Monday, November 30, 2009

Just When You Think It's Not Going to Happen...

This time last week, I was pretty sure I was throwing in the towel on NaNo this time around. I had far too much ground to make up, and far to much other stuff to do...and far too many unexpected real-life twists were preventing me from maintaining my normal schedule. Friday I was scheduled for a gallery sit at our FASM gallery in the Milton Mall, where I'm taking part in a show this month. If I was going to have a shot at getting to that 50K, I needed Friday's four hour stint at the gallery to be productive! We weren't talking the 1,667 words a day needed to maintain a steady pace throughout the month, I needed to put out 5,000 words a day to make it there on time.

Lucky for me...I hit my stride. I kind of had to throw my MC into a bit of trouble, and that revived the story enough to let me really roll. And it's not polished, nowhere near perfect, but last night I was close enough to actually making the total ahead of schedule, that I pushed and wasn't going to be happy unless I made it. It wasn't as late a night as the one before, when I was up for the same reason - trying to get those words down as fast as I could! So sometime after midnight last night, I plugged my copy into the word verifier on NaNo, and finally...FINALLY! got the fireworks. Okay, so they're not like the fireworks we saw in Dubai. In fact, they're pretty static as far as fireworks go. But considering I thought I was a goner, to be done, and done *early*, that felt good.

And I like this story better than last year's. This one has more potential. It's somewhere in between the LGN and last year's effort when it comes to storyline. Not quite a rags to riches horse racing plot, but something like that. It might merit some actual attention to see if I've got something there. And while I was sort of hoping it would fit the YA genre, I'm not sure it worked out that way.

The one thing I did with this story was write in a tense I absolutely never thought I'd write in. I've never been a fan of first person present - maybe there's another name for it, but I hope you know what I mean:

“Why don’t you just try him with your other mare here? You never know. She’s got lots of milk, and she’s pretty laid back, isn’t she?” Ben, our vet, says.

Dad nods, slowly, but I can tell he’s skeptical. It’s a little too much like Disney. He glances at me, and I shrug.

“Kinda don’t have anything to lose,” I say. Stranger things have happened. Like having two foals to deal with in the first place.

I think I maybe ended up enjoying it. It's kind of how I tell my informal stories, like if I was relating something that happened out in the barn. And now, of course, everything I write (such as this blog post) sounds a lot like that!

Who knows, maybe I'll go back to the beginning and start reading and hate the whole thing. Or maybe there's hope. We'll see!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Almost on Track

I've had a kind of up-and-down first week with this NaNo thing. With everything else that's going on right now - three art shows starting up, a horse to ride, commissions to do, on top of my usual responsibilities - I fell behind pretty quickly on my word count. Then on Friday this cold virus that I'd somehow been able to avoid finally caught up with me. The interesting this is, all I seem to be able to manage with the cold is - well, the horses of course, because I have no choice - then writing. I'm not quite caught up, but I'm pretty close, and hope today I will get there. I'm envisioning a Zenyatta-like run here: a bit of a poor start, hanging back, watching the others race ahead, then finally starting to move up, heroically weaving through traffic, and then hitting with a powerful turn-of-foot mid-stretch to gallop on by...hmm, nice analogy, don't you think?

I'm certainly at the point in this novel WIP that I have to get things moving. I've laid a foundation of sorts, spent lots of time in the MCs head, and now I need to pick it up a bit. It's the point when I realize, hey, 50,000 words isn't a lot...especially for someone like me who would really prefer to write an epic! I'm not sure it will ever be the kind of novel anyone else will want to read, and seeing as there are no vampires or zombies or wizards, probably not destined to be popular YA fare...but I'm having fun all the same. I think I'm indulging the inner wise-cracking teenager in me...the one that never really went away!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Uh-Oh - It's Almost November Again!

I've perhaps been floundering around in the writing department of late. If you follow my studio/horse blog at all, you'll know we've been through some tough times on the farm, and that always knocks me off my game a little. It's also been busy for me in the art world, but more with admin stuff - not a lot of painting going on, and a list of commissions to get rolling!

I failed to achieve my goal of continuing to work through that poor LGN (aka 'Fifty Sovereigns,' the novel to which this blog is dedicated!) and hacking the word count - I'm about halfway through that task. That of course means I haven't bravely queried. Yet. Or just skipped that and self-published. Last night, however, I did complete the first revision of 'the sequel' just to be doing something. If I'm true to my usual M.O., there are many more before I deem it "done!" I actually think it's just because I like to 'visit' with my characters, make their lives difficult, and miss them when I'm not around!

I'm going to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year. I haven't looked at what I wrote last year since I finished it - some things need some time to sit and stew a bit! One day I'll start a rewrite. I actually managed to come up with a new idea for this year, which I think I like a lot better. Now I just have to make it into a novel! I'm thinking about trying to make it a YA - I think the LGN is bordering on that, except for the length. If it ever gets published, it will be the horse-crazy teenagers (and older!) that are most drawn to it.

So...the countdown begins! At least this year I'm not attempting to do a painting a day as well!

Boldly go!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ruthless Editing

Last week I went through every computer-owners worst nightmare - especially as it falls into the category of "I should know better!" My computer died. I am usually pretty diligent about backing up, but for the last while my backup drive has been a little flakey. A poor excuse, I know, but with the insanity the real life horses in my life have been throwing at me lately, I just didn't manage to get out to remedy that situation. And I really didn't acknowledge the subtle cues my little MacBook was throwing my way that suggested something might soon go awry....

Long story hard drive had a meltdown, taking with it my most recent photographs (including the Queen's Plate) and editing of the 'sequel' to Fifty Sovereigns. Ouch. My tech friend has not given up entirely on the data recovery, but a week later, it's hard to be optimistic. I will be pleading with other photographers if I want to paint the Plate winner this year, and the writing, well, there's only one answer to that. Do it again! Sigh.

In the meantime, I decided to go back to this "LGN" of mine and take a stab at reducing my horrendous word count, so that at the very least, I won't be totally embarrassed when I start querying. Though I'm not sure how far I can take it, and if ultimately, I will be looking at going the self-publishing route (bleh!) I've decided either way, I will query, for the sake of experience. I have some experience when it comes to rejection, from my life as an artist. I've received the odd rejection letter from juried exhibitions. Thankfully I've received my share of acceptances too, though I'm not going to hold my breath for such a response when it comes to the writing world. Whole different ballgame, that.

So...that's where I am. I'm hoping to push through this rewrite/edit before my trip to Saratoga at the end of the month, and then look at forging ahead with some queries come September. August will have to be devoted to some painting, with a couple of very big gigs coming up in that department. I may post some of what gets cut from the novel on here, so that it will live on, somewhere! It's hard to let go...but it must be done!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Canadian Content: The Queen's Plate

Last Sunday Woodbine celebrated the 150th running of the Queen's Plate, the longest continually-run stake race (and sporting event) in North America. A documentary was produced and aired on CBC, and has also been released on DVD. I watched it when it aired, and was really impressed. It hit the nail solidly on the head, explaining what this race means to Canadians, and why it is more important than even the Derby to us on this side of the border. It's supposed to be available for purchase, though I haven't found out yet exactly where! I gladly scooped a copy at the Plate week festivities. Canadians can probably catch it on demand at CBC.

Watching some of the older footage, I was reminded how some things have changed since I wrote my story. When I was a horse-crazy youngster attending the Plate each year, it seemed it was the exception when the track was fast. There were many, many muddy Plates.

A crack of thunder woke her — there it was, finally. She glanced at the clock — two AM. Short moments later the torrential downpour began, and her spirits sank still lower.

She rolled out of bed, the thin shirt sticking to her body, and reluctantly closed the window as the rain blew in through the screen. After so many weeks of dryness, it should have been welcome. She lay down again on top of the sheets, on her side staring out darkly at the brilliant flashes of light, coming now in quick succession.

Bloody rain. It was traditional as the fifty guineas.

Now, with the new Polytrack, that variable has been eliminated. The verdict is still out on whether or not Poly is a safer racing surface, but I have to say for the purposes of fiction, it's far less interesting!

Last Sunday was a model first day of summer - sunny, warm and clear - one of the nicer Plates I've been to. And to be standing in the paddock, for the first time connected to a starter - even being that close was special.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Derby Day

The twin spires were still lit in the diminishing darkness, and he imagined them critically viewing the contenders from their noble post, deeming each one worthy, or not, to grace these grounds and contest the Run for the Roses...

The black filly looked casually across the infield towards those lofty spires as if to suggest she was up for the challenge, and would not be intimidated by their ghosts.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Something a Little Different: A Book Review

All Hat: A Novel Part of writing is reading - scouting out the competition, so to speak. I read a lot of horse-themed books: the good, the bad and the ugly! Just finished this one. I'd heard about it as it was set between Woodbine and Fort Erie, and finally ordered it. Following is my very brief Goodreads review!

All Hat: A Novel by Brad Smith

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm surprised I gave this as high a rating as I did, given that the horse and racing related details are so completely WRONG in this book I wanted to throw it in the woodstove. They became so frequent I gave up and convinced myself to enjoy the book in spite of this very consistent inaccuracy. The characters won me over, and were a major redeeming feature. Fantastic dialogue. Too bad this guy didn't get the horse part right, it would have been a really great book if he had.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Procrastination, or Fear?

I know, I know - more blog neglect. I've been getting nudges to take my late great novel here seriously. I go from feeling inspired to take the next steps towards trying to get it published, to thinking there's no way it will ever happen, and then a sort of terror at the possibility!

This week, for the first time since the first foal of the season arrived, I've started back working on the sequel. I'm into a more serious re-write now, to see if I can make it something worthy of following the first book. It's kind of fun when where I'm at in the story kind of parallels where things are at this time of year. Last week I shipped out the two layups that wintered with me - one to a training centre, the other straight into Woodbine. The training track opened February 11, so things are picking up in there. First day of racing is April 4.

Now, my story is set back when Greenwood still operated. I have had the time frame of the novel questioned - can I take readers back to the early 80s and have them get it, or do I place things in the present and just hope the folks that know better to go along with me when I hang onto some of the old scheduling and omit something as huge as the Breeders' Cup? Including Greenwood plays a big part in my story, because winter and spring racing at Greenwood provides a much better contrast to the Florida sun than Woodbine does. I mean, racing when it's snowing isn't fun anywhere if you ask me, but it's just a lot nastier if you have to drive down the Gardiner to the Lakeshore there and back to do it!

The other place that I cling to that is no more is Hialeah. There are probably sentimental reasons that I do that, due to my own memories, but it was such a beautiful track, and even back then Gulfstream seemed commercial in comparison. I'm glad I haven't been to Gulfstream since the more recent changes, because I've heard a lot of complaints!

I've decided in the month of March I need to work on a synopsis and query for the LGN (that is, the Late Great Novel, haha). Once I have those, and work through a few minor edits, well, guess it's time to dive in. I figure those things are doable amid the tasks that actually pay their way - my usual duties running the barn, preparing for the next foal, getting things rolling for the new breeding season, and of course, continuing to paint. Maybe by posting my intentions here I'll keep myself accountable!

(Photos: cold mornings at Woodbine!)