There and Back Again… to AWESOMETOWN

I am so excited!  The Hobbit trailer was released yesterday and it just looks wonderful

I have heard some people complain about the appearance of the dwarves, especially if you compare them to how Gimli looked in the Lord of the Rings movies.  However, I felt like they really fit into that world and looked like what I imagine dwarves would look like.  If you recall, Gimli was the only dwarf that we really saw (that was alive) in the LotR movies.

Martin Freeman looks just wonderful as Bilbo Baggins.  I loved him in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, as well as in Love Actually, and I ADORE him as John Watson on the BBC’s Sherlock.  I wasn’t sure about him before that, to be honest.  I thought he was funny and cute and sweet in the previous two films but after seeing him in Sherlock, I have seen that he can be a BAMF as well.

John Watson on Sherlock is an Afghan war vet, and took some serious injuries to his shoulder and to his leg.  He’s amazing with a gun, and incredibly brave.  He’s also very smart, not just as a medical doctor but as an investigator.  And let’s be fair, anyone would look less than when paired with Sherlock Holmes.

When they announced that Martin Freeman would be playing Bilbo Baggins, I had recently finished the first season of Sherlock and was still in my initial “fresh and new” fangirl phase, which meant that I was all about anything having to do with the show or anyone in it, so I was doubly excited to hear about the Hobbit casting. 

Because while Bilbo is a hobbit, who tend to be a bit reserved and not particularly brave for the most part, he is also an adventurer.  He is brave.  He leaves his home with no guarantee that he will ever return.  I found that I could connect Bilbo and John Watson fairly easily and suddenly, I could NOT wait to see what Peter Jackson was going to do with Martin Freeman.

I was not disappointed.  I think the trailer captures a number of elements that are necessary for The Hobbit to work as a film.  It shows Bilbo engaged in his community, known around the Shire, and it shows his love and desire to stay at Bag End.

But it also shows his curiosity about the world beyond his home and his desire to get out there and see it.  It comes back to his desire to return home, always, but the trailer keeps pushing at us his interest in going out and seeing the world.

This is very different than Frodo, who leaves less because he wants to and more because he’s been convinced that he HAS to leave.  He needs to get the ring to a safe place (he does not yet know that it will need to be destroyed) and he is willing to take that journey in order to make sure that the evil the ring represents does not come to find him in the home that he loves so much.

I’m not sure who the braver hobbit is.  Frodo is in a bad position.  He must get the ring to someone that can handle it, because if he doesn’t, evil will find it and will find him, and all he loves.  Bilbo leaves because it will be fun.  At least, because it COULD be fun.  There isn’t anything chasing after him, no reason for him to sneak out of town, or to even consider Gandalf’s offer.

And yet he does.  He considers it, and he leaves the Shire.

I think that may be the bravest of acts.  Because there isn’t a repercussion if he stays at home.  No evil creature will come after him and hurt those he cares about.  He won’t lose anything, in fact, he may gain more if he chooses to stay put in his safe little life.

And yet, he decides that he can’t do that.  He can’t stay in his little house in his little community and be a little man.  He decides to leave with the gray wizard and change his life forever.

That takes guts, ladies and gentleman, and Bilbo has them. 

I will confess, I never read The Lord of the Rings books before they came out in theaters.  And I still haven’t read them.  I’ve tried to before, but I always gets stuck in Rivendell and can’t get and farther.  Nor have I read The Hobbit or any of JRR Tolkien’s other works. 

I have, however, fallen deeply and madly in love with the world that he created and the characters that populate it.

I mean, ARAGORN.  How can you not love Aragorn?  And while I didn’t want Eowyn to get Aragorn in the end, I still loved her and respected her and wanted to be her when she gets to her epic moment of “I am NO man!”  Holy shit, man.  That’s the kind of female character that teaches girls to be women and to not take any shit for loving who they are.

The LotR movies gave us a bearded, horse riding Karl Urban, looking fine.  They are also the only films in which I find Viggo Mortensen to be attractive in any way.  Orlando Bloom is so much fun, and Sean Astin just makes me weep with his love and devotion to Elijah Wood’s Frodo.

I’m glad that Peter Jackson finally was forced (I believe) to take the helm of both Hobbit films.  I think that he brought something to the original three movies that no other director could recreate or even hope to come close to.  And while other directors could have had great and interesting visions for this film, I kind of want it to feel like it exists in the same universe as the first three films.

That’s something that the Harry Potter films (at least the first two) don’t do as well as they could or should.  Those first two Chris Columbus helmed pictures just don’t have the same feel as the third movie and beyond, much to their detriment.  So, while I would have loved to see Guillermo del Toro’s The Hobbit, I’m really glad that we’re going to Jackson’s Hobbit instead.

There and back again, right?

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“Hold my hand. Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river.” – Bottom of the River, Delta Rae

I was thinking about why I like country music today as I was driving in the car to get to work.  I’m pulling an overnight (again) and I wasn’t listening to the iPod, just threw on the radio.

It’s weird.  In LA, there is apparently only one country music station and it’s pretty good, but then again, I haven’t been listening to country radio for a long time.

But, back to the music.  Recently, I have been on a country kick.  I’ve got a ton of stuff on the old iPod and I’ve been streaming music, watching GAC, reading country music blogs, and listening to the radio more than I have in years.  Why?

I realized as Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” came on the radio tonight- it’s because country music is romantic.  There are a ton of songs out there that are basically the plots of various romance novels.  Or they are the aftermath of romances novels, when the new wears off and the relationship dies. 

Personally, I prefer the romantic songs but there are times, especially when I’m not in a melancholy mood but am in the mood for a slight sniffle, where I love to listen to the sad songs as well.

And NO ONE does sad songs like country music.  Good lord, Xander from Buffy was right.  Country music is the music of pain.

Brad Paisley has a song out right now called “This is Country Music” and it talks about how in general, music isn’t supposed to talk about mama, cancer, etc. but country  music does.  It’s like it’s different than anything else, bringing up the topics that no one else wants to touch because they’re painful or sad.  But country music doesn’t shy away from them.  In fact, says Paisley, they embrace those topics and that makes country music what it is.

Some of the saddest and some of the most moving songs I have ever personally heard have been country songs.  Some examples:

Two Sparrows in a Hurricane – Tanya Tucker

Waiting on a Woman- Brad Paisley

Then- Brad Paisley

The House That Built Me- Miranda Lambert

Love Story- Taylor Swift

Mine- Taylor Swift

I like listening to the stories of these songs, of hearing about the romance, the cute meet, the fall in love, the fight to be together.  I love hearing these men singing about how much they love their women and how hard they would fight for those same women.  I love hearing the women sing about the same things. 

Taylor Swift breaks me into pieces with a lot of her music.  There are a lot of women out there, many in feminist circles, that don’t see a lot of value in Swift’s work.  However, I think that Taylor and I are on a similar wavelength, because almost every song she sings, I can find a connection to my own life.  Hell, “Mine” is basically the story of my husband’s and my romance.  The line “you made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” is the relationship I have with my father and with my husband, whether they know it or not.

I guess that’s part of it, as well.  I see myself in country music in a way that I don’t always with pop music and I don’t with R&B or rap.  I didn’t grow up in the south but I grew up country and I know that culture and that world, more than I know the world of the big city.

So, it’s the romance, and it’s the self-connection that I have with the lyrics.  And I tend to like the tunes a lot as well.

I like that country music is so connected to the blues, to bluegrass, to folk music.  It still feels like it has a good blend of a number of different, older styles, but has a modern and new sound.  I can hear you saying, “new?”, but listen to Johnny Cash and then listen to Brad Paisley and you’ll hear what I mean.

I am an incredibly empathetic person and I get emotionally involved and attached to things that  many people never do, including books, music, movies and TV.  And because of that, I need to find those pieces of media that make that emotional connection worth it.  Did I waste my time listening to something that I will never listen to again, or did I find a song that has emotional resonance for me and I will listen to it over and over and over again?

I actually just found a song that has stuck with me- haunted me, is being more truthful- and it was totally by accident.  My husband was listening to a non-country station here in LA and he heard this song that he wanted to do more research on.  He found a video of it on YouTube, and made me watch it.  You know how YouTube gives you suggestions on the side?  If you liked this, you’ll like this other thing, kind of deal?  Yeah, so I see this image that I wanted to find out more about so I clicked and I got the video for Delta Rae’s “Bottom of the River.” 

The song is an original gospel piece by the band and by itself, it’s pretty haunting.  The lead singer’s voice is rocking and awesome.  But when you pair it with the creepy, supernatural video, the song transcends music and becomes something MORE.  It’s just so GOOD.  I’ve gone to sleep these past few nights thinking about the song and I’ve woken up singing it.  It’s just that great.

Please check it out and see if you agree with my assessment.

I just love country music.  I don’t love all of it- no one loves all of something, no matter what they say, but I love a lot of it.  I find it inspiring to write to, and I find it pleasant to listen to as I drive to work and then while I’m plugging away at work at my desk in the office.  And I know that when I need a good cry, I just need to turn to a few certain songs and the tears will just flow. 

I love that this kind of music can be so moving for me, that it can reach inside of me and touch me in a way that not a whole lot has, in the recent past.

It feels good to feel, if that makes any sense.  And sometimes it’s good to feel good, and other times it good to feel sad, or angry.  I love that these songwriters and performers have found an outlet for what they feel and have done so in a way that makes ME feel.

I can only hope that my own writing does the same thing for those that read my stories.

“If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter

I’ve discussed this before, I think, but I know that I have a real problem finishing projects. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of blog posts from other people talking about why that might be the case.

One of the things that I think might apply to me is that I try to write stories before they’re ready.

What does that mean?

For me, it means that I get an idea that I think is pretty great. I get all excited about it and I want to start writing right away. But some story ideas need to percolate for a while. They need to simmer and stew and get all the flavors flowing before they should be eaten, er, I mean written. And I think that I jump the gun. So instead of flavorful, tasty stew, I get kind of runny meat water with undercooked veggies.

Not good.

So, one of my writing resolutions for the new year is to try and let the ideas sit for a bit. Especially the new ideas that I get in the shower, or in the car, or while riding in the elevator at work.

One of the other issues that I think I have is that I get bored. Why? It’s my story- can’t I skip the boring parts?

The problem here is that I think I need the boring parts. I’ve convinced myself that I need certain scenes to tell my story and when I try to write them, I get bogged down in the minutia of the scene. I get stuck with all the little details that just don’t get me excited and I stop wanting to write them.

Which should tell me, if I were willing to listen, that those scenes are boring. If I don’t want to write them, who in the hell wants to read them? I convinced myself a long time ago that I was a plotter and that I needed to plot out every story, get all my scenes lined up, and stick to the plan. But I think I forget to give myself room for change. I don’t have a contingency plan, in essence, which is a problem, because I need to learn to not be so fenced in by what I think I need so that I keep myself from doing what I really need.

Which leads me to another problem. I think I have unreasonable expectations for myself. I have unreasonable expectations about how quickly I should be writing, how quickly the pages should be flowing, and how easy it all should be coming to me, especially if I have outlined the thing out.

The problem with that expectation is that writing doesn’t work that way. I’ve had long discussions recently with a good writing buddy of mine about how writing works and we’ve both debunked the myth of the muse. No one is whispering the story into your ear. There isn’t a separate entity speaking to you, telling you what to write. All those little bursts of genius that blast out onto the page as you write come from you, even if you don’t realize it at the time.

Your brain has been pondering this story that you’re telling and it’s been knocking things around for you while you wash dishes, watch the latest episode of Castle, or even sleep. Your brain is trying to work out the problems that are keeping you from getting the words on the page, like a background program running on a computer, and when your brain thinks it has it figured out, it will push the solution to the forefront of your mind.

It’s not an external force, it’s an internal force. I think it’s a bit of a crutch to blame writer’s block on something like “the muse taking a break” or “the ladies in the basement stepping out for a smoke.” I think that’s cheating and it’s not taking agency of your own work and your own writing.

However, once you do take ownership of your brain and accept that the words coming through your fingers to the page are your own, then you have to accept both the failures and the successes. Sometimes they are both hard to deal with.

Back to my expectations, I tend to write very quickly once I sit down and actually do it. I can pound out 1000 works in less than 30 minutes and have done so many, many times. My brain, then, expects that from me and I allow myself to take breaks when I shouldn’t because I tell myself that when I do sit down to write, I’ll hammer out 4-5k in one sitting and be done with it.

How often do you think that’s happened for me recently?

In the past three months, it has happened ONCE. That’s right, ONCE.

I signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge, pledging 350k for the year. I have yet to hit 100k. For all my talk about being able to pound out the words, clearly I haven’t done it.

Yet again, I don’t have a submission to the Golden Heart. I don’t have a finished submission for the editor who asked for one, and the only writing that I’ve come close to completing is fan fiction.

Clearly, I am my own worst enemy here.

I think I’ve done a lot of talking about what I’m going to do. How I’m going to fix myself. And I’ve tried things for a few days but I have to be honest. I am just as much EPIC FAIL as a writer today as I was a year ago. Possibly even more so.

Which leads me to my next problem. I have too many ideas and too many projects started. When one gets hard and the writing becomes real work, my brain wants to jump tracks and start working on something different. Maybe that’s what I should be doing. Maybe, if the words are flowing, I should just let them and get it all out on the page.

Maybe my fighting to stick to one thing is part of what’s hurting me. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe my writing ADD is keeping me from completing a project by not allowing me to maintain focus.

All I know is that I want to be a professional, published author, and to do that I need to get something done. That something needs to be a project that I can sell to someone, anyone, and it needs to be well written, the correct word count, and in my own voice.

I need to stop biting off more than I can chew and be more realistic about what I will do, not just what I am capable of actually accomplishing.

As we wind down 2011 and get into resolution season, I need to be honest and fair to myself and set some goals that I will actually achieve this year so I can start to re-build my confidence, as well as start to get myself to the point where I can consider myself a professional. That may be harder than I’d like to believe it is.

Hell on Wheels was Hell on Me

I tried to watch AMC’s new show Hell on Wheels last night and I have to admit, I failed out.  I wanted to discuss why I didn’t like it here, to see what kind of discussion I could get going.

I have, in the past , enjoyed AMC shows.  Well, let me step that back.  I enjoyed (until the season finale) The Killing .  I haven’t really watched anything else beyond an episode or two, mostly because I didn’t care for any of the characters. 

I feel like AMC is trying to bring a premium cable (HBO, Showtime) sensibility to a wider audience.  However, I’m not sure how much I like that sensibility.  I was never the biggest Sopranos fan- I thought Tony was a violent, cheating jerk and I had no desire to watch him have gross sex with strippers at his desk.  I didn’t want to watch his guys put dead dudes through meat grinders and I certainly could have cared less about how it ended.

I have watched Dexter and I have enjoyed the show but I have no desire to get caught up on the multiple seasons between what I watched and what’s currently airing.

I don’t like Mad Men.  At all.  While I know that many people find the characters on that show to be fascinating, I have a hard time getting into the story.  Don Draper is an ASS.  In fact, one might go so far as to say that he’s an ASSHOLE and I have to be honest, there is almost nothing I find less sexy than adultery and misogyny. 

My time is limited, as is everyone’s, and while there may be stories that are different and exciting airing on premium cable and networks like AMC, I must confess that I don’t want to spend my time with characters that are unrepentant and just plain bad.

They make bad choices and continue to make bad choices.  Some folks I’ve spoken to have mentioned that what they like is watching bad people do bad things, with bad results.  I guess I’m just not like that.

Spoilers below for the premiere of Hell on Wheels.  There be dragons, ladies and gents.  Procede with caution.

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You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. – Ray Bradbury

A few things:

 1) I was in Beverly Hills a while back, to see the doctor, I had to park in one of the public parking structures.  As I was pulling out in The Falcon (my Jeep), I passed Michael T. Weiss in his car.  He was making a turn, and he slowed down to do so, so I got a great view of his face.  He still looks good, which was awesome.  I LOVED him on The Pretender and it makes me sad that he’s been playing bad guys recently.

And not too long after I saw the guy, he shows up on Burn Notice!  It was great to see Michael T. Weiss and Jeffrey Donovan together again.  I was inspired to look up the show and see just how many episodes Donovan was in, as Kyle, Jared’s messed up brother.  I was shocked to see that it was only three TOTAL episodes!  He must have been mentioned more than that, for him to have been as pervasive in my memory as he is.  Or he was just that awesome.

 

2) A friend forwarded me an e-mail about this writing program called Skyword.  Skyword hooks writers up with different websites that are looking for content and they pay you based on hit counts for each article that you write.

I applied to write for gather.com and I was chosen to write for the news and political channels of the site.  I’m really enjoying it- I pick my own topics, do my own research and then submit my articles to be published on the site.  They have editors that read for content and they do edit articles as needed, which is a great service. 

I’ve already started to make money, although it’s a very small amount at this point.  But cash is cash, and it spends.  This is the first time I have ever been paid for my work.  Woo!

If you are interested in writing for the same program, check it out here.

Some of my currently posted articles are here:

a) Black Valedictorian Forced to Share Honor with White Student

b) Married Lesbian Couple Save 40 Teens from Norway Killing Spree

c) Murder of Gay Student Ends in Mistrial

d) After 66 Years, Nazi Secretary Reveals All

e) New Jersey Bullying Legislation Hits Hard

f) West Memphis 3 Released After 18 Years

 

3) Keep Calm and Finish Your Damn Book

Beth and Deb linked me to this post, via twitter, and it hit so many buttons for me, it isn’t even funny.

First, I love the art.  It reminds me of Hyperbole and a Half, which is awesome, and the actual content just really speaks to me. 

I mean, I am that person.  I freak out about all the people that are better/wittier/funnier/darker than I am and that have great books out there, getting read and possibly sold by a major publisher.

In fandom, I always get sad when my stories don’t get the kinds of comments that other stories do, some that aren’t as good as mine but get a billionty more comments.  And I wonder if people just don’t like me, like you do.  Or if I’m that uncool kid that people just put up with because it’s the internets and you can’t really kick people out until they become REALLY creepy or crazy or dangerous.  Am I that girl that you went to school with that had the terrible hair and smelled like peas? 

And then I wonder if it IS, in fact, the content of my work that just isn’t getting the response that I want.  If my stories are okay but not good, even if they aren’t BAD.

As an aside, I had a story that was due for a fannish challenge and I knew that I had to get it done, as it was for someone else and I would be gifted with a story of my own.  You never want to be that asshat that DOESN’T meet the deadline, okay?  And I thought I had a good story but I asked an amazing friend to beta read the thing for me.  She’s totally awesome and totally honest and she didn’t like it.  Like, at all.  So I had to break it down and really try to find what the story was I was actually trying to tell.  In the end, I had a much better story that I actually really loved.  I still did not get the kinds of comments that I was expected, based on the fandom and the characters involved.  My ego is ridiculous, okay?  I get that.  But man, I just wish I could write a story that not only connected with ME but connected with everyone else.

And that’s what I think this post is really about.  I question my worth as a writer based on the feedback from other people (or the distinct lack thereof).  I also question my worth based on my own comparison of my work/blog/twitter/facebook to that of other people, just like the blog talks about.  I psych myself out, creating all this doubt that doesn’t need to be there. 

What is the answer here?  The answer is just write the damn book.  Just tell the story the way I want to tell it, the way that I see it in my head, and just get it on the page.  Don’t worry about what other people will think about that paragraph or that character turn.  Don’t get caught up in all the peripheral stuff, like blogs and twitter and stuff.  Just focus on the work.  Because in the end, that’s all you have to stand on and it will have to be enough.  Make sure that the focus is on the work and just get it done.

That’s what I’m taking away from the post.

 

4) Speaking of Keep Calm and Finish Your Damn Book…

I’m trying to get my edits done on The Drake submission so I can send it out.  I’m struggling with too much information.  I’ve been thinking about the problems with the story and how to fix them for months and now that I need to actually sit down and pound out the fixes, I’ve got almost too much information pouring into my brain.

I need to rework the synopsis- crap, I have one, that I can just edit.  Maybe.  Or maybe it would be better to just start from scratch.  Ack!

Add to that, I need to update my first three chapters to incorporate the changes that I am making in the synopsis.  Let’s be clear- the changes are important, if only because they will help make the story not suck.

I feel both empowered, mostly because when I do have ideas hit me, they are pretty good and I am making a lot of fixes, but also like my hands and feet are tied.  When I sit down to actually type out the new words, I freeze up and I don’t know why.

Am I intimated by the amount of work this will require?  Am I afraid of getting it wrong?  I have no idea, I just know that I need to get my act together and get these pages out so that I don’t miss out on this opportunity.

 

5) My Kindle.

I love my Kindle.  I take it with me almost everywhere and I can read anything I want without anyone commenting on the cover, because I don’t have a cover.  I also am saving myself a ton of paper and ink costs by putting fanfic on my Kindle instead of printing it out to read away from the computer.

In fact, fanfic is what I use the Kindle for more than anything else.

Since my husband has been out of work for 1 year and 9 months (aside:  he was recently hired to work for a great place here in LA and starts on 9/15.  Another post to follow regarding this!) one of the things we’ve cut out is the book buying.  Granted, I do get amazon.com gift cards and can use those but I am pretty picky about what I pick up, because I know that my budget is so limited.  So, I’ve been very slow to add actual published novels to my device.  I have a lot of free stuff and a lot of samples of what amazon.com has available, but not a lot of purchases.  To be very clear, I do not pirate e-books.  It never does, as they say, to shit where you eat.

But the fanfic?  Oh, HELL yeah.  Lots of it.  And I’ve been collecting some of my favorite stories for re-reads and getting all the long Big Bang stories downloaded so I can read them at lunch, at work.  It’s the perfect little device for the avid reader of all types.

If you think you are interested in a Kindle but are concerned about the various format issues, be sure to download the program Calibre. 

Calibre is a FREE program that will help you manage your various e-books, files, etc.  Calibre can also convert files to other formats for better reading.  For example, I have a number of pdf files that I have converted to Kindle format (modi).  I have also purchased e-books from non-amazon.com sites that only offer pdf or epub formats and have converted those to Kindle as well, using Calibre.  I love it.  

And for all you fanfic readers out there, if you get your fix from An Archive of Our Own (AO3), you can download works in all e-book formats, including Kindle, so you won’t need to convert, just click and save.  Just another reason that the site is so amazing.

 

6) My short story.

I had submitted a story to an anthology and it was not accepted by that anthology.  Which is okay.  Not everything is for everyone.

But I submitted the piece to my crit group and it didn’t get that great of a response from them, either.

So, that is a sign that the stupid thing needs a lot of work.  On the plus side, now that I’m not writing it to fit into specific parameters, I can increase the word count and make positive changes without worrying if I am working outside the theme of the anthology.

The downside is that my husband really liked the story.  He was my beta reader and he was the one that suggested the current ending.  Apparently, my crit partners felt like it wasn’t a complete story, instead of an ending the implied additional action after the story was technically over.  That is not good.

I’m wondering if their reaction to it is based on reading preference.  They prefer the romance genre, that demands a HEA, and the husband prefers to read sci-fi and fantasy stories, that can be ambiguous and possibly sad or tragic.  That’s a different audience and one story would create very different reactions from both types of readers.

I am not discounting any feedback on this one- I am taking everything into account, including that it’s currently in present tense but it might work better in past tense.  This is something worth exploring.  I do have some experience in changing the tense, as I did with First Lady and the Dead Presidents.

I need to make the ending really pop, so that even if I don’t write in all the action that I thought I was implying before, than at least the reader would have a better understanding of what actions was supposed to be happening, as opposed to thinking that the story wasn’t even complete.  *sigh*

A lot of work, but worth it.  I love the characters, I love the world, and I want to see this in print somewhere other than my computer screen.  My plan, after I take it apart and rebuild her, is to send it to one of the guys that rejected the story from the anthology and see what they think about it after the overhaul.  If he’s willing. 

I will report back as things happen!

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

I signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge on LiveJournal again this year.  I talked about that here, earlier this year.

I made the choice to go with the INSANE goal (that’s what they call it there, just FYI) of 350,000 words in one year.  I did the same thing last year and missed it by a mile but it was fun giving it a try.

I think this year, I planned more rolling in to the year but I have been less effective and less productive in my writing.  I think there are a number of reasons for this but the reality of the situation is that I have not put in the writing time to be on track to meet my goal.

On the left side of this page, you can see my progress meters.  I set goals for each month and for the year, and I have yet to meet a monthly goal even ONCE.  Which is a bit disheartening.

This month, I set the goal as the number of words I would need to write to catch up to where I should be, had I been on track for the previous 7 months.  This may seem self-defeating but what I wanted to do was to see how big of a chunk I could take out of that massive number if I just kept at it.  I may not get to the top of the mountain, but how far did I climb before I had to stop?

I am currently only at 13% of my annual goal, so I need to get moving.  I would love to hit 50% of that goal by the end of September, if not before, so I’m trying to figure out what kind of plan I would need to enact to hit that bar.

Next month, EVA is running their annual “Beat Janet” contest.  The goal is to write more words than published author (and EVA member) Janet Tronstad.  The person who beats her by the most words wins a prize.  I think I will set a more reasonable word count goal for my sidebar in September, with the hope that the drive to both beat Janet and that stupid bar will get me really revved up and writing.

This past week has been great.  I met up with one of my FAVORITE fanfic writers ever, in person, and was inspired to write just by sheer proximity to her brilliance.  I attended both the monthly OCC meeting and the annual EVA retreat at Monrovia Canyon Park.  Both events got my writing brain really working hard (my husband swears he can smell the smoke!).

On top of all that, I am working hard to finish my edits for my submission to an editor and my Apocalyptothon story was due on 08/13, with any and all final edits due by 08/20.  I’ve been pounding out the words on so many different things.

And you might be saying, but Alison?  Can you really be effective if you are bouncing from project to project?

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The Promise of the Premise

I’ve been reading reaction posts and review of the season finale of AMC’s The Killing all morning and I’ve noticed one thing- none of the people complaining about the season finale seem to be X-Files fans.

There is all this shock, disappointment and complaining about the end of the episode “Orpheus Descending”, about how nothing was answered and only more questions were asked.

(There are vague spoilers below for The Killing.  Here be dragons, enter at your own risk.)

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The results are in and I… didn’t win. Damn it.

I entered First Lady and the Dead Presidents in OCC’s Orange Rose contest.  The results were returned on July 9th.

I was on vacation at the time, so it’s taken me longer to get to my own score sheets and to my responses to the judges comments.

I was not a finalist, sadly.  The bar was incredibly high this year.  The highest possible score a person could get was 165 and to be a finalist, you needed an average score of over 156.

Yeah, you read the correctly.  Over 156.

My average score was a 125.  Boo.

The contest is pretty cool.  The first round judges are all published.  FIRST ROUND.  ALL PUBLISHED.  So the feedback is pretty great, even if you don’t get to the next level.  It also allows for a lot more pages than other contests- a total of 55 pages, including a synopsis of no more than 6 pages- which means the judges get a much stronger feel for your world, your characters and your story.

My scores were pretty interesting. 

As a refresher, First Lady and the Dead Presidents is technically women’s fiction.  It has romantic elements but it is not a romance, per se.  My heroine, McKinley, is forced to return home toOhio from her TV writing job in LA to deal with the death of her estranged father.  She thinks that she can just fly in, bury him, and get out.  But some insane sisters, a booby trapped will and a hunky bartender/electrician with dreamy eyes make an easy escape not an option.  Can she get back to her life and, more to the point, does she even want to?

The story is not a strict romance.  I want the focus to be more on the family story, as opposed to the romance, so I would classify this as women’s fiction as opposed to romance.  The story is in first person and is a present tense novel.  (I would like to point out that while one judge did not like the first person, not a single one mentioned the present tense.)

So, here we go:

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If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again. – Groucho Marx

Australian Aborigines say that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush. —Robert Moss, Dreamgates

I had an editor request pages from me this weekend, after a pitch.  I am very excited at the prospect of submitting and getting a response, good or bad, from a professional.

I started off pitching my current WIP, First Lady and the Dead Presidents, but that project is not in the traditional mold of romance.  It’s more chick lit/women’s fiction, which wasn’t what the editor was looking for right now.  FLatDP is a first person story, which I don’t usually even like to read, much less write myself, but I’ve got a story that my brain is convinced that I need to write so I am.  And it isn’t this editor’s thing, at least right now, but it could be LATER.

So I threw out The Drake, a wild pitch that I hoped would connect and it totally did!  She was interested in the world, the fact that Jack is a shape shifter, and that it’s written as a traditional romance (third person, balance POV with hero and heroine, etc.).

The only problem here is that I haven’t looked at The Drake in over a year.  When I left the story, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end but there were a number of story points that I wasn’t thrilled with.  I’m hoping that I can figure out how to fix those bits so that I can get out a revised synopsis and the first three chapters that were requested, in a timely manner. 

She asked to have them in July, so I think I have a good stretch of time in which to polish and correct.  And all I really need is for her to want to read the whole thing, right? 

After the OCC meeting this weekend, I am under the impression that every book that gets purchased has editing done.  Nothing goes out on the shelf without at least a little nipping and tucking (or implants) here or there.  What they’re looking for is a solid voice and a story that shines, even if it needs a little buff and polish.

That’s not to say that I’m not planning to make this the best synopsis and three pages she’s ever seen.  No, I understand that.  What I really need to remind myself of here is that there is room to maneuver and that I shouldn’t worry myself sick over the whole thing.

My plan for the next week is to re-read the entire manuscript and try to spot the weakest points.  There is a “highlight and flag” method that my girl Christy Finn has used in the past that I need to get more info on, so I can determine where I’m strong, where I’m weak and where I need to shore up the walls to survive the hurricane.

Once I’ve got that done, I’m going to pull out Carol Hughes’ “Deep Story” class notes and really dive in there.  I think that could really help me re-lay the foundation of The Drake and make sure that I have a strong enough world and characters to support the kind of story that I’m telling.

I’ve really been thinking about my plot and I think some of the problems that I was having when I left the story before have been worked out in my head.  I was playing around with the idea of my hero and heroine as soul mates tied together through time, which is something that has come out in my fan fiction in the past as well.  I think its part of my story, so I’m not surprised to see it come up here.

When I say “my story”, I’m referring to the basic story that every storyteller tells.  Steven Spielberg’s stories are about fathers and sons.  JAWS, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, Schindler’s List, even Jurassic Park- they’re all about the relationships (or lack thereof) between fathers and their sons. 

Tom Cruise, if you break down his roles to their simplest form, tells the same story from movie to movie as well.  He plays the talented man who has to prove that he deserves his place in the world.  Top Gun, Far and Away, The Firm, even Magnolia has him fighting to prove to someone other than himself that he deserves what he has.  And maybe that’s a part of it- outwardly he’s trying to prove to others that he has earned his place but really, it’s all about him proving it to himself. 

It’s something about us, as individual people that comes out in the tales that we spin and weaves its way through everything we put down on the page.  We all have something that has shaped us as people and we try to work that out in our art/craft. 

I think the idea of soul mates, of being destined to be with someone, is something that comes out in my work.  I might be wrong- I’m a notoriously bad judge of my own work- but I think that’s at least part of my story.  The rest of my story, I think that’s better saved for a different post but I can already tell that The Drake has the potential to really get all of my stories out and on the page in one text.

I’m excited to see what this editor has to say and the prospect of selling to her and her publishing house is just an amazing opportunity.  Here’s to not screwing it up.

Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged. – Samuel Johnson

I’m a fan of the show The Mentalist.  If you haven’t seen it, the basic premise is this: A fake psychic, whose family was brutally murdered by a serial killer, works with law enforcement to find said killer, using his skills of deduction to solve other crimes along the way.

Spoilers ahead, in case you are sensitive to that kind of thing.  But I want to talk about story and the proper set up, so I hope you’ll join me.

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