New Orleans Revival

I finished the first draft of FORTITUDE last Tuesday, September 10, 2013. Cue the party horns!

It felt great and I immediately took a few days off from serious writing because I busted my fingers and brain the previous two weeks to get it done. Yes, even though it’s Laurie Halse Anderson’s annual WFMAD challenge this month, I played hooky. I’d planned on keeping away from FORTITUDE for a couple weeks to get the whole distance and perspective break most professionals suggest writers take before diving into revisions, but that didn’t happen.

What did happen was something like this:

DAY OUT WITH FRIENDS IN NEW ORLEANS

Last Thursday I drove Joyce, Lee Ann, and MeLeesa to the big sleazy for dinner and a concert at House of Blues. We bought tickets for the Hanson show at the beginning of summer but it happened to fall in place that we all had literary milestones to celebrate last week: fishing drafts, multi-book contracts, and waiting to hear back from NYC editors. It was—is—an exciting time and we all needed the change of pace to escape the writing cave and chill with those who understand.

(Yes, I did say Hanson and I’m not ashamed. My musical interests span genres and centuries and there’s a special place in my music library for the guys of Hanson. They rock, with a little Motown jive here and there, plus they’ve matured nicely.



Just to show a sampling of what I listen to, on the drive back I switched from Hanson to Mitch Malloy to Boston before settling on Helloween. The guitar chords got heavier as the night grew later because this driver needed to stay alert.)

What happened the day after was constant music playing in my head. Music inspires me—always has, always will—and by late afternoon I had to get back to FORTITUDE. Four days later I’ve finished a complete round of editing plus several scene rewrites/additions to the praises of my first beta reader. I think I’ve got something good here and I can’t wait to share it.

Writing, Everyday

Since it’s officially a long weekend here (Hello, Labor Day!) I’ve decided to labor over my WIP to get closer to finishing the never ending first draft.
I write slow, with a capital S.
After skipping work for three days at the beginning of the week, I’m making up for it by busting my fingers to get the words down. I’ve added for than 3,500 in the past forty-eight hours. FORTITUDE needs to be finished. This draft has to be complete so I can go over it multiple times with edits. I want this first draft to become a twelfth draft.

Always good with timing, the fabulous Laurie Halse Anderson is hosting her sixth annual Write Fifteen Minutes a Day this month. You can find the first post here. For those interested in writing or the workings of an author it’s a great series to follow.

I’ll update later this week, but for now, here’s to nurturing goals:
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FANTABUTITUS

I suffer from fantabutitus (fan-tab-you-tie-tus). That’s Wonderlonian (One-der-lone-e-an) for being a fan of fabulous people! As of today, I have not had a bad encounter with someone I’m a fan of who I’ve been able to meet in person or have contact with online. My eldest sister pointed out, over a decade ago, that I was blessed with great experiences. Apparently she’s heard horror stories about egos and rudeness.
Me? I always expected awesomeness from those I like, so I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary. I’m a dedicated fan, loyal to those who speak to me even when the spotlight has moved on to newer faces. (Speak to me? Yes, speak to me. I shall blog about that next time.)
True, none of the celebrities I’ve met were athletes or “Hollywood” actors—mine are all music and literary related. I’m not big on starlets and such, though I wouldn’t mind running into Ethan Hawke or Brendan Fraser… But the rock and country musicians/singers and authors—they’ve all been friendly, approachable and even humble at times. Some have even gone out of their way to give back. I’ll keep to three varied examples.
Exhibit A: C.J. Snare Lead singer of Firehouse (Don’t Treat Me Bad, Love of a Lifetime, etc) opening act for Warrant/Trixter/Firehouse concert hosted by Pauly Shore (remember him?!) at the Great America theme park in Santa Clara, CA. My friends and I made a day of it and enjoyed the rides before the concert. A few hours before the show I noticed C.J. out in the park with his date. I apologized for bothering him, but asked if he’d mind signing a concert flier (had the flier and my own Sharpie—always prepared!) He graciously autographed it and told me he hoped I’d enjoy the show. Then, he was surrounded by dozens more people wanting the same thing, but not being as polite about it, before he could get behind the safety of the backstage fence. (Yes, I stood back and watched the mini-mob. People can be real jerks at times, like the guy yelling “Hey, dude! Sign my girlfriend’s chest, will ya?” Classy.) A few months ago, I saw a comment by C.J. on a mutual friend’s status on Facebook and shared the story of my encounter with him almost twenty years before. He replied back thanking me for the good memory. Awe…
Exhibit B: Terry Brooks NYT bestselling author for two decades (now more than three) was on a book tour to promote The First King of Shannara in La Jolla, CA. The friend who got me reading Terry Brooks—a HUGE fan, all first edition hardcovers—lived less than two hours away but couldn’t make it to the event. My friend’s birthday was the following week and I told Mr. Brooks about him. I even gave him a slip of paper with my friend’s name and address on it, asked if he could send a birthday note. (Can’t say I didn’t try, though the people in line behind me rolled their eyes and huffed.) Of course, when my friend received a birthday postcard from someone signing himself as Terry Brooks he thought it was a joke. Nope, just the best birthday greeting ever!
Exhibit C: Matthew and Gunnar Nelson Yes, those blond twins—sons of the late, great Rick Nelson. After a sound check before a show in Biloxi, MS about a dozen years ago, they stopped to talk to my husband and I and signed the old school Nelson poster I’d brought along (which Bobby Rock had already signed a couple years previous—another pleasant meet and greet.) Gunnar sat at our table and talked with us for a while before heading out. Even my husband was impressed with that—but maybe it was because of Gunnar’s skydiving and bungee jumping stories.
I could keep going—have a cache of autographs and stories but I’ll spare you the geeky details. And never get me started on Mitch Malloy or Laurie Halse Anderson unless you want to hear me gush over their talents and genuine greatness. Sigh…
Now, I want to hear your fantabutitus (and not-so-nice) stories!

What was I thinking?!

Yes, I used two, count them, TWO, punctuation marks because my situation is a question and an exclamatory. Read onto find out why.
If you’re a reader of this blog, know me personally, or even just hear about me from someone else, you probably know I’m a writer. People have paid me for my words, though not as often as I’d like, and my words have been read by possibly hundreds of thousands of people. (One of my articles appeared in a magazine with a circulation of over 500,000.)
And if you’ve been in contact with me in recent years, you’ve probably heard I’m working on a novel. My WIP. Corroded. My first long-term project in over a decade. It’s been slow, more often than not unsteady, progress.
Sure, I’ve got a list of prime excuses for being too busy to write, but the fact is, I could write a lot more than I do. I’m a procrastinator when it comes to things that make me nervous. Nervous energy and me are first cousins. I pace, which can be good because when I sit down, there are kids crawling on me within seconds. Typing with a kid hanging on your shoulders is difficult. Hand writing impossible. It makes me want Nathaniel Hawthorne’s desk in the third story writing tower he had built over his home in Concord. Besides being a floor above the noise of his household, he had a custom standing height desk. (Which is the perfect height for me—had a lovely daydream while standing at his desk and looking out on the forested hillside when I visited Wayside.) He stood while writing, so I’m thinking he was a pacer, too.
This past week I’ve been procrastinating my writing because I received an answer to my prayers—a literary dream come true. And that dream turned reality has caused anxiety.
A month ago there was a terrible tornado in Joplin, Mo. As with the response from the deadly tornadoes in northern Alabama not long before, several authors stepped up to personally donate money as well as hold fundraisers for relief efforts. One of my literary heroes, Laurie Halse Anderson, decided to give of herself to help the Joplin area.
Laurie Halse Anderson! If her name sounds familiar it’s because she’s one of the biggest young adult authors of the last decade (though she writers for younger readers, too.) Heard a bunch of smack talked about YA books in the press lately or about books being banned in school libraries? Read any blogs/articles where YA readers/authors of all ages defend teen books? More than half of those articles mention Laurie Halse Anderson’s books or quote her directly, both the pro and con. Tweet much? Try #YASAVES.
Several of my blogs over the past few years mention LHA. I’ve done her Write Fifteen Minute a Day (WFMAD) online writing boosts, taken her Blog Free February (BFF) to the highest level of commitment—no social media all month, and have traveled to New Orleans to meet her while she’s been on book tours—even made HER blog for that!
Back to the relief efforts… Laurie decided to auction/raffle a full manuscript critique in order to help raise money for the Joplin/Ozark area Red Cross. The requirements were for every $10 you donate, you get one entry into the raffle. I begged around to family and friends and a few people donated in my behalf to up the odds. And I prayed, as did others. And I won!
I need to get Corroded as polished as possible within the next few months in able to not waste LHA’s time and get the most help out of the critique. But that dream come true is looming like a thunderstorm over an outdoor graduation ceremony!
When I’m not pacing—or caring for kids or doing church work or planning writers guild events or any other number of worthy causes—I’m hiding within the pages of other people’s books.
Literally.
I was loaned this interesting adventure by one friend (who I let know not to loan me another book in a series until the WHOLE series is out. Must wait for the rest of the story…):

And then I FINALLY started reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I’m now on this borrowed copy from another friend:

I’m up into the wee hours of the morning reading. Too tired to wake up before the kids to exercise first thing. Without the physical conditioning my creativity and motivation is slumping. My brain is fried from the summer heat by the end of the day so all I want to do is lay in bed at night and read. Which leads to late nights with my book light and groggy mornings. Rinse and repeat.
Now, I’m breaking my silence and the cycle.
I will do some form of exercise daily, beginning today.
I will NOT open Catching Fire, or any other novel, until I have written at least 30 minutes.
I will set my alarm each morning and get out of bed in a timely fashion no matter how late I am up.
And I want you to hold me accountable. Send an e-mail, tweet, comment, or actually in person ask if I’m any closer to sending Corroded to Laurie Halse Anderson. Because that action now freaks me out.
Do I really want to know what a NYT best selling author thinks about my work?
Do I really want one of my literary heroes to tell me what is wrong with it? (And what’s good, but the negative always shouts louder in my head.)
Won’t rejection feel worse from someone I admire than a faceless agent or editor?
What was I thinking?!
That it would be an excellent opportunity to be read by someone whose work I admire.
That learning the strengths—and weaknesses—in the story will help me hone my writing/editing skills.
That a possible blurb from a NYT best selling author will be a great foot in the door to the publishing industry. And the bragging rights aren’t bad either.
There’s a motivational poster slogan that reads: You cannot fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all.
So, please, dare me to write. Dare me to finish Corroded and send it to Laurie Halse Anderson for critique. And then dare me to accept the advice and write on.