Monday, May 30, 2011

Versatile, me?

Oh, happy weekend surprise! Jen over at Jen's Bookshelf gave me a Versatile Blogger award! Thank you, Jen. I hope my blogs continue to warrant such an award!

The rules of the award are:
1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you. (Thanks again, Jen!)  
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 0 - 100 deserving blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

Seven random facts? Let's see...
1. I try to reread the Harry Potter series every summer.

2. I try to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy every winter (and usually more often than that).

3. I'm a huge fan of the New York Yankees and I enjoy movies about baseball, especially Field of Dreams.

4. I wrote my master's thesis on the use of fear appeals to promote behavior change in teens, specifically related to drug abuse. Think of the "This is your brain on drugs" campaign. General question: can you scare teenagers into changing their behavior? Or do communicators run the risk of missing the "sweet spot" and creating communications that are so scary they either turn humorous (Brain on drugs campaign) or scare people into inaction (common among smokers who think they'll already die of lung cancer, so why quit now?)

5. I have an unhealthy addiction to coffee, pad thai, and chocolate chip cookies. I suppose I should also add Grain Belt Nordeast and Strongbow to that list.

6. I'm writing this while watching Serenity for the umpteenth time. You can't stop the signal, Mal...

7. My favorite animal is an elephant. I will go to Africa on safari and see them live in their habitat, not in a zoo. And I'll try not to cry, but no promises.

I am passing on this blogging award to two bloggers whose posts make me laugh, think, and continually strive to better my writing.

Claudie A is a writer scientist. While she has authored many cool blogs of her own and on her joint site, Wicked & Tricksy, I love her latest endeavor. Claudie is working on a series of posts on great (overlooked) women in science. Check out her latest post on Rosalind Franklin!

If I had a blogging twin, it would be Erik Setterlind. He's a writer runner who's been known to blog about both topics, which immediately got my attention. But it's his newest writing journey that I find most compelling. Erik recently put his current event fiction piece, Rapture Dinner Party, online for sale. You can read more about his new short story, here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Using non-fiction to make fiction

So here's a question for you...

My mom gave me her collection of letters that her parents exchanged while my grandpa was overseas during WW2. There are A LOT of letters neatly typed out on beautifully thin correspondence papers that span the course of a number of years. (Don't ask me how long--I haven't gone through each letter to put them in chronological order.)

My grandma kept the letters in an old file box, complete with a magnetic flap. Over the years, the box has yellowed with age but has protected the precious letters within.

Fast forward to now, and I'm eager to get into the file box and see what secret love letters my grandparents exchanged. I love the idea of waiting (im)patiently by the mail box, waiting for that one letter to arrive telling you that your beloved is not only still alive, but misses you more than you miss them. In this era of instantaneous messaging, the agony of the wait has been reduced to minutes or hours instead of days into weeks.

Okay, back to my question...

Strands of a plot are pulling in my brain. I so badly want to go through these letters (and dare I say, scan them for future/safety?) and find a love story. I want to pull together two time lines and two love stories and somehow toss them gently in the air like a pot of cooked pasta and find a masterpiece beneath all those pages. (Have I mentioned there are A LOT of pages? For a woman of very few words, my prim and proper grandma sure wrote some letters!)

I once attended a writing course and this idea came up. One of my classmates said I couldn't write a story using these letters as material because it would read like a memoir even though they weren't my memories.

My bigger concern is reading through these pages, eager to find some trace of mystery or intrigue, just to find the military redacted any juicy bits or worse, that my grandparents expressed their love in stale paragraphs that leave my eyes begging for Visine.

And my even bigger concern is leaving the comfortable world of writing fantasy for a story based on historical romance, something I openly admit I know NOTHING about.

Have any of you used real source material from family members to inspire a story? Or have you ever hopped genres into something entirely out of your comfort zone? How did it work out for you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Losing focus

Spring isn't really my time of year. Don't get me wrong--I love the idea of sunshine and short sleeves. But with spring comes a noticeable drop in my writing productivity. It's so easy to brew a pot of tea and shuffle around in my sweatpants with Classical Minnesota Radio in the background as I work on that new scene.

But now? Now it's beautiful outside and I really don't want to be inside. I have so many more things to do outside then I possibly have time for. I can spend a whole Saturday in the yard and come in exhausted around 6pm, ready to hold down the couch for the rest of the night instead of rewriting a section.

I keep putting my creative pursuits off for another day in the spring. But then the spring turns to summer. The NaNo CreateSpace proof copy deadline passes by like a dream. My book sits, stagnant. The characters wait, frozen in motion, until I can move them to the next place on my imaginary chess board.

And that's just my 2010 NaNo book. Let's not even talk about my 2009 NaNo, which is likely to be retired to a place of honor on the shelves as "The First Book." You know, that dreaded first book all authors talk about? Yeah, I feel like I'm well on my way to becoming a "real" writer because I already have that first book filled with darlings, stereotypes, cliches, and poorly-constructed rules of magic and society in a fantasy world.

Then I have this blog. This lovely outlet to the creative world, waiting at my fingertips. And I'm terrified. I've read and re-read most of Sommer Leigh's College of Blogging series and I know it's filled with great info, but all I can grasp is that I don't have a platform.

I don't know what to write about.

I made a Venn diagram when I first toyed with the idea of blogging. There were three main themes: writing, travel, and running. I have topic ideas from each theme and even some topics that cross both (running races in another country?).

But I come back to my first question, why would anyone care?

I have a funny feeling this is just a very long pity party. I feel overwhelmed right now because I know the CreateSpace/NaNo copy code expires at the end of June. If I have any shot of getting a free proof in the next six weeks, I need an ending, a massive re-write, and cover art (and let's use that last phrase "cover art" very loosely).

I need the outside world to stand still for only a few days so I can catch up on the inside. I need it to be January again. I need dark nights that start at 5pm and a tv lineup of repeats. Snow showers. Long weekends filled with crap weather that leave me no option but to hole up inside armed with a pot of Irish Breakfast tea and my fuzzy bathrobe while I frantically scribble words.

Them there are sacrilegious thoughts for many Minnesotans. But Spring is messing me up. I want to be outside mowing, weeding, planting, hanging laundry on the line, running up hills, walking around lakes, and doing anything but sitting in my office trying to patch my book together.

So when all else fails? Blog.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Curse of the Eternal Romantic

I'm cursed. I've tried to find loopholes, work arounds, and technicalities, but it's official. There's no hope for me. I am cursed to be an eternal romantic. I have to accept my fate and everything that comes with it, including:
  • First date butterflies.
  • First date freakouts. (OHMYGODIHAVENOTHINGTOWEAR!)
  • Shazam! The electricity when your hands first touch.
  • Kisses that leave you weak in the knees.
  • The deep shade of red that climbs into your cheeks when they wink/smile at/flirt with you.
  • The constant vigil, checking and rechecking your phone, email, snail mail, smoke signals, all in hopes they contacted you.
  • Post-first date recaps with bestest girl friends, preferably with copious amounts of wine and giggles.

Then finally, just as all of this settles down and you feel like you can return to a life of normalcy, the second date is planned and the whole vicious cycle repeats. New outfits must be purchased, new shades of lip gloss are tested, and you start reminding yourself to not get too ahead of things. It's only a second date.

There are many aspects to this Curse. Some of the better-known effects include irrational emotional responses, pining, over-evaluating/analyzing, shopping, thinking, freaking out, and the possibility of making excuses for poor behavior on their part.

Seeing as I'm also cursed blessed with being a writer and therefore possess an active imagination, The Curse of the Eternal Romantic has one final, wretched effect.

The "I wonders." And warning: these can be both positive and negative...

I wonder what our kids would look like.
I wonder if this person would help support my dreams.
I wonder if they don't really like me and are just using me.

I wonder why they asked me out in the first place.
I wonder if we would get along on trips.

I wonder if they see themselves doing something I see myself doing.
I wonder if they're honest.
I wonder if this person is damaged and I should run for the hills.

And the Granddaddy of them all:

I wonder if this person is the one...

Damn you, romance writers! You make it look so easy, so effortless. All I need is a swank marketing/publishing job in London and THEN I'll find Mr. Darcy Destiny! Or worse, I just need to become the Quirky Damsel in Distress and Mr. Right will be there to help solve the problem. Gah. I have more integrity than that, unfortunately.

There's no anecdote to the Curse of the Eternal Romantic. Unfortunately, the only thing we can do is Wait. The Wait sucks as it can be accompanied by Doubt, which when combined, have the potential to leave you a slobbering mess of tears and regret while you pour another cup of wine.

And yes, us Eternal Romantics drink our wine in cups--not glasses. It helps stimulate the overactive imagination.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Race recap

Okay, this isn't writerly-related AT ALL, but who cares?


The run was Sunday. We woke up at 4:45 am and stumbled down to the eating area of the hotel. Thankfully, they had warm water for oatmeal or toasters for bagels, so I was able to get some food. I didn't sleep well the night before. The wind gusts coming off the lake were so strong that the thwapthwapthwap of the flag pole outside our room kept met up all night.

The bus picked us up at 6am and we stood around for an hour, bracing ourselves against the 25-30 mph sustained winds. The race began at 7am and about 8 minutes later I crossed the timing mat and was on my way.

I'll spare you all the mile-by-mile recap. The course was beautiful. There were enough turns that when I was starting to get sick of going straight, I looked up and saw the pack turn down another street.

The spectators were AMAZING. I have never seen so many people out to cheer on runners. For that reason alone, I will gladly run this race again next year. Some of my favorite signs?

"The Kenyans are right ahead of you!"
"Way to go, Complete Stranger!"
"Wind? What wind?"
"There's the guy who stole your wallet!" (complete with arrow pointing ahead)

Aside from the wind, the weather was great. My playlist was awesome, and the miles flew by. The wind blew down the mile markers along the road, so after mile 4, I had no idea where I was on the course. I tried to count the water stops since they were every 1.5 miles, but I quickly lost count. Not knowing my location helped relieve the tension around my timing.

Finally, I crossed one of the split timer mats and yelled out to a race official, "What mile is this?" When he said 10 and I saw that I was under 2 hrs on my watch, I was THRILLED. It was just the motivation I needed. I knew it was just a 5K from there.

I finished the run with a sprint to the end. I got my medal and my space blanket to keep me warm and then I wandered around and cried. My friends and family had been following online or through the text service, so my phone immediately started ringing and texts were flying in like mad. I wish I could describe to them how amazing it was for me to see that outpouring of support. In person, I was wandering around, crying and exhausted, looking for my friends. But in the technological universe, I was surrounded by my friends and family. It was surreal.

My official time was 2:37:22, smack dab in the middle of where I wanted to end.

We showered then went out for lunch where we ate like a bunch of pigs. It was delicious. :) Then it was nap time, followed by lounging around watching TV, and we capped off the night with some pizza and drinks and a soak in the hot tub.

I drove back on Monday and when I got home, I had an email from the race organizers. It turns out the course was 800 feet TOO LONG! Ha! They adjusted everyone's time and my new official time is now 2:35:35. Awesome, I shaved off 2 minutes over night!

Here's the official "finishers" photo. Pay no attention to the dried sweat and tears that you probably can't see, or the sexy wind-blown hair...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A letter to myself: Happy HM Eve!

Dear self,

In less than 24 hours, you will be running your very first half marathon. And when you finish (and you will finish!), you will likely cry and feel frustrated that you didn't do better. Heck, you could win the whole dang thing and STILL feel like you didn't do well enough.

Cry those tears, then let them go.

Look back at your journey. Think back to that girl in high school who used to fake an ankle injury to get out of the 1-mile fitness run. Think back to the mean person in high school who anonymously wrote on your paper, "Tricia's too fat to be a cheerleader." Remember how that made you feel and look at yourself now.

What a difference.

Think back to the very first 5K you did with Toni. You cried the night before in fear of running 3 miles and you cried again when you finished because you were disappointed in your time. But fast forward four years, and you have easily shaved almost TEN MINUTES off your time!

You made the sacrifices. You put your long runs before anything else on the weekends, even your friends and that book you've been meaning to finish. And don't you EVER forget how excited you were each time you added another mile to your training runs.

Remember when you had to do 6 miles and you ran past the church you used to go to? All those cute old ladies waved and said hello and you knew you could do it. Or that one day the sun was finally out, melting the snow and you knew you had to run outside? Your shoes and socks were soaked but your soul was rejuvenated. Moments like that are the ones that matter.

Or how about the first time you did 9 miles? You ran up the huge hill at the end because you saw an elderly man doing it and it shamed you into running instead of walking. Do not doubt the strength of your body ever again. Remember that grin you had when you got to the top and the tears in your eyes when you carefully jogged back down the other side?

You are ready for this. And yes, perhaps the pre-race jitters are making you a touch emotional and you're crying at everything, but it's okay.

Do not focus on the clock tomorrow. Instead, focus on the energy. Focus on how much fun this is. First HMs are like first kisses, you don't get a do-over so make this count, not on the basis of your time or splits, but make it count for fun.

Go ahead and cry when you're done, but try to make a few of those tears that fall tears of pride. You have earned it. I'm here to tell you--erm, me--that it's going to be okay and that I am proud of you.

Now stop crying and get on the road! Cheryl and April are waiting for you!

Friday, May 13, 2011

My quest for free shipping for Jacob Wonderbar

The wait is over!!

Nathan Bransford is not only an Internet 'host with the most' and literary guru, he's also a published author!

Nathan's first book, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, is finally available at retailers near you. And because A) Nathan rocks, B) I write MG, and, C) I like it, I've included the trailer for his book. Please watch then head over to his website to read the first chapter of Jacob Wonderbar!

Naturally, I was eager to buy this awesome new book. Who wouldn't be after a trailer like that, amirite? So I click over to Amazon and realize I'm again tricked into loading my virtual cart with $25 worth of product in order to qualify for free shipping.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I live in another country. And there are plenty of bookstores in my area where I'm certain I could buy Jacob Wonderbar. But I'm one of those shoppers. I can sit here in my sweatpants and with a few strategically placed clicks, I can get all my holiday or birthday (or personal!) shopping done--and shipped for free!--within a few minutes.


So here's my not-so-secret secret...

Wanna know what else I secretly put in my shopping cart? Watch the video. I've been giggling about this ridiculous straight-to-DVD video ever since I saw the Blu-Ray version for sale for $5 at Target. Why, oh why, don't I have a Blu-Ray player? Curses!

But now, NOW I have a *need* for extra items in my cart. What's that, you say? Donald Maass books or the latest YA paranormal books also qualify for free shipping? C'mon. Do they have Debbie Deborah Gibson?

I didn't think so.

There is a reason this video has almost 3.5 MILLION views. It's. Just. That. Good. (kinda.)

Thank you, Lorenzo Lamas. You have now added $7 to my Amazon cart. Jacob Wonderbar, I'm coming for you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's the worst that can happen?

Four days.
My hope
Less than 100 hours.
Four sleeps away.

My very first half marathon is this Sunday. I'm ready. (I'm ready, right? RIGHT? For the love of all things holy, someone tell me I'm ready!!!)

I can do this. Thirteen miles of running and walking if/when necessary. It's only 13 miles. I should be done in 2.5 hours. Oh, who am I kidding? More like 2 hours and 45 minutes, but still, I'll finish it.

This running thing has taken a huge chunk of mental energy, something I wasn't aware of when I first signed up. I mean, I figured I'd have to train --no one just runs a HM without some form of training. But I wasn't aware of how much it would occupy my mind, especially this week.

I lay in bed before I fall asleep and work on visualizing myself crossing the finish line. Apparently, that's supposed to make it easier to reach my goal. I've tried to visualize myself as a NYTimes Bestseller too, but so far no luck.

My fear
As I prepare for this weekend ahead, my subconscious has done everything it can to work against me. Binge eating. Binge drinking. (What? Don't judge, I'm a writer.) Negative thoughts, you get the idea.

But really, what's the worst that can happen? Being a creative type, trust me when I tell you I've come up with some doozies.

You tell me: Pretend your very first half marathon is this Sunday. What's the worst that can happen?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Something Wicked this way comes...


So, if you haven't heard, a new blog goes live today!

Wicked & Tricksy is a blog for writers by four aspiring speculative fiction writers. For writers, by writers. Awesomesauce, right?

So imagine my girlish squeal of excitement when I tried the web site last night... AND IT WAS UP AND RUNNING! Okay, while I bet the content gods were still working out a kink or two, the Google Follower widget was up. What was I going to do--let it sit there until today? Heck no! I became a follower. One. Day. Early.


While being the 2nd follower EVER might sound silly, I think it's super exciting. See, I've been reading about this new site for a few days now and have been patiently waiting for it to go live. Wicked & Tricksy is more than just a blog about writing. It's like an online clubhouse for speculative fiction writers to meet, chat, learn, experiment, and interact.

Wicked & Tricksy is the brain child of four writers: Sommer Leigh, SB Stewart-Laing, Margo Lerwill, and Claudie A., four friends who met on Nathan Bransford's forums. This week is Community Launch week and if you sign up, you can even get a free Wicked & Tricksy bookmark between May 9-20!

Okay, so there's a ton of great stuff on the site, but my current fave? The shadow avatars for each of the authors. Super cool. Yeah, I'm diggin' this new clubhouse.

Stop by this week, get your free bookmark, and make some new friends!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Neil Gaiman vs. Minnesota politics

Bear with me as I step ever so slightly onto my soapbox. This is not intended to be a place for political discussions, so if you truly disagree with me, that's fine, but let's focus on what this means for authors, speakers fees, and budgets.

I live in Minnesota. Neil Gaiman does/did as well*, someone I would consider a literary icon for our generation. So I was angry, as both a budding author and a Minnesotan, when House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R) accused Neil Gaiman of theft for collecting $45,000 in appearance fees. At that amount, basically, that's a felony, right? So you're calling Gaiman a felon?

There's more to this, and I'll get to it in a minute, but here's the rub. Dean left his manners at home and instead, acted like a school-yard bully. You can read the article in the Star Tribune paper, but here's the highlight:

"Dean said that Gaiman, 'who I hate,' was a 'pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota'."

Representative Dean, what is wrong with you? What sort of role-model are you to our children if you stoop so low as to publicly "hate" someone?

Okay, so I'm trying to cool off. It's tough to do in a state that once claimed Jesse Ventura as Governor and where Michele Bachmann was re-elected.

I digress. Back to Rep. Dean and his complaints.

Dean's (weak) argument is in response to the the Stillwater Library using $45K in Legacy Funds, which are dollars set aside for cultural and artistic projects as well as outdoor and parks-related projects, to pay for Gaiman's speaking fees and travel costs.

The argument grew yesterday when Rep. Dean suggested CUTTING "$45,000 from the Twin Cities' regional library system budget to make up for the state Legacy money it paid last year to Gaiman." Read the article here.

Why are we penalizing the library system for bringing a world-renowned author in for a FOUR HOUR appearance? I wish I would have known about this because I would've loved to attend. But what saddens me even more, was reading how the Metropolitan Library Service Agency apologized to the House of Representatives for using "poor judgement" in arranging the appearance. 

No, you didn't use poor judgement! You spent good money, which was then donated to charity per Neil Gaiman's blog, to bring in a Newbery AND Carnegie Medal winner. Don't apologize, this is EXACTLY what the Legacy funds are for, to bring these types of cultural events to the people of Minnesota.


Okay, I have to admit, the alleged $2700 in travel expenses is questionable, but conducting a line-item audit isn't the issue here.

My real issue is how elected officials and our very own newspaper are treating an author. The sub headline in the paper calls Gaiman a "celebrity author." No. He's an author. Period. A celebrity author is someone who is a celebrity first, and then pays someone to writes a memoir. 

And the final straw? When Rep. Dean apologized to Gaiman--because his mother told him to--Dean made one final ass of himself by joking he "had likely made enemies among Star Trek fans." 

Thanks for lumping all science fiction and fantasy together under the aegis of Star Trek, Rep. Dean. Clearly, you need to read more. You should head to your local library and... oh wait. That's right. You want to cut them by $45,000. 

* I thought Gaiman lived outside of the Twin Cities metro area, but the Star Tribune says he actually lives in Wisconsin. Where he lives doesn't and shouldn't matter, so I'm not going down this rabbit hole to figure it out. He's a private citizen who is allowed to live wherever he wants.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What's in a title?

Man, I love the blogosphere. In the past two days especially, I have read some real thought-provoking blogs. One of those blogs was from Adventures in Children's Publishing. The author wrote a blog on my biggest headache in writing. 

Nope, not character development, tropes, prologues, or editing.

Coming up with a book title. (Dun dun duuuun!)

I encourage you to check out the blog, but you might want to take notes about the whole PRISM thing. Or maybe that was just me and you all have a solid idea on your story's title. If that's the case, then I'm super jealous.

I started looking at books in my genre and noticed a trend. MG books seem to use the MCs name in the title. 

Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Jacob Wonderbar (Congrats, Nathan!), Ramona Quimby and even Nancy Drew!

So why would I try to do something different when it is already so widely accepted to use the main character's name? My wip working title is lame. I came up with it; I can call it lame. The past two days I've been thinking about how I can make my story's title more dynamic and I think I've narrowed it down to a short list.

While thinking about title, naturally, I've moved over to considering cover design, but I'll save that topic for another day. I think it will involve cartoon images, whimsical drawings, and project a light-hearted theme but I'm still trying to break out of a deeper, more mystical, YA-type image, so there's some reshuffling that needs to be done in my head. Like I said, that's for another day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

And for my next act...

Anyone else find themselves asking, what now?

The A-Z blogging challenge is over. As a result of the month-long extravaganza, I have new bloggy friends whose blogs I follow and according to my Google friend connect, I have about 34-ish people who read my blogs. Holy crap. You're reading this! (I'm not sure if that statement warrants an exclamation point or a question mark.)

But now that I don't have a letter prompt and the daily pressure, I'm not sure what to do. But, I'm going to jump out on a leap of faith that some people will still read this, even after the challenge ends.

If I'm going to do this right, I need to pay closer attention. Sommer Leigh's College of Blogging series pointed out great tips that I was missing, so I kind of have my own checklist of what to/not to do. This is a great help. Thanks, Sommer!

I think whatever I do next needs to be well thought out, so bear with me while I take a few days to regroup. I like blogging and I think a MWF set up is good, but perhaps ambitious. There's no reason why I can't start T/Th and add one more blog a week instead of biting off more than I can chew.

I also need to take some time and really focus on my WIP. I'm feeling the bubbling of excitement to pull together the ending that has eluded me for so long. Once that's in place, I can head back to page one and basically write the whole thing over. That part isn't very exciting at all, but I feel like my story is transforming from its original lump of clay into a respectable bowl or vessel. And while it's not yet museum-quality pottery, it's better than the lump.

It's late and my clay/pottery analogy is getting out of hand. Suffice it to say that I will continue blogging because this is fun, good practice, and I have friends I'd like to keep in touch with. When not blogging (or running or working), I am working on my WIP. I hope to pull the prologue for Margo and rework my "info dump" in a more artistic manner throughout the book.

We'll see.

In the meantime, 13 more days until my very first half marathon. Holy crap.
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