Monthly Archives: September 2013

WIPpet Wednesday: Hello, Old Friends

It’s 8:44 on Wednesday morning, and I have nothing prepared for WIPpet Wednesday. I HAVE FAILED YOU. *sobs* Lemme see what I’ve got handy…

I had a moment of panic a few days ago when I thought that I’d lost my vampires in the Not-So-Great Data Transfer (yes, it’s an event deserving of capital letters) that happened after my netbook broke/choclification of my USB drive. After much scrambling and searching, I found the story and… well, first I had a tiny little brain party, and then I read it over.

It’s better than I remembered. Not perfect, but worth finishing; I snorted over funny moments I’d forgotten about, and was appropriately disgusted over murder scene details (definitely going to need a warning on this one). I don’t know when I’ll have time to get to it, but it might be the first thing I post on Wattpad if I ever come up with a good title. So as part of the celebration of re-discovery, here’s 25 sentences. Shivva, Daniel and Trixie have just had a good feed at the club, and are on their way to investigate what will be the girls’ first murder.

Trixie passes out in the back seat of the Challenger before we get half way to Kilbride. She’s let me have the front seat for almost every ride since she “borrowed” and crashed Daniel’s GTO. I think it’s self-preservation, trying to stay invisible.

“Little too much of the good stuff there, kiddo?” Daniel asks, not taking his eyes off of the road, and Trixie mumbles something about being fine.  We stop at Timmie’s on Topsail Road for coffee and doughnuts. Blood keeps us going, but caffeine is good for the soul, and a full stomach is one of our remaining pleasures.

“Did you feed?” I ask him, though I’m just making conversation. His colour is good, he looks practically alive. He’s relaxed and content, even though we’re on our way to a crime scene. Of course he ate.

“Yeah. Don’t think that one will be back any time soon, though.”

“Why, did she freak out?” I assume it was a girl. He likes them small and fragile.

“No, she got clingy.”

I can’t help but giggle. Daniel tries to frown, but he knows it’s funny. Every so often we’ll get one who’s been reading too much vampire romance, who gets a ridiculous crush on one of us and expects to be loved and protected in return. They don’t understand that they’re animals to us. “She started crying when I was done with her and left, ran after me, wanted to know my name, cried about loving me.” He has the good grace to at least look embarrassed for her.

“She didn’t know any better.”

“They never do.”

OK, back to revisions for me, and trying to figure out how to format my first pages to industry standard so I can get a sample edit from an editor I’m thinking of hiring. Can I just say that I have no freaking idea what “12pnt New Courier, spaced exactly 25pnt with widow control off; 1″ margins; .5″ first line indent, header and footer; 0 indentation and spacing; titles on 7th line down, name/title/pg# right header” means? Is this something that would be easier if I actually had MS Word?

Would slamming my head repeatedly into the keyboard accomplish anything? No?

OK. Let’s do this and get back to those revisions…

Thank you to K.L. Schwengel at My Random Muse for hosting! I won’t send you over to high-five her today, since she’s not around, but I WILL direct you to the linkie, where you’ll find the other WIPpeteers adding their contributions all day long. If you want to join in, just post your WIP snippet (relating somehow to today’s date) on your own blog, then add your link. FUN!


I Suck, You Suck, We All Suck for Quite a While!

(Wow. That really didn’t rhyme at all. Sorry.)

I seem to spend a lot of time explaining things to my older son that are actually lessons that I need to learn for myself, or that I’ve learned only recently. This means that either I never learned them as a child, or I did, and it took another twenty years for the lessons to stick. I’d like to blame the former, but let’s be honest: I can be a bit dense. I have no one to blame but myself.

Yesterday’s (attempted) lesson involved something we’ve talked about here before: This tendency that I and many others have to expect our first efforts to be spectacular. Oh, sure, we understand that other people need to practice a lot before they’re good at something, but there’s something in each of us (human nature, or perhaps a heavy focus on self-esteem building in our youth) that makes us think that we are special. We might think we’ll be able to learn to play guitar remarkably quickly, and do it exceptionally well, or that (in my son’s case) we’ll be able to draw things well just because we want to. Sure, Stephen King was writing short stories and novels for most of his life before he sold a novel, but we think that the first thing we write will be brilliant and sell a million copies and make us rich and famous and…

Sure, we say modestly, it will need a bit of editing, but the world will love it when it’s ready. We read (repeatedly, if we’re doing our research) that most books by new authors, no matter how they’re published, sell a disappointing number of copies. They don’t make a splash, don’t earn out their advance, don’t break even on what the author spent on editors and cover designers… but we still think we, individually, going to be the next J.K. Rowling/Stephanie Meyer/Insert Big-Time Debut Author Here.

And kids, it just ain’t so. It’s a fun dream, but as goals go, it… well, it sucks harder than the first draft of a first story.

This is a hard lesson to learn for some of us, but not learning it comes with serious consequences:

  • We don’t do the work. It’s like an actor sitting around waiting to be “discovered” rather than putting the necessary hours into learning and failure and experience. It’s happened before, but it’s a terrible game plan.
  • We’re unwilling to try new things, because we know we won’t be “naturals.”
  • If we do try, we give up as soon as things get tough, or as soon as we realize that this work isn’t as perfect as we expected it to be…
  • …or as soon as someone criticizes our liberal use of triple exclamation points in our Historical Romance, or the fact that the cat’s leg in our painting looks like a furry penis.
  • In fact, it makes it damned hard to take any criticism at all.

And we need that to grow. We need to be able to fall down and scrape our knees and know that this has nothing to do with us being special snowflakes or not; it just means that there’s more to learn, and there’s no shame in that.

This can be exciting! I’ve discovered that there’s freedom in saying “Yes, I need help,” and finding that there are people willing to offer it. There’s freedom in understanding that this is freaking hard on so many levels, but there’s no shame in trying to improve, and there’s freedom in knowing that you don’t have to be the best of the best to contribute something to the world, whether it’s stories or sculptures or sermons or songs (or photos or recipes or lemonade, or other less-alliterative things).

It’s actually funny that my son and I were talking about this yesterday (Me: “They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything*.” Him: “Wow. That’s more than two days.”). I wasn’t going to do a blog post about it, but this morning I opened a Weekly Inspiration e-mail from Life Manifestos, entitled “Yes, You Suck– Now Get Over It.” I recommend clicking on over there to take a look. It’s exactly what Simon and I (and now you and I) had been talking about: learning that we’re not the prodigies, naturals, or Mary-Sues** we dream we are, but going out there and doing it anyway.

This is why NaNoWriMo was and is so important to me. It’s not about being the best on your first shot. It’s about getting out there and doing the work that needs to be done before you can be great. It’s about not waiting for perfect inspiration or perfect skill to materialize out of thin air or to develop on its own, with no work or input from us. It’s about enjoying the journey, gaining a support group of people who are learning these same lessons, and having a ton of fun even as we work through the frustrations of revising, editing, maybe even publication… and then doing it all over again, knowing that it only gets better.

I hope my son will learn this lesson more quickly than his mom did. I don’t want him wrestling with perfectionism and insta-discouragement*** and thinking that everything he does should be amazing right away. I hope he’ll be open to improvement instead of being hurt by criticism like I was for so long. I hope he’ll learn to be willing to work and to put in something beyond the bare minimum (as this is a huge issue for him right now).

As for me… I’ve got to get back to work.

*No, I haven’t read Outliers yet, but it’s on the list.

**Come on, in our dreams we’re all that girl/guy who’s good at everything, the genius who everybody wants…

***Just add water!


WIPpet Wednesday: Pulling Teeth

Have no fear, we’re not actually pulling anyone’s teeth out today! But I’ve been working on revisions and drafting a new scene, and though I feel like the past few days have been productive, every word I’ve typed has been like pulling teeth from a reluctant dragon.

A reluctant mama dragon with halitosis, even.

So here’s nine sentences from what will be chapter four, if it stays in the story, because September is the ninth month, and that’s all the math my poor, abused brain has energy for right now.

I’m thinkinnnnng… no context. Just words. First draft warning applies.

Her head rolled back as I lifted her, leaving her throat exposed. A strong pulse pushed against the fragile skin, and the collar of her shirt pulled open where she’d neglected to close the top few buttons. At any other time such vulnerability would have seemed pathetic to me, but I found myself pulling her close to my chest, wanting to protect her. It’s her magic, I reminded myself, and released the breath I’d been holding. Of course it was still affecting me. Completely natural. Regrettable, but natural. It will pass, and no one has to know.

I gave into it for another moment and made her as comfortable as I could, removing her boots, loosening the ties at the waist of her trousers (careful to ignore the sliver of bare skin that appeared above them), and pulling a blanket up to her shoulders.

Bonus awkwardness points to this character, who doesn’t want to be here and happens to have no clothes to wear. AWKWARD.

I love my imaginary people.

Feel like joining in on WIPpet Wednesday? Head on over to the linkie to see what the WIPpeteers are up to, stop by and give a high-five to K.L. Schwengel to say thanks for hosting, and add your own link. Post a short excerpt from a work in progress that relates to today’s date, link up, and you’re in! It’s that easy, and so much fun.

ROW80Logocopy

“Holy Crappola!” she said in the classiest way possible, which as it turned out was not very classy at all. “It’s the last update for this round!”

Well, I can’t say I achieved everything I wanted to, but it’s been fun. I did get one novel out to beta readers and back, so that’s big. 1,000 words a day happened sometimes, but not other times. Better than nothing, right? I got my other creative stuff done. Here’s the other pony (it was raining the day I had to wrap the presents, so no nice pics for this girl):

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You get the idea. I did it, I finished the pony and the doll and a bonus pony. It did put a dent in my writing, because as I’ve said before, I can’t switch gears between writing and customizing.

The good news is, I think I’ve switched back. All it took was being stuck at the car dealership for 2.5 hours with nothing but my computer, a synchronized-snoring elderly couple, and soap operas for company. I got chapter one re-written, and better yet, got the ball rolling on the whole fiction thing again. It feels good.

So would I call this round a success? I don’t know. I’m not as far ahead as I hoped to be, but I also haven’t burned myself out, which is important. Much as I want to treat writing like a job and be professional about it, I’ll give up if it’s not feeding me anymore. The approach I’m taking now isn’t the most efficient, but it’s working for me.

And no, I’m not taking time off between rounds. Nex round (if I participate again), goals will probably include getting a story or two up on Wattpad to try that out, finishing revisions and getting a novel out to different beta readers (so as not to torture the same poor souls again) and to try out a few editors. Editors as in ones I’d like to hire, not as in submissions. How terrifying. 🙂

More ROW80 Updates here (I’m going to get to as many as I can today, what with it being the end and all). Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and supported me this round! You guys are the best.


A Few Honest Questions About Twitter

Not a rant. Actual questions about the benefits of having lots of Twitter followers who probably aren’t listening to you. Those of you who think Twitter is pointless (hi, Mom!*) probably can’t help me out here, but maybe someone else can. Feel free to skip the ruminating and go right to the questions at the end, if you’d like.

I like Twitter. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s a great place to leave my strange thoughts without having to see the way people look at me when I say them out loud.

But I think I’m doing it wrong, at least according to many people. I don’t have a lot of followers. I’m not interested in having followers who aren’t going to read me, because what’s the point of talking to people who aren’t listening? I don’t follow many people for the same reason. I follow accounts that have something to offer, whether that’s interesting links, entertaining thoughts, great conversations, whatever. If you follow me, I’ll usually take a look at your account; if your stuff looks genuine and interesting, great! But if all you’re doing is promoting your book or service ten times a day or recycling the same tweets over and over, I’m not going to follow you back. Likewise, if I find someone interesting and follow them, I don’t expect them to reciprocate if they don’t like what I post. To me, it’s about the content, not the number of follows.

My questions are about people who are about the numbers, at least partially. Case study (which got me thinking about this): I’m following at least one person now who, every day, posts numbers of new followers and numbers of “sneaky” people who unfollowed him/her. I find it extremely annoying, but I can’t unfollow, because I don’t want to be accused of sneakiness.

My question is, why does it matter who unfollows us, unless we’re only looking for reciprocal follows? If someone unfollows me, I assume it’s because they aren’t getting what they want from my tweets (sorry it didn’t work out, thanks for trying me), or they only followed me to get me to follow them back, and I didn’t do it (don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Sweetie). Either way, they’re free to go, and it won’t affect whether I read their tweets or not.

There are apps/programs/whatever that will tell you whether people you’ve followed have followed you back, so you don’t have to keep following them if they didn’t follow you. (Still with me?) Obviously the assumption is that people are only following each other to get more followers, right? And I doubt very much that they’re actually reading each other. They’re either not reading anyone, or are using apps to filter out most of the thousands of accounts they’re following.

As far as I can tell, what we end up with is crowded stadiums full of people yelling their promotions and messages, but no one is listening to each other, even though it looks like they have a whole lot of people listening. It’s like those things you see on Facebook sometimes: Like my page and I’ll like yours, and we’ll all have a lot of likes, YAYS! Except that no one really cares about those pages, and they’re not actually paying attention to each other. They’re empty “likes,” just like these Twitter accounts are offering empty follows.

Am I wrong? Is there actually some benefit to following 5000 people and having 5000 followers when there’s no way you can actually read all of them, and they’re probably not reading you because they’re only following you to get more follows for themselves, which is the same reason you’re following them?

Are we all confused yet?

*head explodes*

So tell me, Twitter people: Do you follow more accounts than you actually read? Do you use a program to filter out people you don’t want to read, and do you think that those un-read people still benefit from having you as a follower? (Honest question, I’m not accusing you of anything). Am I wrong, and people who follow 4000 accounts are actually looking at them all? Is it a big popularity contest that I’m losing by just looking for valuable content and a community I can connect with? Do you only follow people who follow you back?

I’ve purchased Kristen Lamb’s book “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.” Maybe it will answer some of these questions.

Just to clarify: I have nothing against people using twitter however they please. I’m just curious. 🙂

*Did I tell you my mom has a WordPress blog now? She’s pretty nice, if you want to stop by and say “hello.” 🙂


Can We Start the Countdown, Now?

Hey, people! It’s less than a month until Disregard the Prologue’s first blogiversary!

Stop, please! You’re embarrassing me.

Anyway, I’d like to do some fun things that week (the blogiversary itself falls on October 9). I’ll be writing some new posts, maybe some fiction if I have time, and re-posting some bits of bloggy goodness that happened way back before most of you were regular visitors.

BUT…

I don’t want this to be all about me and this blog, because that’s just silly. This should be a party, and I want my blog friends to participate.

So here’s the deal: if you’ve been around for a while (lurk-following or commenting, doesn’t matter) and you’d like to do a guest post, send me a pitch (see “about me” for contact info, or comment here if you’re feeling brave). Want me to post a video of you showing off a special talent for the benefit of the other guests? Sure! Have a party recipe to share? Please, let me know! I’d love to do give-aways on anyone’s books, or promote free days, because what’s a party without prizes? Heck, maybe I’ll go to the dollar store and pick up some party favours (as long as they’ll fit in a flat envelope, because I just got KILLED shipping a package to California today. Ugh.) A party needs music, games, strippers, drinks, and lots of confetti.

I think we all know that this isn’t exactly a professional blog setting, so this is pretty open. I’d like to keep it reasonably family-friendly, and there’s one other rule: any guest post you’d like to propose needs to be for the benefit of the little community that’s grown up around DtP, not just self-promotion. Of course, if you want to give something away (even if it’s just entertainment or advice) that just happens to promote your book, blog, or service… well, I probably won’t stop you. 😉

Maybe no one will want to participate, and that’s fine. But I hope you’ll all come by during the week of October 7-13 to see what kind of party we’ve put together.

WOOOOOOO PARTY!!!

 


Book Kittens

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This is stuck to my desk right now. If you want the story behind it, check out Kelsey Macke’s vlog about sick writers.

I think I’ve found a cause to fight for. 🙂

 


Total Twitter Turkey Time!

So, I’m planning to make a turkey dinner today. I wouldn’t say with all of the trimmings (which here in Newfoundland often includes salt meat and a side of turnips), but I’ll mash some potatoes, do stuffing (stovetop) and attempt gravy. Why am I telling you this? Because I find cooking boring, so I’m going to tweet the whole thing, starting now. If this turns out to be a disaster, at least there will be entertainment value in it, right?

Feel free to follow along, tweet back with advice or snarky-yet-good-natured comments, and enjoy what will almost certainly devolve into a prime opportunity for schaudenfreude. Someone might as well enjoy this…

(No, this is not my first turkey, but it’s like a wedding. SOMETHING always goes wrong.)

I’m @kate_sparkes, and I’ll use the hashtag #turkeydinner, unless someone has a better suggestion, and only when I remember to use it.

TO THE COOKATORIUM!


WIPpet Wednesday: Lucky You

Well HELLOOOOOOOO. (Feel free to read that in a Jerry Seinfeld voice, if that’s your thing. It’s not mine, but I won’t judge.) Welcome again to WIPpet Wendesday, which I will be participating in again this week. Things aren’t back to normal, exactly; I seem to have lost my will to write. I’ll get back to it. In the meantime, have eleven sentences from the next chapter of… um… well, I don’t know what to call it. The Thingy That I Shared From Those Other Times seems sort of inappropriate as a title, but that’s what it is.

This doesn’t pick up exactly where we left off last time (Part one here, part two here); I’m skipping a few introductions and the first part of the “Where the heck are we” conversation, simply because these eleven sentences are more interesting on their own, and I can do that, because this is my blog. OH, THE POWER.

I walked a few paces behind her and tried not to stumble in the road as I took in the world around me. It looked so much like the land I was familiar with— the moss-covered boulders rising from the ground, the birches and pines and aspens. A red squirrel nattered at us as we passed by, and a startled grouse darted out of the road as we came around a bend. But it was like there was another world laid over the one I was familiar with, with strange birds and plants I’d never seen in my summers exploring the woods around Brightdale. I reached out to touch a blue, magnolia-like flower. “Don’t worry,” Genessa said. “Nothing along this road is magic. Kind of like where you come from, right?”

“We don’t have magic or dragons, if that’s what you mean. Except in stories.”

“Lucky you.”

If you do want to read the whole story, and assuming that I can go back in time and rescue my writing mojo from Dr Evil (who OBVIOUSLY has stolen it, because what else could it be?), I’m thinking about using this one to try out Wattpad. This is a little side-story (probably novella-length) set in the same world as the novels I’m working on, so that might be a fun project, and it’s no big loss if it doesn’t work out. Not for promotion, just for fun.

Want more WIPpet fun? Check out the linkie here to see what the other WIPpeteers are up to, and feel free to join in. The more the merrier! Thanks as always to the fantabulotronic K.L. Schwengel for hosting.

What else do we need to do today? My ROW80 update, of course!

Obviously I haven’t been getting much writing done, but I’ve got some revision planning on the go, so that kind of counts toward writing, even if I’m nowhere near hitting a thousand words a day. Or 500. Or three. My other goals are going well, though. I said I was going to do meal-planning, and I’m kind of sticking with that. I finished that pony for that secret… thing, and she turned out really pretty. I don’t have a picture of her yet, but I can show you the bonus pony I did; I don’t think the person who’s getting these reads my posts, anyway.

The problem is, I did this one as a last-minute extra, and I’m having a hard time thinking about sending her away. LOOK HOW ADORABLE!

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Freaking Baby Bubbles. Stop it. Don’t look at me like that. STAHP!

Ugh.

Anyway, I finished my son’s Beothuk Barbie doll in time for his birthday, which was another goal. She turned out OK. I researched clothes, and then realized how difficult that was going to be, but I think I did a decent job with it. I re-did her face, but left her hair. I didn’t have the time, energy, or skill to do a re-root (it’s much harder on dolls than on ponies), so she has some lovely and inauthentic sun-kissed highlights going on. In any case, he loved her, and that was the goal. If he wants to put ochre (or more likely, red chalk pastels) on her skin and clothes, we’ll make a project of that and talk about the culture. Learning time!

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So there you go. Progress on some things, just not on what this challenge is really about (ie writing). We’ll see how the next week goes…

So tell me: Have you used Wattpad for reading or writing all of the free things? What did you think? Would anyone be interested in seeing this one finished and posted? Do you have dragons where you live? Would you like to? Can I borrow your time machine? Do you want to use the word “fantabulotronic?” You totally can.


Here’s What Happened Next

It’s been nine days since our cat Lucy went missing. Last Wednesday I mentioned that she was gone, and you were all amazingly supportive; I didn’t get back to respond to all of the comments, but your words of comfort and assurances that you were sending prayers/love/good thoughts her way meant a lot to me. Anyone who says internet community isn’t real community can bite my left foot. You guys are fantastic.

That was Wednesday, and I’ve been… well, fine, mostly. The kids are back to school and on something that at least resembles a routine, the house has been cleaner than it usually is  because that’s a thing I’m trying. I haven’t been writing much (fiction or blog), because it turns out that AJ is right: I can’t focus on more than one creative outlet at a time, and I had a deadline on a doll and some ponies.

Of course, I’ve also been distracted, worrying about this naughty little cat of ours. You know, for a long time I’ve suspected that she was a ninja or some sort of feline superhero, and that’s why she insists (loudly and incessantly) on going out so much. Perhaps, I thought, she’d been captured by her arch-nemesis, Or maybe a nice family had invited her in out of the rain, and she hadn’t been able to get out and come home. We did what we could, contacting the SPCA with a description in case someone brought her in, and they put her picture up on their Facebook page. We worked on posters to put up on the three bulletin boards in town.

I knew she would come home if she could. Remember this?

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This is not a cat who stays away longer than she has to.

But yes, I was worried, and I know I wasn’t the only one. AJ wasn’t talking about it, but he’s been leaving the front and back porch lights on all night, every night, just to make sure Lucy knew we were home. I figured I would know he’d given up when he stopped doing that. As for me, I’ve been preparing myself for the worst, trying to ease my brain into the idea that she might not be coming back, that we might not ever know what happened to her.

And I’ve been dreading talking to the kids about it.

Last night, AJ turned the porch light off.

But life goes on, and this morning I managed to at least crank out a few pages of writing notes before I took Jack for his walk. We’d been gone for about twenty minutes when my phone rang. It was AJ, but at first I couldn’t hear anything.

And then I heard, “MEW!”

“IS THAT LUCY?” I said, already crying. Yes, I was standing there by the side of the road in Noggin Cove, NL, tears in my eyes, voice trembling.

“MEW!”

No, Lucy hadn’t phoned me, but she had come home. AJ was still in bed when he heard a cat at the door. At first he thought that Harriet had got out when I left, but it didn’t sound like her. When he opened the door, Lucy came in, telling him off (or saying hello, it’s hard to tell with cats). She was yelling at him for treats when he called.

I got home in record time.

She’s fine. Maybe a little thinner than she was the last time we saw her, not that there was much to lose, but fine. Clean, healthy, undamaged. Sleepy and hungry, but that’s actually normal for every cat I know.

We might never know where she was for more than a week, or why. I’m sticking with the feline superhero thing, and yes, you can bet my brain has already made up a story about it for my older son’s age-range. But that will have to wait. For now, I have a sleepy kitty to cuddle.

Thank you all again for the love and well-wishes. I’ll tell Lucy all about it when she wakes up. 🙂


Not So Much With the WIPpet Today

Hey, folks. I’m trying to get around to everyone’s WIPpet Wednesday posts (and some ROW80 if I can), but I’m not going to be participating this week. I’m kind of distracted right now– our cat Lucy has been missing for a few days. I know it seems silly to some people, but I can’t concentrate on much right now.

Think happy thoughts, OK?

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Yes, I checked the garbage cans…

On a happier note, check this out. Even if you don’t know Ionia (and you really should), this is amazing news. AMAZING.

Also, and in unrelated news, these muffins are delicious, and you should try them.  Just saying.


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