Write Away – Moil

I love interesting words.

This week, I’m obsessing about, “Moil,” thanks to a suggestion from Chris St. Clair. Here are some of the many definitions:

Words Write Dictionary

 – To work hard : drudge

 – To whirl or churn ceaselessly; twist; eddy.

 – Glassmaking. a superfluous piece of glass formed during blowing and removed in the finishing operation.

– Origin 1350 – 1400

It’s actually a derivative of the Latin word, mollis, or soft.

Find the full definition for moil at Dictionary.com.  (I’ve been trying to use a variety of sources for fun, and had hoped to use Miriam-Webster this time, but Dictionary.com was more complete.)

~*~

Trivia note:  Chris found the word on a website about the Johnstown, PA flood (which has been referred to as the Great Flood of 1889.)  I’m not sure if I have the same website, but I found a related site here on wikipedia:  “Before hitting the main part of Johnstown, the flood surge hit the Cambria Iron Works at the town of Woodvale, sweeping up railroad cars and barbed wire in its moil.”

Railroad cars!  It’s an interesting read and a bit terrifying!

~*~

…Bubble, Bubble, Moil and Trouble (hmm, might work).

#amwriting, #amediting

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Out of This (Kindle) World – @kindleworlds

 

New derailed train

From WikipediaAfter three weeks of non-stop edits on my book, my brain has officially gone off the tracks.

After three weeks of non-stop edits on my book, my brain has officially gone off the tracks.

My progress has derailed. I’m sitting at a whistle stop letting off steam, looking up train expressions on The Free Dictionary and trying to fit them all into a single posting. To imply that I’m pretty much a train wreck at the moment is an understatement.

Why? The book I’ve written, nurtured, cajoled, rewritten, ignored, edited, obsessed over and struggled to bring into existence is almost complete. It took six months longer than I expected to finish. It insisted I include subplots that threw me for a loop. It also forced me to face things that freaked me out.  Now with a light at the end of the tunnel, I’m faced with an important decision. Where to next?

First: No more train analogies. A little goes a long way.

Second: Time to diversify. I’m hoping to work with an agent for my current book and attempt the traditional publishing route. In parallel with that, I plan to take advantage of an interesting Amazon program for writers, Kindle Worlds.

What is it? It’s Amazon’s way of monetizing fan fiction; for them, for the original author, and for the writer who’s a fan. Writers write stories for one of Kindle’s many chosen worlds, i.e. published books. If the submission meets the guidelines and is selected, it’s published with other stories associated with that world. And because there are lots of other stories, the publicity is increased.   There’s also the fun and the challenge of writing within an existing setting and character set.

Doublesight_Banner._V312753514_

Does this sound like a calculated way to get my writing seen? Partially. In 2014, almost 305,000 new titles and re-published books were released. Can you name 30? Probably not, and 30 titles is far less than one percent of the total.  As writers, we need to look for creative ways to distribute our writing and become known.  Plus, I think I have a cool idea that will work well with Terry Persun’s, Doublesight. Terry is a prolific writer who created this very cool fantasy world chosen by Amazon for their program. In full disclosure, he’s also on the board of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association – PNWA, as am I.   I’ve been thinking about my Doublesight characters and I can’t wait to get started! (#doublesight!)

Third: I’ll be plotting a sequel to my current book. I write sci-fi and I’ve read publishing houses like the idea of repeat customers. If I do my job well, people will want to know what happens after my current book’s, “The End.”

Cool train

From Wikipedia

For anyone interested, while in the midst of these next steps, I’m heading to the PNWA Writers Conference starting on July 28th.  This event is run by an organization that’s supported writers for 61 years. The conference organizers go out of their way to find agents and editors seriously interested in new clients.  They also schedule workshops that address writing skills, the publishing world, and marketing. I’ll be volunteering at the event. If you see me, say hi and tell me what’s next on your track.

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Write Away – “Petrichor”

Gotta love those interesting words.  This week, I’m thinking about, “Petrichor.”  (#amwriting)

Write Away Cat

– A pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.

– Find this definition at oxforddictionaries.com.

– Coined in the 1960’s.

Do you remember that wonderful smell of freshly cut grass from childhood?  I do.  Sunday mornings after Dad mowed the lawn.  Monday at recess, kicking a ball around.  Eating barbecue and throwing frisbees at a place we called, “Hart Park.”  (It’s technically, William S. Hart Ranch and Museum.)  Living in the city of Seattle today, I don’t often catch the hint of Petrochors, but the thought of the fragrance still evokes memories of warm and innocent youth.

I wanted to convey that feeling in a section of my current book, so I did some research.  It turns out Petrichors come from trauma.  A Mental Floss article notes that, “It’s the smell of chemical defenses and first aid. The fresh, “green” scent of a just-mowed lawn is the lawn trying to save itself from the injury you just inflicted.”  This release of what’s actually naturally chemicals helps to “close the wounds” and prevent infection!

Shocker, huh?  I never would have guessed.

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Write Away – “Canting”

Gotta love those interesting words.

This week, I’m obsessing about, “Canting” (No, not catting).  Here are 3 of the many definitions:

Write Away Cat

– To bevel; form an oblique surface upon.

– To put in an oblique position; tilt; tip.

– To throw with a sudden jerk.

– Origin 1560-1570

Find the full set of definitions for canting at Dictionary.com.

I especially like the verb when used to describe a head toss by a human.  It’s different from a jerk or a nod, and the word, “nod” shows up way too often in my current manuscript!

~*~

Her:  “I’m buying a new dress, so there!”  She cants her head in defiance.

Him:  Seeing the head toss… “Hmm, I see you cant.”

Her:   “Yes, I can!”

Him:  “I didn’t say you couldn’t.”

~*~

I saw this word used much more cleverly in a blogpost called, “Sin on a Plate,” from one of my favorite sites for writers, thrillwriting.blogspot.com, by Fionna Quinn.  Check it out!

#amwriting

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NaNoWriMo 2015 is Half Over!

In 2014, I participated in NaNoWriMo, along with other writers throughout the country and the world.  I wrote a minimum of 1,667 words a day between November 1st and 30th.  When it was over, lo and behold, I’d completed a Shitty First Draft (SFD) of a new manuscript.  Which is a really big deal!

Yes, I spent time beforehand thinking through the plot and characters.  And yes, it’s taking me about a year of editing to finish the book.  But from where I sit (in my yoga pants and fuzzy slippers), one year isn’t all that shitty.

NaNoWriMo Logo Copied From Their Page on Facebook

NaNoWriMo Logo From Their Facebook Page

Consider this.  The SFD for my first novel took two and a half years (ouch!).  In my defense, I was learning.  I thought it would be easy because I’d penned hundreds of business documents over several decades.  Nope.  Writing words of fiction turned out to be far more difficult than relating words of factual truth.  When I started, I didn’t understand the craft.  In fact, I didn’t even realize there was writing craft.

So many of us dream about writing stories.  We live them.  We talk about them.  Cave women and men sat around the fire and grunted them.  According to an article in the Washington Post, some words in our language have survived for nearly 15,000 years (Cra-zy!).  Story telling seems to be passed down through our DNA.

But no.  As turns out, because of that whole craft thing, it’s easy – almost natural – to write crappy fiction at first.  My initial drafts were nothing less than cringe-worthy.  I was intrigued though and stayed the course in a certificate program at the UW.  A saint of an instructor taught us how to write commercial fiction, while she and the other students endured with my early prose.  Writing became a passion for me (and I improved a bit).  I also discovered a group of peeps who, five years later, are still friends.

NaNoWriMo Fuel - Traditional Snitter from Nielsen's Pastries in the Queen Anne are of Seattle.

NaNoWriMo Fuel – No this isn’t French toast.  It’s a yummy Snitter from Nielsen’s Pastries in Queen Anne, Seattle.  It tastes way better than it looks in my photo.

I know of lots of other activities that help develop “craft.”  Practice, for one.  Committing to and participating in NaNoWriMo is a great start.  I also joined the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) and have regularly attended their monthly workshops and conferences (as well as those organized by others groups, like the Surrey International Writers Conference).

I know these efforts are directly related to the improved quality of writing.  Also the speed.  In 2013, my second SFD took five months to write.  And as mentioned above, the third SFD took thirty days.  With more practice, I hope the timeframe for the edit and rewrite of an SFD will reduce to less than a year!

Like several other writers I know, I co-opted this year’s NaNoWriMo process.  Our daily goals are centered around the edit and rewrite of pages from a past work (for me, last November’s SFD with a kick-butt goal to finish by December 1st.)  The gist of what we’ll write is a little different from most NaNoWriMers, but we all share the same spirit.  Focus, consistency, and self-challenge enabling success.  These are useful writing values for any month of the year.

By the way, NaNoWriMo is almost half way complete.  Stop reading and get back to work!

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The Tale of Two Spices – Or Better Self-Esteem Thru Tuna Salad

Do you believe tarragon, pickle relish and tuna salad can make a difference in someone’s life?  They can, and they did for me.

From the Placerita Jr. High School Page.  http://www.hartdistrict.org/placerita/

From the Placerita Jr. High School Page.

At my ninth grade commencement from Placerita Junior High, I gave a speech that began with, “Veni, Vedi, Vici.” I then co-opted the phrase to mean, “We came, we saw, we conquered.”  I added the Latin because it sounded smart and back then, surviving junior high was the equivalent of conquering the world.

After the ceremony, my mom took me to a small cafe in “The Valley” for a special lunch. And being fourteen, I ordered something familiar, dependable. Tuna salad.  With four+ kids at home, we made the mixture quite a bit and we always followed the same recipe.

From Facebook, and the community, Tuna Salad is Gross

From the Facebook community, Tuna Salad is Gross,

– Canned tuna (with salt)
– Lots of mayo
– Lots of pickle relish, until the goop morphed into mayo-relish.
– Slather more mayo on squishy bread and then spread the tuna in a thin layer.

Imagine my shock when the sandwich I’d ordered for lunch was different!  Served in a croissant, the salad had no pickle relish and just enough mayo to coat the fish and the roll, all topped with tomato slices.  My tastebuds could actually pick out both the flavor of the tuna and the buttery, chewiness of the croissant.   Plus, I noticed an unfamiliar spice.

It got me thinking.  I’d always been a literal kid, did what I was asked, believed what I was told.  And tuna salad was made one way (see previous family recipe).  But if this staple of life could be altered, what else?  Realistically, my teen brain probably worried, “Holy Partridge Family!  We’ve been making this wrong all along.  Are we even less cool than I imagined?”

Looking back, it seems a little silly, but the gist of the realization set in.  I remember the moment, and the knowledge eventually helped me understand how things I’d assumed were set-in-stone might be open to change.

Note:  This is not the actual sandwich from long ago, just a recreation using sustainable tuna.

Note: This is not the actual sandwich from long ago, just a recreation using sustainable tuna.

That aha should have been enough for one lunch.  Or maybe not.  I also complained to my mom about never knowing the name of the mystery spice.  This was, after all, in the chef’s secret recipe.

And then she surprised me. Mom suggested I simply ask the waitress to ask the chef.  He might answer or he might not.  When the waitress reported the spice was tarragon, I learned that little ol’ me could speak up – outside of home and school – ask questions of adults and expect to have them answered.

Had this option been explained to me before, but I’d only clued in after this tuna experience cemented it into my brain?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I probably never will.

Okay, tarragon is technically the only spice in this story, but when I chose to include pickle relish as a spice, it gave me a better title for my blog post.  And that’s part of what I learned that day.  Not only could things be changed, but I could drive that change and maybe use it to my advantage.  And if that doesn’t give a kid going into tenth grade a little self-esteem, I ask you, what would?

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Animals Who Think They’re People (#6)

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How Did I Get Stuck in The Chocolate Mountains?

Are you hooked on the Candy Crush Saga?  Have you been swimming in the Lemonade Lake?

Hey, it's Chris!

Hey, look it’s Chris!

Recently, my friend Chris St. Clair completed her schooling to become a Nurse Practitioner (Congrats, Chris!).  She also made a rare trip to Seattle before starting a new job.  With an opportunity for free medical advice, I asked about an ache in my hands, which she suggested might be tendinitis.  And when I wondered how this happened to me, she pointed at my phone.

I’m now serious about learning how iPhone use causes repetitive stress injury.  One article in the Huffington Post calls the condition, “Text Claw,” which describes how my fingers sometimes feel.  I should have caught this earlier, because I’m usually cradling my phone.  I even read most of my books on the Kindle’s iPhone app.  But lately, I’d also started playing Candy Crush, a lot.

I’m currently between jobs, which can be good for an aspiring author.  It’s an option to write during the daylight hours of the week.  But last Friday, when I was supposed to be editing the Next Great Thriller, I was jolted by an alarm on my phone.  It was time to feed the parking meter outside – after two hours.  I hadn’t even opened my Mac.

Candy_Crush_from_Facebook

Copied from the Candy Crush Saga page on Facebook

What the Fudge Islands?  I’d been playing Candy Crush the entire time, probably mouthing the word, “Tasty” as it flashed across the screen.

I know I can be a little obsessive at times.  There are days when I’m writing that I forget to eat (until later, of course).  But, why was I zoning out so hard to Candy Crush?  Why did I play until my hands hurt and little red jellies haunted me before sleep.  And why would I avoid something I love (writing) for the silly rush of a “Sugar Crush?”

There’s an article in The Guardian by Dana Smith (@smithdanag) titled, “This is what Candy Crush Saga does to your brain.”  It’s fascinating and I took away a couple key points:

First, I’m not alone in my obsession.  According to Smith, some half a billion players have downloaded the “free” app.  An estimated 93 million of us play it every day. (The latter number seems to vary, depending on the source.)  

Second, play is limited.  After loosing so many times, the player is put on a time out, which only leaves them wanting more.

Third, this game is designed to enslave.  Candy Crush is simple, winnable.  It attracts us with bright and pretty colors.  And as Smith notes, our brains release dopamine with each win, reinforcing gameplay and fueling a need to binge.  Apparently, because we primarily lose, the game becomes enticing, a similar concept that keeps slot machine gamblers in their seats.

It’s no wonder I’d become hooked.

Photo copied from the King page on Facebook

Photo copied from the King page on Facebook

As with slot machines, Candy Crush can nickel and dime the player.  Theoretically you can avoid paying, but the game often protects one or two jellies, preventing success.  As frustration builds, a process as smooth as carmel sells the player more “lives” or boosters to supposedly help win.

I didn’t buy too many color bombs while Crushing, but the cost of boosters adds up.  The company behind Candy Crush, King Digital Entertainment, reported “mobile gross bookings of $480 million in just the first quarter of 2014.”  Candy Crush Saga accounted for 67 percent of gross bookings for the first quarter of 2014.  That’s a lot of jam from those digital jellies.

There’s more in Smith’s article and I’m convinced enough to stop.  I’ve decided to look at Candy Crush as a “Threshold Guardian.” In the literary world, that’s an obstacle crafted to test a hero’s resolve to complete their task.  To make sure my own real life journey continued, I had to say goodbye to the adventure of the Chocolate Mountains and delete the app.

I realize the game is still lurking nearby, a keystroke away on the web.  But if I’m lucky, the memory will dissolve like sugar in my mouth.  Especially if I can avoid people who, like the game, keep shouting, “Sweet!”

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Sorrel Puree

Do you love easy sauces that taste wonderfully gourmet?

As of today, I’m a new fan of a Sorrel Puree, a quick and easy sauce for eggs and potatoes.  I found the recipe in Deborah Madison’s, “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” but she also mentions it on her website, culminate.com.  I’ve included the directions from that site in the post below.

“I pull away the stems by folding the leaves back and running the stems up the center. Then I drop them into a pan with a little butter and cook until the leaves dissolve into a purée. It’s not pretty, but it’s a great asset.”

How do I know the puree is tasty?  Since seeing the movie, “The Hundred Foot Journey,” I’ve been craving a great omelet.  Using a variation on Madison’s instructions, I made mine with lots of blanched parsley, dill, shallots and tarragon, filled with a little tomato and a shaving of sheep cheese.  Then I “basted” it with the sorrel puree.  Shhh…I might have first dribbled melted butter on top.  

This will sound arrogant, but my omelet turned out to be one of the best that that I’ve tried in a long time.  I think the wonderful, gourmet taste was due mostly to the sorrel puree and then the extra herbs inside.  Madison claims the sauce is ideal for both eggs and potatoes.  I’m looking forward to repeatedly verifying that claim.

By the way, I was fortunate to enjoy my favorite omelette at a restaurant on Mont. St. Michele in France – with a side of lobster and a creamy French sauce.  It was eons ago. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details.  But the image of the restaurant in my head looks and feels a lot like La Mere Poulard.

Note:  If this posting seems a random based on my normal topics, I’d planned to post it in my upcoming blog, “Scrumptious in Seattle.”  The new blog isn’t ready, but I’m starting to launch the twitter account (ScrumptiousNsea).

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Why do writer’s conferences inspire us to write?

I recently attended the @PNWA 2014 Summer Writers Conference, and as soon as it completed, I went to Buckley’s in Queen Anne for a quiet moment and a blackened salmon sandwich. But I pushed my plate to the side and moved my laptop to center stage. After four days submerged in the world of writing, I felt compelled to write.  And this has happened before.  It got me thinking. Exactly how does the conference environment spark that kind of magic, probably not just for writers, but for any profession?

Over the long PNWA weekend, I repeatedly heard stories from newly enthused writers about plans to outline/start/rewrite/ or finish a story.  They promised to read more, learn more, query an agent or create a marketing plan. And like them, I couldn’t wait to get my fingers back to my keyboard.

But why?

Yes, the workshops were thought provoking and useful, often highlighting a way to solve an old problem with a new approach. It was wonderful to meet with agents, editors and writers.  And a simple, yet powerful quip from keynote speaker James Rollins might very well change my life (“Write every day, read every night”).

But technically, I could find much of this information in a book.  And I could make a few – though not all – of the connections online.  What was it about the immersive experience that morphed that long weekend into a catalyst for change?

I did some research and I have an idea.  It sounds simple, but I think that being at an extended conference inspires us to be writers. For a moment, we no longer identify ourselves as mothers or fathers, students or retirees, shop keepers or project managers – all who write in our spare time. We’re writers first.

In an article by Scott Barry Kaufman in the Harvard Business Review, Why Inspiration Matters, he posits, “Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations.” I think this is the crux of why we’re motivated by any kind of well run conference.  It becomes a kind of fuel to redefine ourselves based on who we aspire to be, as opposed to what we currently do.

Kaufman’s article is chocked full of benefits that either follow inspiration or perhaps enable us to be inspired, as well as a link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s related TED talk.   But the article goes on to say, “…inspiration involves approach motivation, in which the individual strives to…actualize a new idea or vision.” So, being inspired to see ourselves primarily as writers can motivate us to more fully act like writers.

And the trick is holding onto motivation after the conference fades. Kaufman says the magic is triggered by “exposure to inspiring managers, role models, and heroes.”   In other words, we can reclaim inspirational benefits by immersing ourselves in learning and networking situations similar to a conference, where the participants around us become mentors.  I think we see others being the people we want to be and we become inspired to believe that if they can do it, so can we.

What do you think?

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