Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Whole World of Possibilities

Happy Thanksgiving! In thinking about what I'm thankful for, I've got a lot on my list. My faith, my family, my friends, my health, my writing career--the list goes on. One thing that wasn't on my list last year, however, was my freedom. Hate to put it that way, but it's true. And honestly, if things hadn't taken such a bizarre turn in the last year, I'd probably still be in the same place right now. But they did, so I'm not. Instead, I'm sitting here typing away in a two-bedroom apartment with the cat who hated my ex-husband and the dog whose custody I am loathe to relinquish.

Anyway, I haven't felt this free since my first year of college. The world has changed in between, though, with technology making it a much less lonely place. It doesn't take weeks or months or even years for word to get around when someone sells a book or gets pregnant or finally gives up on their 20-year marriage. Now, information abounds where before there was only a vacuum. Sometimes, the glut of news can be a little overwhelming, but overall, I think I like things better this way, with the world more transparent and honest.

I hate to admit this, since it makes me sound weak (and I was, for putting up with it), but marriage (to my ex) meant denying so much of who I was, who I still am, who I want to be. To keep the peace, I repeatedly let go of friendships he didn't approve of, while being dumped by other friends who couldn't stand the person I'd become with him by my side. It hurts to think that, but deep down, I know the truth--if I were a fictional character, I'd be dismissed by readers as gutless and unsympathetic. It may sound weird, but the more I studied craft, the more I realized how far from the person I wanted to be I had become.

Now, though, life is wide open again. Anything could happen. Any number of possibilities or potential outcomes. In the mean time, I'll do my best to follow my heart while attempting to choose wisely.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Loving Villains

Sorry if you're a huge fan of the royal family, but I don't think anyone will dispute the fact that one of the most vilified women in pop culture today is (still) the former Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles. I mean, how dare she? Right? Everyone loved the sweet and beautiful Princess Diana. So why not her husband??? Unquestionably, Prince Charles took quite the beating in the public's eye by ultimately choosing his old, somewhat craggy girlfriend over his young, hot wife. But you know what? He and Camilla both look very, very happy.

Anyway, all that to say, I love writing villains. And when they're in love, so much the better. Which is why I can't help being smitten by Charles and Camilla's story. Horrible as it is, I find it kind of sweet that they couldn't stop sending each other raunchy emails and finding excuses to meet through mutual interests, even after the world found out about it and strung them up in the court of public opinion.

In entertainment, we're all over villainous love subplots. How much fun would True Blood be without Eric? Or The Vampire Diaries, without Damon? But despite all the passion involved, the villain never gets his way in the end, since light seems to trump dark in most endings.

Maybe that's because in real life, things aren't always so neat and tidy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beta Insecurity

Write what scares you.
Write the story only you can write.
Write what you'd want to read.

Okay. All these pieces of advice are well and good while a writer is holed up in his or her cave, coming up with stories that amuse him- or herself. Undeniably, the advice makes for good fiction. But...here's the really scary part: asking colleagues and/or people close to you to read when the time comes to gather feedback. Strangers are easy--if they don't like your work, everyone has different taste, so it's a cinch to say Oh, well and move on. But when it comes to people whose opinions you care about? Not so simple.

Logically, I know I must be a decent writer: I have an awesome agent, I'm writing an ebook for a company I love, and several friends whose writing I admire are still willing to trade reads with me. Despite all that, the insecurity persists. Because what if the new beta-readers hate my stuff? What if they think I'm a sick-minded, horrible person after reading my stories? What if they think my prose is unprofessional and sophomoric? I've never pretended to be a high-brow writer--I only want to tell engaging stories I think people want to hear. But still. There's a nagging dread left over from being rejected so many times along the journey that's near impossible to shake.

That said, the silence while someone reads is the worst. I'm tempted to ask for mid-read opinions, but that would be annoying. Anyone who betas is doing you a huge favor, so it's better to stress for awhile than make yourself a pest. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Just wish I didn't feel so naked.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mixtapes = Love

I'll have to ask my son if kids still do this for each other, albeit in the form of mix-playlists or -CDs or whatever, but from what I've seen of today's teen pop culture, it kind of seems like a lost art. One of my good friends (who shall remain nameless, just in case there are proprietary issues involved--but don't worry, Metallica, your songs have not and will never be included) makes these awesome mix-CDs as party favors. Digging into the ether to seek out up-and-coming indie bands is one of her hobbies, so it makes sense that her compilations would be amazing, but it got me thinking about days of yore and what motivated me and others to gift each other with mixes.

Once in awhile, a gracious friend would record the albums for you she knew you couldn't afford but wanted, smashing them together as economically as possible on a single device. Or sometimes it'd be motivated by a genuine desire to share the music she loved, possibly in hopes of turning you on to a band, too, so you could go to one of their shows together. More often, though, the music-mix vehicle wasn't quite as simple or friendly--it involved wanting to hook up with someone, but not in a superficial, here-today-onto-someone-else-tomorrow sort of way. Because a mixtape/CD/playlist takes time to compile, as well as careful consideration of the songs to be included and their lyrics, it conveyed a deeper message. A message about who the giver was and what kind of part s/he wanted the recipient to play in his/her life. A message that said, You matter to me, and I need you to know how much.

Of course, therein lies the paradox of the custom-made mix: although exhilarating to receive when a relationship is new and fresh, it winds up being devastating to listen to after a breakup.

So what do you think? Do people still make mixes for each other or am I being a relic for even mentioning them?