Friday, July 29

Life-Lessons from the Kitties

I haven't been writing much these past few weeks. With WIP #2 at the editor and contest judging season upon me, writing has taken a back-seat. So I don't have writing-related blogs. But life-related blogs, I have a-plenty.
We have two nearly-grown kittens in our house, and they have provided a wealth of entertainment for the family as they’ve grown and evolved their individual characters. Watching Jake and Sugar has also provided some quality life-lessons, many of which I should heed.

Take Naps. This can also be called “if it feels good, do it.” Jake and Sugar like to take naps, stretch, play, and sharpen their claws on [insert furniture]. We humans are often inhibited by a sense of propriety and/or responsibility. So, be more like a cat and throw off the cares of the world, curl up in a warm sunbeam, and sleep. And when your nap is finished, open your eyes, sharpen your claws, and say “okay world. Now what?” And don’t regret a thing.
Be curious. This goes along with “take chances,” “stretch yourself,” and “what would happen if I bat this [insert object] off the table?” In truth, don’t ever let familiarity breed boredom or contempt. Surely there’s more to even the seemingly mundane items, tasks, and people in your life than you think. Explore them.

It’s okay not to apologize. “I’m sorry” comes out of my mouth all the time. And I’m usually not really as sorry as I am trying to be gracious or civil. But watch a cat stare at you, when both of you know they did something wrong did something you would have preferred they not do, and you realize 1) they don’t feel sorry for their actions so why should you expect them to act like they do, and 2) you’ve already forgiven them anyway because you love them.

Even with a fascinating world outside, you can still be happy with your own little world. Jake and Sugar spend countless hours staring out the windows at the world outside the house. The passing cars, the bugs, and birds, that damn chipmunk, etc. But watching this world they’ll never get to explore doesn’t keep them from enjoying their own inside world. They don’t pine and moan about things they wish they could have but can’t. They take naps, explore, and knock things over without apologizing.
If you don’t want to be petted or manhandled, it’s okay to bite and scratch. Good touch / bad touch applies in both the adult and feline worlds. If we don’t like it and want it, we shouldn’t have to put up with it. Say so in whatever language is most appropriate for you at the moment.

If you meow enough, mom will give you shredded cheese. Okay, not really an applicable lesson. So let’s call it: "Don’t be ashamed to let your desires be known and met." Jake and Sugar are both pretty laid-back cats, but they aren’t afraid to let us know when they want something. Their meows can be veeeeery persuasive! Don’t let your own needs and wants be put to the side; if you don’t vocalize them, they won’t get met.

Real Kitties have Curves. Blame the shredded cheese, but Sugar already has “hangy downies”… that little pouch which distends from her belly. And she’s not ashamed of it. In fact, she loves to have it rubbed, and will roll on her back, legs spread wide, when belly tickles ensue. In spite of my admonishment against being “easy,” Sugar revels in her curves and they joy they bring her. If only we could all be so happy when someone is petting our own hangy-downies!


Thursday, July 28

A Walk On The Bright Side

by Margie Senechal
My husband likes to play this game, "Do you want the good news or the bad news?"

I hate this game. As any writer can tell you, the bad news that pops into our heads is cataclysmically bad. Not just your average bad. So, I always take the bad news first to get it out of the way. And usually, it's not really bad news just not great news.

That said, I'm going to play this game with you. 

Bad news: I received a rejection from Deidre Knight after getting *liked* in a twitter-pitch contest.

Good news: She liked my pitch! 

Further good news:I didn't have a complete manuscript to send had she asked to see the full. And that would've been an awkward email to send.

More good news:I made some great progress on the work-in-progress book I pitched in that contest. And I'm still enjoying the story. And even though, there's another story niggling at the edges of my mind, I've stayed true to this one. That's kind of huge for me.

Best news: I realized how much I liked being on submission. It's kind of like having a lottery ticket that you haven't checked yet. There's always hope that this is the one. I love the anticipation of checking my writing email account to see if I have any messages and even though I'm disappointed not to receive a request for more, I remain hopeful, dreaming dreams of publication and retirement. Hey, my kids weren't raised on, "When Dad wins the lottery or Mom sells a book." for nothing. 

It's been almost two years since I received my last round of rejections for Bix in which time I've courted the many stories that ramble through my head including another rewrite of Bix, but not finishing anything that I could send out.

And the only way to go back out on submission is to finish something. It's a vicious cycle, but I am up to the challenge. Because writing is where I find hope for my own good news.

Wednesday, July 27

What to Do After Writing The End

My friend, Jill Kemerer, had a great blog last week about three things we should do after finishing a manuscript - they're all great tips and ideas. Most of them I do (in my own version), but a few were new-to-me tips. Last week I finished two projects - one full manuscript and another proposal - so the blog was especially timely for me because I was in that just-finished place.

One thing I do that Jill doesn't mention is take a break. It's a short break, usually a day...or if I turn something in on a Friday, it's the weekend. Here are a few of my favorite just-finished-a-book day off treats:

  • Get out of the house. When I'm on deadline, even if the deadline is weeks away, I spend a lot of time indoors. Researching and writing and promotional planning all take time, and while the book is fresh in my mind is when the best ideas hit, so after I write The End, I make a point to get out of the house for a while. 
  • Go on a hike. I'm lucky that we live in an area with several nature trails, and a few long stretches of beach. Or, if it's nasty out, I'll walk our mall or stay around our neighborhood, but a long walk has a way of helping me reset. New ideas, new recipes, new exercise plans...they all circle around in my mind and make me happy.
  • Avoid the computer. One my post-book days off, I avoid all things tech. If I can, I won't turn on my computer. I won't play games on my iPad or iPhone. I will binge on a favorite show occassionally, but I try to give myself a solid break from my office, my desk and my chair. That, too, helps me reset. 
  • Roam the stacks at our library. I haven't done this one in a while, but I'm thinking once bebe's in school, one of my first stops is going to be the library. I pick out a stack of books, find a quiet corner and settle in. Some books I'll check out, some I'll skim and put back, but there is something very relaxing about reading in a library. 
There are more options: I'll have lunch out with a couple of girlfriends, I'll go on a date with RadioMan, or bebe and I will have some mommy-daughter time, get a mani-pedi. . .what about you? What are your favorite ways to reset your writer's clock after finishing a book?

Tuesday, July 26

Random Stuff Because I'm a Ditz . . .

Oh, Wranglers, I confess I spaced today's post. Some stuff is going on in my life that isn't for posting here and although that's not an excuse, it is a reason. So you know what? I'm just going to give you all some fun links today...interesting stuff that you might enjoy and also, some Sam because . . . well, because Sam is always a good idea.

An interesting article about authors and self-promo:

A glossary of wine terms and lingo, just in case you need it for a story:

A recipe for Fried Cabbage because. . . yum!!

A link to Jeffrey Dean Morgan singing in the movie Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding because once again. . . yum!

And here's your Sam for today. . . also because, yum!


Monday, July 25

What I love in a book...and what I don't

There are things in romantic fiction that will make me turn page after page, reading as quickly as I can and then whining because the book ends too soon. In no particular order, some of these things are:

  • Humor. Not slapstick or stupid or even usually overt. Just the kind that makes you snort surprised laughter then look around and see if anyone heard you. Nora Roberts is classic at this. So are Robyn Carr, Muriel Jensen, Kristan Higgins, Julie James, and a huge et cetera. When I find an author who can do this well, I will read her forever.
  • Emotion. Not contrived. Not in every scene. Just delicious. Heartwarming. The kind I think about and go back and read again and again. When I read paper books, I dog-ear the page where it happens.
  • A turn of phrase that makes me back up and read it again because it delights me so much. I think we all write these sometimes, when in a perfect moment on a lucky day, the words will just fall in line and lie in wait to charm a reader. If you try too hard, the phrase twists and has bumps in it, but when you have that lucky moment, it's...sublime.
  • Flawed heroes and heroines. Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club series is as good as it gets with these, but I also just like heroines with two left feet and heroes who are scared of snakes--even garter snakes. 
  • Ensemble casts that I want to sit on the front porch with after sundown. We can watch lightening bugs and slap mosquitoes and laugh together in the sweet night air.
  • Good writing.
  • Smartness.

Then there's the other side of the proverbial coin. I always give at least one chapter and try for three before giving up, but there is the occasional "did she really write that?" thing that will make me give it up within the first few paragraphs.

  • Bratty heroine.
  • Hero who's surprised when a woman doesn't lust after him because, of course, they all do.
  • Un-flawed heroes and heroines. I can't put myself in the shoes of a heroine who is perfect, nor could I ever make happy or be happy with a hero who was, and when I read a book, in the heroine's shoes is where I want to be.
  • Poor editing. Typos exist. Grammar errors exist. Personally, I have an ongoing war with the apostrophe in its...or it's. But if the errors persist, and if they are consistently things we should have all learned in elementary school--your and you're, for instance, or the whole lay and lie circus, after a little while I can't read them anymore.
  • Stereotypes. Bad cops who eat doughnuts. Waitresses who smack their gum and flirt with men while ignoring the women said men are with. People from small towns who use poor grammar and have bad teeth simply because they are people from small towns. People from large cities who are rude and condescending simply because they are people from large cities. People from rural areas who are stupid. We're not--not that I would ever take that personally.
  • Inaccuracies that should have been caught. I have no doubt I've done some of these myself. I hope my own readers aren't as picky as I was when I was unable to get past an author referring to Indiana University (IU) as The University of Indiana throughout a book she placed there. 
  • A grudge that's been held since first grade even though in their heart of hearts they've always loved only each other.
  • Villains with no redeeming qualities. Because, honestly, if the ex-husband was that much of a creep, why did she love him in the first place?
What makes you read through to the end and sigh in sorrow when a book is over? And what makes you sigh in sorrow because you just wasted some money and a half hour you can never get back on a book you can't bear to read?

Have a great week!


After finishing this post, I happened onto another post about much the same thing. I thought it was interesting, so am including the link to Bad Menagerie here