Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Little Pre-Holiday Excitement

As if getting ready for the holidays isn't stressful enough, yesterday we went through a bit of pre-holiday excitement. Not of the fun and good kind, unfortunately.

First, DH and I made arrangements for a trip to The Big City late next month. We have to schedule carefully because in the winter the ferry only runs every other week. And it leaves late Friday night and returns Monday. And takes 12 hours each way. I know. Don't get me started. Yes, there is air service, but we have some big items to purchase and need to use our truck to get them, hence the need to ferry. We also had to make an appointment for Dear Daughter # 2 in The City. I called that office. Not a problem. Can get you in when you need to. Yay! All works out. For about five minutes.

DH calls me back to say he'd misread the ferry schedule. It returns much earlier in the day so the appointment for DD#2 needs to be moved. Oh, and the shipping folks who have the kitchen cupboards we ordered in October have been trying to call us forever to make sure we can pay the freight charges. Have they called? Don't you think I'd TELL you they'd called if they'd called? OK, he'll take care of that, and does.

So I call the office to rearrange the appointment for DD#2. No problem moving the appointment later in the week, but to get her there we have to send her on a flight from here to The Big City as an unaccompanied minor where DH will meet her (he'll be staying in The Big City for a week of meetings while the kids and I return on the ferry with our laden truck) and take her to her appointment. Now, I know you're all freaking out about sending a little kid on a plane alone but (a) it's only a 45 minute flight, no stops, so it's not like she can get lost, (b) if I were to accompany her it would cost another $400 because I'd also have to take DD#1 and sorry, but that's expensive, and (c) DD#2 is sooooooooo excited about going on an airplane alone, something her big sister has NEVER done. You have to throw a kid a bone sometimes, right? She and DH will return together that evening.


But wait! There's more! While I'm on the phone with DH for like the eightieth time that morning (yes, all of this went down before noon), I discover the hamster has escaped. GAH!!!!! And it was MY fault. I'd neglected to secure his cage door the night before. How he managed to drop three feet and get past two cats and two dogs, I'll never know. He was in the laundry room, under the dryer. How did I discover this? One of the cats was constantly in there all morning and I kept tripping over her. Duh! So now I have to move appliances. When I scoot the dryer, the thin metal vent tube tears. Dang! Now the hamster has access to the vent that leads to the outside. Where it's about 20 degrees and snowing. @$%&@!!!! I call DH. He suggests checking under the house to be sure the hamster hasn't gotten into the tube and out the flappy vent thing. &%%*$#^&$%#!!!!!!! Did I want him to come home to do it? No, I can unscrew the panel to access under the house, crawl around under there to the tube and see if I'm going to have some horrible conversation with the kids when they get home. I hate going under the house, but I can't afford to wait for him to get home, as the hamster may be gone for good. And crawling around under a filthy, dark house is a good way to remind me to secure the cage in the future. If we have a hamster to secure in the future. Oy vey.

When I go under the house, flashlight in hand, there's no break in the tube (yay!), but no telltale weight of a hamster either. Where is he? I hadn't seen him under the dryer or washing machine or any place else. !#%$#!!!!

Back to the laundry room, where I have to climb over the washer and check inside the open back of the dryer. Did you know hamsters don't come when you call them? But luckily, this one is very friendly, and had no problem coming out from the back of the dryer to me. Yay! I scooped him up and quickly determined I cannot vault a washing machine while holding a hamster. Hmmm. But, smart girl that I am, I'd brought an old pillowcase under the house with me in case I had to net him and had brought it into the laundry room. It was actually within reach. Yay! Did you know hamsters don't like being in pillowcases? Well, he had no choice.

So the hamster is back in his cage. The travel/appointment schedule for next month is set. We jet out on Sunday for the holidays (also with an ungodly schedule, but that's another story).

All is well and right in the world once again. For the moment.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, all! See you in '08!!!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Revisions: Wait, What About This One?

I just sent the fourth version of the latest chapter in my WIP to one of my critique partners. That is, the fourth official version of the chapter. There are three earlier versions I saved as possible alternatives or had lines in them I liked but didn’t quite fit where they were and might be used later. There were many, many other versions where bits and pieces were added or deleted then brought in under one of the keepers. One only has so much capacity to save junk.

While rewriting and revising are part of the game, this particular chapter was a real PITA. No, it’s not the one I alluded to in my last post. That one comes later--though this one does have some sexual tension in it and a thwarted attempt at intimacy. But it wasn’t the sexual mechanics of the scene that kicked my butt and led to a week or so of musing and keyboard-to-head frustration.

Initially, the scene was one of simple seduction, of two characters finally getting a chance to act upon their mutual attraction. OK, not so simple, and I had some doubts about how the scene was working out, but that’s what crit partners are for. I’d always planned on the protagonist to stop things short of the actual sex act, thereby (I hoped) building the tension between the two leads until the big “first time together” scene later. But somewhere along the line, between the submission of the first draft to my crit partner and my re-reading of it, the protag’s motivation did a 180, going from reluctant snubber to pursuer. Crap. And the second character (yes, I’m intentionally being dodgy with information about them) did a 180 the other way, going from the one who gets snubbed to the one who backs off. And damned if it doesn’t work better. OK, I think it works better. Again, a job for my crit partners to tackle at this point.

Easy, right? If I could come up with the fact that they changed direction then their reasons should be obvious. But it wasn’t so easy. The relationship between the two develops along two different lines, with two different motivations for pursuit. When the two switched sides, I had to figure out why. Each character, each scene, each story, needs to have three things: goal, motivation, and conflict (Thank you, Debra Dixon!).

I thought I had these taken care of, but apparently not. I think I know my characters pretty well going into a story, but now and again they surprise me by not doing what I want them to do. I’m not a writer who *speaks* to her characters. I don’t have visions of them in my head stamping their wee feet at me with petulant little pouts on their full lips. I do see scenes play out in my head, like a mini movie, but the characters don’t talk to me directly. What happens is that scenes just don’t work. They read flat and boring. It’s like watching a movie on an ancient projector with a sticky feed; the film in my brain stutters and the action stops. I have to go back and rewind, figure out what was going on before that point in the story and what will be going on later. I’m not a strict plotter, so sometimes this happens at turning points that need to be addressed with more depth than I’d previously considered. Which is fine. Most of the time, I catch it before sending bits out to my CPs. This time, not so much. So I revised. And revised, and revised, and revised. And I think it's a lot better than it was. Is it perfect? No, but that’s what my crit partners are for : )

And if this story is ever sold, chances are it will be revised again to some degree. But that’s fine too. Any agent or editor who wants to work with me and get me closer to publication is more than welcome to ask for revisions.