Friday, August 26, 2016

Do You Have Goals? Update Day? It's the end of August?

Many thanks to Misha and Beth for hosting and running this blog hop of goals! 

It's the end of August?

I'm not ready.
August is usually my favorite month of the year. (Birthday month - 45 this year)
But this year it has blown by and it doesn't show much chance of slowing down in the next five days.
However, I'm trying to stretch out certain moments:
Walking to the corner store and back with my husband and our youngest daughter, discussing the merits of varying kinds of orange soda in the hot evening sunshine felt like one of those important, needs to be stretched moments.
Laughing with my oldest daughter while talking about the hilarious irony of being introduced as the "boss's wife" at a party. She gets my discomfort because I perceive the boss's wife as a primped, pearls and a pantsuit with poodle under her arm and long, manicured nails sort of person while I am a jeans and t-shirt with bare feet with a mutt-dog and determined cat kind of person (and my nails are short and blunt). 

But more seriously now, I'm here to throw down my goals' update.

Word Count: Around 16,000. I didn't keep track daily so this is based on projects I worked on in the last week. I will actually hit my 25,000 word count goal by the end of the month, if you count re-writing some stuff in revision for the next week. 

Publishing: I have two projects on the verge of publishness. Neither are fun reads unless you enjoy reading writing curriculum meant for homeschool co-op students. One just needs a cover upgrade because I realized that the current cover I have for it won't work for all places (too much to explain here - mid-project mentality going on).
Specific Goal: Finish these two projects ASAP.

Marketing: Well, I upped my buffer feed number per day and my book sales doubled from July to August - still low numbers but bigger. I'm not sure that the two things are related - that's how bad I am at marketing. I'm also revitalizing my use of wattpad by putting out bi-weekly updates on my facebook page for that, and weekly updates on my twitter account for that. 
Specific goal for September: Market the writing curriculum at two home-school websites. It's a bit late in the year, but some homeschoolers start late in the fall and some start in January and go through December.

Health: Spent seven days on vacation in super hot weather but walked at least 2 miles of "getting around" kind of walking each day. Then, spent seven days with a low-grade fever and fourteen days total feeling sick. I didn't exercise much at all for that time. 

(Warning: this is where the post starts to ramble on - skip to the end if you're in a hurry.)
I took a 4.5 mile hike on my birthday and thought I might die on the uphill, but finished. It was a lonely, underused sort of trail and I got spooked in the woods on the way back down the hill with my husband - he heard footsteps behind us that stopped when we stopped (echo in the trees?) and while the hike up included birds, squirrels, mosquitoes and horseflies; the hike down included still silence - no birds, squirrels, or even bugs buzzing. Just our footsteps . . . and our echo. 

So, that was interesting. And, we walked fairly quickly down the trail until we reached the picnic area at the bottom . . . where we rested for two minutes, felt like we were watched, waded across the stream, got a few mosquito bites in the parking lot and got in our car. It's been years since I did a lot of hiking since my husband smells like heaven to mosquitoes and horseflies (he gets bitten more than anyone I've ever met even with bug spray), but I've never experienced that kind of eerie silence before. I used to hike by myself in college - which was crazy, I know, but I never had issues then, never had a reason to feel fear in the woods. I did carry pepper spray and sometimes other deterrents "just in case" but I never felt watched or followed. My birthday hike ended on a strange note. My husband joked about Bigfoot tales . . .

It was just an odd experience . . . and I live near two acres of trees where deer, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, and foxes roam and a black bear sometimes takes up residence. I know what it sounds like when something "big" or "predatory" is in the woods, and when everything is happily buzzing along normally. 

Anyway, it's all story fodder for me as a writer, I guess. And, I'm determined to get back into the daily walk, bike, stretch way of life. I live on the edge of the rural/suburbia crossroads, so I'll walk on the populated streets and walking paths, and save any "lonely" trails for times when I can go with a bigger group.

And . . . my last post shared much of my big family news. My oldest daughter is back from Peru with wonderful stories to share, and she wants to return. She found the mission field more fulfilling than regular life, found joy in every moment there (even the bad plumbing to no plumbing moments), and is considering how she might use bio-engineering in a mission/ministry kind of way. Engineers Without Borders may be something she considers when she finishes college. Of course, she hasn't finished high school yet . . . so those are her big goals and dreams in the distance. 

The Olympic Hopes Regatta is next month, and both of my daughters are training hard to represent Team USA . . . and we're all preparing for that and school starting. 

What are your big dreams and goals? And how are you building foundations underneath them?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Wild Huzzahs, Staying Home, and Knowing when to Go

As you can tell from the title of this post, there's a lot going on in my life and I really don't have a good, encapsulating title for it. And, this is a long one. Just hit the bold, if that's all you have time for - I couldn't seem to edit very well this time around.

If you've friended me on facebook, or you see every one of my tweets, you might know what I'm talking about . . . or at least some of it.

For the first week of August, my family traveled to Oklahoma City for USA Canoe and Kayak Sprint Nationals. OKC has the best venue for Sprint Canoe and Kayaking, and has created a man-made white-water course for athletes as well. It's an amazing place. Live video feeds show the audience the entire race course. The times and places of the athletes show up on the video board as they finish - even when it's a photo-finish for places.

Our team, Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team, won Nationals for the fifth time! 
(Lanier Canoe and Kayak from Georgia holds the record by winning 10 years in a row.)

This year, Nationals was also the qualifier for the Olympic Hopes team going to the Olympic Hopes Regatta in Sezged, Hungary this fall. The OHR was created to inspire young athletes and to create a legacy for the sport. Only athletes born between 1999 and 2001 can compete (ages 15-17) this year. 35 athletes were chosen from Nationals to go,  13 come from our team, and two of them are my daughters. (Due to the cost of international competition, we are running two Go Fund Me campaigns. If you are interested in supporting them, just click on the links below the images. The funds will go to airfare, hotel costs, and the competition only.)

This is huge - in a lot of ways.

My daughters are going to compete internationally in a sport that they've fallen passionately in love with over the past 3 years. They've practiced six days a week for over a year, including on the water and in the gym workouts. This summer they've practiced or worked out 5-6 hours a day, with rest in the middle of two workouts each day.

If that was the only thing going on in life, it would be plenty.

However . . .

My oldest just left on a mission trip for Chiclayo, Peru with an awesome team of 15 people from our church. Every other teen that's going has a parent with them, but she requested an independent mission trip. I haven't attended a single mission trip meeting or planning session. She's taken full responsibility for all of it. I did run through a packing checklist with her the night before, but that's all. She will be on a different continent (that I've never visited), giving out health packets (including washable feminine hygiene) at schools, and helping with after-school programs. She is responsible for one DIY activity with the kids - she created a bubble wand out of two sticks and a thin piece of rope. She'll share this at the after-school programs and help kids make bubble wands with found materials.
This is the mission team, on the airport shuttle at 5 a.m. this morning.
Please pray for them to experience God's love overflowing through all that they do for the next 10 days.

I had to stay home, and it's hard.  I've always wanted to travel but somehow lost that ambition/dream as life plodded along. And yet, I'm oddly proud of myself for staying this time. It's taken a lot of prayer and perseverance to not go, to not hover, to trust God, to rely on the mission team, and to entrust my daughter with all the responsiblities that surround international travel. My daughter has made me proud with her ability to prepare and plan for an international trip. Yes, she did forget her jacket this morning, but she is becoming an amazing young adult, and I'm thankful for this opportunity to stay back and see that clearly.

So, sometimes I know I should stay.

But, there are also times that I should go.

It's a huge budget squeeze, but I'll be traveling to Sezged, Hungary with other parents to cheer for our kids competing in the Olympic Hopes Regatta this September. My hover-craft momminess will have to still take a side-seat since the team is traveling separate from parents and practicing apart from parents, but I'll be there to shout from the stands. (My funds will not come from GoFundMe - I'm getting there as cheaply as possible - cheapest flight option, cheapest hotel with other parent roommates, and cheapest everything.)

My husband is staying home, which is a bummer - I'll miss him every moment I'm gone. We just celebrated our 20th year anniversary and I love being with him every single day. It's going to be tough to live without him for a week - the longest time away from each other since he left the Navy reserves.

Whether I stay or go, it seems there is always a part of me yearning for the other option.

And, can you imagine why my immune system decided to go wonky and let in the latest cold/sinus nastiness going around? It's not like I've experienced high excitement or stress lately, right? 

And, my writing has been reduced to short stories, poetry, and short non-fiction lately. I haven't been able to focus on anything longer in a few weeks. Maybe, I'll bury my head in one of my projects for the next week, with my oldest daughter gone and my youngest daughter resuming 6 hours a day of kayak training (this includes gym workouts, running, and water workouts).

"Shadow Magic" was published by Aurora Wolf on August 1st - so check it out, if you're up for a bite of fantasy fiction.

I'm taking a few days off from blogging this month - I didn't originally intend to post today, but I'm having a mommy-writer moment.
I'll be back the 26th and Mark Noce will be visiting on the 31st.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Laurel Garver's 5 Reasons to Write Letters

Please welcome Laurel Garver today!

Five Reasons to Write Letters
By Laurel Garver

As a Gen-Xer, I’m part of the last generation to grow up pre-Internet, so my formative experiences with distance communication were very much of the analog variety—land-line phone calls and, yes, “snail mail” letters. I had a number of pen pals through middle and high school. One of them, I’m a bit ashamed to admit, wrote to a completely fictional version of me, because I invented for her the life I wish I had, plus fake dramas with fake friends just to keep things interesting. You might say that set of correspondence was my first epistolary fiction.

Ethically questionable forms of entertainment aside, writing letters has a number of benefits for fiction writers.

1) Trains you to communicate to a focal audience

Correspondence is by nature a very focused form of communication, meant for a specific recipient. Your choice of what topics to cover, in what order, and with what level of detail depends on who will read the letter. What things will this person easily grasp, and what things will s/he need extra explanations—and examples, illustrations, parables, or metaphorical language—to fully understand your meaning? What other literature, film, music, art, historic event, or cultural icon can you allude to, and how subtly, and this person will immediately get it?

You’ve often heard it said to “picture your ideal reader” when you create stories. But that’s a tall order. With letters, your reader has a name, a face, opinions and preferences. Learning to write to appeal to an audience of one prepares you to do the harder task of writing for an audience of many.

2) Challenges your narration skills

Narration often gets a bad rap in contemporary fiction. It’s assumed to always be telling when showing is better. But well done narrative is really just a pacing tool, a way to condense action and dialogue and move a story along. Letter writing is excellent practice to hone this skill. Composing a letter about the fiasco of a camping trip you just took will involve choosing which details to include, building tension, using comic timing, and framing the series of events in a narrative arc.

3) Connects you to your deepest emotions

It’s rare for any of us to be anything but our “curated selves” on social media. We tend to share only a sliver of what’s going on in our lives—especially our emotional lives. Letter writing invites deeper intimacy with your correspondent, because it’s a slow medium, it’s private, it’s handmade, and it holds a certain history-tied cachet. In writing letters, I often discover how I really feel about what’s going on in my life. Writing to a friend or relative invites us to share the deeper things, the “I wish…,” “I fear…,” “I hope…”. Those deep emotions are where you find your heart-stories, the ones that stir your creative passion.

4) Serves as a brainstorming tool

Epistle brainstorming involves writing imagined letters from a character, between characters, or to a character. It is a great way to get to know your characters, develop voice, and work out kinks in your plot.

By writing a letter as a character, you can begin to really hear how a character would express him/herself, how this person would interpret events, and which details would be focal. I’ve also found that writing letters to my character—and letting her answer—enabled me to dig deeper into her personality, to process my thoughts and feelings when the plot stalled, and to imaginatively seek the character’s help to develop solutions that fit her sense of who she is. As wacky as that sounds, remember that your character is also you. So this is really just a way to trick your brain into letting parts of yourself interact more directly.

As an example, here’s a brief “character instant message exchange” from my brainstorming notes from my latest release:

Me: Hey, Dani, it’s been a year and a half since you lost your dad. Any new developments in your healing process?

Dani: Remember how I when I first lost Dad, I kept one of his old shirts and hid it? And my therapist said it wasn’t sick but healthy to keep it? Well, I’ve taken to putting on Dad’s old shirt when I’m stressed. I feel wrapped up in his protection and blessing when I’m wearing it.

This was one of several details I was able to tease out of my brain to create deeper characterization, and create ties between the prequel and the current book.

Not sure where to start in corresponding as or with a character? My post “No stamp required: Epistle brainstorming” has some specific brainstorming exercises to try.

5.) Brings texture and off-scene voices into your stories.

I also like to use correspondence in my fiction—digital forms like instant messaging, e-mail and texts, as well as handwritten types like letters and journals. Because it’s a different type of storytelling material than standard narration or dialogue, it adds texture to your story. And as I mentioned in reason 3, letter writing naturally makes someone go deeper emotionally, so a well-placed letter can be a good way to, for instance, let a character say something deep, heart-felt, or even gooey-romantic that would sound extremely cheesy in dialogue. The formality of a letter gives profundity a free pass, it seems. (Green’s The Fault in Our Stars does this to great effect.)

Letters are also a way to bring off-scene characters’ voices to bear on current situations without all the bother of transporting them on scene. With letters you can access voices of a geographically distant character, or even one from another time. One of Dani’s great treasures in my latest book is correspondence and journals from a grandmother who died when Dani was an infant. This voice from the past gives her insight into her present troubles.

If you don’t want the access to be too easy, make the WiFi spotty or the cellular reception nonexistent. Snail mail comes with a built-in delay mechanism: apart from personal delivery, it’s rare for a letter to arrive in less than twenty-four hours. Or put the correspondence in a foreign language, as I did with Dani’s journal from her Nana, which she has to work to translate and learn the truths hidden in it.

Are you now or were you once a letter-writer? How might your add letter writing to your routine or to your fiction tools?

About the author

Laurel Garver is a writer, editor, professor’s wife and mom to an arty teenager. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile, she enjoys geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who, playing word games, singing in church choir, and taking long walks in Philly's Fairmount Park. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or her blog.

About Laurel’s new release

Almost There
YA inspirational

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Read sample chapters free on Wattpad

Note from Tyrean: woke up and discovered missing files on my pc, so I might be focused on that today. Hope you enjoy this post by Laurel Garver. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG August

Many thanks to Alex, all the co-hosts this month, and the whole IWSG team!!!

This month, I'm blogging from the Flat-Water Sprint Canoe and Kayak National Championship in Oklahoma City!

Question of the month: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

I took second place in my sixth grade classroom short story writing contest with a story about a pencil and eraser who run away from school. My teacher told me I had potential to be an author. 

However, the pencil story is collecting dust. 

One of my first novel attempts involved a nerdy girl having a crush on a popular boy in junior high with several failed attempts on her part to ask him to a school dance - oh, the agony of early teenagedom. I even foolishly had inserted my name and the name of a boy I liked into that story at one point and one of my friends took it and passed it around. I thought I would die of humiliation. I shredded that story to pieces with my own fingers after I cried over it. My "friend" thought she had done me a favor. I disagreed silently and kept my writing to myself for a long while after that. 
(Now, in a weird way, I think I should rewrite this whole scenario into a MG novel.)

The interesting part of recounting all of this is that it makes sense with what I write today.

I like speculative fiction best and I feel extremely uncomfortable about writing romance.

(If I write that MG novel, my main character might get a time-traveling, full-length locker. I could fit in those as a teen - unfortunately, I know this from experience.) 

My first stories and my first experiences with writing are still with me, inside. 

So, I have a second question, based on the official one:
How did your early writing and writing experiences shape you as a writer?

My first novel that did make it to the world is free in all the usual places. Check out My Books page for more information or just go to my Amazon page to find Champion in the Darkness. The rest of The Champion Trilogy is out, so you don't have to wait to find out how the adventure unfolds.