Zombies, running, writing and…cannolis!

So, I’ve hit a few milestones these past couple of weeks. One is that I finished the revisions on Small Town Ghosts (finally!) and sent out some queries. I’ve been working on this novel for a few years. The revisions took longer than I expected, between learning how to balance family, work, and writing as well as getting the right treatment for my condition. But, two years and four revisions later, it is done. At least as far as I can take it for now. I know there will be more edits to be made if it gets picked up for traditional publication but I can put this book down to rest for the time being.

That being said, I also decided to start training for a 5k (the Zombie Run in Philadelphia).

The Walking (running) Dead

The Walking (running) Dead

I’m not, and have never been, a runner. Even at the peak of my fitness, I preferred aerobics and walking to running. Interestingly, it has been more fun than I thought. Each day that I workout, I’m not trying to be better, faster, and fitter than the person next to me. I’m only trying to be better and fitter than I was the last time. I started out slow – boot camp once a week and a walk on the treadmill one other day, then began progressing by adding 30 seconds of running every few minutes and an extra workout. Then I added weight training.  Yesterday, I hit the 2-mile mark.

Funny enough, elementary school math failed me when I signed up for the 5k. How long could it possibly be, I asked my friend after signing up. 5k is roughly 3.1 miles if you’ve forgotten basic math too. 3.1 miles. I couldn’t run 3.1 steps a month ago. Yesterday I ran for 2 minutes straight at one point toward the end of the workout.

As I begin my next novel, I’m starting to see the relationship between training for a 5k and writing a novel. For instance:

Neither can be accomplished overnight. It takes time to build endurance to run a full minute. Likewise, it takes time to build a good novel. Between a first draft, revision, beta readers, and further revisions, it doesn’t just happen. You build your action, your characters, your emotional impact as you write and revise.

Training requires that I take the first step, or lift the first weight and then keep going. Writing requires that I put down the first word, then another, and another. Walking up to a treadmill each session is a lot like opening my WIP document. It’s intimidating – will I be able to make it to 30 minutes – my legs feel so heavy! Will I be able to finish a scene – I feel so uninspired! But all it takes is one step, one word. I may not always be great, but at least I show up and make a serious effort, and that’s half the battle.

There’s always a little sacrifice. I can’t eat whatever I want and get in shape. As they say, you can’t outrun your diet so I’m making an effort to fuel my body properly, drink lots of water, and know when to say when. I’ve given up soda and fast food. Likewise, wanting to be a writer and making that happen, finishing books and stories doesn’t leave much time for things like television. Co-workers must think I’m completely out of the loop because I’m not familiar with the latest shows and I rarely follow anything consistently. Now just like I have a cheat meal here and there, I do watch the occasional show. I love The Walking Dead and Ancient Aliens (sue me, okay). I like to play World of Warcraft. But these things, like cake and fried foods, have to be taken in moderation or my goals will remain just dreams.

Fresh Fruit or...

Fresh Fruit or…

 

Cannoli

Cannoli

 

 

 

 

All that to say, I’m really excited to be embarking on these new endeavors – querying, running, and drafting a new book.

(Yeah, now I want a cannoli!)

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My Grandfather and the Globetrotters

So I was going to post a follow up to the The Now Habit, which I mentioned in this post but upon waking up this morning, a stray memory wiggled itself into my thoughts.

You see, when I was younger, my grandfather would often take my brother and me to see the Harlem Globetrotters around this time of the year. These were days when the Spectrum still existed and was in use in Philadelphia

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My grandfather was not the most expressive of men but he was generous and kind. His family was from the mountainous region of Italy called Calabria, where the people are said to be stubborn and hard-headed.

I clearly remember being fascinated with the tricks and showmanship of the Globetrotters. I had absolutely zero interest in basketball but to see those men work the ball and the hoops was truly a grand experience. I go so far as to say they were artists in their own way. I think I even had the 45 version of Sweet Georgia Brown (Yes, I’m old enough to have had a record player. A 45 was a small vinyl album that contained one song on each side).

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My grandfather must have loved to see us so enthralled with the game. As I said, he wasn’t the most demonstrative of men but this was one of the ways he would show his love.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to appreciate his generation more. My grandfather was a World War II veteran, a hard-working man who strove to give his family a good, stable life. He grew up during the depression and that affected his outlook. Of course, we heard the stories about how in his youth, he would walk uphill in snow both ways to school without shoes, but I also remember he was a man who had to supervise the cleaning of the ovens after WW2, something he avoided talking about (refused to actually) but which I imagine haunted his dreams. He was a saver but not a penny pincher. My siblings and I were overwhelmed with gifts at Christmas from my grandparents and he was ever ready to splurge on us at a restaurant or if we really wanted something, like the Atari 2600 (talk about memories!). He and my grandmother also helped me through college so that, along with grants and scholarships, I was able to graduate debt-free.

But out of all things my grandfather did for us, I remember the Globetrotters games the most. Looking back on it, I realize that the reason for this is because it was an experience, a chance to see something fun and to spend time with my grandfather, that made it special. I think it’s a testimony to the strength of these memories that I don’t recall my grandfather on his birthday or the anniversary of his death but around late February and early March when I can hear the upbeat whistling of the Globetrotters’ theme song echoing in my head.

My grandfather passed in 1995 due to a medical mishap in the hospital after fighting colon cancer for several years. I’m sad to think that he wasn’t able to see so many things in our lives and meet his grandchildren. I can only hope that he would be proud of me.

ETA – In case you’re wondering, here is a link to Sweet Georgia Brown, the Globetrotter’s version – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b15F-_3bdj0

 

The Now Habit – Just start!

Sitting here on a quiet Sunday afternoon, reading through some stories I need to critique and then off to finish my revisions on Small Town Ghosts. Yesterday was an excellent revision day and I’m in the home stretch. Believe me, I didn’t want to do it yesterday. My mind had a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t go and revise – laundry needed to be done, dishes were in the sink, my bedroom looked like a Jupiter-sized hurricane raged through it. But I did and am just a few pages from my goal.

All I needed to do was sit down and start.

And that, my friends, is always the hardest part. I recently read a book called The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore. Now, usually I’m not a big fan of self-help books. I don’t need a cheerleader – I need an assistant. But one thing in this book struck me, one point, which has slowly led me to change the way I work.

You don’t need to finish every time you start a task – you only need to start it. It may seem elementary but in some ways it was a shift in my focus. I always want to sit down and finish the story I’m working on but that’s not always possible. Sometimes it’s just about getting a page written or a chapter revised. There’s a whole lot less pressure on me when I sit down and say, I’m only going to read through this one scene and see how I can make it the best it can be rather than OMG I NEED TO REVISE ALL 212 PAGES OF THIS NOVEL RIGHT NOW.

This shift in focus has helped me accomplish quite a few things since January 1. Just start. Do 5, 10, 15 minutes of whatever it is you need to do. Chances are, I find myself either being able to accomplish more in concentrated 15-minute bursts of activity or I’m able to concentrate for long periods of time and really move a task along once I get over my fear of starting (which is really a fear of not finishing).

So, just start. You don’t need to finish a scene, a page, or a book. Just start and do the best you can for 15 minutes.

Next time, I’ll be talking about The Now Habit, writing, and my training for a 5K zombie run. Somehow it all comes together.

What goal are you set to accomplish where this now habit can help you?

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

writing

The obligatory intro text:

There are the authors everyone has heard about: George R. R. Martin, Stephen King. But what about all those books written by people you’ve never heard of? Some of them are treasures just waiting to be found, and that’s what this blog hop is all about: the books you might not have heard about, the authors you might end up loving.

This blog hop is like a game of tag. One author posts and then tags other authors who link back to their website the next week and tag new authors. If you follow the blog hop long enough, you’re bound to find some writers you’ll love! Maybe you’ll even discover a book that ends up being the next big thing.

The Taggening, Part I:

I was tagged by Barbara Barnett-Stewart, who is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and one of the most prolific short story writers I know. She and I met a few years ago through a mutual friend, Shveta Thakrar, when we started the Awesome Ladies of Awesomeness critique group. I’m always amazed at how much work she gets done between writing, grad school, working, and, you know, having a life. I’m always happy to geek out with her over everything from writing to zombies to Star Wars when we get together. She can be found at babarnett.com.

The Q&A:

1. What is the working title of your current project?

My current project is a YA paranormal titled Small Town Ghosts. I just finished the final draft and am about to send out for querying. One thing that surprised me about writing a novel is how much work it is (don’t laugh!). I actually finished the first draft in 2011 and thought I’d do a rewrite, get some feedback, make a few minor corrections and be done. Yeah…okay. Small Town Ghosts has gone through several extensive revisions. I’ve spent hours agonizing over scenes, characterization, and the first chapter which has been redone at least 12 times. I’m pleased with the final product and now grateful for the work I put into it. At about 60,000 words it’s been a manageable novel. I just can’t imagine how some authors revise their 100k + novels!

ghost
2. Where do your ideas come from?

Ack, almost everywhere. TV, movies, other stories, mythology, religions, science, non-fiction books. Normally, the ideas come at the most inconvenient times, like in the shower, as I’m falling asleep, while driving, or sitting in a meeting at work. None are really good places to take notes except the meetings at work and, well, I can just see me trying to write down an idea and at that exact moment I’m called upon to contribute something intelligent (hah) to the meeting. Awkward.

3. What genre do you write?

Usually fantasy or horror of some sort. There are so many micro-categories within those broad categories so what I write has fallen under epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fairy tales, paranormal, etc

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition of your novel?

For Sam (main supporting character), maybe a gothed up Emma Stone? For Aaron (the protagonist)…Logan Lerman? David Bradley as Josephus Stoltz (the evil, rebel spirit).

5. What would you do with your spare time if you weren’t writing?

Probably trying to actually earn a master’s degree in something lucrative like comparative religious studies 🙂

6. Will your work be self-published or traditionally published?

I am going down the traditional path.

7. How long does it take you to write a story?

A short story? Sometimes a few weeks, sometimes a few months. Small Town Ghosts has taken me 2 years to write and revise. It’s been an interesting journey as I’ve learned how to balance work, family, and writing while dealing with an ongoing medical issue.
8. Whose work would you compare yours to within your genre?

No idea really. I’m not really into comparing and categorizing writing like that. Each writer has their own individual voice and to compare two writers directly always seems unfair to both.

9. Who or what inspired you to write your novel?

Funny enough, I have about 16 chapters and then some of an epic fantasy written. That was inspired by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  I fell in love with wanting to write ever since I picked up the first book. Although I had written before, mostly short stuff and poetry, reading WOT made me want to create something like that. Of course, my current WIP is far from epic fantasy and the other book lies shelved for the time being.

10. When and where do you do your best writing?

I work best in crowded cafes really. Something about the hustle and bustle becomes a soothing background. At home, their are way too many distractions. However, since I can’t, at this time, afford to sit in cafes all day long, or night long, and write, I do what I can at night after my son goes to bed and enjoy the occasional cafe experience.

My Dream Office Space

My Dream Office Space

The Taggening, Part II

Hah, none. I’m sure all my blogging friends have done this already.

A Social Bat

Wow, there’s nothing like realizing that it’s Thursday and you need to make a blog post. Even better? All your great blog ideas have somehow tiptoed out of your brain when you weren’t looking. So Thursday, now that you’ve sneaked up on me, what shall I write about?

Last year was a bust for me on conferences of any sort. The year just passed by, my novel revisions meandered and wandered, took some detours, and finally came together at the end of 2012. Short stories? All my completed yet not submitted, nearly revised, and just started pieces all stood along the side of the road, sad, lonely suitcases in hand, waiting for me to polish and send. And never once did I sally out my door.

2013 is shaping up to be a much better year. Several stories have been submitted, the novel is in its final stages (querying), and I’m heading to the Liberty States Writers Conference and the Philadelphia Writers Conference this year plus the Writers’ Coffeehouse in February. Hell, I may even make it to a Garden State Spec Fic writers meeting! Plus the South Jersey Writers’ Group has a full agenda planned with lots of fun events. And that’s just for the first half of the year!

I’m not so much a social butterfly, as a social…bat?

Despite the reputation writers have for being lonely souls, sitting dejectedly at their computers, waiting for the next brilliant idea to come along, wine glass in hand or frantically typing away, maniacal laugh echoing off the walls, as we write our little black hearts out, writers need to be social creatures. For one, getting out among others has a tendency to ensure that you shower on a regular basis. For another, well, do I need to really list the reasons it’s good to network, make friends of other writers and readers (and potential fans!)?

Am I nervous about meeting new people and, gasp, talking live and in person? A little twitchy? Well, duh. Yeah of course. But the good thing is that over the past several years, I’ve met some wonderful people. People that will be there to support me and help me grow, to watch my back, to be there for me just as I hope to be there for them. And knowing that I have that support makes all the difference. I also know that I wouldn’t have that support if I had not stepped into a certain bookstore’s writers’ event back in 2009, took a deep breath, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself.

Now I just need to put together my zombie apocalypse survival squad…