D.V. Sheppard

The web-log of a duck-herding author.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

For the Love of Cashew Milk and the Nervous, Gulpy, Awkward Face

 Alex J. Cavanaugh's Blog HopI sort of feel like a broken record. Like once a month I spit out all that ails me in a therapy session. But, I swear I'm not making it up. All that emotional upheaval that make January and February hell? Yeah, it was replaced by life and money hell :p It could be worse, but a trip to the ER for my husband, job changes, tax season, blah blah blah. The past couple weeks have been downright exhausting. Everything sort of happened at once. I like to think things are settling down, but I suppose until I get my final papers written for school I can't quite get comfy.

On a much lighter note, I just had some cashew milk ice cream and thought I died and went to heaven. As a milk-a-phobe (I'm not really afraid of milk, it just makes me feel like miserable), I have known better than to have ice cream for several months. It's really not worth it, and though I have accepted living without, every once in awhile I think about it and get tempted to pick up some non-dairy ice cream. Frankly, though, while usually I'm really not picky, I'm just not a fan of coconut or almond milk ice cream enough to pay five bucks a pint and I don't do soy. So I've just gussied up and tried not to complain about the situation. That being said, when I'm hankering for a cold treat, I'll sometimes mosey on by the freezer section of the store to see if a sorbet looks good. This time around I saw the cashew milk ice cream. It's new, at least in my area and was... well sort of on sale... meaning that if that price is on sale I will never pay full price :p You see I'd learned that the right brand of cashew milk actually has the closest flavor to milk without being sickly sweet or tasting like, well.. an almond. I decided to give it a try and was so excited about the result that I texted my husband with the new - and my boss with the news, because he's a non-dairy-er too.

What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing. I'm just that happy about my discovery. As for writing - I've gotten into the joy of revisions and have been really happy with all the changes so far. I even get excited about the progress! I see it written out like so:

Words Revised: 35,570
Words Yet to be Revised:86,686

And I think, "Yay! Progress!"

Then I think of the scenes coming up and the work to do, I get that nervous, gulpy, awkward face that they've mastered in cartoons, and wonder, "Will I keep making progress?"

It's a silly question, because - Heck yeah I'm gonna keep rolling on! None the less, it's a new challenge to be in this place. I feel excited and impatient, but mostly nervous at the prospect that I may just finish a book. A book that I feel is worth something. One that is worthy of sending out to be read. And hope seems so dangerous. But, dangerous or not, no one ever got anywhere with a book by staying safe and not risking it out in the real world.

So I send out a "Hurrah!" to all of you brave writers out there who are or have braved the danger and shared your work with the world!

How about you? Do you have that "knowing nod" to share about getting into a good revision of your book and seeing what's coming up with the realization of how hard it's going to be? What motivated you? What was the best tactic you took to revising?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

In Which I Toot My Own Horn and Shame Myself :P

I was feeling a little triumphant. You see, I've been stuck on that scene and - I got some really good ideas and encouragement from all y'alls (has anyone every told you that you rock? Because you do) - so I got to utilizing some of those ideas. One thing that helped a lot was getting the Wombat in to help me.

Now, first, I should explain that I had this sort of dilemma. You see, the Wombat is an amazing sounding board and crit partner. He's helped me with a ton of stuff. However, I've been apprehensive since coming back to Book 1 and starting revisions, to have him read the book as I've changed it. I don't want him to get sick of it, or too... numb to it? So I haven't let him read the revised work.

But then I got stuck. I'm still unwilling to budge on having him read the new stuff because I'm saving him for a read through once I finish my first revision - I need him to be able to have a start-to-finish experience, because I know that he knows what I want the book to be, and he will be able to tell me if I pulled it off. However... it's been a long time since he originally read my book... you know, as I wrote it. So I had him read my un-revised scenes in and around the section I've been stuck in.

He gave me his thoughts, and we hammered out the problems, and I shared the changes I'd made that needed to be incorporated and we beat the new scene into submission. It feels much more plausible and I feel more hopeful about how the pacing will pan out.

.... yeah... not that amazing, D.V.
Hurray! I got it all rolling and it's fun again! Yay! When I feel happy about writing - I like to cheer myself on with stats. So here they are:

Words Revised: 27,304
Words Yet to be Revised: 95,754

Yeah, I know, there is still a long way to go - but, hey! 27,304 words! That's like almost 110 pages of a mass market paperback :D And those pages are a lot better than they were :)

Now, obviously I still have a ways to go -but thinking about the Wombat helping me with my book, made me start thinking about critique partners. I'm about to reveal how much of a hermit, or workaholic or something-lonely-and-anti-social but... I really only have one friend that writes - and rarely if ever in the same genre. She's real busy, though I expect when this puppy is done that she will be willing to be a beta reader. She's rockin' awesome like that.

D.V..... Seriously? Feet back on the ground.
But... that's kind of it... and well.... I don't know how to get more help. How do you find critique partners? Are you best asking people who write in your genre? I mean... asking someone who isn't a huge fan read your 500 page epic fantasy sounds just unkind... I'm probably whining more than anything... but frankly, I don't know how to help myself with this. Which is frustrating because... I'm actually a pretty dang good critique partner. I know I'm tooting my own horn here - but, I love to help people optimize their vision - and I'm good at it. It's been a hugely gratifying experience to help people in my writing class and to hear how much I've been able to help them. I'm pretty lame when it comes to the grammar and punctuation - but the vision, the pacing, the message - I can help people get those across. I know I exist, so I know others exist... but how do you find each other? How do you find those symbiotic, mutually beneficial partnerships?

Dear D.V.
Get a Grip
- Love, D.V.

I suppose step one is to not be a hermit, or workaholic or something-lonely-and-anti-social that toots their own horn. Maybe two good beta-readers will be enough : P

P.S. - If you haven't already checked out my Me-Casted Book page, you can look at hunky pictures of men and women that I imagine my characters to look like.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Life, Revisions & Agent Blogs (IWSG)

 Alex J. Cavanaugh's Blog HopHiya folks! Happy March to y'all. Last month I spoke about how miserable things were. Friends - they stayed so freaking miserable. I say "Happy March" because in com
parison February it would have to be happy or it would have broken the internet. Or something... apparently that happens a lot. (The dress is white and gold O.O and so was the llama! o.O O.o).

I didn't really get anything resolved until last week. It took a lot of prayer, and getting over some SERIOUS nerves to handle the situation. Except that it was the reasonable response for any adult - I sort of feel like I should get a medal :p Anyway, now that I'm no longer vacillating between the pits of despair and the rage of the machine - now I reside in a fluffy cloud of meditation and reason - I'm peeking into my writing.

I sort of got royally stuck on a scene. I'm not sure what to do with it. I almost want to get rid of it - except it's not really one of those scenes you can get rid of. :/ But when I find myself in places like this I always wonder - if I don't want to write it (or in this case revise it).... then wouldn't that mean that no one would want to read it? I think that once I start working on it again, I will get back in the swing and get interested - but what I'm hoping for is some advice. I asked last month and got some good responses - but I want more! More! More I say!

What are your best revision tips? What are your favorite things about revision? What helps you revise to a pretty polish? 

While, I haven't been working on my book a ton this month - I have still kept in on the writing world. My favorite way to do that is to read agent blogs. Right now there are a few that I follow - but my absolute favorite is Janet Reid. I like her voice and her personality. I also love her commenters. There's gold in them their thoughts. If you aren't already reading some agent blogs I recommend you take advantage :)

May your March month be a happy month!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ode to the Okra - Omnomnomnom!

"Mmmmm Okra! Omnomnomnom!" - the Wombat 

A while back I mentioned that my better half - the Wombat - wrote a hilarious love letter to okra. Here it is! Enjoy:

Pickled Okra: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Long Distance Relationship

            Walking through the grocery store is always a heart-wrenching experience, knowing that I’ll catch a glimpse of you high on a shelf in the pickle isle stoically occupying your tiny spot like a sentinel. Oh my pickled okra, as I sit and reflect on our delicious history together, I realize that there must have been a time that we didn’t know each other. And yet, that’s so hard to imagine! As long as I can remember you’ve always been there, though mostly at a distance, like a well-loved uncle who also just so happens to be a mid-tier celebrity that travels more than stays at home. Always too expensive to actually be with you, but hyper aware of your presence wherever I go.
            Your label has been crafted into a face of comfort for those that know your inner zest, yet somehow common enough that you blend in unassumingly with the crowd. You have no need to bring awareness to yourself more than you do, because you’re an underground success. You have no need to show off or catch anyone’s eye, nor do you make yourself more important than you actually are. And to me, that’s one of your best qualities. I can imagine that you’re there for me; just me, you, and the memories that we’ve had. And sometimes that’s enough.
            Other times though, that’s not enough at all. I long for the cool touch of the glass jar that surrounds your true desirability. I ache for the soft gasp of air as the vacuum seal is broken with a steady counter clockwise twist to your golden lid. The burst of salivation as the aroma of your fermented spiced brine reaches my nose, like a salty dill perfume, causing my mind to reel as I so willingly recount our times together. The liquid that is your brine reminds me of the many tears we’ve shed for one another in what seems like eons since our last one-on-one connection.
            But most of all, I hurt for that soft texture as I sink our teeth in to the present moment with you, as we mingle the remembered with the new. It’s only the two of us now, reliving so many fond memories, just as we create new chapters in our long history together. Your soft and beautiful skin that hides an equally beautiful inside. A deeper core that pops with new and hidden excitement for life within every opened seed. I know these flavors have been kept hidden from the world; that this experience is just for me.

            Yes, sometimes it’s okay watching you at arms distance as you follow your dreams of niche success. It’s okay to ache a little as you wear your outer shell for the rest of the world, even if you never reach the widespread appeal that so drives you. But at other times, I need you here in my hands. I need your smell, your touch, and the salt that speaks so loudly of your experiences. But I’ve also learned that the distance makes every encounter a special treat. And while I wish we could always be together, maybe it’s the distance that has made our love grow so strong in the first place.

- Love, 
The Wombat

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Because, Life (IWSG)

I've been reading a couple y'all's recent posts and it seems I am not alone in January kind of... well suckin' awful. I don't know that I would say the month in its entirety held a complete enmity on existence, but it sure ended like it wanted to suffocate as much as it could manage.

I felt like crap last week. Pissed. Apathetic. Hurt. Numb. An awful cyclical LAME. I spat more expletives either in my head or out loud than I have probably in the past year as a whole. I don't swear as a general rule, so for me, it was a sign that I really didn't give a... poop... about anything.

I seem to be recovering, though, there are some things in life that I really wish would heal. Wombat and I dedicated the month of February to Prayer. Because... we really aren't good for anything else. Something's gotta give and when something's gotta give, you got it give it Up.

What does this have to do with writing? Dumb question, I know. How many of you can actually get good work and writing done on a project when you feel like you're in a mire? (Please, have mercy and don't post that it's during that time that you get all your most brilliant revisions and publications done, or I might cry)

I've done little if nothing. I couldn't remember why it mattered, or why I ever cared. It was sad face. I'm coming out the other end as of this Monday. Heck, I even had one of my patients at work offer a kind gesture that made me feel a little warm and fuzzy. She's one of those intuitive sort -you can't escape them seeing through the smiling lie on your face, no matter how practiced you've become (or not, My job in a nutshell? Maybe.)

So here I am tentatively poking my head out, wondering if it's safe to touch the manuscript again. It hurts to look at it and feel nothing. I have some hope.

 Alex J. Cavanaugh's Blog HopOn another note, as I have just delved into revisions for my book, I thought that I would take the advice of... well... some brilliant blogger that I read... can't recall who... it's all a blur... who mentioned writing a query letter even before writing a book - just to prove that your book is query-able. My book is definitely already written, but I figure as I am revising, it's in a "tear me up, glue me back together" stage that would allow major changes - should I find my story lacking important query-able elements. I don't know if that paragraph made any sense, but I have to hit the loo, so I'm not going to look back and fix it if it's gibberish because I need to go.

Well... I'm back... You'd think I had kids with how unabashed I am with sharing the schedule of my potty breaks. Anyway...

Thanks for listening, IWSGers. I will leave you with one more face palm. My last post was a lament on how my bitty super-beginner writing class didn't help much with my paper like I was hoping. This week - two papers that I passed around returned with incorrect grammar corrections. I think I incredulously ranted on my way home, but I suppose that's not fair of me. I know they were trying to help. Needless to say, I've officially adjusted my expectations, and will work on appreciating their efforts and willingness... but otherwise maybe just submit my paper to the schools online writing center for a tutor to look over.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Critique? Or Not to Critique?

The Wombat and I are in a sort of pre-college course. We have both been in college, and don't really need pre-college preparation, but we're praying folk, and when the opportunity came to our attention over the summer, we felt strong inspiration that we needed to participate. Personally, spiritually, socially - it has been a huge blessing. Through participating and fulfilling the requirements I hope for continued blessings going forward with schooling through a rockin' awesome discount on the per credit hour cost of tuition. 

Wombat - Strut
However, the classes we are taking are mandatory and no testing-out is offered. The results of which mean that I am currently taking a very introductory writing class. Very introductory. I'm only in the first week of class, so I'm not sure exactly how the class will pan out, but so far it's rather enjoyably easy. There's been some nice, breezy grammar review, which has been kind of fun in that way that can only be found when doing homework far below your actual competency. Then, of course, there are the writing assignments, and it's been pretty fun to stretch my fingers and write things that I would otherwise never bother to write.

(I just had assignment in which I had to write a love letter to something. I wrote about my Wipebook. It was precious. The Wombat wrote about pickled okra. It made me laugh and blush. As the class is associated with religious courses I had to advise him to edit it just a tad for content. A little innuendo = you can blame the reader for having a dirty mind. The amount of innuendo he had = hard to find someone innocent enough NOT to blush when reading, Maybe I'll post his paper up. It's totally worth reading.)

Tonight, though, in class we all split up into groups and then critiqued each others papers. This is always fun for me. I fancy myself pretty good at giving good critiques. I may be wrong about that, but I enjoy fancying myself with it. Anyway - my group held a good writer, and okay writer and a poor writer and me. It was fun and challenging to find out - in a very limited time - what would be the most helpful advice. 

Well, that was all fine - but then I got my critiques. Frankly, there was hardly anything to them. Maybe my paper really was that nicely put together. That's nice, but not very satisfying. I was ready for critique. I figure I was running amok of two writer hazards. The first possible hazard: there was no one in my group that actually cared, or felt themselves much in the way of writers, enough to think deep and tell me what might help. The other possible hazard: because one or two knew that I liked to write and did so as a hobby, the word got spread that I am "A Writer" - and who of those that do not also call themselves "A Writer" is going to assume that they could critique "A Writer." 

I was bumbed. Don't get me wrong I got nice compliments and there were three minor pieces of feedback that I can take back and consider while writing my subsequent drafts, but,,,, come on! I want it to get better! Which is to say - I want my skill to get better! Per my instructor, it sounds like I"m pretty set to ace the class, as the course parameters are so basic - and the actual writing assignments aren't earth shatteringly important to me, but... I have to write them, so I figure I might as well get some help in improving my writing along the way.

:p Maybe next writing assignment :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

She May Be Zombie (IWSG)

 Alex J. Cavanaugh's Blog Hop

She Lives!

You may think I am speaking of myself, and while coincidentally that's true, I actually speak - no rejoice in the rising from the dead of my dear friend and favorite writer - the Inkscratcher, herself! - R.M. Whitaker. This dear woman is a dear friend with a talent that I can only dream of achieving. To give you an idea of how rad this woman is - her hobby writing in high school had other writers asking if they could buy her stories so they could publish them. Pretty rockin' awesome.

Well, my dear friend has been on something of a writing hiatus. She's been off gallivanting the world, doing good, living life and rockin' it all. While I've been impressed, proud and happy for her, I could practically giggle with delight  to know that she is warming up her fingers again, and spreading her delicious talent in print form. I absolutely recommend you go and meet her. Click and say hi!

Needless to say, her resurrection post inspired me to climb out of my earthy tomb as well. You see - I could use some help and there is no better place to go than my dear IWSG. You see, divine inspiration - that only sometimes gentle but always correct "nudger" - came to me a couple months ago, smiled kindly and pushed me with not a bit of sheepishness right out of one project and back into another.

Last I spoke here on the interwebs I was working on writing Book 2 (working title Disbanded). I worked on it through fall continuously, if slowly. My determination was firm and I happily finished POV one, and had moved onto POV 2. I got miserably stuck, but Determination kept me hitting my head against the book cover trying to knock works out of my noggin and onto the page. Then came that smiling "nudger". 

I can't deny that it was something a relief, when I got that distinct impression sending me back to start edits of Book 1 (working title Unbanded). However, I didn't realize just what I was getting myself into. I'm being humbled and discovering that revision is hard. I feel like I'm working at a snails pace. I'd naturally hoped that much of my book (because of my obviously and overwhelming talent *now hangs head in shame*) would need good edits, but not necessarily HUMONGOUS re-writes. I admit this with gratitude that I can hide on this side of my screen from the amused "I could have told you that" expressions that you experienced folks have every write to smile my way. 

Because here I am, barely into my book and re-writing most of what is there. It's both exciting and exhausting. I'm making it better than I could have hoped in some cases, but also suffering through the re-positioning and re-filming with my author-cam.

So, while in my meeker state I want to know what you know - or rather:

What do you wish you'd known before your first major revision? What did you not do the first time you revised that you have never forgotten to do again because it's that freakin' amazing? What did you do that first time that you will never do again? Send me your expertise!