Monday, October 31, 2011

In Progress

As you can see, I'm monkeying around. My husband says this is a giant procrastination tool and he's ... right. But I do need to update my website and thought the easiest thing to do would be to transfer some of the stuff to the blog. I'm having a bear of a time copying my book covers and placing them in an aesthetic manner instead of just a row of book covers. So, pardon the mess ... my house is worse, I promise :)

And what of the revisions? I'm having a terrible time immersing myself in the book enough to really write. And I don't trust myself to make the right changes either. It would be so much easier to write a first draft of a book that's been percolating in my head, but I don't want it to be a royal mess like my second book (I still haven't done a thing with it because it lacks the basics -- a strong structural foundation).

What to do? Clean house, monkey around, try to work on revisions and steal time to work on the shiny new idea. Yup, I'm procrastinating.

A Day at the Market

We went downtown Charleston for the first time this weekend. Of course, we hit the Saturday market to look at the various arts and crafts. These sweetgrass baskets have got to be my favorite. I see them all along Highway 17 but I've not stopped to examine them. When I was a child, I learned to make baskets from flax, but aside from the basic alternating pattern, I wouldn't know how to make a basket anymore. I am seriously tempted to take a class in basketweaving with sweetgrass.

Local painters. Isn't the blue crab gorgeous? I see these large crabs all over the island and they really are pretty.

This butterfly display was beyond beautiful. They said they only use butterflies that have died naturally. Most live only a few weeks. Long ago I had a poster with all the letters of the alphabet represented in the wings of these loveliest of insects.

Relaxing ... it's windy and chilly even with the sun shining.

Ravenel bridge. It is a modern gem.

Cobblestones. I learned that these came all the way from England. They used them as ballast for the ships and then would dump them in exchange for cargo.

Rutledge: One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence! I can't wait until I can go on some proper tours and soak up all this history.

We went to the evening Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. So grand and beautiful. I would like to come here for a big feast day when they have a full choir. There are lots coming up. But this week we will celebrate High Mass at Stella Maris for All Souls Day.

I love the beautiful artwork. It lifts my spirits high, towards the holy. I remember being in Rome at a time when I professed to be an atheist and yet I fell to my knees when I saw the Pieta. I have been accused of being the world's worst atheist by my friend Molly, but I think great art points to Truth.

Do churches fund artists and artwork anymore? Throughout history the Catholic Church has supported artists for music and paintings and even books. I would love to see that again.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I wish I could say that I were revising like a madwoman, but the truth is, I'm only doing a little bit. Writing new scenes in my notebook, making some minor changes for clarity, but mostly getting to inhabit my characters again. I see three or four big things I need to change, and although I would've tackled the big things first because they involve some structural changes, I find that too daunting to do right now. It's easier to focus on the smaller things. I still have a household to finish organizing (because we have too much stuff) and what's really dumb is that I actually want something -- like a swing-bed for the back porch! Talk about being extravagant, but like my manuscript, it's a big thing and I'm not even going to think about tackling it. I'm doing the small things -- tidying up a corner, reorganizing the kitchen so that everything I need is within reach, etc.

When I was at Ruth Schiffman's blog, I came across a very helpful article on revising. Having seen La Buffadora in Mexico myself, I connected with the analogy immediately. The idea is that you let your analytical mind take turns with your emotional side so that when you are revising, you are again in that zone of wanting to tell the story. The author, James Scott Bell (author of Plot and Structure and many other books), says far more than that, but this is what I realize is missing in the way I'm attempting to do my revisions. Too clinical. No heart. Just a faint pulse. Onwards.

Today, help arrived in the way of Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. I already want to sit down and scribble down some things in my notebook in response to some of the questions she poses. I have enjoyed the books she has edited immensely and have read her blog on a regular basis, so I am thrilled to have this book, to have her talks all in one place, to help untangle some of the spaghetti mess in my head. What's funny is that even though I've never met her, it's like curling up with a good friend to talk about books we love.

Here's my cat sitting on the hard copy of my WIP, chirping at a bird that makes its home on the oak right outside my window. As you can see, my feline writing partner plants herself exactly where my attention is, and meows at the appropriate times.

Do you have favorite revision tools? Do share.


Friday, October 21, 2011


Growing up, history was my least favorite subject, yet, now I am hungry to learn all that I missed. I've been reading books on the history of Charleston and Daniel Island, but the best book so far has been Bury Me Not in a Land of Slaves by Joyce Hansen. And wouldn't you know it -- it's a children's book.

Ms. Hansen brings to life this period of Reconstruction of the South through the former slaves' own voices and adding historical context. You begin to see that freedom and equality were destroyed by violence and laws that oppressed the newly freed slaves.

But courageous African men and women persevered and of many we get a glimpse through the brief biographies that Ms. Hansen provides. The narrative is peppered with photographs and drawings and quotes of the time. It is sure to pique any child's interest to learn more about this hopeful and tragic period in our history. This is what I love about children's books.

The abolition of slavery makes me hopeful that one day we as a nation will also bring an end to abortion. Pray, pray, pray to stop the assault on our most vulnerable and defenseless members of society.

Thank you, Joyce, for this gift.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

A is for Alligators ... Pictures :)

They do, indeed!

I see lots of pretty Halloween decorations. I am more in favor of the harvest variety (pumpkins, hay, etc.) than ghouls and goblins, but I was charmed by this little broom amidst the pansies.

Have a good day, y'all. Time for me to put in that promised hour on the book.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A is for Alligator

Pardon me if I can't stop talking about the alligators here. I'm still a transplant and am fascinated and a little bit frightened by these creatures. Yesterday my dog jumped into the pond and got chased by a five-foot gator. Boy do they swim fast! Then he lay in wait by the cattails as I put the lead back on. No more off-leash work with the dog (since she was so very disobedient and almost got eaten by a gator).

I should've taken my camera with me this morning because I saw a mama and ten babies sunning themselves near the banks of the pond. Temperatures have dropped (it is balmy and reminds me of Seattle summers) but gators are cold-blooded so they love to bask in the sunshine. What's odd as I circled the pond is that the dog doesn't see them at all, even when they slither into the water, making a few ripples. They are lovely to watch as they swim swiftly to the other side and look rather evil when they are still in the water with only the top of their heads poking out, just waiting ... waiting ... for a fish or a silly dog to jump in.

Here's a great link if you want to read something about alligators. And Guji Guji is a darling picture book that I couldn't bear to part with when we moved. I need to pull it out and read it again. It's about a family of ducks that has the odd egg that hatches into an odd creature. If you guessed gator, you're correct.

I have started reading and making notes on my novel. What's funny is that at the really good parts, I think, I wrote that? Wow! Then when I get to the crummy parts, the red pen comes out and I scribble away. I already know how I want to change the beginning so that I don't spool out the plot threads all at once. Jay Asher had given a great talk a couple of years ago on maintaining suspense and the trick is to have the highs and lows of the different plot threads weave in and out so that it's not all gasping action and then a lull. The pacing is too fast in the beginning of my book. I need to slow it down and trust my reader to stick with me.

I spend an hour a day. It is enough. I just hope I can continue.