Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N Is For Nuggets of Wisdom

My 15 year old son said something so profoundly wise about love last night that I had to find a way to incorporate it into today's blog. This morning I opened up my dictionary and started searching through the N's looking for the right word. There wasn't one, but with a little imagination, we can make Nuggets of Wisdom fit.

I came into his room, singing the song "Marry Me" by Bruno Mars. (Why couldn't we have had this conversation the day before the letter M???) In case you don't know the song, let me explain that it has a highly catchy tune, and has inspired a zillion youtube worthy marriage proposals in the past couple of months.

Our conversation
My son: I've decided girls are dumb. (Please don't judge him. He's 15, and he didn't mean it. It was a bad day.)
Me: What? Why?
My son: They claim they want romance and then they all get so excited about the least romantic song ever written.
Me: Are you talking about Marry Me?
My son: Yeah. It's a terrible song and it isn't romantic at all.
Me: I know it doesn't have the most romantic lyrics ever written, but maybe some people like the idea of romance so much that they have to pretend. The song sounds romantic enough unless you listen to it carefully. Maybe they are adding their own meaning and ignoring the unromanticness of it.
My son: That's dumb. They should hold out for the real thing.

In case you are curious, here are the offending lyrics:

Cause it's a beautiful night
We're looking for something dumb to do.
Hey baby,
I think I wanna marry you.

Is it the look in your eyes,
Or is it this dancing juice?
Who cares baby,
I think I wanna marry you...

Well I know this little chapel on the boulevard we can go
No one will know.
Oh come on girl.
Who cares if we're trashed got a pocket full of cash we can blow...

If we wake up and you wanna break up that's cool.
No I won't blame you;
It was fun girl.

So that's my nugget of wisdom for the day. Hold out for better my friends.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M Is For Mmmmmm...

We three authors of Alchemy have made a pact that we'll finish the rough draft of the sequel before Friday. It's rough, so don't get too excited, but it's still an important step in the right direction. Today I got up with high hopes that I would write my little tail off, but fate has intervened. 

I haven't felt good for several days now--no real symptoms, just kind of off. My youngest son woke up this morning with a fever, so he stayed home from school and we watched Kipper until I fell into the deepest sleep ever. felt nice to wake up from an unexpected nap. I feel sort of dreamy and lethargic now, and I doubt I'll get a whole lot written. In fact, I may go back to sleep...

Miserable looking people

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K Is for Keep

Today, six Word Saturday meets the A-Z Challenge:

Keep on writing, we're nearly done. 

For the A-Z Challenge, participants blog every day in April except for Sundays, and each post corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. Today's letter is K. For the challenge this year, my topic is LOVE, because it's my favorite topic ever.

For Six Word Saturday, we post 6 words that sum up a piece of our life each week. We can add pictures or explanations if we feel so inclined.

Last week I predicted that we'd be finished with the rough draft of Pyromancy by this week. I was wrong. We're close though. Maybe this will be the week. I thought I was done and that only Sheena and Sabrina had sections left to write. But now I need to add a section in Ana's point of view. Last night Sheena came up with such an off-the-wall idea about something I could add to my section that I can't decide if it's ridiculous or genius. I'm leaning toward genius at the moment. We'll see.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J Is For the Journey

A-Z Challenge visitors, I apologize that this is such a long post. I usually try to keep my April blog posts short, but when a friend asked me to write this, I couldn't resist putting it here.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker to a group of women at church. My topic was Following Your Dreams. As part of the speech, I was asked to share my journey to accomplishing my dream of becoming a published author. This is kind of what I said:

When I was a child, I had a plan for my future, I was going to be a ballet dancer in New York, an archaeologist, a famous actress, a marine biologist (translation: one of the people who got to swim with the whales at Sea World) and a mom. But of course I would mostly be an author. I loved books so much, there was no doubt that I would someday write some, and yet I didn’t. I was absolutely NOT one of those children who were constantly writing stories. Being a writer was always some future event. In fact, in college I didn’t even take an English course. My ACT scores were high enough that I didn’t need one and to tell you the truth, I was at college to play, not to take extra classes just because I was interested in the subject (oh silly Melanie. If only I could go back…)

I was in my last semester of my Master’s program at BYU when I realized what an opportunity I was wasting. There was a class on the course schedule called “Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy” and I realized that I needed to take that class, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with my degree in Special Education. So I signed up, blissfully unaware of how foolish I was being. It was a 400 level class, but I was in a master’s program, which somehow made me feel overqualified for any undergraduate class.
So here I am, with a full master’s degree course load, working on my thesis, with a full time job. Did I mention I was also engaged? Our wedding date was two days after the semester ended. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy was taught by the amazing Dave Wolverton, though years went by before I realized how cool that was.

My favorite part of the class was our textbook, a book full of short science fiction stories, including “It’s A Beautiful Day” by Isaac Asimov, which is still my favorite short story ever. My least favorite part of the class? Writing. I had no idea how to pull a plot together, how to assemble a cast of characters…And this class was not about how to write a story, it was about how to perfect a story, and how best to add fantastical elements to it. I was hopelessly out of my depth. And busy with my “real” school life, and my jobs. And addlepatedly in love with my fiancĂ©. A few days before the end of the semester, I realized I was getting a C in my writing class. A C! As a master’s student, I could not get a C on my transcript. It would be dreadful.

So I met with Professor Wolverton. I explained my situation, in the hopes that he would give me an extra credit project or something. He was very nice. He said that he thought it was awesome that I had taken the time to take a class out of my program of studies, and that he had done the same thing as a student too. He agreed that a master’s student could not get a C on their transcript and promised to take care of it.
And he did. He gave me an A, no strings attached. When, years later, I found the Daily Kick In the Pants, and realized that my former teacher was an icon in the science fiction world, this little blip in my path to writing took on even more significance to me.

But I stopped. I finished my thesis, of course, and I never stopped dreaming about writing fiction, but I didn’t. I loved being a mom, but it wasn’t something that came naturally to me. In those early years of parenting, I have so many memories of driving down the street with tears streaming down my face, trying to figure out how I was going to survive the soul-crushingness of parenthood. Don’t misunderstand me. It was hard, and not something that came easily to me, but I desperately wanted to be a stay at home mom. It was the best choice I ever made.  But that didn’t stop my driving down the street sobbing about how hard it was, and praying that God would tell me how to make it work.

His answer? Time after time after time I would feel the quiet prompting that I needed to write. But I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t, and I don’t know why.

We moved across the country and had more children and they started to grow, and one summer while my older children were taking swimming lessons 4 days a week, my youngest son would splash around in the kiddy pool. And as I stood in the kiddy pool, day after day under the blazing sun, a story started to form in my head. It became an obsession, this snapshot of a moment I could write about. Characters developed, and my story grew to fill every moment of my day until I knew I had to figure out how to get it on paper.
I checked out a book called “Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card, and began the laborious process of figuring out how to write a novel, including world building and all that jazz. On every page of that book, OSC offered advice about things you needed to think about before you began, and I would spend days imagining how to fit those ideas into that snapshot of a girl standing in a kiddy pool waiting for something…

That year I decided to homeschool my oldest daughter. We were at the library one day, and I found a homeschooling magazine. The feature article was about Nanowrimo, and although I’d never heard of it before, I felt an immediate connection to the word. I knew, even before I had any idea what it was, that Nanowrimo was going to change my life.

Sure enough, it did. Nanowrimo, as you probably know, is National Novel Writing Month, and its main event is held during November each year. Participants are challenged to write an entire novel in a month. The goal is to write 50,000 words. That first year, I participated on the forums, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. I finished the challenge, and then I kept writing. It was January before I finally stopped, and I think I averaged about 3 hours of sleep a night during that time. It took me years to fully recover.

When I finally wrote “The End” I was so proud. I edited it. I’d changed from first person to third person midway through, and going back to fix that was a beast. And I made rookie mistakes like head hopping. So much head hopping. Blurg. But it felt shiny and beautiful, and so I gave it to everyone who showed the slightest inclination to read it. Those poor, poor people. So many of them gave me good advice, though some of it was painful. And there were several people who thought my story was absolutely amazing and kept me going through the pain of learning how to fix it.

Another year came, and I did Nanowrimo again, this time on the sequel. I still wasn’t a great writer, but I’d learned a lot. And another year came, and I finished Nanowrimo again. I came to realize that my first drafts were dreadful, but that was what they were supposed to be. And rough draft got a little less dreadful than the last one. My mind morphed into a writer’s mind, and everywhere I went and everything I did became a story. I’ve got two novels stuck inside my head based on washing dishes—and one of them is good enough it might someday become a real thing.

I found a community of like-minded people at Hatrack Writer’s Workshop, and learned how far I still was 
from perfection. We critiqued each other’s stories, and I learned so much from that. I was thrilled when Sheena invited me to join The Prosers.

Then one day, Sheena, Sabrina and I decided to write Alchemy. Sheena had self-published her first novel, and she guided me through that maze. Alchemy was so much more successful than I’d expected it to be, not that it made us any money or anything, but people read it, and share it, and tell me that they love it, and it is so much fun to watch it grow and take on a life of its own.

So I decided to publish that first novel, Hidden Magic. That had been my dream for nearly six years, and even though I knew it was a story that had gone out of fashion when Twilight went out of fashion, I wanted it out there. It hasn’t done nearly as well as Alchemy in the blogging world, but it does have its own group of followers, people who looked past its little flaws and learned to love the characters. So publishing it turned out to be bittersweet. But I wanted it out there so badly, and there comes a point when you’ve got to stop tinkering with a story and call it done. I learned so much from publishing it. I am excited to use that knowledge to publish something else of my own someday.

But for now, Sheena, Sabrina and I are hard at work on the sequel to Alchemy. We’re planning to release it this summer. All those times God told me that I needed to write? Well, it turns out he was right. Being a writer has brought me so much joy, so many interesting friendships, and helped me through so many hard spots in my life.

I’m still on this journey to achieving my dreams. I hope it never ends.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Is for I

I is for I...
as in
am letting this particular letter slide so that 
can do some laundry and clean my house. So that 
can visit some extra blogs today, and so that 
can read a book.

This book:
am loving. 
And since LOVE is my topic for this month,
think this counts.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H Is For Happily Ever After

As the happily ever after usually comes at the end, be warned--there may be a spoiler or two.

My favorite happily ever after ever comes from Howl's Moving Castle:
Howl said, “I think we ought to live happily ever after," and she thought he meant it. Sophie knew that living happily ever after with Howl would be a good deal more hair-raising than any storybook made it sound, though she was determined to try. "It should be hair-raising," added Howl. 
 "And you'll exploit me," Sophie said. 
"And then you'll cut up all my suits to teach me.” 
From Fangirl:

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.” 
From Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:
“Mr. Wonka: "Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted."Charlie Bucket: "What happened?"Mr. Wonka: "He lived happily ever after.
From The Fellowship of the Ring:
“Have you thought of an ending?""Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant.""Oh, that won't do! Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?"
'It will do well, if it ever comes to that,' said Frodo.'Ah!' said Sam. 'And where will they live? That's what I often wonder.” 
From If There Be Dragons:
“But in real life, happily-ever-after is just the beginning. It's where life starts.”