Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#11 Financial Realities of Writing

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Hee hee, maybe I should let hubby take the reins on this one…

Okay, okay, I know it’s my contest contribution, not his. But he’s the ultra-practical one in our relationship and usually has a lot to say on the subject. I can be pretty practical myself. I’m a couponer. I only have a few pairs of shoes that I’ll wear until they start to fall apart. I made a partial switch to e-books, to save shelf space.

But I’m afraid I’m not so practical with my writing.

I’ve got to let the voices in my head have their say on paper or else I might implode. So, sometimes it means “spending money” to accommodate them. Though I never really thought about what I was doing as spending money, till hubby brought it up.

The chief financial culprits (for me) are taking the kids places so that I can write. The best place for this is the Y. I was already taking them there whenever I have an accidental glutening, because they get supervised play for two hours while I get to curl into a ball and wish for death. But it works as a great writing place too. They have wifi if I ever have to use the internet to look up anything, and black water coffee in the mornings.

But it’s ten miles away. Since I’m not exercising or writhing in pain (or both, if I’ve done the former), hubby considers that a “writing expense.” I consider it an avoidance of spontaneous combustion, but to each is own.

The other expense that I’ve discovered while writing The Stone of Kings is extra research material. Turlough O’Carolan is a character in my book and I didn’t want to misrepresent him. But try as I might, I could not find a library nearby that could even order his biography for me. So yeah, I had to plunk down $35 for that one. Hubby might not see it my way, but it was well worth the investment.

The only other expense I’ve encountered (according to hubby) is time. Now, he likes to chill out as much as the next guy, but hubby has no hobby. Well, no day-to-day hobby, that is. He really likes to travel, so to him time is more or less money. Apparently, I spend too much of it researching and writing.

Such is life.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 8,031 yet again. Unless I have some kind of freak accident, I promise I’ll have time to write today!

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#2 How are you inspired to write?

“Oh, look! She just got to the grocery store! I’m gonna hit her with an idea!” Image via Wikimedia Commons.

A cupid-like god sits up in his cloud preening his wings. He looks down and notices that I’ve just turned the water on in my shower…the perfect time to hit this girl with the arrow of inspiration! Then he chuckles knowing that I will spend the next 15-20 minutes frantically trying to keep the idea in my head while I finish my shower, dry off, and dress. Oh, wait! William’s up, gotta make him breakfast before I can write the idea down, otherwise he’ll constantly pester me… Gah!

Okay, mythological god mangling aside, I’m usually hit with ideas, whether for stories or blog posts, at inopportune times. Shower, driving, changing a poopy diaper… all are ripe opportunities for me to get hit with an idea because I can’t stop to grab a pen.

But the actual way I’m inspired? Well, that all depends on what I’m thinking about, listening to, watching, or reading at the time. For something to start a book, I like the Stephen King way to come up with a plot. Ask a “what if” question and explore it. “What would happen if one of Turlough O’Carolan’s guides got stuck in the future and started teaching about who he was?”

What keeps me going is research and chance. Researching for my book fuels the ideas that keep the plot moving. Don’t have an adventure to give to your characters as they journey north? Well, looky there! Wikipedia talks about an undefeated Irish sword of light! That ought to put a kink in anyone’s plan.

These research driven inspirations are exactly why I do the research when I’m not distracted by day-to-day tasks because I’ll get so keyed up by the inspiration, that I’ll probably do the task wrong,… like put marina sauce on a waffle. Maybe one day I’ll write a book about juggling day-to-day with inspiration and how they sometimes blend together in those not-so-pleasing ways.  Maybe I’ll call it Italian Style Waffles. 😉

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 1,971

Books I Love · Writing

How To Get Inspired – Part 1

Um, is that a ghost in the window? Whew! Nope, just a lamp shade. No, wait…       Image via Wikimedia Commons.

A couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I got the chance to stay for a few days at Estes Park, Colorado. The boys didn’t join us. Instead they had a great time at my sister-in-law’s farm. William’s tears kept spilling out all the way to the airport on the day we left (“I’m going to miss my cousins!”). But Estes was fun for us. When we weren’t hiking the incredible Rocky Mountains (this was my first time experiencing them),  we explored the town. Of course, we couldn’t ignore the huge, historic, and haunted, Stanley Hotel which overlooked it.

At first, hubby said that it was the hotel where The Shining was filmed. But this turned out to be half true. It was the setting for the mini-series, not the movie with Jack Nicholson. But more importantly, it was where Stephen King was inspired to write that novel.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read The Shining, nor have I seen the movie. I’ve seen the first part of the miniseries since we got back. I have a hard time swallowing much of Stephen Kings works though I’ve read a few. I like his plot ideas and description. Some of his content pushes my boundaries a bit too much and turns me off, but none more so than the amount of expletives he uses. This is was especially true when I tried to read Blockade Billy. I couldn’t finish it despite how short it was.

What does fascinate me about King is how prolific he is as a writer. I enjoyed On Writing for the same reason I enjoyed Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone. Both books caused ideas to light up in my head like a Christmas tree. So while at the Stanley Hotel, I remembered how King wrote about where his ideas came from.

Many people, non-writers in particular, often wonder how writers become inspired. King came up with The Shining after spending the night in that haunted hotel in Estes Park. But even he says that you don’t have to go through great lengths to come up with a plot. Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games while watching TV.

The key is to simply ask, “What if?”

What if a recovering alcoholic spent the winter alone with his family in a haunted hotel? What if in the future, there was one group of people who controlled the wealth and found a way to bring back gladiator style games? What if one of Turlough O’ Carolan’s guides got stuck in present day and began to remind people about who he really was? This last “what if” was how I started The Stone of Kings.

What about you? How do you get inspired to write? Does it wake you in the night? Does it hit you while you’re doing the dishes? Or have you had to go across your country?

Books I Love · Writing

First Draft – Check

Yeah, probably won't be in the book, but it feels nostalgic to write it anyway.
Yeah, probably won’t be in the book, but it feels nostalgic to write it anyway.

Last Tuesday, I wrote two bitter-sweet words. The End. I’ve finished the first draft of The Stone of Kings.

On one hand, I’m super excited to be on track to get all the edits done and having people read it. The audience for Harp Lessons was my family. But the audience for The Stone of Kings are the people who enjoy series like Harry Potter or The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. I can’t wait to share it when all the polishing is finished. 😀 Here is the blurb that I have for it so far:

Twelve year old Ardan is hopelessly distracted because he wants to meet a real faerie. But when he gets his hands on a mysterious red book loaded with faerie spells and accidentally sends himself three hundred years into Ireland’s future, he soon learns that there are more important things on which to focus his attention. Throw in some immortal druids, fun storytelling, a touch of forbidden romance, along with the music and antics of the legendary Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan, and you’ll become swept up in a very real Irish mythological adventure.

So now for the bitter part. The excitement of writing an adventure story is over. Yeah I’ve got other ideas for more books. But this one is finished. It’s strange how as a writer you come to care about your characters as if they were real people. When I wrote ‘the end,’ it was as if I was writing ‘goodbye’ to them. Now I’ll be sending them off into the world to be edited, critiqued, and eventually appreciated post-publication. I hope my audience enjoys reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

If you are a writer, do you feel the same way getting to the end of a book?

Harp · Writing

For the Love of Ireland

May I just stop in for a cup o’ tea and a chat? Image attributed to Joseph Mischyshyn via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m about 2 chapters and an epilogue away from finishing my WIP (which I’m pretty sure will be titled The Stone of Kings). I gotta tell you, I’m excited and nervous about finishing it up and sending it out. It’s completely set in Ireland, a country I’ve only spent one week touring.

I’m not Irish by blood (that I know of). My dad remarried when I was nine and it was my new mother’s family who are Irish. I still love to chat with Grandma Caroline about what it was like for her to grow up there.

I fell in love with the magic of the country and by the time I learned to play harp I felt that the Irish tunes were written for me. I relished the romance of a country that created music which could move me so much.

Most of this is what inspired me to write Harp Lessons. But I’ve still had an outsider’s view of Ireland. I didn’t even “get it” when I spent a week there. Granted, a mere week in any country is not near enough time to truly understand anything.

I think I’m “getting it” now.

Parts of my current work take place in the spring of 1715. Obviously, I’ve had to do a lot of research, because I really want to get this right. I only hope I’ve done enough.

Now, I’ve always known about the famines and the English oppression. But still, it’s always been easier and prettier to view Ireland through the lens of movies like The Quiet Man or The Secret of Roan Inish. But I’m writing about 1715 Ireland. One of my principle characters is Turlough O’Carolan, who really lived. And lived he did.

I don’t know why I thought the British control of Ireland would have been any better for them than it was for us. (Though I’m glad we’re friends with the Brits now; they have just as rich and fascinating a history.) But I’ve been studying about a man who still managed to rise above it.

Making Turlough O’Carolan an actual character was tough. I’ve been afraid of putting words into his mouth that shouldn’t be there. But I hope I’ve captured his character into which I believe to be at the heart of Ireland and why I love it so much.

Carolan didn’t care if you were wealthy or poor, Catholic or Protestant. He was all about making friends and unifying Ireland against oppression. He loved a ‘ludicrous tale’ and had a temper. He didn’t use his fame wholly for personal gain (if that’s what he was after, he would have converted from Catholicism), though he did have a bit of an ego and craved the attention. He did, however, use his fame to help neutralize as much as possible the oppression that the Irish Catholics were subject to at the time.

I’m no historian, but these are the facts that I got from studying Carolan’s biography. I find him to have been a fascinating man and a wonderful example of the spirit of Ireland. I do hope that I’ve translated this accurately in my new book.

What are your feelings about the spirit of Ireland? Is there a country, whether or not your own, that you have similar feelings for? Is there a perfect representative of it?

Harp · Writing

Inspired Again

EUREKA!! Image attributed to Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s fun to experience the moment when inspiration strikes. Especially when you’ve been stuck.

When I regularly hired out to play harp, I remember one event where, for some reason or other, I had a lot of wait time. I used the time to work on writing Harp Lessons. I was writing the scene where Sarah plays her harp in Central Park for the first time. After I wrote about how she felt while playing Danny Boy, I was compelled to play it again myself.

My next book doesn’t have quite as much harp playing, but there is a bit. After all, Turlough O’Carolan is one of the characters. But by the time I started writing it, I hadn’t practiced harp for over a year because I was too busy with the boys.

Being asked to play for my cousin’s wedding was a wonderful excuse to practice again, but it also helped to get me back in touch with how it feels to actually play. I don’t think one ever really forgets the feelings of effectively striking the strings into a pleasing tune. But the sensation had dulled somewhat until I brought it out again while practicing for the wedding.

Plus, I was stuck in research again.

I’d let my writing fall away for a couple of weeks. Although I knew what I wanted to do with my characters, I wanted a ‘mythological’ way to do it. When I finally found some cool stuff that would work, I sounded like an excited ape.

“Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!”

I’m getting so close to the end! My guess is maybe 2 or 3 more months, then some serious editing. And definitely off to have one of my Irish cousins proof-read it. 😀

What are some fun ways you react to inspriation?


Who Knew My Fingers Have Their Own Brains?

Image attributed to Rama

I’ve been asked to play my harp for my cousin’s upcoming wedding. I greatly admire this cousin who has been highly dedicated in serving in our military. I love my country and so I’d considered joining after I graduated high school, but my parents talked me out of it. It was the only advice of theirs that I regret taking. So agreeing to play for this particular cousin’s wedding was a no-brainer.


The last time I played for any kind of real audience was when I played a wedding while I was pregnant with Charlie. I had horrible morning sickness at the time and I prayed I wouldn’t vomit during the ceremony. Ever since, I’ve been too distracted by family to even do any serious practice, not to mention the fact that a bit of sneaky gluten can now make me feel worse than I did at that last wedding.

But I’ve been feeling great and hopefully no tricky gluten will surprise me between now and then. So I’ve pulled out my harp from the closet, all my old books, and the replacement strings. I fixed the broken string, struggled to tune the harp (because we gave my sister back her piano), and tried to play what I thought I might remember.

In. Credible.

After 3 years, I could still play, from memory, most of my music. For some songs, I only needed to look at the first few notes on the page, but then I was off. It wasn’t perfect, rather like a rusty music box, but I still played!

It was like my fingers have little brains of their own. While I was busy running after the boys, my fingers were still holding on to their dances, remembering their choreography with the strings. I love muscle memory! I know I can easily have my music polished by the Big Day. 😀

Have you ever thought you’d forgotten a skill and realized you never forgot at all? Have you tried again?

Harp · Writing

How O’Carolan Influenced St. Patrick’s Day

Image of O’Carolan’s memorial attributed to James Yardley.

As sick as I’ve been for the last month, I couldn’t let St. Paddy’s day go by without talking about it just a little bit. Having played a non-pedal harp for half my life, I’ve plucked out my share of great Irish tunes. Several of these are attributed to Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). He was Ireland’s most celebrated harper for his day.

I’ve always known the basics about O’Carolan. He was blind and wrote many his songs for the nobles of the country. I even knew some fun tidbits, like how he would finger his coat buttons while traveling as a way to practice the fingering of his music.

Since he’s a character in my Work In Progress, I’ve learned some more great stuff about him that makes me wonder for the first time this year, how influential he was in the way we currently celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

During my research for my new book, I came across an excerpt from an article by Very Rev. M. J. Canon Masterson (honestly, I’d like to know why there was a need to put in “Very”)’Carolan.htm. A line that stood out was, “[O’Carolan] served as a heaven-sent envoy to unite all creeds in a common love of country and hatred of oppression and, I repeat, he needed the help of the Protestant gentry, and secured it in generous measure.”

It sounded to me like O’Carolan (who was Catholic) didn’t care who you were, where you came from, or what your faith was. As long as you weren’t cruel to anyone, he was good with you. Being an American, I’ve always come to know St. Patrick’s day as a day where anyone can be Irish. It doesn’t seem to matter our background or creed, it’s a day where we all have a common love of Ireland 😀

With all the traveling O’Carolan did and his intense fame in his time, I can’t help but think that he was a key player in this spirit of the holiday and in the friendly openness of the Irish people in general.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about the bard and am impatiently waiting for my copy of his biography by Donal O’Sullivan, which I unfortunately can’t seem to find at any nearby library. *humph* But I’m enjoying learning about a man whose music I’ve been playing for quite some time. 🙂

What do you think? Are my conclusions about O’Carolan and St. Patrick’s Day feasible? Have you come across other things that may have influenced the “everyone’s Irish for a day” feeling we get?

Glutened Goals Update: Nothing. I think that my glutening may finally be over, but, like my boys who have green goo dripping from their noses, I’ve caught a bug that makes it difficult to tell. lol To quote Gilda Radner, it’s always something.


What’s the Story Behind That Song?

For those who don’t know, my work in progress is a yet untitled work that is, what I hope to be, a nice blending of Sci-fi/romance with Irish history and mythology. For inspiration, I’ve copied some of my Irish music to my flashdrive so that I can listen to it in the car. Little did I know just how inspiring it would be to do so.

Who, but perhaps the Irish, knew that “A Nation Once Again” and “Brian Boru’s March” would rank right up there with Veggie Tales’ “Silly Songs with Larry”? Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not belittling Irish music in any way. I could listen to Irish tunes with as much delight and relish as when I listen to Rachmaninoff and Vivaldi (in other words: all day). But when my boys, ages 2 and 4, request to hear “A Nation Once Again” over and over…and over, there’s got to be something awesome about the music.

The best part…my oldest, William, keeps asking me to tell him the story behind “A Nation Once Again,” or “Brian Boru’s March.” Of course, I have to keep it as simple and engaging for a 4-year-old as possible. But I love that he is so interested.

I hope he stays interested. I hope that one day he’ll read the book I’m writing right now and say, “Okay, yeah, I know that the time travel thing could never happen, but did that Turlough O’Carolan guy really exist? I wonder if I could look that up…”

Is it wishful thinking to hope that he one day thinks, “It’s so cool that my mom wrote a story around the songs of O’Carolan?” Until he’s old enough for that, I’m appreciating hearing his little brother, Charlie, belt out the refrain of “A Nation Once Again” even when I forget to bring the flashdrive to the car.