Monday, July 23, 2007

Going Postal -- The End is Near.

Ah, and yet this situation is not so forboding as one might think! I'm talking about the end of my novel, now in it's third and most important revision. As you know, I challenged myself to finish my current work in progress (and you to finish yours) before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived in our mailboxes to distract us! Alas, I did not quite reach my goal - as I still have 3 chapters to go. But 3 chapters out of thirty is a drop in the bucket, and so I am thrilled with my progress and motivated to finish soon. While JK Rowling is bidding a sad farewell to Harry, Hermione and Ron, I on the other hand am thrilled to report that the end is also coming for me. The end of one phase, that is, and the beginning of another.

So Harry must wait in the box he came in until my book is in the mail.
One book coming in, one book going out. It's only fair. (No, no, don't tell me who dies in Deathly Hallows, I want to read it for myself! Stupify!) But unlike Rowling's, my "end" is a happy window on a new beginning. The mailing phase!

The mailing phase is so exciting -- especially with the somewhat-recent glorious invention of media mail! Not long ago I had a life-altering media-mail experience. I took one of my stories to the post office stuffed in it's customary yellow manilla envelope, and addressed to the appropriate literary professional. I stood in line, feeling awkward as I always do -- scrunched between people on all sides carrying packages - birthday presents, business documents, illegal terroristic devices (Yikes, I hope not!)... And of course all of us in the line watched as each one reached the cordoned-off front spot and was called forward by the overworked, and frankly rather gruff postal ladies, the guardian's of packages sent by peasants and princes alike. The college student's package went via the cheapest way to Chile; The business man's went overnight-priority to New York. And the postal ladies enforced the rules for each mailing with absolute, unflinching precision.

Then it was my turn, and certain that the whole world was watching I stumbled forward, placed my package on the desk and half-whispered, half-sqeeked, "I need to send this to California, please. It's...just paper..." She looked at me. "Is it media?" I glanced at the package with uncertainty. Dare I claim to be media? "Well, yes, I guess it is media - you could call it that," I faltered, looking down, unsure. She squinted at me. "Well, what is it?" My knees buckled, and I leaned in closer to her -- not because I felt safer there, but because I hoped desperately that the people behind me in line would not hear me say it, and would therefore not know that I was a"wanna-be" masquerading as something I am not. "It, um, it's a...well, it's just a manuscript," I whispered, in a voice only a mouse could hear.

And suddenly everything changed...soft music began to play... she looked at me, and in her eyes I saw that look of shocked admiration one would give to Shakespeare, or Nora Roberts, or J.K. Rowling if you happened upon them in the mall; that confused but intrigued questioning stare that says "Are you an artist? Should I know you? Should I get your autograph now and hold onto if for later?" But then she remembered we were still in the post office, and with a smile she placed the package in the shipping box with two-handed care. "Why, of course, a manuscript - that's media mail," she said firmly. I nodded at her, feeling 2oo-times braver then before, and suddenly hoping that my glasses were not askew and my hair looked all right. "Great, thank you," I said with a you-ought-to-know-me smile. "I really, truly LOVE media mail."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Not just waiting for Harry Potter...

The Harry Potter Dunk 21 Writer's Challenge is heating up (see bottom left of this page to join). So I've no time to blog more until after July 21st. I'm thrilled with all of you who have jumped into this challenge with me! We'll inspire each other to meet our goals by the 21st -- no problem! Check out various people's challenges below in the comment bar, and by all means leave one of your own.

The HP Dunk-O-Meter at the bottom of this page will monitor my progress as the deadline to finish draft # 3 of my current novel nears. Then off into the big world it goes -- via my new favorite service, media mail.

Stop by here on the 23rd for an introspective soliloquy on postage.

Until then, I must return to revising! I've still got 10 chapters to go!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Jump the Chasm.

It happens to all of us.
There comes a time when our current writing project becomes overwhelmingly tedious and boring, our plot seems stale, unimaginative, and we suddenly feel that we've hit a roadblock that we just can't get past. Of course, we know we should revamp the plot, cut some stuff, add some stuff, but we dread going back to it. It's too much work! And suddenly the laundry, the beautiful park outside, the dog we normally hate walking, that old crocheting hobby we used to have 12 years ago...these things call to us, and we leave the computer -- sometimes for days or weeks. What? No silly -- of course we check our email and our blogs! It's just the work in progress that we make sure not to open!
For those not well-versed in psychological verbage this is called avoidance. And I at times have quite a knack for it! It's so easy to cruise along typing brilliant prose when the plot flows nicely, the characters all follow their Myers-Briggs types, and I can visualize the future cover of my book reflecting in the windows of every Barnes and Nobles I walk past. (Oh, how beautiful it is...) But when the going gets tough -- yikes -- it's easy to want to throw the whole thing into the circular file and focus back on "regular life."
That's when I remember Tolkien's characters, Frodo and Sam.
Yes, these short, soft-spoken hobbits can be a great example for us.

In book 3 of the Lord of the Rings these two unlikely heroes arrive at a deep, dark chasm that seems impassible. They have a choice to make. Behind them is home, the easy path, the sorrow-filled relief of giving-up. And on the opposite side of the chasm is the dark unknown, a success they can't yet see, and the final, life-saving end to their quest. Of course, the world will likely come to a horrible, bloody end if they turn back, but oh see they've really begun to wonder why they ever started this trip in the first place.
So, like many of us, Sam and Frodo sit down on a rock, putting off the inevitable, questioning their abilities, and acting really quite pathetic.

But eventually they remember that quitting will be no easier than going on. So, despite Sam's fear of heights, and with a rain storm coming up behind them, they take the plunge. And so must we. Nothing will change until we step over the ledge.

So if you, like me, have hit a chasm recently, remember this -- the fate of our novels - perhaps even a whole civilization of future readers -- is in our hands. Let's not turn back! Jump the chasm. Yes, yes, by all means, watch out for the giant murderous spider on the other side! But nevertheless, jump the chasm. These writing roadbump are no match for us!

Here, I'll give you a push.