Monthly Archives: January 2012

Multiple Book Personality

I have Multiple Book Personality disorder. I’ve had an eight books fantasy series,  two young adult novels, one paranormal romance and a stand alone fantasy floating around in my head. Two and two halves are already written, which still leaves me with eight and two halves (and all the accompanying personalities contained therein) mind locked. They tend to chatter to me if I focus too much on them, or on their storyline, which made doing mundane things, like sleeping, difficult. Some day, I will buy a micro-cassette recorder and keep it by the bed so when they start babbling, I can just roll over and speak into the mic. I think that would make my life easier.

The worst part of having MBP  is focusing enough to finish one manuscript before starting on the next. I’ve been editing one since I wrote it during my very first National Novel Writing Month back in 2008. The other one is in a mess of a first draft.  It was originally written for someone I loved passionately, so it holds a lot of my heart. I’m just not sure it holds enough viable material to make it a publishable work. I’ve put it into my ‘someday’ pile, y’know, for when I don’t have anything better to do.

 

 

 

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Workin’ for a Livin’

A number of years ago, my husband was laid off from what we believed at that time to be his career; pulling computer cable for major companies. It was a blow both financially and emotionally. We had decided I was going to home educate our two sons rather than be a two-income household, so what he was bringing in was the sum and total. To say life was tight after that is an understatement.

Luckily, family stepped up and kept us afloat while my husband job hunted. And I did my part, too. I swallowed every iota of pride I ever had and got all of us on food stamps. Now, in theory, food stamps are there to help you when you need it. But being on them carries a certain stigma with it. A stigma of being poor, of being under-educated and of being lazy. All of which is highly unfair. Is it our fault we’re poor? Well, the choices we made out of high school weren’t the ones that would gain us the ‘big bucks’, that’s true enough. But sometimes being dropped to your knees isn’t by choice. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I sent his resume everywhere but overseas. Even McDonald’s. Nowhere was hiring, or if they were, no one was calling him for interviews. It took a chance meeting and a chance conversation in a local convenience store that finally changed things for the better. He came home with a phone number and told me he could get a job toting for a very local sanitation company.

Let me tell you… when you have nothing, and you have two growing children to feed and a house to maintain, you don’t care what job it is. I was incredibly proud of my husband for being willing to take a job that, quite frankly, both of us saw as beneath him. It really showed me here was a real man; a man willing to do any job necessary to put food on the table and take care of his family. I don’t think I’ve ever loved him more than when he took that job.

That job only lasted a year before it was bought out, but his boss ensured he’d be taken care of by making his being hired by the next company part of the ‘package’. By that time, he had his CDL and a year driving a rural sanitation route.

He spent the next 6 years driving a garbage truck for a living. And there were a lot of perks no-one would ever dream of that went along with that. We made an extra $300+ every 3 months or so on recycling metal, got non-working computer monitors that a friend fixed for us for pennies on the dollar… my whole computer system was built using other people’s ‘garbage’. He even rescued a flat screen t.v. that needed a $20 part. Yeah, seriously.

He’s not driving for a living anymore. We had another, self-imposed this time, bout of unemployment in 2010. But guess what? Not only did we survive it, we came out stronger on the other side.

 

 

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Reading backwards and reading aloud

You must go back to move forward. That point is true in a lot of different aspects of life, but I’m specifically referring to writing. When you look at your creative venture and say ‘Yeah, I’m done’, only then do you start reading it again. From the end.

It sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’ve done it. It works. You’re no longer focusing on how the plot flows, or if your characters ring true, or any other of the myriad details that ultimately make your work…well…work. Instead, you’ll be reading for spelling and grammatical errors that your spell checker missed.

 

I know it sounds so simple that you’re probably wondering ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

 

Good question. Why didn’t you? 😉

 

The other point I want to touch on briefly is the beauty of reading aloud. It’s more difficult to read out loud, sure, but it’s really worth it. Reading out loud allows you to ‘catch’ all those pesky sentences that look beautiful on the page but are, in reality, a cluster of tongue twisting phrases you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

Not only that, but people really, honestly, do use contractions. 😀 Go ahead and read a paragraph of dialogue with little to no contractions aloud. If you’re like me, your brain will try to automatically substitute contractions where there aren’t any. Go ahead.  You’ll see what I mean.

 

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I am who I am.

I’m done with the pretense.

 

I’m what I thought was middle aged when I was young. My house will never look like something out of Homes and Gardens. Neither will my yard. My couch holds more laundry than it does visitors. I’m the proud owner of messy dogs, and messier kids. If I’m not writing stories, I’m reading them. I proudly home school. Some days are better than others. It’s not a life tied up with a neat red bow. I struggle constantly with finances and self doubt. My husband works 10+ hours 6 days a week. His commute is an hour one way. We’re a single car family, which means the kids and I are confined to our house around 85-90 % of the time. And I have too much internal pride to ask my friends if they can come get us and take us out. I wait for someone to volunteer. I’m also in my first year/first term of college. Which means my stress levels are through the roof most days.

I’m not saying it’s a bad life. Not at all. I know I’m blessed.

 

But there are days I have to remind myself that the outside ‘surface’ stuff is just that. Surface stuff. In the length and breadth of life, does it really matter that my dogs sleep on the couch, I shop at thrift stores or I look forward to our income tax refund because that means I can fully stock my freezer with meats and pay off bills?

 

Not really.

 

Because, even with all the stress, I’m happy with who I am. Wife, mother, writer, and friend.

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I, we and the ever mysterious ‘they’

Who are the mysterious ‘they’, anyway? Have you ever thought about it? ‘They’ tell you if you have heartburn when you’re pregnant, it means your baby will be born with a full head of hair. ‘They’ tell you if you cross your eyes and someone slaps you on the back, your eyes will stay that way.

Okay, so that last can be attributed to your parents, but you catch my drift.

 

For years I’ve been referring to other writers, the published writers, as ‘they’. As if they were a class unto themselves. As if being published put up a wall between us and them. And that simply isn’t so. Just because we’re part of the unpublished masses, that doesn’t make our words less important, less viable. It just means they’ve gone a step further than we have. They put their words out there to be accepted or rejected.

 

So I decided last week to start referring to myself as a writer. I am a writer. I am a lover of words, and lover of well told stories. I write, not because I can, but because I can’t not write. I may not be published yet, but I am still a writer.

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A thick skin is a gift from God. ~Konrad Adenauer

Navel oranges, rhinos, elephants and coconuts…and writers.

We all have thick skin… and if you’ve only eaten the thinner skinned navel oranges, you’re missing a real treat. But that’s besides the point.

 

I”m currently in my second week of online college. I’m only taking one class to begin with, but it’s English. I mean, it’s easy, right? Umm… sort of. It’s physically easy. It’s writing, after all. Which is my God given gift. On the other hand, it’s essays. Which were my nemesis in high school. Seriously. I hated them.  And I still hate them. Thankfully, my essays seem to be doing me good stead thus far. But we have discussions and fellow students evaluate the posted discussions. And that’s where the thick skin comes into play. Because, really, no matter what we write about, at the bottom of it all, writers bleed ink.

 

That’s right. Ink. Not blood. Blood would be easy. We’re in love with our words and any belittling of them wounds us to the core. It doesn’t matter if it’s an essay for an English class or a novel. We’ve done our best, given that draft to our beta reader, best friend, fellow students… and they don’t respond kindly, or, even worse, they don’t respond at all, and we’re left hanging, wondering if we’re just spinning our wheels in mud because we don’t know any better.

 

That’s when we have to put on our rhino skin and shrug it off. Not everyone will be interested in our words and creativity. I’m struggling through this exact situation. Someone I love dearly told me that, though my book holds no interest, it would be bought and read once I’m published. Not exactly the endorsement I wanted, but it’s the best this person can offer me. So the least I can do is accept it. That’s the theory, anyway.

 

I’m not perfect. Far from it. And I’ve learned, through progressive heartbreak, that sometimes people simply can’t read my words, no matter how much they might love me. And I simply need to let it go.

 

I have a skin on now, but it’s more like an avocado than a rhino. It’s there, but it’s still thinner than I’d like.

 

I’m working on it.

 

 

 

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Death adds life.

The choice to kill off a beloved character is much like choosing to end a long-term relationship (be it a friendship or something with much deeper ties).  It’s a gut wrenching decision, but sometimes it’s necessary to move the story forward.

 

I had to do that with one of my works in progress. I loved this character. He was funny, he brought life and laughter and confusion to my main characters… and he died. Not out of deliberate maliciousness, but because it was a purely selfless act on his part that was ultimately necessary. He did what no other character in my novel could do. And the story arc could continue as a result of his death.

 

I think the good writers can do that. Not that every one of us needs to kill off a character, but that willingness to sacrifice someone we’ve built (literally!) from the ground up in order to move forward separates us from those who believe every single person (and I use that word loosely, since not everyone qualifies as a ‘person’ when writing) must survive in order to have a viable storyline.

 

Death, ultimately, adds something to your novel. It brings life to the forefront. It makes you that much more invested in whatever quest or goal your main characters have. The bottom line is… if it’s too easy, if it doesn’t grip your heart, the journey just might not be worth reading to the end of the book.

 

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