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Boxed In

 

wpid-IMG_20140506_120606.jpgI’m sitting here amid a pile of boxes. We’re moving again – less than a year from the last move, but that’s okay because this is looking to be the last for a long while – but that reassurance doesn’t make it any easier to pack things up. Amidst all the non-packing, it dawned on me how much my choice in boxes says about me (and that it’ll be all out there for everyone to see as we lug things to the new place!).

The paper box. I scored this one from work, because I’m far too cheap to actually buy good, brand name, paper (Which, I suppose, was already implied by the fact that I refuse to buy boxes to pack my stuff in.).  None-the-less the paper box is a tribute to the grossly enormous amount of trees we use each month for art supplies, math, schoolwork, printing my babies stories, revisions… yeh. At 5,000 sheets per box, everyone will know we do something that involves paper.

Among the pile there are a few blank ones, the kind you pay for. Remnants of the last move. Uniform in size, scribbled on in kid-color marker with things like SCBWI (I’m a member, ran my chapter’s silent auction until this year), or one of the various initials to indicate someone’s belongings. J. C. N… tiny hints to who we are.

There’s a mounting homage to my addiction to online shopping and Amazon. Black and orange tape and little arrow smiles that promise… something. Mostly things we’ll need to re-pack, now. And that random Simon & Schuster box. It held delights for someone, but I’m sure I got it second-hand. Still, you can guess that I’m a bit antisocial (why else shop online?) and we like books (we do, half of what I’ve packed is books).

And then there’s the medical supplies. These say the most, I think. No-one will doubt what profession I work in. Drape Sheets. Exam Gowns. Syringes. The medical field, obviously. They might even figure out nurse, if they’re lucky. The boxes labeled with the oral contraceptives and condoms they once held may throw the casual observer, though. No, I’m not that sexy. I don’t buy in bulk, but I think my husband would love it if you thought we did.

These disposable parallelograms cut little windows into our lives for all to see.

Why Not?

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My friend recently gifted me with his candle making supplies. As he was trying to de-clutter, I really couldn’t say no, could I? Here even brought everything by, all nicely packaged in a crate, and dumped it in my dining room.

My daughter was entranced. Enough so that this child whom, for lack of an actual disorder, could be said to have a listening deficit, actually listened to the candle making instructions we were given better than I did. And my husband even brought out the family’s only remaining candle holder.

As his birthday is coming up, I took that as a hint.

Do my daughter and I set out to make small tester candles. I’d tracked my friend talking about coloring candles (in a non specific way, might I add. In fact, it was more like a general mention about having candles of color). I had some green food coloring laying around, so I figured ‘why not.’

I’m sure you see it coming. I probably should have used that nifty gadget we call the smartphone – or one of the four computers we have laying about – and done some research. But I didn’t.

Instead, I dumped an ounce of green food color into a pot of hot wax.

Now, food coloring, if you’re being all logical about it, is a water base. Wax is a lot more like an oil. So you can imagine how well that went. Suddenly I had unfriendly little lumps of green in my wax. I’ll mix them in, I foolishly thought. One well-whipped set of slightly not-white tea candles later, I wondered where the color went.

And then I turned them upside down to knock them out of the molds. I spent half an hour cleaning one ounce of dark green food coloring off my stove and counters.

But at least my kid loved them, even if they weren’t green.

Are we writing stories that we love or writing stories that will sell?

This question has come up a lot for me recently. First in the offer to submit a sample of my writing voice for the opportunity to essentially write novels some else devises. In the end, I chose not to participate. The second time was a friend starting that genre fiction wasn’t hitting the financial mark the way romance was for her. She loves genre but she stated she’d likely refocus on romance.

I think these questions are ones every quiet faces, at some point, and the question often comes out sounding a lot like this – do we write for love or money?

Can’t we have both?

Back when I was a full time nanny, a mom stated that she wanted her 4 children entertained, fed, schooled, etc and her 3,000 square foot house deep cleaned daily. I told her that she couldn’t have it all. Besides the obvious fact that this was a task she had to admit she herself couldn’t pull off, the reason I gave her was that something will always go wrong with the perfect plan. Someone will get in a fight with a sibling, have a potty accident, not understand their math homework, or any number of things and then you have to choose – which is most important?

As a writer, that’s a hard call to make. Most seem to split the middle – writing characters and worlds they love to fit the mold current trends indicate or a direction a publishing professional has suggested. Others accept they’re in it for the financial stability in a profession they love and turn their pens to manuscripts that wholly meet market demands. And some say fie to convention and write manuscripts that may never see the light of day.

The only ones who tread dangerous waters are those who can’t answer, for themselves, the question ‘what are you going to do when you can no longer split the difference?’

Darcy Pattison once talked to a group of writers I had the pleasure to be amongst about finding and recognizing the heart of your novel. This amounts to that one thing, no matter how irrelevant, you wouldn’t change about your novel for any price. It might be a name, or a random item lying on the MC’s kitchen table. I think the same should be true for writers careers. You should go in knowing what’s most important. This can mean ‘I must get in print at all costs,’ or ‘I must have traditional publishing.’ It could also mean ‘I must have an editorial agent,’ or ‘someone else must handle my advertising.’ But the real question we should face is: when the time comes is it: ‘my story my way’ or ‘paying the bills’ that will drive your career? Neither choice is any more right or wrong than the other, but facing that in advance well help you grow the career you need to find success.

Genderization

I’m a tomboy. We were homeschooled and lived on a large farm so – like it or not – I grew up playing guns & GI Joe’s as much as my brother grew up playing Barbies. I dig Star Trek, X-Men, action figures, and action flicks. Heck, even the romance novels I’ll willingly read have blood, tough chicks, and more death than kissing.

Clearly, like most if America, I don’t bat an eye when my daughter wants to play at being an Avitar (Last Airbender Style), or takes Fencing and Karate. I’m proud of my daughter’s wide range of tastes and the freedom to express those interests that the women before me have earned for her.

Heck, I’m clearly an all-around progressive kind of girl. I don’t care who you love, what you believe, or what you look like as long as you treat others with respect we’re cool. So imagine my surprise when I realize I’m guilty of gender pigeonholing.

It began like this:
My 8 year old daughter started watching My Little Pony a few months back. It’s safe to say its become an obsession. So when she saw the Tome of All Things Pony at Barnes & Nobles she had to have it. There was no way I was buying that thing so I made her save up the $22 herself. It took her a month and she about rushed the counter clerk – a kind looking early 20’s young man – to throw her money at him. And he was awesome. He rang up her purchase and took the crumpled bills with a smile. He knowledgeablely conversed with my child about her most beloved show, confiding in me that it was ‘a high quality show’ and that I’d be surprised at how popular it is with “young, college aged, men.” I nodded, politely, all the while thinking how much cooler I was. I mean – I like Star Wars and Sandman! I went straight home and joined the gaggle of people giggling at this subgroup of Pony fans – which, incidentally call themselves Brony’s (pronounced bro-knee).

And then I realized what I was doing. How is it fair that I, as a girl can enjoy high octane adventure but he, as a guy, can’t like a show that features magic and encourages compassion and consideration for others?

I was appalled at myself. But it’s not just me – in fact, the only one who didn’t think this guy was weird was my eight-year-old. Well, I’m here to say “Enough!” People should be allowed to enjoy things without having to worry about if it’s ‘too girly.’ I mean – what’s wrong with girly anyway? The Hippie Generation did a lot of good with Love and Peace. As did Ghandi. It’s just as okay to be ir like feminine things as it is to be or like masculine things. Period. No exceptions. Women and guys who like ‘girl’ things are not innately worse, lesser than ‘men’ or gay. They may be kinder, more thoughtful people in the end and that is exactly what I think this world needs.

Timing is everything

I’m an early person. This was molded into me at an early age by my parents – both of which did time in the military. In fact, my Dad used to say ‘if you aren’t 15 minutes early, you’re late.’ This made the teen year curfews particularly difficult, of course, and is the reason I’m standing in the dark outside a locked building.

Seriously, though, it’s become an issue. When we lived near Northern Virginia it was respectable, if not popular, to be a bit early. And then we moved to Houston. I got myself a few babysitting gigs and made some friends. I showed up on time. Everyone kept giving me these annoyed looks but I’ve been well trained and maybe I’m a bit dense – I figured it was something else, anything else. It took about a year of this, combined with my guests always being at least half an our late for me to figure it out.

And yet, here I stand, in the dark outside a locked building. Thanks Dad!

Deadly Good Read

Boy, have I got a treat for you! wwaf

This week, Nazarea Andrews upcoming book The World Without a Future released it’s awesome cover. This is my favorite kind of romance – post apocalyptic with lots of action, and tension that sizzles. Plus, it’s got ZOMBIES! (Because everything’s better with zombies, right?!)

The cover reveal comes with a pretty awesome give-away too – Nazarea is giving away a signed ARC, pack of trading cards, and 2 ebook copies (contest is international) to some pretty lucky people. You can find the contest here and add The World Without a Future here.

And now… for the really awesome 3-part prequel book trailer!

 

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My daughter – she’s 8 – is an artist. She spends hours drawing, her free time creating stories, and she loves it. And when she sees me create art, she wants to do the same. When I’m at writer’s meetings she asks to come with me or to have her own, when I’m formatting ebooks she wants me to turn her work into one. And recently, I did.

 

Like most new authors, Jade’s sensitive about her work. Critique, no matter how delicate, isn’t handled well. And she assumes instant success. These traits aren’t uncommon, and there are many times I think the writer’s process is truly about overcoming them. Learning that the negative can be good (even if it is still painful), coming to understand that success is never as easy as “build it and they will come.”

 

Jade wrote a picture book, I scanned it and turned it into a simple epub. You can buy it directly from the website I made her as a digital download for all of 99₵.She was aghast to learn that that’s pretty standard for a traditionally published author, and stumped why people didn’t flock to buy it after I alerted Facebook to its existence (although, to their credit, her Grandmama and Sissis did).

 

Jade didn’t, of course, get criticism. It was perfect from the start, and hearing anything else would send her into fits. And that was, of course, her first rookie

mistake. She didn’t realize that the characters were flat. She wouldn’t even think of changing her writing style so her 12 page picture book was less dialogue and more…picture-bookish. While her work was incredible for an 8 year old, it didn’t have mass appeal.

 

I intentionally let her make one other rookie mistake, one I see a lot of in the self-publishing/e-publishing/indy world. She built it, and waited for ‘them’ to come. “They” don’t exist. And they will never come. You can’t sell your work without having someone to sell to and, oddly enough, they aren’t waiting by your front door to see if you’re done yet. They don’t even know you exist or that they want to know you exist. You have to make them aware of that, and a couple of Facebook posts is never, ever going to be enough.

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