Saturday, May 31, 2014

#WIPMarathon Report #4

I'm excited for this check-in because I actually have a tiny bit of progress to report! Plus, starting today, I am officially on summer break. This should mean more writing. *Should* being the keyword here, given that I can already see a slew of potential distracters. Like this:

(You may have figured out that this was just my shameless excuse to squeeze in another picture of my pool. Subtle, right?). But seriously, I'm hoping June is the month where I sprint to the finish line. Okay, so the month of May--this'll be short and sweet:

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 86,801 - 26 chapters completed
Current report WC + CC/ SC: 90,536 - 27 chapters completed
WIP Issues This Month: Now that I'm inching my way closer to the end, I'm worried about...well...the end. I'm worried that my book's conclusion will be too cliche. And there is one loose end I'm having a really hard time tying up, and if I don't figure it out, it's really going to tick off my readers. Also, I'm getting quite desperate for a title. "Spiraling" doesn't do it for me, but anything else I choose has already been used by two or three other authors. I finally forced myself to set this issue aside when @boundiali, who has become my sounding board for all of my writing-related whining, assured me that he would help me come up with a good title. 
What I learned this month in writing: A wealth of information about self-publishing! I won't repeat all of that here since this recent post gives more details.
What distracted me this month while writing: May is our last month of school. I was wading in so much work this week that there were nights we were eating canned olives and beans for dinner.

Goal for next month: I can't believe I'm finally going to say this, but my goal for next month is to finish my book.  

Last 200 words:
And then there was Lynn. Stryder wondered if death was one of those unchangeable things, like the Hawk Eyes book that insisted on dropping in every single timeline. The details of how it dropped were allowed to change, but no matter what, that book was destined to hit the floor. Perhaps death was the same way. The who was going to die and the how they were going to die might change, but maybe death was fixed, and Time was going to serve it to someone, no matter what. Maybe he and Taz could loop back to Mel’s Diner a dozen times, and no matter what, someone was going to die. 
What if next time, that someone was Taz?
He shuddered, but then realized it was a pointless thought. He wasn’t looping back again. This was his reality now. Last month he was a basketball star. A “ladies man.” Popular. Now, he was a convict.
Suddenly a familiar heat tingled his skin.
The room started to pull away from him, and he grabbed the mattress with all his might.
“No!” he shouted out loud. He had done everything he could. He had confessed his crime. He had let Taz go when he selfishly wanted to hold onto her. He had owned up to his mistakes. He was serving his time. He was making things right. What else did the Laws want?

“Damn it, no…!”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our Big Fancy Hole

Too many of my recent posts have been about writing...I need to take a break from that theme before I render my "This is Not a Writing Blog" tab a big fat lie.

So how about this? Last week we broke ground on our pool! The workers showed up at our house on Wednesday at 7 a.m., and it was utter chaos. Suddenly my yard was crowded with trucks and tractors, with all sorts of buzzing and activity going on. 

The dogs couldn't be in the back yard with the tractor and the open fence, so we had a pack of dogs running around the house. Not to mention the workers had to do some trenching in the petting zoo, so we had to temporarily relocate the chickens and the rabbits. It was so much fun...all the whirlwind and excitement. By the time I got to work that morning, I was still hot from all my running around, and my skirt was coated in dog fur (luckily I keep a lint roller in my classroom). I was on a complete high.

By 3:30 that afternoon, I came home to this:

I'm still stunned that our entire pool was dug out in eight hours! In the book Holes, it takes Stanley and the other boys a full work day just to dig one 6'x6' hole. But these guys dug a 16'x30' hole in that same time. Granted these guys have a tractor, while Stanley and Co only had a shovel, but still.

By day 2, most of the rebar was installed, not to mention the underground plumbing/electric/etc. By day 3, the rebar was finished, including the spa's, and we passed inspection. So either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, we get concrete.

Here is what the pool looks like right now:

As you can see, the spa is attached to the pool, but set a tier above, that way the warm spa water can tumble down to heat the pool.

I walked all the way into the deep end yesterday. I couldn't resist. I had to avoid stepping on all those metal bars, but I still ended up scraping/stabbing myself a few times. Totally worth it. 

Yesterday Elijah asked, "When the pool is done, who gets to jump in first?" We debated the issue for some time, and then Elijah finally said that we would all jump in together. All four of us, at the same time.  LOVE it. But then they all balked at me when I said maybe we could hold hands. I guess I pushed the corniness boundary. 

One more thing. When the workers were trenching the petting zoo, one of them found this:

Baby bunnies. Six of them, actually. They're much smaller than they look in this picture, but they are very lively/healthy. Every single one of them is a spitting image of Pumpkin. Seeing them made my giddy-o-meter spike to ridiculous levels. Baby bunnies and the makings of a pool in one day was more than I could take.

By the looks of it, these little guys were inspired by the elaborate hole in our backyard and are now digging up their own little pool. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tweaking the Dream

I've made a huge decision. Well, huge for me.

Here it is. *gulp*. Once my book is finished this summer, I'm going to self-publish it.

I know. If you're a family member of mine or close friend, you realize what a hypocrite I am. Because I have said for years that I will never, ever self-publish.

See, from the time I was a little girl, I never imagined myself as a singer, or an actress, or a model, or as any other glamorous profession that girls love to daydream about. In my fantasies, I was a writer. I lived in a medium-sized house with a big yard, lots of animals, a few kids, and my novel sitting on a small book stand in K-Mart. That's it. That was my dream world.

But you don't see self-published books at K-Mart.

The problem is, today, my fantasy hasn't changed, but the world around me has. My ideal life was dreamed up back in a world when traditional publishing was pretty much the only way a writer got published. Not to say that self-publishing didn't exist--it did--but back then, such books came out looking like this:

Sorry about the boobs (or you're welcome, depending on who you are). It was just way too horribly perfect to pass up. 

The point is, writers were forced to depend on outside publishing houses if they wanted to produce anything remotely professional-looking, and if they wanted their work read by more than just family members and friends. Publishers held writers' entire livelihoods in their hands.

But that's not how it works today. For better or worse (most say "better"), writers are free to take the wheel of their own writing careers through self-publishing. And self-publishing isn't what it used to be. Now, with a few handy resources, writers can create products that look more like this:

Looking at these books, you would have no idea these are self-published. And on top of being able to put out incredibly professional-looking products such as the ones above, self-publishers are able to maintain all rights to their books and make all decisions. PLUS they get to keep 70% of the royalties from eBook downloads, unlike traditional publishing companies, which generally allow the author to keep 25% or less (according to my research--obviously this would vary depending on the publisher). Traditional publishing houses, which used to be a writer's only saving grace, are becoming less and less relevant. 

So why do writers such as myself feel so many reservations about self-publishing? Well, for me, it's two main things.

  1. I still associate self-publishing as being the option for writers who aren't talented enough to have their work purchased by a *real* publishing house. 
  2. The grown-up version of little-girl-me doesn't want to accept that her book might not ever be on a book stand. 

But after several debates with @boundiali and hours upon hours of research, I discovered that both of my reservations are unjustified. According to the Huffington Post, many successful--and even famous--writers launched their careers by self-publishing their books. Once they grew a modest readership, they eventually sold their work to larger publishing houses for wider distribution. If my book never makes it to a bookstand, self-publishing isn't going to be the culprit. Crappy writing or lack of luck will be the culprit.

The thing is, I always thought it had to be one or the other. I never realized that I could do both. I can self-publish, start gaining an audience for my story world, then submit my novel to traditional publishing houses--IF I think they can offer me more than I'm already getting. Because the thing is, even if one of the "Big Five" in publishing offers me a book deal, it's not the magical fairy dust that one would think. Most publishing houses offer brand new authors $5000 for their book, plus some (very limited) royalties, with no guarantees that they will keep the book on the shelves for more than a month or publish your sequels.

Not that it's about the money, but I gross over $5000 in one month of teaching. It has taken me three years to write this book.

I don't want to be at the mercy of a traditional publisher. I don't want to wait decades to see my book in print. Just the thought of being able to hold it in my hand by Christmas--self-published or otherwise--makes me feel giddy. I'm not saying I think self-publishing is the "right" way, but I'm now willing to accept that it is *a* way, and I'd like to give it a try.

Wish me luck.

(Note: Other Useful Articles: Life on the Midlist and My Too--Practical Maybe--Blunt Advice to Authors--thanks @jmeyersbooks for those links!).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Follow Your Dreams [Right out the Window]

Have you ever seen Mike and Molly? I've always enjoyed the simplicity and light humor of the show (and the fact that the characters don't look like skinny models who stepped out of fashion magazines), but this most recent season has propelled me from somewhat enjoying the show to downright loving it. To understand why, watch this clip (it's only a minute long and completely worth it):

Oh my gosh you guys, she's a TEACHER (just like me), who feels stuck in an endless cycle of middle-aged drudgery (just like me) and decides, on a completely spontaneous whim, to quit her job and follow her dreams (just like me--okay, no--but just like I fantasize doing every other day). And it gets even crazier. As the season progresses, Molly decides to become a writer. A WRITER! She quits teaching to write. This woman, however fictional she may be, is my hero.

For the record, I do love my job. My school (aptly dubbed "the Ranch") is about as awesome as they come. I never wake up feeling like "Ugh, I have to go to work today." My school site is my second home, and I love stepping onto its friendly campus every morning. I love the quirkiness of my students. I love it that I get to be one of the people in their lives helping to guide them through the crazy and uncertain transition from childhood to adulthood.

But there's a certain dynamic to teaching that makes you feel like you're stuck in a rut. I've tried [unsuccessfully] so many times to explain in past blog posts this feeling...the feeling that I'm trapped in a really jacked up time loop (seriously, I've said it here, here, and even here...). Even the conflict within my MS is a time loop...gee, I wonder how my subconscious managed to dredge that one up. The thing is, every year I go through the same events and put up with the same dramas, and it feels so special and new to my students, but to me, it's the "same ole' same ole'." At the end of the year, they get to move on to bigger and brighter things, while I'm left to clean up my room and start all over again. Rinse and repeat. The faces change, the names change, but it's all the same. Year after year. When Molly states, "You guys only have fourth grade once, I have all of this for thirty more years," I don't think I've ever related more to a line on television.

Even better is when Molly asks the kids (who couldn't be more apathetic), "Do you ever just kinda stand back and look at your life and think 'This is not where I ought to be'?" Yes, Molly, yes! I have! I love my job, but I can feel it down to my core that I'm not in the right place. I wish I could be crazy like she is. I wish I had the guts to give up my stable, secure, pleasant job and trade it for something much more scary--something with no guarantees. No safety net. Writing. JUST writing.

But I can't. Or, I won't. I live here, in non-fiction land with bills to pay and expectations to meet, and where the fear of failure is too real. So for now I'll just continue to live vicariously through larger-than-life characters like Molly and fantasize about jumping out that window and never looking back.

Back to Ocean

Just a quick post to say that I'm thrilled to be back on Ocean in a Cup! And so much sooner than I was expecting. Once my informal poll yielded this URL as the winner, I just got that itch to make the switch (no rhyme intended).

As you can see, I transferred all posts and comments from Writeapy to this blog. It was super easy. I'm still working on some of the technical stuff, like updating links, etc., but none of it is pressing.

Being back here on my original blog feels like returning to my childhood home. I just want to wrap my arms around it and hold on tight.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Outstanding Blogging [Doesn't Look Like This]. And Snails.

Two days ago I clicked on a link to an article (from twitter) that discussed ten ways to be an outstanding blogger. I carefully read over the suggestions, and concluded two things:
  1. I am not an outstanding blogger
  2. I will never be an outstanding blogger
To write outstanding blogs, you have to do things like include a hook for each know, a compelling question, or an interesting fact, etc. This entry, for example, should start off with "Did you know I suck at blogging?" or "Statistics show that 100% of bloggers over at are lousy bloggers." That would have been much more captivating than "Two days ago blah blah."

Another component of outstanding blogging is keeping your posts centralized around one topic. Members of our technology-driven society tend to have short attention spans; they don't want to read long rambling narratives that veer from topic to topic. Curious how often I fail at the whole focusing-on-one-topic thing, I scanned over some of my past blog post titles. Here were some titles I came across:
Resolutions, Black Fish, & British Relatives
Mines, Breweries, & Burning Pianos
Mother's Day & Chopping Tables
Rodent Escapees and Staple-ectomies
Student Teacher & Deadly Doors
Universal Studios Monsoon & Other Unrelated Stuff
The Rambling Times
Okay, this goes on and ON. And if words don't speak for themselves, just scroll down a bit and you will see a picture of a snail. What on earth does a snail have to do with this post? Who knows. I swear, it seems to be my trademark to start a post with the idea that "I'm going to squish every possible unrelated thing into this blog entry, and then make sure to squeeze all of it into my title too!"

Seriously, even my so-called trademark is rambly.

At this point, an outstanding blogger would tidy up this post by declaring some call to action, or conclude with some other statement that would leave the reader with an idea of the overall message of the post. But I, sticking true to my nature, am going to veer on over to my next topic.

Which is...I'm switching my URL back to Ocean in a Cup! The votes were nearly unanimous for that name. I have some construction I need to do with that site, and then I'll make the switch. I decided I will not be going through Wordpress as I had originally hoped. My reason for this is pretty shallow: Unless I go through Wordpress's self-hosting (which requires a monthly fee), it looks like a huge pain in the ass to customize the blog the way I want.

Next topic: I finally got through my April rut and am officially working on DoT again. It's slow going, but still. YES.

Wednesday (yes, changing subjects again) we break ground on our pool! Speaking of pools, for Mother's Day, we drove down to Camarillo to visit my grandma. Shannon and Jeremy came too, along with my parents. On Saturday we all visited, went swimming, and had a fun dinner at an Italian restaurant (which transitioned to a silly dinner after two bottles of wine). I also got to talk shop with my Grandpa again. No editing this time. We just daydreamed about book covers, and talked about the parts of our novels that had come from real life experiences. Wow was THAT an eye-opener. I found out that my Grandpa had a BB pellet stuck in his butt cheek for thirty-some years after he tried to steal a watermelon. And one time, he broke into a church to spend the night and got caught by two choir girls the next morning. Anyway, on Sunday morning my dad made everyone an awesome breakfast. Later we went swimming, followed by a picnic lunch. On our way home, we stopped at Charlie Brown's for chocolate banana shakes. I'm still full just thinking about how much eating I did that day.

My grandma has snails in her yard. I guess this isn't a spectacular thing, but we don't generally see snails in the desert. The kids love them--they like having snail races, or building snail-castles. Okay, admittedly that last one probably isn't so nice. Anyway, Cassidi kept bringing snails into my grandma's house, and my goodness they are the cutest things! Have you ever seen a snail up close? I get that it's this pile of sticky muck in a shell, but it's adorable...this little sluggish yet motivated worm serving as its own motorhome.

I could just hug this little guy (don't worry, I won't).

Congratulations, you now see how snails relate to this post. Which, they don't.

Today sucked. I was tired for no reason (I slept awesome last night) and had no sense of humor. You can't teach seventh graders without a sense of's like flipping eggs without a spatula.

Outstanding Blogging Tip #11: Use similes that make sense.

Okay, I have to go add snails to my title now.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Writeapy or Ocean in a Cup?

Help! I need to make a decision about my blog and I'm stuck.

At the writer's conference I attended in February, when the presenters were talking about the logistics of sending out queries and/or synopsises (what the hell is the plural for that word?), several of them mentioned how good it looks on your query letter to be able to show a blog. The content of the blog is pretty much irrelevant, it's the endurance of the blog that matters more. Potential agents and publishers simply like to see that you are someone who is committed to writing regularly.

This was bittersweet news for me. The sweet part is that I've been blogging regularly since August of 2009. Sustainability with writing is definitely not a problem.

The bitter part is that I switched over to a new blog last year, so my current blog shows barely one year of posts.

My original purpose for switching over to a new blog was because Shan and I intended to do this one together and we needed a fresh place to start. Now, with that out of the equation, I've decided--well, I THINK I've decided--to import all of my posts from Ocean in a Cup to Writeapy. No more two blogs, no more linking back to posts from a past blog--everything together. BUT there would be a lot of disjointed posts. The "Goodbye" post on Ocean, for example, would no longer make much sense. Nor would the "Welcome" post on Writeapy. All my current links to my old blog would have to be changed. Basically the process of importing those posts would leave me with a lot of loose ends to deal with. But any prospective agents who clicked on my blog would see five years worth of posts instead of barely one, and that's a pretty big plus.

This brings me to question #1: Should I do it? I'm leaning toward yes, unless I hear a compelling reason NOT to.

Which brings me to question #2: If I go through with this, what should I name the new combined blog? Ocean in a Cup or Writeapy? Right now I have both URLs. I like Writeapy a lot, but it sounds so much like a writer's blog. Yes, some of my posts are about writing, but when they're mixed in there with posts about dreaming of giant copper toilets or accidentally spaying my cat twice, it might be a bit of a misnomer. Ocean in a Cup, on the other hand, is not quite as snappy of a title, but I've always been super fond of it. It's unique (even though part of it came from a CD label) and captures the essence of my blog. In my mind, anyway. I explained my rationale for the title on my old blog, but right now I'll just say it's just more personal to me and leave it at that. But switching over to Ocean means yet another change of URL...ugh. Again. Such a pain. And maybe the title is weird and I just don't realize it because it's special to me.

So back to question #2: Which name? Kristyn, Shan, Ifeoma, and anyone else who cares to weigh in, help! Rick and Jewls, you guys can e-mail me with your opinion since I know you won't comment here (see that? I called you all out by name to ensure responses. So devious. Don't kill me Jewls).

This is one of those things where I am TRULY going with what the majority says.

By the way, Ocean in a Cup expires in about a week, so I need to decide fast.