Friday, October 28, 2011

The Not-So-Wonderful Years

So, this morning, while dragging my two children through Wal-Mart for our bi-weekly shopping trip, I started to get annoyed. Anyone with small kids understands what an undertaking it is to be alone with two kids under 3 yrs while trying to do substantial grocery shopping. By the time you get home, you feel like you've been at the gym all day.

Load the kids in the car, unload the kids and load them in the shopping cart. Load the cart full of everything you need, unload the cart onto the belt, load the cart with the bagged items. Unload the cart and fill your car, unload the car and carrying everything inside the house, unload the kids, settle everything in its proper place.

While loading the groceries into the trunk of my car, I had a moment of clarity. I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes have selective memory. I might forget about a huge chunk of time in my life until the memory is needed to work out something else inside my brain. While loading the groceries and grumbling about what a pain the ass it was, I remembered.

I remembered a time when I lived in my car with only a cat and a handgun to keep me company. I remembered being so hungry I ate the cat's food and then felt guilty because it meant having less for her to eat.

I remembered living in a stranger's unfinished, unheated attic in the middle of an Ohio winter and being so hungry I stole food. I remembered finally getting a shitty job as a ski-lift attendant and how much I looked forward to freezing my ass off in the cold at 4am in clothing that wasn't adequate just so I could enjoy the free lunch that came during the middle of every shift.

I remembered a time when I was so broken from abuse and bad decisions that no amount of alcohol, drugs or pills could dull the pain. And believe me, I gave it a valiant effort.

I remembered living with a man I thought I'd marry and then finding out he was sneaking off to screw his best-friend--a MALE best friend. I've got no problem with gay guys, I even think it's kinda hot, but not when it's my fiance and I have no idea it's happening.

So, I looked at my beautiful babies who were being blessedly patient as I loaded the trunk of my crappy car and thought...No, spending the morning braving Wal-Mart and strong-arming twenty pound bags of dog food is not so bad. Not bad at all.

My baby may be teething, my 2.5 yr old may have decided potty training is for losers, my yard might be a mess, the roof might leak, the second bathroom may never work, the damn dog probably won't ever stop shedding and my husband can sometimes be a jerk. But, I'm so far from where I was. Even on the worst days, this life is better from so many of the others I've lived.

My husband doesn't cheat or abuse me(and... hey... he's pretty hot too). My kids are handsome and healthy. The house is warm and mostly dry and we have the money to spend on enough groceries that it's annoying to cart them around.

Memories can be painful, most of mine are. The great thing about remembering the Not-So-Wonderful Years? It makes the good years look even better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daily Dislikes

I feel like it's time for a little ranting/venting session so here it goes...

Here are some things that make me want to punch someone (usually myself) square in the face.

There's a picture inside one of my framed collages that has come loose from the tape holding it in place. The collage is hanging above our television so I can never NOT look at it yet I still have not taken it down to fix the one picture inside that's currently shifted waaay out of place. The frame is a huge pain in the ass to take apart. And, I hate that I've allowed myself to stare at it for two months instead of fixing it.

Next, Popcorn. That's right, popcorn. Every time I microwave a bag it ends up either half-popped or burned into a black-death-star of kernels in the middle.

The bathroom, or rather, the cleaning of any bathroom. I doubt anyone likes doing this. That's probably why my husband refuses.

Lastly, I'm annoyed at myself for being annoyed by these things. I mean, why the hell haven't I just fixed that stupid crooked picture? Do you have anything like this? Something you allow to drive you crazy instead of taking care of it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guest Blogging

I'm guest blogging over at Four Strong Women today. Come on over and check it out! The blog entry is entitled The Mysterious Mystery of the Elusive Poop. If you like funny rants and jokes about poop, you'll love this.

Comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THE END, How Books are Made

Last night I finally finished the last scene of my WIP (work in progress). Contrary to the way it sounds, typing "The End" does not mean the work is done.

As I lay in bed last night reviewing the manuscript in my head, I found three major scenes needing adjustment. I had dreams about the stupid book all night long and awoke with the urgent need to write down all the things I found wrong with it as the night wore on.

So, I make the proper adjustment within the text and it's done, right? No? Damn.

After I've completed the manuscript to the best of my ability (or so I think at the time), I'll break it down and send it chapter by chapter to my critique partner. She'll use Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" function and send each back to me one at a time (while I do the same for her with her manuscript).

Once I've considered all of her suggestions and fixed any grammar/spelling errors she's found, it's Kinko's time. I have them print and bind the MS with a red cover--so I know that version is unedited--and break out my red pen.

I do a much better job of line editing (sentence structure, spelling, grammar) on a printed copy. It's just not the same if I read it on the computer. For me, it's easier to find mistakes in printed words.

I work through the 300+ pages, marking mistakes with a red pen, line by line. This takes me about two weeks. (I'm a full-time wrangler of small children, time can be hard to find.) I then transfer all the red-inked notes to my computer copy and make all the final changes.

  • Next, I draft the dreaded query letter and synopsis.
  • Search a giant-ass database of literary agents and publishers.
  • Compare my work to the work represented by each publisher/agent who function within my MS's(manuscript) genre to see if my story will fit their guidelines.
  • After compiling a list of people to query, I search each one on google, check out their bog/twitter/facebook and find some bit of info about them with which to personalize my query to each specific person. (Yes, this takes an infuriatingly long time.)

Finally, I submit the appropriate materials--sometimes they ask for a query letter and nothing else, sometimes a query and synopsis, some want sample pages, a few want these documents attached to an email and some request everything be pasted in the body of an email with no attachments.

Response time on all unsolicited queries is anywhere from 1 day to 6 months. With each response, I update my personal database where I keep track of all submissions. Most are rejections (even super famous authors go though this). During the next few months, I send requested sample pages, chapters, or the entire manuscript to interested parties and wait for one of the fish to bite.

While waiting for the coveted positive response from someone willing to represent/publish my story, I start plotting and writing my next work. Patience is a writer's best friend.

This is my personal process, other writers do things differently but this is what works for me. Now, my lovely aspiring writer friends, go forth and write, submit, write, submit, and repeat!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Edits and Other Necessary Annoyances

I'm slowly moving through first-stage edits on one of my manuscripts. That, let me tell you, is not at all fun.

My method when reviewing a critique or suggested edits is this:

  1. Read the entire excerpt and comments. Allow for extra time just to see through all the red pen that is seemingly cloaking the entire freaking selection.
  2. Close my laptop--so I don't "accidentally" toss it across the room in a fit of rage-- and go do something else. Wash dishes, fold laundry, take a walk with the kids, anything that doesn't involve thinking directly about the bastard who dared to criticize my brilliant work.
  3. After a minimum of a few hours, I re-read the comments only.
  4. Then, if I'm not still in a blind rage, I start making changes.
  5. Slowly, work through the entire selection and make the necessary corrections.

The most important thing to remember is never, NEVER respond/reply to an editor immediately after viewing their comments for the first time. Having someone pick apart your blood, sweat, and tears is an eviscerating experience, no matter how accurate their comments may be and you don't want to say something in an impromptu email you'll later regret.

Sometimes it takes two days. Sometimes a week. But after I've calmed down and looked at it rationally, I'm able to ferret out the helpful comments and discard the ones the don't feel right. When it's all said and done, I'm always much happier with my manuscript after editing than I was before it was so rudely marked with red pen.

In other news, this week I've received a few rejection letters for various submissions. Don't worry, no tears were shed. It comes with the territory. Also, my two-year old son is obsessed with an extremely annoying show called Shaun the Sheep. I'd like to take Shaun the Sheep out back and put a bullet in his furry head! I love my kids, but their choice in programming leaves something to be desired.