Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sunshine and Yard Work

Cape Cod Weather Today: Sunny, bright blue skies and 50 degrees. The weathermen have been claiming chance of thunderstorm every night this week, but not tonight for some reason. Perfect weather for yard work: mowing the lawn, taking the leaf barrels to the dump, recycling, and cleaning out the garage in general....

There. The weather report includes all my plans for the day. Except writing. Hmmm...

I wrote yesterday morning, when I should have been doing these chores. Except I woke up with the urge to write. A good thing if you're an author. I'm working on making the first ten pages of my MG/YA as compelling as possible. Fleshing out the characters so they jump off the page and you care when the young prince is slaughtered on page two. I mean, you just met him, why should you care? I'm trying to add that element, because apparently I didn't quite get it the first time. Or the second time. I think the story line - the plot and subplots - are all polished. It's the emotional tug that needs to be worked on.

Why care about these characters? Why read past page 10?

When you have an author you're already familiar with, I guess it isn't as important. For example, I just read one of the Eve Dallas stories by J.D.Robb. It was my first, but not the first in the series. When I picked it up, I was unfamiliar with the characters, the time frame, the setting in general... but I trusted the author so I stuck with the story. She is a known quantity, so I went with it for longer than I might have otherwise, until she sucked me in. It took a while, because I'll admit to being annoyed by all the assumptions made about the reader's foreknowledge. But, on the other hand, I've also read a few of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. They annoy me the other way, by explaining more than I want them to, since I've already read prior books about this character. It's like the Magic Treehouse books my kids read in second grade. Each book explains the whole premise in chapter one, so you can read them in any order. And yet, it's annoying to have to read the premise all over again when you already know it. My daughter refuses to read any more of them for that reason.

But a new author has a fresh slate to write on, and her readers have no prior knowledge for good or bad. You have just the first few pages to make a reader care enough to keep going, to want to know what happens to your characters. For the reader to put herself in the story, and be invested in the outcome.

This is what I'm just coming to grips with. I'm so close to my characters that I understand their motivation without having to read them, and I know what they look like in my head without having to describe every detail. But you don't. So I need to convey this knowledge in a way that intrigues you without boring you to tears. Or boring you at all. Are you bored yet?

SO ... I'm off to do the yard work, while these ideas percolate inside my brain. Maybe I'll be inspired and stop mowing halfway through the yard, or leave the full barrels of leaves and sticks in the back of the truck while I run inside to write down an idea before it evaporates.

If you drive by my house and see only half the yard finished, you'll know I was inspired today by something other than the tractor! Besides, it has headlights. I can always finish later ;-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back to Work

Cape Cod Weather Today: Perfect. This is what April is supposed to be like. Bright, clear, blue skies, 52 degrees going up into the mid 60s. Saturday we were fogged in and in the damp 50s all day while Boston had its 90s heatwave, and yesterday we had a muggy 80 degrees, but on the beach was lovely with the cool breeze coming in off the water. Today is perfect and I'm going to walk the dogs at low tide, but with a quick blog post first....

THE BFG has completed its run on Cape Cod. Nineteen performances from April 9th through April 26th. And these kids were real troupers, in all the truest senses of the word.

There were falls and spills, there were sicknesses and throwing up back stage during shows. There was a torn Achilles and a broken eardrum leaking blood down the boy's neck. And yet the show always went on.

These aren't professionals, although most of them are already well-seasoned actors. Only my son and one other girl were first-timers. But they were all wonderful.

It's over now, as is spring break. So it's back to the regular routine, and school work, and writing. And thankfully the weather has finally turned for the better, so I'm off to walk the dogs before settling down to rewrite those critical first chapters of my YA/MG/fantasy whatever it turns out to be. Right before vacation week, I got the email back from the agent I was holding my breath for, who said it all sounds cool and creative, but she didn't connect with the characters in those critical first pages as much as she would have hoped. She didn't ask for revisions or offer a resubmit, but the advice was good enough. I still have work to do.

Because if the kids can go onstage with twisted ankles and broken eardrums, I can bloody well sit down and rewrite my mermaids until I get it right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

REvisions, reVISIONs, revisionS, REVISIONS

Cape Cod Weather Today: Dark, as I'm writing at night. But earlier in the day it was sunny and blue-skies, with a chill wind across the ocean that made it hard to walk through the sand and not lose one's breath. Somehow I managed. *grin*

The (hopefully) last round of revisions arrived in my inbox last week, on the same day that my parents arrived for a holiday visit, and at the same time as my eldest son's stage debut. All good things come in threes, right?

The production of THE BFG went wonderfully, my son remembered all of his lines and costume changes and looked like the consummate acting professional up there. I was so proud! My parents had a nice visit with their grandkids and with my sisters and myself, went to see the play twice and had fun watching the Easter Egg Hunt. They left, back to Georgia where the weather is much nicer, my dad repeatedly assures me.

And the revisions.

I've been working on them nonstop for the last two days, and made lots of headway. My editor assured me they were "light" and easy, but there were a couple of stumpers thrown in there. I mean, a few things just needed to be cleaned up from past rounds of changes ("why are we referring to her when she isn't even in the conversation?"... "Because we just took her out last round, oops"... or "I thought the funeral was supposed to be later in the week?" oops...)

And okay, so I overused the word "shimmering" in describing the spirit manifestations, but we couldn't have picked up on that back in November? This is a final round thing? Argh.

Thesaurus-dot-com is my new best friend.

I feel a little battered (thus the broken dune fence pictured above) but I know the book will be the best it can be when all is said and done... and revised.

I need to read through the whole work once or twice more to check for consistency, and spot any more epithets that I can remove... did you know epithet doesn't only refer to derogatory descriptions? I always linked the word with curses, mostly the f-word type, but apparently referring to someone by stereotype or adjective/job description combos ("the redheaded doctor", "the ace reporter", etc.) can also be referred to as an epithet, as in "cut down on the use of epithets, Katie." I didn't remember calling anyone an f-ing anything, so I had to look up the proper definition. I love to learn new things. Dictionary-dot-com is another close friend of mine.

Going through the manuscript tonight, I'd forgotten some of the previous revisions we'd made and was reading through going "Wow, this sounds really good! Did I really write this?" Such a strange feeling, to know it's mine and yet it feels all shiny and new. Is this just me and my swiss-cheese overworked brain, or do all authors go through these phases of not recognizing their own words?

Here's hoping I can finish it all by the end of the week, because spring break starts Friday, and I know I won't get anything accomplished with all three kids home all the time. PLUS, the sooner I can finish this round, the sooner it goes to the line editor and the sooner I get my release date!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Finally Spring!

Cape Cod Weather Today: Sunny and warm! Okay, warm for Cape Cod in April, it's 50 degrees out. Feels warm in my yard, even though my cheeks froze up on the beach earlier with the dogs - the wind off the ocean is still bitingly cold...

Just a quick blog to say Happy Spring! Welcome Warm Weather! Finally!

My parents are visiting for Easter and my son's stage debut is tomorrow night (although the dress rehearsal/school performances are today.) Things here are BUSY!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy holiday weekend and a long, sunny spring!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Let's try that again...

Cape Cod Weather Today: Still raining. Not like yesterday, but still. Supposed to clear up soon - hopefully soon enough that the Sox get to play the season home opener. But need to decide whether I want to take my Brownie Troop out in the sure-to-be-mud for their field trip to help Americorp (our Earth day project. Why isn't Mother Earth cooperating?)

Go Red Sox! Hopefully the rain clears soon!

I actually got to attend opening day one year, back when I was working in advertising and our agency had the Sam Adams beer account. I don't remember who they played, and I don't even remember who won the game (and not because I was drinking, although there was some of that too...)

What I do remember is the energy. The buzz. The feel of being at Fenway for the very first game of the season. Even though it's April and the weather never cooperates all the way (like yesterday) But EVERYONE is Still so excited to be there, even the security guys and the people selling hot dogs in the stands are smiling constantly. They're all so jazzed - - not like when you go to a game in August and half the fans are on their cell phones the whole time, or the screaming babies grab your attention more than the announcers or the players.

There is no place in the world like Fenway Park on Opening Day.

My friend Charlie Hamilton took a year out of his life to travel to all the major league ballparks in the United States (and up to Canada, too.) A die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, he'd been to enough games at Fenway and watched enough games on television to want to make the ultimate comparison, and find the best ballpark hotdogs out there. Or something like that. (maybe it was just a midlife crisis...)

I've heard of other people who've done this, but he did it all in one season. And traveled most of the route by bicycle. My kids did the illustrations that he used on his website, and while he biked he raised money for the Dana Farber Institute, the official charity of the Boston Red Sox. He carried an ultra-light laptop and blogged about his journey from the road. The kids and I followed his journey, putting pins in a map and looking at the pictures from the various places he'd been. When he got back to Boston in September, he saw his last game of the journey at Fenway Park. It was a long, amazing journey that took him through the heart of the United States and surprised him out of his cynical mindset time and time again. He's still trying to finish the book he started, chronicling the physical and mental journeys. All inspired by his love of baseball.

Go Sox!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Boston Red Sox Home Opener!*jcrYy-Y5dD1EHQdmbQJRzTN-qzWvnu2c4p26M7wrqhYcR8ogg2aROKY-Tf5jpmPI-C1XMFhsrsSeeluq/BostonRedSoxLogo.jpg

Boston Weather Today: Increasing Clouds, chance of thunder storms later in the day.... uh oh...

If only we had yesterday's weather for today's opening game! Sunny! Almost 60's!

Good luck Red Sox! We'll be watching!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Here there be dragons...

Cape Cod Weather Today: Overcast and wet, with a severe weather alert warning, for thunderstorms and high winds. It's foggy and 46 degrees. Not a good day to walk on the beach, but a good day to write....

In the middle ages, cartographers mapped their known world. Not the whole world, just what was known at the time. They didn't know what lay beyond the horizons.

Instead of admitting they didn't know what lay on the other side of that body of water or over that mountain, they'd write "HERE THERE BE DRAGONS," or something similar. They couldn't be faulted for not knowing what else was over that mountain when there were dragons living there, right? I mean, it's not like they can get past the dragons just to map the other side. Sheesh. They're dragons. Big. Mean. Dragons.

But eventually, someone would decide to go over that mountain, or cross the ocean, and find out what was on the other side. When they succeeded, people said "HE was LUCKY the dragons didn't get him."

There's an interesting article in this month's Romance Writer's Report (the RWA magazine) by PRO liaison Sherry Davis. It's entitled "Making Your Own Luck."

She first defines luck as "an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that leads to a favorable outcome." Like, who could have predicted that the dragons had left the area? Isn't that lucky he didn't get eaten!

She also quotes the Wikipedia definition of luck: "Luck is probability taken personally."

That struck a chord, and I had to reread it a few times to let it sink in. I know that in writing, as in life, Luck has a lot to do with Success. Being in the right place at the right time. Listening to your angels when they speak. Probability. Numbers game. Avoiding the dragons of despair. When you think it's directed specifically at you, it's lucky. Or unlucky, as the case may be.

But there is something to be said for making your own luck, as Davis goes on to write about. She lists her five "things you can do to ensure you've given luck a chance to happen." Things like do your research and know the current market news. These are good advice for any job market, not just publishing. Especially in the current economy when there are so many out there, looking at so few opportunities. But Publishing has always been that way. Many more people who think it would be easy and cool to write a book than there are opportunities to be published.

Davis's five points are a distillation of things I've been reading in the blogosphere and on agent websites for the last year. Target your submissions. Know who it is you're sending your novel out to. If it's an agent or publisher who only handles children's books, don't send your steamy erotic romance to them! This sounds juvenile to me, but apparently it happens all the time.

Her last point is "Write, write, write." Once you've submitted, don't wait to hear back. Keep writing. Start something new. This is the problem I'm having at the moment. Keeping the writing momentum going, while I wait to hear on the two projects I have out at the moment, and the book revisions I was expecting back from my editor this week.

I need to get past the dragons and map new territory. And make my own luck.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What to do next?

Cape Cod Weather Today: Overcast, grey grey grey, 44 degrees at the moment, with drizzle now and high wind and rain warnings for later. "April showers...."

It may be great weather for mermaids, but I'm not feeling Mother Nature's love at the moment. Where did my sun go? After a brief appearance for the day on Tuesday, it's gone again, and the weatherman says it won't come back until, like, Sunday! Aargh!

But bad weather is good for writing. Right? Right.

I finished revising again the YA mermaid tale, and queried two agents from my "OMG Love Them!" list. One already wrote back last night and asked to read the first few chapters. I'll hold off on my Snoopy happy dance for now, as I feel like I've been down this road before, and gotten my hopes up too high. When the hopes are too high, they get hurt more when they fall. But I did get excited and obsessive, and called a friend to come over to read the email with me to make sure it was really there in my inbox... and share a few glasses of wine with me to mini-celebrate. (Pinot Noir, not champagne. See? Staying realistic. Was gonna drink red wine anyway. Just opened a nicer bottle than I would have had alone.)

So what to work on next? It's going to rain for the next two days, they say, and both my WIPs are "out" being read. I guess I have to start something new! How exciting! Not as exciting as the email in my inbox, but still. Excitement.

Hope you get good news today, too. Or at least better weather than we have here on Cape Cod.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On Rejections...

Advice on Rejection from Sasha Knight, editor at Samhain Press:

"... No one wants to be rejected, but it is a step pretty much every author
takes. A rejection is only a stopping point in the publication journey if
you, the writer, choose to let it be. If you're lucky enough to receive
feedback, both on your strengths and your weaknesses, learn from it. And
that's not to say every bit of feedback you receive will be right for your
book. Over your writing career you'll get conflicting feedback and opinions.
Deciding what feedback works for you and your books is part of the learning

As in life, there is no easy answer in publishing. No one way to do things
to get that contract. What you have to do is write. Polish. Write some more.
Learn. Grow. Strive to be the best you can be."

* * * *

I've just sent out two more queries today. Hoping to move along on the writer's journey, past rejection into the land of agented writers....

Happy April Fools Day!

Cape Cod Weather Today: At the moment it's dark and 35 degrees. But yesterday! Can I wax poetic a moment about yesterday... ! Sunny! Almost 50 degrees! ALmost t-shirt weather! Great for raking and yard work weather! What a nice day. Last year we had so many of those all spring I took them for granted... Not this Year, the year of the wet and yucky. This year I'm appreciating every drop of sunshine we get. Yeah, spring!

Last night I was going through the backpacks, emptying out the papers, notices and yesterday's lunchboxes. I opened my daughters, and called her into the room. She was eating the bag of potato chips I'd packed that morning.

Me: You didn't eat much of your lunch.

Her: I'm eating it now, see? (shakes bag of chips in front of her face for better visual, because, you know, us old people are all blind. And deaf.)

Me: (with sarcastic inflection) I see you did manage to eat your cupcake.

Her: It was a cupcake. Hello? (where do they get these things at 8?)

Me: (folded my hands across my chest and gave her the Mommy Look)

Her: But the boy sitting next to me? He had the school lunch and it was kinda gross and slimy.

Me: Did he eat all his lunch?

Her: Yeah, he's a boy. (she rolled her eyes) But he didn't like it and he said I was lucky.

Me: Lucky? To not have to eat your lunch?

Her: To have a mom who packs cupcakes in my lunchbox. Thanks, Mom. You're the best. (big smile, and shoves a handful of chips in her mouth as she runs back into the t.v. room.)

* * * * * *
May all your April surprises be nice ones!