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Monday, March 19, 2012

It's not you, it's me.

Dear blog, 
You may see this as a selfish act but someday I hope you will understand. This isn't working for me anymore. I think you must have sensed my lack of commitment, my less than enthusiastic posts. Sure, I tried to fake it. I really wanted this to work out but now is not the time for us. 


To my followers, today may not be the very last post I do but this blog is going to be stopping dependent on my ability to un-sign up for a couple of blogfests. I appreciate all the support, comments (especially loved those comments) and virtual hugs I have gotten along the way. I will also still be randomly checking in and still commenting on your blogs. In keeping with my writing goals, this is the best decision for me to make at this time. 


However, since I am so very anal about such things, I need to be able to take my name off IWSG and the A-Z blogfest. I cringe at the idea of someone blog hopping to my site and finding nothing on topic. So, if I can't get off those lists (anyone know how?  I hate to just comment on the hosts regular blog since that will seem so negative to new people signing up) then I guess I am here until the end of April. But I hope I can because a big part of the hops is to find new blogs and I don't want to offer mine up since I am planning on ending it. As part of my sign off though I want to give a special shout out to a few blogging peeps. I am guessing if you follow my blog,  you are following theirs but just in case. There are lots of people who check out and comment on my blog after I have commented on theirs (don't get me wrong, that is something I think time just forces on a lot of us). However, there are a few who have taken the time to read and comment independent of my actions. They also all post regularly. So, if you are not following these blogs, I strongly urge you to. Sorry for the strange yellow background on the first three, first it sent this to drafts and then it won't let me repaste it, or more likely I just don't know how. 


First, of course, is Rusty Webb at The Blutonian Death Egg He is first because he makes me laugh and because it was his blog that got me going on the blog thing in the first place. He does it right. You won't be disappointed. His published works are always growing. A Dead God's Wrath seems to have gotten the most play so far but there will be many more I am sure.

Then we have Alex Cavanaugh at the blog of similar name. I think he must have clone robots to do all the commenting he does because he is everywhere AND writes books-Check out CassaStar and his latest CassaFire.

Sarah Pearson at Empty, White Pages although she now has the empty crossed out, I am not sure how to do that. She feels like a friend even though we have never met face to face. 

Also,  Andrew Leon at StrangePegs always gives comments and often writes blogs that get me thinking. Has a book out too, The House on the Corner.

Emily King is very good on her regular check-ins. She is a very supportive blogger friend to have.

Lydia Kang at The World is my oyster has lots of great information. She has tons of followers for good reason. You will see why when you visit.

David Powers King is a pretty new follower but not new at blogging or writing. He has a book, Woven, a YA for which he is seeking representation. Plus, I love the picture on his blog. You arrive and know you are in sci-fi/fantasy land.

Let me also throw in Chuck at Apocalypse Now because he gets in there and mixes it up at times as well.

So that is my current state of the union. Hope you all have a wonderful day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I swear I wasn't running with them

It began, as so many accidents do, with a great idea.

Here's a little context before we get to the part where blood is pooling on the ground around my feet. I'm teaching a drama class at my children's school and, as is the case in many small schools, that means in addition to directing the show, I am also in charge of costumes, props, lighting and sets.  This can get pricey so I look for ways to cut costs. So, instead of buying chicken wire to make the frame for a paper mache tree, I decided to recycle the light-up reindeers that stopped working this Christmas. You've seen them. They are made of white wire and have Christmas lights clipped on them. We had three and I figured if I got the Christmas lights off I could reshape the wire. Nice idea, yes. And many of the lights easily snapped right off but then there were a few. Those few were attached by plastic ties, the kind that they strap toys in with. I needed scissors to cut through them but it was hard to get the blade of the scissors underneath the tightly wrapped plastic so I shoved really hard and wham, scissor blades into my index finger. Very warm blood began welling out of the cut at an astonishing rate.

I cupped my one hand over the other to try to catch it but then found myself in a quandary. Since I stood in the garage, I had to get back into the house to do any wound care. Blood was beginning to spill over my palms into large nickel size droplets on the floor. I couldn't grab a dirty rag because well, it was dirty and an open wound. I also didn't want to get blood all over my welcome mat. I'm not saying that was the most rational decision, just giving you my train of thought. In my defense though, I really like that welcome mat and it is textured so there is no way I could have ever known it was truly clean.

So I walk over to the door, blood still occasionally splatting as it goes over my hand. I lean over and kick the door, hoping to draw the attention of my children. The dog comes running, barking, but no one opens the door, so I kick it again. This leaning over and kicking motion causes much more blood to spill on the garage floor, but not on the door mat so I'm still feeling okay. I kick again and again, this is where the blood began pooling around my feet. I start feeling woozy, not because of actual blood loss, just because it looks like a lot of blood loss and it is my blood. My blood is not supposed to be on the floor. Finally, when I'm thinking I am going to have to leave horror film worthy hand prints on that door, my daughter opens up, becomes incredibly solicitous upon seeing the blood and helps me get in without staining the welcome mat.

My husband comes home soon after this and insists I go to the emergency room for stitches. The blood flow has mostly stopped by this time and I have examined the wound. It is a pretty small cut, despite the original blood output so I argue until he says, "if you don't need a stitch, I will run naked through the hospital."

So now it is a win-win for me. Either I really did need a stitch or he has to follow through with that. So, fast forward three hours. I am sitting in the waiting room at the ER, a paper towel wrapped around my swelling finger, with all sorts of scary maladies around me. I tried to make the children promise not to breathe while in the waiting room before making my husband take them home for fear of their contamination. I said I would call him when finished. The blood has mostly stopped at this point and I am feeling like an idiot for being in the ER.

They finally call me backand the doctor asks, "Why is your finger swelling?"

I shrug, not feeling especially medically qualified to answer this. All I know is that it isn't really bleeding, it just feels like I can't bend it and is turning blue. It seems I do not need a stitch after all. I have nicked a blood vessel so she tells the nurse to give me a tetanus shot, clean the wound, bandage it, and splint it for a few days so it won't break open again. She says, "I'm not going to stitch it because your primary risk here is infection and if that happens they will need to get in there." I try not to think that through and make a self-promise to faithfully take my antibiotic.

Then the treatment begins. Since humor is my primary defense mechanism, I am one of those people who cracks jokes (probably very bad ones) when I'm uncomfortable. So this poor nurse had to yuck it up along with me as I joke first about the shot (You any good at giving those? ha, ha) to the cleaning (wow, that really hurts, said with a big smile on my face) and finally the putting on of the splint which is painful enough to silence me. Hey, maybe that was why he squeezed it so hard.

So, with splinted finger, I escape to the outside, away from the germs, and call my husband to pick me up.  He cruises into the lot and I climb in. As he drives away, I remember I didn't get a stitch and his part of the bargain but he refuses to turn around. Oh well, I probably would have had to bail him out of jail and since my writing finger was in a splint it would be hard to sign the bail bond papers. Maybe it all worked out for the best. Monday and Wednesday posts had already been written thank goodness because I can just type again today.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pride goeth before-well you know

Could you tell I was feeling pretty good about myself on that last blog? The not eating out thing was really working out, right? In a hypocritical twist of fate, on the same day I wrote that, we went out to dinner that night. I can justify it. I can always justify it. We went to see a play with the kids and my sister's family. I'd lost track of time before leaving so hadn't fed the children, a rather important part of parenting. So they noshed their way through The Music Man on popcorn but still needed dinner. Since that show ran over three hours when my sister said they were going to Ihop to eat and didn't we want to go, I said yes. After all, it would be quicker than going all the way home and fixing something, right? 

There were naggings and misgivings as I said it, but I wanted it. Like that next glass of wine when you've already got the happy feeling going. You know it isn't really a good idea but after a feeble protest you allow the host to refill the glass and you drink it. In the same way, I polled the rest of the family, tempting them into it as well. Great celebrations ensued that we were going to be eating out, not sure what that says about my cooking but that isn't the point. 

It wasn't that I didn't enjoy my Ihop meal. Oh, I did. The cheesy omelet with a side of crisp hashbrowns, lightly salted made my tastebuds smile. BUT, since it was already late, my 7 year old son burst into tears when he thought there was not a kids menu to color. There was, but the tears had already happened by the time the server brought it. I knew he was tired, we all knew. After all the first bout of tears had come in the theatre lobby when I threw away his empty water bottle. He cried because I wouldn't let him fish the water bottle back out of the trash. He said he was pretending it was his bad guy whacker. While I can understand needing a weapon if a bad guy shows up, not sure that a small plastic water bottle is going to be the key to my survival. I digress. 

So, at the restaurant, first we had the tears, then it took about 20-30 min before we actually got our food. So in the end, I think we would have been better off just heading on home and eating a pop tart or something. And I am not even going to get on the scale today.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

A little unexpected benefit

The first bit of good news is that no one has gone into DT's. Some of you may recall that my family has committed to not eating out in March (and half of last month) to save money for our airfare to D.C. for spring break. I always knew we spent a lot on eating out but it has amazed me how much money we have saved so far. Which is fortunate since the ticket purchases are already on the credit card waiting to be paid off. Lest you think I'm too much of a gambler, we do have some savings but I like to keep those there as savings as opposed to spendings.

Part of me feared I would find my children rocking in the fetal position while whimpering for happy meals. I truly thought this task would be akin to a short tour through hell. And the first couple of weeks felt like it, for me. I had gotten pretty used to swinging by the big arches or a similar venue on the way home from the kids sport practices or drama classes. So my work load has increased in terms of grocery list planning, cooking, and dishes.

The kids haven't been too bad. They have mentioned it a few times but when reminded about the plane trip they move on. But in some ways I have actually saved time. I hadn't realized how long those short detours to the drive through and waiting in line took. Instead, I drive right home and throw some chicken nuggets in the oven and can do stuff while I'm waiting for them to get ready, like comment on a blog. Hey, I didn't say I was serving them all healthy food. Although, I have done a lot more grilling in this process too.

So I stepped on the scale this morning (a bit of self-flagellation that I engage in on a semi-regular basis) and discovered I have lost five pounds.  So what I am trying to figure out is how to keep this going without revolt after we get back from our national capital visit.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Not sure if I'm relaxed or lazy

It's not quite 12 on a Sunday morning and I am feeling quite hedonistic. That might have meant something truly worth an eyebrow raise when I was in my 20's. Today, it means I skipped church and slept until 9 (10 if you count the time change but I hadn't adjusted my clock yet). My husband, in an act worthy of some sort of medal, got up and fulfilled out greeters duty at church while I lolled about with soft sheets pulled up to my shin. When I did rise, I lingered at the breakfast table reading a Whole Living magazine which made me feel healthy without having to actually commit to doing anything. The cats and dog both lay curled in sunspots near me while outside the breakfast window, birds nibbled from the bird feeder. But the greatest thing about the morning is it allowed me time to think and plan.

So many of my days are about getting the next thing done. They start with getting up, showering, eating, doing dishes, taking the kids to school, and then you can fill in a variety of tasks and obligations after that in any variety of mix and match patterns. The only plan is survival which means grocery shopping comes above say blogging or writing because one must feed their children or protective services with take a dim view. Not to mention those little ones are persistent about their hunger and thirst. Which is, no doubt, why they have survived longer than most of the plants I've owned.

Two weeks ago I decided I would try to post a blog twice a week, Monday and Wed and I have done that. It worked out well that IWSG fell on a Wed this time. I do think it is important to have some kind of consistency but this blog was just cause I was feeling good. Hope you all have a great lazy day too. Who knows what the rest of the day is going to look like but right now it feels pretty good.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

IWSG-March-Holes

Insecure Writers Support Group conceived and birthed by Alex J Cavanaugh- More about it or sign up here.

Insecurity is all about holes. Sometimes life sends shotgun blasts through our very person. Those blasts could come from an abusive or addicted parent. They could come from being bullied, extreme poverty, or the loss of a parent (think Disney brothers). Or it could just be the script that you learned, for whatever reason, early on that you keep going back to because it is a memorized part and familiarity is much safer than new, uncharted waters. Most ultra successful writers have some big pasts to overcome.

Cognitive behavioral therapy research has shown us that our emotions always follow thoughts so when we are feeling insecure or sad, it can be effective to follow back the line of thoughts to figure out how we got there. This is true for happy too but most of us don't give a flip where that is coming from as long as the smiles keep coming. When I was treating people for depression and using this technique I would have them journal about what they were thinking when they felt a particular way. Most of the time if this was done consistently we would find those scripts in there, their go to positions in life. Once you are aware of them then it is possible to put some replacement thoughts there instead. There is a whole list of common thinking errors, my favorite has always been all or nothing thinking, also called Black and White. The key words for this are Always, Never, No one, Everyone. Rarely is any sentence that contains those words completely correct when applied to the imperfect study of people.

For instance, I know I have said, "No one will ever want to read this crap," as I crumple or delete depending on my medium but that isn't true. I am fortunate enough to have plenty of people who want to read my stuff. That being said, a more truthful statement would be "I don't like this enough to want someone else to read it." By changing that statement I am taking control of my universe as opposed to putting the locus of control outside of myself. It may sound simplistic but sometimes just correcting how you talk to yourself can make a huge difference in how you feel. So next time you are feeling like you just can't complete one more sentence remember to trace back those thoughts and take control. Now, if I can just follow my own well researched advice I'd be doing good.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Defying Gravity

Yesterday, my family traveled to see the musical production of Wicked in Birmingham, Alabama. I'd seen the show on Broadway in December and had been impressed. Then, I discovered the touring company was performing a couple of hours away from where I live so I got tickets for the family and we went. We'd been listening to the soundtrack since December so we all knew the songs but this was no Oklahoma or Sound of Music (although I do love both those shows).  The second time around this show blew me away, Again. I don't know if it was that much better than the first or if there are so many layers you can't grasp them all the first time. This was a third viewing for  my sister and she said it was the best yet for her.

There is a moment in the song Defying Gravity where the "wicked" witch is above you singing and I felt sobs building in my chest. Not because I was so sad or so happy, just because the moment felt so powerful. this is the trailer for the show set to that song. I encourage you to get to see it if you get a chance, maybe hock your gradmother or something.

The other thing of huge note about this show is it is the ruler of fractured fairy tales. The author of this production was genius. I say of the production because I HATED the book. In fact, I didn't even finish it. I wouldn't have seen the show except my sister assured me it was different. I'm sure many of the ideas must have come from the book but it was very dark. The stage show still had some elements of the darkness but I didn't come away from the show feeling like I needed to wash like I did the book. But to give the author, Gregory MaGuire, his props, the ability to create any strong feeling in a reader is a gift. Although we all hope that feeling doesn't make our readers put down the book. 

Finally, just a thought, I think anyone out there who reaches for and obtains even part of their dream whether that be writing, acting, singing, or lawyering is defying gravity. I hope each of us gets that moment when our feet are no longer touching the floor because we have risen about what the practicalities of this world tell us we can do. Now, I'm going to go teach a drama class to see if I can give anyone else a leg up.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Enjoy your extra day

Have you ever wished you had more time? It occurred to me this morning that since this is the day that makes leap year, well leap, anything we do today is extra. So, if you have been feeling stressed, take a deep breath in your nose and breathe out your mouth. Because the planners of our calender have given you an extra day today to get things done. We have not had this day for the past three years. So time today is special. I know I don't have the power to make this a holiday but it seems like we ought to mark Leap Day in some way so that in four years, we can look back and say, "Remember when we did..." Or if you enjoy making traditions for your family, today might be a good time to do a new one. At that leap year rate, a child born a couple of years into the cycle would only have about four or five of them with their family of origin before moving out and taking the celebration with them.

I'm not sure exactly how I am going to accomplish this. I believe I am going to finish my edits on a short story that I have been putting off since I have all this extra time this year. Will I feel more productive at the end of the year with the extra time I've had today? Probably not, because as humans we tend to look at what we didn't get done instead of what we did. I wonder if a study were done, are leap years slightly more productive years? Or do people just want to go take a nap? I would love to hear if anyone has anything that they are planning to do special. Make it big, after all, you don't have to duplicate it for another four years. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Catch Fire Blog Party


Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of CassaFire by Alex J. Cavanaugh! The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of the first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blog (copies of CassaFire, CassaStar, tote bag, mug, and bookmarks) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour. See Alex’s site for details: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/

CassaFire
by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available today!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pages
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

You can visit the author’s site at http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/







Monday, February 27, 2012

Is it an award if you don't know about it?

Critters Writers Workshop is a great place to get feedback about your stories from strangers for the cost of critiquing other people's stuff. I have only been on the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror portion so can't speak to the rest but the SF, F,H one is great. The feedback I've gotten off there for the most part has been solid.

They also send out a Woo Hoo's list weekly which tells which crittered stories were published and where. So, it is also a good source for potential publication sites. But it does take up some time. So, I signed up in 2007, critiqued and submitted some stories and then took a break. While on there, one critiquer sent me multiple emails about how much he liked my stuff and that he was kicking around an idea about how to get new writers more exposure. I said that would be fine and didn't think much more about it.

In the last couple of months, I signed up for a second time at Critters Writers Workshop to get feedback on the first speculative fiction piece I've done in a few years. However, since I can't seem to get to (read last phrase as procrastination) the revisions suggested by my writer's group, I have been only on the giving end of critiques. I almost quit last month.

Instead, I sent in the only horror piece I've ever done just to see what I'd get. I don't love the piece and probably won't submit it anywhere but had it gotten rave reviews I might have. Some came in hot, some cold, most lukewarm so I probably won't spend my time on that one. However, one of the first critiques came from Carl Slaughter, that critiquer I mentioned above from my first stint, and he asked at the end of his critique whatever happened to my story "The Blair Special."

I have to admit, the idea that someone would remember my story for five years put me on quite a high. Then, in emails, he told me about this Showcase for New Writers Award. He started this award and seems to do most of his reading on the online Writer's Workshop Critters. Although there may be other sources since, as my research showed, he did do a call for submissions for it back in 2010. You may wonder why I would research this. Well, it seems, I won it.

I didn’t realize this until I was scanning this winners site and saw my name (slightly misspelled) and my story title listed. So yes, my short story "The Blair Special" won the Science Fiction Showcase Award for new writers at http://critters.org/showcase_award/ in 2007. Do the math, that was five years ago. I don't know that the course of my life would have been altered by this information but I still would have liked to have it. I'm not sure how much it means other than someone who reads a lot of short stories in Science Fiction and Fantasy really, really, liked mine. I know it doesn't mean any money, nor does it mean publication, but it still was enough for me to go brag to my husband at dinner and to post here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ah, the second child

Last week at my son's school Valentine's party, the local minor league baseball team mascot joined us. Since Louie, the mascot, is in a huge costume he is a bit lumbering and has a handler to move him around. For the group picture, my son squeezed in just behind Louie's left arm and ended up getting clocked in the nose when Louie turned to go.

After many tears, assessing the damage, and finding no blood, I pronounced him fine. Then, a couple of days ago, he grimaced while eating. I looked closer. His left front tooth had crossed behind his right one giving him a rather bucktooth appearance.

"Sweetie, did you get hit in the face?" I asked him, pulling him into my lap.

"When Louie hit my nose, it also hit my front teeth," he said.

"Have you already lost those teeth?" I asked him while gently probing. Both of the front teeth were very loose.

"Yes," he says. I start wondering what happens when permanent teeth get knocked crooked. It had been almost a week since it happened.

He went to move them around and I yelled, "Don't touch them."

Feeling much shame, I called the dentist to set up an emergency appointment. Making the appointment I had to admit, "Yes, it was last week. Yes, they are his permanent teeth."

So we go today. I'm sitting anxiously in the corner when the dentist walks in. Is my son going to have to have braces now? Or will they put those silver caps right on his front? My son opens his mouth. The dentist takes one look and says,"Those are his baby teeth."

My response, "Are you sure?"

The dentist shoots me a look, feeling the sting of my question and then says, "Yes, I am sure but we'll take x-rays just in case." He, no doubt, is wanting to march me in his office and show me his diploma. After the x-ray confirmation, he says, "I can pull them but you might as well just let them come out on their own. I can't even see any root left."

"Well, I'm relieved and embarrassed," I say to him. "I do apologize."

"Just be relieved," he says and we leave.

But instead of feeling like less of a negligent mom it occurred to me, how could I not know he hadn't yet lost his front teeth? With my oldest it was like a federal holiday. Although, I am quite relieved that he does not have to have any major work, still feel a bit bad. When questioned about saying he'd already lost the teeth, he said he was talking about the tooth beside it, which he has lost. At least, I knew he had lost some teeth in the front. Right?  I'm guessing he is going to make good from the tooth fairy when those loose, wiggly teeth do come out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Plan

Before I get into anything else, I need to know if my blog makes you do word verification to post? Whether it does or not, does anyone know how to turn this off? A friend of mine asked the question and I just stared blankly. I am sure I must have seen that setting at some point in setting up this blog but have no idea where to look now. What I have gleaned from reading the blogs of others is that it is greatly annoying and some people won't even comment on your blog if you have it enabled.

Okay, on to my planned blog. As I mentioned last week, I am trying to figure out a system for revisions and this is the new plan. A novelist friend and I have agreed to hold each other to task in a different way than a beta reader. We are going to pass our chapters back and forth until they are ready to go out. What that means is even if I don't have a system, an outside monitor is forcing me to actually revise. I did find some great suggestions for revision at Melissa Sugar's blog here .

My friend and I tried to figure out what consequence there would be if we didn't turn in our pages on time. Not that either of us doesn't want to write but we all know how easy it is to let other things crowd in. The best thing we could come up with is that if we don't, whoever doesn't has to come up with the consequence. What a way to avoid, huh?

So, still seeking any suggestions on a revision system that doesn't make you tear out your hair. I appreciate those I've gotten so far. Also any ideas on consequences, not that I'm planning to not do my stuff but just in case. I'd read somewhere about two writers (maybe Anne Lamont) who had to donate to the other's favorite charity if they didn't get their work done.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Writer's group

It is that time of the month. No, not that time, writer's group. I drove my hour and a half last night to get to the group. Since moving here, I have often thought I needed to find a group closer to me but I'm not willing to let this one go. Beyond the food and wine, which are usually pretty impressive, I value these people's opinions and  advice. There was a bit of a snafu with the food which comes when being hosted by a brilliant trauma surgeon who when she gets called in for surgery can't always make the time to cook. Imagine that. If you want to know her take on dinner was last night you can find it here . If  she hasn't posted yet, you'll still get something funny.

We hit on a lot of topics including man-scaping, erotica, anthologies,and valentine's day. The last being the topic of our writing exercise. We also talked about our current WIP and I posed the question. Is there an editing book that takes you step by step through the editing and revision process?

I have read The First Five Pages, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and multiple treatise on plot and structure but still haven't really found a method that works for me. One suggestion was a book called Getting The Words Right which I plan to purchase, but anyone else have any suggestions? I find when I am looking at revising a novel, I get bogged down by all there is to do. In general, my plots are pretty strong but I need a framework in which to polish. Something that says step one-do this, step two-do this, and don't get distracted by step five while in process of doing step one or you will never get the first step done. Because, as you may have guessed, the latter is what normally happens. Then I get frustrated and eventually put it down in favor of writing something new. Which would be fine if I ever came back to it but that has not been my tendency. So, any book suggestions? Or are there any other ADD challenged writers out there that have found a system that works for them? Do you print it and put it in a binder? Do you do it all on computer? Do tell folks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Service and a smile

While I can't exactly characterize this blog, I can say this has not ever been a food blog. So, of course, today I am going to talk about food and then relate it to writing. Since yesterday was the big eat out day of the year, or one of them since I think Mother's Day takes the top slot, we felt we should do the obligatory thing. Also, we just came back from out of town and neither of us wanted to go to the grocery store. Unable to procure a baby-sitter, we had the seven and ten-year-old in tow. Our first two restaurant choices were already full and I began to have nightmareish visions of McDonalds on Valentines. Then, I spied a possibility, right across from our local theatre where my son is taking a class.

The restaurant sits right on the street with a red awning and has Christmas type lights all around the top. It is called Marco's Italian Bistro . When we entered and asked if they had a table the host smiled, looked through his book and said, "I can find you a spot." I don't know whether they were booked or had tons of tables, either way, he started out by making us feel special. Then, due to valentine's day, he handed me a long-stemmed red rose that smelled wonderful. I was already liking the place.

We got a high top table and I ordered the house Malbec. I know nothing about wine other than I like some kinds and not others but have yet to really educate myself on why. In this case, they did a great job of choosing their house wine because it was smooth and very tasty. My husband and son both got the lemonade which they liked and my daughter, ever the epicurean, got her usual water.

Our two main entrees came off the chef's list for the day and since it was Valentine's, they came with a glass of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Jeff had chicken breast with three cheeses. I usually find most chicken breast that is not breaded rather bland but that was not the case here. It had that perfect marriage between taste and texture. I think maybe I might order that when we go back. I say maybe, because my order of pan fried tilapia on a bed of wild rice was fantastic too. I am wondering what else this chef can do. They served us mango italian ice between our bread and our main course as a palate cleanser. At no point was anyone's glass left empty. Our server lingered and conversed just enough to make us feel heard but not intruded upon. When asked, he had suggestions and tips. All in all, a wonderful experience. How does this relate to writing?

To begin, we had the outside presentation. I know a cover won't make me buy a book but it certainly has kept me from picking some up to even peruse. Then, we have the first impression, in this case, a smile and a rose, in a book, the first paragraph, how does it engage my senses?  Next, does it deliver what it promises with some palate cleansers in the middle to wake me up? The meal last night was a well crafted story in a book I will certainly want to read again. I hope to be able to give my reader that experience without the calories.
 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Public Library not for general public anymore

I think I posted last year how shocked I was when we moved here and went to the public library and saw there was a charge for new releases. Coming from a relatively healthy library system, ( I am sipping hot chocolate now from the mug I won in the summer adult reading program), it saddened me that access to all books was no longer equal.

It wasn't that I couldn't plunk down the five dollars or whatever it was for that new release, it was the idea that someone might not be able to. I imagined that struggling family walking into the library hoping to find the latest release from their favorite author and finding instead that they would have to wait until it moved out of new releases. They also charged for movie rentals which didn't really bother me but the book thing did. It seems this was only a precursor to what I could expect.

This year, the local branch of our library has been sold to the city of Collegedale. Since I am a mile beyond the boundaries of this city and do not pay their taxes, my family is now required to purchase the rights to the library for $85 or individually for $60. I went to a different branch still owned by the city of Chattanooga and discovered that since I live in the county, I also would have to pay $60 there.

This is my delimma. I can buy a lot of books using $60 at used books stores and for my e-reader but I hate that libraries must be struggling so much in order to have to do this. So I wonder if, as an author, I ought to buy that membership even though I won't use it that much AND will have to pay overdue fees because I am always late.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Memory Lapse

I wrote a story many years ago called MemoryMax (well I started it anyway, never actually finished it). Anyhow, the premise (not based on anything remotely scientific) was that if you could clear your brain of some unneeded stuff like old song lyrics, last week's grocery list, that kind of thing, you'd be a faster learner and sharper thinking. Of course, in the story, something gets downloaded from a soldier that shouldn't which leads to many chases and lots of violence but I digress. Today, that story popped into my mind when my daughter walked into the kitchen and said, "Mom, why is the car running in the garage?"

Excellent question that my girl had. It seems in my rush to load my arms with backpacks, my purse, papers, carryout containers, and making sure the children got into the house to start their homework, I forgot to turn off my car. It hadn't been running that long but even so, I felt more than a little ditzy at that moment. I have an enormous calender on my wall, all my appointments and my family's are programmed into my phone, and I have a written list of to-dos. It seems I forgot to add, Turn OFF  the car to the list. But I didn't feel quite so bad when I shared this with a friend of mine who said she came out of the bank on one occasion, searching frantically for her keys in her purse, only to discover she'd left the car running the whole time she'd been inside. So I'm revisiting my memory max idea, at least let me get rid of those Wham lyrics.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stupid Pineapple-A cautionary tale

Today's post is on the topic of Stupid Pineapple, a blogfest, details at the link. You can still enter as long as you have an entry by midnight tonight.

Fifteen years ago, I was 25, in graduate school, and recovering from a painful breaking-off of a three year relationship. We had irreconcilable beliefs. I believed in monogamy and, despite statements to the contrary, he did not. There really was no meeting in the middle. Spring Break loomed with no real plans. I certainly didn't want to go home.

When three friends invited me on a cruise it seemed like a great idea. We were fit, wore bikinis, and liked to sit around the pools. So we had plenty of company, primarily a group of about seven guys from Boston who were obsessed with the movie Goodfellas. They were quite taken with my name, as the girlfriend of the main character in that movie is also named Nancy, so would call it out with great glee whenever I walked into a room, or onto the dance floor in a Cheers like manner.

I resisted most advances until Cozymel. I don't know how many of you have been to Cozymel, Mexico but it is beautiful and has been molded for tourists. My three friends and I spent most of our day there, baking on the beach, scrumptious strawberry daiquiris served in hollowed out pineapples with an umbrella and a straw stuck in the top, delivered by a cabana boy. They were, to date, the best daiquiris I have ever had, cold, sweet and tart, almost tingling on your tongue. Given my diminutive size at the time (5'2" about 110), drinking four to seven of them (not really sure of the count) may not have been my best choice.

My memory of catching some kind of a horse drawn conveyance back to the cruise ship is hazy. I am certain that those Boston boys joined us before we got there though. While details would be salacious, I will not go into them here. What I will say is I got a couple of things out of that night. The first being the herpes simplex I that showed up on my lip right after the cruise. The second, a hangover that kept me off the booze for about six months.

So each time one of those beauties pops up on my face. Or my husband's, since I inadvertently shared my gift with him in our first year of marriage, I remember those daiquiris and that sweet, tart taste. They tempted and seduced me with the power of that yellow fruit. So, I say to you all, "Beware the Stupid Pineapple."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Party foul

Short blog today, but it has come to my attention that at least one blog I thought I was following, I don't seem to be. My apologies to Thinking the Lions . Of course, it has just occured to me that maybe you can un-follow a follower like unfriending on fb? If so, suck it Briane :). Kidding, he always has funny comments so I hate I've not been getting the updates on his blog. Which leads me to ask if there is anyone else who is following this blog who has not been followed in turn? If so, it is a grievious error on my part that I would like to rectify. If you would rather not comment here, my email is nancygraveswahler@gmail.com and I will immediately raise the number of followers you have by 1. Okay, so it won't exactly make or break you but still I'd like to know when you have new stuff up.

Tomorrow, I will write on stupid pinapples or just a singular stupid pineapple, I haven't decided. In fact, I have no idea what I am going to write. It is a blogfest coming straight from the mind of Thinking the Lions. The scoring's a bit complicated but basically write about that topic and I think you are covered. If you too would like to jump aboard, and maybe win a prize get the details here. You may have noticed I have finally figured out how to do the link thing. Thank you to all who instructed this technologically dimwitted individual. Anyhow, until tomorrow I leave you with a thought- Stupid Pineapple.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feb 1st-IWSG- Soul Surfer or Soul Sucker

  Insecure Writers Support Group conceived and birthed by Alex J Cavanaugh- More about it or sign up here.

Most of us have probably read a short story or novel at some time and after we've finished thought, 'well that's an hour (or two or day) that I'm not going to get back.' I don't know how many of you have seen Soul Surfer (yea, the one about the girl where the shark bites off her arm). We watched it for our family movie the other night. I think I always pay a bit more attention when I know something is based on a true story. Which is ironic since I write fiction. But it does make you wonder which parts are true and which things are embellished or just left out. We all will have our different opinions that may change with age. For instance, my son who is 7 had a hard time believing she really gave her surf boards away to a couple of kids asking for autographs.

As for me, my skepticism came with the presentation that she didn't lash out at anyone. We're talking a teenager here who loses her arm. They show a couple of scenes where she is sad, have a story line where she almost gives up but no anger, at least no Captain Dan on the ship screaming with God moment. What she does have is passion for her sport. The story left me feeling, as it was intended to, inspired, awed, and wanting to feel like I could do the same thing. Except that I've never stood on a surf board in my life so figuratively, people, figuratively.

Anyhow, as so many things do, it left me thinking about my writing. Mostly, when I'm writing, I'm just thinking about entertaining. I want to be able to sweep someone into a story and have them want to stay until they find out how the story ends. I don't think much about inspiring people. Perhaps this has something to do with being a pantser, in that I don't really know where the story is going until it is over. But rarely, when I read back through, do I think 'Yes, someone reading this will come away a better person for it.' So does that reduce me to a hack horror film writer who only wants a reaction? No offense intended for those writers since they are not the ones writing about insecurity on their blogs. Unless, of course, I've not visited that one yet.

So I am sitting with myself and wondering, what am I trying to do with these hours I spend writing, editing, and submitting? I hope some of the things I've written make people think. I read a book about creating short stories and one of the pieces of advice it gave was to write down on index cards issues that you are passionate about. It suggested that all of your stories should contain one of those issues in some way. So, am I selling myself or readers short if I write a fluff piece? I guess in the end, my questions are, what if I just want to give someone a bit of escapism? Does that make me shallow? I already know my writing is not such as to become a literary great so am I being lazy to not push for that or is it good to know your limits?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The defeat of The Red Skull

So here they are. The pictures finally posted from the Captain America birthday party. As you can see The Red Skull got the worst of things. I don't usually post pics of family but as the little one is cleverly in superhero gear I felt his secret identity was safe. My favorite is definately the one where he has his foot on Red Skull's chest. I have to adore my husband for being willing to put on all that red make-up. We actually purchased a Red Skull mask but, as he is a brain tumor survivor, my husband found the mask reminded  him too much of when he had his head bolted down to a table for proton radiation. So we went to plan B. I think it worked rather well. Certainly well enough to  please our now 7 year old.                                                          
Notice the detail, if you can, that The Red Skull  has his tongue sticking out in his death scene.   













And then here I am as Nick Fury, fearless leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. with my Captain America by my side. Yes, I did spray my hair black.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things Pondered

I was on facebook yesterday and found a link to a blog entry titled "Don't Carpe Diem," http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/dont-carpe-diem_b_1206346.html Anyhow, the gist of it was, that older people always try to tell you to enjoy every moment of parenting and that is ridiculous. That there are a lot of moments that actually blow hard about trying to raise the little ones. She said it much more eloquently as you can read for yourself. But the thing that hit me was when she wrote that she didn't think people enjoyed parenting so much as they enjoyed having parented.

As I was nodding along, it led me to think about writing (as so many things do). Do I actually love to write or do I just enjoy having written? It certainly isn't nearly as difficult to get me to sit down on the couch to watch a movie as it is to get myself to sit in this chair and do some real writing. Then again, there are moments when I am in the groove, fingers flying on the keyboard, and feeling almost high on ideas. So much so that I snarl against interruptions like a junkie coming down from a fix. So I'm not sure.

I know I don't enjoy exercising but I am always glad when I have exercised. Are we a community of folks that only enjoy things after they are finished? Sometimes, in the midst of troubles, I'm already imagining how I am going to tell the story to my friends later. Of course, in those daydreams everyone always laughs uproariously at the story which may or may not happen when I actually tell it. But do you think we have become such an instant culture that when people say, "stop and smell the roses,"  we want to say," Yea, I already did."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ah!!! the birthday party machine has gobbled away my life

Sometimes a creative mind is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. I don't mean I've chopped off my ear or that I've starting lolling around in the gutter, drunk, cursing the vagarities of life. This is what I mean. I had my son's 7th birthday party all planned.  I'd already rented a video game trailer for his party. I didn't think anything could beat two hours of gaming, linked with up to 16 of his friends and family, without me nagging that he was going to rot his brain. 

He'd added that he wanted to be Captain America. Since that had been his halloween costume I was all," Sure, and we'll have the boys dress up too." At seven, he wants an all boy party because girls, except me and his sister, are only good to be chased by at recess. No big deal, party planned.

Until last week, as he sat at the table crunching his cereal and he asked, "Mom, what kind of missions are we going to have at my party?"

"Missions?" I asked.

"yeah," he began to play with his always present action figure at the table. "Captain America always fights Red Skull."

"I, I, um, I don't know."

Then the grand plan began to form. First I envisioned villians in the woods to fight on the way to the video game trailer that would park in the cul-de-sac because it is a semi. Then, I decided we needed a hero room and have spent days hanging superhero pictures, streamers, and a secret entrance to the room. The villians will burst into the hero room and try to take the cake. Then they will run away defeated. Or so the boys think.

But wait, before that, they can come in on an obstacle course through the garage, manned by a giant blow up spider they have to run underneath. So I spent the next few days clearing out the garage and beginning to construct this entrance which includes jumping rocks across a faux lake, climbing, crawling, and shooting bad guys with nerf guns. But wait, maybe I can have his teacher (he is in 1st grade so loves his teacher) come and she will be kidnapped and have to be saved. So I asked her and she is a maybe. The presents being snatched are the back-up.

 He has requested I be Nick Fury. I guess my sexy Wonder Woman days are over (she is my go to superhero costume because I loved her as a little girl) and mannish I will become. So for today, I will don my father's old colonial uniform in the closet and procure an eye patch at Party City. Jeff, (my husband) will smear red make-up on his face and hair. He balked at the bald cap I tried to put on him last night. And we will welcome a whole passel of superheros. Now, if I can only get the house clean. Oh well, by tomorrow it will all be over. Guess how much writing has been done? If you said, none, you would be correct.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Warrior

In this case, I refer to the movie not to myself. Finally, coralled my honey into watching it and as expected, loved it. Taking jiu jitsu really changes how you watch an MMA fight, even staged ones like in the movie. Instead of noticing the damage done, I now see the positional advantages and probably sounded very annoying to my husband as I called out the names of various techniques. One of the guys at the Academy called it kinetic chess. I guess it would definately be battle chess but the components of using strategy to defeat the opponent are the same. But I have barely started studying that. I never did like that "I am the Warrior" song in the '80's but apparently not liking a song does not keep it from running laps around your head when a movie has a similar title.

On the personal warrior front, the karate black belt test dreams continue to come. Last night, I dreamt that it was my test and for some reason I was wearing all of my mother's jewelry. I was so angry with myself because one, I didn't want to break her things (she died this year) and two because I knew better than to wear things that could get me choked. I guess boiled down, it was the classic unprepared nightmare.

I think one of the downsides to being a therapist (especially one not currently practicing) is always wanting to analyze myself. Sometimes I'd like to wake up from a dream and say, "Wow, that was weird," and then move on. Of course, in my dojo this is one of the ways they mess with your mind. Because I will never know when my test is going to be so I have to assume anytime I go to the dojo that could be the day. But not today so I am off to bed, hopefully to a dreamless sleep. Tomorrow, I may fight against my laziness and actually get some writing done.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insecurity check-in

Yep, mine's still there. As most of you know, today is the day for letting all those fears hang out. Brought to you courtesy of Alex Cavenaugh's
                                      First Wed of Every Month
I wrote myself a note, this morning, that I needed to do this blog. So now, this evening, I am finally writing it. Now, don't think I don't know that you can write blogs ahead of time and then post them. But I always feel like I'm cheating if I do that. Please know for any of you that plan out your blogs, I don't think YOU are cheating, the rule only applies to me. Because it might make my life easier, it must be wrong on some level. Which leads me to my trembling knees vent for this month.

I am too disorganized to ever be able to make a go of a writing career. One of my friends came over recently and looked around my house at the bins, shelving, and hooks on the wall and said,"Don't buy any more things to organize with because you don't use them." She is correct and not mean like the comment makes her sound.

I have, in my life, attempted multiple systems that I was certain would lead me to a life of tranquility, the type of peace that can only occur when your setting is not the- move some stuff around so I can get to the keyboard- chaotic one. I have attempted to fly with Flylady and bought agendas, and calenders, and all sorts of electronic devices.

Each of these things work for a little while but then, once the newness wears off, I revert. Writing doesn't take tons of effort after I get started but finishing and editing do. I could produce multiple rough drafts every week if I never had to fix them. Which is the place I find myself now. I have probably 15-20 short stories, a few novelettes, and at least two novels that just aren't publish ready. (Publish ready HA!, one of the novels is split into two parts that need to be somehow combined). Then, there are the new story ideas weaving down the boulevard. I think somewhere deep down I believe the next story I truly love will inspire me to do the work necessary to make it a sale. That being said, I have truly loved almost all of these stories when I wrote them with the exception of one horror one that disturbed even me so I was happy to leave that behind.

So, do I go back and edit? Or do I move forward with new stories? At what point do I stop and say enough to the dancing muse and focus on fixing the ones already on the hard drive?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Behind before I even begin

Welcome to the New Year!! Hope you all have grand ambitions that will be met in duplicate. At this point, I will be doing good if I can get showered and have my make-up on each day. My apologies to you faithful for not posting or commenting more often. The best of intentions and blah, blah, blah. I haven't even got a plan in place. I can say I have been writing, just not on here. Looking forward to catching up with everyone in the new year. I'm thinking this has got to be a better year for me than the last.