Friday, April 29, 2011

Preparing for the Apocalypse








This week's question:

Keeping with the dystopian and apocalypse theme that seems to be running rampant on parajunkee.com, I have one very hard question for you: If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

This list is subject to change, but TODAY this is what I would pack:

1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein
3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - in the original French
4. A French-English dictionary
5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
6. American Thighs by Jill Connor Browne
7. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz 

* * * 

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and is a way for book bloggers to get to know each other better. To join in and make some friends, simply follow the directions listed by Parajunkee on her blog.

HAPPY FOLLOW FRIDAY!

* * *

AMENDMENT TO ORIGINAL POST:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy counts as THREE books. However, that still leaves me with room for one more. Guess I used up all my math skills in yesterday's blog post. Anyway, I would like to add The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams to my list, per my brother Eric's suggestion. He hasn't steered me wrong yet. Except that one night he challenged me to a Scotch shot contest. Wait a minute, that was my idea...

Beading, Writing and Arithmetic



I'm beading again! Motivated by a custom order I promised would be ready this afternoon and eager to try out my new craft space, I put together a pink and white pearl necklace and matching earrings first thing this morning. My customer was pleased, and ordered another bracelet, necklace and earring set and requested a necklace and earrings to go with a Christmas bracelet she purchased last year. Before I start those, though, I am going to create some new pieces for my Etsy store with the goal of adding one new item every day. I am well stocked with beads and findings and have many, many ideas I can hardly wait to implement. If you have never visited before, I hope you will stop by (click HERE).

Also, I donated some of my handcrafted jewelry to Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the cure of diabetes.  Part of the Blog Bounty with the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, all items contributed by my amazing PFHT blog sisters, you can find my pieces HERE. Bidding starts May 1st; don't miss this opportunity to win some great items geared for both readers and writers.  

* * *

What about the writing and the arithmetic? I added 694 words to my novel revision this afternoon, for a grand total of 2,688. I'm going to have to work hard this weekend if I am going to meet my goal of 10,000 words by the next ROW80 check-in on Sunday. But I think I can!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writers, Writers Everywhere

It seems like everybody I know is writing a novel. But I suppose that is to be expected when one's social life revolves around meetings with critique partners and book club pals and Georgia Romance Writers.

What is surprising is how many of my friends from the past are also writing books. I blogged about reconnecting with Peggy last November. I hadn't had any contact with her since sixth grade, and it was amazing how many things we still have in common. Our lives revolve around our families and our jobs; in our free time, we are both working on novels. She beads, too.

After graduating from high school, Julee and I kept in touch only sporadically, exchanging a few letters and Christmas cards. Now that we are friends on Facebook, that has all changed; we communicate almost daily. Turns out she has been a long-time member of Romance Writers of America and active in her local writer's group and is also writing a series of books. She blogs, too. And does needlework.

Julee in high school.

The thing is, none of us ever talked about writing back in the day. Peggy and I swapped Barbie doll clothes, rode bicycles,  roller skated, played four-square, and sold handmade potholders in our suburban St. Louis neighborhood. Julee and I shared a love of reading, commiserated about boys, saw David Cassidy at the DuQuoin State Fair and Kiss/Rush at Roberts Stadium in Evansille, and ate French fries with lots of ketchup at the local cafe after school. She came to my wedding. But I guess it makes sense that the things that brought us together as kids made us who we are today. And today we are all writers.

There are people say they want to write a book and never will. There are people who start to write a book and never finish. But Peggy and Julee and I? We finish what we start. And we are all on the road to publication. 

* * * 

I added 1,222 words to my novel revision today, for a total of 1,974 words. That puts me way behind where I should be based on my original #ROW80 goal; regardless, I am upping the ante and committing to 10,000 words per week from here forward. I know that seems counterintuitive, but it is the right thing for me to do!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back On Track

Lindy blogged yesterday about the value of taking a break from our works in progress and engaging in  physical labor to help renew our creative perspective. That's what I did over spring break and the week after, as I made some improvements to my home and cleaned up the messes I made. But yesterday, after another Monday came and went and, despite promises to the contrary, I did not get started on my novel revision, I went into panic mode. Yes, I was busy and tired and a little under the weather. What else is new? Truth be told, I was no more overwhelmed than I usually am. What was really stopping me from digging into a project I am ultimately very excited about?

I do have a theory. After all, I have already revised this manuscript once. And even though the raw materials are there, this round is more of a rewrite than a revision. I am returning to my roots as a women's fiction writer, changing key elements of character and plot, striving to do more showing and less telling and to go deeper with point of view. This time, I really want to GET IT RIGHT. That's a lot of pressure.

Thanks, Pat, for the picture.

Regardless, this morning I decided to stop making excuses. Encouraged by all the supportive comments I got on my blog post yesterday - thanks, everybody! - and with several empty hours miraculously stretched out in front of me, I determined that I wasn't going to let another day go by without writing. If only I could come up with that first sentence. For inspiration, I went downstairs and pulled book after book off my shelves, reading the opening lines of some of my favorite novels. Then I came back upstairs and went through the comments Carla Fredd made on my submission to the Gin Ellis Critique Workshop. Finally, I settled upon a starting point and pecked out the first paragraph. It isn't perfect. But it is closer than I have ever been.

Suddenly, out of nowhere I remembered Suzanne Brockmann talking about deep point of view in her presentation at the March Georgia Romance Writers meeting. I referred to my notes, but was unable to locate a link she mentioned being on her website. I did, however, find a great interview with her in which she discusses the topic, among others that are near and dear to my heart. I copied this quote onto a purple index card and tacked it to the middle of my bulletin board.

The only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that the published author never quit.

To read the rest of the interview, click HERE.

Better armed and in the proper frame of mind, I forged ahead. At that point, I had only about an hour left to write. Still, I managed a total of 722 words for the day - just a little more than a couple of pages, to be sure, but I am hoping that now that I am started, the process will go a bit faster. Also, I sent my work to Lindy, who said it is "much punchier than before" and that she "loved it."

A little praise goes a long way.

As soon as I post this, I am going to take my allergy meds, curl up in bed with my Kindle and a glass of shiraz, and read for a while. I plan to be sound asleep before midnight, and up at dawn, back to work on the novel of my heart.

Wish me luck!

Quandaries


So, YESTERDAY was the day I was going to get back on track with my novel. But I woke up with a terrible cough, there was the fiasco with the strawberry shortcakes, and it was all I could do to get the holiday meal on the table by 4. By the time it was all over, I was too tired to do anything but blog about the day, take my allergy meds, and pass out.

Unfortunately, TODAY was more of the same, except I had 14 piano lessons to teach and piles of laundry to do on top of cooking dinner. Also, I have an extra teenager staying with us for a while - parents do the strangest things - and the cough is lingering; I am terrified I am on the verge of another bout with bronchitis. To make matters worse, my grass is several inches high and my lawn mower won't start. I don't know how to fix it and I have no money to throw at the problem.

I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR ANY OF THIS. I HAVE A NOVEL TO REVISE.

When I am a New York Times Best Selling Author, I will *PAY* somebody to do my laundry, clean my house, paint my rooms, and mow my lawn. But how do I manage in the meantime?

How do *YOU* do it? How do you juggle children/housework/laundry/full-time jobs with writing? I don't happen to have a significant other, but I might someday, so if you do, how does that primary relationship figure into the equation?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Memories, Old and New

I have many happy childhood memories surrounding Easter. Thanks, Mom and Dad! For example, when I was in elementary school, my parents and my brothers and I would pile into the family car go to "the country" to spend Easter with my grandmother, who lived in a small town about ninety miles away from our suburban St. Louis home. We colored eggs for the Easter bunny to hide and had massive egg hunts on her beautiful grounds on Easter morning. We helped ourselves to chocolate from our overflowing baskets while Grandmother cooked breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and several varieties of handmade jellies and preserves. And after we had stuffed ourselves and the breakfast dishes were done, Grandmother resumed the dinner preparations, begun days ahead of time. 

The fabulous meal always ended with a lamb cake. I hadn't thought about that in years, but it came back to me during a phone conversation with my friend Peggy last week. No, a lamb cake is not some sort of meatloaf-esque concoction made from ground lamb. It is a white cake, baked in a lamb shaped mold, frosted with white icing and festooned with coconut. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make a lamb cake this year. But I don't have a lamb cake mold. I wonder what happened to Grandmother's. Anyway, I am sad to say that, although I went to several stores and checked numerous websites, I was unable to secure a lamb cake mold in time to bake a cake for my family's Easter dinner. 

Grandmother coloring Easter eggs, 1972.

Instead, I settled for a Nordic Ware shortcake basket pan (click HERE). I love strawberry shortcake, but I have never been crazy about those spongy yellow shortcakes they sell at the grocery store. Have you ever read the list of ingredients on the package? But I adore their shape, perfect for holding lots of berries and whipped cream, so this pan seemed like a way to make the quintessential springtime dessert something really special.

Following the recipe that came with the pan, I whipped up the batter and divided it equally among the six ornate baskets.

 Ready to pop into the oven

Still following the directions, I baked them for eighteen minutes, allowed them to cool for ten - and then was unable to remove them from the pan. They were completely unsalvageable. Instead of six beautiful shortcakes, I had an ugly pile of cake crumbs. And a cake pan that was very difficult to clean.

What I learned was when a cake recipe says "grease and flour pans" it doesn't mean "spray with nonstick cooking spray." Usually I get away with that; this time I didn't. Too upset to take a picture, I sent Casey to the grocery store for a small can of Crisco while I made a second batch of batter. And I am happy to report that after I greased the pans with Crisco and floured them - generously, I might add - and baked the shortcakes as before, the results were perfect.

 This is more like it.

Obviously, the pans overflowed the molds a bit; when I make the recipe again, I will add a little less batter to each cup. I proposed trimming away the excess, but nobody wanted me to waste that delicious cake. Also, my brother said the cakes looked like monkey hats. How could I destroy the monkey hats?

So I set the cakes aside, sugared the strawberries, tossed the fruit salad, put the ham in the oven, got the green beans to simmering, made the potato casserole, and set the table.

 These beautiful tulips made a perfect centerpiece. Thanks, Cindy!

Eric and Donna arrived with broccoli salad and dinner rolls. Finally, everything was on the table and it was time to eat.

My family seated around Grandmother's dining room table.

The piece de resistance.

Everyone I love wasn't able to be with me today. But I am thankful for those who were, and thankful for all the wonderful memories of Easters past. I hope you made some memories today. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Some Assembly Required

With the craft table out of the way and in my purple studio, I decided to create a special writing space in my bedroom. Generally, I sit propped up in my bed with my laptop - not great for my back or my tendinitis, and not very professional. A desk was in order. With such a small space and an even smaller budget available, I knew it wouldn't be easy to find just the right something. But then I went to Target in search of a lamb cake pan (I will explain tomorrow) and there it was: the Anywhere Desk (click HERE), solid wood with a cherry finish, and only $99. There was however, some assembly required; the box contained 10 pieces of wood, 67 pieces of hardware, and a booklet of instructions. Gulp. I had a hard enough time getting that heavy box off the shelf and into my shopping cart and then out of the cart into my car; as a matter of fact, it was probably comical to anyone watching. But somehow I managed, and although Nathan heaved the box from the car into my bedroom, this morning I located the necessary tools (a regular screwdriver and a phillips head screwdriver) and put the desk together all by myself. Here is a picture of my beautiful new writing nook.


I intend to keep the top of the desk relatively uncluttered; the items I chose to place there are simple but meaningful. There is a picture of my critique partners and me, representing the dreams I have for my writing; a stone a friend I have lost touch with picked up on the beach in Ireland, reminding me of all the faraway places I intend to go; a chai-scented candle, because the shimmering glow of a candle inspires me; and a coaster Pat gave me for my birthday last year, because I need a safe resting place for my coffee cup or wine glass.

The lamp is new, too - another bargain from Target (click HERE). It required assembly, as well - the stand is actually made from five pieces which screw into a base - but it was definitely easier to put together than the desk. It is perfect; the three-way bulb on top provides soft light in the corner of my bedroom, and the reading lamp is just what I need for all my late night romance novels. 

Finally, I hung up a bulletin board, the perfect place to collect inspiring pictures and quotes. Ah. 

Did I say I put the desk together all by myself? I guess I did have a helper of sorts.

Karma likes the new digs.

I will admit all this was daunting. Although I rarely let a little thing like inexperience stop me from doing what I want to do, I sometimes find myself in a bit over my head. This morning, for example, I couldn't help but daydream - just for a moment - about a big, strong man, handy with tools and eager to please me. He would effortlessly put all those pieces together while I admired his brains, brawn and prowess. Well, when no one matching that description appeared, I took a deep breath, sorted through my confusion over "how to use the cam lock system" and puzzled my way through Step 1 of the instructions. None of it made any sense to me at first; again, to someone accustomed to this sort of work, my befuddlement would have been laughable. But I persevered, and by the time I got to the end of Step 1, I knew I had it made. By the time I finished, I felt like a master builder.

Promise me you'll always remember: you're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
~Christopher Robin to Pooh

Maybe this will be the first quote I post on my new bulletin board. After all, I'm a lot better with words than I am with a screwdriver. If I could assemble that desk, I can revise my novel.  I guess I'd better get back to work.

***

Don't forget, our book club discussion of To Kill A Mockingbird will be Friday, May 13th. Be sure to pick up a copy and start reading. I can hardly wait!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hoppin' Down the Blog Trail



This week's question:
For me, one of the most useful tools in my writing arsenal is Urban Dictionary. What is your most referred to website for your writing?

You know how you can't eat just one potato chip? Well, it's almost impossible for me to cite just one website. I read dozens of blogs; I google all day long; I use the online dictionary and thesaurus. When I find a treasure, I share it with you. But I never miss Kristen Lamb's posts; her blog is a virtual treasure chest of information, both on the craft and the business of writing. So there you have it.

* * *

Elizabeth Sharp of SomeSharpWords started this blog hop. So if you're a writer and want to participate, join in! Not sure if you qualify? Well, if you have a blog to add, guess what, you're a writer. Click the quill logo above to join the fun and view the spotlight writer, Liz Schulte from Bat Country, and her answer to this week's featured question. Here are the rules to follow:
  • Follow this blog (required).
  • Follow Elizabeth Sharp, the originator of this hop.
  • Follow the featured author of the week, Michelle Ferguson of Michelle Ferguson Books.
  • Go to SomeSharpWords and copy the image code there and paste it in your blog. Add your name to the link at the bottom of the post while you're there, too.
  • Copy and paste the rules in your post, as well as this week's question.
  • Answer the question.
  • Follow, follow, follow! Network, connect, make a community! We love talking to our followers and replying to your comments.
  • If someone stops by, says "hi," and follows you, the polite thing to do is to follow back.
  • Comment here; introduce yourself. You just might find a new follower or two.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Writer's Smorgasbord



When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Buddhist Proverb

Finally, I am poised to return to work on my novel revision. Part of me feels guilty for taking a "break," but I think maybe my book will be the better for it. Not only did my story have time to simmer, I found some resources to help me with a couple of problem areas. 

In her notes on my manuscript submitted for the Gin Ellis Workshop, Carla Fredd pointed out two main elements I needed to work on: showing versus telling and deeper point of view. So what happened? I stumbled upon a couple of wonderful articles addressing those very issues. Janice Hardy wrote a great post on some common mistakes writers make in showing versus telling; click HERE to read it. And Camy Tang shared a series of lessons on deeper point of view; to get started, click HERE.

Then, if you have a Kindle, run (don't walk) to Amazon and get your free copy of Steven Pressfield's Do The Work (click HERE). Then go to Danielle LaPorte's site (click HERE) and read her wonderful piece on resistance. In it, she shares the following quote from Do The Work:

The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

I needed to paint my studio purple and clean up the mess I made in the process. I had to file my taxes, and it was important to spend time with Pat. But now my novel is begging for attention. I must complete 5000 words in order to meet the ROW80 goal I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I promise to have it done before my next ROW80 checkin on Sunday.

Or my name isn't Pam Asberry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today & Tomorrow

Today was my last day with Pat. It seemed important to make it memorable. So I took her to my favorite Mexican restaurant, Del Rio, for a leisurely ladies' lunch. 
 We filled our creative wells.

With chips and salsa and margaritas.

Tomorrow morning I will take her to the airport. Then I will get back to writing. I promise.

One of the great labor-saving devices of today is tomorrow.
~Vincent T. Foss

Monday, April 18, 2011

Writers Helping Writers


I'm blogging with the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales today about the wonderful ways the writing community supports its membership and how we can better serve each other. Please click HERE and join the conversation!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

By the light of the silvery moon


There's a full moon tonight. Just for fun, I decided to do a google search on the meaning of the full moon. I found this on http://astrograph.com.

During this phase, you are very aware of the effect of your work on others. You are operating out of a mode of visible clarity rather than blind faith, and your watchword is objectivity. You are open to the influence of those around you, and are aware of the influence you can have on them as well. In this sense, your work has meaning for you only in combination with other people.

Oh, how I long to operate out of a mode of visible clarity rather than blind faith. But these days things are more cloudy than clear. At the same time, I totally recognize the importance of other people to the work I am doing. If that leads, maybe the other will follow.

I finished my 2010 income tax return and filed it today. The outcome wasn't quite as grim as I originally thought they might be but it was tough enough. Onward.

My friend Pat flew in from Madison this afternoon. She is getting ready to move back to the Pacific Northwest, so this will be our last hurrah for a while. Her life right now is the law of attraction in action. After a two and a half year struggle in the midwest, she made a quick trip to Oregon and landed the only job she applied for and found the living situation she has dreamed of. I will miss her but I am soooo happy for her. Maybe it's time to start planning that Alaska cruise.

I still need to finish painting Nathan's doors, but otherwise the house is in good shape on the heels of my spring break painting-palooza. There's nothing like having a visitor from out of town to prompt a cleaning frenzy. But it feels good.

The bad news? I haven't done any writing since my last ROW80 update. But my novel has definitely been simmering on the back burner of my mind. With Pat's blessing, I will get back to work on the revision tomorrow.

What kinds of insights is the full moon bringing to you?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nancy Knight Workshop

Nancy Knight

Today I had the privilege of gleaning wisdom from the multi-talented Nancy Knight. Her workshop, entitled Well Begun Is Half Done, has completely changed the way I will approach the revision of my manuscript.

Nancy has done everything - novel writing, screen writing, artwork, teaching - and she knows everyone. She shared writing tips, personal stories, and recommended authors and books; I took pages and pages of notes. Here are a few points that really resonated with me.
  • Write the book; then edit it. But do not edit the freshness out of it.
  • Before you start writing your book, be sure you are clear on all the critical elements: characters, setting, plot. When you reach the point where you can't wait to start writing, you are ready to begin. Then write the first draft as fast as you can. The faster you write, the less likely your inner critic is to interfere.
  • The opening sentence/paragraph/book jacket blurb may be the only opportunity you have to get a reader's (editor's) attention. Take care to GET THEM RIGHT.
She also itemized ten reasons a book might not sell and how to deal with them, shared insights on writing contests, and assigned writing exercises throughout the day to get our creative juices flowing. I never thought I would compose a paragraph in the horror genre including blush pink roses in the narrative, but this afternoon I did. That's just the kind of thing Nancy brings out of a person.

Thank you, Nancy Knight and Georgia Romance Writers for another day of inspiration. I don't know where I would be without you.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I've got to admit, it's getting better

I didn't even think about my income taxes today. Well, okay, I THOUGHT about them. But I didn't LOOK at them. I didn't have the heart. The filing deadline is Monday. Maybe I will finish them tomorrow.

I tried to focus on GOOD things today. I did a few loads of laundry. I cleaned my bedroom. My sister-in-law came over after work and we got caught up. I made tilapia and roasted baby potatoes for dinner.

And just when I needed it most, I got a surprise in the mail.


Yep, I got my PRO pin from Romance Writers of America.  According to the Georgia Romance Writers website, "Pro designation means you have taken a step beyond being a hobbyist. You have, in fact, written a novel, and you have taken the added step of submitting it to a publisher or a literary agent." Even if said publisher or agent rejects the manuscript. I am a PRO.  

I am so proud of my pin and what it means. I actually shed a couple of tears when I opened the envelope and read the letter. My boys didn't understand but that's okay. Now I am more excited than ever about the Georgia Romance Writers meeting tomorrow, seeing all my inspiring friends and honing my skills as a novelist.

What a difference a day makes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go

I still have a few more receipts to sort through, but as it stands I owe about $1200 in federal income taxes, and my first estimated tax payment for 2011 is due on the 18th, as well. The money tree in the backyard died in the drought of 2009, and there is only fifty cents in my savings account. So if you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear them.


* * * 

On a happier note, it is Follow Friday.  






This week's question:

Shakespeare asked, "What's in a name?" But we all know better. So let's talk about names - specifically, our blogs' names. How did you come up with yours?

Honestly? It came to me in a dream. And it reflects my reality. Indeed, sometimes it's cloudy, and sometimes it's clear. Just like my question about my income taxes. It's clear that I am going to owe the government money. It's cloudy how I am going to pay the bill.

* * *

Elizabeth Sharp of SomeSharpWords started this blog hop. So if you're a writer and want to participate, join in! Not sure if you qualify? Well, if you have a blog to add, guess what, you're a writer. Click the quill logo above to join the fun and view the spotlight writer, Liz Schulte from Bat Country, and her answer to this week's featured question. Here are the rules to follow:
  • Follow this blog (required).
  • Follow Elizabeth Sharp, the originator of this hop.
  • Follow the featured author of the week.
  • Go to SomeSharpWords and copy the image code there and paste it in your blog. Add your name to the link at the bottom of the post while you're there, too.
  • Copy and paste the rules in your post, as well as this week's question.
  • Answer the question.
  • Follow, follow, follow! Network, connect, make a community! We love talking to our followers and replying to your comments.
  • If someone stops by, says "hi," and follows you, the polite thing to do is to follow back.
  • Comment here; introduce yourself. You just might find a new follower or two.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Rest of My Purple Paradise

I promised pictures of the other half of my music and art studio today. Here they are.


From left to right, you can see my cutting table, my hobby table (for beading and scrapbooking), another oak bookcase (which holds all my adult fiction novels as well as my writing books and my craft books), my sewing machine table and its matching draw stack with serger. I haven't committed to the bulletin board yet, which is why it is propped up on the hobby table instead of hanging on the wall.  It might be useful for pinning up inspiration, but I'm not sure I want the added clutter. I'm still thinking.

Meanwhile, I made a few changes in the other half of the studio.




Notice the artwork on the walls; also, I moved the large desk chair and the blue chair from the first set of pictures out of the room and replaced them with the black chair from my bedroom. It will serve both in front of the computer, next to the piano, and at the beading table.

I know I have mentioned this before, but it feels great to be in this space. The color is cheerful and soothing; the room seems bigger. I am convinced the piano sounds better, too, although I guess that isn't really possible. It has been fun watching my students' reactions when they walk in this week; their response has been overwhelmingly positive.

I also put the first coat of red paint on Nathan's doors, but it's going to take two or maybe even three more to cover, so please be patient with me. No more pictures until it is finished.

I was hoping my income tax return would do itself while I was otherwise occupied, but, alas, it did not. So tomorrow I simply MUST finish organizing that mountain of receipts, load TurboTax, and start cranking the numbers. I am determined to get both my federal and state returns filed by Friday evening, because I have big plans for the weekend and I don't want anything unpleasant hanging over my head while I am having fun.

Writing? I am 2378 words into my manuscript revision, just short of where I should be - 2500 words -  according to my ROW80 commitment. I know that once all the dust has settled from my home improvements and the income taxes are done I will settle back into my daily routine of writing; my momentum will increase and the revision process will pick up speed. In the meantime, I am doing well to find time to write at all.

Still, I have a great sense of pride in the work I have done over the past several days. I set some pretty ambitious goals for myself, and I met them all. Now I am looking forward to many happy hours in my beautiful new space - sewing and beading, scrapbooking and making music - and without the clutter and distractions in my bedroom, I am convinced that the time I spend writing in there will be more productive than ever.

Singlehood



Sometimes it isn't easy being single. Laurie Perry, author of Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair and the sequel Home Is Where the Wine Is discussed that on her blog earlier today.

And it's true. Sometimes I am absolutely overwhelmed by the responsibility I shoulder. Three kids, a home and a dog. A business and a blog. Another business and a dream. Of being a published author. It's crazy making. Most days it's all I can do to keep my head above water.

Someday, I hope to live in a house on the beach, plant a herb garden and raise chickens. I read a lovely memoir written by a woman who did just that. Click HERE to find out more. I haven't worked out all the details. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.

And if I am very, very lucky I will meet a man who shares my vision. A worthy ally. Or at least a worthy opponent.

In the meantime, I am going to query my manuscript like crazy. Click HERE to watch Kristin Nelson's two-minute video on crafting query letters. It makes the process crystal clear.

I moved my beading table downstairs and will finish setting up my creative space tomorrow. Please come back for pictures, along with my ROW80 update. These are exciting times!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Collage It

Our second assignment for D.D. Scott's Muse Therapy class was to collage our work-in-progress. I didn't have much time to spend on this, but I remembered clipping a few pictures for inspiration several months ago. So I tracked them down, pasted them together and submitted the results. Here it is.


That's Tessa, my heroine, in the center. Except she's a blonde; imagine the face of the woman in the lower left hand corner on top of the body in the middle. Margaret, Tessa's best friend, is on the right, but she has red hair and freckles; Tessa's love interests are Cameron (upper left hand corner) and Steve (lower right hand corner). This is my first book, which explains why the definition of the word "first" resonated with me so strongly. I realize my efforts aren't very artistic, but looking at this images helps keep me on track with who my characters are - at least in my head - while I am writing.

I would love to make this poster size, adding pictures of Tessa's and Margarets homes, families, friends, cars and hobbies. Not only that, I dream of creating collage art like my friend Sherri. Isn't she AMAZING? I close my eyes and imagine myself sitting at the big table in my purple room downstairs, clipping words and images from magazines and putting them together in unique and wonderful ways. Beading and sewing and knitting and crocheting and scrapbooking, too.

All in good time. Tomorrow, I plan to move that big table from my bedroom into its new home downstairs - a baby step, but it's movement in the right direction - before I begin to sort the mountain of paperwork and receipts I collected throughout 2010 and get to work on my income taxes.

It must be done. But I would rather be writing.

Have you ever tried creating a collage as preparation for a fiction project? What other creative pursuits do you enjoy?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Purple Paradise

It took me all day, but I am finally moved back into my piano studio. This is what it looks like.




The artwork isn't back on the walls yet, and the sewing/beading/scrapbooking side is still in progress, but I am pleased with the way the piano studio has turned out. If I had my 'druthers, I would replace the oak bookcase with a sleek black cabinet, because I think doors would make for a neater appearance, but right now I have to make do with what I have, and the space is adequate. I love love love the color. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Meanwhile, Nathan's bed is set up, his blinds are hung, and he is sleeping in his new and improved quarters. I still need to put the red paint on the doors; once that is done, I will post pictures of his room, too.

I can't believe spring break is over. I feel the opposite of rested, and I am going to have to push really hard this week to get my taxes done while working full time, but I am proud of my accomplishments.

I am supposed to post an update for A Round of Words in 80 Days today but I haven't added a single word to my manuscript since Wednesday. Hopefully I will have made some progress by the next check-in date.

Photo Op

This afternoon I met my critique partners Pamela Mason and Lindy Chaffin Start at Piedmont Park for a photo session with One Six Photography Studios. We did some group shots for a joint project we are working on and some individual shots for our personal use. I had a blast and enjoyed my small taste of what it might be like to be a model - the camera shutter snapping; the photographer speaking words of encouragement; onlookers staring, perhaps wondering who we are and why we are being photographed.

And to think I almost missed it. On Thursday, I tried to bow out of our scheduled session. After spending the entire week painting and dealing with all the work that surrounds it, I was feeling less than glamorous. My hair needed trimming and the color needed touching up; there was dried paint of various shades under my fingernails; I had no idea what to wear. I hated my face, hated myself for gaining ten pounds over the winter, and didn't want to deal with any of it. To further complicate matters, Casey has a Saturday class at GGC, and I couldn't figure out how we could make all the necessary connections with just one vehicle. Not only that, I am running out of time to put all the books and furniture back where they belong now that the piano studio is painted. I thought I really needed today to finish what I have started so I can go back to work on Monday.

But my wise friends didn't let me off the hook so easily. Your hair looks fine; wear jeans and a solid color top; we'll pick you up and bring you home, they said. So I sucked it up, made an early morning appointment with my hairdresser, Jody, put together an outfit that fits, and figured out how Casey and I could share the car. I scraped the paint off my hands, took a long, hot shower, got dressed, put on some make-up and drove to Atlanta.

It felt wonderful to get out.  It was a warm and sunny here today; the dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom, and the park was crowded with people.  A wedding took place right in front of us, next to a playground filled with happy children.  Everyone cheered when the couple was pronounced husband and wife.


It was a great day to be alive, to be out and about among friends old and new, to experience something I hadn't experienced before, to feel the sunshine on my face and the wind at my back.

And guess what? The unfinished work didn't go anywhere. When I got home, it was right here waiting for me.

Surprisingly, it seems like much less a big deal than it did before.

* * *

I just finished reading Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. It was very powerful, and I plan to discuss it at greater length in a future post. But as I struggled with my appearance this week, I was reminded of a few lines from the book, and I want to share them with you here.

Despite your argument with your physicality, the fact is that you are here and the 151,000 people who have died today are not. I heard a meditation years ago in which a teacher suggested that we think about what people who had recently died would give to be sitting where we were. To be sitting in any body, in any room. He said, "Think of what they would give to have just one more moment inside this physical form, these arms, these legs, this beating heart and no other." I gathered that the dead to whom he referred didn't really' care about the size of anyone's thighs. (pp. 122-123)

I may never win this war, but today I won the battle: I took my place among the living. Tomorrow I will put my piano studio back together.

And I will try to be kinder to myself.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Follow Friday: How do you deal with a bad review?




This week's question:
Inspired by the spectacular meltdown of Jacqueline Howett on Big Al's Book Blog, how do you deal with a bad review?

Many of you are probably already familiar with the story that prompted this discussion; if you are not, click HERE. I am not a published author - yet - but the lessons here are clear. Obviously, we won't please everybody all the time, and I think the best way to deal with criticism of any kind is to glean whatever wisdom we can from it and take the rest with a grain of salt. Most important, do it with manners, grace and dignity. Because once harsh words have been spoken - or, worse, posted on the internet for the world to see - they cannot be taken back. And the damage is irrevocable.  

Suzanne Brockmann addressed this very issue in her talk at the Georgia Romance Writers meeting a couple of weeks ago. She was all about celebrating, recommending champagne and strawberries in response to a rejection or an unfavorable review as well as for selling a manuscript. And she makes a good point. If your work is rejected or reviewed unfavorably, well, at least it's out there. That alone is cause for reveling. I intend to keep a supply Nonni chocolate biscotti and a nice bottle of pinor noir on hand for such times as these.

Elizabeth Sharp of SomeSharpWords started this blog hop. So if you're a writer and want to participate, join in! Not sure if you qualify? Well, if you have a blog to add, guess what, you're a writer. Click the quill logo above to join the fun and view the spotlight writer, Liz Schulte from Bat Country, and her answer to this week's featured question. Here are the rules to follow:
  • Follow this blog (required).
  • Follow Elizabeth Sharp, the originator of this hop.
  • Follow the featured author of the week.
  • Go to SomeSharpWords and copy the image code there and paste it in your blog. Add your name to the link at the bottom of the post while you're there, too.
  • Copy and paste the rules in your post, as well as this week's question.
  • Answer the question.
  • Follow, follow, follow! Network, connect, make a community! We love talking to our followers and replying to your comments.
  • If someone stops by, says "hi," and follows you, the polite thing to do is to follow back.
  • Comment here; introduce yourself. You just might find a new follower or two.
Have a good Friday, everyone!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If the piano teaching thing doesn't work out, I might have a future as a painter

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house.
~Joe Ryan

I admit it; I woke up exhausted and aching this morning. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hot bath and dive into the pages of my current read. But past the halfway point of spring break with so much work remaining to be done, taking time off wasn't an option. So I steeled myself with a couple of cups of strong coffee, a bagel and cheese sandwich and the good wishes of my friends on Twitter and Facebook, put on my painting clothes, and got busy.

I am happy to report that everything went much more smoothly today. I started in the piano studio, putting the tinted primer coat on the walls. It is a big room, so it took some time to brush along the ceilings and baseboards and in the corners then fill in with the roller. But finally the job was done.

I love this color! 

Next, I returned to Nathan's room. I put a third coat of gold on the door panels (the rest will be red) and applied the final coat of green to the walls. After waiting a full 24 hours for the second coat to try, the last one went on smoothly, filling in all the see-through patches and taking care of the splotchiness.  

It's beginning to look a lot like rasta

I never thought I would fall in love with paint roller covers, but I do believe this is The Real Thing. I give them a lot of credit for the fact that I needed less than one gallon of primer in the piano studio (after using an entire gallon in Nathan's room, which is about half the size) and for the better results on the final coat on his walls.  I will never use anything else.

Available at your local Home Depot and fine hardware stores everywhere

Tomorrow, I will finish painting Nathan's doors, supervise the hanging of the bamboo blinds and (hopefully) the assembly of the bed frame and mattress set which he and a friend are (hopefully) going to pick up at some point. Then I will finish painting in the studio. Based on my experience today, I am optimistic that one coat of paint will cover; that would be great, because I would really like to move back  into my studio on Saturday. But we shall see.

I'm not even going to try to do any writing tonight; I will get back on track with my novel revision once my house is no longer a chaotic mess. I am going to watch Grey's Anatomy, spend a few minutes curled up with that good book I was craving this morning (Lynn Kurland's A Garden in the Rain) and go to bed early. Guilt-free.

I have a date with a White Knight tomorrow.

Chugga, chugga. Choo, choo.

That's me.

Just sitting there, one eye in the rear view mirror, checking what's behind me, the other eye on the road ahead, waiting for the ENDLESS TRAIN to go by.

This week, the endless train is the home improvements projects I took on over my spring break - the painting and the sorting and the tossing and the cleaning.

Murphy's Law is in full effect here.  Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.

Turns out that when you are working with such a dark color of satin paint you need to wait 24 hours before applying a second coat - even though the can says 2-4 hours.  Which explains why Nathan's walls are a blotchy, uneven mess.

So tomorrow I will apply a THIRD coat - using a different roller; yes, I am developing RELATIONSHIPS with the people in the paint department at Home Depot - and hope for the best.

Which means you're going to have to wait for pictures.

But we did find some cool bamboo window shades for his window at Home Depot tonight.

And I bought him a new bed frame and mattress set.  We haven't figured out how we are going to pick them up yet, but we will.  Hopefully, Nathan will be all situated in his new and improved room before school starts on Monday.

Meanwhile, everything is prepped in the piano studio.  I hoped to start painting today, but it took much longer than I ever anticipated to move the contents of those four big, heavy oak bookcases,  the bookcases themselves, and the pianos.  Finally, everything is away from the walls, which have been washed down, and the trim has been taped.  So I will put the primer coat on bright and early tomorrow morning.

The rest of my house might qualify me for federal disaster relief.  There are piles of laundry in the living room, dirty dishes in the sink, and stacks of books and paperwork in my bedroom.

And my income taxes?  HA!  I have until April 18th, right?

As for my ROW80 update, I am about 12,000 words into my revision of The Wishing Box - most of that cut and pasted from the original.  Right now, I have no choice but to give myself permission to fall short of my writing goals as I struggle to complete these physically demanding, labor-intensive projects I decided to tackle over my spring break, knowing that by Monday of next week this work will be behind me, and I will settle back into my old routine of working and writing and eating and sleeping.

I think I can.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Meet My Muses

I intended to title this post Nathan's Room, Day 2; I would have, too, if I could have shown you the end result of all my labors.  Unfortunately, I ran out of paint halfway through the second coat, necessitating a closing-time run to Home Depot for more.  By the time I finished there and did a couple of other important errands while I had access to my car (Casey and I are still sharing) and got home, it was 11PM - too late and too dark for more painting.  Surely we will finish tomorrow.  I will share pictures then.

Meanwhile, I finished my first assignment for DeeDee Scott's Muse Therapy class, which was to "name your muses and identify what makes them tick - and what ticks them off."  It's funny; I never thought of my muses as separate entities before, but now that I have completed this exercise, they seem as real to me as the characters in my books (and that's pretty real).  And now that I know who they are, I can better take advantage of all they have to offer me.  This is what I came up with.

My muses are Manishi (from the Hindu, meaning "sagacity, desire"), Imani (Swahili, "faith, belief") and Aldith (Old English - "seasoned warrior").  These beautiful, strong women live up to their names - and they wear bright colors, great shoes, and funky accessories (frothy scarves and big earrings) unique to their individual personalities.  They are steadfast and consistent; they meditate for ten minutes every morning, prefer wholesome, delicious food, sleep at least seven hours every night, and exercise - usually walking outside - daily.  They like working for me but they don't NEED this job; they show up on time every morning, but if there is nothing for them to do they aren't likely to stick around waiting.  And if they leave unfulfilled, it can be really challenging to convince them to come back.  Like me, they like to kick back weekends; if they had their 'druthers, they would go out dancing every Friday night, spend Saturdays poking around at indie bookstores/antique shops/Ross/DSW/hobby and craft shops,  and people-watch every Sunday afternoon at Starbucks.  These are ways they restock their creative ponds.  They request dark chocolate and red wine daily and need cruise ships and/or the beach at regular intervals in order to fully relax and recharge.

I have a lot in common with these ladies but they are SO MUCH BETTER than I am.  I am not nearly as wise, confident or brave as they are, but they provide good examples for me and they stay by my side despite my shortcomings.  So the least I can do is be ready when they arrive every day and take advantage of their willingness to help me DO THE WORK.

Naturally, DeeDee had some wise and insightful comments in response to all of this.  If you haven't been to her site before, click HERE to check it out.

In the spirit of the muses, I have been coveting these salt and pepper shakers ever since I saw them on Pamela Mason's blog this morning.  Designed by Jonathan Adler, they definitely appeal to my sense of whimsy!


Mr. & Mrs. Muse

Who are your muses?  What do you do to feed and care for them?  How do you nurture your whimsical side?

***

This post was supposed to go live on Tuesday but here it is the wee hours of Wednesday.  Check in later for that picture of Nathan's room as well as my today's ROW80 update.