Category Archives: Writing

Cassia Plymouth : Staying Fresh and True to the Original Series

Introduction
Previously, I talked about when and author should extend or end a series. Then I explained why Cassia Plymouth: Indie Fashion Writer was born. This post is more about the series and choices I made.

Bridge to the Past
The first two Olivia Plymouth books were a mix of travelogues, historical fiction, a look at the fashion industry, a mystery, and a dash of family and romance all rolled up into one. The next two works focused on fighting the nefarious Fashion is Terror (FIT) . The final two books are more slice of life pieces. (One to be written,)

The Cassia Plymouth Series embraces all of this and more. Like Creed 2, the children of the original characters are now coming into their own. They have learned from their parent’s experiences and network. They get along with their parents and ask them for advice from time to time.

But they see the world quite differently. Rather than embracing the current fashion industry, they want to live in what they believe to be a more authentic world. And with their fashion project, this small and idealistic group wants to share the creative work of the truly daring, innovative, and indie fashion in a unique multimedia framework. They are calling this effort THE ABBEY

That alone would be enough for some. But they also want to study but not appropriate the styles of ancient and indigenous cultures. The current chapter I am writing has three characters visiting India to learn about the origins of fashion.

FIT 2.0 (aka FIT2 or F2)
Throughout three of the five Olivia books is the story of FIT (Fashion is Terror). Their founder critiqued the gaps and limitations of the current fashion system. And then proceeded to bring it down. But Olivia and her sister quashed that effort in the end.

Now the founder’s daughter has asked to partner with the Abbey to jointly learn and portray these original fashions. But, Jenny is being chased by FIT2 who want her to lead the group. Also chasing both Cassia and Jenny is a mysterious and perhaps comical International Fashion Terrorist Task Force.

Why It is Different
This is a much different world than the Olivia Plymouth series. It is more dangerous and unpredictable. Nearly all of the characters are young women seeking adventure, self-discovery rather than romance. They travel light, are technology savvy, and are pretty fearless. They feel comfortable in any part of the world seeking answers to what fashion is really about.

Wrapping Up
The first Olivia book, I wrote as it unfolded, without an outline. I heavily researched about places and historical events. With Cassia, I am returning to doing this approach. there will be no rushing to get it completed. In fact, it may be the only book I write this year. But that’s okay. Because creating a new world and exploring its possibilities is what makes writing lots of fun.

Why Do an Olivia Plymouth Next Gen Series?/When should I End a Series?

Introduction – A Series is born.
When I started writing Brazilian Quest (Olivia Plymouth Book 1) in 2002, I never envisioned it would turn into Olivia Plymouth: International Traveler & Fashion Consultant and have five books plus a short story. It was never a straight line and a good deal of time elasped between authoring and publishing some books.

[Also see Organizing Olivia Plymouth for more details on some of the challenges creating the series.]

Some authors like to milk everything they can out of a series and keep writing after the original themes have been explored to death. But after some point, the freshness is lost and some scenes are recycled material.

Other artists had the vision to cover their character from their peak until their aging. That is a good progression if the character is interesting.

With Olivia, I covered from early career to the start of motherhood. (Although her time past that is mentioned in passing.) And that seemed just enough. (A last book covering her life from the perspective of friends and family is planned.) Before ending a series, you may want to ask yourself:

– Have I done everything I wanted to with the character and situation?
– Can I write a list of five things I still want to explore further with this series?
– Is the series still fresh and original?
– If I do another book, is the effort worth the resulting product?
– Do I need a break and revisit later?

Why Next Gen?
As far back as two months ago there was no Generation 2 books planned. So why did I decide to go forward with the project?
– The framework and premise are different. We see fashion in a very different way. Away from the established fashion world to one that’s edgier. There is also a look back at fashion’s historical past. A new framework allows for new possibilities.
– It allows for a rich mother-daughter dialogue and for the reader to see Olivia as a mother. And we what her child learned from the mother. As well as those things that she does differently.
– Olivia’s family and friends had children. And these offspring make up the daughter’s world. Olivia’s child owes her mother so much. From those lessons and contacts, she is able to grow up faster.

I will write more about “NextGen” when around the the 10,000 word amount. (Right now at 7000)

4 Reasons Why I Wrote a Book on Deborah Read Franklin (Ben’s Wife)

Introduction

It has been a year since was published. This is a book about Deborah Read Franklin, the common law wife of Ben Franklin. Why would anyone write a book about her? Some think she is too ordinary looking.

Reason #1 Misjudged by History.
The Smithsonian blames her for an estranged marriage and killing herson by not innoculating him for smallpox.

She is also mentioned as plain, illiterate and abandoned by her first husband.

Some think that she trapped her husband into marriage. And had a full temper. And on it goes.

But a careful read of her letters shows that she was expressive in spite of limited schooling. (Which was sadly typical of women for those times.) She loved her husband and vice versa. Ben gave her power of attorney multiple times to run the family businesses. And she was more than competent in going after overdue accounts payable, dealing with foreign currencies, and more.

Reason #2 Overlooked by History.

Although she attended Christ Church for many years. She gets a bare mention under notable burials.

While Ben was overseas, she was overseeing the Colonial postal system. There is no mention as far as I can determine at the wonderful National Postal Museum.

There are no streets, stamps, buildings, or colleges named in this Founding Mother’s honor teh best that I can tell.

She deserved her own book. Because interviews were not created yet, there are no interviews with her. (I created one in the book!)

Reason #3 Written Gaps in her Life

We don’t know a lot about her. We know a lot from Ben’s Autobiography and letters. But sadly, many of her letters are lost forever.

There are questions on when and where she was born, why she raised Ben’s illegitimate son William, her fear of the sea, and more. This allowed opportunities to write a possible narrative as to what took place.

Reason #4 Ahead of Her Time

Although she took on a traditional marriage role and raised three children (two not her own), she also

– Ran the family printing and postal businesses.
– Oversaw the building of the new family home! Sadly, this was razed in the 1800s.
– Had her own female network that included many of the bright lights of Philadelphia society.
– Was involved with local social and church causes
– Served as an entrepreneurial resource for young women.
– Although she owned slaves her entire life, she believed (possibly before her husband) that young slaves deserved an education. She was involved with the emerging Abolitionist social movement. She had a painting of Abolitionist Benjamin Lay in her home after she paying for the commission of this painting.
– She was not afraid to take on British Commander-In-Chief in getting needed postal fees!
– Rather than leaving when local citizens wrongly attacked her home, she defended it along with friends and family.

So writing about a flawed but strong personality filled with contradictions made an interesting writing challenge.

I will continue more on this in the next blog. A complete list of references can be found at teh end of the book.

Thinking of Heraclitus and Writing

Introduction
I admit that I don’t know as much about Heraclitus as I should. And that is true for many others as well. His thoughts are simplified too often into meme-ready messages about the “only constant is change” and “no one steps into the same river twice.” But as an author of many of rules as life now accepted as common wisdom, there is much more to explore herein. Particularly as a source for inspiration for writers.

Writing Opportunity #1: Static and Dynamics
Each entity have components that do not change, change slowly, or change quickly. Stories and character transitions go together hand in hand. Events weave in and out with flash forwards and flashbacks, intentions and impulsive reactions. Or providing a look at a stagnant past, present. or future to define a character and further a plot.

Changes may include variations and cycles of gain and loss. These are covered in the Seven Basic Plots which cover supposedly all possible stories.

Showing these changes too quickly or a non-sequential order may confuse things. So you need a bridge of the static, unchanging aspects to reassure the reader before contrasting and evolving into the new normal, the ever-changing dynamic scenario. And Heraclitus observed the static and dynamic components co-existing together in a river. And that leads to the next Logos or Universal Law of his.

Writing Opportunity #2: Change Fueled by Contradiction.
Each object contains two opposing versions. One that changes over time and one does not. These may contradict and attempt to overtake each other.

Each day, we see contradictions and opposites all around us. One family may experience a new family member while another mourns a loss in silence. A factory may have a company picnic one week and layoffs the next. And on it goes. A country, a continent, a world, a galaxy, is a collective whole filled with opposing events, feelings, and thoughts.

Contradictions and opposing viewpoints make for great plot devices. Especially between or more characters within sociological, political`, or societal frameworks. Ken Wilbur talks about Integral Theory into which humans are multi-dimensional which are just filled with nothing but different levels of developments. So, you can be righteous in most areas but evil in another. This hiding and revealing of our multiple selves can add tension to a tale.

In the end
As an exercise, please consider exploring the ideas of old and new philosophical greats for writing inspiration. The podcast Philosophize This! can be a great help in understanding key points of these thinkers in a short period of time. As well as being great entertainment.

thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image.

Leaving your Writing Behind: Dilemmas and Outcomes

Introduction
Your written works are like your children. You witnessed their transition from youth to maturity. You can be very protective of them and do not want them under the care of those that will stunt their growth.

What are your Options?
Sooner or later, a slowly graying author has to deal with the unwelcome task of what happens to them after you pass away.

You could do nothing. Then they will be neglected and possibly thrown out. And soon it will be forgotten what you created.

Another option might be to leave them to your family or friend. Maybe you have dedicated family members like the children of Marx, Tolkien, and others. But the reality is, that is not often the case. Your family is very involved with their own lives. And that is to be expected.

What was my decision?
I left all of my works to a family member. After their passing, the College of William and Mary (my graduate schools) will own all of my works. I am not sure what if anything they will do with them. But at least, they have a home.

I hope that you too think carefully about this important decision and leave your works in good hands.

References:
Estate Planning for Writers
Robert Boyle Legacy Society (William & Mary).

Writing and Dealing With Personal Loss

Introduction

Many of us live happily and unaware in a self-created dream. We think that our lives will always go on the same and the people that we love and interact with daily will stay with us forever. But sometimes it is not meant to be. And the support system that we relied on is gone forever. Afterwards, we face a gnawing sense of loss and loneliness that was never anticipated. As one person said to me, this becomes the “new normal.” And life may never be the same again. There is no “moving on.”

What to Do About It

Personal loss is hard on everyone. But for the writers, it can be especially difficult. It could mean a writing paralysis. One may not have the inclination or words to write. The muse may have seen to have abandoned them. Emotions may be so heavily flowing that one cannot do nothing more than shed tears or pound the wall. Thoughts and feelings are kept tightly within.

But that is the time most needed to get out the pen or digital keyboard. Starting writing with no aim or time limit in mind. It doesn’t matter what it is:

– Memories of the person.
– Emotions you are feeling.
– Regrets that you may have.
– Something that you already had planned. (Which in my case is Olivia Plymouth Buys a House.)
– Anything!

Just get your words out!!!

Next Steps

Where one goes from there is not always our choice. But we should not stop writing the words that have given ourselves and others great comfort and entertainment. For in time if we keep at it, this will help us enjoy our lives again.
(Thanks to Pixabay for the image)

Why am I in ‘Writer’s Camp’ This Week?

Introduction
As part-time writers, it is good to change the length of your “writing sessions” every once in a while. For the Dhammapada Handbook, I am writing a chapter in one or two short sessions of a few hours. It makes the work seem fresh and is a good challenge. More on that in a future blog,

But from time to time, I check into “writer’s camp.” that is a three- to five-day period of writing. And I check out recharged. Like I am doing starting today.

Why “writer’s camp?”

Here are some of the reasons I ‘host’ a ‘writer’s camp.’

– No expectations. You produce what you can and feel like. The sole focus is on the journey rather than the outcome.
– More continuous time brings better results. It helps you develop a sense of craft as opposed to a factory approach. By not feeling rushed, you can explore a scene through multiple perspectives and time frames.
– A more relaxed time because there is no lack of hours or anything else. It is a moment of abundance rather than scarcity.
– You have time to try out a completely different technique or topic. It is encouraged to experiment and get sidetracked. Have a writer’s journey with no set destination.
– There is time to write something light or humorous. Or anything else that you have been procrastinating on creating.
– You can use the time to test out some new writing-related software. Or anything else that is a little different than the usual.

Where should I hold “writer’s camp?”
– “Camp” can be held in your usual ‘writing spot’, on a remote park bench, or wherever you feel comfortable and will be undisturbed. You can use a writer’s pad, or some sort of computer with a storage device.
– It can take place during night hours or the daytime depending on your personal preference.
– Never be too far away from the things that inspire us.

Other Suggestions for your ‘Camp’.
– Break as often that you feel is needed. This is not the time time to experience burnout.
– Also, this is not the time to make any judgments on the work. The goal is have a “writing storm” to explore and just write. There is plenty of time to review and edit after ‘camp’.
Have fun with it. Just write and relax. Nothing more.

I hope these series of blogs are of helpful. More are planned. Maybe in a future ‘writer’s camp’ near you.

Writing for an Audience or Yourself?

Introduction

Whether or not you like “A Rebel in the Rye” (The link is the trailer.), it raises some interesting questions about writing. The young writer-to be J.D. Salinger is asked would he keep on writing if not even one person read his lifetime of work? After a lifetime of encountering war, fame, spirituality, and love, he concludes that the answer is yes.

Writing Goals 

There are many reasons to take to the physical or digital pen. Varied factors could include exorcising personal demons, sharing experiences about someone we find interesting or own life journey, desire to frolic in a playground of pure experimentation,a simple need to express ourselves, passing on a philosophy, and a thousand other reasons. Or it could be a combination of motivations.

The movie talks about taking the time to understand what truly our motivations are. Otherwise we may awake up years later angry and confused asking “why and I spending all this time just doing writing?”  Being honest on why we write is key for inner satisfaction and meeting our own definition of ‘success’.

For me, writing allows me to provide different perspectives about people from our past like Deborah Franklin.

Or it could be talking about unique situations such as found in In Small Doses series.   It is a type of problem-solving or exploration just like a scientist might do. Or it can be just trying to capture a simple feeling such as a city at night.

You can do this for multiple genres. Or create up your own genre combinations such as was done in the Corporate Intent Series.

Writing for an Audience

With the rise of the Internet, most works can generate some number of downloads. So the question of not having something read is less of an issue today.

In a world that is increasingly digital and our private activities being monitored, it is getting harder to have “private-only writings.” But going “old-tech” (typewriters and notebooks) and a good security system could help stem the tide.

I think many writers would say, even if no one ever read their works, they would still be driven to write. And would not stop. But there are others that need a real or imagined audience as a motivator.

Sometimes we write neither for ourselves or an audience. Simply just to get something out of our head. Shrouded Witness was one such case. It was my first attempt at a non-sequential sociological science fiction. But by doing that, I am ready to write a future book exploring some of the same themes in a much different manner.

Wrap-up

i hope that this raised more questions in you than it ‘solved’. Take the time to seek out the answers for your own personal life journey including writing. And please  keep on writing, no matter if read by others or not.

 

Five Things Dig the Kid Taught Me about Writing

Introduction

(Thanks to Pixabay for the Photo)

From time to time, music from different countries and artists finds their way to me and resonate. Some weeks back, I was listening to a recorded concert with various musical groups. Then I heard three songs in from this one gig, and stopped everything saying  “WHO” Is this band?

They call themselves an alternative pop rock trio Dig the Kid.

I started listening to their interviews and found that I was doing some of the same things with my writing/authorship. Here are a few of the items that they mentioned

Five Factors For Authors and Lyricists

1. Each work is a project. Dig the Kid takes the time to explore the inner workings of a song rather than rushing it out the door. When I went to a craft approach, I did the same thing with each book and use wikidpad to organize my ‘project.’

Taking care and setting no time limit to get things right will lead to more fulfilling results. I have projects planned out for three years but coming from a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity, they will be each published when their time is right. Keep your scheduling loose to have plenty of time for explorations.  A few good songs/storied is more rewarding than a hundred rushed ones.

2. No two songs are alike. As I mentioned in writing about multiple genres, experimenting across multiple genres is more rewarding. Dig the Kid call themselves an alternative pop rock trio but are focused on the music rather than spending too much time labeling how to classify it. Authors should do the same way with their work. A good book or song is its own classification and creation. Repeating the same thing over again may build you a name but in the long term is a restrictive creatively. So that is something I consciously avoid,

3. Songs/Stories should have good stories about their subjects and should suck out all of the marrow of life as Arthur Rimbaud said. With songs like Bones and Still Breathing, Dig the Kid writes about surviving as a band and a human being. But they also write about being in love and the consequences of causing bad breakups. As well as much more. The stories about their songs are so vivid and interesting. They go far beyond their personal experienced to say something meaningful about human existence.

4, An important focus on finding and pleasing your audience. It took time for Dig the Kid to find an audience in Oakland and their adopted home in Los Angeles since they were not playing what was expected. But quality over time will shine forth and willing ears and eyes will find their way to a talented author or musical group.

5. Have fun with the process and keep it simple . This band is just a group of friends playing together for an audience that they adore. It is all about the music and the performance. Their performances are intimate, energetic, and dynamic. Give them a listen and see what I mean.

There is a lot more that I want to say about the writing process in the coming weeks. Please keep watching this space!

Creating a One of a Kind Buddhist Book — the Dhammapada Handbook!

Introduction

The Dhammapada are the thoughts and sayings of the Buddha in poetic format. These were given typically as an instruction after various people consulted with him about their troubles and situations.

On one hand, it is a small book that one can go cover to cover fairly quickly. But for the careful reader and the daily meditation student, it is a call to practice that can take a lifetime to decipher.

Expanding the Book Scope

The Dhammapada is a book very dear to me. I traveled with one of my various copies for two years on the road. Along the way, I found favorite verses. Recently, I had the interesting idea, “Why not write a series of short stories based on the Dhammapada verses that resonated for me?”

Even before I started writing, I thought about expanding the scope. It went along these lines
“What if I started with a public domain translation of the verses?”
“Next, what if I paraphrased each passage with my own words?”
“Then, suppose I wrote down commentary like a Dhamma talk about my thoughts about the passage? But do it in a way as if I was having a one on one conversation?”
“Finally, end with a series of practices that I’ve found helpful related to the verses.”

And that’s how I came up for the idea of a highly original Buddhist book in a world where so many exist already.

Why This Book is Different For Me.

So here’s why is it truly unique as a book and for me.
– This is written from the viewpoint of a Buddhist lay practitioner sharing their life experiences. I have listened to and attended the talks of various schools. And live each day trying out different things in my Dhammic toolbox.
– I tried to both modernize yet keep traditional the Dhammapada paraphrases.
– This is not the whole Dhammapada, just some verses that build on each other when covered in a particular order.
– I made the decision to minimize Buddhist vocabulary which can be distracting for new users.
– I am making it free as I do all of my Buddhist books.
– This is my most personal book especially with the commentary. Not quite an autobiography. But an open exploration of the verse based on life experiences.
– It is simultaneously both creative fiction AND creative non-fiction. So it involves a lot of switching of writing styles in a short time. Some chapters were mostly written in one day.
– I extensively use public-domain translations. Thanks Project Gutenberg and Wikisource!!!
– For the first time, I provided Wiki pages and direct downloads of a work.
– The stories are companion pieces to the paraphrasing, commentary, and practices.
I am releasing for the first time chapter by chapter rather than waiting till the end. So it may still be rough but it is out there.
– I never plan to do another book in this format!

So far, this writing experiment has been exhausting yet gratifying. From the response so far, readers seem to be enjoying it

On many Sundays, i will be releasing a new chapter until completion.

In a future blog, I will discuss another creative tension of creating this work.