How Does One Prepare for a Novel Writing Marathon? How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee, her dress has got a tear
She waltzes on her way to Mass and whistles on the stair
And underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair
I even heard her singing in the abbey

She’s always late for chapel, but her penitence is real
She’s always late for everything, except for every meal
I hate to have to say it, but I very firmly feel Maria’s not an asset to the abbey

I’d like to say a word in her behalf
Maria makes me laugh

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

Okay. There you have the first few lines of MARIA. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and composition by Richard Rodgers.
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I’m looking at this and guess what? I don’t see a problem. You can’t solve a problem that isn’t there. You don’t fix someone who marches to the beat of their own drum. You embrace them. Those silly nuns were just too rule-oriented. They could have really partied up that nunnery, had they had vision and insight. Shut up, nuns. One should waltz on their way to mass. One should whistle on the stair. And what wimple wouldn’t look more fabulous than one with the bulge of curlers beneath it? Get real, nuns! I mean, seriously. So, in closing…one does not solve a problem like Maria. One embraces the freedom that Maria personifies. One doesn’t catch a cloud and pin it down. Christ! That’s a barbaric notion. One watches the cloud dance.
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When I’m with her I’m confused, out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather, she’s as flighty as a feather
She’s a darling! She’s a demon! She’s a lamb!
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(Let’s come back to that one above. It has something to do with the other topic in the title of this post…so I’ll just hint at its relevance here by asking you to remember I quoted it.)
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How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
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Guess what, Nun dudes? YOU DON’T. You watch it alight on something. You experience its light and how it changes a thing. Hold it!? Those nuns were cannibals! To harness a thing that personifies delight is to kill the world itself.
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A writing quote opportunity has just arisen. This can be the segue, because let’s face it…I almost forgot what this post was to be about!
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“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov

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There. From moonbeam in the hand to show don’t tell. It was a leap, but I made it.

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Now…on to preparing for a novel marathon. As some of you have probably figured out by now, I’m a lover of the weekend novel writing marathon. The MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON in particular. The 2014 marathon is coming up. Nay, it is racing to the forefront of my schedule. It is screaming itself into existence. On Friday July 11th I will make my way up to Huntsville, Ontario, for my annual MNM pilgrimage. I–along with some forty other writers–will write non-stop for 72 hours and walk away from the weekend with a complete novel under my belt. Hopefully.

One would think much planning would be involved in preparing yourself to write a novel in a weekend. One would think one would need to do some kind of writing endurance calisthenics, or something. One would think that an outline of sorts would be required. An opening paragraph. An opening line. Something!

Guess what? There is no formula. As I said, forty writers will be making the same trek as me. Forty writers will go into this marathon weekend with forty different plans, forty different ways to prepare, forty different concepts. The way one prepares for a novel writing marathon is absolutely unique to the individual. We are not all nuns, forced into the confines of formulaic rules and strategies. We don’t have to be the same. We can be as unique as snowflakes.

Let’s face it, we’re all MARIAs. Let’s just get that on the table right now. The job of the writer is to climb the tree and scrape their knee. A writer does not march in line with the rest of the world. Unless, of course, they want to. A writer of fiction takes up a challenge every time they sit down to write. They create a universe. That universe can be as structured and unmoving as steel, or it can be flibbertijibbet. How they get there is of no consequence. They climb a tree. They scrape their knee. Voila! They have a story.

To prepare for a novel marathon, a writer needs to cut away structure and discipline. They need to release control. Control lives only in the land of here-not-here. There-not-there. None of us have control of anything. To give up control is merely to give up the illusion of control. Sure, you can enter a novel marathon with a full page outline. You can have every single chapter of your novel outlined in point form. You can have your character profiles all standing in a tight little row like nuns at a shooting gallery, ready to be pegged off by angry satanists. You can do that. Yes you can.

But I’ve done seven or eight novel marathons now. I know what works for me. I know how this puppy rolls. I go in with a Nancy, a Bob and a Timothy about to embark on a story of love and deception. Half an hour into the marathon I find myself writing about Grace and Bill, two hippies who just want to change the world for the better with their hot-air balloon tour company. Free rides for anyone who donates a hundred kisses to the local animal shelter!

So, in closing, this writer does not prepare. He goes in with a story or two or seven swirling in his head…desperately wanting to be told. He picks the one that screams the most to be heard at the time he sits down to begin the marathon. He hopes it has staying power. He writes.

When I get there, I want to be confused, out of focus and bemused. I want to be unpredictable as weather, as flighty as a feather. I’m a cloud. Don’t pin me down, dude. The answer is simple. You don’t hold a moonbeam in your hand.

THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A WAY TO BRING AWARENESS TO, AND RAISE FUNDS FOR LITERACY PROGRAMS. PLEASE CONSIDER SPONSORING MY WEEKEND NOVEL WRITING MARATHON. YOU CAN DO SO ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE. ALL FUNDS GO TO THE YMCA SIMCOE/MUSKOKA ADULT LITERACY PROGRAMS. THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE. TOGETHER, WE CAN OBLITERATE ILLITERACY!

Leftbank Writers Retreat! I’m Back From Paris, the Moveable Feast!

“If you are lucky enough to have gone to Paris as a LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT writer, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you…for the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT is a moveable feast.” ~ Me

But okay…I borrowed a lot of those words from someone greater than myself. (-:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”~ Ernest Hemingway

I have just returned from the Left Bank and I am in love. But it is not just being immersed in Paris’s Left Bank that has made me feel this way. It is the enchanted way in which I got to see it that made it so special. If you are a writer, you really should check out the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT. It is the best thing I have done for my writing life in years, possibly ever.

As an avid fan of Ernest Hemingway’s Paris–through reading and rereading his Moveable Feast–I wanted to see it through his filter. With the Leftbank Writers Retreat that is exactly what happened. Darla Worden, Sarah Suzor and Travis Cebula–the LBWR faculty–were extremely knowledgeable of all things Hemingway and Paris. But they didn’t only lead us through the streets of Hemingway’s Paris, pointing out all the incredible places frequented by Hemingway. They gave us everything they knew of Paris. Every day we went on a new adventure. We went to museums, we went to Shakespeare & Company, we ate at Hemingway’s favourite restaurants and other incredible pearls the faculty had discovered on their own numerous trips to Paris. We went to Montmartre, we took a boat cruise to the Tower Eiffel. Every day was magical. And the registrants did not have to worry about a single thing during our days together. The meals, museum tickets, and metro passes were included in the tuition. We merely followed our three leaders as they led us into a magical adventure every single day.

And we wrote every single day of the retreat. The faculty lead us in some fantastic writing exercises in such wondrous places as the Tuileries, the Luxemburg Gardens and the gardens of Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the moment I met Darla, Sarah and Travis, it was clear they LOVED what they were doing. They didn’t only love writing and Paris, they loved wrapping up the city they were so passionate about in a huge bow and gifting it to each and every one of the writers who registered for the retreat. They came alive when we came alive. And with our evenings free, we were off to explore Paris individually or together on our own terms. Again, the faculty were there to answer any and all questions we might have had before we set off on our journeys into the Paris evening.

I think I will let a few pictures speak for the magic I witnessed there…

If you do one thing for your writing life–just one thing ever–make sure it is to register for the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT. You will not be disappointed! You will see Paris like you’ve never seen it before. And if you’ve never seen it before, you will see it in the best possible way! You will come away from your experience with a wealth of new writing and a passion to re-immerse yourself in your writing. And wherever you go for the rest of your life, you will take it with you…for the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT is a moveable feast!

 

 

 

Contact Darla today to start a dialogue on the June 2015 retreat.

Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris – A Writer at Work – Please Excuse the Blog Silence…

I will be slipping into the blog cone of silence once again. (-: Today I head to Paris and the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Paris. It’s at the very top of my bucket list. In fact, a visit to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris IS the #1 item on that list. And guess where I will be heading while I’m in Paris! (-:

I will be taking small workshops every day while I’m there…little exercises in the exploration of all things writing. On the menu is; poetry, finding your voice, place as character and more. PLUS—we will be exploring Hemingway’s Paris AND F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Paris.

You can find out about the retreat by clicking RIGHT HERE. You know, in case you’re thinking you may want to go to the retreat NEXT year. I hear it’s an annual thing. (-:

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

Do I wish to retrace the footsteps of Hemingway? Absolutely. His A MOVEABLE FEAST is one of my all-time favourite books. I’m going to attempt to re-read it on my flight over tonight. Although I tend to do nothing but sleep while on airplanes. I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I’m not too worried about it, though. I have practically memorized the book. (-;

Some of my favourite Moveable Feast quotes:

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

“For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

I’m going to Paris for Hemingway. And for Paris itself. I believe it to be a beautiful city. I’m about to find out if reality matches my belief…

 

See you on the flipside. (-:

Please don’t forget to check out my previous post! I’m having a fundraiser for MALESURVIVOR. For a limited time, 100% of the royalties of my book sales will be going towards their Weekend of Recovery Scholarship program.

Cover Reveal! The YA title CALLER 107 by Matthew Cox

Today, I would like to share a book cover with my readers! Matthew Cox is an author from my new publishing family, Curiosity Quills Press. Today’s cover reveal is for his book, CALLER 107, which releases in July, 2014.

Here’s everything you need to know about Matthew’s upcoming Young Adult release! You know what to do, of course. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook…and mark your calendars for the release of CALLER 107! And maybe you can add the book to your Goodreads shelf, too! (-:

 

Caller 107

Caller 107 by Matthew Cox

Genre: young-adult, contemporary paranormal

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Date of Publication: July 22nd, 2014

Cover Artist: Polina Sapershteyn

Goodreads: CALLER 107
Description:

When thirteen-year-old Natalie Rausch said she would die to meet DJ Crazy Todd, she did not mean to be literal.

Two years is a long time to be stuck between two people that want nothing more than to destroy each other. A tween crush on the larger-than-life jock from a local radio station is the only trace of a once-happy life ruined by warring parents.

Whenever WROK 107 ran a contest, she would dive for the phone, getting busy signals and dead air every time. She never expected to get through, but at least with her best friend at her side, it used to be fun.

Before her parents ruined that too.

Her last desperate attempt to get their attention, falling in with a dangerous group of older teens, goes as wrong as possible. With no one left to blame for her mess of a life but herself, karma comes full circle and gives her just a few hours to make up for two years’ worth of mistakes–or be forever lost.

 

Matthew Cox - Author of CALLER 107
Matthew Cox – Author of CALLER 107

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.
Social Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Congratulations to Matthew! Wishing you all the best!

Sing Me To Sleep…

I used to think the eternal sleep would be a welcome reprieve. Honestly, I did. Even in the height of any happiness, I was suspicious. In fact, the state of happiness itself was enough to send me into a tailspin. My wires had become so crossed that I didn’t know how to react to good things happening.

I used to think Asleep by The Smiths was a happy song. I still love it, but now I see that it’s a song about giving up…about forgoing the light in favour of darkness. It’s a song about taking the safe route, the well worn road of comfort and emotional deadness. STATIC.

If I were to create a graph of what used to happen whenever happiness hit, it would look a bit like this:

happy

This was never an intentional path. I believe it was one that simply manifested itself in order to protect me from feeling. It was a path that essentially kept me in a perpetual state of sleep. In recent years I had a LOT of incredible things happen in my life. And I would attempt to show the proper reaction every time. And on the inside I just kept wondering why the event didn’t make me feel anything particularly pleasant. One would think that after working hard on a novel and finding a publisher and eventually holding said novel in your hands would give one some form of enjoyment. I imagined what that enjoyment would feel like and then I attempted to fake it. All along waiting for the jig to be up…for someone to say, “We were only kidding. We’re not publishing YOUR book. Are you nuts?!”

It wasn’t just my writing life that was effected by this eternal state of ennui. It was present in every corner of my life.

I still love this song immensely. But it’s no longer me. I don’t want to sleep. I have so much to catch up on. I feel like a Grimm fairy tale character who wakes up in a gloomy dark forest in the middle of nowhere, after a thousand years of sleep. The canvas was once water-washed with a thin film of black…making all the other colours muted and ghastly.

“Deep in the cell of my heart, I will feel so glad to go…”

“Deep in the cell of my heart, I really want to go…”

Those lines in particular always made me sad…but in a semi-happy way. Because I understood them to my core. I believed the lie. I was lulled into thinking I honestly did want to go.

If you find yourself in darkness, I have one simple piece of advice for you. Turn on the light. You’re probably the only one who can do so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you not to seek help. There is nothing weak about seeking help and I encourage anyone suffering from depression to do so. But you can reach out a thousand times for help…if you’re not willing to accept it fully, though, you’re only paying lip service. When you’re ready to receive happiness, it’s up to you to turn on the light. When it’s off you think turning it on is the most impossibly difficult thing in the universe to do. But the sick and terrible secret is just how easy it is to turn on the light. It’s a slight shift. That’s all. Perception is both a friend and an enemy. We must use it wisely.

I’ve been living in happiness for some time now. It’s true, for quite a while I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for something to happen that would switch the light back off. But it’s not happening. I’m ready to accept that the light can stay on. There’s no reason to swivel back and forth…to run from feelings of happiness. Not when there is so much to be happy about. Not when there’s so much to be grateful for.

I used to think R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People was this mystical unattainable thing. The song always hit me. I knew it was an elixir…I just didn’t know how to drink it.

I think I get it.

“There’s no time to cry, happy, happy
Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines”

Happiness is un-diminishable. It can only multiply. All you have to do is share it…

 

 

(I will soon have a book cover to share with you. I’ve seen the first draft of the cover for my upcoming release HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN and I’m ecstatic about it! I can’t wait to share it with you. Stay tuned!)

Visit my author page on Amazon for currently available novels!

 

Back From the Camino – Ready to Write!

You know when you know? Yes you do. You know what I’m talking about. We’re writers. We percolate. A writer can sit still for a week and be working as hard as anyone out there. Because we write from that vast landscape of the mind. We see moving pictures float past us at a hundred thousand miles a minute. We are always working. Like sloths, though, you sometimes can’t see the progress right away. But we move.

I know it’s time to write. The kettle is about to whistle. The pressure is building to a crescendo and the release valve needs to be…well, released.

I just got back from walking the Camino de Santiago (THE WAY OF ST. JAMES) in Spain. With a small leap of faith, I walked out onto the vast rooftop of the cathedral and and I sighed. I’m not sure, but the sigh may have been heard around the world. Like a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan to create a tsunami in Mexico, my sigh gently pushed its way out to the ocean and carried itself on a wave to lap against the shore on the Atlantic coast of Canada.

Yeah. I’m a romantic. It’s true.

As I stood up on the rooftop of that cathedral, I was certain that I was at the top of the world. And I was also certain that the top of the world was wherever you wanted it to be. It’s not a place on the map that needs to live by the laws of physics and altitudes and logic. The top of the world is a feeling. And I found it on my journey.

I walked through villages, cities, forests, fields, vineyards, mountains, rain and snow. I jumped barefoot into mud puddles and streams. I balanced, like a child, on ancient walls and sidewalk curbs. I walked with strangers and people who would become anything but strangers. I walked with Germans and Asians and French and Dutch and Americans and Canadians and Hungarians and Africans and Mexicans and Colombians and Irishmen and Peruvians and Scotsmen and Englishmen. I walked with the world. And I walked with no one. And I walked with ghosts and goats and cows and bulls and dogs and horses.

At the end of my journey–like Dorothy–I woke up. And in the magical city of Oz…er…Santiago, I found all the people I had shared my dream with. In a city I had never been in, I walked around and saw a thousand faces I already knew. Jean-Claude from France–the man I couldn’t look at without bursting into tears. He was there, too. Smiling and embracing every pilgrim he met along his own journey. And Jean-Claude held court with many people of many nations. He will be carried to many corners of our globe. Jean-Claude will never be forgotten. And he is just one of the peregrinos I encountered.

I discovered that the top of the world–like Kansas–was there all along. Perception is the only thing that needs to change in order for one to be there. You can walk hundreds of kilometers to get to a sacred land of emeralds and gold and gild-edged beauty. Sure…you can do that. And you can have the time of your life doing it, too. But in order to get home…in order to get to your bliss…you need only click your heels together. You need only open your eyes to it.

I have a story in my belly. Like the magical mystical ladies of Casa Verde, who could pour shots like nobody’s business, I am ready to shout. I will write about the Camino. I know I will. One can’t not.

 

AS USUAL, YOU CAN FIND MY BOOKS ON AMAZON. (-:  Just click this link to get there.