Saturday, December 31, 2005

Support

Before I create my writing goals for 2006, I’ve been trying to examine strategies and issues that affect my ability to write.  Time management, rewards and control of the environment all influence writing.  But one of the biggest influences is the support I get from outside.

Where does your support come from?  Those that are members of RWA, do you find the organization a support and resource for your writing?  Do you belong to any chapters and do they help?  How about online writing forums, do you find strength from an online community?  Do you belong to any other writing organizations?  Yahoo lists?

What about critique partners.  Do you belong to a critique circle and do they help bolster you when you are flagging?  How about face-to-face contact?  Do you meet with a group or a person to discuss writing?

Are blogs helpful?  Do you find support through the blogging community?

What support do you receive outside of the writing community?  Is your family supportive?  Do you have a group of non-writing friends who help you along?  Do they sometimes prove negative rather than positive?

For me, I can’t go it alone.  I have a support system in place that keeps me involved whether I’m writing or not.  If weren’t for my writing friends, I would have given up a long time ago.  My family isn’t the most supportive but I do have one non-writing friend who is an invaluable support.  I’m not real public with the world at large about my writing so I suppose it is no wonder I don’t find support from many outside sources.  Are you public with your writing and do you think that influences your success as a writer?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Control

So I’ve got my calendar and a reward set for my writing.  I’m set.  But wait…I can only write when the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars.  I need cloudy weather, preferably rain, for my muse to get inspired.  There must be soft music in the background, usually the soundtrack from some drippy historical movie.  I can only write if I have my favorite socks on.  My muse responds to chai tea.  The children must be somewhere else.  My good luck tiki must be staring at me from his post on the top of my desk.  I can only write if I’ve read all the blogs and commented on at least five of them.  There must be a game of Poppit or Bejeweled 2 played in order to get my juices flowing.

I can’t write if it’s sunny.  I can’t write if I’m hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, etc. etc.  I can’t write with the TV on.  I must write on a laptop.  I must write on a desk top.  I must write on a legal pad with a roller gel pen.  

Does this remind you of anyone?  Do you have conditions that have to be met in order to write?  Don’t the above things sound lame?

They aren’t really.  They aren’t cop outs, they aren’t excuses because we really do want a certain environment in order to write.   But what we really want is control.  

Our talent is creating worlds on paper.  We make up stuff, creating characters and places that exist only in our imagination and communicating it so a reader believes they are real for the space of a few hundred pages.  Our control is absolute.  

I think it really gripes us when we can’t control the world we live in.   By creating conditions in which to write, we are exerting our control.  But we can’t make it snow.  We can’t make the kids disappear.  We write on what is available.  Sometimes the cd player is broken and we have to write in silence.  Sometimes we have to write with “Spongebob Squarepants” blaring in the background.  We have to accept we can’t be in control and make the commitment to write anyway.  I honestly believe if you have your heart in a book, it really doesn’t matter what surrounds you.  Our lives are not perfect and we are not magic.  How we perceive the world around us helps feed our muse.

I was originally going to title this post “Atmosphere” when I realized atmosphere changes day-to-day for me and some of my best writing was done without any of my conditions met.  I have to day I can’t do anything about this and write anyway.

How about you?  Do you have conditions to be met when you write?  Are they realistic?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rewards

Thank you for all the great comments.  I see I am not the only person with time management issues.  Lory, glad I can provide some inspiration.  Kelly, I remember when you were doing the 1000 words a day, I tried that one myself and didn’t have much success.  Tori, you’re in the middle of move.  I know my writing took a big hiatus when I moved.  Too many other things fall on your plate.  Eve, I can’t imagine how rough it must be.  Having to be the primary caregiver to another person eats the time.  For the most part, if my house is sanitary I’m satisfied as well.  Dana has found something that works for her.  I’ve tried to write at night and would probably succeed if I didn’t have a husband.  We get so little time together, he considers the hours after 9 p.m. his.

Teresa brings up my post for today.  The promise of rewards.

I remember as a child my mom promising me a trip to McDonald’s for lunch if I did something or behaved.  I do the same thing with my own kids.  On the flipside, if they do not do something or their behavior is deplorable, they get something taken away.

As adults we operate the same way with ourselves.  Lose ten pounds, get that new pair of jeans.  Get the promotion at work, go out for a fancy dinner.  Live another year, get a present.  

Does this work with writing?  

I have two issues with the reward system that has made it not work for me, issues I’d like to change.  My first issue is that I make writing the reward itself.  If my house is clean or I’ve got dinner started, I am allowed to write.  The big problem with that is most of the time I can’t accomplish such a goal.  The promise of writing becomes a Holy Grail, unattainable and elusive to all but the perfect.  And I’m not perfect.

The other issue is finding an appropriate award and a reasonable goal that makes the reward worthwhile.  Some days writing 1000 words is easy, other days 100 words feels like pulling teeth.  

I think rewards work, as a parent, I’ve seen them in action.  What do you think?  Do you reward yourself?  What do you reward yourself with?  By the same token, do you penalize yourself for not meeting a goal?  Would that work?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time Management

When I found out I was being laid off back in November of 2001, I wasn’t particularly despondent.  I’d grown tired of my job and really wanted a change.  Besides, I was a romance writer.  By staying home, I would have limitless amounts of time to work on my writing.

HA!

I found I had less time for writing than I did when I worked full-time.  How could this be?  

My sense of time changed when I stopped working.  I’d lessened its value, letting the minutes and hours go by without really thinking about it.  When I worked, 8 hours of my day were set, everything else had to be squeezed in around that block of time.  Those precious hours after work and on the weekends took on added value.  When I stopped working, I didn’t have the same problem.   My only constraint was when my son got out of school.  The rest of the day turned into fuzzy mush without structure.

I suffered through this total lack of structure for about 18 months when I realized I was accomplishing nothing.  And not just on the writing front.  My house was a disaster and the days flew by.   I totally changed my way of doing things, got organized and was much happier.  I went to FlyLady and applied her principles and they really worked…for a time.  

My house isn’t a disaster, I have retained those FLY lessons, but I have let time get away from me again.   On any given day, if someone asks if I’ve done any writing, I usually say no because I haven’t had time.

I have plenty of time, but my lack organization has sucked it all up.  So I need to come up with strategies to maximize my time.  To start, I got myself a decent date book for the year.  It doesn’t have the days broken down my hours, but it has a small block of space to scribble down a note or two.  I can write down any appointments plus note any tasks which need to be accomplished that day.  My idea is to make myself answerable to my use of time.  What did I do today?  When did I write?

If it were a simple matter of finding time to write, it wouldn’t be so hard.  But I want my life to flow together.  I want my house somewhat orderly, I want time to write, I need to exercise, I need to find time to hang around with friends, etc. etc.  If it means scheduling every minute of the day, then that is what I will have to do.

How do you handle time management?  Do you have any tricks or strategies that have helped you not only with your writing but with other facets of your life?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Phillip's Head Screwdrivers

My hand has finally recovered from the constant twisting motion required from using a screwdriver.  I cannot count how many battery compartments I opened and stuffed with “AA” batteries over the last couple of days.  Even simple toys seem to require some kind of juice.

Santa was pretty generous this year.  The boy got a telescope with an automatic aligning program.  Katie got a Barbie styling head and a Barbie house.  Allison got a Geotrax train.  Very cute and easy to put together and operate.  I got a pair of wireless headphones for my iPod.  Very cool and they work great.  

Hubby takes the last two weeks of the year off from work.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, considering we are getting our kitchen remodeled next month) he has had to do work at home.  He set up the home office to his liking and kicked me out.  But every day he has had to spend some time working.  Kind of a bummer but such is life when you are self-employed.

We have one last week of good food before we go on the ol’ diet.  I’ve really packed it on these holidays.  I need to get writing.  When I write, I get too involved to stop and snack.  I’m also going to hit the gym big this January.  I believe a healthy writer is a better writer.  The physical requirement of sitting in one position for any length of time is so bad on the back.  

January is a time of new beginnings and I’m going to take part of this week to plan a writing strategy.   I think that will be my blogging theme for the week.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!!!

It is midnight, long past the time Santa should have visited. Unfortunately, Allison won't go to sleep. She is up, playing, showing no interest in going to bed. Sigh.... She spent the day at her grandparents' house so I thought she would be tired. She did use the potty the whole time she was there. As soon as she got home she peed in her diaper. Ugh....

It has been a rough week. I had bronchitis and was on antibiotics. My son Daniel got some flu. His fever went up to nearly 104. When I called the doctor, they didn't want me to bring him in, they were so overwhelmed. After a couple of days of fever, he seems to be on the mend. He was pretty sick and missed the week of school.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. I'm feeling better. I just wish this kid would go to bed so I could finish the Christmas stuff and go to bed!

Enjoy the day with your families and remember anything you eat on Christmas day has no calories.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

10 Reading Secrets

It's 4 a.m. and I can't breathe, ergo I can't sleep. My cold seems to have gone from getting better to getting worse and my chest keeps constricting. So off to the doctor tomorrow if I can get in.

Anyway, Amy tagged me so here goes:

Ten Reading Secrets

1. I pretty much read romance.

2. I read a lot of non-fiction, usually for research although I love reading about history.

3. I keep a book in my car at all times.

4. When I read "Silence of the Lambs," my parents left for a trip and I had to put the book down until they came home because it scared me so bad.

5. In high school I was in Shakespeare Society. We got together once a week and read the plays. Yes, I was a geek.

6. I buy more books than I read.

7. When I was a teenager, the one gift I could be sure of getting at Christmas was the latest Victoria Holt hardback (until she died).

8. My most hated high school reading was either "The Bear" by Faulkner or "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce. Or maybe it was "My Antonia" by Willa Cather.

9. I read tabloids in the grocery store line.

10. I've never read a Nora Roberts book although I did read one J.D. Robb book.

I tag the following folk:

Tori
Kelly
Dana

Monday, December 19, 2005

Wild Kingdom

This is me

This is my children

I remember watching "Wild Kingdom" as a child. Marlin Perkins would point out the weak wildebeest with the vicious predators chasing after it, conveniently cutting to commercial just as the animal was about to meet its bloody fate.

Well, I know what happened during the commercial.

Being a sick mom can be likened to the life of a weakened wildebeest. The predators know that the creature is feeble and cannot fight back. So they take advantage. They do all they can, herding it into a corner before they pounce.

"Mom, can I have (name of some candy I'm going to say no to)?" And then proceed to get it themselves. What am I going to do? Get up and chase them?

"Allison got in the pantry and is using your flour bin for a sandbox?"

"Mom, Allison peed all over the carpet."

"What's for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner, dessert?"

"Can we decorate the tree now? Why can't we decorate the tree now? I really want to decorate the tree NOW!!!!"

By the end of the night I just want to ingest large quantities of Benadryl and slug down a hot buttered rum and hope I collapse into an anahistamine coma.

Don't these kids realize I am going to get better? Considering it's a week before Christmas, you think they would be smarter than this. The wildebeest will rise again, only this time with fangs and point horns.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Calm Before the Storm


Thursday night I went to a Christmas party on a yacht in Newport Beach to see the lights. The boat toured around while boats decorated with lights paraded about the harbor. This is the main pavillion at Balboa. Most of my pictures turned out really bad, this was one of the few that looked good.

Anyway, I got dressed up and even wore hose. Okay, it was tights because it was chilly out there. I wore make-up, impressing myself that I remembered how to put it on. What really blew me away was my shoes. By the end of the evening I thought my feet were going to fall off they hurt so bad. But I used to wear these things all the time when I worked full time. Geez louise, I wonder how I did it? They looked cute and that was what mattered. The party had an open bar, appetizers and a full dinner. It was pretty good, but very long. And you can't just get up and leave unless you want to swim. So that was my Christmas party for the year. I suspect hubby is going to want to host one next year if our kitchen is done.

I'm fighting a flu or something right now. I woke up coughing and short of breath. I used my asthma inhaler and it helped but it gave me the shakes. I'm trying to avoid using it. Holiday cookies and candy seem to ease the misery .

Today would be a good day to write, but I feel so lousy I really have to motivation to do it. I believe this is the calm before the storm. Next week is going to be hectic. And with some of the family dynamics around here, it could get a little loopy. So I'm going to enjoy my peace for little while.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tagged

Teresa tagged me the other day so here are my answers.

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:
1. Have grandkids
2. Own a condo in Hawaii
3. Go to Europe
4. Learn to knit
5. Get published
6. Lose 30 lbs.
7. Buy a car that only seats 2

Seven Things I Can't Do:
1. Sing
2. Listen to country music
3. Eat American cheese
4. Drink Pepsi
5. Barbeque
6. Paint my own nails
7. Play the guitar

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Spouse (or Significant Other, Best Friend, etc.)
1. His intelligence
2. His sense of humor
3. His eyebrows
4. His work ethic
5. His devotion to family
6. His “guyness”
7. His earning potential

Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often:
1. $%*@
2. Geez Louise
3. Duh!
4. Like…you know…I’m so sure
5. ALLLLIIIIISSSSOOONNNNN
6. If you could…..that would be greaaattt
7. Are you going to eat that?

Seven Books (or Series) I love:
1. The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
2. The Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison
3. Jane Eyre by one of those Bronte girls
4. The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
5. Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory
6. Once More, Miranda by Jennifer Wilde
7. Cannery Row & Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:
1. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
2. Office Space
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
4. Monty Python’s The Life of Brian
5. A Christmas Story
6. My Blue Heaven
7. The Empire Strikes Back

I think everyone I know has been tagged already. It’s a fun tag, would love to see everyone’s answers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Using Color

I’ve always been aware of color in my writing, but more for its sensory benefits than any emotional or developmental aspects.  When considering color, I am usually trying to figure out if it will be pleasing to the eye.  I use color to flesh out a scene, to help bring my reader into the story.

I’ve never considered color for its emotional impact.  Settings, emotions, etc. were my tools.  But my friend Becky told me she was working on an article about using color in writing.  She made me think about it.  When I close my eyes, I can envision the “color” of my characters.  For instance, in the WIP I’m working on, the heroine is definitely in shades of warm oranges and golds.  She has a feeling of autumn about her.  The hero is dark, a very dark brown like sable, mysterious and impenetrable but not black.

But how can I use this sense of color to develop my characters?  Becky’s article, Writing In Color, talks about the symbolism in color.  If a character dresses in pink with white lace, we think of her has a girly girl.  See a man in black and we think of mysterious, ominous, evil, etc.  Becky puts this into action when she talks about using color for a secondary color.  It works with the reader’s perceptions and creates a small short cut for developing the character.  

Do you think of color when developing your characters?  Do you feel an emotional response to color?  I think it is subconscious.  I’ve since looked back at my characters and gotten a feeling for their colors.  Sure enough they are there.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Big Winner

The big winner for the Jongleurs Dance CD is Kacey!  Email me your address and I’ll get it out the door on Monday.

Kacey asked me what my favorite of his discs is.  I think my favorite is Celtic Cross.  The music is a sampling of Celtic styles from not just the British Isles and Ireland but also other spots in Europe.  I have some new CD’s of his I haven’t listened to because it is Christmas and that is pretty much all I listen to this time of year.  I really like A Christmas Gift.  The first half of the CD is traditional Christmas songs the second half is Renaissance.

I’m a sucker for the New Agey Christmas music.  I’ve got a few Manheim Steamroller and Windham Hill albums as well as Narada.  I grew up on all the traditional Christmas music like Bing Crosby and the like.  I think I burned out on them.  

What about you?  Do you have any particular styles or performers you like this time of year?  Confess, do you listen to Christmas music when it isn’t Christmas?

For you who don’t celebrate Christmas, do you have “seasonal” music?  I know I have my “winter music” and “summer music.”  Does the weather influence your musical choices?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Guilt Block

I’m going to shamelessly piggyback off from Melissa's from yesterday.  She talks about her irritability and how it relates to her need to write.  Funny, a light bulb went off in my head when I read her post.  That is what has been bothering me.  

I spend so much time satisfying others, I spend no time doing the things I find most enjoyable, which is writing.  And it isn’t the writing specifically that is such a problem.  Writing is something so personal, it belongs to me.  When I crochet a blanket, I enjoy the craft, I enjoy creating the afghan, but finished product is done for someone else.  Same with baking or cooking.  I enjoy both of those tasks, but the end result benefits everyone.

Writing is different.  In my house, the only one who will gain any pleasure from my writing is me.  And thus sitting down and writing is hard to justify.  Yes, this is a crazy problem developed in my own mind, but I think as a wife and mother, I am brainwashed into believing my family comes first in all things.  Mentally, I know this is ridiculous, my life is as valuable as anyone else’s in the family.  But still, I will skip doing what I want to make my kids happy.

Maybe there was a subliminal message in those wedding vows.  Maybe the substance I thought was pitocin being pumped into my veins during labor was actually a mind
altering drug that turned me into a martyr.  Most likely it was the examples I learned from my mother.  

Putting the needs of your family ahead of writing really isn’t a bad thing until it crosses over into your spirit.  Like Melissa, I have been irritable and quick to anger.  I resent the demands put upon me by my family.  And that is not good.

Writing books and advisors suggest treating your writing like a job.  Well, I already have a job.  Being a SAHM provides enough labor for the day.  I want to enjoy my writing.  However, I feel guilty if I’m enjoying my writing and the rest of the house is falling apart.  Like the laundry, dishes and vacuuming aren’t going to be there tomorrow.  

I think this time of year really sticks it to us women.  It is a time of giving, a time of selfless acts, not a time to be dwelling on what you don’t have.  How can I complain about a lack of writing time when there are families in the Gulf States who have nothing?  How can I think how bad I’ve got it when there are mothers in Pakistan struggling just to feed and shelter their children?

Some writers suffer from writer’s block. I suffer from guilt block.   Am I alone in this feeling?

Reminder….
Today is the last day to enter to win a CD.  Look down at Saturday’s post.  I’ll draw a name tomorrow morning and announce the winner.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Music to Write by

I'm not one that usually requires music to write with, but sometimes, I find music inspires me. Not because it evokes emotion, but because its rhythms and sounds jumpstart my brain. Usually Baroque composers like Bach and Vivaldi fit the prescription. But sometimes I need something a little different, after you've heard "The Four Seasons" and the "Brandenburg Concertos" eight gazillion times, you need a change! I started listening to Celtic-inspired music, Renaissance and Medieval as well. Anyway, I've discovered a musician who sells his cd's at holiday gift fairs and shows. Richard Searles does a lot of old music. He told me he does quite a bit of research at the music library at UCLA looking for the oldest tunes. I think I have most of his cd's. My mom and I are both fans except my mother keeps buying duplicates of cd's she already has. She bought Jongleur's Dance then got home and realized she already had it. So she gave it to me. I already have it as well, so I thought I would give it away. If you are interested, comment and tell me so. I'll draw a name on Friday. Only one entry per person.

Friday, December 02, 2005

15 Facts abouy Me and Books

Okay, here is my response to the book meme tag:

  1. My first love was history books.  I love reading about history

  2. I rarely buy used books.  Authors don’t get a dime if I buy a book used so I try to buy them new.

  3. I love libraries

  4. I love most genres but romance is my favorite

  5. I went ten years without reading a romance

  6. I save very few of my books.  When I was younger I kept everything and had them saved on a list

  7. I don’t like reading hardbacks

  8. I do like trade size although I’m not real wild about the price

  9. Most of my reading is done in bed or at the gym

  10. I’d love to own a combo bookstore/martini bar.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

  11. I’ve been in a bookstore at 3 a.m. (Kramerbooks & Afterwords in  D.C.)

  12. Cover art isn’t something I worry about.  I like nice covers but I think the quality has gone down over the last 20 years and I don’t them interesting

  13. My hubby loves to read but we have opposite taste in books

  14. My son is an avid reader and will read the ingredients on a ketchup bottle if it is around.

  15. I pack more books than clothes when I go on vacation.

I’m going to tag Lory because I’d love to hear her answers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Dog ate My WIP and Other Lame Excuses

I have an excuse for everything.  Well, not everything, but definitely for my lack of writing.  And most of the time I believe them.  

Myth: It’s the holidays, I’m too damn busy to write
Truth: I have time to read all the blogs and play computer games plus most of my shopping is done.

Myth: I have writer’s block
Truth: I’m writing this, aren’t I?  Plus I just finished a workshop over at Romance Central's Forums.  I can write anything I want, there is no block.

Myth:  I’m unmotivated.
Truth: Motivation is self-created.  We make our own motivation, it is not like the weather for which we have no control.

Myth: The kids are driving me crazy.
Truth:  Well, this is true, but it has been true for the last 5 years, so it really doesn’t play into my writing.

Truth: I am more concerned about the chance of my work selling and whether or not an editor is going to bother reading it.
Myth: It should dictate everything I write.

When I first started writing, I didn’t worry about the market.  I didn’t worry about whether I had a story that could sell or characters that fit the ideal of an editor or agent.  I wrote the story of my heart as it were.  I wrote what gave me pleasure.  Now that I’ve started submitting, I find much of the joy has left my writing.  I try too hard.  Does this story have the right hook?  Does it have the elements required to sell a novel?  I really resent this way of thinking.  I long for the days when I sat down and wrote for the pure pleasure of it.  I think back fondly to the time when I didn’t have a clue what a “guideline” was.  Sadly enough, I can never return to that place.  I need to find the balance between what my mind and heart want, forcing them to work together to create a book I can be proud of and enjoy writing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Psycho Turkey Man

We cooked another turkey today.  My husband a.k.a. Psycho Turkey Man, had six straight meals of turkey.  Yes, that includes breakfast.  So last night I ran to the grocery store and bought another turkey.  Of course there weren’t any of the deals like there were last week, but this was a CRISIS and we needed that turkey.  Hubby deep fried it, so it cooked in less than an hour.  This finished up the rest of the leftovers.  With my family, leftovers don’t last long.  Personally, I’m glad to see it go.

I didn’t go shopping Friday.  Going through the ads, I didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without.  I thought about going just for the rush, but I was so wiped out from the preceding week, I rolled over when the alarm went off.  I really don’t have much to buy, I ended up picking up a couple of things at Costco on Wednesday (yes, I went to Costco the day before Thanksgiving and yes, it was as bad as you would think).  A trip to Toys R Us this week will probably do it.

We have a new addition to the family.  Last Tuesday I was driving down the road to pick up the kids from school.  I swerved to miss something and as I passed I realized it was a turtle.  I stopped and picked it up to discover it was a baby desert tortoise.  I have no idea where she came from.  There are several houses on the street and there is some new development bordering the road.  My thought is that she lived in the field and the crew disturbed her burrow.  I’ve been keeping my eye out for signs.  I really don’t want to post signs about her because everyone and there dog will claim her. Nothing so far.  A workman was outside near where the tortoise was so he said if anyone asked him, he’d tell them to put up a sign and I would contact them.  Katie has named her Julia.  I need to take Julia to the vet and make sure she is okay to hibernate.  I also need to have her checked for contagious diseases since I don’t want my other tortoise to catch anything.  I figure she is about four or five years old which means she will definitely become my children’s problem when I’m gone.

I’ve been too busy to think about writing although an idea popped in my head over the weekend.  I usually do a Christmas story as well just for fun so I might work on that.  I’m very glad Thanksgiving is over.  We picked out a Christmas tree today at the tree farm around the corner.  It is very cool to walk over to pick out your tree.  I’m not sure when we will bring it home since the monsters are guaranteed to tear it apart.  I’ll be very glad to see the darlings go off to school tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!



Hope everyone is having a wonderful Turkey Day! While I am thankful for the usual stuff: family, health, etc., etc. I am very thankful I live in California. This picture was taken today and yes, Allison is wearing a swimsuit. I don't know why, but she likes it and the weather is in the mid-70's.

Don't eat too much: tomorrow is Black Friday, one of my favorite days of the year!

Enjoy your loved ones and bask in the start of the holidays. Peace be with you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Whew!

Here is Allison modeling one of her birthday gifts. Birthday week is over thank goodness. I only had one major meltdown. Everything went smoothly. The biggest glitch was on Saturday when I was at the soccer party and I fell, landing on my knee. I was in pain for most of the weekend but the knee feels okay now, so it wasn't anything serious. The party turned out really cute and everyone had a great time. Bouncers are definitely worth the money.

I'm posting about the field trip I took with Katie's class over at the Age of Enlightenment blog. Suffice it to say it was fun and the kids had a great time. I brought home a 5 pound apple pie for a souvenir.

I think the most significant thing I realized, however, is how much I missed blogging and reading blogs. Talk about feeling out of the loop. I haven't had a chance to do more than glance at my email for the last few days. My habit of starting my morning with coffee and blogs is so ingrained, I can't believe how much I missed it. Of course the writing bug hit too but I just didn't have time to dive into it. I did manage to get my RWA renewal in, so I'm back in their good graces.

Well, I'm off to begin catching up on everyone's news. Thanks for stopping by and wishing the little princess "Happy Birthday." If I posted her picture on my blog everyday, she'd be thrilled. Girl's got an ego the size of Texas.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Birthday Princess


Yesterday was the big birthday. Katie turned 6. We started the morning with her getting her hair cut. The stylist French braided it and put beads in it. She also painted her nails. The outfit was complete with a birthday tiara and a big red birthday button. I brought my 4 dozen "homemade" cupcakes (courtesy the grocery store). After school her grandmother picked her up and took her to a birthday tea and gave her presents. Later she went to soccer practice and everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to her. She picked pizza for dinner (Yeah! Mom doesn't have to cook) and opened the presents from us which included a set of golf clubs. Some of the presents I gave her I bought in July...of 2004. I had them at my MIL's and forgot they were there.

Birthday week isn't over. Family is coming over Saturday to celebrate her sister's birthday and bringing some presents for her as well then Sunday is her kid party. Life's rough when you are a princess.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is it January yet?

Thus begins my busy season.  Both of my daughters are celebrating birthdays this week.  Katie turns 6 on Wednesday and Allison turns 3 on Saturday.  Daniel has a major school assignment due this Wednesday.  He has to create a board game based on minerals found in California.  Of course he didn’t start working on it until yesterday.  Katie brings snack to school on Wednesday.  Her class combos with another on Wednesdays so I have to have enough cupcakes for 40 kids.  They also have a project going that morning that I volunteered to help with.  On Thursday her class is going to this place and I volunteered to go with them.  Katie’s last soccer game is on Saturday and we are having the team party right after.  I’m doing the goodie bags and taking care of the pizza.  Saturday night is the party for Allison.  We are only doing cake and ice cream with family.  Sunday is the big kid party for Katie.  I’m doing a goodie bag craft project with the kids and I ordered a bouncer.

I’m not trying to write.  It seems a pointless exercise to even try this week.   But next week I’m hoping to get some writing done.  It should be a calm week.  Oh wait, it’s Thanksgiving and I’m hosting.  Sigh….

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Slap at Cinderella

I started a new WIP the other day.  Sometimes these things just hit and I have to go with them.  In telling Melissa about it, I realized I have a theme that runs through my writing.  My heroines are forced into a journey of self-discovery.  In order to gain an HEA, they must learn and understand their own power and be able to stand on their own two feet.  That means if the hero turns out to be a dud, she can walk away without relying on him for her happiness.  

My daughters got the “Cinderella” dvd and have been watching it ad nauseum.  They watch it in the car so I am subjected to the sound.  After the 300th viewing, I started to realize what a truly horrible story it is and what a terrible example it sets for my girls.  By being a pretty little doormat, Cinderella’s dreams came true. She learned nothing about herself, only that if she is wimpy enough, some old lady with a wand will make everything right.  

I suppose there is a certain attraction to the whole idea.  Wouldn’t it be great to be whisked away by Prince Charming without putting any effort into it?  But it isn’t a very satisfying story.  As a writer, I am attracted to change in my characters.  And not just the reformed rake man or the ugly duckling heroine.  I want to make them going through the gauntlet and come out a better, stronger person, particularly my women.  The same goes for the hero, but I must admit a need to see my females grow more.  

Perhaps it is a byproduct of being from the generation I was raised in.  I am woman, hear me roar.  Perhaps it was watching friends go through boyfriends, then husbands looking for self-esteem in the validation of another’s love.  I don’t know, but in everything I have written, the heroine must come to a realization about herself and be ready to accept the consequences.  Because I am a romance writer, she will always get her man, but he is not the embodiment of her happiness, rather a compliment.  If he falls off the face of the earth, she will be broken-hearted but not destroyed.

How about you?  Do you have a theme that you see in your writing?  Does if focus on the characters or is it a plot line?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hubris

Hubris=excessive ambition: the excessive pride and ambition that usually leads to the downfall of a hero in classical tragedy

I have taken overweening  pride in the fact my teeth are near-perfect.  No cavities, no braces, good gums.  So according to the concept of hubris, I was destined for a fall.  Sure enough, my last dental appointment the dentist decided the slight cavity should be taken care of.  Yesterday I got my first filling.  It wasn’t particularly painful except the dentist said my mouth was too small (HA!) and my jaw hurt from the manipulations they did to get to the tooth.   But I have been deflated.  My arrogance in my dental health has a big hole punched in it.  

Anyway, that’s just an example about how hubris can play a part in our lives.  But it is a useful tool in character development.  When I’m developing my hero and heroines, I love to sneak in some hubris.  And the downfall for my characters is the black moment.  The result of their excessive pride directly relates to the losses they suffer.  I want it clear to them that if they had not been so prideful, they would have been able to achieve their goals and lived happily ever after.  But because I am a romance writer, my characters get to redeem themselves and gain that which they’ve lost, a far cry from the classical and Shakespearean heroes we read about.

If you are stuck with character development, reach back into those high school English classes and pick up on the classics.  The concepts can be a good guide to writing a compelling character.  

Saturday, November 05, 2005

RWA Membership

I let my RWA membership lapse again.  Despite the notices, I totally forgot to renew.  They don’t seem to have a grace period or anything so I have to pretty much re-do the form etc.

Last night I got an email saying I’d been unsubscribed from the RWA email lists.  And this is a bad thing?  I’ve gone either no mail or digest on all of them.  For the most part the posts are pretty much drivel.  I used to justify my membership because of the RWR, but I’ve noticed the last few months I just kind of skim it and throw it away.  Conference?  If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit my chances of going to conference over the next few years are pretty slim.  With three kids, its tough to get away and also, our vacations are few and far between these days.  I’m more apt to go away with the family than go to conference.

The downside is the chapters.  I belong to two chapters.  I really enjoy both.  But, my opportunities to go to my meetings for the one are rare.  My kids are in sports and the meetings are on Saturday.  They are about 30 minutes away, which is no big deal, but it takes planning on my part.  I like their newsletters as well.  

I haven’t decided what I’m going to do.  The series of fiascos the last year did leave me a little disenchanted with the organization.  However I really didn’t question whether I would renew or not.  What does everyone else think?  How high do you value your membership?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Meme Tag

Finally, I rememberd to answer a tag. Melissa got me the other day so here are my answers.

Three screen names that you've had: Renered1, Reneredk, Renered2 (yes, I am that boring).

Three things you like about yourself: Witty, generous, intelligent

Three things you don't like about yourself: My weight, quick temper, tendency towards depression

Three parts of your heritage: French, Danish, Irish

Three things that scare you: Fire, clowns, wasps

Three of your everyday essentials: coffee, Diet Coke, and checking my email

Three things you are wearing right now: sweat pants, tee shirt, slippers

Three of your favorite songs: My Immortal by Evenescence, The End by the Doors, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, 1st movement by Bach

Three things you want in a relationship: love, respect, humor

Two truths and a lie: I drive too fast, eat too much and stand 5’10”

Three things you can't live without: coffee, books, iPod

Three places you want to go on vacation: England, Italy, Ireland

Three things you just can't do: play the piano, sing, knit (although I am trying)

Three kids' names: Katie, Allison, Daniel

Three things you want to do before you die: Publish a book, drive an Aston-Martin, have grandkids

Three celeb crushes: Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Colin Firth

Three of your favourite musicians: Natalie Merchant, Gwen Stefani, The Doors

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeals to you: Eyes, hair, lips

Three of your favourite hobbies: writing, needlework, cooking

Three things you really want to do badly right now: write, shop, watch a television program geared towards someone over 4

Three careers you're considering/you've considered: writer, lawyer, city manager

Three ways that you are stereotypically a boy: love sports, swear, love cars

Three ways that you are stereotypically a girl: love pink, love shoes, squeal at cute boys

Three people that I would like to see post this meme: Lory, Dana, and Olivia

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Keep it Simple

My biggest problem when it comes to writing is the plot.  Not that I can’t think of one, but it becomes so complex.  Subplots leak in. Secondary characters bring their own devilment.  Space aliens invade.  Everything but the kitchen sink finds a spot in the WIP.  I have to stop myself and remember that I’m writing a romance.  The core of my story is the hero and heroine.  The rest is just window dressing.  

I think the reason I fall into the over-plotting trap is because developing good characters with solid conflicts and motivation is hard work.  It is much easier to understand how the heroine feels when a Martian is about to gobble up her beloved hero.  It is tougher to understand how she feels when he’s a jerk but she likes him anyway.  Getting to the heart of the matter when your characters’ conflicts are based on their own personalities is hard, but it is the cream filling of your romance.

In my head, I let the complex play out and I find how dissatisfying I find it.  As the plot gets more and more ridiculous, I notice how lost my characters become.  So once I’ve seen how totally out in left field I went, I start over.  Keeping my attention on the characters at all times, I look for plot points that are going to showcase character development.

Lots of plot is okay.  I certainly didn’t read Tom Clancy for the depth of his characterizations.  But romance is a genre whose lifeblood is the love between a couple.   It is a rather simple equation.  “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is now my mantra.

REMINDER….

If you want a chance to win signed copies of Susan Squires’ The Companion and The Hunger, the first two books in her historical vampire series, stop by Haunted Tales and enter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oh, The Carnage!



So yesterday was the first of the BIG DAYS in my children's lives. In two weeks the two girls have their birthdays (they are 3 years, 3 days apart) then Thanksgiving then my son's birthday (Dec. 23) and then the ultimate big day, Christmas. So of course they are wired for the next couple of months. The sugar haul from yesterday will help drive this frenzy of obnoxious behavior. We went trick or treating in our downtown. This is a picture of the little monsters in front of the city hall (I bet you guessed that from the picture ). Katie is a fairy from Winx Club (a Saturday morning cartoon), Allison is a dinosaur. I made this costume for my son years ago and each child has worn it. Daniel is a nerd. A big stretch for him. He actually liked the look and wants to dress like this for school. He is very odd.

So we did the candy thing there and they brought home a big haul. We moved on to my folks' house and trick or treated in their neighborhood and had dinner. My mom made a pot roast she bought at Costco. She microwaved it for 8 minutes and it was done. I was surprised how good it was. Heads up for a quick meal during this busy season. Dinner finished with Mom's home made pies. The apple pies were made from apples from her trees. Hmmmm, very, very good.

We have enough candy to make a dentist smile. I threw away all the other candy from the last year and am starting fresh.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bob and Wendy

Hubby and I went to a Halloween party on Friday night as Bob the Builder and Wendy. That wig itched so bad, but at least the costume was easy to put together. I made dh's sweatshirt by dying a white sweatshirt yellow then painting the squares on with fabric paint. DH usually wears a beard and mustache but shaved them off for this event (plus the fact the beard is turning more and more gray).

We had fun at the party although we were only there for a couple of hours. The wig drove me crazy and we didn't know many people there. Food was good and drinks were free and children were not invited. How bad could it be?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Oh Happy Day

Whatever I pay for HBO is worth it.  I heard today that Alan Ball, the brains and creative force behind “Six Feet Under” will be producing and directing a new vampire series for HBO based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire novels featuring Sookie Stackhouse.  I am so beyond excited.  Here’s the link for the story: Variety.com - Ball back in HBO's court

Haunted Tales

Happy Halloween!  Okay, so it’s a couple of days early, but this is special.  My friends Melissa and Becky have contributed a couple of haunting stories for a short story site I created for Halloween.  Haunted Tales has some terrific stories and as a added treat, a book giveaway so please check it out.  

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How I Torture Myself

…well besides having three kids.

I love going to Amazon and looking up my favorite authors.  It isn’t so bad when their new book isn’t out on the list yet, but the true pain is when their titles are posted along with their publication date.  The torture becomes worse when the cover is finally posted with a blurb here and there.  Then the author posts the first chapter.  Its like bamboo shoots under my fingernails.  

I have very few authors I feel this way about, so the torture is that much more acute.  Am I the only one that does this?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Crazy for Pumpkin

I love pomegranates.  I love a cup of warm, spiced cider on a chilly Fall day.  I adore the heavy comfort foods associated with cold nights.  I love the colors of the leaves.  I love sweaters and fuzzy slippers.  Autumn is definitely my favorite season.  But my favorite thing about this time of year is pumpkin.

I’m crazy for pumpkin.

I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin milkshakes, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin coffee and pumpkin ale.  I’ve loved pumpkin since I was a little kid and my love for it seems to increase.  

Does anyone else love pumpkin?  Hate pumpkin?  Have another Fall food obsession?  Have a good recipe for something made out of pumpkin?

Teaser….

Look out on Friday.  I have a Halloween treat coming up including a book giveaway.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday, Monday

Some days I’m just glad it’s Monday.  We had one of those non-stop weekends and I am exhausted.  I did manage to post to Age of Enlightenment with some info about gothics and their history.  That was the extent of stuff I did with writing.

My daughter had her soccer game and she was a stud.  She scored 2 goals within the first two minutes with the potential to really burst out and run over the other team.  She got pulled to defense and out of the game for most of the rest of the time.  What was really cute, however, was our team’s attitude.  We were truly the dominant team, bigger, stronger girls and we could have run over the other team.  As it was, we scored 5 goals.  Our girls were so concerned that the other team wasn’t going to score that they wouldn’t defend the goal and in the end ended up passing the ball to the opposite team so they could score.  I was very proud of them for their sportsmanship and the way they played.  For kids this age, soccer should be fun.

After the game, we went to the Village Venture.  My town’s quaint downtown area turns into a humongous street fair one day a year.  This is really nice stuff, lots of art and beautiful (expensive) crafts.  There must be about 800 booths.  I think if you live in my town and don’t go, they send the Rotarians out with cattle prods to herd you down there.  Anyway, dh bought me a really cute apron and one for each of the girls.  Mine says “Queen of Everything.”  Glad the hubby understands my place in the world.  I also bought a few cd’s from this guy.  I bought a few last year and fell in love with them.  Very good writing music.  We also ate our weight in junk food.  One booth sold almonds roasted with cinnamon, sugar and vanilla.  Yum….  We were down there most of the afternoon.

But that wasn’t enough.  We took the kids and their friend to Legoland.  It was so busy with lots of little kids in Halloween costume.  The kids had fun although Allison was a demon.  She’s at the age where she wants to ride the rides but is half an inch to short.  As soon as she would get out of her stroller, she’d take off.  I was exhausted by the end of the day.  I was never so glad to take my kids too school this morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

My histrionics were for naught, I started writing again yesterday.  I actually got four pages done: one on a Halloween short story and three on a new WIP.  The page for my short story isn’t very good, but that’s okay, at least I did something.  The three pages on my WIP are pretty good, very emotional.

I’m borrowing heavily from the WIP’s I’ve discarded, proving once again there is value in all writing we do.  I had one of those moments Kacey talked about the other day.  One moment I had nothing, the next, three stories burst through my head.  It didn’t feel like an epiphany or anything, more like the same old thing.  

I feel better about writing this time around, less insecure, more confident that I can write quality, that I can produce the type of book I can be proud of     Maybe I just needed a break.  Who knows?  

I do know I feel much clearer with my characters.  The last couple of books I’ve started, I couldn’t answer the “Why?” question.  Like an annoying two year old, I constantly ask my characters why they are doing something.  If I don’t get a satisfactory answer, I know I have a problem.  Also, I didn’t feel the passion.  My characters would reach a point far too early where they became comfortable with one another.  Not good.  

The book I want to write is one where the characters are swept away by grand emotions, forced to make decisions with difficult consequences.  I want the HEA to be hard won and that much more satisfying.  

I feel like heroes and heroines are becoming too nice.  I haven’t read too many books where the characters do much in the way of soul-searching, where they have to make some kind of life-changing decision about themselves in order to love and be loved.  

“Bodice Rippers” from the 1980’s have been so maligned.  But they were filled to the brim with passion.  I can still remember the names of Woodiwiss’ early heroes and heroines despite the fact I haven’t read any of those books in 20 years.  But heck if I can name the hero and heroine from a book I read two weeks ago.  Yes, these old books were unrealistic, inaccurate, un-pc and in many instances, down right silly.  But the writers still managed to pull us into their story, exhausting us with the wild passion of their characters.

That’s the kind of book I want to write.  I’d even like to have Fabio on the cover if it were possible.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Chicken Pot Pie

Melissa loves chicken pot pie.  It really is a wonderful comfort food, particularly in chilly weather and can be very easy to make.  So here is my recipe.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Set out a sheet of frozen puff pastry to soften.  I use the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets, you can find it in the freezer section near the frozen pie crusts.  

Ingredients:
2 large carrots
1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs. oil
3 Tbs. butter
½ a medium onion
½ cup sliced mushrooms
3 Tbs. flour
½ cup cream
3 cups diced chicken
salt & pepper to taste

Slice the carrots into thin slices and boil in the chicken broth for about 10 minutes.  Set aside.  In an oven-proof skillet, melt butter and oil.  When butter foams, add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes or so.  Add the mushrooms, cook for a minute then sprinkle with flour.  When the flour is well-blended, add the cream.  After the mixture thickens, add the chicken broth with the carrots removed.   Once the broth is blended and the mixture is thick, add the chicken and carrots.   Salt and pepper and mix well.  Roll out the pastry until it will cover the pan and pinch into place.  Make air holes in the top and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden and puffy.

I originally got this recipe to use up leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.  But during the rest of the year I use rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and strip it.  It makes pretty close to 3 cups.  I don’t add mushrooms because I don’t like them in pot pie.  I also don’t use cream; it isn’t something I usually keep on hand.  Instead, I use evaporated non-fat milk; an item I always keep in my pantry.  Canned broth is fine too.  

I use a 10” cast iron skillet, but it is okay to prepare the filling in a skillet then transfer it to an ovenproof dish and cover it with the crust.  

I’ve gotten this meal down to taking less than an hour to prepare.  I think if you did everything up to the baking the night before, you could just throw it in the oven the next evening and have dinner ready in about half an hour.

I got this recipe out of the newspaper but have long since lost it, so hopefully I haven’t botched it with my memory.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Well is Dry

I’m struggling for inspiration.  It is a unique situation for me, I’m one of those writers who usually has a million different ideas in their head at any given time, bursting with stories and characters.  But for some reason, it’s all disappeared.  

I have no idea why the well has dried.  My creativity seems to have gone on vacation.  Characters stop by in my head but they don’t stay, their appearances are brief, giving me little glimpses of their story before fading away like the morning mist.  

The odd think is how little I miss it.  Writing has been my passion for the last few years.  It has supplanted many other things, making my other hobbies molder in the closet while my time and attention has been devoted to my writing.  

Kacey talked about her difficult writing, pointing to the length of time she has been writing and how her goal of being published is taking so long to realize.  I don’t think that’s my problem.  I wish in some ways it were.  I have two fulls out there, the lingering hope of getting an agent still gleaming dully in the background.  It isn’t writer’s block; I don’t feel frustrated by my lack of creative juice.  I do not sit for hours looking at a blank screen, flogging my brain into producing.  

My fear is that my creativity was linked to my depression.  I started writing when my second daughter was a baby.  It was a very stressful time in my life and I was going through some post-partum depression at the time.  Life continued its roller coaster and I kept writing, finding solace in the written word.  Now, having been on medication for a couple of months, I wonder if the odd chemistry in my brain was what created my stories and my characters.  I wonder if the medication I am on has changed me so that part of mind has shut down or at least slowed down.

If I am truly a writer, the creativity will return.  The characters and stories will come back, maybe altered, maybe not.  Surprisingly I am not too worried about it.  My subconscious probably knows something I don’t.  I am planning a short story for Halloween and have no concerns about writing it.

I will say, however, if I never write again, it is worth it not to feel the level of depression I was at before.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Quandaries

A couple of quandaries have come regarding my children, neither one issues I thought I would have to be dealing with so soon.

First, my daughter Katie.  She’s in the first grade.  Yesterday as we were getting ready for school, I asked her if she wanted to buy or take lunch.  She said she’d buy and mumbled something about her friend Ally.  When I asked her to elaborate, she refused to say anything but after pressing the thumbscrews to her, she finally talked.  Apparently her friend Ally finishes lunch first and makes Katie stop eating and go play.  I told Katie she is to finish her lunch whether her friend is done or not.  This little girl was in Katie’s class last year and I’m not real keen on her.  I was hoping the friendship would fade since they were in different classes.  I talked to her teacher about the situation and her teacher is adamant that Katie not hang around with this girl.  She is playing with older kids and they have already gotten in trouble with the principal.  So we are going to work together to steer her towards other children.  I’m not sure why Katie is so enamored with this kid.  I do not find her very pleasant.  Last year, when they cleaned out this child’s cubby, they found a bunch of Katie’s stuff in it.  Katie is so na├»ve, she couldn’t understand how it got there.  The next step her teacher is going to try is to tell her who she needs to sit with at lunch.  Katie is only five so in some ways she is easily bossed around.  She loves her teacher so I’m hoping she will follow her teacher’s directives.

I really didn’t think I was going to have to deal with “bad kids” until jr. high.  But my concern is Katie will pick up the behaviors of these other girls.  She’s a handful as it is.  Any ideas on what I should do?

The second isn’t really as serious, but I think I need to do something.  My son brought home a book yesterday called Solar Eclipse by John Farris. This book was in his classroom, one of his teacher’s books.   It’s a suspense novel for adults.  The subject matter is pretty violent but what most concerned me was the language.  The swearing is bad and uses language one would read in an Ellora’s Cave book.  Now, he has heard this language from his mother, screamed through the house, so he doesn’t seem to notice it.  He is half way through the book, so it might be too late to take it away from him (it is a suspense novel, it would kind of suck to take it away before he found out the end).  But I think I should bring it to his teacher’s attention.  I’m not upset and I have no interest in making a stink about it.  But some other parent may.  BTW, my son is in 4th grade, the class is a 4th-5th-6th combo class.

Again, any ideas of what I should do would be appreciated.

Odds & Ends…..

Katie and my husband were sore for a few days after the accident but it seems to have dissipated.  The car isn’t so lucky.  The estimate to repair it is over $6500 but they think they will have it back to us before the end of the month.  We’re guessing that really means the end of November, right when the rains start.  

Hubby bought me a new washer and dryer.  Mine are fine, but this is a stackable unit that went upstairs so I’m not carting laundry up and down the staircase.  I’m hoping the bratlings will learn to do their own wash within the next year.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Back to the Ol' Drawing Board

Sigh....After 142 pages I have found a fatal flaw in my WIP. I don't feel the passion between my characters. There isn't enough at stake to give the characters anything to do. They like each other too much. So, I'm going to start over with an entirely new story and new characters. But being a smart cookie, I'm sticking to the same time era and setting, so none of my research will go to waste. Boy, I sure hate when that happens.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Snack

There comes a time when the soccer moms are seperated from the SOCCER MOMS. I am talking about Snack. On the schedule your name is placed beside a date and that is the date you bring snack. This entails a fruit during half-time and a snack at the end of the game.

Like a peacock spreading its glorious tail in briliant fall sunlight, I show off my plummage with little brown lunch bags filled with a bounty of treats to please the players. I look through the grocery aisle and select the most tempting delights for my snacks, searching for that unique tidbit that will one-up me amongst the soccer moms. I am good, I will admit. Today was my turn for my son's game. Target had their Little Debbie snacks on sale so the boys got frosted brownies in their bags along with a fruit snack, cheetos and gatorade. I have no qualm saying I am out to impress for my son's team.

For my daughter's team, I was first, knowing it was my sacred duty to show by example how to do a proper snack. Since Katie is in U-6, there are mostly newbie soccer moms. Hopefully they have learned from my turn, just as I as a young Grasshopper soccer mom learned from the Wise Soccer Moms before me.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Screw Tops

My new favorite thing is wine with screw tops.  No, these aren’t Thunderbird or Boone’s Farm but honest-to-goodness California wines that are aged and everything.  The process for bottling wine has advanced and corking really isn’t necessary anymore.  Many wineries have abandoned cork anyway because of the price and are using synthetic variations.  But I like the screw tops.  They are easy to open and easy to store if I don’t happen to finish the bottle.

When I mentioned my admiration for these wines to my oenophile friends, they looked askance at the very idea.  They are cork snobs.  Not that I can blame them, think of a screw top and images of Ripple come to mind.  But the world changes and that which we poo-poo’d before becomes something we like.  What bothers me is that these wine drinkers aren’t going to give these vintages a chance because of their belief that only one way of bottling a wine is acceptable.

I fine we tend to be that way about reading.  Romance readers quite often categorize themselves as “historical readers” or “category readers” or “paranormal readers” and rarely leave their chosen genre.  By limiting ourselves to only one genre, we are missing out on a great deal of wonderful fiction.  Even staying in the romance genre and never straying tends to make us stale.  I’ve been trying to broaden my reading horizons and try authors and sub-genres I never had much interest in.  It’s a difficult thing.  No one wants to waste time and money on a book they are unfamiliar with, but the gems are out there.  Sometimes we need to take a chance.  Yeah, you may run into the literary equivalent of cooking wine, but it will be worth it if you find a Dom Perignon.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sunday Night Television

The only night I watch television is Sunday night.  Tori has been talking about the new season and I have to admit I am lost.  But not on Sunday night.  

First, there is Rome on HBO.  I love this show.  I’ve always had an interest in ancient Rome, add some salacious soap opera-ish details and I’m hooked.

Next is Desperate Housewives.  When this show came on last year, I turned it on because there was nothing else on.  Boy, I was devoted after the first episode.  A total guilty pleasure.

Finally, Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I don’t know too many people who enjoy this show.  Larry David is so obnoxious.  And I love it because he is.

What do these shows have in common?  They are primarily character driven.  Their success counts on the characters and the conflicts they find themselves in.  The fate of the Roman Empire rests on the machinations of its characters.  Wisteria Lane’s world revolves around the conflicts the women place themselves in, twisting their lives and those around them by how they interact.  Larry David acts out on his impulses without caring what anyone thinks of him, making the audience cringe and laugh at the same time.

I love conflict as entertainment.  I’m not much interested in crime drama, story-driven shows don’t hold my attention as much.  And I think the same goes for my reading choices.  I tend to be interested in stories with solid character conflicts, which is probably why I like reading romance.  The crux of a romance is the two characters, their conflicts and how they resolve them.  Oddly enough, it is the weakness in my writing.  I can come up with great plots and subplots, but they tend to overshadow my characters.

So with that in mind, my latest WIP is more focused on the characters and the plot is Spartan as is the subplot, enough to move the characters along and to put them in situations which will bring them together and split them apart.    It is a slower pace for me.  I’m more apt to write big, violent scenes full of action.  Now I am trying to shift that energy into my characters,  using emotional conflict in the place of heavy action.   It is much tougher to write and I think it is why I am dragging my feet.  Whereas action and violence is easy, emotion and character takes some effort and I’ve been lazy.  

I’m hoping the new season of my favorite shows inspire me to get my folks in uncomfortable situations.  Does television influence your writing in any way?  Do you see a similarity in your writing to the things you watch on television?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"The Kids aren't hurt, everyone's fine..."

...but you need to come and pick us up."

This was the phone call I received from my husband last night from his cell phone. I knew immediately that:

A) They were in a car accident and there were no injuries and
B) My blue 2004 Mustang convertible GT with only 2500 miles on it was not fine.

Hubby took the kids last night in the convertible for a ride around the lake near our house. It's a pleasant ride they go on when the weather is nice at night. Before they could get there, they were plowed into on the side by another car. Talk about a fiasco. Their accident was the result of another accident that had happened just a few minutes before. Some do-gooder decided to direct traffic by standing in my dh's lane and forced him into the other lane. The other car didn't see dh's car and nailed him good.

By the time I got there the police wouldn't let me through because the other accident had a fatality. The officer explained in a fairly antagonistic tone, that since my family wasn't hurt, they weren't a priority. I was very tempted to grab him by the throat and explain to him about MY priorities. He finally realized he was being a jerk and directed me to a spot. Another officer came over and politely told me he would find my family for me.

Anyway, my family is fine, a little shaken up but no injuries. The other car hit where my two-year-old was sitting but she was strapped into her uber-carseat and she didn't feel a thing. My car is not totaled but is definitely out of commission for a long time. It can't be driven and had to be towed. The other accident was a guy on a bicycle who decided to cross the four lane boulevard (which happens to be a part of Route 66) at 9 p.m. Not a wise choice for him, unfortunately.

It really does make you realize how fragile we are and how quickly a life can change and I just thank God my family is fine.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

But Who's Going to Read It?

Kelly talked about lacking confidence in writing today. I suffer from it, but in a different way. I'm a good writer, I feel no lack of confidence in my writing abilities, but what I worry about is whether anyone else wants to read what I've written.

The book that I've got out in submissions right now is pretty universal in appeal. It's a vampire-save the world type of story, easy to understand and the kind of story I know others enjoy. But my historical I'm not so sure.

The writing is good, but the concept is different. I know the idea is to write something new and unique, but I don't think historicals fall in the same category. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded, but I haven't read a historical lately that veered too far off a traditional plot line. My fear is my target audience isn't going to like my story.

I'm sure this is a feeling many writers feel. Is anyone but me going to enjoy this story? Am I totally in left field with this plot? Are these characters ones readers can fall for?

I guess it goes back to writing the book of your heart and hope others appreciate your vision. It is a fine line we walk as writers, trying to gauge the market and yet not compromise the soul of the story we wish to tell. I wish had an answer. I'm almost halfway through my novel and I feel committed to it. I guess I will finish it, throw it to the wolves and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Distractions

Some people get Spring Fever, I get Autumn Fever. My attention wanders from the usual routine of my life and looks for other outlets, most of which are timewasters. I have no interest in writing at all. I think there are two things going on. One, this is my favorite time of year. I really enjoy fall and its accoutrements. I love the food, the holidays, the leaves changing color and the clothes. Second, after being down in the dumps for so long, I feel like I have a new lease on life and am making up for lost time. I dunno. I do know I haven't written for a week and even sitting her working on my blog is difficult. I swear, it has taken me an hour just to write this!

Anyway, I think the answer is to exercise some self-discipline and assign myself some time to write. But probably not today....

Congrats, Melissa

Melissa finaled in the Romance Junkies contest. Way to go, girlfriend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's A Good Thing

Yesterday was the premier of Martha Stewart's new t.v. show. I have to admit, I am a shameless Martha-holic. I love her magazines, her shows, etc. etc. It isn't Martha herself that captivates me although I do admire her survival skills. It is what she represents.

Martha's world is one of domestic perfection. She takes the ordinary and makes it special. Give the woman a trashbag, paperclip and a length of grosgrain ribbon and she'll make you a formal tablecloth. She sells graceful elegance, assuring me I can be a domestic goddess if I read her magazines and follow her lead. I buy it hook, line and sinker.

Mainly because it is what I want. I buy into the vision of perfection Martha is selling. My head understands that like the cover model on Vogue, it is an unattainable ideal. Have you noticed on Martha's shows they are shot through a soft lens? It hides the imperfections of both the hostess and everything else on the set. Not necessarily a bad thing, I'd love to look through life with a soft lens.

But my heart craves the lifestyle Martha has created in the glossy pages of her magazine. Funny, I think my chances of publication are higher than ever achieving the nirvana that is Marthaness.

I do what I can. Martha's tips have helped in my home, believe it or not. While I'm not going to go out there and create a spice garden or harvest rare heirloom tomatoes, I did tear out the page with tips on getting rid of stains and followed her suggestions for stocking a pantry.

As we know, even Martha's life is not perfect. She seems to be accepting of that and has used it to her advantage. Perhaps that is the true essence of Marthaness, to take what you have and use it to your advantage to make a better life.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ninja Butter

I should have known when the carseat broke yesterday morning what kind of day it was going to be.

Allison’s carseat broke when I put her back in the car after taking the kids to class.  I was so ticked.  I already dislike the carseat, this kicked it up to fatal loathing.

But not being a superstitious kind of gal, I didn’t take it as any kind of omen.  

I had the brilliant idea of cooking a turkey.  Yep, a Butterball turkey.  The grocery store had them on sale, so I thought it might be a nice change of pace.  So I put it into the oven and decided to print out my full.  Set the printer to print, did my other tasks, came back and added more paper, then went back to working on dinner.  I came back to check on my ms only to find it covering my floor like snow.  I had neglected to remove the first 200 pages off the printer and it couldn’t hold all 401, so it gave up and drop kicked my ms like a soccer ball.  I got to spend another 45 minutes putting the damned thing back into order.  

Still, saw no evil eye or bad luck.

Turkey’s cooking fine.  Gotta have mashed potatoes to go with the turkey.  So I made mashed potatoes.  I put the potatoes in the Kitchen Aid and fired it up.  I decided it needed a little butter, so I took a stick out of the freezer and plopped it into my mixer which was running at the speed of light.  HOLY CRAP!!!  That stick of butter, instead of melting into creamy buttery goodness, flew out of the mixer with the force of a comet and slammed into my head.  I swear, I had a big red splotch on my head where it hit.  It brought a bunch of potatoes with it.  I’m still cleaning up mashed potatoes.  I guess it could have been worse.  Could you imagine if I had been injured enough to go to the doctor?  Yes sir, I was assaulted by butter.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

And They're Off!!

Sent the little darlings off to school today. They were pretty excited. My daughter ended up in the same classroom this year as she did last year. Her teacher from kindergarten was given a k-1 class and she handpicked Katie to be in it. I was very happy. Her teacher is so wonderful. The teacher doesn't get her kindergarteners until the afternoon so she can spend a lot more time with her first graders in the morning (she only has 9). Katie didn't say good-bye, she ran off as soon as she got out of the car. Daniel was a bit more apprehensive. But his teacher is a new teacher. One of the moms stopped me in the hall and said she was a wonderful teacher and we are lucky to have her. That made me feel better. He has a bunch of friends in the class too so he won't feel so alone. It's very odd being home with just the toddler. Thank goodness for television. It has kept her occupied while I cleaned my kitchen floor.


A Woman of Strong Resolve...

Remember how I said I was not going to submit anymore? Yeah, that lasted a couple of hours. Querying by email is so easy and therefore so tempting. So I sent out 3 queries and got a request for a full already.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I'm sorry, ms, I'm with WIP now

Got another rejection today. Not a bad one, just a form rejection (a little annoying since it was on a full. Four hundred pages and that’s all the agent can say?). Anyway, didn’t really bother me too much. At this point, I am so tired of looking and thinking about this book, my feelings were rather ambivalent. I have one more submission out there and when it gets rejected, I think I will retire the darn thing.

What are we told over and over about the time spent during submissions? Write, write, write. And that is what I have been doing. I’ve written one complete ms, nearly finished another and started a new one. While that is productive, the side affect is that my enthusiasm is for the WIP I’m currently working on, a “love the one you’re with” kind of deal. As time goes by, I find it harder and harder to focus on the other ms. I’ve been submitting it for well over a year now and like a favorite song that has been played to death, I’m tired of it. Miss Snark says a writer should give an ms a 100 rejections before giving up.

Ughhh….. I’m at maybe thirty. To get to one hundred, well, I don’t want to contemplate it.

So I’m keeping my focus on my WIP. Which brings me to a whole new dilemma. This poor story has a couple of strikes against it. One, it’s a historical, and we all know the phrases agents love to throw out about those, and two, it takes place in the mid-18th century, not a particularly vogue time period in romance these days. Jo Beverly did it a few years ago with the Malloren books, but she already was well established before she published those.

But this is the era I enjoy writing about and I like my book. Mentally, I’ve prepared myself for the flood of rejections, but the writing is good and hopefully someone will give it a shot.

Melissa made some great points in her post yesterday. She talked about taking a chance on something new and different, that perhaps this is what the historical market needs. I hope so. I remember when I first started reading romances the historicals were all over the place with regards to place and era. The tide has to turn soon, doesn’t it?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How Little I Have to Whine About

It’s another sunny day in California. Life is going on pretty much as it has all summer. I complain about the kids, the husband, the house and then I read Larissa's blog and nearly fell apart. How trite and inane my problems seem today. How totally fortunate I am to be where I am with my biggest problem being my lack of a/c today.

I’ve been in the situation where I had to evacuate and leave my home behind, wondering if I would come back to find it standing or a pile of ashes. I’ve had to decide which items could be left behind and which couldn’t. I remember sitting in my SIL’s living room realizing what treasured items I’d left behind. My eyes were glued to the television as I saw neighborhood after neighborhood go up in flames in my town and hoping mine wasn’t one of them. Fortunately, because of the courage of one of my neighbors, our neighborhood lost a tree and that was about it.

But this scenario is so much worse. I can’t even fathom the level of despair these people hit by Katrina must feel. I am at a loss as how to comprehend it. But human beings are amazingly adaptable and generous. People across the country are banding together to bring aid to the survivors. I think everyone in this country feels the loss to a certain degree. Perhaps through this tragedy the country can find a common ground and focus on the innocent lives so affected by the hurricane rather than the animosity that has plagued the nation as of late.

Anyway, to help Larissa, please head over to WriteMinded for information. Also, the American Red Cross has a simple donation form. The opportunities to help are limitless. Even the smallest donation can help.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

One Week!!!

Only seven more days and I get to kick the Orcs out the door. Oh, I can’t wait. However, the school is in a bit of an upheaval. We lost 5 teachers at the end of the year to various things: one went on to be a principal; a couple went back to school and so on. Supposedly they have interviewed and had prepared to offer the jobs to new teachers. But there is a glitch.

In my school district, you are allowed to choose which school you want your child to go to. Each elementary school has its own philosophy and way of doing things. My kids’ school is the earthy-crunchy granola-eating school. Many of the students are the children of the professors at the private colleges next door. Very eclectic school. The classes are multi-age. My son was in the same class from first through third grade. Anyway, we are unique in the district and suddenly we are very popular. The school is bursting at the seams and can take no more kids. This is not so in the rest of the district. Many of the other schools have had a severe drop in enrollment. The result is that those teachers will be moved to our school. I don’t really have a problem with that; however some of these teachers are coming from schools that have a completely opposite philosophy than ours. A couple of schools are slaves to standardized testing and I worry these teachers will bring these ideas with them.

I’m not a big fan of the standardized tests. My son loves them. And, to brag a bit, he had a perfect score in math and an advanced score in language arts. But I don’t think these tests are gauging all the other great things my son has learned from his teacher. He’s learned so much more than the fundamentals and he has had the luxury of having a teacher who has encouraged her students to explore and incorporate their interests in the classroom.

A Big Thank You….

…for all of your hugs and kind thoughts. I’m feeling much better. I’m sure Tom Cruise won’t be my friend anymore, but I have to say the anti-depressants have made a world of difference. Supposedly the good affects really kick in after two weeks but after a week I can feel a difference.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Writing as a Career

I have to admit, I’m a slug. I do not like work. I’ve never actually had a job I enjoyed. My current job (stay at home mom) leaves plenty to be desired. So when talk comes up about treating my writing as a career, my eye starts to twitch.

Suzanne talked about treating writing like a career on her RTB column. She made some great points. But I hate thinking about my writing as work. I’ve tried scheduling time to write, but I feel the yoke of oppression when I do so. Yeah, I should take it more seriously, but I do not have the ability or inclination to make it my number one priority.

Anyone with small children can tell you that they have a way of making the world revolve around them. They have a sense for when my mind and time are occupied with something else and so they strike. Today my toddler found her milk on the counter, climbed up and tried to fill her own cups with it. I had milk spilled all over the counter plus 4 cups half filled with liquid. This is typical of her behavior. My older ones know when I’m writing because that is when they feel it necessary to get into knockdown drag out fights.

I’m not using these as excuses for not writing, they are just things that take priority over my time. I still manage to get my pages in. I have scheduled my day so that I have certain chores I do on certain days. Today it was the day I clean and mop the family room. It’s done and now I have the freedom to write as much as I want barring my children’s interruptions.

Anyway, for me to think about my writing as a career at this time is a practice in frustration. My family is not going to understand the importance of what I’m doing until I actually sell. Hubby definitely has the attitude that if it doesn’t make me a dime, it must be a hobby. Not a particularly sympathetic way of looking at things, but I think it is a fairly common view from non-writers. He is not going to be real excited to come from a day of work and fix dinner so I can write unless there is a contract involved. And that’s okay; it is just another hurdle to work around.

But it can be done. I think the obstacles in my path make me a more efficient writer. It forces me to focus on each and every word on the page. I do very little in the way of revisions because I don’t have the luxury of going back and making change after change. When I write, it had better be damn close to what I want because my opportunity to make drastic changes could fly out the door at anytime.

A side note…
I’m going to leave the blogger comments on until I can figure out what in the heck is wrong with my haloscan. It’s a bit awkward but feel free to use whichever works for you.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Yahoo Groups

I remember a day when I dreaded opening my email inbox because of the tons of email I received. No, I’m not that popular and I have some pretty nifty spam blockers. But the bulk of it came from addresses containing “@yahoogroups.com.” Funny thing is, when I started blogging, my interest in Yahoo Groups dropped.

I was up to 40 groups there for awhile. Half of them I was “no-mail” but still I was getting a pretty hardy chunk of messages in my inbox. But I found when I started blogging, I paid less attention to the posts. I wonder why that is?

I’ve dropped only a few of my groups, but most of them are on “no mail” or “digest.” Have any of you noticed a change in your online habits since you started to blog? I think maybe it because of how personal blogs are, how reflective of the actual person a blog can be. A Yahoo message is just an email whereas a blog shows off a bit of the blogger’s personality. Since I change my wallpaper so often on my blog, what does that say about me?

On another note….

I debated whether to say anything publicly about this but I’m thinking maybe I should. I have recently started treatment for depression. I’ve noticed for some time now that my life was being affected and it has intensified over the course of the summer. I really don’t want to talk about it here because, well, hell, it’s depressing. So I started another blog, Come From the Shadows to discuss the problem. I figure if I’m suffering from the problem, there are probably tons of other people out there suffering as well. And if discussing it openly helps another person, then I have done the right thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

TWO WEEKS!!!!!

Two weeks from today I will be taking my kids to school. I absolutely cannot wait. This summer has been a real trial for me for reasons I'd rather not get into here, but suffice it to say the kids really increased the difficulties I've had. I think they will be glad to go to school as well. Their minds are going at such a dizzying rate along with their bodies, they are antsy and bored most of the time. Their favorite activity seems to be plaguing their mother. There are days I feel like a rabid pit bull trapped in cage and these kids are poking me with a stick. Heaven help them if I get out. When I do explode, expanding their vocabulary exponentially in the process, they look at me as if I am an exhibit at the LaBrea Tarpits.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All Your Saturdays Over

All Your Saturdays Over     

It’s August so it must be soccer season.  I have two kids in the sport and for the first time, dh and I are not volunteering.  My dh coached my son two years in a row and assisted the year before.  The first year he was a field instructor.  Last year I coached my daughter’s team and did the team parent duties because I couldn’t get a volunteer from the parents.  I had such a miserable experience last year dealing with politics of AYSO I swore this year I wouldn’t do anything.  Hubby has said the same thing.  Our Saturdays were completely swallowed last year because we spent so much time on the soccer fields.  There was field set up or take down, the actual games and then hubby would have to referee another game.  Luckily my folks live nearby so they could baby-sit my youngest while I was coaching.  But it was a burden.  

So this year we decided we would retire from the volunteer duties.  We went to my daughter’s practice yesterday and the coach was trying to get volunteers.  The woman sitting next to me said, “you coached last year, you should do something.”  

And I said, “why don’t you?”  
“Oh, I don’t know anything about the game.  I don’t think I could help much.”
I just looked at her.
“I guess this would be a good level to start, huh?” she replied.  Later she went up to the coach and volunteered for something.

I’m guessing dh will go ahead and volunteer to field instruct.  The coach managed to get a father to assist, so I think I might be off the hook.  I did tell the coach if she was in a lurch, I’d help out but not in an official capacity.  And this is my plea to you who have kids in sports:  even if you don’t have the time to be a volunteer, try to help out somehow.  If you are at a practice and see the coach trying to coach your child but has to watch their toddler at the same time, offer to take the kid to the playground.  Maybe offer to type up a roster or create a snack schedule.  None of these things take a lot of time but they are invaluable to helping a coach.  These folks aren’t being paid and in many instances have been told that if there isn’t a coach, the kids won’t play (this is happening in my nephews AYSO region right now).