Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

These are the (last) days

My daughter starts school next week. I'm both anxious and nervous about it. When she was in preschool, I'd often feel my heart ache the moment I had to leave her there for 8 whole hours or have a hard time dealing with her NOT being there for so long. It may have been only 2 days a week, but it was hard. Now she'll be gone FIVE DAYS A WEEK!! ACK! At the same time, though, I'm happy she's going to school. And happy about having extra time to get some SERIOUS writing work done! (This includes trips to the library or bookstore to do research.)

That last part right there has been playing a big part in my writing life this week.

For this week's writing "to do" list, I put 2 tasks for each day: One easy task and one hard task. The hard task is something that would take me HOURS to get done, each day.

Thing of it is, though, I've been putting off the hard task and doing the easy ones. I wondered over why I was doing this for a while until it finally hit me: This IS my daughter's final week of summer vacation. I want to spend AS MUCH time with her that I can!

Of course, we have fun activities planned. Having a picnic, going to the beach, playing baseball. But I'd rather spend time with her whenever I can grab it instead of using that "free" time to do computer stuff.

Lately, though, it seems she wants to spend MORE time playing with her
friends than with her mom! Sigh. I'm getting old. It won't be long before she won't need Mommy all the time anymore...

Today is one such day. I had some plans for things we could do but, instead, she's spending most of the day with her friend. Well, that's all right. No problemo. We can always do that stuff tomorrow. I guess it isn't so bad she's trying to grab some time to spend with friends; after all, it's not like they'll be able to head off to the movies, out for ice cream or to the pool very often after school starts. (Except for on the weekends!) I should be grateful; it gives me a break and time to write.

Instead, I'm writing bits and pieces here and there, staying as close to her as I can as one day passes then the next, and postponing the heavy work for when she's either asleep or after she starts school.

At least there aren't any deadlines that will suffer because of this.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fatigue and writer's cramp

There are certain daily habits which I try to follow. Reading in a book for at least 30 minutes. Reading the whole newspaper. Cleaning the house. Writing something (anything!). Getting fresh air. And taking a nap. (I'm one of those people who STRONGLY believes in the health benefits of naps.)

Well, I haven't been able to read the newspaper for 2 days. The only chance I had yesterday to close my eyes for a "nap" was for 10 minutes before I had to get busy again. Most of my reading was on the computer and on the Internet, when I was editing a manuscript and researching an interviewee to put together my interview questions. But, boy, did I do A LOT of writing yesterday!

In fact, I do believe that yesterday was my most productive day as a writer so far.

I started my day working on a new book. Yes, a NEW BOOK. I am writing ANOTHER nonfiction book, even though I promised myself NO MORE NEW BOOKS to work on now. (Everything I get ideas for goes on my project checklist. There are over 40 books on there!!) But I seem to be the only person best suited to write this book, since it DOES focus on something I follow as far as being a writer is concerned. (Sorry, I won't go into details at this point!)

Next, I started tackling the manuscript edits. In between that, I wrote a blog post on my MySpace blog. I wasn't able to do my allotted chapters in one sitting but I DID manage to edit all 7 before I went to sleep at night. (I was in bed with the last 3 of those 7, staying up until 1:35 a.m. to finish them.)

After that, I wrote an 8-page essay for one of my essay collections. EIGHT PAGES!! My hand SERIOUSLY had some writer's cramp after that! And even after I wrote those 8 pages, I later realized there were certain points I'd left out, notes which I jotted down in the margins. (Well, I only had an hour to write that essay, so I forgive the oversights!)

Now add that up. That's THREE DIFFERENT BOOKS I worked on yesterday. Three books!! (Wow, I really know how to rotate between them, don't I? LOL) I have NEVER done that before. Wow, what an accomplishment! I felt so good about it last night, but of course I'm not going to let that accomplishment go to my head. But, more importantly, I'm not letting that be my ONE accomplishment as a writer! No, sir. Time to aim for a new one!

(The funny thing is, as I was cleaning, I began to wonder if I would be able to pull off working on 3 different books in one day. How very interesting I ended up doing JUST THAT that very same day!)

And I STILL managed to do my mom stuff yesterday AND clean up the house. I wasn't, however, able to get much of any rest. Like I said, I only grabbed about 10 free minutes to just close my eyes. By day's end, I was soooo tired, yet I was able to stay awake to watch a movie like we do every night (last night's movie was "Memoirs of a Geisha." I have not YET read the book but I enjoyed the movie). I also still managed to write yet another blog post yesterday, this one on my Palms to Pines blog.

So all told, yesterday I did the following:

--Edited 7 chapters in a novel manuscript.

--Wrote an essay for an essay collections manuscript.

--Started work on a new book.

--Wrote 2 blog posts.

Wow. I am not trying to brag, or anything. I just really feel so taken aback that I managed to get so much writing work done in one day. Seriously. WOW! My muse was really on fire. I can't even begin to figure out how to tally up my word count for the day, but I am confident it is waaay past my daily quota of 2000 words.

Still, the writer's cramp I suffered from that essay-writing marathon still lingers even today. (And here I am, typing. I'm such a sadist. LOL) I am going to soak my hand today and hopefully that will help. I have 5 more chapters to edit today. We'll see how much else I do.

The week is almost over. Hubby will be home on the weekend. I am hoping this means I will be able to get some rest. I think I need it; I almost collapsed while standing in line at the store, holding a gallon of milk! (I think that weight was tempting me to lie down.) I was sooo tired when I was awakened by the alarm at 7:30 this morning. I almost fell out of bed because of that! (Haha! I kept chuckling over the image replaying in my mind; reaching to turn off the alarm then sleepily turning over to lie back down, only to fall OFF of the bed in the process. Well, I didn't fall off -- but I ALMOST did!) As I lied awake in the bed this morning, lost in thought (I do that instead of jumping out of bed right after the alarm goes off), I began to ponder just how much writing I will be able to get done today. So far, I have this blog post. What ELSE will there be -- besides manuscript edits?? The pain in my hand sure wasn't encouraging that I'll get much done, but what I managed to do yesterday is sure acting as a strong initiative that, just maybe, I will be able to keep it all up.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Update on the haunted houses book

Even though I'm writing my haunted houses book on the computer, I've come to realize something: I'm definitely going to have to create a file for it.

Specifically, an ACTUAL file -- and not one on the computer. I already have that. What I need a REAL file folder for is all the notes I'm taking for book research when I am AWAY from the computer. I don't do all of my book work on the computer, because I'm not on the computer 24/7. At any moment of the day, I could get an idea on something to add to a chapter, something to look up and some ideas for chapter organization. I may even get an idea for a whole new part to add to the book! (Right now, I have 4 parts: Real ghost and haunted house stories, working with a group and DIY investigating of haunted houses, haunted Hollywood and case studies. Am I missing anything?? I often wonder. But at least I have the time to come up with anything new while I'm working on it!)

So, for this reason, I need to get a file folder of EVERYTHING I've written down in my notebook. This would be ideal for the chapter "15 Famous Haunted Houses" because I would need to verify my sources and where I got my information, plus books used in research, and I have to keep the "summary structure" attached to each house I write about so that everything is consistent. (I've got 15 to keep track of! Aye! ....Good thing I lowered it from 50!) Putting EVERYTHING into one place will help me stay better organized.

And while I AM saving everything on my computer...I'd rather NOT rely on the computer. Knowing me and technology, that's not exactly a good thing! (As it is, my computer has been SO BAD this week, I have to constantly reboot the darn thing just to get into my email account. Gah!) Plus, I print stuff out to go over later (when I'm not working on the computer); like interviews and notes. I highlight passages and make a lot of marginal notes. So I'll need a file folder to keep all that printed stuff in!

In other news, I am waiting to get follow-up info from my contacts. Once that's done, I'll be able to write up the (hopefully) final draft of my chapter about the haunt industry. Someone commented that a chapter like that doesn't belong in a book about haunted houses, but since it DOES involve haunted houses, I'm keeping the chapter in there. At first I was dismayed over that comment, but in thinking on it more, I figured out how to slant the chapter to make it work. I mean, one thing I've learned is that a haunt attraction ended up being built at a location that was ACTUALLY haunted! So it's not like this chapter won't talk about a REAL haunted house! So, that chapter stays and I will just slant it to make it "fit" with the rest.

I've also been working on the "15 Famous Haunted Houses" chapter this week. I contacted someone who works at the Myrtles Plantation to get info on the architectual style of the house, because I couldn't find that info ANYWHERE. The guy who wrote back said that he didn't uinderstand why I had a hard time getting that info, because the houses's architectual style has been noted and featured in other books. (For you trivia buffs out there, the style of the Myrtles Plantation is French Colonial cottage. The style is unique because it was built before the interest in Greek-style architecture came into fashion.) I mentioned that I even checked the book written by Frances Kermeen, called THE MYRTLES PLANTATION, which I've read, and that info wasn't in there. He commented that they don't carry Frances Kermeen's book in their store, and that was all he said about it.

Uh-oh. I smelled a story.

I asked him about that and he wouldn't go into any details. (It's that Southern hospitality, y'all!) I'm not going to pester him about it, but I'm really interested in finding out why there's something "wrong" with that book, because I was planning to use it for reference and notes! In my summary, I include reported hauntings taking place at the house, and there's quite a bit of reports in this book. But now I don't know if I can even use it. On one hand, maybe they had some kind of past grievance with the author herself, and not her book. (Yes, I am guessing here! LOL) I just wish there was some way for me to find out. I was even thinking of contacting Ms. Kermeen to get quotes on the plantation for my chapter. Now I don't know if that would be wise. I mean, I'm working with people there who have issues with her and...to add her to the mix might reflect badly on that. If they see her in the book talking about the Myrtles, it might get ugly. So....maybe I shouldn't do that.

But I'd REALLY like to know what's going on between them! Not that I want to make that information public.... It's just that if I knew, then it would help me to figure out the BEST way to handle the writing of that particular haunted house. I was planning to list her book in the "further reading" section of that summary, as it is.

And, apparently, my contact seems to like leaving me in suspense, because he said something BIG is going down with that house on October 1st. Again, he didn't go into detail! ARGH! I'm going to have to hunt down a newsletter or blog or something to subscribe to so I can stay in the know about stuff going on at the Myrtles and find out WHAT the big October 1st event is. (Maybe it's something I can write about for Shadowlands??)
Well, not only has my contact gotten me interested in the architecture of the Myrtles, but now I'm itching to go visit there! I won't be doing ANY travelling until Januaryish, but I'm really interested in visiting the Myrtles now!

In fact....now I've decided I should go visit EVERY 15 haunted house I am writing about. Well, I can't visit ALL of them because one of them no longer exists! And another two are in England; that may be a little hard to get out to. (Ya think??) But I think it would REALLY be cool if I could do that. Might even add to what I am writing about them. But if I don't get to do that BEFORE this book is published, I'm definitely going to make it a point to do that after publication. Yay! A new goal!

I'm already planning a trip to visit haunted houses here in Oregon. (This is for ANOTHER book project.) Why not make a plan to visit the Famous 15?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Interviewed for a blog!

Karen Putz at the blog "A Deaf Mom Shares Her World" http://www.putzworld.blogspot.com/
interviewed me:

This is the first time I have been interviewed for a blog! Yay!

Thank you, Karen! :)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

The first 3 chapters vs. your whole book

I read this article http://www.writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/004125_06272007.html and it reminded me of the many books I've read which had some GREAT first chapters, but after Chapter 3, the whole thing just died down. The story got dull. The action stopped. The characters started spending their scenes in La-La Land.

So, what happened? Where did that story that GRIPPED ME BY THE THROAT from the first to third chapter GO? Why did things all of a sudden die down and head south?

The above article may be the reason why. So much effort and time is put into making the first three chapters of a book GREAT, but not so much is put into making the REST of the book one long adrenalin rush.

This hasn't happened with EVERY book that I have read, but just some of the books. This is why I spend time reading a book before I'll buy it. If I get to chapter 4 and STILL see some good stuff, I'll keep reading. If I get to the point where I'm CONSTANTLY going back to reading this book, or where I know I MUST add it to my collection because it is sooo good, THEN I will buy it.

Most of the time, I'll buy a book written by a friend or acquaintance. Or I'll buy a book because it gives me what I am looking for. But I won't buy a book -- i.e., a novel -- where the story deep sixes come Chapter 4.

I definitely support the importance of making the first three chapters of a novel stand out, but, in my opinion, you HAVE to make the rest of the book just as good, too. Otherwise, it's a HUGE disappointment -- both to the editor AND the reader. Keep the story going even AFTER you've written the first three chapters. Keep things interesting, tintillating, EXCITING! Make the WHOLE story stand out and not just the first 3 chapters.

That is what I feel should be done when it comes to writing a novel. The first chapter is like a nibble of a dessert. The next chapter is like a bigger bite. The only reason anyone would continue to eat a dessert item is if it is GOOD! The same goes with a story. Keep things interesting. Keep things GOOD! Make the next chapter BETTER than the last one! Keep readers reading, wanting to know what happens next, if the hero escapes/lives, who saves the day, etc. Keep readers guessing. Keep readers eating. Keep readers READING!

The only way to do that is to keep your story good -- from the first chapter to the very last. And not just from the first chapter to the third.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

How to write about an unknown industry? Live it!

One of the chapters in my haunted houses book is about the haunt industry. I learned there even WAS a "haunt industry" in my research for this book. I decided it should go into this book so I set about the task of learning about it, since it was VERY unknown to me. (On that note, I kept calling it the "haunted house industry" until I learned the proper wording was "haunt industry.") I wasn't able to find much out about it on my search through the Internet. I came across sites, sure, but nothing told me what it WAS. (Maybe because I had the wording wrong in the beginning, my Internet search wasn't so helpful.) So I decided to find people to interview. One site owner I contacted led to finding MORE people and MORE sites to investigate. As I became more familiar with what this industry was all about, my search and research became more and more prosperous.

However, I was about to learn that interviewing people involved in this industry is just not enough to get the full grasp of what it's all about. I kept clicking and clicking on sites and Google soon opened the floodgates on even MORE sites for me to check out. As I saw one link after another appear in my search, I was AMAZED. Literally amazed. This industry is REALLY BIG. I had NO idea it was so huge, that there were so many resources and businesses and helpful sites. I mean, it even has its own radio site! Wow.

And there is a book written about it, too. Just one book, but I'm still going to check it out and hopefully land an interview with the author.

I have also learned that the more I submerge myself in this industry -- the more I read about it, talk to people, learn about it and visit the sites -- the more I am beginning to understand it better. Understand what it's all about. I have felt intimidation in the past about writing this chapter, because this industry is so unknown to me, but as I become more familiar with it, that intimidation fades.

One other thing I have learned in this experience: Sometimes, it's OK to trust the Internet. I've grown cautious with what I read on the 'Net, but when it comes to the haunt industry, you can bet there are some professional, bona fide sites that will be upfront and honest with you about this whole thing. These people are serious about what they do. The people I have talked to have been TREMENDOUSLY helpful and supportive. They are there to offer advice and information. They're not trying to scam anyone, spread rumors, start fights or try to make the other guy look bad. So in this case, I have been able to learn more about this industry through the Internet, because I know what I'm reading is the real deal.

There's also conventions held at different times of the year. Some are better than others. I am hoping I can attend one or two of them -- just to get a better feel. This is something I KNOW I should do, in addition to visiting one or two of the attractions these haunters build.

Learning about something new in order to write about it can involve so much time and effort. Just because it's not something easily understood doesn't make it impossible to write about. Ask questions, read EVERYTHING and check it out in person. By virtually putting myself into this "world" through interviews, research and even visits to actual sites (and not Web sites), I am better able to understand this unknown iundustry inside and out, and write about it as if I've known everything there is to know about it all along.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Moaning Meme

Jana at Jana's Journeys http://janasjourneys.blogspot.com/ tagged me for the Moaning Meme!!!

5 people who will be annoyed you tagged them.

I don't have a fifth (where I confess I am not that big of a blog addict or that I'd rather not mark a fifth victim in this tagging thing)

4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

Veggies that are smooshy and/or creamed. DISGUSTING!!!
Computer viruses
Keyboards with keys that stick
Writer's block

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:

--Drive like idiots (WHY do people refuse to stop at a freaking stop sign?? Or fail to look BOTH ways when they are driving and yakking on their cell phone at the same time?? And, hello, does, anybody honor right-of-way anymore?? ARGH!)
--Hurt their kids.
--Constantly moan and whine and be all emo about their lives for a loooong time (like over 2 years!!) and refuse to do ANYTHING to improve themselves or their lives.

2 things you find yourself moaning about.

People living here throwing trash on the floor or "forgetting" to put their dishes in the sink before we all go to bed.
Pregnancy hormones. (I'm HOT and I'm CRYING! Not good!)

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:

That I should remember that we live in an imperfect world and shouldn't expect too much from life or from people.


• Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it’s all about!
• Be as honest as possible. This is about letting people get to know the real you!
• Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
• Post these rules at the end of every meme!