Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I close my eyes, and it begins, and it doesn't end.

I thought my insomnia had broken a few nights ago. I'd hoped it had, but I think it was wishful thinking. Some nights, I spend more time trying to get to sleep than actually sleeping. Some nights, I'll spend six hours trying to get to sleep and only three or four hours sleeping. This last week has been like that... and to add to the misery, I've started getting tension headaches from lack of sleep and stress. It's like the insult I could have done without.

If I've seemed short with anyone this week... I apologize; I haven't been myself. I've been that other Wendy... and none of us like her. She's mean. She yells everything. She's a little like the Hulk... only slightly less green and bulky.

Tonight, I've been lying in bed for an hour and a half staring at the back of my eyelids. I've tried to con my mind into focusing on fiction rather than nonfiction (aka stress)... but not SECRETS because then I'd have to get up and write it down. In some ways, it's working. I've got a full story going on in my head... but I'm still awake.

Last summer, I spent the summer writing short stories--writing the stories that I used to get to sleep. The summer's story collection is an ode to insomnia. It's around 150K. My insomnia generated 150K worth of stories.

This summer, I'm trying to focus on projects, but it's not working as well as the short stories.

I feel wrung out, shattered... hopeless. I know most of it is because of a lack of sleep. You can only go without sleep for so long. Your body starts dragging your brain down to sleep regardless of whether you're awake. Plus, everything seems impossible and hard when you're this tired.

Then, there is the kids. T isn't doing so well. He is in constant overload. I'm not sure how he is going to handle scout camp this week. B is doing better, but they argue when T is like this. The arguing and the constant noise is getting to me. My skin itches to be in right now.

I know I can get through this and work on what I need to. I know I can. I know it'll be done by the end of August. I just wish I could get from point A to point B as easily during the summer as during the fall.

Even the moon is annoying me tonight... it's too bright. It's freakishly bright.

*sighs* Insomnia is brutal. Your body is so tired. You feel exhausted clear to the bones and, yet, you're awake. It feels as if you've piled sandbags on every square inch of you--you feel THAT tired... and yet you're awake.

For hours.

Staring at the back of your eyelids.

And you have early morning church.


Okay, I'm going back to stare at the freakishly bright moon. Night.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Conversations with an Eight Year Old--Part Two

So, the endless questions continue with T. They go on and on. Sometimes, I wake up to him staring at me, waiting to ask me a question. His Aspergers means that he doesn't "get" why this is creepy and weird. Sometimes, he also doesn't get that when people have their eyes closed while in bed... they're sleeping. The other day, he woke me up by throwing a can of raviolis at me while saying, "I'm hungry." In the car, I'm a captive audience to throw questions at... endless questions... forever and ever and ever and ever....


T: "So, school is like slavery, isn't it?"

Wendy: (sputters out laughing) "What? No! School is nothing like slavery."

T: "Well, there are rules and rules are like laws and laws are like orders. So, school is like slavery."

Wendy: "School is nothing like slavery. Learning and math and reading are nothing like slavery."

T: "A little, though, right?"

Wendy: "No."

T is silent for a bit and I think he's conceded the point, but I don't know why I think this anymore. He cannot and will not concede any points as long as he draws breath. (See previous post on genner.)

T: "They tell you what to do at school, though; so, that's like slavery."

Wendy: "School is nothing like slavery."

T: "Why?"

Wendy: (I'm tired... exhausted actually, so my ability to form logical arguments has completely deserted me.) "Because I said it's not. You're in school to learn, and it's not that bad."

T: (mutters under breath) "School is a little like slavery."

B: "What's twenty times twenty-four?"

Wendy: (has nervous breakdown)

*head slap* Okay, so some of you might think, "Hey, Wendy... you missed a wonderful and touching opportunity to explain the plight of slavery in history and modern times. You missed a glorious teaching moment! For shame!" First of all, this is my blog... and how dare you? HOW DARE YOU??? *diva slap* Actually, in all honesty, I was too tired to do anything other than "because I said so!" but also THIS IS T. T will pick the worst possible moment to parrot back comments or ask awkward questions. Until you're in a grocery store and your son says loudly, "So, I know the Chinese kill their boy babies due to overpopulation, but I have one question..." well... you just wouldn't understand. Trust me. He does that.

*makes note to thank husband for explaining infanticide in overpopulated Asian countries to second grader*

So, next time you feel like saddling up your moral high horse and riding it around my blog... first... nice horse... second... I'm not touching the land mine that is slavery until he's in fourth grade, and I won't sound like a zealot when my son parrots it back in the weirdest terms possible. People expect fourth graders to know crazy weird things. People don't really expect small boys to spout weird facts and info in grocery stores. Trust me, I know these things. I've learned these things. I'm waiting.

In the mean time, I'm going to continue to throw my poor eight year old into what he thinks is akin to cruel oppression.

Actually, I can't wait until third grade rolls around, and he's forced to go back to that hell hole where they worry if he doesn't have a coat at recess when they send him out to play on the biggest slide I've ever seen at a grade school.

Because that's what slavery is... the cold cruel world with a giant slide that they force you to sit down on when you slide down it.

These awful rules... which are like laws which is almost the same as orders! This oppressive regime. What are they thinking? They're monsters! Monsters!

We also got into a discussion about what constituted singing vs. humming vs. whistling vs. chanting when I asked them to be very, very quiet because I had a really, really bad headache. (I've had headaches nearly every day for a week... I've been a tiny bit short-tempered.) Specifically... I first asked them not to hum because it made my head want to explode. Specificity is often my downfall.


Wendy: "STOP!"

T: "I wasn't humming anymore. I was singing then. Humming isn't the same as singing."

Wendy: (moans) "Just be quiet."

B: (whistles)

Wendy: "Stop whistling."

T: "I can still sing right? You didn't mention singing? I can still sing right?"

Wendy: "Stop making noise!"

B: "What if I whistle quietly?"

Wendy: "No."

(Someone in the back seat starts banging things together.)

Wendy: (snarls) "We're playing a game... it's called "If you make any noise with anything, I will throw it out the window." Stop clicking things together!"

T: "So, if I hum you'll throw my mouth out the window?"

Wendy: "Yes! Yes, I will. Would you like to test that theory?"

(Blissful silence for nearly a minute while T tries to figure out how that might work... and then he starts humming.)

B: "What's four hundred plus three hundred and sixty-seven?"

*sighs* When is September again? Can we skip August just this once?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In the Darkness, There is More Darkness

Every so often I talk about OCD on here. It's not something I'm ashamed of. Not anymore anyway. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's severe. It's really severe. It eats away at my thoughts all day and into the night. I avoid triggers. I wash my hands a lot. I get worse. I hide it better. It can be bad and not at all useful. I don't clean due to OCD. That would be nice. I'm not like that.

There are a few other things I have that most medical professionals would term co-morbid.

I get a little crazy at certain points during my hormone cycle. By crazy, I mean mental and psychotic, but I try to hide that so mostly you don't see that.

I have sensory processing issues that sometimes rival my kids'. It's mostly noise. I can't stand noise. I don't like white noise or loud noise or noise pollution of any kind. There are a few other things that set me off, but noise is the worst.

I have insomnia--not sissy, it-takes-me-a-bit insomnia, but lie-awake-for-four-hours-staring-at-the-ceiling and a-week-with-only-three-hours-a-night insomnia.

I also have agoraphobia--which, for me, translates into not wanting to go outside or to any place I'm not familiar with. One example is that I'll never go anywhere that I don't have a plan for where I'll park beforehand. I can't do it. I'd rather stay home. I need to know where my car--which is an extension of my house in my brain--will stop. I also don't like people in my home outside of my husband and kids. That's it. Sometimes, we'll go six months without having anyone else in our house and that's fine with me. I like it that way. I wish it could always be that way.

All of my issues ebb and rise with my hormones and stress levels. They also tend to aggravate one another. If my insomnia is bad, it trips my agoraphobia. If my sensory-processing is bad, it keeps me up at night. They bang off each other and make everything worse.

I don't know why I'm bringing this up... maybe sometimes I just like to talk about it to prove that it doesn't scare me like it once did. I know I'm stronger, and I've always been stronger than this disorder that devours my thoughts. Sometimes I do stuff just to prove who is in control. I go outside just to laugh in the face of my agoraphobia. I jump in a mud puddle just to mock my OCD. Then, I pay for it. In some small way or sometimes in a big way, I pay for it.

Okay, maybe I do know why I'm bringing this up.

Writing SECRETS was hard for me to write, and it'll be hard to rework too. It's going into my dark corners and yanking what roosts there out into the light. OCD isn't pretty. My mind is a dark, dark place that sometimes feels so dark that I can't imagine there ever being light in there. You can't imagine the darkness. I guarantee it. Unless you have OCD or one of its cousins, you can't imagine how convoluted and dark our minds are. You can't imagine how the thoughts build and twist and torque until you're convinced that if you don't do something or if you do it... people will die.

When I wrote SECRETS last year around this time, I remember thinking, "Why can't I just leave these monsters in the corners? Why am I doing this? Why am I trying to show people that inside me is a leashed darkness that I barely keep from eating me alive?"

Then, I wrote SECRETS and I eased up and left some of it in the corners. There were pieces that disappeared in revisions because I wanted to cut the ties to me. Maybe it was gutless, but I wasn't sure how people would react. I played up some aspects and maybe downplayed others, and what emerged was a good story but perhaps not the one I meant it to be in the beginning.

So, now, I'm reworking SECRETS and I'm staring into a cave, searching for a monster I've created, and it'd be easier to walk away. Once I leash that thing and drag it out into the light...

I can't imagine.

OCD is a horror story. It doesn't go away. The thoughts will smother everything if you let them. Your brain is crowded like a loud train station on a hot day where everything is coated with the heat of too many things in a shared space, and the hum is so loud it could make you deaf. My mind is like that every moment of every day for the rest of my life. The meds keep it from bothering me as much and make the noise more dull. I'm not on meds right now, though. They have a lot of side effects so I've been trying to go without them... which feels like the wrong choice this week, but the right choice other weeks.

Out of this madness I'm to craft a story about something that isn't horrific. Something hopeful. Something that will help and not hurt.

That's madness, isn't it?

Anyway, Sarah thinks I can do it. I sent her the revised beginning of SECRETS and she liked it. I just wonder, "If we poke in the dark corners, will we really like what pokes back?" We'll see I guess. I have the rest of July and August to figure it out.

We'll see. I've never backed down from a challenge or failed when I believed in something, and I think I can do this. We shall see.

At the very least, it won't be boring.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Conversations with the Muse

I'm trying to con my muse into helping me work on Secrets of Skin and Stone. Thus far, it's not going as well as I might like.

Wendy: (dangles Mountain Dew in front of muse.) C'mon.... it'll be fun. Sarah said it will be fun.

Muse: (raises eyebrows) Really? That's what you're going with? Mountain Dew?

Wendy: (sighs) We've got to do it. You know we do.

Muse: We already wrote this book. (points at other WIPs) We haven't written those. We should work on those.

Wendy: (snaps in front of muse's face) Hey! Focus.... focus. Ignore the shiny.

Muse: (rolls eyes) Okay... what else do you have?

Wendy: Uhh danger music?

Muse: Danger music?

Wendy: Yeah... you know the music that plays during movie trailers and during actions scenes? I though maybe we could hum it while we work on the chapter summary. I thought maybe if we pictured the book as a series of flashing action scenes and then filled in the blanks....

Muse: That's what you're bringing to the table? Mountain Dew and danger music?

Wendy: Possibly sex. We might be able to con the husband into sex tonight if we finish this chapter summary.

Muse: Dude, that's all you... otherwise it's creepy... it's like a threesome.

Wendy: Yeah, I suppose. I was hoping... the endorphins...?

Muse: I do like endorphins.

Wendy: We don't have to tell him.

Muse: There is that.

Wendy: Plus, danger music and Mountain Dew. (eyes house) I should probably clean, though. Possibly do some laundry.

Muse: Okay, you do that... and bring the danger music and Mountain Dew and we'll see what happens.

Wendy: Hopefully some very dark things. BAWAHAHAHA!

Muse: Don't do that.

Wendy: What?

Muse: The laugh. Don't do the laugh.

Wendy: (rolls eyes) Fine. (Starts humming)

Muse: That's the Last of the Mohicans theme. What the hell kind of book do you think we're writing?

Wendy: Uhh....

Muse: (rolls eyes) Go with something from Terminator or maybe Transformers.

Wendy: Fine.

Muse: Fine.

Wendy: Pass the Mountain Dew.

Muse: (passes) You finish off that diet crap. I don't run on diet crap.

Wendy: Oh for the love of....!

Muse: Don't profane.

Wendy: (smiles)

Danger Music:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taking a Story to the Bones

I can't tell if that title sounds just dirty or ominous or both or ominously dirty... you decide.

So, I'm working on a... reimagination of Secrets of Skin and Stone and it may incorporate but not gut Promises of Light and Dark.

Part of this will involve bringing in the larger story that I didn't even imagine when I started writing SECRETS... and it wasn't until Sarah asked me to open up SECRETS for the possibility of a sequel that I realized it wasn't just a single book. It still will read as a stand-alone in the end, I'm hoping, but there are other people involved that I never hinted at when I wrote SECRETS.

I've mentioned this before, but in case this is your first time here... my agent wants me to write a version of SECRETS for the film agent with her agency to present to producers. It needs more... plot points that involve action. So, I've got her notes on what several sources mentioned needs to be in the final draft and I'm working from that.

This will take SECRETS down to the bones of what it's about. I've never actually done a revision this deep. Of course, I'd never done a chapter-by-chapter summary before Sarah asked me to. There's nothing saying I can't do it, so I might as well try.

It comes down to "what's sacred" will stay in, but everything else is up for grabs. If you've never read Maggie Stiefvater's thoughts on revision, you should check out this post. It's brilliant.

So, what's sacred in SECRETS?

I told Sarah when we first started talking about SECRETS that there was one thing I would fight for... that I refused to sell my book to an editor who'd take it out. I was absolutely adamant on this one single point... You'd think it would be about Gris being a gargoyle. It isn't. That's not actually sacred. He's a gargoyle as a foil for Piper's issues... which are sacred. I told Sarah that I absolutely wouldn't tolerate having the cutting scenes tamed for public consumption. I knew that they made SECRETS a bit edgy but, if anything, I wanted Piper's OCD to be that way. I wanted readers to know that OCD is not simple and pretty.

So, Piper's cutting and her OCD are sacred.

Nothing else is sacred.

Everything else can be cut.

Those are the bones of the story.

I have to keep telling myself that.

Voice is king.... voice is always king. I'll revise until the voice is as strong as it is in this version in the new one. That's the other thing I keep telling myself.

So, my goal, to start off, is to go from Sarah's notes and chapter notes (my agent is a super hero, btw) and write a new chapter-by-chapter summary of this new SECRETS. It'll steal some from SECRETS... possibly some aspects of PROMISES but I want to add a lot more of an ominous feel to it as well as more action. Gris has some cool powers as a Watcher that I under-utilize. I need to really grab those and hype those up.

It needs more cowbell. More violent cowbell. If you don't understand the phrase: more cowbell--> Go HERE.

When I wrote SECRETS I only knew what was happening in Hidden Creek, Alabama for the few steps ahead of what I was writing. Now, I've written out PROMISES and I've written out a chapter-by-chapter summary of Betrayals of Blood and Spirit (the third book in the series... should it turn into a series.) I now know exactly what is happening in Hidden Creek. I've seen what is lurking in the corners.

I feel almost as if I've been given a unique gift in some ways... how would you rewrite the first book in a series if you knew exactly how the rest of the books went? Because of knowing this, I can knock out continuity errors, plant more hints, and really focus on what is sacred and where the action is.

It's a gift.

It's still scary.

I might have a breakdown.

I'll probably need lots of Mountain Dew.

In other news, I sent Sarah Sentinel's Run. That was also scary. I keep hoping such things will get less scary, but having a story bleed out of your brain onto the screen and then sending that off for someone to like or not like... it's a strange process. The world of Sentinel's Run only existed in my mind but it felt bigger than that. It always does. So, showing someone else that... it's always a little freaky.

Okay... back to that chapter summary. *takes a deep breath* *dives in*

Friday, July 8, 2011

Riding in Cars with Boys

I could have also titled this post "How I Spent my Summer Vacation" because it amounts to the same thing. Summers are spent shuttling my kids from place to place to place to place.... endlessly. Either it's playdates or activities or scouts for T or stuff for B. I spend an outrageous amount of time in the car with the kids during the summer.

B has her annoying car ride moments. She likes to play this math game which makes everyone want to beat their head against something sharp. "What's one plus one plus two plus seven plus....." She genuinely enjoys these little math word problems, but the rest of us (and specifically me--due to the repetition... well, it's hell... it really is.)

She STOPS though... (once I scream her name in a voice that sounds like I'm on the verge of a breakdown) not so with the son.

T's annoying car moments beat B's to a bloody pulp and then stand on the corpse and kick its head. No. Really. T asks question after question after question. Car rides are like a long endless game of Jeopardy where everything is in the form of a question. Most are science questions which I can't answer. Some are about computer games... which I also can't answer. Some are logic problems--I'm not logical. A handful are about movies--YES!!!!! They're rare and usually he bounces to a completely different subject immediately. My husband can answer about 99% of the questions. This has led my son to believe his mother is an idiot. Sometimes I agree with him.

T has Asperger's, though which often leads to a belief that he is always right... even when he is wrong... he's right. He's also a genius--for only being eight... he's a fricken genius. One thing he is frequently incorrect on is the pronunciation of things. He's so far ahead for his age that he's read thousands of words that he's never "heard" before. So, rather than correcting the pronunciation in his brain, he stubbornly insists that his pronunciation is ALWAYS the right one. This comes up, at least, once a day.

Today, this is how our car ride went:

Wendy: "I'm tired of approving all these accounts for you on these online sites. I wake up to emails every day now saying, "Your son has opened an account on..." well... actually it says "your child...." not "your son." (I have to make this corrections because T will dive bomb them.)

T: "Yeah, it says "your child" because it doesn't ask for my genner on the sites."

Wendy: "It's pronounced GENDER not genner."

T: "I pronounce it genner."

Wendy: "I'm not having this conversation with you." (I fought him on feature which he was pronouncing future the previous day for ten minutes, and he is still intending to pronounce it future.)

T: (seriously) "Because you know I'll win?"

Wendy: (Laughs so hard that she nearly can't breathe)

T: "That's it, isn't it? You know I'll win. I always win."

Wendy: "No... well... maybe in your mind."

T: (not seeing a difference between what I just said and reality): "Exactly. I always win."

Wendy: (Takes a long drink of Mt. Dew)

B: "What's one plus two plus one plus three plus....?"

Wendy: (Takes another long drink of Mt. Dew)

T: "Mom, one question: if you took those pull-string party poppers and cut them in half and then...."

Wendy: (ignores son and daughter)

T: "Do you suppose that's a future of them?" (He means feature.)

Wendy: (Has nervous breakdown)

So, now you know... I drink (Mt. Dew) and drive... also you can see why my sanity is slipping and raggedy around the edges... which is why I took my kids to their aunt's house tonight and they're spending the night with her... because I was pretty sure I was at the end of my rope. Really. Their cool aunt Heidi is intending on taking them to the Drive-in. I'm so excited. It's so quiet in this house without them. Blissfully quiet. Strangely quiet. And no questions. Le sigh. *eyes Husband* He'll probably ask questions just to annoy me now. I should drag him out on a date before he tries that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yay or nay. Yeah or nah. Oui or Non. It's done.

So, I took Sentinel's Run from a level zero to a level... five... with seven being the highest. (Because I like seven... that's why... so shut up.)

The continuity errors gave me fits at first, and I wanted to weep, but I made it through those via lots and lots of Mountain Dew and late nights.

Then, came the voice revision... and you know from previous blog posts that voice is king in my world. A book can have all kinds of problems, but if the voice is good... that saves everything. If I can hear their voice in my head, it's perfect and wonderful and I love it.

I wasn't hearing it on Sentinel's Run... not completely. The world was good. The plot is awesome... it has a lot more action, and it's tighter than my other stories. I might do chapter summaries from now on when I'm preparing to work on a book. But the voice wasn't as obvious as in other books I've recently finished.

Voice is king.

Then, over the weekend, I stumbled across the perfect fix for the voice, and everything fell into place. Usually, that's the way of it--when the voice works, I hear birds and see magic, and I just want to run out into the streets and scream in relief. That's how this was.

In other books, once I figured out a few key words that my MC would say... then I knew what they'd say about everything.

In this book, it was all in how Coby responded to questions... did he say "yes" or "okay" or "fine" or "yeah" or what? Was it "no" or "not really" or "nah" or.... When I realized he'd say "yeah" or "nah" and "fine" but never "no" or "yes" and rarely "okay" it all started slipping into place.

Then, I had Mori... who is from an area heavily influenced by French Quebec... and she keeps slipping into French. So, I went through and made sure that she always responded with "oui" or "non" especially when she was under stress, and I watched for those stressful points and added even more French. All week I've had several tabs with French translations and Quebec slang open... right beside sites with farm equipment pictures. I've looked like a cultured hick according to my browsing history.

So, Sentinel's Run is done... and it's well done. I'm really proud of myself. It's not often that I want to hug a manuscript once it's complete, but I want to hug this one. I've sent it off to three betas who'd read the beginning of it last year when I first started it. Then, I suppose I'll let it settle for six months unless Sarah tells me differently. So, I should be revising it the beginning of next year if I can manage it... which is probably when I'll start the second book in the series... if my schedule holds. Looking back, I haven't really kept to my planned schedule at all so far.

Next up, I have a beta read to work on over the next few days, and then I'm burying myself in SECRETS for the rest of the summer. I need to create a more high-stakes version for the film agent. Woo! Violent cowbell!

My muse wants to work on the other WIP that I walked out on last year, My Other Life, so maybe I'll work on that when I'm done with SECRETS or while working on SECRETS. It takes place in Las Vegas so the voices aren't at all the same. It's also in third person... so that might factor into when I can work on it. I don't know. I might create a chapter summary for it just to keep my brain on task. I might do that for SECRETS too.

Well, that's my writerly news.

In non-writerly news, my husband got our Subaru fixed which entailed swapping out the entire engine. It's pretty amazing. It's been out of commission for a while, so it's weird to have another car. He worked on it all weekend and then some. It's so awesome having a husband who can do stuff like that. It feels magical. He's magical. He can fix anything... I'm pretty sure. Everyone should marry useful geeks like him. The world would be a better place... but not him... he's mine... I found him first... get your own.

My kids had a good 4th of July. T is severely spun out from fireworks and hanging out with friends and family. He fell to pieces today at the park when he thought we were out of water for a moment. (My friend had extra water... and it wasn't more than a short walk to get some.) That's how it works with T... the little things add up until he starts falling to pieces over everything. B is doing really well. We got a YMCA membership and we've been taking her to swim at the pool which is perfect for her sensory system. They have a slide, and she goes down the slide over and over and over and over--in a loop.

I'm really, really stressed out. My OCD is so obvious to me that I just want to make excuses for it and say, "I'm sorry... but I have OCD and that's why I'm acting like this." It's probably not all that obvious to those that don't know, but it feels obvious. It's like when the kids were young and would have meltdowns in grocery stores over minor things and I just wanted to shout "They have Autism! They're not bad kids!" I just want to shout, "I have OCD... I swear I'm not psycho... but can you NOT keep repeating yourself or I'll be forced to kill you! Also, your kid isn't being safe! Go stop them from doing that, or I'll be yanking them off the slide while screaming and shouting and ranting... okay? Okay... good. We're clear that I'm not psycho, though, right?" It's so severe that I can't sleep. I stare at the ceiling for an hour or two or three while my brain obsesses over one thing or the other. Finally, exhaustion is knocking me down at three or four in the morning before T stares me awake at eight a.m. (He has got to learn a better way to wake me up... the staring is so creepy.)

Okay, so that was a long update.

So, how is your summer going? *hugs*