Street Stories Walk the Streets

These are just done with a photo app, but wouldn’t these look great if they were for real?

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Gearing Up for Book 4

If all goes well, I plan to have a new Street Stories novel finished this year.  My focus will be to highlight awareness of the number of homeless youth who are members of the LGBTQ community.  It is estimated that about 40% of homeless youth are on the streets because of their sexual orientation.

Here’s one of the sources I found while researching the specifics:

Three Books From One

3inOneIn 2012 I was living in Seattle and trying to supplement my part-time job with some freelance writing. One of the things I contracted to write was a personalizable novel for a European company called PersonalNOVEL that allowed readers to change details like names and places in order to personalize them to their own specifications.

Because I wasn’t getting paid big bucks and therefore didn’t want to spend a lot of time getting the job done, I pitched them three potential plots based on old ideas that I had  already written or at least started but that never went further than that.

The idea they selected became Through the Dark, which was based on a complete novel I had written almost thirty years earlier.  The original manuscript itself was actually in storage in Illinois so I tried to recreate it from memory since I was not able to edit the original story itself. I put the title out under my pseudonym of Deb Donahue because it was quite a different style from my Debra Borys novels and short stories.

The result was a decent book, I think; they liked it anyway, and paid me for it. I even eventually self-published the same book as Eyes at the Window for U.S. readers. When I moved back to Illinois, however, and got my things out of storage, I reread the original manuscript and realized how different the published version was from my original intent. While the three main characters were basically the same and had the same motives, I’d completely forgotten that I had used a fourth point of view character which added a whole different set of complications to the plot.

In addition, the character’s personalities were quite different in the two versions, and there were key scenes missing that provided depth and added action. The original story, in fact, was different enough from what got published that I have decided it is worth rewriting to publish under my real name, adding that dark suspense flavor you can find in my other Borys books.

It will be fun to compare the three versions of a story that was sparked by the same kernel of an idea.  I’m going to post comparison excerpts here from time to time to show the evolution of the idea from concept to remembered to revised. If you are curious to see how one story can be written three different ways, I hope you’ll check back each week to see what I’ve done with the piece.

2015

Seems like everyone’s always using the year end to count their blessings and resolve to accomplish great things in the next 365 days. Normally I avoid that like the plague.  No reason why, except maybe because everyone else is doing it and I like to think I’m different.

But I really need to do something to kick myself in the pants and meet some goals I’ve been trying to establish. So let’s look at some of my failures this year:

  • I wanted to finish and publish A Bull by the Horns
  • I wanted my third Street Stories novel, Box of Rain (released in print early in the year) to be the book that brought the series to the attention of more readers.
  • I wanted to lose weight or at least live a healthier lifestyle
  • I wanted to win a house in Asheville NC so I could move closer to my sons

So what did I do instead?

  • I finished a really rough draft of Bull, then set it aside so I could get some perspective before editing. I did publish a “new” novel in 2015 on Kindle and in print. Eyes at the Window is the non-personalized, U.S. version of a book published as Through the Dark by PersonalNOVEL in Europe and the UK.  I also started repurposing three old manuscripts by typing them into the computer in preparation for editing them into finished, published works.
  • I won’t really know how well Box of Rain is selling until I get a royalty report from my publisher in early 2016, though from the Amazon ranking, I suspect it’s not the breakthrough hit I’d hoped. However, I did attend a few author fairs during the year, two of which are pretty high profile, Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Festival and the Chicago Book Expo.
  • My health did not get any worse, which doesn’t seem like any great accomplishment unless you think about how little time I devoted to being healthy.
  • I took a trip to Virginia and North Carolina and visited both sons for the first time since they moved to the eastern U.S.

What unexpected accomplishments did I achieve in 2015?

  • I won two awards at the In Print Professional Writers Word of Art 2 contest: Spare Change won both the best story award, but also the People’s Choice for best author/artist collaboration.
  • I helped organize and attended the first annual Author Fair at the Princeton Public Library.
  • I built a new website for the Princeton Public Library.

Should I set goals for 2016 to see how far I fail, or should I just wing it? I do know that unless death or dismemberment occurs, I will be going to Venice next September with a Dorothy Dunnett group I’ve traveled with before, so that’s something to look forward to. Some say writing down your goals helps you achieve them, but I’m not yet convinced. let me think on it a bit and get back to in, say, 2017.

Happy 81st Birthday, Mom

mom-kidThis is my mother. I don’t mean this was my mother, or even this is a picture of my mother when she was a girl. I mean my mother is a girl. Sure she is 81 years old today and therefore also qualifies as a woman, but in all those years she has also been this little girl that you see in this photo.

Mom-3boobapaloozaYou can hear the child Rosemary in flashes of laughter and find her lurking in the gleam in her eye. I experience her as great bursts of energy when she’s dancing at a party, or sipping a glass of wine. She delights in the same things she did when young, and retains a sense of adventure and wonder that too many of us often lose as we grow older.

Mom4Too often we look at our parents and see them as Mom and Dad, and not the people behind those labels

Happy birthday, Mom. Thank you for being a great example of how important it is to hold on to our youth as we grow older.

Print Books Have Arrived!

Though the e-book has been out for months, it never seems real to me until I hold the printed, hard copy version in my own hands.

BOX OF RAIN: another STREET STORIES suspense novel

Printbooks

You can now order print books of Box of Rain from your local bookstore, online, or get a signed copy directly from me.

button-amazon  button-bn  AuthorBuy

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Documentary on Homeless Teens in Chicago

The Homestretch is a documentary I first mentioned when I was still in the infant stages of writing Box of Rain. I was doubly excited about the news. First of all, and most importantly, the film calls attention to the overlooked and heartbreaking fact that many youth trying to make their way through the Chicago school system are also homeless. The film follows three youth as they struggle to stay in school.

The second reason, of course, is because that is the topic I address in Box of Rain.  Booker T worked hard to get a college scholarship, yet a macabre murder, combined with a tendency to judge a street kid by past prejudices, might make his efforts all for nothing.

I just found out that the documentary, which is available for special screenings and is being released in several locations, is going to be shown on the PBS show Independent Lens on April 13.  I highly recommend you find out what time the show will be on in your area an check it out.  In the meanwhile, click through to this article on the film to find out why you should watch it.

Think being a teenager was tough? Imagine going through that period without a steady roof over your head.

That’s the tale that unfolds in “The Homestretch,” a new documentary that examines the lives of three Chicago teens struggling to get a high school education while in what school administrators euphemistically call “temporary living situations.” Roque, Anthony and Kasey were among the more than 19,000 homeless students in the city’s public schools and an estimated 1.2 million homeless youth nationwide — a figure many advocates say is probably an undercount.

via Documentary on Homeless Teens in Chicago Aims to ‘Show the Struggle’ | Youth Today.

Guest Post at Kathryn’s Inbox: Birthing a Book

It looks to me like I forgot to post this excerpt from a guest post I did over at Kathryn’s Inbox in January.  If this is a repeat post, I apologize.  I’m only showing a bit of it here, but click through to read the whole article if you are interested in hearing about the labor pains involved in Birthing a Book.

Today, I am bringing you a guest post by the wonderful Debra R. Borys whose most recent novel Box of Rain was released in December 2014. Debra is talking with us about the process of birthing a book. I found this post to be quite inspirational and hope that you do, too.

 

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know how much work you do beforehand to prepare for the new arrival. You take Lamaze classes, read books, plan decor for the nursery. You pack your suitcase, take the multi-vitamins your doctor prescribes, and faithfully attend scheduled wellness checkups.

When you are anticipating the creation of a new book, there are several stages all writers go through. Methods may vary, but the general framework remains the same: conception, research, development, labor, and the final reward, holding your newly birthed book in your eager little hands.

via Kathryn’s Inbox: Guest Post: Author Debra R. Borys on Birthing a Book.

Not all sunsets, rainbows and unicorns

Sometimes I feel  like people don’t understand what I’m saying.  Or maybe that I’m not saying it right.  Then I find an article or hear a story about someone that hits it right on the nose.

These are the people we live aside, Durkan says. It is important they have a voice and are seen, just as the Amazon techies and well-dressed downtowners that have been getting so much press in Seattle’s boom.

“So often people walk over them,” Durkan says of people living on the streets. “It’s important to get them out in front of people, bring to light underlying issues.”

Homelessness is as diverse as this city, Durkan says. Drug addiction is not the sole impetus for every homeless person. Neither is mental illness or economic hardship, both which he plans to chronicle.

And even more important than getting the stories in front of people is this:

To “be there, in that subject’s life, for a moment.” Just a moment

 

As hard as it is to pin down an umbrella explanation for life on the street, Durkan says a “cure” or a “fix” for the homeless is, too, impossibly complex. It’s fallacy to pretend a new photo series will do much of anything to eliminate the hardships.
But it’s SOMETHING. A step, Durkan says. For exposing the issue, a call for help. Even if, Durkan says, no one sees his series or cares about a particular photograph, he was there, in that subject’s life for a moment.  Awareness, and all its arms, is good.

All quotes via Not all sunsets, rainbows and unicorns: Seattle photographer moves from pretty to gritty in stunning series | Q13 FOX News.

Here’s Tim’s first Street Story.  Visit the Capital Hill Seattle Blog to see his stories.

Some Comments Regarding Comments

emptyspamThis blog doesn’t get an enormous amount of traffic, but the number of visitors does hold pretty steady, with an occasional spike in activity for certain posts.  The amount of comments any one post gets, however, is usually zero.  Unless, that is, you count the comments that end up in Spam.

Every once in a while I go through the spam folder in my website scanning to make sure a legitimate reader’s thoughts don’t get deleted.  Some, I’ll admit, look so cleverly close to the real thing, I actually end up approving them.  After, of course, editing them to remove the links they include to sell Victoria’s Secret lingerie or SEO experts who promise to increase traffic to my website.

Most comments, though, are so obviously spam I wonder what the commenters were even thinking, trying to get past the junk filters WordPress uses.  Non-English entries, Cyrillic text, English-as-an-apparent-second-language, and nonsense comments abound.  Like this particularly ridiculous one:

Ignoгe hiringa establishing deѕiner brand in addition to specialist to a.testosterone levels for hourss on endd on end wҺen the reality is kissing lenses ɦugely correct witҺ when you nerеd it attempting. Ϲoach boots sale ebay

Yeah, like I’m going to approve a comment that makes no sense at all, especially when it’s trying to sell me boots on Ebay.

Then there are those inept computer users who show the man behind the Wizard of Oz curtain, who end up posting what is obviously some auto-script that when done correctly creates many of the mindless, deletable comments.  Here’s is just a short portion of one string I found today.

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my
view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will
be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.
{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your
{rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to find} your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or {newsletter|e-newsletter} service.
Do {you have|you’ve} any? {Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order
that} I {may just|may|could} subscribe. Thanks.|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make some plans for the future and {it is|it’s} time to be happy.

{I have|I’ve} read this post and if I could I {want to|wish to|desire to}
suggest you {few|some} interesting things or {advice|suggestions|tips}.
{Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write next articles referring to
this article. I {want to|wish to|desire to} read {more|even more} things
about it!|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make {a few|some} plans
for {the future|the longer term|the long run} and {it is|it’s} time to be happy.
{I have|I’ve} {read|learn} this {post|submit|publish|put up} and if I {may just|may|could} I
{want to|wish to|desire to} {suggest|recommend|counsel} you {few|some} {interesting|fascinating|attention-grabbing} {things|issues} or {advice|suggestions|tips}.

{Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write {next|subsequent}
articles {relating to|referring to|regarding} this article.
I {want to|wish to|desire to} {read|learn} {more|even more} {things|issues} {approximately|about} it!|
{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} {online|on-line}
{more than|greater than} {three|3} hours {these days|nowadays|today|lately|as of late},
{yet|but} I {never|by no means} {found|discovered} any {interesting|fascinating|attention-grabbing} article like yours.
{It’s|It is} {lovely|pretty|beautiful} {worth|value|price} {enough|sufficient} for
me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made {just right|good|excellent} {content|content material} as {you did|you probably did},
the {internet|net|web} {will be|shall be|might be|will probably be|can be|will
likely be} {much more|a lot more} {useful|helpful} than ever
before.|
Ahaa, its {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {discussion|conversation|dialogue} {regarding|concerning|about|on the topic
of} this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} {here|at this place} at this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}, I have read all
that, so {now|at this time} me also commenting {here|at this place}.|
I am sure this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} has touched all the internet
{users|people|viewers|visitors}, its really really {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious}
{article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} on building
up new {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}.|

Yes, you heard me right, that is only about a third of the comment that I show above.  And there were several of these exact same scripts in the list of 232 comments I emptied from my spam folder today. So now the similarity of structure in many of these comments becomes clearer.  Life is simpler when you can automate it.

Maybe I can build a similar script to make writing blog posts easier.

I am sure this {piece of writing} has touched all the {internet visitors}, its really really {nice}
{paragraph} on building up new {blog}.

What do you think?  Hmm, Maybe not.  I’ll keep working on it. In the meantime, I hope if you really do write a legitimate comment on something that it doesn’t end up in spam folder, because if it does, I’m afraid it might just end up whirling down the drain with the rest of the dirty water when I click the “Empty Spam Folder” button at the top of the list.

Better luck next time h t t p ://coachoutlet.playingparisian.com/Coach-rubber-rain-boots-sale.html.

Guest Post: Debra R. Borys

HorseCynthia Kuhn’s Mysteristas blog has a theme of “Ice” for December, so I wrote up a little piece on the Fairbanks Word Ice Art Championship that I attended a few years ago. Click through to read the article, and if you want to see more of the photos I took, visit my Alaskan Adventure blog page.

Looking For a Reason

EHAn essay I wrote quite a while ago has been published on the Effectively Human website.  It’s a piece about a young man I knew when I was volunteering, one that I often think about and hope he is doing well.  It still breaks my heart to think he might not be.

Here’s a small piece of it but I hope you will click through to read the rest.

Maybe the question I need to answer is not what went wrong, but what might go wrong. How long before the young boy’s eyes in the young man’s face grow cold? Will the day come when he will look at me with a glazed gaze: wild, cruel, daring someone for a reason to vent his anger and frustration at what he has become? He will sit on our stained blue couch and I will mix hot cocoa for him, or maybe pour coffee, extra cream and extra sugar. He will stuff packages of cookies in his pockets and ask if we have any clean socks, any hygiene kits, any sandwiches, any more coffee. Anything? The dark hair will be streaked with gray, the zipper on his coat will not quite close and he will carry a plastic shopping bag with the corner of a frayed airline blanket poking out from its tightly packed interior.

If this is Eric’s future, will I find courage enough then to look past his rage to find the human being inside? Will there be one there? Which would be the worst case scenario: a cardboard box or a coffin?

A cardboard box, and then a coffin?

No, I think. The worst case scenario would be not looking for the human being. If I stop looking, if everyone stops looking, the human being dies while the body continues to breathe. And the little boy in the church pew, the face he makes as he tugs at his tight top shirt button, the wide-eyed dream of someday drawing comic books, or pitching for the Yankees, or winning the Indy 500, dies also.

via Effectively Human: Homelessness, The Night Ministry in Chicago and A Reason to Care.

“Snowfall” on The Write City Magazine

City-snowA short story that I wrote while writing Bend Me, Shape Me was published today at Write City Magazine.  It is a story about Snow and Leonard that didn’t actually happen in the book, but was part of the process I used to develop their characters and get to know them better.

Here’s the first part of it, click through to read the whole story.

A tattered stuffed panda bear lies in one corner of the room. Plaster from the wall has littered its black coat, and one eye is replaced by a crudely stitched x. A child lived in this hovel once, hard to imagine as I take in the rotted walls, bare couch springs, littered newspapers, beer cans and cigarette butts. Winter’s chill enters the unheated room through one dirty, broken window. Even the graffiti once slashed across the paint has crumbled beneath the weight of damp and neglect.

To think Snow has been living in this. Snowflake, tiny daughter of my great niece, grown to a young woman with unwashed hair and wild eyes. Her face had been round and alert when Winter Rose first brought her to the reservation, brown and healthy, a true Yakama miyánash, no trace of her Mexican father in her at all.

From the shadow of powerful Mount Rainier to the alleys and abandoned houses of Chicago’s west side. A long fall for a daughter of the people.

“What are you doing here?”

Snow’s words sound startled, defensive, but when I turn to face her she stands proud and brave as any warrior. Her straight black hair has been dyed red at the ends, like flames that lick at the dark night. Metal pierces her ears and nose, and dirt creases the rim of her neck. Were she holding a bow and arrow I would fear for my life. Instead, I settle to the floor in a gesture of peace, legs crossed, arms resting on my knees.

“I am your uncle. I have come to take you home.”

via The Write City Magazine | Chicago Writers Association.

Cover image completed for Box of Rain

We just completed the image to go on the front of the ebook and print versions of Box of Rain. I love it! Artwork by the wonderful Annie Walls.

image

Ebook should be preorderable later this month and available for purchase by Christmas. Print release sometime next spring.

More Word of Art Finalists

wordofartwallI promised I would post more info about the In Print Word of Art event that took place September 5. There were five finalists chosen by Word Judge John Gilemy, including mine, An Autumn Afternoon. Here are the others.

THE WINNER: The Immigrant by Karna Tecla

The Immigrant artwork by Susan Hasse

The Immigrant artwork by Susan Hasse

J Baby by Tina Hunter

J Baby Artwork by Deborah Lucas

J Baby Artwork by Lynda Gibson Johnson

She’s a River by Angie Flanagan

She's a River artwork by Deborah Lucas

She’s a River artwork by Deborah Lucas

Really?! by Pat Bryan

Really?! artwork by Susan Hasse

Really?! artwork by Susan Hasse

 

Small Towns, Small News, Small Fish

newsarticle

Hello?  Is anybody there?  Am I here? Or am I, maybe, invisible?

I get that I live in a small town now.  A small pond, as they say.  And it’s not like I moved back here because I want to be a big fish in a small pond.  Because I am, at best and only occasionally, only a marginally medium-sized fish. Still, shouldn’t even a small fish in a small pond have a better chance of being noticed than a small fish in a big pond?

Before you answer that question, answer this, because maybe I am totally backwards in my thinking.  Which is more notable, would you say, a local author who has had three books released by a small press, or a local writer who wrote and illustrated a children’s book twenty years ago that is not even published yet? He has instead started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to self publish it. I have it in my mind that it’s option A, but realize that I am a prejudiced respondent.  I am author A.

Sure, author B’s is an unusually titled children’s story, and he illustrated it. Contrast that, though, by adding in the fact that I have had several short stories accepted by paying markets, also self published a novel and two short story collections, and am trying to earn my living as a writer.  Add in the knowledge that no one, absolutely NO ONE, needs to have $10,000 to self publish a book.  Not in today’s e-book market where free self publishing is just a mouse click away.  Even if you feel print books are the only way to go, both CreateSpace and Lulu.com offer a non-fee trade paperback publishing option.  I’ve been there, done that, and paid $0.

So which author, do you think, earned an article in yesterday’s News Tribune? Maybe the title above gives the answer away. Despite my having sent in several news releases to mention events like a presentation at the Princeton Public Library, attending both the Dekalb Writer’s Fair and Chicago’s Printer’s Row Festival, and the fact that I was donating all book sales on June 7 to a homeless organization, my local paper has not mentioned me or my books once.  That’s nada, nyet, zip, big old goose egg.

I know I sound like sour grapes.  I feel like I’ve been eating sour grapes, in fact. But that’s only because I can’t afford the more expensive, sweeter grapes because no one seems to notice I’m standing here hawking my wares to a bunch of fishermen who would rather pull a soggy sock out of the pond than a fish of any size. Maybe the problem is that, as a lowly fish, I don’t know any influential movers or shakers in the wool trade.

WordPress Wednesdays: Is Word Whoring Really Worth it?

streetwalkerWhen I first started promoting Painted Black, the process was confusing and time consuming: visiting social media sites, looking for reviewers, trying to set up author events. It still is, which is why lately I’ve started doing less of it and concentrate on finishing the next book, Box of Rain, instead.

Because I’m an organizing freak (although most of my friends and family would tend to say Who?  What?  Organized?) I came up with three concepts that I thought would help me tame the chaos: Twitter Tuesdays, WordPress Wednesdays, and Facebook Fridays.  The idea was to spend minimal time on those three mediums except for their designated day of the week.

Twitter Tuesday amounted to me subscribing to a tweeting service, Hootsuite, which allowed me to bulk schedule tweets by uploading a spreadsheet.  I would fill a spreadsheet with quotes from reviews, or interesting tidbits, and add a link to the book on Amazon. Once I uploaded the file to the service, I scheduled when to send each tweet out.

I started questioning if it was worth the money, or the time, once I found Twitterfeed which is free and allows me to automatically tweet new blog posts from some of my favorite websites.  Sure I’m not sending out links to my books, but I still maintain an active presence.

Facebook Friday became a lost cause once I got hooked on the socializing.  The idea was supposed to be that I gave myself permission to spend as much time as I wanted browsing Facebook and interacting with my friends and page members there, but only visit occasionally other days.  Except, since I pull my phone out to see what’s new on FB every time a commercial comes on television, or when I’m trying to procrastinate on getting my word count done for the day, I find myself spending as much time, or more, on a daily basis, not just Fridays.

The only PR brainstorm of mine that has survived intact so far is the WordPress Wednesday idea.  WordPress allows you to write posts anytime you want and schedule them to post whenever.  I even have a post I wrote that won’t go live till 2015.  The idea was to spend my Wednesdays writing at least one or two blog posts for the week and getting them scheduled to post automatically.

The problem is, I have too many websites.  In addition to this one, I have one for each book I’ve written, one for the Street Stories series, and I’m administrator on the site for my alter ego Deb Donahue. Even though I now focus on the three main ones, I often draw a blank when I try to think of something to say on each of them every Wednesday. Some weeks it is difficult to come up with even one post let alone two or three for each site

Not only that, but I wonder if it sounds like I am just whoring myself when I write a post only because I feel obligated to, rather than because I have something to share with my readers. “Hey,mister, come take a look at what I have going on under the hood.” The truth is, my most popular posts usually happen on non-Wednesdays, when something I’m thinking about, or I read, or I hear or see, prompts me to voice my opinion and post it for the world to see.

Some people write blogs with the goal of the blog itself being what they want people to enjoy and read.  The number of followers and comments and hits they get show the degree of success they have in creating a popular site to visit. All I really want is to create a presence on the internet so that people can get to know me and hopefully develop an interest in reading my books. Because that’s where I really pour out my heart and my thoughts: in my books.

I don’t see how a weekly regimented WordPress Wednesday is going to achieve that.  In fact, if I write stuff that is crap or uninteresting just to say I’ve done my duty for the week, it’s going to hurt my purposes. So I’m giving myself permission to let WordPress Wednesdays rest in peace alongside its siblings Twitter Tuesday and Facebook Friday. I will never again let schedules and obligation be the driving force behind a blog post.  From now on, I will count on inspiration and passion to produce posts that people will enjoy and I will be proud of.

The Literary Chain Letter – aka ‘My Writing Process’

Chain letters don’t scare me.  My soul has been damned dozens of times if you count how often I have deleted or ignored an email, Facebook post, or tweet that has warned me to repost or forward a “blessing” in order to avoid certain dire consequences.

Except, when Jill Nojack tagged me in a literary chain I’d never heard of before, it pushed a button that I cannot, apparently resist–my vanity.  You see, Jill is from @indieheart and did a great review of Bend Me, Shape Me last year when it first came out, so her calling me out along with Catherine Lea and Peter Maughan tells me she thinks enough of my work to want to call it to the attention of her readers. Or at least that’s what I choose to believe.

Most of the writers I’ve looked at who participated in this chain have answered four basic questions. The only one I’m really interested in, though, is the last one: How does your writing process work?  I’ve been using a new program called Scrivener and I am fascinated by the tools it has available to enhance and complement my writing process. The combination of Scrivener and Microsoft’s OneNote seems to me the perfect combination right now.

For research and to keep track of names, locations, and research for the series, I’ve been using OneNote for quite a while and will probably continue to do so. The program works on both MAC and Windows but has more bells and whistles on the PC. Scrivener, on the other hand, has more perks in Mac mode (at least for now—they are bringing the Windows version up to par in the near future). So what I sometimes do when I’m home is have both my desktop and laptop on and running the program that gets me the max for my money.

OneNote

In One Note I do character sketches and brainstorming about the plot. Once I have an overview of the main story, however, I switch to Scrivener and start imagining scenes to go with it. Each index card is a scene, although with this book each scene is likely to end up as its own chapter, too. For some reason I always need to get the first scene figured out in detail, and sometimes even written, before I can start coming up with ideas for the rest of them.

Once I get that out there, I just start thinking: What is the natural progression of actions? Since I know my characters well, I know how the events in the first scene are going to affect them and thus start the chain reaction: action, reaction; stepping forward, and being forced back. Each action gets its own note card, sometimes with quite a bit of detail included in the summary and sometimes just with a single idea. I write down every possible scenario, even some I’m not sure I want to use. The more questionable ones, I keep toward the end, but when I’m writing and get stuck, I look through all of them to see if maybe they will work.

Fullscreen

One way to view Scrivener projects

Once I know the sequence of events, I go through and decide whose point of view would work best. The Street Stories books are always told through the eyes of three characters, my main protagonist Jo Sullivan, the main street kid, and one other character. I choose to color code by POV so I can tell at a glance if I’ve got too much of one character in a row. I slip white note cards into place to show the timeline of when each scene takes place that day.

Viewing only the timeline cards

Viewing only the timeline cards

Now I’m ready to begin actual writing. Each index card opens into a separate document. I could easily work on any scene I want to as inspiration strikes, but usually it works best for me to start with scene one and continue on so I can test if the action/reaction makes sense.

You can format the view font any way you want to.

You can format the view font any way you want to.

As I’m writing, if I have any side thoughts or To Do items specifically related to that particular scene, I jot them in the Document Notes section on the lower right. If the thought isn’t tied to the scene but the whole story itself, that same area can be switched to Project Notes. When I complete the first draft and go into edit mode, I will go through these notes one by one and resolve them.

If I need to make a note about a specific word or section of text, I will select it and add a comment. Comments here work much like they do in Word and I usually don’t worry about them until edit mode happens. If the note is simpler–say I don’t want to take the time to decide a minor character’s last name right now because I’m on a roll–I will make the note as an Inline Notation which show up in the body of the text. These often get fixed later during the same writing session, once the running heat of the muse has been satisfied.

Scrivener has lots of other tools that I suspect I will probably find ways to use to my advantage, like keywords, document references, and the ability to create my own meta data. During this initial courtship, however, the only other one I really rely on is the Project Target statistics. In addition to setting a word count goal for each scene, if I tell the program how long I want the book to be and when I want to complete the first draft, it will calculate a daily writing goal for me. If I get more words done one day (or less, which is most often the case) it adjusts the count for the next session. This is a tremendous carrot that keeps me moving forward because it makes me feel that yes, I can get this book done on deadline.

I better get cracking!

I better get cracking!

Now it’s time to tell you who I’m tagging as the next victims–er, writers–in this literary chain letter.  Fellow New Libri Author Judith Kirscht recently released her third novel, Home Fries which is a finalist in PNWA’s Nancy Pearl award. Shari Rood just released her second novel, Blood Brothers, and moved to South Africa so she should have lots that is interesting to say. And Annie Walls is not only the author of the popular Famished trilogy, but a great artist as well.  She designed the banner for my Facebook page.

Oh wait, you wanted to know what the first three questions are?  Here you go:

  1. What are you working on now? Box of Rain the third novel in my Street Stories series
  2. How does your work differ from others in its genre? I wrote it
  3. Why do you write what you do?  To educate through entertainment

 

 

Give BIG May 6: Double Your Money for a Good Cause

I’m sure you have heard me mention Homeless in Seattle, a Facebook page that posts the photos and life stories of homeless men, women and families to ignite an awareness of the reality of living on the streets. The page has supporters across the country and beyond and is making a difference in people’s lives.

Well Rex Holbein has now widened the lens by establishing Facing Homelessness.  Their Mission Statement is: “Our mission is to remove the negative stereotype attributed to those living without shelter. By focusing on the beauty of each person through imagery, storytelling and community building we aim to humanize the issue of homelessness as a means to ending it.”

Today, May 6 between midnight and midnight PST, if you visit the Seattle Foundation website and donate, they will match up to $5,000 per donor of a prorated portion of The Seattle Foundation’s matching funds, or “stretch pool.” The amount of the “stretch” depends on how much is raised in total donations on Give BIG day. So today your gift can potentially help twice as many of these deserving, worthy people.

givebig

How Do You Define Heaven?

Everybody has their own idea of what they want heaven to look like.

One thing I used to think was that I’d like there to be a huge information database that can answer any question I ever wondered about. Except, when I pulled my smart phone out of my pocket the other day to answer a question someone asked me, it occurred to me the database already exists here on earth–sort of anyway–in the form of the world wide web.  (Does anyone still call it that or am I showing my age and lack of 21st century tech talk?)

cellphonesI seem to be addicted to reading or texting or surfing with my phone any time a thought or question pops into my brain. Like any addiction, it has its upsides: immediate gratification, connectivity to friends and family, and increasing my knowledge (though sometimes with false information).  However, the dark side of this addiction has started to rear its ugly head more and more often: my brain is bombarded with data and rarely gets a chance to just be still and “breathe.”

I miss sitting on the back porch on a cool summer evening and just soaking it all in.  Not thinking, not stressing, just watching the fireflies, listening to kids play tag in the yard next door, and letting myself simply be present in the moment.

At the rare moments I get to do this, I think maybe this is what I really want heaven to be like.  A place where I don’t have any questions and don’t care what the answers are. Where all around me is peace, contentment, joy and awe . To be still and know the presence of  God.