It’s February and …

I’ve finished the final revision of Down Cellar. And the moment, I feel at loose ends. Not because there’s nothing to do, but because that one thread that tied life together has completed its job and is no longer needed. Now what?

There are a plethora of projects calling for revision or finishing from the distant past and a few from the future.

From the past, the first revision that comes to mind is Change at Belmont, the novel about Chicago and a fake cure for AIDS. It needs a few scenes added to finish it and boom! Into revision-land I go again.

There are a few romance novellas I have outlined and ready to flesh out. One story in particular is about an inherited house and a sinister gardener who knows too much about poison plants. Revise that and it can go on sale! Speaking of romances, Small Town Romance still needs formatting for paper publishing (yeah, haven’t done that and it will probably pop to the top of the list soon.) Digital only is not enough, I know.

There is the Railroad Book that needs final revision. And that should be expanded into a real book about the New York Oswego and Midland Railroad.

And there is my ‘masterpiece’ of “The Faery Story” that I seldom mention. It is truly a great story and I hesitate to revise it until I get better at writing. But that ONE project would do me good. Maybe I should go there part-time?

And then there is the NEW stuff I would like to write. Kelsey Stone keeps tempting me with writing prompts and Abigail Shepherd (by example) keeps pushing me to do more marketing. August Birch is an inspiration for how much he writes AND his Instagram feed! And just having read “Walking Patagonia”, I am challenged by Caspian Ray to just DO something!

Perspective seems to be what I am missing, as I read over this. Rather than comparing me and my work to ____, whoever that blank might represent, and what ‘they’ are doing, it’s time for me to focus closer to home here, to begin creating or re-forming something of my own. Make a to do list? Focus?

Time for a fresh cup of coffee. Be right back. Promise.

 

 

 

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So, Is This Progress?

I’ve been digging through my old files in an attempt at early spring cleaning. It’s amazing what appears. The following is something I wrote for a long-gone attempt at an on-line portfolio/website. I think it was the ‘intro blurb’ to it actually.

I think I’ve progressed in writing quality. Or… maybe not. Do me a favor? Compare this to the short “The Writer” on this site, and honestly tell me if one or the other is ‘better’ and why? Don’t be mean for the sake of being mean, but do be honest!
P.S.  As I re-read the piece below… I realize I haven’t changed my mind about this in the last ten years

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The Story of My Site

[Dated March 28, 2005]

My decision to put up a portfolio website was easy. It was based on pure vanity. I was fairly sure I would be almost immediately discovered by an agent, who would call me long-distance and offer me a contract, possibly right over the phone and, Viola! I’d be on my way to the Writer’s Life!

As fast as I could, I threw up the main page and started uploading everything I’d ever written. It wasn’t long before I realized this wasn’t going to work. My “spare-time” writing had produced far more than I thought. If it was true that “Writers write” I was already qualified on volume alone. With this much material to work with I was irritated at how little a portfolio required. So much good stuff, so little space!

Irritation soon gave way to anxiety: what if I put up the wrong stories or an un-representative excerpt from a novel? What if I had too many poems? Or worst! What if the material seemed too religious? Being a Seminary student, the possibility was not far-fetched. And everyone knows religion won’t sell to the mainstream.

Reluctantly, I began the weeding process. Novel excerpts, poems, bits of memoirs praised by people whose opinion I respected went in one pile to be uploaded. My favorites–mine alone– went in another pile to be ‘archived’. I got the distinct feeling as I laid some of them down that this was “Good-bye” or at very least a long ‘so long.’ Although I cared what others thought, I— like any good parent— was quite attached to my progeny.

The sorting process forced me to take a hard look what I understood to be the path to The Writer’s Life and Glory. I knew that “Writer” was a title achieved with quantity, (‘Writers write”, remember? Right?). Therefore, “Author” was a title achieved by quality writing, a title bestowed from the outside by qualified critics. “True Authorship” was based on book sales and arrival at an Exalted Plateau situated somewhere very near Fame and Fortune.

Crisis

Then came the bombshell. Looking over several years of writing, I couldn’t see where I had arrived at any specific level of quality, “Authorial” or otherwise. Some pieces showed fairly good composition and flow (my spelling and grammar had always been good). Others done at the same time or later did not. There seemed to be no consistent pattern of improvement, just good days mixed with bad ones. “Quality” began to look like an uneven path through a somewhat boring meadow rather than a Scenic Overlook from a Lofty Plateau. Likewise, the goal of “True Authorship” began to look less like a destination than a consistent daily walk.

This website thing was ruining my dreams and possibly even my future: the Glory of the Writing Life was departing and I was being left with the idea that writing was merely a sometimes-enjoyable (dare I say it?) job. I stopped work on the website altogether.

A couple of months later, I went back to look at it. Definitely amateurish, forlorn. It needed work. Before I could stop myself, I was redesigning the opening-page banner and re-writing the greeting. Somewhere in that refurbishing, I realized I enjoyed the process of writing far more than I enjoyed receiving praise for the product. Even the thrill of having my own website, the warm pleasure and proud embarrassment of explaining why I even had a website didn’t compare to the hours of solitary joy of writing the content. Getting paid would be nice, I realized, but the reason I write —internet copy, light fiction or heavy memoir, whatever— is because I like to write. That’s why I do it.

The Present

So having had that epiphany, have I arrived? Am I an Author? No. Even my wife (who wishes to God I would make some money with this `hobby’!) doesn’t call me an author. I have no substantial publishing credits and by my own, old, definition, I am still only a ‘writer’. On the other hand, to extend the walking analogy I used earlier, I am satisfied to be on this road, still walking. And if inspiration and perspiration can get me finally to “Authorship”, then by God’s grace, I’ll arrive there— and then keep right on walking! The road to Authorship, no doubt in my mind, is ‘a long walk in the same direction.’

So as an encouragement to your own progress, let me ask you: Have you begun the Writer’s Walk or are you still on the couch, dreaming of the “Writer’s Life”, dreaming of suddenly waking up on an Authorial overlook? If you are still sitting, I suggest that, while you are sitting there write a story about it —a short, fiction piece— and then get on with real life. Remember: “Writer’s write.” It really is that simple. And what about the money and the recognition? Money follows: it is a reward that follows good writing which is in turn, a product of hard work. And Recognition leads: that is, it’s meant to be a motivating spur to continue, to go farther on in what you are already doing. Either one is a lousy replacement for the real satisfaction of knowing you are consistently producing high quality work. Remember, Writers write because they love to write.

The Future

For the present, I have stopped adding to the portfolio. There is enough here for anyone to see how well or poorly I have done. Frankly, if you are an agent, give me a call. I do write because I love it, but I’d be delighted to get paid as well!  As time goes on, I will replace some pieces with others that are newer and better, or at least better revised. Check back and see. Persistence has its rewards.

And keep writing. Writers love to.
In Him,
In Dallas,

Gordon De Land

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P.P.S. Gosh it’s hard not to correct that old stuff!

 

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The Christmas Gift from The Roommate We Kicked Out

christmas-tree-2016

The Christmas Tree and Wreath the Roommate Left Us

Last summer, we took in a guy who needed a place. Maybe you’ve done this. He’d moved to the big city with high hopes and a friend who wanted him to move in. That lasted a month. He found another place, house-sitting but it also came to an end and he didn’t have a place to go or money to get one. So we invited him to stay with us, temporary, as a paying guest. He agreed and was grateful for the chance.

To shorten a long, sad story, he lost the job due to non-attendance, refused to pay rent or leave. He called the cops on us three times for violating his right to stay without paying. Yeah. And much, much more. But then his mother died and he left for the funeral. We had already rented out “his” room to a paying roommate and gave him half the living room “temporarily”. His belongings filled his half of the living room waist-high. They also filled the apartment storage room to the ceiling. And some were still at his old friend’s place.

He came back for one pickup truck load and a month after that texted that he would not likely be back for anything else: he was moving again. We acknowledged, but his stuff in the storage room we left alone, just in case. In truth, we didn’t know what was in there, beyond it being very full of what looked like camping gear and some Rubbermaid tubs.

So now its eight months later, it’s December and we are seriously looking at moving to a cheaper apartment. With Christmas imminent, we decided no tree for Christmas. Of the three of us, two don’t normally ‘do Christmas’ anyway.  Call me a kid, but to make a year complete, I need Christmas! With the move imminent, however, I figured my inner kid would survive if I miss putting up a tree one year. And truth was, my own Christmas stuff is in storage in another state anyway. Yeah. And I wasn’t going to retrieve it just before a move.

Glass Manger Scene

Glass Manger Scene From the Roommate

So rather than all the Christmas hoopla, we would keep busy with moving preparations. We went to empty the storage room. The plan was to donate or toss whatever was in there, and pack and stage some of our own stuff for the move. Well, guess what we found? Yes! All the Christmas decorations, and a small artificial tree that belonged to the troublesome roommate. Instant Christmas! Tree, decorations, and enough left over to donate to a favorite charity.

So, in the end, the roommate that was such a pain in the rear—was a blessing to us. We never imagined that would be and I would guess he never imagined it either.

Sounds a little like the Christmas story that this holiday began with: an unplanned move that ends up a Christmas Blessing.

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Half-Off November

img_20161114_133932 In the past month, I have done almost anything but write and edit. Which is odd because I haven’t accomplished much of anything else. I edited two chapters in the House novel and written a short story. Very little else of writing importance, so it feels. The two most consistent things I have done in the past month are: walk Loyola Beach and write blog articles for someone else for cash.

It’s not all bad. I have an Understanding From Above that this ‘season’ in Chicago is going to be about Discipline no matter what form it takes. The walking it is making me aware of my lack of physical ‘capital’. My wind is weak, my belly seems to swell and shrink with the phases of the moon. Or something equally irrational. Lately my concentration and creativity for my writing are weak as well. Those all point to a need for vigorous physical activity to flood my brain with oxygen and rebuild my large muscle groups. And here come the Holidays where we tend sit, talk and overeat.  And overspend on conveniences. And not write.

My small muscles, on the other hand—dexterity of fingers especially—and the writing half of my brain seem to be on the upswing.  The blog article writing has something to do with that. It is disciplining me to research broadly, write clean, edit quickly and move on to the next thing. Add to that, my chosen ‘field’ to write blog articles about has to do with senior citizens with cognitive problems. That in itself has been eye-opening. I may well be researching my own future.

A side note here: I get these Understandings From Above sporadically. Call them wordless messages, these Hunches, Non-Woman Intuition, or whatever else. They are always general in nature but extremely accurate within that boundary.  They usually pertain to life in general, often about money or work. Sometimes love, although I try to avoid those.

Add to this mix of meander and discipline the somewhat startling fact (to me) that the Holidays begin next week! I had to check my calendar to make sure. I am not ready.  But I think I’ll save the rest of this part of the story for another time, or perhaps another blog. In the mean time, I need to get back to an article I’m writing. This one is about using social media –rather than how to travel for the holidays with your dementia-afflicted loved one.

Stay Strong and Keep Writing

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Excitement About the Widow Woman

I have given into the idea that between now and sometime after Christmas, I will probably post only three times here, not the four or five times I had hoped. Not because there’s nothing to say, but because there’s so much going on. The holidays will make it busier, no doubt.

Excited About Widow Womanmisty-meadow

When I wrote Widow Woman I liked it. The more I read it over, the more depth of personal meaning it had for me. But the ending wasn’t ‘right’. In the flow of writing it had seemed right and I left it that way. But several times I was asked to submit a short story, and when I submitted Widow Woman with the old ending, it was rejected. I knew it was the ending. Once more time someone asked for a short story. By then I was convinced that I needed to change the ending now, before I submitted it again. I would have to murder my ‘darling child’ of an ending.

I sweated, I wrote, I deleted, revised and rewrote and finally came up with what I thought worked. Then I revised it again. It was even better. And everyone who read both endings agreed heartily that this ending was much better than the old one. I’d love to make a comment here about honesty, but I remember some of the looks on their faces reading that old ending. I posted pieces of Widow Woman on Instagram (@gordondelandauthor) and they get more likes than many of my other posts. Maybe another good sign?  And my sister, an English Major from way back was pleased and surprised by the story.

The final indicator that I maybe did something good in killing off my darling ending comes from the fact that the story with this new ending is going to be published in an anthology! The good folks at Smaeralit are putting out their third book,  “Dreams & Reality: Book 3”. In it will be my Widow Woman story! The book will be available on Amazon some time before Christmas this year, by the way.

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Fall Has Arrived

autumn-in-chicagoFall has arrived in Rogers Park, for sure. I’m seeing golden leaves all over the street. Loyola Beach is closed to swimmers. And if you want to drive somewhere before 9am add a half hour for waiting for school buses. Oh, and the weather has cooled off and the college students are back. Yes. Autumn.

Along with this time of year comes a desire to stop writing and get back into bodybuilding and all things physical. But… I’m not ready to give up on the writing just yet. I have too much interesting stuff going on!

I have a short story, Widow Woman, that I redid the ending on and I’m excited all over again about not only the story but also the setting. It is set in central New York State, in the early 1870’s. The railroad fever that gripped the nation at that time was making itself felt in the area, with all the surrounding money and drama it brought.

Along with the short story, I wrote a short non-fiction work about the railroad that ran through that area. Actually, come to think if it, the short story was an outgrowth of the research on the railroad. I’m revising and reformatting the railroad book for a bicentennial celebration the township is having. Shout out to the Town of Otselic on their upcoming two hundredth birthday!

As I’m writing this, a friend suggested I should incorporate some ‘magic’ into the railroad story (he’s a magician). That… is an interesting idea. Maybe take him up on it. Change the history with the magic? Have a happily ever after story?  Back to writing!

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Change of Seasons

School

School is IN. Drive Friendly.

I have been caught up in the marketing end of writing so much lately that I missed the change of seasons from Summer to Autumn. Here in Rogers Park the trees are not turning color—that comes later—but school is back in session. That means morning driving is a little slower and safe driving more challenging. I was on my way to an appointment this morning when a father with two little girls in tow stepped out from behind a parked minivan right in front of me. He was intent on getting the girls across the street to school on time. I was intent on getting to the doctor’s appointment on time. We exchanged dirty looks and got on with our day, no blood spilled. Had I been texting, it would likely have been a tragedy. [It’s illegal in school zones here I think; it definitely was in my recent home state of Texas.] This is the reason to #justdrive and not pay attention to anything else. As they say back home, Drive Friendly.

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