A Bit of a Distraction

It’s October.  I’m still not done editing.  I’m currently failing as a writer.  This is a perfect time for a distraction.  Right?

Art is a great distraction.  It’s still an exercise in creativity, after all.  I have always loved drawing with pencils.  I love the countless shades that can be achieved with one stick of gray charcoal.  I love having charcoal smeared on my fingertips and the side of my hand.  And, I love that I can erase what I don’t love.

October presents an artsy distraction opportunity in the form of #Inktober, a daily challenge to create something awesome that fits a given theme, and then to share the work on social media.  As the name implies, these daily masterpieces are made in ink. I highly recommend checking the hashtag on Twitter, or Instagram, you’ll be treated to some amazing work.

I don’t do ink well, but I’m going to give Inktober a shot this year.  I’ve done a few Inktober posts in the past, but didn’t stick with it.  I don’t know if I’ll draw something every day this time around either.  I am still working on The Compass Code (agonizingly slowly) after all.  But I’m going to enjoy mixing it up by playing around with the kids’ markers for the month instead of just my highlighters and red pen.

So here is my Inktober Day One post for the theme poisonous.  Because war truly is poisonous.

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Why Do You Write Your Stupid Story?

Slogging Through the Summer Slump

“Why do you have to write your stupid story, Mom?”

My child asked me this question in the car yesterday as we left the grocery store parking lot.  I didn’t take the stupid bit personally.  After all, my children aren’t allowed to read my story so I don’t think they’re qualified to judge its quality.

I think the sentiment behind the comment has more to do with a frustration that Mom spends so much time on the computer these days.  A sentiment we all share.  And that’s something that keeps a constant hum of guilt in my mind all the time.  Summer break amplifies that hum to a roar.

As I wrangle with the excruciating task of editing, the kids want adventure.  More adventure than can be found in our own back yard.  And food, constant food.  I struggle to keep my head in my story while they argue over one of thousands of Legos.  I find my patience waning and my temper shortening till my responses to their constant needs get snappy.   The guilt grows unbearable and I finally give up and push the story aside for several days in a row (or a week).

I have no idea how parents of young children have ever finished a book in the history of mankind.

When I return to the story after however many days I have spent appeasing my guilt and giving in to all the distraction, I feel as though I lose an entire working session figuring out where I was headed when I pushed the story aside.  Knowing this, it often becomes easier to just go another day without writing, and then another, and so on…and this project remains neglected.  Cue more guilt.

I’m sure none of this is conducive to creativity.  It certainly hasn’t been for mine.  My new draft languishes at nearly 50,000 words as summer heats up and pool maintenance joins the ranks of attention demanding distractions.  (Confession:  I actually really enjoy pool maintenance.  It’s a sanity-saving endeavor for me, like gardening, or meditating.)

Just like the pool, balance is key.  I know this, of course.  But, a month into summer break and I still haven’t found that balance.  Maybe I won’t all summer and maybe the answer is finding peace with that.  Because this story will get finished.  I’m not giving up yet.

When the question spilled out of my child in the car, I considered letting it go unanswered.  I could just turn the volume up on the stereo and silently sulk in my guilt.  It seemed much easier than explaining why I write to anyone, let alone my kids.  But, in the end, I settled on a simple and honest response.

“Maybe it is stupid, but when you have a dream, you have to do it.”

 

It’s Red Pen Time

I’m nearly a month behind schedule.  But, I printed a draft of The Compass Code yesterday, and I’m ready to dive into editing it.  It needs a LOT of work.  There are several plot lines that still need tying up in order to bring all the action together at the end of the book.  That is, if I want it to make any sense, anyway.

Even though I know it’s still a mess inside, I think all 345 pages are the most beautiful things I’ve ever held in my hands (well, except for the smallish bipedal beings, but it’s been a long time since they fit in my hands).  I’m sure I’ll change my mind about that in the coming days and weeks.

Today I’m just going to bask in satisfaction while sitting here next to my novel.  I’ll be back at it tomorrow, armed with highlighters, a red pen, post-it notes, and inspiration.  And coffee.

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Me for the next few weeks, as depicted (lovingly, I’m sure) by the smallish bipedal beings.

Reality Keeps Stealing My Fiction

army-2991940_1920On March 16, 2018, Buzzfeed News reported that the Central Intelligence Agency is “deploying small teams of commandos to kill selected suspected terrorists, according to two sources familiar with the program.”  The CIA has denied this, claiming the story is wrong.

(Spoiler alert)  I’ve been writing fiction about this for quite some time. This article could almost be something of an outline for a big part of my novel.

I’ve said before that I’ve been kicking myself for not having finished this novel a year ago every time I see the news these days.  This is yet another news story that seriously lights a fire under me.  While this month has gotten unexpectedly busier than normal, I’m still pushing for my March 31st deadline for a finished draft of The Compass Code.

Once the draft is complete, I’ll be releasing a teaser from a scene that involves my own assassin team.  It’s exciting to see progress, to see the story coming together, and I’m getting anxious to share it.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Deadline Time

I’ve spent so much time wrapped up in my imaginary world lately and it’s really hard to switch back and deal with reality.  I just want to stay in my imagination 24/7 till I get this book done.  It would be nice if I could just hole up in an isolated cabin somewhere for a couple of weeks of uninterrupted writing.  Sadly, that’s not an option.

All this straining of my brain to make stuff up has left my blog world a bit neglected and quiet lately.  So, I figured a short update was warranted.  I’m still writing.  After the big snip, my draft has recovered back up to a little over 72K words.  My characters are wreaking havoc and plotting evil deeds.  Exciting times.

And so…

It’s also deadline time.  I’ve been kicking myself every time I see the news lately for not having finished this novel a year ago.  Since all that self-kicking is exhausting, I have finally decided to force a deadline upon myself.  I’m not sure I’ll make it, and if I do, the result will be beyond rough.  It’ll still need a lot of work.  But, I’m gonna try to find my way to The End for The Compass Code by March 31st.

Hold me to it.

The Daily Struggle

Struggling.  Really struggling here.  Writing scenes that involve a reporter and law enforcement sources and all this enormous conspiracy is not easy.  Nope.  Not one bit.

But, I have set the goal to write every day.  And to finish this novel.  So, I keep vomiting ridiculously terrible strings of uninterrupted dialogue and other pathetic-ness onto the page.  All the while asking myself, is this just a huge waste of time?  Oh, and whyyyyy?!

First, I whine to the dog, or the cat, or both of them.  The usual response…

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Full of helpful tips, they are.

Sometimes, I go for a walk, or a bike ride, or something, in hopes of getting the blood flowing to my under-performing brain.  Unfortunately, no little house troll ever comes along to finish my scene while I’m gone.  In fact, I think one comes along to make the already terrible trash I’ve written even worse because I don’t remember it being that bad!

So, I move on to complain of my inability to write anything but complete garbage to my more helpful writing buddies, my sisters.  As usual, they have an answer for me.  And, as usual, it isn’t what I want to hear.  (Just kidding, for dramatic effect.)

Anyhow, my big Sis, being very wise, said the other day, “just keep writing.”  Just keep writing.  So simple.  And yet, sometimes, it’s agony.  Incredibly stupid, terrible, vomit-spewing, one-sentence-a-day, garbage agony.  But, just keep writing.  Somewhere in that dump is a gem, an idea, a thread that can be worked with to weave an epic scene.

Put on a hat so as to avoid pulling out hair, and just keep writing…

Goals

It’s that time again when people start talking about goals, and resolutions for the new year.  I’m not really a New Year’s resolution sort of person but I always have aspirations.  I’ve never really felt the need to write about them, I figure my goals don’t matter to anyone but me.  But this year, I’ve decided to write about them in hopes it will be an added push to achieve them.  (And because one goal is to write every day, and this was an easy thing to write about, hahaha).

Goals.  I’ve got some.  A lot, actually.  And some of them even involve my writing career.  2018 might just be the year I accomplish some of the bigger, more important ones.  That is an exciting, but also intimidating, possibility.  It isn’t going to be easy.

It’s possible that one non-writing goal will result in a lot of disruption in my routine over the course of this year as the family embarks (hopefully) on some significant home improvement projects.  However, I’m determined to keep a strong focus on writing daily no matter how chaotic it gets around here.

I’ve said it for a few years (I know, I know, who’s gonna believe me now?), but this is the year I will finish The Compass Code.  It’s nearly time to start hunting for a beta reader or two, and an editor.  Along with finishing it and getting it (and myself) ready for its debut, I’ve got a lot to learn about self-publishing.  And, I need to work on that oh-so-important blurb for the book, a task I’m dreading.  Oh yeah, and that cover design, and…and….  The entire process of self-publishing often feels so overwhelming.  I sometimes suspect I procrastinate on finishing the novel to avoid all of it!  But no more.  Watch for a few teasers and “deleted scenes” that I’ll be posting here soon.

Another goal is to get my little orange van back on the road.  Yes, this is actually a writing related goal.  She plays a starring role in my other, mostly finished novel, and I need a photo for the book cover.  I’ve got a location in mind for the photo shoot, and it’s not the back yard. That means a road trip!  So, she needs some tires, and some other, engine-ey sort of things.  Don’t get me wrong, the van runs, or she did, many years ago when she went into semi-retirement.  Marmie’s never let me down though, so I have faith.  Along with her journey onto the road again, I plan to spend some time on Volkswagen Summer this year, and hopefully get it ready for publishing as well.  (If you want to follow my little orange van’s progress, find me on Instagram.  I tag pictures of the van with #Marmie, #littleorangevan, and #VWsummer).

I have long wanted to commit to a set number of blog posts published each month on Seeking Redress and on here.  I’m still hesitant to do so though, since Compass and VW Summer are my biggest writing priorities.  I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I’m going to try.

I’m excited to dive into 2018.  There is no way to know what the world has in store for us this year, and I watch events unfold with some unease.  But, in my own small part of the world, I intend to do what I can to make it a better place.  Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to accomplishing our goals!

 

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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Snip Snip My Darlings

It’s already January 4th.  And I still haven’t written a word about goals for this new year.  In fact, I have managed only to write a few sentences of notes, an email or two, and a few tweets this entire year.  Maybe it’s a slump.  Or, it could be the whole winter break thing that results in some very distracting, smallish bi-pedal beings running rampant in my house rather than being dutiful students somewhere else.

Anyway, in the midst of all the frenetic chaos that is my winter break existence, I was struck by a revolutionary thought about my novel.  I guess I should say, it isn’t a new thought.  It’s more of an acceptance of what needs to happen.  Writers talk about this a lot, the whole “kill your darlings” thing.  I’m sure it doesn’t come easy for any of us.  But, the acceptance that I have darlings that need killing has brought with it a renewed surge of energy to do whatever it takes to get this ridiculously overdue novel finished.

A while back I was listening to an episode of Writers After Dark podcast (I highly recommend this podcast) and was suddenly overcome with an urge to chop out huge portions of the prologue of my book.  This took me by surprise.  I took out scenes I truly love, and have struggled for far too long to keep in the book.  Once I started chopping, however, I was instantly happier with the beginning of my book.  This past week, I took the chopping to a new level.

My story covers a significant span of years, and from the beginning, I have struggled to explain, or work around, large gaps in time when nothing of importance is happening.  This is a self-inflicted struggle, I now realize, that can be solved by simply snipping away at all those unnecessary darlings of mine.  No biggie.  Except that it’s the entire part one of the book!  Gasp!

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In a brief moment of alone-in-the-kitchen calm, I realized that, while part one certainly helps to explain who, what, and why, the main characters are, it isn’t necessary to understanding or enjoying the plot of the story.  In fact, part one really just slows the entire thing down.  So, snip, snip, my darlings.

Oh, the freedom I feel now.  This solves so many complications and opens up so many possibilities with what was formerly known as part two.  Don’t worry, I didn’t waste years on a bunch of scenes that will never be read.  Now I have a nearly completed prequel!  And those chopped out prologue scenes?  Well, odds are good at least a few of them will make an appearance here one day.

 

Lego sculpture courtesy of the smallish bi-pedal beings.

Creepy Christmas To All…

Well, since tomorrow is Christmas, and I don’t have an amazing, inspirational Christmas-y sort of piece to post, I’ve decided to dig into the very, very ancient archive for a little holiday fun.

A really long time ago (as in, back in high school), I was given the assignment of writing and compiling some poetry (not my area of expertise, to say the least), for a class full of highly competitive and talented writers.  I muddled my way through some terrible rhymes and exaggerated prose to complete the assignment, with few redeemable results.  On this eve of Christmas, I am pathetically resorting to sharing one of these attempts at poetic profundity in an effort to spread some holiday cheer with as little effort as possible .  (Hey, I’ve got Santa duty, so cut me some slack.)

So, Merry Christmas, and here you go, my very own parody of the much-loved, classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas.  A tale which, at the time that I wrote this I was unaware, has inspired many fun parodies.

Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas

by Katie Aguilera

Twas the night before Christmas and all through my box,

not a creature was stirring, not even the lice in my locks.

My stockings were hung on a string so high,

in the hopes that by morning they would be dry.

I shivered and shook in my rags so thin,

while ice cubes formed in my bottle of gin.

My mutt in her blanket and I in my coat,

thoughts of Christmas a lump in my throat.

Out in the alley I heard a soft mutter,

so I sprang from my box and looked in the gutter.

Along the curb I flew like a flash,

tore open the dumpster, and threw out the trash.

The moon through the smog cast an eerie shadow,

upon the garbage still left below.

Turning my head, I gave a sudden start,

for behind me were eight sewer rats and a tiny shopping cart.

With a little round driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Tick.

Dirtier than pigs his coursers they came,

and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

On Smasher, on Cancer, on Packer, on Virus,

on Bomber, on Stupid, on Blunder, and Dufus.

To the center of the street to the edge of a crack,

now dash away, dash away, and upon their rumps a good whack.

And as newspapers before the wild wind scatter,

they mounted the sky with a rattle and a clatter.

So, up to my box the coursers they flew,

with a sleigh full of eggs, and wiggly St. Tick too.

And then in a blink with a little rodent leap,

they clambered on cardboard and fell in a heap.

I sank to my knees and into my box shoved my head,

and through a split-seam dropped St. Tick to my bed.

A thick suit of fur his body did boast,

torn, no doubt, from his last unlucky host.

A bundle of eggs he had flung on his back,

and he looked like a spider just opening her sack.

His eyes how they glinted, his feet how they tickled,

and with a sly smirk he chuckled and giggled.

His antennae curled and twisted in a way so droll,

and upon my bed he crept like a troll.

A stub of a toothpick lodged in his teeth,

a hint of tick-beard upon his chin underneath.

He had a bloated round belly and a tiny puffed face,

and he dashed to and fro at a fierce insect pace.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old beetle,

but I knew that his bite was like the prick of a needle.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

and I knew I had something terrible to dread.

He gave not a squeal but went straight to his work,

scattering his eggs with a twist and a jerk.

And laying his stick-leg aside of his nose,

and giving a twitch up the cardboard he rose.

He hopped to his sleigh and to his team gave a scream,

and away they all flew to the next stop in his scheme.

But I heard him exclaim as they drove out of sight,

Creepy Christmas to all, and to all a crawly good night!

 

The Rules for #140Line

#140Line is a game on Twitter for writers to share a line from their current work in progress (WIP).  The rules are simple.  In loving memory of the old 140 character limitation that was the foundation of tweeting for years, lines shared for #140Line should contain 140 characters or less.  Of course, no one is going to count, just make a good estimation.

Each week, there will be an optional theme, announced ahead of time.  It can be found @linein140 on Twitter.  Choose a line that uses the theme word, or demonstrates the meaning of the word.  Be creative, and have fun with it, and be sure to use the hashtag, #140Line, so we can all find your talented work.

This challenge is an opportunity to tighten up your writing.  The goal is to express a powerful idea or image concisely.  It offers an opportunity to evaluate the words you use and the way you use them.  So, join @seekingredress and @TAwrites as we rock the old school and share a line in 140 characters or less, every Thursday, on Twitter.