Monday, December 27, 2010

The best Christmas present is a book. (or Five.)

This Christmas we were on a budget. Given the impending financial crisis baby, we decided the course of wisdom was to resort to the old trick of setting a spending limit ahead of time. 

(One of our first Christmas's, we each had twenty dollars to fill a stocking with, and an hour to dash around the mall doing it.  And that was CRAZY extravagant for us then. Fun though. I got crayons!)

We started out at $100 each.  When shipping costs for family and friends hit harder than expected, we revised down to $50 each.

I got him a new-to-us black leather office chair, (Thank you lousy economy for glutting the market with leather executive chairs of decent quality at ridiculously low prices comparatively speaking on craigslist), a husky puppy beanie baby, and a KISS Gene Simmons (dressed as the demon. With the horns and tongue thrown out.) Christmas ornament.

(As a note, the office chair was desperately needed.  The cats have just about completely destroyed the fabric-covered chair his mother bought us 5 years ago.  We have since learned our lesson regarding upholstery fabric and cat ownership.)

As for what he got me?  Well, he got me hope.  My husband and I met on a MUSH game (Multi-User Shared Hallucination.)  Basically you had to write to play.  Your character, what they did, who they were.  You learned to show, not tell, because telling was lame, and you wanted to make people work for it anyways.  You wrote paragraphs and paragraphs for hours on end, as other people contributed paragraphs and paragraphs, as you wove together what essentially amounted to a giant epic story told from the viewpoints of all the characters.  Now granted, some players sucked as writers, and they rarely got better.  But the good ones DID get better.  You learned to read carefully, to edit out your "constant-use words" in order to keep it interesting.  When you're having a conversation paragraph by paragraph, you are forced to stretch your ingenuity to avoid tedium and repetition.  And you got to know people extremely well, by the way they wrote, and the characters they played. 

The Husbthing was a more long-term MUSH'er than I was.  And one of the games he was on, he played closely with another talented writer.  She wanted to be a published author.  She wanted desperately to write books and tell stories. 

Naomi Novik has since written a NY Times Bestselling series, the Temeraire books.  He got me those books, to show me that other people have been where I am and succeeded, and that he believes I can do it too.  I read the first five in the series all day Saturday.  They are PHENOMENAL. I don't know that I'm in her class, as her style is very different from mine, (but her style is WONDERFUL), but my husband seems to think we have equal chances of success.  (He says he's not biased.  I'm generally inclined to believe him as one of the things I love most about him is the fact he is cursed / gifted with utter candor.)

I strongly, highly, absolutely encourage them for reading and enjoyment, but it is a series you absolutely want to read in order.  They're tightly plotted, wonderfully characterized, and amazingly well-researched.  I went through them at awe of the technical perfection of the storycrafting in the back of my mind, since the front was fully occupied with the book.

Good, good books. Wonderful books.  You should read them.  The first one is titled His Majesty's Dragon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two days to Christmas

I still have a stack of Christmas cards sitting on my desk, waiting for me to find a handy relative with an address book they're willing to let me raid, since I've managed to lose the few I kept up with. (And the ones I thought I knew, moved on me!)

Christmas presents are mostly bought and shipped off, though I haven't started on the 12th Night presents yet. (In my particular regional SCA group, there's an event that's essentially one giant Christmas party. Sometimes we bring small items to give as gifts to friends. It's the easiest place to catch everyone you see all the time.)

By all normal counts of Christmas preparations like decorating the house, putting up a tree, or having all the presents wrapped by now, we're sort of failing. We didn't even get a Christmas tree. (Discussion decided we'd rather spend the $60 on presents and things that would be more enjoyable than an admittedly wonderful smelling hunk of dead tree that would afford our cats endless opportunity for destruction.)

But really, I've been so wiped out from being pregnant that anything not absolutely required and necessary got relegated to the not-happening box. I'm looking forward to Christmas not as THE Holiday, but as a 3-day weekend that isn't coming fast enough. It'll be a chance to snuggle up with my husb, and kiss the cats, and call my folks, and play Christmas carols on the piano until my fingers go stiff. Honestly the best present of all.

(P.S. Mannheim Steamroller - original Christmas music? Most fun Christmas music ever. The next few books are not intended for piano and don't translate well at ALL.)

Happy Christmas everyone!

(Or Merry Chanukkah / Feliz Kwanzaa / whatever makes you happy. :) )

Friday, December 10, 2010

School's done!

So much for posting about my wacky adventures during the school year. Turns out I had just enough time to either do the assignments OR blog. Especially since my husband knocked me up, and I found myself sleeping any spare moment not absolutely allocated to something else.

I got an A in my fiction writing class, though I was far and away not the best writer in it. There was this one guy who every time he wrote something, I wanted to read it. EVERY single time. He was from Haiti or Barbados, and he would write about island life and fishing with such a beautiful voice. I hope he writes a book someday because it'd be a crying shame if he didn't.

I wasn't the worst writer either. (Though it is sort of hard to judge that sort of thing, since you know where everyone else falls in your opinion, but have no idea where YOU fall in everyone else's.) I'm basing that mostly off the fact that I could look at a couple other people's writing and know exactly what I'd trim out of it in terms of "telling" not "showing" and so on.

I am glad that I took the class though. It exposed me to some stories I'd never read, and hammered home the idea that people might violently disagree with me about which stories were better. I know intellectually that people have different opinions, but I hadn't appreciated it in a visceral way. When my class almost universally (excluding me and one other person) loved Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" over Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" I was in shock for a couple of days.

I learned about some of my weaknesses in writing, and also that I have a distinct appreciation for drama in my reading / writing. (Go figure. I know this comes as a shock to you all.)

But given that I now have a time frame for the world ending. (I'm due June 20th), I'm planning to really focus on my book. I want to get it done, and into the query process BEFORE the baby comes, hopefully 3 months before. That'll give me time to focus on responses from agents without getting them lost in "ACK SMALL WIGGLY THING NEDS SOMETHING! WHAT! WHAT DO YOU NEED!" time. (I'm not saying I expect positive raving responses. But just in case one DID want to be my agent-buddy, planning to answer those when I won't be coherent is not a good plan.)

Fun times.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell?? - Don't Bother.

"We would have to create separate accommodations and it would cost money!"

"They'll be distracting because of their sexuality."

"Soldiers might be moved to protect a lover over obeying orders from a commanding officer."

"Superior officers might misuse their rank to sexually abuse those of lower rank."

"Other armies won't take us seriously."

Amazingly enough, these aren't arguments against gay people in the military. These are the arguments that were used to say that women couldn't serve in the military.

Women would distract their male counterparts with their dangerous girl-bits. They would require their own showers and toilets, and that would cost a fortune. They would be vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse from superior officers.

We as a society recognized that this thinking was discriminatory and wrong. We recognized that for some military tasks, women are better suited than men, and that women were just as physically capable of serving and dying for their country as men.

Women entered the military, and you know what? We created separate accommodations where necessary, and it didn't cost that much. Women turned out to be exceptionally good at certain tasks, in places distinctly better than their male counterparts, because women are built with better fine dexterity and motor control skills, substantially higher pain tolerances, and their ability to multitask often finds them in key analytical positions collating information from multiple sources.
Soldiers turned out to be capable of working with girls without raping them, and the fraternity of brotherhood has managed to accommodate several sisters without fracturing into disarray.

We're hearing these arguments again, this time aimed at homosexuals. They're not any more valid, or any more correct now than they were then. Soldiers are trained to be strong, independent, capable, and coherent. Implying that they will allow themselves to be raped without fighting back, or lacking integrity and awareness of their fellow soldiers and their responsibilities as soldiers is insulting to our soldiers, and those commanding officers whose job it is to train and care for them.

We have policies in place in case female and male soldiers fall in love, to deal with those issues. What's wrong with those same rules being applied to gay or lesbian soldiers? You can't serve in the same location, or in the same chain of command. If a soldier is raped, it doesn't matter if they're male or female. And allowing gay soldiers to come out means they are no longer subject to blackmail, abuse, or rape they can't report because that might bring up their sexuality in the inquest.

It means giving all our soldiers the same respect, and same protection. If a gay man takes a bullet protecting my little brother, then I will be grateful and glad for his being in the air force next to him, and I will fight to make sure that he is given all the rights that he's fighting to protect.

Discrimination is discrimination, and it's still wrong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm not disturbed, I'm perfectly comfortable.

Literary Agent Susie Townsend is sponsoring a book giveaway on her blog (found here)

Write 100 word story, using certain words, in this case hormones, blood, claws, curse, moon, and bonus for Krokolian Rage.

I asked my husband if he wanted to read it.

"No."

"But I wrote about paramedics!"

"You don't know anything about paramedics."

"Uh huh, I get paramedical points by osmosis."

He leaned over to read.

After reading it, he got this horrified look on his face and looked at me. "I sleep next to you?! You're disturbed lady."

Here's my entry.

It’s a full moon. The paramedics are exhausted by a night full of losses. The whore moans on the gurney. Her acrylic claws are broken, the blood from the wounds inflicted on her attacker staining the flesh underneath. A delusional Twilight-fan stabbed her with a wooden stake because of her body glitter and red hair. She screamed, “I did it for Edward!” when they arrested her. Juvenile assailant. The surgeries are full. She dies in the hallway, waiting.
“Twilight kills.”
“Krokolian Rage.”
They are punch-drunk, tired and ravaged, denied time to reflect and recuperate.
The radio chirps. They both curse.

(Get it, whore moans = hormones? Ha!)

So, anyone else want to vote? Disturbed or perfectly normal for suitably wide values of normal?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Severed Heads and Punctured Egos

My husband has been having a couple of rough weeks, in the way that only a paramedic or cop or other civil servant tasked to deal with catastrophic trauma can. Since his birthday, and 1 year as a paramedic anniversary was last weekend, I decided to kidnap him and run away to a B&B on Carolina Beach, in hopes of getting his stress levels back to normal or lower.

It worked marvelously. We played with a boogie board I bought, soaked in the jacuzzi, and drank red wine from a Styrofoam cup under the full moon on a deserted beach, picking out planets and stars and various thoughts from our heads.

And my husband reminded me why I really married him. As we were sitting there on the beach, I told him about the two critiques I'd received about writing, (namely that when I tended to write in first person narrative, the other characters weren't fully developed as personalities. Both people said they wanted more of a sense of who the other people were.) And instead of petting my nose and telling me not to listen to those mean people, my husband dropped a bomb on me.

"That's because you aren't a good conversationalist."

"What?"

"You are a great story-teller, but what you do when people talk is you wait impatiently for a point at which to contribute your own experiences, rather than building off of what they said, and asking questions to expand their statement. They may start talking about watermelons, and the conversation segues into bicycles, and when you get a chance, you immediately interject a story about watermelons, even though the conversation has moved on."

Ow. More so because I immediately recognized the truth of what he said, and also realized that I had been completely unaware that this was in opposition to what a good conversation REALLY is.

"Oh lord. I'm a bore?" I asked, still reeling from the epiphany.

"Sometimes. But I love you."

I always admired the bit in Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, when Lord Peter tells the woman he loves that she hasn't yet written the book she could write if she let go. She admits that it might hurt too much. And he looks at her and says brutally, "What does that matter, if it's honest?"

The fact Lord Peter was willing to savage Harriet's ego because it was the honest thing to do always seemed one of the essences of a true marriage of minds. Your partner has to be willing to tell you the unpleasant and painful truth, because sometimes they are the only ones who can or will do so.

If there were no other reasons for me to marry Max (he makes me laugh, he's a great kisser, and he's a genuinely good person), the fact that I can trust him to tell me the truth I don't want to hear is enough.

The hard part is giving the full measure of credit for insight to a man who squee'd like a girl when he found a severed rubber head (with windpipe and esophagus) of Jason, the serial killer from Friday the 13th, in a Walgreen's and promptly bought it so he could hang it in his ambulance for Halloween.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Woo hoo! - Batman vs. Blake = A- for me!

One paper down, six to go. I got an A- on the paper my Blake and Batman paper.

(Why yes, my constant cartoon habit served me well.)

My thesis was that "The Tyger" is more about the darkness that preys upon man from without, than the darkness within man. To me, this poem seemed to rail against the unfairness of life and the bad things that happen against which there is no defense but submission and progression.

This seemed rather self-evident to me, but I was raised on the mantra of "Life sucks, get on with it." This is to say, stop whining, and get to work fixing what ails you. Could be either West Texan or Southern Baptist, I'm not sure which, but I suspect the first more than the second, though there's definite hints of "bad things happen so you have the opportunity to rely on God who will help you through" in the theology.

I suspect Blake was extremely frustrated with his lot in life, his unrecognized genius, his constant monetary struggles, (and his definite impression that he could lead the world into enlightenment if only people WOULD LISTEN to him. - Frankly, I find it much easier to enjoy his poetry without thinking about Blake the man, because his personality traits aggravate the hell out of me.)

The point is, the poem seems to be asking why there's evil in the world, but my point was that it was from the viewpoint of someone being victimized and preyed upon, rather than from someone who wondered why people did bad things. The use of a man-eating tiger, the use of darkness as a personification, and the definite indictment of whatever being's "daring" created the monster that preys upon mankind.
Those all seemed evidence to me that Blake was writing from a victim's point of view, than a philosopher's. I read a lot of "Why *me*!" in the poem.

(which is not to say that I don't like the poem. It's been one of my favorites since junior high.)

Batman came in as evidence of the modern interpretation that Blake was talking about the darkness in mankind, asking why evil people exist, given an episode involving a genetically spliced Tiger-man named Tygrus quoted those lines, though as an indictment against the evils of man playing God with genetic tampering.

What got me, was she said this was an original paper and a very unconventional thesis. I've been trying to figure out if she meant it or if she was blowing grey clouds of encouragement up online-student derriere all day, cause I thought I was being very conventional. Goes to show I have no sense of normal I suppose.

Thoughts?

BP

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Building a writing career for $200, Alex.

I submitted the short story about the gangster that isn't a communist to my fiction writing professor, (The illustrious Richard Krawiec. I keep trying not to gibber at him. I'm also bragging a little bit 'cause, totally neener.)

As a note, this is the very first time I'd ever given my writing to someone who qualified as a professional writer for feedback. I was a little nervous about it, because
a) I was supposed to turn in a dramatic scene only. He was under no obligation whatsoever to give me any feedback at all on a 4,500 word story instead of the assigned 500 word scene, and I was worried that it might have been very rude to ask.
b) OMG, professional, published, acclaimed writer looking at my work!

He nailed me on the point that I needed to cut all the communism references I'd initially started with as they felt contrived compared to what had evolved as the real story, and he pointed out some logistic errors regarding points of view and my transitions therein. He also pointed out that one of the characters needed to be more than a wall to bounce conversation off. There were a few other things as well, but all of the things he mentioned were things that I hadn't seen. (And I had spent several hours, -6-, revising before I sent it on.)

My reaction to seeing all the red spots? "WOO! He took my writing seriously!" Because he gave me detailed, pointed, and lots of feedback, as opposed to a vague, "That's nice. Try revising a little more to get rid of some of the nonessentials, and it'll be better!"

So I went through each of his suggestions and revisions, and I reworked it. I'm letting it sit, and then I'm going after it again tonight.

So here's what I'm not sure of. Should I send it back to him, and ask if I properly understood and implemented his suggestions, or should I email him and ask if he would want to see it after the changes were made? I mean, on one hand, he's my professor in a course on creative writing, but on the other hand, I am taking up his time on technically-unrelated-to-specific-class-assignments.

Mrph. In other news, I applied to join a writing group that meets locally, in hopes of kicking my own ass on a schedule.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Characters are like Zombies. They rise up when you least expect them.

My first serious writing experiences were on MUSHes. (Multi-User Shared Hallucination). MUSHes are text-based games in which you create a character, and interact with other created characters, all via text. The better you write, the more real your character becomes. You learn how to give away what you want to share about your character without coming right out and saying it. And you write a LOT. Paragraphs and paragraphs, pages and pages. You learn to start thinking in entire small blocks of action/reaction. I'd recommend them for writers as practice, if it wasn't for the fact they're terribly addictive and time-sucking.

The catch is that MUSHes are usually thematic. The point of the game is known to everyone, and the plot is known ahead of time. Rather than moving from a beginning to an end, your characters are moving through time, moment by moment, scene by scene with the endpoints in far distant future and past, unknowing of your own fate.

The downside here is that you start thinking of plots in these huge overarching waves, and your characters tend to live so much in the moment that they never go anywhere.

The one thing I learned on MUSHes though, was that characters evolve, sometimes in ways you didn't expect them to go. They'll develop phobias, or feelings that you don't agree with, or suddenly hook a left turn into crazy town without signalling.

I figured that was just an aspect of MUSHing. That in a carefully constructed plot, plan and story, that they wouldn't go rogue, because they would be taped the hell down.

I started writing about a communist gangster, because the idea amused the hell out of me. I imagined this short story that would be a humorous diatribe about how a mafioso decided to become a communist because he hated banks, and because he viewed the mafia ownership of unions as supporting the proletariat. I'd be sticking it to the man.

I initially put him in a bar with a beautiful woman, to chat about the purpose of communism and his roles in the mafia. A great contrast of two things that shouldn't go together.

So I started writing. But then out of nowhere, a plot whapped me upside the head. My characters were suddenly driving the story, and I didn't know how it was going to end. I got hijacked by my own writing.

I ended up with a 4,500 word story that I then had to go back and clean up, because the communism had become completely irrelevant to what the characters and story were really about.

I don't know what to do with it now. It was intended to be a journal exercise only. But it's got a life of its own, and I'm a little afraid it won't be content to hide in a drawer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My brain is getting toned.

In the British literature class I'm taking online, we've been feasting on Blake ("Tyger, tyger, burning bright"), Wordsworth (Christabel) and Coleridge (Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kublai Khan), and drowning in the decadent waves of rhythm and sound and meaning and beauty. Thick, rich, multilayered beauty. Beauty that echoes in your brain and breeds its wiggly spawn of inspiration. (It's not a coincidence that Elephantis hatched after a night of reading Blake.)

I've spent most of the last few years on a steady diet of Agatha Christie (fish-and-chips - British and enjoyed by everyone), Terry Pratchett (dry wine - intoxicating, sharp, and sneaks up on you when you're not looking), Meg Cabot (Cotton candy - Sweet, pointless, and guilty pleasure), and an occasional foray into Dorothy Sayers when my brain demanded vegetables. Suddenly getting a glut of actual intelligent and carefully crafted wordsmithery is making my sluggish and out of shape brain rebel. I have to read things two or three times because I taught my brain to skim entire paragraphs at a stretch. In order to catch every nuance and meaning, I have to read, and reread, and reread again.

I hadn't realized that my literary muscles were that out of shape.

Last night, talking to my wise Canucky husband, I mentioned that I needed to get cracking on working on the revisions of my novel, since one of my beta readers had returned it with comments, edits, and suggestions. He pointed out that I might want to wait until the end of the semester, because I'll be a different person, based on the education and practice I've received. My brain will be trim and toned, and reading for sound and meter, and meaning, and purpose.

He also suggested I work on something else like another short story or perhaps the beginnings to novel #2. Something entirely different that doesn't have the dregs of previous thoughts weighing it down.

It's entirely possible I'll scrap novel #1 entirely as a practice effort.

From now on, I'm putting my brain on a diet of *good*, *quality* writing (Healthy grains and fruits and veggies). Good poetry to set up the mental metronome, so it can tick away the rhythm of sentences, and whisper the imagery of dreams into listening ears. Short stories that rip and tear with genteel phrases. All that good super-foodie stuff.

Instead of the physical fitness revolution, let's start the mental fitness revolution! Go read something that won awards, and doesn't make sense the first time through. Time to get that flabby frontal lobe in fighting fit!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A poem

I got whacked last night by an inspiration fairy, and this poem popped into my brain. If I hadn't left my journal in the car, I would have gotten up to jot it down. As it was, I repeated it to myself 8 times before I would let myself go to sleep.


Elephantis

O Elephantis from Atlantis
tell us what the fault of man is!
Our enlightened ways have come to naught,
our great thinkers have all thought.

Yet still there's suffering and despair.
Poisons taint land, sea, and air.
O Elephantis from Atlantis,
give us guidance in your answers.

Tell us which path we first should wend,
that all our troubles will soonest end.
Should starving children first we feed?
Give shelter and schools to those in need?

Or, Elephantis, think it wise,
that environmentally we devise
our efforts toward nature's regime?
Should we kill to justify our means?

There are so many voices now,
all clamoring for ears.
We can not choose between them all,
and drown beneath their tears.

O Elephantis from Atlantis,
tell us what the fault of man is.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Consciously Incompetent.

http://successfulsoftware.net/2010/02/16/unskilled-and-unaware-of-it/

This pretty much sums up the entire reason I am going back to school. I want to be a writer. And I bang out decent drafts. But in doing so, I realized that I lack the ability and knowledge that comes with education. I didn't have the discipline or awareness to stand back from my story and say, "That plot line doesn't work. That characterization is flat and this is why." I just get a vague nebulous feeling that something is wrong, and like a three-year old with a pair of scissors try to cut my own hair, and then wonder why it looks so butchered when I'm done hacking.

This is not to say I'm a bad writer. I've had enough raving English teachers to know I'm a talented writer. What I also am however, is an unskilled writer. I'm also an undisciplined writer. Instead of working all the time, either by jotting down bursts of inspiration, or descriptions of places, or just keeping track of interesting things that I can later use, I just wait until the mood strikes me once or twice a month, and I go bang out five thousand words of a story fragment.

That does not make a professional writer. So I'm putting in the learning time. I'm taking a course in fiction writing geared to teach me the ability to view my work dispassionately and remotely, as well as to pay attention to the various elements that make a good story.

I know, that I do not know. But I know I will learn. I know writing will become more difficult, because I will be more aware of what it should be and the gap between the end and its current state. I will be more unhappy with bad scenes, and excess words. But hopefully, it will make me a better writer.

B.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meeting the Neighbors.

So after a mad dash to the school the day before classes opened to register, I ended up with two online courses, Introduction to British Literature and Introduction to Fiction Writing. Both make heavy use of forum discussion as part of the grade to replace classroom interaction.

In the Introduction to British Literature class, the teacher requested we post an introductory bit on the forums.

My classmates shall be known as

Vampire: A phlebotomist trying to maintain a full-time course load with the assistance of online classes.

PornStar!: A stay-at-home mom who works primarily in "social media" and managing online communities. I'm hoping she's a porn star, because that would be completely awesome. I'll be disappointed when she tells us she's a blogger or a webcomic artist. Unless I love her work, in which case, we're back to Awesome.

Tweedy: The only man in the group, he wants to be a history teacher when he grows up, with a double minor in English and Religious Studies. Since history teachers should all wear tweed jackets and smoke pipes, he will be named Tweedy.

Jane: She wants to teach English and History, and be a writer when she grows up. She's already been working on a book too.

Me: Apparently I'm already destined to be the crazy manic one in the class, based on corollary application of the drunk party rule.

(For those that do not know the drunk party rule it goes as follows.)

"At every party, there is one person who is too drunk, too loud, and annoying everyone else. Look around the party. If you can not tell who the drunk person is, it's you."

The sad part is that I'm not sure I can help it. I'm extremely excited about every aspect of these classes, and I'm quite sure I'm coming off like a chihuahua who emptied the toilet bowl three hours ago.

The Intro to Fiction Writing class did not request an introduction post, though I'm pondering making one anyways just to find out who my classmates are. They are safe from the knowledge that I am among their ranks for the nonce.

(Nonce. I love that word. I am extremely annoyed that it got saddled with the slang definition of sex offender.)

Right now, all I am doing for this class is writing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, because the first assignment due next Friday includes a hell'a lot of writing, but it's definitely a more solitary feeling than the other.

Back to work.
B.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's a good day!

I found out today that I've been admitted to Local Fine Arts University to begin pursuit of my bachelor's degree. Classes begin tomorrow.

Apparently they don't send notification by email, mail, or phone. They just post something to your "student portal" on their website. There was never an indication that that is where you would look for such pertinent information.

I would also like to point out that nowhere on said student portal that I clicked religiously was there ever the phrase "Congratulations, you've been admitted" or some other clear indicator thereof. I had to call this morning to verify that I was even admitted at all.

But I'm admitted! I can start taking classes towards my English degree and hopefully eventual writing career. (And subsequent career as a literary agent if writing fails. Because that entire side of the industry absolutely fascinates me.)

It's going to be weird. I have 80 or more hours towards a degree in Chemical Engineering. (I am very good at math. I am very bad at Engineering) I never had to take an English class in College. I'm pretty much going to have to take the 45 hours required to get the degree, only 18 of which have to be in the English program.

Go figure.

I'm thinking some web-savvy classes, since the Internet is apparently not going away any time soon, and I'm three steps away from a Luddite, pretending that we didn't come to the party together.

It's a little bit scary, going back to college to rectify one of my hugest life errors (Passing up a full-ride scholarship to go be with my one "TOTALLY FOR REAL TRUE LOVE", who wasn't, and giving up on school when I started getting C's because I had no such thing as a study habit. Yeah, I was a moron at age 20.)

And then while I was wallowing in sheer terror that I'm being an idiot for thinking this writing thing is at ALL a good idea, I noticed that on Janet Reid's [literary agent for whom I have a mild stalker-like crush] blog (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/), I was one of the finalists in one of her short story quickie competitions!

Just enough of a bump to make me all gung-ho again. Manic? Me? Pfft. This time I'm totally color-coding all my binders and folders. I'll even use tabs and note-cards. Or a laptop. Either.

Love,
B.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I’ve been having the strangest feelings of writers’ block lately. I’ve started and discarded six or seven blog posts since Tuesday. I think it’s because I don’t know anyone reading this yet. I’m standing in a corner of the internet, and shouting my words into the ether. If the words are funny or relevant or interesting, then strangers will come read them. Maybe the strangers will turn into friends. Maybe they won’t. This is the first journal or blog I’m writing expressly for the purpose of making friends. All my previous blogs were being written TO my friends, who had already proved their desirability and friendship. I was telling people I knew what was going on in my life. Now, I’m talking to perfect strangers and the bar is higher. I’m feeling the pressure of performing. What if someone I respect and admire reads this, thinks I’m a weenie, and wanders off, a first impression formed in concrete?

Oh, hello anxiety. Welcome back. I’d missed you.

I don’t know who will find me funny or relevant or interesting. Midwestern moms? Twilight tweens? (Please God no.), or worst of all, Twilight Moms? (Twilight Moms are terrifying. If I was Robert Pattison or Taylor Lautner I would be seriously investing in some large meat shields.)

They even have their own website. www.twilightmoms.com. Fourteen year old girls? They just want to cuddle and stare bashfully from afar. Those forty year old women want to do bad things. Very bad things. They will WRECK you. The fervor of a teenage girl’s love coupled with a 40-year old’s sexual peak? We’re talking handcuffs and broken furniture and safe words, and things that are only legal in Thailand and Bangladesh.

(Hee hee. Bang-ladesh. Best country name ever.)

It occurs to me that perhaps I should not call down the wrath of the Twilight Moms, as I do not have the spare change to purchase muscle-bound taser-toting meat shields.

So forget I said anything. I’m totally for whatever Team you’re for. And if you’re reading this, could you leave me a comment telling me who you are? It’ll make me feel much better. Unless you’re a Twilight Mom. In which case it’ll fill me with cold terror.

Love,
B.

P.S. If you’re a recovering Twilightaholic, congratulations. The road to recovery from temporary insanity can be a difficult and trying one, but I am here for you. I recommend a healthy dose of books with strong female heroines, and well-written sexy romances based on healthy relationships. Tell your local librarian, and they’ll be glad to recommend some things. Or just go to http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/ , if you’re not ready to admit your problems in public yet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Starting Over

I want to be a published author. This is not a surprise to my nearest and dearest, who've listened to me mumble about being a writer and wanting to write professionally for years now.

I've always loved books. My mother started teaching me to read when I was eighteen months old at my request, and I was literate at age 3. I read constantly. At any given time, a book can almost always be found within 3 feet of me. When I say constantly, I do mean constantly. I was perfectly happy reading for six or seven straight hours. (And still am.)

When I was five, my mother entered me in the March of Dimes reading competition. I read 665 books in a month. (The local bank president had promised to sponsor $.50 a book. He thought my mother was lying to him, so he called me into his office, and quizzed me about random books on the list. I told him all about them. He paid up.) Technically I read more than that, because I kept reading the same ones over and over again and bringing them to my mother who had to make a list so she could make sure there weren't duplicates.

Strangely enough, I never considered "writing" as a serious career choice. I went with the more academically impressive-sounding "chemical engineer" which was a dismal failure. I like chemistry, but I don't like the career that goes with it.

It wasn't until I was fired from a job I hated that I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn't want to work in a cubicle farm, and I hate the traditional hours of 8-5 for productivity. So I spent the next three months banging out a first draft of a manuscript, while looking for another job in the pits of despair. I finished it, and now it's working on being polished in the hands of beta readers. It's only 45K, and needs to be at least 65, but it's a start, right?

I know it's a difficult road, and I'm not looking forward to the pain and pitfalls and agony and sacrifice it requires. I'm scared of the parts of the business I'm not good at, like web-savvy and an e-platform, and all the rest. But I am going to try.

So I'm going to overcome my initial paranoia about PEOPLE ON THE INTERWEB (you are all very scary), and write a blog under my REAL name and REAL identity, about my REAL life journey to try and write a book worthy of publication.