Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reading Allowed...uh, I mean aloud.

I've been reading my current ms out loud to find awkward dialogue, bad grammar, and places where words might be overused. This has been very helpful. I can't tell you how many times I'll be reading along, and SAY a different word than my eyes SEE. I usually end up changing the word to the one my ears told me would sound better. I'm pleased with the results, so far.

I've also started noticing some strange things about my characters. I thought I just made most of them up out of whole cloth, but obviously that's not how brains work. We create characters out of a mish-mosh of people we know, and people we know of, like characters from TV shows and movies.

The other night, I had a shocking revelation. I was watching NCIS, and I realized my main character, Thalia, is about 75% Ziva. o_O

Once I got over the idea that I hadn't actually created my little imaginary friend, but cobbled her together from various sources, I've been racking my brain since then to figure out who else donated a bit of their personality to Thalia. And then I started thinking about my other characters.

I had a moment of additional panic when I thought ALL my characters were based on NCIS, but I realized that didn't really hold up. Though I think of Henry (Thalia's father-in-law) as a little Gibbs-y, it doesn't hold up as an accurate character description. So, relief. At least I didn't just pull my characters out of a single TV show.

Now I'm officially on a quest to figure out who all my characters are based on. I asked the Helper Monkey what he thought, and he agreed he could see Ziva in Thalia. I also asked him if he could see any other similarities between my characters and any people -- real or imaginary -- we know or have seen on TV. He said, "Nothing leaps to mind," which translates as, "Can't you see I'm watching NASCAR? Can we have this conversation another time, like maybe when I'm asleep?"

So I'll continue to think about the people I've created. I hope the rest of my imaginary friends are a little harder to figure out, though. So much for originality!

Thank you, Ziva, for inspiring Thalia for me, even if it was completely unintentional. At least you're a badass!
Conclusion: I watch too much NCIS.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Friday, It's Friday!

This is what I sing every Friday morning while I'm driving Lulu to the bus stop. She and her friend (our neighbor who I often also drive to the bus stop), have come to expect and ignore this. But this Friday is even better. It's spring break all next week, so I only have to wake up to an alarm once in ten days! Next Thursday we're taking a little day trip to D.C. for the cherry blossom festival, even though most of the flowers are's still fun to go on a field trip. That necessitates an alarm being set, since we have to be out of the house by about 6:30 in order to catch the train. Still, it'll be fun.

I also caved in and bought a lottery ticket for the half-BILLION dollar drawing tonight. I never buy lottery tickets. I have a better chance of getting a million-dollar publishing contract by sunset tonight than I do of winning the lottery. And if you know anything about where I am in my writing "career", you know how unlikely that is. Still, when you can start referring to the jackpot in relation to a BILLION dollars, it's too tempting.

My mom lives in one of the eight states where they don't have the Mega Millions game, so we bought her some tickets, too. I still think it's odd, how someone thinks they significantly improve their odds by buying 20 tickets instead of five. (confession: we bought a total of ten, five for us and five for my mom). When the initial odds are 1:176,000,000, you don't really improve your odds by buying a few more numbers. Some guy on the radio thought his odds would improve if he bought his tickets at different stores. He's actually driven to Virginia, DC, and Maryland just to buy some tickets in each! Yikes! Can you say: No concept of random odds? And with gas prices the way they are, I'm not going multi-state for my lottery needs.

So I've bought into the 24-hour-dream, that maybe I'll win. I've got about 12 more hours to imagine all the things I'd do with the money before I have to give up on it, but I'm determined to enjoy every minute with my imaginary half a billion.

What I'd Do with half a billion dollars:

  • Pay off everything I owe money on (well, duh! gotta start practical before you go nuts)
  • Get the Helper Monkey a new car. He's driving a 98 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 215k miles on it
  • I like my neighborhood, so I wouldn't want to move, but I'd love to remodel, starting with my kitchen and bathroom. Maybe someday I'd add on a master bedroom suite.
  • I'd pay off my mom's house
  • I'd get the kid a new computer.
  • I'd pay for someone else to clean my house
  • I'd travel. Tim wants to see Europe, Lulu wants to go to Paris, and I want to see the Far East, as well as Russia.
  • I'd get some new Fluevogs
  • I'd buy a bunch of fancy clothes that I'd never even considered buying before. If you're that rich, no one questions your eccentricities. If I want to play putt-putt golf wearing an 1865 evening dress, than so be it.
  • I'd pay someone to do my finances for me. I hate balancing my checkbook, and with half a billion clogging up my accounts, I'd never want to handle it on my own.
I think that's enough to take care of the 12 hours of daydreaming I have left today. Now hopefully all that daydreaming won't get in the way of the actual work I need to do, because obviously I'm not going to actually win the jackpot.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Better, and a few odd happenings

I don't have the Death Migraine anymore, but my back is still sore. That one spot keeps throbbing, just out of reach, where I can't rub it out myself. Gah!

We went to get the oil changed in both cars today, and had a lovely morning sitting in a mechanic's waiting room. Tim needed to have his brakes replaced, so I let him drive home in my truck while I sat around and waited for his Jeep. I had my laptop with me, so I did some work, and then had a lovely chat with the other patrons in the lobby.

I don't drive the Jeep very often, and after driving my Monster Truck, it feels tiny! The handling is also very stiff compared to the truck's. It was still a novelty to drive it home. But that's when all the fun started.

Tim keeps his keys on the nightstand next to his side of the bed. When I got home, I put his keys on my nightstand. Well, duh. He'd never have found them there in the dark tonight. I couldn't find where he put my keys, either. On the kitchen counter, it turns out. We got all that sorted out pretty quickly. I put my keys where I usually do, in the Pile O'Crap on the ottoman where I keep my laptop when it's not on my lap. Of course, that meant when I went to get Lulu from school this afternoon, I couldn't find my darn keys to save my life. Panic ensued. I found them eventually, and all is right with the world again.

Sorry, got distracted there. Tim came in and put on The Family Feud and I can't help myself but to play along. Sick, right? Great, there's another episode on, and it's the Johnson Family versus the Johnson Family. I kid you not. Too many Johnsons.

Anyway, one final bit of nuttiness. I checked my Blogger stats today for the first time in a while, and oddly, this very blog was found by someone using the search term "I'm a writer who is schizoid." What? Seriously?

Also, I've noticed that each time I reread my WIP, I focus on a different aspect of editing. One time through I might focus on grammar and spelling. The next time, I'll focus on continuity. The next, I'll make sure my dialogue tags aren't too bizarre. Maybe another pass-through will find me focusing on removing redundant bits of conversation, or finding all those places where I used the same word three times in one paragraph. Another will focus on the removal of stilted-sounding dialogue. I never seem to be able to coordinate all those things into one reading.

I've also found that when I make significant changes to one aspect, I need to go back for a follow-up reading to be sure I didn't change it so much it no longer fits right into the story, and that it doesn't parrot back another section. I've found that before. I'll make an edit to a conversation, and the characters already had that discussion thirty pages ago, or thirty pages in the future, but I couldn't remember it when I made the change. Aah, continuity.

So with that in mind, I'm making what I hope is the last pass over the second novel before returning to the first.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I need a nap, but I'm too guilty to sleep

Yes. I have done the unthinkable. I've sent my child to school sick. I wasn't feeling particularly well this morning, and I thought it was just pre-spring-break blahs on Lulu's part. Now that I'm on the verge of propping my eyelids open with toothpicks just to stay awake, I'm starting to believe I should have kept her home today. She still hasn't called home sick yet, so maybe she is feeling better? I'm certainly not.

I was thinking about lying down, but I feel so awful that Lulu can't that I'm compelled to sit in this chair and work. Ha! I can barely lift my head. I don't need to look at the computer to type, but I would to edit. Can't edit if you can't see the screen. (I apologize if this post is excessively error-riddled, since I'm barely glancing at it while I type.)

I managed about 25 pages of edits last night before I gave up, around midnight. I'm so close to done, I can smell the finish line. And then a quick read-through should finish that up. Then on to the next book. Aah. I have a feeling the main plot of that one is going to change a bit, though. That's the weird thing about setting aside a partial manuscript for a few weeks. I've been thinking about it, and thinking about my characters while editing them again in the previous two novels. I think there's some stuff I need to introduce earlier in the book, and I need to change some of the setup of the "crime" that drives the plot forward. Maybe I've had too long to stew over the details, but then again, stew always tastes better a day after you make it. Great. Now I want stew.

I've already decided to skip chorus tonight. I'm simply too sick to drive. I managed to get to the bank this morning, but I was veering on delirious, so I don't think I'll try that trick again today. Especially not a rush hour on the narrow streets of Downtown Frederick. In my ginormous truck. Parallel parking is beyond my current skill set until I feel better.

I'm off to pretend I'm well enough to be ambulatory, at least for another two hours until Lulu gets home. Maybe we can make stew and collapse on the couch together. At least I won't feel guilty about it anymore.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Where did the whole day go?

It was supposed to be an easy day today. I was supposed to get a lot done. Since I got very little actual editing done, and it's now 10 pm, I'm scratching my head wondering how today slipped away from me.

I spent much of the morning following twitter, trying to figure out if my entry was selected for the new Cupid'sLC contest (it wasn't). That wasted hours of my day, biting my nails and then feeling a bit let down.

I've also spent a great deal of time doing Girl Scout Things. I've been wrapping up our cookie sale, preparing deposits for the bank, and generally fretting about piddly little details related to cookies. I'm so glad that's almost done with. We're also planning an awesome-sounding field trip for next week (our spring break here) to Washington DC to see a special Japanese art exhibit, and earn a special badge related to the 100th anniversary of the cherry trees:

Very cool! The girls will love it. Plus, any excuse to ride a train, even if it is just the Metro, is welcomed by most of the girls in the troop. We live just far enough outside DC to make it a novelty for some of them.

So that ate my day. And then dinner time arrived, and I forgot a major ingredient for the meal. I was going to make Chicken Cordon Bleu, but I forgot to buy Swiss cheese. Duh, right? So instead I made chicken cordon parmigiana. I used mozzerella, parmesan, asiago, and fontina cheeses. Really yummy, actually. And you ask, "You had all that cheese, but no freakin' SWISS?" Yes. Yes, I did.

After dinner, I became obsessed with researching another agent to send my query to, and wound up reading a ton of blogs online, and finally sending out that query.

I have done SOME editing today, but I think one of the main problems with my work ethic has been that it felt like a Sunday. Lulu didn't have school today, so I slept late, kind of lazed around like it was a Sunday, and basically never shifted my brain into proper writer gear. Until now, apparently, since I'm writing something longer than a tweet for the first time all day.

I'm up to page 285 out of 325 in this round of edits, so hopefully we're almost to the finish line. I realized about two hundred pages ago that this will need at least one more editorial pass before I move back on to book 3, but I have a feeling book 3 will be that much easier to write because of the work I've put in to polishing the first two. Writing always seems to work like that. Perfecting one thing (at least as much as I'm capable of doing that alone, without a professional editor to help) seems to grease the wheels on everything else I'm working on.

It's all good. And as an aside, the picture I took of the untouched notepad bearing notes for book three? I posted it a few days ago. I don't remember exactly when. Anyway, the damned thing's still sitting in the same spot, still resting on the stupid marker. Although the junk sitting around it's changed.

Sad little book 3 notes. Now surrounded by other junk, including GS cookie money deposit envelopes, the kid's backpack, and my slippers.
I've vowed not to pick it up until I'm ready to start writing it again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Faerie Winter

There's a great contest on right now to win all of Janni Lee Simner's books! If you've never read them, and you like a good fantasy, they're a lot of fun! I read Bones of Faerie, the first book in the series, and the second book, Faerie Winter, is coming out April 10. Even if I'm not a winner in the contest, I'll be sure to read it.

I picked up Bones of Faerie when I worked at my daughter's elementary school library. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of a dystopian futuristic world that had been brought around to a more primitive society because of an interdimensional war between Faerie and humanity. Fear and isolation drove the people to be suspicious of outsiders, magic, and anything out of the ordinary. The main character, Liza, finds out she is anything but ordinary, herself, and sets out to make things right between the worlds.

If you're interested in entering, too, here are the rules, also posted here.

The Rules

- Mention in a blog post, fb post, tweet, tumblr, and/or anywhere else online and publicly visible that Faerie Winter comes out in paperback on April 10 and that it's the sequel to Bones of Faerie (or, alternately, book 2 in the Bones of Faerie trilogy). If you want to say something more about either of the Faerie books, that'd be lovely, though not required.

- Link to the Faerie Winter website

- Come back to this post and link to the places you did both of the above

- (optional, for blog entries) Copy these rules (including this one :-)) to your post, and encourage your readers to enter this contest by doing all of the above in turn, and telling them to then to come back to your blog and link to their mention or mentions

- Deadline is April 20 (at midnight Pacific Daylight Time) and I'll ship anywhere.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Battle Against Boredom

It's the end of the Cookie Season for Girl Scouts around here, but our troop still has about 300 boxes to sell. This is the last weekend we're allowed to sell at grocery stores and the like, so we're out there in force in the hopes we won't get stuck with cases and cases of cookies. If we do, we'll obviously have to eat them, and that would be really bad...

So Lulu and I held a sale outside a cute little store near our house, but despite the gorgeous weather, foot traffic was sporadic, at best. To keep ourselves from getting too grumpy about it, we decided to play Camera Tag. This is a fun game, where one person dances and dodges around, while the other person tries to capture them in a photograph. We had mixed results, but we actually got a few good pictures.

I caught Lulu unblurred, and actually smiling!

Blurry, but at least I'm mostly in the shot.
We were also getting a little silly with self-portraits, and I'm debating whether or not to use one of these as my new profile pic.

You can almost see down my shirt in this one...Maybe not this one then...
The other strange thing I learned from Picture Tag was that spring is definitely back. During winter, I can keep my hair from frizzing out, and almost make it look wavy with enough conditioner and attention. This is why I hate the summer months, though. The only thing I'll be able to do with my hair for the next 6 months is this:

Oh, curly hair! You just do whatever the heck you want, don't you?

At least I won't have itchy shins at the same time. Humidity= Crazy Hair - dry skin. See, it's a math problem! I guess I can deal with it.

I was supposed to be working this morning, but I slept late. Now I have to head out to learn how to run a ballpark concession stand. I'll be back for dinner, but then my MS is going DOWN! *does the little "I see you" gesture at the unruly MS*.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Angry Birds Ate My Day

I really like Angry Birds. Yesterday, the new Space version was released, so I played all the stinking levels that are currently available. I had to recharge my cell phone twice during the day, since I kept running the battery down. Hopefully I'll have a substantially more productive day today, since I don't have any more green pigs to kill.

I'm feeling remarkably de-stressed about all the non-writing things in my life right now. I was relieved of a huge responsibility, and it feels great. Suddenly, I can breathe again, and it wasn't even that big a change for me. It's remarkable how that can happen. I thought I was going to have this huge responsibility all summer long, but now I find that I'm not needed to take over on this huge volunteer project, so I can sit back and participate when I can, and don't have to worry about the rest. It's a big relief, and for some reason, I just feel lighter today. I love that.


I'm editing the second book (again), and I find it's not quite up to where I thought it was before I rewrote the first book--and not just because of the plot changes in the first book. I'm finding clunky sentences, repetitive language, and confusing dialogue. I know this strange loop could go on forever, but I'm going to redo book 1 after this, to make sure it's not this bad, and then do book 2 again, before starting up on the third again. I haven't even looked at that one in a while, but I only got 50 or so pages in before I stopped for the R&R on book 1. I can't even remember where I left off...


Back to editing the really gruesome end of a battle. What a way to start a Friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My schizoid personal style

Since I'm not writing anything new at the moment, and reading a blog about the tediousness and momentary bursts of excitement of the editing process every day would make me want to claw my eyes out, I figured I'd write something a little different. So here's something a little more personal: my Sense (or lack thereof) of Style.

This won't be about how I decorate my house, which is basically Ikea with clutter. For example, the legal pad with my notes for the third novel in this series has been sitting on the floor next to the coffee table, balanced on a marker, for five days. No one's touched it. This is sad.
My housekeeping is so bad, this hasn't moved in five days, despite being in the freaking center of the living room floor.

No, this will be about how I decorate myself. When I'm at home, or even if I only have to run to a friend's house or drive the kid to school, 99 times out of 100, I'm wearing pajamas (Sock Monkeys!), ratty t-shirts (today it's from a 1996 Metallica concert), my bathrobe, or a hoodie (Lets go Caps!). Oh, and slippers. I have maybe ten pairs of slippers, and I wear them all during the winter. It's almost the end of slipper season, though, and that makes me kind of sad. Slippers are cozy.

If I'm running errands, I have one of two looks to choose from. I either look like someone who's escaped from the military and discovered the art of sloppy dressing, or I look like Mary Poppins. Definitely polar opposite looks.

Let's start with prim and proper, though, shall we? I love Victorian Goth and Steampunk clothing. I adore long, ruffly skirts, corsets, parasols, and funky little hats. My daughter's friends call me the "Goth Mom" and they eagerly await my next outfit and tiny hat. Granted, this look takes a bit more work to achieve, given the corsetry, makeup, hair, and overall presentation. And it's incredibly impractical during the summer months. Thus, my other look.

I have a bizarre compulsion to shop at Army/Navy stores. I wear a lot of black/olive drab/camouflage. It suits the main character of the series I'm writing, so maybe I've taken on a little of her personality? She's a soldier, so maybe I've become a little more like her? Or maybe she just brought out those parts of my personality? I love stompy army boots, and the comfortable fabrics and cuts of military clothing. BDU's were designed to be rugged, breathable, and flexible. Beats the hell out of skinny jeans.

These two looks seems to fit the two halves of my personality, too. I love to be a proper lady, to show good manners. The whole Victorian thing takes care of that. But I also love hiking, kayaking, and all outdoorsy-type activities. I teach girl scouts how to navigate in the woods with a compass, how to pitch tents, and how to build fires. The whole pseudo-military look takes care of that.

My favorite thing about my split-personality sense of style is going to a store where I'm a regular customer, and seeing the surprised looks on the employees faces as they recognize me in my other identity. I'm convinced a few of them think I'm actually a set of twins.

Either way, I'd never be able to settle on a single personal style. Frankly, I don't care. I just know that whatever mood I'm in every day, I'll be able to dress the part. Lately, though, I've been more military than Victorian. Thank you, Thalia (my main character), for bringing that to the forefront. I was a little sick of doing the makeup thing every morning.

One last thing: HAPPY VERNAL EQUINOX!!! I just realized I almost missed my plum tree in bloom. All the blossoms are crazy early this year, and I did miss the peak bloom, but here's a pretty picture, nonetheless.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Typical Monday

And typically, Monday throws me about eight curve balls, all directed straight at my nose, at the same time.

Ninja cat struck again this morning. I think I'm going to fill his food bowl every night before bed so he won't attack my feet predawn anymore. I need the sleep.

I had to run a series of tiny but important errands, and that ate up half my morning. I had to pay bills, balance the checkbook, and do the same for the Girl Scout cookie money. We're almost done with that, at least.

Every Sunday night, I get excited for the peace and quiet of a Monday morning. I imagine myself sitting down at the computer and writing or editing for six hours straight. Then Monday strikes, and I don't even get to glance at my WIP until early afternoon. All I can hope is that Tuesday will be better. Monday night I find myself grateful it's all over, and I know Tuesday will surely be better. And it usually is.

I'm about to go undertake another first for me. I'm going to resubmit a revised manuscript to an agent who suggested some changes. I just hope she still wants to see it, and that she thinks it's better now. This is a huge nail-biter for me. She left the door open for me, but if she doesn't like my changes, I'll be burning a bridge if I submit now. But I like the changes, and if she wants it different still, she could always ask for more. At least she'll know I'm quick on the turnaround, and willing to make changes. Double-edged sword. I think it's worth a shot, though.

I refuse to give myself ulcers worrying about things like this anymore. I think that's the healthiest view I could possibly take. With that bit of encouragement, I'm off to send the Email of No Return.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

I hope you didn't eat anything green today that shouldn't actually be green. For example, after a 5 hour Girl Scout cookie booth, I took my daughter to Burger King for dinner. They offered us GREEN KETCHUP!!! This is wrong, people. And truly gross. And real Irish beer is black, not green. Have a Guinness. Or a Jameson's whiskey. That's what I'm doing today.

I did, however, eat two cupcakes with green frosting. They were delicious.

I've also learned how to make a pyramid out of little foam craft bricks and hot glue. I told my daughter to tell her history teacher that we can't imagine how much hot glue it must have taken to make the big pyramids in Egypt. We still have one more day's work to do on the pyramid project. The clay palm trees are drying on the table, and we still have to print out a bunch of facts about Cleopatra to stick all over the pyramid. Fun, fun!


Drying palm trees
Lastly for today, I had a horrible dream last night. I woke up in a cold sweat. Literary agents had apparently lined up at my front door. They wanted to show up in person to see the look on my face when they rejected me, I guess. Either that, or they wanted to see what kind of idiot would ever submit such a thing to them in the first place. Or maybe they wanted me to watch them laugh in my face. It was a horrible dream. Agent after agent after agent. Stupid, huh?

Anyway, I just realized how late it is. All that construction work really took it out of me. And I burned my finger on the darn hot glue gun. I can really sympathize with the Ancient Egyptians now.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Not how I like to wake up.

I was up late last night. I watched TV until I finally fell asleep around 1:30 in the morning. I had a blissful three hours of sleep, or so, when for no apparent reason, my cat went all ninja on my right foot. I guess the lump under the blanket looked particularly menacing, or something. I can't explain cats, but I know for sure his ninja assassin skills are up to snuff. Thank the heavens I managed to get back to sleep for an hour or so.

When I did finally wake up for the day, I put on my little slipper socks. The tile floor in my room is cold, even in summer, so I often put them on before I get out of bed. Today, though, I yelped in pain. The little bugger managed to draw blood, and I have several large gashes in the inside instep of my right foot. Shoes haven't been fun today.

Unfortunately, I've had to wear shoes. I couldn't get away with barefootedness. I had to go to a training meeting for Lulu's chorus and girl scout troop. Both groups are manning a concession stand at the local minor league baseball stadium this season. We're working 81 games. I think I could cry. Luckily, we have about 15 parents who took the training course, and we each only need to work about 10 games. It's a huge lot of work, but it will raise a ton of money, way more than they make from Girl Scout cookies. Anything we can do to help our girls meet their goals, and then exceed them, I'm willing to do. Plus, hey, free baseball games!

I managed to get about 15 pages in book 2 edited today, despite feeling like a headless chicken in a lot of other ways. I got another very encouraging request for pages yesterday, and I've gone into that tailspin of research and paranoia that accompanies submissions. I tend to obsess when an agent expresses an interest in my writing. I guess that's to be expected. We all like validation that something we've done is worthy of further perusal. This kind of thing also comes with a lot of palpitations, nervous twitches, and obsessive email checking. None of these things are particularly healthy. I try to avoid them at all costs, but sometimes I can't help myself.

I still take breaks from editing, and I still check Twitter. When I see the delightful agent who wanted to read more of my story, I feel compelled to see what she has to say, and the obsess over whether it might give me some insight into whether or not she'll like or hate my story. Like I said, not particularly healthy.

So here I am writing this, hoping to avoid checking anything for the next few minutes, at least. After this, I think I'm going to watch something on TV, far from the computer. Maybe I'll leave my cell phone in another room, too.

I'm sure this won't take too long. I'll be all better as soon as I hear back, either way. Granted, I'll be better sooner if I get a positive response than a negative one. Again, human nature.

That three hours of sleep is starting to catch up with me. I think I'll just skip to the tv watching and vegetating right now.

Good night!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Strange things, and Happy Pi Day!

I've seen some strange things in the last few days.

First of all is the obvious time change weirdness. I'm used to doing things in the dark in the evenings, and watching the sun set while I drive Lulu to her evening activities. I kind of miss that, since it's still daylight when we head out for that stuff now. Then again, I'm not compelled to pull over and take pictures of the sunset all the time while we're driving, for which the kid is grateful.

Yesterday it was nearly 80 degrees outside. Right now it's in the mid-70's, we have the windows open, and I'm enjoying the tweeting birdies. Since it's not technically spring yet, this is somehow fundamentally wrong. I walked around town last night in the sunlight, wearing flip-flops and a short skirt. The trees are still winter-naked, but it feels like freaking June. I'm a little concerned what this will mean for us in August. I have a feeling we're going to boil this summer. I'm enjoying the energy savings of not having to run the heater all through March, but I'm worried we're gonna pay double come summer.Considering last summer the capacitor in my A/C gave out, I'm worried we're going to blow the new one out this summer. Ugh.

I suppose I should stop griping and enjoy the nice weather while I can. I don't need to pay tomorrow's bills today.

Another weird thing, I saw this:

 And then I remembered the beauty school around the corner. I figure Ms. Head is on her way to class.

I almost forgot about Pi Day! Happy Pi Day. I had to run out last night and buy a pie, since I can't stand baking when it's this hot out. We selected a lovely cherry pie for dessert tonight. The kid's math teacher is also giving out an extra credit point to every kid who brings in snacks for the class today, so we got Oatmeal Cream Pies for her to take. Doubly good as a math class snack on Pi Day. They're also throwing pies at their English teacher at lunch time today.

Anyway, I've been taking a breather from editing for a bit. Since I finished the r&r on the first novel, I've only sent it to a few agents. I wanted to see what the response is before I send it out widely. We're back to nail-biting, wait and see, and the emotional roller coaster. It's all good. I hate to admit it, but I kind of enjoy that bit (said the freaky crazy lady).

I've started r&r on the second novel, to bring it in line with the changes I made in the first. It has to be done, and once again, I think I actually enjoy doing it. Bizarro-land, I am in you.

Editing and revision was my least favorite part about writing things in school. Sadly, I think it's now become my favorite. I start with the bare-minimum needed to call it a story, and then flesh it out and sculpt it into a readable (and hopefully enjoyable) piece of writing. Now that's fun!

Okay. Back to the fun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

*%&@#* Daylight Savings Time!

I'm still not caught up on sleep from the time change. Why is that always so hard to adjust to? It's just an hour, you'd think we'd just shrug it off, fall asleep a little earlier for a few nights, and be done with it. But no, apparently its the MOST VITAL HOUR of sleep, the one where 99% of the rest occurs, that gets sucked into the daylight vault for the entire summer. Can you tell I'm tired?

Of course, the State of Maryland has decided that the week after the time shift, when our kids are at their groggiest, is the PERFECT time to make them take the state assessment tests. Yesterday morning, Lulu had to get up before sunrise, rush to school, and take a huge math exam for two hours. She had to do the same thing again today, but at least this morning she managed to get out of bed without a crowbar. Thursday and Friday are the big days for the language portion of the test, but I'm still a little peeved they didn't take these tests last week, or next week, after they've had a chance to adjust. Grrrr. Who the heck planned that brilliant strategy?

And the rest of life continues as normal. It's actually irritating, because I usually plan to be out of my writing chair from about 9 am until 9:30 because that's when the sun hits me in the face through the window. I've had to adjust that schedule, because it now hits me in the face at 10 am. Just when I'm sitting down to write, I have to get up and move.

I was also enjoying waking up post-dawn. Once again, it's dark enough to need lights when I get up. On the plus side, it's still light outside at 7 pm. It's nice to be able to go outside if I wanted to, but still. Do I really want to? It's going to get harder and harder to make the kid go to bed at a reasonable time, because the sun's gonna be up later and later every night. When I ask her to brush her teeth at 9:30, she's going to laugh in my face. So maybe that's not a plus-side to this after all.

One plus, completely unrelated to the saving of daylight, the weather around here's been GORGEOUS for the last few days. It's getting nicer and nicer. Hello, June! It's supposed to be 75 here today. Let me tell you, that's not our typical Smarch weather. We're usually still battling the freezing/thawing cycle of pothole genesis.

Most disappointing, the lake never froze over this winter. It got a little icy a few times, but it never froze solid enough to skate on. I played exactly zero hockey games with the neighbor kids. One more plus side: at least I didn't fall on my kiester in front of the neighborhood kids while trying to play hockey.

So that's my plus-minus review of the unseasonable weather.

I finished editing Dragon Hunter yesterday, and submitted it to two writing contests, so hopefully, even if I don't win a prize, an agent might see it and say, "Hey, this ain't bad!" Exposure isn't a bad thing in this case.

I'm really looking forward to making Tim read it again (he promised to start today) so he can tell me if it's improved from the last go-around. And my current dilemma is how to approach agents who read the previous draft and liked it, but didn't LOVE it. Maybe they'd love it now? We'll see. I want to get resubmitting, but I don't want to jump the gun again. They might go for a second read-through, but I doubt they'd stick around and wait for a third. Or maybe they would. Gah!

I started editing/revising the second book last night, so hopefully I can bring it in line with the revisions I made in book one. The characters are starting out at a slightly different mental and emotional place, because of changes I made in the first novel. And doing another major revision is just what the doctor ordered, apparently. So I'll be off. Back to the mines.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Done and Done

I just (well, about an hour ago) finished the edit of the revision of the novel. It's amazing how much baggage I picked up during the revision. There were a few half sentences, without even a period at the end! How the heck does that even happen? Maybe the phone rang while I was typing, or the kid needed me to come running for something? Perplexing.

Otherwise, everything is done. Again. For the 49th time. Done.

Also done: I entered it into Janet Reid's "Liz Norris Pay It Forward" contest on her blog. I just finished in time. There are technically three days left to enter, but I wanted to be done with it by today. I've got a horribly busy rest-of-week, and I'm relieved to be done. Now I can get out and do the grocery shopping. We're down to soy sauce and egg noodles. Yikes!

I'm really getting sick of HAVING to do stuff. With all the stuff I've had to do lately, there hasn't been a lot of time for the things I want to do (like write, read, and clean the house). My house is starting to veer into Hoarders territory. I need to do some serious cleaning. But of course, that's way down on my list. I can't stand this time of year. Everything the kid is involved with seems to be gearing up for huge spring events. She's in the school play, getting ready for the chorus concert, loaded with Girl Scout activities from cookie sales to 100th anniversary events. Summer is starting to look busy, too. Ugh. I need a vacation.

I don't want to go anywhere. I just want a week where I get to sleep in every day, write for at least a few hours in peace and quiet, and then spend a few hours organizing the house. Maybe I can send Tim and Lulu on vacation, and I can stay home alone? It could work.

I'd better go balance the checkbook before I head out shopping. It really does feel good to be done (for this round, at least).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Always with the distractions

I'm SO CLOSE to finishing my edit, but I'm being pulled in about fifty directions this week. I'll be thrilled if I manage to finish by Wednesday (so why am I wasting time writing a blog?).

I worked a cookie booth last night when the scheduled volunteer canceled at the last second, and I have to deliver and pick one up today. I work a four hour booth tomorrow. Then Tuesday AND Thursday I have training sessions for the two groups I volunteer with to learn how to man the concession stand at the local minor-league baseball team's stadium. We're running the concessions ALL SEASON, so I'm going to be attending an awful lot of baseball games. Go Frederick Keys!

And then next weekend? MORE COOKIE BOOTHS! GAH! Does someone want to buy 800 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies so we can cancel the rest of the booths? I'd be much obliged.

And all this running around means I'm gassing up Little Red far too often. What possessed me to buy a vehicle that gets 14 mpg? Oh, right. I needed to haul a lot of crap around, like Girl Scout cookies.

Anyway, back to work. I'm getting so close to the end, I can smell it. It smells like victory.

And still, for the first time ever, I'm reading a draft of something I wrote and thinking, "Hey, this is pretty good." I swear, I've never thought that before, so hopefully I'm not suffering from brain damage from having edited and revised it too many times now. I hope it really is good this time! :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Change of Pace

I'm sick of writing updates on my writing, and I needed a break from editing. I'm sitting out on the back porch, enjoying the wind and the warm air (it's 67...aaaahhhh).

I was just working through my edits when I noticed a word my spell check thought was a typo. Sometimes I'm grateful for the squiggly red lines, other times I'm puzzled by them.

For instance, the other night I added the word "kvetch" to the story. Spell check thinks that's a dandy word. I was surprised. I don't know why, but after getting angry red squiggles on other words that I figured were normal, everyday words, I had to laugh at a Yiddish word being perfectly acceptable.

The word I just saw that made me come over and write this was "snarky." And even the Blogger spell check doesn't like it. Hah! I thought everyone knew what snarky meant. thinks it's a word. Huh.

Other puzzling words I've used that my spell check dictionary tried to reject:

  • Hoity-toity
  • grimoire
  • churros (Come on, it's a tasty dessert. Everyone should know what they are! Am I right?)
  • itty-bitty (it actually suggested "titty-bitty", which is just insulting)
  • nitty-gritty
  • Tiki (suggested Wiki)
  • half-assed (suggested half-asses, for some inexplicable reason)
  • googling (suggested goggling, which I regularly do when performing internet searches, I suppose)
  • patootie (suggested patriotic. Hah!)
  • petroglyphs
  • rinkydink
  • TiVo (suggested Tito)
  • yadda, as in yadda yadda yadda (it suggested Saddam. Gaddafi was the fourth choice on the selection list. I kid you not.)
  • looky-loos
  • it recognized Angkor, but not Wat. What's up with that?
  • armoire
  • riff-raff (it suggested riff-riff, which doesn't make any sense)
  • doozy
  • it accepted donuts, but not donut 

And there you have it. There were a few others, but they were legitimately words I didn't think would be in the dictionary, like proper nouns, and the like.

 Fun with Spell Check! Back to work now.


That's how many words I've got at this exact moment. It was more, but I'm 46 pages in to the edit, after the massive rewrite. It's amazing how many words I get to pull back out now! :)

Before I started this revision, I only had 96,000 words, so it's been a bit of a shock. I can't believe I left that much out before! This is the first time I've read through my own novel where I'm actually enjoying reading the story. I guess that's a good sign? I thought I was totally sick of it by now, but I'm glad I "fixed" it. 300 more pages to go.

My house is 100% painted. Yay! Now I just have to get out and finish the deck. I really don't want to do it until I'm done with my edit. It's too easy to use the deck as a distraction. A deckstraction? See, I'm doing it already. Really, though, even writing this blog and staring out the window are a fine distraction. I should be editing right now. But I'm not. I'm sitting here hoping the cat does something interesting. He's not.

Enough thumb twiddling! Back to work. I really am pleased with the revisions, though. I just hope the word count comes down to a more manageable level. I'll update at the end of the day. It's supposed to be 70 this afternoon, so I get to work outside again! :) If that's not an incentive to edit, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The potentially endless loop of editing and revisions.

I've discovered a strange anomaly in the writing process: It's possible to spend the rest of my life revising and editing a single novel.

I already went about twelve rounds with Dragon Hunter, and I thought it was done. Since then, I wrote the sequel, Devil May Care, and went a dozen rounds with it, as well. I even started on the third novel in the series, and have about 60 pages done on that. And then my submissions for Dragon Hunter started coming back. I've had three agents read the manuscript so far, and I finally had one who rejected it with something more than "This isn't for me," or "I like it, but I just don't love it."

Let me tell you, it's great to get some actual feedback I can work with. I went through the five stages of grief over the fact that my story wasn't perfect the way it was, and then I sat down and actually read it again. Yikes!

Either I've really grown as a writer in the last few months since I started querying it, or I went through a period of serious self-delusion when I started sending it out. The agent's comments were spot on. There were a few whackadoodle plot missteps, a serious lack of explanations for some of the things that I thought were obvious (since I made up the world, and can see everything in my head, and know all the characters' history, flaws, etc., sometimes I forget that I neglected to explain this stuff to the reader!), and some rather stuffy dialog in places.

Even though I already edited for all this kind of stuff, having an INDEPENDENT AND UNBIASED third party read it and give feedback was priceless, especially since she's in the publishing industry and has a clue as to the kind of advice an author really needs. My friends and family I've recruited just aren't critical enough with me. My husband's great at pointing out spelling and grammar errors, but he's not a trained editor. The best he's been able to do is tell me whether he likes it or not (he likes it, but he sort of has to, right?).

My mom is an English teacher, but even she lacks objectivity when "grading" my work. She picks up on misplaced commas, but she has a hard time saying anything negative about plot, pacing, character development, world building, etc. She is my mother, after all. What did I expect?

Another friend is reading it right now, but I think she's reading it for enjoyment rather than as an editorial review.

What I really need is an army of beta readers who all have a stinking clue what the publishing industry demands from a novel. Does my dialog need to be tightened up? Does the pacing lag in a certain place, or is it too fast to keep up with somewhere else? Do I need to describe some aspect of the world better so you don't feel lost? Or maybe a joke one of the characters tells is so bad it makes you want to throw the book in a lake and pretend you never saw it in the first place? That's the kind of advice I really need. Are there any people out in the universe who are good at that kind of thing? Any who would like to read a contemporary/urban fantasy novel and then get to tell me why it sucked, and what you think it needs in order to not suck?

I'd be grateful for a few new victims volunteers.

Otherwise, I might be stuck in the circular land of revisions for the rest of my life. It's like Groundhog Day. Round and round, the same story, slightly different each time, and never a chance at a new day, or a different story.

Also, I tried to sleep last night, like I usually do, but my cat was apparently hosting a parade in the living room (which is directly over my bed). It sounded like he had cat rugby scrimmage with a jingly ball. This went on for nearly an hour before he felt tired enough to come to bed. At that point, he happily curled up ON MY LEGS. This was not good, either. Cats are very warm. Not to mention, if you move and upset them, they have a multitude of pointy weapons at their disposal, and they're more than willing to use them.

Point of fact: The other night after dinner, Tim lingered at the table while I cleared away the dishes. He was finishing his food, when the cat decided something must be wrong. Tim's coat was hanging on the back of his chair, and the cat slipped under the coat and prepared his attack. I was in the kitchen, and heard Tim scream, and saw the cat bolt down the stairs like a chipmunk on crack. I ran out to the table to see what was wrong. I asked what the problem was, and Tim looked murderous. "The cat just clawed me in the ass," he snarled.

I tried to look sympathetic. I swear I did. So did Lulu. I bit my lip. We even left the room. After thirty seconds of snorting and chortling,  he grumbled. "You can laugh." So we did. For like ten minutes. I wish stuff like that happened more often.

In happier news, It is GORGEOUS here today. *waves hello at spring robins outside* It's 61 right now, sunny, with wispy white clouds smeared across the blue, blue sky. I think I'll take the laptop outside to work. I've given myself one final read-through before I query again, and then dive in to revise the second novel to match up with the changes I made to the first. And then I can jump on the Devil May Care carousel and ride in circles for a few weeks with that story. Dragon Hunter takes place in early spring (technically, it's the first week of April, but it FEELS like the first week of April outside today). I think it's the perfect day to move back out to the deck.

Toodles and La-Di-Da!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

37 pages to go

That's it. Just 37 more. I've been revising like a machine. Granted, before I started the revision, the novel was a full 20 pages shorter, but even with the inflated word count, I'm still on the home stretch now. Then a quick read-through and minor edit to fix all the little glitches, and we should be good to go. Again.

I'm convinced if I let the MS sit for another month, I'd come back and change it in other huge ways. But I really think I can't afford to keep adding new words. Even with 37 pages still to go, my word count has swollen to 104,741. That's a lotta dang words. And it will probably continue to grow. I'm really scared, since I started out at a comfortable 96,000.

I don't want an agent to see my 100k+ count and write me off based only on that. It's really painful.

And this is officially the Longest Thing I've Ever Written now. It beats out my first attempt at writing by nearly 2k. And I'm just getting to the Big Climactic Scene, which will have to change based on the changes I've already made. So, more words coming today. I can't wait to be done with this.

On a lighter note, ...huh. I was going to throw in some anecdote from regular life to prove I'm a real person who engages in normal human contact on a daily basis, but I've got nothing today. How sad is that? Like I said, I'm a revision machine.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I am an Editing Tornado

Unfortunately, my editing tornado seems to have found my manuscript, and believed it to be a dumping ground for word debris. I'm making steady progress with the changes recommended by Fabulous Agent Person, but in addition to chopping away a lot of unnecessary stuff, I think the story has developed some sort of metastatic tumor. It's growing out of control.

I'm almost 2/3 of the way through the revision, and it's already 7k words LONGER than it was when I started. I'm scared I'm writing myself right out of the target first-novel range on word count. It's currently just over 103k. Yikes! And the biggest chunk of revisions is still to come. I'm actually getting nervous I'm going to end up with a bloated, overdone story. But I've just put in what was asked of me.

It'll take one more revision, and hopefully after the story is revised, I can go back and prune away the excess. I'm terrified the next revision will add even more words, at this rate! :)

So this past weekend, I really attacked the edits. I even got grumpy when I had to stop for such things as eating and sleeping. I guess that's also a good sign that things are going well. When I'm in a writing rut, I seek out distractions, but when I'm on a roll, I hate to stop. I actually yelled at Tim when he suggested we think about making dinner last night. Sorry about that, hon.

It's also supposed to be gorgeous here in a few days, like near 70. I went outside to work for a few minutes yesterday, but it was still too cold. I think by Wednesday I'll be able to sit outside for work again. I actually miss it.

I'll probably take those two gorgeous days and finish the deck, though. The contractor is supposed to finish the house today or tomorrow (weather permitting), so I'll finally be able to paint the deck floorboards. I can't paint them until he's done, because he hasn't learned to hover in mid-air yet, and he needs to stand on them to finish his work. That's what I get for hiring cut-rate contractors. No hovercrafts.

I really need to get back to work. Or perhaps back to sleep. I can't believe myself now.

Also: Excited about two writing contests: One at Janet Reid's blog:
The other at MSFV:

Janet Reid's contest runs for another 10 days, so I have that long to get my MS in shape. MSFV closes at 5 pm EST today. Good luck to any who want to enter.

So for now, back to work.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Better...and not so much

Better, in the sense that I'm making real progress on the revisions for Dragon Hunter. Not so much in the sense that I picked up germs from one (or more) of the snotty little rugrats at our Girl Scout event last night. Every time I'm exposed to strange unfamiliar little kids, I seem to get whatever's going around. So despite the event's extraordinary success, I'm paying the price for it today with fever, chills, aches, and other lovely flu-like symptoms.

Despite the sickitude, the event was a lot of fun. It was a Mardi Gras themed father-daughter dance. I have to say, it's adorable watching a bunch of little girls slow-dance with their daddies. All the standing on their dad's feet while they hobble around the room, so cute! The funniest thing was watching all the little girls teach their dads such things as the Cha Cha Slide and the Macarena, and dads finally getting into it only when YMCA came on.  All the kids seem to know the dance moves, but all the dads managed YMCA, at least. I think they were relieved to finally hear a song they already knew how to participate in correctly.

Another bit of amusement: after the dance, we were cleaning up the room, and couldn't figure out how to capture all the escaped balloons that clung to the ceiling in one corner of the room. The school's custodian had the solution. He had a huge long pole with a knife taped to one end of it. The poor balloons saw that pointy stick coming their way and cowered together above the stage. They found no safety in numbers. The balloon popping game was one of the most entertaining parts of the night.

You cannot escape my pointy stick, rogue balloon

It's amazing, because two weekends ago I camped with a kid who had a bad case of strep throat, and came home fine. Last weekend I spent hours at a cookie booth sale in the freezing cold damp wind with tons of strangers, and came home fine. I figured I was immune to the current round of raging infectious blergs, but I was clearly wrong.

I'm not feeling very well, so I went looking for a photo that would make me smile. How about a happy potato chip?

Because I needed cheering up today

So since I can't do anything else but sit here on my tuchus feeling icky, I've got no excuse for leaving my ms unrevised. And now I hope my head is clear enough to actually do the work. We'll see. It was clear enough to write this blog, so hopefully I'll manage the "real" writing just as well. Then again, I did include a picture of a smiling potato chip. WTF? We're getting to the part of the story where the agent had a lot more advice for me, so I hope I'm lucid enough to implement her suggestions in a coherent way. It remains to be seen.

As for everything else I'm supposed to be doing, it can all wait until I'm well enough to cross the room without stopping for a nap. As long as I'm sitting down, I think I can manage.

Let's test that theory. To the word mines!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Getting so much better, I forgot to blog

I finally had a chance to sit down and write something new, and I was shocked that two days passed without an entry here! I've been spending every free  moment at the computer rewriting novel #1 in the series, and really making it substantially better. I didn't realize how iffy it was. I hope I'm implementing the right changes in it, and actually making it into something someone would want to represent.

I always assumed revising would cut away the dead wood in a novel, but apparently it throws as much new kindling back on the pile as it removes. I'm scratching at the 100k word mark now, and I'm probably going to have to go back through it one more time after the revision to pull out all the excess baggage. Again.  I'd already edited this puppy like eight times, and now we're going for ten.

I won't get much more done today, since we've got a huge event planned for tonight, but it's enough to know that things are on track.

I was hoping to get it done in time to submit to the Pay it Forward contest on Janet Reid's blog, but I have a feeling I'll be pushing it to get it done in less than two weeks. I'm going to throw myself into it this weekend, though, and hopefully I'll still make the deadline...

Still, the depression of the rejection is past, and I'm back in industrious mode again. Onward!