Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writer's Block Anyone?

Do you ever have writer's block. You don't have to be writing a novel to have it. My blogs have suffered lately, but I confess it's more from working on other projects than the inability to think of something to write. But what about emails to your friends - or business letters - or, in the world of social media, responses to the Facebook posts of your friends. We all suffer from it at one time or another.

Although I'm making a lot of progress on Book #2, I'm finding that I'm getting stuck pretty often. I wrote Book #1, Sweet Tea and Southern Grace, in what I thought was a pretty unconventional way - just writing scenes as I thought of them. It worked reasonably well, but it was a bugger to go back and put it in chronological order! There was an awful lot of filling in to do and making sure the apple cart wasn't in front of the horse.

This one I've written straight through from Chapter 1 through now (Chapter 19).  I can see there are pros and cons whichever way you decide to do it. As far as keeping up with the events unfolding in the story, I'm finding writing straight through to be beneficial, but I feel as if I'm losing something in the process.

This morning I read a bit of advice from award winning author, Richard Ridley. Hmm...maybe I'll go back to my old method of writing after all. I think my create juices flow a little better that way. Thankfully, I am way ahead of schedule, so I can go back and expound on the little areas that need help. Here's what Ridley has to say:

"There is no law that requires you to write a story chapter by chapter in the order in which it will be read. You are free to write the book out of order. Don't force yourself to muddle through a chapter just because you want to get to the next part of your book. Simply leave the chapter unfinished and move on to the next chapter. 
Writing in a non-linear fashion may be just the thing to finally cure your writer's block."

How do you write? Linear or non-linear? I would love hear what works best for you. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Breath of Spring

Good morning to my blogging friends! It's such a beautiful day in the Carolinas today, I thought I would share a few photos of Spring blossoms in our yard.

Above is a flowering cherry tree beside our house. I love to sit under it and look up at the cloud of white and pink blossoms - and it's fragrance is heavenly!

Picture above and below: I was checking out my rose bushes and noticed a splash of orange up underneath and behind one. I don't remember planting this. I think it's a tulip that has flattened out. If it is, it's much more beautiful this way than holding tightly to it's petals. Such a breath of sunshine hiding under a bush!

 Using my lens to get an upclose view of my neighbors flowering trees in her yard through my iron headboard "gate".

Can't remember what this little bush is called, but the flowers look a little like Baby's Breath.

And I love the wild violets that spring up everywhere in our yard.

The yellowbell bush.

I was hiding in the yellow bell bush, trying to sneak a peak at the pair of birds building a nest in this bluebird house. They certainly aren't bluebirds!

Got a great shot of this little guy with nesting material in her mouth! You can enlarge this last picture by clicking on it.  It's definitely Spring when the birds and the bees get busy.

Hope wherever you are, you're enjoying some nice Springtime weather too! Have a beautiful weekend!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Words on a page

While winter is protesting its change into Spring, I'm working on the sequel to Sweet Tea and Southern Grace in the comfort of a padded office chair in a warm house with Banana Nut Bread in the oven. The timer says ten minutes left, and the aroma tells me that in exactly ten minutes, I'll be ready for a break from writing. The thoughts of a big slice with a glass of cold milk keeps me plodding forward..

Sometimes when I look at what I've written, I just see words on a page. My fingers are flying trying to capture the words ahead of me, not behind me - the words coming out of the mouths of my characters so fast that if I don't get them down on paper, they'll dissipate right there in front of me - and they won't come back no matter how hard I coax them. At that moment, everything thing behind them are just random words all thrown together, but when I finish with a page, a paragraph, a chapter or a book, the words are no longer just words. They're a story - a sense of accomplishment.

Good night, my friends. The oven timer is calling me.


Friday, March 14, 2014

"Shades" of Blue

We live in a 1920's home with a huge converted attic - about 900 square feet of space that is now our guest bedroom with a large sitting area, a bathroom, a large closet and front and back dormers - one of which I've been wanting to convert into a small reading nook with a window seat and some bookshelves. It has a double window which is a little off center for some unknown reason, so I was hoping to do a wall-to-wall roman shade for the window covering - and I want my favorite color, blue. I finally found the look I want - I think. Oh, there are so many shades of blue! It was mind-boggling to see them all when trying to pick the right shade....for the shades. Check out this below:

Photo courtesy of CoCoCozy.com

It's perfect - even with the built in book shelves! Blue, blue and more blue! North and South Carolina inhabitants are in love with the color blue. From our Carolina Blue skies to North Carolina's finest basketball teams' colors, Carolina and Duke, we just can't seem to get enough of it. As I was thinking about all the shades of blue, I started looking at all my digital snapshots I've taken recently. Nature is full of my favorite color. I hope you'll enjoy the "blues" - not sad blues, but happy blues in the photos below.

This was taken at our vacation place at the beach - overlooking the Lockwood Folly River near Holden Beach, North Carolina. I love how the blue of the ocean and the blue of the sky is separated by the golden marsh grass.
Marshland blues
The one below was taken on a recent trip to the North Carolina mountains near Boone. 

Mountain Blues

I took this photo just yesterday. The background of our South Carolina blue sky brings out the crisp fresh plum tree blossoms - one of our first signs of Spring.

Spring Blue

I took this last summer on the beach at Holden Beach, North Carolina. I love how the shades of blues in the beach cabanas and the ocean make our Carolina blue sky pop!
Beach Cabana Blues

A little different beach blue below! The shades of pink in the setting sun separates the gray-blues of the sky as the clouds roll in from the West and the surf, sand, and sea reflect its glory.
Beach Sunset Blues

I love to make bird photos and this lovely little bluebird was polite enough to pose for a wonderful winter blue photo op during our recent February snowstorm. Here in South Carolina, we don't get a lot of snow, but when we do, we get out and enjoy it!

Winter Blues

The next two photos are "Family Blues". My teenage granddaughter was having fun dressing up for a costume party representing the sixtie's.  The other photo is of three of my favorite people all dressed in blue for Father's Day last year - my hubby, and our two daughters.

Peace sign blues
My girls and their Dad dressed in Blue

And finally, the reason I haven't blogged much in the last year. The blue shade of color on the cover of my newly released book! The cover photo of the blue porch with the cozy rockers was taken at a local estate, The Ivy Place. Sweet Tea and Southern Grace is available at Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback. A Christian / Southern novel and it's my favorite shade of "blue".

Hope you've enjoyed my happy blues today. Now I need to start planning my reading nook!

Blessings to all of you as you participate in Kathryn's Anything Blue Friday over at The Dedicated House.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Magic of Christmas

Over the years I have tried to capture the magic of that long ago Christmas, when against all odds, I received a bike from Santa. Each year, I wait until everyone is in bed and turn off all the lights except for the tree.  I sit in my favorite chair and gaze at the soft lights glowing from the strands, wrapping it from head to toe, and I ponder the angel that sits at its top.  I inhale the fragrance of fresh cut evergreens decorating the mantel and winding up the staircase. I conjure up memories of Christmases past, and they come back to me in bits and pieces – sometimes bringing with them images of those I’ve loved and lost.  My mother is always there because she loved the glitz and glitter and passed it down to me.  My Daddy’s there too, with me riding on his back, trudging through the woods with ax in hand, searching for the perfect tree. I dig deep into the memory shelf and almost grasp it, but I can only hold onto it for a second and then it’s gone. I know I should be happy for that fleeting second, but I long for more and I've always been a little despondent when Christmas is over.

Tonight as I sit in front of the tree, I find myself finally content with the present Christmas. Sure, the tugging of the heart as I search the memory shelf is still there causing me to catch my breath with wonder. And yes, there’s still a bit of longing for the child in me to surface and hear the faint sound of sleigh bells ringing and the sound of reindeer landing on my roof. I still see the excitement in the eyes of my children on Christmas morning after Santa had visited, and had somehow provided all the things they had asked for no matter what our financial situation at the time.

I have always known the Christ side of Christmas and embraced it – the Savior who was born in a stable in Bethlehem. I've reverently observed the holiday as a Holy Day. But I’ve often tried too hard for the glitter to fill me with wonder, rather than the Christ Child. But glitter is only flaky little bits of fluff drifting in and out of your heart without filling it. I realize that what truly fills my heart is the love that I have for my family and friends…and the hope and promises that came with the babe in a manger - and Christmas is no longer a let-down when the day is done.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sweet Tea and Southern Grace

Exciting things are happening.  The novel I've been working on is finished and it's due out on Amazon and in some bookstores on or about January 3, 2014. You can't believe how incredibly happy I am to have it finished.  This is a  preview of the front cover design - it will be a little more polished in publication, but it's nice to have a sneak peak!

Good conversation and the consumption of many glasses of iced tea took place while rocking on this porch in my story. The building of friendships, a little gossip and a budding romance make this an intriguing place to be in the little village of Park Place, South Carolina.

There's just something about front porches and rocking chairs in charming little Southern towns that creates the perfect setting for whiling away the afternoons sharing large pitchers of iced tea and idle gossip among friends.  The front porch in this photo belongs to a home in my community built in the 1850's. My friends Terry and Genie Graham graciously allowed me to take photos for the cover on the front porch of The Ivy Place, their home and venue for weddings and other events. All the while I was writing my book, it was this porch that I imagined - it overlooks their magnificent period flower gardens.

A little bit about the book:

Park Place, South Carolina is an idyllic, sleepy little town inhabited by folks dripping with Southern charm and hospitality. Then suddenly, an auto accident on the interstate highway thrusts both mystery and intrigue into its midst. The accident leaves a young woman, Holly Spencer, in a coma and her five year old daughter under the guardianship of the Reverend Rockford Williford Clark who’s trying his best to track down Holly's family members to make some medical decisions, but he hits a dead end - they seem to have no family. That doesn’t stop the persistent young preacher from digging deep and covering all bases, even when it gets him into trouble.

Affectionately dubbed Rev Rock by his congregation, this forty-something, almost meddlesome, unmarried Presbyterian preacher runs himself ragged in the day-to-day tending of his flock. He calls himself “unlucky in love”, but his friendship with Liz, the widow next door, is beginning to grow into something deeper which frightens him out of his wits and causes him to do some backpedaling. Patience may be a virtue, but Liz has grown weary of it and retreats to her cabin in the mountains. Will Rock be still long enough to listen for God’s direction? Or will he once again let love slip through his fingers?

Update:  December 28, 2013 - The Kindle version is now available on Amazon. The hardback copy should be available in a few days.  I can't even begin to tell you all the blessings I've received writing this book. I hope that my readers enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Do's and Don'ts - Writing in Real Life

Who am I to give writing tips?   I'm writing a book, but I’ve never had one published.  I’ve read books on developing characters, the importance of plots and subplots, writing in first or third person, finding your character’s voice – you name it, I’ve read it.  I subscribe to a writer’s magazine and read virtually every article, whether it applies to my style of writing or not.  And I do this because….well, I do it because I’m writing my first novel.  Has it helped?  I suppose it has, but I’ve come to the realization that like it or not, the way I've been writing is by trial and error.  Just write and if it stinks, tear it up and write again....well, maybe not, but sometimes it seems that way.

The best advice I learned was to read and read and read some more – especially books in the genre that you plan to write.  But you’re supposed to analyze as you read and I don’t know about the average person but when I’m reading, I’m all caught up in the book and it ends so soon – and I realize that I didn’t analyze it for all of the above…developing characters, plots and subplots, writing in first of third person…well, you get the picture.  What should I do – read it again?  Well, yes.  The second time I read it, it’s much easier to look for all those things and I've learned from it.

Here’s a list of my own personal writing tips that I’ve found to help me the most.  Believe me, I’ve learned all these the hard way.  I started the makings of my book several years ago, developing my plot, creating my characters, etc.  I look back now at  some of that writing and want to throw it away – but I won’t because I see the mistakes I made and I need reminders of those mistakes so that I don’t make them again.  Some of these are Do’s and some are Don’ts.  I’ll start with some Don’ts – just because I learned those first.

  • 1.      Don’t be excessively witty unless you’re writing a humorous book.    I tried to be witty AND use big words.  It looked fake and stuffy.  See, those are not big words – fake, stuffy – but they are real words in a real world.  Write with words that you know - real life words.  Real life people are not always witty – some are mean, some are dishonest and deceptive and some are just boring.  Real life is not always humorous.  It takes all kinds to make a good story.
  • 2.     Don’t be afraid to cut – maybe cut out entire chapters if you feel it’s best for your story.  I put my heart and soul in my book and it kills me to cut out characters and what I had thought were creative storylines, but it gets too busy and cluttered – like real life.  But none of us want clutter in our real lives.  Clutter abounds and it's hard to let it go - but we don’t want it in our books and our readers don’t want to wade through a lot of it to get to the good parts. 

  • 3.   Do have a basic story structure or outline before you start.   Don’t write your book by scenes.  I started my book while working a full time job and a part time job selling on Ebay so snatching time to write in scenes seemed reasonable to me at the time.  I do believe in using life observations in my writing, but I made the mistake of writing scenes as I got inspiration from life’s happenings.  I wrote my book in scenes with one main character in mind and a vague sense of where the story was going.  I had neither outline nor structure to my book -  I just flew by the seat of my pants. Then it was awfully hard going back and making them work in a timeline.  It was overwhelming in fact.  I almost didn’t make it through my first draft because of it.  When I get overwhelmed, I stop writing and it’s hard to get started again.  
  • 4.     Do write every day.  If it’s just jotting down some thoughts on what your character would do in a real life situation, write it down.  Words turn into chapters and enough chapters turn into books.

  • 5.     Do keep a notebook beside you everywhere you go.  Some of my best writing has been waiting at the bus stop for my granddaughter.  I even started going to the bus stop thirty minutes early because I could get a whole chapter written on some days.  A change of scenery and quiet time are conducive to good writing.  And DO find some quiet time!  I have not had the luxury of going to a secluded cabin somewhere for weeks at a time, but I’ve carved in every little bit of quiet I could find. 

  • 6.     Don’t LOSE your notebook.  If you’re writing away from your computer, immediately get back to your computer as soon as possible and type it and save it.  I'm ashamed to say how many notebook pages I've lost.

  • 7.     Do SAVE it in more than one place.  Do I sound like I learned that the hard way?  Yes, I did.  I now save on my PC hard drive and a flash drive every day.  I also save on my laptop about once a week from the flash drive.  You can’t have your manuscript in too many places.

  • 8.     Don’t get obsessed with word count.  I did.  At first my goal was a novella with a word count of about 40,000 words.  I was obsessed with getting to 20,000 words, then 30,000.  Then I realized I just needed to write one day at a time until I finished.  At about 38,000 words and only two thirds finished, I realized it was going to be longer than I thought.  What a pleasant surprise!  I thought I would never get there.

  • 9.     Do learn to say no.  Tell people you are writing a book.  It holds you accountable and it’s a good excuse for saying no to things that clutter up your writing time.  When I took an early retirement, a good friend gave me two wood blocks that her husband had carved the letters "N" and "O".  I keep them on my desk to remind me that it's OK to say NO.

These may not sound like the normal tips you read about in books or magazine articles, but I hope they’ll be helpful to someone along the way who reads them.  They’re real and they’re what I have experienced.  I have finished my first draft and I’m slashing and rewriting and trying to edit along the way - which, by the way, I wouldn't be doing if I had spent more time making a blueprint for my novel.
I have one tip that I've found to be the shining star of all tips.  I ask for guidance every time I pick up pen and paper or sit in front of my keyboard.  I pray that God will guide my thoughts and my words so that in some small way I may touch someone with the words He gives me

Happy writing! Find what works for you…and do it.