Thursday, March 26, 2015

5 Things I Shouldn't Have to Learn but Did Anyway

I found this post (or what looked like the start of a post) in my drafts, and since I'm desperate to squeeze in an entry before the next WIP Report (I swear my blog is hanging on that one last flimsy thread for its very survival), I'm going to copy/paste it below:

Five Things I Learned in Teaching this Week

  1. If you period-sub for a moderate-to-severe special ed. class, be prepared to have your hair petted for 47 minutes by kids who regard you like you're an exotic unicorn.
  2. If a student says "I think I'm going to die" after running the monster mile in P.E., responding with "We have a lot to cover today...can you hold off dying until you get to Mr. C's class?" is probably not the most compassionate response.
  3. ALWAYS expect your iPad to be on the wrong Pandora playlist. If you think you're getting ready to play soft, tranquil mood music during Silent Sustained Reading, fully expect Wiggle by Snoop Dog to blast instead.
  4. Telling your writing enrichment class about your idea for a character who is a sadistic empath might leave them frozen, wide-eyed, and a little terrified of you.
  5. If a student asks "Mrs. P., what is the definition of the word arousal?" do not attempt to answer. You will fail miserably. Let Webster handle that discussion.

~ ~ ~

I'm sure this post was going somewhere, but since it was from about six months ago, that's all I've got.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#WIP Marathon Report (Or Lack Thereof) - February

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my month. But for prosperity's sake, I'll still do my report. Here goes:

Last report count + chapter/count/scene count: 2,354

Current report WC + CC/ SC: 2,367

Woo hoo I've added thirteen words! That's, like, one word every three days. I'm going to invent a writing challenge opposite of NaNoWriMo and then I'll officially be winning.

WIP issues this month: No issues. It would actually take WRITING in order to have some issues.

Four things I learned this month in writing: 
  1. Magic needs rules: I recently struggled with a book in which the MC was struck with extraordinary powers (healing, invisibility, turbo-speed) with no clear explanations offered as to why she suddenly had these powers. This made me realize that even within the realm of fantasy, magic needs to work within the parameters of established rules in order to be believable. I think many authors use the "fantasy" genre as an excuse for lazy writing, and I want to be really careful to avoid this dynamic myself.
  2. Books in a series should stand alone: At least, to a degree. Spinning from #1, I think some authors also use SEQUELS as an excuse for lazy writing (and far too many people accept this!). Just because a book is part of a series, this shouldn't give the author leeway to be overly vague/obscure about what is happening in the story. There's a difference between being purposely mysterious because you want to keep your readers in suspense versus being overly vague because you yourself have no clue what direction your tale is going, or why your MC is suddenly a paranormal being from another realm. Falling back on your sequel to resolve these problems seems like a cop out, especially given that more often than not, the sequel doesn't end up accomplishing this. 
  3. Color thesaurus: It seems like such a small thing, but I swear when I was writing Chasing Echoes, I kept running into problems with Stryder's eye color. His eyes are gray, but not wanting to keep describing them as "gray," I found myself running out of options (Steel? Charcoal? Chrome?). Well....this awesome writer created a Color Thesaurus to help other writers choose the exact shade they're looking for. Check it out--it's pretty handy!
  4. 10 ways to cover up a murder: I found this awesome infographic* on Pinterest, perfect for the writer of mystery/suspense whose WIP features a diabolical sociopath! Black Lilies features a minor character who happens to be a serial killer, but sadly I don't think this infographic will help me much given that my murderer lives in 1876 (i.e. DNA was an unknown back then, and fingerprinting didn't start until 1892). *If you're a serial killer please don't click on this infographic.
What distracted me this month while writing: Ugh. I don't even have a good answer to this. Just my own writer's block and laziness. It doesn't always take the fantasy genre or the promise of a sequel to be a lazy writer...sometimes it just takes a lazy person to be a lazy writer (aka: Me). The second edition of Chasing Echoes was just released (for eBooks only, paperback is still in progress), which took me away from writing. I also did more research into 1876, and with Clint's help I brainstormed the backstory for Kade (my MCs love interest), so I'm feeling like I'm almost at the point where I can write this damn thing.

Goal for next month: Same goal as last month--I want to start, and finish, chapter 2 of Black Lilies. 

Last 200 words (I tried to make it big so my 13 words would seem like 200):

I turned to face it. It was slinking its way toward me again.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sharp Edges and All

I've had this image sitting in my inbox for about a year. Other items get deleted or shuffled into various folders, but somehow I can't get myself to delete this one. Maybe it's because I love this little guy beyond words. I see this picture and I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Because he couldn't find what he was looking for. Yet that didn't stop him.
It's not ideal. It's not what I wanted. But it's home, and I'm going to make it work. Sharp edges and all.
That's what I imagine him thinking. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite lines of poetry, shared to me many years ago by a dear friend:
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
The hermit crab doesn't feel sorry for himself as he searches for his perfect home and comes up empty-handed (or empty-pinchered?). He has no concept of self-pity. He simply trucks forward and stuffs himself into the closest approximation of "home" he can find, then lives out his little life as if he has lost nothing.

Someday when I grow up, I want to be as resilient and gutsy and strong as him. Forget my other New Year's Resolutions. This is the one that matters:
I vow to be a hermit crab stuffed in a broken piece of bottle. 
On an unrelated note, this song came on Pandora in my classroom the other day.

I've heard it before, but this time it sort of paralyzed me. I get to school early--about an hour before school starts--and this is going to sound weird (and probably inappropriate), but there's a certain feeling of intimacy I get when I'm in my classroom alone. Maybe it's just because the room is so crowded and bustling and overwhelming throughout the day, so to sit there in the still hours of the morning and hear the hum of the heater and the faint rustling of the just feels so tranquil, that calm before the storm. I keep my doors locked, and I listen to music while I prepare for the day. If it's a fast song I'll dance like no one's watching ('cause hey, no one is). But if it's a song like this one, I freeze, and I end up leaning back against a desk or staring at the ceiling, too moved to move.

I'm such an emotional sap, damn it.

*searches for glass-bottle-shell*

Sunday, February 8, 2015

#WIPMarathon Report - So Very Late!

Thank goodness for WIP Reports or else my blog would still be sitting here, cold and deprived and alone, forever and ever.

I realize that this WIP Report is SO LATE. I really want to apologize to my fellow bloggers because I know I have been totally MIA--from my own blog, and yours. I wish this was coming with the promise that I'll be more consistent, but I just don't know.

Okay, report time!

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 0

Current report WC + CC/ SC: 2,354 - Almost finished with chapter 1.

I never produce big numbers guys. But I've decided it's all good, because Book 1 was nothing more than a conglomerate of my low, pitiful word counts, yet it still shaped itself into a novel. I'm 99% sure this one will too. Well, maybe more like 82.3%. Or 78.4...okay, I might not have enough faith to move a mountain, but at the minimum I can move a hill. A small hill. 

At least a pile of dirt. 

On the plus side, I already have a title for this book! You may have seen it on my sidebar. I'm calling this second installment of Chasing Echoes BLACK LILIES. If you dislike it don't bother telling me because that title makes me swoon with happiness and I'm totally keeping it. :P I remember how uncertain I felt about every single title I chose for book 1, so it feels pretty awesome to fall in love with a title so fast this time around. Oh, and lucky for me, Black Lilies exists nowhere on Amazon.

Or wait, WAIT--should I call it BLACK SPRING instead? Crap, I like that one too! And both titles totally connect to my story line.

WIP Issues This Month: Research. As in, I can't even start chapter 2 without doing some research, yet I can't muster up the motivation to do it. A big chunk of my novel takes place in 1876, and I don't know anything about that time period. And while most writers enjoy history, I'm not one of them, so schooling myself on the 1800s sounds about as appealing as stabbing myself in the eye.

What I learned this month in writing marketing whatever: 
  1. One reader posted recently on my Facebook wall: "So since I bought your book for Kindle, will you sign my iPad?" Clearly he was joking, but shortly later, another writerly-acquaintance on Facebook posted about this: AUTHORGRAPH.COM. Authorgraph makes it possible for authors to sign eBooks for their readers. Obviously it's not the same as having a signed hard copy of the book, but I think it's pretty innovative. I might look into this later.
  2. Ever get a stream of inspiration in the shower? Well now there's THIS: 

Okay, a part of me finds this silly. But another part of me can totally see myself using this and is wondering WHY ISN'T IT BIGGER? I could be scratching out my entire rough draft while lavishing in hot water and suds. 

I know I learned more, but I'm stumped at the moment. So...moving on.

What distracted me this month while writing: So many things. Work. The usual. Plus I went through and edited Chasing Echoes ALL OVER again. The entire book. I took one of my own paperbacks and marked directly in the book. Now I have to apply those edits onto my Word doc and re-do my file on Createspace, and I will officially have a second [cleaner] edition. But the biggest distraction is now that Chasing Echoes is out, social networking has been a much bigger demand on my time. Plus I've been researching marketing ideas (despite my loathing for marketing), and I prepped for my first ever author's event! Here's the flyer I made and posted on Facebook:

I discovered that as much as I hate marketing, I love love LOVE doing community events. Granted I'm basing this enthusiasm on one measly event, but it was SO MUCH FUN. And I sold a bunch of books! 

 Before event

 High schoolers getting their books signed

 Cheesy grin

 Answering questions about writing

 Signing bookmarks

 Thank God Shan was there! She SAVED me. I would not have been able to keep up on my own.

 Old high school friends surprised me with a visit!

 Um...just another picture

 Me and one of my students

My Chasing Echoes Pinterest Board

It was such a positive experience that Clint and I are now looking into other community events that I might be able to attend. Right now we have our eyes set on Crestline's "Wine and Stein Walk through the Pines" event in May, but more about that in another post.

Goal for next month: I want to start, and finish, chapter 2 of Black Lilies (or Black Spring?). I also want to put out edition 2 of Chasing Echoes. Oh, and I need to take a decent pic of myself that I can actually use for an author's bio. Seriously, I have NONE. 

Last 200 words (BLACK LILIES, Chapter 1, ROUGH): 

And then my stomach turned. The smudge was back. I watched as it flickered on the same part of the wall where it had disappeared from before, and then slid across the ground like something gelatinous and alive. 
What was it? I narrowed my eyes, adjusting my glasses again. It was moving at a snail’s pace on the asphalt. 
Moving toward me.
I stepped back, putting my arm on Krystal’s. She raised her eyebrows at me, and I pointed over at the shadow. She followed my gesture, and then turned back to look at me.
“Aviva, what’s wrong? There’s nothing there.”
“Are you sure?” I whispered, not wanting the rest of my family to hear. They were all engaged in some conversation about relatives of Dad sensing time disturbances, or rats, or something, so I doubted it would be a problem. 
“Yes, I’m sure. What do you think is there?”
“I, uh, I don’t know. I keep seeing a shadow.” My eyes skimmed the dark asphalt. Once again, the shadow was gone.
“With all this candlelight, there’s a ton of shadows,” she pointed out.
I sighed, not knowing how to explain to her that this one was different.

The rest of my Sunday is booked, but tomorrow I'm excited to catch up on some of my fellow Marathoners' progress for the new year. Thanks for not giving up on me (and for the shout-outs on twitter to get my butt in gear)!

But one more thing. BLACK LILIES or BLACK SPRING?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

WIPMarathon Report: Here's to the New Year!

Wow I swear 2014 went by in a blink. But honestly you guys, this has been a pretty special year. I'm almost positive that meeting the WIPMarathoners is what gave me that final push to finish my book. Your posts every month highlighting all of your writing wonders and woes is what kept me from sinking sometimes, and kept me inspired. That being said, here is my final WIP Report for 2014. *sniffle*
Things I’m Glad I Did In 2014:
  1. Finishing my very first book. I'm still in awe. And publishing it! Wow. What a ride.
  2. Already stated above, but getting to network with other writers, such as Ms. Ifeoma, Ms. Krystal, and the rest of the WIPMarathon crew. Also, getting to know and love writers who are outside of my genre--like, WAY outside (some of my favorite souls this year turned out to be erotica and/or horror writers...who would've thought?). 
  3. Asking hubby for all rights to the office. It seems small, but I feel invigorated being able to start the new year with my own little writing space. 
In 2015, I’d love to:
  1. Write Book 2 in the CE Series. Aviva's story is up next, and I'm nearly giddy that I get to depart from Taz's crazy time loop madness and move on to Aviva's intriguing little ghost story.
  2. Figure out how to multitask in writing. I've never been one of those people who can work on more than one project at a time, but I have several ideas for other books/novellas that I would love to start outlining/drafting. I just don't know how to do this. Multitask, that is. HOW? (Krystal, do a blog post about this!)
  3. Return to some of my non-writing hobbies. I love oil-painting, shooting arrows in my backyard, renovating things in my house, etc., but I sort of gave those things up this year to finish my book. I miss having other things in my life to help me decompress, especially since writing can be so stressful. I'd also like to spend more silly-time with my kids.
  4. Continue to foster my online friendships, and support others the same way they've supported me.
  5. Meet some local writers in my town. It would be amazing to have at least one flesh and blood writer-person to interact with, one who I can actually see and touch and...(am I getting creepy?)

I'm going to skip this month's regular check-in since I spent this month in the publishing throes rather than working on a manuscript, but I feel pretty optimistic that I'll have something to report to break in the new year in January. Until then, I'll conclude with this (it says '2014' but is definitely applicable to the new year):

#8 is my favorite. Cheers to a wonderful year, and here's hoping 2015 will bring even more triumphs (even if you have to lose a little sanity to get there). 

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Very Own Writing Corner

Clint gave me my own writing cove for Christmas!

To put this in context, I've been desperately craving my own little writer's hideaway for years now. When we first moved into our house, I gave Clint the spare room to use as his miniature man cave. At the time it seemed fair, because I pretty much had free reign in decorating our whole house. He decided he wanted to turn the spare room into an office (with a small bed in case I kicked him out for snoring or thrashing around in his sleep), and he wanted an Asian theme. So we painted the room in reds and yellows, brought in a black cherry blossom bedspread and some other Asian decor, hung up black curtains, displayed all of his dojo belts/black belt certificate/swords, and so on. When we finished, it looked like this:


Not exactly my style, but it looked kind of cool. It was colorful, clean, and fun, plus I was happy that Clint had his own little space in our house to play on the computer and watch his anime.

In the last few years, this room has changed functions countless times. At one point it was an exercise room, another time a painting studio, and once, it was even an archery room of sorts where Clint hand-fletched arrows and strung bows. The dude changes hobbies a lot, and this poor little room was forced to keep up. The room was always messy (unlike what you see in the above picture) and over time the walls looked kind of like ketchup and mustard to me, but it was functional and lived in, and that was fine with me.

But then Clint started to use the room for storage. Things that he didn't want to disappear into the garage slowly crept into the room, until the desk became so cluttered and heaped with stuff that it rendered the office unusable. He stopped using the desktop computer altogether in lieu of using his laptop in the living room. The pillows all disappeared, the bed was messy, the floors were littered with boxes and who knows what else, and the room turned into a dark, depressing space. I wish I had taken a picture of it in that state, but no one wants to take pictures of things that suck.

Little by little his man cave was making less sense to me. It wasn't just the perpetual mess. It was the fact that the room had become stagnant. No one was using it anymore--it was just a place to "stick things" when you had no where else to put them. And I couldn't help but note the irony, given that as both a teacher and a writer, I would treasure a quiet space to do my grading and writing. Every Sunday I sit at the dining room table to grade. If I need a pen, or paper clips to organize students' work, or a post-it to label something, etc., I'm forced to dig through batteries and bolts and whatever-else in the office to find what I need (which these past few months had become impossible). And writing is even worse. I can't even describe how hard it is to write a book at a dining room table in the middle of your house with kids and pets running around.

At least, this WAS the case.

When Clint asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted the office. I honestly expected him to argue, and I was prepared with all my reasons. You know, things like "My job requires me to grade," and "You're not using it anymore," and "I'll treasure this room and take care of it like no one else has." But I think he must have been thinking about giving it to me for awhile, because he didn't protest at all. Instead, he had me show him a picture of what kind of work space would be ideal to me.

Blue is my favorite color (as in, the deepest brightest part of our desert sky), so that part was easy. But I also wanted a space that was lively and fresh--to keep me alert when I'm trying to write. So I showed him a picture of a room that was cornflower blue with pops of white and red. I was prepared to do this project with him, but he decided he wanted this to be my "big" gift--that he would do all the work and I would get to be surprised with the results. That part was a little nerve-wracking for me, because I'm used to being in control of home decor type projects. He had the office door locked for weeks, and I was going crazy wanting to see it. But it was worth the madness. The grand reveal was Christmas morning, and here's what I walked into:


That tree decal gets me the most. For at least a full minute I couldn't even take in the rest of the room because I couldn't rip my eyes away from it.

The gum ball machine I got for my birthday last year--I had wanted one ever since I wrote my gum ball stories. It makes sense to have it in this room now.

My typewriter!

There's still some work to do, like hanging up some of my smaller oil paintings and replacing the ugly brown door (not shown in these pictures) with a new white one. I'm also thinking of painting that desk an antique white over spring break. But I love this room! Like, I can't get myself to leave (okay, don't tell anyone but I slept in here last night. I had to, just once). And the room is just girly enough that Clint doesn't want anything to do with it. He walks in from time to time and says "It's just so...pretty," and shakes his head sadly and walks out. So it's mine now. All MINE. (That's reading a little more villainous than I was going for).

Outside of the whole office thing, Christmas overall was pretty wonderful. I'll try to write about it later, and maybe post some pics (I think I say this every year and never end up doing it). The only downfall is I have a nasty, nasty cold. I don't even know how that's possible since I was just sick during Thanksgiving break. Clint says it's because I don't let myself get sick when I'm working, so the second I'm on break, my body's all, 'Good, I can finally fall apart!' I've heard this same theory from some of my coworkers too. It seems a whole slew of us teachers get sick right when break starts. But I have to say, as far as nasty colds go, this is a really pleasant one. Pleasant, as in I don't feel sick AT ALL. I actually feel really good. But it's nasty, because I'm one big ball of flem, and it has totally wiped out my voice. AGAIN. This is the second time in a thirty day period I've had no voice. At least the first time I was down to a raspy whisper-type thing. This time my voice sounds wheezy. It's horrible, kids were telling me earlier, "Stop talking Mom. Seriously."

So yes, wheezing ball of flem. Let me tell you. I'm sexy.

This is SO enough writing for now.

P.S. I owe @MelDouleur and @bloodglorygrace a dancing clip in the future since I said I would participate in the Christmas Carol hop and I didn't. But here are their awesome contributions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pet Names

I want to do a blog post. Really, I do. But I am so, so busy.

I was talking to an author during lunch today who subs at our school from time to time. At one point, we had the following conversation: 

Her: "So let me get this straight. You're a full time teacher here?"
Me: "Yes."
Her: "And you have two kids?"
Me: "Yes."
Her: (Long pause) "When the heck do you have time to write?"
Me: Well I'm not really a 'good' mom, per say...

At this point my fellow coworker Brad shouts across the lunch room, "Oh, come on! Every time I see your kids out on the street holding up their 'Will work for food' signs, I'm impressed by their work ethic."

Thanks for that, Brad. 

In other kid-related news, I realized that I call everyone in my household "baby." Trin will hand me my thermos of iced-coffee and I'll say "Thanks baby." Clint will come home from work and I'm all "Hey baby." And so on. The problem is when you call everyone baby, they all respond. No one is sure which "baby" is your target audience. So I told the kids tonight, "I need new pet names for you guys. What do you want me to call you?"

"Sexy Taco," Trinity blurts out. Without even batting an eye.

And this is why you don't let your kids choose their own nicknames.

The publishing mayhem is just about over, and I almost have what sort of resembles a life again! YES. I'm sighing with relief so hard that I'm getting lightheaded.