March 31, 2014

The intersection

There are many places where my vocation as a creative artist and my vocation as clergy intersect but I think the place where they are closest (where the veil is thinnest, if you will) is in taking the time.

Taking the time to reflect.
Taking the time to craft.
Taking the time to study.
Taking the time to just sit and wait.

If you don't allow yourself the time, if you let yourself get caught up in the "busy-ness," you will never find the place where you can create.  If you let yourself get caught up in the "busy-ness" of  "doing" religion, you will not find the place where God is. 

(Sorry about the cross-sermonizing but it's what you get from bi-vocational people)

March 29, 2014

Rainy day in the bookstore

A rainy day today spent at Barnes and Noble has got me thinking.  As an indie author, bookstores can be rather problematical for me.  The big ones only carry my books online (Barnes and Noble and the late, lamented Borders).  The small ones require that people who want to buy my books order through them frequently pasting on heavy ordering charges.  If I ask the small ones to carry my books (which has to be done on a store by store basis) they ask me to pay all kinds of shelving charges and sometimes stock them right on the upper shelf where only Kareem Abdul Jabbar can see them.

The physical bookstore is great if it a) actually carries my books and b) displays them.  The is what a bookstore is about.  A rainy day, nothing to do, wander in and discover an author you have never heard of before and whose books you find you want to devour.   This is how books become best sellers.  (Well there is also the thing about the great publicity machine but I'm not going there.)

Amazon (who publishes my books and carries them in their online store) has no bricks and mortar presence.  In order to find my books on Amazon you can't just stumble onto them, you have to be looking for something specific.  But they publish me.  They give me a chance to have my scribblings read by someone.

This whole package is the conundrum of the indie writer.  Go through the slings and arrows of the traditional process and perhaps never be published or rot in the storage house or self-publish and be your own publicity machine.

A year or so back I taught a class on self-publishing.  My whole message amounted to "The only way you will become a best-selling author is if you are ready to do the publicity necessary."  That means getting out there and getting your book in the stores either by being published by a reputable house or by sheer chutzpa.



I saw this post as a chance to think of all the pros and cons of my writing world. What I discovered is  that I'm neither for or against self-publishing, I'm neither for or against traditional publishing, I'm neither for or against online bookstores and I'm neither for or against bricks and mortar stores.  They all have their place.  Find your place.  Be yourself.  Set your own goals.

Ruminating

There's something to be said for ruminating.  Just sittin' and thinkin' .  I actually do most of mine in the car but there are those few minutes, right before I go to sleep, when my characters come to life and I let them.



Most of us have something planned that occupies every minute of the day.  If you have to work in an office for a living most likely your boss has something planned for you.

I am so tremendously lucky.  I took an early retirement when I was 52 and I have been largely able to do what I wanted since then.  Oh, I haven't been without work, it's just that those 28 years I spent working for "the man" enabled me to live, if not comfortably, with a pension that has gotten me through to where I am now. 

I work at what I feel I want or need to do.  That leaves me free to ruminate and ruminating is the basis for my books. 

It's also the basis for something else.  My sanity.

I've always been a dreamer.  In school my teachers were always calling me out for daydreaming.  If they asked me a question there was no answer because 90% of the time I hadn't heard it.

When I was 14 I started writing my daydreams down and it turned into a two foot thick pile of paper that was the most godawful novel you would ever want to read, peppered with WWII and Hollywood references and based on my love for a certain dead actor.

It got better.   I now have the time to turn my ruminations into novels.  I don't sell many but that isn't the point.  I am practicing.  Practice makes perfect.  Someday my ruminations will turn into something wonderful.  And that's all one can hope.

March 25, 2014

The Elevator Pitch

Haven't heard of it? Well, when you are stuck in the elevator with the biggest agent in the world you have just a minute or two to pitch your book to her. That's when you need an elevator pitch.

There are various opinions about how many words it should be or how long you should go on, but the whole idea is to grab the agent's interest so that she will run out of the elevator screaming at the top of the lungs "I've just found the next Gone With the Wind."  Or something to that effect.

I've written (and rewritten) many elevator pitches.  I've extended them so they fit on the back of a book (it's supposed to make the reader in the bookstore or online reach for their wallet).  You can't use the first thing you get down on paper but refine it over and over.  You throw the garbage can at it and then you pare it down to something spare and catchy.

Today, over on my Wayward Deacon blog, there is a pitch for the Episcopal Church.  Does it make you want to try it?  How would you rewrite my pitch?

March 23, 2014

Self-Description

Cheating today with someone else's creation:



March 22, 2014

Finding the Story

I took the day off from "writing stuff" today to volunteer at a tack sale fundraiser for Riding with HEART, an equine assisted recreation and therapy program where I work part time.  I'm the bookkeeper.  Usually I just breeze in, collect the money and the bills and breeze out.  But on days like today I get to see volunteers and customers that I usually don't see in the course of the week.




This is where I collect stories.  Most of my books are based on a snippet of a story I've heard here or interaction between people that I've observed there.  To that extent I think all writers are your basic busybody, collecting life and then returning it out again in the form of a written story.  If I just sat at my computer all day I would have nothing to write about.

March 21, 2014

Falling off...a few times

Writer's Relief today asks:  "What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? Planning, writing, editing, researching journals/agents, submitting your work, dealing with rejection, etc.?

So I thought I'd use this as a writing prompt and discover what really is the hardest part for me. 

When I was still riding horses, the showing was a bit of a trial but in the end I loved it.  I loved being around horses, trail riding, practicing at home.  The only part the bothered me was the potential for




falling off.

Planning: I don't plan ahead.  I write organically. So no to planning
Editing:  I do one or two pass throughs when I am done.  So no to planning.
Researching: Researching the details of time place and life of the time are FUN!  So no to research.
Submitting your work, dealing with rejection:    Self-publishing is the cure for this so I don't have to deal with it!

But there is one final item.  The Facebook question used the word "writing" but I will break it down into to two things:

Imagining the story:  Good to go here.  I don't start writing until the characters start talking to me and then I am just the moving hand that writs on paper.
Actually writing:  Sigh.  This is where I fall off.  The place where "fail" is the operative word.  For no matter how many of my characters are talking to me, no matter how many stories are flying around my relatively empty head, getting it all down on paper is like falling off a horse. The professionals say you have to do it a few times to be a professional.  Certainly you can't be a professional writer without actually having written something. 

I've made it over the hurdle three times now.  It doesn't make it any easier, but to hold that book in my hands is priceless, as the advertisement goes.

Do you have something that you do that is part of your reason for being but is also your most daunting task?

Exactly

Just a photo today acquired from Flannery O'Connor via Elizabeth Gilbert:

March 18, 2014

Procrastination

(Background music: Anticipation by Carly Simon)




For most writers it's called writer's block, but for me it's procrastination.  I will do anything to find myself once again inside the pages of the book I've been writing all year.  I'll even post to my blog.

I have no dearth of ideas about what my characters in (all three of) my books in process are doing.  I get ideas every night around 2AM.

But it's 2AM.  I should be sleeping not typing.

For most writers who can't get something down on paper it's called writer's block, but for me it's procrastination.  Or denial.

March 17, 2014

Debunking old saws about writing.

One of the oldest saws there is about writing is "Write what you know."

Horse hockey.

Since I wrote my first book at 14 and it was about WWII and since I was too young to have lived through that war, I know all about what it is like to write about something that you didn't have any exposure to.  Oh yes, as I was growing up in the 50s and 60s there were a lot of TV programs on about the war (ie. Victory at Sea) but first hand knowledge only came through my father who sat in the basement of the White House during the war flogging teletype operators into submission.   The guys in our town who were actually out there doing the fighting didn't talk about those things.  They were known as the Greatest Generation but also the Silent Generation and for good reason.

So here I am, writing about two women just post WWII.  I research.  I watch internet accounts of women who survived the things they survived, and I imagine how I would feel.  Imagination is the greatest asset of the writer. 



I'm not writing a non-fiction account of the war.  I don't need to know if someone actually said what my women are saying.  I research the events and then I set two entirely fictional characters in the events and let the action happen.

That's what writing fiction is about.

March 16, 2014

Still Writing...

I've found another kindred spirit.  I'm in the middle of reading Still Writing: the Pleasures and perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro (you can find her blog and page on the sidebar under Blogs I Read).  I haven't finished it yet but every chapter finds me sending out at least one YES! 




She's younger than I, but was raised barely a few miles from where I got my start.  Her family is dysfunctional in ways different from mine but it had the same effect on her.  She had better internal guidance in her life than I.  She aimed right away to satisfy the writer in her.  Thick-headed Swede-Irish-Scots woman that I am I had to resist it for many years.  But still she resonates with me.

Today I said YES to this line from page 60: "As writers, it is our job not only to imagine, but to witness."

That line elucidates my job both as a writer and as ordained clergy.  I have always been an observer.  A psychic once told me I was a "watcher" and I believe that to be true.  Writing allows me to take what I have witnessed and to convey that witness to other people.



Still Writing: the Pleasures and perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro (c) 2013 by Dani Shapiro, published by Atlantic Monthly Press

March 15, 2014

Now that everything is calm and serene again...

Not! 

Why is it that I get my shorts in such a wad over technology?  I've been a techie since I first worked for AT&T back in the stone tablet age.  I worked on one of my first books on a dual floppy Kaypro IV.  I installed email for the mucky mucks in Service Costs and Rates at good old Ma Bell in 1984.  But there is still that lingering thought that all might be lost.

As an indie writer I depend on technology.  Technology to pour my books into a readable format.  Technology to communicate with my indie-enabling companies (yes I do love CreateSpace). Technology to get my name out there so maybe I get a few sales each week.

Someone asked me if I would still be writing if I had to depend on the traditional publishing route and if no one would publish me.  The answer is yes and no.  I write mainly because I have to shut up those voices in my head but traditional publishers are becoming thin on the ground and are getting highly selective about whom they publish.  If you haven't had a best seller there is less and less chance that they will publish you and of course...if you can't get published you aren't going to be a best selling author except by fluke.  Yes I would write.  No I wouldn't publish.

So I will continue my love/hate relationship with technology because it enables me to write, publish, have creative control and, for just a moment, smile when someone discovers my writing and is kind enough to publish a good review somewhere.  Isn't that what it is all about?

March 14, 2014

Yee Ha!

With today's call to GoDaddy just one change in one little line fixed the whole thing.  I will now stop being obsessed with my domain name.  (Is that the same as narcissism?)

March 13, 2014

A little help

Do any of you out there remember or have an older relative that could possibly remember what piano lessons cost in the 1940s or 1950s?  I don't want to be too far out of the ballpark when I am writing a chapter of my current project, Remarkable Likeness.

March 12, 2014

Well sorta....

Having trouble getting my www.christinawible.com to point to here.  If you put in that link you get Google's  ubiquitous:

404. That’s an error. The requested URL / was not found on this server. That's all we know.

A bit silly really but also very frustrating.  Will try again this afternoon when I have some time to swear at it.

March 10, 2014

Half done...

I'm actually more than half finished changing my website.  While GoDaddy has been good to me as a hosting service I find that maintaining my blog here in Blogger and maintaining my site over on GoDaddy has been a bit time consuming.  When I found out that you can now have "pages" in Blogger I immediately skipped over here.  Besides, it is free and the interface is much simpler that the one I had been using.

So much for geek speak.  In the next few days I hope to point my www.christinawible.com over here and there will be no more bouncing around.

Being a writer doesn't mean just sitting and thinking up nice stories and writing them down.  Being an indie writer means you turn into a geek, or perhaps even a worse geek than you already were!

So hopefully by next weekend I will be back to creating away on Remarkable Likeness. 

In the meantime know that the Kindle price on my three books already published is still only $.99 each.  If you haven't read them yet be my guest at the reduced price and don't forget to review them on Amazon.com

March 8, 2014

As you can see...

In preparation for some big changes, I have been messing around with my blog site.  Please stay tuned for future changes!