Tag Archives: writing

Words on Fire

candleOnly four dry days in June 1977, the year my basement flooded. Elvis hadn’t died yet, but another, more personal loss happened under my feet as I slept. My basement filled halfway up the stairs with water. The chaos involved in that was nothing to a big drama in three small boxes that seemed no big deal to my husband.

I’d been writing diaries and filling notebooks with poems since I was 11 or 12. I saw right away that all three of the boxes were soaked, my stuff ruined. I grabbed the top notebook anyway. It was wet, but the ink had only smeared, not completely disappeared.

“My poems! Mike! What should I do?”

He looked down at me. “Throw them away,” he said. And then he left for work.

Alone with the ruins of a necessary part of me I barely understood, I wondered if I’d come to a sweet resting place where my head no longer filled up with words on fire until I had to write them down or burst into flames.

I kneeled over the boxes, not caring that I was wearing my favorite pair of bells. The jeans would survive; they were made of tough material. My writing, on the other hand, was disintegrating before my eyes. I pulled the top spiral bound books, which seemed semi-okay, out of the boxes. My oldest stuff–the white diary with gold lock and key, a picture of Mickey Dolenz, my favorite Monkee, hundreds of sheets of loose notebook paper—all of that was unsalvageable soup.

I came upstairs, my arms full of notebooks. I set them in the kitchen sink and went back down to clean the mess, a jug of Lysol in one hand, old towels in the other. Hours later, I wrung out the rags and hung them on the laundry line that spanned the basement ceiling.

I looked at my notebooks in the kitchen sink, noticed how the light from outside shone down on them. For the first time in ten days, the sun had made it through the clouds. I opened all the windows before getting into the shower.

“What are these doing in here?” Mike said, coming home from work to a sink full of poems instead of dinner on the table.

“Oh, I, ah, maybe I can save them.” I combed out my long wet hair and avoided his eyes after I noticed that he was looking at me like I was a sad and deluded little girl.

While we waited for the pizza delivery, Mike watched the news and I hung my poems up to dry with the damp rags on the line downstairs.

The next day, I set up a card table in one of the empty bedrooms. Then I called my mother and asked to borrow her typewriter. I went to the mall, but instead of shopping for shoes or another pair of velvet hot pants, I bought typing paper, a new ribbon, and a bottle of White Out.

Fifty-six poems survived the great flood. And surprising stuff happened when I typed them out on fresh paper. Hours flew by like minutes. I discovered the value in revision. And I learned how to woo inspiration. The old seductress had come again, and since that day, she has never left.

Blog Tour

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Thanks to my good friend, Terry Tyler, for inviting me to take part in this tour. I met Terry on Twitter; she was one of the first reach out & help me as a writer on Twitter. Because there’s a special way to interact as a writer on social media, and there are rules of etiquette, as well as accepted marketing practices, just like in any other social or business situation. Right. The questions:

What am I working on now?

I’m currently working on three books, all at differing levels:

♥ I’m doing tasks like filling out the art fact sheet and writing blurbs for my next Wild Rose Press release, Luke’s #1 Rule. Awaiting edits that should land on my desk any day now. I expect Luke out sometime this summer.

♥ I am also revising my indie paranormal, Sweet Melissa after receiving comments from beta-readers. Sweet Melissa will released on or before June 1 of this year.

♥ Finally, I am writing the first draft of Fast Eddie, my third book in the Blue Lake series with Wild Rose Press. Eddie and his bar and grill have made cameos in both previous Blue Lake books. I’m finding out some very interesting things about this mystery man. The secondary plot fills in Bob and Lily’s love story from Blue Heaven, cut short then by college and Lily’s issues. That deadline is October, so my plan is to write fresh material every day and have a great opening chapter for my critique group May 9.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I have two genres: contemporary romance and paranormal. One is e-published with POD and the other is indie and e-book only. I think that’s different right there. But my romances are different in that TWRP has let me grow beyond the normal boundaries of romance. I have subplots. I have other POVs. I am closer to women’s fiction than romance, but they’re just labels. My paranormals are different in that there are no vampires. I’ve created a unique world, at least one I’ve not seen done in fiction before. My world is a  mix of science (super string theory) and fantasy (flying and a talking moon mother).

Having said what’s different, I prefer paranormals that take place in an almost recognizable world. So my people do visit their other world and it helps them catch bad guys, but most of the story is set in our contemporary American world.

Why do I write what I do?

I love to read everything: blogs, magazines, poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, physics, metaphysics, self-help, biography and the Sunday New York Times, mostly for book reviews.

And that might be why I have written in so many different categories. My first book, and only full length non-fiction work, Your Words, Your Story, is part writing memoir, part writing manual. I wrote it for a specific audience, my creative writing students, who would come to class all wanting to write different things. So I covered all the stuff I’d written and published to that point (2007), a wide spectrum from journalism and criticism to poetry and short stories to creative non-fiction. Even a screenplay treatment. And of course my blog, here since 2002.

After YWYS came out, I focused on getting my many novels published. Again, I didn’t stick to one kind of novel, but Luke’s #1 Rule is the book of my heart, the book I always wanted to write but also feared writing. That’s when I know I should write something. If it scares me, pushes my boundaries, it’s good.

How does my writing process work?

It’s a bit chaotic, as I also teach and tweet. Plus I’m on a quest for better health via food and exercise. So I try to write first thing. Often, I have to check for email from my publisher before “first thing” :) Many days I end up tweeting for an hour or blogging for two before I manage to get those new pages written, but that is the plan right now. New pages for next novel every day. Start on them early.

So far, I’ve been writing longhand. I bought a new pen and notebook, a ritual for each new book. I researched some background on Eddie and his first love (they meet again at their 20th high school reunion) and wrote a bit from each of the four POVs. After I fill the notebook, it’s time to write a draft in Word docx.

I’ve tagged Edith Andersen, and Sylvia Hubbard, and Gretchen Riley, three wonderful — and wildly different – writers.

Plans & What Happens

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Had entire plan mapped out for the three books  am currently working on: my print release-in edits now-my indie release-just back from beta-readers- and my current WIP-still in notebook stage. All balls in air, juggling smooth as a circus performer. Ha!

I love this Sweet Melissa cover art by Bodicia.

Sweet Melissa was supposed to be third in my “Traveling Girl” series, after Natalia. But Melissa, like many a secondary character before her, took the book over from Natalia, who never had a chance. Natalia is a strong secondary character and the book wouldn’t be what it is without her extraordinary powers to travel worlds and keep Melissa safe.

But Melissa and her friend are the traveling girls in Book Two. Add to that the awesome fact that Melissa and David are the hot couple in love, and then top it with this fabulous cover art, and even I finally saw the light. With the help of Marla, who said “This is Melissa’s story” and Bodicia, who painted something that drew me in so deeply that I began to write Melissa’s parts with much more power.

Sorry, Natalia. You are too busy in Book Two dealing with the spirit worlds and your new-found powers to even think about love. You’ll get your story some day soon, when you’re just a little older. And it will be worthy of you. And readers, Sweet Melissa, drops June 1.

Sweet Melissa & More

Sweet.MelissaWith two second-in-series novels ready to debut into the e-book and print world within a month or so of each other, I am focused on the third book in each series. Ideas pop, plotlines entice, characters beckon. “Come to California,” say David and Melissa from the third in my Traveling Girl series. Love this original cover art by beautiful & talented Bodicia.

“We need you in Blue Lake,” say Fast Eddie and his first love, from coastal Michigan.

What’s a writer to do?

Well, if you’re like me, that’s easy. First, I go with inspiration. It doesn’t happen that often anymore and I take advantage of it when it does, even if it’s just to write snippets of conversation or a plot idea. Lots of songs spinning ’round the turntable in my head, too, suggesting mood.

Second on my list is writing to deadline, and that’s easier since for the #indie Traveling Girl series I make my own deadlines, thank you. Which means, Eddie, contracted for October, you are up.

Fast Eddie’s Bar & Grill shows up in the first two Blue Lake novels,  and at the time the name “Fast Eddie’s” was just one of those things that came to me. I don’t tend to question stuff like that. I liked it, I used it, I moved on. Ha!

Now I’m playing with the idea of just how Eddie got that Fast attached to his name. I have a few ideas…

As I begin the third books, and the second ones prepare to make their bows, treat yourself to the firsts in these series, Gypsy is New Adult paranormal and Blue Heaven is contemporary romance.

Go on, you know you want to:)

Popular!

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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

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