The Anxiety of Mornings After

Started working on a writing prompt tonight.

WHAT.

WHAT IS THAT FOX DID U RLY?

Yeah. Yeah I did.

(I’m already embarrassed!)

Am I the only one who goes through this?

Write something, usually at night. Sometimes fueled by too much coffee, occasionally fueled by a bit too much wine. Feel like it’s brilliant, feel SO GREAT ABOUT EVERYTHING.

bearhappy
LOOK AT ME I WROTE SOMETHING I AM A WRITER AGAIN AND EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL.

Then the next morning, I wake up, excited to read that masterpiece from the night before… Pour my coffee, put on some tunes, pop open Microsoft Word, and…

bearashamed
OH GOD HOW DID THESE WORDS COME OUT OF MY HANDS THAT MEANS THEY WERE IN MY BRAIN ALL ALONG AND WHY OH WHY OH WHY MUST I CONTINUE TO EXIST????

And that crushing emotion is usually followed by a desire to just slip silently away, applaud myself for not showing this to anyone before I came to my senses, and pretend I’m not actually trying to be a writer.

beardrunk
I’M STILL A WRITER YOU KNOW KIND OF AND BY THAT I MEAN I BRING A NOTEBOOK TO THE BAR IN THE AFTERNOON ON MY DAY OFF.

But why does this happen? How can I feel confident and excited and like I’m this lightning bolt of creative energy one night, and then just a few hours later feel like my kind-of-obsessive series of Pittsburgh Pirates poems from 1991 was significantly better than what I’ve just written?

True life, I have been crafting a letter to Richard Simmons because I know for sure he will write back and tell me he believes in me and he will help me believe in myself and then I can thank him in the liner notes of my first ultra-successful novel and then we will have wine time together in Beverly Hills every afternoon.

Except that I write like two sentences, I get as far as, “Dear Richard, I am a longtime fan and I think I need your help. I am very sad and have stopped believing in myself and I need you to believe in me please” and then I go really?? Really??

bearsosad
YOU CAN’T EXPECT RICHARD SIMMONS TO BELIEVE IN YOU IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN YOUR DAMN SELF.

(Bear is kind of wise sometimes.)

So anyway. How do I get over all this? How do I come to terms with the fact that although sometimes, I will write great stuff, sometimes, I will write terrible stuff, and that doesn’t mean that I’m a terrible writer and a failure at life and incapable of writing anything good ever again?

Stephen Kellogg told this really terrific anecdote at his show in Pittsburgh last November that his wife said to him once, “You’re an asshole.” And he said, “I’m an asshole?” and she replied, “Well, no, but you’re BEING an asshole.”

It’s semantics, sure, but it’s important semantics.

If I write something that isn’t my best, does it mean I’m a bad writer? No. It means I’ve written a bad thing, maybe, but it doesn’t instantly make me a ‘bad writer.’

I think that’s what’s behind this. I have this fear of being a bad writer. This fear paralyzes me. I’m so afraid of being a bad writer that I’ve convinced myself that nothing I write is ever good enough. Because I’m a bad writer. It clouds my judgment on everything. The second I write something that I’m not happy with, the ‘you’re a bad writer’ track starts playing in my brain.

So now, even when I write something that I think is good, the morning after, I wake up and remember that I’m a bad writer. And I know that what I’ve written is foolish and embarrassing and how could I possibly have thought this was funny or clever or interesting.

You’re not an asshole, you’re BEING an asshole. You’re not a bad writer, you’re just going through it right now.

RIGHT NOW.

Not forever.

Because it isn’t what you are.

It’s what’s happening at the moment.

And it might not even be happening for real. It might only be happening in your brain.

Because you’re crazy.

(Good crazy though, mostly; even Richard Simmons would agree to that.)

But if it’s just right now, it’s going to be better. You’re being an asshole, but you won’t be one forever. You feel like you’re a bad writer, but you won’t feel this way forever. Because you aren’t.

(The sheer amount of fragmented sentences and unnecessary capitalization in this post would beg otherwise, but, well… blog! Blog! the writer-explanation-equivalent of, Pirate!)

It’s going to get better.

bearinbed
Because let’s face it, the alternative of ‘staying in bed forever so that there aren’t any mornings-after’ is kind of not practical.

Does anyone else ever go through this? How do you deal? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

An Ambitious Undertaking: Now with More Orphans!

So, a few days ago, I was reading Buzzfeed, as one is wont to do for hours at a time entirely on accident. I’m sure it started with something like, ’42 Dogs Who Are Having the Best Ice Cream Sandwich Ever!’ and spiraled into ’17 Horses in Unflattering Hats!’ and before I knew it, I was reading the ‘Definitive Ranking of All 131 Baby-Sitters Club Cover Outfits. This was, quite possibly, the most majestic list ever made on Buzzfeed (and that says a lot, coming from a broad like me who falls into a Buzzfeed hole at least once a week).

But it got me thinking.

I need a literary or creative project to keep me motivated alongside working on my own personal writing. My husband, over the past two years, participated in this challenge called #NerdBery, where he read every single Newbery winner in chronological order. While he complained a lot through the 1920s, he otherwise seemed to enjoy the event. And I kind of have this addiction to reading Full House Reviewed, which is exactly what it sounds like, every episode of Full House watched and reviewed in chronological order.

And then, this definitive ranking of all outfits of all Baby-Sitters Club books?

So I did what any ambitious nerd girl with a desire to embark upon a project that’s probably bigger than she needs would do: I took to social media for advice.

If I was going to read an entire series of books that were popular in our youth (and this is, indeed, what I was setting out to do), which one should I choose? In the end, I narrowed it down to these options:

Baby-Sitters Club
Boxcar Children
Goosebumps
Sweet Valley High
Encyclopedia Brown
Saddle Club

Encyclopedia Brown was a little on the short end, and Saddle Club I just threw in there because, OMG I love horses. But the real decision came down to the top four on that list. The debate got a little heated, but in the end, we threw out Goosebumps

Ermahgerd
(mostly because all of my posts would be like this, and also because I greatly feared that books I thought were goofy as a pre-teen would be terrifying to me in my 30s.)

Apparently, there is someone else out there reading and reviewing the Baby-Sitters Club series. And I just didn’t think I had the patience to read Sweet Valley High, because, although I’ve never read any of them, I presume it must be like 140 typewritten volumes of the movie Clueless.

And also, it seems my friends are really emotionally invested in the idea of me reading the entire Boxcar Children series.

List
My friend William even went so far as to find me a checklist of all 133 books, in order.

Lucy's Ready to Read
And Lucy offered to help me read.

BoxSet
And then it turns out that the first twelve volumes were on super sale at Amazon…

Notebook
So, I made myself this fine-looking notebook (I couldn’t find a 1980s-style Lisa Frank notebook, so I made this one myself with dog stickers), and starting this week, I will be embarking upon the journey of reading all 133 original edition Boxcar Children books, and blogging about it here.

I haven’t come up with a definitive format or timeline yet. I think I’m going to see how the first 2 or 3 volumes go and then take it from there. It’s been a looooooong time since I read these books, but I can promise you that I will bring you the finest in survival skills that I learn, and also, that you will have to deal with me complaining a LOT about how my life is not as good as those of the Boxcar Children when I get to that volume where they move into the houseboat.

So, check back as the week goes on to see my progress. I hope these are just as wonderful as I remember them, but also with maybe some bad fashion mistakes like I’m sure the Baby-Sitters Club would have delivered.

The New Year – On Non-Resolution Resolutions

I aimed to take a like… week’s break following the end of a disastrous National Novel Writing Month… and I disappeared for over a month. Yikes.

NaNoWriMo was a bit of a mess this year… I spent a lot less time like this:

Fox & Katherine Writing

And a lot more time like this:

Not Writing

And admittedly some time like this:

Writing Under the Influence

But by the end of the month, I managed to hit 50k for the twelfth consecutive year. It wasn’t pretty, but it was done. As I mentioned here in an earlier post, I chose to write a serious world-building story about ‘good guy demons’ and a girl who unexpectedly becomes their queen on her eighteenth birthday. It has a lot of flaws, including the fact that the boy who was *supposed* to be the love interest you root for became a friend, and the boy who was supposed to be the sexy-but-not-perfect-match boy became the one you root for.

The pluses? I could conceivably turn this into a trilogy if I wanted to spend more time fleshing out the mythology and working on it. And most importantly: I hit 50k words of new material that I wouldn’t have written if it wasn’t for National Novel Writing Month.

Fox at the Cage

(And I had an excuse to go to the Cage like four days a week so I could write!)

But after the month ended, I crashed hard: creatively, emotionally, physically. I was worn the hell out. I barely touched writing (even in my blogs), and I didn’t even have the energy to pick up any editing on the project I’d started *before* November. I guess every so often you need that little break (which I’ll admit was full of lots of other fun things, like Christmastime).

But here it is now, the New Year, which sparkles and shines in such a wonderful way that you can’t help but *want* to make resolutions!

Unless you’re like me and hate the idea of resolutions, in which case the New Year makes you want to just give out a lot of hugs and smile and make lists about all the vague, non-specific things you’re going to do to make this year Fucking Awesome.

So, it’s *kind* of like resolutions, for those of us who are shit at sticking to plans.

My lack of willingness to use the term ‘New Year’s Resolution’ was the ultimate inspiration for 101 Achievements way back in 2009. I was so full of upcoming-new-year energy, but I couldn’t bring myself to do a ‘resolution,’ which has such a negative connotation anymore. And thus, the 101 List was born.

If I made resolutions, they would be like this:

~ Be more badass.
~ Clean all the things.
~ Keep up on photo editing (Full disclosure: this is like, the single biggest problem in my life. I can’t keep my pictures organized! And I forget to take some off of my memory cards sometimes! I just found like 90 pictures from 2012 that I’d forgotten about!)
~ Write like, all the time.
~ Stop flirting with boys (hahahahahaha).

And you can see how poorly I’d stick to all of those.

So this year, a friend of mine started this idea of 12 30-day challenges in 2014. No long-term ‘resolutions,’ just a list of 12 different challenges to attempt throughout the year. She invited any of us who are interested into a Facebook group for it to help keep us all motivated. Here’s my final list:

30 Day Challenges

Obviously, not all of my challenges are specifically related to writing, but a number of them are, and many of them are creativity-based as well. I thought this blog might be a good place to keep track of how I’m doing.

This month is a fitness challenge. It’s a long story I won’t get into on here, but I’ve been having some health issues lately that have contributed to the general feeling of no energy and some weight gain as well, so I’m trying to get back into the swing of things with what Trainer Mike has dubbed ‘NaSquaMo’ (that’s National Squat Month) and some cardio dance videos. Today was Day #1, and I did 30 minutes of exercise, plus my 50 squats, so I’m off to a good start!

As things start to settle down more now that the holidays are over, I’ll hopefully get back into creative pursuits more regularly, but I’m going to try to be forgiving of myself if things aren’t perfect right away. (And that right there is waaaaaay out of my comfort zone!)

So what’s everyone else feel about the New Year? Did you make resolutions? Anything creativity-related? I’d love to hear!

And here’s to a happy, healthy, creative, and Fucking Awesome 2014 to all of my readers!

Week 2 Just Sucks.

Welcome, my friends, to the shittiness that is Week 2 of NaNoWriMo.

The excitement of Week 1 has worn off. You’re probably pissed at at least some of your characters. It’s possible your plot did one or both of two things that plots are wont to do in Week 2: died prematurely or got completely out of hand. (If your plot got completely out of hand before jumping ship… well, I’m sorry that happened to you.)

So what do you do?

First, it’s okay to go through the stages.

Fox’s Four Stages of NaNoWriMo Week 2
as interpreted by Fox’s dog, Lucy


Complete despair. You’ll never write this. Never. You’ll never catch up. You’ll never figure out what to do about that plot hole with the wombats back in chapter two.


Anger. You hate your characters, your plot, your non-WriMo friends who aren’t going through this, your WriMo friends with better word counts, the man, flowers WHY ARE FLOWERS SO DAMN HAPPY ALL THE TIME THOSE JAGOFFS.


Panic. You know you have to keep going but how? HOW WILL YOU KEEP GOING WHEN YOU MUST KEEP GOING SO MUCH? Write all the things! No! Wait! The laundry! Oh, the gym! And they want you to go to work? But! The words! The words!


The Inability to Give a Shit. You just don’t care. You just want it to be December 1 so you can have your life back. You will do whatever it takes to get that purple WINNER bar, and you do not care what you must do, because you are now so emotionally uninvested in it that there is no longer any regard for quality, just for the magical number of 50,000. You will kill any character if it is convenient, you will write lengthy scenes describing outfits, and you will allow your characters to deliver monologues about their favorite Cure albums. You just do not care.

And then it gets better! It really does!

But how do you survive, while you’re suffering through the Four Stages?

Do something that isn’t writing, but still inspires you.

Like cooking! Cooking leaves you with a sense of accomplishment AND something to eat at the end!


The more you cook, the more hours you have an excuse for not writing!

Take a couple of hours to embrace your exhaustion.

Acknowledge that you’ve really been working hard, and even if your word count isn’t reflecting all that hard work, you might need a little mental break. And go ahead, dream about how fabulous your book is going to be when you wake up and start working on it again.

Be understanding of yourself that you might be acting a little strange.

Don’t totally freak out if you wake up in the morning to find that you’d had a Drew Barrymore in Mad Love style meltdown overnight and moved all of your gargoyle and dragon protectors right next to your bed. Remind yourself that all the best authors were truly crazy, so this is just part of your process.

Go out with your fellow WriMos

Commiserate with them about plot holes and word count distress. Get completely off topic and don’t get a word of writing done at a Write-In, but walk away from the event with a thousand hilarious quotes and at least one really awesome picture like this.

Ease back into the writing.

Maybe start with a blog post, or some writing in your journal, just to get the hang of things again. Maybe brainstorm a little before getting back into the meat of the story. Just go casually into it.

Return to your happy writing place.

When you’re emotionally ready, head back to your happy writing place, and settle in for a few hours of hard work. Play the jukebox, wear your favorite outfit, maybe bring along a friend who will keep you on task but not distract you *too* much. Sit down and power through some words until you’re feeling more confident.


And before you know it, you’ll be looking like this when someone asks how your novel is going. You’ll tell them, “It’s just fine, and I can’t WAIT for Week Three to get here!”

YOU CAN DO IT. STAY STRONG OUT THERE, WRIMOS. WE ARE ON OUR WAY.

Fox’s Easy Guide to the First Week of NaNoWriMo

Why hello, readers! Bet you didn’t think you’d see little ol’ *me* again this soon!

(But a promise is a promise, and a promise made that distracts me from my word count is *always* a promise kept.)

So as promised, I’m here to chat a little bit about my favorite month-long endeavor of the year, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). Briefly: NaNoWriMo is a month-long event held each November in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel across 30 days. (If only I could sum up my novels that succinctly, I might actually get work as a writer!)

I’ve been participating since 2002. Oh yeah. I’m one of the oldies (it started in 1999). And since this is my twelfth NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share some of my sage wisdom expert tips for procrastinators throughout the month. Without further ado, Fox’s Easy Guide to NaNoWriMo.

So you’ve decided to embark upon a 30-day quest to write 50,000 words about something or other. Where do you even start? How do you even take the first step and get those first words down?

(First of all, you wait until 12:01am on November 1. I am a real stickler about that! NO CHEATING!)

Ahem. Prior to November 1, you are welcome to do all the planning, outlining, playlist-making, etc. that you want.

I mean. You *could* do that. If you’re one of those overachiever-types.

Fox’s Step #1. Stumble blindly into the month with only a vague idea of plot and/or characters.
I’m not even kidding here. Yes, you can spend hours and days planning for this month, but where’s the fun in that? If you’re like me and can only function under pressure of seemingly-insurmountable deadlines, staring blankly at your computer screen at 12:01am on November 1 is not the worst thing. If you can plan ahead, do it. But if you’re not a planner, don’t panic. You’ll be just fine.

I like to get a general idea of what world I’ll be writing in.

Fox’s Step #2: (Kind of) know your world.
Okay. So you don’t have to have it nailed down, but a basic idea of like, genre, or world, is a good first step. I like to write (badly) about ghosts a lot. One year, I decided it was time to go for broke and write the thinly-veiled Labyrinth rip-off I’d been dreaming of since age 13. This year, having exhausted ghosts, guardian angels, spirit healers, Death’s intern, Death himself, and a not-really-evil Goblin-king-esque hotty-villain, I decided to write about good-guy demons.


(Because out of all the comic book heroes out there, I identify with Hellboy the most.)

Fox’s Step #3: Accept your limitations.
For me, my number one limitation is world building. That’s why the Labyrinth-style fantasy crashed & burned so badly. Yeah, I made it to 50k, but will I ever go back and polish that thing? Probably not. Unless I’m super rich and super bored and have found a way to hire Guillermo del Toro to help my sorry ass out.

In general, I know that the less world-building I have to do, the faster the story will move along. I am absolutely that girl who will spend 43 minutes trying to figure out the name of that animal who’s like, part person, part horse, and probably a butler (it’s a faun, by the way, looked that one up for 43 minutes in 2010).

In the event that I will be faced with some world-building, I accept that I’ll have to do some research. So, yeah, my working knowledge of goodguy demons is limited to what I know of Hellboy. With that in mind, I set aside some hours for reading comics and fumbling around my husband’s iPad trying to read about the daily habits of fallen angels and gargoyles and succubi.

Fox’s Step #4: Find your happy writing place.
Every writer has both a place and a time where she is most productive. I’m a late-night kind of gal. My husband used to write at 7am (ughhhh and not just because he’d stayed up all night to get there, either). When I was in college, I was partial to this weird little alcove on the second or third floor of the Cathedral of Learning where it was freaking FREEZING and I had to write in mittens, but where I felt really inspired.


Ideally, I would spend all of November on a train. I get some of my best writing done while traveling, particularly on train trips. But since that’s not exactly practical, it’s important to find a local place that keeps the same hours as you.


I’m partial to this dive bar up the hill called the Squirrel Cage. Cheap drinks, good bartender, nice tables, and no one cares if I’m there sipping vodka and writing for hours, whatever time of day. Oh! And I can play the jukebox from my phone without even having to get up from my seat!

(Which brings me to my next point…)

Fox’s Step #5: Get the right soundtrack.
Okay, I’m a mixtape broad through and through, but I think the right soundtrack is important to all writers. It’s a good idea to keep building it throughout the process of writing your manuscript. I almost always make my characters their own mixtapes, but often I’ll start out with just a list of songs I’m kind of into at the time that fit the mood of what I’m writing.

Pro-tip: Sad songs are almost always the right choice.

Some bands who are always in my rotation include The Cure (bonus: you can find endless hours of Robert Smith remixes to keep things fresh!), Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Ryan Adams (both with and without the Cardinals), and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If I’m feeling uninspired, sometimes I like to put on my characters’ mixtapes and drive around after dark to get me pumped up. Take notes of any song that you hear in your daily life that makes you feel even remotely inspired and put it together when it’s time to write.

And finally,

Fox’s Step #6: Identify your allies.
Sure, writing is a highly personal thing. And I’m not saying, by any means, that you have to share what you’re writing with another soul until you’re fully ready, but it’s important to have people you can rely on to help you get through the month. The first time I did NaNoWriMo back in 2002, we didn’t have forums and Write-Ins and all that we have now. We had me, and my friend Christine, and AOL Instant Messenger at 3 in the morning. (I didn’t even have a laptop to go to the Cage! Nor was I old enough to yet anyway, but that’s neither here nor there.) My point is, I would never have gotten through that first year without our late night messages of ‘IT’S 3AM, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR PLOT IS???’


You need to have someone who will leave you Tweets like this when you are feeling lost and alone in the noveling world (even if that person is your creepy co-ML).


I also like to stock a healthy supply of photos of my friends & family members looking at me disappointingly just to keep me on my toes and remind me of what I’ll have to face in real life if I let them down by not hitting my word count.

And if you can get a handle on those first 6 steps, you’re going to make it. Will it be easy? NOPE! And we’ll get to that, and we’ll get to it plenty in Week 2. But if you have an idea where you’re going, and know where to go and what to listen to when you get there, with your friends at your side (WriMo and supportive non-WriMo alike), you’ll get through November just fine. Trust me on this one :)

The Return of the Fox

First things first, can we just agree that any time I post in here, there is an assumed paragraph that’s basically like:

~ Sorry I’ve been away for so long!
~ Things have been busy!
~ I promise I’m going to write more often starting now!

so that I can stop *actually* starting with this?

That being said, of COURSE right now is the time I choose to resurrect the writing blog – it’s November! And what’s November, you might ask? Why, it’s National Novel Writing Month! And what’s NaNoWriMo? Why, it’s the month I’m supposed to be writing 50,000 words in 30 days!

So of COURSE I’m going to resurrect my writing blog instead of working on my word count!

(Pro-tip: those of us who participate in NaNoWriMo – WriMos, if you will – are expert procrastinators.)

This is my twelfth NaNoWriMo. I’ve written about it a little before, more so about my duties as ML, or Municipal Liaison, which is my role as Den Mother of the Pittsburgh region each November.


(Spoiler alert: I have two amazing Co-MLs this year who are making my life SO MUCH EASIER.)

But I haven’t written much about the writing part, itself. And the writing part is the most fun!

Don’t get me wrong: I love planning events and all that.


(Even when they’re enormous and give me panic attacks!)

But even more fun than being an ML is being a participant. I LOVE Write-Ins, I love nonsense Twitter threads that keep us up all night working on our word count. I love scrambling for plot ideas. I even kind of love that moment where I decide to throw caution to the wind and let my characters wander around the touristy sites of Boston just to up my word count by a few thousands.

And so, in a two-fold attempt to both make me commit to writing in here and start bringing interesting content to this blog, I’ll be talking a lot about NaNoWriMo this month.

Because let’s face it: I may not be full of information on how to get published or be a famous author (yet), but I *am* totally good at giving advice on how to write in pretty much any situation and get up to 50,000 words across a 30-day period under any life circumstances.


I’m the girl who writes during the setbreak at concerts. I mean, really.

So pop on by again tomorrow for my first official NaNoWriMo installment. Why not right now? Well, it *is* November, after all, and I’ve got my word count to attend to! :)

She Had Everything (Except Relatability)

There’s a great line of Tweets going on right now started by agent Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) with this Tweet:

In response, people are submitting better ‘she had everything’s, some of which are hilarious, but all of which are more interesting and, I think, relevant.

I was actually surprised to see that there are apparently tons of people submitting queries for books that begin with that premise. Unless you’re trying to sell the next Disney princess novel (and even those gals typically start out with nothing in at least the wealth department), I can’t understand why you think the average teenage girl wants to read about a beautiful rich girl’s problems.

Okay, say I start reading about this lovely, rolling-around-in-her-dollar-bills-rich-Uncle-Scrooge-McDuck-style broad. I don’t relate to her to start with because


#1 I am about as dainty as a rhinocerous and


#2 I clip coupons for the grocery store so I can afford to buy more wine.

What, then, shall draw me into this story?

I’m guessing it’s that she’s searching for true love. I’m guessing that I’m supposed to relate to her because, even though she can pull off jeggings and I can’t, and even though she doesn’t have to plan ahead to afford a trip to see an out-of-state Dave Matthews Band concert, she’s moping around in coffeeshops listening to the Cure and hoping to meet a really cute, thoughtful, artsy boy (who may or may not be a vampire/shapeshifter/warlock/etc.)

Because hey, okay, I’ve been there. (Pro-tip: it is pretty unlikely that the cute, thoughtful, artsy boy is also a vampire. Just sayin’.)

But maybe it’s just me (and it’s possible that it is), but if you set your story up by telling me that your heroine is hot and never had to spend a summer working in an office for a weird old man named Marvin, I’m going to kind of resent her. I’m going to shout things at the pages like, “LISTEN HERE, DON’T YOU TELL ME HOW HARD YOUR SEARCH FOR LOVE IS UNTIL YOU’VE TRIED BALANCING IT WITH WORKING RETAIL DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON YOU WUSS.” (I will not go into the long rant that I have stored inside of me reserved for girls whose main problem in finding love is that ‘everyone loves me and I just can’t choose one!’)

I don’t know about the average reader, but I want my heroines to be messy. I want someone who comes from hard knocks, someone who just flat out sucks at pairing accessories, someone who knows just what it’s like when a customer throws something at you (it’s really, really shitty, just in case you were wondering). I know I talk about Carrie Bradshaw all the damn time, but she’s an excellent example: she starts out broke and awkward, and she does things that make you yell at your TV (don’t do it Carrie!), but also all the while make you say, “Oh no, that’s SO me!” Like most of us have probably never thrown chicken wings off of our boyfriend’s rich parents’ balcony, but most of us can say, “If I was in that position, that very well may have embarrassingly happened to me.”

So I’m surprised that there are so many people out there trying to market the ‘she had everything’ lead-in as ‘she was gorgeous and rich.’ To me, it’s not giving your heroine the fighting chance for fullness of character that a girl who comes from struggle has (Katniss Everdeen and Puck Connolly, I’m looking at you, you fabulous broads!).

This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions to this rule: I recently read the book Mystic City, which starred a rich, hot gal with seemingly everything going for her, and I loved the book. More on that one later (I’m planning to do a full review), but it was a good example of someone whose wealth and place in a corrupt wealthy society are the things that limit her and have to be overcome. It also had a good mystery going on that kept things interesting, too, but it was one of those times when I felt actual sympathy for the poor little rich girl and not annoyance.

But I think those books are the rarity for me. Give me a Carrie Bradshaw who drinks too much sometimes and drops a hymnal off a balcony while spying on her boyfriend at church. Give me a Katniss Everdeen who shines as the underdog and actually gets more awkward when money falls her way. Give me the girl who has everything: a barely-running pickup truck, the entire Cure discography on vinyl, and a kind-of-deadly family curse.

(Oh. By the way. I’m back! Long time no see, readers!)

Christmas Came Early!

Oh yes, that’s right, days before my favorite holiday of the year, Christmas arrived on my doorstep.

A few weeks ago, I randomly stumbled onto a Tweet mentioning a blog doing a YA book giveaway. Since I’m always looking for new YA books to read, and especially since that little train-time pledge to be more dilligent about posting here and reviewing books I read, I checked out the blog and entered the giveaway.


And I won!!!!

(I am totally the type of girl who NEVER wins anything, so this was extra exciting.)


The giveaway was from the lovely ladies at Short and Sweet Reviews, a review blog that specializes in concise-but-informative book reviews (which I find great in my time-strapped life).


I got five books in my first shipment, four that I had picked out of a list that Coranne emailed to me, and a fifth that was a surprise, based on what my other selections were.


Even Lucy was excited for this special delivery (she’s more interested in how books smell than what they’re about, but I appreciate her enthusiasm anyway).


A day or two later, a sixth book arrived, and I am now fully set with reading material for quite a few weeks! I’ve already read one book out of this package (Various Positions by Martha Schabas), which I loved and will be reviewing here shortly.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out Short and Sweet Reviews – they’re doing all sorts of giveaways right now, so you could be the next one to receive a stack of books in the mail! Thanks again, ladies!!

A Little Inspiration

This is me, holding myself accountable to the goal that I set of updating this weekly.

It’s tough, because right now is the moment when I want to drop off the face of the earth and hibernate from everything that takes even the tiniest bit of effort. And I think the point is, that’s when I should be pushing myself to do something.

After the end of NaNoWriMo, I’m feeling rather uninspired. I haven’t felt like dragging my notebook out to the bar or the coffeeshop. I tried blogging at 101 Achievements, and I felt like I almost forgot how. I haven’t sent a query, haven’t really done anything creative besides work on a Christmas present I’m making my husband (which, incidentally, is making me an anxious, uninspired mess) and read some YA books that leave me feeling, ‘Why can’t I have that?’

(The answer to ‘why can’t I have that’ is kind of simple, at least so far: because I’m not doing anything to really go anywhere. If I wind up failing after trying and trying, that’ll be something different. But now, I’m not even going the distance of making attempts, so NO WHINING, FOX.)

Oddly enough: December is generally my favorite month. But this year, I just can’t even get excited about it. Yes, I blame Pennsylvania weather mostly (we have been having torrential downpours and NO SNOW), but I have just been feeling like I’ve come down with an acute case of the severe blahs, and I need some inspiration.

Back when I was in undergrad, the creativity just flowed out of me like this December rain has been flowing over our clogged gutters (true story: I, the girl who can’t keep a cactus alive, has managed to allow a small tree to grow in my gutter, which is too high for us to reach ourselves). I was writing daily, sometimes a couple of times a day. I never left for the library without bringing my journal and my writing notebook to pull out during study breaks. And my beat-up writing notebook (which I still have) was full of lists, which I would write in these fantastic multi-colored pens.

My favorite list: “Things I Like.” My second favorite list: “Things that Inspire Me.”

“Things I Like” was a long list to which I was constantly adding. Some highlights: horses in full gallop. the way shiny pages feel. the sound of walking on gravel. running and then diving into bed. strangers that remind me of people i love. calling bartenders ‘darlin’.

The notebook is also full of half-sentences and unfinished thoughts and ideas that struck me on the way to class. There are writing prompts, a detailed list of funny events that happened on an overnight drive to Boston, and this group writing project from 2003 that features zombies, lactose-intolerant llamas, and Roddy Piper.

The last time I wrote in the notebook was 2009, shortly after I finished my first draft of Death & Biology and was starting to really get into the mythology of the supernatural side of the story. And then… that’s it. D&B has its very own notebook, and the fact is, outside of blogging and NaNoWriMo, I don’t write much besides it. And then, of course, is the fact that I feel so uninspired at present anyway.

The things that inspired me and made me feel alive in 2003 are very concrete, very accessible, and even now, a decade later, I can feel the magic of those things when I read the words written in five different colors. But what about what inspires me now?

~ writing in hotels
~ overnight train trips
~ scrawling in a notbeook at a dive bar
~ my Zen-space at Phipps Conservatory
~ under covers with a good book on a cold night
~ being in the woods
~ every significant snowfall ever
~ listening to Disintegration over and over and over
~ leaving it all on the floor at 80′s Night

How do I let these things slip away from me so easily? How did I go from the girl who was always scribbling something in a notebook to the girl who is so wrapped up in Matters of Consequence that she uses laundry as an excuse to put off working on her book?

As ‘grown-ups’ (and I use the term loosely, as last night I found myself getting jealous of our friends’ babies who will be receiving stuffed bears from us this Christmas – I probably like stuffed bears even more than those babies!), it’s so easy to get caught up in the shuffle and forget what really keeps us solid, keeps us grounded. And for some of us, what keeps us grounded is having our heads in the clouds. Sometimes, going after what we want means going wherever our heart manages to launch us.

And sometimes, making it in this world full of Matters of Consequence means holding onto a little black beat-up notebook that’s home to some really important words.

December Resolution time is upon us (which I’ll be talking about in a later entry – ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ aren’t really my thing), and I’m going to make one now: bringing the little black beat-up notebook back to life. Bringing back a list of inspirations back to life. Bringing that side of me who’s never too exhausted to wake up and write down that dream detail that might be important in a story ten years from now.

(I think I still even have those pens.)

The Strange Stillness of Midnight, December 1

Why, hello, December. I didn’t see you sneaking up there. It’s not very polite, you know, sneaking up on unsuspecting girls like that.

There’s always something strange about the way that midnight on December 1 feels. I know it’s not the impending holiday season magic, because for me, that starts the week before Thanksgiving at Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night. And I know it’s not the impending drama of trying to finish everything we haven’t finished on 101 Achievements (although ‘strange’ could definitely describe it).

No, the strangeness that hits at midnight on December 1 is definitely the stillness of the end of NaNoWriMo. At midnight, all typing ceases (except the excited posts on social media about being done), the weekly Write-Ins are a thing of the past, and you get that feeling that after the TGIO Party, you might not see some of your favorite people for the next 11 months.

But mostly, there’s the feeling of what now?? that hits. This was my 11th season of National Novel Writing Month, and I still feel the same as I did way back on December 1, 2002: what am I going to do with myself?

Of course, the answers to the question, ‘what am I going to do with myself now that I’m not trying to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of 30 days’ are plentiful:

~ Catch up on housework
~ Go out dancing
~ Get back to the gym
~ Stay up all night working on Rock Band drum technique
~ Update my blogs
~ Review things on Yelp
~ Sleep in
~ Stop dragging my laptop to karaoke and actually socialize with my friends there
~ Start working on Christmas crafts for my family

(Oh, and perhaps most importantly: GO BACK TO WORKING ON THE BOOK I’M TRYING TO PUBLISH.)

But it still feels weird. I feel a little strange not obsessively updating my Excel Spreadsheet that tracks my daily word counts. (Yes, I am the nerd who keeps that spreadsheet.) I miss refreshing Twitter to see when the next NaNo Word Sprint is starting. I woke up on a Sunday morning and didn’t have to cut and paste a massive list of Write-Ins and events for the week to send out to my WriMos before rushing off to work. And I don’t have any reason to not do laundry!

This year’s NaNoWriMo, in writing-terms, was made of fail. Yes, I hit 50,000 words (and I hit it a full day early this time, finishing just before midnight on 11/29), but it was a struggle to get there. What started out as a really promising idea became a lot of filler scenes while I tried to get the characters’ voices and personalities just right. But even that is an important lesson learned: world-building fantasy stories, for me, are not for the pressure of ‘get it written!’ time in November. While I think I may someday go back and revisit this novel for editing and polishing, I think it’ll be near the bottom of my list, when I have a LOT of free time (it’s still above my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel, although by how much, I can’t be sure).

But the month itself was a success. We had a bigger turnout for our Kick-Off and TGIO parties than EVER before in the 5 years I’ve been ML’ing (holy cow, has it been that long?) and certainly in the 11 seasons I’ve participated. We had a really awesome ‘writing under the influence’ night out at a bar/restaurant in Monroeville. I have gained more new Twitter pals than I would have thought possible over a 30-day period, and we’ve actually made Facebook groups in the hope of *not* having to wait 11 months to see each other again.

And so, when midnight hit on December 1, there was a little twinge of sadness in my heart. Yes, I was excited to have hit 50k and finished, and yes, I was excited to get back to doing all those *other* things I do in my life (except the laundry), but as much as I want November to be done while it’s going on, I also want it to never end. NaNoWrimo has been an important part of my life for over a decade now, and while it might just lose its magic if it was more than once a year, I still wish I could grab every minute of November 30th and stick it there in time so it didn’t end.

For now though, I’ve got to make the most of my non-NaNo time and keep polishing and querying and blogging here. I’ve got to leave behind Daniel and Jani’s world (sorry guys, your world was kind of lame, although I admit that one was mostly my fault), and dive back into Bridget and Alex and Simon’s world. And I’m happy about that, but I’m also sad. Because, you know, you can be both.

But right now, there’s one more thing on my NaNoWriMo plate, and that’s sending the month off as we started it: at midnight, with some of my favorite people. TGIO Party 2012 Round 2 starts in an hour, because sometimes, you just aren’t ready to fully say goodbye at midnight on December 1.