Wednesday, March 29, 2017

AtoZ: Theme Reveal: Places In My Heart (a little late)

It's almost April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

In 2016, I did favorite superheroes.
In 2015, I released my first novel, so my posts were all about that.
In 2014, the first time I played, I did evocative words.

I love this blogging challenge both for how it pushes me and for how it puts me in contact with new bloggers to read and network with.

I missed the official theme reveal on March 20, probably because I was deep in editing my third novel at the time, so I'm playing a bit late.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart. I'll be talking about places that have mattered to me in a lasting way in my life. Here's my list of planned posts.

A: Alhambra, Granada, Spain
B: Big Bend, West Virginia
C: Carolina Theatre, Durham, NC
D: Duke Gardens, Durham, NC
E: Elmo's Diner, Carrboro, NC
G: Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
H: Chena Hot Springs Resort, Fairbanks, Alaska
I: Tybee Island, Georgia
J: Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, Kentucky
K: Kennicott/McCarthy, Alaska
L: Last Train to Nowhere, Nome, Alaska
M: Museum Road, Oxford, England
O: Occoneechee Speedway Trail, Hillsborough, North Carolina
P: Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
Q: "Queen City", Cincinnati, Ohio
R: Richardson Highway, Alaska
S: Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
T: Tom's Book Nook, Bellevue, Kentucky
U: Ouzinkie, Alaska (Monk's Lagoon)
W: Weaver Street Market, Hillsborough, North Carolina
Z: David Traylor Zoo, Emporia, Kansas

This year, instead of doing a linky signup, we're playing BINGO. Using this bingo board, the idea is to track down posts that meet each category. So, come read with us at AtoZ starting Saturday :-)

  • A post that mentions a car, truck, or motorcycle.
  • A post that mentions a book you've read and reviewed.
  • A post about an animal you've never learned about before.
  • A post with an image of something green.
  • A post that inspired you to make something.

  • A post about something in your fandom.
  • A post with a recipe you tried.
  • A post where you learned something new.
  • A post that mentions outer space.
  • A post that mentions ancient times.

  • A post that mentions a horse.
  • A post with an image of a dog or cat.
  • A post with something you're allergic to.
  • A post with diversity.

  • A post with coffee.
  • A post with a pun.
  • A post with a poem.
  • A post that made you laugh.
  • A post that made you cry.

  • A post about a place you've been.
  • A post about a place you will probably never see.
  • A post that improved your health (or offered a way for you to try to).
  • A post with a story you can tell around the campfire.
  • A post with three or more different words that begin with X.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Room of My Own

I've never had a writer's nook or office or room of my own.

I write where I can. On the sofa in my living room, standing in the kitchen, in my car while I'm waiting for one of my daughter's, in coffeeshops, at the library.

My time is coming.

One of my daughters is about to go off to college, which is going to mean a room shuffle . . . and, perhaps, a writing space of my own.

I like daydreaming about it, imagining what I'll have in there.

Here's my list, as of today:

I want a dry-erase wall, preferably also magnetic. Without a designated work space, I struggle with
brainstorming and organizational space. I'd love to have a blank wall to write out all my bubble maps and timelines on, to hold snippets I'm not ready to use just yet, to display visual  cues and inspiration.

I recently found out that these don't even have to be white, so I can still have a cool color, too. Maybe a peaceful green or a calming blue. It's chaotic in my head, so it would be good to have the walls be calm.

I'm also going to need an awesome chair. Something wide enough to sit in sideways with my feet tucked up or to share with my dog when one of us needs that.

I don't really want a desk. A wide, flat surface just becomes a junk collector for me, so a chair and a nice folding table will do nicely.

Sometimes, I think it should be a traditional library wingback, other times an overstuffed cushy thing, or maybe something really weird looking, like a giant hand or a spiral shape. I'm looking forward to trying out a bunch of possibilities. I'm 45 years old and I've never really chosen a chair to please only myself.

I like to imagine some plants in there with me. I'm happiest when among trees. My grocery store has been selling indoor palms and ferns and lots of jungly-looking greenery here lately and I like the idea of having a little private jungle feeding me oxygen as I pound out my words.

I won't really need a lot of shelf space or a need to make tea in there, since this is going to be in my house, which is already full of bookshelves and ways to caffeinate, so I should have room for my own private forest near the windows.

I'm not sure how that will go, as I am not known for my green thumb, but this is a dream room right now, so the plants are lush and healthy, fed by the wild imaginings created in their presence.

I'll keep some display shelves up high with copies of my books on them and remembrances of my writing life, like name-tags from cons and pictures and such. Stuff to make me feel successful and re-inspired when I get discouraged.

What do you think? Anything that's a must-have in my writer's garrett? What's in your creative space (real or dream)?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Books Worth Your Bucks

I was invited to participate in this blog hop: Books Worth Your Bucks.

I love this idea: taking a moment to tell the world about a book you've read and considered worth the dough. You can read the details and join the blog hop here.

I'm going to tell you a bit about Overlook by Elizabeth Hein and the sequel Escape Plan. The two books make a single story if read in order, a satisfying story about revenge, justice, and finding one's true path in life. The story is complete in these two books, too. It's not the beginning of a longer series.

(And you can get both books for as little as $8 if you're a digital reader or $25 for both paperbacks)

Overlook is the premiere neighborhood in an imaginary North Carolina town in the 1970s and Stacia rules it with an iron fist inside a kid glove. Property values and family values are one and the same, and woe be to anyone who upsets the status quo with unseemly drama or tragedy in the Stepford-like lakeside community.

Things begin to change when Stacia’s best friend Kitty becomes the center of a particularly unsavory family situation in the shape of a philandering husband who fails to keep up appearances. More than one of the Lookers is revealed in a different light as Kitty’s life falls apart and Stacia decides where her loyalties lie.

Book two picks up in the immediate aftermath of the events at the end of book one. I can't tell you much without ruining it, so I'll say that there is a pretty powerful event that ends book one, and book two begins with the repercussions of that. 

Now what? is the big question. Like finding out what happens to the princess after the prince comes, the second book shows that taking action against your troubles might just land you in an entirely new pool of hot water.

I recommend these two books for readers who enjoy realistic, but dramatic stories and strong character arcs. It’s also interesting as a period piece and a commentary and the changing roles of women in the 1970s. Stacia and Kitty are great characters and the two books have a lot to say about friendship among women. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Unpopular Opinions: Lorelei Gilmore

I'm sure you've all heard that Netflix did a new Gilmore Girls show. I didn't watch the old one when it was on, but thought I should now that people are talking about it again. It's one of those shows that I've heard a lot about. Lots of intelligent women I like and admire enjoy it and I always intended to watch it someday.

So, I've been giving it a go. I'm in Season 2 right now.

I don't quite hate it enough to walk away. I'll still watch more. But I definitely don't love it.

People who told me I'd like the show praised the dialogue.

And, yes, there are some cute bits. I tend to like Luke's rants better than Lorelei's. I snorted during a recently-watched episode when Luke went on about how unprepared he was to become the sudden parent figure for his nephew. "I have no patience for jam hands!"

But these bits feel like staged monologues to me, or maybe dialogues when Lorelei and Rory do one together. Kind of like bits by Abbott and Costello, but with less real emotion and more elbowing you to make sure you've noticed how clever they are.

In short, the dialogue is fun, in a plastic, surface-y, insincere way. But it doesn't move me.

Quirk overload:

So, this town is on quirk overload.

I enjoy some good quirky characters. As a younger woman, I was half in love with Chris in the Morning on Northern Exposure, another show set in an imaginary town full of odd people.

But there's too much quirk for me in Stars Hollow. When everyone is bizarre, the bizarre gets boring. You need a straight man for the comedian to play off of. But here, everyone is Groucho Marx and there's no Margaret Dumont.

When I lived in Nome, Alaska, I used to joke that instead of a town drunk, they had me: the town sober. Stars Hollow doesn't have one! Even the curmudgeons are just a different brand of quirky. Thank goodness for the outsider perspective of characters like Dean and Max who can at least see that this place is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.


And Lorelei is here to out-quirk them all. She's the manic pixie dream girl sent to torture Luke and we're supposed to cheer for them to get together. I'm like, "Luke, Dude, back away from the manic pixie. Those things will eat you alive!"

Lorelei is beloved among the quirk-tastic denizens of this town above all others. I'm waiting to see why. So far, she seems just irresponsible and self-centered to me, only interested in other people to the degree that they are foils for herself. The way she treats Sookie, for example, grates on my nerves. Friendship, dear Lorelei is a two-way street, and you are a terrible friend.

Which leads me to my biggest complaint:

Suspension of Disbelief:

I don't believe this story. I have no trouble watching shows that are patently untrue and feature characters doing things that are physically impossible like flying or running at the speed of light or reading minds or any number of crazy things. But, I have to be able to lose myself in the story, accepting the world around me as real, believe that the characters can do the things they do. And I just don't do that on this show.

The backstory, as I understand it so far is:

Lorelei was a poor little rich girl who didn't want her debutante life. She got pregnant at sixteen, ran away from home, and settled in this tiny town not too far from where her parents lived. She convinced a woman who owned an inn to employ her and give her a place to live with her infant and, over the next sixteen years, worked her way up until she is now running the inn. The child she raised alone while doing all of this is a Mary Sue of a girl with no serious bad habits or scars from her poorly supervised childhood.

I don't buy it.

I don't buy that Lorelei had the gumption to build a life for herself whens she'd been raised a pampered rich girl.

And even if I could buy that, I don't buy that this sixteen year old child had the patience to raise a baby with such care and love, even while working full time to keep them in food and shelter, that they are now so close it's of interest to Freud.

I don't buy that the kid came through unscathed: kindhearted, generous, bookish, ambitious, and of chaste habits.

I've been a single mother. It was only for two years, thank G-d. I was thirty-two. I had the support and help of my parents. I was lucky. And it was still freaking hard! I was exhausted all the time.

Lorelei, as portrayed so far, isn't woman enough to have done all she is supposed to have done.

And if she were, why would she give up so quickly on funding her daughter's education without mommy and daddy's checkbook? Surely Stars Hollow could have funded her with a giant quirky festival that raised the tuition dollars if her independence was that important to her.

Gilmore Girls is glib. I value sincerity and deep emotions (in life and in fiction). This show has a pretty surface, but it admires itself too much. While there are some things about it that are refreshing and interesting, After watching 1.5 seasons, I'm afraid I still don't get it.

So what do you think, people of the Internet? Want to help me understand what's so great about this show? Tell me I'm wrong? Agree with me? Please comment below. I'd love to know what you think, too.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG: Burning Fast and Bright or Burning Out?

I'm not one to turn away opportunity. After all, you don't know if it will come knocking again at all, or that you'll be free to take it at another time. But even though I've got a ready publisher willing to take on the fourth and fifth books of my planned 5-book series, I'm taking a pause from writing them.

It's scary as heck.

I'm worried that I'll lose momentum in sales and building buzz. But I'm also worried that if I keep going at this pace, I'm going to burn out and lose my love of the work.

A little history:

I got my first book contract in 2014 and the book (Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel) came out in spring 2015. When the first book was accepted, I was partway through writing the second, Change of Life. I finished it in early summer 2015, then quickly wrote a novella in the same world for an anthology my publisher was putting together (Indomitable Ten). Both the anthology and the second book came out in spring 2016.

Meanwhile, I wrote another novella and two short stories in the same world for other anthologies (Theme-Thology: Mad Science, The Good Fight 3: Sidekicks, and The Realms Beyond ), a handful of stories for my blog and newsletter readers, and the third novel, which is is in edits now and has a summer 2017 release planned. That makes 10 works of varying lengths in a single universe in three years writing time.

That's quite a wave I've been riding, and I'm tired.

I couldn't be more thrilled to have so much interest in my work, but this pace is exhausting (it doesn't yet pay enough to let me cut down on the day job), and worse than that, it's not fun.

Readers of this blog probably remember that I had to do a revise and resubmit on the third novel. Looking back on it, I think I ended up in that spot due to a combination of trying to work too fast and burnout.

So, I'm doing something I hope is brave and not stupid: I'm not writing the fourth novel yet. Instead, I'm going back to a completely different novel, my NaNoWriMo project from 2015 and making it my 2017 project to finish. I want to have it ready for submission by August. It's a middle grades novel, which doesn't feature any superheroes, but does have a lot of science and magic: Rat Jones and the Lacrosse Zombies.

I'm thinking this is a good idea for a few reasons: finding the fun again, not burning out, diversifying my output.

I'm thinking this is a bad idea mostly because I'm worried that I won't be able to easily pick it back up again after taking a break or that readers will have lost interest.

But I figure that it's better to have readers lose interest because of a longer wait for book four than because I release a sub-par book four. This would be a great time to have a crystal ball and know that my decision is the right one to serve my writing career, but since I don't, I'll just ask all of you to tell me I'm doing the right thing. I am, right?
If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month.

This month the group asked "Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?" So far for me, the answer is no, I haven't. I've just begun reworking an "old" novel, but it's only been two years since I wrote the draft I have, so it's not really that old. In fact, I haven't been at this long enough in any serious way to have any really old work to go back to. Before I was thirty-five, I'd only written poetry and essays, not novels. I do have one trunk novel I'd like to go back and revise at some point, but we'll see what we see.