Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Last Minute Glamour

Found out today that I am a go for hanging elegantly on Mark's arm for the Arizona Small Business Association's Arizona Companies to Watch Awards Event, where there will be a Red Carpet and awardees (of which Mark's company is one) will be given the "star" treatment.

I suddenly wish that the killer dress I bought for a dance my sophomore year of college still fit. I suppose it should comfort me that I bought the thing a decade, thirty pounds, and a child ago so of course my body is going to laugh at the idea of squeezing into a size 4 dress.... Oh well, I'll just have to comfort myself by going dress and shoe shopping tonight. Oh, the agony.

Now to figure out if my hair will tolerate any style in 100+ heat?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Check-in Connection

I really haven't done well with the posting lately. It's not that I don't have anything to say, just that I'm less and less confident that what I do have to say will be either informative or entertaining to anyone else. This is because lately I've been getting into my head about writing processes, and posting about that might be interesting to some writers but probably not a whole lot even then. Or I've been ruminating over various hot topics in the writing and publishing worlds that have been hashed out much better by others with more experience and/or knowledge. And all the while I'm craving community, so chances are my posts would be either over-reaching to try and place myself within certain internet communities or very clipped links to the voices in those communities. No one wants to read a strong undercurrent of my need for validation in the writing world or my increasing sense of disconnect from the world in general. In fact, I'm rather sick of listening to those threads in my own mind.

So, what does this mean? It means that I'm on a personal crusade to see if I can kick this addiction to external validation and various and sundry other evils associated with requiring the respect and attention of others for feelings of self-worth. This may mean I'll post more often about whatever happens to cross my mind. This may mean I'll post only weekly on the fun Drewbie tidbit of the moment. I dunno. I'm not even sure how this crusade will manifest itself in my need for community. All I do know is that, starting now, I'm embracing wholeheartedly my recent endeavor to examine my writing process.

Let's talk some more about that last one. I set aside Shadow of Zehth last year in favor of short fiction so I could keep writing without the pressure of a novel during the move to AZ and into our house. I set aside SoZ again this year when I realized that I had some serious plot issues to unsnarl before I could get back to draft creation. So since September of 2006, I haven't written more than 2000 words in a novel and instead have written around 30,000 words of short fiction (including revisions). In writing the short fiction, I managed to take a closer look at craft and how I approach it. I've also examined my career goals when Mark's job was threatened, looking at ways I could increase my chances of bringing in money faster with my writing (I might talk more about that in a later post, but the examination is not quite finished, so the post might be delayed a while yet).

Basically, I've refined a decent amount of my thinking on writing and my identification as a writer. Part of that refinement is a desire to pay more attention to how I go about creating a story from the first whiff of an idea to the last revision. That desire stems from a serious aversion to reaching 82,000 words in SoZ and realizing I needed to start from the top again, maybe keeping some of those words. Maybe. I'd rather not go through that again. The desire also has roots in a growing frustration at the length of time it takes me to write anything. I know I am capable of being more productive, and I want to be more productive so I can increase the chances of ditching the DDJ that much sooner. Place this desire against the general Sage Advice of writing personages that I respect, and I found myself in a bit of a dilemma.

The standard recommendation to budding authors is to keep at a draft until you reach "The End," then worry about fixing things. The reasoning behind this is valid and sound: finishing a book is hard, starting a project is easy. Most would-be novelists get caught up in an idea for a while, tinker with it until the fun runs out, then move onto to the next Shiny New Thing and repeat. I don't want to be that sort of amateur (a hobbyist, really), and I think the fact that I did see my first novel through to "The End" and through two substantial revisions beyond that is a mark in my favor. I have, however, started three novels since then (and gotten to the 30K mark in the first one, 40K mark in the 2nd, and 80K mark in the 3rd). But I've also completed three novelettes and three short stories.

(All told, I've written around 300,000 - 400,000 words so far in my writing endeavors; the figure could be as high as 500,000 as I haven't accurately tracked the new content word count of my revisions. Add in my blog post word counts, and I'm well on my way to writing the million words one author recommends to new writers. He also recommends then burning said words; he may be on to something.)

So while I've been futzing around with short fiction, I've been trying to find a way to get back to SoZ and complete a draft by year's end so I don't become That Amateur. It hasn't been working. I thought I had hit the breakthrough I needed the other weekend when I was chatting about SoZ with my father-in-law, and I realized how I could tweak the plot so the conflict didn't just fizzle away into nothing right about half-way through the book. I was excited, I was energized. I had Plot! Viable Plot! To get me to "The End!" So I sat down to do my fuzzy, organic writer-style outline and realized that I actually had two plots going on. This wasn't a new realization, but after all the craft realizations I had during my short fiction endeavors, my two plots realization suddenly showed me the complexity of what I was trying to do.

And I realized I wasn't quite ready to do it yet.

That is, looking at writing through the lens of short fiction, I came to realize just how little I understood about writing. Sure, I know a lot about writing, and I've read a lot of books and examined all manner of writing styles and elements, and I've become a rather accomplished critiquer, but somehow I had kept all of that knowledge in one area of my brain and never actively digested it and applied it to my own writing process. This is not to say that my writing hasn't improved, that none of the knowledge I picked up worked its way into my writing. But there's so much more to be transferred.

Enter the project THUMB. No, I'm not going to explain this project, other than to say that the "U" in the acronym is variable depending on my mood and the status of the project. Today, I think the U stands for "undeniable." By the time I'm finished with this project, I hope that the U will stand for "ultramundane" (a rather cool word that doesn't mean what you think it means). Anyway, this is an idea that's been gestating for about a year and a half, the product of a writing prompt that collided with another idea that I had thought would be in a different book but didn't fit. I'm going to use this project as a means to examining my writing process and seeing if I can better comprehend and utilize all the fine writing knowledge I've been dumping into my skull over the past five years.

After more than a decade focused on science and math and going to great lenghts to be aware of my thinking process in those areas, it was an undeniable relief to just cut loose and write and let the story and words flow where they would, trusting in my muse and my subconscious mind to keep me on track. It worked more than not, but it's not how I want to spend the rest of my writing life. I've moved beyond that. I want to feel more engaged with my writing, more connected with that part of myself.

Now we're back to the whole point of this post: connection. I'm hoping that, in writing THUMB and taking an active role in my writing process, I'll divorce myself from the need for external validation as a means to self-worth in writing. And I'm further optimistic that by doing so, I'll trigger ways to connect with the world around me that isn't writing as well.

It's strange. I used writing to heal myself in a number of ways for the past five years. It anchored me when the identity I had invested in for more than a decade unraveled. But I think I managed to use it more as a crutch than as an integral part of myself. Now rather than use writing to heal myself, I'm not going to "use" it at all. I'm going to make it my own.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The Drew Monster actually fell asleep in his Big Boy bed tonight! The real victory, though, will be if this is a repeatable event or not. But any night that doesn't involve him falling asleep against the door is a good thing. And here's hoping that he doesn't fall out of bed like he did last night (wasn't hurt, of course, just startled).

And let's really hope that he becomes so old hat at this that he can start napping in his bed too. And then maybe, just maybe, by sometime next week, he'll be comfortable enough with this transition (with some occasional reversions) that he doesn't cling to me throughout the day. Poor guy. All this growing up stuff can be pretty scary.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Andrew Thomas: Escape Artist

A week ago, we discovered that, given enough stuffed animals shoved against the edge of his crib, Drew could climb out of the crib and onto the attached dresser and from there let himself down onto the changing table. We removed said stuffies from the crib, and Drew did not repeat the antics, so we figured we were safe for a little while yet.

Then Friday night, I'm out for some me time and Mark is keeping an eye on the boy, who is supposed to be asleep. All of a sudden, Mark here's a door open and shut and assumes it's me, returning from my time out. Then he here's the pitter-patter of little feet on the tile and Drew comes into the living room. El Boyo Diablo managed to climb out of the crib using the iron tightness of his grip on the side rails and the brute strength of his calve muscles. And this time the height of the changing table didn't bother him as he eased himself over the side and used the shelves to climb down to the ground.

We dismantled the crib that night and brought in the play pen for a quick substitute. Then we took a trip to Ikea and scouted out beds (or a replacement for the twin bed serving as a sofa in my office, thus giving Drew a real big boy bed that wouldn't need to be replaced again in a couple of years). We found a new couch for my office and a new dresser for Drew (since the old one was a part of his crib) and then gathered the necessary accoutremonts (waterproof mattress pad, etc), so that Drew was all set to sleep in his very own Big Boy Bed for the first time last night. (Yes, this is a couple of months ahead of the 2-year-old mark during which this transition usually occurs. Thank Mark and his knack for climbing that he has passed down to our son.)

Drew liked the novelty of being able to roam after we put him down for the night. He also like the novelty of the bed, just not for falling asleep in just yet. After a few re-entries into the room to put him back in the bed and get him calmed down in the bed, we finally just let him do what made him comfortable. A half hour or so later, we went back in and found him asleep in the rocking chair, contorted in a position that, as his legs stretched out, made his head ease over the edge of the chair. Needless to say, we moved him over to the bed. He didn't stir.

This morning was nice, though, having Drew able to wake up on his own and play quietly in his room for a good thirty minutes before he decided to wander into our room and wake us up. Napping, however, is another battle entirely, and one that will be fought in interesting ways this week and next.

I didn't like the new layout of his room initially, and I think it's because having that normal bed in there is more a shock to my system than how the new furniture fits together. Drew's not the only one who needs to adjust to this.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back Too Soon

We had a great visit with Mark's parents and a fabulous trip to the Grand Canyon. Drew did very well with his first long-distance car drive and was quite the trooper exploring while attached to his Elmo tether/harness. He was definitely not too amused by the time we were about halfway home and spent much of the last hour or so of the trip fussing to get out of the damn car and be home already. Even with that, though, he did extremely well. Mark and I are already getting excited about future trips with El Boyo Diablo--thinking a bit too far ahead and banking on a continuation of this same temperament, I'm sure.

Friday, May 11, 2007


The in-laws will be arriving tonight and leaving Tuesday morning. After that, Mark, Drew, and I are taking our first family trip to the Grand Canyon (there will be many more over the years). I won't be back until Thursday, so ya'll have fun without me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Feeling the Weight

I finished typing in my revisions to Pinewood Fog, formerly Ghost Story, and now recently changed to Something Apart from Nature. Having title problems there, obviously.

In the course of my changing reading tastes and writing wishes, I've developed an ear for prose that "sounds" wrong. But I haven't quite developed a way to diagnose and correct the problem. Sometimes the problem is obvious but the solution is not. Sometimes I can't even figure out the problem. It seems remedial, but I may need to sit down and diagram all the things various elements of writing should accomplish ("should" being subjective, but I seem to be gathering an understanding of what I think writing should accomplish and whether or not that's in line with various editors and agents; unfortunately, I have a hard time keeping the "shoulds" in mind when writing draft and doing revisions). I have to keep better track of this in my mind, maintain a better awareness at least when I sit down to improve a draft.

But then I read something like this. Look at all the things that are supposed to be in a paragraph or two in a query letter. That essay just kept going on. And on. And on. Yet there's really nothing to disagree with. In order to garner interest from an agent, a query letter really does have to accomplish a ton with very little. This is just a recent example of a lot of writing advice I'm reading lately that is good but also serves to make me aware of how much one word is supposed to do.

In short, I'm getting a bit tripped up, like the centipede who suddenly wondered exactly how he's supposed to make walking work with all those damn legs.

In this sense, it's a very good thing I'm focused on short fiction at the moment. While one might argue that my words have even more to do in the smaller scale, I can at least keep better track of the suckers. I'm also taking the small scale to teach myself ways to fix the wrong-sounding parts. I could tell as I did the type-in that there were words and sentences and paragraphs and, in one case, a whole chunk of a scene that didn't quite belong or didn't serve enough of the story, but mostly I was unable to fix that on the fly. So I'll have to do a second revision and really get into some nitty gritty examinations of those 11,293 words. I want to learn what I'm doing wrong and see how the things I got right worked. But I don't want to over analyze.

Here's the really wacky thing: I'm looking forward to this. But I still feel the weight of all I have yet to learn even as I take in the weight of all I have already learned.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Rejected Novel Dedication #5

To my muse:

I saw you smile and had to write a lengthy scene to describe the beauty of that expression. (See pg. 4)

I saw you laugh and had to write witty dialog worthy of such a marvelous sound. (See pg. 10)

I saw you cry and had to write a tragic moment to explain away your tears. (See pg. 75)

I saw you with Henry and had to write a damsel-in-distress scene to rescue you from his foul grip. (See pg. 148)

I saw you with Henry again and had to write a twist-ending. (See pg. 342)

I saw you move into Henry's apartment and had to write a proposal for a gritty thriller, which my agent sold to a major publishing house in a six-book deal.

Thanks for all the inspiration.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mister Independent

The Drew Man is trying to prove he's all grown up--or at least demonstrate that "anything you can do I can do better." I've already talked about how he helps us throw away and take out the trash. Mark's got great video of Drewbie all but disappearing into the washing machine (we have a front loader) and dryer as he helps out with the laundry. The Drewbinator has started trying to open the car door when we get ready to go out and happily crawls into the car and into his car seat all on his own. He tries to buckle himself in but can't quite it the mechanics down. (His booster chair, on the other hand, poses no such buckling problems.)

The independent streak carries over into his night-time rituals. He decides when he takes a bath (usually every night) by patting his chest with his hands. We're not sure how that symbol came to mean "bath," but it's quite clear that it does. Once in the tub, Drew has figured out how the faucet and drain works and will get the water filling the tub. This is a bit detrimental when it's time to end the bath. Lately he knows the whole lotion routine and will present an arm or a leg as the limb to lotionify first or next.

His sense of independence has been causing problems lately when we go to the grocery store. Drew refuses to sit in the cart and be content to help us cross off items from our list as he had before. Now he wants to be out and about, helping us by selecting items to put into the cart. This wouldn't be so bad if he detested holding one of our hands so much. We may have to make grocery shopping an evening outing by only one of the parental units if El Boyo Diablo continues to resist control in the supermarket. But it's still very cute to see him running down an aisle and stopping to select something (usually random and never something we would put on our list) and then trying to toss it into the cart. The times we can guide and direct him in his assistance, it makes for great entertainment.

I'm sure a desire to be independent is normal at this age (well, hell; it's normal from now until the kids actually achieve independence, isn't it?), but watching him take on the world at not even three feet makes my heart twist. It's not going to get an easier, is it?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Random Thoughts Check-in

I just finished the revisions to Pinewood Fog (I always love it when I can write over a thousand words in an hour; wish that would happen more often). I'll do the type-in tomorrow (or start it, as I think I've re-written about 75% of the story and most of it is still in hand-written form). I'll probably have to do another revision as a few thoughts hit me during this last revision. My goal is to have this thing done and submitted to WotF by the end of next week.

Ever had an encounter with someone that makes you wonder if you've completely missed part of a conversation or lost the thread of subtext or run into this person in a previous life that she remembers and you don't? I went out for sushi with a friend on Wednesday night and we had a server that called to mind that sort of feeling. She was so disconnected with us and strange with our orders. We did the all-you-can-eat sushi special, and you have to fill out these little sheets with the food you want for that round of the special. (For each one of four rounds of dinner, you could have so many appetizers, so many sushi rolls, etc.) My friend and I marked what we wanted and got something close to that over the course of the next fifteen minutes or so, but it wasn't quite right. So we looked at the sheet, and scratched our heads when we saw that the sheet had markings reflecting what she brought. Meanwhile, she practically rips my friend's water glass right out of his hand to refill it (she came up behind the two of us, so neither of us saw her and she didn't announce herself; nor did she fill my glass first, which I wasn't touching at the time). When we fill in the sheet for the second round of food, we both made a point to remember our orders. Sure enough, we start getting food we didn't order, but our sheet miraculously has everything marked the way she brings it--even to the point of one request being scratched out. Very strange.

Casa Grande is pretty darn far away from a lot of stuff. On my way up to Scottsdale for John Scalzi's reading and signing, I somewhat perversely looked at the odometer. By the time I got back home, I had driven 100 miles. 100 miles for an author signing, people. But here's the real kicker: I'm so used to driving at least a half hour on the interstate to do anything that I didn't even think much about it.

Speaking of the signing, I'm happy to have two signed books in the Old Man's War trilogy. The first one and the third one. I had hoped to support the Poisoned Pen bookstore by buying both the second and third books there and then having Scalzi sign them. I assumed the store would have stocked up on all the books of the trilogy. I neglected to revise my assumption by remembering that the bookstore specializes in mysteries (though they are wanting to expand into spec fic). So I have a spiffy signed copy of The Last Colony that I can't read until I swing into Borders and pick up The Ghost Brigades. Live and learn, Kellie. Live and learn.

Honing my skills as a writer has opened my eyes to a world of subtext and social commentary (both intentional and frighteningly unintentional). I was reading a book lately where I saw a dreadful undercurrent of misogyny and sexism. I'm pretty sure it was unintentional and not subtle social commentary due to the reliance of telling character motivations through internal thoughts (even when that character's actions and dialog with others made the thougths quite clear enough).

Back to fanfiction, again. Did I miss out on a kink? In the discussions of fanfiction I've read lately, someone inevitably asks why is that the bulk of fanfic focuses on male/male sexual relationships. And someone else inevitably responds, "Well, duh! The majority of fanfic is written by straight women!" Everyone knows that straight men find female homosexual acts erotic, but I haven't heard before about the opposite situation. Is it commonly accepted that straight women find male homosexual acts and relationships a turn-on? How could I have missed this assumption?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Inadvertent Advertising

I've been remiss in my blogging lately, mostly due to lack of time between working full-time, keeping the Drew Monster from getting too irked at my working full-time, and trying to keep my writing on track. I do have lots of posts in the works, though, so hopefully the silence will be over soon. It's not going to be over until the weekend, though, as I'm back at the DDJ until tomorrow evening.

But when I heard this on the radio this morning, I just had to share:

Looking for something fresh? Like the outdoor breeze up your shorts fresh?

This was for an advertisement for an outdoor mall, and why shouldn't it be? I mean, don't you always think about the fresh air blowing up your crotch when you see an outdoor mall?

This isn't quite as bad as the "Kiss your creams good-bye" slogan for a yeast infection treatment pill, but it's in the same ballpark. Where have all the beta readers gone in advertising?