Saturday, March 29, 2014

#WIPMarathon Report #2

Thank goodness I'm a subscribed member to @AmandaShayne's Sort of Blog or I would have missed the fact that WIP Marathon Report #2 is officially due today. So with no further ado (and me being completely unprepared, not to mention I just used the word "ado" which is no part of my natural vocabulary), here is this month's check-in:

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 83,448 - 25 chapters completed
Current report WC + CC/ SC: 85, 746 - 26 chapters completed
WIP Issues This Month: I gave my novel to good friend of mine who is NOT my target audience. He read my entire novel in about a week and gave me a lot of positive feedback. BUT--the things he critiqued (two of them in particular) would require a huge undertaking to change them. The thing is, their legitimate critiques. Now I'm torn between two extremes: 1. The thought that perhaps these two issues are actually non-issues for my true target audience (YA females), and I should just ignore them. Or 2. Now I MUST change them (which I'm leaning toward the latter). But the mere idea of making those changes, and what they would mean for my book overall, has left me feeling a bit deflated.   
Four things I learned this month in writing: 
  1. Read! Taking a peek at other novels that fit my genre reminds me of what "good" writing looks like, plus gets me excited to get back to my own book.
  2. That being said, the above strategy can be overused. Too much reading can serve as a great procrastination tool (see the "What distracted me this month" section below).
  3. When you're not happy with your first chapter, you have to find a way to STOP dwelling on it and plug on with the rest of the book (I haven't figured that one out yet).
  4. I think for all intents and purposes it's better for critique partners and beta readers to be as close to your target audience as possible. For example, it might be a little awkward to have a dude reading certain scenes in a book that's geared toward YA/teenage girls. That being said, as long as your critique partners are writers who share a love for your genre and understand the nuances of it, then it's all good. Even though the friend I mentioned above was a male, he is still an avid reader of YA books geared toward all audiences (i.e. Hunger Games, Divergent), and because of that fact, he was able to give me good feedback.
What distracted me this month while writing: Two things - Reading and spring fever. I was sure that once I hit spring break, I would dive into my manuscript, and maybe even finish it. But the very first day of break, the sun came out, and it was so freakin' sunny (as is the nature of the sun), and I had to swing on my hammock, and plant things, and make the pond look pretty, and lay on the grass, and listen to music, and drink hard cider...and I had to do all this for three or four days straight before getting it out of my system (plus the weather got crappy after that). Afterwards, I got sucked into books. I read three days. Yeah. It is SO easy to avoid writing when you're lost in someone else's awesome story-world. Now I'm back to work on Monday and there is NO WAY I will be able to work on my book. It's the last term of the school year and I will be lucky if I can just keep my head screwed on tight enough to get through my day job. 
Goal for next month: I'm going to aim low here and say I'd like to rough out a few pages of chapter 27.
Last 200 words: I pasted them here and realized my last 200 words gives up a secret that one of my MCs has been harboring for the entire novel. So I'm going to go up a few paragraphs to dodge that big fat spoiler:

      I laughed and sobbed into his shoulder, my tears falling onto his neck. He held me tight against his chest, then pulled back to wipe my tears off with his thumb. His face was a mess, his nose buried in bloody mush, yet somehow it was the most beautiful sight I could imagine seeing. I touched his cheek, getting ready to tell him that he needed to go to the hospital, but then he was holding my face in his hands, and the words stuck. He caressed my cheek, his fingers grazing over where the pistol had whipped me just moments before, his eyes probing mine. He leaned closer. My eyes fluttered. I leaned in, knowing what was about to happen. Every nerve in my body hummed. My muscles turned to water. 
     Yes, my mind whispered. I wanted this. Needed this. I needed to feel his warm lips pressed against mine. I needed to feel his hands thread through my hair, our bodies melding. I needed it more than I needed anything else in the world. More than I needed 7:18. 
     But then his fingers fell from my face, and he pulled back. I gasped and blinked, confused. The space around me suddenly felt so cold.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Medieval Days & Snakes at School

I need to write a post! It's been such a loooooong time (actually, I just looked at my last post to check, and it's been eleven days, which isn't too terrible, so I took off one of the o's in looooooong).

I don't have anything particular to write about, so I'll just talk about this past week. Let's see...on Friday, a production group called the Kingdom of Esperance visited our school and led seventh graders in a Medieval Festival, complete with tent encampments, archery demos, period-art, and a tournament of knights with real armor and swords. It was pretty awesome. Our city's newspaper was supposed to send a reporter to cover the event, but the reporter cancelled at the last minute, so I was asked to cover the event instead. It was so, so fun. I got to run around, interviewing the workers and taking pictures.

Even during the archery demos, no one batted an eye when I trespassed over the caution tape to get close-ups. At one point, one of the more "official" looking people asked me if I was trying to get action shots.  I honestly thought that he was going to tell me to step back. But instead, he escorted me closer and told the workers to wait until I was ready before shooting their next set. Sadly, those pictures ended up with a glare on them, so I was unable to send them to the press.

For the record, I'm awful at taking pictures. I have no finesse for it at all. Kind of ironic that I ended up being the "reporter" for this event.

Anyway, I sent my photos and story to the newspaper, and it came out on Tuesday morning.

The only thing that grated on my nerves was the paper used my entire story, but labeled the byline "Photos courtesy of Jodi Perkins." What about the article? I mean, it's small, but still. Grrrrr. I almost called them to complain, but then decided it wouldn't accomplish anything.

On Saturday I was paid $400 to be a presenter for THIS

I have to say, I am ridiculously proud of my district for pulling off this little trailer. It's like your five year old running up to you with a drawing that actually looks half-decent. Anyway, I was asked to give a 45 minute presentation/workshop, and OH MY GOODNESS was it fun.

After the presentation, I went skating with Shan and all the kids. My parents showed up to drop off a late birthday present for my nephew, and we all decided to go out to dinner. Usually we only get together for special occasions, so that was pretty awesome.

A snake showed up in the girl's restroom on Wednesday. Tom, our maintenance guy, heard a girl scream in the bathroom, came running, and found the snake. He then brought the snake to me, because somehow I'm the unofficial animal care person on our campus. I let him know the snake was harmless and I would take him home with me and put him in our garden (great for keeping down the pest population when you're trying to grow stuff). But then my principal got wind of the snake and said there was no way I was allowed to keep him in my classroom (to her credit, she was very calm. I think I must give her a mini-heart-attack every week). Tom went to transport the snake to our outdoor lunch patio where I was going to pick him up at the end of the day. But when he arrived, the snake was GONE. We discovered a small gap beneath the handle of the carrier where the snake managed to escape. Of course this all happened AFTER my principal had told us "Don't you let that snake get loose on campus!" I really didn't feel particularly inspired to tell her that a snake was now roaming free somewhere between the cafeteria and room 405, so me and Tom kept it quiet that afternoon. The next day, Tom found our creepy little buddy in front of the snack bar. This time I didn't mess around. I picked him up (yes, with my bare hands. I ain't scared--or particularly bright) and put him in a giant glass vase and sealed a lid with air holes over the top. Our computer specialist asked if she could take the snake home because her daughter loves them, so I ended up handing him over to her, and the rest is history.

This has turned into a long post considering I had nothing of consequence to write about.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Missing the Birthdays of Yore

I came across this on Pinterest:

This a birthday party for Max (whoever Max is). I have to admit, it sort of creeps me out. Maybe it's because this looks more like a memorial to me than a birthday. But I think it's more the fanciness of the whole thing. The giant wooden name, the flowers, the framed picture (just in case you forget what Max looks like)

Once I stumbled upon Max's party, I started noticing them all over the place. These super-fancy parties. And we're talking KIDS birthday parties. Which begs the question: When did children's birthday parties become so formal and glamorous? I mean, these are very pretty. Hats off to the parents who deemed their child worthy of such extravagance--that is one very valued kid. But there seems to be a trend now to design parties that are geared more to impressing the adults than entertaining the kids. Some might argue that stuff like this only exists on Pinterest--"It's just to oogle over, but no one actually does this in real life." Or maybe it's only wealthy parents throwing such parties. But I have to say that I'm actually seeing this trend out in the middle-class world. With a few exceptions, the birthday parties I have been to in the past few years have been pretty excessive. One party I went to awhile ago, for example, was done in a "Vintage Barbie" theme, with themed food, coordinating colors (even the marshmallows were died to match), and an extravagant display of goodies spread along a buffet-style table. Kind of like this, but done in greens and blacks and much prettier:

The little girl being celebrated by this party was turning two years old, so she will have no memory of all this awesomeness other than the album her mom posted on Facebook.

I don't know...I think these kinds of parties are sort of tragic. For my childhood birthdays, my parents would throw out some pizza, blast the music, and us kids would dance and play like wild little banshees. It was unadulterated, unscripted fun. But guests today have to tiptoe through modern-day kids' birthday parties. It's all "Okay boys and girls, now it's time to play pin the curls on Barbie" and "Now let's all open our glitter-fashion bags." Can kids still have fun at these events? Sure. But it's very staged, temperate fun. They'll never get that adrenaline rush that comes with "just letting go."

Maybe I'm just a lazy mom trying to justify her reasons for NOT putting more effort into her kids' birthday parties. That's definitely a possibility. But it honestly seems like these kinds of parties are designed by moms for the explicit purpose of getting their guests to ooh and awww over their creativity and brilliance. They're designed more for Pinterest and Facebook than the child herself. The irony? All that time and money invested in putting together a picture-perfect party, and here's all a kid really wants:

Seriously. Just order them some pizza, blast some music, and let them make some real memories.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

WIPMarathon Report #1

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 80,283 - 24 chapters completed
Current report WC + CC/ SC: 83,448 - 25 chapters completed
WIP Issues This Month: I'm trying to tighten chapter one, and it's soooooo hard. The way it stands now, the story really doesn't start until page eight or so. Or maybe it's page 12. Either way, most agents only accept five pages with your query, and if they don't get a sense of voice/tone/direction within those first few pages, your MS is going to sit in slushpile purgatory for the rest of its existence (I was going to say "hell" but that seemed a little harsh for a poor unsuspecting manuscript). A part of me wonders if I need to rewrite the entire chapter from scratch. But scrapping my original seems so...painful.
Four things I learned this month in writing: *Cheats and pulls out notes from writer's conference* Let's see...
  1. If you have sent out 10-20 query letters and haven't heard back by two weeks, REDO your query. 
  2. contains a "water cooler" section with discussions about all aspects of writing. contains a list of all the agents and publishers currently doing business and, for a small fee, keeps an ongoing list of each writer's submission. 
  3. The first five pages of your manuscript is EVERYTHING. 
  4. You're not actively trying to get published unless you have at least 80 rejections. 
I might have made up that last item a tiny bit. It just seemed like every writer I talked to at the Southern California Writer's Conference had at least 80 rejections up to date. I mean, we're talking talented writers. It was shocking. I can definitely see why so many choose the self-publishing route. 
What distracted me this month while writing: The cartoon at the top says it all! Weekends are when I get most of my writing done, but lately they've been jam-packed. I had an animal rescue field-trip with my students three weekends ago, the SC Writer's Conference two weekends ago, Las Vegas last weekend, a pirate dinner show tonight (via Medieval Times) for my niece's and nephew's birthdays. Plus hubby and I have been working on this aquaponics-thing...I should probably skip being a part of that but it's PLANTS and FISH and it's just way too weird and fun. 
Goal for next month: Finish chapter 26 (I'm only a little over 500 words in).
Last 200 words:
    Unless a dome light could be considered a “weapon,” there was nothing.
Praying right now isn’t a bad idea. 
To my relief, he drew the gun back. But it was short-lived. The pistol whipped across my eyes a fraction of a second later, tearing across my cheek and splitting my skin. Burning ripped through my face, and the blood curdling yelp escaped my lips before I could stop it. My hands immediately shot up to my cheek, my fingers pressing into gooey warmth. Loose hair fell forward and stuck to my skin. 
“That’s for the bar stool.” His eyes flashed inside the white mask. “You try anything else, you’re dead. Understand?”
I jerked my head in a slight nod, fingers still pressed into my throbbing, bloody cheek, my chest full of ice. Cold relief washed over me that he wasn’t planning to execute me this very second.
The engine roared to life and he pulled the van out of park, his eyes darting back and forth between the road and me. The sirens grew louder, and I saw the blur of street lamps streak through the dark as he swung out of Mel’s and began speeding down the street. 

I swear my manuscript has lighthearted, silly stuff just hard to tell with these excerpts.