Winter Holidays

Winter Holidays.

A season for love. A season for family and friends. A season for happiness.

A season for no free time at all because your children are on vacation and you still have all the normal day-to-day duties to get done.

Now that my son’s not in school, it’s been difficult to get to wifi locations in order to keep up my blogs. It’s been difficult to find the time to write, to make exercise routines, to practice my demo, to print stuff out. Needless to say I’ve fallen behind in a lot of things.

Unfortunately I’m a lousy housekeeper so the apt has taken the brunt of my laziness and lack of time. My friend Holly and my writing have also taken a hit though I’m almost caught up with my Holly duties. I just hope my lateness hasn’t cost her anything. I enjoy being her beta reader for the Celluloid Files and I don’t want her to stop sending them so I have to keep on top of my critiques in order to keep them coming.

Maybe I’ll ask her to send a couple at once so I can get them done more quickly. That might work.

I was able to print out my own writing but I haven’t gotten much reading done on it. A few pages at best. Ugh.

Two things that haven’t suffered are my exercise (have to keep going strong to stay sane and stay ready for when I finally get my chance to teach) and my reading. I don’t mean critiquing, I mean reading books. I’ve been immersing myself in books – mainly Agatha Christie’s Poirot but there’s some Richard Matheson and Stephen King in there as well.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get my head out of the clouds and into the library now that Jacob has something to keep his attention busy without needing my computer to do it.

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Protogenoi

In every belief system there is a beginning. Unless there isn’t which I still can’t wrap my brain around because it’s literally beyond my imagination and makes my head hurt when I try to think of it. But people still write a beginning. In Christianity the beginning comes when God creates our world. In Norse mythology the beginning also comes when our world is created – more or less. I’m simplifying to the extreme for that one.

In Ancient Greek mythology the beginning seems to coincide more with the Big Bang Theory.

*NOTE: There are different versions of the creation myth in Greek mythology. I’ve taken one. Wikipedia is a good place to find the others.*

In the beginning there was Chaos and Chaos was nothing. From Chaos came four primordial deities (the protogenoi). These were Gaia, Tartarus, Nyx, and Erebus.

Gaia became the earth while Tartarus became the black pit that exists below the Underworld. The worst of the wicked are sent to Tartarus for an eternity of torture. Erebus became the darkness while Nyx represented the night.

While Tartarus seems to lose his god-like presence to become a place, and Erebus seems likewise to become darkness, Gaia and Nyx retain their goddess status. Although Nyx is mentioned rarely, it’s implied she’s incredibly powerful – so much so that Zeus is reluctant to cross her. Gaia plays an important part in the time of the Titans though when the Olympians take over she fades into the background as the earth.

RECAP:

  • Chaos – what existed before the beginning of time

Protogenoi (primordial gods):

  • Gaia – Mother Earth
  • Tartarus – Pit under the Underworld
  • Nyx – Night
  • Erebus – Darkness

There’s a lot more to the beginning of creation in Greek mythology than what I’ve written but this is the short and simple version. I only wanted to throw out names and some basic info about them, not give an hour-long lecture.

Edit Printed Copy

I read “recently” that a good way to edit your manuscript is, when you think you’re done writing the whole thing, print the entire thing out and then skim through it from start to finish with sticky notes or something to make vague comments here and there when you find something that bugs you or is wrong etc.

Then go through it again and address each comment you made to yourself on those notes. I’ve thought of printing out my stories before to edit but always thought I was being extravagent and that it was unnecessary. When I told my husband about this technique he said that’s what he does with all of his papers too. Lo and behold, later that night he brought out his latest paper and did just that.

I’ve seen him do it a hundred times before. I wonder why it never occured to me to emulate him?

So I’ve decided that’s what I’ll do. Instead of waiting till I’ve finished making changes to my manuscript though (which I’ve done about 3-4 times already), I’ll finish an entire scene/place then print out those chapters and look through them again. I mean, 250 pages is quite a bit to print out all at once and I just don’t have that sort of money to dish out in one go.

I finished ch 1 & 2 last week and meant to print them out before Christmas but that obviously didn’t happen because the library was closed I found out and I didn’t want to go elsewhere (businesses can be super expensive to print your stuff out!) so I waited and started reading another Poirot novel in the meantime.

Just finished Stephen King’s Joyland over the weekend. Was good but it took me forever to get into it. Even then it was really only interesting at the very end. Ho hum but at least it surprised me at the end and the writing was very good.

Beta Readers

Many writers are afraid to let their creations out of their death grip to give to others to read (not counting agents). Will they like it? Will they be disappointed? Will they say lots of horrible things about it?

I am no exception to this fear. I give all my stuff to my dad to read for two reasons: having been an editor for about 20 years, he always has good criticism and he’s my dad so it’s almost a given that he’ll give me praise. When it comes to everyone else, however, my unspoken response to their kind offer to be a beta reader for me is, “You can pry it from my cold dead fingers!” Naturally, that is not something that I say. Not to their face anyway. I smile and nod while giving a noncomittal response.

Do I need beta readers? Yes. Has being published twice given me courage to hand out my work? A little (and I believe I’ve taken the negative criticism rather well). Does this mean I’ll hand out my manuscript? No. I’m sticking with my over-my-rotting-corpse stance.

But beta readers are very important for writers as they give essential feedback on how your work is going to be received (or not received depending on its quality). You have to trust that what they tell you isn’t personal and that they’re not going to steal your work. If you get negative criticism then that means there’s something in your story that you need to change. They’re not creating the off aspect in your story – they’re merely bringing it to your attention as something that does not work.

Should you pick anyone to be your beta reader though? You trust your best friend not to trash your work and to give an honest opinion, but maybe you write romance and that friend isn’t a romance reader. That person doesn’t read romance novels so they are not part of your audience. Their opinion is valid but it’s not going to be as helpful as the view of someone from your targeted audience.

Sift through the people you know and look for a person with your target audience in mind. Writing horror but have no horror-loving acquaintances? Move your search online. This requires more trust but the likelihood of finding someone who fits your audience is higher.

Good luck letting go of your fear and your work!

Character Background: Thanatos

My manuscript may not be in its final stages anymore but I’m going to begin divulging some information about it in the hopes of grabbing people’s attention. Maybe an agent will see this information and be intrigued enough to want to read the manuscript? Maybe this will help create a potential audience for when (notice I remain optimistic?) the manuscript is published.

In my manuscript I’ve taken Ancient Greek mythology and woven it together with my own ideas and characters. Many people are aware of the Olympian Pantheon. There are 12 gods and 12 goddesses. There’s actually a story behind those numbers but I won’t go into it right now. But the minor gods and deities aren’t so well-known, many of them drifting off into obscurity. While there are plenty of popular gods in Night’s Treasure, there are also a slew of the more obscure as well.

Thanatos is one of these gods. Except he’s not really a god at all. He’s a daemon.

Daemons – good, benevolent nature spirits, being of same nature as mortals and gods; similar to ghosts, chthonic heroes, spirit guides, forces of nature, or the gods themselves.

Like most Ancient Greek myths, there are multiple versions of this god/daemon. His mother is Nyx, the primordial goddess of night, and his father is Erebus, the primordial god of darkness. Some myths say Thanatos is the twin brother of Hypnos, the god (personification) of sleep, while others say they’re half brothers. Thanatos is the god/daemon personification of death and resides in Tartarus below the Underworld.

Not much has been said of this deity as he wasn’t part of the Olympic Pantheon and worship of him wasn’t widely practiced.

But that’s what makes him such an ideal character for me. There’s been so little written of him that I can do almost whatever I want with him without stepping on any mythical toes.

That’s a big deal for me – not stepping on mythical toes. These gods already have their own mythological “histories” and I don’t want to warp them. I prefer the challenge of weaving them as seamlessly as possible into my own story. It’s been difficult but so far I believe I have managed it even if it’s meant combining two different versions of a myth.

For more information on Ancient Greek mythology, check out Wikipedia. And, no, I haven’t gotten all of my Greek mythology information from Wikipedia. I’ve been learning about all of this since I was a kid and we had Encarta Encyclopedia on our mega-old IBM. Other kids played with videogames (I did as well), the interactive Encarta and Compton’s Encyclopedias on the computer were my games. I spent hours looking up information on them! Yes, I’m a nerd. As some people on my mom’s side of the family like to say, “And that’s okay!”

Writing Through Distractions

I got about 30 minutes of writing in yesterday! Now here’s my list of distractions that I was able to successfully write through:

  1. Painful cold in my head and throat
  2. 4-year-old son sitting next to me with iPad, occasionally asking me to race for him on his car racing app to get him more coins/stars
  3. Charlie Brown playing on the TV in front of me
  4. freezing cold apt
  5. sweating hot apt
  6. listening to music on my headphones
  7. texting
  8. drinking coffee

That last one wasn’t really a distraction but a god-sent.

All of those distractions and I still managed to apply myself rather well to my work. The only reason I stopped at 30 minutes was because I desperately needed a shower after sweating in a hot bathrobe with a humidifier on in the room. I was stinky! And my husband was coming home in about 10 minutes so I really needed to get into the shower.

Go me though! Power through those distractions to excel past the minimum amount of daily writing time. Woo!

Sometimes distractions can be very distracting and they need to be dealt with before we can start to write (like having my coffee ready and next to me before I start working). Most other times though distractions are merely what we invent for ourselves in order to procrastinate. Argue all you want but if I can power through my own distractions, other people can too. Most of these things aren’t really a distraction – we just imagine they are.

Daily Writing

Some years ago my husband told me that if I wanted to make it in the writing world then I’d have to push myself to work hard at it. People go to work every day. He was sure it was the same with successful authors. My sporadic attempts at writing hadn’t gotten my anywhere so, when my friend HL Henrikson showed me a link to Nephele Tempest’s blog in 2012, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to try out daily writing. The post in question was a challenge to writers everywhere to write every day. March Madness or something like that. But I had to sit down and write for at least 15 minutes…

Every. Single. Day.

And if I wasn’t writing the actual story, then I should be researching something about it or writing ideas for it. Anything connected to the story to keep the imagination going. Strengthen the creative muscles.

Did it work? Yes, it did. Life allowed me the time every day, even if it was just the minimum 15 minutes. I soared! It was amazing! Some days I felt like I was struggling through a bog of tar. Other days I zoomed along like a starfighter in hyperdrive (or a starship at warp speed for the Trekkies). But most days I would slog along the first 15 minutes and then find a comfortable groove for another 1-2 hours.

The manuscript done, I went back and edited. Repeat as necessary.

I no longer write every day. You know what? It’s super difficult to sit down and write again. Once more I’m slogging through a tar pit. I might as well be one of the mastedons in La Brea.

The “muse” seems to be a muscle like any other in the human body. You need to exercise it in order to make it stronger. If successful writers only wrote when their muse spoke to them, they might spend many years writing nothing.

You may not like it. You may groan or argue that what I’m saying is merely a tactic that works for me but won’t necessarily work for everyone so you’re going to keep going the way you’re going. But I highly suggest you try it. Just for a month, try it. Nephele has a December writing challenge going on right now. Even though I’m a few days late, I’m going to try it. Anything is better than nothing and there is no winner or loser. If you’ve tried to write every day, you’ve won. If you haven’t, it’s your loss. Maybe try again another month. Remember, 15 minutes is not a very long time. I think nearly everyone has 15 minutes of free time somewhere in their day.