Blogging hiatus and a little R & R

The hot weather’s back and the timing is perfect for me to take a bit of a blogging break. I’m heading offline for a couple weeks, hoping to get a little extra writing done and maybe squeeze in some R & R.

R&R

I’ll be back in the traces and on schedule again by mid-August. Probably. Maybe. (But don’t count on it if this heat sticks around.) 😐

~  ~  ~

Contemplating blog changes…

BlogBlank

Our marsh in the late evening is a quiet place. The birds are silent, geese and ducks have hidden away for the night, and the tree frogs haven’t begun their chirping. The stillness is only broken by the occasional buzz of a passing insect.

DSC03285

It’s changed a lot in the time we’ve lived here. Sixteen years ago it was a pond – it even has a name on municipal maps – but through the years wild grasses have filled in the shallow areas. Now in the summertime the only visible water is in the deeper parts where a stream runs through.

Life’s full of change; nothing is totally static. If it were, it would become stagnant.

As I flipped my calendar to another new month it occurred to me that later in June I’ll be marking this blog’s fifth birthday. Eight hundred posts in five years – a consistent average of over three posts a week – and nearing one hundred thousand views. Whew! I wonder if anything I’ve said has been of any real interest or value, or if I’ve simply been occupying myself with my “mental meanderings”.

Musings have a way of taking my thoughts on a journey. I start out with an innocuous seed of an idea and before long it’s shot up into a gawky plant that branches out all over the place!

That happens in my novel writing, too, and during revisions a lot of ruthless pruning has to take place. Pruning can be hard, but it clears away deadwood and makes for a healthier plant (or story) in the end. So I’m thinking it might be time to tackle some pruning here on the blog.

Watch for changes later this month. Let me know which ones you like… and yes, which ones you don’t. 🙂

~  ~  ~

Using Photography in Writing

.

Not everyone who writes wants to create their own photos to accompany articles and blog posts, and with the availability of free graphics online, it’s relatively easy to find suitable illustrations when we need them.

Photos are often the inspiration for my posts here. I look through my digital albums until I see one that suggests a topic or potential analogy. Occasionally I take specific shots to illustrate an existing idea, but I’m a shameless shutterbug, snapping everything that catches my attention whether it has merit or not. You just never know….

Magazine editors seem to appreciate my offer to provide a few related photos when submitting material, and not long ago even used one as cover art. But I’m not a great photographer – I discard more photos than I keep, and often wish I had the talent of people like Susan Etole, Sandra Heska King and Ann Voskamp, or my daughter Shari Green and cousin Gary McGuire, whose photos always make my breath catch.

For decades I was content with my 35mm SLR camera until, eight years ago, we were given a digital – a Pentax Optio 33L – as a retirement gift. I was ecstatic with its 3.2 megapixels and 3x optical zoom and have used it extensively, totally content with its capabilities and portability.  This weekend, however, I received an early birthday gift… a new digital camera. It isn’t highly sophisticated as cameras go, but with 16.2 megapixels and 30x zoom, my new Sony Cyber-shot has features that I’ll probably never fully learn how to use, while still being small enough to take everywhere. Besides taking the usual still shots and movies, it records in HD and 3D, and even has GPS!  I just have to figure out how it works. It has ‘auto-intelligence’ that is much smarter than I am!

I like its ‘soft skin mode’, which will be great for portraits of grandchildren… maybe not a good choice for bird shots, but hey, I’m experimenting.

So tell me, do you think articles and posts are enhanced by the addition of graphics and photos, or most times is the text sufficient on its own? If you use photos, do you take your own or borrow from another source?

~

“Life is Good”

The Christmas CDs have long since been tucked away. I parted with them reluctantly sometime late in January. There’s nothing stopping me from playing them year ‘round, of course, but it’s because I deprive myself of the music for so many months of the year that it re-emerges fresh and precious with each new Advent season.

Two of the carols that I’ve always liked both start out rather mournfully:

“’Twas in the moon of wintertime,

When all the birds had fled,…”

and

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…”

The songs do turn joyous, of course, as the Child’s birth is announced, but to me their lyrics and melodies are always wistful and haunting. They resonate with the longing for a saviour in the winter of our lives.

It matches the longing that many of us are experiencing now that March is a week underway and we’re still slogging through snow, slipping on black ice and muttering about  scraping our windshields.

Maybe that’s why I’ve saved acknowledging a particular blogging award for all these weeks… holding it close, savouring it, and the kindness of the one who sent it my way last month.

It’s in these “bleak midwinter,” not-yet-spring days that something to uplift us is a blessing. Joylene Butler’s “Life is Good Award” was one of those delightful surprises that I mentioned earlier this week… the kind  that catches us unaware and makes us smile.

I’m not following the criteria that accompanied the award, but just want to say, “Thanks for reminding me that life is indeed good, Joylene, and for bringing a bit of sunshine into my frosty day.” You make me think of one of my young granddaughter’s favourite Sunday School songs: “God is so good. God is so good. God is so good. He’s so good to me!”

Are there songs that often linger in your head, reflecting your heart’s mood? What song is replaying for you today?

~

Valentine’s Day Romance Blogfest

It’s official. Jordan McCollum is hosting a Romance Blogfest to help celebrate St. Valentine’s Day next Monday. It’s easy to participate, and a fun way to exercise your romantic creativity as well as meet other bloggers.

Go add your URL to the ‘Mr. Linky’ on Jordan’s page now, then write something on the theme, “Love at first sight . . . or not so much” to post on your blog Monday. After posting yours and linking to Jordan’s page, you can visit the various other links to read and enjoy all the romance while you nibble chocolate Valentines… or whatever else you may do to celebrate the day.

The guidelines and ‘Mr. Linky’ are on Jordan’s blog. So what’s stopping you? Are you going to show us your romance writing ability or not?

Making Better Use of My Time

 

Google Reader helps keep my blog-reading habit under control. One day I took the time to enter the URLs of my favourite blogs as ‘subscriptions’ and now I can access them all in one place. A quick glance lets me know which ones have new postings so I don’t have to waste time travelling to each bookmarked blog to check.

Sounds simple enough, but on second thought my opening sentence is misleading. Better to say that Google Reader consolidates my favourite blogs into one place. Period. Nothing really keeps my blog hopping under control except self discipline or good old lack of time. But what it does is allow me to use my blog-reading time to better advantage.

That’s how I managed to catch up on some of my favourites while taking a brief break from NaNoWriMo this morning. That’s how I discovered I’d missed two valuable posts by Rosslyn Elliott. That’s how I was inspired to create this post. I still haven’t made it back to NaNoWriMo.

Something Rosslyn said created an eureka moment – one of those ‘I knew that but she said it so much better than I could’ thoughts. In What Makes a Novel Feel Real? – Part 1, she suggested, Don’t get so focused on a slamdunk pace that [you] leave out the everyday moments, the normalcy that makes the novel feel real.… I’m not saying we should never have burning buildings, but unless we balance those events with the more mundane dramas that fill most of our lives, novels feel fake.”

I’m not going to re-run her posts, but I do suggest you go read both of them. I’m heading back to Google Reader now to re-read her Part 2. Then I really have to get back to my NaNo novel. At 21,300 words I still have a long way to go, and today is already the middle of our NaNo’ing month!

To reiterate Rosslyn’s question, what does it take to make a novel feel ‘real’ to you?

#amwriting and #nanowrimo

There’s a lot being said about social networking these days – some of it good, and some not so much. I crept into the blogging world a couple years ago to initiate my internet visibility, and since then have discovered many wonderful online friends.

Then I was coaxed into the world of Facebook, mostly to keep in touch with family and close friends, although now writing connections are also among my ‘friends’ there.

During the recent SiWC conference, everywhere I looked people were texting and tweeting, and meeting and greeting ‘peeps’ they knew from online but had never met in person. Tweet-ups happened all weekend long and by the time I returned home, I found myself venturing into Twitter territory, too, just to stay in touch with my new conference friends.

During this month of frenzied NaNoWriMo writing, I’m spending a lot of time squirreled away by myself, and yet I’m not alone.  As I work on my computer there’s a whole community of similarly occupied people out there. And occasionally I take a break to check in. The bits of encouragement tacked on at the end of this post were snippets from Twitter that came in during just one brief period. When I need inspiration or motivation there’s always someone ready to provide it. Now that definitely is something positive to say about social networking!

Question for you: What social networking opportunities do you take part in? Have they been mostly positive experiences for you, or have they had some negative aspects?

~

  • Managed to write 3600 words for #NaNoWriMo today. Pretty happy w/that. Puts my total @ 6925. Not bad for 4 days work – I think. #amwriting
  • I didn’t quite hit 2K but I did write 1775 words. That makes 3902 so far today. 5K here I come. #amwriting #NaNoWriMo
  • ooohh keep it up #vancowrimo We are presently #18 for highest overall word count. #2 in Canada behind Toronto by 500K words.
  • After spending most of the day preparing to move tomorrow, I #amwriting for a bit before bed.
  • I’m going to finish chapter 3 tonight. #amwriting
  • I’m back and feeling better. My head still hurts but not as bad. Time for #nanowrimo I #amwriting again! Woooo! :3
  • Didn’t realize I broke 10K on my WIP. Up to 11,875. That gives me a little more #amwriting motivation for tonight…
  • 3067 words! Goal for the day met, spanked and sent on its way. Yes, I’m still writing. #amwriting #nanowrimo
  • Today is over in 30 min so word count for today is 3290 #nanowrimo #amwriting I shall write on, for tomorrow…
  • I think I just wrote at least 1000 words of new stuff. Shows what I can do when focused. Wrote most of it on the kitchen bench. #amwriting
  • When a Wrimo reaches quota, an angel gets her wings. Or something like that. 10261/50k #nanowrimo #amwriting
  • #amwriting Getting TONS done tonight. Not sure where the inspiration is coming from, but I’m not going to ask questions.
  • 15k. Still going! #NaNoWriMo #amwriting
  • Nudging 12,000 words but some o’ them ain’t pretty! How y’all going? #NaNo #amwriting #shutupandwrite.
  • Awesome job!! RT @Xxxxxy: 8,161 words today — personal best. 31,163 words total. #nano #amwriting #amgoingtobed
  • @Xyyyz Glad you reminded me. Guess the only rule for #Nano is to keep writing even when the muse is silent. #amwriting

~

Three, Two, One, Go! NaNoWriMo’s Underway

This is it! On Canada’s west coast NaNoWriMo 2010 is now underway and I’m settling in for thirty days of… what? Sore butt, aching back, callused fingertips and strained eyes. Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound like much fun, but I’m stoked to thrash my way through the first very rough draft of the novel that’s been playing in my head like a theatre marquee.

I’ll continue to blog regularly but I think I can safely say you can expect much shorter posts during November. In lieu of my wordiness maybe you’ll take time to tell me what’s on your mind.

But first, while I’m writing myself blind I’d like to think you’re writing, too, and I’m curious about something. What’s the logline of your current w.i.p.? Let’s hear it… no more than two sentences. 🙂

Versatility With Substance?

Holidays are my poor excuse for the delay in responding to Carol Benedict and Joylene Butler’s kindness in awarding me the Blog With Substance and Versatile Blogger awards. It’s such a precious gift to have one’s writing efforts acknowledged by other writers. Sincere thanks to both of you!

Both awards come with similar although not identical requirements. The Substance Award asks that I share five words that sum up my blogging philosophy. That’s something I haven’t thought much about. Let’s see, I want this blog to be a place that is:

  1. Respectful – of differences in people, their abilities and their opinions
  2. Reflective – of the world around me, of God’s light and love
  3. Helpful – sharing information, news and advice from within my realm of experience
  4. Individual – an honest expression of me, my faith and my ideas
  5. Uplifting – a place of encouragement and empathy

Then the Versatile Award wants me to share seven things about myself. Seems like I’ve already done that on a couple of occasions. Do you suppose these have to be seven new things? I may have to steal a few from a different list but I’ll give it a try…

  1. Although I’ve never been able to play it very well, my favourite musical instrument is the piano. I’m sure there isn’t a mood it can’t express.
  2. I painted in oils, mostly landscapes, for two decades, sold everything and now don’t own a single piece of my own work.
  3. Despite living on the Pacific west coast, the only kind of seafood I like is barbecued salmon and canned tuna.
  4. In 1954 I was a majorette, twirling my baton and high-stepping with a friend, providing half time entertainment for the BC Lions football games. “Lions roar in ’54!”
  5. Singing the Canadian anthem always brings tears to my eyes.
  6. I love a good mystery story but my favourite TV programs are non-violent ones such as “Little House on the Prairie” reruns, “Heartland” and “Divine Design”.
  7. If I had to pick just one food to exist on it would be soup. I love all kinds of soup except for clam chowder.

There! Does that do it? Not quite. The other requirement is to pass along the awards to several other blogs. I’m never comfortable singling out one favourite over another, and to complicate things, some of the writing blogs I might choose have already received one or both of these awards. Carol Benedict suggested nominating blogs that I feel qualify as blogs with substance, or listing the blogs I check most often. I could do that, but I don’t believe the owner of the one I have in mind would accept an award.

And perhaps that’s my answer. I won’t nominate anyone this time, but simply refer you to Ann Voskamp’s poetic words of faith. If you have not yet visited her blog, A Holy Experience, please check it out. You will be blessed.

Wordle Reminiscence and a Word of Thanks

Exactly two years ago I posted my first blog entry entitled, “Becoming Visible,” the text of which forms the Wordle on this page. Chickadees and Flickers found their way into that post, providing examples of how I felt about venturing online with my writing.

Wordle: Visibility

I said, “It occurs to me that such birdy behaviour is reminiscent of an author’s dilemma: disliking interruptions as we focus on feeding our creative selves, and yet needing a degree of visibility to get what our resulting creation needs — readers. So I have arrived, fluttering noisily albeit reluctantly, into the world of weblogs. I have become visible.”

On my first online anniversary I posted a question, “After One Year What’s Next? Anything?” Like others who periodically wonder if the time spent on blogging really has any value, I questioned what had been achieved in the year. I concluded that because of this small page on the World Wide Web I have met a number of good friends and “have tiptoed into the open, pulling aside the curtain that separated the artificial layers of my persona from the authentic me. For an introverted writer that’s a gigantic achievement.”

Now, another year later, there is proof that this blog has served a third purpose. Today’s post is #311. Over three hundred times I’ve gathered words together to share something of importance to me that I hope has been of some interest to you. In addition to magazine articles and novel writing, I’ve engaged in over three hundred writing exercises that wouldn’t otherwise have made it onto a page.

So, to each of you who has taken time to visit here, I thank you for giving me a reason to continue writing these “musings and mental meanderings on life and writing.” You won’t have realized it, but you’ve been helping me improve my skills as a writer and that’s more valuable than any ‘giving back’ that I’ve been able to offer you.

.