Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Even standing in the crawl space of what will be my office is enough to inspire me

foundations for a writing office
I've been tweeting about the lovely little getaway house my husband and I have been building for the last three months. I am pleased it's coming along, but what I really care about and am excited about is my office.  Sure the house is going to have bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, two baths, but I am going to have my own office, and that is what's important.  The room is about 10x9 at the back of the house off the kitchen and dining room, but it's an open floor plan, so I can look into the living room if I want or close the door.

I wouldn't care if it was 6x6.  It is my space and will contain my things and has a door.  It is the only room in the house I will not have to consult or agree with my husband about if I don't want to.  I have a few ideas.

  • A desk ~ probably my current old oak desk, though my husband talks of replacing it.  I don't mind it.  The desk doesn't write, I do.
  • My desk will be right in front of the window with the amazing view of the lake through the trees.
  • One whole wall will be blank, though in the plans it shows a window.  My room ~ no window needed on that wall.  We're talking 10x9 here.  What do I need with three windows?  Two are fine.  That wall is my story organizer whether I use sticky notes or a white board or printed sheets of paper taped together.  It will make it possible for me to see and alter the arc of each of my stories.
  • Behind me is a storage cabinet running wall to wall, hopefully built in with a counter for the printer, shelving above and cabinet doors below.  
  • To the right is the wall with the door as tight to the cabinet wall as I can make it.  So there will be a small wall immediately to my right when I am at the desk.  Pictures, plagues and such will go there.  I can start with all those diplomas I have so it does not begin blank.  I'll shift them out as I go.  Somewhere in this lot will sit a file cabinet.  We actually own three cabinets but only one is dedicated to my writing.  The other two can go begging for space elsewhere.  Files not writing related will not be welcome.
So we have been building.  My husband is a do-it-yourselfer, and this includes my having very little to do with the placement of building materials in the form of a house.  I hold a nail in place, and he carefully avoids hitting my fingers with the hammer.  I locate the hammer when he misplaces it.  And a lot of the time I sit in a chair with my Kindle reading.  But I sit in my office, okay, for precision here, I sit beneath my office in the crawl space as the decking for the floor is not in yet.  Still, I cannot explain the absolute peace and satisfaction I feel sitting in the space, my space, my office-to-be.

When I am not sitting and reading or holding a nail, I stare off at that view, my elbows balanced on the ledgerboard mounted on the stem wall.  I am usually standing rather precariously on some concrete overflow from the stem wall pour as I am not quite tall enough to look out without the added inches it gives me.  But as I stand there, the book I am writing comes to me in splashes of scenes and dialogue.  I keep running them through my mind adding imagery, direction, character details. 

My office is already useful, already generating ideas.  Just standing in it is enough to make me want to write.  What will a floor bring?  Walls, a door, my chair at my desk?  So much to imagine and look forward to.

If you can design your office, what would it be like.  Is it just a little space of your own or a full blown library?  Does that desk need to be something special or is any flat space your computer or writing pad can lay enough? Will a window add or detract from your island muse?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Twitter Blog Hopping with some fine friends

The writer says

E.M. Wynter has invited me to take part in another blog hop.  We met on Twitter when our voids collided one day.  I have invited my Twitter/Google+/Facebook friends L.A. Hilden and Madeleine Masterson to join us.  E.M. has supplied us with another set of questions.  They were a bit tougher to answer this time.

1) If you could achieve anything with your writing in 2014, what would it be?
Anything?!  That is easy:  find more readers who love Brent, Miranda, Misty, Mick, Emily, Qui, Jove, Ondine, Victory, Vivian, Braden, Ismar and Lumin as much as I do. 

2) What are the top 3 demons you must slay to achieve your goals in 2014?
The demon of disorganized action:   

  • I must reorganize my time so my husband knows how much I love and appreciate him.   
  • I must reorganize my time so these last years I have with my daughter at home will be remember and cherished by us both.  
  • I must reorganize my time so I am the best teacher I can possibly be for my students.  
  • I must reorganize my time so I can publish book 3 in the Students of Jump series by June 2014 and fully draft book 4 by mid-August 2014.   
  • I must love, be present, teach and write more.

The demon of uncertainty: I must believe in myself.  I must plan for success and encourage myself to always take the next step forward so I can continue to grow as a writer and promote my books to new readers.  One thing is certain: Time will pass whether I am doing what I love or not.

The demon of the full-time job:  This is the one there is little I can do to change.  So I must do my job in all the best ways I can.  Then for this other side of me, the writer, I will draft, redraft, tweet, post, edit, re-edit, edit again, publish, post, tweet, repeat as often as I can.

3) Name 3 things that inspire you to write.  
Activity or inactivity: Either I jog for 20 minutes on the treadmill or meditate for 20 minutes. One or the other will generate ideas to expand scenes, work out a plot glitch or meet a new character. 
Showers: I do my best thinking in the shower.  I can put all my thought toward a scene that is not meshing well. 
Internet research: I will type into the search field in Dogpile a topic of interest and keep reading article after article.  At some point, I must stop taking in and start writing it out.

4) What advice do you have for a new writer who is considering writing fiction? 
I agree with so much of what is already said by those with more experience than I have.  But here are my recommendations:  Read a variety of genres, though focus in the area you plan to write in, and read a lot.  Think about and analyze form, style, diction, characterization, etc., in what you read.  Get feedback on everything you write and consider all comments (positive and negative) as an opportunity for growth and development as a writer.  Be a lifelong learner and an observer of people. Those two things will promote strong writing, especially in character development, and round out the knowledge base you are working from.  Of course, the most important is simply to write.


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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Put on another record and dance

Put on a record.
I was dropping in on my various social medias and stopped long enough to check my email and get caught up.  I saw a newsletter post Molly Green had made a couple weeks back about being your own support, cheerleader, life fixer because we lose those that do that for us over time, and sometimes, as Molly said, our friends cannot be there with those wise words to set us gaily on our way again every time.  She started it off talking about her dad which I could tell was hard for her.

In the process of reading her post, I remembered a day my father and I were chatting on the phone.  I was feeling down about not being able to have children.  So many years had gone by, and I had reached the point when life didn't seem to have room for children any more.  I was sad that I had accepted and moved on.  He said, "Put on another record and dance."  Molly's "Buy your own roses" and my father's long ago advice seemed tied together, saying the same thing.  You have to pick yourself up and get along in life under your own power. 

I returned to school, picked up my bachelors degree and then my masters (carried a full-term pregnancy the last year!).  I just kept putting on another record and dancing my sorrow out and my journey in.  Some records play for quite awhile, some get changed so swiftly the tune doesn't even get a chance to settle into my heart's rhythm. 

It's been nine years since my dad died.  Losing him was one of the worst events in my life.  For some odd reason he called all his children the day before he died.  I was the one that wasn't home that day and missed the call.  But he had taught me how to stand on my own feet, dance on them when I thought I had lost the beat not just from those words he had given me but also through example. So no "Play it again, Sam" moments when the worst has come. 

Thank you, Molly, for reminding me of a day almost twenty years ago on today of all days: Father's day.  I thought I would not be able to visit with him today, but that was not the case.  Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Terraforming a world with shell technology

Live in a dome; artistic flare w/off-Earth life
I love this idea: terraforming with a shell or dome to hold the atmosphere in and generate heat.  That makes use of local planets like Mars, Venus, and various moons as liveable space very doable.

Miriam Kramer's article "Incredible Technology: How to Use a 'Shell' to Terraform a Planet" on went into much of the details of the practice.  What I find most intriguing was the independence it gave to expanding off Earth.  If we are limited to earth-like planets, than movement off earth will be quite some ways off.  But if we can terraform the moon, Mars, Titus, we have considerably limited the time spent in space and the amount of preparation or technology needed to make such an expedition and colonization.

As Kramer points out, the need for atmospheric supplies and related resources needed to terraform a planet is considerably reduced when a shell is used.  Certainly, we would have to find ways to generate breathable air on site and soil fit to grow food stock, but waiting for a planet to be modified en mass is both excessively time consuming and considerably demanding of resources that would have to be supplied by Earth.

The plausibility of terraforming through the use of shell technology is a great setting for science fiction stories.  It has been used by Heinlein, Clark, Robinson and others.  I can imagine there would be numerous variables to a story just based on selecting a site followed by beginning the process.  Other issues would crop up if this was the first application of the process.  Of course, there would be mistakes, learning opportunities, sabotage or poor management, etc., the list goes on.  There is certainly plenty of resources online to understand the process thoroughly enough to use it correctly in a story.

I believe Niven used a Dyson Sphere in his Ring World series.  Heinlein used domes in several of his novels and short stories set on the moon (Number of the Beast, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Red Planet), Mars and Venus.

What specific novels and short stories do you remember that made use of this technology?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Learning from the masters series: Ernest Hemingway carries theme

Let's face it, Ernest Hemingway does everything right, so I could focus on a variety of qualities in his writing and gain insight.  But for the purpose of this post, I am giving my attention to his use of theme, so I am turning to the high school standard read The Old Man and the Sea.

Loyalty, respect, not giving up, creating one's own luck, appreciation for life: these are all themes that apply to this book. 

These themes appear in the relationship between the boy and old Santiago.  Their reliance on each other is exemplified in the way they play out the fiction of their hopes versus the conditions of their reality.

"What do you have to eat?" the boy asked.
"A pot of yellow rice with fish. Do you want some?"
"No.  I will eat at home.  Do you want me to make the fire?"
"No.  I will make it later on.  Or I may eat the rice cold."
"May I take the cast net?"
"Of course."
There was no cast net and the boy remembered when they had sold it. But they went through this fiction every day. There was no pot of yellow rice and fish and the boy knew this too.

There is loyalty and respect in this exchange, but it also is imbued with not giving up.  The boy does not see the man as not facing the truth.  He sees that the old man will not approach life with a view that there is only poverty to discuss.  He will act as if all is as it should be because it will soon be so even if it does not appear to be likely.

The boy brings the old man food and wakes him up to eat.  And the old man questions him about where the food comes from.  He then asks the boy if they should eat.

"I have been asking you to," the boy told him gently.  "I have not wished to open the container until  you were ready."
"I am ready now," the old man said.  "I only needed time to wash."
Where did you wash? the boy thought.  The village water supply was two streets down the road.  I must have water here for him, the boy thought, and soap and a good towel.  Why am I so thoughtless?  I must get him another shirt and a jacket for the winter and some sort of shoes and another blanket.

In these two examples, the love the boy has for the old man is clear, and the depth of his loyalty to him is shown in the boy's effort to see that he eats and the remorse the boy feels for not providing better for him.  The fisherman was his teacher and mentor, and though now he cannot fish with him because the old man's luck is not good, the boy has not let go of the respect he feels for him and the obligation that comes with having received training that will allow him to make his own luck in the harsh fishing life the two lead.

Hemingway followed a natural path of behavior for these two characters and by staying tight to the simplicity of their honest relationship, he cast hope in what was hopeless.  It had been 84 days since the old man had caught a fish.  Strength, the help of the boy, respect from many of the villagers and the chance of catching any fish were falling away.  There was no great hope that he would break his streak of bad luck, and over the run of the story that lack of chance follows the arc from bad to worse because in the moment of triumph there is also a longer run of defeat.  Yet by the end of the story, the reader is still left with the hope the old man and boy have sustained.

Santiago loses his great fish, but he never loses the boy, the boy's respect nor his loyalty.  In the village, there is more respect for him though he returns with little to show for all his effort.  Hemingway built a deep, reliable underpinning through the relationship between the boy and the old man.  Through characterization he supported multiple themes and left the reader somber but hopeful in the way the old man was always hopeful because it may not appear that all will be well but it will soon be.  That is the only view the boy will allow: "You must get well fast for there is much that I can learn and you can teach me everything."