Friday, October 29, 2010

No Success Seems Big Enough

I opened my mailbox yesterday, pulled out a big envelope, and ripped it open to find this:

Which contains this:

It's the first part of my three-part serial "Continental Drift" starting in the 2 November issue of Woman's Weekly in the UK. My first thought was, of course, HOORAY! because people are reading my stories.

But my second thought was worry, followed by lots of self doubt. Why? Because they didn't mention the serial on the cover. Usually, when a new serial is starting, they flag it on the front, like in the upper right hand corner of this cover:

"Continental Drift" was one of those stories that didn't come together easily. In fact, I had to rewrite once for my satisfaction, and twice for the editor's. So the neurotic, insecure writer in me started to worry that it wasn't good enough to mention on the cover.

"Maybe the editors didn't like it enough," I said to my husband (who, to his credit, managed to keep a straight face rather than give me that you writers are crazy look I sometimes get.)

"They liked it enough to buy it," he reminded me. "Look, they described it as 'haunting'. That's good, right?"

"Um, yeah..." I said. But it didn't stop me from thinking that maybe they only bought it because they were desperate. Or because they felt sorry for me having rewritten it a couple of times.

I consider myself a confident, positive person. I don't doubt myself in other areas of my life -- I feel confident as a parent and as a partner. In my professional capacity as an editor and later, as a food scientist, I didn't worry about my abilities or my accomplishments. No, the doubt I experience seems to be limited to my existence as a writer. I think I will always doubt whether I have any talent, even when there is evidence that someone thinks I do.

But at least I'm not alone. In her post The More Things Change, Kiersten White shared how even when you find success, you don't always feel successful. I'm sure there are a lot of writers out there saying the same thing.

What about you? Are you more insecure as a writer than in other roles in your life? Why is that? Is it because writing is more personal? Makes us more vulnerable? Is it because success in writing is so public?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Because we can all use a laugh...

One of the big reasons I miss living in the UK... the BBC.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cat Magnet

Seriously. I must be a cat magnet. Back in June, my son and daughter came running into the house screaming something about kittens and our shed. We went outside to discover, lo and behold, these little creatures:

A feral cat, part-Siamese by the looks of things, had a litter of kittens underneath our shed. My children were delighted, my husband and I less so. We were about to leave on a 3-week vacation. I had visions of the mother, driven by hunger since we wouldn't be there to feed her, abandoning these kittens. The image coming back to find a pile of dead kittens (worst case scenario) or the idea of these kittens growing up feral and then breeding more kittens (not much better case scenario) kept me up at night. Thus began a round of phone calls trying to find somewhere to take them so they could be adopted out.

Fortunately, two days before we were going to fly to Scotland, I found someone who would take them. The trick...we had to catch them first. By this point, the mother had done a good job of teaching the kittens to be afraid of us. After a whole day of stalking and capture attempts, we caught two. That night, the mother stole off with the remaining four. We took them to the Cat Lady (my kids' term), with my children crying bitterly the whole time.

Last week, we saw three of those same kittens behind the shed again. I don't know what happened to the fourth. Judging by the hissing and the speed with which they took off, I think the mother has done a pretty good job of making these kittens feral, too.

Two days ago, we heard crying out in front of our house. I opened the door to find a skinny little black and white cat. Unlike the kittens, he was sweet, well-groomed and affectionate. I figured he was lost and would find his way home again. Nope. Yesterday, he cried at my door all morning, so I finally put some food out. He wolfed it down so fast it brought tears to my eyes. In the afternoon, he was still hanging around so as soon as my children got off the bus, we proceeded to walk the two miles around our neighborhood trying to find his owner. The little cat followed us the whole time, plaintively meowing. No luck.

Then, we loaded him into the back of the car (with no cat carrier, I trapped him under the laundry basket weighed down with a couple of hand weights) and drove to the nearest vet to have him scanned, hoping he was microchipped. Nope. I asked the vet tech what we could do. She told me they could take him off our hands, but it would cost $200 for vaccinations and boarding. Yikes! She gave me a list of shelters and I bought a few cans of food and brought him home. He is now living on my porch while we figure out what to do.

Unfortunately, my son is asthmatic and is allergic to cats. This has not stopped my children from naming the cat Justin (??? -- we could understand it if he were a long-hair but ????) and begging us to keep him. My husband and I are debating as to whether we could take the chance that it won't affect my son's health, or whether it could stay as an outdoor cat (I worry about the major roads that run near our neighborhood, or about the summers when it is 100+ degrees).

[There's supposed to be a cute photo of Justin here but Blogger's messing with me. Again.]

Justin is currently outside, lounging on my sun chair. He is grooming Tuna Medley from his whiskers, oblivious to my desperate attempts to find him a loving home. Anyone near San Antonio in the market for a cute cat?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting random all up in my head

* The temperature has finally dropped here in San Antonio. Sort of. It is in the 50s at night, which makes me want to break out the gourds and autumn leaves to decorate. BUT, it is still climbing into the high 80s during the day. So putting out the autumn stuff just feels wrong.

* My son, after 8 years of food aversions and extremely picky eating, has finally turned a corner. We've had three months of Occupational Therapy to help with the food and sensory issues and I can't believe how well it's worked. Wednesday, he ate AN ENTIRE MCDONALD'S CHEESEBURGER! I almost wept. He's gained 4 pounds in three months (which is almost as much as he's gained in year). Last night, we all ate the same dinner (and it did not involve pizza). I hold out hope that I might actually start enjoying cooking again (which would be good, given that I am a chef).

* My daughter, now six, must have read some "Being an Effective Listener" text somewhere because she now rephrases EVERYTHING I say to her. Last night's exchange -- Me: I bought you some new dresses for school. DD: You mean you went to the store and picked out things for me to wear so I'll look nice for my teacher? She does this all the time. The technique is supposed to make a person feel validated and understood. It doesn't. It's driving me crazy.

* My husband's family has just had some potentially devestating news involving the big C. We're reeling from this and, in truth, it's all I can think about this week (hence, this weirdly random post). I lost my father to a horrible battle with cancer four years ago so I'm really struggling, trying to put those memories aside so that I can be positive and supportive for my husband. It's hard.

* Because of this family development, it looks like we are going to be travelling back to Scotland sooner than expected. Which means that I've had to put aside the novel and get to work on another serial to help pay for the trip. I just wrote the first chapter of my WIP on Tuesday and was starting to get my groove on, so...meh. I'm so not feeling the love for the serial right now, but it's got to happen.

I don't usually post personal stuff (especially a strange list of disconnected thoughts). Even now, it feels weird to put so much of myself out there, but my brain is whirling so much I can't think of anything else. And although I know I don't have to say this (because you are all warm, wonderful people who already do this), I'll just leave you with one more thought:
Cherish the people you love. No one knows what the future holds. Don't wait to share time with your family and friends. Share it now.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Remember when I said I was changing teams from Plotter to Pantser? Yeah, well, I lied. Boy, did I lie.

Because I'm guessing that Pansters don't make spreadsheets like this when working out their characters:

I don't know...maybe they do (hey pantsers -- do you?). But I'm fairly certain they don't do this:

This is a screen shot of the Storylines program from the Writer's Cafe software, which uses virtual index cards that you can move up, down, all around. You can have multiple plot lines. I use it for the main and subplots (blue and green) and to keep track of my "hit points" or important moments or ideas in the story (that's the red line), my relevant research (purple line), and emotions (orange lines). Key scene cards are blue and the acts are denoted by the black markers at the top.

What can I say? Try as I might, I couldn't work by the seat of my pants. I just like my spreadsheets and charts too darn much. I need them. I feel more comfortable when I have a road map for my journey. And after today, I feel more energy than fear, which is a good thing. So I'll hand back my temporary Pantser membership card. Thanks for having me! Maybe I'll join you again some other time.