Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

The significance of October 30th has a double implication. Yes, it's my birthday, but it's also New Year's Eve on the Celtic calendar. So I have a tendency to get a little more introspective than usual.

In reviewing my writing accomplishments this year:

- I've completed the first draft on one manuscript. Another first draft is 10K away from completion.
- I scrapped the ms for a story I finished four years ago and rewrote it from scratch.
- I sent out eleven queries. (Not great, but not bad since I only started in August.)
- The full of a completed and revised ms sits on the desk of two agents. (Yippee!)
- My NaNo project is planned and waiting patiently for November 1st.
- I'm brainstorming another ms after I had to scrap the original outline thanks to Steven Spielberg, but I think I'm close to a new plot.

All in all, a fairly productive year for me.

The goal for next year? Actually be in bed when the clock turns 12:01AM on the 30th instead of waiting for my pumpkin pies to bake.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Dreaded Deadline (Or How I'm Trying Not to Start Another Riot)

Normally I'm well ahead of deadlines. I was the weird geek who turned in all eight book reports required in a junior reading class in the first month of the school year. I've got a deadline on Nov. 2, and even though I started my research well ahead of time due to my birthday, Halloween and NaNo beginning on successive days and started the actual writing over a month ago, this time I'm having trouble.

I write a legal column for a law enforcement magazine. I can write dry, technical bs without putting myself to sleep. But this month's subject is a little more passionate than my usual wont. This month deals with the Henry Louis "Skip" Gates case. When I hit the Wall, aka writer's block, I know something's wrong. I may not always know what the problem is, but I know there's a problem.

In this case, I do know. I don't want to be another journalist blowing an issue into something it's not. Contrary to the rest of the nation, I don't believe Gates' arrest had anything to do with race. It had everything to deal with two guys trying to prove whose d*** is bigger.

And that's just totally sexist of me. Three wrongs still don't make it right.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reality Bites

It's been one of THOSE weekends. I'm doing good to get some of the little things done. That's in addition to the major things like soccer games, working the day job, and meeting a non-fiction deadline.

This week's objective? Get as much crap done as possible so I can enjoy the double delight of this weekend-my birthday and Samhain-before the reality of NaNo sinks in on Sunday.

Keep your fingers crossed that my sanity stays intact.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Letting the Idiots Dictate the Terms. . .

Pretty much erveryone's heard of the Serenity Prayer (and I don't mean George Constanza's dad screaming "Serenity now!")

It's a good one to know. Even if you aren't Christian, you can adapt the prayer to your own faith and twist it into a gentle reminder. Regardless, it's still good advice about knowing and accepting what you cannot control in this universe. My version:

Lord Djehuti, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

It makes sense to ask the Neteru of Time, Space, and Knowledge for such a gift. And I'm a mom so I find myself reciting it quite a lot.

The corollary to the Serenity Prayer is that the one thing you can control is yourself.

I forgot that particular advice today. I let an idiot drag an emotional response from me. In fact, it's the second time this week I've let an alleged adult acting worse than GK during his terrible twos goad me into losing my temper. I don't like it. Not one little bit.

Why the hell doesn't everyone grow up?

*deep breath*

Lord Djehuti, grant me the serenity. . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's NaNo Time!

For those of you not familiar with Chris Baty's National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo for short or NaNo for even shorter), I strongly suggest taking the NaNo Challenge to jumpstart your manuscript. NaNo is basically a writer's marathon--50K words in thirty days starting on November 1st. The concept is to have a first draft at the end of the month.

It's easy if you're single with no kids or social life and have a marvelous pizza delivery service nearby. A little more challenging if you have to juggle a few things, like a day job plus all of the above. It helps if your household supports your writing career as well. Hey, DH can fry a mean hot dog and whip together the perfect salad, which was what the family subsisted on during the 2008 NaNo Challenge.

In the end, if your endurance holds, you'll have a brand-spanking new manuscript. And like real freshly-birthed babies, it's still red and gooey and needs to be cleaned, but you're exhausted and happy and proud all at the same time.

P.S. There's no epidural for NaNo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inhumane Treatment

Can you imagine NOT being with a loved one as he/she lies in a hospital dying?

When I read what happened to Lisa Pond and her family, fury doesn't begin to describe my feelings. Lisa and her partner, Janice Langbehn, followed all possible legal steps to execute their Living Wills and Advanced Directives. Then tragedy struck as the family was out of town on vacation. Yet, both the hospital that treated Lisa for a brain aneurysm and the judge that heard the case brought by Janice and their children ignored the VALID LEGAL DOCUMENTS in favor or their own perverse biogtry!

I can't even begin to verbalize to anguish I feel for for Janice and the children--to be denied access to their wife and mother as she lay dying alone in a strange hospital in a strange city--because this could have easily been me fifteen years ago.

My husband and I were living together at the time, not yet married when he fell ill over the weekend. What started as an assumed stomach bug turned out to be cancer. Stage 3 cancer.

At the time, I had no legal right to make decisions for DH, much less be with him, but his surgeon had this thing called compassion. I was allowed back in the emergency room after I drove DH to the hospital. For all intents and purposes, Dr. Polder and the staff at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay, Ohio, treated me as DH's wife. I was kept abreast of all tests, diagnosis and developments.

I could have easily been left in the waiting room like Janice and the children.

When we start denying one person's rights, where does it stop? Do the people that espouse this type of hatred really think that they're safe from their own deity's judgment?

As for social worker Garnet Frederick and doctors Alois Zauner and Carlos Alberto Cruz at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, and U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan, I have one thing to say:

Whether it's called the Golden Rule, the Three-Fold Law, or Karma, you'll receive the justice you deserve in the end.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Magic Beans

I think some people really believe if they trade their cows for magic beans, a magical beanstalk will take them to a giant's castle where every greedy wish will be fulfilled.

First of all, Jack was a freakin' thief. Sorry, but it's the former lawyer in me. The giant clearly owned the golden goose. Furthermore, the giant died during the course of the robbery which means Jack's looking at a felony murder charge too, at least here in Texas.

But I digress.

It's hard work taking care of cows. Feeding them. Mucking out stalls. Rising at the crack of dawn to hook them up to the milking machine. Then you have to make sure the milk stays at the proper temperature to take it to market. Out of that milk though, you get some wonderful products like cheese.

And if you want, say, Swiss cheese, you have more hard work. Mix in the proper ingredients. Cook it. Dip off the whey. Press the curds. Rub with salt. Press curds some more. Repeat the rub and press a few more times. Soak in brine. Dry off the cheese. Turn and rub with salt every day for 10 days. Change the temperature and. . .

Needless to say, the instruction list for Swiss cheese goes on and on. It can take six months to a year to make Swiss cheese.

Writing is very similar. It's a lot of hard work. Just replace 'cow' with 'writer' and 'cheese' with 'manuscript.'

No much difference, is there?

But it's so worth the work in the end.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Steven Spielberg Stole My Plot

No, he didn't really. Sometimes great minds follow the same story down the rabbit trail.

Since I've started writing with the aim of fiction publication, twice I've had a brilliant, absolutely brilliant, ideas show up in public. In both cases, I don't know the person personally, they don't know me, and there's no way in hell we could have any cross-pollination of concepts.

In the manuscript currently making the agent rounds, crit partners, beta readers and even contest judges LOVE the hero's best friend, Alex. He needs his own story, they said. Hey, I'm not one to disappoint the fans, and honestly I thought he needed his own story too.

Coming up with a plot was the problem. I'd been racking, slapping and pummeling my brain until I came up with what I thought was a unique and fun story. I wrote the ouline in preparation for the 2008 NaNoWriMo.

And then I went with DH and the Genius Kid to the movies one afternoon last summer. The picture? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

When we came out, I wanted to cry. Not because it was a bad movie. Let's just say the only major difference between my outline and Indiana Jones 4 was I included the heroine's estranged dad instead of the couple's illegitimate son.


Instead, I grabbed another outline I had in the idea bank for the 2008 NaNoWriMo, and now have a completed novel awaiting the editing process.

But 2009's NaNoWriMo is twenty days away, and I still don't have a clue for Alex's story. Hey, Mr. Spielberg? You owe me one.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Manic Movie Monday - Zombieland

When planning the blog, I toyed with the idea of posting movie reviews.

"But you're a novelist!" Or an unpublished one at the moment.

Yes, but I've learned a lot about story structure from movies. Former and current crit partners will tell you my first drafts look like screenplays. (Yes, I'm one of those weird ass writers who has to add words, not cut them.)

So, in honor of the greatest holiday of my birth month and the heroine of my current wip, I bring you-

Rated 'R'
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin & Special Cameo
Directed by Rueben Fleischer

I resisted the urge to blog about this movie for 11 FREAKIN' DAYS because I don't believe in spoiling the experience for others. Which is also why I won't name the person making the special cameo appearance.

The DH got tickets to a special screening, and I dragged some writer buddies, the fabulous Colleen Thompson and the amazing Jody Payne, to the theater.

Let me start off with the 'R' is thoroughly deserved for zombie gore. Few people could eat a traditional Italian pizza through the opening scenes, but Colleen and I are special that way.

Zombieland is a road film set in a post-apocalyptic USA. Columbus (Eisenberg) is just trying to get home from college, hoping beyond hope his parents may still be alive back in Ohio. He teams up with Tallahasee (Harrelson), a fellow survivor heading east. They run into Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), sisters running in the opposite direction on the rumor of a zombie-free zone in California.

This is one of the funniest movies I've seen since. . .

Okay, it's been a while since I've watched an adult comedy, one of the drawbacks of having a child below puberty.

But most of the audience was laughing in the same spots, so I'm pretty sure I wasn't that deprived of a grown-up sense of humor. Or is that depraved?

The first half of the movie consists of running gags regarding Columbus's Rules of Survival. Most of them sound like standard Mom advice: buckle your seatbelts, check the backseat of your car, beware of public restrooms, etc. Standard that is until combined with zombie mayhem for some truly black humor.

Luckily, the director realized the Rules can't carry an entire movie. The second half deals with the four characters overcoming their respective losses and trust issues. The best scene is when Tallahassee finally admits his allegedly zombie-eaten puppy was not his puppy. Harrelson is one of the few actors who can make me cry and laugh at the same time.

Even though the Zombie Kill of the Week tag was featured prominently in the trailers, it was only used twice to good effect.

If you love zombies and gut-busting dark humor, go watch Zombieland.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hitting the Wall

Sometimes a writer finds it hard to write. Call it writer's block. Call it burnout. Call it the subconscious telling the conscious mind, "WTF? You can't let the heroine do that!" It happens to all writers at some point in their lives.

Usually if I get stuck, the reason is #3. (Actually, it has always been #3.)

My subconscious is pretty smart. She knows when something's going off track, and she fights like the dickens to yank the steering wheel to keep the story on the asphalt. But my conscious will battle for control of the story. She hates backseat drivers, even when she has no freakin' clue of what she's doing. When they're not working like the well-oiled machine they are, it's not a question of when the story hits the wall, but how hard.

A glancing blow with a tire or bumper that leaves streaks but story's still cruising along?

Or a head-on that shatters the story, leaving plot and character development strewn along the path?

Sometimes it pays to let go of the ego and listen to that backseat driver.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Banning Week

Yep, it's that time of the year again when the American Library Association sponsors our freedom to read whatever the hell we want. It's become cause celeb for some. The scourge of everything that's wrong with our country for others.

Here's my issue. Make as many books available as the damn library can afford. Don't tell me what I can and cannot read or what I can or cannot let my kid read. And I won't do the same to you. Period.

For a much longer, well-reasoned and civil response, check out Jamie LaRue's response to a book challenge.