Monday, October 13, 2014

Comfy Prison Cells

I was telling one of my wonderful (albeit newer) blogging friends, Mel, that I've been in a bit of a slump lately, avoiding my blog (and just about any social networking). She more or less told me to write something on my blog--ANY LITTLE THING. I don't know what purpose this serves, other than giving my writing slump the middle finger, but I've decided to follow her advice. So here's my feeble attempt to write...any little thing.

Last night I watched God's Not Dead for the first time. Clint recently installed a large roll-up projector screen into our backyard patio, so now we can watch movies outside at night. It's pretty amazing. We've used it twice now, and both times we sat in the spa for the entire two hours, turning into prunes as we enjoyed the show. The first movie was a few weeks ago--The Truman Show. I can't even describe how beautiful I find this movie. The fact that Truman's entire world...his very nothing but a's like a heart-warming version of The Matrix. I loved watching the truth--the bigger Truth--slowly dawn on him, and I loved following him as he clumsily plowed his way through all of the giant boulders of grief--disbelief, sadness, anger, defeat, and, at last, freedom.

God's Not Dead was wonderful, too. I haven't looked into any reviews of the movie, and I'm sure the secular world has found many ways of tearing it apart, but I, not being a movie critic who looks for poetry and great acting and cinematic brilliance, found it to be poignant and heart-rending and just damn feel-good from start to finish. This particular scene, featuring a well-to-do business man (with questionable morality) visiting his dementia-inflicted mother, struck me the hardest:

This isn't the first time I've heard an analogy involving a prison cell so comfortable and pleasant that the one imprisoned within never considers leaving. The Truman Show illustrates this point, too, with Truman feeling at peace inside the world fabricated just for him--a most lovely cage--until he is given an urgent reason to search for more. 

Contentment is probably the biggest weapon in the devil's arsenal. Welcome to America--Land of the Free and Home of the Bound.

Today I have spent the entire day outside in the sun. I guess it's autumn in other parts of the country, but here in the desert, we're experiencing summer at its finest. Trinity had a friend over, and Carey (Clint's dad) stopped by for awhile, where we lounged at the patio table, chatting about family and life. I just love Carey, and not only because he scratches my itch for deeper conversation (though that helps). But that's a whole other post. Now everyone has left and I'm still outside, squinting to see the images on my smudged laptop screen, but the sun is sort of glaring at me as it creeps toward the western horizon like it has some sort of score to settle.

Yeah...I think I've lost this battle (my nose is practically touching my screen now, and going inside IS NOT AN OPTION 'cause I"m way too happy out here), so I'll end this post. But hey, I wrote any little thing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Book Cover Shining Like a Strobe Light on the Down Low

I was told, "Keep your book cover to yourself until it's time for the big reveal." So I intently followed those directions. And then I *might have* enthusiastically showed my cover to fellow teachers from my cell phone every time they walked into my classroom.

I also might have texted it to a small smattering of family members and close friends.

And I sorta, kinda might have hung up a giant book poster, complete with release date, in my classroom to be seen by approximately 104 students a day.

Yeah, I might be a wee bit HORRIBLE at keeping my cover to myself. My cover reveal is going to be the lamest, most anticlimactic event EVER.

But I did try.

Sort of.

Okay, I'm off to go design book markers now. You know, displaying my book cover. Before my grand reveal. Because that's how I do.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Soggy and Me

As you [maybe, probably, most likely] know, it's my life-long dream to be an author. But...I sort of have a day job that is a bit time-consuming. And by "a bit," I mean very, VERY, VERRRRRRY time-consuming. I'm a 7th grade Language Arts teacher (which is probably not boding well for my "very" with six Rs). I love my job, but by the time I come home, I am drained. Teaching isn't physically taxing, but mentally it takes its toll. Even if you take all of the classroom management out of the equation, the sheer number of questions I am asked every day would be enough to turn anyone's brain into mush. The bell for first period rings, and it goes something like this:

Mrs. Perkins, do you have a pencil I can borrow? Can I sharpen my pencil? I forgot my homework--can I turn my homework in tomorrow? What does that word say? Can I go to the bathroom? How old are you? What page are we on? Can I have some tissue? Are we on regular schedule or upside-down schedule? Can I change seats? Can I throw this away? Why are the announcements so hard to hear today? Can I hold Muggle (the class pet)?

That brings us about five minutes into the school day. It's not the students' fault. They don't realize that their one little harmless question, combined with the bazillion other harmless questions from their classmates, would bring any sane person to their knees. Lucky for me, I'm not a sane person. I TEACH MIDDLE SCHOOL. So I handle all of these questions like a champ, rapid-firing answers back so fast that I'm not even sure what I'm saying. But by the time I come home from work, I look something like this.

I've decided to name her "Soggy." It just seems to fit.

Does Soggy LOOK like a writer to you? Does she look like she's ready to start tapping away on her keyboard in some stream of inspiration? I mean, seriously, I can't even answer the most basic questions from my family, let alone work on a book. My daughter will ask me if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean, and I'll look at her with this empty gaze, until two minutes later, I'm like, "Huh? Something about spoons?"

Sadly, my students get the best of me. My family and my writing get Soggy.

What does this mean for my future as a writer? I admit, I suffer from a massive case of Green with Envy Syndrome when I see all of my writerly friends on twitter who have chosen writing as their career. They put their hearts and souls into their dream. And once they finish writing a book, they have the time to promote it. They can do blog tours and giveaways and explore all sorts of social networking avenues to give their book a presence.

Does Soggy LOOK like she's excited to jump on Facebook and do a blog giveaway? My poor little book--Chasing Echoes--is somehow going to have to miraculously leap from the Amazon page and sell itself, because frankly I'm lucky if I have enough willpower to compose a coherent sentence at the end of the workday, let alone sell a damn book.

I guess all of this begs the question...why don't I quit teaching and pursue my dream of being a full-time writer?

Easy. I teach for the money.

Heheheheheheheheheehee...Oh, come on, that was FUNNY.

Okay, seriously. I won't quit because not only do I love my students, they inspire me. It was my students last year who encouraged me to write my book. It was my students who asked me every single day "How's your book coming along, Miss P?" and who squealed every time I read an excerpt, with cries of "Hurry up--I can't wait to read the whole thing!"

And today, it is still my students who keep me pumped up...who refuse to let me off the hook.

(And who throw pencils at my head if I start to nod off from pulling an all-nighter).

So even though Soggy doesn't always feel like writing, she still pushes through...because she has 100-and-some hopeful faces cheering her on.

Maybe someday, I will have to choose:  Be a teacher, or be a writer. But for now, I choose both. Because somehow, being a teacher motivates me to be a writer--even if it's a writer who's a wee bit soggy around the edges.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

#WIPMarathon Report - September

No, no, no, no, noooooo! It can NOT be October already!

(Okay, now that THAT'S out of my system...)

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 109,033. 

Current report WC + CC/ SC: 109,044. 

Hey, look at that, I went up by 11 words. I am happy to report though that I finally, FINALLY finished rewriting the last chapter. It's still pretty rough, so I will need to go through and fine-tune it. But it is such a relief to have it DONE. Almost done. Yeah, maybe not that done. Um, well.

WIP Issues This Month: Just my own slackerosity and last-chapter-phobia.

What I learned this month in writing: 
  1. To take chances with your characters. Make them lovable in so many ways, but give them an almost shocking flaw. It's too late for me to do this with my current novel, but I really want to heighten my characters' quirks and intrigue in my follow-up novels.
  2. To read other people's WIPMarathon Reports to see what they've learned in writing since I can't think of anything else.
What distracted me this month while writing: Remember a long time ago when I wasted hours and hours of my life creating a website for a series I hadn't even written? Well, it turns out that it wasn't a complete waste of time. Because now I really do have a book coming out, and I really do need an author's page. So I modified the site I had already created and turned it into something closer to useable. I started to post a screenshot of my progress here, but I realized it gave away my cover. Sadly, the site no longer has acclaimed reviews from the Tardis Talk or Pixie Dust Press or whatever saying that my book is a fast-paced work of staggering genius and all that, but it is what it is.

So in addition to creating a website (which was really addicting), my weekends haven't really been conducive to getting any writing or editing done this month. Last weekend we hosted my four year-old niece's birthday party at my house--a "Harry Potter Pool Party." Clint's mom made the food, and his sister (Moo) did everything else--including making killer cupcakes and these chocolate frog things that tasted like they came straight from Sees Candy (seriously, just writing about them is making me ticked off that I don't have more).

 Harry Potter cupcakes, goodies, and party favors for the kids. 
And a garden hose.

 Food table (minus the food). Beverages included Pumpkin Juice and Butter Beer 
(the BB was TO DIE for)

"Let's ignore that lovely spacious body of water directly in front of us
and stuff ourselves into the spa instead!"

The weekend before, my family took Shannon and I deep sea fishing for our birthday. It was SO MUCH fun. We were catching fish every five minutes. It turned out that everything was too small to keep, but still--what a riot. The only thing I struggle with is the bait. You have to hook live bait (either mackerel or sardines), and I can't do it. Not because it's gross--I'm okay with that. But because it's ALIVE. I absolutely can not get myself to stick a hook through something living and breathing. No no no no. NO. So I'm ashamed to say that Clint, Jeremy, and my dad hooked my bait (which I find very cowardly of me, because I'm still hurting/killing a living thing by proxy, just forcing others to get their hands dirty on my behalf). Next time I go deep sea fishing, I plan to use lures. Even if it's less effective than live bait, it's still totally worth it to me.
 Shan and me at Dana Point Harbor

We had the entire front of the boat to ourselves for most of the trip.

 The view on our way back to shore.

Shan caught the cutest little fish called a sculpin, or "scorpion fish." It had whatever the fish-version of porcupine quills are called, and was poisonous to touch, but it was SO CUTE. He looked like an aquarium fish. 

What was this blog post about again?

Oh yeah, WIP report. Here we go.

Goal for next month: I want to have chapter 37 (my last chapter) polished off and all beautiful, and 80% of edits and revisions for my entire MS done. 80% is totally arbitrary--I'm just picking a number to sound more goal-oriented.

Last 200 words: Now that I've revised my last chapter, my last 200 words have finally changed. But sadly they give away the end. I mean, because they ARE the end. So I'm going to pick another 200 words. Another non-heavy scene. 

I watched Stryder hurry past the little bay window of the coffee shop. His cheeks were flushed, lips still tight with anger. Under his left arm was a large bag of rat food. In his right hand was the tattered pink tissue box.  
Taking a long sip of my Tazo tea, I smiled at the scene. Guess he had a new pet.
And that’s when everything went dark. A collective gasp sounded through the shop. The previously unnoticeable hum of a half dozen grinding machines puttered to a halt. It was graveyard silent. For about two seconds.
A cell phone went off, a jarring intruder in the gray silence—like a stereo blasting in the middle of church prayer. Then another cell phone joined the ring-tone choir. Then another. Then every cell phone in the shop joined in. Over a dozen ring tones twisted together in garbled harmony. Goose bumps pricked my arms, sending a small shiver up the nape of my neck. Several startled, murmuring customers lunged for their phones, their screens glowing bright in the dark gloom of the shop. I yanked my own chirping phone out of my purse, glancing down at the screen. It showed no incoming calls. No texts. 

It's bedtime for me now but if any of my fellow WIP marathoners happen to read this, I promise I'll check out your reports soon!