Woman with glitter jar

Slow Going: Midweek ROW80 check-in

Hi, LJ friends. It's been a while. Since April 2014, actually. But there are people that I only ever really interact with on LiveJournal, and I'd like to reconnect, so I'm going to attempt--again--to post here regularly.

How is everyone? Please feel free to comment and let me know what you're working on and what you've been up to!

One of the great parts of being a writer, especially a fantasy/paranormal writer, is all of the fun research we get to do. I did a post a while back about researching taffeta, and for my latest WIP, “The Hedgewitch’s Charm,” I’m having just as much fun. So far I’ve researched aura colors, healing herbs, making poultices, and the best time (magically speaking) to harvest plants. I’m learning a lot, and I’ve had to rely on the Internet since all but a few of my books are packed up.

ROW80 progress…

ROW80LogocopyI’ve written a whopping 350 words so far this week, though I’ve made progress in other areas. I missed Monday due to a migraine, so I’m starting from behind anyway. I did manage to edit two chapters and send them to critique partners, so that explains my puny word count. (That 350 words doesn’t include anything I wrote or rewrote during edits, just new copy.) Hopefully I can get back to 1,000 words a day for the rest of the week. *knock wood*

I haven’t managed to read any writing books so far this week, so that’s another goal I’m hoping to catch up on.

We officially only have one week left in our apartment. Then it’s country living with the in-laws for a few weeks until the new place is ready. I am getting excited, picking out paint colors and planning home-improvement projects. Hubby has been busily measuring all of the furniture and using software to figure out how we can fit everything in. So we’re ready. Now it’s just packing and waiting…

Currently reading…

Just finished “The Viper and the Urchin” by Celine Jeanjean. I definitely recommend it. The characters are really well developed, and the story takes a lot of interesting twists and turns. I just started reading “Visions of Magic” by Regan Hastings. I haven’t formed an opinion yet, but it’s off to a good start. And it’s perfect timing, since hers is a story about witch trials, and my current WIP is about witch hunts, though the eras are different (contemporary for Hasting’s book, fantasy/medieval-esque for mine).

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to see what fellow participants are up to.

What about you? What are you researching? Do you enjoy research, or does it feel like a chore? How are your goals coming along? Read any good books lately?

Originally posted at http://denisedyoung.com. Comments welcome in either location.

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Woman with glitter jar

Renaming LJ Journal

Hi, LJ folks,

I'm about to change the name of my LiveJournal account from "janellemadigan" to "denisedyoung" (or some version of the latter, depending on what's available). So if you see a different name popping up on your friends page, it's still the same-old me, just under a different name. And if for some reason my account goes wonky in mid-transition, I will have to re-add people under my new name.

See you on the other side! :)

Woman with glitter jar

dusting off my LJ blog!

Wow. I knew it had been a while since I posted on LiveJournal, but I didn't realize my last blog post on LJ was last February. Since I've really missed all of my LJ friends, I really am going to try to keep up with my account this time. I've also updated my website link, since the one I had was actually going to a Web address I no longer use--and is probably being used by somebody else at this point. Oops.

I'm really curious to hear what everyone has been up to in my absence. Here's a brief update on what I've been doing over the last year and a half:

1.) Name change. I'm now writing under my given name (you can visit my author website for more info). I'm going to change the username on my LJ account soon. I hope that the transfer goes smoothly and I'm able to take all of my existing friends, communities, and posts with me.

2.) Revisions, part iv. I finished the third draft of "Made of Shadows" last year. I received some really great feedback from my critique group and from a couple of editors to whom I submitted it, so I'm currently digging into another round of revisions.

3.) From writer to thespian. After all of these long years working behind the keyboard, I dove into a new art form: acting. I played a supporting role in a local production of the Greek tragedy "Agamemnon." I learned a lot about myself as an artist from the experience. Initially, I had a hard time not critiquing the wording of my lines. When I accepted that I could only focus on the delivery, not how the line was written, I was transformed. Actors experience art from the other side of the page, so I feel I grew as an artist. It was hard but rewarding work, and I met some really cool people along the way.

4.) A debt-free journey. In December, my husband graduated from college after six years as a part-time student. (Congrats, hubby!) And then we began the process of killing our student loan debt. We're grateful for the education those loans gave us, but we are ready to destroy our student loan debt and focus more on giving, saving, and traveling. We're definitely ready for some new adventures!

5.) Finding my "artist's way." Part of the reason there hasn't been much blogging going on lately is because I've been caught in a horrible period of writer's block. I've never had a storytelling problem I couldn't write my way out of, but it's been harder this year than in the past. That's not to say I haven't written at all--I have--but my progress hasn't been as steady as in past years. I took some time to read Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way," which is meant to help us tap into sources of creativity and overcome artists' blocks. While a year with little writing is no fun, I am finding a greater clarity and sense of patience as I address changes to the latest draft of "Made of Shadows."

What about you? What has changed in your life in the past year--writing or otherwise? :)
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A snow-filled ROW80 check-in:

I'm writing to you from Southwest Virginia, where I'm currently trapped in a snow globe--I mean, uh, snowstorm. And not really trapped, since the weather has been so mild and thus, the ground was fairly warm. So, from the sort-of winter wonderland, here's my check-in for the week.

Spent most of the week writing and combing through Chapter 2 and part of Chapter 3 of Made of Shadows. My initial rewrite of the "meet cute" for Zoe and Blake posed some problems (i.e., messed up the following parts of the plot, which were actually working just fine). Thanks to some stewing today, I've located the problem. Then I'm off!

I've been reading some of the 43 Light Street books by Rebecca York. I saw her speak at a Virginia Romance Writers meeting last year and learned a lot from her talk. Her books are really addictive and her plots are very character driven, so I've been reading some of her work (currently, Guarding Grace) to study how she allows the suspense element of the plot to drive the story forward, while providing plenty of space for romance. This approach actually helped me find the flaw in my meet-cute scene because I realized that's not how a given character would react to a particular development.

My ROW80 goals:

  • I revised Chapter 2 and part of Chapter 3. I revised Chapter 2 a few times and am proud to have worked the kinks out before I move forward.
  • I'm spending more time on Twitter, taking breaks in the morning at work and before I write in the afternoon, but I haven't carved out a space for Facebook check-ins yet.
  • Read a lot of awesome blogs this week, but always on the run, so I haven't started doing regular "mash-ups of awesomeness" yet.
  • Need to work on bio critiques for my Team WANA1011 peeps and immerse myself in a few manuscripts I need to critique as well.

I am still looking for a place of balance, where day job, writing, social media, household management, relationships, social life, exercise/nutrition can all coexist. Looking at that list, LOL, it doesn't look good. By year's end, I plan to have not one but two manuscripts ready for query. I will get there. Whether I'll find a sense of calm within the chaos...well, that remains to be seen. :)

Since tomorrow is President's Day, I'm hoping to spend the day at home, doing a few random things for day job and plunging into Made of Shadows. We'll see if my boss forces me to clean the snow off my car tomorrow.

How are your writing goals going?

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cat, woman, night, moon

Looking Forward in 2012 and New ROW80 Goals

“I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world.” –W.B. Yeats

In light of some of the developments in so far in 2012, I’ve decided to revise my goals for the first round of ROW80. After writing my first set, I realized that I had a lot of goals that I hadn’t actually written down. And, since I’ll be attending the Virginia Romance Writers' For the Love of Writing Conference in May, I also need to set Pierce My Heart aside for a while so I have enough time to polish up Made of Shadows for the conference.

Halfway through February, I’m not sure how I’m doing on my New Year’s resolution. My resolution isn’t so much a personal challenge as it is a necessary lifestyle change. I realize I’ve been letting go of the some elements of life that are core to who I am: my artistic, creative side and my spiritual side. My stories come from a deep well within, and it’s hard to hear them when I listen to the voices that insist I’m better off using my creative energies in other ways. I like public relations writing, but I need to write stories.

Storytelling is a lot like gardening. You plant seeds, nurture them throughout the year, and have faith that your hard work will produce a bountiful harvest. That harvest won’t just provide sustenance for the winter. It will also provide seeds for next spring. I’ve yet to find another line of work that provides me with that fulfillment.

There’s a post-it stuck to my refrigerator bearing this quote from Buddha:

“Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.”

Whatever our art, whether it’s cooking, gardening, programming, nursing, writing, or painting, each of us has a dharma, a path in life that fits us best. We become the best possible versions of ourselves when we find and live our dharma. What have you, with all of your heart, given yourself to? What bold steps have you taken in life to achieve your dreams?

The worst thing we can do is to do things in life because we think they are what others expect of us or because we want to prove something. I realized late last year that I’d spent too much time trying to prove something to myself. I’d moved away from what really mattered. 2012 is all about giving myself to my life’s work: my stories.

My goal for 2012 is to complete query-ready drafts of my two WIPs, Made of Shadows and Pierce My Heart. I’d also like to draft another story as well, but if by December, I’m querying those two pieces, I’ll be satisfied with that. I’d also like to continue building my author platform.

In light of those developments and revelations, here are my new ROW80 goals:

  1. Revise three chapters of Made of Shadows per week, so this manuscript is ready to go for the writing conference in May.
  2. Blog at least twice per week. (I might up this to three times per week later in the year.)
  3. Stop by Twitter once or twice per day, excluding Sundays.
  4. Check in on Facebook once a day, except Sundays.
  5. Read three blog posts per day, except Sundays.
  6. Complete two bio critiques per week for my fellow Team WANA1011 members.

Well, here it goes. How are your writing goals coming along?

*Originally posted at http://janellemadigan.com. Comments welcome at either location.*


Stranger than Fiction: Imbolc and lessons from winter

Today the Wiccan community celebrates Imbolc. Though we’re still in the midst of winter, with the potential for Nor’easters and cold days ahead, and though Punxsutawney Phil hasn’t emerged to peek at his shadow yet, we can still catch a glimpse of spring.

The cold days teach us to be grateful for the warm ones. The long nights teach us to be grateful for the sunrise. The days are steadily getting longer, preparing us once more for the equinox, with its equal day and equal night.

I’ve had one of those stranger-than-fiction weeks, a series of strange occurrences that I never could’ve imagined. As a journalist, I also call these moments “man bites dog.” (Because, when a dog bites a man, that is not news. But when a man bites a dog, that is news.)

Failure can be the foundation for success, and pain, the foundation for growth. In fact, as most of us know, we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. As Jane Hirschfield writes in her poem “Waking the Morning Dreamless After Long Sleep”:

“But with the sentence: 'Use your failures for paper.' Meaning, I understood, the backs of failed poems, but also my life.”

Sometimes the winter seems too cold to bear. One lesson I’ve learned from the past week is that, as we walk through our days, we are often blind to how much pain the people around us are holding in. No one can carry that pain for them. No one can bear the winter’s cold but the person outside in the snow. But the flowers emerge following the spring’s thaw. Hirschfield goes on to say:

“I do not know where the words come from, what the millstones, where the turning may lead. I, a woman forty-five, beginning to gray at the temples, putting pages of ruined paper into a basket, pulling them out again.”

If we didn’t know winter, would we celebrate the spring? The best we can do with our failures is to learn from them, to build a better version of ourselves, to work toward recognizing that, despite pain, loss, and mistakes, we are still whole. I don't believe we need to become whole. I think we need to realize we already are. The best we can do with the bad weather is to understand its place in the cycle of things and to smile when the sun rises. May your Imbolc hint of spring days to come, a reminder of light, healing, and the cycle of the seasons.

Life is a crazy journey. And you can quote me on that.

inspirational quotes, Stories to tell

The perfect brand is like the perfect pair of jeans.

Last night I came across a wonderful blog post about brand. Can you, the author challenged, sum up your brand in one word? (Check it out here.)

Can we? When I come across people who are skeptical about brand, I tell them that brand isn’t the entire you; it’s a gateway to you and your work. And I don’t care if you say you loathe brand, if you refuse to fit the mold or narrow yourself into a brand. You still have one. You might as well own it.

Brand for authors can be a difficult notion because we’re creative-types, artists, and, often, nonconformists. At one point, I might have been skeptical, too, except that my path as a writer led me to a gig in public relations. Through that job, I met a wonderful group of people—fiercely creative folks who are passionate about their roles in the promotion of our university—and that part-time gig was my gateway drug to brand.

The thing about brands is that they are alive, shifting, and dynamic. Authentic brands feel alive; they writhe with passion and buzz with electricity. Just like us. At our university, we really do live our brand. And no one has to tell anyone to do it. Our brand is not a contrivance, an artifice, or a sales gimmick. It emerges naturally throughout the course of the day, because as a community, it’s who we are.

I insist that a good brand is one that fits like the perfect pair of jeans: snug and comfy. But it’s not so much that we feel comfortable. It’s that we feel confident. We find our stride because it’s just the right fit. Trying to find that “one word” is a great exercise in identifying our brands.

Since we’re writers, I’m going to pull from Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” for an example. Kundera postulates that it’s the things that give our lives weight that make them meaningful. If we strip away those things, life becomes, he suggests, unbearably light. Each of our lives, as individuals and writers, has moments to which we attribute a great deal of meaning: the moment we knew we loved writing, the moment we knew we had to be a writer and damn anyone or anything that stood in our way, the moment we finished our first story. And often times, a theme runs through the milestones of our lives, our stories, and our writing journeys. The moments of our lives shape who we are, personally and creatively.

My word? Soulful. I want to write books with heart, with power, with soul. I believe life and art are a search for meaning. Sometimes I get pissed off at anything that stands in the way of my search for meaning and art. Life means something; art is the search for meaning. And I’m someone with a lot of faith, even if I don’t always know in what.

My blog in many ways is still searching for its shape, its meaning. I hope it helps people, and I’m still finding a way for it to do that. And brand is a part of all that, a taste of who we are, a way to help others understand what we’re all about. Yes, we’re complicated. Much as I enjoy the search for meaning in life, I also enjoy snarky comments, geeky jokes, and the hunt for the perfect pair of shoes. But yes, soulful. The word fits. Life can be hard, lonely, scary, and unfair. It can also be funny, crazy, wonderful, and amazing. I’m all about the journey.

Now, I want to know your word. What word fits you like a comfy pair of jeans? If you were to sum up your brand in one word, what would it be, and why?

A note about an upcoming conference:

In May, I’ll be presenting a workshop called “Your Passion is Your Brand” at the first annual For the Love of Writing Conference, hosted by the Virginia Romance Writers, a wonderful group of fellow writers—some established and bestselling, others, like me, new to the biz—who have helped me find direction in the industry. It’s shaping up to be a great conference, so if you’re a romance writer, I hope you’ll attend. I’m also excited to share my insights into brand, to help fellow authors feel their way out. For many of us, brand is this new, scary thing. For some writers, it feels contrived. My workshop breaks the idea of brand into steps, helping authors create a personalized brand built on their strengths—one that feels comfortable and authentic. If you’re interested in gathering with a great, enthusiastic, and welcoming group of writers for a writing conference at the beach, here’s the link.

*Cross-posted at http://janellemadigan.com. Comments welcome at either location.*

Woman with glitter jar

Out of the Story’s Nebula: Structure in the Second Draft

Every manuscript is its own creature. Some stories are upfront, divulging so much information your fingers can’t type fast enough.

The first draft of Pierce My Heart, a meager 15K, was meant to be a concise introduction to the fae and their world. But my crit group pointed out that I could do one of two things: Scale back the conflict and keep it short, or dig into a more complex plot and expand.

I chose to expand. Pierce My Heart weaves together a dark, gritty who-done-it and a love story. Lithe and Garien’s potential romance is fraught with conflicts, namely, Lithe’s status as an outsider. Lithe’s chief conflict is a struggle within herself to face and accept who she is. The murder that she and Garien must solve serves as an external reminder of that conflict and why she can’t give herself to Garien.

When I sat down to write draft two, something strange happened with this story.

It sort of, well, opened up, and blew apart. It went from a tight little story to this nebulous creature I can’t pin down.

And strangest of all, I can’t shake the feeling that my characters—or the story itself—are hiding something from me.

There are several things of which I am sure:

1. This is a good story with plenty of potential. The pieces are there, even if I can’t figure out how they fit together.

2. The issue is one of form and structure.

3. I am overlooking something, and it will drive me crazy until I figure out what.

4. I am capable of figuring out what that something is.

So, fellow writers, have you been there? What do you do when a story enters the nebula, when you feel like you’re missing something but you don’t know what? How do you help the manuscript find or retake its shape?

A few days ago, I mentioned on Twitter that my “creative mojo” appeared to be missing. Debra Krager (@debrakristi) sagely advised: “You need a mojo lifter? Maybe a weekend off. Do something different and fun to find it.” She also blogged about this very subject here. (Timing really is everything.)

Somehow I have to work this weekend (day-job stuff). I’m not thrilled, but deadlines are deadlines, and no one’s going to hold the presses so I can have some fun.

But heck, maybe I’ll squeeze it in anyway. Perhaps a dose of silly creativity will give me the jolt I need to put the pieces together.

*Originally posted at http://janellemadigan.com. Comments welcome at either location.*

Woman with glitter jar

Sunday ROW80 Update:

A quick post tonight on my ROW80 goals. Here we go:

1.) I wrote 1,600 words in "Pierce My Heart." Still shy of 3,000, but getting there. I also did some background writing and attempted to do some plotting. This story is still squirming around. It's too complex to be a short story but doesn't have the multiple plot threads of a novel. It should land square in novella territory, but since I don't have a final word-count goal in mind, I'm having trouble pinning this one down at the moment.

2.) I blogged Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, so I hit goal No. 2.

On the day-job front, I finished an economic-development article, so there's one deadline wrapped up. I've determined that deadlines are like gray hairs. When one's out of the way, scads more seem to pop up to take its place. But hopefully the day-job craziness slows down a little bit and leaves some additional room for fun and creativity. Lucky for me, tomorrow is a holiday, so I'll have a full day set aside for writing (and laundry). :)

Finally, I'm delighted that one of my fellow Team WANA1011 members (*cough* Alicia) has honored me with a blogging award. Join me later this week for more information--and as I pay the blog-love forward.

Have a great week! I hope 2012 is treating everyone well and the writing, reading, blogging, and life in general is going smoothly.

*Originally posted at http://janellemadigan.com. Comments welcome at either location.*

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Woman with glitter jar

Sunday ROW80 check-in and this week's inspirational quote

So for my LJ peeps, I've joined A Round of Words in 80 Days, a writing challenge in which you set your own writing goals and work toward them, posting updates on your blog every Wednesday and Sunday. Here's my first check-in. My list of goals is posted here.

This week’s word count is a whopping 958 words. Sadly short of my target of 3,000, but it’s better than nothing. Slightly disappointing, but hopefully next week is better.

I had to take a writing hiatus late last year (I know, boo!), so I’m still getting back into the groove. Normally, I aim for about 7,000 per week, but I’m also blogging now—and still finding my new routine for 2012. Since one of my goals for this year is not to burn out, I don't see myself shooting for 7K/week anytime soon.

I blogged Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, so I met my goal of posting three times per week.

Today, I'm off to clean my apartment, which desperately needs it. In addition to the normal vacuuming and dusting, I'm considering doing a brief space-cleansing ritual to officially ring in the New Year. Before I go, here's some inspiration for your week. The pic is from a place I used to live: a lovely little farm near the river, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Enjoy!

What about you? Did you meet your goals? Surpass them? Or are you still working your way up?

mountain trail; property of the author (Janelle Madigan)

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” --Buddha

*Originally posted at http://janellemadigan.com. Comments welcome at either location.*

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