Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Remember...

I remember feeling like my life had ended. I remember thinking that I'd never finish high school. I remember feeling alone, even if I wasn't, and I remember assuming that I'd never acheive anything in my adult life.

But I finished high school. I grew up beside my child, and I pursued what I loved whether I was concscious of it or not. I still have the micro-cassett recorder I bought fifteen years ago, to record ideas that came to me while I was driving. I have boxes of short stories, a fun way to pass the time, leading me toward the path I would inevitably take. I've stored the three-ring binder, full of asperations and purple prose, to remind me of how much I've grown. And I have the battle scars, visible only to me, proof of my determination to succeed.

I love the worlds I create like I love my children. I cherish the stories like I cherish my marriage. And I sit down at this keyboard day after day, thankful for each keystroke, each request, each rejection. I'm thankful for the friends I've made, the writers who feel what I feel every day.

I'm thankful for the words.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blog Chain - Priorities

I'm going to start this chain by apologizing. My first ever turn starting the blog chain is late. Beyond late really. I had NO idea everyone would trust me to pick a topic so soon! I'm flattered--and--hyperventilating.

I've had the most hetic two weeks I can remember. I've been working on my NaNo project, critting, revising and worrying. I've been out of town, helping friends and counting down the days until my daughter comes home for Thanskgiving break. I've been battling my husband for the right to pay attention to my laptop and trying to clean my hopelessly disgusting house.

So in the spirit of hectic lives everywhere I'd like to know:

How do you prioritize? How do you balance paying attention to your writing, critiquing for friends, spending time with your family and earning a living?

Since volleyball has ended, I find that I have more free time. And yet, there never seems to be enough. I start my day by getting my family ready for theirs. A quick drive to school and then home. I take care of our birds (chickens, duck and geese) making sure everyone is fed. Next I check my email. Then my blog roll, and after I've finished reading and commenting (I read more than I comment) I hit the WIP. Then I do a load or two of laundry, field a few phone calls, avert several crisis, and hit the WIP some more. THEN I wash some dishes, mop, sweep and dust, check my email (again) and read manuscripts for friends and crit partners. Then I head to the bus stop, start dinner, check my email (again), fold clothes, and serve up dinner. After that, I wash dishes, another load of clothes, check my email (yes, again) and finish up some crits. I work on the WIP during stolen moments and then fall in to bed--exhausted.

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it.

We happened to see 2012 this weekend, and John Cusak's character happens to be a struggling writer who's lost his family in pursuit of his dreams. My husband gave me many pointed stares and a couple of nudges. His children said, "You promised you wouldn't work on your book this weekend." Ya. Seriously.

It's hard to find balance when you feel so empassioned about what you're doing. I get wrapped up in crits. I become obsessed with finishing a chapter. I write in between bites of food. And yes, I forget blog posts after an emotionally trying weekend and busy Monday. I've been trying. I spend less time on my computer than I did. I try to set aside chunks of time for each task. I no longer linger on Facebook or Twitter. And I blog less than I would like. I listen to my son's stories about his day. I spend time watching TV with my husband. I don't take my laptop when we go out of town (okay, I'm still working on that one) and I try not to write after five o'clock in the evening.

That's not to say that I don't want to. That's not to imply that the urge to plunk down a paragraph or two isn't killing me in the after-dinner hours. But balance is important. Family is important. There are still bills to be paid, mail to be checked, clothes to be folded and kids to pick up. I'm working toward regaining the balance I had before I was overcome with the constant need to write. Every. Single. Day. And as you can tell--since my first ever blog chain post is coming at 9:15 at night--that I'm taking baby steps. One at time.

Check out Sandra's post tomorrow, who was gracious enough to give me a little nudge. Thanks for the subtle reminder, Sandra. ;)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Two Kindle Contests

Want a Kindle? I do. There are two great sites right now giving them away and the deadline for entries is approaching.

Check out Lisa and Laura Write. In celebration of their publishing contract for their debut novel: A Kate Lowry Mystery: THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN, they're giving away a Kindle to one of their lucky blog followers. If you don't follow these ladies, check out their blog, they're going to be HUGE.

Over at Fangs, Fur, and Fey, in celebration of their thrid anniversary, you can email them for a chance to win a Kindle as well. Check out this site. Pretty cool.

The blog community is full of generosity this fall! I don't know about you--but I'd be pretty damn thankful for a Kindle!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


When I finally decided that I was done messing around and sat down to seriously write, I was amazed at how quickly the story came to me. I started with a concept: migraine headaches, and ran with it. I gave myself a year to finish the novel (I had no idea what to expect) and instead completed the first draft in three months. As I researched, revised, and queried, I needed something to keep the momentum going, so I started a sequel. And four months later, I managed to crank out another completed manuscript.
I didn't write again for about four months. I worked on revisions, focused on my blog and networked like crazy. I met great friends, critiqued, and read for pleasure.

By May an idea for a new story hit me. One sentence, a hook, and I was back in the game. I have to admit, that although this novel was my favorite, it was the hardest to write. The words didn't flow quite as easily and I struggled with the plot. I stewed... and wrote... and deleted... and stewed. But by July I'd finished, sent the manuscript off for critting revised, edited and revised some more and then I queried with renewed enthusiasm.

Then I hit a wall. Terror! Panic! Hyperventilation! My idea fount had run dry. I worried hard core about this. I wondered if I was a one-trick pony. Maybe I'd used all of my creative juices and had nothing left. Perhaps my brain was officially fried. My lack of inspiration convinced me that I couldn't hack it. I mean, nobody wants a writer who cranks out one book and says, "Well, that's it. I'm done. That's all I had."

However, inspiration can be found when you least expect it. I find that I work very well with others. It's like my brain fires on all cylinders when there's someone else around. And while I whined about my lack of inspiration, my crit partner and friend TALKED me through it. She regurgitated ideas that I'd run past her, and she helped me brainstorm by asking questions. It's funny, being led along works for me. Ask me a question, and my brain kicks in to high gear. I can't ask myself, for some reason that doesn't work. Maybe it's the challenge of answering someone's question that gets me going. All I know is that it works.

So here I am, shiny new words and a plot that's building by the day. Not a one trick pony, after all!

How do you come up with story ideas? Do they pop into your head while doing dishes? Are they based on real life? Do you brainstorm? Whine to friends? Let me know!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog Chain: Drama Queen

Christine started this round, and she cranked up the drama factor:

How do you create a wonderfully dramatic story? Are there any questions you ask yourself, or specific things you keep in mind to ensure that you have the level of tension necessary to propell the story forward?

I think that I have a tendency to go beyond a dramatic story and hop the border into melodramatic. As I've said many times, I consider myself a bit of a drama queen, so it isn't very hard for me to dream up some pretty hard-core drama. In fact, I find myself deleting entire scenes for that exact reason. Nobody needs THAT much excitement. ;)

In an earlier blog chain post, I wrote about my characters' journeys and their transformations. I love to use external and physical change, and for me, drama equals action. Aside from being a drama queen, I am an action queen. (is that a real term?) I LOVE anything with gun fights, sword play, the use of magic (with arms and hands flung for emphasis). Fist fights are okay too as long as my female protagonist is the one getting all the action. Emotional drama is great too, I love the occasional sob-fest. But I love the drama that comes from fighting for your life.

I think the best part about using hard-core action for drama is that the emotional stuff inevitably follows. With every near-death scrape our heroine (or hero) has someone waiting in the background, terrified that the person he cares about could leave him forever. In addition to the danger factor, there's obviously something propelling that character into these dangerous situations. I mean, no one pulls a knife on you for no reason in my imaginary worlds.

For me, the most important factor in maintaining good drama, is keeping my scenes realistic. I spend more time writing action sequences than I do anything else. I close my eyes, put myself in my character's place and draw on every good action movie, battle scene and author I've ever read. And I've been so into it lately, that I'm thinking about taking the next step: learning to fence, target shooting, taking a martial arts class. Yeah, that would be COOL.

Because I'm a strictly "from the hip" writer, I have a hard time pinpointing my dramatic moments until they actually happen. I let my characters walk me through the story, and when I know they've stuck their nose a little too far in the wrong business, I throw in some first-class danger. An ambush in a dark alley can keep me reading (or typing) into the wee hours of the morning, and I hope that by letting the action and its resulting conflict pull me along, I have succeeded in creating many exciting moments that weave themselves into a fun, entertaining, and DRAMATIC tale.

Be sure to check out Rebecca's post before mine, and Sandra's tomorrow to find out how they crank up the drama factor in their writing.