"I'm Not Mean, You're Just A Sissy"*

Personal Note(s): Remember when I said Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" was a terrible message? Yeah, well, Pink has come out with one, too. SERIOUSLY? "Please Don't Leave Me"? That doesn't even sound like a Pink song.

I have a monthly book allowance, no joke. My husband has learned the best way to keep me from spending a ton of money on books in random spurts is to give me a $25 free pass that I get to use when I go do the monthly grocery shopping. It's kind of the same logic as not sending a starving woman out to pick up milk and eggs so she doesn't come back from Winn Dixie with a Hershey's chocolate creme pie and three kinds of chips. This time around I lucked out even more as I got to combine my $25 with a Mother's Day gift card from Book-A-Million. Got five books and a really cool package of The Wizard of Oz magnetic bookmarks. I like Glinda best; she knows her glitter. Also, Also, I'm having a tuna melt for lunch, and I will enjoy it like WHOA.

So, let me preface by saying that I've had at least two blog post subjects in my head for a week or so and no time to let them out, and on top of that Nathanael talked me into trying half a Sudafed tablet to kill off yet another cold. NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA. One could safely call him a necrophiliac because he loves me, and I am currently the Walking Dead. Someone cue The Cranberries' "Zombie". My brain staying on-topic isn't going well.

And with that, TO THE POST! Which is basically an expansion on something I said a post or two ago about criticism, also known as 'feedback' if you want to put a smiley-face on it, which you should, because despite how much hearing something icky about your baby hurts, it also helps. Like the little old witch says in Neverending Story: It has to hurt if it's to heal.

The truth is you love your characters and your story and your 'everything about it' too much to be truly objective which is why you need other people to do it for you . . . and HADES! I just remembered where I was really going with this so let's back up a second.

A while back I had a conversation with a non-writer friend about another mutual writer friend and Friend A's (the non-writer) confusion over just what's expected of her as a test reader for Friend B (the writer). Obviously, being a writer as well, and one who has at least a bit of experience and education on Friend B when it comes to the subject, I was in a good place to help Friend A figure out her role when Friend B brought her a new project and then sat there at her knee, waiting with baited breath for Friend A to finish reading and TELL HER ALL ABOUT IT. Of course, the problem really didn't lie in Friend A being clueless or afraid of discouraging Friend B, but rather in Friend B's reactions to feedback, AKA 'the poison we must all develop a natural resistance to so we can get the hades on with business'. If Friend A said she liked the work Friend B wanted to know why and if Friend A pointed out a plot hole or other discrepancy Friend B went off in a fury trying to explain what Friend A should have gotten without a problem. As you can see, Friend A is basically screwed. Rock, allow me to introduce you to A Hard Place, and please, disregard that smudgy place between you there; that's just Friend A.

Anyone will tell you when I first got this idea in my brain to write a book and finally let someone see it that I was totally defensive about the whole thing. My good (also-writerly) friend Michelle (go click the Belletrinsic link left of here and say hello) can TESTIFY about how badly I reacted to her first tentative, very polite suggestion that maybe my 'voice' in early drafts of Silver were a little too formal, too precise for a young adult/teen novel. To be brief, I threw a hissy fit. Oh, how far I have evolved since that low of low points! Brothers and sisters! I say unto you revere and court those among you who will lend you an honest word or two about your manuscript, because buddy, you need it. It's been a year since Michelle risked her life to point out a serious weakness in the book and I 'went off like a devil in a church' about it.

Getting back with our 'poison' illustration, think of it like an immunization: You know it's going to sting like hell, and you know it'll even keep aching for a day or so after, but if it keeps you from going out into the big bad world where the real Big Boys and Girls play with nothing to stop them from infecting you (i.e. tearing your work to shreds and outright rejection) you've got to man up, remember to relax that muscle in your arm so it hurts less, and let the medicine do its job.

And after all that, you'll be strong enough.

I have a Happy Bunny pin with this on my purse. You can find things like it here: http://happybunny.orbitearthstores.com/ttp/Mean-sissy-Happy-Bunny-Basic-Tee/products_id/57.html

When Everybody Wears Glasses But Nobody Has the Same Prescription

Personal Note: When I was much younger (let's go with somewhere around eight or ten) I wanted two things for myself most kids that age didn't: Modesty and wisdom. Yeah, I know that sounds super-mature of me, but my motives were TOTALLY selfish. I wanted to be a quiet, organized, serene person because I thought the world liked that kind of people most, and I really wanted to be liked a lot. I wanted to be wise, not so I could put my wisdom to good use for others, but because in my little grade-school brain you had to be old to be wise and I very much wanted to be old. I was seven, and I wanted to be seventy. After being trapped in the middle of a lot of tragedy by then I'd decided being an old women was the best thing for me because I'd have all my memories, still have all the lessons learned, and be far along enough in my life for the pain of them to have faded away.

Don't wish for age, guys. Things fade away faster than you'd imagine. Wish for strength.

Today's title refers to how fourteen people can be exposed to the exact same thing and still come away with fourteen completely different ideas of what the Hades just happened. For instance, if for some reason I ended up at a Journey/Steve Perry concert* I'd have a totally different experience than my mother. You have to understand, in the early-ish eighties when my mom was in her mid-twenties, and I was only half way to double digits in the age department my mother was A. a DJ for the local Top 40 station, and B. quite possibly Journey/Steve Perry's most devoted fan. She loved them so much she put posters of them on MY bedroom wall, as well as one in her bedroom, and possibly one in the living room.

Anyway, so I remember Journey fondly (for the most part, because I did have that one weird nightmare where the poster was talking to me--my dreams! Always bizarre) and still love their music but I see it more as a childhood memory, whereas my mother, if attending the same concert, would be transported back to a time when salivating after a handsome man with great hair (you didn't think I got that trait out of thin air, did you?) came perfectly naturally and no one looked at her funny for it.

The same can be said of your characters as you write. A number of factors, ranging from personal history to life motto to current state of mind will effect how your character will react to a given situation and you must take that into consideration when you write them because certain things within a specific set of circumstances may cause a character to react out of his norm, and you've got to be there to pin that, and you've got to be ready to back it up--on paper! Not in interviews later what someone asks you "Yeah, but why did X do such and such when that sounds nothing like him?" You have to have an answer, and it better be solid. If you correctly figure out how a character will react the "why" should fall into place naturally and everyone should think, "Well, OF COURSE."

In Silver we have what I think of as "The Big Reveal" scene. Some of you are pretty familiar with it and know originally one character gave out some pretty important information in a strangely blunt-but-'please-don't-be-mad-at-me' kind of way and the other character took the information and believed it almost immediately, without argument. Insert insane laughter HERE because I have since realized there is no way HE would take that perspective, and even more so, SHE isn't the kind of girl to just go along with anything before checking out all her options first. Seriously, these two are going to kill me before it's all over, but it's okay, because I hear authors generally sell more books after they're dead. Look at Jane Austen; she's even getting the undead treatment.

*I realize this will make me seem a bit old and sentimental, but good gracious, see that HAIR! I will forgive him the shaved sides because inthe early nineties all boys made that stupid mistake. And I maintain that Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" has the best pulsating guitar ever. It's my favorite song by them. You should look up the original recording on whatever music service you use because it's amazing. The video I linked to doesn't do either the instrument work or Perry's voice justice, partially because the quality of the video, and partially because by the time of the recording Perry, who is very well-known for hitting the high notes, had already undergone treatment (maybe surgeries) for a major throat condition and was on doctor's orders not to go to those heights or he might well lose his singing voice entirely.


Personal Note: I wasn't a coffee drinker, not even a 'social' one, until a little over a year ago. No, seriously, I didn't start drinking coffee--thought the stuff nasty--until I started writing and my average bedtime skyrocketed from around eleven P.M. to two A.M. Problem was, I still had multiple human beings to take care of the next day and therefore needed something give me some semblance of consciousness. Hence, coffee. And now I am a stereotypical coffee-chugging writer. I think they may take blood samples to make sure you've got enough of the bean in your system, or they revoke your author card.

Also, I kind of think a line from Panic at the Disco's "London Beckoned Songs About Money From Machines" is a fantastic piece of writerly advice.

"If you talk, you better walk, you better back your s*it up . . . "

A few minutes ago I looked up the title The Butterfly Tattoo because I follow a lot of agents and editors on Twitter and several of them have discussed Deidre Knight's eBook, Butterfly Tattoo and then I saw there's a movie coming out by the (nearly) same title and I wanted to see if they were the same (they aren't; the movie is based on Philip Pullman's The Butterfly Tattoo).

WHICH is just a really twisty-turny way of getting to my point. You don't really need to know all the above, but I just spent fifteen minutes arguing with small sons and writing the html for the links, so it's staying there.

I noticed somewhere on one of the Amazon pages that Pullman won a Whitebread Award for his work (I'd guess the Dark Materials series). And then I shook my head a little. If it weren't for some decidedly British pals in some of my writer/critique circles I'd have no idea the Whitebread was a big deal, something one really gets to talk smack about, and frankly, I have like ><> might be. The Newberry? The Caldecott? I recall seeing gold-metallic badges for those on book covers. Is there a Nobel for literature? I think there is, but is fiction even qualified? I don't highlight my ignorance to downplay these awards; I'm sure they're as important and as much of an honor as they sound and I'd be proud to ever be in the running for one, but it hit me. I don't really care if I ever win an 'award' for my writing. I'm not saying I want to accomplish the bare minimum. I want to do the absolute best by my readers, give them top quality work, but I'm not writing for awards. Apparently I'm not even aware of the awards.

It kind of trips me out because I am NOT (oh, so, so not) a modest human being. When God put me together He skimped on the modesty big time. I've learned to fake it since becoming an adult, but inside I'm totally doing a touchdown dance whenever I've rocked something. So it goes against my norm that I'm semi-oblivious of big time recognition . . . which tells me two things:

  1. I'm really passionate about my work, because I'm willing to do it even without anyone praising me or handing out Brownie Points.
  2. And two, given the first bullet, I must be doing it for the right reasons.

And in case you wondered, the title of this post refers to the heinous brain-throb I had earlier and how coffee--yes, coffee--fixed it for me. Whatever little dude first picked up that bean (despite it looking suspiciously like rabbit droppings) and threw some hot water over it, THANK YOU.

If I'd Known the Answer I Would've Raised My Hand

Personal Note: I am a measuring freak of Nature. No kidding. I can eyeball just about anything to within a tenth of what's needed (in other words, within a tenth of an inch, or a tenth of a cup). With time I can tell you within seven minutes what time it is, without a watch, and when in a car I can mentally calculate the practical aspects of velocity and other sides of physics. Couldn't tell you the actual numbers to save my soul, but I can tell you if you're unbalanced when hanging a frame, or too flat or too sharp when playing a note, and I can tell the right degree of 'done' when cooking based solely on smell.

Measuring. It's all relative.

I know I generally try to post helpful writerly hints and tips and whatnot, but today I'm going to show a bit of my humanity and admit How Strange something seems to me. Not 'wrong' strange, but 'unfamiliar' strange.

If you took a writer's career and made a pie of it, cut it into quarters, each one representing a stage of progress, I'd be sitting on the cake knife and it rested between the first and second quarter. In other words, I'm not so new to everything that I've got no clue, but I'm not to the point where I'm full-steam-ahead, either, and the reason for this is because I am exercising my tiny PATIENCE muscle and telling myself I can start submitting anything for consideration untl I've checked EVERYTHING. It's the narrow path, peeps, and let me tell you it's a hard walk, but it will be SO WORTH IT.

So, I follow a lot of writerly blogs. You can see which ones of you look to your left and down a little. Often when I read the comments there are a bunch of unpubbed newbies like me, but sometimes there are published and/or agented commenters in there, too. And it's like we live in different universes, seriously.

From where I am, here on my cake knife, getting an agent is my Great Big Goal to work toward. I'm shining my apple for my perfect teacher. And I feel like I still need a pair of binoculars to see her desk. But then, for a moment, when I read the comments of Those People in the Other Reality who've got agents already, it really seems like they've got some sight-seeing equipment of their own, only they're all focused on selling their book.

And that seems so bizarre for me. They scaled the freakin' mountain already and can see the skyline I'd kill to be seeing, right? Don't misunderstand; I don't resent them or think in any way they aren't deserving of the view (they TOTALLY are), but it kind of blows my mind that people who've succeeded where I'm still dreaming are still facing the same sorts of trials I am, only scarier, like hitting the next level in a video game.

My friend Shaun tells me Sephiroth, the final boss fight in the renowned Final Fantasy VII, is actually too easy. I wonder if I'll feel that way when I get to the end of my pie.

For an awesome rendition of Sephiroth go see Wen-JR over at DeviantArt.