Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Stay at Home Mom rant

You know I've been thinking I should start up a "pet peeve of the week column" thing here on my blog. Then once a week I can pick something that annoys me and write about it. Then I thought perhaps my pet peeve of the week column might become someone else's pet peeve. :-)

Anyway today's is about people who think that SAHM's do nothing but sit around watching soaps. First of all let me say I'm not fond of my neighbour. In fact I think she's quite odd and lately I have gotten sick of her comments so don't take any shit off her any more.

Yesterday I'm mowing the lawn and as I shut off the mower, she comes out. Says now I've done that, I should trim the hedge, it's a mess.

My answer: Like hell. LOL In May a friend of hers trimmed it and I've done it twice since, and was planning on waiting another week or two and then giving it its fall haircut. And I told her that too. Of course she didn't move on so it was mentioned that my kids were already back to school (hers start on Tuesday). And she says how now I should have all this free time!

My answer: Bullshit.

I've talked to other SAHM's about this and find we are mostly all victim to the "you stay home and don't do anything all day" syndrome. Do people really think we all sit around watching soaps and eating chocolate all day? We're constantly being asked to babysit other people's kids, asked to take our kids, or worse, host, a playdate. Personally I write on average two to three manuscripts a year, I volunteer at my kid's school 2 mornings a month, I am involved in the music program at my church, I give my daughter piano lessons. I walk to and from the school 3 times a day. I make many of my christmas presents and donate to the craft bazaar at church every year. Added to that I make dinner that doesn't come out of a box or a frozen tray, actually iron our clothes, and really do "spring clean" every year. I try to do things with my kids, and we all read together every night. My day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. once the kids are in bed.

I am blessed to be able to stay at home with my family, but if anyone WANTS to be lazy, they can be. Just because I have time, doesn't mean I don't use it. And because my writing isn't making money YET doesn't mean I don't consider it work. I do, even though others don't. SAHM's do a lot of the things that working moms wish they could. We donate our time; volunteer, help out at schools and churches and in communities. If we didn't do that, we would surely be missed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Off with a wing and a prayer - and my own rant

It is finished. Yesterday I finished the polishing, printed my manuscript, drove to the post office and sent it off with a wing and a prayer. I have to be honest, I have high hopes for this ms. If a rejection comes, I will be crushed. Right now I'm trying to remain rational and hope for the opportunity for revisions. It would be progress. Anything but a form rejection!

I think something most writers do is think that the latest thing they've written is the best they've ever done. And for the most part that is probably true, especially for aspiring authors. I know I improve with each ms in some way. Truthfully though I really feel this ms made a jump for me. It may not get published. But I know without a doubt that this is the best manuscript I've ever written. And there's a lot of satisfaction in that.

I am taking a week and a half off from writing. Honestly my brain needs a break and I need to get caught up on some chores that I've let slide over the last 6 weeks. My spring cleaning isn't even done! LOL I plan on recharging my batteries so to speak and coming back to the computer fresh and ready to go. I have some school things to take care of, some music/choir things to get on the ball, and movies I want to watch that I've put off. The days will go fast and before I know it I'll be eyeball deep in a new project. And I'd like to try a new fanfic just for fun. They are great creativity boosters!

Michelle Styles recently posted a "slight rant" on her blog about historical inaccuracies in a book she'd read. It reminded me of a backlist Harlequin Romance I read a few weeks ago. Twenty pages in I felt like throwing it against a wall. The story began with several pages of passive language, an info dump of backstory. It broke every rule about openings that I know and didn't even do it well. If you are going to break rules you should at least do it so effectively we don't notice! It was full of telling and not showing and one of the worst I've read. And it was written by an established author in the line. This was no first book.

If my critique partners sent me that sort of an opening, I would have immediately suggested they rework it, make the info dump into a prologue (since the backstory was crucial), and make it an active scene, not reflective. SHOW her in her previous life. Show how demonic her husband was and why she knew she had to get out. Don't tell me after the fact that she'd married a monster. YAWN. For the next 90% of the book, she remained a victim. I really wanted her to stand up for herself and show some backbone.

Like Michelle said, it makes you determined not to buy anything from that author ever again.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Reading Sessions

Last night the church music director and I attended reading sessions. Basically you go, sing your little heart out for three hours, looking for potential arrangements for your choir, then order based on your selections and budget. (Which we will do after taking our "free" copies back to the choir and giving a few a test run!)

I was in heaven. We were handed a bag of arrangements - somewhere around the number of 60 I think. It's put on by a local business and their pianist is phenomenal - sight reads and gets it all right. Pepper Choplin, a leading composer in sacred choral arrangements, was our director and he was funny and simply amazing. I would guess there were maybe 150 of us, and even just sight reading it was like singing in this great, full, capable choir! You have to understand that our choir, when full, numbers about twelve. And I'm the only one who can read music. When faced with our limitations, we don't do half bad. Unfortunately it means it's hard for us to find music because we have to keep it pretty simple. Some of the arrangements last night were stunning but took some pretty intense sight reading. HARD.

Today I have another session. It's for more Junior Choir music, which we sometimes pick for our senior choir if it's easier and appropriate. I'm excited because I actually have a small budget to consider- I'm the pianist for the Jr. Choir too, so if I find something that excites me and the director approves I might actually be able to order it! My voice is a bit tired after last night's gymnastics, though, so I'm only slightly relieved the session is only an hour and a half.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's still me

This is still me, but I wanted a different template. Once I get this dratted ms in the mail, I'm going to see if I can't conquer the demon known as settings and html and do some funky stuff.

Monday, August 22, 2005

School's In!

The first week is over and school hours are finally consistent. What did I do this morning? Dropped my daughter off at Kindergarten, took a longer route and ran home, then for just over 2 hours buried myself in edits. No tv. No kids. Just...quiet. It was heaven.

Walked in the sunshine to pick up daughter from school, and she had a marvelous time. And I'll make the trek a third time to pick up eldest in...oh, less than 3 hours. Hard to mind the walk in gorgeous weather.

Should I feel guilty for being glad the kids are out of the house? No way. They are much happier in school - lots of friends, cool activities, strange toys, and time away from each other. They come home tired and happy to see each other. School is a miracle!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What's new at the Zoo?

I've been writing, steam cleaning my carpets, and getting my kids off to school. My youngest had her first day ever today, and settled right in. Not surprising.

I have finally "really" finished my first draft - I got my last chapter back from my CP today and revised that chapter. Now it's on to the edits and polishing and oh yes, that dreaded thing we call the suckopsis.

I did a word count and found out I'm just over the minimum, which gives me about 5,000 words to play with for a scene I must add in, along with some bits of emotion and clarity. All told I'm guessing it'll come in at about 54K.

I am also looking forward to getting back into a regular routine again. I am a very regimented person, so despite the fact that I'll be making several trips to and from school (kindergarten's only half-day), the walks will do me good and I will have a set schedule.

Plans are already formulating for my next project- revising half of a book I've completed and sending it to Avalon.

And THAT is what's new at the zoo.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How do you spell RELIEF?

THE END.

I have done it. I have completed the first draft of the ms. My CP has to tear apart the last chapter, I'll work on it plus the previous one over the next two days, and then Monday, right on schedule, I'll start the edits.

I am so relieved to at least know that I have reached the end, even though there is work to be done. It has been a hard week. Monday it seemed as though all I wrote was complete crap, the self-doubt demons had a party in my head and I was sure that I was just wasting everyone's time by subjecting them to this horrible attempt at storytelling. Convinced I would never get beyond mediocre to a story that stands out. (I'm still not convinced otherwise, but at least I'm not panicking about it now!)

Then, out of the blue, someone from e-harlequin offered to look at my ms and give me an overall impression. About an hour after that, I got an e-mail from an author in the line, asking if I'd like a second set of eyes to take a look - she'd spotted my first chapter in the Romance Junkies contest and liked the look of it a lot. I took her up on her offer and am very pleased with the results. I fixed the chapter where I'd gone wrong, feeling much better about it and my ability to actually revise something completely based on someone else's suggestions while still keeping true to the story I wanted to tell. Confidence somewhat restored. It's always a precarious thing, isn't it!

Which brings me to the subject of critiques. I have had some that raved and some that made me cry. LOL And by no means do I think anyone should enter into a critique relationship where the person looking at your work does nothing but tear it down and make it malicious. But harsh critiques are necessary...even, dare I say, GOOD.

Critique partners are there to make your work better, and as my regular CP said on Monday, sometimes it's "Time for tough love". What you will learn from having someone critique your work is up to you and how willing you are to open yourself up to it. You may learn that you need to grow a thicker skin, like I did at first. You may learn where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are, how to play to one and work on the other. And like I did Monday, sometimes you learn where taking constructive criticism ends and your own confidence and instincts take over. The chapter I revised is very much a blend of the two. The end result is that you will be a better writer...and in probably much less time than it would take you if you took the journey alone.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Nostalgia

Are there songs that take you back to a certain time in your life? Are the memories warm, passionate, painful?

I put on my headphones and a playlist during my writing time this morning. I was eyeball deep in characters until I heard the opening chords of a song I haven't listened to in ages. All it took was a few bars and I was instantly taken to a time fifteen years ago. It was summer. I had my first true boyfriend. And sometime in August, we broke up.

I played this song over and over that summer. And just by listening to it again, all this time later, all the feelings of that period came back. And not just feelings, but impressions. Of working outside in the intense heat of summer, feeling the sun soak into my bare shoulders during the day as I worked in the orchards. The coolness of dew in the wee hours of the morning (don't ask what I was doing out in the wee hours, OK?). The seductive feel of water on my skin as I swam in the purple twilight.

I use my senses to evoke memories. Sometimes it's a song; sometimes it's a smell. Like the scent of fallen leaves in October, or the damp earth after a rain in a drought. The feel of snowflakes fluttering on your face - the big ones the size of your thumb. It's the only way to truly experience life instead of just going through it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Distractions and other procrastination techniques

I am finding writing pretty difficult these days.

I am also very ready for school to start again. I'm not sure if it's boredom on the part of my oldest, but we've had attitude issues and sisterly fights the past few weeks. I've delivered various sermons and imposed several punishments.

The latest comes in the middle of injecting a scene with emotion and conflict. Here I am, trying to get the heroine's feelings across - she's torn, she loves the Hero but knows he is about to hurt her...and enter bickering children.

Deliver ultimatum: stop fighting and play nice or it's off to your rooms and taking the toy in question away. Said in very loud scary voice.

Look back at document at screen and realize I've completely lost my train of thought, not to mention the "feeling" of the moment. Smack forehead with frustration.

Other procrastination techniques: updating blog. LOL

Next up - checking e-mail. I really do better when I work on the laptop, not hooked up to internet. (Chants: discipline, discipline!)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

You CAN fix a blank page!

I think I jinxed myself with my last post, LOL. Things sort of ground to a halt over the weekend.

I wrote 8 pages of a "black moment" kind of scene....and revised it three times. And it STILL wasn't working the way I wanted. Didn't matter how much I tried, I knew I was being way too easy on my characters. I had to make it more emotional, more angry, more desperate.

While trying to fall asleep Saturday, I said to my dh, "I think I need to delete it."

So I did - saved it to another file, of course, but re-wrote those 8 pages and it's going better. For a very long time I've been terrified of the delete key....but really it is your friend! I am not afraid to use it now. I would rather delete something and make it fresher, more vibrant, than revise until I say, "That's as good as it gets, it'll have to do."

Nora Roberts is famous for the quote "You can't fix a blank page" (actually, she's famous for a lot of things and this is pretty minor in comparison!). I challenge that in my own warped sort of way. Because revising that scene didn't inject the life or conflict I needed. What it really needed was a nice, clean, white space in which to start over.

But, um, guess what's next on my agenda? You got it. Revising that scene. :-)