Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-Scars

I enjoy writing about the writers group I've been blessed to be part of for nearly twenty years. As might be expected, to hang around with one group that long, it must be a pretty compatible group. And it is. Many of them have been around longer than I. Because they accepted me as a bona fide author when even I wasn't sure if I qualified, I will forever be grateful. For some unfathomable reason, for the last six years or so I've been their purported leader. Actually co-leader as a committee of four others ably assist me. And writing exercises similar to the one I wrote about below happen regularly. May they keep happening as we travel this road together.
* * *
    Most people have scars. Some are from accidents. Some from prior surgeries. Some deliberately acquired. This last saddens me.
    A couple of years ago I handed out a list of five story idea prompts for a writing exercise at a writers guild meeting. Of those present probably ten or so participated and wrote short pieces which most shared with the group. One of the prompts involved telling the story of how you received a scar. Any kind of scar, not necessarily physical. Of the respondents, fully half had chosen the prompt about a scar. This surprised me.
    My own scar is minor. And though it is on my face, can only be seen when the light hits it a certain way. In the distant past of my childhood Coca Cola, as well as other soft drinks, was sold in six ounce glass bottles. If you've ever seen one of them, you know the rim at the top of the bottle's neck was thicker than the rest of the bottle. Somehow the boys at my school managed to remove that glass rim and wear it on a finger as a ring. God alone knows why. I was a tiny first grader, just the right height for the glass ring on one of those tall country farm boys to accidentally strike across my nose as I ran down the hall among them. It bled copiously and I was taken to the doctor and then home, but I had no long-term ill effects. No law suit was filed either.
    Maybe those of us who have scars long to confide in someone about how we received them. I can't remember any specific stories that the writers told that day. Just that some were actual physical scars, like mine. One or two were psychological scars. This surprised me, too. Psychological scars are the ones we're most prone to keep close, not want to tell anyone about. I believe the fact that they were wiling to share these personal stories speaks to the trust this group of writers have in each other.
    Since I have inherited co-leadership of the group, my hope is that this atmosphere of trust and support will continue for a long time.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Friday Rambles-Dual Citizenship

The below column written several years ago is one of my favorites. I suppose because it sort of centers on my beloved Tennessee. I was an adult when I first came to live in Tennessee. But  it kind of felt like home from the start. I've written in other places about a family story which I can't verify and which might explain why I feel about it as i do. If you believe that the places our forbears lived is imprinted on our DNA. Other explanations abound. Such as an unhappy childhood so a relocation might be sought. But my childhood was fairly happy, even though we were poor. As a child I figured Georgia would always be my home and felt no desire that life be otherwise. My daughter has returned to Georgia to live now. Perhaps she'll stay. Or not. Life often brings changes we never anticipated. If someone had told me I'd spend the far greater portion of my life in Tennessee and eventually write novels I would have been amazed. But so it happened.
 * * *    
    I was born in the state of Georgia. So I have to say I’m a Georgia native even though I have lived in Tennessee more than three times as long as I did in Georgia. Similar to a person who holds citizenship in two different countries, I call it ‘dual citizenship.’ Probably a lot of people fit that description. My late husband was born in Virginia but his family moved to Kingsport when he was two years old and he grew up here. He served in the Navy for four years but Kingsport was still home. After the Navy he lived in South Carolina for about a year and then Georgia, where we met, for a couple of years. But the major part of his life was in Tennessee.
    A writer friend was born in Kentucky but her family moved to Kingsport when she was very young. She grew up, married a Tennessean and has continued to live in Kingsport. They visit Kentucky far more often than I visit Georgia, since their daughter lives there. So she could plausibly claim to be a Kentucky and a Tennessee native. Though I doubt that would be acceptable on the myriad forms we all have to deal with in daily life.
    Another writer friend was born in Southwest Virginia but her family moved to Tennessee when she was barely a teenager.  She was graduated from high school here, married, had two sons. She returned to Virginia and lived there until about twelve years ago when she moved back to Tennessee to be near her family. Most likely more than a few folks in these adjoining corners of Tennessee and Virginia have followed a similar path, in both directions.
    My own daughter was born in Atlanta, Georgia during the two years we lived there after I married. But she lived in Kingsport, graduated from Dobyns Bennett, attended Maryville College and ETSU and worked in Kingsport. She always wanted to go back to Georgia and eventually she did move to Atlanta. About six years was enough for her. She returned to Tennessee and seems quite satisfied to be back. Like myself, she’s happy enough to acknowledge that she was born in Georgia, but these Tennessee mountains are home.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-Rambling about Writing

Here it is November and NaNoWriMo again. I wrote the column below after just two or three NaNoWriMos. This will be my sixth or seventh, need to count again. I thought I'd have trouble getting into it this year as I'd be away from home the first weekend. But I'd made some notes, and had some idea about the story I wanted to write. And to my surprise I've written the words I needed to stay on track to finish-so far. It's still several weeks until the end of the month. But I'll give it the ol' college try again. And, hopefully, will finish my 50000 words or more by then. This month of writing often gives me the kickstart to get immersed in writing when I've been procrastinating. Have to see if it lasts. Hope so, I really want to finish this story.

 * * *     
     November seems to be a month that I get focused on writing. The impetus, I expect, is it being National Novel Writing Month, a number of opportunities for selling books as well as regular meetings of my two writing groups.
     I write in several genres, mystery being my favorite. But my first venture in getting my writing into book form was Eight Miles of Muddy Road, a memoir of growing up as a sharecropper's daughter in (very) rural central Georgia. Available on Amazon, in print and ebook format. Or from me.
     Prior to that first venture into print, I'd had a couple of mystery/crime stories published in small circulation print magazines, several published online and more since. I've also had stories published in print anthologies and an ebook anthology by a traditional publisher. That publishing contract for a novel length mystery still eludes me. But we persevere.
     A couple of years ago I gathered several of my mystery short stories and self-pubbed a book, Best Served Cold, Revenge a la Carte. Also available from me, the author, and Amazon.
     Two of my mystery main characters star in their own series. Well, the first book of their series anyway. And one is under consideration by a publisher. Their second outings are Works in Progress. Both characters are female, one is an amateur trying to solve a crime to clear her stepson and the other is a professional private investigator, a former battered wife.
     In a recent conversation with other writers about series characters, I realized one probable reason that we like to write series. Our characters become so real to us that we want to keep them around.
     I decided I needed a blog to showcase my writing, and finally settled on a name. Mystery Lane Rambler. My main writing website is ramblinscribe.com. So I decided to stay with the 'ramblin' theme. Along with 'rambling' about my writing, I post bits of writing advice and titles of writing books that have helped me through the years.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday Rambles-No Slam Dunk

So here it is November 1. NaNoWriMo time again. National Novel Writing Month. Six or seven years ago I began this crazy thing I'd read about. Write a book in thirty days? Oh? It didn't have to be print ready? Just get 50000 words written down? If you succeeded, you'd be designated a winner. The 'book' could be revised, polished afterward. With my obsessive, compulsive, perfectionist writing nature, could I do that? But I gave it a whirl. The column below was written about my 2nd or 3rd NaNo year. And I did it. And have kept doing it ever since. Only one of those years I didn't get the number of words done. Can't remember the circumstances that interfered. Never mind, the others are either in print or awaiting their turn at revision, polishing. Some longer than others. Maybe this year won't be a slam dunk either, but I'll give it the ol' college try.
 * * *
   Readers not interested in the writing process might wish to tune out for the next couple of weeks. Not that I want to lose readers, of course! But that's where my head is right now. I'm trying to fit another major writing project into my schedule.
   November has been designated as National Novel Writing Month for several years, as I think I've mentioned here once or twice. I'd never participated though until last year. Since I enjoyed it and was able to reach my goal I figured I'd try again. This year is a totally different experience. For various reasons I haven't been able to just shove everything aside and concentrate on THE NOVEL.
   I have the general outline of it. But actually getting the words written is turning into a struggle. Uninterrupted time to pull them out of my brain and onto the page has been hard to come by. Writing all night might be an option. But the other inhabitants of my home are worse night owls than me. And I do get too tired to imagine the next big trouble to throw at my protagonist.
   During the daytime there's the dog to walk, eating, minimal personal hygiene, laundry and housework. More regularly scheduled meetings have seemed to fall into this month, too, and extra workshops and groups that I had committed to attend.
   All this does not even take into account the urge to procrastinate that is common to all writers. Any normally disliked task sings a siren song that we can’t resist.
   I hate to rake leaves. My neighbors' yards are mostly free of the crisp evidence of fall's arrival. The two trees in my yard are finally bereft of leaves. But a combination of guilt if wind sent my leaves to neighboring lawns, brain weariness and procrastination sent me to the shed for my rake and a couple of hours outside. Leaving aside the fact that exercise is good for me, I know that procrastination was the main motivator for my burst of activity.
   So here I am, fingers on keyboard again. After I send this piece to the editor, I'll be back wrestling with THE NOVEL. Since more hindrances lie in wait for me before month's end, this NaNoWriMo is obviously not going to be a slam dunk.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-New Plot?

Yep, still searching for that elusive plot which will catapult my new book (if I get it written) to the top of the best selling heap. Not likely? That's right. Plot alone will not a best seller make. Readers want to find a character they can sympathize with, maybe even identify with. At least so we writers are told. And since that is true for me, I bet it is for many other readers. No namby pamby character, either, he or she must be ready and willing to fight for what he or she wants. I expect even readers who don't exhibit that characteristic want to read about characters who do own it. Do my characters have it? I'm not sure I know. I hope so. And if not, I hope readers will tell me so I can try to improve.
.* * * 
   Many of us writers wrack our brains to think up new plots for our deathless prose. Forget it. It’s all been done. The best a modern writer can hope for is to put a new twist on a good old plot.
What 90's television sci-fi adventure series and fifties comedy series have the same plot structure? Give up? Gilligan’s Island and Star Trek Voyager are the two, though they are wildly different on the surface.
   The Captain, Gilligan and a half dozen or so pleasure yacht passengers only expected to be on their trip through balmy waters for three hours. The one hundred eighty nine member crew, and their holographic doctor, on Voyager started a shakedown cruise in space. They thought they’d be among the stars for a few days at most. In both cases, an unexpected calamity extended their trips far longer than their expectations. Though probably the actors, writers, producers, etc were quite happy those trips lasted as long as they did.
   Several books and columns on writing that I’ve read recently suggest taking a look at the classics for inspiration if you’re stuck on what to write about. The premise of star crossed lovers, such as Romeo and Juliet, is at the base of a lot of romance stories and novels. One of the most notable that comes to mind was printed over twenty years ago The Bridges of Madison County was, unexpectedly, a wildly popular tiny book. Though mostly we moderns like for the lovers to wind up still alive, and together, by the end of the book.
   Sherlock Holmes would probably retire to a castle in the Highlands if he were a practicing detective these days. He might feel lost among the countless PI’s, former police detectives, caterers, and other women and men of various ages solving crimes in print.
   Readers still love to read about fictional dark deeds of the gentry a la Lady Chatterley’s Lover. A writer’s imagination might have to work overtime to outdo the real life stories available now, and bringing megabuck advances for their first person authors.
   The next time I’m stuck for something to hang a plotline on, I’ll dust off my own modest classics collection or take a trip to the library. Hey, if something worked for Doyle or ol’ Will it’s good enough for me.