July 26, 2010 | By: Tracy

Brain Farts

The ever-so-wise Homer Simpson once said :  "How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

Like Homer, I have my fair share of "DOH!" moments.

My most recent one came last night while I was working, once again, on my first chapter. (That beyotch refuses to go down, I tell you).

Anyway, somewhere in the course of about an hour, I managed to forget everything I know about my tenses. Seriously, I couldn't figure out what tense I was revising in. I write in past tense, but it sounded suspiciously like present to me (and I have no idea why). Yet when I noticed it and tried to correct myself my past tense sounded TOO past tense. 

Have you ever ridden the "Zipper" at the carnival?  That crazy ride where you willingly strap yourself into a cage that zips and twirls and spins high in the air, leaving you not knowing which side is up?  Yeah, that's pretty much what I felt like last night.

It was so bad, I had to stop what I was doing and read a real book just to re-familiarize myself with how to write properly. Darn stupidity leak caused me a whole night of revision work!!

On a positive note, I finally got myself hooked up with the RSS feeds I was talking about a few posts back. So going forward, I should be much better about keeping up with everyone's blogs. 

And I got to meet Terry from A Writer of Wrongs while he and his family were in town this weekend. It was freaking awesome to meet a fellow blog buddy (even if we spent more time talking baseball than writing) and now I'm on a mission to meet as many writing blog buddies as I can. 
July 22, 2010 | By: Tracy

To Read or Not to Read

While in the break room, getting our morning fix of coffee, a co-worker (who happens to also be a fellow Nook lover) and I had the following conversation…

Co-worker: So, have you been doing a lot of reading on your Nook lately?

Me: Unfortunately no, I’ve haven’t had much time. Between that and my stack of REAL books I’ve only read about 5-6 in the past two months since I got it. (Though I’ve purchased more than a dozen e-books in that span)

Co-worker: Um, I think that’s pretty good, actually.

I realized after that conversation just how widely people’s idea of the term “read a lot” varies. For me I’m most comfortable when I read approximately a book a week (more if I’m on vacation -- or unemployed). So reading only 5 over the course of eight weeks feels like slacking. Truthfully though, I hardly ever read ONE book exclusively. I usually have no less than two/no more than five in limbo going at any given point in time. So I suppose it’s more accurate to say I’m in the habit of FINISHING one book a week.

I tend to forget that this probably puts me more in the “voracious reader” category. I’m sure there are plenty of people who consider themselves faithful readers who don’t (nor do they want to) read at the rate that feels normal for me.

Long story short, I got curious and decided to unofficially poll my fellow blog buddies.

So, how much do you read under “normal” circumstances?
July 20, 2010 | By: Tracy

Twilight & Harry Potter, what have you done?!

When I was young and impressionable -- we’re just going to pretend it was last summer, k? -- those of us old enough to rebel against our parents, but young enough to need them to drive us places so we could hang out with our friends had only one place to go without the parental units insisting on being in tow.

The Mall!

We were Mall Rats and loved it. We thought we owned the food court … and the boys who worked the concession stands at the movie theater were fair game when it came to getting your flirt on. We passed most of our Friday and Saturday nights at the mall, making it our home away from home.

Apparently things have changed a little.

I went into Barnes & Noble last Friday evening to do a little revision work (nevermind the lack of social life that allows to me to spend my Friday nights at a bookstore). It was then I learned that the B&N in Ellicott City, MD has apparently become the new IN place for the braces-and-learners-permit crowd to hang out from time to time.

When did this happen????

I have no real proof, but I’m fairly certain that the huge spike in YA readers -- and those of us who technically qualify as adults, but eat the stories up like chocolate contraband at a Jenny Craig convention -- is thanks to the emergence of widespread popular series like “Twilight” and “Harry Potter”. Now it’s actually considered fairly cool to hang out at the B&N cafĂ©.

I was so ahead of my time when it came to the cool factor! I just wish everyone else had known it back then.
July 13, 2010 | By: Tracy


Okay, so I’ve identified that I need to better organize my blog interests to get the most productive use of my dwindled blog reading/commenting time. Let’s face it, I’m an easily distracted person and if there isn’t a solid plan in place I’ll never get anything done.

I’ve been using Google reader to browse through my peep’s blog entries (this is why catchy titles are important, people) and read those that snag my attention. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to figure out how to organize the damn thing into nice little lists. Or find a way to request it remove an entry from my TBR (to be reads) list, once I have, in fact, read it. Right now I have to sift through posts I’ve already viewed to get to the ones I haven’t.

Not to mention, I have a considerable handful of my favorite blogs that Google refuses to acknowledge in its feed -- no matter how nicely I ask. I’ll spare you the details of the not-so-pleasant conversation Google and I had last night. Mostly it was a good deal of yelling on my part, while Google stared at me with a blank expression on its screen face.

Anyway, so I’m trying to go the RSS feed route so I can have everything filtered through my email. Unfortunately, I’m not really what you’d call technologically savvy . . . so, if you notice any sort of weird activity involving subscriptions to your blogs via RSS in the coming days do not fear. You aren’t being attacked by spammers. You just have a Tracy trying to figure out what the hell she’s doing.

Any tips, tricks or hints are greatly appreciated. :D
July 12, 2010 | By: Tracy

Revenge of the E-book

I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back to posting 3-4 times a week. I warn you all I’m likely to be random though, but I’ll also do my best to start making my posts a bit shorter. After all who doesn’t like a quickie every now-and-again?

For a long, long time (the past year, basically) I swore I’d never enjoy reading a book that wasn’t made of paper & ink. Then, in early May, I was bedazzled by the wonder that is Barnes & Nobles’ Nook and bought one for myself.

In early May, I swore I would still buy more paper than electronic books. My Nook was to be used, I said to myself, only to avoid buying hard covers (which I despise). Since early May my ebook to paper book purchasing ratio is 4:1.

Furthermore, I’ve discovered that when it comes to exploring & reading new authors, I feel more comfortable taking chances on ebooks. Something about the paper version feels like a commitment, and I’ve become more selective about my bookshelf collection.

The moral of this story (aside from the fact that I can’t follow through with a single promise to myself, apparently) is that people’s perceptions change. Maybe not as quickly as mine, but they do change. Even if you aren’t a fan of the ereaders personally, make sure that when you do get an agent you find one who’s savy about contracts for electronic books.

Why? Because there may be more people like me out there than you think. ;o)
July 8, 2010 | By: Tracy

I'm Such a Slacker!

Okay, not really ... but it feels like it sometimes.

And I'm not even talking about the frequency with which I have NOT been posting lately. (I think I have beaten that poor little horsey to death already)

I'm talking about the fact that I'm RELIEVED the publishing industry is on an unofficial summer vacation. Why? Because it means the pressure has been taken off my shoulders for a while.

I have a tendency to, far too often, place unfair goals on myself -- most especially when it comes to time management. Sometimes what I need is for someone to stand in my way holding a "SLOW" sign, otherwise I'll continue to push full-steam ahead at a pace that exhausts me... and resent every minute of it. (I have Type-A personality issues. You needn't tell me, I already know.)

Anyway, I feel bad for being relaxed by the thought that most agents aren't accepting queries (or are at least frowning upon them more so than normal) until September-ish. It's not fair to my fellow writers who are unequivocally ready to be in Query Hell right now. I feel guilty for enjoying the chance to breathe and finish this current (and most in-depth/focused) revision in a more realistic timeline. (Yay, Fall!) After all, it's not my fellow writers' fault that I have unrealistic expectations of myself.

To those of you currently querying, forgive me.

But the good news is, since I don't have to cross those query fingers for myself, I can keep them crossed for you!! I really only need one hand during the revision stage anyhow.
July 1, 2010 | By: Tracy

Planners & Pantsers: Planners Needed!

Alright folks, I need help.

We all know there are pretty much two types of writers: Pantsers (those who fly by the seat of their pants while writing) & Planners (those who hyperventilate at the thought of having to begin a story without massive outlines and characterizations in place).

I’ve always prided myself on being a Pantser. Never minded the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how my story was going to get from one major plot point to another. Now that my schedule is more hectic, however, I need to find a way to squeeze the most productivity from every writing minute. As much as I enjoy the freedom of being a Pantser, I won’t lie and say it’s an efficient writing style.

Long story short – I’ve decided that for this next story idea I want to see if doing a little planning/outlining ahead of time keeps it more focused. The less chaos in the revision stage, the better, right?

This is where I need help! I’m not really sure how to begin.

I’m not worried about character development. It’s pre-plotting the outline that has me tangled up. To me “outlines” are those things we had to do in high school--I hated them with a passion-- so I think I’m having a bit of a mental block.

I’ve got a huge dry erase board to mark up with some sort of structure: perhaps what I’d like to have happen chapter by chapter? I just don’t know how to start.

So, I’m looking for any tips and tricks from you Planners out there. What do YOU do before you start a story? How do you make sure you keep your story on track? Are you okay if, in the midst of writing, your story starts to veer away from the outline?

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!