Monday, January 31, 2011

My Feel-Good Photo of the Day

The FBers have already seen this. They like it. I like it. I like it. Hanging out at Books-A-Million one Friday evening, I wandered into the Romance section. I found the C's and I thought. I'd be here if I were published. I was trying to get the Romance sign in it, but if my book (or books) was on the shelf, I'd be slightly to the right of that sign. After P. C. Cast and a Chambers, I think. There weren't a terrible amount of people whose last name started with C. Top shelf. I like the sound of that.

Ugh, I just need 13k more words to finish up The Treasure Hunter's Lady. C'mon, A. R. Look at the picture and feel the inspiration.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Like Riding A Bicycle

Cliche alert! Cliche alert!

Wait. No, not really. Not that one about how if you jump on a bike years after you learned, you can pick it up easily again. I'm talking about learning to ride a bike. Embarrassing story time! Gather 'round.

When I was a wee half pint, my uncle bought me a bicycle. Metallic blue with a banana seat and a flowery basket on the front. This is in the days before they even made helmets and safety pads (I'm joking, but in the part of the world where I grew up, we didn't believe in such things). Riding with training wheels--easy. Learning to ride without--difficult. The summer I got my bike, we went on vacation. To a camp ground. In a camper. We had electric and flushing toilets and all that, so we were hardly roughing it. The roads were even paved. Well, you can imagine a clumsy seven-year-old and her first bike sans training wheels and no safety devices within 25 miles. Boom, little girl hits pavement, loses some elbow skin and gives up bike riding FOREVER.

Because the patch of land where I grew up is one giant hill with a semi-busy highway beneath it, learning to ride a bike wasn't really a priority anyway. Until I turned 14. I got it in my head that I wanted to ride one. So I dug out the old bike my uncle gave me and learned to ride, just like a big girl! And then it happened. Riding down a paved driveway (did I mention the town I grew up in is set in a valley with big hills?), down a hill and the brakes failed. Not those nice hand brakes, the kind where you have to peddle backwards. The front tire hit a rock and I went sailing into the wild blue yonder. I skidded five feet on my face. And wound up with three stitches in my lip. The scar isn't bad, but I'm not real proud of it either. Aww, I learned to ride a bike and got my first stitches.

But I didn't quit. I didn't get back on a bike until I got a new one which was at Christmas, but I kept on riding and I got good enough to turn corners without using my hands. I had a bike until I graduated college.

The point of my uber-embarrasing story is this: I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 14, but I didn't quit when I got stitches. I got my new bike with awesome hand brakes and set out to conquer smaller hills.

Today I intended to send out query letters. I've picked five agents I'm interested in. I read and reread their preferences on how to send these e-mails. When I went outside this morning, I had a flat tire. No, not on my bicycle! On my car. And I said, 'Gee, Allison, this might not be your day.'

So today is not the day even though it's two days past the day I said I was actually going to send my queries, but hey, it took me seven years to get on a bicycle. I think I can manage to send them before seven years go by. My point is: don't quit. You might not have what it takes right this second, but the time is coming. When you get an idea in your head, hang on to that tight and push through your fears. You'll be rewarded in the end (but hopefully not with stitches).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Theme songs

Admit it. You have one. Some inspiring song that gets you through your writing time. When the world pees in your Post Toasties, this song picks you up. I'll give you my top five if you give me yours.

I found them all on YouTube, but rather than wait for them to load, it's easier to do a link. Looks nicer too.

The Climb - Miley Cyrus
I know, I know. I'm how old? But really, this one jazzes me. I always come back to this one.

Maybe - Sick Puppies
This is a newish song to me. It makes me think that instead of sitting around whinging about how I never get anything edited, maybe I should try.

Firework - Katy Perry
Okay, this one is just the tiniest bit annoying. But I dig the lyric about floating around like plastic bag. Yup.

Get What You Give - New Radicals
Throw back. New Radicals broke up after their first record. Bummer. I love this song even though some of it is kind of weird.

Dare You To Move - Switchfoot
This one is about forgetting the mistakes you made and moving on to try again and be better. Yeah, I could use a little of that.

There are more, obviously, but I can't think of them right now. If I come across any, I'll add them later.

A Real Writer

I had an awesome idea for a post. Until I forgot what it was. So forget that and let's try something else in hopes that I'll remember what it was later.

The real writer. What makes a 'real' writer in your definition? Starting a novel? Finishing a novel? (Or for the sake of argument, a short story or newspaper column, a blog even. Those folks are writing, after all). Editing a novel? Winning an award? Getting published? describes a writer as someone who writes, especially as an occupation. Another definition says it's someone who writes well. That sounds a bit stuck up to me. Of course, our goal is to learn to write well so we can be published. Anything worth doing... blah, blah, blah.

When did I first consider myself a writer? What's with the hard questions, Larry King? I don't know. Maybe it was one of those predestined things. I guess I knew for sure I loved writing when I was in sixth grade.

This is so embarrassing, but when I was a kid, on my favorite TV station there was an afternoon program called FOX Kids. They would pick a kid once a week and tell something amazing about this kid. At the time, my best friend and I wanted to be authors. I wrote this book--the English language doesn't have words to describe how awful this book was--and my best friend submitted my name to the FOX Kids Club and I did the same for her. No fooling, they picked my name out of who knows how many other kids and they came to interview me. With a TV camera and everything. I was on TV talking about my writing and my other obsession, dinosaurs. Yes, a twelve-year-old girl who loved dinosaurs. I told you it was embarrassing. I hate that people I went to school with still remember that. And here I've announced it to the world wide web. C'est la vie.

Was that the first step? Maybe. We still have that video somewhere; I cringe at the idea of anyone seeing it. Even my husband hasn't seen it. Please, God, let it stay hidden from the world because talking about it is bad enough.

I kept writing, even though my best friend moved on to different things. I won awards in high school. I majored in print journalism. And I've placed in two national contests in the last two years. But I'm not published. So where do I fall on the spectrum? I'm a writer. I know I am. Even at my lowest heel-dragging, can't get around this scene, hate the characters and/or the plot, I'm still forging ahead.

I sort of feel like the transition between writer and author happens at publication. Like levels on an elevator or something. Ground floor: writer, top floor: author. I dunno. Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Blues? Never!

Monday night we had wintry weather. Ick. I hate winter. Except that I don't feel as bad about leaving my head stuck in the computer for hours at a time like I do during summer. Seems like such a shame to waste pretty weather.

Pretty weather was about the furthest thing from my mind Monday evening. Husband plows snow for the state when, you know, there is snow to plow. So he was off doing his thing and my computer was begging to be typed on. What's a girl to do when left along for an entire evening?

A regular girl probably paints her toe-nails, mixes up a facial or watches a chick flick, but this girl opened a new document file and fixed up a query letter. But wait! I didn't stop there; I wrote a synopsis too. Take that Shoulder Devil and Evil Editor! And I cleaned up the first three chapters so that when I start the hunt for an agent, I have a partial.

No fooling around in 2011. Whatever your excuse is, it's just an excuse. Look at me. I don't set goals. Goals are for overachievers. I have a declaration. Now I'm following through.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Devil On My Shoulder

It all started with New Years. An anti-resolution. Most people say, "I'd like to write a book some day." I say, "Hell with this, I'm not stopping at one!" And I didn't.

I have five unedited and/or unfinished manuscripts saved on my computer. Since February 2009. You see the issue here. Too much writing, too little editing. To reiterate: I hate resolutions. They're stupid because no one ever follows through. So I made a declaration instead. I'm going to edit instead of write this year. Well, sort of. I have to add 30,000 to one novel because it's far too short.

We're ten days into the month. I have my oh-so-darling novella in hand. The apple of my eye, a funky little historical-fantasy-romance number. It met its happily ever after at somewhere around 28,000 words. I never intended it to be anything other than a novella. Which would've worked out really well (you know, sans editing) if it wasn't for this supporting character. He thought he deserved a novel too. I blame National Novel Writing Month for some of my problems. Like the historical romance I wrote in '09. And never finished. I also blame the organization for this year's encouragement of that supporting character's whinging for his own novel. At least I finished that one. Okay, mostly finished. Because I'm thinking of adding another 10,000 words. Or so. Which brings me back to how I'm always writing and never editing.

I can tell you why I never edit. I'm a writer. Not an editor. I kind of played hookie during my college journalism editing class. 'Any idiot can edit,' the devil on my shoulder whispered. 'Cause your the bomb, baby!' Wrong. I was notorious then (and possibly now) for turning in unedited assignments. Professors came to me, cross-eyed with frustration, over obvious mistakes in my papers. All right, not really, but some of them were pretty dumb. A simple read through would've made it look like I actually gave a care.

It's not like I'm walking confidence or anything. It's more like, hurry and get it done! Which isn't a bad way to write a novel. Don't spend agonizing moments lingering over some scene that's gonna blow chunks anyway. Pound that puppy out and have it done. Fix it later, is my motto. Later seems to have forgotten to swing by my place.

Bringing us back to that anti-resolution. The declaration. Which sounds way cooler anyway. Chapter one of this spiffy little number I've been working on got awful, awful reviews in the first contest I submitted it to. Okay, the only contest I submitted it to. Odd, because people seem to like the characters.... So I cleaned it up only to find myself almost in tears over its next critique session. Someone said, "I know this is a first draft." My heart ceased beating for what should've covered five, six beats. It wasn't a first draft. It was a second. Fu-- uh, oops.

Spellbinding characters ... check.
Superb setting ... check.
Page-turning plot ... check.
Magical writing ...
Um, hello? Magical writing? *Taps microphone. Feedback echoes throughout the building. After that, silence.*

Break it down into epic fail proportions: no dialogue in the first three pages. No description of our amicable--and super hot--hero. It was wrong of the hero to slip the heroine the tongue right after they met. Never mind that he's a brash cowboy. And apparently gypsies (yes, gypsies) have poor vocabularies.

The Shoulder Devil grabbed his gut in a belly laugh. Poor little thing almost fell off, he was going at it so hard. 'You're the bomb, baby,' he chortled.

In addition to that feisty little devil, I live with this entity I like to call Evil Editor. She's the one who pipes up when the going gets rough, not to be cliche or anything. 'Well,' EE said, 'didn't listen to me, didja? I could've told you it was crap. Who was right? Again. For the... let's see. Ten plus ten, multiply by infinity. Well, without doing all the math, it rounds out to, let's say the mil-bil-tril-jillionth time.'

I hate you, Evil Editor. Multiply my hate for your snarky comebacks times infinity, will ya? Tell me what that equals. You only need one finger to count on and I'll bet you can guess which one.

Moving past juvenile insults (to imaginary forces of evil no less) and trying to focus on the fact that I have awesome characters, a superb setting and a page-turning plot, I set out again to add all of those missing details. I'm faced with one conclusion. It's gonna be a long novel, especially with Shoulder Devil and Evil Editor hanging around. Can't you guys get a hobby?

Here we go. Round three. Sometimes it just takes a while for the novel to get off on the right foot. It's gonna take drowning out Shoulder Devil and Evil Editor--even if it means using off-key singing.