Saturday, June 3, 2017

Scrivener: The Learning Curve is Worth It

I've set my sights on conquering Scrivener.

It's not difficult to use, just takes some time to get to know it. The first time I used it was for a NaNoWriMo novel, and I seemed to muck things up unnecessarily. (Starting with forgetting to get my NaNo participant's 50% discount on purchasing it!) I couldn't keep my folders organized properly, I mislabeled scenes, it was messy. I wanted to use the corkboard view mode feature, but couldn't figure out how to incorporate that into my text-doc style habits.

But, I know the benefits of streamlining later down the road. A writer in my writer's group used Scrivener (at my suggestion, even) to great advantage when self-publishing: the program makes instant Table of Contents, easily accessible Chapter Headings, and publisher-ready formatting for ebooks.

So, as I revise my memoir modules and look to assembling them, I ventured back into the Scrivener world. I chose to use the Non-Fiction Template. I watched a couple of How-To videos on YouTube to refresh my memory and perhaps help me avoid making the same mistakes I made before. Immediately, the difference is noticeable. I keep my chapters as folders, and my modules as scenes. I add more scenes - variations on the modules, notes, etc. - and manage to label them in a logical way.

The only trouble I've run into, so far, has to do with pictures. A tutorial video has espoused the benefit of using photos as the covers of the scene chapter/scene cards, in corkboard view mode. Sounds good to me - I'm a pretty visual person. But, alas, I believe that is not an option in the Non-Fiction Template mode, unfortunately. I manage to learn how to include photos, at least, by opening a new text inside a folder, adding the photos to the text document, and saving it as a scene within the chapters I want them.

Okay, so, now...I'm going to employ the use of "Stamps" - so each folder or virtual index card is stamped with a word of my choosing: Rough/First/Raw, Needs Polish, Needs Research/Editing/Citations/Photos, etc.

Videos I used:

  • Scrivener: A Quick Review of How It Works and Some Of Its Cool Features (Karen Price)
    Fifteen minutes long. Good overview, nice pace, but doesn't get into the different templates and modes as much as longer tutorials, obviously. 
  • Scrivener Bootcamp (Jason Hough)
    This one is about an hour long, and covers just about every thing you'd want to know how to do. Very well organized, but still slightly overwhelming for me...I had to take pauses, try things out, and go back to the video.
  • Scrivener Basics For Windows (Literature & Latte)
    Ten minutes in length, built for beginners, but is six years old, so some features have changed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

NYC Midnight & Writing Report (Is it April, already??)


That's what this year feels like, already. A blur of days and nights and weeks and rain...I am not daunted by the rain, or the greyness of Seattle. But the greyness, edging into darker territory, as we watch the world turn to shedooby, shattered...that is taking its toll, no?

But the last thing I want to talk to about is the encroaching evil in our world. It is always there, but the wheel has spun to bring much of it into the light, and I only hope we can treat it effectively, making the light we still have brighter and stronger.

But this is a blog about WRITING.

This year's NYC Midnight Short Story Contest began with my assignment:

Genre: Horror (yay!)
Character: Security guard
Theme: Retirement
Prize: HM

I was pleased with the genre, to say the least. I wrote a story about a retiring guard passing the secrets of the nursing home to his replacement. I received an Honorable Mention, which I was pleased with, even if disappointed that I did not get to on to Round Two. There were three times as many contestants this year (About 3100-3200) as years past.

The three judges from whom I received feedback gave me inarguable remarks. I was happy to hear the opening was very well received, and my dialogue was credible and story driven, which I humbly recognize as one of my truly natural skills. I agree with the judges that my ending was vague and somewhat unresolved...I left it very ambiguous about the nature of the magic at hand. This was somewhat intentional, and somewhat a product of the time and word limit of the contest; I had ideas of changing the story, but didn't want to take too long and miss my deadline (like I did last year!). Instead, I chose to submit a finished story that may have some missing elements but felt strong and contiguous. In the end, the creep factor was barely enough to keep me qualified. I must work harder and not allow the time/word limit keep me from getting my ending to a fully realized point.

My plan is to practice some 2500, 2000, and 1500 word stories in the meantime.

My Memoir Project 1

Slow going on those painful passages of years past. My 1989 recollections are tough, and it takes me several hours to get the bones down, after which I must take weeks to process the grief and get to a point where I can read it without crying. Finally, the editing can occur, although I am not sure how efficient this process is. In any case, that is the process. It is difficult, emotionally wrenching, and time consuming.

My Memoir Project 2

I a now referring to this as a memoir, despite the fact that I am not in it. It is the story of my grandfather and his brother in the 1920s, and I require much more information. I still have not gotten a hold of my cousin Tina, but will redouble my efforts in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017: Happy New Year! Resolutions Part 1

Let's face it: none of us in the arts is looking forward to what January 20th will inaugurate. This new "leadership" model is fraught with fears about getting tossed into a new war, undoing the the good works and strides made so far in civil liberties and equal rights, causing massive damage to the planet, our economy, and our lives. But let's put that aside for the moment.

I love making New Years Resolutions. I see them as Goals & Guidelines, aspirations, and a focus for my attention and intention for the year. It is a lengthy process for me.

  1. I think about what I am doing, what I want to be doing, what I am happy with, what I want or need more of, and where I want to focus my energies and efforts. 
  2. I begin collating words, thoughts, ideas, and images around what I want to manifest in the new year.
  3. I read over last year's list. How did I do? Did I accomplish what I wanted? Why or why not?
  4. I create this year's list. I write in a journal, and/or a blog. I do art on it. This year, I started a Pinterest board on it...with tips, images, and ideas of what I want to accomplish and focus on.
  5. I make goals and milestone markers for the items! ("Write more" is vague - "Daily 15 min writing," "set aside two hours a week twice a week to write," "take a writing course," or "submit five stories for publication" are much more specific and likely to get done.)
My Pinterest board is a new thing. I mean, I've been on that site for several years, but have gotten more active on it the past year. I like having a visual scrapbook of things. I try not to go overboard, but I do enjoy it. 

That said, The 2017 Resolutions board I've made has images and infographics for my goals: 
  1. Sleep better I've been waking up in a panic a lot this year, not long after falling asleep. I also
    have trouble feeling comfortable - too hot, too itchy, too deflated pillow... 2016 my husband and I made plans to buy a new bed and pillows, which we did. (I'm still on the sofa most nights...we aren't very sleep-compatible.) I've learned that I actually suffer from something with a name - "night terrors" - and it doesn't have to be me, screaming. It is a type of sleep paralysis that is often brought on by stress, sleep deprivation, asthma, and sleep apnea. Well, guess what? Yup, I have all that...although I never really feel stressed.

    Okay, so now what? I am using asthma meds as always, but am also adding aromatherapy - mint, clary sage, elemi, even Vick's VapoRub seems to help. I also use saline nasal spray. And sleep on an incline. I try to stay calm, breathe deeply, and meditate on a healthy system. Now, I am adding more exercise - it always helps. Walking 20-40, sometimes 90, minutes a day. Yoga - certain stretches are helpful for better sleep. Doing 20 min of those poses every night. Diet - cut out most dairy, wheat, alcohol, and aiming for five veggies and two fruits a day.

    So, this one resolution - for better sleep - has basically turned into five:
    walks, yoga, raise veggie intake, lower processed food intake, and increasing meditation time and regularity.
  2. Write Yes, it's still undefined. I am working on those goals. At the moment, I am thinking of this year's goals being:
     - get that interview with Cousin Tina and mine resources for story details about great-grandparents for the Historical NF book.
     - Write that HNF book, at least first draft.
     - Do the HISMZA revision
     - Finish Allan's story, London, and collate for editing
     - ?
  3. Massage Career - New network referrals
  4. Retirement Investment - Start!
  5. Support Journalistic Integrity - In addition to continuing to support as many charities as I can that fund women's health, equal pay, equal representation, civil rights, equality, animal rights, arts, and education, I am devoted to funding REAL NEWS, not "fake news" aka propaganda, or soft-hitting infotainment. I want real news. Hard-hitting, investigative journalists, working to tell us the truth about our government, politics, the economy, and the world we live in, without fear of blacklisting, imprisonment, or death. I want Real News on TV, in the papers, and online. I am supporting Free Press this year.

I usually have about 17 Resolutions, so I am a ways from completing this list. I haven't even looked at 2016's list, yet, either. I'm wondering if I got anything on it done at all? I was so filled with angst and grief for so much of the year...

I'd love to know what you all are planning to work on this year. 
What are your goals? What steps will you take to get there? How do you measure your progress?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

End of the Year: 2016 - Bye, Felicia! (Numerology)

It's December. The final month of a tragic and frustrating year. Most people would agree with me, I'm sure, since this year has seen so much loss, death, trauma, sadness, and anger.

So, what will we do in our last thirty-one days?

Let me start by talking about the numbers. Numerology is a long-time interest of mine, and, if you care to know, I use the system Pythagoras taught in Ancient Greece. I dig the ideas of Pythagoras. So, the short of it: Everything goes in nine-year cycles, and every pattern is repeated in those cycles over the years. 2016 is a 9 year, so that means this is the end of this cycle, that began in 2007. Makes sense politically, huh? In a 9-year, closure is sought after, loose ends are tied up, humanitarian issues come to the forefront, and the Big Picture is looked at, assessed, and acted upon accordingly.

The Big Picture for me, includes:
  1. My personal life goals 
  2. My career as a writer
  3. My massage business plan
  4. The World as a whole, and my place within it, including my contributions
  5. The state of the nation I live in
  6. My local (state, city, neighborhood, etc.) community (-ies) and my place/contributions
1. I've never been great at seeing myself in the future (Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years? etc. I have no idea! Same place I am now...?) or planning personal stuff. But, in the past nine years, I have made some progress:
  • I have a personal money coach that I work with to learn how to change my bad habits and get ahead. It's a great combination of psychological research (what beliefs and knowledge/ignorance did I inherit from my family? What is important to me and how to I enhance that? etc.) and practical skills (Money income and outgo tracking, budget planning, shifting attention, intention, and focus as needed).
  • Steps have been taken towards home organization, health care, relationships, and other personal goals, even if I haven't achieved what I had hoped (yet).
2. The last nine years (plus) have seen me focus on a (mostly) fiction writing career. 
  • I've successfully run a (now) weekly writers group, thus building a working writing community.
  • I've published several short stories and flash fiction, both in magazines and anthology books.
  • I've attended several writing conferences, made great contacts in the publishing industry, and successfully pitched my novel and my memoirs.
  • I've developed a pretty good structure and routine of writing days and times. 
3. As a massage therapist, I've moved into a newer office, increased my client/patient base, and made several changes to my networking platform.

4. The world is always a mixed bag of extreme goods and evils. I do my part to make it a better place, which, in the past nine years has included:
  • Participating in global healing rituals and groups.
  • Donating money to working organizations on issues of environmental protection, animal welfare, human rights, and animal rescue, among others.
  • Being the best example I can of a conscientious person. 
  • Cleaning up litter in the parks.
5. The nation...I have spent much time in the last nine years educating myself on current politics. I have signed petitions, donated money to support democracy, transparency, justice, and fairness in voting and the media. I have participated in caucuses, acted as a delegate in the election process, and volunteered at the democratic party headquarters. I do my best to walk my talk and spread the love.

6. Locally, all the above applies, and I continue to participate in local events, staying up on local politics, bills, and issues, and engage in discussion with other voters and politicians. 

2017 will be a new year, and a new numerological cycle (1). What will be in store for us? As a nation, we are starting a new political cycle with a new leader. The world, too, has been going though many changes and there are several new leaders of prominent nations.

At the risk of losing you completely, my personal year is actually a FOUR, so I will personally be dealing with issues of rebellion against authority, building foundations and structure, and stability. (If you are curious about yours, let me know, and I will fill you in!)

In the past, my FOUR years have been difficult, yet ultimately rewarding. The short history is thus:

  • Age ONE: Don't remember much, but obviously I was working on a very basic, physical level of stability, and getting to know my family world.
  • Age TEN: Eh, the year puberty hit me. Ch-ch-ch-changes...
  • Age NINETEEN: OMG, this was a major traumatic year. I was back at my childhood home, after spending six months on my own in Europe. I was recovering from losing my sanity at the hands of a violent boyfriend while living in England, and still grieving the loss of my best friend to suicide. I basically had to rebuild my self-image and my world-view.
  • Age TWENTY-EIGHT: Another shaken-up year - I quit my job and went to massage school, completely changing careers. Exhausting but rewarding year.
  • Age THIRTY-SEVEN: This year isn't as clear to me. I was three years into an intensive Japanese language and culture immersion, and actively traveling more than usual. I was two years into my writing career, and I DID take over the writers group that year, so I stepped up my accountability. 

2017 is a "1" year: A beginning of a new 9-year cycle. A one year is about starting new things, being a leader, exploring new ground, and being true to yourself and your unique identity.

As a rule, you can expect nuances of whatever you were going through in 2008 to resurface in the coming year.
(For your personal year number, add the month and day of your birthday to 2017 - mine goes: 1 Feb = 1+2=3, + 2+0+1+7=10, the 3+10=13, and reduce to a single digit, 1+3=4.)

In any case, everyone I know is more than ready to say goodbye to 2016. I am still looking for the silver linings, the lessons to be learned, and the good to come out of it, but, yeah, bye 2016.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Writer's Block: Funky Depression Pt 2: The Final Week of NaNoWriMo

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. I had a massage, hoping to loosen up my body and my mind. I did a free online Tarot reading:

Your Question: What Should I Focus On In My Writing This Month?
  1. The Answer Received: 


    True justice balances the scales to serve the greater good.
    The Justice card asks you to distinguish between desire and need. Justice carries the scales and sword of legal probity, but in her heart she is attempting to understand what is behind the conflict so she can meet the needs on both sides. Justice is not always meted equally across the board, however. Sometimes one side must be treated differently than the other. The fundamental concept is the greatest good for the greatest number.
  2. Justice 

Well, that sounds about right. I have been putting a ton of energy towards counterbalancing the new gestapo. I want to help other creatives be strong and put their work out there, as examples of what positive action can accomplish. When humans are free to be themselves, be creative, help each other, and act out of love, not fear, we can move the entire race forward towards utopian ideals.

I know this concept is not universally accepted, understood, or even acknowledged, but I don't care. I am happy to engage in debate and am always looking to expand my understanding of the world we live in- the world we each contribute to creating - on all levels. I am looking for ways to help the world, not hurt it. I have always lived as honestly and creatively as I could, and love to support others in discovering their own talents and putting themselves out into the world. It's not about competition, scarcity, fear, validation, or vanity. It (and by "it" I mean Life, The Point, and Purpose) is about being open to love, knowledge, wisdom, multiple perspectives and experiences.

I will continue to write every day this month, despite no longer having the focus for NaNoWriMo. My projects will move on: The HF novel Baltimore Boys will continue, with more research available. The Woman-and-her-Horse-Ranch story will probably be converted into a short story, and all my grief-ridden angst rants will feed some greater purpose, hopefully doing the world some good, in the end.

Writer's Block: Funky Depression Pt 1: Thanksgiving & NaNoWriMo

I don’t even know how it happened. I was starting on the story of the two brothers, which was giving me lots of good progress – for every scene I wrote, a dozen or more questions would present themselves. I can take those questions to Dad and his cousins, Tina and Joan, for more interview material. I want to get this story written, for sure. This is the historical fiction book I've been preparing to write for over a year, based on my grandfather and great-uncle as teenagers. I threw caution to the wind and decided to make this my NaNoWriMo 2016 Project.

But, then, the election hit. I sat up watching the horrific results roll in, triggering a PTSD-like shock and semi-catatonic response. For days, I drank and scrolled though the feeds. Article after article, report after report, my depression was deep and hopeless. I vacillated between thoughts of suicide, homicide, withdrawal and action. I was unmotivated to write, unmotivated to create…just wanted to turn back in time, but that was not possible. I was not alone; many people were going through similar stages of grief and emotional response, many of them also white, American women - those of us that did not cast those silent votes for neo-nazism. But, this is not about those details; this is about how I, as a writer and artist, respond.

I started writing about it. That became Project number two, a wandering collection of thoughts and essays that I hoped would help me sort out my feelings and formulate a response. I wanted to – and still do– keep the momentum for progressive and proactive action. I thought about starting a support group for progressive writers and artists, or healers, some sort of community action group. Still thinking that, actually. I have an ongoing list of acronyms and mission statements towards that purpose.

And yet. Two weeks have passed, with no words added to my nano count. Traditionally, I sit at my mother-in-law’s table after Turkey dinner on Thanskgiving and power through several thousand words. So, here I sit. I wrote 52 words on my original HF novel, Baltimore Boys. Felt stilted and ridiculous. I started a blog post, felt disconnected there, too. So I randomly wrote 1100 words about a woman and a horse on a ranch. I have no idea what the heck that is, or will be.

I am looking at a low battery and 5481 words to write each day for the next seven days in order to finish on time. Will I? Should I? Do I commit to one of these projects or do I focus on other evils at hand? I am not sure, but I must write this week, and that is a fact.

There is the story of the Rule Breakers. The Rule in NaNoWriMo is that you write a complete novel, fresh, perhaps using pre-prepared notes and character drafts, etc, but beginning to end a fresh new novel. If you decide to write something else, you are a Rule Breaker – a collection of esssays or short stories, a play, a revision of an earlier work, a nonfiction book of some type…these are allowed – anything is allowed, but against the stream of the intention of the project.

By going into two or even three possible projects, I may have been able to call myself a Rule Breaker, this year, but I won’t do that unless I actually make some damn progress this week. Serious word count – not just words on a page, which a lot of this is, but something to work with. Some pile of raw clay to be molded and shaped into something readable, publishable, workable. So tired of this wallowing, aimless feeling when it comes to these NaNo projects. I have not felt the fire of fiction since 2011’s novel, HISMZA. My memoir project has fire, but it burns me out, limiting my ability to work actively on it. It is intense, and I am uncertain of its final shape and form, which is exhilarating yet terrifying, as expected.

So, I continue to vent - stream-of-consciousness writing - in the hopes of spewing the dregs and uncovering the gems. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Thinking About Family Traits and Identity

Is it a vacation? Is it work? I just spent two weeks with my parents, at their home in Florida.  How do you feel about spending time with your parents/family? A friend of mine put it nicely when she said, "You love to miss them."

I do love my family. I talk to my mom and dad (still together after 47 years) at least once a week, and enjoy our conversations, for the most part. Recently, someone asked me what we talked about, as they could not imagine having regular conversations with their own parents. Well, to be honest, we talk about a lot of things: Movies we've seen, books we're reading, what other family members or friends are up to, what we think about the latest non-political events (we do not discuss politics, as we do not agree--I think), we question the past and remember things together, and we tell stories about our lives. Sometimes we discuss what we believe in, or how we are struggling. We talk about health: what supplements we are trying out, what works and what doesn't, what hurts and what doesn't, and how to massage a sore neck (being a massage therapist, I often guide my mother to treat my dad's aches and pains, which she is good at, being as intuitive and body-aware as I am.

These trips are a hodge-podge of goals. My parents aren't getting any younger, and I want to spend time with them, especially since I can help my dad's aches with massage, and they are both healthy enough to do things with us, like go on trips, swim, walk, and tell us stories.

I love the stories. I love the swimming and sight-seeing, too, but the stories have always drawn me. As a little girl, I used to beg my parents and grandparents:
"Tell me what it was like when you were little!"
"What did you do, without a television?"
"Where did your family go on vacation?"
"How did you get to school? Did you like your teachers? What were you good at?"
Questions, questions, all day long. And what answers did I get?
"That's ancient history."
"What do you want to know that for?"
"What are you, writing a book?"

Yes. Yes, I am. I am writing a book.

I have been writing this book for over forty years. Most of my sources are gone from this plane, but I still have my parents. Their minds are sharp (well, my mom is pretty rusty at Boggle, but otherwise...) and their bodies sound. I find I learn things in person that just never seem to come across over the phone. I have to prod, I have to dig...Most people don't realize their stories are valid, or interesting, or news to me, apparently, but they are. When we get past the repetition of "remember that time..." I find nuggets of gold - true tales of love and loss, struggle and success - rich with the details only heard from the people that were there. I can read about the past before I came along all I want, but unless someone was there, and tells you, you won't know what the streets smelled like after a hot summer rain, back when there were still horses and carriages roaming the streets of Baltimore. You won't know how it felt to a kid in the 1940s, to sit on top of the radiator after dinner to warm up on a cold evening, and listen to radio programs like The Shadow, and then talk about it the next day with the other kids that listened the night before. You might not learn what it was like to win the car of your dreams in an auction but be unable to retrieve it because you are in the Navy, stuck at sea, and your father won't be bothered to pick it up for you. Or how your mother used to have sleepovers with her grandmother, and lay in bed together cracking jokes and counting toes. These little moments, shared with family, crossing generations, show the charms and humor, the frustrations and flaws, the love and learning of life that we all share.

I have met young people who seem to think that their generation is different from the ones before. That they are more modern, that older people can't understand them, or comprehend how forward their thinking is. They think they are smarter, more informed, better prepared for life and the future. And, in some small ways, maybe each generation is. But, how can you think that the differences are of any consequence? Our grandparents drank, and smoked, and swore. They had premarital sex. Some of our great-grandparents had orgies, or were part of throuples, before the word existed, or posed for pornographic photographs, paintings, or etchings. Many of them stuck their middle fingers in the air at society and expectations, and picked up sticks for adventure and fortune seeking. That's how life works. People are people, with or without smartphones, the internet, cars, the wheel, or fire.

I have always accepted the humanity of my parents and those that came before. Maybe because I grew up so close to my parents and grandparents, and even knew two of my great-grandmothers well, and have sat around the table at Sunday dinner hearing the tales. And my mother, she never lied to me (not even about Santa Claus) or hid from my questions. She always treated me as an adult, and spoke to me as such. She always answered my questions as best she could, complexity relative to my age and comprehension. I am grateful for that, to this day. Most of the adults in my life took time to teach me things, talk to me, and answer my questions, to some extent.

And yet...I still have unanswered questions. I will continue to ask them, as soon as I can figure out what they are. I have found that the secret to getting the answers you need is to find the right questions to ask. That is the hardest part. It's not enough to say, "tell me how it was." You have to prod, poke, and provoke the stories. Especially to find the ones that haven't seen the light of day in decades; the ones that aren't rehearsed, or censored. Those are the good ones. Those are the ones in which you can find yourself.