Fins and Whales…wait. That’s not right.

I don’t believe there will be any ocean-dwellers in this post, but there could be! What I meant to say is Wins and Fails, but I don’t like the word Fail. It pisses me off. So there.

*makes note to have a blog post about sea life sometime in the new year*

What happened this  year?

For me? Well here’s the good and the bad all in one random list. I know…randomness is a bit annoying.  But I couldn’t figure out how to sort them, and even if I could didn’t know which order they should be in. So…randomness wins.

  • I never figured out the bait caster.  I’ll have to try that again in the spring. I want to be good at fishing, but I don’t want my impatient husband to teach me…so each spring I torment myself with learning new fishing skills.
  • I tried to get my 7 year old to teach me all the Presidents of the US. I never learned that in school. He tried. I totally whaled at….eerrrr…failed at retaining them.
  • But I can still recite all the States in alphabetical order. (FIN!)
  • Most of my kitchen “creations” turned out well this year! (My children might disagree – but who asked ’em?)
  • Total writing breakthrough #1! Taking Lessons From Ernest is in the hands of a couple of Agents.
  • QueryHell – I’m revising the query because it’s just not a very high request rate. I’m so not good at Queries. *drinks tequila* *pours tequila in the whale’s blow hole* Take that!
  • Total writing breakthrough #2! Yet It Will Come is on track to start subbing in the early spring. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever written and the edits, thanks to awesome beta (Hi Pete!), are taking the book to a new level. It’s a big story, and for a while it was bigger than my ability. I’ve grown as a writer for having tackled it.
  • I still can’t whistle.  My children can. They whistle often.  They tell me to try. They tell me what I’m doing wrong. Mostly I think they love that I can’t whistle and they can. That’s why they like to see me not-whistle.
  • I’ve never been good at riding a bike and I won’t even attempt it as an adult. This is something that will never be mentioned again on Experimental Stew – it is something I will not attempt. My clumsy ass plus balance, speed and gravity equal injury. We just don’t mix, K? I pulled enough Hooey’s this year. (possibly more than Hooey!Ssshhh…)
  • However, I went rollerskating this year and didn’t bust my ass or sprain an ankle. Go figure!
  • Fin! – My chapter titles make me Smile every time I see them. 🙂 *smiles more* *plays Jimmy Buffet song*
  • Big photo shoot success for the year – it was a pane, but somebody had to do it!
  • Project Whale: my garden! UGH! You’ve never seen such a disaster. If I’d been blogging at the time I would have taken pictures of it, just so you could laugh at me. Fer’real Fail. It was pathetic. I’m ashamed of myself for that.
  • I joined Twitter and I started a blog! WTF? 😮  Fin or Whale? I don’t know.
  • I traveled a lot this year! I hope I get to do that again in the new year. *waves to my favorite far away travel buddies*
  • I turned 40! Hey, it might not sound like an accomplishment, but considering that speed and gravity issue I have, I’d say that’s one hell of an accomplishment.
  • I still haven’t gotten the wet nap! ggrrr… (everything good ends in a wet nap!)
  • I watched friends get published this year and I did my best to pimp them! 🙂 (Yay! FINS! for published friends!!)
  • Whale – I didn’t join their ranks. Let’s just say we’ve saved that for next year, yeah? (What? where would we be without wishful thinking? – *nods to Jeff Tweedy*)
  • not so good: My TBR (to be read) pile is growing and I’m not getting anywhere near the bottom of it!
  • flip side: it’s never bad to have too many books but I think I may need to put myself on book-buying probation in January. Just sayin’.

And on that note, I suppose I should end this year’s Blogging with one of these!

It’s been a good year and everything good ends in a wet-nap! 🙂

How was your year? Did you earn a wet nap?

Happy Holidays! 🙂

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Trick My Nightmare – an Experiment with Horror

I have bad dreams. I always have. I remember waking up terrified at a  young age because of the things my brain tortured me with while I slept.  I’m sure my parents thought I would eventually stop waking up in the night screaming, but I didn’t grow out of it. I still wake up screaming on occasion. And those wicked images become memories that I have to keep. I still get shivers about dreams I had two decades ago.  Months can go by between them or only days, but they always return.

People often commented that maybe I should consider writing them. They’d say, “Why don’t you use the nightmares in your fiction?”

I always responded that I don’t write horror, that I don’t want to keep and re-read the nasty things, and that they usually don’t make sense in any context outside of “nightmare”.

I think I was wrong though.

About a year ago I had a really horrible dream, and I passed the details of it to a writer friend of mine. He’s the moderator of the Horror Forum on absolutewrite.com. We decided his Horror Hounds could use it as a prompt (and deep down I really wanted to believe that if I gave them my nightmares it would stop tormenting me). So the Hounds used the bare bones description of the dream for a contest. We called it “Trick Trish’s Nightmare”.

Some time later I had another nightmare and gave that one to him as well.  Hey, why  not? I certainly wasn’t going to use them, I thought. The stories these people generated from the dream details were amazing! They could use part or all of the dream, they could take just one element of it and go a whole new direction if it suited them. The variations spun from different styles and imaginations was impressive.

Turns out sharing the gruesome details of a bad dream does help! Giving them away felt like a real physical act, rather than just the mental exercise of typing up and passing along scary stories. It’s cathartic. Typing out the details and giving other writers something to work from, well, that feels good –  a good thing out of a bad one.

But the Horror Hounds convinced me that I should also “Trick My Nightmare”. I was hesitant. I didn’t want to use those elements in fiction. “I don’t write horror”, I said.  But I did.  Taking the basics of the dream, I created a main character, gave her a past, gave her a motive, and let the horror begin. Woah, that was fun!

Who said I didn’t write horror? I did? Turns out I was wrong about that.  It was fun, and it felt sort of natural. I took control of the bad dream and made it work for me. I liked that; they’ve had control of me for long enough!

Following that, I wrote other Horror  short stories from the Hounds’ monthly prompts. One of which ended up becoming part of my most recent novel.  More and more the flavor of what I write leans to darker fiction.  I’m still not steeped in Horror as a genre, but the elements are fun to work with.

The nightmares still come and go. I think they always will.  That’s just the way my brain works. Two nights ago I had what was truly (and I’m an expert on this) the worst dream I’ve ever had. I immediately passed the ‘mare to Haggis. Maybe we’ll just have to Trick It.

It’s called Trick Trish’s “Nightmare Before Christmas”. I feel compelled to dip my toes back into the horror forum and to make the nasty little thing work for me again.

You should join us.  You can find the Horror Hounds here.

I’m gonna need a bigger boat!

Query: Take 20

Ask any yet-to-be-repped-novelist. Query writing sucks.  Simply by their very nasty nature, they suck.  But if we want to get published, we write them.  And agents on the look-out for new talent with good books read them.

“Okay”, we say to ourselves, “We”ll play that game. We can do this. If we can write a book or 3 or 4 we can certainly write a compelling 250 word letter.”

uh…riiiiight.

And I even write business correspondence in my day job! I strategize and persuade and I’ve been told I’m good at it. I’ve taken Business Writing classes. I have a COMMUNICATIONS DEGREE fercrissakes! *headsmack* I’ve read the blogs by the agent-y types and studied and practiced and practiced…

And yet, my query letters are simply not living up to the task. For what’s  been sent out, I’ve gotten a somewhat low request rate.   The last version got me three full requests and a partial request, though, so it seemed to be working. I was very proud. Then those numbers trailed off to Form Rejections and Flat-out Ignores.

So in the middle of the night two nights ago, I thought of a bit of a different hook for the letter, which, when applied, lead to a whole new attitude for the letter. (Which, when applied, added a whole new paragraph to the letter. )

Ahem.

So what did I accomplish? I think I finally got the right tone; I got the right voice. I also got about 100 too many words.

*Recalls Her Sharkness saying “ENTICE ME to want to read it” with a sharp, toothy grin.*

“Hmmm” I thought, “I’m going to need a bigger, yet less wordy and better-equipped, boat.”

So today, I imagined her gnashing teeth at my backside as I listened to a writer friend tell me that I’m giving away too much story, that I’ve gone too far in and too many details and names, and, and, and… *head spins* The words “entice me, entice me” drift hauntingly through my head as I see exactly what he means.  Somewhere in the distance I hear the Jaws Theme. Then I say, “Ah, crap!”

So MS Word and I had a bout with the backspace and delete keys and I replaced the too-telly paragraph with *wait for it* one really craptastic sentence.

But that’s OK!! I know it’s not a good sentence, but it is serving the purpose for now. It is an important sentence, and currently it is also a placeholder for the perfect sentence. It’s a placeholder for the sentence that  says, “look at me! Look how enticing I am!”

So sometime in the next few days, the perfect bait, (aka the “look at me! See me enticing you?” sentence) will surface.  Probably sometime around Query: Take 30.

In the meantime,  here’s the new opening of the query:

Everyone who knows Eric Bastien also knows that he can’t get his shit together. His best friend describes him most accurately; “he’s like a guy who pokes a beehive with a stick and can’t figure out why he’s getting stung”.  Eric is sent on an errand for his recently deceased father and goes from “beehive poker” to something worse. He’s seeing and talking to a ghost. If everyone thought he was off his nut before, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Because it’s not just any ghost; it’s Ernest Hemingway. And he’s a ghost on a mission; not least of which is getting Eric to put down the stick.

Eric comes by the crazies quite naturally from his mother, who’s a few too many drinks in at the moment and headed for trouble. But Hemingway and Eric’s dead father have a plan.

Now, onto Take 21.