Saturday, March 8, 2014
It's been three months. THREE MONTHS! Three months since my last entry and my life has been so crazy I haven't had time to breathe. I promised myself last year I wouldn't overload myself and here I am again with a full head of ideas, an exhausted body recovering from a respiratory infection, and stress through the roof. Shame. Shame on me. I keep saying "no" but the responsibilities keep piling up. I'm not sure how that works.
In the good news front, I'm now one of the board members for Walrus Publishing. I'll be working in my geographic area to acquire manuscripts to take to the Board and defend to try to get them published. Basically I'll be a manuscript public defender. Hehe! If the manuscript I've supported get's accepted, I'll work with the author to get it edited/revised and in shape to be published within the timeframe of the contract from Walrus. It's exciting but daunting.
I also have an opportunity to try to get my first manuscript published. In the next few weeks I'm going to submit the first 50 pages and a synopsis to a new publisher, Simon451, and see what they think. Shot in the dark, but hey, all they can do to me is say "no." I may also submit to Pyre and Tor, too, since I've re-worked it again.
And I'm almost ready to pitch Shadow of Redemption at the Missouri Writers' Guild conference in April. I have a few more chapters to write, then I revise once more, send it to my pre-paid editor, then we'll see what the conference brings.
Contests! Did I mention contests? So many contests I'm entering lately. The WOW! Winter Flash Fiction contest, the Missouri Writers' Guild contests, and several others. Writing up a storm and excited to be sending out so much material.
The only thorn in my side is yet again I didn't make the deadline for either Clarion workshop. My pieces (again) weren't ready and I can't see spending money on a contest I know I can't win because it isn't my best work. It isn't about perfection. It's about feeling I've put my best work out there and I don't have my best work into either piece, yet. Next year. NEXT YEAR!
It's been the coldest, snowiest, iciest winter in my memory and I'm hoping the worst is over with. Although I've enjoyed the time to edit and write (and do laundry!) we're going to be going a lot more extra days at school. Trade off.
So MORE blog entries, say "no" and make sure they don't get you to do something else in a sly way, and get over that cough! 'Nuff said.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
It was a fun romp in the grass until the cows started attacking, the sheep started rending, cats and dogs began to show their true colors, and the blood started flowing. Gushing, really. When the rats started pouring out of the gutters like waves of the ocean and consuming every shred of flesh they touched, that's when the mayhem REALLY began!
And just think, all of this was just the backdrop for a simple Scrabble game where the vegetarian and the carnivore battled it out spelling words related to their philosophical views on eating. At least until the board was flipped over and tiles got stuck to her.... I don't want to spoil it for you!
It is British humour, however, so if that's not your sort of thing, then you won't find it as funny. If you're not a 16 year-old boy (well, any male over the age of 16 is 16 at heart!) then some of the 16 year-old boy jokes might not be funny, either, but humor is a relative thing. Especially in THIS book of who is related to whom.
While zombie literature is not usually my genre of choice because it can be mindless gore (pun intended), this book is both amusing and thoughtful enough to be worth the read. Full of teenage angst, unwitting heroes and heroines, it adds serious undertones questioning where our society's culture is leading us. Logan's vision of the future of bio-weapons is a wake-up call: Don't be a zombie. Become aware what your government is doing. And cow tipping is a bad idea, especially if their eyes glow red.
Friday, January 24, 2014
It's hard to believe I've hit post number 100. Wow. What a journey. From "I will NEVER write a blog," to writing at least one once a week for a year now and three years after starting the first entry. And look at what has happened in my writing life: I've joined the state guild, I've taken an active role in the leadership of one of the local writers' groups, and I've placed and won in several contests and had stories published under contracts. It's amazing and wonderful and scary all at once.
Thinking about my decision to write that very first blog entry is what brings me to my theme for post 100. Why would *I* write a blog? Who would read anything *I* would blather on about? Whatever in the world makes me think I'm an authority about anything? When would I find the time to do it? Where would I get the ideas to write about? And what about the future of "Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold"?
1. If you didn't know, there are a lot of really bad blogs out there. Yeah, I know. Shocker. And I didn't want to be one of THOSE people. The kind that everyone clicks on once out of curiosity then clicks past the second time because they know that any glimpse of the text would not only be a waste of time but might even burn out a few brain cells. I also have this fear of rejection. Yes, the mighty, cheerful Cannon of glee has an occasional depression episode or two directly related to stress, rejection, and the fact that life isn't fair. I'm human. Yes, really, I am. And the thought of people making negative comments on my blog was terrifying. But I got over it. (Mostly.)
2. People everywhere have things in common. Yes, our individual lives are unique, but humans are designed to be able to connect through language and shared experiences. I don't know what other people are going through, struggling with, but perhaps by writing about my struggles I can help someone else know they aren't alone.
3. It took me some time to realize that I AM an authority about some things. I don't know everything, of course, but I do know enough to help some people. Or, as in #2, help them know they are not alone in their struggles. I feel I should share what I *do* know rather than sitting in my chair like a terrified mouse. *squeak*
4. We find the time for what we love.
5. Ideas are everywhere, we just have to open our eyes and ears and have our pens (or keyboards) at the ready.
As for the future if "Revision," who knows? "Revision" is a revision unto itself. That's what writing is, that's what training to compete in a race is, that's what being a better human is. My world is flipped up on its end at the moment, but I'm taking the "zen" road, believing that in the end, my Writer will give me a happy ending. All I have to do is keep my head up and do what I do best: learn, teach, help, encourage, and write my heart out every day.
Until the write time...
Monday, December 30, 2013
I had several pieces published both online and in print. You can read the flash fiction that won runner up in the WOW! Summer 2013 Flash Fiction contest, "Planning, Peppers, and Push-up Bras, or Daddy's Three Essential Rules of Success" here: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/58-FE1-Summer13Contest.html. I also won an honorable mention through WOW! in the previous season for "Blonde Curls and Scurvy Pirates." No publication, but at least an on-line mention and a gift card! I was also published in an on-line literary magazine called PaperTape, and you can read the story, "Of MITCs, MUTBs, and Malicious TFs here: http://papertapemag.com/ (you'll have to scroll to the bottom), and if you want to buy Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories, and read, "One Mile Shy of Death's Door" it's on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Spirits-St-Louis-Missouri-Stories/dp/0989568598/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388434232&sr=8-1&keywords=spirits+of+st.+louis+missouri+ghost+stories. There are also lots of other cool ghost stories in there, too.
On the business side, I was elected President of the local chapter of the Missouri Writer's Guild and (I think) did a decent job at that. We grew in numbers, had some great speakers, and learned some new information. I also continued to serve as newsletter editor for the state MWG board. That's not a hard job, simply a time consuming one. Currently I'm on a committee to help suggest names for the board for next year. I worked with a couple of small presses in St. Louis and will continue to next year. I've decided when I retire I either want to work for a small press or own/co-own one. It's a lot of work but a lot of satisfaction in helping people get published.
As for running (whimper!) I ran, I got injured. I ran, I got sick. I ran, I got injured. (See a pattern?) I put in a total of 690 miles for the year. My reasonable goal was 500, my stretch goal was 750, so I met the one and was a few short of the second. Considering I came into the year injured plus had to bow out of my marathon because of a severe ankle injury, I'm pretty proud I made it past 500. I ran my first trail race and DID NOT FALL (Inconceivable!) and really enjoyed it. I'll do that race again. And I also one first place in my age group a couple of times. I didn't break my 5k PR of 28:27, but considering my pattern of illness and injury, I'm not surprised. That's what next year is for, right? I did bring my mile time down to 8:27, which for me is WAY cool, but I know is no Olympic record, but still, three years ago I just about died running a 12:12 mile.
School Fall semester? I survived. Next?
So, goals for next year?
Finish my novel Shadow of Redemption. Get it edited professionally. (I've already sent the check!) Get it accepted and professionally published. (No, I'm not self-publishing. I'm not frowning on the practice by any means, I'm merely saying I don't want to go that route. I don't have the time and I would rather sacrifice a little of the profit to have other people do some of the work.) Possibly get the publisher to look at sequels or spin-offs (which I have outlines/drafts of both). I'm going to apply to Clarion http://clarion.ucsd.edu/ and/or Clarion West http://www.clarionwest.org/ and try to get accepted to one of their programs. They are highly prestigious science fiction and fantasy workshops and with that kind of experience under my belt and on my resume, I can go into any pitch session/ write any query letter and add an extra gold star to my name.
I also want to use this blog to review books. One of the things I haven't been doing enough of is reading books. I also like to support other authors. So...the logical thing to do is to use my blog as an excuse...ahem...reason to read more and support other writers who write good stuff. Win/win!
As for running, I'd like to run one more marathon and beat a 5:30 time. Nothing earth shattering, but for me that would be an accomplishment. I'd like to run a 2:20 1/2 marathon, a 55 minute 10k, and a 27 minute 5k. If my body is able to withstand 1,000 miles next year, that would be awesome, but I'm going to listen more to what my body is telling me so I don't push to the point of injury. THAT would be a huge accomplishment: one year with no running injuries.
I'm also going to take a few education tests to get certified in more areas in case other jobs pop up. I'd really like to work with high schoolers/adults at the career center, but someone would have to leave for that dream to come true.
I also have made the personal commitment to de-complicate my life. (Yeah, yeah, after those three previous paragraphs?) No, seriously. I've come to the point in my life I realize I've branched my horizons in too many directions and I need to start focusing or I'm going to tear myself apart. That's what happened this last semester and my emotional and physical selves took a beating. It wasn't pleasant and my relationships and work suffered for it. During the semester break I've been considering what I NEED to do, what I WANT to do and what is REQUIRED that I do, and I am taking steps to try to protect myself from that disaster again.
The key for me is self-forgiveness. I always feel guilty for saying "no" or not doing things I know I can do. Just because I can do them doesn't mean I have to! Where did I get that crazy idea? Running around like a maniac woman trying to put out this fire here, that fire there, gets nothing done, pleases no one, and is inefficient. Focusing on a few things and doing them well, while also giving myself downtime to enjoy life will make me more productive (and easier to live with!)
And that, my friends, is the 99th Revision I've written. The next one I write will be next year and number 100. What's in store? Who knows. But that's why stories, and life, are sometimes so much fun. Until next time. ;-)
Saturday, December 14, 2013
And I kept it all inside, shadowing my darkness behind a smile and a joke for anyone watching.
Why? Because that's what you're supposed to do, right? Pretend everything is okay. Pretend nothing is wrong. Because if something is wrong then you're not in control. You're bad. You're a pariah. And to a teenager that's worse than death.
Why do we do this to people, specifically children who have no tools to deal with the emotional and physical toll puberty brings? Studies have shown the age of puberty has been pushed back several years, so the kids I work with in fifth and sixth grade are now experiencing what I did in seventh. They feel something is wrong but they don't know what it is. They can't define it, can't understand it, don't know how to deal with it, and certainly can't and won't ask for help dealing with it. But this is exactly WHEN we need to be helping them deal with it, to let them know they are not alone, they are not freaks of nature, and that what they feel and experience are things every other teenager has felt since the dawn of time. They are normal and will live through it and be stronger for the experience, no matter how difficult it is at the time.
This, I feel, is one of the goals of certain middle grade and YA books: to discuss these issues in a non-threatening way. Children need to read about other children experiencing and overcoming the same problems and gain the power from the knowledge that these issues can be overcome.
It is my hope that the novel I'm working on now, Shadow of Redemption will begin that journey for someone. Or several someones. While Emily parallels my own struggles with self-confidence and depression, it also shows how she grows as a person to overcome her issues. I think that may be the reason writing this book is such a passion, and sometimes such a difficulty, for me. Just like Emily, I'm not finished growing. I'm not finished fixing my issues. Revision is a constant battle, both on paper and in life. But isn't that what makes life beautiful? Can you still see the flower even if it's fuzzy? If so, there's still hope.
Friday, December 6, 2013
And conflict is at the heart of a writer's meat and potatoes, right? Nothing but trouble is interesting? So as authors we pile up the trouble like snow on sleet on ice and watch for the inevitable snow day of reader glee when the characters are trapped under impossible circumstances.
Not so fast. See, here's the problem. Among the beautiful snowflakes of conflict that you heap upon your characters are bushes and leaves that won't let the drifts settle in the nice, even layers you envision. They poke out and make problems for you the writer and worse, jar the reader with their inconsistency, incongruity, and plot holes you can plow an 18 wheeler through.
Here's what I mean: In the current books I'm writing, Shadow of Redemption and Shifting Perspectives, in the middle of the books is a court scene where Daniel is put on trial. I won't ruin the plot by telling you why, but the opposing party has a strong case against him even though he's the hero and has done EVERYTHING RIGHT. Wait! Hold on! If he's done everything correctly, how can they have a case against him? Yeah, this is what I'm saying: nasty bush in the middle of the beautiful white snow!
This is where revision is definitely a dish best served cold! First, I blasted the scene out getting it on paper, then every read-through I've been picking apart all the issues that didn't work, adding new parts that do, further refining the arguments on both sides, and generally making things worse for poor Daniel. It's mainly a matter of perspective in this case: Kin (those who have supernatural powers) live by different rules than humans and he has been trying to live in both worlds. This court/scene brings home the fact that the Kin are just as prejudice as humans would be if they knew about Kin.
The second part to this is getting someone ELSE (or several someones) to read it and tell me what else is broken, what doesn't make sense, etc. There will be issues. I know this. It's a difficult scene to write because I have two very different cultures to try to represent. However, after time, multiple revisions and multiple beta readers, I have full confidence it will be one of the strongest and best-loved pieces in the book because of the conflict.
So, dear readers, enjoy your snow days whether they are with or without conflict. Keep in mind, though, there are always plot holes to avoid and/or fill in. Or pot holes. Hopefully your city DOT is good enough to catch those before you get caught yourself.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
So this morning I decide I feel good enough to go run a race I'd signed up for months ago. Not just a race, mind you, but a trail race. The difference between a road race and a trail race is the difference between Six Flags and Jurassic Park. Well, maybe not quite that stark, but seriously, trail runs are a whole different bird. (Haha! Bird. Turkey. Sorry.) The terrain doesn't give you the rebound on your shoes that the road does so you have to push harder with your legs to move faster. You have to focus on watching for roots, holes, stumps, wildlife, mud, rocks, etc. while speeding up and slowing down to adjust for the ruts and slants and hills and valleys of the terrain. Not to mention the random tree branch IN YOUR FACE! It's a lot of fun but a lot more tiring than just pounding the pavement for the same amount of distance.
None of my family wanted me to do it, for obvious reasonable reasons. I was too sick. I needed rest. It was too hard. It was pushing myself too far. I should be a good girl and stay home because I could make myself worse.
I went anyway, had a great time, and feel better. I didn't win anything, but, hey, I run like a turtle on pavement. What did I expect running on mud?
What's the lesson?
Just because someone tells you that you shouldn't do something for your own good doesn't mean they're right. Now, don't go using my blog as research to argue with your mothers and fathers because they're giving you GOOD advice you dont want to follow. I'm an adult and I made an adult decision. I WAS feeling better and I DIDN'T push myself beyond my limits on the race. But sometimes--sometimes--you have to listen to that voice inside you that says, "I can do this!" despite all the negative voices around you.
I watched this video and felt guilty on many levels for not being as successful as I could be because I haven't fully embraced my potential. I haven't let go of the safety nets and taken a dive into my passion. I'm not ready, yet. But every time I watch it, I'm convinced this guy is onto something: http://www.upworthy.com/this-aggressive-rude-negative-anti-motivational-speech-is-the-best-thing-ive-ever-heard-4?c=ufb1
So consider: are you letting the negative voices around you keep you from your passion? Are the negative voices from yourself or from others? Is it time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new? You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I guess that means I'm not insane, then, because I keep posting different craziness on Facebook, even when I'm delirious with a fever.