Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get Reddy to Go Heaux (Just kidding! Sort of...)

Two days after Christmas and all through the house...I went to my corner and was quiet as a mouse. Actually, the guys went to see the new Star Wars yesterday. It was supposed to be a Hubz and me date sort of thing, since we agreed not to buy each other gifts this year, but at the last minute, somehow the movie date morphed into an outing for the entire family.

I decided to stay home. Not because I dislike my family, or because I was trying to be a rude bitch to the guys, or anything like that. I just know that if I had gone with the guys, I would've ended up being the group babysitter so everyone else could watch the film and have a good time. My nerves have been too on edge lately to deal with that.

Instead, I had a quiet day at home. I spared no hot water while bathing that morning, I ate the last of the cheesecake for breakfast, cleaned my office, worked on a writing project, and chillaxed with the dogs. It was nice. A rare day where I was alone in the house and didn't have to fix, find, wash, or cook something for someone else. That probably sounds incredibly selfish to say that, but there it is. I regret nothing.

The guys had a good time, too, although they had to deal with a long wait at the theater and poor seating. They loved the movie. Hubz said he wouldn't even mind seeing it a second time. I'm sure he'll rack up plenty of views when it comes out on DVD. Anyway, I won't let them tell me anything about the movie. I'll watch it later.

Another thing I did yesterday that I haven't done in a while... I made a cosmetics order. Two actually. I want to color my hair, but my favorite semi-permanent orange-red dye (Clairol Natural Instints Spiced Tea) has been discontinued/reformulated, so that's a no go. I couldn't find another semi-permanent product similar in color, so I went to Manic Panic's website and ordered a jar of Inferno, and a jar of Wildfire. I'm going to mix them and put it on unbleached hair. Crossing my fingers I get a sheer red-orange tone out of it. We'll have to wait and see.

Also, I ordered a couple of lipsticks from Mac. I bought Enchanter Creamsheen Glass, a Mac Velvetease lip pencil in Reddy to Go, and the 2.0 version of Heaux from the permanent collection. I already have the Heaux retro matte from the RiRi Hearts Mac collection. The 2.0 version is an amplified cream, and I've heard there's a slight color variation because of the different formulation. We'll see. It's my favorite berry red lipstick, so it was worth buying again just to have a spare.

That's what's what for now. I'm working on writerly things, but it's super slow going. It's been hard to concentrate lately what with the holidays and the family drama. In 2016 I've got to do better. I need to actually finish something. Hmm. At least now I know where to start my New Year's resolution. ♥

Clip art courtesy of GDJ at OpenClipArt.com.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas 2015 :: Dreams and Visitations


Dropping in to say Merry Christmas on my blog before the holiday rush. I've hit a sort of post-NaNo writerly dry spell, so instead of punishing myself over it, I've been reading and doing other things. 

I've also been thinking about my Grandma Rose a lot lately. She died in the early 1990s, not long after Oldest boy was born. Christmas was Ma'am Maw's favorite time of year. She would bake homemade fruitcake, listen to Christmas songs on the radio every morning, and throughout the season she'd buy copious amounts of creme drops and chocolate covered cherries because we both loved them. 

I went to bed the other night thinking about her and the Christmas of 1983, which stands out in my mind as the best Christmas ever (I got a Cabbage Patch Kid that year. I was 9. A very special holiday.) That year, Grandma won this drawing at the Dixie Dandy in Ruston for an eight foot tall Christmas stocking. The manager had it hanging above the automatic doors of the grocery store. It was packed full of food, candy, and toys. Grandma, my mom, and the aunts picked it up from the store and they divided it up for all of us grandkids. (Except for the groceries, of course. Would be kind of weird to get a can of creamed corn in your stocking Christmas morning, am I right?) Anyway, Christmas morning was a candy and toy bonanza for all of us. Good times. Like I said, best Christmas ever. 

So I was thinking about that Christmas the other night right before I fell asleep, and I ended up dreaming I was back at Grandma's old house. In the dream, I was the age I am now, no longer a kiddo, but I was staying in my old bedroom from back in the day. The same year of the best Christmas ever, my parents and I briefly lived with my grandparents. We had justed moved back to Ruston from out of state, and we lived with them until we found a new house. 

I dreamed I had a suitcase open on the bed, and I was getting ready to leave. I suppose we were only there visiting, Hubz and me. While packing my clothes, out of the blue, I remembered that there was something important I needed to do. I dropped everything and set off through the house to find my grandparents. I walked through the house, peeked in the den, then went out through the kitchen into the laundry room. I ended up going outside via the open air garage. When I initially stepped into the garage, I realized someone had torn down the lattice facing the street side. The concrete leading up to the garage had been jackhammered into square patterns, and between the blocks, someone had been planting trees with purple blooms on them. 

I walked into the yard to check out what else was under construction, and that's when I saw my grandparents parked in a truck out front, far across the yard, just off the slab of driveway.

I walked out there to talk to them, and to ask them for a ride home for me and Hubz. Pawpaw and Ma'am Maw were both sitting in the truck, which was a black 1963s Chevy C10 stepside, like what my Uncle David used to drive. The truck looked fresh off the showroom floor. Both my grandparents were dressed up in their Sunday best, and I realized as I reached the driver's side door that I had left my clothes in the house. Yes, really, it was an 'I'm naked' dream. Go figure. 

While I talked to them, I was trying to cover myself with my hands, and my hair (which is very long in waking life). Apparently my grandparents had been waiting for me out there. They didn't live in the house anymore. They had arrived to take me and Hubz to the new place, the one that they had prepared for the family. 

Pawpaw opened the door and climbed out of the truck to shake hands with Hubz, then they told me to go inside for my clothes. As I was walking back to the house, past the construction and new floral trees (which were kind of like purple crepe myrtles), I called back over my shoulder for them to wait for me. I didn't want them to leave while I was indoors getting dressed. Immediately after calling out to them, I woke up. 

I've been told before that dreams like that are really a visitation. I like that idea. I also like the idea that there is a place where my grandparents have gone on before me, and that it's a place where I'll be reunited with them one day. It was a good dream, a little sad, but reaffirming. I miss them dearly, and it was good to see them again, even if only in a dream. That's all I really had to say. To remember is to dream while waking.

PS. Before I go, some notable news from yesterday... Brooke McCarter from The Lost Boys passed away. He was only 52. How very sad. I had such a huge crush on him back when the movie first came out. RIP, guy.   

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Takeaway: Post-NaNoWriMo Thoughts

I did it. I survived another NaNoWriMo. I've been participating since about 2008, but this is only the second event I've actually followed through and finished, so yay for long blustery word binges.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, I probably got more done by writing in 15 minutes bursts, leaving off for a while, and then coming back to write another 15 minutes a short time later. Out of necessity, that's pretty much how I handled the second half of the book. Through half of the event, I had both kids and hubby home for Thanksgiving, so there was always someone needing me for something. I don't like shutting my office door during the holidays, so I stuck to shorter writing sprints. That's one thing I took away from this year's NaNo. I write more words when I write in shorter bursts. Probably because I have a short attention span. Heh.

Since I don't have a NaNoWriMo hub within comfortable driving distance, I decided to join in a couple of the online write-in sessions. The write-ins are fun and helped me feel more connected to the NaNoWriMo community, but they didn't help me much in terms of boosting my word count. For one thing, the write-ins I attended were themed. I'm used to doing timed writings with other writers, where we decide on an amount of time we're going to write, set a timer, and work on our own projects. When the timer goes off, we tell everyone how many words we managed to pull off. And that's about the gist of it.

I've always found timed writings like that helpful, but in the NaNo write-ins, we would be given a prompt and a time frame, then the clock would start. Next round, a new prompt, and then the clock would start. We'd write for anywhere between five to fifteen minutes, then stop and check our word count. Some would share what they wrote, which was pretty fun. I had a good time there, but the prompts weren't useful for me. I ended up doing my own thing.

Throughout NaNoWriMo, I posted semi-regular writing updates on twitter, and by doing that, I found several new followers (that I followed back.) To be honest, I got more out of using twitter for NaNoWriMo than I did using the website forums. I made one or two posts over at the NaNo HQ forums, and never got a reply. Then again, I'm socially awkward, and I didn't know how to meet other people over there, so that's probably just me. Another con was that, the posts over at HQ weren't in real time, obviously, so I had to keep checking back to see if I'd gotten a response.

So, twitter worked better for my motivation overall. It was easier to find other NaNo-ers that way. I was able to start typing in #NaNoWriMo in the search box, and several hashtag suggestions would autofill, giving me options to find other NaNo tags, which was kinda groovy. I'll definitely do that again the next time I join a NaNo event.

On either November 28th or 29th (the days all blend), I hit the 50k mark and validated my novel on the site. Of course, what I've written is a flaming hot mess, and it probably needs another 10-20k added to it for it to be submittable to the publisher I have in mind for it. But it's a good start.

My project is a story that's been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, now, and until this year's NaNo, every time I've tried to write it, I'd stall out a few scenes in to it, and end up shelving it for later. This is probably the fifth time I've started writing this story from scratch, and once again, about half way through it, I almost put it away. I hit the very same stuck point as before. Instead of allowing myself to dig deeper into the mire, I stopped trying to write about the story and focused on writing about the characters, their wants, and life histories. I just kept free writing and rambling about the characters and eventually the story worked its way out of the mire and in an entirely new direction that allowed me to continue on to the end. Or rather, on to 50k. I'll probably have to cut a lot of that during revisions, but I know my characters better for the effort, so it was worth it. That's another tactic I'd definitely use again.

One crucial thing I believe helped me cross the 50k finish line is that I only worked with the characters who were interesting to me. That should be a given, right? Well not exactly. Have you ever been writing, and you knew a critical event had to take place, but it was boring for some reason, or it felt like slogging through a swamp to make the plot connections? Yeah, I nipped that in the bud.

Even if I thought I "needed' someone to step on stage in order to connect two scenes, if I was too bored with that character to fill the gap, if I dreaded working with them, or felt like I was slogging through swamp water to get to a good scene, I scrapped it - the scene and the character. I held fast to the "kill your darlings" rule. If a character didn't perform as I'd hoped, or they started to lose their lustre, I cut them out of the scene, merge them with another character, or killed them off entirely. It was better to do that than allow a deadwood character to stall my story. Bye-bye dead weight. So, another important thing I learned this NaNoWriMo: allow no free rides for characters in your novel. If they're too slow to perform, uninteresting, make you dread writing about them...give 'em the boot.

Another thing that probably allowed me to reach the 50k mark on time is that I let the book be what it wanted to be instead of trying to box it squarely into one genre. When I began working on this story, I had specific mood, tone, and atmosphere, in mind. I was hoping to write a quiet, suspenseful horror story, but I was always cognizant it would probably morph into a romance novel somewhere along the line. Most of my writing does. Instead of trying to push the story into a mold it may or may not fit, I let go, and let the characters take the book where they needed it to go to reach the ending. I stopped trying to push characters around, I stopped trying to force everything into deep POV, and approached writing with the frame of mind to simply "tell a story". Novel idea, right? To tell a story when writing a book.

Basically I threw out the advice to write my book like an transcript with plot points and added description, and instead opted for a more fluid storyteller approach, which doesn't shy away from paragraphs of straight up narrative. I did that, and I surprised myself this time. The story stayed on track. It didn't go full romance, either, although there is still a romantic thread that runs through it. The only downside I can see so far is that I'll have to trim and fluff it out when I do the rewrites.

Overall, I paid a lot more attention to my process this time, and I think more insight into my own process is probably one of the most valuable things I took away from NaNoWriMo 2015. I plan to join the revision leg of the NaNo journey, which opens in January, and I hope for a similar result when analyzing my revision process.

As for the story I was working on, if I'm honest with myself, I think all the times I started writing it before but didn't finish it was because I didn't know my characters well enough. But more so than that, I don't think I quite knew how to pull off that type of story at the time. The pieces weren't coming together as they should. The idea needed more gestation time.

So there you have it, my final thoughts about NaNoWriMo 2015. If you participated this year, I hope you finished strong and learned a lot about how you write. Until next time, happy revising and happy wishes. ☮