Thursday, November 29, 2007

Try This Only At Home, Because Otherwise It’ll Get You In Trouble At Work (!)

Okay, it’s Progress Report Time. First, I probably ought to apologize for leaving you all hanging here. I shot out this great proposal for jump-starting our creativity, and then I didn’t post as I went to let you know if it was working. Then again, I’ve come to think…if it’s working, and that’s why I don’t post—that’s good, right? (LOL!) Short answer? OMW, is it working. Now, don’t get too excited and run for those paper sacks to breathe in yet, because I have a mixed bag of goodies here. No, I don’t have ten completely fleshed-out ideas for new books (yet); I don’t have ten new synopses. But that being said, what I have right now at my fingertips is so crazy and fun and non-stop that I don’t care: I’m going to get ten synopses out of all of this. And then some. So far, I’ve— —completely revamped an old book and turned it on its head; —come up with three delightfully ditzy possibilities for heroines for future books, each with a special “gift” of her own that I can put into a “woo woo” story —begun to mull a synopsis for “completing” a story that will spring from a short-short I’ve already written, but thought would be a great “root” in itself for another book —hatched a totally different character idea from the first book, which will take a spinoff book that was going nowhere and set it on its head —come up with a crazy fantasy/parallel universe idea that I won’t be using myself, unless the author I suggested it to declines to do so—which’ll mean I could then morph it into something “woo woo” but not fantasy, but still have a horking good story beginning —just about bounced off the walls writing a new synop and 12 pages of the first story listed above, have “written” the next two to three chapters verbally (i.e., worked them out in the car while driving to and from choir), have the fourth one ready to start, and just merely have to transfer them to the keyboard —and been totally wowed at what’s happened over the last couple of weeks. Now, I can thank a number of sources for this revitalization. One is all the prayers I’ve had people saying for me (and you know who you are). One is definitely the prayers I’ve spent time mulling in myself, in front of the Blessed Sacrament. And one may have been that my own creativity was just sitting there, waiting for me to trust it again. Maybe. Maybe not. Personally, I’m inclined to believe this is supernatural in origin. Why? Because this wild sparking happened when I decided to let go of the reins on my writing and allow myself to set it free from the earth, so to speak. When I started thinking back to the kind of writing I did when writing was still fun. Which it had pretty much ceased to be lately. So, as I searched for answers, one of the thoughts that came to me was, “Well, what would _____ story look like if you’d written it when you were, say, seventeen?” That, combined with a little creative brainstorming with the Lord, turned a key. And things haven’t stopped bouncing around my head since. So the moral of the story is: you put a challenge before the Lord, like I did, to help me out…you spend time in Eucharistic Adoration laying your creativity on the altar…and you become willing to abandon everything but what feels warm and fuzzy and happy and fun again…and you just might get ten stories out of the deal. Or twenty. Or… And then, the only trick is containing yourself long enough at work to have energy to type like a demon when you get home. So try this in your “thinking spot.” Try this in church. Try this in meditation. Try it while you’re driving, if you can drive and mull at the same time (i.e., if you don’t have to close your eyes to be creative!). But don’t do it at work. Or you’ll suddenly be looking for ways to ditch the day gig and Get On With It—and that path, I can honestly say, I’m not financially ready for! Thoughts? Janny P.S. DRISCOLL WON!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Anybody Here Remember How to Play This Game?

After watching Michigan play possibly the worst football game I’ve seen them play, maybe ever—and that includes some pretty dismal Rose Bowl performances—and watching the Bears squander away a 10-point lead and all the momentum in the world—I can only surmise that this team would have made a better showing on the field than the two of them put together. I didn't want to think this...but I kept wondering during the Wolverines' fiasco if it didn't dawn on them that if they won, they'd go to the Rose Bowl—where they have been embarrassed way too often of late—and subconsciously, they were saying to themselves, “Oh-oh. Whoa. Don’t wanna do that again.” But surely a team wouldn’t really be thinking that way. Would they? Now that the dust has cleared, the Lloyd Carr era will be over soon, not because he’s going to get fired—but because he’s retiring. At least that’s the account for public consumption. I wonder in my heart of hearts if it wasn’t a matter of “Retire or get fired, Lloyd.” And that man doesn’t deserve the rap people have saddled him with, especially as concerns Ohio State. Face it. The coach doesn’t get on the field and drop passes. 'Nuff said. Now, on the other hand, how much longer will it take for Da Bears to ask Rexie to retire as well…? But the good news is? The office is put back together!!!! GO DRISCOLL!!!!! More later, Janny

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rose Bowl, Here We Come!

Okay, so it isn't technically time for the Rose Bowl yet...but it will be after dem Wolverines beat up dem (overrated) Buckeyes on Saturday.


Not pumped in the least about this game coming up,

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Jump-Start to Creativity for the Weekend!

Over the past several months (years?), I have felt my share of Writer Envy. We all suffer it to one degree or another. And you know it when you feel it. It’s that familiar, stomach-sinking sensation that hits you when you hear of another author’s success…again. Even if you like the author. Even if you’re a fan of the author…sometimes you feel it anyway. The old why her and not me? question. Or, as I encountered last week, hearing about an author who’s already a bestseller being courted by publishers to write yet more books, when she’s already got several due to another publisher and is stressing out because she “doesn’t know how she’s going to get it all done.” (Hint: she could always have refused the assignment and let the rest of us have a chance…but funny how that option never seems to occur to any of these lucky people.) Or the same ol’ same ol’ people in the industry seemingly reaping all the rewards—teaching the plum workshops, speaking at the great venues—while a larger majority of us here in the trenches slog away, growing increasingly disillusioned and/or desperate about anyone ever noticing us in the shadows while the spotlight is so firmly fixed on those fortunate few. So what’s to be done about that? Well, it seems to me we have a couple of choices. The familiar choice is, first, to get peeved. (Admit it. It’s okay.) To sit there and smile on the outside while on the inside thinking about ways to provoke spontaneous human combustion. Close on the heels of the urge to see that other author’s head explode, at least on my part, comes a second set of emotions and self-talk. This usually starts out with “What’s wrong with my stuff?” and ends with, “Well, if I had_____ like she does, I’d be where she is, too.” My favorite use of the “If I had ______” phrase is, of course, “Well, if I had the luxury of being able to stay home and write full-time, I’d have all this success, too.” Sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? And it does have more than a grain of truth to it. Having more time to write is always a good thing. There’s only one problem with this assumption: it’s only half true. Because having all the time in the world to write, and no financial worries, and nothing else standing in the way, only truly works if you have some idea of what you’re going to write. In other words, without some ideas that have you jumping in your shoes, without some sparks that have you unable to stay away from the keyboard, you’ll be just as frustrated as you were when you thought the only obstacle between you and the Great American Novel was the financial ability to spend unlimited time pursuing your muse. You’ll stare at the screen, you’ll noodle around with some sentences, maybe, but mostly you’ll just avoid writing…and then you’ll beat yourself up for it. That way, ladies and gentlemen, does not lie success. It’s a path that leads nowhere, and I’ve come up with an idea to jar us off that path and onto a better one. I have to admit, this idea is stolen, and not new. It comes from the history of a particular author I know who, when she was working on a couple of ideas at a time and still hadn’t sold her first book, had an agent challenge her to do something that changed her writing life. The agent looked at her stuff and said, “This is promising. But I want to see more. Way more. So I have an assignment for you: go home and write six new synopses for six new books. When you have them, send them to me, and we’ll talk.” The author nearly fainted at the sheer idea of just going home and writing six brand-new synopses—for the simple reason that she writes much like I do, in a very methodical and logical, linear, plot-driven manner, so that having those synopses done would basically mean she knew exactly what each book was going to be about and would just have to write from an outline. She couldn’t send the agent one page and a wing and a prayer; when she was done with those synopses, all that would remain was to pick which book she wanted to write first, and go for it. Yeah, it was hard. Yeah, it took some work. But after she did it, she had even more ideas popping out of the woodwork—and what was more to the point, she had books an agent could nudge her on and say, “This one. This is the one I want to see more on.” A couple of years after she did this, she signed a two-book deal with a major publisher, sold her first book with virtually no revisions, and was on her way to building a career. She’s since become a college writing teacher, sold at least two more books, and has started to snag some of those speaking venues and some “street cred” that just might turn into the kind of career we all dream about. And she started this while working full-time outside the home and raising several sons. The difference between being a very good, unsold writer and a good, sold one? Lots and lots and lots of options. Productivity. And more productivity. That came from…you guessed it. Ideas. So I’m going to take on a challenge, and I hope you’ll join me in it. I may or may not write six synopses—that remains to be seen. But what I am going to do, since I’m sorely in need of more book options than I have now, is to make an effort to concentrate on becoming an idea-generating machine. Specifically, I’m setting a public goal: to have ten new story ideas by the end of the month. Ten new ideas that are at least to the scene-and-chapter stage, which is the preliminary stage I always go through before I write a synopsis. Think that sounds insurmountable? Maybe it is. But I’ll never know that until I try. So I’m going to try. And, I suspect, once I put these wheels in motion, there’ll be a lot of others that start turning as well. Because God does want us to demonstrate that we can be trusted with “small things” before He gives us the “big ones.” Maybe the only thing that’s standing between me and that success I crave so much isn’t that the universe hasn’t provided me with the perfect situation in which to wallow and create at leisure. Maybe, in the end, the only thing that’s standing between me and success is not having enough trust in my own creativity. But no muscle gets stronger until you exercise it. So starting now, I’m going into full-blown aerobic idea-sparking mode. Wanna join me? If you do, just register in the combox! And then let’s keep track of what we come up with as the next couple of weeks unfold… Thoughts? Janny

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly...

Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve hung out here. But I was gainfully employed—painting my home office. It is now a lovely lilac color on the walls and a lovely white on the trim. Or at least as lovely as I can make it, fighting through all those little nooks and crannies of woodwork around windows and such. I swear I found yet another spot that had gotten “missed” in the painting the first couple times around, and it’s on my list for touching up AFTER I clean the 4,568 paint spots off the floor. (Yes, I have heard of drop cloths, but this is literally just the perimeter of the room, where I didn’t have as much covering due to having to work around the drop cloth-covered furniture in the middle....) :-) Anyhow, that’s almost done—taking the major part of the last three weekends. This weekend, hub and I are supposed to be at a Marriage Encounter, so I may not be “encountering” the rest of the office redo for awhile unless I can s-q-e-e-z-e it in on a weeknight this week. Sheesh! Anyway, some interesting publishing stories have come by, courtesy of Publisher’s Lunch. The first one, I found heartening: Brunonia Barry’s originally self-published debut supernatural thriller THE LACE READER, about a woman who can see the future by reading patterns in lace who returns home to Salem, Massachusetts after her great-aunt goes missing, to Laurie Chittenden at William Morrow, in a major deal, reportedly for $2 million (NY Mag), at auction, by Rebecca Oliver at Endeavor (world English). I think it’s just the “bee’s knees” that someone who’s been able to self-publish then goes on and gets a $2 million deal. Just proves the rule that not EVERY self-published novel dies an undignified death and/or earns disrespect for its author. This also sounds like a horking good story—so ya gotta wonder why it had to go the self-pub route in the first place! I personally wonder what it was that would prompt an editor not to want to read that story. But then again, what do I know? I edit nonfiction. :-) The second bit of news I found was both “bad” and “ugly”—also from PL: JK Rowling and Warner Bros. filed suit in Manhattan yesterday against Michigan's RDR Books over their planned publication in November of a Harry Potter Lexicon, adapted from a web site of the same name. In a release from the studio, Rowling says she may write her own Potter-pedia, saying "I cannot, therefore, approve of 'companion books' or 'encyclopedias' that seek to preempt my definitive Potter reference book for their authors' own personal gain." BBC Yanno, the woman’s already richer than God, as the old saying goes. She hasn’t written this book yet. She may not even ever write this book. But she somehow got her publisher to go in with her on a lawsuit to prevent anyone else from publishing any “companion” books that “seek to preempt” a book that she hasn’t even written yet…just so those authors can’t make any “personal gain” off of something she’s already made so much money on that her grandchildren’s children won’t be able to spend it all. The first smart-aleck gut reaction to this, of course, is for us to ask, “How can I get a deal like that?”:-) But in the final analysis, truth be told, I don’t want my publisher to treat me this way. I would hope they’d have more spine than to allow me to get away with such spoiled-brat selfishness on an off-the-chart-scale. I would hope someone within that company would have the guts to say, “This book is done. It’s blog material. It can’t possibly hurt you. It can only help you overall. And it’s additional work you don’t have to do. Let’s set up a licensing agreement of some kind, sit down, shut up, and count the money.” But they chose not to do that. Why? Legally and technically, of course, they’re well within their rights. But if anything proves the point that what’s “legal” isn’t necessarily what’s “right,” this does. In spades. It’s just a shame that so few people in the publishing business seem to have either common sense or a conscience anymore. Thoughts?