Monthly Archives: January 2016

Which Comes First–Fiction or Life

Fiction writers all deal with the same obstacles, but also with the same basic reality.

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Each of us carries fantasy within us. Whether in daydreams, goals, or planning strategies, fantasy is at the heart of our lives. Without it, things would wither and die. So would we.

As children, we talked to ourselves and invisible friends. Come on–‘fess up, you did too. We found ways to entertain ourselves. Okay, so that applies mostly to those born before 1085. But the fact remains–we fantasize all the time.

We’ve had an argument with someone and afterwards, we go over the confrontation and rebuild it with what we would/should have said if we’d thought of it at the time. We’ve done something we think we’ll be criticized for and we’ll mentally audition explanations before the dreaded reveal of our “crime”.

See what I mean?

That’s why I say, which comes first–fiction or life? We talk about the chicken and the egg, life imitating art and vice versa. But can we really determine an answer without contingencies?

As writers, we pluck story lines from headlines. We use our experiences to form cores of plots. And along the way,  we learn about ourselves and human frailties.

One reason readers connect with characters and books are the built-in human qualities, good and bad, we put  into the people who inhabit our stories.

Classics are born because of those qualities and those imaginary friends and foes we’ve fantasized about and put on paper and electronic devices. And in some ways, those illusory human and non-so-humans are as real to us as any flesh-and-blood individual roaming this earthly plane.

We predict the future, recount and explain the past, and live in a present somewhere in-between.   

For us, reality is merely a word plastered on whatever time zone we’re working inside at the moment. We like it that way, and it doesn’t matter to us which comes first.

 

 

Resolutions, Intentions, Challenges, and Reality

Mistakes photo

Are you on the New Year’s Resolution band wagon? Did you make resolutions and already break them? Yeah, I hear ya.

I set all of my goals for 2016 in December and was actually proud of them.  All of 2016 was mapped out. It’s funny how that calendar’s worth of work flies out the window of reality,

Life happens to all of us. Thank the heavens we still have one. Realizing that our desires and plans are just that, not life and death decisions, is part of coping with reality.

Circumstances change and we must adapt or perish.

Western MontanaMost people know that my vision was very limited to begin with. I had adapted to continually diminishing visual abilities. December changed all.

But my attitude and adaptive skills were rusty from complacency and habit. The past several weeks forced me to step back and regroup.

Progressive macular degeneration drives in the express lane. My central vision is rapidly disappearing. I must now unpack all of those voc rehab skills I tucked away in the closet labeled “Learned” and dust them off for renewed use.

My nemesis is the need to slow down and map out movements before the muscles leap into action. That hesitation is more necessary than ever.

But most of all, the mental processes needs to take center stage. So many factors influence every decision, every plan. Also the possibility of dependence on others takes on monster proportions for a normally strong, independent person.

Time is money concept with clock and coins

The mystery novel that should’ve been ready for final edit and a February release isn’t through  revision yet. The work takes tons more time and effort than ever before.

If work slows down that much, what about the three other manuscripts waiting in the wings for their revisions and editing? How long will it take to do those?

Fear of never getting my other stories ready for launch haunts me. And I have so much new work done last November to think about, too.

Enter common sense and calm reflection

abstract_2008012903-1113int.epsAfter much deep breathing and meditation, only one conclusion surfaced.

As is true of everyone, I can do only what I can do. If it takes three times as long to finish a book, that’s what it takes. Trying to push harder, work longer hours, etc. only creates strain, frustration, and burnout.

Tools are available to aid in this journey’s next stage. Practicing with those tools while working on each project can bring completion.

Perfectionism and self-expectations may rear its nasty head, but patience and constant reality checks can tame that beast. Patience doesn’t always dispel the frustration, but it can help make it bearable.

English Knight Fighting Dragon England Flag RetroThe new intentions are simple. I will attack  revision work on the mystery—two hours per day. Another novel will also get an obligatory two hours work. One hour will go toward getting a short story ready for submission to contests or magazines each week.

The rest of the day will be devoted to learning new tools and realigning my daily life. A blog post per week for each website will find its way into the mix. Everything else is gravy.

All of my former intentions—better known as “goals”—are out the window for now. Once I’ve made more progress with adjusting work and life to fit in the new visual challenge, I’ll know how to plan for the rest of the year.

So, tell me. Have new challenges cropped up to wreak havoc with your 2016 goals, resolutions, or intentions? If so, drop a comment below and share. It always helps to lessen a burden or concern.

 

 

Confession Time

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Okay, peeps. 2016 is both at the top of the calendar and on the clock. Let’s face it. Last year, for many of us, was both a challenge and a disappointment. It’s time to switch things up and make things better.

director-chair-business-cartoons-vectors_GyG7my_OThat’s why I’ve decided to do something totally different this year. Firstly, I’m going to start putting out a monthly newsletter in February. For any who don’t wish to get it you’ll have the option to opt out once it’s up and running.

Next on the docket is a weekly post with an excerpt from one of the stories I’m working on

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

at the moment. Right now, that could be from any of four different novel-length manuscripts. I might even ask for suggestions or criticisms on the excerpt of the day. I haven’t decided yet.

Lastly, I’m going to write one confession piece each month. It won’t be salacious, but it will reveal something about me that few know. It’s not about exhibitionism. It’s about connection between me and my readers. As human beings, we all share common experiences occasionally. I, for one, like to know that I’m not the only one treading deep waters or falling down and skinning my knees.

And since I haven’t got the newsletter ready yet, and I’m hip deep in revision mode and wish a break from it, I’ve chosen the confession for this week’s post. Here goes.

Errant Thoughts and Where They Take Us

Somewhere between sleeping and waking, a twilight period exists for all of us. Whether at night or in the morning, our minds fall down the tunnel of free thought, without direction or intent.

 The experience is different from daydreaming, for the thoughts scatter to the mental winds, never pausing longer than it takes for a butterfly to drink the nectar of a flower blossom.

Once in a while I have one of these stray shooting-star thoughts bring me into full wakefulness, ready for action. The driver of that action is curiosity—not just about where such a thought or image came from, but also to ask myself if I’ve ever encountered it before.

View over the stone desert of Hudson Bay, Canada, during low tide with rocks and stones in the tidal pools

View over the stone desert of Hudson Bay, Canada, during low tide with rocks and stones in the tidal pools

Take the other morning as an example. I woke, slightly dazed, from a sound sleep. Two words and an image greeted the inside of my eyelids, in bold type and a strong sense of imperiousness: OWL RIVER

I knew I’d never heard of an Owl River, which presaged the question as to why it would wake me.  I couldn’t resist the compulsion to find out what it meant. I got up and flicked on the computer. Google is a wonderful tool.

Owl River exists at the top of the world, emptying into the Hudson Bay at the far northern edge of Manitoba, Canada, near Churchill.  Okay, so now I had its location. But the question remains as to why the place would pop up and wake me.

Churchill Polar Bear Survey

Churchill Polar Bear Survey

Question: did I have any connection to the river? Answer: no. Did I have any connection to someone else with a connection? Answer: Yes, actually. About twenty years ago, I worked with and learned from a man who went to Churchill to film an annual polar bear study. My friend was a nature documentary filmmaker.

Question: had I heard anything about Churchill lately to trigger the reference? Answer: I’d heard

Western Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada

Western Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada

only that the town had had more trouble than ever with polar bears because of melting sea ice and shortened freeze time in the Artic. The bears weren’t leaving after the autumn snows began.

Question: did I have any connection with Manitoba in general? Answer: only that I’d had a friend in the late ‘80’s who lived in Dauphin, five hours north-northwest of Winnipeg. I’d not heard from her in years.

So, where does that leave me? Well, if I take the paranormal route of thought, there are possible answers. Either there’s something happening with Frank or with my Canadian friend, Danika. Or, there might be something newsworthy up on Hudson Bay around the mouth of the Owl River.

On the other hand, it could be a simpler answer. A fragment of dream, unremembered, triggered memory associations I’m unaware of and the reference simply popped out to startle me at waking.

Take your pick, as to which is more plausible. Personally, I like the paranormal answer, but then, I’m weird that way.

Regardless of the true reason, I believe that many people have experiences similar to my early morning wake up call. I also believe that sometimes, we get messages from an unknown place. Whether we recognize them or not, these messages find us and ring a bell for attention.

If you’ve had something similar happen, drop a comment below and share it with the rest of us. Until next week; take notes, write often, and save a place in your world for wonder.