Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goals Revisited

So, it seems appropriate for the last day of the year to look back at my goals and see where I got.  Mostly, I've decided not to have goals anymore because goals are a big freaking pain. At some point, I added submit one short story per month, but it's not showing up on here... huh. 

Here are my goals from this year (I made them in March, so that's how I could cheat and add the agent thing) : 

Writing Plans for 2011:

Finish Honor 7. (Completed) 
Revise Secrets of Skin and Stone. (Completed) 
Submit short stories. (Completed--both stories were accepted in the anthologies I submitted them to.  Mystery Times Ten 2011 and Undead is Not an Option.) 

Get agent. (Wooo wahoo!) (Yay)

Do revisions of Secrets of Skin and Stone. (Completed a set of revisions)
Work on short story project. (I probably did.) 

Finish Sentinel's Run. (At some point during the year I finished Sentinel's Run.)

Revision of Curse Me A Story for Sarah. (I did... but it's not quite done.) 
"Six month" scheduled revision of Versus the Bounty and The Unseen Kingdom. (Nope.)

Finish My Other Life. (Nope.) (I wrote Promises of Light and Dark instead.)

Finish Chosen Changeling. (Nope.)

Revise Honor Series. (Crap. No.)

Work on short stories or Honor 8. (Short stories... done.)

Revise Scorched. (Crap. No.)
Revise Good Girls Don't Date Mutants. (I started a revision on Mutants but I haven't completed it.)

NaNoWriMo novel (Completed 50K. I did five novellas instead of a novel.)

Revise Sentinel's Run and begin Sentinel's Run Book Two. (Uhh. No. I did manage to submit 11 short stories during 2011.) 

I'm still working on a revision of Secrets of Skin and Stone... well, I'm waiting on Sarah with that.  I've revised it three or four or five times this year.  

Per my earlier announcement I did get a short story picked up by Entangled Publishing. 

I did actually finish writing my entry for Mystery Times Ten for 2012, but I need to do another revision on it. I could have probably powered through it and subbed it tonight, but I like eleven better than twelve anyway, so there wasn't a lot of incentive.

I fell behind in some ways this year and made some progress in others.  I read around 89 books, did five betas, and I did quite a few requested revisions for editors and for Sarah.

Outside of writing, I lost fifty lbs this year--so that's pretty cool.  

Then, there were parenting struggles and sickness and injury.  It hasn't been all fun and games.  

Next year... okay, I do have some goals.

Goals for 2012

I want to do more reviewing. I'm hoping to review all my favorite books on Amazon--just my favorite books--and just on Amazon. 

I want to lose the last fifteen lbs. to my goal. 

I want to finish revising Secrets of Skin and Stone for the last time with Sarah.

I intend to submit to Mystery Times Ten Contest by its deadline of January 31st. 

I have some short stories to revise for editors, and I'll do that.

My only specific writing goals are that I want to revise and resubmit Honor.  I want to finish my revision of Mutants.  Also, I want to do NaNoWriMo again this year. That's about it. 

In social media goals, I want to work a little harder on keeping up on my blog and creating an author website.  It's been a tough year, and I keep feeling like I'm dropping behind--in fact, I need to write a few blog posts and retro-post them in regards to Christmas and the nativity display. (I did take a bunch of pictures, and I'll post them--soon.)  I can't seem to keep up.  B got the stomach flu for Christmas and my son had it before her.  It's been... fun. 

Anyway, that's it. I hope everyone is having a good New Year's Eve.  See you next year. ; ) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

News! News! New news!

So, earlier this week, I signed a contract with Entangled Publishing for them to publish in ebook a short story/novella that I wrote.  (It's 10K, so I'm not sure how that precisely shakes out in most people's minds.) I received permission from the editor I'll be working with (Heather Howland) to announce it, so I announced it on Twitter earlier. It's titled "On the List" currently.

It should be published in the spring in ebook. (So, it'll hit Amazon and such sites.) Here is a little more about the Flirt line: http://networkedblogs.com/rg0vo  The covers of the books from Entangled are gorgeous... and that has me extra, extra, extra excited about it.

This will be my third short story published this year, but this one isn't a contest or for publishing credits, so it's a bit more exciting in terms of progress.

I've submitted other stuff to Entangled that they're currently considering so it's possible I might have more news with them to announce in the future.  I hope.  *fingers crossed*

Thanks, everyone, for your support.  *hugs all around*

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November--the Long and Short of it

It's crazy to think that it's been a month since I posted.  I actually started drafting a post at the beginning of the month, and I just couldn't really get into it.  Tonight, I'm so exhausted that when I was reading to the kids right now, I was stumbling over my words, but it seemed wrong not to post at all in November.

I mentioned before the month started that I was working on short story submissions.  I submitted a superhero novella that wasn't picked up for the anthology but they've asked to consider it for another line of novellas.  I also submitted a bunch of other short stories and novellas... and I hope to have news to announce about those soon.

My goal for this year was to submit 12 short stories by the end of the year.  It's nearly December, and I've submitted 9.  I plan to enter the Mystery Times Ten contest by December 31st, so that leaves 2 more submissions.

I also completed NaNoWriMo this month.  The novel I'd planned kept getting pushed back in favor of short story revision and submission and, in the end, my muse refused to cooperate and work on a YA horror story. Instead, I did five novellas that were holiday/season-centric.  It was fun.  I completed my 50K on 11/11/11.

I'm finishing the month of November with some really long days working on some silhouette murals for the nativity collection display at our church.  I've done similar murals in the past, but this year in addition to the "Jerusalem" skyline they asked for wisemen, shepherds, camels, sheep, and then trees of various types.  So, I've spent hour upon hour since Monday sketching and cutting and putting up the silhouettes.  The murals are over 100 feet in length so it's a big task.  Especially since camels are the hardest things I've ever sketched.  Seriously... even when they look right... they don't look right.  Their anatomy appears to defy all that I know of the natural world.  I'm exhausted... partly because it's really stressful to work on projects like this where you have an immediate audience of other volunteers and you're trying to quickly adapt art to fit on the spot.  Plus, there were also a few other non-mural things that came up that I've been helping with or making decisions on.  It's just a very intense week.  On Friday, it'll open to the public and there'll be hundreds of people going through to see several hundred nativities... and it'll all be worth it.

My nights have been long too.  B isn't sleeping well.  Yesterday, she stayed home from school because she wasn't feeling well due to lack of sleep. (She'd only slept a few hours all night.)  My own insomnia kicked in to full gear around fifth grade, so seeing her struggling with this... kills me.  I know it's not my fault, but it feels like my fault.  I brought these genes to the mix and between her OCD and her insomnia... she really got nailed by the worst of what I brought.  I think it's partly hormones and partly stress at school causing this insomnia... and her OCD.  It just sucks, though.  She can't seem to stay asleep more than a few hours and then sometimes she can't get back to sleep.

I also managed to injure my foot really bad two weeks ago.  I tripped over the kids' metal stilts.  It didn't swell at all, and I had it x-rayed and there's nothing wrong with it... per se... other than it's been two weeks, and I have to keep slamming it with the maximum dosages of ibuprofen and naproxen around the clock or it's crippling.  The ER doctor called it a gnarly stub, but she said if it wasn't healed by 10 days, I should come back in or see my doctor because it's possible it's something else or they missed a fracture.  I just really don't want to go back in, so I keep tossing back the meds... for a stubbed toe.  It's ridiculous.

Then, there was Thanksgiving... and I really wanted to blog about all the things I'm thankful for, but time slipped away from me, and this mural thing started up.  *sighs* I need a few more hours in my day.  Hours that can be spent sleeping, not sketching or writing or revising. Maybe I'll manage a post on that in December because I really do have a lot to be thankful for.

So, that's been my November.  I really need to submit another two short stories in addition to the Mystery Times Ten short... and I have a lot of revision ahead of me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Somebody Wants Something

And I'm tempted to give it to them.

*raises eyebrows*

No, I haven't lost my mind.  Well, a little, but that's beside the point.

So, I was reading this article and, being as I've now passed my three years as a writer point (mid-October), I was feeling a bit snide when I read the title.  I thought, "Yeah, I've written so many novels... I don't need to read this over-simplified advice on how to write a novel."  I scoffed.  *Wendy tsks self*

Here is the article: How to Create a Story.

To create a good story, you must first understand what a story is. I have a simple formula:
"Somebody wants something and has a hard time getting it."

Now, if you're like me, you're thinking, "It's not that simple and even if it is, so what?"

So what?  SOOOO WHATTT?  I give you gold, and you dare say, "SO WHAT?"  GOLD!

Actually, that's exactly what I thought. Then, I boiled down the novel I'm preparing to write for NaNoWriMo:

A Mused: An artist wants peace and inspiration; an unusual girl he meets near the lake is going to make sure neither comes without a price... in fact, he might not even survive to see either.

My mouth dropped open, and I thought, "But that's like a tagline.  That's sort of brilliant.  It can't work every time... can it?  But... really?  Can it?"

Okay, fine...

Secrets of Skin and Stone: Piper wants to know if she's to blame for her dog's death... and if it's not her or her OCD... what dark secrets are hidden in Hidden Creek, Alabama.  (Alternately... Gris's side would be: Gris wants to solve the mysteries of the neighbor girl and keep her alive--all while keeping the monster inside him hidden.)

I then mentally ran a bunch of my novels through this.  It was fascinating.  They all could be summarized with that same formula.

Still, what use is that for someone who clearly can write a complete novel?  Writing the novel isn't my problem.  On the other hand, I'm going back under the knife for yet another revision of Secrets of Skin and Stone.  Sarah and I have been going back and forth on a few scenes I want to keep, and she says they need to contribute to the narrative in some way.  (Isn't the fact that I like them and want to hug them enough?  NO?  Wuh?  Why?)  As I examined these scenes in light of the boiled down plotlines above... *coughs* they may not further the plot or entirely contribute to my MCs' main driving forces (those things they want, but are having trouble reaching....)

One of the downsides to pantsing is that you end up with these straggling scenes or narrative fills where you needed a plotpoint or scene to get you to the next scene or to fill in exposition.  These aren't final copy scenes, but they're hard to cut completely or replace because they're entrenched.  *sighs* I need to get rid of or fix a bunch of those in Secrets of Skin and Stone.  I may be talking a lot about revising for the first part of November as I'm doing what I hope is my last revision.

Anyway, I found that article interesting and useful, and I hope you did too.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trapping Plot Bunnies

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us!  (National Novel Writing Month--where writers try to crank out 50K in a single month.)

So, I've gotten the go-ahead from Sarah to participate this year.  I'm trying to decide which story to go with.  I have two WIPs that I'm tempted to cheat and ADD 50K onto them to finish them, but that feels wrong.  Then, earlier this week, I thought maybe I'd write a MG book which I plotted out a bit.  My sisters are pushing me to do Honor 8 for this, and I'm almost tempted because Honor's head is fun to be in and that might help with stress--plus, with Honor on Twitter, there'd be someone to talk to about the plot. I also have a few sketched out ideas in their own documents that I've had... that could be expanded on.

So, in the end, what do you write about when you almost have too many choices?

You write the one that won't get out of your head--the one that won't leave you alone.

I've had this one story stuck in my head since April of this year which is in the sketched out idea in a document category.  I considered asking opinions on what I should work on, but the fact that my brain keeps going back to this one idea and has since April... I'd just be annoyed with myself if I went with anything else.

It's nice that I've decided... now, I just have to write it--starting November 1st.  By the way, the title is A Mused.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Five Things Thursday

Since I've been down and depressing lately, I thought I'd post five things you might or might not know about me.

1. I once ate roadkill squirrel.  My grandfather brought me some meat on a plate and said, "Taste it." I should have known better by then because my grandpa is funny in so many ways.  It was only after I'd eaten a piece that I found out where it was from.  (Yes, it tasted like chicken... greasy chicken.)

2. I used to work as a Barney impersonator, and I wanted to be a mime.  I really did... on both.  I used to do children's birthday parties, and I made some kickin' cash... but then it got too violent.  (No joke.)  I got punched in the stomach by a bunch of guys when I was dealing with heat exhaustion after being in a parade in Utah in 100 degree heat.  I was done.  I was around 18 then... and just over 100 lbs.

3. I lived in Vegas when a chemical plant in Henderson blew up.  I was at school at the time and we went outside and saw a huge mushroom cloud in the distance.  They put the school in lockdown and I was in art class (my favorite class) for three hours that day.

4. I went to high school in Vegas and on my first day of high school--freshman year... we went to homeroom, the school went into lockdown, and we were sent home because someone had been killed (gang war) in the cafeteria.

5. I met my husband fourteen years ago after bumping into him all over the state of Utah but never meeting...  Our first date went until five in the morning and the moment he kissed me--I knew we were going to get married.  We were talking about marriage within days, and we were married less than five months later.  It was crazy, but I just knew.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Revise Me, Baby, One More Time!

So, I'm working on revising that novella but, sadly, I'm not working on it.  I can't seem to work up the motivation to revise.  I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but it's making me crazy.  I keep on hoping I'll magically feel motivated to do it but, thus far, Past Wendy isn't doing any favors for Future Wendy.  My husband is out of town for the week, and I was busy today.  I ran in and out of my house.  So, it's not entirely just me slacking off, but I've been reading to calm down at night, and I have to go cold turkey on reading other people's fiction and watching TV for the muse to play nice.  I have a very finicky muse.

I really need to get it done... not only is there a deadline, but there is also NaNoWriMo approaching, and I might still need to do another revision of SECRETS soon.

So, how do you magically motivate yourself to be creative?

Maybe I'll go sit in front of the fire tomorrow and turn the internet off.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unsent Messages and Unsaid Words

A long, long, long time ago, I won a book in a contest by a Twitter friend Regan Leigh. It was called Other People's Love Letters and I  loved this book... it totally made me feel like a voyeur, but I still loved it. There is something about reading something you were never meant to see that appeals to the sneak in me.  It's like people watching in someone's diary.  I find human nature and psychology fascinating so that book was one of the best books I've read this year.

I bring it up because I was hunting for something yesterday, and I suspected I'd emailed it to myself to remember it.  It's a trick I frequently do because my memory is lousy... it's even worse on meds, but it's not spectacular either way.  Instead, I stumbled across a few other things I'd sent myself--weird emails that both fascinate and disturb me.  I send myself is things I say, but don't say--like blog posts I don't post because I'm not brave enough or crazy enough.  There are emails to people that I need to get out, but don't need them to read.  A few years ago, I stumbled across a letter I'd written to an ex-boyfriend who'd just dumped me... one that was never sent.  Between all these different things, I've got quite the correspondence with myself that isn't to me.  There are all these things I've said, but never said.

It makes me wonder... how many sealed envelopes are out there that are never sent?

I know other people do this.  Sometimes you need things to be said but not said.  I've had therapists recommend this to me so I can "let go" of things that my OCD wants to obsess on, so I know it's a practice used by other people.  There may be millions of these letters, emails, and so on... gathering dust.  They're the roads left untaken, the opportunities for vehemence or confession left behind.

How different would my life be today if I had said these things?  If I had sent these letters, emails, posted these blogs posts what would have happened?  Did I make the right choice?

I don't know, but it intrigues me.

One of the blog posts that I didn't post in its entirety was written almost exactly one year ago.  I'd been talking about getting off the meds. (I hit one year four days ago... and I think that's part of why it's been so difficult for me recently... those stupid date benchmarks.)  It's very dark and that's why I didn't post it.  It's dark and pessimistic, and I was afraid it was too honest. It still feels too honest... but it is interesting.

Here is a portion of what I left unsaid last year at this time:

I've been cutting back on my meds for a year now... because I hate letting anything control me. I'm stubborn and stupid that way... and it's everything to do with OCD also. Control is a commodity in my mind. I'm down to just one med... and its side effects. The one med I'm down to controls the dark, paranoid thoughts that are a hallmark of OCD. It's the reason why memory loss is a possible symptom. If you live in the current fifteen seconds, the rest of your life doesn't eat you alive. So, naturally, going off the meds means that I'll be plunged back into the hell that is the mind of someone with OCD. 

I'll probably be moody the next few weeks... and distant and pissy... and angry at the world. I'll be frustrated as it settles its claws back into me because B also has OCD and it's probably as severe as mine is. In a few weeks, my strange sense of humor will overcome my pessimism and I'll pull on my facade of mental health and we'll all be happy again.

It's not an easy decision... and it might not even be the right one. Anyway, so there it is. Dr. Jekyll is sick of controlling Mr. Hyde after three years. We'll see if my dark mind can behave itself enough that I can be off meds for long enough to store up some long term memories for when it's time to go back into the cage.

Monday, October 17, 2011

We, the readers...

So, I returned my first ebook today.  It was somewhat liberating. I've deleted books that I didn't care for, but this was the first of around 400 books I've returned.

It wasn't because it was bad, though... it did suck somewhat, but I wouldn't return a book for that.  It wasn't what it advertised.  It was supposed to be a book of romance short stories--that was the title and the blurb.  Only it wasn't.  Usually I'll be the first to admit that the line in modern romances vs. erotica is becoming blurred--which sometimes bothers me as I don't really want to read erotica, but there was absolutely no romance in the few short stories I read.  There was sex--a lot of sex, but sex doesn't always equal romance.  In fact, I found it disturbing that one story in particular was in the group.  If that was a romance... well... it wasn't... okay, it just wasn't.  *shudders* *goes to get brain bleach*

I mean, where are we as a society when the word "romance" = sex?  It shouldn't.  I think that's part of what bothered me.  This was edited and compiled by a female--does she not understand the definition of romance?     In the short story that snapped it for me--the woman has absolutely no feelings or relationship with either of the two random people she has sex with.  I skipped whole pages looking for dialogue because the descriptions were boring.  The sex was boring without emotional context!  Plus, it was skeevy and gross without that too. *shudders again* Blech. I should have stopped reading long before I did.

I'm tempted to write a review on this... and I never write negative reviews.

It's funny because it takes a lot to offend me as a reader. I like to judge books by their covers, and I think you should be able to.  I think a book should live up to its blurb and its cover.  I think books should also meet our expectations for content.  I hate being disappointed in books.  I hate deleting and, now, returning them.  On the other hand, life is too short to waste on bad books... and with the money I get back from this book, I'll buy a book that is what it advertises.

Geez, I WANT to love books.  Every time I open a book, I want to fall in love with it.  I want it to be the best book I've ever read.  I want it to make me feel like an inferior writer. I want that.  I want to escape my life for a few hours and never want to return.  I want to turn off my inner editor and just be a reader again.

I really needed the escape too.  The car that my husband fixed on Saturday so he could leave me with a running car--it had a flat tire when I went out to go run errands today. He leaves tomorrow.  I needed the escape.  I've started rereading my favorite books just to avoid being disappointed.  That's awfully pathetic.

LOL.  This is sort of a boring blog post, but I've been annoyed all day about this book. However, I've already received two emails from Amazon informing me that my return is being processed.  *thumbs up*

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Peace in the Chaos of a Crowded Mind

I don't normally do this--as I see my blog as my own little corner of my own little space.  (I don't usually advertise my posts on Twitter or elsewhere--though I'm grateful for those who follow my blog.  If I thought this blog got a lot of hits I might watch what I say a little more.)  So, normally, I don't post warnings on content, but I will this time.

*Warning--this post contains content religious in nature and if that offends you in any way--well, first, it's odd that you're here, but anyway... this isn't the post you're looking for--move along.  I won't apologize for my religious or spiritual nature, but I also don't want contention or to offend anyone.*

*Consider yourself warned*

I haven't been secretive about my recent OCD struggles, but I don't think anyone without OCD can really understand the nature of OCD and how difficult it is.  I've now been off meds for an entire year, and it hasn't been a good thing.  It's been a hard year.  Unfortunately, the meds have nasty side effects.  Severe memory loss.  Elevated blood pressure.  Elevated heart rate.  Sweating.  Palpitations.  Muscle spasms.  Muscle memory problems (I forget how to make my muscles move the way I want them to.)  Dry mouth to the point my lips crack and the roof of my mouth peels and bleeds.  Sometimes, my throat is so sore that it swells and I think I'm choking to death.  Sexual side effects.  Headaches.  Insomnia.  Drowsiness.  Mood swings.  Appetite loss.  Weight gain.  Nausea.  Stomach pain.  Dizzy spells.  Hallucinations.  Vision aberrations.  I talk in my sleep... all night... when I can sleep.  And these are the meds that I can take because they don't make me suicidal as some of the meds did. I have three different meds that have to be taken three times a day at exact times (so I carry them with me everywhere and have alarms set.)  It's hell.  The meds are hell.  They control me rather than the other way around.  They rule everything I do.  I can't leave home without them--can't miss a dose--can't skip meals.

So, going back on meds... isn't a decision I leap into.  It's not going to be fun.  I knew it was an inevitability.  I knew I wouldn't be able to be off them forever. I'll need to ramp up my dosage over the course of a month or two months.  I'll need to go see my doctor and probably see him regularly again for the first few months.  I hate hospitals.  I hate doctor's offices.  It's expensive.  The meds are expensive.  The month of ramping up back onto them--will be awful.  The side effects as my brain fights the intrusion will make me wish I wasn't going back on them... maybe even wish I was in the middle of a nightmare that I could wake up from.  It'll be that bad.

On the other hand, there's my OCD.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can take many forms and have varied symptoms.  Mine is considered severe.  On the outside, if I didn't talk about it, you wouldn't know.  My symptoms aren't obvious.  One of my most severe symptoms never steps outside my head in fact.  The dark thoughts... the dark and crazy thoughts that make me think I'm evil and violent and dark.  It's all in my head.  The darkness gets thicker and thicker and harder to ignore... until I reach a point where I feel too dark to even be in church anymore.  I feel too dark to be around people.  I want to crawl into a corner and let the darkness have me--if it wants inside so much--just take me already.

You were probably wondering when I was going to bring up religion.

I woke up this morning and my first thought was: "You need to talk to your bishop about this."  For those unfamiliar with the LDS/Mormon church we have an unpaid clergy... in fact, we're all unpaid and volunteer.  Our tithes and offerings go to support the meetinghouses and welfare programs and support administration needs, but the actual clergy and offices are unpaid.  So, a Mormon bishop makes nothing for watching over and worrying over 500+ souls.  So, my next thought was: "The bishop is too busy."  I got ready for church and the feeling persisted until there was nearly a shout in my head, saying, "Wendy... talk to the bishop about your OCD."  I shouted back, "No, he'll think I'm a freak... and I don't want to waste his time." I went to church and the prompting in my head continued... and I pushed it back... and in the clutter of my crowded mind, I thought it would go away.

There are three hour-long blocks in a typical Sunday church meeting time.  During the second and third hours I'm the secretary in the children's organization and help out in there.  During the second hour, we were practicing a program, and I discovered there was no trash can in the room.  I went out into the hall to throw away some trash and passed the bishop.  He said, "How are you?" and I mumbled something noncommittal under my breath... here was my chance, but I couldn't take it.  I just couldn't.  I didn't deserve it anymore... the darkness had won.  I just couldn't.  The shouting voice in my head said, "Oh for crying out loud, Wendy!" but I ignored it.  When I turned from the trash can, he was watching me with a perplexed look and said, "I feel like we need to talk.  For some reason, I think we need to talk. Do you have a minute to talk?"

So, we went into his office and I told him... I told him everything.  I told him about the OCD and how awful it is but how the meds are their own version of hell too.  I told him all the stress we're going through.  How T seems to rage from one moment to the next.  How we can't seem to have two running cars at any given time.  How I don't even feel like I belong in the chapel anymore because I have such darkness in my head.  I told him that I feel like this will be the rest of my life... this need to be medicated in order to be acceptable.  I told him I'm a better person when I'm medicated and how much that hurts.  We ended up talking for over an hour about it.  He offered a few solutions to things, but mostly he just listened.

I've often wished we had confessionals in our church--so you could go tell someone these things.  Sometimes the need to confess is so strong.  And there is a cathartic feeling that comes from not carrying the burden of the secrets of your soul by yourself.

At the end, he asked if he could offer a prayer for me, and I agreed.  And in the loud chaos of my mind there was the quiet clarity of his voice as he prayed for enough peace within me to make the decision I'll need to.  For the first time in a long time, my mind is quiet again.  I can't tell you how rare this is right now or how good it feels to not feel the crowd yelling in my head.  I don't feel dark inside.  I don't feel evil--just like he told me I wasn't.

Our bishop is an amazing man.  I can't imagine the burden he must carry after days where people dump the emotional baggage that I just dropped on him.  I'm just one person and there are a lot of members in our ward...

I never told him that I'd felt like I should talk to him all morning, but I couldn't bring myself to intrude on his busy schedule.  He told me that he'd felt a strong prompting to talk to me when he saw me.

I don't really know how to classify this blog post.  It's about OCD.  It's a little about my family.  It's about being LDS/Mormon.  I don't even know why I'm mentioning it--other than maybe I still need that catharsis of unburdening myself after such an emotional experience.

My Mormon.org profile went live this week.  For those not LDS, our church has been very vocal about what we believe and who we are.  You've probably seen the "I'm a Mormon" ads on the internet and on tv.  We were asked to fill out a profile so that others could find kindred spirits and see we're more and less than we're made out to be.  I filled out my profile, and it was awaiting approval for quite a while.  Then... because the world is a small one after all, someone I know from Twitter contacted me to let me know he'd reviewed my profile and it was "live." If you're curious, here's mine: http://mormon.org/me/6J6T/Wendy/  You can go check it out and see that we're not all freaks.  (To find the non-freaks, you'll want to click on one of the profiles on the side, of course.)

Since this post is religious in nature--and I warned you--I'll delete comments that are negative in any way.  I doubt I'll have a problem with that, but I get weird spammy moments on here, and it wouldn't surprise me if this post nets a few.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breakable Me

So, the title of this post is based on this song by Ingrid Michaelson: 

... and from the first time I heard it, it made me think of days and moments like today when you recognize you're fragile in so many ways.  You don't feel badass or even sturdy--you feel breakable--like your skin is actually egg shells instead of a coat.  

Right now that feeling is based on a lot of things.  I'm very stressed out.  Spring and fall are hard for me.  The season changes bring allergies and time adjustments and the rain--which means less Vitamin D. I also have a lot of strange memories that get to me.  In the spring, it's when B was diagnosed... and a few other unpleasant memories.  In fall, I had a really bad October four years ago when I was trying to get on medication for my OCD.  Every October since then I've felt haunted by those days.  It's silly to let dates and seasons depress me, but I never claimed to not be silly.  I know it's common in some with OCD to have these emotional connections to dates.  Some of January, March 8th, most of May, the time changes, October 31st... they're fragile times.  They've kept a piece of me that I can't seem to get back. 

Then, there are my kids.  T is having more bad days than good days lately. He's been struggling with manic violence again, and his school life seems to bounce between okay and upsetting.  B is doing well in school, but she is spending a lot of time distracted and in her own little origami world when home.  They're both fragile in their own ways.  I want to protect them while not sheltering them and this strange balance is killing me each year.  They have to adapt to a hostile world, but watching it and allowing it... is very hard.  I have to deal with their parent-teacher conferences in two weeks, and I just found out my husband has been tapped for a business trip for then.  He'll also be missing their annual church program.  The timing isn't his fault and not within his control... but it's lousy.

There is also the revision I've been working on with Secrets of Skin and Stone.  I've skipped around burn-out with this one.  I also did a few more revisions this year on other manuscripts--revisions that will need to be revisited.  Usually my revisions have felt more successful than these ones.  Maybe with a little more guidance or some perspective I'll be able to figure out where I went wrong, but... *sighs*  When you've done a lot of revision, it's a bit of a blow to your self esteem as a writer.  I never feel like my first draft is fantastic, but having to rework a manuscript over and over and over peels off those layers of self confidence. There's some point where the fragile being inside you just wants to whisper "am I good enough yet?"  That point was a month and a half ago. Sarah is going over my latest revision now, and I might have another round yet. 

Is it really any wonder I feel breakable?  Maybe other people handle it better.  Maybe they don't.  I just feel so fragile. 

So, I thought I would write and submit to this anthology: http://www.entangledinromance.com/2011/10/03/call-for-subs-superhero-anthology/  Working on a new WIP has felt really good actually.  It felt like magic and everything I love about writing.  It was beautiful and perfect... until I had to show other people.  Then, I got worried and fragile again.  Now, I just need to revise it before November 1st.  There's just one problem... there isn't enough time to just set it aside and come back to it myself in a few months and do most of the revision without help. I've used line-edit or intense betas in the past, but that was when I had some sort of shell.  I've got nothing now.  I write to escape from stress.  Right now, both my worlds feel like they're under attack.  It's got me thinking maybe I can't do this.  Maybe I can't make that deadline without pushing myself too much. 

I feel so fragile and breakable. I hate it.  I hate it so much.  I want to have that thick skin and pretend that nothing hurts and nothing matters, but I don't... I don't have that. 

How do you handle the days like this?  And what would you do about the anthology and revising something that you just want to pretend doesn't need to be revised? 

And we are so fragile,
And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shelving Books--Not in the Librarian Way

So, yesterday, I stopped writing the WIP I was working on, closed the document, and walked away from it. It was a novella, and I was only about 7K into it, but I just knew it wasn't working.  I had parts of it set in a lab, and I just didn't know enough about the setting or protocol.  I could have done a lot of research and so on but, in the end, it wasn't worth it to me and the story felt forced.  On the other hand, I immediately opened up another document and started another novella, and some of the aspects from the previously closed document were helpful in this new WIP already.

I've read a lot about trunk novels or shelved novels lately on the internet--most of it conflicting--which is common on the internet.

There is this post: Trunk Novels are an Endangered Species.   (Quote: But the world has changed, and now, not to put too fine a point on it, keeping a completed and coherent trunk novel (or short story) in the trunk is a mistake. It’s bad business. It’s simply…well…dumb.)  It's a very interesting take on it.  I don't entirely agree, but his reasoning is sound, if aggressively business-like.

Then, there was a post this week on Kidlit.com which somewhat addressed the subject of "other works" from a querying perspective: What to Query With.  (Quote: Every time you sit down to write, you are getting better. You’re learning. Sometimes it takes writing an entire novel-length manuscript to teach you a valuable lesson about your own craft. And sometimes, that lesson won’t get published. Sometimes, in fact, it takes five manuscripts, ten manuscripts, twenty, for you to feel your way around the novel form.)   (And Quote: I think it’s more reasonable to see your early work and your early, prolific output as more of an exercise rather than a finished product. As such, I don’t want to see all of your exercises in my inbox. Some practice is better left for your eyes only.) 

Which is mostly in line with something Kiersten White said on her blog: New! Books! Or, Writing is Never a Waste  (Quote: In the end, these are two entirely new books. But they are two entirely new books that would be impossible without all of the books that came before them. So if you are a writer, and you're sad that you might have to leave an early manuscript behind, please know that it's never a waste. You learned. You grew as a writer. You wrote what you could when you could, and what you write in the future will always, always benefit from what you wrote in the past.)

Some of you have probably noticed I'm a very prolific writer... or I was anyway.  I think I might only complete four novels this year--which is a lot for most people, but much fewer than normal for me.  I have a lot of novels I've shelved, and I don't regret any of them.  I learned so much about writing FROM writing.  There are just so many things that can only be learned from practice.  I know it makes some of my beta readers sad that I might not ever try to get some of my past writing published, but I feel like I'm stealing from and incorporating those books into every new story I write.  My writing is a product of everything I've ever written.  

Anyway, so yesterday... it was a little hard to close down that document because of how far along I was, but then I sat down and wrote 9K on the new story... the one that I couldn't write until I'd tried and failed at this other. 

I'm not sure how other writers feel about trunked/shelved books, but I like the thought of only my best work making the cut.  I might revise and eventually revisit some of those earlier books, but I'm satisfied if they were just really good books to practice on. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Evolution of a Story

Here is the story of Secrets of Skin and Stone from birth to where I am now.

Once upon a time in April of 2010, I wrote this story about a girl with OCD, and the guy who liked her a whole lot--and he was a gargoyle. Back then, it had the soap-opera worthy title of "Shades of Obsession." *Wendy gags*

There it is.  Isn't it pretty?  I thought so.  It was 70K, so basically just a baby novel compared to most of mine. As I've done in the past, I set it aside once it was done so I could gain perspective.  In September of 2010, I took another look at it... felt ill about the title, so I changed that and a good many other things, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.  I was already querying on a few other things, and I'd been asked by Sarah to do a revision on Curse Me a Story. (She hadn't seen this book nor was she my agent back then.) So, I set aside "Good Girls Don't Kiss Gargoyles." (Yes, that was the name back then.)

Then, in January 2011, I got this crazy idea in my head that I was going to do Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award and I was going to use this book... after I changed the name to Secrets of Skin and Stone and majorly worked it over. Majorly. Sarah contacted me about another revision on Curse Me a Story, and I said I'd do the revision for her after I finished this revision of Secrets of Skin and Stone because there was a contest deadline looming. She asked me about this book and then asked me for a look at it when I was done with revision.

I was determined to polish this story until it cracked to pieces and then polish them too. I was going to treat each chapter like a short story and severely revise it to death.  I started reading it aloud, and I realized my novel set in Alabama didn't have an accent... at all. So, that revision took a while. Reading it aloud for over a week made me hoarse, and I talked with a southern accent for at least a week. The deadline passed, and I didn't enter, but the manuscript that emerged from the fire was the one that got me repped.  When compared to the original, it looked like this:

The black is what lasted... so very little. It was up to 90K, though.  Yay!  90K!  Sarah helped me polish it again, and we worked through a lot of things, and it went out for submission.  We got feedback from producers (through the film agent with my literary agency) and editors, and I went back to revision and worked on it over the summer.  This time for a MAJOR revision. It needed more plot... and action... and cowbell.  Yes, cowbell.  Violent cowbell. I stripped it down to the bones and moved things and rewrote and revised and by the end of August, I was done--even though I knew I wasn't. It didn't feel complete. It was better, but it wasn't done. I sent it off to Sarah with a "Better?" email, hoping she'd be able to direct me.  It looked like this:

Holy frijole, Wendy!  It's all red!  Yes, that's because I realized that I started off by telling about this traumatic event that had happened (her dog's death) instead of showing the event.  In retrospect, I don't know why I did that. When you have a traumatic event, you don't throw it in the background and describe it as "this thing that once happened earlier today."  Just FYI. Anyway, I knew it wasn't done. I just knew it wasn't. It wasn't a surprise when Sarah agreed.

At the beginning of September, Sarah started getting back to me with notes on how to do another revision. There were some line edits that I whined about.  There were also a lot of notes in the form of "What ifs..." and they were brilliant. They were just what I needed.  I did another revision, focusing on a new character and the later chapters. I finished that last night and sent it off to Sarah. I'm not completely sure it's done, but the novel has changed drastically since before the summer. It feels done, but Sarah will be able to tell for sure if I've finally nailed what the feedback was getting at. If not, we'll go back at it again with more cowbell until it says Moo.

Most pages, if the changes are tracked, look a lot like this when compared to April's version of Secrets of Skin and Stone:

It's at 87K now. I cut entire chapters and moved other chapters to a different location.  It's been the most brutal revision I've ever done, and I couldn't have done it without Sarah because I couldn't have seen the possibilities on my own. It's interesting to see entire pages of red that are either entirely new or entirely cut. There's something deeply satisfying about seeing a novel emerge from words strung together. The focus is very different from where it was in April. The voice is hopefully the same. Both are worlds away from that first draft with the awful-awful-awful name a year and a half ago.

So, there you go, there is the evolution of this book up to last night. *fingers crossed* that it'll be less brutal revisions in the upcoming weeks.

One thing is for certain, that book is not the book I started with--it's much better.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Standardized Testing and the Non-Standard Kid

As most of you probably know, B has been diagnosed with both Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but she is fully mainstreamed, and the school dropped services for her right after Kindergarten because, among other things, her IQ was too high. Her teachers have definitely filled in any gaps this might have caused and been all around awesome.  B has thrived and regularly gets awards for citizenship as well as academics.  Her teachers have said she is the best math student in their class every year. It doesn't, however, change these disorders that hide under the surface. The teachers adjust and learn to accommodate. We adjust and learn to accommodate.  Most of her peers probably don't know she has Autism; though, some sense that she is different and either gravitate towards her because she's sweet or try to bully her. 

Last year, B's fourth grade teacher brought up a concern at Parent/Teacher conference.  Though my daughter's creative writing is exemplary, the teacher said B is struggling with technical writing. When presented with technical writing, B tends to list things rather than keep to the accepted protocol for a paragraph. As a fiction writer, my first thought was, "And?  What's the problem?  Technical writing is boring."  The reality is that, of course, technical writing is the bulk of your schooling output.  (*whispers* It's still boring.)  We discussed how she was presenting the assignments and the wording of the assignments and how it might be perceived by a very literal child with Autism and OCD.  The teacher began rewording things and B's understanding of what was expected increased. 

Then came the standardized testing.  The government program No Child Left Behind has made standardized testing into a monster lurking in every teacher's closet.  It's all they talk about in class for the last quarter of school. All. They. Talk. About. Parents are sent home notes about how to help their children prepare for the testing days. (Getting enough sleep, eating breakfast, and so on.)  These tests are made out to be the beginning and end of all testing. Schools get closed or students can be sent to other schools if a school's overall scores aren't high enough--so schools take these tests very seriously. This means a very literal child will also take the scores very seriously. 

B got her scores back last Friday in a sealed envelope which she excitedly brought to me.  She'd told me over and over throughout the summer that she just knew she'd gotten everything right on the math portion.  I kept telling her, "You might have missed some."  She'd give me a serious look and say, "No, I didn't. I checked my answers." I'd respond, "It's okay if you missed some.  Sometimes it's hard to understand directions." B would blink and say, "I didn't get any wrong. I checked my answers."

I opened the envelope, and stared... and stared.  First of all, her math and reading scores were listed as advanced (though she did miss some on the math test despite "checking.")  On the other hand, her writing score was listed as "not passing." My daughter was watching me with excitement so I said, "Sweetie, you rocked the math portion!" "I got them all right, didn't I?" "Not quite, but close." I hoped she wouldn't ask about the rest, but B isn't like that. "How about Reading and Writing?" "You did really well in Reading too!"  "How about in Writing?" "Not quite as good, but that's okay." She wandered off, satisfied with my answers, but I've just been upset since. 

I don't care about the score to be honest.  I know my daughter can write, and her teachers are aware she has circumstances which will mean directions need to be worded in a certain way, and they can't expect her to learn in the same way as her classmates. Teachers accommodate. The world in general accommodates. Tests don't. 

What offends me to my soul is that an autistic child's scores will be taken at face value, and a school's funding will be based on the fact that she failed a standardized testing section. Theoretically, her school may receive less funding because they have a Special Needs child and because a test wasn't worded in a way that an atypical child can understand. It boggles the mind that THIS is the monster that No Child Left Behind has created. THIS was meant to ensure that no child was left behind.  

When B was in Kindergarten, she shared an aide with another Autistic child.  When Kindergarten ended, the administrators decided that the other child's needs were too much for them to accommodate, and that B was no longer in need of specialized attention. The other child was sent to a special school though he'd previously been considered a good candidate for mainstreaming.  B was sent on to her first "full day" year without even an aide in with her.  Why?  Because there isn't the funding for individualized attention. Why isn't there the funding?  Because of a super special program called No Child Left Behind which caters to kids who are typical and test well. 

Standardized testing has hurt my children time and time again.  My daughter was given an IQ test in Kindergarten.  An IQ test in Kindergarten.  Her IQ was too high for her to receive individualized attention.  We complained that Autism is a social disorder, and they replied that such needs weren't the responsibility of the school AND COULDN'T BE TESTED. 

What has happened to our society that the only proof we deem worthy and the only success we measure is found in numbers?  If it isn't in the numbers, it doesn't exist.  It was what they said when they took away my son's services even as they were telling me he needed to be kept in services, but it would be my responsibility.   "I'm sorry. He really needs these services, but the numbers just aren't there." 

Standardized testing on non-standardized kids doesn't work.  How do you explain a child who scores highly-advanced in reading and math, but fails in writing?  Perhaps it wasn't the child but the test that failed. Maybe it wasn't even the test that failed, but the people who have elevated that test to be an indication of success.  Perhaps all of us fail just a little bit when numbers become king like this and needs of individuals are lost in the process. 

I don't have any answers, but I know those right answers won't be found in bubbles on a scantron sheet. 

If you've never seen Matt Damon's speech on standardized testing, it's brilliant and you should really check it out here. You'll want to go find him and hug him. 

Thanks for listening to me rant about this.  I wanted to cry when B looked up at me and asked about her writing score.  Some moments aren't fair... and that was one of them. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Crowded Room

I know. Two posts about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in a row. It's madness, I tell you! Madness!  And when it comes to OCD it really is actually.

I'll start off by mentioning this actually does apply to writing. I'm revising Secrets of Skin and Stone again and Piper has severe clinical OCD just like I do.  It's been hard for me to write and work on her chapters at times because it strikes too close to home.

I said something to my agent recently that probably ought to be said to the world at large. OCD is 80% or so internal. Some people with the most severe symptoms of OCD aren't recognizable as having OCD.  I think most people would have been able to guess my mother has OCD before they pegged me.  My mom is OCD about cleaning... which is the physical manifestation that most people expect. I don't have that.  I like things in a certain way, sure... and if the house magically became clean, I'd like that too... as long as everything was in the right place and there was order.

Still, OCD is mostly in your head--which is funny, in my opinion, but I have a broad sense of humor. (Btw, I wouldn't say that to anyone out loud; they might take it wrong.)

Living with OCD is like being in a crowded room.  A very, very, very crowded room and everyone is talking at once.  It's filled with versions of yourself, some older and some younger and some strange variations on you with deeper or higher pitched voices (I have no idea why.)  They shuffle around so that sometimes, amid the fog of voices, some are more recognizable because they're closer to you.

There's one person nearby who spends all day everyday muttering, "This, not that.  This!  Not that!  This, or maybe this, but not that... never that." All day.

There's the paranoid jittery soul to the side who keeps bringing up how dangerous or dirty everything is. "You know, you really should stay inside.  There are bugs out there.  Plus, odds are that someone is out there.  It might be someone who hates you and wants to kill you."  Usually, I tell that person to shut up, but they keep talking regardless.

There are three or four constantly talking about kids and family. "Have you sent a card or talked with your grandparents lately?  No, you haven't.  What if something happened to them?  What if they died and didn't know you loved them?  What then?  You're a horrible granddaughter." "Have you checked your daughter's folder to see what she is doing in class yet?  She's away from the house for hour upon hour every day, and it's like you don't even care what she is doing.  She's practically being raised by the school, and you don't care." "What about your son?  If you didn't let him do that, maybe he'd be less angry." "What about your sister?  How is she doing?  You don't even know, do you?  It's been days. Days!" "Have you ever thought if maybe you cleaned more that your husband would like you better?  You'd be a better wife.  I bet he wishes he'd married someone who likes to clean." "If only you were more like your mother...."

Constantly. Talking.

Some worry about friends, real and online. "Did you offend them when you said that thing?  It might have been taken wrong."  "Have you noticed they haven't talked to you for awhile?  They might hate you."

There's one on the constant lookout for typos. That one triple checks everything I write by reading it out loud which is useful... sort of.  That person sometimes insists I open envelopes to make sure I've signed the checks I just put in there.  That's less useful.

There's a couple voices that are much darker.  Hopefully they just fade into the background noise, but they usually get closer at the worst times.  One of the symptoms of OCD is being plagued by inappropriate sexual or religious or violent thoughts.  Yeah, I have those too.  Imagine sitting in church trying to concentrate and something so deviantly sexual slides right next to you and whispers.  Or you're in your car with your kids and driving and your mind suddenly focuses on how easy it would be to drive off the road.  Sometimes, it's hard to be in church.  Sometimes, it's hard to drive.  Even if you push it out of your head, it's left behind a bit of darkness because it was there.  It was there, and you thought of it, so you must be dark and evil too.

My muse is there too.  My muse may be the one person whose voice and looks I can't peg down. He or she usually stares out the window and throws out comments of "what if...." If I can, I'd love to sit next to my muse all the time.  My muse usually isn't as strange and chaotic.

I have individual phobias who wander around. There's the one who spends all day worrying that it's too tight or too close in the room. I have an extreme contamination issue so naturally there is one muttering, "You should wash your hands.  You may have gotten that on them.  Did that person just cough?  That's disgusting.  Go wash your hands." I was at a meeting last night and everyone kept coughing. That person was very squigged out--not that I blame them.

There is one who is like the physical manifestation of the song, "Baby did a bad, bad thing." All day there is someone who keeps mentioning every bad thing I've ever done.  This voice is especially vocal at night when I'm trying to sleep. So you can get a better idea of what this is like:

...only less sexy and with less film use.

I've been on a lean protein, low carb diet for almost three weeks now, so I also have this gollum-like person in the corner saying, "Bread... bread... we wants it, my precious.  We neeeeeeeeds it."  I mostly agree with that voice, though.

There are some rational voices, of course, but having them talking is sometimes frustrating because they're just adding to the noise. Also, my rational voices tend to be pessimistically rational, so that's not as helpful either.

All day, every day... this crowded room is in my head. I take it wherever I go. I can't get away from it. I'd assumed everyone had this fog of voices in their heads all the time, but then I found out that this is an OCD thing--at least with how crowded it is.

The meds quiet it down and get rid of a few voices, but they also have serious side effects. I've been off meds for a year, but I don't think I'll be able to be off them much longer. Some voices have been crowding out others and some are louder right now. Usually they mostly quiet down enough so I can hear my muse immediately after running or... uhh... other physical exertion. Sometimes, when I'm writing I can get out of the room and get into the world I created. That's really nice.

That's part of why Piper's chapters of this book are so difficult to work on.  She has twice the inner dialogue of Gris and that alone is too close to my real life.  It's nice to be in someone else's head for a change and work on Gris's chapters.  It's nice to be out of the crowded room.

Anyway, that's what life is like when you have severe OCD.  It's a crowded room.

Edited to add: I hid my OCD for the first 28 years of my life and while my mom has OCD and many in her family do, they hadn't realized it and none are as severe as I am--to my knowledge.  My mom feels really guilty she didn't catch that I had OCD until I told her, but I don't blame her, and I never have.  I began to be very open about my OCD when B was diagnosed, and I realized that I never wanted her to hide her OCD or be ashamed as I was.  I chose to be ashamed, and I chose to hide it.  My family never did anything to make me feel either of those things.  In a way, the fact that I had OCD is an incredible blessing because I'll be able to help my daughter.  I know some people with disorders are a product of their upbringing or their family life may have contributed, but I have the best family a girl can have. Honestly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


For many of you the fact that I'm obsessive about things seems obvious in light of the fact that you know I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but you might not have noticed my obsessions as they've played out... or maybe you have.

Obsessions with OCD are very strange.  It builds.  I eat and breathe something, spending hour upon hour on it; my life revolves around it.  It's all I think about.  I itch when I'm not doing it. It's the magnet, and I'm the metal, and it's pulling me toward it--all day--all night.  I need it like an addiction.  I have to finish it.  I have to complete it.  My life... my sanity depends on me finishing it. Then I finish, and I'm done. Sometimes I walk away, and I'm fine. Sometimes I never pick it up again. Ever.

Remember my Angry Birds phase?

I played Angry Birds until my battery ran out, and then I'd plug it in and hunch over it near the wall even though it wouldn't run quite right on a low battery.  I stayed up until 4 a.m. one night playing Angry Birds.  It was all I could think of.  It consumed me.  I had to make it to the next level and the next, and I had to finish them.  It was a rush inside me that built and built.  Nothing mattered as much as completing levels.  I didn't care about how many stars.  As long as I finished, I was good.  I played everywhere.  I missed sleep.  I forgot to eat.  Nothing mattered as much as Angry Birds.  Then, I finished all the levels... and it's been two or three weeks since I've played.  It doesn't matter.  I can't even understand why it was that vital to me.

This is how my life has played out.  A new obsession.  A new manic energy to finish at all costs.  Stress makes it worse.  Illness makes it worse.  I will push myself to crazy ridiculous lengths to complete or finish whatever my latest obsession is.  Then... I walk away, and it never has that same draw on me again.

Some of my obsessions have been more expensive than others.  I'm sure my husband wasn't as concerned about my Angry Birds phase.  Some of my obsessions have been hobbies like beading.  When I start something like that I need a lot of options.  I need choices--lots of choices laid out in front of me.  I manically collect everything I might ever need.  Then, it fades and I'm left with a load of expensive beads that are merely interesting and not my heart and soul anymore.

These last two weeks I've been obsessed with watching all of the Psych episodes.  Every night I've watched five or six episodes in a row.  It's hard to stop watching and go to bed.  I don't want to.  Last night, I finished.  It's so strange.  It's like coming up out of the water and realizing there is an entire world around you that continues. It's as if I'm coming out of a fog.

When I'm on OCD medication, sometimes I can walk away from an obsession. When I'm not, I've learned that I won't be able to stop until I finish it... so I work on finishing it. Inside my head, I'm thinking, "Wendy, this is nuts... you have things to do... you can't spend all your time doing this. Stop!"  I can't stop.  It's one of the absolutes: I can't stop.

One of the recent constants in my life is obsessive writing.  When I start a WIP, the momentum is all-consuming.  I'll sit down and write for hours and hours.  Sometimes I'll write for 12 hours every day for a week.  I can't sleep.  I don't care about food.  I'm certainly not going to clean.  The only thing that matters is getting the story down on paper.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing.  Writing is one of the few times when I like the obsession.  I like the manic energy.  It creates a product, an object--something to show for my obsession.  I wish I had the same manic energy for revision.

On the other hand, in the middle of a WIP, sometimes I average about 2-3 hours of sleep a night.  I can't concentrate on my kids' needs as much.  It's hard to focus.  Sometimes, I dream about my characters, and I wake up confused as to which is reality.  (Luckily, I can figure it out... but it's disconcerting for even a moment to think I've gone that deep into my fantasy world.)

I've had other writers envy how prolific I am, but it scares me sometimes.  At one point, after too many obsessive writing periods overlapping, I just wanted more than anything for my mind to be blank. Control is very important to me... and I'd lost control of my mind.  It scared me.  Luckily, these revision projects have broken it up so the obsessive writing hasn't taken over as much as it did that first year.

Obsession is a scary thing.  Unless you've been there... you can't imagine how intense it is.  You can't walk away without feeling like it would kill you.

So, tonight, I'm officially done with that obsession, and it's left me wondering: what next? What is the next thing that will devour my soul?

Maybe I'll be able to finish this revision on Secrets of Skin and Stone before the next wave sweeps me out to sea.  I hope so anyway.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Internet is Forever

This post might strike you as the ramblings of an extremely paranoid person, but this has been on my mind this week--and it's a passive aggressive way for me to deal with my reactions this week, so forgive me as I ramble.

I've been back on Twitter trying to catch up in my relationships with people and get more involved after the summer swamped me.  A good portion of people I follow are writers and those who aren't writers are good with words... I know that because, otherwise, I wouldn't follow them.  I don't generally unfollow anyone I initially follow so I take a good hard look at people's feeds before I follow them. I look for severe use of profanity, overuse of text speak, poor grammar (I'm sorry but I do... my OCD will kill me otherwise), inappropriate content, solely self-promotion, negativity, frequency of updates, whether they interact with followers, how likely they are to follow me back or stay following me, and so on. I judge them.  That's right, I judge them.  If I follow your blog or follow you on twitter, I've judged you. I don't use a program.  When it comes right down to whether I invite someone's words into my day, I go with my gut... with my emotion... and I judge them to be worthy or not.  Most of the time, I don't give people a second look to change that impression. The old adage that you have one chance to make a first impression is true even on the internet.

The internet and Twitter are packed with people.  I don't need to follow anyone because there aren't other people available. There are always more people.  More people join Twitter and get on the internet every day, but what you've JUST said... that's what you're being judged on... or maybe they did a search and it's what you said yesterday... or three years ago... the internet is forever after all, and you've just been judged. Maybe the bulk of people who judge you won't matter at all.  Maybe one will.  You can't know which.

There is always someone watching you on the internet. If you're a writer, that person might be your future agent, editor, or your future reader.  So, if you're on Twitter spreading vitriol because you're feeling cranky--it's 3 a.m. and you're still awake, it doesn't matter.  It's the middle of the night, right?  It's NOT 3 a.m. everywhere.  The internet is a 24 hour/7 days a week venue.  Even if you delete those Tweets, you haven't deleted them.  They can be found.  If nothing else, the Library of Congress has been nice enough to keep copies of all tweets.  If we've learned nothing else from celebrity scandals lately, you should know that anything you put out there can't be snatched back--even if you really, really want to.  The internet is forever.

This week there was an article in Publisher's Weekly that hit Twitter like a lit match in dry brush.  It was "supposedly" about two YA writers who were asked by an agent to remove a character who was gay.  The initial response from agents that I saw was complete and utter surprise because they'd never heard of such a thing.  Editors were the same way.  I read the article and just kept thinking of how many times I'd heard the opposite... of agents and editors requesting novels like that.  It felt wrong.  So, I just watched it go nuts all around me, and I felt somewhat bad for not participating, but I just kept thinking, "I don't think it's true.  I think they sensationalized a lie." Yesterday, it turned out not to be true.  While that hasn't spread quite as quickly... tomorrow it'll still be a lie. Next week, it'll still be a lie.  It'll forever be a lie on the internet, and several people who jumped on the pyre to rage with these poor, maligned authors now despise them for lying to everyone. The internet is forever, and mobs love to grab pitchforks.

I've been trying this week to get information off the internet about me.  It's not bad information, but it's information.  Most of you know how intensely I guard the privacy of my kids.  My kids' Autism makes them vulnerable, and my responsibility as a parent is to protect them.  I don't want my desire to have a public profile and to be on the internet to negatively impact them. I'm afraid to be on Facebook because I know people from our church or friends might not think anything of taking pictures of my kids and tagging them with their names. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get something off the internet once it's there?  I already knew that, but it's been ground into my brain this week.  It's like letting go a bag of feathers in a windstorm and hoping to gather them all up.  One site takes it and passes it to the next and to the next and to the next. Anything you put on the internet can be passed on like an endless game of telephone.  It's a runaway train.  It's a raging river of information.  The best thing is to never put that information out there if you don't want it distributed.  The internet is forever, and it's often malignant, and what you write will spread.

This week, my blog started giving malware warnings for a brief amount of time.  My blogroll followed other blogs who followed another blog who'd been attacked by hackers.  It trickled back through the blogs back to mine.  It was interesting to see that as broad as the internet is--there are groups that are not.  In the writing community, we're all connected if you're trying for an online presence.  If you think there isn't a chance that your blog or your tweet won't be seen by the person you're talking about, you're wrong. There is always that chance. I remember once upon a time I asked for advice on which YA books to buy based on whether they had profanity or sex in them.  At the time, I didn't know the authors but I'd seen the covers of the books and read the blurbs and been intrigued.  It was kind of a shock to see one of the authors had responded himself to tell me about the content in the book. Once upon a time, I was also discussing the content of the book Shiver on Twitter and Maggie Stiefvater jumped in to discuss it. The internet is big... but google can make it as small as a corner cafe.

We tend to feel a certain anonymity as we type away on our keyboards at wherever we are.  There's a disconnection when you can't see the results of your words on someone's face.  Sometimes we forget that words can hurt.  Sometimes we think no one is reading.  It doesn't matter if no one is reading it today, though.  It doesn't matter if no one is reading it tomorrow.  Yesterday, I stumbled across something someone posted in 1993 when the internet was still relatively new (in the capacity it exists today.)  Eighteen years ago, that person had that opinion.  I'm not sure if they still do today, but it doesn't matter... because the internet is forever.  Your words will eventually be read.  For better or for worse, they will be read.  Maybe they'll be read by the audience you'd intended and maybe not.  How would you feel either way?  It takes very little effort to be kind and to say nice things.  Sometimes it's hard to control your temper but some words are better left unsaid.  The officiator marrying my husband and I advised us to not say anything in anger that you'll wish you could take back because you won't be able to. Just like in real life, once you say something--it can't be unsaid.

The internet is a big world.

The internet is a small world.

It's full of people, but it's full of individuals.  The opinion of one single person can make a difference.

The internet is forever.

Unless, of course, the machines or zombies take over; in which case, it's every person for themselves. ; )

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back into the Fray

Oy, once again, I seem to have forgotten to keep up with my blog. I don't know how other writers who are parents manage to get it all done. I'm really struggling to find the hours while still allow for down time at night to recover from the day. My kids have only been in school since last Wednesday so maybe I'll start to find more hours for social networking endeavors and writing.

So, Sarah got back with line edits on the first eleven chapters of Secrets of Skin and Stone's revision but the remaining thirteen are going to take more than line edits... which is sort of what I felt when I finished them. It's a complicated emotion this whole revision thing.... On the one hand, you want it to magically be done and perfect, but when you know it's not... you don't want your agent coming back and telling you that it is.

September might be another month spent on revisions. Possibly October. I hope not October.

Diana, early on, told me to learn to love revising because I'd be doing a lot of it. I won't say I absolutely adore this later revision process. I do like reading it the first time after it's complete almost as much as I enjoy the creation process. I'm okay with revisions, though, and it's a good thing because Diana was right. Holy cow, writers spend a lot of time doing revisions.

So. Much. Time.

Someone asked me how many times I'd revised Secrets of Skin and Stone, and I have no idea at this point. There have been major revisions... and I've done four or five of those. There have been endless amounts of smaller revisions where I'd read through it and catch smaller things.

So. Many. Revisions.

I'm approaching my third year anniversary of finishing my first novel, and I'll have been on Twitter for two years at that point. There are a ton of writers out there. A ton. There are a lot on Twitter. Finishing a novel is hard but you learn so much along the way. Revising is the same way. A writer who doesn't write is not a writer. A writer who doesn't revise will never improve. I have improved and continue to improve, and it's a process that your writing needs... that you need.

Anyway, this blog post feels rambling when all I really planned on saying is that I'm back to working on revisions.

As far as the kids go, they're both loving school, but T's sensory system is very touchy, and they've both managed to pick up their first colds already. (Gotta love the school's petri dish.) B is in a class with my best friend's son, and she loves her teacher. I think this is going to be a good school year. *fingers crossed*

So... back into the fray... *opens Word document* *battle cry ensues*

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thoughts on the Business End of Writing

*snort laughs* I hear the phrase "business end" and think of it as a euphemism for butt.


Sorry... no, really... this is a serious blog post. *puts on serious hat*

So, while we were down in Utah, I had an interesting experience. My mother-in-law (henceforth referred to as MIL) loves an ice cream shop that uses liquid nitrogen to make its ice cream. You sit and watch as your ingredient choices turn from cream to ice cream right in front of you. It is pretty cool. Anyway, the owner of the shop and my MIL have gotten to know each other and the owner wrote and self-published a contemporary romance, so my MIL thought we might like chatting about publishing. It was a really interesting conversation and it left me with two thoughts rattling around in my brain.

One of the first things to come up was that I have an agent, and this other author said, sounding defeated, "Oh, I tried querying. I queried 38 times!" I responded, "I queried 131 times, and I emailed back and forth with my agent for eight months before she signed me." I said it as nice as I could, but... the reality is that most writers who sign... don't sign with the first dozen agents they query. I won't say that not all do, but I could tell from this author's voice that she thought she'd failed when 38 queries didn't net an offer of representation. She was shocked and said, "Maybe I should try querying again." I won't say that traditional publishing is the way for everyone, but it just killed me to hear someone assume that they couldn't get an agent after less than 50 queries.

If you get no response, then, at the very least, you need to work on your query, but I've used dozens of different queries for the same books and some queries generated more interest than others. Sometimes, you need the right tone and so on.... Also, I researched agents thoroughly... like really thoroughly. There was about an hour of work behind each and every one of my queries. BTW, if you've never heard the story of how I got an agent, I'm going to cheat and send you to my QT story: http://www.querytracker.net/success/wendy_sparrow.php

The second interesting thing I took from that discussion happened when she asked if I was published. I immediately said, "No, I'm not published yet. My agent is submitting a novel right now." My husband jumped in and said, "Yes, you are! You've had two short stories published this year!" It reminded me of how lucky I've been to have a really strong support group--who'll jump in and remind me of my success when I forget. There has been a lot of times when I've wanted to walk away from this whole thing. Trying to get published is not all fun and games... it sooooo isn't. It's a lot of waiting and stressing and thinking you suck. My husband has always supported me in whatever I wanted to do. Whenever I show an aptitude for something, he's jumped in my corner... even when it's been expensive. (She says while typing on the laptop her husband insisted she buy when she first started writing.)

I don't know what the other author took from that conversation. Success can be measured in a lot of different ways. I have an agent. She has a published book. I won't say either of us is more successful than the other. I don't think any single path as a writer can be duplicated or mimicked to find success.

On the other hand, if I've learned nothing from my experience--things happen sometimes in their own time. And the experiences I've had while waiting my turn were invaluable. It takes time to learn to write well... time and practice. Sometimes, it takes time to get an agent or a publisher or whatever your goal is... time and often luck or fate or divine intervention--depending on your beliefs. There are aspects of success which are outside of your control so the best you can do is to keep doing. Honestly, I believe that.

So these are my Monday thoughts on the publishing world... and now I really need to finish that revision.