Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Year in Review

It's blog chain time again and with the holidays upon us we're doing a jingle chain which means that we are blogging outside of our usual order and on whatever topic strikes our fancy. This time the blog before mine in the chain is Abi's and the one after is Elana.

Christmas is over and the New Year quickly approaches. A new year means three things: 1. Making Resolutions 2. Making plans for New Years Eve and 3. Reading endless lists that review the past year and its high and lows for movies, TV, music, books, pop culture, and anything else that magazine and newspaper editors can think of.

I already have the first two covered (Continue writing for number 1 and cooking for family and then chilling with friends are my plans for number 2.), but number three is one that I haven't really tackled yet, and it deserves to be considered because while my main goal of being agented and published was not accomplished, I took so many other little steps in the right direction that it's hard to chalk the year up as a loss.

So, without further ado here is my 2008 writing year in review.

1. Elana in her post after mine began by talking about not being in the writing closet. Well, last year at this time I was in the closet. The only person who knew I was writing was my husband. Besides him I hadn't mentioned it to my best friend, mom, or any of my four sisters. I think mostly it was not believing in myself and what I was doing. It was my husband who finally outted me and over this past year he, my friends, my sister Amanda and even my Mother-in-Law have read my novel. Now I know the opinions of friends and family are not to be trusted since that whole love thing tends to cloud their judgement - nonetheless when they told me they enjoyed it, laughed out loud, or read half of it in one day - well those were great moments.

2. My education in publishing. Finding QueryTracker, agentquery, Miss Snark and the world of agent blogs, author blogs, and editor blogs meant hours of staring at my computer screen. Clicking, clicking, clicking. Reading, reading, reading. There were actually so many resources out there that I was at times overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available to me. At the end of it though I had an idea of how to write a query letter, knew who to send it to and who would want sample pages or a synopsis along with it.

3. Send out query letter. Wait. Receive rejection. Pull self off floor. Send out more query letters. Wait. Receive request for partial or a full. Do dance of joy. Wait some more. Have partial or full rejected. Lick wounds until they start to heal. Start new novel and then just hope and wait some more.
At any of these points I could have given up. Hell at every one of these points I wanted to give up. I didn't give up.

4. Receiving an honorable mention in the Bookends Blog first 100 words contest. It was a small thing, but it was a bright spot during a time when a lot of rejections where rolling in.

5. Joining my first crit group - the Passionate Critters. This was my first chance to get unbiased crits from other writers. It also felt it was another step in the direction of getting really serious about writing. Also, I made my first writing friends.

6. Starting my blog. Soon after joining Passionate Critters at the urging of some of the other members I started this blog. Now I wasn't just announcing my intentions of being a writer to my family and friends, but to the whole worldwide web.

7. Soon after starting the blog the blog chain began. I thought it would be a way to get myself to post more on my blog and find a larger readership, but I got something even better out of it - wonderful, special, and amazing writing friends who I don't know how I ever lived without them.

8. Getting close to finishing my second novel. It took me a couple of false starts, but by July I had settled on my Urban Fantasy WIP and have been slowly chipping away at it ever since. There was a part of me after finishing my first novel that didn't know if I could do it again, but now I know that there is no magic in it - only making the time to write and then making myself do it.

9. RallyStorm. Another place to hang out with my online friends? Awesome.

I was going to find a number 10, but I have a cold that is shutting down the part of my brain where I stored that one, and besides it's always nice to leave something for next year.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this year - I can't wait to spend the next one with all of you too!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christmas always seems like a good time to reflect on how time goes by so quickly. And there is nothing like having a baby to really drive this point home.

For example here is my son, Jamie, in our Christmas card from last year.



(On the inside the card it says, "As if it's your first!")

And here is Jamie in our Christmas card from this year.




From one short year to the next he looks totally different. I'm the type of person who always wants time to go by fast, and am always looking forward to the next thing. But when I see how fast my baby is growing for once I wish that I could freeze time.

That's why today I'm not going to do anything but enjoy every minute of this day. And I hope all of you do the same thing too.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Word Counting

It's time for my monthly word count update, and for once I am proud of the progress I have made.


59317 / 85000 words. 70% done!

Yes, 70% done, which mathematically
speaking (writerly speaking, the percentages left could be much higher) means only 30% left! I've never been a big number person, but for some reason these numbers speak to me.

I've also since October been using a spreadsheet, given to me by the excellent Elena of Mindless Musings, and have become obsessed with the daily ritual of inputting my word count progress. Being forced to do the math (confession: I use the calculator on my computer) makes me see in black and white when I've only managed to get 200 hundred words and should push myself to write a little bit more, or (sadly) less often when I've written over a thousand and can give myself a little pat on the back.

I can also see patterns emerging - like when I sit down to write the first spurt of what comes out is usually around 250 words. That's usually stuff that's been percolating in my brain since my last writing session. I usually have a pretty good idea of what the next 250 should be as well. That gets me to 500 (this I figured out without the aid of a calculator). To get past that, I usually need to play a little Snood, surf a little internet, and check my email as if the answers might be lurking there. Sometimes nothing comes and I leave it for tomorrow and other times I find something else that gets me to 800, 900, or even 1000. I really like it when I hit 1000.

Anybody else find counting words helpful? Or does it do the opposite and make you focus on quantity and not quality of your words?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Respect The Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart was a guest judge for the quickfire challenge on Top Chef last night. The first thing my husband said when Martha came on the screen was something about how she was a jailbird.

Hearing this my first thought was, "oh yeah, wow, I had completely forgotten about that," and my second thought was, "hey, leave Martha alone. Then I quickly jumped to Martha's defense. Why? Because I like Martha Stewart. And even if you don't like her, you should at least respect her.

Everything that Martha Stewart puts her name on is great. When I was planning my wedding the best of all the wedding magazines was the one with her name on the cover.

The Everyday Food cookbook that my husband and I use most often out of all our cookbooks (and which I actually am going to use today for an excellent meatball recipe) is another Martha Stewart product.


Sure, she's a little uptight and her crazy perfectionist ways make everyone else feel slightly inadequate. For example, a few months agoI was watching her TV show and it was an episode where she talked about how to make the perfect bed (using, of course, her Martha Stewart brand of bedding from Macys) and part of her technique included ironing the sheets.

Now, if it was Oprah talking about having her sheets ironed, I would be annoyed - as I was when Oprah once talked about how she likes fresh sheets on her bed every night. The reason for my annoyance is that Oprah has this "I'm just like you persona", when we all knows she's not the one making the bed and laundering those sheets. Martha, on the other hand, has more of a "sprinkling her knowledge on the little people" thing going, but I can imagine her actually ironing her own sheets just because she believes that no one else will do it as well as she can.

I guess what I love most about Martha Stewart is that she's kind of crazy. The way she interviews the various celebrities on her show- often awkwardly ordering them around, putting her foot in her mouth, or even accidentally stabbing them.

In honor of the awesome crazy that is Martha Stewart I have pasted below a recipe of hers that I used last Christmas to make the holiday ham for my family. It tasted delicious, but didn't end up looking quite as pretty as Martha's picture. And you know what? With a Martha Steward recipe - that's exactly the way it should be.


Honeyed Ham with Pears and Cranberries
  • 1 fully cooked, smoked bone-in ham, (about 10 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and skin
  • Whole cloves, for ham (about 45)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 Bosc pears, quartered and cored
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Score ham all over in a diamond pattern; insert cloves into diamonds. Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Pour cider and 1 cup honey over the ham. Bake 1 hour, basting with pan juices halfway through.
  2. Add cinnamon and pears to pan. Bake 45 minutes, basting twice. Sprinkle cranberries over pears; bake until pears are tender and cranberries begin to burst, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fruit to a shallow bowl; cover with foil, and set aside.
  3. Ladle juices from pan into a medium saucepan. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup honey, the sugar, and ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook until mixture is syrupy and has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Pour glaze over ham; bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven; brush ham with glaze from pan. Let rest 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, and carve. Pour pan juices over pears and cranberries in bowl; serve with ham.

The Carol of the Christmas Pickle

This is just so funny that I needed to share it. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A New Career Opportunity

I think I have finally found the perfect job position, and what's even better is that even in this dismal economy - they're hiring.


Yes, that's right - I could be an official Oscar Meyer Hotdogger, and have the once in a lifetime opportunity to drive the Wienermobile.

I even have relevant past job experience from my summer as a Niagara Falls van tour operator. If I can drive a fourteen passenger van around congested tourist areas while telling bad jokes, (They really were bad. I mean bad bad. I'll give you one actual example so you can judge for yourselves. While pointing out a gigantic old barge that has been stranded on the rocks above Niagara Falls since the early 1900's the following joke would be told: There were rumors that the barge was actually illegally carrying Scotch, (no idea if this was an actual rumor, although I think it was just a set-up for the joke.) so now, of course, it's Scotch on the rocks. Yes, people did actually groan. And yes, I did still tell that terrible joke every damn time I drove by.) then I can certainly handle a vehicle shaped like a gigantic hot dog.

So, what do you think? Do I have a future as a hotdogger?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wishing

It's time for another blog chain. This time Sandra over at Dual Citizenship in SpecFic and Mundania provided the question, and what a deep one it is.

What is the role of wish fulfillment in fiction? What personal wishes do you want your stories to fulfill? Are they the same ones you want to read about? How do our fictitious wishes affect our everyday dreams?

This feels like the type of questions that one might find on their final examination and have to fill several blue books trying to answer it, or perhaps it would be more of a ten page term paper type of question. What I'm saying is that it is a great question, but it is also a big question (made even bigger by it actually being four questions) and I don't know if I can fully wrap my head around it within a blog entry.

Luckily, I have had some time to ponder this question while the rest of the blog chain gave their own answers, and I think I've come up with a response that will not require footnotes or hunting down a MLA Formatting and Style guide.

It's does however have a three parts:

1. Wishing to write what I like to read.

I was reading a review the other day of the a book called The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller and found this excerpt:

C.S. Lewis embarked on "The Chronicles of Narnia" after observing to his friend and fellow Oxford don J.R.R. Tolkien that "there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try to write some ourselves."

Now obviously what is funny about this is that both of those men did go on to write stories, and found much success doing so. However, what I am more interested in here is the idea of not finding enough stories to their taste, and feeling they must resort to writing such stories themselves.

I think there is a bit of this in my own writing. When I read a book with an especially weak heroine, it's all I can do to stop myself from scribbling into the margins a speech where she tells them all where to stick it. Or when I was reading a lot of chick lit, I grew so tired of the women constantly drooling over Gucci bags and Manolo Blahnik shoes, as if that was what every women aspired too, when I knew that my own friends and myself had no interest in such things as long as Target keeps producing decent knockoffs, that I was ready to throw the books at the wall.

Which brings me to point two:

2. Wishing to write a reflection of my own life and experiences.

In 1990 I was eleven years old. I wanted what everyone in the city I lived in wanted: for the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl. In the last minutes of the game the score was Buffalo Bills: 19, New York Giants: 20. The only hope was a final second field goal attempt. It went wide right and the Bills lost. In the following three years they went on to lose three more consecutive Super Bowls.

In writing I have the power to change the story. I can make that damn ball go straight through the post for a glorious last minute win - instead of a heartbreaking loss. Except, I wouldn't. I have no interest in writing it that way, because that's not the truth that I know, and for me writing is a way of expressing my view of the world. And that view is often that of the underdog, who knows what it feels like to lose.

On the other hand, sometimes my view isn't all missed field goals, and that's where number three comes in.

3. Wishing to experience through writing being someone bolder, braver, and brighter than myself.

Maybe I've mentioned this in the past, but I like to sleep with a night light. I do not like to take the dog out after dark. And sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I have to first check behind the shower curtain to make sure that a killer isn't hiding there, waiting to kill me.

The character I am currently writing is not like this at all though. She's Tough. Yep, Tough with a capital T. She'll say something sassy in the face of danger and walk into a dark and scary room without a second thought.

For me, these three points are where wishing and writing intersect.

Wish you could read more about this fascinating subject? Wish granted. Head over to Archetype Writing for her take on this question. Or if you want to read what came directly before me, Mary Lindsey brings Freud into this fascinating topic.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Year, New TV

I've never really thought of myself as a big Sci-Fi fan. Sci-Fi fans like Stars Wars and Star Trek - two things which I really have no interest in at all. However, when I began to think about the shows that I am most excited about in the new year they all had a good dose of science mixed in with their fiction. Those three shows are Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost.

Dollhouse is a show created by Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, and I have been quivering with excitement since the moment I first heard about it. Yes, I know this is an unhealthy level of excitement for a television show, but I don't care. I also don't care about the seemingly endless amount of bad news surrounding Dollhouse - from reshoots, to rewrites, and finally the announcement that Fox is giving the show a Friday night timeslot. I will watch and I will keep my fingers crossed that enough other people will watch so that Fox doesn't yank the show after only one week.

Anyway here is a cool trailer:


And a recent interview with star, Eliza Dushku, about her thoughts on how the show will do.

Of these three series the one that probably has the most in common with the Star Trek and Wars series I mentioned earlier is Battlestar Galatica. Honestly, this was not a show that I ever thought that I would like, and I only started watching because a friend brought the DVD's over, put them in the player, and sat down with me and my husband to watch them.

It took a while for me to be hooked, but by the time we finished the two seasons that he had on DVD, I wanted MORE! I even went on the internet looking for spoilers, because I just had to know (My husband and friend who got me started on the series were HORRIFIED that I would read spoilers, but honestly it doesn't spoil anything for me, I was just excited to watch it as I would have been if I hadn't been "spoiled" If you like spoilers too, here is an article that narrows down the possible identity of the last cylon.)

Now I am all caught up and can't wait to see how it all ends when the final half of the final season starts airing in January. Here's a link where the actor who plays Gaius Baltar promises fans that they will not be disappointed.

In even more exciting Battlestar news, a prequel to the series called Caprica is due to arrive in 2010. They even already have a cool trailer for it:



And as if that isn't enough to keep fans satisfied, Edward James Olmos is going to direct a special two hour long Battlestar Galactica movie that will air later in 2009. Added bonus: the special will be written by Jane Espenson, a former writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Finally: Lost. Admittedly my enthusiasm towards this show has waned at times as it zigged one way and then the other until I could barely remember what had happened in the previous episode much less the previous season. However, last season was really great, (especially with the flash forwards, instead of flashbacks. I was so over the damn flashbacks.) and they just put out a Lost trailer/The Fray music video that recaps last season while teasing the new one and, well, I am a sucker for a good music video trailer. If you are a sucker for such things as well, you can watch it below.



So, anybody else pathetically excited about a new year of TV?