Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are we there yet?

I just finished reading a book that I guess was a memoir. Or skimming, I should say, because I skipped over many sections..

It was not as advertized. The book lurched about from past to present to far past and around again. Snippets of biography were mixed with out of context conversations, reminiscences and philosophical ramblings. I think it might have been more interesting if I was a fan of his. But even still, I didn't get much of him out of it.

One thing he said that made sense to me was about people that are always pining to be elsewhere. He said he felt like they were always looking over his shoulder expecting to see something more important. I have known those people. I try to avoid them now. They never pay attention because they are seeking something. A something that maybe even they aren't aware of.

A lot of the book concerned insecurity and trying to be famous, but also trying to define what he wanted so he would know when he arrived.

I've heard people say that art can be done for it's own sake and doesn't need an audience, but I disagree. Art - in the generic encompassing theatre and art and writing, etc - is communication. It is a way someone says "Stop and look". What is the point of doing that for yourself? Sometimes art is created because you really need to put it on paper, or sing it or carve it, but keeping it in the closet is pointless. It needs to be shared.

I think the level of sharing needs to be defined before you can judge if you have reached your goal. As an artist, do you need a gallery to carry your work? As a writer, do you need a traditional publisher? As a musician, do you need a national tour? And it seems as an actor, the author of the memoir never defined what his goal was because he didn't know what was possible. He was always scrabbling for the next job to make ends meet or get a toehold on the next rung up on the ladder to fame.

When I was trying to make a living by selling my paintings, I started reading an art business magazine. It opened my eyes. Sales, of any kind, is a business. Whether you're selling a book, a vacuum cleaner or a performance. You need to know the industry. Once you do you can decide what level will satisfy you. And it is your responsibility to create a plan to achieve it. Not easy for us creative types but it is possible.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rampant Squash!

Here is a lovely winter squash climbing into the butterfly bush. You can just barely see the 3' fence I put up for it...ha, ha, ha. To the left are Welsh Onions blooming. A lovely, fall blooming chive sort of thing. Very tasty and if you don't cut the heads you'll have it all over the yard. The spiky bits in the foreground are some gladiolas that I keep digging up and they keep coming back anyway.

Since conquering the butterfly bush doesn't seem like enough, the squash has also scaled the azaleas. You can see the rain barrel in the far left. The azaleas are 5-6' tall.

Here's one of the squashes forming. It's called Sweet Mama. It had been resting on the azalea, but I guess it got too heavy. Now it nestles in the chives.

Finding all the squashes in the fall can almost be as much fun as digging potatoes. You don't know how many or where you'll find them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More Artwork

Today I finally got around to adding a few more pictures of artwork.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Today I listened.

I found this lovely picture on clipart. It doesn't look like my neighborhood, but it does look like a place I'd want to be.

It rained last night so the garden was wet and chilly. By break time this morning, the sun was shining. I felt the need for a walk and stepped out into a clear, cool morning. It was a bit of a surprise.

As I walked up the street I listened.

I feel very lucky to have such a quiet neighborhood. There was the random bark from a dog here or there, a robin, blue jay and on the way back, crows. I heard a motorcycle, and the sounds of construction - saws and drills, but faintly. Other than that it was quiet enough to hear the wind in the trees.

The sky was a cloudless blue, the sun felt good - it was only 66 degrees when I left the house. I could smell the change of season in the air - dried leaves and damp earth.

All in all an excellent walk.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Processing the harvest.

We spent most of Sunday dealing with garden products. I peeled and cored apples from our tree to dry. Also there were tomatoes to dry. And I threw in any fruit leftover from last week - a few cherries and some grapes. Homemade raisins are really amazing.

I am juicing the gnarliest apples. After cutting out the icky bits, of course. My first try at juicing wasn't that good. I don't think the apples were ripe enough. This time I juiced up a pitcher full then boiled it down for cider jelly. Amazing. I didn't achieve jelly, but I have a powerfully flavorful juice to work with. This time around, I think I will try agar. It will be a refrigerator jelly - or rather something I will gobble up in no time flat.

August usually is the start of my garden ennui. I'm overwhelmed by weeds and produce and I end up doing very little. Maybe some allergies come in to play also. This year is different. I've been trying very hard to keep on top of the allergies. Having more energy is a lovely side effect of that. And my produce has been very accommodating in arriving at reasonable intervals.

So, all in all, I've very pleased with where things stand right now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tea from the garden!

This is a picture from July of last year.

I finally got around to drying some herbs for tea. This is something I have wanted to do for years and somehow didn't get to.

It started because the spearmint decided to overrun the compost space. I had to rip out a lot. But as I started to put it in the compost, I had an idea! Maybe it was the overwhelming aroma of spearmint that woke up my brain. I could dry it for tea!

Chamomile and spearmint is a favorite combination of mine. So I tied it up and left it. When it was dry, I put some in a teapot and made tea. And it was yummy!

That sent me off to check the yard for other possibilities. I picked some of the chocolate peppermint. A very powerful mint! Then I picked some lemon basil. WOW. That really holds it's lemony flavor when dried. Makes a fabulous tea. The lemon balm I picked was pale in comparison. I dried some pineapple sage, but haven't tried it yet.

I am making a new list of herbs for next spring's Herb Festival!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When good writers go bad.

I'm not going to name names.

I picked up the latest book in a long series and in a couple of chapters gave up on it. I loved the earlier books. This was about #12, I think. It's a big name author with a big name publisher. The writing was spectacularly bad.

Since I've been in a critique group I have found myself reading much more critically. Awkward sentences and typos stop me flat. And I don't think that's really a good thing, but there you are.

This unnamed novel had all of the newbie mistakes that have critics raving about self published dreck. In one paragraph every sentence started with 'she'. She was, she had, she felt...

Then there was the insanely repetitious description - I'm paraphrasing here: The lamp was on the table. The lamp had a small flame. The flame was too small to light the far corners of the room which were dark.

YAAAHH! I get it! The room was poorly lit. Sheesh. Just get on with it!

And then the dialog.  Ouch. Not only was it horribly awkward, it made the major mistake of summarizing the previous action. So people are telling each other what just happened when they, AND THE READER, already know.

There was a conversation at cross purposes that just about had me tearing my hair out. It didn't further the plot, the characters or the situation. And the repetition made me nuts.
Something like:
"I just arrested the murderer."
"You arrested the murderer?"
"Yes, I found the murderer and arrested him."
"How could you have arrested him?"
"I tracked him down and arrested him."
"But I saw him die."
"No, he's in jail."

You get the jist. The point is that there are 2. And this conversation went on for waaay too long. Which made the characters seem more like Abbott and Costello than the serious characters they should be.

So my question is - how did this get past all those publishing gatekeepers that are supposed to be so astute?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

And the next and the next...

I just checked and I'm actually on schedule. My plan is to get my final draft of Truth's Enigma (new name) to readers by the first week in September, and so far, it looks like it's going to happen. When that sunk in, I realized that would mean I should let the story rest while the readers were reading. Which means I should work on something else.

Holy moly! I'm following my plan and producing stuff! Woo hoo!

When I finished White Lies I was swallowed up by the publishing process. I had to learn KDP, Smashwords and CreateSpace formatting. Design the book cover. Perfect the blurb. Then look into a modicum of marketing. It took awhile before I dug out the tome to start the rewrite. But it was always the plan to go back to the tome.

Now I am finishing up the first book in the series (which I just realized needs a better name than my working title) That's mind blowing. I'm on the road! Or as one writer said (about receiving your first rejection) - I'm off the porch and running with the big dogs.

The next book will probably be another rewrite of a mystery. I've rewritten this story at least 3 times and it still doesn't work. My subconscious must be working on it because every now and then I get an Ah-ha! They must be cousins! It needs to be her story not his! Little details suddenly percolate up in my brain that make perfect sense. Hopefully, I've written them all down. It will be good to get this one sorted out. I think it's a good one, if a bit scary.

I have to say that all I've read about "just keep writing" has made me think differently. Looking at writing as a career where you continue to produce work on a regular basis makes the old butt-in-the-chair seem like a given. And to realize that I've got lots of stories inside me waiting to get on paper is just amazing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The tomatoes are coming in!

The gargantuan tomato!

This may be the biggest tomato I have ever grown - 1 pound 8.7 ounces! Whew! This is the Hungarian Pink that I took a picture of awhile back. All of the tomatoes are coloring up. 

The Italian drying tomato has just about given up the ghost to blight. I will try to find a more resistant one next year. But it has been very prolific. 

There is a new volunteer in the strawberries. I think it might be a plum tomato. Haven't a clue how the seeds got into the strawberry bed. But I let it go since I could use some more plum tomatoes for drying.

The Mortgage Lifter got huge, probably 7'. Then a storm knocked it over and I had to wrestle it back into place. It seems to be recovering in its new configuration. It has given me a couple of ripe tomatoes with a whole pile still green.

The volunteer from the coleus that I potted up took a long break. It is now flowering and fruiting again. The tomatoes are very small, but I don't think it's a cherry. Possibly another plum.

Now when I do my morning rounds of the yard I have 3 kinds of tomatoes, 2 kinds of squash, cucumbers, 2 kinds of string beans and the occasional strawberry to harvest. Lovely.

Monday, August 6, 2012

First Anniversary

It has been one year since I started the blog.

Since last August I have self published a mystery novel and gotten a good ways into the final rewrite of a space opera. I have learned a few more skills both writing and computer.

The traffic is still very light and I'm not sure how much is autobots, but it seems to be increasing a smidge.

Here's to another year of garden reports, reading and writing.

Friday, August 3, 2012

You need to be like...

I just read an article in which Ursula Le Guin confirmed that she had been told by her publisher that her stories needed to be more like Harry Potter. Her response was that it was fear talking and that she wouldn't and couldn't write that way.

Lots of people have talked about the arrogance and stupidity of the publisher. But I'd like to look at it from the artist's side.

My first art teacher taught me to paint like her. Because in reality that's all we can teach someone. It is then up to the student to internalize and personalize that knowledge. In college it became painfully clear that I needed to understand the teacher to get good marks. In other words - paint like them. And that is probably the only way to experience different techniques and view points from which you can create your own toolbox. No one broke that down for me at the time and I grumbled mightily at not being able to just keep plodding along in my own artistic rut.

Writers are told to read a lot. And in workshops we are taught how successful writers write. Again it is up to us to see what makes sense and what fits in our toolbox.

But to tell an established writer that she needs to adopt someone else's style is flat out wrong. I'm a big fan of Ursula Le Guin. She's a wonderful storyteller. I am also a fan of JK Rowling. But there couldn't be two more different writers. And that's wonderful. If Ms. Le Guin started writing Harry Potter knock-offs her fanbase would revolt. That isn't the type of story she writes. And she said so - more power to her.

I think the fallacy here is that we fans don't necessarily want more Harry Potter clones, we want wonderful, big stories with great heart. I think most writers, who are also readers, already know that. And I think that eventually, the market will prove that out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meandering Protagonists

I just finished reading a book and am halfway through another where the protagonist feels like she is wandering through things. That doesn't grab me.

The one I finished reading was a second book in a trilogy. The first book was very interesting, great world building and good characters. In the second book the author took the protagonist away from everything that was important in the first book. Which was OK at first. But I kept expecting an escape or a rescue so we could get back to all those other people and plotlines I was so invested in. Nope. Also the protagonist seems to be sleepwalking through most of it, more reactive than proactive. And there were a lot of cryptic dreams that I couldn't sort out. On top of all that, the character is degraded, humiliated, tortured and finally maimed. Ugh. Probably won't go looking for the third book.

The one I'm halfway though now might just be aimed at a different audience. It's an old plot - young girl suddenly develops powers she doesn't know how to control. She fears the people who can teach her and spends the whole first part of the book hiding from them. OK. But I don't feel like there is enough that happens in all that hiding and escaping. Only a few characters are developed and they aren't that interesting to me. But again, maybe I'm not the right audience. I assume the second half will be her training, because they finally caught her. I hope that's a little more engaging.

In both stories the main character is reacting to events beyond her control. They seem to be wandering through the story in a daze reacting badly and suffering consequences. I'm not sure what the fix is, what would engage me more. But I know I need to watch out for that in my own stories.