Tuesday, February 28, 2012

11 Answers You Didn't Have 2 Seconds Ago

The talented and lovely Elizabeth Twist has tagged me (just smacked me over the head with a silly stick, the wicked girl). She's asked me to answer these random-tastic questions, then come up with my own eleven questions and tag-unto-others. Here goes!

1. What are you reading?
I always have 2 or 3 books on the go at the same time. Right now I'm reading Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. I'm whipping through ADIB it's addictive and fast, while CA is a little slower, richer. Both are awesome fun. Next on the list is The Radley's by Matt Haig.

2. What is your favourite creative activity that is not writing? 
Is 'reading' way too predictable an answer? (and yes, it's creative) Yes, I know, but it's true. I have friends, women I love dearly, who haven't read a book unrelated to their work in years. I don't understand that. Even if I wasn't writing I'd be reading. Ever see the old Twilight Zone episode where a guy who only wants to be left alone to read ends up being the last person on earth - all alone with all the books in the world? And then - his glasses break. Heartbreaking. But I identify with that misanthrope sometimes!

3. Where or how do you get your best ideas? 
Again, I am so lame and cliched - but the shower or running or driving. Any time that I am doing something where conscious brain occupied with the mundane that allows the subconscious to bubble up. 

4. If you could magically and painlessly change one thing about your mind or body, what would it be, if anything? 
I'd get rid of my allergies. I'm allergic to cats and dogs and probably horses. But I love animals. My allergies are pretty severe, so much so that instead of seeing a cute ball of fur, I see an inhaler.

5. What's the scariest movie, story, novel, or scene you can recall?
I had to stop reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. If you've read it, and you know the part where the man and his son stumble upon a farmhouse where there's a pantry full of 'walking food' - I stopped right there. I've read horror and supernatural and I don't have trouble with most of it. It's not the gore that wakes me up in the middle of the night. It's how inhumanly cruel people can be to each other.

6. What's the weirdest thing you believe? 
I believe that I'm tall. I'm not, I'm actually below average for woman at 5'3". But I feel tall. Is that weird? I don't wear heels, I don't try to make myself look taller, because in my head, I'm tall. And nothing I tell myself convinces me otherwise. Weird, right?

7. Super strength or super intelligence?
Super intelistrength. OK, not sure why I can't choose here! I'm gravitating towards intelligence, because I could always build a super robot to be my strong-arm minion. But being so super intelligent might lead to me scoffing at the idea of unicorns and zombies - and I can't have that.

8. You're granted the ability to become invisible. Where do you go and what do you do? (Bonus question: are you wearing clothes? I mean, what about YOUR becoming invisible makes your clothes invisible too? This has always bothered me.)
I'd go to the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City at night. Sort of like in the book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler. But I'd be invisible so I wouldn't worry. And I am wearing clothes because being invisible still means I can get chilly. My clothes are invisible too.

9. What one change do you think would have the most positive impact on the world as a whole?
7 billion+ people would wake up tomorrow and take their first sip of normal, every day water and be magically convinced that, hey - it's totally cool if not everyone agrees with my religion. I can believe what I want and they can believe in what they want and we're just going to agree to disagree. Then everyone will sit down and have cupcakes together.

10. What is the crappiest advice you've ever been given?
Have a back up plan. It's also the best advice I've ever been given. It's crappy because it implies that what you're striving for now is going to fail (ahem) and it's the best because having a back up plan may lead you to something else you love - this has happened to me before. So I'm keeping the two headed coin in my pocket.

11. What's your favourite song right now?
Serpents by Sharon Van Etten

PHew! (wipes sweat dramatically off brow) Now to come up with 11 questions for my next victims, urm, friends...but first a snack. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Lovely Bunch O' Links

It's science fair tonight and I'm feverishly working on eldest's project. What, you say? Why are YOU doing eldest's project? Yes, I'm asking myself the same question...
So for today's post just a bunch of interesting links you might have missed this week:

The Death of Chick Lit
I never could wrap my head around what chick lit is, never mind decide if I liked it or not. But Salon is sounding the death knell on this genre - while Laura Miller mentions other genres that have gone the way of the Dodo*, like the Gothic Romance. I say bring that sucker back, I want some moats, crazy wives and secrets in the crypt. Or I'll just read Jane Eyre.

Downton Abbey Season 2 Finale
I have not yet seen the whole episode (mom in law had knee replacement surgery, so we're on our toes this week) but last night watched the first 45 minutes. Here's what I love about this show - I don't know what the heck is going to happen next. Though it's 'sudsy' - meaning that, like a soap opera, it deals with melodrama and cliches, I keep yelling at the screen, That Did Not Just Happen. It reminds me of what great plotting can do.

Like when Pamuk buys the farm in Lady Mary's bed. Didn't see that coming...

Mediabistro reported on a bunch of courses that iTunes is offering for free - everything from New Mexico State Mythology to a Zombies in literature course. 

Lana Del Ray/Hunger Games Parody video
This is surprisingly well made - a parody of Lana Del Ray's Video Games, using Hunger Games imagery and lyrics. I love how a book can ignite creativity across the board - whether it's in humor, music or art. Warning: Contains Adult Language. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Dark Side of Querying

I know, ominous title, right? But I've been thinking about this a lot and I wish I could hire someone (and maybe pay them with homemade chocolate chip scones) to manage the querying process for me. It's not that I don't like the logistics of it, it's that I like it too much. I like logging in to Query Tracker, checking out agents on Literary Rambles. I like going to my online pals, my writing group or the QT forums for answers to my query questions. There's no lack of resources out there. There's also no lack of advice, contests, speed-agent dating and conferences to research. It's fun and it feels like I'm accomplishing something.

I'm good at this business side of being an author. I thrive on it, really. It's similar to the job I get paid for and I like it because it's not subjective and its quantifiable. I can make pie charts to represent my agent outreach. Safe, fun, busywork.

I don't mean to belittle the importance of this author eduction, not at all. But I'm worried that it's taking me away from what I should be doing - writing. I've started a project and it's exciting and hard and intriguing and maddening. So much easier to create a color coded pie chart.

While I'm not giving up on querying BookEnd - I've worked too hard on it to let it moulder in a digital drawer - I need to cut back on the 'education' stuff. It's nearly as bad a distraction as youtube, blogging and baking.

How do you manage querying your last project while concentrating on your current WIP? OR - How do you get your creative mind (rather than your jobsworth mind) back on track?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

RTW - Words I Hate, Words I Love

Today I'm hitting the pavement on YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday. Today's prompt:

What words do you absolutely hate? Which ones do you adore?

There are lots of words that fall into either category, and I'm sure that someone will chime in with a word in comments and I'll be like "Yeah! that IS a heinous word!" But I'm going to go with the first word I thought of, a word that I dislike ever reading, whether in a cookbook, a parenting magazine or a book: MOIST.

I can trace this dislike all the way back to elementary school. (And I can link it to my Tumble 4 You 80's crush, Duran Duran, too. How's that for talented?) In one of the many teeny bopper magazines I'd squander coin on, there was a picture of Nick Rhodes next to a painting. All I remember about this painting was that it was the word 'moist' in the Roy Lichtenstein comic style. Nick Rhodes is standing next to the painting pouting, his lipstick unusually, well, moist.

What's wrong with this word? Nothing really. I just find it distasteful. I hate the inbetween-ness of it - how equivocal it is - not wet, not dry, but some degree in between. Even when used to describe roast chicken or cake, I don't like it. It probably comes from my early reading addiction to lurid romance novels. You know, the purpler the prose, the better. If things weren't moist, you weren't having fun. Of course, when I was reading these books, I hadn't even kissed a boy yet, so I didn't know better. But moist remains a world I can't like.

I love a lot of words - much too many to name. Our family love words, we love playing with words, because words are supposed to be fun and flexible, liquid (not moist!) We have words that we've made up for our family - words that define us and that link us to each other, and our memories. But I can't tell you them, because they're private. But one word that I can think of is CRAFT. I like it particularly when used as a verb. I like it because even if you're just writing a scene, you're really crafting it. Crafting evokes a sense of being hand-made, of taking elements, like stone and metal, mud and clay and using the dexterity of your hands to fashion the elements into something other. Transmogrified. I like that word, too.

What about you, what words do you love? And hate?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tumble 4 U Blogfest

Today Nicki Elson is making us drag our sad, closeted 80's crushes out into the light. If I had any dignity left (which I don't, thanks to having children) this would jettison the remaining shreds. As it is, I have a confession to make:

I was a Duranie.
Yes, I know there were millions of us who in the early eighties wanted nothing more than to lounge on a yacht in a magenta bikini ogling four grown men wearing lip gloss. But I lived in New Jersey, went to a Catholic School and was in third grade. A magenta bikini was not in my future.

There's something so amazing and liberating about falling in crush. (My own daughter is on the cusp of this, she gets excited when she sees Justin Bieber on a greeting card.) It's safe, it's almost always a group activity and it lets you playact being a teenager or an adult. It's also embarrassing as hell when looking back.

My crush for the first half of the 80's was Simon Le Bon. Granted, he wasn't the most handsome of the fab(ish) four, but he sang the songs and he wrote the lyrics. He was a poet. Cue swooning. In 1985, the last year of my Duran Duran crush, I made my dad buy me a fedora. I begged my mother to let me highlight my hair until I wore the woman down. I stuck the hat on my red-frost-highlighted head, slapped on some glittery pink lipstick and pouted in a way I thought was attractive. I know now that I looked like I had toothache, but it was a gateway to daydreams.

My crush for the second half of the 80's was Peter Murphy. That's what happens when you go from grammar school to high school, the crushes get a bit darker. So did my hair, my nails, my eyeshadow. By the time I was learning to drive, I had a poster in my bedroom that scared the heck out of my mom and made my dad hover at my door, never coming in. It was Peter Murphy, in a tiara and underpants. And the underpants are about to come off. Girls are so weird, and I was no exception.

If Simon le Bon was reading a book on Shakespeare, so was I. If he liked Andy Warhol, so did I. If Peter Murphy was reading Herman Hesse, me too. I stand by my crushes, though. They made me curious about writing and music and art.

So, who did you crush on in the 80's (if you dare reveal your age) or even in the 90's or (Oh Children!) 00's?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's Not Really Right For Me

and other s**t agents and editors say. This made me laugh. Look, agents are people too. They're not demonic gatekeepers keeping you from your dream. They work hard and they deserve their wine, dammit.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Blog - Old Query Problems

I don't usually post on Mondays but I wanted to let you know about a new endeavor, The Bucks County Writer's Group blog. We've decided to get our collective writing experience out there, especially what we've learned from being in a writing group. The blog will be less personal journey, more how-to. I'm sure I'll get lots of venting and snark in my posts, regardless. Check us out - we post on Mondays.

Did you check out NiNoCon this weekend over at Ali Cross' dojo? It was wonderful. If you missed it, you still have time to check out the sessions. There's so much great information over there, it's hard to know where to begin. As part of the con, I sent my query in advance to be reviewed by YA author and query queen Elana Johnson. The good news is that she singled mine out. The bad news is that she basically said it wasn't working at all and that I needed to start from scratch. Won't lie. OUCH.

But I kind of knew this, deep down, though I still have no earthly idea how to fix it. I've sent out ten queries and have two fulls and one partial out. BUT the requests have all come from agents that I've encountered at conferences (online and in person) not one request has come from the query. I suspected my query was not working, now I'm afraid it's toxic.

So back to the drawing board. Sometimes I hate that freaking drawing board.

And how is your Monday going?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Critique My Blog, Go AHEAD!!!

I've been thinking a lot about this blog and how it's evolved in the year that I've been writing it. When I first posted I pretty much thought it I was whistling in the dark - just keeping myself company in my head and faking it until I made it - as a writer. I think I've done that. I write. I identify as a writer. I'm not going to stop writing. In that way, mission accomplished.

But this blog hasn't changed as much as I have and I'm not so sure it's the right venue for my awesome self. KIDDING. But I do want to know how I can make it better. In March, the awesome Laura Barnes will critique my blog with a keen marketing eye. And today, I'm participating in the Critique My Blog blogfest hosted by Teralyn Rose Pilgrim at A Writer's Journey.

Here's how you can participate:
1) crit my blog
2) leave me your (nice or constructive) thoughts in comments
3) feel good about paying it forward

You can make comments on:
a.      Appearance: Does it appeal to you? Is it too busy, or too plain?
b.      Layout: Is it difficult to navigate? Is it cluttered, or sparse?
c.      Frequency: Does the blogger post too often? Not often enough?
d.      Content: Are the posts interesting? Unique? Are they focused, or all over the place?
e.      Quality: Are the individual posts too long, too short, too sloppy, or too generic?

Thanks so much for your feedback!

ISWG - Smile Damn You Smile

I'm going to do something unusual today for this month's Insecure Writer's Group. I'm going to be positive. Now, don't worry, it won't last. I also won't be entirely positive (you, know, so you still recognize me) but I have to admit, I'm feeling pretty good.

I got a rejection this morning and it was like water off a duck's back. The reason was a combination of a) I didn't love love love the agent, only liked him lots and b) I expected to get the rejection. Not in a pessimistic way, but in a realistic way. That's how I'm feeling, realistic. Lots of people will reject my ms. I only need one person to love it (though if it could be 2 or 3, I'd be psyched.)

I'm coming to believe that this is ok, that it's not a reflection of my work. Duh, right? But it's a big step for me. I'm also thinking beyond this book. I'm thinking it's not the end of the world if this book doesn't go anywhere. I'm still writing. I'm still blogging and participating. It's such a small shift of perception but inside me it's huge.

So, are you there yet?
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