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  • Rebekah James 3:07 pm on August 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: diabetes, , , , , , writing   

    Breaking radio silence 

    So for the last three weeks, I have been pretty much in radio silence as far as blogging, or even interacting on the internet. This isn’t always my standard MO when I am upset about something, but in this case it has been my  approach for two reasons: First the issues involved are about my health, which is a sensitive topic at best for me, and the last thing I wanted was to be seen as whining – because no matter how big the issue seems to me, it is MY issue. (Apparently I was so good at this not whining bit that I left several friends out of the loop as to what was going on and inadvertently hurt some feelings with the unusual silence – and I am really and truly sorry for this as it was not my intention at all.)

    The second reason is more complex – until today, with results and diagnosis in hand, I had no idea what to DO about the health issues aside from wait for test results. Ask my husband – I am TERRIBLE at waiting around with nothing to do.  I am a get it done and move on kind of person.  I don’t mind doing the work, and while I am a big planner, I also try to keep things as fluid as possible as long as we aren’t just standing around waiting to make a decision on if something should be done or not.  Therefore, when my doctor wanted to do biopsies for cancer, I was all for getting out the scalpel right then and there.

    Now you would think I would know better really –having not only been down the cancer road before, but also having worked in hospitals for several years. Nothing happens that quickly in the medical world unless there is CPR involved, and even then, once they get you breathing again, there is going to be a delay. It takes time to set up the procedures, to run lab tests, for doctors to get results and interpret them, and then finally to get back to you about what is going on.  In this case, from the time that the Doctor looked at me and observed that the strange lump where it shouldn’t be was not only causing pain and general unhapppiness in my life, it was probably cancerous, to the day she finally gave me the results was about 5 weeks. Along the way, we got several others involved and drew enough blood to feed a vampire family of four for a week. We even found a couple of bonus problems I didn’t know about. I fussed and fidgeted and showed up 15 minutes early to fill out forms, and generally drove my husband and best friend bonkers trying not to obsess about the possibilities. I found that sitting down to write was nearly impossible – my focus was shot and I ended up just rewriting the same things repeatedly. Yesterday, we finally got around to the part where Doctor Q was able to tell me that while there are issues; cancer is not one of them anymore for which I am greatly relieved. There are issues, but now we have a diagnosis, we can start on taking action again. Unfortunately, these are not quick fix actions. The problem took years to build up and the treatment is one that will take two or three months to see results from. When I went to see my primary care doctor today, about the secondary issue we found, he said I was the first person who has ever responded “Oh, good” when he told them they have diabetes. Why is this good (aside from the whole not having cancer again thing)? Because diabetes has an action plan involved with it.  41 million people in the U.S. alone have Diabetes, and there is a lot of research that is happening every day. For me, there are new dietary rules to learn about, new things to pay attention to, and a whole long list of things that need doing now. Yes, it is a big, life-changing thing. I am more than a little intimidated by it, but I have my list in hand of things to do right now. (And amazingly enough, I came home and wrote another scene as well.)

    If I was more philosophical, or spiritually mature, I would no doubt find a lesson here about how pointless my desire to control things is, how fleeting and fickle the physical world is, and learned a great deal of patience from all of this. I am sad to admit – the relief I have at having something to do, shows I haven’t really gained any of that. I still don’t know what to do, but now I know what to research and can go into the next phase with focus. Tomorrow it will probably hit me just how big a change this is going to be, but today, I have a renewed word count and a to do list. I’m good.

    • Nancy Poehlmann 8:41 am on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Well done for coming back into the loop, Rebekah. I’m one of those “hide until I feel better” types, so I totally understand, but I’m trying to mold into a “sing out for help when I don’t feel good” type. My DH has Type II diabetes and my stepdaughter has Type I, so I know the diabetes road. It’s manageable, and will respond well to your wanting to take control.

      Very happy that the writing is coming again. I think it’s akin to the blood going to where it is needed; now that you have a plan, your mind can go back to the WIP.

      I hope you have a very good weekend!

      • Rebekah James 10:24 am on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Yes! that is exactly it Nancy! M kept asking me “why don’t you write to keep busy instead?” knowing that i really do get completely immersed – but it just doesn’t work that way for me. The plus side – when I let the WIP “Cool” for a while as my teacher used to say, I realized the fix to the thing I had been stuck on.

        • Nancy Poehlmann 8:02 pm on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

          Yeah, I have that happen, too. The problem simmers on the back burner, even when I’m worrying about something else or sleeping. Some people can get immersed–the rest of us just keep slogging along.

    • Rebekah James 12:10 am on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, I’m still trying to get back in sync with my life, but being able to sit down and actually focus on my WIP was a big thing today.

    • Girl Parker 7:57 pm on August 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Well done, Rebecca, for just getting through all this. If hunkering down is what it takes to deal with a possible cancer scare, then you DO IT. Forget word counts. But we’re all cheering for you that you’re able to move on now. Brava!

  • Rebekah James 10:15 am on July 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , writing,   

    Plotting and Scheming 

    This has been a long week, so long in fact that I just realized I was in danger of not posting either of my updates for ROW80. A lot of what happened was boring busy work that just seemed to pile up and needed to be done all at once, so nothing exciting to report, but combined with a summer cold, it just makes the days go slowly.

    I am still “on track” for my projects, but I am not necessarily generating a large word count – one of the things I realized was that I didn’t really know my characters, and that since I didn’t know them well, the plot I had etched out for them, wasn’t working because I suddenly found that they all were acting quite predictably  and honestly I was getting a little bored with the story. If I am bored, that is a very bad sign because it means that anyone who reads it will be bored – and worse, I caught my MC whining.

    So this week has been about character development. I have been metaphorically sitting down for a cup of coffee and talking to them (Well the coffee wasnt metaphorical for me but you know what I mean.) It has been an interesting week. I asked them about where they grew up, how they got where they are now, pulled pictures off the internet for them and even talked about favorite foods.  I’m probably scaring the neighbors since this means I have been spending a lot of time walking around talking to myself, but I now feel that I know them better and I can only think that will translate to a better story. Of course this also means that I have spent some time reworking the plot a bit too.

    Plotting always seems to be the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. I know people who are adamant that plotting is evil and that it ruins their creativity, and a first draft is all about making your mistakes. That may be true for some people, but as Terry Brooks, says in his book on writing Sometimes the Magic Works you will either solve the problems now or later because you will have to solve them eventually.  The question for me is never IF I need to plot, but rather HOW.

    Some people use index cards, others use sticky notes. I have a very large sheet of glass in my  office that I scribble all over with dry erase pens, but I am always looking for better ways to work things out. Do you do a synopsis of the story first like Margaret Weiss does for her books, or do you take a very long view and map out the major events in all 20 books in your series like Jim Butcher says he has for the Harry Dresden series?  I read an article yesterday that J.K. Rowling wrote scenes from all seven of the Harry Potter books before she  even really started on the first one, and then went back and built the plots for all of them.  Are you putting every scene on index cards and rearranging them? Do you use bullet points or maybe an excel sheet?  Do you develop your characters back stories first and let that determine your plot, or do you come up with the scenes first and then let them tell you from there?  How do YOU plot?



  • Rebekah James 12:31 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , writing,   

    ROW80 – update for 7-11-11 

    Quick update about my ROW80 goals – why quick? Because I am busy with new projects and actually keeping to my goals so far and don’t want to lose momentum. This weekend I did pick up a new project which I think everyone will like. I started on a series of book reviews, and I finished – sort of – my short that is headed for submission later this week. I’m not entirely happy with the ending, and I think I dragged out a particular point too much, so this afternoon and tomorrow are going to be used for editing the story. I think I am still on schedule and averaging roughly 2k a day, which is actually above my goal of 1.5k. How is everyone else doing?

    • Sonia G Medeiros 10:57 pm on July 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Congrats! This is my first ROW80 and I’m loving it so far.

    • Sarah 6:12 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Woot!! I love hearing about people who are doing great. It makes me feel like I really should be doing more, while also realizing that if I set my mind to it I really can just sit down and write.

      Congrats!! This short post helped boost my spirit. 😀

    • Julie Glover 5:38 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like you’re keeping it up great! Hope the edits go smoothly. (That’s not always my favorite part.) I’m doing fine, but I may need to adjust a goal or two (one up, one down).

    • Cate Morgan 4:27 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like you’ve been productive! Good job, and good luck the rest of the week. 🙂

    • Erin Brambilla 12:43 pm on July 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Great job surpassing your goal. I’m on track which is great. Good luck this week.

  • Rebekah James 1:47 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Kait Nolan, , , , writing, writing contests',   

    A Round of Words in 80 Days: Jumping in 

    OK, I am taking a plunge here and joining in on ROW80 an informal writing contest organized by Kait Nolan. It is a self-paced, self-moderated writing goal, and for me is a big step to take on another writing contest. I’m setting what I think are realistic goals for myself – finishing up a “fast” project for a submission I was invited to do by July 15, and polishing up on my larger MS that needs to be turned in by Sept 1.

    This is a big thing for me because – while I adore the people in my writing group, and I have been fortunate enough to cultivate many encouraging, talented, and supportive friends – I hate, hate writing for word count goals alone. I really have come to hate writing contests that insist that you need to meet a specific word goal, or you have failed. Even if you do “win,” it is guaranteed that someone else did three times more than you did, so you still are inadequate. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a little less than 50k and would have lost the most famous of the word goal contests, NaNoWriMo. Dan Brown took 5 years to generate his most recent best seller Lost Symbol. Word count alone does not equate with quality.

    Don’t get me wrong, word goals are important. Goals keep you focused and on schedule. Word counts are a fact of life for a writer. Word count is your time clock. Daily and overall goals tell you if you are keeping up enough to go ahead and go out to dinner with the girls, or if you need to glue your backside to the chair and let your fingers dance instead.

    That being said, word counts alone do not make you a writer. What the word count contests ignore is that word count is only part of the writing process. Whether or not you are a plotter like me, at some point you do need to figure out what is happening and who your characters actually are. For me, these contests encourage sloppy writing habits. The last contest I “won” produced 80k of utter trash. I ended up editing it down to just under 29k just to get it to make sense and I’m still not done slashing at it. Nothing is more frustrating to me than knowing that I spent a month working on something that I knew was rubbish when I was writing it, feeling that I would have to just keep going and fix it later. It has been 2 months of editing to try to fix the mess. (Worse, I spent that time imposing on the good will and support of my husband who was neglected without complaint so I could spit up the trash I am now deleting.)

    The other thing that these contests forget is that you do not live in a writing bubble awaiting the arrival of a Muse who hands you a fully formed story ready for print. (If this has actually happened to you, send me an email because my Muse is definitely not offering that kind of service and I’d like to know where you hired yours.) They play to the romantic notion that writing is something best done in isolation, preferably by feverish starving artists who scratch out their masterpieces in some drafty garret and pen in “the end” as they finally succumb to the death throes of whatever tragically incurable disease they have. The truth is that the most successful writers have real lives. They have day jobs, families, friends, and laundry that all need to be taken care of. If you are going to be a writer on a professional level, you need to find a way to work with your real life on a long term, permanent basis or there will be nothing to write about and no way of sustaining your writing habit. One of my favorite quotes at the moment comes from James McAvoy (speaking about acting but the same principle applies to writing):  “Where it gets difficult is when you get two or three jobs back to back where you’re playing leads and doing 13, 14 hours a day, six days a week, and you suddenly think, hang on a minute, how can you have a life like this? Do I work to live or live to work? How can I work properly with no life to inform the work?”

    With the above rant in mind, I am setting what I hope are reasonable and sustainable goals for me, with enough push to stretch my limits without losing focus. I’ll be checking in on Sunday and Wednesday for this to both update and encourage. If you are interested in playing along visit Kait Nolan’s page:  http://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com/ and follow her instructions. If you meet your goals, we will all cheer for you, and if you need to reassess what you are aiming for, that is OK too. The point is to keep pressing onward while actually living your life. (Because, with respect to Verdi et al, that is what real writers do.)

    • AmyBeth Inverness 10:51 am on July 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think what hurts the most is thinking that we spent a lot of time and energy just to produce “crap”. But this is *not* time wasted! This is a very important part of the writing process. Like you said, the muse is not going to hand us a fully formed story ready for print!

      I like #ROW80 (this is my first time) because it lets writers decide for themselves what their goal should be. NaNoWriMo was earth-shattering for me, because I finally turned out an actual, complete novel. It needs a lot of work to make it marketable, and in the end I might just abandon it, but it was well worth the month I spent cranking it out. It was exactly the start I needed.

      Now I need something different. NaNo worked for me partly because I was able to ask my hubby “Please let me do this for just one short month!” but now I must find something more sustainable. #ROW80 is helping me do that.

      Good luck with your goals! I look forward to checking in with everybody on Sundays and Wednesdays (ooh! That’s Tomorrow!)

      • Rebekah James 10:15 pm on July 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Amy, I certainly hope that you didn’t take anything I said to mean that i think there is no value in these contests, or that I think that everyone who does them writes poorly. *I* produced a very poorly written novel during NaNo, because I was so busy focusing on word counts, that I didn’t go through my normal process of editing the previous day’s work that I normally do when I start “writing” for the day. For me this was a bad idea, but certainly there are a LOT of people who DO well under these circumstances. I am terribly sorry if anything I said offended.

    • alberta ross 6:55 am on July 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I use writing time in that I write – I count words at end so that I can keep vague eye on balance of parts/chapters and know if I’ve waffled too much – combination of all – haven’t tried a word count competion yet tho’ will try NaNo later this year more for the experience than not

      good luck with your goals

    • Rebekah James 7:17 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Good point Lauren “writing” time seems to be a more constructive way for me to measure goals, especially on those days when you slash away while editing and end up with a lower word count than when you started 🙂 I have been doing that for the last few months, and ending up with much better work.

    • frbrown906 7:14 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      good luck with meeting your goals. Having a word count helps me because if I set a time goal, I may just sit there staring at the screen most of that time and still barely get anything written. If I have a specific word goal though, it gives me something to work toward. I know different things work for different people though.

    • Lauren 7:00 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve seen lots of ROW80ers that use time writing instead of word count. And everyone that does it that way, swears by it. I do a combination of the two which seems to work out pretty well. Good luck with your goals!

    • Rebekah James 5:52 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Katherine, there are a lot of people who write really well with that kind of pressure and YAY for you if you are one of those does! I actually really envy you because I *know* that word counts are important, I just get so paralyzed with the whole contest thing.

    • Katherine 3:51 pm on July 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I *love* word counts. Love, love, love! I’m very goal oriented and they’re the most solid way of marking writing progress. And to my eternal dismay, only 20% of my time as a writer is spent generating a positive word count. The rest is development, editing, rewriting… Such is life! Luckily, RoW80 isn’t necessarily about the word goal. Good luck & wishing you lots of words…er…progress. 😉

  • Rebekah James 8:00 am on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Jon F. Merz, Lawton Vampire Series, , The Invoker, , vampires, writing   

    The Invoker by Jon F. Merz 

    On a rainy autumn night in Boston, Lawton is sent to terminate a man whom he believes is a drug dealer. It is just another day in the life of a fixer – a guardian of the secret vampire society that lives within our own, and has its own rules and Council. As the man lays dying, Lawton realizes that there is something wrong with the entire situation and the man – who pleads with Lawton to protect his son – is not at all what he thought. Lawton soon finds himself caught up in a tangle that leads him on an around the world chase, and tied to a 10 year old boy with a remarkable talent.

    This is the second of Jon F. Merz’s Lawton series, and if you are looking for vampires that sparkle, chase after waitresses or mope about in old castles, this isn’t the book to read. (Though admittedly, there is a lot of sex appeal going on, even though in this particular story there is no romantic line.) As with the first book, there is little time spent developing the world, we are thrown right into the story from the first opening scene. However, Merz has clearly done his homework, and has built a fully formed and airtight world that he never strays from. We get enough explanation to know what is going on, but not enough that you lose the flow of what is happening. Actions first, explanations later – exactly what you would expect from someone like Lawson, a vampire who is part police officer, part hit man and all action hero. Merz has taken an otherwise questionable character and made him complex, sympathetic and dare I say it – human. Lawson has to take time to recover from injuries (granted not as long as a human would, but still) has weaknesses, gets confused and has moral dilemmas. We can relate to him.

    The pacing is very good on this novel – we are kept running right along with Lawson and his charge. There is of course the question of what a vampire action hero does with a 10-year-old boy in tow, so there are the curious choices of babysitters. Just at the point where I was starting to think, “How stupid are the bad guys they aren’t noticing the kid is with the sitter instead” Merz throws in a twist that sends the story off in a different direction. The writing is excellent and there are the continuations of subplots from the first book that clearly are going to be carrying over through the series. There is enough romantic interest thrown in to make Lawson complex, not enough to interfere with the story line, and even the “darlings,” characters that seem untouchable are not invincible or immune to being killed. The only complaint I have – out of the four Lawson novels I have read so far – the bad guy is always part of, or sanctioned in some way by the Council, and they are predictably pissed off at Lawson. While these are more thriller/suspense than mystery, it makes one wonder if the five or six people on the council were really so rotten, why haven’t the rest of the vampires booted them out by now? Even bad presidents are voted out eventually. It is strange that these Council members have been in place for several hundred years and no one has noticed them being evil until now.

    My review this time – 4 out of 5 stars

    The Invoker by Jon F. Merz

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