Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm a Loser Baby

I was lucky enough to win a copy of ‘Across the Universe’ by Beth Revis from the Operation Awesome contest last week and I have to say I’m SO stoked! 

You see, I’m not one of those people who usually wins at games of chance.  I never buy scratch tickets.  Because when I do, well… I never win. 

Or I win the exact amount I paid for the ticket back. 

Yeah.  Big woopdidoo.

No. In our family my husband definitely has the ‘winner’s touch’.    I’ve seen him walk into a casino, pull one slot machine lever, win 200 euros and then walk right back out.  He’s found fifty dollar bills while walking down the street.  Won 500 euros off a single scratch ticket.   He’s just got that magic touch.

I, however, do not.

That’s not to say I’m unlucky.  I’ve had luck in life, love, and everything that’s important.   But do I aspire to one day hit it big with the lottery and live out my life as a millionaire? 

Hells to the No.

People are constantly telling me ‘ you can’t win if you don’t play!’

And I respond- ‘Yeah, but I can’t lose either.’  I mean, really what it comes down to is- every time you buy a ticket and lose, you’re losing money!  And to be honest, I just know I’m not meant to win the frickin lottery. 

So when people compare breaking into the publishing business to winning the lottery, I can’t help but feel a little hopeless.  I can understand the analogy, really-  For every publishing house, there are hundreds of agents trying to kick the door in for their clients.  For every agent there are thousands of first time authors with a manuscript trying to get out of the slush pile. To make it from the bottom of the slush all the way to a book deal is pretty miraculous now a’days.  Yes, it has to do with talent.  But it also has to do with luck-  To write the right thing at the right time and get it into the right hands.

To be honest, when you’re looking at the situation from my standpoint, the whole thing looks pretty dire.  Luck doesn’t work for me that way, unfortunately.  Never has.    SO the only thing I can really rely on is my love of the craft, and persistence in what I do. 

The biggest difference is that when it comes to writing, I can’t lose.

 It’s something I love to do.  It’s at once a therapy, a form of entertainment, and that feeling of creating- of being productive that every human being needs.  Every time I write, I gain something. 

So basically, I’m playing a winning game no matter what. 

And I like those odds.


How about you?  Are you one of those ‘lucky’ people or are you a ‘loser’ like me?   How do you feel about the publishing business being compared to the lottery?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cover That Baby!

I gave birth to my first daughter, Lily, in the United States back in 2004 and my two other daughters were born here.  So I was fortunate enough to not only see the difference in maternity practice between France, and the U.S., but also the biggest differences in child rearing.

Now, don’t get me wrong -Modern French women are as up to par on health issues, science, child development, and current affairs as Americans are.

It’s their mothers that are the problem.

You see, different generations believed the common cold came about by various conditions in the environment, biggest ones being:

Air currents.  If I leave the door open someplace where there’s children, I’ll be sure to get the death glare from their grandmothers.  Everyone knows air currents cause colds!

Stuffy house.  Even today the government recommends we air out our homes on a daily basis.  This means opening every door and window to your house for a full 20 minutes in order to let out all the germs. 

Or let in new air. 

Or, as my mother in law explained- to let in the cold so it will kill all the germs.  (which still leaves me wondering why we’re expected to do the same in summer?)

In winter time, you’ve got to open each room separately and not all at once (or else you’d freeze your arse off) so, depending on how many rooms you have, it can become an all day affair.

In the summer time, even if it’s 100° degrees outside, you’ve got to ‘air out the house’, preferably in the morning.  Air conditioning isn’t already included in the construction of many buildings around here and it’s expensive to run.

Your head, neck, or feet aren’t covered.  Now- I grew up running around the woods and the hot concrete of our street barefoot.  I swear, by the end of summer, I could walk across lava rocks without flinching.  I used to affectionately refer to my soles as ‘Pocahontas Feet’.   And in winter I preferred going barefoot in the house.  Dressed in sweaters and turtlenecks, I found if my feet were too hot, my whole body’s too hot.  And I had always heard when it comes to babies you should ‘put one layer of clothing more than what makes you comfortable’.  And after a certain age, your kids can tell you themselves if they’re hot or cold, right?

However, my in-laws stared at me aghast when I’d step out of the house without shoes or socks for the first time.  And if they stop by and see my kids aren’t wearing socks, they’ll flat out tell them to go put socks on.  ‘You’ll catch cold!’  Even if it is warm in the house or the middle of summer.  I’ve tried to explain that colds aren’t caught from your feet.  Or head.  Or neck.  And they sweetly acknowledge this fact- but still insist that bare feet won’t help if there are germs about.  (Needless to say, I’ve given up this battle.  I don’t mind.  I know once they leave my kids will kick off their socks anyway.)

No matter the season, when walking outdoors with my children, they will be consistently ‘too covered’ or ‘not covered enough’ according to random elderly French women who stop me in the street. 

And to top it all off, should my kids eventually come down with the common cold.  (Which they do.  Several times a year.  Despite house-airing, current-closing, and sock/hat/scarf-wearing) – my in-laws generation was the ‘antibiotic’ époque.  So, when I come back from the doctors with one of the kids, they’ll ask ‘did they give her antibiotics?’.  And when I respond ‘No, they didn’t think it was necessary’, I’ll be privy to a nice rant on how doctors are inadequate now a’ days.

The French government is even trying  (in vain) to change this out-dated concept with their long running publicity ‘Antibiotics are NOT automatic’. 

But I don’t think it’s sinking in:)

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Your First

Well, after succumbing to cyber stalking for a short while, I realized that it’s time I turn my attention to more productive forms of playing the waiting game.

So, I’ve started dancing the hokey pokey with the first chapter of my new project.  The first five pages are always the slowest going for me.  It’s where I set up characters, relationships and setting and get a feel for how the rest of the story is going to play out, despite my already-written outline. 

Even though it only takes me about 8 weeks minimum to get a rough draft down, one week of the eight is spent on the first chapter. 

I swear- it’s an average of a page a day in the very beginning.  Why?  Well, my ritual goes something like this:

I knew even as I walked walk…  wait, is this present tense or past tense?

I know even as I headed  head towards the  Dammit!

I knew even as I directed our  click our group towards the…the...the...the what? Where the hell ARE they again?

Emily knew even as she…   oh dear god.

At this rate, I start to wonder how I ever managed to write an entire book in the first place.  Maybe the first three were flukes?  But then I looked back on the post I wrote when I began my third book and realized, this is just how it works for me!

The good news is, once characters, feeling, setting, and voice are in place, the thing usually skyrockets out of control and I spend most of my time running a second behind what my fingers are typing and struggling to bind the whole thing down to the original outline with steel wire so the plot doesn’t go AWOL.

So how does it work for you guys?  Stress first and then ride the tide?  Or go with the flow and then go back and adjust?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Feeling Like a CQG

Psych :  Tell me Creepy.  Why are you here today ?

Me:  I’m…a stalker.

Psych:  You’re stalking someone?

Me:  Several people, actually.

Psych:  I see.  And when did the stalking first begin?

Me:  *sigh*  About the time I got ready to query my first manuscript, back in 2009.  It started with little things,-  agent blogs, query submission guidelines, interviews, Querytracker stats, AWWC feedback,  etc…

Psych:  And now?

Me:  Now there’s this thing called twitter.  I not only know where my targets live and work, but how old their kids are, what they had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, who they’re meeting later in the day, what time they go to bed….

Psych:  And do you want to know all this stuff?

Me:  No.  Not really, no.

Psych:  But you keep checking their twitter anyway?

Me:  *burying head in hands*  yes!

Psych:  Why?

Me:  I don’t know.  I guess I keep hoping something along the lines of ‘I’m reading Creepy’s manuscript!  It’s the best thing I’ve ever read EVER in a million years.  I want to be her agent!’ will suddenly pop up.  You know,   I just want a peek!  -Kind of like getting an ultrasound to see if your baby’s gonna be a boy or a girl.   Except in this case it’s like the doctor has the doppler to your belly and keeps saying random things like ‘I’m looking at a baby.  I’m hungry.  Oh, the baby has a head!   And feet!  Does anyone want sushi for lunch?’

 I know it’s useless to keep checking.  But I can’t help it!  It’s become some kind of tick.

Psych:   I think you need to take a step back.  Be patient.  Eventually you’ll know what the agent thought.  And I can tell you don’t actually like checking twitter, blogs, facebook, and your email every five seconds.

Me:  You’re right.  I hate it!  But I’m so impatient! 

Psych:  I’ve heard that isn’t a very valuable quality in this business.

Me:  Yer tellin’ me.

My pseudo might be Creepy Query Girl.  But it's rare I actually live up to my name.  Lately though?  --I'm feeling like a total stalker!  Anyone else feel like a creepy querier sometimes?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sex Sells

The first time I sat down to watch French television I was:

1.  dissapointed (I couldn't understand a damn thing back then)

2.  surprised by the sexual inuendo in the most random commercials. 

Yes, the French take ‘sex sells’ to a whole new level.  Whereas it’s usually reserved for pop stars and prime time television in the U.S. -here sex is used to sell every day products, like….milk.

One of the first commercials I saw when I arrived here consisted of a couple of cute adolescents rolling around in the grass, making out.  Why? 

Because they drank milk, ofcourse!


Makes sense.

Then there’s coffee.  One of my favorites are the Carte Noir commercials.  Basically they all feature a young man and woman who have sexual fantasies whenever they sit down at a café.  (There must be a name for this condition)   Their bodies might be drinking java.  But their minds are doing all sorts of unseemly things.    

I was lucky enough to catch the back end of a publicity run for sugar when I first arrived.  The catch phrase was ‘Sugar.  Exterior sign of beauty’ 

Basically we follow a sugar cube as it rolls down a naked women’s body.  Then she plops it into her coffee.  (I know.  I had to be reassured by my French friends that it wasn’t common practice to rub a sugar cube on your body and then serve it to your guests)

But the most weirdest I’ve seen recently are for insurance.  A couple of people with dog faces (yes, they actually have dog faces digitally animated in place of their real heads.  Don’t ask me why) are about to get busy.  Sometimes it’s in a car.  Or a bed.  And then they’re interrupted by a man with a bear face selling them insurance.

Yeah.  I don’t get it either.  It's like a bad dream.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Diggin' Your Heels

There are certain moments in the process of writing where I find myself digging my heels in.

The first one comes when I’ve finished my initial plot summary and I know it’s time to start writing.  My idea is fully formed.  I’m already in love with a couple of my characters. 

But I’m afraid to start. 

It’s like I have stage fright.  My characters are all standing around, arms crossed and glaring at me like ‘are you gonna write this thing or not?  We’ve got stuff to do.’

Once I finally get over that hurdle, I LOVE the process. Writing a first draft is my favorite part.  It’s where my creativity can really flow, the story is new and continues to surprise me and I get to know my characters in and out.  Then before I know it, I’ve reached the final chapters...

 ...and come skidding to a halt.

I don’t want the fun to end.  Once I write the final chapters, my story will be OVER!  And then I’ll have to do revisions.  Ugh!  I take a couple days and deep breath and write them anyway.

The third pause comes after I’ve gotten feedback from beta readers.  I’ll be going through my manuscript thinking  ‘Oh, yeah, that’s totally true!  Doh!  How could I have not seen that before?  This is good.  This is gonna make a world of difference!’

And then I pause, fingers posed over the keys thinking  ‘Aaaaaand this is A LOT of work.

Heels in sand.

A take a few days, mull everything over and work in the revisions in my head from different angles before finally  gettin’ ‘er done.

Right now I’m dealing with the very first pause.  I’ve got a brand new idea, the plot summary is down and I need to start writing in order to advance the outline.  But I’m hesitating before the big leap.  Anyone else find certain stages in the process make you pause?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thy Name is Freedom

Hello little black four door French car.  
Thy name is freedom.

Up until now I’ve been borrowing my mother in law’s tiny French car, but since yesterday, I now have my very own to contend with. 

I forgot what it was like to have a vehicle all to myself. - It’s a used car, nothing special, and we’ll probably have to fix something on it before the year is out.

But it’s mine.

Which makes it just perfectJ

When I think about it, hardly anyone I grew up with got a new car for their sixteenth birthday. 

They got clunkers. – Their parents used cars, or something picked up at a junk yard sale.  (or maybe that was just me?)

It’s only after they’ve been driving for years, earned money and worked hard before they could get something right off the mold- something without dents or decay, paint that shines in the sunlight and an engine that gleams as though it’s never seen an oil spill.

(Yes, I’m totally comparing used cars to manuscripts, -in case you’re slow on the uptake.) 

It takes years to be able to sit down at a computer and pump out something that’s close to perfect.  For some people, it seems an impossibility. (-kind of like me ever getting a brand new car.)

Doesn’t mean we should stop driving.  No matter how much of a crapper you might think your car is, it still gets you where you’re going.  Just like every manuscript serves a purpose.  It might not be ‘the one’, but it will definitely keep you on your way.

And that concludes my succumbing to writing analogy addiction this week.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself!

Happy Monday people!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Under the Knife

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.  (Don’t you just love it when people start a conversation this way?)

The good news is that one of the agents who asked for a partial would like to see more!

The bad news is- she wants a synopsis .

Duh duh duuuuuuh!

(I find the creepy title image above really does it justice)

Now, whereas the query letter is pretty much mandatory- like a triple bypass for someone with clotted arteries.  The synopsis, for me, is more like having your wisdom teeth pulled- don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Not only is it painful and time consuming, but most agents don’t require one for submission now a days, so why put yourself through the torture unless you must?

Needless to say, my synopsis is a four page pile of suckage under the weight of which I am slowly drowning. 

So today, instead of my normal ‘living in France’ post, I’m going to pray to the writing Gods to help me turn my synopsis into something that won’t make an agent want to rethink asking for more. 

I may or may not make it out with all limbs intact.

Any tips?

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Did It All for the Nookie

Someone writing books strictly for monetary gain will never break into the business unless A:  They know someone.  B:  Are so talented, it’s retarded.  And C:  They have some love of the craft to begin with.

It’s incredible how many people I’ve told I’m writing a book who have turned around and said ‘wow!  You’re gonna be rich!


In a land where purple pixie puppies with unicorn horns fly around.

In our world though, writing is NOT the best way to go about making money.

Today I found an article on the book : 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reason Why It Just Might which pretty much puts in a nutshell why most of us are doomed.

Then, if that doesn’t make you want to tie a noose around your neck, there’s the article from Writer’s Beware Blog with links to information on how much first time writers actually earn here .

Now, I’m definitely not writing for the Nookie.  Although it would be nice to justify spending so much time in front of the computer with a little monetary compensation.  But then it occurred to me…I kind of am saving money by writing.

Book number one- eight months writing. 
Book number two- three months
Book number three- two months

So that’s 13 months- let’s say an average of two hours a day.

780 hours.

Well, that right there is 260 movies I didn’t buy tickets for! –about  $2,340!

52 dinner dates that I spent eating grilled cheese in front of the computer instead of going out to a restaurant -  $2,080!

780 hours spent without television, or lights on!  Let’s deduct 10$ a month from my utilities- $130

This is GREAT!  I'm getting richer by the minute!

So, in a 13 month period, I’ve gained from writing, a WHOPPING….

$5 an hour…L


That can’t be right.  Come on people, what else do we save on from all those hours spent in imaginary places?  I must have missed something!:)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Makes Me Wanna Hurl

There are a few different types of nausea, as most of you know.

There’s the ever intense ‘I ate something nasty’ food poisoning kind.

The ‘thief in the night’ stomach virus is a little less violent but will still throw you down for the count.

There’s sympathetic nausea.  (you know those people who puke if they see puke?)

Morning sickness.  Which really shouldn’t be called morning sickness but rather ‘all day for the first eight weeks of pregnancy’ sickness.  I found I also had an aversion to garlic and to Patrick Swayze’s one hit wonder ‘She’s Like the Wind’.
( When I was newly pregnant with our first, my husband kept playing that stupid song on my parent’s piano.  He’s one of those charming people who can’t seem to stop themselves from jumping on the first piano they see even though they don’t know how to play.  The opening cords to ‘She’s Like the Wind’ pretty much began and ended his repertoire.  -Ding ding ding ding ding.  Ding ding ding ding dingAt the last ding, my stomach would upheave right on cue. I finally begged him to stop.  The song still makes me uncomfortable to this day)

And then there’s the nausea that comes about whenever anyone in my entourage asks me ‘So! how’s it going with your book?’

Basically when I think about my third book out with agents, my heart drops into my stomach and the word ‘FAIL’ appears in large blinking lights behind my eyes.

It literally makes me sick to think about it. 

It’s my weak spot- The biggest thing going on in my life that I haven’t succeeded in.

 When I start to answer through the churning in my gut, the harder questions come- ‘Why aren’t you published yet?  I don’t understand why it’s taking you so long?  Why don’t you just submit to publishers?’

I honestly want to upchuck in their face. 

But I don’t.  (I don’t think I’d have a lot of friends left if I did)

 Instead I try and explain the system and repeatedly kick myself for having told ANYONE I see face to face that I’m an aspiring writer.   What was I thinking? 

Does this happen to anyone else?  Does talking about your writing to people who don't understand make you wanna hurl?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Take Me to the Movies!

I’m not a huge fan of French film.  Its not that they're not well-made.  It just seems the movies, like french musical preformances or art, is all about interpretation here--You know, the ‘feeling’.  The ‘deeper meaning’ of it all.  And I suppose that’s why they come out with so many dramas each year.  My friends and I used to say  ‘It ain’t French unless somebody dies!’.

Even their comedy is ‘dark comedy’.  Like, the poor (but funny) main character loses everything and dives to the depths of despair (in a funny kind of way).  If we’re lucky, they’ll get their happy ending and things will perk up (a little). 

But in most cases, he’ll just jump out a window.

Anyway, not all French film is looking for deeper meaning.  Like their American counterparts, some movies are made for entertainment value alone and since I like my movies about as deep as a kiddie pool, these are the ones I’m going to focus on today.  For all you fans of cinema, these French comedies are well worth a look in my opinion:

Jean-Phillipe- a mega fanatic wakes up to find the guy he idolizes never existed.

Podium- An impersonator of the 1960's popstar 'Claude Francois' finds himself competing for the right to do what he loves

L’Arnacoeur-  A guy who works as a professional ‘break up’ artist is paid to break up a mafia ringleader’s daughter’s engagement. 

LOL-  A coming of age movie about a girl named Lola.  I’d be messed up if my mom looked like Sophie Marceau too.

Tellement Proches- Hilarious but touching movie about a family living in the Paris suburbs.

Cleopatre-  Asterix and Obelix help the queen of Egypt build her palace in order to win a bet against Ceasar.

Bienvenu Chez Les Chtis-  a guy from the south of France is given a job up north and suffers culture shock.   Kind of like what happens when a Yankee goes to Georgia for the first time.

Moi Cesar- Story told by a little boy who's got a big name to live up to.

L’Auberge Espagnole-  A group of students from all different countries live together in a small apartment in Spain.

Some oldies but goodies:

Les Bronzés- a group of middle aged friends (think the cast of ‘Friends’, but..french) go on vacation together in the south.

Les Bronzés Font du Ski-  same group, but at a ski resort

Les Visiteurs-  Jean Reno plays a medieval knight who gets cast into 1993.

Go ahead and check these out if you can find them at your local blockbuster- then you can watch some mindless French comedy and brag to your friends on the side about your 'knowledge of French film'.  Das what I do, anyway:)

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What Tickles Your Fancy?

With each book, my writing method seems to define itself a little more.

For my first book I wrote a one page summary of the plot before beginning and tried to map out chapters in a notebook…but it was to no avail. - I totally pantsed the project in the end, letting the story go wherever it wanted.  It was a lot of fun but after all was said and done, I ended up with a 130k project that began with three chapters of back story, contained stiff dialogue, useless details, description and adverbs galore.

Now- this would be a dream come true for those who love to edit and revise.

Unfortunately, I am not one of ‘those’. - As president and co founder of the Revision Haters Club, my first project was a living nightmare.

Two years later, it still needs work.

With my second project however, I found myself writing a scene by scene outline without even realizing it.  Before I started writing, certain scenes would just come to me while I was driving or doing dishes.  Sometimes it would be a funny scene based on a small bit of dialogue. Sometimes it was an emotional scene to develop the plot or characters etc…  In any case, I wrote all the scenes down, everything I wanted to see happen in the book between the characters and then eventually sewed them into the plot, making sure each scene served a purpose.   

Once those were down, I had to do some actual brainstorming and find ways to fill the holes where there was nothing to move the plot along.

When I finally sat down to start writing, the outline helped so much because I always knew where I was going.  The actual process of writing a first draft went by a lot faster (two or three months rather than the eight months I spent on my first book)

The scenes themselves would often change or go in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.  The characters wouldn’t react the way I’d imagined in my daydreams and I never tried to force it in this case.  Often times I’d have to delete, rearrange, or flat out change the scenes in my original outline but I didn’t mind.  Despite trying to map things out, I still love the feeling of letting the writing go where it wants.  There’s nothing like it.

Now that I’m brainstorming a fourth project, the outline has become an essential part of my writing method.  I let the scenes come, let the characters form and become clearer in my mind while silently building  anticipation for the day I’m ready to sit down and let the fun begin.

What is your writing style?  Are you a plotter or a pantser?  If you’re a plotter, was it something you’ve always been or did it kind of creep up on you like me?  If you’re a pantser, how do you handle the revision process?  Has anyone done both and what  differences/ difficulties did you find with each?


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