Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another May Tradition

Here we are.  May has arrived and has brought with it two of my favorite tranditions.  The first is "Attempt Unsuccessfully to Celebrate an Archaic Holiday Day," occurring annually on May first.  My mom introduced me to this holiday when I was but a child.  We lovingly wove baskets out of wrapping paper, filled them with daffodils, and attempted to deliver them to neighbors.  The first two were not home.  The third threatened to sic her dog, a slavering, toothy, beast of a German Shepherd, on us.  When we attmepted to explain our errand she shreiked that she had enough flowers and ordered us to leave.  At that point, we settled for giving flowers to the nice girl in the hat at the ice cream window.  Not to be deterred, I set out to creat teh same joyous memories for my children.  Five weeks post c-section, and with a oble headed baby strapped to my chest I hobbled gmaely around our yard, gathing flowers and fighing to keep my toddler from falling into the "holler" and thus his death.  After that, we took a handful of pain medication and a nap.  Thus fortified, we set out.  at the first house I took my toddler by the hand and together we placed our basket of flowers by the door.  Ah, success!  At that moment, my world exploded.  It seems that I had not clearly explained to the boy that we would be leaving the flowers.  Said boy is, shall we say, a bit high strung, and his toddler years were nothing short of catastrophic.  For reasons I still cannot comprehend the fact that we were leaving the flowers totally unhinged the child and I found myself dragging a screaming, crying, snotting, biting vaguely child shaped creature back to the van.  At that  moment, I could help but look forward to the next year, when the tradition could continue.
May wasn't done with me yet, though.  Oh no.  You see, we still get to look forward to "Throw out the Seeds I Tried to Start and Admit My Utter Failure as a Gardener Day."  Each year I vow to grow my own food.  I have visions of a bounty filling my larder, all grown on my own land with my two grubby little hands.  The thing is, I have a black thumb that rivals that of a zombie with frostbite and so each March I buy peat pots and seeds.  I read the instructions.  Twice.  I sow the seeds gingerly, whispering endearments and encouragement.  I feed them.  I water them.  I keep them in the sunlight and out of the cold.  Each May I finally and tearfully throw out the molding, smelly balls of dirt and go visit my friends at the Farmer's Market. 
To this parade of masochism, I plan to add "Story a Day May."  A Story a Day, much like the autumnal counterpart NaNoWriMo is intended to get all of us who are going to write "someday," are going to finish the novel "someday" to get off of our collective sit upons and actually do it.  I'm not going to lie, I love these things.  In theory.  I love the extra push to write.  I love the community.  I love the formal excuse to eschew housework (but honey, it's  A Story a Day May!).  But I'm wary.   I'm certain that as I sit there, around the 20th, inky fingered and dangerously close to a coffee fueled arrhythmia, that the truth will hit me.  No matter how good my intentions may be, it's just another tradition in May.

Ten Minute Tuesday 4/30/13

Ten Minute Tuesday
Yawn. Stretch. It's Ten Minute Tuesday! Designed to kickstart your creativity, unwind your mind, and exercise your phalanges. Please take a minute to read the following prompt, and write for ten minutes on anything that comes to mind.  You may use the prompt in your story, or simply to inspire your story.  If you are feeling brave, paste or link to your writing in the comments section.  Ready, set, Go!

The leaves crackled...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Geek of the Week

I'm a geek mom.  It's sad, but true.  I could not identify a Katy Gaga song if my life depended on it.  I have never owned a pair of Uggs.  I do not bring homemade herb infused ice cues to gymnastics.  Nope.  I'm the kind of mom who was nearly moved to tears of pride as my three year old yelled, "I am Beowulf!" The kind who tells "The Lady and the Tiger" as a bedtime story and sings "The Ballad of Serenity" as a lullaby.  So we are generally engaged in some sort of geek related shenanigans around here.  Some sort of artsy-crafty, sciency-messy, blow stuff up fun.  Welcome to Geek of the Week, where I share one of our adventures so that you, too, can pay more for your insurance premium. 
This week, the big hit has been bubbles.  Now, did we use the namby pamby watered down nonsense that they sell at the store?  No, no.  After quite a bit of research, I found the easiest, most cost-effective recipe and tweaked it until I found what worked for me.  Mix together dishwashing liquid, corn syrup, and water in a ratio of 1:1:6.  I have heard that glycerin works better than corn syrup, but as I had one but not the other lying about I chose the latter.  The results were spectacular.  I also added two teaspoons of peppermint extract.  This does nothing to improve the quality of the bubbles.  However, when you have a toddler who insists on biting them, and then tries to wipe his tongue off with his sudsy paw, well, you get sick of fun stalling screaming fits every couple of  minutes.  One would think this would be a self-correcting behavior. One would be wrong.  So, after quick calculations of the possible physical effects of repeated bubble biting, I determined that the best and easiest fix would be to make the bubbles taste better.  Who has two thumbs and the mom of the year award? 
I admit that it would have been incredibly easy to create bubble wands.  Pipe cleaners or wire are readily available and easily manipulated.  But, in the interest of impatience and making the process as messy as possible, we went with our good old hands.  Stick them in the bubble solution, rub them together, make a triangle and blow. Eureka!  Super big, super strong super bubbles!  Strong enough that, if their hands are sudsy enough, your kids can blow, hold, stretch, and call George their very own pet bubble.  But, the best part of all?  Convincing my dear friend that the quart sized canning jar of murky amber liquid was actually a giant urine sample!  Happy geeking!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ten Minute Tuesday 4/24/13

It's ten minute Tuesday! Take a minute to read the following prompt, and then put your pen to paper, your fingers to keyboard, your hamster to wheel, and write, for ten minutes, the first thing that comes to mind. If you have a blog, you can write it there and link to it, otherwise, feel free to just put your story in the comments. Ready. . .here we go!

"Looking back, it wasn't one of my better decisions."

Pitch Perfect

Getting out of the slush pile; isn't that the dream of every writer?  So often we depend on postal or electronic submissions to get our work out there; it's cheap (or even free), you can submit in bulk and, best of all, you can do some work while in the comfort of your own pajamas.  Unfortunately, it's also highly impersonal.  It's likely that your manuscript will never make it onto an editor's or agent's desk, and thanks to modern technology, a "no" is now just a click away.  For these reasons, I would suggest to anyone who has dreams of publication to try to attend a pitch session.  I attended one recently wherein a group of writers, publishers, and general rabble gathered in a room and the writers stood, one by one, to present their book idea in the hopes that a publisher would (gasp!) offer them a contract.  I was one of the writers, and perhaps another time I will fill you in on htat delerious yet horrifying experience.  (I watched, with clinical detachment as my nervous system kicked into high gear and my hands actually turned purple.) For now, I'd like to focus on what I learned while I wasn't having to remind myself to breathe.  While I don't claim to be an expert, I'm hoping that these tips will come in handy. 

1.        Pick one book to pitch.  William Shakespeare. Jules Verne. Edgar Allen Poe. Heck, Douglas Adams. You can buy the collected works of these authors at just about any bookstore you may choose to wander.  It’s considerably harder to find a copy of “The Collected Works of A Rookie Novelist.” Why? Because there are die hard fans who are willing to shell out a good deal of money to carry around a giant, ungainly copy of everything a certain author has ever ever written.  You are not there. Yet. You may get there, and I hope you do.  But, until then  talking about all of your ideas just makes you sound a bit. . . scattered.  Granted, we are artists.  We are, most of us, a bit scattered.  That’s not, however, the best selling point.  Now, the good news is, if your pitch works for one book, it’s likely that you have a home for much of the rest. So, pick a girl to take to the dance, then dance with the girl you came with.

a.       It’s probably best if the book you choose is complete. Or, at least, really REALLY close.  An almost finished manuscript is not nearly as attractive as a completed manuscript.  After all, as it was once said to me, “500 almost finished manuscripts equals 0 manuscripts.”  Also, please refer to the sentences on scattered above.  A publisher will likely be unwilling to commit him or herself to an unfinished project.  They know writers, after all.

2.       Know your book.  Inside and out. Backwards and forwards.  All of the nuances and intricacies.  I mean really, really, let you see my morning hair, going to the bathroom in front of each other, I was there for your unfortunate Kris Kross phase KNOW your book.  That way, when you are asked questions, you will know the answer.  You will know what makes it unique.  You will know what makes it marketable.  And, best of all, you will be able to be clear and succinct.  A bunch of stammering “uh’s” and “ah’s” do not build confidence.  You have to make these publishers, in just a couple hundred seconds, get excited enough about your story to gamble their money on it, and you. 

3.       Love your book. Now, here’s where it gets tricky.  Have you ever had someone newly, completely in love tell you about their intended?  You know how they just a leeeeetle bit manic? And their eyes get a tad bit crazy?  And how if you happen to mention that, oh, say the person they are in love with has raging acne and a rap sheet as long as a giraffe’s tongue and 47 illegitimate children the wide crazy eyes suddenly narrow and become predatory and you just know that they are contemplating your jugular and – erhem. Anyway, people that in love with their book are people who will, potentially, resist any editing or design suggestions because don’t people see their book is PERFECT?!?!  Also, it’s not incredibly believeable.  Is your book the BEST BOOK EVA and will it make you and your publisher A MILLION BILLION DOLLARS.  Maybe. . . but probably not.  Be the kind of in love that gets an uncontrollable grin when talking about their beloved, but is also sane.  Be passionate; you should be, this is your completed manuscript.  It’s a great idea.  It’s well written.  It’s complex and funny and horrifying and everything it should be.  Be visibly excited. But stay sane. 

4.       Practice, practice, practice.  You are pitching.  You already have their ears.  You have one sentence to get their attention. So, figure out what one sentence defines your book.  What genre is it? Is there a special character? What is the twist?  Figure out what that sentence is, polish it ‘til it gleams, and start from there.  From that point, you have three minutes before attention will likely start to lag.  In those three minutes you need to outline the plot, describe your characters, and talk about your platform.  So, way ahead of time you need to figure out what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.  I spent a lot of time watching movie trailers.  You know, the ones where THE VOICE says, “In a world. .. “ Those.  I also spent a lot of time reading the backs of book covers.  Then, I tried to mash them together.  I made something literary but exciting to hear.  Then practice.  Do not practice in front of a mirror.  Practice in front of real, live people.  Take their input, adjust your pitch, and practice again.  When it is allllmost where you want it, stop.  If you keep poking at it you will overcorrect and you will go from really really good to kind of meh again.  Then, recite that thing ‘til you can say it in your sleep.  That way, when your body, which isn’t sure why your brain is telling it that these seemingly nice folks are an imminent threat all it knows is that the brain is shrieking and the adrenaline is flowing and it must draw all blood in towards the heart to protect the organs when you somehow lose a limb to these mild mannered people sitting at a desk, the speech will still be there.  Just get out that first sentence, and the rest will come.

5.       So, you’ve done all of this prep work.  You are there.  Your moment has come.  Just step out.  This is your time. Take a deep breath, smile, make eye contact, and just do it.  You will be great.  I know it!

a.       Erhem.  That was a great closing, and I know I should leave it there, but I feel compelled to add one. . .small. .. thing.  DO NOT INSULT THE PUBLISHERS.  I was at a pitch session where a woman started out our day by referring to the publishers as “you people” and going on a rambling diatribe about the heartlessness of those in the publishing industry.  Don’t do that.  Listen, we most of us have owies.  You know, the only thing that hurts worse than a paper cut is one that comes from a form letter.  And we just know that most publishers really live in a green glass castle where they sit behind a curtain and chuckle gleefully as they throw our beloved creations to their monstrous devouring pets that they’ve named Slush. But we don’t say that.  And we try not to even feel it.  We try to remember those times when someone heard that we were writers and told us their long and mortifying life story and asked us to make a story out of it.  We try to remember the time we were handed a sheaf of the worst poetry ever and asked to critique it.  Then we mentally multiply that by ten thousand, understand that that is the life of a publisher, and try to work up some compassion.  Remember, you are not just selling your book, you are selling you.  So be nice. End PSA.

Best of luck and happy writing!

Ten Minute Tuesday 4/17/13

It's ten minute Tuesday! Take a minute to read the following prompt, and then put your pen to paper, your fingers to keyboard, your hamster to wheel, and write, for ten minutes, the first thing that comes to mind. If you have a blog, you can write it there and link to it, otherwise, feel free to just put your story in the comments. Ready. . .here we go!

"At first, I thought it was an airplane."

Ten Minute Tuesday 4/10/13

It's ten minute Tuesday! Take a minute to read the following prompt, and then put your pen to paper, your fingers to keyboard, your hamster to wheel, and write, for ten minutes, the first thing that comes to mind. If you have a blog, you can write it there and link to it, otherwise, feel free to just put your story in the comments. Ready. . .here we go!

"But now it was here, right in front of me..."

Here are some of the responses from Facebook:

From Jacqui Parker:
Now here it is, right in front of me. I just put my youngest child on a bus bound for boot camp. I always thought I’d be doing this with the love of my life by my side. We’d wipe the tears from our eyes, drive home and dance naked in our empty house. Instead, I’m driving alone wishing the tears would come, but I’ve cried too many over the past nine months. Just nine months ago we found out he had cancer and only four months ago he was gone. Very few people like change, but I’ve always been one of the worst. Now, there’ve been too many changes in too little time. Keeping it together for the boys was the only thing I had. As I drive I realize that that too is gone. I know that he would want me to move on. I’m much too young to quit life now. I glance in the rearview mirror and take a moment to reflect on what’s passed and choose in my heart to look ahead and move forward. When I get home, I resolve to make a few phone calls. It’s finally time to focus on me. I’ve always known where I hoped to end up. Now there’s nothing stopping me.

From Suzann Smith:
I'd always read these books. Detective sits in car at midnight sipping coffee... Watching, waiting. Always imagined. But never dreamed.
Truthfully, for as much as I've always loved suspenseful stories, I've always known that deep down inside, I'm a wimp.
But it wasn't like I have much choice. Tonight I sit in a car, drinking coffee. Watching. Waiting. But what was I supposed to do? The police wouldn't listen. No one seemed inclined to believe. So... I sit.
Unconsciously I feel for my trusty revolver in its usual place on my thigh. I reach for the larger 9mm Ruger I had grabbed just before leaving, it was still secure in my waist band.
Still I watch. It is a dark night, the building dimly lit by a bare bulb hanging by its wire, swinging in the night's breeze.
I smell the fish.
The harbor, the fish market, the fisherman's wharf. I'd chosen none of it. I'd wanted to move to a farm in Kansas. But he'd chosen this place. Now I knew why.
As I watch, I play through mind my options. I still am not sure what I'm going to do. But I must know. For sure. I must see him. Here.
I've feared this moment. But here it is, right I front of me. I'm the wife of a mobster.
TO: All Stalkers
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