Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Plotters and Pantsers and Pretty Woman, Oh My!

The lovely Roni Loren over at Fiction Groupie did a great post a couple of weeks ago on Plotters vs. Pantsers. I remember reading it thinking that I am absolutely a pantser, just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (minus the hooker part, of course). I even replayed the scene in my head where Julia's character, Vivian, says to Richard Gere's character, Edward (no, you can't call him "Eddie"), "I'm more of a fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal."

However, my pantser story doesn't end with a man hanging out of the top of a white limo wielding flowers in lieu of a sword, clearly coming to my rescue. Lord, I wish it did. (Actually, I would give him a red sharpie instead of a sword, to slash my manuscript to pieces. I would call him "Eddy", short for EDITOR...get it? I know, I'm insane.) Instead my pantser story ends with me pulling my already thinning hair out because I've lost myself in my story. I'm up to my eyeballs in edits and I can now see the gaping holes due to my lack of preparation (just like Roni said I would!). Can I fix them? Most likely. Will it be painful? Absolutely.

Thankfully, I have already begun to learn from my mistakes, creating a rough outline for my second book before I even BEGIN to write it. I don't want to get too detailed with my outline, because I'm still a pantser and I thoroughly enjoy not knowing ALL the details before I write (because a lot of them change in the process anyway). I do hope, however, that at least with a rough outline of my plot and characters that I won't find myself in such a stressful position the next time around.

What about you? Plotter or Pantser - or a little of both? Has being either one given you trouble in the longrun?

Monday, September 27, 2010


A great friend of mine from college, Lauren, recently opened a discussion on Facebook asking her friends to post their "momisms". For example, Lauren shared this little gem: I have mastered the art of a quick shower...I am a mom.

Below are just some of the awesome responses. I've taken the liberty of borrowing some of them and fixing them because I'm anal like that, so that they all sound the same. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

  • I have realized I will never be on time for anything again in my life. I have gone to work with spit up in my hair and not noticed till noon...I am a mom.
  • I have realized I will not be able to poop alone for many years...I am a mom.
  • I have an arsenal of statements at the ready so that I don't have to share my food (This is too spicy for you, Oops - I ate it all, This is really gross - you don't want this) ...I am a mom.
  • I have learned to eat an entire meal while nursing...I am a mom.
  • I now look for coupons for Preparation H...I am a mom.
  • At the store, I push a cart filled with about 50lbs of human before I ever even get to the supplies...I am a mom. *
  • I fart in public and then blame the kid closest to me - works every time...I am a mom. *
  • I know the names of every character in the cartoons and have seen almost every episode at least twice...I am a mom.
  • There are days that I dont have time to brush my teeth till I'm going to bed...I am a mom!  
  • I have perfected the evaluation of each successive cry of, "Dad!" by intensity, volume, and urgency, and no longer appear until actually needed...I am a mom. *
  • I not only know all of the lyrics to the Spongebob theme song, as I am singing it with my 11 year old, the baby is spitting squash in my face and I don't miss a note...I am a mom.
  • I have mastered using my left hand to hold my breast pump and painting my toenails with my right hand...I am a mom (with cute toes).*

*Denotes a personal favorite

What is your momism? Feel free to chime in. Dads and parents of furry kids are welcome too!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Is There A Dog Barking?

I mumbled that exact question to my husband sometime in the middle of the night last night. His response? ZZZZZZ. Then I hit him gently prodded him and said, "Do you hear that?" He didn't. About 10 minutes later, our youngest child came into our room crying and saying his throat hurt. Then he let out a sound that was not at all childlike, more like what a child might sound like if it swallowed a grenade and then burped.

So I took little man back to his room and snuggled for an hour before he fell back to sleep. This morning we went to the doctor, because we're headed into the weekend and I did not want to have to make a trip to the ER if this thing got worse. Plus, I'm going to a conference starting today, and didn't want to leave the husband with a sick kid and no meds. 

My doctor said it first, "Was it a seal-like barking sound?" Why yes, actually, yes it was. I wonder if doctors are required to take a zoology class in med school to learn to identify animals by their barks, because she totally hit it out of the park. One yucky throat swab and a few tears later, he was diagnosed with croup. CROUP. Ugh. One prescription and a Spiderman sticker later, and we were headed home.

Here's hoping your weekend doesn't involve a barking seal - unless you're going to the zoo, because that's WAY more fun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The View From Where I Sit

We all write in different places and on different types of computers (or maybe you prefer to use paper and pen?). I thought I'd share the place where I do the majority of my writing: my kitchen table. Occasionally, I will get out of my house and write at Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, or the library. Most of the time, though, I'm sitting right here, surrounded by laundry and toys to be picked up (hopefully with a large caffeinated beverage and flowers from my sweet hubby to get me through it). 

I used to say, "I can't write at home, it's just too distracting." Then I realized that I was using that excuse as a crutch. Many of us don't have the luxury of being alone and undistracted while we write. Maybe you're a mom like me, constantly interrupted by questions from your children (or distracted by the mere thought of your children: What is he doing right now? I hope he ate a good lunch today. I hope he's not getting into trouble. Did I remember to sign that form?). Maybe you're like me in that sometimes there just isn't enough time to get in the car and drive to one of those places and write for hours. Groceries have to be bought, children have to be dropped off/picked up, doctors have to be seen (Click here for some great tips from author Jody Hedlund on how busy moms can make more writing time).

But the truth is, you have to just DO IT. Writing takes discipline. It takes passion. It takes determination. Put your butt in the chair and WRITE, even if it's just thirty minutes a day, like exercise! Exercise for your craft! Allow yourself the luxury of putting down the laundry, it'll still be there when you get back (though don't neglect it for too long, otherwise you might be faced with a situation like this). If I can do it, so can you.

What's the view like from where YOU sit? Do you get easily distracted when you write at home? What distracts you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Love It/Hate It: Nifty Fifty Edition

Internet, my mom is 50 years old today. She probably won't appreciate me sharing that with all of you, but I don't really care (see, Mom? I told you I'd get back at your for giving me bangs one day). I was fortunate enough to be able to fly home and surprise her this weekend and attend her surprise 50th birthday party, and it was awesome.

In honor of my sweet mom, I'd like to share with you some things I love/hate about her (don't worry, there's only one "hate").

Love It:
- That we talk all the time. My mom is my best friend and the best advice-giver EVER. I know too many women that have strained relationships with their mothers, that feel judged or incapable around them, and I am very grateful that is not the case with my own.

- She has a heart of gold. She is a giver: meals for friends who are hurting, her time and energy, but most of all, LOVE. She genuinely LOVES people.

- She is SO funny. We laugh at the same things, and sometimes we say the same things at the same time, making us laugh even harder.

- Her faith is strong. She loves God and she might tell you about him, but not without SHOWING you how much she loves Him by the way that she treats you first.

- She is the absolute best Grammy to my kids.

- She is the glue that holds our family together.

Hate It:
- She lives in Florida. I live in Georgia. That is my only complaint!

I love you, Mom. I hope that you have the best birthday ever. I'm praying for 50 more years, because I don't know what I'd do without you.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Writing Is...

I'm off to make some serious edits on my on today's Writer Wednesday, I'd really like to hear from all of you.

Tell me what writing is to you. Obsession? Therapy? Hobby? A job? Use as many words or as few as you like. You may

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mommy's Getting a Makeover

Is it fall yet? Because I always get this stirring in my bones when fall is around the corner - time to change things up a bit. A few weeks ago, I gave myself bangs. If you knew me in the early 90's you know that this is MAJOR because I had an unfortunate bang situation for most of my adolescence (thanks, Mom!). I might try to color my hair (what I have left of it anyway) tonight...who knows.

AND as you may have noticed (or may have not, so I'll blatantly point it out to you) This Mommy's Life has a new look. Yep, it's still the same blog, just under new management. Mommy's getting her act together. I hope you like it - it is TOTALLY me, except it's missing something. Hmmm. OH! How could I forget, the BIRD ELEMENT. We all know I'm a crazy bird lady.

When I went looking for pretty birds, LOOK what I found on Etsy! LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIFUL PRINTS!

Those last two are my favorites! I can't wait to sell my first book (fingers crossed/toes crossed/eyes crossed/KrisKross'll make you JUMP JUMP! I told you...early 90's), because I will buy up this ENTIRE Etsy shop by YumiYumi.

Enjoy your Monday, everyone. I'm off to Starbucks to get a pumpkin spice latte, because it's fall...right?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Help for your Query Letter

Click here for a "How To" on writing your query letter.

Taherah totally nailed it, don't you think? :)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blood Work And A Peek At My Book

When I titled Friday's post, There Will Be Blood, I didn't realize that it would be self-fulfilling prophecy.

 I spent the better part of my morning sitting in my doctor's office waiting to have my blood drawn because I've been feeling a bit crummy lately. My hair is falling out, I'm tired all the time, I've eaten too many Nutty Bars gained a little bit of weight. You know, the usual happenings of a mother with a 5 and 3 year old.

My brain is fried, and I can't think past my overwhelming desire to go lay down right now (News Flash: Having four vials of blood drawn is not for the already tired and faint of heart!). On the bright side, I've decided to share a little excerpt of my book with you, dear reader. AREN'T YOU EXCITED? I know, try to contain yourself (I'm looking at YOU, MOM).

Feel free to tell me how much you LOVE it what you think. I promise, I won't retaliate if your response is negative. That's the beauty of critiquing someone who can't get out of bed! :)

And now, I give you a snippet of Jeannie and Her Bottles:

When I pull into Lexi’s driveway, she is sitting at the bottom of the front porch steps. Her wild, dark hair is pulled back into a ponytail, and she’s wearing a ripped neck, gray sweatshirt and spandex pants. However, it’s not her clothes that shock me – it's the fact that she’s smoking a cigarette. My sister, the portrait of health and champion of defying premature wrinkles, is smoking a cigarette.
“Alexis Anne Franklin, where did you get that?” I ask, jumping out of the car. Lexi’s middle name is our mother’s first name. Hearing myself say my mother’s name hurts, but I push the thought out of my head and continue reprimanding my older sister, who, at the moment, is acting like anything but. “Those things will kill you, and you don’t even smoke,” I say, slamming the door.
“I bummed it off some teenager,” she says, blowing out a puff of smoke.
“Seriously, Lex. If you don’t put that thing out, I’m going to kill you.”
“Fine.” She puts it out on the step, and flicks the butt at my sandaled feet. I have to jump to miss it.
“Come on, let’s go inside and have a chat,” I say, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her up the stairs. I get a closer look at what’s she’s wearing as I’m dragging, and can't believe it. Lexi prides herself on her appearance. She is always put together - she wears the latest fashion trends and never leaves the house without full makeup and perfectly done hair. To say that I am shocked to see her smoking is one thing; to see her in bad clothes is entirely another. “Love the outfit, Lex. Are you single-handedly trying to bring back the eighties?” 
She shrugs and opens her door, and as I follow her in I notice a pathetic looking plant, what might have once been a fern. Lexi loves her plants – you might call her a green thumb – a trait she annoyingly inherited from our mother. Even though I’m the one who spent the most time in my mom’s garden, I still manage to kill every green thing I attempt to grow. If Lexi’s plants are dying, then I know things are getting bad.
I don’t fully realize how bad until I open the door to her apartment. If the cigarette, outfit, and dead fern didn't scare the crap out of me, this certainly does. The garbage can is nearly overflowing, her kitchen table is stacked high with unopened mail, magazine subscriptions, and what looks like…a bunch of mismatched socks? Her kitchen counter is littered with opened and half-eaten frozen dinners and their containers, empty wine bottles, and dirty glasses. 
Lexi walks past it all and flops down on the couch, pulling a fuzzy blanket all the way up to her chin.
“Sooo, how was your day?” I ask from the kitchen, carefully prodding an open pizza box and trying to make sense of my surroundings. My sister is also a neat freak, so this is completely uncharacteristic of her. I reach into the cabinet and pull out two juice glasses – for lack of proper stemware – and pour us some wine.
“Oh, just peachy,” she says, mumbling beneath the blanket.
While surveying the wreckage around me, I notice her radio. The plug has been ripped from the electrical socket and is now dangling over the counter.
“I see you finally turned off our friend Delilah," I say, trying to hold back a giggle.
Smudge, Lexi’s huge, aptly-named black cat hops carefully up onto the counter, navigating his way through the debris and looking for someone to pay attention to the backs of his ears. 
“Hey, Smudgy,” I say, indulging him for a moment. “At least I see she hasn’t forgotten to feed you.” Smudge looks like he could skip a meal – or ten – and be just fine.
“Yeah, after I turned off Delilah I decided to turn on the television, and guess what was on,” she says.
“Enlighten me,” I say, lifting Smudge off of the counter out of habit. Even with the mess, I can't stand cats on counters - you never know where those feet have been.
“One of those stupid depression medication commercials. You know, the ones that make you want to kill yourself they’re so sad?” she says, obviously irritated.
I laugh, knowing exactly what she's talking about. “Well, you know that’s how they make all their money, right? They depress you with their commercial so that you’ll call your doctor and he’ll prescribe you their medication,” I say, making my way into her living room, glasses of wine in hand.
“Well, it’s a very effective strategy."
I have to step over kicked off shoes and discarded clothing to hand Lexi her cup of wine. Smudge has followed me from the kitchen, hopping stealthily up onto the arm of Lexi’s soft leather couch – the only good thing that came from her marriage to Tom.  It suddenly strikes me that the only good thing that came from my own previous relationship was a piece of furniture. What the heck is it with furniture?
 I pull her feet up into my lap and cover them with a blanket. Smudge looks at Lexi’s feet, then back at me with his yellow-green eyes, as if I’ve committed a crime. Obviously perturbed, he hops down and finds a comfy place at my feet.
 “So what’s up with the landfill in the kitchen?” I ask, taking a sip of my wine.
“Oh, that? I just haven’t gotten around to it,” she says, waving her hand dismissively.
“Well, I think you’d better get to it before it gets to you.” I see one eyebrow twitch, the only proof that she’s heard me at all.
“Are you going to tell me what this is all about or what?” I press, even though I’m pretty sure I already know. She stares blankly at the wall before finally giving in with a sigh.
“I’m just lonely, Pea,” she says, taking a gulp of her wine.
“Pea”, short for Peanut, was my nickname growing up. My initials just happen to be J.I.F. –  yes, like the peanut butter – for Jean Irene Franklin. Lexi is the only one in my family who is still allowed to call me by my nickname. My dad started using it a little too frequently in public, so I had to put him on restrictions.
“I hate coming home after a long day of work to this empty apartment,” she continues, laying her head down on the armrest of the couch, her wild curls spilling all over her face. “I hate cooking meals for one,” she says through them. I don’t have the heart to tell her that microwaving doesn’t exactly count as cooking. I rub her feet in an effort to calm her down before she hits full crisis mode. She sits straight up all of a sudden and glares down at my hands, causing me to stop rubbing immediately.
“What?” I ask, putting my hands up like I’m under arrest.
“I hate that my sister has to be the one to rub my feet at the end of the day,” she says, and slumps dramatically back down onto the armrest. I give a little laugh and resume rubbing as she continues in her downward spiral. “I hate that I know he’s out there with that stupid girl, or some stupid girl like her. I hate that he’s not here.” With this last statement, she begins to cry uncontrollably.
I stand up to hand her a box of tissues from the kitchen counter. For a moment, I allow myself to imagine that I might have been a therapist in a previous life. I don’t technically believe in reincarnation, but if I did I would’ve totally been a therapist. Random strangers approach me all the time and tell me their life stories, like I have some sign on my forehead that says TALK TO ME. It’s not that I really mind listening, unless I’m in a hurry to get somewhere. I know that simply listening won’t work on Lexi tonight, so I reach deep into my arsenal of encouraging sentiments. I swear I could write a book with all the material I’ve used to calm my sister down. I’d call it Chicken Soup for a Psychotic Sister’s Soul.            
“Sweetie, you know you were too good for him to begin with. He wasn’t right for you.”
“Yeah,” she sniffs. “I know that. It’s just that I can’t…forget him. I try – I really do, but every time I meet a guy, I end up comparing him with Tom…the way he was before he became the guy who cheated on me. I thought everything was great between us. How did this happen?”
I think it over before speaking. Now is definitely not a “told you so” moment.
“I don’t know, Lex,” I say, choosing my words carefully. “Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.”
“I have never understood what that means.” She sighs, taking another big gulp of her wine. I find myself relieved that I didn’t bring over the Cabernet I’ve been saving, because I’m pretty sure my sister isn’t even tasting the wine at this point.
“It means,” I say slowly, “that sometimes we are rendered so incapacitated by our feelings, that we can’t really be objective about reality. You had him up on a pedestal. You cared about him so much that you chose to ignore the truth about who he really was…like the fact that he had cheated on his previous girlfriend with you.” I take a sip of my wine, fully appreciating the taste merely out of principle.
“It’s better you found out after two years instead of twenty, right? I mean, what if you’d had kids or something.”
This is not really new news to Lexi, but for some reason it seems to be sinking in tonight. She finishes her wine and reaches for the bottle, pouring herself another glass and swirling it around. “Yeah, what if we had.” She looks at me and shakes her head, and I can see fresh tears welling in her eyes.
“What is it, Lex?” I ask, suddenly worried that I’ve said something to upset her.
“After I took Tom back. I got…pregnant a month later. I…I had a miscarriage.” With this she collapses into my lap.
After finally registering what my sister has just confided to me, I find myself fighting back tears. I certainly don’t want to make this worse for her, so I stiffen my resolve not to cry. We sit in silence for a moment as she cries and I struggle to get past the shock of her revelation. 
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask, gently smoothing the wily curls away from her tear-stained face.
“You were so upset when I took him back, and it was just so soon after. I thought you would be angry with me. I’m sorry – I should’ve told you.”
“Listen to me,” I say, pulling her chin up so that she can look me in the face. Her hazel eyes – just like our mother’s – are swollen and red. “There is nothing you could do or say that would make me stop loving you. Nothing.”
“Really?” she asks sniffling, finally sitting upright next to me.
“Sister’s honor,” I say, crossing my heart. I put my arm around her shoulder and shake my head. “Well…unless you tell Dad that I’m a registered Democrat, because we both know that information would get me written right out of the will.”
We share a laugh so deep that I can actually feel it healing us from the inside out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

There Will Be Blood

My husband's car decided to have a tantrum yesterday (as cars so often do - especially cars that are almost paid off), so he took mine to work this morning.

So. I'm without a car today, on this FUN FRIDAY.

Okay, I realize that this is a First World problem (the kind of problem that only people who live in First World countries understand, i.e. broken air conditioning units, broken fake nails, broken get the idea). The rational part of my brain realizes that I shouldn't be complaining, that I'm sitting here in the air conditioning having just eaten an entire breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes (because it's Fun Friday! I get bacon! Okay, who am I kidding, I eat bacon almost daily. I love bacon - sue me.) while I peruse the Internet while my child is distracted by Curious George.

I get it.

But the irrational side of my brain just registered that I DRANK MY LAST COKE LAST NIGHT. I reached into the box and came up with NOTHING. Do you have any idea what this means? I have no coke. NOOOOO COOOOOOKE. And no car. And a husband who won't be home until two in the morning.

Wait a minute, let me just check something...

I have wine! All is not lost!

Happy Weekend everyone. I will not be posting on Monday, so come back and see me on Wednesday!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Have Enough Frenzy Already - I Don't Need Franzen

This day has turned into one of those days. The kind where you wake up hopeful, peppy even, until your foot hits the ground (and comes into direct corner contact with another $%*# LEGO). Then it's a whoooole other ball game, kids. I had really good intentions to write a nice long post about all this Franzen hype, but alas, my motherly duties have taken over my day, not to mention my brain.

Unless you've been under a rock (or have been otherwise absorbed in MOCKINGJAY), you've heard about the whole Franzen/Picoult/Weiner/boys vs. girls/literary vs. commercial insanity. As a writer of women's fiction, I feel like I have a direct stake in how this whole argument plays out. I'm hoping that because of women like Picoult and Weiner, the New York Times takes a long, hard look at how biased they are and move to change it. I'm hoping, but I'm not betting on it.

What about you? Did you know about the drama? Do you think women are treated unfairly in the literary world, be they romance writers, chick-lit (or the more PC "shoe-lit") writers, or contemporary women's fiction writers?

*For the record, I will most likely read Franzen's FREEDOM, because I enjoy popular fiction.