Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Neglected Muses

I know I've frequently said that you can't FORCE the muse... the muse does not come when called and will often misbehave, no matter how carefully you follow Muse-friendly protocol, but I've decided it is possible to really piss off the Muse and make them go away for extended periods. First...

How do we identify a neglected Muse?


S'Not...

Here are a few of those things Muses do of their own accord, no neglect necessary:

1)  Pester you with a NEW project (and look how temptingly he does it!) in such enticing ways that it makes it really hard to finish the old one. Here is why. Muses are basically sluts that want ALL SORTS of attention, and so even if the old project is REALLY FABULOUS, they get bored with it from time to time. They want a change in positions to scratch a DIFFERENT itch. Here is where a Muse might need a lesson in discipline. Tie him up and make him WATCH while you flirt with something else for a while, then get back to your WiP and he should keep his mouth shut until you're finished.

2)  Giving characters a mind of their own. This sneaksey little bit of mischief is actually HELPFUL if you can keep some constraints on it. He'll never learn to do what he's supposed to if you don't give him the freedom to fail now and again, but if you can keep that character targeted toward the next plot point, this freedom can actually be quite helpful. Just make sure and supervise.

3)  Deus ex Machina (God in the Machine)--Muses can be lazy and they just want to be DONE already once they grow bored. This particular antic can sometimes be constrained, and sometimes you can't do a darned thing about it, but keep reminding the Muse, the more of this you pull, the more work the rewrite will bee (Muses hate rewrites).


All those things though, are within normal Muse behavior. Abandoning you entirely, is NOT. Oh, sure, Muses come and go... they can't be counted on every day and you have to power through, but there are some things you can do to alienate them so they don't come back for a good long time.


SUDOKU Neglect

When I get in the bathtub at night, typically I first do a SUDOKU to help my brain transition from family and work, with their respective stresses, to the writing. I am stubborn and keep going until I have either succeeded, or made the fateful error. I've discovered that more than about ten minutes, and the Muse thinks I'm cheating on him. This brain change is only effective within limits, or I have gone too far into the inhuman realm of numbers.


Project Hopping

While Muses don't mind this if it is THEIR idea... they are Swingers by nature, they are still a little miffed when it's YOUR idea. Oh, they'll TRADE alright, but good luck getting them back to the old fuddy duddy, run-of-the-mill project you had them with in the first place. New is ALWAYS sexier where the Muse is concerned, you see. So if THEY think of the cheating, they will come back out of guilt. If the cheating is YOUR idea, they might see it as an out.


Editing

Muses are essentially lazy creatures, and if they see there is deep, labor-intensive WORK going on, they are going to hide for a while. There isn't much that can be done about this. Some people segregate their day to keep their Muse's fear at bay that during the WRITING day, the work will stay away, but for me, my brain gets inundated, and I just need to either be in one mode or another.


I think that is my latest problem... I diverted to another project, but only for 4 chapters, then I EDITED the other project, and now the Muse is miffed and I am having trouble tempting him home. He will come. He always does. But at the moment the writing is going SLOWLY.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to be a Murder Victim

Sometimes this quest for fame and glory can be elusive, but I figure most of us have infamy in us, if we were to really give it a fair shot, so here is some much needed help, if all of y'all are trying to go down in history (or literature) and just aren't sure how to go about it.


Be Really Terrible

Oh, I know. Sounds obvious. But you are much more likely to be murdered if you're mean and rotten. It's especially important that you humiliate a lot of people in public places, because the more people who really have it in for you, the longer your story will take to be resolved, right? I mean... one little humiliation... one murder... crime solved and you're off the front page, and if you're DYING for it, you might as well get some mileage out of it.


Be a SNOOP

Surely there is stuff out there nobody wants you to know! Be sure to go poking around in THAT. And then, just to up the ante, because being nosy isn't quite enough to get the primary victim killed (though it's gotten a fair few secondary characters murdered)--you should probably use what you find to blackmail somebody.


Take Something That Somebody Believes is Theirs

Money is a good one... embezzling a lot of money from someone, particularly someone with mob ties, is a pretty sure way to be a murder victim. Unfortunately with the mob, they are usually pretty willing to take the blame, so what you gain in gore, you lose in how briefly people talk about it... but if your remains were say... spread across three counties, I suppose it might be worth the trade off. You'll have to look into the inclinations of the mobsters near you. And SAY, if they just make you disappear, you might stay in the news for a REALLY long time! Look at Jimmy Hoffa... no body, and the guy is STILL in the news.


Sleep with a lot of Married People

This is a really good one, especially if you then treat said married person badly and try to blackmail them with video clips... Yeah, always advisable to videotape your escapades if you're looking to get knocked off. Also makes everyone want to be on the jury for trying your murderer, so that's an added bonus.


Piss off a Mystery Writer

Bad review ought to do it. Mocking their work. Dangling a publishing contract and then yanking it away. Merging your printing press so that works that HAD been in line are no longer going to be published. Publishing a really BAD book from some OTHER author... In fact it doesn't have to be a publishing related ire you arouse. You could say... cut them off in traffic... say something rude at the gym... teach your child to tattle on theirs... oh, there are a great many things that can get you murdered by a mystery writer...

On a similar note, one of my FB Writer friends, CJ West was giving away the right to name a murder victim in his next book as part of a contest.  How fun is THAT?  Seemed like a bit of marketing genius to me.  Most things you give away cost you something, and have limited appeal, but that goes permanently in a book...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mystery Madness

It's been a long time since this has happened to me, but I know it isn't the first time. My brain has been TAKEN OVER by the learning process. I've lost control entirely, and know I ought to just give in to the process, but it is always so strange to be LEARNING something unintentionally... well sort of intentionally, but the intentional part had forgotten this process happened sometimes... let me e'splain...


The Subconscious Brain

(see how it looks like a penis probing in there? I wonder if that is where the term mind-f*&#; comes from?) Yes, this is psychology, but I'll put it in Tart-Speak, so it shouldn't be that painful... when we work really hard at something, trying to absorb things that are new (or think about old things in new ways) the brain has a little rebellion. Sometimes you can even hear it in there saying, 'Yeah, I don't get it'. But those tricksey brains are better at stuff than they admit, so when they really don't get it, they try to pull this new stuff into old frameworks to make sense of it.

So see, now, I haven't plotted to kill anybody before (other than staring at the kitchen knives, I mean), and I certainly haven't plotted cover-ups, motives... all that good stuff (I mean anything I had done would have been justified, right?) And the Tart may be sneaksy in some ways, but she sorta lays it all out there most of the time—one of those by-products of being a flasher.

So my brain has been engaged in meandering to places henceforth unexplored, of late.


The Intentional Stuff

I have a notebook full of ways these characters are tied together that will be revealed as the book goes. There are three separate loops, each of which generates a couple suspects. I have actually written the first part of the book, weaving these things carefully in—I sent through chapter four, and have written five (did I start 6?). I wanted to be a little farther in than what I sent because when I start something, then set it aside for a few weeks, it seems like I usually want to tweak what I wrote last before going on...

I've also been READING! You know what is REALLY FUN? I have a stack of books to get to written by people I KNOW! I know, I don't know most of them very well, but when I jumped into the Blogosphere, it seemed like there were two well-established communities of writers—the Romance writers, and the Mystery writers. I didn't write genre, but Mystery was MUCH closer to my stuff than romance, so that was the community I dived into. I'm reading a Beth Groundwater book right now, but I've got a Patricia Stoltey in my stack and an Elizabeth Spann Craig on inter-library loan order. How fun is it to read a book by somebody you know?! These all have different flavors, different sleuths, different approaches... so that's good. I can be a mimic at times, and didn't want my own voice to pick up the accents of others, so to speak...


The UNintentional Stuff

So Saturday night I dreamed all night about editing, and you know what? Not a SINGLE change I made had been saved in the morning. I hate that—working so hard and all your work is lost like that... Seriously, though. I know that is because BEFORE I WENT TO BED, I'd just spent about three hours EDITING. (see how tricksey that brain is?). That though, is standard, run-of-the-mill anxiety dream... when you brain keeps going on the same project, even after you've gone to bed.

Last night though, is another story... I was plotting, conspiring, conjuring settings, motives and murderers... Oh yeah... I was DEEP in the learning process. Though I'm darned tired, today.


They say (don't ask me who 'they' is, because I don't know) that you can improve as much OVER NIGHT while your brain assimilates new information, as you do actively practicing during the day. Let's just hope THEY aren't insane...  Otherwise I may follow them off the deep end.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unblog

Okay, I got nothin' and it's Sunday, a day I don't feel obliged to PRETEND I got something, so I am just going to comment on my counter stuff.

I have my 45th country today and do you know what it is?  Azerbaijan.  How FREAKING cool is THAT?  I mean I am thrilled every time I get a new country, but I have a (possibly unnatural) attraction to the former Soviet Union (in fact all the eastern block).  I can't explain it exactly, but I think it is some convergence of that they lived with so many taboos, and were also so taboo to us, as I grew up.  And this particular little country, is so close to all the CURRENT conflict (which I won't comment on because I seem to typically offend my countrymen)  *cough*  okay, so I don't censor well... I will summarize it with this... George W. Bush.  Small dick syndrome. Enough said.


I just am so constantly humbled by how far a person can really reach with this nutty internet thing, and baffled that people from such vastly different human experience want to read what I have to say.

Oh, I know a lot of people get here by searching for naked tarts, cross dressing, and Chad Kroeger's sexual indiscretions (which I am happily one of *snort*) but I get all fuzzy anyway.  I love you Azerbaijan!  Thanks for reading!  (same to Serbia, that last new one)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blissful 24

Some days it just seems like the sun shines a little brighter and things are going my way. I know this is my fitness day, and that is part of the bliss and I will get there, but I had a bigger boost that I want to talk about for a minute first...


Cozy Chapter Feedback

She likes it! MY AGENT likes the chapters! I figure that HAS to be a good sign, since she represents some of these, so she has a feel for what is wanted in the genre. Look, this is exactly what she said, pasted from the email: “Wow, you did a fantastic job with this!  I think you got the characters, tone and story exactly right –"

Can you see why I am happy dancing today?

It will be more than a week before we can get it to the editor as the editor is out of town, which also plays well. I will do my edits this weekend, but then will be able to follow my CONSPIRACY plan and write like made, hopefully getting the draft done (or nearly) before I hear back on whether to go ahead with this.



So now to the fitness stuff...


That Can't be Right! [well okay, maybe he's right for a lot of things... I found him under weight loss motivation tips, and I can certainly see how THAT could be. Hummina hummina...]

Sometimes something is so awful it couldn't possibly be true, and sometimes it is just too good. This morning was one of those too good to be true moments on the scale. It seems completely implausible I would have lost 6.5 pounds last week, yet according to the scale, I did.

Now I could happy dance and just take it as a freak fabulous happening, and I may decide to do just that, but I also can't quite leave alone looking for an explanation.



Last Week Falsely High?

I know I lost pretty handily last week, but after a week UP and very good behaviors... and... Okay, I have a confession. I know I'm only supposed to weigh on weigh in day because weight goes up and down, but I weigh myself every day, so I know before last week's weigh in, I'd been almost 3 pounds LIGHTER so compared to THAT, I am only down 3.5 from THAT.

Is This Week Falsely Low?

I suspect yes. I had a few celebratory glasses of red wine last night and woke up feeling pretty darned dehydrated. Unlike most weeks, today is the lowest day I've seen... in fact it is the lowest weight I've seen in 2 years. For the last two years I've started the year dieting, then lost my ability to follow some time in mid March (last year's effort was particularly lame) but 2008 I got down to today's weight minus 3 pounds for about a week before it started going back up.

On the way UP, I think I first hit this in 2006...

So it's good... VERY good... Maybe too good, but at least I am psychologically prepared if there is no movement, or a slight up from here...

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'll Scratch YOURS

Periodically I pay attention to stuff. I've noticed I have several friends here in the Blogosphere who have book releases coming up, so I thought I would throw out a broad-stroked invitation: If you are

1)  A Tart Follower
2)  With a Book Release that has just happened or will happen soon AND
3)  Are willing to commit to my Naked World Domination Plans *cough *

Okay, maybe you don't need to COMMIT on that last, just seriously CONSIDER...

And you would be interested in Guest Blogging to promote your book, maybe get a little buzz going...

You would be reaching readers who are:

1)  The smartest out there
2)  Really nice people
3)  Well-connected among readers and promoters
4)  Naked

And Here's the Scoop:

She who'd write a Blog for me, must answer me these questions Three, ere the other side she see:


1)  WHAT is your Name? (Author bio)
2)WHAT is your Quest? Erm... Book? (pitch, blurb, cover copy)
3)WHAT is the air speed Velocity of a Laden Swallow? How did you find your way to publication?


If You are interested, EMAIL me with Guest Blog in the subject line, let me know your book release date, and we can set it up: hartjohnson23ATgmailDOTcom.


IF you are Chad Kroeger, Johnny Depp, Viggo Mortenson, Jason Isaacs, or Gerard Butler and you would like your back scratched, call me.  Addendum:  And the previously unknown but undeniably hot Clive Owen.

Acknowledgement:  I should thank Authors Promoting Authors for THEIR campaign along a similar vein, as it probably would not have occurred to me to throw this out there without them.  If YOU have a blog and are willing to do the same, they did a blog last week on the topic.  Check it out and sign up.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Projectus Interruptus

[Y'all know sometimes on Thursday I go a little insane, yes? You've been warned.]

My first book took quite a while to write. There were several reasons—I was still writing a lot of fan fiction at the time (which gave me feedback at a lot heavier rate) but mostly it's because I think I just didn't really know how to go about it. There were several STUCK periods where I made nearly no progress, then suddenly I would get going again.

My second, third and fourth books though, went MUCH faster, taking six weeks, ten weeks and thirty days, respectively (although that NaNo book had a week of hole fill after that and probably another month of the same will be needed when I get to editing). I guess I thought I'd come to know how to write a darned book.

Conspiracy though, has been plagued by interruptions, some self-inflicted... okay, all self-inflicted... I started it in December and then though “Doh! Have to give CONFLUENCE a polish for Amazon!” After that was done, I went on to fill the NaNo holes, query CONFLUENCE, do a little Beta reading...

When I got back to it, I had lost my train of thought (blast it, anyway!) so while I wrote some more (maybe five more chapters), I never hit my groove, exactly. I decided to give LEGACY its first polish.

Then I glanced at CONSPIRACY for about thirty seconds and ended up with this cozy opportunity...

*sigh *


Lucky Number 5

My whole life 5 has been my favorite number. I like 23 too (my birth date), but of course 2 and 3 add to five, something I had an innate sense of before I knew anything about numerology. CONSPIRACY, is supposed to be my fifth book. Maybe I am pinning too much on it, but it's got that GORGEOUS cover and it is the final, climactic book in my trilogy, so it seems FAIR to put a lot of pressure on it, doesn't it? And isn't it going to be cool to be able to say I wrote a trilogy?

Progress

I finished chapter 17 last night. Took me four nights, which is longer than normal, but I know getting back into the swing is that way. Eighteen is from a different PoV and may similarly take some time to get into the character's head, so I am thinking about giving 18 amiss and jumping right on into 19—the story strands won't connect for about four more chapters, so that seems reasonable, to keep the momentum going.


The PLAN

I always have to make a plan. That isn't to say I stick to my plans—that is more hit and miss, but if I don't HAVE a plan, then I NEVER stick to it... if you see what I mean... So my PLAN, is to write the next chapter (thinking it is 19) before I get my cozy feedback from MY AGENT. That will require editing, but hopefully not real rewriting (meaning I hope it is 'maybe try this', and editing feedback rather than, 'holy crap, what were you thinking? Dump this character!) If I have to rethink much, it will throw me off again. If it is a job I can do at my computer, the momentum on CONSPIRACY shouldn't be interrupted too badly.

Once that is turned around, then presumably I will have a little while for the EDITOR to say what works and doesn't, then HOPEFULLY I will get to sign the contract for the cozy series and THAT will become first priority. In my dream world, I will have reached the final climactic sequence (maybe around chapter 25—figuring 3-4 chapters for the action and one or two for the wind down)--because THAT seems an easier place to jump back in after writing...

BUT WAIT! That makes this COZY my 5th book! NOOOOOOOO!~ That's not the plan! Okay, I just need to dig in there and finish this...


The REVISED Plan

*cough* Okay, I am going to treat finishing CONSPIRACY like a NaNo project and just go Balls Out while I wait for feedback, then turn around the cozy edits, then go Balls Out AGAIN, while I wait for that OTHER feedback. I have thirteen chapters to write, and I sure as heck ought to be able to do that in... oh, give it 3 weeks:

My tricksey math to reach that is half a chapter per weekday, full chapter per weekend day.

Say it with me: To HELL with laundry! Bathrooms don't need cleaning! Children can get their own darned lunch!

*Tart aims self at Writing Vortex*



[Book cover designed by Joris Ammerlaan]

It's Thursday, don't forget to get naked!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For Susannah

[And anyone else in early stages: finishing first book or taking first steps after that]

Before I believed I really could FINISH a book, back in the day I was debating how Half Blood Prince and then Deathly Hallows would go, I met a relatively large group of people that, like me, had writing aspirations. We had varying degrees of confidence in whether we could do it, and varying degrees of skill (stages where we were in our writing, mostly—most people called to write can develop the skill).

When one of THOSE people (my early aspiring writer friends) tells me now that they have finished, or are approaching the end of that first book, I am THRILLED for them. It is stepping stone that is hard enough to make, that once up, there is no turning back—a person who has written a book and has the call to write is truly a writer.  And we've made this journey together.

So yesterday I saw a status message on Facebook from one such friend (one I met trying to prove JK Rowling was a Monty Python Fan), a woman on a VERY short list of women sassier than I am (the only one I know of running a competing Total World Domination Plan, though hers lacks the nudity, so I'm sure you'll stick with mine) but she is nearing the end of that first book. I thought maybe I'd offer some unsolicited advice, cuz you know... I like to tell people what to do.


DEADLINE

You can be 'almost done' for a LONG time. It can linger and hover. I suggest looking at time periods you felt very productive in writing—whatever they are TO YOU. Is it a thousand words a day? A chapter a week? A scene a day? Different people think of their writing differently. But figure out your PACE at that time when you were already productive, and apply it forward.  Choose when you intend to be done by and try to keep on pace to making it.

With CONFLUENCE, that pace for me was two chapters a month. I wasn't thinking in word count (probably because of that writing long-hand thing) but I figured if I could finish two chapters (about 30 pages) a month then I could finish by XYZ date. I had to change it once, because I spent August of that year traveling, but the last 7 or so chapters actually went FASTER. Whatever the case, a deadline helps most people keep on track—it will push you to write every time you are debating between writing and some other activity. Set a deadline.


SOCIAL NETWORKING

Susannah asked me specifically about the blog. She'd put hers on hold because she felt it was distracting her from book-writing time. For book #1, I think that was the smartest thing she could have done. ANY distraction is like a giant wall in your way and you just need to concentrate on the book for now.

Some of the social media you can dapple in and not harm yourself if you don't really do much for a while. I think an author profile on Facebook is a GREAT idea early (I know she has one)--but it is time to start friending and fanning authors, publishers and agents now, then just check in on what they do now and again. They might be offended by you friending them with your PERSONAL profile if you have a lot of updates about family (and your friends and family will eventually be annoyed by the writing updates), but NOBODY is going to be offended if you start building up a network of writers to keep an eye on well before you intend to contribute (same with Twitter)--so both of these are things you can start already—looking for writers and seeing what you like and what you don't from what they do.

(Believe me, there will be things that bug the hell out of you—it's probably personal, but there are some super-marketers offering advice that are WAY too 'in your face' for me—I don't want a daily facebook message in my inbox (status update, fine—THOSE are easy to scroll, filling my inbox for perpetuity? No thanks. I'd appreciate saving it for when there is a BOOK RELEASE or Call to ACTION, and help is needed, or MAYBE a once a week report. THIS IS NOT WHERE BLOG UPDATES GO *cough* can you tell I have issues with this one?  It is why I most often 'unfan')

But back to the blog... THIS is something, that when you want to get blogging AS A WRITER (whether it is about writing, about your content, or a mix of stuff) you want to commit to doing it right.

I blogged about this last month and think the advice on HOW to do it well is still good (Be A Blog Slut). Until you are ready to do it right, I would hold off.  Though I think when it can be committed to, it is VERY important.


First Readers and EDITING

I don't want to be the evil person to break this to you, but there will be SEVERAL rounds of this. I would identify or ASK first readers what their specialty is AS A READER. I would then divide them up.

Your FIRST first readers PLOT READERS should be the ones who spot places you need MORE or that seem INCONSISTENT, or that you're UNCLEAR. They are meta-readers looking at the big picture and the things they identify need to be done before the other stuff can really even be LOOKED at. (I am good at this, possibly because of my psych, so I spot places where motivation is unclear or behavior seems inconsistent)

It is REALLY NICE if you have experienced writers who can do 'scene by scene' letting you know what works, what needs work, and what should be dropped--but only let people do this who have either published, or read REALLY WIDELY IN YOUR GENRE—the people who know what they're talking about.

Some readers are good at things like PACING or STYLE—spotting where things slow down (the style of writing needs to shift a little, depending on the action, and it isn't necessarily easy as a writer to see than in progress.)

And finally, you need a Leanne... The Grammar Police is one way to put this... somebody happy to go through line by line with a red pen, but do this LAST, or you will need to do it AGAIN.


Querying

I apparently don't know what the hell I'm doing here, as I've only had limited success, but there is a LOT of help to be had.  Take advantage of it.  Read the AGENT blogs on the matter--the Nathan Bransford, Kirsten Nelson, Janet Reid variety.  They have great advice--sometimes their preferences are different, which is helpful in that you see it is not a one size fits all thing, but on MANY things they agree--those things should ALWAYS be followed.

This is a skill worth developing because unless you know somebody you can sleep with to get in, 95% of unknown authors get their first work read this way (maybe 4% through a pitch session at a conference, which is even HARDER) and 1% through flukey things (this last appears to be the route I'm on... never have done things the normal way)


PERSISTANCE

This is a marathon. I laugh when I think about how I thought things would go... query, get CONFLUENCE sold, and suddenly I'd have to quit my day job. I was actually worried about things like insurance and such. BAH! I am now a year after my first Query Submissions and have had 3 rounds where I was DEAD SERIOUS in thinking it was ready—I am back to thinking it isn't quite ready (book nor query).

So you HAVE TO in between, be working on that next book, but periodically there will be rewrite/query rounds built in. You will become a MASTER at multi-tasking (or serial tasking) I recommend thinking about things like Amazon because there are people HAPPY to give feedback on things like pitches and that first chapter or so (great people, for the most part)--and they are people who have DONE this.

When you are in this CYCLE though, you need to also be building your network and blogging is part of that. It helps because there is a ton of great advice, and it helps your name and voice get out there. I happen to think this is NOT a normal route, but my BLOG voice is why Elizabeth thought of me when her agent had a cozy project and she didn't have time for it. There are people looking all over, so every little bit helps, but I think every little bit ALSO requires some give. I wouldn't have my following if I didn't follow, comment... all that slutty stuff.


So I wish you (any of you in this early achievement stage) a HUGE amount of luck. It's a very long road, but it can be traversed

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cozy Moi

I've spent a lifetime battling image issues. I know, silly for a woman who pretends to care so little what people think of her, but there you have it. You see, I am plagued with blonde hair, blue eyes... I'm tall... *cough* rough, right? *snort* Seriously though, this 'highly desirable trifecta' is paired with a distinct lack of boobs, which means instead of BOMBSHELL (a curse I could live with) we get the distinct impression of ALL AMERICAN GIRL. This is not me on SO many levels.


Dark and Mysterious Leanings

I've always wished I could get away with that gothic look. I even dyed my hair black in college, but my complexion is all wrong. Maybe there was a need to role play—I'm not sure. I know as a kid I wanted stereotypical girl stuff—to be a princess, saved by a prince, taken to a castle. Somewhere along the way though, I rebelled and decided good equaled BORING, and not JUST boring, but judgmental (how judgmental of me to think so, ne?) Maybe it was just the good girls I was exposed to. Or maybe I was reading into it because I just didn't want to behave.

Try as I might however, people would see the good girl in me.


Evidence to the Contrary

See, no matter how much I WANTED to sort of be BAD, I didn't want to screw up my future. This over-developed responsibility gene was inherited from my mother, and in my defense, I think I balance it well with the 'get into mischief' gene from my dad. No “all work and no play” for me. But regardless of hitting every party I could find, I also maintained high grades and was involved in a fair few activities, so TEACHERS thought I was a good girl. (and that was okay, life becomes a hassle when the teachers don't trust you).

And every once in a while I'd get a wild hair and do something distinctly main stream—trying out for Junior Miss (and winning), joining a sorority... the kinds of things rebels aren't supposed to do...

In my head somewhere was a 'beat 'em from the inside', but I never made any grand efforts to that effect (and the sorority I joined wasn't one filled with privileged bobble-heads, though I maintain the rest were *shifty*).


But the Boys

See, this was where it really bugged me. The BOYS who were drawn to me ALL thought I was that nice girl. Not a ONE of them was looking for a Bonnie to their Clyde. I suppose my problem is the opposite of Jessica Rabbit's. She's not bad, she's just drawn that way... me, I'm much naughtier than I look, so watch out.


So what does this have to do with Cozy Mysteries?

Will you get to the point already? Yeah, yeah... I just needed to lay some groundwork.

Y'all can maybe see that my blog isn't so serious. It's a rare day I don't spice it up with something silly or naughty. But the BOOKS I've been writing up until now have tended to be dark. There is a little humor, but mostly they are troubling, or mysterious—filled with angst and trouble... drama...

And I've been thinking about this image thing of mine... my NEED to be dark and mysterious, when in most ways, I'm just not drawn that way. Don't get me wrong. I will NEVER jump over to sappy, inspirational crap (you heard me, I called a genre crap—not that it's crap, but it's NOT me--'zat make any sense? I don't stomach most inspirational stuff unless it is a very well done life lesson and the person SUFFERED really a lot—see how rotten I am?)

But this COZY genre allows me to be just a little dark, and relatively naughty (oh, sure, it's PG naughty, but still...) LOOK what I get to do!

1)  I have a murder victim whose primary crime was goosing too many women
2)  I have a primary character who says, “I'm naked!”
3)  There is a way to fit in an inside joke now and again and make it fit.

In other words, I am getting to combine the best of being a little tricksey and mysterious, with being a naughty tart, with following some rules so the darned book may actually see the light of day! How perfect is THAT?

I sent 4 chapters yesterday to MY AGENT, who said she is out of town most of this week, but I should get feedback soon after that.
I will still work on my other stuff—in fact I want to make some serious progress on CONSPIRACY before I hear back on whether I get this gig or not (wrote a whole page last night—though that isn't as bad as it sounds, since it takes a little time to acclimate). But I am thinking maybe it is time to spend some time working in a framework of the craft—honing what strengthens stories... lessons of tension, etc... getting feedback from an agent and editor about my writing... then maybe my rewrites will be much more productive and I will finally get one of these babies of mine out there.

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

Technical Difficulties

This is a good news bad news thing:

BAD NEWS (I always do bad first... I prefer to get that out of the way and anticipate the good):  I am both under deadline (though it's been met, so technically I'm NOT anymore, but it DID take up my blog time this morning) AND my work computer has a virus, so the five minutes here, five minutes there variety of blog isn't happening either.


GOOD NEWS:  I sent my four cozy chapters to my AGENT today!!!!!  So I am happy dancing about that, even if I'm pouting about my computer issues. 


Hopefully I will be fully back on track tomorrow...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Drabbleville

So I had NO CLUES for today, and very little time. I'm trying to get my cozy chapters ready to send to MY AGENT tomorrow, plus the bathroom badly needed my attention, as did my mid-month bills... So when I first popped onto the computer, I noticed fellow Burrower, Natasha (Rayna)--hard to call a twin by a new name... had posed a BRILLIANT Drabble. My own drabbles are not that clever, but I do HAVE several of them. So I thought I'd post a couple.

For novices:  a Drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.  It's a good exercise in word economy... or silliness, depending on the author *cough*  (y'all are probably clear where I fall)


Image courtesy of Mike Hudson (a friend of mine from high school): shot taken on the Palouse--area around Moscow, Idaho

March's bleakness makes surreal the cranberry sun's promise of pleasure and beauty. It seems unreachable across the vast, empty sky. A faraway dream, never to be attained.

Only the work of spring – rains, investment, toil – allow that promise to reach fruition. In the chill it can all feel pointless, too hard to ever achieve.

But if we look about, reach out, touch what is near at hand, there is beauty in the bleakness. And the grasses left from last year remind us that the vivid ball keeps her promises, if only we hold up our own end of the bargain.




“Lemon and Lime”
Sarah Graham (Courtesty of Castle Gallery, Cardiff)

Chupa Chup. What a good word. Makes you pucker just to say it, sour, then sweet shooting flavors through your mouth. If only the English were so blunt. Lollipop. What is that anyway? We could call it a suck suck, too. I'd like a suck suck please, and wrap it in bright paper. Happy presentation. I suppose maybe something is lost in translation, but it seems to me, presented elsewhere, this company could not possibly keep up with demand. "Suck suck, fifty pence!"

I suppose that is a cynical view. Or not. Suck suck for fifty pence... definite mass appeal...


“Chocolate Spread”  Sarah Jane Szikora 

"Martha, are you coming?"

"Oh, Frank, just let me enjoy how you look a little longer."

"But Martha, I'm getting cold. Did you open the freezer?"

"I might have. I had a little something special in there. Would you like me to show you?"

"It's not the frozen Hot Wheels again?"

"No, love. It's better."

"But I'm cold already."

"So do you want me to enjoy it alone?"

"No. I just want you to warm me up."

"But Frank, we can't waste it. Here, just hold on a second."

"Ahhhh! That was freezing!"

"Here darling, let me warm you up."



Ode to a Murder
(I took this pic across from my house)

I hear the faint hum and then see the leaf-bare trees against the strawberry sky. The hum becomes a buzz and I recognize it, though it would be indistinct to an untrained ear. As I turn the corner, houses momentarily block the trees from view but the sound grows more distinct. Individual cries. Caw. Caw. A stray pair of birds veer as far as the street I am walking on and I am confirmed, but by now I have passed the houses and can see the branches well enough to recognize the congregation. A cacophony of noise welcomes me home.



So there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mind Games

So before I get into topic, I just have to say that one reader found me yesterday by googling Chad Kroeger's Sexual Indiscretions. *snort * Man, I WISH! It's a very satisfying list to be on, though.

Now to the blog.

Saturday, you may remember, is the fitness/weight loss day. You know, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. You'd think in a mental battle against yourself, you might be able to anticipate your next move and throw up an adequate defense... you'd think. But somehow, when I get into this whole dieting/weight loss thing, I undermine myself SEVERAL times in the process... that wonky, horrible thinking.


Permission for Bad Behavior

“One won't hurt.”
“It's a wafer thin mint.”
“Weigh in is days away.”
“It only has a point or two.”
“You deserve it, it was a really hard day.”


There are a thousand little excuses I periodically offer myself to allow this or that splurge. USUALLY, my counter-self can offer a sound, “Shut up!” and get on with it, but sometimes I give in and make a really bad choice. That last one is the biggest. When I am under stress, I can easily convince myself I deserve a reward.

The problem is, it undermines the plan, and in the long run, I feel even WORST. And you know what? I KNOW THIS. I could EASILY say, “you know what this will do to you.” But I don't. Why? What is this.


The Best Laid Plans

The problem with falling for these mind games now and then, is that instead of getting better at anticipating and stopping them, I seem to wear down. Pretty soon, the games get so close together, that we even forget we are DOING anything. We are in 'eat what I want' mode, more often than 'watch what I eat'. It gets harder and harder to pull ourselves back into the REAL game—the Get Fit, Be Healthy, Be Hot Game.


My Nemesis

The worst thing for my diet plans is a wrench kin my schedule. If I do the same thing day to day, week to week, I can build in enough good habits and enough checks and balances to MOSTLY do what I am trying to do... eat well, exercise. Sure, now and then I have a SNAFU, but because I have built a routine, I can pull myself back into line

Schedule interruptions though, big or small, throw me for a loop. It can be being so busy that I forget to eat lunch, so by afternoon I am STARVING and on the prowl for the BAD kind of calories. More often it is a big deadline that means some overtime, stress at work, and a pity party when I get home. Then there are the business trips—I take one or two a year, and this interrupts both diet AND exercise. Nobody serves milk at all at a corporate dinner, let alone skim milk. Fruit is hard to come by. Veggies to bulk up your meal so you feel satisfied on less? Not happening. You will get three string beans with your chicken breast and rice, and you won't complain. You will go out to eat where food is drenched in sauces. You will be served pastries for breakfast, and the booths in the Conference center will be giving away cookies, lattes, candy... not veggies. You won't get enough water to drink. Worst of all though, you will be expected to be there most of the day, so fitting exercise in is nearly impossible. You certainly can't get it in during the hours the hotel fitness room is open.

This is coming... Travel season. Preceded by the super busy at work prep time that I am already in...

And even KNOWING this, I STILL fall into traps now and then! Last weekend was bad. This week I was MUCH better and lost last weeks gain, plus a little, which puts me down a single pound from two weeks ago, but better down a little than up, and it brings my total loss to date to 30 pounds! That I'm happy to celebrate.

I just wonder what else can be done to keep the brain from that battle... I suppose for the time being, I will go with a Mad Eye Moody approach: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ebookivation

I've said before, the potential benefit of the eBook will NOT be strictly as an additional format, but an innovation in product—bringing in new ideas so the book becomes something else entirely, on a new plane of things, and a Publisher's Marketplace (the freebie, not the purchased version) update this week gave an example of just that:

[Note: Helen blogged about this yesterday, and from an industry/ knows what she's talking about perspective, THAT blog will probably be more informative (but hopefully this one will at least amuse you, my comments should be apparent)]

eBook Releases from Grisham and Baldacci

[blah blah blah Grisham backtitles blah...]


Separately, when David Baldacci's new book DELIVER US FROM EVIL is released on April 20, [is it just me, or does he look in serious need of lingerie training?]  Hachette Book Group's editions will include an "enriched" electronic version they're calling the Writer's Cut eBook. In the release, HBG ceo David Young says, "For David Baldacci's fans, this is a chance to see his creative process revealed, and deepen the connection with an author they love to read.  This enhanced eBook is the perfect marriage of innovation and great storytelling."

[AHA! Now THAT is what I was talking about!]

Baldacci tells the AP, "I want people to have a great experience and give them a behind-the-scenes look at what I do, the way you would have it on a DVD." Priced at $15.99, a dollar above the starting list price of the regular ebook (which would go to $12.99 after hitting the bestseller list), the enhancements include an alternate ending to the story, deleted passages, an audio interview, video of Baldacci at work, and research photos taken by the author. Thus it will work on ebook platforms that handle video and color, but "Hachette is still working on the enriched version and is unsure of its availability" on eInk screens.

[Hmmm... that's nearly twice as much as the $9.99, but we all know the $9.99 is a bad idea for the overall industry, at least on NEW books that are also released in hardcover, as the likelihood of poaching from regular sales will grow with really large differences between 'e' and regular price--see, I know stuff.]
Baldacci also indicates that, though he received some negative online reader "reviews" last when when the ebook of FIRST FAMILY was selling initially for more than $15, sales followed the general increase in the market: "I just saw the royalty statements for 'First Family,' and sales for the e-book were up 400 percent over the e-book of my previous novels. It was a very vocal minority that was upset and at the end of the day it didn't have any impact."
[Yeah, but in this case, he doesn't know how much he MIGHT have sold had it gone for say, $12.99—I am all for the ENHANCED above $15, but I'm thinking it may be too much for plain old book e-version—except those really long ones... I figure about HALF seems right for a book that has no hard copy—doesn't that seem right? That half would be for the story and half for the physical thing? Maybe it's just me. The innovation though, that's another story...]

In an online interview with Charlotte Abbott on Friday, Young and HBG svp of digital Maja Thomas indicated that the company is working with many of their biggest authors--including Stephenie Meyer, [I want to see a Meyer book with the opportunity for readers to improve her writing *cough*] James Patterson [and a Patterson where the reader gets paid to write their OWN Patterson book!], Michael Connelly, Brad Meltzer and others--on a variety of experimental enhanced ebooks. Thomas noted "some of it is platform-specific, and some of it is platform agnostic," adding, "we'll have to see in the next few months how much the consumer loves what we have done." Calling it "a very exiting and dynamic time," [can I get a BOY HOWDY! --it is exciting, really.]  Young emphasized the importance of now "having direct feedback from our readers," adding that "boy, do we hear from them."

In the interview, they also said that the company has digitized and made available as ebooks 90 percent of the books on their list that lend themselves to current electronic formats. When it come to electronic rights and royalties, Young said "we certainly have one or two issues around that [ya think?], but it is literally a handful of authors where we are still having to negotiate those rights with agents." He also noted that "some of our authors do not want to appear in this format, and that's absolutely their prerogative." For more quotes and reflections from the interview, Mike Shatzkin writes about it on his blog.

So I thought maybe what WE could do today (that being a royal we, initially, because looking around my basement, I don't see any of you BUT, once I've done my thing, PLEASE ADD!) is BRAINSTORM some things that might be done with this.

I am not a big fan of deleted scenes EXCEPT in the case where the original book was too LONG and scenes were only cut to get under a certain page count. (y'all know this detail makes me just a little hostile, yes?)


'Skip the Sappy Shit' Version

Now I've heard complaints (mostly indirectly) that men don't like all that relationship garbage. Maybe there is a handy version of the book that excludes all that (or summarizes it: “Dave thought Juanita was pretty hot,” instead of getting into the development of the relationship)--push an option, and voila!  Book is now free of all that pesky crap.

Sex it Up, Please (ET, I'm talking to you)

Likewise, a 'more graphic' or 'less graphic' sexual preference could be selected (though you know our teens would be sneaking in to read the graphic one, right? However, I think graphic sex via books is preferable to graphic sex via the magazines between the mattress and box springs—yeah, I know they're there. I learned about sex from reading “Summer of '42” after all, and hold an 'anything that makes them read more is good' attitude.)  But right now, romance and erotica are solidly separate categories, when in reality, there is PLENTY of room for overlap.  I think there is an opportunity, particularly for erotica authors, to reach an audience they currently don't.  That probably sounds biased, but I think it's easier to program deletions than write new stuff that isn't in the normal reportoire. 

Take Me There!

Links to images of places mentioned, inspiration behind ideas, the authors image of what the characters look like?  There is a ton of room to add visual links or historic information (sheesh, how much easier is the footnote process.  The last fiction book I read with footnotes was Dracula (the Bram Stoker version) and the notes really help, but interupt flow--how fabulous to have it be OPTIONAL in the full sense of it.  And MAPS!!!!!  I get all excited about maps.  I know it's a strange fetish, but I adore them.  When books have maps at the front I am CONSTANTLY returning to the map.  How fabulous to be able to have a dozen little maps embedded, especially in fantasy--there could even be a dot to note where the character WAS at the moment that moved, depending on what page you'd come from.


Pick Your Ending?  How about Expanding that Decision Making?

This was my original idea on the matter. I love the idea that readers might be able to make decisions—thrillers, especially: do you trust that guy, or not? Do you get in the car, or not? Do you run or fight? But I think there is HUGE potential in say... women's fiction: so many of these stories pivot on decisions, and I love the idea as both writer and reader of being able to explore BOTH directions--in fact one of my partially plotted, a few scenes written books begins memoirish but sends the MC into a coma where she LIVES the other branches of choices she'd made, but with full knowledge of it being DIFFERENT.

I also wrote two separate endings for my FIRST EVER 'novel' (a Harry Potter story about Eileen Snape), though mostly that was reader pressure--they'd fallen in love with my characters and couldn't stand that I was so rotten to them. (actually they said they loved it, but begged for the happy one, too)

So what do you think?  Any Innovations YOU can see that need exploring?  Do you have any plans for them in your own writing?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Parental Spanking

And not even for ME this time (even though I try to earn them with some regularity). This is an open letter to the parents and teachers of today.


Hey Fellow Parents, Esteemed Teachers:

Y'all are insane! I don't think it bodes well for our future. Let me e'splain...

SIX SUSPENDED AT MIDDLE SCHOOL FOR PINCHING: St. Patrick's Day goes awry in middle school madness!

You think I'm kidding, don't you? If my older child, the drama queen, had come home with this story, we might have questioned it. She is prone to exaggeration, and I think she truly edits events as they happen, so she remembers them the way she would have LIKED them to be (read:  DRAMATIC er... and not her fault). My son though, is a more reliable witness, so I believe him.


He is a newly budding fashionista and pays attention to things that drive my husband crazy. He's got that crazy longish hair swept way to the side so he has to hold his head tilted. He wears fragrance. All those signs he is becoming aware of GIRLS. (aware nothing, report is, he HAS a girlfriend, though at 11, I think it is pretty mild)

Night before last he asked for some help finding a green shirt. This University of Oregon grad was ashamed he didn't have a UO shirt to call on, but there we have it. We finally found a gray shirt with green stripes and called it good. What this makes me THINK however, is that among the sixth grade set, there had been some discussion, nay... anticipation... as to what happens to kids who don't wear green.

You got it. They get PINCHED. They had been anticipating standard middle school silliness, probably for a week. Now I don't know the origin of this tradition, but it's been happening for eons—well before I was in school. So why the kerfuffle?

The only reasons I can think of are:

1)  Sexual Harassment: I can see this taking a butt pinching vent and I know there is a no tolerance on sexual harassment that has been taken WAY too far. A friend of mine saw a grade school girl suspended for hugging a boy because he was holding a stuffed animal she was enamored with. My thought on this? SINGLE EVENT HARASSMENT MAKES NOT (Sorry, my Yodaish is rusty). Harassment, by definition GOES ON. That doesn't mean tolerance for inappropriate behavior, but it really DOES mean you get a warning first. And I think this pinching thing could ONLY be considered sexual harassment if it IS done in a sexual way--which I don't know that it was, but to be fair, I don't know that it wasn't.

2)  Escalation: Maybe one person pinches, another pinches back, the 2nd pinchee gets mad because they are wearing green and shouldn't have been pinched.... builds up to a fight. I can see it. Boys aren't going to pinch boys, I don't think, but there are some tough girls who might get into this cycle. Bad idea. I get it. Slippery slope, so a blanket ban on pinching. STILL, isn't a WARNING adequate?

3)  Serial pinchers: Okay, maybe these kids DID get warned and kept doing it. Then they asked for it, right?


Which leads to my next point.

ARE THESE KIDS STUPID?

How are people getting CAUGHT? Back in the day, we did a lot of this, and I'm sure we were told not to, but I can't remember anyone getting in trouble (at least not more than a 'Lance, keep your hands to yourself.' I can only think of two ways these kids are getting busted like this.

1)  They are DIM and so doing it in front of teachers.

2)  They are being tattled on.


And thus begins my doom of the world saga.


Nation of Wimps

My husband has had this book on our bedside for a long time and I've thumbed through it. For a naked chick who just thinks everyone ought to be nice to each other, it's sort of odd that I agree so strongly with most of the premise.

We have become so protective, so guarding of fragile self esteem, such advocates for equality among all, that we've created a generation that will NEVER take responsibility and can't shrug ANYTHING off. You heard me. By never letting kids fail, by not allowing their peers to chastise them into place, they don't learn what behaviors are inappropriate, they don't learn the difference between minor infractions that peers cope with WITHOUT authority intervention versus serious stuff, and they never think they are in the wrong (unless of course they are trying to correct somebody ELSES bad behavior, when in fact they get in trouble).

Long time readers may have heard me mention issues related to this with my son. My son's peer group (this was 2 years ago) was working NORMALLY (excluding a boy because he always wanted them to play his game and if they didn't he'd go tattle—making stuff up if he had to 'they said my ideas are stupid' when really they said, 'no, we already decided to play this'). My son (the mouthpiece because he was the only one naive enough to not know better) said 'we don't want you to play with us' and got in trouble for bullying. Group decision. MY POINT: That boy SHOULD have been excluded in the short term for tattling—those are kid rules and everyone should follow them unless there is physical danger or a chronic problem. He would have been given a chance again after he learned his lesson—I know these boys—they are NOT mean and rotten. They were peer correcting and got in trouble for it. So that OTHER boy, now in middle school, has no friends because he never learned how to behave, because the no tolerance bullying policy wouldn't allow his peers to train him. [Though admittedly, his chances were low because his mother behaves the same way *cough*]... still, that peer system WORKS. My peers corrected some of MY inherited neuroses...

I don't sound very much like a pacifist at the moment, do I?

I guess though, I am thinking the world is a rough place and we all need a little bit of thickness to our skin. I don't think kids should EVER be allowed to pick on others because of what they ARE (a different race, gender or religion, fat, short, pimply, slow at learning, uncoordinated—even dirty)--those things aren't the kid's fault, but it seems there should be some tolerance for kids to correct other kids BEHAVIOR. ("If you don't stop picking your nose, we won't play with you!") Because eventually, the OTHER kids are going to have a choice who they hang out with... eventually the social time moves away from school.  It is a huge incentive for kids to mature and grow at the same rate as their peers and is absolutely critical to later life where things WON'T be tolerated.

You know what else? Learning to peer correct in an environment where some rules can't be crossed (on a playground) means it is done within boundaries--it doesn't become a fistfight, or one kid at the center of a dozen badgerers. If it ISN'T learned there, people go overboard elsewhere.

So I think these kids haven't learned not to tattle, even though it is the most basic honor code among kids. And I think they haven't had enough behaviors corrected by teachers, so they don't realize one little thing could get them kicked out of school for a few days. They don't self monitor because good behavior has never been enforced, so this little, joking tradition doesn't cross their mind as any worse than things they get away with all the time. I just think we have been rather puritan in how we draw our lines, when in reality, we should be drawing them in ways that make more sense...


The Future of Publishing in this light.

BLEAK. Twenty years from now when these guys are joining the field, I predict they will not have developed the perseverance or thick skin necessary to go through any 'reviewed' process. They may self publish, but I don't even think they will be able to stomach peer review, and their peers will have learned they aren't allowed to be critical, so the quality will be POOR.

I just think it would help the kids, help society and help the future of literature if we reintroduced a little sanity. Establish a tiered system where kids don't get any hard knocks when really small, but that allows some peer correction as they age, then some institutional correction (read: competition--yes, some people have to lose for there to be winners, but losing now and then makes most people work harder) as they get a little older than that. Kids need to LEARN how to push themselves, so this needs to be a SLOPE, not a STEP... right now we expect NOTHING, then suddenly they have to be 100% ready... Everything is either totally okay, or completely unacceptible.

My own world is a little grayer than that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Holiday of Misattribution

I love the Irish. I love the people (though admittedly the ones I know are mostly teenaged boys named Neil—I'm serious), I love their accents *swoon *. I love some of their authors, their Guinness... But this guy named Pat? Not so much. If I were a small, festive country, I think I might have chosen a different holiday to export. Why?


Alcoholidays


Not a problem. My first real exposure to St. Patrick's day was the “Kiss me” stuff, and wearing green or you'd get pinched (a Tart can hardly take issue with an excuse for goosing). And when I was younger, a holiday that was all about drinking was a-okay. El Cinco de Mayo, for instance—pass me the tequilla!

While that's not something I am so into anymore, I can hardly fault people with wanting a break from Lent, which according to [History Undressed] this fabuloulously titled blog, it was—a day during a 40 day fast when people got to have a party and drink a little... okay by me.

So what's my problem?


Misattributing


But the story goes, that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. You know what he actually drove out? Pagans. He was sainted for all his religious conversion. He's an interesting guy, and being stolen into slavery, escaping, and then going back to where he was enslaved is a pretty cool tale, but I just can't get on board with anything that smells of Inquisition. [Even if NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!]

Now I solidly believe this guy believed he was doing the right thing (saving souls, in his mind). And he was SMART (incorporating things like the shamrock into symbolism for the holy trinity--it had previously been sacred to the DRUIDS). But in THIS day and age, I feel like we are obliged to recognize that as manipulation. It's like Christmas falling on December 25 because it was already a Pagan holiday—taking and absorbing the symbols of another culture/religion to 'prove' something ends up killing the original meaning and a piece of cultural history gets lost. NOT OKAY.  Excellent marketing.  BAD behavior.  I would rather remember that.


Tart Recommendation


I'm not saying don't celebrate. I think you should. I'm just saying be mindful of what really went on, and take a minute to acknowledge lives and homes lost by people unwilling to lightly change their beliefs, and to note even those who changed did so under false pretenses--they were misinformed.  Though it is an interesting colorful piece of the past, it is not something we should ever aspire toward in the future.

Instead we should just get naked and practice tolerance of all people in their current cultures--don't try to change them.  Love them for who they are. Because the world is much richer that way.

And while you are at it, why don't you misattribute a couple times today--that seems to be what the day is really about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Under Construction

I've heard this said of Wisconsin, too, so I know we're not alone, but Michigan has only two seasons: Winter and Road Construction. In the last few weeks I've noticed the transition. I live on a small street that never gets much attention, but it feeds onto the main east/west street in Ann Arbor, and right now for probably 15 blocks (including where our street feeds onto it) there is only west bound traffic allowed... you want to go east, you have to take the long way. Seems to me though, road construction provides a very apt metaphor for the writing process.


Original Construction

This is fun stuff. Once the land is bought, the only real problem is the diversion of the water table (read: chores). Other than that, it is just plain cool... one day you have nothing, then the foundations are laid, the structure goes into place, and then it begins to take real form. But for the sake of the metaphor, we have to assume your contractor only gets about half of it right the first time, ne? I mean SURE, it LOOKS good... but the plumbing is shoddy, the wiring needs to be recircuited... it just needs some serious help.


Reconstruction/Repairs

And here we get the the primary temptation that often hinders real progress... patches... You got a major pothole, it is tempting to just fill it in so the cars keep from falling through, yeah? Nobody wants to pay the mechanic, so you gotta do SOMETHING, but something CHEAP? Hey, why not?

HERE is why not... the foundation has been compromised. The structure AROUND it is bad and it is just all going to fall in again anyway.

Now if you are insane (as the Ann Arbor city management apparently is), or if you've built the thing on a swamp and your castle keeps falling in, you could just dig up the whole street and start over. But it seems wiser to me, in most cases, to do a careful analysis of where the weak spots are, how far the problem goes, work your way out to solid ground, and then repair what NEEDS to be repaired.


Case in Point

I've been getting feedback on these cozy chapters I hope to submit next week TO MY AGENT (STILL not getting old) and Leanne made some great suggestions on the first two chapters, which I incorporated, but I talked to her last night, she pointed out that YES, right change, but now it is BUMPY. I need to go in with my steam roller and smooth out the darned thing.

So that's what I've got today... I am working hard at road re-construction...

Tangent: I have my flag counter to the side, as you may have noticed, and I LOVE seeing where people come from. Did you know people from 41 countries have visited this blog? That just tickles me in that way I like. In the last few days I've added Iraq, Taiwan, Indonesia and Puerto Rico—how majorly cool is it to think people find you from all over the world?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides

[And other such Death Threats]

I gotta say, if someone was gunna murder me, I don't think I'd want to know in advance (unless of course there would then be some chance to change the course of events). But in literature, I LOVE the foreshadowing.




Prophecies, Oracles and Tea Leaves

The full on prediction of death tends to be the stuff of fantasy, because lets face it, how often does anything realistic have something like it? My very favorite kind are the prophecies, which by the hearing, cause action, which in turn is what brings it about—had nobody heard, nobody would have acted, and it then would NOT have happened (and nobody would be the wiser, eh?). But whatever seer, teller, or gypsy that passes on the vision, it is a greater power than is actually found among mere mortals (at least none of my friends can do it, though I know a few Tarot readers).


The More Subtle Variety

Literature symbolism is something that I always love, but generally need somebody with a Literature degree to point out for me: ohhh, the crows on his front lawn means death is coming to his house! Seriously? What do the crows that congregate across the street from me mean? *shivers * There are a thousand things that happen that somebody would tell you foreshadow death, and I'd bet some portion were even done on purpose by the author *cough*. I'm being facetious, because I've had very clever foreshadowing attributions made on my work when I didn't do it on purpose, and I think it can be tempting to misattribute something that was just a detail—not real foreshadowing. And what about the 999 foreshadowing events that AREN'T there? Is there a point lack of foreshadowing means somebody is safe? (I thought not).

I guess what I'm saying, is while I like this, I probably don't have the background to DO much of it, and it is sort of an effort lost on me anyway.


An In Between

What I CAN spot, and may even be able to DO is a little more 'run of the mill' foreshadowing. I can ALSO spot when it is NOT there and point at the 'deus ex machina' as poor writing *cough*Twilight*cough*. Coming out of left field, in the case of Myer, quite literally, with something that had no lead in or foreshadowing is just plain sloppy. How might she have handled it better? Whispered ghost stories among friends that oh... INCLUDE the baseball crap? Or about the dueling tribes (or whatever they are) of vampires—a whispered warning that certain perfumes cause all the supernatural creatures to be drawn to the same freaking girl?

A little foreshadowing could have salvaged that story—made what is stupidly INCREDIBLE into something a person can suspend their disbelief on.



So What Does it Mean for Us?

Two options.

1)  Plan ahead and know where you are going—if you want to only know vaguely? Fine. If you want two or three possible endings? Fine. But if you just write linearly, you have to have some idea, or the hints won't be there.

2)  Or commit to editing in the hints. ReWriting is going to happen anyway—so just plan on putting in a few scenes that give some clue as to later stuff. That way the reader can be an interactive partner, rather than a passive monkey being led by the nostrils. (hows that image for a Monday morning?)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Plateau Pretender

The weight is up a little, and it is extremely tempting to remember early Weight Watchers meetings and the warning about plateaus. This was a thousand years ago, and maybe they don't do it anymore, but I swear I am not claiming these 'set weights' where a body is comfortable, and where it is very hard to suddenly break through some glass floor to a lower weight don't exist. I suspect they DO. But since my very first round of Weight Watchers, I've only experienced the phenomenon when I REALLY WAS doing everything I was supposed to twice.

It's time for a reality check. Besides, I can hardly call these confessions without... you know... confessing.

My weight is up this week—2 pounds—undoing the last two weeks worth of losses because it was ALREADY going slow. But I KNOW what happened.

I only ate within points two of seven days and last night (the eve before weigh in) I had POTATO CHIPS—I have been hungry, crabby, and craving bad food. It's time for a little self analysis. (and it isn't some brand new thing—the last two weeks I've been doing a somewhat half-assed) Without a little psycho-analysis, I can't change this.


Pity Party


I gotta be honest. I'm feeling a little sorry for myself. My day job (as happens every year at this time, by the way) has gotten REALLY BUSY. There is not time in a regular work day to finish everything—COULD. NOT. HAPPEN. In a past life, I would resign myself to give up a Saturday—maybe even a whole weekend or two, to just get caught up and call it good. It would make life so much easier.

But you see, I'm writing a book (make that, another book)... I am no longer willing to work overtime except under HARD deadline, and these are soft deadlines—just too large a stack—not something I'm actually late with.

In addition to making me feel sorry for myself, it also brings me HOME wanting 1) a drink or three 2) satisfaction (not so willing to be a little hungry when I've had such a crazy day).

The HOME has its own layer of stress-- my daughter's schedule has been NUTS (two sports and driver's ed on top of homework, school, etc.), my husband and his whole quit smoking thing (successful thus far) has a shorter fuse, so is less patient with my neglect of the HOUSE—I know, I know—shouldn't neglect it, but it is what falls off when I am deeply engaged in so much else).


So How Can I Succeed Anyway?

The work pile is not going away, not until after my May meeting, possibly not until after my August meeting (the first in Baltimore, the second in Montreal, if anyone is conveniently located)... We are presenting at both and so there is a lot of prep required on top of the day job. So the stress reduction is an impossibility. I can think of two things I think I need to add.


Amp the exercise

I think an increase in intensity may be called for—the reason? Endorphins and stress, oddly enough. I currently exercise a respectable amount, but I know for a fact, if I was running instead, there is a carryover from that. May very well help matters.


Make it Easy

I plan to make black beans tomorrow so I can have my 'in a pot, filling, low point' lunch option. If I'm going to be 'unable to help myself' in some fashion in the evening, then ensuring my daytime points are on the low side, means I can make sure my totals are within range so I don't get discouraged. Because getting discouraged is when I quit.



A Little History Reminder

Since I started this job, EVERY YEAR I have started a diet in January with varying success. This year is the best I've done (nearly 30 pounds so far) but this is the time of year I ALWAYS fall down. I REALLY NEED this due diligence to be effective—hopefully the blog will help (always helps to be accountable), hopefully the momentum will help. But it's time...


We only succeed when we dig in and face our obstacles head on, yes? So here goes nothin'...