Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Do You Do With YOUR Idle Hands?

I’ve finished the first draft of my YA tragic love story, Heartstrings. It slid into home at just under 80K, and I’m pleased with the effort though large chunks of the manuscript – and maybe the structure itself – will need heavy revision.

I feel idle. My post-apocalyptic YA, In the Autumn, is enduring the query/submission process. I feel good about the responses I’ve gotten and, as always, hope an offer of representation is around the corner. Or maybe the next one. Or maybe not. It’s out of my hands, at the moment.

Here are a few things I’ve considered doing in order to fill up my time:

1.     Reading – My TBR pile is huge. It’s going to turn into a monster any day now and eat my dogs. I am currently reading Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman (hardcover) and Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert on my Kindle for iPhone app. Books I’m dying to get to: Chasing Smoke and Day One by Bill Cameron, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore – among many, many others.
2.     Writing a Screenplay – I have a degree in Film and my love affair with writing began with works for the screen. It’s completely different from novel writing but I enjoy it, and I’ve considered tackling an adaptation of my own In the Autumn. I’d love to write the adaptation for The Last Time I Was Me by Cathy Lamb, because that book would make the funniest chick flick EVER, but I’m too poor to buy the rights. It might be a pipe dream, but in the event that someday my books are popular, I’d like to have the opportunity to adapt my own work.
3.     Clean My House, Pay Attention to My Dogs, Yardwork, Etc – The sad fact is these things have gone untouched for far too many weeks. I live alone, so you know…no one cares. Except the dogs. Poor babies. Oh – and my dad who mows my lawn for me. I’m spoiled, I know.
4.     Start Dating Again –I’m scared, out of practice, and was never good at it even in my younger days. Yup. That’s all I have to say about that.
5.     Doing Nothing – As appealing as this might sound, it’s unlikely. I must have something to do. If I don’t, I will sleep my life away, shop too much, or annoy everyone on Twitter with my constant drivel. This does not do anyone any good.
6.     Starting a New Manuscript or Revising a Hot Mess – Oh, I have ideas, people. They’re all written down in my little blue journal that goes everywhere with me, and some of them aren’t even half bad. There’s a contemporary YA, another dystopian/sci-fi YA, and a paranormal YA – all revolving around the theme of destiny which seems to fascinate me. In addition, I have at least one trunk novel that is near and dear to my heart. It is, however, only the second novel I ever attempted and it is a hot mess. I’ll get around to this option eventually. Right now, I’m not really feeling it.
7.     Quit My Job – Wait…that’s always what I want to do. It’s not gonna happen, Trisha. At least not soon.
8.     Fly to Vancouver, BC, rent a car, and drive down the coast to San Diego – Wait, I’ve always wanted to do that too. While we’re here, lets add visit all of Europe (with special attention to Italy, Greece, France, and Spain), the Eastern Bloc, South America, Australia, Thailand, and pretty much the rest of the world. Repeat after me: It’s not gonna happen, Trisha. At least not soon.
9.     Move to New York. Or Charleston. Or Portland. - Trisha, see #7 and #8.

Okay, so I’m getting a little carried away. I’ll be making a decision soon, probably a combination of #1, #2, and #6. What do you all do when you finish a manuscript? Spend time with your family and friends? Read? Bar-B-Q? Stargaze? Stalk Robert Pattinson?

Monday, June 14, 2010

How I Almost Died - And Why Your Words Might Need To

I almost died last weekend. Seriously. Like Miracle Max and his chocolate coated miracle pill could have come in handy.

I have a pretty severe allergy to peanuts, which I blame on my mother who used to trade her students hot lunch money for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while pregnant with me.

I visited friends in Dallas, and on Sunday evening we decided on sushi for dinner. I was starving, so I ordered a salad also, taking a dressing recommendation from the waitress. "The ginger dressing is amazing," she promised.

I do not agree. Let me say that I checked the menu for any allergy warnings, ingredients, etc and found nothing. My lovely salad arrived and I took three bites before the inside of my mouth started itching like nobody's business. I shoved the salad across to my friends and declared, "there's peanuts in that."

By the time our sushi arrived, less than five minutes later, I could hardly swallow through my scratchy, swollen throat. My stomach started to hurt - pain like an army of fire ants stung the inside of my digestive track, not mere nausea. I ran to the bathroom. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say at least one member of their waitstaff thinks I'm bulimic.

We left after apologies and offers to call an ambulance. My friend Brooke drove as fast as she could to our friend Karen's house, where I immediately curled up in a little ball on the couch and tried not to move. Moving made it worse. So did burping. And breathing.

After a while the pain left my guts and settled in my chest and face. Breathing got hard, I wheezed in an out like a lifelong smoker on a hike in the Amazon. My face felt like it was on fire and itched all over. I took two Benedryl. Nothing. Two more and my chest loosened up, though my nose and throat didn't clear up for several hours.

My friends wanted to take me to the ER, but this has happened to me a couple of times before. The ER gives me a shot of Benedryl, so I figured I just needed to get enough of the antihistamine down on my own. It scared me; I'm not going to lie.

While I laid on the couch and concentrated on not expiring, I thought about revisions. The salad is like your pretty words - you and maybe other people think they are amazing. After you nosh on them, though, they irritate. Maybe even make you sick. That's when you revise. Rinse your mouth out, toss your cookies and endure reproving looks from strangers. You curl up in a ball and lament the death of your pretty words, the pain it took to shave them away. Then, if you're strong, you drink some wine (the best medicine in the world), sit at your computer, take deep, wheezing breaths, and work until things get better.

I know, it's a stretch. Go with it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

This is a small (and still rough) snippet from my WIP, Heartstrings. Enjoy!

Damn. She’d missed her chance to recover Berenice’s blasted journal again.
            Lydia had watched David and Emily King’s wretched daughter walk into the History building with the book and emerge without it five minutes later.
            Her keen eyes observed her young look-alike, wondering why she looked less depressed than the week before. The disheveled appearance, the greasy, limp hair, the puffy, tear stained face had brought Lydia pleasure, but also worry.
            If Elora and Honor decided to separate because of the prophecy, they would live.
            Agony clawed at Lydia, taunting her with the possibility she could lose. Again.
Elora King needed to die. David deserved pain.
            Today, Elora appeared different. She smelled of sunscreen and salty sweat when she passed Lydia’s hiding place, and Lydia saw the strap of a black swimsuit peeking from beneath her coverup. Elora moved with purpose, the dejected lethargy gone from her posture. Still, her face pinched with worry, small lines creasing the creamy skin above her nose.
            She no longer looked devastated, though. She’d shed the heartbroken air, replaced it with a glimmer of hope. What had gone awry? Were they strong enough to resist their heartstring?
She should never have left Berenice’s diary in his possession. Lydia cursed her forgetfulness; her blind hurry to distance herself from David had made her careless.
            Now Elora had unearthed the foul document and had it translated. Lydia marveled that she and Honor had enough combined brainpower to realize the impact Berenice’s words could have on their puny lives.
            They knew she could be beaten.
            Lydia tried to shore up her faith. Just because miserable Elora King and her drifter Honor Thompson knew defeating her was possible didn’t mean they could figure out how to get it done. Berenice had gotten lucky.
            Lydia tried to forget about Elora King and Berenice, focusing instead on her successes, the ones she’d destroyed with her words. Those memories seeped through her blood, offering comfort. She settled into her circus trailer, happy the caravan caught up with her yesterday afternoon. She needed work to occupy her hands and mind; the past weeks spent twiddling her thumbs in Conway nearly got the better of her.  
            Every once in a while, Lydia had found her gaze wandering from the Kings or Honor and landing on a potential mate. She worried over how much longer she could hold out. What happened if she couldn’t, if she broke her vow to beat the gods at their own game?
            Her bravado wilted and she gave in to the fantasy of death that crowded her thoughts with increased frequency.. Full-blooded mortals did not know their good fortune at being able to die in a timely fashion. Even sooner, if they wished it.
Death was a gift Lydia longed for.
            She’d seen empires grow and wither away. Watched people fight over the same pitiful pieces of land, debate meaningless religious ideals, kill each other for power, lust, pride and coin for thousands of years. Gods, hers and others, followed their own, always mysterious agenda. The human race would not change, nor would the divine.
            She grew weary of being the one perpetually caught in the middle.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"No Officer, I Haven't Been Drinking" - And Other Stuff I Wish Wasn't True.

If you want backstory on this post, see here.

The summer drew to a close, our weeks together growing short and neither Spencer Tracy nor I willing to broach the possibility of a future. I’m not entirely sure where I intended to head that evening, but I spent most of those final weeks putting distance between us. Spencer Tracy’s high school friends, who I'd impressed with my awesome driving earlier in the summer, were visiting for the second time. 

I left a party, where I’d surely had a good time, and slowly backed my car out of the parking space. The lot where I’d parked looked down over a twenty or thirty foot ravine, ending at the bottom with a small house. To the left were the condos where Spencer Tracy and I spent most of our summer evenings. The night felt thick with memories and feelings, none of which I wanted.

I bumped a retaining wall behind me, then pulled forward into the space to get a better angle.

Only the car didn’t stop.

I punched the brake frantically, stepping on the pedal with both feet. Nothing happened. The car surged forward and pitched over the curb, careening down the wooded ravine. I sat helpless behind the wheel, arms braced for impact. I have no idea if I screamed. Maybe. Probably.

I landed on a second retaining wall, a lucky feat that stopped the car from crashing through the house situated at the bottom of the hill. My heart pounded; I’ve never felt such a flood of panic and relief in my entire life. When I caught my breath I kicked the door open with shaky legs and dropped a few feet into a patch of knee high foliage. I found out a day or so later that the “foliage” was actually poison ivy, but that’s a story for another day.

I staggered back into the condo, my entire body trembling. I do not have any desire to know what I looked like, but when Spencer Tracy’s eyes met mine he knew something had happened. He ran his hands over my cut and bleeding arms and legs, asked if I hurt.

The police knocked on the door; the couple whose house I nearly took down had called them. They took me outside for questioning while Spencer Tracy looked on. “Have you been drinking?”
“No, Officer.”
He peered into my face. “Are you sure you haven’t been drinking, because that would make this whole situation a lot easier to explain.”
I shook my head, too mortified to sass him or feign indignance. I explained what happened with the brakes. He nodded, pretending to believe me, and called a tow truck. Then he got on his radio and I heard, “Just come out here, you have to see it to believe it.”


By the end of the debacle, as a tow truck hauled my little car back out of the ravine, three police cars and a fire truck arrived to chuckle over the proceedings. Spencer Tracy had gone to bed; I think all my shenanigans got the best of him. It’s hard to blame him for that.

I insisted throughout that my brakes had failed me at a most inopportune moment. The tow truck driver sat my car down, unhooked it, then drove it around to prove the brakes worked fine.

Yes, the car drove perfectly and sustained only minimal body damage. That car was a trooper.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Tale of Mocking Road Signs and Possums That Give Chase

I am, quite possibly, one of the worst drivers I know. I cannot count the number of times I’ve nearly died. I’d also have trouble coming up with the exact number of times I’ve been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving – stone cold sober.

I read a hilarious, embarrassing story over at Tawna Fenske’s blog today, and promised to bare a humiliation or two of my own. There are many to choose from. I might have to do a series on my accidents.

I wrecked my car a total of seven times in the first three years I had my driver’s license. Thankfully (or maybe not), my parents had the foresight to purchase me a dependable 1988 Toyota which had the gall to survive them all and live to tell the tale(s).

I couldn’t decide whether or not to go in chronological order or not. In the end, I thought I’d start with the most appalling.

I’d turned nineteen that summer and decided to spend it at the Lake of the Ozarks for a couple of reasons. First, returning home after a year away at college held little appeal. Second, well…there was this guy.

Things hadn’t worked out exactly as I’d planned (do they ever?) and instead of dating “the” guy, I’d been seeing someone else. Let’s call him Spencer Tracy. Spencer Tracy and I had a fight that fateful night. His high school friends were visiting and he wanted me to hang out and get to know everyone. I did not have any interest in that activity and decided instead to go back to my grandparents’ house by way of a newly constructed toll road.

Newly constructed in the Ozarks means winding, dark, and empty.

It had rained earlier in the evening and I took a curve to the right without slowing down. I managed to spin off the road and smash into a sign that mocked me with its clever “slippery when wet” symbol.

The trek off the road shook me up a bit and I couldn’t get the car back onto the pavement. Being the stubborn, willful, independent, and perpetually accurate person I am the last thing I wanted to do was call Spencer Tracy and ask for his help. Still, what choice did I have in the matter?

Spencer Tracy and some of his friends came and pushed my little car, now sporting a dented driver’s side fender, back onto the street. He asked me again to please come back with him, especially now since I’d gotten all shaken up, but I refused. Heaven forbid I listen to the voice of reason in my own head or his. Spencer Tracy and his friends left, their taillights disappearing into the blackness. My legs still trembling, I slid behind the wheel and took off.

Less than two minutes later I heard the telltale thwapping of a flat tire against asphalt and pulled off the road again, albeit this time of my own volition. I got out my cell phone to call Spencer Tracy, pride pushed aside and ready to beg for forgiveness if he’d just promise me a place to sleep.

That’s when I discovered I had a problem. My cell phone had died.

In the middle of nowhere. No houses. No streetlights. No anything for miles in either direction.

My watch told me midnight had come and gone. The tollbooth I’d passed over two miles before represented the nearest civilization. I’d have to hoof it.

I hiked the two-ish miles in the dark, with animal noises making me break into a trot and tears leaking when I felt sure a possum chased me for a few hundred yards.

Don’t laugh. Those things are mean.

I scared the living shit out of the guy in the tollbooth, who certainly did not expect a girl to come trekking up and knock him out of a deep sleep at two in the morning. He looked at me like I had six heads when I asked for the phone.

I do not think I need to expound on how NOT pleased Spencer Tracy was to hear from me. Again. When he’d asked me multiple times not to go.

Good thing I wasn’t the kind of girl to believe in signs.

He came and got me. We went back to his place, a condo I’d been bound and determined to escape two or so hours earlier. We crashed, we slept. The horrified mortification wore off.

It does. Take it from me.

Tune in next time for more of Spencer Tracy and my adventures in Ozark driving.