Downton Abbey, Rick Santorum and women's rights

Last night my husband and I were watching Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 4.* A non-spoiler-y version of what happened: two of the male characters are on the front lines of WWI and they’re about to attack enemy lines. They charge out of the trench while bullets zinged and bombs rain down. And as I watched bodies being thrown left and right, I thought: “If Rick Santorum has his way, women will never be on that front line.” And that makes me so incredibly angry.

For anyone not following this particular piece of news, a couple of weeks ago Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum said women shouldn’t serve in combat roles. His words: “I do have concerns about women in frontline combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved…. I think that's probably not in the best interests of men, women, or the mission.” (Go here to listen.) Seriously, Mr. Santorum? SERIOUSLY? Later he backtracked and said he meant men's emotions, or essentially that when the bullets start flying male soldiers are going to be so worried about female soldiers on the battle field, they will just try to save the women rather than focus on winning the battle. I don’t have any way of knowing if this is true, but I have faith that the men who serve our military will do their job. And if that job involves engaging an enemy in fire, our soldiers will do it no matter the sex of the person standing beside them.

It’s interesting to watch Downton Abbey and see how women are treated, to consider that a woman’s right to vote was an issue at one point. I cannot imagine living in a world where I couldn’t vote, where my husband and I weren’t on equal footing. Thankfully, I don’t have to imagine it. I can watch Downton Abbey and fall in love with the characters but know the world they live in has passed, and women have a much stronger place in society now.

But people such as Rick Santorum threaten some of our rights. I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to his own opinion on birth control and abortion and women in the military – but I don’t want him to inflict his opinions on me. Rick Santorum’s beliefs will set women’s rights back decades. I tend to vote Republican more than Democrat, but I will wear an Obama sandwich-board if Santorum is the Republican candidate for President.  

*Yes we’re behind

Hello 2012! I have been waiting for you....

Welcome to 2012! I’ll be honest, despite some wonderful things happening last year* I am SO HAPPY to see 2011 go. It was a very hard year. But 2012 is going to be GREAT! I am determined to make it great. To that end, I am making a set of New Year’s Resolutions to help keep me on track and make this the best year ever.** Without further ado, here are my resolutions:

1. Finish revisions on BEFORE, send out to beta readers and eventually query.

This is totally doable, since I have just a few more scenes to add in and then it will be off to betas. But the querying part…gulp.

2. Write (a first draft of) 1 new book.

I pray this is doable. I now have a writing schedule, forced on me mainly by the Wee Ninja and a full time job. Basically, I am going to have to do 5 − 1k 1 hours a week, most of them before anyone in the house wakes up. Yeah, you read that right. My alarm will go off by 5:30 am every day. And to all you scoffing at that and saying, “I wake up at 4 am every day!” I ask…do you have a small being who has decided s/he needs to eat EVERY THREE HOURS? Because I do. Luckily she’s cute so I’m going to keep her.***

3. Read 50 books.

This is a total wild card. I didn’t track the number of books I read in 2011, particularly after Wee entered our lives, so I have no idea what my reading rate is at the moment. But this isn’t even a book a week, so it sounds plausible.

4. Blog more frequently. Heck, do all social media more frequently.

This should be totally doable, but I am lazy. Also my brain is still a sieve and half the time I have no idea what day of the week it is. But I do miss blogging, especially my old Friday posts where I wrote on things that mattered to me. So this is going on the list!

Also! I do realize last year I failed to write a wrap-up post on my write-two-books-in-a-year goal for 2010, so better late than never. I think I made that goal. I definitely finished a first draft of BEFORE, and in doing so I realized something: I write short first drafts. So the WIP I worked on in March & April of 2010 probably was a complete first draft. It was a sucky, short first draft, but it was complete. Because the work I was doing at the end of April was actually editing — adding new chapters to delve deeper into characters, cutting part of the beginning, etc. All of my previous works were not written chronologically, so it was easy for me to miss that I had finished a first draft and was moving on to editing. BEFORE is the first time I’ve ever written start-to-finish, so it was the first time I knew exactly when I was done with the first draft. 

I would write a wrap-up for 2011, but basically it was this: be pregnant, work on house, unpack boxes, have child, re-write entire WIP in one month, drink whiskey****.

*Mainly the Wee Ninja (a.k.a. The Bean) joining us.

**This is a big deal because I DO NOT make NY resolutions. Ever. Never ever. But I think this year requires them.

***But please God, let her start sleeping through the nights again!!!

****And beer. And scotch. Oh, and coffee. Plenty of coffee.

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Two years ago

Two years ago, I started writing again. I very clearly remember when the idea for a story came to me - my husband was driving us home after dinner with friends and I was staring out the window. We'd had a massive freak snow storm and the world was covered in white. There were almost no cars on the highway. And staring out the window, a girl's voice popped into my head. As soon as we got home, I pulled open a notebook and started writing. Three weeks later I had my first novel.* It took me at least a week to admit to my husband I was writing a book and that was extremely scary. To this day, I have only said, "I write books" out loud to two of my friends (more do know, but they learned through other means). It's amazing to think only two years have passed, because I can't remember my life without writing and the worlds I create. I can't imagine my life without my writer friends. I can't imagine my life with my office shelves not overflowing with YA books that I adore. I'm not sure there's much of a point to this post except these two years have been some of the hardest, and most rewarding, of my life. I love being a writer.

Also, slightly late, but I totally won NaNoRevMo. Finished my first massive overhaul of Before at 8:30 pm on November 30th. In the end, I even added 10k+ words. One more short round of edits and then it goes to my crit partners...WAHOO! 
*Which is properly shelved because... O.O Oy.

Precipitating events

So I think I've mentioned this before, but we've been watching the UK show Merlin in our house and we LOVE it. The writing's great, setting and costumes are beautiful, and it's about Camelot so, come on. So this weekend we moved into the third season and something big happened that completely threw me for a loop. Now I will preface this with of course I know the Camelot story, so I knew one of the characters was going to turn evil. And I actually was looking forward to it, to seeing how the writers would move him/her from loving, beautiful character to evil, vindictive character.

But I was so let down. At the end of the second season, some not-good things happen, but nothing earth shattering. So when we started the third season and they opened with "one year later" and all of a sudden the good character was just BAD, I was like, huh? Did I miss something? It was so jarring that I almost went back and watched the last episodes to make sure I hadn't missed something.* In reality, there was no precipitating event. My husband pointed out we didn't know what happened in that missing year, but I argued that wasn't the point. As writers, our job is to tell a seamless story. Events must flow. Characters must make sense. In this case, I felt the writers took the easy way out.** And that taught me a very valuable lesson, which will now be ingrained in my mind: there must always be a precipitating event. One that truly makes sense. Because otherwise you'll confuse a reader so badly, he or she will be pulled right out of your story.

And that's definitely not what you want to happen.

In other news...

18224 / 33712 words. 54% done!

*Only a few days passed between watching episodes; I had not missed anything.
**Unless this is all explained in a later episode. If so then I apologize. But really...why would you wait to explain what motivated such a big character change?!?!

Where other people say smart things

Internet - we have Internet! Last week's nor'easter walloped our area, though we were miraculously spared from a power outage (unlike 90% of our town). 

Today I wanted to share a few blog posts I read recently that I found very interesting. 

First off, this blog by Maggie Stiefvater on why she wrote The Scorpio Races (which I am reading right now and LOVE). Basically she says this story is the book she always wanted to read, and that's why she wrote it. As I start working on my new WIP, which is about King Arthur and murder and lockets and tattoos, I think this is something I want to keep in mind. I've always been obsessed with Camelot and everything surrounding it and thinking about all of the pieces I love...I need to keep those things in mind as I write. I think this book needs to be something I love.

Also this guest post by Sara Zarr, on what inspires her is ... so needed right now. What inspires her? Failure. It's easy to lose perspective, I think, especially for me right now as I try to find time to be a good mom and write and I feel like everything I write is crap. But in reality, probably 99% of what every writer writes is crap and we have to write crap to get to the good writing, to unearth the good story hidden amongst the crap. Sara says this: "The creative process, and the creative life, is mostly full of moments between the idea and the being done, the spark and the blazing fire, the shimmering magic and the finished piece. We’re always living in the gap between our vision of what could be and what might be, and what is." And that is something I desperately need to remember right now.

One last link, which I don't think I've shared yet. If you haven't visited Laini Taylor's Not for Robots blog, you should. Just go. I love the brainstorming and the "exercises for generating ideas" entries.

Also I have embarked on NaNoFinMo (National Novel FINISH THE $#?! DRAFT Month) and thus far I am:

9265 / 33712 words. 27% done!

Huzzah! Actually I'm farther but I haven't typed in my edits from the past couple of days. Also I fear the bar is misleading me, since my "edit" is really a "re-write" and the 33,712 words are only the salvageable parts of the novel (so I'll really be going over 100%)...but I DON'T CARE RIGHT NOW. I <3 THE BAR! I AM ALMOST 1/3 DONE!

How's everyone else doing with their writing goals?

What's in your TBR pile?

 I'm afraid to look at the date of my last post. I didn't mean to skip a number of weeks blogging, I just forget what day it is...most days. So let's pretend my last blog was last Tuesday, ok? I planned to blog about accountability and writing, but I realize that requires some thought first and I have...18 minutes before starting work. That is not enough time for thought. So instead I'm going to discuss books! Specifically the super wonderful books I've read recently and the few I have in my TBR pile.*

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Holy wow did I love this book. I knew going in Laini Taylor's writing was beautiful but still...WOW. I heard Laini speak when she came to CT earlier this month and she said she liked how no one can really describe the book without giving anything away about the plot and that is totally true. So rather than discuss WHAT the book is about (a girl with blue hair, teeth and that doesn't do it any justice!), let's discuss why I loved it. The writing is beautiful. The world she created has amazing depth. The characters are human. Ok, actually a bunch of them aren't human, but they have flaws and their flaws lead to problems and their flaws are believable. Hopefully that makes sense. Oh also - the writing is gorgeous! 

Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Perfect read for the week before Halloween. Creepy and funny and the ending: O.o. Seriously did NOT see the ending coming and it rocked. Also loved that there was a love interest but the story totally wasn't about that. It was just seeded in a tiny bit and it was REAL. Not all swoony and stuff but a real relationship. Of course I love swoony relationships but it's also great to see an author write one that isn't all daisies and rainbows.

I think I've read other books recently but nothing springs to mind. Perhaps because I need more coffee. So I'll move on to my TBR pile. A few books I took out from the library and can't wait to read: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, and Shine by Lauren Myracle. So what are you reading? Is there anything I need to add to my pile as clearly it isn't nearly big enough?

*Ok, I admit there are more than a few in my TBR pile. I think there are...30? More? I'm afraid to count.
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The genius of others

Hi! I am back! And in possession of a shiny new baby, a shiny new kitchen, and a shiny new sleep deprivation!* Also apparently in possession of only an exclamation point…sorry about that. Rather than make a bunch of excuses I’m just going to jump into a post about writing because that’s what you’re all here for, right? Not cute pictures of my baby and ramblings from a new mom. Here goes!

So we all know I finally finished my WIP last fall. But I knew as soon as I finished it there were MAJOR REVISIONS needed. Like, whip out a scalpel and carve the whole thing apart types of revisions. And being a good writer, I plotted my revisions and made fancy charts** to make sure things would work. But when I started on my revisions, it was hard to gain momentum. I know part of it was due to pregnancy - there was no creativity here, couldn’t even read books for a while (I know!) - and being busy.*** Then I had a baby and had all sorts of free time. (What, did you hear that laughter where you are? I tried to stifle it.) Each and every day during that time I felt guilty for not writing. All consuming guilt some days. But I. Just. Couldn’t. Write. Something was wrong.

What was wrong? I was too deep in the story and couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I had some great notes from people but couldn’t process them. The story was, indeed, seriously broken. But not in the way I thought, and it wasn’t until I took a step back and talked to my fabulous, genius crit partner Alison over a nice cup of steaming tea in a quiet little tea house that I saw the problem (after Alison called it out…did I mention she is a genius?): I was trying to do revisions on the book as it existed, but it was missing something. One little thing was wrong with the premise of the story and it had HUGE RAMIFICATIONS to the entire book. And once I saw the problem, lightbulbs went off. I knew what was wrong and how to fix it, or at least how to start fixing it. Now I have a timeline for my revisions (sticking it so far!) and am remembering just why I loved this story in the first place. And now that I’m making progress on my revisions, I can start working on a new WIP too. One that requires me to research Arthurian legend and watch the UK show Merlin. 

Have I mentioned lately how much I love writing? 

*That last one is totally the best. I highly recommend sleep deprivation, best thing I ever diddfkkkjn. Oops, fell asleep on the key board.

**I am VERY GOOD at making charts. 

***This time was filled with work and moving our second floor to our first floor, the living room and office**** into the dining room and then into the attic so the kitchen could go into the dining room. 

****Here’s an important note: if you REMOVE a structural support post from a house PUT IT BACK. There was apparently one missing in our house, which we found out when our (my) books started to collapse our floor. *Headdesk*

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Why yes, I am still alive

Apparently "back in December" means "back four months later." *headdesk* It has been a busy few months here with work, plus some renovations we're doing on the house...which we had to accelerate as Whelan #3 will be joining our household in just over three months! Yeah when people say you'll be tired when you're pregnant, they aren't kidding. Also pregnancy appears to have eaten the creative pieces of my brain. Let's not discuss how much (or little) I've written.

But I am still writing, and I plan to keep blogging now, though probably only once a week. Just don't hold me to saying anything creative or funny until after June. And then I promise to be a riot since I'll be operating on -8 hours of sleep a night and thus completely incoherent.

So how is everyone else's writing going? 
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It's time for a break

 Not from writing but from blogging. Why? Because this was my week:

Work is busy so I have less free time and in those few free moments I need to a) see my husband, b) go to school, c) WRITE, d) do some crits and e) sleep. So unfortunately no blogging for about a month. But I'll be back in December when all of this is behind me.
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    Rebel Rebel/David Bowie


Ah, another Tuesday where my mind is emptier than a…dude, I have no comparison. THAT’S how blank it is. *headdesk* I can’t even pretend to be helpful and post a bunch of blog links here because I haven’t had time to keep up with any blogs. Sigh. What can I share?

Hmm…did you know flames can leap pretty far out of a toaster oven? Yeah, neither did I. They can. Also, unplugging the toaster doesn’t always stop the flames. Why do I have such a problem with flames lately? A tip: if you ever invite me to your house, make sure there’s a fire extinguisher handy.

Suddenly NONE of my music feels right for writing. Conversation between my husband and I last week: “Ack. I hate all my music. HATE.” Husband: “ALL of it? How is that possible?”* Me: “I don’t know. I just hate it. And I can’t find anything new I like.” Trust me, I’ve spent WAY too much time listening to songs on iTunes and all for nothing. Oy.

Our little dog is eating like she’s a bear going into hibernation. I keep telling her we’ll keep feeding her through the winter, but she doesn’t seem to believe me. So we took her to my parents this weekend and I asked my mom about it. Her response: “She looks great!” Me: “She could sink a ship.” My mom: “You should feed her more.” If I feed her any more, I’m going to have to up my gym workouts so I can pick her up.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll attempt to be more entertaining/helpful on Friday but I make no promises.

*A very valid question considering the vast amount of music I've bought this year - around 30 albums, plus ~50 or more individual songs.