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.