Pickled Pig Feet

Writer Friends, I need your help. I signed up for a humor writing workshop led by Mary Jo Pehl for this coming Saturday. The only requirement she had for all of the attendees was that we do something new, something we had never done before, in advance. And, of course, take notes.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve lived a full life. If I wanted to do it — or thought I might — I went ahead. So, while I have no regrets over missed chances, there’s also not a lot left to try. (Well, not a lot that I’m *willing* to try.) But last year, I was writing a novel that had a character doing something I had never done – something I could do. I didn’t do it, but I could have. It wasn’t a big deal. What was it, you ask? Simple. Eat a pickled pig’s foot.

So… that’s why I quit writing that book. I just couldn’t stomach the research angle. But I figured I could do it this year, for the workshop. I’m a big girl, right? I can handle a little bit of bright pink, hacked-off stringy, brined pork with a hoof for a handle.

Sorry. My inner vegetarian is NOT letting me do this horrible thing. So I have to come up with something, anything, else. Fast.

The only other thing I can come up with – that doesn’t involve possible jail time or a need for a blood test —  is skinny-dipping at the infamous Austin nude beach, Hippie Hollow.

Please don’t make me show my dimples to a bunch of old freaks this week. Help me come up with something new to do.


I Smell A Unicorn

So, you write the next Great American Children’s Novel. You’re so proud of it, you can’t wait to show it to everyone – your family, friends, agent, check-out guy at the grocery. Just one more quick read, you think, and it will be ready to start winning Newbery prizes and making you J. K. Rolling-in-Dough. Just one more quick read… wait! What’s that? Why is there a funny smell coming from Chapter Three? What the heck? There it is – the tell-tale stain of a fairy tale creature who’s been clumsily foreshadowed all over your manuscript. That’s going to take hours to clean up! Who let that thing in here? The author, you say? It’s a magical world, sure, but a strictly defined one, where the magic is limited so the rest of the world seems normal, which makes it all plausible, and creepy, and… oh, no. I think I saw a unicorn behind the next page.  A freakin’ unicorn.

Crap. Get the delete key out, boys. We’re going to be revising for a while longer.

Once more, Writer Friends, into the breach. Hold my trembling, unicorn-free hand? I have to go grind some very small, child-sized bones to make my bread.


NB: Thank you to Sam, who when I was angsting about how I was writing “too dark” for children, reminded me of the Hunger Games.

What Do I Want? More Yummy Demons

I am hip-deep in revisions on the current WIP, thanks to my amazing Beta Reader Lori (who shall heretofore be called The Ultimate Authority, To Be Obeyed At All Costs), and spending the rest of my time volunteering at Cub Scout Camp*with Cama Rama Ding Dong and The Drewber. (Okay, they ticked me off, so I get to spread their pet nicknames online. Petty, I know. But I do feel better now.)

The problem with being so busy, and knowing I need to crank out an awesome manuscript SOON, is that I can’t start reading a new book. If I do, The Novel Progress Express will jump the tracks and land on a beach with a ten-foot-tall TBR stack and a bunch of mojitos. So, instead, I’ve been allowing myself tasty little bite-size fictional treats.

You have to try this one! My agent-sister, Lisa DesRochers, has a book coming out in September, and sh’es posting sneak peek chapters on Tuesdays. Perfect! Check these chapters out for Knowledge On How To Write YA Openings With Mucho Sexual Tension. (Make sure you go back to June 15 for chapter one.)

Glad I don’t write YA; I would probably get depressed. As it is, I’m loving her yummy MC. Mmmmmmm.

*Camp Hell-On-Earth, populated by screaming fifth graders who think squirting me in the butt with a water pistol is nifty. I don’t even mind, because the temperature has been approximately 97 bazillion degrees in our all-outdoor-mostly-unshaded camp site. Ugh. So why am I still having fun doing it? Masochism?

No Room for My Books

The day has come at last. I have no more room for books in my house, and must therefore permanently suspend the acquisition of any and all new titles.

Bwa ha ha ha ha haahahahaha!!!

Yeah, like that’s going to happen. What’s really happening is that I’m planning to reward the completion and first revision of my WIP by buying a bookshelf or two to house all those gorgeous, colorful, fresh-paged lovelies that keep falling into my arms. (It was the latest poetry book that arrived today in the mail – thank you, book fairy! – that made up my mind.)

So, any suggestions? I’m thinking Ikea. I’m also dreaming about shelves like this.

Mmmm. It makes me feel dirty just looking at all those hardbacks.

Quote for the day: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” –  Marcus Tullius Cicero

Write well, friends!

Truth with a Capital T

I’m back from Disney World, ready to… well, nap, actually. Have you ever gone to Disney with your kids? It’s exhausting. But don’t worry. After a few more days of sleep, and some therapy sessions to remove the soundtrack to It’s A Small World that’s stuck in my brain like a Wrath of Khan maggot, I’ll be back to writing.

That is, if reading books like my friend Bethany Hegedus’ Truth with a Capital T doesn’t make me give it up entirely.

I took three books on the plane for altitude reading. A couple of cruddy romance/mysteries, and one precious, loaned ARC of Bethany’s.

It’s a good thing I like her so darn much, so I can be happy for her rather than just pea-green envious of her skillz. I spent most of the time in the air being pulled straight through this middle-grade novel about a girl named Maebelle working to uncover a family mystery, make friends in her grandparent’s new town, and find a way to feel special in a family chock-full of talent. It was touching, fun, funny, and loaded with those little pieces of small-town Southern life that made it perfectly real.

What amazed me most is Bethany’s fearlessness – she throws her characters into thorny situations, tackling topics like mixed-race families and the different responses those kids face in the North and South, and pulls it all off. She’s written one of those wonders: a book that would be good for kids to read, that they would WANT to read. Not an easy task.

Now, if I can stop all the fan-girl gushing, I have a book of my own to finish. And a local SCBWI meeting to attend in the morning! Fun:)

Poetry and Pole-dancing

Let’s just get this out of the way: I won a poetry contest – with prizes! being sent to me! yay! –  this week. The spring poetry contest, to be specific, over on Absolute Write, the best place on the web for both disgruntled and gruntled writers to hang, chill, vent, and post their work. (I first saw Kody Keplinger‘s query and pages for The DUFF there – blew me away, even back then. And now look at her! A star on the rise.)

And then today, I taught my booty-shaking Zumba class, and went to have coffee with my writer friend Bethany Hegedus who has a new book coming out, and because she is so awesome and generous, loaned me one of her precious few ARCs to read. The book? Truth with a Capital T. It’s amazing so far. I’ll post more later. 😉

At coffee/lunch, I mentioned I’d been writing and submitting my poetry (along with all that other stuff I write) and Bethany admitted that she writes poetry, but she never sends it out.

As it turns out, I have a LOT of Writer Friends who are the same! Fearless in their writing, and in their subbing of fiction and non-fiction, but hiding Dickinsonian trunks of unseen verse in virtual trunks at the feet of their e-beds. Like they’re ashamed of it. Or like it’s too private to show to anyone. Too personal, maybe,  to expose to the gimlet eyes of editors? Or even the loving, generous eyes of Writer Friends?

I understand this. Years ago, I hid all my poetry. (Um, this was actually a wise move. It was very angsty, and passionate, and terribly, terribly bad.) What happened? When did I decide to trot my poetry out onto the stage, dress it up in spangles and paste, and see how many dollar bills the guys and gals in the Editor’s Airport Lounge would stuff into my verbal G-string?

Does it cheapen my poetry to sign it up for all those Wet T-shirt Contests with prizes of a few dollars and the possibility of long-lasting humiliation and a Poets Gone Wild video that will haunt me – oh, wait, poems aren’t videotaped. Whew! Still, you get my drift.

Or, in that questionable argument the  post-feminist feminists constructed, where literal pole-dancing was re-visioned as a way to take back one’s own sexual/physical power, does my willingness to show it all strengthen me – and my work – somehow?

Okay, okay, I’m laughing my butt off as I type this. Taking it all too seriously, I know, and stretching the metaphor for giggles. Still… I am almost certain, from what I know of Bethany’s and my other poetry-hiding Writer Friends, that their verse would kick my verse’s feeble butt, if they decided to bring it out. And that would be a good thing. The world needs more poems. Hot, sexy tightly-written poems… and also slightly overweight poems, with stretchmarks, freckles, and wrinkles on their butts.

So… you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

My poems, that is. Nobody sees the butt wrinkles.

Other News: Off to Disney in two days! So, no blog posts for a bit. Nice addition to the vacation is that I get to meet up with Writer Friends who inhabit Orlando: Lisa Iriarte and Larissa Hardesty. Cool.

Embarrassing Yourself (And Your Kids)

Happy Monday! It’s Overshare Day on Nikki’s Blog, so settle back in your comfy chairs and get ready to learn things you never wanted to know about me. Don’t worry, I have an actual reason for the information. Not a great reason, but a reason. So here goes.

One of the joys in my sad, pathetic housewife life is embarrassing my children. I do it as regularly and publicly as I can. (Just yesterday, I sang and danced Lady Gaga’s song Telephone (while on Grandma’s boat on Lake Austin – sound travels better over water) to my two boys and their 10 year-old cousin Josh. They all hid under beach towels, but that did not deter me. No! I made it all the way through to the Beyonce part of the video. Now that’s dedication.) I was deemed the most embarrassing mom in the  universe. Score!

I also do embarrassing things at home, too. And you know what? The boys don’t mind that so much, as long as no one else can hear me. Like, for two or three months last year, as soon as the kids arrived home from school, I got out my guitar and played a made-up song about farting called Bust a Grumpy while the boys danced on the bed.* The refrain was plebeian but, Oh, the verses! Full of all sorts of details describing flatulence. (I am, you know, a published poet. You got mad word skillz, ya use ’em. LOL)

I digress.Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Willing to embarass yourself… and those you love. As a writer, you gotta do it. Come on, it takes a pretty thick ego to call yourself a writer, and a thicker one to write a novel that you send out into the cold, hard world. It’s even harder to do something novel with your novel, or whatever you’re writing. To take a risk, to do something not quite like what everyone else is doing? Terrifying. Potentially excruciatingly embarrassing. Build up that ego; you’re going to need it.

There are going to be plenty of people who will tell you that your novel in verse/picture book in emails/YA paranormal romance about sentient cheeses is the worst idea they’ve ever heard. (Hopefully not your beta readers.) But write it anyway. Will it get published? Probably not. Most things don’t. But will you experience an almost transcendent joy in the creation of that thing that your uncool heart/imagination/Dork-Muse called forth into being? Yes, you will. And that’s the real payoff.

When I daydream, I hear children laughing. Sometimes it’s my real kids laughing about the bedtime story I made up for them that night. (Talk about payoff. All my bedtime stories hit the bestseller lists. 😉

Someday I hope it will be the children reading my work. It could be that they’ll laugh at me, instead of with me. So what? I stopped trying to be cool long ago, and I never was very good at it anyway. What I want to be good at is telling my stories in a new way. Even if that means making myself look like an idiot. Even if it means mortifying all those associated with me.

It probably will. Hey, I have a whole lot of kids, family members, and beta reader friends to embarrass. I am so blessed.

Do you ever find yourself worried about what others will think of your work? Do you ever censor yourself to avoid embarrassment… or even hide your manuscripts in a drawer/your light under a bushel to avoid being laughed at/rejected? Don’t we all know writers who do that? Let’s not be that kind of writer, Friends.

Write well, and bravely. Have fun with your work!

News: An editor of a literary journal nominated a short story of mine for an award/competition thingy. I’ll give more details later, if anything comes of it. For now, I’m just feeling all warm and fuzzy knowing he thought my little story was good enough to be sent on!

* They made me swear never to tell anyone about this. What can I say? I’m a fiction writer. I lie all the time.

Are We There Yet?

This is the summer of the road trip. Last year, My mom and I took the boyz on a glorious, fun-filled, action-packed 36-hour (thank Heaven for in-car DVD players) road trip up to Ohio to visit my brother and his family. It was fun, even if my mom did insist on taking her two-pound toothless chihuahua (aptly named Booger) and even though I had to drive every single mile of the way in Stepdad’s truck, hauling a caravan. We stopped a lot (the joy of not taking a grown man with you on a road trip is you never have to apologize for needing a pit stop every 75 miles) and had a blast.

Dave got jealous, since he had to stay home and work. To make up for it, this summer, Dave and I are taking the boys on a 10 day fun-filled journey through Fort Davis, Texas, to White Sands, New Mexico, Santa Fe, and back through Carlsbad Caverns. (Also, we’ll hit Taos, and some other places, natch). I can’t wait. And no, I’m not kidding. Some of my most amazing memories are from the road trips my parents took with me and the sibs when we were little. Of course, for them, that was the only vacation option, since money was an issue. We roughed it. (New topic beginning next week: Why I Hate Camping, the First Installment in a Fifty-Part Series.) Dave and I will be staying in hotels every night. Ah, showers and beds. Bliss.

Anyway, I was thinking about road trips and writing novels, and how they’re pretty similar for me. I mean, when I let myself, I enjoy the writing process – even the tricky parts – as much or more than getting to the end. You know, that “Eureka!” feeling? When I realize that where your subconscious (ah, clever, precious subconscious Nikki, how I love you) has taken the plot, is so much cooler than where you might have steered it? It’s the same feeling you get when you look out the window and see a triple rainbow arching over the flat West Texas plains. Holy cow! What a surprise. What a blessing.

And, of course, there are all those moments when you’re slogging along – driving through the metaphorical rain of the manuscript – when all you can think is “Are we there yet?” Even the flat tires (cardboard characters!), and busted timing belts (pacing issues!) turn into really funny stories, um, ten years later or so. I hope.

All this to say, I think I’m there. I just got Blessing in Disguise back from my last beta reader. (Betas are like triple rainbows, too, infinitely precious. Mwa!) I think it’s time to pack this one up. Just one more read-aloud, a few more miles… tomorrow I have to hop back on the Gingerbread Express, and see if I can finish yet another first draft before June! I hope revising that one is as rewarding as the last one has been.

Any fun vacation plans, Friends? Or even long-winded metaphors about writing and traveling? LOL

Write well!

The Most Fabulous Aunt in the World

Okay, I’m so totally going to win that title. By some freakish stroke of luck, I placed the winning bid on the COOLEST item* in the Do The Write Thing For Nashville Silent Auction this week. I won Author Cyn Balog’s prize package, which includes: her new book, Fairy Tales (which has been on the TBR list for months!), a fortune cookie necklace, and the right to name a character in her upcoming-in-2012 YA novel.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Nikki, you gorgeous woman, who writes so marvelously and has impeccable fashion sense, don’t you get to name all your own characters anyway? Why would picking another author’s character name be a positive?”

Um, thank you for noticing all that, and for asking. And why? Because I’m giving the naming privilege to my 14 y.o. niece for her birthday. She is a voracious reader – especially of YA paranormal – and she will EAT THIS UP.

Think about it. She will be able to show all her friends her character name in a book! (I hope she picks her own name: Taryn. Cool, right?) And not just in her Aunt’s book. (Actually, I have a published story with her name as the MC, but she wasn’t that thrilled. It was a story for seven year-olds, so I guess I understand.)

All this awesomeness *almost* makes up for the fact that I’m not rich enough to have won the other things I wanted. Sigh.

In Writing News: I finished my latest round of revisions on Blessing, and sent it off to the final beta readers. I’m pounding away at Gingerbread, so as to avoid public humiliation at the hands of Lori, my whip-wielding crit partner from Cali. And I’m working on another essay or two. Whew!

In Other News: No turklings yet. Still hoping.

My other dog, Sugar the fox terrier, got bitten by a rattlesnake this week. Yes, that’s two for two this year. She’s recovering nicely, but I am LIVING WITH A RATTLESNAKE IN MY YARD.

I’ll try to calm down, but AGGGGGHHH! We can’t find it. Seriously, we did it all, even poured gasoline down all the holes to flush it out. (Yes, stop for a mental image of me standing there in cowboy boots with a hoe at the ready, waiting for a rattlesnake to come shooting out of its hole toward me. Wait, your mental image has me in overalls? No, I’m not that country. It was jeans. There you go. Now laugh.)

Also, I sang karaoke for the first time. It was…. interesting.  I will say no more unless I’m subpoenaed.

Write Well, Friends! And stay away from snakes.

* Um, the VERY coolest item would be the one my agent donated. But since she’s already my agent, I didn’t bid on it. I did, however, tell people about it! It went for, like, thirteen squintillion dollars. Cheap at any price. 😉

Turkey Eggs

Okay, this one’s weird. Tonight, my dear friend and neighbor Sue came over to celebrate her birthday (um, by bringing over her birthday presents – chocolate-covered strawberries and muscat – to share. Take note, friends. On your birthday, YOU provide the feast!). She announced that her husband Bob had inadvertently mowed down the tall grass all around a wild turkey’s nest, and that the hen hadn’t come back to her eggs since yesterday.

Most people would say this was too bad, nature in action, yada yada. Me? I said, “Cameron, take this basket, go get those eggs, and stick ’em under Broody (our broody hen who sits on her butt in the nesting box all day, pecking anyone who reaches in to gather the chicken eggs). We’re going to raise some turkeys.” The boys were thrilled, and I became The Coolest Country Mom ever.

Now, please don’t tell me this is a bad idea. I don’t want to know. I want to see if the eggs will hatch. And then, I want to watch Broody take care of a half dozen gangly turkeys. (We’ve decided to call them The Ugly Turklings if they do hatch.)

I’ll probably be back in a few days with news that the eggs are rotting, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be posting cute pictures like this.

In writing news, I got a check in the mail from an unexpected place. Judson Press, who publishes The Secret Place (a devotional book) has accepted – and sent my check for, hooray! – a tiny piece I sent them over eight months ago. Over Eight Months. People are pregnant for less time. I had completely forgotten about it.

So, the moral is, a la Galaxyquest —  “Never give up! Never surrender!”

Also, my beta readers are getting back to me with comments on Blessing. I am thrilled. The comments so far are helpful, and doable. I feel very hopeful I can get Blessing back to Agent Suzie by the end of the month! I have to admit, the comments of one reviewer had *me* in tears. This is how I felt.

Write well, Writer Friends! And hatch lots of lovely, fluffy plots.