Friday, August 30, 2013

How Not to Take Kids to College. Or, The Plan and Doohickey-thinger

I have been blog dark for a few weeks, because I went here:

And here:

Because these guys:

are going here:

It’s been a long road. In between Hawaii and our trip to Utah we had one day to gather, pack and cram belongings into a rental car. We busted our behinds so that my girls could attend freshman orientation. Unfortunately, more than our behinds got busted.

Did you know that there’s a doohickey-thinger that is supposed to be securely tucked under your bumper? It’s actually not supposed to drag on the ground…while you drive on the freeway. At least that’s what the nice policeman who escorted us (in reverse) off the freeway ramp told us. This said doohickey-thinger also wraps under the wheel well, at least that’s what the nice multi-peirced, severely tattooed young man with a six inch bowie knife who so kindly cut off the said doohickey-thinger told me, after he threw the doohickey-thinger into a field of weeds—because there was no way we could fit even an extra banana into the jammed packed car, let alone a black and greasy doohickey-thinger

All and all, if you have to drag a doohickey-thinger, suffer time loss, spend the night in a place like this:
(actually, it wasn't that bad...)
In Nephi, Utah because you are too tired to move another inch, and your room stinks so you open the window but then it smells like cows—because you are actually staying next to a field of cows,
 it’s all good, because after some screaming, venting and threatening to sue and call the better business bureau, the rental car company grovels for compassion and refunds the total cost of the car. Most importantly your daughters actually make it to Provo in time for freshman orientation. And you meet them for dinner, ask about their day, expecting to hear how oriented they are, and they reply, “Oh we didn’t go.”


But it’s all good, because soon I’ll be here:

Not here:

At least that's the plan.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Thank You Note to Stephenie Meyers

 My twin daughters are leaving for college in a few weeks. Among their piles of items to be packed and things to be left behind are several copies of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books. We have several copies because, just like the Harry Potter books, no one was willing to wait for a sibling/parent to read the book, so we—Natalie, Miranda and Nathan (sorry son, I’m ratting you out. I know your manhood can withstand this) and I— all had to buy our own copies.

In the past few weeks I’ve seen snippets of Stephenie Meyer blurbs on the internet. Seems she’s producing the movie version of Shannon Hale’s Austenland (loved that book, can’t wait for the movie.) According the sound bites, Ms. Meyer is “so over” the Twilight series, but before she closes the book, I want to say thank you.

I’m one person out of the millions who read her books (all of them)but I thought I would share some of my Twilight memories. Probably my favorite is the night I sat on Aunt Becca’s deck, my daughters on either side of me. We were in Washington, the stars are brighter there because it’s not as populated as our home in Orange County, California, and we talked about vampires and werewolves that may or may not have been hiding the woods behind Aunt Becca’s house. I also remember a Twilight themed book club meeting, a gathering of girls from age 12 to 80, laughing until we cried. Shortly after the first movie came out, a 60 year old friend called me. “I’ve seen it 7 times. I’m beginning to think I maybe obsessed.” Another friend told me that in the midst of her failing marriage, Twilight became her safe place. She would sometimes just go out and sit in her car because she had nowhere else to go and read.

I didn’t love the movies, but I LOVED watching them with my daughters and my friends. When the second movie came out a woman I don’t know sat down in the theater next to my 40-something friend (a relief society president and mother of four.) The woman said to my friend, “I thought I would sit here because I can’t stand it when all the girls scream whenever Jacob or Edward takes off their shirts.” (Big clue here—this couldn’t have been the first time this woman had seen the movie.)My friend looked her in the face and said, “You should move then, because I intend to scream.” “You can’t be serious,” the woman replied. “Oh, I’m very serious. I’m looking forward to screaming,” my friend said.
El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina--the most fabulous bookstore I've ever seen.

A few years later I was in a Buenos Aires book store and I spotted a life size cardboard likeness of Edward. I actually got tears in my eyes thinking of how far and what an impact, Ms. Meyers has had on the world. She really accomplished what Lord Byron meant when he said, “But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”
Does the world need to think about vampires and werewolves? Maybe, maybe not. I can’t speak for the world, but for me—I’m so glad I had a chance to sit under the stars with my girls and talk about boyfriends, both the good and the bad, I liked laughing until I cried in a room full of girls, some young and some old, I’m grateful my friend had a safe place to escape to—even if it was only to her car, and I loved screaming in a movie theater filled almost entirely with my gender.

So, Ms. Meyers, before my daughters put their copies in their respective boxes and carry them away to attic storage, thank you for the Twilight memories. Thank you for all the laughter, tears and screaming. Thank you for sharing your stories. 

Disclaimer. Given the choice, I would rather have my girls grow up to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Bella. Do I want some kid climbing in my daughter's window at night? No. Don't even try it. I will kill you. Did I love the way the series ended? Yes and no. No because I was disappointed. Yes, because I thought I knew how it would end, so now I'm writing my own series (sorry, no vampires, no werewolves) on how I thought the series would have/should have ended. Again--thank you, Ms. Meyers. You have inspired me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Book Covers!

So excited about these. Just had to share, even though the books won't be out for months...
My Christmas story, November release

So in love with this cover. This story, a teen time travel romance, has been with my editor for awhile a now. (She has been set back with a death in her family. I can't say when this will see the light of day, but I know it will be an amazing day when it does. LOVE this story. Love the cover.)

A short story written years ago, by far the most autobiographical thing I've ever written, aside from my short story, Magic Beneath the Huckleberries. I'm not sure when The Edit will be released, but Huckleberries, which placed in the top 100 stories in the Writer's Digest short story contest years ago, is free on Smashwords.  You can read it here:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Page One, Once Again

I’m rewriting the first novel I ever wrote and I can just say, AURGH. I decided to resurrect it when I was asked to participate in a boxed Christmas set with the awesome writers Authors of Main Street. I didn’t have a Christmas story, and to be included I have to have one by October. After some dithering I decided I could turn the first novel I ever wrote into a Christmas feel good sort of thing. Shouldn’t take too long, I thought. Won’t be too hard, I thought.
It’s not a horrible story. But just to illustrate the difference of 16 years of daily writing and countless workshops, classes and writers’ groups, here’s page one, before and after.

A Light in the Attic
(about 1997)
At the end of Elm Street, on the edge of a grove of orange trees, there stood a stately California Craftsman home. Surrounding the home was a curved path that wandered through gardens of azaleas gardenias, and roses and other flowers so pungent that their fragrance could brings fits of dizziness.

The sweetness of the evening was punctuated by the words tumbling out of the open window. “On a wing of frosty air, I hear thy prayer and my soul delights in the reverence. I feel thy presence and your longing for love and whisper peace to thy bosom. I will answer thee with a kiss.” The poet’s words circled the room, tickling the imagination of those seated on the heavy mahogany chairs and those perched on the velvet sofas.

A coyote on the edge of the arroyo cocked his head to the unfamiliar rhythmic voice, and a bunny enjoying a late night snack in the kitchen garden paused to listen, but Claude, sitting in the warmth of the café, close enough to touch the poet, Clavell, was oblivious.

Deirdre was his only thought, his only desire. He leaned forward, his muscles taut as if he were preparing to leap or flee.

(Notice there isn't a point of view character for almost the entire first page.)

Christmas Lights in the Attic (still working on title)

His only thought, his only desire—Deidre. Claude leaned forward, his muscles taut as if preparing to leap or flee. Sweat beaded under his oily bangs and he swiped it away, hoping his beloved wouldn’t notice. Claude shifted in his chair, fondled his tea cup, fingered his cookie and picked it to tiny crumbs while his gaze lovingly caressed Deidre’s slim figure. Mentally, he toyed with her dangly earrings and he tasted the sweet skin behind her ear.
                “On a wing of frosty air, I hear thy prayer—” Clavell, the man at microphone, droned on.
                What could such a person know of love? Claude wondered. The poet was handsome, in a slick, shallow sort of way. He probably didn’t know, hadn’t experienced, the pain of unrequited love—a love measured in decades, not mere years or months. Clavell perched on a stool near the great stone fireplace, a microphone in his hand. He didn’t read, but recited his memorized poetry.
                Grudgingly, Claude admired Clavell’s to share his feelings because Claude’s own emotions raged in his chest and he feared that soon his love would burst, and that his proclamations would spill out of him and interrupt the poetry reading. He imagined all his fine and tender words lying in front of him, sullied by exposure. The café patrons would lift their feet as his passion poured from him, staining the hard wood floor with his love.
Feeling desperate, Claude rooted through his postal sack until he found a pen and a flier with printing on only one side. He flipped over the flier—an advertisement from an air-conditioning company addressed to Mrs. Blanchard. Knowing old Mrs. Blanchard would never pay to air-condition her tiny condo, Claude began to write.
                In the soft moonlight I will whisper my love and you will answer with a kiss. His mind grappled for a word that rhymed with kiss while his gaze slid back to the poet. Maybe the poetry thing was harder than he had imagined.

(Look for this untitled story sometime in November.)

When I first started the rewrite/revision/overhaul I was tweaking every single sentence, obliterating clichés, passive verbs and run on sentences. I think at page 50 I decided that it would be easier to write something totally new. But after some thought I came up with a working strategy. I now read a scene and rewrite it. I don’t try to save anything except the gist of the story. It’s a rare and lucky sentence that survives. By the time I'm still tweaking, so when I finally publish the book, the first page will probably read very differently. 

I'm so glad that this first book didn't sell. If I had published then I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have taken all the classes and workshops. I wouldn't have learned to work so hard at tweaking and obliterating.

My yoga instructor is fond of saying, “Let go of everything you don’t need.” This is a good philosophy for writing, yoga and life.

What do you think of the two versions of my page one?

Monday, August 5, 2013

A New Business Plan, Starting September 2nd

                                                    WRITER AND REALITY WORKING TOGETHER

It's midsummer,  this means that my writing has taken a back seat to my family, vacations and visitors. Still, I fiddle with my books, look at fellow writers' blogs, and scheme my September plan of attack. Do you have a plan of attack? Here's mine.

Mission Statement: Write books that entertains, inspires, and encourages spouses  to hug and kiss each other, parents to laugh and play with their children,  friends whisper kind words to each other and strangers to exchange pleasantries and practice charity and goodwill.

The Five Year Goal: Twenty published novels. Hundreds of blog posts. Travel books.

Market and Focus: Female audience (except for my brothers and cousins who read my books) over the age of thirteen. Predominately well educated, older women who are looking for something to read on the plane or on the beach or who need an escape. My books are the equivalent of a bath without water—a totally immersing, relaxing, mood enhancer.  My books are meant to be shared with anyone, including but not limited to, grandmothers, daughters, priests and yogis.

Competitor Analysis: Continue to watch and learn from fellow writers by lurking on online writer forums, groups and blogs. Scrounge good ideas.

Strengths: (Why I Will Be Successful): Limitless time, discipline and an incredible imagination. Support from family, friends and writers’ groups.

Obstacles: Limited budget. Discouragement. False expectations. A profound hatred and fear of self promotion.

Promotion: At least one hour a day, five days a week. This entails blogging, querying review sites, guest posts, newsletters, give-aways, contests, book trailers, how to guides, sprinkled with a select few personal forays where I actually have to leave the house and interact with humans.

Writing Schedule: Four hours a day, five days a week with a weekly goal of 10k words, drafting.  That equates to a first draft in six to eight weeks, depending on the length of the novel. One month, same daily schedule, for editing and revisions. Goal: three to four books published a year. A summer vacation. A Christmas break.

Conclusion: In a world swimming with entertainment, I will provide wholesome, witty, and romantic escapism for my family, friends and any who may find me and my books.

The Dream Experiment

What are dreams? Messages from our subconscious? Firings of the electrons in our brains? Promptings from God?

There are several scriptural accounts in The Bible. Joseph of the coat of many colors interrupted them. Joseph, husband to Mary, was warned to flee to Egypt in a dream. The prophet Joel tells us:
¶Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things.
¶And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
Joel 21 & 28

Psychologists have differing theories. Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are a window into our unconscious. Shakespeare liked to dream. (He wrote about sleep A LOT.)
—make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I wak’d
I cried to dream again.
The Tempest (3.2.96-104)

I’m not a Shakespeare, Freud, or a oneirologist (a scientist who studies dreams) but I do dream and for the month of August I’m going to record my dreams. (Anyone want to join me?) 

Two correlated dreams on two separate nights prompted my experiment. After some stewing, I decided that the dreams held very practical, useful lessons, and if those two dreams were worth remembering and applying—what about all the other nightly dreams that I typically promptly forget? 

In the first dream, I was watching a mother and a child. The child wore a darling red dress and a black wool hat. The mother, dressed in a fuzzy pink sweater, had the child pressed against her and was picking microscopic pieces of lint off the red dress. I noticed that because the mom was so busy nit-picking the non-linty dress, she couldn't see that her pink sweater had left fuzz all over the black wool hat. I stood nearby, laughing hysterically. (Rude, I know.) I thought about this for a couple of days, because I’m not a smother-type mother (just ask any of my children) and my children are grown. I couldn't hold any of them pressed against my sweater if I wanted to—only one is actually shorter than me, although she adamantly denies this, no matter what a yard stick may have to say about it. I decided that the child was a book, the mom in the sweater was a writer or a publisher and the reason I stood by laughing (again, rude) was because I discovered that as a self published author I can produce a book in a fraction of the time as a publishing house.

In the second dream I’m frantically looking for a lost child. The child has the same name as a senior citizen I know. After fruitless searching, it occurs to me that the reason I can’t find the child is because he doesn't exist. After waking and some thinking, I decided that the child is my online presence and the reason I couldn't find him is because he is so tiny in such a vast universe. This could also be said for my books. To sell my books, I need a bigger online presence.

I have always loved a good sleep, but since starting my experiment, I’m excited to discover what I’ll learn each night. Maybe I’ll even have to take up napping.

Tips for dream experimenting:
Keep a pen and a notebook beside your bed so that you can write down your dreams as soon as you wake.

Avoid chocolate and caffeine—they interrupt sleep.

Try to get a good night’s sleep.

Get familiar with several online dream dictionaries (which may or may not be valid—just google the meanings of dreams).

Sleep well.

A Dream Within a Dream
  by Edgar Allan Poe        
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

Congrats to Lisa!

Lisa Hamer won my help spread the word about Rita contest!