Fish

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blogs and Blabbering

This blog was supposed  be me blabbering along, but instead, I've been ignoring it since August?  Why? 

That's what I've been saying.  Why?

Somehow, starting bowling and starting choir in August means, in my mind, that I've been too busy to do any writing.  Which is not true; I golf in the summer one evening a week -- which means I can't do anything but golf, but I take my netbook to the bowling alley and I can write there, between my turns up.  It's a bit hard to do anything else in bell choir and singing choir.

Of course, this migraine I've been having for the past couple of weeks hasn't helped.

So I'm rededicating myself to this blog.  And I'm rededicating to finishing my novel for upload onto Amazon.com, etc.

Until the next time I fall off the wagon...


Monday, August 29, 2011

Huh?

I've written stories for years.  Most of them have been fan stories -- stories based on Television shows -- which are, of course, legally verboten because of copyright law.   I've written fan stories because I enjoy them and I get feedback.

But my goal, although you wouldn't think it to look at my "resume," was to write original fiction.   My first story was written when I was eight, illustrated by me, and was something about diamonds.  I wrote poems in middle school, articles in high school, and my first full-fledged story was for a class in high school -- quite frankly, I don't remember what it was about, but somewhere around this house is a copy on onion skin typing paper.

I've always been a bit lackadaisical about my writing, though, and, sadly, it's only been since my parents have been gone that I've gotten more serious about it.

I like feedback.  Sending stories out to magazines -- or agents -- gets a developing writer a standard rejection letter, which tells me nothing.  Was the story all right, but truly not for that venue?  Did it suck big time?  Should I stay with my day job?  (Well, yes, but that's another matter.)  Did the editor have an overwhelming urge to chew it into a spitball and throw it at the ceiling?  (Hmmmm, guess that would only work with paper manuscripts.)

So I've been uploading my old, rejected stories on-line, first on Smashwords.com, then on Amazon.com.  For free.  I have five on Smashwords -- the most hits I've gotten there is 280 something with one negative review, and the others go down from there.

I have three on Amazon.com, and here's the incredible part.  I don't have any perspective on downloads and hits, but my little free story, one that I wrote over fourteen years ago and basically only modified for grammar and structure, -- one that got accepted by a webzine which has long since disappeared into the ether (I received $3.00 for it) -- has, as of two seconds ago, had 10,520 downloads with four returns.

What?

It's had four favorable reviews, one which mentioned "Shrek" (which it predates, of course), and one negative review.

Wow.

This has been since last Thursday, when it inexplicably changed from $.99 to free.  Which I really don't mind, since it's been free for years

I can hardly wait to see if the others do as well which they get discounted.  Of course, I wish I had gotten paid, but -- feedback.  I want feedback, darn it! 

Wow.






Friday, August 12, 2011

Opinions, Privacy issues, and Writing

I've written ever since I was eight, but didn't take it seriously until Ninth Grade and Mrs. VanAtta's English class -- I wrote poetry and people liked it!  After all, I spent most of Middle School relatively friendless -- didn't have any close buddies that I hung around with -- I spent a lot of time reading.  I was determined to be on the school newspaper in High School.

But when I got into High School, the school newspaper was dying. I don't remember all of the particulars anymore, but somehow I connected with an old friend from Elementary school who drifted away -- we were determined that I we needed a school paper.  Somehow, one or the other of us persuaded Mrs. Longanecker to be our advisor, and Sue found a few other people, and the local paper was persuaded to print the articles citywide.  The Wildcat Weekly was reborn.  We wrote articles, Mrs. Longanecker corrected them, and I learned, more or less, how to write for the newspaper.

After a year, I wanted to do more. Erma Bombeck, the humorist, was popular at the time, so I started a humor column under a pseudonym.  Not one person realized who wrote the column until the May before I graduated, and I heard, from my Dad, that even some of his coffee buddies got a laugh out of it. 

And then, in my Senior year, I wrote an opinion column.  After all this time, it doesn't make a difference what my opinion was; the principal hated it.  I got called to the Principal's office for the first time in my life, and the advisor, Barb Erickson (now Stutesman) got in trouble.  (I'm giving the principal a pass; it was his first year as Principal, and I suspect now he felt he had to show his authority.)

My first encounter with the power of opinions.

Fast forward twenty to thirty years:  I've worked at Huddlestun Lumber Company for twenty-five years, and at McLellan and Strohm Accounting for a little over ten years.  I'm grateful to both for hiring me and giving me a living.

But.

As a writer, it drives me nuts.  You see, we have customers at Huddlestun Lumber Company, and we have clients at McLellan and Strohm.  They are all very important.  In addition, there's an implied privacy at Huddlestun Lumber and a very strict privacy issue at McLellan and Strohm's, very similar to the medical world's HIPAA policy.  I like my jobs, and I refuse to embarrass either place.

I also have an opinion of various things that happen around town and the townships.  Can I express that opinion freely?  Not really.  I know that opinions will offend people -- clients and customers -- even when no offense is meant, and I don't want to do that.  And these are some very nice people.

If you look at my website, you'll see a series of columns about a fictional town named River Creek.   I wrote those over ten years ago, and this was my way of commenting about the city at that point.  I keep thinking about resurrecting it -- in fact, I'm planning to insert stories around these "articles."  But, here's my dilemma -- do I write about current things?  Do I dare? 

Is my life defined by being a bookkeeper or being a writer?

What do I choose?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thinking about Geneology

While I'm delaying working on my latest story, I'm watching a show called "Who Do You Think You Are?" about celebrities tracing back their family trees with a lot of expenseive help.  Like a lot of U.S. citizens, I only have a general idea where the family came from.  Except for my great-great grandmother Mary Ann Bowersox Eisenhauer's ancestors (Germany), the rest is family speculation. 

Like the celebrity on TV, my great-grandfather James Anderson passed away when my grandfather was three.  One of my Dad's cousins had a bible which seemed to indicate that the family came from Pennsylvania.  Where before there?  We like to think that they ultimately came from Scotland, but with an Anderson name -- could be Scottish, could be Anglicized from any number of European countries. 

The same applies with my Mother's family.  Cole?  My grandmother's maiden name was Stephenson, and the main thing I know about her father was that he was born in the 1830s, fought in the civil war, and didn't marry until 1880 to a 30-year-old wife, and they then had five girls.

Yeah, I know, I could sign up for Ancestry.com -- or I could go to Pennsylvania to find out where the Andersons came from, but, darn it, I don't have the money or the time.  And I'm not necessarily that anxious to find out.  Like my Mother always said, she always suspected her ancestors fought in the Revolutionary war -- with the Hessians hired by the British. 

Maybe it's better I don't find out about my family tree....

On the other hand, I do know I'm a very distant relation to President Dwight Eisenhower and singer Crystal Bowersox.  *sigh*  That plus a dollar will get me a cup of coffee.

Never mind.

Monday, July 25, 2011

When did I get old? Or did I reach that at 10?

I had a discussion with somebody on Facebook today. The person is very passionate in her beliefs -- I respect that -- but seemed to lack a sense of humor. I began to think that she felt she was right and that her facts she knew was the complete truth of the world and no other view was possible. (And I truly hope I'm not doing her a disservice.) I looked her profile up, and, sure enough, she was in her early to mid-twenties. 

Passion is great. I think passionate, dedicated people are going to change the world.

My problem is that I don't remember ever feeling passionate or dedicated about anything, unless I was trying to protect the underdog.  I was and am a "whatever will be, will be" sort of person. For example -- I am a Christian.  Christians are supposed to witness.  I certainly hope that I am witnessing by my actions, because I hated be witnessed at when I was in college and I refuse to do it to anyone else, unless asked specifically by that person. (Wait, somebody says, didn't you become a Christian in college?  Well, yes, but it certainly wasn't because of that person who witnessed to me.  I read Pearl Buck's "The Story Bible", and all of a sudden, Christianity and a belief in God started making sense to me.  I can't tell you why.  I wasn't "Born Again" with all of the negative connotations, but I do think that there's something greater out there that we name "God" and that Jesus was and is, somehow, his "Son."  I've read the Bible; I hope to see things clearly after my physical body passes.)

How'd I get on religion?  Sorry.  Told you I rambled.

Back on passion. I'm not passionate.  I've never married, I barely had a boyfriend (more like a few crushes that never went anyplace), I don't even write compulsively like some people do.  I was born old and stayed there.  I could talk easily with people my parents and grandparents age, but not to my own classmates.  I can remember being completely surprised only a very few times, and I'm not really sure I know what true happiness is.  (Contentment, yes.)  I do get angry, especially when I a) feel powerless, b) feel accused, or c) am trying to protect someone else.

Does this make me old?  Or just emotionally stunted?  Or would I rather be amused by people than argue with them?

Oh, well.  Que sera, sera  : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZbKHDPPrrc

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Post Shore Leave, Fan Fic Reviews, and Writing

Another one of those disconnected sort of Blogs:

Got back from the Shore Leave convention (Baltimore) late Monday night.  I had a wonderful time, as usual!  I talked to a few people I knew from MediaWest*Con (Lansing, MI), got autographs from a few of the celebrities, went to panels -- some about Trek, some about writing in general, and drank until 2:30 with the authors.  Well, they drank, but I nursed a club soda on one night and a Screwdriver on the second night....

Never made it to the art show, which I usually make a point to attend.  Entirely missed the panels by John DeLancie, which I did want to see.  Unlike the previous years, I was on three panels, but because I felt a bit outclassed, I barely said a word on two of them.  The third was on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies -- I actually had an opinion on those, and I heartily recommended Ann Crispin's new novel, which is a prequel to the movies.

On the Thursday before the con, my roommate, Bonz, and I went to Gettysburg; on Friday, we went to Washington, D.C., and walked around.  We saw the Capital rotunda after going through what was almost airport security.  The good thing was that it was free -- my tax dollars at work.  I had never realized that all of these historic place were so close to each other.  I guess I have a Midwesterner outlook where things are a little farther away from each other. 

(Back in my teens, my Mom and I visited a cousin of hers in Washington state.  They took us to their cabin, "just around the corner."  Two hours later, we arrived.)

I took a ton of pictures.  Never let me loose with a good camera! This Canon is a good one.  And I didn't miss changing film!

I'm also getting revved up again to write, which leads me to the next topic:

Fan Fic -- I got a review on my Quantum Leap/Star Trek: Voyager story that seemed to indicate that it was the best thing since toast.  Immediately, my radar went up.  Okay, it's a nice story, I like everything I write, I don't necessarily think it's great.  She (I presume) wanted me to review hers, so I went to the site to look at it.

My eyes glazed over.

I usually have a good tolerance level for fan fiction, but I don't read much on fanfiction.net -- I prefer edited zines.  While the ideas in her stories were interesting, the execution could have been a lot better.  Maybe I'm just tired, but when I see a lot of exposition in the first paragraph, explaining who, what, and where, then I see multiple viewpoints in the same paragraph, then the scene changes without a # or some other indicator -- um.  The spelling and the grammar are great.  The person is not a young person, either; she's a couple of years younger than I am.

But who am I to say anything to her?  I'm sure she's probably hoping for a great review, like some of the other ones I saw on her stories.  (Which always makes me suspect the reviews on my stories.) 

I know, I know.  I'm the pot calling the kettle black.  I got called out for the same thing in my opening paragraphs of my novel.

Not sure what to do here, but unless she wants the unglazed proof, I guess I'll either ignore her request or tell her that it's an interesting concept.

Writing:  Haven't done much of it in the past week.  Tried to do a little on the airplane, but between my big stomach and the guy in front of me leaning his seat back, I couldn't see the screen on the netbook.  Did some writing, anyway, but the results were interesting.  I did accomplish a bit, though.

But getting back to work has been a b**tch.  Much as I like vacations, catching up with the day jobs is stressful, and always leaves me wanting to go back on vacation.

When is Shore Leave next year?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Shore Leave, First Pages, Contests, and Writing

First, before I start rambling, I'm going to the Shore Leave convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland, this weekend.  I'm one of many, many author guests.  Why?  A) I had a short story published in one of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds books, and B) I begged.  I'll be on three panels, but I'm planning on attending many more.  It's my only chance to be a minor celebrity and then sit and watch all of the popular Trek authors get mobbed with fans and books.  I love it.  Then I go back to bookkeeping...

More ramblings:

Well, there's one thing I'm learned in the past week or so -- first pages of novels are harder than I thought.  When I wrote my novel, I had a feeling that something wasn't quite right with the first few pages.  I knew I had an awful lot of "telling" rather than "showing" in the first page, which is a big no-no .

*Sigh*

What brought this on was that I "won" 1250 word critique by an agent.  (I gave money to a charity, and the prize was a critique by an agent.)   It was fairly complimentary, yet rather humbling.  I don't like to think of myself as a bad writer, but I do know I have room for improvement. 

I'm not sure if that's why I've been so hesitant to start anything this week or not.

Because I'm trying to improve, I'm trying to get critiques without bugging people.  Five stories of mine are up on Smashwords.com for free.  I have to admit that I didn't edit them, and the first one I uploaded was published before in a defunct webzine.  One of them got an honorable mention in the "Writers of the Future" contest.  The other others I tried, admitedly not very hard, to submit them to magazines.  Two have nice reviews, a third puzzled me slightly.  I'm looking forward to valuable critiques.  Probably won't get them from Smashwords, though.

Beats getting a form rejection.

Somebody described Smashwords as the world's biggest slushpile (unsolicited manuscripts to publishers are called "slush") and I have to agree.  (On the other hand, I just randomly picked out a story, without even looking, of a published writer I've met and respect, and I'm planning to buy his book -- but he was an editor.  Hi, Keith R.A. DeCandido!) 

Okay, time to tie this up.  What have I learned?  Writing the first few pages of a novel is hard.  Reviews and critiques are hard to get.  You can find real gold in the slushpile at  Smashwords.  Contests are sometimes winnable.  And I can, too, write!