Hiatus, Folks

Just to let you know that I won’t be writing here for the next 2-3 weeks as I deal with surgery, the hospital, and my first days home again.

I shall return.

Gina's Eyes

My Empty Head

Not one idea for a post this morning or even yesterday or the day before.  I want to write something.  But my head is full of life concerns, not literary concerns.  How do I, as a writer, deal with this?  Frustration.

Books everywhere

I’m actually more concerned about which book to take to read in the hospital.  I cannot make up my mind.  From past experience, I know that it’s impossible to get into a literary novel.  Genre stories are better.  So, I’m looking at mysteries and science fiction.  On the mysteries side: P. D. James because I haven’t read her in years and I have a couple of her books already.  A friend has offered a Jo Nesbo mystery, and I’m intensely interested in reading his work.  On the science fiction side, I’m considering a novel by Charles Stross.  I’m also toying with possibly taking We by Eugene Zamiatin.  I’m already taking the wonderful magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction so maybe a mystery would be better.

Hospital reading is highly personal.  What to read when you’re not feeling all that great?  In the past, I’ve taken a Kathy Reichs mystery, a literary mystery that I could not get into and still have not read, a Janet Evanovich mystery that was also quite funny, and magazines like The Atlantic, The Writer, and Granta.  Sometimes general interest magazines are really the best bet.  They’re easier to read in small chunks and go with the flow of constant interruptions.

Sometimes, though, I’ve not wanted to read anything.  In that case, I’ve watched TV for hours and hours.  The hospital has cable TV — I do not.  I remember being really surprised that now cable TV channels run commercials.  I thought the whole point of paid television was NOT to run commercials.  What a disappointment.  During one hospital stay, I discovered the delightful and very funny show Monk on cable.  It was the perfect antidote to that particular hospital experience.

Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub)

Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub)

This time, I am taking my Sony Walkman which also has a radio, and a few CDs.  I want to see if music has a beneficial effect on my experience.  I am also taking my Falun gong (qigong energy exercises) with me to do when I’m able to stand for longer than five minutes.

What about writing?  Well, I am taking a notebook and pens, and my pocket calendar in which to note events.  I discovered during my last post-op hospitalization, that morphine does not enhance writing but makes it physically more difficult to do.  I wrote very slowly and dozed between words.  My handwriting also was barely legible.  Eventually, when I wasn’t on the morphine anymore, my writing improved and I wrote more.

Hospital stays are ironic, actually.  You expect to sleep a lot, rest in bed, not do much, right?  Well, that’s not really the case, at least for surgical patients.  I expect that I’ll be roused out of bed early the next day in order to stand and walk a few steps.  By evening of the first day, I expect to have walked at least five times and be able to walk on my own to the bathroom and back.  There are a LOT of interruptions — lab techs for blood draws, nurse assistants to check vitals, doctors with their residents, physical or occupational therapists to start you on the exercises to help build your strength so you can be discharged eventually, volunteers with offers of magazines or conversation, and so on.  And the welcome interruptions of friends visiting.

And look at this: I’ve written nearly 600 words about topics related to writing that deal with my upcoming hospitalization.  There really is truth to the saying to just write even if your head is empty….

Credit: Walt Disney

Credit: Walt Disney

Update: July 26, 2014

It’s been over six months since my last update about my writing life, so time for another.  Those of you who have been following me during that time know that it’s been busy, busy, busy.  Crazy busy!  I’m looking forward to my “vacation” that begins in about ten days.  I will not be working for at least two weeks, but I will return!  Without further ado:

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

Perceval Novels:  Of course, the BIG accomplishment here is the e-publication of my first novel, Perceval’s Secret, at Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble Nook Store, and Kobo International (for my friends in other countries).  The novel has two reviews at Amazon, good ones, too.  Sales in the first four months have been quite slow despite enthusiastic response to the marketing.  I want to scream to the world — hey!  It’s a really, really good book and a fast read!  Give it a try!  The e-book format is just fine.

My next chore will be to set up a crowdsource funding project at Indiegogo (I did one at Kickstarter last fall, if you remember, to help pay the production and publication costs, that wasn’t successful) to help me pay the production and marketing bills.  I’ve been tracking the costs so this time I’ll know exactly what I need.

Marketing:  Marketing and promotion for Perceval’s Secret has consumed most of my time.  I mailed 1100 postcards to orchestra musicians early June, and I’ve been handing out the postcards to anyone I meet (almost).  I’ve left piles at doctor offices, my dentist, my hair stylist, and at the large annual science fiction and fantasy convention, Convergence.  I continue to carry postcards with me to leave wherever I can.

Author Buzz promotion is in full swing.  The first part was a book giveaway contest that brought a good response.  Five happy readers received free copies of the novel, as well as one book club in South Carolina.  The Bookmovement.com campaign was changed from a book giveaway to a banner ad on the home page of their website for a week.  There was some concern that book clubs wouldn’t be that interested in an e-book novel.  Well, the book club in South Carolina was very interested and all members had e-readers.  I saw the Kindle Nation promotion and my novel was the first on the list.  Actually, Amazon has been promoting Perceval’s Secret on its own, sending out e-mails to people and every time my novel is at the top of the list!  Then there’s the “Summer Buzz” ad campaign that began this past Monday.  Ads for my novel will run on various book blogs and websites for the next month.

I am working slowly on getting more book reviews at a variety of online locations.  I continue to utilize social media also to spread the word about the book.  I’ve been quite surprised by how much time social media takes up, and I’m only focused on four sites.  I can’t imagine the time commitment for more than four sites.

Short Stories:  I have not had any time to work on short stories.  As usual, I continue to get ideas for more stories, and I write down the ideas to flesh them out at a later date.  I have continued to collect markets for the short stories ready to send out, and this fall I plan to start sending them out again.  If you haven’t read them yet, they are available at Wattpad.  The Light Chamber is here.  The Negligee is here.  Please rate them as you see them and leave comments!

Essays:  My monthly Word Power column continues in the Minnesota Mensagenda, and has expanded to included a word-find puzzle four times this year.  I love creating the puzzles.  If there were a job creating those puzzles that I could do as a day job to pay my bills, I’d be one happy camper.  Of course, if my writing brought in more money, that’d be especially wonderful too! (smile)

a_readers_advice_to_writers-460x307Paid Gigs:  The wonderful surprise in the last few months was being approached by a producer at ClassicalMPR to write for their website.  I’ve written four essays for them so far, and they’ve now given me an annual contract so I’ll be doing even more in the future.  My latest was just published at the website yesterday and is here. 

Yager Editing Services:  My freelance editing and typing business has been on hold but I plan to finish setting up the website after my “vacation” and start looking for business.  I’ll announce here when the website is open for business.

The Successful Patient:  I’m writing this nonfiction book/memoir under my pen name, Gina Hunter.  Work stopped when the e-publication project took flight.  It doesn’t look like I’ll be working on this project this year except for the Successful Patient blog posts that I publish at Eyes on Life.

Presentations/The Successful Patient: I gave a wonderfully successful presentation based on material from The Successful Patient at the CCFA IBD Education Conference this past May in St. Paul, MN.  I was quite pleased to observe attendees writing notes as I spoke and we had a lively Q&A at the end.  I also participated in a panel about supporting a loved one with IBD and that was really interesting.  Patient advocacy is an element of chronic illness management that is one of my causes.  I have no presentations scheduled for the rest of this year, but I’m hoping to do more next year.

The Eyes on Life Commentary Blog:  This nonfiction commentary blog continues a steady build in audience.  Popular posts in the last six months again involved the Minnesota Orchestral Association and nonprofit governance, and just about anything concerning raising boys or male behavior.  As with the memoir, The Successful Patient, I write this blog under the pen name Gina Hunter, and it can be found here.

The Anatomy of Perceval Blog:  I continue to write here once a week about fiction, the Perceval novels, classical music, movies and book reviews, and anything else related to writing, especially fiction.  Watch for updates here about  Perceval’s Secret and the beginning of work on the second novel in the series.

Job Search: I will need to find at least a part-time job once I’m back from my “vacation.”  As much as I’d love for my writing and editing endeavors to support me, I cannot count on that.  I am satisfied, however, that I’ve been working my butt off to find ways for my writing and editing skills to bring in the money.

As you might guess, my reading hasn’t been as active as I’d like.  I’ve been working my way through the biography of the conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski since the beginning of the year.  I’m almost finished.  I’ve joined Goodreads (friend me if you’re there!), and this will either make me intensely guilty that I’m not reading and reviewing more books, or will be just the incentive I need.

I’ve mentioned before here that I will be having major surgery soon, and that is my “vacation” time.  I will not be able to work for a while, but I hope to do a lot of reading.  I plan to post here next Saturday but then will be on hiatus for at least two weeks.  Please hang in there with me!  Thank you.

cute-cat-picture-wallpaper by jasonlefkowitz.net

The Brilliant Detective

Earlier this week, I was thinking about characterization and character development, specifically as it relates to detectives.  A detective represents the power of society in many ways, but none as well as in finding and catching criminals. Usually murderers. Often serial killers. As “good” characters, they must still be interesting, sympathetic, and somehow easy to relate to for the reader.  How to make a “good” character interesting?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Photo: Paul Grover)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Photo: Paul Grover)

We never seem to tire of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. I think he must be the standard against which all other fictional detectives are measured.  Since Doyle’s books, we’ve seen fan fiction, movies and TV shows using Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson as the primary characters.  What is it about Holmes that makes him so fascinating?

Holmes and Watson (original actors) (Photo from DVD)

Holmes and Watson (original actors) (Photo from DVD)

For one thing, he’s brilliant.  Doyle must have been brilliant himself to create and write him.  Holmes can be rather abrasive at times, though, and he’s eccentric to a fault.  Watson definitely puts up with a lot.  Holmes plays the violin, has a drug habit, and an ego bigger than a barn.  But we love him.  He makes the world right.  In other words, he’s not at all a goody-two-shoes or an idealist about humanity and justice.  He has flaws.  And he’s brilliant.

So, I started thinking about other “brilliant” detectives, wondering if they have been able to fill Holmes’ large shoes for us.  The first that came to my mind was DCI Morse as played by John Shaw on Inspector Morse for Masterpiece Mystery.  Writer Colin Dexter created him in the original novels. In keeping with the Holmesian tradition of abrasiveness, Morse is known for his short temper and being a curmudgeon.  He can be downright difficult.  But he doesn’t like dead bodies at all, i.e. he stands away from the victim at a crime scene as he quizzes the medical examiner.  He prefers not to go to the morgue for the autopsy report.  He drinks too much — it landed him in the hospital in one episode.  He’s particular about his red jaguar.  But his powers of observation  surpass anyone around him.  He loves classical music, especially opera, and is a champion at solving crossword puzzles.  He’s also a slightly paunchy middle-aged guy who likes the ladies but whose love life leaves him alone most of the time.  Poor Sergeant Lewis has to endure Morse who has no illusions about humanity.  But Morse is absolutely brilliant.

DCI Morse (John Thaw)

DCI Morse (John Thaw)

It’s interesting to note that the Brits are masters at creating interesting and brilliant detectives.  Adam Dagleish, for example.  Jane Tennison. And most recently, a TV series about the young DCI Morse in which we learn what Morse’s first name is, Endeavour.  What parent names a kid Endeavour?  No wonder he develops into a curmudgeon.  This series interests me specifically because it shows us how Morse developed into the detective he was in middle-age, the people who supported and challenged him, his blunders as well as longer glimpses into his personal life.

(copyright ITV/MammothScreen)

Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) (copyright ITV/MammothScreen)

Finally, an American detective of brilliance who can stand proudly with his British comrades: Adrian Monk.  I stumbled onto Monk while in the hospital, and I was incredibly grateful I did because watching his exploits made my hospital stay much more pleasant.  Monk adds a tragic personal life to the mix: his beloved wife Trudy was murdered and her case has never been solved.  He suffered a mental breakdown after her death and left his job as a detective with the San Francisco Police.  After he recovers, he works as a private detective. Soft-spoken and vulnerable, Monk suffers from OCD, i.e. obsessive-compulsive disorder.  His OCD also makes him incredibly observant about details and solving the puzzles that are murder investigations.  The thing I loved about this show and this detective was the ultimately positive light they shone on Monk’s OCD.  Yes, it could be unbearably painful and debilitating, and they show that.  But it also makes him a brilliant detective.

Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub)

Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub)

I cannot stand an unsolved mystery.  I can be very compulsive myself once I’m hooked on a detective.  It is so comforting to watch a brilliant one solve a mystery and take a world that was in disorder and give it order….