Category Archives: Writing!

Happy Writer is Happy

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Blogging? What’s that?

I can’t believe I never do this anymore. I know why. Because I will write, and before I know it a week or so has gone by and so much has happened, and I think “there’s no way I will be able to cover everything” so I don’t post. Instead I just puke everything out on an ongoing basis every day on Facebook. Because it is easier.

I don’t even blog on my website! And that’s what I should be doing for my writing career. Most of the writers I look up to and even the ones I don’t look up to, but have large followings, post every day and share amazing advice and insights into their work. I just don’t feel into doing it for some reason. I’m way more about absorbing things right now, than finding things to share with others. I’m being selfish, and damned if I don’t care. Selfish is just where I want to be right now. It helps me get things done.

Since my last post, I joined up with a few other local writers to form a novel critique group. We share one chapter at a time of our books with one another, two weeks before we are to meet up again. Then we meet and go over all of our work in person. We’ve been meeting at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks, and we’re usually there for almost two hours. It’s excellent discussion, too. I just love that these women are all where I am regarding writing fiction. We’re all novel-writers (no non-fiction). We’re all devoted to our work. All of us have the same goal: to write excellent books and be published. We support one another, we encourage and help brainstorm to help one another out of challenges that come up when you’re trying to get a scene to work.

Our meeting for January was the best one yet. OK, it was only our 3rd meeting, but still. We added a new member to our group who has turned out to be a most valuable connection for me (more on that in a minute). I’d spent a lot of effort on each of the women’s critiques, writing up detailed notes and doing track-changes on their files. Everything went over well and I was able to help one of the girls “flip a switch” with one of my suggestions and she was so grateful. But my ego was stoked, big time. Why? Well, my book is the one that everyone is going crazy about. I can’t believe it.

Now, all these women are excellent writers. Well…one isn’t as good at it yet, but damn, her heart is in the right place and she is one hell of a reader and energy-cheerleader. Still, they know what they are doing and they are connected. They participate in all kinds of writers’ pitch contests, go to conferences, host blog tours and are on street teams for a handful of debut authors we all know through Twitter, and one of them has even self-published a book already. They have read all of the books. (Well, it feels that way. They bandy around titles and authors so fast my mind spins and I can’t always write down the titles/authors in my notebook fast enough!)

When we get to my work, the compliments astound me and just flatter me. They love the concept, they love my main character, they love the way I’m structuring it, and they sometimes go back and read passages I’ve written out-loud because they enjoyed the descriptive language, the way I have worked in all 5 senses to what my MC experiences, the dialogue, and the fact that my MC has very healthy relationships with her family. (Ever notice how many books have troubled family dynamics, or absent parents, or siblings they hate, etc? There are a LOT. And I, for one, am tired of those.) But most of all, I’ve got them HOOKED. They are dying to see my Tarzan guy.

I just sent off chapter 3 today and I’m psyched because this is the one where we finally get a good look at him. It’s only Olive, my MC, and “the jungle man” in this chapter. Close, intense interaction. I can’t wait for them to read it.

I can’t get over this. That my book is working this well on the first draft. I’m like giddy-jumpy-nauseous-hyperactive excited over it. And I can honestly say I LOVE THIS BOOK. Just love it. I love the world it takes place in, I love the things I get to describe, I love the between-the-lines themes I’m working into the plot, I love thinking of a hot, super sexy guy and I’m burning with the anticipation of the intimate and hot scenes I have coming up very soon.

I’ve never written anything like this one. It’s like my own custom candy store! I’m including so many things I love into this one. I get to write about wild jungle animals; the untamed, not-quite-human-man thing I have a near-fetish over; a girl who is best friends with her sister (something I have experience with and that I cherish); and the early days of the NJ shore boardwalks and carnival/sideshow culture.

And I’m currently doing some heavy behind-the-scenes work to develop an antagonist that’s fully developed and, I hope, will be somewhat liked by the readers. I’ve been inspired by Loki. Yeah. How cool is it that the villain has become more loved than the hero in the Thor movies? Why is that? Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought, I’ve done a lot of reading and…well, OK, I have to admit, a LOT of lusting. Tom Hiddleston is the shit. So talented and so fucking sexy-cute. I can’t believe the first time I saw Thor, my reaction to Loki was just uncomfortable. I didn’t think he was good-looking back then. I didn’t know why I was unsettled by Loki. But once it hit upon a second viewing of Thor, it hit hard. It was because of this scene. Sympathy for the villain. I don’t know that I’ve seen this kind of thing much in movies before, and it’s surprising it happens in a comic book movie. Huh.

My villain is nothing like Loki. Doesn’t have the same kind of backstory, doesn’t look like Tom H. But the model of how Loki was built to become so complex and hard to shrug off as “just evil” has influenced me so much. I want to attempt that model. Make my readers feel weirdly conflicted every time the villain disappoints us again by doing something bad. Just when you think he might be reformed, is giving in to his emotions and allows ‘sentiment’ to come to the surface–blam. Stabs the good guy in the stomach.

The latest villain to make me go, “hold on just a goddamn second here” is Moriarty from Sherlock. Which, by the way, is an excellent show. I knew it would be, b/c the friends who have recommended it to me wouldn’t lead me astray, since we share the same tastes. I only started watching it about a week ago, but I’ve already re-watched a couple of episodes and then went online and read some analyses of the themes and nuances of the characters. Sherlock alone is fascinating. He’s kind of a jerk but the way they’re handling his genius-thing is fascinating. He’s the hero who is somehow, not-quite-sure-how, perilously close to being a villain. I hate when he doesn’t appreciate John. OMG. I love John, too. ANYWAY… I digress.

Moriarty is batshit insane and it’s great. The actor they chose is mesmerizing; that sing-song voice is creepy and when he all of the sudden screams with fury it’s like a firecracker going off 6 inches from your face… And then there is this line:

“I will burn…the heart… out of you.” (I’ve watched this scene many, many times already)

I have held off watching the last episode available on Netflix (season 2, ep. 3) because I know the basics of what will happen and I’m positive I need to give it my full attention and have a notebook ready. Yeah, I’m a nerd. I take notes during things I’m watching sometimes. But I can’t wait to let myself find out more about Moriarty. Who is he, where does he go, where did he come from, why is he the way he is, what does he love, what drives him, what’s the obsession with Sherlock all about (I already know that one, I think: the two of them are almost mirrors of one another, which is a dynamic I am dying to dig into because that’s another one I have never given much thought to before now)… sherlock_and_moriarty_by_jaxparabellum-d4q6ap6

I really can ramble about the things I love, can’t I? 🙂

Suffice to say, my brain is in full character-development mode. Because I love my book and I love my characters. Because having this much fun writing a book should be illegal.

I couldn’t be happier.

Oh. There’s another huge piece of writing-career news. Remember how I mentioned the new girl in the critique group earlier in this post? Well, she and I hit it off that day and hung out and talked for awhile after the meeting. She’s an intern for a publishing company and told me all about it and what it entails. Then she mentions that there is a current opening for a new intern; someone to cover New Adult manuscript submissions. She gave me the name and contact info for the editor at the company, and encouraged me to apply.

I applied a day later, and then the day after that I was “hired.” The editor was excited when she saw my work experience as an editor and contributing-author coordinator. Since I know how to read a ‘disaster first draft’ and revise it and work with the author the whole way, I was a good fit. Even though I’d yet to do any of this with a book, my experience counted. Wow– another excellent revelation. All of my day-job nonsense has not been in vain.

So anyway, I got my first assignment and spent the next 7 days reading it. Unfortunately, it was a manuscript that just didn’t work. I couldn’t get into it; I saw the problems with it within the first 10 pages and knew I wasn’t going to see the things a good book needs in order to engage readers. I soldiered through, and still didn’t finish the whole thing. But when, by page 100, you still can’t tell who the antagonist might be, what the plot really is about, and what’s so damn special about the supposed love interest… I’m confident when I say it’s not publishable.

I have to write up a report about each manuscript I read, discussing as many of the key elements as possible and explaining what is good and what is bad about the book. It is NOT easy to do this. But I’ll tell you: when I finished that report and edited it up, I felt amazing. I felt like I had just learned something really important; that this is something I could really get into. I love having to work hard at something I am legitimately interested in learning. Sadly, it has been so damn long since that’s been the case for me in my adult life.

So, the internship is going great so far. I just started assignment #2 last night. It looks like I might be expected to do a book a week. This is already cutting a little into my usual writing-time, but I’m not that worried yet.

Between the internship, the critique group, networking through Twitter and the other writers I’ve connected with in the past year… it’s all coming together.

I am on the right path.

I’m going to get paid to do things I love. Someday, sooner rather than later. I won’t waste away in a go-nowhere, thankless business magazine job for much longer. My resume is morphing into gold by the minute.

It’s such a satisfying feeling. And it also feels comfortable; like, “I totally GOT THIS, yo.”

Time for bed now. It took me two hours to write this overall. See? This is why I don’t blog! I can’t shut up and I take too damn long!

Stop thinking

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I need a true vacation.

I know, I know. Everyone says that. Everyone wants to be somewhere else, everyone wants to be relaxing and having a good time. I know. The thing is that I haven’t had a true vacation in a really long time.

I go back to NJ when I have time and money, but the entire time I am there I’m visiting people, doing things, running around… I’m not taking lazy walks in the woods. In 2011 I had the best trip back there b/c I arranged group get-togethers to see people to be more efficient and it worked out well. I had time to go kayaking at the Manasquan reservoir with K and her sister; we went to Belmar to lounge around on the beach another day. For once, I didn’t try to fit too much in. It was awesome.

But since then, my travels have all been for a purpose. Drove out to LA for teh Writer’s Conference in October; that was nice, but it was a tight schedule the whole time I ws there and I had to deal with the anxiety of pitching to agents. Went back to NJ right after Hurricane Sandy– yeah, that definitely made the trip stressful. The next vacation days I took were when my Dad came here to visit for 10 days, and we all know that was a stressful time. We spent a lot of money, energy and time trying to entertain him and keep him busy. And trips for work definitely do NOT count as vacation. No friggin’ way.

There’s a reason I need some time to run away for awhile. My mind is busting at the seams from all of the thinking I’ve been doing. I just changed my depression/anxiety drug cocktail last month and that was a tough ride only b/c my body was reacting to the chemical shift. At one point, when I was technically on 3 drugs at once for a couple of weeks, I was dizzy and forgetful as hell, and even worse, I was seeing things just out of my line of vision. One day when I hung out with R and T cruising estate sales, I completely saw Hurley out of the corner of my eye twice that day. I knew he obviously wasn’t there, but the fact that my brain was making those images appear so clearly definitely freaked me the hell out.

Now I’m evened-out, for the most part. But brain chemistry aside, outside forces are making my synapses fire overtime and I’m worn out.

Here are the main things I can’t seem to stop thinking about:

1) NO LONGER QUERYING MY BOOK. My longtime friend S read my book “In My Blood” and returned to be a scathing, no-holds-barred review. He sent me a full 20 pages of specific notes! I was overwhelmed, but ultimately relieved and excited to have someone just break it down and tell me what doesn’t work, WHY those things don’t work and some general writing-wisdom notes here and there to help me improve my writing structure, tone, characterizations and descriptions. I can’t tell you how much I think I needed exactly this. I have had a strong feeling that something was off about my book but damned if I could pinpoint the problems myself. I couldn’t tell if I was being overcritical of myself like usual, or if I just couldn’t see anything clearly anymore because I’ve been so close to the story for so many years now. Either way, having someone who had never read any of the previous versions read through this with a critical eye changed everything.

It would take me so long to get into details of what S explained to me, but suffice to say I agree with the majority of his critiques/suggestions. I’ve decided to stop sending my manuscript out to agents, entering it in contests or submitting it to independent publishers. It’s currently off the table.

Meanwhile, I am revising it from the floor up. In short, I’ve created an improved, tighter plot that is easier to explain. I’m taking out the diabetes cure thing. Zachary’s no longer imprisoned on an island, as a lab animal. Now, he is 20 and just ended his 2nd year of college. He wants to be a vet and will be interning at a SeaWorld-like park over the summer. He has a secret skill –he can understand the thoughts of animals. He can’t get them to understand him back. Yet. But one day he figures it out and it changes so much for him. And, in his experiences at the SW hellhole, he sees the whales and dolphins don’t belong there. He meets up with a Paul-like character and begins to become an undercover activist. Things get more dangerous all the time, and he risks exposing not only his secret talent but the secrets of the Coalition, a think-tank his parents are a part of and is responsible for making him what he is. On top of that, he’s fallen in love with a fellow activist and his actions are putting her in danger, too. He’s branded an eco-terrorist by the end of the book. THIS is the story I have been trying to find. THIS is the story I am passionate about and the way I can get my message across now.

I’m excited about it and have written about two dozen pages so far. It’s flowing so easy and so far, it’s a blast putting my Zachary into an entirely new life. He’s really been living a normal life, with a mother and father. Friends. Schools. Texting on a cell phone. Driving a car. Working to rehab injured or sick cetaceans at the facility his parents run.  I am so happy for him. He’s far from a normal guy, but he is living a good life.

2) MY TARZAN BOOK. At the same time I’m revising my first book, I am writing the first draft of this Tarzan steampunk book. It’s taking a lot more research than I first expected, but without the benefit of total immersion in a mountain/ tropical forest terrain in Western Africa, I have to try to learn as much as I can about the fauna, flora, weather and topography of the area as I can, so I can pull from it as the story flows out. Fortunately, it won’t be long until my MCs leave Africa to fly by airship back to the Jersey Shore around the year 1900. Then, things take on a carnival, amusement park atmosphere and a love story blossoms. It’s also a LOT of fun. These two books are being written simultaneously. That’s not something most writing pros encourage, since you need to focus to write your best work. But for now, flipping between the two almost daily is working for me now. I am hoping to get some kind of advice as to which one to dive into as my primary project. Which one’s stronger and more compelling? We’ll have to see. If you’re interested in reading the first few pages of each book and letting me know which one you are most interested in reading what’s next– please let me know. No pressure, though. Seriously.

3) NEW JERSEY. I can’t get into this in depth with details, but a future move to NJ is now officially in the works. The real estate values in AZ are rising quickly and I can now make a decent profit if I sell my house, and it seems like this trend will continue for awhile. I have to time things right– sell before the selling price per sq/ft begin to drop off– so I can pay off my debts and hopefully have a nice chunk of money for a down payment on something in NJ. Yes, I will probably buy again even though owning a house has been a huge struggle out here for me. That’s b/c it’s cheaper to buy AND I have 4 pets. Who’s going to rent to someone with 4 pets? I’m just not sure I can find something reasonable. Also, my family will be moving in with me at first. They’ll help me with the mortgage payments, and yes, the work around the house. Living together while we all get settled and established makes the most sense. Again, timelines are TBD and I don’t want this news getting around just yet. It could be way too early, and it could backfire if work finds out.

The main thing is that I’m obsessed with thinking about all the steps I’ll need to take to sell, move cross country, buy a new home, find a new job…all of it. It’s a lot to take on, but I want to be home so very much. It’s just harder every year that goes by that I am away from my home. My best friends. You only get one chance to live your life, so I want to live the rest of mine on the East coast again.

4) BURN OUT. My job, man. I feel so completely done with it. I can’t get a promotion, nor would I want to, seeing how people are treated here from the top down. I write the same kind of articles all the time, month after month. I’m so sick of the processes and working with the contributing authors. I feel bored and uninspired and mostly distracted as I think of the other 3 things on this list all the damn day, every day. I know there is more to my writing career than this. This go-nowhere, no recognition position can’t be the end of the line. I can do a lot more than this. I know a lot more. I could turn things around, get new web-based initiatives moving… but the truth is, I don’t want to do those things here. I don’t care enough. I am done. Just now–literally just now– I got a review back on an article I worked on and it’s saying my article is terrible and has no relevence to our readers. I swear to god, I am just DONE. I want to walk out so bad right now. I am not kidding. I’m tired. I don’t want to do this shit anymore. I hope I find something a lot more exciting, rewarding and less spinning-my-wheels than this crap job when I move away. So many more writing/editing jobs in the NY/NJ area, anyway.

Wow, not FIVE MINUTES LATER, I got my second review back and it also says my article sucks. That’s two thumbs-down reviews in 5 minutes.

I’m out.

 

 

 

Ms. Passive Aggressive

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No one likes passive aggressive people. They’re assholes. I mean, just say what’s bothering you and be direct about it. Don’t play these silly games that dance around the issue and *hope* your point is noticed by the offending parties.

Well… I’m an asshole. And I’m going to be passive aggressive right now.

First: I’m so disappointed because my boss has decided to buy a purebred Great Dane.

He’d approached me a few weeks back because he and his wife were thinking, yet again, of adopting getting a dog and he wanted my advice. Well, great! I have so many connections to all kinds of local dog rescues and could even help him narrow it down to the right dog with the right personality for his family’s needs. I gave him links to specific dogs and contact information for my favorite rescues.

I should have known something was up, because I didn’t hear a thing about it. Until today. When he says: “I was afraid to tell you about this, but… we’re getting a Great Dane puppy.”

He was afraid to tell me because he knows how incredibly important it is to me that I successfully spread the ADOPT, DON’T BUY message. And he knew I would be pissed at his ultimate decision. He was right.

I’m pissed for several reasons, besides the obvious one of “there’s one shelter dog’s life NOT being saved”… such as:

1) He bought a puppy about 2 years ago from a shady breeder in southern AZ somewhere. His wife decided they had to have an English golden retriever. So they went and got this dog and had no clue what to do to train it. The dog had insane energy and all kinds of health problems. (It had eaten a magnet at the breeder’s house before they even had her, and ended up spending massive amounts of money to have the magnet surgically removed.) At the time, his twin daughters were only 2, and the dog was “too much for them” and then, apparently, one of the twins developed an allergy to the dog. I don’t know what the fuck he was thinking, getting a high-energy, large breed puppy with two little toddlers in the house. It was an ongoing disaster for months, until that convenient dog allergy showed up and they had no choice but to return the dog to the breeder. They gave up on a dog for no good reason at all. A dog they never, ever should have adopted in the first place.

2) Next, they got a Saint Bernard. A Saint Bernard!!! That one lasted for an even shorter time period before it was returned. Again, it was a very young dog and had tons of energy and needed time, attention and TRAINING to get it to be the dog they wanted.

3) Today he told me that he spent a lot of time “exhausting the rescue option” and in the end they just knew they wouldn’t find a dog that was what they wanted, in a rescue. In the Great Dane rescue, the dogs were mostly “4 or 5 years old already, and with the short life spans of Great Danes, we knew we’d only get a couple of good years out of one of those dogs and we’re not ready for that.” Apparently he is of the naive belief that only old dogs die. Look. You get a dog, you’d better be ready for whatever comes your way regarding illnesses and accidents. If you’re “not ready for that”…don’t get a dog.

4) They have two pet rabbits and they also said at rescues they wouldn’t be able to find a dog that would be both good with little kids AND rabbits. Notice I said “wouldn’t be able to” in that sentence up there. This shows that he never really investigated that part of it seriously. He’s lying to me about “exhausting the rescue option.” I hate being lied to. Anyway, who wants to place bets that there will be an incident with the Great Dane puppy and the rabbits within the first 6 months? How about the first 6 weeks?

5) He says he wants a dog he can take on walks, but back when he had the other two dogs, he “hated walking them” because of the work and effort of trying to control them. OH CHRIST, GET ME A DRINK AT THIS POINT!

I look forward to the inevitable failure of this, his latest Worst Decision Ever.

Second: I don’t understand the people who tell me to send them my book because they want to read it, and then they never read it.

I can think of EIGHT friends right now who fall under this category. Eight. All of them friends, not just people I kinda know/strangers. They all said to me, “please let me read your book” and I told them yes.

I also told them to be honest and fuckin’ tell me if you are bored with the story and stop reading.

This is important.

I need to know if my story doesn’t engage people. It’s not a matter of “I’d like to know”… NO. I NEED TO KNOW. So I can fix it.

Some of the people tell me, “Oh, well… I don’t really read that genre, but I’ll give it a try.” This is not the right thing to say to an aspiring author. It’s not that I am upset you don’t read my genre. It’s that you are clearly not the target audience, but you’ll give this a look anyway, probably out of some unspoken obligation. Don’t do that. Just don’t offer to read my book, because it sucks getting excited waiting for feedback that NEVER comes. And I don’t want you doing a pity-read, either. Lame.

Third: Writers who don’t know a thing about my genre, and yet feel they have the right to tell me all the things wrong with my book. Or what they would do differently, to make it sell.

Writer Ex did this to me a couple months ago, and I’m still annoyed by what he said. I wanted him to be brutally honest about my story, and he wasn’t.

He was brutally honest about what he would do with my story idea, if he’d had it.

The first lines of his critique: “Great title. The rest? Not so much.”

Then he went on to explain he never reads YA sci-fi or paranormal so he has no idea what the market is for those books. But if I want people to buy my book, I need to make Zachary some kind of mutant freak with big, flashy superpowers he can’t control. I should write it in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And so on, until I felt like puking.

Again, maybe you shouldn’t offer to critique my query and first few pages if you are unfamiliar with my genre.

At least I know better now. I won’t ask anyone who doesn’t READ this kind of stuff (or write it) take a look at my work.

OK. My passive aggressive rant here is done.

I’m going home now to write my kick-ass new book, play with my dogs and enjoy my fuckin’ weekend!

Lonely without it

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I wasn’t feeling well this past weekend, and spent two days stuck at home. Now, it could have been the illness (I had a fever and everything, yuck), but I realized I was feeling kind of depressed. My depression has been in ‘remission’ for the most part, thank God. So I was like, “what the hell is THIS?” What did I have to be depressed about?

I journaled about it, free associating all over the place, to work it out. Two things came to the forefront.

1) I’m sick of being single. FINALLY. Many times, I’ve wondered when this day would come! Because, of course, I love the way my life is right now without the drama of dealing with a relationship. But lately, I’ve been thinking about it again as a possibility. It comes up when I am at a party surrounded by couples, or when people post sickly-sweet things about their spouses on FB, or I am once more the only single person in a group of friends or people at work. I feel the creep of time closing in, and know I am (gulp) only 2.5 years away from FORTY… and think, damn it. Am I honestly going to wind up the weird cat-lady spinster I don’t want to be? Will I wake up one day and be like, oh shit! It happened! I’m Forever Alone(TM)!

Well, here’s the bitch of it: Dating as an activity just doesn’t appeal to me. I can’t get interested in trying the Match.com route again, at all. I’d rather it be the way I’ve done it in the past: I find someone I like. I find out a time and place we might be in the same place. I approach the guy. I tell him, bluntly, that I am interested. He asks me out, and before long we’re BF and GF.

OK. This approach has only worked twice, but those were fun relationships. I do have my eye on someone right now, but… I AM AN IDIOT.

I can’t seem to make eye contact with the dude when I’m around him! I feel all stupid and awkward. I’m not sure what my problem is. He’s now one of my FB friends, and I feel like I’m back in high school when he likes a comment or a post of mine. I’ve thought about messaging him, but don’t want to come on too strong. And THAT is my eternal problem with guys: My tendency is to just jump in with my blunt “I like you” approach, but normally my doubts trickle in and I chicken out. I’ve ‘passed up’ a few very good guys in the past because of this. (And ended up with lame-ass guys instead, blechh.)

So, who the hell knows? Either way, this little crush thing is more fun than it is depressing… so I know the “lonely because I’m single” thing isn’t actually a cause for full-on depression. No way. In fact, I was thinking about it this morning and realized that having this silly crush puts me in a GOOD mood. Maybe I’m a masochist. No. Maybe. I don’t know. Leave me alone!

OK, so the other thing that came out of my journaling was this sentence: “I miss writing Zachary.”

It probably sounds strange to non-writers, but I miss having Zachary in my head. He’s been in there for a good 16 years! And now he’s sort of left the building. I can’t explain it, but now that the first book is complete, he’s not in the forefront anymore. I go do something new, and I don’t immediately start imagining, “what would Zachary think of this? What would he do?” Now I just do something, and that’s it. It’s so weird…! I’m not explaining it well. All I know is there has yet to be another character that’s demanding my full attention. I know it’s only been about a month and a half since I finished, but I guess I thought I’d be deep into the next story by now. I have those two other novels started, both with very fun protagonists, but I suppose I’m not ready yet to get too involved with either of them…?

I did start messing around with the sequel to Zachary, but even that’s not taking off like I’d expected.

So, I appear to be in some sort of transitionary period, where my brain’s recalibrating and (hopefully) preparing for the next character that can’t be ignored.

It feels so, so weird. I’m anxious for it to go away.

I plan to FORCE it to go away, by writing. Writing anything, freely, who-cares-what-it-is. Just get my fingers flying over the keyboard again, see what happens. It may be an entirely new character is waiting to be created. I did get a brand-new idea (a romance!) on the plane ride home from our NJ trip that’s kind of fun to think about… I just need to figure out which of the two characters in that story is the protagonist.

In general, these are the rough physical prototypes for the new story:

And the whole thing came to me from listening to this EP: We Can Make the World Stop.

Yeah, this one is fun.

 

 

My blogging situation

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I am beginning to move away from this blog, in favor of blogging on my website. If you know my name, it’s http://myname.com. No spaces — just my first and last name dot com.

I’ll still use this one as I’ve always intended it: more or less as a diary. Meaning, I will still write here occassionally about personal things or anything I wouldn’t want the professional writing community to read for whatever reason.

So, if you’re so inclined, go check out my website and if you want to give me any suggestions or ideas to improve it, please feel free. I like the site so far, but I still have more to add to it. I want it to be a good representation of my writing range.

My journey to landing an agent just began in earnest last week. I sent my samples out to the two interested agents… but one of them has a “full mailbox” and so my email bounced back three times. I’ll wait a couple more days, and try re-sending it. Hopefully by then she’ll have checked her email! I have to say I don’t see this as an encouraging sign, because I would want my agent to be professional in all regards, and that includes keeping her email account active. We’ll have to see.

And no news is good news with the other agent, I’m thinking. I don’t expect the first agent to be the one that “bites”… I’m all set to query the next batch of agents I’ve pinpointed through my research. I will be doing that next batch– it will be 4 or 5 at a time– this week. Not sure which day, but it’ll happen. I remain psyched. 🙂

In other news, I’ve got a really painful bout of sciatica going on these days. Holy crap. It’s doing something I’m calling “seizing up” whenever I first stand up after sitting for awhile. The pain just shoots down my nerve and the muscles around it almost freeze so I can’t put my foot flat on the ground. It only lasts a few seconds, but it’s ridiculously painful for those seconds. I’m trying not to be a wimp, and definitely trying not to complain about it, but there are times when I can’t hide it– like those “seizing up” moments. I tend to gasp a little, or make an involuntary little noise. Because of this, I chose not to go to a social event on Friday night where I could have possibly spoken to the guy I kind-of like. First, I was in no shape to do a lot of walking around or sitting on bar stools, etc… and second, if I ended up looking like a total gimp or something, that would be counterproductive. Mehh. It sucks a whole lot. It really does. I hate my spine.

I’m giving it another week or so to see if it eases up on its own. It usually does. This happened around this time last year, too. I do know what to do to take care of the problem: lie flat with my knees bent with an ice pack on the discs for 15-25 minutes at a time; do my stretches after a hot shower or using the heating pad; sit up straight and only wear shoes with a lot of support and no heels. I broke out the hydrocodone on friday. I had to. I rationed it all year so I would have it on-hand when I truly needed it. I’ve only taken it twice so far since Friday, but I will take it again if I absolutely have to.

When these sciatica episodes happen, I wind up feeling depressed at the same time. No coincidence there, really. I feel trapped in this body, with the constant pain, and I am self-conscious about how I move and walk around. I try to pass it off like I am just fine when I’m in public because I hate when someone asks me if I’m OK. If it gets to the point that someone has to ask, that means I failed at hiding it. I kind of pride myself on my high tolerance for pain… I know that’s kind of weird. But I do. I have some kind of sciatic nerve pain every single day of my life. But you know how it is with things that are chronic: You get used to it. You find ways to cope and keep things under control. It becomes no big deal. It really does. Because if I were to give in and take meds for each little twinge and pain, I’d be on all kinds of drugs all the time, probably. And I’d be whining a lot, too. Both in writing and in person. Nah. I do not want to be that way. And I don’t need to be that way, thankfully. Like I said, I have the “gift” of a high pain tolerance.

Anyway, I have already blabbed enough about this. As I was saying, I’ll give this another week or so and if it doesn’t get better by then, I’ll call the last spine specialist I saw last year and see if I can get started on a pain management treatment plan. My friend L at work got two cortisone injections when her sciatica was acting up, and it worked great for her. I will look into that. (The only thing holding me back is the fact that insurance only covers a portion of the expense b/c it’s not a “medical necessity.” The things that are excluded from insurance coverage are ridiculous sometimes. I’d say pain relief from not one but THREE ruptured discs should be a necessity, wouldn’t you? But last year when I looked into it, one injection would cost me around $450 AFTER insurance. Yeeesh! However, thanks to changes from the federal government, my insurance company is one of the ones that has had to answer for their sins against patient care– maybe if I look into it now, it would be different! I know I no longer pay for my birth control pills, or my annual well woman visit… seriously, NO co-pays. I love it. Maybe now the insurance will cover more of the expense of the injection.)

OK, my bitching about my sciatic nerve is done.

Now I really do need to get down to work. I’ve got a lot of assignments this week and very little time to get them finished. Also? I got my latest jury duty notice recently. I am supposed to report on Wednesday for jury duty. As most of you know, this is a common occurrence for me. But I’ve lost count. This is either the 13th or 14th time in 14 years I have been called to jury duty in AZ. I am NOT JOKING. They can serve you with any number of court notices: it could be superior court, or the local municipal court. I get called to both. I’ve had to show up in person only twice and I have yet to serve on an actual jury! Usually, I call the day before I find out my group doesn’t need to appear. I wonder if that’s why my name keeps getting thrown back into the system so much.

Either way, it totally doesn’t seem fair at all. I know people who have lived here as long as I have, and have NEVER been called once! I’ve looked into this and asked questions to try to find out why I am always called, and the answer is that names are chosen “by computer, at random” from a database made from the motor vehicles department and voter registration records. I’ve wondered if I had traffic tickets or any kind of misdemeanors on my record, if maybe they wouldn’t call me as often? Would doing something bad help push me to the bottom of the juror list? Probably not. Still, I do wonder…

I am so sick and tired of getting these notices in the mail every 6 months or so. I wonder if I move away, if another state will harass me this frequently, too. Probably not.

Two days

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ZOMG!!! The writer’s conference is this Friday. I have today and tomorrow to prepare and then… that’s it. I am off to Los Angeles!

The good news is my entire manuscript is complete. I formatted it according to industry standards and did a hard edit on it. I eliminated about 1,500 words and fixed a few problems I spotted once I read it on Kindle. (Amazing how seeing it in a different format brings a hundred little issues to light!)

My networking cards arrived today. They look fantastic! The only problem is that I hate the wording I entered when I designed the card: “Fiction Novelist.” Now… why in the world would I put something so redundant on my networking card? When I’m trying to be seen as a professional writer?! Oh my god. I’m so angry at myself! It would have been fine to just put the word “Fiction” up there. Why I thought adding “novelist” was a good idea, I’ll never know. I did design the card in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and I probably was a little stupid by that time of the night/morning. UGH. Well, at least it’s a start. At least I will have something to hand people and maybe I can make a joke out of the novelist part, with the right kind of people.

I still need to get some outfits together. Might need to go shopping tonight to finally get some sophisticated-looking tops and dress pants. And shoes. Dear god… the shoes. I need “lady shoes” so badly right now! I have all the Converse sneakers and sandals I could ever want. But something with a pointy toe and a nice style… that would be a good thing. (I have bad taste when I try to find this stuff on my own, so I’m hoping my sister can help me pick something out.)

I also need to work on my pitch. I keep trying and it’s definitely harder than I thought it would be. Trying to distill what this book is about into 4 or 5 sentences. And have it sound enticing to hook readers in. Good thing they have the pitch session the night before the pitch event itself. I’m gonna need it.

And I want to print out a copy or two of my manuscript. It’s 400+ pages. Not exactly something I can run off at work, that’s for sure. And I honestly don’t know if my home printer can handle it. I’m comparison shopping Kinko’s, Staples, OfficeMax, etc to see which one might be the best deal for printing it. Scary… if they charge $.08 a page, I’ll be spending about $32.00 per copy of my book! Dear G O D !

Maybe it will be cheaper to just buy extra ink cartridges and some reams of paper and do it myself at home. It’ll take at least an hour since my printer’s slow, but… it could be the best option.

So many things on my mind. I have to remember that this conference should also be super enjoyable. It’s not just about being ultra-professional and serious about finding an agent/ publisher. I’m going to have more than 2 days with fellow fiction writers; people who care about the same thing I’m passionate about! I’ll be among My People. (Not like at all the conferences I attend for work, where I’m just counting the hours until I can go to the airport and go home.) I’ll get to devote all my attention to the nuances of writing and how to make my own writing even better. That’s pretty damn cool.

And, I’ll be staying in a very nice hotel, in Hollywood. In any downtime I have, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the setting. I’ll have my own car, so I can take a drive if I want to. I also love long car rides with my music playing at a high volume. I’ll get that, too. I look forward to making new friends and networking with writers and writer-types. Despite my worrying and anxiety over the details beforehand, I know I’ll wind up having FUN.

That’s all that matters, really!

 

 

Dogs’ day out

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So, this weekend I didn’t do any writing or editing. It was really nice, but… I’m ready to get back into things again. But more on that in a minute.

I spent a lot of time with my sister this weekend; we had dinner out, we got wigs for our Halloween costumes, we played with her dog and she took photos of me that I can hopefully use on my new writing-only website. Yesterday, we took all three of our dogs out for a long walk at the park near my house. Jack is all over the place with excitement and puppy energy. Moose trotted along on his stubby little legs, tongue out and panting but he seemed super happy to be there. Hurley, on the other hand…

He does not like to walk long distances. I don’t know how much of it is caused by his weight and how much of it is just plain laziness and dislike of going for walks in the daytime. Because we’ve had some night walks that were at least as long as our walk yesterday (should have been). And he never once would sit down on those walks. Yesterday, he laid down so many times we lost count. Yes, it was kind of hot out and with all that fur, he’s not a dog made for strenuous activity in AZ heat. But I also gave him a lot of water along the way. And we walked along a shady path.

I still feel bad because he IS overweight. Just like me. It’s unacceptable to have pet dogs that are fat, I know. I plan to get them moving faster on our night walks and keep pushing the distance out again now that it’s cooling off. We all tend to do our share of moseying along on most of our walks. It’s time to stop sniffing and air-peeing on everything and get moving. (I’m the one who does the sniffing and air-peeing. Of course.)

My sister took some fantastic photos of our dogs yesterday. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

Jack, Hurley and Moose near the end of our walk

See sheep run. Run from loud, rude dogs.

First time all three boys have been in a car together! They did wonderful.

The Euphoria of “The End”

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I have wanted to write this post for so long! And now I can:

At long last, I finished my book last night at 1:30am. It is 333 pages long, and 103,239 words.

Everything’s in there now. All the flashbacks, all the pick-up scenes from other versions of the story…it’s all patched together and given a hard edit (heh heh) and in the end, there are 30 chapters. Some are quite short, but I think that’s OK. I read books with short chapters all the time.

The feeling of doing that final save and knowing it’s done just about made me lose my mind. I was laughing and crying and jumping up and down and dancing with the cats and ALL of that. Here’s what the general timeline on this story has been:

Summer, 1996: Began the first version of this book. Zachary was younger and basically an Army/Navy brat who finds out he’s actually a hybrid. Took place on a Naval base (I pictured the one in my town in NJ). Written on looseleaf, I got to exactly page 100 before …

Winter, 1998-99:…I changed my mind and thought, “Nope. I really don’t like this.” My boyfriend at the time (Writer Ex) read what I’d done and pointed out the problems it had and said the one thing that always kinda bugged me: “Why do you torture your characters?” [To this day, I still wonder about that. What’s my psychological profile that makes me want to do that? Ehh. Whatever — it’s storytelling, damn it.]

Early 1999: The new version of the story began. Same protagonist, totally different setting. It took place in a kind of commune, and Zachary was basically free to do what he wanted to. It was a breezy, sunny story taking place in San Diego. Only problem? Not much happened. I couldn’t figure out where the conflict was going to come from.

Fall, 2007: The book had been languishing for years. I went on a cruise with X that November and one of the destinations was Catalina Island. Not only was the place gorgeous as hell, I was fascinated with the fact that, by order of the Catalina Island Conservancy, 88% of the island is to remain undeveloped. There are two small towns on the island. We visited Avalon, which was quaint and pretty. I wished we had more time, because you could do tours into the island’s preserve lands…

That night on the cruise ship, I had an epiphany. I wanted to change the setting from San Diego to that island–or, at least, a fictional version of that island. It made more sense (a remote location, perhaps hidden deep in “conserved” lands, miles from the only town) would be kind of crucial for a controversial project like this).

That’s the harbor, and the town of Avalon. The roads snaking up the mountain into the rest of the island are what caught my creative attention… where did those roads go? Were any secret military bases well-hidden off those roads…?

As much as I hate to admit it, X told me that he believed “the government would have to be involved in a project like that one”… and the new version of the book was born. I wrote the first scene once we got back home, and it’s only partially changed over the years since.

Summer, 2012: I find out about the Writer’s Conference. Decide I’ve had enough with procrastinating with this thing. If I want to live the life I want to live, I have to actually write and finish my fiction. Something clicked, and I’ve been hard at work ever since.

And so, this has clearly been a huge part of my adult life. I know my protagonist back and forth, and I can see the Complex where it all takes place clear as day in my head. I know the personalities of all the dolphins and, especially, the hybrids. I admit it: I love this story. I wrote the book I would like to read, which is the most important piece of writing advice ever: Write what you want to read.

I think I’m close to completing my pitch and query letter, as well. I ordered business cards (well, they’re technically ‘networking cards’) last night from VistaPrint so I have something to hand to people who could be interested in my fiction work. I’m seriously planning my wardrobe for the Conference so I make the very best impression on everyone I meet there. I want to show everyone that, without question, I am serious and focused on becoming a published novelist. I’m not afraid of hard work, revisions, critiques, etc. I understand that if this book doesn’t sell, my next one WILL. I’m realistic. I’m also learning every single thing I can find about the business of publishing fiction. I’ve read over sample agency contracts and have a cheat-sheet about the different rights and any fees that could be on top of an agent’s 15%. I’m prepared and ready to fuckin’ DO THIS.

I’m gonna go in there and own the place.

Honestly, I don’t know where this confidence and “fuck it all, I’m going for it” attitude came from, exactly, but… I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m savoring it and plan to make the most of all of it. I’ve spent too many years shrinking away into the background, talking myself out of writing this book, putting off any hard work, and settling for a mediocre everyday existence of get up, go to work, write stories I don’t care about whatsoever all week, come home, do the same damn things every night, go to bed. I’ve been bored and unchallenged for far too long and atrophy was starting to set in, for real. If I don’t do this, right now, I could risk getting sucked into a complacent, average and uninspired existence that I’ll have a hard time getting away from as more time goes by.

I have already wasted far too many years of my adult life. That shit ends now.

GOD, that feels good!!!!

So, if you’re reading this, and you have some dream or goal you’ve been putting off because it’ll require hard work or drastic changes in your life…or because you’ve told yourself you’re just not ready/ strong enough/ smart enough/ good enough to pull it off… I really do hope that you get to a point where you make a solid try and take steps to do what you’ve always wanted to do. If you’re like me at all, you’ll surprise yourself how sucked in you can get once the ball is rolling!

Just don’t be hard on yourself. 🙂 Life is shit and it’s not easy. But sooner or later, you have to learn to say “fuck it” and move on to the next thing, and the hell with all the other insignificant stuff.

And if you want to give yourself something luxurious and extravagant, make that thing time and effort to become the person you want to be.

Bookin’ it through this draft!

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Between 7:45 and 12:15(ish) last night, I made significant revisions to 36 pages of my book, and relatively minor edits to 17 other pages. That’s a total of 53 pages in one night, motherfuckerz. I think I really like not having any TV reception. It’s true: I have nothing. Not even one crappy local station. Well, it’s all good, and the timing is serendipitous. It is forcing me to work my ass off at a time when I truly need to be doing that!

I want this whole thing done by the end of this weekend. It’s absolutely possible. I’m on page 221 of 310. That final page count isn’t absolute yet, of course… since I am adding things almost as much as I’m deleting other stuff.

There are some scenes I’d like to pare down even further, but I have to keep going at this point. I’ll let my friends read the whole draft and see if they pick up on the things I plan to fix. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I know good and well that it’s fucking critical to get this book in front of other people’s eyes now. My own are way, way, way too close to this whole thing.

I know this is ALL I think about, and all I really want to talk about these days. So I just wanted to thank my friends for being patient and letting me ramble now and then! And most of all, the positive encouragement is humbling and empowering at the same time. I am so lucky to have you guys in my corner. Thanks for cheering me on! ❤

Here’s a quick taste of a new flashback scene I wrote. My character is 7 years old here:

She paused before she opened the door to leave. She looked a little confused. “What should I call you? Do you have a nickname or anything?”

“What’s a nickname?”

She tilted her head and thought. “Well, Feem is a nickname, I’m sure. Does she have a number, too? Like you?”

“Oh. Yes. But I don’t remember her number. I just call her Feem.” I looked down at my bare feet on the cold floor. “They only call me 4001.”

She lowered her voice. “Would you like to have a name? Like Feem?”

I thought about it. All of the people had names. Doctors, nurses, soldiers and officers. I couldn’t think of one of them that used numbers in their names. Names were for humans. Well, and dolphins. But I wasn’t human, and I wasn’t dolphin. I never thought about it before then that I might have my own name and not the number.

She walked over and patted my shoulder, reassuringly. “It’s OK. You don’t have to answer right now. Just something to think about.”

If you’re into writing, too, check out this piece on McSweeney’s: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do. Lots of good stuff in there. You have time to look it over.

The part I currently love the most:

While editing is a grueling process, if you really work hard at it, in the end you may find that your piece has fewer words than it did before. Which, is great. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw said it best when upon sending a letter to a close friend, he wrote, “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” No quote better illustrates the point that writers are very busy.

The many things occupying my Friday mind

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Enjoy this fresh new blog post, now in handy bullet form!

  • Tonight, my sister and I are helping set up a Halloween event. We’re volunteers, and so as thanks for helping out, we get free tickets to the actual event tomorrow. It’s going to be pretty cool, I think. Workshops, performances, something called a “monster market”… As a lover of all things Halloween, I feel it’s almost my duty to attend this thing.

 

  • My company laid off two people the other day. One was one of the most senior-level executives here. There’s no danger my job’s going to be on the line, though, so that’s good. We have a new CEO, and he’s looking at the entire structure of the company and figuring out where the fat can be trimmed. I’m actually quite pleased that this new guy is trying to make us a little more profitable and efficient. We are waaaaay too top-heavy at the moment. This little move really helped even things out somewhat.

 

  • I think I pinpointed the ideal publisher for my book today, out of the blue. I was www.yahighway.com and noticed the term upper YA as a genre. Hey! That’s the term I was looking for to describe my market’s book! Anyway, the publishing company in question is looking for upper YA books, and has a wide global distribution network. I skimmed through their titles on their site, and found one intriguing book that seems to be the closest match to my book in terms of tone, plot and style: Touch by Jus Accardo. I found it before lunch, bought it for my Kindle for $4.99, and read 20% of it by the end of lunch. It’s good! Not perfect, though… but still highly entertaining and paced very well.

 

  • Tough call this weekend: I could get my new work article done, or I could get my book done. On one hand, the article is what I am obligated to do… but the book…? That’s got to get finished so I can send it to people to read over before the Conference. Soooo, it’s not hard to figure out which thing I will most likely make the priority.

 

  • A new gym is opening not far from my house. Like the Gold’s Gym I have been planning to join, it’s $10 a month. The Gold’s is just a tad closer, and is well-established. This new gym, a Planet Fitness, is the latest in a chain, and I actually went to a PF back when I was married to the X. It’s a pared-down gym, no classes or anything. But, all of the equipment is going to be brand new. HMMM. Decisions, decisions. I’m leaning towards the new gym.

 

  • I have to get an oil change. It’ll be the first one for the Prius, and I’m nervous about it for some reason. I feel like it will be more expensive, or the technicians won’t know what to do. And no, I don’t want to go to a dealership, because that is ALWAYS more expensive. But, we’ll see. I should probably figure it out very soon. The “maintenance required” light came on yesterday. Yikes.

 

  • I locked myself out of my car and house yesterday before work, so that was fun. I had to call my Mom to come let me in. When I put my keys down to give the dogs their usual good-bye treat before I left, I didn’t pick them up again. Just left them sitting there on the counter. I was so pissed at myself. So, yesterday I went to Lowe’s on my lunch hour and made a duplicate key to specifically keep in my purse or wallet at all times. This kind of thing has to stop happening. (I was locked out when I came home from work a few weeks back because I didn’t have my house key on my keyring. I’d taken it off the night before when I took the dogs for a walk… my previous duplicate key is fickle and I didn’t trust it. So I used my main key, and totally spaced on putting it back on the keyring. My sister came to rescue me, that time.)

 

  • I could go into some political stuff here, but I’m not going to do it. It only annoys me too much. All I will say is that 1) for the next election, I am not putting a sticker on my car. It opens too many cans of worms and brings much more annoyance than any sense of comraderie with like-minded voters; and 2) my neighbors need to settle down and stop trying to argue with me whenever they get the chance. I want to be able to go to my mailbox without engaging in a debate with unarmed people. Because they are VERY misinformed and uneducated. It drives me nuts.

 

  • I’m pretty sure my problem tooth, the molar in the back that had a big chip in it, is done for. The other day I think I broke another big chunk out of that same tooth. Now it’s very sensitive to cold and pressure. As luck (sigh) would have it, I’m going to the dentist Monday anyway for my cleaning and checkup. I’m sure that crowns are going to come up in conversation, and this time, I might have to cave in and do it. Unless I get the tooth pulled… it’s just my wisdom tooth that poked its way in kind of sideways, anyway. (My two wisdom teeth came in on the bottom.) We’ll see, I guess. Yuck. Not happy.

 

  • And, finally: it was bound to happen sometime. I have it on good authority that Tina Fey has finally let fame go to her head. She’s not as nice or appreciative to the people who work for her anymore; and even though they weren’t having a disagreement or falling-out of any kind, she didn’t even say goodbye and thank you to my friend’s Dad when it was his last day before retirement. I’m very, very, very disappointed in you, Tina. We all expected better from you. Boo. 😦