Friday, August 31, 2012

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

Welcome to Gearing Up to Get an Agent (known as GUTGAA, and not to be confused with Gut Guy).

Deana Barnhart
GUTGAA is being run by the lovely Deana Barnhardt and you can sign up at that link, or through the Linky at the end of this post, if you're geared up to get an agent. If you have a manuscript all ready to show the world, you will want to participate. This isn't just a blog hop, but also a fantastic Agent Pitch Contest! Wheeee!

For this first day of the blog hop portion of the programming, Deana posted the following questions for every participant to answer, so we could all get to know each other a little better. Let me say it now, these are fun questions!

 -Where do you write?

I have several places where I prefer do do my writing. The first, and most frequent location is my Comfy Chair. It is an ancient overstuffed chair that's so battered and worn that it's become MY chair. Nobody else sits there. Or dares to.

My other favorite writing spot is seasonal. I have a screened in porch behind my house, and when the weather is nice enough, I'll sit out there for hours and write. By nice enough, I mean anything between "I'd consider going in for a sweater if it got any cooler" to "I'm bundled from head to toe, but I think my toes might be going numb, so maybe I should go in." Any hotter or colder, and I'll be in the Comfy Chair.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?

In this order: Cell phone, coffee mug, coaster which is not under the coffee mug :/, pen, glass penguin, photo of me with Alex Trebek, hair clip, earrings, pet rock, red crayon, two receipts from the post office, my spare pair of glasses with the broken nosepiece, and three Christmas ornaments that I forgot to put away last December and decided to leave on the credenza until Thanksgiving rather than climb up to the shelves in the garage where the holiday decor is stored.

***Edit for everyone asking about Alex Trebek: Yes, I was on Jeopardy! (so was my husband)

-Favorite time to write?

I usually write from lunch time until my daughter gets home from school at 3:30, and then again after dinner until my eyes cross or I pass out from exhaustion.

-Drink of choice while writing?

Usually caffeine. Coffee, tea, and the dreaded soda.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?

I used to need silence, but after a while I trained myself to ignore distractions. I don't listen to music on purpose, but if some is playing elsewhere in the house it doesn't bother me. In fact, my comfy chair is in the living room, and the television is on in the evenings while I write. I don't even see it or hear it anymore.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?

The latest MS I've been querying was born from the fact that the first two novels I ever wrote were dreadful, and I didn't think they had enough commercial appeal even if I rewrote the dreadfulness out of them. I was terrified that I would never be able to come up with a new world, characters, and story. I have no idea where the idea for Running Down the Dragon came from, but I sure am glad it came from somewhere! Hopefully the story and writing hold more appeal! I wrote a second novel with the new characters, and I'm half way through a third.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?

Don't spend all your time reading writing advice. You'll end up befuddled and disillusioned. All you need to do is start writing. I mean, clearly you need a grasp of the language, an idea of what's expected in a manuscript, and a solid group of critique partners and beta readers. Other than that, though, it's your story. You have to find your own way to tell it.

And so that's all for now. I was going to snap some pictures of my Comfy Chair and the items to my left, but then I realized I'd have to stand up to do that. Not to mention the things to my left are in a messy pile. I don't want you to think I live like that. O.O

***Edit, for Feaky Snucker:

Ooh la la! The CREDENZA.

The crap to my left. Note the banana stickers decorating my fancy furniture, and my caffeine delivery system.

Interested in GUTGAA yet? I hope so! Here's the SIGN-UP LIST Linky:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This is the New Normal

Life returns to "normal." Every time there's a major disruption to my regularly scheduled programming, I flail for a few days, rush to catch up, and then settle back down again. I'm sure it's the same for most everyone, though.

I am actually making progress in my editing again. Other than yesterday's headache detour, things are getting back on track. It makes me feel like I'm moving forward again, instead of stuck in the strange loop of trying to catch up every day.

I realize I haven't posted the Progress-O-Meter in a while. I think I'll save it for when I start working on the WIP again. I probably shouldn't call it the Work In Progress until I start back on it, though. How about the Work On Hold? WOH?

I've been biting my tongue about a promotion I plan to have. I decided to hint and wink about it, so here goes:

I found a company in my area that makes the most awesome things that I'm going to order as a tie-in to Running Down the Dragon. I'm waiting to hear back from them and set up a meeting with their artist to design the...promotional item thingies. I can't really say any more until after our meeting, but I promise to post all the awesomeness as soon as I have artwork. I will say I am incredibly thrilled about it, to the point I'm bouncing a little writing about it even in this vague, unhelpful way. :)

Yoga Cat
On that note, here's some art to tide you over. A deer walked through my yard yesterday, but she was gone by the time I thought to take a picture. Instead of the lovely wildlife shot I wanted to post, here's a gratuitously silly picture of my cat doing yoga. I call it the Upward Facing Cat pose.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gut Guy and Distraction

I have been meaning to post a new post, but I have been busy with ALL OF THE THINGS. Back to school week is always the worst. It's the only time the PARENTS get homework. Every teacher my daughter has sends home a letter explaining their class procedures and goals, along with an agreement that has to be signed by the kid and the parent stating that we read through all the material and understand it. She has six teachers. Not to mention writing checks for her school planner, her drama class script fee, signing up to receive blog info and TEXT MESSAGE HOMEWORK ALERTS! Yes. We get text messages with her homework assignments now. So why did they make us pay $5 for the planner book?

Speaking of the planner, every year it has a snazzy lenticular cover. This year's cover is really creepy. From one view, you see this:

And if you tilt it ever so slightly, it turns into this:

We now refer to him as "Gut Guy." Ewww.

Needless to say, I've been busy the last few days. Even with all the extra time while Lulu is at school, I still haven't managed to get back on the editing train. I opened the file, at least. I stared at it for a few minutes today. And then I remembered my sad, lonely blog. And several phone calls I have to make. But blog first.

I don't really have any real writerly update for y'all. Just Gut Guy. Maybe something writerly will happen this evening? One can only hope so.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Just for Fun: Query Wordle!

Thanks to the awesome Ink in the Book, I've been enamored with creating a Query Wordle. Without further ado - since I've already wasted at least an hour creating and tweaking it - I'd like to present the newest version of my query for Running Down the Dragon in Wordle form:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Disasteversary Day

I almost said "Happy Disasteversary," but that just sounds wrong. There's not really much happy about a disasteversary. Especially a double.

August 23 is a day filled with interesting memories for me. Twenty years ago today, I was battening down the hatches for Hurricane Andrew. One year ago today, I thought my house was sliding down the hill when the DC earthquake scared the bejeebers out of me.

I survived the hurricane, though most everything I owned before I was 19 did not. So much of my childhood disappeared overnight. Photos, toys, and clothes I would have passed on to my own daughter washed away in the storm surge or were irreparably damaged by the layer of mildew that grows over everything after it's been soaked in seawater for days on end. And that doesn't even describe the horror of living through the storm itself. A tornado spawned by the storm took out nearly every tree in our yard. The wind howled all night, broke the window in my mom's car, and then the air pressure made the horn honk in a solid blast until the battery died. It took hours. Can you say spooky? We had no power for nine days afterward. And we were a good thirty miles north of Homestead, where the worst of the storm hit and leveled entire communities. My mom's house wasn't so lucky.

Twenty years later I still relive bits of that day like it was yesterday. I wouldn't wish that kind of thing on anyone. It weirds me out that there's a "hurricane booth" at our local mall where you pay a few dollars, step inside, and experience hurricane force winds for a minute or two. I have no desire to ever experience it again. Enough said.

Exactly one year ago today, the earth moved. I'd experienced a mild earthquake before, but that was in Los Angeles, where you kind of expect earthquakes. I live 35 miles from Washington DC. We don't get earthquakes here. Except that one.

I was sitting out on the back porch with my laptop, writing. Lulu was at a friend's house. Helper Monkey had just gone to bed. At first, I thought they were blasting somewhere nearby. They were building a house down the street from me, and several times they had to blast through the bedrock in order to pour concrete for the foundation. But the shaking didn't stop, it got worse. My second thought was that my house had finally broken loose from the aforementioned bedrock and was sliding down the hill toward the lake. It felt like the ground had turned to jello, and wave after wave pulsed through the deck below me. I was too freaked out to stand up.

When the shaking stopped, I ran downstairs to ask Helper Monkey if he felt it, too. My third thought was that I was having some sort of psychotic break, and I'd hallucinated the whole event. He'd been drifting off to sleep, and his first thought was that I was moving the bed. When I called to make sure everything was okay at her friend's house, I learned that Lulu missed the whole thing. She was in her friend's swimming pool and they thought the waves were of their own making.

We were lucky. We escaped without any real damage. They are still repairing buildings downtown, though. The National Cathedral won't be fully fixed for at least 10 years. The Washington Monument is still not fully stabilized. Union Station still has netting up to protect passengers from falling things.

So that's what I'm thinking about today. And I'll kindly ask that if any further disasters are planned for wherever I happen to be living either now or in the future, could you kindly pick another date? This one is already full.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Research + Family Field Trip = Psycho Squirrels FTW

The Helper Monkey was offered a week's vacation from work. He jumped at the chance to chill for a week at home, and decided we needed to play a little home-town tourist. I also needed to do a final bit of research for the novel I just finished editing (again), and wanted to make sure my memories of a few DC locales was accurate. It wouldn't do to screw up references to the National Archives or the National Gallery of Art! So we took the Metro downtown yesterday and had a Grand Outing.

For the most part we had gorgeous weather. Needless to say, we're sore from walking. Here's our itinerary (and a good excuse to use a lot of pictures):

Metro to Union Station.

Walk across the Capitol Grounds, check out the Grotto (and get a drink at the water fountain).

Dodge the Crazy Ranting Guy on First Street by detouring a block out of our way.

Hike to the National Museum of the American Indian. It was our first visit there, despite having walked past it a dozen or more times. Helper Monkey had been wanting to go since it opened. His Great Grandmother (about whom we know almost nothing) was a full-blooded Cherokee, and he's part Mohawk on his father's side. It was a wonderful experience for him to share that part of her heritage with Lulu.

In the gift shop, we found these adorable little skeletons. We had a lot of fun in gift shops.

 We ate lunch in the Mitsitam Cafe at the American Indian museum. May I say, FABULOUS FOOD! We had buffalo chili. Yum.

After lunch, we decided to take care of my business, and head over to the National Archives. We took a last minute detour through the National Gallery to look at the DaVinci and some of the Dutch Masters. I particularly liked this tiny detail in one of the paintings:

In case you can't tell from the picture, it's the inside of a building (a church?) and depicts a gray dog raising its hind leg against a pillar. Those crazy Dutch Masters!

We crossed the street to the Archives, but weren't allowed in. They were experiencing a power outage, of all things! After seeing National Treasure, I suspected someone was actually trying to steal the Declaration of Independence. My conspiracy theories and I had some time to kill, so we went over to the Sculpture Garden to make sure I didn't mess up any of the details in my book. And no, I got everything right.

For anyone who has read Running Down The Dragon, these pictures are for you:

The Gate where Thalia parks at the end is on the left behind the silver cars. The building on the right is the Archives.
headless zombie statues. Imagine what they'd look like in the dark, illuminated only by police car lights.

The Fountain.

Me, with the Rabbit version of the Thinker.
By the time we got back to the Archives, they were letting folks in again. Out of all the metal detectors and security guards we had to walk through yesterday, the hardest to get through was at the Archives. And the guards weren't very polite. Just saying. Unfortunately, they don't allow photography inside, but it was just about the most interesting exhibit we saw. Absolutely fascinating.

After the Archives, Lulu expressed an interest in visiting the American History museum (she loves the Star Spangled Banner and Abe Lincoln's hat). While on the way there, we walked past the Natural History museum, and detoured inside because Helper Monkey hadn't been there since the animal halls were updated. I had him take a picture of me with the Okapi. It's a strange yet adorable animal. It's the closest living relative of the giraffe. I call it Sexy Pants.

Me and Sexy Pants
We also got to touch a piece of Mars!

We resisted imitating the Curiosity Rover and shooting this rock with lasers. Pew Pew!

After the animals (and a visit to the Hope Diamond), we finally arrived at the Star Spangled Banner. We saw Lincoln's hat. Unfortunately, the Ruby Slippers were not in their usual display hall, which was being renovated. We saw a lot of other interesting things. And then headed outside for the long walk down to the Vietnam Memorial. It was warm and sunny all morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Of course, the moment we stepped outside for the outdoor portion of our day, it began POURING RAIN. We huddled under a tree. It proved to be an ineffective canopy.

The rain let up, so we walked past the Washington Monument, at which point it began pouring again. By the time we arrived at the WWII memorial, we were soaked. We kept going, and passed this bizarre sight: A squirrel wrestling with a tree branch.

The squirrel was also being watched by a duck. Duck just stood there staring, until he saw us watching him, at which point he HEADED STRAIGHT FOR US! Gah! We ran for it. I don't want to mess with crazy ducks. Crazy squirrels, sure, but ducks? No thank you.

Then we had a long walk back to the Farragut West metro station. We would have had an easier trip home if we could have managed the additional couple of blocks to the Farragut North station, but we were about to drop dead by that point.

If you managed to get all the way through this post, you'll realize that there wasn't much to the whole day. It was a lot of fun, with a couple hours of research thrown in. The moral of the story is that I get to write off the whole trip as a business expense, because I took some photos, confirmed some plot lines as being plausible, and made sure the climactic scenes of the story worked as I wrote them. It was absolutely necessary for me to check, and the only way to get information about the inside of the National Archives is to actually go there.

I also got a few ideas for an upcoming contest related to RDTD. Oh, and a great idea for a logo that I should have designed a long time ago for the characters who work for the shifter division of the U.S. Government. Wheee!

So, have any of you managed to get a fun day out with the family and accomplish this much research all at the same time?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What I have to look forward to

I've been thinking about a brief twitter exchange I participated in last night. There are some fantastic teen writers on twitter, and I'm grateful for all the useful information they have shared with us during such events as the now-weekly YA writers Ask A Teen sessions. (Look for the #YAWritersAAT hashtag for more info).

Not only am I tossing an idea around for a YA novel, but my own YA is officially going to be a teenager in less than a year. I've been following along with whatever these lovely teen writers have to tell us. I know it will all be useful to me very soon, in a very personal way.

Back to the tweets from last night. @MeganWhitmer asked when the Mean Girls stuff started in school. I reassured her that it wasn't in Kindergarten, but @ABoredAuthor chimed in with his own experience. 7th Grade, he assured us, was when he noticed the beginnings of the cliquish, snarky meanness amongst his female classmates.

I was floored.

Lulu starts 7th grade in little more than a week. I was never concerned about her not fitting in before. She has a, let's call it unique, sense of style. She has her own ideas when it comes to colors matching, patterns clashing, and what constitutes an outfit that works together. If we're going somewhere with a definite dress code, I'll make her change. Otherwise, I don't want to limit her fashion sense. What's the point? I'd rather she was happy and felt like she could make her own choices than force her to wear what I think she should wear.

One of Lulu's more eclectic fashion choices. She didn't leave the house like this, at least.

I worried about how the "in girls" would react to her clothes. She doesn't dress like any of them, and this is the age where girls tend to get judgy about what all the other girls are wearing, how they style their hair, do their makeup, and everything else.

I should not have worried.

I asked Lulu about this. She just didn't care. Her attitude is that she makes friends for who they are, not for what they wear. If someone doesn't want to be her friend because she wore purple argyle socks, that's their loss. And you know what? If it doesn't bother her, I'm not going to let it bother me.

I think I know where she gets it. I routinely get mistaken for Mary Poppins. Today at the grocery store, someone thought I was going to audition for Alice in Wonderland. Okay. At least they noticed I made an effort to look nice in public. Lulu has seen me reply to these kinds of comments for years. I think she realizes that dressing differently might garner some attention, and not all of that attention is negative. She knows that I will keep dressing however I want to, and I don't even let the negative comments get me down or change my behavior. If it makes me happy to look like Mary Poppins, then that's good enough reason to keep doing it.

Mean girls will always exist. I'm just grateful my daughter doesn't want to be one of them. At least, not yet. We'll see how things go once she goes back to school.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Call Me Paula Bunyan, Or, I Defeat the Log of Feelings

I have a fallen white oak tree in my back yard. It came crashing down last summer, and for over a year, it's been blocking the path from our back porch to the driveway. We've been climbing over it for a year. Leaving it there wasn't entirely an act of laziness.

The day the tree fell, I went out back with my axe and a saw. I was determined to move the log out of the way. Unfortunately, the log defeated me. It's a huge freaking white oak. What did I expect? Instant capitulation? Hah! But I did have a new favorite pastime.

We dubbed the tree "The Log of Feelings." Over the last year, when I would get particularly frustrated or upset, I'd grab the axe and go a'hacking.

The tree started it. It originally landed on my roof, but we sawed through the little nub that kept it from hitting the ground.

Today, I went a'hacking. After a few whacks, I realized just how soft and squishy the log had become recently. We've had a lot of rain and hot weather, which isn't good for wood, but it's fantastic for wood you want to pulverize into mulch. I knew this would be the day. I would reclaim our walkway.

It took a while, and I have a blister on my hand from wielding the axe, but you can now walk from my back porch all the way to the driveway without having an advanced degree in monkeying your way up trees.

The part of the tree still stuck blocking my yard. It's WAY too big to move.

That big chunk of wood in the background is the piece I hacked off. The white thing off to the left is the Rubbermaid deck box I used to store yard stuff in. The Log of Feelings smooshed it flat when it fell last year.

You can once again see the stepping stones. You can once again USE those stepping stones, without having to climb over the waist-high tree, or tiptoe through the smashed Rubbermaid box full of slug bait and pruning shears.

For perspective, those stepping stones are 12" squares. The bit of log over to the right, under the main log, fell off the underside of the main log when it snapped. And this log is LESS THAN A THIRD of the whole tree, the rest of which still stands in my yard, serving as a squirrel habitat.

When I finally defeated my nemesis, I celebrated joyfully. I danced, pointed, and mocked the Log of Feelings. Then I realized I didn't have a nemesis anymore. I was sad. I couldn't explain it, but without the Log of Feelings, I was worried I'd resort to inappropriate displays next time I felt overly burdened with emotions.

But all is not lost. Nay, the Log of Feelings is still the Log of Feelings. Until it is finally reduced to a composted soil-like substance, I will still have my favorite pressure-release valve. There's nothing like brute physical destruction to cure frustration.

When I write, if the story hits a pothole, I like to know I can go outside and do something purely physical with immediately visible results. That pile of mulch? Yeah, I made that. And it's good for the garden, too! It beats the heck out of smashing the computer.

While I'm thrilled to death that I can carry the recycling bins out without risking life and limb (har de har), I'll almost miss our temporary roadblock. At least I can finally throw out all the ruined stuff that was squished in the collapsed deck box.

Am I the only writer that relies on this sort of physical barbarism to work out plot holes and characters who won't do my bidding? I'm planning ahead for the day when the Log of Feelings disintegrates. I'd love to know what everyone else does to relieve stress. Hell, the Log of Feelings has also been my main source of exercise for the last while! I need to think of my health, here!

What's your favorite thing to do while working through the tangly bits in your writing?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Word! Or, Stop the Wonkiness!

I always wrote in Open Office. Well, not always, but for the last few years, at any rate. I never had an issue with it. It worked fine, has a lot of useful downloadable extensions, and best of all, it's free. And then I tried submitting my manuscript to Literary Agents.

For those who aren't writers, I'll tell you it seems like the entire publishing industry uses Microsoft Word. When an agent, or editor, or even a critique partner, asks to see your whole manuscript, it has to be formatted so that the recipient can actually read it. That is the whole point of sending it, after all.

It turns out, Microsoft Word has some sort of formatting allergy to things written in Open Office. Even if I save the file as a .doc Word file in OO, the formatting would sneeze somewhere during the conversion process, and it never seemed to have a hankie close at hand. Headers, footers, page numbers, margins, spacing, chapter breaks, and everything else would end up in a jumbled slush of word soup.

The event that finally sent me to the Dark Side was innocent enough, but doubly mortifying for me. Several months ago, I sent my full manuscript to Spectacular Agent Person. She emailed me that she received SOMETHING, but she didn't think it was my manuscript. It was about 80,000 words shorter than my MS, and was WONKY, WONKY, WONKY. The formatting exploded when she tried to open it in Word.

I quickly went over the submission, opened it up in OO, redid ALL THE FORMATTING, and sent it along again. Lucky for me, it worked that time. I felt like a moron, but it worked eventually. I was just lucky that Spectacular Agent Person was nice enough to point out my embarrassing error and let me resend it. She could have written me off as a lunatic and hit delete.

Fast forward about five months. After I finished ALL THE EDITING, Spectacular Agent Person miraculously asked to see the revised MS. When I fished ALL THE SQUEEING, I took my .odt OO file, reformatted it as a .doc Word file, and sent it on its merry way.

First thing the next morning, I had an email from Spectacular Agent Person, wondering if I sent the right file. It was 17,000 words (What happened to the other 86,000 words?!), and the formatting was once again described as "strange." I scrambled to reassemble my tattered document, screwed up the formatting even worse before I finally made it at least passably readable, and sent it along again. I apologized for the horrible formatting, and blamed it on Open Office.

Surprisingly, Spectacular Agent Person agreed with me, and advised me to do anything I had to do in order to get Word on my computer ASAP. So I did.

I won't even go in to the day-long ordeal of trying to download Word. Needless to say, I finally got it installed, and spent most of the day today trying to de-wonkify Running Down the Dragon. I'm FINALLY satisfied with how it looks.

My next project is to transfer all my other OO documents into Word. Synopses, queries, my other manuscripts, the WIP--everything needs to be reformatted. I suppose I should start with Devil May Care, since I should be working on edits for it right now. Instead, I'm still reading RDTD, since I spent the last two days doing Word-related things, rather than word-related things. :)

This is George. George is a horse. He has Horse Sense. George approves this message.*
Moral of this story: If you are an author, and you are not using Word, go buy it now. If you can't afford it right now, I at least encourage you to send a test file to a friend, writing buddy, critique partner, or ANYONE who has Word installed. Let them open it up and make sure it is actually readable before you send it to an agent! Use your Horse Sense! Be like George!

*And yes, this horse is really named George.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Dangers of Re-re-re-re-re-reading

No, the title is not a typo. I don't think I included enough Re's, though. I'm reading Running Down the Dragon for the eleventy-seventh time, and I'm STILL finding things that I want to change. How can this be?

I've rewritten, edited, had critiques, edited some more, revised, tinkered, and edited again. How can there be anything left to change at this point? I'm not sure if ANY of the words are still in the same place they were when I first wrote them down.

Luckily for me, some of the changes are simple typos. I can't believe there are STILL typos in this thing, but there they are!

Some of the changes are shuffling a word or a sentence around. I just restructured the opening paragraph yesterday. I didn't really change much, but I did make the opening stronger. Silly little things like this are the bulk of the changes.

Finally, there are the subtle FEELINGS I want to add. I'll be reading along, and think, "That character should have done something or said something to show their feelings." And at this point I started to feel like an obsessive nutter.

How many edits should it take before I stop trying to find ways to add subtle nuance to the plot?

I stopped reading last night and really thought about that question. I could spend the rest of my life making this one single novel absolutely perfect. I could spend years putting every change I could imagine into the plot, into the characters, into the dialogue. But then what would I have? I'd have a perfect novel that nobody would ever read. Because I never let it go.

You know what? I think I'm okay with letting this one go now.

I'm sure that if it ever sells, the agent/editor/publisher will have something to say about it. I will diligently apply any edits they suggest. Other than that, I declare, by the power vested in me by having written the damned thing, THIS NOVEL IS COMPLETE! CARL GIVES HIS STAMP OF APPROVAL.*

This is Carl. He lives on my bed. He approves, so it's all good.
Now to finish reading it so the edits can begin on the second volume of Thalia's story.

*Note: From now on, when something is settled and final, Carl will offer his stamp of approval. I dare you to prove Carl wrong, since he's a Psychotic Beaver. There's no changing his mind.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I'm stealing my title from Jessa Russo today. It's only fair since she tagged me for this fun little exercise! Here are the rules:

If you are tagged, do a search for the word "look" in your work in progress. Copy that paragraph, along with surrounding paragraphs, to your blog, to keep the game afloat. Don't forget to tag others.

And so there it is!  I'm throwing out a little snippet from the novel I'm just about to start revisions on, tentatively called Devil May Care. Please be kind, and remember I haven't actually edited this yet! :)

"She rode over to me and leaped off her horse. When she introduced herself as Jezibaba, I almost believed she was the Jezibaba."
"So you're familiar with the local folklore, then?" I asked, grinning at him. I was pretty sure that Dr. Templeton, a man of science, wouldn't really believe in witches. Then again, he's devoted his life to the study of shifters, and we've never really been mainstream. He does have degrees in anthropology and archeology, though. I guess Jezibaba legends would have to fall in there somewhere.
He shook his head and smiled. "I know all the Baba Yaga stories, and she's always described as an old crone. This woman is probably in her early thirties. You'll see for yourself tomorrow. She's coming into the city to meet with the two of you."
"Did she tell you why she's so determined to meet us?" Mal asked.
"She said she has information you need to hear before time runs out," he replied, glancing around the nearly empty restaurant and then leaning in so the few other patrons wouldn't hear him. "She said it had to do with a spell of binding that was unraveling. She said you'd know what that meant, but she refused to say anything more to me. The way she said it, though; it seemed urgent to get you here. I hope I did the right thing." He seemed a little unsure of himself. I thought his sudden attack of nerves might be due to the look of bewilderment on my face.
"A spell of binding?" I asked. I had no idea what that meant, let alone what it had to do with me.
He shrugged. He didn't have a clue what it meant, either. "Like I said, she refused to tell me any more, other than it was urgent, and I quote, 'More than the fate of the dragons' was at stake. That sounded dire enough to me, since dragons didn't fare particularly well throughout their history."
I sat staring slack-jawed at Ron for a minute, but luckily he was distracted by the arrival of our food and didn't notice my impersonation of a landed fish. Mal kicked me under the table and I closed my mouth.

So there you have it.

As for tags, the following writers, get ready to run with it:

Aaand, I'm sort of lost at this point. I'm slow on the uptake, and I'm always shy with invites. *blushing, staring at ground, and running my toes through the dirt absently*

If you want to participate, leave a note in the comments so I can go read your LOOK! I might have a hard time asking for a peek, but if you put it out there, I'll look. ;-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Writing

I've been on a roller coaster the last few days. The highs have been fantastic, but the lows were mostly of my own making. If you aren't already bipolar, entering the world of publishing might drive you over the edge.*

*Note: I am actually bipolar, diagnosed in 1997, so I know of which I speak. No disrespect intended to anyone suffering from mental illness. I'm right there with you.

It all started a few days ago, when I decided I was ready to begin querying again. I sent out a few feelers into the Wilds of the Publishing Industry. I spent that evening riding on a cloud of wishful dreaminess. (If you are bipolar, you will know this is a real thing.)

By the following morning, I'd convinced myself I'd made a huge error. What was I thinking? I'm not ready for my baby to meet Publishing Professionals! I'm not good enough! My words lack substance! My characters are underdeveloped! My plot is contrived and silly!

And then I remembered to breathe. The extra oxygen helped. I calmed down enough to remember that my critique partners like my story. We've edited it into a tight, cohesive narrative. It is a Good Story, darn it!

When I recovered from my Stuart Smalley moment (People Like Me!), I had a grip on the proper perspective again. My writing is fine. Agents and publishers will either like it, or they won't. I can't control what other people like, but I can keep putting out the best writing I'm capable of. That's all I can do.

Rejections aren't a personal attack, but simply the opinion of one person. Likewise, requests for manuscripts aren't an offer of representation, or a contract to publish. I'm doing my best to remember this. For me, it's just as dangerous to get overly excited about acceptance in any form as it is to get too wallowy over rejection (however nicely worded it may be).

I strive for a happy zen medium. I'm going to let the requests and rejections alike wash over me like water over a pebble in a stream.

If I just keep writing, revising, and editing, I'll be fine. Everything else is a distraction. Even the encouraging news is a distraction from the real goal. Write, write, and write some more. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Things I learned about middle school today...

Technically this was supposed to be the last Buccaneer Blogfest post. I was supposed to discuss all the wonderful benefits I enjoyed through participating. And I think I've been pointing all the benefits out all along. I've found a TON of great writers to follow, read a berjillion interesting posts about writing, and met a lot of wonderful, interesting people. Hopefully all of that has been conveyed in every single Buccaneer post I've made over the last four weeks. It has been a fantastic experience for me, all around.

So now to the off-topic Crazy Ranting:

I realized around dinner time tonight that I learned something important today. There's a huge difference between sheltering your children from specific harm, and sheltering them from the entire world without any explanation or reason why. I can't even begin to express my dismay at the latter attitude.

I know not everyone has kids, but everyone who is ever exposed to kids in any way, or writes YA or MG (or even children's picture books) might understand how frustrating this is for the kids in question.

I completely understand the drive to protect our kids from the realities of the cold, cruel world as long as possible. It's not necessarily healthy to cover half the world with a black cloth and blindly pretend all the bad things don't even exist, though.

Case in point. Swearing.

By middle school, most kids have heard all the bad words in the box. No matter how hard we try to prevent them from hearing all the *!%& words, there will always be a kid or two who heard their older sibling or a frustrated parent exclaim them once or twice. That kid will be sure to spread the language like wildfire. Forget middle school, because I think my daughter heard most of them by the end of second grade. I don't really think there's much point in keeping my 12-year-old from watching a movie or tv show because a few "bad words" are used. But I know parents who do this.

Telling a child a word is bad, and then preventing them from ever hearing it while they are in our presence, seems counterproductive to me. Sure some words mean bad things, but I prefer to teach my child WHY they are bad, rather than issue a confusing blanket ban on certain words. Does this make sense to anyone else? I think the difference is an important one.

I would never want to limit my daughter's experience of life. There is a HUGE (read: gaping black chasm) difference between saying a word is altogether bad and preventing exposure to it with all my might, and teaching my daughter to THINK when she hears a bad word. I think this is a critical thinking skill as much as anything else. She does not swear, but will sometimes say a word that causes a couple of select friends to cringe and tattle to the closest adult that she cussed. Really? At 12?

I know it's not a polite thing to talk about, but since when does the word "fart" fall into the "dreaded-four-letter-word" category? Or "crap?" Or a dozen others that have recently sent a few of her friends into dramatic paroxysms?

Shouldn't we be arming our kids with the reasoning behind the specific uses of words that are bad? Some of my friends have even banned the use of the word "stupid" entirely. I taught my daughter that it's one thing to call the coffee table stupid when you stub your toe on it, or your cell phone stupid when it drops your call. It's another thing entirely to call someONE stupid. She would never do that.

I also don't stop her from listening to music with bad words in it (heck, some of my favorite songs are off albums with parental warning labels on them, and she's been listening to them since she was born). I don't stop her from watching movies with bad words, or violence, or scary things like ghosts, vampires, and demons. Strangely enough, some of the kids whose parents have blanket-banned all these things are the ones with the worst case of the jitters when thrown into a new situation. New situations roll off my kid's back like water off a duck.

I think it comes down to not simply blindfolding our kids. There is bad stuff in the world. They deserve to know this. I'd rather have all this explained gently and lovingly by her parents than forced upon her in the wilds of middle school playgrounds by a bully who wants to use his or her special new knowledge to frighten or shock. Something tells me that the "kid explanation" of the horrors of life won't be quite so reassuring as the parental explanation. And there is ALWAYS an age-appropriate explanation that's ALWAYS better than just pretending the bad thing doesn't exist at all.

I want my daughter to trust me. If I dismiss her questions, if I don't try my best to explain scary things in a way she can understand and take some comfort in, then what will happen when she is older and in a real-life scary situation? Will she trust me with the important things in her life later if I don't put a little trust in her now? I don't want to take that risk. I tell her all the time, if she wants the truth, Mom and Dad are the source. She knows we will never lie to her only to make her feel better. We'll do our best to make her feel better, but we only dispense truth around here.

Thanks to everyone who made it all the way through my sermon. I've been thinking about all this for a while now. Seeing as how I don't seem to have scarred my kid for life yet, I'm pretty sure she'd agree with it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gratuitous Vacation Pictures

I had to do it. Here is a post filled with my favorite pictures from our trip to Savannah. Just so you know, traveling on a bus for ten hours with a bunch of teenaged girls isn't as bad as it sounds. Especially when they are the awesome girls of my Girl Scout service unit. :)

The girls participated in a Muster at Fort Jackson, and learned how to fire a cannon. The picture is blurry because the cannon made a HUGE BOOM

These turtle statues populated Tybee Island.
Here's Lulu with the turtle at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. She lost those glasses in the surf just a few hours later. :(
Creepy Statue on our Ghost Walk. Supposedly, you can't photograph it without difficulty unless you're a Methodist. Maybe Mr. Wesley doesn't mind lapsed Buddhists taking his picture either?

The whole reason we went to Savannah in the first place, a visit to Juliette Low's Birthplace.

Lulu learning about Victorian era clothing, and how difficult it is to sit when you're wearing a bustle.

Dolphin Magic! They chased our boat for several miles up the Savannah River. It was amazing.

Writerly note: This is Flannery O'Connor's Birthplace. :) It wasn't hard to find...

My Birthday Girl. Lulu's 12th birthday just happened to be the day we went to the Juliette Low house, and to Lady and Sons for dinner. (Not to mention the Ghost Walk after dinner!) The ENTIRE RESTAURANT sang Happy Birthday!

So thank you to the lovely people of Savannah. You might do everything a little slow for us Yankees, and you seem to fry everything in butter, but your city is gorgeous. We had a wonderful time, and are planning a return visit for a family vacation. Not on a bus.