Monday, December 19, 2011


I used to hate this word. In the academic world, at least to college teachers, it means an examination of what we do to see how effectively (or ineffectively) it furthers a student's learning and development. And it's hard to gauge, complicated, and sometimes makes us a bit defensive. (What do you mean my students knew less at the end of the semester than at the beginning?)

With a short article from Writer's Digest, however, I have realized that it's way past time for a self-assessment of my writing habits. WAY past time. I've known so many writers who have very particular habits--a certain place to write, certain snacks, the best time of the day to write, etc.

My habits have always been pretty specific, too:

1. I write reclined in my wingback chair, laptop on my, well, lap.
2. I tackle a short online game before I start writing, to clear my head.
3. I write only during the day, not in the evening (unless I'm up at 2 a.m.).
4. I sit on my books for months, working on other projects until I finally get back to them.
5. I work on only one project at a time.
6. I put my writing last, after dishes, laundry, cleaning out the cat box, decorating for Christmas, cooking dinner--okay, pretty much everything. (I'm a bit like Cinderella, telling myself I can write IF I get all my work done, and IF I find a suitable dress to wear...)

So, what's wrong with all this, besides the obvious travesty in #6?

It isn't that anything is wrong. But the WD article suggested looking at my habits carefully to see how well they work, honing those I want to keep, and tossing or changing the ones that inhibit my productivity. And since I'm planning on signing up to be a school substitute in January, I have some definite reassessing to do.

Here are the questions I need to ask myself before then:

1. Is reclining the best way to tackle this? What about sitting at my writing desk, or even standing (it's better for circulation, and I've done it a little recently, with good results). Don't my legs start cramping if I write more than an hour at a time? Might another position help me be more productive AND healthier?

2. How much does online gaming get in the way of writing? Should I restrict my games to the fast ones? Doesn't Dragon Mahjong, for instance, sometimes delay me for half an hour, since I want to play until I actually win a game? How much time every day do I waste on this crap?

3. WHY do I only write during the day? So that I can stare at the football my husband is watching? Is television ever worth it, besides Grimm and Once Upon a Time? I already know the answer to this. I find most television mind-numbing or outright irritating... so why not write while the hubby is getting his TV fix? What is it I'm sacrificing my time for?

4. How effective is it to sit on my books for so long? What's the ideal time for stepping back to gain perspective? This one might be the most effective habit for me as it stands, actually. I reread my Death By Chocolate story, attempting to revise it, but it seems as if 1 1/2 months is not enough time for me to gain perspective. I added some detail, yes, but I didn't make the substantial changes to it that are probably needed. Lucy (hopefully) will see the holes and be honest enough to slash through them without mercy. I find that time is absolutely necessary for me, or I end up with three revisions of a work that don't even add up to a good edit. I know most writers are different from me in this, but it doesn't matter. I have to make sure that what I do works best for me.

5. I am too scatter-brained to work on two novels simultaneously, but my gut feeling with this work-on-only-one-project-at-a-time mentality isn't helping me be productive. I so want to finish a project that I slog through it even when it's utter crap, when it might serve me better to switch to something that could work better. Then again, I know two many friends who have five unfinished novels. This one might just have to stay as is. I have to think it through--perhaps try out a new habit or two--and experiment to see what works best.

6. Putting my writing at the bottom of my TO-DO list absolutely must change. Self-sacrifice cuts into my creativity more than everything else, and I need to at least fit in writing a little bit every single day. I've had "rewrite query" on my TO-DO list for two weeks now, and I know that today it won't happen. Will it happen tomorrow? I need to figure out why I believe my writing activity is not worth my time, and I need to find a way to show myself that it isn't a waste, that it deserves my devotion (and I deserve the time to write).

Wow, this entry turned out really long, and it probably bored the snot out of you, but if I can put these questions to myself, I might end up with a more productive 2012 than I would have otherwise... and maybe I'll be on a truer path to establishing my career as a writer.

So, what about all of you? Any habits you have that need a bit of assessment?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sitting on the Back Burner

How many burners does your stovetop have? Four? Five? Ten? Does it have one of those warming ones, a place where you can't boil water, but you can keep something edible for a while?

My physical stovetop only has four (though I used to have five), but I feel as if my own personal stovetop has about fifty of them--or perhaps I have some casseroles in the oven, as well, all baking at different levels of completion.

Ever burn anything on that stovetop? It's a bit easier to do if you have all your burners going full blast, but a bit of maintenance can let you know something's about to boil over, and you can turn down the heat or turn it off completely. I do find, though, that it's hard to make everything cook at the same time without turning something to charcoal or forgetting to turn on a burner at all.

This is where I stand right now. After the rush of NaNoWriMo, I've been shuffling around different projects, including actually finishing the novel I set out to write in November. That rough draft is now done, but I have several shorter things screaming at me, and I find this blog and my other have been neglected because of my time on writing and art projects and on holiday obligations apart from my writing (including a birthday party for my daughter, about ten holiday parties, a children's musical I just finished directing, Zumba classes, end of school activities for my kids, presents, stockings, baking, cleaning, do I actually need to go on with all the other items, or do you see what I mean already?).

In fact, these poor blogs haven't been on the back burner. They've been set on the countertop for days, and now they're growing that creepy white mold in fuzzy spots. Inedible. I need to toss out the crap inside and start over.

That is precisely what I intend to do. I'll be posting soon to let all of you know my plans. My Not Writing blog will be dealing with writing, marketing, evil voices, etc., but I will be working on a more consistent post schedule for it (to go with a more consistent marketing and writing schedule) and my Creative Arts Anonymous blog will be revamped to include far more of the creative arts, from painting to music to theatre. I might even throw in a bit of cooking and other artistic pursuits.

I hope you stay tuned. I'll be back here before you know it, once I've dumped out that moldy mess, washed and sanitized the pans, polished them until they are shiny, and placed them on the burners again. Hopefully I'll remember to stir them enough so that nothing burns on the bottom!

In the meantime, how are your recipes going? Any dish get finished? Did it taste good? Burn anything? Got some mold growing in your pans? I'd love to feel I'm not alone in this... but I think this feeling's pretty common for this time of year. While I'm planning, if you have any suggestions, feel free to post them.

More soon, I promise!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Other People's Opinions

Imagine this: You go to your closet, and instead of your regular clothing, the most fantastic clothing ever awaits you. For me, it would be some authentic period costume--probably post-Restoration England--the male or female dress--both are beautiful to me... something sumptuous, something you've always thought of wearing. Please don't imagine my costume, since most of you won't find it particularly appealing. Besides, it's my costume, not yours!

You put it on. You feel fantastic, newly made, as if suddenly the real you is pulled out into the open, shimmering in a way you normally don't.

Now imagine you are at a huge party, surrounded by people you know--ordinary people you know, wearing ordinary clothing, not the kind of stuff on your own body. You stand out immediately. They stare. Their eyebrows wrinkle up a bit. They lean in towards each other, mumbling words of suspicion, questions, comments like, "Why is he/she wearing that?"

It's similar to the dreams most of us have had of being in public either in pajamas or in the buff. And most of us find it disconcerting at least--or downright mortifying. But is it? What is it that makes us respond so negatively to this situation?

It's the physical representation of what most of us fear every single day: that people will see the truth of who we are and will judge us for it. We each remember moments in our lives when people have judged us. I've been called all sorts of things, and even though many of the names given to me over the years revealed far more about the people who judged me, I still find I hold onto these judgments as if they are valid. But why?

Because I fear something else: that my own view of myself is so skewed that these people are more right than I am. How have I prevented testing this theory? How have I managed to hold onto my own opinion? By hiding. If I don't show my true self--if I don't put on the costume that really suits me and sport it in front of everyone--no one will be able to know the real me, or judge me for it.

But I have come to realize that when I hide, I tell myself to be ashamed of who I am. I devalue myself, not because other people devalue me, but because I assume they will. I don't even try to show who I am, so certain (or fearful) am I that who I really am isn't worth anything but a good scoffing.

Imagine this scenario instead. You are dressed as who you truly are, with your own personal shimmer now physically undeniable, and as people surround you, they do talk, they do lean in towards each other to ask questions, but then they move toward you, eyes teary, their lips soft and smiling. "Where did you find that fantastic outfit?" one finally asks.

"I made it myself," you answer.

And it's true. All these years, you have been working on this costume of yours--it fits you like a glove, shows off your best features, and emphasizes the who you are in beautiful asymmetry. Okay, so a few of the seams aren't perfect, and the trim is a little goofy on one sleeve. So what? It's still cool, and it's still you.

So, why not wear it? Why hide the garment in your closet? What good will it do hidden? Sure, you can open the door and stare at it happily once in a while, but that's it.

Go on, then. You know what to do. Stop hiding. Put it on. No more fear.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I won! I won! I WON!!!

It went down to the wire... as suspenseful as my novel (at least I hope my novel is this suspenseful)... but I did it! I won! I reached 50,000 words in a month!

Woo hoo! Yippee! Hurray! OMG, I am so happy!

Hope your November was as (ultimately) productive! And here's looking forward to December!

Now to finish the novel...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Best Laid Plans... or... I HATE WAITING

I tend to be VERY easy going. It's the Piscean in me, willing to flow along with what everyone is doing, as long as it's not attending a live football game with a bunch of rabid football fans. Okay, so I've been to my share of live football games with rabid fans, too.

I do, however, make plans, and even with my easygoing nature, a falter in plans often makes me irritated. I had planned a trip to a museum in Tallahassee for weeks--and it was to happen today. My kids were out of school, I wasn't teaching a zumba class anywhere, and the Titanic exhibit was still there. We'd have breakfast, take off for the museum district, and have a grand time.

Only it didn't work out. First, my poor kitty has a swelled lip--I'm not sure the cause, nor is the vet, but he's given us antibiotics to treat it, and now kitty should be fine. But it also means I spent the morning at the vet. I also had to call animal control, for when I looked up in the attic for the cat carrier, I instead found a glowing pair of eyes waiting for me. That took up the rest of the morning... and we still haven't found what was up there.

My poor kitty has been battling fleas, too--so I called my bug service. The only time they can come in and do a flea treatment? Today, in the early afternoon. I still held out hope, though. If they came right at one, we could leave shortly afterwards... and we'd still have a good 2 1/2 hours to explore the museum before it closed.

Only the pest control still hasn't come.

So now I wait, NOT going to this museum, NOT getting anything done that I actually WISH to do. (Okay, so I do like blogging... but it's not the same thing, not today). My kids are trying to make the best of it, but they are also disappointed. And not I'm in the last minute of the hour range the pest control person is supposed to arrive... but no one has come. I'll have to call again and see why they aren't here. And if they can't come, the hubby will have to spend another night picking the cat's fleas off his own ankles.

The next time I can go will be winter break--but Titanic will be long gone. I am utterly devastated thinking about it.

What should I do now? What do you do when your plans are thwarted?

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo Lesson #1: Stats Induce Panic

Free Digital

So far, the writing for NaNoWriMo is going very well. I've managed at least 2,000 words per day (beginning on the 6th, when I was finally able to begin work), and I'm meeting my personal goals for this.

Even better, I really like my story. The main character is fervent, passionate, and rebellious--all things I am on the inside, even if they exhibit themselves very little on the outside. And her love interest, well, he's blisteringly handsome and as passionate about his purpose in life as she is. Did I tell you she was a mermaid? And he was a British ship's captain? And that all of this was occurring in the Caribbean during the mid-1830's? Yup, costumes, fighting, underwater stuff--it's all there.

Each day, as I finish the necessary 2,000+ words, I enter my new number diligently in the NaNoWriMo website. And there is my problem. I click on my Novel Stats, and there I get a glimpse of my progress through their meters. Sure, I'm doing fine, but the meters don't take into account my late start. After the first day or so, I was projected to finish the novel on February 14th. February 14th!! Aack!

Of course, the day after that took it to January something... and now I'm supposed to finish on December 6. And my little chart shows my word count slowly moving up to meet the line of expectation. I know, logically, why I haven't met it yet. I do. I swear I do.

I just can't quell the gut check I feel every time I see I'm not there yet, that panicky lurch in my stomach when I realize it's HALFWAY THROUGH NOVEMBER and I'M NOT HALFWAY THROUGH MY BOOK! EEK!

Why are my expectations so unreasonable?

Then again, I noticed my Municipal Liaison (the person who helps coordinate all us Georgia people who don't fit into any metropolitan area) has already written OVER 50,000 words. I congratulated him, and he replied, "I just need to finish the darn story now! That's my trouble every year."Even the successful ones--who have reached 50,000 words before the midpoint of the month, mind you--seem to expect more out of themselves.

Perhaps that's not so bad. I still ADORE writing the book. Sometimes it's been tricky fitting it into my day of chores (Damn you, laundry! Dishes again?), but I'd rather write on my novel than do pretty much anything else (Zumba excepted). And lofty goals help--without them, I wouldn't have a single novel written.

What about you? Goals? Expectations? Or do you just fly by the seat of your pants, living in the moment?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Even Numbers

I must just hate the traditional 1,667 words per day that come up for NaNoWriMo, for I've put off writing the novel for five days just so that I can finish this other short story.

But it's done, just in time for my daily word count (to be a winner) to add up to an even 2,000 words per day.

Thank God. If there's a number I hate, it's 1,667.

Now I'm off to outline, without having an unfinished short story hanging over my head.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Three Cups... A Review

My kids started earning an allowance a few years ago, and at the time I tried to have them set some money aside for savings. I didn't know what I was doing, and I've made some modifications since then, but I'm likely to modify further now that I've read Tony Townsley's Three Cups, a book I received for free from the publisher.

It's a children's book, meant to be read to children (or for children to read on their own, I suppose), but what the book does is begin the conversation about what we should do with our money. Kids with new sources of "income" will be eager to spend every last penny of what they get, and if that's what they do, they will continue that pattern for the rest of their lives. This book sets up the groundwork for doing more with what one has, in a simple, tangible way, by putting the money into three cups, and not just one.

The cover's simplicity gives away the system (this was from the Amazon webpage):

Three Cups

When children get their allowance, they divide their earnings into three cups. They give some money away (charity, church, good causes), save some, and then spend the rest (or collect more in their spend cups so that they can save up for something bigger and more expensive). It's simple, yes, but the strength of the book is that it isn't bossy at all. It doesn't dictate a particular percentage go in any given cup (that's presumably for parents to decide), but what it does do is show the positive effects brought about by each cup. Saving means that the children have some security in the future (adults could learn from this), giving money to causes makes other less fortunate people happy (and makes us feel warm inside), and earning money to spend also brings joy. 

It's almost too bad we don't have an equivalent book for adults... but if we read it to our kids, perhaps we can learn from it, as well. In any case, it's time for me to dig through my cups and find the six I will use on my two children... to encourage good habits at an early age. 

What are your spending habits, readers? Do you do all three? I don't do enough of the giving and saving... but that can change.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Warning: I'm About to be Very Lame

NaNoWriMo is imminent. Yup, in just a day and a half I'm disappearing off the blogosphere.

You might wonder, in a few weeks, if I've disappeared off the face of the planet. Or died.

I haven't. Do not worry. I'm going to have to ignore most of you, though, for I know if I have an hour to check blogs and make comments, I need to use that precious hour to make my word count for the day. I only managed half my goal last year, so I really want to make it this time.

So, adieu for now. Love you all, really, but I'll probably be MIA until I put my tree up for Christmas. If I post, it will likely be a NaNo poem, rapidly written and brief. I've even written a poetic lament for it on my Not Writing blog

If YOU are participating this year, though, please let me know in the comments. Tell me your name through the NaNoWriMo website, and I'll buddy you! I'm Shakespeare824, and right now I only have two buddies, so I could use a few more.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Go Big

No need to fear
What others think
Others do not matter

When goosebumps cover
The skin on your arms
And a shiver runs down your back
And the hair on your neck
You know you are alive

Be alive
Not afraid
And you will pave the way for others.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Blog--Death By Chocolate

The Anthology 

I can't believe I've posted on yet another blog. If I keep doing this I'll end up with seventy-five by Christmas. A bunch of fellow writers and I are creating an anthology entitled Death by Chocolate, so we've started a blog for it. Feel free to check it out!

Today I posted all about titles... especially about how horrifying my own titles are (and I don't mean horrifying in the sense that they fit the slasher film genre I write in... more like they are so AWFUL I wonder whether I'm a writer at all).

Feel free to visit and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Courtesy of Free Extras

The little pig had it right.

I dare you to try it. While you're stuck in traffic, or doing laundry, or washing toilets, or sitting in front of a towering IN-box at work, just do it. Say, "Weeeeee!" Say it again. If your kids are still sleeping (as mine are), you might not want to say it just yet. If you're in a staff meeting, you might also consider waiting until you get out. Someone might think you've lost your senses.

But try it. Go ahead. I swear, it works. I do it running errands, on the way to take my kids to school, during the most mundane of tasks (anyone for cleaning out the litter box?). The transformation is immediate and undeniable. My whole attitude shifts, and what was just a crappy chore becomes something far more tolerable (even fun). Suddenly the drive to school becomes a roller coaster ride. Cleaning out the fridge becomes an epic adventure (the exclamation sounds weird refracting off fridge walls). Reading a boring book becomes more interesting.

Don't believe me? Try it. I dare you. I double dare you. I double dog dare you with sugar and a cherry on top! (Is that how you say it? I've never double dog dared anybody before.)

Anyway, TRY it. Think of it as my counterpart to Whitman's "barbaric yawp." And once you've actually tried it (don't just be critical without giving it a shot), let me know what it did.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Capacity for Stupid

The idealist in me would love to believe humans are high up in the intelligence chain. I'd love to see the world as enlightened, see our journey through life as one where we start out perceptive as children and learn so much as adults that we see the world truly by the time we meet our end.

My fiction--both the stuff I write and the stuff I love to read--is infused with this hope, that people can learn from mistakes, rise above their limitations, discover the world is more complex than they once believed, grow, and even teach each other so that the world as a whole is a better, more intelligent place.

But then, with a shock, I come back to reality. Honestly, all I need is a few sound bites from political candidates or potential voters, religious zealots or raving lunatics, who all seem to love news cameras, to realize that all people are not on the journey towards enlightenment.

Unfortunately, it gets worse and hits me closer to home. I woke this morning to find my children watching Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred and I cannot help but wonder who my children will be as adults. Right now, it seems their capacity for stupid things is unquenchable. They adored the first Fred movie. ADORED it. I found it so stupid it was unwatchable. And they loved it.

Will their capacity for stupid increase? Will they become one of the willfully ignorant, spewing utter nonsense because they have lost the ability to reason? Or will they grow out of their delight in the ridiculous and find logic a better companion? Will they ever be able to evaluate the world properly, or will they wallow in the inane? Certainly, most adult programming on television serves the tastes for stupid. Watch most reality TV and you'll see stupidity at work in nearly all of it. It's almost enough to lose hope.

All I can do is look back to my own childhood. With humility, I remind myself how addicted my siblings and I were to "Popeye" cartoons, and "Scooby-Doo," and "Smurfs." Somehow I turned out fine. I'm not sure how it happened, but it did, and I can only hope and pray that my children make the same leap, fulfilling my hopes for a world where at least some people can move beyond the stupid and embrace the intelligent.

What did you love as kids? Am I panicking over nothing? Are my children doomed? (Okay, don't answer that last question... since it's none of your business.) Really, what do you think?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poem for Autumn

The sun too dim
Rising too late in the morning
To warm our skin anymore

Picks up our hair
Whipping it against our cheeks
Freezing into our ears
Tossing leaves
Into a hiss

Is it all over?
Will we ever feel the heat of the world again?


But now is the time
To glow
To burn with our own fire
No longer depend on the earth to warm us
But to warm the earth

To let the heat within
To warm the world for others
Who too much feel the cold.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Queries have been SENT!!!

Hurray! After much nail biting, query (and novel) revising, and sleepless nights, I have finally sent off my first sent of queries to agents.

Why is taking that step so difficult?

Any insight, readers?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Breaking Out the Old To-Do List

It's time.

Time to stop procrastinating over editing this stupid query letter and get to it.

Time to finish all the prep for Halloween, so that all is ready.

Time to make a list for the weekend, one that I'll stick to:

1. Revise Query Letter 
2. Cut out and make my daughter's costume for Halloween (Almost done)
3. Find gift for a 1-year-old, and attend her party 
4. Practice new Zumba routines
5. Attend church
6. Finish cleaning house and sweep and vacuum 
7. Draft children's story about crayon.
8. Draft death by chocolate story.
9. Sketch scene for cover art (to be painted next week).
10. Write and revise one-page synopsis for agent queries.

That's it. I think it's the shortest list I've ever had for a weekend. Not daunting at all. Highly manageable. I've made the list, and now I have to hold myself to it.

Now to get to it. First thing tomorrow. I don't do evenings.

Put it off 
Until your head has rested
Only after dreams 
Have sifted through your 
Sleeping mind

Only then will 
All the world
To meet your 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood--The BEST Titles

A good title can make or break a good book. Hell, I bet a good title can get even an awful book sold. Gone are the days when it's customary to use just a person's name as a title--like David Copperfield, Silas Marner, or Tom Jones (all great books, by the way). Then again, a well-known name can make a difference, such as with Davinci Code, and many books sell just because of the author's name. 

But when a great title is joined to a great book cover (something that wasn't possible until the 20th century), then magic happens. Even better when that great book cover--title and all--goes with a really, really good book. Check this cover and title out:

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1)

This is not required review, either. I won this book on a blogsite, and the author sent it to me herself with no strings attached, but I wish I'd paid for it. In fact, I might just be buying some more copies of it to give people for Christmas. The title is both poetic and creepy, and the cover! Wow, if I could only have a cover that good for my novel when it's published. It's embossed, too, so I spent the first hour just rubbing all over it gleefully (something one cannot do with an e-book, I'm afraid), goosebumps rising on my arms in anticipation. I kept thinking, if the book inside is even half as good as the cover, I'm going to enjoy this! 

I shouldn't have set myself up for disappointment, I know. But I couldn't help it, with such a cover. I opened the book with fear, ready to be devastated by a poor plot, bad writing, or lame characters. 

What did I find? An ORIGINAL premise (and when does that ever happen?), fascinating characters, and a great plot. I read like a teenager obsessed, staying up late as if I had the fifth book of the Harry Potter series in my sweaty hands, and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, as soon as I'm finished reading my current book, I'm reading it again. Can't tell you the last time that has happened. 

Great book. Great title. Great cover. If you like upper YA literature and paranormal events, this book's for you. There's a bit of language and a bit more violence, but I'd probably still let my daughter read it when she's fifteen. In fact, I might just get her a copy now in hardback, so that in a few years she can rub all over the embossed cover and thoroughly enjoy the experience of reading a good book.

Now to work on my own titles... and start planning a cover! Ah, the goosebumps!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm a Writer

My daughter was drawing--as she ALWAYS is, whenever I'm not on her case to do her homework, clean her room, or practice her flute--and my son wandered over to share her art supplies and do a bit of his own.

"I love to draw," she said. Then, eager to one-up my son, she said, "You don't love to draw, though. You're not an artist like me."

My son didn't correct her. He said, casually, "No, that's because I'm a writer."

I was stunned. Here he was, seven year of age, and he already felt he could call himself a writer.

I'm 41, yet even though I've published a doctorate and a book of ghost stories, have had a handful of my own plays performed, and have worked on writing nearly my entire life, I still have great difficulty calling myself a writer.

But this is the end of it. No more. My mantra is final: I am a writer.

I'm a writer. I write. I go a bit nutty when I don't write. I LOVE writing.

I've been working hard on writing lately, too. I completed my list of agents for The Ghost Portal, and I'm days away from beginning my revision of my third novel. I've read through two fellow writers' novels over that last week, I've planned out a children's book, and I'm waffling between participating in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo--though I'm leaning towards doing BOTH.

Why? Because I'm a writer. I'm a writer, I'm a writer, I'm a writer.

I'm a writer. A real, bona fide writer. How about you?

Monday, October 3, 2011


Ever notice how nothing pretty ever happens in the future? Robots take over the world. Some disease wipes out everybody--or maybe World War III does it, or an asteroid, or a bunch of trash, or too much shopping--as if all the ills of the world as we know it now are multiplied in their use and extremity until we're either mostly destroyed or living lives of desperation.

Yet so many novels seem to look forward to this time, too. Armageddon. The surreal point in time when all the stuff from Revelations--stuff that can be only cryptically analyzed, at best--starts falling into place, showing us that THE END IS NEAR.

We've got another one of those dates coming up. But a whole league of novels have sought to depict the end of days, some with more clarity and success than others.

I can't say I'm a fan of this kind of books, in general. I love books with a spiritual or religious element--I was a big fan of Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments as a child, and I still gravitate to mythic literature--but I've found it difficult to accept the plausibility of most fictional works depicting the apocalypse. Am I a skeptic? Probably.

When I received my copy of Lis Wiehl's Waking Hours in the mail--for free, from Thomas Nelson publishers--I actually didn't know what to expect. I am not a typical thriller reader, but I love the paranormal, and mysteries often captivate me. The book was certainly exciting to read. Good characters--especially Dani and Tommy, who were both complex and sympathetic--interesting events, a chilling murder and a bunch of suspects, and I finished it at record speed. I literally kept talking myself into reading the next chapter, for the chapter breaks usually held enough suspense that I didn't want to stop.

Some of the paranormal elements were truly creepy, too. And I've researched creepy stuff before, but a few events really chilled me. Medieval literature has several of the elements Wiehl uses, adding to the authenticity, and the way some of the plot elements were discovered made them even creepier. It was a good read, a really good read.

Only the apocryphal bent to it--one that will be fleshed out further in the two future books of the East Salem Trilogy--didn't quite work for me. Perhaps it's my own skepticism, but so many things can be used at any point in history to point to Armageddon that I had a hard time seeing some of these events as unique. The Christian emphasis worked better, and yet even for readers who aren't particularly religious, these elements are not too obtrusive to be distracting. Overall, a very good book. I would definitely read the next book in the series.

What apocalypse have you seen depicted best? What's the worst version you've read or seen? (I'd have to say the film Armageddon is my least favorite. Awful, awful movie.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Talent Schmalent

Talent is overrated. And offensive. Nothing is more irritating than someone who has talent and believes, because of that innate ability, that he or she has nothing left to learn. (Often, too, people who are devoid of talent do not know it, and yet still refuse to learn. Blech.)

Okay, perhaps one thing is more irritating than a lazy talented person: it's a person who believes they don't have talent, and uses that as an excuse to do nothing.

Think you don't have talent? Do you read books and say, "Oh, man, I don't write nearly this well!" I say screw talent. Yup. Forget about it. Just keep working. Keep writing. Have other people give you feedback and learn from it. Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. As long as you feel you have something still to learn, you haven't stopped growing.

Find what you are good at and hone it. You may not have the same level of innate ability as somebody else. So what? Work harder, try harder, revise, learn, grow. Whatever your talent, you will improve. Your writing (or painting, or singing, or other activity) will get better. Might not happen quickly, but it will happen.

Don't give up.

And if you think you're bursting with talent, don't think for a second that doesn't mean you don't need to work. Stop wallowing in your own hubris and get to work. Use your talents, or what are they good for?

Now get to work, all of you.

[Steps off soapbox.] (I stole this method from Rocket Scientist. She does this a lot, and I like it.)

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Children's Book Opportunity

I found this tip yesterday on a great blog called Confessions, and since I'm about to write a picture book this weekend (AND attend a writing conference, no less), I am so excited!

I can only liken it to the Breakthrough Novel contest, which will occur in the spring, only this time it's specifically for picture books. The contest is sponsored by MeeGenius, and it looks like a good chance to get some feedback on a picture book, and (for a few of the luckiest or most skilled) a chance to get the book published. No need for illustrations, though if you intend to illustrate the book yourself, they will give you that option when you make it to a later round.

Got a picture book itching at you? You have until November 1 to turn it in! (That means you can polish it all up, submit it, and STILL be ready for NaNoWriMo! Yippee!)

So excited! Must go write now!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Purple Crayon in My Ear

The title got you hear, didn't it? Titles tend to do that. My favorite titleist is Tawna Fenske, who blogs with titles such as "My cat is a filthy pervert," "I don't know my brother's name," and most recently "The boys who live with me and pull my hair."

And this one is the title of my new book, a children's book. The inspiration for it, as you probably guess if you know me at all, is my 7-year-old son.

Oh, you won't believe the plans I had yesterday--the "I'm-going-to-get-everything-on-my-list-done" plans. I was already doing pretty well, too. I dropped off the kids at their schools, and had managed to buy ALL my groceries for the week in less than an hour, when my husband called my cell.

First clue something was up. Nobody calls my cell. But he did. His opening? "I'd tell you 'You're not going to believe this,' but we both know our son."

Crap. "What happened?" Seems my son is in the nurse's office, with a blue crayon in his ear. The pointy end of a blue crayon. Without even stopping to drop off the frozen foods, I head to his school.

Nurse #1 (yes, there will be more than one): "I took tweezers and tried to get at it, but it's too far in there."

Me: "Great." Then I turn to my son. "How did it get in there?"

Son: "How should I know?"

Excuse me?

Anyway, I call the doctor's office, then call my Zumba place and cancel the morning session. We get to the doctor's office.

Nurse #2: "A crayon, huh? How did it get in there?" My son does not detect her smile, but I do.

Son: "Some kids must have been playing with crayons, and one must have just flown into my ear." He acts amazed. Future actor, my son.

Nurse #2: "Oh, other kids, huh?" Wink. "You just stick to that story, okay?"

My son nods, and soon we are meeting with the doctor. A new doctor. First time he's ever seen my son, and my son has a crayon embedded in his ear.

Doctor #1 (Yes, there will be two of those, too.): "How long has the crayon been in his ear?"

Me: (After a glance at my son, who shrugs.) "I have no idea." Days? Weeks? Since birth?

Doctor #1: "How did it get in there?"

Son: "Some kids were sword fighting with crayons, and the tip of one broke off and flew right in my ear."

Doctor #1: "Huh."

Me: "You know, you're not in trouble. You don't have to lie."

Son: "I'm not lying!"

The doctor tries a fancy kind of ear tweezers, but can't get the crayon out. So, it's off to the ear, nose, and throat specialist, my son still maintaining his innocence throughout the hour-long drive in the car.

Nurse #3: "How'd the crayon get in your ear?"

Son: "I have NO idea! It's a mystery!"

I roll my eyes. I've been dealing with this for the last seven hours, and I've about had it. But we're taken into an office to wait, AGAIN. The ENT comes in, already grinning. He's seen this a million times before. Kids are in and out of his office all day, with popcorn kernels, beads, even sprouting bean seeds in their ears and nostrils.

Doctor #2: "How'd the crayon get in there?"

Son: "I put it there. I stuck the crayon in my ear, and it broke."

I have no idea what magic the doctor has pulled to make the truth happen. Maybe my son recognizes his BS won't fly here. But there it is, the truth. Then it's the doctor's turn to lie.

Doctor #2: "Lay your head that way. Let me just look here for a minute, so I can figure out how to get the thing out." Son lies quiet, while the doctor slips a metal loopy thing into his ear.

Son: "OW!" Starts crying. But blue crayon pops out. "You said you were just looking!"

Doctor #2: "Yup."

Turns out there are good reasons to lie. A bit of vacuuming (yes, vacuuming) of my son's ear, and all the little blue crayon pieces are out. And my son will NEVER put a crayon in his ear again. In fact, he will likely warn his whole class not to, every year until he graduates from high school. And I have a great idea for a children's book.

All in a day's work.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stop Writing

Are the words weighing you down?
Hemming you in?
Sucking the life out of
Every yellow toenail?
Keeping you from breakfast?

Forget the obligations
Dismiss the blogging schedule
Stop forcing out the stress
When it threatens
To choke the life out of you

Don't worry.

We're still listening.
We'll be here when you come back
Holding out our arms
Happy you write
Out of love
Not duty.

Go out
Like a young adult on
Your first adventure
To find yourself
To see the world with tearful eyes
Explore the caverns
Climb trees
Wade into the ocean

And return
Arms laden with treasure
To share
Forget about us for a while
We will wait
We will see you

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Falling Into Fiction

I just finished a book I'd heard about for years--Up the Down Staircase--and it was pretty good. All of the quotes on the front of the old paperback book, though, made it sound like the funniest comedy ever. The premise? A newbie teacher who takes on inner city high school English courses. Perhaps it was a bit too close to home, but I found myself squirming through the first 2/3 of it instead of laughing. I'm not sure I laughed a single time, actually.

Funny how a single book can make me wonder whether I'm a very good reader...

But then I picked up Jenny B. Jones' There You'll Find Me, and all that self-doubt lifted away. Easy to read and far deeper than the traditional YA romance novel, this book began with a premise that seemed a bit too romantic (i.e. unrealistic): A rich young woman flying to Ireland meets a world famous heartthrob actor flying incognito. They both instantly dislike each other--and that's where I rolled my eyes--but it took no time at all for the romantic comedy movie premise to turn into a lovely, smoothly written fall-into-the-book page-turner that took over my weekend. I cared about so many of the characters by the end, and the location felt real to me, vivid, meaningful, and holy. It's been a very long time since I felt that way about a book.

Granted, the book was free. Thomas Nelson sent it to me, but I'm not required to gush about it, or even like it. That didn't matter. Finley's spiritual journey to recover from the loss of her beloved brother was beautiful, and the other souls helping her along the journey provided her with help, but often had pains of their own. Only a fraction of the characters were flat--and they were mainly the two-dimensional "villains" of the novel. The pattern was typically romantic, and that alone would not have pulled me in at all, but the book was about far more than just young love. It was about going on after loss, about figuring ourselves out, seeing ourselves in truth instead of only through other people's eyes. It's funny, too, that Finley Sinclair has to find her own way through life, but coming into contact with other searching souls is what helps her along, suggesting our path is both individual and communal. It's a lovely novel, hopeful and gently spiritual, and it's one I will keep and read again very soon.

I must have a fragile ego, if I can doubt myself so much after one book, and then be inspired so fully by another. Either that, or I have just experienced first-hand the power of books.

What books have you read lately? How have they affected you?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Opportunities Knock All the Time

Whoever said "Opportunity knocks but once" was a fatalist. Since I am definitely not a fatalist, but one of the most determined optimists on the face of the planet, I beg to differ. No, that's wrong. I insist on differing, for everything I've experienced tells me plainly that missed opportunities are often not so desirable.

One of my friends described why it was so easy for her to call people for things and take "No" over and over. She said, "Don't let the no's bother you. They just mean you haven't found the right person yet."

My experience tells me the opportunities abound everywhere, if only I open my eyes. So I can't teach at the college where my husband works... the only college within an hour from here. What about online teaching? What about substituting at the local high school (I've done it before, and I actually LOVED it)? What about teaching Zumba? Editing manuscripts? Freelance writing? Working hard on my novels so that I can get one/many of them published over the next few years?

So some of my friends disappear from my life. The best ones stick, still e-mailing, sending cards, and calling me from Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. And other fantastic people are always showing up to keep me company, to become real friends of the real me in the real world. And even if I someday move (though at this point it's the last thing I want), I'm taking a bunch of these friendships with me forever.

My advice: If you feel trapped, and if the door opens up to nothing, walk out of that doorway and go find your opportunities. You never know where you might find them.

Okay, enough bossing (I do it to my kids, too). Instead, I'm off to explore the opportunities out there! Hope you find some too!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It Gets Easier: Writing = Game Playing

In case you've been wondering how I waste my time (instead of writing), one thing I do every morning is play the Daily Crossword and Daily Sudoku on Yahoo Games. No, this is not an advertisement for them (though I have been playing them almost as long as they've been there).

view detailsWhen I first started out with them, the likelihood that I would finish the Sudoku on Saturdays was slim to none. The games are super easy Monday and Tuesday, and gradually add stars of difficulty throughout the week, ending with a five-star puzzle on Saturday. A five-star puzzle that I might spend as much as half an hour on before giving up. The Crossword stuff was usually doable, but it would take me 12 to 15 minutes to complete. If you love crosswords, this is on the easy end of crossword puzzles, believe me, and I'm not good at them.

Despite my own limitations with regard to intelligence, I've continued to work on these little games every single day for years. And I realized something this morning: They have grown a LOT easier.

This is not to brag. I am no smarter now than I was ten years ago. I've had two kids since then, so it is very likely that many thousands of my brain cells have been irrevocably lost. And the games haven't changed format in all that time, either. They are just easier. And here's why:

1. I have previous knowledge from playing the game that helps me find answers and or make deductions more quickly. The same authors create the crossword puzzles, so I know to look for answers with vowels. For instance, I know "oboe" is the likeliest musical instrument. I know that words beginning with vowels are also necessary to make the puzzles work, and previous experience on the puzzles helps me think of these words.

2. I've grown used to the time markers. I used to try to finish the crossword under ten minutes. But that clock ticking messed with me. Instead of becoming a relaxing game just to get my mind revved up in the morning, it became some sort of track race, and I was always losing. Now that I'm not panicking, or even looking at the time signature, I finish in around 7 minutes. No panic. Just concentration.

3. Strategy becomes the name of the game, instead of the games feeding some sort of self-worth. I'm not afraid of not completing the puzzle ("You're so dumb, Shakespeare! You can't even solve this 3-star Sudoku!"). Instead, I know the puzzle can be solved, and I simply look for the best paths to do so. And those paths have become clearer to me as I've played, so that even this morning my Sudoku puzzle (a 5-star) took me about five minutes to finish, without my ever finding a place where I couldn't figure out what to do next. (I used to sometimes stare at the screen for that amount of time, completely at a loss, before giving up for the day.)

So, what does this rather silly ramble about silly games prove? Well, since I just FINISHED my umpteenth draft of novel numero uno, I know my task: To write a query letter and synopsis, research the field, and go out there and get an agent. I admit, as much as the rewrite was fantastically enervating, the idea of putting my work out there for everyone and his dog to reject is twisting my innards.

That is the purpose of this metaphor. I've sent things out before (though it's been years), and I know it will be difficult at first. I may want to give up. The query letter might go through ten different versions before I put together one that doesn't suck. My work will be rejected innumerable times.

But it will get easier. With practice will come experience, and I will use the feedback and the practice to hone my strategy. Each letter will be less stomach-wrenching. Each rejection less of a big deal, and each day that I work on this I will stress about it less and see it through more fully, learning my way through the process so that when it comes I'll be more ready than when I started this journey.

I still intend to print out each rejection and post it up in my office. I'm just about to tear all the shelves out of the place so that I have four full walls to fill with rejection letters. I'm considering printing them on nice stationary, since most will be e-rejections. My goal? In a couple of years, I want enough rejections to cover all the walls.

To do that, though, I'll need to get writing. Query letter first, synopsis second, list of prospective agents third. Just writing about this makes it feel easier. Time is no issue. It will likely take years, and I'm prepared for that. Strategy is what counts. Strategy and a positive attitude.

Okay, so the novel itself does count. But I think it's AWESOME. And you will too, when you read it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Wow, but my weeks are busy right now!

I promise, I'm trying to get to blogging, but my novel rewrite is going so well. I'm almost to the climax, and I find myself yet again, after something like 28 revisions, still captivated by my plot and character interactions. Who knew the book I'd most want to reread again and again would be my own book?

Does that make me narcissistic?

I take it as a good sign that I still find my novel thrilling to work on. If it were boring me, that would be a sure sign of trouble. Then again, I might be going insane. If I am, it's the happiest insanity I've ever found.

This novel--along with a hefty schedule of Zumba classes I'm teaching now--is feeding both mind and body, jumping me out of bed in the morning, putting me to bed with a happy smile each night, and spinning me through my world delightfully, with bold colors, smiles, and even a few giggles.

I'm wishing all of you the same, whether you are an poet, artist, playwright, musician, thespian, dancer, novelist, teacher, parent, whatever. May you live in the delirium of love for what you do.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Smile today
Know the world is falling apart
In the way it always has
And always will
But today
You don't have to fall apart

Be the sunshine
The soft voice
The hope
Reach out
And help the world
Breathe with ease
And see the rays of light
Once all the dust has settled
Around us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Feeling Groovy

I've just packed the fully repaired library books in the trunk of my car.

My beloved author should have her beloved novel waiting in her inbox, completely edited.

And my son is sitting in the middle of the living room, wrapped up in his new comforter.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Far ahead of schedule, I have completed my major tasks. My kids and I are chilling, watching a silly movie while I post this. After a very simple dinner and an even simpler bedtime routine for the kids, I shall finally return to my first novel.

I can't wait. I'm already smiling ear to ear.

Smile a little tonight with me, imagining me snuggling back into the comfort of my own fiction.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Light at the End of Many Tunnels

I've been far too busy to write much lately. Even here in my blog, where writing is never a chore.

But now, at 6:o5 a.m., two hours after I woke for the day, I am grinning. And that is because, on this Labor Day weekend, I am close to getting three HUGE projects finished.


The first is a project I took out of love. You see, I adore books, and I love libraries, and I especially love my child's school library (and its librarians). I volunteered there last year, and at the end of the school year I took home three boxes of damaged books to repair for the next school year. Needless to say, I didn't finish rebinding, pasting, taping, and other repairs, but now I am 1/2 a box away from finishing the whole lot of them. I've turned in two boxes of repaired books, and I hope to take the third box in Tuesday. Hurray!

I'm also only three chapters away from finishing an edit for a lovely writer from Scotland, whose book about mermaids and fairies and Loch Ness will likely charm many readers to come once it is published. It's been fascinating to read and a joy to edit, but I grin still with the knowledge that the task will be complete very soon, and she will have her beloved manuscript back. I feel almost like a midwife, helping an author deliver her baby into the world. I'm sure she will be as glad to have the manuscript back as I will be to know I've finished it.

My last task to complete is the one that has waited the longest. I purchased fabrics (of my son's choosing) last FEBRUARY, but only now am I working on the final quilt stitches of his second comforter. I completed his twin comforter about a month ago, and since then I have been working on the full one. I'll post pictures of it on my I'm Not Writing Anything Anymore blog once it is finished. I'm nearly halfway through the stitching, too, so I know it's a matter of hours.

There we are, then, three huge projects, three more days, and then all three will be off my task list. Then what will I do? My other blog would suggest I still won't be writing, but hopefully y'all know me better than that.

My next big project? Finally finishing my Thomas novel--FOR GOOD--and sending it off to agents. And I can't wait.

Any tunnels you see the light at the end of? Or are you still trudging through the darkness, hoping to see that light soon? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Rub sleep from your eyes
And you may see the sparkle
In the shadow corners
Of your messy bedroom

Trudge to the cupboard for a bowl
But notice, out of the corner of your eye,
The immaculate slate
Awaiting your chalk strokes

Wake up, and grumble
--If you like--
But don't grumble too loud
Or you'll chase away the spirits

They are there
All around you
Hoping today
For once
You will notice.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Past is past
Minutes ticking away
Released into the emptiness
Of nowhere

Future is all dreams
Wants, desires
Most without substance
Or hope
Never to be realized

Use the now
Begin anew
This moment
Live in the present
Make something of it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Way

Rest your angry mind
A moment
Hushing thoughts that swirl within
And burst through every facet of your life

The tension will kill you

Breathe the air
It might not be as fresh as it once was
But it still feeds you
After all these years
Change has not destroyed all
There is still time

And you need to breathe, after all

No more talking
Invectives churn inside your mind,
So just release them
Set them free
For saying them only gives them power
Over you

Feel the inner workings of the earth
Beneath your feet
And know that even the worms
Have a purpose

And so do you
Do you know what your purpose is?
No? Not yet?
Then keep silent so that you can hear

If you listen long enough
You will feel the pull
Your own unique link to the universe
And then you will know
What you must do.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The dowager's hump
Comes naturally
To most of womankind.

Are we
Afraid we might stick out
Or show off
Or think more of ourselves
Than we should.

Of our breasts
Lanky hair
Pale skin
Brown skin
Or acne
No matter what we have
We teach ourselves to hate it
To hunch over
To hide.

Oh, what would we be
What could we do
If we would only stop hunching?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Choice

The night
Is softly falling
Behind trees
And under rocks.

Silence retreats
That her older, louder sister
Murmurs upstairs
Getting ready for morning.

Muscles ready
Not for a day of lethargy
But for the whirlwind of activity
Work and play
That hold the hands of sunshine
Green grass
And sound.

You have a choice:

Slink into the shadows
Crawl back into bed
And waste the day
Or tag along with the sun
Skipping through the world
A light
Signaling others
To act.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


In case you also check out my Not Writing blog, this post is in both places. I thought I'd just write it in one, but my thoughts shoved the poem I had in my head out, so this is all I can think about:

I was slapped in the face this morning. Not literally, but I'm stinging from it just the same.

And it's all my fault. And it's all because I haven't been writing.

For YEARS, ever since I took freshman composition, I've been in love with the idea of writing a play about Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, whom I suspect wrote Shakespeare's plays. But over the past many years (too many to mention, believe me), I didn't write. I have tons of research for it, a huge collection of books on it, and I'd even made an outline of the major events so that I could someday write it.

Only now I don't have to. The movie is coming out in October, and it's calledAnonymous. I've missed my opportunity.

Fiction writing is one thing--sure, J.K. Rowling has made the one and only Harry Potter, and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only happens once, but other fantastic characters can still lead beautiful lives on paper. I noticed, too, that yet ANOTHER production of The Three Musketeers is coming out. (How many versions are we going to get? The book is better than any of them.)

But Oxford's story should only happen once. I just hope it's done beautifully, that it is better than I can wish for, that people can see the irony, the tragedy, the poetry of the whole situation. Either way, whether it sucks or holds audiences spellbound, it's too late for me to write it. I've missed that chance because I haven't written it. Hell, I am probably still a decade away from having the skill to write it.

I love the story, though, so I will go to see it in October, hoping it's brilliant, but still feeling a bit compressed because I will never write it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


At long last, more than a month after I finished the &*%$(@ project, my tortured fingers have recovered from grouting long enough to write about my summer tiling experience. As with my gardening entries, I managed to find quite a few similarities between tiling and writing, and the time it took gave me a chance to mull over these nuances and, perhaps, improve my writing in the process. At least these offer me a way of perceiving the process of writing differently.

So that you can see I know what I'm doing, here's a picture of my finished tiling project:

Looks pretty fantastic, doesn't it? And I'm an amateur, too. First time tiling ever. I'd make a long, arduous blog about this (and brag a whole lot more), but that would be too much to remember (and endure), so I'll start with the first part of the tiling process, preparation:

1. Prep the space for tiling. That means tearing down the previous tile, which in this case was a glossy white bathroom tile intermixed with bright, ugly wildflowers. The eighties-inspired bathroom look was pretty awful, but I have to admit that the bare wall devoid of eighties tile looked worse. Once it was chucked off, though, I knew there was no going back.

In the same way, revising my novels (i.e., "ripping them to shreds") often takes a similar path. I create a new document, name it novel revision #2 (or #7, or #25, depending on the novel), and then paste chapters of the old document in one at a time, revising them fully before pasting in a new chapter. At some point, I realize the rest of the novel is complete crap, and I stop pasting. It is then that the old draft disappears back into my novel folder and I begin composing for real. Tearing down is really hard, and turning my back on entire chapters (or the whole second half of a book) is even harder, but sometimes it's necessary.

2. Plan out where you are putting tile. I made a template of my backsplash, especially the part above my stove (shown in the picture above), in paper so that I could fit the tile into it on the floor of my dining room before I set the stuff in thinset mortar on the real wall. I even used the little spacers to set them apart from each other properly, so that my measurements would be exact. Why? Well, it gave me a chance to see the finished product. In fact, my plan changed, for I realized the accent tiles would be set too high on my template, making them almost invisible, and I arranged them differently. I even changed the angle during the planning stage, opting for a far more graceful diamond pattern instead of block squares. Had I waited to plan until I started mortaring all the tiles, I would have two choices: Live with the inferior setting, or tear the whole thing down and start over. Neither one would have been any fun.

Sure, when one is in the throes of NaNoWriMo, one can just applaud oneself for getting the requisite 1,667 words written each day--or even throw a party when one writes twice that many. But writing off the cuff, at least for me, means shredding most of it somewhere down the line, and I will have far less work to do in revisions if I write a plot outline and plan out the characters before I really get the novel going.

3. Tiling happens in a particular order, which cannot be changed. I had to prep the space, plan out where the tile was going, cut the tile, mortar the tiles up, let them dry completely, then grout. Had I tried doing any of these things in a different order, I would have messed the whole thing up. Had I mortared the tile over the existing tile, it wouldn't have stuck. Uncut tiles would never fit together. Had I grouted before mortaring, the grout itself would have no hope of keeping those tiles up. They needed to be glued first. The order of the process matters.

That seems self-explanatory, but writing's steps also follow the same logic. If one hasn't written anything--or if the writing has fundamental problems with character or plot or content that have yet to be addressed--editing for grammar is silly. I need to prepare for the writing, write it out, revise for content, then revise for grammar, then send it out to beta readers, then revise again, and only then (at the earliest) can I call the novel finished. The steps aren't arbitrary rules created by your much-hated English teacher. They are necessary to help you create the best quality work you can. Only a supreme writing genius can avoid some of these, and I don't know one of those.

Now that the preparation is done, other elements happen. I'll cover them in another blog as soon as I can.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Countdown to NaNoWriMo

It's coming. Every year it's coming. I tried it once and failed miserably, mainly because I spent the second half of the month house hunting. But I've moved now. Nothing should be standing in my way, especially a house hunt.

And the house we bought is almost fully refinished/painted/cleaned/reorganized. Even those pesky backsplashes are completely tiled and grouted (though I still haven't posted pictures). My son's quilts are days away from completion. I do have a ton of Christmas houses to paint this year, but if I don't get them all done, who will know but I? Christmas comes EVERY year (just like NaNoWriMo).

I'm revving up my revisions on several novels, after hardly writing in July. I'm excited, I'm motivated, and I'm fully aware that my kids start school in four days. So, the countdown might just be meaningful for me this year. I'm posting it here, just in case.

Do I really want to do it? Not sure. Last year I realized at the halfway point that I was way off base with the novel, and I haven't done anything but research it since. Will the novel eventually turn into something? Probably, knowing how willing I am to revise (i.e., shred). But you can bet I won't be sending any piece-of-crap novel out December 1.

What about you? Will you write for NaNoWriMo? Are you already churning out a book? Do you act like it's NaNoWriMo every single month? Does NaNoWriMo make you yawn?