Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Friday, December 7, 2012

That Which Doesn't Kill Us...

Will make it in a book someday.

*This post contains references to THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED. If you're squeamish, run...run fast...run hard...but run. And if you don't know what I'm referring to, you must not have grade school-age children. Yes. That. You've been warned.*

Hey, everyone, my November was insane--and by insane I mean I nearly had a psychotic episode from lack of sleep and stress around Thanksgiving. I averaged around 3 hours of sleep most nights during that month--other than the three times I had the stomach flu and then I crashed for longer periods.

*THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED is not the stomach flu. If you thought it was the stomach flu, then you're a newb to the world of horrible, horrible experiences. Run away--while you still can.*

I also went to B's sixth grade camp as a chaperone in early November. If you've known me for a bit, you know I have severe clinical OCD--so luckily the camp was in cabins with showers and not "real" camping. Still, I had three days with nine girls who were not my daughter (our kids couldn't stay in our cabins--so they could have the "same" camp experience.) Fun. Fun. Fun.

One of the joys I brought home from camp was the stomach flu. One of my cabin members gave me about a ten second warning of "Mrs. Sparrow, I don't feel so good..." Just before she hurled. Special, special memories. Also, B got to dissect a squid at camp--but that was actually hilarious--maybe I'll post pictures sometime.

*Now, for some background information so you can understand why THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED is such hell for me in particular.*

I don't have Hollywood OCD. My house is rarely clean or organized--other than piles--I do like piles--and I do try--I just also hate cleaning. I don't have to touch things a certain amount of time--in fact I practice avoidance so thoroughly that up until I came out and started telling people I have OCD eight years ago--few people knew. My primary OCD issue is contamination--and contamination is a broad definition for me, but body fluids and nature are up there at the top. (My kids have always gotten a free pass inside my comfort zone because I gave birth to them so my OCD sees them as an extension of me.) But my contamination issues are severe--they keep me inside--they keep me away from people--usually, they keep me away from nature. I have many other OCD issues, but contamination is the top one.

So, I came home from camp just sort of wigging out from the whole experience even though the camp was very well run and then I came down with the stomach flu that night.

But that wasn't the only gift that came home from camp. I also caught lice.

I will now pause while you all scratch your head furiously and possibly navigate to a different page. (No judgement here--I would do that.) And that, my friends, is THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED.

I'm thirty-six years old. I made it to thirty-six without EVER experiencing this joy...and by joy I mean hell because it is pure hell. Because you want to burn all of your possessions, cut off all your hair, shave all your body hair just to be safe, and then also die because you will never forget this experience. Ever.

Wait, are you still here? Are you still reading? Dude, you are hardcore! *high-fives*

There are certain things that top my list of things that will make me weep and curl into a ball--and lice is up at the top. In fact, lice is the top of my OCD phobias. It hits every area of my OCD. I've always said that lice would send me into a Psych ward and it very nearly did. My husband has become an old pro at handling females with OCD but I think my reaction to this experience even freaked him out. I couldn't stop shaking and crying. I was nearly in a fugue state. It was very, very, very bad.

I think most people have a similar reaction...but then you multiply it by eighty for me. I cried forever. I cried myself dehydrated. I couldn't stop shaking. And I did curl up into a ball and just cry and shake.

We nuclear bombed my hair with the expensive stuff--and that got most of them--and then I soaked my head in Listerine for two hours. The Listerine kicked lice butt. That was over three weeks ago. My hair still smells like Listerine. And Listerine smells like no lice...but also like Listerine. Just FYI. (BTW, if you ever try this--make sure to get the brown/yellow Listerine or you'll dye your hair green or blue. You can thank me later.)

If you're still on this page, holy freak! I didn't realize we were that tight. I might have to get your address and send you a gift card or a twenty or something. But, once again, no judging if you duck off.

By the way, once you get lice--you will forever have lice. ("But, Wendy, you said you got rid of it..." "Dude, I don't think lice has ever been eradicated that fast--they didn't know what hit them. It was a lice-Armageddon. I'm pretty sure I've killed lice for future generations at this point.") No. Once you itch because it IS lice--you will always think it's lice. You're not itching because you soaked your head in Listerine for two hours and forever changed the PH of your scalp--no, it must be lice. It won't be because you're writing or reading a blog post--that you should have navigated away from--about lice. NO! It's lice! It will always be lice that you fear. Lice. Lice. Lice. It will always be lice. *hisses* You will have it forever.

You didn't leave. Okay, now I am judging you...I'm judging you to be awesome...and insane. I bet you eat nails for breakfast.

I also received news from both a radiologist and a dentist that were no good. Three words you never want to hear a radiologist say: We found something. I'd gone in for a routine appointment but I was also hoping to find out why my hair was falling out--and this is the reason my hair is falling out and the appointment became not so routine and sucked. I need to go back for further testing. It might be nothing. It might be cancer. How often can you say that? Hopefully, not often.

Actually, in a normal world...Cancer would THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED but in my world, I'm more afraid of living through lice again. True story. OCD is like that.

If it is cancer--which it most likely isn't--I did something horribly stupid five years ago. Five years ago, I did a treatment for OCD that has a high, high risk for this particular type of cancer. But I was out of the age demographic for it--and I told my doctor that no, no one in my family had ever had THAT type of cancer--only I just found out my great grandmother died of THAT type of cancer.

PSA--know what type of cancers and serious health conditions run in your family. I never should have done this OCD treatment, and there's no way my doctor would have let me if I'd known. *sighs* Actually, I was about to ask my doctor if I could go back on this treatment again. It helped. C'est la vie.

Every time I turned around in November, something new went wrong--and all those stomach flus messed with my OCD med dosing. I shouldn't take the meds on an empty stomach--the meds are too strong. And they definitely need to actually hang out in my system for a bit longer than the flu affords--so then I took too little. So, I was mental. My husband is a saint. He didn't stay at work late--like most sane men would have--he even stayed home to help me cope the day after I found out I got lice from camp.

So, in order to cope, I buried myself in my NaNo novels...yes...novels. I wrote 150K in twenty-one days. Two novels. It was better than my reality so I embraced it--and I have this problem with my OCD--it makes my writing obsessive. I can't stop writing and sleep until it's all out of my head. I got to see the sunrise several times from the wrong side of sleeping--on days when my kids had school and had to be ready to get on a bus. So, there were many days where I slept two hours and wrote for fourteen hours.

Actually, it would have been amazing if I hadn't approached a psychotic breakdown.

How about you? How you doing? Itchy? Yeah, I thought so. Sorry about that. Our area is in the process of a major, major outbreak, by the way. If you're planning a trip to the Puget Sound area...wear your hair in braids (if it's long enough) and keep your hair things and brushes to yourself. Be selfish. Or you'll share in my experience...the experience I only experienced thanks to sixth grade camp--the gift that keeps giving.

Luckily, I have even more reason to be grateful for Thanksgiving than the usual reasons because the kids were off school so I slept in. I got several days in a row with over five hours of sleep--and my hands finally stopped shaking and I stopped getting dizzy whenever I stood up and noise didn't make me curl into a ball and cry. Our stress also cooled off a bit by then.

So far, December has been slightly better...but, then again... how could it not? Actually, I kept saying that in November and then it'd get worse, so I've stopped saying that. Also words and phrases I will never use again: nit-picker and going over something with a fine-tooth comb.

How was your November? Was it good? Good. I'm proud of you for sticking this out. If no one else has said this to you today...you're a trooper. I admire the hell out of you.

BUT...actually...the result of the worst month of my life was the most writing I've ever done and because I use humor to cope--these two novels are actually funny. Well, I think so. I think they're hilarious. Yes, sometimes I laugh at my own jokes.

(They might not be funny, of course... Actually, I'm not entirely sure this is December and not a hallucination brought on by Listerine fumes and I'm still in November.) (If it is, don't tell me, let me believe the lie. Please. Please. Please.)

December has also been good because I finished off third pass of FROSTED. Yay! It should come out sometime this winter...hopefully next month. *fingers crossed* My editor at Entangled, Lewis, was awesome and I recognize that he cushioned me on this last pass--there was a lot of head-patting and 'that'll do, pig' in his comments--because he thought I was going to break down--and I appreciate that.

Thanks to those who checked on me in November when I kept disappearing off the internet. You guys are great. : )  Also, I apologize for all the profanity in emails I sent out...and it might be no coincidence that these two novels have more profanity than any of my previous novels--I might have to deal with that if I ever submit them.

Well, November did teach me one thing. First, holy freak, I'm stronger than I thought--I seriously have been telling people for years that lice would kill me. Secondly, I have a greater appreciation for Listerine--which is good because I may always smell like Listerine. Third, it can always get worse. Fourth, that which doesn't kill us--will make for some awesome dark moments in our books. I have seen the bottom, people, and the weak among you will not survive...well, maybe you will...because, fifth, all the poignant idiotic films about the human spirit can rise above anything are right--or at least you can survive long enough for Oreos and Mtn Dew to arrive...and, with those, who knows what limits there are to what you can accomplish. 150K, my friends. Eyes on the prize--or a mental breakdown. Actually don't ever do 150K in 21 days. I like you too much and we can all acknowledge that I was already a little bit mental to start off with--so my fall wasn't quite as far.

So, if you made it through this--you are either my mother or you deserve a gold star for your forehead...and if you didn't, you wouldn't be reading this anyway, but I'm not judging you...just saying. If you did read all of this, comment below because you climbed this lice mountain and that deserves recognition--also probably a visit to a therapist because only a crazy person would keep reading this...or my mother. (Hi, Mom!) (Actually, my mom probably stopped reading after the first warning.) (And I'm not judging.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

These Things Happen...

So, yesterday was the worst day I've ever had as a writer. I thought the rejections sucked...and they do...I thought getting harsh critiques was rough...and it is, but yesterday hit a new low, and if I didn't have things contracted and if, in fact, I wasn't working on a novella I'm contracted on, I would have rashly just walked away from this whole thing yesterday, because yesterday sucked. A lot.

I wasn't sure whether I should talk about this, but I know it's happened to other writers and given how easy it is to stalk anonymously on the Internet, I even suspected it might happen to me eventually, but not like this. I spent so much of yesterday crying that I felt a little dehydrated. My kids had activities at our church last night (scouting and so on) and I kept breaking down and sobbing so I went and hid in the bathroom every so often, but people could tell and I had several people ask about me today. And since it's happened to other writers...and it'll happen again...it's probably worth mentioning in a blog post on a blog about a writer's life. It's a sucktastic part of a writer's life, but it's part of a writer's life.

So, over a year ago, I asked some Twitter friends and blog friends which of my WIPs I should work on. I had a few that I'd started and, in the end, I got sucked into a revision and didn't get to them, but I basically pitched these WIPs...most of them were over 20K. So, I picked one because I felt like it was uber marketable and it hadn't been done. It felt original, and I was really excited about it--really excited. It was one of those times where you're asking for opinions but you've already decided. ...But then I got sucked into a revision and set it aside. One of my Twitter friends got into a DM (private message) conversation with me on Twitter about my WIPs and most of you noticed I will talk to anyone about anything...and especially with a friend.

It confused me when not so long after that, this Twitter friend stopped following me on Twitter. Really confused me. I kept thinking, "But we had those long DM conversations. Did I offend them?" So, I unfollowed and refollowed them to see if it was a Twitter mistake...nothing. Okay, well, they were busy working on a WIP, so maybe I just had to wait. They got an agent...I congratulated them. I was happy for them. Then, amazingly, they got an incredible book contract...with a big publishing company. I was giddy and excited and screaming and tweeted that. And they refollowed me shortly after that, so I figured it was just a mistake that they'd unfollowed me in the first place.

Yesterday, I found out what their book is about. It's nearly word-for-word the WIP I'd pitched back then. The one I'd thought I'd been discussing with friends. And, while, sure, it's all been done and there are no original words under the sky, and I recognize the manner in which we come up with ideas is complicated...there is absolutely no way I can publish my WIP now. The idea was somewhat specific and our pitch would be exactly the same--exactly the same. My WIP is a brick, a doorstop, a paperweight. We have tons of Twitter friends in common, and I can't publish this thing...ever. If one of our friends didn't say, "Wendy, that book of yours...why did you copy so-and-so..." if I tried to get it published, I'd be shocked. There's no point to finishing it because I'll look like I'm mimicking someone's idea.

It hit me like a gut punch yesterday. And I cried...and cried...because I thought we were friends.

But, of course, there is nothing I can do, and it doesn't matter. I talked about this WIP online. And it's not like I'd published it. It's not like I'd copyrighted anything. They didn't do anything wrong...technically. *shrugs* And even if they had, I'm not the type of person to do anything--especially when we share a lot of friends.

Anyway, so that was yesterday. And today I move on. I'm sure my husband hopes, after yesterday's deluge of sobbing mess, that I'll do things differently...that I won't share as much, but that's just not me. I'm sadder, possibly wiser, but I'm still me, and I'll continue to talk to anyone who talks back. The "once burnt, twice shy" idiom just really doesn't apply to someone who values friendship more than she values a document and a book contract.

There is a possibility that some of my friends might recognize this book when it's published in the far distant future as being the twin to my WIP...because I was just that excited about this premise that I'd worked out clear to the end, and if you do...don't say anything, it's not worth it to anyone. I can't control this person's actions, but the final thing I can control is my response and my response is to just move on.

If this friend of mine happens to read this blog post, what you did...sucked. It wasn't illegal but it was a lousy trade-off for friendship. And, in the end, I don't care. If you'd asked me if you could use the idea because you were really excited about it, I would have laughed and told you that you absolutely could use it--that I had a lot of other projects and you were sure to do a better job than I could since you were so passionate about it. I've always prized friendship above success. I wish you well with your debut but I don't envy the cost the next few years will play with your conscience. There is always the very small chance that a friend of mine had the same idea at the same time and behaved bizarrely for no reason and I like to believe that people are inherently good, so I'm choosing to believe that. If you talk to me on Twitter, I'll pretend this didn't happen. I'll continue to congratulate you. I'll continue to support you because, from this moment, I'm choosing not to care...and that's the choice you've left me. Best wishes.

Edited to add: As I mentioned below this wasn't just an idea, it was an active WIP partially completed and I'd done a rare thing and outlined it out. BUT after thinking it over for another night, I'm still not going to say anything more than I said above. I have four or five completed projects that I need to focus on and I have other WIPs and ultimately I can't be sure and I'm in no position to judge guilt. Other writers sometimes realize a ship has sailed on an idea and that's how I'm treating this. I went and looked at their Twitter following and we have a ton of friends in common...really close friends. I keep considering deleting this even and I may even go and delete any online proof I have, but I know this happens to other writers and there are many ways of dealing with it--and this is how one writer chooses to deal with it.

Oops. Sorry guys. I approve of all of you!

I apologize to anyone who commented on my blog in the last month and a half and their comment never posted...I didn't realize that Blogger was holding those comments awaiting moderation. It didn't notify me and I didn't even see there were comments awaiting moderation. *sighs*

I just found a whole slew of them including a bunch on the pictures I asked opinions on. *coughs* Yeah...yikes...

Oh, and in the end, I picked #4 for my headshot.

So, thanks for keeping my blog warm while I've been goofing off and not posting, and I'm sorry I didn't approve all those comments when you posted them. I swear on my soul it wasn't personal.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hey! Pick a Pretty Picture!

Okay, what are your thoughts on these for my "author" photo? (Wow, that sounds so pretentious... why don't we call it a writer photo instead? Yes, we shall.)

And I'll be honest, after you pick whatever you pick, it'll just clarify my thoughts and I'll go, "Oh, screw it, forget them, I'm going with picture X." (X here is a place-holder not meant to suggest a rating.)

Here is Writer Photo 1: (which--yes, I know it's not a headshot. Le sigh. But, I swear, that looks JUST like me--attitude and all.)

Okay, here is Writer Photo 2:  (in my opinion, there's something of the crazed psycho in this picture--but depending on how well you know me--that might fit fairly well.) (Seriously, you can almost see me thinking, "I will kill you and feed you to my pet sharks.") (I will, by the way. And, admit it, if you're going to go--death by sharks has some "cool story, bro" potential...only without the sarcasm.) 

Writer Photo 3: (My photographer friend says this looks like I'm experiencing inner ear problems and about to tip over.) (I added the inner ear bit....)

Writer Photo 4: (This is my Twitter one...so clearly I didn't hate it. You might though. If you do, I wouldn't mention it.)

Writer Photo 5: (This is me in a field of flowers. If you zoomed out, I'd be in process of spinning and singing about the hills being alive.) (You know, that'd be a great idea for a science fiction plot--only the hills are out to get you. The book The Ruins did something similar, but it was... wait, I won't spoil it...it wasn't the hills, though.)

Writer Photo 6: (Okay, I don't know about you--but this photo, when compared to the others, made me bust out laughing and say, "OH MY!" and not in a bad way, but if you don't think that, then I'm just wrong because my husband didn't think that, and you'd think, out of anyone, he would.) (By the way, if you're a guy, I wouldn't say anything...it'll just creep me out, and I'll have to block you.) (Unless you're my husband, who can still redeem himself and notice.) (Oh, and lest I raise your expectations--it's totally the pose.) (I should always pose like that.) 

Then, there's this one...which isn't really a choice but makes me laugh every single time because my mother-in-law was right below this branch--which was really high up--like I could have DIED from the fall (if I'd fallen directly on my head somehow) but, anyway, my mother-in-law said, "Yeah, you can't use THAT picture." 

She's right.

I totally can't. 

And you know why....

If you don't, I'm really sorry to have sent your mind there....

Okay, thoughts? I sent my photographer friend two more non-smiling shots, but I'm skeptical she'll think they're better than the smiling ones because it's pretty rare I'm not smiling--so it's a little weird seeing me not smiling. I posted a few more on Twitter...but they didn't make the final cut with my friends. They're like that. Also, it was mostly pictures of me cracking up over my husband's jokes. (That's why I'm smiling most of the time.) (Well...it's not JUST his jokes.) 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Holy Smokes, Batman--Look How Much I've Read

So, today is day 181 so we're not quite half-way through the year, but I thought I'd mention some of my favorite books I've read this year. My goal is 366 titles read this year and I'm up to 197... I think. (Yeah, I'm a little ahead of the game, but there will be vacations and NaNoWriMo to account for.) And these are titles so some are shorter than others... it's still sort of amazing... even to me, but it is killing my writing goals. Le sigh. Anyway...

THESE AREN'T IN ORDER OF HOW MUCH I LIKE THEM. They're in order of when I picked their title off my read list. I can't possibly put them in order of how much I liked them. I also linked to my reviews on Amazon on some--and if you feel like marking my reviews as helpful--you know... whatever... I won't stop you. ; )

Okay, I'll go by genre... and since I'm an overachiever, I'll link you to their Amazon pages:

Top Five Books in Nonfiction:
1. Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating by Brian Tracy
2. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder & Amazon Review
3. I Moved Your Cheese by Deepak Malhotra
4. Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them by Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals
5. F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson 

Top Ten Books in YA:
1. Holes by Louis Sachar
2. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen & Amazon Review
3. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom & Amazon Review
4. Sophie & Carter by Chelsea Fine & Amazon Review
5. The Curse Girl by Kate Avery Ellison  & Amazon Review
6. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket & Amazon Review
7. Classic Goosebumps #13: Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
8. Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith & Amazon Review
9. Tentacles by Roland Smith 
10. Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Vordak T. Incomprehensible  & Amazon Review

Top Five Titles in Classics 
1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
3. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
4. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
5. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Top Five Books in General Fiction:
1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn & Amazon Review
2. On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card & Amazon Review
4. The Grimm Curse by Stephen Carpenter 
5. 1001 First Lines by Scarlett Archer & Amazon Review

Top Ten Books in Romance
1. The Disgraced Playboy by Caitlin Crews & Amazon Review
2. Believe It or Not by Tawna Fenske & Amazon Review
3. Try Me (Take a Chance) by Diane Alberts & Amazon Review
4. Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot
5. How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper
6. Hearts In Darkness by Laura Kaye
7. Killing Time by Leslie Kelly
8. Wife for a Week by Kelly Hunter & Amazon Review
9. Marriage Made on Paper by Maisey Yates & Amazon Review
10. Fairy Tales Flirts by Lisa Scott

I know Ender's Game should really be in a separate category with other Sci-fi/Fantasy books but most of the ones I've read fit in other categories and I've got some on my TBR to read before the end of the year, so keep your pants on. My end of the year list will have more Sci-fi/Fantasy. (And, yes, my Classics list could have gone to 20 with just the Agatha Christie books I've read, but I think you got the point with the ones listed.)

There are quite a few that I really should do reviews on, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

Oh, wait, one final list:

Top Ten Books I've Read in 2012 and *Recommended* on Twitter and In Real Life:

1. Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
2. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
3. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
4. Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith
5. Hearts In Darkness by Laura Kaye (explicit content)
6. On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves (explicit content)
7. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
8. Sophie and Carter by Chelsea Fine
9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
10. Fairy Tale Flirts by Lisa Scott

So, that's me... what are your favorite books you've read this year?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mention Monday--DI DID IT!!!

For those of you who haven't already heard the news: Diana Paz was picked up by Rhemalda Publishing for her book Twists of Fate. (I've read this book, and it's awesome.)

For Rhemalda's announcement. (I already knew they were cool, but I love their announcement.) 

For Di's announcement and to see Tina's moves... because Tina has moves.

Okay, seriously, run over there and congratulate her!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Jumping the Line--How Books do it

So, I have an ambitious goal to read 366 titles this year. It's crazy but I'm actually on track to do it--I'm even ahead right now (131 as of last night.) Luckily, I read fast and some of those books will be MG or novellas and thus shorter. Having almost my entire To-Be-Read list on my Kindle helps so I don't waste time hunting for books or trying to decide what to read next. The downside of it being so easy to slide books into those Kindle categories is that there are now over 400 titles waiting in line to be read. 

I'll wait while some of you pick your jaws off the ground. 

Some are free, some have been Kindle Daily deals... and I try to snatch up things while they're on sale. So, that's not as bank-breaking as it might sound. I still spend far too much on books, but not quite that much. The weird thing is that the last group of books I've read have been in my TBR categories under a week. 

There are a few different reasons this happens. 

First and foremost, I'm attracted to the shiny.  These new books have just strutted in with the luck of timing and they're in my short term memory banks. I remember a great premise or a blurb full of voice for about a week. These are just lucky books. Unfortunately, luck is a huge factor in publishing success in my opinion. 

Second, I've bumped things that I'd like my kids to read to the top of the list. So, books I'm set to preview get bumped up to a priority so that my kids never lack for books to read. I read Cryptid Hunters last night for this reason (also it had an amazing premise)... along with the Grimm Legacy (another amazing premise), and the False Prince (see below.) I also bump things up the list for book club. (Tonight I'll be reading Peter Pan for that reason.)

Third, my friends have had books come out so I've read them in order to review them positively on Amazon--if I like them.  Otherwise, I get really quiet and never mention I read them. When I post all 366 titles at the end of the year, there'll only be a small percentage of them that I post positive reviews for. I really don't like everything--despite how it might appear from my Amazon reviews. I'm grateful there are people out there who post negative reviews but that's just not me. I'm a really loyal friend--I love to buy my friend's books--this is a huge factor for me. I'm just one person, but I do buy with my heart. I appreciate authors like Kiersten White who never make any fan feel like less than a friend. My friend's books often jump the line (if the timing works out)--there should be some perks to being my friend. 

Fourth... and this is what I'm finding interesting... some books just jump the line with one or more of these four WOW factors--and these are things that authors CAN control: 

1. Great word of mouth on Twitter or online. This is actually why the False Prince jumped the line. I read an amazing review on it. On Twitter, it has to be genuine word-of-mouth. I'm numb to most self promotion unless it's from a real Twitter friend. So, this might be less controllable--depending on how good your book is, but it is a huge influence and it's a good reason to build a platform on the social networks. I also see books reviewed on blogs and it makes them jump the line. Word of mouth can be a strong influence--especially when combined with other factors below.

2. A phenomenal blurb that hooks me--like really, really, really hooks me. This is why the Banshee Charmer jumped the line--in addition to being by a friend. It's rare that a blurb in paranormal grabs me because paranormal blurbs are so unique that they're not unique.  Paranormal is a crowded bunch.  Banshee Charmer's blurb just grabbed me and it jumped the line. I also read a romance called Morning Man after reading a short Twitter blurb from the author that convinced me to check it out. (Sophie & Carter got me through a Twitter blurb too.)  I think back-cover blurbs are even more important for ebooks than they were for deadtree. I'm not influenced by placement in the store or how many copies are there. It's all about that paragraph and the book's premise. 

(As an aside, I hate when authors put reviews and recommendations in the spot on Amazon for the blurb or before the blurb. I don't like when you immediately tell me how much other people like your book before I even read what it's about.  It feels manipulative like peer pressure.)

3. An excerpt which tugs me into the story and, well, I've already started it... I should just read a bit more.  If you get me to cheat and read the first three or more pages, I frequently just keep reading. This happened with Tawna Fenske's Believe it or Not. (Tawna is another Twitter friend, so you can see that it's usually more than one factor that causes a line jump.) An excerpt should always be after the blurb, though, and not be super long. I'm intimidated by long excerpts. 

4. A cover that rocks my world... but, strangely enough, the draw of this is waning. The cover pull used to be stronger with deadtree books. A good cover will still get me to buy the book but it doesn't always get me to bump it up the line. It's not like I can really see the cover on my Kindle or have people see me reading it and comment about how gorgeous it is. (Okay, I'm a bit superficial about what I'm reading--this worked to books' detriment too--ask me how many bodice-rippers I used to read when the covers were visible--but it's not a factor now with the Kindle.) So, the cover may sell the book but the other factors above are what usually get me to read it. 

Anyway, I've been analyzing what makes me bump books up the TBR line and I found it interesting. What makes a book jump the line for you? Anyone else have a ridiculously large TBR pile? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Everything I Know About Relationships--I Learned from Books

Okay, luckily, that's not true--for me, but B has started reading, and I've noticed since her reading has exploded--she's started diving into social situations a little more. I'm starting to wonder if the two are related. It wouldn't surprise me if the medium of fiction is helping her figure out what isn't intuitive about relationships between people.

It's a good thing.

Sort of.

I've also started to preview books for her, and she's getting to the age where there will be romantic relationships in books. The later Harry Potter books had them. Grimm Legacy had romantic relationships in it. She's just now reading Ella Enchanted (which I read a while back and okayed.) The realization that she might be using novels to figure out how to interact with people puts a lot more pressure on me to make sure she's reading books that will give her an accurate and healthy portrayal of social situations--at this age. I don't intend to micro-manage her choices forever, but she's only 10, and she hasn't developed the social skills of her peers. Peer pressure and romantic relationships top the list of what I want to see handled well in a book.

Even books that might, technically, be safe and seem harmless like Twilight--aren't really safe for a child who is basing her conceptions of a healthy relationship with the opposite sex on fiction. B is an extremely literal child. Vampires aside, the relationship between Bella and Edward isn't exactly healthy or ideal. Other kids might recognize that, but I'm not entirely sure B will.  T has a bit more social savvy than her but I also don't think he'll be as drawn to books with a heavy romance B plot.

Luckily, there are still a ton of books around that'll appeal to an eager reader, but I am examining them on levels I'd never expected. Being a parent--changes everything. Why should reading and reviewing be any different?

So, have you ever enjoyed a YA or adult book that you also wouldn't let one of your kids read until adulthood?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Man Behind the Curtain--When Writers Read

So, we had a weird bout of sickness over the weekend which accounted for more reading hours than normal and I surpassed the amount of "titles" I read all of 2011... by March.  My goal is to read 366 titles this year. (Titles, not books, because I'll be reading a decent amount of novellas this year...and possibly a few could even be called short stories.) According to my Kindle, I've read 91 titles this year. (I keep a separate category on there for "books I've read in 2012.")  This doesn't take into account that some of them are three novellas in a compilation, but I might not count them separately anyway.


I reread a favorite series of books, the Mediator series by Meg Cabot, over the weekend and I haven't read them since I  really embraced writing.  It's very difficult to find books you can lose yourself in once you take up writing.  It's hard not to see the hand of the writer while reading. Then, there are the typos or continuity mistakes which seem so prevalent in both indie and traditionally published books.  In all six of this series, I only picked up on one typo and three continuity errors--which is extremely low in my experience.  (My daughter has decided it's her mission to find all the typos in the Harry Potter books--the literary Easter egg hunt--and there are several in each book.)  It's very rare for me to read books without typos. Out of those 91 titles--I think less than a dozen haven't had a single typo.

Then there is the style of writing...  The Mediator series has a great voice going for it.  It's in first person narration and the narrator has the perfect tone.  I had a bit of a love/hate with the way the author had hooks at the end of each chapter to con you into reading the next chapter... such as: "Little did I know this was the last time I'd see him...." It was effective, but manipulative.  In any other series, it might have annoyed me.

It's weird to read a series that you once enjoyed for the simple love of reading but now find yourself picking apart as you read it to see exactly "why it works."  I felt like a watchmaker opening up the back of their timepiece just to analyze the gears.

On the one hand, reading feels less like a hobby and more like an effective use of hours for research into the craft of writing.

On the other hand, sometimes I look longingly at books and imagine a time when I didn't know about the man behind the curtain.  Because, for certain, once you've been behind the curtain, you can't go back to believing the magic gets there without a whole lot of work.

Speaking of which, I got my editorial letter and notes for the novella due out this summer.  It's very thorough and will make for some deep-revision.  It'll be much better in the end, but it sure looks sticky on this side of it.  I wish I could time travel to the end of this month where it's all done. It's going to be a lot of work and, while I know I can do it, it'd sure be nice to see firsthand that I don't just jack it up to pieces while trying to fix it.

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

I also read the book "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman this weekend.  It made me want to tackle revision with a mighty roar even as I wondered, "Can I possibly get ALL this right?"  Le sigh.

Writing is hard.

Reading is hard.

*goes to take a nap*

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Prodigal Blog Owner Returns

I know. I know. It's terrible.

I didn't post a single update in February...which, ironically, is because there was so much to update on but there was also loads and loads of stress.

There was my son's birthday--which was a blast. We went to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and they gave him a super awesome dragon goblet in recognition of him coming on his birthday. Then, we went to Journey 2, and then finally went to Chuck E. Cheese. We sucked the fun out of that day. The kids were all exhausted by the time we got back.

Then, just before Valentine's Day, my husband left for a business trip to Singapore and was gone for a week and a half. My son went bonkers without my husband here.  It was sooooo stressful.  Then, the husband came home and he and T rushed to get T's special school project on electricity done.  Then, my parents visited and we went to Great Wolf Lodge and played at the indoor waterpark for several days. Finally, we got back in time for T's Pinewood Derby.

But wait... that's not all... I also submitted to three different submission calls during February and the last few weeks.  I also signed a contract for a novella, but I'm not sure when I'm allowed to announce.

Also, on a less fun level, I had a migraine for two weeks straight which I ended up kicking by getting a massage.

February and March haven't been fun times.  I'm now on week 2 of insomnia.

I keep hoping March will go a little easier on me than February but... it just hasn't.  I feel like every day I start out behind. I just can't seem to keep up.

Anyway, I'm going to try to be better about updating.  I'm not sure how much I'll have to say, though. I'm sort of burnt out on life right now.  I feel a little adrift actually.  Every so often I remember that I never sent out my Christmas cards... not even late... that's how each day feels--like I've fallen a hundred projects behind.

On February 9th, we were talking to my son about being tested and getting the official diagnosis of Aspergers before it's dropped as a diagnosis. (The governing board over the diagnostic codes has decided to get rid of several diagnoses including Aspergers.)  T said that it won't change whether or not he has it so there's no point to it.  Then, B asked if she has Aspergers too.  It might seem unreal but we'd never had that talk with her.  We've spoken of Autism when she was around and we've never tried to hide it.  I mean we ate, drank, slept Autism until she turned seven.  I don't think I can convey how fragile a conversation that feels---the conversation where you tell your daughter she has Autism and discuss what that means.

While T identifies as an Aspie and is proud of it... we warned B that there are stigmas attached to the word Autism. We asked if she wanted people to know that she has it or not and she doesn't really want the label attached to her anymore. B doesn't like to stand out.  She doesn't like a lot of attention.  So, I've changed my bio and so on to reflect that.

I don't think you can understand this weird new world I'm in unless you've been there. I identify as a parent of an Autistic child. I mentor others on raising children with Autism.  I hold nothing back. That's who I am. For years I was so obsessed with it--that's all of what I was.  I was running on adrenalin.  It's weird to now think that I'll need to step back and not say, "I'm the mother of two Autistic children" to people I meet.  Who am I if I'm not that person?

I guess it's not so strange to redefine yourself as you pass on to a different stage of your life, but this just took me by surprise.  On the one hand, I'm excited that B is so high-functioning that we don't NEED to tell people anymore.  On the other hand, that was my goal, my focus, for nearly a decade.  On March 8th of 2003, we first were told she most likely had Autism.  Our lives changed forever.  Now, on February 9th of 2012, it changed again. This time it was her choice.

When I went in to get the massage, I listed "writer" as my occupation. It was the first time I've focused on who I am outside of my kids on forms like that.  Normally, I explain the stress and migraines as being related to OCD and raising two Autistic children.  This time, I didn't.

It's a weird world I'm entering in.  I'm just not sure what to think of a world where I talk about me... where I'm defined by my own success and not all the work and intervention I've done with the kids.  It's... frightening.

In other writing-related news, I've now been repped by Sarah for a year.  Cool, huh?

Monday, January 30, 2012

YA Books and the Absentee Parents

Over the weekend, we got into a discussion on Twitter about Disney cartoons and the scarcity of sets of parents in them. (This conversation carried on between the husband and I as we ran errands--the husband went through all the live action movies by Disney on the hunt for complete sets of parents--which are rare.)  (You can play this game at home.  Establish a safe word if you're playing between spouses so neither of you gets into a snit over the Parent Trap.)

This is something that comes up frequently in discussion among those that write and read Young Adult books. Parents are killed-off as either part of a tragic backstory or to move forward the plot or just to keep them from hindering the adventure.  Sometimes, the parents' divorce is impetus for a teen's exploration of independence or the fact that only one parent is present means a lack of supervision.  Woo!  No supervision! Sometimes, parents just don't care and are in the house at the same time as a teenage werewolf boyfriend for months and they never notice... ever... at all.  (I'm not going to mention any specifics here.)  Sometimes, the parents leave on trips, or work or... whatever.  You get the point.  They're not around.  FREEEDOM!

Let me break to say, so I'm not completely coming off as hypocritical: I stank of this plot device. In fact, let's tally it up.

Sentinel's Run: One character with two dead parents.  The other is sent off to a war setting to fight for the humans.  (Teens = 2, Parents = 0)

Good Girls Don't Date Mutants: One character's mother kills his father. (Doh!  Tragic backstory alert!) The other (age 17) has two uber-responsible parents---who leave her alone while they go on a quick trip.  (The shame is high with this one.) (Teens = 2, Parents = 3, but 2 go AWOL, and the other is a murderess.)

Secrets of Skin and Stone: Piper has two very involved parents.  Gris has two involved parents--but he's over 18 and doesn't live with them. (Teens = 2, Parents = 4)

Scorched: Sidra has two parents who've gone through a bitter divorce and a step-mom just slightly older than herself. (Tragic backstory in overdrive.)  Asher has two dead parents--part of his tragic backstory. (Teens = 2, Parents = 2, divorced)

Curse Me A Story: Sheri has a mother and a very involved step-father. Thomas has two dead parents--both part of his tragic backstory. *sighs* (Don't judge me.) (Teens = 2, Parents = 1 1/2)

The Unseen Kingdom: In my defense, this is based on the Odyssey and it's not my fault that Odysseus is gone for most of that story--he's like the ultimate of absentee parenting.  And, technically, the female lead in this has a very active dead father because she can communicate with the spirit world. Actually, I don't want to talk about this.  (Teens = 2, Parents = I don't even know how to tally this one--one is AWOL and the other has a dead but involved parent.)

I have to say, though... while this plot device/impetus might be applied frequently, it's so completely useful!  Wait, that came out wrong.  It's very hard to write exciting stories when two sets of involved parents are there preventing their teens (or younger) from getting into trouble. (Not that it can't be done....) As a teen, most of the moments that I remember as being fun and exciting--didn't involve my parents.

(cyber gasp)

I have super responsible parents.  If they could prevent it, they tried to keep me out of danger or from making mistakes that would contribute to a tragic backstory.  I never could have had a werewolf boyfriend in my room for months.  They probably wouldn't have let me put myself in a position to be kidnapped and nearly killed by vampires.  There was no way I'd be sent off to a boarding school where I'd discover I had magical powers--though, this I'm mostly blaming on the adequacy of public education and our middle class income. I'm sure there were times they'd have liked to send me off to boarding school.

Also, I realize I'm lucky to have parents still married and that two parent families aren't a requisite for happiness or responsible parenting.

Also, some stories are about growing up in a less-than-perfect homelife.

So, I'm not sure where I was going with this blog post other than to say that I find it interesting how other writers handle parents in their plots and to introduce the find-the-parents-in-Disney-shows game.

Also, my kids will never have any cool adventures.  That's the goal.  Just sayin.

So, what do you think?  How have you handled parents in writing?  Does your tally look as shameful as mine?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being Incomparable

I don't know if other writers suffer from this, but whether I'm doing well in my writing life or poorly, I need to compare myself to other writers--their success, their failure, their path to publication.  I hate this about me.  I wish I could stop.  I hate especially when I find myself lacking, but I hate it even more when I find others behind me and take some pleasure in that.  I'm not sure where this vindictive side to me resides--this bit of me that enjoys seeing others fail--because I don't feed it or indulge it, and I kick it out whenever it slinks into view.  It's like the rat in the house of my mind.  It's there--I know it's there--it leaves droppings.

The crazy thing is that you can't compare.  It's not as if any of our paths parallel to the point you can see where someone made the right decision and you made the wrong one or vice versa.  There is no way to say, "I could have been there if only I'd...."  Life doesn't work that way.  I know this.  I believe it.

Yet... the rat.

I was talking with a friend about coveting a week or so ago, and they brought up the point that coveting is more than actual envy.  Coveting begins with not being content with what you have.  I mean, this in no way means you should lack ambition or the drive to improve yourself, but if that drive overwhelms your ability to be happy at the point you're at--then you'll never be happy.  There it is.  You'll never be happy.  If you're waiting for something to happen before you can be happy, there will always be something to wait for.

I don't know what the answer is by the way.  I feel like I was discontented most of 2011 for one reason or another--mostly related to my writing.  I feel like the rat has made a nest in my mind and invited in some buddies.  Today, sloth and gluttony are out to play and leave droppings.  (I'm supposed to be working on that revision, but I've been eating chocolate instead.) (Mmm. Chocolate.)

So far, I've found some success in just getting back to writing or revising.  If I'm working my tail off, I tend to keep too busy to envy or covet the success of others.  I don't have time to compare as much.  I get lost in the worlds I created and there is satisfaction in that... in being in another world and creating.  I didn't write as much in 2011, and I think that contributed to my discontent. It seems ridiculous to have to remind myself that "writers write" but if you've spent much of a year buried deep in revision... the correlation of "writers revise and revise and revise" is also true.  Revision doesn't seem to keep envy as far away, and I think I spent 3/4 of last year's "writing" time actually revising.

I also fake it until I can feel it.  I really do appreciate and enjoy the success of others--even if I envy them initially.  I love that friends are finding success--even if I feel a bit left out.  The emotion is there--even if the spirit follows a little behind my initial "woo" and confetti.  I love that others are successful... even if the rat is lurking in the corner wishing I was there with them.  Like I said, I don't feed the thing--I think it lives on the cupcake crumbs I drop.

Lately, I've also tried to avoid diving into online conflict.  That's more my personality than something new, though.  I've never been comfortable with conflict or arguments.  I'm the middle child in my family, and they tend to be peacemakers by nature... and that's how I've been most of my life.  I hate arguing.  I hate seeing it.  It does seem to breed discontent. I've seen people content with their lives until other peoples are discontent and suddenly they hate their lives.

Finally, I'll have to admit that social media isn't a true window into other people's worlds.  If you find yourself thinking that their lives are all too good to be true--they are.  With the exception of crazies like me or chatterboxes, many people use social media to build either a cheering section or a sob corner.  (I, of course, use it to tweet pictures of Mountain Dew's effect in my day-to-day life.)  You tend to see the extremes of most people in social media.  Some people will only tweet once or twice a day--so, of course, they're going to say something significant and usually something flattering to themselves or to engage others--depending on what they need emotionally. Or they'll tweet pictures of food... which is cool by me.  I love pictures of food.  The point is that no matter how much someone tweets, you're not in their shoes.  You're nowhere near their shoes.  You're like their nice dressy scarf... maybe. You go pretty places and get dragged out for funerals, but you're not seeing their life.

So, that's where I am... what I'm doing.  I'm trying not to compare myself to others, and I hope no one is comparing themselves to me and coming up lacking.  When my kids were having a lot of success in overcoming their delays, I was talking to someone who had a child a bit younger than B.  I remember one day she said, with a bit of hysteria in her voice, "What are you doing differently?  I'm doing everything you're doing!  I'm doing more than you're doing!  Why is it working for you and not for me?"  She even told me she envied me--that she was jealous of me and my children's success. Of course, comparing children with Autism is a lot like comparing writing careers when it comes right down to it.  You have different children.  Your paths are different.  Also, what I learned from this was that it didn't feel good.  Whether you're the person being envied or the envier--there is a sour sense that goes with it.  In fact... it made me discontent.

I'm also taking vitamins.  I know that's rather out from left field, but this is the winter of our discontent because I'm not getting enough Vitamin D from the sun, and it's making me cranky.  If you start out cranky, it takes a bit to pull up from there.

*gives you a significant look* Don't forget to take your vitamins.  I worry about your health.  Really.  Yours.

So, how do you deal with not comparing yourself?  Or is that just my problem and I'm a freak?  (Wait... just answer the first part.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

That's Deep--Real Deep

So, this is NOT a post about my OCD.  I know.  Weird, isn't it?  I've been working from lists all week and I'm not sure if it's the illusion of control or actual control, but I feel like I'm doing better, and I'm definitely accomplishing more.  There is the possibility that lists might become an obsession themselves, but I hope not.

So, while I'm waiting on various editing notes from various sources, I'm working on revision of Good Girls Don't Date Mutants--which I originally wrote nearly three years ago.  It's gone through many, many revisions already.  It had some plot issues--a major plot issue in fact--it had stalking that was just a smidge less severe than Twilight's.  It gained and lost a point of view.  The chapters have gotten smaller and more numerous--which I don't like--and I'm fixing. It's gained epistolary inserts between chapters--which I really like--but I wouldn't be surprised if they get discarded as being too cute or something.

This manuscript started out life in third person--just third person for the most part.  Then, I switched it to first person.  Now, I'm switching it to third person deep.  Typically this would seem like a frustrating set of changes--to switch it back to the original point-of-view makes you just want to shake the characters and ask them why you changed in it the first place.  On the other hand, third person deep will still retain some of the inner dialogue from first person, so it's helped the story evolve. Wanna see?  You know you do...

Okay, this is from Lucas's POV.  This story is set in contemporary society but there are a secret group of mutants living among us.  Lucas is a member of the Strain--his genetics give him super-human powers, and he thrives on bacteria--the same bacteria that would kill "Outsiders" i.e. the rest of the world.  He's studying botulism in his lab.  Botulism is the Strain's version of a narcotic.  His mother is a sociopath and an assassin... and GO:

First, flat third person:

“Hello, my lovely,” his mother said while breezing in.  “What are we studying today, Lucas?”
“Botulism,” Lucas said.
“How delightful… are we studying or partaking?” she asked, sliding onto a stool beside him.
He glared at her… which made her laugh.

Second, its trip through first person where it picked up all the character's thoughts. 

“Hello, my lovely,” my mother said, breezing in.  “What are we studying today, Lucas?”
Damn.  If only I’d put this away and been working on something else.  Prevarication was out—she’d know.
“Botulism,” I said.
“How delightful!  Are we studying or partaking?”  She slid onto a stool beside me.
I glared at her—which made her laugh.  This wasn’t unusual.  She often found my serious nature amusing.

Finally, here we are in third person deep:

“What are we studying today, Lucas?”  His mother stepped up to his microscope and peered in.
Damn.  If only he’d put this away and been working on something else.  Prevarication was out—she’d know.
“How delightful!  Are we studying or partaking?”  She slid onto a stool beside him.
Lucas glared at her—which made her laugh.  This wasn’t unusual.  She often found his serious nature amusing.

Another thing that this--rather laborious method of arrival added was that Hallie has a southern accent and during the first person conversion I added accent and voice to her character. Much of that will stay in third person deep.  On the one hand, I might rather sell my soul than switch something from third person to first person and then back again just to gain insight into the characters' thoughts, but I can't argue with the resulting nuances it's added.

Still, don't do it.  It's a misery.

If you have other questions on third person deep--and I have--I asked a bunch on Twitter two nights back actually after I read this post by Liz Pelletier: Demystifying Deep POV Liz is the publisher and lead editor at Entangled Publishing.  That post is really helpful.  She and I exchanged several tweets on whether Hallie should keep her slang in the narrative portions of the story. This post: What is Deep POV on the The Editor's Blog is also useful.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eating a Frog--One Gulp at a Time

So, just after the beginning of the year, I bought this book:

I'd hoped it would help me with my OCD and the procrastination it induces.  It's getting to be ridiculous how much control my OCD has over my decisions--as I mentioned in the previous post.  The one thing you should know about those with OCD--it's all about control.  We use compulsive behaviors to gain control.  We avoid things to maintain control.  We fuss over things--for control.  We hide our OCD because we don't want you to think we're not in control.  One of the most profound influences in our lives is this balance of control.  Does our OCD control us or do we control our obsessions?  I'd rather use compulsive behavior to maintain control than go without control.  It's that vital. 

So, the premise of the book is based on the Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  In order to tackle procrastination, you prioritize the biggest and ugliest frog and eat it first thing.  The book outlines how best to make use of your time and how to prioritize.  It was really fascinating actually.  One thing the author mentioned that stuck with me was that a feeling of success releases endorphins, and I've mentioned that I'm a total endorphin junkie--it's why I run.  Endorphins also help moderate my OCD.  On the other hand, the things I've been tackling and procrastinating--housework, laundry, dishes, etc... don't ever actually give you that feeling of success and closure--and I spend a decent amount of time procrastinating them because I hate them. 

Much of the book wasn't aimed at those who don't work outside the home, but it could be adapted easily enough. One of the habits I've fallen out of over the years is lists of goals, both long-term and short-term. I know that's helped in the past.  I think I'm going to start making a list in the morning of what I plan to do that day. 

When I wrote the last post on Friday, I was sure the only available avenue was medication.  Don't get me wrong, medication is more than just a viable solution, especially hand-in-hand with proper exercise and diet.  On the other hand, everything that goes with the medication is brutal.  Anyway, tomorrow I thought I'd try some of the things suggested in the book to try and calm my OCD and channel it.  

So, I mentioned that I can't read books by friends because of my OCD.  I realize now that was unclear.  I can, of course, force myself to read books.  I do it once a month for Book Club.  The backlash is that I won't be able to sleep at night, and I'll obsess over what would come of telling the author I read their book for days.  Some things are worth going without sleep for--some things are not.  This is iffy in my mind.  Beta reading lately has pushed me into wicked insomnia streaks that can last weeks.  I am still trying to work on this, and I've come up with a few possible work-arounds.  I'm thinking of telling myself it's research and then also reading my list in alphabetical order.  The temptation is to do it from Z to A because I go counter-clockwise and backwards whenever possible.  On the other hand, Kiersten White's third book in her trilogy isn't out yet but might be if I go the proper direction. My TBR category is up to 99 books, though, so maybe not.  Anyway, by determining to go in alphabetical order and then letting fate pick that order--I'm in control again. Also, I really like letting fate decide things.  Many with OCD are superstitious to the nth degree.  I'm one of those. 

I don't know how much the book will help--though I enjoyed reading it, and I highlighted throughout.  I think I can use it to control my OCD.  The solution may still be to go back on medication.  I'm surprised I've lasted off of medication as long as I have.  I never thought I'd manage longer than a year.  Perhaps I shouldn't have.  OCD is a tricky beast.  Maybe with a few tricks from this book, I'll tame it... a bit... maybe.  I hope. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

OCD. It's what's for dinner... and breakfast... and snacks...

I've mentioned this the last few days on Twitter, but my OCD lately has been really bad.  Really bad.  If you've come in the line of fire from my very pleasant personality these last few weeks, I apologize.  If I've offended you, I'm sorry.  By nature, I try never to offend or hurt anyone.  I didn't mean it.  My intention is never to hurt anyone.  Ever.  I feel out of control--like I'm on a roller coaster holding on to the outside of the coaster and hanging on for dear life.  I can't seem to dig in and get a handle on it.

Typically, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is vexed by a few different triggers.  Hormones is a big one--one that I can't seem to work around right now, though I've tried various things when I was medicated.  Estrogen patches were nice to regulate it, but they gave me nightmares--fairly horrific nightmares actually.  Since I'm not currently seeing my doctor, even that isn't an option. I'm trying vitamins to control my hormones, but they're a piss-poor substitute for actual control.

Stress is another trigger.  Another thing I can't really seem to help with.  The funny thing about stress is that as my OCD escalates, it too becomes a stressor... so it cycles back to this never-ending push towards worse days.  Clearly, we're just through the holidays so stress is almost expected.  We had a lot of sickness over the holidays, though... the puking kind... and germs and body fluids are not my friend.  I have "contamination" issues as my strongest OCD symptom.

I was at a church thing on Wednesday and one of my friends (who would be the polar opposite of me for mental health issues) said, "Just so you know, my daughter had strep and impetigo on Sunday, but she's just finished 24 hours of meds, so she's no longer contagious." My skin wouldn't stop itching from pretend contamination.  I always err on the side of extreme and total caution when it comes to germs... far past what is reasonable.  So, germs or the possibility of germs... always get to me.  That same friend also licked her right index finger while dishing out ice cream and I said, "Did you know you just licked your finger?"  She said, "Yes, but it won't come into contact with the food."  I continued to stare at her finger... and stare... and stare... until I moved down the line because I couldn't handle it anymore.  She has no issues with contamination.  I have severe issues--and that's on me.  I have to remind myself she is the normal one.

Another trigger is poor sleeping--which is both a symptom and a trigger.  Over the holidays, I got nailed with some really intense insomnia.  Most times, I didn't get to sleep before 3 a.m. despite hours of trying.  One night, I saw the hairy side of 5 a.m.  It was miserable.  I'm lying there, thinking of everything and trying to think of nothing... and I just can't sleep.  I even took one of my sleeping pills that should have knocked out an elephant. It didn't work at all. The insomnia jag finally broke a couple days ago.

Insomnia often leads to depression for me--a deep-rooted depression that is more about chemicals inside my brain.  It's an illusion of depression.  I feel hopeless and despondent as if I'll never catch up and never be okay, but it's chemicals and smoke and mirrors.  It's not real. It sucks to be depressed without reason and to know you can't fix it. The depression becomes a stressor also--I hate irony.

Diet and exercise are good ways to control it, but they can only do so much... and when my asthma is acting up or I'm injured, exercise won't help.  Poor health is a trigger.  Sickness, not exercising, and eating crappy--all come back to bite me.

Okay, so those are some of the main reasons my OCD is bad.

Some of the symptoms you might not realize are symptoms:

I binge on things and collect things.  If I take up a hobby, I have to have everything I could possibly need for that hobby.  Scrapbooking, beading, and painting have all been binge hobbies where I have more than I'd ever need for those.  This last bout, it was holiday-themed books, stories, and anthologies.  I have read more Christmas-themed stories in the last three weeks than probably all my followers combined.  I had to have access to all of them.  I read them with an obsessive drive that was terrifying.  Some days, I'd read three novels--just to quiet the need.

Avoidance.  My husband was home and drove nearly everywhere we went.  I've always hated driving, but my destinations are limited during an OCD bout to destinations where I know where I'll be parking.  I have to know where I'll be parking in order to even go there in the first place.  Also, I'm afraid to drive cars that aren't running perfectly... which has been a difficult job for my husband this year.  Our cars are getting older--and he's been kept on his toes trying to keep them running.  He's brilliant but we've had a limited budget for car upkeep.  At least we went places over the holidays because my husband is as sane as I am insane.  He drove and I sat clutching the armrest and hoping we didn't die in a fiery wreck or be unable to find a parking spot--which are on the same level for me.

Avoidance goes deeper than you'd guess.  If I've bought your book or you've recommended a book to me--I haven't read it.  I can tell you that right now.  I want to.  I want to read it with all my heart.  It's in a category in my Kindle that says "Books I'm Anxious To Read" but the anxiety involved is stronger than my will.  I'm absolutely paralyzed by the worry that I might not like it, and I might have to tell you something less than the truth.  It's the reason why I read my book club books the day of the book club--I have a paralyzing phobia of not liking a recommended book.  I'm an obsessively honest person, and the thought of lying is horribly repugnant to me.  I'm really trying to overcome this.  I want to overcome this.  But, right now, it's stronger than I am.  I'm sorry.  I'll continue to buy books of friends and continue to ask for recommendations, but it's not something going easily into that good night.  I'm trying.  That's the best I can give you right now.

Then, there are some of the obvious symptoms.  I'm wearing non-latex disposable gloves to do some things.  I'm washing my hands so frequently that my knuckles are cracking.  I want to stay inside my house and never leave because the world is a scary ugly place full of contamination.  I'm triple checking everything--locks, the oven being off, the signature on checks, the innards of envelopes, anything I've written for transposing errors, etc.  These are the things you expect of OCD, though.

I'm sorry my OCD is making me be a bad friend, an impatient person... it's even making me into a lousy mother and wife.  I'm trying.  If nothing else, believe I'm obsessing about doing better and being less of a hot mess of dysfunction.  I'm trying more than I'm coping.  I'm trying more than I'm giving up.  I'm really trying.

I have severe OCD.  It's not just bad.  It's not just complex.  It's severe, and it's clinical, and it doesn't take vacations.  I should be medicated again.  I just can't seem to bring myself to start throwing money at it--and me being medicated is expensive... and there are side effects beyond the financial drain that I've mentioned before.  The physical side effects are such that I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy... not that I have an enemy who comes to mind.  I wouldn't wish the side effects on anyone, though.

Okay, this was a novel.  If you made it through, thank you.  If you didn't, dude, there's no shame.  LOL.  This was far too long.  I just wanted to explain why I am the way I am.

If you ever have any questions about OCD, I'm obviously very open about it.  I haven't always been, but I am now.  My daughter has OCD and it's not a dirty secret.  It can't be.  I refuse to let my daughter grow up thinking she has to hide the symptoms and seek unhealthy outlets to cope.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness, though, and it's pervasive and vicious.  It creeps into everything I do.  It's like a liquid... it fills up the spaces I leave for it.  Right now, there are a lot of spaces in my life for it to crawl into it.

Starting a new year freed me up a bit, though.  I can consign all of last year's worries and awful situations to a number--2011.  I can say, "That was a bad year," and move on.  2012 isn't going great at this point.  My daughter's favorite teacher and my favorite teacher at the school--apparently has cancer.  I'm struggling to keep personal relationships from feeling the strain I'm under.  My kids are both struggling either quietly or violently with issues related to their Autism or sensory issues.  2012 is not the beautiful new day I'd love for it to be.  It's a new number.  Still, it is new and that's something.

Thanks for listening.