Ninety-nine Photos of Stuff on the Blog, Ninety-nine Photos of Stuff...!

Okay, so really there are only gonna be like three or so, but still. I got the ninety-nine part from this being the ninety-ninth post. Really gonna hafta think of something stellar for the next one, huh? The PRESSURE! It PRESSES!

First off, yeah, totally got my laptop bag. It's a tight squeeze, but the bag is primarily canvas, so I'm waiting for it to break in really well, like a good pair of jeans. Obviously, Precious isn't in it in these photos, but she's a little busy helping me post this blog right now.

So, from top to bottom, the online photo of said bag, so you can see it all nicely and cleanly.

Then a blurry version I just took with my webcam.

And finally, a webcam photo of the inside of the bag with some of my junk in it. Yes, that IS a Burton's Mad Hatter notebook grinning in there.

Another super awesomoso thing in there? These Eco-speakers by Fashionation. They're made out of this sort of tough nylon plastic stuff. When folded, they're thinner than my hand, and even with all the little tabs popped into place, they're smaller than a take-out carton. They come hooked together with a standard-sized headphones cord, which will plug into pretty much any mobile device, and they don't require batteries. Top that off with seventy per cent recycled materials and just ten bucks a pop.

And just to round off the day of picking up Things Which Make Amethyst Smile, have ya everheard of Pocky? I don't want to know what they're made of in case something scares me, or it's just really yummy plastic, but the strawberry ones complete me. Well, there wasn't a lot missing, but yeah. The boxes I get are about a buck fifty, less than a bag of Hershey's whatever candies, and probably less calorie-laden (plastic is very slimming...okay, fine, I'm pretty sure they're just slightly sweet, crunchy breadsticks dipped in a strawberry yogurt cream, and then allowed to dry).

Oh, and did I mention, I finally finished the chapter I'd been stuck on for six months? ;) And I did it with the help of my new critique partner, "M", and Bria Quinlan's Fast Draft writing sprints. If you end up loving what I do, blame them.

Sometimes Facing Your Fears Requires a Mirror

My dad had the most wonderful blue eyes. With eyes slightly tilted, heavily lashed, set above enviable cheekbones, my father was a 'pretty' man. People getting on to me for saying men can be beautiful or pretty, but I stand firm on this one.

Anyway, people say I get my eyes from him, which is kind of great, even if I didn't inherit the darker hue of his lashes, only the length. But his eyes weren't the only thing I got from him. I also got my suicidal tendencies. His tendencies became reality with the help of a pistol. My tendencies haven't succeeded, but I am incredibly afraid of hand guns. For the usual reasons, sure; my children, and intruder finding it and using it, accidental misfires. It doesn't stay in the house, but in N.'s truck. It's locked, and only he has the keys. It has a built-in trigger safety, so it can't be misfired.

But mostly I'm scared of that gun because of myself. I have help now, with my emotions and imbalances, but every once in a long while . . . I have the scary thoughts. A hand gun would be so easy. It worked for my dad, right?

N. made me hold it, made me name all the parts and what they did. He made me cock it. My hands trembled. I almost cried. I definitely panicked like mad inside, and maybe a little outside. N. understood, but he said it was important. He knew the worst fear I had, though we didn't mention it.

This is a very extreme truth to point out a much simpler one; sometimes, even if you're the thing most in your way, you still gotta do what you gotta do.

Empty, Pretty Boxes

Short post today, kiddos.

My fellow defender of Stealth Mode and Co-Queen of WAH!, Amanda, is the BESTEST package wrapper I know of. The girl still uses brown wrapping paper, like the stuff you see on parcels in adaptations of A Christmas Carol. And then she puts stickers of things she knows you personally are interested in all over it, super-artfully, writes little inside jokes in glitter gel pen, or poems, or funny sayings, just stuff tailored to you. And that's before you even cut off the tape.

Each little thing inside is wrapped with just as much care, in quirky, silly, fun varieties of papers, some with ribbons, some without. Some with paper-matching stickers, or metallic confetti, or loose glitter. It's not that these gifts are wrapped in 14 karat gold foil, or tied with ropes of pearls; they aren't. But they're special.

For about three minutes, and then they become a memory, albeit a very sweet, touching memory. Because you're not going to keep the paper or the boxes, no matter how much you love Amanda, or how touched you are she went so far to make this package just for you. You won't tuck away anything but maybe the card, or a small tear of the paper if you scrapbook.

What's important is inside the pretty, thoughtful wrapping paper. The heart is underneath.

Your manuscript is the same. You can mistake the wrapping for the substance in at least two ways I can think of off the top of my head.

  1. You can think the presentation of your manuscript (especially if you're snail-mailing a full to an agent), is important. Books will tell you to distinguish your work with something eye-catching. Don't. Distinguish your work by following the frakkin' parameters the requesting agents lists, thereby making the poor harried agent's day that much easier.
  2. You can think your story, the characters, the plot, the narrative, the tension, the things that make it yours, aren't special enough unless you drown them in the literary version of spot-lights and pageant make-up. Don't do that, either.
Your book is yours. Just for you. If you try to gimmick into being for someone else, you'll lose it, and you'll lose readers.*

*This is not to imply you are infallible, just that you don't have to please everyone all the time.

Personal Note: Amanda and our very good, very funny friend, Roger. They were at an Irish pub, so draw your own conclusions about the unrestrained smiling and glassy eyes.

I miss her. Stupid New York.

Where My Lucy's At?

Lately, I find myself reading the blogs posts of other people and all I can think is, "THAT'S IT!" because what they've said exactly matches my own experience, usually currently.

Like this one about being jealous by my writer pal, Jodi. Or this one she did on that nagging feeling I get when I know what's wrong, but I REALLY, REALLY don't want to face it/have no clue how to fix it.

Or this one from Susan Adrian, about getting discouraged, recharging, and how hard it is to get disciplined again (trust me, I--by far--had an easier time giving birth than I'm having getting back to this book the way I should.

Or finally, this one from my buddy, Authoress Anonymous? It's about not seeing problems your readers have a hard time explaining . . . and wimpy heroes.

These ladies, in their much more gracious, good-humored way, are my Lucys. They say what I mean, and I mean what they're saying, quite often.

And just so you know, yes, when it comes to writing, sometimes I'm afraid of EVERYTHING.

Lucy Targets Charlie Brown's Fears . . .

Today is your day, not theirs.

This may sound like a weird comparison, but the whole "book industry people can't decide what they want!" complaint sort of reminds me of my language teachers for my tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade years (ages 15, 16, and 17, for you across continents) in school. I had the same teacher for tenth and twelfth grades (Mrs. A), and a different teacher in between (Mrs. B).

Mrs. A never wanted a real declarative sentence in research papers. She always wanted us to preface any statement with an "I feel the author meant . . ." or some such, followed by a " . . . because he/she . . ." to introduce proof for the assertion. You got a lower grade if you just came out and said, "Um, by that time, Poe had completely lost his mind, which just goes to show a broken heart CAN kill you, indirectly or not." (Okay, that example's a bit sloppy, but you get the gist.) I think maybe she felt we weren't expert enough to make an official judgment on anyone in the literary community, because, well, Mrs. A? Wonderful, encouraging, passionate, but loonier than a beta fish cage fight.

Meanwhile, Mrs. B, that teacher in the middle, she couldn't STAND the wishy-washiness of "I think" or "I feel", or even "It's possible". In her opinion, if you had evidence to back up something, it was worth throwing it out there with your guts attached (this from a classy, articulate, soft-spoken, true Old Southern lady).

So, I had just gotten used to cranking out "just what she expects" A-grade papers for Mrs. A. when I moved on to class with Mrs. B, and had to 180 my technique . . . and then, having pinned THAT, the next year, I had Mrs. A. again.

To complicate matters further, I had Mrs. B. twice a day during my Junior year. Once for formal English/literature, and then in the next class period, for creative writing, so during 2nd class period, she'd preach the necessity of correct grammar, following the rules of our language, the unbending laws of field writing, and so on. In third period, all that went out the window as she encouraged us to be as free as we could, think outside the box, get creative.

So, to sum up:

10th Grade: Think, don't state.
11th Grade: State, don't wobble/obey the rules!/forget the rules!
12th Grade: Didn't I tell you to just think things? Stop those statements!/Creative Writing 2, Be free my little birdies! Fly far, far into the pathos of art!

Book industry people are always saying we should write what WE feel like, or write what WE know, not to try to write specifically to what's selling right then, because too many variables play into whether or not what's hot cools down by the time you get to the table, including agent tastes, book trends, the economy, and blah, blah, blah. This is incredibly good advice.

Me, I just think we need to send all aspiring writers through my last three years of language arts before they're allowed to submit anything.

Trust me, that'll teach 'em.

Things I Had (Unfortunately) Forgotten

The last six months have been a study in apathetic hell for me. It's true. The hardest part was not knowing where my Great Big Fat Loss of Motivation had come from, and having even less of a clue how to get rid of it.

Somehow in the last month, I've gotten better. It happened piece-by-piece, because of some people, some blogs, and some filled plot-holes. That in and of itself isn't special, I suppose--writers find themselves in inexplicable slumps all the time, it might even be considered a routine part of the process, THE TIME OF GREAT WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH. But being reminded of things necessary to my own personal process, and reassured I'm in fantastic and massive company for committing certain literary atrocities, well that was good.

So, to be a little more specific, and to give myself a go-to for when I'll regrettably forget again (because I will), Things I Had (Unfortunately) Forgotten.

1. If you're looking for the Bondo, you've done something wrong. Because sometimes glossing over vital information (plot-wise, char-dev-wise, logically, whatever) is a lot like trying to fix a totaled car with Big Boy Silly Putty, a seriously half-a**ed job. And when some part of your inner writing guru knows this, but you ignore him or her anyway, you get stuck. Maybe in rubber cement, and that's no dignified way to go. So, instead of slapping on the Plaster of Paris, either leave that piece of art be for a while and go work on something else (you never know when one scene will tell you secrets about another), or admit to yourself something there is really messed up (A.A.--Author's Anonymous) and dig your heels in and don't come back up for air until you've wrestled that demon back into the netherworld.

2. If you have younger children, summer is always going to be less productive for you, and that's okay, as long as you don't use it as a crutch.

3. Change is not the death of something, but the birth of something, and there's no reason to be terrified of it, or to think the need for change translates to utter failure. In other words, don't be so stubborn or prideful you can't see the novel for the one-liners. In my case, I was really freaked out by the idea my anti-depressants would kill the writer part of me and I'd have to choose between a healthy mind and a healthy talent. I let that change rob me of my confidence.

4. Fear of failure is failure itself if you let it be. No, I mean it. Think of it like claustrophobia. Instead of small, enclosed spaces, you're afraid of small, closed minds, particularly your own. The cure is to shut up and keep truckin' Like my good friend MISH! often tells me, "It doesn't matter if you're writing crap, as long as you're writing something. You can always go back and fix it." Standing still is giving up, and when was the last time that got you closer to your goals.

5. It's Not ALL About Me: Wait, I mean, it IS, but also, I'm not the only one I should be depending on. I'm talking beta-readers and critique partners, people who give me feedback and provide me with different angles to view and arguments that may just lead me back onto the organic path when I go tramping through the bushes. A lot of my betas are/were my target audience, teens. Teens have super busy lives, and again, summer is a killer there. Also, MISH! up there, my main squeeze when it comes to talking out snafus? She spent the summer starting up a business, a indie bookstore which caters exclusively to young readers, in UTAH (check out Fire Petal Books). Without feedback, I go crazy, seeing the same old things the same old way over and over again. What happens when you can't see a resolution, only rotation? You get too sick to look at it again. I've been feedback-starved. I'm going to have to find more/new betas and crit partners.

So there's that.

Personal Note: While I was out, I celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary with my husband. There were diamonds involved, as well as amazing food, a rather damp outdoor concert (still awesome), hardcore sleeping in, and souvenir coffee mugs, because we still have the two mugs from our honeymoon.