Tag Archives: writing

From blog to book


I’m doing it. I’m joining the masses who have decided to repurpose their writing and create a book out of it. If you’re a regular reader here, this is probably not news. In fact, you’re probably wondering what took me so long to do something about it.

Yesterday I was laid up on the couch, sick with the cold of my life. I had an old manuscript next to me that I planned on working on while I stayed home from work. And as I did my routine perusal of the Internet, I came across some advice for blogging a book.

In this blog, I have collected 4 years of stories. They date back to when the kids and I were a single parent family, and the relationship I shared with Mr. W was new. It evolves over the years, going from our tiny family of three making it on our own to blending into a family of five. And I shared all our adventures that happened in between.

So I set my manuscript aside and decided it was time to do something with the years of stories I collected. I gathered all of my favorite posts from 2009 and began editing them into a book. I’ll start with that year, because that is where this blog begins. And then I’ll go from there with future book blogs. I may even share the stories that happened before 2009. But for now, this is a good place to start.

At any rate, I anticipate this project to be finished rather quickly – perhaps a month or less. The stories are all already written. And there’s very little editing that needs to be done. I want to keep the writing pretty true to how it was already posted. This will be a book for mostly family and friends, and those of you who have been following along. And it will be a book for our family too, a history of where we were before.

Want a preview? Check out the post that will be the very first chapter.

Can love endure after “death do us part? Sometimes the end is just the beginning…. Check out my debut fiction novel, A Symphony of Cicadas, only $2.99 at Amazon: http://amzn.to/ZwhBLZ

Where has Wine Country Mom been?

It’s been an abnormally busy couple of months lately. You may have noticed by my lack of writing lately, or you may not have. But this blog has been a bit neglected as of late. I have even pulled back on my weekly newspaper articles from this blog, taking a full two months off. But I have a really, really good reason.

You know that book I was writing? Well, it’s done. And it’s published!

Say hello to the new book:

After months of edits and rewrites, and my family enduring me totally checking out during that whole time, I finally reached the point in my book where I could say DONE.

You can read all about my noveling process at my author blog, crissilangwell.com.

Or you can just buy my book, A Symphony of Cicadas at Amazon.

Ooooorrrrrr…..you can get it for FREE through the end of April 3rd if you own a Kindle. After that, however, it’s only $2.99.

So that’s the biggest part of my news. 🙂

But along with that, life just took a really busy turn in general.  DQ moved back home, and we went through a little bit of an adjustment period.  For awhile there, it felt like the whole family was going off the deep end.  In particular, the whole blending family part was feeling really, really impossible.  She came from a house with no rules, entering a house with a lot of rules.  Mr. W was frustrated by her argumentativeness.  DQ was getting frustrated with constantly being nagged.  The whole house was turned upside down as we all shuffled and refound our positions again.  I think we finally, or at least partially, reached the positive side of things.  But it took a few counseling sessions, and a huge dose of patience.  There really wasn’t any one thing to blame, just a lot of changes and adjustments.  However, with things feeling so chaotic, I couldn’t really bring myself to write anything personal – particularly for my bimonthly column.

For a moment, I had toyed with giving up the column completely.  I even wondered if I should finally retire this blog, as well.  I didn’t think I had it in me to share any part of my personal life when my personal life felt so horrible.  But then, something happened.  While I was on my break, a few readers reached out to me to let me know how much they enjoy the column.  I realized that if I gave it up, I would be giving up the best part of my job – the part I loved the most.

So I’m not going away.  And I am keeping my column.  However, I am reducing it to a once a month column.  It will print every first Friday of the month, beginning in May.

As for here, now that the book is written, I’ll try to update more.  However, if you want to be kept up to date, follow me over at crissilangwell.com.

Now go download my book for free!  http://amzn.to/ZwhBLZ

Finishing the novel

You’d think there would be fireworks when you type the two very last words to the novel you’ve been working on every day, the one you’ve lost sleep over as you wake up at 4:30am – even on days you accidentally went to bed after midnight. It’s almost expected that the ceiling to the dining room where the computer sits will suddenly open up and cascade down balloons and confetti upon seeing those two words, interrupting the quiet you’ve tried so hard to maintain in those early hours with explosions and whistles in a celebration that the whole world you’ve created in over 100 typed pages suddenly makes sense, wrapped up in those two tiny words.

The. End.

I wrote them out this morning, tying a bow on the mess I’d created with characters who never asked to be born, but who behaved mostly beautiful in 25 chapters of chaos. I threw them to the wolves, breaking their hearts over and over. But I also promised them it would all make sense in the end, and to just hang around a bit longer to see where I was leading them.

“I have better plans for you than you know,” I promised them, playing god to these imaginary beings that became truly real within the confines of my imagination.

The. End.

There were no balloons, or fireworks, or confetti, or noisy horns. But here’s how it actually happened.

I brought my characters to their breaking point, placing them at the very edge where one wrong step meant certain death (kind of like a Bear Grills episode). And then, just when they were about to fall into the abyss of the situation, I plucked them out with my god-like reflexes, saving them from the depths of hell. Except the gratitude I received was more like a limp handshake, the visions I had of their miraculous recovery coming out in fits and spurts, not exactly translating well on the page. So I just wrote out what I could actually wheeze into typed out thoughts, crossing the finish line with the right amount of words (50,376 for NaNoWriMo, which amounts to 76,657 total words in 167 typed pages) and a promise that it would come out beautiful in the editing process.

At any rate, there it is. The shitty first draft of my novel is done, the bones to my magnificently beautiful final draft in the making. Year 3 of NaNoWriMo is a success.

And maybe I’ll just treat myself to a cupcake to make up for the missing fireworks. 🙂

NaNoWriMo 2012

It’s my favorite time of year – that time when I wake up earlier than anyone should have to naturally, pull out  my laptop, and write furiously on a daily basis, repeating the process until I have achieved enough words to make up the amount in a small novel – 50,000 words.

November is National Novel Writing Month, known to us crazy writers as NaNoWriMo.

It’s my third year taking part in the craziness, and will hopefully be my third year successfully crossing the finish line.  I’ve been anticipating today’s official start for weeks, almost as if it were Christmas.  This morning I even woke up an hour before my alarm in my excitement.  I got up in the dark and got dressed silently so as not to disturb my husband, and began to sneak downstairs.  But it looks like my husband was anticipating today too.  On the other side of the door was my laptop.  Apparently my husband woke up before me in his own anticipation of me waking up way too early (he totally hates it), and wasn’t even in bed at all but on the couch after a restless night of sleep.

Guess I’ll be writing without coffee until I can safely turn the coffee pot on without waking him.  😦

At any rate, here’s to us crazies who are waking up early and staying up late, as well as utilizing lunch breaks and any other free time, taking part in a month of literary abandon as we write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Good luck to you all.  And remember, you can sleep in December.

P.S.  You can check my progress on the right in the NaNoWriMo widget, and become my writing buddy at nanowrimo.org/en/participants/crissi.

Honeymoon in Costa Rica – the characters we see

One of the coolest things about visiting a new country is that you cross paths with a lot of different people.  As a writer, I was suddenly surrounded by a whole bunch of new characters that may just make an appearance in a future book (or perhaps the one I’m working on for NaNoWriMo in just two days).  On one of our Costa Rica mornings, I woke up early and took inventory of all the interesting people we’d met thus far.

Just getting here?  Start with Day 1 of our Honeymoon adventure.  To see all our Honeymoon stories, CLICK HERE.

Oct 20 – morning

There’s a man here, that tourist who nearly ran us over with his excitement about being here, who claims his wife is una tica. He seems to be very proud of this fact, as he’s repeated it several times. Two days into his trip, we’ve yet to see this mysterious tica. It makes me wonder if there is a tica at all, or if he’s just made her up for this vacation. I can’t help but feel he’d make such an interesting character for a book – a lonely man who’s a cross between Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen who is outgoing and obnoxious and loves to brag about his beautiful native wife, but is actually unmarried and lives alone with a fish. Maybe not a main character, but an interesting side character.

Yesterday, the family I saw had character all over them. The mom and dad were typically oblivious, enjoying an afternoon of cocktails at yet another family vacation. The kids were used to this treatment, entitled. The girl was slightly embarrassed by her family, the boy a bit unhappy – like a typical 12 year old. He was adamant that their next vacation be to Greece.

There was the old tycoon who owned the restaurant we were at. He was probably 45, but in his second childhood he’d bleached his hair blond and walked around in shorts and a tank top. He looked like a California surfer, but was actually from Ohio. “What made you decide to buy a restaurant in Costa Rica?” we asked him. “Ohio,” was his answer. He lived partly there and partly here. His restaurant had two happy hours, and the bartender didn’t skimp on the alcohol. Having only owned the bar for two months, he seemed overly eager in a charming way as he greeted guests of his restaurant. But being that it’s the slow season, he might not make it to the heavy tourist season.

The woman with the jewelry I bought for DQ was a tiny little thing, dressed in shorts and a tiny t-shirt with a very short haircut. Her son was a big boy at 11, and kept tugging at his mom to go because he was hungry. She kept talking though. She told us how she had to hide food from him. But he had to hide cereal from her because she loved it so much. I got the impression it was just the two of them, their only income from the jewelry. I imagined her working hard on these every night, purchasing stones and materials with the little income she received, her son eating up most of her profits. But I also imagined her with a bit of a rebellious wild streak, perhaps easy with the men and maybe not the most fit mother in reality.

There was the homeless guy at the restaurant, teetering from all the alcohol he’d consumed. He walked right up to one of the tables and just started to eat from their food much to their bewilderment. “He doesn’t look like he belongs with them,” Shawn had noted, both of us missing the initial appearance of the man. It was clear that he wasn’t part of the group when he wobbled away. I wonder what he was thinking as he came up to eat off strangers plates. Was he mad about the tourists who had so much money they threw it away on overpriced food? Did he stare at their plates, mustering up the courage to get some much needed sustenance? Did it even occur to him that their food was not his own? One thing I loved was that the tourists did not shame the man as he ate from their plates. They found humor in it, but did not chase him away or yell at him. It was kind of a cool scene.

Our tour guide was a character in himself, totally funny with a humor that crossed language and accent barriers. He bragged about his trips and why his tours were better than the other tours. “I don’t know why, it’s just nature,” was his response to all the wonders of the rain forest. He’d make calls throughout the tour, and I imagined someone on the other end being informed when to let the crocodile out, cue the monkeys, place the friendlier crabs within reach…

Our favorite waitress, a tica with an American attitude, is one tough chick. We passed by her one afternoon on her way home from work, and she was riding a motorcycle. She reminds us of one of our coworkers, Jaime, in her voice and mannerisms. She’s been great at explaining different things to us, from culture to who we should go to for a snorkeling tour. “I know a guy,” she told us, very valuable words on a trip like this. Knowing a guy means offering someone something familiar, sharing secrets most locals won’t discover, and possibly getting a deal in the process – or not. It’s also about helping out a friend of a “friend”.

Speaking of familiarity, we’ve been noticing lots of familiar faces in strangers. We’ve seen people who remind us of our coworkers, parents, friends….

“If you look hard enough, you’re going to discover the same people at your new school that you were friends with at your old school,” DQ told Taz as he struggled to make new friends. She listed off her new friends, naming the old friends whose mold they fit into. Taz admitted that one of his new friends was very much like one of his old friends.

This truth crosses countries as well, judging by the familiar faces and voices we keep running into. This really is a small world, filled with the same people over and over, just with different customs and circumstances. It makes even the most far away place seem not so strange after all, keeping home close by until the plane touches down on local soil.

Another post about what we did today coming this evening.  With photos.  Stay tuned!

How do I write?

Thanks to the folks at NaNoWriMo (It’s next month, are you ready?), I read this really great article where writers answered questions about their writing styles.  I don’t know about you, but this is something I wonder about all the time. Writing can be such a lonely way of living, the tendency to lock ourselves indoors for long periods of time tremendous (I mean, how many of you even see me in the month of November when I’m doing NaNoWriMo?).  So getting this insight about other authors was totally amusing….and it helped me to see that I wasn’t doing it wrong, or such a freak after all.  If you have a chance, check out the article.  If you have more time, copy and paste the questions in your own blog and answer them.  And if you do answer them, make sure you leave me a comment so I can read up on your writing style too.

P.S.  Joining NaNoWriMo?  Find me HERE, and be my friend.  Let’s write together!

Here’s my answers:

How long do you spend writing each day? 
I wake up every morning an hour before I have to get ready for my real job to write on my novel.  On good writing days, I wake up two hours early and actually get some decent work done.  If I’m feeling really inspired (or it’s NaNoWriMo), I will also spend an hour or two in the evening typing away.  So that’s 2-4 hours for the novel.  That’s not including my job where I write for a newspaper – which would put me more at 8+ hours of writing.

What time of day do you prefer to write?
Morning is my very best time.  It’s when the house is quiet and I am at my most creative.

Do you set yourself a time limit or a word limit? No limits?
Both. If I write less then 1,000 words, I feel like I haven’t accomplished hardly anything.  My happy goal is 2,000.  But some days I only have an hour to write total.  I can usually get out about 800 words in that amount of time if I am super clear on what I want to write.  I try to be kind to myself if I fall short of my word count goal.  It doesn’t always work out that way, and I might be in a bit of funk if I type less than I wanted to.  But at least I try.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?
Music on, always.  Almost every writer I saw in the interviews I linked to said music was a huge turn-off for them.  But I find it centers me when I am trying to concentrate.  But there are rules.  I try to make the music match what I’m writing to help capture the mood of the piece.  I cannot listen to new music because I’ll try to focus on that instead of what I’m writing.  And when in doubt, music without words (or words I understant) is best.  My current favorite for writing is Sigur Ros, an icelandic group who is brilliant, totally brilliant.  For my last novel (still in rough draft form), Radiohead and Muse were at the top of my playlist.  Currently I am listening to a Coldplay mix on Pandora – the current band playing is the soothing sounds of Nat King Cole serenading me.

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or turn off your WiFi completely?
The Internet is both my friend and enemy while I’m typing.  It’s a great resource when I’m trying to research something I’m writing about, or when I need to find new words for description to keep from being bland or repetitive. But the slightest sign of writer’s block?  I’m checking my email or perusing Facebook, looking to see what’s up on Amazon, or getting stuck in a vortex that resulted from one innocent search on cicadas.  If I’m really feeling distracted, I’ll turn off the Wi-Fi.  But most times I just let myself fall a little in the black hole before pulling myself out again.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”
I am mostly a swooper, especially during NaNoWriMo!  When you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you just don’t have time to look at what you’re writing.  This process does two things.  First, it allows me to keep up the motivation while keeping the negative nancies in my head at bay.  If I’m not re-reading what I’ve written, I can continue to believe that it’s utterly fantastic.  And I can happily write till the very end.  But the second thing swooping does is it produces a ton of errors.  Facts in the story change.  A Jack might turn into a John.  Repetitive words and points are a given.  And things are awfully jumbled.  The editing part sucks, which is probably why it’s my biggest hangup when it comes to producing a fully completed novel.  This time, I’m being more of a basher, re-reading what I’ve written when I feel like I’m stuck.  Editing might be a little easier with this one, but the negative nancies are raging hardcore.  I think I prefer swopping to bashing in the novel writing process.

Do you eat when you’re writing?
First novel I ever wrote, I had random snacks at my side at all times.  In one month I gained 10 pounds.  Now I try not to have anything but coffee or water at my side.  But I am guilty of eating my lunch at the keyboard, hence a few wayward crumbs stuck between the keys.

What snacks/drinks do you go to?

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates? Freak!
If it’s shiny and catches my eye, it’s my procrastination tool.  Probably Facebook is number one.  My iPhone is number 2 (Bejeweled is awesome for letting me unwind from sticky writing scenarios that just won’t come out right).  And if I have to, I’ll just leave the computer altogether and grab a few deep breaths in the sunshine on my back porch.

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule? 
If I wake up early enough, there’s no problem.  My almost-husband lets me be if he sees me typing away with my headphones in place.  And for the most part, the kids understand that if I’m typing away, especially with my headphones on, I am not to be bothered.  If it is really hard to concentrate while they’re awake, I will just lock myself in my room.  But life is life – kids want to be taken care of, almost-husbands deserve attention, even the kitties need a little love.  So I try to limit novel writing time to early mornings and later evenings.

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?
I write best in my own house, though I will pick up my laptop and write in bed, on the couch, at the table, lounging on my back porch….  Sometimes I have typed away in my car while on my lunch break at work.  I’d love to type away at a coffee shop, and I’ve attempted it from time to time.  It’s great for people watching, etc.  But it can also be distracting with so much movement going around me.  However, my last book was written at a spa retreat while sitting in a room filled with people by a fireplace. I got some really awesome writing in that weekend.

Now it’s your turn!  Go. 🙂

This is brilliant

Elizabeth Gilbert gave a talk on the pressures writers and creatives put on themselves, as well as what they gather from expectations from the world. In today’s theme of shitty first drafts, this was just the video I needed to view today. It’s long, but well worth a 20 minute moment of inspiration, or at least a 20 minute hug that everything is going to be ok.