my writing is junk?

A friend at work asked to see the first chapter of my work-in-progress, so after demurring about five seconds, I agreed to email it to her when I got home. I sent it along and…it landed in her junk-mail folder. Hmmmm…

Coincidence? Or is the universe itself passing judgement on my work?

The thing is, once she found the email, she read the chapter and liked it overall, although she said the blasphemy bothered her a little. (Apparently one person’s irreverence is another person’s blasphemy.) Hmmmm…. again!

So, could it have been the blasphemy irreverence that led her Junk Mail Filter to judge my precious email content and find it wanting? Or should I not have made the subject line: “EnlarGE HoT SeXxy All thrOgH ProceSS!”?

Hmmmm…

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on setting the right tone

I was reminded of the importance of tone the other day, when a friend mentioned on facebook how much she hated a particular song (see video below). I clicked on it and had to laugh. The girl can sing but my-oh-my…what a terrible song.

My work-in-progress is, I hope, a funny/serious book. While writing the first draft, I had to work to maintain a certain lightness of tone and it was more difficult than I expected it to be, especially around the middle where things in general tend to get a little scary for a writer (I got this Novel Chart from this post by  Sonje Jones--it’s brilliant)

I found that I had to be careful what books I read that year–reading a dense, downery book (even a highly acclaimed one) sucked all the fun out of my typing fingers. So I re-read some lighthearted favorites, PG Wodehouse, Richard Russo’s Straight Man, Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books. Of course I read some new books (it was a freakin’ year after all) but I had to be careful. I have a stack of books that I bought and started before I realized their fun-suckeriness. They’re still waiting for me, accusingly I might add, on a table in the bedroom.

Now that I’m going back through and fixing things up in my book, eventually tone is something I’ll have to evaluate. A falter in tone is one of those “you know it when you see it” things in other people’s books.* I just hope I’ll be able to see it in mine as well.

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* One of my critique partners (whom you’ll notice I do not name here, so if and when you read this, Critique Partner X, don’t be angry) had a serious scene in which her characters had to get into a car with leather seats on a hot day. So, in this beautifully written, tender scene she described the sound that their damp flesh made on the seat as “farty.”  My tone antennae fairly quivered with outrage. I think I managed to convince her that she simply could not use that word in that scene. I’m not certain, however. You see, she’s French, and after some of our discussions about bidet towels, I suppose I’m never 100% certain what she’ll do next. Haha!

And finally, here’s the cheesy serial-killer love song that inspired this post. Obviously, it’s very personal to this young woman, but I’m sorry. Too bad. Anyone who can keep a straight face while singing, “You’re going to catch a cold from the ice inside your soul” is just asking for shit.

book & blog recommendation

I just finished the book The Last Will of Moira Leahy: A Novel by Therese Walsh. This book is one of those hard to find literary page turners. There’s a little spooky mysticism, some past tragedy slowly revealed…ahhh. It reads just right.

Interestingly–and I didn’t realize this until the book came in the mail–the author is one of the founders of Writer Unboxed, one of the best writer-advice-type blogs out there. Life is weird, huh?

So go forth! Check out Writer Unboxed for some great writing tips…and then read a good book to feed your soul.

And no, this video has nothing to do with the book, but Gentle Good is a cool Welsh band and since Moira Leahy sounds Irish…made me think of celtic music… Okay, never mind. I like the book and the band. Deal with it.

cake or death…

I’ve been diligently plugging holes and moving things around in my manuscript, and although I love parts of this process, I’m finding that there is a lot of decision making required at this point. Should I say it like this or like that? Should I have the character do this now or later? Blue cake or red cake or green cake or yellow cake? * I make a change and then I look at the scene and think, is it better or just different?

Unfortunately, making decisions isn’t my best thing. In fact, it might just be my worst thing.**  You should see me trying to shop for shoes. Even a trip to the optometrist is enough to make me break out in a sweat:

Look at the bottom row; is A better? Or B?  A or B?  B? or C?……Aaaahhhh!!!

I’m a waffler. I’m a flip-flopper. I suck at making decisions and going back through this book to revise it is just one stupid big fat decision suck-fest.

Sigh.

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* Don’t get your hopes up–there isn’t really any rainbow cake in the book. I just found that picture on Flickr Creative Commons and liked it. Sorry.

** I take that back; snowboarding is my worst thing. I have come to believe that certain people (e.g., me) are simply not equipped with adequate proprioception to safely travel at high speeds down icy mountains.

on heartache and tortillas

So there’s one grocery store in town (Fresh for those of you who live here) that has home-made (well Fresh-made) tortillas available. Often they’re still warm, ten or so wrapped in a bag in a big bin in the bakery department. (That last sentence was brought to you by the letter B.)

So, the other evening after work, I stopped by to pick some up to go with dinner, and when I got to the bin it was empty. (Insert annoyed face here).

I found the bakery worker person and inquired about the unfortunate emptiness of said bin and she told me they were sold out. (Insert, apparently, a really really sad face here.) I heaved a sigh, and said something like, “That’s the only reason I came all the way out here…” (this store is less than a mile from my house) and then asked her, pitifully, where the crappy, prepackaged tortillas were.

She pointed me toward a nearby aisle, and I was wandering along it, listlessly, when suddenly the girl reappeared with a bag of tortillas in her hand.

“I was saving these to take home with me,” she said as she handed them to me. “But you can have them…”

……

So, I’m unpacking the grocery bag, telling this story to the hubster, and when I get to the part about how the young bakery worker found me on the bread aisle and handed me her bag of tortillas, his eyes widened.

“And you took them?” he asked.

“Well…” I look into the sack and see the tortillas lying there in the bottom, and realize that perhaps accepting them from the girl had been a little bit of a dick move. “Yeah…”

He just shook his head and started to laugh.

I am shameless.

In in the spirit of all things Mexican with some interspecies fun thrown in, I bring you this…

on music and life and soundtracks

First off, this isn’t a post about writing. (Finally, I know, right?) Because this is about music and I can’t listen to music while I write. Well, instrumental, maybe…but after awhile even it gets annoying. And music with words? No way. If words need to come out of my brain, I can’t have words going in, apparently. Now, when I’m painting I always listen to music–ridiculous music. (I’m 49 years old and I have a Flo Rida station on Pandora…I’m just sayin’…)

When I was a teenager, music was an important part of my life. If I was in my room there was always a record playing. But now, unless I’m cooking or cleaning, it rarely occurs to me to listen to music. Even in the car, 9 times out of 10 NPR is on rather than music. What’s up with that? I still feel like I ought to be a person who listens to music…but somehow I’m not anymore. I find that a little sad.

I remember once, a few years ago, deciding that I would teach myself to enjoy classical music. I put my satellite radio on a classical music station and left it there. I lasted less than a week. Every day I’d get in the car and within ten minutes I was grinding my teeth and I had to turn it off. No doubt it’s wonderful music, but it just wasn’t me.

The funny thing is, I still buy music. I’ll hear a song, like it, look up the artist on itunes and listen to some of their songs. Sometimes I just buy that one song, but sometimes download the whole album (I am frighteningly old-school).  Then, I’ll listen to it and think, “boy, I like that.” But after I shut down itunes, there’s a good chance I’ll never never to listen to that artist again. It’s inexplicable. It’s like I’m searching for a soundtrack to go along with my life but not finding it.

Once when I had a computer-guru (who’s also a friend) at my house scraping viruses off my laptop (this was before I got a macbook), he opened my itunes and immediately started laughing. I was annoyed but not really surprised. My itunes library is silly. It has everything from…uhm…hang on a second.

Okay, this feels a little like over-sharing for some reason…but here we go. Minus the random artists whose songs tagged along on some soundtrack…here’s the list (most of it anyway…several times I thought, “what the hell is that?” and left it out).

AC/DC, Amiee Mann, Alex Skolnick Trio, AliFarka Toure, Amos Lee, Amy Winehouse, BTO, Bad Company, Badly Drawn Boy, Beck, Ben Harper, Benise, Bill Withers, Bowerbirds, Buffalo Springfield, Canned Heat, Coldplay, CCR, CSNY, The Cure, Dave Eggar, David Berkeley, David Bowie, David Holmes, Derek and the Dominoes, Dixie Chicks, The Eagles, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Everlast, Five for Fighting, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Sinatra, The Funky Lowlives, Garmarna, The Gentle Good, Grand Funk Railroad, Jack Johnson, James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, The Kills, Levon Helm, Loreena McKennitt, Louis Armstrong, Meredith Brooks, Michael Andrews, Miles Davis, Moby, Nellie McKay, Nick Drake, Paolo Nitini, Pink Floyd, Radical Face, Rasa, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rufus Wainwright, Sally Nyolo, Sheryl Crow, The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, Staind, The Stone Roses, Suzanna Choffel, Thomas Newman, Tom Waits, Uncle Kracker, Wendy Colonna, Ziggy Marley, The Zombies.

You’re laughing now too, right?

So, have you got a soundtrack in your life? What’s it like?

By the way, want to see my newest favorite? And I don’t even like Kentucky Fried Chicken…