Friday, July 3, 2015

Beta's Baby!

It’s OFFICIAL! As of last night, the initial copy of Blessed Are The Peace Makers, Coming Home is in the hands of my first two beta readers. What are those? Writers (whose work I admire) that are kind enough to read through a fellow-writer’s manuscript to point out weaknesses, plot holes, areas needing clarity or improvement (or deletion), shout encouragement and the like.

Eric is already gearing up to run the manuscript through his handy-dandy program (that I must get my hands on for future works – I understand he’s releasing it online soon – for free!) that searches out to-be’s, gerunds, weasels (weasel words contradict or misinform) and other grammar no-no’s.

Am I dancing in the streets? Only a little. And only on the inside. Am I elated? Yes. And honored. A tad nervous. But on top of, and snaking through the jubilation, is an emptiness. A disorientation. Like a twirling top that’s lost its momentum and is wobbling, tottering, soon to tip over, roll around, and cease all forward motion. Until the next wind-up. Thank God for Books Two and Three.

Whipping Top clip artAnd in spite of the illusion, that feeling of suspended animation, life goes on. Next weekend I’ll attend a local writers’workshop; the price was right and it comes at a good time. Between now and then I will update and memorize my 25-word pitch (to practice when the opportunity presents itself) and compose a one-page summary of the manuscript (which is apparently easier-said than done). To my writer friends: is there anything else I need to prepare for the workshop?

Holy Smokes, is this feller fast or what? I just checked my inbox and Eric already shot back a…omg…really? A long list of those buggers I referred to above. Hmm. Looks like time to get cracking on revisions. Already. Yeehaaaa!

That Rebel ~ Olivia J. Herrell

P.S. A huge shout-out and thank you to Eric W. Trant, an author whose no-nonsense prose and generosity captured my attention several years ago. Full of gut-level honesty, something I achingly (there's one of those words) aspire to.

P.P.S. And another shout-out/thank you to Liv Rancourt, lead author (and whip-cracker, thank you, Liv!) for our Relentless Writers blog. I’m looking forward to reading her new short story.

P.P.S.S. I FINALLY (after how many years now?) downloaded Google Chrome because Blogger, as of my tries today, no longer works on Internet Explorer. And omg what a difference! What in the world was I waiting for?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Turn in the Road Less Traveled

My laptop, sweet, precious, ever-available sidekick, keeper of treasures, soother of my soul, my precious, my own, hit the floor today. Hard. At my unwitting hand. BAM! It happened so fast I’m not sure what did, only that my outstretched fingertips connected like a karate jab and it flew clatter bang to the hardwood floor, barely missing the soft, wool rug.

 “Oh no, your laptop,” my client cried.

 “Oh no, my laptop,” I echoed.

We looked at each other, eyes wide in shock, then I scurried around the desk thinking, “she’ll be okay, I know she will”, and scooped her up in a love-cuddle like a baby. She is, in a way. Only so much more.

Miraculously she’s still ticking. Prayerfully, she’ll continue for a long, long time. Or at least until we’ve had a few more years together.

Like this train of thought, my life has taken a right turn, one I knew was inevitable, but it frightens me nonetheless. The hip trouble that began three years ago after a rear-ender (while driving down a quiet street at the speed limit!) has escalated.

I can limp along (literally, though on good days it’s imperceptible), trying to avoid a hip replacement or I can get past the fear and do it now. This avoids further wear and tear to the surrounding and supported joints and, if I believe those who've already done it, will give me my life back.

So. Fear aside, it’s the logical thing to do.

Without quoting particulars, suffice it to say that I’ve done enough research to know the procedure and type of prosthesis best for me, which points me back to the Ortho I saw in December. He’s a great doc, I like and trust him, and one of his offices is ten miles from my house. The fact that he’s handsome has nothing to do with it. I promise.

That said, the recovery could take as long as six to twelve weeks (it’s my right/driving hip). As a single woman who owns her own business (meaning – no workie, no payie) that prospect is daunting, but God is good and I have no doubt he will provide. As always.

I’m proud of myself. Five months ago I was in denial, today my brain is slowly, but surely wrapping synapses around this. I'm thinking September - December, after my trip to Idaho and the Oregon coast.

In the meantime I’ll prepare, not only mentally and emotionally, but financially. That means saving money and moving ahead with a new venture, one I can do even laid up, recovering from surgery: get my photographs on stock websites for download/sale.

Like my affinity for words, I seem to be drawn to and have an eye for light, beauty and composition. Mostly I aim and click. And take lots of pictures. But the results, at times, are stunning.

I will close with a request. For good thoughts. Well-wishes. And prayers. For my laptop, the sweet, unassuming instrument that even now records my thoughts, and for me as photographer, writer and human being.

Thank you so much!

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Uneasy Writer

It makes me nervous when people I know start dying. One’s bad enough, but so far today the count is three. The blues legend BB King who lived a long life, but will be missed by generations. Mark Johnson IIII, one of the marines that went down with the helicopter in Nepal, married to a distant cousin (of mine) with two little children, ages four and eighteen months. Now Elaine Dwyer, a sweet lady from my church.*

This engenders a streak of unease that runs through me like a snake exploring dark, tortuous tunnels and now that it’s exposed to the light, guilt creeps in for just feeling uneasy when the families must truly be suffering.

Clouds crowd together overhead as the wind blows past, impotent to make it rain. I want it to. I need it to, as much as the near-parched land. But it doesn’t.

~ Olivia J. Herrell
* Plus the eighty-five hundred dead and three thousand injured in the Nepalese quakes.

BB King (and guests) performing "You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone". Yes, BB, we sure will!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Works Every Time: Sit Down, Slit It Open, Spill It Out

Today is Saturday. I wrote this on Monday. It seems like weeks ago.

Today I realized I’m unhappy. Again. Oh, not in my mind. There I’m happy. Or I think I am. I have plenty of evidence. I love my work. I enjoy my community and volunteering for the city. I have a church (for the first time in forty years.) My completed manuscript (first in nine years) is tucked away waiting to be reread with a fresh eye, and manuscript two is half written.

When I look at my behavior, or rather behaviorS, plural, all the signs are there. I won’t list them all, but I bet you’ll recognize one or two. They include:
  • eating crap “food” including demon sugar
  • weight gain
  • hopping
  • moping
  • disinterest in outside activities
  • inability to exercise
  • running off to coffee shops, restaurants or other places to write
  • hours of Netflix
  • going to bed early
  • staring in to space (not the good, daydreaming kind)
  • avoiding decisions
  • running on auto-pilot

There’s probably more, but these off-the-top-of-my-head ones are enough. I get the idea. Do you? Now, what to do? Figure out why? Not necessarily.

I could distract myself from it, flesh out a profile on match dot com, find a man and ride that “new love” feeling for, well, maybe years. Or rent an apartment within walking distance of my favorite coffee shop/writing locale. That would open up space in the office for a couple of massage therapists, a nutritionist and/or some other cool-ist. Or I could bring in a doctor to share the practice, take care of patients when I’m away.
Any of these would bring activity. Break the boredom. Create happiness. If only temporary. But the truth is, I don’t know if I can be happy here. Behind closed eyes (and a seeming-eternity ago) I’m in Southern California on a trail as it meanders through a scrub canyon, alone and safe, a half-mile from my complex and bustling traffic, with a smile that could only get wider if it split my face in half. All from pure joy. Of place. I miss that. I miss it a lot.

Is my unhappiness place-related? I’m leaning toward yes. I have evidence. I’ll spare you the details. But the last I remember that beatific smile bursting upon my face and my heart soaring, was a year ago.* In Oregon. On a coast so wild as to never be tamed, in old-growth forests that march to the sea, along a ring of fire that will someday bring doom to us all. There I was happy. There my heart soared. There the smile stayed plastered to my face. And joy dwelt in my soul.
*Other than in church.

Now. If you’re one of the way-too-many people that don’t know this secret, listen up. Something wonderful happens with you put pen to paper or fingertips to keys and spill your guts. The subconscious is appeased because it’s had its say, and whatever the dilemma, you can always, always get relief.
Tuesday, I returned to manuscript two, specifically the stitching together of twelve different voices in to one fluid, hopefully-flowing story. I cut the crap and sugar, including cola, got lots of sleep and in spite of the fact that my day-job workload increased and it was a crazy, bouncy, electrified-energy kind of week, I felt better every day.

I’m happy to report that not only did I complete those edits today (through the last page written - 202), but I finished the related “God’s Eye View” spreadsheet, color-coded to keep the stories straight and evenly s/paced. It also ensures that one of the many (and egads! growing number of) characters don’t stay silent, or hog the spotlight, for too long.

God's Eye View of Peace Makers - Part Deux
(Compressed to Protect Contents)
So. Hooray for me! Instead of making a splash on match dot com or running off to spend a bunch of hard-earned cash on an apartment I don’t need, I cleaned up my food, walked around the neighborhood, cleaned the house, belly-laughed at an old comedy I discovered on Netflix (Out of Practice) and drank lots of home-brewed kombucha.
But mostly? I dove back in to writing. My true love. My precious. My own.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Momentous Moment

Awen Rays
After taking a week off from editing and writing (no it wasn’t a vacation, I still did my day job), I spent seven hours yesterday adding finishing touches to the manuscript. It’s so close to done. No, I haven’t turned it over to my first/alpha/beta readers yet. And yes, you’ve heard “I’m close” before. But that was wishful-thinking me. This is happy-reader me.

With one caveat.

According to the big boys, the two I listen to most when it comes to writing (because my personal process and preferences mirror theirs and I respect them as prolific, profound and prosperous writers), this is the point (before letting anyone else read it) I should stick the manuscript in a drawer and walk away from it for a month. A whole flipping month. Or in my case, let it sit on my laptop. Untouched. For a month.

Then, and not until then, I get to break it out, dust it off, brew a big pot of yerba mate or some other delectable tea and read it from cover to cover. If reader-me is satisfied, meaning there are no plot holes and things are tied up nicely at the end, I can consider turning it over to my beta readers. Otherwise, it’s back for another rewrite.

So. I just solved my own dilemma. I really, really want someone else to read it. Now. Not tomorrow. I want to see if I’m the only one who thinks this story is pretty special. My readers are standing by.
But I will wait. I will listen to Stephen King and Papa Hemingway. I’ll let it sit. And I’ll wait the requisite month before rereading it, God bless it.

But not until I fix one last little thing. Then somewhere around this time next month, mid-May, I’ll set aside a whole day to read the complete manuscript. I’m already looking forward to it.
Here’s to May!

~ Olivia J. Herrell
P.S. I’ll still be sticking to my twenty-four-hour-a-week writing schedule. Next up: finish Book Two!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

La La Land Redux

Danger, Plot Hole Ahead

I hit another plot hole today while clocking along editing, enjoying the story and character-development, then BAM! I’m in La La Land. And not totally sure of the culprit.

Part is timing. I cut and spliced an event forward, now I’ve run in to a chapter in which the characters have forgotten they’ve already been through all this. GAH.

Told ya!
Time to edit deep and edit hard and though I’m two and a quarter hours short of my weekly writing goal (of twenty-four hours), I’m calling it quits. The week starts over tomorrow.

Right now I’m on Page 237, shooting for 300 by the end of the week.

Rock on.

Looking Up -
Pics taken at Villa Rica Gold Museum

Thanks, Guys for talking me through a stuck place. Now it’s time to kill some darlings*. But not tonight.


On a related note, did I tell you I’m in a virtual writer’s group, one with a blog entitled RelentlessWriters?
It’s the same group of writers that helped me win NaNoWriMo 2014. You can find us at

Twenty-one writers (I believe that’s the last count) post articles three times a week on all things writing. I post one to two times a month. Click here to read my latest, also related to plot holes (aka La La Land), and click here to read the first one, in which I talk about why this writer-loner joined a group.

If you’re a writer, or not, and like what you see over there, give us a follow and check back weekly.

~ Olivia J. Herrell
*killing darlings = cutting extraneous wordage

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Madness and Laying It on the Line

March Madness is here and to celebrate, I'm dumping, no skatoles or basketballs, I promise. Just important information that's rattling around my head.

1)      Edits are moving forward on Blessed Are The Peace Makers – Coming Home (that's what I'm calling Book One for now). As of last night it's about one-third complete;

2)      Book Two (yet untitled) still percolates. Sitting at 52Kish it’s about half written;

3)      Recently, while soul-searching yet again, this time questioning my literary dedication, not just to writing, but to seeing my works complete and out there for others to read, I came to a realization. All I need are three things - commitment, a plan and time to do it;

4)      So I committed. I will spend at least 24 hours a week editing, writing, doing research, whatever it takes to bring these books** to publication and distribution;

5)      In 1994, I gave up a good-paying career to be a full-time medical student. At 31 hours a week butt-in-class, plus countless more spent memorizing every bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, organ, system, medical term/history/failure, microbiology, macrobiology, histology, x-ray techniques and interpretation, adjusting techniques, anatomy, physiology, holy-shit-the-list-goes-on-and-onomy, I knew chunks of my time would have to be reallocated. The decision was difficult, but I gave up television and the daily newspaper, graduated summa-cum-laude and never looked back. (Well maybe there was an occasional Seinfeld or Friends episode...)

6)      During this current existential exploration, it occurs to me that my situation today is not dissimilar to 1994 and in order to pay my bills AND bring these works to distribution, it would be logical (thank you, Spock, ) to repeat those success behaviors; SO

Goodbye dear Spock, RIP Leonard Nimoy
7)      I must choose again with heavy heart. After work (because I ditched cable years ago), rather than melting in front of mindless Netflix reruns and HuluPlus commercials, I will turn to my manuscript. Or blog. Or reading your blogs. Or research. Those pursuits that feed my writer-soul and move my works to fruition;

8)      Yes. You heard it here. I said it out loud. This evening recliner-slug is selling her recliners and giving up HuluPlus (goodbye insufferable commercials) and Netflix in favor of her literary aspirations. No, I haven’t cancelled them yet (the decision is fresh), but I will. This week. Before my paid-months run out;

9)      You may also see less of me on Facebook. Or more. This depends on how a side-project* shapes up;

10)    And finally, a big shout-out to Andrew T. Post (one of my earliest Blogger buddy/writer friends). for mentioning on Facebook his new practice of tracking his daily writing productivity. That fell on fertile ground and inspired me to do the same;

11)    Last week I began tracking my own productivity, first by-hand which was satisfying, but I kept having to dig for the infernal notebook and once beside my laptop it became a coaster, collecting spilled crumbs and tea stains, SO;

11)   This week I started an Excel spreadsheet, it’s even more satisfying and ever-handy. You'll likely be hearing more about it; AND

12)  All this has fueled both forward-motion and a sharper focus on the prize, plus given me concrete and useful data on my progress. For instance, this week I’ve invested 19 1/2  hours completing edits on five chapters (totaling thirty-three pages) and cutting 788 unnecessary words.

Is it working? Feels like it. Time will tell.

That’s good enough for me.

 ~ Olivia J. Herrell

*I’m toying with revamping or rebranding (or both) That Rebel, focusing more on issues we face on a day-to-day basis, similar to many past posts: social and cultural anthropological issues as relates to life through my particular lens/voice);

**Not just the Peace Makers trilogy, but also the abandoned women’s-fic novella Churches, Chickens and Chi-Chi’s and children’s book series Frank & Ernie Find Home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walk Away

Some days the words aren’t there.
Nor will they come.
Not new shiny ones.
Nor old standbys.
Not. One.
Stinking. Word.
Those days, it’s best not to try.
Prose falls flat.
Edits make murk.
So don’t.
Go there.
Walk away.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

And here to concur are Joe Walsh and the James Gang performing the quintessential Walk Away:


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