Monday, March 26, 2012

Fairy Houses & Finishing Up

I don't know about you guys, but this year is flying for me. Spring broke in the Midwest about two weeks ago (to everyone's surprise), and my daughters learned a new activity: building Fairy Houses.

When we moved here last summer, Catherine and several of her friends from our previous home in Baldwin County, Ala., invented this thing called Fairy World. They all meet there at night while they're sleeping and play and have adventures, and when they talk on the phone, they discuss what they did. It's how they pretend to still be together. 

The Mom in me gets very sentimental about that little game. These girls have been friends since they were three years old, and last June, they said good-bye to each other as we moved 850 miles away. It was tough.

And now we're here, the girls are making new friends, and some of those new friends have taught them to make Fairy Houses. They gather assorted objects from the yard--flowers, feathers, rocks, shells, sticks--find a safe nook at the base of a tree or on a ledge, and assemble it all into a "house."

They spend hours doing it, and they're lovely! Now they say that's where they meet for their play-dates. Le sigh.

Some fairies live here.
In other news, if you've been following, you know I spent this month doing the 30K in 30 Days challenge with the lovely and talented Janet Johnson (link) of the Hacky Sack Club.

I'm at 57,200 on my south Mississippi sci-fi, and I'm feeling good about bringing that one home. I know my characters, I know what's about to happen, and I know the end.

Complication: Today marks Day 1 of my daughters' two-week spring break (yes, you read that right). I've been pushing to get my WIP to that point where it's sailing to the end because I'm worried how all this togetherness is going to affect my writing schedule.

How am I handling this? Janet and I are renewing the 30K challenge for April. If you'd like to join, hop on! It's an honor-system challenge. If you miss a day writing 1K, you have to post an embarrassing video (or story) on your blog. Easy peasy! And it works.

As for burying the lede, I'm going out on subs again in April. Wish me luck, kids. I have no idea what to expect.
Others live here.

My plan is not to think about it. I'll be working on JACKSON and hoping I'm a skilled enough writer to accomplish what's in my head for the climax and conclusion.

And one of the weeks, we'll be headed south to visit all those little fairies we left behind.

Good luck to my bleeps doing the A-Z Challenge (link) and those rock stars who've made it to the quarter-finals in the ABNA (link)! Three great bloggy friends are there, and one's my super-awesome critter Tami-Hart Johnson (link).

April is the cruelest month, according to Eliot, but my yard looks about as far from a Waste Land as you can get. I say let's break with tradition this year. The weather's already setting records. Let's get some fairy dust and make it magical. It's working for the girls.

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! <3

Monday, March 19, 2012

Life & Being a Mom

JRM and I were chatting the other night about what a roller-coaster our last two years have been. He said 2010 is his "lost year." He doesn't remember much. For me, it's 2011. I remember 2010.

Two years ago, we were in a situation that touched me like nothing else had to that point. It taught me (and many others) about friendship, about the power of prayer... It also showed the incredible, positive potential of social media.

It started with a hurricane. Actually, two particularly awful back-to-back hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005 that drove a young family north from the coast to our small town in so-Ala.

I met Jenni through preschool. Her daughter Anne Claire and my youngest Laura were the same age, and they latched onto each other at three years old and never really let go. Jenni and I did the same.

Fast-forward four years and you find me in Jan. 2010, chin-deep in WIP 3, and sending out queries for my very first novel. Our elementary school's big fundraiser was coming up, and Jenni was in charge of it all. I was helping her with publicity.

I called her on a Wednesday to talk about what we wanted to do, but she was tired. Anne Claire had been up all night with a fever. Me: "No worries! Get some rest!" And I hung up and went back into my WIP cave.

A day later another friend called me--Anne Claire had been rushed to urgent care with dehydration and respiratory distress. Another day later, Jenni called.

She was in tears and nearly hysterical. Anne Claire's little body was shutting down, and the doctors feared renal failure. They were intubating her (putting her in a medically induced coma), and they had called their priest.

They weren't sure if Anne Claire would make it through the weekend.

Oh, God, I will never forget that moment.

I'll never forget how loose the phone became in my hand. Only one other time in my life had I felt that way--as if everything was suddenly so quiet and still and very far away. And I was so cold. That had to be why I was shaking...

I hung up the phone and curled up on the floor in my bedroom. No one else was home, and I didn't even realize I was crying until the tears were in my nose. All I could do was pray, but I had no idea what to say.

The doctors had tested her repeatedly for swine flu, but the tests kept coming back negative. They didn't know what was trying to kill her. I remember pressing my face in my hands and just saying, "God. No."

With my eyes closed I imagined reaching across Mobile Bay, through space, into that hospital room and taking her little hand. Just holding onto her and saying, "Stay with us, baby girl. Your friends love you. Your mommy needs you."

After a few minutes, I climbed into my chair and got on Facebook. I posted "Please pray for 6 yr-old Anne Claire Dismukes. She's in the hosptial, and the doctors don't think she's going to make it. She's one of Laura's best friends."

Then I emailed my church's prayer list with the same request. Then I called my mom.

A few hours later, I got back on FB and found that another friend had set up a page for Anne Claire and friends from all over the world were asking for more information, putting her on their prayer lists. By the end of the day we had 5,000 people praying for her.

Her first smile after waking up.
I'd like to write, "And by Monday she was all better!" But that's not what happened.

She did not die.

That little girl was so strong and she fought, and we loved her and prayed for her. The doctors brought in an arsenal of tests and drugs, but I don't think they ever agreed on what hit her.

Anne Claire went home before the end of first grade, and she was there for the end of the year parties and awards. She had a tutor and she passed her classes, and a few months later she was completely off the oxygen they sent home with her.

Fast-forward six months to Christmas 2010 she was dancing on the coffee table with Laura, laughing and holding hands and looking for all the world like nothing ever happened.
Christmas 2010, 6 mos later.

Why am I telling this story? I don't know. Maybe somebody needs to hear it. Maybe I need to hear it.

Sometimes life throws you curve balls. Sometimes things don't go your way or nothing's happening as it should and no matter how hard you try, you just can't fix it.

You're not alone. Stuff happens. And sometimes difficulties last longer than they should, and we're not given reasons why. But if you're reading this, you have friends and ultimately, you're stronger than you think.

And wow. Look how fast 5,000 people came together to pray for a little girl they didn't even know.

You guys are great. I hope I've at least given you a little heart-warmer. Have a great week~ <3

Monday, March 12, 2012

Motivational Trick: Partners

Getting back to writing after a break is tough. I've blogged about Restarting the Train (link) before.

If you're battling inertia, here's a great way to get moving: Find a Partner who's in the same boat and who'll hold your feet to the fire.

Accountability is such a great motivator. I joined a crit group in the SCBWI here, but also my great bleep Janet Johnson of the Hackey Sack Club (link) challenged me to write 30K in 30 days.

It's not a lot, but it's a great start. And the penalty for missing a day is posting something embarrassing on our blogs.

JRM was in New Orleans all last week, which left me plenty of time to write, but also to finish that huge revision from Agent Kate. I dug into that... and I missed not one, but TWO writing days.

Janet cracked the whip. She's right there with the shark.

Just kidding, she was going to let me off the hook, but I said No! That's the deal. The problem became what to post?

I was going to give you a shot of how long my leg hairs were by Saturday, but as I said, JRM was gone a week. I didn't think that would be a nice, wifey thing to do to him, so I shaved.

Instead, you get to see me (with help from the silly hat club) Juggle the Cat!

Not really. I saved the cat (*wink*), and instead tried to juggle three things at once. And failed.

Yep. It's been crazy-busy around here, which is why I've been somewhat M.I.A. I hope to be back around this week as I dig out.

And if you're having procrastination issues, do find a partner and make a dare. I'd love to see your video.

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends~ <3

Monday, March 5, 2012

Orson Welles Says Wait

I'm about to share some advice I haven't completely internalized myself. There's two-parts, so here's #1: Publishing is the slowest business on Earth. (I've got that.)

#2: It's OK for me to slow down, too.

Gah! That's the part I can't internalize.

We live in a super fast-paced society, right? Everything is instant gratification, and no one should be made to wait for anything. It's bad business, and it's bad for business. That's how we're trained since childhood.

I have the added disadvantage of coming to this game from a primarily print-news background. It's actually good and bad.

It's great because I have loads of discipline about meeting deadlines and getting stuff done. Staying on point, crafting strong ledes.

It's bad because news is one of the fastest businesses on the planet.

Even worse, I worked about 18 months in television news, which moves at the speed of light.

OK, maybe more like sound, but I'm just saying. In television, if it happened today, and you didn't get it on by 10 p.m., it's Old News.

I know, exaggerate much? Actually, No. I don't.

So then I got it in my head to try and write a book. And lo and behold, I did it! Oh my god!

About half-way through, when I realized it might actually happen, I shot off a ten thousand-word equery to Dan Lazar at Writers House all about how I was a published journalist, I was writing this book, and he was going to love it once it was done. Oh, why him? Meh, I picked his name off the list because I'd heard Writers House was good, and he took equeries. The end.

Ten points to Gryffindor if you can name everything I did wrong in that paragraph.

As time passed, I got feedback from some agents that my very first book needed revision. Pretty significantly. Perhaps if I hadn't equeried 500 agents at once, I could've addressed that.

But no worries! I wrote a few more books and ultimately I did get an agent. Now I'm looking at revisions for the book we're about to send out.

And you know the advice I've been given? Take your time. Get it right.

For me, that is the hardest lesson. Slow down. Let it sit a few days and then go back to it with fresh eyes. Pick it up again, polish it some more, make it better.

Good books, like good wine, take time. Take it from our boy Orson. Once it's out there, it's out there. No taking it back.

Why not make it as good as it can be before releasing it?

Personally, I want it to happen now, now, NOW! But I bet we can all name books that would've benefited from a few more weeks (or months) in the barrel.

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! <3