Sunday, 31 August 2014

Day After Day...

This weekend is affording many of us an extra day to be social or take care of business or do whatever needs to be done, and I am immensely grateful for it- especially since it's novel feedback season with my group and I have a lot of reading to do.

Right now my Jane story is being circulated among some reviewers. I had to submit a minimum of 150 pages but submitted the whole thing- a whopping 300+ pages- to reviewers. (We're not obligated to offer comments beyond 150 pages but I read the whole submissions because, well, I want to know what happens next!)

On a different note, something really strange happened this week. I got word that someone I knew in college passed away at the age of 41 from a fast-growing liver and/or kidney cancer. Given, a friend of his told me that he ignored the symptoms too long, but even so, that's really something to think about. About 20 years ago, I lost one of my uncles to liver cancer (and ensuing complications) a few weeks shy of his 40th birthday, and I thought that was a very rare, isolated incident. Now that it's happened twice in my life, and to people around age 40, I wonder how rare and isolated it really is.

Generally speaking, we could all stand to eat better-quality food. We can visit juice bars and get appliances that help us make really nutritious food at home. We can buy those DETOX teas and bear with the taste, knowing that our liver enzyme numbers will be all the better for having ingested it. Sometimes we need to be reminded to take care of ourselves.

I had a liver enzyme scare about a year ago and had to make some adjustments to my habits and diet:

I even started juicing after I moved to be with Hubbs, and it's a great habit that I will continue.

My liver problem wasn't a life-or-death issue at that point, but we need to be aware of these things. Some problems are hard to fix. Sometimes making a change is like turning a barge around in the ocean: it takes time and a lot of work and of course it isn't easy, either.

My friend from college is someone I haven't seen since the late 90s, whom I associate with that stage of life. Earlier today I thought of the reason/season/lifetime poem: namely, that some people you know for a reason, others just for a season, and some for a lifetime. While we can't stay in touch with everyone we know forever, it's good to have known them. I know he touched a lot of lives in his time on earth and I am sure he's resting in peace now.

If you're reading this today, do me a big favor and go to the doctor for an annual checkup sometime before the end of this year. Get your bloodwork done and make sure that your numbers are OK. If there's anything amiss, do something about it. Make your positive changes, and get your blood checked again after a few months pass. I promise you, you won't regret it.

Much love,
Jane and her author

Friday, 22 August 2014

'Tis Better to Give Than to Receive... Or is it?

Right now, I'm waiting on my peer review. It took five years to write the book and all year so far to fine-tune it and make up an ending (including a dude that looks like Daniel Craig because I'm the author and I can make that happen!).

However, I'm not just waiting. I'm providing others with feedback, too. Essentially, I'm reading one book every week or so and providing feedback in the hopes that it will make the writer's work that much better and accessible to a broader audience.

It's amazing what you can learn about someone from reading what he or she writes. For instance, the story I'm reading right now is a political thriller and the author has a lot of opinions that get threaded throughout, such as "everyone knows that such-and-such federal policy would lead to problems," or other things phrased like that. It shows a bias and shifts from telling a story to telling the reader your opinion about something (as the writer).

I'm advising this person to make the author's viewpoint the viewpoint of the story's main character. This way, we as readers learn more about the character's makeup and ideas and feel less like we're being told something.

That is one of the biggest challenges of writing: showing instead of telling.

Being able to assess someone's work objectively is easy enough when it's not familiar to you, but it's a whole different ballgame when it's your own writing. Having sent away the draft, now I have to wonder: what have I revealed about myself in my writing? What biases of mine am I blind to? What obvious things will be pointed out to me in this process?

I hope all the obvious things that have flown right by me will be pointed out to me in this process. I'm sure there are at least a few. I hope that light bulb goes on and stays on!

In any case, thanks for tuning in and I hope I have lots to do once the reviews are in... but in the meantime, I have a lot of writing to do.

-Jane's Author

Friday, 15 August 2014

Breaking up with Microsoft Word


My relationship with Microsoft Word is no longer personal, although I will continue to work with it on a professional level assuming there's a team of experts at the ready to fix whatever goes wrong with it.

Two months ago, I "tried" the new Office Suite for "free" for a month. I did this to get more familiar with the new PowerPoint, as a firm I know of was considering hiring freelancers and I needed to know more about that program. After poking around in it for a while, I realized how little experience I had with it, the company decided not to hire a freelancer, and all was forgotten. My "free" month was up, and it was time for me to take it off my computer.

I removed PowerPoint- no problem. Excel- check. When it came to Word, however, it didn't want to default to the old bought-and-paid-for Word 2010. The new 2013 Word hung on. Finally, my in-house IT department (Husband) figured out a way to get it off my computer. Whew! I thought. Prematurely.

My first clue that there was a problem came when I'd open my book to work on it, add a few new scenes, smooth out some other areas, save and close it- then open it to find that the changes hadn't been saved. OK, I told myself, that was my fault. I did something wrong. But seriously, after working with MS Word every day for the last 14 years full of workdays, was I really capable of "forgetting" to save my work all of a sudden?

Nope. It was not saving my work.

The work of a writer isn't easy when the systems work well. We're still trying harder and harder to get our words to say what we want them to say. Being stymied by the system isn't cool.

This problem also affected my freelance work, which completely horrified me. By now, I've righted everything that was wrong, but I am so disappointed that mistakes were made on my watch.

So I'm upset with MS Office and ready to un-install it from my computer. Diva and I have shared MS Office 2010, and if she mails it to me, perhaps I'll reinstall. For now, though, I'm taking a much-needed break.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Flexible Author Deadlines and Mining My Friend's Memory Banks for Gold

People in my writing group cried and stomped their feet and got their way this time- our deadline has been extended beyond today! However, I've already made plans to be busy this weekend, so I might just keep the original deadline and turn it in tonight. It kind of makes my eye twitch when I think about working on it some more. I really hope everyone likes it!

I interviewed a friend of mine this week to find out her typical middle-class upbringing as a member of Generation X and a daughter of two Baby Boomers. Some things were parallel to my upbringing, others the sort of thing I'd see on TV and wonder if people really acted that way.

I did this to get some backstory for Jane, since she's got an English name and looks and the writer of this story is slightly more ethnic.

The first question I asked to her and a car full of kids (her own, plus a niece and two nephews) was: what did/do your parents call you?

I got these answers: Sugar britches, pumpkin, honey, girly-girl, princess, and stretch.

But the best part was when they'd say your full name when you were in trouble. However, you have to have a short name in order for this to roll off the tongue. They'd call you Jennifer Anne, or Anne Marie, or Melinda Sue, or whatever your name was.

They never went on regular vacations, but did travel to visit family. They couldn't afford hotels or airfare so dad would drive straight through and they'd stop at roadside rests. I wonder how typical this is to children of Boomers because I can count our family vacations on two fingers and my parents are also power-drivers. How many times have I heard, "I want to get home to my own bed"? Clearly, they've never stayed at the Hampton Inn!

Mom sewed and made matching outfits for the kids. BOTH of us were subjected to this. That, in addition to catholic school uniforms, has resulted in PERMANENT SCARS. Just kidding. It's really cool to have a mother who sews, don't get me wrong. It's the matching outfits that are the killer.

Some of her stories were not so funny:
-a broken elbow (ouch!)
-a cactus needle in her eye (double-ouch!)
-a move to another state when one cat disappeared and the goldfish died before they got to their new house (so sad)

My favorite answer was when I asked her about her mom's fascination with Dolly Parton. Seriously, who doesn't love Dolly? Between the great songs and the sparkly clothes and the huge hair and the crazy heels, she's every woman. I found out that my friend listened to a lot of Dolly Parton and John Denver as a kid because, when I told her that her birthday was the same day as George Harrison's, she asked me who George Harrison was. Needless to say, I was kerfuffled, so I asked her that if she didn't know much about the Beatles (and how had she managed that?), whose music she heard most growing up? The answer was Dolly and Denver.

It turns out that she and her sister had a dance routine to Dolly's famous duet with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream." Naturally, I told her that we need to come up with a dance routine on our next girls getaway. We might need a few daiquiris first, but it sounds fun!

Jane/author lady

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Author notes: August 6, 2014

So much to do before the deadline! I added this nifty visual aid so you could see part of my creative process.

I originally wrote about one of my dating attempts that's frankly a snore, so last night I decided to challenge myself to re-do it. In essence, change Tim from boring to crazy. I had to write myself a note to make sure I'd remember. Diva had lots of suggestions for me and reminded me of sweatpants-on-the-first-date guy who chain smoked, guys who ate dinner before our dates so they wouldn't have to buy our dinners (this happened to both of us, believe it or not), and the guys who were tip-averse, when we'd circle back to the restaurant and add to their small tips for our servers!

Seriously, if you know of anyone who avoids dating, just respect that person's choice!

Also, a special note to a special friend: I chose the name Tim because it's popular for our generation, not because it reminds me of anyone named Tim. Your husband Tim is stellar!

Also, in the story, my drinking friend Patti manages to leave Winterville with an engagement looming on the horizon, and yet I forgot to mention that in the pages that followed. It's understood that she'll invite me to her wedding but I probably won't want go because weddings aren't really much fun if you go stag after you reach your mid-30s. At least, that was my observation as a woman of a certain age.

My days are full of fun stuff, and prep for my new job stuff, and I'm grateful for every day I have to devote to writing, whether it's in an office, for a freelance client, or on my own.

Your friend,

Monday, 4 August 2014

Oh My God, You Guys

Hi friends:

There's a song in the Legally Blonde musical (yes, they made it into a musical and it's fabulous!) called "Omigod You Guys" that Elle and the sorority girls sing. It kind of explains why this blog post is late. 

There has been SO much excitement on this end lately!

First, I got a job offer out of the blue from a place that had initially chosen not to hire me. I am over the moon excited and plan to go new clothes shopping pronto. 

Second, I got my engagement ring back from the jeweler. It's now white gold and the proper size for my finger. The design was copied from the original, but version 2.0 is sturdier (6 prongs instead of 4!) and shiny and new.
Omigod, you guys
This one's perfect and its just my size
See, dreams really do come true, you never have to compromise

Third, Hubbs and I are both under major deadlines. He's taking a licensing test for computer wizards on Thursday and I'm handing in the "final, just for now" draft to my reviewers for their opinions on Friday! I know I've been writing since I was a kid, but it's intimidating nevertheless. 

So here is my progress report for you:
1) A new character, the itchy crotch guy, has been added to the story. He's the grandson of the tycoon who bankrolls the company in Winterville, and everyone has to pretend that he's an actual contributor instead of a drunk who can't keep his hands off his pants.
2) Jane's family and their backstory has been invented. Jane's mother, a cheerleader, married her dad, a high school/college football player. They had Jane, the Tuesday Addams of the group, and her perky blonde sister Jennifer, who from the outside has a perfect life. 

That's all I have for now! I need to get back to work, enjoy a nutritious lunch and then go out into the world to buy some new work clothes. I'll try TJMaxx first. Cue Elle:
I'm not about to buy last years dress at this years price.

Jane and her author