Saturday, November 30, 2013

I won!

Well, it's official- yesterday I crossed the 50k finish line and secured another all-important victory in my epic, endless battle with my inner self critic.  Plus I got lots of awesome winner goodies including this kick- ass badge!  Plus I get the bragging rights and the pride and the confidence that comes from having completed NaNo.  It's a big deal.

But perhaps the even bigger deal is that fact that I not only managed to hit 50k but I actually managed to FINISH my story.  As in "The End".  As in the thing that's eluded for almost every danged year that I've participated in this crazy challenge (which, for the record, is five!!)  And that, my friends, is the reason that this particular victory stands apart from the other four.

It's not that I've never reached the end before- I did once.  But I did it by skipping scenes, fast forwarding, inserting notes like "Write fight scene here" and generally half-assing my way to the words "The End".  So while it was a technical finish, it felt like a hollow win.  (Though it did feel at least slightly better than the three other unfinished manuscripts of varying lengths sitting on my hard drive collecting virtual dust.)

But now I have a real finish.  An honest to god beginning-to-end finish.  A real story.  Yes, I skipped a couple of scenes in the very beginning because I realized they required a ton more research and I didn't have time to do that and hit my daily word count BUT the bulk of the story is there.  I struggled through the fight scenes even though I had no idea what to write.  I figured out the transitions even though I agonized over them.  I did the hard work and I reached the conclusion.  And it feels REALLY GOOD.

That being said, there's something about this whole experience which has been very different for me and which makes it stand apart from all the others.  The entire time I've been writing this story- literally, the entire time- I was thinking about editing.  Not just editing- publishing.  Having other people actually read it.

That's NEVER happened before.  Most of the time I would think to myself "Well, don't worry about it too much- no one's ever going to read it."  This time I thought "Just keep going- you'll fix it later."

Now in some ways this was a terrible change as it kept me acutely aware of how much of what I was writing would be scrapped, changed or drastically altered upon revision.  Drafting requires you NOT to think like that so shutting that part of my brain off was a huge challenge for me this month.

But in other ways it is a very exciting development since I have never, EVER edited one of my NaNo novels before.  (Not surprising given how rare it is for me to even finish one!)  And the more I read from published authors the more it seems that the real art (read: work) of writing lies in editing.  So being gung-ho to actually try it is exciting.

I want to edit this thing.  I want to find the words that work.  I want to flesh out the characters, the settings, the descriptions.  I want to make the passages pop and get that writing to flow.  I want to do the real work.  I've never felt like that before.  Most of the time I do a happy dance, post my winner's badge and then promptly forget all about the novel.  I don't want to do that again.

That being said, everyone says to take a break before editing your first draft.  They say your mind needs some space from the story in order to come back with an objective view.  They say you're too close to it right after typing "the end".  So heading directly into editing is not the way to go.

But then I realize: I've got four other novels sitting on my hard drive that desperately need editing.  Four other novels that I've had a ton of time and space away from.  Four other novels to practice on.  So I'm going to start with one of them.

Specifically, I'm going back to my 2009 NaNo project: Factin's Story.  It's a good ole fashioned fantasy complete with magical beings, corrupt empires and lots of Inns where mysterious characters meet up, get drunk and reveal important plot points.  It stands out in my mind as one of the most fun projects and I feel like it has potential if edited.  Plus, four years guarantees a fresh set of eyes to look it over with.

Because at the end of the day, 50k is wonderful- but it's not everything.  Especially if I do it year after year with no plans for what it will all lead to.  Because as great as NaNo is, I know that I can do it by this point.  While I stressed at some points, I never freaked out that I wouldn't make it.  But editing?  Well that's a whole new frontier.  And I'm excited to give it a try.

So for those of you typing away during these final hours of NaNo: Keep Going!  No matter what happens you deserve all the kudos in the world for attempting this crazy thing.  And for those of you who finished long before I did: Yay!  We're in the winner's circle!  And for those of you who skipped NaNo or don't believe in it or who are just reading this because you're nice: thanks for reading.  Perhaps one day I'll have something more substantial for you to read.  But for right now, I'm doing my happy dance.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things- Thanksgiving Edition

Thanks to Viklit for hosting this weekly expression of gratitude!

It's been a great week for me so I've got lots to celebrate!  For starters:

Happy Thanksgiving!  I had a wonderful holiday!  Spent the day surrounded by family, ate entirely too much good food, got great compliments on my contributions to the meal and just generally lived it up Thanksgiving style!  I have so many, many thing in my life that I am thankful for and spending the day being very aware of them made it wonderful.

Vacation!  We're only allowed to carry over so many vacation hours into the new year and I was over my max so I sort-of had to take some time off so I wouldn't lose them after the last pay period.  So the days surrounding Thanksgiving (i.e. before and after) are vacation days for me.  There's been some chores but for the most part our plan is to play as much Lego Lord of the Rings as possible.  (Do you guys know the Lego games?  We're addicted to them!)  So much fun!

NaNo  I am a scant 800ish words away from finishing my 50k and what's more I think I'm pretty danged close to finishing the story- period!  I have never, ever in the five years that I've done this had "The End" coincide with 50k!  Never!  And I can't tell you how good that prospect feels- though I'm going to try because there will definitely be another post up here when I'm done!

2nd Interview  So you all remember me going a bit nuts last week about that interview I had and how well it went?  Well I got the 2nd interview so I'm even more excited now!  I really, really, REALLY want this job and I think they want me, too.  If you've been crossing your fingers for me keep 'em crossed and God willing I'll have a big announcement about being hired next week!

Great week, great holiday, and great friends to share it all with!  So share your celebrations with me!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Celebrate The Small Things- November 22

It's time for our weekly celebration with Viklit!  Click on the link to see everybody celebrating!

It's been a banner week in the life of Bev so I've got lots to celebrate!

Goodies  I know I'm repeating myself yet again but I just got my award bundle from my Spooktoberfest win and I have to say that Jackie Felger is one of the most generous, fun and mind-blowingly awesome ladies ever.  EVER!  Check out the amazing spread:
Ridiculous, right?  I was completely and utterly shocked at the amount of sheer joy contained in that one box and totally unprepared for it when I took the unassuming package in from my front stoop.  I'm just floored.  My huge, unending thanks goes to Jackie for this truly amazing gift!

Job Interview  I had a job interview on Wednesday morning and it went really, really well.  Not only because I got really good feedback from the woman who interviewed me but because I genuinely enjoyed the conversation.  Yes, I was talking about myself a lot and, let's face it: we all tend to enjoy that.  But also, engaging with another intelligent clinician about the work that we do was just really energizing.  I came out of there super stoked and  I am 90% certain that I will be getting the call for the second interview.  Fingers crossed!

4K in One Day  (Hee, hee- I rhymed!)  Thanks to a marathon NaNo session via Skype with my friends in Virginia I was able to hit my largest single-day word count of the month and am now ahead of par.  50K gets closer everyday!  Yay for me!

Skype  It is such a fantastic invention.  Not only did I get to do a marathon NaNo session with friends in Virginia, I also got to do a lovely video chat with my friend in New Jersey.  It was more wonderful than I can say.  Really- my friends are angels and I love them to death.  Shelly, Jemma, Nessa: I love you!

What about all of you?  Is NaNo success looming on the horizon?  Are you gearing up to stuff yourselves with Turkey next week?  Any big news in bloggerdom?  Let's all hop along and find out!  Happy Friday!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thoughts on Gratitude

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about gratitude.  And it’s not just because of the holiday coming up next week.  (Though I admit it’s quite a coincidence.)  It’s because it’s the answer to all of my problems.

Let me back it up for a second.

I’ve always been prone to depression.  Upon reaching adulthood and looking back at the landscape of my youth I tried to convince myself than any feelings I’d had were the result of teen angst, the typical existential crisis that seems to be a textbook-described growing pain and family problems that I had no control over.  But as I grew I couldn’t shake the feelings- they would come back from time to time and leave me feeling a little lost.

And as much as my self esteem, general level of comfort with my life and overall participation in activities that make me feel alive have increased I am still sometimes plagued by discontent.

Forgive me for getting dogmatic on you, but I realize that this is due to the condition of wanting the Buddhists spoke so much of.  For example:

“I want a better paying job.  I want a bigger/nicer house.  I want a fantasy vacation to some exotic place I’ve never been to.  I want to be able to look like ‘insert name of awesome martial artist I train with here’ when I do a form (kata).  I want to publish a novel and have my own book tour around the blogosphere.”  And so on, and so on.

At any given time I can easily come up with a list of things that I want.  And they are definitely wants- you can’t have wants if all your basic needs are taken care of.  People who are starving to death don’t tend to complain about wanting things- they’re too busy starving.  So it goes without saying that I am already terribly, terribly lucky.

But the wants- they’re always there, lurking under the surface.  They come up when I compare myself to others.  The person showing off great pictures of the vacation they just took.  The co-worker who just excitedly gave their two weeks notice because they’re heading off to a higher paying job.  The blogging friend who just announced that their book is being published.  When I look at others and wonder why I don’t have the same things, I want.  And the more I compare, the more I want. 

Here’s the problem: The condition of wanting is never satisfied.  If you get what you want, what you’ve been fantasizing about, you just want more.  If I got the awesome vacation, I’d want to start planning the next one.  If I got the better paying job I’d be wanting to advance in the company.  You get the idea.

So if I spend my time wanting, I am just making it easier, more likely, for me to want.  (And hopefully it goes without saying that wanting is a really great way to feel miserably discontent with your life as is.)

So how can I fight this poisonous condition of wanting?  With gratitude, of course.

Gratitude implies acceptance of life as is.  It implies that you are content with the way things are.  You’re not comparing yourself to others and saying how unfair it is that you don’t have what they do.  You’re not going over the details of your life and saying “It should be better”.  You’re accepting- things are what they are.

But gratitude is a step way beyond acceptance.  It’s an acknowledgement that not only is your life exactly the way it’s supposed to be, it’s pretty damned good at that.  It’s a feeling that you’re occupying the exact spot you should be occupying in the universe.  That things are going the way they should.  That life, in spite of whatever headaches you may be dealing with at the moment, is good.

People who express gratitude tend to be a lot happier.  They tend to be humble.  They tend to go out of their way to help others.  There’s a reason that food drives and blanket drives and volunteer opportunities run rampant around this holiday.  It’s designed to remind us of how damned much we have to be grateful for.  And when we realize that, we think about how many other people don’t have what we enjoy.  The warm house, the great food, the love of family and friends.  We look around at those without and realize: wow, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Gratitude.  It’s alters your perspective so drastically that you can’t help but feel like any problem or issue you’re facing is so incredibly inconsequential it’s not worth thinking about.  And even when you do face serious problems, it reminds you of how much you still have to be grateful for. 

It is the answer to all of my problems, because it makes me realize that I don’t really have any.

This is not a new realization for me.  And I doubt it is for most of you.  But boy, if I don’t need a reminder from time to time.  Because my brain constantly judges and find faults with things.  It’s programmed to.  And if I don’t consistently fight back by paying conscious attention to the things I have to be grateful for I can easily fall back into that trap.

So how can I invite gratitude into my thoughts?  I can spend some time with those less fortune.  Not just now, but year round.  I can stop complaining.  Easier said than done, I know- but boy if you want to make a bad mood worse, just spend some time complaining.  But the simplest and most effective thing I can do?  Just talk about it.

Giving thanks to the people in your life who make your life great- each and every time you talk to them.  Telling those who you love that you do love them, and that you are very aware of how incredibly lucky you are to have them in your life.  Making a list of everything you have going for you in your life (Celebrate the Small Things, anyone?)

Whenever I do these, I invite myself to be happy.  I invite myself to be content.  I invite myself to be at peace- in a deep, soul-ful way- with everything in my life.  And boy, does that feel a thousand times better than wanting.

So thank you, dear readers, for following this line of thought.  And for being a part of my writing adventures.  And for sharing your thoughts and feelings about the things you are grateful for.  It makes life better.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Celebrate The Small Things- Halfway Through November!

It's that time again!  Hosted by our very own Viklit, this meme is all about celebrating the little things in life that keep you going.  Click on the link to learn more/sign up/spread the love!

Halfway  I am tantalizingly close to 25k and (god willing) will have passed that by a decent amount by the end of the day.  What's more is that I’m finally starting to get those moments of flow.  You know the ones- where the words seem desperate to get out of you and your fingers can scarcely keep up.  You find yourself getting out huge word counts in relatively small periods of time.  Your story finally seems as if it's moving forward.

Thus far in this month, those moments have largely eluded me and I think I've discovered yet another obvious but not immediately realized pattern of my writing: it takes a while to get going.  Past NaNo novels have been similar to this one in that the beginning is like wading through molasses: slow, incredibly difficult, strength-sapping to a shocking degree and very, very frustrating.  Most of the action takes place within my MC's own thought process (so needless to say there's not a whole lot of action) and the overall plot exists solely as an arc in my head rather than events on the page.

Then, somewhere around this time (I'm guessing it's a pattern) things finally start to pick up.  Meeting my daily word count isn't quite as excruciating of a process.  Stuff starts happening- big stuff- and the plot finally starts to move forward and pick up speed as it goes.

That's how it seems to work for me, at least.  What about you guys?  Noticed any patterns?  Is your writing flowing or are you still pulling teeth?  Let me know in your comments.

Look What I Got! 

I think my face says it all but because I'm absurdly verbose I'm gonna say some more: Yippee!!  I've never had an autographed copy of a book before!  EVER!  Seriously- this is a big deal in the world of Bev. 

Needless to say, Lara is astoundingly awesome for signing it for me and I can't wait to read it and add a stellar review to Amazon and Goodreads for her.  (I assume it will be stellar because there's no way this book isn't gonna rock!)

Reminder: if you have a copy (either ebook or paperback) of Lara's book you can tweet or facebook her a picture of yourself with it (see above for example) to enter for a chance to win a $25 gift card from Amazon or B&N.  I have a bunch of ideas in mind for how I want to stage these... we'll see how it goes.

And finally, Awesome Authors  On Tuesday I featured Crystal Collier whose new release Moonless came out on Wednesday.  I'm sure many of you know Crystal because she's a) extremely supportive of other writers, b) very active in the blogging community on the whole and c) loves cheese more than anyone you've ever met.  If you're not following her blog tour go here to see the whole line up.  There's a ton of cool stuff going on including giveways and other awesomeness.

Also, I have to make a plug for the Realms Faire because today is the last day.  Head on over to Mary Pax's place to see all the events! 

And now, as always, I invite you to hop along and spread the love!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moonless: Release Day!

Hey everybody! Today is a very special day in bloggerdom because Crystal Collier- the amazingly supportive, cheese-obsessed, wonderful woman we all know and love from our blogging exploits has a new release out today!  In order to celebrate, I've invited her to share some of the secrets of the horrifying villains in Moonless: the Soulless.  Take it away, Crystal!

First of all, what are the Soulless? You know those legends about zombies and vampires?

Yeah, those are pretty fake.

Those stories stem from creatures who’ve existed for millennia. While their bodies decay, their minds never do, and the longer they’ve been around, the hungrier they become. They feed off people—not blood, but a life essence all the same, seeking to satiate a hunger that will never be satisfied. Being attacked most definitely means death.

Most especially, they target a unique breed of people labeled as the “Passionate”. So while you may not have to fear the Soulless will come stalking you at night, beware, they are hungry, and pray you don’t come across one of them on a Moonless night.

Top Five Ways to Attract the Soulless

1. Get depressed. I mean, really depressed. They like that stuff.

Image courtesy of blackjack0919 on deviantart

2. Flap your jaw about what you know—about them, that is.
3. Go hunting for their hives. These creatures are the ultimate predators, and the only thing that makes them more ferocious is when someone starts on their trail.
4. Run. That’s right. If you run, they will chase you. They can’t help it.
5. Hang out with the Passionate. Shooting hoops with them may just be your one-way ticket to becoming a Soulless feast.

Beware the Moonless night.

Crystal Collier, author of MOONLESS, is a former composer/writer for Black Diamond Productions. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Buy MOONLESS HERE or add it on Goodreads.

Plese join me in wishing Crystal all the success she deserves with this amazing new release!  And be sure to check out the other bloggers participating in this awesome book tour!  Just follow this link to see the whole line-up!

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Writers 4 Writers Featuring Michael Offutt and a Prayer for Nick Wilford and his Family

It's time for Writers 4 writers hosted by the wonderfully giving Mary Pax, Christine Rains, C.M. Brown, and Stephen Tremp.  Please stop by to say hi to our awesome hosts!

And now, onto our featured author: Michael Offutt
"Last night I died for the third time this week..." Those are the words spoken by Jordan Pendragon on the curb out front of his high school. He's talking about dreams he's been having. However, he soon discovers that they're not dreams but a premonition of things to come.

Jordan wants to be like every other seventeen-year-old boy. The only problem is that he's extraordinary in so many ways. For one, he's crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It's a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he'll depend on it to save his life.
You can read an exert from this exciting story here:  
Check out his amazon page to see the other titles offered from this author.

Head over to his site to get the tweets for today's promotion!
Michael Offutt writes speculative fiction books that have science fiction, LGBT, and paranormal elements. His first book, "Slipstream" has received some critical acclaim and was published by Double Dragon in the spring. The sequel, "Oculus," came out in November 2012. He has one brother, no pets, and a few roots that keep his tree of life sufficiently watered. By day, he works for the State of Utah as a Technical Specialist. By night, he watches lots of t.v., writes, draws, and sometimes dreams of chocolate.
Michael Offutt graduated from the University of Idaho in 1994 with a Bachelor's degree in English.

Today's W4WS was originally due to feature two authors but the second, Nick Wilford, is now in need of our support.  Nick had been working on getting his son Andrew, who suffered from cerebral palsy, to a special college by selling an anthology titled Overcoming Adversity in order to raise funds for his education.

I just learned that Andrew passed away unexpectedly this past weekend and I wanted to offer my prayers to Nick and his family during this incredibly difficult time.  Many people who know and love Nick have been brainstorming ways to show their support and the wonderful Kyra Lennon is spearheading the fundraising efforts so that Nick and his family can celebrate Andrew's memory by contributing to the charity of their choice.  Please head on over to her site to find out how you can give.  Click here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Celebrate The Small Things- It's November!

It's Friday and time to Celebrate the Small Things with Viklit.  As always, click on the link to learn more, sign up, hop around, etc.

Well, I have got A LOT to celebrate this week! 

Halloween was a banner day for me  Not only because it was my favorite holiday and I got to celebrate with my favorite activites, and not only because I was chosen as one of the winners for the Spooktoberfest flash fiction contest (Jackie from Bouquet of Books wrote me an awesome congratulatory e-mail praising my story and telling me about all the fantastic goodies she'll be sending me in the mail- yippee!!) but also because I won the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!  How absurdly lucky am I?

Lara Lacomb is going to be sending me a signed copy of her newly released book, Deadly Contact!  I got to read a little excerpt from this story which she posted on her blog a while back and I absolutely LOVED it!  I am so excited at the prospect of receiving my very own signed copy in the mail, I can't even tell you!

Especially because from now until December 1st Lara is hosting another giveaway on her blog.  If you, like me, are lucky enough to have either a paperback or e-book copy of Deadly Contact and you snap a picture of yourself with it and either tweet it to Lara or post it on her Facebook page you will be entered to win either a $25 Amazon gift card or a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card!  I can't wait for my copy to come in the mail so I can start snapping away!  (Go here to learn more.)

It's NaNoWriMo!  So, I was talking to my parents last night and they asked how I was doing and, of course, I started complaining about my novel and how incredibly, excrutiatingly difficult it has been to write.  I am just a tad (read: way) insane and it's not even week two!  My scenes (if you can call them that) are boring, uneventful and downright annoying.  My plot is nowhere to be found.  I can spend hours trying to get one single, solitary paragraph out and I feel like banging my head against my computer.  "It's pretty damned torturous", I told them.

But then they asked what it was about.  And boy, if you ever want a person to talk forever, just ask them about their novel!  I went on and on about my main character, what happens to her, who's after her, what's gonna happen in the end, how I'm already thinking of book two and so on, and so on, and so on.  And my mom said "Wow- you really love this don't you?"

And I realized- she's right.  Yes, it is nothing short of maddening and yes it can be insanely difficult and horrfically excrutiating and yes I could talk your ears off about what a mess it is and how much I'd really like to just burn the damned thing.  But at the same time, it's the most fun I've ever had while writing.  Seriously.  And thank god my parents reminded me of that.

Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me!  Now hop along, and celebrate some more!