Monday, August 16, 2010

Things that happen

Well, it happened again. I got a bright shiny idea. And now, even though I had thought I would be taking a break from writing, I find myself trying to sneak in time where I don't really have any left. Oh, the Shiny New Idea curse.

This one is a complete departure from everything I have ever even considered doing before. It has apocalyptic/post apocalyptic themes, a little bit of alternate history, as well as some fantasy/sci-fi elements. And it's the first idea that's really going to need a lot of research before I even start to write. (How much research do you really need for a fairy tale retelling, after all?) I have just enough background with the subject matter to get myself into terrible trouble if I'm not really careful. I'm pretty excited about this. And best of all, the story arch that I envision is at least two books, maybe more.

I'm not going to go into full writing mode any time soon, but I will start piling on the research and building some character sheets, etc. so that when writing time happens again, it will be all laid out and ready to go. And I'll keep up on my reading, honing the craft, seeing what works and what doesn't.

That's it from my neck of the woods. How are things with you?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's about time!

So, it's been. . .  oh, several months, I guess. I know you've all been missing me like crazy. The lack of my sparkling wit and stunning personality have left you all devastated, I'm sure. So, after the long silence, here's an update.

On the writing front, there's nothing new to report. I've read a lot. And I mean a lot. And, in a strange way, I'm learning a lot about writing from all the reading I've been doing. Wake, Fade, Liar, and more. It's been good. I haven't really written much of anything at all. My laptop died about two months ago and we only just replaced it. (Fortunately, there was a back up of all my files.) Between the computer and being sick, my motivation to put fingers to keyboard has been pretty close to nil.

I've discovered a few things, though. I really am a writer. Even when I don't have the ability to write, the ideas don't stop. I have things to work on for years to come. It's pretty great. Also, I'm far too critical of myself. I spent a while feeling really bad about not being really active with my writing. I have to remind myself that two years ago, I didn't even know I could write a book and now I have two finished first drafts with edits and real potential. Even if I have to take an extended hiatus, I know I'm capable of the work and that is a huge thing to discover about myself.

So, this has brought me to a few conclusions. First, since I'm capable of doing it, it won't really matter if I take an extended break from writing. My kids have to be my first priority, especially since they are all so young. And time consuming. Second, even if I'm not actively writing, I can still be improving my craft. I can have a writing journal for new ideas. I can read books to see what works and what doesn't. There's lots of ways to keep my hand in, so to speak.

I still want to stick around in the blogosphere, so I'm working on a few things in the back of my head. Maybe a weekly post about what I've learned from the books I read or some other such thing.

Now, for some really exciting news. We found out we're having a girl. It's pretty great after two little boys. She'll be the  most rough and tumble girl, ever, based on her brothers. She'll have to be just to survive. We're halfway through pregnancy at this point and things are starting to settle down. I feel a lot more stable and less sick. It's great.

We're also in the process of buying a house. We've been renting for years and years, so putting down roots is a little scary. We've never been ones to do major life events one at a time, though, so it's all good. I like staying on my toes. (At least I tell myself that. It helps with the insanity.)

So, there you have it. That's me in the last several months. Hopefully, there won't be such a long gap before my next post. Have a great week, everyone and we'll see you all again soon!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just stopping In

Well, as I suspected, pregnancy has been pretty rough. I spend a lot of time on the couch, ignoring the feeling in my stomach. Or at least trying to. Pregnancy has a sort of selective amnesia associated with it, I think. I never remember until I'm in the middle of it just how sick I get. I get a shot every two or three days, take an anti-nausea pill every day, and can't cook at all. It's a lot of fun. And next time I start to think "Oo... a baby might be fun" I'll have to remember the first four months of pregnancy.

I haven't worked on anything at all in more than two weeks. I haven't even opened a word document. I just can't focus on anything. It makes me a little sad, actually. I was really in the groove and pushing forward. Now, I have no idea what kind of time line to attach to anything. I just don't know what to expect.

I miss all of you. That's one of the most surprising things. I wanted to stop into the blogosphere today and catch up a little, since it's a relatively better day, and I miss you! I hope that you are all doing well, that your journeys are fulfilling, your work is rewarding, and your days are enjoyable. I'll stop in again on a good day and see what you are all up to.

PS. I have a few awards that I've received and I haven't forgotten about them. I'll get to them when I can.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thanks

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for their comments and support. It's a really exciting and strange time for me right now and I'm glad to have the blogging buddies that I do. You each have blessed my life. I wish I could take the time to thank you all individually, but really, that would take a long time.

Watch for occasional updates from me. Maybe in a month or so when morning sickness starts to slow down and energy starts to come back, I'll have more time to say something. Love you all. Have a great weekend.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Change

Well, life is strange sometimes. I hadn't anticipated this moment coming so soon, but it has. It's been an eventful couple of weeks... okay. Several months, really. And it's all taking it's toll on me right now. We found out a few weeks ago that we're pregnant. We're expecting our third baby sometime in December. It's pretty monumental and life altering and just ... I don't know how to describe it.

Pregnancy hits me pretty hard, at least at first. Morning sick and I are friends all day long. And with a three year old and an 18 month old, it's pretty exhausting. I've tried to keep up with writing and blogging and all the stuff that comes with it, but I just don't have the energy to devote to it right now.  It makes me kind of sad, but I've decided to take a break for a while. I'll still fit in writing time when I can, but I really don't have any idea how often that will be. I don't want to put any unrealistic expectations on myself. I want to cherish this time with my kids and getting ready for a new one.

It's funny. I'm sitting here crying about it, but I'm really happy. It's exciting. I just never expected to have such mixed emotions about taking a break. Blame it on the hormones, I guess. So, I'll see you when I see you. Stop by every once in a while. I'm sure that I won't be able to just back out completely. And I will be coming back as soon as I feel more balanced and energized.

Thanks, every one, for being part of my life. I hope you stick around. I like you!

Friday, April 30, 2010

And one more thing

Today is the last day of Small and Simple Things Week. I've really had a good time focusing on the small things that I can do to be better and the simple things that make it worthwhile. I hope you have too.

I have just one more thing I wanted to add. Thank you. Thank you to all of you who come and read this blog. Thank you for the comments. Thank you for connecting with me in this journey. Thank you for the support and encouragement on my down days and the celebrations on the good ones.

I can't think of anything more important than telling you all that I really appreciate you and the friendships we have made. Have a great weekend. I know I will.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A few Simple Things

It's "Small and Simple Things Week", Day Four. Today's entry is all about the simple things that make writing and reading worthwhile.

 I saw this quote and knew it was perfect. "Richer than me you'll never be, for I have a mother who reads to me." I love reading to my sons. I love that my 3 year old picks up the books on his own and tells himself the story. (Very inventively, most of the time.) And now, the 18 month old does the same thing.

I love that feeling of finding just the right words to express what I've been thinking. Whether it's in a blog post or in my manuscript, I love to make words sing. I love the satisfaction of a solid string of feeling on the page.

I love being able to share a piece of myself through the things that I write. And in return, I love being able to know more about someone else by reading their words. I love the connection that forms as we exchange these little portions of being.

I love curling up with a good book and knowing that someone put so much effort into providing me with a new and meaningful experience. I have a freedom and excitement for life when I read something that really resonates with me.

I love that I am doing something every day that I really enjoy. I love to feel like I'm able to express myself, to be creative. It feels like I'm doing something that will last forever.

There's a few of my simple things. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Few Small Things

It's Small and Simple Things Week, Day Three. Welcome to you. Come on in and take a seat. Jeeves will be along shortly with a beverage.

Once a week, my husband and I sit down and talk. We discuss our calendar for the coming week, what our personal goals are, things that we want to work on.  We talk about the progress of our little family. The things the boys have learned. Things that made us laugh. Things that frustrated us. Things we'd like to see change based on the previous week. It's a really unique opportunity to connect over the mundane things that we otherwise take for granted.

This week, my big goal is to work. I know. It's kind of strange to set that as a goal, but I feel like I've been slacking off. I thought hard about what the small things are that I need to do to feel productive and successful. And it really just comes down to work. Work at keeping the house clean. Work at getting critiques done for my crit group. Work on writing new stuff. Work at spending quality time with my kids. It all really seems to come back to working.

Another small thing I'm working on this week is being more positive. I admit it. I've been kind of down on myself. It's a cyclical thing. It's hard to want to do anything at all when I'm feeling low. Motivation reaches critical mass and implodes into some sort of black hole. And this is going to take more work. Small thing. Big difference.

The last thing small thing is to set really (and I mean really) attainable, measurable, realistic goals. Get the dishes done. Pick up the living room. Write 300 words. Read one chapter. Things that I can reward myself for. It's an important thing.

What are your small things? What are you focusing on right now?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mormon Writer Blogfest: Missionary Work and the Book of Mormon

Welcome to Small and Simple Things Week, Day 2. I've written this post in my head a bunch of times, but finally decided to take a chance and put it out there. I'm Mormon. It's true. And many of you have probably been pretty suspicious about it. After all, I grew up in Small Town, Utah, Mormon Central.

I've been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church) my entire life. It impacts every aspect of my life. When I was 21, I spent just over 18 months of my life serving as a full-time missionary for the Church. I learned more about human nature and relationships in that short period of time than almost any other time in my life. If you aren't a Mormon, you've probably met or seen one of those missionaries: the young kid in a suit and tie or a young lady riding a bike in a skirt. We're all pretty idealistic and hopeful about the people we'll encounter. We have an innate trust and desire to serve and strengthen others.

Missionary work is a pretty big focus of the LDS Church. It's not that we're trying to be pushy or tell everyone they are wrong. It's that we have something amazing and want to share it with everyone. It's like when you read a new book or get a great idea, you just want others to share what you are experiencing. One of the things that I spent months sharing with people is the Book of Mormon. It tells the story of a people who who lived in the American continent. They believed in and waited for the coming of Jesus Christ and their experiences of faith and testimony have changed my life. There are many who hear the title "Book of Mormon" and think the Mormon Bible, but that's not accurate. I read (and enjoy) the Bible, and use the Book of Mormon to supplement my understanding of the nature of God.

As an aside, the heading for this week "Small and Simple Things" actually comes from a reference in the Book of Mormon. I think it's really applicable to our lives as writers, in addition to on a more personal level. It's from a chapter in a book called Alma. Chapter 37 vs. 6: "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." I like to think that this small thing (me) could possibly do something that other people look at as amazing. It's also a great reminder to do the small things so that the big things actually happen.

I'm a deeply spiritual person and sometimes have a hard time sharing that part of my life, but now that I've kind of put it out there, if you have questions or want to chat about the LDS Church, I'm open to it. Just shoot me an email or something. And you might consider checking out these other blogs for more information from other Mormon bloggers who love writing, too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Definition Please: Curiosity

Welcome back, friends. My short hiatus is done. Last week I posted about how kids like the little things in life and it has inspired the creation of Small and Simple Things Week. All week long, there will be posts that emphasize some aspect of the little things that we all miss or forget or don't enjoy any more. Hope it's a great week for you. On to today's post.

I've noticed as I watch my children, and most children in general, that they are curious about everything. My 18 month old will sit on the floor, happily stacking blocks to see how high he can get them. My 3 year old throws rocks in the air to watch them fall down again. (Yes, he gets hit in the head fairly frequently, but a mommy kiss makes it all better. I don't know why.) Little children are constantly figuring out how the world works and what the rules are. Their curiosity is boundless. Sometimes, they are curious to the point of it becoming dangerous. "What happens when I run out in the street?" "What if I stick my finger in the electric socket?" "What if I try to help mommy cook dinner?" Everything and anything is interesting, whether it should be or not.

I've found that as a writer, a healthy sense of curiosity is pretty much essential to success. I have to be able to look at things and ask myself, "What happens next? If my character does this, what will it mean for that?" Curiosity drives me to find new situations, new ideas, and new possibilities for the stories I write. I think that a really big sense of curiosity might be part of what gets a lot of us writing. We want to explore the world, but we can't do it in normal ways. We can't hop on a jet to Bora Bora. We write about it. Pretty much every story idea I've had has been the result of a "what if this" question. I'm curious.

Curiosity makes the world a richer, more fulfilling experience. What are you curious about? How does curiosity help your writing?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Progress Report, Sir

Well, I've been handed a dose of "reality check" on a silver platter this week. I'm still aiming to jump into the query wars in the next couple of weeks, but I think it's going to take a little longer than previously imagined. Nothing like a major rewrite to derail plans, eh?

As I've contemplated this, I've found that my heart isn't in blogging right now. I really want to just plunge in with full force and knock this latest round of revisions out of the ball park. I've seen on many other blogs that people will sometimes go in spurts like that. Blogging block happens when writer's block doesn't or something. So far, that hasn't been a problem for me, but I feel it looming. to prevent that, I'm taking the next two days off. I want to get back on track with my goals. I love the blogosphere and miss it terribly when I'm away, but that time is really valuable to me, so I'm using it where it will do the most good. Figuring out what the heck I'm doing with my WiP. (Today is an I hate editing day, just FYI.)

Before I go, though, I have a question for the world at large. I try to respond to comments. I really do. Sometimes, it's just a little spit on the page, but really, who comes back to check? Sometimes, it's with an
 email. (If I can respond that way.) Which one is better? What works best for you?

Now, go forth and write. I'll see you all on Monday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking back

I grew up in a rural town in Southern Utah. We were about ten minutes away from the next town and that town wasn't really very big either in the grand scheme of things. I lived across the street from a sheep farm. Boy, did it smell in the spring.

We had an acre of land to roam around on. It seemed huge! Just down the street, the neighbors had an empty lot and all the neighborhood kids got together every day during the summer to build a bike track. It had spectacular holes and huge jumps and hills. We thought we had the most amazing thing ever built.

My parents never really did much landscaping. There was lawn around the house, but a lot of empty dirt to play in. We always had a large garden and several fruit trees. There's a spigot in the middle of the property to water the trees and garden with. We would turn on the water and let it soak into the dirt, creating a huge mud pit. Then, we'd play the Ten Commandments and we were the children of Israel making bricks out of mud and grass clippings. Those were good days.

I was just reminded of it by my own kids. They are out in the yard. We have a yard that's only 1/10th of an acre and half of it is desert landscaping (in other words, rocks.) I used to think that they were cheated somehow by not having a huge yard to run around in, but they are just as happy throwing rocks at a bush as I was clomping through the mud.

I didn't realize until I was a mother that kids are really content with what they have. It's a trait that adults must have outgrown at some point because it's harder to feel that contentment now. It makes me kind of sad and slightly nostalgic.

No questions for you today. Just the thought that maybe we should all enjoy what we are doing a little more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Definition Please: Patience

This is a hard one for me, I have to say. I'm really a "want it now" kind of person. Like, I want my 18 month old to be sleeping through the night, RIGHT NOW! Sadly, as with children's sleep habits, most things in life are not "right now" things. Including finding time to write.

Patience for me means that I have to trust someone else's time table, whether that's a critique partner, an agent, a family member, or something else. Patience means relinquishing my need to control circumstances and timing so that I can get the best possible results. Patience also means not getting frustrated by that lack of control.

This is especially applicable to me right now. I'm in the middle of a bunch of waiting. Waiting for the last couple of things to fall into place. And then, a whole new round of waiting starts. If I'd known just how much waiting is involved in writing, I don't think I would have embarked on this massive journey. (Okay. I still would have. It's a good lesson for me. In Patience.)

So, what does patience mean to you? When do you have to use patience in your process?

Friday, April 16, 2010

A piece to the puzzle, or How I Write

I realized something the other day. I was thinking about all of the different ideas I have and what I'm going to do with them. The thing about it is: when I have a new idea, I have to write the first page down. Like, the opening. Sometimes, it changes after I go back to it, but I have to get those first few paragraphs down in writing. It makes the idea real to me somehow. So, I have dozens of first pages to stories that I haven't worked on yet.

Once I have that shiny new idea in a concrete form, I'll take some notes on it, develop the characters a little, then let it stew. A lot of the time, I have a really clear idea of who the main character is. What s/he looks like, etc. More often than not, I have no idea where the story is going to go until I come back to it much later. For an example of one of those, see yesterday's post. It's amazing how clearly I can picture him and his back story, but I have no idea what to do with him yet. He'll probably let me know at some point. I definitely want to hear his story sometime.

So, that's a piece of the writing puzzle for me.

What do you do when you get a shiny new idea? How many ideas do you have hanging around?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teaser Thursday

This one is a complete change from everything I've ever done. Not sure where it's going yet, but thought I'd put it out there. It's either paranormal or contemporary depending on how I answer all the what-ifs.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
His breath condensed in a glistening cloud on the window in front of him. He swirled his fingers through the droplets, only realizing after the fact that he had spelled out her initials again. KLP. How long would this keep happening? She had been gone for over two months.

The wind swirled gray fingers across the sky and stirred the fresh snow under the window into waves on the lawn. The thought of all that clean, crisp white would normally have been exciting, with snowball fights and skiing and hot chocolate. His love for those things was buried in dark and dreary feelings, just like the dark earth buried Katie in its cold embrace.

"She was the best thing that ever happened to me," he thought. He rubbed out the initials on the windowpane and wiped his wet hand on his jeans. He closed his eyes and lived through it all again. The horrible screeching sound of the tires as the car skidded across the pavement. The metallic tang in the air as the front end of the car crumpled against the tree. The pool of gasoline that mixed with the dripping red of Katie’s blood.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quotes for A Down Day, Collection 1

All of us have those down days, the ones where we question our abilities. Or we think that we may be pretty good, but we'll never be as good as _______. Or things just aren't going our way for whatever reason, either in our personal life or our writing life. Sometimes, you just need someone else's thoughts to grab on to until your own thoughts can be more positive. Here's a collection of some of those thoughts for me.

"Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." —Helen Keller

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."--Ray Bradbury

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." ~James Michener

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth

"You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." ~Arthur Polotnik

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown

"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.” ~James Dean

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Nelson Mandela

Do you have any quotes that pick you up on a down day?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Housekeeping

Well, there are a lot of little things that I wanted to get down somewhere, so we'll see if we can make it all come together.

First of all, if you haven't heard about Sarah Wylie's contest, you should check it out. She's getting published and has pulled out the awesomeness to celebrate. We're talking about the possibility of a lunch date with the Query Shark, Janet Reid. Or a manuscript or query critique by several different agents. That's amazing.

Second of all, I got a couple of blog awards and wanted to share the love. So, here goes.

This first one was claimed from Kristin Rae at Kristin Creative. She's an amazingly talented writer with a lot of insight, so if you don't follow her, check her out.

I don't know if there are any special rules attached to this, so I'm just going to pass it on to Talli Rolland. She posts great things that make me smile.

Also, Katie at ...&&PROPHETIC PICTURES. I love reading her posts. She's talking about a non-fiction book right now that just had me in stitches from laughing.




I was also awarded the Silver Lining Award by Shannon O'Dell at Book Dreaming. If she hadn't given me this award, I would certainly pass it on to her because she always makes things seem better.


I would like to pass this award on to Nisa at Wordplay, Swordplay. She's awesome! And you have to check out her Inspiration Week posts.


Also, Krista at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) She is right in the middle of the query trenches and yet, she is so positive. You need to check out her interviews with an agent. She does one a week and they are super helpful!


And the last item of the day, if April Showers bring May Flowers, what do April Snows bring? I mean, really. It snowed again. There's several inches on my yard right now. I'm really ready for spring to get here!



Monday, April 12, 2010

Definition Please: Flexibility

And we're not talking about back flips and doing the splits. (Although that's being flexible, too.)

One of the things I've learned about writing recently is that you have to be flexible. There are just too many variables to life to have a rigid idea of what writing is and how to do it. What works for one person really won't work for me. My writing process is unique, just like what I write is unique.

As a mom, I cram in my writing time. I have to take what I can get between boo-boos and naps. Some days, there's a bunch of time, but other days, I'm doing really great if I get to open the file and read what I wrote last time. If I weren't flexible, I could easily decide that it wasn't worth it. I mean, who wants to keep working on a project that gets sporadic attention and may take months to finish?

Not only do I have to be flexible about when I write, I have to be willing to bend on what I write. This has become especially true with revision. I have to set aside what I have already written and look at what would be better. Keep the options open. Avoid being rigid in my ideas. Being flexible keeps the story growing and changing until it's something that I never dreamed it could be and is infinitely better than what I first envisioned.

So what does flexibility mean to you? What are you flexible about?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox: A Review

I've read a lot of books lately. This one is a sweet, little read. The story revolves around a girl who has been in a coma for a year and wakes up with no memories at all. As she gradually gains her memories back, she realized just how much her life has changed since the accident that left her near death.

This book had an interesting style. It's written in first person present tense. I'd never really been a fan of this POV, but I've been reading more books written that way and it's really growing on me. At different points throughout the narrative, there are sections that are written in a short, almost poetic style. They really emphasized the way Jenna felt about something.

The way the story is revealed felt very natural and flowed well. Even though there is an element of sci-fi to it, it wasn't glaring. The only thing that left me wanting more was the last two pages. They weren't bad, mind you. They just were kind of abrupt.

All in all, if you are looking for a quick and entertaining read that will leave you thinking about life, give this one a try. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Teaser Thursday

Nana ran the brush through Beauty’s hair and the familiar motion relaxed Beauty. The quiet moment engulfed her and she closed her eyes to set the memory firmly in her mind. The pull of the brush. The soft pressure of a hand on my forehead. The scent of fresh lavender from Nana’s hands. “I’ll miss this.”

Nana stopped at the wistful tone. “You’ll miss this? What do you mean?”

“Huh? Oh, I meant, when I am married. I’m engaged to Thaddeus, you know.”

Nana ran her gnarled fingers through Beauty’s long brown hair. “I’ll miss this, too. When you are married, you won’t need me any more.”

“Nana, can you keep a secret?”

“Of course, I can. It’s about Thaddeus, isn’t it? You don’t love him.”

“No. I mean, yes. I don’t love him, but that isn’t what I wanted to tell you.”

Nana sat down on the bed again. “I know all your secrets already. What more could you have to tell me about?”

“Nana, I’m going to take my father’s place.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Progress report, sir

Well, here it is. Midweek, first week of April. I'm setting a personal goal to be in the query pool by the end of the month. I'm just waiting on the critique from one of my readers to see if I need to change anything else. Then it's write the query and synopsis. I don't know how long those things are going to take.

I both hate and love revisions. It's fascinating to see the book take a different turn than I originally anticipated. To be richer, deeper, more meaningful. And it's great to feel that falling in love again feeling when everything is coming together and the light is glowing at the end of the tunnel. And then, when that love is just blooming all over, I'll have to start all over. It's just hard work. And dreary work to cut out or add to or rephrase or any of the dozens of other things that seem to happen.

At least I'm losing that newbie writing thing where I think my first draft is the epitome of amazing and every one should agree with me. It's because I've done revisions and the revisions kick butt. A revised draft is way better than a first draft.

How's every one else doing?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

These are a few of my favorite things.

Today, I just want to post about things I love. There are so many and I sometimes get caught up in the things that I don't love, so I want to remember.

I love the way my one year-old wants to snuggle in my lap when he wakes up. He's a cuddle bug with a mind of his own.

I love how creative my almost three year-old is. He spent hours over the weekend pouring dirt in and out of a bucket in the backyard, just because he could.

I love ice cream. Homemade. We are experimenting with the finding the best vanilla recipe and we've had some really good offerings.

I love a fireplace. (Even if it means having weather that needs a fire.) There's nothing more cozy than the bright orange flames and slightly smoky smell of a fireplace.

I love my in-laws. I know. I'm pretty lucky. I have the best in-laws in the whole world. (Sorry to disappoint any of you who have good in-laws. They just can't beat mine.)

I love shopping trips by myself. I take just a bit longer than I really need to sometimes, just for the extra quiet time.

And I love my husband. He's the most supportive, understanding guy I've ever met. He lets me write, even when it would be ideal if I didn't. He is my sounding board and best friend. I'm truly blessed to have him around.

What things do you love?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Definition Please: Inspiration

This is a pretty important subject for a writer. And coincidentally, one of the most commonly asked questions from those who know you are a writer. "What inspired you to write?"

Inspiration has a two fold sort of definition for me. There's the "what inspired me to start" side and the "what inspires me to keep going" side. I've mentioned the initial spurt that got me writing briefly before. Lots of things figured into it. I couldn't sleep one night and my husband said, "Tell yourself a story." We didn't have internet or TV at the time, so I started to write down the story I told myself to help me fall asleep. But even before that, I had a list of life goals. Kind of like a bucket list, but not. Things on my list include: put together a CD. Write meaningful books. Become a mother. Mostly, the things on this list are inspired by the legacy I want to leave behind. Before I became a mother or a writer or a singer, I wanted to have a piece of me for whoever cares about it after I am gone. It's kind of a big sort of feeling.

What keeps me writing? Well, there's this.
















































Okay. Mostly my family keeps me going. I have the coolest cheerleaders ever. I don't have any music play lists or anything like that to get me in the mood to write. I just have the hope that it will be meaningful for my kids to have something that I did.


What inspired you to start writing? What keeps you going?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Austenland: a review

Last weekend, I read Austenland by Shannon Hale. It was a great book. Quirky. Full of voice. A 30-something young women has lived her whole life with hopes of finding Mr. Darcy, so her aunt leaves her a trip to "Austenland", a Regency England immersion experience, in her will. Strangely, my library shelved it in the YA section, even though it's not a YA book. Probably because Shannon Hale does so many other YA books.

My favorite part of the book was the voice. It has a narrator who fills the story with asides and jokes. The line I remember most is "Argggh" she arggghed. I laughed out loud at that and my husband thought I was crazy.

This isn't a straight forward coming of age story or finding love story. There's a couple of twists and some really poignant moments. It was very satisfying.

I'd read it again, but the library wanted it back.

And in a completely unrelated note, everyone, have a Happy Easter. Stay safe.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

You Fool!

My kids watch this anime movie called Porco Rosso by Hiyao Miyazaki fairly frequently. For any one who hasn't seen it, you should watch it. Really. It's a lighthearted tale about a guy who is cursed somehow to look like a pig. There's this other character who is in love with him, but he doesn't think he can be lovable because he's a pig. So, he pretty much ignores any opportunity to have romance with her. The point of this ramble is that my favorite line in the whole thing is the girl watching him fly away (he's a sea plane pilot) and she whispers under her breath, "You fool."

It's hard to tell if she's talking about him for leaving or herself for hoping he would stay. I feel that way sometimes. Like the world is crazy for not recognizing my amazing talent or I'm crazy for thinking I'm that cool. Maybe it's a little of both.

I think the fact that it's April Fools Day has got me thinking this way. It's not something I really ever participate in. I think about it sometimes, but never end up doing anything. Unlike the weather. Geesh. Mother Nature is pulling the ultimate April Fools Day on me. My kids were playing in the backyard without a coat yesterday and now, there is almost a foot of snow. Oh well.

There really isn't a significant point to all this. Just that I'm feeling a little unbalanced. We'll see how the day goes.

Try not to have too much fun. Either at your own expense or someone else's.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Definition Please: Community

Writing is a lonely business. We spend all our time staring at a piece of paper or a computer screen, pouring out the things that only we see. We squeak in as much time as we can from our every day lives. If we are really lucky, this is our full-time gig and we do it all day. And we love it. We love to put little pieces of ourselves into words. It's still lonely.

That's why we need community. People who understand what we are doing. Where we have been and where we are going. Why we feel driven to do it.

My writing life and my personal life has been enriched and supported by the people I have met in the writing community. When I'm having a down day, there's always a blog post or a comment from someone that picks me up again. When I'm enjoying a bit of success, there's someone out there doing a happy dance with me. It makes the journey a little less lonely. For a career path that leans toward the solitary, having a sense of community seems pretty important.

To all of you who have become part of my community, thank you. From the bottom of my feet. Because the bottom of my heart just doesn't feel like enough. You will never know how much you mean to me.

What does community mean to you? How has being part of a writing community helped you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Beauty pushed her empty plate away from her just as her mother entered the room. Amelia stalked down the narrow room, fingers rapping against a brown, leather covered book. Beauty slunk down into her chair when Amelia got close enough for her to read the title—Secret Life of Fairies.

“Dawn, what is the meaning of this?” Amelia said. “I went to the sitting room to say good morning to you and all I found was this book.”

Beauty stared at her empty plate without answering. Amelia didn’t move. The scraping of Thaddeus’s chair across the floor as he got up to leave only emphasized the unnatural stillness between the two women. Amelia’s fingers beat out a steady rhythm on the book’s cover once again.

“I was just doing some research.” Beauty still avoided her mother’s eyes. When Amelia made no comment, she continued, “I wanted to see if there were any clues. To breaking this curse.”

“And you didn’t think that maybe we have already been through every book in this house? There is nothing, Dawn. Nothing.” The words echoed hollowly against the walls. “We’ve talked about this before. There is nothing you can do to change the curse. We have tried everything. Just be glad that you are only going to fall asleep. It could have been worse.”

“I don’t understand how you can just accept this, Mother.” Beauty pushed away from the table and slammed a small fist onto the wood. “It’s not you that has to wonder if you will ever see another sunrise. It’s not you who has to constantly wonder if they will ever figure out what love is. It’s not you. It’s me. And I don’t want to just sit her and wait. You keep saying that I need to wait, but what if that isn’t good enough?”

“Your father and I have spent your entire life trying to protect you from this curse. The only thing we can do is wait until your birthday. If nothing happens by then, you will be safe. Please, just trust us.” Amelia put the book on the table and slid into a chair. She took the hand that Beauty had slammed down onto the table into her own and patted it gently. “We love you, Dawn, but I will protect you. Until your father comes home and we can talk about it, you are forbidden from reading any more of these books. The library will be locked from now on. And I will be sitting with you in the mornings. It’s for the best.”

“Anything else you want to take away from me? What’s the point of having a life if I can’t even live it?” Beauty shook free of her mother’s grasp and rushed away from her.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Preparation

Well, I'm only a few weeks away from entering the query trenches. I'm feeling really good about the revisions I've made and only have a few things left to do. The readers are saying they think it's pretty solid and I'm going to just polish it up a little more. Then, it's putting together a query from all the different, half-hearted attempts and start submitting. I feel really frightened about it, for some reason. It's mostly a fear of failure. I haven't been actively writing for as long as a lot of people. What if I'm not good enough? What if I haven't put enough effort into it? What if I don't make it to my dreams? It's one of the scariest things I have ever contemplated. And even more scary than failing is actually succeeding and being somewhere that I almost didn't dare to hope.

It's strange because I find myself coping in the same ways I have with other things in my life. RETREAT! I've read several books in the last week. (Four. That's a pretty significant reading jag.) I've thrown myself into the housework. (Ok. It's been neglected for the last little while. What with one thing or the other. Mostly the other.)

I think it's funny that I retreated from the things of real life to push forward on my story and now I'm pushing forward on my real life to avoid the story. People are weird. Just saying.

I suppose I should just put down the nerves and move. It'll be worth it, right?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Anniversary

Running a little behind today. The boys have been sick all week and every one is clingy to mommy. It's great fun. And it's been snowing most of the morning. Another three or four inches. March came in like a lion and it's leaving like a lion too.

I was thinking last night about this where I am right now. And where I was a year ago. It's amazing to step back and see the progress I have made in my life.

One year ago, we had just moved into this house. We had been managing an apartment complex, but our family was just too big to make it work any more. We gave up our free internet and cable and found a bigger place. And I went crazy for about a month, not having anything to do with the free time during naps, or down time. And so I started writing.

I surprised myself. I didn't know I had a book in me. But I did. And it only took a few months to get a first draft finished. Not even writing full time. Just during naps and after bedtime. And I found out that I loved writing. Since then, I've written another first draft and half of a second draft. And it's amazing and fun and fulfilling in a way that other things weren't.

I can't believe how much difference a year can make. Even just in myself. What have you done in the last year that you are proud of?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Definition Please: Diligence

So, right now, I'm working my way through several different character traits that seem pretty important for a writer. It's probably something that everyone has thought about at one point or another: what makes a good author?

It's easy to think that you (speaking in the hypothetical, second person sort of you) have written the world's first perfect draft. It's easy to think that you will be the one that will find a kick butt agent with your very first query attempt. It's easy to think that an editor will fight for the rights to your book with an auction that gives you a HUGE advance. It's easy to think that you will be the one to become the overnight sensation.

It's hard to keep going when none of those things happen. It's hard to accept criticism and recognize the truth in it. It's hard to believe that rejection from an agent isn't a reflection of you as a person. It's hard to continue to put hours and hours and hours into something when you don't know if it will ever get you anywhere.

And that's where diligence comes in. To keep on when you don't see anything coming from it, when you lose motivation, inspiration, and desire. To just work through it.

I first figured this out as a mom, actually. No matter how many times I do the dishes or pick up the house or fold the laundry, it will have to be done again in two hours, two days, two weeks, two years. I have to be diligent about it, no matter how many times I have to do it. Nobody else is going to pick up the slack if I don't. And it's the same with my writing.

So, when things are feeling tough, when the words just aren't coming, when other things get in the way, I'm going to be diligent.

How do you define diligence? What does it mean to you?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Hunger Games, A review

OK. I know. I'm extremely behind on my TBR. In my defense, the library in my little town isn't particularly good at keeping up on new books and my new book budget is virtually non-existent.

I loved this book. I'm not normally a fan of first person, present tense, but wow. I just don't know what else to say about it. I think the really good thing is that I'm coming into the trilogy when it's almost entirely finished, so I don't have to wait several years for the resolution. I just have to wait until August. (And whatever time it takes to get it at the library.)

I don't remember the last time I read so voraciously. I seriously couldn't put this book down. (OK. I had to. Sleep had to happen at some point.) It interfered with my usual writing time, though. It was just that good. The characters were original. The plot was original. The pace was fast and not a single word was wasted. I could go on and on. I don't want to cover any of the story for those of you who, like me, haven't had a chance to read it. (If this is you, read it. You won't be disappointed.)

It really makes me want to be a better writer. With that said, back to work.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Definition Please: Success

Lots of people talk about success, but what exactly do they mean?

My husband and I have recently been talking about this subject, quite a bit. (We're a good mix. When I'm down, he's up and vice versa.) Right now, he's having a hard time with work and feeling like he's not really getting any where. A few weeks ago, I felt the same way about my writing. The advice he gave me was to figure out what success means to me.

For him, success is being able to pay all the bills. And provide for the family. And still have free time to spend with us.  I don't have a job as a stay at home mom, so I don't really have a tangible measure of success like my husband does. I've been talking to lots of different people about what they think success is and I'm surprised how each person has a unique idea. Success always seems to be catered to the individual situation.

So, for me, right now, trying to be a wife, mom, and writer, I want to find my personal definition of success. I have some pretty lofty goals and some high personal expectations, and frankly, I disappoint myself a little too frequently because of it. What I consider a success has been a little elusive, and therefore, I am always left thinking I could have done better. So, here we go.

If I can spend some quality time with each of my family members during the day without resorting to the TV for entertaining or diverting, it's a success. (No limits or specific expectations of what quality time is or how long it has to be.)

If I get the house clean at least once during the day, it's a success. (Even if the house doesn't stay clean after I have finished.)

If the dirty dishes don't fill the sink and run out onto the cabinet before I get to them, it's a success.

If I can open up my WIP and get even a few hundred words a day, it's a success.

Anything beyond these things is gravy. Or maybe icing. I'm much more a sweet tooth. If I persistently seek success in these simple things, the forever elusive big things will surely happen.

What defines success for you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life and Death

I'm missing the funeral right now. My kids got sick on Saturday, just in time for the wedding. It's been one of those weeks. I've been doing a lot of thinking and I'm not sure it's going to make sense, but I wanted to put it out there.

It's a cliche of sorts. We've all read it or even said it. It's a matter of life or death. I think it should really be a matter of life and death. See, I think life and death aren't ever really separated. This was really brought home to me with a wedding followed by a funeral. I'm not talking about a cheesy movie type thing like Four Weddings and a Funeral. (I haven't seen it, but that's the title that keeps coming to mind when I think about this past weekend.) It's the starting of a new life as my sister and her husband drive off together from their reception. It's the coming together of family at a funeral that haven't all been in the same room for maybe 10 years.

I think, sometimes, for life to keep going, we need a little death. We need a reason to come together. And to really appreciate death, we need to have a life. We need to make it meaningful so that when it does come to an end, it isn't the end of everything.


This might be a really important thing to remember for writing as well. You don't have to put a character in a life or death situation. You can put them in a life situation. Or a death situation. Either way, it can be a good place to start. There needs to be something to make the character grow, to reach beyond themselves, to find meaning in their existence. And it doesn't have to be earth-shattering or staggering. Just make it life and death.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Probably taking a break

Thank you to everyone for their kind words and thoughts. It's a difficult and strange time at our house. My sister is getting married on Saturday and my uncle's funeral will be Monday.

I must confess to being slightly out of sorts with all the things that are happening this week. I can't seem to put my thoughts in order. I don't know whether to be happy or sad. And it is affecting my ability to write.

Most strange, I am not sad or happy for myself. I am sad for my mom and her siblings and parents. They are all taking it very hard. I am happy for my sister who has waited 30 years to find that perfect someone. And I'm sad for everyone because weddings and funerals shouldn't be mixed like this. My poor mom is stressed out beyond anything I can imagine. She's putting together a wedding, helping to plan a funeral, and trying to finish her Bachelor's degree. One of these things is sure to fall at some point and I don't know which it will be.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I may be pretty quiet in the blogosphere for the next few days while I try to help my family rally through the pending crises. If I can't pull my own thoughts together, I'll be back again next week.

And, in a related note, please consider life insurance. My uncle didn't expect to die and never had any insurance. Now, the family is left with a huge financial burden. Even just a small life insurance policy can give your family some relief in the face of grief.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sorrow

It's a funny thing. As a writer, and a blogger, I pour my heart and soul into words. Little pieces of me trail out onto the paper every day. And the words seem to flow with an ease that I would never expect. Any one who reads what I have written can see those pieces of me and know something about my hopes and dreams, the person that I am.

It's a funny thing that when it comes to something really personal, I don't know where to find the words. My uncle died last night. It was sudden and unexpected. A heart attack. Despite every effort, nothing could be done to save him. I didn't know him very well. We've never been really close to that side of my family. I don't feel particularly distraught. It's just something that happened. And I don't know if I should feel something different. Or if I should say anything else.

It's a funny thing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Something different

Sometimes, you just need to change.
Rearrange the furniture.
Get a haircut.
If you stay at home all day, go out.
If you are out all day, barricade yourself in.
Change your schedule a little.
Try something new.
Just make a change.
It's amazing how much simple changes will change your perspective on everything
And make it easier to stick to the things that are really important.
Get out there, be brave, and make a change.
I'll be right there with you, making my own.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Help Wanted

I have very recently come to the conclusion that I need to find some new beta readers. I've had several people read over the first draft. It's been good to have feedback. Now, I need fresh eyes. Fresh ideas. New perspective to see if where I am heading is a better, more productive direction for this story to go. The problem? I don't have a clue where to find these people. The ones who will be willing to read and critique and, in turn, share their creations with me.

I've never been part of a formal critique group. I'm still new to this writing thing. I've been at it for about 11 months, and entirely in the solitude of my own home. I've swapped with a few people that I met on forums at Nanowrimo.org, but I want something more permanent. And I don't think there are any groups that meet locally in small town Southern Utah that I could join. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And then there was... writing

Yes, friends. I went back to my writing. And it was good. I mean, not blow me away amazing, but good.

I was talking to my husband about the insecurities I have been feeling. The way I haven't felt motivated to even try any more, because I'm just not going to be good enough at any point in time. And he said, "I guess you'll just have to get to work." And he was right.

I may not have the greatest book ever written. I may not have anything insightful and powerful to say. But I'm still going to do it. Because it is work. And if I don't work at it, I never will get better. No one else is going to tell my story. I have to. So I will. And I'm going to feel good about it. Now, back to work!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Contests

There is a blizzard going on outside my front window.

In other news, I just wanted to give a shout out to some cool contests.

Elana Johnson is having a fabulous followers contest. She's reached 700 followers, so she's giving away 7 books, most of them personalized. She has several different ways to gain entries, but the biggest thing is that you have to follow her blog, as well as Suzie Saxton and Bethany Wiggins' blog.

Which brings us to the second contest. Suzie and Bethany are having a contest at their blog, Shooting Stars. It's also a followers contest, so become a follower of their blog and Elana's blog for a chance to win a 40 page submission/critique from Suzie Townsend, an agent at FinePrintLit. There are several other prizes, so make sure you head over there.

Have a great day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A down weekend

I spent some time thinking and reading this weekend. I know it's a common thing, probably more so among writers, but I had a pretty down couple of days. I kept thinking about the books and blogs I read and how I don't think I'll ever be as good as what I'm seeing from other people. I even thought about packing it in. I don't have any staggering insights or valuable tips or anything like that. I'm just a girl who wrote a book and wants to see something happen with it, like hundreds of people out there.

I'm not looking for any one to say, "But you're wrong. You are great." It's just something I wanted to put it down some where. I think if I can acknowledge the hard times, it will help me get through them. I am pretty sure that this won't be the last time that I feel this way. It's definitely not the first.

Today, I'm going to take a break from things writing. Recharge myself. Get a grip on what I really want and where I want to go. What do you do when you have those down days?

Friday, March 5, 2010

A new award!


And the winner was: Me! Of course. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Kristin Rae at Kristin Creative for the award that you see below. She's pretty great and I love reading her blog.

I'd like to pass this award on to: Jennifer Shirk at Me, My Muse and I. Her blog resonates with me. I like it.
And also to Kristen at Take It As It Comes, not just because she gave me my first award, but because she's a great writer.

It's pretty fun to share things about myself, so I'm going to! Have fun with these random factoids.

1. I'm a closet geek. Not even just a nerd. It's full on geekdom. We own Star Trek Scene-It, people. I don't think it gets more geek than that.

2. I also am a closet anime fan. (Ok. A selective closet anime fan.) My husband has introduced me to several series that I would never have watched before, like Naruto. (Don't tell him I secretly enjoy huddling over the computer to watch the newest episode on Hulu. It'll ruin my reputation.)

3. I love Jazz. Especially Jazz with piano. Like Dave Brubeck. Awesome. When I was in DC at the Smithsonian, I spent hours in the wing dedicated to various Jazz musicians.

4. I'm a nut for nuts. Like Pistachios. I think they are just a little piece of heaven.

5. I've had plastic surgery twice. I had a rhinoplasty (nose job) but it didn't change my looks at all. (It was actually all interior work to help me stop having sinus infections. We used a plastic surgeon so I still looked the same.) The other time was liposuction, sort of. They took fat from my thigh and injected it into my cheek. (I got bit by a brown recluse spider and it ate away the fat cells in my cheek so they were filling in a divet.) Kids at my high school called me buttface and spider woman for months.

Well, that's it from me. Have a great weekend. See you all on the flip side.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Random Ramblings on a Wednesday

Recently, I was thinking about the me that I was as a teenager. It's because of my writing, I think. The main character in my current manuscript is sixteen. That's fifteen years ago for me. Today, I found myself thinking, "If you could go back and talk to that girl, what would you tell her?" And so, I'm going to write that letter right now.

---

"Dear past me,

If you are reading this letter, some kind of miraculous time travel thing has been invented in your future and I am now talking to you. Pretty wild, huh?

I wanted to give you a few pointers about your life five, ten, even fifteen years from now. Pay attention. This is important stuff.

First, zits will still happen. Right now, you hate it when you have a break out and you are worried that the cute guy in your English class is going to notice. They aren't going to go away. Not only will you have zits when you are thirty, you will have crows feet around your eyes and laugh lines. Your hair will still bug the tar out of you. And you will have stretch marks in places you never thought could have stretch marks. Don't let it bother you. Your husband will still think you are beautiful and he doesn't care about the zits.

Second, dating is not all it's cracked up to be. I know. Every one around you has a boyfriend and you are the loser who sits at home on a Friday night. It's ok. Really. I promise. When you get to where I am, you will look back and really appreciate those Friday nights at home. You'll have learned to value who you are because of who you are and not for who you are with. You also won't be the girl who got pregnant when she was a senior and had to drop out of high school. Taking your time with dating is a great idea because it will get you the coolest, funniest, most amazing husband ever.

Third, you are pretty talented! You don't always trust yourself and you can't always see things the way others do. When I look back at the things you are doing at sixteen, I wish I had kept going with some of them. It would have been really amazing to see where I would be now if I hadn't quit. Trust your abilities. You aren't perfect and you don't have to be. You just have to keep doing your best and your best will eventually get better.

Last, just keep doing what you're doing. I'm not going to tell you to change anything. I wouldn't be who I am now if you do. I don't look back with very many regrets and the regrets I do have made me a stronger, better person. It's not going to be easy a lot of the time. You will have down days. You'll feel like you aren't good enough. You'll wish you had someone else's life. And that's ok. And it's normal. Just keep being you and it will be worth it.

Well, that's all I have to tell you now. Maybe in another fifteen years, I'll try again. Who knows? Good luck, me. We'll make it.

Your future self."

---

What would you tell yourself if you could send a message back to the you that you were five, ten, or fifteen years ago? (I think I may have just had an epiphany for a new story. Off to take some notes. Talk amongst yourselves.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- A review

So, I've been reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (hereafter referred to as PPZ for the sake of my fingers.) I'm a bit of an Austen fanatic. I have the complete works in a handy volume that sits in my library, should the urge to read strike me. (And it does. Frequently. Especially PP. It's my favorite.) So, I went into this with some skepticism. How can you mess with the quintessential Austen? My husband told me it was the original, with pieces added. He also said it will forever ruin my reading of PP because I won't be able to avoid thinking of the zombies. I'm happy to report that he was wrong on both counts.

The storyline is basically the same. Many of the phrases have carried through from the original, especially the dialogue. However, PPZ is its own book. The motivations of the characters are different. The settings are different. (For instance, Pemberly, Darcy's ancestral home, is rigged up like a Japanese temple.) It might best be said that this book is loosely based on the original. And it's probably better that way.

I have enjoyed reading it. It's been a slower read than if I was plowing through PP without the zombies. I keep expecting to have it be like the original and the changes throw me off a little. This book is also not for the faint of heart or for the younger crowd. There are some gruesome illustrations of zombies eating people that I truly wasn't expecting. And some of the additions are gruesome or slightly veiled crude references. (At least as veiled as something in Regency England could be.) (OK. It's not really that bad. I just don't normally go for horror, zombies, or things of that sort.)

I don't think I'll read it again. I find the original much more satisfying. I am glad that I read it once, though. Now, to catch up on some of the other great books I've missed in the last while.

Looking for color

It's pretty gray outside my house. The sky is gray. The ground is gray. The roads are gray. Dust and dirt are everywhere, even on the snow that used to sparkle a clean, crisp white. It's hard not to feel gray, too.

I'm wishing it was spring. Spring might just be my favorite time of year. I love the greens that spring up everywhere. Green has been my favorite color as long as I can remember. I love the colors that start to peak through the snow and dirt as the first flowers begin to bloom. Lilies, daffodils, tulips. It's the sign of returning life after all the cold death of winter.

It actually kind of reminds me of the revision process. I'm right in the middle of it now. I'm taking something that was cold and lifeless and adding color to it. Little bits of detail peaking through the drab and making it breathe. After this draft is done, I might have to go through and prune it back a bit, like a good gardener. Being completely overrun isn't very pretty. You don't know where to look first or what the focus is. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

I think this might be my best motivation yet to keep on revising. I want a book that is an orderly but beautiful garden of words. What keeps you working on that next draft?

Monday, March 1, 2010

An excerpt

This is from my first novel. It's basically the prologue. Enjoy!
________________________________________________________________
The last drops splashed musically into the puddle under the rainspout. Pristine pools dotted the walkway leading from the back door of the manor. The sun glinted like diamonds off the droplets still clinging to  individual blades of grass. Water stained the good brown earth of the kitchen gardens an almost black color and the early spring blossoms stood at attention under the influence of abundant moisture. Only the clouds on the horizon, now stained bright pink and orange by the rising sun, bore testament of the previous night’s storm.

A small bundle, packed tightly in a wicker basket, lay nestled up against the threshold of the large black door that opened up into the kitchen of Moss Haven Manor. The soft cotton fabric rustled as the contents of the basket shifted slightly and a soft cry escaped the folds.

From inside the house, a mellow toned voice called out, “Camilla! Stop your woolgathering and get me the eggs!”

“Yes, Ma’am. Right away,” a young girl stammered in reply. As the door swung open to let the girl out into the yard the sounds of the kitchen filled the cool air. Pots and pans rattled against each other, followed by a loud crash as several items fell to the floor. In confusion, the girl turned back to the kitchen and tripped over the large basket, nearly dumping the bundle out onto the cobblestones.

An indignant wail came from inside the woven container, startling the girl as she tried to recover her balance. The girl tentatively nudged the basket with her toe, setting the basket to gently rocking. The wail died down to a soft whimper, then disappeared entirely under the movement of the basket.

“Cook, Ma’am,” the girl said, her voice nearly a whisper. “You’d better come look at this. I don’t know what it is or where it came from.”

“Camilla, I don’t have time for your games this morning,” the cook said in exasperation. “Speak up and tell me what is so wrong with the world that you haven’t gone to get me the eggs.”

Camilla carefully lifted the basket and carried it even more carefully through the kitchen door and to the big table in the center of the kitchen. She quickly pushed half-peeled carrots and potatoes out of the way to make room on the edge of the table. The cook wandered over, her agitation at Camilla showing on her face, when another heart-wrenching cry escaped from the wicker package.

"What in heaven’s name….” Her irritation with Camilla forgotten, the cook cautiously poked her fingers into the basket. Her hand brushed a sheet of paper, lying gently on the soft blanket. Camilla watched as the cook pulled the paper out and scanned its content. The cook’s face grew more and more disconcerted as her eyes traveled further down the page. “Oh my! What to do? Quick, fetch the Mistress!” the cook said when she reached the end. Her knees buckled and she sank into a nearby chair, letting the note fall to the tabletop, to await the arrival of the Mistress. Her hands plucked unnoticed at the folds of her yellow apron, her
head shaking slightly in time to the rise and fall of fabric on her lap.

Camilla ran to the far end of the kitchen and rang the bell to summon a pageboy. When the boy arrived, tugging on his scarlet tunic, she hurriedly said, “The Mistress’s presence is requested in the kitchen. It’s very urgent.” After he had left, Camilla went back to the table and peered, uncomprehending, at the neat writing on the small page. “What does it say, Ma’am?” she asked nervously.

“Let Mistress Olivia read through it first. She’ll know what to do,” the cook said confidently. She stared at the basket, almost willing it to disappear.

The cook and scullery maid sat in silence, interrupted occasionally by a rustling or muted whimper from the basket on the table. Neither made a move to exhume the contents, knowing the Mistress would be upset if they changed anything before she got there.

After what seemed an eternity, the Mistress of the house swooped into the kitchen, trailing her two daughters behind her like toys on a string. The Mistress walked purposefully to the table, the skirts of her mud colored dress communicating her irritation with each swishing step. Her daughters followed so closely on her heels that they almost ran into her when she stopped, standing almost knee high to their mother in matching muslin dresses behind her. The orange-brown hair of the oldest girl, the same shade as her mother’s, sat piled in tight curls at the top of her head. The younger girl pulled nervously at strands of her moss green hair; too short to be pulled up, it hung limply around her face. Both wore looks of pampered boredom as they crossed the kitchen floor to the table in the center of the room.

The Mistress picked up the page and read it briefly before turning her attention to the basket resting delicately on the table. “Well, it says her name is Ella,” she said, succinctly. “I don’t know why someone would choose our doorstep to leave a baby, but there you have it.”

She reached into the basket to move the blanket away and look at the small bundle that had caused so much disruption to her household. Camilla and the cook leaned in for a better view while the two girls struggled with each other to see who could catch the first glimpse of the new addition to their home. The mistress grasped the tiny thing in her large gray hands and drew it out where everyone could see. A soft, pink face surrounded by pale gold tufts of hair looked up at her.

“She’s so ugly!” exclaimed the Mistress. She held the smiling baby out at arms length and quickly deposited her in the unprepared arms of the cook. She grabbed each of her daughters by one hand and pushed them behind her, as if to shield them from further exposure to the monstrous sight.

“Don’t let that thing any where near my precious girls. I don’t want it
to contaminate them.” She hurried off, herding her girls in front of her,
already trying to forget the ragged little child left to her unwilling care.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Resolved

Today... I will not worry if my kids take away from my writing time. Writing will always be there, but my kids won't always need me.

Today... I will rejoice in the little successes. I am not always able to do everything, so when I do something, I will appreciate it.

Today... I will give things my best effort. I don't want to spend my time tomorrow fixing the things that I only half-heartedly did today.

Today... I will not feel bad about all the things I didn't get done. Instead, I will look at what I did accomplish and feel satisfied.

Today... I will improve myself. I am not as good as I will be tomorrow, but I am better than I was yesterday.

Today... I will spread happiness and lift others. When I need a pick me up, someone is there for me. I can be that person for someone else today.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

And so it begins....

When I started writing, I new that it would be a long road. I knew that there would be times when I didn't want to do the work, when I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere, when I found that not every one liked me or my writing, or other equally hard or depressing things. I just didn't expect it to come so fast.

Ok. It's not really that serious. I'm being all dramatic and it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't even hurt at all, it's just a funny sort of thing that rejection comes in all forms and in all places.

But wait, you ask! What's going on here? Let me tell you a short story. I started trying out different social networking, just to see what really suits me. I'd been using the facebook for a long time, so that's a go. I started the blog and love it, so that's a go, too. Next step, twitter. It's fascinating and confusing. And a slow start. And I don't look very often. I don't have a lot to say. (Which is strange because I am normally so verbose.) I enjoy seeing the little tweets and am amazed that some people have so much to say in however many characters or less. In a strange sort of way, there is a little thrill when an email shows up saying, "Someone thinks you are interesting and wants to follow you." Last night there were 7 people in that category. Today, there are only 6.

It's kind of weird that my first thought was "what did I do wrong?" And then I laughed at myself. Really, it's not important if someone I don't really know doesn't care about what I'm not doing. (Did that make sense?) Yeah, it's a rejection of a sort, and the first of probably more than I want to count before I can see a shiny book with my name on it in a store somewhere, but it really gives me a frame of reference. I hope that sometime down the road when I get a stack of letters that say one of many variations of "Not for us" I look back at my very first rejection and say, "I can't change your reaction. I can only change what I am doing." And then, I hope I move forward with determination and clarity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

And The People Rejoiced

I received my first blog award this week. Kristen at Take It As It Comes gave me the Picasso Award, and I was so excited, I found myself running through an acceptance speech in my head. (I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the... ) That was before I realized I was probably getting carried away. It's just a nice thought that I am connecting with people.

This award apparently comes with the stipulation that I must tell you seven things about myself that you probably don't know. There are so many things that I could put down, but where to start?

1. I'm actually pretty funny. People don't often know I am funny because I spend a lot of time in situations where humor isn't high on the list. Like at church. But I am funny. At least, I think I'm funny. Here's an example. Imagine a young family around the dinner table. Food and noise are being thrown around with equal tenacity by two toddlers. The oldest, who is almost 3, raises his bread high in the air and lets loose with a piercing scream. He lowers the bread, then repeats the process several times. I turn to my husband and say, "What's the matter? Is the bread afraid of heights?" OK. It was funny to me.

2. I almost never wear make-up. It's not that I think make-up is bad. I just don't like it. If you meet me and I'm wearing make-up, something really cool or important is going on. I will wear the stuff to church, but on a normal weekday trip to the store, I'm au naturale. (Fortunately, my husband doesn't see a need for me to wear make-up. He's really good that way.)

3. I love Pride and Prejudice. I read it once a year, sometimes more. I just got back from the library and have checked out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My husband says it will forever ruin my reading of Pride and Prejudice because I'll be thinking about the zombie attack. He also says this might make Jane Austen palatable. Next on the list is Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters.

4. I love to travel, but rarely do. I lived in the midwest for almost two years. I traveled to Canada once. I visited Washington, DC. I love seeing new places and new things. It's a goal of mine to go someplace I have never been at least every other year. (I'm trying to be realistic, knowing that a big trip isn't always in the cards.) The list of places I would like to see is longer than the list of places I have been, by about 2000 percent.

5. I'm allergic to caffeine. Really. I am. I break out in hives. I pass out. It's not just that I don't tolerate it well because I never drink it and act crazy or drunk. I really can't drink caffeine. (This does not prevent me from eating chocolate. The body uses the chemical in chocolate the same way, but it is not the same artificial compound as you find in caffeinated beverages. You just try to separate me from my chocolate and see what happens. I dare you.)

6. Hair is the bane of my existence. And always has been. I had no hair until I was two and it just got worse from there. (My husband really likes my hair. He says it's soft and fun. I keep it very short most of the time so that I don't have to deal with naturally semi-wavy hair on only one side of my head.)

7. I'm wordy. You, fabulous reader, have probably figured this out all ready because you are smart and able to use logic. You have been reading this post and see how the words just keep coming and coming and coming and ... you get the picture. That's why I'm a writer. I have a lot to say.

And now, to pass on the love. I hereby bequeath this award to:

Lynnette Labelle at Chatterbox Chit Chat. Her posts are informative and fun, and she's just a cute gal.

Kristin Rae at Kristin Creative. She's fun to read and has a great contest going on at her blog right now to win an autographed copy of Ally Carter's Heist Society.

Josin L. McQuein at My Bloggish Blog Thing She's fun to follow. She has a great series going on at her blog right now about the struggle of a new author to get published. I love it. (She doesn't follow me, but I follow her.)

Kristi at Random Daily Thoughts. She's one of the first followers on my blog and she has a book being published tomorrow! How cool is that?

And Elana Johnson. She probably gets tons of awards, but she deserves them all. Her blog is amazing and so much fun.

Thanks for the award and thanks for sharing the fun with me!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Process, or How I Write

I'm a planner. Always have been. It's hard sometimes to be a planner, especially when life can be so... unpredictable. I like to know what is going to happen and when it's going to happen and how it's going happen. This shows up pretty much every where. If we go on vacation, I've made lists of the things to bring, the things to do, sometimes, even a daily schedule. (I don't share that with any one. It's mostly just for me.) Being a planner means that I can find order out of chaos. I feel confident when I know where I am going with things.

In some ways, it's annoying to have such a desire for order because we never end up having things exactly the way I planned. Like on our vacation last summer. I got sick. We had to spend an entire day with me sick in the car. You can't plan that. The biggest downfall of being a planner is that there is a certain amount of expectation that comes when you have a plan. If things don't match up to those expectations, disappointment is almost inevitable.

With this in mind, I've tried two different approaches to my writing, one for each of the first drafts I've written. When I wrote Ella, I had a very vague idea of what I was doing. I didn't really do more than write down a couple of notes for the characters and maybe the first few chapters to get it going. Other than that, I didn't really plan. I would get to a point in the story where I had no idea what was going to happen next, so I'd talk to my husband a little, get a glimpse of something, then start pounding away again on the keyboard. It worked. The story is good. It's really short for a novel. (Only about 40,000 words, but editing will fix that.) I love the story, though, and the spontaneity of creating it.

My second story, Beauty, was extensively planned. I had notes for every chapter. I had notes for every character. I had everything lined up from start to finish and I followed the outline almost completely. With that kind of direction, I poured out a novel (50,000+ words) in just over a month. It is cohesive, well-plotted, and kind of predictable. I think I went the easy route with it.

I can't say that one way is better than the other. I haven't started editing Ella really, and I will probably want to go through and plan better where it ends up. with Beauty, I'm editing and not planning where it goes so that it gets some of that spontaneity. So, it turns out, I'm only sort of a planner. I have to plan enough to get direction, but not enough to prevent new ideas from happening. I think the fun part of this process is finding the balance.

So, what works for you? Do you plan? Do you wing it?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just plain cozy

The weekend brought a lazy, comfortable sort of feeling. It started snowing Friday night and just kept going, off and on. There were moments when the skies were blue and the sun peaked through the clouds. It was beautiful.

There's a mountain behind our house. (Stay with me. It'll make sense in a second.) During one of the off moments for the snow, we went to run the weekend errands. You know the kind. Go to the library. Stop at the store. That kind of thing. Driving back to our house, I looked up at the mountain and it looked like someone had taken powdered sugar and dusted the whole thing. It might have been a green and gray dessert with white powdery goodness on top.

I love snow. Everything becomes a world of white and sparkling crispness. All of the brown, muddy stuff that comes with winter disappears. It feels new and clean. It often surprises me how a few hours can change everything. I sit in my comfy chair with a huge, fluffy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. The lights are out and the curtains are open. None of the light escapes so everything is glowing. And I feel like I can be just as new and fresh as the snow still sifting down onto the ground outside. It's beautiful to have that starting over again feeling and I hope it stays.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Status Report, Sir

Well, this week has been a mixed bag. In my personal life, I've had some struggles. My husband has been on a business trip all week so I've been a single mommy. It's been mostly fun and better than I expected, but still tough when I have to wake up in the night without a tag team to take care of the 15 month old. He wakes up at least once a night. (We're slowly getting him to sleep through the night. He used to wake up every other hour, like clockwork, for a year.) I'm looking forward to having my sweetheart home again this afternoon. I've even baked lemon bars. (Well, sort of. I used orange juice instead of lemon juice.)

I've had some minor scuffles with family. Being the oldest sibling in a large family, I'm pretty opinionated and nosy sometimes. I say the wrong thing at the wrong time and hurt feelings happen on both sides. I don't know how to fix that, so I'm taking a break with the family for a while to let things smooth out. I hate how things can go so wrong sometimes with the people who are the most important to me.

In my writing, things are finally really taking off. I've been gathering the ideas and sorting through what I want to change for a while now. I've made one or two starts and gotten to a point where I just don't want to keep going several times. This time, though, I'm actually making headway. I even put in 1500 words yesterday, which is a pretty good run. If I keep that up, I could be done with my newest draft in a month or so. We'll see what happens. It's nice to be feeling productive with my writing. I need that creative outlet.

Other than that, things are pretty normal, humdrum. I clean house, I cook food, I shower occasionally. All in all, life is pretty good. Hope your week was as good as, if not better than mine.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Call me sappy. Call me sentimental. I love a happy ending. This is probably the biggest reason I like fairy tales. There's a moral and a happy ending. It's what makes fairy tales...fairy tales. I love the idea of love conquering great odds, the good guy getting the girl, the bad guy getting his just desserts. It just makes me feel warm and gushy inside. I'm the kind of person who cries at Hallmark commercials, romantic movies, and the cute things my kids do. I get emotionally invested in these kinds of things. I can't help it.

Yesterday, my kids watched Wall-E. (Ok. They're watching it again, right now. Because they watch the same movie over and over again.) It got to the end where Wall-E has forgotten who he is and EVE is trying to get him to remember. I found myself thinking, "This would probably have been a better story if he had not remembered. More poignant. More meaningful. More real." My husband has said that before, but believing in Happy Endings, as I do, I couldn't accept that.

Something changed yesterday. I don't know what. Maybe it's that life rarely has happy endings unless you are willing to make something that isn't great into something better. Maybe it's that I am learning to appreciate the value of the right ending instead of the happy ending. I couldn't say.

I don't think it means I will be giving up my happy endings in my writing quite yet. After all, I'm writing fairy tales and fairy tales need happy endings. But, for the first time ever, I'm open to the idea that not every ending has to be happy and that might be something to experiment with. Who knows where it will take me?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feeling Real, People!

Yesterday, I mentioned that I miss having real connections with real people after the influx of all the online social networking. Now, I have a flip side sort of thing.

I recently became friends on Facebook with a couple of the people whose blogs I follow. These are people that I admire and feel inspired by. They are insightful and helpful and much further along in the writing process than I am. I don't know why I expected them to be somewhat super human and continue to just blow me away when I got introduced to a different forum for them, but I was pleasantly surprised.

They are all real people. They play the silly Facebook games and talk about their kids and spouses. They have real struggles and real personal lives. They aren't just a collection of great ideas and fascinating experiences that will ultimately be of benefit to me. They are the kind of people that I would actually want to hang out with, joke around with, and connect with. The kind of people who are all ready my friends. And I was glad that these people aren't afraid of sharing some of the funny, mundane things that make us all people.

I've read lots of advice about social networking and how to reach out to people. It's something that I've really struggled with, as far as finding a good balance. Do I talk about my kids on my blog? Do I mention when I'm having a really down day? Is it ok for me to combine my personal life with my writing life? And I think it would be ok to make things more personal, more real. I mean, writing is part of who I am. It's personal to me. The best way to make it real is to be willing to open up about me and what makes me someone special and different. If that means sharing a little more about me, then I'll gladly do it. Being real in every way is totally worth it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Staying connected

I am amazed at how many different ways there are to stay connected with people. When I was a kid, we had telephones or we could go and see someone. (I know. I'm old. Telephones in my day were stuck to the wall with a cord. You could only move as far as the cord stretched. We had one that stretched really, really far. It was awesome.)

Now, if I haven't talked to my sister in a while, I just jump on Facebook and see what she's up to. I can read the blogs of family, friends, and any old random person on the internet. I can hop on Twitter and see what some celebrity is doing at any given hour of the day. And now, yahoo and google are getting into the pie, too. With so many ways to keep track of people, I find myself missing the first and fundamental version: face to face.

My little brother is a young, single twenty-something. I was amazed to discover that he had an entire dating relationship over text messages. They would sit in the same room and have their conversations with their fingers. This would have been understandable to me if they had been speaking in sign language, but text messages? Really? I miss the idea of having a personal and meaningful relationship with people. At the same time, there are some really fabulous people I have met over the internet that I would never have come across in person.

This is a hard thing to balance, I think. I know that as someone who wants to be an author, I have to utilize these online methods to at least some degree. I need a presence that is recognizable and approachable. Figuring out how to make something that feels less personal than what I am used to become personal is a good goal for me. If I can do that, it will definitely help my writing. Connecting to people I don't know through my words is what I'm trying to accomplish.

What do you do to make your social networking more real?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nothing new and some contests

I spent the day cleaning my house. A bit of early spring cleaning, you might say. It's taken up most of the day, since I've been putting off some of the cleaning for quite some time. (Bathrooms and I have issues. I just hate to clean them.)

All this cleaning has put me behind on all of my writerly pursuits for the day, but I did want to mention that two of my favorite blogs on writing are having a joint contest. The first is Elana Johnson and the second is Shelli at Market My Words If you are interested at all in writing, look into it. The prizes are really awesome. Critiques of queries. Publicity and marketing information. Books like crazy mad. All kinds of things that are great. So, check them out. The biggest thing to enter their contests is to be a follower. Do it! You know you want to.

And now, with my house clean, taxes season dying down, and sick kids finally recovering, it'll be writing, writing, writing! Happiness abounds.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guerilla attack

I'm realizing that a one month goal for finishing this round of edits may have been unrealistic. Half the month is gone and I haven't made any really significant headway. Chalk this up to "yet another thing I didn't know when I started." It's amazing how many of those there are. Maybe I'll make a list one of these times, when I've figured it all out. (Fifteen years from now.)(Or never.)

The amazing thing is that I don't feel discouraged. I look at where I am and it's so much further than I was at this point a year ago when I hadn't even put fingers to keyboard. I started this journey the first week of April and I can't believe how much I've all ready learned and accomplished. This is where you have to really put value on the intrinsic. There aren't very many people who can look at everything and say, "WOW!" except maybe my husband. He sees all the stages. It's nice to have someone with that perspective when every one measures success by being published. (I can't tell you how many of my casual friends or acquaintances have asked when they can buy my book or when it will be on shelves. Try back two or three years from now. Maybe.)

So, I'm fighting the sneak attack of literature. The one where you never knew exactly what you were in for, but now that you are entrenched in the war, you can't back out. I'm trying to be realistic about my expectations. Otherwise, I will be seriously depressed. Long, long road ahead!

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day to all you believers out there. (I used to be one for celebrating Single Awareness Day, instead, but honoring love seems like a great thing.)