Friday, April 29, 2011

In which the thing stolen was ME

Someone applied for a credit card with my name. And they weren't smart enough to put in a different address, so the credit card they applied for came directly to ME. Um yeah. And I called and sure enough, fraudulent account for... food? for something glamorous and extravagant? For some desperately needed thing to survive? Yeah, no. For THE HOME SHOPPING NETWORK. Wut?

Luckily, I was all over this and checked out my credit report and made the appropriate calls. Though now I have a fraud alert on my account, which means if we were to apply for credit, it won't go through until they call me. Which seems like it should maybe be the norm, no? Also, there was a previous address on my account for IOWA. Freaking Iowa! I have nothing against it, but I don't know that I've even BEEN to Iowa, let alone lived there. It's almost like there are these computer bots creating fraudulent information for folks, but they don't end up using them all, since that past address never opened anything in my name. Also, hello, credit agency-- if I lived in Iowa in October of 1999, how is that my current residence has been my current residence since 1997, as reported by YOU? Just sayin'. Maybe you could come up with a program that catches little discrepancies like that?

So. Moral to the story: I would recommend going here and checking things out. It's for real free, not freecreditreport.com free where they make you sign up for some program to see your "free" report. You can access your report for real free from the above site from the three agencies one time each year without cost. (three total, one each agency a year)

Go. DO IT NOW. If nothing else, you'll find some credit accounts you were sure you closed but are still mystically open... I did.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Advice that at best distracts and at worst derails

I love this article over at the YA Guide to Fantasy.

One of my favorite bits of bad avice she mentions is that you must publish short stories before you write a novel. I used to believe this one enough to share it with others. "You've just GOT to have some publications under your belt if you want to get an agent or a publisher..." Yet, what a complete waste of time if you just don't write good short stories. The novel and the short story are two completely different animals, and one is not better than the other. The novel will get more attention, but a truly great short story (while taking less time to write) is, I think, more difficult to write.

And not everyone can write them and get them published. I've had a little success with online publications, but I don't know if my work would ever make it into a so-called literary journal. I'm all about story, and when I try to write all literary and forget about plot, it comes out crap. There are some amazing literary writers out there that do it all, and there are some that I think are horrible (it's all very subjective, I realize this), because they don't SAY anything. But that's another post.

End of the day, some of the points in the article will work for you while some of them might not. I'm not on your timetable with your characters or your style, and you're not on mine or with mine. Quit trying to stuff your shoulders into that expected, square peg. It's not about the money or even the end result-- it's about the process, the words, the story. Let's put away the rulers and try to enjoy the journey as much as the possible success at the end of it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dream the Second

I have lots of lucid, bright, very concrete dreams, but last night's was not one of them. It was foggy, and I'm unsure why I was where I was. This cute glasses-wearing guy and I were at a basketball game, then to dinner with a bunch of friends, and then I was in his apartment trying to seduce him.

But not in an R-rated grown up sexual way, more like the comedy movie, goofy, falling over stupid kind of way. And it wasn't working. And I remember thinking in my dream, "What? HE doesn't want ME?"

My dream self was very arrogant last night... not like my real self. I hope.

I woke up just as I was dancing with his hat rack to be cute... yeah. This is why I don't write romantic comedies-- apparently that's my brain's version of one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dream the First

I'm starting a dream journal.

Last night it was elephants and Justin Timberlake. I was in a desert, waiting in line for an elephant to carry me and the husband across the desert in front of us. DH had gone to get sandwiches for our long journey from some local stand, so I was holding our place in line. Justin was behind me and he kept hitting on me, basically playing footsie with me. He kept light tapping my shoe with his shoe saying "You've got a little sand here..." and this was just the most charming and hilarious line, since, you know, we were in a desert and all. Then DH showed up with sandwiches and got all tough-guy jealous.

Then my alarm ruined everything. It felt good, this dream-- like I was special and about to go on an adventure, though I remember feeling this nagging worry that something was wrong, and we needed to get home.

POV musings

Seems like there's been a lot of talk about POV lately, though it probably just feels that way to me since I've been worrying over it lately.

There are lots of books I like very much that are in third person-- Harry Potter, anything by Stephen King; but the books that make me feel, that have me saying "You've GOT to read this!" are almost always in first person: Lamb's I Know This Much is True; Stewart's The Myth of You and Me; Foer's Everything is Illuminated; Memoirs of a Geisha; and several young adult books that have sucked me right in. First person is more personal; we're right in their brain, feeling it with them, and, when it's done well, there's an empathy with the protagonist that, for me, is tougher to acquire in third person.

Then there's verb tense, and while that is not the same animal as POV, it directly affects it for sure. I'm not a fan of present tense. It's disconcerting at first, and though I do acclimate as a book goes on (if it's good enough to keep me reading, see Hunger Games), it takes longer. Something about past tense gives an even more intimate look into things, because third or first person, you're seeing what they felt about what happened-- hindsight, baby.

So my ideal book to read is first person, past tense from a writer that knows how to wield a metaphor.

Meanwhile, I'm writing third person past and second guessing myself. First person feels more natural to me, but I didn't think it was the right voice for my WIP... though now I don't know.

Darn you, Doubt.

I guess this is what rewrites are for?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I should be looking for the six fingered man

I probably should not watch Criminal Minds late at night. I've circled the house, testing doors and locking windows. If it's Mandy Patinkin I crave (and I sincerely love me some Mandy), perhaps I should just find some old eps of Chicago Hope or pop in the Princess Bride.

'Ello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Losing the Rainbow Effect

Like I tell my students on the first day of class when discussing plagiarism: "The kittens and puppies have died. There are no rainbows here, folks." Which is my way of saying that while I love the idea of being able to trust them all to turn in their own work, I've learned to check because people cheat. And they cheat BIG. The first time I taught at this particular college, there were still a few stars in my eyes. That same, short 5 week semester yielded not one, but two students with papers they completely copied off the internet. Heck, one was shameless enough to leave the highlighted blue links in when he printed. Yeah.

When it comes to writing, sometimes I think the kittens and puppies are dead. When I first started writing, it was like dating this new, mysterious, hot guy. Butterflies, excitement, and a seemingly endless supply of inspiration were my constant companions. I was writing poetry, flash fiction, and brilliant blogs (no, really... well maybe not in retrospect), and while I know these are smallish things, I was churning them out literally 2-3 times every single day. No weekends off. And some of that stuff is still my favorite stuff, but it's nothing... tangible, if that makes sense. Nothing I can really hang my hat on and say "I'm a writer."

And then I got a great idea.

I was riding home from work, and back then I had a 40 minute drive, lots of time to think about the next blog or short story idea. And I saw these characters so clearly and what they were doing, well to me, it was revolutionary. I won't say more because in those 30 seconds or so I basically saw the apex of what is now my WIP. And that day, I kind of sort of started writing a novel.

And ever since then, that joy comes in much smaller spurts. There are fewer surprises and the muse is stingy. Of course I'm much busier than I was then-- working more than full time most semesters and never knowing what my schedule will be from one to the next (I work 3 part time gigs usually), but overall, I think it's just harder to be a grown up and stick to one thing. I still want to run after the shinies, but this is not getting my WIP done, is it?

I want it to be fun again. Do you find that working on longer projects takes some of the joy out of it? Being disciplined and on a schedule makes the muse more scarce?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Criticism

How do you handle it? First, there are several different kinds, right? There's criticism that's legitimate and helpful and only feels like rejection (and only at first, usually like an hour later, I'm like "They're right, that's good insight") and then there's the opposite end of the spectrum that's over the top, hateful, and personal: "I hate your book and your mom."

It's bound to happen to extremes for a writer. Have you read some of the reviews on Amazon? I'm telling you, writers had it so good before the technology explosion-- sure, they had to deal with bad reviews in various newspapers, but now? Joe Schmo can write "This book is stupid and your face is stupid." And it's left up, as if it's a credible criticism. His stars (or lack thereof) score against your book.

So here's my secret (or not so secret to my dear friends): I don't handle criticism well. But I want to. And it's not because I think my work is perfect-- it's more the opposite-- I'll take it to heart, believe every word, ESPECIALLY the bad stuff, which just doesn't work when you're a writer.
I think I've got to develop a thicker skin as well as an intuitive filter that can weed out legitimate criticism and focus on the helpful stuff versus the unhelpful.
How do you handle criticism?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Now what?

Completely caught up-- wut, wut?

I should clean, I should write. I should DO something. I think I might try to write a short story this week, something to get out and circulating again. I miss waiting for rejections.

You know how you have, like, zero motivation, but once you begin doing that thing you know you have to do, it feels, well, actually worse for a little while, but once it's done? Feels so good. So, I'm going to organize and clean my room today, yessiree.