The Birth of Victorine

The title of this post kinda sounds like a comic book origin story special. This guest post I was honored to share over on the gracious Carol Cram’s Art in Fiction website is not that, but it does tell where the idea for Victorine came from. Please take a read if you’re curious about my novel’s birth. (And her website is awesome sauce!)

In other news, I asked Santa Barry for a stuffed lizard for Christmas. “A what?” he asked. I’m not known for admiring creepy crawlies, so it was a fair question. But I’ve been working with book marketer extraordinaire Sue Campbell of Pages & Platforms and she deals with writers’ mindset issues. Sue once brandished a plastic lizard on a call and inspired me; I knew I’d do well to have a lizard myself to talk back at when my old lizard brain tries to keep me safely in my comfort zone. (You’d be surprised at the fear that surrounds writing and marketing.)

BTW, I am taking creative license. Sue merely waved the lizard to show the mindset issue writers face. But it resonated with me.

So…presenting Reginald Dwight Drudge. The only trouble is, he’s so cute he’s hard to be stern with. He’s a cuddly fellow. But I do give him what for when he tries to keep me from reaching out to the media.

Thanks, Reggie, for being my new writing buddy!

A Fun Interview

Many thanks to Alex Pearl for this fun interview. He asked me what is the first book I remembered reading. That took me a minute. Please take a look at the interview. 😊

It’s a sobering time here in the States, but we press on.

This month will see us over here finishing up Orlando, some exciting publishing news, and more. (Apparently the Autumn of Woolf has become the Winter of Woolf, but that’s okay.)

More soon on several fronts, including my 21 for 21…meaning my 21 goals for 2021. Be thinking about yours if you haven’t already! And please share them with me.

Ordinary Mysteries

This is one of my favorite passages in Lighthouse. As a human, this has always been my goal, to pay attention to the ordinary moments of beauty and to elevate them.

At the funeral for my husband’s grandmother a few years ago, the minister came around beforehand and asked for memories to share. I was surprised at how many of them were mine that he mentioned during the service and how teary the family got as each was brought up. I was glad I spoke up.

What had I noticed?

Strawberry pie…the scent of apples stored in their breezeway…fresh apple cider…country magazines stacked neatly on the coffee table…ribbon salad…heaping bowls of mashed potatoes…rabbit show trophies…that and so much more signaled we were at the Drudges’.

My aim as a writer is to recall those average, everyday moments and hold them.

Recently I shared a photo with my daughter of a bottle of wine on our dining room table. “I can’t believe you still have that table,” she said. We’ve thought of replacing it, but there are paint and marker blotches on it from her and her brother. We studied and read there together. We played cards and ate how many meals at it?

The table is just a table, but it’s also a miracle, a memory.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a Thanksgiving post, especially not so early, but then again, it’s fitting. I’m thankful for miracles of all sizes.

Do you have a favorite passage from this book? Almost finished reading it? I’m rounding the corner. For some reason I don’t remember the last bit being quite so long. Not that I want to leave Lily’s side any time soon.

An Autumn of Woolf Schedule

I’m so excited to be committing to an autumn of Virginia Woolf! I can’t wait to share this time with all who care to join in.

We will study a book a month for four months. Read and chime in any time throughout the month. Your comments, observations, photos, article links, and the like are welcome.

Remember: join me here or on Facebook in the Painted Word Salon.

September 20 Mrs Dalloway

October 18 To the Lighthouse

November 22 Orlando

December 20 A Room of One’s Own

True, these on the schedule are her better-known works, but what’s to stop us from talking about her other books in the future?

Do you have a favorite not listed here?

The End of My Second Novel as I Know It…and I Feel…#BetaTime

What do you do after the draft of your current work in progress is done, when you’ve handed it over to a beta reader for what you hope will be the last time before you send it out? From nowhere, suddenly there are free hours, days, to fill. What to do??

Here are some things writers do with that silence, that tearing of the topic from your mind because if you think on it any more you’re going to want to add things to your novel, and you can’t. Not yet, maybe not ever, if it’s as finished as you suspect it is. Stopping is as important as starting.

If you had a book just come out in March 2020 (What’s that, you haven’t bought my book yet? Let’s fix that: http://amzn.to/2QoEqXM, or contact me for other ways to buy), you have plenty of outreach you’d still like to do. So you do some of that, which takes courage. It’s also fun, though, connecting with folks who enjoy the arts as much as I do.

Beyond that, there are the usual suspects:

  1. Catching up with relationships. While face-to-face interaction isn’t really viable for the most part just now, I’m trying to say hey on social media or by text to those I’ve neglected. (What’s that, I could call them? What’s a phone call?)
  2. Binge watching all the things. Well, to be honest, I never stopped doing that. The muse refuses to work 24-7 even though I ask him to.
  3. Reading. There’s another area I have been doing all along, yet I’ve been able to step it up on reading friends’ projects and reviewing books, something I enjoy doing.
  4. Household projects we bought supplies for months ago now. Okay, well, we haven’t started yet, but I’ve been thinking about getting started.
  5. Fretting about which novel I will write next. I have a stack of ideas, but I know what a commitment it is to say yes to an idea, how much research it takes (years), not to mention the topic that is uppermost in my mind is going to be challenging in multiple ways. That, after I promised that my next novel would be anything but, just to give myself a break. Nope, no break here.
  6. Tweak those things that could use it: website (on the list), household organization
  7. Get on even one of those writerly projects all writers are “supposed” to do: apply for grants, write short fiction and submit, submit stuff for (possible) awards, stay in touch with writer friends (I do a decent job of that), enrich the writing community, be innovative, on and on…
  8. Personal goals – my lists have lists on that front.

I know I’m not alone in this simultaneous feeling of loss and freedom when finishing up a project.

What do you do when you get to the end of a project, writing or otherwise? Let me know!  

My Autumn of Woolf

Many of you know that I am borderline obsessed with Virginia Woolf’s writing. To me, nobody, and I mean nobody, writes like her.

A sampling of my Woolf books

Before COVID-19 hit, author Gretchen Rubin had announced that she was going to have a summer of Woolf, which she subsequently postponed until fall.

Having just (I think) finished a tight draft of my second novel, I’m already feeling lost. Since Woolf plays a part in my book, what better way to feel I am still doing something constructive than to read all of her works this autumn? Thanks for the idea, Gretchen!

And Gretchen Rubin isn’t the only one contemplating a fall of Woolf. Literature Cambridge is also offering a series on Woolf’s major works: https://bloggingwoolf.wordpress.com/2020/08/17/virginia-woolf-season-with-litcamb-covers-her-12-major-works/

I have 2 1/2 bookshelves dedicated to not only Woolf’s novels and essays but also her letters and diaries. My intention is to eventually revisit all of her available writings. I have no idea where I will start; I think I will start with her first novel and the first volume of her letters and her journal for the corresponding time period.

And of course I will keep up with the Literature Cambridge schedule. I’m so excited! I love learning.

The hubby is also getting in on the Woolf action. He is currently reading Orlando. And he’s been reading volume one of her letters to me a bit at a time, which I find downright precious.

What are you planning to read this fall?

Next Stop? Excerptville!

Many kind thanks to Elizabeth Keysian for hosting an excerpt of Victorine over on her excellent blog Seduction, Scandals, and Spies. Please pop over and leave a comment while you’re there. Bloggers are authors’ best friends right now, in a time when in-person events are well nigh impossible. Show them some love!

japanese.jpglarge

Painting of Victorine by Alfred Stevens

How are you holding up? Are you making time for self-care?

No, I don’t mean just doing your work, although do that. But are you drinking water? (Not enough over here.) Moving? (Ditto.) Are you making time to not just veg in front of the TV but choosing material that moves and inspires you, rather than whiling away the hours as if you are in a jail cell? Because these, these days and hours are also part of the weft and warp of our lives. Don’t discount them. Use them to their full advantage. Let me qualify that.

Today I have put “read for an hour” and “write for an hour” on my list. Sure, being this nigh the other side of publication means I am still doing plenty of PR. This week alone I am recording three interviews with podcasts, which I am appreciative for, but they take time and courage.

Pair that with mailing out books to friends, teaching and related activities, reaching out to friends and family to be sure they’re all doing okay emotionally (some aren’t, which is totally natural during these uncertain times), aspiring to launch a whole new outreach journey which will require trial and error, and more, and I am not just bored at home. (I’m never bored anyway, but I’m particularly not now.)

But is it well with my soul?

In ways I’m very content, but I tell you, though I am grateful for those guest blog posts I will be polishing and handing in this week, the lack of creating is beginning to show. I need to make something all mine, with no expectations on it.

I’m finishing up a novel, except I haven’t written on it in weeks. I have two new novel ideas, except I’m not sure which one to go with, and if I choose one of those, what about that other, simpler, idea? Do I let it go or pursue it as the fast burn I suspect it will be?

Is it well with my soul?

I had a cathartic hour’s call with a friend yesterday. We both needed to vent about life. Today I have scheduled a phone call to someone in quarantine; she isn’t allowed any physical contact for a few more days. My life is so much better than that right now, and yet I haven’t let my creativity out of quarantine.

My to-do list is no shorter than it ever is, showing I am not taking the time to embrace what’s going on in our world. That I am itching to do a thorough cleaning of the bedroom tells me that my priorities are out of whack.

And yet, for me, I know what I need. I need to pull up my WIP and write, for God’s sake. I need to sit down with that new book on Vonnegut and writing (Pity the Reader) that I’m speeding through when I do allow myself reading time.

I need to adjust my expectations. Maybe I can’t achieve twenty things on a list in a day. Maybe I shouldn’t try. I mean sure, I want the upstairs bath to be cleaned, but we aren’t exactly going to have company over. I’d like to get that overdue birthday card out to my sister, but I did call her on her birthday, so if it waits one more day, that’s fine.

What does your soul need today? What goes beyond self-care and into soul care for you today? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s both pledge to do better about that. If our bodies and careers are preserved and not that which makes us who we are, what is the point? Nourish the best in you today.

If we were in church, here is where I would end my “sermon.” I would ask for a few seconds of silence before adding on my words of thanks to Elizabeth for featuring Victorine on her blog. After all, Victorine is a prime example of allowing a creative impulse to fully engulf my life for a time. And Elizabeth is doing me the favor of calling it worthy of a share. Thanks to her, to art, and to and for you.