Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I'm reading

I just started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I read it as well as the second and third books in the series several years ago, but I'm determined to read all seven by the end of the year. While researching and writing recently, I've gained a whole new level of respect for J.K. Rowling.

I recently finished A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I read The Stupidest Angel last year and enjoyed it so much I couldn't wait to read something else by Moore. A Dirty Job was at times hilarious, but I didn't love it quite as much as Angel.

I've decided to take a break in between the Harry Potter novels. I ordered a collection of short stories by Chekov, so I think I'll tackle that after Sorcerer's Stone.

I've got tons of books I want to read before we reconnect our cable in time for the Olympics, but I can't stop writing long enough to get as much reading done as I'd like. Plus, I'm beta-reading/critiquing stories for several people, so that takes away from my leisure reading.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Man, it's hot! That's all we folks in Memphis talk about these days. I try to stay inside as much as possible while the temperature in our fair city hovers around the century mark, but sometimes the outdoors cannot be avoided.

Yesterday, my girls started swimming lessons at the YMCA, but we're not members. So I spent much of the morning melted to a plastic lounge chair on the Y's sweltering pool deck, unable to enjoy the refreshing water. I definitely would have been forced to take a dip if I'd worn my bathing suit. Won't make the mistake of leaving it at home again for the next two weeks of lessons. Just watch me crash the YMCA pool.

I spent a little over an hour yesterday afternoon at a truck stop in West Memphis, walking around the parking lot smelling and feeling the exhaust from dozens of big rigs. No fun at all. Not a bit of shade there, so the heat just reflects off the asphalt and envelops you.

It was research for my diesel fuel article. I think I'll do the rest of my interviews over the phone, safely hidden from the scorching July Memphis sun.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Daydreaming about that first check

I fantasize about winning the fiction contest I'll soon be entering. Of course, publication and validation would be the main rewards, but victory also comes with a $1,000 check. That would go straight in the checking account and then right back out, probably for groceries or a case of toilet paper. Alright, I'll indulge myself a little by spending $100 on books about writing. Look out David-Kidd, here I come! I'll also take hubby out to dinner to celebrate, if I can find a sitter (there's a $20 in it for you). Look out LeChardonnay, here we come!

So after the groceries, toilet paper, books, dinner and babysitter, that leaves about $580, which goes to one of our eight maxed-out credit cards. A girl can dream, can't she?

Ahhh, but a book-publishing deal, wouldn't that be sweet? Seeing as how I shelved my women's fiction novel, it'll be a children's book, say maybe a $5,000 advance against royalties (woo hoo!). The first $1,000 is accounted for (see above), and we're definitely going to get a used pop-up camper. It's a business expense, really, since we'll eventually go to all the great campgrounds in our area for book-marketing purposes. (Man, I can’t wait to do that! I’ve got dozens of great ideas.)

Seeing as how the book won't be out for probably two years after it's accepted, things will be pretty much the same around here, except Nina gets a new full-sized bed and Amelia gets a dresser with drawers that actually open (I've put about 10 coats of paint on her current one). I'd want to do something wonderful for hubby with the leftover $800, maybe a weekend on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. But he'd be more practical than that, so it would go toward the credit cards.

But here's the big publication fantasy (believe it or not, I really don't dream about making $1 million from my writing, not yet anyway). I don’t win the contest but I submit my short story to a Southern literary magazine, which loves it, publishes it and pays me in copies. But then a TV movie-of-the-week (do they still have those?) producer reads the story and wants to turn it into a movie. I haven't researched it much, but I'm kind of thinking about $50,000. The first $5,000 is accounted for (see above), and we'd have to put at least $25,000 more on bills (Hey! We're debt-free other than the mortgage!), so we've got about $20,000 left to play around with. Hubby definitely gets to go on weekend golf excursion. I'll even spring for the honor-bar bill, so that bumps it up to $1,000. That will warm him up for the obligatory 10-day trip to Disney World, which he absolutely will not be able to talk me out of ($5,000). Oh, and I'm headed to Nashville for the SCWBI regional conference ($500), plus some weekend writing conference in New York with hubby in tow, which will have to be at least five days so we can be tourists for a couple of days ($5,000). Absolute Write gets $100 (to buy myself and four of my beta readers--the wonderful Round John Virgin, Dana-Lynn, slhastings and a yet-undetermined fourth writer--full memberships, though $100 is not enough for all the great advice I've received there). Let's see, about $5,000 goes toward the house for improvements, repairs and a fence to block the view of the interstate behind our house. Well, make it $4,800 for all that, because at least $200 needs to go toward hiring a maid to clean my filthy house, which has grown even worse since I've been writing for hours on end every single day.

So that leaves $3,400 for savings, which we'll fall back on when hubby gets fired for taking off too much time. It won't last long, so I better get back to writing so I can sell that next story!

What I've been writing for the newspaper

A few recent articles I've written for The Commercial Appeal:

55-plus Housing in Memphis

Convict Turned Barber

Architects' Party Benefits Ronald McDonald House
(Hey look! The story was picked up by
Architect Online.)

My latest assignment is on the high price of diesel fuel and its effects locally. I'm headed to a West Memphis truck stop soon to talk to independent big-rig drivers.

Looks like I'm the official freelancer for business features, and I'm enjoying it.

A little info on who I am and why I'm here (in the literal, not philosophical, sense)

So I want to be a writer. Well, I'm already a writer, but I want to be a published writer. OK, I'm already that, too. But I want to be a published fiction writer. That I'm not...yet.

Writing is pretty much the only thing I've ever been really good at (and yes, I know that's a dangling preposition, but right now I'm a character, and this is my voice, so it's OK, or okay, whatever). Oh yeah, I was pretty good at math, too, but I didn't enjoy math.

I enjoy writing, a lot.

So when I was a junior in college and it was time to declare a major, journalism made sense. I was pretty good at it, and I liked it, so I became a journalist. Then I needed to make a living, so I became a waitress also. I dabbled in various types of writing over the years, but waiting tables, tending bar and managing a restaurant was my bread and butter.

Then I married a wonderful guy and gave birth to two of his kids, and I retired from the restaurant biz to be a stay-at-home mom. As rewarding and fulfilling as that usually is, there's been a void in my life, and now I'm trying to fill it. By writing, a lot.

I write freelance business features for Memphis' local paper, The Commercial Appeal. In June, I started on a full-length women's fiction novel and wrote about 60 pages (single-spaced!) in a day and a half before becoming totally overwhelmed by the project. I decided I needed to hone my fiction-writing skills on shorter pieces. So I wrote a children's book, which I recently submitted to a New York publisher. And a poem, which was submitted to and accepted by an upstart literary magazine. And a short story, which I'll soon submit to a fiction-writing contest.

Right now, I'm very happy, inspired and kinda proud of myself. I'm 41, and I'm finally dedicating myself to becoming a published author of fiction. This is my blog about my endeavors.