Sunday, December 06, 2015

Progress update: Butterflies in December

Well, I'm back to work in earnest. After this very difficult autumn, winter is a welcome relief. Cold is somehow cleansing, isn't it? You know, a chill to shake the brain awake or make you appreciate the warmth you left behind. Writing is such a personal thing and for some weeks after my brother passed I wasn't sure my words would return -- how soon or how quickly.

Every life milestone affects us differently. For some authors, writing is cathartic. I find that as well, but I took solace in writing about Joe and for him for awhile rather than drumming up imaginary scenarios for my WIP. His situation was far too real to spend time dabbling in fantasy. I thought. So returning to the work I love isn't cathartic, but it is a necessary and integral part of who I am. I guess I needed some time to be okay with that.

I missed my characters and the mess I got them into. So, the story's been re-read and edited. The first half of the pages have been sticky-tagged for tweaks, and I am on to the second half of the book. Progress continues. I'm about 75 percent of the way through the book with edits. When I finish this second half, I'll re-read and tag those pages. Then I'll re-read the entire book, say a prayer and send it off to my beta reader and my editor.

You can't see me shaking with nervous anticipation, but I am. Note to self: Butterflies are good, girlfriend. Butterflies are good.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New web site!

Can you do me a favor and take a peek at my revamped web site?

While anything involving the internet competes for the Biggest Time Suck trophy in this writer’s world, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. I can say that after getting two hours of sleep last night. I’m guesstimating I spent upwards of 20 hands-on hours over the weekend migrating my site to its new home at Weebly. This sister is tired, but satisfied.

I updated the look and feel last year, working with Norweigan graphic designer, Ida Jansson of Amygdala Design. For those who’ll ask why I didn’t use a local – or at least U.S. – designer, I’ll say it’s simply because after an exhaustive search of book covers and web sites, she had the design that spoke to me. And in this global technology world, I never would have known she wasn’t sitting right beside me through the whole process. It was that seamless.

So, I had the look, but over time, my site’s functionality has suffered under my personal know-how. I used to build web sites way back in the mid-90s when the World Wide Web was gaining marketing momentum. Those skills carried me during a time when most authors weren’t even thinking about having a site and gave me a promotional head start.

I’ve been able to depend on my own resources all these years, so the fact that Yahoo Sitebuilder was still using very old Java didn't bother me. Much. I’ll pay for design, but not site maintenance, since I could do it myself. (#frugalista) But like everything else, pricing and convenience have received a makeover thanks to technology. My original web site design cost me $300 in 2008 – and took weeks and weeks to complete. It was fun, but far less versatile than what I got for $125 last year – in about one week.

It’s now ditto for site creation itself. Though I’m still willing to spend an entire weekend moving a site, it only took a weekend. I've done overhauls that took me the better part of two weeks to complete with code and all. But this move was entirely WYSIWYG, I didn’t have to code a single item. My functionality has been boosted 300% and I’m paying a few bucks less than I’ve paid for the past five or six years.

I also changed my e-newsletter provider from Constant Contact to MailChimp. I was paying about $40 a month for my list of 500+ contacts. MailChimp is free for your first 2000 contacts. I know, right? I haven’t sent out any messages yet, but a newsletter’s coming.

Stop by if you get a chance. Leave me a note. Sign up for my newsletter. Buy a book. You know, all that stuff that convinces writers we’re not really crazy for making up stories and talking to imaginary people all day. I appreciate the reality check.
Meanwhile, I'm getting some sleep tonight.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

More Than Words

It has been two weeks and two days since my brother died. My mother says his passing has left a hole in her heart. I tried to convince her that the space he left is filled with light and love. Because if you knew Joe, you would know how true that is – in spite of the hole.

I wrote his obituary; dredged up words from the depths of my broken heart to illuminate the life he lived and the love he gave. I tried to capture the vast spirit of a man who was a husband for two decades, a friend to all, a professor who inspired struggling students to take a chance at the next level, and a guy who exemplified a zest for living.

He is gone. The funeral programs holding those words have been stored away. His ashes are settled for safekeeping. My brothers and I have scattered to our respective faraway places. And I am at home trying to find words to a story that insist on playing hide-and-seek when I sit down to my keyboard.

We were blessed with 18 months to prepare for Joe's departure. Pancreatic cancer is not a generous disease, but for my family, God granted us time to come to grips with His will. In those up and down days of Hope vs. Setbacks, I wrote the story I’m editing now. Deep inside I know that I channeled my anger into Pax, my despair into Fallon, my hope into a happily-ever-after. But now knowing the reality of my brother’s ending, I have faltered in my developing fantasy.

Christmas - Early 70's
I ask myself if I am making the most of the talent God gave me. I ask if I’m contributing to the world in an amount equivalent to what the universe expects. I tell myself “Yes!” and then login to my laptop. And as long as I don’t glance out the window at the clouds, hear a certain song on the radio or remember watching Alice In Wonderland with Joe in the weeks before he died, I can start.

Delete a word here. Replace a phrase there. Remember to dedicate the book to my fantasy-loving brother.

Then I stumble. Falter. Forget the train of thoughts I was trying to capture. And sometimes I cry.

He would not want this. Not Joe. In fact, I am sure he is rolling his eyes, shaking his head, and insisting I move forward. If only one thought, one word, one breath at a time. He was a great guy; driven enough to prod, yet caring enough to understand that sisterly love makes me melt from time to time. In those moments now and ahead, I have to believe that my little brother will reach down to rescue me from my wallowing and nudge me back on track.

My world is filled with words. They leech from my pores onto paper when I cannot speak them. They ring through my dreams, assault me in meetings, sway my perspective when I least expect them. For the past two weeks, in the stealth way words rule me, they remind my heart that the silent, hand-holding, smile-filled moments spent with Joe outranked anything I could have ever said.
Real love is more than words.
If I've learned anything over the past year and a half, it's that: Show your love. Live your life. Use your powers for good. My words will return to me when I least expect their magic and I am certain that the ones I write from here on out will be graced by my brother’s spirit.

St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley has established the Dr. Joe Worth Memorial Scholarship Fund in Joe's honor. We invite you to help grow this scholarship so that it becomes the educational portal Joe would want in order for future students to benefit from his incredible legacy.

How to contribute to the Dr. Joe Worth Memorial Scholarship Fund at St. Louis Community College
By Mail: St. Louis Community College Foundation, 300 South Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102
By Phone: 314.539.5216 (credit/debit)
Online: (Select Dr. Joe Worth Tribute/Memorial Scholarship.)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Happy tears and mounting edits

Hard for me to believe that I haven’t blogged since January.  But if you know me – or follow my musings – you know my life is a festival of happenings. There’s always something going on around here that competes with or supplants my writing time. (Not my desire – just the hours I have to execute.) Just as importantly though, I don’t consider these real-world intrusions as negatives. Take February through August, for example. In those months, we completed another senior year of high school and summer of college prep in my house. Whew! Two down. One to go.

Now that the chaos has calmed, I have to say that I miss my middle child. Desperately. Not that I didn’t miss my oldest just as much when he went off to college. In fact, I cried every day after he left – each time I passed his high school on my way to work…or the grocery store…or the movie theater…. You get the idea.

This time, with this son, I miss him in a way that’s nearly palpable. I get teary whenever I hear Big Sean sing "I hope you learn to make it on your own. If you love yourself just know you'll never be alone... And when you get it all just remember one thing - that one man could change the world." Those lyrics ring so true. I had to pull off the road one day and cry. Really. But like I told my youngest, my happiness for her brother outweighs the sadness.  So his going away isn’t any less difficult, just different. In the way that each child is different.

That said, sending my son off to frolic with the higher learning crowd has added a little more than 100 minutes of non-pickup/drop-off time to my daily schedule. (You don’t think about that while it's going on or else you'd talk yourself out of taking on the task. Or go crazy.) For years I've wished for extra hours in my day and – BAM! – like magic, I got ‘em. To top that off, my youngest is back in school and has freed me from her vampirish stay-up-all-night summer schedule.
So voile! I’m back to editing like the author I am. Here’s my magic to-date:
Word count when I ended the story: 88,746; Revisions-in-progress word count: 37,775 (where I am today); Word count at this point in the draft: 29,351

Gaging by numbers alone, my progress count would deceive me into thinking that I’m almost halfway through revisions. HA! I’ve actually added 8,424 words to the story. (Mind you, I cut 4,500+ words by deleting a chapter early on.) This means my actual word count – if I submitted the story “as is” today – would be 97,170. Oh my.

All that math made my head hurt. LOL Thus, the moral of this blog post is that it’s time to get back to the book. While my son's out learning how to change the world, my goal is to finish editing before autumn passes me by. 

#thatisall #amediting

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The World I Live In

Companies have focus groups. I have my children. We are huge lovers of all things fantasy, sci fi and supernatural, and wage serious word wars about the merits of earth-bending over X-Ray vision and things of that sort. For a while now, we’ve had an ongoing discussion – serious discussion – around the merits of a panic room in the basement that we can access in the event of the zombie apocalypse. The only thing we agree on so far is that having such a room would give us a huge advantage in our escape – but only so long as the zombies aren’t smart like the ones in I Am Legend. (((shudder)))

Shhh! Our potential panic room. Please
don't tell the zombies where we're hiding
Tonight I asked a question I probably shouldn’t have about the tentative powers of the heroine in my current work-in-progress. Oh, the debate that ensued! My daughter re-wrote my story's entire Black Moment – and my son shot her whole notion down citing an example from some anime he watches. I let them finish before thanking them for the tangent and deciding my direction is a good one.

I love our spirited conversations about things that don’t exist. I cherish their unbridled willingness to not just think outside the box, but concede that there is no box at all. We need the escape. Heck – I need the escape. There is so much sad, bad, heart-wrenching news outside the walls of our happy home that I approach my Facebook newsfeed with a healthy dose of trepidation these days. They know that life is hard and unfair and some kids live with unspeakable horrors. We are lucky, we know. The dangers we conjure live only in our minds and on my pages. No one is harmed in the making of our “what if’s.”

So this is the world I live in. The crazy, every day realm I share with children who will one day blame their warped perception of possibilities on their overly imaginative mother. I figure they’ll either forgive me or wind up on Dr. Phil’s show. My money is on fond memories and grandchildren who appreciate a Nana who believes in fairies.

Twitter & IG: @stefanieworth