Month: August 2013

Hold My Hand Until I Can Fake It, Please.

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There was a time in my not-so-long-ago past when I wept without shame on an airplane, terrified to the point that a stranger (bless her heart, I’m so grateful to her to this day!) held my hand across the aisle to comfort me until we began to descend and I calmed down. Was this a horrifically turbulent flight across the Atlantic? Hardly. It was 45 minutes from Austin to Dallas. No bumps. It might have been cloudy, which probably hurled me into the panic attack in the first place. And I was on Xanax, people.

I’ve come a long way. If that same woman saw me now, she would beam with pride. Hey, I’ve flown to Hawaii since then – sans Xanax! Yes, I was nervous, but I acted like I wasn’t. That’s the key. You just have to fake yourself out – tell yourself you are a pro. Put your head up and walk right in there like you’ve done it a million times. Eliminate any doubts that pop up immediately – SQAUSH! Because you don’t have doubts, you’re a PRO. Stewardess, can I have a pillow? Me sleepy – YAWN.

My point is, sometimes I require hand holding.

Which brings me to the now. I have a finished novel. For two years it’s been my WIP, and now WTF? I’ll tell you WTF. An OCEAN of information. An ocean in which I am a drop of water. The good news? I have found writers to be the most generous and supportive people on the planet, and I’m not just sayin’ that. I have connected with dozens of dynamic, talented, brave, amazing writers who are now my lighthouses. And they just keep comin’. I’m beyond grateful.

After two years of researching the subject, I’ve decided to self-publish. It’s A LOT of work (no matter which publishing route you take) but I’m determined to put the best possible product out there. I want it to be a labor of love, a collaborative effort with a team of people to help me with the stuff I can’t do (professionally edit, cover design, etc.) and I have a lot to learn along the way. But I have a plan…

BABY STEPS.

If I look at the big picture I’ll end up on the floor in the fetal position hyperventilating in a puddle of my own drool. So I’ll take one step at a time. Right now I’m revising and shopping editors. That’s IT. I’m not allowed to think about anything beyond that. I can read about the beyond all I want; I can flag links about formatting, or cover design, or whatever… but I can’t DO. I won’t dilute the quality of what I’m doing now with stress about the future.

I’m going to stick my head up and walk right into this process, baby step by baby step, and if I get confused or overwhelmed – and I will – I know I have an incredible community around me to light the way, or maybe even hold my hand for a little while.

A Stitch in Time…or however the hell that goes…

So I’m supposed to be having this stellar writing day. The kids are back in school (happy dance!) and now I can be one of those mythological creatures: a *productive writer*. I have so many things on my writing to-do list it resembles a page from a phone book: everything from posting (this counts), to working on smaller writing projects, to editing my novel (haven’t even cracked it open and it’s nearing 2:00), and a slew of non-writing to-do’s.

I thought – no brainer. Kids are gone by 8:00. I’ll dabble online, finish a few little things, work on a short story, then lunch, then edit for 3 solid hours.

That
did
not
happen.

Where did the time go? Did I really just lose an entire day? I answered emails and tweets, made a few tweaks to my blog, and all the sudden it’s well past lunchtime! And I think I ate – but I’m not really sure – it’s all sort of hazy. There’s a blop of dried salsa on my sock and chip remnants near the couch. What kind of lunch is that? OH GOD, What else did I eat?

My sink is full, my laundry’s overflowing, I haven’t showered, the dog isn’t walked, and I’ve accomplished no errands. I’VE HAD ALL DAY. Oh, crap, I just realized I forgot (again) to take something out for dinner. Meat can thaw in an afternoon, right? I’m good, I’m good.

The takeaway here is NOT that mass amounts of salsa results in chin acne (but it does), it’s that I need a schedule. (you thought I was gonna say a shower, didn’t you?) Yes. A new, bright, shiny writing schedule. I can’t fall into the abyss of emails and tweets for 3 hours anymore. And editing is my priority – it HAS to come FIRST.

Okay, ready gang? Tomorrow – PRODUCTIVE WRITER: Take 2!

Do you have a writing schedule that helps you stay on task? If so, PLEASE SHARE!

**Why didn’t you remind me to take the meat out! I still haven’t done it. Honestly, you are no help sometimes…

No wig needed – I’ve got mascara

If you’ve been to this blog before you’ve probably seen one or two photos of me floating around somewhere. THEY’RE ME. I swear. That’s something I’ve actually had to say to my family.

I think they look exactly like me. I’m mean, it’s frickin’ ME. I turned the cell phone around and snapped the photos myself – that’s how I know it’s not an imposter. That’s also why it shocked me when my husband AND CHILDREN repeatedly swore the photos didn’t look like me.

uh…how am I supposed to take that?

After hearing my husband say it again, I had to ask him: in what way do they not look like me? Like, they are pretty photos and I’m a barker in real life? Or, they are awful and I’m prettier than that? Or, they are weird and not a representation of me at all? WTF?

He said, “You look sexy. You have on lipstick and stuff.”

ME: “Oh” *puzzle pieces click* “You mean I usually don’t look that made up?”

HIM: “Not really. If you have a bra on in that photo…that would pretty much be our wedding day.”

Well shit. I realize I’m a low-maintenance, crunchy granola type gal, but it’s more than a little disconcerting to know I could disappear into the witness protection program with a little mascara. I mean, I put no effort into those photos.

No really. I took my hair out of a ponytail and put on tinted chapstick. And my children think it looks like someone else. Some other lady.

ahem. Perhaps I should put more effort into my everyday appearance.

*braids hair* *climbs into tree house* Nah.
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Chaos Elves: 2: Collections

The 6yo has a strange habit. A collecting habit. But he’s not collecting toy cars, or video games, or baseballs. No, that would be too…predictable. He’s just collecting.

We’ll be at the park/zoo/beach and he’ll run at me with feverish intent, only to hand me a small length of broken shoe string, or a feather, or a bottle cap. “Here, for my collection,” he’ll say before running away. He collects anywhere inspiration strikes. Small piles of these random accumulations sit in various bowls, drawers, and niches all over our house.

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There seems to be no specific criteria for what makes it into his trash hoarding stockpile: anything goes. He’s even handed me wet, wilted reeds from the bottom of pools. When asked what purpose these items serve, he answers simply, “To remember.”

I’ve come to realize these tiny tokens enshrine moments. They are his way of keeping memories alive, which makes the piles around my house (and bottom of my purse) like little photo albums, filled with special snapshots of his life.

Well damn.

That tugs at my heart a little. I might even be tempted to use the word endearing.

And then I recall that this is the same child who – at the age of four when I told him he couldn’t have candy at the checkout counter of Target – screamed repeatedly, “YOU’RE A PENIS!”

Not so endearing anymore. Nope. Notsomuch.

Oh, please share with me your kiddo’s worst, most embarrassing tantrum! Mine have done it all…and I mean ALL. I LOVE hearing from you! You all make me laugh more than anyone!

Petulant Pout

I don’t know why I fight it. It’s that same logic that makes me eat pretzels everyday at 4:00 when I know carbs are bad for me, yet I’m compelled.

I sit at the computer struggling, scraping, scouring for the words. Majestic prose do not materialize, the perfect word to convey an emotion doesn’t occur to me, and my inner story architect is out to lunch. It’s…so….damn….frustrating.

Part of me knows I should just walk away from the computer. Take a break. Get a change of scenery, fresh air, perspective. But I fight it. Like a petulant child, I fight it and continue to battle my muse.

Thankfully, life eventually intervenes: I have to clean for company; the dog needs a walk; I’m needed to chauffeur. And wouldn’t you know it – during that time I’m more productive than I’ve been the entire day at the computer.

There’s something about doing mindless activities that frees your creativity to blow in the wind like a tumbleweed, and with that tumbling comes momentum, imagination, freedom…ideas. The magic carpet ride begins and before I know it I’m back in the house, running to the computer hoping I remember everything that just happened in my brain.

I don’t know why I fight it. *petulant pout* *crunches on pretzel*

Chaos Elves: 1: Furby

I have two of these tiny elves of chaos living in my home. Males. The tallest says he’s 9 years old; the little one claims to be 6. They call me “Mom” and look just like me.

Weird.

They are mostly smelly and surprisingly destructive. The objects they destroy seem to have no premeditation behind them; it’s random. Primal. However, at times they can be unpredictably sweet. But you must be wary of the sweetness: the elves are very manipulative. They want things, like toys and candy. **DO NOT GIVE THEM CANDY**

The small one received a new toy yesterday – earned it with good behavior. Or so he tells me. He picked out a Furby. (get a gander at this thing) I realize now this was out of spite. He’s freakishly smart and vindictive. I have so much to learn…

This Furby – which he named “ToTo” – (that’s not annoying) sounds (yeah, they make noise) suspiciously like Jodie Foster in Nell. (Go ahead, press that. I’ll wait. No really.)

I want to drive over it in my car. Repeatedly. Back and forth. Over and over. I want little tire tracks on its head. I don’t feel bad about it, either. Not one bit. Its eyes follow me. IT’S ALIVE.

Dream Team

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I’m a recovering introverted writer. Or trying to be. (see previous post). One of the first, and most important, movements towards this was getting Beta Readers to review the novel I just finished. I had worked on it for the better part of two years and was sitting with a finished manuscript. I knew it was time for someone to look at it and that terrified me. I had horrible visions of my best friend letting it flop in her lap with an eye roll, telling her husband, “this is awful.” I know, that’s self-defeating and negative, but it’s my nature.

The mere possibility that this thing I had spent two years on – this thing that I adored doing more than anything – could be a complete waste of time was unbearable. More than I could risk. I was paralyzed.

THANK GOD FOR NANOWRIMO

Right about the time I finished the novel, Nano was sending out links advertising a webinar featuring the Book Doctors (the genius Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry) who were going to speak about the process of editing. I signed up immediately, knowing that I was about to be knee-deep in this process. I learned a shit-load from that webinar, but perhaps the most important tidbit of knowledge for me was the importance of having others read your work. if you don’t have other people reading your work, it might as well be sitting in a drawer. That resonated with me, big time.

Not just one person reading your work – no – several people: A Dream Team.
*Cue lightening bolt*

I want this novel to work. I believe in this novel. IT WILL HAPPEN. I put on my bravest warrior priestess armor, chose a Dream Team of 5, and handed out my manuscript.

In my last post I said that the scariest things I face almost always turn out to be the most rewarding. DAMN STRAIGHT!

The feedback has been like a four-chair turnaround on The Voice! The validation filled my little writer’s soul and – on one occasion – literally brought me to tears. In addition, I received smart, insightful editing feedback. My Dream Team is the Shizzle Dizzle.

As for now, I’m revising based on the feedback I’ve received thus far while I wait for everyone to finish.
…And…*bites knuckles*… I’m shopping professional editors. *lightening bolt/crash of thunder*

What came first…

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I have anxiety. Or I should say I had it. Or, I have it but I’ve overcome a lot of it, and what I haven’t overcome, I’ve learned to deal with. Did that make any sense?

I’ve had it since I was little. I have distinct memories going back to the age of seven…but I never told a soul. I didn’t know what I had, didn’t even know it was something to tell someone. So I went through life and figured out my own little strategies to get through it (or avoid situations that triggered it altogether).

In my late twenties, I finally got a clue what I had been suffering with. It had a name. It was a thing. I couldn’t believe it. As I learned about anxiety, it explained so much about why I was the way I was. Puzzle pieces began to click. And I began to kick its ass. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a swift ass-beating. It took y-e-a-r-s.

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Lots of people have anxiety of all varieties. Some a lot worse than me, and I’m so thankful that I have come so far and conquered so much. I feel triumphant that I don’t have to medicate to fly anymore, or that I can slow a runaway heartbeat when my anxiety is triggered – and it does still get triggered. But, I’m in control and that’s an incredible feeling.

(case & point: It took me 3 days to publish this post. Turns out it’s quite a naked – not in a good way – feeling to reveal a vulnerability. But I’ve learned that the scariest things I face are almost always the most rewarding, so I grew a pair and did it.)

However, my struggles with anxiety are not entirely what this post is about. It’s about how it has helped me be a more effective writer. Yes, that’s right. My anxiety helps my writing.

How, you ask? It’s called imagination. Basically, part of anxiety is the “what ifs.” If you have anxiety you know exactly what I’m referring to. You worry about every bad thing that could happen in any given situation. But you don’t just worry about it; you picture it so vividly that your body reacts as if it’s actually happening. The bitch with anxiety is that you’re reacting to panic, fear…terror. Not pleasant feelings to be coursing through you with the intent and ferocity of a runaway train.

It’s a genuine physiological response to imagined stimuli. One that comes so naturally to me after all these years, I can do it at will. But not just with fear.

As a writer, if I want to convey the passion of a kiss; the terror of being chased by a killer; the thrill of being that killer on the chase; the fury of betrayal, or the heartbreak of loss…I put myself there. Really there. Enough to have the goosebumps. The tears. The pounding heart.

You might argue most good storytellers can do this. I would agree with you. So following that line of logic, maybe this is a gift inherent to writers, and perhaps my ability to make my mind think I’m in a situation – enough to feel it; taste it; smell it – is the reason for the anxiety. I don’t know. It’s the ole chicken and egg scenario. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I found a silver lining in an otherwise shitty thing, and that’s awesome.

Did you find a silver lining in anxiety, or something else shitty?

Happy Birthday, Sweetie…

TODAY is my husband’s birthday. That poses more problems that you would think. It’s very hard to buy for him. Why? Because he shops for himself so damn much he has freaking everything. He is a deal-hound with shopping tenacity that beats me down to NO end.

I. Don’t. Shop.

THAT IS WHY when he told me last week specifically what he wanted: the brand, the size, color, and where to buy it, I said, “done and done!”

FRIDAY, I took the Chaos Elves into a store (this is ill advised) and we picked out several of these *special* workout shirts for him per his very specific instructions. We were in/out in ten minutes. Frickin’ brilliant.

PLEASE recall this was Friday, after a week of being home with the elves for five days – 11 hours a day – and it was now evening and I’m wondering where my husband is at 7:00, starving-because-he’s-supposed-to-be-picking-up-our-food, when I get this text:
(mine are in green)

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A) Yes. Those shirts he’s asking me about are precisely the ones he told me to buy for him. AND he’s out shopping when he should be home. With food.
B) Note that my needs have heavily prioritized to food at this point.
C) I am very cranky when I get hungry.
D) We have been together 17 years. How has this man not learned when it is time to feed me?
E) You’re right, that was a harsh word to say to my husband on his birthday weekend. He’s such a great man, really. Okay, I take back “Duh”.
EFF!) It took me 17 times to get this text photo to upload right. I said bad words. I hope I get more tech-savvy soon.

What are YOU reading?

It amazes me how I can spend half an hour pouring over book jackets, paying special attention to editorial reviews and five-star ratings….blah, blah, blah….only to finally narrow down what I think is THE book, read it, and end up disappointed. Not horribly disappointed; just not WOWED.

I WANT TO BE WOWED.

Don’t we all? I want to have what I heard my friend refer to as a book hangover when I’m done reading it. I want to miss the characters…bad. I want to be bummed as hell it’s over.

It occurred to me that almost every single book I’ve ever LOVED was a referral. I don’t think I ever just picked up a book at random that ended up being on my “I freaking love this book” list. I guess I just SUCK IT at picking out awesomeness. (friends and husbands excluded)

-SO-

What are YOU reading right now? Please comment and share with me…