A wish to build a dream on

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After successfully losing hours of sleep, multiple strands of hair and a decent portion of my sanity, I have completely read through my novel for the first time.  This first run-through was to catch any glaring grammatical issues that I would have been humiliated by had someone else seen them before I had.  Along the way, I did make some notes about slight plot restructuring and that is what the second reading will accomplish.

The romantic portion of writing a book seems to be a tiny pinpoint of light in my not-so-distant past.  The business of writing a book has taken center stage and the formidable task of marketing a book is waiting in the wings, making faces at me and sticking out its tongue.

I have been told many times and in many ways that for every one author who has the good fortune of being published, there are at least 10,000 writers whose novels will never be seen in print unless they choose to self-publish.  I want to exhaust every effort in traditional publishing before I entertain the thought of self-publishing.  Call me a bleeding heart, a romantic, a crazy…..whatever adjective you choose, my wish is to follow the path of the many authors I have read and followed for decades.  Their sacrifice, their blood, their sweat and their toil have carved a path that I want to follow.

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I want the criticism (I think), I want the rewrites (I hope), I want to inhabit my space on the arc of the learning curve and I want to have my book published in the way in which I have always dreamed.  Perhaps my dream is lofty but I am willing to follow the bread crumbs to their inevitable conclusion, whether that outcome favors me or not.

At the end of this journey, at least I can say I followed the culmination of my devotion to writing and gave it everything I had.  In no way have I conceded my efforts to appease the writing Gods.  I can only hope that, after my constant effort, the writing world has something it would like to give back to me.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

The business of doing business

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I have a very large, very dead pine tree looming over my driveway and threatening the safety of my home and my new car.   It has been dead for several years but each day when I drive in my driveway, I convince myself that it is leaning closer to my house than it was the previous day.  It was time to call in the professionals.

I found four local companies that offer tree removal services as well as free estimates.  All four came to my house and gave me a wide range of quotes for different ways that the tree could be felled and cleared.  The company I chose to do the job was the best fit in terms of safely felling the tree with the right equipment and not charging me a fortune to move the pieces off to the side of my driveway.  I thanked the other companies for their quotes and let them know I went with a different service.

Two of the other three were understanding.  One was not.  After I told him I would be happy to pass on his information to others looking for his services, I received a text message from Brian and this is what it said, “Well thank you Susan.  No need to pass my name around since you have not experienced the level of service we provide.  In future, I would respectfully suggest you exhaust your cheaper options before calling someone that spends their time and fuel to look at your work.  Good luck with your tree and hopefully the damage will be minimal.”

WTF???

To say that I was angered would be a gross understatement.   I had to hold myself back from responding with the words that were churning in my head.   Instead, I politely explained that I had chosen a company with a similar rate but a better option for me and the safety of my oak tree since Brian was going to strap the dead tree and pull it down so it would come into direct contact with my 100-year-old oak tree.  (But he assured me the oak tree would be fine!)

What I should have texted was this, “Well, thank YOU Brian.  I will certainly be passing your name around now, just not in the way I had expected since I now understand the level of service you provide.  I respectfully suggest that you not offer free estimates if you are going to whine about the time and fuel you spent doing something you advertise as free and act like an asshole when you don’t get the job.”

What you leave behind

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Everyone wants to make their mark on the world, to leave something behind so they will be remembered.  For me, that mark is made with words.  This blog will live on in cyber space long after I am gone and I can only hope that some of the phrases that I have strung together will leave an indelible imprint, not only on the internet but, in the memories of those people who took the time to read my posts.

I have taken it one step further and just completed writing my first novel, hopefully the first of many.  This chain of ideas, this woven tale of characters and plot lines, has a piece of my soul buried in its structure.  It has my emotion and my sense of humor represented by the cast, human or canine.   It is stippled with moments of my life that had a lasting impact on me whether they were humorous or traumatic.

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My words are my legacy.  They are the things I choose to leave behind, the things I want people to remember about me.  Besides my relationships with family and friends, words are the things that I gave my heart to expecting nothing in return.

We all make choices every day of our lives.  The hardest choices are sometimes the most meaningful and the most rewarding.  If you had to make a choice, what will you leave behind?

 

 

 

 

The stages of writing a book

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I am writing a book.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m out.   Although the book is not quite finished, I have stopped to reflect on the different stages of writing a fiction novel.

The first stage, for me,  was definitely the romantic stage.  Writing a book has an allure about it.  There is something truly whimsical about imagining yourself dancing in a meadow with a plethora of phrases spilling from your brain.  Each of those phrases floats through the air and settles onto fluffy white clouds until you are able to collect them all and put them to paper.

The second stage is certainly more realistic than the first.  This stage for me was jotting down the plot twists that I wanted in my story but not knowing where they would be presented.  I also had to decide whether I wanted to write a full outline and follow it or if I simply wanted the characters to tell their story as they saw fit.  There are many places in my life where structure and organization are crucial but creating a story is not one of those places so the characters were able to share their voices without my framework.

The third stage was fantastic.  Once I had the basic premise in my head, I just sat down and wrote.  Some days were better than others but I spent a significant amount of time each day seeing how much further I could delve into the story and where it would lead me.  The best part about the third stage was getting excited when I came up with a new plot twist and  having those ideas create even more scenarios that I had never thought of before.  This stage was the ‘perpetual high’ stage.

I am now in the fourth stage, which is the panic stage.  I am so close to finishing the book and now I am second guessing everything I have written.  Are my characters deficient in some way?  Does the story line flow properly?  Is there enough meat in the story to keep readers interested?  Am I even going to have readers?   The list goes on….

I am hoping that there is a bright light at the end of this arduous tunnel when I gain back a little more self-confidence and I can just pat myself on the back and say, ‘you finished your book’.  That in itself will be a monumental occasion.

I already have the sequel planned and seemingly I am willing to put myself through these phases all over again.  They must make some sort of pill for this……

Oh, the places I’ll go

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I am in the middle of a steep learning curve.  I have never written anything longer than a 3,500 word short story so I should have expected a few pitfalls when I decided to pursue my dream of writing a book, or two or three.   But I was committed to give it one hundred percent and see where the journey led me.  I am well on my way to achieving 82,000 (ish) words for a novel-length book and only have 17,000 more to go!

I have been amazed by the process.  I have a journal I keep at my side to remind me of what has happened in each paragraph so the story will not seem disjointed or confusing.  I have done my best, pre-editing, to make sure the plot line flows well and ties in all the loose ends.  I’m sure I have missed a few small details throughout the process but I’m new at this so I’m giving myself ample opportunities to go back and alter the things that don’t work.  I have noticed that my characters have taken on a life of their own, causing me to go back and change a few details of their past but so far I feel blessed to have made it this far.

My writing has mainly been directed by the characters.  I had a simple outline of where I wanted the book to go but their personalities have taken control of the wheel and taken me in a few directions I hadn’t thought of.  On Friday, I wrote a paragraph and then I couldn’t write any more.  Something was off.  I didn’t know it was wrong when I wrote it, but that one paragraph derailed my train of thought.  I stared at that page as the characters sat idly by waiting for me to send them in a direction, any direction, but I was stuck.

I read that last paragraph many times and it eventually dawned on me to remove the last sentence.  As soon as that freeway in my brain cleared of the congestion, the traffic of words started to flow and sped off down the road.  I now understand how writer’s can figuratively paint themselves into a corner.  That one line was the difference between writing and staring at my walls.

Persistence is the key.  I have many lines and paragraphs that I have omitted from the book.  They are not gone but merely stored on a different page until I know those ideas are not meant for this book.  I have no idea where I will end up, but, oh, the places I’ll go on my journey to get there.

 

The symphony of my life

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I was trying to come up with an idea for a post tonight – clearing the cobwebs in my brain that had been woven during my work day.  I like to write about things that have meaning for me, that strike a chord deep within me and light the passion that only words can fuel until it becomes a mellifluous production.

The image of my family crept into my thoughts and the music of their presence in my life began like a slow starting symphony.   The opus of this particular operatic was my divorce, my escape from a life that was not mine to live.  Single notes, soft but relevant, could be heard over the din in my head and the notes began to permeate my thoughts.  The movement of their music was intoxicating and I began to sway with the rhythm.

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Each section of the orchestra sounded the cries of their instrument, but the blend of those voices, the song that was created, was harmonious, and like all symphonies, it had a story to tell.  The beginning of the sounds were light, easing me into the fable with their hypnotic sound.  Somehow the music spoke to me and I knew there was beauty far beyond what I was living.  I could feel it in the music that penetrated my skin, the octaves that dove into the reaches of my mind and brought me back to a reality where I was happy.  The notes blended to create a comforting strain, the dulcet tones began to rise in volume and the crescendo was an emotional outpouring of support.  The fat lady had sung, the show was over and so was my marriage.

There is always a deep, emotional story behind any operatic performance.  There is pleasure, there is pain and there is death.  I experienced some of the pleasure, my fair share of emotional pain and the death of a relationship.  But as any opera heroine does at the end of the performance, I lifted my head, nodded to the orchestra, and prepared for the next show.

Even birds can have a lapse in judgement

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For the past two mornings, I have been brought back from my slumber into consciousness by an obnoxious sound.  Before I share my story, let me first paint a scene in your mind.

Picture a tiny white cottage nestled in the midst of three acres of extensive woodland.  The dense underbrush is stippled by towering century-old Maple and Oak trees that seem closer to the sun than to the ground.  Branches perpetually invite forest creatures to share their space and many birds use the strong limbs to begin their spring ritual of attracting a potential mate.  The songs of the frogs fill the night air as the barred owls call from one tree to another.  These soothing noises lull me into sleep.

Mornings are usually accompanied by the soundtrack of chirping birds.  The melodies of Chickadees and Red-winged Black Birds are the first strains I hear and they help me welcome the morning with a peaceful sigh…..until yesterday.

My rhythmic breathing was suddenly caught in my throat as I was rudely awakened by the simulated sound of a jack hammer.  The noise would stop long enough for me to hear the fading echo and then begin again.  In the middle of this wooded sanctuary, a Pileated Woodpecker was pounding his beak on the old TV antenna that is affixed to the house directly beside my bedroom window.  This beautiful, albeit destructive bird, truly could not see the forest for the trees.  Although surrounded by a plethora of massive trunks, it chose to continue to bang its beak on the metal tower and showed up again this morning to do it all over again.

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I caved to the will of the shortsighted bird and got up early to take my dog for a walk.  The familiar sounds of the usual morning creatures were there to walk with us and when we got close to home, I heard the familiar banging sound coming from my neighbors house.  Out of the myriad number of trees to select from, this bird had found the only two needles in nature’s haystack.  I can only wonder how long it will take this feather-brained bird to realize it’s barking up the wrong tree.