Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kicking February's Back Side

I don't mean to be petty and cruel when it's already a goner, but MAN, I hate February... always have. It's funny, because some of my favorite people in existence were born in the month (my grandma, my cousin, my Peggy, Leanne—no offense if I missed you, it's really a very long list), but the month itself? I'll pass.

It's all a bit ironic really... I've fallen in love in February... twice I think—though one was one of those unhealthy obsessive things—the only Cancer I've ever dated and MAN is THAT a bad idea—one emotional vacuum is all any relationship can take. I first experienced 'normal weight' in February of 1985 when I realized MY Freshman 15 was weight LOST. And this year, I seem to have had the best writing opportunity I've had knock on my door, and offer to patiently wait while I do my stuff. Those are gigantic positives and STILL I hate the month.

So why would I hate it so?

My first recollection of February hatred was triggered by an essay I wrote (for fun—I'm that kind of geek—y'all get me, because most of you are geeky that way too) on why February only has 28 days. Who could stand it any longer? I mean really... I wrote the essay at 18.

It is possibly grounded in the Valentines in which I was passed by for more popular girls. I had popular FRIENDS so I got to see what it was SUPPOSED to be, but I was 19 before I got that royal treatment (thank you Guy—you were wonderful and I was rotten. I wish I'd known I was allowed to be more honest—it would have lasted less time, but I would have hurt you less). He bicycled up the to door of my sorority with a big box that had three roses and a huge teddy bear. And I adored it, and him. To this day that is my biggest Valentine's.

But by that time, I was already cynical, and thinking I'd rather be mysterious, interesting and naughty, than a nice girl with a nice boyfriend.

That brings me to February's next terrible feature... It's STILL dark, it's STILL cold, it's STILL winter. Enough stillness! I want some ACTION. I can handle March's turbulence, because it is kicking winter's butt OUT. Granted, March in Michigan lasts to nearly May, but it TRIES the whole time. We have a day now and again where it is above freezing... where rain makes the snow on the ground all mushy and begins flooding basements... Okay, so maybe March doesn't have so much to recommend it, but it's a trooper... it's working to get there (like most of us, I think). And at least I know in my head that if I was in PORTLAND still, the daffodils would be in bloom. So somehow I don't blame March for our plight like I do February.


Sorry. Michigan moment there.

See, in Michigan, almost every year, winter gives spring amiss and goes right on in to summer. I've experienced a month of spring here... once. But usually it runs closer to four hours. (it falls in the second half of April—a week in which we begin with a snowfall and end by putting up the storm windows so we can open the house because it's 80). You think I'm kidding, don't you? I'm not.

See, from FEBRUARY that glorious 4 hours of spring is still two months away. From MARCH, I can see it on the horizon.

So there you have it... all I have to say today is GOOD RIDDANCE FEBRUARY.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Milestones (Er, and FREE SOUP!)

Though it shocks me a little, (I had a heck of a week with big ups and big downs) I lost a tiny amount this week (1.5) but it was the right direction (and it put me past 2 stone!) but the BIG news this week was the measuring one. Remember, I only measure every OTHER week because that one moves slower.

My waist, across my hipbone, and my butt are all 4 inches smaller than when I started, but what got my attention was my waist passing under the danger mark. I HATE admitting this, and feel compelled to remind you I am 5'11” because I find it so embarrassing, but until today's measure my waist has been above that 35” 'danger mark' that they tell women is a heart disease risk. Today it is happily at 34 (not that I will be HAPPY until it is under 30, but as I get older, those heart markers matter more).

It caused me to do something ELSE that I hadn't done at all since starting this. Dive into a BMI calculator. My BMI was almost 33 when I started this thing (that is DANGEROUSLY overweight, which is a euphemism for Level 1 OBESITY). For three weeks now, I have been out of that danger zone, too, and into simply OVERWEIGHT (a zone I've spent 70% of my adult life in). Eleven more pounds and I will only be 'mildly overweight'! Which is funny, because it coincides with the least I've weighed since 2007, so I really want to get there ANYWAY. If you're curious to calculate your own (exactly, I mean), here is the link (it's down the page just a little).

It is interesting, because though I want to lost 37-57 more pounds, this says I will be healthy weight in just 23 (so I'm more than half way to that powerful marker)--though it seems they've adjusted this upward... I am 28 pounds from that magical marker I've always watched for before '25'.

So to celebrate I am offering up my free soup recipe. When I went on Weight Watchers in 2002, I took a quiz as to what KIND of eater I was, and I am a VOLUME eater—someone who isn't satisfied without quite a bit of food. For me the perfect trick has been to fill out my meal with vegetables—this is especially helpful at LUNCH—a bowl of soup that has no point count whatsoever can make a 3 point half sandwich seem satisfying, if you need to save points because your family is ordering pizza, for instance. I played around (I have a past life in a pub, where amazingly I learned my only cooking skill—soup).


Butternut Squash
Whole head of garlic
4+ peppers (I used a red, a yellow, a green and 2 Poblano last time)
Whole onion
2 cans stewed tomatoes
Chicken or veggie broth
Other veggies that might interest you (I've used carrots, mushrooms—whatever we have)

cumin, a little salt, 2-3 kinds of pepper (I used chile powder and chipotle this tie and it was nice)

Roast butternut squash and garlic in oven 1.5 hours, 275 degrees.
If you CAN, flame roast peppers (I do this on my gas stove top, if you don't have gas, it can be done under a broiler—you want to keep them whole and blacken the skin—when black, put in a paper bag for 20 minutes so they sweat)
saute your onion (and any other veggies you are adding that might need it—if I use carrots I actually boil them in a little chicken stock to soften them before I get going)

Get out your blender or food processor and start pureeing!

After pureed I put it all in a big pot on low and start adding stuff. Be sure to catch the juices from inside the peppers (and peel off the blacked skins!).

I usually leave SOMETHING unpureed for some texture (didn't puree the mushrooms or onion this time), though the squash makes it a nice, thick soup, so some people might prefer it all pureed.  Spice in the pot!

Friday, February 26, 2010

*SLAM* *Creak*

Hear that? One door shutting my out solidly leaving a loud echo in a room that until held thousands, shutting out 8000 people (me and my new BFFs), but a different door to a much cozier room opened nicely?

Let Me E'spain

Not on the Amazon List. This cut was based on the pitch and I've had some AGENT nibbles on this pitch, but never mind. The reality of it is, while I'm deeply offended (erm, sort of) I know this is probably for the best. I don't have four more months to be as distracted as I have been (or so I will tell myself so I don't feel so badly about it).

I want to offer huge congratulations to my few new friends who MADE the list (Megan, I saw you there). I haven't sat with the list going back and forth looking for all the names, because it's a little raw, still. But I wish them the best, and plan to read and comment on excerpts and eventually whole books for those people who I've talked to... So I suppose there is still some peeking through the keyhole, but I am solidly locked out.

What it means for CONFLUENCE: a kick in the butt to bug the agents who never responded on that last round of queries, and possibly when the next two writing projects are out of the way, a careful look at my pitch that apparently didn't cut in here and another query round.

TWO? Did you say TWO?

Yes.  Two.  [see, there's even a little door for my Pinata Fairy Godmother!]
Back to my Secret and the opening door: (sorry to be so mysterious yesterday, but I wasn't sure it would work out—today I've got a pretty good idea). I've got an opportunity to 'audition' for a cozy mystery gig. It's not a guarantee, but I've been doing some reading, and some plotting and even a little WRITING, and I know I am up for it. I am going to spend the weekend doing research on location, trying to hold back from getting too far into the plot until I have the place down pat... but then I should be able to crank out three chapters (the audition length) in about two weeks, get feedback, and... WAIT. That's right, back to waiting.

This writing business isn't for the impatient, is it? But while I wait, THEN I can finally get to finishing CONSPIRACY (which I am on chapter 17 for—so over halfway, finally)

And that is all I have for today. I am too emotionally spent this week for my normal three page ramble... big ups, big downs (also had a manuscript that had undergone several revisions rejected for something to do with STUDY DESIGN—which meant they could have told us the first round that it would never fly and saved me WEEKS of work on revisions—grrrrrrrr).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Super Secret Blog

You people know I tell you everything, right? Bare Naked Tart—those're the rules. But I have got a DOOZY, and it is affecting just about everything about me right now, from my tummy flutters to my short-term plans, to my side trips when I have my May conference in Baltimore. It's even mysteriously making me less annoyed about the 14 inches of snow we've gotten in the last 4 days.

But I can't tell you.

[Say what? Then why taunt us, you evil, rotten, Tart! Confessions my butt!] (oh, I heard you.)

The thing is, it's not only my secret, and I'm no snitch, much as I'd like to have those cute little wings and be chased around by hot Seekers. The OTHER thing is, I don't want to jinx it, because it is by no means a sure thing. But I can give you a nice metaphor. Won't that be satisfying?

This time yesterday I was standing around this HUGE pinata with my 10,000 BFFs---this would be the AMAZON piñata, and inside are 1,000 everlasting gobstoppers (but we all know everlasting gobstoppers should only be called month-long gobstoppers, because what they do is buy you into the NEXT round on piñata wacking, in which the prettiest people (and by that I mean those who make fabulous first impressions, even if those fabulous first impressions are of really ugly things) then proceed to the piñata party where you actually get to hit the darned thing.

Have I lost you? Standing with my 10,000 BFFs? Remember? All the while, these corporate types are taking turns wacking at the piñata with a Carp (fish reference is for you BFFs!) because these corporate types don't REALLY want this darned piñata to open until about 11:57 tonight.

Waiting. Waiting. Tummy even fluttering. I want my piece of candy and ticket to the next round, don't you EVER think I don't. But while I innocently (no eye rolling) stood there doing breathing exercises, avoiding my email (didn't open it from work yesterday AT ALL), I was GOOSED by the Piñata Fairy Godmother!

You heard me. So...The Tart's Already Got One! (she said she's already got one?)

No before you go thinking I have an agent or a book contract, it's not THAT kind of Piñata ...exactly... And it has nothing at all to do with my 24 rejections, 8 outstanding, or 2 partials out there on CONFLUENCE. It has to do with YOU!!!

Come to find out I'm a shameless #6 after all (if that confuses you, see yesterday's blog) and I didn't have a CLUE!

So this piñata I have is going to take some special tools to open, tools I don't currently own. And the task is a little like scraping the paint from a window frame in an old house-- I have to work hard and be a little obsessive, or everything inside evaporates. But if I pick pick pick pick pick, when I get inside, there are gold dubloons! (or at least chocolate dubloons in gold foil.)

Have I mentioned I'm tenacious? It's one of my strong points. Well... annoying if you're a paint chip, but I think I'm up to the task.

So I apologize for being so mysterious. When I'm allowed to get fully naked again, you'll be the first to know.

Oh. And, Amazon, what? That's right! Some point before midnight I will know if I get my piece of candy!

*Rubs llama piñata with glee as I wait * I can multi-task.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rings of Hell

Though Milton and I are in disagreement on which rings are filled with whom, and he never once mentions bad drivers—MotoTards, as I learned from my friend FooDaddy (a term that has made me popular among my daughter's friends), AND because at work we descended yesterday into GRANT hell (if there really is a hell, this is what they would make me do there—a fate to be avoided at all cost) I thought I would post for your perusal and entertainment, the rings of QUERY HELL.

Ring 1: The Confident

These people have just finished their first manuscript and are SURE it is fabulous (their mother thought so!). They have done a proofread, but think terms like 'rewrite' are for people without their natural talent. They are about to receive the taunting of their lives.

Ring 2: The Timid

This person drafts a query letter, follows the rules, picks their favorite agent... and waits. When the rejection comes (if the agent sends them) they then choose another, and send. They are destined to do this for forty-five years. It is its own punishment.

Ring 3: The Enthusiast

These people download a list of all four hundred agents who represent their genre, put them in a listserve and send the query to ALL of them (at once, headed 'Dear Agent'.) This approach gets them put on a black list and they are forced to take on a pen name, or never work in the industry again.

Ring 4: The Doubter

These people have received a ton of form rejections and are thinking they suck and they ought to just hang it up now. They've decided that though their manuscript was PERFECT six months ago, now it should line a ferret cage and they don't deserve the title 'writer'. This wallowing in self-pity ring is one everyone is required to pass through, usually several times.

Ring 5: The Rapid Responder

These people are making edits left and right, jumping to address every single thing they hear from every single person, not even realizing that the form query rejections are just printed from a central file and not personalized in the least. Like querying, editing is its own punishment.

Ring 6: The Networker

These people are convinced that they KNOW somebody who can give them a break, so they are WORKING IT (and I have placed them this deep in query hell because I am jealous, having neither the connections, nor the personality to pull this off). Though it would also be damn depressing to know you had an in and you STILL couldn't get published. After a few months of this, their connected friends run when they see them coming... connections come, connections go.

Ring 7: The Denier

This person says cheerful things like 'it's all part of the process. At least I'm learning a ton.' They are slowly going insane. (I am usually here, though at the moment I've been sent back to Ring 4).

Ring 8: The Expert

This person has NOT been published, but is handing out advice left and right on how to GET published, because they believe an agent may notice how smart they are and take them on, or it makes them feel better to AT LEAST not be making all the newbie mistakes about it. They will helpfully read query, first chapter, and manuscript of all comers, telling them everything they need to do to get it accepted. This can be a happy stage for a year or so, until they realize their advice hasn't worked for them, then they get dumped back into the 4th ring.

Ring 9: The Self Publisher

This ring has accepted that the industry is stacked against them, but instead of continuing to work it and try and get in, they take the matters into their own hands. The problem, is 90% of these folks are doing this before their book is READY—it has not had enough eyes, enough rewrites, and a proper editing, so even those who ARE READY are destined to sit in poor company for all eternity, selling fairly few copies and wearing a stigma.

[keep in mind ALL of us who are 'pre-published' are in here at the moment and I meant no offense. I figure we're in it together and was only trying to amuse.]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Daddy Issues

For those of you who are new, you may have noticed USUALLY it's about writing in some way, except Saturday, my fitness day. But there are dates on the calendar that call for some sentiment or recollection, and today is one of them, so this is more personal.

My dad would have been sixty-five today... a landmark birthday—except he died at 31. That is a lot of life to have missed, more than half. And it's three quarters of my life to have missed him.

The Man, The Myth

My father was a pampered middle child, only boy, and the apple of his mother's eye—he could do no wrong, and internalized it... and then passed that on (I never do anything wrong either—nor does my daughter, no matter what anybody else might think). Son of Seventh Day Adventists, he should have been a humble man committed to service, but instead he was always sort of larger than life. He was loud with his opinions, and even louder in his play.

He was twenty when he married my mother, because in 1965 that was what you did when you knocked up your girlfriend, and by all accounts, he never really grew up. He had a couple semesters of college—I think that must have been when he was spending his summers roofing—he'd come home with an ungodly stink and black tar splattered on his pants. My mom would complain that she couldn't get it out and it would ruin the washer and dryer, but he couldn't seem to get straight that he should always wear the same pair of pants. Sometimes it was paint instead of tar—the odd jobs for the owner of the hardware store—a hardware store he eventually bought, though never did pay for.

He was an outdoorsman in the classic Idaho sense (as opposed to the Oregon sense where you just go hike and spend time in it). He hunted, whitewater rafted, fished. He felt obliged to pack a case of beer for each day he'd be out... or so it seemed.

The Dad

It took me a long time to reconcile the frequently absent man with the adoring dad, but you can see from these pictures, he was. He may not have been prepared for the hand he was dealt, and he may have played it rather badly, but it doesn't take away from loving me.

His sense of humor was a little off. I adored him back, so periodically he'd teach me something wrong so it could drive my mother crazy. I think I was four when he had me insisting Snow White lived with the DORFS (not Dwarves)--big practical joke on mom. *rolls eyes* But he taught me to play chess when I was 7 'because I don't think mom can learn it'--you see the pattern here... giant ego, messing with everybody else. Still, the game time was nice.

If He'd Lived

My father and I never would have seen eye to eye on... pretty much anything... he was machismo personified, and nothing makes me more nuts. He was politically conservative (well Libertarian, in that outdoorsy, gun-toting way) and I'd be socialist if it was a viable party in the US. But he would have liked that—that I never took anybody else's opinions as mine—that I made my own way, forging the path that was clearly not the easiest.

Since He Didn't

It was a hard time in history to grow up without a dad. It was before divorces really took off—LONG before people just didn't bother to get married. So it was uncles and grandfathers to the daddy-daughter banquets. There was mostly just sympathy, I think—at least in those early years when people 'knew'. And there was an odd bond over the years to people who likewise lost a parent young.

I think the biggest price was my lack of awareness that men are people. He lived long enough to idolize, and not long enough to be torn asunder, which is of course what teens DO with their parents. So I had no clue how to critically evaluate the good from the bad. I didn't make any devastating choices, but I certainly was probably more eager for approval than was healthy, and stayed too long more than once because I thought it was just how things went.

I idolized him when young, then when older, justified that 'he wasn't a great dad anyway'-- I think so I'd be less sad to have missed so much. But it's come back around. I don't need to think he was perfect, to see the good—and it's okay to miss what I missed. It doesn't make me less whole.

I think he would have rolled his eyes at this writing adventure I'm on... and then taken me for a big celebration when I succeed, claiming he always knew, even though he never said so.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Born or Made

Hey—you people wrote a blog post for me!!!  (so thank you to everyone who took my  little poll!)

Thank you so much for the great response yesterday! I may not be Nathan, or even Moonrat, with thousands of followers, but as a statistician, I know even THEY don't get random samples, so this is all for fun, anyway. Besides, the data is SHOCKINGINLY uniform.

The Poll

Thirteen people who actually voted. I can add my own information, but it isn't terribly different.

Among writers, the vast majority had your inklings in grade school, and the grand OUTLIER was 9th grade. All of us knew well before we were choosing college majors that we fantasized about writing books.

We are more split on when we started writing 'seriously'. I am wondering a little if this has to do with the kind of writing we do. I personally have a journalism degree, but I never wanted to be a reporter, so I don't consider this a 'writing seriously' decision—I chose it as a route to go into advertising—advertising which was a branch of marketing and used psychology. I've been shier than to want to TALK TO PEOPLE *gasp *. I tried to write a novel at 26, but only got halfway through, as it was written in the summer between my two years of grad school, and when school started again, I had to get back to my obligations...

Obligations. That was part of it. Because I didn't want to be a reporter, and because of having a family, there wasn't TIME to write for fun until my kids were a little older. I started writing again when I gave up reading with them—freed up a fair amount of time.

So I suspect that age we started writing at seriously depends on whether we pursued it immediately, or were limited in what we wanted to write to things we KNEW would not pay for a while and so had to wait until we could make some time.

Back to the Myers-Briggs

This is another thing I took to the ABNA. You may remember a month or so ago when I shared Moonrats post and did a little analysis, noting that a huge majority of writers falls into the least (INFJ) and third least (INTJ) (I might have those backward) 'types'. The people over at ABNA largely fell in these, also.

Now there types aren't COMPLETELY static over time. A person who undergoes some large event can shift, but typically only a letter, unless their score was borderline to begin with. I went from being a thinker to a feeler somewhere during the years I became a mom (or possibly it was the effort of restraining myself from killing my husband)--a few big hardships, a huge role change... SOMETHING changed my processing.

So... What's the Answer?

Born or Made? I have to fall down where I always do in the field of psychology, when there is a nature versus nurture controversy. I come in with a resounding YES.

What characteristics make a good writer?

Love of Language
Interest in the 'yarn'

I'm sure this isn't exhaustive, but it's not a bad list for 6am.  These all are things you can work on a little. I personally only had minor interest in the 'yarn' until I started making them myself, and creativity is something I think I still struggle with. But those other things I have in spades.

But it also takes:

Mastery of the language
Practice, practice, practice
Reading widely

Now those are things, that depending on ones circumstances, might not be nurtured, or might only be nurtured accidentally. I think our interest makes us attend to them, though honestly, I wasn't a real reader until I was in Jr. High, and have ALWAYS read slow (I read every word you see—that language lover can't skim—not worth reading if you do that.)

At ABNA, our major argument has been whether ANYONE can write, and frankly, I think the answer is NO. But there is a caveat: I don't think everyone WANTS to and that anyone DRIVEN to write, probably CAN. They probably have enough of those inborn traits necessary, or they wouldn't be driven to write at all. (they may say they want to, but they aren't entirely serious.)

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Movie Review/Poll

It's sorta what I got, so go with it, ne?

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

While the movie was not the book, which I score as PHENOMENAL, it was definitely worth seeing if you like youth films or hot gods. I missed Ares and Clarisse, and there were some changes from the book, which always bugs me, I think the adaptation was better than most. I'm not positive a person who hadn't read the books would follow every step, though I think it's still clear, but it was a great adventure, and Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan both took on personas the Tart will definitely be able to work into the fantasy cycle (in fact Pierce Brosnan to me, has typically been too clean cut... melikes him as Horsey Man... The hair in particularly is good, but I won't claim to be lacking in ideas for a centaur)

Also, oddly... Uma Thurman ROCKED as Medusa... the contrast between beautiful and horrible was exquisite.

Shutter Island

This was good, but had the potential to be GREAT if they'd sharpened details. They were intent on fooling the audience (a-okay with me) but some of it felt a little scrapped together. If I was an editor, I would have asked for a couple things to be cleaned up. Premise wise though—very good. And I love Ben Kingsley in a 'is he good? Or is he bad? Or is he good? Roll. He does exceptionally as ambiguous. Though I am slightly disturbed to realize he reminds me of a father of one of my daughter's friends who I am now wondering if he's good or bad... *scratches head *

Nature or Nurture

At ABNA we've had a GRAND debate over whether writers are BORN or whether anyone can gain the skill, and we are therefore MADE. Your Tart is a psychologist by training and inclination and so always offers up the uninformative... “erm,... both?” (be clear I

But I thought maybe you all could help me argue the point. I have some questions I hope EVERYBODY will answer.

1)How old were you when you had your first fantasy of writing novels?
2)How old were you when you began writing FOR FUN? (rather than assignments)
3)When did you start writing SERIOUSLY (like trying to be published)?
4)Where are you in your career? (HAVE you published? How many books have you written?)

I intend to summarize, should I have more than just a few responses, so if you CAN, pass this on.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Like to Move it Move it!

I was a latch-key kid and a couch potato. Did you know the term DORK comes from poor kids who had Door Keys because their moms worked? I was a dork. And from 3:00 until 5:30 I sat in front of the TV because there was no one to say that was a bad idea.

I was taller than my friends, and even before I was overweight, I ALWAYS felt large because I wore bigger clothes... Kids don't process all the details that adults know. Wearing a size 9 in Jr. High was mortifying because my friends wore 3s and 5s. Never mind I was 5'7” and they were 5'2”. I wish SO BADLY somebody back then had known to say it was as simple as MOVING every day.

Somewhere in there (Jr. High I think was the first venture) my friend Peggy convinced me to take aerobics with her. Keep in mind this was the lat 70s and aerobics was a brand new animal, but I LOVED it. I would repeat aerobics many times over the years. But it always cost money (mom didn't REALLY object, but she didn't GET IT either, so there was ALWAYS a discussion), it was also only 2-3 days a week. As an activity however, I was hooked.

Hooked, but I didn't entirely GET IT either. I knew it was good to exercise when I wanted to lose weight, but I completely didn't get the balance between energy input and output... that if I exercised daily FOREVER, I could worry a lot less. So I took a class... then was 6 months or a year without. Then I'd take one... In my defense, my mom approached weight control from an 'only eat dinner' standpoint. How on earth COULD I have gotten it? And I only had the one friend who seemed to want to. My other friends were the 'naturally skinny' sort who did their sports they liked, but didn't seem to NEED to think about it.

My senior year I decided for the first time that I wanted to be a runner, and I did it in a way that guaranteed it. I did an independent study (for credit) where I built up to running 3 miles at a time. I chose for my mentor my best friend's dad—an avid runner, and bless him, even though his daughter had no interest at all, he took me on. We ran mostly at Kibby Dome in Moscow, Idaho (the University athletic facility) so he could repeatedly lap me, but he stopped often to help me out—the first lesson...BREATHE. I was holding my arms and shoulders tensely—more energy, but also interfering with the breathing—he was great! I ran 2 times a week with him and I think 3 more by myself. Thinking back now I wasn't a REAL runner by the end of that, but I sure thought of myself differently and was determined to keep it up.

It took going to college in Track Town to become a REAL runner. I went to college at 185 pounds. I was running a few times a week... determined to BE a runner... I was persistent... but I wasn't going as far as I thought, until I ran a few times with other people, learned to push myself... by Christmas I was running 4 miles almost every day and had lost 10 pounds... 2 months later I'd lost another 10, because the scale at home encouraged me to give up the monster cookies.

The smartest thing I ever did was run every day when my obligated time was OVER. Running came to signal the start of MY day—my ME time. The psychology helped, I'm sure. Between the daily run, and the rationed meals (food only available 3 times a day, twice on Sunday) I learned some lessons about how I had previously eaten and failed to exercise. It served me for a long time.

But Not Forever

My Achilles heel is schedule change. New schedule and suddenly the old exercise schedule falls over and dies. Kaput, gone, out, this activity is EXPIRED. Bang it on the counter, it will do NO GOOD. Every gain back of weight I have had since finally learning what to do (at age 19) has had a schedule change at its core... move, new job, baby... those are pretty much it. And it ALWAYS includes messing with my exercise routine. (and honestly, I do a really bad job anticipating, even KNOWING this like I do).

My first neighborhood in Portland (where I moved after college) was bound by busy streets... nowhere to run without bus fumes. Eventually I moved, then found a gym... but my whole time in Portland was plagued with that yo-yo thing because people in their early 20s MOVE. It's what they DO. (the best time was grad school because I had the Portland State facilities, and took a class each term—DAILY aerobics! Even learned the step kind) Then by the time we bought our house, we were talking babies. NOTHING will mess up your weight like babies.

It took getting PAST the kid stage (well I still have kids, but I will have no more pregnancies, a little snip snip on Mr. Tart and we don't worry about that one) before I really started getting back to the fitness thing.

I have a couple lessons I can share

Love It

If you hate what you are doing, you will not keep it up. Try a variety of things,. There is SOMETHING you enjoy. I know people averse to sweating—SWIM. I know people who just move slower—Yoga, or some other muscle thing. There IS something you would love to do. That is not to say you can't learn to love whatever it is, but if you are endeavoring to take up an activity you dread, you'd better be DARNED determined to come to love it. I think running is the main activity that falls in this category, and it is understandable that so many people want to be runners—for the simple cost of shoes, you can do it any time there is not deep snow or ice on the ground (in Michigan this means May to October). The fact of the matter is, though, it takes quite a while until it doesn't hurt, and it probably takes 15 miles a week over many months minimum to eventually come to love it. I've loved it. I want to love it again. But I think if I hadn't loved it before, it would be too daunting to take on.

I have friends who SWEAR by Yoga. They LOVE that. I can't even fathom it. It seems dull. You only change activities HOW often? You don't have to keep up with fancy steps or keep time to music, so WHY do you need a teacher? (yes, I get it—I've taken weight lifting and learned the importance of position and form, but you can SEE yoga isn't ME)--but maybe it's YOU. The fact of the matter is, different people love different things. I have friends who love swimming (something I like, but not enough to pay for it, apparently) spinning, bicycling... the point is, there are endless activities, and you should pick something you are drawn to, rather than something you think will be good for you or something your friend recommends.

You should also like HOW it's done. Some activities are done in groups, some alone, some with an instructor, some with a Wii... those 'with a friend' things have never been me. I am persistent and can go LONG, but I've never gone FAST—I don't like it with someone. But some people won't do it without that commitment, so know yourself and do what works for you (though know if you count on someone, they may fail you—or you may fail them—so make a real commitment if that's how you want to do it).

Build It In

The best advice I could EVER offer is something that occurred to me in increments. Mr. Tart and I have always only had one car, and somehow, in spite of my name on the title, I've never been the one who actually HAD the car. When I lived in Portland, I took the bus everywhere. Now I'm not all that patient, and I AM practical, so I'd walk a little farther to a spot that had more buses—where cross streets met, or a couple different buses passed in a stretch...

Then it would occur to me that if I walked even a little FARTHER, I could catch a bus where I didn't need to CHANGE buses and wait again. It didn't take me any less time, but there was less standing around. I was always MOVING, even if it was under my own propulsion. Eventually, I WALKED to and from the train stop (more than two miles away, so I could just take MAX which came every 6 minutes during rush hour... the HEIGHT of efficiency... but you know what... my first colossal weight loss (50 pounds lost a little over a year after the birth of Thing 2), this played a big part—you see walking to the MAX stop ensured that no matter what happened, every weekday I walked more than 4 miles.

I took the lesson to heart. “Working Out” is time taken out, and I really try to do it regularly, but stuff happens. When it is built in, it takes a LOT bigger thing to knock it out of the picture. Thing 2 is 12 and I've walked more than 4 miles per work day since he was 1. The other stuff has come and gone, but my walking... not going anywhere. Forever. It isn't optional because it is built into my daily life.

Side Bonus: It is nice that I also leave the stress on the road between. Work stress doesn't come home. Home stress doesn't go to work.

You Can Too: Even if you CAN'T walk all the way to work, you CAN identify a place to park where you have to walk (you can PROBABLY do it with an eye on saving money on parking, unless parking is part of you workplace.)

Likewise, you can add in 'taking the stairs' or 'walking to do this or that'.

Mix It Up

By this, I mean include your aerobic, sweating stuff—you want to be active for a half hour at least five days a week, but I think if only 3 of these are 'sweat' or 'breathe hard' intense, you are okay—the other two can be more moderate... I walk 5 days and do my intense 4. But in addition to this calorie burning heart work-out, you should also work your muscles and stretch.

My Muscle Stuff: I have had back pain off and on since my first pregnancy. A woman who gave me a massage before Christmas (for which I thank my generous boss) told me she could tell by how I held my back and where my pain was that I had a tilted uterus (which I've been told by an OB by the way, even if it's tmi) and that I hold my posture funny to keep it from being irritated. The solution: a Strong Core. She recommended an exercise ball, and I LOVE IT. For one thing, laying on THAT to do crunches is somehow not nearly as cumbersome and irritating as laying on the floor to do them, but I also do them in reverse (laying on my belly across the ball and arching my back so my shoulders come up—so my core is getting a workout from both directions. My back has felt MUCH better and any pain has been when I haven't been diligent.

I also use hand weights (6.5 pounds)--2 sets of 12 in maybe 8 directions (including laying on the exercise ball and doing presses and flies), and then I do push-ups against the counter (I could never do them on the floor) and dips on a chair. Both of these, the lower you are, the harder it is, so a weaker tri-cep might do the dips on the counter too, or a stronger shoulder/deltoid might do the push-ups from lower (or floor, even)

The RULE on Muscles? Muscles need to recuperate or you can damage them, so don't use the SAME muscles two days in a row. I alternate core and appendages. The aerobic stuff won't hurt you every day (but you will find a rest or two a week DOES give you a boost if you are doing something that pushes yourself)

Stretching is MOST important for things like balance. Old people often have falls, and it can be because they lose that flexibility to CATCH themselves before falling over. (think of times you've caught yourself and stopped a fall, and how far you've had to reach with something to do that). It also helps us avoid injury and reduces the pain of working our muscles hard. I don't do it enough, so on this one I need to just say do what I say, not what I do.

As for my week. It was a GOOD week. I was determined to lose at least 3 pounds to put me on the verge of turning under another tens digit, so I was very diligent, and I broke my streak of 2.5s with a GRAND 4.5 loss—27 pounds so far.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hand Jobs and Other Gossip

This is an Amazon update of sorts... six days until first elimination... *bites nails*

Since most of you haven't participated in the ABNA boards, and it's a pretty different crowd than I usually frequent, I thought I'd summarize some of the topics... plant the seeds to participate next year, perhaps...

Who's There

For starters, there are a lot more MEN there than on the blog circuit. Men to a greater degree than women, seem to see this blogging thing as sort of a self-indulgence (a hand job, if you will, though this isn't the one I was referring to). Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. It's women's stuff. Of course that's a generalization, but over there the boards are probably half male. HERE I have 3 male agents (or agent assistants) I follow, two groovy young guys (the one with no pants in Western Michigan, and the Self Deprecating Scot who makes me giggle. And Galen. Galen is a CLASS act. Funny, informational, helpful and nice. But he seems to be alone in this swarm of women (I think he likes it that way). We, ladies, are like a teacher's college or a nursing school—while there is no good reason, men just haven't taken to it. Nearly ALL of us are chicks.

And men interact differently than women.  Funny, that... there is a little less concern about tact and feelings, and a lot less need to respond to someone if they don't care about the topic.  Or such is my observation.  Men are less socialized than women, in otherwords (which should surprise no one, but is interesting to see).  I'm really enjoying TALKING to some, but they are definitely more prickly... They also present information as if they have the full, solitary answer... so a woman needs to keep in mind this is STYLE, not actual expertise.  Still.  I really like them.

Now there are theoretically two forums, the Amazon one and the CreateSpace one. They are qualitatively different. I started out at CreateSpace because I didn't know any better, and it turns out, I think that is how it works. The newbies are more comfortable at the CreateSpace and the Veterans at ABNA. And I stuck with it for a little while because the veterans are a little intimidating.

I heard that gasp. Who the heck intimidates a naked chick? But the fact of the matter is, they all seemed to know each other. It took a while to find a convo I felt like I could jump in on. When I DID, they were extremely nice, but it is making the other boards look a little... amateurish... The questions and answers both just are not quite on the same level.  The things that made it feel more comfortable at first, make it seem less desirable to me now.  So henceforth, I will be referring to the Amazon boards.

The Convo

So we talk a lot about boobs.

You think I'm kidding, don't you? Honestly, it seems to break up the tension whenever something gets uncomfortable. Which it can... there was a debate yesterday about which was more valid, the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq. The Naked Pacifist stayed quiet. Neither of those was EVER a war we had a hope of attaining a happy peace on. Justified? I can be convinced on one, not the other. Smart? Neither one. Nosireebob. Never a hope in hell. But I try to avoid politics in my writing life, so I was all over the boob intervention.

We've talked about what we're working on... (the conversation that led to the Hand Job—which would be me writing by hand... I baffled a fair few, and this led to the differential accessing of parts of the brain, though only a statistician uses an obnoxious word like differential)--there are some interesting projects going on!—it really is an impressive group of people (not that my friends here aren't, but the blog network seems less concentrated on our WORKS and more on the NETWORK so I don't know a ton about most of your books). We've talked about who might win (in generalities, not specifics), what skills are needed, how much is luck, what portion of contestants have salable novels (and how many will succeed in selling)

And if you're curious at all, here are a few new blogs I am now following by members (only linking the ones that appear to update with some regularity).

The Angsty Writer: Megan is a kindred spirit of sorts. Her kids are about the same age as mine, we seem to share addictions, and I love her humor. Definitely worth checking out.

Intentional Unrealities: This is largely process stuff about writing his fantasy book, which also is, apparently, an online comic.

Suspense Your Disbelief: Is about reading AND writing and has a bunch of helpful links for both—I've tracked several new websites and OTHER blogs I'm keeping an eye on.  Thoughtful and also worth looking into.

Fiction For Dessert: Is a blog where Karen shares short stories.  The one I read was great.

And this is I think the cleverest blog concept I've seen in a VERY long time—possibly the best besides Accidental Dong. Becoming Layla: This is a blog giving all of US the lessons we would need in order to be a super spy like her main character. High concept blog? This is it.

There are more blogging, but these are the ones who seemed to blog with some regularity who sort of 'got the blog' if you knowwhatImean.  There are also, I'm sure DOZENS I haven't even checked out yet.  So missing from this list is NOT a snub.

Overall though, I was surprised how many people just think it's too time consuming, or *gasp* not helpful (that one I argued adamantly. In fact even with the too time consuming folks, I argued why it is worth making the time, but it doesn't pay off it if it a half hearted effort (or even a GOOD effort into a void—without the bi-directional thing to pull in readers))

Now where was I? Ah yes....

We debated Literary versus Commercial fiction and the utility of an MFA program. We (read: I) bashed Twilight—there were a few defenders, but I wasn't alone in my bashing.

Somebody checked out my blog and commented that I talked about nudity a lot *snort* if he only knew. I tried to explain it was part of my nefarious plan to take over the world, but there are some people I just need to grow on. I do eventually... like a fungus, but I am just a little over-the-top for those people who think it's better to be more refined.  It did make me question my strategy of silliness to gain readers for my dark fiction for about fifteen minutes, but as I said in my very first blog, I can't be other than what I am. I'm a silly naked chick who writes SUSPENSE.

NOT ABNA: that note is referring to my first reader and Co-Burrower Leanne who gave me the EASIEST way to distinguish Thriller from Suspense I have ever heard—she works in a book store, so I'm sure knows the industry take on it: A THRILLER takes place in a very short span of time, hours or days, and has big action at least every 10 pages, so the pace is (erm... insane?) really fast. So now I know.  I do NOT write thrillers.  I write mainstream that leans toward SUSPENSE.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Practice Makes Perfectionist?

When I wrote CONFLUENCE, my first novel that wasn't fan fiction, I was so proud every step of the way. I adored all my characters. I thought each chapter was fabulous. Every twist and turn made me feel like I really knew what I was doing. I was a writer!!!!

The editing went smoothly, the writer's group was mostly happy, then I started to query... ACK! Very basic things I didn't know I needed to know... like word ranges for specific genres (say what?). Word limits overall. The nevers and alwayses of the field. So I started in on that particular cycle, but also kept writing.

And it felt good—it felt like I’d learned a lot and I was applying it. I wrote a book (fast, amazingly enough) that I felt was FABULOUS. I started another, then I started my NaNo and both seemed to go okay. In 3 months I went from having written 1 book to having written 4 (though knowing they all needed cleaning)

But I am currently in process of getting feedback on the first of those and typing on the second, and keep thinking WHAT THE HELL WAS I TRYING TO SAY?

I’m having a hard time thinking I’ve suddenly forgotten sentence level writing, but to look at ILLUSIONS as I type, it seems like maybe I have.

Crap, crap, crap.

I don’t think the whole thing is ACTUALLY crap. I think the story is pretty decent. I am just not feeling nearly as solid in my execution of the thing. Why?

The Rush Philosophy

LEGACY was written faster, but LEGACY nearly wrote itself. There are definitely improvements that need to be made, but I’ve gotten feedback from two people so far, and their recommendations are concrete and doable, not vague, like “what the hell were you thinking?”

ILLUSIONS though, I forced out quickly for two reasons—the first is that I love LEGACY and feel strongly I can’t finish and do the real rewrite until the WHOLE 3 book story is done. The second is I sort of bought into the NaNo thing where getting the story out is the goal of draft one, and rewrites are for fixing… but it is the first book I worked on in which I was thinking that way, so it really DOESN’T have the same level of care—it really WILL be a bigger rewrite job…

The Distraction Philosophy

It is the only one I wrote while writing another, completely separate work. Though honestly, the part I am typing right now was written before I started NaNo—I think I tried to finish ten chapters before NaNo started so I would have a solid chunk behind me… still, I was thinking about NaNo…

The Perfectionist Philosophy

Or maybe, as my skill, experience, and eye are trained, I AM LEARNING. There is a novel idea for an over-40. Old dog, meet new trick. And I have no problem at all being tricksey… I just wasn’t really prepared for my change in analysis.

I’ve written a lot in the last six months. I’ve also done some first reader reviewing, which has been almost as helpful. I’ve spent a lot of time revising, reading about publishing… Possibly I’ve grown more discerning.

Hopefully what it means is I’ve also learned how to FIX problems. The sentence level stuff I can fix as I type, or at least begin to fix. But I suspect there are bigger issues, too… we’ll have to see how it all pans out, but I will keep my fingers crossed that it is just me getting pickier, and not my writing getting worse.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I bet you all think I'm going to talk about the strong advice not to offer an agent an exclusive of your manuscript, don't you? While that's probably sage advice, or so I've heard, this is another topic entirely.

I am possibly the most mellow person with ODC you will ever meet. I don't get stressed about clutter, I've never once gone back to check that the stove is turned off, I have been known to kiss rather indiscriminantly... I'm not actually terribly picky about much.

But MAN can I get obsessive!

My current obsession is multifaceted and one many of you can probably relate to. I write. And write. And write. I not only write, but am committed to the idea that I'd like to publish one of my books, preferably sooner than later.

And therein, possibly, lies the problem.

There's this wise Wench I know... (the only one of you I actually saw in person yesterday, I'd venture), who on my Blog Slut post  from a few days ago commented that she was TOTALLY behind the idea, but then listed her obligations and asked where she should find the time. She is part owner in a business and a realtor, so her day job is even more demanding than mine, and her husband works full time, which mine isn't at the moment, though he IS still recovering from pneumonia (3 weeks without smoking! Woot woot!)—so her problems are worse than mine.  I tried to answer in a 'within limits' sort of way, but the thought struck home.

I think I was in denial that in my case there WAS a problem.

Not any more. Never let it said that the Tart doesn't grab her problem by the balls *cough *


We should start with my diagnosis of FOMS which any long time reader knows: Fear of Missing Something means I don't do anything half ass. If I am IN, I am IN, because otherwise I might MISS SOMETHING and there is nothing worse than that!!!

The problem though, is I have too many writing related activities I am in fear of missing anything on and it has become a time vacuum.  I'm trying to do everything right, and it DOES take a lot of time.

And it's causing me to neglect some things that can't really bear neglecting: My day job, and my children. I work at work, but I find I am doing it in a distracted way, so I'm not as efficient as I NEED to be. I've got a number of deadlines coming up, and I need to put my nose to the grindstone, so to speak. On Parenting, it is more that I am not doing the extra. My daughter has a tendency to neglect her academics if we don't ride her, but because my husband can get sort of mean about how he rides her and because I am more computer savvy for making sure assignments are in and communicating with her teachers, that is my job. It's not a great job for an optimist who likes to believe her child will just pull out whatever gumption she needs and do what she's supposed to, because it hasn't ACTUALLY seemed to work that way. I need to just do it--no matter how time consuming and distasteful it is. I am also the homework help, and the resource finder when things aren't working.

So where do I get more time for those things? Let's see, how am I currently spending it?

The WiP: I am writing again (thank goodness!) at a reasonable pace—the work is flowing. This is a 'from the bathtub' activity and only interferes with anything when my husband and daughter are fighting over her approach to homework and I feel the resentment boil up that I have to get OUT and intervene, but in fact I can hear neither of them is any longer rationale, so really, that is just what needs to happen.

But PAST WORKS: I've sent LEGACY to first readers (got first feedback from Michelle today--Thank you!!!)—that is a waiting matter and no problem. CONFLUENCE is entered in the Amazon contest, also a waiting matter and not a problem. So why am I suddenly so obsessed with getting ILLUSIONS typed up? You've got me there, but I've been acting like it's urgent: note to self: If I ease up here, there is a little time to lend to the other home stuff. So only type on it on the weekends unless the family and the below networking things are met. At this point, it is NOT urgent.

Blogging: The blogging itself is really only about a 20-30 minute affair. I usually (like now) write it between showering and leaving the house in the morning. Sometimes I save it instead of posting because I don't have time to look for good pictures—a five minute break from work type activity (again, like now), but it's DONE. But I could get sucked into reading and commenting on other people's blogs all day long if I let myself.

SO I AM SETTING A TIME LIMIT: 20 minutes of daytime (work break) and then 40 minutes in the evening if there are no contra-indicators (read: children's sporting events, teacher conferences, etc.)

CHATTING: This is a biggie for a FOMS sufferer. I've been okay with Facebook lately, but I've met some really fun people on the ABNA circuit and actually find myself LOOKING for what they are talking about, trying to find the good conversation.

LIMIT: One mid-day, 10 minute catch up, one half hour catch up in the evening. I've made some friends, but some of them are also blogging or on facebook, and I think that is as much weekday time as I have to give it.

I, the Watery Tart, solemnly swear I will try my best to stick to that schedule on the weekdays, and will do laundry and clean the bathroom before I give way to the writing gods on the weekend...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Naked and Waiting

And not the good kind.

Oh, I mean it is sort of the good kind, but not the guaranteed 'we're both gunna love this' good kind, and CERTAINLY not the lying relaxed with a fruity rum drink good kind.

You see... I sent out my latest book to first readers this week (I can't believe a year ago I'd never even heard the TERM first readers!). And it's a little different than my first time.

CONFLUENCE and the Burrow: A History

When I was adopted into the Burrow, I was the 4th member, and we quickly grew by... maybe 3 more... and then hovered a while. At the time I joined, I had written a few stand-alone scenes for CONFLUENCE, and what was THEN my first chapter (later chapter 2). By the time we had enough people that we were really talking about REVIEWING each other's stuff, I think I was 4 chapters in. We shared single chapters (even just pages—snippets). I shared my first and was told they liked it but it jumped in too fast—helpful... it led to the writing of the first.

My point though (yes, I have one) is that I revealed myself a little at a time. They got to know and love my characters—were invested, before the big stuff... I think I did my first nine chapters one at a time like that, before I felt guilty that I was an attention hog and felt like I should just write the darned thing—finish it, and they could see the rest.

It was like a first time relationship where you reveal a little at a time. You know how you feel about each other before you get naked.

Oh, I showed CONFLUENCE to people who hadn't had the ease in—a friend from college, a high school teacher who actually was my vision for one of the characters—and it was wonderful—my friend in particular had fresh eyes and good feedback—she is one of those voracious readers, so I think her instincts were good.

But I also sent it out a couple times into silence... no response. *birds chirping * I'm not a person to bug someone, but I DO tend to assume if I hear nothing that means a person either couldn't be bothered to REALLY read it, or they didn't like it. My mother, I assume, got stuck on the F word in chapter one and set it aside. She never said boo. At least my writer's group TELLS ME WHY if life gets in the way, but these couple voids are a little intimidating.

So Here We Go

The only person who has seen ANY of LEGACY is Mari—when she visited in October, she read the first six chapters because that was what was typed. But she is mid-thesis at the moment, and with CONFLUENCE she provided AMAZING feedback about pacing, which is a later thing to edit for anyway, so she isn't a first reader this time around—she will get the rewrite—better timing for her, critically important for me.

So four Burrowers have gotten it, and two personal friends—one Burrower may wait for the rewrite, since five is probably a good number for first read...

But it definitely leaves me feeling NAKED in a very different way than the one I advocate... In fact maybe my nudist tendencies have always been that the physical was only important so far as enjoying life goes—the mental plane is where my identity is really invested.  It's far harder to leave the product of my mind out there naked as a jay bird.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Round the Bend

Yes, I’ve had the accusation a bazillion times, and it is probably one of the few things y’all agree on about me, but this is a WRITING bend. I’ve been running against the wind for MONTHS now to make any progress on CONSPIRACY. Every word was painful. But FINALLY last night I think I have the wind at my back again.

Metaphors that DON’T Work (Okay. Maybe a bit)

I did NOT crest the proverbial hill… it is NOT now smooth sailing. I won’t coast or glide into home. I have to keep working my tail off (and hopefully as I work my tail off, I will also work my tail off… gotta keep that Book Tour Fitness Plan in mind!)

So this doesn’t mean we are home free and clear, folks… only that…

Okay, you know how you have a tube of lotion you haven’t used for a while, and you are trying to put some on, but it is the tiniest trickle… then SUDDENLY the dried crusty stuff unplugs and you get this squirt of lotion that you aren’t even sure what to DO with because it’s so much? THAT is what happens. It’s not a pretty metaphor though, naked tart dripping lotion everywhere because there just isn’t enough skin surface to put it on. And I HATE wasting…

You know, normally… if I NOTICE the lotion is plugged, I can stick a pin in there and clear out the gunk, but when I do that, I think I push as much gunk back IN as I clean off, so the SAME gunk comes back to haunt me later.  Seems that might be the case with the writing too... better to just let the rush happen.

(have I stretched this absurd metaphor too far now?) But it’s TRUE!

A Matter of Motivation

If there is a main difficulty I have with my writing, it is in motivating the bad guys. It is NEVER on my list first and unlike most of it, it is something I just can’t force, no matter how hard I try. Oh, sure… I have had art thieves intent on getting rich, but I needed to make this PERSONAL. I’ve been working under the premise that they were mad at people trying to stop them, but I’ve FINALLY got it, and it is better than that!

It’s funny, because I ran into the same thing with CONFLUENCE, have it to some degree in ILLUSIONS (the second of this trilogy) and it has been a problem with my as of yet unnamed and unfinished murder mystery… of my 6 books I’ve finished or written significantly on, it has been a problem for 4. Maybe I need to spend more time with bad guys… always thought I had it covered with my bad boy fetish, but mostly they’ve only ever been naughty.

So the News

I am THANKFULLY back to writing… sure, it just really got in the groove yesterday, but there is idea enough for at least the next few chapters, and I’ve never worried about the ending, anyway, so I think I should be able to stay on track (hopefully finish by the end of March).

LEGACY, the first in the trilogy, has had clean-up number one (there are two places with notes for additions, and then the third place to incorporate this new motivation thing—but as a draft, it is cleanish) and I sent that to first readers.

In April, when CONSPIRACY is done, hopefully ILLUSIONS is typed so it is fresher in my mind, and I have feedback, then I will do the LEGACY rewrite… and in a dream world, query in May.

Watch List

In the meantime, I’m being paranoid… I’ve checked out half a dozen or more books now on art theft… hopefully that hasn’t put me on a watch list. It is yielding some interesting and useful stuff, though no where near as interesting as the how to be a spy stuff. So if I am arrested for art espionage, I might need to call on you to testify that it is all for the sake of writing books…

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dying to Know...

[aka: who the heck are you?]

I don't know if any of you pay attention, but the number geek in me has added a couple counter widgets to the side to tell me how many people have been here, where they are from, and what (website) brought them in. I'm too cheap to pay for these things, so the detail is only on the last 10 visitors, but there are some things that have made me very curious for a good long time, and it's only gotten stronger since I added the flag thing.

Tart Links

I noticed this week that one of my referrals was a search for nudist contortionist, so I've got that going for me... You want a nudist contortionist, I'm your gal. Nobody seeking naked world domination in a while, so that's sad. Most people either come directly, or via Facebook or Networked blogs (which is also facebook). I get a twitter visitor now and again. And this week, I added a couple Amazon BNA visitors because I put my blog link on my profile.

What this tells me is it all helps... In fact since the Amazon link thing, my average daily page hit has jumped quite a lot. I don't know if those are first degree hits all the time, because I also added a few of those folks as FB friends. But my blog about being a blog slut in particular had about 130 views—I'm pretty sure that's a record for me.

Location Location Location

But none of this answers how the heck people in the Russian Federation are finding me. Not PERSON—that flag counter says I have 6 readers from the Russian Federation. In fact... though the first four places are held by English speaking countries (the US, Canada, the UK (which amazingly passed Australia in spite of my documented Australian fame) and Australia). I have 10 readers in Norway. I SWEAR to you I only know one, who is probably actually 3 or 4, but that still leaves me with a readership... you don't suppose hot, mopey musician guy is following?! *coughs * Sorry, Mari.. not meaning to tell tales on you... Seven readers in India... which may surprise YOU but doesn't ACTUALLY surprise me. Natasha has inspired me and encouraged me all along, but I also have three other Indian friends through the Potterverse, so if any of them uses more than one computer, it only leaves a couple I know nothing about... Likewise, the 5 in Japan—I know 3 people there, 2 of whom I know have checked in... not a ton to explain.

But Russia? WHO ARE YOU??? I'm dying to know!
Spain? I have a friend from high school there, but I doubt he follows—just doesn't seem like the blog reader sort. Germany and Greece each have ONE known person... is that enough to explain 4? Susie, Chris? Do you have multiple personalities?
Another big one, because I know of no connection, is Pakistan. I have 2 Pakistani friends in the US, but IN Pakistan? And I've seen the map—these are in really different places, and so NOT the same person.

I am likewise curious about my reader in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the one in Guatamala, and I want to know where my Indonesian and Argentinian following has gone! But MOST OF ALL... the dot off of Africa has yet to have a flag but HAS appeared on the map... SHOW YOURSELF! (I THINK it is Sao Tome, but that is a guess, as the widget map isn't labeled—I could SWEAR it was farther west, but I can't see ANYTHING there... are you on a boat?) I really am dying of curiosity here... I would LOVE to know who you people are. If you don't have response access via blogspot or are shy about being in public, you could email me. Just put blog in the title:

I just am so darned curious about who I am reaching.... tell me about yourself. What brought you here? Do I know you or someone you know in some context, or did you stumble in?

I'm sending out a big giant naked hug, all around the world. This tickled me like you wouldn't believe to know how far and wide you can reach simply by putting yourself out there... but the social scientist in me wants to understand the process.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

There I Am!

This may seem foreign to any of you who have never struggled with your weight, but I suspect even people who spend most of their life one size, then had a gain for... say babies... might find this a little familiar... You know something is happening, and somewhere deep in your subconscious, you know it's BAD. You stop weighing yourself, you pretend not to like certain pants anymore... you even stop really looking at yourself in the mirror... I mean SURE, you LOOK, but you don't really LOOK. It is denial that something has gotten out of control.

Then one day something will happen to wake you up... For me, this time, I was bending to tie my shoes and realized I had stomach rolls that were squishing into each other—ICK! Now that may gross you out, or you may think, big freaking deal, I have those even at a good weight—it all depends on how we carry it, but I'm a pear. My legs and butt are big, even when my rib bones begin to show (I'm serious-I've been there). But until I had babies, even at 185 pounds (about what I weighed when I finished high school—keep in mind I'm 5'11”--so this is overweight but not OBESE) my stomach was FLAT—COMPLETELY. Twenty-five to thirty pounds too heavy and not a speck of evidence on my waist.

Babies changed that a little—never again will my hip bones stick out when I lay down, but it STILL was not where I carried the worst of it—so rolls... ICK.

It made me look in the mirror. It made me look at the scale. And do you know what I saw? A big, fat person that I didn't recognize. My weight had crept higher than it was at the END of my second pregnancy. It was time to do something.

Those of you that have read for a while know it took me a little while to psych myself up, and there was another 10 pounds on before I REALLY got to it, but since New Years I've been a diligent girl... following weight watchers points (except Friday, when I have a few glasses of wine above points—works for me, probably because I get a lot more activity in than the plan calls for—they say do 30 minutes a day—most days I get closer to 90). Any OTHER day, anything I do is within points.

And this morning, naked in front of the mirror, I saw myself for the first time in AGES. It isn't ideal me, but at least it is recognizable me. It's a good feeling. For the 3rd week in a row I am down 2.5 pounds, which feels painfully slow, but at least it is steady, and I crossed the 'half stone'--I've lost more than a stone and a half, which makes the Anglophile in me happy...

Oh, sure, I'm only a third of the way there, but I feel pretty darned good to at least know who I'm looking at.

The facts:

Weight down 22.5 pounds
Waist down 2.5 inches
Hips down 3 inches
Butt down 4 inches
EACH thigh, 2 inches smaller.
Even my arms are an inch smaller

Can you see how that matters to what I look like? I'm happy dancing today in honor...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Be a Blog Slut

This may very well be the wrong place to present this, y'all being a slutty bunch already, but I met a couple people yesterday who weren't really sure how, or hadn't been all that successful in gathering blog followers. So I thought I'd gather what I had to offer and offer it up for a grope.

Now when I try to present myself as an expert, after all of 8 months experience, I expect some laughter, but I haven't done so badly, in my short life of being textually active... I've got a fair number of followers and have made a fair few friends.

Learn From An Expert

I could NEVER EVER call Elizabeth a slut. But to be honest, she IS pretty free with her favors...

The smartest thing I ever did was read a couple established blogs and find someone who was doing EVERYTHING right and then follow HER around. Now my content is really different because frankly, she is just better at putting the writing tricks into perspective (and our styles are about as different as night and day), but I did several things she did, and they WORKED.

The first, was to look at her sidebar and see what blogs she was reading. She's a writer. I'm interested in writing... It was a pretty safe bet that I'd be interested in quite a bit of the same content. I don't follow all the mystery blogs she does because I don't write genre mystery, but most of the general writing and a FEW of the mystery ones, I do.

I also read the comments to her posts to get a feel for the OTHER really nice people out there—she has nice friends—and started following some of THEM around, too—pestering THEM.

I followed her advice about the social networking thing. Much of what I have to say, I learned from her (the innuendo of it though, was my own addition-as if you didn't know that).

Most importantly though, I learned it goes a LONG WAY to be really nice. If somebody comments on your blog, RESPOND—they will feel loved. If somebody visits you, visit back... Her old-fashioned southern manners have worked well, even for a naked chick in Michigan.

A Little Mutual Appreciation

Commenting on other people's content WILL earn you a visit from them—maybe not the first time, but the real bloggers that get into form, updating regularly and caring about followers KNOW the gig... you check them out a few times, you WILL be checked out. Their READERS will ALSO check you out if you are clever or interesting.

The very fastest way to earn a following is to get out there and be a good follower.  Oh, I know... we all gotta be ourselves, but it's called NETWORKING for a reason. 

Find Your Niche

Anybody can master missionary... in fact some people with this approach might be accused of just laying there... You need to figure out what you're good at that other people will find either INFORMATIVE or ENTERTAINING. Some desperate people even just run around naked and hope to get attention *cough *.

Spread the Love

Seek out people who don't already have followings... Try to help them out. They'll appreciate it. Visit a lot of places... Given limited time, maybe strategize to have 30 blogs you really follow and visit 4 a day, commenting each time... that keeps it down to about 15 minutes or so, but makes sure you are in several different places and after a month or so, you will be recognized.

I have a couple blogs I read almost every day (like Elizabeth's, Rayna's or Jan's) because I feel a specific loyalty (read: friendship) to those bloggers. Some days I can read most of the new stuff in my side bar, but MOST days, I only have time for 3-5 blogs, so I browse titles, but also browse who I owe a visit. (who's visited ME; who have I neglected for a while?) A lot depends on timing... who has a recently updated blog when I have time to read, but I DO try to not neglect anyone too long.

A Hard Truth

The agents don't need you. There are some terrific agent blogs out there, full of information. When you are querying, READ THEM. When you are polishing, READ THEM. When you are seeking expert advice READ THEM. But unless you are reading ABOUT social networking from them, they are NOT where to invest your time in social networking.

Leaving a comment for Nathan Bransford is like this... if you slept with Warren Beaty, do you think he'd remember the mole on your inner thigh? Not likely, unless it was so grotesque that it entirely ceased events. The most popular guy around just has too many choices for a single incident (or serial of them) to be noticed. I comment when he polls, and occasionally when I can't help myself, but I am under no illusion that he has noticed me.

Agents have TONS of wannabe followers traipsing around after them, and if you comment OFTEN on their blogs, you might ANNOY them (I suspect I've annoyed Jessica, but I'm sure I'm not the only one), and if you only comment from time to time, you are NOT going to be memorable... Read them for your content--they're helpful, but if you are limited in the amount of time you have, then the agent forums are like trying to sleep with the quarterback... Only the already popular girls get to do that and you are wasting your energies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Amazoning Amazon

So now that the submission period is closed and I’ve gotten a little further into it, I feel like I’m at least not QUITE so clueless as to what is going on…

Eating Crow on the Entrants

(without eating very many of them)
I FOUND some! There are nice people to be met! It still isn’t a forum like the Wizard War back in the day where there was enforced greeting, and requirement of reading everyone’s comments (which made for a DARNED nice bunch of people—hard to say if it is because people self selected if they couldn’t be bothered, or if it just taught people appropriate etiquette), but for the most part the humor is good, the people are inclusive, and I’ve met some nice ones (even noticed one following! *blushes*) The worst of it, is a tendency to just go on with the convo with nobody acknowledging what you said, but I have that happen in real life from time to time… I’m the INVISIBLE Amazon Queen. [in reality, I think people get sucked into a conversation, so don’t even notice].

Anyway, I am doing pretty much all my conversing in a thread at the Amazon BNA site, rather than the CreateSpace, just because I stumbled across a lot of innuendo and it looked like a good time.

The group seems serious about writing, but also fun, and a few have been finalists in past years, which is nice, as they are a resource of sorts when I’m clueless (though I STILL don’t have the answer to my question as to who the heck ‘top readers’ are (they judge round two—the story excerpt (3K-5K words)

Self-Publishing Morass

At CreateSpace more than Amazon, but to some degree on all the boards, I’ve encountered writers of a breed I had NOT before… people dissing traditional publishing, and arguing strenuously for self publishing.

Now I am not one to say self-publishing is NEVER the answer, but I do happen to believe there are PEOPLE self publishing with no business publishing at all, and that gives the product a bad name.

However, there are a few points taken:

1) You sure get to keep a lot more of your sales $. Granted, total sales should be a lot lower, as you only have one sales venue, but it is a pretty big difference.
2) Some great books are difficult to agent/publisher sell because they don’t fit nicely into a niche or have a handy one-line description.
3) (and to me this is sorta big)—once the publisher decides it’s done, your book is OUT OF PRINT and they decide when it comes back in, if ever). With self-publishing, it never is.

That said, nobody is responding AT ALL to *cough*my*cough* accusations about swimming among the filth—there REALLY ARE books that aren’t ready, but an impatient author who hasn’t gone through the full process decides to just self-publish… the review process has a quality control function—and SURE great books miss, and LOUSY books make it through, but I’d bet great books would make it 95% of the time and good books maybe 60% if the author was really persistent, and I only think about 20% of what makes it out there really doesn’t deserve to (and that is EXTREMELY genre biased—I don’t really want to pick on ‘inspirational’ except it deserves it—and then the failings of romance and fantasy I mentioned yesterday)—mainstream? I bet only about 1% of that is sort of lousy, if that. So the success fail rate is pretty good.

Self publishing, I’d bet only 10% of what is out there is fabulous and another 20% good—70% crap. Yes, I’m pulling numbers out of thin air, but I can’t see how it would be otherwise, when I have yet to FIND a self published book that is amazing (not that I’ve persisted after about 10 fails).

That makes it a REALLY RISKY venture… throwing ones self amongst the muck.

My Brain Child

I would STILL love to see a peer review process whereby people could self-publish but stamp a ‘guild approved’ heading on their book: “This book has been peer reviewed by 3 published authors, and editing by an XYZ approved editor”—a guarantee that SOMEBODY is watching the farm, so that readers will feel more confident. I think it would give authors a legitimate alternative, when right now, I honestly don’t feel like (aside from certain genres and extremely timely topics or non-fiction) it currently is ‘legitimate’.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.