Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life in Moments

Today (Tuesday) was a strange day.

The day started with me sending off Secrets of Skin and Stone to Sarah. I'd gone through revisions and it was ready... so I did it. I took a deep breath and did it. Sarah let me know that she'd received it and was excited to check into it... and then she told me to go have a cupcake and get back to killing chickens. (Apparently, she follows my Twitter feed.)

I got on Twitter and goofed off most of the day. Some of it was spent trying to figure out how to kill chickens quietly and violently. (For the book... always for the book... I swear.) Some was spent just talking with friends on Twitter who I've neglected to work on revisions and so on. I wrote a very little. I researched some. I mostly did nothing. It was a fun nothing, but mostly nothing.

At just after two p.m., I got ready to take Nanaimo for a run. I'm still trying to convince him the gentle leader leash is okay... but he hates it with his very being... so it took a while. Finally, I had it on him and we were off. We'd reached the end of my street and just turned onto the next street when someone out working on their lawn asked what kind of dog Nanaimo is. I told him and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a streak of black as his dog bolted from the front porch and ran across the street towards us. A moment later, he'd lunged at Nanaimo's neck with a snarl.

This isn't the first time Nanaimo's been attacked on our runs. I've brought it up on Twitter before and everyone told me that I needed to contact Animal Control because I did NOT want to be in the middle of a dog fight. None of the previous attacks were anything like this. Not at all. It was violent and loud and went on and on and on. I pulled Nanaimo, who wasn't fighting back at all, away and the other dog would just find a new way to attack. The owner was calling his dog's name and trying to get him away... but it was completely useless... his dog was determined to rip Nanaimo's throat out.

I've heard the phrase "I don't have a dog in this fight" and never appreciated it. I totally had a dog in this fight, and he was getting his tail kicked because he's so sweet. Despite all the advice not to get in the middle of a dog fight, I dove in the middle and kicked the other dog away from Nanaimo. His owner got a hold of his collar and pulled him away asking me, "Are you okay? He's never done that. Are you okay?"

I must have looked like crap from just shock. I nodded and pulled Nanaimo home despite his desire to just go for a run anyway. The other dog had ripped out tufts of his fur... but Nanaimo wanted to go for a run. My dog is goofy and insane and completely nonviolent. He would have just sat there and been ripped to shreds.

After putting Nanaimo back in the yard, I collapsed on the front porch swing and just started shaking and sobbing.

It was awful.

I've been trying to go running without my heart meds because my heart rate is at a normal level for exercising now. It wouldn't stop racing. My hands wouldn't stop shaking. I couldn't stop crying. I cried and cried and cried and hoped that no one delivered a package and found me sobbing on my front porch.

Finally, I pulled it together enough to go check Nanaimo more thoroughly for blood. He was fine. Patches of fur had been pulled out, but he has lots and lots of fur.

Then, my kids came home... and I really thought I was better. We were both fine. It was just shock. I was fine.

Fine. Fine. Fine.

B brought in this large box... of baby formula samples. I somehow managed to get on this baby/pregnancy mailing list and yesterday it was loads of coupons and a gigantic baby catalog... today it was a formula samples. (Unbeknownst to me, I've been on this list for a while, but the husband has been throwing things away because it upsets me so much.) I broke down crying again... and I just couldn't stop. T was confused and asked me why I was sad. (Typically the kids don't notice our emotions because of their social issues, but I was crying that hard.) I told him about the dog. I didn't want to go into the fact that I wanted more kids, I'm turning 35, and I continue to have miscarriages despite contraception and our decision not to have more kids due to the autism risk... it was too much. B never seemed to notice... she was mostly too excited about the strange new package in the mail... and jump-roping. (She is very into jump-roping.)

Then, I noticed how strange T was looking and he said, "I want a ding dong! You need to get me a ding dong because I'm the one with the headache." His eyes were dilated but at half-mast and he looked spacey. I got him a ding dong... to wash down the ibuprofen and antihistamine. I figured it was a sinus headache. By the time the husband was home, T had a fever of 101. He wanted me to sit in the corner of the couch so he could tuck his feet under/behind me and snuggle down in the blanket. T has grown moody lately, so having him quiet beside me especially after such a sucky day... was nice. Sure, he was sick and a little grumpy, but he was also warm and snuggly. Sue me, I liked it. Even covered in germs, he's a cute little guy.

His fever went down enough that he got to go drop off his Tron-style Pinewood Derby car. This was a huge deal for him and his dad... they've worked on it for weeks. It looks fantastic. I'll post pictures sometime soon. Next Tuesday is race day. Today was just getting it weighed in and measured.

By bedtime, T's fever was still hanging at 100 degrees despite all the ibuprofen. Unfortunately, the sugar in all the medicine syrup made him hyper. When he is hyper and miserable... he pesters everyone by poking them... especially B. *sigh* Poke. Poke. Poke. "Stop it, T!" Poke. Poke. Poke. "Stop it!"

My night might have ended on that note, but B did something for the second time... something that makes so many other moments worth it. As I stood up to go downstairs after prayers and reading, she got up and gave me a hug goodnight... for the second time... spontaneously... in her life.

In. Her. Life.

When I say hug, I actually mean affection basically. This is the second time in her life that she has spontaneously shown real affection towards me. The second time in my life that my daughter has chosen to hug me.

In. My. Life.

I think it's the jump-roping--as weird as that sounds. I think it's helping her to organize her thoughts.

Honestly, I hate the jump-roping. It's repetitive... and the constant whap-whap-whap of the rope makes me want to do harm to myself. And she's constantly asking us to count for her. "Count for me, Mom." "Count!" "Okay, again. Watch!"

I like the hugs, though. They make me feel like a real parent. Sadly, I haven't felt like that much with my kids. I've felt like a crusader, a caregiver, a teacher, and a therapist... but not as much a parent. It's hard to feel like a parent when you've done so much of the other roles.

So, that was my day: the moment when I sent off the finished manuscript, the moment when the dog lunged, the moment when I read my name on the label for the formula, the moment when T tucked his feet behind me and snuggled down, and the moment when B hugged me. Life is lived in such moments... there are things in between, but your mind and heart remember those moments.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets and Revisions

Well, I just finished revisions from Diana on Secrets of Skin and Stone. My husband is almost done with his read through, so I'm waiting to send it back to Sarah until tomorrow. It's weird to be nearly finished with revisions. I changed a bit on the end of SoSaS so there is always the chance that Sarah will ask for revisions on those revisions but, even then, I'm nearly done with this manuscript before going to submissions to editors.

It's weird. This feels more final. I mean, I do revisions on all my manuscripts fairly regularly. Whenever I'd get a request from an agent or I felt the nudge of the muse, I'd tear through a manuscript again and change things. My manuscripts get revised to pieces... and then I do it again six months later.

This is... weird. I mean, it's like a final revision before like professionals stare it down.

What if they hate it?

What if they don't?

It's surreal.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the muse has not been silent. Working on a sequel to Secrets of Skin and Stone feels like a dirty little secret, though. I've mostly learned my lesson about series writing. I really like the characters in the sixth and eighth books of my Company of Him books. Unfortunately you can't just rip a character out of its book if they're wedged into the series that deeply. Similarly, as much as I like the Honor series... they don't even kiss until the second book. There has to be a second book in that series. So, Honor is a series, like it or not, too.

Course... I say that I've learned my lesson but Sentinel's Run was going to be a series from the time the first word dropped onto the screen.


Maybe I never learn.

Still, Secrets of Skin and Stone was NOT going to be a series... unless I was asked for it to be. It was going to be a stand alone unless someone said, "This needs to be a series. Do it, Wendy! I need more. The world needs more." Even then, I'd ask, "Are you really, really sure?" Then, they'd either offer me money or a cupcake before I'd give in.

*sighs* So, why am I 13K into the second book?

I'm supposed to be working on Sentinel's Run.

I can't sleep at night because of the bits of scenes that keep getting stuck in my head.

You know what would suck? It would suck if Sarah comes back to me and says that she doesn't like my new ending to Secrets of Skin and Stone, and she wants it to be more stand-aloney. (Yes, I just made up that word. I can do that. I'm a writer.)

*massages brain*

This is why you don't start writing a second book in a series. It's too complicated... and it feels like a dirty little secret. Well, that and having Gris and Piper invade my brain for another stretch is going to make me crazy... especially since Piper's issues are similar but not always compatible with my issues. (I can't remember why I made her like even numbers instead of odd numbers, but it's soooooooooo wrong.)

Anyway, remember, we're keeping this on the low-low, everyone. As far as you know, I'm either working on revisions or contemplating Sentinel's Run. This is our little secret. *locks lips, throws away the key* It's our dirty little secret.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WIPed by Wednesday

This isn't about Sentinel's Run... which it should be. I finished my revision of Secrets of Skin and Stone last night after eating, breathing, sleeping it for two straight days. It's gone on to my wonderful beta Di to be beaten into submission... for submission. I should be done with that book. (Other than revisions, of course.) I should be.

I'm not.

This also isn't about insomnia... it could be about that also. Last night was day six of my insomnia stretch. It's insomnia so deep and hungry that I'm just exhausted thinking about how exhausted I am. It's whipping me.

It's not about that.

No, it's about Promises of Light and Dark.


Say what?

*everyone looks at schedule and taps on Sentinel's Run* *Wendy breaks down into sobbing and rocking in a corner.*

Dudes, it was ridiculous. I'm rewriting the last scene in Secrets of Skin and Stone and it's not... right. I waited until the wonder spouse took the kids off to scouts and activities and read it aloud... and Gris got into my head... and took over and rewrote the whole scene. Okay, fine. Still, it's done... right? No, because then Gris's first scene in the next book stole into my head.

The next book?

*Wendy's head hits the wall.*

All I wanted was to work on Sentinel's Run. Instead I couldn't sleep last night because I had this scene in my head from the next book... the book that didn't even exist until about midnight last night. The book that shouldn't exist because, as far as we know, Secrets of Skin and Stone is a stand-alone book.

Now, I can't get Gris out of my head. Life is not fair. It truly isn't. Writing Secrets of Skin and Stone was hard... and then their accents get into my brain and wriggle down deep, and I sound like a freak until it wears off. I have people ask me if I've been sick... my drawl is that noticeable. "No... I'm just crazy."

Ugh. On the other hand, I know how Promises of Light and Dark begins... and I won't be able to sleep until I get it out of my head and typed down. (Please just let it end there... for right now.) If the rest of March and April is eaten up by something that didn't exist until last night at midnight... *bangs head*

This post should fall under the category of: So, you thought you wanted to be a writer....

*sighs* And the stumble begins....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Plans, Boring Plans (no zombies)

So, I was thinking of making a month by month plan of writing goals... just so they can later be derailed as all my goals have been lately. LOL.

So, here we go... let's go retroactive so it looks like I've accomplished something:

Writing Plans for 2011:


Finish Honor 7.
Revise Secrets of Skin and Stone.
Submit short stories.


Get agent. (Wooo wahoo!)


Do revisions of Secrets of Skin and Stone.
Work on short story project.


Finish Sentinel's Run.


Revision of Curse Me A Story for Sarah.
"Six month" scheduled revision of Versus the Bounty and The Unseen Kingdom.


Finish My Other Life.


Finish Chosen Changeling.


Revise Honor Series.


Work on short stories or Honor 8.


Revise Scorched.
Revise Good Girls Don't Date Mutants.


NaNoWriMo novel


Revise Sentinel's Run and begin Sentinel's Run Book Two.

So, that's the plan, Stan. As I said, it'll most likely immediately be wiped out by other things coming up, but that's the plan. As you can see, unfortunately, it doesn't include any zombies. *sigh*

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Zombies are out to get me... but that's cool.

Last night, I had my first zombie dream in a long time. (I can't actually remember having a zombie dream before but I'm sure I must have.) I'm not sure if it was the Theraflu or my husband's still-sickish ragged breathing beside me... but it was a good solid zombie dream.

A teenage me (and three teenage guys) were trying to escape a huge group of zombies led by giant cats.

Wait... why cats, you ask? Giant cats... with organization skills? Madness, you say? How can this be, Wendy?

Yeah, I watched this video way too many times yesterday:

Wait... so where was I? The three teenage guys and I were running through a school cafeteria. (I know, cliche, but some things can't be helped, and it was a dream.) The windows were open and it was dusk. Every time a zombie would hit a patch of sunlight, they'd burst into ash... it was really cool. (My dreams have freaking fantastic special effects.)

Most of us had made it out of the cafeteria into the fading sunlight... except this one guy who was... no... I swear this is true... Daniel Radcliffe. Yes, Daniel Radcliffe. He kept trying to be noble and throw himself to the zombies so we could escape. (My daughter is reading Harry Potter three... so sue me.) At the door out of the cafeteria, I shouted to Daniel Radcliffe to get his tail out of the cafeteria so we could bar the door and hide somewhere overnight. Daniel ran to the door... and he was sort of all messy and scratched up and oozing blood, and there was this dramatic sobbing/overacting moment where he said a lot of angsty things like "Go on... this is my fault. You've got to live... etc... etc... etc...." and he kissed me hard. We're talking... full face press kiss. (Dudes, it was even creepy in the dream... and I'm not proud of this.) (Plus, he got blood and snot and grossness all over my face. *vomit vomit vomit* ) He pulled back, and I totally cold-cocked him and broke my hand in a boxer's fracture (I'm all about the medical details, people, even in dreams) before I convinced one of the other guys to help me drag him with us.

So, we're dragging Daniel Radcliffe to safety and the guy helping me is a little jealous of that weird scene at the cafeteria door and he asks, "So... do you have a thing for this guy?"

I snort laugh and say, "Dude, he totally thinks he's Harry Potter... and we can't let him die for that." I keep wiping my face on my shoulder because... eww... gross... he had snot and blood all over his face when he kissed me... he was a walking bio-hazard. (Yes, I'm OCD in my dreams.)

We get to this storage shed on campus and bar ourselves inside... and I say, "Now, we just have to lure them out into the sunlight tomorrow and watch them fry to death."

(Even in my dreams... I have a zombie plan....)

The other guy who was sort of hot for me starts helping me wrap the hand that I broke, and he asks, "Are you going to be okay?"

I scoff and say, "Dude, I've had much worse."

(I'm hard-core in my dreams... after that... I did knuckle push-ups... just because.)

Then, I woke up....

Moral of the story/dream: Never kiss Daniel Radcliffe... and especially not after an emotional over-acting scene. Always have a zombie plan. Don't watch weird cat videos while on cold medicine right before going to bed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The stumbling story- my writing process

So, my mom and I got into a discussion about how I start a story. She is working on a series of MG novels and she wanted to know how my process starts because she is feeling stuck. Honestly... I think my writing process is like stumbling. It's a weirdly accurate metaphor and I'm intimately familiar with stumbling. This is how it starts:

An idea pops into my head out of nowhere... this is the rock, dip, my own foot getting in the way that starts the stumbling. I'll use Secrets of Skin and Stone as an example. In Secrets, it was the way a person with OCD often thinks they've done something terrible even if they have no proof. In the case of Secrets of Skin and Stone, Piper thinks she has killed her dog. This was the rock that started the stumble.

Now picture a good hard stumbling fall toward a face plant.... If you're clumsy, you know the feeling of inevitability that hits you from that first moment. Still, you try to recover. You wave your arms around. You perform acrobatics. Anything! Everything! You might pull muscles trying to recover but it's all instinctual and it seems worth it at the time.

Back to the metaphor:

My story builds with momentum as more scenes drop into my head. With Secrets, I thought up Gris's character and his dialogue when he meets Piper next. I thought of how it would be cool if he was a gargoyle. Dialogue scenes and action scenes are the frantic hand waving that help draw out the stumble. I write them down fast and it flows from scene to scene as I write frantically.

The quick steps I take trying to prevent the face plant are crucial scenes that keep the story up in the air... (the cutting scenes, the mystery, the flying scenes) but... it's all leading to a glorious face plant/ bite of cement.

As the ground rushes up/ the story draws to a close... I generally quit sleeping so I can write more. Usually the last 10K of a story is written in one or two days where I barely do anything besides writing. When I hit "the end" it's quite the rush... and, yes, sometimes it's a little painful and disorienting, but I've hit it hard and with gusto.

It's a solid pantsing style from beginning to end. The few times I tried plotting... I don't face plant with a story. In fact, I usually recover and just walk off. With motivation, I can finish it... as I did with the Odyssey retelling last year, but it's really hard for me. My writing style needs that crazy momentum you get in a dangerous free-fall where I write on instinct.

Anyway, I know this is different from most... sane writers.

Right now, I've got an abnormal amount of WIPs in process because something stopped my stumbling. (I know... I've managed to make stumbling a good thing, but I need the adrenalin rush from the process to keep me going.)

I have three WIPs that I've mentioned before: The Chosen Changeling, My Other Life, and The Sentinel's Run.

The Chosen Changeling I stopped because I suddenly didn't know what came next. This hardly ever happens to me. It was... strange and worried me. Being a pantser and having your inspiration dry up... is terrifying. Luckily, this hardly ever happens... and I know I can work through it, but when writing feels like magic rather than work, it's scary when the magic stops.

My Other Life fell prey to the shiny-new short story phenomenon that I occasionally go through where I get distracted by an easy, quick rush from completing a short story. Short stories are so simple and I get the "woo! I finished!" after just 5 K instead of 50K... it's... seductive. I actually know how this one ends and I have the bare bones of the entire plot in my brain... which is extremely rare for me. I really should finish it.... The other thing is that this ms is my first foray into Literary with Magical Realism. I really didn't know how to query it considering I wasn't planning on writing in that genre again. Luckily, that's become a moot point. (Yay! I have an agent! Yay!)

Sentinel's Run was the most tragic momentum halt because it was literally flying from my brain and the voice in that ms is perfect and rich... (I LOVE this ms... LOVE it) but I received requests from agents, and I was working through getting things lined up for them. *sighs* It's sad when a good thing falls prey to another good thing. I keep wanting to dive back into it and eat and breathe it for a few weeks. Sarah just gave me permission to finish it when I'm done with Secrets revisions. Woooo!

While I was explaining this method to my mom... I also brought up this idea I got for a story right before I left for Disneyland. (I actually got two ideas for stories right before.) Both ideas came in the form of a scene in my head. The one I described was for "Frosted" and it was the first scene in the book. It was almost all action... so I quickly wrote that 1K down before I closed my laptop and finished packing for Disneyland. I described it to my mom... not thinking that my niece was sitting right there. LOL. My niece said, "You've GOT to write that!" after I was done. It made me laugh. Apparently, I pitched perfectly to my nine year old niece. She also wanted candy or Candyland involved, though... so maybe the idea needs work. ; )

The second idea... I actually had already forgotten, but I'd written it down. This idea came from an emotion experienced during a later scene in the ms I'm calling "The Spider Prince." So, the short blurb I wrote on that one to help me remember it... won't make sense to anyone but me really. (If any of you remember my notes from Honor 7... it's horrifying how rambling and odd they are.) I'm less sure how to start "The Spider Prince" but I know the skeleton of the story up until this scene half-way through.

I'll probably pick one of them to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I have no idea how either of them end... which is completely normal for me. Until then, they're just documents waiting for attention... and hopefully they'll play nice and not cause insomnia.

So, that's it. That's how I write. You won't find it in any "How to" books, and I don't necessarily advocate it, but that's how it goes. It's worked for me over two dozen times now, so.... *shrugs* It's inelegant, chaotic, and insane, but whatever works....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Depression and OCD

Having OCD is a lot more complex than many people give it credit for. It's not as simple as: I wash my hands twenty times because I really like being clean. It's more likely: I saw someone sneeze and my entire body feels contaminated because the whole world is crawling with germs and I'll wash my hands twenty times because that is the RIGHT number... it's always the RIGHT number and all other numbers feel wrong. (Twenty times isn't the right number for me of course... and I'm more about avoidance and frequent hand-washing than repetitive activities.)

So, it makes sense that at its base... OCD-related depression would be complex. For most people without mental illness of some form, the harbinger of depression is often obvious. A death. Money problems. Stress. Emotional conflicts. For those with OCD, it could be deeply-rooted in their OCD issues and hard to wriggle out.

It could be something as strange as sitting next to someone with a fever and not immediately getting up and washing your hands. (I did this Tuesday night... and that's when the depression seemed to start.) That feeling of contamination could bury me for a week. It could be less complex: I'm back from Disneyland and back to reality and I have a ton to do this week. I got a flat tire yesterday. My husband is really sick with a nasty, nasty, nasty cold of some kind. (Thankfully, not a fever... or throwing up... as far as I know.) It could be hormones. It could be the weather. It could be that I'm not taking the right mixture of vitamins. It could be that my 28 year old sister is pregnant with her fourth child... and while I'm happy for her... I'm still sad for me. It could be guilt for feeling that way about my sister's pregnancy.

Or it might really honestly be that I sat next to a five year old sick child for an hour on Tuesday so I could talk to her mother... and my skin has been crawling ever since then. I can't stop thinking about it and obsessing on it. I've thought about it at least twice an hour since Tuesday night. It's the demon I can't exorcise. My brain keeps digging it out to think about.

Have you ever ordered yourself not to think about a specific thing ever again?

It works great, huh?

Yeah, I do that a lot. It never works.

It's ridiculous. It is.

Being depressed without reason makes me feel weak. It makes me feel as if I'm ungrateful. It makes me feel broken. It makes me feel... depressed.

Ironic, no?

That's how OCD is most of the time. One big ball of irony wrapped in obsessions and compulsions and deep-rooted paranoia. It's fun.

That was sarcasm, by the way. There is a lot of sarcasm involved in having OCD too. At least for me.

Anyway, when I get my act together and after my parents aren't visiting, I'll maybe post some Disneyland pictures and tell you about my trip. T is set to get baptized this weekend. (Children are baptized at age 8+ in the LDS church.) The husband was a trooper while I was gone... especially considering he was sick nearly the whole time. I think he'll end up seeing a doctor today.

Today is a running day. (I run on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and have for about five years... when I've been running.) I'm hoping the endorphins will kick this depression in the head. If not... *shrugs* I'll spend another day wondering if it was worth it to build a friendship at the cost of my sanity. Well... to build a friendship and to prove that I'm not as affected by OCD as I am... which, in another fun show of irony, I think I've proven that I am.

*sighs* I swear I could feel the heat pouring off this five year old. *head slap*

I am broken.