How Does Your Garden Grow

It’s been a good break! Longer than I expected for the internet break part of it, (for example I never meant to abandon facebook), but the break has done me well. My apologies, to my online friends and family; I disappeared almost completely from Facebook and Twitter.

You know the saying… “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”? That.

But here’s the good:

  • I’ve left Ernest alone, and feel good about that. Though today I had the urge to send out another query. Then I quickly put the thought out of my head. Not yet.  I need a bit more time away from queries.
  • The weather has been awful so I haven’t done nearly as much fishing as I’d have liked, but on the couple of outings I had, I caught 5 fish. Hopefully, I’ll have time to do some fish journaling in the next few weeks if the weather finally cooperates. Nothing quite so relaxing as fishing. At least to me.
  • I took a much needed break from Yet It Will Come edits. It was absolutely the perspective I needed. I had to get a new view of it and I could only do that by stepping away. Edits are in full swing now and I have high hopes.
  • I went to Vegas with some of my friends! A lot to be said for breaking from routine.                                                       and my biggest accomplishment,
  • My garden is planted! It’s a thing of beauty with tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, potatoes, canteloupe, vidalia onions, zucchini, and corn. I love my veggie garden so very much. It went in late this year because of the weather. It made me anxious and I worried if I didn’t get it in soon, I would be too late in the season for it. I was wrong about that. I think it went in at just the right time. The next day we got a rain and the plants should be rather happy with their plot of land.

I’m back now, though.  I feel creative. My insomniac-self is telling me I have lots to do and is pushing me to do it. All’s well.

Sorry for the long blog break. That saying above about not having anything nice to say? It applies to this blog, too. 🙂

Now, about those edits. I’m once again convinced that Yet It Will Come is my best work yet.  I’m pretty darn sure of it, in fact. I think it scared me for a while because I wasn’t sure I could really do it justice.  So that perspective really helped.

Right now Yet It Will Come looks like my garden plot did on Saturday afternoon, when the ground was finally all tilled up and the plants and seeds all put in rows. It’s full of potential, but not ready to yield.   It just needs time, nurturing elements, hardwork and patience.  I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the results.

*waves*

How have you all been?

Question for you with the garden/writing analogy in mind: How does your garden grow?

get in it and get dirty?

pull the weeds?

store the over-abundant yield for long winters?

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The Feel Good No

Funny how one thing in one compartment of your life can affect many things in other compartments of your life.  You know it’s true.  We all do.

Well it so happens that’s exactly what’s going on with me.

I got a rejection on a full from the first agent who requested “Ernest”. He requested at the end of August.  He rejected at the end of January.  It took him a while to get it read and he gave me all the proper apologies and even a few reasons for the delay. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. It was the most personal rejection I’ve ever gotten and led to a wonderful email exchange that really gave me hope.

We discussed my writing. He said, I’m very good. That’s encouraging.

He said “send me the next thing”. I said I would. That’s encouraging.

He said his reader really liked it and passed it on to him to read for himself. That’s encouraging.

He said he was rejecting it because he just really doesn’t like Ernest Hemingway.  I laughed and wondered why he even asked to read it, considering the title and query. I didn’t ask though, but appreciated his honesty. He said not to let his bias discourage me from continuing my search.

He said his reader told him that this kind of book is in the midst of a small trend, and asked me if I thought so too. I said yes, that it seemed to be. That was encouraging, since I wrote it quite a while ago, and I had gone with my heart on it, and wrote what made me happy and didn’t write toward a particular “market”. It validated, I suppose, that when you write for yourself first, and not toward a “zombies are really selling, maybe I’ll write a zombie book” that it can work. Because honestly, I really can’t write what people make me write.

He said to keep going because someone is going to want it. That’s very encouraging.

We ended the discussion with the fact that he wants to see my next book. I told him he would be the first to see it. Now I just have to finish the damned thing – most challenging  story I’ve ever written. Seeing potential in a story and wondering if you can be as big a writer as this big  story requires  is scary. Can I turn out my vision for this story in the right words? I don’t know yet. I still feel like it’s bigger than I am. But this conversation I had gave me a nudge to get back to it.

While the NO itself didn’t make me happy, the information I got and the multiple ways I was encouraged thrilled me.

Our conversation made me want to finish what I’m working on now, (no, scratch that, I want to finish it Right Now!) so I can send it to him. Trouble is finding the hours to match the enthusiasm.

The conversation we had put me back in the “Ernest could be good enough” frame of mind. It also put me in the “my next one will knock his socks off” frame of mind.

It feels good here where I am with this process, not only for the encouragement that Ernest is a good book, but because my writing has improved over time and I know it. My next one will be a better book than my last.  My plot and character and pace and language are stronger in this one than they were when I wrote Ernest.  I know they are.

Maybe I just needed to hear from a professional that I just might have the right combo to break into this publishing world.

I have no doubt I will get knocked down to size again on this journey to author-hood, but if it’s okay, while I have it, I’m going to bask in this Feel-Good-No and put the energy it’s given me to good use.

Life and work have been busy for me lately, and I suppose I’ve seen recently that priorities and time and energy are precious.  If you’ve  wondered where I disappeared to, I’m just trying to do less things, because there are a lot important things in my life I should be focusing on, and I’m trying my damnedest to do THOSE things well.

Thank you, feel-good-No.  🙂

Readers – if a tree falls

I wrote a poem last week. Been a while.

It struck me then that it didn’t feel like I really wrote it until I posted it on my writing forum.  They’ve read any poem I’ve written that’s worth reading (and a whole bunch of them not worth the pixels) for the last four years. The room has changed a bit; many of the poets I consider mentors don’t frequent it like they used to. Hell, I don’t frequent it like I used to.  But after posting it, I sent one of those mentors a message. It said, “Hey, I posted a new poem. Stop by if you get a chance. It feels like it doesn’t exist if you don’t read it.”

I laughed to myself. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it…” Then I realized how true it was.

Sometimes that’s how writing feels.  Like it didn’t happen until someone else sees it. Writing can be very solitary sometimes. I know it’s there. I know the words. But they are erasable. Deletable. Until they are in someone else’s mind too.

It’s not just poetry.  I’ve felt that way about my fiction before too. Wanting people to read it, sometimes even before it’s done.  It doesn’t feel “written” until a handful of trusted betas have it.

When people who love  to write talk about the struggle of publishing:  the making the words good enough, making the story compelling enough, making the query letter enticing enough. When we talk about rejection and that hollow angst that sets in when we get too many rejections in a row, understand, the love of writing is what compels us to write. We will always write.  We do write for ourselves, first. We have a love affair with words. We can’t help it. Writing is a compulsion, a need. It is as much a need as breathing, eating, sleeping;  we write.

We go through the struggles of publishing because we want someone to hear the tree fall.

Be a reader for an unpublished writer you know.

for the curious (as the poem really doesn’t fit the context of this post, it was merely the reason I realized), here’s the poem I wrote:

Parentheses

Only sideways relevant.

Hash, slash, comma, divided

by pretty words.

The afterthought on thought.

Then your eyes pronounce

the sentence.

A judgment – I’ll do time.

Due time

as frown lines

curve the corners of your lips,

I know everything –

every word – that falls between them

is parenthetical.

A digression from

(I make note)

what you mean.




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! 🙂

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.

Editing…or my MC needs a Valium

How do you edit?

I’m editing “Yet It Will Come”. I did a read through and fixed grammatical stuff, the simple line-editing bits. I rewrote awkward sentences. Then I considered the plot, the feel of the story and made a list. These are the real edits that need to happen.

  • Pacing – slow it down. There’s no rush and it borders on confusing
  • because Charlie is so frantic, the writing is too.
  • Janice – she needs her story to come out sooner, so in Chapter 29 she makes sense.
  • Elliott and Jill – set up that relationship sooner so Chapter 23 makes sense.
  • Reconsider Lola’s disclosures to Charlie – the explanation she gives is wonky. It feels inflated and senseless.
  • rewrite Megan’s visit to Charlie – Lola is (again) too weird.
  • Chapter 3 is too much tell. Figure out a new scene to show those things.
  • Charlie needs to narrate more and emote/navel-gaze less.
  • Rewrite Charlie’s meltdown after Lola’s absence.
  • Tighten the voice. Charlie’s intensity makes the narration jumpy.

So, see, editing is not just red ink marks on a page, or strike-throughs and margin notes. These are major bits of reworking this story.

Mostly, Charlie is so intense that the whole story feels like that. He needs to have more lucidity. He needs to tell the story. (and perhaps that is the fault of being in Present Tense – either 3rd person or past tense may need to come into play to settle that MC down.)

I love Charlie’s passion and the dude has got some amazing moments of losing his grip. I love that he is so unhinged and he lets me be unhinged as a writer. I’ve gotten to go where I don’t normally go with writing because of him. He’s a blast to write. He just needs to settle down and tell the story. My MC needs a Valium.

When I get done editing this I might need one too.