Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!!!!!

Happy New Year!!! Okay, I’m a little early... but still, I hope 2009 proves to be a year of grace and peace and accomplishment... I hope each of my bloggy buddies finds agents or book deals or both... I hope you all stretch the limits of your dreams, then find new goals to strive for, and maybe enjoy the scenery along the way... okay, definitely that last bit.

In case any of you were wondering, I didn’t make my writing goal. Not even close. I’m about half-way through. I could list you a bunch of excuses, but they would be just that and the truth is probably a lot simpler – it was too short a time limit for me to write a rough draft in the way I’m comfortable. From the start of this WIP, I’ve been at it less than three months (that includes plotting, I started from scratch). Honestly, I’m a little amazed I’ve been able to devote as much time to writing as I have been, given that the start of a new school year, one child’s birthday, and three holidays have come and gone. There’s been baking and planning and present presenting. We’ve had one flood (the first in the twelve years I’ve lived here) and one bout of vermin – don’t ask. And laundry, let’s not forget the laundry.

I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’m not one of those writers that goes by word count per day. It just doesn’t work for me because I’m liable to come back to the writing tomorrow and cut two full pages from the previous days’ progress. I re-read and re-edit during the rough draft process and, hopefully, that makes revisions a little less complicated. Probably not, but it’s the way I work. I can’t barrel forward with glaring inaccuracies or flat out mistakes in the previous pages.

What did I accomplish? Well, I like this WIP. The characters, the story, the setting, the themes... I needed to tell it and I needed to tell it now. In the last month, I posted my first paragraph at Nathan’s and my pitch at BookEnds... my pitch needs a bit of work, I think, but I’ll get to that as I go.

Last year, I mentioned that I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I set goals for myself, but I wouldn’t list any resolutions on the blog. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and wondered, in fact, if the real reason I don’t post these things is because I’m afraid of staring at a big fat failure a year later. I even paged through my old posts to see if I mentioned where I wanted to be today, and I came across this one:

Why is the song loser running through my mind? Huh... apparently it’s common for me to hit a funk at the year’s end... who’d a thunk it?

Three Things struck me from that post:

But whatever else happens, I’ll finish this one and I’ll start on the next... now’s the time to do it in earnest...

I did that! I finished Raskin’s Wings in March. I’ve submitted to a good number of agents – no one tells you ahead of time that researching agents takes more work than writing! I had some feedback and a few requests for partials and fulls and have, for now, pulled it from submissions. It’s a good story, and I truly believe it’s publishable... but it’s not the best writing I can do. It took getting embroiled in this one before I fully realized that. Right now the plan is to go back to that one and see if I can revise it... but it may be one of those fabled ‘under the bed’ books... we’ll see.

Failure is not a problem. Failure does one of two things – it either makes you stronger or it defeats you... I’m not the second one. I know I’m not, I just don’t have it in me to lie down.

Okay, I have on occasion stumbled across a writer that pulled me out of my little wallowy bullshit by their prose... I’ve never before done it to myself... It would be laughable if it wasn’t a touch crazy, but hell, if I was completely normal I sure the hell wouldn’t keep at a career path that hands you rejection at every turn.

The third thing was the comments. All of whom are the same people who I’ve visited all year and who visit me. Who tell me to keep going, even when it would be more sensible to quit. There are a few other bloggers who missed that one but have kept me on the path, and I thank you.

So, okay, New Year’s Resolutions (what’s the worst that could happen?)

Finish From the Neighborhood (I’ll open end the out date – but I’m thinking March... that’s a book a year, which isn’t bad)

Get a job that I like. (Harder than it looks in this economy – and the other vaiables in there include a boss flexible enough that I can take the occasional afternoon for my kids’ stuff or sick days when they are... and I’ll need a great babysitter) As a side note, anybody have any idea how scary it is to look for a real job after having been home raising kids for more than eleven years? It’s positively frightening... and it makes editors and agents look far less ferocious

Publish (anything... though, a book contract *girly giggles* would be lovely)

Of course, with a book contract I would be looking for the perfect agent first – but I didn’t want to add that one to the list... I’m not setting a time limit on that, though one can always dream.

Okay, Guys, I’d love to hear your New Year’s Resolutions if you’ve got any... or about how your bloggy buddies have helped you out, kept you going, or even helped you squander your time...

Here’s hoping you all have the most joyous New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Angels and Santa Still Exist

I’ve mentioned before that I read Post Secret from time to time…

The following exchange was posted after a secret that said, “People think I’m horrible for telling my child there is no Santa. They don’t have to look in their eyes on Christmas morning.” I normally would have just included a link to it, but he takes down the old secrets when he puts up the new ones and I didn't want to take the chance that you guys would miss this. He should be posting new ones tonight or tomorrow morning.

Head warning, I still haven’t stopped crying. Sometimes it helps to know there are still good people out there, hope for good things to come.

Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 5:18 AM
Subject: timecard you're not alone

My son just wrote Santa last night asking for that special present and I didn't have the heart to tell him that "Santa's" back injury has kept HER from waiting tables the past two weeks .

my secret:
I wish Santa Claus was real so on Christmas no child would have to go without and no parent would have to feel like they failed there child.

-Amber (with permission)

-----Email Message-----
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 12:11 AM
Subject: re: timecard you're not alone

I know I cannot do this for every child out there, but if you would tell her that there is someone out there willing to try and buy their son that gift, then I would appreciate it very much.

I am a college student with a limited budget, but it would be a lovely Christmas present for me if I were able to put a smile on the faces of two strangers on Christmas morning.

-----Email Message
Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 11:53 PM
Subject: RE: timecard you're not alone

First off let me tell you how thankful I am to you and your wonderful offer. I was not in anyway expecting any sort of help I just wanted to let this person know they were not alone.

Gratefully yours,

[Frank's Note:] (I asked Amber to set-up a PayPal account using this email address for those of us wanting to help.)

[update:] (PayPal Account information removed, as per Ameber's request.)

-----Email Message-----
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 4:05 PM
Subject: extra credit good karma AMBER

I made a donation and I was surprised at how good it felt. One does not have to be a millionaire to feel the joy of being generous.

-----Email Message-----
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 5:04 PM
Subject: RE: timecard you're not alone


Santa Claus is real and is alive and well. He lives in you and others like you all over the world. I am overwhelmed by the love and generosity strangers have shown my family today. I never would have imagined it would get as large a response in such little time as it has. Not only will I be able to afford the present he asked for but clothes and other necessities I had been putting off.

At this time I am asking that you remove my paypal account from postsecret and I urge anyone else who wants to help someone in need to get into contact with their local community action centers.

Thank you for making my wish come true,

Am I the only one crying like a big baby? Go do something nice for somebody. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and everyone will pass it on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Writing Contest and such....

Blogging editor and author, Lillie Ammann recently posted about Epic’s New Voices contest for middle school and high school students If you have or know of a writer in those age groups, who might enjoy submitting their fiction for consideration, go check out her blog! My kids are still a bit too young, but it looks awesome and it sounds like every entry gets constructive feedback from the professional writers and editors that make up the judging panel.

In other news:

I’m busy.

Sorry for the lapse in bloggy stuff, or visiting. I’ll wait until after the holiday to update you all on anything writing related, as in, will I make my December 31st deadline?

I’m hoping to get in a few holiday posts between here and there, but we’ll see. It’s been crazy lately.

Hope you’re all doing well and having a fabulous December.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Financial Forecast - Cloudy with a chance of Sun

Well, most of the world has been worrying over the current economic situation. Not that it’s not a worry, but it’s a worry that we can’t do much about... The sky isn’t really falling and we will eventually muddle our way out of this, individually and collectively. But lately I’ve been thinking about it this way, and oddly enough it’s a piece of literature that taught me this little bit of advice, but it seems to be accurate. In Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler said that there were two times to make a great fortune, during the building up of a society and during its downfall.

Now, obviously, the current economic crisis is not equal to the devastation of the civil war, but theoretically it is sound. Look how many people made their fortunes from the building of technology, during the rebuilding of society after World War II, and so on. So, what I’m thinking about is looking into stock trading. I don’t claim to know much about it, but logically I do know that many stocks have fallen to prices we haven’t seen since the fifties. Theoretically, I could find an online broker, invest a little money, little enough that it won’t kill me to lose and that I won’t have to touch for the foreseeable future. Providing the companies I pick don’t flat out close, when the economy rights itself, it should bring back a good return on my investment.

Like I said, I don’t know a great deal about online trading, but I think, so long as the principal I invest is low enough that I can live with the loss, it may be a good time to learn.

How about you guys? Is the economy shaping any new investment ideas for you? Is it changing the way you write or look at your savings or budget your groceries? And is that all bad or can you see some good coming out of this in the long run?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A New Brand of Scumbag..... Yippee, Skippy!

So, I’ve been looking for a job. I know, I picked about the worst economy ever to start hunting for employment, but youngest just started school full time this year, so it’s the first year I’ve really been able to look without putting him in daycare.

I know a lot of other writers who make their income from freelance writing, and I did do that for quite a while, but it took away from fiction for me. Plus, I’d really like to get back out in the world, with a regular schedule and co-workers, and, you know, a paycheck would be good.

Now, traditional job hunting today is a lot different from what it was the last time I was looking for full time employment... people don’t hunt the classified section in the local paper anymore, they do most of their hunting online. I’ve been regularly checking a variety of places with listings, including craigslist.

For me, personally, I won’t send a resume in response to a job posting, unless the posting gives all the pertinent information for the company and I can check their website or call a local number to speak to someone in HR. Usually I just send a short email inquiry, asking for specifics of the position and company... really, I don’t want to send my personal information and job history out to some random email address.

Today I got a response from one of the job postings I applied for and, boy, was it a doozy. The ad itself was fine – I don’t respond to ads that are badly worded or grammatically ridiculous, as they’re usually indicative of a scam. I also don’t respond to ads that offer ridiculously high salaries for little to no work... also, generally, a scam. This ad seemed fine.

The response, not so fine. First of all, I replied to an ad for administrative assistant, but due to their assessment of my skills from my resume (which I didn’t send them) they felt I should be moved to Accounts Receivable Manager... which would be laughable, since my resume mostly consists of business writing... but then, how the hell would they know that?

Okay, so what’s the deal? It’s a scam. A really badly worded scam. Full of nifty little phrases like:,

“Please be advised that we need total dedication for the job. Interview and Instructions will be scheduled for you when you get payment for the company, get payment from our client and customers as your first assignment for the Account Receivable Manager .”

They went on to say that I have to respond quickly, so they’ll know I have “total dedication” and send them my name, address, phone numbers, email accounts, etc.... Basically, they’re saying that the job is for me to collect monies from their clients, cash them at my bank, and send them all the money except 10%.... umn, I’m thinking NO...

The kicker is, they said they were a real company... gave a UK company’s bio and even linked their website in the email... I’m guessing they figured out that putting a fake company tipped off prospective pigeons when they did a rudimentary google search and turned up bupkiss... so they figured at least some people would check the website, see it’s a legit company, and think the offer was, too.

I forwarded their email to the HR person at the legit company, because I thought they’d want to know some loser was copy pasting their corporate bio on scam emails to bilk people out of money.

I half-heartedly even thought of replying to that email. Telling them I’d love the job... and giving my real name as Mia Culpa, with the address and phone information of the FTC... but then I wondered if that would be considered fraud, too... but at least mine would be funny.

Moral of the story, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.... oh, yeah, and occasionally people suck.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Soundtrack of Your Writing Life

I usually can’t listen to music while I write. I listen to it while I do dishes, daydream, and do other miscellaneous stuff that I don’t really have to think about... but I’ve never been one to listen to music while I’m writing because it usually ruins the flow of my words... maybe ruins is too strong a word, but it definitely messes with it. Oddly enough, during the writing of my current work in progress, I’m building a bit of a playlist

It’s an odd thing for me, because I normally don’t see my writing in scenes, like a movie, but that’s what’s happening here. There are these songs that fit into the character’s lives, the same way that songs fit into mine. I have one picked out that so wraps up the ending, Daughtry’s What about Now? Don’t ask me why. I mean, I love the song, but it came on the radio and I swear, in my head, I was seeing the ending credits... my characters, in this poignant vignette that takes them from beginning to end... well, it’s hard to explain without telling you my ending, now isn’t it?

I’m really excited about this part of the process with this novel. I have songs that bring me back to different times in my life. Red, Red, Wine will always be bottles of Boonsfarm with my friends at that weather beaten beam over the creek in the forest preserve. Blister in the Sun will always mean singing at the top of our lungs in my friends broken down, practically taped together car that he bought himself and we all called “The Beast”. The soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso will always make me think of my favorite person. I can’t help but think it’s a major breakthrough in my writing, that my characters are developing their own songs for moments in their lives.

Do you have songs that go with your writing? Do you have a playlist in your head, and does it change for the different writing you’re doing? Do the songs belong to you or your characters?

Just as a little side note – the links throughout are for a site called Singers Room. It is very cool and I would have included separate pages of the site but for some reason my computer is running really slow today and I couldn’t get everything to page up... not the site, it’s me. Anyway, they not only have music, but they have articles about various artist and they feature brand new, up and coming artists just starting out. So if you’re into music, feel free to check them out.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

On Faith... for the holidays

So many different things are pointing me in this direction lately, so I thought I would discuss it here, where I can toss the topic out and you all can help me bat it around for a while.

I just found Aerin’s other blog, No Coward’s Soul and I am looking forward to seeing the content she’ll put forth. I find Aerin’s thoughts on faith to be both thought provoking and intelligent... so, if you’re reading this, Aerin, you’ve got at least one avid reader before you’ve begun.

And then I read Sarah’s comment there, which got me thinking about something else. Most people who dislike religion, or were once religious and find it hypocritical have a story – usually one that starts with a person of position in their faith talking down to them or treating them as ‘less than’. I have one that equates:

I went to Catholic School growing up... grade school and high school. In fourth grade, right around Halloween, my teacher asked us to raise our hands if we believed in ghosts. Mine was the only hand in the air. I can still hear her response.

“Now, Merry,” her voice was sugary sweet, “we know there are no such things as real ghosts, don’t we?” Then, to the class, “Are there any such things as ghosts, class?”

“No Miss. Pain in the ass teacher” (okay, that wasn’t her name, but it might as well have been and they replied in the sing songy tone of a mass of children just given the golden opportunity to fillet one of their peers on the playground)

“But... Father, Son, and Holy Ghost...” I said in the high-pitched kid whisper you get when you’re sure you’re right, are bordering on tears, but know you’re going to get punished for responding and do it anyway.

By this time she was already turned toward the chalkboard, but she heard me. I could tell in the same way a kid can tell when their mother’s heard them swear – the silence is accusatory.

“That’s different,” she snapped, “That’s the Holy Spirit, not some made up ghost like Caspar”

But she didn’t ask about a made up ghost like Caspar, just about ghosts. I was not stupid enough to push her on it; I just lowered my head and tried to avoid any more attention. Looking back now I kind of wish I had argued with her – even as a fourth grader, I think I might’ve won that one... though, I wouldn’t have made it past fourth grade, but that’s another story.

A few months later and we were in the glorious month of December – every kid knows what December brings!!! There were snow forts and games of King of the Mountain. There were candy canes, and boots full of treats from St. Nick... We watched the advent wreath each week, thrilled to see another candle flicker to life... when we got to the pink one, the yearning was palpable... Oh yes, Christmas was a joyous time for a kid.

And then my fourth grade teacher asked another stupid question.

“Who believes in Santa?”

Anyone want to guess how I screwed this one up? I couldn’t help it really. I had two older brothers and I knew this little fact of life, well, for as long as I can remember... we used to make a game of hunting down our presents... the only time my mother out maneuvered us was the time she hid them in the neighbor’s garage... We still figured that out when we saw her going back and forth through the gangway late one night to wrap them... but we didn’t get to play with them ahead of time that year...

Again, I can still hear the tone in this teacher’s voice. It was the same tone you use when you think someone is beneath you. It’s the same tone you’d use to call someone stupid. Meanwhile, all I could think was, here’s a lady who goes to Church, is a practicing Catholic but doesn’t believe in ghosts... while still petitioning saints? And saying the line, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”... And she believes in Santa... oh, and she once corrected me for saying the television show “Family Ties” was not realistic... okay, I’m getting off track, but I still... still don’t like her.

I wonder if she knows that. I wonder if I was that kid in her class. The one she just didn’t care for? I most likely was because the feeling was absolutely palpable and I can still feel it at age 35.

The thing is, I had other teachers throughout my education that more than made up for her... okay, my second grade teacher wasn’t that great either – surly nuns rarely are. But for the most part, I’ve had other people to look to in my faith that helped me to form a more solid thought process on things – that encouraged questioning, that adored thought and reveled in respectful discussion and tolerance of all positions. Respect is the optimal word in this little essay.

Often when religion is discussed, respect is in short supply. But I think when a lot of things are discussed, the same can be said. I’ve been following Post Secret for some time now, and occasionally wander over to the message boards to read what’s said. There was a postcard today that said, “I love my wife but I don’t respect her, because she’s not very smart”

It’s someone’s secret and I’m not going to sit here and tear it apart, but I was astounded at the number of commenters who agreed or stated that they couldn’t respect someone who was less intelligent than them. If I got to impart one great truth to the masses, if I got to give the world one tenet of character which they’d all adopt, it’s this:

No human being is less than you, nor are they more. We are equal. Education does not make you superior. Nor intelligence, nor money, nor power. The illusion of superiority is the crutch of the petty man.

We each, every one of us, have gifts and talents that we’re born with – some are better with numbers or good with the turn of the phrase. Some are kind of heart, or responsible and just. Innate talent is a thing you’re born with, it makes you no better or worse than someone who wasn’t given the same gift. When you can hone these things to improve a life other than your own, then you’ve got something to feel proud of. When you feel the need to belittle others for any reason, you’ve lowered yourself in character.

Another religious themed thing that’s taken my attention these last few days is the sign placed in a government building in Washington. It’s an Atheist group who wanted a sign next to the Nativity scene. You guys can google it and find it pretty easy. I think Atheists have every right to have a sign – it is state property and if a religion is allowed their form of speech then it’s fair for every philosophy to have the same courtesy. What I find unsettling is the lack of respect for other peoples’ beliefs. The leader of this particular Atheist group claims the Nativity scene is hate speech toward any non Christian, which I think is a little ludicrous. The sign is purposely inflammatory. I will defend his right to post it, but I think the message belittles his character. Notice that I did not say it belittles all Atheists... I’m guessing all Atheists wouldn’t agree with him. Now they’re just playing tit for tat, like little kids caught fighting on the playground who point at each other screaming, “He started it.”

Doesn’t matter who started it, you earn respect by giving it. And you can’t take instances that a person or people acted in a negative fashion and blame the whole of their religious group. That’s just bigotry wrapped in justification.

Was this long enough for you guys? I’m on a nice long tear here, aren’t I?

Let me get to the end then... and here’s my message for the holiday season:

My kids had their Holiday Gift shop this week. Their class has an assigned time and all the kids file in and can buy presents for their family. I gave each of my kids a (fairly small) amount of money and they had a list of who to buy for but they had to budget themselves and buy their own Christmas gifts. They looked so forward to this.

The day of his class’ turn at the holiday shop, my oldest son asked me if it would be okay for him to buy himself a gift after he bought his presents... of course, I told him it was fine. He’s a great kid and he’s only 8, and I know it’s hard for a kid that age to be around so many toys and things and not get themselves anything.

After school the kids ran to the car with their bags, all excited about their day. We got in the car and I asked oldest son, “Well, did you get to buy yourself a gift?”

“Yes,” he said, “I bought myself a cup filled with candies... but I don’t have it anymore.”

“Why don’t you have it anymore?” I asked.

“When I was done shopping and bought all of my things, I went back by the door to stand in line, and my friend (we’ll call him Joe) didn’t have any bags and he looked really sad” he explained.

“Oh,” I said. Nothing else would come out. I felt terrible for little Joe. It’s a rough year this year and there are a lot of people in my community that are having a hard time.

“Anyway,” Oldest son continued, “I asked him why he was sad and Joe said his parents didn’t give him any money to shop... so I gave him the gift I bought for myself and it made him happy.”

“Oh.” Still all I could think of to say and I was trying really hard not to cry.

“It’s okay, though, mom, I didn’t need anymore candy and I still got to get presents for my family.”

Not one thing for himself, and my 8 year old was perfectly happy. Happier I think than he would have been with the candy... I don’t think I’d have been so astute at his age – with a bag full of brand new crap, I doubt I would have noticed another kid was sad...

For this Christmas, scratch that, from now on, I’m going to follow the example of the 8 year old. I don’t know why so many people spend so much time, money, and energy exerting their opinions over others. The world is full of opportunities to make another person smile, and I think we can each find a cup full of candy that we really don’t need to eat.

Tirade over... thoughts?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Few Links that Amused Me... not that that's really all that hard to do

I spent too much time on the internet today... But I share with you the fruits of my labor...

What happens when you mug a writer

For the musically inclined with confrontational issues

The Porn Shop Clerk’s Manifesto This one, by the way, is my favorite... but if you’re easily offended you might want to skip it.

Craigslist apparently has more to it than job ads and really lame freelance writing gigs that pay in “exposure”.