Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guilt monkeys

I'm writing again. Whew, that feels good!

I finished a short story today. Well, I wrote half of it last night and this morning. I wrote the other half three weeks ago when I noticed an intersting prompt and thought, "Heck, I have three weeks to get something together for that. No problem." Ha.

It shouldn't have been a problem. I'm annoyed with myself for taking that much time off. I have excuses, one of them possibly very exciting, but that will wait for another post when things are confirmed. But we all have excuses, don't we? The trick is to not accept them and keep writing.

I must better learn to be my own 'nagging grandmother' as Vayen would say. Let me tell you, if I had to actually vocalize to someone the excuses I make for not writing, they would likely sound far more lame that I try to rationalize.

It's time to break out the guilt monkeys until I can get myself back in line.

Normally, I save the guilt monkeys for November during NaNoWriMo. I also have a pack of rabid, cybernetic attack weasels, but they're off saving the world during the off season. So I'm using the monkeys.

Depending on who you ask and how much sugar or liquor they've recently injested, you might be told that guilt monkeys are actual monkeys or they are your support network. I'm inclined to tell you both--because I have posters I'm printing for my NaNo region to prove it. However, for the purpose of this post, let's call them your support network.

How it works: I tell as many people as possible that I'm going to write something. Something with a goal works best for optimal results. Such as: A short story today, a rough draft of a novel this month, finish a round of revisions on chapters one through ten this week, etc. At least one of my drafted guilt monkeys will follow through and ask how that progress is coming along. I then either have to say, "Awesome! It's done / I'm half done / I'm working on it" or "I didn't get to it because.... (insert sure to sound lame excuse here). I hate sounding lame.

Some people are great at setting goals for themselves and reaching them. Some of us need accountablity... and guilt monkeys.

Where can you find your own guilt monkeys?
-Facebook updates
-Blog posts
-The jungle
-Your friends
-Your critique group
-The produce section of your grocery store
-Your family (but I've found they accept the lame excues a little too easily because they want you to feed them)

And now I must go polish and submit this thing before I get pelted with banana peels.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Another monday

They have a way of coming around every seven days, don't they? Unlike many people, I like mondays. They are the return to order around my house. A day when I can pick things up and they might stay put away for several hours because everyone else has gone about their monday routines. For a brief moment, I might get a glimpse of my house as I see it in my head, that tidy, newly redecorated place that breathes calm into my often hectic life.

Every weekend has been busy and rainy, driving me to even further appreciate my mondays--the day when mother nature likes to spite all the work away from home people by offering sunshine and perfect temperatures. Working at home does have certain benefits. Assuming the work I need to do that day isn't the sort that requires me to remain inside, only to gaze longingly out the windows like everyone else.

This monday also marks my summer return to the groove (or at least in much closer proximity to the groove than I've been in a long while). I have decreed it so.

My latest book addiction session was just what I needed to catch my breath and take a step back.

For the past few months, work, projects around the house, and child obligations have severely hampered my writing time. But now...

The kids, home for summer break, have fallen into their own mostly self sufficient routines and have found friend's houses to hang out at on occassion. My flowerbeds (if I could get a few consectutive days without rain, it would be most appreciatated) are almost done and are to a point I can finish whenever I get to it. The house is mostly put back together after the big redecoration project--only one slipcover and eventually putting in the laminate flooring that is taking up space in my garage remain to be completed. My annual (one month late thanks to my fractured ankle fiasco) garage sale is done as if this past weekend, and all the stuff that didn't sell is put away or crammed into the back of my car waiting to be dropped off at Goodwill. My job board is as clean as its been in months after busting my behind lately to push jobs through.

Join me in a deep inhale exhale. Ah, that's better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm free

It's over. I closed the book this morning, having reached the last page after getting up an hour early with the intent to finish this thing! I am immensely thankful that Jacqueline Carey doesn't pump out books every few months or my own productivity would be seriously hampered.

As it stands, Naamah's Curse is to blame for:
• My sunburned back--I was too busy reading and forgot to roll over when I was supposed to.
• Several hours of missed sleep
• My garage sale being delayed a day--I was too busy reading to get out to price and set things up yesterday.
• A bird almost hitting my daughter--I was attempting to be interactive while reading and so sat on a quite secluded bench on my desk which I infrequently use so I could 'watch' my daughter pick seeds from my prolific lilies to sell in the garage sale. A cardinal flew over the bush behind me and, finding me invading the bird feeder space, freaked out and flew off at top speed, missing my daughters face by a mere inch. At least she thought it was cool.
• A sore back. I discovered reading while laying on my stomach isn't as comfortable as I remember it being. I think I'm too used to sitting at a computer these days. Unfortuately, use of the late night reading light demands I use that postition for optimal extension of the 'turn that freakin light off already' factor.

Beyond my list of grievences, I feel it was good to have my children witness me in full reading frenzy with an actual book. I read on my computer all the time, but I could just as well be surfing the web for all they know. They both remarked several times how much I must really like the book to be reading it so much. Darn right. Now go read one of your own!

There are very few books that allow me to lose myself in them without that infernal internal editing voice piping up every few paragraphs and my hand twitching to make notes. Perhaps spending so much of the last two years critiquing others hasn't been entirely a good thing. I'm happy to say, this was a most enjoyable read. As if you hadn't figured that out already.

I laughed. I cried. I cried several times to be honest. There is a lot of emotion packed into this story and all her others. The characters may change, and with the second trilogy, that was a little jarring, but with this, the third, knowing she will take good care of me as a reader, I'm much more accepting. I was not let down.

Unlike many authors of long series, she hasn't fallen into predictable or come to rely on a formula. As much as I might enjoy a two or three books by an author, if the one reads too much like the other, I'm done with it. Enjoyable as they might be, I'd rather read something new. With these, the adventure continues, swirling about the world in new places with new challenges. The only predicable thing I've come to find is that when a character says they are happy, they won't be by the next page. The good thing is I never know why until it happens.

My one regret with this novel is that I won't get it signed. When Naamah's Kiss was released, I had the pleasure of meeting Jacqueline Carey at a book signing (I got lucky with a book tour stop only five minutes away!). She was very kind... and patient with whom I discovered were several other fellow aspriring authors who also lingered in the seats lined up in front of her table. Between signings she answered all our questions, telling us of her practice novels, getting her first novel published and the best wisdom of all, "you'll never know if your novel will get published unless you start sending it out."

Having been stuck in an endless cycle of revision--as it seemed so was the rest of the endless question lobbing group--this was exactly what I needed to be smacked upside the head with.

Yes ma'am. I'm sending it out!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My addiction

I admit it. Give me a good book, a really good book, and I'm useless for anything else.

I was wise, knowing my addiction, I waited to even open the cover of my newly arrived book until there came a day when I'd mostly caught up with work. Why? I've lost enough workdays to know that I will shirk responsibilty once a good book gets into my hands. Oh, I might get a few things done, after all, I don't want to get yelled at by angry customers, but I will read as much as possible while doing those jobs, including the three minutes it takes for the equipment to do its thing, while waiting for the computer to boot up, while programs to load, or because I derserve it for working for ten minutes straight.

After working an extra two hours last night, I found myself caught up enough to crack open the cover. This special occasion happened during the fifteen minutes I'd left early to pick up my daughter from her first night at bible school. I was alone in the car with my book. Ah, good stuff. Read. read. read!

We got home, I checked email. I sent the kids to bed on time--a rarity for summer break--and dove into my book for three hours. It would have been much longer, but the "turn that freakin reading light off already" vibe coming from the other side of the bed finally got to me.

I woke up early. On time, really, for the rest of the year, but early for summer since I don't have to get the kids up. Let's just say it was far earlier than I have since school let out. First thing I reached for? No, not the book. Amazing, I know. I had to watch ten minutes of morning news to see what was going on in the real world... and to see the weather report to further put my plan in motion. A nice day. Excellent.

Reading for two and a half hours officially started my day. I worked for half an hour. Then there were errands to run. I've put of getting my oil changed for a month. Oh hey! That's fifteen minutes I could be reading in the car! My oil is changed. The rest of the errands were run in record time.

Back home, with the storm clouds of last night clearning for the promised beautiful day, I laid out my plan. First up, the dog park. The poor dog has been shut up in the house, as much as I have lately. Besides, I can read at the dog park and the kids can play. Everyone wins.

Next, lunch. Then we're off to the beach. I don't care if the water is cold. As long as I can read, that's all that matters.

What I'm so madly reading:

Monday, June 21, 2010

The truth about Vayen

In friday's post, Vayen had a great time lying to you. Well, to me actually. I wouldn't let him anywhere near the keyboard. He'd only get into trouble and he does that enough without encouragement.

Without further rambling on my part... the truth is revealed:

1. I am an awesome pilot. I can fly anything. This one time... well, I don't want to brag.
LIE -Vayen never trained as a pilot. He's got plenty of other things to deal with without having to fly anything.

2. I'm a neat freak. Messy rooms drive me insane. I don't know how anyone can live like that.
LIE - As if. He drives Delyn nuts with his "relaxed" housecleaning habits.

3. Bring on the front lines, I'm a hands on kind of leader who loves to be in the middle of everything in person.
LIE - That's Delyn. Vayen prefers to leave the front line fighting to those who are trained for it.

4. I have a thing for Caltessian and Verian women. If I could find an agressive Caltessian woman in a short-statured, devout Verian with telepathy, I'd be at Geva's gates.
LIE - This one couldn't even be typed with a straight face. Vayen prefers his own kind, Balorian women, but managed to bond to a human woman instead. Nothing ever goes his way. Poor guy. (Yeah, I'm snickering.)

5. Some might say I have substance abuse issues. I would say I like to have a drink now and then. Okay, fine, maybe a few, but my experience with drugs was not entirely my fault.

6. I harbor no grudges with my Caltessian co-worker. After all, neither of us was physically involved in the war that took my family from me. I'm sure he lost someone he knew too.
LIE - Compassion for his co-worker is not Vayen's strong point. Then again, the lack of feeling is mutal.

7. Profanity is intolerable.
LIE - Again, not even typed with a straight face.

Thank you for playing, Vayen. Now back into the book with you!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lies, I tell you, all lies!

Scott Free seems to be my blog muse lately. That alone is odd. Or was it crazy? No, he wasn't crazy, that was one of his lies. I'll get it straight, I swear.

Yes, I've been tagged with the bald-faced liar award... again.

Since I've already shared my lies and bequeathed the award upon others, I'm going to pass the honor to one of my favorite characters, Vayen. For a man from a novel called, Trust, how can you not... well... trust him?

This will probably be more fun for those of you who know Vayen, but everyone is welcome to play.

1. I am an awesome pilot. I can fly anything. This one time... well, I don't want to brag.

2. I'm a neat freak. Messy rooms drive me insane. I don't know how anyone can live like that.

3. Bring on the front lines, I'm a hands on kind of leader who loves to be in the middle of everything in person.

4. I have a thing for Caltessian and Verian women. If I could find an agressive Caltessian woman in a short-statured, devout Verian with telepathy, I'd be at Geva's gates.

5. Some might say I have substance abuse issues. I would say I like to have a drink now and then. Okay, fine, maybe a few, but my experience with drugs was not entirely my fault.

6. I harbor no grudges with my Caltessian co-worker. After all, neither of us was physically involved in the war that took my family from me. I'm sure he lost someone he knew too.

7. Profanity is intolerable.

Learn the truth about Vayen on Monday. He's quite happy to be let out of the book for a little while. I don't usually let my working characters out to chat. It tends to inflate their egos. Let's just hope he stays in line and doesn't catch sight of any discarded characters that he might hold a grudge with. That could get messy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm back

I'm still alive, though, no more sane than I was when I left with my car full of Girl Scouts. After all, I did volunteer for this gig, so obviously there is a general lack of sanity to begin with. Much whining, pitching of fits and swallowed pool water was involved. And fun. Though, mostly had by the girls and not us sleep deprived zombie drivers with one eye locked on the road and on on the GPS.

Things learned on this trip:

Boy scouts are prepared. Girl Scouts will forget essential things like a swimsuit, lunch money, a can opener and that one car who doesn't have directions that we're supposed to be making sure is following right behind us. Where did they go? Ooops! Thank goodness for cell phones.

I can not sleep with blinking lights right above me. I don't know what the heck these ceiling sensor lights were for but at 2:30 AM, white blinky lights in an otherwise pitch black room and snoring girls did not aid my efforts to rest.

No matter how many children are on the trip, my own will always be the one that truly drives me nuts. At least I can pull that one aside and give her an uncensored chewing out without threat of any other parental backlash.

I am cursed to be the one that must always follow the gorilla men into the hot tub. Sorry folks, I have a very low tolerance for extreme amounts of back/shoulder hair.

There are a lot more tattooed people out there than you realize when you see everyone fully clothed. (Yes, I'm one of them)

Customers will still need everything right now even if I'm not in the office. Messages and emails will pile up. No one will do my work for me while I'm gone.

Twenty-four hours away from computer access is hard.

Water slides are still fun.

Witnessing my timid daughter figure out that water slides are "awesome" is, well.... awesome.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And so summer begins

Sorry folks, no witty monday morning post this week. I'm spending a couple days with my Girl Scouts at a water park. This would probably be a fun mini vacation if it weren't for attempting to keep a bunch of seven to ten year old girls under somewhat control. Oh, and the three hour car ride. Time to load up the car's DVD player and stock up on patience.

We'll see how sane I am by wednesday's post.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Goodbye Freedom

Today is that fateful day of each school year that I weep a little in the morning and then resolve to have the best four hours possible before my freedom is taken from me.

Being self-employed, I'm used to a certain amount of freedom. Granted, when work demands, I'm on task and do what's got to be done, however long it takes, but when I have the leeway, I can schedule my day to allow for morning writing time, lunch critique time and maybe get a few paragraphs in here and there between jobs. Not to mention, writing after the kids go to bed--assuming the husband is busy with his own projects, which he often is.

But now the kids will be home. *wails*

"No school! Yay! We get to stay up later!" - Yay. Less writing time for me. Though, I'm getting better at blocking out the annoying kids shows and their canned laugh tracks so I can concentrate a little.

"Why are you eating at your computer, mommy? You should have lunch with us." - Because time sitting at table, staring out the window while shoveling food in my face is wasted time. Must multitask! (Yes, I DO try to eat with them when they are home.)

"Why are you eating leftovers? We don't want leftovers. We didn't like it the first time. We want mac and cheese! Make us lunch!" - Leftovers are quick and easy. Fend for yourselves children!

"Why are you always working on a computer? Why can't you take us to the beach?" - Well, at least at the beach, I can get some reading done since laptops and sand don't mix.

"Can we have friends over?" - Oh how I miss my silent days with only the occasional whining of the dog when he sees a squirrel. Heck no, I don't need additional kids around. Take all your friends outside, or better yet, go to their house.

"We're bored." So go write something. That's what I'd rather be doing!

Yes, I love my children. Honestly, I do. They are good, smart and get along fairly well for brother and sister, but... I love my quiet time too. You know, that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing. So.... when are they implementing that year round school plan?

Countdown til school resumes: 87 days

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The truth behind Trust pt 3

The all-powerful Delyn had to go. She needed to knocked down, kicked a few times and maybe smacked upside the head once or twice for good measure.

However, doing so, made the story, as it was, fall in on itself. And honestly, I was rather sick of writing her in all her various incarnations. She just wasn't doing it for me anymore. I needed a fresh voice to breathe a more constructive direction into the story that I wanted to mold this chaos into. And thus, Vayen spoke unto the masses.

We took some time to get to know one another--both turning around to smack Delyn away from the front seat, because she still wanted to drive. It took several drafts to find a workable balance between them.

It wasn't her story that I wanted to tell. I'd done that. Several times. I wanted to tell his. His story clicked, angels sang, all that good stuff that happens when you know you've made the right move. In the process, Delyn lost a lot of her over the top backstory--which made her a much more sympathetic character.

For me, it was exciting to flesh out another side of events I'd only made scant mention of previously--such as how Vayen came to be working for Delyn and their earlier connection. He got jealous when she looked elsewhere, which tamed her sleazy side. He gave her a reason to tone down the cold, hard face she was so fond of. He made her work within the realm of the story I wanted to tell. (And that, Scott, is why I switched from one MC to the other.)

Not that the switch solved everything.

I realized that the story would be much stronger if it were in first person. So I rewrote it. Then I realized that hard sci-fi wasn't what the best angle for the story. It was too dry. I wanted the characters to really shine instead of the tech. So I rewrote it. Then I realized that flawed characters using sci-fi tech, killing people for whatever really important reason wasn't as engaging as it could be. The story needed other layers. So I rewrote it.

Within that flurry of rewriting, Trust was born. Hallelujah.

Thanks to Scott Free for being my post muse.

The truth behind Trust pt 2

That which eventually became Trust would have died a quiet death in a cheap ream of typed, white-out-encrusted paper if, years later, a co-worker hadn't mention wanting some practice drawing comic book characters. He knew I toyed around with writing and asked if I wouldn't mind whipping up a bio for him to work from. Oh heck, why not.

And Delyn was born.
(I particularly like her legs. I want her legs. Let's just pretend they're mine. Ok?)

Though the majority of what I wrote for him no longer applies--and so I won't post it here to aggravate those of you who have read Trust--here is a taste of what he had to work with.

I noticed you were staring at my blade here. You should be more careful, I felt you all the way across the room. Lucky I’m in a good mood isn’t it? What’s that? Buy me drink? Well I suppose that could be interesting. You mind if we go back over to my table? I prefer my dark corner, if you know what I mean. I see by your smile that you do.

So what do you need... or is it want? What ever do I mean? Are you serious or not because I do have better things to do than sit around and talk to shady characters in the middle of the night. 100 credits for me? It’s a good start to a friendship. So who are you? A writer? You want to do something on me? Well I can’t say I’m not flattered but why me? You’ve heard of me?

Another 100? Must be then. So what do you want to know?

Where to start... at the beginning? No, that’s what everyone does. First of all, I’m not like everyone else, not like anyone else actually. I do things my way. I pick my own partners. I follow no ones rules but my own and they tend to change frequently.

As sweet and awkward as teen Ms. Wildstar was, Delyn was anything but. She was dark, cold, snarky, and apparently, sleazy too. She could do no wrong--invincible, all-powerful and able to find an out to every situation. I didn't want to see her knocked from her pedestal of kick-ass awesomeness. Let me tell you, when she was applied to the story, it made for a really annoying read (once I stepped back and really read it).

Which is why...
to be continued

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The truth behind Trust pt 1

Blame Scott Free for this one (and those to follow, this is going to take a few posts).

When did Trust go from being Delyn's story to Vayen's story? Well, that's kind of in the last third of the evolution process.

Yes, Trust evolved. Every other novel I've written comes out of an idea and flows onto the page--through various degrees of agonizing birth, but never the same way (thankfully) that Trust did.

It's a story that's grown with me, through the teen years, dating, marriage, divorce, dating, marriage, and two children. It's always been with me, and it wasn't until I forced myself to put it down and write other things that I was finally able to detach myself from the immense world of characters who were as real to me as anyone else I talked to on a regular basis and finally write the story it was meant to be. I could finally see it for a novel and not a hobby that I slunk off to when I wanted to be alone.

It grew up. I was ready to cut the apron strings and kick it out of the house.

Might as well bare it all, while I'm at it, I suppose.

The story that began around 1983 as "The adventures of Dan & Dana", was about two kids who crashed their space ship after things went wrong at the children's rocket festival. They end up on another planet ruled by the evil Prince Barstone. It was, well, awkward. Really, really awkward. The most memorable lines were:

"Remember that Dana?"

"Yeah, I remember, I remember all those days in the cramped ship, and the frightened faces as we left the atmosphere, and I remember when we lost contacct on the cb, and I remember when we ran out of fuel and crashed here just last night!"

There are so many things wrong there that I'm just shaking my head and hanging my head in shame. CB's in space? Really? Oh my. The part that makes this the most memorable is that I had spelled remember wrong. Yes, every time in that long repeating sentence.

Once on the planet, they meet up with two boys named Matt and Jason. Together, they proceed to defeat the prince and his nefarious plans and escape the planet to go on a new adventure. At this point, the story consisted of 6 legal sheets of yellow paper with handwriting much neater than what mine is now. The pages were tucked away until a few years later when current events brought them to mind again.

In 1986 the Challenger space shuttle exploded. This was a traumatic event for most kids in school as we were all avidly watching the launch during class. Oh hey, I had a story somewhere about kids in space and a space ship festival! Now, in high school, Dana became Alexandria (cue Ms. Wildstar). Mostly because I'd found a new favorite name.

I figured if I was going to dive into this writer thing, I'd better have the right tools. So I saved up my money and bought a typewriter (and a lot of white out). It was really noisy and my parents banished me to the farthest room in the basement with it.

By the time I was in tenth grade, I had a hundred fifty page story and made my creative writing teacher read it. I'm pretty sure she skimmed it or she clawed her eyes out and then got replacements over the weekend.

It was full of teen angst, giggling girls oogling the mysterious cute and troubled new boy on the bus, and no way, they got stuck in space after their space shuttle replica misfired during the shuttle tribute! Guess what? They end up on a planet (cue the Barthromians) and have an adventure. I know, you didn't see that coming.

After some encouraging and not so encouraging comments from my creative writing teacher, I tucked the story away and got involved in real life teen angst, along with plunking away on my typewriter with a couple sequels in which Matt and Jason also got to hook up with space chicks (cue Delilah).

Over the next few years I went on a sci-fi reading binge and grew up a little.

To be continued...

Novel in a Blender 4

It's been awhile since I've pondered my overflowing bookshelf.

Before I jump into today's influential selection, I must share the news that I've just pre-ordered Jacqueline Carey's latest book, Naamah's Curse. Though my life has been insanely busy the past few weeks, I am anxiously awaiting its delivery and will put everything on hold while I shove my nose between the pages and refuse to come out until I reach the last word. There are a lot of books in my to-be-read pile but this one will leap to the top without a second thought. Unless, of course, George R.R. Martin's long awaited A Dance With Dragons happens to magically appear on bookshelves before then. I'm not holding my breath. Good thing, or I'd have been dead several years ago.

Deep cleansing breath. There, that's better. I'll have to wait for HBO to air the "Game of Thrones". That will appease me. Hopefully. My expectations are set pretty high.

Back to my bookshelf and back to when Trust was something else and told through a female pov. I was reading books like Emily Devenport's Shade. The tale a girl on the streets doing what she has to in order to survive. Good gritty stuff. It was about this point where I started to get the idea that Ms. Wildstar needed to go and Ms. MC needed a rough and tough outer shell that then slowly evolved into the emotionally damaged, angry and paranoid woman that is Delyn.

There are two other books, Scorpianne and Larissa, but while a fun read, they weren't as good as the first one. The word formulaic comes to mind. But if you're looking for female sci-fi main characters, they might be worth a quick read through.