In The River Maiden, Sarah spends her time chasing down a particular song. That's where the book get its title. This song itself is fictional. I wrote the lyrics to match the legend of The River Maiden. The legend is also invented but is an amalgam of various motifs commonly found in Celtic folklore.Read More
We were broke, ramen noodles, mac 'n cheese buh-roke. Okay, we were keeping up with the bills for the time being, but my job wasn’t paying yet. Eric was still looking for a job, and our measly savings was dwindling.
It was March of 2001 and the dot com bubble had burst dropping both my husband and I on the unemployment line. We thought for about a month that he had lined something up that would let me stay at home so I could write, but that contract had fallen through. So, I found myself going back to the company that I had worked for 2 years before doing roughly the same job, and sitting through a training class that previously I might have been teaching. Our trainer, who I had worked with for years announced a quiz, with the added incentive of a $10 gift certificate to the local mall for the person with the highest score. I admit that I had no qualms about using all my prior knowledge to win that gift certificate.
That’s how I ended up in the book store with my $10. It had been a while since I’d had the money to spend on a book, and I’d run through just about every one we had in the house. I wandered the aisles biting my lip feeling a bit like a kid trying to get the most for my dollar in the penny candy aisle. Maybe it’s my Scottish roots, or my Granny’s example of thrift, but I wanted to make the most of my sudden if tiny entertainment budget, which is how Outlander caught my eye.
It was the thickest book on the shelf promising the most pages per dollar and therefore the most entertainment for my ten bucks. Even better it was only $6.95. Throw in the plaid on the cover and I was sold. I also noticed that Dragonfly in Amber was around the same length and price. It would put me over my $10 budget, but I figured I could go without protein in my mac ‘n cheese for a couple of nights. After a few minutes shifting numbers in my head to see if I could afford the few extra dollars on a book, I bought them both.
I was in need of escape and boy did I get it (for nearly 2000 pages), but I also got so much more. I got Claire Fraser, a woman of such strength and tenacity that you just can’t help but admire her. She’s smart, sassy, and brave. She is thrown into situations far harder than the one I was in on multiple occasions and handles them all like a pro. And when the worst happens, she doesn’t mope around of over-analyze how she got to a certain point. She pushes through and finds a way to focus on what’s most important. I have on many occasions since when things got tough for one reason or another found myself asking, “What would Claire Fraser do?”
Then I started learning about Diana Gabaldon, and found even more inspiration. Like me, she wanted to write books when she was a child. She had more than one career before writing Outlander. She managed to create these incredible characters and tell their stories and be a mother. She made me think it was possible for me to be a writer. She inspired me to pull out the fifty or so pages of The River Maiden that I had already written and get back to it.
It’s been a few years since that fateful day in the book store. My copy of Outlander has since fallen to pieces and naturally been replaced. The book store closed down. I built a career as a corporate trainer, had two kids and realized that I was in fact married to my very own Jamie. Now, I’m in a similar situation. Going back to work after being a stay at home mom for a few years, and wondering how I’m going to carve out time to build a writing career while managing two kids and a day job. But I still find myself saying, “What would Claire do?”. And when the writing gets tough or I feel like I’ll never reach my goal, I pull out my copy of The Fiery Cross and look at the inscription that Diana wrote there at a book signing years ago. It says “Keep writing!”, and I do.
What can I say to someone on a day when the entire world is gushing about her and wishing her a happy birthday?
All I can say is, thank you and thank you and thank you. You’ve given us all so much, taught us so much and proven that strong women attract the best men. I know I’m just one of millions, but if you’re at all like me every time a reader tells me my stories mean something is precious. Your stories mean so much. I wish you all the best in the coming year, and can’t wait to read what you have for us next.
As a busy mom working mom-ing and writing, I tend to gravitate toward the most time efficient way of doing just about everything. If I can run errands, or go grocery shopping, or pick up dry cleaning without two kids in tow, then I will. So, since they are now in daycare in the afternoons, I tend to do those things on my way home from work. It's just faster that way. I thought yesterday when I was making my game plan for today that I would vote before picking them up from daycare. It would be faster. I wouldn't have to worry about referee-ing, herding and voting all at once. It would just be easier. Then I realized it would be the first time in nine years that I would have voted without one of them with me. It gave me a kind of hollow gut-twisty feeling.
If you want change, you have to vote. And I want to make sure my children, even if their views may be different from mine, know how important it is. So, I just couldn't vote without them. I love voting with my kids.
I love explaining the issues to them. I love going through the process with them, and I love how excited they are when they get their "I voted." sticker. When I was a kid I voted with mom, and it has stayed with me. I'm sure my parents wonder some days where they went wrong as our political views lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. Still, I learned at a young age about the importance of participating. We live in an amazing country with a system however flawed is still a system that relies on our participation. If you don't like a policy, it's not going to change if you just throw you hands up and go home.
I picked them up and fetched my husband. We continued a tradition that we started while I was at home with the kids. We voted, each of us taking one of the kids. Then we went to dinner together to celebrate.
I'm just not creative... This is something that I hear all too frequently. It's usually accompanied by a slow puzzled head shake and a glazed look at whatever creative thing I'm doing. It's like they're staring at that thing and wondering why they can't think of things like that. In my consulting work a similar reaction comes when the client hears a course design and asks, "How do you come up with this stuff?"
The simple answer is daydreaming.
I am and always have been an unapologetic daydreamer. For evidence of this see my writer's confession. At my client's office it may seem like I'm just playing or socializing or surfing the internet, but there is always a purpose to what I'm doing. I'm letting my mind go and eventually it will go to the solution that I'm looking for.
Unfortunately, we are conditioned not to daydream. In school we're told that it's bad, unless we're lucky enough to have a teacher who recognizes it for what it is. In adulthood we have responsibilities like jobs and kids that require our focus. On top of that we now have media content (social or otherwise) at our fingertips with which to occupy ourselves. Our natural inclination to daydream gets shut down or pre-empted by life and noise. But we should never underestimate the power of daydreaming.
Now that my training work has increased, I have less time to devote to daydreaming than I did when I was at home with the kids. So I have been seeking ways to promote daydreaming at the appropriate times. Triggers to shut the world off and set my mind flying.
Music is a method that has worked wonders for me when it comes to fiction. I associate certain songs or styles of music with certain characters or situations and use them to put myself in the right mindset. For general purpose daydreaming I try to find classical music to fit the mood of what I'm writing, such as Beethoven for soaring emotions, Grieg for action or Chopin for working through plot questions. These are good for certain characters and mood, but sometimes even with headphones and repetition these triggers have a hard time shutting off the internal noise of to do lists, chores and general worries.
I have also found that "meditative doodling" or Zentangling as some folks call it is a great way to quiet the noise and spark daydreaming. Zentangling is a method of pen and ink drawing that is focused on weaving together shapes and repeated patterns within a defined drawing space usually just a few inches square. It starts with a simple "string" that gives the shapes the patterns will follow. Choosing which pattern fills each shape and how they fit together forces you to make quick creative choices. It's like a jumpstart for the creative process. While the repetition of the patterns leaves room for your thoughts to wander. It's a very relaxing experience and can get your creative juices flowing, like yoga for your brain.
In addition to sparking those creative juices, you end with a pretty drawing. So, you still have that sense of accomplishment even if what you were thinking about while you were drawing is an ongoing project. I have been using this method over the past few weeks to try to wrap my brain around some of the revisions in The River Maiden with great success.
Here are a couple drawings that I've done while thinking about what will happen next to Dermot and Sarah.
If you would like to learn more about Zentangling you can check out Zentangle.com for more info.
You can also see some more examples from people better at it than I am on my Pinterest board.
If you're interested in reading more about daydreaming and how it can be a powerful thing, check out this article from Psychology Today.
If you know me at all, you probably know that I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I won't spend this post gushing about how great these books are. (But you should really read them if you haven't yet.) There has been big news of late about this series though. Starz and former Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore are working on a TV series based on these books. I'm super excited about that prospect. I can't wait to see these delicious characters on my TV screen. However like any good fan girl, I have my concerns. This is mostly because I've not been too impressed with the Starz shows that I have watched. (Camelot comes to mind.) But with the addition of John Dahl who has directed episodes of shows I love like Justified and Breaking Bad to direct the first couple of episodes, I have hope. I'm also fascinated by watching the process unfold. It's interesting to see how a book series with such a loyal fan base makes that journey from on the page and in our heads to the screen and the role that Gabaldon is playing in that journey.
When the character of the series hero Jamie Fraser was given to an actor who is relatively unknown in the US, Sam Heughan, the reactions ranged from joy that we had a face to put on the character to outright revolt that he wasn't Chris Hemsworth or Gerard Butler or some other hot and/or Scottish actor that certain fans had been picturing in their heads.
Initially, I was satisfied that Gabaldon saw his screen tests and said, "He is Jamie." If the woman who created the character is satisfied, then so am I. He is after all her creation. She ought to know. Then as I watched some of this unfold, I'm getting more and more excited about this choice.
There is a lot of pressure that goes along with getting a part like this. There is the rabid fan-base, that is only going to get larger when the show hits people's screens. And there is the 20 years that people have had to fall in love with this character and build him up in there own minds. And then there is the character himself.
Jamie Fraser is a complicated guy. He's politically savvy and charismatic but also fiercely protective of his family by blood or by choice. He's industrious (spoiler alert) from helping to manage the family farm, printing business and smuggling business in Scotland to leading a colonial outpost in Western NC, to being a colonel in the Revolutionary army. Jamie is a natural leader, a man who helps build and hold together communities just about wherever he goes. As he says in the books he longs to be a "man of worth". He doesn't mean monetary worth, he means a man of value to his community and extended family. That leads Jamie to get into some interesting situations, but he is steadfast in maintaining that attitude.
Now, I'm not saying that Sam Heughan is Jamie Fraser in real life, but I will say that he seems to be approaching his impending stardom with a similar attitude. An actor in his position could easily celebrate getting the role and then put his head down and do the work without getting involved in public conversations with fans. I for one wouldn't complain about that. I want this show to be successful and I want him to be successful in the role and whichever path he needs to take to be successful he should do that.
However, Heughan has gone above and beyond in embracing the existing Outlander fan base. He engages with them and with Gabaldon almost daily on twitter. He updates people on his preparations and the aspects of the show that he is able to talk about (without giving spoilers of course). He shares pics on Instagram probably knowing full well that he's providing fantasy fodder for any number of ladies and probably some gents too.
That alone would be great stuff for fans hungry for news about the series, but like his character Heughan seems to be taking it a step further. Prior to this role he raised money for Leukeamia & Lymphoma Research, but doing things like running the NYC Marathon. Now some of the aforementioned Outlander fans calling themselves Heughan's Heughligans, have been inspired by Heughan to raise awareness and money for his chosen charity, and he has embraced their efforts.
In a world that seems to eat stories of misbehaving celebrities like candy. It's nice to see a rising star who is making an effort in the other direction. While it's too early make judgements about Heughan's performance, I think impulse he seems to share with Jamie Fraser to be a "man of worth" shows more about his ability to get inside this character than good looks, red hair or a Scottish accent.
If you would like to help the Heughligans raise money you can go to the Just Giving site.
If you're a Sam Heughan/Outlander fan, you can also order some Heughan's Heughligans gear on their Zazzle store.
I have been sorely lacking in blog posts lately. This is mainly because my training/instructional design client has been taking up a lot of my time. It's also summer and my kids are well underfoot. Still, I wanted to give a little review of the 2nd quarter of my year of living outside my comfort zone. Unlike the last quarter I don't have quite so many things to report. However, this quarter did see me: Return to the corporate training room for the first time in 4+ years Since I haven't lead anyone other than my two children for he past few years, returning to the classroom was more nerve-wracking than I thought. Fortunately, my first batch of trainees was gentle with me and were mostly successful leaving the training room. Client was pleased. I'm feeling pretty good about it. So good in fact that I'm hoping to make this gig a more permanent thing.
Participating & posting online I am a chronic lurker online. I'll find a forum related to something that I'm interested in and watch it for activity without really adding anything. These days I am trying to be more active in forums like the Writing subreddit, and others. More on that stuff in Q3
Made my short stories FREE What started as a Stoddard-palooza promo has turned into something longer. It was a tough decision, because I worked hard on those stories. Still, the royalties I was getting were minimal and I decided exposure was the real priority.
I made them free on Smashwords first and the response was "meh". That's mostly because Smashwords is a bit of a niche market. However, once Amazon started matching that free price the downloads there took off. Now both A Fond Kiss and The White House have reached the top 100 Free Kindle books in Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction. Now, I went from measuring downloads in single digits to triple digits and I could not be more chuffed. I'm hoping that all these downloads will result in more reviews and more exposure.
I did however, have an acquaintance who downloaded them for free, hand me cash the other day. She said the stories were worth paying for, and she wants more. Makes me a little misty.
Overall, the increased interaction with folks has generated some interesting trains of thought. I've been pondering the concept of Creativity lately and how people can unlock theirs. I expect to have more blog posts to come on that front. I'm currently working my way through Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. and hope to have a review/musings on that for the blog soon.
Q3 Looks like it may include:
- My entry into fangirl-dom (Can anyone say Outlander!) Because you're apparently never too old for that kind of thing.
- Spearheading an online Gaelic learning group (if the logistics can be worked out)
- Home renovations! Finally getting a space for all my work; writing, spinning, knitting, felting, and consulting from home.
- Putting my kids in a proper daycare. You have no idea what a nail-biter that is.
Of course, I am always working on finishing the revisions to The River Maiden. That includes completely rewriting the end and the death of my much loved Prologue (Read it while you can. I might not leave it online much longer). Looking forward to it all:)
Today I was bombarded with news stories related some of my own stories. Thank goodness for facebook, reddit and news alerts. I've been working hard in instructional design mode that I might have missed them. But they're pretty exciting. First, archaeologists with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will be attempting to recover 8 cannons from the wreckage of Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. The ship ran aground near Beaufort Inlet in June of 1718. If you've read my story The White House (currently FREE on Smashwords) you know that it speculates on the events leading up to the demise of the Queen Anne's Revenge and is loosely based on some other legends surrounding Blackbeard and his relationship to the town of Beaufort, NC. If you haven't read it then you really should. Did I mention it's FREE right now?
Then I saw a series of stories that relate to The River Maiden. (Yes, I am still working on it, I promise.) Actually, they relate more to the books following The River Maiden than they do to the first installment of Dermot and Sarah's story. So, I'll list these articles without comment to avoid possible spoilers. My husband will say I giving away too much, but he knows how my brain works better than you do. I'm hoping for you these are thought provoking teasers rather than spoilers.
Yes, I am just nerdy enough to be thrilled by these articles. I get super excited about languages, politics and history of any era, and if I can get them all in one day it's a very good day.
I won't bore you yet again by telling you how amazing my grandmother is. She's absolutely the best for any number of reasons. Just one of those reasons is her incredible memories of life in the early 20th century. This is a segment of an oral history documentary from her local museum. It's very well put together. She keeps saying that she's not going to do any more interviews, because it makes her maudlin. Still, when you're 95 there aren't that many people around who can compete with your historical insight.
This film also has the memories of some other ladies from this lovely little town. You can find them at their website.