Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding My Inner Kraken

There are 33 days left before my deadline to turn in Odelia #7 to my publisher.  Yep, 33 days... count 'em.

So guess what I did last night?

Go ahead, guess.

Give up?

I dumped almost everything I'd written so far on the manuscript.

Oh, yes, I did... I slaughtered and butchered it. Ran it through with a sword. Spit on it and ground it up in the garbage disposal. It was a major blood bath.

Why? Because I hated it.  And because I hated it, I knew my readers would either hate it or be disappointed in it. And I can't have that.

Since late April, early May, I've been going through a lot of issues.  Some things have been merely needed changes (see my post on changes in my writing direction), others have been more serious and personal in nature.  It seems that the only somewhat stable ground I've had for the past few months has been my job at the law firm, and for that I'm very thankful.  There are still problems, but I'm working through them, making needed adjustments, and finally seeing the light.

But sometime during these past few months, I also lost my mojo. My writing spark. My creativity.  I lost what makes my work tick.  But I was on deadline, so what's a gal to do?  Well, this gal plodded along, dutifully putting words to the page.  Problem was, my heart wasn't in it and so the words were flat and dull.  And Odelia is never flat or dull.

Sometime in the past week, something snapped. I'm not sure what brought it about, but suddenly something inside me reawakened. I was Rip Van Winkle opening my eyes and shaking off a very long snooze.  I looked at my various works in progress and thought, "Who wrote this shit?"

It started with my 3rd Holidays From Hell short story, Where's Your Daddy?  I'd been stumbling along on it for quite some time. Usually I work on the short stories during lunch at the office, so not to interfere with my novels. They are about 20-22 pages in length, but I had 16 pages of pure poop when the scales finally fell off my eyes.  Crap! Crap! Crap!

I rolled up my sleeves and started rewriting, totally restructuring and remolding the plot. It didn't take long, just a couple of days of focused determination. When it was finished and sent off to my early readers and proofers, they came back saying it was the best story yet.  They wouldn't have said that about the manuscript a week ago.  Where's Your Daddy? will be available on Nook and Kindle in the next few days.

Next, I took an honest look at Odelia #7.  First off, you know there's a problem when I don't even have a working title for a work in progress. Hell, I already have a working title for Odelia #8!  Anyway, I read what I'd put down so far and cried. It was simply awful.

So last night I tucked away my 1st draft of Odelia #7 and tonight I'll start on the second draft.  It starts with the same first paragraph - that was definitely a keeper - and it will still contain the same characters and plot idea. But the rest goes! Yes, all of it but the first paragraph.  Gone!

So, everyone get out of my way!  I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak!  And I've got 33 days to kick ass on the page.

Unleash the Kraken!

(I've always wanted to say that.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gray Matter

My last color job 8/13/11
My last post was about changes to my writing career.  But why stop there? Once on a roll, I believe in letting the momentum continue.  So stay tuned for changes in me.  Specifically, changes in my hair.

I started coloring my hair with permanent color in my early 40's. I had some gray, but not a lot. Just enough to make me cringe. Before that I got the occasional highlights or rinse, but not a full color job.  Since I started dyeing my hair in earnest, I've done it every 5-6 weeks, sometimes at home but mostly at a salon.

A few weeks ago I posted this photo on Facebook.  I took it myself with my iPhone while waiting at my salon for the color to set.  Take a good look at it, because it's the last time you'll see anything like that from me.

You see, I've decided to go au naturel.  I've made the decision to let my gray streak fly and to do it proudly. I've wanted to do this for some time, but I've finally worked up the courage to go for it.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm turning 60 next year, or maybe it's because so many women I know have done it in the past few years.  No matter the reason, it's time.

My stylist says he has a rinse that will help the transition, but I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go that route or simply go "skunk" for the next six months or so.  I'm luckier than many women. My hair grows very fast and I wear it short, so the transition time should be less for me.

One of my readers and Facebook friends, Lori Olsen, recently sent me a link to a website called Going Gray Looking Great.  It's full of helpful advice and before and after and in between shots of women who've made the change.  You can see the full change in Lori on Going Gray's "Graduate" page. I think she looks GREAT!

So if you see me at a book signing in the next few months and my hair looks... um ... well, very odd, you'll know why.  Go ahead and laugh because I'll find it funny, too.  Just don't point. Okay?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not THE CHANGE, but Changes.

I've been through THE CHANGE, but now I'm going through a few more, especially in my writing career.

I think it's safe to say, a writing career isn't over until the author is dead... and even then it's not. Just ask the ghosts of Mark Twain and Stieg Larsson.

There's a change in the wind in my writing career, and I'm talking about it over at Inkspot today.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sometimes We Just Gotta Giggle

I love Anderson Cooper. I watch him on CNN. I follow him on Twitter. Of all the newscasters on TV, he's my true go-to-guy to get the scoop on news at home and around the world.  I especially love following him into the field. He's seen and reported on some of the most horrific and astounding things. I trust him. And that's one of the most basic things a viewer needs to feel when watching a journalist - trust.  Anderson (May I call you Anderson?) is my eyes and ears in places I would and could never go, and don't really want to go in person.

Last night, like many others, I was eating dinner while watching the show 360°.  It was what I expected: news about Rick Perry's run for President, the situation in Libya, etc. Then came a report on people who beat children because they believe God commands it. We're not talking about a little spanking and a time out here, but extensive beatings with objects, often lasting hours.  It made me sick, to say the least. But so does most evening news in general.

Then came the RidicuList - Anderson's end of show editorial about, well, ridiculous news and people. Last night it featured the story about Gérard Depardieu, the French actor who peed on a plane without the privacy of a bathroom. Another disgusting story about celebrity bad behavior and sense of entitlement.

Then came the fun...

Anderson's monologue was studded with both clever and juvenile potty puns.  After an hour of horrible and scary stories, it was a moment of entertainment, even if some of the puns made me and most of America groan.  But good-natured groaning, as we would when a favorite friend treats us to bad jokes at happy hour.  Then something happened. The usually stoic Anderson started falling apart right on camera.

It started with a few smiles and grins, then expanded to chuckles, ending with Anderson captured and hog-tied by the giggle monster.  GIGGLES, I tell ya.  High pitched, contagious and uncontrollable giggles. As the seconds ticked by, he tried to get control of himself, but that ship had sailed. I watched with open mouth as my favorite journalist morphed before my eyes into a giggling girl being tickled at a slumber party.

Considering all the horrible things that man has witnessed in the world - there's nothing wrong with a good, cleansing belly laugh.

Thanks, Anderson, for all that you do and for last night's needed pillow fight. It certainly made my night.

(Note: If you missed it, you can see it here.)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Planning Ahead - With Fingers Crossed

Not this year, but next year I will turn 60.  Yep, 60, if God's willing and the creek don't rise. And I'm making plans for that auspicious day.

My mother died when she was 52 years old, and her early death has always spooked me as I've gotten older. The year I turned 52, I suffered from mild paranoia.  I was sure I was going to kick the bucket 6 months in either direction of my 52nd birthday.  I know. I know. That's silly.  Although Mom wasn't as heavy as I am, she smoked liked a chimney and suffered from emphysema and heart disease. Me, I'm healthy as a middle-aged horse and active.  I also kept pointing out to myself that Dad died just shy of his 80th birthday. So if you average those two ages, I should live until I'm at least 66.  Right? That gives me plenty of time to finish up the 6 books remaining on my Odelia contracts and produce many others. 

So based on my expectations that I will not be kicking the bucket anytime soon, I'm making grand plans now for my 60th birthday on December 21, 2012.

The idea struck me while I was doing a little research for Gem of a Ghost, the 3rd Granny Apples mystery coming out in February 2012.  In that book, I mention Stonehenge.  While reading online information about the ancient landmark, I learned that the Winter Solstice is the biggest day of the year at Stonehenge - a day when Druids, Pagans and Wiccens celebrate big time at the circle of stones, along with curious tourists. 

The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st - my birthday!

The Wiccens, Pagans and Druids don't know it yet, but they will be throwing me, one of the many curious tourists in attendance, a big 60th birthday party in 2012. That's right, in December 2012 I'm heading to England to PAR-TAY!

But wait, there's more!

Seems 12/21/12 is a big day for the world in general. And while I'd like to think it's because it's my 60th birthday, I'm not that self-centered. Really, I'm not.

December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar.  Because of that, some believe that specific date will trigger apocalyptic events, a major shift in the earth, or even the end of the world.  December 21, 2012 also marks the date the sun will align with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years, setting off a major disruption in the earth's energy.

Even Nostradamus is muscling in on my 60th birthday.  Apparently, he prophesied a comet will hit the Earth on that date.

Really, folks, you shouldn't have. A simple cake, a bottle of wine, or even a card from the drug store will do.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Little Crazy Goes a Long Way

"Okay, is it my turn now?" Odelia Grey snaps at me with impatience.
"Whatever do you mean?" I ask, trying to appear innocent and clueless as I keep my fingers pressed to the keyboard.
"Haven't you had enough of ghosts and vampires?" Odelia continues her rant, hands on her bulky hips. "And what's with the farting dog and bunny suit? Geez, Sue Ann, you're a novelist, not a short story writer. If you want to write about stinkin' holidays, do it on your own time, not mine!"
"Okay, Odelia, okay. I hear ya. Sheesh, could you tone it down, you're upsetting B and Raffi."
"Oh pleeeeese... Raffi is comatose on the chair and B's under the bed, as usual."
"Point taken. But don't worry, I'm working on your next adventure. Honest." I take a swig of water from a nearby bottle, wishing it was vodka.
Odelia looks over the words on the computer screen in front of me. "That's it? That's all you have so far?"  She shakes her head. "At this rate, we'll both be retired paralegals before you finish."
"I have it under control." I try my best to ignore her and keep working.
She checks the calendar hanging over my desk. "Isn't this book due to the publisher on October 1st? That's just," her voice trails off as she counts the days, her stubby fingers jabbing at each calendar block. She lifts the flap for August and keeps counting. "That's just 58 days away!"
"October 1st is a Saturday," I reply. "That gives me until October 3rd. You know, like with taxes when April 15th falls on a weekend. So I really have 60 days and there's a long weekend in the mix somewhere. Plenty of time." I can feel my voice shake a bit as her point hits home.
Odelia is now jabbing her finger into my left shoulder. "I don't like it one bit when you cut it so close. It's bad enough you have me babysitting a kid in this book, now I have to worry about YOUR deadline."

"Be nice," I warn, "or in this book I'll put you on a diet."

Odelia's mouth drops open with indignation. "You wouldn't dare!"

"Just a few keystrokes and you're eating celery instead of cheesecake."

"Kiss my big fat heiny."

"Okay, but that little remark just traded your morning donut for a rice cake. Go ahead," I tell her, a finger poised over the delete key, "keep running your mouth and the Ben and Jerry's will vanish next."
She taps her foot while pondering her options. "Hmmm, maybe 60 days is plenty of time to finish a book." As she disappears, Odelia's final words hang in the air like a benediction.
Sometimes, you just gotta show your characters who's boss.