Early Bird Efforts

bfd60-2010-02-07_feeder_snow_144a

Mr. Grackle in snow –  Picture by: Lausanne Davis Carpenter

The best remedy for surviving a twelve-hour day in cubicle-land is to spend my early mornings on my own goals. I have posted on LDavisCarpenter about the challenges of writing historical fiction and am starting a Flash Memoir side-project while chipping away at my novel.
 

I am reasonably confident in my non-fiction abilities but creative writing is – whew. I know how long it takes to develop any new skill so I want to use my life experiences as material for word-crafting practice – before I am faced with final edits of my long fiction. Flash Memoir seems like a good choice for distilling memories into words that transport a reader to another’s time, place, thoughts and senses. I also think it will be fun to capture snippets of my own crazy life in this form.

 

Meanwhile, you can see last summer’s mural on the Marsh Hawk Studio blog. I still plan to do a process post showing the steps to creating it but those pictures are on my other laptop which an Office update recently corrupted and can no longer access the internet. (Yes, thank you very much.) I will soon update the Long Ago & Far Away blog with notes on Conn Iggulden’s Genghis Khan series.

 

If I can ever get my blogs up to date AND have a day off – I’ll be back to writing my novel.



***About Mr. Grackle – just a fellow at my feeder on a snowy morning back in VA. Those eyes look like I feel most mornings before tea.

Writing and Responsibility

desk and candle

There’s a certain martyr’s pride we risk when forcing ourselves out of bed in the wee hours to get our writing done.

I’m back to the Day Job – the traffic, the hours (the paycheck! old friends! new friends!) Thankfully, this time I have a shorter commute which is allowing me to find a few minutes in the morning to think about writing. So far I’ve managed to read some research material and scribble a couple of posts on my writing blog.

I could get up even earlier but, working six or seven long days every week, less sleep would reduce my ability to help the people who depend on me at the office. They depend on me for training in order to stay in their assignments as long as possible. But, my sense of responsibility goes beyond their urgent questions. My employer depends on me to keep our people in their roles because that’s the core of our business. Our client depends on our people to serve their customers well, in support of their brand. Those customers depend on our people to be professional and accurate during their time of need and sometimes great stress. And, my people have others in their lives depending on them to bring home a paycheck.

I owe them all seven hours of sleep every night.

Dickens-at-the-Blacking-Warehouse

Work in Progress: Never-ending Renovations:

Work In Progress

Work In Progress

Looking good, eh?

Six months delayed. Cost overruns. Losing buckets of $$$$$ because I quit my day gig too soon. The house was supposed to be ready early March – originally December, but I knew that was laughable – so I stopped working at the beginning of January in order to help my parents pack, move and settle in.

Is the end in sight?

The insulation isn’t even in yet, much less drywall and fixtures. My husband and I will have to DIY the flooring, cabinets and painting to save money.

The good news is: the wait has allowed me to write. Writing is portable while I’m trying to be in two places at once.

Meanwhile, I’m having serious cravings to paint – particularly with encaustic/wax processes. But painting isn’t very portable (not the way I paint anyway, and especially not with the encaustic set-up). So, I write.

Is there any wonder I’d rather just sit here and read?

porch1 medium 11 inches

Time Management and the Disordered Life – Update #1

Reposting this here to keep my general blog up to date. Have other bits of news to add shortly. Stay tuned!

L Davis Carpenter - Writer

Must Keep Writing!

10,000 new words in six days! Whew. Mostly rubbish but something to work with. I’m trying to set short-term goals based on what looks possible within the next chunk of time. Those six days were spent away from home, helping my parents with their move. While I am with them, we have a standing agreement that I spend my mornings working on my writing. I am often able to squeeze additional time (mostly reading, research and social media) into the evenings.

I’d set myself a minimum of 1500 words/day while there – see here – enough pressure to keep me focused but not so much to make failure inevitable. I’m not sure of the exact final count because I often delete chunks of in-line notes along the way. But I definitely averaged above my 1500 word/day goal.

Now I am home again – for about a week…

View original post 150 more words

Time Management and the Disordered Life

L Davis Carpenter - Writer

Down the Rabbit Hole Down the Rabbit Hole

Day job, family, (laundry, errands, bills, stray cats and trying to move aging parents to new home), news headlines, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, real life relationships – everything conspires against our creative arts. This past week, with 20x more discretionary hours available than usual, I lost focus. I meandered down every possible rabbit hole. A lot of it was good – I’ve learned about marketing, how to use Twitter, found new resources and finished some research – but I didn’t add one word to my manuscript. I floundered.

Today I’m packing to head north again and wishing I’d used this week at home more effectively.

My life goes from 95% externally structured (when on an adjusting gig) to negligible external structure (between gigs). I have been self-employed most of my life so I am adept at self-structure and motivation. But from time to time even I fizzle out.

View original post 96 more words

Collateral Damage

Here’s a repost from my writing blog: ldaviscarpenter.com (I’m trying to figure out the best way to cross-post my own material from different blogs.)

L Davis Carpenter - Writer

The Shepherd's Song

Ever wonder about those poor peasants who are always raped, pillaged or wholesale deported to foreign lands?

I do.

I love reading historical fiction about movers and shakers; kings and queens whose passions turn the wheels of history. But every time a village is burned and the women and children are dragged off by their hair I think, what about them?

They are the red shirts of history.

Maybe I identify with them. Since childhood, I have read about historical upheavals and wondered, how do the regular folks survive? How did people get on with their lives during the bombing of Britain? What became of the ethnic Koreans deported to the Kazakh SSR? How do you feed your family when Boko Haram is in the neighborhood?

It is hard enough to hold a steady course when my plans are derailed by a sudden car repair..

Kings, queens, statesmen – the…

View original post 95 more words

What I Did on My Summer Vacay

Front Range Viewed from Greeley, CO

Front Range Viewed from Greeley, CO

Summer is officially over if you consider Memorial Day and Labor Day the boundaries – rather than looking to celestial events. Neither work here in Florida – it feels very much like summer from April through October.

As for what I did: two months of Day Job in hot, dry Colorado. Then one month in hot, humid Tidewater, Virginia troubleshooting various challenges for my parents. I have now been back in my own home for three weeks.YAY! The laundry and housework are caught up, the new storage barn’s rafter tails are primed (note the evidence of oil primer in my hair) and tomorrow morning I start another round of Day Job.

This next assignment is a new role for which I am very thankful. The hours will be brutal, as always. However, I was able to complete a lot of research this summer so I hope to scrounge some minutes before work to convert story ideas in my head to scenes on digital paper.

I missed cross-posting a prior blog entry from Long Ago & Far Away to here so that will follow.

Light Reading

From my LDavisCarpenter – Writer blog:

Light Reading

Posted on January 1, 2014

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

I was so exhausted by Penman’s Plantagenets that I searched for something in my To Be Read Pile that would be light and fun. So, of course, I settled on Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies.

Really, I did. My other options were to start this or that series and I didn’t want to embark on another long-term commitment. Bring Up the Bodies was at hand, not nearly as massive as the three Penman tomes I’d finally completed and it is the 2nd in a trilogy I’d already started. So it took priority over starting something else.

The good news – I zipped through it in less than a week. It was strange reading more Henry stuff but this is No. 8, rather than No. 2. My brain wanted to merge them together for a while but I finally left the Plantagenets behind and caught up with the Tudors.

The first book in the series, Wolf Hall, started off as a difficult read. Mantel has chosen an unusual point of view – 3rd person present tense – all from the head of Thomas Cromwell. It took me about one hundred pages to get the POV and voice to sink up with my brain – sort of like trying to read Shakespeare after many years away from it. Once I found the right groove my only problem was the occasional confusing pronoun reference. Mantel’s writing is so immediate and nearly stream of conscious that it was easy to lose track of the “he” references in Wolf Hall.

Delving back into Thomas Cromwell’s head in Bring Up the Bodies was a synch. And I was thrilled to see that Mantel had found a device to solve the pronoun reference problem without tampering with her distinctive voice. In a given paragraph, if there is a risk of the “he” pronoun reference being unclear, she now writes, “he, Cromwell, blah, blah, blah”. Like the rest of the book, it is unusual but it works.

As to the story – Oh, my. Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell is a disturbing enigma but how else do you explain the contradictions present in this singular human being? I flew through the book even already knowing the historical outcome.

Highly Recommended.

Interview with Annamaria Alfieri

Another Cross-post from My Long Ago and Faraway blog:

Interview with Annamaria Alfieri

Posted on October 30, 2013

I met Annamaria Alfieri at the Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, FL in June. She was so much fun to talk to that we have kept in touch.

Annamaria is the author of three murder mysteries set in South America. She has graciously agreed to take a little time out of publicizing her new murder mystery, Blood Tango, to answer a few questions for our blog. (Yay! Our first interview!)

I came to Blood Tango with zero background knowledge of the events surrounding Peron and Evita – in my theatre days I neither worked on nor saw a production of the Broadway hit “Evita”. Even so, I was able to enter right into the story context with Annamaria as my guide.

Why historical fiction?

I read my first historical novel when I was fourteen: Katherine, by the great Anya Seton. I hated studying history in school. It was all about memorizing dates, the causes of war and which country won. No context, no understanding of the people involved, certainly not of their emotions. Dry.

I did not think of writing historical novels myself, however, until I went to Potosi (Bolivia) and became entranced with its beauty and then its history. That’s when I decided that, rather than continue with the contemporary fiction I had been working on, I would write a historical mystery that took place there, as a way of communicating more broadly some fascinating and mostly unknown history. The result was City of Silver. (See the YouTube interview of Annamaria discussing her inspiration for City of Silver!)

Why Argentina? Why not some topic more familiar to readers?

Blood Tango is my third historical mystery. Once I set out telling about South American history, I stuck with it through three books. You are right. It is unfamiliar territory for many North American readers, but that is why I chose it. I think fiction readers in general, and mystery readers in particular, like to learn as well as be entertained. Most North Americans know very little about the history of the intriguing continent south of ours. There aren’t many novelists writing about that and I hoped to open a niche for myself there.

Did you come to the project with much background knowledge? Or did you have to start from scratch like I did while reading the book?

In all three cases, I began on unfamiliar ground. I had to research thoroughly to get a sense of the times, the place, and especially the historical characters.

What was the hardest part about writing this story in this context?

In the case of Blood Tango, all most American’s know about Evita, for instance, is what they learned from the Broadway musical. And that version of the history is distorted. That made the writing more difficult because I wanted to tell a compelling story, and try to do it without fighting too hard against the readers’ possible misconceptions.

I understand you’ve done some particularly creative events to publicize the book. Can you tell us about those? What did you learn from these efforts?

My daughter is a dancer, and we came up with the idea of doing a film featuring tango dancing. She produced and directed it, the choreography was done by the Paul Pellicoro Dancers. You can see it on YouTube here.

It got quite a lot of compliments and has been seen by, as of today, almost 1500 people. I am proud of it, especially since the choreography between the principal dancers captures what I think was the real relationship between Evita and Juan Peron.

You said to me at conference that you planned to be back at work writing the next book by July 1st. Have you managed to do that with publicity and life continuing to demand attention?

I DID! With the book touring, I have not been able to throw myself into it completely, but I am closing in on 20,000 words. This is a first draft of course. It will need a LOT of polishing before it is done.

I’m always interested in other writers/artists’ work habits. Do you have a daily writing schedule or goals that you try to stick to?

When I am in the first draft, I try to work six days a week. It takes a lot of energy to get my head into the story. If I leave it for two days, it is harder to get back into it to keep going. I am much more productive if I can hold on to the thread of the story. Even if it is just for an hour. Besides, I am happy when I am in the story. All the slings and arrows of everyday life can’t reach me if my mind is in the long ago and far away. I do not have to be coaxed to write.

Any time management tricks you recommend? Or is it “just say no” to everything else possible?

Your readers may not want to hear this, but I gave up reading magazines and almost all TV watching. I stay in touch with friends mostly on FaceBook and email. I don’t chat much. I cook, which I love to do, but only my thirty-minute meals except on Sundays. I take care of my family responsibilities. After that, my first priority is writing. Period. Full stop.

And anything else you would like to add would be great!

I love the idea for this blog. Lots of historical fiction is appealing and I do read and enjoy the stories that take place in the familiar times and locations. But I have such a fascination with the exotic. I am happy to be able to come here and find out what’s new on that horizon.

Thank you, Annamaria!

My Name is Red

A cross-post from my Long Ago and Far Away blog:

My Name is Red

Posted on October 8, 2013

My Name is Red

In a prior post I explained that I do not intend to write proper reviews of books. I also mentioned that for a book to receive five stars from me, it would have to be more than entertaining and well written. It must also stick with me past the final page. Some books are technically perfect but forgettable. Others are unforgettable but could do with another hard edit, or they have some niggling thing that prevents the perfect 10 in my eyes. And, as I explained, trying to review books as a beginning novelist just feels awkward.

I don’t generally read reviews either. When I choose a book (or film) I like to know as little as possible before I begin. I don’t even read back covers. Writers work incredibly hard to create a story that unfolds and reveals information in exactly the right way. I hate to miss that experience by knowing anything before the writer wants me to. Tell me the genre and the period and that you recommend it – let the writer do the rest.

However, I would like to use this blog to make observations about various books and invite dialog on certain aspects. Which brings me to these thoughts about My Name is Red.

My Name is Red appears on many historical fiction “must read” lists and is set in a time/place which is well off the beaten path. So it seemed a good candidate for a lover of long ago and far away tales. Also, although 16th century Istanbul is many hundreds of years and miles from my current period of study – for my interests, that’s really close!

This murder/mystery was written in Turkish by Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. With all the accolades, I figured I’d better read this and was excited to find something so intriguing.

At the time I read it, I was working about 60 hours per week at a brutal day job. I think it took me four months of dozing off before bed to get through this book. At times it was only the need to finally learn the identity of the murderer, and my general reluctance to ever abandon a book, that kept me going. (Don’t worry, no spoilers here. After all of that, I can’t remember who the murderer turned out to be.)

Many aspects of the book appealed to me: as an artist, I loved that the story is set among a community of miniaturist painters; the structure, voice and non-western worldview is compelling; the characters are complex and therefore unsentimental in their portrayal. But I felt vast portions of the book were repetitive and going no where, slowly. I could have enjoyed more of this world, these characters, if it had been additional material rather than the feeling that I was going in circles.

By the time I was done with it, I was relieved. And finding out the answer to the whodunit was, meh.

But here’s additional support for why I won’t formally review this book or others. Sometimes it is only after time and distance that the true impact of a book is realized. I am now 5-6 months from finishing that slog but find the book is still with me. Something of it’s essence lingers. What is it and why? I’m not really sure. I think a large part of it is the believability of the characters. They were just fickle, inconsistent and imperfect enough to truly breathe.

One intellectual question persists – I wonder if I were capable of reading the work in the original language, would the word crafting have extraordinary merit? Is it more beautifully written in the original? Did I miss some important aspect of the work by reading a translation?

This question buzzed around my head while I read the book and resurfaced when I read the article in the last Historical Novel Review, “Translating a Genre” by Lucinda Byatt. Ms Byatt makes a great argument for more historical fiction to be translated into English (Hear! Hear!). She also notes the difficulty for publishers to be sure of their translator’s skills. I couldn’t possibly critique Erdag M. Guknar’s translation of My Name is Red, but I can’t help wondering if I’ve missed out on something in the writing?

This book is also steeped in historical references that are probably familiar to eastern readers but are well outside of my exposure. It was fun though, just today, while readingThe History of al-Tabari for my own research, to come across the historical account of Shirin and Husrev, who’s love story figures so prominently in My Name is Red. I felt like I’d run into an old acquaintance.

I get the feeling that My Name is Red opened my mind to things I have yet to realize. The more reason not to rattle off hasty book reviews using the grade-inflation-tainted star system.

Recommended.

I’d love to hear from others who have read My Name is Red and your reaction to it. Is it just me? How do you feel about official/starred book reviews?