Friday, April 27, 2012

Coping with Rough Patches

I've had a few bad weeks. I'm not entirely sure why, but I wasn't happy, and I wasn't able to write. Those days are over now, but that's not the only good thing. I actually learned a lot about coping .

There were external things that helped me, things like chocolate and a good marriage, but I also need to give credit to myself. I've been learning how to listen to my gut, and I did that during the Period of Misery. I slept when I was tired, I read when I wanted distraction, I bought flowers when I wanted to do something creative. (The creative part is arranging them - one of my favorite hobbies.) As crazy as it may sound, I even colored a little. It's as grown-up as coloring can get - colored pencils and fancy Dover coloring books from Amazon - but it's still somewhat childlike, and it's comforting in that respect. A friend of mine who's a kindergarten teacher turned me on to coloring, promising that the monotony and simple accomplishment of it relieves stress. And she was right. Don't knock it until you try it.

I also caught up with a lot of the blogs I hadn't read in a while - mostly ones belonging to authors, literary agents, and editors, but also a few not related to writing. I keep up with my wedding photographer's blog and with a blog belonging to a florist I like back in Ann Arbor (near where I grew up) because they're both talented and it makes me happy to see their latest work.

I read a little of Stephen King's On Writing, and I was liking it, but then I read the synopses for some of his novels and got so creeped out that I had to put it down for a while. There are dark places in my mind, but no place so dark that I could sic a rabid dog on a desperate mother or cut a guy's foot off with a chainsaw. No, thank you. I had much better luck with The Elements of Style and James Scott Bell's Revision & Self-Editing. I even read a little fiction - Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Matched by Ally Condie, and the first 100 pages of Divergent by Veronica Roth. (Those pages were online for free. I will be reading the rest of Divergent as soon as I can buy a copy on May 3rd.)

When I look at the Period of Misery in this respect, it actually looks like I got a lot done, although at the time I felt like a sloth and a failure. That's what I like so far about this blog. It's helping me to see the positive, to let the good things stick and let the bad ones fade away.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Geek Heaven

So I can't believe this, but it took me until this week to finally watch The Guild. Netflix has been recommending it for months. I might have been ignoring it because I have a serious grudge against Netflix which may or may not have something to do with their callous, massive price hike and their total disregard for their DVD subscribers.

Anyway, as part of my "Don't Burn Hot" endeavor this week, I've been watching episodes of The Guild during writing breaks. And it is GEEK HEAVEN! If you don't have Netflix (I wouldn't blame you) you can watch every episode of The Guild on YouTube for free. Here's the link.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Burning Hot

This feels like a confession, although I don't know why it should because I have no shame in admitting it: I play Lord of the Rings Online, and I love it. I have a top-level loremaster and a mid-level champion. Derek has tried to get me into many different video games, but other than Plants vs. Zombies (which is awesome), LOTRO is the only one that's stuck, and for good reason. I love Tolkien. And the game does a great job of honoring the lore. Plus the setting of the game is beautiful and there is an endless amount of stuff to do. For example, right now it's the 5th anniversary festival and I'm gonna get me a fireworks horse if it's the last thing I do!

The reason I bring up LOTRO is that I intend to explain my current condition as a writer using a LOTRO metaphor. Here is it: in LOTRO, the hunter class can do something called "Burn Hot" in which they use a ton of power to do a ton of damage. I only know about this because as a loremaster, I have a skill which can replenish other characters' power, and hunters who burn hot often ask for more power because, you know, they burn all theirs off. Burning Hot a high risk, high reward kind of thing.

For the past three weeks, I have been Burning Hot with my novel. I have been working every single day, with the occasional one-day weekend break, and I have not allowed myself to get distracted with anything else. It's been hard because I've had family drama coming from three different directions, a house that Derek and I almost bought, and Derek's 30th birthday party, which I'm trying to plan. For the most part, I have given up swimming, video game playing, flower arranging, cooking, cleaning, and reading. I have eight different Beta readers working on Safira. I've been trying to stay ahead of them while simultaneously weaving their feedback into the manuscript to make it better. The book is getting better - of that, I am certain. But the high risk hasn't exactly paid off with high rewards. I wanted to do the whole "Burn Hot" thing for one month, then I wanted to query and get back to enjoying life. Well, three weeks in, and I'm barely halfway through the novel (17 out of 40 chapters are done, to be precise).

The whole Burning Hot thing fizzled to an end this past Wednesday. For two nights in a row, I could barely sleep. I felt feverish and restless and my mind was so exhausted that watching Seinfeld was a strain. Derek called me "Zombie Wife" on more than one occasion. It was the insomnia that finally convinced me to stop. I like to sleep and the fact that I couldn't was more depressing than the idea that I wasn't going to meet my own deadline for the book. So I stopped working. I sent out a batch of five chapters to my Betas Wednesday night and I haven't opened the MS since. On Thursday I went to the Flower Mart downtown, took a long shower and a nap, and played LOTRO. By the time Derek got home, I was smiling and my brain was no longer a spiraling nightmare.

I'm still bummed that I won't get to query the novel next week. Frankly, I don't know when I'll be done. I swear, if it gets to the end of May and I'm not finished, I'm querying anyway. I intend to get back to work on Monday - maybe work at 90% of what I was doing before - and chip away continuously.

Here are the lessons I'm trying to remember from this experience:
  1. The work WILL end someday, hopefully someday soon, and
  2. Burning Hot is a pretty bad technique. I will remember this if I ever play a hunter.

More Love for Florence + Pug Pics

Last weekend Derek and I drove up to Santa Barbara to see Florence + the Machine in concert. It was their first concert on their US tour for Ceremonials, which is an amazing album, and one that I listen to constantly while writing. Here are my top three favorite songs:
  1. No Light, No Light
  2. Shake It Out
  3. Never Let Me Go
Florence played #1 for her encore. She played almost every song from both her albums, with the exception of The Drumming Song. Florence is one of those singers who is SO much better live than on her CD. She just belted out those songs, held notes as long as she wanted - it was amazing. We listened to her CDs all the way home and were disappointed because now the recordings sound sterile after hearing her live.

Because Derek and I are terrible at taking pictures, I have nothing to show you from the concert. To make up for that, I give you two pictures of The Pug that were recently taken by my very talented friend, Cynthia Koelewyn. These are unaltered except for the little photo corners. 


I was in a room with Stephenie Meyer.

So the other night, Derek and I went down to Beverly Hills to see Jenny Lawson, AKA "The Bloggess" do a reading from her new book.

She also did a signing afterward. I brought her flowers because I make flower arrangements for everybody, but she seemed much more impressed by the miniature metal chickens people brought her. (See her post on Beyoncé the chicken for an explanation if you don't know why she would like miniature metal chickens.)

Anyway, the reading was great. Jenny is hilarious. I even succeeded in making my husband a fan of hers. They did a Q&A after the reading and a moderated discussion with Soleil Moon Frye (which was also great) but I learned that I do not like Q&A sessions. Nobody asked a single thing that contributed to the evening. A lot of people talked about themselves. One hideous woman (hideous personality-wise; I don't even remember what she looked like) took the opportunity to PLUG her own blog! Derek and I almost starting booing!

Basically 80% of the people at the event were women in their 20s to 40s. Nobody really stood out. I even had to do a double-take when I first saw Soleil Moon Frye because she was just chatting with somebody in the aisle and she looks so normal when she's not on Friends. (That's the only thing I remember seeing her in. She's famous for being Punky Brewster, but I was an infant when that was on TV. I was more of a Muppet Babies girl.)

Now on to the part where I feel incredibly silly. It happened about 10 minutes ago. I subscribe to Jenny's blog via RSS, so every post shows up in my inbox like email. I read the post she wrote about the reading in Beverly Hills and looked at the pictures she included. One of the pictures had a very normal looking woman in it and I was kind of like, "Wait, she doesn't photograph the metal chickens or my beautiful flowers, but she photographs this chick in a cardigan?" Then I read the post and the woman is STEPHENIE MEYER. And I was in the same room with her and didn't even know it and honestly, I could just shoot myself in the foot.

Derek doesn't understand why I should notice her. (He hasn't read Twilight and is one of many people who staunchly insist that it must suck even though they haven't read it.) Twilight is not my favorite series ever, but that woman did a lot of things right, including building a hell of a lot of sexual tension and making every adolescent girl's dreams come true in the forms of Edward and Jacob. If you can't respect her for that, respect her for the fact that she's been incredibly successful, or for the fact that in the media, she seems like a genuinely kind person.

Anyway, I did not notice Stephenie Meyer, and I feel silly.