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I'm a word serial killer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remember the scaffolding chat?

The count is in. I trimmed 7,000 WORDS FROM MY BOOK. This draft.

Whoa.

Limitless makes writers look like gross, dirty people

Friday, March 25, 2011

Every Wednesday, the guy and I go out. We call it Wednesdate. Adorable, right? Have you vomited?

This week, we went to Winghouse for dinner. OKAY, I know I should be all feministy or whatever. But... I really, really desire their buffalo chicken sandwich. I crave it all the time. And so I put hesitation in my pocket, and we go in our nice work clothes and sit there and NOM THAT SANDWICH TILL IT'S GONE. The chicken doesn't stand a chance, and thems the facts. So deal.


Anyway, we then went to the movies and saw Limitless. The film stars the Smexy Bradley Cooper, so I was like, "Woo!" It wasn't bad. A killer concept -- would you take a pill that made you smarter and faster and better, if it shortened your life? It meandered a little, but I can handle that.

There were other problems, though. Of the writerly variety.

1. The premise is that Smexy Bradley Cooper is a broke-ass fiction writer with a book deal and an advance who HASN'T WRITTEN A SINGLE WORD. His deadline is looming, and lo appears a magic pill. Right.

Can I get an amen from my writers that you don't get an advance and a contract without having written so much as a sneeze on the page? That's like someone being all, "Yo, RANDOM HOUSE! I have a totes awesome idea, and you should pay me for it. Don't worry, I'm cool, just ignore these infectious bug bites."

They could have solved the problem by saying he was established and this was his new book or something. But dudes, this guy was TORE UP FROM THE FLOOR UP. He was not on his third bestseller. Even non-fiction projects requires a big freaking proposal and at least a sample chapter. I wrote one. It's hard. But this homeboy just had a screen with a cursor.

I haven't read the novel The Dark Fields, the basis for the movie. Maybe this doesn't happen there? Maybe this is a problem invented by screenwriters who ain't got no clue? I dunno.

2. When Smexy Bradley Cooper is a struggling writer, he looks like total crap. Oh good, here's a screen shot.


My eyes! He's packing a scraggly ponytail, some skin problems of great concern and mega-grossy fingernails. He is also covered in random band-aids. Band-aids! Now, we writers have not topped a lot of 50 Most Beautiful People lists. I get that. But some of us do take pride in our looks. For the most part, we all know how to take showers (water, soap, towel). And we are not oozing with open wounds, unless we have just been rejected for the 80th time and have subsequently smashed our face into the drywall.

3. When Smexy Bradley Cooper is in his nasty writer phase, he gets all his business calls on a home phone. No cell. Even the homeless people I know have cell phones, and that's not an exaggeration. Someone with an advance on an imaginary book (hah) could at least get himself one of those pre-paid jobbies the 12-year-olds get from Best Buy.

Other than that, totally see it!

Sleeping at Target. I did it and so can you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I fell asleep in a parking lot today.

It was at Target, in my car. I'm not proud. But as I pulled in and put the car in park, the sun peeked through the window and hit my jeggings and it just felt so right. The soft sounds of Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract serenaded me through the iPod. MC Skat Cat lulled me to the dark side. The air conditioner blew softly on my cheeks.

Five minutes, I thought. Just five minutes. And so I drifted, until the sounds of a jangling shopping cart slamming into the metal corral woke me.

This is a problem. This is how people get murdered. I've seen Law & Order.

Is this the final step in my undoing? Is my shame spiral imminent? Will I slip a whole stolen salmon into my tattered Santa suit come Christmas?

I'm not saying I'm the busiest person in the whole world. Lord knows y'all people with children would come after me with the flaming torches demanding my head in a tasty to-go container. But, as we've discussed, finding time for book writing, exercise, socializing, home cleaning and Intervention episodes on top of working full time is hard. The other day, I tried to combine my workout with my dog responsibilities. The run with Stuart was fine until his mushy poop bag banged into my leg and sullied my Adidas running shorts and skin in ways that are JUST NOT HOLY.


Still. Sleeping at Target is not acceptable. That's the stuff of Dateline NBC lore. My 1 a.m. editing and writing sessions might have to stop.

Maybe. Then again, I sleep at Target. My judgment is clearly unsound.

Ooh, look!

My fabulous idea notebook of mystery

Friday, March 18, 2011

A writer named Theodora Goss blogged about the peril of finding time to write. She ditches cooking, dry cleaning, sports (SOUNDS GOOD) and some other stuff.

It made me think about the same question. I squeeze extracurricular writing and editing into lunches and little 30-minute windows. And I stay up late. Bleary eyes on the laptop, 48 Hours Investigates reruns on the TV, dog snoring with his head spilling onto the hardwood. I guess the bigger point, though, is that even when I'm not putting werdz down, the ideas and characters and stories are always in my brain. Journalism and fiction both. Voices! They're voices! It's like I'm crazy!

The other day, I wrote down ideas at a stop light. Texting and driving? Pfft. That's for NOOBS, y'all. Pen and paper, son. I represent the 18th century like whoa.

To rep the quill pen set, I carry little notebooks to write down the fleeting thoughts. You see, I have bleached my hair so repeatedly that my brain has suffered indelibly and I forget things as soon as I think of them. I think it's called Blondmentia. Here is my newest idea book:

I don't know which of these ladies I'd rather be. I'm leaning toward the one on the right for obvious reasons involving leopard print, but the one on the left looks very busy and important. Like she has to take time out of her busy ribbon cutting and floral arranging schedule to humor the sweaty paparazzi in her grill. Also, HELLO, her hat has a KNITTING NEEDLE through it. So. You know what? She wins. I just decided.

Anyway, I write things in here like, "Dude is really bad at drug smugglinggggg....." and then the pen trails off as I drive off down the road. Hot mess, but when I get stuck I can go back and be like, "Oh, bad at drug smuggling. Right. That's what I wanted to do." And then I can flip the page and spend the next eight minutes wondering what I might have possibly meant by "Lemons. Size large."

I guess you could do the same thing with a tape recorder, but my voice sounds like Lucy Ricardo on those and makes me self-conscious. Fabulous notebook wins.

Maybe I should add crude drawings to these posts?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I almost laughed myself into a premature grave when I read the following morsel of glory. Twice. If you have a dog who might be mentally taxed, it's especially meaningful.

Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving.

The depressed dog with low self-esteem reminds me of Stuart.

I mean, come on. Get up and look at the sun, dude. It's a brand new day!

Not that there has to be a moral attached to everything that makes me snort Diet Coke through those holes in my face, but I love seeing all the ways people make random stuff happen for themselves. Allie Brosh started Hyperbole and a Half in college, just because, you know, LOLZ!!!!. Now she makes her living drawing stick figures and telling stories about her dogs' mental problems.

If that's not motivating, nothing is. Just ask Stuart.

I... don't whip my hair back and forth.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I cut my hair. Nine inches!

It's so short! I had this sort of haircut when I was 18, but that was almost ten years ago, and I've gotten a hair (see what I did there?) less impulsive since then. Although, thank THE LORD ABOVE that I never went through with the tattoo of a bunny with fairy wings I wanted back then. THANK THE KIND LORD ABOVE. Who did I think I was, a garden nymph? Beatrix Potter? Maid Marion?

Anyway, I was finally ready to go for it again, and my dear Josh at Wicked Salon in St. Petersburg made it happen. Now I'm pleased as a goat with a bowl of tasty paper. Say it with me, ladies. FIVE MINUTES IN THE MORNING.

Reactions have ranged from women clapping in abject glee as I walk down the halls at work, to guys going, "snort, sniff, shrug." But I love it, and it's inspiring me to do 1960s Twiggy eyeliner all the time, which is fun. Plus, Stuart the dog still recognizes me, and that's all that really matters.

Once again, thanks to my common law bro, Pete, for the pics. I'm gonna take advantage of his photography talents at all times. That's my springtime resolution.

I have one problem now, though. How to whip my hair back and forth?

Will I write inside a luxury walk-in closet?

Friday, March 11, 2011

I have a Hoarders room.


Our house is fine, easy to tidy when it gets cluttered. The room, though... if the cameras from A&E took B-roll and intermixed it with the possums running out of cupboards and cat pancakes and old Ford trucks filled with bicycle parts, it would fit right in. Well, not really. But still.

You may have a Hoarders room. It's the one where all the STUFF goes. The stuff you own with no plausible explanation why. My Hoarders room has Christmas decor and feather boas and silk ficus trees and broken printers and strange foot lockers filled with SECRETS. I'm over it. I've been cleaning it out today, and now there's a nice pile for the Salvation Army. They're going to be stoked to get a set of Mary Kate and Ashley VHS tapes! (Don't ask, because I don't gotz answers.)

I was going to turn it into a writing room, a.k.a., an office. Kind of like these famous writing sheds that all the greats locked themselves away inside. Only mine would smell better. (Srsly, watch that slideshow, it's totes cool.)

But the boyfriend sagely suggested we turn it into a dressing room. It makes sense. My clothes swallow the bedroom. This way, we'd both have organization in our lives. And he thought I might enjoy spending time in a room filled with precious belongings (my shoes). If I had a slick office with a glass desk and some snobby books, would I really go there to work? Or would I still default to the coffee shops or the couch with my laptop? Probably.

So... dressing room! I hope I'll love it so much that I'll go there to write, and, you know, sip champagne out of platform shoes. And fo' rizzle. A luxury walk-in closet creams an old shed crawling with legionnaires. Sorry, Thoreau.

Now, how to do it? Every fiber of my being tells me I need this to continue breathing:


That's Miley Cyrus's dressing room, folks. A great place to smoke salvia and roller skate. All it needs is a grumpy white dog accosted with bows. Jim would likely kill me. But I do seriously enjoy those shelves.

Maybe we'll do something cleaner, like this. I like the simplicity of the clothing rack. I don't like the GROSSY ANTLERS on the wall, and I hope I'd finally stop leaving my shoes in a pile if I had a whole room dedicated to their zen arrangement.


Or, I could just turn into a complete cliche and do a replica of Carrie Bradshaw's closet. Why stop halfway to predictable when you can just finish the job?


Input welcome. Pictures of the end result, obviously, will come.

Pumping Iron: Exercises in scaffolding

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm editing like a freak, yo. Taking out all my scaffolding.

Do you know about scaffolding? It's a word we toss around at the newspaper. I'm not sure who invented the concept, so feel free to learn me if you know. But it's basically how it sounds. It's the support beams that go on a structure to hold it up as it's being built. But when the thing is done, you take the scaffolding away and the building looks prettier.

There's nothing wrong with scaffolding. You kind of need it to get your shiz out on the page. If you try to make every sentence perfectly tight while writing, you'll go insane and end up eating your earrings whole. No one wants to pass a rhinestone hoop.

I've been going through every sentence and taking out as much as I can. I've already cut a couple thousand words, which is OK, because some of the plot needs work and I'll end up adding new words. Things on my kill radar include redundancies, adverbs that suck, "thats", directionals, "ing"-words that could be "ed" words, cliches, cliches, cliches. 

Since I'm sitting here alone in my XXL pajama pants eating questionably-old leftovers from the fridge, I figured it's a good time to bring you into the process. Below, you'll find an unedited passage. Below that, I've highlighted all the scaffolding. And below that, behold the new product. At least for this draft.

Lez go!

ONE

There was a long, awkward silence while I decided what to say next, if anything at all. I rolled onto my side and sat up, reaching for the open container of Chinese food that sat on the foot locker. I plunged two fingers into the carton and grabbed some cold noodles, lowering them into my mouth. The noodles flopped outside my lips. It was all I could do to chew.
    “I’m in mourning.”
    Nicole stopped tossing Diet Coke cans into a trash bag and looked at me with the most sad expression I’ve ever seen come across her face. It was the look someone gives a dog as it lays dying on the side of the road. It was the look a mother gives her child after the child does not make the junior varsity pep squad. It was the look I usually gave the television during those “five cents a day” commercials about adopting kids from Darfur. It was the look of unbridled, pathetic pity.
    “Well,” she said, picking up shards of mirror glass with her bare hands, “you shouldn’t have ignored our calls like that. We were afraid something happened to you, too.”
    “I’m sorry, Nicole,” I grabbed another fist of noodles. “I’m a mess right now. I don’t really want to talk about it, but I’ll be OK. See? No track marks.” I pushed my sleeve up and flashed a bare arm.
    She dropped the bag of trash into the wastebasket and walked back over to me. I finally got a good look at her. She wore a pair of black slacks and a baby blue polo shirt with the name of the concert venue where she worked embroidered on the chest. Her hair was loose and wavy and her lipstick was soft pink instead of red. She wore a tiny leopard-print bow in her hair with a skull in the middle. It was still Nicole, but a softer version. A more maternal version. A version who was taking care of her little sister out of sheer love, no questions asked.
    If she only knew, I thought.

TWO

There was a long, awkward silence while I decided what to say next, if anything at all. I rolled onto my side and sat up, reaching for the open container of Chinese food that sat on the foot locker. I plunged two fingers into the carton and grabbed some cold noodles, lowering them into my mouth. The noodles flopped outside my lips. It was all I could do to chew.
    “I’m in mourning.”
    Nicole stopped tossing Diet Coke cans into a trash bag and looked at me with the most sad (note - ew) expression I’ve ever seen come across her face. It was the look someone gives a dog as it lays dying on the side of the road. It was the look a mother gives her child after the child does not make the junior varsity pep squad. It was the look I usually gave the television during those “five cents a day” commercials about adopting kids from Darfur. It was the look of unbridled, pathetic pity.
    “Well,” she said, picking up shards of mirror glass with her bare hands, “you shouldn’t have ignored our calls like that. We were afraid something happened to you, too.”
    “I’m sorry, Nicole,” I grabbed another fist of noodles. “I’m a mess right now. I don’t really want to talk about it, but I’ll be OK. See? No track marks.” I pushed my sleeve up and flashed a bare arm.
    She dropped the bag of trash into the wastebasket and walked back over to me. I finally got a good look at her. She wore a pair of black slacks and a baby blue polo shirt with the name of the concert venue where she worked embroidered on the chest. Her hair was loose and wavy and her lipstick was soft pink instead of red. She wore a tiny leopard-print bow in her hair with a skull in the middle. It was still Nicole, but a softer version. A more maternal version. A version who was taking care of her little sister out of sheer love, no questions asked.
    If she only knew, I thought.

THREE

There was an awkward silence while I decided what to say next. I sat up and reached for the open container of Chinese food. I plunged two fingers into the carton and grabbed some cold noodles, lowering them into my mouth. The noodles flopped. It was all I could do to chew.
    “I’m in mourning.”
    Nicole stopped tossing Diet Coke cans into a trash bag and looked at me with the saddest expression I’ve ever seen. It was the look someone gives a dog as it lays dying in the road. The look a mother gives when her child does not make junior varsity pep squad. The look I gave the television during “five cents a day” commercials about kids from Darfur. The look of unbridled, pathetic pity.
    “Well,” she said, picking up shards of mirror, “you shouldn’t have ignored our calls. We were afraid something happened to you, too.”
    “I’m sorry.” I grabbed another fist of noodles. “I’m a mess right now. I don’t really want to talk about it, but I’ll be OK. See? No track marks.” I flashed a bare arm.
    She dropped the bag into the wastebasket. I finally got a good look at her. She wore black slacks and a baby blue work shirt. Her hair was loose and wavy and her lipstick was soft pink instead of red. She had a tiny leopard-print bow in her hair with a skull in the middle. It was still Nicole, but a softer version. A more maternal version. A version who was taking care of her little sister out of sheer love.
    If she only knew.

Ta-da! Try it. It's fun!

Supremely shallow thoughts about self-publishing in five... four... three...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm a little behind the wave, but have you all heard of Amanda Hocking? She's the hot new chat piece on the Interwebz. The 26-year-old is selling bonkers amounts of self-published books and e-books. I haven't read her stuff, but it's supposed to be good. Try as I might, paranormal/fantasy/magic is just not my bag of chips. I couldn't even get through all the Harry Potter books (I KNOW, I KNOW, BLASPHEME). I just... need to read about people doing things that aren't magical. My friend once tried to get me to read something involving elves and sex, swearing it was essentially chick lit beneath the fantasy veil. But I was all, "Just get rid of the elves, then!" I'm a simple creature.

 I do enjoy this elf, though.

Anyway, I'm sure Amanda's books are wonderful for paranormal fans, and I like reading her blog. She kind of has a "PEOPLE, CHILL OUT, IT'S GONNA BE FINE" attitude, which I admire.

People, including Nathan Bransford, are weighing in about self-publishing and whether it poses a threat to the traditional publishing industry. I don't really know, because that is not my job. All I know is, I want to write books one way or another. I also like chocolate and rap music and buying things on sale. I never really considered self-publishing before. It would still take a lot for me to go that route and abandon the traditional query-agony-hope-rejection-tears-wine methods, because I believe they ultimately work.

But...

Ok, part of me kind of gets it.

Business models and sales figures aside, right? I'm talking mental health. Say you can't sell your book. At all. You've tried and tried and tried and no one will sniff at it. You could, A) stick your manuscript in the drawer and let those icky silverfish things nest in it, find it five years later and be forced to burn it in the extermination home-tenting process. Or, B) publish that shit yourself, give copies to your mom and your dentist and stick it on the shelf between Bridget Jones's Diary and, you know, The Grapes of Wrath or whatever.

I guess if it came to that, I'd just rather see it on a shelf at Mom's house.

Why I suck (and other updates)

Monday, March 7, 2011

I've been a terribad blogger. There are several reasons.

One, my job keeps me hella busy (and yes, I just said, "hella," and no, I won't apologize, and no, 1998 didn't call and doesn't want its word back). Two, my job also includes a blog, so sometimes I'm just all blogged out, you dig?

Third, we adopted a dog. His name is Stuart, and he's four, 28 pounds, short, a little "special." He has sad eyes perfect for a Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial. He's a bizarre mix of a corgi and a chow and perhaps a bit of lhasa apso. The veterinarian said he is the result of a strange romance, a night of illicit dog passion heretofore unmatched. Anyway, his owners couldn't care for him anymore so we scooped him up.

Here I am with Stu at the park. Thanks to Peter Hamilton for the photo. Stu hates being photographed and usually runs away when I take out the camera (who does he think he is, Angelina Jolie?), so my friend Pete captured him using a long lens. You'd think this was a CIA operation, getting a damn decent picture of the dog.


Here is one of my attempts, Stu trying to seduce you. Is it working?



He has been a wonderful addition to the townhouse, but he does take some time away from things, like, you know, blogging. Now I have to do things like clean up poop and walk him and try to catch his pee in a cup for the vet and dodge dog vomit and feed him heartworm meds in a ball of peanut butter while his drool drips on the floor. I don't know how people with actual children do it. So many bodily fluids!

Fourth, I've been working on a non-fiction project for a while that may or may not come to fruition, and my fiction juices were put on hold. Blogging kind of reminded me that the juices (it's fluid day, y'all!) were on hold, which sucks, so maybe I was avoiding it. It's complicated and one day I'll go there, but for now I'm happy to say that I recently busted out the novel again and started editing it with a comb and a set of fresh eyes. I'm a believer that things usually work out how they're supposed to, and in the end, I'm really happy that I had some time away from it. I had read it so many times that I wasn't seeing how it could be better anymore. But now that I've been away, it's so clear, like, "DUH, STUPID, JUST MAKE THAT BETTER." Distance and patience are marvelous things I'm learning about.

So, I'll be making an effort to blog more, whether it's writing breakthroughs or links or just random updates on the consistency of Stuart's poop. It's the least I can do.


Follow Stuart on Twitter! (I know, I'm that person.)