Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

My husband gave me a bad time last night, something to the effect of, “What-- resolutions you'll never keep?” And it's true, I don't always manage all of them, in fact sometimes I manage none of them. But I'll tell you what I told him, because I believe it's true. I do a far better job on these goals when I set them as resolutions than when I don't. I think it is the “on your mark, get set, go...” thing. A starting point I can anticipate forces my hand. It may ALSO help that January is a miserable, depressing month anyway. I went to college on a quarter system, and winter term was short (typically only 9 weeks) which meant that there were ALWAYS tests and papers, the whole freaking term. There was no opportunity to take any down time. And you know what? I always got my best grades winter term. (spring was worst because suddenly the hot, naked men came out of the woodwork, but I digress...)

Anyway, I think there is a trigger in my brain that in winter I can grit down and just get to it. So without further ado...


I. Book Tour Fitness Plan

A. Lose XX pounds through following Weight Watchers eating (counting points for food), modified for my lifestyle as detailed a few days ago, and adding exercise as follows.

B. Aerobic activity 6 days a week minimum.
    1. Walk to and from work ALWAYS (barring ice, sub-zero temperature or more than 4 inches fresh snow)
    2. Do intense aerobic activity 4 days a week (enough to sweat) for at least 45 minutes.

C.Strengthen core and build muscles (20 minutes, 6 days, alternate)
    1. Exercise ball for core
    2. Use hand weights for arms, shoulders, legs...

D. Increase flexibility: You know, I used to be really bendy. I was a gymnast once upon a time, but after 25 years of fitness exercise without adequate stretching, it's gotten bad. I will do 10 minutes a day, immediately after the muscle stuff.


II.Make every Feasible Effort Publish
A. Write, Write, Write: continue nightly dedication following the plan I've laid out to meet all the pans I've got going at the mo.

B. Continue Networking
    1.Facebook
    2.Blog network
    3.Dig deeper for connections (follow up on Borders woman)

C. Follow Query Plan until it works

D. Edit in designated months (those corresponding to query intense months)

E. Participate in Friend NoWriMo in June and NaNoWriMo in November.

F. Amazon contest if queries have no nibbles in January.




III. Work harder at making myself easier to live with.

A. Dedicate a Saturday a month to an organization project (for hubby)

B. Try to keep my crap out of the living room so at least ONE room is clean.

C. Try to fully listen to kids.

D. Meditate on this mother thing.


IV. Work at organization in the NON-writing parts of my life

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Retrospect

Tomorrow I intend to look forward, so it seemed like today was a good day to look back.



The Day Job

I had three publications accepted in 2009, my best year to date. Probably I've been more distracted in some ways, which I wish wasn't the case... my mind has been a little on a bigger prize in my mind. But it was a year of successes, and I'm pleased.


The Family

Both kids transitioned to new schools this year. I was never really worried about my son in middle school. He's a good student, and we'd already spent three years at the middle school, so we knew what to expect. My daughter, on the other hand, is artistic and creative, but has had some trouble academically. She opted (and got in) to a magnet high school. It is smaller (good) but none of her close friends went to it. Compounding this was the fact that she spent the first two months swimming on the swim team for the giant main public high school (and so didn't have time to bond with people from her own school after school, plus she spent that entire time exhausted). But four months in she is finally settled in and thriving. The school is a good match for her learning style and she has made friends who fit her personality well, though she still spends most of her weekends with friends from Middle School who attend the other high school. I figure that is okay though—at that age, having multiple places you fit in is protective.

And  perhaps bigger than the kids... my husband became a student this year.  For twenty years I've tried to get my bad boy punk rocker to pick a field, any field.  He didn't believe he COULD, but now he knows he can.  He has four more classes and he can apply for nursing school, and you know what?  He will be a GREAT nurse.


The Writing Path

2009 was a year of huge leaps and bounds for me as a writer. I began the year editing my first book with no clue about the process of getting published. I figured I had a book that was almost ready—had been turned over to my writer's group to address holes and such, and once I addressed their concerns, that would be all I needed.

Talking in my writer's group I heard a little bit of 'who you know' but I didn't believe it for a second. I suppose that is totally naïve on my part, or maybe it was just wishful thinking, but I decided to read some blogs, find out a little about the process. And man oh man did I find stuff out?

It led to the Facebook profile and social networking, a few queries and then the realization that I wasn't within 'rules' for a publishable book (too long, especially for a first timer)... rewrites, start blog, more networking... It has been a chaotic madhouse, but I feel like the hazing is about done; I am FINALLY initiated and doing this the way I am supposed to.

In the mean time, I wrote two complete books this year and have another three in progress (plus ideas for a YA series). The Trilogy with the two done books is the most promising project—3/4 of a book to write and then the massive editing process. I'm pretty sure 2009 saw me transition from a wannabe to a writer.


Regrets

I'm not really one to mope and regret. I figure you learn what you can from mistakes, change direction if necessary and move on. I do have one big sadness for the year though... relations with my mother, never easy, have spiraled downward. The problem, is I don't see anything I can do.

She has always treated my husband badly. I have tried over the years to point it out now and then and she acts horribly offended that I can't be more generous with her motives—well that is BS in my opinion. If you behave badly, your loved ones are well in their rights to try to correct your behavior, or at least point it out.

Frankly, I don't really understand how, after 20 years and two grandkids, after being nurturer to her child, she can't find it in her heart to love him, even if she doesn't like him. It just doesn't seem natural to me—in fact I'll go farther. It's not natural or acceptable. It is not our job to decide who our children love, and once our children decide, it IS our job to just love that person on principle, unless that person beats them or some such thing.

Anyway, after a visit this summer, I told my mom I was upset, I tried to relay the specific behaviors (most pointedly that my teen had felt picked at and has asked why her nana hated dad). So I warned her that she was going to lose her grandkids if she couldn't sort out how she treated their dad. Her response was, 'did I do something?' I detailed again and asked her to THINK about her feelings and behavior, to see if there was something she might change. Her response was 'some people just don't like me. I don't think we can have a relationship.'

You're kidding, right? Calling off a relationship because you were asked to THINK ABOUT IT? I just can't think I could have set the bar any lower, so while I'm sad, I am totally at a loss to see what I can do besides throw up my arms and say 'never mind, behave badly. I don't care!' I just have higher hopes, or maybe a deluded evaluation of what she COULD be.

Ironically, my husband keeps trying to convince me to make peace. He doesn't want to be the reason the kids don't see their grandparents (though he's clear HE never wants to see them again). But my step dad had a mother who completely alienated her grandkids all on her own by being a bitch about their mother, and I guess I feel like a stand now, may save my mother from herself later.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Editing Vortex

Do not adjust the picture. Do not adjust the sound. And for heaven's sake, don't try to write an original word. You have just entered... *spooky music* The Editing Vortex.


I suppose it started with my thoughts that I wanted CONFLUENCE to be ready to query FOR REAL at the new year... in fact I want it ready to send in for the Amazon Contest should those early January Queries turn up nothing. I was in progress on a 'polish'--about half way through, and had plans to really look at my first three chapters so that it dived in a lot faster.

And then I printed up my NaNo novel, knowing it needed a fair amount of adding—hole filling, and suddenly the writing mojo has seemed to dry up... I mean I'm TRYING but it is a page or two a day, not half a chapter as it had been for a while... I find I've changed modes and NEED to explore what this is.

I think it's a lot like my perception lady.



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It depends on what side of the brain I'm using. Some people may be perfectly adept at jumping back and forth. Not so with me. Can't do it to save my life. In fact... I was feeling that way and so have done a little experiment. Sunday... edit edit edit. Monday... take kids to a movie, fold laundry. You know what? Sunday night... wrote ONE page. Seriously. And I was TRYING. Monday night, wrote seven.

Oh, now don't go and get all technical about N of one (wait, that's me who does that), but it just really seems that the brain activities don't play well together.

So I have a plan.

Sit back down; it's not a scary plan.

The editing just needs to be done because I'd like to be done with CONFLUENCE once and for all, so THAT I will do before New Years. Then I plan on preparing my twenty query letters and where appropriate, pages, to mail the middle of next week. Then I will be DONE with CONFLUENCE until the end of January... if there is no news or bad news, at that point, I will enter the Amazon contest.

While I edit, my night writing will be the hole spotting (and ideally filling) on my NaNoWriMo, plus my silly new project I'll tell you about in a minute and some fanfiction which I am woefully behind on. I will still try to get a page or two filled on CONSPIRACY, but I am not expecting miracles until this other is out of the way. BUT, when CONFLUENCE and the NaNo are done, then I AM FREE! No more editing until the whole trilogy is finished—so a month or so of edit-free days! WAHOO!

Now... in case you'd worried I was no longer insane...

ONDWAY


On New Year's Day I plan to begin the publication of a Blog Opera—another page, but right here at blogspot. I find that I miss the regular readership, interaction thing of fanfiction (never mind that I have a couple going there, albeit, now at a snail's pace) but I also like genre flopping and playing. I think Serial Publication keeps a writer honest in some way, so I thought to fill my need for dramedy and twisty wonkiness, I would begin a little tale. I am approaching it stylistically like a soap opera—few core families, few local businesses, which give a broad cast ways to interact.

The PLOT idea originated in the idea of a 'Dangerous Liaisons' plot planted in small town America. I know these small towns... they are everywhere and nowhere, because they are just ondway somewhere... but I grew up in a part of the country SURROUNDED by several. Anyway, I will let you know as it gets up and running. It is my intention to keep it a little more 'campy' that traditional soaps—that is just how my humor runs, but the twists and turns should be fun.

So starting New Year's Day... twice a week, Thursday (of course) and Sunday. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Because it Amuses Me

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This just in:  Yesterday on Google Australia, this blog was the #2 hit for Cross Dressed Tarts.  So there.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Resolution Rules

Oh, I know... Boxing Day is barely gone and January is almost a week away. Who wants to think about resolutions? There is a week of parties yet to be had. But the thing is, to do it right takes a little time.

My LAST boss (not the groovy, generous CURRENT boss, but the compact, all-business model) focused on identity and academic success. She was smart and driven (if a little difficult as a human being) and honestly—some of her ideas TOTALLY apply to New Year's Resolutions.

At the beginning of the school year, she would ask (middle school) students “How do you see yourself a year from now” --they were to give their self visions (she called the 'possible selves') and how they'd achieve them and then we had a formula to rate the likelihood of those goals GETTING them anywhere (we tested them against things like GPA, and you know what—our formula worked).

THAT is what a New Years Resolution is, isn't it? So let me let YOU in on the secret.


I will start with my most frequent resolution.


LOSE WEIGHT. I am nearly always trying to lose weight or maintain a recent weight loss. Clearly I am not good at the latter, or the former would not have to keep barking back at me, but since it is the world's most common resolution, I am going to work with it.


If I say my resolution is “To Lose Weight” and leave it at that, I will fail. I guarantee it (you will too—sorry to be the bearer of bad news). Oh, I might lose a few pounds by some vague 'watching it' that I can succeed at for about the first three days in January (Rose Bowl snacks notwithstanding)

If I instead say:

“Beginning January 2 (see—allowing for my Rose Bowl -GO DUCKS!), I am going to follow the Weight Watchers eating plan,” suddenly my chances for success increase dramatically.

Why? Because I have a HOW, and not JUST a how, but a how that prescribes the right kind of eating. But WHEN have I succeeded? Am I ever done? Do I want to lose five pounds? Fifty pounds (I confess it is closer to the latter for me, but this is about YOU). How do you know when you're done? Do I want to lose two pants sizes? (okay, maybe it IS about me) Do I want to fit into my skinny jeans? The ANSWER may be all of the above, but defining the goal in ONE measure gives you a point at which you can succeed.

So:

Beginning January 2nd, I am going to follow the Weight Watchers eating plan (the one I do because I KNOW it and it is healthy and flexible, features I know from experience that I need) until I have lost 2 pant sizes.

See that? Measurable goal and reasonable method. Suddenly this is something that can be achieved.

I'm not done yet, though. For starters, a BIG goal like weight loss ought to have multiple strategies. Not just eating, but EXERCISE (both aerobic and creating those fat burning muscles). Possibly some TROUBLE SHOOTING (if X comes up, Y is how I will get around it), Maybe some thinking about how real life fits.

For instance, my husband is our cook and it is really unreasonable for me to ask HIM to make special food for ME when he has four of us he feeds. But Weight Watchers, with its POINTS allows for WHATEVER he cooks IF my other eating fits.... so maybe I count my meals from dinner to lunch instead of breakfast to dinner, so that in a 24 hour period I can adapt to what has already been served for last night's dinner—if we should have *gasp* pizza, then breakfast and lunch the next day need to be considerably lighter. It isn't strictly what Weight Watchers recommends, but it is an adaptation that over the course of a week balances out, and it is necessary for my personal lifestyle (the refusal to cook one, I mean).

See how it gets more complex? I figure three strategies, each with some detail, is enough to give a person a reasonable shot at achieving said goal IFF you also add some motivation.

Add some measures that are EXTRAS to keep you excited... measure with a tape measure, try on the pants... so the scale is not the only success measure (experience here says sometimes one stops but the others go—it keeps a person motivated). What you want is MANY chances, ways and measures of success, because then you might really succeed. And you want some baby-step success celebrations... maybe for each five pounds you lose, you get to buy yourself a book you want (if you budget is better than mind—though if I go used, I could do that), or you get a night off to do something you enjoy... small rewards along the way.

So the formula:

On X date, I will begin trying to achieve XXX, by

1) strategy 1
2) strategy 2 and
3) strategy 3

After 1 month I will evaluate how well the strategies are working and adjust them if necessary.

For each success of XX kind, I get one trip to the dungeon to make my boys dance like I like.



Now Let's Apply it to One I Haven't Done in Detail Before

GETTING PUBLISHED


Let's see... If I understand this process, what I need to have is a GREAT BOOK, and an AGENT and a PUBLISHER. Great book supersedes all else and I've learned enough to know my FIRST step is to speed up my first couple chapters. I need to suck in the reader faster than I do, so strategy #1 is rewrite chapters 1-3.

I also need to finish polishing the 2nd half, but that doesn't need to happen before I start shopping for an agent, as once a person has requested the WHOLE THING, they will see that I know how to do this. And the timing of getting a request for the WHOLE will probably come AFTER requests for earlier pages. So the next strategy is QUERY.

This is a classic 'give it details and make it measurable' goal writing. Something like: I will send twenty queries in January, and every time I have gotten back five responses, I will send five more out. That is a high enough number to wash out the 'never responders' and theoretically, by a month, should get enough feedback (or non-feedback) to give an idea whether the tools are working or need to be adjusted.

Possibly I can reduce the number once I start getting some nibbles.

Oi! But what if there are no nibbles?! Well, then either I've failed at the rewrite of early chapters, or my query has a big giant fail. So maybe I need to add a strategy of going through Query Shark if the Query seems to fail completely after round one...  It's also possible I should think about approaching some publishers instead (I have a friend exploring a Border's connection--that will more likely lead to publishers than agents--can't drop that!)

[Do you see how complicated this can get?]

I swear though, that having behaviors you can check off gives you a sense of control and keep you engaged, corrections that can be made if something doesn't work improves your chance of success, and multiple strategies means SOMETHING might work.

So it's a good idea to give yourself a few days on those resolutions... I wish you luck!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Twelve Ways I'm Grateful

On the twelfth day of Christmas her Tartness gave to us...


Twelve ways she's grateful

Eleven days vacation
Ten Books that changed me
Nine Crisco Twisters
Eight Solstice Wishes
Seven Success Secrets...
Six Writing Tasks
Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale



I have so much to be thankful for. I spend a lot of time playing, grumbling... in reality though, my life is pretty good. Here is just a partial list of the things I am truly grateful for.


The Cantankerous Fart I call Husband

He nags and picks... and he has the most absurd, morbid sense of humor... but he is my compliment... the Yang to my Yin... without him I'd forget I had children, I'd never do a chore... I'd surely be a crazy cat lady. I'm grateful he keeps me on track.

The Drama Queen in Teen's Clothing

The world revolves around her—every being and creature in existence only existing to do her bidding... the highs are high, the lows are low... but she still calls me mommy sometimes—she likes to hold my hand when she's not telling me off for failing to buy something for her. Natalie is such a colossal set of contradictions, and I wouldn't trade her for anything.


The Bottomless Pit of Sarcasm

He has four snacks every night after dinner—he is THAT hungry... it never stops. Still, at five and a half feet tall he only breaks 100 pounds on a good day. His humor is dry, he knows he's smart (and tends to mock people who don't quite measure up). In any given conversation I get some clue that he's mine... I adore everything about him.


Joely B-Bolio

Our nutso little dog who has to greet each of us every morning and every time we come home. He is quirky and smart... holds a grudge for a while if you wrong him (like making him get off the couch) and likes to hide his face...


Calius Insanus

The cat who leaps at us when we walk through the living room—who chases anything thrown, and who loves conversation, but hates to be held.


My Extended Family—far flung and missed

It is the worst thing about living in Michigan... Most of my loved ones are in the Pacific Northwest and I truly miss them, especially this time of year.

Some Talent with Words

I may not be published yet, but I believe it is a matter of time. I think I've got some skill, and I think it really is just a matter of persistence and timing...


My New Friends who share a love for Writing

Between Facebook and Blogging I have met some truly incredible people. I love making friends with people who share common ground—common interests and goals. I feel so lucky to have found this way to connect with like minds.


My Old Friends I've Managed to Reconnect with

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that facebook has reconnected me with so many people who I'd formerly either lost, or just not managed to talk to as often as I like.

My Potterverse Family

You know who you are. You people created the Tart, you know... I mean I was always tartish, but it took a group who loved to laugh and play—where we could mix brain power with silly antics. I love you guys!

A Job I Like

I know I want to write novels for a living, but I'm grateful for a job that pays for my family's living and that for the most part I enjoy. My coworkers are FABULOUS, from my boss, to the research tech, to the admin, to the students I theoretically mentor. It's a great bunch.


Our Cozy Little House and The Continued Life of our Car

Oh, sure... I'd love a BIG house. I especially would love a library that had a fireplace, a comfy chair and floor to ceiling books, but it's nice to have a place that is HOME—it holds everything that truly and deeply matters to me. And thankfully... the car is still holding up.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eleven Days Vacation

On the eleventh day of Christmas, her Tartness gave to us...



Eleven days vacation


Ten Books that changed me
Nine Crisco Twisters
Eight Solstice Wishes
Seven Success Secrets...
Six Writing Tasks
Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale

I debated eleven innuendo, but felt I'd been so naughty on the ninth day that perhaps I would overload you... I may leave you with a few Christmassy innuendo at the end anyway though... It is just too tempting, and you KNOW how I am about temptation...

BUT, awarding you eleven days vacation just seemed so much more GENEROUS... I mean, if you've been reading for any length of time, you are probably getting good at innuendo all on your own, but those pesky job... *tuts *

Seriously... I work for a FABULOUS woman. She is generous and fun—on Tuesday she took all of us (n=6) for full massages and facials... but she is a physician, faculty, and has research interests... I'm willing to bet she works 100 hours a week, and then on top of it, volunteers at a safe house (in her physician capacity, but unpaid) and has a very involved family life. There is a single thing that she seems unable to grasp. Time off.


I manage her research office, and since this is my JOB, but not my passion, I really GET time off. When the people I manage though, use most of their vacation days, I get questions like “she's gone a lot, isn't she?”

I try to calmly explain that in fact our job description INCLUDES time off... we get both vacation and sick time and so just would have to be absent a significant amount of time to USE that—the time off we have a RIGHT to.

My own nature is to hoard time off... I like to have a pool of it available so if I needed six weeks suddenly, I could say “hey, I have it in my vacation bank”--she seems to grasp the idea that I am saving it for my book tour. But I accumulate two days a month—it adds up.

So I LOVE this week... the University gives what they call 'Season days'--four days between Christmas and New Year (plus the holidays of Christmas and New Years) so I just have this wonderful week I can count on every year and I LOVE it.

This morning I woke up at almost eleven this morning... then did my power walk and made French toast for my son and I... One last minute Christmas gift (hole noticed when I packed yesterday) and mostly I am RELAXING.

I hope all of you have some such break in your years.


And Now... Eleven Innuendos!

“That's the most impressive set of balls I've ever seen!”
“Hey baby, there's a fire needs poking...”
“Now THAT is what I call HUNG.”
“There's something else that needs unwrapping...”
“Just look how straight and tall that stands!”
“Just call me your little reindeer queen... now On Dasher, On Dancer...”
“So is that my present in there, or are you just happy to see me?”
“Oh, I don't know... I can see some advantages to the height differential of elves...”
“So Santa... I've been very naughty... maybe you should just give me a spanking...”
“Hey, baby... I've got your present on me, but you're going to have to unwrap me first.”
“Hey Santa, you ready to come down my chimney?”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ten Books that Changed Me

On the tenth day of Christmas, her Tartness gave to us…

Ten Books that changed me

Nine Crisco Twisters
Eight Solstice Wishes
Seven Success Secrets...
Six Writing Tasks
Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale



Before I get started on my list, I should probably explain that books causing change have as much to do with TIMING as they do with the books. So there are plenty of more influential books out there than at least SOME of these… in fact I’ve READ some of them, but these are the books that perfectly hit certain points in my life and caused some spark… some redirection or rethinking…


The Shining by Stephen King Makes Me a Reader: Age 12


I wasn’t a strong reader as a kid. I was slow and uncomfortable with it. To compound matters, I thought I was ‘all that’ which meant that books within my moderate ability range seemed ‘babyish’. Then, in seventh grade, through my friend Kim, I discovered Stephen King. It was the first time I’d ever walked around with a book, reading it between classes, using *gasp* my spare time for reading.




The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand Makes me a Thinker: Age 17


For several years I was a passive absorber of whatever story I read, enjoying, or not, a set of characters or series of events. I think age probably mattered a lot here—that is an age where brain development makes us first capable of complex thought, but Rand’s explicit use of her philosophy was also necessary—a perfect storm if you will. I disagree with Rand about 90% of the time, but I adore her for engaging me so deeply that I bother to argue with a book.




The Drifters by James Michener taps my Independence: Age 18


My uncle gave me this book for my high school graduation and it is PERFECT for that age. It is about a collection of late teens and early 20s finding their own paths, which is what we all need to do… it is okay to be wanderers for a while. It is definitely okay that each of us chooses a different path (certainly important to be self determining rather than parentally determined). And best of all, if we discover the path isn’t the right one—unfulfilling in some way, we are allowed to change paths, taking with us the joys and lessons of our last path, but not stuck with it any more than that.


David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: Age 22


This was the first ‘classic’ I ever read voluntarily. I was a new college graduate, reading for pleasure (finally) instead of what I had to, and my roommate had the book. I learned that the classics are classics for a reason and that my vocabulary and intelligence were finally equal to some of these older books that used more complex language.



Mists of Avalon by Barbara Zimmer-Bradley: age 25


I loved this feminist take on the Arthurian legend, but oddly, what the book did was get me thinking about and exploring religion and faith—who defines it, what makes sense. It was a philosophical area I had been avoiding, but the appeal of ‘the goddess’ pulled me into some self exploration (hint: while I ADORE the goddess, a gendered god doesn’t make any more sense to me as a female than as a male).


Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins: Age 26


This joyful digression of a book taught me that some really warped minds can even make money at it. I ADORE Robbins, largely because he is evidence that people can get paid to play. I may not have been writing at the time, but the Tart was planted.




War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Age 27


It took me great effort to get into this, as the characters each have multiple names and the relationships are a little confusing… having read it though, it is probably the best book ever written. (a cheat sheet of names and relationships helped immensely). I suppose none of that says how it changed ME, except that being able to follow (and enjoy) it gave me confidence as a reader (I went on to enjoy Don Quixote, the Brothers Karamazov… books that I have thoroughly enjoyed but take a lot of brain power. I thank Tolstoy for writing a fabulous enough book that he won me over.


Harry Potter (series) by JK Rowling: Ages 35-41


This is the only fandom of which I’ve ever been a part—the books pulled me in enough that I wanted to make predictions. I found online forums and friends, and my interest grew. I read complex theories that got me thinking about story structure, foreshadowing, use of mythology, literary references… and THEN, I was inspired to write again, first fan fiction, then original work. This series is responsible for HART finally putting all those ideas on paper.


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: Age 37


I think my GOAL for story structure was heavily influenced here. I will never equal Hugo, but I adore the complex story with characters introduced early, coming back later, laying hints, then a large pulling it all together at the end. If there is any work I would like to subtly emulate, this is it.





The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Age 38


And finally… I love the life lesson in this book… I find it brings peace when things are hard. It is just so comforting to think that where we end up in the end isn’t nearly so important as the journey that got us there… that even if we end up in the same exact place, we arrive as a different person and can make something new and different of it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nine Crisco Twisters

On the Ninth day of Christmas, her Tartness gave to us...



Nine Crisco Twisters


Eight Solstice Wishes
Seven Success Secrets...
Six Writing Tasks
Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale



Nine Crisco Twisters? Are you serious?

Well... No and Yes...

Nine would be a lot of Crisco Twisters, if you want my honest opinion on the matter. Even on a good day I've probably only got a dozen friends willing to play... it IS messy (picture notwithstanding, we typically have not worn this many clothes, so typically there is also a shower involved, or a hot tub), after all, and twelve people easily fits on three boards—two if you're really GOOD friends.

And actually, I think we always used margarine, but that was more because Crisco seems to be something I only have on hand when I know I am going to be baking something that uses it... not that as an adult I use margarine... switched to butter years ago... and Crisco DOES spread on the board better... but I digress...


Nine Crisco Twisters? Are you serious?

Well Yes and No...Nine may be a lot of Crisco Twister games to have around, but it DOES seem like a reasonable goal for the number of nefarious use products one ought to have around at any given time... Some others on the list...


Hot wheels (frozen): These run ever so nicely over the hills and dales of your favorite playmate... though watch it if said playmate is hairy—chest hair in particular, is averse to those hot wheel wheels and tend to make those burly guys scream like girly men.

You should always have a set in your freezer...

Kiddy pool: Preferably with strong enough sides that it can contain pudding or jello for a nice wrestling match.

Knitted Hand cuffs: Though the fur variety hold better, and the plain old metal ones are good if you've got a mean streak... silk scarf will do in a pinch... still... just OWNING knitted hand cuffs shows a certain twist of mind that just SCREAMS tart...

Dress up clothes: Oh, I know.... you SAY they are for future Halloweens, but that eye patch is sexy on any given Thursday, if you ask me.


Whip: because how else are you going to make them dance like you like? I mean seriously?

Food stuffs, preferably creamy in texture: chocolate, whipped cream, pudding, honey, frosting... brightly colored is good... put it on as war paint before you begin...

Bouncy Ball: (the big exercise kind)--if you can't see the use of this, you're just not trying hard enough...


IMAGINATION. No limits my friends... not a one...


And before you tell me Santa is going to put me on the naughty list, here is my theory... you know how in the game of Hearts you try to AVOID taking hearts, but if you take ALL the hearts then you Shoot the Moon and win the hand? I figure Santa's naughty list works just about that way... if you are a little naughty, it counts against you, but if you are TOTALLY naughty, then in comes back around and you win and get to be considered nice again...

So this is just the Tart, Shootin' the Moon...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Eight Solstice Wishes

On the eighth day of Christmas her Tartness gave to us…


Eight Solstice Wishes


Seven Success Secrets...
Six Writing Tasks
Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale


A couple days ago, Heather (Not Hannah) posted a wonderful blog about the new moon and goals, with a link to a blog about winter solstice. I recommend giving both a read, and they helped inspire what I’m thinking about here… winter solstice as an ending and a beginning… the turn around, when the darkening rounds the bend and becomes the lightening--I love the duality of that… so I thought this was an even better time than New Years to lay out the turnarounds I’d like to make in the coming year…

I wish…



1) That the darkness of extra weight gained over the last five years might be LITERALLY lightened.

2) That my ever fading memory might make a rebound.

3) That dark financial times might find a proverbial cash cow ready to lighten the load.

4) That my mother might find a little enlightenment through self reflection.

5) That fumbling in the dark on this agent search might find SUPERAGENT just waiting in the wings

6) That the gremlins that keep messing up my house might be replaced by house elves who clean it.

7) That my ever dimming organizational skills might begin might turn around.

8) That my obscurity as a writer would be lightened with a publishing contract…


So there… high hopes for the year as we begin lightening

I suppose this means I need to reflect a little and figure out the HOW of all these things… though that SUPERAGENT thing seems out of my control…

I wish all of you a happy solstice and best wishes and happiness as the days begin to get longer again!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Seven Success Secrets

On the seventh day of Christmas, he Tartness gave to us...


Seven Success Secrets...

 
Six Writing Tasks
Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale

Quite a mouthful, huh?  I dare you to say it seven times fast!

And today's blog is short short short, as I have a ton to do and normally skip one of my weekends days, but didn't want to break my flow...


Disclaimer:  I am not yet successful in the 'getting published' version, which is the REAL success I am striving for, but I think I've successfully managed to set up a system that allows me to persevere as a writer... something completely necessary if I ever hope to achieve the OTHER kind of success.

1)  Healthy Alter Ego:  I think writers have much of their ego tied up in their books and that is okay.  What DOESN'T work is to have our soul tied into the publishing process.  Too much of it is beyond our control.  This is perhaps the worst time in AGES to try to break into the market.  Between the economy and the shake up caused by e-books and alternate publishing routes (POD, for instance, not to mention the bastard step-child, self-publishing).  The industry is redefining itself and it may take a while, so agents and publishers are being conservative.  An agent I respect greatly posted stats last week.  In 2009 she received 38,000 queries and took on 6 new clients.  Do you SEE the impossibility of breakthrough there?  This is a process you CAN'T take personally.  I recommend having a thick skinned, alternate self step in to do this for you--one that can let the $hit slide off the back side without having a breakdown.

2) Dungeon with toy collection:  For those of you unfamiliar, this is my set of fantasy boy toys who keep me amused when reality becomes to much to cope with.

3)  Alternate Universe: this is related, of course, but my dive into the Potterverse opened the writing doors for me.  It gave me a practicing ground with friendly people willing to give feedback as I learned to write for mass consumption instead of myself.  I think this give and take, this formation of friendships over common interest was absolutely the kind of safe place we all need when we first are ready to share.  My first ever 'shared' novel is called The Other Prince and  is still available at HPANA.com.  Had I not written it, I would not know most of my writing group, and I certainly would never have developed the habits and esteem to move forward with something original that I wanted to share with the world.

4)  Cheeky Blog:  This ability to vent and connect has introduced me to new people, maintained my sanity, and has added another layer of discipline.  It is both about the writing and sharing AND the reading and giving feedback.  I've even taken up a collection of Scots since I started, which I know makes me the envy of all.

5)  A Fabulous Dutch Boy:  Everyone needs a friend like Joris.  He has not only helped me, but my writing group on numerous occasions.  As a writing group we tend to... you know... write, but sometimes we need something somebody can LOOK AT.  He helped with our website, our logo, and has helped me with graphics when I am in need (note yesterdays book covers), whether that is need for a story, or need of entertainment.

6)  THE BURROW:  We are four score blondes and brunettes (except the five red-heads) between sixteen and nineteen and a half... No wait... This group of people is my family.  I've waxed poetic about them often, but and so frequently reminded how much I adore them all.  I couldn't keep plugging away without them.

And finally... as the Muggle Studies Career Flier at Hogwarts says...

7)  Mostly you just need a good sense of fun.  If you can't figure out how to work this process into something amusing, it will eat you alive.  It's not any wonder at all that so many writers were depressed, but I don't think we are doomed.


So there!  Everything you need to know... other than how to write, I mean...



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Six Writing Tasks

On the sixth day of Christmas her Tartness gave to us...


Six Writing Tasks


Five Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale


These are the things I REALLY hope to accomplish in the next six weeks, ideally, at least three of them this year... (the ones I've colored red)


Polish job on CONFLUENCE finished


I am on chapter 17 and there are 31... it is slow, but so far I am ACTUALLY under 150K now instead of just close enough to 150 to CALL it that. And I think my recent rounds of 'first reading' for friends have helped me be more objective about, though a couple times I've deleted things and a couple paragraphs later thought “damn! I needed that!” and had to do a bunch of 'undoing'...4




Redo BEGINNING of CONFLUENCE

I've solidly decided now, 23 queries in, that my problem is that I don't dive in fast enough for this finicky market—Agents want sure things and that means not scaring off short-attention-spanned readers. I feel like the book is solid, great reading, but a person isn't truly in until about chapter 3... needs some work. This is slated for one on my days vacation after Christmas (the University gives us 4 'season days' between Christmas and New Year, so I will be off from the 24th until the 4th *and there was much rejoicing *)

Once this is done, I plan to ALSO send out maybe a dozen queries in early January. If there is no response, I MAY (or may not) enter the Amazon contest.


Finish Typing LEGACY


Legacy is the first in my Trilogy. It was written long-hand (naked, in the bathtub—duh!) and so typing it is the first editing round for me. I am currently on Chapter 19 of 30 (ideally I'd get done by Christmas so I can send the rest to Mari, who read the first 6 chapters when she was HERE).




Research and RePlot some of Trilogy so I can easily FINISH CONSPIRACY

I say this because I have a number of places noted that I know I need MORE. Much of the book happens in Romania, where I haven't ever BEEN, but I have a friend who HAS (in fact lived there in the era I am writing from) so I need to formulate a list of intelligent questions and get them fired off while said friend is on break—a teacher, so I believe NOW is when I need to do that). I ALSO need to do some research on ART as there is an art theft ring central to the trilogy—Romania being rather possessive of its cultural heritage, therefore increasing the black market value of things that get OUT—I've GOT that part. What I NEED is to know a little more about the world of how art is actually displayed and traded.

Finish Writing CONSPIRACY, the Third Book

I am two chapters into my third book here, so the PLOTTING is a December task, but the writing should probably take all of January to finish.



Fill in Holes for my NaNoWriMo Novel

I've printed it up to READ it, but there is some writing missing (the kind of writing that needs to be done naked). See, because I didn't want to drop the Trilogy in November, I kept working on IT in the tub, and gave away all computer time to actually writing the first thing I've ever directly typed (well... that got done anyway, and aside from some short stories). What that means is it is a little flat on emotion, and most of the THERAPY (I've mentioned conspiracy thriller meets Prince of Tides, yes?) needs much more emotional pull. I have a ton of spots that have what KIND of thing should go there, but not the details because I just couldn't get them out AND finish the book in November. Getting naked should help though. It always does.


Special note of thanks to Joris Amerlaan for all my book covers. He is a FABULOUS friend who has helped me out many times (including yesterday's princess Lucius), but these are all impressive and I love them, so thank you!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five Silly Song

On the fifth day of Christmas her Tartness gave to us...


Fi---ive Sii---illy Songs
Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale




Come All Ye Writers (to Come All Ye Faithful)



Oh, come all ye writers
Desperate and reject-ed
Oh come ye, oh come ye to Ha-ar lequin
Come and pay money
to have a book put in your hand


But don't think it will sell a one
No, don't think it will sell a one
No don't think it will sell a one
Iiii----iiiiiit's a scam


Nary a book store
Will see your fancy co-ver


No, don't think it will sell a one
No, don't think it will sell a one
No don't think it will sell a one
Iiii----iiiiiit's a scam




Query Hell (to Jingle Bells)



Which agents should they go
The queries that I send
I offer up my soul
Going round the bend
Envelopes with stamps
Are to my query clipped
Wish I were a well known
Or had a bribe to slip
Oh, Query hell
Query hell
I'm in Query hell
No one asks to read my book
They think it just won't sell


Every typo gone
My plot is oh, so good
I even know my jokes
Are mostly understood, (ha ha ha).
Characters are round
With flaws that help the plot
I just wish this query would
Help this book be bought
Oh, Query hell
Query hell
I'm in Query hell
No one asks to read my book
They think it just won't sell




Adverbs are a Danger (to Away in the Manger)


Adverbs are a danger, so smite them away,
Our books, they belittle and lead us astray.
The words unimportant distract from the plot,
Delete them at once or your book won’t be bought.


Strong verbs how we love them, good nouns are a must,
An adjective now and then surely is just.
Adverbs you are useless, so please go away
Stop dragging down prose for too heav’ly you weigh.


Adverbs I will leave you, and please don’t come back
I’m trying to get off this blasted slush stack.
Be clear, in my daily routine I will use,
But please stop this taunting of my writing muse.






Agents do not like a Whin-er (to Santa Claus is Coming to Town)


You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Agents do not like a Whin-er


He's reading your blog
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out who's dissing advice
Agents do not like a Whin-er


He heard you mocking Meyer
He saw query complaints
He knows if you've played nice or not
So you'd better be a saint!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Agents do not like a Whin-er
Agents do not like a Whin-er






An because I can't go a day without a nice pinched cheek or two...


Lucius the Cross Dressed Bad Boy (to Rudolph)



You know Saywer and Viggo and Gerard and Johnnie,
And Cabana Boys Rico, Xavier and Ronnie,
But do you recall
The Naughtiest Bad Boy of all?


Lucius, the Cross-Dressed Bad Boy
Had a very shiny crown,
And if you ever saw him,
He sometimes even wore a gown.


All of the other Bad Boys
Used to call him sissy names;
They never let poor Lucius
Join in any hot tub games.


Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Her Tartness came to say:
“Lucius with your boa so bright,
Won't you be my star tonight"


He danced in rings around them
As the ladies swooned around,
“Lucius the Cross-Dressed Bad Boy,
You sure know how to wear a crown."




Thursday, December 17, 2009

Four Cross-Dressed

On the fourth day of Christmas her Tartness gave to us…


Four Cross-Dressed
Three Christmas Lists
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale


I should probably e’splain…

I’ve always gotten a good giggle out of a drag show. I like the trick of a man who is exquisitely beautiful and can nail a Bette Midler impression. But my real obsession with cross dressed men has a more complicated story…

It all started with the intersection of Monty Python and Harry Potter… (yes, really)

You SEE… when the load of Potter-crazed fans was waiting for the publication of Deathly Hallows… before it even had a name… probably as early as the BARELY OUT phase of Half Blood Prince, there was at HPANA a thread to discuss the evidence that JK Rowling was a Monty Python fan. There’s quite a lot of proof, actually.

“Bang ‘im on the counter.” HP: at Magical Menagerie about Ron’s rat. MP: Dead Parrot sketch

Cockroach Cluster.

And doesn’t Sir Codogan remind you of the Black Knight?

Anyway… in all this discussion I ran across a song… for your amusement, to the tune of the Lumberjack Song..

Hey a search turned up several options!

http://www.fictionalley.org/authors/palladias/ANFSCDTDES01a.html

http://home.att.net/~coriolan/faculty/dada.htm (go 2/3 down)

But here is the clip I saw:

I'm a Death Eater, and I'm okay.
I plot all night and I teach all day.


He's a Death Eater, and he's okay.
He plots all night and he teaches all day.


I take house points. I yell at kids.
I go to my dungeon.
On Wednesdays I'm at Hogsmeade.
Have butterbeer alone.


Since that time, I’ve taken all deatheaters for cross dressers (at least wearing pretties under their robes), but the idea has expanded as an appropriate ‘training’ for bad boys in desperate need of getting in touch with their feminine side. So HERE, I present to you four men who desperately need to spend some time in a corset and garter belt:


Gerard Butler

Oh, I know… he looks pretty darned good like this, and his impish grin is quite disarming, but the man is always so darned MACHO… I just think he could benefit from some time in a teddy at the far side of a whip, if you know what I mean…



Tom Cruise

This is a case of a man who just takes himself entirely too seriously and ought to lighten up. He’s a guy I really want in a tutu and bows, to be honest. I think he just needs to learn a little humility, and that is the kind of thing that might teach him.



Vin Diesel

Like Gerard, this is a man with some serious potential. I bet with pecks like that he could spin tassles… I’m just sayin’…


Josh Holloway

And my FAVORITE for the cross dressing treatment, but in this case because I’m ENTIRELY convinced he would know how to work it (you see… I have a friend who reminds me a little of Sawyer—hear that Phil? Naughty naughty naughty in all the right ways and a couple of wrong ones, but smarter than he lets on and his heart in the right place)


So those are the four I think desperately need to be cross dressed (unlike all those death eaters who already ARE, and I will leave you with this thought…


Because you see.... my whole theory on the matter is that stepping outside of the comfort zone a little helps us learn to PLAY, have a little FUN... maybe role play.  It also can give some creative vent to those inner demons... sort of like writing...


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three Christmas Listies

On the third day of Christmas her Tartness gave to us...


Three Christmas Listies
Two Tartlet Minis
And a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale



By three Christmas Listies, I mean, my personal, my writer, and my tart list, of course...



Tami's Listy

Slippers
Best of Aerosmith CD
Half Blood Prince DVD
University of Oregon Sweatshirt
Comfy, warm, yet fashionable hiking boots
Jasmine or gardenia bath wash



Hart's Listy

Query Godmother
Three perfect synopses for my trilogy
Agent Who is SUPEREXCITED about me
Publishing Contract large enough to give up the day job
Notebooks, pens, ink cartridges, typing paper, more pens, more paper
Gift certificate for book tour fitness plan
New laptop with better software



Tart's Listy

First Day of Christmas Boy Toy
One day a week each with Viggo Mortenson, Johnnie Depp, &  Jason Isaacs
Swimmable sized hottub with taps for champagne or chocolate
Personal trainer named Sven who does massage after every workout
Body paints in fruit and chocolate flavors

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Tartlet Minis

On the second day of Christmas, her Tartness gave to us...

Two Tartlet Minis
and a Boy Toy on a Hay Bale...




Twas the night before Christmas
and out in the den
The cat was attacking
the lid of a pen

The tree gave a shaking
each time that she lept
and I wrapped my packages
while my family slept

When from the back room
I heard a faint hum
I swallowed my mouthful
of eggnog and rum

I perked up my ears
and listened once more
then I walked to her room
and I stood at the door

I heard a small giggle
and saw a flash of light
then I opened the door
and I glared at the sight

“If you're texting all night
then Santa won't come.”
She rolled up her eyes
Like I thought she was dumb

“Well you'll wake up your brother
if you don't go to bed.”
“I'm already awake.”
a scratchy voice said.

“Who do you think I was texting?”
My daughter asked me.
“Well you'll wake up your father,
So lights out, on three!”

And I heard the text clicking
As I shut both their locks
Merry Christmas to all
Even the cat in the box...


erm... sack, I mean...






Thing 1 says “Merry Christmas!”



Thing 2 says “Merry Christmas!”

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Boy Toy on a Hay Bale

On the first day of Christmas, your Tartness gives to you…


A Boy Toy on a Hay Bale…

Yes, the song is all worked out… twelve days of Christmas a la Tart… some of them silly, some somewhat serious, and a few… to just enjoy….



I don’t write erotica, or even romance, so this isn’t every day fodder for me, but looking at this pic makes me wonder why the heck NOT, eh? I definitely enjoy some nice eye candy now and again, and it is perfectly suited to the mood of the season. Think how much DISCIPLINE that man has to just pose there in the prickly hay…


And then there is my own real life boy toy…



*scratches head*

I suppose there is a reality-check style of lesson to be had here…

Christmas in the fictional world, and then the variety who follows around the other members of his family moving ornaments because a Virgo can never leave ‘not quite perfect’ alone, even on matters of tree decoration. There is humor and laughter though (right down to his refusal to take off the silly hat—he’s been wearing it since it got cold, even in the house).

We had a nice time tree decorating… the kids and I drinking chai lattes and stirring with candy canes—placing ornaments… the hubby directing.

“There’s an empty spot.”
“No, that one can’t go there.”
“I’m moving that one tomorrow.”


What a study in contrasts… fiction and life. One larger than life, ripped abs and naughty thoughts, one grinning maniacally and reminding all the rest of us what we’ve failed to do on his time frame. At least I managed a present he won’t complain about. That’s not something I take for granted. I think in 20 years of birthday and Christmases and 14 years of father’s days, I’ve only nailed it 2 or 3 times.

I think even when the writing is about the gritty, real life stuff, it is STILL larger than life. Even every day occurrences need to be told more beautifully or more poignantly, or else who would want to read about it. My husband has frequently given me a bad time about my reading choices (I read exclusively fiction) and so I will reiterate my choice… my life has enough reality in it already.


Speaking of Timeframes!

I finished Illusions last night! (my latest WiP) I’m fairly pleased with it… think I will be MORE pleased when I go through the full edit process after book three is done…

I haven’t read a ton of trilogies—Lord of the Rings comes to mind… Bartimaeus was a trilogy… funny that I should have this impression trilogies are so common when I don’t think they actually are, because that is all I can think of. It’s the perfect approach for this story though—900 pages (I have been assured) is too long for a single book, but not only that, there are nice action wind ups in 3 places, and at least the first and second worked out much better with the PoV change.  That said, I think in the trilogies I've read (and seen) the middle is always the hardest... hmmm.... I married a middle child... the most difficult... funny how all these things fall back in on each other...

Now... to decide whether I want to dive straight into book 3 or whether I want to take a week to fill in the holes in my NaNo novel first… the decision comes down to whether I want to say I wrote three whole books this year, or whether I am in a hurry to get done with the trilogy… My greedy answer of course is BOTH… I have a lot more ideas in my head for the third book in the trilogy… I had to outline part of it (in that vague way I do) in order to get past a block on the second, so I have several chapters vividly poking at me, and you KNOW how I like a good poke…



And for those of you who really need a minorly naughty giggle, there is apparently a yearly Dickerdoodle Contest. *snort*