Monday, August 27, 2012

Cat in the Headlights

This is the week that I finalize my short story for the contest.  It is the week that I start working on a pitch for an article that will bring in more freelance funds.  This is the week I am giving up soda.  It is the week that I finally get back to the novel and see how much closer to done I can bring it.  This is the week with two Back to School Nights spread over two days. It is the week before a long weekend, which means the day job gets even busier.  This is the week I decided to start getting back in shape so that my blood pressure (hopefully) goes down (and why, why does even typing those words make me immediately crave a honey bun?).

This week has me feeling like a
Cat in the Headlights!
This week is already kicking my butt.

(I will let you know on Friday how it all turns out.)

I do want to thank all of the beta readers that so generously volunteered their time and experience to help make my story stronger.  No two readers read it exactly the same way, and everyone noticed different things that they either liked or that could stand to be tweaked.  Their input made the story stronger.  I will find out mid-September if all our hard work paid off for this particular contest.  But if not, I think I will try to find a good home for this story, because I have grown quite attached to it.  (Geez, this makes the story sound like a stray kitten.)

One thing that this entire journey has shown me is that the hardest thing about writing (other than the actual writing) is that it pits my greatest desire and my greatest fear against each other.  You see, I really, really want to share my stories with the world and have them be read and appreciated; I am also terrified about sharing my stories with the world and having them read and judged....

But, I decided a while back that my fortieth year is to be The Year of Doing.  And, as such, I am pushing ahead.  There will always be people who don't care for a story.  Perhaps it isn't their preferred genre.  Maybe it touches a nerve.  Maybe it is too flowery for them...or to stark.

But then...then, if you are find someone who is genuinely affected by your words.  Someone who takes the time to actually TELL you that your story moved them in some way.  Then it is all worthwhile.  A writer can live off that kind of thing for YEARS.  When the bad reviews sprinkle in, those are the moments that sustain them.  So I treasure every bit of encouragement that my readers have given me.  I tuck their kind words away and hold them close to my heart.

In the meantime, I will keep juggling.  I will take the good with the bad...and I will keep tending to the small stories, the wounded characters, and stray kittens that inevitably find me.

If not me, then who?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This is Not Normal...

I have a short story that I just finished.  It is not my "usual" genre.  This piece is rather...paranormal/horror.  I would love it if some of you might be willing to beta read it and give me feedback.  It is just over 2,000 words.  I am hoping to enter it in a contest next week, and I would appreciate all the input I could get.

If you have the time to help, please contact me at gingerlovinmind(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will send it to you.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Know Better

I know better than to watch sad movies (right now it is Shadowlands) right before bedtime.  I know this, because I do it with alarming regularity.  I know that I will end up crying and one of my children will have to come to my rescue with a handful of crumpled tissue.  I know that I will end up with a splotchy face, a running nose, and one of those blasted after-crying headaches.  I know that my husband will roll his eyes, because he has seen this all before. 

I know better.

But sometimes you know something...and you do it anyway.

Especially on the first day of school, when your daughter comes home to tell you about a classmate who wasn't there because he has leukemia and his white count was too low to be around the other children.

Especially when you want to hold your children close and let the tears fall into their hair while you breathe in their smell.  A smell that is clean, and warm, and nothing like a sterile hospital room.

Especially when you have spent the day worrying about trivial things like messy rooms, and packing lunches, and lamenting the lack of air conditioning in your car.

Especially when you don't want to have to explain to anyone that what you are crying about has absolutely nothing to do with what is playing out on the television screen.

And so you look over the television listings and choose a channel.  You wrap yourself in a warm blanket like a cocoon, and you weep over Joy Gresham's cancer, and C. S. Lewis's loss, and little Douglas Gresham (and David Gresham, too, even though the movie doesn't mention him).

And you weep for the little ten year old boy who can't go to school on the first day.  You weep for the mother and father who had to tell him that he couldn't go.

You weep out of guilt at the all-encompassing relief you feel when you slide silently into your child's room and kiss them goodnight for the seventh time. 

You weep because, for a moment, everyone under your room seems safe.

You weep because you know better.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Authorly Admissions

The past month has been a whirlwind of writing and deadlines and interviews and back-to-school madness.  The good news is that I have been cranking out articles and getting paid to write.  The bad news is that I am not getting to spend nearly enough time working on the book.  I am still trying to find that ever-elusive "balance" that I hear so much about.  I am beginning to doubt its existence.  I believe that it is more likely that we teeter back and forth, vacillating between neglect and obsession, for all eternity.

Okay, perhaps that is a bit melodramatic, but I am feeling a touch dramatic at the moment.  Geez, this would be a good time to be working on the the drama into something productive.

I am taking some time off from my day job later this week, and I am hopeful that I will get some work done on the novel.  If you catch me online, feel free to scold me and send me back to work.

Here are some things I have learned this past month:
  1. You cannot please everyone all the time...especially not yourself.
  2. When you have no time to write, the ideas will come fast and furious.
  3. At some point, every writer will write something simply for the money.  Kids have to be fed and bills need to get paid.  There is no shame in this, but don't let the money make you forget the things you actually want to write.
  4. Sometimes you will have to burn the midnight oil...but when you realize that you are the one getting burned out it is time to turn off the lights and go on to bed.
  5. When all else fails, turn off the computer and go outside, then take off your shoes, walk barefoot in the grass, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. 
  6. And this quote, that I stumbled upon and which rang so true that it nearly brought tears to my eyes (which, to honest, isn't some great feat...I have been known to cry at certain Simpson's episodes, a particular poignant LifeSaver commercial, and a fair number of Doctor Who episodes).  At any rate, for what it is worth:

I have had to take a few walks this week, and more than a few deep breaths.  But I am still here.  Still writing.  Still holding out hope that this story that haunts me will find its way to people that will embrace it, and dog ear the pages, and copy out a line or two that means something to them.

Author August: An Interview with Laura Hughes

Since I have been laying low writing, lately.  Tomorrow is my long promised update about me and my projects.  But today we are graced with presence of the lovely and talented Laura Hughes.  Laura was kind enough to share her thoughts and wisdom with us, along with an excerpt from her current work in progress. 

1.      What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

Wow. I don't remember. Are we supposed to remember stuff from when we're ten? I have a vague memory of fourth grade, and learning about Florida and the Everglades, but other than that, not much. I know I read a TON of nonfiction that year, to write a massive report on the Everglades. I know I was fascinated with the local wildlife, especially after my dad chased a couple of panthers out of our yard. It was probably a book about the Glades, or the local birds.

2.      Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now?

Perhaps, since half of my WIP takes place in and around the Everglades! Gee, I never really thought about that before. I suppose it's true. Huh.

3.      What character have you had a “book character crush” on?

Too many to recount here. The current book character crush is probably Harry Dresden. Poor tormented soul. I just want to take him on vacation someplace quiet for a while. He really needs a vacation.

4.      Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why?

Probably my main character, Thalia. She's sort of like me in a lot of ways, and sort of what I wish I could be in others. She's a little less worried about the little things than I am. I wish I could learn to let go of the unimportant details as well as she can. Then again, I'm relieved as heck that I don't have her problems! I'm just a plain old human being, after all, and most of the folks in the world are content to quietly ignore me. Thalia, on the other hand, draws a lot of unwanted attention. Being a shapeshifter is bad enough, but if they knew she was really a dragon, she wouldn't have much to worry about for very long.

5.      Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?

I used to require silence, but then I started training myself to ignore background noise while I write. I wanted the atmosphere of music, but I didn't want to be distracted. Now, I don't even mind having the TV on the background. I don't even hear it anymore half the time.

6.      Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure?

When I start writing I always know where the story will end up. I have no idea what route the characters will take to get there. I mostly let them lead the way. I've tried plotting before, but I find myself stuffing every possible detail into the outline, which sort of defeats the purpose of outlining. My outlines tend to resemble finished novels, so I don't bother with them.

7.      It can be hard to feel like a “legitimate” author when you first start writing.  When did you first call yourself a “writer” and not feel like a fraud?

When I got my first rejection letter. Seriously.

8.      Are you publishing traditionally or indie, and what nudged you in that direction?

I'm querying agents, so I guess traditional. I think I'm mainly looking for just one publishing professional to give my work their stamp of approval. That would definitely be the thing that canceled any lingering feeling that I'm a fraud!

9.      What part of writing is hardest for you?

The Murky Middle. This is the part of the novel where I start second guessing everything I've written to that point. It's usually where I start skipping around, editing and changing things, instead of plowing through the rest of the story before I bring out the red pencil. This is where I start doubting myself, and doubt is really unhealthy in writers.

10.  What is your currently work in progress about?

Here's a short blurb of the novel I'm querying, Running Down the Dragon:

Shapeshifters have been allowed to stay in the U.S. in exchange for their loyalty to the government. They use their skills to handle military operations and criminal investigations that are beyond the abilities of the human soldiers and cops they work with.
Thalia Drake has been hiding her true identity to blend in with the shapeshifters. Dragons are able to become any animal they choose, and Thalia has spent the last six hundred years living as a werewolf. If anyone knew she was really a dragon, the shifters could lose everything. Her mother's disastrous and fatal attempt to convince the world that dragons were a force for good only convinced Thalia that it was safest for everyone to keep her secret forever.
When a murder investigation uncovers a serious threat to shifters, and an ancient dragon relic, Thalia's first instinct is to stop the killer at any cost. Revealing the truth could prevent a shifter genocide, but it's equally likely to doom them to her mother's fate. History is repeating itself, and Thalia must unravel the killer's motives before she crosses a line that could turn the entire world against her.

I'm editing the follow-up novel to this one in preparation to send it to the Critique Partners of Infinite Gloriousness. I started writing a third novel in the series, but it's mired in that Murky Middle at the moment. Between polishing the first novel, and editing the second, I figured I had enough on my plate at the moment!

Find out more about Laura, and join her in her journey here:

Tumblr: I occasionally reblog things I like, but not very often. Just a warning.
Facebook: One more warning, I haven't really done anything with this page yet, but it exists! Now I have to figure out what to do with it...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Author August: An Interview with Terri Rowe

We have several more authors scheduled for interview this month.  This week, we are lucky to have author Terri Rowe join us.  For those who have emailed to check in on me, I will be posting an update on me this coming Tuesday.  I am still busy juggling the book, the freelance articles, and the family responsibilities, but I feel like things are all headed in the right direction (knock on wood!).  I am also going to be off work (from the day job) for a couple of days next week, and I am hoping to get a decent chunk of time to work more on the novel. 

The Talented Terri Rowe

One of the writers that I have met through my blog who has been incredibly supportive of my one year project is Terri Rowe.  Terri is incredibly talented and is dedicated to pursuing her dream of writing, and I am so grateful to have met her.

1.       What was your favorite book when you were young?  Do you still go back and re-read it?
I had so many favorite books as a child. I loved the All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor-about a family of five Jewish sisters growing up on New York's upper east side-set just prior to, during, after WWI. I loved all the stories about the Melendy family-The Saturdays, The Four Story Mistake-by Elizabeth Enright The Prairie School by Lois Lenski. The bunny book was a favorite when I was a small child along with The Monster at the end of the Book. Every summer my mother read us Marion Holland's No Children, No Pets. I actually have a page devoted to Favorite Childhood Books and happiness on Pinterest. I often go back and re-read No Children, No Pets. It has become a family summer tradition. As a gift for my mother-I am writing her the sequel-I give her a chapter at each major holiday throughout the year.

2.       Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now?
I think it did influence me a lot. I love to write about families, kids, and mysteries. Those were all things I loved reading about. I was also a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock's the Three Investigators, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, and Nancy Drew.

3.       What character have you had a “book character crush” on?
I had a pretty large crush on each of the three investigators at one time or another-Pete Crenshaw, Bob Andrews, and especially Jupiter Jones.

4.       Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why?
I am working on a youth or tween novel. I really identify with Jenna, the protagonist in that story. I also have a screenplay that I have submitted to some contests and really identify with Petra. It seems to be a natural occurrence-to have some of my traits rub off on the characters I am writing about. The reverse is true as well. I want to try to be the type of person that they seem to be as well.

5.       How do you fit writing into your life?  Do you write early in the day? late? whenever you can squeeze it in?
I try to write whenever possible. I like to write early in the day when the rest of the world seems to be peacefully asleep. That is also why I like to write late at night. I am fortunate right now-I have been having layoff time for one week a month. This allows me to do some of my writing during the day. For one glorious week each month I get to pretend that my job and career is the one I have always dreamed of-being a full time writer.

6.       Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure?
I develop characters and write out some plot points and ideas. I need to have a basic guide to get to where I want to be in telling the story, but I do like to try out different ideas and see where the characters take me.

7.       Where do you get your ideas for stories and characters?  Do your characters tend to come first or the plot line?
I get ideas from people that I meet, from situations I find myself in, from dreams, and from my interpretation of my memories. The characters tend to come as a result of the story ideas or from my need to tell a story about a subject. I am forever writing notes on bits of scrap paper. I did this often over the years while working in the factory on production lines. That type of work affords you time to think. sometimes too much time to think-just not enough time to write.

8.       Tell us a bit about your path to publication!
I happen to follow a page on Facebook that has to do with an NPR contest called Three Minute Fiction. Last year I saw a post on their page about another contest for the MeeGenius Author's Challenge-for storybook authors. I had not had any success writing a story in 600 words or less-but I love writing stories for kids-so I thought I would try the MeeGenius contest. I made it through the first round-which was where the editors decided if you had a viable story and could follow the formatting guidelines they wanted adhered to-then my story was put in with 400 other stories for a popular vote. You sort of had to market and promote yourself through Facebook and other media. I made it to the third round-and my story was paired with a talented artist/graphic designer-and then my story earned a publishing contract from that experience.  It is currently on the top ten list for MeeGenius through iTunes.

9.       What part of writing is hardest for you?
The hardest part of writing for me---is dedicating time to the process and being honest with how much editing I might really need to do on a piece-because that is so time consuming.

10.   What is your currently work in progress about?
I am currently working on three more storybooks that I submitted for consideration for publication, a youth novel, a new screenplay, and I have a screenplay I am trying to shop around. I also have a blog that I try to write for at least half a dozen times a month.

I appreciate Terri's encouragement.  I respect her dedication.  I am so thrilled she agreed to join us and share her experience an enthusiasm.  Check our her story Green Goo, and make a note of her name--I am certain that you will soon see more work by her as you wander through your local bookstore!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Author August: An Interview with Lauren Ritz

The lovely Lauren Ritz
This week I am fortunate to be interviewing fellow writer Lauren Ritz.  Lauren is a wonderfully supportive and talented writer with a knack for building worlds that readers will delight in getting lost in!   

1.       What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
By the time I was ten years old I was reading five to ten books per week (my max was 7 in one day, but I was pushing it, and I'll now admit that two of those were picture books), sometimes staying up all night reading.  I really don't remember many of them (quantity vs quality, you know?) but I think I was deep into Anne McCaffrey at that point.  I had also just discovered The Witches of Karres, which remains a favorite.

2.       Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now? 
Absolutely.  I was voracious, reading anything I could get my hands on as long as it was fiction.  I've never shaken my prejudice against non-fiction.  I eventually narrowed that down to mostly Sci-fi and fantasy (real life was just so BORING), so now I write both, and often in combination.  I have a difficult time with fiction set in this world because I have to follow someone else's rules.

3.       What character have you had a “book character crush” on? 

Hehehe.  Miles Vorkosigan (the VorKosigan books by Louis McMaster Bujold).  Aside from being short, he's smart, flawed and just all around fantastic.  Stubborn, deep and I just can't help it.  I'd probably hate him in real life.

4.       Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why? 
I think there are actually two.  The first is Merla.  Through her I'm trying to come to terms with history.  Because of what happened to her she doesn't think like other people, and I find working through that very interesting.  I hope the story can eventually show people what the result is when someone is consistently bullied over a long period of time.  It's been difficult to make her real because my brain does backflips to keep from going there.

The other is Enna, a semi-aquatic shape changer in a world where difference is not acceptable.  The rest of the people around her are human, mostly.  She has a hard time dealing with people, dealing with the problems that come up because of who and what she is.  She is stubborn, a non-conformist in a world that demands conformity, and has a difficult time taking orders that don't make sense.  She's in a semi-military position and is always arguing with her superiors.  :)  I've been writing about her for a couple years now so I think she's the character I know (and like) the best.

Merla is closest to who I used to be, and Enna is who I want to be.

5.       Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence? 
It depends on the story.  I have a file of mood music, and if I'm stuck I might pull up the file that fits the mood I want, but for the most part I don't think about it.  If I'm deep into the story I won't notice, and if I'm not it's distracting.  Although come to think of it, that might be a way to get more emotion into my writing...

6.       Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure? 
Oh, I am definitely a pantser.  It makes for more editing in the long run, but I find it very difficult to follow an outline.  I have tried.  Real life isn't plotted, it doesn't have foreshadowing, and plot holes are the norm rather than the exception.  In real life secondary characters snip in for a few hours or days and then disappear.  So I have to fix all that while editing.  My characters run the show, with periodic detours when they try to do something exceptionally stupid. 

7.       It can be hard to feel like a “legitimate” author when you first start writing. 
When did you first call yourself a “writer” and not feel like a fraud?  I remember once talking to a friend about my writing and I started to say "that's what I do."  It came out "that's what I am."  I've always been a writer.  I remember in 7th grade an English teacher gave me credit for an assignment even though I hadn't followed the instructions--we were supposed to write a half-page description and I handed in 24 pages.  :)  Being an author--I probably won't feel like a legitimate author even after I'm published. 

8.       Are you publishing traditionally or indie, and what nudged you in that direction? 
I'm actually thinking of going in both directions.  I have a series of six books, five of them complete (although editing will continue) that I want to do electronic and probably through Createspace or something like it.  Build myself a platform while I'm trying to get the others published traditional.  I read the information on the publishers websites and most of them don't take unagented submissions.  The rest seem to want exclusive for anywhere up to two years.  With four books completely edited and seven more finished, I can't have each book with a publisher for two years--I'd be eighty before I got through them all.

9.       What part of writing is hardest for you? 
I never thought it would be this way, but the hardest part of being a writer is being alone, working alone.  I never considered myself a social person, but I find myself retreating into my own little world and have to force myself to go out and meet other people.  Otherwise I retreat more and more, I start getting depressed and it's reflected in my writing.

The hardest part of the writing itself is having to cut characters I love.  I usually compensate by telling their stories in a separate novel.  Which is part of why I have so many incomplete novels floating around.

10.   What is your currently work in progress about? 
I usually work on more than one.  Right now it's a duo (is that the right word?)--working titles "Lord Bar" and "Lady Silva," about a husband and wife who have to go in different directions, working toward the same goal.  I haven't written the query yet, but here's a basic outline.  It's set on another planet, where a small human population carved out a safe zone from an alien wasteland. After 500 years, that space is shrinking and humans may find themselves extinct. 

Bar stays in his Keep, trying to protect his people, while his wife takes their children to her ancestral Keep, which was swallowed by the wasteland several generations past.  Both work against the superstitious violence of the humans, who have been killing the one thing that can save them.  Both find that truth and reality are two very different things.  Lord Bar is at 78 K at the moment, and Lady Silva is at 73k.  Lady Silva may actually have to split into two, so it may turn into a trilogy.  Not sure yet.

That's one problem with my writing--novels tend to divide, like an amoeba.

Here's a short excerpt from Lady Silva--a description of the natives of this world.  Part of the scene this was taken from is here
, if your readers are interested.

Lady Silva had no words for the thing approaching through the trees, no words for the shape or the color, but it was well over two meters tall, and had claws. With that small familiarity, she was able to identify the things attached to the claws as limbs of some kind.

It was furred--she could see that much, and had a bump on one end that might or might not be a head. Perhaps those bulging protuberances ringing the base of the head were eyes. It helped, to find one more thing that she could identify, and if they weren’t eyes the thing had none.

It was a nightmare, a shape hidden and incomprehensible because her mind had nothing to compare it with. It stood silent, letting her look her fill. Others, smaller, appeared around it, scuttling on legs that bowed upward like a spider. The big one settled to the ground facing Lady Silva.

She turned her head, hoping not to see another, but was disappointed. The one behind was larger, and had its own attending band of large spider-shapes, each with a double-barbed tail arching over the back. The big ones had no such tail but walked on segmented, claw-tipped legs covered with a fur-like substance that wasn’t fur.

The claw-tipped arms moved aside from where they had been crossed in front of the...barrel, and Lady Silva knew that her assumptions were all wrong. The moving arms revealed a face, and it poked its head out of the body to look at her. What that swelling at the top might have been she had no idea, but because it was not swathed in fur she’d assumed it to be a head. 

If you would like to help Lauren with that dreaded writerly isolation, seek her out here:

Twitter:  LaurenRitz1
Facebook:  LaurenRitztheWriter
Blog:  Eclectic

Her website isn't up yet, but she is working on it!  You can also find additional samples of her writing here.  I appreciate Lauren taking the time to share some of her talent and wisdom!