Mood, Weather, and Technology

Hello All, I’m baaaaccckkk…

I know, I went missing for a bit there…that’s because I was busy packing up my life and moving to new digs while breaking in a new day job. The older I get, the longer it takes for me to unpack and get the rhythm of my life in order, including my writing (this blog, my novels, etc.). Here in NorCal we’ve been hit with a deluge of rain over the past six weeks (I’ve actually lost count as to how long this has been going on) and I am showing signs of wear. This much rain reminds me of Seattle; I lived near there for about five months many years ago but left because the weather was depressing and so was I from a lack of vitamin D. I don’t know about you, readers, but weather – especially consistent torrents of rain – quashes my ability to express myself in any uplifting way. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve yet to get internet in my new home, has made for the only dry season around here. So I am in both an emotional and technological desert, brought on by relocation and mood-deflating weather. What’s a writer to do?

Tomorrow is a day off from work and a state holiday. Since most businesses are closed, I plan to work on my novel (the sequel to Rescue on White Thunder), see if I can get any closer to resolving the main issue: the darn thing is too short. I’ve got to stretch it out, perhaps a sub-story, to make it at least as long as the first novel. I’ve had writer’s block on that subject for over a year. The upside is that the weather is supposed to be pretty stormy, meaning I’m staying in for the day. I have some movies to watch (no cable at the moment either, but I do have my DVD player); hopefully I’ll spend the morning and part of the afternoon writing before vegging in front of the movie screen.

I have to admit I haven’t missed the internet all that much. Nice to come home and not worry about checking emails (which I can do from my phone), updating the new residential address, or checking in with the latest round of idiocy from our new Il Presidente. My home is definitely more quiet and I admit I’m in no hurry to busy it up again. Except with some good writing…which I will endeavor to accomplish, in spite of the mood, weather, and technology issues.

 

Research: The Monster Over My Shoulder

I finally got some writing “juice” this past week and worked on a fiction novel that’s been sitting untouched on my computer for some time. While adding pages to the second chapter, I realized that certain pieces of information were beyond my grasp until I did some research on the subject at hand. Then I stopped writing.

Research – it’s a lurking monster for me, since I tend to procrastinate until the end of the book to begin the necessary research, filling in the many [bracketed words/phrases/ideas] peppered throughout the story. It’s where pertinent pieces of information need to be inserted – like details on the type of plane used in an aerial shooting, embezzling schemes and how they work (or fall apart), or researching the appropriate lingo used to describe a fire scene. The brackets are notes to myself to go back and finish that thought, get more information on that process, or add a character description. I complete an idea or part of the story best I can, add some brackets where more information/detail is needed, and move on. Most of the time.

Granted, the Internet makes research much easier and more accessible, on most topics. There are, however, still some areas of expertise best shared by experts in that field (for example, the type of plane used in an aerial shooting scene, how it flies, the gears, size of the engine, etc.). This is where I get lazy and it’s probably why some parts of my fiction works could use a little “lift” from more detailed descriptions.

How do you approach research? Do you research as you write? Do you begin your research before you start the story? Do you hire an intern? (Nice to be able to afford that option!) Let us know!

Part of it is I have a bad habit of convincing myself that the experts won’t talk to me, because my work hasn’t made it to the NY Times Bestseller List. I have to get out of my own way and learn to approach the research with as much gusto as I do the rest of the story.

After all, the devil is in the details, eh?

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

Writers: Do You Podcast?

Are you a writer? Do you podcast? Have you been considering doing a podcast? Have you considered doing a podcast on your writing? I could go on with these questions. For some time now, I’ve been considering doing a podcast. But every time I look into it, I become overwhelmed by all the technical aspects (due to the fact that I’m NOT the least bit tech-savvy). The whole process of putting together (producing) a podcast, uploading the podcast to a hosting site, making it available to Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), learning Audacity or Garageband (Macs only)…gives me the willies. I’ve been told more than once I should be speaking to audiences and I admit I feel very comfortable talking into a mic (I’ve recorded before). But the thought of me having to do ALL of it without a producer or at least a friend with some broadcasting know-how seems a hurdle too huge to jump at the moment. But the urge grows within me.

Currently, an average of 1 BILLION (that’s right) people listen to podcasts, and roughly 47% of Americans listen to radio, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital statistics. Think about it; we have the whole world at our disposal if we can find the right stories to tell, find the right niche to fill. That’s the tricky part, I imagine. With millions already podcasting out there (and the numbers grow each year), how to not be the veritable needle in the haystack with your message? I suppose it all goes back to the same process we go through with our writing and the marketing of our books/work.

So I Googled podcasting sites and a here’s a short list of some good ones: Podbean, Libsyn (I personally like this one), Buzzsprout (like this one, too), Podomatic, Sound Cloud, Conclusion, and Archive.Org. Podbean wants $200 per month to let you monetize your podcast (in other words, ask for a ‘donation’ so you can afford to keep producing shows); that seems a bit steep for my taste so I’m looking elsewhere for an affordable option.

Buzzsprout has a page, How to Make a Podcast, where they literally walk you through every step of putting together a podcast and it’s jam-packed with good information. For writers unsure of which topics to cover in their podcasts, here are two of several suggestions from the same page:

  • Repurpose Your Blog Content Are you a blogger? Finding a great podcast ideas is as close as your blog. Take your readers’ favorite posts, add extra content, and *presto* it’s a podcast. Bonus: you’ve already tested this content and know it matches your demographic’s interests.

  • Recreate Popular Content With Your Spin Even if you don’t have a blog, you can use a similar strategy. What is your target audience reading and listening to? Improve it! See lots of complaints on popular posts? Create a podcast that provides the missing pieces.

This is the year I think I will make the leap from writing blogs on writing (and other topics) to recording podcasts discussing a variety of topics (social, environmental, and economic issues) that will hopefully cause folks to think more critically. I miss dialectic and want to create a podcast where I invite intelligent discussion, discourse, and argument. And in the process, perhaps, create a small revolution (change) in the way we perceive this world and our places in it. 

Remember:

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius. And it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Unknown

A Writer At a Loss for Words?

I haven’t written anything this past week – I’ve been at a loss for words. I got sidetracked by a personal incident. Early last week, my car was vandalized while on my morning hike. Evidently I had not hidden my bag (containing wallet, phone, etc.) behind the grocery bags as well as I’d thought; thieves threw a large rock through my car window and took my life. I’ve spent the last seven days trying to protect my identity from further damage. Only time will tell if I’m to be lucky.

When I had to fill out the Missing Property Report for police, I realized how little attention I’ve paid to the “little things” in my life – like what exactly was in that bag. It struck me that I (and probably many of you) go about each day in a certain state of blissful ignorance about some of the little details in life. Details deemed unimportant until they need to be recorded on a Missing Property Report and given a value that isn’t sentimental, like the worn leather key ring embossed with a silver Indian headdress  – bought at a small craft fair while on a motorcycle ride with a good friend, about twenty years ago. Gone. Or the pen I’d purchased on a trip to Curacao, covered in red leather and carved with a picture of their famous swinging bridge. Gone. Or the new spring green note pad for taking notes while on the road so I’d remember to do whatever needed doing when I got home. Gone.

I want my key ring back. And I really miss that pen. And damned if I can remember what I wrote in that notepad, to remember to do when I got home.

Turns out cell phone technology has its drawbacks, too. WhatsApp doesn’t transfer your contacts to a new number. So all of my international friends who did not supply me with their emails? Gone. And my contacts list of phone numbers? That’s gone, too, (or so I thought) because I had to change the number but luckily found a backup of contacts in my Lookout app – which doesn’t transfer contacts to a new number. I had to add them each manually. All two hundred of them. Notepad? All my mileage and book promo expenses from the last four months were on there and that doesn’t transfer either. Like the Six Million Dollar Man, I, too, will have to re-build (and if I could run like the Six Million Dollar Man, I would’ve caught the buggers as they sped away from the scene).

I’m actually taking this all in stride. I’m a little surprised that I have not had some sort of mental breakdown over it, though I admit I was tempted to let myself fall apart. No, I decided to forge ahead with renewed resilience, determined to find the thieves who tried to take my life from me (not that it’s much of one and I wouldn’t wish it on another person – except for maybe the idiot thieves who stole it from me, maybe they could do better with it).

So I’m thinking the lessons here are: 1) don’t bring my bag/purse with me in the car when I go on a morning hike (now I stick my new, smaller wallet in my fanny pack and take it with me), 2) live a smaller life with less tech-y toys and apps, and/or 3) let go of the past. Cherish the here and now, cherish what family and/or friends you gather around you (especially during a trying time as this), and keep cherished items OUT OF YOUR BAG/PURSE.

Hmmm….not at such a loss for words as I thought…wink emoji