Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Dark and Spooky…
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
What a great Halloween quote, all dark and spooky and creepy. I love Halloween. Not just for the creepiness—although that little spine-tingling chill is great—but for the fun. Kids, teens, adults…everyone can dress up and just enjoy.
When my sons were small, Halloween was always a huge deal. One year, younger son wanted to be a dinosaur and older son wanted to be a terrifying pumpkin. Only, they each had a vision in their heads of what their costumes should be, and they couldn’t find exactly what they wanted in the stores. So we went to the fabric store and picked out the material, and hubby and I sat in our bed every night for a week, side-by-side, hand sewing costumes for our little monsters. Yes, you read that right. Hand sewing. ‘Cause we didn’t have a sewing machine, and wouldn’t have had a clue how to use one if we did. And every stitch was worth it when their faces lit up and they put on their costumes, so happy and proud. So sweet and cute.
Halloween’s still a big deal around here, even though the boys aren’t exactly little any more. Their costumes have changed…last year, they used some sort of plumber’s foam to create, um… fecal matter replicas, painted them brown, bought toilet seats to wear on their chests and hung rolls of toilet paper from their arms. I think you get the picture. But even though they’ve gotten older, they’re still little kids at heart, and so am I. We still decorate the whole house inside and out. We hand carve pumpkins together, trying to outdo our designs from the previous year (the pumpkin pictured here is older son’s masterpiece from last year). The kids invite a whole houseful of other kids, and we order tons of pizza. And I buy tons of candy.
So it isn’t Halloween’s dark side that calls to me, but the light, the laughter, the fun. Or maybe it’s the perfect mix of both.
That mix of light and dark always seems to creep into my writing. Just like Macbeth’s witches, I stir a brew in some deep cauldron in my psyche that simmers and hisses and finally pours forth a dark tale. No matter what subgenre I write, the thread of darkness always weaves through my stories along with the bright sliver of hope.
My current releases all have that dual nature. DARK PRINCE is a moody, twisted historical gothic about vengeance and redemption. DEMON’S KISS is a dark, sexy contemporary paranormal about an immortal sorcerer, a human with special powers, and a demon hell-bent on their destruction. And DRIVEN (under the pseudonym Eve Kenin) is a post-apocalyptic, trans-Siberian trucker tale. And a romance. ‘Nuff said.
So, yeah, I admit it. Whether we’re talkin’ holidays or books, I do have a soft spot for the dark side. :-)
P.S. One lucky commenter today will win a copy of Eve's DEMON'S KISS!
P.P.S. I'm off to sunny Cozumel today with my sister. Y'all behave while I'm gone.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The weekend was fabulous—no doubt about it. I laughed, drank, danced, talked, partied, napped, ate, planned, got massaged… ahh. The Playfriends stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and bonding—all I needed was someone to braid my hair and it would have been totally girly.
I always come back from the retreat ready to tear into my book and just write. Sadly, my life is always waiting for me when I come home. Piles of laundry, school stuff for AC (oh, the trials of being Room Mom—but that’s a whole ‘nother blog), the realization that Halloween is just around the corner and the Holiday Crap will kick in to high gear, etc, etc, etc—I’m sure you know the drill. (And let’s just say my house is barely fit for human habitation at the moment. DG and I have a deal—the Parent In Charge of AC only has one duty: keep everyone alive. If everyone is breathing when the other one comes home, then the Parent In Charge has done his/her duty. Anything else accomplished during the absence of the other—housework, errands, grocery shopping—is just gravy. The deal does have its upside; none of that “what did you *do* all day?” business. The downside is…well, I’m sure you can imagine the downside.)
It’s enough to send a girl screaming back to the mountains begging them to take me in and adopt me.
But retreating with like-minded people does wonders for the psyche. I get inspiration, validation and encouragement. I come home feeling like I can do this and that does wonders for chasing away the funk that’s been creeping up on me.
What do you do when you need to recharge and chase away the funk? Who do you do it with? And how bad is your house when you return?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
During this month of October, I've seen more than my share of pumpkins, hay rides, and scarecrows. I put together the Adrenaline Junkies contest to keep everyone's heart pumping. But I haven't really delved into the heart of Halloween: spooky, scary, and screaming!
Now, I have to admit, I was raised a little too puritanical to get into the ghosts and goblins. My children will go to the church "Trunk or Treat" as Ariel and Pablo (from the Backyardigans). But there is one thing scary that I absolutely love: SCARY MOVIES!!! This time of the year, I'm reminded of all my faves when they start playing the 100 Scariest Movies on Bravo. Love that show! I could watch it over and over again (as long as the kids aren't up).
I know, I know. What is an Angel like me doing watching scary movies? I mean, really, I'm honestly scared of just about everything else! It is a true paradox. What amazes me is that none of the other Playfriends seem to like them. Where is their sense of adventure? The thrill ride of a roller coaster while still safe on the ground? Scaredy cats!!!
But love them I do. Scary Movies, that is. (Oh, and I love the Playfriends too.) My hubby knows that he can bring any horror movie home from the video store, no matter how cheesy, and I'll watch it. Pack the kids off to bed, turn off the lights, put on the headphones, and check frequently over my shoulder in case the boogey man shows up.
Here are some of my faves:
Favorite slasher film: As a whole, straight slasher flicks aren't my first choice of watching material. I only like a select few and they have to be really well done for me to watch them again. Of course, the original HALLOWEEN must get a nod. Scary stuff. But my favorite is SCREAM, Wes Craven's clever spoof on slasher films. Intelligent and funny, this one gets my vote.
Favorite zombie movie: RESIDENT EVIL!!! Evil corporations, underground cities, zombie attack dogs, and walking dead people.... What's not to love? Milla Jovovich kicks serious butt! She has to, or she couldn't go on to make two sequels. The second was even better than the first, especially since it featured one of my favorite hotties, Oded Fehr. *fans self* I suggest you wait to rent the third if you must see it. I was disappointed.
Favorite horror comedy: Want a little laugh with your horror? Try SHAUN OF THE DEAD. This movie cracked me up with its off-the-wall jokes, dumb zombies, romance, and great acting, all pulled off with cool English accents.
Favorite ghosts: ROSE RED, a made-for-tv movie about a house haunted by Ellen Rimbauer and her servant Sukeena. A team of paranormal investigators spend the weekend trapped in the house, where they are killed off one by one. I have this one on VHS, where I taped it off tv, and watch it over and over. One day I'll find it on DVD.
Favorite Stephen King: ROSE RED, since it won in two different categories, see description above. Another one of King's I love is IT. I first watched this extremely long movie as a teenager in my future husband's basement bedroom, no lights, with seven other teens. Every little noise had us screaming bloody murder!
But my favorite part of the Stephen King movies is to watch and see if King will make an appearance. He usually does, except in 1408, I believe. But I've only seen that once, so I may have missed it.
Favorite Old School: Anything Vincent Price, but the one I always have time for is PIT AND THE PENDULUM. We have a movie collection of his on DVD.
Favorite psychological thriller: IDENTITY with John Cusack. I love him!!! This movie features a group of people trapped at a run down motel, and they have to figure out how they are connected. This one had me guessing until the end.
Favorite television series: GHOST HUNTERS. Plumbers by day, ghost hunters by night. Very odd combination, but it works.
Show that scared me the most: Dark Castle's remake of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. It took me a really long time to rewatch this movie about people invited to an abandoned insane asylum, where they must survive the night to win a million dollars. Geoffrey Rush revises Vincent Price's role (and looks a lot like him, too). There are lots of flashbacks to the time when the asylum was open and experiments conducted on its patients. Just too freaky for me.
Well, I hope I've inspired you to go rent a scary movie for Halloween night and pile up on the couch with the hubby and some popcorn to watch it. In the dark. Even if it is only Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster...
Tell us your favorite spooky movie or scary movie story! I'll give a prize to the most entertaining...
PS: Coming up on Wednesday, Eve Silver/Eve Kenin will visit the blog. Don't miss it!
PPS: A special squee goes out to Stacy S for the new job she landed last week! A big congratulations from all of us here at the Playground.
Friday, October 26, 2007
This year, the original retreat coordinator bought a murder party kit to play Saturday night. I ended up taking over when she couldn’t continue and I have to admit I volunteered just because of the party. I love this kind of stuff and I’ve gotten totally involved in preparing for the game. I can’t play a character myself because I’ve read all the information. I had to. Anyway, I know everyone’s secrets. It works best that way, though, because the game needs a facilitator. I get to set everything up, hide weapons, keep the game flowing. It also helped me pick out the right characters for everyone. Some were easier to assign than others. :) I think its going to be fun.
So, I’ve spent weeks preparing for the game. I’m a nerd – Smarty Pants – hello?? I’ve gone beyond the call of duty of a game facilitator. I have an authentic flapper costume. I’ve bought 20’s music CDs for atmosphere - I need to brush up on my Charleston too. Angel is bringing her Playground poker set (I guess I’m the last to know there even was one) so we’ll have a poker room for players. There will be a bar stocked with bathtub gin (I’m not sure what will actually be in it...) and appetizers set out. There will be a bouncer at the door. All attendees will find confidential packets and game play information in their hotel rooms when they check in. I got special notepads for everyone to use to write down clues, made labels, put together a newsletter with information on it - I sat for hours stuffing envelopes while I watched TV. We’re serving a three course Italian dinner to go along with the whole gangster thing. I even got quirky prizes for the best sleuth, costume, actor and money maker for the night.
I’m just giddy about the whole thing and praying it goes well! I just love a good mystery and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so put together a puzzle with costumes and I am THERE! Most of us are going to be AWOL today, so its up to you guys to keep the blog alive. Do you like a good mystery? What’s your favorite mystery? A book? A movie? Maybe even the Clue boardgame – Miss Scarlet in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe! One commenter will win one of the romantic suspense titles in my stash!
SP (known for the weekend as Miss Molly, one of Madam MeMe's working girls)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Every year our school has a major fundraiser. And when I say major I mean we raise around 30K in one night to help keep the cost of tuition down (my girls go to private school). We have an auction - silent and live - and a few other fundraising games and fun while we sip on beverages and eat overcooked beef at the country club.
Each class is responsible for providing a 'basket' of goodies that are auctioned off. Over the years we've discovered that if you can involve the kids in the project it brings in more money for the school. You might remember blogs from last year where I somehow got put in charge of procuring a picnic table (in Oct), having a classroom full of 5 yr olds paint it with their hands and coordinating other things to go with a picnic themed basket in the middle of winter. It was weeks of trips to the hardware store trying to find a lacquer that would mix with the paint we had, withstand outdoor punishment, and be healthy for an eating surface...a nightmare. The thing turned out adorable but...a NIGHTMARE.
So this year auction time rolls around and I've decided I have done my duty. I will shell out my money to attend and provide funds for assembling said basket but will not be in charge of it. I was very proud of myself when I received the phone call to work on Sweet Pea's basket. I said I couldn't get off work for the meeting, gave them an idea (which they're using) and brushed my hands of the affair thinking myself safe. Uh, no. I forgot about Baby Girl's class.
For those who don't know, Baby Girl's teacher changed last week. She now has Sweet Pea's kindergarten teacher from last year. We absolutely love Mrs. Kim! However when (in her first 2 days there) she says she was told me and my sister (who has a son in the class) are her auction basket mom's my jaw hit the floor. What? But we love Mrs. Kim and...we're in the middle of this upheaval and this needs to be taken care of quickly...and our room mom is actually in charge of acquisitions for the entire auction already so she really does have a full plate...and my sister's going to help so... So now I am trying to pull together a Cooking with the Kids basket. They are going to paint an adult and child's apron. We're going to do a cookbook with pictures of them all in a chef's hat. And I'm going to kill myself before the end of Nov. Yeah, I should definitely follow my own advice.
Ever have a situation where you should have followed your own advice?
P.S. The winner from my blog last week is Stacy S. Congratulations! :-) Contact me here to claim your prize.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
But it's all the Playfriends' fault, I tell ya! They're to blame. And why, you ask?
Over the course of our association, the Playfriends have gifted me with a number of lovely items. One year for my birthday they gave me a nice gift card to help decorate my new house. The next year they presented me with a very snuggly (and monogrammed) fleece throw to decorate my office and a few months ago they surprised me with a pen holder/paperweight for my desk to commemorate my 15th short story sale.
But last weekend they outdid themselves with this.
The photo doesn't really show off my new chapeau to it's fullest. It's large -- 19 inches in diameter. It'd make one hell of a sun hat. It's also bright purple, so I can wear it next April to my Red Hat Society meeting (that's my birthday month and during that month you switch the colors and wear red with a purple hat). It's sorta velvety. Kinda. Sorta.
I've been told I must take it to San Francisco next summer if our workshop proposal on promotion is accepted.
My nickname, other than Playground Monitor, is "The Promo Ho" because the Playfriends seem to think I know everyone. They refer to them as my "peeps." I suppose I do know a few authors. I developed a lot of friendships in my pre-Playground days when I reviewed books. And I've built on that every year at the annual RWA conference.
Anyone can have "peeps" if you'll just smile and introduce yourself. That's all I've ever done, and I didn't need the purple-and-zebra-stripe hat to do it, though I'm sure I'd get a lot of attention with it. ;-)
I joke about it, but I take my "promo ho" duties seriously. And I'll share my #1 promo ho secret with you (aside from the eye-catching hat): It's easy to promote something if you believe strongly in it.
I challenged the Playfriends in Dallas to each contact five new people and ask if they'd be open to being a guest blogger, doing an interview or writing an article. And since I wouldn't ask them to do something I wasn't willing to do too, I had to make my five new contacts as well. One of them is guest blogging on Halloween.
I know it wasn't easy for them. It pushed them way outside their comfort zone, but they did it and I'm proud as punch of them. I'm sure they were able to do it because they believe in the Writing Playground and they believe in the romance genre, and I sure hope they believe in themselves. That belief will shine through any self-doubt and give you the boost you need to promote yourself and your cause.
When have you stepped outside your comfort zone and drawn on your belief to do something?
P.S. Ask them about how I stalk people in book stores. ;-)
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
(Honestly, I built SP’s prize in to my budget the day after I agreed to this challenge. SP is very competitive— the challenge itself got her moving. I, on the other hand, am deadline-driven. I dragged myself along in the early stages of the contest— mainly so I didn’t look like a slacker to the world-at-large— but once SP crossed that 90% threshold, I suddenly realized there was a deadline, and that, more than anything, kicked my butt into gear.)
I doubt I’m the only unpublished writer who struggles when it comes to producing pages. It’s tough to pour your heart and soul into something, knowing the odds are it will be returned to you with a “No Thanks.” Yes, we all understand on a rational level that we can’t sell a book we haven’t written, but investing that much of ourselves into something where there’s only the slimmest of chances it will amount to anything... Well, if that doesn’t teeter on the edge of soul-destroying, I don’t know what does.
In fact, I know I’m not alone. If I were, no one would be Sweating With Sven right now or gearing up for National Novel Writing Month. These challenges (much like our Playground one) have some accountability built in. It’s not a contract with a paycheck attached, but at least there’s a deadline and people expecting on you to get there.
Having that meter on the page and knowing folks (or at least the Playfriends) were eyeballing my progress forced me to slog through those sections where getting the words out made pulling teeth sound like great fun. There are about 40 pages in the middle of the book where I’d write a paragraph, delete the paragraph, stare at the page for a while, write a sentence, delete the sentence... The only way out, sadly, was through. (Especially for someone like me who can’t write scenes out of order.) Once I got through that section though, the words came easier. Without SP shaming me into action, though, I’d still be avoiding that section of the book.
I was reminded of something very important during this challenge, though, that I’d like to share with y’all: Never confuse feeling productive with actually being productive. Oh, I wrote a lot during this writing challenge-- blog entries, chapter bylaws, newsletter articles, resumes, letters to the parents in AC’s class... I’d feel so productive on those days, and I’d reward myself with an evening in front of the TV or with a good book. At the end of the day, though, I’d have little or nothing to post on the meter. I felt productive, but it didn’t take long to realize how false that feeling was. Maybe you play this game with yourself in other ways like cleaning house, planting pansies, or organizing your sock drawer. At the end of the day, you feel like you’ve been very productive, but wait— there’s no pages to post on the meter.
I’d recommend to anyone practicing WIP avoidance techniques to take on a challenge. Sweat with Sven. NaNoWriMo your heart out. Join one of those Survivor-style writing loops. Or just find a friend and up the stakes. Create a goal, a deadline, and some kind of accountability plan, and maybe you’ll find your way out of that rut.
Thanks to SP, I’m on pace to get this WIP finished, polished and off to the Golden Heart contest (which I already paid for— see, I created a deadline for myself). Kicking me out of my rut is well worth the cost of a mani-pedi.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I haven’t entered many contests this year. My last round severely turned me off. But I knew I wanted to enter the Golden Heart.
Unfortunately, the year from hell reared its ugly head once again, and I’ve found myself sick quite a bit lately. So I’m behind on my book and it won’t be ready to enter in time. At least, not the GH.
But I have the book I wrote last year, which could be ready to go with just a few slight edits. The first chapters of the current book could be entered a few other contests. Hmmm… decisions, decisions.
With decisions come consequences. If I enter the older book, I must stop and edit it. The newer book will need a synopsis to start shipping it out… And right now I just don’t have time to do all that and write extensively too. Maybe a little writing and a little writing work every day…
Add in schedule adjustments this week and I’m shaking my head wondering why I bother. Ugghh! I wish this were easier.
But our chapter’s writing retreat is coming up at the end of this week and I get to run away from home for a few days. Yay!!! Something to look forward to.
So, what writing decisions are y’all making today? Or just decisions in general?
Friday, October 19, 2007
(Both SP and PC breathe a huge sigh of relief...)
The Playground writing challenge is done. Both PC and I put up a valiant fight. I managed to write 140 pages in 44 days. PC is close behind and will probably finish her book off later this week. Although I technically won, I can’t say there is really a loser. Both of us are finishing books we’d gotten stuck on. Although I had a strong start and was able to keep a lead, PC worked hard to close the gap towards the end, so I don’t think anyone could be disappointed by their performance. Both of us are getting a fabulous mani-pedi. We worked hard, we both deserve a little pampering. Only difference is one of us gets it for free.
I know that only comes out to about 3 pages a day, but I took off most weekends and was out of town on a trip for several days, so that boosted my average up to almost 5 pages a day when I actually wrote. Low for some, but pretty darn good for me. And besides... compared to what I’ve written since I got a big, fat R earlier this year – this is AWESOME. It isn’t as though rejections make me go into self loathing mode where I don’t want to write, it actually mentally robs me of the capacity. I struggle for each sentence, each word. It’s a mess, so I just stop for a while. Even without an R, I typically stall out in the middle of a book – lose direction, lose enthusiasm, lose my mind...but this forced me through it. Now - my book is actually finished. I’m going to set it aside and go back over it in a couple weeks, let some CPs look at it, clean it up, and hope that someone wants to see it in the near future.
I considered entering the Golden Heart this year to really boost my motivation, but at this point, I think I’m just too tired for all that. After my CPs look it over, there may be some major overhauls required and I doubt it will all come back together in time. I don’t want to throw away $50 just so I can say I entered. Besides, I don’t even know what category this book should be – Single title? Paranormal? Romantic elements? My brain is so foggy right now, a decision like that could take me down for the count.
I want to celebrate my victory with a nap, but they frown upon that at work. I’ll have to settle for a bottle of diet raspberry white tea and a low carb granola bar. Yum. Congrats to PC for chasing me to the finish and making me incredibly nervous toward the end. May you celebrate with the carbs I can’t have. :)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I think maybe that's one of the reasons I love to read and write fiction. In fiction the characters are always experiencing drama. The playfriends will tell you that I love me some angst. My childhood was rather dull. I won't say that I was never upset - about a girl who was mean to me or losing my grandparents. But nothing compared to some of the things my characters go through. Sure those experiences tend to screw up their lives but they also make for some good reading :-).
Now, I don't mean that I'd ever want to experience losing a child, being abused or raped or any of the other heart wrenching situations that can build into interesting characters. I'm sure deep down I have my own emotional issues that I probably should deal with. I think it's more the roller coaster of emotions that pull me into a story. I just don't have time for that in my real life but in a few hours reading a book I can go on that journey with the characters and we can all come out the other side happy.
So, since my life is so boring at the moment, I'd like to spice it up. What better way than giving something away? Comment today, tell me either how boring or how exciting your life is, and I'll enter you to win a prize from my book stash.
P.S. Congratulations to Smarty Pants for winning the Writing Challenge!!!
And Congratulations to Problem Child for getting so much accomplished on your book. We're very proud of both of you ladies for busing your butts these last few weeks.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
During my sophomore year of high school, my English class term paper assignment was to write about an American author or poet. For whatever reason (it was forty years ago and the reason eludes me), I chose Ogden Nash.
For those of you who aren't English majors (PC, Angel and Lynn may let their minds wander for a few moments), Ogden Nash was best known for his light, funny verse.
A good example of his writing is this parody of Joyce Kilmer.
I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
Another of his famous observations is
Okay, PC, Angel and Lynn can tune back in now.
I did my research, and believe me, there's not nearly as much info on old Ogden as there was on Longfellow or Poe. But I persisted.
And then one day I found a research book with an old address for Mr. Nash and thought "What the heck?" I penned a short letter and sent it off thinking I'd at least done everything I could to get as much information as possible.
Imagine my surprise when a letter from Ogden Nash arrived at my house. The man himself wrote and gave me some info I'd not been able to find anywhere else. And in the bibliography I was able to cite "Personal letter from Ogden Nash to Marilyn Lyerly, November 22, 1966."
Boy oh boy did that earn me brownie points with my English teacher. Heck, I even got to take it and show it to the head of the English department, who was also duly impressed.
What if I hadn't thought "What the heck?" and hadn't written? I'm pretty sure I'd have received the same grade, but that little added bonus of the letter made a big impression on my teachers. They knew I was willing to step out and take a chance, which was a big step for someone who'd lived most of her life in fear -- fear of trying, fear of failing, fear of rejection, fear of succeeding. That letter gave me a little extra self-confidence to try something bigger next time.
I still struggle with all those fears, but I've learned to step out and say "What the heck?" and ask a well-known author to guest blog or do an interview for the website. Our mantra here at the Playground is "All they can say is no."
What's your "What the heck?" moment?
P.S. Yes, I still have the letter. See below.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
(We’ll go into “ It seemed like the thing to do at the time” another day—it rates right up there with the famous redneck death cry of “Hold my beer.”)
Let’s look at how things unfold at casa PC…
~cue flashback harp music~
I buy DG a Wii for his birthday. Within a week, it’s decided that in order to fully enjoy the Wii, we need a larger TV. (And by "we" I mean DG.) DG goes and buys an enormous flat screen HD TV. Well, our satellite provider doesn’t really do HD channels, so we’re wasting the HD capability, but hey, the local cable folks are running a special that will bundle cable and HD channels with our phone and internet. But the cable in-box is on the wrong side of the house, so it takes three weeks for them to dig a trench under our porch and drill through the siding so set it up properly—until then, I’m tripping over cables. So, HD is way cool, but the old DVD player just doesn’t have the goods any more, so we have to purchase a new DVD player with HD. Now the piece of furniture the new TV is sitting on won’t work because of all the attached crap, and we have to go looking for a new entertainment center… Can I mention here that none of this matches anything else in my living room and now the room looks all weird and out of proportion?
The $250 Wii has cost me a fortune and many headaches because “One thing led to another."
I’m sure you all feel my pain. We’ve all been there. Someday, I’ll tell you the stories from my teenage years that put my mom and Counselor Shelley’s mom into therapy.
But my family has an interesting twist on this phenomenon. We can run it backwards…
I’ll use my mom as an illustration (You’re welcome, Mom.). Years ago, I bought my mom a jar of lovely bath salts in the expensive fragrance she loved. Months pass, and she still hadn’t cracked the seal. I ask why, and she informs me, “It’s just not worth the trouble.” Now, my mom believes in good personal hygiene, so bathing wasn’t the issue—I had to push on to get to the bottom of the issue. So, here’s my mom’s rationale:
If she’s going to enjoy a long soak in the tub, she needs to clean it. (Okay, that’s understandable.)
If she’s going to clean the tub anyway, she should bathe the dog first. (A 90 lb long haired Lab.)
If she’s going to bathe the dog, she should go ahead and bathe the cat too. (A 28 lb cat who’s too fat to care for her own hygiene properly.)
If she’s going to bathe both animals, she should wash and air out their bedding first...
See where this is heading? It just wasn’t worth it.
DG got out of buying a coffee table that way. (Soon after we got married and were buying furniture, I found a great coffee table on sale for $50. DG said that the coffee table didn’t “work” with the couch we’d just purchased. We’d need a different style of couch, and that style of couch wouldn’t fit in our current shoebox apartment. We’d have to move, which would mean breaking our lease in addition to moving costs. My $50 coffee table would end up costing us thousands that we couldn't afford. Yeah, right. I think he just hated the coffee table.)
Maybe it’s because my life is an on-going chorus of “and one thing just led to another” that we’ve learned to catastrophize and look for the possible ways things can snowball out of hand. Sadly, it’s the things I think won’t get out of hand that do. Trust me, I did not foresee that the purchase of a Wii would lead to me cringing every time I walk in to my living room. On the up side, though, DG is really starting to see the need for entirely new living room furniture.
But if we’re going to buy new furniture, we should move first so we know the new stuff will work in the new place. And if we’re going to move, we’ll have to put this house on the market, and that means we’ll have to paint the living room and replace the upstairs carpet. And if we’re going to replace the carpet…
Monday, October 15, 2007
I've done a lot of procrastinating the past three weeks (hence not posting my blog until this morning). I've had a few good excuses, some not so good ones, and some downright lazy ones. But with writing it mostly comes back to fears. I'm usually stumped by my own fears of failure or inadequacies.
Dennis Palumbo describes it very well in his book Writing From the Inside Out: "If a client writes about his feelings about procrastinating, the underlying doubts and fears may emerge, as well as the meaning he gives them. Say, for example, that he shouldn't even be trying to write. Or that if he does, it won't be good enough... the writer can better understand his procrastination as a kind of defense mechanism. That he procrastinates as a way to avoid discovering some imagined 'truth' about himself."
I've had this problem for a while, and will probably continue to revisit it in varying degrees for as long as I write. I guess the important thing is that I'm identifying the root quicker and working on resolving it rather than letting it drag on and on. I try writing other things (different stories or nonfiction), journaling, or reading a good writing reference book.
So what about you? What are you procrastinating over this morning?
PS Don't forget to sign up for our Adrenalin Junkies contest! We've got some great prizes to get your heart pumping.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This is getting worse as the days start getting shorter. Got outside chores? Forget them. By the time I get home from work, the sun is about ready to go down. Come daylight savings, it will be dark by the time I walk out of the building. Mow the lawn? Fix the fence? Keep the dogs from chewing through the satellite cables? Nope. That stuff will have to suck up my valuable weekend hours. I'm stuck with indoor chores during the week. Fortunately those are numerous as well. Finish painting. Finish assembling my desk. Finish unpacking. Drywall and prime the garage. Maybe even clean for a change. Or cook. Or something like that. And you're on a deadline girl - the housewarming party is November 9th.
Working out? Hardly. Cooking healthy, nutritious meals? Whatever. Snarfing drive through food on the way home from the store is more like it. The exercise equipment I have is either still in storage or buried in a tote in my closet with a bunch of other stuff I haven't dealt with yet.
Oh yeah, and there's also that issue of a writing challenge. America's Next Top Model will have to wait until I crank out another 5 bloody pages. Ugh. Oh, and submitting a bunch of proposals for the conference in San Francisco that's due the end of the month and I haven't started. And the Golden Heart deadline is looming, so if I want to enter that - back to said writing challenge. And I'm the chairperson of the local chapter retreat, so I'm pulling all that together. And yeah, its a great time to redo the Playground website too.
The holidays? I don't even want to think about it.
I was flipping through a book of questions trying to come up with an ice breaker for our retreat. One of them was - If you could take a pill that would permanently alter you such that you would only require 1 hour of sleep each night to feel completely refreshed, would you take it? Of course, the follow up was if you'd still do it if that hour was plagued by horrible nightmares each night or that the pill had a 50/50 chance of being fatal. Right now, I'm wishing there was a pill. Maybe then I could catch up. How about you? Is 24 hours in a day working out for you?
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Did you hear about Susie? She began writing only last year and sold her very first book! I’ve been writing and submitting for five years and haven’t even had a request.
I heard that Sally just got a three-book deal with a big New York publisher. She and I used to be critique partners and everyone said my writing was better than hers.
Janie told me she writes 15 to 20 pages a day. Well of course she does! She doesn’t have a husband or kids to interrupt her.
When I set goals each month, I’m forced to not only examine past goals and whether I achieved them but I am also tempted to compare myself to others. Did I write as many pages as they did? Submit as many stories? Make as many sales?
Comparisons are by their very nature a recipe for failure. Desiderata author Max Ehrman wrote “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
In the case of the statements above, maybe Susie’s really been writing in secret for years and was afraid – or even ashamed – to admit she wrote romance novels until she’d honed her craft. As for Sally and her critique partner, that’s one of the deadliest traps to fall into – comparing your writing to someone else’s. Each author has a unique voice and to weigh one against the other is like comparing apples and oranges. And what about Janie? Did you know her children are grown and live across the country where they can’t visit often? And Janie’s husband passed away year before last after a long battle with cancer. She wasn’t able to write a word during his illness or for a year after he died; the spark just wasn’t there.
An old Native American proverb states, “Before you judge another man, first walk a mile in his moccasins.” Have you always been willing to tell everyone you’re a writer? Have you been through a life-altering or life-threatening family health experience?
As writers, we are taught to read and study our target market. Reading expertly crafted writing hones your own skills. There is also no deadlier trap than quitting because you believe your writing falls short of the work you’ve read.
Nido Qubein, author, educator and businessman, wrote, “Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.”
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading. It does mean that instead of comparing myself to the latest New York Times bestseller, I will compare what I’ve achieved against the standards I’ve set for myself. Did I meet my daily page goal? My monthly submission goal? If so, I’m as much a success as that Times bestseller. If not, perhaps I set an unrealistic goal, failed to consider possible obstacles or just didn’t do the work necessary to hit the mark.
And what is the solution? It’s certainly not to gauge myself against someone else. I must re-evaluate, re-consider and work harder because I can’t be someone else; I can only be the best me.
Are you tempted to compare? If so, how do you combat the urge? If not, tell us your secret!
P.S. One of the Playfriends is posting this for me since I'm out of town visiting with former guest blogger Roxanne St. Claire who is attending a promotional event in Birmingham. I don't know if I'll have internet access or not. I'll be back home Wednesday afternoon.
Yesterday's winner is ayla because she too has been saved by her geek--gotta love 'em. Email PC (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a mailing address to claim your prize!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
We do live a pretty technological existence—HD, TiVO, and a bunch of other letters that mean nothing to me—but when it comes to who owns the most technology, I seem to win.
DG’s computer could run the space station while tap dancing and never miss a turn in Quake Wars and still have plenty of unused hard drive space. (I think mine could at least launch a space shuttle since it’s made of hand-me-down parts from DG’s old computers.) His monitor is bigger than some TVs and he has this fancy headset he uses to talk to folks thousands of miles away while he plays games. It’s a miracle of modern technology.
With his love of all things geeky, you’d think he’d have a whole collection of electronic gadgets. Not so much.
I— the lit-lovin’, ballet dancin’, book writer-- seem to have more gadgets than the geek. Let’s see, there’s a PDA with folding keyboard, digital voice recorder, AlphaSmart, MP3 player complete with the whizgig that lets it play through my car stereo, noise blocking headphones, laptop, and teeny-tiny digital camera. I’m eyeballing an iPod for my birthday and have dropped hints about a wireless mouse for my laptop.
And DG, let’s see. He has a computer, and a cell phone, and... hmm, that’s about it. I think it embarrasses him sometimes to have a wife with more gadgets.
But he likes buying me gadgets (for the most part. He thought the Alphie was evil, but got me one anyway.). Some men buy their wives lingerie; mine buys me electronic toys. And while I love all my gadgetry, I think it bothers him that I don’t use them all to their maximum potential. Heck, I’m doing good to get the photos off my camera and onto my hard drive.
The downside to living with a techno-geek is that I’m lazy. If my computer merely stutters, I call DG. I have no idea how to update/upload/install anything. I just recently learned how to copy a CD. If something doesn’t work, I leave the room until DG tells me it’s safe to return. So while the rest of the world has learned (if unwillingly) to deal with the small problems of high-tech life, I remain stunningly ignorant.
I have a t-shirt that says “I (heart) my geek.” And I do. In so many ways.
Now, how does one get music on to one of those iPod thingys...
I seem to have multiple themes going on today. We can talk about cool gadgetry, or you can tell me what expertise your Darling has that makes your life easier. Up to you. My favorite comment of the day will get a nifty book light and a book—to cover both bases of technology and love.
Monday, October 08, 2007
It's Fall Break here in northern Alabama, which means our schools are closed for a week. Just like spring break, except a different time of the year. I'm sure lots of people even rush to the beach, although I'm not one of them. But it is still warm enough along the coast for that.
As usual, I have set myself some unrealistic goals for this week. Having promised Drama Queen that we would paint her room, I'll be buying paint and moving her furniture before doing so. I figure I better do it while she can have her sleep interrupted for a few days. I also promised her I'd take her to Tate Farms (local pumpkin patch/hay maze/corn bin/play place), because she can't wait until the annual Playground pilgrimage to pick her pumpkin.
I'd also like to work in the yard (just because I've got the itch): move plants, pick up tree limbs, trim bushes, weed, and such... I think I'll replace my exercising each day with about 45 minutes outside abusing my body. Why is it that working in the yard is so much tougher on the muscles?
On top of all this, I'll have both kids home 24/7 and no help from the hubby because he works all this week. Am I an overachiever or what? :) Notice writing isn't even mentioned yet... *shakes head sadly* Will I ever learn?
PS: Friday's winner is bethre. Please email Smarty Pants with your snail mail address to receive your prize.
Friday, October 05, 2007
As a newly published author, I get lots of questions, mostly from other writers trying to break into publishing. They want to know how I did it. How did I get published? How did I find an agent? How did I decide what to write about? How did I know I was ready for publication?
The answer to all of the above is surprisingly simple: I didn’t know anything. Seriously. At first, I knew nothing about publishing, and much less about writing itself than I thought I did. And for me, that was the key. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.
I’ve been a member of RWA for two years now, but I was writing for more than a year before that. I wrote my first novel in complete isolation. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing. I didn’t read any how-to books or take any writing classes. I didn’t have any critique partners or belong to any on-line forums. I didn’t even have an internet connection.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, I needed to approach writing a novel with a cushion of ignorance.CPs are a wonderful resource for an aspiring author (I have an awesome one right now), and organizations like RWA can be invaluable for those who are ready to approach the business side of the industry. But in the beginning, every writer deserves a chance to write whatever and however she wants, without someone looking over her shoulder and whispering well-meaning but defeatist advice.
As you write your first novel, you do not need to hear how passive your voice is, how many adverbs you’re using, and that your genre just isn’t selling right now. All of that will come into play later, and it will sting. A lot. But until then, and in preparation for that, what you need is a huge dose of confidence, and there’s no better way to get that than by writing your first book all on your own.Knowing early on how much work my prose needed, how long querying could take, and how many rejections would come might very well have frustrated me beyond repair. If I’d known how hard it could be, I might have given up without even trying.
But since I didn’t know, I wrote my first novel in one long, fevered burst of creativity, convinced that all 140,000 words were carefully crafted brilliance—the story every editor in the country didn’t yet know she was looking for.
I was wrong; I know that now. That novel wasn’t publishable, and won’t be, without serious work. But it was exactly what I needed at the time. A sort of practice novel with which I could develop my voice and exercise my plotting skills without worrying about things like formatting, querying, or even polishing.It worked so well that I dove right into the sequel for a second (extra) dose of self-confidence. And that’s when I started learning to polish, and tighten, and write query letters, and seek opinions. By that point I was already hooked on writing, and no amount of rejection or carelessly worded criticism could scare me away.
I never submitted those first two novels. They’re still buried on my hard drive until I find the time and patience to dust them off and polish them up. But what I learned from those two books—written in the peace and quiet of my own imagination—gave me the confidence to submit my third novel, Stray which is now the first in a six book series.So if you’re in that beginner phase and getting frustrated over all the details, maybe what you need to do is step back and retreat into your own head, into that blissful silence where naysayers dare not tread.
Let the words come however they will. They can be fixed and polished later.For now, simply finding them is enough. And trust me—it feels good. ;-)
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I've been pestering DH for weeks to change the brake pads. He prefers to do it himself instead of paying someone else to do it. He's changed the van's brakes several times in the last couple years (I'm a little tough on brakes :0)). This time, however, the lug nuts on the right stopped him cold. In fact, he snapped one of the bolts in two. With a manual wrench. And threw out his back in the process. Sweet Pea was sitting on the stairs to the house. Did he call out and ask her to run inside and get me? Noooo. Why would he do that? Pig headed man.
After he finally levered himself up off the ground he forced the other bolts back onto the wheel. I went to Sears the next morning - after playing musical cars to get my girls to school on time - and spent $125 bucks to have those 3 fixed. Yes, we thought about taking the car back to the place that the problem started but...I really didn't want them touching my car again.
So this weekend, thinking the problem was finally fixed, DH got all his tools out, changed the brake pad on the right side and...couldn't get 2 nuts off the left side. He'd loosened them before and didn't think they were stripped. He was wrong. He borrowed an air wrench, forced one of them off, broke the other one, and fixed the brakes. So now I have new brakes and a broken lug nut. I don't even want to think about the rear tires. There's no telling how many of them are stripped.
So at some point in the next week I have to fit a trip to the repair place into my schedule. Just what I needed. There is a lesson in all of this...never get your tires rotated at an express oil place.
Anyone else have car nightmares to share?
In all my angst over the car I forgot to post that we have a guest blogger tomorrow. *slaps forehead* We're very excited to have Rachel Vincent with us! Be sure and stop by.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Up until about noon yesterday, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to blog about. I'd even searched online for silly little blog questionnaires. That's how desperate I was.
Then I opened the newspaper and there it was. My blog topic. I just hope the Playfriends don't un-invite me from the group and that I don't totally offend any of our readers, though I kinda doubt it'll bother the romance-loving crowd.
This was yesterday's headline:
I'll give you some quick background. In 1998 state legislators passed a new anti-obscenity law designed to quash the proliferation of nude dancing clubs. The phrasing of this new law also bans sex toys. A local woman who owns a shop called "Pleasures" has fought this law since it was passed and got an injunction to keep it from being enforced while she challenged it. She's not only fought it locally, she's been on national television.
Now the Supreme Court has refused to hear her appeal and within days all sex toys could disappear from stores across the state. You'll be forced to buy online unless you meet the exemption for devices for "bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement purposes." Uhm... legislative and judicial purposes? Law enforcement? Are they going to vibrate you into compliance with the law? And just who decides when a vibrator is a bona fide medical necessity?
The shop owner plans to file a new challenge because public obscenity laws should not affect anything meant for private use. Even the local district attorney has said he's not going to send out officers to drum up business because it's a pretty low priority. "We've got real crimes," he said. You think???
For the record, possession of such a device isn't illegal. It's just the sale of them that violates the law and could result in up to a year in jail and up to a $10K fine.
The law prohibits the distribution or production of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." If they ban the sale of sex toys, what's next? Romance novels?
Think about it.
P.S. If I'm mostly AWOL for the next two days, it's because I'll be out of town keeping the grandbaby while her day care is closed for Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Our family isn't Jewish but this is one of the best day care centers in town, and I think it's marvelous for her and the rest of the family to have such a wonderful exposure to another religion and culture. Wish me mazel tov!
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Blah, blah, blah. I hear ya, but I’m really not listening to you. Why?
Because I have new shoes. And not just any new shoes.
A little background info: Counselor Shelley is in town, and we made our compulsory trip over to Scottsboro to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. This is a pilgrimage we always make when she’s in town. Now, if you’ve never heard of the UBC, this is the place where your luggage ends up when the airline loses it. (Take note: if the UBC taught me anything, it’s the vital importance of making sure my luggage is properly tagged both inside and out.)
If you’re the type of shopper who goes to the store knowing she wants a black knee-length skirt, this is probably not the place for you. Yes, they have black skirts, but they may not be in your size and they may not be remotely what you are looking for. You can’t go looking for any one particular thing; instead, you must be open to the possibilities. For some, this is hell on earth; for others, it’s a shopping adventure.
Every trip is a crap shoot. On previous trips, I’ve come home with the rug in my living room (loading that in to the Bug was an adventure all its own), hammock chairs for my porch, an inflatable bed with sleeping bag for AC, office supplies, and of course, a variety of clothes, shoes, purses, belts, sunglasses, books, and jewelry.
So, Friday morning (after staying up half the night and drinking way too many White Russians), we drag our carcasses out of bed and head for Scottsboro. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the pickings this time. Nothing really jumped out at me. I grabbed a new pair of sunglasses (because I’m constantly losing the things and can never have too many pairs), a few DVDs, and I eyeball a couple of those fold up chairs like you take to the ball field. Nothing exciting. Nothing really worth the drive.
Then I find them.
Shoes. And not just any shoes. A pair of black Stuart Weitzman evening shoes. Soft fabric, skinny heels, rhinestones, and ribbons. The epitome of “Thin soled, pointy toed, high-heeled girl shoes.” Soooo pretty. They’re BRAND NEW—the soles don’t have a single scuff mark. And, joy of joys, they are my size.
And they’re only $35! This is a miracle. A sign they should come home with me.
Here are some pictures. DG didn’t get the angle quite right, but hopefully you can see how pretty they are. On the back are four rhinestone circles with black ribbon laced through them and tied into a bow. The toes are very narrow, but not uncomfortable. Totally impractical shoes. No support whatsoever. I won’t be able to dance in them, but who cares if they are shoes designed for sitting instead of walking? They’re pretty, darn it. And they were only $35. I came home and immediately emailed all the Playfriends. (I also looked them up on the internet, and estimate their value at over $200. Possibly more.)
So, I’m still floating with my New Shoes Euphoria. The fact I got them for a steal only adds to the euphoric feeling. This might just keep the “passed the four-month mark on that submission” depression at bay a little while longer. Who needs Prozac? I have new shoes!