convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #17

i am talking to strangers, why aren’t you?

last week, i dialed the number for a spa local to my parents’ house because i’m finally going to use the gift certificate my friends gave me for my birthday last year.

me: hi, i’d like to set up an appointment.

receptionist: WOOOOOOOOOOAH.

me: *thinks to self: did i say something wrong?* uh. *laughs nervously*

receptionist: you’re the first person who’s called this week to set up an appointment. everyone else has been ‘can i get a gift certificate for christmas?’

me: oh, well, i’m calling to use a spafinder gift certificate, so i’m not that different…

we discuss the details of my appointment and with that all arranged, i hang up. since my massage isn’t using the full monetary value of the gift certificate, the remaining money has to be credited to this local spa because they can’t give me “spafinder” money back. (side note: spafinder is a general gift certificate to be used at any particiating spa throughout the country. pretty nifty, huh?) it makes sense they’d have to credit me money to their spa, but i’m not in my parents’ town all that often. i don’t want the money to go to waste.

i go to close the browser i had open to the spa’s information when the word prenatal catches my attention. my brain starts churning. i had a christmas gift idea for sister J, but you know what? this might be even better.

i redial the number for the spa.

receptionist: hello?

me: hi, i just called to make an appointment, but i’d like to make an addition to it.

receptionist: is this abby?

me: oh, yes, hi. can i add an hour prenatal massage for my sister?

receptionist: you sure can.

we then discussed the particulars of sister J’s pregnancy so they could assign the proper massage therapist for her. and with that i checked off the final item of my christmas present “to buy” list, happy that i was finally using my birthday money, but more excited that i’d be able to give sister J a tiny sliver of relaxation in a time that’s been fraught with craziness.


in the kitchen, again

once upon a time, i was in the kitchen and i learned some valuable lessons about writing.

this time, *I* was involved in the baking of the cookies and somewhere admist the frosting, dipping, decorating, and rolling, i learned even more about the craft of writing.

first, you start with the raw ingredients: the story, the laptop, and/or the characters OR in the case of the baking, the frosting!

second, you begin writing OR decorating. the first attempts will be slightly disasterous, AS THEY SHOULD BE.

third, you read through the draft, fleshing out the areas you skimmed over in the hurry to get the story down onto the paper OR you try out some newfangled methods of embellishing the plain old frosting.

fourth, you read through everything again and fix plot holes and character motivations and dialogue and you make it RAZZLE DAZZLE for all those people who will be reading your story (you hope) OR you take out the piping instrument and add extra dollops and twirls and swirls to RAZZLE DAZZLE the guests who will be eating these cookies with us, as is evidenced by sister E’s cookie below.

fifth, sometimes there’s a bit too much in the story and it’s best to cut out your darlings OR good effort, bro-in-law, T.

sixth, after yet another round of edits, things are starting to stablize and normalize and a complete story takes shape OR the simplest icing can sometimes be the prettiest.

seventh, you look at the big picture make sure all the moving pieces and parts and characters and storylines fit together OR wow, that was a lot of hard work and that’s only 1/4 of the total number of cookies we decorated.

eighth, the story is complete with just the right amount frosting and sprinkles, wait, that’s the cookie. look at it. okay, my mom frosted that one. can’t you tell by the perfection? and the even amount of icing everywhere? and the same colored sprinkles that make it sparkle in a way that’s just different enough to be pleasing. she’s got a jillions years of experience, but still, look at that angelic cookie (literally). it’s goregous. basically, if i could write stories like she ices cookies, i’d be in business! the JK Rowling style of business.

epilogue: and then there are the pecan balls (the BEST mumford cookie recipe we’ve got going) and since they’re brother G’s most favorite cookie and since he and his family live on the west coast and since pecan balls don’t fare well in the mail, he had to learn how to make these in his kitchen. he sent us this photo: “93 pecan balls. All mine. Because I licked each one.”

“This is what kids look like after finding out their dad licked 93 pecan balls.”

moral of that story: you have to be creative in the way you tell the story or claim the cookies because with ALL the other writers and family members out there, you’ve got to make sure you get your piece of the pie (figuratively and literally.)

the end.


tone deaf

i am extremely tone deaf. i can’t carry a tune (singing or whistling) if my life depended upon it and i definitely can’t tell an A from a B flat or a G minor. (is G minor even a note? or is it a chord?)

anyways, that’s not my point.

my point is: tone as it relates to voice in writing — it’s me, what else would i mean? :)

and see, that right there is what’s bothering me. the :). it’s so hard to properly convey the tone you want in writing, in emailing, and in blogging, and as such, it’s easy to be misread.

case in point.

my intention with that post was to be silly. i mean, look at that drawing! i can’t not giggle, but all of the responses and emails and conversations i had about that post (save one) thought i meant it in a negative way.

and that’s where i’m confused.

is it because my blog’s tone of late has been negative? (sorry about that. i’m working to remedy this.) or is it because you were in a bummer mood when you read it and that colored your perception of it? or is it because i didn’t put in a :)?

i think the :) is a lackadaisical crutch we have ALL been guilty of using. instead of carefully selecting the proper verb (like she skipped, he sauntered, they frolicked), we use tired, but tried and true verbs like (she jogged, he ran, they walked) and add in a :) to convey the proper tone.

but then again, what if i’d put in a :p versus a :D versus a ;)? would it make you laugh harder because you thought i was smiling bigger or winking at you? where does the writer draw the line? with a simple smiley? with no smiley? with bolder word choices? with illustrations?

what about sarcasm? how do you make your words mimic the deadpan expression on your face?

or on your character’s face? how do you establish a character’s identity before he even speaks so that when he does open his mouth, you (as the reader) will immediately know if the tone is sarcastic or serious?

i suppose this is a CHALLENGE ACCEPTED situation and i’m going to have to work harder on my word choices so that emoticons are no longer necessary. you should be able to read “i opened the window, glanced up at the stars, and relaxed in the chair as i waited for the alien invasion” versus “i closed all the shades and crouched behind the couch clutching a baseball bat as i waited for the alien invasion” and know what the intended mood is.

provided i don’t throw in an errant ;) after “i crouched behind the couch,” but then again, sometimes rhyming is just the thing you need to help pass the time until the aliens arrive.

unless they’re the kind of aliens that prey on tone deaf females.

*runs away*



i was going about things all wrong.

first, i had twitter open. second, i had been listening to THE SCORPIO RACES by maggie stiefvater. third, i also had the book open on my desk as i perused it trying to turn it into a textbook because i can’t stop thinking about it and i’m basically in love with it and all that it does.

you might say i’m slightly obsessed.

this wasn’t the problem.

the problem was that by studying/reading/looking at another book, my focus had shifted away from my own work. even though i had the best of intentions when opening THE SCORPIO RACES (i.e. wanting to learn), it’s way too easy to compare my writing to the masterfulness of that novel and clearly, that’s not fair.

and then the downward spiral of self-doubt began, which is NOT the brain space you want to be in when revising your work.

but before i closed THE SCORPIO RACES, i, of course, turned to twitter to voice my opinion BECAUSE EVERYBODY NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK.

with the mystery of publishing revealed, i closed THE SCORPIO RACES and twitter. i read sean ferrell’s “pathetic email” post for the tenth time because it’s uplifting and spot on and exactly the right motivation i needed to dive back into my edits because it’s time to whip this WIP into shape.

now if only my neighbor had a cat…