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RT Will Be Here Before I Know It

I missed everyone last week, sadly I was busy working. St. Patty’s is a pretty big deal if you work in the bar industry…even if you work at a Tequila Bar. That and a girl’s night out left me wrecked. My father and  uncle were also in town this week. They came just in time to see me with strep throat. I know, I know, this has been the fourth time I have been sick this winter. I am not actually a sickly person by nature though I obviously don’t have the constitution to deal with these winters. I need to get better though because I need to be on my A game at work so I am all set for New Orleans. I am getting really excited for RT.

RT for those that don’t know is the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention. It is a huge conference that has tons of classes, lectures, parties. All of it relating to writing. Needless to say I am super stoked to be going. At the same time I am a bit daunted by all that needs to be done before hand. I made a list a few months ago on the blog. Things are coming together but being sick four times in the past five months certainly has not helped.  With all the things piling up I decided to add something else to the pot. I am going to enter the American Idol Writing Competition at RT. It’s a bit nerve wracking but I did say on my writing goals for the year that I would enter a contest.

I am surprisingly unworried about the contest. It would be amazing to win, but even getting three chapters to agents and editors is a step in the right direction. So I will be plenty busy these next few weeks. Sometime in there I really want to see the new movie Authors Anonymous. It’s about a writers group whose most recent member has sudden success and makes all of the other writers go a bit nutty. It is obviously going to be overdone but I think it’s something most writers can relate to. We all want our peers to be successful but seeing someone ink a six figure deal overnight might make us a bit jealous. I want to see how the film takes on those feelings and their eventual resolutions. 

Library Fines and Trixie Belden

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So, as a writer of books it’s safe to assume that I’m also a reader of books. If a writer doesn’t love the written my word I personally don’t understand why they would want to write themselves. Most of us began our love of books at a young age. I remember both my parents reading to me and my siblings and I remember loving it. I also loved the library, still do, though I don’t frequent one anymore as I seem to have issues remembering to return books.

This got to the point that I spent one memorable weekend at The Mesa Public Library covering books in laminate. Essentially I couldn’t pay the tab so I was washing the dishes so to speak. There were many times I had to pay off debts and each time my library card was reinstated I would go nuts and check out books like it was going out of style. I think my problem was that I was a fast reader at that point and after finishing the books in a couple of days, would think that I still had plenty of time to return them. Of course then there was a trampoline to jump off the shed on to, trees to climb, and the boy’s fort to invade, and a month later I’d be like holy crap these were due last week.

Whereas I sadly no longer have a trampoline I still forget library books, it is a hard wired flaw at this point so I have decided to simply buy my books. After all, I am a writer and want to support other writers (I am in no way implying that if you check books out from the library that you aren’t helping writers, I am just flawed). So needless to say I have a lot of books. Many were donated this past May or sold at Bookman’s in Arizona because I was moving across country and didn’t want five bookshelves of books. My sister the English teacher appreciated this as the got the used bookstore credits as well as some critical editions from my own pursuit of higher education, so it was all for the best. I am trying to only buy ebooks at the moment because my plan is to end up back in Arizona and the lord knows I have no desire to carry boxes of books down the steep back stairs of my current domicile.

Library fees aside, I recall many joyous days with my nose in a book. I devoured numerous titles notably the Thoroughbred series, True Crime novels, and some discreetly ill begotten bodice rippers. My first love though was The Trixie Belden series. Most people aren’t familiar with the girl detective a series that ran from 1948-1986, they are more familiar with Nancy Drew. I myself never got into Nancy Drew, probably because my mom preferred Trixie and honestly I could relate far more to Trixie. She was a character who while a bit cookie cutter had issues I could relate to. She wasn’t always happy with her looks, she loathed chores, her brothers annoyed her, but at the end of the day she was an adventurer.

I still wander thrift stores and used bookstores and buy any copies they have of the series. If I already have that particular book I give it to my mom or sister as they are both fans as well. The series isn’t flawless, and given the time period it’s not always PC. I vaguely remember the group Trixie is part of The Bob-Whites collects books for a school library in Mexico…the kids may have appreciated it more if English was their language but whatever, their hearts were in the right place. Still, it is a wonderful series that I still read from time to time because who doesn’t fantasize about a simpler time where riding horses and fixing up an old gate house to be a club house is your daily existence? Oh, and of course along with the rural simplicity there are mysteries to solve and bad guys to catch.

So we all have that first book or series that really started our love for books. What is yours?  

Side Note: I thought yesterday was Monday…thinking that as I was still up this post counted as a Monday post. In actuality I obviously have lost my mind. Happy Wednesday!

I Carried a Desk Through Snow Uphill Both Ways!

I feel like a professional writer tonight. No, no one has paid me for my work but…I have a desk! It has drawers and there are even books on writing placed on it. Tomorrow I am going to buy more crap to make it even more awesome. I am sure this isn’t a big deal to most but I have been meaning to get a desk for about a year now.

In Arizona I really didn’t have the space, here in Chicago it does make my room a bit cramped but it also gives me a place free from roommates and where the coffee is much cheaper (chai lattes actually) than the four I would consume if I were sitting at the local coffee shop for any reasonable amount of time toiling away at the WIP. I bought a vintage Steelcase blue tufted office chair months ago with the intention of buying a desk. Sadly the logistics aren’t as easy when you live sans vehicle in a snow covered city.

So let me tell ya’ll about the great desk adventure. I had been meaning to buy a desk from Ikea for a while as I enjoy their merging of desk and bookshelf in their Expedit collection. Unfortunately they are far enough away that using my car share would have been necessary. Renting a car to pick up a desk makes a reasonably priced desk a lot less reasonably priced.

So Sunday I got off the bus on my way home from work, a little high on Dayquil, and a lot exhausted from sleep deprivation, when I passed my neighborhood thrift store. There, in the front window was exactly what I wanted. I had checked out this thrift store before and to be honest all they had was junk when it came to desks. I don’t mind junk if it’s reasonably priced because it’s still better than nothing at all, but I am loathe to pay $40-50 on something I would be too embarrassed to ask money for myself.

The beauty I found on Sunday was not junk. It was a gorgeous L shaped vintage beauty in pretty awesome condition. That and at $70 it was a total bargain. There was only one problem, being that it was vintage, that also meant it was heavy as hell, if hell could be measured by weight. I called my brother and made him stop by the thrift store and see if there was any way we could get it home if I rented a truck and a dolly from Uhaul.

D.J. was much more ambitious than I because he suggested just renting the dolly. I got his point. The desk was only a block from our house and the sheer feat of lifting the desk in and out of a truck, never mind maneuvering a truck on our tiny car lined street would be more difficult than simply walking the desk home. So, today at 11a.m. (an ungodly hour to us) we were the two idiots walking a desk around Uptown.

Mind you this is not a common occurrence in Chicago but it is also not unheard of given that there is a great public transport system and therefore many people don’t have cars. I didn’t mind looking a bit stupid because I knew that was the easy part, even if we were rolling the sucker through snow. The hard part came when it was just me and my brother pushing this wood and steel monstrosity up two flights of stairs.

We were supposed to have help, but I will assume our friend had too much to drink at an Oscar party and couldn’t rally. So with a lot of huffing and puffing, one skinned/bruised knuckle, and a mildly crushed leg we got the desk up the stairs. Mind you it took two trips being that it was an L shaped desk but in the end it was all worth it because again I feel fancy. Just goes to show that looking like an idiot and some heavy lifting can end in glory, that and Thai food because what better thank you can one ask for than food? I certainly can’t think of one. 

Sexy Monsters

I have the plague…again. Believe it or not I am not normally a person who gets sick easily. In Arizona I would really only get sick once or twice a year as a cold or flu virus evolved. Here in Illinois I have been sick three times in the last six months. My guess would be that the flu and cold viruses are slightly different in the Midwest and therefore my natural immunity is lacking, the cold weather is lowering my immunity, or the fact that the pollen is different  is to blame. These are all random guesses because I am not a scientist, just someone who occasionally self-diagnoses on Web MD with disastrous results.

On to more entertaining topics! I have recently started watching The Walking Dead. I know, I know, I am way behind the times. I am only three episodes in and yet I have to admit I am having a little trouble getting into the series. Probably because my love for everything paranormal is in direct contrast to the fact that I am actually a scaredy pants. Also, I like drama but I need humor  to counteract the tension. This doesn’t mean that I will stop watching this show, it just means I can’t marathon it because my blood pressure won’t allow me to.

I talked to my mother about my thoughts on the walking dead and her response despite not being PC, caught my attention. She said that she preferred her monsters attractive. It seems like it should be an oxymoron to want a monster that’s  also aesthetically appealing but in the day and age of sparkly vampires, sexy demons, and shifters it seems obvious that at least the Paranormal Romance authors and readers agree.  

I guess it makes sense because we as a culture often want to please people that we find attractive. We are drawn to them and want them to approve of us. Also we are more willing to make excuses for people that we don’t believe are capable of being monsters. Given that I am a lot more willing to shoot a zombie in the face than I am to shoot a woman who looks like a supermodel, it gives writers more leeway in their villain’s manipulations. Of course making a monster who is unattractive empathetic is also a challenge, just look at Frankenstein’s monster. Poor Guy.

Funny thing about all this is that different writers will find different characters easier than others. Some writers would rather make a monster hideous and others will find it easier making them attractive. Guess that’s why True Blood and The Walking Dead are both so well received. So do you want your monsters to be attractive? Or do you prefer them to be hideous? Perhaps somewhere in between?

 

 

Theories and Harry Potter

 So the big news in literary gossip this week was J.K. Rowling’s shocking reveal that she didn’t believe that Hermione should have ended up with Ron. I myself was a little saddened to read this but at the end of the day everyone will interpret a book in their own way. I myself was an English Literature major and therefore had to take a couple of theory classes. I must admit that I never really enjoyed it. It’s not that I’m not an analytical person, I just hate it when that is the main point of my reading.

I want to enjoy a novel without thinking about Marxism, Author, Queer, Feminist and the zillion other theories out there. Mind you they will sneak their way in because that is human nature. An example would be that I was recently reading a very popular Fantasy series and I recognized that the author throughout the series used rape to mark characters as villains. I can handle violence in novels but when every single bad guy became a progressively worse sexual sadist I couldn’t help but start applying Feminist Theory to the text.

When reading the Harry Potter series I didn’t consciously apply any theories to the text because I was too engrossed. In light of the new comments I have to take the Reader Theory into account because I disagree with Rowling. She has said that in order for them to work Ron and Hermione would need a lot of therapy and that Hermione should have ended up with Harry. I myself think that the reason Ron and Hermione work is because they are opposites. Ron brings out the carefree side of Hermione and Hermione brings out the serious side of Ron.

It’s funny that I feel this way because as a writer I had always preferred the Author as Context  Theory because I like to believe that I am the ultimate authority on my stories. Now as a reader with strong feelings I can’t help but think that the best thing about the literary theories is that there are so many and that I don’t have to attach myself to any of them (the blessings of not being in academia). So I will end this post by saying that I think that Harry and Hermione are too serious for one another, but if you disagree I will continue on in my little dream world where Ron and Hermione are blissful as well as Harry and Ginny. 

Cursing Mondays and Negative Temperatures

First of all Happy Birthday Jami! Wicked celebrated her 29th today and despite an afternoon filled with errands I have faith she will end it on a high note. I suggest a book and a bubble bath. My post today doesn’t have much to do with writing because while Monday is the beginning of the work week for many it is often my weekend because the job that pays the bills is of the wait staff variety. I should be using this lovely day off to get things done. I however have made a new rule: if the temperature is negative, I don’t have to do anything.  Seems legit, right?

Today my greatest accomplishments were brushing my teeth and heating up a pizza. I would like to say that I spent the day reading something amazing or watching some documentary that made me a better person for having watched it. Instead I will tell you I have wasted the day (though is it really wasting if you are having a blast?) watching one of the trashiest shows I have ever had the privilege to watch: The Only Way is Essex. It’s The Hills meets Real Housewives meets a Friday night in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I know it’s bad, but damn it, it’s fun. That and I’m learning some interesting British lingo. I’m going to start calling everything I like “lovely” or “gorgeous.”  Here we go, I now have a writing tie in for everyone. This week I have had a few discussions with coworkers on language use. The context was that one of my friends is Romanian (yes she will threaten to drink your blood if you annoy her enough) another is a new coworker lived in Spain for a couple of years.

Both women mentioned that the curse words in Spanish and Romanian are far worse than American curse words. I asked for examples and whereas both women said that they don’t translate well, I was suitably impressed by the general idea. I myself am a self-proclaimed sailor. I enjoy cursing and though I will restrain myself in church and in the presence of grandmother and small children, it is who I am.

My friend who lived in Spain would translate some curses for me she admitted that she herself feels very uncomfortable cursing. We came to the conclusion that if you are a sailor you need to own it, otherwise it sounds ridiculous. So the writing tip of the day will be: make sure you use dialogue that is true to your characters otherwise they will sound ridiculous…and the Monday ramble is complete. 

Book Reviews or Career Suicide?

The days where an author could just send in their manuscript and be done with it are gone. Now there is a certain expectation of the author marketing themselves. Any agent worth their salt will want to know what a writer’s plan is for marketing and if they have a social media platform. We have blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+…anything that we believe will help us sell.

My favorite of all of these is blogs. There is such a variety of directions an author can take with a blog, if done right it won’t get stale, and I enjoy reading them on the train. There is one thing however, that I sometimes see in author’s blogs, that I think is a bad idea. I don’t think that authors should be book reviewers/critics.

My reasoning is that I don’t think it’s wise to criticize your coworkers. As writers the closest thing we have to coworkers is other writers. You may hate a book but is your opinion really worth ostracizing an author and all of that author’s friends and followers? The way I see it there are only two ways a book review blog can go for an author: one they will always give at least moderately positive reviews as to not offend anyone and by the same hand make readers think that they like poor quality writing or two they will piss off other writers because they’re being honest.

Fact is writers read, a lot, and if my experience is anything to go by at least half the books I read are not ones I would give glowing reviews to. They may have not been my cup of tea, I may despise the writer’s style, whatever my reasons I still respect that other writers and readers will have different opinions and I don’t think the traffic from a book review blog would be worth the possible repercussions. So, that’s my take on it, I know my opinion might not be popular. So tell me guys, what do you think? Is a review blog a good or a bad idea?

My Evil Plot

Okay, it’s probably not evil, but for me plotting is evil. I am a panster at heart and I find it very difficult to force myself to have a cohesive plan. But after last week’s revelation I decided I needed to try something different. Now that I have Scrivener (plotters personal holy grail) I have no reason not to give it a go. For those of you not familiar with Scriviner it has a side bar where you can can put various chapters/scenes/notes/research all in a cohesive manner. This is difficult to explain so I highly recommend checking out a Youtube video or going to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ to browse a bit. 

I also decided I needed to analyze my characters more and decided to see what the web had to offer me. I found this character worksheet http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/p/character-worksheet.html and have begun the process of psychoanalyzing my characters which is both fun and tedious. I have to admit I am learning a lot about my characters. For instance I had no idea that Peg’s favorite color was orange or that she was a big Stephen King fan. She also collects tea cups (fun fact for all of you). 

So far this journey has been fun and I have to admit my favorite part is finding all of these wonderful tools online. Writer’s are truly fortunate these days because we have so much information at our finger tips. That is if we have access to the internet (I’m going to assume that you do if your reading my post). I have found a lot of things this past week that I believe will make my novel rock my socks off and hopefully one day a larger audience. 

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