Monday, July 30, 2012

Those Weeks...

I have nothing particular exciting or uplifting to say today, but it is Monday and I like to keep a little consistency in the midst of the chaos ;)

It's just been one of those week, you know? Nothing terrible has happened. I can handle a major crisis. In the past couple years, we've face unemployment, my dad's cancer, major car accidents. I weathered those with faith and hope.

No, it's never the major things that knock me down. It's the small things.

Over the weekend, my toddler managed to scratch my cornea and break my Kindle within 36 hours. Not anything that can't be fixed with a whole bunch of eyedrops and shelling out some hard-earned cashed on a new e-reader. But enough to make me want to sit down in the middle of the living room and cry. Like a baby. And whine on Twitter, Facebook and my blog. Because seriously, it's the end of the world or something.

I think maybe that's one of the reasons I like fiction. The conflicts are so BIG. It's life or death, do or die. It's aching love and world-changing choices. It's not driven by the petty problems of an almost-thrity-year-old mother of a two-year-old.

I've done things like build houses in the slums of Tijuana, Mexico and visited incarcerated teenagers in their prisons. I've fed the homeless and comforted people devastated by tragedy. I know how blessed I am.

Yet in my pride and selfishness, I let the little things steal my joy. How ridiculous!

And how essentially human. It is so hard to see past our own little worlds and grievances.

I don't really know what my point is. I think these pregnancy hormones are getting to me. But I'm trying to get my perspective back, trying to remember how much I have and how little it has cost me. Save the drama for my writing.

How about you? Do the little things break you faster?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Creative Commons: Free Images for Bloggers

In case you missed Roni Loren's story about getting sue for using an unauthorized photo on her blog, you can read the whole story here. To summarize:

You CAN Get Sued for Using Photographs on Your Blog

(My CP Leigh Ann also blogged about it here)

This isn't news to me. In journalism school, they hammered into our heads the need to protect our images. My husband works in the movie business and has numerous tales of live destroyed because of copyright infringement. But it's a good reminder.

Photographs add visual interest and dimension to blog posts. It would be rather bland if we all stopped including picture on our posts, but most of us can't afford stock photos and fair use is just confusing. Sites like Flickr do allow you to search for Creative Commons image, which have specific licenses for use on blogs and the like, but even those can be confusing.

As an alternative, some lovely writers and photographers (including me) have been going through our archives to put together a collection of images that are free for any blogger to use. We'd love for you to include an attribution - basically something stating that name of the photographer. To add a caption in blogger, click on the photo and a box will pop up with the option. Easy-peasy and no risk of being sued!

Here's some links to free, Creative Commons photos for bloggers:

Creative Commons Photos by Jenny Kaczorowski

Creative Commons Photos by Leigh Ann Kopans (and here)

Creative Commons Photos by Cait Peterson

Enjoy - and let me know if you have photos you'd like to share. I'll add your links here!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Stories We Tell

Old Books by kraybon on flickr

We all have stories - stories that explain who we are, where we come from, who we love. For each of the people in our lives, there are specific stories that stand out - that in some way represent that person. Those are the stories that become family lore (like how my great-grandma refused to make cornbread ever again after one comment from her husband). They shape our perceptions and expectations of people we meet.

These stories have power. They're alive and they keep us alive. I never had a chance to meet my son's namesake - he passed years before I met my husband - but through the stories I've heard from the people who knew and loved him, I've been able to know him in some way too.

These stories can make us laugh. The one I use to sum up my husband come from first grade. His teacher, who obviously shouldn't have been around first grade boys, told him to glue his butt to his seat. He proceeded to get out his glue and literarily glue his pants to his desk chair. She recognized this as the act of defiance that it was and called his mother. My mother-in-law, the saint that she is, asked why the teacher was so upset. He did exactly what he was asked to do. Subversive little seven-year-old, wasn't he?

These stories can make us cry. The story goes that my great-grandfather spent his last day on earth in his beloved garden, preparing it for the summer. He went to bed that night and never woke up. That chokes me up every time. Or the letter Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou wrote home to his wife the week before he died (read it here: Sullivan Ballou's Letter). His wife, widowed at 24 with a young son, never remarried. How could she?

The stories we tell matter. The true ones and the ones that are true in our hearts. As a writer of fiction, the stories I make up sometimes are more important than the ones from my real life. The stories I've read in beloved books are no less real because they didn't happen. They still shaped me and informed my understanding of the world. 

Be careful with the stories entrusted to you - whether real or imagined. You hold the world in your words. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Inertia - Or Why I Must Keep Writing

Sometimes I write because I love it. Sometimes I write because the words are straining for release. Sometimes I write because I'm afraid to stop.

If I stop - if I let it go one day, it turns to two, then three. Then it's been weeks and I don't know how to start again.

If I stop, and my stories just become files on my hard drive, all the hours spent toiling over these words mean nothing. I. Must. Keep. Going.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Don't Stop Believing

Next time you feel like your artistic endeavors are going nowhere and you'll never find success, keep this in mind:

Journey never had a number one hit.

Success can be defined so many ways. Don't let anyone else's narrow definition keep you from pushing forward.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eleven Things

Sharp eleven by Caro's Line on flickr
The lovely Megan Whitmer tagged me for a post in which I need to answer eleven questions about myself. Because I know you all want to hear more about me ;)

So here goes:

1. What's your favorite song?

This week? Today? Ever? I mean, I can only pick one?!? Based on my iTunes play count, Light Up Ahead by Further Seems Forever is the one I listen to most that isn't one of my son's songs. And it is an awesome song:

2. How many times did you fail your driver's license test?

Only once. But I was almost 19, so I guess that's my excuse? Because I'm certainly not a great driver.

3. Who's your celebrity crush?

Umm... I usually have talent crushes (oh, Ryan O'Neal, you can write lyrics for me any day), but Johnny Depp is a perpetual favorite. Or Noah Wyle. And if I'm really honest, the Harris brothers from Deadliest Catch.

4. What is the most disgusting word you can think of?

Phlegm. Look at it. LOOK!

5. Don't you think Tombstone is the best movie of all time?

Don't hate me, but it has been many, many years since I watched it last. Like 15 or something. Then again, it's been months since I've watched any movie that doesn't entertain a two-year-old.

6. If you had to eat one food every day for a year, what would it be?

Without consequences? Pizza. With? Peaches.


7. What are your top 3 favorite books?

The Man in the Brown Coat by Agatha Christie, Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry and A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle.

8. Have you ever met anyone in real life that you originally met on Twitter?

Nope. But we need to change that.

9. What was your first job?

My first real job was busing tables at Bob Evans. It sucked.


10. How to make a PB&J?

I'm a glutton. I put peanut butter on both slices of bread, then jelly on top of both, then smash it all together.

11. Name one thing that majorly creeps you out.

I've mentioned this before, but fish. Creep me out like nothing else. I wake up in the middle of the night convinced there are fish in my sheets & panic.

(It's going to eat my SOUL!)

Now, I'm supposed to tag 11 bloggers to do the same, but I think everyone I know has already been tagged! So if you haven't, consider yourself tagged and here's my eleven questions for YOU, mostly based on Megan's. Be sure to link back in the comments so I can come find you!

1. What's your favorite album of all time?

2. Can you drive a manual transmission?

3. Who was your very first celebrity crush?

4. What is the most disgusting word you can think of?

5. What movie could you watch over & over?

6. If you had to eat one food every day for a year, what would it be?

7. What are your top 3 favorite books?

8. Have you ever met anyone in real life that you originally met on Twitter?

9. What was your oddest job?

10. How do you make a grilled cheese? Butter the outside of the bread or inside too? What kind of bread? What kind of cheese?

11. Name one thing that majorly creeps you out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Writers' High

You almost feel like you could fly without the plane...
by addicted Eyes on flickr

My husband is the kind of person who jumps out of perfectly good airplanes for fun. He rides a motorcycle as his daily driver. He eats those hot wings you have to sign waivers for before ordering. I, on the other hand, am still traumatized by the roller coaster at Kiddie Park when I was four.

But I'm still an adrenaline junkie. I just get my fix in other ways. I never did school projects earlier than needed - I need that panicked rush of adrenaline to helps me focus. (I swear I'm a percolator, not a procrastinator!) I read really fast to keep my brain firing at high speeds. I use loud, fast music to pump myself up.

And then there's the writers' high. You know that feeling when you dash out entire scenes in mere minutes, when your story flies from your finger tips and an entire world opens up before you. When writing is easy and you find yourself unconsciously mimicking yours characters actions and facial expressions as you write. When reality disappears and you are wholly invested in your story.

Best. Feeling. Ever.

I hit a writers' high this weekend, cranking out more words in a single afternoon than I did the entire previous week. Everything I wrote was beautiful, important, brilliant. I couldn't wait to send the whole manuscript to my critique partners. I was invincible!

Then it hit. The crash. Like any junkie, coming back to earth sent me spiral into depths as low as my high was high. It took me a while to figure it out. I stared at my work in progress. The words were the same. They didn't suck. But nothing more was coming. I opened notes from a CP on the manuscript I'm querying. They were great notes. But I couldn't even begin to process them. I moved on to revising my query. It was terrible. Nothing I did could fix it.

Fortunately, I have a great support group of other writers to buoy me back up, to assure me I'm not a rambling idiot (most of the time), that my feelings are valid, but temporary, to read, critique and reread my query until it shines.

Writing, while a solitary activity, is a group effort. It takes a village to raise a book. Or at least a writer. Today, the madness of the high and the despair of the crash are both gone, settling back into my usual optimism that my writing is almost there. Today I am incredibly grateful to my fellow writers for carrying me through the mania. And to my family for understanding when I get a little irrational over imaginary people.

I keep chasing the high. I keep fighting the crash. Because I'd go crazy without writing. Or at least crazier.

How do you cope with the highs and lows of pursuing your art? How do you recover when you've expended everything you have on the page or screen and need to refuel? I'd love to hear your tips!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lucky Seven

I'm more than halfway into my work in progress, so page 77 is actually in the right spot now and it only seemed fitting to share it (although I did cheat & move down a line to avoid a total spoiler).

In case you forgot, here are the rules for the Lucky 7 Meme:

Go to page 77 in your current MS/WIP
Go to line 7
Copy down the next 7 lines--sentences or paragraphs--and post them as they're written. No cheating.
Tag 7 authors.
Let them know.

Consider yourself tagged if you have something to share & link back to my comments so I can come find you!


Raiden tilted his face toward her, the same misery in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, the water-like quality of his voice flowing over her.

Cambria stopped and caught his hand. “No. Don’t regret this.”

He shoved his hand through his hair, scattering strands of black and blue and green in the sunlight. “There’s no way this ends without me hurting you. That sucks.”

“They say ‘sucks’ in the Heaven?”

“It’s the Heavens, not Heaven. I know as much slang as you.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Second Time Around

pen by FlorianMecl on deviantART

The Alterae is my third finished writing project. Finished in terms of having a beginning, middle and end. My first two are short, they have all kinds of PoV issues and they were really more for practice than anything else. TA is the first thing I finished that I thought might have potential beyond amusing my friends and family.

Throughout the drafting process, I didn't share TA with anyone. I'd already revised four times before I showed it to a soul. But in the time since I started sending it out into the world, I've built a community around myself and my writing. I've developed friendships and critique partnerships. I've joined other writers on their journeys toward publication - through first manuscripts, second manuscripts, the query trenches, contest after contest and signing with dream agents.

So here I am now, halfway through my next projects (I posted an excerpt here) and it's completely different from writing TA. There's a level of excitement and, to some degree, expectation. I've sent various scenes around to my CPs, asking for feedback and validation. I'm less sure of myself and my story, even though I have positive reinforcement everywhere I turn. My CPs are actually excited to get their hands of this thing! I even have a few requests from agents to see my next project. I want to finish it NOW!

At the same time, it's starting over. I've developed the world of the Altered over years. I wrote the very first scene (posted here) ten years ago during a summer micro econ class in college. For this story, I'm making it up from scratch. It's a vague idea I've had kicking around since junior high, but I wrote the first scene for this project in mid-January. Coming up with a new story, a new world, new characters (and getting into their heads) is a lot of pressure, especially because I have something else out there. I've developed a style and a voice through TA. What if this one isn't as good? What if I let people down?

With a first attempt, there's no expectations, but it's the same kind of cheerleading either. So good and bad, it's a totally different journey the second time around. Kind of like having a second kid...

Do you have any tips for writing a second manuscript?