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I'm on a social media diet for July. I won't be completely gone, but I'm cutting waay back. This is part of trying to enjoy myself again, which I can't do when I'm on social media too much. I spend a lot of time worrying about things I can't affect, and that's not useful.

It feels like a lot of people are talking out here, but no one's really listening to each other. The example I used for this in one of the forums I'm on was a blog post which several people retweeted and liked and a couple reblogged....and yet no one actually visited the webpage. (There was 1 hit, actually, but that person didn't click anything). As I said there, I feel a bit like I'm spitting in the wind.  

So I'll be limiting myself this month, trying to reclaim my time. 

Rabbit, rabbit. 
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Yesterday someone posted a labyrinth finder website link, so I looked it up and located a labyrinth not far from us. This one's in Allen, Tx., the suburb one over from us. The labyrinth is actually on land owned by the local First Presbyterian Church, but is also noted on the (next door) Methodist Church's site online. 

So this morning, after walking a bit at the nature reserve, I popped in there, just to see what it  was like.  

It's an interesting hybrid, combining a labyrinth, a garden, and the twelve stations of the cross. The man who laid it out evidently put those twelve 'rest and contemplate' stops into the fabric of the labyrinth. 
(This photo is taken from the edge of the property)

So I started walking the labyrinth. It was full of native plants and wildflowers, with places to sit and contemplate. I was, admittedly, too distracted by the plants to concentrate much. 

I was not alone in the garden, either, as there were multiple inhabitants who were perplexed by my refusal to walk in a straight line. 

The cottontails kept trying to guess which direction I was going, but the path of the labyrinth forces one to turn and change direction a lot, so I was annoying them.  

Plus there were some interesting specimens: 

This looks like a white version of stachys (lamb's ear). Even though it looks a bit odd, it's perfectly healthy.  There were several interesting plants, including one of the loveliest red yuccas I've ever seen, and a huge prickly pear. 

As I was nearing the end of the pathway (I'm a believer in following the path--otherwise why are you in a labyrinth at all?) , an older woman in gardening gear came out of the church and told me a bit about the garden/labyrinth.  

Among other things, it's a community effort. Apparently it was originally built with the help of some young miscreants from the nearby court, members of the local church, and...Mormon missionaries. This may be a regularly scheduled thing for them, because the gardener (Nita) told me that some were coming at 10 to help weed and water.  

Also, the garden doesn't have sprinklers. There's one spigot near the middle, and they can carry buckets of water to needy plants from there. Therefore, the bulk of the plants are native or drought-tolerant ones. Nita also told me that the majority of them were donated or bought on sales at local nurseries over the years since the labyrinth was first built in 2012. 

Here is, by the way, the aerial picture from their facebook page: 

That's just to show you that the scale is pretty large for a labyrinth.  So after I talked to Nita, I finished my trip to the center and left a penny there.  And then--even though I would normally go back the way I came, I took the cheater's way out. 

All in all, it was a pretty amazing thing.  

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I enjoyed the movie a LOT. My overall take-away is that I want to be Robin Wright when I grow up. Unfortunately, she's two years younger than me, so that ship may have sailed. But she was amazing as Antiope in the movie:
Robin Wright as Antiope in Wonder Woman
(And sadly, every time I heard her name said, I thought "Oh, that's how it's pronounced." and promptly forgot it. Ugh.)

Frankly, I would have liked it better if they switched things around a bit: Take the first 30 minutes of the movie and make that 90 minutes, then take the last 90 minutes and squeeze it onto the end.

Because the first 30 minutes of that movie is AMAZING!
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Recently there was a post made in the Daily Beast that talked about how you should write every day or just go ahead and quit.

Now most people who took exception with that article took exception to the bit about writing every day.

I agree. It's a dumb rule. Art is art, not science. It's helpful if you write frequently, but putting an "EVERY DAY" rule on it is neither helpful nor realistic.

Or the part where he says he hates all other writers. That was hyperbole, I think.

However, the thing about the article that bugged me the most?

This part:
What is certain is that on that same day, whichever one it is, one thousand other people will start their novels. In order to publish mine, it has to be better than theirs.

I don't know if that was also supposed to be some form of hyperbole, but here's what I heard: Publication is only for the BEST BOOKS

Not true.  

We all know that. We all pick up books and go, "How did this get published???"

There are a lot of factors that influence publication:

1) Talent, but also...
2) Persistence
3) Luck
4) Marketability  
5) Connections

Sometimes things are actually published because the writer knows the right people. People pull strings for each other.

I recall purchasing a book from an author who seemed perfectly nice. His debut novel was published by a MAJOR publisher, part of a trilogy released in hardback, ebook, and paperback. Fancy Schmancy.

Not far into the novel, I figured out that it was Full of Tropes. Painfully so. And the writing had some issues, like having the POV character's head explode...and yet that scene continued....somehow. 

The blurbs were admiring, but the reviews weren't. Publisher's Weekly was downright...well, it wasn't pretty. 

Notably, there wasn't a second series.

It was not the Best Book...but somehow, this person had gotten a lucrative 3-book deal with a major publisher. Instead of #1, the writer had 4 and 5. He was young and good looking, and a protege of some old-school Big-Name Writers. He was connected in another industry. And there may have been luck involved. I don't know. 

But I still remember reading that book in my hotel room, over a decade ago now, and thinking of some of my friends who'd written truly amazing books. And they weren't published (or were having trouble selling books at that time.) 

I wasn't at that time, either. I had written Dreaming Death a couple of years before that, but had only gotten form rejections from agents at that point. (Including one from my future agent!)

My whole point being that the assumption that his books are the Best Books because he's being published is a false one.  

It's entirely true that his books might actually BE the Best Books. They could be.  

But every day the Best Books are languishing on an agent's desk. They're being rejected by publishers. They're being left on computers because the writer's health is too bad at the time to deal with sending things out.  Or they don't have enough spoons. Or they have to work too many hours to pay bills and keep a roof over their heads to learn the systems of submitting and querying. And they surely don't have time to go to a conference and pitch to an agent/editor.  

And you can say that those people just aren't trying hard enough, but if you can say that, you may be suffering from privilege. For most people, keeping a roof over their head isn't an option. Trying to keep their health isn't optional. 

(As an aside, this isn't a statement about self-publishing. I'm only talking about traditional publishing and the assumption that the gatekeepers choose the best books. The self-publishing discussion is one for another time and place.) 

So while a lot of people took exception to that article for other, very valid, reasons, that was the thing that annoyed me. I dislike the automatic assumption that any book published by a Big Publisher is going to be great...or that all the books that didn't get there are inferior. Look around and you'll probably find dozens of great books that are published by smaller publishers, or indie-published.  And, on occasion, you'll find a real lemon under the hardcover jacket at the bookstore. 


May. 28th, 2017 03:50 pm
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I've been looking at putting out a single-short-story ebook of The Bear Girl, so today I read through it for the first time in a long time.

Now, with short stories, it's not hard to do a voice. Especially with shorter stories, since they're only a few thousand words. I imagine it would be hard to keep up over a very long manuscript. In my novel-length work, I never do a 'voice'.

Bear Girl has the narrator speaking in a child's voice, more or less. Not because she's a child any longer, but because she has neither education nor social skills (living on her own for 15 years does that.) There are things for which she just doesn't know a name or understand the consequences.

I kept wanting to rewrite lines in a more 'mature' (normal for me) voice. I resisted that for the most part, but I always wonder what the reader thinks when they come across a story that's different from the author's normal voice.

So as a reader, do that bother you? A short story by an author you like, but it sounds very different?
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Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which means my wedding anniversary (we don't do anything for that) and and extra day. I'm hoping that the Monday means I will get to sleep!

I am writing away feverishly, and hope to get more back into the swing of it as
a) I have declared a moratorium on house repairs until Fall, and
b) my dog's ear (hematoma) actually seems to be improving without a third surgery, so I've called the vet and told them to take us off the tentative-surgery schedule.

So I'm hoping that for the next three months I can concentrate on
a) my writing (I want to have Oathbreaker finished by the end of summer)
b) learning some graphic art platforms (as I'm doing some of my short story covers)
and c) getting back to a better eating and exercise schedule.

I've been struggling for the last two years because I have had so much house/dog trouble that I haven't been able to establish a regular schedule. As much as I'd like to believe I'm a creature of whimsy, my body prefers routine.

So Tuesday will begin an intensive effort to get my act back together.

Here's hoping! ;o)
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I haven't posted here since 2013! Yikes! I guess a revamp here will be on my list of things to do tomorrow...
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I've posted about my winter project over at LJ, where it's easier for me to insert photos...


New Stuff

Jan. 1st, 2013 08:21 am
j_cheney: (Default)

This year is the Year of the Book, so I've started that off by changing the look of my website over at www.jkathleencheney.com

I've added a new header photo and changed the web-site's name. Now it's
"Tales from the Golden City", the very city pictured in the header. (That photo is from Wikimedia Commons, BTW).

I'm hoping for a great year, with no wars to distract readers from their books, financial security enough that they can afford to purchase new books, and open-mindedness so that they will embrace new writers (like me.)
j_cheney: (Hurry...)
Since I often write in actual existing places (the "Iron Shoes" stories in Saratoga Springs, the Of Blood and Brandy novels in Porto, and the Russian novella outside St. Petersburg, for example), I have to do a lot of research.

Now my work is fantasy, so I'm actually writing a form of 'alternate' history. I can change things, including geography, within reason. I like to have a reason behind those changes, though, and I tend to obsess about making things fit.

I want to get the trees right. I want to get the birds right. I want to get the cobbles in the road right....so I research waaaay more than is likely needed by my readers.

For "Iron Shoes", not only did I procure as many period books about Saratoga Springs as I could find, but I also went through blogs. I dug through web-sites. I read diaries about horse-racing stables. I ran down costume books and catalogs so that I would have my characters dressed appropriately. I purchased a movie DVD because it was partially set in a Saratoga Springs hotel that was subsequently demolished. Google Street View. Google Maps.

I had also -visited- Saratoga Springs. From the train I watched the trees and undergrowth as we passed so I would know what trees I would find in the forest there. I tried to remember what kind of birds I'd find there.

I've just returned from Portugal, where I noted that there are 2 kinds of seagulls in Porto (brown and white). The pigeons of Porto are uniformly dark, while down in Lisbon, there's a lot of variety (white, brown, gray, mixed). There are also super-cool little diving birds out on the Douro River that made a little popping sound when they broke the water (although we only saw two...and I haven't figured out yet what they are.) It can be drizzling and then suddenly raining in sheets...and then stop again a moment later.

But St. Petersburg? No, I'm not visiting there any time soon, so I have to research on paper.

One of the things I like to use is stuff written by the people who lived there and then to give me that background. I've read some biographical work for this story: The Pearl and A Life Under Russian Serfdom: The Memoirs of Savva Dmitrievich Purlevskii (still reading), both tales that talk about the relations between the slaves and masters in pre-emancipation Russia.

A lot of things can be found via your library. Other things aren't available that way, especially books written decades ago (if they're not popular, they're removed from the library eventually). The used-book market can be useful here. Also, a lot of it, if published before 1923, is going to be available on-line via Google Books or Project Gutenburg. If you can put up with the iffy OCR, you'll find a lot of things are still out there.

But these days web-sites are also your friends. Google Maps and Google Street View are awesome resources. I've used the archives of the New York Times a lot. You can also use the internet to contact librarians...which I've done. I communicated with the public library in Saratoga Springs on a topic where I couldn't find the answer, and the librarian tried her best to find the answer for me. (In that case, she didn't have the answer. I found the answer in the NYT Archives and ended up sending that link to her so she could stick the article in her file for future reference).

I'm a bit obsessive about this...and no matter how hard I've looked, there are some things I've had to fudge. But I'm still going to keep trying...
j_cheney: (Hurry...)
Staring at the screen. What will I post today?

Any ideas? Any questions?
j_cheney: (Hurry...)
I'm proceeding on the Russian novella now, with still over 30K to go. I'm not sure there's enough tension, but I'm mentally working on that. Since this is primarily a romance, it's not going to have as much 'conflict' as I'm used to....

I spent a couple of hours writing and re-writing 3 paragraphs last night...a synopsis for my new editor. I -hate- writing synopses, especially ones that short. It's not quite a blurb--it has to get in more info, though, like the resolution. But in three paragraphs, all subplots go by the wayside. So what I sent her had no mention of either protag's family problems, personal problems...or the romance that's kinda central to the book.

No we just have to see what the new editor has to say about the whole thing. Since she never read the original, she's coming in to the revised version with no idea what was altered. Now I wait...
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I'm waiting for the Tag Agencies to open so I can go get my new driver's license (most open at 9AM). For those who don't know what Tag Agencies are...we still don't either.

After getting back to 5 days a week at the gym, I've gained 3 lbs. This always happens when I go back to working out regularly....but I still find it annoying. Gah!

This week I have to start looking at airline bookings for the year (no, I'm not actually going to purchase this week). It'll interesting to see how much it costs us to get to Portugal (SATA is fairly inexpensive, but only flies out of Boston...so we may look at other airlines.) [profile] displacedtexan is also curious how much it would cost us to go to the Dr. Who Con in Cardiff in March....although we may not have our passports back by then, so it may be a moot point.

No Shopping Challenge
I put the last of my creamer in my coffee this morning. I don't have any milk, only almond milk. I do have some powdered milk squirreled away, but I've never tried that in coffee. If I get desperate, I probably will.

Out of frozen broccoli, too.
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I'm posting over here today just to keep my hand in. I'm not planning to leave LJ, I jsut want to make sure my DW is still functioning.

I'm in limbo, more in the void than usual. I hate that. But it's out of my control. BUt any good thoughts you want to send my way would be appreciated.

Also, I am extremely bored with my diet already. There's only so much one can do with meat and fruit. Especially if it's 110 outside and one definitely doesn't want to cook anything. Meh.
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Is this thing working?
j_cheney: (Hurry...)
Still takes forever to load the update page on DW, so I went and vacuumed a couple of rooms while I waited.

I'll be mostly offline for the next week to ten days as we travel through some northern states. Neither the dog nor the housesitter is supposed to update my blogs.....but if you see a blog entry that's all about the joys of bacon....that' s probably not me. Although bacon is tasty....
j_cheney: (Reaching Out)
Just testing out Dreamwidth. I still can't access several pages on Dreamwidth, including my inbox, so the experience isn't all that impressive so far.

This is supposed to cross-post automatically to LJ. We'll see....

ETA: I'm j-cheney over at DW. Not a big change.
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316/604 pages through the fast read-through. Eyes tired. Cleaned up one of the loose ends. (Had a prop that just faded out of existence.) Got one more waiting to be fixed.

When I hit page 604 last time, I was disappointed. I didn't feel I'd accomplished what I wanted with the book. Reading it through again, though, I feel much better. I'm still enjoying reading it, and I did pretty well hitting the mark after all.

I'll be mailing a big box of candy (mostly M&Ms) to Australia later this morning. American candy, it seems, uses corn starch as a thickening agent rather than wheat gluten (meaning that wheat-intolerant Aussies can't eat their own wheaty M&Ms) I hadn't known that before last summer, but it makes perfect sense given their crops there. One of those things writers need to keep in mind. ::wags finger like schoolmarm::
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I'm tired of the rainy and cool. I realize that come August/September/October, when it's boiling hot and dry, I'll regret wanting it to go away, but for now I'm heartlily sick of it. Yes, I realize I'm saving money in watering and mowing, but a few of my plants are teetering on the verge of root rot, including two of my new bluebeards. Grrr....

The moles, however, are loving this weather, which makes ground-swimming easy for them.

We bought new maps for our GPS (in prep to go to Wisconsin), but when we started loading them, the computer said the device didn't have enough memory (so we only loaded certain areas). Would have been handy for them to tell us that before we spent the money. ::rolls eyes::

Process note:
I've finished the draft of DitD, and am taking a week or so to do edits. For example, in order to get some character arcs straight, I have a couple of conversations that need to be altered...nost notably one in chapter 2. This change will, however, provoke a cascade of smaller dialog alterations throughout the book....which means a complete read-through. I can do that, and if you were wondering, I will be incoporating the dratted spring rains as I go along. So, fast read-through progress? 58/602....


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J. Kathleen Cheney

July 2017



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