Saturday, December 31, 2011

What if your New Year's Resolutions aren't so...resolute?

New Year's Eve is upon us. As a mom to three young kids, I have no exciting plans to party it up tonight, unless you consider munching on potato skins and playing Super Mario Bros "partying it up". (Clearly I celebrate NYE like a 15 year old boy) The cost alone of hiring a babysitter on NYE is astronomical, that is, if you can even find one that wasn't booked this time last year.

Along with NYE celebrations comes New Year's Resolutions. I have never made any resolutions before, not a single one, but this year is different. Of course, I'm tempted to make all of the same generic plans ie: Lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking...wait, I don't smoke...okay, well, you get the gist. And mind you, I fully intend to do all of those things (especially since I've already mastered the "quit smoking" one) but I find them lacking in the flexibility department, don't you?

I propose we, as a group, commit (half-heartedly) to a whole handful of Not-So-Resolute-Resolutions.
What follows is my list, I'd love for you to post yours in the comments below.

1. I will think about eating oranges instead of Oreos.

2. I will consider wearing perfume every day in the interest of appearing more feminine.

3. I will try to balance the amount of time I spend sitting at the computer with the amount of time I spend taking part in physical recreation.

4. I will attempt to teach my kids about the wonders of sibling love versus sibling rivalry.

5. I will think about doing some fun give aways on the blog in 2012 (only if you say you're interested in winning stuff and comment as such).

I'm sure there are more, I mean, with this level of commitment, what do I have to lose? But I smell the skins crisping up as I type, so I'm going to call it a day and get the party started. Be sure you give me at least one kinda-sorta-resolution in the comments, who knows, maybe I'll be inspired by your half-hearted attempt at self improvement.

Happy New Year! C'mon 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNo won the battle, but I haven't lost the war

I toiled, I typed, I spent countless hours banging my head against my laptop, but in the end, I did NOT write 50,000 words. Not even close. I wrote about 25,000 — half of the goal. I could list all of my excuses here about how I have 3 kids, how Thanks Giving weekend was spent with my family and not my computer and how some nights I just didn't have it in me to write. But I don't want to excuse my supposed failure because to me it was anything but. I WROTE 25,000 WORDS IN 30 DAYS! That is a huge accomplishment in my eyes. Although I would love to say I "won" NaNo, I most certainly didn't come away empty handed. I mean, aside from the bumper stickers I got for donating to the organization. The first draft of my novella, Frozen Heart, is nearly finished! I know, I'm stoked, too. The next two months will be spent revising, editing, polishing and killing my darlings, all to ready my novella for submission. Then I'll move on to writing a query letter which, if it doesn't kill me, will most certainly make me insane.

I also learned so much about myself and my writing process. I learned I absolutely cannot write with all three kids at home. The constant disruptions make me batty...and mean. I learned how to write more fluidly, quickly, and efficiently. I also learned to write freely, without over thinking every sentence as it hits the page. Most importantly, I tested my resolve and learned that I do truly love to write, and that pressure and expectation be damned, I love it even when it's hard and no fun at all.

If you'd like to read an excerpt of Frozen Heart you can find one here, but I'll give you a synopsis below.

In a world where the season never changes, the fate of the human race is in the hands of the family-centric and invasive totalitarian government, The Affinity. Cressenda, an Outlier, risks her life every day in the persuit of liberty and freedom. With a strict regime enforcing stringent laws in the realm of marriage and procreation, the tyranny of the Affinity has forced Cressenda to give up the idea of ever having a family. She has secluded herself in the wilderness, accepting the idea that she will never love. One snowy December day, after a particularly treacherous trip to the Collective, she meets Beckett, a Guard for the Affinity. His interest in her aloof and guarded persona gives Cressenda cause for concern. She must decide if Beckett is worth the risk of exposing herself as an Outlier, or maybe even joining the ranks of the Citizens of the Affinity again.

Now, it's Book Porn Bloggy Time! (I know, I totally forgot about this feature, too!) Although I did not read anything last month, including any and all notices and fliers sent home by my children's school, I can tell you the last book I read before NaNo started. Lover Awakened, book three in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. My friends, this series is literally book porn. An ancient warrior class of sexy vampires and the women that love them. How can you go wrong? Although the hero of this installment (Zsadist) is not my favorite (which is counter to how most readers feel about him) I absolutely adore this paranormal romance series. JR Ward writes some of the best unresolved sexual tension I have ever, ever read. Some of the characteristics of these vamps, as well as the plots of each book, might make you roll your eyes, but as a good friend of mine explains it, "They're the books you love to hate." We also call them the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Vamps. Take from that what you will. If you're looking for a fun, sexy read, these are the books for you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaNo-Why it's Winning and I'm Not (so far)

Hi, friends. It's Week 3 of NaNo. Week 3 is supposed to be easier, but you see, I'm still at the work count expected in Week 2. You know what that means? It means I'm still in the Week 2 slump. I hate my story, I hate my characters, and I want to throw my laptop out a window.

I've had days where I've cranked through 2,000 words in a day and I've had nights where I've fallen asleep mid-word while typing my first sentence of the day. I've had days where I was able to dedicate large blocks of time to my story and days where I've been at Disneyland with the kids and not written a word. I've been at this for 21 days and I'm pathetically behind.

I've written 18,000 words. I've slogged through the last 3,000 and, from what I understand, I'll be trudging through the next 7,000 to get to 25,000. The good news is "they" say it's a down hill sprint after that. What do "they" know anyway? Have "they" ever written 50,000 words in 30 days? Oh, wait, "they" have. Anyway...

Have you seen "Julie and Julia"? You know the scene when Julie has a total breakdown and cries on the kitchen floor like an overtired toddler? Ya, that's me today. It ain't pretty.

Alas, I soldier on, determined to finish. I will find a way to write 32,000 words in the next 9 days. I will. Right? RIGHT? Right. You know why? Because I'm not a quitter. I don't give up and I don't go down without a fight. I will finish, even if I end up pulling an all-nighter like an irresponsible college kid; I will finish this challenge. I refuse to surrender and I will win this challenge, if not for myself, then for you, my readers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Writing by the seat of my pants

I'm what's referred to as a "pantser"in the world of writing. I don't typically have every chapter outlined, or even any idea how I'm getting from beginning to end, but I always have a beginning and end. They come to me simultaneously when I get a plot bunny. NaNo is a pantser's dream. Permission to write without looking back, knowing the first draft will be crap; full of holes, overwriting, underwriting, repetitive and overused adjectives and serious adverb abuse. We also know that if we work hard at refining, polishing, and tightening this first draft, there is a chance that we will have a pretty darn good book when we're done.

It's been a really fun project and I'm loving the experience. I've had a few other work related projects that took precedence, as well as a random short story that insisted I write it (seriously, I spent all day Friday on a piece that I wouldn't show you guys if you paid me...well, you know what I mean), that set me back on my word count, but overall I'm doing okay. Since I don't have any serious writing advice or epiphanies for you in this post, I'm going to give you an tiny excerpt from my NaNo project, Frozen Heart (working title). This excerpt is a tasty little morsel of what I've done thus far.

     I longed for the beautiful log fueled hearth that had enveloped me while in the safe hideaway of his cabin. The rich smell of woody smoke still permeated my clothing, a mix of sentimental feelings from childhood and sensual memories of being in Beckett’s arms. I increased the number on the digital screen, knowing it still wouldn’t bring the warmth I craved. What seemed to be a perfect existence, only a few days earlier, with just me an the boys, was now lifeless and empty. For the first time since my parents were taken by the Affinity, I felt the extreme cold of our frozen environment in every part of my body. Not just in my fingers or my toes, not in the frost against my skin, but deep in every fiber of my body. The very air that filled my lungs was frigid and biting. It hurt to draw it in, to try to sustain on it, and I found it even more excruciating to force it back out. 

I stood, chasing the warmth that floated from the glowing orange coils in front of me.  The change made the pain worse, instead of better. The wafting hot air felt stagnant and suffocating. I moved across the room searching for cleansing breaths. The tightness in my chest intensified, fear spiraling in my mind. Panic rose from the base of my spine and I clutched at my throat. The boys closed in around me, their instinct telling them to protect me from my invisible assailant.
Instead of quelling my fear, their presence only intensified my suffocation. I ran, fumbling, to the access door and slammed my hand against the button until it jerked open. Out in the snowy expanse, I gasped and sucked at the open air, falling to my knees as I succumbed to the knowledge that it wasn’t the air in my cabin, nor the air out in the wild, that was insufficient. Beckett had breathed new life into my soul, and without him, there was no air.

  I screamed out into the desolate white landscape, sending a lone owl fleeing from the disruption. For the first time in ten years, I gave myself over to the loneliness and the sorrow, crying tears for everything I had lost, for everything that was taken from me, and for the unending isolation that served as the price of freedom. There was no point to liberty if the cost was love. My parents gave up everything to avoid me being Matched, but the alternative was this life of solitude. 

Friday, October 28, 2011


Yes, I'm making up words again. No, not really. This is a "thing" that writers do, or so they tell me. For those of you that aren't familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month and is run by The Office of Letters and Light.

 Hundreds of thousands of writers band together to support each other as they race to the proverbial finish line of 50,000 words. Yes, that's correct. 50,000 words. In 30 days. How is this possible? I'm not exactly sure as I haven't actually read through anything on the site. I know, you're shocked. "But Annabelle," you say, "you are always so thorough and meticulous." I know, I'm as shocked as you are (not really, no, who gave you that idea about me?).  Hey, at least I signed up. I even know what I'm going to write! So, there's that.

I know you're thinking that, to a writer, this must be fun. Writing with abandon and never hitting that delete button sounds fantastic! Yeah, maybe. Actually, no, not really, not at all. This is a HUGE exercise in restraint, in all of the ways you wouldn't think. First, consider how badly most of us want to go through and read, revise, edit, etc. Then, imagine how long it actually takes to write that much. When I'm on a roll I can turn out about a thousands words in an hour. But to do more than that, and every single day, well, let's just say I'm a little more than intimidated.

Last, but not least, we have my ridiculous tendency to be superstitious. Last year there were lots, and I mean LOTS, of negative tweets from agents and authors alike, about NaNo. It seems that it's rather frowned upon in certain circles, which means some people think NaNo is for amateurs, which is exactly what I don't want to be. *sigh* So, there's that. Incidentally, I've considered creating some kind of ritual to combat any bad mojo that I may attract by taking part in this debacle.

Regardless, I'm going to do it. If I don't finish, no big deal, it's not like anyone is watching. So, come Tuesday morning, say a prayer, light a candle, make a sacrifice at the alter, what ever, so that I may succeed at this new wacky endeavor. Look for misspelled and nonsensical blog posts sure to come during the next month.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life is a Constant Test

Sometimes, the Universe makes you fight for what you want. Repeatedly. As a writer, I am tested over and over again. I don't know if the tests will ever stop coming, either. I'm not talking about testing my skills, because I gladly accept those tests. Instead, much harder and much more frightening, these are tests of my fortitude.

Recently, I had a little breakdown. You know the kind I'm talking about, where you get all snot-sobby pathetic and throw papers across the room and stuff? It wasn't pretty. After a time out little self imposed quiet time, I realized it was another test. It's not the first time I'd been tested and it won't be the last.

In the short course of my writing career, thus far, I have fought many demons—both internal and external—and lived to write another day. The demons, though all different in their ferocity and form, arrive taunting me with the same question: "How bad do you want it?" Sometimes, like the sorry afternoon mentioned above, I think I don't want it that much. I consider letting go of my dreams, my goals, my aspirations and getting a nine-to-five.

Then the panic sets in. The idea of not telling the stories that itch and scratch under my skin, that claw and fight their way out of me, while my fingers fly across the keyboard, makes my bones turns to jelly and my heart simultaneously silent and thunderous. That's how I know. I know that I want this so very badly. Every inch of my body and soul needs to be here, with the words spilling out of me, translating the tales that are whispered into my ear or sung in my mind like a record with a skip, until I soil the pretty white pages with their truths.

I will fight each demon that comes my way. I may falter and I may fall but I will not give up. As they say, my friends, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Open Arms

Hello Friends! I know it's been quite some time since I've written here. I don't have an actual blog for you today. Instead, I am giving you a short story I wrote over the summer for a contest. Although it did not win (Neither did 496 of the other stories that were entered), I would still like to share my silly little story. Maybe it will give you a chuckle as we head into the weekend.

Open Arms

Strong waves pounded the dark sand just a few yards away. Hidden by beach grass, we embraced, relieved to finally escape our wedding guests. Mark's poetic whispers suddenly ceased as he leaned back, and said, "There's something I need to tell you..."

I wasn't surprised, my heart didn't even stutter a beat. For the past year I had run from the nagging doubt in my head. Every day, going along my merry way, letting myself be consumed with the fine details of the wedding; planning napkin colors to coordinate with bride's maids dresses and picking flowers for centerpieces. I didn't want to let go of the blissful bubble I had created for myself.

I pressed my finger against his lips to silence him, "Shhh, not now, Mark. Let's just hold on to this moment a little longer."

His brow knotted with confusion but he acquiesced and granted me the comfortable silence. Wrapping my arms around his neck I pulled him down to me for a soft kiss, lingering just long enough to imprint into my memory the feel of his lips moulded with mine.

I grabbed his hand, leading him back toward our guests and the party burgeoning in our honor. "C'mon, let's not keep our guests waiting, they do, after all, expect to see the bride and groom at some point."

"But..." He pulled me to him with a gentle tug.

"Mark, please, let me have this one perfect day."

I would have expected to be weak-kneed and somber, but I traversed the terrain sure footed, appreciating the solid ground beneath my feet. Mark was a wonderful gift to my life and if he was going to leave I would not mourn him while he was still with me, rather, I would celebrate every moment he was mine.

We arrived in the banquet room to thunderous applause and a round of whoops and whistles. The wall of windows filtered the summer sun and set rainbow prisms bouncing off of the edges of fine china and highly polished silverware. Dinner was served, leaving only the low din of chatting voices and the clinking of utensils against plates to be heard. Entree followed appetizer and dessert followed entree, all delicious, all flawless. I could barely keep the smile off of my face long enough to chew.

Mark leaned over to me and whispered, "Keri, I really need to tell you something."

"Not now," I replied. Didn't he see, couldn't he understand? This was the pinnacle of my happiness, here, now, with the love of my life. Why did he insist on trying to ruin it with reality? Reality could wait twelve more hours.

Plates were cleared and champagne glasses were filled while the whimsical notes of jazz songs from days gone by floated through the room. Couples, both new and well worn, shuffled around the glossy tiles of the dance floor. Mark began to fidget and a bead of sweat at formed at his temples. Was it really that difficult for him to see this through to the end? Just as Mark swiveled to face me, a look of urgency pained across his features, tinkling started from a far corner of the room. The chiming grew and grew, swirling around us, urgent and pressing.

"Keri, now, I have to tell you now!" His plea was desperate and slightly panicked.

I smiled my biggest tooth-filled grin, "Mark, they expect us to kiss. Let's give 'em a show." I kissed him with all the passion and love that we had cultivated over the past four years. I owed it to him to give him the honesty of my heart. I owed it to myself.

He pulled away shaking off the flecks of lust that were speckled throughout his eyes, but even that rejection didn't make me crack. The DJ blew a low whistle through the microphone and adeptly transitioned into a new song. "Ladies and gentleman, I would now ask that you clear the floor for our new bride and groom for their first dance."

What was this song? This wasn't the song Mark and I had picked! Weeks, no, months were spent agonizing over our first dance as husband and wife. If Mark had looked nervous before he was positively unglued now.

"Keri, I tried to tell you. I'm so sorry! I, just, I forgot to email the DJ the list of songs and today, before the reception, when he asked what we wanted our first dance to be I panicked and said, well, I said this one."

"But I hate this song? I hate this band!" I blurted out in a mixture of relief and disgust. Mark's face crumbled and I dissolved into a fit of laughter.

I rushed with him to the dance floor and immediately began to sing along to one of my all time most despised songs, while my heart overflowed with gratitude and love.

"Oh, my dear, sweet husband, how did I ever get so lucky? You are undoubtedly the man of my dreams." I looked up into his apologetic eyes as we circled around and around to the melancholy tune.

"I ruined our wedding."

"On the contrary, my love, you made it perfect."

The End

Friday, September 23, 2011

Things I don't do.

I'm just going to lay it all out on the table, here. I'm a terrible housewife. It's true. If I had to interview for the job, in the same way you interview for a paying job, no one would hire me. There are things I just don't do. Then, there are things I can do, but I do them poorly. There is nothing related to my daily job that I excel at or even do particularly well.

My housekeeping skills leave so much to be desired. I've heard other people say, "I just love to vacuum" or "I really get into a zone when I'm dusting" and I think, "You've got to be kidding me. People really enjoy this crap?"

I'm sure my mother could give you a list ten miles long of the half assed or utterly incompetent ways I clean. I do the minimal amount necessary to keep my house presentable. When that fails, I aim for whatever keeps the guys in the hazmat suits at bay. And I absolutely do not iron unless it is forced upon me like an unwanted sexual advance in a dank and dirty nightclub.

The only redeeming quality of housework is that I get to count the calories I burned. Today, for instance, I swept, did dishes, 2 loads of laundry, and steam cleaned the couch cushions. I merrily entered this "cleaning:light to moderate effort" into my smartphone app, knowing I could eat an additional spicy tuna roll tonight. Ah, the taste of victory.

Then there is cooking. I can cook and there are some things I cook very well, but I'd rather not cook. Alas, I'm stuck doing it three times a day. I've heard people say cooking relaxes them. I can't relate. In fact, the idea of cooking a three course meal as a means to serenity is preposterous. There is no time more stressful than that which is spent toiling away over a hot stove, chopping, dicing, stirring, and timing everything so that it doesn't burn.

"Then what DO you do, Annabelle?"

Funny you should ask. I've spent some time contemplating this subject myself. I have concluded that I am not defined by my housekeeping skills. They are irrelevant. My talents lie elsewhere and that is what makes me, well, me. I am an artist, a medium, if you will. I transcribe the words my imaginary friends give me. I tell stories of love and life, happiness and hatred, estrangement and esteem. I channel the sights, sounds, and images that belong to another person and weave vivid tapestries of the world that surrounds them. That is what I do.

Know what you're meant to do and do it well, I say! So, my friends, what do you do?

Monday, September 19, 2011

When I grow up...

When I grow up I want to say I'm a writer. I know, I can technically say it now because I am paid for writing in a professional capacity, but I want to say it in that "I know what I'm doing" kind of way.

I want to know what I'm doing and I want to be good at it. I mean, really good. The kind of good that makes people sob uncontrollably or laugh uproariously while they read my words. The kind of good that makes people say to their best friend, their neighbor, and their mechanic, "You have to read this."

My problem is, the more I worry about being good the less I write. It's tough to find balance. To know enough and yet not be burdened by all that you know. That's what a real writer can do. They can find that balance. I focus on too many imperfections and lose my mojo in my attempts to eradicate them from my writing.

This week alone I've been completely crippled by the word "was". It is such a crutch! A stupid little word that prevents me from writing the beautiful words that could, and should, take it's place.

I fight the urge to edit every single page I write, while I am writing it, and swear to myself I will save it for the word-building and editing phase. Again, this is where balance is paramount to success. If I get bogged down in editing as I go, the story will never advance and actually may never even be told. I really want to tell these stories because I know what I want to be when I grow up and I can't be a writer if the words never make it on the page.

So, do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Have any words of wisdom for me?

This week I'm reading "Alison Wonderland" by Helen Smith. It's, like, a grown up book. I know, I'm as shocked as you are! I'm sorry, I've failed lately at updating you all on what I'm reading, but I've been burning through books at two or three a week!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writer's Block: Who's the bitch, now?

I've had writer's block since August. It may have started before the camping trip, maybe after, I can't recall right now because it felt like an eternity. The more I wished for that bitch to clear out, the more she dug in her heels. I tried to sit down and write, to force the voices in my head to speak again.

It was to no avail. I was stuck. The more I thought about it the more paralyzed I became. I considered starting a new story. I considered writing fanfiction. I considered giving up. All the while, the pressure mounted. How would I look my husband in the eye, in the face of his unending support, if the writer's block continued for months? Oh my Hell, what if it lasted a year? I have plans and dreams and I felt like I was watching them slip away from me, one tick of the second-hand-on-a-great Grandfather-Clock-in-my-head at a time. I did the only thing I could: I vowed not to write a single word for a week.

I don't have a cat, so that's not the problem.

The week passed, but the hand-wringing continued and the worry lines creased between my eyebrows deepened. Week two crept up on me and I continued my self imposed hiatus. Friends started asking if I'd made any progress. Each time I had to answer that I was still without words was like plucking my eyebrows. My eyes watered and my heart raced, and I knew I'd have to do it again. I had gotten to the point where my answer was curt and well rehearsed, laced with the implication that no further questioning was necessary unless you were ready to be done with child-bearing.

I'm not sure when it started. Thoughts trickling out of ink and lead onto napkins, notepads, and even the minute screen of my smart phone. It wasn't all the same voice. Two of my characters started to throw words at me, at times both perfect and inopportune. Sometimes phrases and sometimes in full sentences. Then, came the elusive full paragraph. It tapped it into the little yellow mock notebook on my phone. And I waited. I waited for her to tell me the rest of her story. I waited for redemption. It came today. Today was the day that the character whom had given me that fateful paragraph told me that entire scene. When she first began her flow, I stopped for a moment to wipe the tears from my eyes, partly to keep my daughter from asking if something was wrong (when really things were so, so right) but also because they were blurring my vision and making it hard to type as fast as the words were coming.

Fifteen hundred glorious words later I came up for air. (Take THAT writer's block. Who's the bitch, now?) Satiated and starved all at the same time. I couldn't get enough of the high that had evaded me for so many weeks. It's beautiful and lovely and altogether terrifying because I don't want to lose the flow again. For now, I'm going to shove that fear to the recesses of my mind and ride this high. I hope my husband understands if he is ignored for the next few days. I need this door to stay open and I need this character to keep talking, for a little while, at least. I also need a new laptop battery to keep up with her, so maybe you'll get another shopping post next week!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Camping Part 2: The Writing

How could you not be relaxed?

One would think that being out in all of that wilderness, the peaceful sounds of nature surrounding me, that I would have a million ideas flowing through me. Some of you probably had romantic images of me, pen poised, notebook full of scribbles and scratches written in haste. It's ok, I had the same adorable day dreams. It didn't go down like that at all. In fact, it was the opposite.

See, what happens when I have these lofty ideas about my creativity is that I completely psyche myself out.  I envisioned quiet nights that would lend themselves to a deep slumber full of vivid dreams and rich tapestries of scenes for my manuscripts. Instead, I was met with a chamber of echoes filled with self doubt. I suffered terrible insomnia, waking every hour or two, at best. Every time I awoke, I was greeted by a nagging voice asking me why I wasn't writing. What was holding me back? Maybe I wasn't really a writer? Maybe I wasn't cut out for this? Maybe, just maybe, this was another one of my lame attempts at becoming something, when I was meant to be nothing. I was paralyzed with fear that the lack of creative energy was a sure sign that I was going to fail at this endeavor.

Self doubt is a nasty bitch. I should have kicked her ass when I had the chance.

Yeah, that's what I should have said.

She took me down and knocked the wind out of me when I hit the ground. Gasping for breath, feeling the weight of her girth sitting on my chest, I fought to regain my strength. (Yes, I personified my self doubt. Work with me here.) It wasn't a fatal wound, but I was incapacitated, to say the least.

She won the battle. I am slowly putting myself back together. Every little piece I write, every drabble, every paragraph, every freelance article, rebuilds my strength. Next time, I'll be prepared. I'll have an arsenal of weapons and an armor of steel. Because, my friends, I fully intend to win the war.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Camping Part 1: The Experience

I've just arrived home from a four day camping excursion. After sifting through nearly one hundred emails and countless voicemail messages, I came straight here to share my adventures.   I'll never understand why people don't like camping. There is something so beautiful about having a breakfast of coffee and Swedish Fish, wearing nothing but a swim suit, slapping on a baseball hat instead of washing your hair and being totally unapologetic about it. Camping food, in general, is pure indulgence. How can anyone resist the allure of Easy Cheese and beef jerky? Not together, though. We tried that last year, it's not a good combo. Don't forget S'mores. Gooey, chocolatey, crispy S'mores. Yes, camping is heaven.

Of course, it's not all fun and games. We fought perilously against a multitude of Yellow Jackets, with some casualties along the way. Us, not them. Incidentally, I really wanted to call them tracker jackers, but knew that this would only cause the people around me to take away my Swedish Fish, so I refrained.
We also survived living in a trailer, a fifth wheel really, for four days. We had running water, a real toilet that flushed, and a kitchenette (because I'd go bankrupt eating out every meal). It's better than actually sleeping outside in a tent (eeeeffffff that) but still hard with three kids and two adults.  I'm small but my husband is a cross between Andre the Giant's height and the Jolly Green Giant's physique.  I lost count of how many times he hit his head on the trailer doorway.  Add to the physical challenges, the mental derangement of three kids, ages seven and younger, having little to nothing to do, save for bugging the hell out of each other. When I was lucky enough for them to be separated by way of geography, I was typically subject to my son's endless planning of which Transformer he would buy next and exactly how many chores he had to accomplish to reach his savings goal or my baby girl singing Paramore...endlessly.

There is a fantastic balance in life, though. Even the knowledge that I will suffer through the previously mentioned hardships, along with various other trials and tribulations, won't deter me from making this trip every year. The moments of awesome are too heady, too enriching to be overshadowed by giant, aggressive, attacking wasps or impossible sleeping arrangements.

This year did not disappoint. We spent the days fishing with a cheap cartoon themed fishing rod and more  light beer than should really be considered acceptable in public. Somehow, we fell into ridiculously traditional rolls, meaning my husband drank beer and fished but I didn't drink a single beer. Instead, I drank cans of soda with reckless abandon while I doled out sandwiches and snacks to the kids. How did this happen? I have no idea. Although I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I don't like beer.

My husband caught four trout, three of which escaped our pathetic excuse for a fishing rod. I also reeled in two sucker fish. I swear, if there was a World Championship of Sucker Fishing, I would own that every. single. year.  At the end of two very expensive days of fishing licenses, we caught exactly one fish.

One Rainbow Trout, about yea long,  was our boon. I was extraordinarily excited to walk our children through the realities of from where and how food comes to our plates. I grew up with fishermen and huntsmen. I have vivid memories of watching one of my uncles practice archery in my grandmother's back yard. The very woman who regaled me with stories of how she was cleaning a turtle for soup when she met my grandfather.

There is such a disconnect in modern culture between meat in the shiny plastic packaging and the animal who has given it's life. I know what you're thinking, but I am not a vegetarian and have no interest in being one. Rather, I am concerned about sustainability, about waste, about first world entitlement and about mass consumption at rates which are both shameful and unhealthy. My children were involved every step of the way with the journey of this fish, from reeling it in to cleaning it to watching me fry it up for dinner. We talked about how the fish gave up its life so we could benefit from the nourishment of it's meat. It was a important lesson. One I hope to repeat often and that they will carry with them throughout their lives, passing down that knowledge to their children, too.

Then there is the river. The river is beautiful. The noise of the rushing water and the wind rustling the trees, coupled with the simple silence being so far from the din of urban life, is breathtaking. To sit in the early morning light and take in the sweet smell of the earth under your feet and the musky scent of the previous evening's camp fires is to experience the perfection of man meshing with nature. It's how man was meant to live. And the crickets. The crickets are a symphony of happenstance that you  must experience at least one time in your life. If you're lucky, the sky might be gloriously clear and you can see the constellations mingled with millions of other stars as they blanket the velvety indigo above you.

Go camping, my friends. If not for you, then for your children. It's one of the most enchanting ways you can remind yourself what it means to truly be human. And don't forget the Swedish Fish.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Universe Called, was I Listening?

*ring, ring*

"Hello? Oh, hey Universe! How's it goin'?"

~silence~  (this is all you can hear, 'cuz you're not on the phone with me)

I chew on my thumbnail, listening intently while the Universe rips me a new one. It finishes with some nice stuff though, you know, to be encouraging.

"M'hm, okay, yes, I understand. Well, great to hear from you. Talk to you later."

My head falls and smacks against the keyboard. I'm utterly spent by the roller coaster of emotions. 

~ ~ ~

Okay, obviously that's not how it really went down. It was more like this. I woke up and checked Twitter. In my feed was a constant drip of actual quotes from editors as to why they had rejected particular manuscripts. I was so stressed out by this, you would not believe it. I felt like each comment was one that could be directed at me. Now, take note, I have not submitted anything to this publishing house. My manuscript isn't even done with it's first draft. Therefore, it's ridiculous that I had any emotion about these tweets at all. I tell myself that it's such an advantage to have these insider snippets of information. That I will be better because of them. Still, they scare the shit out of me.

That's the thing about writing. You can try so hard, but someone is still going to think it sucks. You have to write for yourself first, and your audience second. Maybe to give the finger to an old college professor third, you know, if that's what you need to do. I digress. You have to have thick skin, or be incredibly resilient, or both. Because the honest truth of it is, you will have WAY more rejections than requests. Even if you become a best selling author, some jackass at some newspaper is going to say your book wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. What people like, and don't like, in the way of literature is vast and varied. One person's Anne Rice is another person's Stephenie Meyer : ascribe to those authors what you will (I like vampire books, so sue me). See, that's my point exactly. I like vampire books, you don't. No biggie. The thing is, as writer, it can be really hard to retain your perspective on the situation.

Just as I was feeling like my manuscript was a lost cause and was I contemplating throwing in the towel because "who wants to read my stupid stories anyway." Just as I was ready to skulk back into the recesses of my mind and take up residence in the Land of Hopeless Dreams, I saw a new tweet. This tweet reassured me that someone, somewhere, enjoys the way I tell a story. That's reason enough to keep writing. If I can't write for me, then some days I will have to write for my reader(s).  Even though we have to write for ourselves, sometimes you need to believe someone else out there cares. So, thank you to the people that bother to read anything I write, including the postal worker who sent back the envelop that was illegibly addressed last week.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

I knew I didn't know anything

But MAN ALIVE! I didn't know how much I didn't know. The self editing workshop concluded today. It was a challenging, educational, and humbling (to say the least) experience. I learned that my raw material is good, that my instincts as a writer are important to my overall ability to tell a story (and tell it well), and that my mastery of the more intricate rules of grammar is sorely lacking (dangling particles and passive voice make my head spin). I will also need to be prudent in my edits. Unlike some people who have a tendency to over-write in their first draft, I tend to over-write in my edits. You might not think thats funny, but trust me, its hilarious.

I learned that as much as you wouldn't expect it, when it comes to words, less can definitely be more. The flip side oft that coin is you need to start with so many words that you have enough left to make an actual book once you have "killed your darlings". See, that's a fancy editing phrase that means even if the sentence you wrote is the most amazing sentence in the history if literature, if it doesn't progress the plot or slows down the pace of your story, you cut it.

*insert needle scratching across record here*

I know, right? I was bummed, too! I mean, how can I convince a publisher I'm the greatest thing since Vanilla Coke (which they don't sell anymore, but I'm totally not bitter, not at all) if I cut the very best line in the history of literature? What's that you say? Write a really good book? Oh, sure, you make it sound so easy.

But on all seriousness, I've become painfully aware of how much work it's going to take to get my manuscript ready. I completely terrified but also blissfully high on the fact that I'm armed with so much more knowledge now.

In completely unrelated news:
I'm adding a new feature. Let's call it "Bookporn Bloggy Time". I read books with the same ferver and gluttonous abandon that socially inept college boys watch porn. I read great books, lame books, and everything in between. I'll read well written books and stuff that makes me say, "well if THIS can get published...". I'm not terribly discriminating, I just need to READ. If you have a better name please leave it in the comments. I have a tendency to pick unusual names. Those of you that know me well enough to know my kids' name are fully aware that they are either going to love me for my immense creativity or change their names and disown me the second they hit eighteen.

Anyway, here we go. Short and sweet this week. I finished The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, today. I'm desperate to start the next book in the series, Catching Fire. If you haven't read these books, I simply don't know if I can be your friend anymore. Amazing. Go. Now. Run as fast as you can and buy the first book. You can thank me later.

Friday, July 29, 2011

You know what's awesome?

Here's what's awesome. When you get an email from an editor you just starting working with that says they'd "love" for you to write another article for their magazine. THAT is awesome. As a new freelance writer, it's always nerve wracking to turn in your first submission to a new editor. You sit there thinking, "This will make or break my relationship with this editor." So much rides on that first submission. Honestly, I teared up a little. It's very validating to have a request for your work.

I hope as my career progresses that I always have the same humble feeling about my work that I do now. I write and I feel good about it, but I'm never really sure if anyone else will think its good. When someone really enjoys a piece a write its like being prom freaking queen! (Well, I'm assuming, since I've never been one) I hope it always feels that way. Although I have a dream to be a best selling author, I intend to always have appreciation for those who read and enjoy my work.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Men Don't Hold Doors

Men don't hold doors, even if you're wearing a pretty dress. Oh, they'll let their eyes trail a little too long or make idol chit chat in the line at the post office, but they don't hold doors. Chivalry is all but dead in American men.

Men wonder why books like the Sookie Stackhouse series and the Twilight Saga have such an appeal to modern women.  It's simple. The vamps are from another era, one in which they treated a lady like, well, a lady. There is nothing terribly redeeming about Bill Compton or Edward Cullen. If you break the characters down, they are actually pretty lousy guys. Bill Compton is a liar, a LIAR I tell you. And Edward Cullen, good grief, he's the poster child for a controlling, obsessive boyfriend. But they pull out chairs, they take their love interests on proper dates, they come to the door instead of texting to tell you to hop in their fancy vampire car, and last but not least, they hold doors.

Sure, women want to be treated as equals, receive the same pay as men, and blabbity-blabbity-blah.  That's not the point. We still want to feel special. We want to feel like the man is appreciative of our feminine charms, our time, and our general existence. This is why I write romance novels. Men take us for granted now-a-days. There is something so magical about losing yourself in the fantasy of a really intense love story. All of the fireworks and butterflies and Shiny New Boy feelings. It's the way you feel about a guy when you first start dating him.  It's the way you wish it would always stay, but is inevitably crushed underneath years of marriage, bills, kids, mortgages, and laundry.

So men, take a hint. It's not sparkly vampires and rondezvous at undead hours that turn on your woman.  Just hold open a fucking door.

**Please note this is not a veiled shot at my husband, who incidentally, not only holds doors but also never lets me walk on the curb side of the sidewalk, because HE is a true gentleman.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Birthday Sex

Ok, I'm not really going to write about birthday sex, but I got your attention didn't I? And now you can't stop singing that song either. It's okay, you can thank me later. Anyway, my birthday was earlier this month and instead of birthday sex I got coupons. To be honest with you, I'd be highly offended if a lingerie store sent me birthday sex in the mail. I much prefer the ten dollar coupon I received. So, I hit the mall today, prompted by the variety of loot promised by local retailers.

Thanks to my birthday coupon, I was able to grab a pair of panties (Do you hate that word? So many people do, but I like it!) for just under two dollars, although I fear I may have paid dearly with my sanity.  The retailer-who-shall-not-be-named is the bane of my unmentionables shopping. I avoided shopping there for many years, but I gave in after my third baby forced the need for a push-up bra. I won't go into details, but just know, when I left my husband received text messages with references to "cutting a bitch" and what not.

A cosmetics and beauty product dealer was also very nice to me and gifted a free bottle of birthday cake scented body wash. They are so sweet! Just give me a little taste, just enough to make me feel good, and I'll come back for more. They know what they're doing. Somehow I was able to leave the Land of Temptation that is said retailer with only a few choice items. It was treacherous, though. Nail polish on my right, a gorgeous display of high end cosmetics on my left, perfumes and lotions in the back. You know how your kids act when you hit the toy section of any store? Yeah, well that's me in this place. Yet, I am strong and persevered! It's work to keep my beauty product addiction in check, but I'm doing well.  Thanks for asking.

Finishing off the trifecta of my shopping mini-splurge was another cosmetic retailer. This retailer was supposed to give me a discount during my birthday month.  *AHEM* Did they NOT pay attention to the beginning of this post? Anyway, it didn't happen. Don't fret! I had a ten dollar credit for having filled my punch card! I was all about the deals today and I wasn't leaving without the scales of commerce tipping in my favor.

Now, here is where I have a question for you, my friends. Do you bring your new found treasures home, rip them from their glossy wrapping and set them in their rightful place? Do you bask in the glory of your fantastic finds? Do you try everything on twice and make your kids watch while you model them, clapping furiously as you strut across the kitchen floor?

Honestly, I can't do it. I have to leave them in their pretty little shopping bags for a couple days (more on those pretty little shopping bags in another post soon). I don't know, maybe I want them to stay new for a while. Maybe I am afraid I'll change my mind and take them back. What ever it is, it's weird. Regardless, as I type I am admiring my little pink, black and striped bags full of fantastic treats, that most definitely are NOT birthday sex, but almost as good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm gonna stay Annabelle

I was laying in my bed earlier (I'm still there but that's not important right now) going through the bargain books on Amazon. I came across a book that was co-authored buy...Annabelle BLOOM. Initially, my stomach dropped. I had searched high and low, Googled the HELL out of this name, and nothing had shown up. No author sites, no book reviews, although I did find a young aspiring actress with the name Annabelle Bloom which is why I chose this alternate spelling. Alas, I am in the very predicament I tried my hardest to avoid.

And of course, there are the inevitable references, here and there, to Judy Blume. She is iconic in the world of Middle Grade fiction. You're hard pressed to find an American girl who did not grow up reading her books. I mean, honestly, I think "Are You There God, its Me Margaret?" is akin to the Bible to most 9-11 year old girls.

Either of these things may cause an issue if I am so lucky as to be offered a contract with a publishing house. But, you know what? I'm keeping it. I'm going to continue to work with this name and if my one-day-future-publisher has an issue with it, then we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I've already set up the blog, set up Twitter, and purchased the domain name. So, for now, I'm rolling with it. Consequences be damned! Fake names are pretty easy to change anyway!

*I have written this post on my tiny little phone screen, so if there are typos be a dear and ignore them, 'mkay?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Being Brave

I’ve had to work hard to be brave lately. In personal relationships as well as in my profession, or maybe it would be more appropriate to say the profession I aspire to (but this would be grammatically incorrect and makes me nuts).  I don’t want to be brave right now. I want things to be easy.  I think we’ve all felt that way though, and that’s when we know we have to push forward, challenge ourselves.

On that note, I entered a 24 hour writing contest.  Yes, I’m a novice, but no time like the present, right? I mean, one of my favorite sites, The Rumpus, sells a mug that says “Write like a motherfucker.”  I am working on putting that into action. So, as ridiculous as it may be, I put myself in the running with around three hundred other people to write a short story in a mere twenty-four hours.  I’m proud of what I wrote, and if it doesn’t win, I’ll still be proud because it’s good.  I’m confident that it is good. Someone else’s might be better, but that doesn’t negate the value of my work. (See? See how I have that positive attitude there?)

After that challenge, I addressed my first PAID writing job.  My first freelance article.  I was scared to death to write it. It carried so much weight. If it sucked I would probably never get another assignment again.  If it was great it opened the door for so many more jobs. It took bravery to hit send, but the next morning I received a very positive reply from the managing editor.  My heart soared and I thought, “Maybe I can really do this.”

I also started a self editing workshop this week.  It’s run by Angela James, Executive editor at Carina Press.  You can find information about this workshop here.   I have so much to learn and I’m so eager to learn it.  Amongst my struggles of getting my grammar straight and fixing my erratic comma placement, (does that go there, I’m really not sure?) I am also learning about immensely valuable tools such as web-based backup systems and the damn new fangled rule about ONE space after a period. Seriously? Why? Why does this need to be changed? “Hit the space bar twice after a period”, it was drilled into my head for years.  They began to teach us typing in third grade and from that day forward the double space was hailed as the most necessary habit to have ingrained.  But noooooooooo.  Now it’s one space, just to mock me.  And exclamation points.   You know those things that you use to convey excitement? Ya, well you’re not supposed to use those either! (See, but I did it anyway)  These rules are blowing me away. As much as I’m poking fun here, I’m so grateful to be learning them. I’m a rule follower, always have been, always will.  I will learn these new rules because as hard as it is to be brave, I want to be, so I will fake it until I feel it.