Category: nova

This Morning I Woke

I woke this morning and opened my eyes to the world — my world — and its peaceful, benevolent calm. By chance, I closed them, again, and was startled to see the cosmos spinning, a sea of tiny stars.  Intrigued, I watched.

First came vistas I could recognize — Betelgeuse and the belt of Orion, Sirius and the Swan, the great square of Pegasus. Then that vista moved …or I moved, and went beyond what my brain recognized as known to see more, then, more than that, all moving. I opened my eyes, again, and knew I sat upon my bed …closed them, and there, yet, was cosmos.

Enthralled, I just sat and breathed, keeping closed my eyes to watch in wonder ever broadening horizons that stretched all ways to beyond the knowns of all infinity.  Then, a cat called — Pepper — demanding my attendance, and I opened up my eyes, again …left that cosmos to its spinning.

Rising, I made my bed, turned the plant lights on, started my day, and, yes, attended Pepper.  I cleaned the downstairs bathroom after morning ablutions, careful in that cleaning not to jostle and destroy a carefully constructed corner home (behind the toilet) of the room’s long-time resident spider.  Too close my hand, and, terrified, darting, she hid beneath her wedge of web, a thickened pad of strands just a little bigger than her inch-diameter self. I eased away and waited, and, sure enough, she came back as quickly, climbing back atop her bed to resettle and arrange her legs and pedipalps. I smiled, pleased that she is once again comfortable and happy in our home, hers in mine and mine in hers.

I made my coffee, then sat contemplating for the minutes that first cup permits me take before I must start morning chores:

When I go out into the natural world, I am embraced by nature’s quiet, by natural shapes and colors, all gentle and complementary to each other, sometimes sharp, sometimes muted, sometimes bright, but always gracious in their presentation. When I go out into the human world, I am accosted by a sea of rudely regimented shapes and structures, all saturated with a cacophony of too loud, unnatural sound and colors too intensely brash, those shapes, those sounds, those colors all rubbing garishly against each other.

When I go online, again I am accosted by this same cacophony and brash intensity. I can mute the sound; I can place a filter on my screen to dim the garishness.  What I cannot filter out is the human ‘rude’, a rude expressing forth an attitude of influence, of will, of conflict.

Why, I wonder, do we celebrate inflicting influence and will, wreaking battle, war, and conflict — the conquering of others different than us, their destruction, their obedience to “our” will, their subjugation, defeat, and even death?  Why is it that getting our own way, despite what harm, pain, and cruelty that means to others — any others, be it other human, animal, plant, or rock and mineral — brings us pleasure? It’s in the games embraced by the teeming multitudes, in the images and sounds the throngs prefer, in the very knit of what the masses label civilized. And all of it pits tribe against some other tribe, tribe against the world, tribe against nature and reality, tribe against its own members. And in ‘tribe’s’ triumph and glorification of ‘defeated’ enemy, there’s no recognition whatsoever that, within a moment’s time — just a moment — the tribe will again turn restless, craving violence, to find ‘enemy’ within itself to engage in battle and defeat in bloodied conflict.

It’s in the winning, in the gory glory of annihilating and stamping out another and the many other upon which humans seem to thrive. It’s in subjugating life, home, sustenance, perspective, culture, and proclivity of others, all (plant, animal, rock and other human), that humans find their satisfaction, never recognizing that their own lives, homes, and sustenance, their own perspective, culture, and proclivity is vulnerable when the mob turns to find anew another enemy from within.


Today, it’s Pouring, but Yesterday…

Got a wonderful blast of sunshine yesterday. It was an absolutely glorious autumn day. Today? We’re back to much-needed rain. Enjoy. The first is a still-green maple sapling, the second is one of our century-old-plus cedars, the third is a shot of the also century-old tamaracks (larch) turned their wonderful autumn color just before they lose their needles. (Yes, they are one of the few pines that lose their needles every fall, so, those of you unfamiliar with them, don’t cut that tree that’s bare if its a larch, because, yes, it drops its leaves in the fall.)

maple sapling still green though it's fall one of our century-old-plus cedars century-old tamaracks turned their fall colors just before they shed all their needles for winter


Gravy Days in the Country

September and October are my favorite months. Yes, there’s November looming with its scramble to batten down the hatches, but September and October are those months where summer work is mostly done, and I can sit down and simply enjoy Earth.  Sure, there’s a bit of cleanup and tidying yet to do, but, all in all, it’s time to wallow in the relative quiet of kids gone back to school, tourists gone home — a time to embrace the Gravy Days, as my mother used to call them.

Our October this year didn’t start in gravy. There was a cold foreboding to the weather that promised a very cold, hard winter.  Everybody felt it.  Then, midway through, things changed.  And we got, not Indian Summer, but Gravy Days, all the same. Last fall clean-ups in pleasant progress and, yes, finally, the roofing crew, promised in Spring, here two days before the rains come.

My biggest project prior to November is … raking the drive and the pathways in preparation for snow removal this winter, manual clean-up necessary to get the bits of branches and fallen leaves cleared so they don’t get sucked into the snow blower with our inevitable wet snow and bind up the big machine, which, if and when that happens, makes me turn the air, not just blue, but purple with my cussing.

The Roofing Job, Done Late (Very), But Done

Hand-Raking the Drive

Halfway done (the rest, already completed, is behind me)

Three-quarters done

Done!

 

Gravy Days Pictures


Start of One of the NF Books I’m Writing

In case you think I’m fooling with you, I thought I’d share the draft first chapter of one of the non-fiction books I’m working on. Here ya go. Tell me what you think over on my DLKeur Writing As page on Facebook.


WORKING TITLE: Writing Your Novel – The Very Best, Easiest, Fastest, Least Frustrating Way to Write Your Novel

I like books that get right to the point, so let’s, shall we?

 

I’m, by nature, a pantser, that is, I like to create organically, writing on inspiration driven by emotion, rather than pre-calculated structures.  I like to let my characters lead the way through the crises presented to or perpetuated by them as churned by the story’s plot engine.  It’s an exciting way to write …if you know what you’re doing and where you are going.  It has surprises, elicits moments of pure genius, and, most of all, is sublimely fulfilling.  There’s a ‘but’, though.

 

Organic novel writing, or pantsing (‘writing by the seat of your pants’), has its problems, namely left turns, right turns, U-turns, and, worst, winding up completely lost.  These problems can leave the writer frustrated and discouraged, their manuscript unfinished and abandoned.  There’s a reason for that, and there’s a way to avoid it.

 

A successful pantser, just like a plotter—a writer who calculates what happens next in a story based on their detailed outline and story mapping/plot mapping—should know a few things before plunging into the writing, namely:

  • what their story is and what that story is about (two different things, though related),
  • who the story is about, and
  • where the story is going and will wind up (terminate).

 

You also should know the main conflict and pretty well understand how the plot will flow (the overall plot mechanism to be utilized).   Most importantly, though, you must know your ending …usually. (Don’t you just love exceptions? We’re going to proceed without discussing those exceptions, though, because they so very rarely apply to such a very few writers.)

 

Further, you really should know your main character(s), their vulnerabilities and strengths.

 

What you don’t have to know is the how of where the story is going to go next and next and next as you write it through, not unless you’re a died-in-the-wool plotter.  If you are a plotter, then, yes, you will need to know exactly or all but exactly where your story and its plot are going next and next and next through every moment of every scene.

 

My main complaint about plotting is that there’s absolutely no excitement or real joy in writing a novel via the plotting method.  It’s pure labor.  Once you’ve dryly outlined the whole of it, it’s a matter of padding it out so it holds reader interest.  My brain goes cold and my eyes dry up doing that, so that method is absolutely not something I advocate for anyone who isn’t writing pot boilers for minimum wage income.  And nothing really genius usually happens unless the character really takes it off script—those extreme left, right, or even U turns organic novelists regularly can experience, twists and turns that often lead to surprising, even brilliant results, but sometimes lead to complete disaster.  Nice thing about disasters is that, as the creator, you can go back to the fork in the road that leads to it and try again, over and over, taking yet another pathway until you find the one that’s perfect.  Of course, that means that writing without plotting can take regrettably longer to complete.

 

Disasters like this rarely happen to me, and there’s a very good reason.  It’s called ‘know your story’.

 

For those of you who read my How to Write a Good Book in 17 Days, you’ve already seen a crash course that employs this technique.  In this book, though, I’m going to elaborate on the process and start from inception and conception, then walk you through execution.  Let’s begin.

 

Every Story has a Beginning that is the Result of a Previous Ending

Every story has a beginning, but that beginning is actually the result of an ending.  You’ll often see me end a novel or short story with ‘The Beginning’ instead of ‘The End’.  There’s a reason for that.  Because the story’s culmination is actually the beginning of the next story.  This is true of every cherished novel I’ve ever read, be it something by Mark Twain, Conrad Richter, Ursula Le Guinn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear, Charles Todd, Prestin and Child, or any of the other many authors I enjoy reading, a list way too long to present unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading through the begats in the Bible’s Old Testament.  If you check your own list of favorite novels and novelists, though, I think you, too, will find the same to be true of your favorite author’s novels.

 

The end of one novel can beget a new unwritten novel’s beginning.  And therein lies a clue to effectively starting your novel….

END EXCERPT


Fuss, Fume, Bother

Rage, castigation, derision: Not only do we have constant contention on the main streams of social media, but we’ve got it in the groups and communities, as well, including, I’m sorry to say, the main flute group on FB. Can we concentrate on playing our flutes and discussing (with civil tongues and benevolent perspectives) the nuances of effective performance? No. Can’t seem to.

I took to lurking, then left the main flute subreddit over on Reddit.com — too much cliquishness support for questionable, even erroneous ‘expert’ advice. Then, here on FB, after one of the skirmishes that blew up over much ado about nothing, I took to mostly lurking on Flute Forum, https://www.facebook.com/groups/fluteforum/ . This isn’t because I don’t enjoy a lot of the people there, but because, again, there’s this contentiousness that creeps into any discussion, and anyone is fair game for contemptuous, derogatory treatment by cliques of a different mindset.

Then, of course, there’s the ‘show and tell’ that really should be relegated to one’s own personal FB pages and the “buy lessons/master classes from me” posts. Oh, yeah, and the “buy tickets for my performance this weekend at JackAndApes” posts.  These things I can do without.

You know, I really am on social media to interact with people, not to look at advertisements and duns for attention. I want to be part of flute discussion groups because I wanted to interact with other flutists. It doesn’t work, though. It’s become just like the present political and socio-cultural landscape — in a roil, a CONSTANT roil. It’s all fuss, fume, and bother, so, honestly, why do I bother.

Dawn's Azumi flute


The Trans-Dimensional Shift Machine Let Loose

8 Months Research, a Breakthrough, So It’s Build Time

Inside The Dimensional Shift Machine, strip

Back in January, 2016, I quit publishing.  I had book #3 of the Country James series ready to throw to my editor and was pounding out the final manuscript of E. J.’s Come-Back Road, the second book of a planned three book series covering the life of one Dr. Warren Jeffries, DVM that started with Old Hickory Lane. I quit because I got a good solid look at the piracy numbers of just one of my titles.  Then, I got the rest of the numbers, too.  

Throughout 2016 and 2017, I published nothing.  And I was pretty darned sure that I would never publish another novel, not until piracy could be defeated (Ha! Dream on. Did a year of research on that and found no good solution.) Then I met author Laura Belgrave, mystery/crime author of the Claudia Hershey Mystery series.  Like a drip of water that slowly wears away stone, Laura got my rock hard petulance worn down bit by bit.  It took her until January of this year.  Then, once again, I began to research.

I’ve got a very interesting brain.  It works at its own pace, and, usually, that pace is quite fast.  Not this time.  I kept shoving data in, but got back …silence.  I shoveled in more data.  Then more again.  Still silence.  Eight solid months inputting more and more data; eight solid months of dead silence.  …Until last week, when, like gears finally starting to move once the penetrating oil does its job or like one of those strange flowers that takes months to form, then bursts open into full bloom all at once, the whole evaluation and conclusion precipitated from subliminal simmering into fully served answer.

So I tried it.

And it worked.

Now, I’m scurrying about, pulling out projects I built, then mothballed as unworkable, and all the pieces are hanging together quite nicely.

I’ll keep you posted on progress as I work through all the various branches of the project’s build. See you on the other side.Inside The Dimensional Shift Machine, DLKeur 2016 web

 


How to Write a Good Book in 17 Days

Way back before I set a moratorium on publishing my novels because of piracy, I set out to write at least two books a year. And did it. In fact, all three of my Montana Love Story novels were written in a month and under, with the second and still unpublished third book drafted in seventeen days and sixteen days, respectively. It was something which I hadn’t thought myself capable, that is to write a good book — one of my books — in shorter than a year. I proved to myself that I could …only to quit publishing in a fit of temper about all my books having been pirated, even those exclusive to Amazon.

Now, a full two years plus since my last novel’s release, an author friend’s needs prompted me to put my process down in an orderly, organized guide. Here it is:


Professional Self-Publisher vs Professional Author, the Bottom Line

I just read an article about professional self-publishing authors versus hobbyists. I thought it was reasonably presented, well-written, succinct, and to the point. There were a couple of things, though, that niggled at me, mostly because my brain is always adding in the qualifiers, quantifiers, and outliers — the means and the extremes. First, though, a short synopsis:

The author, Peter Mulraney, first defines professional versus hobbyist quite nicely. There can be no argument from the tax authority, which is where the distinction is most critical, much as many a self-published author will dodge that comprehension until after they’ve gotten themselves stuck in some auditing mire.

From there, we get a quick summary of product-based business basics:

  1. the business plan
  2. the product and its marketing
  3. diversification
  4. record-keeping
  5. self-discipline

And, of course, this is where my brain releases devils within details, the first and foremost being that, in order to do #1 on the list, you have to have previously mastered #5, no small feat for many. Heck, for the majority, it’s tough to even muster enough self-discipline to get up in the morning in time to shower, dress, and head out for the day job with enough time to spare that some unforeseen delay like a train at a railroad crossing doesn’t send them into a frothing frenzy because they’re going to wind up fifteen minutes late for the job …again. Hence, you see that frenetic driver, their body leaned forward in urgency as they weave in and out of traffic to then cross three lanes in a dive for their exit, tires smoking as they round the last corner to scream into the employee parking lot.

Luckily, Peter lays out a nice road map, though, defining a business plan as “setting measurable goals.” He then gives a tidy example:

  • writing and publishing a book every year – that means scheduling time to write
  • building a body of work within a defined timeframe, for example, ten books in five years – that means committing to the long term view
  • setting sales targets, for example, selling 10,000 or 100,000 copies – that means scheduling time for marketing

Let’s take a look at those, shall we? Write and publish a book a year, and — very important this — scheduling the time to write that book. Okay. Do-able. …For some.

But, wait. Check out bullet point number two: Build a body of work within a defined timeframe — ten books in five years.

[Sputter.] That’s two books a year, something even big-name, trad pubbed authors often sweat to accomplish …and they (supposedly) have editors and agents to help them along in meeting that goal.

But there’s help once you’ve got number one out the door. It’s NaNoWriMo!

Voilà! That should get you book number two for the year.

Okay. Onto the second part of bullet point number two: committing to the long-term view.  Now, I ask: How many folks can you name, including yourself, who can make a monthly plan and stick to it?

How about just a weekly plan?

A day plan?

Okay. Let’s lower the bar: How about just making and fulfilling a monthly shopping list of everything needed in your household for the month, vowing to never venture out to the store again until thirty days hence? …How about just a week’s worth?

I’m sorry, but most everyone I know these days, save myself and Bill next door, can’t even manage a full day! And you think a five-year plan is going to be a functional reality? Do you remember that research paper you had to turn in by the end of the month in high school? How did that work out? That book you were assigned to read and give a book report on? That chapter of reading for History class?

If the honest answer is, “Great! No problem. Always got my goals and assignments done” or, even, “Usually got my goals and assignments done,” then, yes, do give long-term goal-setting the go. If not, practice completing short-term goals, increasing the length of time for each practice goal by twice every time you succeed. Once you have managed to succeed at setting and accomplishing a yearly goal, then, okay, give longer-term planning a try.

And now we come to bullet-point number three: “setting sales targets.”

In a word, don’t. Not even if you’re a best-selling, trad pubbed author with an awesome advance release team and publicist, plus an in on Oprah …unless,of course, you’re the mob boss in some mafia, syndicate, or cabal with enough influence that will guarantee the numbers you set yourself, by hook or by crook.

As to some of the details Peter mentions, I’m only going to address this one, because it’s to-the-point and on-target:

“Being in business means being flexible with what you write and publish. There is no point in persisting with a product line that does not sell.”

Bingo!

And here’s the translation: If the books you’re passionate about writing don’t sell, are you willing and able to write what does? Because that’s the difference between being a professional self-publisher and being a writer. The bottom line drives the former; passion, the latter. I count as the latter, which, because I do make a profit, because it’s work, not a hobby, makes me, not a professional self-publisher, but a professional author who now just happens to choose to self-publish rather than go back with the trads.


What’s Important?

A friend of mine — a best friend of mine (Anita Lewis) — spoke today about gratitude on Infinite Matters. She just came through Hurricane Irma. Having survived what I consider to be more than my fair share of life’s critical emergencies and traumas, I could totally relate. And, of course, as with everything, relating brought analysis and conclusions based on my own experiences with a forest fire-storm, numerous tornadoes, proximal lightning strikes, floods, being under siege because of armed federal fugitives with the resulting response of county, state, and federal law enforcement and their (thankful) invasion of my farm. Worst of all, brutal, physical assault that completely changed my life.

There seems to be a real disconnect in a solid majority of everyday people between what’s really important and what, lacking experience with real danger and disaster, only seems to be important, so much so that what is actually important doesn’t ever really hit home with most people until they face extreme crisis, catastrophe, trauma, unbearable pain, and, yes, death. That disconnect is, I think, what separates war veterans, military and civilian, from those of us who have never experienced war firsthand. It’s what separates law enforcement from the rest of us. Mostly, especially today, it’s what separates cultural combatants from reason.

When the biggest issue in your life is whether you’re going to make the mortgage payment or the rent, get to work on time, earn that promotion, or, even more trite, going to be able to get that limited edition iPhone, your nails or cornrows done by your favorite beautician, catch a date with some hotty, or be able to walk around publicly flaunting some aspect of yourself without criticism, then cultural issues can, for some, seem really significant. When faced with true hardship and trauma, though, everything pales, except what really is important: love, life, health, safety, sustenance, shelter, and freedom from terror and from physical pain for you and your loved ones and kin, maybe even, at least for some of us, extending that, too, for your kith, and your neighbors, near and far.

I think a solid majority of the well-off — and, no, I’m not speaking ‘financially’, but, rather, those who, regardless of circumstance, have love, life, health, safety, sustenance, some sort of shelter, and freedom from terror and from physical pain — need a hard wake-up call, a lesson in what’s really important, a hands-on experience that nails them in the forehead and dumps them into survival crisis. Maybe then they’d realize that all this fuss about varying cultural and political differences is, in fact, a luxury allowed them because they are not having to focus on base survival.

My husband, Forrest, has it quite right, I think. Are you willing to give up everything for it? Even your life and the lives of your loved ones? If the answer is no, then, no, it isn’t important. If the answer is yes, then, yes, it’s truly important.


How to be a Hugely Successful Published Author

First off, you have to write a book …or get somebody to write it for you, but it has to be one that is going to strike the fancy of ‘the mob’. (Think 50 Shades….)  If you don’t have something that’s going to strike a chord with the masses, then you’re just one insignificant among the millions of others publishing in the U.S., never mind globally.

Now, before doing anything else, and I mean anything (no queries to literary agents, no submissions to publishers, or, if self-publishing, no announcements, no pre-publication notices or pre-release sales, no cover reveals…NOTHING), lets go down the checklist:

  • Are you an extrovert? Yes?  Good.  Continue.
  • Are you part of one or another ‘in’ crowd, hugely popular both in the real world and on social media, and do you have a frenzied bunch of followers who dote on your every word, video, and image share? Yes? Good. Continue.
  • Do you have a bunch of money to fling to the winds? Yes? Good. Continue.
  • Are you already famous? Yes? Excellent. If no, continue at your own risk.
  • If self-publishing, get a really good cover made for your book. If going the literary-agent-to-big-traditional-publisher route, start querying the big agents, but, after landing one who actually manages to shop your book to one of the big five, expect to wait about 1.5 years before going to the next step.
  • Whether self-publishing or going with one of the big trads, hire a top-of-the-line publicist, buy lots of advertising, and get on with it.

And, no, this is not tongue-in-cheek. And, yes, you’ll come out behind for the first book, but, if it’s a hit like 50 Shades…, no problem. You’ll make it back on books 2 and 3. If it’s not a hit, continue with books 2 and 3 at your own risk …and, yes, if it’s not a hit and traditionally published, your publisher may very well dump you; your agent probably will, too.

One more thing: If you do make it, hire a financial adviser and learn what NOT to do so you don’t wind up blowing your wad and end up in the poor house.

 


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