reviews

Novel Critique Groups and Writing for an Audience of One

It’s been a NaNoWriMo type of November. I can tell because I have an extra 50,000 words added to my novel and next to no pictures taken during these past 30 days. It wasn’t all writing and no socializing though. When I went to vote, I ran into old friends. I had a chance to talk to Maureen Lee and Kimberly Moritz after the SGI school board meeting – conveniently held in Colden this month. Springville Journal’s esteemed Max Borsuk was there, too. Five out of five Friday nights saw me in the Comfort Zone for the Hamburg Writers’ Group plus Husband and I went to see the movie “Knives Out.” The first snow has fallen and occasionally, it’s a pretty thing to admire as long as shoveling isn’t involved.

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After a gap when Mary Akers, Gina Detwiler and I pursued other writing projects, we each had new work to share so we reconstituted our roving novel critique group meetings. First stop: My home. Why yes, it was fun cleaning the whole house in two days and make quiche and cauliflower nuggets and two types of sweets because I wasn’t sure either would turn out. Dog went to a new groomer before the meeting and was far too sexy for a photo session.

I know, it’s a cheat to take pictures when he’s sleeping, but isn’t that the cutest Thanksgiving bow-tie? Thank you everyone at Paw Spa!

Anyways, I want to say that I’m still surprised that every book I write ends up being written in a different way. Last time, it was a ton of flashes that expanded into a whole. This time it was a lot of wasted writing trying to find a proper beginning. Regardless, once I found it, a lot of the themes and ideas I wanted to explore fell into place.

On and off through October, I worked on the blurb and the first chapter. I searched thumb drives for the abandoned bits and plumped out a catchall file with those meanderings called LineAboutMarriage. I know, it’s not a snappy working title, but it is a little more descriptive than NewBook17.0

I had sent the semi-polished first chapter to the amazing Nina Fosati and Prisoner for their take. Each were happy with it. When I revised it a bit more and sent it to Gina and Mary with no introduction to what it was about, I received my first negative response. It was a kind assessment of how she couldn’t tell if it was a romance or a mystery or what. And that was okay. I had been working at “genre” the last two books after I sent the dark literary “Ellie’s Elephants” to twenty agents and didn’t get more than a few requests for partials. “Blue” and “Near Eden” – the genr-y books had requests for fulls, but again, no agent took them on. For this novel, I’d abandoned the genre slant and wrote it for me.

Lots of people I’ve met have self-published. Some are lovely and I enjoyed them. A few people I’ve shown my early novel attempts liked them. I could have put them on CreateSpace when that was a thing, but my goal has always been to have an agent who will help with the process. Ideally, I’d like to be published by a big house. Making the long (or short) list for first-book awards would be a pleasant surprise, too. If I had self-published, I wouldn’t be eligible to strive for a lot of the goals I set out to reach from a young age. At heart, I’m still the 12-year-old who read “Peyton Place,” saw Grace Meticulous on the back cover in front of a typewriter and wanted to BE her.

But I don’t write like Grace Metalious. Or Nora Roberts. Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison, or anyone else. I write like me and while I hope as I work through the rewrite of this crappy first draft, you and others will like it, in the end, the only thing I really want is for it to be a manuscript I want to read repeatedly and be happy to call mine. I’m writing for one person. It’s taken years to understand this oft-mentioned piece of advice

In the meantime, I appreciate you and the time it took to read this post. My new assistant is waiting patiently, so I must be off…

 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Possessed Lawnmowers, Explosions, and Break Downs.

The morning started with a strange noise. It didn’t go away and not being able to deduce where it was coming from, I got out of bed. I put coffee in the microwave and went out to get the paper only to find the strange noise coming from Husband’s riding lawnmower. I checked, the key was in the off position. I even pulled the key out. I called Husband. He told me it was trying to start itself and to press a button. It stopped making noise. By the time I returned with the paper, it had started again. I’ve been out there 4 times now, BUT I’ve since had my coffee so it’s a bit less disturbing to have possessed machinery in the yard.

 

That was the latest thing to go kerflunky. Last night, I turned on the grill and when it was hot, I started the chicken and went inside. I heard a “pop” and thought Husband was on the lawnmower and it backfired. No, he came in through the kitchen door to report the regulator on the grill had blown up. Apparently there were flames and everything. I’m glad I missed that and it didn’t happen when I was out there. The chicken went into the oven so dinner was able to be served eventually.

 

The worst thing–of course–is the Chevrolet Colorado broke down and had to go into the shop AGAIN!!!! This time because the fuel pump died. Yet another grand into that beast and it’s STILL not paid off. Of course it had been in for an oil change at the dealership just before the latest thing went wrong. On Twitter, Chevrolet was sad to hear about my “concerns.” They want me to send them the VIN. For what? A friggin’ coupon for an oil change? I am SO irritated.

 

Otherwise, this is where I’ve been and where I’ll be. The magic triangle of the screened in tent, the garden shed, and the garden. The fence – at least one side – is slated to go up this year. The gate went in this weekend.

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Look, a frog!

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The new bulbs bloomed!

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And in writing related news, I’ve been working on something and it’s over 5,000 words long so far. I don’t know what to call it yet, so I’m letting it progress at its own pace. I have a review to finish writing, a 300 word profile to write because Literary Orphans is celebrating its 25th Issue with a special staff page, and lord knows what else. Anyway, I should figure that out and get to it as soon as I crank up the computer and post this.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

(These are my Creekside Reflections. Your experiences may vary.)

One thing done, twenty more added to my to do list.

Here it is, the fourth of June and the garden is finally planted. The screened in tent went up last night and I moved the swing in there this morning. The weather man said it was supposed to be sunny today, but that is not how the sky appears. It is the start of fun part of the year where I’m better off waking early to get outside to beat the muggy heat and the biting bugs. I am not a morning person. I’m not sure I’m an outside person either.

 
The author and my editor liked my review of Muscle Cars. I’ve been asked to conduct an interview with an author I’m unfamiliar with, so when I get a chance, I’ll be expanding my repertoire at The Tavern. Also, I may be revisiting a part of my life soon. I’ll know more on Tuesday, and I don’t want to jinx it, but it involves politics.

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Husband and I made it to our 15th anniversary. It fell on Sunday and he brought me The New York Times, Dunkin Donuts coffee, and these gorgeous flowers. They are holding up well. I guess we are, too—at least we haven’t killed each other yet. The day before our anniversary, there were a few iffy moments.

 
Condensed to Flash: World Classics is out and available at Amazon. I am honored and proud to have a story in there. It’s a gorgeous book with so many great stories by incredible writers. Many thanks to Mark Budman and everyone at Vestal Review Press.

 
Last week was brutal with rejections, so I’m hoping things turn around soon. I’ve got 5 new flash pieces from the workshop—well, one wasn’t directly from there, but the association is close. I’m going to run them by a few friends and then submit. I’ve slacked off with that part of the process recently, but it is difficult not to go outside and enjoy being able to do just that. This winter was unrelenting and I’m so glad it is over. We’ve had the daffodils, the irises are blooming and soon there will be peonies.

 
Thanks for stopping by!

 
(These are my Creekside Reflections; your experiences may vary.)

Pavlov’s got nothing on Samsung

So, I tend to be close-lipped on some things, a blabbermouth about others, right? I’m now confessing that we got rid of our landline–and our abusive relationship with AT&T–over a month ago. Of course, there’s still a little back and forth slapping going on with AT&T, but my blowup on Twitter did get me some satisfaction in that regard. Supposedly, the bill we shouldn’t have gotten in the first place–let alone with a late fee–has been taken care of, but I have a whole month to wait to see it in print.

Our semi-smart phone takes great pictures and since we got the case and touch screen stylus, I can type longer texts. The other good thing is that I can check my Gmail account without having to go upstairs, turn on the tower, and check a bunch of other pages like Duotrope, Twitter, and Facebook. The bad part is that now the semi-smart phone chirps whenever an email arrives. I’ve turned into a puppet for that sound. I tense up and feel the need to rush over and check what was sent. I’m learning–slowly–that most of my “mail” is actually Facebook group updates and not worthy of my immediate attention. Of course, as soon as I typed that, an actual important email did arrive…

I’m signed up for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Just before I fell asleep last night, I found the “key” that was missing from the-new-piece-that-I-still-don’t-have-a-name-for. Looking at it again this morning, I felt stupid for not seeing the answer before since it is so obvious. Regardless, I think I’ve got it and look forward to writing it soon.

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Besides the melting snow, I have pansies and impatiens sprouting as well as deer coming too close to the house. My list of people I owe letters to has been reduced. I finished reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I’m a quarter of the way through Thom Jones’ The Pugilist at Rest and half-way through Paulo Coelho’s Brida, which gets me closer to catching up to my goal of reading a book a week…but the idea of reviewing them, well, that has fallen to the wayside for now.

 

 

 

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I truly love the problems I have.

Thank you for stopping by! One of you lucky readers should be on the lookout for a small care package that I sent out Tuesday as a random act of kindness. Will it be you? By the way, these are my creek side reflections; your experiences may vary.

Thin blood, tough skin

Husband’s birthday was Sunday and we went to see “Boyhood.” Beautiful film. When we were leaving, my jaw felt strange. We went to Red Robin to meet Stepson and his Girlfriend for dinner. Girlfriend told the waitress about the birthday so the staff came over and sang to Husband. He was not happy, but everyone else thought it was funny.

My jaw felt worse and I started a fever—you know, the usual toothache fun. The dental service we have to use—with its claim that it has 24/7 emergency appointments—couldn’t see me until Thursday, or Saturday, so I called my old dentist.

Michael Ehlers, at Western New York Dental, is the absolute best. He got me in the next morning, took an x-ray, gave me a prescription for antibiotics AND didn’t charge me full price or for an emergency visit. How awesome is that? He suspects the same thing I do–that a piece of something bothered the gum line and it got infected, but with the brushing, flossing, and aspirin popping I was doing, the infection was going away on its own. If I hadn’t bothered to make an appointment, it would have been an abscessed tooth and I would have died from blood poisoning—that’s just the way things go.

I’m much better now.

During the waiting room stretch, I read most of Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist.” It’s a fantastic book. I told her on Twitter then took it down because I’m a wuss. I put a short review on Goodreads (must everything you do on there go directly to Facebook? I don’t like that—if you know how to stop that nonsense, let me know.)

Speaking of things I don’t like–I have Microsoft Word and somehow I saved a file, which now comes up instead of a blank page when I open the program. Any other computer in the world would let me clear it and “Save as Template” or some such. Not this one. If you know the secret on how to restore the default, please email me at TLSherwood01@gmail.com It’s starting to tick me off.

I hate asking, as I try to be as self-sufficient as possible, but that’s just a messed up image in my head that isn’t remotely true. I do need people. I guess that’s not the worst thing in the world.

September is coming up with the grand opening of the University Publications. I’m already tired and I haven’t written a cover letter. This summer I wrote a few good new pieces during the lulls of the novel rewriting process; we’ll see how those do. I could write more in this post, but I’m working on line edits and I should get my plan of attack ready for the submission season and toughen my skin for rejections. Well, that’s easier said than done with aspirin thinned blood and antibiotics ricocheting through me, isn’t it? Luckily, it could be much worse and I’m glad it is not.

 

~And there you have my Creekside Reflections. Your observations may vary.