Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Got a minute.

I finished my nap and miraculously both little ones are still taking theirs, so I have a minute (and I mean a minute. Little blond person will be opening her gorgeous blue eyes any time now).  I just wanted to pop into my blog and say how much I miss my blogger friends.  I miss reading your funny, insightful, thought provoking posts.  I miss reading about writing.  I miss writing about writing and most of all I miss writing. 

And here's little blond person right on schedule, so I have to go, but to all my blogger friends please write a page or two for me.  Hopefully I'll be joining your ranks on a regular basis again soon!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Announcing the completion of two WIPs

Well folks, Baby Boy Paxton finally put in his appearance on July 2nd at 8:05 p.m.  He was five days late, but because he's so cute and so unbelievably sweet and I find myself getting lost in the depths of his ancient new eyes at least a dozen times a day, I'll forgive him.  I guess he's not really a complete WIP, but you could say the outline has been roughed in and it's a truly wondrous thing.

As for my writing, I sort of feel like I'm cheating saying that I finished my WIP before Baby Boy put in his appearance because I haven't, not really.  However, I finished all but the final chapter. I feel like I need to wait until I complete my first round of edits before I write that final chapter.  I'm not sure why, but I'm trusting my instincts/muse/whatever you want to call it on this one.  So, yeah, I guess for all intents and purposes the first draft of my WIP is complete.

As for my revisions on SEEDS, well, I have a two year old, a newborn, a husband and a house and I completed my WIP less than two weeks ago.  Needless to say, since revising the first chapter in early June I haven't touched SEEDS and I'm not sure when I'm going to get to it.  It's a little frustrating because I do want to move forward in my writing journey. However, I'm trying to remind myself to enjoy the time that I have with my baby and my daughter right now.  I'm learning they grow up way too fast and those moments aren't something you can't recapture and those moments are what make a worthwhile life.

I'm back in the blogosphere, but my posts are going to be sporadic at best.  I've been dropping by everyone's blogs the last few days, but I haven't had a chance to leave comments, just a quick skim to see how everyone is doing.  Glad to see that for the most part all is well with all of you.

I'll try to get back to commenting and posting regularly as soon as I can.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Momentary hiatus from my hiatus. The agent got in touch!

Today I climbed out of the shower, dried and dressed myself and was just applying my antiperspirant/deoderant when my cell phone trilled at me from downstairs.  Thinking it was another mundane call on a mundane day I sauntered downstairs, picked up the phone and saw the New York city area code.  My antiperspirant/deoderant was rendered obsolete in that moment.

Heart thundering, sweat dribbling down my ribs I flipped open the phone and, trying to convey both professionalism and insousiance in one word, said 'hello'.  The caller asked for me and then identified herself as the agent who has had my full manuscript for the past couple of months.  Not her assistant, not her intern, but the lady herself.  I had to sit down.

She spent about an hour on the phone with me giving me constructive criticism and some ideas for how to make my book stronger.  Sweat pouring from everywhere, I feverishly scribbled notes and waited for her to close the conversation by thanking me for my interest in her agency and telling me that the manuscript wasn't right for her.  She didn't.  She asked me if I would be interested in revising with her critique in mind and resubmitting.  I had to keep myself from squeeing into her ear. I managed a polite and only slightly high pitched, 'Yes, I would.'

Folks, I'm in a strange place right now.  My emotions are in such a stew I'm not sure what precisely I'm feeling.  Gratitude mostly that she took the time to a) phone me b) spend so much time on the critique c) not write me off completely.   Mostly I think I sort of haven't gotten over feeling that it's all a bit surreal (although reality interjected itself quite forcibly during the conversation in the form of little blond person shrieking 'Mommy, I peed.  I really really peed!  I need a treat now').  I think I'm excited, probably almost as excited as llittle blond person was with her successful production of number one in her potty chair. This isn't half bad for my first foray into the publishing community or my first contact with a legitimate literary agent.  Right?  Maybe that's the problem.  I'm not quite sure if this is mostly good or mostly bad.  I'm leaning toward mostly good. 

I'd love to hear your opinions and thoughts on the whole thing.  Also anyone out there whose gone the revise, resubmit route could you share your thoughts/experiences on it?  Is it pretty standard practice for agents to do this?  Did you feel it was worth the time and effort that the revisions took? 

I hate to blog and dash, but I've got a brief window of opportunity for a badly needed nap and I still have my WIP to complete and I've got some revisions to get to.  Not sure when I'll be dropping by to blog again, but thanks all for your comments on my last post and for taking the time to read this one.   Hope there's some good news waiting just around the corner to interject itself into your day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm pulling the plug (temporarily)!

Last night I sat down to work on my WIP and in an unexpected burst of inspiration I vomited up an entire chapter.  That's means, according to my outline, I have three (count them, three!) chapters left until I complete the first draft of my WIP. 

Since for me, like for many of you fellow writers, time is at a premium, I'm checking out of the blogosphere for a bit, so I can use every spare minute to pound out those final chapters.  Due to the demands of my enormously pregnant belly and little blond person, I'm not even going to begin to estimate how long before I finish up and can end my unplug.  I'm hoping about a month. If it takes longer than that Baby Boy Paxton will be here and nothing will get done, WIP, blog, nothing. 

I won't be checking into your blogs for a while, but I wanted to let you know I'll miss you all and your wonderful insights into the amazing trip that is writing.  Best of luck with your writing lives and your everyday lives.  Hopefully I'll see you all again in about a month!

P.S. Still haven't heard anything from the agent with my full.  Hopefully I have some good news on that front by the time I return.  To all of you waiting to hear back on a partial or full, I share in your anxiousness.  GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The bad stuff can work for you.

If you're planning on watching the movie Match Point don't continue!  This post contains spoilers, lots of them.

Rebecca over at Diary of A Virgin Novelist recently did a post posing the question is life too short to read bad books?  I've been thinking about that quite a bit since reading the post.  I know Stephen King says in On Writing that reading bad books can be more helpful for your writing than good ones.  I'm sorry to all you Stephenie Meyers fans out there, but that bit of advice was the only reason I slogged my way through The Host.  And guess what, I learned a lot.  I even made changes to SEEDS based on what, in my opinion, Stephenie Meyer did wrong in The Host. I think things can also be learned from watching bad movies. 

Case in point: Match Point with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (yummy!) and Scarlett Johansson, two big name actors who I think have actually earned their reknown with their talent. 

Based on the actors and the premise I really thought this was going to be a great film.  It wasn't, for several reasons, which I will now pontificate about here.

In my opinion there was a lot of belaboring the point also known to us writers as beating the reader over the head.  I don't know if it was because the director delighted in seeing two hot young stars groping each other or what but I felt like the viewer was subjected to so many gratuitous sex scenes when one, perhaps two was sufficient to show the audience that these two had incredible sexual chemistry and couldn't get enough of each other. 

Then, there was the problem of motivation.  The director/writer/whomever spent the first half of the movie establishing how much JoRhyMys's (came up with that one all by myself) character Chris wanted ScarJo's character Nola.  After getting the girl and with hardly any indication that money was significant to him at all, Chris turned into a money grubber who came to the conclusion that he had to murder Nola in order to ensure he got to roll in the dough (rather than the hay) for the rest of his life.  What? He spent the majority of the film trying to get Nola into bed and once he had her he up and decided money was more important than her continued existence.  Not buying it!

I also didn't believe that Nola wanted Chris enough.  The scenes where she was trying to get him to leave his wife and marry her instead came across like a petulant, spoiled child who was being denied a toy. I didn't believe for a moment that this man was central to her existence. 

This brings me to the third and I think biggest problem of the entire movie.  I didn't like Nola at all.  She was nutty and whiny and needy.  When Chris killed her, I was like 'meh, good riddance.'  I didn't like Chris much either.  He was a cheating schmuck who put his own comfort above the life of another human being (albeit a nutty, whiny, needy one) and there was nothing, absolutely nothing to redeem him throughout the entire movie. 

I can't say I learned anything new from this, but I did have some very important lessons reiterated:  1)Make your point and move on.  This is where editing comes in.  You don't need three scenes establishing your antagonist is a psycho killer.  You just need one really great one.  2)Motivation is everything.  If you don't show that what your character is trying to obtain is central to their existence or at least that the character is totally convinced it is your readers won't believe it is and the story will fail.  3)Finally and most important give your characters, especially your protagonist and even your antagonist, some quality that makes the reader care about what is happening to them.  If your reader doesn't invest themselves in the characters no way are they going to stick with them through 1 or 2 hours or 200 or 300 some odd pages. 

Roland at Writing in the Crosshairs did this post post about Hollywood's deficiencies.  While I agree there are many in today's movies I challenge you next time you're faced with a bad movie or bad book, keep plugging and see what you can learn and apply to your own writing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unexpected gifts

Last Friday, I climbed out of bed, pulled the sheet up, straightened and smoothed the bedspread, looked at the pile of pillows on the floor that needed to be put just so against the headboard and felt - daunted. Seriously, my fortitude felt challenged by a pile of microfiber, cotton and 300 thread count pillowcases? It was going to be a bad day.

Turning my back on the heap of pillows, I went downstairs and tuned into PBS Kids for little blond person. Then, I got on blogger to do my Friday post and well, let's put it this way; if the throw pillows were daunting, the blog was insurmountable.  I hurried away from my blog to one of my go to time waster sites and found myself wondering what the crap I was doing all this for. Did I really want to write? Was it really worth all the time, effort and energy I invest into it every week? What else could I be doing with all that time that would perhaps be more beneficial to myself and to my family?

That feeling dogged me for the rest of the day. That night I opened my WIP, scanned the first three sentences and shut down the computer. I'd been daunted by the throw pillows, defeated by the blog. My WIP sent me dashing to the haven of my pillowless bed with my tail tucked between my legs. I couldn't do this anymore. Writing was a waste of time. I didn't love it enough to continue, to put in what I had been.  And really what was the point?  It wasn't like it was paying off in any way.

Saturday, I woke up to one of the few gorgeous days spring has favored our corner of Idaho with this year. After hurrying through my house cleaning, I put a sundress and sandals on little blond person to remind her what a glorious feeling it is to bare your shoulders and toes to the sun. Then my husband and I took her to a little amusement park. I watched her dash from one ride to the next, sturdy little legs pistoning, sunlight sparkling on her hair as it swished about her pinkening shoulders.  She continually called to us to 'c'mon, c'mon', so full of enthusiasm she literally couldn't stand still for a second. After she finished all the kiddy rides, we all climbed on the ferris wheel and squealed in unison with little blond person each time our seat began its tummy tingling descent. I didn't think about writing once.

Yet, Saturday night after she was bathed and soothed and drifting of to dreamland, I found myself as eager to open my WIP as little blond person was to ride the pink horse on the carousel; an unexpected gift at the end of a wonderful day.

My dearest wish for all of you out there is that next time you're overwhelmed by a funk you find yourself in possession of the unexpected gem of a day that Saturday was for me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm cheating

I'm cheating. I hope you forgive me.  I'm going to do two posts today because I forgot about The Alliterative Allomorph's internal conflict blogfest.  I really want to enter, hence the double post.

This scene from my WIP takes place the day after the excerpt I posted for the Primal Scream blogfest, so if you want some context go ahead and check that out.  Please note, however, that the following excerpt has been severely edited to get it down to the 800 words required by the internal conflict blogfest.

Here's my entry:

Cold feet, cold hands, cold, cold, cold. I chafed at my bare upper arms, then lunged to my feet and began pacing the room.

“Honey, come here.” My mom grabbed me by the shoulders, directed me until I stood facing my reflection in the full length mirror. “It's your wedding day.  We finally got here and look at how gorgeous you are.”

Instead I looked at her. Strands of her gray hair had pulled free of her French twist and wafted over her temple. The bruise I noticed there the night I picked her up from the airport had all but faded. However, there was still a slight discoloration near the lobe of her ear. It's shape was reminiscent of the ring her current boyfriend wore on his right hand.

I wondered how many men left just such a mark on my mother’s skin, wondered if she kept a tally of hits and kicks and bites and bruises.

I wondered just how many blows it would take before I looked as defeated as my mother.

“I’m not going to do this.” I murmured.

“What, sweetheart?” My mom met my eyes in the mirror. Her eyes were brighter than I’d seen them all weekend, but it was suspicion and a dawning anger that glowed through the haze of alcohol, not pride or hope.

I held her eyes in the mirror, feeling my mom’s need to have me settled, to feel she’d done her duty by me crushing my resistance. The weight of expectation from the fifty or so guests most likely already seated and waiting for the bride to arrive seemed to filter through the wall, shoving at my shoulders, my waist, my legs, forcing me to move toward the door, then around the corner, down the aisle to David’s side. I thought of the world he belonged to, the world of education, art, culture, travel, money, the world I’d been seeking a way into perhaps my whole life as I scrabbled away from the stigma of 5515 Somerset Lane. I thought of David, how much, despite all, I still loved him.

“I’m going to do this and it will be alright.” I told the shaken looking pixie cut blond peering out at me from behind the mask of her veil.

“Damn right.” My mother said. “Now let’s go.”

We left the room together. Once in the hall my mom poked her head around the corner. “Set to go, folks.”

Then my mom offered me her arm. A moment later we rounded the corner and paused just outside the room where I was to be wed. Craning my head around the doorjamb I peered in and saw David smiling, so brilliant to look at him made my eyes ache. I watched him gesture as he talked to the minister, thought of his hands wielding the scissors the night before, the tip of them coming within centimeters of the jelly of my eyeball, convincing me to be quiescent while he took away pieces of me.

The string quartet eased into the strains of The Bridal Chorus and all the guests got to their feet, turning toward the door. I jerked my head out of sight. My mother straightened, lifting her chin, throwing her shoulders back. My gaze returned to the small bruise near the lobe of her ear.

My mind then ran over the course of my relationship with David, seeing the small toxic ways that fiend lurking behind the wall of his self control seeped into my life and tainted it. I didn’t need to use my precognition to see it would continue to do so. That I would end up exactly like my mother, except comparing the abuse David would mete out over the course of our relationship with what my father had done to my mother was like comparing what happened in an army field hospital to the work of a brain surgeon. One was mindless butchery, a brutal whacking and hacking and then onto the next. The other was a fine tuned skill, an exquisite manipulation of the organ upon which everything else depended. That was David’s particular method, a tearing down that began from within until there was nothing left but a hollow shell.

I reached under the veil with my free hand, fingered my cropped hair and wondered even now, how much of me was left to destroy. How much there would be to salvage if I ever decided to leave him. If he would let me go.

My vision went fuzzy and vague at the edges and it felt like all the oxygen in the world wouldn’t be enough to inflate the vacuum of my lungs. I yanked my arm from my mother’s, staggered back a few steps.

She reached for me. “Ruth?”

I clutched up huge handfuls of my wedding gown. Then I kicked off my heels and ran.

There's no accounting for some people's tastes

Lately I've been reading books that are represented by agents I've either queried or plan to query in case the agent that has my full decides to pass (she returned from vacation yesterday.  Let the obsessive email checking commence!).  I must say reading all these books has been an interesting literary ride. 

I won't name names here, but over the last week and a half I completed two books that are represented by the same agent.  And that fact astounded me.  The subject matter, writing style, genre, characters, everything in the two books were completely different. However, here are the things the two novels had in common:  The first was that the voice practically jumped off the page and dragged you into the story willing or not.  The second was that both were finely crafted, engrossing books from sentence one to the end. 

Here's what I took away from this; buck up aspiring authors.  There are thousands of literary agents out there.  As long as your story has a strong voice and is well written, with their eclectic tastes, one of those thousands of agents will fall in love with your book and will agree to represent it.  Query widely, query well and eventually you'll find the set of literary agent tastebuds that likes the particular flavor of your book.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A game of tag and some awards.

I'm playing a game of 'Tag You're It' as little blond person says.  I was tagged by two people, Creepy Query Girl, who I think has one of the best monikers out there, makes me laugh every time I read it, and Amy Jo Lavin at Ramblings of a Novice Writer.  Thanks for the love, ladies!

Because I was tagged twice I originally thought I should do ten answers to each question, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  Fifty answers about moi would definitely fall under that category heading, so I'm sticking with the regular 25.  Now onto the questions!

Where were you five years ago?

1. Living in a dump of an apartment in Golden, Colorado trying to figure out what the red bumps all over me and my husband were.  Turns out our neighbor brought some bedbugs home from Mexico and those intrepid little travelers popped over through our electrical outlets and moved on in.  Most disgusting experience of my life!  Needless to say we moved.
2. Working as a legal secretary *yawn* for a federal attorney *double yawn*.
3. Not writing a thing besides legal correspondence and briefs.
4. Wondering how a girl from a little ol' town in Idaho ended up in the big bad city of Denver, Colorado.
5. Completely weirded out and a little confused by the fact that I'd been married for almost a year, to a Colorado native no less.

Where would you like to be in five years?

1. Published! Hopefully multiple titles. (Has this answer been different for anyone?)
2. Mother to two happy healthy children.
3. As much in love and as happy with my husband as I am today.
4. A bigger house with a yard for said happy healthy children.
5. In a contracted relationship with a literary agent that I adore and who adores me in return (in a strictly platonic way of course).

What is on your To-Do list today?

1. Go to the doctor and find out if Baby Boy Paxton is well on his way to being the second of said happy, healthy children.
2. Go to lunch with my mom.
3. Finish The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory (decent book, not my favorite of hers).
4. Get my daughter to take a nap.
5. Write!

What snacks do you enjoy? (Are you sure you want to ask a pregnant woman this?)

1. I just discovered Ben & Jerry's Boston Cream Pie Ice Cream.  To die for!
2. Salt and Vinegar potato chips.
3. Cadbury mini eggs (good thing they're only around at Easter)
4. Lately, as much watermelon as I can get my hands on.
5. Peanut Butter M&Ms but for some reason I enjoy these doubly when I'm eating them at the movies intermingled with popcorn.

What would you do with a billion dollars?

1. Buy a Victorian mansion and restore it and hope that it has a least one little friendly ghost. Heck, with a billion dollars maybe I could buy a ghost.
2. Buy great works of art to hang in said mansion.
3. Donate and volunteer for charities that provide medical care in third world countries.
4. Have a real library with leather bound first editions and rolling ladders and everything in said Victorian mansion.
5. Travel to every continent, perhaps every country if I could find the time.

Kay, *running, fingers outstretched to their fullest length* 

1. Tracy at Forever Endeavor
3. Melissa at a Writer's Reality
5. Lindsey at Dangerous with a Pen

Tag! You're It.

And now to the awards

Charmaine Clancy at Wagging Tales gave me the Sweet Blog award.  Thanks Charmaine!


I'm going to give this one to
1. Julie Musil
2. Old Kitty
4. Anne at Piedmont Writer
The Superior Scribbler Award is a new one for me and was given to me by Creepy Query Girl *smile*.

I'm going to send this one out to
And now I gotta go.   Can't miss that doctor's appointment.  I'll pop over to your blogs later.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First blogfest entry!

I had no idea what I was going to do for my blog post today and then I found Raquel Byrnes Primal Scream Blogfest. This particular blogfest calls for a heart pumping scene. I actually have a part of my WIP that I thought would work for this, so *deep breath* I decided to enter my first ever blogfest.  There are some really great entries at Raquel's blog.  Well worth checking out if you haven't already.

Here's my entry:

I cracked the seal, tossed the pills in my mouth and followed them with the vodka. I didn’t want sleep. I wanted oblivion because somehow, despite all I’d done to make sure it didn’t, something had gone very wrong and tomorrow I wouldn’t be living out what I’d already seen of my wedding day. David was finished with me and that thought was much too enormous for my brain to bear for another second.

I went into my room, laid down and waited for that warm almost wet oozing lassitude that I remembered from my few teenage forays into my mother’s medicine cabinet. As the Vicodin dropped its weighty hand over my limbs, my eyes drooped closed and I gave myself over to sleep with a sense of profound thankfulness.

What felt like days later my brain paddled upward through the Grey Goose, forced itself past the woolen veil of Vicodin to clamor at me that I had to wake up. Though the uproar was in my own head, I felt so removed from it, so unconcerned about it that it took all my will to force my eyes open even a slit. When I did I saw nothing but blackness. Waving away the commotion in my head as though it were a mosquito come to ruin a perfect summer evening, I closed my eyes and rolled from my stomach to my side. A sharp tug of pain in my scalp sent shock waves radiating over my skull and down my neck. The din in my brain intensified, refusing to be ignored.

Fighting against the stupor that almost wholly bound me, I lifted my hand, unable to manage anything but the slowest most casual of motions. My hand flopped to my head and like a starfish seeking for an afternoon snack, languidly explored my scalp. At first I felt nothing but the thick tangled pad of my hair. Then, not at what I felt, but what I didn’t feel, a shot of adrenalin, that was somehow ice cold and burning hot zipped through my body. My fingers scrabbled over my head as fast as they could manage. And here was hair and here was hair and here was not hair and here, here was something wet and warm and sticky and when I brought my hand to my nose it smelled of metal and salt.

Every muscle and sinew of my body now cursed the drug that still held me fast in a burdensome stupor. Flailing against it I pulled myself into a sitting position, both hands now skittering over the once familiar terrain on top of my head.

A chill wind from the open window moved over the bare skin of my arm. Another hit of adrenalin punched me in the gut. I dropped my hands from the top of my head, curled them into tight fists in my lap. My gaze roved around the darkness of my room seeking the bogeyman who had done this. And there huddled by my bookcase, I found him; a crouched and queer golemlike creature, face contorted, gleaming eyes fastened on me, hands clutched furtively to his chest.

I opened my mouth to scream and in one fluid movement the golem straightened, lengthened became David, but somehow not. He was still somehow alien, somehow frightening.

“David. What. . . .”

“Hush.” He moved to my side, sat down on the bed and the bright winter moonlight coming in from the window glittered over the pair of scissors he held. I could see bits of my hair, bits of my flesh, bits of my blood caught along one sharp steel edge. I recoiled.

His hand shot out, tangled in the hair at the nape of my neck, drawing me back to him. He raised the scissors. I squirmed in his grasp. There was a soft snick and a snowstorm of wheat blond hair drifted down, some of it settling on my nose, cheeks and lips, but most falling all the way down to cover my bedspread.

“David.” I strained against his grip.

He shifted his hold and then all I could see in my right eye was the huge and looming tip of one scissor blade. Beyond it, fuzzy and out of focus, was the curved handle and David’s blank face. His lips moved. “Who loves well chastises well.”

I went rigid, unable to even blink.  With exquisite slowness David finally moved the tip of the blade away from the never before appreciated fragility of my eyeball. “Good girl, Ruthie.”

Another snick, another sheaf of hair. I swallowed convulsively on the sobs that beat for release against the walls of my throat.

David paused in his cutting and released me. His eyes ran over my face. Then he reached forward and I forced myself not to flinch. I felt a long strand of hair brush against my cheek. David tugged at it and then the scissors went to work. There was a hot, sharp pain in my scalp and then I could no longer feel the hair on my skin.

He sat back once again. This time as he explored my face, his eyes brushed mine and though no one I recognized looked out at me, I opened my lips. “David.”

His eyes snagged on mine, some unreadable emotion eeling about in their black, frightening depths.

I began to lever myself backward, still looking into his eyes, afraid if I lost that tenuous connection I’d lose any chance I had of emerging from this with no further damage done.

I saw the moment my David returned behind the vacuum of those dark irises. A sort of stunned horror first widened his eyes, then swarmed down his entire face, leaving the skin hanging long and loose off the bones. The scissors fell from his hand with a rattling clank. “Ruth, oh my God, Ruth. Ruth.”

I crabbed away from him. Then when I felt the wall at my back, I brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around my knees. My heart beat so heavily and so fast my entire body shook with it and I felt like I might vomit.

“I don’t-don’t know what to say. Oh my God. I can’t-oh, Ruth. Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

David began to cry, his face wrenched and ugly as tears runneled down it. He reached for me and then withdrew when I flinched back. He put his hands to his face, scrubbed at it, ran his hands through his hair again and again. Then he put both hands on top of his head, curled his face down toward his chest and began to silently sob, his entire body shaking.

“Ruth, please,” he choked out.

My heart twisted at the agony in his voice. I didn’t know who the creature was that had come into my bedroom and desecrated me, but this man, the one weeping before me, this was David. David who I loved, David who took care of me, David who loved me with all of himself, holding nothing back. I put a hand out, hesitated and then tentatively placed it on the top of his hands which gripped his hair as though he meant to yank every last strand from his scalp.

Something akin to a gag came from his throat and he opened his hands to latch onto mine. It felt as though I were giving him a benediction. The thought, the image of repentance, restitution it brought to mind didn’t sit well with me and I tried to pull away but David wouldn’t let go.

“Oh God, Ruth.”

“Why, David?”

Under my hand his head moved back and forth. “I don’t-I-I don’t know. It wasn’t me, Ruth. You have to believe that. I mean, I know it was me, but it didn’t feel like me. I-I was just thinking about your hair and how much I loved it and how you cut it all off and how I asked you not to change it and then-and then here I was, doing what I did. And-oh, God, Ruth.”

He let go of my hand, dropped his arms and raised his face. The holocaust of his eyes lanced me to my core.

“I’ll get help. I’ll do whatever I have to do. I know there are things that aren’t right in my head. I’ll go to counseling. I’ll take drugs. Anything, anything, Ruth, just, God, just don’t leave me. Please tell me I didn’t destroy us. I can’t survive without the wonder of you in my life. I’ll have to die if you leave me. I’ll have to kill myself.”

He reached for me again and this time I let him catch hold. His arms went around me, clutching as though I were the only buoy in the heaving sea of his existence. “Don’t leave me.”

I leaned my head against his chest, tightened my arms around him, summoned up the flash I’d seen of our wedding day. “No, I won’t. I know I won’t.”

Monday, May 3, 2010


Wow, 63 followers!  Welcome to all you new guys.  It's great to see you here!

Well, looks like I get a break from my rabid email checking. Last week I found out that the agent who has my full is on vacation until approximately the middle of May.  You'd think this would frustrate me.  Nope, not a bit.  My main emotion was one of relief. I now know that for a couple of weeks my email inbox is once again a safe, friendly place to visit and I don't have to hold my breath any more when I see the indicator that I have a new message.

Here's something I have been thinking a bit about that might be some food for thought for you aspiring authors.  Since finding out the agent with my full is out of town I sort of lost my momentum on my WIP.  It took me a while to figure out why, but yesterday I realized it was because I wasn't sure how much effort I wanted to put into my writing until I heard back from the agent as to whether she thought I was any good.  It didn't have to necessarily be that she wanted to represent me (of course that would be wildly out of this world awesome and it's what I hope happens).  However, I think for my current situation it would be enough if she said my writing showed promise or something along those lines.

That realization was a bit of a slap in the face for me.  Up until that moment I really believed that I was writing for myself, not because I love it (because somedays, let's be honest, writing is not loveable) but because not writing is more painful than writing.  The realization that I was holding back, waiting for someone to give me an opinion on my writing before I moved forward with my WIP really bothered me.  I don't want to be that kind of writer.  I want to be the kind that continues to practice and progress in their craft simply because they must, because to them to stop writing is to stop living. 

When I was writing my first manuscripts the thought of publication was sort of this amorphous blob that floated from the back to the front of my brain on an irregular basis.  It became pretty apparent pretty quickly that for various reasons these books weren't ones I wanted to send out in the world.  I enjoyed writing them though.  It was enough to watch them grow and change and become something under my fingertips. 

With SEEDS, as the story spooled out on my screen I had the sense that this was the novel I was going to go for it with. Even that thought, though, didn't change the way I wrote. I didn't freeze up in fear of what my hypothetical readers might think.  I didn't zoom forward in a fit of mad typing wanting to get it on some agent's desk ASAP.  I plodded foward, putting at least something on the page daily, in turns marveling at and railing against the creative process, researching, adding here, cutting there, revising until I felt like my eyesockets were going to bleed.  I never once thought of slowing down or stopping while I waited to get an opinion on whether my writing was good or not. 

To tell you the truth, I'm a bit disgusted with myself.  My writing is my own.  Up until now I thought I did it because it fulfilled a need in me, not because I wanted someone's stamp of approval, not because I wanted to see it all shiny and glossy on some shelf in Barnes and Noble.  I'm not entirely sure what to do with this newfound self knowledge, but I will tell you this.  Tonight my WIP and I are going to spend some quality time together and I'm going to see if I can recapture that sense of wonder, of a need fulfilled as I create something that's never drawn breath in the world before.  I hope to find that for me, that's still enough of a reason to write.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday miscellany and to rant or not to . . . no just don't do it!

Hi all!  Sorry I missed my Wednesday post.  For the first time in over 20 years I was down with an ear infection and so was little blond person.  I still haven't regained full hearing in my left ear.  Instead I have that rushing sound that you get when you hold a seashell up to your ear, but at least the pain is gone.  It shames me to say that all in all my two-year-old is dealing better than I did with the various pains and annoyances that come along with this particular affliction.

Before I get down to business I'd like to say thank you to all of you who helped me through my writerly funk.  After reading most of the comments on my last post I slowly backed away from the delete key, took my daughter, myself and my Ipod for a long, contemplative walk and actually cleared the blockage.  No more bragging about word count.  I learned my lesson about doing that last Friday, but I'm happy to say I have added a bit to my WIP since then.  So thank you everyone!

Now onto business. I'm thinking this is going to become my standard Friday post, just links to interesting blog posts that I've come across over the week.  This week I also have a link to a contest for you all  (Palindrome, sorry I didn't get around to posting it on Wednesday like I said I would).

I know we all struggle with how much time we spend on our blogs versus how much time we spend on our non bloggerland life.  I thought it was interesting that agents, or at least those at Dystel and Goderich, struggle with the same thing according to this post on their blog.  If you don't follow these guys, you really should.  All of their agents do posts and they provide excellent insight into an agent's world.

Nathan Bransford did a series of posts on his blog entitled 'Be An Agent For A Day'.  He requested that his followers provide him with queries and an excerpt of 30 pages from their novels.  From those submitted he selected five queries along with their attendant excerpts, posted them on his blog and asked his followers to vote as to which query interested them enough to want to read pages.  Then he posted the excerpts and let his followers vote on what excerpt would have led them to request a full.  Though the results are in and it's too late to vote, you could still head on over there, take a walk in an agent's all powerful (or so it seems at times) shoes and see how you measure up.

Now for the contest; Palindrome over at Musings of a Palindrome is giving away some great books as a prize.  The details can be found here and today is the last day to enter, so get over there and follow her!

I've been debating about including this in my blog post for pretty much the whole last week.  I don't want to bring more attention to this particular blogger than she has already garnered for herself, but I just think the whole thing is so astoundingly awful in a 'wow, that was a humongously horrible car crash and I just can't stop staring' kind of way.

Quick bit of history.  There's a blog out there called Tales From a Rejection Queen.  I know some of you that follow me also follow her so this is probably old news to you. However, for those of you who aren't in the know, for roughly the last year and a half, the Rejection Queen, as she styles herself, has been posting her rejections complete with name and address of the agent who sent it along with her own mostly snarky comments on the rejection.  In the past quite a few commenters have cautioned her against doing this, telling her the publishing industry is a small world and she's shooting herself in her literary foot by doing this. 

Well, folks, last Friday, this blogger, in my opinion shot herself in the literary head.  She posted the rantiest of all anti agent rants, personally attacking Janet Reid and Nathan Bransford; two of, in my opinion, the most helpful and out there agents in the business.  The post went viral. She has since deleted the post, but if you care to take a closer look at this train wreck you can head over to this thread on the Absolute Write forums.  They have a link to the cached copy of the original post as well as several pages of comments on this situation. 

As I said before, I follow this blog and in the past found it sort of darkly humorous as well as sort of a way to vicariously vent my own frustrations with the querying process.  However, this was beyond the pale for me.  I couldn't believe how poisonous the post was and as I said, I don't want to call more attention to her than she's already received, but I think this can serve as an caution to the rest of us to keep our rants between ourselves and our journals or at the most our good friends or significant others.  I know the querying process can be frustrating and hurtful and at times give rise to the sort of impotent rage that I'm sure she felt when she logged on and let loose, but there are better ways to handle it than going viral.  In case you ever feel the need to splatter vitriol all over your blog, back away from the keyboard and chant the words 'Rejection Queen' to yourself until reason has reasserted itself.

Sorry I've been MIA on your blogs.  I hope to get some time tonight to catch up on all the posts I missed this week while groaning around my house with a hot compress plastered to the side of my head (not an effective treatment as it turns out).  Right now I'm going shopping for material to make a quilt for the soon to arrive newest member of the Paxton family!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Monday, April 26, 2010


On the good news front, I'm at 50 followers!  Thanks to all of my bloggerland friends who signed up to follow my blog.  Halfway to a hundred and hopefully a really great contest for all of you!

And that's kind of it for good news as far as my writing goes. I may have perhaps jinxed myself with all my 'hey, I'm almost at 65k words' bragging.  I opened my WIP on Friday night and read over what I wrote the night before.  My brain did that thing where it fragments all the writing and instead of it coming together in a coherent way, a sentence here, a phrase there, a word here popped out at me.  All of it sounded trite and uninspired and frankly like nothing that was good for anything except perhaps fire starting. 

I've been in this mental writing place before so I restrained myself from deleting it all and told myself things would be better the next day.  They weren't.  And they hadn't improved any as of last night.  So here's what I did.  I decided if I couldn't come up with anything new to add I'd go back to the first and edit, hoping that immersing myself in the story would create a cozy corner in my brain for the muse to come and dwell.  No muse visit, but the editing seems to be going okay.  However, several times last night I found my finger hovering perilously near the delete key with the intent to wipe out every single one of those 65kish words. 

I know I'm not the only one who's experienced a writerly funk.  Any ideas as to how to pull myself together and get myself out of it? 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Awards! And other Friday miscellany

My first blogger award post!  I actually have three awards and I'm so excited.

My first ever award was given to me by Jen at Unedited.  Jen just finished her first draft of her novel and is entering that nightmare world known as Revisionland.  If you don't follow her you should absolutely head over and check her out.

I would like to pass this award on to

The next award also came to me from Jen and this one made me blush.  I got the Awesomesauce Award!

I'm going to give this one to

And finally, I received the Sweet Blog award (apparently my dash of snark the other day wasn't enough to disqualify me for this. Whew!) from Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time.  Her blog has a lot of really great posts addressing many different aspects of the writing journey.  Check it out if you haven't already.  I also have to say thanks to Nicole for helping technologically challenged me figure out how to get these award images on to my blog so I could pass them along.

I would like to give this award to
1. Jen at Unedited

Thanks again to Jen and Nicole for giving me such great awards!  I've so enjoyed passing the love along.

Couple other end of the week odds and ends.  So the other day I posted about a book I really hated.  I figure it's only fair that I now post about one I'm currently reading and loving.  I've seen the book The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters mentioned on several agents' blogs. I read another of this author's books, Night Watch and thought it was superbly written.   I decided to check Stranger out (literally, went to the library to get it and everything).  This book is a gothic horror novel in the tradition of Turn of the Screw  (which I loved). The book starts out almost agonizingly slow and for awhile I was ready to give up on it.  However, when it got to the part where the actual haunting starts, folks, this lady knows how the send a chill up your spine that lasts for days.  When I was younger I was a huge fan of R.L. Stine, but couldn't stand to have his books in the room when I fell asleep at night because I was scared that the creepiness contained within their pages would ooze out and get me.  I thought I'd overcome that fear when I was able to keep a bookcase loaded with Stephen King books in my bedroom.  Guess what?  Last night found me creeping shame-facedly down the stairs to stow Stranger in the living room so I could fall asleep.  

If you aren't fans of Turn of The Screw you probably won't like this book because it does take a long time to ratchet up the tension.  However, if you're looking for a very old fashioned shiver up the spine book, this is definitely for you. 

As far as my own writing, my WIP is approaching 65,000 words and I'm almost (I think) three-quarters finished with the first draft!  Maybe I'll make that iron clad June deadline after all.

Also the agent that requested the full of SEEDS has now had it in her hot little hands for five weeks.  She said she would try to get back to me within six weeks.  I know that in agent speak usually six weeks translates into something closer to three months.  However, since passing the five week mark yesterday I've sort of reverted to the wild eyed lunatic self of my early querying days.  I can't bear to be away from my email for longer than the time it takes to use the bathroom or address little blond person's shrieks of dismay or need.  I'm considering seeking professional help. Anybody looking for a nanny position? I need someone else around to address those shrieks.  They're seriously cutting into my email fixating time ;^)

Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sigh in the night.

Yesterday I had a fantastic idea for a blog post.  I even had most of it composed in my head, but the opportunity never arose to get it down and schedule it on Blogger to post today. 

Just before I went to sleep last night I had a moment of panic that the post would slip out of my brain, never to be heard from again. 'That's silly,' I thought.  'I have a mind like a steel trap. A steel trap, I tell you!'  Well sometime in the wee hours between blowing my nose and soothing little blond person back to sleep after a hacking fit and poking my husband so he would stop his head cold induced snoring the idea pulled a coyote ugly.  When I woke all that was left were a few tattered remains in the teeth of the trap.

My previous idea was about writing (at least I'm pretty sure it was).  Now I've decided to go in a little different direction, a little more personal.  Bear with me.

The last few months I've had an ongoing, well, I don't think it would be exaggerating to call it a personal crisis.  It's a struggle sometimes to get from one end of the day to another without closeting myself somewhere out of little blond person's sight and bawling. 

The other night I was laying on the couch (so as to escape husband's snoring) and my brain was pickling itself in a stew of the same old thoughts regarding this crisis.  I realized that what had begun as a new frontier in my neural pathways was quickly becoming a deep and perhaps inescapable rut.  So forcing my thoughts out of the mire, I began thinking of the things in my life that help instead of hurt: my husband, my daughter, my health, the expectation of our new baby, my parents, my writing, the fact that we have a roof over our heads, enough to pay our bills and a little left over to sock away in savings.   Then I had this thought, with six billion people in the world someone, somewhere in that exact instant lost one or more of those things that moments before, in the midst of my angst, I forgot I had.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out their spouse died or was divorcing them.

In this moment, someone, somewhere lost a beloved child or found out they could never have one.

In this moment, someone, somewhere was laid off or fired from a job.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that the bank was foreclosing on their home.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that their lifelong dream would never be realized.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that one or both of their parents died.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that they suffer from a debilitating disease or condition that will affect them in inescapable and perhaps painful ways everyday for the rest of their lives.

In this moment someone, somewhere found out they have a terminal illness and all the minutes they took for granted, perhaps even wished away, have now been reduced to a mere handful, slipping through their fingers as quickly and inescapably as grains of sand.

In this moment, someone, somewhere died. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even with the day to day struggles, there is so much to be grateful for and it's all so ephemeral.  Those things we forget to treasure because they're always there can slip from us like a sigh in the night.  And they do from someone, somewhere every moment of every day.  I hope that when, as it inevitably will, that happens to me I'll be able to say that I truly treasured and appreciated every moment that I had that particular blessing in my life, despite what ever else was happening at the time.

And now I'll climb off my soapbox.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A dash of snark

I figure we aspiring authors deal with a lot of negative stuff i.e. rejection letter after rejection letter or less than glowing feedback from a crit partner.  With that in mind I generally try to keep my blog pretty positive.  Also I've read a few blogs that are all out unbridled snarkiness; funny at first, then a little wearing, then downright old, so I try to avoid the negative stuff.

However, everyone in my household is down with some miserable crud: coughing, sneezing, sore throat, oh joy, so I'm feeling a bit snarky today and decided to share it with those of you in blogger land. 

This weekend, I read Circle of Souls. The author's name escapes me because it's a lot of letters long and I never could figure out exactly how to pronounce it.

Circle of Souls has glowing reviews on front and back covers as well as all over the internet. It's already been released in hard cover and I picked it up on its paperback rerelease, so I was thinking this must be a pretty damn good book. I couldn't wait to read it.  In fact, I sacrificed hard to come by writing time and harder to come by (little blond person is also sick) sleeping time to read it.  It's a thriller type book, though a little off the traditional thriller track.  I was captivated by the premise.  It was well written and during the first half those pages were turning as fast as I could read.  Then it was like the author or editor or someone fell asleep on the job.  The story unraveled, the quality of the writing went downhill and this book, to me committed the sinniest of all thriller sins.  It was predictable.

Some of the chapters were written from the killer's POV.  However, the killer turns up about a quarter into the book as a secondary character and from all the chapters written from his point of view I knew immediately it was him.  I didn't want it to be him.  I didn't want it to be that easy.  I wanted to be stunned, or at least a little surprised when the killer was brought to justice.  Nope, no such luck.  It was exactly who I thought it was.  Yawn.

After I finished the book, I had to resist the temptation to chuck it across the room.  Instead I held it in my hands and thought 'Why?  Why did you get published when thousands of others out there who are probably more deserving don't?  How does that happen?'

I know I'm not the only one out there who has had this experience.  If anyone else is feeling a little snarky today please share your 'I can't believe this got published, let alone got so much critical and popular acclaim' book.  And no fair using any of the Twilight series.  I think anyone over the age of 13 and not hopelessly smitten with Edward or Jacob will agree that those books would have benefited from going through the revision process another time or twenty.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The muse is pricking. Hooray!

Well I must say, my first week of only blogging three days really worked out for me.  I got to visit and show love to all of you in blogger land (and have some love shown in return.  Thanks commenters, readers and all my new followers!) and still make slow, but steady progress on my WIP.

Right now my muse is plucking at my brain strings and little blond person is actually immersed in the Abby's Flying Fairy School segment of Sesame Street.  I can't let an opportunity like this pass me up, so here's my truncated Friday post.

I discovered Alexandra Sokoloff's blog this week.  For those of you who are fans of horror, if you haven't read her stuff you are SERIOUSLY missing out. The Price was my personal favorite, but all of her books did a great job of making me peer extra hard into dim corners and turn on every light in the house after the sun went down. She has a fantastic series of blog posts addressing everything about crafting a novel, from working up your premise to creating a great villain.  If you haven't before please for your own writely sake go check it out here

Also Matthew over at the The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment has a great guest post today showcasing an actual query that landed an author an actual agent.  He tries to do this every Friday and it is a great series.  For those of you approaching or at the querying stage, his blog is a must see.

Happy Friday everyone!  May you all have productive writing weekends.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Critique group!

I had a fantastic experience last night with my new critique group.  As I said before I was a little worried because all the members of the group are also members of a fairly conservative religion, with which my writing is a little at odds.

As most time spent worrying usually is, mine was a waste.  Last night I found myself in a group of very talented writers who are also astute readers and critiquers.  The whole experience, from reading their work, to getting their opinions on my own was fabulous.  The thing I liked the best about them was that, while they did point out several turns of phrase or descriptive passages they enjoyed, they didn't waste time complimenting me or each other and pussy footing around what was wrong with the writing they read. 

This may sound like I'm bragging, but I know I'm a good writer.  I don't need people to tell me that.  What I do need is people to tell me how I can be a better writer.  These ladies passed on that count with flying colors. In fact, they did such a great job of setting a fire under me, I came home and stayed up until one a.m. (one a.m. people!  I'm pregnant and have a toddler.  That is a huge freaking deal in my world.) rewriting my prologue. If you'd like to see the difference you can read my pre-critique prologue here and the post-critique prologue here.  And, as I said, reading their work was almost as enjoyable as getting their opinions on mine.

I'm wondering if others have had mostly positive or negative experiences with critique groups or partners and, if so, what made it that way for you?

Monday, April 12, 2010

New blogging schedule

This is my first day of only blogging three times a week.  I have a deadline to meet in order to finish my first draft before baby #2 arrives.  My midwife says June 27th, but we'll see.  I'm betting earlier.   Either way I've got to devote more time to my WIP and less to blogging, hence the short post. 

Good night to all of you in blogger land.  I'm off to hopefully add a substantial amount of words to my WIP.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How do you keep up?

Obviously no post, inspired or otherwise happened yesterday.  Instead what happened was a trip to the pet store where little blond person picked out a dark red beta fish and dubbed him Swimmy Ben.  She then proceeded to select hot pink aquarium rocks, plastic red, pink, purple and clear accent stones to go on top of the aquarium rocks, and a plastic purple plant (say that three times fast) with, you guessed it, hot pink stripes. 

After we got home, my husband assembled the bowl with accessories, put the fish in and Swimmy Ben - disappeared.  I didn't know there was such a thing as camoflauge for a red fish, but we discovered it.  However, Swimmy Ben, when we catch the occasional glimpse of him as he flits past a clear accent stone, seems quite happy with his psychedelic home and my daughter is over the moon and, most of the time, wet to the elbows despite all my admonitions to look, don't touch, because of her new pet.

Now onto the issue at hand.  I love this blogging thing.  I love putting things out there into blogosphere and receiving in return the thoughts of like minded folk.  Traveling from blog to blog each day makes me feel like an astronaut bouncing from one strange planet to the next, always eager to see what each new destination has in store.  I love the little thrill I get when someone new decides to 'follow' me.  I love the jolt of recognition when I read something on someone else's blog that explains in terms I would never have thought to use exactly how I feel or think or write. 

I also recognize the importance of blogging for an aspiring author.  We have to be out there.  We need to have a following.  We need to know what's going on in the writing community.  I get that.

Here's my dilemma.  I have very little free time and once baby number two comes, free time for me will be like unobtanium for those nasty, corporate stuffed shirts in Avatar.  I'm already following more blogs than I can reasonably keep up with, but I would like to join more, both to see what other aspiring writers have to say and also to bring more folks into my little corner of the sphere.  However, to be a writer, I have to write.  Even if I have 2,000 followers, but no manuscript because I've spent all my time attracting and upkeeping my blog relationship with those followers, I've got nothing. 

Because I enjoy it so damn much and because it's easier than working on my WIP and also because I need to build a following, I'm spending about 60% of the free time I have cruising the blogosphere.   Case in point, I logged on tonight, told myself I had twenty minutes to browse the posts on the blogs I was following and crank out a post for my own blog.  I logged on at 11:00.  It is now midnight and while I read every post on every blog I follow (though I didn't take the time to comment) and wrote this post for my blog I haven't even opened my WIP yet. Not good.

So I'm wondering, do the rest of you writers out there have this issue?  If so, how do you divvy up your time so that your actual writing doesn't suffer because of the time spent blogging/tweeting/facebooking, etc.?  And how do you find the time to upkeep your personal relationships with friends, family, etc. while still maintaining an online presence and working on your craft?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Because most of my mental energy has been zapped today by some rather messy and exhausting personal issues, I'm going to do another shameless ripoff.

I came across this great post about how to grab a reader/agent from the first page.  I thought it was so great that I decided to pass it along to all of you out there in blogosphere. 

Hope you're all having a great Tuesday.  Hopefully my post on Thursday will be a bit more inspired.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm finding out, just like my child, I have very little control over how my books are going to grow up.

I've written a total of four and three quarters novels at this point, not including my current WIP.  The first three and the three quarters ones have been permanently shelved for various reasons, but writing each of them was a different experience from the others.  However, those experiences weren't as disparate as what happened with my most recently completed novel and what's happening with my WIP.

My fourth novel, Seeds, the one I'm currently submitting to agents, was an absolute joy to write.  My mind dwelled on it almost constantly and my brain was forever coming up with new scenes to add and new ways to tweak old scenes.  I opened my computer every night with a sense of anticipation and couldn't wait to see what my fingers churned out next.  I loved to immerse myself in the world and in the characters and usually had to tear myself out, bleary eyed and dizzy with exhaustion, around two in the morning.  When I finished it I handed it off to my beta readers with a sense of excitement, hoping they'd enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And they did.

My current WIP is turning out to be a very different kind of writing journey.  For one thing the inspiration for the story slammed into me one day while I was cleaning my kitchen and not even remotely interested in coming up with a new idea for a book.  By the time I worked my way through my house in my weekly ritual of Saturday cleaning, I had the entire plot worked out in my brain start to finish.  I don't write like that.  I'm not an outline kind of girl.  I get an idea.  I start a story and I discover the twists and turns of the plot along the way.  This book, though, has a two page long outline, hurried and harried and sometimes a little incoherent, but an outline nontheless.

This book draws from a traumatic time in my life.  It isn't the first thing I've written that does that, but it's the worst. I know the world that my WIP is set in, know it intimately because it was my world for several years.  I don't like revisiting that world.  I don't like my protagonist because there is so much in her of the me that I was before I got my head screwed on right.  I have to go deep to remember what I felt like and experienced then so I can truthfully and evocatively bring that to my hypothetical reader. It's hard and it hurts.  I also have a sense that I'm holding myself back from the story because it's too difficult and frightening to go all the way in and I know that will show in the finished product, so I force myself to go as deep as possible.  I don't write every day because I can't stand to.  I have to write a chunk then give myself a few days to recover.  Usually within three or four days my brain will inform me, by coming up with a good piece of dialogue or an excellent metaphor or fleshing out part of the chapter that I'm currently working on that I'm ready to write.  Then I dive in and start the whole process all over again.

The strange thing is, on the surface, these two works of fiction are essentially the same; words strung together to form sentences, sentence to form paragraphs, paragraphs to fill up pages until the novel is complete.  But their insides, their guts, the things that my experiences inject into all those words are so very different.

For awhile I fought against that difference.  I tried to force myself into the same sort of writing schedule I had with Seeds.  I refused to give myself those days to recover between writing bouts and opened my WIP every night regardless of the reluctance or downright loathing I felt for the idea.  It's only been within the last week or so that I realized trying to do that is like trying to make little blond person a fan of football and having dirty hands and wearing jeans instead of tutus around the house. No matter how hard I try, it's not going to happen.  I just have to let it be what it's going to be.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the subject of critiques

I've been sort of listlessly following Idol this season, partially because little blond person refuses to stop having wants and needs during those two hours, but mostly because I don't really give a crap about any of the contestants.  They're good.  They just aren't good enough. 

That said, last week's performances, with a few notable exceptions, were abysmal.  Beyond abysmal.  So bad, I turned the TV off and just read the recap later on MSN.  This week, however, I found myself tuning out little blond person so I could tune into Idol, and in my humble, mostly non singing opinion all of the performances were at least respectable.  It wasn't rocket science to figure out the difference between the two weeks; Usher vs. Miley Cyrus.

Miley was a namby pamby 'mentor' who hasn't really found her place in the music industry and so, I think, lacked confidence giving advice to people older than her.  It also seemed to me she was more concerned with making cute on camera than actually giving the contestants worthwhile critiques.  Hugs and smiles and batting eyelashes abounded, constructive criticism, not so much. 

This week, Usher, while still making sure the singers knew their strong points, also pointed out their weak areas and gave them concrete things to do to improve their performances. Because of this the weak performers were able to at least turn in something not cringe worthy and the already strong performers shone with the gloss of serious polish. 

Earlier today I did my first in depth critique for one of the folks from my new writing group.  By the time I got done there was a lot of red.  I mean, a lot.  Don't get me wrong, the guy can write.  His idea is compelling, his narrative voice is good and I think there's a worthwhile novel in there.  It just needs some more polish.  I told him all this, but I wasn't sure if it was enough to undo the damage caused by all that red. 

I drafted up the email, attached the critique and then sat there, arrow hovering over send for about five minutes.  Then, realizing that what I was doing for him was what I wanted someone to do for me, I clicked and off the email zoomed into cyber space.  I thought of it there in his inbox, claws sharpened, fangs glistening waiting to rip his writing dream to shreds.  That thought plagued me all day. 

Then I watched Idol and I felt better.  Then I checked my email and found in my inbox a thank you for all that red and a request for me to continue in my critique.  I felt a whole lot better. 

All in all things turned out well and I'm glad I did what I did.  I'm also hoping that there's an Usher, not a Miley behind the critique I get in return because the last thing I want is to put something out there for public consumption and have it, ala Stephenie Meyer, panned and picked at and made fun of.  Give me a strong opinion and a merciless red pen over that any day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Trying new things.

With my last book I used friends and relatives as beta readers.  However, most of my social sphere is comprised of people from a fairly conservative religion, a religion I left several years ago.  My current WIP is, in a lot of ways, incompatible with the way of life this religion champions.  I need new beta readers.

I met a couple of writers, one published, one aspiring, at the community readings I've attended over the last couple of months.  Within the last week both asked me to be part of a critique group. 

I sent out the need.  The universe provided.  Damn, if I would have known that was the wish the universe would choose to grant I would have used it on something way more worthwhile.  World peace anyone?

But, hey, who am I to question to cosmos, so I agreed to go to both groups' meetings.  The first one was today.  And I think it went pretty well except all members of it are also members of the aforementioned conservative religion.  Nuts!  Should have been more specific with my wish.  However, the guy that started the group seems to be pretty open minded and not averse to dealing with some dark material and he's published.  So that's good.

The other group's meeting is next month and I'm looking forward to that, but I'm also a little nervous to be a part of either group.  I've critiqued other writer's work before but it was always with this sense of 'I don't know what the crap I'm doing.  How can I tell you what to do?'  Also I don't want to be a dream crusher.  Also I don't want my dreams crushed. 

Despite my worries I plan to persist with this whole critique group thing in hopes that I'll get something helpful out of it and perhaps be able to be of help to someone else.  I guess to sum up here's to trying new things *raises glass*( Don't worry.  It's sparkling cider.  None of the heavy stuff for prego me). 

Stay tuned to see how this particular new thing works out and if anyone out there has any advice on how to conduct one's self in a critique group I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"He's not a lad, brother. He's a man. The man from Snowy River."

The above quote is one of my all time favorite lines from one of my all time favorite movies.  From age about 8 to about 12 it was the only movie I ever wanted to rent.  My cousins and I could quote it word for word (and did) while we swooned over Jim in his tight pants and sweaty cowboy hat and wished we could be half as elegant as Jessica, despite her crooked teeth. 

The other night I was perusing Netflix looking for something to watch while I folded clothes.  Imagine my delight when I came across The Man From Snowy River.  I turned it on and prepared to be enthralled.  And I was.  It was still just as good a movie as I remembered and Jim filled out those tight pants just as well.  However, afterward, being the writer type that I am I couldn't let it go that it was just a good movie.  I tried to dissect it and decide what made it so good.

When I took apart the main conflict in the story, poor guy in love with rich guy's daughter and rich guy does all he can to keep them apart, it wasn't that interesting.  I mean, how many times have we seen the star crossed lovers story line. The subplots, now those are interesting: twin brothers both in love with the same woman haven't spoken for years despite the fact that she died long ago in childbirth; A horse turned loose out of vengeance that now heads the wild Brumbie mob and seems intent on wreaking havoc wherever he goes; a solitary mountain man on a solitary mountain horse that manages to bring the entire Brumbie mob, including aforementioned havoc wreaking stallion ,to heel. 

However, these aren't the things that come to my mind when I think of the Man From Snowy River.  The thing I first think of is crusty old Spur, the peg-legged miner hell bent on finding gold in the skirts of his Jezebel (what he calls his mine).  This role is superbly executed by Kirk Douglas minus the chin dimple which is covered by Spur's scraggly beard.  Then I think of Harrison, Spur's wealthy twin brother, also played wonderfully by Kirk Douglas (and his chin dimple).  Then there's Clancy, the wild card, who shows up where ever he feels like and leaves when the mood takes him.  From his twinkling eyes to his bushy mustache to his so thick you could cut it with a knife Aussie accent this is a CHARACTER.  When stacked against the tour de force of these three roles Jessica and Jim, the lovelorn leads, barely register on the charichter (see what I did there? Ah. Ah.) scale.  Though Jim's buckskin horse ranks right up there next to Clancy, in my opinion. 

Lately I've been having a really hard time finding books to fall in love with.  It wasn't until I spent entirely too much brain energy taking apart this movie that I realized why.  I have to have CHARACTERS in my books.  I enjoy a good story, but if it isn't populated by fleshed out, fully realized human beings I have nothing to grip onto, nothing to draw me into the world of the book.  I think this is why I love Stephen King so much.  His characters are so finely drawn, so well depicted that you aren't perched on their shoulder, poking tentatively about in their world.  You're behind their eyeballs, taking in all they see, all they feel, all they think. For the few minutes or few hours you read that book you are immersed totally in their existence.  That, I think, is what's been lacking in almost every book I've read lately.  So with that in mind tonight when I open up my work in progress I intend to go back and see if my characters are as full and quirky and layered and interesting as I can possibly make them.

I would be interested to know, though, my few followers, what you think makes for a good book or movie, story or characters?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm a thief.

It appears I'm temporarily out of inspiration for blog posts.  However, my WIP is going well, so I'm actually pretty happy with that tradeoff.  Because of my lack of inspiration I'm going to blatantly rip off the post on Dystel and Goderich's blog.

It's all about taking out the trash and included a link to this exceptional article about editing.  Really it's well worth the time to check out.  I found it enormously helpful and wish I would have discovered it before editing my manuscript that I'm now shopping around to agents.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Prime Target

There are days when you realize your hands are full of so much good fortune that Zeus (or whoever) must surely be up in his cloudy realm leveling a lightning bolt at you just to even things out.  For me Thursday was one of those days.

My husband stayed home sick and so was right next to me when I opened the email from the agent requesting my full.  That was definitely one of those Defying Gravity moments, made all the better by the fact that I was able to fully share it with my very best friend and number one supporter.

A few moments laters, perhaps woken by all the hullabaloo going on below her, our daughter got up from her nap.  I'm still not entirely sure how it came about, but somehow, less than ten minutes later I sat on a little plastic pink chair with a dress up veil on my head and a number of preciouses (what my daughter calls jewelry) draped in various unique ways over my person.  Across the hot pink storage bin in which my daughter's toys reside, she sat on another little pink chair.  She wore a blue crushed velvet leotard with a long, slightly ragged light blue tutu and black patent leather shoes.  On her head rested a second veil.  Bringing the whole outfit together was the hot pink and purple Barbie purse dangling from its silver bead strap which rested on her shoulder. 

To my right sat my husband trussed out in the headdress of a medaevil princess (the only thing that fit on his large noggin).  He held a little light pink and silver purse in one hand, and in the other, pinky tilted up and all, he gripped a tiny pink teacup. 

Last night I was reading Night Watch  by Sarah Waters and she described one of her character's emotion as rising up like bread dough.  I really liked that and I'm going to steal it. I nibbled on the plastic chocolate cookie my daughter gave me and watched her ask her father if he would want a cookie 'darling'.  He and I exchanged glances and small smiles over her chubby little hand which was proferring him the cookies on their rose imprinted yellow plate.  And my bread dough of happiness which usually stays so small and tractable and easily forgotten somewhere in the region of my heart expanded to such significant proportions that some of it had to leak out of my eyes so I didn't burst. 

If that lightning bolt hits, perhaps in the form of a rejection (which, really, given all the things I stand to lose, would be the outcome easiest to cope with and overcome) I'm still so thankful that, for one incandescent moment, I was fully conscious of how lucky I am and how much I have to be thankful for.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The agent with the partial asked for the FULL!!!!!!! That is all.

I have a virtual guest appearance!

Rebecca over at Diary of a Virgin Novelist was kind enough to ask me to do a guest post on her blog.  I was thrilled and flattered and a little nervous but I did it and here's the result.  As long as you're over there you really should check out her posts.  They're very enjoyable, informative and well written, but the thing I like about them the most is their humanity.  She comes across as very much herself and there's almost nothing I enjoy more than a little authenticity.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Secret Ingredient

Tonight I've had two different ideas for a blog post battling in my head, but I realized only a moment ago that I was only trying to formulate the second idea because I didn't want to write about the first.  I know even if I post about the second idea, the first one is going to keep bugging me until I get it out there.  I've always been the rip the band-aid off fast kind of gal, so I'll just get the first thing out now so it won't keep poking its pointy wet wiggling little nose in where it isn't wanted.

A few days ago I was looking up agents so I have some additional ones ready to query if the agent that has my partial decides she isn't interested in representing me.  I found one agent who sounded very promising.  She represented a recently released book called Alcestis which is a retelling of one of the lesser known Greek myths (Hey, I wrote a retelling of Greek myth.  She's represented one.  A match made in heaven, right?). 

I went to the Amazon link for the book and read the excerpt.  I only got the first five or so pages, but this book is good, like the can't stand to put it down even if little blond person is screaming and bleeding at the same time good (not that I would ever neglect my child in that way for a book.  No, no, that's never happened.)  Immediately after reading the excerpt I deleted the agent from my to query list.  Then I put her back on.  Then I took her back off.

After that I emailed the agent that has my partial and asked for a status update.  When she responded less that twenty minutes later, I could hardly bring myself to open the email. I just knew that on the other side of that mouse click a rejection (and another small, brutal stab to the heart) waited.  Instead I got a brief polite email informing me she needed more time to consider my partial. 

I returned to my to query list and put the agent who represents Alcestis back on it and I was able to write a fairly significant amount that night. 

I kept thinking about that excerpt though and tonight at my reading as the words of my own novel spooled out of my mouth I kept thinking, this sounds so ridiculous.  I can't believe I'm reading this tripe out loud in public to strangers.  What was I thinking?

I came home, tucked little blond person in (five times), folded laundry and then opened my WIP, all the while thinking about the excerpt.  Not only could I not write anything, I deleted everything I'd written the last couple of nights.  And I almost couldn't bring myself to do this blog post because all the sudden all of this effort I'm putting into getting published, including this blog, seems so silly and trite and, yes, talentless.

Even as I write this though I know the most important thing missing from my writing isn't depth or talent or description or characterization.  It's my own deep seated belief that I can write things other people will want to read.  Without that the magic that it takes to create disappears and in whatever little dim nook of the mind the muse dwells, she curls into herself, closes her eyes and weeps.

I know before I can progress on my WIP or, according to The Rejectionist, land an agent I have to regain my confidence.  I just, well, I just don't know how to do that.