Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jane Understood My Pain.

Being a stay-at-home mom with a lot of education, interests, and hobbies, I get asked to dish out my time here and there for various causes. Now, they are all important and worthy, but I still try to spend most of my hours writing. And I work at keeping the majority of my associations from knowing that I "waste" my time writing novels without getting paid to do it. (...Yet!)

The most productive writing time I have is during nap time for the nearly two year old and "quiet time" for the five and a half year old (if she's not at school). This time is sacred time and I find myself constantly fighting for it. Everyone wants a piece of those couple of hours. And by gum, sometimes when I give in and let other things take priority, I feel horrible about it. Like some unproductive slob. Writing is therapy for me and you know the old adage, "if mom ain't happy, nobody is happy". And I'm not happy if I haven't worked on a book at least a little each day.

I recently audio-reread Pride and Prejudice. I love to listen to audio books while I walk/exercise and this is my favorite book of all time (I know! Me and every other thirty-something year old female). But I was thinking a lot about Jane Austen this time, how she had to publish this book under the byline of "From the lady author of Sense and Sensibility" and it made me suddenly grateful. She knew my pain! (In a way.) Jane was a lady and it was unacceptable for a lady to write and publish novels back in 1811. So she hid the fact she was writing. But how did she explain to people what she did with large blocks of her time? How did she hide her obsession? And moreover, what excuses did she give for not doing other things so that she could secret away at home and write?

For decades she must have suffered to hide her writing time, until word got out via her brother that she was the "lady" writing these marvelous books. That can't have been fun, keeping such a secret and it was a LONG TIME after she'd set forth to write her first book that people began to find out what she did. (Like from 1795 to 1813, I think.)

One story I heard was that she wouldn't let anyone fix a creaky board just outside the door of the room where she would write. That way she could hide her papers away in her desk before someone entered the room. She went through pains to keep her occupation secret.
And I wish I knew what she did to get out of appointments when she wanted to write instead!
My tactic is ambiguity. It's not the best recourse and I wish I had better, but I just tell people I have "stuff" to do when my son is napping and leave it at that. I'm a horrible liar but if I look uncomfortable enough, people generally leave me alone and won't ask anymore questions. Does anybody have a better tactic for keeping certain time sacred for doing what they want to do? I would love a better idea than my own....
Perhaps in the meantime I'll utilize my caller ID more and install traffic cameras in the driveway.
...And thank Jane, again and again, for her books and for her example.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lights in the darkness

This week has been crappy. What between my health and a kid with croup, I’ve been pretty down. And then the writing suffers and then I’m really down on myself. But, being as it’s Friday, I’ve no wish to dwell on that and want to give you some things that have brought light to the darkness of the week:

1. U2 has a great new album coming out in March! Yes, I’m excited, but I ask you, can you resist the good ole days either?!
(Sorry, you have to link away, YouTube won't let me embed their U2 songs.)

2. It’s raining here. Yes, actually raining. It should be snowing, but here it is, so warm that it’s been raining for two days. We’ll take any precipitation we can get, though, and chalk it up to something good.

3. I only remembered after I wrote chapter five in the Lithuanian folktale that it doesn’t get dark there in the summer until about midnight. Very frustrating, and no, nothing to be upbeat about, but at least I remembered BEFORE I carried it on even farther into the book.

4. The kestrals are all back in my neck of the woods and looking for ladies. I know this will sound weird to non-bird people, but I love to see them when they perch on the fences and telephone wires. They are so beautiful with their bright colors that I can’t help get wistful about the days when I participated in bird count surveys. I love birds! (And all vertebrates, for that matter.)

5. I have FRIENDS! This is a big shout out to those people who stand by me, believe in me, and love me (yes, I consider my family my friends too). Thank you to all of you who have sent well wishes via phone, facebook, and my family blog regarding my health, which is okay now.
(Note: I apologize to those of you who don’t have access to the family blog—I keep it private for the safety of my kids.)

6. I’m grateful for patience. I’m still learning patience, but I’m getting better. And I’m patiently awaiting a status report from an agent that has a full of Courtesy and Patience (how ironic). I know it’s not the most efficient way of getting out there—waiting on only one agent—but I have the time and I’m of the opinion that it only takes one yes, not a war of agents vying for your contract. So I’ll wait for what this one (who sounds awesome) has to say before I hit the drawing board again. Meanwhile my other books won’t write themselves, so excuse me while I get back to work…

So what have you been up to? What things have been on your minds this week?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Paragraph Peek

I'm finally getting brave enough to post a snippet from my WIP, the Lithuanian folktale. Please be very liberal with your judgement--it's a really rough first draft. Though at least it gives one the idea of the voice (thus far). Happy reading!

A soft creak in the corner of the porch caught her attention before her knuckles more than brushed the wooden door. Dalia spun to face the oldest woman she had ever seen, rocking slightly in a chair. The woman was bent, covered in three shawls in various degrees of shabbiness. She appeared attentive to something straight ahead. Dalia turned to see what arrested the old woman’s gaze. Nothing was there that she could see and assuming that the old woman had not noticed her, the young girl cleared her throat.

The expression on the old woman’s face did not change, nor did her intermittent rocking and gaze eastward.

Senele,” stammered Dalia, timorously, addressing the woman as she would a grandmother.

The old woman ceased rocking and though she did not face her, she cocked her ear to one side, as if to listen to her visitor.

Dalia clearer her throat once more, this time to urge her voice forward, louder. “Senele, I am looking for the goodly Ragana that lives here.”

The old woman’s lips parted in a toothless smile and in a dusty voice, rasped, “Now why ever would a gentle thing like thee be in search of them?”

The ancient woman turned her head to the girl and sightless eyes weighed her. For it was then that Dalia noticed the woman was blind, her eyes dimmed underneath their clouded irises.

Not them, Senele, I seek only one, the goodly witch who might help me heal my mother,” said Dalia, thinking the woman old and confused.

The woman did not correct herself, but rocked slightly, mulling the girl’s words as she chewed her tongue.

“There are three witches that live here, ones thou would do well to avoid.”

You probably can't tell much about the story by this page, but it's obvious there's something wrong with our main character's mother. That's made this whole first section so hard to write for me because it's too near home. My mother is battling stage III ovarian cancer right now and I have to catch myself lately, as I write, from crying. I suppose it'll help my writing because I feel what Dalia's feeling at this point in my life, but it's also making for difficult writing days. I just don't want to go where my heart is taking my writing right now. And yet I know I have to go, so I will continue. And like my mother fighting the cancer, I will persevere!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Inifinte Hope

"Every successful debut book should be viewed on the order of a minor miracle. It's like throwing a manuscript across a river of paper-eating snakes and crocodiles and hoping that all the pages reach the other side. Success is hard and rare, and there is an incredible array of obstacles along the way. Success is not the default, and success does not come easily."

And while he was pointing out that some writers think success should come easily and something is wrong with the system if it doesn't (i.e. if an agent doesn't take them on or an editor shower them with money), his words spoke to me in another fashion. First let me say I harbor no hard feelings to agents that have rejected me and I see nothing wrong with the present system of "query first, manuscript on request". What his words said to me is that this is reality and getting published is very hard. Yet this message barely breaks the skin.

See, I have this infinite hope that I will see my name in print someday. Never mind the money issue. Never mind some author's hopes for fame and glory, I just want to see my name on books. And as many books as possible. Is this weird? Maybe. And maybe even a little self-centered, though I think of it as a contribution to the world not to my ego. I want to contribute, I want to create. I'm willing to work, willing to create.

And Nathan Bransford's words struck home because I KNOW it's nearly impossible to get published at all--that it's nothing short of a miracle. But I believe in miracles and in spite of everything, I hope for that day I can pull my book out of shelf of a library or bookstore and hand it to my kids to read. I consciously or subconciously ignore all voices that say that I can't make it. I live in ignorance of the climb ahead of me and I'm at peace with that.

So what about you? What things do people say you can't do and all you hear is "try harder"?

(BTW: I have a great deal of respect for Nathan Bransford. His blog is my favorite agent blog and if there are any wannabe authors reading this, you're missing out if you don't follow his blog. I'm just saying...)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jocks and Geeks Unite!

How great is it that the internet is so unifying? I look on my facebook page and see the nerds—you know—those that actually “got” computers twenty years ago befriending the jocks, the preps, the hippies, and so forth. Everyone seems to be a virtual friend out there and everyone knows how to run a computer (almost everyone, anyway). Now, I’ve always been an outspoken advocate against conformity and stereotypes, so this is just one of two things that I’m grateful to the internet for. Maybe it could give us some semblance of hope for world peace (or some jive like that)? I’d like to think of it as the tune of the future: we can have information at our finger tips, companionship at a mobile ring tone, and accept people no matter what stupid things they put on their “what are you doing right now?” status. Do you think such unity can last? Better yet—spread over into the REAL world?

Maybe I’m just in a funky mood today, but the future’s looking bright in some angles. Maybe not the economy, but there’re other reasons to rejoice. We’ve come a long way from the timid days when “email” was new and daunting terrain. (Cough. Cough. My first year of college.)

Oh, and the other thing I’m grateful for about the internet? The ease of research. Today I just learned the theory of archaic weaving and wool spinning for my new novel without leaving the comfort of my recliner. And gratefully I don’t even need to try it out… because it doesn’t sound fun.

(So thank you, thank you, Al Gore, for the internet…. You did invent the internet, right?)

I LOVE technology!

Can I have my jet pack now, please?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Odd years for my oddities...

This year (2009, duh) is my year. Yep. Good things come to me on odd numbered years and I feel it in the joint of my left pinky toe that this year something good will happen to me.


1977-- I was born. On Easter. (And now you can figure out how old I am.)
1985-- I moved away from Florida and the humidity. I was also baptized in the faith I still hold dear.
1989-- I began junior high. (Most people wouldn't count that as a blessing, but when you came from a sixth grade class of 8 people, it was the best thing in the world.)
1991-- I got my first car, thanks to my mom and dad needing a chauffeur for my siblings.

Then let's fast forward to 1995, because I can't remember much of 1993 at the moment.

1995-- I started college and cracked that door of freedom wide open.
1999-- I married the perfect man (perfect for me at least). I also started graduate school, which felt like another open door.
2003-- My daughter was born!
2005-- We moved to northern Arizona where I can go in any direction and hug a pine tree in a national forest.
2007-- I had my son and he's still kicking and screaming (healthily).

So here we sit on 2009, and I know whether it be finding an agent or the perfect pizza dough recipe, this year is going to be great.

That's all I had to say. Go ahead and carrying on with your New Year's resolutions and that traditional goal setting rubbish. Because no matter what you do, good and bad things are going to happen all on their own this year and you know it.

(Not that I'm superstitious. And not that I'm against goal setting either.)