Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick Post about Weird Dreams

I had a doozy. I tend to have rather standard dreams--like the one where you signed up for a class in college and somehow never managed to go, and now it's the final... Or the one where I'm walking to class and realize I'm still in my pajamas.

However, this one was REALLY weird. I blame it on my New Dog Fever.

I was teaching--either substituting or doing some kind of presentation in a class at a high school. (I do not teach high school, and never have.) I was on the third floor of this high school, which was build with wide balconies around an atrium, and the dog had apparently come to school with me, but stayed outside. Mostly, the dog was Dolly the granddog, but sometimes she morphed into Pretty, the other granddog (that doesn't live with me), and for a while there, we had two dogs. Anyway, That was just the set up to the dream.

The actual dream--the dog got into the school, and climbed up to the third floor to find me. I came out of the class, thinking "Oh, no. I have to get this dog out of the school without anybody knowing it's MY dog, and without her causing too much disruption."

But when I came out onto the big balcony, the dogs (there were 2 at this point) were barking. At A COW. On the third floor of this school.

The cow was apparently supposed to be there. In the hall, on the third floor. It was on a leash, and a student was leading it. The dogs were not supposed to be there barking at the cow. (There may have been another animal, but my vision was pretty much locked on the Cow. And the dogs.) I called, without using Dolly's name, hoping she would come to me and I could act like she wasn't really my dog (she's not, after all)--you know, the "come here, puppy," and making kissy noises. She came, and I started walking away, around the balcony, and she followed, jumping up and licking my fingers and such.

Here, things got a bit muddled into the height dream (walking across very high dangerous places without a railing) and getting out of the school--but that was basically my dream. Dogs at school, and a COW.

I know. It must be part of the vivid imagination thing. (I dreamed a couple weeks ago that we were house sitting for Michael Jackson--he hadn't died, apparently, and was living just down the street from us...) Dunno. (When we first met Michael Jackson, he was wearing a dress, much like the one Kiefer Sutherland wore on the Late Night show...) Maybe it just means that I'm warped. Sadly, deeply, warped.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Words

Today, I wrote 1-1/2 pages of new material for the first time in about 3 months.

I haven't been sitting on my assets during that time. I've revised and sent a science fiction romance partial to my agent in October. I typed in all I had of the historical novel and sent that to my agent in November. I revised a contemporary paranormal romance partial and finally got that out last week. I needed that time off. But now, it's time for new stuff.

The excitement is building for this story, even though I've been doing all kinds of procrastination stuff this week during my writing time. I unboxed and installed my new printer. I read the last 3 chapters of the wip (and cried till tears dripped off my cheeks at the last chapter. Again.) to get back into the world of the story. I made a calendar big enough to write out my timeline on and actually read it. I even looked up rivers in China and the Burma Road. But today, I took that necessary step. I put new words down on paper.

This is a story I'm already about halfway through. Maybe more (I never really know until I get to the end). I love the story. And still, every time, it's the same. The blank page mocks me. Until I pick up the pen and write some words on it. (Throwback, remember? First drafts in longhand. And some of them are Really Long First Drafts.) But then, once those words are written, it gets easier. I remember that I do sort of, kinda know what I'm doing. And that--okay, it's not easy, but it's not that hard either. And I like doing it. It's ... not fun, exactly, but-- satisfying. It feels Right.

I am still a busy, busy person. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and am probably driving with my guys to take a load of stuff to the out-of-hurricane-range storage on Saturday. I may not get anything more written until Monday. But that's okay. Because I've STARTED.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I got the Fever

In our family, we often talk about how various family members get "new car fever." You know what that is. The urge, that grows to a need for a new car. Symptoms include driving by car lots, looking at car sites online, and eventually grow to stopping at the dealers and test driving cars. Severe cases result in, well--a new car. Whether you need one or not.

I don't have new car fever. I'm perfectly happy driving my silver beast. But I got the fever. For a number of things. Right now, I'm wallowing in "new dog fever." Yes, there is a sweet doggie living at our house. But she is the grand-dog, and she will be moving out when her boy graduates, gets a job and a new place to live. She's not MY dog. I was perfectly happy getting my dog fix from the grand-dog, until my daughter got a dog.

She called to tell me about picking her new doggie up. Her name is Pretty, and she's a pit bull/German shepherd mix. I've heard all about how the grandboy wanted to climb in the back of their mini-SUV to ride with her, and how 10 minutes after they got home, he got down in her face and asked "You want to chase me?" I have heard how Pretty met Orm the guinea pig and just sniffed him.

I even got a phone call this a.m. to hear how the doggie and the piggy wanted to play with each other. Fer realz. Guinea pig jumped out of his cage while Momma was getting hay. Doggie sniffed piggy. Doggie went down in a "play bow"--the dog's invitation to play. Momma wasn't sure whether Pretty wanted to play with Orm like he was another dog, or like he was a toy, so she put the piggy back in his cage. Still, when Pretty comes to sniff him, he comes to the door like he expects her to give him a treat...

Anyway, all this talk of dogs had me going through Internet sites looking at the doggies available at local shelters and rescue groups for adoption. They are so CUTE. I want one so BAD. But I want a dog I can let in the house, and as long as we're renting... Sigh.

So, yeah. I got new house fever too. And spring fever--it's time for it to be warm again. Okay, it's still January, but flowers start blooming in February in Texas. The neighbor's jonquils have been blooming since Christmas.

About the only fever I don't have is the fever to write. I am procrastinating SO bad. I spent yesterday unpacking my new printer and getting it installed. I spent this morning re-reading the last 3 chapters I wrote so I'd be in the story. Tomorrow, I HAVE to start writing. The desk is (mostly) clear. The printer's installed. The blog is written (this one and the one at the To Be Read blog for Friday). I have no more excuses. Need to get started.

Yeah, I know all the tricks of the trade. I just have to do them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TBR Challenge - January's Book

My book for January's TBR Challenge read is a series romance.

Moonlight and Mistletoe
by Dawn Temple

It's a Silhouette Special Edition, published November 2009.
This is a sweet, enjoyable read about a small-town girl and the big-city lawyer who isn't really trying to hustle her--he honestly thinks he's doing her a favor--but it's a favor she doesn't want, involving a pair of sleazy birth parents she'd just as soon forget. He doesn't believe she's as nice as she really is--and has trouble accepting that he's just as nice. There's a big dog, some local holiday festivities that remind me a lot of the holidays in all the little towns where I've lived, and just a great romance. I liked it a lot.

Yeah. I kinda specialize in short-and-sweet review-lets. :)

I'm posting this late on Thursday, but it's still Thursday!

I'm late because I had to rearrange my whole week to go to the parents' yesterday. I had intended to head up on Monday, but the doctor appts. they had on Tuesday they changed to Thursday. So I switched around the days I was going to work, and drove up yesterday.

And then today, while we were getting organized, the doctor's office called. Their systems were down, and they had to cancel ALL the patients' appointments for the day. Who knows when they'll be able to reschedule? And I needed to come back home, because I rearranged my work days to work tomorrow. Sigh.

I hope they can go by themselves. I wrote down Mama's question for the doctor, she put it in her billfold, then I wrote a note and stuck it on the outside of her purse that says "Doctor question is in the billfold." So maybe she'll be able to find it and ask it. If that doesn't work... Well, who knows when my stress level will go down...

I did finish reading my research book...

Riverside writers' retreat

I was here over the weekend, and it was wonderful. (This was Saturday, after the rain stopped--the view downriver from the upstairs deck.) We had workshops with a creativity coach who talked about recapturing the joy in writing, and how to be happily interrupted and other such things, plus there was time to write, and a concert, and white elephant gifting. Some of the white elephants were lovely. Some were...not so much.

The location was a house on an island in, I believe, the lower Colorado River. The only access to this island is by barge, or aerial tramway. It rained all day on Friday, the day we arrived, too wet, really, to cross on the barge. So we crossed on the tram.

The tram was WAY up in the air! And it was small. The wind was blowing, and the car tilted sideways, and it swung back & forth when it crossed the towers (that's the first tower in the picture--the barge landing is right below it, to the left). And I'm real nervous about heights. But I did okay. I did not scream and clutch at the handrails or cower on the floor. And I stopped shaking once we got on the ground. ;)

It was just a wonderful weekend. Everyone brought potluck for meals, and we had WAY more than anyone could eat. We didn't even open the ham someone brought.

My BFF Belinda came down from Waco with her fella, and they spent the night Thursday. Then Friday, in the pouring rain, we drove the "back way" down to the river house. We had to come a different way from everyone else, because the others were all coming down from Houston, and we had to just slide down the coast and come inland some from our island. Belinda and I drove in my "bus" and Ken followed us. In the rain. He likes to drive around and look at the country side. We were driving through flooded fields on both sides, lined with moss-draped trees. It was lovely. (Okay, the several junk yards we passed by weren't so great, but...)

The only access between the downstairs "quiet" floor and the upstairs "brainstorming / workshop" floor was an outside staircase, so we got a little wet carrying things up and down. Mary (whose house it was) got REALLY wet, driving the golf cart to pick people up. She was so wonderful to open up the house to everyone, and work so hard to get everyone there.

B and I got there around noon, so we could just wallow in the experience, and wallow we did. Belinda had a one-on-one session with the coach. I did Tarot readings for at least half of those who came, including the coach. Some of them told me what their question was, and others didn't, but they all said the readings were amazingly spot on. Well, one said she didn't see some of the things, but... Anyway-- I got a kick out of doing that.

Saturday night, Kathryn the coach, who is also a singer- songwriter, gave us a little concert with some wonderful songs. She did not bring enough CDs for everyone, and I don't have mine yet. But let me tell you, the song LIVING WELL is a fabulous bluesy creation and You Need To Hear It. I fully expect to hear another of her songs performed by some bigtime country singer in the near future.

Then it was time for the white elephant. I didn't get an elephant. I got a gun rack (for my (non-existent) rifle collection). Yes, those are deer hooves. Real ones. With fur and everything.

As you can see, I did bring it home. It's going in the Lions' Club white elephant Christmas party game this next year. :)

I told my son to bring his friend Walter over to see it. Walter grew up on a farm/ranch outside Tyler, TX. I think he will appreciate it. (Yes, the picture is sideways, but the deer feet are the right way up.)

So now, it is time for me to run to the grocery store for ice cream and Cokes. (In Texas, all sodas are Cokes, whether they are Coca-Cola or not, but I really am going to by Coke Zeros.) And then pack my car and head off to the parents'.

I started rewriting a synopsis for White Elk, Red Sword while I was at the retreat. Mostly I was there to refresh and renew, but I did start on the synopsis. I finished it yesterday. So now I'm reading research books, and I hope to get back to work writing next week. I aim to get my head back into the story so I can do it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I should Write Something Profound

Instead, I ... well, won't.

I got a great letter from my agent about my historical not-a-romance novel I sent her as a half-finished ms. She wants me to finish it asap. There are things I need to fix, and watch for as I write the rest of the book. I still have to do some research to get the ending right. It's still a romantic adventure story, like pretty much everything else I've written, but it's in an unusual-for-a-historical-novel time period and location, and it's less romance. The main plot of the story isn't a romance. So, I'll write a synopsis and get the current partial out the door, then I'll focus on Thunder in a Cloudless Sky.

I still have to bake cookies for my writer's retreat. (Instead of "Retreat-a-thon" we should be calling it "Eat-a-Thon" given all the yummy goodies everybody is bringing.) And pack. Decide which book files I'm bringing. And figure out how to get everything waterproofed. This location is on an island. We can't drive up to it. And the boat taking us over has no cover from rain. Rain is predicted all weekend. I may pack my clothes in an ice chest...

My friend B is coming in from Waco this afternoon, with her fella. We will go out for shrimps tonight. They're like us. Want to eat shrimp whenever they get to the coast. I got no problem whatsoever with that!

Okay, heading home to get ready.

I know I just did two blogs in two days--I'm trying to work up to Two blogs a week, instead of just one--and I will try to space them out better in the future, but I haven't made it yet. Y'all bear with me. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Life in the Newsroom

I have a college degree in journalism. I like working at newspapers. I've worked for several--some weeklies, and the small daily where I now have a very part time job. It's interesting. I've learned a lot about tight writing, and straightforward writing, and grammar.

I had to take a leave-of-absence from the paper to finish my latest book, because it simply would not come together before I got to the ending, and I've come back to work far less time than I did before-- Honestly, I probably would not have come back at all, except that they said they really needed me. (Basically, the Brit begged.)

I like working less. It's not so much that I am writing during the time I'm no longer at the paper. It's that I can do the other, non-writing stuff during that time, and I don't have to do that stuff during my usual writing time. I am also having to spend more time at my parents' as they struggle more to do their everyday chores, and so now I have days I can use to do that.

This week, I've been asked to come in more, because the regular person is taking a few days off. I am also having to juggle a surprise doctor visit, a friend coming into town, and getting ready for a writer's retreat. (The doctor's appointment is a surprise because it was a referral by my primary care person to a specialist, and the letter informing me about the appointment got mislaid somewhere during the holidays. They called me about it--two days early, instead of the day before, and--well, I thought one thing, they said another--anyway--it's been a mess.)

So, here I sit, correcting the grammar in Letters to the Editor. I'd rather be writing--except that the writing I have to do is a synopsis, and I'd rather do almost anything but write synopses. I know it must be done, but... Next week. I'll do it next week. Because, you know, I'm at the paper this week.

I am going to that writer's retreat this weekend. Maybe I'll write my synopsis there, since they're going to have "writing time" as part of it. And then I can brainstorm, or do whatever. Which reminds me. I need to warn them what time we'll be coming in... And stuff.

Off to put pictures into the system. :)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

TBR Challenge - trying again in 2010

Okay, I'm going to try this again. Probably, my life will get crazy again and I won't get it all done--it's hard for me to post reviews on a schedule--but I want to try. I want to pull some of these books off my TBR shelves. And even out of the box under my bed.

I am not going to put them down for any particular month, because I often read according to mood and I might not be in the mood for that particular book in whatever month. So...

Here we go.

I'll match them to categories after I've selected them:

1. Moonlight and Mistletoe by Dawn Temple - Series romance (because Dawn's a friend & I've been meaning to read this.)

2. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn - mystery/suspense (bought this at RWA conference, haven't touched it, and I really want to.)

3. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - YA fiction (romance?) I've heard a lot about this over the years & found it at a yard sale. In great shape!

4. The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer - I'm going to break out Regency from historical romance.

5. Firebird by Mercedes Lackey - fantasy

6. Ships of the Air by Martha Wells - Not Your Usual Setting. It's in Ile-Rien - a made-up place.

7. Southern Comfort by Karen Kelley - Contemporary romance

8. Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik - fantasy

9. The Captain's Woman by Merline Lovelace - Western romance

10. Mysterious Ways by Terry W. Burns - Inspirational (I've had this a Loooong time...)

11. Dancing with Werewolves by Carole Nelson Douglas - New to me author

12. Love and Honor by Randall Wallace - historical novel (had this a long time too)

Hmm. I may switch the Lackey book out for something else...but my shelves are very heavy with fantasy and SF. 'Cause I like it.

Maybe I'll just name two designated alternates and sub one of them for whichever book I just can't start.

Like Heart of the Wolf by Terry Spear- a paranormal romance, which I've been wanting to read a while now, and For the Love of Pete, by Julia Harper, which looks like a contemporary romantic comedy. :)

I will post blog reviews of these, hopefully when I'm supposed to. If I read them, that will be an accomplishment in itself.

Do y'all have anything you hope to read this year?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

To Resolve or Not to Resolve

This is the time of year the media tend to talk a lot about New Year's Resolutions, because (duh) it's the beginning of a New Year. I'm beginning to think that more people don't make resolutions than do make them, because most seem to feel that making resolutions simply sets them up to fail.

I agree with the anti-resolution people. I mean, just think about the word. It has the same root as "resolute" which means (wait, let me look up an official definition) "Determined; set in purpose or opinion," or alternately: "characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper, spirit, actions." Anybody who knows me knows that while I might be determined, my determination is pretty soft and flabby. I intend to do the things I've resolved, but too often I just don't get around to it. I get sidetracked. Or I forget. Any number of things can happen.

That's why I set goals instead. Goals are targets to aim for. If I miss, the target isn't irretrievably broken. It's still there, ready to be aimed at, waiting for me to get around to reaching it. Somehow, it's easier not to beat myself up for not reaching a goal just yet than it is for breaking a resolution. (Again, look at the words. You Break a resolution. You just miss the goal.) (Okay, missing isn't good, but it's not as permanent-sounding as breakage.)

Setting goals fits right in with the lists I make every day of my life. I'm low tech (as seen by my writing first drafts in longhand...), so I have a little 4X6 fat spiral notebook, and each page is a new day's list. On that page, I write down all the stuff I a) Have to get done that day and b) Hope to get done that day.

I don't always get everything done, except for those things like doctor and haircut appointments, but that's okay. I just move them to the next day and try again. Of course, if they've been moved to the next day for, say, a week or so, I start drawing giant arrows at them and putting exclamation points after them. And then I usually remember to get them done. These are items like "Call your sister." Or "Mend beaded purse." Because if it's not written down, I often forget that I intended to do it. I have that type of mind that thinks "If I can't see it, it doesn't exist." And sometimes, if I see a thing too often (like that beaded purse), it stops registering.

Anyway, my daily list has evolved. As part of a "career plan" class I took a while back, I have started setting all sorts of goals. See, you can't achieve the career you want if you don't know what it is you want, and if you don't know how you're going to get there. So apparently career planners are real big on setting goals.

I start with the Yearly goals. These are broad, generic goals. Things like "Finish mainstream historical novel" or "Travel more." Then I set some quarterly goals. Here, I get much more specific.

I look at each of my broad annual goals and think of what the next step is. In Goal #1 (finishing that novel), I need to get pages written. But I also have a goal of getting a new book contract. And I have a partial almost ready to submit. So that goes at the top of the list. "Revise chapters, write synopsis & submit by 1/15/10." It's specific, concrete, and it has a time limit. One I think I can make. Then for Goal #1, my quarterly goal is to "Write 150 pp. of novel by 2/28/10." That one could be a bit of a push, but that's good for me. Pushing. And because I need to leave things flexible, I have a goal of continuing to write on the novel through March if I don't have anything else I need to do. Then I set a goal for each of the other annual objectives. Some goals fit more than one annual thing--like going on a trip with the fella works both for the "travel more" goal and the "spend quality time with family" goal. (At least I would Hope it would be quality time.)

But wait! There's more! Now, I set weekly goals. Stuff I want to get done this week. Those goals fit within the quarterly goals, but are broken down further. Like, before I can get this synopsis written, I have to clean off the top of my desk, so that's a big goal for this week (and has been on my daily list 3 days this week).

Then, to help keep myself on track, I have two goal coach partners. We're Internet acquaintances/friends who have agreed to e-mail each other once a week with our goals, and how we did on last week's goals, and encourage each other and sometimes nag. I had already started working on my goals for this year, quarter and week when one of the others sent a "Let's get back on track" e-mail this week. (We all sorta fell off the wagon during the holidays.)

I tend to make one big long list, with the more important things at the top, and the lower priority ones at the bottom, and if I don't get something done, I don't sweat it too much. One of our partners makes a very short list, with only her writing chores, or maybe the Really Big life goals on it. And the third likes to categorize her list with Priority 1 and Priority 2 and If There's Any Time Left groupings, because if they're all on the same list, she feels equally bad for missing any of them, even if they're not so important. (I told you my "determination" was soft and flabby. Sorta like my arms. Or any other part of me... I don't sweat much of anything--even getting to doctor appointments so late, they make me come back another time.) (Yes, I have done that.) So, see--you can adjust the process to Work For You.

I write everything down, because if I can see it, I'm more likely to remember what I wanted to do. I also Really enjoy marking things off my list. I will write things on my list (especially the daily one) just so I can mark them off. I feel like I have accomplished something. Because I have.

So there you have it. The forgetful procrastinator who is easily sidetracked person's plan for getting things (like writing books) done.

No, I'm not writing yet. But it IS possible to see the top of my desk. :)