Tag Archives: My Writing Life

The Vegan on the Road to Vegas #amwriting

I am out of town and on a mini vacation this week. We are fully vaccinated and in Las Vegas for a grandchild’s wedding.

MyWritingLife2021My husband is recovering from a total hip replacement, so traveling out of town for an extended stay involves a lot of logistics. Also, I am vegan, which has an impact on things. I can eat in restaurants, but once I am away from my part of the world, the menu is often limited to a garden salad.

I have several militant vegan friends who can be… um… evangelical… so I go out of my way to NOT be difficult. If you are determined to cook for me, don’t get into a dither. Offer me a salad with oil and vinegar, bake me a potato, and give me a little guacamole or salsa to dress it up. Open a can of beans – I will be happy with just about anything you fix. Let’s be real! Anything with avocado is awesome!

I love a veggie plate with hummus. Many restaurants offer one as an appetizer plate, and I will make that my meal. I guarantee, I won’t feel cheated.

It may seem odd to many people who know that I once raised sheep and chickens, but that experience is partly why I am vegan. So, being vegan means that I eat nothing from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs.

So, what do I eat? I live in the Pacific Northwest. The Vancouver B.C./Seattle/Portland area has a large vegetarian community, so most restaurants offer options that can be made vegan. The stores in my area have large sections of plant-based proteins, cheeses, and plant-based butters. Many delicious kinds of cheese are available from Miyoko’s Creamery. They can be found in most grocery stores here in the Pacific Northwest, as can Beyond Meat and Field Roast products. We also can often find Gardein products, a Canadian plant-based company.

These products taste good and are satisfying to the carnivores I am feeding, and are easy to prepare in many diverse ways.

Vegetables are amazingly versatile and quick to prepare. If you have an eye for art and color, you can impress even your five-year-old. Some of the most beautiful presentations you will see at fine restaurants are created from artistically plated fruits and vegetables.

book-plants-only-coverProtein is essential, and I have many delicious options to make that don’t involve processed foods. My favorite “impress-the-son-in-law” cookbook is this gem by Gaz Oakley: Plants-only Kitchen.

I also have a book by Miyoko Schinner, the Homemade Vegan Pantry, a book that has been the cornerstone of my personal style of cuisine. I’ve adapted many of my old recipes to my vegan lifestyle.

Tempeh is made from soybeans but differs from tofu (which I love for curries). It is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities.

Tempeh has ‘tooth.’ The way you marinate the tofu or tempeh before you cook it is how you make it tasty. Plain tofu or tempeh is bland, waiting for you to liven it up. That blandness is what gives them a bad reputation among new vegetarians who don’t understand how to prepare them.

However, they take on the flavors of marinades well, so they are wonderful products to cook with.

Chickpeas (garbanzos) are an extremely versatile bean, with as many uses in the vegan kitchen as the soybean.

Flavor for gravies, pilafs, and soups comes from vegetable broth. There are two ways to get good rich flavor using vegetable broth. However, my go-to store-bought product for use at home is the reliable kitchen staple, Better Than Bouillion Vegetable Base. Otherwise, I make my own veggie broth base, using the recipe I found here: Homemade Vegetable Soup Base. It’s not complicated and is one of those shortcuts to great flavor that I regularly employ.

But you don’t have to cook fancy things for me. I’m happy with rice and vegetables sautéed in olive oil (or any other organic vegetable oil) rather than in butter, which comes from cows.

The_Homemade_Vegan_PantryThe most surprising thing about being vegan is how little it costs to eat well once you have your pantry basics. Going sans meat is the lazy person’s dream diet. It’s amazing how quickly you can get a meal on the table, and whether you are making beans or soup, the crockpot is your best friend. I often make my own bread from several different recipes, a tasty treat that takes less than five minutes to put together using my bread machine.

I would far rather spend my time writing than cooking. However, the meals in our household are important. The table is where we discuss the day and share our thoughts, hopes, and plans. How the food looks when the family sits down is as important as any other part of the meal. Fruit and veggies make decorating each plate easy.

But today, I’m partying in Vegas. Someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning, and I’m enjoying a spa day and a relaxing change from the routine. Our granddaughter’s wedding is a big day for us all, and we’re going to make the most of it.

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Writing Around the Distractions #amwriting #writerlife

Life has hit one of those inevitable snags, where writing has become more of a refuge than ever. My amateur nursing skills have been called into battle once again, as hubby has undergone a total hip replacement.

Four hours after the surgery, he was in the car, and we were going home. The minute the anesthesia wears off, they check the patient to make sure they’re alive and able to urinate, then send them home.

To be cared for by enthusiastic, panicking amateurs.

Two days in the hospital would have been better for him, but this is life in the USA. Even before COVID19, they sent patients home before they were able to care for themselves.

Thanks to having two children with seizure disorders and other family members with debilitating illnesses, I have acquired some of the skills necessary to handle this. My only problem is that he is 6’ 3” tall, and suffers from severe arthritis, so he has limited strength. I am just glad my brother is here to help when I need it.

We are 3 days into it, and hopefully, things will become easier as this next week progresses.

Everyone has family, jobs, external demands that limit the amount of time you can devote to writing. For me, the most important thing is to care for my family first. That means I do whatever housework is on for that day, make sure everyone is clean and fed, and if one of them is ill, I make sure they are comfortable and can rest.

I’m not a superwoman, so I do what I can around the house and don’t worry about what I didn’t get done. Some days that means just keeping a path cleared to the front door. Other days, the place is “fit for company,” as my grandma would say.

After surgery, blood clots can be a problem, so modern technology has devised an $80.00 solution, the PlasmaFlow Sequential Compression System. They are prescribed by a physician for use in the home to help prevent the onset of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in post-surgical patients by stimulating blood flow in the extremities. They do this by stimulating muscle contractions. These are battery-operated, rechargeable cuffs that go around the patient’s calves.

The surgery was on Friday, so of course, they failed at about noon Saturday. This didn’t seem to surprise the on-call physician at the other end of the telephone. They quit charging, and we can’t get replacements until Monday. So, I am making sure he does some extra exercises and helping him do the ones he can’t yet do independently. Regular massage and exercise should do the trick.

Sleep the first night was like the first night you bring the newborn baby home. Sleep for an hour, get up to resolve something, sleep for an hour, get up to resolve something—not a lot of rest. But the second night, he was able to sleep straight through, so that was good.

I have plenty of downtime between things, though. That is when I write or work on whatever revisions are needed. You would be amazed at what you can get done in ten-minute bursts.

The fact is, I rarely watch television. While I do play a little Stardew Valley (see my game review here), my real interests are reading and attempting to write the stories I wish I could read.

This week I have been trying to think up decent titles for two of my works in progress. So far, nothing has risen to the top. “Accidental Novel” is a fair enough working title but probably won’t sell the book.

Before hubby went in for surgery, I sent my Accidental Novel to my structural editor for a beta read. I have a gut feeling that the ending is weak, so I asked her to give me any thoughts on reworking it. All the rough spots will be resolved once I get Irene’s revision notes back. The external eye is crucial at this stage. Having a trusted reader who is also an excellent editor is a gift from heaven.

So, all in all, life is good. Once we get through this week, my husband should be on the road to better health, and we will be able to settle into a routine.

Life can be a bumpy road. The key is to focus on the good things and laugh at the annoyances. Make a little time to do what you love, and always make time for the people you love.


Credits and Attributions:

We Can Do It, by J. Howard Miller, Restored by Adam Cuerden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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What I #amreading, and #amwriting

Hello from a dark and rainy town somewhere near Olympia, Washington, USA. The time of year that I like to think of as “baking weather” has arrived. It’s cold and rainy, with the promise of snow in the next few days.

Let’s face it: when the house feels cold, Grandma gets cooking.

Bread, cookies, lentil loaf—in my family, food is love. My house is full of good smells and tasty treats, and my clothes are shrinking.

Hunkering down with a cup of hot tea and a good book is another enjoyable activity for this time of year.

I’m currently reading a book by Dr. Michio Kaku, The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth.  This book was published by Random House in February of 2018. The way I learn requires a more in-depth approach to reading it, as I need to read slowly and take notes, so it’s been several weeks and I’m only halfway through it. This book is a journey, not a speed-read.

I’m drawn to a wide variety of books on philosophy and natural history and have them on my reading list because they offer new ways of looking at the world. I love learning but don’t have the patience to take college courses anymore.

I just finished reading “Murder in an Irish Village,” a cozy mystery by American author Carlene O’Connor. Published by Kensington Books in 2016, it’s the first book in a series of seven so far. It was a fun little mystery, well-plotted. Siobhán O’Sullivan is an enjoyable protagonist, and the cast of characters and suspects were believable. It kept me guessing to the end. I had one dislike, which is the abundance of relatively obscure Irishisms—at some points it’s rough going. I suspect even native Irish speakers have to look some words up. I understood all the dialogue only because I was reading on a Kindle and could easily search for the meanings of words I didn’t know. Despite that minor flaw I give the book four stars, because it’s a good novel.

So, what am I writing? I finished the first draft of Gates of Eternity, my accidental novel. That’s the working title, but I have no idea what the final title will be. I have a lot of work ahead of me before it’s ready for my editor, but I’m satisfied with how the storyline has fallen into place.

I am setting that book aside now to finish working on Bleakbourne on Heath. This Alternate Arthurian novel grew out of a serial I began writing in 2016. The ending has been written, but a certain amount of work remains, as the plot is a little thin in some places.

Committing to write that serial back then was how I discovered that writing and publishing a chapter a week is NOT my strong suit!

This last week, I entertained myself by creating a digital map for a friend’s next novel, a mystery set in the general area my husband grew up in. She gave me a hand-drawn basic layout, and I took it from there. I love drawing maps for my own work and have often thought I missed my calling as a cartographer.

Jasperson Back Yard, May 2020

On the homefront, we’ve been getting the yard tidied, small preparations for spring whenever the weather allows. The tree man was here to prune the apple tree and cut back the maple that loves to block my front window. He also trimmed up the cedar hedge which had gotten out of control, suffocating our rhododendrons, so we’re good to go for another year.

As always, writing for this blog requires a small commitment of time and creativity, but it is one of my great joys, a diversion when things get a little hectic.

All in all, it has been a busy month, with plenty of books to read, lots to write, and new recipes to try out. I hope you’re enjoying life as much as is possible during this pandemic and the lockdown, and staying safe.

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Hair and there #amwriting

I began reading a new book while I was traveling over the weekend. It came with a lot of hype from the big bookseller in the sky: “the book grown-up Harry Potter fans can’t put down.” So far, I’m not finding it anywhere near as engrossing as Harry Potter. What with all the propaganda, my expectations are probably too high. I’m going to keep reading because it’s not completely deadly—it’s just not “all that and more.”

Also, I am beta reading for a friend out in Wyoming, and I must say, his book is quite good.

Formatting on my new book has had some false starts and hiccups, but that’s the life of an indie. I’m going to go to Draft2Digital from now on for eBook and mobi formatting. I saw that they also offer paper book formatting (at no cost) in all the same sizes that Create Space used to offer, so I will let you know how that goes and how it looks.

Work continues on both novels and several short stories. My creative brain is working again, joy of joys. I think I had a hard case of the “Post NaNoWriMo Brain Freeze” that others have talked about, but I had never experienced before.

Last week was a busy week for me. I drove 3 hours north to Snohomish, where my oldest daughter lives. She is a hair stylist with her own business at Fresh Salon and Spa. Salons like that provide all the necessary furnishings and amenities for a high end salon, by renting space to several licensed cosmetologists who each own their own business.

Each stylist pays a monthly rent to the shop’s owner, which helps her cover the utilities and other onsite costs for owning and operating such a large, upscale salon. By leasing chairs, the owner has motivated stylists at her shop whose clients bring in many new customers.

Leah has all the normal costs of owning and operating a small business. She purchases her own supplies and is responsible for paying both state and federal taxes on her earnings, as does any small business owner. By “renting a chair” at Fresh, she has the benefit of a receptionist, a good location, high end décor, and a much lower overhead than if she bought her own building.

Plus, it’s an exceedingly pleasant place to work.

Now the reason I bring this up is … you guessed it: hair.

When I was a worker bee in Corporate America, I kept my hair short and businesslike. It grows so fast that I had to get it cut every six weeks to keep it in shape.

When I retired, I quit worrying about it. Now I only cut it when it is so long that it’s annoying.

Which it has been, lately.

The last time I cut my hair was in 2017, and we cut twelve inches off.

This time, we cut fourteen inches off. And this time, I donated my hair to Wigs for Kids, a non-profit organization that donates wigs to children who have lost their hair due to burns, or cancer, or any number of traumatic, life altering events.

It was an involved process, as the picture shows, but we followed the instructions exactly so that what we donate will be usable when it arrives there.

My head feels five pounds lighter, and my heart feels good because I know a child will have a better day when they receive their wig.

But enough about my hair—let’s talk babysitting!

On Friday, Leah and I dressed in full combat gear and took on the tribe while my youngest daughter and her husband had a well-deserved weekend away without their three, exceptionally creative, sons.

Leah’s 13-year-old son helped as much as he could by trying to get them tired out, but the 7-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old—let’s just say we had a wild time wrangling small, rambunctious boys.

My hearing is starting to return, so it’s all good.

I love babysitting, but it’s so much easier when Leah and Logan are there to do the real work. (I laugh, but it’s true—my best skills as a grandma are snuggling clean, well-fed children and watching cartoons.)

So, the weekend was spent lightening the load on my head, playing with grandchildren, and generally having a great time. I watched many episodes of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated and Oddbods. Nothing but fine arts and entertainment!

Overall, the high point of the weekend was waking up to having my nose “booped” at 3 a.m. by a wide-awake one-year old who wanted to play.

So we did.

Life doesn’t get any better than that.

 

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I #amwriting despite the distractions

November is here, and NaNoWriMo has begun. Despite the twists and turns of fickle fate my project is on track.  I am getting my word count in my writing session every morning.

One of the twists my life has taken in the last few days is the addition of my younger brother to our household. He had been working and supporting himself but fell ill with a bone infection. He was hospitalized for three months, during which time he lost his job and his home.

Like the majority of homeless people here in the US, he suffers from chronic health problems. This has kept him in poverty and on the thin margins of society for several years. So, I now have a third person in the home again, which means I must set boundaries that protect my writing time.

I am good at that.

Another diversionary twist is happening on the National level. This is one that is not under my control: I’m talking about the ongoing “fiesta of squirrels” that is the semi-functional website at www.NaNoWriMo.org.

The new website has been rebuilt from the ground up. They have been gradually rolling it out over the last few months. But heavy user traffic makes it a difficult process.

At this point, the website is operational but not user friendly.

The good people in the Office of Letters and Light (NaNoWriMo headquarters) know this better than anyone. Very likely, they are buried under the mountain of complaints from thousands of users.

I assure you, these wonderful people are doing their absolute best to resolve all the issues, but it will be at least a year before this site functions as well as the old website did.

So, I will ask you to be patient if the site is showing you the wrong stats or your halo for donating hasn’t appeared.

We are all seeing wrong stats on our pages. Several functions we were used to being able to access are not yet available, such as regional statistics for Municipal Liaisons.

We are all finding it difficult to update our word count. Discovering where your regional forums are can be a challenge. Once you do find them, bookmark them.

As I said, I set firm boundaries to ensure that despite the distractions, I can get my hoped-for word count every day. I’ve worked through worse Novembers and gotten my word count every time.

I may bounce around between manuscripts as the day progresses, but I do get the words written on my new project. Then I update my word count every day at the national site.

In case you are curious, this is the screen shot for where you update on your dashboard:

This year I am laying down the first draft of a new novel. I write between the hours of 06:00 and 10:00 a.m.

Then, I take a break, and do some housework. After lunch I work on the other manuscripts I have in various stages of completion. I  sometimes write new material on these when the inspiration hits. Those projects are going well also.

I average 2500 words each morning on the new manuscript, so I don’t bother to count the bits I add to the others later in the afternoon.

I hope your writing is going well, and that the words are flowing. Keep making time to write every day.

It takes discipline and determined effort to end up with a finished book.

And that is what NaNoWriMo is really all about.

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Update on Works in Progress #amwriting

I hope you had a happy Easter weekend, celebrating the advent of spring your way. We share five children, and they all have children, so warm weather and the addition of extended family made for a great family party on Saturday. Unfortunately, our poor abused vacuum cleaner died the final death before we were finished preparing for the party and there was no time to get a new one.

Near the front door, beneath the growing pile of cast off shoes, bags, and backpacks, lay an expanse of unvacuumed carpet. Strangely, no one seemed to notice.

By three in the afternoon, my kitchen was loaded with every kind of food imaginable, and the party was in full swing. While the younger children involuntarily were held captive indoors behind closed drapes, the teenagers hid well over a hundred plastic eggs. Each was filled with cash, toys, and candy.

Somehow, in the process, the rod holding up my front drapes was pulled loose from the wall. It still hangs there, like everyone’s drunken uncle…precariously positioned and slightly askew.

Thunder shook my suburban neighborhood when we released the captives and the front door burst open. Tender shoots of green lawn met a grisly fate as the mob of crazed grandchildren descended on our yard.

High drama unfolded as toddlers fell and scraped their knees and older children took advantage of their distraction. Oh, the carnage!

At around seven PM, the last car left the driveway. We geared up in hazmat suits and began the cleanup—sans vacuum cleaner.

However, I’m a pro. My husband and I are both suffering from back injuries, so in the aftermath, we were forced to be creative. Who needs a stinkin’ vacuum cleaner? My broom works on the carpet, and I have developed mad skills with my new tool of choice—the reach extender.

It’s amazing the things you can do with long-handled grabbers. They make excellent tools to extricate candy wrappers from the shrubbery and retrieve the few eggs that were overlooked in the stampede. Being able to grab the toy cars and plastic farm animals out from under the porch is a real plus.

Inside the house, wide-spread devastation made negotiating the hallway to the bathroom difficult for travelers in a hurry. Muffled cursing was heard as sock-footed old people stepped on abandoned Legos.

I’m talented—I can pick up the merest fragment of potato chip from under a bed with my long handled grabber, without crushing it. This tool, properly wielded, works on every kind of debris—lint, broken crayons, Legos, Polly Pocket purses, Barbie shoes, and half-eaten Cadbury eggs.

You can lean on it when you need propping up.

We dug a path and cleaned the kitchen before going to bed. But by noon on Sunday, the cleanup had been completed, and the toy room was once again a place of moderate order.

Speaking of order, I have ordered a new, sturdier vacuum cleaner, and peace reigns once again here at Casa del Jasperson.

Now that the madness of the family Easter rumble is over, I will continue working on my three projects. I have just finished a large editing job for a client but now will get back to work on several smaller editing jobs.

I am still working on the final revisions for Julian Lackland and intend to have him ready for publication by mid-July. This book is both the final installment in the Billy’s Revenge series and was the original book that the series grew out of. It has been unpublished for seven years and during that time, it has been re-written, expanded, and edited properly. It is about to go to the beta readers.

I am also nearing completion of the first draft of a new book set in Neveyah, the Tower of Bones world. For me, in the first draft of any work, long or short, writing the transition scenes between events are difficult to imagine.

I think of them as “just” moments: adjust and justify. That sort of thinking takes a bit of mind-wandering, so while I ponder ways to move my characters gracefully from disaster to disaster, I work on other projects.

Writing keeps me busy, but the grandchildren are a never-ending source of entertainment for me.


Credits and Attributions:

Shmuser at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:36 inch reach extender.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:36_inch_reach_extender.jpg&oldid=307417600  (accessed April 21, 2019).

 

 

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De-junking #amwriting

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I bought a house and gradually filled it with furniture. We weren’t rich, but we got the most durable pieces we could afford.

Alas, the recliners were the first to fall victim to old age, with my husband’s obnoxiously big (but incredibly comfy) chair failing first. Not sure what to do with it as it was the size of a dinosaur, the broken corpse sat in a corner for four years serving as an “overflow coat-rack” when we had a lot of company.

The nice recliner with the fabric I liked so much, and which was purchased for me, became “the captain’s chair.” I had written Huw the Bard, Tower of Bones, and Forbidden Road in that chair, but it was still in perfect condition.

I didn’t mind sitting on the sofa, but I never was able to get too comfy with my laptop there. For the most part, I found myself hanging out my office, playing RPGs and writing rather than watching TV.

However, that chair too went the way of all things, falling apart and looking worse than Martin Crane’s hideous recliner on the old TV show, “Frasier.”

In the process of shopping for new chairs, we decided to go with a smaller dining room table, as the two of us don’t need a nine foot long dining room table. When we have large family gatherings, we have the Costco folding table that I use for book signing events and several card tables.

When we got rid of the broken chairs, we also trashed several other large pieces that had begun to show their age, not unlike their owners:

  • The wobbly sofa table on which we proudly displayed our dead houseplants.
  • The backless cabinet that held my dried-up art supplies.
  • The broken bar stool that we dropped our empty shopping bags on instead of putting them away.

After all the broken furniture was gone, I looked around in shock, faced with the glaring evidence of my crummy housekeeping habits.

Grandma went on a cleaning rampage.

So, the house is a bit empty today, but cleaner. It looks rather like it did the day we moved in. I had forgotten how big the place is but seeing it half empty reminded us of why we loved this house in the first place.

New furniture is coming to my house on Tuesday. This time we have modern Scandinavian-style lounge-chairs, with separate footstools. These won’t fail the way the recliners did. The new round dining table will seat four comfortably, and six if they like each other.

And that brings me to the strangest side note to all of this: In the midst of getting rid of the unwanted debris collected over fifteen years, I wrote two full chapters in my first draft, totaling around 6,000 new words. These are good chapters that broke through one of the worst sticking points in plotting that book. What I wrote yesterday advances the story and take it to the midpoint crisis.

Cleaning house seems to have cleared my mind.

Maybe I should clean my house more often.

Nah, probably not gonna happen.

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Works In Progress update #amwriting

This week has been busy. I have finished my work as a reader for a short-story contest, which was an awesome gig, I am nearing the end of an editing project, and I am continuing to discover who my characters are in my current first draft. I am 70,000 words into this project, which is slated to be a duology. This means I am about a third of the way through it.

When I published the Tower of Bones series, I learned a difficult lesson. As slowly as I write, I need to have the entire series fleshed out and in the form of the final draft before I begin editing the first novel or it will take three years for the next novel to be published. That isn’t acceptable—people want the follow-up books in a timely fashion.

The entire two-book story arc is now laid out, and some sections are complete, but some of the characters are still raw and unfinished. I don’t really know them the way I need to for this story to come to life. After all, I can say they are charismatic all I want, but if the readers don’t find them that compelling, the story will fall flat.

At this point, I am still fleshing out my main character as a human being. He and I have come far, but I still don’t know him as well as I know his father and his brother. I am beginning to get a grip on him but some aspects of his character still elude me—he is still at what I think of as the “he-went-he-saw” stage of development.

When writing the other characters, I asked them to “talk” to me, asked them to tell me who they are and what is most important to them. So that is what my protagonist is doing this week. I have him as an old man, sitting on his porch and telling me what really happened. This is a short story, but it will never see the light of day.

This 2,000 – 5,000-word exercise is all backstory and will go into a file labeled as such. When I go back to writing the actual novel, this information won’t even be a part of the story. But because I have talked to my protagonist, Alf, and gotten to know why he thinks the way he does, his actions and reactions will be organic and natural. His motivations will become clear, and the reader will feel that Alf wouldn’t think any other way.

My antagonist, Daryk, will also have the chance to talk to me this week in the form of a letter written to me. He will tell me who he is and why he should really be the protagonist rather than the bad guy, as he is really the good guy and I have it all wrong.

I discovered this method during the rewrite of the Tower of Bones series. I knew who my main character and his companions were, as I had designed the original game story line around them. But I couldn’t get a grip on why my evil guy was so wicked and why he was convinced he was the good guy when his actions were so reprehensible.

What I finally did for Stefyn in Tower of Bones, was this—I had him write a long letter to me, explaining his reasons and trying to convince me that he was the real protagonist. Having read his reasons, Stefyn’s motivations were easy for me to understand. His commitment to his god’s path was fundamental to who he was.

My new antagonist must also be that committed, but he comes from a completely different culture than Stefyn, who was raised to be who he is. Daryk was once my protagonist, Alf’s, dearest friend and companion. Caught in a mage-trap during a battle, he has been turned against his will to the path of the dark god. Now he has abandoned the path of Aeos and has become Tauron’s highest priest.

In my current work,  Neveyah has recovered from a global disaster. The war of the gods brought three civilizations to their knees five hundred years prior. Additions have been made to the maps, and some places that are there in Edwin’s time are not there in Alf’s.

Humanity has emerged from the ruins, but the world is a different place. The tribes were sundered from each other, and the southern tribes no longer remember their roots—a source of tension between the two different cultures.

Now Neveyah is poised on the edge of another cultural change no matter which deity wins this skirmish in their ongoing battle. To survive, the disparate societies will have to work together under a strong leader. Who will that leader be, Alf or Daryk?

I have written the overarching story and the plot. The side characters are clear in my mind and on paper. The two most important characters, Alf and Daryk, are equally matched in abilities, but only one can succeed. The path before each character is difficult and the differences between them is clear. Alf’s companions are his greatest strength, and they serve Aeos beside him as equals and follow him out of respect. Daryk has only one close companion, his wife, and she is under a magic geas (spell) to serve him and his god.

Alf leads by reason and example—many times he has difficulty swaying people to what he believes is their only salvation. Daryk leads by force of will, and when that fails, he compels his wife to use her mind-magic to “make them understand.”

Historical figures of the stature of Alf and Daryk must embody personal charisma and great leadership ability. People must wholeheartedly believe in them and desire to dedicate their lives to following them. My current mission is to understand what makes these two people charismatic enough to be great leaders and figure out why each one could win. That final battle will decide the future of a world, and if I don’t make it epic, there is no point in writing the tale.

Epic battles require epic characters. Hopefully, over the next few weeks of getting to know these characters, I will know why each one deserves to succeed. My hope is that finishing the first draft of these two books will only take half a year—although it could take longer.

As I mentioned above, I do write slowly. This is because much of what I write ends up being rewritten based on beta readers’ comments–and new ideas that pop into my head at 03:00 in the morning.

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Works in Progress update #amwriting

Sometimes real life interferes with my writing schedule, but despite back injuries and other little challenges, I’ve managed to keep my writing on track. Chronic pain can sap the creativity from you, but eventually, it eases, and productivity resumes. I’ve become adept at getting things done with the long-handled grabber. I’ve figured out how to do everything from laundry to cleaning my oven with it, to picking lint off the carpet and dusting chandeliers.

Yep—I’m that grandma, the one I swore I’d never become, the old woman with the long-handled grabber. Get off my lawn!

I’ve been working on two particularly tough short stories for several months. Both have great ideas and wonderful premises, and it looks like I am finally on the home stretch with both. Fingers crossed! Some short stories take me as long to finish as writing a novel. These are the stories being written to certain themes. I have planned the basic story arc, so I know what needs to happen at each point, but not exactly how I want to make it happen. I write a little when I have a flash of brilliance and then let it ‘simmer’ in the back of my mind.

One story was finished (I thought), but the editor who requested it for a forthcoming anthology wanted changes amounting to a complete rewrite to make it fit more with what she envisions for her anthology. It wasn’t that she didn’t like it, it was just not right for what she had in mind as the theme for her collection of stories. That one has had to sit on the back burner again for a bit, but now I think I know how to implement her suggestions and accomplish what is needed. Whether Short Story Take 2 will fly or not is anyone’s guess as it is only optioned, but when a publication’s editor asks for revisions on a piece that I’ve submitted, I make them with NO complaint. She knows what her market wants, so if I want her to buy my story, I need to tailor it to her readers.

There are times when I can whack an entire story out in a single sitting, but some stories just require more attention. The best part of writing is that feeling of “Ah hah!” when a particularly tough section comes together, and you know you have written something worth reading.

On the novel side of my writing life, things have taken a turn for the positive. In January I had to completely scratch most of the first draft of my current work in progress because during NaNoWriMo the story-line went in a direction I didn’t intend. That strange direction in the early MS will be morphed into something else later so that work hasn’t been wasted.

I should have stuck to my outline, and then my story flat-line would have been a story arc.

But I just crested the 60,000-word mark (again) and am at the halfway point on the rewrite. This novel is set in the Tower of Bones world, but it takes place five hundred years prior and concerns the founding of Aeoven.

Because I’ve had a certain amount of new world building to do in my old world, it has been a joy to write. In this era, the world is very different, more dangerous, and takes place during their Dark Ages, dark only in the respect that little written history remains of those times. This is the “how it began” novel, so many things have had to be developed from scratch, such as the system they use for magic.

Even the maps are a little different, although the contours of the land are the same. Some towns exist that don’t in later times, and a few villages that are minor in Edwin’s time have a more prominent role. I am also exploring the Barbarians and how the modern Temple of Aeos is deeply rooted in that tribal culture.

I’m finding it refreshing to revisit this world and see it through new eyes. I have been working in the world of Neveyah for ten years, and still, I am discovering things I never knew. I think of it as reverse engineering—I’m taking this world apart and seeing how it works, and why.

On the poetry front, poems happen when they’re of a mind to. It’s like everything else—sometimes what I write is good, and sometimes not so much, but I feel compelled to put some ideas and emotions into the form of a poem. I suppose it’s because I began my professional writing career writing lyrics for a friend’s heavy metal band back in the early 1970s, so the poetic form will always be with me.

Now you’ve heard the update on my works in progress. Hopefully, all will continue to go well, and if the stars are properly aligned, my two nearly finished short stories will leave the nest as they are supposed to. I wish you peace, and may your writing hours be productive!

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#amwriting: the ‘e’ word #epilepsy

As many of my regular readers know, my husband and I share five children, all adults, two of whom have a seizure disorder.

Both my daughter and son were diagnosed with epilepsy when they were well into adulthood. Both have been hospitalized with severe injuries, but while our daughter’s journey with the seizure disorder has been relatively trouble free for the last ten years, our son has not had such luck.

Daughter 1 responds well to the medication and rarely has issues. Son 2 has had trouble getting his medication regulated, and his high stress lifestyle has often interfered with his ability to stay on track.

In conversation, as soon as folks hear the word ‘epilepsy’ they begin armchair prescribing cannabis, as the new cure-all for seizure disorders, and while the CBD end of the cannabis spectrum does have a miraculous effect for some patients, it is like any other medicine—it is not useful for everyone. My children are among those who do not benefit from it.

A ketogenic diet may help, but again, not every type of seizure disorder responds to this diet. However, it doesn’t hurt to try it, and so we are.

Surgery is an option when a cause for the seizures is clear and operable, but for most patients, there is no discernable cause. My children fall into this group, and until a more efficient type of brain scan is available, MRIs and EEGs remain inconclusive.

Epilepsy is caused by a range of conditions that are not well understood, and it is one of the less popular afflictions for research. The way it is treated is to throw medication at it until they happen on one that works, rather like Edison trying to invent the lightbulb.

At times, epilepsy rears its ugly head like Cthulhu rising from the depths, and when that happens life goes sideways for a while. The last two months have been difficult in many ways. I have been unable to focus on creative writing, although writing for this blog has been a lifesaver.

Revisions on Billy Ninefingers (a novel set in the same world as Huw the Bard) are going slowly, although I still hope to publish him in September. The first draft of my new (and as yet unnamed) series, set in the World of Neveyah (Tower of Bones), is on and off—sometimes more off than on.

This is just life, just the way stuff happens.  All is not lost. The creative muse will return as it always does.

Three weeks ago, my son had a partial seizure while cooking, and burned his right hand. He then spent four days in Harborview, the regional burn center for the Pacific Northwest. The burns are situated in such a way they are not good candidates for skin grafts, so they are healing slowly. In the process, I have developed some mad wound care skills. For perhaps another week or so, my son is staying with us as he is right handed and the wounds are in tricky places. Soon, he will be healed enough to tend to his own wounds and will go back to his own home.

The real story is, despite the wounds and temporary setbacks, life has been amazingly good. Healing is progressing. We have spent many hours playing Stardew Valley and sitting on the back porch talking and laughing about everything imaginable. This has been a good experience in ways we have found surprising. We have discovered we are not only family, but we are also friends with so many things in common.

This is why the old saying about clouds and silver linings is true—with every ill wind, something good has come along to offset the bad.

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