Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A writer's mind

Fell asleep for my nap thinking about a better way to write one scene in my work in progress. 
Forgot it when I woke up. 
Had lunch. 
Read some FaceBook posts. 
Suddenly remembered it just now while brushing my teeth, so am now writing it down. 

Writer's minds are weird.

Update - I've done enough edits on my work in progress.  
Now to begin sending it out to agents or editors.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A place to write

I"ve finally decided that my tiny house might just be a tad bit too small for a writer (me) and a college student (my teen). We won't discuss her snakes and fish -- they're in her room.

There is no longer a place for me to spread out the items I need to refer to when writing.
Teen has taken over the living room to study in and the coffee table is covered with miscellaneous stuff of hers.
The 'dining room table' (in a nook of the kitchen) now only contains two places for us to eat, because the rest of the area is taken up by the sewing machine.  Some day I want the sewing machine to have its very own cabinet, but as for now - this is where is stays.
My 'desk' in my bedroom is covered with bills.  (it's a small portable writing desk)
My office (which the floorplan of our two bedroom/ one level condo says is supposed to be the dining room) has several other projects scattered around, plus three filing cabinets, a bookshelf, and four of those plastic stacks of drawers.  The fourth wall is the sliding door to our patio.

So = where can I go to spread out and focus on writing?

I now go to the teen's community college and use carrols in the library there.  Comfy chairs with small tables for laptop and one small notebook.  But if I have to really spread out, they have comfy chairs at larger (but not too large) tables.  I have used both of these and am in love.  I can really focus there because everyone else there is focusing on studying.  No music. No talking in the background.

So far I've rewritten that picture book that the picture book workshop at LoonSong said was a middle grade short story into actually being a picture book.  YAY!

I've completed one pass through of my young novel, correcting the mistake I learned about at LoonSong.  (It began as a picture book.  Then I attempted to convert it to a Chapter Book, but it ran away from me and grew like Topsy. It's now a young middle grade novel.)
Next I'll do several more pass throughs and see if I can whip it into shape.

Today I brought about 20 email printouts to use as references while I wrote a letter to my ex-agent.  (He's two years behind in sending me my royalties.)

Home is for eating and sleeping.
I've decided to write at the college library.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

LoonSong Writing Retreat Adventures

If it's September, then it's time for LoonSong.

For the past couple of years, I've taken the long trip to Minnesota, up close to the Canadian border to attend this writing retreat.  Each year I learn something new, enjoy meal and lectures about writing and children's book art with other Children's Book Writers, plus still have time to sneak off to find places to write.

This year, since I live on the west coast and planes like to fly to Minnesota in the mornings (very early in the morning), it took me 17 hours to get there.  (only 11 hours to get back, tho.)

Why 17 hours?
Well, firstly I had to get up at 3:00 in the morning, to catch the shuttle at 4:00-ish, to get to the airport by 5:00, to board the airplane at 5:45 am.  Then there was the layover at Minneapolis. I always enjoy roaming around that airport because I can get food (great chicken marinated sandwich) plus stock up on chocolate covered orange peel at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company store.
Roam is the correct word because our plane from the west coast landed at area G and the smaller flight to Duluth takes of either at B or A.  Yes, I get my mile walk in that day going from gate to gate.  (and yes, I reversed that walk coming back home - and got more chocolate)

Once landed at Duluth, then I have to drive 2 more hours north to Elbow Lake Lodge.  This trip I learned not to trust my phone's GPS to get me there because it had me turn off the direct road and spend an hour getting lost in the woods.
I had asked the car rental person if they would consider the car being attacked by a moose as an act of God.  But they only laughed.  So, at every turn/ over the crest of every hill, I expected to run into a moose.  (didn't happen.  whew!)
I finally decided the GPS was crazy, went back to the original road, and eventually found Elbow Lake Lodge.
Did I mention that I lost all cell service and it got very, very dark on those tall grass overgrown road/paths in those woods?

Anywho, the almost week there was great.
I learned two shocking things about my writing.  One was that a picture book I had written was actually a middle grade short story.  Well-written, but NOT a picture book.  No wonder it hadn't sold.
The other thing was a correction I needed to do in my novel, which I am now fixing and rewriting.

Yes, I do want to go back next year.
You might want to come, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A history of the Internet

A history of the Internet - as seen by me:

First there was the Arpanet .  But that was before home computers, so I didn't know about it.

Then, in the late 1980s, we were talking about buying one of the first Apple home computers.  However, my husband's brother gave us a Commodore 64 for Christmas.  So we used that.

We still used our typewriter for hardcopy papers for homework assignments for the kids and newspaper articles (me) and magazine articles (my husband who was Tech Editor for the New England MG 'T' Register, LTD).
But soon my husband discovered computer bulletin boards and began downloading packets and having conversations with people all over the world.  On it he discovered a group of writers and set the machine up so I could download and talk to that group.
It was called - FidoNet:
FidoNet was a bulletin board system where certain people promised to keep their computers on constantly to assist in the transfer of packets of information that literally went around the world. I was talking to people in Australia!
Once a day we subs
cribers would contact our local computer and download the packet we wanted. I downloaded the Writing packet. My husband downloaded an MG packet, plus a computer packet, and other subject packets.
After I had read my packet, I'd respond to a variety of messages in one message and upload it to the waiting computer. (located in a friend's house not far from us) and it would join all the other packets when they were sent on.

Also - I wrote my first books on this Commodore 64.  (and the newsletters for my Girl Scout troop)
Remember Dot-Matrix printers?  How thrilling it was to be able to compose on the computer, make revisions and correction and then print them off?  Print them onto continuous sheets of paper that had holes on each side so that the printer could grip the paper and move it along line by line? With perforations every 11 inches so we could then tear them apart into normal sized typing paper.  Oh those holes along the side - they were in thin strips of paper that also could be torn off.  At first it was really rough, but then paper companies developed very fine perforations that resulted in very nice looking sheets of paper.

FidoNet disbanded when the Internet began to have public access in the early 1990s.
So, I was talked into joining GEnie by a science fiction writer/ editor friend of mine. (Since I was active in the local Baltimore SF community and hung out with her at CONs) At this point, the huge business computers were only used during the daytime. They rented out computer time to ordinary people at night. Thus - GE rented computer time to GEnie groups. I joined the Children's Book Writer's group, the SF Writer's group and the Moody Blues group, and I think the Buffy the Vampire Killer group, and also mostly silently read several personal group areas such as Bruce Coville's and Jane Yolen's and other writers I admired.

When our Commodore 64 died we bought an Apple IIe.  So much easier to use than the Commodore. So much more memory.  However, I could no longer access GEnie

Friends on GEnie pointed out that AOL had a writer's group, so I moved over there.
I began to be published in the mid 1990s.
Some years later, various internet groups formed for published writers, some of which I still belong to and still interact and get messages from.

And then came laser printers.  WOW!  Instead of taking three minutes to print a page - it could print three a minute!

By this time I was a published writer and giving talks to local writing groups.  At one Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators meeting, several new writers complained about the expense of laser printers.  Why couldn't they stick with the Dot-Matrix?  Well, I replied, the quality of what is produced is so much better, so much easier for editors to read.  So, you just have to write it up as a business expense - the cost of doing your business of writing.

There was a lot of discussion among writers about the differences between Apple products and PC products - Apples being much easier to use while producing the same end product.  Nowadays, most writers and illustrators are using Apple computers and the publishers, who had begun with PCs, have had to adjust.

And now we're mostly on FaceBook.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Electronic Adventure

I didn't get much sleep last night probably because it's difficult to sleep with noise reducing headphones on. and because of loud noise in the house.

This is what I wrote on Facebook last night:

What’s on my mind? Sitting here in my bedroom at midnight, waiting for a smoke detector to screech, so we can figure out which one is doing the screeching. So far we’ve changed the battery on one. But a half hour later more screech from somewhere. So we attacked the wired in smoke detector — because this latest screech was accompanied by a voice saying, “low battery”. Which is strange because I was assured that it had no battery and was wired in. Hmmmm. Teen gave it a twist and punched the silencer button. 
We can’t reach the third fire detector which is in my bedroom, and its little light isn’t working, so
I’m sitting here on my bed after midnight waiting to see/ hear if it wishes to screech. 

Or, maybe I’ll jusy go to sleep. 💤

And --- it beeped. So off I went to the garage to get the tall ladder so I can rip that thing off the wall.
Score— no spiders on the ladder. Managed to get it into the house, set it up, climb it. And change battery. Didn’t have to call a son in law to do it. (Teen was asleep)
Maybe next time I’ll remember to change batteries when the time changes.
I thought it was fixed.
But, no.
Whatever was beeping continued to beep the whole night long.

Come daylight, I'll be calling son-in-law to come fix it.  The smoke detector we think is the one still screaming is totally wired and we have to turn off all electricity to the house before opening it.  Need daylight to do that.  I'm tempted to go out and try to sleep in my car.  (I didn't do that because my car was parked half a block away and I didn't want to have to walk back home in the morning in my nightgown.)

Posted in the morning after a night of only occasional short bouts of sleep:
I just called the electrician. (8:30 am. Didn't want to 'bother' him during the nighttime and both my sons-in-law have jobs.) He was most gracious. Told me it sounded like one of those ones you toss when it goes bad. (good) And that he has another job today, but will be sure to stop by whenever that job is done - probably after 7 pm tonight. 
Since It's only early morning here on the west coast, that's all day of beeping/ screeching. I will make sure I have excuses to be out of the house today.
On the other hand, since it's the one that goes off all the time when we cook, GOOD RIDDANCE

About 4:00 in the afternoon:
Electrician came and gone. Checked all smoke detectors. The one in the teen room was fine.  
The one in the hall (that I wanted removed) turned out to be legally required. He can't do anything about the fact that it is 3 times louder than necessary. He took it off the ceiling and discovered a little pocket INSIDE the beast with a perfectly normal 9 volt battery. Which we replaced and it stopped complaining. O-Kay.
Then he checked the one in my room. He took it apart, said it was WIRED Wrong and had been since installed. He rewired it, tested the new battery I had inserted, said it tested fine, and put it back together again.
Everything fixed.
I can take off the noise muffling ear muffs.
Maybe even sleep tonight.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Newbery predictions - two favorites

Every so often I read a book that makes me smile, makes me cry, makes me want to shout -- Possible Newbery Award!

Today it's The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty.
Wonderful characters.
Good view of Middle School.
and PI
and Fibonacci
Plus -- if you can finish this book without crying, you have a harder heart than I do.
And yet,
it does end on a positive note.
I've been wrong before, but I do expect to see this on many award lists.

Another book that is also racking up awards is Varian Johnson's The Parker Inheritance.
This one should get the Coretta Scott King author Book Award for sure, plus possible Newbery.
It's a great mystery story jumping back and forth from 1900s life for African Americans - to kids today.

Any who - these are my current predictions.