Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brief Update

Allow me to apologize both for the recent lack of posts and for the shortness of this one. Work is trying to kill me. No, seriously--it's trying to kill me. Last week I did 52 hours, this week will be about the same, next week probably a few hours more. So I'm very tired and very cranky.

And what I thought would be a respite isn't likely to happen. The hazards of auto maintenance have reared their ugly heads. That may make sense only in my head. If it doesn't, then you understand my pain. So I may be traveling, which is both awesome and annoying and always monetarily bad.

So in essence, I'm not having the best of Decembers. But that's okay. Because I'm going to rock in the New Year like a, well, rock star. If I remember any of it, I'll post it. Maybe with pics. If not, I'll make up elaborate lies and post those. Either way, there will be a post on Saturday.

And that, my friends, is all for now.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

Before anyone starts, I'm aware of the late nature of this blog. But I worked six days last week, including Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the FSU/UF game, and the day after--I needed a day to remember exactly what I was thankful for besides Tylenol, vodka, and my bed.

My Family

Expected, but true. My grandmother died December 9 of last year; this is the first Thanksgiving without her. It hurts. I won't pretty it up. There have been moments through the entire year where I've seen something or done something or went by someplace that reminded me of her and I would get teary-eyed. We all know that death is real and that it eventually comes for people we love. But for some reason whenever it does come it's still a shock to everything we are. So this year I'm thankful for my mother, my sister and her husband and kids, my uncle (even though he drives me nuts) and my cousins.

My Job(s)

Firstly, because waiting tables pays my bills. I'm always thankful to get my bills paid. I actually do something of a happy dance after it happens. But I'm also thankful for my job because it's introduced me to a ton of crazy, weird, amazing people (more on some of them later). I enjoy talking to people (most of the time) and I feel like being in a job where I have to read people and interact with them has made me more stand-on-my-ownish. And I'm thankful for writing because I feel like if I didn't write I would spend entirely too much time in my head--or that I would spend entirely too much time spouting gibberish. Writing gives me the chance to tell an amazing story in my own voice and way and to hopefully leave a mark on the world.

My Friends

Now I'm naming names. Because these are awesome people, each in their own way. In no order of importance:
Sam--aka The Sam, M1. We met at Village Inn. We've been there together for what seems like forever. We finish each other's sentences, back each other up, support each other and whatever bad decisions we make, and are close in inseparable.
Katie--aka My Biat-cha (seriously--that's how she is in my phone). We met at Village Inn (pay attention, you'll start to see a pattern here). She's crazy. Seriously crazy. She's my wild friend, the one who could call me and say she ran off and got married in Vegas and all I would ask was why I wasn't invited. We can go months without talking and yet we'll pick up a convo like we just talked five minutes before. We'll dance at each other's weddings or help cover up a murder.
Michele--runs a close second to Katie in the crazy department. Our bonding came after one dinner with friends--we decided to drive to New Orleans together. We've pretty much been the party duo since then. It used to be said that if a party was organized by me and promoted by Michele, it was a must attend. Christmas party last year? One word--EPIC. We're close to inseparable, but in a crazier way.
Pamela--my writing partner across the pond. We've never physically met but once we hooked up through WeBook we've clicked and we've been rocking ever since. We read each other's works, offer constructive criticism, do some butt-kicking when it's needed, and just all around support each other. Here's to a year of writing, the first of many, and fingers crossed that someday we'll see each other's works in the bookstore and give happy squees of delight.
Tony and Cole--These two guys are nuts. Put Michele, Cole, Tony and I in the same room and shit gets real. They're the male version of Michele and I and that includes the drinking capabilities. We can go off on a riff without almost any other provocation and just go for hours. They are awesome in every way imaginable and I can't wait to meet up with them in Vegas.

And finally--R.

R. doesn't fall into the category of friend or family and definitely not job. He's a category all his own. To simplify matters, R. is the person I talked about a few posts back. He's The One. So while I'm thankful for him because he's The One, I'm also thankful for other reasons. Being with him and waiting on him has taught me a new level of patience--I have a feeling that I'm going to learn multiple levels of patience because of him. I've also learned not to settle for less than what I want--in this case, R. Most importantly, I've learned to trust my own judgment and follow my own instincts. Recently I told a friend that I wanted her to meet R.--her response was that she didn't know if she would like him. I told her I didn't really care either way--I don't need her approval, I just wanted her to meet the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Before R., I would have hemmed and hawed and questioned my gut. Not now. So I'm thankful not just for who R. is but how R. has changed me.


So, that's my thankful list. There are other things, such as great reviews and great reviewers, but what's above is the top of the list. And now I'm off to read one last book before going back to my writing schedule of craziness.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Miles and Miles to Go...Through the Woods

I'm a city girl. I have no shame in saying this. I enjoy the noise, the closeness to a hundred amenities, the relative anonymity of being one of a hundred thousand. Having said that, I don't like big cities. My hometown caps out at slightly under 200,000 and during the summer we lose at least 50,000 of that--the colleges empty out and Tallahassee becomes something out of a ghost town. Traffic is easier to deal with and people are just nicer than during the school year.

Despite--or maybe because--of my love for the city, I'm both intrigued and freaked out by nature. Nature being woods. I'm not freaked out by fields. Well, as long as the grass is short. When it gets really tall I'm reminded of scenes from The Lost World and Predators. I'm not freaked out by lakes or rivers or oceans. Well, unless I've watched something like Lake Placid or Piranhas or whatnot. Come to think of it, nature is pretty brutal, so I guess being freaked out by it isn't all that weird.

But the woods are where the major freak out area. Maybe it's the limited visibility. Maybe it's all the weird random noises that you hear in the woods. Who knows, maybe it's all the flippin' green. Whatever the reason, the woods freak me out. So it's interesting that most of New Moon Rising is set in a highly wooded area, if not in the actual woods.

I'm not writing to overcome my freaked out feeling about nature. That's just the way the story needs to be written. But it's interesting writing slightly outside of my comfort zone. We'll see how long that holds up, but for now it's different and enjoyable. And now I'm going to eat lunch with my friend who will not stop yapping at me until I get up and get dressed and go listen to her whine about something, who knows what it is this week, until we both start laughing about ridiculousness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Working on a Deadline

First off--it's a new look! If I mentioned this already, we'll pretend that I didn't because I don't remember which for me means that it probably didn't happen. And I'm aware of how strange that sounded. Anyway, new look for the blog. We'll see how long it lasts. Either I'll get bored with it and change it or I'll be constantly distracted by it and change it or I'll just get used to it. Who knows.

Second, thanks again to Blog with Bite, Quackers & Tease, and The Bookish Snob for hosting me on my first blog tour. I don't know how far reaching the results will be, but I'm counting on word of mouth to help sales and such along. The more people who buy, the more it helps my income. The more my income goes up, the less I have to work at the bill paying job. The less I work there, the more I write. The more I write, the more I can get out for readers. It's a beautiful, vicious, thrilling cycle.

In my efforts to flout tradition and forge my path, I've decided to release a book every 3.5-4 months, or roughly 4 books a year. At this point, it's looking like 2 for each series, which means by this time next year there will be 4 Jude Magdalyn books and 2 Cari Gravier books. If I go completely psycho, I'll manage to work in a fifth book, completely new series, but I'm not placing bets on that quite yet. The characters of that particular series are stubborn and secretive and very, very quiet. I actually didn't hear anything from them for quite a while, and then suddenly BAM! I wrote 9 pages. Maybe I'm back on track, maybe it was a fluke. I'll find out eventually.

I've never actually written on a deadline. Well, for school and papers, but I haven't written a book on a deadline. The closest I've come to a deadline was doing edits for Shades of Desire, something that nearly drove me nuts. The edits, not the deadline. Publishing actually came out ahead of the deadline, so I guess I live for pressure, even it makes me slightly anal and definitely cranky.

So while I'll do my best to keep the blogs to about one a week, maybe two if I'm feeling chatty, please understand that I'm trying to be professional. Trying. The self-imposed deadlines may actually snap any professionalism I may have, but here's hoping that it doesn't. So if I drop off the radar, don't worry. I'm alive. I'm writing. And I'm probably a little crazy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blog Rest Stop. And Story Time!

First, if you haven't already entered into the contest or whatever we're calling it for a free copy of both Shades of Gray and Shades of Desire, time is running out! If you haven't commented on a post by midnight on Halloween/Samhain, you'll have to fight for another time. If you've already received a copy, understand that you've got to share the wealth. And understand that I just wrote a big check for rent, which I 'm not ashamed to admit is more important than buying books.

Second, if you haven't made your way to either BlogwithBite.com or Quackers & Tease, then you've missed the first two stops on my blog tour! There was a stop planned for today, but complications arose, and so we're back here. Tomorrow I'll be at The Bookish Snob, and the final stop will be on Tuesday the 2nd.

But, since we're here--story time! Break out the candy corn or the caramel apples or the pumpkin seeds (I think that last one is a Yankee thing, because just the thought of them weirds me out).

There's a house in New Orleans, on the corner of Royal and Ursulines, that has minimal security. By which I mean there's a padlock on the door. And even though it's come up for sale a time or two, nobody can track down the owner. Interesting, right? It gets better.

At the turn of the previous century, a man named Jacque St. Germaine occupied this house. He was cultured, sophisticated, threw amazing parties, fabulous conversationalist--this guy was the schznitz. He did, however, have a little bad habit. Actually it was more like a big bad habit.

One evening, an, ahem, lady of the evening comes hauling booty into the police station. She informs them that after purchasing her services, St. Germaine attacked her and bit her. Bit her severely enough that she died later that evening in Charity Hospital. The police decide that it might be a good idea to have a little talk with St. Germaine, a longer one than the little touch base they'd had after first finding out about the incident.

Problem. St Germaine done left town. After doing a walkthrough, they seal the place back up--but not before grabbing a few bottles of primo wine. Imagine the cop's surprise later when he pours that wine into a glass, takes a sip, and finds out it's liberally laced with blood. I'd be brushing my teeth for a very long time after that.

Legend says that St. Germaine still pops up in the city now and then. You'll be out on the streets after dark and a well dressed man will approach you, ask you for a light. If you don't have one, his response is usually along the line of "That's too bad. It's a nice night for Jack." People talk about a great feeling of unease when around him. Others have reported stranger, more frightening results of running into this man that may or may not be St. Germaine. Since it's after dark on the Devil's Night, you'll have to do your own research if you want to find out more--I'm a little too superstitious for that kind of talk.

Thus concludes story time. Join me tomorrow at The Bookish Snob for another story and to find out what happens when you throw me on a grill!

And of course--HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 22, 2010

And Now A Personal Message....

I'm going to break form here, what form I have, and talk about completely non-writing stuff. Maybe it's because I'm tired. Or maybe it's because I'm feeling a little out of sorts. Or maybe it's just that it's the right time.

This may get a little maudlin. I'm warning you now.

I've never been a real demonstrative person, at least in the way of emotions. Well, true emotions. It's relatively easy to say "I love you, you big idiot" to a friend or even a work acquaintance. Why? Because it's not real. It is, but it isn't. It's something that just rolls off the tongue, the same way a dirty joke or the latest gossip on the latest scandal does.

I'm not going to analyze why someone who writes emotional scenes is to some extent closed off emotional. This isn't therapy. I think.

There's a guy. I know, I know, it always has to start that way (or with there being a girl, but you get the point). He wasn't supposed to be The Guy. Matter of fact, he wasn't supposed to be any kind of guy, other than off-limits--and not because either one of us were involved with others, but for other reasons. But somehow, someway, we went from being non-involved to being involved.

And then we went from that into the L Word. Which really wasn't supposed to happen. It was supposed to be just sex. On both our parts. And somehow everything got twisted.

Two years later, it's still twisted. I don't know if we can ever get it untwisted or if the twistedness is just part of whatever normalcy we have.

We're so unperfect for each other, it's almost like it was planned. He's Republican; I'm registered Democrat ( I vote however the hell I want, but that's neither here nor there). He reads heavy, dramatic stuff or sci-fi things; I have bookshelves overflowing with Nora Roberts, Laurell K. Hamilton, and other such authors. He drinks beer; I drink vodka. Actually, that last one really doesn't have anything to do with it, but I had to throw it in there.

We are unperfect for each other. And yet, it's perfect. He's the only person that I've ever given serious thought to spending the rest of my life with--I mean, beyond the wedding spend the rest of my life with. He's the only person I've wanted to have kids with. He's The Guy.

If I never saw him again, I'd still never forget what he looks like, or feels like, or tastes like. He's as firmly imprinted in my sense of being as breathing is.

He asked me recently why I've never written anything about him, about us. At the time, I said it was because I really hadn't written a lot of that material (literotica.com--it helps me think--don't judge). That's part of the reason.

The bigger reason is that I can't put into words what I feel for him. I'm pretty sure that I don't do a good job of showing it sometimes, either. Again, I'm just not that demonstrative.

So this is me, putting myself out there. This is me, trying and hopefully succeeding in saying how I feel and what someone means to me. This is me.

Next week, we'll return to our regularly scheduled program.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Potpourri

First, the contest is still alive and kicking. I'm probably going to extend it for a week to try and get more entries/participants. Same rules are still in effect--throw your name in the comment section and away you go.

Moving on--I'm not entirely certain what to blog about. My options are by no means limited, I just don't find myself sufficiently intrigued enough by any of them to devote numerous paragraphs to them. So I'll just wander at random and see what happens, hence the title of Potpourri. Although maybe it's more like putanesca. But then again I'm not entirely certain what putanesca is, either. I just like the word.

Editing
I both love and loathe it. I love it because I get to read a story I'm interested in (obviously. I wrote the dang thing) but I loathe it because it's monatanous. And it seems to be never-ending. I know it's not and I know it's a necessary evil--but it is evil. Editing is one of those moments where I'm always reminded of the quote/answer to do you like writing--I like having written.

Readers
Yes, I'm aware of the strangeness of that subtitle/bullet point, but bear with me. Quite a bit of my reviews are from independent readers. That is, they said they were willing to do reviews and I sent them free copies, usually in PDF (it's cheaper and it's greener, both of which are awesome things). Thanks to the back and forth e-mail, I get and hopefully they get a more in-depth experience. This isn't to say that it's all been hearts and flowers. Is there a negative review? Kind of. Does it bother me? Kind of. Am I questioning their opinion or stating that it's wrong? Nope. Because it's her opinion. She's entitled to it, she paid money for the book. I'm inclined to believe that by neither praising a good review or apologizing for a bad one, I'll be benefited in the end. Why? Because my readers (and I'm vain enough to say that there will be multitudes--hopefully) will be able to comment and discuss without fear or worry that myself or a site moderator will swoop down from the Internet heavens and flog them for daring to have a difference of opinion. So readers--do your thing.

New Design
Finally (because that last paragraph was really long--longer than I meant for it to be), I'll close out by saying--Look! There's new stuff! You can now read the first chapter of both Shades of Gray and Shades of Desire. Awesome, right?
Yeah, I know. It is awesome.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Promotion--Otherwise Known as Talking A Lot

This blog will be short. Why? Because I'm both tired and hungry. I'm tired because I am once again playing substitute manager and I just pulled a close/open. I'm hungry because, well, it's dinner time. And I think I'm entering the carb crashing part of Atkins, but I digress.

First, I'd like to thank all the reviews I've gotten recently. Amber at www.untamedbookreviews.com, Neil Kirby at www.all-review.co.uk, and the reviewers from goodreads and Amazon. Slowly but surely the word is being spread. I've just sent out a slew and a half of review requests and I hope to hear back from those soon.

I'm also in the middle of planning a blog tour (which hopefully some of those reviewers will help with). I'll admit, I'd never heard of a blog tour until recently, but as someone with both limited time and limited funds, it's appeal is massive. If things go well, I'll spend the last week of October talking quite a bit. And while I love to talk, I think it's better that it's being done via typing--my boss gets angry when I get laryngitis.

In the spirit of promotion, I will be doing a give-away. Yes, I'm giving things away. One random reader/commenter will receive a copy of Shades of Gray for free. But wait--it gets better. They will also receive a copy of the sequel, Shades of Desire, for free. Two for the price on none. It doesn't really get any better than that. And if it does, you should ask yourself where the catch is, because there probably is one.

Rules are simple. Leave your name in a comment. If you're a fellow author, you can link to your blog or book. The contest (although there really isn't a competition per se, but that's the word that comes to mind) will run from now until October 24. I'll announce the winner on the 25th, and ship the books as soon as I get an address.

Now--let the game begin!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight

I'm going to do my best to make sure there's no typos, but I just got off work and my brain is a little fried. Night shift is...special is the only word that comes to mind. But I digress.

It's been almost a month since Shades of Gray hit Kindle. I can't really say I'm selling any, but that might be because I'm giving away copies for review. So my wallet isn't happy, but I'm fairly used to that. It's almost a constant state of being, the weeping of my wallet. But I digress again.

While I haven't achieved a boatload of sales--not even a little toy boat sized load--I have gotten some favorable reviews. At this posting, it's two, with at least two more coming in the next couple of weeks. I'll throw those links at the end of this blog for all the curious. The general consensus is good. Damn good, actually, which makes me really happy. It's always good to have affirmation of your work, especially from someone other than your mom (I still love you, Mom--just saying).

So positive reviews--check. Increased internet exposure--working on it.

This blog is one way to get the word out. I know, I tend to just ramble, sometimes incoherently, but at least you're reading it. (You are reading, right? You're not just skimming?) I hope I'm entertaining you at least a little. If you out there in cyber world have any particular topics you'd like to see talked about, just holler.

I've been tentatively working the forums on Amazon and at goodreads.com. I don't want to annoy the devil out of people (although it might be less bothersome than an exorcism), but I want people to buy my book, damnit. I think what I'll end up doing is hitting the major threads once a week and keep my eye out for relevant threads.

Facebook is a small but slightly relevant presence. My group is small but word of mouth has been known to work wonders. Twitter is...difficult. I'm going to try and be a better Tweeter, but who knows how that's going to work out.

So the fight continues. Now, if only I had Gerard Butler or Viggo Mortenson to keep me company...


The links:
http://www.untamedbookreviews.com/review%20archive/Shades%20of%20Gray.html
http://www.all-review.co.uk/preview

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trials, Tribulations, and Triumph

First, let me just say that the title of the blog, while catchy, also makes me think of some esoteric music group. You know, the kind that rap over acoustic guitar and trombones, or something like that. It's early, so I'm bound to be distracted, and so I just had to share that piece of information.

Now on to the trials and tribulations. After taking right at two weeks to edit and upload the changes to Shades of Gray, I finished. The heavens opened up, angels sang, there was a tinker tape parade...okay, the last one was definitely in my head, but it's my head, and I can have a parade there if I want to. I was merciless. I cut right at 6,000 words. Plot, pacing, characters, etc are all still the same, I just chopped quite a bit of extraneous description and some conversational bits. So chop, snip, axe, until everything is a little more pared down while still retaining the essence of Jude.

And then tragedy struck.

In an effort to entice people into continuing the series, I decided to throw the first chapter of Shades of Desire after Shades of Gray. Small problem--I can't find it. Not just the first chapter, but the entire manuscript. All 370 pages of it. Gone. Vanished. Disappeared. If ever there was a moment to cry, it was sitting in my living room with months of hard work just gone.

The only saving grace was that I had posted quite a bit of SoD to a writing website that I'm a member of, and it was still sitting there. The very rough, pre-edit, full of plot confusion version. But given a choice between having some of it and having none of it, I'd take the some of it. I was still missing roughly a hundred pages, but I was going to be a trooper. I was going to rewrite what was missing, and finish SoD, and have it ready for release on Nov. 2. The thought of all that lost work still made me want to cry, but I was going to bounce back from this.

Boy, did my rubber ball turn out to one of huge proportions.

Right at a week ago, give or take a day, I'm sitting there in my living room, writing away. If I'm doing at least a half chapter every day, I'll finish up no later that the middle of September--this is my thought. So after about six pages or so, I save--double save, actually, since my flashdrive is practically glued to me now--and decided to call it a night. And then I have the craziest idea. I'm convinced it won't work. After all, why would my beloved book suddenly appear just because I'm doing a single word search through my computer harddrive?

Maybe, because my computer is a sneaky, wily beast. Because I'll be damned, halfway down the search results, I come across a file the right size, with a date around the time my book went missing. I double clicked on that sucker, and probably scared the neighbors half to death with my scream of triumph.

That's right. My computer, in a fit of something or another, had managed to hide my book from me. I always thought my computer was smarter than me. Now I know it. But that's okay, it can be smarter than me--because I found my book, saved that thing on my computer and on my flashdrive, and once I post this I'll be getting back to work on it.

The other bit of good news is that Shades of Gray is now available on Kindle. Like right this second. Current pricing is $2.99, but around Halloween I may drop it down for a week or so. Paperback will be out later this month, but I'm pushing for everyone to go the Kindle route. You can download the Kindle software on any smartphone or on your PC or on your actual Kindle (shocking, I know). The Kindle version is cheaper and more portable. Now, if you want to go the paperback route, I'll be happy there, too, but I'm about saving you guys money so you can buy more books or whatever. So--go for the Kindle.

Here is the direct link---http://www.amazon.com/Shades-Gray-Magdalyn-Novel-ebook/dp/B0041G6JY0/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1282958105&sr=8-5

(For some reason, I thought that was going to get shorter. Apparently, I was wrong.)

Now, any reviewers out there--message me or comment below and I'll send you a free copy. Yes, free--but for reviewers only. Before I send the PDF, I'll be checking out your web site to confirm you are who you say you are--cause my mama didn't raise no fool. I can be silly sometimes, but I'm not a fool.

Everybody else--tell your friends! It's only $2.99! That's less than a meal at most fast food restaurants! I'll stop with the exclamation points now! Okay, I'll stop now, really. But word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools available, and this is where you guys come in. So get out there, spread the word.

And get ready for Shades of Desire--because things are about to go more than a little crazy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Routes

I love tradition. Tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, comes down on 12th night kind of tradition. Traditions that are so old, that you feel like God will strike you down for not following them. I believe it gives everything a sense of connectedness and permanence that, let's face it, is just not that common today.

But at the same time, I'm also a big believer in innovation. I'm one of those people who loves when new phones come out--the people at my cell phone provider could get exhausted listening to me go back and forth between phone types. I haven't really jumped on the e-book wagon, again because of that love of tradition, in this case a book in my hand, but I'm reaalllyyy tempted. It'd be great for traveling, or just sitting places for long periods of time.

I'd like to think it's a combination of the two above beliefs that have pushed me towards self-publishing. I'm sure that if I worked and waited and waited and waited...and you get the picture. I'd eventually land an agent, and from there a contract, and so on and so forth. And my decision to self-publish is based only in part on being impatient, and not wanting to wait. More of it is based in the realism that our economy is, well, crap. I wish there was a more artistic way to say it, but there's not. That means that everyone is tightening their belts, including agents, publishing houses, etc. I can't blame them for being very hesitant about taking on new writers when you have no idea how they're going to work out. It doesn't mean I have to like it, it just means that I can't blame them.

So I could wait patiently, and hope that the heavens open up, and something amazing happens. Or I could get out there and make something amazing happen. Will I get reviewed by the New York Times? Nope. But there are other organizations that review books, and that are reputable on top of that. Will I wind up in my local Borders? Not unless I bring the books to sell myself, which really isn't a bad idea. Will people clamor to interview me, or hound me for autographs? Probably not, which is kind of good, because I get annoyed easily at large crowds of people, and if I want an interview, I'll pull strings with my friend on the local paper.

The point is, whether I was starting out with the help of an agent or the way I'm going, I'm going to have to work my ass off. This is tradition. It's nothing new. But now, I'm doing it on my terms, and I'm willing to bet that while I may not be the next big thing, if I push hard enough, not just this book but the ones after it will catch on. I may eventually get that agent and all the nifty things that go with it. I'm just doing it a bit backwards.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stress

I am exhausted. If I was a little less tired, I'd think of a brand spanking new word for how tired I am, but since I'm too tired for mental acrobatics, I'll just stick with exhausted. I'd like to say that I'm so tired because of fun recreational activities, but, alas, those activities are lacking.

No, I find myself so tired because of a combination of overwork and stress. The stress is a byproduct of being overworked, or rather the additional stress, since I'm slightly stressed most of the time. Back in the day, I used to be a manager, not just a server. But I hated it, or rather the politics of it, because while I am excellent at most things, I will never be excellent at having a penis. That tends to happen when you're a girl. And sad to say, the restaurant business is still very old boy club--which requires a penis. So instead of continuing to fight a losing battle, because I was not going to obtain a penis then or at any time in the future, I went back to serving. My stress level went down, my happiness went up, and so did my paychecks, crazily enough. The only fly in the ointment is that whenever our stores find themselves short on management, I get to pick up the slack. And by get to, I mean I'm appointed, and I have to fight tooth and nail for my server hours, which is where the money really is. So then I'm stressed because I have to manage the night shift, who are basically walking dummies, and because I'm worrying about having money to pay the bills. I've been lucky for the last few months, not having to pick any shifts up. My luck has run out.

This weekend is my high school reunion. Since I had to work like a dog earlier this year, pulling doubles and whatnot, even while I was sick, I was guaranteed five days off, i.e. my vacation time. I get three weeks of vacation time, and I was taking one of them, damn it. But one of the managers, who's been with the company less than a year, decided a month ago to go out of town. And they find themselves short a manager by one night. Guess who gets to pick it up? Yeah, you're all smart. So in addition to the stress of the reunion (did I mention I'm on the planning committee, so I'm really frickin' busy?), I get to lose a day of vacation time, and pick up a day of stress. This makes the second week in a row I've gone six days straight. It doesn't sound like a lot if you have a desk job. But I'm on my feet for, oh, about eight or nine hours. And I do mean on my feet. Six days makes parts of your body hurt that you weren't aware existed.

I would love to say I have a fool proof method of dealing with stress. I don't. I tend to just let it build up, and then lock myself in my apartment for a day. No people. No phone. Just me. That's usually all I really need. But this week, there will be no peopleless day. I'm living off frozen dinners, because I have no time to cook, Diet Coke, because I have no time to sleep, and Edy's Pomegrante Fruit Bars, because they're awesome.

As my coworker Kristy would say--"Let us pray."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Wall

First, let me apologize for my lack of posts in the last month. Between my birthday, planning for my 10 year high school reunion, and other personal issues the time I had open for blogging was...very small. Let's just go with that as one of the contributing factors, the lack of time. I also work full time, and try to spend time with my friends and family. Time is something I definitely don't have enough of, which makes me annoyed when I hit a wall.

I was thisclose to finishing up Shades of Desire. I could taste victory. Jude and the gang could taste it. Seriously. So effing close. And yet, it was not to be. I managed to bang out another five pages or so. And that was it. I can almost see every little detail of how the end of the book goes. I just can't get there. And I don't know why, which is even more annoying.

As for New Moon Rising, yep, I've hit a wall there, too. The difference is that I know what's causing the wall, and how I have to get over/around/under it. The scene in question involves a funeral home, and the next chapter will involve a funeral. It's kind of depressing that I should be used to people dying, but the church I grew up in had an abnormally large senior population, so all us youngsters got kind of used to the whole dying thing. However, my grandmother passed away in December. She was one of the most important people in life, still is, truth be told, and even seven months later I get choked up, and all sorts of emotional things. Since I tend to write in public, it would be a little awkward to explain the crying. So I just sort of stepped back and away instead of just plowing through it. Yes, I can be a wuss sometimes.

However, this is a new month. About 99% of the emotional crap of the last month is gone. The reunion is in a week, which means I'll have five blessed days of non-work. And if I cross my fingers, I'll have a new job altogether within the next six months. That 1% of emotional crap remaining? There's a good possibility it'll always be there. But I can live with that, because I have a helluva lot more good stuff in my life, as evidenced by the percentage.

So maybe sometimes what we see as a writing wall is actually a life wall. Our art is who we are, it helps define a major portion of our identity. It makes all the sense in the world, at least to me, that our subconscious would do its best to set us back on the right path, and that for those of us who write, it chooses that outlet to do so. And is it annoying? Yes, especially if you want to use writing as an escape. But it's a lot less annoying than winding up in Scranton when you were trying to get to Trenton and having to backtrack to Atlanta on the map of life.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Drafts

I was recently looking through the forums on agent Nathan Bransford's blog, and one of the topics I came across asked the question of the quality of a first draft. Basically, the original poster said that their first draft is crap, in their opinion, and wanted to find out how other writers felt about their first drafts. Most of the respondents said that their first draft was crap as well; sometimes it was crap even 5+ drafts later. There were a few, myself included, who thought that their first draft was better than crap. Not perfect, but not crap.

Laurell K. Hamilton has mentioned the 80/20 rule (and for those of you have seen How Did I Get Married, this is not the same rule), where about 80% of a first draft is crap and the other 20% is golden. The only problem with that is that you have to write the whole damn thing before you find out which is which. She's said that with each book, the percentages have shifted, so that now it's more 30/70, but again, you have to write the whole damn thing. For a lot of writers, that's where the problem lies, in the finishing.

At this stage, I'm so invested in the characters, that it's not a matter of not finishing. It's more a matter of exactly when will I be finishing. Shades of Desire hit a massive snag, mainly because I wrote something in that seemed like a good idea. It turned out it wasn't, but it's written in to so many scenes, that just the sheer thought of the rewrites put up the writer's wall. I still wrote, hence the start of New Moon Rising, but I just couldn't make it past that wall I'd thrown up. Six months of the wall, which sounds like a very long time, but that's also six months of a full time job and life in general, so really, it's not that long.

And then finally, finally, FINALLY, one random Tuesday at work, the clouds lifted, the seas parted, and other miracles happened. Not really, although it did stop raining for a little bit. The main thing that happened was that I was finally able to see my way through the wall. Not over it, because then it would still be there, waiting to knock me on my ass, but through it, demolishing it. And really, it was so stupidly simple that I have no idea why I didn't think of it before.

Back to first drafts. Some writers knock out a first draft in seemingly record time, then go back and flesh out the bare bones of the story they've got. Some research each detail, spending months on plot and setting and every aspect, so that when they finally sit down to write, it only takes a few months of actual writing, even if it took years of preparation. There are a million different ways to get that first draft out, and so there's a million different levels of how good that first draft is. In the end, it doesn't matter if it's crap or if a miracle happened and every last word of that first draft is perfect. The point is that you get it out, that the story gets told.

But if you ever manage to figure out how to write a perfect first draft, let me know. So I can hunt you down and beat you with the latest draft of whatever I'm working on.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Things of Minor Importance

First off--it's my birthday! I'm young enough to enjoy it, but old enough that I don't necessarily tell people my age right away. I plan to write, read, sleep, go to dinner and a movie, and then probably get into trouble. I'm very good at the last bit, or so I've been told.

Speaking of movies--tomorrow is like movie craziness. There's either three or four movies coming out that I want to see, and since I'm off tomorrow (I know, total craziness), I'll probably spend half my day at the theater. I may have to take them up on that free refills on a large drink offer. It'll save me some cash, even if it doesn't save my bladder.

And speaking of saving things (I wonder if this is being on a roll, or constantly chasing rabbits), I've finally broken through the block that was holding up Shades of Desire. I'm probably going to end up cutting the equivalent of a chapter, maybe two, and this is before I've even finished the book. But I don't think I'll be able to finish the book without doing this bit of surgery--in fact, I think the fact that I hadn't done it yet was the reason I was blocked. I was already dreading the cutting and rewriting. But now with my brain in place, I'm ready for the scalpel, as it is.

So, the last thing, not of minor importance. But definitely of importance nonetheless.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Writing as a Job

Today is my day off from the job that currently pays my bills. Starting tomorrow, I work six days in a row, anywhere from 7 to 9 1/2 hours a day. Last week, I worked six days, seven shifts, close to fifth hours. I'm tired as anything, and I still got up on my day off, before the crack of dawn, to write. I'll do some housekeeping issues, and be writing by 6:30. By nine, I'll have popped out at least ten pages. I may take a break for a little, but then I'll be back writing, and by the end of the day will have close to two chapters done.

I talked about inspiration, or stubborness, in my last blog, and this is what I mean by stubborness. I hate getting up early. I've been doing it for nearly six years, and it doesn't get easier, you don't learn to like it. The only thing I've learned is that while I don't need caffeine to function first thing, I do need at least 20 minutes of total alone time in order to not snap people's heads off. But I get up early anyway, because if I don't, the day will go by, and I will have no more pages.

I'm not one of those writers who treats writing as a job with a boss. I know that nobody is hovering over me, pressing me to write more pages. I know that I have no time clock. The only deadlines are the ones that I set for myself. And I definitely don't have a paycheck.

At this stage, writing is something like volunteer work. I'm not getting paid. But every little bit that I write is something that eventually will serve a larger purpose. It's not something being done for fame or glory or because it's required. It's something that's done because I want to, because I have an overwhelming desire and urge to do it. It fulfills me, in the same way that volunteer work fulfills a lot of people.

But eventually, I do want to move from a volunteer position to a paying one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Inspiration...and Non-Inspiration

Some people are under the impression that as writers, we walk around in a haze of inspiration and creativity. I'm much more likely to walk around in a haze of confusion and absent-mindedness than anything else. That isn't to say that on occasion I don't have ideas pop into my head and I have to search frantically for pen and paper to write them down. I just tend to get more annoyed when that does happen.

Inspiration is almost always confused with force of will and determination. I can honestly say that I am never inspired at six in the morning when I sit down in front of my computer. I'm not inspired five minutes later, or thirty minutes later. But if I can sit myself down and start writing, that part of my brain that actually does all the writing will wake up and get going, and before I know it, I've got a good dozen pages. But again, this is not inspiration--this is willpower and stubborness.

Non-inspiration is just a way of saying I'm lazy or annoyed or pissed off. Let's face it, sometimes life is really, really frustrating, and just the thought of sitting down and writing a sentence shoots that annoyance to new levels. On those days, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that anything I write will be complete, utter crap. And since I'm already feeling lazy, wasting my time doing something I'm going to have to undo would really, really piss me off.

Having said all this, I'll go back and shoot myself in the foot and say that inspiration, that hazy mist of creativity, does exist. It can come from a song, or a snippet of conversation, sometimes just looking at a person is enough to get the creative juices flowing. One of the major scenes in Shades of Desire was inspired by a Nickelback song--I could almost see the action unfolding, like a music video of sorts. The entire premise for New Moon Rising came about after I wrote the first page completely on a whim--at the end of the first page, I had no idea what was going to happen, no clue, until I got to the end of the first long scene. Now, I'm so deep in this particular world, I couldn't imagine it not existing.

Whether you call in inspiration, determination, or non-laziness, something pushes us to write. And thank God for it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Writing How I Talk

One of the first things I hear from people who both know me and have read my writing is, "I can tell it's you," or "That sounds just like you." I'll admit, I have a distinctive way of speaking. It's a strange mixture of regional culture, family culture, and 5+ years in an industry where I hear a little bit of everything. My friends and I have sayings adapted from television or movies, twisted and turned and spun around until they're absolutely our own. My verbal quirks are theirs, and visa versa, which has a lot to do with how I write.

Every writer has a voice--I think we can agree with this, even if we may not like a writer's voice. In the same way, I'm inclined to believe that every generation has their own voice. By no means do I talk in the same way that my mother does, or the same way that my grandmother did. My sister and I, even though we're only three years apart in age, have a slightly different way of speaking as well. Not really word usage, or sentence structure, or anything so technical as that, but more sayings, phrases, and attitude.

So when I write about a character in the same generation as myself, give or take a few years, it's not surprising that the character, whoever they are, sounds like myself and my friends. It helps that I tend to stay in one region, because I'll admit, I have no idea how people, in say, Seattle or New York City converse. I'm going to go with the assumption that they don't talk about things like cow-tipping (no, I myself have not done it--but I know people). But where I come from, you're just as likely to hear about the latest political scandal as you are to hear about the latest high school football scores, usually in the same breath.

Is it easier? Sometimes. But sometimes it's harder, too. But then, that's almost everything about writing. Sometimes the easiest things are also the hardest--one of the reasons I love my work.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Opening a Vein

(Thanks to Shea McLeod's blog--more specifically the quote--to supplying the theme for this post.)

I've always been one of those people who's on the fence about therapy. Do I believe it works? Absolutely. Do I believe it would work for me? Not real sure. I tend to face most of my problems, and so I don't think sitting in a comfy chair or laying on an uncomfortable couch in a darkened room while someone nods their head sympathetically would really do me a lot of good. That's what I have friends for, to ramble and pick things apart and obsess and so on and so forth.

That's not to say that some things don't come spilling out on paper. Oh, I haven't gone through half the things my characters have gone through--my life just doesn't have that level of drama. But their reactions, their feelings--a good deal of that does come from me, my past experiences, my own feelings.

I have a bad habit of talking about my characters like their real people. My best friends and fellow writers know and understand, and even though the conversations can get a little crazy when I start going off on a rabbit chase, they're still easy to follow. When I was bringing them up to speed, I got to one particular part in the latest chapter. And even though they're very different people, and they received the info at different times, their reaction was the same--"That's a little harsh."

To get all of you on the same, haha, page, the main character, Cari, has had her parents murdered, has flashbacked to the night she miscarried what would turn out to be her only child, has found out the town secret (and boy, is it a doozy), and come face to face with her parents' murderer. Our girl is having a rough 24 hours. Her ex-husband, Mike, has just dropped another bombshell on her. I'll just post the "harsh" part directly.

“Fuck you.” It probably would have come out better if I wasn’t a half second away from full out sobbing. “I’ve loved you since I was sixteen. Sixteen. I’ve never regretted it, until now.”
(Forgive the formatting)

Now, they didn't object to the language--if they did they wouldn't be friends with me because I curse like a sailor. No, they thought her declaration of regret was harsh. They didn't really have a reason behind it, just the thought that it was harsh. Which was interesting to me, because both of them are---let's call them volatile. One of them has thrown a hair dryer at an ex-boyfriend. The other had a five minute rule--if she called her boyfriend and he didn't answer, he had five minutes to call back. Or it would be ugly.

Me? I didn't think she was harsh enough. I'm not one for violence, but I would definitely be looking for something to cause some lasting physical damage. But since they both had the same reaction, I had to step back and think--was I, as the writer (in theory, the one in control) being too harsh?

This is the point where that nifty title comes into play, and the therapy talk. As writers, we're given the most amazing gift, the ability to tell a story. But it comes with a price, at least for most of us. I'm sure there are some writers who can tell a story without pulling out pieces of themselves--I'm not one of them. When I write a scene full of emotional turmoil, it's not just emotional for my characters, but for me. If I'm not moved by what I write, how can I expect other people to be moved?

Writing is like opening a vein. Like letting little drops of blood hit the page. It's messy, and exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. It's self-discovery, and discovery of human nature, and if that's not therapy at it's most basic level, I don't know what is.

But even if it's not, it's a helluva lot cheaper than therapy. And I didn't have to lay on any weird leather couches.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Typical Sunday

I'm going to go out on a limb, and say that my typical Sunday is not quite the same as your typical Sunday. I could be wrong (it's been known to happen, sometimes even more than one time a day), but for the majority of people, I'd say that my Sunday is more like something out of their worst nightmare.

Sunday starts at 4:30--in the morning. Yes, in the morning. I'm at work by 5:30 (ok, 5:45, but close enough), and I kick off what could be anywhere from an 8 to a 10 hours shift. I haven't pulled a straight 10 hour shift in a while, and I'm not complaining about that at all. Come football season--which reminds me, I need to find out ticket prices for the FSU v. Florida game--a 10 hour shift is much more likely.

The job that gets me up at such an ungodly hour in order to pay my bills is one that keeps me on my feet, no break, no stopping, and a lot of ingratitude. Yes, I work in the restaurant industry, or as I call it on a particularly bad day, the ninth level of hell. I won't say where I work, or who I work for, just because it's something that you can't really pull a CYA on. Besides, if I truly hated it (which is only on some days), I wouldn't still be working there after nearly six years.

Most people sleep late on Sunday, or late-ish. They get up and go to church, maybe, or putter around the house. But it's astounding the number of people who go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings. Astounding. When I was growing up, Saturday was the going out for breakfast day, because Sunday was church and then Sunday dinner. Maybe people just don't do Sunday dinner anymore.

Sunday is busy. Ridiculous, insane, sick busy. On average, there are about 13, maybe 14 girls (yes, we're all girls--men, you're awesome for some things, but every guy I've worked with has been a whiner--just saying) going in and out of the kitchen, getting drinks, traying food, bringing back dishes, and so on and so forth. Add in 2-3 dishwashers and at least 6 cooks, and the back of the house is pretty packed.

Which says nothing about the front of the house, or what most people call the dining room. Our average turn in an hour is about 120, 130. We've done 145+, sometimes for two or three hours straight, and that gives a whole new definition to brutal. We've got extra chairs on the ends of booths, people squeezed in next to each other--it's more than a little crowded.

I'll leave how people act up to your imagination. If you're interested, there are any number of blogs out there by people far more disgruntled than I am. But if you've ever worked in anything involving sales, you'll understand the dynamics of a buyer/seller relationship, and how some people don't understand that rudeness really doesn't get you very far. Actually, it gets you nowhere, except for someone remembering who you are, and going out of their way to avoid you at any time in the future.

After my shift, and the journey of getting home, I always have the best of intentions to wash the smell of hell off me, and then put in some time writing. It doesn't always work, because, let's face it, sometimes I make it to the bed, and pass out for hours. But sometimes, and those are the good days, I make it to the computer. I throw on my iTunes (and we'll discuss my crazy music tastes some other day), read over what I last wrote, and then sit down, and get to my real work.

Except, since it's what I love, most of the time it's not really work. Yeah, I have to work my brain, but it's still what I love. So my Sunday, what I love, really happens when most people's days are ending.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Welcome, and all that jazz

We'll call this exactly what it is--an introductory post. I find it funny that as a writer, I've never really been one for blogging. Maybe because I talk as much as I write, and I get all the blogging out of me via talking. Which didn't really make any more sense to you than it did to me probably.

However, I'm going to take the time every day to throw something of interest out here. It may be a paragraph or two of whatever I'm working on, which could be one of two things. It might be a rant about the job I endure in order to pay the bills, one of them being electricity, which powers the computer, the other being cable, which literally hooks me up with the internet. It might just be me trying to work through some weird situation that my characters have left me in (they're tricky like that).

The point, though, is that I'm going to have something for you to read. Because, really, isn't that the point of a writer? To get people to read?