Change of scene

 Today, I am writing at the library in downtown Oklahoma City. It was my son’s idea. He is an avid writer, who wanted a change of scene. Our downtown library is a lovely building. It is full of clean summer sunlight without the heat of outdoors. Whoever designed the building created glass which only allows in cool comforting light in soothing blue tones. The ceiling is a giant skylight. Walls are nearly all glass on the north, east, and west sides. Rooms of various sizes line the walls. Opaque partitions lie perpendicular to the outside walls while light streams through glass panels parallel to the outside walls letting in more light. The rooms vary in size from small study cubicles to a large room designated “quiet reading space” in which comfortable chairs combine with large golden wood conference tables to invite readers to focus.

We are not in a room, but seated at a luxuriously large conference table kindly fitted with power ports. Wifi streams freely and fast to all patrons and their various devices. There is a busy hush to the open space on the second floor. Each floor is open to the other four floors.

The downstairs has a roomy children’s section, several service desks, fiction, teen area, a large atrium with a grand piano, and dozens of small tables and chairs, and some offices hidden behind opaque walls.

The second floor is slightly smaller than the first. The space above the atrium is open to the fourth floor letting in loads of cool light. I wonder what it is like in here when the piano is in use. There are a large number of tables with computers, some are for library catalog searches while others are for use by patrons who need general computer access including the web.

The second floor is non-fiction. One whole section is for materials related to the Holocaust against the Jewish people by the German Nazis during the second world war. Along the south wall is a set of three microfiche/microfilm readers. This is very exciting. I had no idea they were still in use. I wonder what kind of films they still keep in this format.

Sitting here working, the physical environment fades away into the busy hush of people going about their business. I hear the soft sound of a hard working janitor using a straw broom to sweep off the texture tile stairs. I don’t know if that is a way of reducing noise or the best way to clean, but her rhythmic sweeping is soothing.

For some visitor information–

http://www.mls.lib.ok.us/downtown-library

Arts District Parking Garage Main & Colcord

Arts District Parking Garage Main & Colcord

http://parkingokc.com/arts-district Bring your parking ticket from this garage to the front desk of the downtown library for a $1 off voucher.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/153540.The_Little_House

dsc01064

On our short walk from the Arts District Garage to the Downtown Library, we saw this tiny structure which reminded us of a children’s book, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.tlh

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My kind of SciFi

I like scifi in the old fashioned tradition of Isaac Asimov. I Robot is good storytelling, which happens to take place in a futuristic world. That is my goal: tell a good story that is set in the futuristic world of my own creation.

After years of consuming truly excellent scifi on tv, movies and books, we all want a truly believable world. The story has to make sense within its own framework and within the laws of the natural world (unless the author can alter them).

I am striving to build a world in which interesting characters can tell us a story. The universe of my story has to work. The timeline must reconcile with logic. The geography has to not only work, but be accessible to intelligent readers. Characters must behave according to the parameters set out by the story. Even the science and math must be accurate.

Now, that’s intimidating. And I need to get back to writing.

What scifi do you love that is also good storytelling?

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Meeting my characters

Working on my first novel is living a mystery as it unfolds. Who? What? Where? How many pages until I find out?

Recently, I narrowed it down to one piece of work, and it took me some time to put away the other stories percolating in my head. Now, I am settled in to my scifi galactic empire story, and loving it.

I am meeting the characters now. They are fascinating, and I love them already.

I created Solon yesterday, the elected leader of the Zenodoran clan. He has some deep sadness in him, but keeps it hidden well. I don’t know if he will be a good guy or not, but I like his smile.

Also written into the world this week: another clan leader, some family members, and a beloved cousin. I am afraid it won’t end well for everyone when the dark cloud creeps across the empire snuffing out worlds as it moves silently across the vastness of space.

 

 

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Worldbuilding Muse

The outline of my first novel had a beginning, several plot points in the middle, an end and some key characters. I had no idea how cool it would be to create the universe in which my novel will grow! After crafting the world of my novel, I know where each of the five clans is located, their resources, talents, and weaknesses. This is beyond fun.

I struggled with naming places and people until I defined each group more carefully. Knowing their origin story helps me to narrow the list of choices. I want each clan to have its own distinctive identity, including names. I’m not giving away any secrets, though. I wonder if you will be able to guess the origin of each clan when you read it.

At this point, I can’t the words on the paper fast enough! Whatever muse is whispering in my ear, please do not stop now!

 

 

 

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Wisdom from Hemingway

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Ernest Hemingway

Okay, I’ll admit it–if I am going to pick a book to read, it probably won’t be Ernest Hemingway. I respect his work, and his wisdom. This quote speaks to me and soothes me when I cannot write as much as I would like. Life often gets in the way of writing. I am learning to designate those times as “filling my well” of creative energy.

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OWFI 2015, part 1

OWFI 2015

Confession time—I have registered, and paid, for the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc. Conference twice before, but I failed to attend even one session. This year, I showed up and attended. I attended 11 workshops over two days. I am glad that I gathered the courage to get out of my car and walk inside.

The OWFI team was welcoming and organized. The Embassy Suites did a great job hosting the meetings. The presenters were outstanding!

The sessions I chose to attend were in two categories: marketing and writing. I am a good writer, but inexperienced at actually selling my work. I am also a rusty writer.

Here is a first round of reviews from the sessions I attended.

I appreciated “Revising Like  a Professional” workshop presented by Maria Snyder. She is a college professor and author who brought a very helpful set of guidelines. It was concise and upbeat. I took away a strong sense of how streamline the editing process so that it gets out of the way of the creative action of the first draft.

“Self-Editing” was presented by Sara Henning. Sara is an editor and author who brought a wealth of practical expertise to the discussion of editing your own work. I found the discussion of consistency to the especially helpful. Much of grammar and usage can be stylistic. She affirmed that as long as you have a good reason and remain consistent, it is okay to make some stylistic choices.

“How to Hook Your Reader on Page one…and Keep Settling the Hook Deeper on Every Page Thereafter” was presented by Les Edgerton. I enjoyed his dissection of the film, “Thelma and Louise” for story structure. I found myself dissecting my own novel-in-progress in the margins of my notes as he illustrated some basic story structure terms in an aggressive analysis of the film: Inciting Incident, Crossroads, Story Problem, Magic Room, Backstory. While all of these terms should be familiar to even beginner writers, Edgerton’s experience and teaching instincts brought their immediate importance into sharp focus. Sadly, I missed his keynote presentation at the Author’s Ball Friday night. I heard that it was outstanding.

“World building From the Ground Up: What color is the sky in you mind?” was presented by Trisha Leigh. Leigh is a successful cross genre author with great marketing experience. She conducted an active discussion of the nitty gritty of world building even using excerpts to help highlight the importance of getting the details of story world right. She uses Scrivener to write, as do I, so I appreciated the way her organizational skills fit my writing style. I enjoyed Leigh’s input in this and other session during the conference. She has an engaging style of marketing which is intriguing to me.

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Research for Writing

Research for writing is one of my favorite things. I can sit at the computer for hours digging deeper and deeper into the knowledge on the web relating to any topic. What car would have been available in 1940? In what colors? Did the windows open? Was there a bucket seat or bench option? What does it look like along the road from one place to another? Weather on any date in modern history? I can do this all day.

When I was young, however, information was found exclusively in books and printed periodicals. My grandfather gave us updated sets of the World Book Encyclopedia throughout my childhood. There was always a hefty dictionary on our bookshelf, as well. I had the luxury of doing a certain amount of research at home. To look beyond the encyclopedia or dictionary, we had to go to either the school or public library to get an encyclopedia reference or use the reference section to find resources.

At some point, probably in mid-high, I learned to access information using microfiche and microfilm. I loved these machines. I would check out newspapers on microfilm. They came in little folders stored carefully in wide drawers in the back of the library. To find the exact newspaper on a certain date, you looked in an index books. There were dozens and dozens of indexes. You could search for a name, location, subject, or topic. Then, you requested the microfiche you needed. These resources were valuable, and well guarded by librarians.

Each slip of photographic film was printed with tiny images arranged in a grid. Each small rectangle was the page of a newspaper or periodical. The film was placed between panes of thick glass on a reader. The process was very satisfying, but slow. To retain a copy of the materials you needed, a copy had to be made. Usually, this cost a quarter. You had to be using a microfiche reader with a copier attached. I still remember the chemical smell of the warm paper as it came out of the machine.

Today’s access to the internet is a wonder to those of us who learned to do research old school style.

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Ramping up the Pace

In My Writing Life, I have struggled with progress. I love to write, need to write, and yet I struggle to make progress on a regular basis. I tend to write in binges. Those jags of writing have been scattered and unorganized. It has frustrated me for the past few months. I set goals but somehow never reach them.

Recently, I took time to inventory each project I have begun, note its progress, and status. Then, I recorded this information on a spreadsheet. It was immensely helpful to see each project, its status, if it had been submitted or published, and other descriptors. I am certain that this simple system will develop into a more complex tool over time. For now, it helps me to see what needs work and what is stagnated. There are several projects on the brink of completed. That informs my work flow for the next day, and lets me see progress. I also know that good push will get three more stories ready to be submitted for consideration.

 

I am a new writer, so I don’t have much going on in terms of submissions. I do have some submission which I track those using Duotrope. It is a solid resource that helps me to find places to submit my short stories and track the progress of each one. Duotrope has a huge database of information about publications and their policies. It has been a valuable learning tool for my writing life.

 

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The ring of iron keys…

***This is the beginning of a short story I am working on.***

I climbed out and stood leaning against the solid bulk of the car. My breath fogged in the chilly air when I finally walked up the short gravel path. I pulled the key ring from my pocket. It was heavy in my gloved hand. I walked up three worn, shallow cement steps, through the screen door, and across the porch. The old boards creaked under my boots. The wood was bare, and dried by years of harsh winters and dry summers. I wondered when it had last seen a coat of paint. Memories flooded through me, as I fisted the heavy iron ring of keys.

I was four years old. It was hot and dry. The keys were in my father’s big brown hand as he unlocked the door. As we walked from his truck, the gravel burned my feet through my thin soled sandals. I was hopping on the boards of the sudden coolness of the deeply shaded porch. There had been a thin coat of paint on the boards that afternoon. I remember feeling very hot, but oddly dry, not sweaty. When my father opened the door, he had to shove hard. The door gave way with a familiar creaking sound, and a woosh of stale air greeted us. I smelled dust, stale lemons, and something oily. 

Today, the iron ring was in my own hand. The ring was big, my hand fit entirely inside the ring, my fist covering only half the circumference. Half a dozen old keys dangled from the smooth metal. I put one homely key in the lock and worked until it opened. I had to shove but the door finally opened for me. I felt the rush of air as cold raced past me into the relative warmth of the house. Then I smelled it:  stale pledge, cold ashes, lamp oil, and dust. I took a deep breath of clear cool air and stepped inside.

The porch opened into the kitchen. It was neat and tidy but covered with a  fine layer of dust. I walked across the wide planked floor to the window above the sink. The window was only a little bit dusty and I could see the outline of mountains across the valley. I stood, wearing my coat and gloves, as I allowed the presence of the mountain to fill me.

The little house was heated by a wood stove in the den. I was pleased to see that there was a neat stack of kindling in a box on the brick hearth. The wood pile was outside the back door, three steps from the house in a neat brick rack. I unlocked the back door with a key from the iron ring and brought in an armload of wood. After lighting the fire, I brought another armload. It would take a few hours to warm the place properly.

I re-locked the back door. As the heavy metal door swung tightly shut, another flood of memories hit me like a blow to the gut, I had to put a hand on the door.

I was eight years old the winter that a mountain lion stalked the little house in the shadow of the mountain. My grandmother and I were alone. Grandpa and father were working for the railroad and they stayed at a boarding house in town. They visited a few times before the snows came. Each time, they brought provisions, and news. It was a week after thanksgiving when the snows blocked the road. We would not see them again until the thaw. 

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