Like a Virgin Blog Hop

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Considering I’d been driving nearly 20 hours when this photo was taken, I think it’s one of my better ones.

I’ll be entering the Like A Virgin Contest this July. One of the events is the official “Getting to Know You” blog hop, where we’re hoping to meet some other contestants, potential beta readers and critique partners. If you’re interested in becoming writing buds, let me know in the comments! Admission to the contest is still open, so if you’re interested (and you have a contest-virgin up your sleeve), come check out the contest and join in the blog hop!

  1. How do you remember your first kiss? I like to think of it as bold. So far my experience with romance had been reading and writing romantic fanfic… and as it turns out, it’s not entirely realistic. When Boxy moved in to kiss me (yes, my husband was also my first kiss), I did exactly what the heroines in all my favorite steamy fics did: I turned it into a full-on make-out session. Maybe it’s not conventional, but we both had a lot of fun.
  2. What was your first favorite love song? I’m guessing somewhere around 90% of songs are love songs in one way or another. My first favorite that I thought of as a love song, though, was Desert Rose by Sting. It’s not a love song to any one person– it’s more about the enchantment of being in love. I used to call the local radio station constantly begging them to play it, but the only times I ever heard it on the radio were completely by accident. How’s that for a metaphor?
  3. What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day? These days, I start by making a to-do list of all the stuff I need to get done by the time I get to bed, and my #nifty350 is always at the top of that list, and it’s the first thing I cross off. Sometimes I only get 350 words written, and sometimes I get really into it and write a couple thousand.
  4. Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer? Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She wrote her first book when she was thirteen, and it wasn’t about the sort of stuff I was used to– instead it was about pretty much everything my teenage self wanted to be. Atwater-Rhodes could do it, and she didn’t need a Hemmingway-esque alcohol problem alcohol or drugs or grad school (which includes alcohol and drugs with the cost of tuition) or even “life experience” to get there. She just had a story to tell, and she told it. So why couldn’t I?
  5. Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with? Excuse me while I peel myself off the floor, I’m laughing too hard. I’m actually torn between what I’d call my “first” book. DREAMKEEPER is the first story I started writing with any serious intentions… but even then, it was just a fanfiction at the time. So the original first chapter was about a poorly disguised fictionalized version of myself crawling through a secret door in my her closet door and coming out just outside of Rivendell, and then met an orc who remembered being an elf before the whole Silmarillion deal went down. I didn’t even get to chapter five before it wasn’t even recognizably associated with The Lord of the Rings anymore. At least two dozen redrafts, rewrites and re-imaginings later, only a few accidental details bear any resemblance to the original fanfic. Hell, even the tech level got nudged forward by a few hundred years. Someday I’d love to host a contest to see who can figure out which of my characters started out as which LotR characters. I think the truth might surprise you.
  6. For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting? The first book I finished writing (my other first), started with a name: Chicago. I had a very clear mental image of this character– blond, quick and scrawny, wearing oversized clothes and shingle tiles for bracers– and immediately I knew all Chicago’s friends and family would also be named for cities, and that this would be a post-apocalyptic story. What I didn’t know was Chicago’s gender. I ended up having to consult my little sister to decide whether Chicago was a masculine or feminine name. The rest fell into place from there.
  7. What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing? I don’t want a word– I want a laugh, or a squeal, or a gasp, or one of those tumblr-famous keyboard mashes. What I want more than anything is for my writing to leave somebody speechless.

 

A can of tomato seeds

Beautiful Red Tomatoes are Healthy
Beautiful Red Tomatoes (Photo credit: epSos.de)

The other day I was writing up a blogpost and at a loss for words. In comes my husband, and I immediately proceeded to pick his brain:

Me: “Boxy, what’s a good phrase for when you go out into the world, and it’s not what you expected– not entirely in a bad way, but it blindsided you. Any ideas?”

Boxy: “It’s like opening a can of tomatoes and finding only seeds.”

Remind me, which of us is supposed to be the wordsmith?

A can of tomato seeds isn’t going to help you if you’re setting out to make chili– but given time, patience, sunlight and water, those seeds will give you tomatoes for an entire season, and then some.

Sometimes disappointments can drive you crazy, but with that same time, patience and perspective, you can use them to help take you even further than you imagined.

31 Day Blogging Challenge: Fueling the Muse

Yesterday Tilla Brook said “I’m wondering what kind of snacks might help me to keep going! I’m more of an olives and crisps girl myself.”

It’s no secret: I love food. I love making it, I love eating it, I love sharing it with friends and family. I’m a firm believer in the magical properties of good cookies and hot chocolate when it comes to mending broken hearts and washing away bad days.

It’s no secret that the process of chewing helps to wake you up and get your brain cells going– it’s one of the reasons why some people recommend chewing gum when you’re studying or taking a test, and I also find that it helps me focus on my writing.

First off, there are two types of ‘writing food’ in my mind.

Picture by Victorgrigas, found on Wikimedia Commons

The first is the type where you take a break and sneak down to the fridge. These kinds of snacks are great for after you’re finished with a chapter or scene. The process of preparing and eating the snack gives you a few minutes to unwind and gear up for the next leg of the journey. And for these kinds of snacks, you’re limited only by your imagination and appetites.  When I really want to treat myself, I go for a caprese salad made of tomatoes, fresh mozerella, fresh basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s yummy~

The second is the kind you keep in arm’s reach, just in case. Personally I’ve got a bad habit of grinding my teeth or chewing my lips when I get anxious, which can end up quite painful. Gum helps in the short term, but I can chew an entire pack into rubber during a particularly difficult scene.

In my mind, this second variety has to have some particular properties:

  • Bite sized
  • Doesn’t go bad during a particularly long writing session
  • Doesn’t make a mess or leave my fingers sticky

If you do have a favorite that tends to get sticky, I suggest investing in toothpicks or mini skewers so you can keep you don’t need to rewash your hands every time you ponder a prepositional phrase. Tilla goes for olives, but here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • Tea
  • Mini pretzels and Nutella or other delicious dipping substances
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Orange slices or or apple slices dipped in lemon juice
  • Cheese cubes
  • Baby carrots
  • Jelly beans

Also, don’t forget hand sanitizer. The keyboard of your computer is known as one of the germier surfaces in your home (along with your cell phone), so it may behoove you to give your keyboard a once-over with a disinfecting wipe before you eat near it.

Beating depression over the head with a monkey wrench

If you haven’t read it yet, I implore you to head to Hyperbole and a Half for her take on the subject of depression.

I dealt with that same brand of depression a while back. Though therapy and pills didn’t work, I finally found my corn (and I swear to all that is holy, we are going to coin that phrase if it kills me), but you never really forget. And so when you feel something that starts tugging you back in that direction, you fight back. You have to.

So I wrote down exactly how I dealt with it– for my reference, and for anybody else’s. These are in no particular order– they’re just things that help me stay healthy.  They’re also not meant to be instant cures for the deep mire, but ways of getting grounded when you feel yourself start to slide.

Note: both chemically and psychologically, all people are different. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay. But in my experience, the best way of finding out what works for you is to try a little bit of everything and see what sticks. 

1. Make a decision. For me, at least, one of the most crippling feelings is the lack of control.  The first way for me to combat it, then, is to consciously decide that I’m not going to let this feeling control me. There’s something seriously empowering about taking a stand and making a decision. Vocalize it for more effect. Personally, because I tend towards anger when I get upset, I also generally cuss it out: “HELL no, depression. No way in blighted tulip-sucking oblivion are you going to keep me in bed all day. I got shit to do, so get the Prada-selling hell out of my way!” (Added bonus: Making up weird swears is also good for a laugh).

2. If you’re going to wallow in misery, give yourself a set time period. Jack Shepherd from LOST recommended overcoming panic by letting it have its say for five seconds– and then booting it out and moving on. Negative emotions are a part of life, and there’s no reason to guilt yourself for experiencing them. Better to give yourself a set time period to wallow, and then force yourself to get up and do something. For me, I let myself curl up and hide for two episodes of Castle— because unlike Jack, I need a bit more than five seconds. The important part is to let it go on no longer than the set time.

3. Look into the sun. No, literally. Don’t go burning a hole in your retinas or anything, but go outside and feel sunshine on your skin. Work in the garden. Ride a bicycle. Take the dog for a walk. If you can’t go outside, open all the blinds/curtains in the house and let the natural light in. Studies have linked natural sunlight to a lift in mood, so this is a chemical boost as well.

4. Get clean. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair (preferably with a different brush). Take a shower. Clean your room. Do the dishes. When we feel clean, we feel refreshed, even if it’s a little bit. When we clean something else, we’ve got a dramatic, visible show of our progress. Look at the impact you’ve made on your personal environment! Like making a decision, it’s incredibly empowering.

5. Get dressed. The bathrobe and jammies are part of the ‘not doing anything right now’ uniform. Which is great when that’s the intention, but when you’re feeling depressed, that can lead to stagnation (which deepens depression, and the cycle continues). Even if you’re not going anywhere or doing anything, dressing nice is a ritual activity. It tells the brain that you’re about to do something important, so it needs to wake up and prepare itself accordingly. (I actually got the inverse of this advice from a doctor: when I complained of insomnia, he suggested I stop reading on my bed, so that my brain associate the bed with only sleep. Consequently the brain would start releasing melatonin when I laid down to sleep. The brain can be programmed this way. It’s kind of epic.)

6. Get interested in other people. Don’t get me wrong, whining to others and getting sympathy can be helpful, but like wallowing, it needs to stop after a certain point. After that, it starts acting like a scab– the more you pick at it, the worse you’ll feel and the longer it’ll take to heal. Talk to other people about their problems– or about their joys. Listen to their life story, and actually hear what they’re saying. It gives you perspective, it gives you connection to another human being, and it gives you a break from the echo chamber that is misery.

7. Change your environment. Go grocery shopping. Go to a friend’s house. Take a walk in the woods. Like 3 and 5 on this list, this tells your brain to change modes. The fact that it also may give you a chance to be productive/have a conversation/absorb some sunshine is an added bonus.

8. Break out your inner writer. This one’s my personal goldmine, but it’s weird as all get-out. I step back from myself, divide myself into Jenny-the-Writer and Jenny-the-Character. And then I have Writer!Jenny analyze Character!Jenny’s situation. If I were writing this current scene, what parts would I edit out? How would I take this character and turn her into a strong, likable heroine? What motivates her current mood, and which point in the story would I have to change in order to truly change this scene? How have other writers dealt with this situation (“Good writers borrow, great writers steal”, after all!)?

What do you do to deal with the blues? Have you tried any of these for yourself? Tell us in the comments!