Fallow Periods and Thawing

So it’s like this: one day in April, 2017, I was abducted by aliens and then…

No. That’s not it.

Let’s see. Once upon a time, there was a summer, and that summer morphed into a tree, and the tree…

Yeah, that’s not it either.

Well, if you follow me over on Noon and Wilder, you’ll know the last year and a half have been full of upheaval, chaos, and change.

But I have good news, Dear Reader. Yesterday, while swimming, I got a new story idea. It wasn’t a big story idea, and it wasn’t related to anything we’ve already written, but it was a little snippet of a possibility.

And that, Dear Reader, hasn’t happened in a long, long time.

Stress does that to a person.

And that brings me to my post today. I am in the process of learning how to do several new things, including book uploads (which isn’t entirely new to me, but I’m learning to be more efficient with it) and website design. The publishing landscape decided to skitter off under the furniture when I wasn’t looking and, frankly, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I was – change is inevitable.

I’m most grateful for learning to incorporate meditation in my daily round. I’ve meditated all my life, but I found an app that has really helped me on a regular basis, called Calm.

And I wish that I could give you some pearls of wisdom, something like “how to keep going in the face of really triggery events and massive national trauma playing out daily on the news.” But I don’t have any. All I can say is this: remember to unplug and spend time breathing real air. Move your body and get enough sleep. Eat clean and journal daily. And even with all of that, stress happens and it’s real.

Fallow times happen, Dear Reader, they happen to all of us. And me, I feel like I’m digging up out of a really deep, fertile field and all I have in my hands is rich loam and some really fat worms.

But swimming, man. I got an idea for a story. And I’m listening. With all my ears, I’m listening, Universe.

Stay tuned.

Hate Outlines? Timeline!

Keeping the plot of a novel-length manuscript can be a challenge for the most organized of writers. If you, like me, aren’t naturally left-brained sequential, then it can be more of a headache because your mind doesn’t organize information in a stepwise fashion. Have you ever looked at your story and realize that everything is happening in one day? or two different things are going on in the same night?

Reading a manuscript that is disorganized is no fun, for obvious reasons; but what do you do when you don’t like or can’t write to an outline?

One tool is a timeline that simply tracks each chapter and includes a simple sentence or two as to the action that takes place. I find that I have a bad habit of putting all my action on one or two days, and using a timeline helps me straighten all that out and figure out the flow of the action.

Here’s an example from Rachel and I, the timeline from our book, Burning Bright:

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I don’t start using a timeline until I’m about 10,000 or 30,000 words into a project.  Once I have enough material to have a clear picture of the story, then I’m able to write down what I have and see where I am trying to go.

Another tool is to build a literal calendar:

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This is from an earlier draft of the book, when we first worked on sorting out when things happened.  It’s important for the flow of the story that the action ebb and flow, rather than clot and spurt.  The calendar can help you sort out who does what to whom when.

I hope whatever you use works for you.  Every writer is different.  But if you need some ideas for how to play with and reorganize your plots, I hope this generates some solutions for you.

Write on!


This post originally appeared on the now defunct Samhain Publishing blog, 01/28/2012.

A New Year’s Party – and a Giveaway!

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The party over at The Romance Studio is in full swing!  Throughout the weekend, I will be blogging on different topics – five posts a day! – as will the other participating authors.  We have prizes from each of us, and the grand prize is a $100 USD gift certificate to the online retailer Amazon.  If you like to read, then this is the party for you!

Friday the 13th!

  1. Happy New Year! and a State of the State
  2. Body Movement – Walking
  3. Body Movement – Get Help, Get a Trainer
  4. Body Movement – Get Help: Body Buddy
  5. Don’t Eliminate, Add – Five Colors!

Saturday the 14th

  1. Feed Your Mind – Writing Prompts
  2. Life of the Mind – How To Read a Book
  3. Morning Pages and Self-Dialog
  4. Meditation
  5. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Sunday the 15th

  1. Family and Friends – a Birthday List
  2. Non-Bill Mail
  3. Renewal Weekly
  4. Crafts To Explore – Zen and the Art of Knitting
  5. Tarot and the Subconscious

Monday the 16th

  1. Kon-Mari
  2. Routine – Daily Round
  3. Simple Abundance
  4. Candles – Slow Down and Unplug
  5. Happy New Year!  The Writer Zen Garden

How My Family Survives My Writing – #MFRWauthor

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I laughed when I first read this prompt.  I mean, my family isn’t particularly negative about my writing.  My husband is a professional photographer, so he knows what is involved in creating things.  My kid is interested in his own stuff, so he’s not particularly aware of what I’m doing because he’s absorbed in his own stuff.

But then I got to thinking.  There was a weekend where I wrote for fifteen hours Saturday, and eighteen on Sunday.  My husband informed me, on the Monday following, that I would spend the next weekend with the family and go to a movie.  o.O…  So I think it’s more a matter of learning how to balance writing with other responsibilities and commitments.  I’ve also made friends and have been fortunate enough to find people that they understand me and the way I see the world.  But that took a lot of work to find those people, and to find my “tribe.”

So if I had to say what my one piece of advice would be to people trying to fit writing into already busy lives, it’s this:  hunt for your tribe and balance your writing with the other things you’ve already got in your life:  day job, kids, marriage, friends, and family.

What about you, Dear Reader?  How do you balance passion and necessity?

Sunday Box Talk – New Year, New… What?

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The year that just ended may well come to be referred to as the Year That Shall Not Be Named.  Aside from personal drama, (a close friend in the hospital since March and counting, my co-author’s sister’s lung function is 37%), there was publishing drama.  First, Samhain Publishing announced they were closing, then chose not to and tried to gaslight the writing community by asking in a hurt tone, why did you think we were closing?  Maybe because they announced they were.  Words have power, sunshine.  Then Torquere Press melted down in spectacular fashion, leaving those of us that believed the stories from the owner feeling lied to and cheated.  One of their top authors is owed $39,000 USD, editors haven’t been paid (one is owed $3,500 USD and another over $2,000 USD).  Then, if that wasn’t enough, All Romance eBooks announced it was closing and gave authors and indie publishers four days notice.  Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that the owner, an author in her own right, took salaries from book earnings and may actually have committed some serious financial fraud.  Then in November, the stunning upset in the U.S. election shocked many, myself included, ushering in a storm of disgusting white supremacy, homophobia, and misogynistic sentiment.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t recognize my country right now.

It’s enough to scare an author back into her hole, and I’ll admit, it did.

But that was 2016.  It’s 2017.  It’s time to rally.

So rally we shall.  It’s important for creative people to create, in times of great darkness and times of light.  I was planning on working on a memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain: Growing Up with a Mentally Ill Parent.  It’s been a rough project to work on, for what are probably obvious reasons, but now it’s more important than ever to me to tell my story.  Invisibility leads to oppression; we need to be out and proud.  Our stories matter.

Which brings me to stories – Rachel and I have recommitted to ours and are hard at work/play on the next two books in the Persis Chronicles.  That’s right, the next two books.  Here’s what happened:  we drafted Book 3, Sapphire Dream, and then realized we had a problem.  We had over 80,000 words, but half of it is not going to end up in this book.  It needs to be told from another character’s point of view.  Add to that the fact that half the story is a journey that doesn’t need to happen, and we’re into major rewrites.  But I’m pleased to say that Ruby Sands, the resultant second half of Sapphire Dream and now Book 4 of the Persis Chronicles, is nearly half done and fully plotted out.  I don’t have a release date yet, because we just got our rights back for Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep and are going to release all four books together, but it will be in the first half of this year (and in the first quarter, if I can possibly make that happen).

I’ve also started workshops again.  My passion is Story, both writing it and helping others to get onto the page.  Accordingly, I’ve started the Prompt Circles with Writer Zen Garden up again and our first one is Saturday, January 21st.  There’s more information on our Meetup page, here.  We’ll be doing some other classes online in February and March on writing, and another Artist’s Way track starting on January 22nd.  Details are on the Meetup, and also the main Writer Zen Garden page, here.

Beyond that, I’m knitting up a storm and taking classes at Craftsy in knitting, weaving, and sewing (and some other subjects).  I’ve made playdates with friends to sew and knit, both in person and online through Google Hangouts.  If you are interested in playing too, please let me know in the comments.

If you, like me, are feeling small and helpless in the face of a changed tide, please know you are not alone.  Journal.  Your thoughts matter, and having a relationship with yourself is just as important as having one with your loved ones.  Communicate.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, reach out to your friends and family for support.  There are groups online and in person that can give you much-needed community.  And most of all, make stuff.  If you cook, make food.  If you knit, sew, draw, color in coloring books, whatever it is: do it.  Make time, right now, this week, and do it.  Get off the internet.  Mindless surfing is hazardous to your health.  Creating is therapeutic.  Make.  Write.  Create.  The world needs your creations.

Write on.

A Few of My Favorite Things – #MFRWauthor

My friends at Marketing For Romance Writers came up with a challenge this year.  As writers, we struggle to keep content engaging and fresh for you, Dear Reader, and so the Weekly Blogging Challenge was born.  Each week, we’re given a topic as a prompt.  We work with a partner, and together egg each other on to post.  The objective is to blog once a week for the entire year – so look forward to some interesting posts, as I’m enjoying writing them for you.  The posts go live on Fridays.

Our first prompt is, “A Few of My Favorite Things.”

That’s a toughie – I have so many.  Just off the cuff, I’d have to say cats, yarn, coffee, books, and chocolate.  But I also like dogs, horses, words, psyanky, candles, bubble baths, tea, fine china, jewelry, crafts, friends, travel, cars, boats, really amazing recreational vehicles…

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Want to play too?  Visit WordClouds to make your own word cloud.

What about you, Dear Reader?  What are a few of your favorite things?

Happy Thanksgiving! A Blog Festival and Giveaway

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Now, more than ever, we need to remember all that we have for which to be grateful.  Our abundance will give us the strength to understand what we have the power to change, but also all that we already have.  True wealth is internal.  Freedom can be compromised, but liberty is internal.  Love is a verb.  And know this:  never be ashamed for reading what you enjoy, for relaxing and recharging your batteries, and for closing out the noise that has become much louder of late.  Reading, and writing, are radical acts.

And so, in the spirit of the holidays, I share with you my posts on The Romance Studio, and an opportunity to win our grand prize of a $100 USD Amazon gift card, as well as prizes from participating authors – not to mention, tons of great content.  Please enjoy, and remember: writers are people too, and we are emotional beings just like you.  A comment, even just to say thanks for posting, can warm hearts bruised by so much craziness.  It only takes a moment, but it’s a valuable gift that will bring a smile to the face of your favorite authors.  Trust me.  I’m one of them.  🙂

Love,

Noony

My posts for the party (will go live as they’re posted throughout the party):

Saturday, November 19, 2016

  1. Vital vs Urgent
  2. Quiet the Echo Chamber
  3. Six Weeks
  4. Simple Abundance
  5. The Artist’s Way

Sunday, November 20, 2016

  1. NaNo – Why You Should Care
  2. Consequences:  Where Story Is
  3. Writing and Mental Health
  4. Memoir, Family, Preserving the Past
  5. Recipes of a Bygone Era

Monday, November 21, 2016

  1. Cauliflower Potatoes
  2. White Bean Pasta
  3. Exercise & Holidaze
  4. Going Caffeineless
  5. The Pecan Pie Debate:  Chocolate or No Chocolate?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

  1. Introduction to Persis
  2. Why Keepers?
  3. Food in Other Places
  4. Resting in Plain Sight – Aroma Shower
  5. Take a Bath!  Salts & Oils

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

  1. Introduction to Chicagoland
  2. Travel in Place
  3. Gather Locally – Meetup
  4. Strength in Numbers
  5. Thank You

 

Write! Promptly! Writing Prompt! Free Workshop, Having Fun with Writing Prompts

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Have you always wanted to write?  Are you already a writer, but stalled in getting words on the page?  Are you a working author who needs some exercises to keep limber?  Just looking for a good time?  ~leer~

Well, you’ve come to the write place.  Join me at Coffee Time Romance, the award-winning forum for readers and authors.  For the next two weeks, June 12th through June 25th, I’ll be your facilitator for “Having Fun with Writing Prompts.”  Together, we’ll play on the page, write a lot, and just keep ourselves occupied with words.  Lots, and lots, and lots of words.

Sound like fun?  Great!  Join me!

Coffee Time Romance Forum,
“Having Fun with Writing Prompts,”
Facilitated by A. Catherine Noon

Walking In This World – Literally

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My “Walking in the World” feature is meant to be metaphorical, in terms of a “flora and fauna” report, as author Julia Cameron terms it, and not literally as a report about walking.

Not today, Dear Reader.  Not today.

In the late 80’s, I injured my knee catastrophically while downhill skiing.  I was a racer, but on that sunny Saturday, I sat down to wait for a friend to join me on the main face of the mountain.  When she skied up, I stood up.  My knee dislocated for the twelfth and, though I didn’t know it then, final time.

My parents, unhappy with the idea of a jock daughter, failed to have it properly looked at.  I was given an immobility brace for three weeks and no x-rays, and that was it.  By the time I saw a surgeon fifteen years later, the damage was done.  He seemed stunned when he walked in the room with my radiographs.  I had a small bone broken off and floating under the patella, a meniscal tear, and my patella itself was off by 16 degrees.  I had no cartilage left on either sides of the knee:  advanced osteoarthritis.

I was thirty-three.

The surgery was a success, by all accounts, and they were able to go in arthroscopically and not have to cut the knee open.  (Uh, good…?)  I had six months of physical therapy and thought that was it.  I was done.  The PT place didn’t give me any exercises to continue and I was released back to my normal workout routine.

About three years later, my husband and I decided to go on an Outward Bound Dogsledding trip for nine days in the Boundary Waters, that zone between the U.S. and Canada at the top of Minnesota and the middle of nowhere.

My doctor stared at the sheet of paper that I needed her to sign:  “Medical Release Form.”  All students of Outward Bound over the age of twenty-five are required to get one signed by a doctor.

“So, tell me about this knee of yours.”

Shit.

In the end, she did sign the form, but under protest.  She insisted the only way she would do it is if I went to Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago to see an orthopedic specialist there.  If you’re not familiar with pro sports, this is one of the places in the country they send, for example, injured NFL players in an effort to prevent them being taken completely out of the sport, or car accident victims who might never walk again.

And, apparently, me.

Six months it took me.  My physical therapist was a specialist too, with a PhD.  She and my doctor consulted, and they consulted with my primary physician.  I didn’t need further surgery, they said.  I asked if I could jog, ever again.

“Maybe,” the orthopod hedged.

“Maybe depending on what, maybe?”

“If you do everything I tell you to do.”  He shrugged and pulled up his pant leg, revealing a surgery scar by his knee that was bigger than my three small dots.  Small, but not invisible.  “I jog.”  He let his pants down.  “But it took me a lot of work.”

Okey dokey.

That weekend, I went to the zoo with my family.  We walked all over.  I wore some cute new shoes I’d gotten at a discount chain store in my neighborhood, the kind that regularly holds “BOGO” specials (“Buy One, Get One).

The poor quality of the shoe didn’t even occur to me, until the next day when my knee swelled up to the size of a Chicago softball.

When I went to RIC that week for my appointment, my physical therapist was horrified.  “What did you do?”

“I went to the zoo,” I said, and burst into tears.

When I got home, I threw out every single pair of shoes that I owned, except for the pair of athletic New Balance that the specialized shoe store gave me on doctor’s orders, (the doc even gave me a special piece of paper to take with me so they’d know what kind of shoes to give me), the one pair of office-quality shoes, and a pair of loafer-like black flats – also from the same store.

Okay, I kept the two pairs of four-inch heels, one a gorgeous, unusual emerald green leather, and the other ruby like the Ruby Slippers.

I couldn’t bear to throw them out for another ten months, even though I didn’t wear them ever again.

Okay, that’s not true.  I tried wearing them at work one day.  One day.  And I had to take them off by 11:30.

Today, I can walk.  A lot.  I can do three miles in an hour, and if I’m gentle, I can do all day at the zoo.  I can actually jog to catch a bus, as long as it’s not more than a half-block or so.  I can do squats, and just yesterday with my new physical trainer, I sat down with my weight on only one leg, while holding the other leg in the air.  I didn’t think I could do it, and I had to “spot” my injured leg, but it worked, God damn it.  Three sets of five.

Walking in this world isn’t just metaphor.  We’re physical beings.  It’s easy to forget that, when we’re on the computer and sucked into the echo chamber.  But if you’re not going to the gym on a regular basis, give it a shot.  Even if all you do is walk, it’s enough.

Tue Cent Twosday – New Age Foo Foo

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I admit it. I read all sorts of stuff. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Stuff that defies description, but after you read it and someone asks you what you read, you’re all, “Um, stuff.”

When I was about fifteen, I got very curious in the nature of the soul and the existence of God. I blame this, appropriately enough, on my parents. (Isn’t everything their fault?) More specifically, it’s my dad. See, he studied to be a priest when he was in college. Nine years of becoming a Paulist Father (they’re the order involved with the media – television, radio, that kind of thing). He dropped out two months before he was to be ordained, citing significant philosophical uncertainty in the divinity of Christ.

All well and good, except that in first grade, my parents enrolled me in Catholic school.

Sorta confusing, you say? Tell me!

So what’s all this got to do with New Age Foo Foo? Well, when I was fifteen, my dad started studying Zen Buddhism. Now, when a man with a Masters in Philosophy, a B.A. in Theology, and a classical education decides to study something, they don’t fool around. Only trouble is, my dad doesn’t speak or read Japanese. Accordingly, copies of D.T. Suzuki and Lao Tzu started showing up all over his house. I asked him, “Dad, why do you have five – no, six – copies of Suzuki on the dining room table?” “Well, I’m studying Zen Buddhism. And I don’t read Japanese.”

“Um, Dad? These are all in English…?”

“Yes, dear.”

Why, Dad? Why do you have six copies of Suzuki in English, to study Zen Buddhism, because you don’t read Japanese?”

“Those are all by different translators.”

It was then that I began to understand Zen. A little.

I’m very proud of the fact that I did not once take a nerf bat to his head.

Thought about it, though.

“Okay. You have six copies of D.T. Suzuki, all by different translators, in English because you don’t read Japanese, because you’re studying Zen Buddhism. WHY?”

“Because it’s the only way I can get as close as possible to the original language. See, it’s like this. Each translator sees the language a little differently, so they translate it a little differently. By reading them and comparing them, I can get as close as possible to the original language without actually speaking Japanese.”

Ask a stupid question…

So we started discussing Zen Buddhism. At dinner. Over ice cream. While doing chores.

And you know what? That stuff is kind of interesting! I started to ask about theology in general, and we were off. We talked about Saint Thomas Aquinas, who interpreted the works of Aristotle for the Church, we talked about religious hysteria when I subscribed for a while to a magazine called The Plain Truth, we talked about God and concepts of deity…

Fast forward to college. I got interested in different religions and went to church or temple with anyone who would take me. In college, I met some Wiccans and got invited to come to a ritual with them. I was, naturally, interested. One of the books they gave me was by a woman named Anodea Judith, a Western-trained Jungian psychologist who became interested in Eastern healing modalities. She wrote a book called The Sevenfold Journey, which is a primer about the chakras for Westerners. I loved it! Set up like a workbook, it has exercises for people to try, all associated with the individual chakras. (If you don’t know what a chakra is, hold on, I’ll tell you.) It had journal exercises, of course, but what I like about it is it has physical ones too, and music, spirituality, all sorts of things. You don’t have to change your religion to go through it, either – it explains the concepts and gives you stuff to do and think about.

A chakra is an ancient Hindu concept, which roughly translates to “spinning wheel.” And no, I did NOT read six different texts by different translators to find this out; I’ll trust Anodea Judith’s definition. The idea is that we have these wheels in our body, associated with major intersections of nerves. This makes a lot of sense to me, actually, since nerves transmit electrochemical impulses. The idea that there is an ‘energy’ associated with that transmission seems plausible, since electricity is energy. There are several chakra systems, depending who you talk to. Judith teaches about seven major ones.

What does this have to do with writing?

Good question. Judith has a number of tools in her books, not just The Sevenfold Journey, that allow a person to ruminate on themselves and their place in the universe. I figure, I’ll snag one or two each issue and share my thoughts about them. If you want to try them in the privacy of your own morning pages, more power to you.

I won’t, though, translate for you.

 

This was originally posted on my now discontinued blog, Noonsense, 07/27/2010.