Fun reads!

Well, they aren't my writings but they are good. Check out Hell's Notes by M.K. Hobson and Catalytic Poltergeist by Michelle R. Rasey. Buth fun stories that I love for different reasons. I hope you enjoy them.

On another note, I had a pretty good friday night. Me, a red ink pen and a bottle of wine. I put on a little music (the soundtrack to Something's Gotta Give) and went at it. Sad when you look at a pile of writing and think, God, I am going to need something stronger to get through this!!!

I did critiques for both my online and my face to face writing group...or at least I tried. I had to stop once I read a whole chapter and failed to notice that the point of view character had changed! I was a little confused and kept asking myself, why did he start calling himself Tait! I thought his name was Jimmy. Duh. I should apologize to the author, and maybe reread that piece sober. Next time my drug of choice will be caffine.

I'm off to tackle the manuscript...and then do some grocery shopping. A certain coworker has hijacked my favorite store and now I have to shop further away to avoid running into him. I'm such a dork.

The Upside....

Good news….

So I have been beating myself up over not working on my novel…and last night I suppose out of boredom or curiosity I picked up the draft of a novel that was probably ¾ of the way completed (a good 75,000 words) and just started reading. To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was still bad and nothing that I would ever let someone see, it just wasn’t as bad as I thought. And the things that I thought needed to be worked on were skills that I have actually become better at in the year and a half since I set it aside.

This is good news for many reasons. First, I believe it is salvageable. Second, I stopped writing because plot wise I got stuck. The second manuscript I stopped writing because I couldn’t find life in my characters. And can you blame me? You try building a character around someone who has been alive since the creation of earth. That’s an awful lot of memories to build upon and difficult to make believable. Sure lots have people have tired. Some would even say there are authors who have succeeded. But I have yet to find a book where a character that is that old doesn’t come off as cumbersome and overbearing. There’s just an awful lot of baggage to deal with.

But the first novel has amazing characters and after reading a chunk of the manuscript last night I decided that maybe the two can come together in harmonious bliss. Is that possible? And do I get to go on the honeymoon if they are happily married?

Anyway, the other day I posted a message on losing focus. So my solution was to go back to the writing and find a strategy to refocus. Some of us writer folk have been discussing putting together a retreat and I decided to do my own mini boot camp. For every day I have assigned a topic, all related to refocusing the novel. My goal is to have a finished and viewable draft (i.e. polished enough that I can let others look at it without scratching my name off) by the end of the year. This is ultimately my pacing goal. Normally I would say this is a big jump for me…but considering the amount of legwork I have already done…I don’t think this is unrealistic. So this week I have been preparing for the Writing Boot Camp as if it were a real workshop. I’ve made copies of all the tools story development, plotting and characterization tools that I want to use. I have a plotting board, magazines, newspapers, photos etc. that I can begin to use as world building and even have the schedule posted on my office door. The goal is to have everything taken care of so that I don’t use lack of preparation as an excuse.

It might sound a little hokey, but a few years ago I did the NaNoWriMo. That is the National Novel Writers Month where writers take on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. You log in your daily word count each day and cheer each other on. It is a big deal and lots of people participate. And it seems to work if you’re looking at an isolated period of time. As soon as you try to make something a permanent habit that is when it starts getting easy to let things slip. So to make a long explanation short, I think it will work as long as I am committed to getting it done that week. Three hours a day minimum and five days a week.

Wish me luck. Maybe I will update each day on my progress. So you know that I am not just talk. I’ll put the link to NaNoWriMo up to so that you can check it out if you want.

Hurricane Katrina....

I got this email forwarded to me this week about a college friend of mine and had to fight to keep from crying. It’s funny how as long as I can keep myself distanced from what happened in the gulf with Hurricane Katrina I am ok. It’s not quite real. I didn’t personally know anyone there, and I was grateful that it wasn’t somewhere that I did know a lot of people.

I didn’t know X (name removed) was there. Now I feel sort of helpless again, and hearing what she is going through makes this whole thing a little harder to digest. I remember reading a novel once about the aftermath of a deadly fire in California that destroyed hundreds of homes and the feeling of insecurity and vulnerability that the people felt afterwards. You always see so much about people fighting natural disasters and never how they cope afterwards. You aren’t seeing news stories about the insurance companies who are refusing to pay out claims just people pointing fingers at each other about whose to blame. And sure there are telethons and donations galore. You can’t turn on the TV without hearing about how x, y and z are raising money for victims. But sadly, in a month it will be old news, and the media monster will be zeroing in on the story of the minute while people like X are still fighting to piece together their old lives. That is what really bugs me.

[Excerpt from email....]

I hope you all are doing well.

First, I would like to thank you for your calls and emails. It was reallynice to know that people care. Second, I apologize for not responding.Things have been really crazy and to be perfectly honest, I haven't feltlike talking about my current situation. The uncertaintly surrounding mylife has made it difficult for me to explain what I am doing or where I amgoing.The bottom line is that I am currently at Washington & Lee Law School inLexington, Virginia. I arrived here last Monday and am living in the lawschool dorms with two law students, one from Tulane and one from Loyola.There are about ten students here from New Orleans, which makes it a loteasier to adjust. W & L started three weeks ago, so it has been difficultto try and catch up on what I have missed.

As many of you know, I was able to evacuate New Orleans before the storm. Iwas at the law school library when I received the first news that Katrinawas headed toward New Orleans. At that time, she was only a category three hurricane and no one anticipated the level of destruction that the storm caused. Upon cancellation of classes, I began looking for a plane ticket to Columbus, but I was afraid that any flight leaving on Sunday would eventually be cancelled. The phone lines in New Orleans were already clogged and it was next to impossible to reach certain 504 cell numbers.

I finally got ahold of myboyfriend who was leaving to visit his family and wait out the storm. After speaking with him, I had about 20 minutes to pack my bags. Looking back on it now, it's easy to see that I should have taken more from my apartment, including my car, but on Saturday afternoon the storm was not as large or as strong as it grew to be by Sunday.When I left New Orleans on Saturday I assumed, as did most people, that Iwould return to the city no later than Tuesday. I anticipated only minor damage, if any, and my biggest concern was completing all of the school workI would miss due to the hurricane.

After Tulane closed for the semester, I frantically searched for a place to spend the remainder of the fall semester. I lost my car in the storm, so I needed a place that I could walk around, I also needed a furnished apartment that was cheap (since I thought I would still have to pay rent in NOLA) andI wanted to be close to DC so that I could continue my job search. I settled on W & L because it fit all of those goals and X (name removed) was able to get in as well. As for my life back in New Orleans, I was holding out hope until this weekthat my apartment would be relatively OK. I knew that my car was probably gone, but since my apartment is on the second floor and the flooding was only 7-10 feet in my area (sounds funny to say ONLY), I assumed that most of my stuff would be alright.

Unfortunately, I received some bad news yesterday from my roommate. Her father is a Doctor and was allowed back into New Orleans to work at the hospital. He drove by our apartment and reported that the entire roof has caved in and it is literally raining inside our apartment. He made itinside the apartment but was unable to walk around since he was worried that there may be structural problems to the entire building. His report is that pretty much everything is gone. Those things that are still alright will probably be ruined since our apartment is open to the elements and will continue to be until my landlord can make it back to the city. At this point we are assuming that the entire apartment building suffered extreme structural damage and will have to be torn down. I am holding out hope that at some point I will be able to get back to New Orleans and that some things may be salvagable from my apartment. However, if the structural damage is as bad as they report, it may not be safe for me to reenter my apartment at all. This news has been very hard to me to handle. While I know that they are only material possessions, it is still hard to believe that everything I have is gone. To make matters worse, my insurance company is fighting my claim for the damages to my apartment. I know that I am lucky to be out of New Orleans and to have a place to stay, but honestly all I want to do is go home. I miss my life in New Orleans, I miss my friends, and I miss the stability that I had. I am planning on returning to New Orleans in January when Tulane reopens, however there is still a lot of uncertainty. I'm not sure how long it will take to rebuild my apartment, or even if my landlord will decide to do so.

I apologize for the somber tone of my email. I am hoping to know more inthe next couple weeks and I remain optimistic that my next email will bemore upbeat.

Take care,

Spring clearning...fall style

I realize now that I might be stating the obvious, but it seems I might be biting off more than I can chew. I have joined several different groups and organizations all vying for a piece of my time and can’t seem to be able to find a balance. I realized yesterday that I haven’t logged onto my Harry Potter group in weeks. I missed two impromptu get-togethers and a meeting (huddle as we call them, but that was intentional). And I haven’t been very helpful at planning upcoming events either, like the Halloween party or the GOF opening.

Then there are my writing groups, which oddly enough are competing with my personal writing time. That’s not really how it is supposed to work. I like all three groups for various reasons. It helps to have a different set of eyes that can review something…and I can get more immediate feedback on writings by participating in more groups. I don’t have to wait a month for another meeting to come around. But again, somehow I still have not managed to revise my short story from last month’s Writeshop meeting. And today is the deadline to post anything that will be critiqued in Sunday’s meeting. I doubt that I will have something ready by this evening.

Then there’s the consulting. I love doing consulting work. And even when I am not working on a specific project I am putting together some articles and developing curriculum to teach at grant writing and fundraising workshops. I would like to maybe self-publish a book which I can use as part of the class, but there goes another chunk of my life. My goal was always to be able to write fiction fulltime, preferably novels, but I guess I always thought I would get there by writing part-time and consulting part-time. One can bring in a much better chunk of change consulting than they can writing short stories.

Then there are other personal hobbies that seem to become more and more of an interest when I am avoiding writing, such as scrapbooking, and stamping and other various crafts. I started out making them for fun, and now a friend and my mother are trying to convince me to sell some of them at the local craft shows. As if I have time for that! But the extra income is nice, and unlike the writing I can do these projects with only half my brain in tact. Click on the TV through in a DVD and tada! I can have a smallville marathon in my living room while making tile coasters and Halloween magnets. Multitasking is the secret to success.

But maybe my life is one big multitasking blob. And I can’t help but feel like I am failing. I am juggling so many different balls in the air and two or three of them are bound to smack me in the head. Instead of being on top of everything I have yet to find my stride. So I wind of working on whatever project is the most crucial at the given time. I’m always working towards a deadline and the things that don’t have deadlines, well the just automatically become a lower priority. Unfortunately those things aren’t less important, the novel, my family and friends…sometimes I can’t squeeze them in. I feel a little guilty because I promise to visit friends or return calls and never seem to get around to it. I’ve got family mad because sometimes they only get to see me at holidays and even then, it’s just a maybe. On the other hand…it’s kind of like…I’m in my 20’s trying to make a career before I wind up married with a family of my own and even more balls to juggle….and they love me so they will be supportive and understand. Some do. Some don’t.

So my goal for the next few months is to reorganize in an attempt to manage everything that is going on. Can you tell I am a true Virgo? I didn’t used to be this way! I’m not sure how, and when I figure it out I will let you know. But right now it seems to be a matter of setting concrete goals. I just hope I don’t end up one of those women who have to pencil in everything in order to be sane including…well let’s not go there! I have some vacation saved up maybe I need to take a week off, lock myself away in some secluded, remote place and crank out some serious writing I haven’t touched my novel in over three months, and I don’t have the time or the energy to devote 100% to it. Of course then here’s me going, sure I want to work overtime hours over the holidays! Sign me up! But I need to save money…and that stuff doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t stay long. But I’m willing to work hard now. As long as I don’t have a heart attack! People have survived worse. And I’m nothing if not persistent.