Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hectic Week!

I couldn't wait for my kids to grow up so I would have more time to myself. HA!!! While babies and toddlers are a lot of work, my time is totally sucked up now that they are older. I do a lot of driving to and fro, picking up, dropping off, running emergency shopping errands, the works.

My daughter's Girl Scout troop had a sleepover at a local campsite. It is amazing how much work must be done for an event which was over in 18 hours. My daughter also had 3 baseball games in five days. Plus a practice. There was also the Great Toy Purge last week when I packed up all the kids' toys from their playroom. So far, it seems to have had no affect. Hmmm.... But it did mean additional car trips to the storage unit. Too much time in the car.

I tend to get mentally overloaded and I kind of shut down. I feel like a bicycle whose lost its chain and the wheels just keep spinning and making no progress. Its taken me a few days to get back into the groove. Oddly enough, it took a trip out of the house to get me back on track. I took a couple of hours yesterday and went shopping. Got my "summer" purses and a new wallet. Made me feel like I'd gotten a new lease on life.

What do you do when you feel like you are out of whack? Do you read? Does writing help? Shopping? Eating? Exercising?

And now that I've posted I can go and visit everyone's blogs. I feel bad if I haven't posted something when I go to blogs, feels like I'm going to a party without at least a decent bottle of wine. Its not necessary, but it seems like the proper thing to do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Heroes Have Always Been Villians

Back in the dark ages when I was a child, the Wizard of Oz was only shown once a year on television. VCR's and dvd players were beyond comprehension. Heck, if I wanted to change a channel on the television, I had to get up and turn it myself. So "Wizard" was that much more important for me. I don't remember the first time I saw it, but I do know when I was four and living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I loved the wicked witch. The first Halloween I was allowed to go trick or treating, I insisted on dressing as her. I remember asking my mom to draw pictures of her and pretending I was her.
Then came my next "crush." Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was like Wizard in that it was shown only occasionally. But when I saw the child catcher, I found a new dreamboat. I thought he was awesome. I used to pretend I was him, dragging a wagon around to capture dolls with.

I still love villains. Jason Isaacs' vicious Tavington got me through "The Patriot." He was so vile, wasn't he? And incredibly sexy at the same time. Of course there was the Cigarette Smoking Man from "X Files." I really liked him, loved the way he made Mulder and Scully dance to his tune. The fact he was also a frustrated writer probably pumped up his appeal to me.

I think this love of villainy is what draws me into writing urban fantasy. I can have villains who are villains because that's what they are. They don't need a whole lot of motive to be evil. And they can be deliciously evil. Humans have motives behind the horrible things they do unless they are insane. As a writer, I don't find insanity all that interesting to write. But rottenness for the sake of rottenness is fun. It's the fantasy aspect I suppose, like the terror of riding a roller coaster. The thrill far exceeds the reality.

Do you like villains? Who are some of your favorites?

UPDATE: I won Turn Coat by Jim Butcher from Bitten By Books. I so wanted this book but didn't want to part with money for a hard back.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I was in a foul mood most of the week. Mostly for little reasons. But today is just beautiful and I went outside and took some pictures.My husband loves to grow roses. They are blooming beautifully this year although I think the best blooms are in June and July. I don't garden myself. I never have. Both of my parent spend all their free time out in the garden. My husband loves to be out in the yard. So do I...watching him do the work. His big pride are his roses. I think he has reason. They look wonderful and we end up having blooms until Christmas. But we have more than just roses. We Callas and azaleas which are all in bloom.
Hope spring has found you where you live.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Old Dog, New Tricks

The kids are back to school and Spring Break is over. Our lives return to the routines we've established, such as they are. And I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'd planned on getting so much done last week and I only an tenth of it done. So now I need to face that which needs to be faced.

My temptation is to put my writing aside and focus on the myriad of tasks at hand. But damn, those tasks are still going to be there tomorrow. My enthusiasm for my writing wavers. Thus I do think it is important for me to make sure I do get some writing done.

That's a big step for me. I've always been one to "reward" myself with writing. Get my chores done, get to write. But I'm finally overcoming that hangup and giving my writing the position it deserves in my life.

I don't have the luxury of spending as many hours as I'd like to it, but I sometimes think that is a good thing. If I write until I'm worn out, I might lose some of my eagerness. By forcing myself to limit how much time I spend on my manuscript, I feel like I'm saving something for the next day.

Today I'm going to need to get back into the groove. I'm discombobulated on all fronts. My writing has been compromised and my house is in disarray. None of it is serious. But I have a tendency to go into panic mode, lament about all I have to do and then get nothing done.

So here I am, an old dog trying to learn new tricks. It is not easy. Mindsets are difficult to change. But I'm going to try.

Do you have certain habits, mindsets, attitudes which you've come to realize are outdated to your life or have become counterproductive?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Learning to Appreciate

Have you ever sat and read a book, paused and wished you wrote like that? Of course you have, we all have at one point or another, its probably what got us into writing.

I love description. I love reading description. I love writing description. Unfortunately, my writing style does not jive with long passages describing windswept moors or the way an errant lock of hair strays to a perfect brow. I describe what I have to and then get out.

Today I was reading a book and the author described a character and really put in some lovely words. Man, I thought, why can't I do that? And the simple reason is because that isn't my style. I've tried. But it is jarring and slows everything up. I hit the delete key and get rid of my poetic prose.

It really is a matter of recognizing your voice and style and appreciating what you do with it. Some writers' voices lend themselves to using different elements in their writing. For some, its dialogue. Others, its humor. And some carry us away with beautiful descriptions.

Readers are looking for a voice they can feel when they read. They want to lose themselves to the story you are telling. And they want to hear your unique voice. Value what you bring to the table in your writing and strive to make it yours. The world doesn't need another Nora Roberts or Stephen King. Read through your writing and see if you can see what makes you unique and focus on it. Figure out what your strengths are and trust your writer's voice to make it work.

Trust is something we struggle with as writers. Because we are involved in a career filled with rejection, we forget to trust ourselves and our voice. Learn to appreciate what you can do and believe it is as good as you think it is.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Solace of a Good Book

I had a lousy day yesterday. I don't want to get into the details, but suffice it to say it sucked. There really wasn't anything anyone could say to me yesterday to make it better. So I go to where I get the most comfort. Books.

I've always escaped into books whether it was fiction or non-fiction. I was an only child and while I really liked being an only, it did have its lonely times. Television didn't offer much and video games consoles in the home were unheard of so I turned to books. My folks bought all kinds of encycloipedias when I was a baby. Apparently they were convinced by some slick salesman this was the way to best prepare a child for the modern world. I believe there was one whole volume dedicated to the propisition that a man may someday walk on the moon! Anyway, even before I could read I poured through the those books. And when I did start reading, I found myself lost in those pages.

When puberty hit along with all of the overwhelming angst it brings, I found comfort in reading. They took me away to exotic places where girls didn't get pimples and boys...well, they were nothing like the toads I mingled with on a daily basis. Those novels got me through some really tortuous years. In college I read as a relief from the stress of studying. Yeah, I read for school, but it wasn't fun reading, fiction gave me yet another place to go which didn't have mid-terms and pain in the butt roommates.

As an adult, I once again find solace in a good book. Television and movies don't provide the depth of involvment a book does. When I get caught up in a story, it lingers in my head even when I'm not reading. I spend part of my time thinking about what is going to happen next. Like an Advil, it takes the edge of whatever mental miseray I'm going through at the time. It is truly a snuggie for the soul.

Today I'm fine. However, I'm really into the book I'm reading. I don't have the excuse of a bad day to go hide with my book. Sigh...guess I will have to make up soemthing.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Play Ball!

"The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again." - James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989)

So begins another season of Major League Baseball. Tonight was the official opening night but the season hits its stride tomorrow. Baseball has always had a place in my heart, I've been a fan since I was a kid. I remember going to my first Dodger game and being blown away. It seemed so huge to me, a magic fairy castle filled with dragons and knights. As I got older I spent more time at Chavez Ravine. When I was sixteen I'd go with my dad and he'd make me drive, including navigating the parking lot once the game ended. That was a challenge. I went with my friends and we'd squeal over the cute ball players. I had my favorites and I'd follow their stats with the devotion of a "Twilight" fan. I fretted for my Boys in Blue, worrying when they had to face the Evil San Francisco Giants, a team so villainous they made Orcs look like Sunday school teachers. By the way, I still feel this way. And don't get me started on the Yankees....

I don't go to Dodger Stadium much anymore. I married an Angels fan and Angel Stadium isn't far from my house. But I still get overwhelmed when get inside a stadium. Ball parks are still fairy castles to me. Is there any deeper green than the grass on a baseball diamond? The color of the clay used in the infield is a vibrant red, full of life and promising action. And there are the warriors, men armed with a small piece of ash who must hit a fist-sized orb hurtling at them at 95 miles an hour. They don't hit them very often but when they do, the heart leaps at the sound.

I think part of my affection for baseball comes from my love of history. And baseball is history. It is as attached to its own history as any other institution, maybe more so. The power of the past is always there, influencing the way the game is played. We constantly compare our modern players to men who died sixty years ago. And people who are obsessed with the game can rattle off statistics with frightening accuracy. My husband can rattle off numbers of people who died 20 years before his birth. He can name the starting infield for the 1969 Mets. Just don't ask him what he had for breakfast, you will get a blank stare.

Baseball is a summer game, its is played with redolence, a slow game for a hot summer's day. Baseball is a game with strict parameters. It likes to believe in its honor, the rules are strict and allow for no cheating. Hence the horror over the whole steroid thing. Beyond the health issues, its cheating and baseball hates cheating. Basketball and hockey are fast games, where players can foul and use those penalties to their advantage. Football is violent by its nature, a crushing game where a little blood is a good thing. Mind you, I enjoy those other sports, but they don't captivate me the way baseball does.

I welcome opening day with optimism and joy, prepared to watch the epic battles played out on grass and dirt. I look forward to a fresh season which brings back old memories.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Bloods Vs. Crips? Try Agents Vs. Writers

Did anyone catch the whole agentfail at the BookEnds blog? Agent Jessica Faust invited comments about how agents fail. At last look, there were over 270 comments.

Writers take things personally. Their books are an extension of themselves and when you criticize it, they take it as an attack on their person. Saying you don't like their writing is like saying they look fat in that dress.

Does that mean agents need to tiptoe around a writer and try not to break their little hearts. Nope. Agents are business people, they have a job to do and it is a tough one. They have no time or energy to suffer poor writing and lousy queries. These are professionals and they want to deal with writers who are reasonable and understand the process.

Oooh, there's the rub. I have found writers to be some of the least reasonable and rational people on earth. Nathan Bransford and Elana Roth were disturbed by the level of anger and bitterness of writers. Well, duh! Writers aren't the most mentally stable of people. Type in "Suicide," "Depression" and "Writer" in your google search bar and see what comes up. That which makes a writer creative also makes them...umm...difficult.

Again, does that mean an agent needs to be extra careful? No, a writer's anger and bitterness is their own issue and one they need to deal with themselves. They don't like to, they want to blame someone else for their failure and an agent is as good a symbol as any to vent their spleen on.

Some of the comments I've read had merit. Yes, I think those of us who have submitted to an agent have had one hold onto something forever and then reject it. Or we've never heard anything from them at all. Yes, its frusterating, but ranting and raving isn't going to do much good. Just don't query them again.

I thought the comments complaining about agents blogging and tweeting were stupid and presumtuous. Considering how much time writers spend blogging and tweeting, it seems hypocritical to castigate an agent for doing the same. Most agents who blog have something to offer their readership. And even if they didn't, so what? Its really not a writer's business.

I get irritated when writers bad mouth other writers, agents and editors. It's destructive and shines poor light on the rest of us writers. I'm not saying all agents are perfect and not deserving of criticism. But spewing vitrolic anonymous comments on a blog post is just immature and puts those people you want to work with on edge.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Why's of It

Remember in school when you had to read a classic novel then dissect it, looking for the hidden meaning behind words and what the author was really trying to say? Remember spending unending, torturous hours figuring out the significance of the river in Huckleberry Finn? Or the symbolism in "Hamlet?" Even my beloved Steinbeck was turned into a sadistic lesson about the greater meaning behind Lenny and George's relationship in "Of Mice and Men." And always I would ask my teachers if these themes were intentional by the authors. And they would answer probably not. I didn't get that. Until now.

One issue I'm having with my current heroine is her flaws. They aren't readily obvious. Usually I have a pretty good idea what is going on with my characters from the get go. My last heroine had a serious responsibility issue and of course she was confronted with a situation where she was ultimately the responsible one. It was fairly simple to write around such an obvious flaw. But this chick is different. I know she's flawed, I know she has some huge issues, but darned if I can push them right out there and write to it. But the subconscious is so clever.

An early scene takes place in the heroine's kitchen. I usually don't spend much time describing a room unless there is significance. I'll mention the furniture, maybe the color, but unless it has a point, I don't waste my time. However, I went into detail with this room. The room is...perfect. It looks like a photo spread from a shabby chic catalog. Later another scene takes place in her cottage-styled family room and again I take time to describe the details. In the same scene, the room is destroyed. So her beautiful, perfect room is ruined, ripped away as it were. Hmmm...maybe I should take a look at that.

My secondary characters have helped as well, criticizing the rooms as being fussy and not her style. She of course vehemently argues her point, but apparently doesn't know herself very well. A flaw in and of itself. But I can tell there is something deeper going on. I have an inkling as to what it is, but I'm willing to let my instincts go and see where it takes me. They are so much more reliable than my brain sometimes.

Do you have those head scratching moments when you write only to have the light bulb go off later down the line? Or do you place intentional symbols in your stories?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's Like Dessert

I have been waiting for Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews to come out all year. It is a series I really enjoy reading. I was going to order it through Amazon but they don't always get the books to me soon enough. So I went down to my local B&N and picked it up. While I was there I found a few other novels. I didn't realize the new Cassie Palmer book was out and I picked up a couple more of Simon R. Green's Nightside series.

So of course I got home and dove into "Magic Strikes," right? Nope. I put it aside and picked up one of the other books. I know I'm going to love the book, so I'm enjoying the anticpation. It's like when you go out to dinner and you are sitting where you can see the dessert tray. The whole time I'm eating I can see it's luscious goodness promising taste bud paradise. Not that I don't enjoy the rest of the meal, I do, but the sheer joy of eating dessert is...special.

I'm that way with books. I did it with "Bone Crossed" and I have and will do it with the next "Sookie Stackhouse" book. I think I waited a month before I read the last Sookie book and I got it on the day it was released.

It's a reading quirk, more of a game, or maybe its a ritual. I don't know. Do you have any reading quirks?