Digital Painting: Lavender Lady

As promised, here is a digital painting. It’s just something I did for practice, to keep my hand in, so to speak. What do you think?

Not to inundate you with content or anything, but tomorrow I will be posting a piece of poetry in honor of a special occasion. Stay tuned!

-G

How I Started Writing Again

Some good and some bad today. I did start writing again, more on that below. The bad news is that I have lost most of a notes document containing upwards of twenty pages of Wanderlust material. I had been relying on Microsoft Word’s autosave function, which is not a smart thing to do, especially if you are using a trial version of Word that has run out and will refuse to start up again if you are accidentally forced to restart the computer you have avoided restarting for weeks because the trial can’t run out on you if you never close the program, right? This accidental restarting occurred on my voyage through Canada a few weeks ago, and I’ve only just realized the extent of the damage. I’m feeling a little wobbly about the whole thing. It was all just notes, you understand, and pep-talks, and scenes I pasted there because I was deleting them from the manuscript in order to replace them with something better, but felt insecure about deleting them outright. Most of it was things I was getting rid of anyway, so this is not a disaster… but at the same time I can’t remember everything from the document, so maybe it is a disaster and I just haven’t realized it yet! There is one scene from the very ending of Wanderlust, possibly from the epiloque, that I have quite clear in my head and I know I have typed before, and it must have been in this notes document. It was in looking for this scene that I discovered the extent of the damage, and I feel a sharp sense of loss, for I know I wrote this scene, and I think it was good. It… hurts, to not be able to find it, because what if I can’t write it as good the second time? At the same time, I have all the words for it in my head. I see them so clearly. I will just have to write it up again, is all, and generally scenes do write better the second time, despite our fears. So man up, Grace. This could have been a lot worse. Wipe your eyes, write it again, and keep working.

I did start writing again. Just yesterday I finished a draft of Chapter 11. The most unintelligible, cobbled-together, might-not-contain-actual-words kind of draft, but a draft nonetheless. That means I’m on Chapter 12, the last chapter, and it’s actually going well! I’m very close to breaking 50,000 words on the manuscript. I should have a full draft (the roughest draft) by the end of the week—maybe sooner! Maybe tonight! Here are the two major things that got me writing again after a several-week drought:

1.) Workspace. Did you read all that stuff above about my copy of Microsoft Word being a trial? Well, the free trial ran out, and I didn’t have the money to purchase the actual program. I knew this day was coming, and I had a free substitute called Libre Office installed on my computer, and when Word ran out I just thought, okay. Time to make do. Except I hated Libre Office. Working in it made me cringe. I couldn’t do it, and I was on vacation so I ignored the entire thing as long as possible. Yesterday, sitting on the couch and talking to my brother, I was almost in tears because I still couldn’t afford Word, but I couldn’t imagine being able to function in any other program. Brother came to the rescue, as he has in every tech problem I have had, ever. He purchased Apple Pages from the the App store; Apple’s $20 Word Processing alternative. He needed it to touch up his resumé, and downloaded it to my computer so I could use it too since I was too skeptical to purchase it without a trial. (Yes, I own a mac. I have always owned mac. It’s a family tradition, plus they’re shiny.) Turns out it’s perfect, and, besides not loading images properly or having drop-cap capabilities, exactly what I need. Here’s a screenshot:

Most of the images don’t load, this is an exception, but I can put them back in if I want to. Most importantly, it displays a word-count and page-count at the bottom, has full-screen capabilities that are so helpful with distractions, and has all the necessary editing tools available at the top when I run my mouse over. With this program, I feel like I can finally THINK again.

2.) Inspiration. Saturday night, the first night the four of us have been home as a family in a long time, we watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part II,  since my dad had it out on his netflix queue. I’d only seen it once in theaters, so I enjoyed seeing it again. Being the last of the Harry Potter movies, it was all about Ending. The ending of a book, the ending of an epic series, and, for many fans, the ending of an era. I’m not saying that I’m actively trying to emulate anything from this movie (I’m not even one of those rabid Harry Potter fans, really), but I am trying to craft an ending for Wanderlust; an ending that will stick and hold and be worthy of all that has come before. Maybe also one of the swooshy-spell things in the HP movie triggered a visual answer to the mechanics of a spell-thing I’ve been struggling with, but mostly, as I cried for Snape (always), felt awed by the epic moments of the battle, and wrecked by the sacrifices of Harry and all his protectors, what I internalized was how a proper ending should feel. How it should grab you, and where it should squeeze. Suddenly, instead of feeling terrified to write my ending, I felt excited again. Finally.

Lately this blog has been full of words! Stay tuned for my next post, a digital painting. Here’s a preview:

-Lady G

Hello from Massachusetts

So I’ve been having trouble getting my words together. I haven’t posted in over a week, going on two, and that’s exactly the precedent I don’t want to set for this blog. My only excuse is I was on vacation in Marquette, Michigan, (read about that here) and when I’m on vacation it’s so hard to work.

On Sunday, I actually wrote up a whole post. It sort of had a point, and sort of maybe came together by the end, but I never went through and edited it because there were trees to sit under (I have become a sitting-under-trees enthusiast) and beer to drink (Honey Lavender Wheat, mmmm) and friends to be with. That post never got finished, and a lot of it isn’t really topical anymore today. The lesson: always finish posts day-of.

Marquette was lovely, by the way. I swam in the lake and walked all around my town and went to my bar and spent time with my people. It was a really wonderful week, filled with about equal parts relaxing and shenanigans. I’m really glad I went back one last time, and I think maybe this time, I got it out of my system. I’m sure this wasn’t the last time I’ll see Marquette; I left my mug at Blackrocks, and it’s there for me, waiting. I’d like to think I’ll stop in every few years, grab my mug, and say, Hey, old town. I’m back. Let’s jive. But for now? I’m ready to start planning some bigger adventures, and traveling to some farther shores.

Right now I’m curled up in my brother’s apartment in Northampton, Massachusetts. I arrived here at 1 pm today (Thursday) after a Greyhound bus adventure that began at 2 am Wednesday morning. That’s about 36 hours on buses, people, with no layovers longer than 45 minutes. We’re driving up to Maine tomorrow, after Brother gets out of work. I’m glad to be done with the buses for today, but overall I will probably give you a more positive review of Greyhound travel than you’ll hear from most people. If you’ve got time, it’s not a bad way to get around. It certainly qualifies as an adventure (some other time, I will have to tell you about getting through customs at Saulte Ste Marie) and it means you really feel the distance rolling through the ground beneath you as you nod off to sleep and jerk awake when the lights come on at the next stop and slowly nod off again. It’s more intrepid than flying, a little grittier, and definitely more of an ordeal, but for me it was a positive experience overall. If the opportunity arises, I won’t shy away from taking another lengthy bus trip in the future.

One more thing: I have a confession to make. I am terrified to write the last two chapters of my book. I’m not calling it Writers’ Block because I don’t believe in Writers’ Block, per say. Writer’s Block is just another name for lazy. These last few chapters are gonna make or break the book, however, and I’m terrified that I won’t do them justice, that they won’t be good enough, that they’ll render all of my hard work up to this point irrelevant. This is a foolish fear, because the first draft is going to suck anyway. The first draft always sucks. What I need to do now is plow through the fear and get something, anything, written down, so that I’ll have something to work from when I figure out what I need to do to actually make it awesome. But I’ve been on vacation, and there have been so many excuses not to write. Now that I’m coming home, there won’t be any more excuses, and I will wrestle with this demon, and I will write those chapters. Next week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

-Grace out

“Bring Your Mug”

That’s the first thing my best friend, Lady Higg, said when I told her I was coming home. (That’s the Big Thing, by the way; I am currently in transit, via Greyhound bus, to Marquette Michigan, my college town and home of five years.) Lawrence said it too, when I told him I was thinking about making the trip. “Bring your mug. We’ll have a few beers. It’ll be worth it.” I wanted to write an epic blog post about Marquette, about why I love this town, and why I’m going back one last time. I wanted to tell you about my rocky beginnings with Marquette, how the city grew on me slowly, how it wasn’t until my first summer there that I really understood. I wanted to tell you how Lake Superior is the most beautiful thing in the world when the water is sparkling in the sun, and about that night we sat on the breakwall with the waves around us as the sun set and the city lights shone brilliant on the water and Marquette was so lovely that she almost outshone the moon rising orange and round behind us (Leftentant Weatherby: do you remember?). I wanted to tell you about all of my friends, the old and the new, the dorm friends, the bar friends, the trio of red-head writers. I wanted to tell you about last summer, the summer Marquette really became mine, when I was newly single and some friends had left and, in some ways, I didn’t know who I was—how that summer Marquette cradled me as I tried everything new and learned that sometimes, things keep hurting even as the time passes, and that letting go of a thing can mean hanging on to it, and learning to carry it differently. I wanted to tell you everything, but after five years of Marquette, there’s too much to tell. Instead, I’m just going to tell you about a bar, about Blackrocks Brewery, the reason I have carried a large, beautiful, handcrafted ceramic mug across Canada in my backpack. Because that one summer? That awful, wonderful, shining summer? It ended with Lady Higg and I at Blackrocks Brewery, living our lives—stress, shenanigans, and all—and talking it out over a pint of the best beer in the UP.

Blackrocks Brewery is a nano-brewery, and a very special place. It’s in a bright yellow house on Third Street, and the interior is warm and cozy and welcoming, with every available wall and ceiling space filled up with hanging mugs. The beer is brewed on the premises, and the brewmasters themselves are there every night, smiling and splashing beer into glasses and mugs, saying Welcome. We’re glad you’re here. We hope you stay. Every mug of beer is delicious. There are six or seven brews on tap every weekend, always something new. I think they’re at over 150 varieties. My favorite is the Willie O’Ree, named after the famous hockey player, a brew so dark, sweet, and smooth. They also make fun stuff, like the Atomic Fireball Wheat: a bright orange beer made from actual atomic fireball candies that give it a scrumptious cinnamon flavor. Blackrocks’ menu is posted on their facebook page, and it looks like there’s a Chai Ale on this weekend, which I’m excited to try if there’s any left when I get there. Oh, and the mugs? Each one is handcrafted by local artist Ryan Dalman, and can be purchased for $40. Each one is a work of art, and with a mug in your hands at Blackrocks you feel like you belong, like you’ve shown your loyalty, like you’re holding a piece of gold. Also, there’s an extreme practical benefit: Each mug is a little bigger than a pint glass, so when you have a mug, you get more beer, for the same incredible price of $3.50.

My last school year, it seems like we lived at Blackrocks. Lady Higg found it first, thanks to Doctor Longbottom, but I was a quick convert, and by the end of the year it was where Lorax and Lawrence came too, and sometimes Fights With Centaurs (Fights With Centaurs  is a dear, dear comrade, but she doesn’t come out quite as often (too many centaurs to wrangle) and so there’s an air of excitement every time she shows up. Fights With Centaurs is here? Tonight? With us?). It was where we dragged old friends when they came to visit, where we assumed everyone should want to hang out. Lady Higg was the first to get her mug, back in December. I got mine in March, only a few months away from leaving town, because what could be a better souvenir to bring home from Marquette?  Lorax got his soon after mine; it sort of matches his tattoo (Lorax, generous in all things—wine, vodka shots, fish sandwiches at 2 am—is letting me stay on his couch this week). Lawrence finally acquired his mug just a few weeks ago, since they had run out of them on his birthday back in June. These three, Lawrence, Lorax, and Lady Higg, are the ones who came to my apartment at 12 AM the morning I left, when the cleaning and packing was finally done, to just sit, drink a cup of tea, and say goodbye. These are the ones (in addition to all the ones, you know who you are) with whom it will be worth everything just to tap mug handles and talk. Because as much as it’s about the best beer in the world, Blackrocks is also about friends, a safe haven, and home.

Little Reviews

So I’ve schemed a scheme, and I’ve got a Big Thing coming up in a few days—big for me, anyway. I’ve been working hard to earn enough cash to enjoy the Big Thing, and I haven’t even had time to finish the post I’m writing about the wheres and the whys and what it means for Wanderlust. Right now, I just got home from eight hours of housepainting,  and I still have a list of things to do tonight: laundry, packing, cleaning, a little more painting, plus sorting out that real blog post, if I get a chance (I’d like to). I don’t have a lot else to give in the way of writing, so here’s what we’ll do: When I enter in a book at Goodreads, I like to write a quick review, a sort of off-the-cuff attempt to capture my impression of the book. Here’s what I thought of a few things I’ve read in the past few months, all books to which I gave five out of five stars.

The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

This was really good. Shocking and heartbreaking, with just enough grit and grease to balance the themes of fantasy and faith. The Mystery of Grace is urban fantasy at its best.

 

 

 

Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

This book contained many fun and diverting stories. A very good read to pass the time, and some of the stories were surprisingly deep and challenging. Personally, I liked the unicorn stories best (and found the arrogant tone of the pro-zombie editor a little tiresome. Yeah, you like zombies. Do you have to be so insulting about it?).

 

 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This is just as good as everyone says it is. Engaging and delightful and devastating, even if you thought you never wanted to start another one of those epic kingdom-building fantasy series again.

 

 

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley has done it again. Those of us who played at pegasus-riding and My Little Pony in preschool may find it difficult to take a book titled ‘Pegasus’ seriously, but you can’t skip a book with the name Robin McKinley on it, and the sophisticated creatures in this book called pegasi may surprise you. Definitely give this book a read, but watch out for the cliffhanger ending. I can’t wait for the next book.

Profanity in Writing (among other things)

Yesterday, I said a lot of my poetry was too personal to share. I stand by that, as it involves other people, but here is a beautiful blog post by an author who shared the most personal thing, the scariest thing. She writes this thing incredibly well, and it is absolutely worth a read—and I suspect this blogger is someone worth following. The Scariest Thing on Chalk the Sun

Another interesting thing about yesterday’s post: it didn’t even occur to me until much, much later that I had posted a poem containing a swear word. The third word of the second line, if you didn’t notice. It is the only word that can go there, and I’m not apologizing. I just find it interesting that it didn’t even occur to me that the word might offend certain audiences. It’s not something I even considered, probably because I know the words to this poem so well that they are a part of myself, and how can a part of myself be offensive?

Profanity in writing, however, is something to consider, especially as an aspiring author of Young Adult Literature. At what age level in books is it appropriate to include characters who swear?

We are, as writers, going for realism. I believe Stephen King said something to the effect of, if your character wouldn’t say “Oh sugar,” then you should write them saying the other thing. Authors writing in a fantasy world have the luxury of making up a swear word or two for their characters to use vigorously. My book is not set solidly in the real world, but the characters come from the real world, so that’s not an option. I’m aiming at the 14 and up crowd, and here’s the solution I’ve reached:

I have one character who swears, and one character who doesn’t. This isn’t an arbitrary decision; it comes directly from the essence of the characters and helps define who they are. The swearing habit actually says a lot about the character. It shows that he is more attached to this world than his friend, and it shows his tendency to fling words at things when he’s angry. When he takes the Lord’s name in vain, it’s even a clue about religious upbringing, though possibly not in the way you’d expect. The swearing is actually a major way that the characters are differentiated from each other in dialogue, especially in those life-or-death type scenes, and I hope this will help the reader get a handle on the characters, and on who is speaking when. So, yes, I let my one character swear freely—but never excessively. He swears when that is what he would say, when that is the only thing he would say, and when the situation warrants it. I never put swears in for the intention of shock value, or to make it seem “edgy.” They are what they are. Would I edit them out if someone who wanted to publish my book asked me to? I honestly don’t know if I would; I think the dialogue would seem artificial without them.

I have completely refrained from using the F-word in my book. I feel the use of that word would cross a major line, one that my guy occasionally saying, “Oh shit,” in a really tricky situation or “dammit” in a moment of emotional duress doesn’t even approach. Would you agree?

I’d love to hear comments on this one, I think it could be a great discussion.

Oh, and I drew this last night (this morning? I couldn’t sleep). Maybe later I will finish it. Did you know Vanya could smile?

Smiling Vanya Sketch

-Grace out

Some Poetry

The other day I posted a piece of art (this wolf here) and I’d like to share more art soon. I also have a full review of Breadcrumbs in the works, and several other ideas for posts. For variety, though, I think it’s time to share some words. I took a poetry class two semesters ago which I enjoyed immensely, and that taught me to think of myself once again as someone who writes poems. A lot of things I wrote in that class are too personal to share (sometimes you just gotta write break-up poetry. Some of it was pretty good. Doesn’t mean I wanna post it) but this poem is solidly in the realm of fiction. It’s actually the very first poem I wrote for the class, to fulfill an exercise in iambic pentameter.

 

You never knew how far I went to find

your weary ass that night, when you were dead

upon the doorstep, dead, but not too dead

to speak. And never mind that I was crying,

fainting, rhyming, raging, lying, ‘cause

you rambled dark and dreary, like a mad

man, like a priest. And though your lips were shouting

“Memphis!” and your hands were holding diamonds

still I held your body listless through

the darkly dripping streets. And so we wandered

more like lovers, more like leavers, more

like brothers, till the dawn-glow left us breathless

reeling sightless towards the sea.

 

 

I still feel a little weird about poetry as something one shares, because it seems incredible to me that anyone else wants to experience the same poems that I do. I memorize a lot of verse, and I occasionally inflict it on people because it’s hard to stop once I get going, but if someone asks me to recite a poem, I say, incredulously, “Really?” Do you know what you’re getting into? Won’t you be bored? I’ve come to think of poetry as a mostly private experience. The poems I know are for saying aloud in the silence, walking by houses in a twilight neighborhood where all the doors are closed, or wading in Lake Superior when the sky is black and the stars are white and the seagulls are an eerie concert, just out of sight. This class I took was amazing because it introduced me to so many different kinds of poetry, to good poems being written today, and to people my age whom I respect  and whose company I adore and who get just as excited about poetry as I do. Our professor made us feel worthwhile for everything we produced, and then challenged us to do so much better, and so much more.

Oh, and Wanderlust? I am puttering through Chapter 10, which is now Chapter 11. This is disconcerting, because this chapter has been Chapter 10 for years. I’m sort of writing off the map now, because I’ve changed the ending. What I’m writing now I’ve never written before, so this is the part where I try to get something down there to replace the nothingness, knowing that I’m going to rewrite and rewrite before it’s ever good.

Sketch Day, Progress, and Breadcrumbs

Progress for the day: 1,200 words on chapter 11.

I’m reading Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. I’ve seen it around and was very drawn to it because of the cover (isn’t it fantastic? I mean, the composition, the colors, even the typeface!), and I finally picked it up from a local library last week. It’s a book for younger readers, and I’m only about a third of the way in, but so far the writing is incredible and the story is poignant and there are illustrations (not by the author, but illustrations nonetheless), and it’s basically everything I could want from a book. I’ll let you know what I think of it as a whole when I finish it in a few days!

Also, I have an Art Thing for you today!

Wolf

Still sort of in sketch mode, but it’s a wolf! I actually started something else last night that I planned to post here as a sketch, but then that something else got complicated and it was impossible to post it anywhere without putting a lot more work into it, so I started a simpler picture of a wolf this morning. Wolves are relevant to Wanderlust because (spoiler!) a few show up in chapter nine. I know I’ll want to include them in an actual Wanderlust illustration, so I thought I’d start practicing. I haven’t been drawing much all month, so this was good for me, and also fun. The wolf itself was referenced from an internet photo, and with the background (still pretty sketchy, I know) I tried to do the same thing with the trees that happens on the cover of Breadcrumbs.

Oh, and Happy Independence Day! Fireworks are newly legal in Maine, and there is a fireworks store (complete with giant inflatable gorillas standing in front of it) in my tiny, tiny town. My dad and I went and bought a pretty good stash and lit them off in our driveway. It was a good time!

Have a lovely evening.

-G

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham

That Dastardly Chapter Eight

I put a number of hours into this website, and I was pretty excited about it going live Saturday night, in conjunction with the Wanderlust Facebook Page. After telling everyone about it, I sat in front of my browser for a few hours, and refreshed the page to see how many people had “liked” Wanderlust. By midnight on that first night I had 32 likes on Facebook. Today, I have 56.  I am SO excited that so many of you have shown your support for my project in this way, but having “likes” on facebook isn’t really an achievement I should take pride in. I still have to wrestle with the demon. I still have to sit down and write. I’m  trying to see those likes as 56 people who are counting on me to finish this book. And so I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself to post here again until I had done something about Chapter Eight.

I believe I have been uttering the words, “Chapter Eight is killing me” since at least March. In June, I completely skipped it. As the manuscript stood this weekend, I had passable drafts for chapters nine and ten, but a roiling mess of half-completed scenes and word-vomit for chapter eight.

I am happy to announce that I have done something about it.

It still needs work. There are at least three transitions that seem clunky, and things that need better descriptions, and a few logic/context issues that may need a few more details… but the point is that if someone read my manuscript now, they’d at least understand what’s going on. All the parts fit together, and are in some approximation of a narrative voice. This is a HUGE improvement, and a major tick on the writing to-do list. I think it’s been so difficult because more things happen in this chapter than I realize; it’s almost rivaling chapter one (the longest chapter) for length.

Fun fact: Chapter eight has horses in it. While writing last night, I got distracted for a half hour or so learning about the colors horses come in  (I knew all this stuff when I was ten!), looking at horse pictures (I want this one. I have always wanted this one, even before they went and put him in a movie) and watching horse videos on youtube (I used to ride, you know, and it’s been nine years, but when I watch someone trotting around on a horse I can feel the horse moving in my hands and legs, and I know I’d remember how to do it if I got the chance) and I learned a New Thing. I knew horses had four gaits (walk, trot, canter, and gallop (video)) but I didn’t know that some horses naturally have a different gait, called an amble or a lope. Only a few breeds do this naturally, and they are sometimes referred to as gaited horses. This extra gait has four beats like a walk is but is the speed of a trot, making it very desirable for riders that want trot speed without all the jostle! I knew that there were different sorts of gaits and ways of moving practiced by highly trained dressage riders and their horses, but it was news to me that some horses have an extra gait naturally.

-Grace out