Thursday, August 28, 2008

I won the Lottery!

I hardly ever enter contests. I never play the lottery. It isn't that I don't think I'll win. I just don't like not winning. :) But a few weeks ago I found a contest in a blog I follow regularly: Patricia Wood's blog. The prize: an autographed copy of Lottery! Count me in!

It wasn't actually the contest that got me in. The fact is, I just plain enjoy her blog, and the fact that she talks about how hard it is to write sometimes, and the fact that she writes about regular people kinds of problems (well, the regular people kind if you live in Hawaii on a sailboat!), and the fact that she even replies to people in the comment section and then visits my blog... well, she seems like a friend... a celebrity friend.

At first I didn't so much as enter the contest to compare writing a book to remodeling a kitchen so much as comment for the sake of it. But when she asked for people to send them to her email, and reiterated the prize, I couldn't turn down the opportunity. So I did. And as much as I was crossing my fingers to get that autographed copy, I didn't expect it. Which makes the winning all the sweeter. She was even sweet enough to personalize it!

The thing that tickles my family is that I am totally not a celebrity hound. I could care less about famous people. I suppose I spent enough dinners with my father's "friends" (who were big name people that, to me, were just people I had to behave at dinner with), that I don't see them as much different than anyone else.

And Pat Wood is that kind of person. The kind you'd invite over for dinner, take out for cocktails, blog with and exchange witty banter over glasses of wine or fruity drinks with umbrellas. Up until a few years ago, the writing/reading world didn't know of her. She was, like me, just an aspiring author with a full plate of other activities to boot.

But now she's a well-recognized published author, and to me, a bit of a celebrity. And I craved that book.

So thanks, Patricia, for the great gift, and the kind card, and letting me into your world. Next time, the autographed copy is on me!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Got Death?

I'm back from vacation... sort of. My body is here. My spirit is lying on a beach somewhere, sunning myself in the warm rays that were hidden behind Tropical Storm Fay while we were there. Here, I am struggling to get out from beneath laundry and sand toys and bags of food.

While on vacation, I had the chance to read a bit, which was awesome. I took two books with me a friends gave me for my birthday. Both great books. But both had death as a major part. In the first, death came at the end, after the main character struggled to find herself and find love and peace and friendship. Just at the moment when life went from a constant struggle to a place she felt good about, enter death.

The second book started with death. The death of a spouse and the wife's inability to deal with it, led her on the journey of the story.

Lately, it seems every book I read has death in it. What's up with that? Is death that prevalent? Or do writer's see death as the ultimate conflict? It's beginning to look like a cheap accessory lately. Especially in the first book (which I won't name), it seemed like the author had a great book and got to the end and thought, "This seems anticlimactic. It needs something to really wrap it all up. I think I'll kill her off! That way it will definitely feel like the end!"

In the second book, I'm a little more understanding. After all, the entire book is based on the death and grieving process. And, of all things that can happen to a person in life, losing a loved one is one of the hardest to deal with.

Still, if it were just these books, I'd understand and think my friend was just in a morbid mood. But it's in almost all of the books I've read lately. And not just crime books (because that's a given... with no dead body you've got no genre!). But every book. Well, almost.

In Year of Fog, which I read this summer, the young girl who disappears, and is most certainly dead, ends up alive. I almost leaped for joy. I actually really didn't see that one coming, because it isn't the easy choice. It made it a lot harder for the author to wrap up the book, and to add continued conflict that kept it from seeming all too convenient.

As a writer, I think it's important to ask yourself at every turn, is this part necessary to the book or is this just the easy way out? Because readers aren't dumb. We can tell when writers arrived at page 350 and said, well, I have to wrap this up some way. Maybe I'll just kill off the character, and when that's where the book was headed all along.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

For Jennifer

I saw this and thought of you:
The Wahoo! and the cheap champagne all in one place!

Thanks to you, I know this is all possible now! The writing, the query, the agent. The traditional process actually works!

You totally rock!

Dancing In The Storm

This morning I will walk up this street and over this path:

And I will put my towel out, find my book, maybe dip my toes in the water here:

My youngest will dance in the waves...

My son will splash us all and look for the biggest waves...

We will make lemonade out of lemons, the way we did yesterday when Tropical Storm Fay came our way and we used the opportunity to fly kites...

And in general, I will just enjoy my family and the beach and the fun we have together:

And I will try not to miss writing, and editing, and the stress I left behind....

Because soon enough I will be back, and I'll wish I were here again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How getting a hair cut is like writing, and why it results in panic attacks

I went to get my hair cut today. Such an innocuous thing, you wouldn't think it would be more than a blip in my day. And yet.... it was.

For one, I just wanted a trim. A little off the ends. And the lady cuts it straight across. Then she pulls it all up on top of my head and it's uneven, so she cuts it there. Then she takes sections straight out to the side, and they are uneven so she cuts again. No matter which way she looks at it, they are uneven, and she trims some more. It is like this every time I get a hair cut. It's amazing I come out with any hair at all. AND YET: it reminds me of the editing process. I can read my writing and edit a bit here and there. I look at it again, and I edit some more. No matter how many times I come back to it, there is always something to change. At some point a writer just has to stand away from it and say, I think that's enough. If I keep at it there will be nothing left.

While I was getting my hair cut the radio was playing rather loudly. And David Cook came on, singing "Time of My Life", which is really a theme song for anyone who has a dream and is chasing it. For some reason, it made me think of the query I am working on, and sending it off the those agents who are my secret favorites, and then getting a reply. And in the middle of the song, with my hair sopping wet and the hairdresser chopping away, I suddenly had a panic attack. Not a full-on one, but one in which my heart was beating so hard it actually hurt, and I couldn't breathe because it felt like someone was standing on my chest, and I wanted to rip the cape off and run for my life. The closeness of the end, where the control is completely out of my hands, is impossibly close. While I am writing, the control is mine. When I am not, I give the control to someone else.

I cannot do this! I cannot do this! What if I totally can't make it as a writer? What if I do?

When I write, I am totally in the moment, in the writing, and I am focused and I drive forward with confidence in the story I have to tell. And the minute I stop, it all caves in. All the insecurities I feel bubble to the surface, and I can't breathe.

There is a relief in this break from writing. A much needed vacation from the pressure of balancing writing and my other duties. I can't wait to lay on the beach, soak up the sun, read some really good books and not have the pressure to have a word count hanging over my head. And yet that word count is the stability in my writing, the stabilizing force that keeps me from despairing.

I am relieved to be on vacation. And at the same time it creates a stress I don't have when I'm writing.

Nothing's ever easy, is it?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stick a Fork in Me - I'm Done!!!!

It's done! In record time!

Word-a-thon Stats: 50,000 words in less than five weeks.

Some Kind of Normal: FINISHED!

I have sent it off to my first beta reader, and I am taking a hiatus for two weeks to lay on the beach and let my brain go to mush and read some really good books and actually enjoy my family without a computer between us.

I thought the more I'd write, the more casual this would feel, but it feels just as thrilling as the first time!


Totally not planned, but the last word of the book? Hope.

Seems kinda fitting.

Tick, Tick, Tick

The Word-a-thon counter is ticking ominously...we're now under three days and my chest gets tight just looking at it. Ecstatic. Thrilled. Anxious. Can't-breathe-because-this-is-actually-happening kind of tight.

I received an email today from a man I'd contacted back in March about interviewing about being the parent of a diabetic. He was just wanting to know if I was still researching and needed information, or if I was already writing. I got to write back, I'm finishing it this week, but thanks anyway. Finishing. WOW!

I looked back at some of the interviews and emails I sent, and my hope, although riddled with doubt, was that I could finish before the end of this year. I started this book mid-March. The idea that I could write the entire of this book, including the massive medical researching that has gone into it, in a mere nine months seemed unfathomable. But in the fall all my kids would be in school, so I thought I could buckle down and do it then. I wanted to hope it was possible, but truly, I didn't know.

And here I am, five months later, nearly done. Not just nearly... within pages.

And I received an email back from that generous man, wishing me luck in the publishing and asking me to call when I do a book signing in Broward County.

I wrote back with the only thing I could think of to say.

"Of course!"

But now I have to walk the last steps, write the last words, give Babs and Ashley and the entire Babcock family the ending they deserve.

And meanwhile, try not to be distracted by this:

Oh my!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Totally the reason I'm not getting enough writing done.

Michael Phelps.

A swimming pool.

The Olympics.

Did I mention Michael Phelps??

Sigh. Enough said.

Word counts are just being included in the word-a-thon bar on the side. Check there for updates. I'm trying to keep up. Really. I am.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Holy Query Request Trend, Batman!

I have gone from a full fledged critic of critique groups to an all-out convert. A good critique group is better than gold. In my Four Corners group, we have been on a query run. Four of the seven of us are at the submitting query stage, and I have seen queries go from okay to on-fire due to the collective comments of the brilliant girls in the group.

And last week, all four girls sent out queries. And already three have gotten requests, from partials to fulls, and from some of the big names in the industry.

The best thing about this group is that it is motivating me to work harder, cleaner, better. Every email I get saying, "I got another request!" drives me back to the computer to write, because I want to finish my own book even more now. There is no slacking off with these people. I can say for certain, with no reserve, these people are probably the single best thing that has happened to my writing ever!

So for that, Thanks Four Corners!! I'll be toasting to you tonight!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Totally Random Thoughts

Ah, my brain is fried. I have no energy left to put several coherent sentences together let alone write a thoughtful or creative post. I do, however, have several incoherent thoughts running through my mind so I thought I'd waste the space and put them here.

1. Nathan Bransford had an interesting post on whether writing is nature or nurture. Actually, he didn't write anything. He pretty much just left it open to the public to decide in the comments section, which is what I suspect he does when he is flooded with work. I didn't write in... I always pass when the comment count is over 40 because I figure at that point no one is reading anymore anyway, and really, there are only two choices, three if you go with both, and that's pretty much covered by the third comment.

But, as it turns out, I have my own blog, so I can write here. And I disagree with all those people who say great writing can be taught. There it is. I put it out there. Me, a former English teacher, am saying it can't be taught. Sure, you can teach someone the technical aspects of writing: the vocabulary, the grammar, the sentence structure. You can teach someone the tips to get published: dump those adjectives and adverbs. You can teach three act structure, rising action, climax, denoument and falling action. But in the end, what you've got is passable writing. Great writing, dare I say, publishing worthy writing, is something inherent. Either you've got it or you don't. And if you don't, you can't always tell.

And yes, I wonder sometimes which category I fit in.

2. Totally non-writing subject, but my foot, which I injured back in September, is finally feeling 100%. For eleven months I couldn't walk without limping, and, per doctor's instructions, kept it restricted in running shoes every moment I was awake. This wasn't a problem, because a running shoe was the only thing keeping me from chopping the thing off. The only time it wasn't killing me was in a good shoe. And now that it's feeling better, my foot has claustrophobia. I put my shoe on and ten minutes later I feel like I am going to go crazy if I can't get it off. It's the weirdest thing ever!

3. The closer I get to finishing the book, the harder it is to put it down. It's always been like that reading. It's like that now writing. I shoo away the kids. I get dinner going late. I stay up all night, which is the only time there isn't someone talking in my ear and pulling me in other directions. I got over the scary part. I think it turned out okay. And I am pushing on. I'm almost done. Not just with the word a thon but with the book. And I think I'm really excited about it.

4. I had more random thoughts and in the writing of this post, they disappeared.

5. As has my grip on reality.

Today's word count: a record breaking 3,070

Total so far in word a thon: 40,015

Percentage done with 9 days left to go: 80%

The Bad Thing About Loving What You Do

I've always thought it was ideal to love what you do. Isn't that the advice every career counselor, every Tom, Dick and Oprah, give? Find what you love to do, and then figure out how to make money doing it.

I love to write. How ideal could this be? (Other than getting paid for it, of course). I get to write at home, on my schedule, and still be home full time for my kids and husband. All the things I love most wrapped into one pretty package.

Except there are days I wished I loved writing a little less. And today was one of them.

My daughter's birthday is coming up, and today the grandparents came to take her out and I got a few hours in the afternoon to birthday gift shop. The idea was grand: go to the two stores that have the exact thing I know I want to get, be home in an hour and a half, and have the entire house to myself to write for a few hours. BLISS!

Except the first store didn't have the gift I wanted. Neither did the second. Or the third. Or a fourth. And by the fifth store I was incredibly frustrated because this is the only day I have to shop without my daughter, I have no gift, AND my time to write is slipping away. I felt like a child on the verge of a temper-tantrum standing in front of the shelf where the perfect gift should have been, stamping my foot and saying, "This is really cutting into my writing time! Now I'm going to end up with NONE!"

And how pathetically sad is that? Instead of enjoying the time to shop for something special, I was grumbling that I couldn't get back to work.

So I breathed deep, let it go, and accepted the fact that I wasn't going to get any writing in until the kids were in bed tonight. Goodbye record word day. Hello eeking out whatever I could manage.

I'm not sure that I wrote anything brilliant tonight. I am tired beyond belief. And I come again to the wall of faith: how much should God and Babs faith in him be central to this story? The funny thing is, Babs is dealing with this too. And so in writing I write the way she deals.... a tiny chunk at a time, and when it gets too much the conversation changes or someone walks in. I'm going with it. I hope it will work itself out, cause I really have no idea.

Word count tonight: 1,621

Monday, August 4, 2008

The 100th Post!

You'd think with the 100th post as it's title, I'd think of something great to write, some wonderful commentary on how much this blog has meant to me and how much of life has been contained within these fair blue/grey backgrounds, and how many friends I have made here (okay, that part is true).

You'd think I'd have great words of wisdom, some monumental philosophical post on blogging or life or even writing.

But no, I have none of these. I didn't even realize until I signed in the significance of this post. And all I can think of is: Wow! My great day just got better.

Because today was a great day, which is saying something since the only foray outside my little humble home was to the library to let my kids get more books. There were lots of mundane things, like cleaning the bathroom (such a shock!) and doling out folded laundry for the kids to stuff in their drawers. We baked cookies and I managed to get three different meals on the table and all the respective dishes cleaned. But in a few small hours, I managed to write. Well. I wrote well.

Tomorrow I may look back and say, "This is all crap." And maybe it is. But tonight, the words feel like gold.

I cried writing part of it. And every time I went back through it, I cried again. Everything is coming together. These characters, like the ones in my first book, are like real people to me, and the way they have changed over the course of the book is like watching your child grow up. Though 99% of the time I question everything I write, eye it critically, think I will never make it, tonight I look at it and think, "This stuff is pretty darn good."

And before I start to think otherwise, I am going to bed.

Happy 100th post, friends. I may end up being a writer after all.

Word count for today: 2,451

Word a thon: 71% completed. 11 more days to go.

The song I listened to most of the day?

Ocean Wide by the Afters:

If love is an ocean wide
We 'll swim in the tears we cry
They'll see us through to the other side
We're gonna make it

When love is a raging sea
You can hold on to me
We'll find a way tonight
Love is an ocean wide

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Looking forward...

I had no caffeine today. I am asleep on my feet.

In exactly two weeks I will be here:

Between now and then I have to throw my daughter a birthday party, and finish the remaining 17,127 words left of the write-a-thon. I think this might actually finish the book. Or kill me.

What a better way to go out on vacation, though?

Today's word count? 1,286

Tomorrow will be better.

WORD-A-THON Update status

No time off for a writer.

Went to the pool with the family. Spent the day writing while overlooking this gorgeous scene:

Managed to write 1,805 words.

Total word-a-thon words: 31,587 words in 21 days.

The total WIP is now 55,000 words.

Can I just say that I realized today I never actually thought I could do this? The fact that every day I manage to get the writing done, that I am still on schedule, that this is still totally possible, blows me away.

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

I realized today that my posts have become increasingly less interesting since the start of the Word-a-thon. I'm not sure if that's because I have no creativity left after writing (not to mention the lack of time) or if my life has become less interesting since I started this mad dash to finish my book. It's probably a good amount of both.

It's Friday. I made it through a rough writing week. I stalled out. For the first time this summer I actually had a day when I wrote NOTHING, and another that barely counted. And not because I was off frolicking in the pool or scampering around DC or NY or Philly. No.... I didn't write because I couldn't. The story stopped. Brick wall.

But I recovered! And now, I'm back on the cruising path. Today was an excellent day. Yesterday was good. I've almost recovered the lost days. It feels so good to be writing again, and to have the words come so easily, even though I have to keep stopping to research.

So the Word Count for today: 2291.
Yesterday's Word Count was: 2002

Which brings the total of the Word a thon to: 29,782
(this is just shy of my goal of 30,000 by tonight, so I may have to keep writing later!)

I am 60% of the way there. Woo Hoo!!

Now, on to the good things this week:


This is my one thing this week. There are lots of things, really. But I'm going to list this one by itself, because it deserves it's own shout out.

When I am writing, I listen to music. Mostly to drown out the din around me, although partially it is a visual symbol to the kids, "Hey, I'm working! I can't hear you! Stop bugging me!" Admittedly, it works better in the first capacity than the second, but I keep hoping!

So here is the list of songs I write to. It's a mix I call SOME MAD HOPE, because this is the name of Matt Nathanson's CD, which seemed extremely apropos!

1. All We Are (Matt Nathanson)
2. Carry You Home (James Blunt)
3. The Time of My Life (David Cook)
4. Broken (Lifehouse)
5. The Guide (Borne)
6. Open Your Eyes (Snow Patrol)
7. Little Wonders (Rob Thomas)
8. Come On, Get Higher (Matt Nathanson)

So there you are. Judge away.