Archive for November 2009

Insomnia blogging

I drank coffee until well into this afternoon, and now I'm paying for it. It's almost 1:00 a.m., probably will be by the time I publish this. When I get in this mode, lying in bed is just like lying in a bowl of swirling paint, all the thoughts taking over, but not in a pleasant dream-like way, more like someone has taken a stick and started stirring up my brains, around and around. I go over the same unlikely scenarios again and again, and usually they are bad ones...I have whole arguments with people in my head, and then I'm mad at those people but they haven't done anything wrong. It's silly.

I'm getting quite good at telling when I'm having normal, pre-sleep thought wanderings, and when they are the steamroller variety, so I don't lie for long. I've been up a couple of hours by myself, watching the gerbil on her wheel, writing stories, and playing computer games till I work out whatever has me agitated. I wish I could talk it out, then maybe I could get to the bottom of it.

Actually, I've been a bit agitated all day, because of a very real and poignant dream, in which I lived with one of my children on a tiny island, a utopia of sorts, and my only means of communication, apparently, was messages in bottles thrown out to sea. My "husband" had left me, and I thought, Well I guess I don't have to live on this island anymore. I sang "The Way We Were" while scrubbing the dishwasher in the front yard... woke up halfway through the first verse.

So anyway, this evening, while I waited to get sleepy, I started a story I've been thinking about for quite a while--seems like things have to ferment with me--and I wrote another as an impromptu exercise, but it turned out...interesting. It's not a story so much as a one-sided conversation about a story. But the good part is that the story I was talking about sounded pretty good, so maybe I'll put that in the idea still and let it ferment a while.

I guess I'm sleepy now...or maybe I'll play a little more Dynomite...
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

The story of my broken hand

Well, I guess I should post. I wanted to write a post inspired by one Marta wrote last week, about whether we feel comfortable calling ourselves writers and artists, but I haven't really felt reflective. Or rather, I haven't felt like writing down my reflections. I'm in a business state of mind, very ordered and analytical, probably because I've been editing for three weeks straight. Also because I've had more outside-world things to do, Thanksgiving school stuff, cleaning and preparing for the holiday, and Maggie's broken arm. Git 'er done.

We'll be going to the orthopedist today to get a more permanent solution to Maggie's store-bought brace. I was surprised about how unconcerned everybody was with getting her a cast. When making the appointment I grumbled, "What's another day, her arm's been broken for a week and a half." The lady said, "Oh, everybody thinks they should run right in and get a cast as soon as it happens, but it's better to wait till the swelling goes down." Oh. Well that makes sense.

Seeing Maggie's injury makes me realize how truly effed up my hand was. I can't remember if I ever told that story. It was Friday of Spring Break '09. I'd promised the kids I'd take them to the skating rink--they just about died from the anticipation--and this was the last day we could use our coupons. I got everybody ready and sent them out to the car while I locked up the house. I stepped off the porch, like I have thousands of times. This time something went wrong (still not sure what) and I pitched over. My hand went out automatically to steady me, but again something went wrong and I ended up jamming my middle finger on the step. Except I heard something snap.

After that I remember things in snapshots. The blinding sound of pain. Me, bent over at the waist with my hand wedged between my thighs. Saying, "Kids!" multiple times. (My daughter told me later they had no idea what I was saying. First they thought I was playing around, then they thought I was dying.) The thought that I had done something seriously terrible to my hand, followed by denial.

I stood there for a while, letting the pain subside, catching my breath, trying not to cry in front of the kids. And it started to hurt less. In my altered state, I decided that meant it was just a stinger, maybe jammed but okay. I couldn't let the kids down. It was the last day to skate. Now I realize the swelling was probably deadening the pain. I didn't look at my hand. I didn't want to know.

My single-mindedness was unrivaled. My mission was to get the kids their skating, and that's what I would do. I whimpered quietly as I drove us one-handed to the skating rink. I had to stop and ask directions, because it had moved since I'd been there last. When we finally got there, I depended on Abby to get everybody's skates tied. On the skating floor, a teenager skating backwards slammed into me and sent me flying. I landed on my back, hard, and my hand and head bounced off the floor, and when he apologized and tried to help me up, I yelled at him.

In denial, I played Galaga, beating the shoot button with the side of my hand, till I couldn't anymore. I had to hold hands with Maggie, and it had to be the on right so she could stay near the wall. Once the adrenaline started to wear off, I started to think maybe I could have postponed the skating trip.

The next day, the swelling went down enough to show the bruising. Purple bloomed at each joint of my middle finger and ring finger, and at the base of my hand in line with my middle finger. I didn't go to the doctor because we couldn't afford it. It took three months to be able to type at all, six months to type normally. The hand still hurts, it gets tired easily, the finger's still crooked, but I think the breaks have healed. At least I can type.

So that's the story of my broken hand. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I know what I'm thankful for.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

Me today

I have a little fragrance hangover. Yesterday was my daughter's Thanksgiving lunch at school, and I actually did quite well. Felt fine (as fine as I ever do) while I was there and into the evening. The eyesight started to get a little iffy around nine, and I went to bed soon after. Woke up this morning with bad eyes, but let me tell you, I am grateful for these bad eyes. You know why? Because last year at this time I was just starting The Time of the Migraine, a good two months in which I had constant blurry vision and any whiff of fragrance brought forth the headache. And the year before that, I had bronchitis or pneumonia or something along with a bad back but was unable to go to the doctor, so both lasted for months. I can handle a little fragrance hangover.

This fragrance thing is actually getting more manageable. I think I'm healing, as the reactions for the past several months haven't been as strong. Trips to the store are less taxing. I can think while at a school function. It's tempting to start letting my guard down, but I know this is a slow process. I have to let my body heal.

Finally seeing the end of this editing project. It's the first novel I've edited, been editing shorts, so it seemed to go forever. I'm at the point now where I know what it's like to be an editor, and I need to balance it against my own writing. Do I like editing enough to put my book on hold for three weeks? Not sure about that. I'd planned to get BVA done by Christmas, something I could have done if my editing assignment had been another short. I had no idea how much time a novel would take.

Gotta get bananas for Maggie's class . Thanks for everybody's good wishes about her arm, it's not bothering her too much, with the brace.

So...that's me today. What's up with you?
Friday, November 20, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

Observations of a new editor

So I have this editing job. I haven't decided yet if it's a good idea to associate my writer persona with my editing persona, so I won't be linking to or mentioning the company by name in this post. I've learned some things that would benefit my author friends, so I thought I'd share in a vague, generic way.

First of all, it's not like a critique. In a critique you can say things like, "I can't follow the action in this scene," and then leave it up to the author to figure out why. That's perfectly acceptable, because as the critic you're doing the author a favor, and they'll take what you have to offer. As an editor, I have to figure out exactly what confuses me about the action, and then say that. Saying it is the hard part. If I do my job right, the solution will be obvious to the author, even if I haven't suggested a solution. Which ties in with my next point.

Editing is a balance of telling the author what to do and letting her decide how to do it. Except in the case of punctuation, where there is a right way and a wrong way, but even then if she feels strongly about leaving out a specific comma, that's ultimately her decision. I have to be very careful about rewriting anything. If I can't move around phrases she's already used to fix it, I leave a suggested fix in a comment, then she can either take my advice as is, change it another way, or tell me to take a flying leap. Although the last one on that list might be counter-productive, since I'm an impartial observer (or at least as impartial as anyone can be), and I'm only here to make her look better. Which leads to...

The editor is there to correct mistakes, no doubt. But among some authors there's this attitude of, "So I don't know how to punctuate a sentence correctly, that's what editors are for." Let me take a moment to point out I've not yet edited an author with this attitude, but I've seen it around in the blogosphere. But let me tell you something, dear authors, this attitude is stupid. STUPID. If my harsh words pull one author away from this abyss, they will be worth it. Not only is it good to know your craft inside and out for your craft's sake, but there's a practical purpose for knowing the nuts and bolts, and then putting them into practice BEFORE sending it to your editor.

If I have your manuscript for 20 days, and I spend the full 20 helping you polish your words, you are going to have one tight, well-written book. A tight, well-written book will increase your reputation, generate better word-of-mouth, ergo selling more books and creating more fans. However, if I have to spend seven of those days correcting hundreds or even thousands of typos which could easily have been found before the ms came to me, then you are getting only 13 days of word polishing. We might only have time for plot and eliminating confusion, and very little time for word choices and flow.

So those are the observations I have so far. I'm sure I'll have more as I go along, and maybe even change my mind about some of those up there. (Except for the last one. Since I basically called everyone who doesn't agree with me an idiot I'll have to stick by it. It's true anyway.) I'm getting the education of a lifetime, being on this side of things.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

So my kid broke her arm...

Yesterday was crazy. Over the weekend, Maggie fell and hurt her arm, but other than a red spot which faded after a few minutes, it looked fine. That night it started to really hurt her, so I wrapped it up and gave her some medicine, mostly just to placate her because you probably know how big of a deal even minor injuries can be to little kids. But the next day it started to swell, she wouldn't use it, and it was painful to the touch. Time to go to the doctor.

So the doctor said it was probably a something-or-other kind of break that kids get all the time, sent us for x-rays and prescribed a brace, which nobody had in stock. Finally went to Wal-Mart and picked up a grown-up's wrist stabilizer, long enough to go almost to her elbow but an adjustable width. I thought it would be a good temporary measure to protect her tiny arm at school, but it works so well, we might keep it long-term, if she doesn't need a cast. I don't think she will.

I wish we'd gotten the brace from the doctor herself, because as we were walking to the car after our appointment, Maggie tripped and fell on her bad arm. She cried all the way to the hospital for the x-rays, during the x-rays, and all the way home. It's an understatement to say I felt her pain. It's hard to go about your business when your child is hurting, even when that business is the only way to make it stop eventually. The promise of ice cream helped a little, and once she had a cone in her hand she smiled again.

I'll get the results from the x-ray back today.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

The Prisoner

My brain is totally whack today. I should have gone to bed early last night to make up for the sleep I didn't get on Saturday night, but the new miniseries of The Prisoner debuted last night. I never watched the old one though I always wanted to. I guess that means I get to watch this new one with an unsullied mind and no expectations. So far it looks like 6 has been placed in The Village by a corrupt corporation, and 2 is controlling everybody with a combination of drugs and fear. Pretty predictable, so I hope my running plot projections are wrong, because I'd like to be surprised. To that end, I refuse to look up anything about the old Prisoner online.

Even if it turns out to be a standard storyline, I think I'll like it. I do hope they're getting everyone plenty of water off-screen, because they ran all over the desert with nothing to drink. I was thirsty by the end.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius
Tag :

Win a Kindle

Just a quickie post to let you know Fangs, Fur, and Fey is giving away a Kindle to celebrate their 3-year anniversary, and it ends tomorrow!
Contest Rules: All you have to do to enter is email your name and a shipping address to fangsfurandfey AT yahoo DOT com. Only one entry per person allowed, UNLESS...If you blog about the contest and link back to this post, send a second email with the link showing where you blogged about it. Any double-entry without a link enclosed that shows where you blogged about the contest will be deleted.

Go to this post for all the rules and prizes.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

That's one sexy coconut

What a strange day yesterday was. Nothing big happened, but I was scattered and distracted, totally living inside my head. Maybe because I ran into some old friends unexpectedly, which of course started me thinking about old times and all the stuff I've been through since I last saw those people and do they really want to talk to me, and... well, all that stuff which goes along with seeing old friends. I started to get mad at myself for having such an unproductive day, but then I remembered that days like that usually end up being good for my creativity.

So here's something funny. I've been watching the CBS law drama The Good Wife. Not earth shattering drama, but I keep going back to it. So last night it came on, and DH pulled up the description on the screen. It said something like, "Alicia is attracted to her cocounsel," (hyphen, please!) and DH misread "cocounsel" as "coconut." He said, "That's one attractive coconut."

I launched into a Spanish accent (don't know why I chose Spanish) and said, "Oh, my coco-nut, you are sooo sexy." We laughed. My 11 year old heard and suddenly I had an appreciative audience, so I said some more things. "Oh, coco-nut, let me stroke your hair. Let me rap upon your husk." Et cetera. We giggled for a while in girly silliness about that sexy coconut.

I got her settled into bed, and DH and I settled on the couch. Later on in the show, Alicia got a silly gift from her boss. It was a coconut.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius
Tag :

Listen to your meanies

In a recent post outlining the purpose of critique groups, literary agent Chip MacGregor says,
As a writer, you need a place to be bad, so that you can learn to be good. So if your ego is too fragile to allow someone else to read your work, it's time to learn this lesson. Allow yourself to be bad. Give somebody else (preferably not your mom, your spouse, or your best friend) the permission to be honest with you about your writing.

I'm great at taking literary criticism. Other areas of my life, maybe not so great, but about my writing? Yeah, for some reason that's easy. Maybe it's because I don't have an arrogant bone in my body (that sounded a bit arrogant itself, didn't it?) and always assume I'm in the wrong. But really, when a reader tells me a passage didn't make sense, or my character's profanity seemed forced, or to should have been too, how can I argue with that? It's the reader's perception, inarguable. But although accepting a reader's perception comes easily, I did have to learn how to sift through that information and use only what will nudge my book toward my vision of perfection, rather than someone else's. The best critter I ever had was also the biggest meanie. He was the best because he rarely tried to soften the blow, and he was often right. It took a while to realize he wasn't always right.

I really don't understand the over-sensitive, stick-your-head-in-the-sand mentality. If you ask for someone's opinion, by golly listen to that person. Just know there will probably always be more negative comments than positive just because that's how critiques are. However, you do need to know which people are helpful for you. Just because someone is above you on the ladder doesn't mean they have the best advice to perfect your vision.

Chip has a couple of items which go against most of the conventional advice you'll find on the Internet. For instance, he says it's a good idea to get fresh eyes on an early draft, whereas most folks advise writers to polish their manuscripts before handing them over for critique, something which never made much sense to me. I mean, you spend months on your first draft, and at least that much more on subsequent edits and weeks hunting down every typo. You hand it to a trusted meanie, who sees a huge problem with a subplot and advises you to remove it entirely. Of course that means cleaning up all the loose ends left by cutting the scenes in question. What's worse is that you see the meanie is right. Now, you can do a few things with this information:

  1. You make the necessary changes, which means tacking on another couple of months to your projected submission goal.

  2. You convince yourself the meanie doesn't know what he's talking about, by any means necessary. The sub-par sub-plot stays.

  3. You cry and cry, knowing he's right but being unable to face all that extra work when you thought you were done. You quit writing FOREVER!!!

That last one was just for fun, but it's possible. Another thing--what if your crit partner isn't a meanie, but an ol' softie? An ol' softie will know how hard you worked to get the manuscript just right and hold back on his critique of that terrible sub-plot, and then you're screwed and don't know it. The time I find myself most needing a critique is when the first draft is done and I've worked on it so long I can't see it anymore. Where are my plot holes? What motivation is missing? Is this twist as good as I think it is, or am I fooling myself? Those are questions which need to be answered LONG before the finishing touches go on.

So...when can I send you this rough draft?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

Seeing a published writer improve within a single book

So I read this book over the weekend. I won't name it, not because I'm going to crap on it here but because I'm increasingly aware of how far these words reach. The book is not the point, my reaction is, but if you're dying to know the title, email me or something.

I'll set the stage. It's a debut novel, pretty standard Urban Fantasy, as in chick lit with vampires, featuring a kickass, hot & sexy lady protag with a lot of sass and a lot of evil to overcome. Overall I enjoyed the read, though it did take a little while for the author to settle into her voice. The writing definitely improved over the course of the book. There's a lot of promise in that voice, and I'd like to see where she takes the story in the second installment.

Actually, the way the author's voice strengthened reminded me of the first novel I wrote, now that I'm far enough in the future to look at it objectively. (btw, I have no idea whether the book which inspired this post is the author's first book ever, only that it was her debut.) In a first novel, you start at the beginning (of course) when you have no idea how to write a novel. The phrasing is clunky, the pacing uncertain, and a lot of the choices you make are based on books you've read in your genre. Then, as you go along, you start to figure it out. It gets easier, but you find yourself stuck with some bad choices you made before you knew what you were doing, so you end up with awkward character motivation, retroactively added to get the character from one plot point to the next. Plus, no matter how many times you edit the first few chapters, that clunkiness stays. You end up with that kind of book, where the ending is telegraphed by page 30 and the characters are way too familiar.

If you're lucky (or unlucky, if publishing a not-quite-there book is a bad thing) your genre is hothothot when you start querying. Maybe your mythology is a bit different from other books in your genre, or maybe the central idea is unique, even if the people and places are not, or vice-versa. Whatever, it's your lucky (or unlucky) day because publishers are actively looking for the kind of book you chose to write. I have to say, it seems like good luck rather than bad anytime somebody wants to publish your work, even if it's a little early in your craft. A writer with real talent will blossom, I imagine, and others will fizzle.

But I always wonder how those authors feel about their situation. Do they see the weaknesses in their own work? And does it really matter, if the readers are happy?
Monday, November 9, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

How do you get into the zone?

Ran across this helpful post over on Edittorrent. It's about training yourself to write. Not the craft side, but the practical side of getting into your creative zone. One of them, using the clock, is what I touched on yesterday and has proved to be very helpful so far. I've used all of their suggestions in one form or another.

One thing which helps some people is listening to music. I am not one of that group. I think it takes a certain ability to tune out the music itself while still absorbing the feeling it evokes--something I've never been able to do. Music inspires me, no doubt, but I have to turn it off while doing the actual writing. So maybe I could use it after all, as a trigger, like listen to a few songs before I write every day.

But I could easily see that leading to my biggest malady, as Theresa calls it: the lemmejusts. Lemmejust put the clothes in the dryer. Lemmejust write a quick blog post (as if that's even possible for me). Lemmejust research a little on the Web. I'd add a sub-category to that: Lemmejust find the perfect (whatever). That's where the music thing would lead me.

One thing I've had to do that Theresa doesn't mention is to give myself permission to write. I've had to really work on this issue over the past couple of years. That's why the lemmejusts get me so often, there's always something more important. But the writing is just as important as the laundry. Even more important, because laundry can be done anytime, while writing takes solitude and quiet, much harder to come by. I had to establish that writing fulfills me and is a worthy hobby, and then I had to get to a place where my needs were important. I still have to remind myself every day, give myself that permission anew.

But go on over and check out Theresa's post. Good stuff. When you come back, why don't you tell me some of your personal training tactics?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

What are your favorite organizational tools?

Had a little excitement before dinner yesterday when my five-year-old daughter fell into the neighbor's pond. She's fine, was in there only a few seconds before pulling herself out, but I'm still a bit traumatized. Hopefully she and the other kids are too, just enough to make them more aware. I might tell this story in full later, or maybe not. Like I said, I'm traumatized.

Other than that, life has been pretty mundane. I've been walking a couple of miles every day while the weather's nice. The van is still down and the hubs seems to be in no hurry to work on it. I am! It'll be nice this weekend, so maybe we can get it running then.

I had a terrible time staying focused on work yesterday. It was turning into one of those days where I just float around and, at the end, wonder what I had done all day, so I decided to nip that in the bud. After a little research I found a couple of online time management tools, the best of which is Work Timer Online.

The Work Timer is going to be very useful for seeing where my time goes. The work I'm doing for others always seems to get done first to my WIP's detriment, so by keeping a log of how much time I've spent on each project I can balance it better. The only problem is my spotty wi-fi connection. If the connection goes down before I've archived my time, it's possible to lose that time. Not a huge problem, since it's not like it's billable hours I'm losing.

I also tried a web-based countdown timer. One reason I have trouble concentrating is because I have this irrational fear of losing track of time. It helped to set the timer and say, "I'm going to do this for 15 minutes, and there's no way I can lose track of time because the timer will buzz me." I kept thinking about the timer so I couldn't completely lose myself in my work, but it was a LOT better, and I feel it will only get better with time. I didn't care for the web-based timer I used, so I'll probably just stick with Spacejock's yTimer, which I've used for years for the kids' Internet time.

I used to let organizing the activities get in the way of the activities. What organizational tools have you found to be most helpful?
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius


Daylight savings time has ended, and I feel better for it even though it feels like I'm behind because of the time change. It's sad, though, that the end of daylight savings signals the end of summer fun. We don't need an extra hour of daylight in the bleakness of winter evenings (chah, right!). Now is the time when we hunker down in our caves and wear thick socks in the house--and still our toes are cold--and fifty-degree days seem like a little piece of Heaven come to Earth. (This is Migraine Season for me, because with all those people inside and little ventilation, it's like swimming in a fragrance stew. I don't know why people have to wear perfume to school functions, especially when we're all packed in like sardines. It's not a fancy night out on the town, it's "Here Comes Santa Claus" forgodsake. Anyway, that is something upon which I shall not dwell, so let us change the subject, yes?)

Lots of you are doing NaNoWriMo, which I like to think of as NaNoNoMo. I have to maintain this level of don'wanna, lest I be sucked in or feel left out. I wish you guys all the luck in the world, truly, and I hope you win and publish the resulting novel and make a million dollars. Truly. Good luck.

Instead of NaNoNoMo, I will be finishing my seemingly interminable WIP, as well as editing a new project for Eternal Press. I will have to shut down my Facebook cafe and let the farm go to seed (and if you play any of those Zynga games you'll know exactly what I mean) for the month of November. So really, I will probably be doing the same word count as I would if I participated in NaNo, only without the distractions, i.e. cameraderie and tangible goals. Well, that's not exactly true. My goal is to finish WIP by Christmas, and I have only a month to edit the assignment, pretty tangible.

Sometimes I get depressed this time of year, as do many of you, but this year I'm taking steps to sidestep depression. I'll be taking lots of vitamin D, making time for fun stuff, talk to friends whenever I feel isolated. Hit my first speedbump this morning, though: the van may have finally died, which means DH will be taking the car to work, which means I'll have no way of getting out of the house during the day, when I need to most. God, I'm depressed already. Where's that damn vitamin D?
Monday, November 2, 2009
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

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