Saturday, June 27, 2009

The stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun

Still no writing happening, but I think I'm OK with that. For now. I sense some simmering happening way, WAY in the back of my mind somewhere. I hope.

In the meantime, I spent the week painting the two hallways leading out of my kitchen, as well as the one accent wall, which were a dark shade of grayish-green. Although not an unattractive color, it tended toward too dark for my tastes. I also hired our handy-dandy local painter to come in and do the living room--cathedral ceiling in there, and I find myself loathe to spend that much time on that tall a ladder these days. My monkey days are over, I think. The walls in there were lighter but still tinted with that grayish-green. The paint was also flat, which tends to show every speck of dirt that wanders past. I have two children. You can imagine.

At any rate, I have many shiny new walls to enjoy. (And I do. Joe wandered through at one point while I was standing in the middle of the living room just soaking up the vibes from the new color and checking out how the room seems so much bigger and lighter. "Doesn't it look great?!" I enthused at him. Without missing a beat, he glanced around and said, "Yeah. It's as exciting as watching paint dry. Oh, wait." Smart ass teenager.)

In other news, I will be teaching a creative writing elective for the boys' middle school next school year, and possibly doing something extra-curricular for a couple of the younger grades. "But Lori," you're saying, "Haven't I heard you bitch and moan about how hard it is for you to handle too much face time with people?" Well, yeah. But this will be an hour (or two) a week. And the thought of sharing my enthusiasm for writing with young minds is all kinds of appealing. And some of you may recall this moment from my tutoring stint this spring:
Highlight of my tutoring career thus far came last night. We were reviewing fractions, and one of the boys said, "We did this in class today, and I don't get it." And I said, "Let's talk about it some more and see if we can help you get it." So we did. And he did. He sat back in his chair with this most awesome expression on his face and flung his arms wide and shouted, "OH. I get it now!"

Oh yeah. You better believe I'm hooked now.
So, in summary, I seem to be on a writing hiatus, but other productive stuff is happening, perhaps most importantly the opportunities I've had to simply sit/stand around with my boys and discuss everything from video game design to scientology to watching paint dry.

We're down to six/eight summers left together. So yeah, that last one is the big one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mean girls make mean women

Dental work has been survived. Surprisingly, there has been very little pain. However, the novacaine (or something) left me dealing with headache and nausea. Headache is better today, nausea persists. I am feeling particularly grumpy and not particularly motivated. No writing has happened, still, but Michael wiped down the hallway walls and trim for me yesterday and I have begun taping the trim in preparation for painting. At the moment I cannot abide the thought of bending over or reaching above my head to do any more work on that project, but maybe once I've had something to eat my stomach will settle and I'll feel up to it.

If not, I have given myself permission to just take it easy today. I've been trying to catch up my WoW druid to Joe's hunter, and I recently renewed my old DAoC account just for kicks, so maybe I'll even indulge in some video games. Or finish transferring this handful of VHS tapes to the computer. Watching the home movies of Christmases and Easters and beach vacations past has been fun, but with that inevitable touch of bittersweet. It's mostly the same old motherly song and dance--I love my kids as they are now, but oh, look at those sweet little boys in the movies. And then there's remembering just how much I loved the house and the town in South Carolina. It's hard not to sing just a few choruses of the "what if" song.

In the meantime, it has been an hour since I took my thyroid meds. This means I can now eat some breakfast and suck down my morning Dt. Pepsi. Fingers crossed that food and caffeine fixes my mood a little.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I don't want to go home right now

I did not pick up the Heimdal story the next day, or any of the other days after. It's still in my drawer, waiting for me to decide why I did such an about-face on it. I was very excited about the story, and then suddenly the floor dropped out on it. Some of it has to do with my mood swing rollercoaster and nothing to do with the story itself whatsoever. But that's passed, and I find I'm still reluctant to pick up where I left off with it. I have been thinking about it, however, and I'm beginning to have an inkling of what's going on. You see, I started the story with a specific market in mind. The market publishes novella-length paranormal romances, with a strong emphasis on dark and sexy. Sexy, as in at least one pretty explicit scene per novella.

I've eyed the market in the past, because I like the paranormal romance part of it. I like the novella-length part of it. The explicit sex part, not so much. I finally decided I'd try to write a story for it anyhow--even if it turned out horribly, I'd have the experience of writing the sex scene. But the place I ran aground is, sure enough, just about the place I need to write the big sex scene. Am I stalled out because I don't want to write the scene? Or am I stalled out because I don't really want to publish anything that contains explicit sex? I kinda like being able to show my stories to my kids, now that they're old enough to read most of what I write. (Although I hesitate to believe they'll have much interest in the romances anyhow.) I want to be proud to claim my stories.

Or maybe it's a little deeper than that. Maybe it's because I like the characters more than I'd anticipated I would. Maybe it's because there's this little voice in the back of my mind whispering, "Dude. You could so work all this good stuff into that other Loki story you already have in mind and make the two into one even more awesome story." So maybe it's more about the characters and their conflicts outgrowing the vehicle I'd originally planned for them.

And yet, there's this other voice, the one that sounds nagging and condescending, telling me I'll never sell anything if I don't settle down and finish what I start. That voice says to just finish the last few damn scenes and try to sell it, because selling = success. My gut instinct is to slap the nag out of that voice--except it may have a point. I probably need to finish the story I started, just to see that I can do it. And then I can reassess and decide what comes next.

In the meantime, however, I have set out a couple of non-writing tasks for myself over the next week or two. Generally speaking, once I commit to other projects which take up my normal writing time, the muse will show up and demand to have her time back. And then I have leverage. Seriously, it takes a very clever person to outwit herself like this. At any rate, I have piles of home movies in VHS format piled on and around my desk and have purchased a video capture adapter thingy to transfer the VHS movies to my computer. And I will be painting the two downstairs hallways this week. If the dental work I have done on Monday leaves me feeling up to it. I need bridgework, but first they have to extract this molar. SO not looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And here is your verse

I am still on a writing hiatus, for the most part. I think tomorrow I will be ready to drag out the Heimdal novella and do some reassessing and regrouping. I spent most of the weekend in the depths of battling the usual various personal demons while holding it together enough to accomplish all the family stuff that needed accomplishing. I seem to be in the process of resurfacing again, which I must confess is a part of my mood cycle I much prefer to the down days. Ugh.

I read a book a couple of months ago, and today I came across the author's web site and some excerpts of possible interest to a couple of people out there: Party of One: The Loner's Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus. The author's tone sometimes seems more vehement toward "nonloners" than I usually am. (Although on my worst days, I can muster up quite a good dose of anger and bitterness toward those who would push me to "fit in" better, I should probably admit.) I found myself chuckling in recognition and nodding in agreement in a number of places. And you know, while it would likely be uncomfortable reading for nonloners, it might also be enlightening, for reasons summed pretty well in this quote from the book:
"They take offense. Feel hurt. Get angry. They do not blame owls for coming out at night, yet they blame us for being as we are. Because it involves them, or at least they believe it does..."
"They" being the nonloners who cannot understand a loner's desire to just be left alone and insist on pushing them to be more "normal." In short, the best thing to remember about loners is this: It's not about you. That loner who is avoiding your phone calls or your invitation to do lunch is not (necessarily) indicating that she doesn't like you. She just prefers--requires--more alone time than you do. Loners do not go around urging nonloners to stay in more or talk to fewer people. We just want the same courtesy returned to us.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We walk on broken ground

Most of yesterday's writing-related time was spent on a) recognizing some points of character development that need some deepening and fine-tuning and b) figuring out the right location for the final scene of the story. Because the setting is important in that scene, and it needs to be more than just "yeah, that'll work." It needs to have that little "Yes! That's it!" click to it. I got closer, I think, but no epiphany yet.

In the meantime, I sat down this morning to type in some revisions I'd noted at the beginning of the week. And as I was doing so, I spotted all kinds of things in the story that just don't sit right with me. And those holes combined with today's frame of mind* tempt me to hate the story.

So I'm putting it away--for the weekend. I'll look again on Monday and see if it feels less dismal--because the logical me can see that it's a sound story and only needs some fixes. If it still stinks on Monday, I'll leave it set aside for a week or two before I come back to it again. It is only a final scene or three from first draft completion, and I frequently have to redo those last scenes during a revision phase, anyhow.

*My moods follow a pretty predictable rhythm, although they vary in length and depth just enough to keep things exciting. This particular flavor of mood involves a lot of existential brooding: "Am I doing what I should be with my life? What DO I really believe in, anyhow? If I never become a published writer, what other value does my life have?"

I know the answers to those questions, and at some level of me that I am currently unable to completely access, I believe them. I just go through this little phase of doubt now and then, and I have learned to wait them out. Actually, while I dislike these phases, I imagine they're good for me. They're a little wake-up call to remind me to pay attention to those answers and questions when I'm at the necessary mood and energy level to do something about them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I just kinda died for you, you just kinda stared at me

No new word count yesterday, but 750 words today, which puts me at almost 8,800 total. I'm pushing up to the last couple of big impact scenes and closing in on "The End" a little more every day... But one step at a time. I need to do some choreography-style thinking and planning before launching into the next scene.

I have stopped using the progress meters over on the sidebar. (Although they're very cool little gadgets, which you can find at StoryToolz, along with other nifty writer toys.) The primary reason for that is because I am gradually learning to use all the tools available to me through WriteWay, which I have learned to love. It actually has more bells and whistles than I currently use, but I've found that it suits my writing process very well. My planning process, which involves everything from word webs and diagrams on the back of recycled paper to index cards to an Excel worksheet, ends with a basic "outline." The outline is really just a list of scenes I know I'll need, cobbled together into the order they need to happen and sorted into chapters and acts based on a mostly-arbitrary method. (Mostly having to do with limiting the number of scenes per chapter into a small enough chunk that the writer does not become frightened and flee the project before it even starts.)

WriteWay is a word processing program with a sidebar which organizes your document into acts, chapters, and scenes. Which matches up so very neatly with my working outline. Perfectly, even. And which you can use to move scenes and chapters from place to place simply by dragging the scene or chapter title, without having to find the section and cut and paste. My mind freaks upon seeing massive chunks of text, so it's perfect for me--I see one manageable piece of the story at a time, with the big picture off to the left in one tidy list.

And it has a built-in word count tracker. With graphs, and reports that show word or page count goals and actuals and adjusts automatically to show the minimum count required to stay on goal, and reports that show how many words or pages you have for each scene, chapter, and act. Shiny! And simple, which helps to prevent me from spending too much time fussing with it.

In the meantime, summer is off to an appropriately lazy start, for the most part. Michael has been off to swim lessons, and both boys have been helping with chores. But there has also been much reading the afternoon away and video gaming and just sitting around talking. Joe's best buddy has been gone the last few days, so they've been on the phone for nearly two hours now, catching up.

Yeah. Tell me again about girls and phones?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On towards the wilderness

The 7,100 words I had on Friday morning were the same 7,100 words I had come Monday morning. The guys got home a few hours earlier than I'd anticipated, so I said to heck with writing productivity. I printed hard copy and tried to work in some revision time over the weekend, but by and large nothing much got accomplished. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that come summer's end, I'd regret not spending time with the kids far more than I'd regret not getting so much as a single word more written. I have tossed my formal scheduling tendencies over my shoulder and am attempting to take a more relaxed attitude for the summer.

I can do this. It's only 10 weeks, even a control freak like me can manage to wing it (mostly) for that long, surely? Apparently I can, because I got another 900 words written yesterday. I need to work out a couple of kinks in my mind before I write the next scene, but I'm pretty sure I know the basics. The house is quiet at the moment, too, so I should probably be working on that instead of here. Oh well.

No word back from Steeple Hill yet. Their estimated turnaround time is three months, and I've heard of them taking as long as six to get back to people, so I'm not really holding my breath. Having a new project (or three) to work on really does help keep your mind off the projects that are out of your control.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I'm breaking to you

I ended last night with 7,100 words and a pretty solid idea how the next scene needs to go. I'm at the last couple of scenes of act 2, with a handful of scribbled notes on my outline about things I need to go back and fix and/or shore up in earlier scenes. I have yet to decide if I'll go back first or just charge ahead. Probably back, since I'm finding that re-reading/revising at least the most recently written scene is not only good for that scene, but also for the next one I launch myself into from there.

This morning has been given over to grocery shopping and some minor housework. I flipped on the cd player in the kitchen while putting stuff away, and lo and behold there was a Foos cd inside. They managed to wriggle onto the novella's soundtrack after all.

The guys will be back sometime today, I'm guessing early afternoon, depending on what time they left the brother-in-law's house this morning. And then Joe is off to a sleepover at a friend's house this evening, and swim lessons start Monday morning, and summer officially begins. Crossed fingers that I will figure out how to block out some writing time while still being a good mom.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door

The novella is moving along. I struggled a little last night to find my hero's voice when I got to his first viewpoint scene. A few replays of emo Goo Goo Dolls songs finally did the trick. I hit my word count goal, so I'm starting this morning with almost 5,000 words, which is 1/3 of the 15,000 word goal for the story. So I went to bed last night thinking about the next scene, and with an uneasy feeling that I was missing something. And this morning I woke up and realized that what's missing is a sense of urgency. There is a Terrible Thing That Must Be Done, and of course the two main characters are all angsty about wishing they didn't have to do it. But there's no real consequence if they DON'T do the Terrible Thing.

We can fix that. And I came up with the perfect, awful price for disobedience in the shower this morning. I think. It's a start, anyhow. I need to add at least one scene to the first act to make it work, and it changes my idea for how the next scene needs to go. But I think I'm on the right track.

Upon request, I have resumed slapping song lyrics into my blog titles. They may be a bit more random than previously, and possibly simply whatever snags my attention from what I'm listening to when blogging time rolls around. Although now that I know people were actually, like, paying attention, I might also start making them a bit more obscure and challenging.

In the meantime, the novella has a growing soundtrack. No title yet, but hey, I have my priorities.

"Name" Goo Goo Dolls
"Iris" Goo Goo Dolls
(Which serve as the angsty, emo themes for both my main characters, actually. And also for Loki in a different story. Hmm.)
"Welcome to the Jungle" Guns N' Roses
(Loki's theme song. Must. Not. Let. Him. Take. Over...)
"Afterlife" Avenged Sevenfold
"Through the Fire and Flames" Dragonforce
"The Running Free" Coheed and Cambria
(Yes, I've been raiding my kids' playlists again. The big, epic, melodramatic metal-but-still-melodic sound seems appropriate for this one.)

Foos have not managed to wheedle their way into this soundtrack yet. You're slacking, guys.

Back to work. I have 1,250 words waiting for me to write them today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Everybody look down, it's all in your mind

A conversation with a writerly friend today raised a topic which I have discussed frequently and at great length with my children and myself. I'd asked about a story he's been working on, and he replied that he wasn't sure he was going to nail it as he'd hoped to, but that he hated to have wasted time on it for nothing.

I am a perfectionist at heart. I do not like to fail. And I'm a natural enough learner that for several years in school, I never had to fail. I didn't learn early on the value of taking risks and learning from my mistakes. Mistakes were for other people. I was not allowed. (Note that this is not an attitude I blame on my parents. I was born with it, apparently.) I can distinctly recall a boy in my 5th or 6th grade class, flailing around on the gym floor as he tried to learn how to walk on his hands. He tried to entice me into trying it, too, and an argument followed, which ended something like this:

Him: "At least I'm trying to learn something new."
Me: "At least I don't look like an idiot trying to do something I know I can't."

I've learned a few things since then. (I hope.) I've had to pound them into my own brain repeatedly, and if you quote a few of the following lines at my kids, they'll roll their eyes and say "You've been talking to my mom, haven't you?" But these are truths that bear repeating:

No attempt to do something is a waste of time, regardless of the result. If you put effort into it, if you thought about it, dreamed about it, struggled with it, then chances are you learned something from it. Learning is not a waste of time. Ever.

It's OK to fall down. Yeah, I know it hurts. I know you feel kinda dumb right now. But at least you tried. (See the above paragraph.)

A mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn from it.

If you need me, I'll be over here making an idiot of myself and hoping I learn something from it.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I met my word count goal for last week, although I had to work on Saturday. Actually, I exceeded it, winding up with something over 7,000 words. With five scenes completed and the rest of the book roughly outlined, I feel comfortable stating that I could finish that novel in something like three months. The plot feels solid, and I like the characters. Once upon a time, I'd have been terrified to look away from the story, for fear I'd lose it if I didn't pay it my undivided attention.


I am feeling a confidence I haven't felt before. I suddenly find myself at this place where I no longer struggle trying to figure out how to turn a vague idea into a story. I can do it. I have done it. I know what games to play with myself, and I'm growing comfortable enough with my process that I can pick up and lay aside stories in progress and pick them up again later. I, like, know what I'm doing.

I'll wait a few seconds here for the lightning strike.

OK. Safe for the moment. So, on Sunday, I was moved by the urge to work on something, since all this peace and quiet keeps shouting that I should USE it, by God. And I caught up on some reading Saturday, and I'm not terribly in a gaming mood. So I sat down and opened up a new OneNotes tab for Crowmaker, because my old notebook for it is cramped with old ideas and I've been having new ideas (kinda). And I spent pretty much the entire day Sunday working my way through the part of the planning process that I previously skipped on Crowmaker (thinking at the time that I needed to try to be more of a seat-of-the-pants writer). (And I won't say it didn't work, because I think I can trace a lot of the really good stuff about that story back to that experimental, don't plan too much approach to that existing first draft.) And I like the work I accomplished, and I feel good about going back to that novel--next week.

Because THEN, just to be really crazy, I spent today working on a novella I'd started planning just before I got the ms request from Steeple Hill. And I'm incredibly excited about that story now, too. (I bet none of you knew that Loki looks like a very young, Nirvana-era Dave Grohl. The proof is here. And no, the novella isn't about Loki, but he does make an appearance.) The plan is to make this story my "vacation" project and see how much I can get done by Friday.

Or until the naps capture me. Either way, it's been a good writing vacation thus far.