Saturday, July 30, 2011

The End of Summer and How I Write During the School Year.

I know, I know - you're thinking -- "Wait? It's only July 30th, summer's not over."

But for me, in my current life of part-time writer, full-time teacher it is the sad, sad truth. Every Saturday from now till next June will be relished for its no-alarm-clock properties and the ability to have more than stolen moments with my manuscripts. Next Thursday, August 4th, is my first official teacher workday with students arriving August 9th.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job. I really love the kids. Obviously, I write for them. But it sure does put a damper on word count and blogging time.

So you ask, "How do you do it?" The simple answer is coffee. Hook up the I.V., slap the vein, plug her in. Because that alarm clock goes off at 5:00 a.m.. I do a five minute snooze, then I shuffle zombie style to the kitchen, stepping over various dogs, cats, and things left on the floor till I reach the nectar of alertness. With coffee cup in hand, I shuffle back to my computer and write until 6:00 a.m. Most days, I'm able to get in between 500-750 words, some days more, but if I'm consistent and write four mornings during the week and both weekend days (when I shoot for 1.2K) that adds up to a minimum of 4.5k per week or 18K per month. I'm like that proverbial tortoise in Aesop's fable.

Drafting happens in the morning when I'm in that hitherland state - revisions I can do at night when I really need to think.

What about you, how do you get it done, are you the tortoise or the hare?

Monday, July 25, 2011

GUTGA - BlogFest First 200 words Entry

It's the last week of Deana Barnhart's Blogfest - Gearing Up to Get an Agent week. So this is the first 200 words of my Middle Grade novel, The Happy Kind. Looking forward to your feedback!

Thanks everybody but I went ahead and took the snippet down - I had great feedback but was starting to feel like my waters were getting muddied. It's the double-edged sword of having piles of readers!! But I TRULY appreciate each of you who took the time to read and comment. You're the best.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Dog Days of July?

Record heat waves around the country are cooler in the Appalachians, but, hey, I don't have air conditioning, so even high 80's is torture.

Fortunately, my next-door neighbor (the 25 acres next to our 14 acres so not like city next-door neighbors) has river frontage that she's willing to share. Bad Dog Henry likes to cool his tootsies and even though we sweat bullets climbing back up from the river - that cold mountain water is sure nice when you're in it.

Henry is a Great Pyrenees dog. A breed known for guarding goats and sheep and lesser known for one other unique trait. Stubbornness. Bad Dog Henry got his name for his propensity to roam, jump in other people's cars, then try and bite them if they asked him to get out. So this big dufus is a leash dog now. Bad Dog Henry.

Great Pyrenees are one of three breeds making an appearance in my current WIP. I guess I love them since I'm sort of stubborn myself.

Off to see HP 7.2 in a bit - Hope you're beating the heat in equally fun ways.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tire Shop Adventures

Living in the rural Appalachians never ceases to astound me. When I first moved from big city Atlanta, I was a bit unnerved. The accent was markedly different from the rest of the South, the pace decidedly slower, and the options more limited.

But after close to fifteen years, the beauty of this place - including its delicious quirks - is something I rarely tire of. Even something as mundane as a trip to the tire shop can hold little jewels.

So. Tires. One of the things I truly hate spending money on, but on curvy mountain roads it is an all too often necessity. After lots of phone calls trying to find the very best deal, I made an appointment. This tire shop was new to me, and really, the guy that owns it seems to be more into hotrods than selling tires.

Within the first three minutes of hanging out in the clean lobby while his grandson worked on my car, Tire Shop Guy, started telling me a story about his dog. A Chi-Poo, which he pronounced "She-poo".

"I love that little dog," he said. "Now my wife, she likes a clean house, so I bought some little booties for my dog. I'll come home and take her out to do her business. She never ever messes. And when she comes in, she jumps from one chair to another to a little table I built just for her. Then she holds up each paw for me to take off her shoes."

A guy pulls up in a purple dune buggy and comes in. He glances at me then starts talking to Tire Shop Guy. If you've never lived in the country, men of a certain age tend to "loaf" at the establishments of their buddies. There are no neighborhood bars, as this is deep Baptist woods, so the feed store, the tire shop, the barber are hang-outs.

Within minutes, Earl (the new guy) and Tire Shop Guy are deep into a discussion about Facebook. TSG is showing Earl the like button. "See here, this little place that says like. You press that if you agree with what someone is saying. This here girl, I can read all about what's she's a doing and where she's a going. I think I'm gonna post something from today from that Chinese guy. You know like, "Confusion says learn to fly before going on a plane, learn to swim before going to the pool." The he looks at me, "You think, they'll think I don't know it's really Confucious if I type Confusion?" I nod.

Earl grabs hold of me, pulling his chair up in my bubble. "Me and my wife we got kicked out of our church. " Then for a full twenty minutes I was given a story about church politics and back stabbing and ostracization. When he left to go check out the tires I was getting, TSG says "Old Earl, he's really bothered by that church business. Happened over a year ago, but he tells everybody that will listen. I think he ought a just let it go."

Earl comes back and asks me "Did you know TSG is one of the best bluegrass pickers around?" "No," I say. "Yep," Earl says. "See that up there." He points to a framed certificate from the governor of NC hanging above the shiny rims. "Old TSG he got that for going to the World's Fair in 1964."

TSG steps in. "Yep, they went around the state scouting talent to represent the state and me and my brother got picked. You ever heard of Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt?" I nod. "Well, me and my brother we used to open up for them every time they came around. One time, Earl, wasn't that in Tn?"

Earl nods, "Yep, over in TN they outsold old Earl and Lester with records."
TSG says, "45's. Old little 45's"

They're standing in front of me at this point, performing, their voices like sermons, their eyes twinkling, whisked back to their teenage years. And I just smiled and watched because living in a place where people still tell strangers their stories and take the time to share, well, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Moping Middles otherwise known as the Head Monkeys

A critique partner of mine refers to the doubts that plague writers as The Head Monkeys. I laugh at this phrase. It brings up memories of the Wizard of Oz and those little actors dressed up in monkey suits.

But it's real and right now, at 25K into a new WIP, I've got a bad case of the head monkeys. The first stage was well planned out - I knew the physical foibles my MC would encounter (emotional is always more intuitive) - but now mid-way through, I'm floundering a bit. My muses have turned to monkeys. I keep plugging away, willing myself to put words to paper, allowing myself that really cruddy first draft, but the monkeys are chattering and demanding bananas. I'm choosing to put my hands over my ears, eyes and mouth and act like a different set of monkeys.

When do your Head Monkeys appear? Drafting? Revising? Querying? And what's more, how do you banish them?

Hope your writing weeks are going well! Happy weekend.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BlogFest Story Chain

If you're just stopping in Deana Barnhart is hosting Blogfest this month. This week, the goal is to write a chain story, we've been given an assignment. Mine is no -ly adverbs, and I must use the words-- Science Fiction, cramps, and snag-- in what I write. Below you will find first a link to the blog with the story bit before mine, then after my writing, the link to the blog where the story continues. Have fun!

Dio's head spun. My parents, not dead? But it was hard to think locked in the trunk of a rusty, old Cadillac with cramps in her legs. She glanced around.

Spare tire. Check.
Fix-a-flat. Check.
Discarded fast food wrappers. Wait, in the trunk? Gross.

Maybe that's where the smell was coming from. But something snagged her brain. Something familiar. A smell like sulfur and day-old breakfast. She didn't think it was the left-over egg and bacon biscuit.

Could it be? Her eyes darted around the trunk, dim light seeping in through rust holes. Was he here? Life could sometimes be stranger than science fiction.

"Roddern?" she whispered.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is Fasnizzle a word?

I don't care if it is or isn't. I'm in a fasnizzle. My young adult novel, CAST IN GOLD, is feeling some agent love and I'm in that knotted stomach, do I want to throw up or eat massive amounts of chocolate stage.

It's waaaaaaaaaay too soon to crow. I'm just at that step on my journey where I've passed the following stages.
  • Lots of beginner writer mistakes
  • Falsely self-confident
  • Can't write a query to save my soul
  • Yay, I'm getting query rejections so I'm a real writer
  • Wow, I'm getting partial requests so now I'm really a real writer and I can write a query!
To now being at the
  • Holy cowabunga, I'm sending out a full! Could I, would I, should I, oh please.......

And being the utter Pollyanna pragmatist that I am, I know that getting an agent is only the gateway to the second circle of hell - going on submission - but you must have an agent to walk through the biggest doors to the hot fire that is publishing. And, please oh powers greater than me, forgive me if I'm in a fasnizzle over this. It's just, well, so, COOL!!!!!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check my e-mail again.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

So call me a cheater, why don't you?

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I know. One burning question. But here's the thing - I've got a whopping 14 new followers from my two days of participation in Blogfest and I had another question.

Drumroll please.

So - when you see query replies in your mail box. How many of you automatically just say
  1. "Ah, it's a rejection. Whatever."
  2. "Oh, where is my significant other, I can't look at this alone."
  3. "This is the one, I know it's the one, I can feel it in my bones."
  4. "Somebody bring me the vodka!"
I will admit to being a 1 mostly, and occasionally a 2, 3, and 4. Just a crazy thought while perusing my daily Querytracker stats. Thanks for humoring me!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Burning Question for Blogfest Week One

I am deep into the very fun part of a new WIP. It's a middle-grade post-apocolyptic horse girl adventure set right here in the Appalachian mountains. Though I love my new protagonist, she still has much to learn in life. However, I am so in love with two supporting characters that are not even in the story yet, they are all I can think about.

One of the characters is deaf and I can't wait to write him. I love dialogue. Dialogue is one of my strengths, yet I am giving myself a character who will not use words to communicate. This guy is a nod to my first cousin, who is deaf in real life and I feel blessed every day that I had the great fortune to grow up with him. In the next chapter I write he comes to life and I cannot wait for the challenge.

The other character is the deaf boy's father and he is a hoot. He's a collector. Of things, words, dogs, and people. He's crusty and gnarly and missing teeth, but I am totally in love with this guy.


For me, this process of falling in love, is what wakes me up in the morning and gets me quickly to my computer to write them real. I can't wait to hear your answers. And Welcome! It's nice to know you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Baby you're a firework!

Today is Independence day for our dear country, the good old U.S.ofA. And what am I thinking about? I'm thinking about Katie Perry's song, Firework.

"Uh, dude?" you may ask. "How come you're thinking about that chick's song on the Fourth of July, well other than the fireworks of course?"

"Well, dude." I might respond. "I'm thinking of that song because of fireworks, but also because I love the message."

Huh? The message? In a pop song?

Damn straight. That song is about the independence to be yourself. To believe in yourself. And if you're like me - out there on the front lines working hard to get an agent. Putting your sweet little creative soul on the chopping block day after day, you need some fireworks. And some pop music. And some belief. In yourself.

So this is for you fellow writers! You are a freakin' firework!!!!!!!! Exclamation points and all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Surfeit of Skunks

The other night, the S.O. and I were driving home from a late night out with a friend. We rounded the corner of our long, wiggly road and the headlights hit glowing eyes in the dark. Being animal lovers, we slowed down, concerned it was a stray dog, or kitten. We realized there were LOTS of glowing eyes.

As we got closer we saw whatever it was, was fuzzy and excited and moving and wiggling all over the grass. Puppies! we thought. Oh boy, we get to pick up some puppies and love on them for a night or two before taking them to our awesome Humane Society. But wait a minute, those aren't puppies.....

Skunks. Six skunks on the roadside having some kind of meeting of the minds. S.O. was driving and started to back up saying, "Take a picture, take a picture." Me saying, "Are you out of your mind, I'm not rolling down that freaking window!" Fortunately the skunks decided on their own to high tail it down the bank and out of camera range.

So did you know a group of skunks is called a surfeit of skunks? Thanks Pam for tweeting me that bit of trivia! Rural living at its finest.