Tag Archives: writing

Paperback Writer

‘Paperback Writer’ is one of my favorite Beatles’ songs and often serves as a source of both humor and inspiration to me. I listen to this one often, but didn’t think much about the lyrics until recently. If you’re not familiar with the song, you can check out the Wikipedia entry here.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

This is easy enough to understand. A simple question authors often send to someone they hope will be sympathetic to their work: an editor, a publisher, or a reader.

It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Again, simple and to the point. True, too, since a good book takes a long time to create. Writing is a huge commitment that isn’t for the faint of heart.

It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear

Many novels are based on the works of someone the author read and admired in the past. No surprise here.

And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer

This I find amusing. Many people feel they have at least one great novel in them. Most writers work a day job to pay the bills, so they’re considered hobbyists on the publishing front. Except for the ‘overnight successes’ who can give up the rat race to sit in their pajamas with a computer all day.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this so much is that I’ve been off track on the writing for a while now. My day job wears me out, which isn’t a good excuse if I truly want to write since the only writing time available to me is after work. People committed to writing and publishing will get in a few minutes of creative time no matter how hectic their schedules. My plan (again) is to commit to my art in the coming year.

My hope is to be able to ask you the immortal question from the beginning of this song some time this year: Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

After all, I want to be a Paperback Writer!

Oscar and Me

Over the years, I’ve lived a life based on the philosophy of Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy. Lucy inspired me to try outrageous things. Given the chance, I’ve checked a few exploits off my own list: stomping grapes (done), meeting celebrities (done), acting in a movie (done).

A Huge Television and Movie Fan

I watched classic movies and shows on repeat countless times throughout my childhood. Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc. You name a show and I’ve seen most, if not all, the episodes multiple times. The fact that I started living like Lucy is a direct result of how much I enjoyed watching sitcoms. Which is explains I’m holding an Oscar statuette in the photo below.

2008 Reno Film Festival

The statuette I’m holding is real; won by Michael Semanick for Best Sound Mixing on Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004. Mr. Semanick brought his award to the Reno Film Festival (RFF) during my time as volunteer coordinator for the event. We spent a few enjoyable minutes talking about his experiences with the movie before they took the photo.

I first attended the RFF in their second year of existence. In the course of my day job, I’d met the woman who coordinated volunteers at that time, and she recruited me for the following year. Another year later, I found myself in charge when she decided to step down.

Unexpected Experiences

My involvement in the RFF led to more interesting adventures. Cast members of American Graffiti applauded me, screenwriter Shane Black signed a Lethal Weapon movie ticket for me (a one-of-a-kind autograph!), and the festival screened the movie in which I was an extra. Getting my picture taken with good ‘ole Oscar was icing on a very rich and satisfying cake.

All good things must come to an end and I stopped working with the RFF for various reasons. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up my desire to try outrageous things whenever possible. I also haven’t given up on the dream of someday being photographed with my own Oscar – earned for either acting or screenwriting (I’m not picky).

Since nothing much out-of-the-ordinary has happened of late, the itch is building again. In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch TV and movies, work at my day job, play with my grandsons, read, write…and dream.

Why Write? A Tale of Procrastination and Progress.

Why write?

Or, more specifically, why do I want to write?

I’ve asked myself this question a lot. Over the past few years, I’ve been trapped in a cycle of self-doubt. Disgust washes over me whenever I re-read any writing I’ve managed during that time. This has led me to a series of activities that I convinced myself were writing related: reading, watching AuthorTube videos, plotting, planning, daydreaming. You know…all the basics of procrastination.

Anything but writing. Even though I have an awesome work space (see below), complete with a sign warning away people who dare try to distract me – which honestly isn’t too hard to do!

why writeThe good news.

Watching YouTube videos (#authortube) helped me realize all writers suffer from self-doubt. I need to stop being so hard on myself. No first draft will ever match the masterpiece I imagine. Work needs to be done to hone the raw material into something worthy of publication. This is one reason to write: the challenge of turning a stone into a sparkling gem. And this is an enjoyable challenge. I just need to remember that the first things to flow from fingers to keyboard to screen aren’t the ones that may one day go out into the world. There’s no need to feel disgusted by a first draft. My new #authortube friends have been a great help in teaching me this important lesson, and for that I’m very grateful. This, in turn, helped me to answer the “why write” question.

Why else would I write?

As a child, I walked to school alone most every day. This gave me a lot of quiet time to create stories in my head. These tales were most often built upon a favorite TVshow and character. The habit of rewriting and expanding upon television programs carried over into adulthood, when I started typing some of these thoughts in manuscript form. In other words, I began creating fan fiction because I like to answer the eternal “what if” question. If a show didn’t quite end the way I liked, I could create an alternate version, which has become a very popular pastime for a lot of people. Chances are that you, dear reader, have done the same thing at one time or another.

Fun, isn’t it?

The problem.

I’ve come to realize one of the reasons I’ve had trouble writing is I’m now creating original fiction instead of building upon already-established characters. My new friends aren’t as fully-formed as the ones I once wrote about. So I’m having more trouble picturing how their stories might play out. This isn’t a bad thing, really. Bringing unknown characters to life can be quite a challenge (there’s that word again). With these new people, new situations, and sometimes even new worlds, I have the opportunity to share the stories important to me. This can be powerful and heady stuff when done right…or write, as the case may be.

Why write?

The short answer for me seems to be that I like a challenge. Of course, this challenge can also be so daunting as to lead to an extended period of writers’ block. The reason I want to write is also the reason I fear writing. Am I up to the challenge of creating something others might want to read?

That’s not the question I should have been asking myself. What I should ask is whether or not there’s a story I want to tell. Do I want to challenge myself to create characters and worlds I find entertaining? If so, that’s answer enough for the question. No one else need ever care about these stories, though some part of me will always hope others might also enjoy them.

What about you?

Why write? What inspires and motivates you?

If you’re having trouble with your own writing, think about those questions. Use some of your procrastination time to consider why writing is important to you. Check out the #authortube channel on YouTube. If you’re interested, try out some of my favorites: Kristen Martin, Vivian Reis, Kim Chance, Su Scribes, Joanne Mallory, and Jenna Moreci. These are only a few of the people I follow, and chances are you may find others that I haven’t yet discovered.

Most important of all…

Image result for writing quotes

Luck for All & All for Luck

Luck (from Dictionary.com): good fortune, advantage or success, considered as the result of chance.

Luck is something people wish each other all the time. The problem is, traditional notions of luck may lead to negativity due to the element of chance. In March of 2018, Scientific American published this interesting article by Scott Barry Kaufman about how luck may be a bigger factor in life than we often realize. Kaufman lists findings related to the achievement of success, like country of residence or how a name looks or sounds.

While these elements may be part of the equation, I believe redefining luck may also lead to success in life…and in the art of writing.

L = Love

Everyone experiences love. We may not all feel the emotion the same way. Yet each of us loves someone: a parent, friend, significant other, our even ourselves. We may love our work, a hobby, the earth, or life in general.  As the song goes: It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go. (from Love is All Around).

Some writers love what they do so much they don’t care if their work is popular; the act of creation is reward enough. Others love the idea of achieving best seller status without putting in the work necessary to make the dream a reality and become disillusioned when they don’t achieve their greatest desire. The former writer will most often be happier than the latter because of the element of love.

U = Understanding

Galileo said: All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. Understanding comes with familiarity. We can all learn a lesson by watching how children often repeat an experience over and over until they’ve mastered the task. People who are serious about learning something are willing to put in the work necessary to achieve a comfortable level of understanding. Even in maturity, adults can continue to learn and grow.

Understanding how to write well is difficult. As mentioned above, many wanna-be writers don’t have the drive to put in the time necessary to master the art. Loving what they do enough to achieve understanding is an important factor in achieving success.

C = Compassion

Most of us feel sympathy toward someone who’s facing a situation we’ve experienced for ourselves. While we can’t always ease pain, we may try to do something for them because someone helped, or didn’t help, us in our time of need. To quote the Dalai Lama, If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 

While we don’t all experience life in the same way, I believe creating characters to whom readers can show compassion helps to enhance the reading experience. This is a great way to expand horizons in the hope that those readers may show more compassion to people they’re dealing with out in the world.

K = Kindness

A simple smile, a compliment, or even holding open a door can be a kindness. Being nice to someone doesn’t have to take much time or effort. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted (Aesop).

While equating writing with kindness may be a stretch, think about how often reading a book can make a bad day more bearable for a reader. Entertaining and inspiring authors provide a kindness. Popular authors like JK Rowling are often kind to their fans in more personal ways, too.

Looking at luck in this new way can be transformational.

Thinking of luck as a way of being loving, understanding, compassionate, and kind instead of just as an indicator of random chance can improve life in unimaginable ways. We all need more of this in our lives. Learning more about the ‘other’ who we may distrust is a good way of finding common ground and understanding. Showing kindness during disagreements helps diffuse tension. Being compassionate to someone else can ease our own pain.

And the world can never have too much love.

For those of us who write, following these principles will add depth to our work. Having our characters show some or all of these traits helps our readers relate to them. And using the components of ‘luck’ may just inspire us to write that best-seller.

Luck for all and all for luck!

Inspiration: A Global Search

Inspiration Around the World

Inspiration at Blarney Castle

Inspiration for my current writing project came in the form of second trip to the Emerald Isle where lush greenery abounds beneath often leaden skies. Castles and cathedrals dot the misty landscapes. History and romance go hand-in-hand wherever you turn.

The project mentioned above is the third piece of a travel romance series where the main novels follow the journey of self-discovery of Lilibet Travance. The offshoot books branch off into tales of others who relate to her in some way. Writing travel romances leads, of course, to more travel! A win/win for both me and my readers.

However, not all the future books may be based on recent trips. Another source of global background could be mined from my memories of living in Japan. My family’s experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun provide fascinating fodder for romance.

Inspiration Around the Block

Inspiration in Northern Nevada

While not as green as Ireland, northern Nevada also inspires creativity. The trail shown above is just a few miles from my house. Here the scent of sage and snow hang heavy on the air. Birds of prey circle overhead. Wind whistles through barren branches and pushes clouds across the endless sky.

These views define the bulk of the first portion of an epic series. Lil’s experiences in the Wild West and beyond underscore the changes she faces after leaving her home and family in the Midwest. Landscapes both at home and abroad serve not only as background, but as a means of self-exploration. In the end, physical travel serves as a metaphor for her emotional journey.

For more regular posts about my works-in-progress and inspiring landscapes, check out my social media. I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Time Thief

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Young, 18th Century British Poet

What kind of distractions would an early 18th century writer find to keep them from putting pen to paper? The evenings of the well-to-do would be full of parties, dances, the theater, or games. By day, they might visit friends, travel abroad, or refurbish their homes. The impoverished would, of course, be more worried about day-to-day survival: earning enough to pay for food, clothing, and shelter. Though we might consider the 1700s to be a simpler time with fewer distractions, that wasn’t the case. The dreaded time thief procrastination could be just as much a problem then as it is today.

In the early 21st century, modern authors have the added distraction of being able to use the internet to access a world’s worth of information spanning the history of the human race from the comfort of their own home. We have TV shows, movies, video games, etc. Plus, we still have the same distractions as our 18th century counterparts to go along with all the newer ones.

Why has procrastination been such an issue for writers?

This article in The Atlantic from February of 2014 discusses why authors are the worst procrastinators. The one that resonates most with me is imposter syndrome – or the fear of being unmasked as a fraud. Even when I’ve done what I feel is my best writing, I often think my work is not up to the standards of the truly great writers. Doing everything but getting my words down on paper gives me an excuse not to risk embarrassing exposure as an imposter. If I don’t write, I won’t be embarrassed.

Yet I can’t not write. When I watch TV or a movie, read a book, do housework or whatever else I might be doing instead of writing I’m always thinking about current or future WIPs. If my mind can’t give up the idea of writing, why can’t I sit down and work? Wouldn’t that be easier than stressing about what I want to (or should) do?

Did poet Edward Young write about the time thief all those many years ago because he suffered from the same problem? Was his education a form of procrastination? Or did he avoid putting pen to paper by dancing or game playing? I’d love to know what issues might have prevented him from getting down to work and to learn what means he used to get around them.

My chosen form of procrastination at the moment is writing this blog post instead of working on my current project. Is reading this yours?

Time for us to lock away that horrible time thief and get down to the real business at hand. How else will someone from the early 24th century wonder what we did in order to settle down to write?

To Re-Publish or Not to Re-Publish

After all  the hard work of writing, editing, and proofreading your work you’ve finally reached a point where you upload the file to the various publishing sites and wait until you receive word that your e-book has gone live. You happily tell anyone and everyone who will listen about your achievement and hope a few of them might be interested enough to buy and read your story. If they’re really nice, they might even write you a review. Unfortunately, that review mentions a major flaw in your work; missing scenes, the jarring POV shift you thought you’d fixed, misspellings, incorrect words, punctuation problems…the list is endless.embarrassed

Finding out your work isn’t as perfect as you’d hoped can be humiliating. You may have done everything possible to create as clean a copy as possible to provide your readers an enjoyable experience: worked with critique partners, beta readers, editors, proofreaders, and maybe even someone who specializes in formatting your document for publication. Yet somewhere along the line those pesky errors still managed to slip through. These things happen to even the most diligent authors and publishers.

The good news is that self-publishing e-books allows authors to go back and fix those embarrassing issues. The trick is to determine whether or not a problem is bad enough to warrant the time and effort involved in making and uploading changes to the various publishing sites. Indie authors are often short on time in the best of circumstances so, in my mind, fixing a few missing words or punctuation marks wouldn’t be a great idea unless the author has a lot of free time on their hands. Major problems should, of course, be addressed as soon as possible after the author learns of the issue. The book can then be re-uploaded and made available to readers who’ve purchased the less-than-perfect version.

An author needs to be careful not to get too caught up in trying to achieve perfection in their writing because making revisions can be a never-ending process. if your story is good in a technical sense, but you feel it’s not quite what you’d hoped, the best thing might be to move on and create other works. Previous publications are a reflection of who you were at the time they were written and may not live up to your current standards, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable in their own right. The early works of famous authors aren’t always their best, but reading them helps show their evolution as artists, in the same way as the early works of famous painters, dancers, and actors.

Don’t be afraid to go back to make corrections and re-publish your works, when necessary. Your readers will thank you for taking the time and making the effort to ensure their enjoyment of your works. Just be sure not to get caught up in an endless loop that takes time away from creating your next masterpiece.

Intention vs. Interpretation

One of the greatest parts of being a writer is the ability to communicate thoughts and ideas to readers. The problem is the writer and reader have differing outlooks on life; they often don’t have shared experiences upon which to draw that will help the reader make the connection the writer hopes. Most times, the reader has never met the writer in person and only knows them through their online and/or professional persona. What the writer intends to convey isn’t always what the reader interprets since they have little to no shared background.

This never occurred to me when I started my writing journey oh-so-many years ago now. At that time, my focus was on getting my stories onto the page in such a way as to tempt a publisher to take a chance on me. The stories I found the most success with were ones based upon my favorite television show at the time because the characters, situations, and back-story were all well-established. Whoever read the stories already knew and loved the characters so they would be interested in picking up the tie-in novelizations in order to explore new adventures with their beloved friends.

I’m no longer writing what I now realize was a form of subsidized fan-fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I still enjoy reading fan fiction and tie-in novels, but now I’m trying to embark on my own path as a writer). Many people enjoy exploring all the ‘what ifs’ of the worlds they know and love and others enjoying reading the thought processes of people who share some background, but different overall life experiences. The differences in background become a means of exploring a shared love through new eyes.

In the case of original fiction, the well-known and well-loved characters don’t yet exist. There are no established backstories or situations for the reader to draw upon. Everything is new territory and potential readers look for stories in their favored genre that look as though they may be appealing. The writer then has to successfully draw characters and build a world for the reader to love. Creating the relationship between the reader and the characters can take time and patience and the reader has so many options from which to choose these days that they can and will give up if the story takes too long to catch their interest.

The writer must know and love their characters very well and be able to express that so the potential reader’s interest is captured right away. The writer must know the back-story in such detail that they can indicate what has happened while putting the current story into play. Choosing the right words, phrases, and overall tone is vital to catching reader interest. These facts are all either well-known or instinctive to the successful writer. Some writers, like myself, may need a little more time to wrap their mind around the concept of successful world- and character-building.

These are thoughts I’m keeping in mind as I work to create enjoyable characters and stories in the future. I’ve got to make sure my intention is clear enough for the reader to be able to interpret what I’m trying to say in such a way that they enjoy my stories and characters as much as I do.

And now…back to work!

Travel as Inspiration

A couple weeks ago, my middle child and I took a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure where we spent several magical days enjoying special experiences, great food, and each other’s company. Having my youngest child and her husband and two kids with us for part of the time only enhanced the experience. The photo below, taken from Mickey’s Fun Wheel, looks out over Disneyland to the east and the mountains beyond and gives you some idea of just how gorgeous a winter day in southern California can be.

Southern California in January 2015.

One of the best parts about getting away from normal day-to-day life is being able to see the world in a new light – and that’s always good for the writing process. The drive down and back, while somewhat familiar from previous trips, changes each time we travel that way and that often spurs interesting story ideas. The way the sky looks and the air feels is different than at home and which is refreshing to the sensory memory. Coming across people we’ve never seen before (and probably will never see again) can inspire character creation. Plus, visiting an amusement park often brings out extreme feelings from terror to exhaustion that can be mined for future stories. Not to mention the fact that actual writing can be done during the enforced confinement of the long car trip.

The return home to my own small community after spending time in the big city gave me a chance to look at the familiar in a somewhat different light, too. The sky is a paler shade of blue at our higher elevation than the warm golden tones I associate to the LA basin. The mountains are much closer to us here than they are in the valley down there. The air is thinner and colder than the heavy humid air to the south and our smaller population means we have less smog. We also don’t have as much light pollution so the stars are brighter and clearer in my home town than what’s visible beyond the endless lights of the metropolis. Most of the trees up here in the north look skeletal now, devoid of their summer greenery, and we have a lot less vegetation overall due to our high desert climate, while sunny southern California is ripe with flowers, fruit and palm trees, and thick green grasses. While I enjoyed my time away from home, I’m always happy to come back again.

After a short week back at work I took a second trip out of town, this time for business. Again, I traveled south…to fabulous Las Vegas. A co-worker and I flew down in the morning and returned on an evening flight so the experience was quite a bit different than my day-long drives of the previous week. Again, I saw many unfamiliar people, but this time I also met up with people I know from the work environment. Since we weren’t vacationing, we didn’t get to enjoy the more glamorous aspects of Sin City, but spent our day in a generic conference room taking notes, drinking coffee and eating rich pastries, and discussing some pretty in-depth technical issues. Though my day job is not writing-related, I do get quite a bit of inspiration from the work I do, and this trip was no different on that front. Some of the ideas discussed during our training might someday serve as background detail for one of my romance novels; just a sprinkle of dry material here and there to add texture without causing the plot to thicken too much, so to speak.

Las Vegas is much different from both my home and the Los Angeles area so being in the three locations in such a short span of time is stirring my imagination in new ways. January is often a depressing let-down period for me after the holiday season, but I didn’t feel that way at all this year, and I believe the work I do in the next few months will be richer for the experiences I’ve had over the past few weeks. While I’m more of a homebody than a world traveler, getting away has been just what I needed to help me settle back into my writing routine with fresh eyes and renewed excitement.

Baby Break

My initial plan to publish my WIP at the beginning of November didn’t quite work out when life got in the way. I really don’t mind since the reason the book is still in the last edit stage is that a more important WIP debuted the last week of October: my second grandson.

Two weeks ago today, an ambulance rushed my pregnant youngest daughter to a local hospital in intense pain. She knew something was horribly wrong even if emergency dispatch and the medics kept insisting she must be in labor. They got to the hospital just in time to find out she’d developed abdominal internal bleeding outside the uterus causing a dangerous drop in her blood pressure and a decrease in oxygen to her unborn son. Doctors performed an emergency C-section and delivered my grandson within ten minutes, saving both him and my daughter. They both seem to be recovering well, but needed more help than they’d expected when she got home from the hospital.

The experience just reinforced the one reason I’ve had so much trouble finishing my writing projects. For me, family comes before anything else. My daughter, her husband, and their kids needed me so I took time off my day job and moved in with them for ten days to keep my four-year-old grandson amused while his mommy rested and healed and his new baby brother settled in to his new home life. The experience also reinforced that my daughter is truly superwoman; she’s been self publishing for several years now to great success – and managed to release a new novella with a new baby in the house just a week after her near-death experience.

My daughter also puts her family first, yet in her case this means dedicating herself to her writing career while my son-in-law serves as the primary caregiver to their children. She has the talent and drive to earn enough from her writing so they live quite comfortably and take regular trips. No matter where she is or what she’s doing, she’s always writing and/or editing something. She’s published at least one book while sitting at a restaurant in Disneyland. I’d love to be more like her.

Now that I’ve returned home, I’m settling back in to my own project with a renewed sense of purpose. My daughter doesn’t use life and family as an excuse not to pursue her dreams so why should I?