Sunday, December 28, 2008
Ain't life grand?
Just before x-mas I finally finished Exodus by Leon Uris. I'd been meaning to read that book for years, but I just never got around to it. Now I know why it was my father's favorite book (well, actually, it was the only novel he ever read). What a book. Wow. It really gives some major insights into the whole Middle East crisis - and how the things that happened during the birth of Israel are still affecting us today. Uris truly was a master, and even though I'm not always thrilled with the choices he made to put his stories together, I have profound respect for his writing.
Last Monday, I made my shopping trip to Borders, during which I bought presents for myself, my hubby, and our daughter. I can't even think of the exact number of books purchased. It was over a hundred dollars worth. Anyway, x-mas morning we opened our presents (yes, I wrapped most of the books I bought for myself) and the reading extravaganza began.
First I read Master of Torment by Karin Tabke. This is the second in her Blood Swords series, and once again, she nailed it. I'm not much of a historical romance reader, but these books appeal to me. There is plenty of action, for one. For another, Karin doesn't write historicals like anyone else I've read. Most other historicals I've tried to read spend too much time patting themselves on the back for the amount of research they do (i.e. they overwhelm the reader with details of the time period and lose the story). Karin isn't like that. She gives just enough detail to show what the characters of that time would be experiencing but she doesn't drown her readers with it. Way to go, Karin.
The next book on the pile was the most recent Fablehaven. Now these are, I think, middle grade novels. The MCs are a brother and sister. I can't remember his age, but he can't be more than nine and I think the sister is 14. That's MG, right? Anyway, I love these books. Smart writing for any age, but if I had these when I was in the MG age range, I would've been bowled over by them. Definitely something I would recommend buying- even if you don't have kids, aren't a kid, or your kids are too old for them any more.
Then there was The Hunger Games. It's a dystopic novel and I think it's YA. Good book overall. Not perfect, IMO, but worth the purchase price. The main reason I bought this book, and the main thing I got from it, is I am trying to reignite my muse. I'm trying to get excited about working on Blink again - which is also a dystopic novel, just not YA. Mission accomplished. And I'm even thinking about tweaking Blink so it could fall under YA. Time will tell.
After this, I picked up Have Yourself a Naughty Little Santa by Karin Tabke. This is a complete change from her historical series. It's a pretty good book, but I wouldn't recommend reading it so close to the Blood Sword novels. The writing style is different, and the genre is different, so it might be a shock to the brain - like it was for me. After some thought, I realized if I separated this book from the others, it was perfectly good and well written for its purpose - which was as an erotic romance w/ suspense elements.
The only purchase I made for myself that I haven't read yet is Omega Games by Lynn Viehl. In four days, I wiped out my stack. It's a little depressing, which was probably the reason why I couldn't bring myself to start Lynn's novel yet. I might read the book I bought for hubby next, or maybe a few of the books daughter got. We'll see what happens.
What did Santa bring for you (even if you had to be Santa and buy it yourself)? Read anything good lately? (Come on, I need new materials to read in the coming year.)
(Note: Links to the above, and all the books I read this year, are available HERE.)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
So, to break up the monotony of hearing the same repetitive song a bazillion times, I offer you the following (and sorry, I couldn't get the youtube videos to embed):
The McKenzie Brothers doing their version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. If you're not familiar with the brothers, it's a Canadian thing. After living in the Upper Peninsula for some many years (it's like Canada-lite), this song is one of those goofy things that makes me happy. Oh, and somebody took the time to animate this version, which is a hoot.
If that's not your thing, and you are really up to your neck in the tribulations of the season, maybe The Twelve Pains of Christmas will give you a little solace. (Or at least a little empathy.)
If you're too traumatized to listen to even a spoof of the Twelve Days, try out Adam Sandler's Christmas Song. Or if Christmas isn't your thing, you can listen to his Chanukah Song.
Or for those of you who've been really bad (not me, of course, I've been extra super good) there's always the idea that You Ain't Gettin' Diddly Squat. ;o)
And for the infidel, Achmed the Dead Terrorist sings Jingle Bombs.
Heard any funny Christmas songs lately? Share them in the comments.
Merry Christmas Everyone.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
And I refuse to feel guilty about it.*
This past weekend, I watched football and read. Yesterday I went out of town for a shopping spree. Today I might wrap presents and I'm definitely going to the grocery store (because in all my brilliance, I forgot to buy that duck I wanted, and now it's too late to defrost one... ham it is).
The rest is left to chance and necessity. My present shopping is done. The cards have been mailed. The house is decorated. The cookies are made and distributed throughout the town. All that's left is some wrapping and the holiday itself. Yay. Now I can rest.
I can watch silly movies all day. I can play poker. I can read. Lots and lots of reading going on. I could even take a nap or two if I want. My daughter and I might play Scrabble, or have one of our incredibly long and protracted conversations. The possibilities are endless.
So, what's on tap for this time of year for you?
*Okay, so I still feel guilty about not working. I want to not feel guilty, but I can't help it. If it gets overwhelming enough, I could be back to writing before January 5th. We'll see.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I mean, Asimov was not only one of the greatest writers of the past hundred years or so, but he also wrote during a time when not just anybody could whip out a manuscript and send it out to a hundred potential buyers via email. (I've also heard he never edited, but that may be an urban legend - and it's a moot point anyway.) He also wrote when people genuinely wanted to read.
But that's not the point of today's post.
I read that quote again yesterday and was struck by the idea of it. Persistence. You have to have it in order to succeed in anything. (And yes, I am aware of the rare instances where success falls into someone's lap, but those are the exceptions to prove the rule.) The problem is, I'm just not that persistent. Not only that, but I do have a manuscript just eating it's head off in a metaphorical drawer. (Several, if you look at the lack of success for my other books.) I never really submitted Blink. I sent off five queries, to which I only got one reply. I sent out those queries and got distracted by RTL.
But was distraction really a good enough reason to let Blink lounge? Looking back now, the answer is: not really. I could've easily been querying while I was concentrating on writing. They're two completely different skills, after all. Instead of pushing to see Blink get its day in the sun, I shoved it into the shadowy recesses of my hard drive. A severe injustice if there ever was one, let me tell you.
The funny thing is, I still love Blink. And maybe that's part of the problem. I love it so much, I'm terrified of sending it out. I'm so afraid of people saying mean things about it, I'm unable to run the risk she'll be hated and rejected - which, of course, means I'll never know if she might actually be liked and published. (And yes, I have started thinking of that particular book in terms of 'she'.)
But let's forget about Blink for a second. When I really think about it, I haven't been all that persistent with my other books either. I send each one through the gambit of agents and then shove each one into its folder - never to be heard from again. I still think about them. Sometimes I lay in bed at night reminiscing over a particularly well-written scene or wondering how a book would've sounded from a different perspective. I never act on these thoughts, though. Oh sure, every once in a while, I'll get a wild hair and send Spectacle or Caldera out, but it's more a matter of desperation than of persistence.
You see, I still believe in every one of my books*. Not a single one of them can be classified as a 'practice book'. I don't think any of them should be left to rot in a trunk or under my bed or at the back of the closet. Each of them deserves to see the inside of a bookstore. (Yes, I am biased, but just because I am doesn't mean I'm wrong.)
So, if they are as publishable as I think they are, the problem then comes down to a lack of persistence. They aren't published because I haven't really tried hard enough. Instead I've allowed them to eat their heads off in a drawer while I play at writing another one to sell - which will most likely end up joining them because I'm not persistent enough.
Starting after the second week in January - because now is the beginning of the holiday season and the first two weeks of the year are catch-up time for most people - I'll start sending out manuscripts again. I'll beat the bushes looking for an agent. I'll revamp all my query materials in order to write the letters that will get my books noticed. I'll go directly to the publishers if I have to. I will be persistent.
I'm not a resolution maker, but that seems like the best one I could make for the coming year.
I know it's early yet, but have you given any thought to your plans and goals for 2009? Any resolutions you'd like to share?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
And she's not me.
Maybe it was the trip back to Michigan. I left almost eight years ago, and I hadn't been back. So many things have changed, and yet jammed in between all the changed things was something so familiar it was like a blow to the chest. For instance, I went to see the house where I grew up. It's still there. It looks pretty much the same, but it's not the same. The new owners put a white picket rail around the front porch. They sided our old chicken coop with bright red plastic. The tiny Jack pine my sister and I planted is now the tallest tree in the yard. The house sits at the top of a hill, and the valley across from it has always been a wide open space. It used to be a horse pasture. Now, it's working on becoming a forest. Tall, fast-growing pine trees have taken over. You can't even see the pond in the middle any more. But the tree we buried my dog under looks the same.
The nearby town of Goodrich has exploded with people. All the fields that used to lay around it now have big beautiful housing developments. They moved the post office. They closed the old IGA store that my mother once worked at, and that I spent a great deal of time in when I was younger. The old 'stop-n-rob' convenience store was torn down and a modern brick gas station took its place. But the mill pond where my father took me ice fishing looks the same.
Grand Blanc - where my mother now lives - now has a Walmart where the deer park used to sit. The Halo Burger was torn down and a Starbucks is in its place. But the old high-school hangout - Hotdog Heaven - is still serving customers out of its ramshackle little building. (I'm guessing the hotdogs are still the same, too.)
I think it all started at the airport. When I lived in Michigan I was at Detroit Metro frequently - if not to fly myself, then to pick up visiting sales managers for work. I knew DTW like the back of my hand. Now it's all changed around. (Of course, I left before 9/11, so it was pretty much a given.) But the trip down I-94 toward Ann Arbor looked the same. Hell, since the last time I was at DTW it was snowing, it really looked the same.
Is it any wonder I came home to this unreal feeling?
At this point, I'm guessing I just need some time to be home and get back into my old routine. I need to wrap myself in normalcy to feel like myself again. At least I hope that'll work, because right now, I should be writing and I don't feel like a writer. I feel like the kid who left Michigan in 2001.
And she wasn't a writer. She was just a gal who thought maybe someday she would try to write a book.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Over the past two days, I've been cramming and jamming like a mad woman. After this morning, the only thing I'll have left to finish is my shopping. The cards are stacked beside me, the packages are on the floor beside the desk, and the cookies are in tins all over the kitchen. The remainder of shopping is scheduled for Monday, so I can finally kick back and... Well, I was going to say rest, but I haven't written in over a week and I'm this close to getting Nano done.
Anyway, the cookies were the big job. I love baking, so usually this cookie-gift thing is a breeze. Every year I bake a ton of goodies for passing out to my friends and my hubby's co-workers. I like doing it, and they like eating the fruits of my labors. It's all good. This year it wasn't easy, but it was worth it.
This year we made*:
Spice cookies with walnuts and raisins
Chocolate cookies with pecans and chocolate chips
Strawberry cookies with white chocolate chips
Chocolate cookies with mini-chocolate chips and white chocolate chips
Peanut butter fudge
Creamy mint patties
Cream Cheese cookies
Coconut Rum cookies
Today I'll be packing them into tubs and delivering them around town. Plus slogging through the lines at the USPS to mail stuff. Ho-dee, ho-dee, ho. Then I can sit down and catch myself back up with Nano.
How are your holiday plans going this year? Have you gotten your shopping done? Baking anything yummy?
* Most of my recipes are available upon request. The first four cookies on the list can be found here.
(Note: If I ever secure an agent, he or she will, of course, be added to the cookie-receiver list. Not a bribe, necessarily, but I'm just sayin'. :wink:)
Monday, December 15, 2008
After being bounced to a couple different departments, I landed a nurse who just happened to be standing next to my mom. She told me that Mom was fine and she was just headed to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I could hear Mom talking in the background, so I was pretty sure she was fine. In fact, the nurse told me Mom was on the phone with my oldest sister, otherwise I would've been able to talk to her, too.
So, Mom was okay. The disaster was averted. (And believe me, losing my mother would've been a major disaster.) Now that my own heart was beginning to return to normal, I talked about my feelings with my hubby. I told him that while I was on hold with the hospital, I was mentally clicking through all the things I would need to do to get out there if the worst had been true. He told me not to wait for the worst.
And like usual, he was right.
Around noon Saturday I booked tickets for my daughter and I to fly home. For those of you who don't know, I live in Colorado. My mother lives in Michigan. This makes quick visits and emergencies problematic. It also makes them expensive. But we did it. Sunday morning we were on a plane headed for Detroit.
By the time I reached the hospital, Mom had been transferred out of CICU, and she was set to be released on the following day. She was looking pretty damn good for a woman approaching 70 who had just had a coronary. She was also looking pretty damn bored and sick of being incarcerated in a hospital. (She shares my hatred of most things medical.)
Needless to say, I sprung her the next day and we spent the week with her recuperating. We watched a lot of TV. I cooked a lot of heart healthy meals. We talked and talked and talked. It was a good visit, and my honey was so very right. I needed to be there, and she needed me there. It was expensive, but it was more than worth it.
The holiday season this year almost sucked in a major way. I don't even want to revisit all those images I had before I learned my mother was going to be okay. Instead of sucking, though, it turned out to be a Merry Christmas.
May all your loved ones be happy and healthy. The rest is just glitz and sugar.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
If I can find time to find a computer, I'll be around on Monday, and probably once a day through Friday. Weekend days are flat out.
Anyhoo, take care of yourselves while I'm away. If I don't see you before then, see you after the 14th.
PS. Write lots of words. Lord knows I won't be.
Friday, December 5, 2008
In honor of this event, I'd like share a little quickie recipe I found this year.
1 box cake mix (whichever one turns you on)
1/2 c vegetable oil
nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, candy bits... whatever works with whichever mix you pick
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until firm and slightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cool.
Now, yesterday we used a Spice cake mix then added walnuts (1/2 cup chopped) and raisins (1/2 cup). It was so easy, we also made a batch using Devils Food cake mix with pecans and milk chocolate chips. Both were so yummy that today we're trying Strawberry cake with white chocolate chips and Triple Chocolate cake with the rest of the white chocolate chips.
Ummm, the diet? Well, that sucker is on hold indefinitely. We'll try again after the new year.
*Update: The count for today was two batches of cookies, peanut butter fudge and creamy mint candies. Not the most we've done in one day, but a good start. OTOH, I did finish the blankets so I can ship them in time for x-mas. Tomorrow, coconut rum cookies and cream cheese cookies, plus chocolate fudge and maybe a couple other new cookies depending on my stamina (and how much my kitchen assistant can take). ;o)
Thursday, December 4, 2008
In honor of this 'thinking positive' attitude, I'd like to share some shopping ideas with you. (Because no matter how bad it gets, shopping - even window shopping - helps me feel better.)
First, I'd like to introduce you all to O&H Danish Bakery. I subscribe to their newsletter, and every so often I get a scrumptious surprise in my inbox. Every newsletter is full of pictures of pastries. If you've never had a Kringle, you're really missing out. Buttery, sweet, gooey and flaky. I'm getting drooly just thinking about them.
Next, we have a little gem I heard about on CNBC yesterday. Shoebuy.com seems to be just about the only place not feeling the crunch right now. I mean, let's face it. Women and shoes - they just go together. And when you've got designer shoes cheap, plus free shipping, you can't go wrong. (Personally, I've got my eye on these boots. I don't know where I'd wear them, but yow.)
For those of you who like online auctions, and who are bargain hunters, try PropertyRoom.com. Over 1500 law enforcement agencies use the site to offload seized merchandise. Want a laptop for under $500? How about some nice jewelry? And if nothing else, I thought just looking at all the strange things the police have seized was a hoot.
Other favorites are:
ThinkGeek for all the brainy people on your x-mas list.
Morley Candy and Guylian for the chocoholics.
The Swiss Colony for other yummy treats.
For the mystery lover who also likes cheesecake: Cheesecake and Crime.
And for the fashionable gal on your list, try Blondissimo Gems and Jewelry
Share some of your online shopping hotspots. Are you doing anything to combat the economy's effect on your Christmas spirit?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Strange thing is, I have a small tree. Well, two small trees of my own. The house came with a huge tree, and two tiny ones. I left the huge tree in the basement. (Don't really have space for it anyway.) I used one of the tiny 'Charlie Brown' ones, though. So, we have three decorated trees. And for some reason - I'm not exactly sure why - we have a profusion of stockings. Ummm... Seven big ones, and three or four small ones. For the three of us. (Four if you count the cat, and yes, she does have her own stocking.)
I also started x-mas shopping today. I know, I know. Some of you are already finished, and some are most of the way done. By now, I'm usually in that group. This year, time got away from me. I still have to put the finishing touches on my homemade blankets and get those suckers in the mail so they arrive in time. I still have tons of cookies, and fudges, to make so I can give those away. And it's already the end of the third.
Well, at least I got my writing done in November. I even got some writing done today. Tomorrow? Well, we'll see if I get started on making foodie-gifts. I'd like to at least get both blankets ready for shipping by this time.
How are your holiday plans coming along? Got any shopping or baking to do?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Not that the news should come as any surprise. LOL Actually, I thought it would be higher. I guess I'm not as geeky as I used to be.
Update: While my daughter was taking the quiz, I realized I answered the 'competition' question wrong. I have won an academic competition... I was captain of the Quiz Bowl team, and we made it to semi-finals. So, I'm not 52% geek. I'm actually 57%. Heh. Maybe I should wear my glasses more often and get some tape for the bridge of my nose.
I feel like Rip Van Winkle this morning. Not that I spent yesterday sleeping or anything, I just feel like I did. In fact, I probably should've, but that's a whole nother story. After the weekend writing marathon, I was just bleh. To combat the blehs, I sat on the couch and watched TV, and I read most of a book. I also played some poker, but that went badly so I'm trying not to think about it.
Now about that oxymoron of a subject...
In the midst of my bleh-defeating day, I received a rejection letter from a partial of RTL I sent back in May. And yay, it found me, since it was sent before I knew I would have to move and therefore the SASE had the old address. On the rejection scale it was a really nice letter. She said she really liked my writing, but... 1) with the economy sucking like it does, she has to be extra super selective, 2) the synopsis didn't wow her, 3) from said synopsis, the bad guys all seemed one-dimensional, and 4) she was concerned the politics of the plot would overwhelm the suspense.
I'm hanging on to the 'really liked my writing' part. I'm also cursing the economy and the people who got us in this mess. As for the synopsis thing, I'm going to have to take a look at it and see where it fell apart, because it obviously wasn't doing its job.
For instance, I really don't think my villains are one-dimensional. Sure, they're all evil (because I don't do diet evil) but each of them has many layers to their personality. Perhaps that's not quite apparent in the first few chapters, and obviously not in the synopsis, but the layers are there.
There's nothing I can do about the politics. They're integral to the plot, but IMO they don't overwhelm the suspense of the book. I purposefully wrote the novel in such a way that the politics are an undercurrent, but not the main thrust of the plot. *shrug* I guess my synopsis didn't tell that tale very well.
So anyway, I'm taking that one as a positive letter. Have to take the positives where you can. I'm also calling another RTL rejection positive (I got this one back in November from a partial sent in September). In that one, the agent said she liked the premise but she thought it was more suited to the SF market, with which she wasn't familiar. *shrug* Miss Snark always said : Query Widely. Since RTL is one of those stories that crosses genre, I was trying everyone who represented any of the three genres it touches.
Anyway, as I approach the end of the year, and the end of another novel, I'm starting to think about the query process again. I'm taking the lessons learned, and working to apply them to the next round.
Oh, and speaking of rounds... Karin Tabke is getting ready to host another First Line Contest. I think I'm entering RTL this year. Here's hoping my first lines make the cut. I could really use some good news this month.
Your turn: Any thoughts on my rejections? I'm trying to stay positive about it, but I don't want to turn into Pollyanna. Have you ever gotten a good rejection, or is the oxymoron just too much?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
And I did it. I completed the requirements for my own personal game of NNWM. I said I would write 50K this month, and by god, I did.
I'm tired as hell, you know. I haven't read a single book this month. And I never did finish that blanket. Now, I'll have time to do all that. Plus, I am sooooo close to finishing Nano, I can taste it. I thought I would close it out this weekend, but I'm not sweating it. Should have the sucker first-drafted by the end of the week, and still have my sanity in tact. (Or as much as it ever was.)
I have a boatload of editing to do. I'm still looking at a swiss-cheese novel. But I did what I set out to do. Yay.
Now, I must collapse and give my hands a well-deserved vacation.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
And whose big idea was it to put a holiday weekend at the end of NNWM? Huh? Huh? Huh?
Well, I have no one to blame but myself. I chose to take the last three days off. I could've written Wednesday night - nothing was stopping me. I could've written most of the day Thursday - hubby did all the work. Yesterday? Well, that was just me being lazy. And the result of three days without writing? I'm 8200 words* behind. With two days left before my self-imposed deadline.
Reminds me of college, now that I think about it. I always knew when my tests were, and I always had plenty of time to study. Did I? Nooooo. I waited until the night before, loaded myself up on caffeine and crammed like hell. If it weren't for Mountain Dew I would've flunked out long before my money ran out.
Now I have two days to cram in 8200 words.
Sure, I could just say to hell with it. After all, no one is holding a gun to my head. If I don't get this finished by Monday, no one is going to die. I'm not even going to flunk anything this time around. I'll have just broken a promise to myself. All the contractual deadlines and paid-for classes can't compare to the promise I made myself.
So, I'll be cramming for the next two days. I may not make 50K by Monday, but it won't be from a lack of effort over these 48 hours. If I get tired, I can just kick myself for being lazy, and for a lack of foresight. I mean, I should've known I would take at least some time off for the holiday. Seriously.
Now's the time for coffee - lots of it. Later, the old pal will be brought into the game. Mountain Dew... save me one more time for old times' sake.
What's on the agenda for you this weekend? Are you sweating these last two days of November or are you smart enough to work at your own pace without worrying over NNWM?
*11/30/08 Update: Only 1466 left.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking. The same 'acting out of character' thing can be used when writing or editing. For writing, it can be one way to show that something really is wrong with your character. If she's normally pleasant and then flies off the handle, it would show the reader something is wrong, or at least foreshadow the possibility she isn't quite herself. And we've probably all seen instances where someone we know is bad acts all sweetness and light - usually right before they shove a knife in someone else's back (either figuratively or literally).
One example I can think of to illustrate the whole 'out of character thing' is the personality of Harry Potter in 'Order of the Phoenix'. Angst-ridden teenager didn't seem like him, and I've talked to a lot of people who found it irritating. I found it annoying myself until I read far enough to realize how JK was trying to show that Harry's life was such a mess it was making him behave like a toad. I don't know whether she consciously did that or not, but once I figured out what was happening, it worked perfectly. Once he felt like he was in control of his life again, his personality came back online.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
A few weeks ago, I noticed something odd in the seed pan. Some critter was using it as a restroom. (I know... ew, yuck... but it wasn't really nasty scat.) So, being the curious person I am, I researched scat. (Hey, I'm a writer. You never know when you might need a good working knowledge of critter crap.) For a while I thought it was raccoon scat, but it was too... not-nasty... to be a raccoon. Too big to be rabbit or squirrel. Too full of vegetable matter to be fox or coyote (or dog or cat, for that matter).
I gave up trying, and put the seed pan away. Sure, the squirrels were mad. They'd even taking to leaving their own little presents - presumably to tell the intruding animals off - but it had to be done.
Then just now, I was outside having a smoke before bed. As I was standing there, minding my own business and trying to stay out of the snow, I saw movement. Something was creeping out from under my husband's truck. And it was making it's way toward me.
My first thought was that it was one of the neighborhood cats, and it was looking for either company or a free meal. That's when this things stepped out of the shadows and into the light from the corner streetlamp. White and gray, pointy face, ungainly body... long rat-like tail.
About six feet from me was probably the biggest damn opossum I'd seen in my life. (Unless you count the ones sunbathing by the roadside.) Now, in my experience, 'possums are nasty buggers, but they're basically cowards unless you back them into a corner. So I shouted at it.
Nothing. In fact, it waddled forward. Stupid critter.
So, I stamped my foot hard on the pavement and shouted again. That got its attention. (And hurt like hell, btw.) It stopped and stared at me. I took a step forward, and it shot me a dirty look before slowly creeping back under hubby's truck.
For the remainder of my cigarette, it stared at me from between the back tires while I watched to make sure it didn't sneak up on me.
It's probably on its merry way now. I like animals, but I'm not a huge fan of 'possums. I'm happy it's gone, and it's probably just as happy that I'm back inside.
But, hey, at least the mystery of the midnight scat has been solved.
PS. In retrospect, confronting a wild animal probably wasn't the wisest move on my part. Chances are it can run faster than I can, and all I had for a weapon was the snow-shovel I keep by the door. (And I'm not even sure I could've grabbed it before the 'possum grabbed me.) Nasty little things with sharp pointy little teeth. Ugh.
PPS. Umm... is it just me or did that last part remind you of Monty Python and the Holy Grail?
Back in the days of the pilgrims, the average lifespan was between 30-40 years. Today, the lifespan of the average American is double that. Most Americans have plenty of food to eat. Most of us have shelter and clothing - that we didn't have to make ourselves, btw. We don't have to worry about cholera or typhus or polio or rickets or a hundred other diseases that crippled and killed our forefathers. And most of us can read, btw. A skill very few of the settlers of this great nation could brag about.
So today, and every day really, I'm thankful for the advances mankind has made. I'm thankful that because so many men worked so very hard for so damn long, I have a warm home, electricity, the internet, a fat turkey waiting for me in the fridge... Hell, I'm thankful for the fridge. (Because salmonella is horrible thing.) I'm thankful for the immunizations, and medications, and surgeries that have helped keep me and mine alive. And I'm thankful to all the men who have made these things possible.
As I sit down to my sumptuous feast, I'll be thinking of those who came before and brought me the possibility to have a feast at all. So, please join me in lifting a glass to these great men. May we live to add our own accomplishments to the sum of them all.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
It also means that day after tomorrow is what some people have come to call Black Friday. (Such a gloomy name for a day devoted to shopping, but I'll let it slide.) I don't shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving. On that day, people seem to be possessed by some particularly nasty demon who forces them to shop against their will whilst sucking all thoughts of courtesy and propriety out of their heads. Needless to say, unless I need groceries, I'm staying home.
Now, as for the looming BIG HOLIDAY for which Black Friday is designed... You've probably heard it all before. Hell, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Buy Books. Get Grandma a nice cozy mystery. Get the nephew an adventure story. Buy Aunt Lucille a cookbook. And if your mom is anything like mine, pick her up a pile of romance novels. (A big pile - Mom reads fast.)
Buy a book. They're still relatively cheap in the scheme of things. Hell, while you're out shopping this week, buy several. Swamp the indy sellers. Take over Borders. Clog the book aisles of Walmart, or K-mart or Meijers. Turn Black Friday into Book Friday.
It's sounds so much more positive that way.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In writing, SD isn't so drastic, but it can be the one thing that keeps a person from finishing a book. Or it could be the thing that makes a book so-so instead of amazing. I know it's a factor in whether we get the words out, or we spend our writing time editing and re-editing.
Should I move the story down this path or that one? Is this premise really working, or do I need to re-write the whole damn thing? Should the MC be gutsy and a little butch - which could turn some people off - or should she be sweetness and light, and as such unable to do the things the story requires?
Every decision we make both on the page and off can be turned in another direction by SD. So how does one deal with it?
Personally, I try to shove it into a box and push the box into the back of my head where it won't bother me. It doesn't always work, and sometimes SD leaks out to poison my ability to write, but most of the time I'm safe with it back there.
Of course, on occasion SD can be your subconscious telling you something. Perhaps the scene really doesn't work in it's current incarnation. Maybe your heroine is too butch, or your hero is too wimpy. Take note of the things it's telling you and move on. Do not let the hint of suspicion rule your writing. Make actual physical notes of its concerns for later editing. If the problem is bad enough, go back and fix it, but don't let it stop you from reaching your goals.
I used to let SD run the show. (With my writing anyway, and it used to play way too big a part in the rest of my life, too.) That's part of the reason Spectacle took me so damn long to write. On the other hand, when I wrote Blink I knew something was wrong with the middle the whole time I was writing it. And after I finished the book, I went back and rewrote like 6 chapters. If I had waited until I knew what the problem was with the middle, Blink probably still wouldn't be finished. If I let SD take the reins, I wouldn't have finished the book, and got the flash of insight on how to fix the middle. I needed to see the end to know where the problem lay.
If you're a plotter, you probably don't experience this problem so much. You have the whole story laid out before you start, and presumably have confidence in the plot lines you've crafted. I guess SD could still come up and slap you while you're plotting. I wouldn't know. (If you're a plotter and SD has caught you mid-plot, tell me about it in the comments.)
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: If you really want to succeed at this writing thing (and by succeed, I mean complete a book you can be proud of), then you need to stop doubting your abilities. You need to grab some measure of self-confidence and kick your old nemesis to the curb. In the end, that's the only way to really deal with it. At least, that's how I managed to get out from under the clutches of SD.
Does SD factor into your life? What do you do when it's got you? Share some tips and tricks for dealing with SD in the comments.
*Don't worry. I'm not currently in the grips of SD. Yes, I think the majority of my WIP stinks on ice, but I also know it can be fixed, so I'm not letting it stop me.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Actually I'll be glad when this book is finished, so I can start editing. This thing is heaping pile of compost with more holes than a worm farm. (Okay, maybe compost is too strong a word, but what imagery!) The words are just the beginning. This sucker is going to keep me busy for weeks shaping it into a cohesive unit, complete with sympathetic characters, a gripping plot, and a airtight premise.
Heh. Good luck with all that, right?
And I know you're all getting sick of reading about the continuing adventures of Insane NNWM Writer. Tomorrow I'll try and write a post about something else for a change. (Look on the brightside, though, at least I'm not talking about the economy. It's depressing enough on the news without seeing it here, too.)
Anyhoo, have a wonderful evening... or morning, if you're already in bed. See y'all tomorrow.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Over the past three days, I managed 7100+ words. My left hand is all tingly-feeling, and my ass is flat. I think the last 82 can wait. I'll tack them onto tomorrow.
Earlier I realized that somewhere along the way, I missed the weekend. Yesterday was a blur and today was just as bad. Not that I spent the entire time writing. I managed to get the kitchen cleaned yesterday on a between scene break. I watched parts of the Wolverines losing and the Spartans losing. Today I caught bits of the Dallas game, and made homemade (Jiffy-box mix) pizza.
I wonder how many words I could've written if that's all I did. Of course, they'd probably be crappy words, and my hands would be lumps of meat, but wow. Anyway, I'm happy with my three day total. Now I have to see what this holiday week brings for the totals.
On the holiday note, are you ready for Thanksgiving? We're doing the traditional route for dinner again this year - turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce. The only non-traditional item is I think I'm skipping the pumpkin pie this year and doing cheesecake instead. What's on the menu at your house?
11/10 - 876 words
11/11 - 0 words
11/12 - 1818 words
11/13 - 1924 words
11/14 - 1258 words
11/15 - 2570 words
11/16 - 2261 words
11/17 - 1876 words
11/18 - 978 words
11/19 - 1363 words
11/20 - 0 words
11/21 - 1043 words
11/22 - 2763 words
I didn't include today - because I'm nowhere near done for the day. Actually, I wasn't really done last night, but my hands both went numb and I figured that was a sign. On the upside, my first thousand words today were leftover from last night, so what I missed yesterday is getting picked up today.
As of this morning I needed 3400 words to get back on track. Now I'm down to 2400. I think I can... I think I can...
Numbs hands be damned. ;o)
How's the writing going for you? Anything stopping you from doing your best (like my friggin hands)?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Anyway, this weekend is also the weekend of the Ohio State/Michigan game. The rivalry to end all rivalries. The epic confrontation wherein someone goes home triumphant and someone else goes home covered in dirt and shame. Sadly, I think this year the dirt and the shame will belong to my own beloved Wolverines. :sigh:
Hey, I'm a fan, but I'm also well acquainted with reality. The reality is the team seriously blows this year. To put a bright spin on the slaughter, maybe I can write instead of sitting glued to the TV. If they have to lose, I really don't want to watch the carnage. Maybe MSU will beat Penn State and my home state will be able to salvage some football glory this weekend.
Meanwhile, if I'm going to get back on track and stay there, I have about 6000 words to write over the next three days. 2K a day doesn't sound so bad. We'll see how it works out and whether I'll be wearing a frowny face on Monday.
What's on tap for you this weekend?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
It'll make more writing work for me over the next ten days, but I needed it. I needed a break from Randi and Jack and Vic and all the rest of the characters who live in my head these days. They'll be better for it, and so will I.
The question of the day is: What do you do when you need to step away?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Which is to say: If I can write THE END on this sucker, I can fix the problems and the book will sail again.
I thought about this on and off throughout the day, made some cogent notes on where the errors were, and I think even with the fresh holes I discovered last night, I can still make this premise work. The real damage is in the sub-plots anyway, so she still floats.
Now, for the 'damn the torpedoes' part. I can't let a few holes stop me. Arr, there's writing to be done*. Let's see how close I can get to shore tonight.
*I probably could've pulled the pirate thing off better when I still had me eye patch. Arr.
OMG! What's that?! Plot torpedoes off the port bow! How could I have not seen those? They could blow a hole the size of QEII into my premise, and sink the whole damn book.
Man your battle stations! Evasive maneuvers! Turn, dammit, turn!
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
(This moment of insanity is brought to you by my word count which, as of just a few minutes ago, not only met my word count for today but exceeded it enough to catch me back up.)
And they were even good words today. (Plus, I figured out how to fix yesterday's words and solve a plot hole that's been driving me nuts.)
Time for the Snoopy Dance...
*Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*
Considering I got one scene out and at the end of the scene, my fingers left me a present I hadn't planned on, only missing the mark by 350 ain't bad. You see, I got to the end of a necessary scene and before I knew it one little sentence sent the plot zooming off in a different direction. I took my between-scene break and when I sat back down, I couldn't figure out how the hell I was going to resolve that one sentence with what I had planned for the rest of the book. Seriously, everything I plotted for the remainder of the book was toast. So, as much as I liked the sentence and as delicious as it was, I snipped it. Didn't even save it.
Unfortunately, it was probably the best sentence I wrote all day yesterday. Stephen King has a great quote that fits yesterday perfectly for me: "Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." Except I really don't think I was doing the 'good work' part. I've got the 'shoveling shit from a sitting position' part down pat, though. I'm blaming that one sentence for derailing my train of thought.
Feh. I don't even remember what the sentence is any more.
So, here's hoping today is a better day. I can feel myself getting close to the end. Of course, I'm going to have a lot (A LOT) of editing to do once this is finished, but it's all good. I'm writing again. I'm getting words out.
And that's the most important thing. =o)
Saturday, November 15, 2008
When I mentioned... okay whined... to my husband that I had writing to do, he gave me the ol' 'Why?' look. I mean, I don't have a contract and no one is standing behind me tapping their foot as they wait for the words to come out. I don't have to write 50K words this month. I don't have even have to do 50K this year. If I don't write another word in 2008, no one is going to die.
As I told my better half, I'm doing this because it's good practice for the day when I do have a contract and I am under a deadline. It'll happen someday and I'd better be ready for it when it does. A contract is a commitment and if I sign something that says I'll have a book to them by x-date, then by god, I'll honor my commitment. (Barring flood, famine, disaster or grievous bodily injury, of course.)
When I first started writing, I was absolutely sure I wouldn't be able to write to deadlines. I had a meandering way of writing. I waited for inspiration to strike me, and then I'd sit down to let the words pour out of my fingers. It made writing really easy, but it was so unrealistic I could go back in time and pat my former self on the head like I was a misguided child. (Which I was.) If I was never planning on being published, writing when the muse was ready would be fine. Except I plan on being published, and I want to be able to meet the expectations of my publishers.
So here I am. I'm still straining against the convention of sitting my butt down and typing every night, but I'm also kicking myself when I don't. I know I have work to do, and I will do it. By the end of today, I need to have about 3000 words done to be on track for my goal. I know I can do it. I have the next three scenes already plotted out, waiting to be written. (I should've written at least one of them last night.)
I know I can do this. Now I just have to prove it to myself. And when my contract finally comes, I'll be ahead of the game.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Things are bad. No amount of sugarcoating can change that. I won't go into how it got that way or why I think some of this is a vicious circle that feeds on itself. I will talk today about things we can do to help the industry, and maybe ourselves, out a bit.
A few ideas I've heard and that I have:
- Buy a book - any book. If each writer bought one book this week, it wouldn't save the industry but it would go a long way toward showing the industry that books aren't dead (and never should be).
- Skimp a little to buy that book if you have to. Around here a standard paperback runs about $8 at the grocery store (sometimes if I'm lucky $7). Bigger paperbacks run around $16. Big hardcovers are about $30. I know that most of you already know what books cost in your own area, but I'm working up to a point here. The point is that most people spend at least $8 on lunch for themselves. If you're into fastfood, it's $8 easy. If you're more into a sit-down experience, you're looking at $16 - after the tax and tip. If you're dining with friends, $30. If you miss one meal, you'll have enough and if you just cut back to tuna, you'll probably be able to make up the cost of one book in two or three days. A little skimping goes a long way.
- Make books and reading a priority, not just for you but for those around you. Try to get other people as excited about a new book as they would be about a new movie. If you've got kids, take the Wii controller out of their hands, and shove a book in. Take a book to grandma and read it to her if you have to.
- Find ways to infuse your own enthusiasm about the industry into other people. Write a blog encouraging people to read a new book. If you know someone whose book is about to release, shout it up. (BTW, Karin Tabke's latest: Have Yourself a Naughty Little Santa just released! Know any women? Sure you do. Buy them a copy. Better yet, show them yours, say 'neener neener neener' and tell them to get their own.) If you've recently read a really great book, chat it up with store clerks and neighbors and strangers in the park. I've sold more books to the cashiers at my grocery store than I can count. I read 'em, I chat 'em up, they go to the rack and buy them.
- Read. No matter how busy you are, approach reading like you do writing. Set aside a certain amount of time to read every day. (I'm guilty of not doing this lately, but I really need to get back to it.) Shut off that sitcom, and spend the half hour reading instead. Put the kids down for a nap and instead of picking up a living room that's just going to be a disaster again when they wake up, read. Brown bag it, and read on your lunch hour. Take a book to your next doctor's appointment instead of thumbing through their ancient magazines. (Which works two-fold. You read, and other people see you reading which might give them the idea to get a book themselves.)
Anyway, no matter what you do, do something. If you want to see new authors on the shelves next year, or the year after, or ever... If you value the printed word... If you're a writer and are worried about ever getting published (or ever getting published again)... DO SOMETHING TO HELP.
Just to put my money where my mouth is, I bought two books yesterday. Night Secrets by Cherry Adair for my daughter and Crossfire by JoAnn Ross for myself. (Cost me about $17 - which means no Pizza Hut tonight. I'll live. In fact, my ever-widening ass will thank me for it later.)
What are you doing to help the industry (and yourself, if you're a writer)? Have you bought any books this week? Help a writer along and leave the titles in the comments.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Yesterday I was talking to my mother, and we were discussing the fact that my sisters told my daughter I NEVER did any chores when we were growing up. True, I wasn't the best little helper as a kid, but never is stretching it. I didn't like chores, and if my two older sisters were around to do them, I guess I wriggled out of it more often than not. What they neglected to remember is that after both of them moved out, I was the go-to gal for all things domestic. (Mom's worked since I was five and is still going strong.) But I digress... as usual. The part of the conversation that pertains here is my admission that I was profoundly lazy back then.
As we all know, old habits are hard to break. I have left the 'profoundly' part behind, but I'm still basically lazy. If I don't break out the whip and make myself sit in this chair to write, it just doesn't get done. Regardless of whatever other reasons I may have had for the days off I took, behind it all is the fact that I just didn't get up off the damn couch and write.
Which means now I'm playing catch-up. (It's not playing with ketchup, but it looks just as gruesome from where I'm sitting.) I have to complete an average of 1730 words a day for the rest of the month if I want to hit my goal of 50K. Not really that much more than the 1667 it would've taken anyway, but it means no more days off. No more excuses, or the catching up will get so much worse. One day missed adds means I'd have to add another 100 words a day to my average. Miss a second day? Add another 120. It's a vicious mathematical vortex. (Was it the Scylla or Charybdis that was the whirlpool? Either way it's not good.)
I know 100 extra words doesn't sound that bad, but when you're fighting the pull of extreme laziness, a hundred words feels like a chapter.
So, this morning I am recommitting myself (hard to type with a straightjacket... LOL) to the endeavor. I will have Nano finished by December 1st, and if that doesn't get me the 50K, I have several other novels waiting for my attention. I can do it.
At least, I think I can.
How are your words coming this month? If you're not doing NNWM, or NaNo, or Sven, did you set yourself a goal?
If you do set goals, do you kick yourself when you fall short? I know I do, which is why I'm not a big goal-setter.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Yesterday while I was taking a break from shoveling snow, I sat down to flip around the TV for a few minutes, and what did I see scrolling across the bottom of ESPN? The results of the final table. I closed my eyes, but not fast enough. I didn't catch it all, but what I saw was "...defeats Demidoy to win...".
I spent the whole time watching the tournament knowing there was only one person who could take out the lucky Russian. Thanks ESPN. =op---
How does this relate to writing, you say. Well, I'm the same way about books. I don't want to know what's going to happen in a book before I read the book. I think I actually would've throttled anyone who ruined the last Harry Potter for me. Seriously. If I'd known the end, I still would've read the book, but it wouldn't have been as yummy for me.
But it's even more than that. I don't read book excerpts - not if I want to read the book, that is - and I don't read the little teasers they put at the end of one book to get you to buy the next book. If I liked the first book, I'm going to buy the second without needing to read the first few pages. Hell, I don't even like to read the cover copy on books I already know I'm going to buy. And I only read cover copy on unknown books if I really can't decide.
I can deal with a one-liner. Like the one I created for Manhunter: Dwelling on the past can be murder. Stuff like that makes me want to know more, but it doesn't give away any of the story. I like to discover the story on my own, thank you very much.
Maybe it's that I like the mystery of not knowing what happens. Last season's ender for Criminal Minds had a delicious cliff-hanger. They showed each of the main characters getting into his/her own black SUV, and then they showed a black SUV blowing up. Sure, it was mind-blowingly frustrating to not know who got blown up, but I was a good girl about it. I didn't check online to see if anyone knew, and I didn't try to figure it out any other. Once again, I avoided all talk about the show. I never dreamed CBS - who set the cliff-hanger up in the first place - would out the damn secret in a commercial ONE WEEK before the show was scheduled to air. A whole summer of letting the suspense build, and it was ruined in a thirty second spot. As I said before: "Dirty Bastards".
I liked the summer of wondering. I like the months between book releases. Suspense builds to a fever pitch and when I finally get a hold of the book, I devour it. It's like cooking an awesome meal - the scent of dinner wafts through the house and by the time dinner is ready, you're starving. (Yesterday I cooked a pork roast. Two plus hours of the house smelling awesome seemed to make the eating itself even better.) I don't need no little taste ahead of time. I just want the meal. If I'm that hungry, I'll snack on something else while I'm waiting. (Watch a different program, read someone else's book, etc.)
Maybe that's why I write what I do and they way I do it. So far everything I've written has an element of suspense to it. And since I don't really plot, even I don't know what's going to happen before it does. The not knowing is delicious, and when the plot twists hit me, I'm delighted. (Tickled pink, in fact.)
I know I'm in the minority with regard to book teasers, and I can deal with not reading them. I have my own strategies for keeping myself in the dark. It's just when they sneak them in when I'm not expecting it that really gets my undies in a bunch. To those sneaky, dirty bastards I say:
Knock it off.
How about you? Do you like to know ahead of time or do you get into the wait? Have you ever waited for something only to have it spoiled by someone else (like the damnable ESPN)?
Or is it just me?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
*Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*
Celebrate Veterans Day and honor those men who, throughout the past 232 years, have protected their values by protecting this country. The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave could not exist without them.
(Image courtesy of The Department of Veterans Affairs Poster Gallery)
Monday, November 10, 2008
I wish I could tell you what it was, but it would be a major plot spoiler. =o(
Anyway, I just wanted to squee with you all.
Now for the NNWM update. Since this is the tenth day of NNWM, I thought I would give you my stats as they stand now.
11/1 - 1349 words written
11/2 - 4023 words written
11/3 - 1733 words written
11/4 - 493 words written
11/5 - 2014 words written
11/6 - 1309 words written
11/7 - 0 words written
11/8 - 3560 words written
11/9 - 1723 words written
Which leaves me at 16204 total so far this month, or 32.41% of the way to my goal of writing 50K this month. So far I've only worked on Nano, but if I get this first-drafted before the 50K, I'll start something else. I think the important thing to understand with NNWM is that you may not hit your daily goal every day, but you may be able to make it up another day. I just have to stop myself from shooting only to hit the goal, or to make up the lost words. I need to remember to keep writing until the ideas and/or my hands are used up. And it also means that if I haven't hit my goal, I need to stop watching football and get back to work. Yesterday was almost an 800 word day because my average was above 1665, but I kicked myself in the butt and got another 900 or so out.
Or to borrow a phrase from Dorry the fish: Just keep swimmin'. ;o)
How's your writing going so far this month?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I just started writing. I put in spaces to note scene changes, but I didn't put in any chapters. I really didn't even notice it until the other day when I went to see how long my last chapter was and whether it was probably time to put in a new chapter, and I was like thirty pages in. At that point, I just shrugged and went back to writing. I've never done it before, but if working without putting in chapters is getting the job done, I'm down with it.
LOL, right now chapter fifteen is 56 pages long.
I'm usually pretty good about keeping track of my chapters. I even put in bookmarks for each chapter so I can move around my book more easily when I edit. Right now, it's a cluttered mess. It ought to be driving me nuts, but it's not. (Okay, it is a little.)
The theory here, I guess, is that I have some issues farther back in the book, so I might need to move some scenes around. After I get everything where I want it, I'll put the chapters in. Never worked this way before, but hey, if it works, why mess with it?
How do you handle chapters? Do you put them in while you're doing the first draft or later? Do you move things around in your manuscript? How about bookmarks, ever use 'em or is it just anal retentive writer me?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Looking back at yesterday's 'reasons for not writing', you'll notice coming in at #2 is 'my hands hurt...' (yes, other things are listed under #2, too, but those are negligible). This morning my hands are friggin' killing me. I'm guessing the weather plus the typing plus the crocheting has gotten to me this week.
Writing/typing with squonky hands sucks.
And I'm the kind of person who can't take even Aleve without getting dopey. Can't write when I'm dopey. (Or drive or teach, and crocheting - with its repetitive motions - just makes me sleepier.) What's a gimp to do?
Back in 1987, I was diagnosed with bursitis in my knees, and thus began my lifelong love affair with this magic potion. Slap some of that stuff on any aching joint, and the ache would either go away or be dulled enough so I could function. As I grew older, more and more things began to go south. Some days I feel like I could take a bath in Aspercreme. But I reserve the stuff for my hands and my back - two things which are absolutely necessary for any writer. (I've heard Hemingway wrote standing up, but then again, his back was the least of his problems.)
I've tried other stuff. Bengay? Too stinky. Ambesol (w/ capsaisin)? Too painful - that stuff might work, but it burns like a mutherfugger. Flexall? Not as stinky as Bengay and not as effective. I've used heating pads and ice packs (holding a hot cup of coffee helps, but it's not practical for a long term solution).
Anyway, the Aspercreme I rubbed on my hands just before I started this post is working like a charm. The first paragraph up there had to be typed one key at a time, and I'm just about back to normal speed now. Yay. Still a little tightness, but Aspercreme doesn't promise to solve the problem, just relieve the pain of it so I can work again.
So, I guess I'm recommending the stuff to any of you out there who, like me, are burdened with hands that have seen better days. It's not stinky, not sticky, and gets me back to work in under fifteen minutes. (Of course, your mileage my vary. Aspercreme doesn't seem to work for everyone. Go figger.)
Your turn. Any product out there that gets you through the aches and pains of writing? Leave your suggestions in the comments (unless it's illegal, of course).
Thursday, November 6, 2008
9. I have to cook dinner, do laundry, vacuum, dust, mow the lawn... There are more than enough chores to be done, and I can't do any of them while I'm writing... Not that I was really wanting to do them, but they're still there.
8. It's too noisy. I mean, seriously, how can anyone write with the sound of trains and cars, the hum of the grainery, the tweeting of birds, the thumping of someone else's stereo...
7. NCIS is on. No, really. I can't miss an episode of NCIS, even when it's just a rerun on USA. Especially when it's one I've only seen a couple times.
6. I'm too tired. Especially since I stayed up to watch Election Coverage, and then the House marathon, and then... well, you get the drift.
5. The last rejection depressed me too much to write.
4. I can't write until I organize my desk. After all, a cluttered desk is distracting. Right?
3. I'm right in the middle of this book, and I have ten books piled behind it to be read. (Not to mention all those blogs I've been meaning to catch up on.)
2. My hands hurt from typing, my ass hurts from sitting here, and I have headache from staring at the computer screen.
1. It's football season. The Wolverines, the Packers, the Steelers, the Spartans, the 'Noles, the Colts... I bet there's even a game from the '70s on ESPN Classic. I know I haven't seen all of those yet. And of course, after football season there's baseball, and golf, and if I really stretched it, I could be watching hockey or tennis, and there's always poker on somewhere.
So, there are some of my excuses not to write. You'll notice none of them include total annihilation, or even hospitalization. Therefore (I tell myself)...
GET BACK TO WORK!
What are some of your excuses for not writing? We all have them, so fess up.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Really, I shouldn't blame it all on the cat. I didn't get many words out yesterday and she wasn't laying there all day (in fact, the photo was from this morning). We spent the day watching the election coverage and when it was pretty certain what the outcome would be, I switched over and watched part of the House marathon on USA. By ten I was feeling pretty guilty about not writing any words (see? NNWM does have a purpose) so I sat down and worked out the bones of a new wrinkle in the plot. Thus the small, yet important, word count.
I guess what I'm trying to say is no matter the distractions, and no matter the time, you can always make room to get a few words out. If the motivation is there.
And if the cat isn't sitting between you and your keyboard. (Or you and your coffee.)
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
But she's also a brat.
You see, Kira is an insanely picky person when it comes to her catfood. For the first few years of her life she would only eat Maxximum Nutrition in dry food, and Special Kitty (tuna flavored only) for the wet. Not a problem except you can only buy either of those foods at Walmart and the closest one is an hour away. One day, a couple years back, she decided she no longer liked the dry food. She tasted it, spit it out and stared at me as if to say 'what's this crap?' After trying a couple other brands - none of which she would even do more than sniff - she finally ate Purina Cat Chow Indoor Formula. "Great," I thought. They carry that stuff locally, and it's cheaper than the other stuff. And since I no longer had to go to Walmart for the dry stuff, I convinced her to try Fancy Feast for the wet stuff. (Of which, she refuses to eat anything that says grilled or flaked, or that has gravy or chunks. If it says 'FEAST', chances are she'll eat it.)
Everything was just swell. Until last week when I opened a new bag of Purina and she wouldn't even try it. One sniff and she turned her nose up. If looks could kill, I would've been her next meal instead of the stuff in her bowl. So much for that. I tried Friskies. No that either.
This is getting expensive, to say the least.
This morning I called Purina, certain they were to blame. I was sure that for some unknown reason they had changed the formula for that particular food. Ummm... Nope. The gentleman on the other end assured me that their indoor formula hasn't changed since January 2007. It's not them. It's just my stupid cat. He did suggest that maybe the bag had been stored next to something that gave off an aroma my cat wasn't keen on, but short of tracking down which store I bought the bag at and ferreting out what it might have been stored next to, the notion didn't help me. (He was a great customer service rep, btw. He's even sending me a coupon for a free bag of food, which I'm sure Kira won't eat, but it was a nice gesture.)
So, this morning, I'm off to the store again to buy a bag of IAMS. If she doesn't like that, I'm well and truly screwed.
I know, I know... Sooner or later, the cat will eat. She has to, right? But here's the thing. This started last Thursday. Since then, she's eaten less than a handful of dry food (plus two cans of Fancy Feast). She usually eats a cup a day (and a can of Fancy Feast once or twice a week). And I know she's large enough that a few days without eating won't kill her, but she's slowly escalating her plan to drive me nuts as we play this game of wills. Every morning is a new adventure in cat-itude. She's been laying in wait, trying to trip me when I'm carrying human food (THAT she's not picky about at all). This morning she woke me up at 5:30 by jumping on the bed and meowing in my face. Then once I was up, she decided that the best thing to do was to sit on my desk between me and the keyboard, purring loudly, and when I put her back on the floor, she proceeded to pat at my arm until I picked her up again. (Like I said, she's a brat, but she's so damn cute and loveable... ) Last night while I was trying to get some words out, she did the same thing.
In this test of wills, I know I will lose. I'd hold firm, but she's so damn insidious with her attacks. The purring, the tilted head and wide eyes, the gentle pats to get my attention, the snuggling up on my chest and rubbing her face against my chin - as if she really does love me. Pure evil. And now she's even got my husband under her spell. "Isn't there something else you can buy for her that she likes?" he says to me before he leaves for work.
Thus, the trip for a wildly expensive bag of IAMS.
She probably won't like that either.
**UPDATE: And the winner is... PURINA ONE! At least, I think she might like it. She didn't eat much, but then again we interrupted one of her frequent naps to show her the new food. In nap vs. food, nap won.
Monday, November 3, 2008
And as uncomfortable as it is, I'm happy about it.
It's been a long time since I even hit my goal of writing (or doing something else writerly) for an hour every day. Sure, life's been nuts for the past couple months, but that's no excuse. I'm a writer; I should be writing. Well, thanks to November and the little promise I made myself, I am writing again.
As of yesterday, I passed the 10% mark. I don't know if I'll be able to write that much every day, but it's nice to know I have some words in the bank if I have a squirmy day or if I get busy.
Whether it's NaNo or Sven or forging ahead in your own way, how's it going in your world?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Therefore, I am committing myself to writing 50K this month - hopeful that the entirety of those words will be Nano, but allowing myself wiggle room if I get a mental logjam and need to write on another book. Just so I don't add to the confusion of whether I'm part of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to call this venture NNWM.
Heh. Dare to be different. LOL
Anyway, I got started last night and managed to crank out 1349 words on Nano. (And if I'd realized the time was going to change last night, I would stayed up to write more.) That's 318 words short of the expected 1667, but I should be able to make up the difference somewhere along the way.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How about the other big push '70 Days of Sweat'? If both sound too intimidating for you, feel free to NNWM with me. The only rules are to set yourself a writing goal for November, keep track of it, stick to it, and don't worry about whether anyone else is meeting/exceeding their goals. This is an individual event and the only losers are the ones who let themselves down. ;o)
Have a great National Novel Writing Month!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Before I get to the meme, though, there are a few things of note on the blogosphere this morning:
- An agent told me I'm not a great writer! How do I survive? posted by Moonrat over at Editiorial Ass.
- Characters are People, Too by Allison Brennan at Murder She Writes
- Past Perfection by PaperbackWriter
And on to the meme... So here's the deal. I have to write seven facts about myself. I'm guessing it's seven things that aren't generally known, or that I haven't already meme'd about.
1) I pick up other people's accents. If I'm around anyone with an accent for more than a few minutes, I start talking with their accent. It's totally unconscious and I have to force myself to not do it (if I catch myself, which I rarely do). I think it's genetic. My father had the same problem, and once got accused of making fun of someone with an accent (something he would never do) because he started talking like them halfway through the conversation. I think I accidentally offended some Mennonites during my garage sale because of this, but I swear I couldn't help it. Heaven help me if I get a NY agent with a Bronx accent - it could get sticky.
2) I have a complete set of 1957 encyclopedias - purchased by my parents when my mother was pregnant with my oldest brother. Inside are all the four leaf clovers we found as children, along with various other sundry items kept inside their pages as memories. They're the same encyclopedias I had to use as reference material when I was in high school, even though according to them, man never landed on the moon.
3) I have a penchant for naming animals. I called the dog that lived next my office in Michigan Fidget. The cat that lives behind this house is now called Simone (or Simon if I find out she's a he). At our last house our feeder attracted a house finch that was orange (don't ask), and I named him Syracuse. Heck, the last time we were at PetsMart they had a cat up for adoption whose name tag read 'Princess'. I told the cashier they needed to change her name to Pun'kin. She didn't look like a princess. She looked like a Pun'kin because the orange in her fur was the exact color of pumpkin pie filling.
4) When I was in college, I spent hours wandering through the Seventh Street Park Cemetary and often sat on the steps of the Kaufman mausoleum to write letters and papers. It's not that I have any affinity for cemetaries, it was just that it was the quietest place I could find to get away from school and people and just be alone.
5) All of my best friends in high school were Catholic. This wouldn't be strange, except I've never been Catholic. They called me their token heathen.
6) My father died of Wegener's Disease. (Well, technically he died of kidney failure, but the kidneys failed because of Wegener's Disease - better known as Wegener's Granulamatosis.) It's an incredibly rare auto-immune disease that makes your body not see any of its organs as its own - and therefore attacks them as foreign bodies. It got Dad's kidneys first and then went after his lungs before they got it into remission. There is no cure, and no one knows what causes it. They only know it's not contagious, it's not genetic, and they can't find any outside agent that would make it happen. It's is often misdiagnosed, especially at the early stages, and goes untreated until the patient is too far gone for any of the stop-gap treatments to do any good. Dad was misgdiagosed three times before he found a doctor who knew what the hell was wrong with him. Once, they mentioned it as a possible diagnosis on the show House.
7) On a happier note, I once saved a nest of bunnies who were exposed after the lawn mowing crew removed the cardboard box they were living under. None of them were injured, btw. When they were old enough, I took them out to the country to live next to the house where I grew up. I imagine the ghost of my dog is chasing them through the weeds even as I type this.
The bunnies once I put their nest back together.
The bunnies just before I released them.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
For instance, there are several places where the advice seems logical enough to the neophyte, but in practice just hurts your chances. Like the advice to compare your work to other writers in your query letter. Supposedly this is to show that you know the market and you know where your books ought to be placed on a shelf. What they neglect to tell you, though, is that comparing your work to the big names (i.e. King, Grisham, Hemingway, etc.) is almost an auto-NO. It comes off as pretentious (or so I've heard), and since no one writes exactly the same as anyone else, telling an agent you write like Stephen King is just wrong. I guess there's a way to balance who you think you write like without coming off like a pompous ass, but I haven't figured it out yet. So I just leave it off.
Or the advice to write your query letters in a business-like manner, which is at odds with the advice to not write your query letters like a business letter. I think what they're going for here is a level of professionalism in a query letter. Make sure you're not coming off too casual, and also not too stiff. Work on sounding like a professional writer without sounding like a secretary (which was difficult for me, since I was a secretary).
But beyond those pieces of advice (and others like them), there are things they just don't tell you. Or things you just don't want to see right now. Just to give you a few things I've learned:
- Writing the books is not the hard part. I know it may seem like the hard part, especially when it's your first and you're wondering if you'll ever be able to finish it, but it's not. The hard parts begin after you write THE END.
- Learn everything you can learn about the industry BEFORE you send your first query letter. Don't think just because you looked at few sample letters and read a couple of what seemed like spot-on directions for writing query letters that your letter is good. I thought I'd done everything right, and looking back now, I see my first query letters were horrific.
- Don't assume this business is like any other business you've ever experienced before. It's not. The writing industry isn't like anything I've ever encountered, and I've worked in a lot of different professions.
- Don't assume because you heard about some writer who got their book contract bing-bang-boom, and had their book on the shelves lickedy-split, that it's going to happen for you. For the most part, this is a long, slow process. The book you finished today - even if you get an agent tomorrow - won't get a contract for a few months and won't be published for about a year after that.
- Rejections suck, but they are all a part of this process. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who never got a single rejection. The first agent is probably not going to snatch you up, and the first publisher is probably not going to squeal with glee over your masterpiece. If you're lucky the rejection numbers will be low before you get your YES, but don't hold your breath.
- Not everyone is going to like your writing. Get over it. I remember the day when one of my friends first told me she didn't like one of my books. Everyone else liked it, but something about it didn't sit right with her. Stuff happens. She's still my friend and appreciated her honesty. Not that it didn't sting to hear it, but as a writer you need to hear the bad stuff along with the good.
- Most writers and agents and other advice-givers are good people, but there are a few snerts out there. Do your best to avoid them, and if you do run across one, try to ignore them. Of course, they may be disguised as someone who is genuinely trying to help, but if you don't like their advice and go your own way, they'll show themselves for who they are. If it gets to that, try to weather through, and go find yourself some nicer people to talk to.
- As I've said before, most rules can be bent, but you have to know what the rule is before you can bend it, and you have to have a logical reason for bending it even then.
- And as I've also said before, take any advice you receive with a grain of salt (including mine). Use it only as it pertains to your writing and your idea of what your book ought to be. Not everything works for every writer, and none of our processes are exactly the same. No matter what happens, you have to be true to yourself.
Any advice my fellow old-timers have for the neophytes who might be reading along today? What are some things you've learned that you wish you knew back when you started?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
You see, the writing lately just hasn't been coming out. I've started several scenes and a couple of new stories, but I get a few paragraphs in and am overwhelmed by the urge to set fire to it all. I even thought about getting a day job (which is impossible since I homeschool, but the thought was there). I didn't even want to blog.
Sounds like my usual semi-annual thing, right? Kinda, but this felt much worse.
Have you ever seen the movie version of A Chorus Line? There's a song in there called 'Dance Ten, Looks Three' that seemed to sum it all up for me over the weekend. (My subconscious even got it stuck in my head, so I could review the lyrics all day Saturday.) The especially poignant part goes something like this: "Dance 10, Looks 3, and I'm still on unemployment, dancing for my own enjoyment. That ain't it, kid. That ain't it, kid." Rewrite it so it's this business instead of dancing, and you get the gist.
About the same time the song popped into my head, it occurred to me that it's now been four years since I started querying for my first book. Four f'ing years. Still unpublished and, in essence, dancing for my own enjoyment. That really ain't it, kid. I didn't start doing this to end up doing what amounts to little more than mental masturbation. I started writing to be published. And sure, I had the same ol' newbie belief that I would write a book, and selling it would be the easy part. Silly me. Or maybe naive would be more correct. My own naivete astounds even me sometimes, but that's beside the point.
Anyway, the whole thing hit me like a ton of bricks. Four years and five books (five totally finished, six if you count the one I never edited). Three books sent through the query machine wherein my confidence was folded, spindled and mutilated. And I'm just now starting to send the fifth book through. (The third book never went through - not sure why at the moment, but I just never queried for it. But that's a post for another time.) Sure, I'm getting some positive attention on Manhunter, but I'm also getting some negative, and for some reason the negative seems to overshadow the positive. Which is what hit me, knocked me down and kicked sand in my face.
So, what did I do?
I quit. Or rather, I took a mini-vacation. I stepped away from the computer and the notebooks and the pens. I took out my crochet hook, and my skeins of yarn. Friday I just sat on the couch and crocheted until my hands cramped. I didn't think about anything writing related. I watched television and let myself get lost in the repetitive motion of a single chain stitch. By Saturday, I decided I was making another blanket and had a good start - and had that song stuck in my head. Now I did start thinking about writing, and the thoughts weren't good. This is when I thought about chucking the idea of ever getting published, and therefore chucking the idea of ever writing another damn book. Instead, I considered what I would have to do to sell my handiwork, how much each piece would be worth, and whether anyone would want to buy this other product of my creativity (because if I was honest with myself, no one was buying the other products, if you know what I mean). I thought about finding myself a good eight to five job with a real paycheck and forgetting this writing thing.
On Sunday, I figure I was halfway through crocheting the blanket, which was now going to be a gift for someone. (Because setting up an online store to sell crocheted things would mean I would have to crochet some stock ahead of time, and these blankets usually take me weeks to finish.) As I continued to crochet, I started thinking about the actual work again - not all the peripheral stuff, but the actual putting word on paper part. I just let my mind wander over the stories. I thought about all the problems I'm having with Nano, and I saw some ways to fix what's wrong. I wondered where I was going with the story and what to write next, and some key things fell into place. Between strips of color, I picked up the notepad and pen - jotted notes to myself on these issues.
As of yesterday, the blanket is about 80% complete. I have three pages of notes on Nano. The worst of the crap is over (for now) and I think I'm almost ready to get back to work. Hey, I'm blogging, and that's gotta stand for something positive, right?
It may still be Dance Ten, Looks Three, and I'm dancing for my own enjoyment, but for right now, that'll have to do. Quit writing? That ain't it, kid.