Monday, March 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Buffy

Before I jump into today's post, I just wanted to thank everyone for their feedback and thoughts on my IWSG post last week. Thank you for offering me much-needed perspective and guidance. The group and I are now working to resolve issues because, as it turns out, I wasn't alone in my concerns. So thank you.

All right. On with the post!

Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which has the distinction of being one of my all-time favorite shows. (Did I mention that I recently won second place in a Buffy trivia contest? Because I am embarrassingly proud of that achievement.)

The Twitter handle @whedonesque asked their followers for their favorite moment.

Which, come on. I can't pick just one. I don't know a Buffy fan who can.

So today's post will be dedicated to some of my all-time favorite moments and quotes from the series.  It will certainly not be a complete list because that would seriously go on forever, and I'm assuming you have better things to do with your life than endlessly peruse Buffy gifs. (Of course, you may be thinking that I should have better things to do with my life than endless peruse Buffy gifs...and you would be right. But I'm doing this anyway.)

Listed in whatever order I came across them on Giphy.

From Season One's Never Kill A Boy On The First Date. Not a great episode by any means, but I've always liked this line.

From Season Three's Lovers Walk. A funny moment in a pretty awesome episode.

From Season Four's The Freshmen. I spent many an hour (not a joke) trying to perfect this move. I was/continue to be unsuccessful.

From Season Seven's Showtime. Just an awesome line.

From Season Six's Tabula Rasa. This episode runs the emotional gauntlet, which I highly appreciate. This particular moment always makes me laugh.

From Season Two's Becoming, Part Two.  Like I wasn't going to pick a sword fight. But, really, this was just another highlight in an entire episode of highlights.

From Season Three's Helpless. Another awesome episode filled with awesome lines. I do appreciate good dialogue.

Season Six's Once More With Feeling. How could the musical not make this list?

Season Five's Family. I love the scene depicted above just so very much.

Season Four's Hush. Ironically, the one episode to receive an Emmy nomination for writing. What do you think, Buffy fans? One of scariest episodes ever?

Season Five's The Body. Saddest episode ever? I still cry every time I watch it.

Season Three's The Prom. I'm a sucker for this episode. I get teary-eyed when Buffy receives her award. And maybe when she dances with Angel, too. Because I believe in characters having the occasional happy long as I'm not the one writing them.

All right. That's going to do it for me.

Are you a Buffy fan? What's your favorite moment (or moments, if like me, you can't choose just one...)

Happy Monday, everyone. Hope you have a great week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Quandary (An IWSG Post)

Hey, everyone.

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I'm assuming you're already familiar with the IWSG, but if you're new and/or interested in more information and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero or the villain? Why?"

But I'm going to skip that question because I have a quandary I'd like to run past y'all instead.

This quandary is really the reason why I'm posting so late because last night, when I sat down to write my post, I was, quite frankly, too damn irritated to do anything other than sit there and silently fume.

So I have, at last, decided to present my problem to the group to receive some outside opinions/perspective. Unless I ultimately decide to write half a post, then delete it because sometimes that happens, too.

Okay, so here's the thing. I have been a member of a small critique group for a couple of years now. There were three of us to start, and we got along really well and I think we worked together really well. Like, if some aspect of my story wasn't working for someone, we would talk about it and brainstorm possible solutions. Which I found to be incredibly useful because I joined the critique group in the first place in an effort to improve my writing. I think there was a lot of trust in that original group. I trusted them with my work, to be honest about their feelings on my work, and that if someone said, "This scene didn't work for me", we would work together to come up with possible solutions that would take all of us into account. Like, the other two wouldn't just impose their will on my story. They'd raise their concerns, I'd raise my concerns, and we'd work together to find a happy compromise.

I don't know if I'm explaining that last part correctly. It may become clearer as we go on. Or I could make it worse. I guess we'll find out...

Anyway, fast forward a little bit to when one member of our trio moved away and we subsequently invited two new writers to join us—both of whom I had met in other local writers groups and who had expressed interest in being members of a regular critique group.

Except one of these two doesn't really come across to me as being interested in critique. Or discussion about a critique. On either side of a critique, too.

If a group member raises a concern they have with her story, she shuts it down immediately with statement along the lines of "No, you're wrong. That's not a problem."

To which I always want to respond, "But it may be a problem because one of your critique partners whose opinion you have deliberate sought out is telling you that it's a problem."

I know she doesn't have to make any change to her story that she does not want to make. That we're just making suggestions that she is free to use or ignore as she sees fit. I really don't care what she does with her story, but it leaves me feeling befuddled that she doesn't seem open to anything any of us say. When she's defensive, bordering on combative, it's like, why are you here if you're not interested in criticism?

Then there's the other side of the criticism coin. At our last meeting, she raised a concern she had with my story. It was a perfectly valid concern; I could see exactly what she was saying and agreed with her. And I told her so. Then I went on to say that the scene was written as such because I honestly didn't know how else to write it without losing the two really important things in that scene I really didn't want to lose.

Now, in the original group, that would be followed by a brainstorming session where we bounced ideas off one another in an effort to come up with possible solutions. This time, however, it was met with more defensive/combative behavior on her part, which was probably met by some combative behavior on my part because I was interpreting her side as saying, "I'm right, you're wrong, and there's no need to discuss this any further."

And I went home incredibly frustrated because this group that used to be so helpful and fun is instead becoming more and more work with less and less reward. I still have a problem scene and no plan in place to fix it.

But I don't know what to do about it. I don't know if there's anything I can do about it. I may be the only person who thinks there's a problem. I may be the person everyone thinks is the problem. Maybe my fellow CPs go home after a meeting and complain about that pain-in-the-ass MJ who's always so defensive and weird about everything.

If I am the only one with a problem or the actual problem, then it feels like the solution is to walk away from the group because if I'm not getting anything useful out of it, what's the point? I would be sad to leave the group because, until recently, it was useful and, you know, my group, but there's already more than enough stress in my life. Do I need to deliberately add to it?

Is it all right to approach the other two members of the group to ask for their opinions to establish if I am the problem or if it's a group-wide thing? If so, how do I do it without them pointing at me and saying, "You're only saying that because she said something bad about your story."

Which is totally NOT the case. I go to that group hoping people will say bad things about my story because I can't improve it otherwise. But if that's not coming across, then that needs to be fixed, too.

So yeah. I don't know what to do, and I don't know if I've explained things well enough that anyone out there can offer some insight. (And if that insight is 'you're insane, MJ', that's cool. And valid.) This is just how I'm viewing this situation and what I'm feeling about it, which may or may not be valid, but it is what it is, and now I need to figure out what to do about it.

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Thanks for listening. You've been a great audience.

Monday, March 4, 2019

New Month, New Goals

Happy March, everyone!

As you've likely divined from the title of today's post, I'll be talking about goals.

February Recap

1. Complete the first draft of the terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel.

As you may have seen on various forms of social media, I actually did this. It's a pretty terrible ending, if I do say so myself, which is perhaps fitting for a terrible romance novel, and there are a few scenes in desperate need of an overhaul, but those are all problems for the second draft. The first draft is done and currently sitting in a drawer in hopes that I shall have fresher eyes when I go back to work on it.

2. Read four books.

Yeah. I only managed to do this because of Sherlock graphic novels. But if Goodreads counts it, then so can I. Right?

3. Walk at least three miles every day, or a total of 84 miles for the entire month.

I was sick for a good chunk of the past month, so I fell short on the three-miles-a-day goal, but I did manage to log 97 miles overall.

March Goals

1. Complete first round of edits/revisions of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel.

This will definitely be a stretch goal because I'm not even planning to look at this manuscript for at least another week, probably two. But regardless of when I do start, I would like it to be done this month. I'm super far behind the schedule I had set, and if possible, I'd like to make up a little time. We'll see how it goes. It is, of course, more important that these be done right than fast.

2. Do NOT work on the Terrible Romance Sequel.

You may have seen this on social media as well, but apparently, I'm now writing a sequel to the terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel (Working title: Terrible Romance Sequel). I even stayed up all night one night writing a scene for it, even though I know absolutely nothing about the characters or their situation (different main characters, same universe). I had thought idly about maybe someday writing a sequel, but I hadn't planned on it being now. I have three other WIPs that require attention. The Terrible Romance Sequel will just have to wait its turn. Maybe it can be a NaNoWriMo project if I get enough other stuff done. (Because that'll happen.)

3. Read a freakin' book!

Seriously, what's wrong with me? I used to read multiple books a week, and now I'm struggling to read a single book each month. It's weird. I don't like it. That's why the goal this month is to read just one book. Any book. I'll find myself a nice children's book that's 90% pictures and read that. Or another graphic novels. Just something to break the non-reading cycle in which I'm currently stuck.

4. Walk at least three miles every day, or a total of 93 miles for the month.

This is the one goal I've consistently hit this year. Here's hoping I can keep it up.

5. Buy a couch.

Yeah. So, my couch broke last month (and totally not because some so-called adult was jumping on it during a football game...) and I have yet to replace it because the other half of the couch is...okay (translation: incredibly uncomfortable, but technically not broken), and I am incredibly lazy. But we're expecting company at the end of the month and that company may want to sit somewhere other than the floor or in a beach chair.  So my mission is to buy a new unbroken couch before they arrive.

Live footage of me couch shopping?

That's gonna do it for me today. What's on your agenda this month?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Meh (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

(I assume everyone coming to this blog is well aware of what this is, but if you happen to be new and interested in more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's amazing co-hosts are: Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

This month's (optional) question asks, "Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?"

But here's the thing about that question: unless the stringing together of profanities screamed at an (IMHO) underperforming professional sports team while jumping on one's couch counts as a creative outlet, I don't have one outside of writing.

Because I have zero artistic abilities whatsoever. I wish I did because I really admire the hell out of people who can draw or paint or sculpt or knit or compose or cook or assemble Lego sets or bake shrinky-dinks or whatever. If you create art in any form, that's bloody brilliant and I bow down to you.

Instead, I thought I might talk about how...meh I've been feeling of late. It ebbs and flows, but there's always an underlying current.

It might be okay to a point. I mean, I'm still struggling to finish the first draft of my terrible romance novel (the dialogue just seems so lame right now), but the meh-ness (that's totally a word, right?) is leaving me more along the lines of 'Whatever. It'll either get done or it won't' instead of me giving myself an ulcer over my apparent inability to write a happy(ish) ending. Which sounds like a good thing. Right? Living ulcer-free is always better than the alternative?

But should I worry that if I lose my urgency/interest in hitting deadlines/goals that I'll just end up languishing in the doldrums of Meh-ville (that's totally a place, right?) or whatever?

Because that doesn't sound like a good thing.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just burned out a little. Maybe I need a creative outlet outside of writing. Maybe I just need a nap.

Which is a very meh-like response.

How are you feeling these days? Have you been stuck in Meh-ville? How did you get out?

Thanks for stopping by today!

Monday, February 4, 2019

February 2019 Goals

Before we get started, allow me to do just one quick thing first...


Okay. I'm done.

(Narrator: MJ was probably not done. But you probably knew that already. She apologizes if you either hate football and/or the Pats and will try to keep her glee to a minimum. She also apologizes if she kept you up with her endless screaming at the TV.)

All right, so this is my first post of the month, which means it's time for me to set some goals. I had a fairly productive January (at least for me), so I'm hoping to keep that momentum-like thing going this month.

1. Complete first draft of the Terrible, Horrible No-Good, Bad Romance novel.

I'm close to being done with this. I know I have said this before and it's proven to be nothing more than a big, fat lie, but I think I might mean it this time. And I know I have said that about this before and it's proven to be nothing more than a big, fat lie, but it's different now. Probably. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen that I'm now working on the very last scene: the happy ending. This is as close as I have ever felt to being done with this project. So close that I'm actually a little pissed that I couldn't get it wrapped up before January ended. I mean, I don't know about you, but it felt to me like January lasted approximately nine million days. Nine million days, and I still didn't manage to finish this draft.

This happy(ish) ending will be the death of me. May February be the month I manage to cross over that finish line.

2. Read four books.

I'm proud to say that I'm already behind in my 2019 reading goal, and I don't expect to catch up anytime soon. This month, I am looking to not fall any farther behind. I suspect this may be aided by the fact that football season is over and baseball season has not yet started.

I was going to make another Patriots-winning-the-Superbowl
reference here, but I found the above gif, which looks exactly
like Fat cat, so I decided to go with this instead.

3. Walk at least three miles every day or a total of 84 miles for the month.

This is the one goal on which I am actually ahead. I hope to keep it that way. I'll have to work a little harder now that I won't be pacing during playoff games, but I'm sure I can find something else over which to fret.

And you know what? I think that's it for goals this month. Or it could just be that I'm currently too distracted by


to think clearly at this time.

So I'm going to stop here.

Tune in Wednesday when I may possibly be down from my Patriots-winning-the-Superbowl high

(Narrator: Yeah. Good luck with that.)

just in time to talk about my latest writing insecurities.

Oh—one last thing: congratulations to my boyfriend, Julien Edelman, on being named the Superbowl MVP. You certainly earned it, but I think we all know who the true MVP is of this post-season: my couch.

You were a very fine couch, couch. Your sacrifice this season will always be remembered.

Oh—one last one last thing. Did you see the Avengers: Endgame trailer last night? Can't wait for April!

Monday, January 7, 2019

The One With The Goals

Here it is: the post for which you've been waiting. The mother of all goal posts, AKA my 2019 To-Do list.

Usually, this is a two-part post. The first part is where I review the previous year's goals and tell you how well they went, but as I only managed to accomplish one thing on that list last year I didn't really feel the need to devote an entire post to it.

But here's the thing. The one 2018 goal I accomplished was to publish Second Nature, which was my number one writing goal for last year. And as that goal goes, so goes my year. So the fact that I didn't manage to do anything else I had wanted to do doesn't bother me as much as it normally would because I did this:

Which means my 2019 goal list will look awfully similar to last year's list...with one notable exception. I can't wait to find out what the new Number One Goal will be.

The Writing Goals

1. Publish the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance Novel

I'm currently about three months behind where I wanted to be with this WIP at this time, so I may be setting myself up for a big, fat failure here but I'm going to attempt to do this all the same. Go big or go home, right?


In the plus column, I may have actually hit upon a possible workable ending. I know I've said that before, but I think I may mean it this time. Fingers crossed!

2. Publish Retail Rhapsody

This is the collection of sarcastic haiku I wrote about my day job. It fell by the wayside last year (too many other things going on) and that may well happen again this year, but I'm still going to try.

3. Complete the first draft of Full Circle

Full Circle is the third book in my fantasy series. It's kind of in a state of limbo right now. I feel like the original plan I had for it no longer works, but I don't yet have a new plan in place. Which means, right now, this is a big, fat mess. Anyway, I'd like to finish the first draft this year, but I think I would really be okay if I only managed to figure out what that first draft should be.

The Reading Goals

I would like to read 52 books this year. I was a good ten or eleven books short of this goal last year,  but I'm sticking with the same number this year. One book a week doesn't seem like it should be too difficult.

*gives self suspicious side-eye*

The Fitness Goals

 1. Log 1500 miles

This can be in walking, running, biking, kayaking, whatever. It will most likely just be walking, however, because despite my best intentions I never do any of the others.

2. Get back into the yoga habit

I firmly believe that yoga can help with my chronic back issues. I just need to stop being so damn lazy about it.

3. Attempt to establish a somewhat normal-ish sleep schedule

My sleep schedule/patterns/whatever was/were obliterated in 2018 because...reasons, and I believe it really screwed with my productivity. I know. Imagine that, right? So in 2019, I would like to attempt to correct this issue. Or figure out a way to just manage my time better. Whichever's easier.

And on that note, I'm outta here.

Happy Monday, everyone. Have a great week.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Asked and Answered (An IWSG Post)

Hello, everyone!

Happy New Year!

It's the first Wednesday of the month (and the year), which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

I am assuming everyone coming to this blog already knows what that means, but if you would like more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!

This month's (optional) question asks, "What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?"

I feel a ramble coming on...

Here's the thing. My social anxiety is at such a level that I pretty much live in fear of anyone asking me anything because I always end up feeling like Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel when I attempt to answer. Only not nearly as eloquent. Then the person who asked the question is probably standing there, looking at me, and wondering if someone who can't speak in complete sentences could possibly have written a book that could possibly be worth reading.

(But I try. I know that jerk Yoda is all, "there is no try," but there is, Yoda, and I'm doing it. Trying, I mean. So there.)

In this regard, every question is my least favorite question. Because if someone takes the time to ask me some writing-related something, then I really do want to be able to answer them, but it's just so damn terrifying and I am so damn awkward.

But there is one question

My Least Favorite Question

"Have you considered breaking up your novel into three shorter novels?"

So, there's a little backstory that goes along with this question. There's an author I know who asks me this every single time we see each other. And every single time he asks me this, I answer as follows:

"Yes, I have considered that. Effigy clocks in at something like 580 pages. Second Nature is considerably longer. So a while back, before they were published, I did consider breaking up each book into three shorter books but found I didn't like it, so I decided to keep it the way it is."

Other authors/readers have asked me this, nodded at my explanation, and we go about our day. But this one author...I don't know. Maybe he forgets that we've talked about this many, many times before. Maybe he doesn't care. Whatever the reason, it wears on me.

(Bottom line: If someone doesn't want to read my books because they're too long, I fully respect that decision. I occasionally decide not to buy a book because I think it's too short. Goes both ways.)

My Favorite Question

"Why do you have to be so mean to your characters?"

This question has come in various forms and is occasionally just accusations of cruelty from my critique partners when they point out the tear stains they left on the page. However it's asked or presented, or however awkward I may be on the outside, this is usually what I'm doing on the inside:

Because if I'm getting that question/reaction, then I'm doing my job.

All right. That's going to be it for me today. I'm on a sort of mini vacation this week, as I have many friends visiting from away and I'm trying (TAKE THAT, YODA!) to pack in as much time as possible with all of them before they leave. Which means I may be slow to respond to comments and visit other blogs, but I will get there eventually.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2019, all!