Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's January 31st. What are you doing tonight?

I can tell you what I'm not doing. I'm not participating in the Scribblerati write-a-thon, trying to squeeze out my word count for JanNoWriMo. I should, but I'm not.

I'm tired. Really tired. I've been staying up late all week trying to get those words out. Last night DH and I babysat for friends. We had a great time with the kids, but didn't get to bed until almost midnight. Of course the dogs still woke me up at the usual time this morning.

I've been a good girl all day: I went to Sunday School and church, helped DH clean out the kitchen drawers (This man needs a job soon! OMG - He's sorting through utensils, pot holders, and old recipes and he doesn't even cook!), organized some stuff in the cabinets, made lunch, cleaned up the kitchen, had one of my son's friends over to play, walked the dogs, made dinner, made coffee, and made a fire in the fireplace. I didn't do any laundry or sort through any mail. Nor did I write. But it's 7:45 on Sunday night, the fire is crackling cosily in the other room, and I'm not going to spend the rest of the evening in this horrid, uncomfortable chair in front of the PC.

I think I'll go watch "Prince Caspian," since I'm reading the Chronicles of Narnia again, and go to before eleven o'clock, for a change.

How about you?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Paralysis by Analysis

To see this post at The Writer's Hole, click here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My "Cottage" and winter in New Jersey

Christine Havers at 1,000 Words A Day has been posting such lovely snowy photos of winter in the British Isles that I feel compelled to post some of South Jersey, USA for comparison. We went for a walk in the park today and this was the typical scenery that greeted us.  Brown and yucky.  I know snow is inconvenient, but it does dress things up a bit.

I did capture a photo of two deer behind the college Thursday afternoon, however.  I was quite surprised to see such large does crashing carelessly through the woods just behind buildings swarming with humans.

Here's the partially frozen pond in the valley behind the college buildings.  The deer were on the other side of it.

I also have some photos of my "cottage."  That is, our house.  I realized that this year our house is fifty years old, which makes it not just old but an antique.  Whenever I am tempted to complain about it, I remember how many people in the world have no homes at all.  And I think of it as a modern cottage.  We don't have any quaintly thatched or timbered cottages here in the U.S., but we do have suburban leftovers from 1960 such as the one DH and I own.  (Technically, the bank owns it, but lets not go there.)

I remind myself how easy it is to clean and how nice it is that I can see the backyard from the kitchen, the living room and the office, enabling me to keep an eye on children and/or dogs.  We have very little entertaining room, as the entry, dining and family room are all one space.  But the yard makes up for that in summer time.

Here are some photos of the living/dining area, cleaned up today for company.  We are planning to paint the white walls a light, mossy green.  The built-in shelves are very cute.

The best part, though, is the corner fireplace.  As the Irish say, "There is no fireside like your own fireside."  Sitting in the leather recliner by the fire on a cold evening, with a mug of hot tea and a book, is one of the best comforts for the soul in the world.

Are We Just Crazy?

Today I am more than 6,000 words behind my goal for JanNoWriMo.  The only thing saving me at this point is that I am revising and much of what I've already done requires little editing.  However, it's also getting pretty boring the fifth time around.  I keep finding excuses not to work on it.

Which isn't to say that I need any excuses, as there certainly is enough for me to do around here at any given moment of the day.

Which brings me to the age-old question:  Are we crazy?  Why do we push ourselves to write?

Vikk Simmons has an interesting post about the psychological phenomenon of optimal experience, aka "flow," which is supposedly the truest form of happiness.  She postulates that writers, like all other artists, do what we do in order to experience flow - the suspension of time and place that comes from total immersion in our art.

I agree that in the first draft - when our imaginations are in high gear - there is definitely that suspension of reality that produces a euphoric high.  But by the fifth time around, writing is more like drudgery.  What we are doing, however, is fine-tuning our work so that one day, if all the planets align and the publishing gods smile upon our efforts, our readers can experience that same suspension of reality.

The author of the book that she cites, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, has this to say:
"The best moments usually occur when the person's body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile.  Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen."

So, let's make it happen.

I think that  the best way for me to do that is to stop going over the same old ground, and jump to the end of the last batch of revisions.  I stopped about 1/3 of the way through the book and went back to the beginning after my flogging.  I think I should pick up where I left off and focus on completing the entire manuscript before I revise again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

JanNoWriMo Update

It is January 21st, halfway through my participation in JanNoWriMo.  (I joined on the 11th).  I was doing really well until Tuesday, when my semester began again.  Suddenly I'm brain-dead.  You would think that a part-time job wouldn't tax those little gray cells that much, but I've been completely unable to write the past two evenings.  Nor can I get up early.  Well, I got up early this morning but didn't write.

Instead I fooled around in Webkinz World.  Yes, Webkinz World. There is something invaluably soothing about a virtual world with cute, smiling creatures where you can get money just for playing arcade games and spend it on all kinds of furniture, food, etc.  With all that is happening in the world, and with the financial crisis, I'm not ashamed to admit I really enjoy spending pretend money on anything I want.  Or finding pretend gems in pretend caves.

But, I have a lot of catching up to do today.  It amazes me how quickly I can lose the thread of my story to outside pressures.  At least my classes are going well, for which I am grateful.  This semester seems easier than the others so far.  Perhaps I'm starting to find my groove.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book Review: Flogging the Quill

I discovered the Flogging the Quill website last April and have been a faithful follower and participant ever since. Where else can you get a professional critique of your first page by a real, live editor absolutely free?  What keeps me coming back is that the advice is not just free, but that it is good.

The one disadvantage to the FTQ website, however, is that submitting to a public "flogging" of our words is always difficult.  No matter how much we psyche ourselves up for criticism, it's tough.  As Seargant Major Harper said after being flogged in Sharpe's Enemy, "Jeez, it hurts like hell. I don't think I could have stood any more."

Now, you don't have to.

Ray Rhamey has taken all of the wisdom, humor and encouragement of his website and packed it into a highly readable workbook-style guide titled Flogging the Quill: Crafting a Novel that Sells. I am not a fan of most writing books because they all seem to say the same things: Show, don't tell. Create believable characters. Keep your plot moving.

Rhamey doesn't just tell you what to do, he *shows* you with concrete examples and a humorous touch. I learned more from this book than I have from all the other books on writing I've read so far combined. The bigger page size definitely helps with readability, as do the cartoons and illustrations sprinkled through the text. Every section ends with a practical exercise, and there are additional samples on which to practice your new-found revision skills at the back of the book.

To make it even more fantastic, Ray is giving a free critique of your first three pages, or a free half-hour phone call (one hour for groups) to discuss writing topics, with the purchase of each book. You can't beat that for an incentive.

This is truly the best fifteen bucks I've ever invested in my writing.  Go ahead and try this at home.

The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. I have not received any compensation from the author.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Professional editing - pros / cons?

I am seriously wondering whether it's worth it to have a professional editor review my novel prior to querying agents.  There are plenty of editors out there offering help for a fee, and I am not one to deny that their time and experience are worth their hire.  But I can't help wondering whether I'd regret the expense later, assuming I can even come up with it.

What is a better use of my (hypothetical) writing funds... editing, or a laptop of my own?

Has anyone had personal experience with any of these services?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Contest: Name my muse

Ever since fellow writer Vikk Simmons posted a photo of her muse, an adorable pug statuette, on Facebook, I've been wanting to find a muse of my own. I finally found him/her - a little Siamese cat.  I'm not sure whether it's a he or a she.

Anyway, I can't think of a name for... it.  So I'm taking ideas from you guys and then next week we'll have a vote.

Here s(he) is.  Awwww, how sweet.  Yes, it's a Kinzclip, but somehow, that little stitched face speaks to me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I can't resist posting this.

"Happiness is a warm beagle" - Charles Schultz

Monday, January 11, 2010

What is with the sexy demons?

I've been venturing into the YA (young adult fiction) blogosphere lately, and am more than a little disturbed by what I'm finding there.  I don't hang out in bookstores. I have no teenagers in my life at the moment.  Well, I have a nephew but he's reading The Lord of the Rings, not Twilight.  So, I'm just realizing what is out there for young people.

As a Christian, naturally I find this current obsession with occult beings like vampires, incubi, succubi, fallen angels, and so on distasteful, but not surprising. The dark side of of the spiritual world has always fascinated humanity, and secular culture will always try to twist or counter God's truth.

What I do find surprising is the prominence of such hugely sexual themes in books targeted at very young women.  What are these publishers thinking???  As a parent and teacher, I'm appalled.  It was enough for me to keep my thoughts pure when Cary Elwes said "As you wish" to Robin Wright in The Princess Bride, or when Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert tempted Rebecca in Ivanhoe.  Not only would I have been forbidden to read a lot of the stuff that's being published now, I would have been ashamed to even consider it.  It would not have appealed to me, and I would blush to think of anyone else reading it.

Another surprising fact is that many of the authors of these works claim to be Christians. I'm really scratching my head over that one.

So I'm wondering, what do YOU think about these trends, especially if you write YA?  Why do you think this stuff is so popular?  What do you think is a good way to provide alternative entertainment for young people, especially girls?  Or is it not a problem for you?

Am I the only one who thinks that modesty and purity are still virtues to be cultivated in the young?

Let's talk.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Finally, A Breakthrough! (updated)

Being sick this week has given me a good excuse to sit around and write.  I've been quite a busy little hamster, spinning my wheel around and around on Chapter 1, and have finally come up with a version of my first scene of which I'm quite proud.  It's here.

I've also finally broken through on my query letter.  Before anyone says that it's too long, let me quote literary agent Nathan Bransford, who claims that "there is a sweet spot in query word count between 250 and 350 words. Anything shorter than 250 usually (but not always) seems too short and anything longer than 350 usually (but not always) seems too long."  Mine is 284.  So there!

Sunday update:  Second scene is done now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rime of the Aching Scribbler

I've sacrificed a half a day to headache and a virus
And though my brain might split in two I must take my papyrus
For days at home alone in peace are few and far between
So I'm lowering the brightness on my computer screen
My hero waits to know his fate, his lady's in distress
A tiny germ must not delay this daring authoress

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Page Rewrite

I have rewritten my first page yet again.  It's here: First Page Rewrite

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Writer's Hole Has Moved

The Writer's Hole has moved to its own url:  And I've found a totally awesome template.  You've got to see it!

Please join me at the new address.

P.S. I have spent way, way, WAY too much time today fooling around with blog templates and backgrounds, trying to get just the right look.  Apparently, my monitor is too old and/or small to get the full benefit of these fancy backgrounds, so I had to pick some with narrower margins.  I apologize if this blog (and the other) look too fussy to You Who Have Technology.  I'm just seeing the very edges of the designs. But boy was it fun playing around with them!

Friday, January 1, 2010

That was SO last year!

Okay, now we can say it.

Sparkly vampires? That was so last year, darling!

Writerly angst on agent/editor websites? So last year.

Obsession with interactive character websites? Last year.

Runaway beagles? Last year.

Too much chocolate? Last year.

Procrastinating? Last year.

This year...

I turn forty.
I stop doubting myself.
I finish the dratted manuscript.
The dog decides he's got it good and stays. in. the. yard.

So, what is "So last year" for you?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 This I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him." 

~ Lamentations 3:19-24

* * * *  Happy New Year!  * * * *

Stupid Dog Update 1:55 p.m.
The beagle decided to scale the fence while he was still tied.  Thankfully, the picket broke and he didn't hang himself.  Time for a drink for me, and a dose of melatonin for him.