7/1/15

Cliff jumping



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Yeah, so you're wondering why I'm posting a bikini pic on my blog. And... you're wondering if I've jumped into some kind of time machine.

Wish I could tell you that time travel wasn't fictional, but that's really me a while back. Big T in 17. That was my nickname the year I was seventeen. That was the year I went cliff jumping. That was the year I was brave. And I'm trying to get a little bit of her back again.

I am in the process of querying (sending out query letters to prospective literary agents for my novel)  - a slow process as it's summertime and I have a wild and sweaty three year old on my hands all day.

I won't go into the mechanics of how many queries I've sent out and how they're doing, but I'm proud that I'm making a start and learning.

It's a lot like cliff jumping. When I was 17 on the Big Island we went to this secret spot where you could jump off a cliff into the ocean. Y'all. This is so not the kind of thing I do. But you know what? I did it.

You know how? I just jumped. There was no preamble. No thinking about it. No standing on the edge and looking over. I just jumped as quick as I could.

It was a blast, ocean water up the nose, bathing suit wedgie and all. It was even more of a rush because it's not the sort of thing I do. I was ferociously proud of myself in that moment.

The odd thing was, weeks later I went back and I couldn't do it. I stood on the edge looking over and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I hesitated. I waited too long and the fear took over.

Sending out query letters to prospective agents feels the same way. The hardest part is thinking about doing it. Standing on the edge, pondering it, but not having the will to jump. The hardest part is just hitting send on the email.

Once I hit send, well, it's like flying through the air into that bracing ocean water. It's exhilarating. It's a rush. It's all downhill after that.

Not that querying is easy. I've spent months working on my query letter and synopsis. And now comes the waiting. Now come the rejection letters.

But you know, it still feels like jumping was the hardest part.

Part of what helped me jump off the cliff on the Big Island was my big, rowdy group of friends who were confidently plunging into the ocean themselves, not to mention the boys I was trying to impress with my bravado.

But I'm not 17 anymore. And I don't have a big, rowdy group of friends who are querying with me and cheering me on. That would certainly help! We could all order up a round of drinks to celebrate after hitting send. Or hey, just go cliff jumping.

But these days, it feels lonely, like it's just me, at that cliff alone, trying to get up the courage to leap.

So, if you wanna send me any virtual cheers or hugs, I'll take all the encouragement I can get to keep jumping, even if I don't know exactly what I'm jumping into.

May we all have the courage to go cliff jumping, at least once in our lives!

6/1/15

Summertime



Summertime is here. And it's finally stopped raining enough to feel like it. I've been taking a break from obsessing about writing and I've been swimming in small pleasures while also trying to adjust to the end of Mother's Day Out and having my toddler home with me all day every day. I'm drinking iced Americanos and getting bit by mosquitoes and taking naps whenever I can.

Here's a few of the things I've been living and loving lately.




Music: 
BORNS - Candy EP. This is happy dancey feel good music.

Movies: 



On Mother's Day my husband treated me by letting me go to a matinee by myself. He knows what I like! I went to go see Far From the Madding Crowd. It was a nice period film.  It makes me want to go back and read the book. It makes me wonder why I haven't read the book. It makes me wonder if I did read the book in college and forgot it? Hmmm.



We also saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I wanted to love it. Because I'm a child of the 80s, okay? And it was a big, gorgeous extravaganza of weirdness, but it didn't hit me in the heart. Maybe I was too busy being blown away by all the intense action.

TV: 


The Blacklist is the latest tv show I've gotten hooked on. I'm not so big on the "criminal of the week" format, but the chemistry between Reddington and Elizabeth Keen is just so great - the ongoing mystery of who is he and what is he to her? And I love the oh-so-addictive weird relationship between Elizabeth and Tom Keen. It reminds me a lot of Alias (and I loved that show) with less far-out and cheesy spy stuff (although that was kind of fun too). The first season of Blacklist is on Netflix if you want to check it out.



Okay, and I have to give another plug for Hart of Dixie here. This show is over. The season finale was a few months ago. But I love the way they ended it. I hate it when I love a show and it ends abruptly or badly.  I swear this season I cried almost every episode. They know just how to make me laugh and cry too. So if you like girly quirky screwball comedies like Gilmore Girls, you have to watch Hart of Dixie. Also on Netflix, people!



And... the Bachelorette is back on! Don't make plans with me for Monday nights because I will be butt in seat watching all summer long. Yes, this show is ridiculous. Yes, that's why I watch it.

And of course, Books: 



I've been reading a TON lately. Or maybe I should say I've been listening a TON. Because I've ripped through a lot of audiobooks in addition to the books I've been reading.

I have a lot of thoughts about reading I'd love to sit down and hash out. I still haven't found my perfect niche as a reader (and probably never will). I keep expecting to find some sub-genre that is just so ME that I want to read it forever. But I don't.  I'll read some women's contemporary fiction.  Then some women's historical fiction. And then read some YA fantasy as a chaser. And then I will read chick lit as a palate cleanser. Then I'll read sci fi. Then I'll read a historical mystery. And maybe some memoir or non-fiction thrown in for good measure.

It's like a good dinner. I need contrasting varieties and tastes and textures to keep it fresh and interesting.

Here are a few of my recent faves:
  • The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
  • Time's Edge by Rysa Walker
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
If you want to see more of what I'm reading or my book reviews, please check me out on Goodreads and add me as a friend so I can see what you're reading too.

And, Food, Food, Food!!!



Cookbooks I've been perusing from the library:
  • Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food
  • Buvette - I want to eat here next time I'm in NYC or Paris! 
Favorite recipes recently:
Miscellany:

Kendra Scott - Ohhhhh no. I've been bitten by the Kendra Scott bug. I asked for one of her necklaces for Mother's Day. I just love the fun funky style, the different color choices and it's good quality. I'm so tired of buying costume jewelry and having the metal finish wear off in six months. Every woman I know in Austin seems to love Kendra Scott. Is this just an Austin thing because she's local? Or is every woman in Kansas and Atlanta and LA wearing her stuff too?

Coola face SPF 30 matte tint sunscreen - Okay, this is weird. But I am in love with this stuff. Because I need to be wearing sunscreen on my face everyday. Because it doesn't feel like I am wearing sunscreen on my face everyday. Because it's light and soft nothingness on my skin. And because it's non-chemical sunscreen.

5/13/15

Diving in


So for the curious, here’s an update on writer happenings around here.

I set a goal several months ago to self-publish one of my novels by June 1.  It was an audacious goal. I wanted to challenge myself, spur myself forward, make things happen because I’d been stuck and stagnant so long. 

And that’s happened for sure. I did another edit of my novel. It was absorbing and exciting and fun. But in the middle of that I was thinking again about whether I want to pursue the traditional publishing path or self-publishing. Both paths seem daunting, both paths offer pros and cons. 

But I was searching for what was in my heart - what I really want, in spite of the fear. And what I want is to give traditional publishing a try. I feel like I would regret it if I didn’t. And what do I have to lose? Well, I stand to lose time and emotional energy, but I'm not going to get anywhere if I'm not willing to invest my time and energy and take risks.



So, here I am, weeks away from June 1, and I will not be slapping my lovely little novel up for sale on Amazon. But, I am okay with that.  I’ve kickstarted the process, I’ve gotten myself moving and that’s what I wanted to do in the first place.

So instead, I'll be working on the process of getting traditionally published. For those of you unfamiliar with the publishing process here’s a quick overview of how it looks from an author's perspective: 
  • You send a query letter, a short blurb about your book and usually a sample, to agents who you’d like to represent you.
  • Based on the query letter if an agent is interested they ask to read your whole manuscript. 
  • If they like your manuscript and think it’s sellable and a good fit, they contact you to offer representation. 
  • After you’ve signed with an agent, you may have another round of revisions and edits to your novel. 
  • And then the agent will start to pitch your novel to publishers. 
  • And then if a publisher wants your novel, there will be negotiations before the contract.
  • Once the contract is signed, there will then be another round of edits and proofreading before your novel gets sent to print.
It is not an easy or short process to be sure. But it is what it is, and I’m diving in at the beginning. The last month I’ve spend most of my energy on getting ready to query.  



It's taken me longer than I wish because I’ve been sorting through complex emotions - chief among them fear - to get to a point where I am ready to start sending query letters. I feel vulnerable admitting this, admitting that I am not bullet proof, that I’m thin skinned and sensitive. It’s true, I am. And I wish I wasn’t. So I’m having to psych myself up to go through this. There is a lot of rejection and criticism. It’s par for the course. So here I go.

I’ll be starting to query soon and I have no idea what that will look like - how long I’ll be doing it, how many agents I will query, how soon I will hear back from them (if at all).

So… don’t expect me to be posting every little detail here as I'm pretty sure it would bore you to tears.  And don't expect me to be telling you in a month that I have some magical fairy dust publishing deal! But if you have a bag of magical fairy dust, please send it my way. ;-)

In the meantime, I’m trying to reignite what I love about writing in the first place and working on a new project. I want to keep the creative flow flowing! 


5/8/15

Ex Machina: Men, Women, Robots & Love



So I watched Ex Machina last weekend. Haven't stopped thinking about it since. And I love that. There are so many layers to this movie, so many ways to dissect and discuss it.  (Please don't ask me about this movie at lunch because I will be talking for an hour.)

But the aspect that jumped out at me was the feminist angle. I consider myself a feminist, but I'm not one of those people constantly looking around for patriarchal boogeymen to jump out of the bushes. To me, most of our problems around this place called earth are not problems of patriarchy, but just human nature, male or female.



But the feminist layer of this movie is just so strong. Women are so clearly objectified in this movie - although the movie is self-aware, using it to make a point, so it's not mindless objectification. It's not meant to merely titillate or enrage, but invites dialogue.

Okay, spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the movie. so I'm warning you. If you haven't seen the movie yet and you plan to, well, don't read this!

*****SPOILERS AHEAD*****

Nathan, creates a female AI (Artifical Intelligence), named Ava. Later you learn he's created other prototypes before her, also sexy females. One of his creations is Kyoko, essentially a mute servant whose sole job is to look pretty - well, let's face it, sexy - and do house chores, but never to argue, never to interact, never to talk. It's also implied that she serves as a sexual companion to Nathan.

*****SPOILERS OVER*****

Oh Man, did this get my goat! As it was designed to, I think. Because if you could create truly sophisticated lifelike "robots" these would be some of the first uses - sexual gratification and menial labor. The cynic in me says that men would create women that would be objects, to be used, without complications, without problems, without souls.



Honestly, watching the movie it stirs up all these FEELINGS. Is that all we're good for as women - to be beautiful, sexy, to be sycophantic servants to men? Is that all they want us for? We're human beings! With needs and feelings and thoughts and talents and personalities. We're not pretty sexy dummies!

This might be a good place to interject that my husband does not make me feel that in any way. He's awesome! And I know many many other respectful amazing men out there. But it's more about general messages from society that women are valued the most for being beautiful and attractive, young and nubile.

It is the ultimate male fantasy, a woman who is attractive, sexually available at all times, graceful, perfect, domestic, quiet, no drama, no feelings, no interests of her own, she is completely centered around the man in her life. She worships him.  She is his slave.

It's easy for me to get my feminist panties in a twist at this point. But wait, but wait. Hmmm. Let's be fair here. Okay?

What is the ultimate female fantasy? Well, if you read popular romance novels or watch chick flicks, it's pretty obvious. It is getting the ungettable man.

*Ewan McGregor in Down With Love

He's handsome, he's rich, he's powerful. Often he's a bad boy with commitment issues. Every woman wants him. But no other woman has been able to get him until YOU. Because you're just so unique and amazing and special and gorgeous and he adores you. Now suddenly he's willing to commit. He's all in. He's all yours. You're all he can think about all day and night. The wild man has been tamed. He worships you. He is your slave.

(Wanna know exactly what I'm talking about? See my Chick Flicks list for movies featuring Bad Boys and Good Girls.)

I have to admit, even my beloved Pride and Prejudice (helllloooo Mr. Darcy) and North & South (helllloooo Mr. Thornton) uses the fantasy of the ungettable man - a noble man, perhaps, but still ungettable, unless the right woman comes along, at which point he promptly turns into jello.



So wait. Hmm. This female fantasy sounds a lot like the male fantasy, doesn't it? It's a little different, but in the end it comes down to another human being worshipping you - their whole life centers around you,  for them, no one else exists but you.

And uh, that's not really love, is it? That's not a healthy equal relationship with another flawed human being. That's not love, that's a fantasy that's all about self-gratification and ego.

So while this movie made me want to shake my feminist fist at the sky in protest, in the end it just reminded me that male, female, none of us are perfect. We all want to be loved. And maybe we all want to be worshipped, just a little bit.

But that doesn't leave room for love - being part of someone else's life, with all the imperfections, sharing life that includes hurts, problems, inconveniences, forgiveness, self-sacrifice. To love you have to set aside self-gratification and ego, and it's the same, whether you're a man or a woman.

4/15/15

Jane's table



I've been reading At Home with Jane Austen recently. Well, mostly looking at the pictures, but they are lovely pictures. One of them stood out. It's the picture of the table where Jane Austen wrote most of her novels, or so we are told. It's such a small, simple table and chair in such a small, simple room - a hallway really.

Supposedly she sat at this little table, squeezing in moments of writing here and there as she could, often hiding her work from passersby in the house, who didn't even know she was writing novels, but thought she was writing letters instead.  She was a secretive novelist.

She had no laptop, no Scrivener, no writer's group, no writers conference, no blog, no Twitter, no Facebook. It was just her, and paper and ink, and a table.

And the thought of this cheers me, the sight of this little table. Because before Jane, those stories did not exist. The idea that a humble, unimportant little human being made these incredible stories that people have now enjoyed for hundreds of years - that she sat at this little table writing them, completely unaware of their future reception and her future glory, which she would never experience personally - it's awe inspiring.

Because sometimes as a writer I just feel so dang small. I wonder why I am doing this. I wonder if anyone will ever read what I wrote. And I wonder if anyone will ever enjoy it, much less love it. I wonder if it will ever matter.  Sometimes the daunting nature of it all, the possible soul smashing rejection of it all, makes me want to give up.

And then I think of Jane at that little table. What if she had just given up? She had every logical reason to give up. But she wrote on because of passion, because of love, some inner drive. And millions of people have gotten to enjoy the fruit of that labor.

I'm not saying I'll be the next Jane. But Jane's table reminds me that I have no idea what I will be and it's not really my job to know - it's just my job to follow the muse and enjoy the journey.

3/29/15

Early morning walks and comfort movies



For some reason I woke up this morning before seven. I decided to roll with it, made coffee and went for a walk. The sky was pink, the breeze was cool, the birds were singing and I felt like Keira Knightley in this scene from Pride and Prejudice, in spite of the distant hum of traffic on the highway and the suburban scenery.

I just re-watched that movie this week and it made me wish I could take long walks everyday over the British countryside.

I have to re-watch it every couple of years. It’s one of my comfort movies. Sometimes I need the familiar, something I know I’ll love. But I’ve forgotten just how much I love that movie.

It’s a great story, I mean hello. I have a shamefully documented love of Jane Austen. But for me, this movie transcends that. It’s a piece of art.

It’s an impressionist painting made up of emotion. Every scene is so deliberate - the angles, the costumes, the light, the music. It’s a compressed version of the story. A haiku. Watching the movie feels almost as if you are looking into a tiny dollhouse that’s come to life. And the cast, the cast is amazing too. So many seasoned actors and so many who've blown up since!


I would love to sit down with Joe Wright for a few hours and just talk about how he made the movie and his artistic choices. I have questions, you know?

And I want to go to England.

And of course every time I watch the movie again, it makes me want to read the book again! Ha!

Do you have any movies like this in your life? Comfort movies you turn to again and again?

p.s. It’s now 4:30 in the afternoon and I feel more like this:


3/27/15

Why self-publishing?




So today I've finished editing 8 out of 18 chapters in my novel. More than halfway there. Cause for celebration, don't you think?

Maybe I shouldn’t be celebrating, because I’m nowhere near my original timeline, but I’m moving. Crawling, walking or running - movement is movement.

I still have the same excited energy I’ve had since I started working towards my audacious goal, but I’m starting to get nervous.

The editing and writing part is easy for me. Not so easy are the steps that follow - finding beta readers, creating an author web site, finding a professional editor and proofreader, figuring out how the heck to market this thing. I will admit, I’m a little scared. But I’m still moving!

So I thought I’d address a question… Why self-publishing?

This could be a very long answer, but I'm going to just share a key moment.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time - to go the traditional publishing house route with an agent, or to self-publish an ebook. I’ve heard all sorts of arguments, pro and con on each side. The voices are deafening, the choices confusing. I’ve been debating with myself for YEARS. I’ve been uncertain. I’ve been afraid.

It seems as if it’s lots of hard work and risk and there are no guarantees of any level of success, no matter which road you take.

I was sitting on a Valentine’s Date with my husband, enjoying steak and a glass of red wine, pouring my little heart out, telling him all of my thoughts on the subject when I had a breakthrough.

I realized that I’ve been hoping for an easy, obvious answer - a series of steps I could take that would result in guaranteed success. (Can you hear me laughing at myself? Really. I’m so ridiculous.) But this, of course, does not exist. The fact is the odds of success are against me, no matter what I do. So it doesn’t really matter which path I choose - what matters is that I do something.

And suddenly… I felt free. Free to choose. I don’t have to have the perfect answer, because the perfect answer doesn’t exist.

I chose self-publishing because I don’t want to spend the next two years just trying to find an agent. Ugh. Did I just say that? Yes, I did.

I want to put my work out there. I want people to read it. That’s my dream. I hope it comes true.

I still have doubts. I’m still scared. But I’m moving!