Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Traditions: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Hi all! This will be my last post before the Christmas holiday, so whether you celebrate or not, I wish all the merriest to you and yours!

Now - let's talk holiday traditions. You know, the things you do year in and year out that are so ingrained in your holiday ritual that you could practically set your clock by them and go through the motions in your sleep.

My family is Italian, and one of the Italian traditions is to cook seven fishes on Christmas Eve, in honor of the Seven Sacraments.


That's my Grandma, fryin' up the fish
For as long as I can remember, we've gathered at my Aunt Linda's house on Christmas Eve to eat pasta with clam and shrimp sauce, and all sorts of fish of the fried variety. Because let's face it, everything is better fried.

We eat, we laugh, we sing, we dance (no joke, we all sing in my family. A party with us is like a live episode of Glee. Without the angst.) And for as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve has been my favorite day of the year.

The bad part? We all leave REEKING of fish - clothes, hair, everything. Nasty.

Since I got married, my husband and I have adopted 2 Christmas traditions:
1) Cutting down our own Christmas tree at Maple Row Tree farm each year


And 2) Hosting Christmas Day dinner at our house. And a couple traditions within that tradition?

2a) My grandmother and I make the pasta sauce together the day before Christmas Eve, because no one can rock a pasta sauce like my grandma and I'm not about to try it alone.

2b) My husband creates a schedule on a spreadsheet of everything that needs to be done/cooked for the day. Everyone makes fun of us, but when your house is tiny and you're working with one stove and one refrigerator, you can't knock the thing that makes it all run smoothly.

If I do say so myself, we do a hell of a job. Appetizer, anyone?

Those crescents are stuffed with feta. And the spinach artichoke
dip is to die for.

Oh and let's just take a minute to appreciate my husband's table setting skills, because I sure do:



Lastly, I've been seeing a new trend pop up that I think is hilarious, and that probably gave me the jump start I needed when my Christmas spirit was lagging behind.

I'm talking, of course, about Ugly Sweater Parties. We've all seen them. We've all secretly balked at someone for wearing them. But now, people are celebrating the ugly. Embracing it. Having contests to see who can take tacky to the extreme. I give you, peeps, my interpretation of the Ugly Sweater:


That's me on the right. And yes, you can call it ugly outright.
So tell me - what are your favorite holiday traditions?


Monday, December 19, 2011

Take the Anti-Douchebag Challenge!

I recently tweeted these words:

I strive for literary worlds without douchebaggery or cheesiness.

Deep, right? It's true, though, and the reason is that both of those things are two of my biggest Literary Pet Peeves.

Personally, I find it insulting when female characters throw themselves at boys who are jerks, and vice versa.Yet, so many stories seem to love this plot device. In the last story I read, the first time the female mc lays eyes on the male mc...

He flips her off.

Flips her off! And instead of responding with a hearty EF YOU!, she proceeds to follow him around like a wounded puppy dog because she's - yawn - inexplicably drawn to him and his hotness.

Just like the female lead in another novel I read, where the first conversation she has with the (hot, of course) male mc involves him being overtly inappropriate and aggressive, and progresses to him just "happening" to show up wherever she goes. And, go figure, she totally falls for him.

Did I miss something? When did the stalker and/or asswipe type become sexy?

This is why I must encourage you all to STOP THE MADNESS when it comes to literary douchebaggery!

Giving characters no real reason to fall all over themselves makes me so sad. I really don't care how hot he is if he's flipping you off or implying he might sexually assault you in your sleep. Have a little common sense and some self esteem and run in the other direction.

Is that crazy? Am I asking too much?

Then we have the other extreme: Cheesiness.

Don't get me wrong, I'm an absolute romance junkie, and usually the two go hand in hand. But in my opinion, they don't have to.

You know the moment I'm talking about. When two characters are professing their love and all you can think is, On no planet, in no lifetime would any person ever utter words so nauseatingly cheesetastic.

I mean, come on, Edward. Flying to Italy for a death wish because you "don't want to live in a world where Bella doesn't exist?" A wee bit over the top, no?

Again, STOP THE MADNESS!

Why can't characters just love each other? Why not let them have moments where they're disappointed in each other (without either one being a douchebag. Or at least recognizing and apologizing for if they are)? Why not let them have disagreements?

And then if they want each other in spite of it all, that's a REAL testament to how much they love one another - not some flowery speech about how their love burns hotter than the fires of Hell ('cause sorry, you'd incinerate), or the sun won't rise if you spend one night apart (it will) or how you'd still be able to hear them even in a world with no words and no way to speak (because, hello, you wouldn't. There's no words and no way to speak. Duh.).

So tell me - where do you stand on these issues? Is douchey the new hot? Would you like to see cheese obliterated, or am I just dead inside?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest!


Today is the Deja Vu Blogfest! Which means I get to explore a bunch of great new blogs, and I don't have to come up with an original thought for today!

Why?

Because the object of this blogfest is to re-post a favorite old blog post and that, my friends, is definitely something I can handle.

Or so I thought.

I couldn't pick just one, and as a result, I'm giving you options! Yay!

If you're seeking a helpful/writing related/commiserative post, please check out:

One Year Ago... What Not to Do with your First Draft

Or:

What Manuscripts and Hideous Pink Bathrooms Have in Common



And if you'd like to make fun of form rejections (because let's face it, if we don't, we'll cry) please see:

Share Your Favorite Rejection






Looking forward to checking out yours!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All I Want For Christmas...

... IS TO FINISH THIS DAMN BOOK!

Guys, I haven't worked on my WiP in about a week, and it's stressing me out. Yesterday I was seriously pondering the question asked in my CP Leigh Ann's blog post: What's the Rush?

And I was all, Hmm what IS the rush?

Now bear in mind that the question came on Day 4 of a four-day weekend, when I'd been away from the stress of my job long enough to have a false sense of free time (if shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, and running errands can be considered "free time").

Then Tuesday came.

Just one hour of being back in my office reminded me of exactly what my rush is: I want to do what I love.


I want to do what I love, not have to sneak it in in my spare moments, on borrowed time, and then feel guilty about it.
I want to create something that other people love as much as I do.
I want to feel insanely proud of myself.
I want to know what it feels like when people say that if you're doing a job you love, you never work a day in your life.

I don't get any of that from my day job.

So that, peeps, is my rush. Writing is so much more than a hobby to me, so being on Day 6 of Writing Drought where I've had zero time to get words down on paper, I feel like I'm dying a little inside. Funny though... I never feel that way about a six-day separation from job.

How about you? Do you ever feel like your very happiness hinges on the stories in your head? (And yes, I'm being intentionally dramatic.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The First Thing at Christmas That's Such a Pain to Me...

.... is finding a Christmas Tree

I hope you've all heard this song, otherwise my title makes no sense and I just sound like a huge Grinch.

I'll be honest. Last year I did not have any Christmas spirit. I had a miscarriage on December 17th, in the middle of Christmas shopping no less, and it ruined the holiday for me. This year I'm trying very hard to recapture the all-out fanatical zeal I once had for the holiday, but so far, between overpriced gifts, crowded stores, and shopping with The Gift Nazi my husband, all I've managed are a few brief flickers of enthusiasm.

It doesn't help that my query stats grow more and more abysmal by the day:
Queries Sent: 47
Requests for Material: 2 partials, 1 full - all rejected
Unanswered: 17
The rest? All big, fat R's

So, in actuality, I couldn't wait to go pick out a Christmas tree. Every year we go to beautiful Maple Row Tree Farm in Easton, CT, and to me it's like getting lost in a fairy tale. There are acres and acres of hills and ponds and trees of every variety, and the fresh air clears my head of all Grinchly thoughts. At least for a while.

I mean, look at it!




So what if we walked around for over an hour and I'm so badly out of shape that it left me sore?

So what if my socks were falling down inside my boots the entire time?

So what if no one wants the book I poured my heart and soul into? I'm writing another one!

For the hour we were there, that was honestly how I felt. And then we get the sucker home, and reality hits.


The stupid needles everywhere! My pain in the ass, Type A husband repositioning the tree thirty thousand times until it's perfectly straight and centered (and insisting I'm a terrible judge of both)! Those stupid, STUPID needles!

And exactly why did I kill a tree and drag into our living room when I could've been writing my neglected WiP instead?

Oh wait. This is why:


I suppose it's all worth it in the end. But yeah, my Christmas spirit still needs a few minor adjustments.

How about you? Are you full of Holiday Cheer, or could you use a jump start? (Or a trip to the tree farm?)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You Tell Me- Does This Suck?

So today I'm doing something I'm normally too chicken to do - posting an excerpt from my WiP.

This sort of goes along with the Let the Suck Flow theme from Monday. I often have moments where I wonder if I'm the only one who'd ever enjoy what I've written. Sometimes I crack myself up and I think, Geez, was that really funny or am I just insane?



It goes the other way, too. Sometimes I think something sucks, but it's really not so bad. So if this sucks, then this is me letting the suck flow. All I'm looking for is your honest opinion. Would you be interested in this book based on this one excerpt? Is it worth it to write the rest?

Let's set up the scene: my female mc Kelsey had a small mishap with a kitchen knife that landed her in the hospital, only to find out she may have a serious health problem. She's talking to her best friend David, who she's recently been having some more-than-friendly feelings for.  Here goes:

“Then what were you thinking?” David asked



I felt a lump form in my throat again, and I wished I’d had more sleep so I could switch off this annoying, weepy Kelsey and locate my backbone. “That I was scared. That I didn’t want my life controlled by some illness, and I didn’t want to be The Sick Girl. That I didn’t want to burden anyone. That—” I was dangerously close to crying now, so I tried to divert the onslaught by taking a breath and making a joke. “That I didn’t want to die a virgin.”


David laughed, a nervous laugh/cough combination that told me I’d succeeded in lightening the moment, and also making him slightly uncomfortable. “Wow. That’s, uh, that’s deep, Kelse.”


I shoveled more soup into my mouth for the sheer purpose of having something to do. Something told me he wanted to stay far away from this topic, so naturally, I had to pursue it.


“Wouldn’t you think about it? If you thought you might be—” My breath caught in my throat, and I had to fight to push the rest of my sentence out. “—Seriously ill? If you thought you might… never get to?”


He ran his hand back and forth over his hair and cleared his throat. “I guess.”


That’s when everything clicked into place like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. His fidgeting, his sudden change in demeanor, the guilty look on his face. David didn’t have to wonder what it would be like to die a virgin.


He wasn’t one.


I blinked. “Oh,” I said softly. It must have been the only word in my vocabulary at the moment, because I said it again. David’s ears turned bright red and he looked at the floor, the ceiling, anywhere but at me. I concentrated on breaking up a piece of chicken with my spoon, wondering if it had been Amy Heffernan who’d done the honors, or Isabel Rose, or some other girl I didn’t even know about. I wasn’t going to ask him. It was none of my business, and knowing wouldn’t have made me feel any less betrayed. I knew it was a stupid thing to feel, but it spread through my body like the flu nonetheless.

So what's the verdict?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Just Let Your Suck Flow


Wow, that title is supposed to be a play on "just let your love flow," but it sounds way dirtier than I mean it to.

Oh well. Anyhow, what I'm getting at is this: writer's block.

Whether you're a panster or a plotter, it happens to the best of us. Sometimes it comes in the form of staring blankly at the computer screen as your characters give you the silent treatment. 

Other times, you've written quite a bit - you just think everything you've written couldn't possibly suck any harder.

In the first instance, I find it helps to seek out inspiration. Listen to songs that remind me of my characters and the situations I've thrown them into, look at pictures from the locales of my novel. Or even just going out and getting some fresh air - i.e. getting away from my computer, because I'm at my most creative when I'm in no position to act on it.

In the other instance, I've found that it's not a bad idea to - you guessed it - let the suck flow. Nine times out of ten, when I've written something I think is god-awful, I'll go back to it later and have one of two reactions:
a) Wow, this really IS crap. But I think I can salvage at least some of it and make it better
b) Hey, this isn't so bad. Just a few tweaks and I should be golden.


In my case, writing something, anything, is usually more productive than writing nothing at all, even if I'm not 100% satisfied with what I've written. Chances are, I can either use it as a base for what I REALLY want to say when my brain is not mush, or it's actually nowhere near as horrendous as I thought it was.

How about you, peeps? How do you deal with writer's block? Do you benefit from letting your suck flow?