalism and started writing poetry. In my head, I was beyond cool.

Something similar happened within the last few weeks. For ten years, every time I typed my name into Google’s search engine, there would be “A Writer’s Diary” right on top. Ahead of Virginia Woolf, from whom I’d borrowed my blog title. Ahead of a lot of people way more important than me. Just like with that popular girl suddenly deciding to befriend me, I couldn’t figure out “why me?”

But, again, like those feelings of old, it felt good. After awhile, I took it for granted, to be honest. I don’t know who follows my blog or how many or any of that stuff. I never wanted to know. But I got a little thrill when I periodically checked my name on Google.

Then a few weeks ago, I typed in my name and I was #5. After a film producer with my  name, assorted other Cynthia Harrisons had inexplicably leapt ahead of me. I thought about it for awhile and then shrugged. At least I was still on the first page. Then yesterday I checked again, typing in my name  as usual and ”A Writer’s Diary” was nowhere to be found.

My Twitter handle was there, a few reviews of my novels, my Amazon author page. But no blog. I thought about why this had happened. I have no clue, just like I had no clue why I was #1 when there were no such things as tags, I knew a little code, and swiped photos and ran hot links with abandon.

Finally, I had reached the goal I set for myself when I started my blog. I was a published author with five books. But I was less, not more, popular with Google. Seems like an ironic contradiction. When I was in junior high, it took me at least a year to figure out I didn’t need the In crowd. This time it took less than 24 hours to realize that, for me, Google ranking is not a big deal. And now I am going to check Bing:)

New Page “For Writers”

As you can see above, I’ve added a new page to the site. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and today I’m finally opening that page. Since I’ve started writing less about writing, I wanted to make sure writers seeking advice had somewhere to click.

♥ Writers, this is for you ♥

Having said that, I promise readers that I will post more fun extras on a regular basis for you. If you don’t write, and you don’t read my books, you’re probably a pal checking up on me to make sure I haven’t been buried under an avalanche of books. Not to worry! I’m alive and writing.

♥Readers, this is for you♥

A Gypsy tidbit I have not mentioned yet is why I chose that title. Talking with my BFF yesterday, I started telling her about a dream I had about Stevie Nicks. Don’t worry, I didn’t tell her the entire dream, as I know that dreams are only interesting to the person who has them. I get ticked off in novels if the author includes more than one dream. Okay, we know you want us to know something, but your character doesn’t know it yet, so she has a symbolic dream. Yawn. Anyway, I always loved Stevie, and even though the characters are Romany, I named the book Gypsy after her song.

#2240

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When you need to make an important decision but your head is chaos-ridden with yes, no, maybe, but, and if as well as and then that it’s difficult to see which direction to go. I had just such a quandary this morning. I needed to post an entry here because I need to write, and right now, today, a blog post is the quantity of words spilled and time spent will see me through until I can get more writing time. Because blogs are shortish and take less than an hour. Mostly.

So what to write about? There’s been this thorn in my side concerning “rules” ~ you know what I mean: Ten Things to Never Blog About, Ten Terms Bloggers Need to Know, Ignore These Blogging Musts at Your Peril. Articles, entries, posts, tweets, links, and rants with this type of instructional title used to grab my attention and then invariably cause misery as I realized that “Gee, I hardly ever post photos with my entries and it says here that photos are a must.”  And I could kill this darling “Don’t write about writing. Too many people are already doing it.” Yes, and I’m one of them. Sometimes I comfort myself with the ego boosting thought that I’ve been doing this for a long time. (See title. That’s my number of posts). Oh yes, and there’s the rule that titles need to mean something. Well, mine does, but you have to read a while to get it.

Tell it to Shakespeare. His editor (if he’d had one) would still tell him that “you can’t make an idiot say wise things, so strike out To Thine Own Self Be True  Polonius’s advice to his son.” But Bill is set on the phrase, argues for it, and Bill’s boss thinks, hmm, his last play didn’t do so bad, so says ”Go ahead, keep it. But give the speech to Hamlet.” Shakespeare is much older than I am and wrote more words. Also better words. Than anyone ever. I’m just saying. Someone somewhere would try to tell him how to do things better.

One of the wisest writing rules I’ve ever come across is “break every rule.” Both theme and title of Carole Maso‘s refreshing book on writing. As a writing teacher, and a person who has written a book about writing, this is something it doesn’t pay the bills to trumpet over the vastness that is the internet. But merely adding a few words: “Learn the rules, then feel free to break them” goes down much easier on teenagers who do not know why we still insist nevermind is two words. KC knew there were two words there. He didn’t care.

Without even realizing it, I’ve got a blog-sized post. (I read a rule they should be 250 words, but I think four or five paragraphs is respectable.) It was not what I intended to write about. I wanted to say that I know I made the correct decision not to leave my writing desk in the middle of March for a sunny vacation. I know this because when I woke up this morning, and sat at my desk, I was filled with joy.

More Lives

YOLO. I see it all the time and it is just not true. More religions and people in the world believe in reincarnation than not. We are here in our tight little world of Judo-Christianity or our dark sky of atheism and it’s all we see, but there is more. To a lot of people there is more. I can’t say I’ve reincarnated from another time or place, since I have not done a past life regression, but it’s possible. And that’s not the ‘much more than one life’ I’m talking about.

According to recent science, there’s the life you wake up to every day and the life you wake up FROM every day. And there are the lives you live if you are a writer. Ray Bradbury said our brains don’t know the difference between writing a novel or living those words.

Actors inhabit their characters to the point where they are that guy they’re playing. Then there are people who pass into other lives in other worlds. Like Gypsy. If you don’t believe in science: superstring theory and cosmologist’s recent findings of multiverses, they sound like magic. I never knew until I read about the science and became a character in a magical novel who experienced it.

The brain can’t tell between dreams and day life, and it can’t tell between a deeply imagined fictional life and one that looks like a person sitting at a desk or standing on a stage. So, how many books can you write? That’s how many lives you can lead.

Or maybe you don’t write or act but you have a rich fantasy life, maybe you enter into the you who you want to be and you meet the one you want to be with, who is not the guy snoring next to you. You’re lying on your bed, but you’re not.

Or you enter into the novel you’re reading so completely that you wake from it like a dream when your 21st century oven timer goes off in your dystopian adventure.

I’ve been playing make believe all my life. Most kids do. Adults do it too but we call it reading, or writing, role-playing. It’s real, baby. It’s all real. At least to your brain, and, you know, if the brain is dead, the person whose head it’s in is dead, too. Or maybe they’re just on to their next reincarnation.

The Mysterious Series

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There’s been quite a bit of activity on the part of my unconscious self, and I’m thinking today is the day I am reining in all that ‘intuitive’ business. I have tasks needed done now, rather than spending my days chasing down just exactly what I am doing with this paranormal series called “Traveling Girls.”

Everything I do with these books is out of sequence, disorderly, not my usual MO while writing a novel. First, I started putting up scenes from Gypsy, the mother of the series, on my blog. Then for Christmas, I put the entire book on my website for free. Happy Holidays! Next, I  once again interrupted the book of my heart, just days from its being finished, to indie publish Gypsy I haven’t done a lot of promo, but expected I’d give Gypsy some free days on Kindle at some point.

Then a chance meeting with my Gypsy cover artist the other day resulted in me telling him about what I’d heard regarding New Adult series. (If Gypsy is the mother book, the traveling girls are her NA offspring.) One of the things I heard about NA series is that readers like the covers the same, not exactly, but similar enough to be recognizable. James* said “I have the perfect cover for you.”

I didn’t even have a name for the second book yet, although I had pulled the manuscript out of the deep file it was buried in. So James and I did a bit of brainstorming and between us figured out how to fit “Traveling Girls” into the cover. I found my perfect title. The image is stunning, but really, a cover before a properly edited story? I just didn’t want him to sell it to anyone else. Once he sells a cover, he takes it off his “buy” shelf.

So I decided it would be fun to put the cover up as a blog post. Ha! I have this thing, I don’t know why, but many, many of my photos get cut off when I transfer them from my pictures to Word Press. I tried so many fixes, and my lovely friend Bodicia offered to help as hours were going by and I was not getting the image right.

I tried a few more things and presto! I had my blog entry. Just the new cover shot with the new book title, but I loved it. The title was at the bottom instead of the top, but that’s fine. Then I noticed my sidebar was blank. Oh dear. I went ahead and tried to correct it but when all came to nothing, took Bodicia up on her offer to help. She restored my book images and links as well as some other stuff.

I do have plans for this series that mysteriously inserted itself into my conscious mind, front and center, at a not-so-great time. Maybe it’s good cosmic timing. You will be hearing more about this paranormal series soon, but for now, I’m keeping it under wraps until I can wind up that book of my heart that I finally finished.

*If you’d like to inquire further about James and his work: aepbookcovers@gmail.com

Content is Queen

My heart sank a little at last weekend’s conference when Chuck Sambuchino, the keynote speaker, said he’d been writing, and steadily climbing the publishing ladder, for ten years.

I was first published in the ’80s, so that’s, uh, longer.

But Chuck did say something valuable, something I’d forgotten. He talked about how there is so much about being a writer we can’t control. We can’t control how our writing will be received by agents, editors, publishers, or reviewers. We can’t control rejection. We can’t control bad reviews. Novelists, unless they’re indie, can’t even control the cover that appears on their books. Bloggers can’t control page views or Google ratings or spammers or negative commenters.

The good news from Chuck is that there is ONE thing writers can control and it is the most valuable thing of all: our writing. We control the words on the page and there is no more heady feeling than that. We also control IF we decide to write. IF we put our butts in chairs and do it without getting distracted by Twitter. (Or is that just me?)

I took heart with Chuck’s words and as I revise my novel-in-progress, I vow to make those words the very best I can, because if they are good words, and good stories, people will notice. Content is Queen. It’s all we’ve got and it’s under our control.

Have Mini-Bar, Will Travel

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I’m going to a writer’s conference. Have not been to one is so long, well, except the one I worked on for DWW. Just as I like being a student more than a teacher, I like attending conferences more than planning them. So I am greatly looking forward to this. In fact, I’m packing a mini-bar because the hotel doesn’t have one.

Here’s a nice basic mini-bar menu: ice, martini shaker, martini glasses, toothpicks and blue cheese olives, vodka, teeny bottle of vermouth, wine, water, and espresso pocket coffee. When I pack a mini-bar, it’s not for drinking and driving. It is for arrival at destination when you just want to relax.

Al and I took a road trip last year and I got so sick we unexpectedly had to stop for the night in Kentucky. I could not eat or drink; I couldn’t even read. So Al went out for food and a beer, and came back to the news that we were in a dry county. When I pack a mini-bar for Al and myself, I always throw in a couple of those cute Crown Royal shots. He was cheered.

Today, my friend is driving, which takes the pressure off me. The weather is not cooperating at all, and it feels like the kind of day I’d rather stay home. We’re not leaving until late afternoon, so I’m hoping the sun peeks out at some point. The conference is a couple hours away, and  right now there’s a powdering dusting of new snow plus a kind of hazy fog. The drive, for her, might be a white-knuckle adventure. She will surely appreciate a martini when we arrive safely at our destination.

Writing Again

Finally, almost two weeks after I sliced my writing fingers open, I am back to writing. Had a serious pen and paper session that lasted a few hours and blasted through a block that has been with me for most of my life. Finally, I’ve started working on a memoir.

I still plan to indie pub Gypsy on December 26, so I’m keeping the free document up until then. I also aim to finish ‘the novel of my heart’ which is very close to done. This is the next book I’m sending to my publisher and my first attempt to publish women’s fiction. I imagine that this winter will be waiting and  editing, but also working on the memoir.

I don’t want to say anything else except I am writing a memoir that I plan to publish and it takes place in the space of five eventful years of my life. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Anyway, now I’m going to take those first scrawled pages and type them into a Word document.

It feels so good to be writing again.

Please Mister Postman

fall.dirt.photoI’ve been waiting patiently. Almost missed my BFN’s (best friend neighbor) birthday surprise. But, just in the nick of time, Mr. Postman came through. I live in a tiny town and everyone except me knows him by name. I think it’s Ron.

Love my dirt road even though Al refuses to wash my car anymore because I can’t help but drive down it. All the bright scarlet maple leaves have blown away after a windy storm, but’s it’s still so pretty.

I can’t get used to the fact that this is my town. And that these are my books. Every dream I’ve ever had and a few I never even considered has come my way. Well, there’s just one more thing. (There always is.) I want to finish and publish the book I’m working on now. It will happen. Just like everything else did, in its own good time.   print.books

After the books came, I quickly signed and wrapped a copy of Blue Heaven for BFN Jan. Her birthday was yesterday. We were both in the middle of cooking dinner, but I turned everything off for a sec and ran across the back yard to hand it to her. She took it and felt it and said “Is this your new book?” Jan has been reading my books since they were just manuscripts on typing paper. In fact, she read a few that were so bad I recycled them instead of trying to mend and publish. So of course I gift her my print books, even though she really needs a Kindle! In answer to Jan’s question, I said “You’ll have to open it and find out,” and then flew back across the yard to my own kitchen.

Another thing happened the same day the books came. I got an email from a fellow DWW member who invited any of us interested to take part in a book fair. So, I had bought these books pictured above as gifts for family and friends and now I am taking them to a book fair. Better get a new order in soon. And those of you who won my 11th Blog Birthday package, I will get the books out to you Monday. Better send my mom one, too. After I find the page with the consummation scene and warn her not to read it:)

How to be a Better Writer

For Jamie: What I learned when I dipped into the excellently delicious Outliers.

Malcolm Gladwell is such an engaging writer and his subject here–extraordinary people who are markedly different, more successful, way smarter–is fascinating. Gladwell investigates the variety of circumstances that separate the super-successful from average folk like me. Along the way, he piles on the cool facts. For example, I learned that to become a world-class expert in just about any field a person needs to put in ten years of really really hard work. They need to work three times as hard as the average person.

Another way to calculate those ten years is in hours. About 10,000 hours will yield “mastery associated with anything” including writing. Which got me thinking. How many hours have I put into writing over the years? From about age 23, when I wrote my first novel, to 33, I didn’t rack up a whole lot of hours writing. I had two babies and a house to keep. Then I had a divorce to get through and a remarriage to negotiate. I also started college. I figure those 10 years yielded probably 500 hours of writing. Pretty simple to see why I was not a success at my dream career.

From 33 to 43, I did a little better. My kids were older, my marriage was settling down into a stable union, and I wrote a lot for college. After I started teaching, I also wrote a novella every summer. I’d say those ten years likely yielded 1000 hours. Still way below the “New York is calling with a contract offer” limit.

So the first 20 years of my writing life, even though I loved writing and was passionate about wanting to be a writer, I had only accumulated 1500 hours of writing time. Not enough to be called a master by any stretch. In retrospect, I realize that I was just too busy living my family life and figuring out how to be a good teacher.

Then something wonderful happened. I found a window of time, five years exactly, when I was able to write every day for three hours a day. By this time my kids were out of college and on their own. My husband has always been low maintenance. We were in a good financial position, and I felt so ready. With Al’s blessing, I took a break from teaching and totally devoted myself to writing. I wrote several novels during this time, started my blog, reviewed on average 10 books a month for Romantic Times. I treated writing like a real job and many, many days I clocked well over three hours at my computer. I’m averaging it out, because I know some days I only worked an hour or two. That five year period gave me 5500 writing hours.

Believe me, I saw my ability jump. I could actually tell that I was getting better. A lot better. Still, at 7,000 writing hours clocked, I wasn’t anywhere near the 10,000 hours I needed to become an “expert.” And a few years ago, the economy started to shift, and I went back to work. But an amazing thing happened when I returned to teaching. I kept up my three hours a day output. It was a habit I loved, and I made time for it. Again, some days I’d work eight hours straight and others I’d work one or two, but on average I added another 4500 hours, to put me at 11500 hours, well over the 10,000 mark.

When I figured this out last night I was so amazed I immediately subtracted two weeks vacation for nine years. Still at 10,000 hours. Of course, this doesn’t mean I’ll get a great publishing contract or a promotion at Publishers Weekly. It doesn’t even mean anybody will want to read my blog. It just means I put in the time it takes to master my craft. Sure, it took me thirty years instead of ten, but every single hour has been a total pleasure.

*Reprinted from a 2008 blog post. Betcha I’ve got another several thousand words under my belt by now. Also a publisher!