Saturday, April 25, 2015

PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Transcendent

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent. I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released in the beginning of May. :)

Oh, I have been waiting to write this post.  PLUMB CRAZY was a unparalleled experience for me. The things I learned are difficult to describe and that's why I call this part of the journey transcendent. These things are mystical, divine, and beyond all of my human experience. 

The first thing is about knowing your main character.Yes, I did the charts, the character surveys, the letters from the character, the picture studies, the personality tests, all kinds of stuff. All of it was necessary but not the most needful thing. The most needful thing was to give Elva Presley leeway. I let go of what I expected her to do, and you know what, she surprised me. She fought with me me. She told me things about life that astounded me. She was her own person. The process of giving her the lead was a little like pulling bricks out of a wall until the whole thing tumbled down. I found out what it means to follow a free spirit while writing this book. I think my spirit is freer because of it. 

The next thing has to do with pacing. Me, I want to write chapters about how to set a plumbing fixture and how much it makes your shoulders hurt when you work so hard. Pages and pages of that. I wanted to weave a plumbing manual into my book.  Yes, I had to cut a few chapters. I might post one on the Cece Barlow blog so you can groan with me. What a waste of writing time. "The devil is in the details, but so is salvation." Admiral Hyman Rickover said this and had something there. I found my best book by clinging to the details that move the story forward and letting go of the rest of it. 

The last thing that came to me because of PLUMB CRAZY has no name. It's something about the great meaning in friendships, the quirkiness of love, and the unusual gifts that life presents us with when we are not expecting them. Perhaps we find the best things off the beaten path. Do you know what it feels like when you end up lost somewhere and then stumble onto something that you would not have sought in a million years, but it is just the thing you need? PLUMB CRAZY gave me that. It was unexpected. It was out of mainstream. It was transcendent. This thing wrapped around my heart, my mind, my soul, I am so blessed because of it. I hope PLUMB CRAZY does the same for you. 

Well that is the end of this PLUMB CRAZY Journey series. I hope it spoke to you. Next week, I will beginning my blooming series. All about how to make your stories bloom. I am excited.

Here is a doodle: "Flowers"



My quote for today is followed by a rare and short political rant from me. Something has been bothering me. 

I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants - those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age. Our greatest responsibility, as parents and as citizens, is to give America's youngsters the best possible education. We need the best teachers and enough of them to prepare our young people for a future immeasurably more complex than the present, and calling for ever larger numbers of competent and highly trained men and women.  Admiral Hyman Rickover

My RANT: We don't need standardized testing. We will encourage teachers to be accountable by giving them generous pay and favorable working conditions. Burying them in regulations and paper work is offering a future of mediocrity to our kids. Not one test has ever made a difference in my kids' lives. Teachers make differences in my kids lives -- Mr. Chapman, Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Westberg, Mr. D. Mrs. Palmer...to name a few. The culture of the negative needs to stopped. Let's offer kids glorious, eye-opening knowledge, opportunities to apply that knowledge, and finally an instilled habit of  decisions made on VERIFIED facts and logical thinking. Let's give teachers the reins of the future and not bureaucrats. We are the captains of our fate. We are masters of our destiny. Will we stop this educational madness and pave the way for a future with a sure foundation? 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Ugly

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent. I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

I chatted last week about the BAD of writing PLUMB CRAZY, this week I'm going touch on the UGLY. No one want unpleasantness. No one. First I want to admit, writing PLUMB CRAZY was no chore. I loved it. I laughed so hard while writing it, I fell off the couch a few times. It was a joyous journey for me, but there were a few ugly moments.

First up, I love to prose on about the joys of plumbing. You may thank my critique group partners that my book is not  weighed downed with LENGTHY descriptions of how to bust out concrete with a jack hammer and the minute details of measuring lengths of pipe. Cutting my darlings was UNPLEASANT! Like any pruning experience in writing it hurts at first but then it is all good.  

Next, never start a story with a sunrise, unless that sun is about to go supernova.  You must be a seasoned writer with many awards to start with a sunrise (cough, Noman by William Nicholson) or a dark and stormy night (cough, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle). Believe me these writers got away with it; they didn't improve their stories with their choices. So, yes, PLUMB CRAZY began with a sunrise until I so got over it. Too many readers snoozing for the first five minutes. Start as close to something happen as you can.  Avoid the so-so, mundane, average start.  

Last of all, did you know readers like to know what your character is thinking? I am so close to my character Elva Presley Hicks that I feel like she may be one of my kids. So, this turned out to be some ugly stuff in early drafts of my book. Readers wanted to know what she was thinking. Um, did you know readers are NOT mind readers? It turned out that I wanted to protect Elva.  This is a human reaction but it is ugly in fiction. Making Elva vulnerable was an UNCOMFORTABLE experience.  I could NOT keep her safe. Remember that when you write: Don't do the safe thing. 

Next week I will dip into the transcendent of writing PLUMB CRAZY. I hope that you will come back. 

Here is a doodle: 


Here is a quote for your pocket: 

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
― Dorothy Parker

Saturday, April 11, 2015

PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Bad

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent.  I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

This week I'm focusing on the the bad. That right! THE BAD! Every third person you meet ( not a scientifically proven fact but a personal observation) wants to write a novel.  They also want to spend between fifteen minutes to an hour explaining that novel to you at every event you attend.  Then they may suggest that you write it for them, for free of course, since you are a writer and basically have nothing to do. Writing a novel comes with the bad bonus that very few people respect your work. Anyone can write a book. If you are a children's writer, you work for peanuts, and that's if you're lucky. Don't expect applause.

Writing a novel is no fun. Bad, bad, stuff. You sit in a chair. My sciatica is terrible. You stare at a blank page, then you write entire chapters that are totally worthless. The next day you repeat this experience. For me, I will repeat this experience 5 days a week for at least 8 months to reach Draft Number One! That draft has more holes than pumice. There will be many many drafts. I work hard. I spend months refining my work. Hours at critique group, hours reading support books, hours rewriting scenes and upping the stakes in anyway I can.  There is monotony in this work. No one  tells you when you are done. No one tells you when you should just drop this novel and work on something else. There is no way to know if anyone will ever read what you writing. And yet you write anyway.

I don't write novels in a vacuum. Novels are written in the real world. It can be very bad. I wish it were all about drinking cups of tea. I wish it were all about sitting in a beautiful spot and considering my imaginary world. It is not about that. It is about writing in a corner of a hospital waiting room. It's in the middle of a day job that is about a mindless as it gets. It's not just exterior stuff that will get you down. It's about writing yourself into a corner that there is no way out of and you have to scrap the whole draft and work on something else. It's about receiving tons of rejections and still pushing forward. It's about hoping against hope.  No easy road, folks..

I hope that you are kind to yourself this week. I get it. We all are facing battles. No work comes easy to any of us. We have to pour our our souls sometimes to find our way.

I hope this doodle makes you smile.  Yes, good work comes out of a lovely blobby brown mess.



Because sometimes you have to do something bad to do something good. Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 04, 2015

PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent.  I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

This week I'm focusing on the good of writing my book PLUMB CRAZY. It was the fifth novel I've written (the other 4 are unpublished) and it is the closest to my real, every day life. There is much good that wraps into a book like this. Here are some of the layers.

One layer of good comes from basing a book in a world close to my own. The setting was easy to visualize. You really know the space you are working in. I know what it feels like to drag in after a seventeen hour day, my hands bleeding and back aching, even though I'm just a girl of seventeen. I know the heat of Texas and understand it is actually a character on the stage in this part of the world. I know how a drill feels when it jams and then beats against my fingers. This knowledge of setting saved some research hours, added authenticity, and gave this writer needed confidence.

Another layer of good that comes from basing a book on a world close to my own is all about mining memories.  I mean we all have gold in our hilly pasts or even mountainous pasts. It was good to reexamine my younger days from the perspective of adulthood. I see things differently now than I did then. The Dragons that roared at me as teen seem like puny lizards now. My drama feels bland.  I also see strengths in myself that I didn't realize at the time. I found myself celebrating who I am. Any journey that causes that is a good one.

The last layer of good that I'm going discuss (but by no means the only good I found) is all about the redo. Fiction is not exactly life. Life isn't always interesting. It doesn't always make sense.  Good doesn't always triumph in real life. Writing a story gives you the freedom of what if.  I found that writing PLUMB CRAZY reopened a few old wounds but then allowed them to really heal. Writing from the heart of my life helped me appreciate who I am. This is such a good thing. You might try it.

I hope you come back next week for more of the PLUMB CRAZY journey. I'm glad you dropped by. Happy creating.

It's Easter. Here's a whimsy doodle for you: Superhero egg designs.




Put this in your back pocket and bring it often.

CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.


Walt Whitman

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lucky March: The essentials of luck

Hi, folks, this is the last in my Lucky March series. I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.

Today I'm going to talk about the essentials of luck. Ah, who doesn't want to be lucky. Keep that four leaf clover, that lucky baseball card, and that favorite number, but be aware that there is no magic amulet, no handy spell or any lucky charm that will work.

 However, there are four essentials that will help luck find you. Here they are:

Discover Opportunities -- This is about finding favorable circumstances. It's tough to find alligators in the desert.  To discover opportunities you have to find or create an environment that is favorable for them. Think about where your opportunities thrive then head over or terraform where you are.

Heed Intuition -- Intuition is the ability to know something with out conscious reasoning. This ability comes from making many tries.  This repetition imbues you with knowledge that will support you in future events. Follow your feelings, Luke.

Foster Expectations -- This is all about belief.  In spite of what you have seen, keep believing. This is the pathway to success. Reach out to people who cherish your dreams, Let go of the rest. Those lucky charms? Put them in your pocket. Whatever gives you  expectation, cling to that.

Nurture Resilience. -- The journey to intuition is fraught with missteps and failure. Flexibility in dreams, hopes, and plans is a big piece of the resilience pie. Dusting yourself off when you fall is a huge part of moving forward. Durability and elasticity are gained  by being willing to try again and again.

I hope you seek the essentials of luck. I hope loads of luck finds you! Next week, I will begin a series about my PLUMB CRAZY writing journey. Maybe my steps will encourage yours!

Here is a doodle! Make a wish!


A quote for your pocket

Diligence is the mother of good luck.  Benjamin Franklin