"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Busyness as usual

Although I'd rather sit and revel in my vacation, there are squiggles in my calendar that say I have to do stuff. So it's time I get to it.

First on my list is the Southern California Writers Conference (http://writersconference.com/la/), where I'll be teaching an introductory workshop about self-publishing. The focus of the workshop is for those folks on the fence, wondering whether they should take that step. I can't give anyone a magic formula, you know, "if X is True and Y is False, Then Publish." What I can give people is a list of questions to ask themselves and an accounting of what I've had to do.

My hope is that people come away with the ability to make an informed decision.

I love this conference because I consider it a friendly, working conference. I will confess, I haven't been to a lot of other conferences, but the few others I've been to have not tapped into that desire within me to go home and write. SCWC inspires me, goads me, takes me by the reins and gallops me toward finishing my next project.

If you like lists, here is my list of why I like the Southern California Writers Conference:

1. The people are friendly and supportive. You can walk into any workshop, sit down at a table and make 5 or 6 friends. And most of them are friends who will continue to be your friends, post-conference.

2. The workshops give you useful information, whether about the craft of writing or the business of publishing. And if they don't - they encourage you to try another workshop. The rule is that if you get into a workshop and it's not what you expected, you should go to another workshop. You paid for this weekend. You shouldn't feel like any time was wasted.

3. Their "Read and Critique" and "Rogue Sessions" are fabulous. Both of these workshops work the same way: you read some number of pages of your work and get feedback on your writing. The difference between the two is that the Rogue Sessions occur after the evening speaker, starting around 9 p.m. and go until everyone has read. Sometimes they last until 6 a.m. the next morning! The facilitators ensure that the critiques are controlled and remain positive and focused on the work. They really taught me the correct way to run a critique group. Read their rules (http://writersconference.com/la/faq/) and see if you don't agree.

4. The organizers care about whether your conference experience was a good one. They want you to get your money's worth. They are willing to listen to suggestions for future workshops. Michael and Wes want to give you value for your money and time. Read this as proof:

(From the website) - NOTE: Agents wanting to participate contact Michael Steven Gregory only if you're accepting clients. There are plenty of other conferences that provide reps who have no sincere intent of acquiring new clients with free weekends at nice hotels in desirable locales. The SCWC is not one of them.

Here is my one caveat for attending this conference: if you are a very, very serious writer who is intense about your writing experience and general literary discussions, this may not be your conference. We work hard and we play hard. We joke a lot. We're irreverent sometimes. But if you can take a joke or two, if you can hope to achieve our conference goal of "sucking less than you did before you came" then please join us.

Hope to see you in Newport Beach. If not, they have another one in San Diego in February (http://writersconference.com/sd/).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to reality. Sigh.

I'm back from Scotland, and Kentucky, and finally clear enough of mind to write a post, although my trip was so full of so much, I barely know where to begin. I have so many pictures I could post. Dale took pictures, too, but his are still in his camera and his camera is still with him in Boston.

I could give you a whole travelogue here and show you where we were and when, but I sometimes equate that with being stuck at someone's dinner party and having them drag out the slides of their vacation. They get to reminisce and you get to nod and look at your watch every five minutes.

What I will tell you about is that it felt magical.

Scotland is one of those places I've always wanted to see because I've always wanted to see it. I could talk about castles and green lands, etc, but that's just a ruse. I had no rational reason at all. All I can tell you is that my little mongrel heart longed for Scotland. By ethnicity, I am staggered parts Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, Swedish and a dash (a small one) of Sioux. Of all those pieces, it's been the Celtic in me that pulls me toward the heather on the moors.

So riding a fat Draft cross through fields of heather by Loch Ness left me with, according to Robert my taxi driver, "the biggest bloody smile on my face."



And walking around the Kelpies, getting close to them, experiencing their size and their placement, put a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes. The Kelpies were built to honor the draft horses that pulled the barges up and down the river. They are on islands surrounded by water. It's all beautiful, even if it took us over three hours to find the entrance to them and it was raining buckets by the time we got there, which meant no one could see I was kind of blubbering.

 
That's me in the pink jacket, under the horse's nose.
 


In between, we toured castles and ate fish 'n' chips and drank ale. By the time we got to Aberdeen, we'd also toured some Scotch distilleries and tasted a wee dram or two. I won't say I'm now a big scotch drinker, but I understand and appreciate it now. Aberdeen is not big on tourism, so there weren't any shops to purchase tee-shirts and cashmere scarves, etc. We walked down to the Aberdeen Bay from our hotel, which was about a half-an-hour walk or more, then we walked up and down the beach. It was overcast and cool.



It was while we were strolling around the beach that a funny thing happened. I was taking all kinds of pictures, and I decided to take a close-up of the sand, to show the kinds of flotsam and jetsam that wash up on the shore. It reminded me of going places with my (Scotch-Irish) grandma, whose idea of a souvenir from someplace was a shell from a beach or a flower from a path. A piece of the place meant more to her than a towel with a map on it.



"You need a rock," some small voice in my head told me. So I picked one up and stuck it in my pocket.



For the rest of the trip, I rubbed that little rock in my pocket and felt - connected - to the country and my grandmother and maybe my roots, I don't know.

On our way home, we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to visit the Horse Park. (We also toured a bourbon distillery - after touring the scotch ones, it was only fair.) That turned out to be quite the adventure, as we were stranded for a night in Chicago due to bad weather. We slept in the terminal at O'Hare, on cots with 200 of our close friends.

Yep, a big ole slumber party. No, I didn't take pictures.

Kentucky was beautiful, especially the horse park. Once again, I wanted to tear up, because this was a big wonderful trip and we took it and I was so happy and somehow humbled. At times, it felt like the fun and the wonder of it all was too big to fit in my soul and I was going to float away from joy.



Have you ever had such an experience?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Soraidh, brĂ mair

Supposedly, that's Scottish Gaelic for "farewell, friends." At least according to the internet, where everything you read is true.

What IS true is that we'll be in Scotland for almost two weeks to visit these:

The Kelpies at Falkirk


Of course, we'll also sleep in a castle, tour Holyrood Palace, and have plenty of tea. My hubby will golf one day. I will ride a horse. Here's my Pinterest page with all the places we'll stay and visit, etc.

http://www.pinterest.com/gaylecarline/scotland-2014/

I'll be back on September 8, and as soon as the jet lag wears off, I'll give you all the highlights.

P.S. If you're reading this thinking, hmm, they're gonna be gone so their house is ripe for breaking and entering, let me assure you of three things: 1) We have two dogs that love to bark at strangers, 2) We have a friend housesitting for us so our house is not vacant, and 3) We have absolutely nothing that's worth anything.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Who is Willie Adams?

Hi, Peeps! I'm engrossed in a whirlwind of writing, cleaning, and shopping in preparation for my big trip to Scotland on Monday. There's so much I need to be doing, but LJ Sellers  and Peg Brantley invited me to participate in a Character Blog Hop, so off I go, hippity-hop-hop. I thought I'd tell you all about the main character from MURDER ON THE HOOF.


1) What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?
Wilhelmina (Willie) Adams is a purely fictional character. I used a little bit of this person I used to know, plus that person I've met, plus... well, you get the idea. I made her a software engineer, because I wanted her to have a job I didn't have to research. And I made her quite a bit younger than me - 35. I wanted a younger audience with a romance, but I grow tired of the twenty-somethings in books who seem to have all the fun.
My mental picture of Willie.

 

2) When and where is the story set?
The story is in contemporary times, and is set at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, at an AQHA horse show. AQHA is American Quarter Horse Association, and represents the Quarter horse breed. Basically, there are two types of horse shows: breed-specific with lots of events, and event-specific with lots of breeds.

Cattitude - one of my favorite Quarter horses!
 

3) What should we know about her?
What you should know about Willie is that she is a fiercely independent nerd who has been a widow for three years. She has spent those years "flying below the radar" - going to work, trying out different hobbies, putting one foot in front of the other. In other words, just trying to survive the pain of losing her husband. Horses are the first hobby that has made her happy.

 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
She goes to a horse show to buy her first horse, and a man attacks her, then is found murdered in her tack room (that's where they keep the saddles). She just wants to continue to get through life without any more pain, but instead she's a suspect in the murder investigation, AND she is attracting attention from two suitors. They are both good men, completely different, and she doesn't know if she wants ANY romance, let alone either of them.

 

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Like I said, at first she just wants to buy a horse. Once she is suspected of murder, her primary goal is replaced by a new one - clear her name!

 

6) Can we read more about it?
Certainly! MURDER ON THE HOOF is out and about. You can read all about it on my website, http://gaylecarline.com/murder-on-the-hoof.


I want to thank my buds, LJ and Peg, for including me in this blog hop. A little about them...

L.J. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/thriller series—a two-time Readers Favorite Award winner—as well as the Agent Dallas series and provocative standalone thrillers. Her 16 novels have been highly praised by reviewers, and she’s one of the highest-rated crime fiction authors on Amazon. You can find her at http://ljsellers.com.


Peg Brantley is a suspense novelist and has three thrilling works available to speed your pulse. She spent over 25 years in corporate America, but is happy to have those years behind her, and be engaging her readers in compelling stories instead. A Colorado native, Peg is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors’ League, and Sisters In Crime. Read more about Peg at http://pegbrantley.com.

On Monday, August 25, you need to hop over to Teresa Burrell's blog to find out more about one of her characters.

Teresa Burrell has dedicated her life to helping children and their families, as a schoolteacher for twelve years and then as a lawyer. She focused her solo practice in juvenile court where she worked primarily with abused minors. She also received several awards from the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program for her countless hours of pro bono work with children and families.
Burrell writes legal suspense mysteries, incorporating many of her experiences. Her “Advocate Series” consists of five books starting with The Advocate to the most recent, The Advocate’s Ex Parte. She can be found online at www.teresaburrell.com, http://www.facebook.com/theadvocateseries




Friday, August 15, 2014

Bullies, gravity, and the need to fight

My horse trainer, Niki, had a question for me and our friend Christine today. She had read in a parenting magazine that little boys going into kindergarten needed to be taught how to use a urinal so they don't drop their pants in the restrooms that are shared by the older boys (BTW, nothing in this article pointed to inappropriate/abusive behavior). Since Christine and I have both raised sons, she wanted to know if this was important.

Neither Christine nor I had imparted this info to our boys, although I told Niki that if anyone needs to teach her son, it sounded like a dad thing to me. Seriously, I've never used a urinal - what would I know?

Of course, after telling her that, I messaged my son. "So when you were a little kid, was it hard to learn to use the restrooms at Morse (elementary school)?"

I'm sure I baffled him. "Not that I can recall," he said.

He then went on to explain that the only semi-difficult part was to figure out that you didn't need to drop your pants, which was kind of embarrassing, but you see the other kids and you figure it out.

"They might laugh at you but you pick up on it."

Ah. That's what some parent in the parenting magazine is trying to prevent. Someone's son was laughed at and he was possibly a sensitive soul (oh-so-not judging) and he was upset. Laughing at someone's inexperience is not a kind thing to do, but it is a kid thing to do, and combined with other events, could definitely point toward bullying.

And we can't let our kids be bullied.

Let's be clear: I don't like bullies. I don't like people picking on other people, no matter what the age. And I think bullying can very much depend upon the recipient sometimes. A tender heart is bruised more easily.

With all that being said, when I think of bullies (or poverty or violence or any other kind of worldly pain), I think of astronauts. One of the things they discovered being in space for long periods is that their muscles atrophied because there was no gravity for them to push against. We take gravity for granted, but without it, our entire physical structure would break down. We need to be pushed by gravitational force so we can simply stand up.

So even though I want a world of peace, love, and understanding, when I see pain or injustice, it activates my "moral gravity." I have something to push against, to strengthen my resolve to make the world better. I don't like bullies, but knowing they exist makes me vigilant. A perfect world might make me a moral slacker, willing to let evil creep in because I might be too weak morally to fight it.

To take this into writer's territory, I think this is what gives our stories their life. If our characters are not pushing against some wrong, what makes a reader turn the page?

It's a Catch-22 world. We want to stop the madness, and our drive to stop it is what grounds us morally.