Writing, Reading, and Procrastination

books stack old antique
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Currently, I am coming to the end of chapter two in a book I am writing. At least I think it will be a book. (I have been mistaken before.)  I would be much further along if it wasn’t for Mercedes Lackey.

For Christmas, I received an eagerly anticipated trilogy of books. I knew I would get them. I had asked for them specifically when people inquired what I wanted for Christmas. Mercedes Lackey has been one of my favorite writers for a long time. I picked up one of her Valdemar books at a thrift store when I was too young to appreciate it and hated the book.

Then I discovered the Bedlam Bard books and fell in love. They were rare treasures I mandolin-3017726_1280.pngwould search shelves for. That was how I discovered the Serrated Edge series. I loved those too but I hated them as well. Those books turned a flashlight on the dark corners of humanity. They absorbed you as you read them, immersing you in the story until you felt all of the horror and pain but also the hope. It was wonderful and awful at the same time. I read some of them over and over.

horse-175188_1920Years after my first introduction to Valdemar my sister started telling about this book she was reading. It sounded awesome. It had magic, adventure, and was written by one of my favorite authors. Then I found it out it was a Valdemar book. By then I knew Valdemar had quite a large fan base but I don’t like jumping on bandwagons. I honestly thought the Bedlam Bard series was better and that people were fans of the wrong series, even though I had never really given the Valdemar books a chance.

My sister can be quietly demanding when she wants to be. She gives you unspoken orders and you hop to, only later realizing what happened. I don’t think she even realizes that she does it. Which was how I was presented with a stack of Valdemar books from her collection and told to familiarize myself with this world she was always talking about. I devoured them all and came back for more. The storytelling was great. Later as I learned to read as a writer, I picked out a couple of things I thought could have been done differently and made a few of the books better. (In my opinion of course.) I was fool enough to mention these thoughts out loud.

Learn from my mistakes. If you are discussing books with someone who showers a story martial-arts-291049_1280.jpgworld with complete adoration, never ever ever suggest that there is something wrote with it. Ever. Not even if it is just saying that the ending felt a little rushed and you wonder if the author had to hurry through it to make a deadline. Don’t do it. You will regret it. (Unless of course, you are trying to start a fight or have odd compulsion to have the skin ripped from your body with words. If that is your goal then insulting a favored author or book series is an easy way to accomplish it. Even if the slight is only perceived, it will do the job.)

library-425730_1920So after eight books or so I wandered away from Valdemar and on to something else. Then this Winter I was poking around on Amazon, looking for gifts for others when I stumbled across something called “The Herald Spy Trilogy”. I am a sucker for rogues and I enjoy Lackey’s writing so I asked for them for Christmas. I received them, eagerly sat down to read after the holiday craziness was complete, and discovered I had no idea what was going on. References were made to characters I had never heard of. Confused I contacted my local Valdemar informant, A.K.A my sister. She did some google-fu and produced a list of books that come before the trilogy I wanted to read. And to her surprise, she only owned three of the five and they were in storage. (Another long story.)

So I set out to acquire the five books that came before the trilogy I got for Christmas. Then I had to wait for them to be shipped because I bought them online. In the meantime, I got an idea for a book of my own after speaking to a friend and started writing. I managed to get a chapter and a half in when my books acquisitions arrived. I ignored them for a few days but then the person who got me the trilogy started asking questions about if I had read them yet and if I liked them. So feeling guilty for ignoring my gift, I started on the Collegium Chronicles and am now on the fourth book. However, I have only written a couple of paragraphs over the past few days since reading has taken over my writing time.coffee-690421_1920

My writing is suffering from my lack of focus, concentration, and sleep. If Mercedes Lackey wasn’t such a hell of a storyteller I wouldn’t have this problem. The compulsion I feel to read and purchase these books because I enjoy them so much is fascinating. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could be like that one day?

(By the way, during the writing of this blog post I stumbled upon another book in one of Lackey’s series that I haven’t read and ended up buying it too.)

 

 

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A Mountain Trip, Or How I Crashed a Funeral

We have been enjoying a couple of nice sunny days recently. Yesterday, I took advantage of that to pry the kids away from their electronics and take a trip into nature. We headed north toward the Great Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove. moutian

Cades Cove was settled by Europeans in the 1800’s but had long been roamed by Native Americans before then. Now it is a national park with a scenic drive, white tail deer, and restored rural dwellings and churches. The views are breathtaking and inspirational. Walking the trails, it is easy to see why settlers came to the area and decided to go no further.

deerMy kids complained a little about the lack of their usual entertainments, but my son soon forgot about mine craft when he handled actual quartz found in a cold mountain stream. We marveled at the height of the trees and stood just a few feet away from deer grazing in a field. Then we found a little twisting dirt road with a sign that announced a rural Baptist Church so we decided to follow it.

The road was a narrow bumpy ride through the trees and ended in a gravel parking lot with a little white wooden box of a church. My son remarked that: “It looks just like that Church in that show Nanny always watches.” (That show is The Waltons, and Nanny being what he calls my mom.) I agreed the two did look similar.

The gravel lot was crowded with cars. Other visitors were snapping pictures of the church set among the trees and some wandered the old fenced-in graveyard. I thought the graveyard would be a good way to encourage my daughter out of her no wifi/phone signal funk. (She is a teenager.) She likes slightly creepy things.

That was when I noticed several people exiting the church dressed in black. I was a little confused at first because, while it was Sunday, it was a bit late in the day for a church service. We were near to the little gate that lead to the graveyard when I heard one of the women who had come down the steps say, “I wish they would stay away at least until we close the casket…” It all suddenly clicked into place. The freshly dug grave and the huge pile of dirt next to it helped to tip me off.

There was something the little white hand-painted sign hadn’t told us. Not only was the Baptist Church still in current use but the graveyard behind it was as well. Realizing that we were trespassers at an emotional time, I quickly herded the kids back to the car. The other tourists snapping pictures; were still oblivious to the intrusion we all represented.

As we made our retreat as discreetly as possible, I heard the lady address two teenagers also dressed in black. She asked them if they were visitors to which they replied yes with wide-eyed confusion. I don’t know if they were visitors to the park, or for the deceased. I left before finding out.

We passed two more churches on our scenic drive. They didn’t appear to be in session. The parking lots held only a few cars and there were no fresh graves that I could see, but we didn’t take any chances. stream

My trip… part 1

hobbitSo I guess I am going to write this in chronological order…but don’t be surprised if my train of though skips track and ends up elsewhere…(Also I apologize if this bores anyone…I am getting my thoughts in order as I write.  …it’s kinda more for me rather than anyone else…like free writing.)

Last Tuesday April 23, I left work and went home to drag my suit case into the living room before going to bed.   (…okay I actually finished up a lot of last minute preparations before I hit the pillows….)   I awoke late in the afternoon, spent sometime with the kids, ate dinner, then finally hauled my suitcase outside and tossed it into the trunk of my car.  I stalled and piddled around as long as I could because I was nervous about my current undertaking.

I didn’t want to leave my kids, even though I knew they would be in good hands and I had back up plans for my back up plans just in case anything went wrong while I was gone.  Finally I forced myself into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition.  I was on my way. The first miles of a ten hour trip, driving by myself (at night) to Florida.

The traffic was reasonable and the road construction not too bad.  The sky was beautiful.  The moon was so bright that it seemed more like driving on an overcast day rather than the middle of the night.  It made me miss my old Camero. I would have loved to be able to look up through the glass of the T-top to see the stars.

Wednesday morning I had made it passed Ocala and was nearing my first destination.  My Ocala_FLcousin Michelle had lost her father to cancer back in February. (On Valentine’s day to be exact.)

She is one of the strongest and bravest people I know.  She had been living in my Uncle’s house since the beginning of the year to take care of him as his health declined.  She was still there to sort out his estate and the leftover business that comes when a loved one dies.

My plan was to stop in, check on her, and have a nap on her couch.  She’s been having a rough time lately.  (Family drama, a divorce, and finishing the last few credits for her degree…among other things)  We went to breakfast and enjoyed decent conversation before she offered me a guest room and the chance to nap on the softest bed known to man.  (It reminded me of the bed in the guest room of our grandmother’s house when we were kids.)  I couldn’t sleep though.  I tried but my brain would not shut off long enough.  So after a couple of hours I got back up and my cousin decided we should go take a walk on the beach at Pine Island.  It was nice and relaxing. There were dozens of other people there too but walking in the surf and breathing in the salt air made them fade into the background.

I had planned on getting back on the road again soon because I had to make it to Orlando. (A couple of hours away) My friend Alicia was flying in from D.C.  and was my accomplice and co-adventurer for the trip.  In fact she planned almost all of it. (requesting input from me when needed of course)

Unfortunately, she made it as far as the air port before she realized she had left her passport at home.  She called me to let me know our plans would have to be delayed if she couldn’t make her flight in time and would have to take a later one.  We had dinner reservations for Medieval Times and since I had never been it was a little disappointing.   However, it gave me more time to spend with my cousin.  Michelle is eleven years older than me so we never really had any one on one time growing up.  Her baby sister Samantha (who died from Cystic fibrosis in 2000)  was my best friend.

We talked and drove to a couple of spots she knew in search of manatees.  I saw new fishmanatee and a crab, a squirrel and a bunch of birds but no manatees.  It was too early in the day.   Soon, I received another phone call from Alicia saying she had gotten her neighbor to meet her half way with her passport and so she would make the flight after all.  I said good bye to my cousin, and headed toward Orlando with various plans to come visit her again running through my head.

 

 

Ups and Downs

Ego. Every writer that I have ever met (including myself) has one.  That secret voice that firebirdassures us that the words we put down are some of the best that have been written in the history of the world….okay maybe not an ego quite that big. (Though I have met a few people who do have egos that grandiose.)  Still the ego is there, like a brightly burning firebird. It tells us that our work is better than even some well selling authors.  (Our egos are sometimes correct in this.)

For me, this proud voice usually appears when the writing is going well and the story is falling from my finger tips with hardly any effort at all. It crows loudly when I am on fire with inspiration.  Having an ego isn’t necessary a bad thing as long as it is kept in check.  It pushes us confidently forward.  It allows us to take steps that, if we stopped to consider, might make us hesitate under normal circumstances.  Of course, if you let it run wild it will rage out of control leaving you with ashes instead of light.201205241337900850054205_98dde3c74de5a8dff23c651d02d1a81f

However, as in most things, their is an opposite side to this coin.  Self doubt.  I have never met a writer who didn’t possess this (in spades) as well. If ego pushes us forward and gives us an unusual amount of confidence then self doubt holds us back.  It makes us ask negative what if’s.   (What if I screw up?  What if I’m not good enough? ect.)

anime_dragon_1024x768-634320For me, the self doubt dragon raises its head when I haven’t written in awhile or I reach a difficult spot in my stories.  The ends of first drafts and sometimes even second drafts are often written in the shadows of the self doubt dragon.  It tells me just how much talent I lack and encourages me to give up.  Sometimes it is a real fight not to just give in to self doubt.

The battles that rage inside books are nothing compared to some of the battles authors fight just to write them. Each book is its own adventure.  Each story has its challenges to face in order to get the words down.  There are always two sides to every story; one is in the words, the other is in the writing.gan2