Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Roundup, Looking Ahead to 2013

I accomplished a lot this year, I'm happy to say. I sent out 56 submissions. I published two short stories, and one is already slated to come out next year. I also sold my first piece of non-fiction which should be coming out sometime in 2013. I published a novel. That still makes me smile. I imagine it will never get old.

My son turned 2 back in March. I found copies of his footprints today, the ones the hospital gives you to take home and add to your scrapbook. His feet have doubled in length. Doubled. His head reaches my hip. We have conversations. He has the greatest smile ever. Pretty soon he'll be 3. Then he'll be in elementary school. Then college. It boggles the mind.

My family and I took a trip to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC. We were there for 8 days, and it wasn't nearly enough time. In 2013 I'll be attending Lone Star Con. I hope to visit some old friends while I'm in San Antonio, make plenty of new friends, and meet people I've only known on the internet.

I finished several new short stories this year, most of them during the frenzy known as NaNoWriMo. One is out the door. I've polished two others and am currently working on another. I finished a novel and hope to have comments back from beta readers over the next month or two. I have another novel idea percolating in my head, and pretty soon I'll start jotting down notes and ideas so I can start working on it by the first of March.

I read a lot of great books. I mentioned a couple of series at the World Weaver Press blog. I also adored Jo Walton's Among Others and finally got around to reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I've slowly been making my way through Stephen King's Dark Tower series and just recently finished the fourth book. It took some time, but my reading speed finally picked back up to pre-child levels, just as it took some time for my writing output to do the same.

I have a new project planned for 2013 in which I'll be hosting writers on this blog. I'm calling it Thumbnail Thursday because I see the interview as a sketch to intrigue you enough to discover some new writers and new work. I'm excited about my first guest who will be appearing here on Thursday, January 3, 2013 to discuss his work. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lessons Learned from The Trenches of Retail

This time of year makes me think of plenty of things: holidays, snow, spending time with family, new beginnings, chocolate (okay, honestly, I think about chocolate all the time anyway), and retail. I worked in retail for a short period of time, many years ago, and during the holidays, no less. The experience was quite... enlightening.

I worked at a lingerie store that happened to be situated in an outdoor shopping center, just downstairs from a bar. This meant that closing time on the weekends was usually unpredictable and often entertaining. Like the time a rather inebriated fellow came into the store, took one of the false breasts out of the mannequin's bra, and waved it around while loudly proclaiming, "Look, it even has a nipple!" Um, sir, please hand me the boob. Thanks.

There were two types of men who would come into the store: those who knew what they were looking for and felt comfortable, and those who were as terrified as anybody facing down a hungry tiger. I always pounced on the latter because it was so easy to convince them that they needed to buy things in addition to what was on their list (hey, it was my job to sell, sell, sell). Those customers were easy to spot. They'd take two steps into the store, freeze, and stare around with their mouths agape like they'd fallen asleep in bed and woken up in the middle of a foreign country.

There were stingy customers, people who tried to pull scams or steal, and regulars. Some customers were polite, others were rude. The ones that bothered me the most? Those who would ignore me to answer their phones without even an, "Excuse me." I'd always leave them and go help somebody else.

So I always try to be extra polite this time of year when I go to the store. The people working there are tired, frazzled, frustrated, and their feet hurt. A smile and a few kind words go a long way to giving them the little extra pep they need to make it through the end of their shift or until their next break.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It...

A lot of people are gearing up for the Mayan Apocalypse. Let me go on record that I think the world will keep on spinning after the 21st of this month, and if I'm wrong, nobody will be around to let me know anyway. NASA debunks some of the rumors regarding the apocalypse. I find it rather funny that NASA even has to put this information under their Frequently Asked Questions section.

It's a good thing the apocalypse is happening on a Friday. That way people can celebrate with parties. I've seen advertisements ranging from "let's have a potluck and meditate to usher in a new era" to "OMG the world is ending let's have an orgy because we're all gonna die." With all the excitement, people will need the weekend to recover.

Some people spotted a fireball over Houston recently. Perhaps not coincidentally, Houston was destroyed twice in the movie Independence Day, first by the aliens, and then by a nuke. If one place was going to be the epicenter of the apocalypse, apparently a lot of people believe Houston would be it, which is too bad because I certainly enjoyed the city when I lived there. And of course, the world would end when it looks like the Texans finally have a chance at going to the Super Bowl.

When the 21st rolls around, I'll go to work and do the rest of my usual routine. I don't plan on going to any end-of-the-world parties. I won't blow all my money on some extravagant expense. But I might have chocolate cake for breakfast that morning. Just in case.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Final NaNoWriMo Report

Before November started, I had 11 short story ideas ready to go with the intent of writing 50,000 words in one month. I ended up with 6 short stories and 1 novella and a few insights.

Something I already knew about my writing was that I meander when I start a story. I never manage to come up with an awesome, memorable first line, or heck, even a first paragraph or page that's usable. I usually have to ease into the story, and then somewhere around the second page things get going. Working on short form for a month really brought this home for me because every few days I ended up doing the exact same thing. I'd meander my way into a story.

The second thing I discovered was that I really couldn't put my finger on a story's theme until it was finished. I might have an idea of what I want to write about when I start out, but it's not until I write the last few lines that I think, "Oh, that's what this story was about." It was infinitely easier to figure this out when I wrote a story over the span of a few days.

Third, it's okay for the first draft to suck. Really, it is. You just can't get it all right the first time. I think I needed to remind myself of this. I ended up jotting down a few notes at the end of each story before moving on to the next so I'll be able to look at that whenever I go back to revise.

Finally, I managed to shake off whatever was bugging me earlier this year and finish several stories. Yes, they need work. But it's so much easier to make a story into the shiny, gorgeous thing it's meant to be when you actually have the raw material on paper. That last story was hard to write. I was tired of pushing myself. I felt mad-scientist insane, like when I attended Odyssey and had to critique stories every day on top of writing my own material and going to class. When I wrapped up the last few lines of that last story, I think I might have cackled. Cackled! Well, the nice folks in the coffee shop are used to me by now.

For those of you who finished NaNo, congratulations! For those who started something but didn't reach that 50K mark, keep plugging away. And when you're ready to edit that story (or stories) into something beautiful to send out into the world, read Amalia Dillin's tips for revising.