Friday, January 28, 2011

Görüşmek üzere! See you soon!

Okay folks, I'll be going radio silent for the next week as I'm going away on vacation. Where to, you ask? First London, then we'll take the train to York, Edinburgh, and Manchester. My husband and I were invited along on this trip by my husband's childhood friend from Istanbul and his lovely wife, so it's just me and the Turks. I'll be reading a lot, like I said, and also mentally working out a sticky plot point and some some upcoming character revisions for my MC.

On a side note, I can't believe that nobody named the movie I quoted in my last post. Have none of you seen Beerfest?? Maybe I just like it so much because of the time I spent in Germany, but if you enjoyed Super Troopers, you'll love this one, and if you haven't seen Super Troopers, well then I'm just sorry for you. Meow.

Recommended only if you like movies about drinking that are kind of offensive, and hilarious

I suppose I could have set up some scheduled posts to go up while I was away, but I'm just not that organized right now. I'll be back next Monday the 7th, hopefully rip-roaring ready to go on that ravaged creature that is my manuscript. Until then, I wish you all a wonderful week ahead!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And Then Her Brain Turned To Mush

Today I promise you the most incoherent post thus far.  In my attempt to fit in work, home-selling prep, critique group and my Revision Smackdown, I stayed up until almost 3 a.m. last night.  Work today is going to be awesome.

In terms of the Revision Smackdown, if you look a couple of posts down, you'll see that today I am supposed to be working on chapters 18 and 19.  Folks, I was already dabbling in Chapter 19 last night.  I can't get too excited though, because these revisions are so freaking rough, I could get a splinter on them.  I desperately need to get some distance from this thing, and I'm not just talking about flying 5,437 miles away from my laptop.

If you're a frequent visitor, you may have noticed that the books in my Goodreads Currently Reading widget rarely change.  She's been reading Across The Universe for two weeks!  Slowest reader ever!  Like most of us who are in love with books, I'm actually a very fast reader, but lately I've been denying myself the pleasure.  I know, I know: a good writer needs to be reading constantly, but there are only so many hours in a day.  By the time I make it to turning on my Kindle, I'm already in bed and I've got about fifteen minutes until my eyes start rolling back in my head.

I am so looking forward to getting away and putting all my spare moments into reading. Reading on planes, reading on trains, reading when all my travel companions are speaking Turkish and I so rudely zone out to catch a few pages on my phone.  I've got an ocean of great books waiting on my Kindle, and I'm ready to dive in.  I want to freeze my ocean of books into ice blocks and skate on it and melt it in the springtime and drink it! (Bonus points if you can tell me what awesome movie that's from...)

Reading is the best way for me to get some distance from my own voice, to make the words I've written look unfamiliar.  Do you find that this is the case for you, too?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Double-Milled Always Tastes Best

As a writer, probably the scariest thing you will ever do is let someone else read your work. When I finished the first revision of my WIP last year, I started with baby steps--gave it to a friend who'd persistently bugged me to let her read it, and to my husband.  They gave me some suggestions and the praise I needed to hear, and my husband asked some intelligent questions that eventually led to the current whopping round of revisions.

But as much as I appreciated their help, I couldn't escape the nagging voice in the back of my head that said, You need more feedback, you lunatic. And so I nervously began a hunt for critique partners--and got very lucky, because the first person I contacted, the fabulous Liz from Liz Writes, turned out to be a great match. We were both members of our local SCBWI, but I first found her by searching for Tweets near me--I forget which search terms, 'writer' or 'YA' or something like that. I'm glad she didn't get creeped out when I contacted her and it turned out that we only live a few miles from each other!

Starting with a new critique partner is like starting a new job--you're testing out the waters, trying to figure out what is required of you and what your expectations are.  Am I supposed to line edit?  Should I question the motivations from the start, or should I wait until I've read a little more?  You might come away from the first few sessions feeling a bit bruised, having never been subjected to such a deep analysis of your work before.  But eventually you find your groove, getting to know each other and the stories, and it goes from being nerve-wracking to fun.

A good critique partner asks you the structural questions you need to hear:  What does your MC want? Does this scene move the story forward? You may not even agree with all the changes your critique partner suggests, but still find that their feedback highlights an area that needs better definition. And you, because your brain has been filled with thoughts on plot and narrative, should be examining their work with the same critical eye--which in turn may help you learn more about your own writing style.

Shortly after meeting Liz, I also joined a new critique group forming in a different part of town. We meet less often, so they see the chapters that I've already gone over with Liz, and they still always have great suggestions and critiques for me.  Going through the whole thing twice like this can only make it better-- double-milled quality, if you will. (I was thinking of flour when I wrote this, but according to Google you can double-mill just about anything: cheese, cotton, steel, pool cue sticks...fascinating.) The more eyes that see your work, the better.

Last weekend, Liz pinged me out of the blue to tell me she'd thought of a pitch idea for my WIP, and it was terrific. Boiling down my story into one crystalized thought is incredibly hard for me, and when I got her suggestion I did a happy dance right in my car and asked her, What would I do without you? To have someone who knows your story, your characters, but who can look at it from a distance and perspective that you will never have--that's priceless.  So, writer friends, don't be afraid to share your story, because the results can be so rewarding.

(I acknowledge that I've gotten very lucky, and not everyone has the best critique group experience. For an interesting rundown of the possible misfires, check out the YA Muses' excellent Critique of the Critique Group.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Letting Go (Also, a Revision Smackdown)

Back in 2006, my husband and I decided that we were ready to become homeowners. It only took us a few weeks to find the perfect place--a fixer-upper condo with a brick fireplace, two (2!) full bathrooms, and a gigantic patio. We had a blast tearing out the pink carpet and the flowered wallpaper, and we painted the walls in warm, cozy hues. We filled the big patio planter with tomatoes and herbs. We installed a hammock.

But Rachel, you may ask, wasn't 2006 a bad time to buy a home? Why yes, my friend, you are correct. Over the years, we watched the value plummet, and our fixer-uppering dwindled to a halt. Things we had looked forward to changing--the archaic bathrooms, the scarred kitchen floor--became things we accepted. It took a couple of years, but we've finally realized that this little adventure is not going to have a happy ending, and so yesterday we took the first steps toward hitting eject.

It's not too hard to make the writing analogy here. I love my home, and I'm attached to it, but I've got to let it go now, because it's not right for us. It's pulling us down into a black hole, both financially and emotionally. The same goes for those favorite scenes--you wrote them, and you want very much for them to work, but sometimes you've got to make that tough call and let them go so that you don't pull your reader out of the story. To use my mother's favorite phrase, Such is life.

In other news, I've got a week left until we head off to Europe for a ten-day vacation, and I'm Really Freaking Serious about getting my content revisions done before then. To that end, I've drawn up a Google calendar for my Revision Smackdown, an eight-day plan to hit all the chapters that need major content changes. Here's what it looks like:

My goal is to get all my major content changes done before the trip, so I can leave for ten days, come back refreshed and ready to polish, maybe send it out for a last few beta reads, and hopefully soon I will be ready to send this puppy out into the world and see what happens. At least that is the plan! I'm supposed to fit this around trip preparations, getting my condo ready for a sales showing, and, oh yeah, my full-time job. So we'll see how it goes.

Do you have any deadlines set for yourself? How are they going?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

About Face

Fellow writers, how goes it?  I have to say, blogging is so much more fun when you've got some great followers!  I really appreciate each and every one of you for taking the time to come hang out with me here.  When I first started blogging/tweeting, I kind of felt like the frog in that Emily Dickinson poem, "I'm nobody! Who are you?" This is so much better.  I love reading your comments, and I adore you all.

I'm still working on revisions here, big shocker.  My biggest concern right now is tweaking some of the mystery elements to make the ending more fun for the reader, and a large part of that has been changing my characters.  Not swapping out Bob* for Joe, but turning Bob into a different person than I first thought he would be.  Sometimes I need to do this to alter the reader's perception of him, and sometimes because I realize that it just makes the story work better.

This is something I find pretty difficult.  For the past year or more, Bob has been living in my head as an intense, commanding, moral person, and suddenly I need him to be friendlier, more down-to-earth, more sly.  It takes me a while to get used to the new Bob.  I like it though--especially when a character change makes a whole other row of other logical changes snap into place.

Do find that you need to change the personae of your characters during revisions?  Or do you generally stick with them as you originally envisioned them, and change other things?

*Not the real character names, I'm still too chicken for that.  Also don't want to give anything away.  Just, ya know, in case... ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Story of a Diamond Ring

It was unfair of me to ask you to guess my middle name in my last post, since I doubt any of you has ever heard of the name Zouri before.  I was named after my great-grandmother, Zouri Frances Colahan Gerstacker., that charlatan, lists her as both Louise Zouri and Frances Zouri, but a copy of the 1900 Cuyahoga County census gives the correct name, alongside her older siblings, Harry and Stella, and her parents, Solon and Lizzie Colahan.  It also lists Solon's occupation: Huckster.  A huckster???  Is that a real profession?

Family legend says that Solon chose his second daughter's name from a book about India he was reading at the time.  I have never found this book, so I'm not sure how reliable this information is.  All Google will tell me is that it is Japanese for flip-flop.

Zouri married Edwin Gerstacker, and they settled in Rocky River, Ohio, near Cleveland. When the Great Depression hit, they suffered some financial losses, so they relocated to a farm in Lorain County to raise their three boys, and moved into the house where one of them, my 92-year-old grandpa, still lives today.  My mom describes her Grandma Zouri as a country lady who was quiet, classy and refined.  A few years ago when I was getting married, she told me this story about her.

For a long time after they had moved to their new farmhouse on Baird Road, the Gerstackers were still viewed as "outsiders" in the Henrietta farming community.  Zouri had joined the Women's Guild of the local church and tried to participate in all of their events.  At one of these, a baking get-together at a neighbor's home, Zouri was helping wash the dishes, when suddenly she realized that her diamond wedding ring was missing.  She searched frantically all over the neighbor's home before coming to the conclusion that it had slipped off in the sink and gone down the drain.  She went home in tears, devastated.

Ed consoled his wife, and the next day, he went to visit the neighbor.  I'm told Ed was a gregarious fellow, a cigar smoker and big talker.  He politely asked his neighbor for permission to take apart their sink and examine the drain trap to look for the missing ring, promising to leave everything as he'd found it.  The neighbor said no.  I'm sure Ed tried to argue, but for whatever reason, the neighbor wouldn't relent, and finally Ed had to give up.  The ring was gone.  So he went out and bought his beloved Zouri a bigger, prettier diamond ring to replace what she had lost.

What happened to my great-grandparents is not the most original or surprising story, but I loved hearing it and knowing that these are the kind of people I come from.  I'm sure a new ring was probably something they couldn't really afford, but all Ed cared about was trying to take away the sadness and guilt his wife was feeling (and maybe a little f-you to the neighbors).  Great achievements earn awards, but it's the smaller, easily forgotten acts of kindness that teach us to be compassionate human beings. And so, today I would like to recognize my great-grandpa, Edwin Henry Gerstacker, as an Awesome Ancestor.  I even made a little art for the occasion:

(I feel I should mention that these are not the Gerstackers)
Do you have an Awesome Ancestor with a great story that you think deserves to be told?  It doesn't have to be as sappy as mine--maybe a funny story?  If you are so inclined, I invite you to copy this picture (or not) and tell their story on your blog.  If you do this, please leave a link in my comments, so I can read your story!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm Stylin'

Big thank you to Jessica K. and Logan, who have bestowed upon me the Stylish Blogger Award.  I feel so popular!  Actually, this kind of reminds me of the chain letters I used to get from my cousin when I was little, back when people in different states corresponded with each other via U.S. Mail.  Remember those days?

Anyhow, I'm game.  Here are the rules and regulations:

Should you accept this award, you must perform four duties:
1. Thank and link back to the person to gave you this award. (Done and done.)
2. Share seven things about yourself. (Who doesn't love talking about themselves?)
3. Award ten recently-discovered great bloggers. (Can I find ten bloggers who haven't already done this?)
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award. (Here comes the chain mail feeling...)

Without any further ado, here are my Seven Random Facts:

1.  I speak five languages, in varying degrees of fluency (but all well enough to get around town).  My best language, after English, is German.
2.  Jobs I held during college:  Wal-Mart cashier, McDonald's jack-of-all-trades, grocery store cashier
3.  Movies I can't help but re-watch when they come on tv:  Casino Royale, Legally Blonde, The Temptations.
4.  Internships I held during grad school:  copy editor at the Akron Beacon Journal, acquisitions intern at the University of California Press.
5.  Names of cats I've owned:  Midnight, Autumn, Ace, Pinky, Simon.  Dogs: Daisy, Riley.
6.  I have an entire tall bookcase full of cookbooks.  I've never counted them but I would estimate maybe 200 cookbooks.  It's an addiction.
7.  My middle name starts with a Z, and you've probably never heard of anybody with this name.  It was my great-grandmother's first name.  Can you guess it?  I use it often as a profile name.

Well, that was fun.  Now for the naming of my successors, and here is where I will do what I have always done, and break the chain (gasp! horror!).  Instead of passing along the award as such, I am going to list below ten cool blog posts selected from bloggers I like.  Click on these posts, and if you like them, follow these awesome bloggers.  If you see your blog listed below, consider yourself tagged and stylish, and feel free to share some fun facts with us.

The Winner's Circle:

1. When Queries Collide! by Alleged Author
2. Internet Explorer Gets The Boot by Carrie
3. Direct Address Commas by Cherie
4. What To Look For In Someone Else's Work by Demitria
5. The Importance of Setting by Lisa
6. Silly Sunday - George Washington by Logan--yes she awarded me, but I had written this before she did, so I'll say she's still fair game ;)
7. Writing Resources - Plotting Help by Liz B.
8. Small Behaviors Add Up by Sarah
9. Taking Control of Your Writing Career by Liz
10. Shaping a New WiP by Shayda

Thanks for playing!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Carrot Or The Stick?

When I was a girl, I wrote two things: fantasy stories and ghost stories.  I wanted to write about mermaids, quests, a circus--I had a binder for all my many story ideas.  Then, at some point, probably after too many hours of Honors English class, I decided that I had to write Meaningful Literary Fiction.  At no point did I ever think I would give up my writing dream, but in my early twenties, I came to the conclusion that I hadn't experienced enough to have anything to say, and my creative writing went on a long hiatus.

In the meantime, I was still writing.  I wrote essays, I worked as a stringer for a newspaper in Istanbul, and I got a Masters degree in journalism.  Bless all you good journalists out there, but once I got my degree, I realized that I could never, ever, ever be a journalist.  I didn't have the necessary passion for it, and I even hated it a little bit (okay, a lot).  Wish I would have realized that earlier!

After grad school, I resumed my creative writing, but still I felt like I had nothing meaningful to say.  After struggling with this for a while, one day I realized that if I was going to write anything at all, it had to be fun, or I'd never finish it.  I thought of those stories I'd enjoyed writing so much when I was younger, and I turned my efforts back to children's fiction.  For years I worked on this in fits and starts.

It always seemed to me that the many successful writers got their starts in desperate situations--an unhappy childhood, meandering young adulthood, stark poverty.  Think pre-coke addiction Stephen King balancing his typewriter on his knees in the laundry room at midnight, J.K. Rowling as a depressed single mother who'd recently escaped an abusive relationship, or look at Charles Dickens's miserable childhood, Ernest Hemingway's experiences with suicide and war.

I had none of that.  My childhood was happy, and I've pretty much always had my act together.  I've got a great career and I live comfortably.  Sometimes I would wonder, was I doomed to failure as a writer because I hadn't experienced enough turmoil in my personal life?

That thought is silly, but it took my a while to learn this.  I write because I love it, not because I need to expel my inner demons or believe that getting published is going to save me financially.  I write for those moments when you capture the exact sentiment in exactly the way you want, for those unexpected plot turns that seem to jump right out of your fingertips on their own.  I do it for my favorite part, the high you get when you figure out the perfect puzzle piece of your plot.

The writing doesn't always flow, and I still depend on external motivation to get me through the rough patches. While I can't claim abject poverty, I can manufacture my own small pushes, like the copy of Across The Universe on my Kindle that I'm dying to read, but won't let myself open until I finish revising this dreadful chapter.  Like the goal to finish all my revisions before I leave on vacation in two weeks, so that I can get some distance from my MS while I'm away.  Little dangling carrots to keep me moving, rather than the threat of a beatdown from my immediate circumstances.

What motivates you to keep writing?  Carrots or sticks?

Monday, January 10, 2011

One Must Have A Hobby

My words are failing me this morning, as I sit here on the couch with a mug of Yogi detox tea and a vacant stare.  Yesterday evening, my husband and I threw a dinner party that required two days of cooking, and today I am just wiped.

My husband and I met when we were each about 22 and independently becoming interested in cooking.  He courted me by bringing mugs and treats to my apartment when I got home from work, and bought two new cookbooks to make me a three-course dinner on Christmas Eve.  I still remember every detail of that meal.  When we started living together, I cooked him dinner nearly every night.  We moved to NorCal when we were 24 to attend grad schools, and it didn't take long for us to get caught up in the California foodie scene.

We enjoy having friends over for dinner, and every so often, we'll plan a really intricate dinner party.  Last night's menu came mostly from Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen, a great book.  I'll post a couple of pictures below of the prettiest courses.

Food and cooking are a big part of who I am, and I think that comes through in my writing, because when I feel it adds something to a scene, I'll provide description of what my characters are eating, whether luscious or foul.  Do you have any hobbies that show up in your writing?

Fluffy Spinach Bites with Fonduta Sauce

Seafood Trio: Oyster Shooter, Scrambled Scallops with Caviar,
Tuna Tartare

Potato Bites in Potato Baskets
Tomato Trifle with Gelees of Tomato, Cucumber and
Yellow Bell Pepper Water

Friday, January 7, 2011

Said Euterpe To Calliope

Wow, so I guess a lot of you spent some time thinking about Twitter, based on the response to my last post.  Thank you for all your thoughtful comments.  I'm not giving up on Twitter--I think I'll let it simmer on the back burner until I'm ready to exploit its full potential.  I'm thinking maybe after the next big writer's conference?  I'm not going to SCBWI this month, but I'll be there next summer when it's in my city, and I hope to see some of you there as well.

I've been listening to music this morning while I'm futzing around on the Internet.  I'm one of those people who has to write in absolute silence, but I like listening to music before I write to wind myself up, Eye Of The Tiger-style.  I'm not a super-hip, in-the-know musicophile--I haven't been since Kurt Cobain died--so I tend to go with what's playing on the radio.  Right now I'm digging the My Chemical Romance song, Sing.  I'm probably a fool to confess this, but it kind of reminds me of ~1999 Robbie Williams, and I don't think that's a bad thing.  There, I've done it, now you all know what a dork I am.

I like hearing about the different things that trigger a story idea for writers--dreams, ideas, conversation snippets.  I sometimes get triggered by a story in the news or an anecdote told by a friend, but often it's another medium in the arts--a photo or video or song.  There's a very brief scene in The Pacific that left an emotional impact that's really stuck with me and is currently coiling and expanding into a shiny new idea in the back of my head.

I think my biggest trigger, though, is music.  Here is a weird fact about me: loud music makes me cry.  I have zero control over this and often, when trying to talk to someone over a song, have to try to cover up the fact that I am choking up.  Beautiful lyrics are nice and all, but it's the emotional power of the music itself that takes me over, and for certain songs that will lead to a feeling and a scene and suddenly it's blossoming all over the place into a story.  My current WIP has a few songs that "belong" to it, and I listen to them over and over until I've pretty much drained them dry.

I wonder, does anyone else operate like this?  What are your story triggers?  And if you listen to music while writing, how in the world is that possible?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Twitter Conundrum

Do you have a morning routine?  I do: roll out of bed, fiddle around in the kitchen until the husband leaves for work, make him a lunch if I'm feeling especially kind.  Then, make myself a latte, scrounge up some sort of breakfast food, and curl up on the sofa with laptop for Brainless Internet Time.  This is when I catch up on my social networking, read blogs, check email.  I'll think about a post if I'm planning to write one.

Back to the social networking.  I've had a Facebook page for a long time.  I don't link to it here, and I don't link to this there, because right now I'm not ready for my two worlds to mingle.  Were I ever to need an authorly Facebook profile, I think I would create a new one and hide the current one, because I like having that only for family, friends, and basically only people I've met face-to-face.

My Tweeter has nothing to say
Networking with people I haven't met face-to-face is where Twitter comes in.  I start using Twitter sometime last summer/fall--at first just to stalk a few agents that I was interested in, but I have since expanded to follow other people in the online writing/publishing community like writers and editors.  Twitter is a strange beast, and I find myself constantly wrestling with it and how to use it.  Right now I'm following 125 people, so I can't possibly read everyone's updates, which begs the question: why do I follow them?

This morning I saw the post on Query Shark pointing to an article: 13 Reasons Why You Didn't Get Followed Back.  I read it with interest, because although I am following 125 people, only 19 people follow me back.  And that number isn't even accurate, because one of my followers is my husband.  I thought this article would give me all the answers, but it didn't, because basically all it said was: Don't be a Twitter spammer.  I think I avoid these 13 deadly sins, so why aren't people following me back?  Well, why the hell should they?  I'm a total stranger.

And this is why I don't really get Twitter.  I would probably use it more if more people I knew were on it, but they're not.  I've sent replies to a few strangers' tweets if I have something nice or useful to say, but mostly I just find it incredibly awkward to start messaging total strangers, like walking up to a random person on the street and trying to start a conversation.  I guess more people would follow me if I had something important to say or were famous, but does that mean that Twitter is primarily intended for Bill Gates and Lindsay Lohan to spread their word to the huddled masses?

Jill Hathaway wrote a post a few weeks back asking about Twitter etiquette and policy, and whether you should follow back those who follow you.  A lot of her commenters were against following back everyone, and they're right--I think once you reach critical mass on Twitter, following back everyone who follows you would turn your account into a gnarled mess.

Please, folks, tell me:  what the hell am I supposed to do with Twitter?  Do you use it?  Do you like it?  Or are you like me, and find it an awkward way to force more of your awkwardness into the world?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Revision Hades

On Saturday, while out running errands with my husband, I mentioned how nice it was that we still had a full day of free time ahead of us.  His response was ecstatic--he had thought it was already Sunday and was dreading going back to work the next day.  Something similar happened to me today, when I woke up, checked my phone, and saw the calendar notification that today is a work holiday at my company.  Hooray for unexpected free days!  How did I miss knowing about this?

I should make an effort to clean my apartment today, but I think that instead, I am going to get cracking on those revisions.  Plug in the hard drive, open MS Word, open the file ThirdPassRevisions.doc (not Goodlorddontdothatagain.doc, the file I created when I realized that I had two similarly-named files and was making separate revisions in each, crap!).  Look at doc.  Re-read first chapter.  Jump to tenth chapter.  Get overwhelmed by sheer size of doc.  Slam head into back of couch and groan.

This is me vs. the revisions.  Get it??

When revisions are comprised mostly of line edits and sentence smoothing, it's fine to go chapter by chapter.  However, right now I'm making major changes to one of my subplots in order to tighten up the whole story.  I've written notes on the changes and written them into an outline, but when it comes time to write them into the actual document, that is when scrubbing the kitchen floor starts to seem really important.

What is the best method here?  Do you start rewriting the entire thing from scratch?  I feel like that would be counterproductive for me.  Do you go chapter by chapter?  I didn't even include chapter breaks in my first draft, what a doofus.  (I've got them now.)  I'm going with the piecemeal approach, and hopefully when I'm done, I'll still be able to look at the whole thing with enough distance to smooth out the rough edges.

How do you approach revisions?

(Note: if you have something nice to say about Scrivener, say it now.  I downloaded the trial version, but the whole thing just looked kind of exhausting.  I wrote my entire first draft in one chapter-free file in Google Docs, is that nuts?)

(Second note: By one chapter-free file, I actually mean two chapter-free files, because Google Docs has a character limit.  Lame!)

(Third note:  I have a resolution to incorporate more structure into my posting schedule, but said structure is yet to be determined.  Thanks to everyone who is following my blog, I really appreciate it!!)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Here We Go

Happy 2011!  How did you ring in the new year?  My husband and I made dinner for a dozen friends, and then we all went to a bar around 10 to celebrate.  I love the giddiness of the countdown.  Look at us, we made another revolution around the sun!  It feels really random and really important in equal parts.

Yay us!

So now what?  For one, it's time to pare down on the excess.  The holidays are fun and all, but I hate getting to January and feeling like a bloated tick.  Right now I'm writing a shopping list for a few leaner weeks.  Also time to get back into a gym routine--hard to start, but easier to maintain once you hit your groove.  Besides just feeling healthier and having more energy, I find that exercise helps loosen up my brain juices, too.  Some of my best plotting breakthroughs have happened in spinning class.

And here comes the obvious:  it's time for me to get down to business on this WIP.  I've been kicking it around in revisions for several months now, and a couple of days ago I finally worked out some subplot changes that have been tormenting me.  It's time to finish it up and throw my hat in that scary, scary ring, so I'm opening my online calendar and setting some deadlines.

The new year is here.  We've made our resolutions, now we need to make good on them.  I'm getting amped up.  I've got Chemical Brothers playing in my head, and it's like listening to the soundtrack for a chase scene.

It's go time.  Are you ready?