Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emotional Evasion

I've been in the trenches and revising for over a week. Some of it has taken me ages, other bits haven't been too hard to handle. But I'm nowhere near where I need to be as far as wanting to send it to the editor. Not yet.

First I have to rework the most difficult sections. Sections I hope will impact the readers' emotionally and supercharge them with empathy for my heroine. She's a feisty woman with lots of backbone, but even my heroine has her breaking point. And I just couldn't bear to write the scene today. Not at the end of the day.

I made notes, jotted down ideas, and arrived at the painful conclusion that I need to ramp up the action and pump adrenaline into these scenes' arteries. This is how it is going for me. I have to write something painful, something deeply emotional, and it's going to hurt. Not just my heroine, but me.

The truth is this heroine and I have been together quite some time. I've discovered a truth about her during this revision that is deeply painful. But I don't blame her for hiding it all these years. I know she's deeply private. I know she's trying to protect herself and her family from this pain.

There's no way I can force her to go through this right now. Or myself. It's emotionally draining. I have to mine her emotional experience from the depths of my soul.

I shall do that after a good night's sleep.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reality Check: The Book Comes First

I've been in La La Land for over ten days. First a trip to Los Angeles which was interesting, different, fun, wild, weird, and wacky. Then the piles of laundry and cleaning and readjusting to life back in Alabama. Finally, the Darling Teen had her five wisdom teeth pulled last Friday and she's been recuperating for three days. I'm Mother Hen-ing her to bits but this is my last chance to "baby" her before she heads off to Auburn University in August (I was a child bride and had her before I turned 20--really *grin*). The schedule has been out of whack for days and I need to wrap my brain around another round of revisions.

What falls by the wayside first? Well, besides cleaning commodes that is... social media. Yes, I'm "supposed" to blog, tweet, post Facebook status updates, learn more about how to utilize Goodreads as an author, and try to figure out if Pinterest is a viable Social Media outlet to use.

But--this is a big but--I have nothing to promote if I don't have a book written and on sale. Period. The end. I often think that newbie writers--even PRO RWA writers who aren't published--spend far too much time figuring out their brand and their social media outlets and web pages rather than writing. Let's face it, it's easier to play on Twitter and fool around with web pages than revising. Heck, I'm guilty of playing hours of mindless Spider Solitaire while I was en route during my vacation rather than attempting to write. Of course, I knew revising while on a family vacation was not going to happen easily. So I surrendered to that reality and focused on what I had to focus: the family. I brainstormed, but I didn't do much else.

I don't usually take a big break from writing -- haven't for years -- but circumstances forced the break and it was useful in that it helped me clarify what to focus on when I sit down to revise this current book. This isn't a do or die revision. It's part of the process that I hope I will become much faster at accomplishing once I'm under contract. And I do expect that to become a new reality for me in the near future. I have to expect it. I have to want it. I have to need it. I am hungry for it.

I plan to make a meal out of my writing. A continuous buffet of writing.

Curiously, this all brings me around to the social media versus writing a book soapbox. I can't write and revise if my brain is all wrapped up in technical goop. It requires a different set of brain cells and drains my creativity. So here are my quick and dirty rules for managing social media and not letting it manage you.

1. The book trumps everything. First write, then tweet.
2. If you love to tweet on Twitter, then utilize the #1k1hr hash tag. Look for other writers to write with for an hour, then post your accomplishments on the hour, Tweet something personal to someone in a conversation, Retweet someone's promo tweet. Then back to #1k1hr
3. Twitter not your world? Facebook is your thing? Then post on the hour or 3 times a day or only in the times when your brain is a wet noodle and all you can do is write status updates.
4. Want to build a web page? Don't unless you're close to achieving publication. A blog on Wordpress or Blogger will suffice until you get closer. How you go about building it is up to you. I've chosen to go the do it yourself route for now with My Teen can help with the web design fast pages while I *ahem* write my books.
5. Interested in Goodreads or Pinterest, but not sure which route to go? I suggest Goodreads because that is WHERE THE READERS are located.
6. Blog regularly if you are a new writer to help hone your voice. Blog irregularly the closer you get to the call. You can't blog and write great fiction at the same time. AND THE BOOK TRUMPS THE BLOG.
7. Emailing, Yahoo Groups and more. Email twice a day. No more. Shut down all email programs when you are writing. Turn them off!! Don't see how many emails are in your in-box and be tempted to turn away from that tricky writing problem to email someone back. Yahoo Groups: do digest. Check it once a day. Don't go crazy and try to keep up with all of it. Flag important emails and messaged and cope with them when you are ready to cope with them. Online classes? I use digest only mode and print out the lessons to read later. Developing a workshop or promoting one? Great. Is your book finished? There's no point in getting your name out there if you haven't got a book to sell. The book and your name are your brand.
8. Real face time beats Facebook time. Get out into the world a bit more. Be kind to people you deal with whether it is in the grocery store checkout line (PUT DOWN THE CELL PHONE AND TALK TO THE CASHIERS/BAGGERS/PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE!!!), at the gym during a workout class, or as part of a neighborhood community or book club. I already have a wonderful group of people who know I write in all of these places. Guess what? They aren't on Twitter or blogging. They are working, working out, reading, playing, being moms and dads and friends and more. Be in the world when you are out in public. Don't hide behind the cell phone screen and post tweets all the time on Tweetdeck. Be REAL. Then real people will become interested in you and what you do and you might just sell them your first book!
9. Family time first, then Internet time, or share it with the family.
10. The BOOK TRUMPS EVERYTHING that's tied to social media, the Internet, emailing, workshops. The book is the only thing that matters. PUT THE WRITING FIRST!

Okay, I'm done tooting my horn about social media versus real time and writing time. What's on my agenda for the rest of the week? Revisions, looking after the Teen, working out, being a wife and a friend, and popping into the Internet to say hi to all my virtual friends near and far when I'm on a  mini break or during the evening when my brain cells turn to rust and creative writing is wrapped up for the day.

What is your natural rhythm? Are you generating words or tweets or status updates? How do you creatively avoid writing and how do you get your head back into the game?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tours and Trips and Treats

We've had a fantastic time on our vacation, but now the holiday is drawing to a close. We chose Los Angeles as our destination because the Teen has never been here (other than as a 2 year old in the Los Angeles Airport). She's considering a career as a Disney Imagineer so we thought she should see the west coast which is where the magic happens.

Well we've toured Disneyland and California Adventure and that was fun, but also a bit of compare and contrast to Disney World for us. In the end, we preferred our Florida theme parks. Then we toured two movie/television studios. First up was Warner Brothers. We loved our tour guide and how relaxed the atmosphere was at this studio. We got to see where The Mentalist is filmed on the sound stage, the Friends' television show set, other sound stages and outdoor sets as well. We saw the props area and learned that it is like a huge lending facility for all the studios in the LA area. Then we toured a museum and saw tons of Harry Potter costumes as well as old favorites.

Great tour. Loved it. Well worth the price of the tickets.

The next day we toured Paramount Studios. This tour felt like an Ivy League school tour with a hushed and muckety muck kind of atmosphere. We wore cool little headpieces so the tour guide could talk in normal tones to us, were ushered around all kinds of sets but not able to go inside because they were filming at the time, and sat on Forrest Gump's actual bench--life is a box of chocolates, right? We saw cool film clips of the different movies that were filmed at various locations as well as of different television shows (remember THE BRADY BUNCH and HAPPY DAYS?). We learned about Desi/Lu Productions and got a boatload of information about the lauded history of the studios. This was a good tour, but didn't really give us a nuts and bolts insider look at the process of film making. Personally, I preferred the Warner Brothers' Studio tour much more, but that's a subjective call. If you are interested in all the history and lore and more then this tour might be a better bet for you.

We went to The Grove and were filmed as audience members with Mario Lopez on EXTRA. That was pretty darned cool. Darling Teen was thrilled when he put his arm around her shoulders. I got to stare into his beautiful eyes and *ahem* got a fine view of his derriere. Yes, ladies, he is gorgeous.

We ate a lots of great food all over Los Angeles. The Grove featured a fabulous Greek restaurant. And we wandered through the farmer's market as well. A fun side trip.

We saw all there was to see of Hollywood Boulevard. Grauman's Chinese Theater with the hand and footprints, the Kodak Theater AKA the Dolby theater which featured a movie premiere ROCK OF AGES starring Tom Cruise. We saw all the glamor and all the not so glamorous aspects of the area. Los Angeles isn't particularly beautiful. It has beautiful pockets of wealth and history surrounded by ugly and dirty buildings and streets. We toured the Stars Homes and saw Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Pier, the beaches, 3rd Street Promenade and were lucky enough to see Mel Brookes eating lunch outside a bistro with his writer friends. Woohoo!!

And cars... lots and lots and lots of luxury vehicles in Los Angeles. BMW, Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Porsche, Lambourghini, Ferrari, uber expansive SUVs and Land Rovers... I can't tell you how many we counted in a block radius, but the status symbol addiction is alive and well in Los Angeles. The wealth is unbelievable. So is the poverty. Homeless people walk the streets alongside the parked luxury celebrity cars.

So now our journey draws to a close. We are spending one more day in the area and will travel up the coast line to share the vistas with our Teen. Has she fallen in love with the Hype and Mystique if Los Angeles? Nope. Not in the least. But if she could get her dream job here and afford a box in a faraway subdivision of the area, she'd move here in a heartbeat.

Los Angeles is where the magic is made--the land of smoke and mirrors. A dreamer's delight if one wants to become the next star or writer or producer or director. The trick is to get there and beat out all the other wannabes because this city is filled with dreamers and people with lost dreams. For every star that is born here, there a hundreds of waitresses and waiters and tour guides hoping to break into this industry. The talent is amazing. The opportunities to succeed will take tenacity and lots and lots of luck.

So we're homeward bound. And you know what? I'm glad. I miss my world in Normal USA.

Friday, June 8, 2012

California Adventure, Disneyland & Our Disney

Ah, Disney. What a concept. What an amazing concept. And we have availed ourselves of the Disney concept many times throughout the years. Thanks to the Physicist's conferences, we have gone to Orlando more times than I can count on one hand. We've stayed off the Disney World properties in some of the nicest hotels in Orlando. And we've stayed on property at the beautiful Disney World Yacht Club Resort three times. A dream come true in which we were able to walk onto Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We've been to all the Disney World Theme parks except for the water parks. We're all about the rides, the shows, the food, the magic.

We LOVE Disney World. So when we booked our trip to California for the Teen's graduation from High School trip, we had to book tickets to Disneyland and California Adventure. You can read my initial impressions here.

Our second and third days in the parks were very chaotic and surreal and somewhat like an episode of The Twilight Zone. The parks were super crowded and it was incredibly hard to move around Disneyland. The Teen determined that part of the reason was that the lines for the rides were primarily outdoors rather than in OUR Disney where the majority of the lines are indoors.

Yes, we consider Disney World OUR Disney. We are freaks that way.

We are used to crowds having been to Disney World during Spring Break, but not to the magnitude where we were afraid a stroller might mow us down at any point and where I spent the majority of our travels to and from the rides with my hands pressed close to my thighs in an effort to make myself as small as possible. Despite the crowded feeling, we had a great time running back and forth between the parks which are super close to each other. That was a bonus.

In an effort to make the most of our experience, we chose to spend the majority of our days doing the stuff we can't do in Disney World as well as revisiting some rides that are favorites for the Teen. So first up? TOWER OF TERROR in California Adventure. This Tower is a little different from Hollywood Studios' Tower. There is no drive out and then a drop, make that several drops in darkness and worse. This Tower just drops you a bazillion times. Small children do cry on this ride (and one poor girl did on ours). I rode it once and the rest of the family rode it a second time.

Screamin' Coaster was a win at California Adventure. We rode it twice. So much fun and had an old world Pier feel to it. A definite do-over. We ate in the wine country area--the food was lackluster and mediocre for what we paid, but the wine was necessary :-) We also rode Goofy's Flight School which is very similar to the Dinosaur land Tilt a Whirl ride in Animal Kingdom. A fun ride. We also rode the Grizzly Rapid ride which was one of the best rapid rides we've ridden and far superior to the Animal Kingdom rapid ride which basically has only one drop and you either get drenched or not. After all the running around, we paused to watch the hilarious Aladdin show in the backlot. Well worth the wait and so good.

We left California Adventure at around 7ish to go over to Disneyland to watch FANTASMIC. Another vastly different experience for us. The show is essentially the same, but five minutes shorter due to the missing Pocahontas element. There was no line, but unless you had a blanket and a stroller, you could be Sorry Out of Luck for finding a suitable viewing spot. Unlike the Hollywood Studios version, there is  no stadium or benches. You sit on the ground and wait forever for the show to start while praying a stroller doesn't knock you over, or that a vat of drinks isn't spilled on top of your head as people jostle through the throng to get to the blanket they've set up three hours earlier to mark their family's spots for the viewing of the show (I am not joking--people do this). Fortunately, we had great seats, fun neighbors to chat with while waiting for the show to start, and the show was wonderful. But which experience do I prefer? OUR Disney experience wins hands down.

The last day we hopped between Disneyland and California Adventure by starting off at California Adventure and getting FastPasses for the World of Color water show. You can get fast passes for the first show, then visit the parks and continue using the fast passes for the rides. We chose to get the passes for the 9PM show and then headed to Disneyland. We rode Indiana Jones' Adventure ride and LOVED IT. Great ride. So much fun. We got fast passes to ride it a second time that afternoon. We went to the Tiki Room and watched the classic Disney show. A blast from the past as Disney World no longer carries that show. We rode Pinocchio's Adventure, the Storyland Canal boats, watched the parade which was outstanding and indulged in way too big ice creams in waffle bowls. Delicious. We braved the crowds to ride Astro Blaster and Pirates of the Caribbean. We wanted to eat in New Orleans, but I couldn't eat there due to my shellfish allergy so it was sandwiches and cokes at the Liberty Bell. Not a grand meal, but plugged the holes.

We left Disneyland around 7ish and went back to wine country for grown up dessert AKA wine while the Teen went to Ghiradelli and got a decadent sundae for herself. Then we walked to the entrance of the water show and waited for an hour for it to start. Even with Fast Passes, you can't wait until the last minute to see this show. The best viewing spots will be taken up by throngs of people. It's standing room only.

The World of Color show was outstanding. We enjoyed it so much and it was the highlight of the day for us all. If you go to California Adventure I highly recommend that you attend the show. After the show concluded, we were herded out of the park and watched the Disneyland fireworks show as we walked to the main street which lead to our hotel. A mile later and we were back in the Doubletree, exhausted after our two day endurance test at the parks.

My take on the experience is that it is worth it to go, but it didn't feel the same to us as far as giving us a sense of magical elements. We missed the ability to walk on and off the properties with a hotel and pool and amenities close at hand. When we're at OUR Disney World complex, we can go back and forth from the hotel and the parks with relative ease. The food at the restaurants is more varied and from a bigger variety of locales. We really feel like we're escaping the world when we are on the resort properties.

Perhaps if we had stayed on the property at the top dollar prices, we might have felt differently about the magic not being the same, but I am not sure. We felt compelled to stay on the parks all day--from 9:30/10AM until 10PM at night. We paced ourselves and had plenty of rest time, but we missed being able to truly relax for a few hours by the pool before heading back out again. And, to be honest, I thought the food and drinks were overpriced for what you got, particularly once we arrived at Universal City and ate dinner in Wolfgang Puck's Bistro.

But all in all, we had a great time and we'd definitely go again if only to ride on the revamped MATTERHORN which was closed the entire time we were there and then to go to the California Adventures' new land which features CARS.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Disneyland & California Adventures--Vacation Fun

Yesterday was the first day of our vacation. We all needed it as it has been a busy year for my family. The Physicist's work and travel schedule is tripling. The Teen officially graduated from High School which mean seriously busy days leading up to that moment. And I've been busy revising my book--more like noodling the changes and moving a bit slowly as I try to meet this editor's expectations.

So between real life and my fictional one, we haven't had much together time. With the Teen leaving for Auburn University in August, this is our way to spend quality time with her before she begins her big adventure.

We're spending the first part of our vacation at Disneyland and California Adventure. In a way this is a surreal visit for us because we're use to the Disney World complex and staying on property at the resorts. This is much different, yet eerily the same.

Yesterday we traveled via plane to Anaheim, CA. Flying used to be fun. Now I consider any flight that goes up and stays in the air and successfully lands a great flight. There are minor annoyances like no water, later first flight officers, weather issues, baggage carousels getting jammed--but those are just gnats.

We have arrived!

We checked into our hotel -- the Doubletree Hilton in Anaheim which is about a mile from the parks. Once we were settled in our mini suite, we walked over to the theme parks with lots of other princesses and pirates and monsters. First up? Disneyland. We had no specific plans, just meandered and hit the rides we'd never heard of and revisited It's A Small World which was fun. The biggest difference between that ride and the Magic Kingdom's ride was the movie characters were in every country as well. This enchanted us and we enjoyed watching the little girl riding in the boat in the seat in front of ours because she was thrilled.

Sleeping Beauty's castle is smaller than Cinderella's, but it is also charming because you can tour inside it's walls and see the story played out in various dioramas. And best of all, we got to see someone propose to his girlfriend in front of the castle. Very cool and we'd welcome that lad into our Disney loving family in a heartbeat.

We rode Mr. Toad's wild ride and bummed around New Orleans Quarter--which made the Physicist and the Teen salivate, but my shellfish allergy makes it difficult to eat in places where jambalaya and gumbo and crab are served. So we exited Disneyland and went to Downtown Disney to eat at Catala: a Spanish tapas style restaurant which was divine. Afterward, we wondered into California Adventure park and got a lay of the land. We rode Ariel's Grotto ride and the attention to detail was amazing. The Physicist and the Teen rode the swings (I can't--major vertigo from going round and round and round). But I found a little wine cellar place with different style restaurants and picnics so I was happy to sit while they explored.

Today we'll be more targeted. We're going to California Adventure and riding the rides we've never experienced. We may hit The Matterhorn at Disneyland if it is open. And tonight we're watching Fantasmic. Sometime in between we'll rest up, maybe hit the pool at the hotel for a dip and a nap.

Meanwhile, despite the holiday, I am still brainstorming and noodling my story and what has to be done to give it deeper emotion and a more global voice.

Stay tuned! The Glover Family Vacation Adventure is just beginning!

Friday, June 1, 2012

California Dreaming--Dare I Buy a New Bathing Suit???

I've been busy working on the revisions and I've been preparing for our trip to California. The blog has been gathering dust as a result. But the good news is that I have finally spoken with the editor who wants to work with me and she's excited about the changes I've made to my manuscript. And she told me to relax and take my time to get the story right. I'm so relieved. Now I can mull the story, visit with my characters to make sure they are telling me everything I need to know about the story (again), and I have much to do before we leave for California.

The biggest thing I've had to do is shop for clothes and--and--and--the hardest article of clothing to buy was the new bathing suit. I admit it. I have been wearing the same bathing suit since Darling Teen was in the third grade. She graduated from high school this year and I had to face reality. Lycra can only stretch for so long before it loses its snap back ability.

The dreaded day had come. It was time to face the four hundred bathing suits and try on three hundred of them to find the ONE that would work. Sigh. I went to my favorite el cheapo place to shop--TARGET--and braved the daunting challenge. I and a dozen other women of various shapes, sizes, and ages battled to find THE SUIT. I found some cute tops and then couldn't find the matching bottoms in the "I AM TOO BIG TO WEAR A BIKINI" Tankini section.

Frustration. Oh, the horribleness of it.

I was about to give up, but I finally found two one piece suits and hauled them to the fitting room. What is it about fitting room dimensions? They are small, filled with other people's discards, and the lighting does little to enhance one's features. And the mirrors? I think they are funhouse mirrors that are designed to show every pudgy flaw in one's body.

But I pressed on and tried on both suits. A pink one and a purple one. Hooray!! The purple one fit!! And it didn't make me look like a whale trying to be an eel. Best of all, the "sisters" were properly encased and lifted to a natural degree. So I have a new bathing suit. Yay me. Now I'd like to have a second one, but I don't want to tempt the fates and break my winning streak.

Do you have trouble buying bathing suits? Where do you shop? Are you an El Cheapo shopper or Elite Shopper?