Friday, January 30, 2009

Online Playgrounds for Copy Editing

image I don’t want y’all to worry too much. I still believe what I’ve said previously about punctuation: It serves clarity, voice and story, not rules!

I’m still me. :-)

Several of you (in emails) have mentioned an interest in playing with the quizzes, or doing a quick, interactive review. The first list is a bunch of basics, but useful review.

I find the second list more fun and helpful, but please see the disclaimer.

Here are a few which don’t indicate the stylebook they use (MLA? High-School?):

This second list is based on the Associated Press Stylebook. I couldn’t find any based on the Chicago Manual of Style, which is often used more in fiction.

In my own fiction, I tend to use the Chicago Manual of Style, except for the comma. Several e-publishers tend to not use the serial comma and leave a comma out when possible, which is more in alignment with the Associated Press Stylebook. Almost all publishers have different style variations and quirks.

The main difference for fiction writers is quotations. Associated Press would have you put a colon before a quote with more than one sentence. This does not work in fiction, obviously.

The other difference is numbers. Associated Press spells out numbers 1-9, while Chicago spells out numbers 1-100. They both have their special cases, too.

I’m sure there are many other important differences to us, but as long as you keep those things in mind, playing the following exercises should be “safe,” LOL. Personally, I find knowing two different styles helps me know each one better, because knowing how something is different from something else is more than knowing how one thing is.

(Creates more pathways in the brain, you know. That’s a teaching thing.)

Here are some cool places I’ve found:

  • NewsU: The “Cleaning Your Copy” course is a fun way to review. It has a pretty format, too. You have to register (for free).
  • Newsroom101: This has 2,000 exercises based on the Associated Press Style. They’re funny, because every time you get one right, a little window congratulates you with a different message. It might ask for your username or email address. Either way, you don’t have to register, and they don’t send you email.
  • Ten Tips with Exercises: Associated Press Style, again!
Enjoy! So do you like to play? Do you follow one style precisely? Do you take the middle road? Use what you learned in school? What is your approach?

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dear World: I Want To Be A Copy Editor!

image Do you remember when I had that awkward moment with one of my pubs over comma usage? Do you remember me pontificating on the merits of “spare” comma usage? Do you remember me calling myself a “spare” comma user?

Guess what?

I AM NORMAL! I am not spare. I am a normal comma user. I am a 100 percent correct comma user! I am an A-plus comma user! I am a PERFECT comma user!

Me and commas? We ROCK!

I haven’t been to sleep yet. I’ve been up all night long taking little practice copy-editing quizzes all over the internet.

No one told me copy editing was fun! No one told me the ways of grammar, punctuation, and style were beautiful! 

So last year: 

My one pub edits without giving authors a STET opportunity. When I stumbled across an excerpt of one of my stories, I was deeply embarrassed by incorrect comma punctuation with my name on it. I just knew I hadn’t placed those commas there!

Turned out, I hadn’t.

I dashed off an email to my pub. I was careful to word it diplomatically. I think I asked if we could discuss commas after they had been inserted in my story, because I’d discovered a “few” incorrect commas.

(It wasn’t actually a few: It was a few per sentence.)

The new owner tends to come across abrasively, so I’m not sure if she was annoyed, if she thought me a prima donna, or if she was just being helpful when she said, “I’ll just tell him not to add commas to your manuscripts.”

I’m pretty sure she was a bit annoyed. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even look and assumed I was wrong, but didn’t have the time to deal with it.

image(I should mention I ADORE the person who edits. As a person, I think the world of him.)

But you have to understand: Bad commas were advertising my stories! It was embarrassing! They were changing my meaning! It wasn’t just a couple here and there! They were ALL OVER!

Anyway, this created a deep insecurity about punctuation in me. Not only did I read all four shelves of grammar and stylebooks in Borders, but I contacted an editor I knew at a reputable house and asked her to reiterate what she’d told our RWA chapter about commas. She sent me her stylebook, which I studied.

And yet, 30 grammar and style books, three publishing house stylebooks, my instinct, my knowledge, and looking at proof of my correctness STILL did not manage to reassure me! (*insert eye roll*)

I assumed he was old-school, and I was being “modern.” I assumed I was being risqué in my comma usage. I assumed that, when I found proof of my correctness, I was only paying attention to that which confirmed my beliefs.

But the tests? I am convinced! I am relieved! I am redeemed! Nothing beats an A+!

Please don’t get me wrong: I love being edited. It’s such a relief. It’s just, well, this one situation. 

Anyway, I’ve decided I want to be a copy editor. It kinda crept up on me, like writing did. I didn’t realize I enjoyed it, even though I’d read the grammar section twice over. And then Jon talked about doing it, and I thought it sounded like a blast.

So I’m off to study. It doesn’t even feel like studying. I can’t believe they don’t have a game that lets you play with this stuff, like Typer Shark for touch typing. They should have Copy Editor Shark. (They don’t. I googled copy-editing software games for thirty minutes.)

imageAnd I’ve run out of online quizzes and tests. I WANT TO PLAY! But I must get myself to sleep.

Do you have fun with copy editing? Do you enjoy studying the way punctuation and the like work? Ever feel insecure about something you know to be correct?

Ever want to redeem yourself, to show someone you weren’t being crazy, but know that would make it worse? Ever just want to kick yourself for self-doubt?

I probably shouldn’t have been so diplomatic. I probably should have just pointed to the commas and cited proof of why the inserted commas were wrong. I should have said I found X number of incorrect commas in a chapter. I really have to get over the whole I-don’t-want-to-hurt-their-feelings bit. I don’t know.

What would you have done?

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Readers Write Stories

image I love when readers write stories. You find it a lot in erotica, romantica, and fan fiction. These are not professional stories, and I think the majority of them do it for fun, to explore themselves, or to explore a treasured world, and not with any hope of writing professionally. They are often no longer than an email, and usually written in serial, posted to forums, email lists, or fan fiction sites.

I love these stories.

Some of them are poorly written, some of them are not bad, and some of them show a spark of talent. Some are great, even.

They are all special. Often they bring tears to my eyes. (All someone has to do is bare their soul and I automatically love them. I love people.)

Robert Heinlein said he could write a story for anyone, and I guess (only guess) the way he did it was to tap into his intended audience’s hopes and dreams.

imageIn these amateur stories, you can find your reader’s hopes and dreams. They are usually emotionally transparent, and often, the writer’s heart’s longings are laid bare.

I think that’s why I appreciate them so much.

My audience’s problems, hopes, aches, struggles and dreams are what I try to tap into when composing a story. If the main character is going to be relatable to the readers, then the main character needs to share one or more similar emotions. 

I suppose you can find those hopes and dreams in published fiction, but they tend to be more artfully hidden, less obvious. More about what the author wants, than what readers want. With readers’ fiction, what they want from a story is really out there.

I’ve heard of a couple authors who actually host fan fiction on their website. Do you happen to know who? How do they do that, legally? It’s very cool. I would do that in a second, if I could!

image My point, I guess, is what I always say: treasure the amateur. Respect all fans of writing. Bless, don’t judge. And there’s more than one reason to be grateful for all who write.

Do you ever read amateur or fan fiction? Ever take inspiration from the hopes and dreams they share? Search for that special kernel of heartfelt desire inside their story?

Search for what their heart is seeking in stories?

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Budgeting with the Variable Income

image No, this is not a post about how to budget for the self-employed. This is a post asking how to budget for the self-employed.

Given my baby goals, budgeting has taken on a greater importance. I have a budget, but it’s sort of a bare minimum budget, like: this is the do or die budget. These are my bills, and this is where the money goes first. The rest gets saved.

But I need to do it differently. It’s all very confusing. Everything is based on Ifs. If X number of students join, and if X number of students quit, and if I sell X number of stories, and if I write X number of stories, then my budget will be Y.

But, good lord, that’s a whole lot of ifs, and it’s all changeable at any given time.

I generally assume I won’t get the money until it’s in my hands. You never know. It could take forever, and I’ve even had one year where three students happened to quit/move away with $2K of past due money they never ponied up. (And 2K is not a drop in this bucket, let me tell you.) I’ve lived through corporate mergers, where half my studio moved to San Francisco, LOL.

image Writing seems to be the most steady at the moment. I’m grateful. I just need to write faster and expand into new markets. It’s difficult, because a large part of them have more potential in the long run, but often involve a paycut, or money spread over a long, long time. I generally need the money, so this is a difficult transition for me.

So anyway, my point is, with all this flexible income, I’m getting frustrated with building my budget. I feel like coming up with Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, and Plan E, all based on various Ifs.

I don’t know. Is that the way to do it?

Several of you are freelancers, or own your own business, etc. How do you do it?

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Oddly Enough

image I went through the Taco Bell drive-through, and when I dug out a handful of change to pay my bill, the teen offered to count it for me.

”I can count that for you,” he offered.

I was struck speechless. I had to check to see if he was joking, but apparently he wasn’t. It’s not like I had been dawdling; I’d just gotten it out. I don’t think I looked stupid.

It was sort of bizarre. Is this a new thing?

And then I went to Wal-Mart, and man. I was helped by the SWEETEST guy on the planet. What a nice guy. I mean, just really sweet.

But let’s just say? Not a real great problem-solver.

I asked for help locating an electric blanket. He glanced at the shelf, didn’t see it, and said, “We must not have it.”

As I surveyed the messy store, I said, “Your online stock says that you do. That’s why I drove all the way over here."

”It could be somewhere else,” he said helpfully.

For a moment, I said nothing, because I expected a follow-up, such as, “let’s go look over here,” or “let me ask someone.” But no, that was the end of his sentence.

”Is there someone you could ask?”

Bless his heart, he was so nice. I swear, just a real sweetheart. I am not kidding. I have not met a nicer, more willing to help employee in ages. He liked the idea, and immediately went to to ask someone.

image About ten minutes later, he came back and told me that no one knew where it could be.

”Is there a stock list on a computer, somewhere, which would tell you where the item is located?” I asked.

He was happy to take us to the computer and look it up, except he got on the internet and went to the public website I’d been to, and it told him that it was in stock.

This was unhelpful, as it did not say where in the store it was. (I refrained from saying: DUH!)

He asked another employee to radio the assistant manager to call him on the phone. We waited another ten minutes. No calls. When another employee passed, she said that the assistant manager had been on her cell phone, last time she’d seen her.

Okey-dokey.

He wandered off to find the manager.

image Ten minutes later, he reports that the manager told him that sometimes the website doesn’t reflect the actual stock of the store.

I repeat my question: “Is there a stock list on a computer, somewhere, that would tell you where the item is located?” I add: “A local stock list, which would reflect what you have in the store for real.”

”Yes, but I don’t have access to that. Only the managers do. They print it out.”

”Could you,” I asked (and we were past the 45 minute mark, so I was feeling a little snippy, so I did falter in my beaming smile), “perhaps ask the manager to look at this local stock list?”

”Sure!” the guy said. “Oh!” he said. “And I can look in the bins in the back.”

I beam again. “That would be great! I’ll be in the pharmacy area!” My voice is a little shrill with enforced chipperness.

But I’m afraid, at that point, I lost my patience and left.

I don’t really have a point to this post.

So what about you? Any annoying, funny, or notable shopping experiences lately?

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Shadow Goals

Seth Godin had a brilliant post up the other day, about the goals we don’t often admit on New Year’s Day, whether to ourselves or others:

What you rarely hear is, "I don't want to fail," "I don't want to look stupid," or "I don't want to make any mistakes."

The problem is that those goals are really common, and left unsaid, they dominate...

Think about how often your goal at a conference or a meeting or in a project is, "don't screw up!" or "don't make a fool of yourself and say the wrong thing."

These are very easy goals to achieve, of course. Just do as little as possible.

The problem is that they sabotage your real goals, the achievement ones.

Every good trait has a shadow trait. Neatness’s shadow can be compulsiveness. Striving can turn into perfectionism. Creativity can be eaten alive by disorganization.

shadow We can have shadow goals, too. A goal to get published can be crippled by “I don’t want this sentence to suck.” “I don’t want people to think I’m a terrible writer.” “I don’t want to write a query an agent will make fun of.”

I make a goal of my fears. I once made a goal to write one blog post that embarrassed me each week, LOL. I made a goal to come up with 365 stupid ideas, 52 awful pitches, and 12 boring proposals.

Whatever puts the shadow out in the light.

What about you? Do you have shadow goals? Ones that lurk in your mind, hiding behind your real goals? How do you deal with them?

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Values or Hobbies? And Conception Chronicles, Vol. 1

So political comedy isn’t dead, even with Bush and Palin gone. I love Jon Stewart. He managed to be hilarious, while saying the best things:

”If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.”



You so didn’t sign up for a blog filled with crazy rantings on having a baby, did you? I have decided I will be self-indulgent only on the weekends, and write about writing during the week.

A man just walked into the Fireplace Borders with the cutest baby. I burst into a tears, but when I looked at the baby, she smiled back at me. She smiled at me! She is so precious.

I’ve been tracking my temperature, but twice I got sick a little bit. I got rid of the cold/sore throat right away, but in the morning, my temp was up. (In fact, I discovered my temp goes up a day before I get sick, so next time I’ll Airborne Health it before I get any symptoms.)

Add to that trying to get on a new sleep schedule and going around sleep-deprived, and there is no rhyme or rule yet.

BUT.

This afternoon, I freaked. I got this obsession to throw the computer out the window. Everything was overwhelming. My house is clutter, my time is clutter, everything is a disorganized disaster. There is TOO MUCH TO DO!

And, like I do once a month, I thought to myself: I need to cut things out! I need to take a week off the internet!

Then a little lightbulb went on in my head. Knowing when I'm ovulating is easy. I don't need to know my temperature. I just need to know when I'm ready to chuck my computer out the window and throw everything in my house away. See? Easy-peasy.

Oh! I have the coolest new writing desk. I’m going to lose fifty pounds a week, LOL. I’ll take pictures and tell you all about it on Monday.

How’s your weekend? How’s your writing? How’s your world? I’m off to see Inkheart tonight, thanks to Mark’s recommendation. Have you seen any good movies lately? And did you catch the new season of Burn Notice? Gosh, I love that show! Totally rocks!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Poetics or Clarity?

Aside from choking on my sobs of happiness, the thing that struck me most at the inauguration was the poetic language. First, Obama:

”The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.”

image My first thought was “that’s beautiful!” But when I closed my eyes, I saw my internal editor put a big red line through it.

And it was not too long ago, when watching National Treasure, when I completely agreed with the character who, after reading the Declaration, said, “They don’t talk like that anymore.”

But they do:

"America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

Those are words so beautiful and inspirational, you could eat them. And Elizabeth Alexander’s poem is, I’m afraid, much more beautiful on paper than the way she read it, but either way, clearly poetic.

Then Rev. Lowery’s benediction:

"God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land."

and

"Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."

Isn’t that poetic?

image What does all this mean? Are we dumbing down our language too much? Are we losing something beautiful in our pursuit of clarity? Is this the beginning of a new trend, of a turning towards more poetic language? Just a coincidence? Is poetic language making a comeback, or is it only reserved for historic events?

What do you think? And if you could choose, would you prefer a trend toward more poetic language, or not?

And I have to leave you with the performance that thrilled me to no end, plus a thank you to MSNBC for being the only network who didn't talk OVER the music:

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Health Insurance Woes & Confusion

image So I was tearing up while I was searching for health insurance, (everything to do with the baby who I haven’t even conceived yet is making me thrilled and emotional) and OH MY GOD where can you get health insurance that includes maternity care?

My music professional organization doesn’t have it included. Isn’t there a writing org that advertises health insurance? Which one is that? I don’t think RWA offered it.

What is really annoying to me, is that for $700 a month, I can get a plan with a $5,000 deductible. And, hello, if I’m paying $700 a month, how the heck am I supposed to afford $5,000 on top of it if I actually need health care?!

That’s a total of $700x12 months=$8,400 a year. Plus the $5,000 deductible is an annual total of $13,400. (CRAP! HOLY FREAKING CRAP!)

Okay, now add to that the UNCOVERED maternity costs of $5,000 (roundabout), and we’ve got $18,400 for the year.

All that, just in case something happens to the baby during birth.

But if I don’t get health insurance, that’s $5,000 for the birth, and I’ve got $13,400 in case something happens. And if nothing happens, I get to keep my $13,400.

The numbers on health insurance never add up for me. I truly don’t get it.

How long do you think it will take Obama to solve this health care problem?

What irritates me to NO end about health insurance, is that the “regular” health care can never fix my issues. Not to mention, I don’t spend $5,000 a year, so I’m just throwing the health insurance money away.

It’s such a waste. Such a scam! I truly don’t get it. Yeah, yeah, there’s the “if you get cancer” argument, but I won’t be using that kind of health care if I get cancer.

imageI think I’m going to look into the medical savings account thing. This just doesn’t make financial sense to me. It doesn’t compute for me.

Am I missing something?

But I refuse to let this deter me. I’m going to find a way. My eggs are all ready to conceive, they told me so. And my heart’s already in love with my not-yet-conceived babies.

I have even begun to visualize childbirth, which is a huge step, because I was avoiding thinking about that little tidbit for awhile. But now I’m vividly giving birth to babies every time I drive down the street, LOL.

There are plenty of people who make less than me who have children. Aside from making more money, I just need to figure out how to do it.

Um, so do you know how they do it? Any tips? There has to be a way. I mean, I’m not saying the world owes it to me to make it possible for me to have a baby, but people working minimum wage jobs have babies all the time. I make more than that. There has to be a way.

I’m confused!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rock On with Susan!

image Today we have Susan Helene Gottfried guest-blogging about her dreams for a New York publishing contract. Her blog is 3/4 outtakes of the fictional characters who live in her novel, Trevor's Song, about a rock band. Tres cool!

Spy often talks about writing for the New York market. Me, I didn't know there was anything but the New York market until I started my blog in 2006 and began learning about how the publishing industry was evolving, usually by the day. Talk about being smacked in the face; things had changed to a degree that was shocking.

I've never wanted anything but to be published by the big New York houses. Oh, maybe I'd get the cool status of being published by an indie, but when I began circulating manuscripts and querying for my first agent, indie pubishers generally fell into two categories in my mind: Algonquin, who published southern lit (which I love to read but can't write), and the indies who favor literary fiction (which I loathe to read and write).

image I landed that first agent. Didn't make a sale. Got caught up in the life of a new mother, and kept writing. My characters of Trevor Wolff and Mitchell Voss -- and the various and sundry people who now accompany them across the pages of my blog -- were born months after that first agent and I parted ways. While I'd been creating them, I'd no idea that things had changed. To me, writing a novel meant writing something aimed at mainstream America. The major New York publishing houses. I didn't favor one above the other; frankly, they are all the same in many ways. They put out your book (I've always hoped for trade paperback format. It's my favorite.) and get it into bookstores. If you're lucky, they do publicity and get behind you. You're an author. Done deal.

Almost three years after launching The Meet and Greet, I'm still astounded at how things have changed. E-presses have popped up and are flourishing. Amazon has changed the face of the bookseller forever. When people talk about indies, they no longer talk about independent publishing houses like The Permanent Press. They are referring to Mom and Pop bookstores, where the staff knows the regulars as well as they know the merchandise. Where life support is, sadly, becoming a necessity.

image I'm usually one to investigate new things. And I did. I checked out the various e-presses and the independent publishing houses, but none of them fit my style. They were too erotic, too mysterious, too edgy and alternative for this metal-head. Even some of my published friends have told me to aim for the biggies. I had an agent agree and offer representation based on the idea that we'd head right to New York. It's where I belonged, she said -- and then she vanished, leaving me alone and not a little bit confused.

My dreams won't vanish, though. And every time Spy talks about aiming something at the New York market, I have to smile.

For me, there is no other way.

Thank you, Susan! While you're waiting for New York to buy her book, you can enjoy outtakes of Trevor's gang in her book, The Demo Tapes. (Get it? The Demo Tapes? LOL! Isn't that the coolest? I've read it, and it ROCKS!)

In celebration of rock music, I leave you with this song that has been running through my head ALL day:

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We Interrupt...

image ... the last post to emit a large SQUUEEEE!

Are you watching?

I'm already in tears. This is sort of pitiful. I am way too passionate.

Still. Isn't this something? What do you think?

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Monday, January 19, 2009

How Is Your World? And a Name.

image First the good news! Edie Ramer made the next round of American Title V! I'm so excited! Only 6 contestants left! And there's only a short window to vote this time: Jan. 19 - Feb. 2. Go here to read the story summaries. To vote for the best one (Edie's, or course), send an email to votes@romantictimes.com with DEAD PEOPLE as the subject.

Glenn's back in touch after 10 days! Rough weather. We only got to talk by IM, which, after ten days of not getting to talk, just doesn't really feel like talking. I want to hear his voice. Oh heck, I want him to hug me.

*sigh*

Roundabout 90 more days until he gets home.

I can't really think of a blog. I'm just writing a lot, working a lot, reading a lot. I'm struggling to get up at 5am, which means I'm mostly not sleeping. I'm really hoping I'll get the hang of this soon.

How's your writing going? How's your world? What's up?

image Oh! I almost forgot: I'm in my 4th year of blogging here. This is my 810th post. (Good grief.)

And yet, this blog does not have a name. I've been waiting to come up with an idea, but... it's been 4 years.

Got any suggestions?

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

There's No Traffic On The Extra Mile

image I haven't read the book, written by the music director of American Idol, but I loved the title: There's No Traffic on the Extra Mile. Isn't that the truth? I don't think I've read a truer title in my whole life.

The extra mile is pretty much abandoned, isn't it?

Even those who achieve, let's say, published status often abandon the extra mile. The marketing isn't worth it, or writing that fast isn't worth it, etc. That's fine. No judgment; that's just the life they want. Nothing wrong with it at all. You have to live by your priorities, or else your life isn't worth living.

Still, it's true: once you get on the extra mile, there are no traffic jams.

We say this to kids a lot, but it's the one mantra I tell my students that they really just don't "get:" You get what you give. Or even: You get what you put into it. 

I like mantras. My student's parents will often laugh, because I program these into my students real early, and the kids will suddenly pipe up with one of my sayings at an appropriate time, and they'll be like, "Where did you learn that?!"

I do believe these mantras have a power, and I hope my students will remember them at just the moment they need them, years from now.

imageSometimes they're just mantras to keep me going when the going gets tough. Y'all know I've got baby fever like I've never had a fever in my life. It's terrible! Somedays I feel like I'm going to burst!

But LaDonna said, the other day, that she got through the waiting periods of her life by saying, "The universe is busy lining things up for me!"

I say that every day now. (Thank you, LaDonna!)

And Erica very generously said, a few weeks ago, that she hoped "Amazing things are in store for you this year!" (I don't know the exact wording, but it was sweet.) And I keep repeating it to myself. (And to my uterus!)

I set high writing goals this year. When I did them on January 1, I was astonished to realize I had really just made time to commit to do what I loved to do.

That was a big phew, because I wasn't exactly up for a year of burnout.

Still, as the work wears on, it's easy to turn a desire into a should. And once it becomes a should, it can slip quickly into drudgery, into the danger of becoming a don't-want-to. So I keep reminding myself that I actually can't wait to do my writing every day.

image It's a little odd, though: I have to keep reminding myself to cherish and enjoy those things that I want to do.

Kath asked, today: What separates the ones who never pick up pen again, from those who, even if you cut off all their fingers, do? Along with that, what keeps you going? I answered that the universe doesn't seem to give me a choice. Every time I've been tempted to quit writing, I've needed the money. And by the time I got through it, I found my love for writing again.

But still, I need motivation to keep the enthusiasm and the dedication alive.

So how do you keep going when the going gets tough? How do you motivate yourself? How do you keep going when you find a love teetering on the edge of the should drudgery?

And do you have any favorite mantras? Any mantras I can borrow? :-)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

There Went the Nesting Instinct

image I have become a madwoman. This is really crazy. Okay, several of you are older than me. No one has sat down with me: I need someone to carefully talk me through what is going to happen in the next five or so years. Hormonally. Woman-wise. Insane-wise. Whatever.

I am thirty-five, and I am going NUTS.

On Monday, I was tearing my hair out to have a baby. I was nesting like you wouldn't believe. My whole existence was preparing for this baby. Every single thing I did, from cleaning off the kitchen counter to teaching a student, was about preparing for a baby.

Tuesday, I actually wondered if my husband would notice the difference between 9 and 10 months, if I went down to a bar and persuaded a guy to have unprotected sex with me so I would get pregnant. (Okay, I would NOT do this. But it flitted through my head.)

image Today, Thursday, I am SO restless, if I had the money, I would start packing RIGHT now and move. Just leave. In fact, we are lucky it's so cold, because otherwise, I'd pack up the tent, put the cats in the Jeep, and live like a hippie for a year.

You think I'm kidding.

Sadly, I do not find the baby and the get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge thing to be mutually exclusive. Maybe that's my version of nesting, as I want to have my family and my home on the road.

Or maybe I am just going mad.

I don't know.

Why does everything ALWAYS have to boil down to:
MUST WRITE FASTER. MUST WRITE BETTER.

God, that whip. Always at my heels.

Is this a mid-life crisis? Because if it is, are you KIDDING ME? Men buy a stupid little red CAR and it makes them feel ALL BETTER?

Heeeeeeeeeeellllllppppppp!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Being Different

I've not much experience with being different, not truly. Like, I wonder what it's like to grow up in a religion other than Christianity. Are those who grow up different taught how to deal with being different?

image Sometimes (rarely), I get irked, like on a professional piano teaching list I'm on, they are SO Christian as to sort of assume everyone else must be Christian and it's the only way to be unless something is wrong with you, in which case you must be converted. I'm cool with offering prayers, but praising God and Jesus and attaching bible verses and such on a professional list, gets on my nerves every now and then.

While I do not want to belong to their religious group, I feel I should belong to their professional group, and that overt pushing makes me feel outside of it.

But again, I don't have much experience on how to be different.

I do enjoy talking about different faiths and religions, a LOT. So give me a good discussion about the varying protestant faiths and catholicism, etc., and I'm there. A discussion comparing Christianity and Judaism with pagan rituals, and I'm thrilled.

I don't mind being told Merry Christmas, and I go out of my way to tell everyone Merry Christmas who is Christian. I celebrate Christmas lights with enormous enthusiasm.

Then there's eh-hem. My husband and I are a little different, but not very different, not hardly. Still, someone reviewed one of my stories on Amazon as having "sick sex" in it, which astonished me, LOL. (I had to re-read it, and it was an old one; she should have ranted on the head-hopping! I think, for her, she was shocked it had sex in it all. She'd expected a wholesome, religious-themed story, for some bizarre reason.)

imageIt made me think of this man I discussed gay marriage with, and he had the same attitude about gay sex. He didn't see the love; he just saw something sick. I don't know how the LGBT community deals with that everyday.

I feel like it's a skill I need to learn.

Sex is a beautiful, healthy thing, no matter the way you do it. It is an expression of self and of love, of sharing, of intimacy. The only "sick" way to do sex is to do it in a way that is unnatural and unappealing to you, to stifle the natural desires you were born with, or to be forced to do it against your will. Or to force someone (or even something). Anything unconsensual is something I can't abide, and that includes age. It makes me sad that some of the world's most beautiful writing was wasted on Lolita.

Otherwise, it is healthy and right and natural to be yourself. I can honestly think of nothing more healthy and natural than sex. It's hardwired into us; there's no real options there: just the natural way for a human to be.

Just my rambles today. Any thoughts? (Or have I treaded into the land of TMI?)

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Inspiration & Contradictions

image So about this idea a day thing, it's odd. On the days when I'm struck by an inspiring idea, my ideas are nothing as great as the days when I must manually craft one. I'm also doing a pitch paragraph a week, and so far, I love both of my storylines, so it's going to be hard to choose which one to explore this month for three chapters. Even harder to decide which novel I'm going to write in March.

In the last few weeks, I've left comments here and there, which later strike me as the opposite of what I commented a year or two ago. I find this interesting.

I'm pretty sure I said, two years ago, that I don't think of theme, but I let it naturally happen. I think I said the same thing of symbols.

Now I can't imagine writing something without knowing what I want the story to say.

image But then I sort of forgot what I want my current WIP to say. I guess not, but kind of. Once I decide, I let it sit in my subconscious, I guess.

And I was just telling my best friend that, when I make a post, you guys' comments often change my mind. I like that. I want my mind to be changeable.

What about you? Do you find yourself making opposite comments sometimes, and realize you've changed your perspective?

What, about writing, have you changed your mind on? Method? Genre? Technique? Anything?

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Tick-Tock: Uterine Conversations

Ya' know, I've felt the little tick-tock of the biological clock over the years, but no one warned me that at thirty-five, the alarm going off is a bit like being whacked on the head with a side iron and run over with a semi.

image I'm of the kitchen sink religion, but mostly it's a conglomerate of Wiccan, pagan, and Catholic spirituality, with whatever else inspires me thrown in. When I was sick, I needed something a little more proactive than the beatitudes to get me through. Spells do the trick for me.

So every night, I slather special cream on. When I'm done, I crawl under the covers, lay my hands on my lower belly, and my uterus and I have a conversation.

Sort of a prayer, I guess.

I tell it we're preparing the way for something very special. I tell it that we need to get ready and healthy, because we're going to make babies, and that this will be the most beautiful and amazing thing we've ever done. I tell it that in April, when Glenn is home, we are going to get pregnant, and that it needs to be sensitive and accommodating to him, and release the egg at just the right time, because he's gone for most of the year and this is the best time.

My uterus and I then engage in, I confess, a little mental conversation with the, er, penis that is thousands of miles away. I will spare you. Don't tell hubby; it would freak him out. :-)

image We discuss twins. I know they're not passed through the father's side, but I figure: he had twins (they died in a car crash years and years ago), and his father had multiple sets of twins and triplets. So maybe they have really strong, ambitious fishies?  I want three, at least. Given the lifestyle we're planning on leading, I want them to have each other.

Then we talk about the home I'm going to give the babies, the hopes I have for our family, the equinox celebrations we'll have together, and the Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners.

I promise my uterus to give them a loving and safe environment, and to show them the world. I promise to teach them everything I know, and to find them a way to learn everything they want to know. I promise to let them be who they are, and I promise to see who they are and not who I want them to be.

I tell it I already love them with my whole heart, mind, body, and soul.image And then I tell it all the things I'm doing this year to save up for them, financially. I tell it of my goals, and how I'm eating right and doing yoga. I tell it I will treat my body like a temple.

Usually I start crying, even during the "calm" times of the month. I don't care. I just hope it works. My heart is riding on April. I'd like to be cool and say I'm not getting my hopes up, etc., but we are so far beyond that it's not even funny.

So... is this normal? What were you like when you were trying to get pregnant? What were you like when your biological clock started screaming? Or does it scream less when you already have kids?

And if you have kids, do you remember the promises you made before, during, and after the conception, the pregnancy, and the childbirth? The hopes you had? The dreams you had?

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

What Makes You Happy?

Wendy tagged me, and since I've had a case of blogger's block, lately, I'm excited to play! Here are six things that make me happy:

  1. Glenn. Except when he's out of town, and that makes me very sad. (He's traveling on a boat at the moment, so no contact for seven or eight days. *insert sad face*)
  2. My niece. My best friend. They're just the best.
  3. My Kindle. My Kindle makes me very happy. Reading makes me very happy. Carrying 400 books in my hand at all times makes me so happy, it's practically a turn-on. (Yes, in my hand, literally. I am much worse with my Kindle than I was with my security blanket when I was 3.)
  4. My cats, all four of them. :-)
  5. Writing.
  6. The movie theater. Oh, man, I really love the movie theater.

What are six things that make you happy?

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snowed In. Days Off.

image The snow is up nearly to my knees, so I canceled my group lessons today. As I was walking the dog, the sheriff came by, and he said people aren't supposed to go out and the roads are terrible, so I was glad I did.

Sure was nice taking a walk in the snow, too.

It gives me that Snow Day! feeling, even though I've got writing to do. Which leads me to ask: do you take days off?

image I work seven days a week. If I'm not teaching or doing teaching-related stuff, I'm writing. I have a problem with guilt, and if I spend a day not writing or teaching, I feel guilty, which ruins the day off, so I may as well work.

Which got me to thinking: do you take days off? Carve out Sundays? Or Saturdays? And specifically not work?

image I was thinking how nice it would be to just curl up on the couch with hot chocolate and soup and watch movies all day. But I've got work to do.

What about you? Do you take weekends? Snow days? Vacations?

And what do you do on snow days?

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Writing in the Bathtub. Playing Favorites. And Kittens, Lots of Kittens, Thank God.

I am currently writing in my bathtub. This is awesome and the first time I have managed to arrange this, but it is now my number one favorite place to write.

imageI have one all-time favorite reader. Of course, she doesn't know it, and you know, I figure that'd be a weird thing to tell someone, right?

Anyway, she's read my stuff from the beginning. She's a cool person, but I also adore her because she wrote me from my very first story and for years after, pointing out all my mistakes. (There are many, LOL! Especially the old ones.)

image Man, I used to get SO mad at myself after I received her emails. I swear, I'd sit down with my next WIP and work so hard to get it right, to not let my readers down. To this day, I still think of her every time I edit.

Then she didn't write me for a couple years, and I was a little bummed. (I switched emails, but didn't have a web site at the time.)

image I don't like to let my readers down. I can be annoying and cocky as any other writer, I'm sure, but I can't think of anything I feel more deeply as I feel the dismay at letting down someone who bothers to read my stuff. 

She is definitely my number one favorite reader. Wouldn't be the writer I am, without her. How can you not love that? 

imageI guess I'm a-ramblin' today. I guess y'all know I've just hit about the 3/4 mark in the WIP, which is typically when I completely unravel and freak out and become convinced I'm' actually getting worse. 

The enormous number of kitten pictures in this post is a long story. Okay, well, at first, I included more of my neurotic freak-out, in which I used the word excruciating. When I went to find some blog images, I googled "excruciating" images. (Do NOT, please, pretty please.) And to undo the horrible awfulness that popped up on my page, I gathered a bunch of kitten pictures.

 



Ever see something you wish you hadn't? Hear something you wish you hadn't? Do you have a favorite reader?

Ever take your laptop and write in the bathtub?

And do you have a point in your stories, where you typically freak out and become a little neurotic?

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Slough of Despond

image When I was young, I had a little purplish book, smaller than a normal paperback--but thicker--called The Pilgrim's Progress. I'm fairly certain this was not the real Pilgrim's Progress, because the protagonist, Christian, was a child in my memory, and I remember every chapter had an accompanying sketch.

I loved this book. It was up there with Narnia. This book completely captured my imagination. I ached to make the journey to the Celestial City. 

I was reminded of all this because I was going to do my typical, neurotic freak-out at the 3/4 midpoint of my WIP, and the title that came to me was "Giant Despair." And I had to google it, and remember that he lived in "Castle Doubt," which led me to remember the "Slough of Despond."

imageIsn't it delightful? Did you read it? Remember Hopeful? Faithful? The River of Death? Remember Greatheart? Christiana?

I miss it so much, that if I can't find it, I feel like I would write one all over again, just so I can relive it.

Do you have such fond memories of any novels, that if they were to disappear, you would feel compelled to write them all over again? Or try to, as best as you were able?

One of my goals this year was to come up with a novel idea a day and a pitch paragraph a week, just to get the juices flowing. Wouldn't it be fun to write a pagan allegory? Or a Buddhist allegory (is that possible)? Or a Wiccan one?

I suppose there are quite a few already. Do you know of any?

Tee-hee. My goals looked a little overwhelming on New Year's morning, but I feel like I'm playing in a great big sandbox this year.

Did you set yourself any goals for the year, and then realize, with some surprise, that you were thrilled to do them?

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Eight Stages of A New Habit

image They sound funny, but they're true. Instead of beating yourself up for not exercising today, congratulate yourself for reaching Phase 2!

Well, I do. Seriously.

Presenting the eight stages of a new habit:

Phase 1: You forget completely.
Phase 2: You forget, but remember later.
Phase 3: You remember you want to do it, but don't.
Phase 4: You remember to do it, but don't the next day.
Phase 5: You fall on and off the wagon.
Phase 6: You go in streaks, only falling off once in awhile.
Phase 7: You go 40 days straight.
Phase 8: You forget, but do it automatically, anyway.

image I'm super good at Phase 2 and 3. Expert. :-)

How are your New Year's Goals and Resolutions going? I'm at about 50%, and I'm congratulating myself on that.

Whether I should or not, LOL. :-)

Considering there are 51 more weeks left in the year, even if you're at Phase 1 or 2, you have plenty of time left. :-) Go for it!

Please remember to check out Habitat for Travis, if you are able to pitch in with money or prayers or thoughts: his house burned to the ground.

Also, Barack Obama has a new website to connect neighbors together for service projects at USAservice.org. (Via the brilliant mom2brie!)

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Just A Little Experiment

First, and most importantly, I'm sure you've all heard about Travis's house burning down to the ground two nights ago. *shudder* Everyone is okay, but his house is not. Will you go here to lend a helping hand? Please?

I don't know why I'm doing this post this way, but it seems I am. It's a little crazy, I know. I'm way behind on getting out and about on the blogosphere (feeling sorry for myself since Glenn's gone for 3 months, the studio needed a bunch of last-minute work, plus my writing goals are a little time-consuming this year).

So I'm just responding to the last post's comments in a post. I thought it would be quicker, LOL. A new post to follow as soon as I get around to y'all's blogs! :-)

image I'm with Janey and Erica on loving a noisy Christmas, with lots of children around. There's a magic to that. When my mother married into an Italian family, I was in heaven on holidays. (Even though I was the quiet one.)

The on-demand thing that Kristin talked about was exactly what I disliked. I do love the sound of all that paper-ripping, Robin B.! Something about it...

I love RJ Keller's way: big-ticket items are done as a family throughout the year, and Christmastime is the time for heartfelt, personal presents. That's beautiful, RJ.

I have to admit, I love buying people presents, so I'm a total hypocrite.


We did it the way Freddie, Sarah's family and Kath's sweet daughter did it, except everyone opened on Christmas Eve, and only the women opened their presents. (I don't know why. The men got to open theirs in privacy, which was fascinating to me.)

Melanie mentioned the difference between Christmases alone and with family, and Robin sounds like she has a blast making the visiting rounds. I loved the sound of the doorbell during Christmas Eve parties! Christmastime with people around is definitely my favorite. When I was growing up, my dad had a group of friends that came over every Sunday and holidays. We had parties and stuff, it was noisy and great.

image When I was in high school, I'd pop by my best friend's house, and they played BOARD GAMES, which I thought was the Coolest Thing in the Whole World. And then they're a freakin' four part choir (not kidding, total Von Trapp) and I'd play piano and they'd sing. Totally awesome.

Meljean made a great observation about the LOVE directed toward the game. I think she nailed exactly what bothered me the most. It was startling to me, I have to admit. I do love my Kindle, sort of, and it is the best present (thing-wise) I've ever gotten, but... I don't know. WriteNow loves her cutting board, LOL, but I bet she really loves the man who gave it to her more. ;-) 

I think that extreme love directed toward a pile of plastic and metal was exactly what icked me.

I agreed with Edie and Dube (and yes, that "kill" comment from the parent astonished me, too!), in that you could see some of them stop, pause, look at the camera and consider what to do, then continue with their freak-out. McKoala mentioned that she thought it was "pretty artificial and largely induced by adults who want to see appreciation."

Virginia and Charles brought up the commercialism of Christmas, and I think she's got a great point. I've been seeing a movement around the net (who knows if it will catch), of people getting rid of things and downsizing. I seem to have caught the same bug, LOL.

image Barbara mentioned it, too: seeing as how the number one thing I wished I knew when I was twenty was that things limit your freedom, I'm not crazy about teaching kids that things is what it's all about. Stewart, you are so right: growing up, not ONE person ever told me that things limit your freedom. It's all buy this, buy that, and do you have a house yet? And Jill: yes, so funny! And true!

Colby, you crack me up!

Rick definitely wins the prize for providing the coolest Christmas for his son, ever: "I spent Christmas with the head of an authentic ninja clan a few years back, and talk about a fun Christmas!"

PS: You guys can totally tell me I'm crazy and should never do this again. I just thought what y'all said was so interesting!

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Funny At First; Why Am I Disturbed?

I love kids. I love talking with them. I love seeing them happy. But...

Am I the only one who finds this disturbing on some weird, inexplicable level? I remember Christmas morning as rather stressful as an only child, sitting and opening presents while my mom and dad sat on the couch and watched my every reaction. I would have to go to the bathroom, after, and massage my face because it hurt from smiling so hard for an hour straight. So it could be just me.

Or do you find this a little disturbing, too? Is it my knowledge of their big crash a few hours from this moment? Or what? The extreme materialism?

I laughed for the first twenty seconds, and then something about it just disturbed me, and I have no idea why.

PS: Am currently catching up on comments and blogs. Had one heck of a get-back-to-the-school-year disaster. But then it also led (thanks to Erica and her Ninja talk) to a sort of fun thing that seems to have the kids perked up, if not the parents, LOL.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

I Love People; I Am A Blogaholic

image Sure, I'm not very talkative to strangers. I make a point of saying "thank you" to every clerk, cashier, attendant, and waitress. But if they start talking, I'm all ears. And oftentimes, inexplicably, people start talking to me. (Or maybe that's normal, LOL!)

I just find people fascinating.



Which sounds like a nice thing, but do you see my blogroll? Why is it so long? Because EVERY time one of you mentions a fellow blogger, I end up going to their blog. I end up scrolling through the posts and 99.5% of the time, I think, "Wow! What a fascinating person! I can't wait to read more about her/him!"

Seriously, finding new blogs is one of my favorite things about blogging. I just love reading about people's lives and feelings.

There are a good number of blogs I just read, just because I find the person interesting. I've never introduced myself, never commented. I just read.

Then, of course, there are the blogging friends, where I comment/they comment and it's more real, you know?

image Then with this follow feature, it's terrible, because I figure the people following the fascinating blog I've just discovered will be just as interesting! And off I go! And in a matter of a half hour, I have fifteen new blogs in my reader and blogroll.

I can't help it.

Is this a writer thing? Do you have this problem? Do you just not click, and thereby resist the temptation? I mean, I don't know many others who try to keep up with over 200 blogs. It's a little embarrassing. Or is this fascination normal?

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