Tag Archives: writing

July!

Jillian here. I’ve been indulging myself in reading some books this summer as well as watching a lot of older movies on TCM. I confess, I’ve let my writing fall a bit to the wayside. I did start a new story last week and am about 3500 words in- which is slow for me- but I’m okay with that since I am at least writing something after being in a slump.

I read a book this week which was a totally fictionalized account of the Dr. Crippen murder. This was a case in 1910 in London where the culprit and his companion took off on an ocean liner and were caught by a Scotland Yard detective by the first use of the Marconi telegraph machine when the captain thought he recognized Crippen.  The detective boarded a ship at Liverpool and chased the first liner across the ocean to get his man. The retelling was interesting in that the author (John Boyne) explored a different theory of the case. I liked the tale even though it wasn’t very likely to be the truth.

I also recently read The Silent Governess; Runaway; Orphan, Monster, Spy; and This House is Haunted. They were all very different, but I liked them all. Historical, contemporary thriller, 1940’s Germany and a spooky Gothic. I like lots of different genres – both to write and to read. No wonder I can’t seem to build a brand- I’m all over the place.  LOL

Some of the movies I watched this past week are North by Northwest; Jane Eyre; The Woman in Green; LauraThe Tattooed Stranger; and Treasure Island.

Oh well, I like who I am and so that’s that. I can’t change my eclectic nature now, can I?

Have a great July!!  How about an office cat pic to give you a smile?  This is Camo. Short for Camouflage- she blends in with the grass when it dies in the fall and winter. 🙂 She’s a great helper with the closed files destined for storage. IMG_4944 (2)

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Old Dog, New Tricks

Synaptogenesis…ever heard of it? I hadn’t either until recently. While listening to a podcast on my MP3 player while out walking Vivvy, I discovered that synaptogenesis is the formation of new synapses in the brain. These are connecting points that link brain cells, approximately 100 billion of them, and it’s how our brain cells communicate with each other.

Deteriorating synapses are linked to a number of neurodegenerative diseases, but research shows that there are ways to regenerate and increase our synapses. According to the podcast, one of the ways is to change up the way we carry out routine tasks. Fascinated, I tried it out on the walk by stepping over stiles with my right foot instead of the left which I normally do, walking a different direction around a group of trees, and going anti-clockwise around the lake instead of clockwise. To be honest, I hadn’t realised what a creature of habit I’d become 🙂

Well, it got me thinking about other areas of my life, especially writing. I’ve always been a writer who needs a solid block of time during which I know I won’t be disturbed in order to write anything like meaningful prose (!). But in the spirit of trying something new, I decided to give writing sprints and timed writing a go. Many writers have success with this kind of writing, but I never thought it would work for me.

Since I wanted to do it properly, I downloaded the Pomodoro app to my phone I set it for twenty-five minutes of writing, followed by a five-minute break time during which you get up and move away from the screen and do something unrelated to writing.

Well, it’s been a revelation! Not only does it seem to work for me, but my word count has soared. Okay, I know this is great for a first draft, and there’ll be some things to fix in the second draft, but hey, words on the screen are always welcome, thank you very much! As they say, you can’t fix a blank page.

So, I’m going to continue with this new way of writing and along the way fire up some new connections in my brain 🙂 It’s a win/win!

When Did It Stop Being Fun?

For a while now, I’ve been experiencing an annoying dose of writer’s block. It’s not simply a case of sitting and staring at a blank screen waiting for the words to come, this is a flat out case of not even wanting to go near the computer or notebook. There’s just nothing there story-wise. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Wikipedia describes writer’s block as a condition “in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.” Yep, that’s me. “The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years“. Yikes. That last part inspired me to take action. So…

I’ve decided to jump off the deep end and have signed up for National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. This, according, to the official website, is “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing” and means that on 1st November until the 30 November, participants are tasked with writing a 50,000-word novel. The essence of NaNoWriMo is Don’t think. Just Write. Well, signing up seemed like a good idea at the time, but now panic has well and truly settled in. But needs must and all that.

I’m not entirely sure what started this downhill slide into writer’s block, but for some reason, the joy of creating stories has left me, albeit temporarily I hope. It makes me long for the old days when, charged with an idea, I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and start writing. They were heady days. So involved was I in the story that I’d go crazy if I was interrupted. I remember once when AJ called me away for lunch and I told him I couldn’t be long as I couldn’t wait to get back to the story to find out what happened next. It seems a long time since I felt that way. So what happened?

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Years ago, I read a really great article by author Holly Lisle called Are We Having Fun Yet? She talks specifically about writing, but her words can be applied to almost everything we  once loved to do but ultimately lost its magic for us. Holly talks about doing what we love simply because we love it. When we first find something that fires us up we throw ourselves into it. Of course, since we’re beginners we don’t always know what we’re doing, we don’t know the rules, but isn’t that part of the magic? We’re doing it simply for its own sake and for the pleasure it brings us. Then we start to discover the ‘rules’ or someone implies we’re not doing it right, and in trying to do it right the magic slowly begins to die

So, during November I’ll be throwing out the rules and attempting to find that magic again. What I write will be just for me, for the sheer pleasure of creating. There’ll be no thought of reader preference, editor requirements, publisher expectations, and not even concern for that insidious little voice that lies deep within and loves to tell me that I’m doing it all wrong. And, if my cunning plan works, I might just might, find that magic again.

What about you? Is there anything you’ve once loved/enjoyed, but somehow it’s lost its magic for you? Is there anything you might be able to do to get it back? I’d love to hear about it. Oh, and please take a couple of minutes to read Holly’s article. I’m sure you’ll be inspired.

Gallery

What makes a good read?

  I’ve been thinking lately about what makes a good read for me. These thoughts then led me down one of my musing paths on how most of you are writers as well as readers whilst I am an avid … Continue reading

Rockin’ and Rollin’

I know we don’t usually chat about our writing over here but that’s what I’ve been spending time on lately. And I mean like a maniac.  I started writing a Regency story that’s probably really late Georgian not too long ago and it’s one of those stories that is practically writing itself. The ideas are coming faster than I can type so I’ve been crazy getting it down.  I love it when this kind of thing happens but it’s also tough because I become so focused on the story that I get obsessive. Lol. But at least it keeps me off the streets, right?

I stumbled upon a little known fact (unknown to me, that is- lol) about the Grimaldi family when researching a plot point for my story and while it wasn’t what I was looking for initially, it’s going to make my story even better than the idea I had and I love the serendipity of that.  Did you know that one of the wives of a Grimaldi prince (House of Monaco) was one of the last people executed in the Reign of Terror? And yes, I am working that into my story. Peripherally.

Hoping August treats you all well.  It’s 104 Fahrenheit here in the shade so I’m working on keeping cool!

Porch-Sittin’ Weather by Valerie J. Patterson

The county courthouse I work in is practically older than dirt.  It has a large front porch–for lack of a better term.  It has massive, aged columns and a huge bell tower upon which stands a statue of the man the county is named after–Revolutionary War Major General Nathanael Greene.  The original courtroom is big with high archways and walls lined with portraits of the judges who’ve administered justice through the courthouse’s existence.  It’s a pretty impressive courthouse.  But it’s the front porch I want to talk about.

Greene County Courthouse

The courthouse is at the heart of town.  Anyone going anywhere has to pass the front of the courthouse in order to get where they’re going.  There are park benches on the front porch inviting folks to sit a while.  This is where I’ve come to spend my lunch breaks the past two months or so.

It’s not always easy to get out of the office and go to a restaurant for lunch, but it does occur.  Usually, when that happens, my hubby picks me up and whisks me away for an hour of quiet conversation and a sandwich or a salad.  I love those hours.  I covet those hours because it’s a small bit of time we get together in an otherwise busy day.

If I can’t get away, I head for the front porch.  I take a bottle of water, some protein biscuits, a pen and a tablet.  I head for the park bench farthest from the main doors and–after stealing a glance at the clock on the bank across the street–I settle in and start working on my manuscript.  I usually get half a bottle of water and two biscuits down before my mind pulls away from my work and my eyes begin to take in the sights and sounds.

One afternoon I watched a man stopped at a traffic light watch a woman cross the street.  So intent was he on watching her that he turned down a one-way street and the man in the car he cut off yelled loud enough that he stopped and backed out of the one-way street and scurried on his way.

I watched a bride and groom come rushing out the front doors after one of the judges married them and instantly pose for photos,  I’ve seen families pose for photos with the child they just adopted.  And I’ve seen divorcing couples argue all the way down the front steps, stopping on the sidewalk to continue the heated exchange.  Mostly, I watch folks hurry from one end of town to the next and back again.  After all, that hour tends to fly when you fill it with errands.

It seems that no matter the heat of the day, there’s always a lovely breeze coming across the front porch.  I enjoy that breeze.  It relaxes me and refreshes me and energizes me to finish my day.  My Dad was an accomplished porch-sitter.  In the evenings after dinner and whatever chores he had to complete, he’d grab a tall glass of my Mom’s homemade iced tea and head for the front porch.  He’d chat with whomever passed in front of the house, but mostly he sat quietly just soaking up the evening.

There are days when I’m sitting on the park bench and I think of him.  I just know he’d enjoy sitting on that front porch with me.  I hope it remains porch-sittin’ weather for a long while!

Until next time, I hope there’s a porch in your life where you can sit and recharge.  May it always be perfect porch-sittin’ weather for you, too!

I Have A Dream by Valerie J. Patterson

When you were a little kid, what did you dream you would be when you finally grew up?  Every child has big dreams.  Fireman.  Astronaut.  Beauty Queen.  Doctor.  Race car driver.  Super hero.  As we grow and our world widens and our interests change and expand, our dreams also change and expand, and then become more realistic as we approach high school and then university.

For me, I had three dreams that stayed with me my entire childhood.  I wanted to be an actress, a writer, and I wanted to be an ace reporter for my local newspaper, The Daily News.  For as long as I can remember, these dreams were with me.

My grandma’s back yard was my very first stage.  She had this amazing copse of Blue Spruce pine trees at the rear of her property.  I used to slip between the branches and enter the inner circle.  It was beautiful inside that circle of pine.  The floor was blanketed with pine needles and the huge, aged boughs shielded me from view and provided what I thought was an incredible background.  That inner circle was also a great acoustical environment (or so I thought).  I loved to sing while I was inside those Blue Spruce boughs.  I would host my very own variety show right there in the inner circle.

I was in the school plays and musicals.  In college, I was part of the drama fraternity, and an actress with the college players.  After getting married, I joined the local theatre troupe and for several years people bought tickets to see me perform on stage.  People.  Not just family, but strangers, too.  What a rush!  It was enough for me.  I didn’t have to hitch a ride to Hollywood and wait tables until my big break came along.

One dream realized.

Still, every once in a while I want to stand atop a table in a restaurant and break out in song, but the fear of food being chucked at me prevents this from happening!

I am a writer.  I love to create characters, settings, and write dialogue.  I enjoy the task of constructing a tightly woven mystery for my heroine to solve.  I love sinking my teeth into research for a new book.  I thrive on reviews of my work.  I greatly enjoy being invited to be a guest speaker and the opportunity to tell others about my work and how I got to the place where I am in my writing career.  And, I admit, I really enjoy the pleasure I feel when someone asks me to autograph a book for them.  It’s even better when it’s my book they ask me to autograph!  (sorry, couldn’t resist that wee little joke)

Two dreams realized.

After getting married, I relocated to another part of the state of Pennsylvania and left behind the biggest of my three dreams.  That dream of being an ace reporter for the Daily News.  I used to daydream about pounding the pavement to get a quote for a story.  Hunting down the underdog for a feel-good feature.  Doing tons of research for that big story that would crack a case wide open in an award-winning investigative piece.  Meeting deadlines.  Editing my work to fit a column width.  Flashing my credentials to get into places.  Being a valued member of The Press!

Why I never pursued a career with any other newspaper is beyond me.  I guess life moved forward and I moved with it.  I began a career in finance that took over my life for eleven years and, by the time I left it, it seemed too late to go back to my dream.  I was long past the day of my college graduation.  I was no longer a freshly scrubbed face seeking her first job.  I pursued other avenues.  But the dream never left me.  It never changed.  It just remained unfulfilled.

There’s a new reality TV show called The Moment where people are given the chance of a lifetime to capture the biggest moment in their lives by fulfilling their dream career that life interrupted.  I am not a fan of reality TV.  However, the premise is an interesting one, isn’t it?

If someone came to you and handed you the opportunity to make your one big dream come true, would you take it?  I would.  I would want to know if I had what it took to be that reporter or if the diverted path I chose was my dream life after all.

But then…I think, maybe I don’t want to know.  Maybe it’s best left a dream unrealized instead of a dream shattered.

What about you?  What’s your dream?  Don’t be shy…share!

Until next time…