Thursday, June 11, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ready, Aim, Fire

This weekend I became a certified archery instructor!

 My first time firing the Genesis bow

Mr. Bales and me with our certification cards

The class was in Wheatland, CA, which is about a seven and-a-half hour drive from where I live (eight hours plus if you figure in stops for gas and food). Clint and I, along with a teaching colleague of mine, Mr. Bales, left right after work on Friday, arrived to our motel around midnight, and started the training the next morning. 

The class was awesome. I came into the class being a tiny bit familiar with archery, but my experience was limited to the compound bow with a peep sight and scope, set at about 42 lbs. The bows we're required to use for NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) are Genesis bows, which are also compound, but have no peep sight, no scope, and are only set to 11 to 20 lbs. So in addition to having to learn how to set up and run an archery range (including all of the safety rules/regulations), I had to learn the techniques for shooting a bow that I'm completely unfamiliar with. Did you know there are ELEVEN steps to shooting a bow? Here was the nemonic device I made up so I could remember all of the steps for the test: 
Sassy naked damsels boast proudly during an afternoon salsa routine Friday.
Seriously, I need to trademark that baby. ;) It stands for: Stance, nock arrow, draw handset, bow handset, pre-draw, draw, anchor, aim, release, follow-through. Someone was paid the big bucks to make all that up. If I was in charge over at NASP, I'd have three steps: 
Ready. Aim. Fire.
Anyway, we were also required to learn all of the different parts of a bow, and how to do common bow repairs. It was total information the end of the training my brain felt numb. But I also came out of it on a high, because I feel like I learned SO much (I ended up scoring a 96% on my practicals, and man did it take everything out of me). At this point, I honestly think I could set up an entire archery range and run an event with confidence.

While all of this was going on, my son was participating in the Monopoly Championship Tournament eight hours away, which resulted in me doing a lot of hyperventilating, squealing, and screaming while trying to shoot targets and memorize that the top cam of the bow is called the "idler wheel." I'm dying to write more about this whole Monopoly thing on this post, but it's way too cool and special, so I think I'll save it for the next one.

Cross your fingers for me now that our grant through NASP goes through, because I really, really want to get this archery program going for the new school year!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Murder Mystery Dinner

My daughter is 15 today. 15! I'm not old enough to have a 15 year old. I'M NOT. 


Anyway, she's having a Murder Mystery Dinner in our backyard. They've been at it for about an hour and 45 minutes. I'm allowed to take pictures, but she says I'm not allowed to break the 3rd wall--or is it the 4th?--some drama-term where I can't shatter the illusion of the drama they're enacting. It's like Juliet dramatically crying out "Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo?" and someone else cutting in with "Hey, fifth period is almost over." 

So we agreed I would just pop in and out as an investigative reporter. Here's all that my investigative snooping has yielded so far:

Guests starting to suspect each other

Let the interrogations begin

A very suspicious dinner

It's pretty cool, actually. Every time I go out there, they're totally in character (save some giggling and laughing). There was one moment where I lit the candles on the table and Trin was all "Wow, thank you, uh, Investigative Reporter, for lighting our candles. That's so nice and...unexpected." But you know, apparently I'm both an investigative reporter and a thoughtful candle-lighter-person.

I was going to write more but Trin just burst in here saying they solved their murder! Apparently Papa Vido killed Barry Underwood because he was promised land or something... They're popping open their victory champagne now (aka: sparkling cider) and then we're doing birthday cake. The cake is an adorable, partially decapitated jackalope (made by Teri). Jackalopes are somehow related to murder mysteries, right?


Just came back from singing Happy Birthday. Here are the last few pictures for the night:

That poor torched jackalope.

Happy Birthday to my little girl! The one who is now four inches taller than me and could easily kick my ass. But she's still, and always, my baby girl, and I don't care if that's a cliché, because it's true.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I Want to Write about Twitchy Boobs and Stuff

I've been thinking about quitting my blog for awhile now. And then, because my friend Mel is occasionally and freakishly psychic, she just happened to send me this article: I Gotcher Blog-Writin' Advice Right Here. She thought I might be entertained by it (which I was) but probably didn't realize how close it would hit home for me (except for she probably did). It's a long(ish) read, so let me copy/paste the two paragraphs that spoke to me the loudest:
The blogs of writers are often sad, sad things. They go largely unused, acting as empty, gutted monuments to the writer's own lack of blogging productivity. You visit a writer's blog and the last post is from June, 2012. Wind blows sand over a corpse. The comment sections are, two, maybe three people deep (and the author is one of those commenters). One of the most recent posts is a promise to post more posts, to blog more blogs, to blargh more blarghs, and that post was three years ago. Two rats chew on a third rat. The ground is salted and dead. 
Here you're saying, But an agent or a publisher says I have to blog. To which I respond, that agent or publisher is operating on bad information from five years ago. And it was bad information then. Blogging because you have to? What an execrable task. Who wants to read a blog that you feel is an obligation? I want to read something the author wants to write, not filler content meant to prop up a dead thing. This isn't Weekend At Bernie's. "HEY LOOK AT MY BLOG IT'S TOTALLY ALIVE." *waggles dead blog's sunglasses* *forces dead blog to messily eat carrots and dip*
The author of this post, Chuck Wendig, basically put words to everything I've been feeling about my own half-assed blogging endeavors (actually half-assed seems too generous. Let's go with quarter-assed). After reading Wendig's article, here's what I said to Mel:
I've been debating letting my blog go. It sucks too, because there was a time I LOVED my blog. I loved writing little posts about nothing.... Back then my blog was more personal to me. I didn't have any real readers, so I just wrote for myself, and it was cathartic and fun. Then I started writing a book, and my blog became booooooring. Like, I'm bored with it, and that's a bad sign. And now, reading this article, I feel like I really need to just say goodbye to blogging. But then a small part of me doesn't want to let my blog go because it's sort of my baby. It's been with me for six years now and has chronicled a big chunk of my life...
I don't know. I just really miss the days where I wrote pointless posts like "A Herd of Cantaloupes" and "That which is Pretty, Like Unicorns and Roaches and Stuff." Back then, I wrote because I wanted to write; because something quirky was playing in my brain and I had to get it down on paper--or screen. Case in point: Last night, it took me forever to fall asleep because my left boob had a tiny muscle spasm that wouldn't stop. I was so intrigued by the muscle twitch that I couldn't keep my hands off it, and at one point I realized that if anyone walked into the room, it would totally look like I was feeling myself up. Here it occurred to me that this is one of the stupid things that I would have blogged about in the past. But now I only blog about writer's block and word counts. This makes me sad. And makes me want to yawn.

Long story short, writing a book has turned me into a boring blogger. I started my blog way before I started writing a book--before I even knew that I was going to write a book--so back then, I wrote blog posts just to write them. It was my way of chronicling the little nuances of life--those little moments that aren't deep or important, thus forgettable and nonexistent if it wasn't for writing them down (my sister discussed this phenomenon beautifully in her "Remembering the Jelly" post).

NO MORE. I'm sick of my Bernie-blog. I'm done with obligatory blogging performed in a sad attempt to give the impression of life to an otherwise lifeless blog. 

Which means I'm no longer participating in the WIPMarathon Reports (sorry guys. *sniffle*). I will still follow the WIPMarathon Reports from others though. These are, after all, my writing comrades, and I care about the progress they're making on their WIPs. I also still plan to talk about how my novel is coming along once in awhile...but only when I feel like it, not because "it's that time." The schedule serves as great accountability/motivation, but it also serves as one big guilt-trip when I miss the deadline.

Which brings me to my next point: I'm no longer going to feel guilty if I haven't posted in a long time. Like, why should I feel bad? If I wrote in a diary only once a month, no one would care. Why should a blog be different? I mean, I understand the importance of blogging regularly if you want to gain/keep readers. But I don't care about that anymore. I'm done with strategic blogging. My few attempts at it were feeble and lacked heart anyway.

And from this point forward, if I've been MIA from my blog for 90 days straight and I come back to write a post that says "Our hen Princess Buttercup is actually a dude," and that's all my readers get, well, then, that's all they get. No more crushing sense of obligation to give more. Really, I probably won't have many readers left by this point anyway, so GOODBYE PRESSURE. 

I guess none of this makes sense, because the goals I just laid out seem to be creating a really crappy blog in which "Wind blows sand over a corpse" (Wendig). But these are the things I need to change in order to keep blogging. Period. I'd rather have a crappy blog that I enjoy writing than no blog at all.

I love my readers and I want the ones who care to stick around. But someday when I'm 80 years old, I want to remember the jelly. Not word counts. If that means losing what little readers I have left, I'm okay with that. So...*raises glass* Here's a toast to jelly (sorry, I had to say it).

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*