Monday, January 12, 2015

Is There an Author in the House?

Why yes, as a matter of fact, there is.  I don't blog much about my writing these days, but Naomi Bennet posted this fun questionnaire on her blog, Wonderland Creek, and I felt like filling it out myself.  So I did.

1. How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a ‘writer’?

I've been writing for approximately 28 years.  I officially considered myself "a writer" somewhere around 1995, probably.

2. How/why did you start writing? 

I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember, and when I was about six, my mom gave me her old manual typewriter (as in, not even electric.  Manual.  Very vintage and pretty -- I still have it.  It looks a lot like the one above), and I started writing little paragraph-long stories.  I remember one of the earliest was basically me rewriting the Christmas chapter of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew with different names for the characters.  I continued doing that all through my childhood, and even wrote a weekly family newspaper for a couple of years.

When I was fourteen, I started to focus more on writing, on trying to learn the craft of it and not just dabble around with the occasional story.  My mom then bequeathed me another typewriter, an electric one this time, and I set it up on the living room floor and started pounding out stories.  Many of them were fanfic for my favorite TV shows (Combat!, Star Trek, and The Big Valley), although I didn't know at the time that fanfic was an actual thing.  I just thought I was making up new adventures for my favorite characters because I had run out of ones to watch.

That's what drives my writing, and always has:  wanting to spend time with my imaginary friends.  I write fanfiction to spend time with my favorite fictional heroes, and I write original stories to spend time with the people I've dreamed up.

3. What’s your favorite part of writing? 

Reading over things I've written in the past :-)

I miss him
And if Sawyer wanted to read them too, I'd let him.

4. What’s your biggest writing struggle?

Finding plot holes and recognizing logic problems, inconsistencies, etc.  I tend to accept a story as going the way it goes and not figure out ways it makes no sense.

5. Do you write best at night or day?

I write best in the morning, before real world thoughts have crowded out the fictional ones.  But I've learned, by necessity, to write at night after my kids are in bed too.  It doesn't flow as freely, and I tend to peter out after only an hour instead of two or more, but it's better than nothing.

6. What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!) 

Depends on where I'm writing!  Sometimes it looks like this:

"That's my Mayor's Desk, where I do my mayorin' work."
(Joke for fans of Support Your Local Sheriff
That's our desktop computer, where I do most of my blogging.  I don't write much fiction here, simply because if I'm writing fiction at home, it's in the evenings when the kids are in bed, and then my husband is using this computer, so I take over the couch with my laptop.  The couch is just to the left of the computer desk, under that window thing that leads to the kitchen and shows off my dirty laundry so nicely.

Sometimes, I write here:

I'm sitting in that green chair right now, my foot up on the little wooden chair because I twisted my foot yesterday.  (I'm a klutz.)  I wrote some of my favorite scenes of my current WIP right here last winter, with a fire in the fireplace.

This green chair has a lot of sentimental value for me -- it belonged to my dearly departed Grandma, and passed to me when I got married because she had to move into a nursing home and didn't have room for it anymore.  I can remember when my grandparents bought this chair, probably about 25 years ago.  I've nursed all three of my babies in this chair, I rock them in it still when they're sick, I read books to them here -- I'm going to be very sad when this chair wears out.

But these days, much of my best writing happens here:

I cannot write fiction with my kids around.  I can blog around them, and even write my Femnista articles with them by me, but not fiction.  So a couple of Saturdays a month, I head to the closest coffee shop (this exact one!) to write for a couple of hours.  It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for the old creative juices and powers of concentration!  Not to mention a nice jolt of caffeine, that always helps me too.

I had a favorite table to write at here, but they moved it recently, and now it's too close to the windows to work for writing on my computer because there's too much sunshine glare.  Sigh.

7. How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft? 

Of what?  A Femnista article takes me between one and two hours for the first draft.  A short story can take days, weeks, months, who knows.  My first novel took me about two years, my second took six months, my third took a month (hurrah for NaNoWriMo!), my fourth would have taken two months except I never quite finished it because I had to pack up and move.  My fifth took a few months.  My sixth, which is my current WIP, took me about a year.

I do know I write roughly 500 words an hour when I'm composing new stuff.  And writing humor either happens quickly or it isn't funny.  Isn't that odd, now?

8. How many projects do you work on at once? 

It varies.  Right now, I'm revising a novel, I"m revising a co-authored fanfic story for a fandom I've never written for before, I have two more novels percolating in my brain, I should be writing an article for Femnista right now but I'm procrastinating, and I have an idea for a Combat! story that I just need to think about a bit more before I can start it.  I'm also in the midst of a long-term secret project with a co-conspirator.

So basically, I always have more than one writing project going.  Then if I get stuck, I can switch projects and not waste time banging my head on blank pages.

Agatha Christie at the typewriter surrounded by some of her 80 books. Photograph: CPL/Popperfoto #writers #workspaces #agathachristie
(Agatha Christie.  Not me.)
9. Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between? 

I prefer happy endings.  Like I said, my writing revolves around me spending time with characters I love, and I have a hard time making them sad.  I even have a hard time making my bad guys suffer -- I often pardon them by deciding not to kill off characters I meant to have die.  In my current novel, two characters I thought were going to die ended up not.  However, another character I didn't know would even get injured died very unexpectedly on me, and I was extremely sad.

I mostly write serious stories, though, so happy endings are not always a given.  I have only written a couple of truly sad endings, but I quite often write things that don't end with sunshine and roses.  This might be because, when I was first pounding out "real" stories as a teen, I wrote a string of things that ended sadly, and either my mom or my brother commented that it would be nice if I wrote a happy ending for once.

But mostly, I feel like fiction is obligated to restore moral balance to the universe, and so the bad guys can't win, the good guys can't lose, and order must be restored.  Which leads to a pretty happy ending, usually.

This makes the Lone Ranger happy too.

10. List a few authors who've influenced your writing journey.

Raymond Chandler, who dazzles me with his unexpected descriptions.  Any time I can compare something to another mostly-unrelated-but-somehow-fitting thing, I do, thanks to him.  And Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the way she could make the most mundane parts of life fascinating to me.  J. K. Rowling for showing me that yes, people will get all those little references to a million other things that you throw into your books.  Some of them, anyway.  Honestly, every author I read teaches me something, influences me somehow.  Those are the three that popped into my head at the moment.

11. Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not? 

I do.  Why keep the fun to myself?  I share most things with my best friend and writing mentor, DKoren.  Even while they're in progress -- we've been friends for almost 10 years, and so we've developed our own system for when what kind of feedback is needed, how to point out good stuff and flaws, everything.  I trust her implicitly.  She's also great at finding those plot holes and logic problems that I miss, which is helpful :-D

EDIT:  I meant to add that, once projects are finished, I absolutely share them with the universe!  Of course, my Femnista articles are in the magazine.  But you can read scads of my stories at the Combat! fansite I co-run, Fruit Salad.  Most of them are on the Hot Joe page, but the ones I've co-written with DKoren are on The Rendezvous Point, and my crossover stories that mix Combat! with Angel are at the Crossroads.  And you can read my quirky episode reviews on the Scuttlebutt page, though they won't make as much sense if you're not familiar with the series, I suppose.  I've also been published in various ezines, though most of those were about a decade ago and aren't online anymore.  I've had an article published in Guideposts magazine, and two in The Lutheran Educator.  I'm not shy about sharing my writing!

12. What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream? 

To publish novels and earn enough money with them to hire someone to clean my house once a month.

13. If you didn't write, what would you want to do? 

Make up stories in my head.  Which I do all the time.  I only write down maybe a tenth of the ones I make up.


14. Do you have a book you'd like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it yet? 

Sure.  I've got two novels waiting to get to the point where I can start them, I have ideas for another but haven't started getting acquainted with the characters yet, and I have a thought for a junior fiction series that I think I'll get to in like five years.  Can't write any of them yet cuz I don't have all the info I need, don't know the characters well enough, the plots haven't come together, etc.

15. Which story has your heart and won’t let go?

Fickle Creek, my WIP.  I am in love with those characters and that world, and I don't want to stop playing in it any time soon.


  1. Oh my goodness, I loved all of your answers, Hamlette.

    The 'Agatha Christie, not me,' made me snicker a lot. Heehee. I love that green chair by the fireplace where you write.... it looks very comfortable. I'm always very interested in seeing WHERE people write, somehow, so I love it that you made your answer to that question really long. :-)

    Me too- I can write blog posts when my younger siblings are around, but fiction needs to be in a silent room.

    I hope your foot gets better. :-)

    1. Thanks! My foot is considerably better, thank the Lord.

      I wanted to include a photo of the couch too, but it was covered in toys and dress-up clothes and so I just didn't. It was late and I was tired -- so tired, I forgot several things I'd meant to say, so I went back and added them this morning, lol.

  2. AT LAST, someone who says they like to write happy endings, like myself! I've been reading different bloggers' answers to this tag for days, and nearly all of them said they did sad endings. Like, wow, my peers are pessimists and realists, you people know you can write a realistic happy ending, right?! So glad to find another "happy ending" writer! <3

    I love your ultimate writing goal! LOL! :D


    1. I think a lot of writers who start writing young get very attracted to sad endings when they're teens. Something about the pathos is very pleasing to the angst-ridden stages of our lives. And I wasn't actually a very angsty teen, but I did like writing sad things for a while.

      I happen to write fanfiction for a show that took good, hard looks at very serious subjects and showed that most of the time, war is awful and bad things happen there. On Combat!, even the good guys get hurt or lose someone they love, and sometimes they die. So many of my fanfic stories revolve around sad things, though ultimately good does win over evil for the most part.

      But my novels all have happy endings :-D

  3. Fun read. :)

    I like happy endings 95% of the time. I don't "like" sad endings, but if it's the one that works, I can accept it ... after about five years of resentment toward the author. ;)

    1. Sometimes, sad endings are warranted. But there's a difference, I think, between something that doesn't end "happily," but ends the way it must (like Gone with the Wind and Hamlet), and something where things could have ended happily but the author chose not to go that route. The former, I'm fine with. The latter, not so much.

  4. So enjoyed all your answers! And yay for Fickle Creek! (I'm getting there....I'm getting there.... ;))

    And (this is slightly off topic), but I LOVE that red panda pic! They're one of my favorite animals at the zoo....and combined with a writing note??? Almost too good to believe! :)

    1. Red pandas are Cowboy's favorite animal, so pretty much if there's a red panda meme or a cute red panda video out there, I've seen it :-) They are adorable! I would adopt one -- they're so playful and cuddly, and it seems like lots of people in Asia have them as pets, so who knows? Maybe one day. (I would also love to have a pet chipmunk. And Cowboy would like to have a pet de-stink-ified skunk. Who knows!)

    2. They do??? Wow, I didn't know that! I've thought of it, though....wishing. :) Wouldn't it be such wonderful fun to bury your face in their fur and play a bit? Hmmmmm..... :)

      And that would be quite the collection!!

    3. Well, I see videos of people interacting with them in their houses, so I'm assuming they're pets.

      Maybe I should become a zookeeper :-)

  5. I keep meaning to comment on this post and then keep getting distracted; but not this day. ;) I loved reading your answers and what you said about one reason you write being that you want to spend time with your fictional characters, created by you or someone else, is very relatable. I like this tag. :) And I love Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.. :)


    1. I know how that goes. My entire life consists of me getting interrupted.

      Aren't those five Peppers great fun?

      But time spent with fictional characters... oh, so sweet. Portable friends! Portable adventures! Wherever I go, they're there, in my head, ready to play anytime I am.

      A writer's life is delightful.

    2. "Portable friends" - haha, that's perfect. :)

      And here's that Hobbit-y tag for you. I'm looking forward to reading your answers. :)


    3. Many thanks! I'll get started on it right away.

  6. From your biggest fan, Hamlette, I really enjoyed this post! I think mostly because I lived through it with you! And because it opened my eyes to some things that I didn't know about you. I hope you keep on writing, and loving writing for as long as you can plunk on the keys :-)

    1. Hey, look! It's my mom! Purveyor of fine antique typewriters! :-D

      So now I've had to reread this post, to try to figure out what you didn't know about me. The fact that I love hanging out with imaginary characters? I think you knew that. The fact that I had a favorite table at Starbucks and the meanies moved it on me? Maybe. How many projects I have going at one time, and how many are waiting in the wings? Probably :-)

  7. This is so awesome. You're a very awesome person, you know that? I found this very inspirational and fun to read. Of course, it's always fun to read about writing from fellow writers. :-)

    I have no idea why, but that picture of the guy reading Of Mice and Men and your caption made me laugh a lot, and I don't even know who he is. Maybe it's because I've been deathly ill for the past couple days and am still rather delusional.

    GAAAHHHH you have an old typewriter! Jealousy. I have always wanted a typewriter. Did you ever see the Waltons episode where John-boy has to borrow a typewriter from the Baldwin sisters, and then Mary Ellen sells it to the junk man? It's good. That was very random.

    I have to admit, I rather enjoy killing off characters. I like surprising my future readers. I'm morbid.

    Oh my yes, I always have little stories fluttering around in my head. It's so overwhelming sometimes, because I wonder if I'll ever have time in all my life to write them all down. Maybe that's why I can never get one thing done, because I'm always distracted by a million others.....?

    Oh, I'd come clean your house for you! Seriously, I love cleaning houses. If only we weren't so inconveniently placed on the map.

    I love the sound of Fickle Creek. That is, I just love the title. I pretty much love any title that has the word 'creek' in it. It's an easy way to get my attention. Actually, once upon a time last spring I was writing a book that I called Calico's spent several months on the shelf now, but I still like to think someday I'll go back to it....*dreams*

    This was fun, Hamlette! :-)


    1. Awww, thank you! You're making me blush :-) I'm so glad you found inspiration here!

      The guy reading Steinbeck is the character Sawyer from Lost. He is hugely important to me, and one of the things I love best about him is that he devours every book he can find. At first, it's because he's desperately bored, but then discovers he loves books. So I kind of have a collection of pictures of him reading various books :-)

      I don't think I've seen that Waltons ep, but I do love the show!

      I know someone who kills everyone she loves in her books. I can never do that.

      And thanks! I love the sound of Fickle Creek too. And how it plays into the story.


Agree or disagree? That is the question...

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)