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Happy New Year!

I haven't made any resolutions yet. How's that for procrastinating?

For the last two years, I made some rather specific writing goals, at least for me, anyway. One year I was going to publish four stories. To double my publications from the previous year. Didn't make that goal. Okay, so I renewed that goal last year. I came close. I had three publications. When it became clear my last story wasn't going to be accepted, I took a side road and decided last minute to do NaNoWriMo. I got it done. It was crap. But that was the point.

So now, I am trying to decide what my writing goals should be this year. Should I finish the book, pitch it a few times just to learn from the (almost certain) failures? Or do I go back to trying to publish four stories? Of course, many people out there have the ability to do both. I salute you. You guys are totally awesome, and I wallow in envy of you, promise.

I have seen people work exceptionally hard at a book, get one rejection, and throw in the towel. I don't want to be that person. But boy howdy, do I get it. To work that hard at something, give it your all, and have it turned down for some reason or another, man, how do you NOT take that personally.

I am going to live in optimism. Whatever happens this year, I will learn from it. Whether I produce anything or not, I will learn from it. But now, it's time to get cracking.

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My take on NaNo, one of many, I'm sure

So, I did NaNo this year. And you can’t tell me you haven’t heard of NaNo. No? Really? Oh boy, here we go.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which happens every November. NaNo is the ‘put up or shut up’ of writers. Many say “I’m going to write a novel,” but then never do. So the challenge is to write a first draft of a novel in a month. At least 50,000 words. It grew from a small group in San Francisco several years ago to a global event, with several thousand participants. nanowrimo.org, if you want to learn more.

My reason for participating may seem, I don’t know, cheap. I had a goal this year. Publish four items. Four. Well, in late October I learned I wasn’t going to make that goal. I’ve got three. A guest blog post, an article in an e-zine for May of this year, and a short story in That Mysterious Woman: A Shaker of Margaritas Anthology. (It really is an excellent book, you should get a copy.)

So, since I wasn’t going to make my publishing goal, I took the sideways road and decided to do NaNo. Something I haven’t done before, and I wasn’t in charge of Thanksgiving this year. Something I always said I would do when the kids got older. Well, they are older. All roads led to NaNo.

I was already familiar with the local NaNo group, as I have joined them on write-ins previously, and they graciously allowed me to sit at their table in the coffee shop, even though I wasn’t actively working on a novel at the time. So joining this year wasn’t difficult.

Here’s where I have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff. When I became a writer, I read a lot of advice on what makes one a ‘real’ writer. Writing every day, whether you are in the mood or not. How Stephen King gets twitchy if he can’t write regularly. You get the idea. Based on that advice, I was found wanting. I didn’t write every day. I wrote when I had the time and the motivation. And I stuck to short stories. (I still think of myself as a real writer, and I won’t let anyone tell me different, thank you very much.)

50,000 words in a month is an achievable goal. It averages out to 1667 words per day. Many people pass the finish line at the end of the month and can say yes, I did it. Many others pass the finish line and can say yes, I wrote more than I would have, even if I didn’t win. And in case anyone is wondering, nobody throws a parade for completing 50,000 words. It’s just one of those personal pat on the back things.

I cheated.

The word count is God in November. It’s true. Now, some writers have the ability to stick to what they are doing the entire month, know how to plan novels, and have the kind of focus needed to keep a plot quasi-going. I, however, do not fit into this category. I’m a pantser. Which means that many times during the month, I got lost. My characters wandered around, had goals, but weren’t really sure how to achieve them. So, I cheated. Some days were completed by journaling. Writing something that had nothing to do with my story. Because that isn’t the point of NaNo. 50,000 words is the point of NaNo.

So the first thing I learned is that I need to learn how to plot better. Another thing I learned that if I had focused more on my story, and hadn’t let myself be distracted, my characters might have had a clue as to what was going on, why they were supposed to be in love, and whether or not it is possible to avoid stampeding horses with a bullet hole in the stomach.

Another thing I learned about myself, I’m embarrassed to say, is I think I might actually be a writer. I got done with the month, and December 1 rolled around, and no one was happier to step away from the computer than I was. And then the twitchiness came. I got edgy, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t watch a half-hour television show without getting up and trying to find something else to do. It was like some twisted form of withdrawal. On December 2, I journaled on my computer a bit, and actually was able to sleep that night. Here we are, on December 3, and writing this blog was the first thing that popped into my head to do.

Like I said earlier, word count is God during NaNo. The people in charge of this little show don’t care about spelling, grammar, usage, cliches, adverbs, or any of that crap writers are told to avoid. It’s all about the word count. Which makes breaking all the rules very, very easy. Because after November, if you so choose, you get to edit.

If I partake in NaNo next year, and I’m not certain I will, I think I would like my goal to be to actually turn OFF my word counter. Not be concerned with the count. Just the story. See if writing every day actually keeps me in touch with my story, my characters, what they dream and want. And if the end of the month comes, and the story isn’t done yet, so be it. I will have written a draft that might be salvageable.

And now, to keep from driving my family crazy, I have to write every day.

The Joy of Reading

Hello! How is everyone this fine, freezing day? I had thought to blog about my NaNoWriMo experience so far, but something else snagged my brain first.

I like reading.

Anyone who knows me would be all 'duh' about that. I've always liked it. My favorite authors as a kid were Madeline L'Engle and Stephen King. Take from that what you will as to the state of my psyche.

Anyway, when I decided to become a writer several years ago, it became a balancing act of finding time to raise my family, write, read the stuff on book shelves, and read what my new writer friends were writing. It seemed fair, since I asked them to read my writing.

As a result, I've been exposed to some really excellent writing, and some less than stellar writing. And because I'm trying to learn, I have read a lot of less than stellar writing lately. I won't name names, because I don't want to knock people who have put a great deal of work into their piece. And I know I can be included in this list of bad writing, so I feel pretty cozy saying it. Like I said, I'm trying to learn. To get better.

As a result, there is a difference in how I read now. When I find something good, I mean, really, really good, I actually feel a sense of triumph, of victory. True story. I feel a sense of joy so strong it overwhelms my wish that I had written something that good.

Ironically, the first time I felt that primal joy was reading something I was included in. I had to read the proof of A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman. This is an anthology published by Mozark Press. My story, Trial Run, is included. When I began reading the stories, I felt like screaming. Not out of fear, but out of such fierce gratitude for being able to read a manuscript that was well written. I can only hope that my story gave someone else that sense of satisfaction.

The second time was tonight. As you may or may not know, I'm attempting to do NaNoWriMo this year. And I'm trying to make it a romance. I haven't really done that yet. So I've been spending the last two weeks writing my crappy romance, and on a lark I picked up a romance novel at the store. But it isn't strictly a romance. The "How To Write a Romance" book I read described the rules, the do's/don'ts, and so on. And the rules were rather strict. Well, the book I picked up breaks all those rules. This gives me hope. Obviously I need to expand my education in all genres, including romance, and the fact that genres can be bent/broken gives me hope for my crappy novel.

Here I was, thinking that my story was just going to be an experiment in NaNo. But now, after reading a book that blurs the lines a bit, I feel like I can enjoy what I'm writing again, and include the explosions and crimes and monsters, and not just write a boink fest story. Boink fests are boring.

Well, I must get going. My boys just walked in the door, and announced one got in a fight on the bus. More details on that next time!

Publication time!

Hello everyone! Sorry I've been sporadic. I know, I always say that. I think my house is bugged. Why? Because my success with blogging lately has not been successful, that's why! (Rolls eyes) And then, when I complain about it and threaten to blog somewhere else, my problems magically disappear, and I can log in again! Yeah!

Good news: My latest story, Trial Run, is set for publication in the anthology A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman! The book is published by Mozark Press, and this will be my third story published with them.

The editor gave us the proofs to read so we could correct any mistakes. I have to tell you, this book is AWESOME! Mystery stories written by so many wonderful writers. People who are members of several different national writing communities, such as Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, etc. I feel like the freshman who snuck in to the senior party!

As far as my publication goal, well, I don't think I'm going to make four. Which is a bummer. I was hoping, but the editors of that fourth entry seem to be extremely busy with their full time lives, and are having difficulty getting that publication off the ground. Such is life.

Now, who's doing NaNo? For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) occurs during November, and the goal is to write a draft of a novel, at least 50,000 words, in a month. I never did it before, because I'm the mom, and I said I would wait until my kids were older.

I ran out of excuses this year. My kids are older, and I don't have to cook Thanksgiving dinner. So, I'm doing NaNo. It is a remarkable exercise in self discipline. I'm not used to writing every day, even though that is the popular advice. And because I don't use that writing muscle on a daily basis, I usually last for about a week before I burn out.

So far, I'm 12,200 words into my story. Usually that is my stopping point. I write short stories, what can I say. So to boost my word count, I find I am seriously inflating what I normally would take out. Everything feels extremely unnecessary and too explanatory. Too wordy. There are a million articles out there with lots of advice for the beginner. Do you plot? Here's how! Are you a pantser? Here's how to make it work!

All I know is I have probably committed every sin possible in the name of word count. Adverbs, wordiness, rambling, and even some free-write journaling thrown in when I run out of ideas. Oho, I'm not done yet. I have a whole bag of tricks to keep me writing. And if I decide the thing might actually be salvageable, I'd guess that maybe a third of the whole thing will make the cut, before I start deciding what I need to do so the bugger makes sense.

If my luck with my blog holds, I will hopefully continue blogging my NaNo experience. Because I know another NaNo blog is just what you wanted. Have a great night, everyone!

Should I or shouldn't I?

Hello all! It's been ages and ages. I've been having an extremely difficult time with LiveJournal lately, which has kept me from posting. But after a few improvements and updates, it actually looks like it's working again. Go figure.

I'm a tad closer to my publishing goal. Four publications. At the beginning of the year I did a guest post. In May I had an article accepted by Have Heart Magazine. And this month, I sold another short story to Mozark Press in their next Shaker of Margaritas book, "That Mysterious Woman." Yay me!! My story is titled "Trial Run," and it's a mystery. Well, a cozy, I suppose. I couldn't figure how to make a good murder mystery under 3000 words. When I do, though, won't that be fun to write!

I'm still waiting to hear about another publication possibility. But seeing as how it has taken so long, I'm thinking no dice. Bummer. So I will just cheat and do another guest blog. :P

The question on my mind for the last few months has been NaNoWriMo. I've done sci-fi, mystery, and chick lit. I keep saying I want to try writing in every genre, except erotica. So I'm considering romance. And I'm considering NaNo, too. I suppose "Speed Dating" could be considered romance (that's my story published in Shaker of Margaritas: Cougars on the Prowl). But doing something as a novel?

If I do decide to do NaNo, I need to remember a few things, which is good advice for anyone:
1: Genre is not locked. Be flexible. Stories change. Especially during what is essentially a month-long free-write.
2: Grammar, shmammer. It's a draft. Adverbs, passive voice, it's all good. It can all be fixed later.
3: Go ahead and ramble if you need to. The story will find you again. At least, that's the prevailing NaNo advice out there, anyway.

So it's not like I blog a whole lot anyway, so I don't know if I will be touching base during what is a huge experiment. I think the main reason I'm considering this is because my sister in law may be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. Maybe. If I'm cooking, all bets are off for NaNo. But so far, word is she's cooking.

Anyone else doing/have done NaNo? Thoughts? How did you structure your day, if you are the mom and have to do mom things on top of trying to write a novel? I'm not a scheduling or plotting person, and this month is going to require a lot of both. I'm a pantser when it comes to writing, but I hear planning helps make things go a little faster. So I guess I need to learn to plot. Or make up my own way of doing it. And trying to get a house to run like clockwork. With two boys. Yeah. Sure.

May everyone have a great day, and thank you for dropping in.

Article publication!!

Hello all! It's been ages, I know. Sorry. Now to the good stuff.

At the beginning of the year, I posted a guest blog at Face The Page (facethepage.com), talking about the new year struggles and writing. I said my goal this year was four publications. Now, if you count blog posts, I'm golden. But I'm trying for OTHER places, know what I mean? (Get ready, here comes the horn blowing)

Have Heart Magazine (www.haveheartmagazine.com) is an ezine that focuses on real beauty, not the photoshopped crap you see in the news stands. All people are beautiful, regardless of body type. And they have an article that I wrote! Squee! It's called "Big Girl Convention?", and it's about an encounter at an airport a year ago, and how it rocked my self perception.

I hope you take a look, and maybe tell your friends about this amazing magazine as well. And if you want to drop me a line and tell me your thoughts, that would be good, too.

Have a great day, everyone!

Barflies and guest blogging!

I haven't been blogging very much. I should. I need the practice. Author platform. Get out there, even if there is nothing to show. Blah, blah, blah!

Barflies.

I've written a couple guest blogs about writing. Please check them out at www.facethepage.com. My host, Barb Wexler, hasn't been blogging much, either. Her last two blogs are my guests posts! And I'll be honest-I don't know the rule. If I post a guest blog, do I have permission to post it on my blog as well? Even though I am trying to get more traffic on her site, while also upping my exposure?

Barflies.

In last year's guest blog for Barb, I wrote about how I perceive the difference between writing resolutions and goals. This recent post is a followup to that article, and what barflies have in common with my writing successes.

What do they have in common? Please go to www.facethepage.com and check it out!

Mom of a middle grader

My son is going to middle school tomorrow.

Why am I making a big deal out of this? I really don't know. It's absurd. Sixth grade. No big deal. I think what's getting me is him going from the elementary school to the middle school. Changing buildings. I grew up in this town, and I know full well what house of horrors that middle school can be. So I'm in that wonderful, fretful mom state of hoping he doesn't get bullied like I was, and he doesn't get cool enough to become part of the drug problem there.

And this is a small town!

Maybe I'm talking to the wrong people, but when I have several other parents give me dire warnings about the horrible drug problem at a school, it does give one pause.

So I'm in the boat that many parents my age are sailing in: giving high school and college aged advice to an 11-year old. "Don't take anything you didn't open yourself." The locker room advice I'm saving for my husband. But I am also trying to remain calm in front of my son, and not tell him everything about my childhood. This is his childhood, his own experiences and lessons. And this summer has not been very childlike for him. He opted to join my husband at work this summer, rather than go to a kid's camp. Today, the day before school, I took off work so we could get his school things in order, cuddle, and spend some time together.

Then, I kicked him out of the house. Ride your bike! Find some other kids to play with! Over his protests, I banished him from the house, not to return for at least two hours.

He broke that rule in the first half hour. He needed something to hold the snake he and his friends caught.

Life is good.

Touching bases

It's been several months since I've posted. Sorry about that. A lot has been going on. I have started working again, after over a year off. I took a part time job in April, but it is in an agricultural office, and now that harvest is in full swing, I'm getting more hours. And I am trying to learn how to live/work/be the mom in the whole Monday through Friday nine to five workaday thing. I haven't done that since high school, so trying to get everything done during the week just isn't happening as smoothly as it used to.

Also, a shout out to my brother in law, who got married August 4th in Thailand! His wife is staying there until her visa can get approved, and then she will be coming to America to be with him.

Of course, now I'm stealing all the names he posted on his blog about the wedding. Here's why: Hadley Rille Books is coming out with a new anthology! The protagonist has to be a woman of color, so now I'm trying to think of Asian names for my character. I'm very excited to see a new antho coming out. Hadley Rille was the first company to publish my work, and I'm really hoping I can make something that could make the cut for them.

I feel like I'm going to have to start from the beginning on my writer's platform. Not that I have a whole lot to shout about. But since I post infrequently here, once I finally get going on my writing again, I can't decide if I should stay here or find a new home.

Hmm, what else is going on? Oh yeah, I began going to a new writer's group. A critique group that is part of the Idaho Writer's League. My free-writing group was fine, but ever since my friend, Sonia, passed away, going to that group has been very difficult. So I'm trying different things, hoping I can get my writing groove back. Which is another reason I'm so excited about Hadley Rille. I haven't written science fiction in ages, and I think a change of scenery would do me good, so to speak.

This is short, since I also have been struggling with insomnia lately, and I think it's finally caught up! Hope everyone has a good night!

Another first, whatever

I was invited to a wedding. I've been to weddings before. This was different, because it was two women getting married. I thought it would be a new experience, something worth writing about.

Some Bible verses were read, some vows and rings were exchanged, there was a kiss, and then we had cake.

Just like any other wedding.

And congrats to the happy couple! They were beautiful!

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Mary Ellen Martin

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