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.