I’ve moved my blog to a new host. I won’t be posting here any more, but you can find me at http://www.maryannmarlowe.com.
On various blogs across the webosphere, I’ve released my favorite songs of the year for anyone who might want to listen. This year, Ima do it over here on my shiny new writer blog.
Usually, I go pretty far into Indie land, but this year’s batch veers scarily close to heavy alt/pop radio rotations, and I’m okay with that. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a favorite from 2014 you want to share.
The Grooveshark playlist has stopped loading on my blog. Please visit it here.
Spoon – Do You
Maroon 5 – Sex and Candy
I confess I have a soft spot for Adam Levine. He’s not hard on the eyes or the ears. Maroon 5 isn’t normally in my heavy rotation, but I confess to listening to their latest album a few times. None of it would have made it in this list until this little cover of Marcy Playground’s Sex and Candy wormed its way into my ear, super sexy. I like sex and candy. You’re welcome.
The Black Keys – Fever
This was my summer jam. Overplayed? Yes. Do I care? Nope.
Beck – Turn Away
Anyone who knows me well would know something from Beck’s Morning Phase would end up on my best of list. I love the entire album, but Turn Away kicks me in the feels every single time it rolls around. Lush, posh, devastating, delicious and suprising. It reminds me vaguely of The Beatle’s I’ll Be Back in the chord progressions. And also weirdly of Squeeze’s Is That Love, even though that’s a radically different song. This is where my brain goes when I’m humming Turn Away.
Milky Chance – Stolen Dance
It’s just so darn hooky.
Hozier – Take Me To Church
So this was probably the most overplayed song of 2014, but I still sing it at the top of my lungs with made up lyrics every time it comes on.
First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining
I love these girls. They are folk pop masters. And those harmonies are so delicious.
Paolo Nutini – Let Me Down Easy
This song has such a rich throwback vibe to it. And that voice, oh my.
Sia – Chandelier
No wait, this was the most overplayed song of 2014. I’m sensing a pattern here. But I’ve been listening to Sia for a decade, so I’m happy that she broke through and this is an amazing song.
Broken Bells – No Matter What You’re Told
This whole album is great, but this song is a placeholder so I could put up a YouTube of my real favorite song from the album. Grooveshark has removed it for whatever reason. I’m in love with Lazy Wonderland. If the Shins and Arctic Monkeys had a baby, it would be this song.
Wierd Al – Word Crimes
I always hated that awful Blurred Lines, but what Weird Al did with it makes me thank the music gods for the original turd. My grammar policing heart swoons to this.
For the past month, I’ve been dealing with what I dubbed “Schrödinger’s Cancer.” It’s the cancer you both have and do not have in the interim time between finding something suspicious and test results.
It’s that window of time that opens with you waiting to see if that unnatural thing goes away, convinced you’re healthy. It’s nothing. It has to go away.
Then when you google your symptoms, you discover that the thing you thought you might have may not even be the worst possibility. You are suddenly certain it is the worst possibility.
And when it doesn’t go away, you make an emergency appointment with the doctor to be told ambiguously that you might want to wait and see. Or have some tests done. Completely aware you’ve already waited too long and the end is nigh, you demand immediate tests and then start writing your will.
Then you have to struggle through the time when you can’t seem to get the lady at the doctor’s office to send a referral for several days. When she cavalierly says, “Oh I don’t have time to fax that today, I’ll do it sometime tomorrow,” and you want to scream, “I could be dead by then!”
The appointment is set. And you twiddle your thumbs until you finally get the screening. Then they come with the long faces and send you to the room where they don’t send people who are just fine. These strangers with credentials on a lanyard look very serious when they say, “I’m not going to lie to you…” And when they set up your date for surgery at the same time as the biopsy with the words “because of how they’ve categorized this…” you only hear the words “just in case.”
Then time passes. Too much time.
Pieces of your body are forcibly and violently extracted. You make jokes with the attending doctor because what else are you going to do? “This is almost like a day at the spa. Except, you know, not so much.” Or as you watch the ultrasound they use to guide the needle to that thing, whatever that thing is: “Doctor, give it to me straight. Is it a girl or a boy?”
You notice that they replaced one of the overhead ceiling tiles with a picture of the blue sky. This does not in any way comfort you. But the kindness of the hospital staff does. And you remain hopeful.
And time passes. Why is there so much time involved when evil could be right now on the march toward vital command centers? You consider whether you could operate by yourself with a melonballer.
Instead you learn about everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life. This is the truth of Schrödinger’s cancer – you regret many things. You find out that vitamin D cuts your risk of cancer in half and you shake a fist at your doctor for failing to tell you that early enough, but then remember he did.
You ask if those awful things you’ve occasionally thought manifested themselves as physical karmic retribution. You wish you hadn’t wished death on anyone. You won’t ever do that again.
You swear you won’t drink anymore alcohol, or eat sugar, or eat anything at all. You’ll just drink green tea. As a result, you lose those five pounds in one week that you’ve been fighting for the past year. And you realize that rapid weight loss is a symptom of cancer. You combat this by eating an entire combo meal at Wendy’s. You weigh more the next day and feel weirdly happy about that.
Then as time passes, you say “screw that.” Like a New Year’s resolution on January 3rd, your good intentions go up in smoke. It’s not like a beer’s going to kill me NOW. I’ve already got cancer. And if I don’t, then it didn’t do any harm in the first place.
You start to write the blog post in your head that you’ll write when you find out you’re healthy. Because you have good defense mechanisms and after a week of no results, you’re banking on hearing that it’s nothing. Despite all the information you’ve read online. Despite how dire it is to have something *right there*. It’s just easier to deal in hope than despair. And you don’t even consider how you’ll tell people you’re sick. And then you get a sudden case of superstitious worry that if you plan for the best, you’ll only hear the worst.
When you call for the results, you learn the doctor is at a conference. She’ll call you tomorrow.
By now, you’re back in the middle of your life, participating in a crazy contest, revising a story you’d better finish before you shuffle off this mortal coil. You’re watching Colbert with your kid and laughing your ass off. You’ve come to figure you’ll do whatever you have to do when you find out the results, so why worry?
And finally, you get the results. Schrödinger’s cancer is no longer one thing or the other. It is one thing. You breathe a sigh of relief. Or stiffen your spine for the next step.
And then you buy a beer.
And since you’re wondering, I’m breathing a sigh of relief.
Oh my God, YOU GUYS! I got some kind of an award! Woohoo! Thanks to Nikki Roberti for nominating me on her blog for something called a Liebster award. Now I’d never heard of it. So…. I checked Wikipedia and discovered: The page “Liebster award” does not exist.
Cutting edge stuff right here.
And if you run Liebster through Google translate from the detected German to Punjabi, you get ਪਿਆਰੇ. Doesn’t that look cool?
I’m clearly just procrastinating now. With no indication what exactly I get for doing this other than that sweet sweet narcissistic kickback I present:
The ਇਹ ਪੁਰਸਕਾਰ
Here are the questions Nikki asked. Stay tuned for the questions I get to ask my
1) How did you come up with your WIP’s title?
My current WIP changes titles more often than I update my Nano word count. Whenever I think of one I love, I go straight to Amazon to see how many books already snagged it. My favorite working title is now a secret for the time being, since it hasn’t been taken yet.
The working working title I tell people is Flirting Near Disaster. How I came up with that was when the song ‘Flirting With Disaster’ came on the radio and I thought it might make a great title, but then checked Amazon and found it was, obviously, taken. Since the name of the rock band in my story is Near Disaster, I thought of calling it Flirting With Near Disaster, but even I can tell that sucks. The secret name is way better.
2) What motivates you to write?
The voices in my head. Also napping. Napping always motivates me to write because as soon as I lay down, I have an epiphany. And then I get up to write and damned if I don’t want a nap. I am planning to invent a device that just records my brainwaves straight to Scrivener so I can write all day long in the manner I work best — napping.
3) Do you find yourself putting past experiences in your book? Give an example!
I draw a lot on past experiences, mainly because it validates that something I’m writing is plausible. It not only could happen, it did. The end result often ends up only vaguely connected to anything real. An example? In Calamity, Mallory has an older hair dresser she goes to out of loyalty more than out of any faith that he’s worth his salt. This hair dresser was inspired by my dentist who is literally eighty, and whose skills as a dentist are questionable. But you try telling that sweet old man you’re going to start seeing a modern dentist. You’ll have a hard time because your teeth hurt so much.
4) What is your main character’s biggest obstacle?
She’s judgmental and makes too many assumptions without verifying her opinions. She can look someone over one time and decide everything she needs to know about them. And she’ll misread situations based on her preconceived notions.
5) What is your crutch word that you always have to go back and delete because you use it too many times?
I’m giggling at how long that question was for such a sad little answer.
6) Who is your author role model and why?
Now that I’ve joined the writing community, my role models are anyone who puts the work in day after day, despite the constant fear of rejection — and also the constant rejection. They write amazing stories that I get to read. I’ve learned so much from so many people who generously share their time and knowledge — how to get rid of junk words or become a plotter or navigate the foreign waters of publication. So at this time my Pitch Wars buddies, my Pitch Wars mentor, and my critique partners are my constant role models and inspiration.
7) What happens in your favorite scene from your WIP?
My MFC discovers that she had misjudged the MC completely, and the truth is going to rock her world. Get it? Because of the rock band?
8) Please share a favorite line from your manuscript!
This is from a scene where Eden is in the dentist chair (not my octogenarian incidentally). She’s leaning back, drill shrilly squealing, and the dentist has on his blue mask, peering into her mouth. And he says …
“So, maybe we could go get a drink or something later.”
My eyelids went wide. “Argh ghongh ang argh.” Honestly, how could he think I’d say yes?
9) Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
Yeah. I can’t imagine not doing it.
10) What advice do you have for other authors?
Just keep swimming. If you love to write, keep at it. Find a writing community, share your work, and critique other writers. Surround yourself with people who understand. When you finish writing one thing, set it aside and write another. But mostly back to the first — keep swimming. Nobody can make you stop writing but you.
And now I get to tag some of my blogging buddies with questions of their own.
1) When did you decide to become an actual for real, sweat-pants-wearing, coffee-drinking, dirty-kitchen-inhabiting writer?
2) What genre(s) do you write and why are you drawn to that?
3) In fifty words or less, what is your current project about?
4) On an average day, what’s your writing routine?
5) Are you a plotter or a pantster?
6) Who is your favorite character you’ve ever written and how would you describe them?
7) What’s the most egregious writing cliche you’re guilty of committing?
8) What’s the greatest word in the English language?
9) What do you do on days when you just. can’t. write.
10) Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
Pitch Wars came along at the perfect time. I was in that sweet spot between thinking there was nothing wrong with my brand new MS and knowing everything was wrong with it. If I’d had any more or any less faith in my novel, I probably wouldn’t have entered it. It’s that delusional place you get to where if someone tells you it’s perfect, you believe them. And if someone tells you you need to trash it and start over, you believe them. If I hadn’t made it into the contest, I would have believed it was simultaneously awful and ready to query immediately.
The initial fun of any contest is just entering. It’s like playing the lottery where you pay to dream big. The odds of being selected were long (1200 novels were entered), but I allowed myself to have high hopes. And I allowed myself to prepare for ultimate disappointment. Everyone knows that not getting selected for a contest should never be taken as a rejection. There are too many slots for too few people. And in Pitch Wars specifically, people were being rejected for being TOO good. See above in re: sweet spot.
As much as I loved all the mentors and would have been happy just to be chosen, I had my sights on one mentor in particular. There was something delightfully mischievous and fun about the way Jaime Loren approached the entire pre-contest that drew me to her specifically. And the minxy vixen went and posted fake hints prior to the reveal just to throw me off. That’s the sort of hilarious antics that will win me over every time.
And when she picked ME, I’ll admit to some giddy fangirling.
Just by picking me, Jaime gave me a huge boost in confidence that my novel had *something* going for it. And that right there is worth the price of admission. But of course, getting selected for Pitch Wars also means *something* isn’t working. The whole point is for our mentors to help identify and fix problems to a) make our novel better and b) make us better writers.
This post is part of a blog hop for #PitchWars and will be hosted by the fearless C.M. Franklin on her blog. Follow the links at the bottom of this post to visit the other authors in this blog hop.
The first time someone asked me why I wrote Calamity, I answered without thinking, “Because it pleased me to do so.” And that’s true. I didn’t set out to write the Great American Novel or to criticize some aspect of the human race. I simply wanted to entertain myself with the hope that I could produce something that might entertain others.
So the question I’ll answer is, “What inspired me to write Calamity?”
I had been re-re-reworking my last MS in that clutchy way we do, occasionally setting it aside to follow an errant idea or other, then coming back again to find ways to get back into that world I had become so comfortable in. My Scrivener work area is a graveyard of half-told tales, and I started to worry I’d never have another compelling idea. That’s when I realized I needed to stop writing and start reading.
My stack of books waiting to be read never diminishes. It just topples over occasionally. Several books on my shelf — or more accurately on TOP of my bookshelf — were written by a close friend. I got them all at one time but didn’t read them in one sitting. The last book of four sat unopened with a lovely inscription on the inner flap that reads, “May the cards always be in your favor.” It’s a book about gambling, and sex, and love, and sex. Mostly gambling.
At the start of the novel, Shuffle Up and Deal by Susan DiPlacido, our intrepid heroine, a poker player mind you, suffers a streak of terrible luck. Not just with the cards but with everything else. And this all plays out in such a way that she’s at her absolute worst at the exact moment she first meets that famous poker player she has a legendary crush on. As it goes in romance novels, the heartthrob not only overlooks her embarrassing entrance into his life, he’s captivated by this apparent nut job of a girl. And — spoiler alert — things work out just fine.
After reading that, I began to imagine a scenario where embarrassing snafus don’t just fail to hinder the romance but inadvertently work in favor of landing Mr. Me Love You Long Time. Then my evil thoughts took it to eleven. What if snagging the heartthrob turns out to be just one more calamitous misfortune for our unlucky heroine. And what if — spoiler alert — things don’t work out just fine? Or at least not in the way she planned.
I knew I had to write that book.
Thus began my long slow torture of poor Mallory, the girl whose name literally means “the unlucky one.”
This is my second year participating in Nanowrimo. I’ve been looking forward to it for months. This year I’m dragging other people kicking and screaming along with me because they’ve all expressed a desire to “have written” which is what Nano gives you.
Here are ten reasons why I participate.
1. Excuses. I don’t need an excuse to write, ever. But if I can find one, I’ll take it. Nano is your ultimate excuse to say, “We’re having take out again tonight! Also, you can wear those unwashed pants another 2 days easy!”
2. Shared Insanity. All year there are opportunities to collectively experience the highs and lows of writing, but during Nano, there’s a concentrated madness. More people are organizing writing sprints. More people are confessing their lack of proper hygiene. More people have that zoned-out faraway crazy-eyed look about them. Nanoers understand.
3. The Editor is Dead. My internal editor is a flaming asshole. I don’t know about yours, but I could write a single sentence and my internal editor would immediately cringe at the future horror of that one Amazon reviewer who will zero in on it with the words: “derivative cowardly pablum.” During Nano, the editor slowly but surely realizes she’s unwelcome and shows herself the door. By the end of Nano, I may have some derivative pablum, but I can promise it won’t be cowardly. It’s more likely to be unusable crazy talk, but I can work with that.
4. Deadlines. I love goals. Big goals, small goals, short goals, tall goals. I love them so much I have a google spreadsheet I created just for Nano that turns red when I’m behind, green when I’m on target, and blue when I’m ahead. Every day, I’m accountable to write a certain QUANTITY of words with no regard to QUALITY. And I know it all comes to an end in 30 days time.
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Most of us have an aversion to critiquing and being critiqued, and this might cause us to fear finding or becoming a critique partner. I recently wrote about being a good critiquer when you CP with someone. This week, I wanted to write about the other half of the equation: the “partner” side of the job.
When I started this writing journey, I had a laptop, a sofa, a vague idea, and some borrowed gumption. I somehow turned that into a draft that I immediately blasted out to my non-writer friends. They, in turn, had one of two responses. Either they said it was great or they said it was lousy, but none of them told me why. I appreciated their time, but I couldn’t use their feedback because there really wasn’t any. They meant well, but until you’ve written, you can’t possibly know. And then of course, after I revised, I felt like I’d already borrowed enough of their time, so I couldn’t possibly ask them to re-read — even if that wouldn’t have been tantamount to dropping my MS into a garbage can.
I assumed working with CPs would be more of the same, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Last Spring, I found my CPs the way you do — through a writing contest and a shy little “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” My first attempt at feedback fell woefully short of helpful. I read the MS in one file, took notes in another, and emailed my reactions every time I finished a chapter. I just assumed any feedback was better than no feedback. And that’s true, and I know my CP appreciated every single word. But…
Meanwhile, my more experienced CP edited, tracked changes, and commented right in the margins of my file. When I got my MS back, I hunted for those comments, little gems of insight. The first time I came across a fat blurb of encouragement, I couldn’t contain my pudding face. Sure there were other comments — and again, see the part about critiquing — but they were specific and dead-on balls accurate.
And that’s the obvious role of a CP, but I was about to find out that things get better. A shit ton better.
In between novels, my CPs and I emailed about the obstacles we all struggle against as writers. We bounced around ideas for new novels and basically kept each other sane while waiting for responses to outstanding queries. We shared our experiences with each other and learned more than we could have on our own. We were in this together, through thick and thin. You feel like quitting? Tell your CP and see how long that feeling lasts. A good CP isn’t just that person who tells you your fly is down, s/he’s also that person who reminds you that the finishing line is just up ahead, that you can certainly pick yourself up and keep going, and that you ARE a contender. You’re not just going to finish. You’re going to win the chicken dinner.
And there’s more.
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O hai! I’ve agreed to be a part of Susan Nystoriak’s NaNo Mini-Series. The first post is all about the writers who have agreed to take part in this interview series. We’ll be sharing our different approaches to NaNo which is coming up fast. If you’ve ever even thought you might want to write a novel, check out nanowrimo.org. It’s a free event and there’s nothing to lose but that editor in your head telling you what you can’t do. Tell him to take a hike.
I have an eleven-year-old who has decided to write a novel. It’s four pages long and starts when her character wakes up. For a four-page novel, the action takes far too long to get going, but on the other hand, the ghost appears on page 1. When I read her novel, you know I tell her none of these things. When I read for her, I’m a good finder. I look for what works and I focus on those things. And I say, “Congratulations, you wrote a story!”
If being a critique partner were all about finding nothing but the good, I’d read all the manuscripts. But while finding good is critical (see what I did there?), there are a couple of reasons why being a bad finder is so very important.
The most obvious reason is that you’re tasked with giving your honest opinion. You’ve been entrusted with this document with the explicit understanding that you will critique your partner’s words. You’re not tasked with being a dick about it, but you may be the only person who will honestly tell your friend that you think of cheese every time you read the hero’s name, Boursin. At least before the Amazon reviewers do it. And by God, they will. You are the gate keeper.
The less obvious reason, and the one that brings me here today, is your loyal CP’s sanity. Say you decide not to mention the cheesy name that is interfering with an otherwise delightful read. Say you are afraid you’re the only one who might think that, or that — god forbid — you might hurt your CP’s feelings. These are human reactions to doling out the bad news. Most normal people don’t want to shit on someone else’s parade.
But imagine the scenario where the CP sends an MS out to three readers. Two report back that Boursin is the worst name for a hero imaginable, unless that hero is a cat. Ooh or a mouse! In which case, that could be fairly awesome. Now YOU come along, with all your good intentions and fear of loathing, and YOU say nothing about the name. Or worse, you lie. “Hey, cute name.” Now your CP is left with the dreaded conflicting information, which believe it or not, is worse than universal panning. When everyone hates something, it’s a quick fix. When the results are mixed, it leads to angst, which leads to paralysis. And paralysis is a writer’s mortal enemy. So congratulations, you just killed a writer.
This is not to say you should hesitate to praise that stinky name if you happen to dig it. I mean, to each his own, right? And CPs can duke it out over their varied opinions. It’s to be expected.
Trust your CPs to wear their big kid pants when they send you their words. If they’re serious about writing, they’ve got ’em on.
(And you can still be a good finder — as long as it’s honest.)