Thursday, December 30, 2010

Anti-Resolution II: Change Your View

Earlier I wrote my Anti-Resolution Resolution post, which included my top five suggestions on how to make you feel like a better you without the involvement of any resolution.
But, drumroll please…. Thank you!
I have one final DIY makeover tip that you should really consider making a part of your everyday life, or at least weekly, or monthly life.  Most of you reading this blog are already familiar with this, but others who happen to be searching for something to resolute on may find this post and give it a try.
One thing that will change your world, how you view your world and how you relate to your own story is by finding a getaway in another world and another story.  I do this by writing.  Others may not write, but do this same thing by reading what people like me write.  Do whichever you are called to do.
TV and movies cannot substitute for this adventure which takes place in your mind.  TV and Movies have their place, for sure.  They take you away and let you shut down areas of your brain while your senses get stimulated.  Writing and reading don’t allow that shut down.  In fact they require an even deeper awareness and mental function. 
No matter how vivid the writing may be, you, the reader must interact; must use your brain to fill in the pictures and the faces, visualize the backdrop, must make yourself a part of the story so that your heart can race and your nerves prickle with every twist and turn that the plotline weaves.
When you let go of your world, for this brief time, and dive into the world of a book you are re-awakened, not just to the beauty of that new world, but to the beauty in your own.  You ask questions you never would have thought to ask before.  You see people and places in the light of another’s eyes.  You feel a little deeper than you really want to in your safe little well built world of reality. 
You are open when you read.  Open to what might be, open to what it might feel like, open to hurt and joy, open to sorrow and grief.  You get to fall in love for the first time over and over again, and in doing so rekindle the place in your heart where that feeling lives.  We don’t always think about that feeling long after the fact, but maybe we should.
I think about it all the time.  Every time I’m getting ready to write those scenes where my main character meets ‘the one’ or the potential one, I view those scenes over and over in my mind, until that feeling is just right.  They capture and hold it, they linger over it.  I linger over it.  How many times do I do that when I’m not writing?  After 10 years of marriage…. Um, well, falling in love for the first time is pretty much kaput in my world.  But why does it have to be?  I love remembering that feeling.  I love feeling it all over again through my characters.  I love that readers might feel it all over again through them too.  How cool is that?
So, for my final Anti-Resolution, Resolution, I’d like to suggest that the entire world do one of two things, or heck, do them both.  Write yourself a story, a whole book in fact.  And pick up a really great book and let yourself go on an emotional journey.  It may not change your world, but it will always change how you view it.
Nothing brings you closer to reality than a little well-written fiction!
Happy 2011 Everyone!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anti-Resolution Resolution

Ok, so it’s that time of year again.  Talk has already begun to circulate regarding resolutions.  Well, I don’t make resolutions, never have made resolutions, don’t really understand resolutions and feel no compulsion whatsoever to try making them.  There, I said it!
Instead of posting to tell you about my resolutions, since I clearly have none, I will tell you about little things you can do in your every-day that might help alleviate some of the need for a big make-it or break-it resolution once a year.
Women usually have resolutions about themselves.  Weight, exercise, nutrition, it all goes together and let’s face it, most resolutions in this area involve some major changes in your daily life.  Drastic, overnight changes are setting you up for failure.  No one can change their whole life and schedule that way, especially when your schedule involves numerous other people, both small and large who depend on you in their schedules.  So unless you have a personal trainer, personal chef, personal assistant and dietician on your staff, then that ain’t gonna happen!
After having two kids and aging just a bit, I’ve realized a few things…
1 – When they say that you’ll permanently gain 10 lbs for each child you have, they’re right
2 – That 10 lbs each hardly matters when you factor in all the other ways your body changes
3 – You have to let go of the ‘old’ fresh and youthful you, you have left her behind
4 – Maybe that’s all ok
Time changes us.  All Of Us!  Whether we like it or not.  We have to accept that change or we will stop enjoying life.  And unless you’re one of the characters in my books, that life is short.  (Well, I guess for my characters it can both be long and involve very little of the change I’m talking about, but that’s fiction, this is reality.)
So, ladies (and who knows, maybe some of this will work for the men out there too?) here is my list of things we can do that involve changing our daily routines to help us feel better about us without the involvement of pesky resolutions…
1 – Color your hair
            Gray hair when your 17 really stinks, gray hair when your thirty something and exhausted should be illegal!  Just looking at it in the mirror makes you feel ten years older than you are.  Every time you wash it away you will feel like a younger you.
2 – Make sure that nice original-color hair is shiny
            Because, dang it, it just feels good to see that sheen!  I recommend Moroccan oil, it really gives a nice shine in just a couple sprays and lasts, even if you don’t have time to shower the next day… not that I ever do that myself, noooooo.
3 – Buy and wear sexy lingerie
No nothing extravagant or uncomfortable.  Things that you can wear all the time under normal clothes.  Just pick out things that you normally wouldn’t, things that make you feel like ‘wouldn’t they all be surprised if they knew’.  Things that make you feel pretty and sexy and alive.  No one may ever see these things, but it will change how you feel every day.  Underneath it all, be a little more daring you.
4 – Really great fitting jeans
            Yeah, you know the ones I mean!  Not your grandma’s jeans.  Ones that you look at in the mirror and say, ‘oh, yeah, I look good in these’.  It may be a very, very, very terrible shopping day, but it will be worth it.  Take a whole day if you have to, but find those jeans (and if you do, buy more than one pair!)
5 – A swimsuit that looks good on you
            Ok, this may be an even worse shopping day, or ten…  But when you find a suit that even you look at yourself in and say, ‘hey, not bad’, then you have accomplished a feat that will bring a smile to your face for years to come!  Even if you only put that suit on once in three years, it will be worth it.  Because avoiding wearing one, avoiding events that might lead to wearing one, avoiding a drinking fountain because you think about events that may lead to wearing one… not good!

So there, you have it.  That’s my short list of ways to avoid feeling the need to make one of those weight, exercise, nutrition centered resolutions.  And you know what… if you do these things then the weight, exercise, nutrition thing might happen a little more easily without a big’ol resolution.
Now, if your resolutions happen to be centered around some other aspect of your life…  Sorry, can’t really help you there!  But good luck with that.
Happy New Year!
Welcome in 2011 with a sexy new you!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Around the Block

I hear lots of talk about writer’s block and what you should or shouldn’t do to overcome it. 
Most writers tend to agree that you should write through it, however some go with taking a short break to regroup your thoughts.
I guess it’s just me, but I honestly don’t understand the whole block thing.  Maybe I’m fortunate.  But then again, maybe I’ve been there and just didn’t recognize it.  I’ve never really sat in front of the computer and not found the words though.  Maybe that comes from having so little time to actually write that I’ve spend hours upon hours playing all the scenes in my head, just waiting for the time to actually get them all out and onto paper (or file I should say.)  Maybe writer’s block can simply be cured by having a hectic life where you crave the opportunity to write.  That would kinda be nice, because at the rate I’m going I would be destined to never run in to writer’s block at all!
The closest thing to a ‘block’ that I think I’ve had was something more like a low spot in my own personal emotions.  When I get into a place where I’m just feeling blue and frustrated with life then I can’t focus on the emotions of my characters and without focusing on them then I really don’t connect with them.  Besides, when I’m low like that, I’m honestly being a bit self centered and would never do justice to someone else’s story.  I let my characters and my dreams rest at moments like this.  I wait until I can pull out of myself and focus on the emotional roller coaster ride of the paranormal beings that fill my mind with wonder. 
In a way, writing is like a totally cool anti-depressant.  When I’m focused on the trials and highs and lows of these ‘people’ that I think about for months on end it’s really hard to find time to dwell on the little passing lows of real life.  Focusing on their story and seeing it play out in 100,000 words or less is a great reality check for me.  Ok, a paranormal reality check, but still…  It all helps affirm one sentence that I’ve told myself ever since I was young and dealing with medical issues and family issues and the personal frustrations of youth: This too shall pass.  No matter what you’re going through, no matter how high the highs or how low the lows, it will pass.  The whole event could be described in 100,000 words or less, and then be over.  Seeing life like that, in a beautifully scripted novel, somehow makes it all a bit more manageable.
Crazy?  Maybe, but after all, I am a writer.
So, is that writer’s block?  Maybe it is.  I’m not sure.  All I know is that when I’m writing I’m happy.  When I’m not writing I wish I was.  Because somehow writing about their lives makes me appreciate living mine a whole lot more.  When I let my writing go and feel a little selfish, I miss them, I miss focusing on my characters and learning about their lives.  Writer’s block?  Perhaps.  But I don’t worry too much, because I know they’ll call me back to them soon enough.  I’ll remember that there are stories that I don’t know the ending for and I’m the only one who can tell me that part.  So I’ll slap myself silly, metaphorically speaking, and get back to what makes me happy.  Not thinking about me and focusing on them.  Because all too soon, this too shall pass, and I don’t want to miss a single ending to a story that has yet to begin.


Have you been round the ‘block’ a time or two?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A La Mode, or Commando?

So, the Holidays are upon us and as usual Christmas fills so many of us with the deep thoughts of love, sacrifice, redemption, giving, hope, and eternity.
But I’ve decided to save those deep ponderings for my novel writing and turn instead to another matter of utmost importance.
Pie or Cake?
You see, I’m a cake sort of person.  I love cake.  Chocolate cake, white cake, layered cake, mousse cake, cream cake, custard cake, cupcake, bunt cake, bust most importantly cake with good frosting.  You don’t want frosting that’s too rich or too sweet.  You want it fluffy and light or fudgy and thick, but just the right sweetness so that you can eat a large slice without making yourself ill.  The cake itself should be moist and light, there again so you can eat a nice size piece without post-cake nauseous regret.
I’ve known pie people in my day.  They feel very much the same as I do about my cake, only they prefer a flakey, buttery, golden crust and a sundry of baked, whipped, chilled or warm fillings.  They would choose a pie over a cake on any day, even a birthday (egads!).
Don’t get me wrong, I come from pie making genes.  I enjoy a good pie as much as the next person.  But if given the choice a cake would win out any day!
Then there’s the topic of ice cream… do you go a la mode or do you go commando?  I personally don’t need ice cream to enjoy my cake.  Cake is self sufficient as far as I’m concerned.  Now, pie is another story.  I’ll take it a la mode, but prefer baked pies a la whip.  A nice home-made vanilla whipped cream is just the thing (also good in coffee, or hot Thai tea as well.)  But cake… hey, cake is hot, cake is risqué, cake is confident, cake can go commando!
So, how about you?
Cake or Pie?
A la mode, or commando?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Writing Life…

I got a really great form rejection the other day.  It was just a query rejection, but it confirmed my suspicions regarding many of my query rejections.  The nice thing was that there was really nothing ‘form’ about this rejection.  It was simple, basic and polite, yet it told me why the agent was not interested very clearly.  It had to do with my genre and the market.
I’ve been thinking that my genre is currently holding me back.  I have yet to get feedback on the full MS requests that have been sent out, so until then I won’t know more; and who knows even after that how much information I’ll receive.  But for now it’s really nice to have that personal response from an agent clueing me in to the thoughts that my query inspired. 
I know the market is saturated at the moment with my genre and character types for the first novel I’m querying.  I also know that the market can change.  In addition, I’ve completed another book with a completely different character type and story line.  I hope to be ready to begin querying for that book next year.
I love my first book.  I love the series that I have begun writing and the characters in it and I want to write more about them.  I feel good about the strength of the story and have a feeling that someday those characters will find a spot on a bookshelf.  That’s why I don’t mind setting them aside if need be.  Maybe it’s another book that will connect me with an agent.  Maybe another set of characters will make it to a bookshelf first.  That’s all ok. 
For every book there is a season, for every story there is a time, for every tale you have to tell there’s another one right behind.
So I shall keep penning the stories in my mind and enjoying the time I spend with those characters, in hopes that they'll all get to sit upon a bookshelf, in their own good time.
But for now this writer is: waiting for feedback, waiting for readers, querying for an agent, researching always, editing as feedback comes, dreaming of new tales, tweeting, blogging, and writing, always as time permits… writing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Award it Forward...

I just received a blog award from the amazing and talented Nikki Brandyberry!   This is actually my second award, the first one I received was when I was new at blogging and had no idea what to do with the thing.  I’ll probably still not get it quite right, but I’ll try and pay it forward here today…

The award that Nikki gave came with the following list of things to do: 

1. Share 7 things about your­self
2. Pass the award to more blog­gers recently dis­cov­ered
3. Notify the blog­ger recip­i­ents
4. Link the blog­ger who gave the award

So, seven things about me…

-     The thing that scares me most about potential publication is… readings.  The idea of sitting in front of people and reading what I have written almost makes me ill.  But I’m afraid it’s unavoidable.  Look at me, I’m sweating already!
-     I grew up in California and I do not like avocados.  They taste bad.  People say they don’t have any flavor, but I say they do and it isn’t good!
-     I have been to almost every state in the United States, some of them multiple times.  We drove back and forth across this country throughout my childhood, for fun.
-     In my first novel, my main character lives where I would love to live and drives what I would love to drive.  But I’m human, she’s not, so there you go.
-     I have a hard time remembering people’s names in my real life, maybe that’s why in my works-in-progress the characters say each other’s names all too frequently.
-     I grew up in a house where there were no ‘swear’ words used, and this includes words that most people don’t consider ‘swear’ words.  To this day I cannot swear aloud.  I just can’t do it.  But my characters do now and then, because they need to appear more real than my actual life does.
-     My husband has never read a single book I have written.  Maybe someday he will, I don’t know.  They’re not his genre and he would be honest, so now he has actually been banned from reading them.

There you have it, that’s me in a weird and distorted little nutshell.

Nikki’s blog is linked in the list of blogs I like and I’ll put a link here too: Nikki Brandyberry
She does some really great and honest book reviews on her blog, plus author interviews, giveaways and lots of book related fun stuff.  If you haven’t checked out her site you most definitely should.

Now, on to some other blogs that you really should check out:

Jennifer Hillier has a great blog of her own, plus she posts at Killer Chicks, if you haven’t checked out her site, you should… Jennifer Hillier

Natalie Whipple has an amazing blog.  She talks about her writing journey and does this Q&A thing, where she takes your questions, any and posts responses to them all.  She is so quick to help fellow writers, seriously, check her site out here… between fact and fiction

Natalie Fischer’s blog at: adventures in agentland is a fun agent blog to check out with a wide variety of topics as well as great tips about the book world in general.

Alexia Chamberlynn has a great blog to check out as well, you should go here to see: Life and Literary

J.N. Duncan’s is another writer’s blog that has great topics.  I recommend stopping by to see for yourself here: jnduncan

While I’m at it, I’d like to say another thank you for the first blog award I received:

Given to me at the time by: Christauna Asay artnwritin
So many great blogs out there!  Check them out today!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Johnny Depp - The Man, The Myth, The Actor

Ok, I’ve been promising all you Twitter followers a post on Johnny Depp.
Yes, I love this guy.  When I imagine my stories making it to big screen I would probably let him play any male role that he would grace with his presence.
I know what you’re thinking, of course I would, he’s HOT.  I won’t argue about that, I’m not blind or insane.  But that’s not why I would be ecstatic to have him slip into the skin of one of my characters.  Don’t give me that look!  I’m serious.
Johnny Depp is probably the best actor of our time.  He’s the best because of what he can do for every character he portrays.  He doesn’t just act the words, or bring a tangible life to the character, he becomes the character.  When I watch one of his movies I forget that I’m watching Johnny Depp and all I see is this person, rich and deep, full of hope and flaws and humor.  He becomes the character, he creates the character, and he draws you into the depth of their soul.
Isn’t that what an actor is supposed to do?  Hollywood might not agree.  They pay big money for a big name, they want you to notice that big name.  But he’s worth every penny because you don’t notice him, and yet can’t ignore his characters. 
I love how he never chooses a character that you think a leading man should chose.  He picks characters that are multi-faceted, dirty, sad, strong, beautiful… hey, kinda like real life.  He doesn’t always care how he looks as one of his characters.  It ain’t no beauty contest.  But you are attracted to them.  You see this soul, even in the darkest of characters, that draws you near.  You’re sympathetic, even if he is a crazy shovel murdering writer in SECRET WINDOW.
Who else can do that?  What other actors can truly disappear into a role and leave you on the edge of your seat for an hour and a half without thinking of their name once?  I actually can’t think of one.  There are some that come close, but they tend to let themselves by type-cast, so they’re a tad too predictable to not think of who it is playing the character.  That’s something he has avoided.
So, if Johnny Depp were to ever grace a movie based on my writing I would trust him to take the words on the page, add a whole lot of his incredible gift and turn them into these wonderfully dimensional and moving people (or sort of people since I write primarily paranormal characters.)  My characters tend to be flawed, my vampires struggle with the weight of their eternity, my Sprites are a little too controlling about circumstances, my werewolves are fairly ADHD, and don’t get me started on the humans…  But he could capture all those sides in a way that was moving and appealing.  He could be the vampire who cries for the love he lost, and then slashes the throat of her attacker in the next scene.  He could be the wolf that can never get his act together but always has the best of intentions.  Or the Sprite with the desperate controlling hold of the feisty girl he is bound to, and the weakness for her that prevents him from walking away.  He could bring any one of them to life. 
But ahh, how this writer does dream. 
Let’s confess though.  We all do it.  We all imagine the actors and actresses who we would cast in our roles.  It’s not just about the books I write either.  Every time I read a book I see it play out in my head.  The whole movie is there and the characters live for those hours that I read.  That’s why I finally had to stop reading books before seeing a movie about them.  If I want to see the movie, I’ll wait to read the book after.  Then the book just adds on to the movie and the characters in the movie get to play in all the added scenes.  But if I’ve read the book first then the movie never lives up to the one that played in my head.  The characters are all wrong and too much is missing.  Unless, of course, one of those characters was played by Johnny Depp.  He brings them to life, even more than my imagination can.
Oh yeah, he’s that good!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Agent Advice – Why This Writer Disagrees

Ok, I can no longer keep my silence…
I’ve heard it expressed by several literary agents over the course of my writing journey that you should not write sequels to a book in advance of the first one receiving a publication deal.  Some of their arguments I understand.  But I think they’re missing one key point when they issue a blanket statement against writing sequels.
Every writer uses a different process.
Let me tell you why this advice really doesn’t work for me and my writing style.
When I began writing it was out of inspiration, some of you may have heard this before, but please bear with me.  A story came to mind and I wanted to know where those characters went and what their story would hold.  The only way to discover this was to write.  So I did, literally, on to-do list pads with a pen.   When I had what I thought was about three books worth of writing, I stopped and asked myself what I should do next.  Then I typed it into a computer, discovered I had two good length books worth of writing, edited that and began finding readers.  After more editing and more readers and more editing, I began to research publishing.
So, now you’re thinking that the reason their advice doesn’t resonate well with me is because I have more than one book in my series written.  Well, true, but there’s more to it than that.
When I write I get emotionally connected with my characters.  They fill my daydreams with their conversations until I can barely stand it.  I must write on, I must get that scene down, we must move on together.  Because they fill my head so much I really get to know their voices.  Sometimes I even find myself thinking like them when I’m not thinking for them.  So what happens when I walk away from that story and move on to another one?  I lose a bit of that connection. 
Since I began writing novel length MS’s I’ve learned that if I’m really connected to a story it doesn’t pay to leave it behind, thinking I’ll return to it later.  I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible for me to get back into the mood and voice of the characters.  I’ve left behind stories that I loved, stories that I poured myself into, when the lure of a new one came along.  I had every intention of going back and finishing it, yet whenever I do I just can’t reach that place where those voices flowed so easily from before.  I traded my love away instead of telling the new story to wait patiently.  I have two such stories, and it hurts to see them there, with all their notes in line and characters waiting for me.  Will I ever get their voices back?  I hope so.  Time will tell.
So if I’m in love with a story, if I have an inspiration and a vision for where those characters are going, it doesn’t pay for me to abandon them.  I want to know the ending and no one else will tell me, so I better stick around to find out for myself.  I’ve already invested countless hours into the connection with the characters and story, the voice is perfected and I don’t want to lose it.  That’s how I write best.

So, let’s confront the arguments against writing more than one book in a series prior to publication.  Here are some of the common things I’ve heard:
-You can’t query on a follow-up unless it works as a standalone.
-In the publication process there may be many things changed in the first book affecting the follow up book(s).
-Changes required in follow ups would not have been necessary if they weren’t pre-written.
-Without the first one being published the rest are “useless”.
-You look “amateurish” if you write more than one in a series prior to being published.

Ok, to be honest, some of these arguments I find really upsetting.  But, I’ll try to keep my answers on a more technical writing level instead of an emotional one (try).
Ok, true, you can’t write the follow ups intending to query them.  But that’s probably not why you did it anyway.  I understand that if the first book goes to publication there may be many changes requested that will affect the follow up(s).  Wouldn’t it be better though to have a follow-up you can go through and make changes on rather than be stuck with a three book deal and have trouble getting back the voices of your characters in order to begin writing?  I don’t doubt it’s possible, especially with the added incentive of actual publication, but still…  If you have a flow going and the writing is coming easy and the story is moving well, then why stifle it so that you won’t look “amateurish” to an agent?  Besides, if we’re even talking about the subject then I must not already have an agent and you could probably say I’m an armature just for that (an armature at being an author for sure).
Now the point of the follow-up(s) being “useless” without the first one being published is where I’m really having trouble holding back.  If they’re “useless” then so is every blessed thing I have ever written that wasn’t snatched up for publication.  The first book in the series was “useless”, anything I wrote in high school is “useless”, my cards to my mother are “useless”, my blog posts are “useless”, all the books that I have written are “useless”!  But…  As most writers come to realize over time, everything you write is valuable.  It helps you grow.  It helps you learn your craft.  It helps you get better at what you do.  Add on top of that the fact that you’ve produced a completed work that brought joy to those who did read it, or joy to the one person who wrote it, you, isn’t that reason enough for having written it in the first place?
Yes, I wrote 200,000 words.  I wrote two books, in a series.  I’m trying to find an agent for the first one.  I have more planned in that series that I haven’t started yet.  There were changes that made it a good place to stop, where I know that losing the voice won’t be a problem.
I have another book written that I see could be part of a series.  I stopped after the first one and it’s out with readers right now.  After it’s edited I might just go ahead and start the second book while the voices are fresh in my mind.  Because that’s how I do my best writing.  I’m working on something new in the meantime and I’ll finish it before going on to anything else.  I won’t leave another work unfinished if I can help it, because that’s not how I do my best writing.
I’ve been told not to mention that I have a follow-up completed on the series I’m querying.  I’ve been told not to mention it’s even part of a series.  Well, yes, that’s probably fine advice for the querying process itself.  But I hope that the agent I connect with isn’t one that makes me feel like I need to hide the projects I’ve completed.  I want to be able to openly and honestly reveal my stores to them.  I want them to value what I’ve done, because it makes me a better writer, even if it isn’t as marketable as something else I’ve done.  I also want them to know my personal writing process, so they can understand how to get the best work they can out of me.
In the end I think all writers have to know themselves before they throw their hearts into the writing marketplace.  I know how I write best.  I know what makes writing enjoyable to me.  I know how I produce more, better, faster.  So if an agent doesn’t like how I write, then they’re probably not the one for me.  That’s ok. 
Writers should be careful not to listen to all advice that others may give on how to produce their work in the best possible way.
            You are the writer.  You know what you need.  You know how you work. 
            Value what you do, but also value how you do it.
I write for me.  I want to know the end to the story that just took over my brain.  If the story is so good that I fall in love with it and can’t get enough, then I’ll want to share that story.  If I want to share the story then I’ll be willing to change it in ways that make it better, or more accessible to the reader.  If the reader falls in love with it, then they’ll want more.  Thus the cycle continues…

I want to say that I truly value the work that agents do.  I don’t have their skills or the desire to do the things that they are experts at.  I respect them, the tough position they are in so much of the time, and the amazing support they are to the writers they represent.  I hesitated writing this post because they get so much negative feedback from writers that it tarnishes how they view us all.   However this, to me, is a topic more related to how and why you write than it is about being published.  Maybe that’s where our differences of opinion sometimes lie.

Thank you for stopping by to listen to a frustrated writer who wants you to write however you write best.

(As always, comments are welcome.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Eye Popping Experience...

Growing up my grandmother always lived with us.  The arrangement took place when I was born and then my grandfather died when I was 2 1/2, leaving an unusual situation.  If my husband is successful in convincing me, you may end up hearing more posts about this arrangement and the years which followed.  But for now I’m going to tell you a little story about my grandmother’s dog.
When I was a young girl my grandmother decided to get a Shitzu, which she named Yum-Yum.  Yum-Yum was an all black dog with little dark brown eyes and black nose that blended into her fur so that you could never tell which end of the furry dog you were looking at.  She also had an inability to bend in the mid-section, leaving her grooming and cleaning entirely up to my mother.  The dog, being unbendable, would squeal and squirm like a little pig when she was picked up and carried like the little football that she was.  For the most part though, she had a good disposition and enjoyed the company of our small collie dog, Sugar.
Sugar and Yum-Yum would play and run outside in the California sunshine almost every day.  Sugar was raised with us kids, so she was a very sweet dog and always treated the smaller Yum-Yum well.
But it was on one of those sunny Californian afternoons that we all discovered something very peculiar about Shitzus that we never would have anticipated.
The ladies were watching their daytime T.V. while I was playing nearby.  Sugar and Yum-Yum were both outside the den which opened up with a sliding glass door onto a patio with a covered porch.  The dogs were on the porch and wrestling a little bit, as they always did.  The ladies were commenting on how cute the dogs were playing when there was a short and sudden yelp from outside.  The women jumped up, grandma shouting out questions, like, “What is it?  What’s going on?”  As my mother, who saw the problem began screaming and running through the house.  She burst out the front door, shooed Sugar away, and bustled about as my grandmother continued to ask questions at her.  When my mother came back into the house she was carrying Yum-Yum in one arm and in her hand she held Yum-Yum’s eye, which dangled out of the socket. 
Ok, this is the point where my grandmother’s questions became sheer freaking-out!  She screamed and ran around the room saying things like, “I can’t look at her!  They’ll have to put her to sleep!  How could this happen?”  As she hollered out instructions for my mom and dad.
My brother and I stood in the background, observing the mayhem with wonder.  Yum-Yum seemed surprisingly calm and comfortable in the midst of all the confusion, I’ll have to give her that.
My Dad and Mom rushed out to take Yum-Yum to her vet, which was conveniently nearby.  My brother and I stayed home and listened to my grandmother think all the worst thoughts she could muster about the future of Yum-Yum and the terrible damage that had been done.
Yum-Yum had to stay at the vet’s that night.  The doctor had to remove the eye and sew the eye socket closed.  Being a dark hairy dog with dark eyes that were quite camouflaged to begin with, you could actually barely notice the difference.  Her face was all black fluff.  When you looked up close at her you could see the eyebrow of the closed eye moving as she looked around and also the wet sheen of the other eye that was still there.  But other than that, most people would never notice.  She did have a blind side and could be surprised or bump into things on that side, but it never seemed to be much of an impairment.  She lived to a ripe old age with my mom always her groomer and caretaker.
As for the lessons we learned in this little mishap…
1)      Shitzus have eye openings that are stretched quite tight.  If you give one of their ears a bit of a tug the above incident can happen far too easily.  Maybe even think twice about those tight little knots that groomers like to pull their hair back into.  I don’t think I'd be comfortable with that anymore.
2)      If you’re ever around someone or something when their eye happens to spontaneously pop out, try to prevent the nerve connecting it to the socket from being stretched too far and place it in a cup of saline or even water as you help transport them to the hospital.  The eye can be reinserted with minimal damage if taken care of appropriately.
3)      Everything in life always goes better when there is minimal freaking and more action.  After all, it’s most likely not the end of the world, and if it is, well then, there’s really nothing you can do about it at that point, is there?

When I told my husband this story, in all seriousness, he began to crack up, saying it was the most mad-capped misadventure he had heard of.  However when he forced me to tell his sister about it, she just thought it was ghastly and sad.  He recommends that you try and picture everyone’s faces and that’s where the humor lies.
I’m still undecided on the matter.  It was, and always will be, just another day and another experience in the world that I grew up observing. 

Please note that no Shitzu's were harmed in the writing of this blog post...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Hour I'll Never Get Back ... Or 50!

Different colored M&M’s have slightly different flavors.  When I was younger and had time to devote to researching this topic I could actually identify the M&M color by taste.  When I was right 90% of the time, people finally stopped thinking I was quite as crazy as they had before that.
Just think if I had all that time back I spent doing M&M research… 
Oh well, then I couldn’t have shared my scientific breakthrough with all of you today, and wouldn’t that be a shame?
Log it under… There’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back again (well, more like 50, but who's counting?).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cover to Cover

Do you write your novels cover to cover or jump around, creating scenes individually?
I always write cover to cover.  In fact I can’t imagine even attempting to write scenes individually.  The thought of trying to piece together scenes after the fact is mind boggling to me.
Pryor to writing I do play out scenes in my head, repeatedly, trying little changes here and there.  I’ve even gotten where I’ll take notes about specific scenes or things that I want to remember to incorporate.  I come up with a plotline and where I want the characters to go.  I’ll make notes about their past, things that drive them or have made them who they are; most of which is just for my mental image of them and won’t actually make it into the book.  I try to capture the essence of the story and the characters.
But when I sit down to write I begin with that opening scene and work my way through to the end.  There are so many times when I think I know exactly where the story is going and it’s only when I set about typing that I’m blindsided by one of my character’s doing something completely unexpected.  I love when that happens.  I love when I feel like I’m the vessel for the story, not the creator of it.  I’m glimpsing their world and their lives, attempting to capture it all in words as I go, but the story has a life of its own.
In the end I hardly feel that I own my characters.  I love that feeling. 
I don’t think I would have that feeling if I didn’t write the story ‘as it happened’, cover to cover.  I need to experience the whole thing as if I was an onlooker; the reader and not the writer.  When I discover the hidden details of the story I can feel better how it’s playing out.  I love to capture the characters as they grow throughout the story and show how their voices change as the story progresses.  I think that would be harder to do out of sequence.
I don’t know that I could write a book scene by scene, skipping around in time.  I think that the joy of discovery would be lost and I would never quite connect with my characters.  To be honest, I began writing because a first scene came to me that I couldn’t ignore.  It haunted me and I had to know what happened to her.  So I began to write.  For me, so that I could know the story.  No one else could tell me the story because it hadn’t been written.  So I began to write that story.
Somewhere in the process of writing her story I began to fall n love, not just with that book and those characters, but with the feeling of writing.  I realized that there were more stories in my head that hadn’t been written, and I wanted to know how they ended too.  The only problem now… very few stories really have an ending.  Books have endings, that’s true, but stories don’t.  Stories lead to more stories, characters lead to more characters, and the story goes on.  Stories are a lot like life that way.
Now I’m a bit addicted to writing.  It’s a rollercoaster of emotions that always leaves you on a high, because the possibilities are endless and the potential unmeasured.  So I’ll probably always write my books from cover to cover.  I want the rollercoaster.  I want the high.  At the end of the day, I write because I need to know the ending and there’s only one way to get there.  Published or unpublished I write for me.  Readers are just the big ‘ol gooey icing on the cake of this writer’s life.
So to all my readers out there, thank you for being my gooey icing!  This next book’s for you, cover to cover…