Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Writing--Baking Cookies

Today is my daughter's eleventh birthday, and, as we've done for the last eight years (except for last year, since we moved out of our house the day before her birthday), we have invited kids over for a Cookie Decorating Party.

Honestly, if you have a child with a birthday near any major holiday, this is a great idea. Bake a bunch of sugar and gingerbread cookies (I make the gingerbread ones with whole wheat flour), whip up some bowls of frosting in various candy colors, fill a few more bowls or shakers with various kinds of sprinkles,  and voila! You've a bona fide cookie party.

Even better, party games, goody bags, and other time fillers are completely unnecessary. Kids will decorate cookies for hours without getting tired, especially if they eat while they decorate. And a few gift boxes will make it easy for the kids to take home cookies for all their relatives, effectively removing the cookies from your home.

It's all win-win. Except for one thing: I'm not writing.

I'd laugh about this... but I can't. I find it distressing. And my distress makes me feel guilty, for I shouldn't resent this birthday taking writing time. Ugh.

I'm putting my smily face on now. Then I'm off to bake. Tomorrow, I write.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting Organized

As my post on my other blog details, I've been busy writing, running around, wrapping presents, decorating, baking, and doing a lot of other junk.

Very soon, though, this blog will rev back to life in ways it never has. I have big plans for it, and hopes and dreams, almost as big as those for my novels and plays. I will keep you posted, so look for me in a week or two!

(And thanks for being so patient with me!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wallowing in Mud

The frenzy of NaNoWriMo is over, and I'm, naturally, sick with a cold. But I won.

Yes, I WON!!!

Don't get your panties too much in a wad with excitement for me, though. I'm still writing on the manuscript, yes, and I'm now a little over 52,000 words, so I haven't completely given up on it yet, or anything... 

But I wince thinking about it. It's pretty much crap. It's melodramatic, too formal in its dialogue, and, oh my GOD, I think the protagonists save each other about a dozen times! Sheesh! No one could possibly be in this much danger! 

Still, I have to just wallow in the mud a bit... get it oozing between my toes, smell it, even feel the grit of it on my tongue. (Yes, I know how gross that sounds.) But it should get better. I love revising, even if I wish it weren't that utterly necessary (though it is, in my case). I am not, and never will be, the writer who puts a brilliant first draft down on paper. 

Nope, I'm the dork wad who writes something a seventh grader would gag over--something no sane person would call good writing--and then I revise the hell out of it until it shines like a brand new Cadillac.

I just make sure I don't show any of the muddy version(s) to anyone, even friends. I want to keep my friends, after all.

How 'bout you? Are you brilliant first, or does it only come with a LOT of hard reworking/rewriting/revising? 

Or do you know?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lament for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo's coming soon
And millions will by typing
Their goal? A thousand words by noon
--no blogging and no Skyping!

They'll churn out words by leaps and bounds
Resist the urge to edit
Until they've won their writing crowns
And earned their "winner" credit

December first will end the rush
And make the agents cringe
For they fear the impending crush
Of horrid books formed in a rush
By writers on a binge.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not Writing--Planning (Or Is That Writing?)

Why do I find it so hard to write without a plan? I read about so many who are "pantsers," who write with abandon, with little idea of where their story will go, who will be involved in its development, even where it will be set. They just pick up and start writing.

I. Can't. Do. That.

I can't. I've tried. Sure, I can get words down on paper, but I'll spend pages and pages going nowhere (or heading in the wrong direction), and I'll waste all kinds of time writing blather that will only be deleted in entirety when I revise. Heck, even when I outline I end up writing a bunch of stuff that disappears as I edit... it only gets worse when I try to head off without a plan.

So I spent two days "planning" my short story about chocolate. TWO days! It's just like when I paint--I take twice as much time to sketch out what I'm going to paint as I do painting it.

What about you? Is your magic in your planning, or do you have the ability to sort things as you go, letting the characters act as they will and recording their progress with no idea where it will end up?

While I await your answers, I'm off to finish my story--or revise my outline. I know, it's pretty pathetic. But it's what I do, and it works for me (mostly), so I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting Sick

My son was a beast for the babysitter yesterday, and at two a.m., I discovered why.

Ear infection. That's pretty much the perfect way for my son to feel out of joint. I treated his ear, then did it again at 4:30 a.m. He's sporting a fever as well, so it's no school for him tomorrow.

That means my busy week is over! Yes, I did have a Zumba class scheduled, along with a work lunch with a local librarian... but I'll have to cancel, so that my little one can snuggle next to me and feel sick at home (instead of coughing on all the kids at school). My nose is starting to run, too. Darn!

The silver lining? Except for sweeping and cleaning bathrooms--which simply can't wait any longer--I get to write ALL day long. That's good, too, since I have a children's story to turn into verse form and a death by chocolate story to write out over the weekend so that I can polish it up next week. Plus I need an OUTLINE for my NaNoWriMo novel.

So, why am I writing on this blog? No idea. I guess I just wanted all of you know the ugly voices have been pretty quiet over the last few days since the last post. And they'll likely grow even quieter, since I'll be snuggling up to my son and my laptop over the next few days.

And a box of kleenex.

BTW, how does one disinfect a laptop?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anything But Writing!

I managed, with fantastic creativity, to avoid writing all weekend. I can't write individual blog posts about it, though, for they'd last two weeks, so I'll just list them:

Cleaned out the pool filters
Cut out a costume for my daughter (why do I make things from scratch?)
Nearly finished a costume for my daughter
Spray painted a fan and hat silver
Cleaned more
Took out the trash
Did dishes
Made several meals
Practiced Zumba
Watched two movies
Read a book (hated it)
Cleaned more
Went to church
Captured a lizard and set it free outside the house
Helped kids with their piano practice
Played video games

I'm sure I'll think of a dozen other activities I found to keep from writing. Why do I do this, when all I want to do is write? I have a crayon story absolutely burning to be written, and another one about chocolate which is blooming in my head, too. My kids were in bed before eight, but when I sat down to write, finally, at the end of a long weekend, I just couldn't make myself do it.

I guess now is the time. Signing off. I still have two hours before the kids wake up and get ready for school. That's one huge benefit from waking up super early every morning. I might actually get something written!

Unless I can find something else to do instead...

Friday, October 14, 2011

All the People All the Time

I've decided I'm quitting. No more writing for me, not until my novel sells. And sells big.

Some writers have big goals--being famous, getting millions of dollars, blah, blah, blah. I don't care about the money, or the fame. But I want every single person in the whole wide world to love my book. Not just a sort of "Meh, I guess it was okay." I want them to adore it, buy ten copies for friends, read it every morning before they go to work, sleep with it under their pillows.

After all, any book worth anything is loved by everybody, isn't it? Doesn't everybody love Shakespeare? Stephen King? The Harry Potter series? Jane Austen? The Bible? Okay, perhaps not everybody loves all of this--but they would, if they liked reading? Right?

Then again, isn't the second most published book, after The Bible, Hitler's Mein Kampf? And wasn't Huckleberry Finn banned?

You know where this is going, right? I don't have to spell it out for you, do I?

Know this: I'm not quitting. And if only 1 in 5 people who read my book like it--and even if only 5 read it--that's one person I've touched.

And that's all I need. That's all you need, too.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ha! Ha!

Can't post right now--too busy writing! Yup, writing! I'm actually writing! I said I wouldn't, I tried all I could to avoid it, but I'm doing it anyway. So there!

Nanny nanny boo boo!

(Hope you're writing too too!)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not Writing--Going to Conferences!

I have always found that the best way to avoid doing something is to talk about doing something, on and on, until you and everyone around you are thoroughly sick of it.

I was dangerously close to working on one of my novels--I had the whole Saturday free!--so I took the best step I could to avoid writing: I attended a writing conference. Actually, it was a writing "master class."

Somehow I found a fellow writer to go with me--another novelist who tends to write in the YA lit category--and we traipsed down to Tallahassee for a class on character building. A pretty lame class, actually (though most of the writers there seemed to really like it). Since we were also both educators, our main beef was with the format of the class. For instance, the presenter had a system for identifying the kinds of elements in one's novel using many colors of highlighters. A pretty cool system. Only we didn't even begin working on the manuscripts we brought until nearly the end of the all-day session. And it wasn't until AFTER we'd highlighted our own manuscripts that she brought out a "practice" sheet for us to all work on together so that we could understand what we were doing.

She also spent a good bit of time (and several handouts) advertising her future online and in-person workshops. And her daughter's. And her 350-page lecture packets. If she'd actually published any books of her own, I'm sure she would have been selling those, too.

Still, I thought, it's not a total waste. After all, it did keep me writing for ELEVEN hours. That in itself would be worth the money spent, since I've been having a really hard time lately keeping myself from writing.

Only it didn't really help. I took the first fifteen pages of my manuscript, and despite the instructor's method, the highlighting made it clear that the reason I hated the beginning of my book is that I had 7 pages of back story right at the beginning, instead of starting the novel in the middle of the action. Eureka!

Now I'm all pumped about cutting that crap out and sifting it in slowly (or dumping most of it). And now I'm bursting to write more, to finish up the last tidying of The Ghost Portal manuscript and query letter (and agent listing) so that I can get to revising this haunted house novel. The only reason I didn't work on it last night is that I was exhausted, but I woke up at 4:15 this morning, ready to write. And the kids are asleep until at least 6:30... so I can't start vacuuming, do laundry, or wash dishes yet.

Must. Find. Something. Else. Now!

(Any ideas?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Won't Make It

Just ask anybody. Hell, ask me!

When I'm 82, I'll have my whole house pasted with rejection slips--even the outside!--and a hundred or so "finished" manuscripts stuffing my filing cabinets (I'll have to buy a whole lot more if I keep up this stupid writing). My poor grandkids or great grandkids, after I kick the bucket, will have to dig through all that moth-eaten crap. One of them might even try reading a manuscript or two, just to see if I really do suck as bad as I always said.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," another grandkid warns.

"I'm just reading a little."

"No, I'm not kidding. Grandma said it was all crap." This grandkid tries to pull the manuscript out of his cousin's hands at this point.

"Just a chapter," the first grandkid insists, shrugging it back.

"Okay, stupid, but I warned you."

This grandkid might even take the manuscript home and try reading it to her kids. At least until they say, "Mom, can we read something else? This stuff is crap."

"But it's your great grandma's writing."

"It's boring!"

But the manuscript won't get tossed in the trash. Instead, this little grandkid of mine--now an adult--has somehow channeled all the creativity and talent from the whole family into her little self. So she revises the manuscript. Or just takes one kernel of its ideas to use. And finally the novel I'd always hoped for comes out, beautifully written, meaningful, intelligent.

I'll read it again then, nodding. Sure, I won't make it. But that idea will, someday, somehow. And all this work will be worth it.

Wait. What am I saying? How can I be hopeful? Am I crazy?

[Slaps wrist.]

At least I won't have to see it. I can live in my discontented wonderland of rejection letters and griping my whole life, without interruption. Whew!

Now I'm off to rack up those rejections! Got a prophecy to fulfill now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Not Writing--Zumba! Zumba! Zumba!

As if I didn't have anything else I needed to be doing (like writing, for instance), I've recently taken on another profession. It's been another passion for me over the last five years, mainly because I can't bear sitting down all day on my squishy little tushy (and believe me, it's not that little--but it is definitely squishy). I've found that if I write without stopping for ten hours every day, my hands don't hurt at all, but my legs are none too happy. A bit of high-intensity Zumba works pretty well, though. It also doesn't resemble the moronic drone of the treadmill, but feels a lot more like dance than exercise, making it worth doing. (I've never found exercise worth doing if I HATE every second of it.)

Going even further out on the fitness limb, I earned certification in Zumba Fitness this last June, and in August I started out as an instructor with a pretty easy schedule: four half-hour classes per week at the local Curves. Not too bad. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I wasn't likely to get much writing done, but I could deal with that. The ladies there were lovely, and when I introduced the little coin belts for belly dance, they loved them, ordered a bunch (which I sold at cost), and we've had a fantastic time jingling around the room ever since.

If only it had stopped there. But, no, if I had Tuesday, Thursday and Friday free, that meant I might be writing (God forbid!). So when the Outer Limits Fun Zone e-mailed me asking me if I was interested in teaching some classes, I said yes. They said they wanted to start out small. I thought that meant a class or two. 

But no. SEVEN. Yup. Seven full hours of Zumba added to my week, in four morning sessions and three evening sessions. Even worse, the place offers bouncy houses, snacks, and big-screen TVs with Wii and XBOX games for the kids, so I can hardly drag them out of there once I'm done teaching a class. 

A perfect scenario, really. I'm tired. I'm getting a great workout several times over five days a week (and practicing new songs on weekends). The kids are getting a TON more activity. I've lost five pounds over the last four weeks (which is a LOT for me), and the flab on my upper arms is almost gone (phew!), and even if my tushy is still a bit squishy, I can honestly say "I'm working on it!" Even more, all the showering takes time, along with shopping for "work" clothes (jeans just don't cut it) and driving around from venue to venue. It's all good, and it all takes time.

Only one problem: I'm still writing. Yup, at the end of the day, when my throbbing feet need to be raised up for the evening (who knew my feet would feel like they did when I waited tables?), I open up my laptop and let my fingers move as rapidly as the salsa steps I took a few hours earlier. WITH this schedule, I've finished my revision of my novel, and I've even written and polished up my query letter. The only thing I haven't had time for yet is researching agents to begin my search, and I have enough time today to get that done and still clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, teach one more Zumba class, go to lunch with the hubby, and vacuum. Darn!

In fact, after all this working out, I am absolutely itching to write. This isn't working at all! 

Help me think, please, dear readers. What else can I fill the empty spaces with? What do you do to keep yourself from writing? 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Worst Query Letter EVER

I'm practicing up for my most recent submission process, and since it's been like TWO HUNDRED YEARS since I submitted anything, I'm letting it all hang out and showing you what I've got.

So here goes:

Dear Sir or Madam or Whoever (I would have researched your name, but that would take too much time, and I am really lazy):

You don't know me, and I don't know you, but I want you to publish my book. It's an anti-quest YA fantasy quest book of just over 61,000 words. I have three degrees in English, and I've been teaching English at the college level for years, so I think I know what the hell I'm doing when it comes to writing. I mean, you have got to read this novel.

If I haven't bored you so far with all the nitpicky details, I'd like to talk about the plot now. It starts off with a real downer, where Thomas, the novel's fifteen-year-old main character, loses his mom to cancer. Yeah, I know, it might keep people from reading, but at her death bed her brother Ian shows up out of the blue, and it turns out both he and his nephew have special abilities. Weird, huh? Anyway, after Thomas's mom dies, Ian and some other weird guy kidnap Thomas and take him across the country to some weird school.

Thomas goes through all sorts of adventures, from learning to kick a football to flirting with girls to being a wallflower at a dance to reading the bible in Latin without learning how... well, all sort of adventures, like I said. He keeps having these awful nightmares, too, and he faints like twenty times. Real powerful stuff. Finally he nearly dies trying to fix a cursed ghost portal, and it's really dramatic, especially when he doesn't die, but his arm is burned. You gotta check it out!

If you don't want to read this book, fine. You just don't know what you're missing. And don't try sending some polite "we just aren't looking for this kind of book at this time" sort of letter, since I'll only send an irate one back. Your loss, I say.


This Aspiring Writer

What do you think? Awesome, huh? Brilliant! Just the right attitude, with a bunch of meaning and a little bit of sass. Almost as fantastic as my novel.

You can write in feedback if you want to, but I won't take it. I'm very defensive as a writer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Not Writing--Saving Wildlife

Not satisfied to let me write with impunity, the grand lady Fate delayed me through one of the most effective means necessary: my soft spot for animals.

I was rushing home from a workout, ready for a quick shower and then a good hour or two revising my novel before I had to pick up the kids from school, when what should I, smack dab in the MIDDLE of the road, but a tortoise. And not just a little tortoise, the cute, shiny kind that a five-year-old might put in a shoe box and feed a bit of lettuce now and then.

This was a TORTOISE, with a shell 14 inches wide (that's 35.5 cm, for all of you metric people), a rough, dirty shell, and crusted mud on his shell and head. Here he is:

Only this tortoise wasn't sitting comfortably in a bed of grass as you see here. No, like I said, the goofball was in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. And he wasn't moving particularly fast OFF that road, either. Nor was he really crossing it, since he was pointed directly down the road. I suppose he assumed the road had been built for him, so he thought he'd just saunter down the middle of it, taking his sweet time to get wherever he was going.

I, however, have seen far too much roadkill to be satisfied with allowing him to learn his lesson the hard way. I parked the car on the side of the road, and went to retrieve him from his certain demise.

Naturally, he tucked his head and limbs inside his protective shell. What I wasn't prepared for was his throaty hissing. I stepped back a bit, and decided to pick him up facing the tail end (hoping tortoises didn't use defecation as a defense if someone picked them up). That dude was heavy, too! And the ungrateful thing hissed the whole journey, spitting at me like a cat, even kicking out his back legs to try to scratch my arms along the way (he missed).

I set him in the longest grass I could find, at least 15 yards from the road, pointing him towards the woods. He hissed at me again for good measure, just to make sure I knew who was boss. I laughed at him, then ran to get my camera so I could take the picture of him. It took me a good half and hour to find the camera, and he'd moved a good 8 inches by the time I returned. Just as I snapped the picture, a truck with a roaring engine and a king cab truck raced along the road, running over the very spot the tortoise had vacated.

I snapped a few other pictures, then crouched down to say goodbye.

The tortoise greeted me with one more nasty hiss.

"You're welcome," I said.

So there it is. No writing for me. I'd wasted an hour away--most of it spent finding my stupid camera--so I contented myself with unloading the dishes and vacuuming before picking up the kids. I have plans to write today, however, so long as I have no more wild, ungrateful lives to save from death.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bad, Bad Girl!

I'd blog about not writing today... but I can't lie. You see, I'm, well... I'm...

I'm writing!

There, I've said it! It's out in the open, and I'm not taking it back. I'm working happily on my first novel, loving every moment of it, and the voices in my head that would normally be telling me what a waste of time it is are silent as the dead. Maybe they are dead. Maybe they are just taking Labor Day off.

I don't really care where they are, or what they're doing, or why they are strangely silent.

In their blessed absence, I'm off and writing. And writing and writing.

Believe me, though, when those voices come back, I'll be sure to visit and let you know. Until then, may you be blessed as I am today, with both time and silence.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Not Writing--Tending the Sick

This week my free time has been spent on something more serious. Mary Jean, a dear friend of mine here in my new hometown in Georgia, was diagnosed with cancer, and, given her health, was unable to go through treatment for it.

Instead of writing, I spent several mornings and afternoons with this sweet woman, reading to her, talking with her, fetching her grape juice and ice chips, and holding her hand as she explained to me how sorry she was. She was ready to go, she said, but she didn't think I was ready for her to go.

She was right. I wasn't ready. But I was so grateful to have these hours to spend with her.

On Friday they brought her husband from his nursing home to visit her one last time, and her house was filled with friends and relatives. And late on Friday night, dear Mary Jean passed away.

I didn't waste a moment. Not one second of that time was a waste. I worked on my son's comforter while I was there, and for the rest of my life, when I see that quilt, I will think of Mary Jean.

And I did write. I wrote a poem for her, while she slept:


The birds are calling
For you
Mary Jean

You will fly
Too soon for me

I promise
I won't forget
The patch of sunshine
Lighting your angel hair
The books
The stories
The breaths we shared

As our two lives
For that too short moment
Before you flew

Before you followed
The birds that called for you
Into the sky.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not Writing--Cooking

You knew this one was coming. I just wasn't sure when I would post it. But it was the evanescent Natalie Whipple over at Between Fact and Fiction who brought it up, with her delicious-sounding recipe for lime cupcakes. Yum. I can taste them now, and I don't even need to bake them to do so.

Despite being a staunch pescatarian (vegetarian with fishy leanings), I really enjoy cooking. It isn't nearly as time-consuming as grading papers, but it also has some pretty fantastic advantages:

1. People get to eat what I cook, and tell me it tastes good.
2. I get to eat what I cook.
3. It's one more lovely thing to do to keep from writing.
4. Did I mention that I get to eat it?

Since Natalie already handled dessert, I'll take care of the main course:

Kid-Friendly Potato Chip Fish


several fish fillets, any kind, thawed
2-3 cups salt & vinegar kettle style potato chips (they are a bit thicker than regular)

1. Lay the fish flat on a spray oiled cookie sheet.
2. Mix mustard and mayonnaise together in a little bowl, two parts mayo to one part mustard.
3. Salt and pepper the fish filets, then spread the mayo-mustard mixture on the fish. (Oh, look, I even used alliteration!)
4. In a sealed bag, crunch the chips until they are broken into pieces. Then drop the pieces onto the spread mayo-mustard mixture.
5. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until the chips are a little browned.

And that's it. Of course, the whole prep for this, including oven time, is only about a half hour, so I'll have to make those lime cupcakes, too. Anything to avoid dragging out that novel!

What favorite recipes do you use to keep from writing? If you have them posted somewhere, give me the link. And don't worry, if you hate cooking, I have plenty of other ways to keep from writing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not Writing--EDITING

When I taught classes full time--which accounts for most of the last 18 years, even while rearing babies (yes, the term really is "rearing," an appropriate term for at least the first 2-3 years, when caring for the baby's rear is one of one's primary tasks)--I often used grading papers as an excuse to NOT write.

The excuse worked. Really well. Anybody would believe me. All I had to do is show my husband the ream of papers I'd brought home to dissect, and he'd shake his head sympathetically. And grading had to come first, too. After all, I got paid to grade papers. And writing, at least at this point, pays very little.

That knocked writing out all over the place. No way I can possibly do NaNoWriMo with all of this on my plate. Nightly quizzes, rough drafts, final projects, mini-essays. I was an English teacher, after all. Couldn't exactly run my papers through a scan-tron machine. (Any of you students and teachers should know what those are, the machines that read the sheets students fill little dots on. And they read tests zippingly, digesting and scoring 30 of them in a minute.)

I felt just like Cinderella, unable to go to the ball until I could get all my work done, find a suitable dress to wear, etc. So I sat around in my ashes, with my little purple pen out, grading away whole weekends at a time.

It was nice.

Only now I'm not teaching. And my house is pretty much all remodeled. Sure, I have a few excuses, but nothing nearly as good as grading. I've been reaching out, scrambling to find anything to keep from writing. After all, writing is a waste of time, isn't it? Hardly anybody ever sells a book, and even if they do it won't be successful, right?

I had to find some other way to fill the time. And now I have. I'm editing. For pay. This will be the third novel I've edited for money, though I have worked on many a friend's novel free of charge. Editing's a bit different from just being a beta reader. It's more in-depth, for it may be the last time anyone besides the author reads a book before it's published. Important stuff. Wouldn't want to miss a single typo or extra comma. What if characters close a door three times on a single page, but never open it? What if the ending is confusing?

And editing is FUN. No grade to assign at the end, and I know the author is serious enough to hire an editor, so I know my comments will have a positive effect on the final project. Nice. Rewarding. Time-consuming.

So I have finally found something to keep me from writing. I'm just sorry it's a temporary fix. In a few weeks, at the latest, I'll be done with the edit. I'll just have to find some other way to wallow in the ashes a bit more. Any ideas?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Hazards of Not Writing

I was slapped in the face this morning. Not literally, but I'm stinging from it just the same.

And it's all my fault. And it's all because I haven't been writing.

For YEARS, ever since I took freshman composition, I've been in love with the idea of writing a play about Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, whom I suspect wrote Shakespeare's plays. But over the past many years (too many to mention, believe me), I didn't write. I have tons of research for it, a huge collection of books on it, and I'd even made an outline of the major events so that I could someday write it.

Only now I don't have to. The movie is coming out in October, and it's called Anonymous. I've missed my opportunity.

Fiction writing is one thing--sure, J.K. Rowling has made the one and only Harry Potter, and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only happens once, but other fantastic characters can still lead beautiful lives on paper. I noticed, too, that yet ANOTHER production of The Three Musketeers is coming out. (How many versions are we going to get? The book is better than any of them.)

But Oxford's story should only happen once. I just hope it's done beautifully, that it is better than I can wish for, that people can see the irony, the tragedy, the poetry of the whole situation. Either way, whether it sucks or holds audiences spellbound, it's too late for me to write it. I've missed that chance because I haven't written it. Hell, I am probably still a decade away from having the skill to write it.

Then again, I'm not really writing anymore, so what do I have to complain about?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fighting Writer's Block

This post is really for all of you guys, not for me. Since I'm not writing. Not again. Not ever.

Seekerville has a pretty in-depth article on writer's block, and I've realized I have many good reasons to not write--more than I'd thought. Rather than work hard to eradicate the reasons (or get therapy), I've decided to just let my writer's block become permanent. Writing, after all, is just a waste of time, and I don't have the time to waste on creative play when I could be doing the laundry instead. Laundry, after all, is never a waste of time. People need clean clothes.

People need clean dishes, too. What are they supposed to use, paper plates? People need me to clean up after them, too. It's not like they should be bothered with picking up after themselves. Isn't that my job?

And the cat. Who else could possibly fill his bowls with food and water? And who's going to check the mail if I don't? Or sweep, or scrub toilets, or reorganize the storage room? I mean, really, why waste time on a bunch of rubbish that won't ever get published?

I guess it's okay to write, though. IF you get all your work done, and IF you've given all the time you can to your family you can, and IF they don't need you for anything. And IF you've exercised until you're gasping. And then taken a shower so you don't asphyxiate people when you sit near them. And IF you get all the other tasks on your list done first. IF there's nothing on TV. IF you've called all of your parents and friends this week, so they aren't wondering whether you've died. IF you've posted all your recent events on Facebook diligently.

Lots of IFS. It might be a long time before any of us get back to our work in progress. I know it'll be a long time for me. I could probably keep adding to the list, too, if I give it more time.

But I don't have time. I need to dust. Dusting... now THAT'S a worthwhile activity.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Not Writing--TILING

This summer I spent most of my time not writing. I did it really well, too. I hardly wrote at all! The main way I managed it was by filling my life with other projects to keep myself from writing. In other words, every day I listed out things I could do to avoid writing, and I prioritized them, making them more important than writing, so that at the end of the day I might manage to get most of those tasks done, but my writing remained unwritten.

I don't like to brag, but I did a fine job of it. Laundry alone helps, as do the ever-present dishes, sweeping, paying bills, grocery shopping, vacuuming, cleaning out the litter box, and other lovely chores. But I couldn't have done it without the bigger projects. One that took up most of the month of June was TILING. If you're looking for a way to avoid writing, this is one I suggest.

It does have drawbacks. My nails are still horrible, I got grout in my hair, on my clothes, and stuck to my arms, my house was trashed the whole time, and I hated cutting tile, but the finished product is undeniably good.

I was even more fortunate that I had a butler's pantry and hutch area to tile as well. Here's the completed butler's pantry wall, which I coordinated with the kitchen tile.

So there it is! Don't want to write! Tile instead! It'll take forever and make a big mess, and your fingers will be too scraped up and sore to write. It sure worked for me!

I hope to be able to post a bunch of other things I've been doing to avoid writing soon. I'd do this more often, but I'm not supposed to be writing, after all....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Writing--READING

In my quest to find stuff to do besides write (since all of you know I'm just NOT going to write anymore), I've come across an AMAZING pastime! Really! In fact, it's so great, you all just got to try it!

It's READING. Yup. Picking up an actual published book, opening the cover, and reading it. Amazing stuff, really. Even sometimes brilliant. Take, for instance, the series I've begun lately. It's a middle grade set of adventures, one I've been planning to read for a while. Cressida Cowell's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. And it's good. Funny, silly, imperfectly illustrated, but I read the first chapter of the first book to my kids, and my son tried to read the rest of it in one night (he's seven, but he reads more at the third grade level). I wouldn't let him, either, not until I was finished with it. I haven't been this possessive with a book since Harry Potter.


I've got a whole list of other books I'm waiting to read, too, including the rest of this series (I'm now halfway through book 2, HOW TO BE A PIRATE). I also want to reread all my SHINOBI LIFE books my sister sent me, along with a whole list of books other people have been recommending to me for years. Anything to keep from writing again!

I know what you're thinking, though. "If I read, I won't have time to write. And writing is the most precious thing in the whole wide world to me." Then again, if you're here, reading this awful blog post, you aren't writing either. And wouldn't you want to read something better?

So many writers don't do it, though, for OH so many reasons:

1. That thing I said before--it will take precious time from their own writing. (And they've already cut out exercise, eating, and sleeping.)

2. Nothing compares to the brilliance of their own writing, so when they read some published book they find themselves repeatedly disappointed in the author's lack of talent.

3. Reading just gets their panties in a wad because such a craptacular book was published, while their manuscript remains unnoticed and rejected, even though it's infinitely better.

4. They fear they might like something in another book and accidently imitate it. And their ideas must be original or they aren't real writers.

5. They've misplaced their Kindle, and nobody reads real paper books anymore. Do they even sell real paper books anymore? Maybe at Goodwill, or something, but that is way too low class for a real writer.

6. They can't afford it. Every spare penny goes to copying and sending manuscripts by snail mail. Or alcohol.

7. Reading might make them forget, even for a moment, how miserable they are as writers, and true writers are never truly happy. Alcoholics, maybe. Happy? Never.

So, I guess I'm not a real writer. I don't even have the alcoholic thing down, dammit. I'd wallow here, of course, and make this blog entry twice as long, but you don't want to read that.

Come to think of it, I don't want to read that.

I'll just comfort myself with a good book instead. And maybe I'll learn how to be a pirate while I'm at it, thanks to Cressida Cowell.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Writing Vacation

Whew! My horrible vacation out here in Washington, waking up to coffee and a fantastic view of Puget Sound, is almost over. It's been rough, I tell you. Walks along the beach, nice restaurants, wedding cake (not mine--after eighteen years that would be gross), sight-seeing, shopping at all the open air farmer's markets, gabbing with old friends and great relatives...

It was hard. Excruciatingly hard. And we only have two more days to finish up the rest of the homemade ice cream before we fly away. Like I said, it's been rough.

The only good thing about it was that I hardly wrote anything. At least not real writing. I've written scads of stuff in my notebooks about my characters for a novel I've been revising. The characters are truly filling themselves out. But will their depth translate into my revision? No idea. I won't let myself work on it until I have the character bugs all figured out. Maybe I'll never work on it again. It's a waste of time anyway.

Oh, and I did write a poem for my newly married MIL, but, remember, my poetry is all crap. Only she and her new husband appreciated it. Then again, they were the only real audience. Kind of like Emily Dickinson writing poetry for herself, and maybe that creepy editor she had a crush on. The stuff made sense to her, I suppose, and she really didn't want to know if it made sense to any of us. So it doesn't. And my poem probably wouldn't mean anything to you, either. I won't even put it in here, or all two of you who ever read this will just mock it in the comments (and I don't take criticism well at all).

I've also been working through research for two different books. For my mermaid novel, I've been researching life cycles and habits of aquatic mammals, disappearances and strange sightings in the Bermuda Triangle, the Spanish slave trade in the Caribbean, and ocean life in general (especially temperature and sea life changes at various depths)... and soon I'll be researching genetics as well, for various reasons I won't name, mainly because I don't want anybody to STEAL MY IDEAS, even if they completely SUCK (and I'm sure they do).

And finally, I just dropped a load of money here at a local bookstore, where I found books on Native American folklore and spirituality, mysterious creatures of the Pacific Northwest, and a bunch of other eerie things that will likely end up in my Thomas novels--which most of you will never read because they will never be published. I've only written one and a half of them so far, and my aspirations for them are about as likely to be realized as I am to win the Georgia state lottery. (Does Georgia even have a lottery? Don't know. Never bought a ticket. Don't intend to, either. I'm stupid that way.)

Wait! How the hell did that happen? All this time I've been on vacation, I'm still working on my writing. God, this sucks! I can't even keep from writing when I want to. When I'm on vacation. When I've promised myself I'm not writing anymore. When it won't get me anywhere. When it's just frustrating and filled with pain.


At least I can find comfort knowing nobody's got to read it. Ever.

Yeah, I feel better now. Bet you do too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

You Rock!

Man, but you guys ROCK! You've taken this website to heart, and I could not appreciate it more! I put out the call for bad poetry, but you've taken it a step further--NO poetry! Not even some vapid haiku or limerick about a guy named Hammet.

I know why it is, too. You know I suck more than you do. So if you turn in some crappy old poem, you know I'm going to make mine suck more. And you're too competitive, so you don't want me showing you up. So you take the high road. You act all, "I don't have time to write a poem right now. I'm too busy negotiating this four-book deal with Simon & Schuster and checking the upward progress of my first novel on the New York Times Bestseller List."

Of course, you're also thinking, "That Shakespeare thinks she's so great, but I could definitely make a suckier poem than hers, no matter how bad it is." Only you don't have to prove it to me--or anybody--so you just sigh and shake your head at me. Because I care. Because I put out the call to compete. Because I want to be worse than you, but beating me isn't important to you. At all.

I don't matter, do I?

And even better, I got no followers. No commitment. No lavishing of praise where it isn't deserved (because it isn't, and I'm the first person to admit that). Awe-inspiring stuff, really. I can't fathom the nerve, the self-confidence, the sheer grit.

I'm amazed. Even now I'm on the ground groveling in the wake of your awesomeness. I could learn a lot from all of you out there. I should learn. If I did, I wouldn't waste my time posting anything.

I'd love to know what else you rock at. I'm perfectly vile at getting my picture taken--"hag" doesn't do the pictures sufficient justice--but I don't advertise that nearly as much as my writing. I make sure the pictures are rare, so I can shock people when they least expect it.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Fan-Based Fridays: Write an Awful Poem

I know I should post a bunch of examples of my own horrifically bad poetry today, but my plan so far is to make Fridays fun for readers (and for me, of course). Your task? To write the worst poem you can come up with, along these specifications:

1. Your poem must use a high level of emotion--
anger, angst, love, depression, bliss--
you know, anything that might make a reader
writhe in his seat.

2. Your poem must rhyme--or try to. The more
obvious and pathetically awful the rhyme
the better.

3. Your poem must use a cliche. More points
scored if it uses more than one.

4. Your poem must use an obvious symbol of the
intense feeling you are trying to convey.

Of course, nothing is more awful than a poem that doesn't fulfill any of the poetic requirements, so treat these as guidelines, to be dropped when they don't suit you. And for those of you who claim you don't understand poetry, give me a break. Don't write in that you would write a poem if only you knew how. Just put the godawful thing down, and make it crappy!

And don't try to show us all up and write something brilliant. That does NOT fulfill the assignment, and you know it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm Not a Writer

I'm not a writer.

I've been trying for years to CALL myself one, to LIVE the life of a writer, to THINK like a writer, to BE a writer. But it isn't working. I can try harder, or I can accept the fact that it simply won't work. I'm not the next J.K. Rowling. I'm not even the next Barbara Cartland. My writing sucks.

I've been writing plays since I was six, but I'm not a playwright. I'm a thespian with quite a bit of theatre experience, but merely a fashioner of inane dialogue. My characters are sappy and lifeless, and they don't seem to accomplish anything while onstage. Boring, truly boring. My favorite genre, it seems, is "kitchen sink" drama, which most professional theaters specifically request not to read. I even have one full-length play that takes place in a kitchen. No joke. The whole play. And there's a sink. And people cook and clean and eat and drink tea in it. Just like a real kitchen. You can't get any more kitchen sink-ish than that.

I'm not a novelist, either, just a writer of very long, highly craptacular prose. It's awful, really, even after eleventy-seven revisions. Don't believe me? Just post your e-mail address in the comments, and I'll send you a sample. You'll believe me then.

And I'm not a poet. Sure, I can put some pretty images together, give them a bit of meaning. I can even rhyme poetry, too, though I avoid that as much as possible since the moment I start rhyming my poetry starts to sound like a toothpaste commercial. Don't worry, if you bother coming back here again (and you probably won't), I'll post some lovely samples of my best toothpaste-y sounding commercial/poems. Fabulous stuff. It'll make whatever you wrote at thirteen--you know, all that "Jenny broke up with me so I want to die" poetry?--look brilliant.

Realizing I'm not a writer is quite freeing. I don't have to make my query sound good anymore. Why bother, when the novel itself sucks? I can send out chapters without the angst. I can go through life without being disappointed when somebody hates what I've written. Of course they hate it, I'll be able to say. It sucks! What else were they supposed to do with it?

Even better, I can stop writing. Completely. No more writing. Except for some awful poetry, since it isn't really writing. And these blog posts. I've had all sorts of people tell me that's not really writing, either, so I can still do those. I can keep working on all that other crap, too, without the pressure of having to somehow miraculously make it not crap. I can even give all of you a few days a week to post your own crap. Yeah, that will make me feel better, to know that I'm not the only one who isn't really writing.

Not that you'll come. I mean, who would? So don't come back. You won't like it. Go find some encouraging blog to tell you that you'll make it some day if you keep working hard, that you just need to find the right agent, or not say stupid things in your query, or get the right beta readers.

But if you come back, don't whine. I told you not to. That you can't follow directions only means you're destined to suffer. As am I. If I see you here again, I'll just know you're hopeless.

Just like me.