Magic Carpet Ride (or How I Learned to Mono-ski)

So I decided to learn to ski. I grew up in New York and took skiing lessons when I was seven, and I went a couple times in high school and later. But it’s been over seven years since my injury, and in the meantime, I hadn’t really thought about it much. But over New Year’s we had some friends in town and while we were driving them around Winter Park, I realized how much I missed it. And how silly it was that I hadn’t tried out the alternative.

Mono-ski

The National Sports Center for the Disabled is located in Winter Park and offers lessons and programs for all kinds of disabilities for all kinds of sports, not just skiing. Jim, Bethany, and David were my super awesome sidekicks for the day (or the pick-kendra-up-after-she-falls-down team). Let’s just say it’s a lot harder than it looks when you’re staring up at the mountain all starry-eyed saying “I could be a paralympian!” First, they fitted me for a mono-ski, basically a chair on a ski as seen below in the very blurry picture.

fitting a mono-ski

Then we went out to the bunny slope where I learned how to glide, turn, and turn to a stop. Theoretically. I still think the best way to stop is to fall over but my back disagrees, so I guess more practice is in my future.

 

 mono-ski bunny hill

mono-ski bunny hill

 And can I just say kudos to David for running around in his ski boots up and down a hill all day?

After I could stop reliably, and you know, not ski off a cliff, I took the plunge and actually went up the mountain to find a nice easy green run. Getting the mono-ski up on a chair lift is interesting — or terrifying, considering you can’t see the lift underneath you, just your legs dangling over the abyss. Not sure the chair lift ride is my favorite part of skiing anymore. But you just sit there and the lift literally scoops you up. Pretty cool.

Once at the top, I had a lot more fun on the green run than I did on the bunny slope. Mostly because I could go longer between falls. It’s funny though, to watch the video. It did not feel that excruciatingly slow at the time. I could have sworn I was about to break the sound barrier.

By the end of the day I felt like it was all starting to click, though at that point the exhaustion had kicked in. I went home and got some therapy from the best source possible.

Therapy Jonas

 I want to thank my instructors for being so patient and flexible. These guys really know what they’re doing. And I can’t be the easiest person to teach with my do-it-wrong-million-ways-before-I-do-it-right kind of learning. I wasn’t ready to race Picabo Street by the end of the day, but I will definitely be heading back to get it right before the end of winter.

 

mono-ski magic carpet

Well you don’t know what we can find,

Why don’t you come with me, little girl,

On a magic carpet ride.

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PPWC Changed My Life!

I registered for the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference yesterday. This is the one I go to every year and while I was trying to justify the expense to my husband (it’s a little pricey to be honest), I realized that it’s kind of changed my life. Not in that sappy infomercial way, but it’s changed the way I see myself as a professional writer.

Writing is a lonely, solitary activity. Sure, you can get together with other authors to write but it mostly looks like this:

nano write in

It’s something you do by yourself in your own head. Especially if you’re in the stage I’m in now, plugging away perfecting your craft, waiting for someone to notice. I don’t have an agent or an editor, I don’t have fans. The only contact I have with the outside world in a professional capacity is through critique partners and beta readers. The conference gives me a community, a chance to connect with peers and gain perspective on the industry I’m trying to shove myself into. It was at my first conference that I decided to call myself a writer because that was when I finally felt like one.

I mentioned last week how important goals are in the writing process. I can set myself goals and in fact I do, but without the outside influence of an editor or even a whip-wielding friend, I don’t have any impetus to make goals let alone keep to them. But the last couple years I’ve found my professional life revolving around the conference. I’m usually pitching my work to an agent or an editor, so I spend the first half of the year editing, polishing, and writing my pitch. The second half, I’m putting everything I learned at the conference into practice and sending out queries for the final draft. It’s completely reshaped the way I work as a writer.

So this year I’m working frantically to get A Shroud For My Bride ready to pitch in April. It needs at least another draft if not two before then and I need to write the pitch for it. A cadet cop with OCD has to reconnect with her vigilante father in order to catch a murderous enchanter? Maybe. I guess I’ll work on it.

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2014 Here I Come

Last week I took a look at all I’d accomplished last year, which got me thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. Years of physical therapy have taught me that goals are very important. I do a lot better when I have a goal to work toward. Not just physically. Months of Delve Writing goal sessions reminded me I tend to wander aimlessly when I don’t have a deadline.

So this year, I plan to:

  • Finish the final draft of A Shroud for my Bride and have it ready to pitch by April 26th
  • Attend the Pikes Peak Writing Conference, so excited for my fourth year
  • Pitch A Shroud for my Bride to Sara Sargent from HarperCollins
  • Write the second draft of Skin Deep
  • Write the first draft of either By Hook or By Crook or A Matter of Blood
  • Read five books a month- four fiction and one on writing (need to whittle down the stacks)
  • Finish the Minecraft model of my fictional city (this is too work, you’re just jealous you can’t call video games working)
  • And finish one quilt every month (start an Etsy store cause, you know, that went so well last time)

Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. Ah! What am I doing here? I ought to be writing.

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A Year in Review

In the spirit of the season, I’ve been looking back at 2013 and looking ahead toward 2014. I always find this time of year depressing. It’s too easy to compare where I am now where I was this time last year and see very little difference. And apply that to a lifetime. What have I accomplished? What has my life been worth?

I tend to find my self-worth in output. And when I work eight hours a day, five days a week and see no measurable profit at the end of the year, it’s a serious blow. I know all that work resulted in something, but with no agent hooked, no publisher interest, I’m not sure I believe it.

So I’m going to try something to convince myself my time has worth. Maybe I can visualize this year’s accomplishments.

This year I:

  • Finished the final draft of By Wingéd Chair 
  • Pitched By Wingéd Chair and queried over thirty agents about it
  • Finished both the first and second drafts of A Shroud For My Bride
  • Wrote the first draft of my seventh book, Talon Force during Nanowrimo
  • Increased my online presence through Facebook, Twitter, and this blog
  • Attended my third writer’s conference
  • Joined Delve Writing to hone my craft with a great community of writers
  • Read forty-four books. Okay that’s depressing no matter how I look at it considering I usually read 100 books in a year. I’ll give myself a bit of a break since I wrote so much this year, but I’ll have to step up my game in the future.
  • Spent a month world-building for my series and created an encyclopedia for the details
  • Not to mention all the personal things like my sister’s engagement, joining the youth group staff, cleaning the basement, numerous vacations, celebrating my seventh anniversary, and discovering gnocchi

Wow, when I look at it that way, I accomplished quite a bit this year. There’s a lot on that list to be proud of. And a couple things to improve on next year. Next time I start to doubt my progress, I can look back and see just how much I’m doing.

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Hearts on our Sleeves

Writing is a solitary profession; honestly, it’s one of the things I love about what I do. But the greatest irony that goes along with that is how much of ourselves we end up sharing with the world.

I just finished some polishes on By Wingéd Chair and I’ve sent it out to a couple beta readers. I meet with a critique partner regularly, but there’s something different about sending your work to readers you respect and want to impress. Critique partners are supposed to tear your stuff apart if only to make it better. But by the time it goes to a beta reader, it should be marketable, if not publishable. So it’s a bit more nerve-wracking, especially since these are friends and family members I’m going to have to face again.

Writers put everything into their work whether they intend to or not. Our ideals, hopes and fears leak into the story even when we’re using our imaginations or playing devil’s advocate. I reread my novel and I’m amazed and a little embarrassed by how much of myself ends up on the page. So when I send it off to readers, I can’t help wondering what will they see when they read it? Will they see my insecurities? Will they read more into this than I intended?

We’re taught to develop a thick skin if we want to be better, but you can’t pretend a novel doesn’t mean everything to you. And it’s easy to see this as discouragement, to refuse to let your novel go for fear of what other people will say. Because when you send it into the world, you’re laying yourself bare, hanging your heart on your sleeve.

It’s scary to be so open with complete strangers, but there’s something truly special about being known. And in the end, isn’t that why you wrote the book in the first place? To give the world something of yourself?

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So This Guy’s Still Doing Awesome Things

I was out till three in the morning last night with some friends at The Hobbit double feature (great movies by the way),  so today is a slacking off kind of day. I figured I’d share something cool with y’all then head back to bed.

Remember this guy?

I love that Aaron teamed up with Devin because he does some really gorgeous short films and music videos. I can always tell a Devin Graham piece by about two seconds in.

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A Nano Defense

Nanowrimo 2013Well, last week I finished up Nanowrimo 2013 with 60,000 words of a book I’m calling TALON Force. It’s a middle grade urban fantasy with kind of a Warehouse 13 flare. Except instead of magical artifacts, Nate and his team manage magical creatures.

This year, through Delve Writing, I was in contact with a lot of writers who were new to Nanowrimo. I found myself explaining Nano and its purpose in a writing world, which made me look at the process in a new way.

There was still the argument that Nano is a way to help you get words on the page, especially if you’re a perfectionist or you struggle with commitment. But then there are the people who argue back saying, what’s the point, if everything you’re writing down is crap?

I have a rebuttal — but wait, Ernest Hemingway said it best: “The first draft of anything is shit.” Anyone who tells you otherwise has never written more than the first draft. So doing Nano just gets the crap out faster so you can get to the making it better part sooner. If you want to be a real writer, you’re going to have to suck it up and do that anyway. Don’t believe me? Ask E. B. White. “The best writing is rewriting.”

But that can be discouraging, too, to be told to have low expectations. I’ve always said Nano is about quantity over quality. Except this year, I started realizing it’s closer to finding quality in quantity. The more you write the better the writing will be. You’ll find genius ideas buried in the excrement, beautiful turns of phrase will pop up in unexpected corners of sludge. And it’s funny, but the more you look at the crap, the more you realize it’s actually a pretty solid foundation that just needs to be swept and mopped.

It is nothing less than amazing to write a novel. Even if you have to spend months or even years (guilty here) making it worth other people’s time. Never underestimate that experience.

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Our Impact

Tru ConfessionsTru Confessions by Janet Tashjian

When I read a really short book, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know the characters well enough to review them. That happened with Tru Confessions. I only spent about an hour and a half of my life with Tru, so I didn’t connect with her the same way I would have with a character I’d spent a week with. But I’m going to try to talk about her anyway, because she’s pretty cool and deserves a special look.

 

Tru wants two things in life: to find a cure for her brother and to host her own TV show. When a local cable channel announces a contest for teens, Tru sees a way she can maybe get both.

Tru’s brother Eddie is developmentally delayed due to asphyxia during birth. But this isn’t his story. It’s Tru’s. We see her move from her longing and a desperate search for a way to make Eddie ‘normal’, to acceptance of who her brother is and will remain. There is never any lack of love, but over time Tru realizes it’s okay if she grows up while her brother doesn’t.

One of the things I really liked about this book was Tru’s voice. She’s snarky and funny while at the same time being painfully honest. Congrats to Tashjian. I’m not sure she could have dealt with these hard issues for young readers in a better way. Tru lays out her guilt over Eddie’s condition, her desire to fit in, and her secret shame, and we move through them with her, coming out the other side in a better place.

This blog normally deals with disabilities from a first person view, whether through fiction or real life. But I think it’s really important to bring in perspective from those who live with disabilities without actually having them. In our own pain or self-righteousness it’s easy to forget that our struggles impact those we love.

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Nano Update

So, I’m deep in the third week of Nanowrimo, and with 20,000+ words still to go, the creative juices are spread thin (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?). I figured for today, I would share some of the diamonds that have appeared in the rough draft (get it? get it? oh my gosh, I’m so tired). The book I’m working on is called TALON Force for now and it’s about a fourteen year old hacker who is recruited into a covert government agency that protects magical creatures called phenomenals.

Enjoy.

                                                                                                                            

His mom looked up and squinted at him. “Don’t forget school starts tomorrow. Lights out by 11:30, okay?”

Nate’s stomach flipped. How could he forget? After five years of learning physics and calculus around this very table, he’d be headed to the local high school for ninth grade. But that’s what happened when your dad agreed to more hours with the Bureau and your mom was offered a position in the lab of her dreams.

“We’ve talked about it, I know,” she said. “But it bears repeating. No working outside the curriculum. If you’re bored, read the next chapter or something.”

“No reprogramming the computers,” his dad added.

Nate opened his mouth to protest but his dad waved an S tile at him. “Not even to make them more efficient,” he said.

Nate snapped his mouth closed and scowled.

“And no building killer robots,” Jessie put in with a smirk.

“That wasn’t my fault. If Vince Price hadn’t messed with my power regulator everything would have worked fine.”

“Tell that to Mr. Holland.”

“How is he?” his mother asked.

“I hear his therapy is coming along really well,” Jessie said.

                                                                                                                              

“Dr. Demarco, Mr. Demarco, your son has seen too much,” the man said.

Nate gulped. “You mean they’re real?” he said.

“What’s real?” his dad asked.

The men glared and Nate snapped his mouth shut.

His mom sighed. “We said no more hacking, Nate. You promised.”

He hung his head. Jessie had her elbows propped on the table and she was watching intently.

“So what are you going to do with him?” his mom said. “Hard labor? The gallows?”

The men eyed her sideways and one of them said, “He has two choices. The first is a maximum security facility designed to hold people like him where he will be locked away unharmed and he can never tell anyone what he’s seen.”

His mom raised an eyebrow. “Sounds cozy.”

“Mom,” Nate said. Even when things were dire she couldn’t help cracking jokes. It was embarrassing.

“Just be sure to feed him his vegetables.”

Nate really really didn’t want to go to prison. Especially one without computers or the Internet or Teen Titans. “What’s the other option?” he said.

One of the men crossed his arms and looked down at Nate who still sat at the dining room table, limp green salad pieces littering his plate and the floor under his chair.

“Join the agency that was created to protect and conceal what you saw.”

“Protect?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I’d be working with them? Like up close?”

The man inclined his head.

“But that’s, I mean they’re—” He looked at his interested family and rephrased what he was about to say. “Is that safe?”

“You could always choose the other option,” one of the men said. He looked kind of hopeful. Like he really wanted to lock Nate away in a little room with no Internet. “It is safer, as you say.”

Working with monsters? Real life ones? Nate had always thought it would be cool to get a job with a game developer programming the creatures he fought in video games but this was entirely different. He’d be coming face to face with them, maybe fighting them. No, the guy had said protecting. But that girl in the video had definitely been fighting that snake lizard that looked just like the one in Slayer.

The corners of Nate’s mouth started to lift as he thought about it. He’d be a slayer in real life. Maybe he’d even get a sword.

“Well?” his mom said. “What’ll it be?”

Nate grinned up at them. “I, uh, choose the not jail thing.”

“Really?” the one man said looking disappointed. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I choose the agency.”

                                                                                                                                 

He realized he was sitting in water up to his waist, no big deal, but the hands were still clutching at him. He dug his own hands into the bottom of the bay and hung on so whatever had him couldn’t drag him any further.

The hands surfaced, long delicate fingers clinging to his jacket. They were attached to slim pale arms. A head covered in long blond hair appeared and a solid body pushed him back into the surf.

Nate found himself looking up into the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. Even Mei’s dark eyes and hair couldn’t compare to the perfect features of the girl who was lying on top of him.

Naked.

Nate flushed before he realized all the interesting parts were covered by her wet hair. Even still, he raised his hands, keeping them out to his sides where they wouldn’t touch anything by accident.

“Hi,” the girl said and smiled. Dazzlingly.

“Nate!” It was his dad who skidded to a stop beside them, pebbles showering both Nate and the girl.

Nate held up a hand. “It’s okay,” he said. At least he thought it was okay. She didn’t seem to be trying to kill him. Yet. But his encounter with the kelpie had made him wary.

“Hello,” he said.

She beamed even brighter, if that was possible, as if he’d said the nicest thing in the world.

More feet clattered on the beach behind him and he heard a gasp. He tried not to groan. Because he really needed his mom and his sister to witness his humiliation as well.

“I knew they were real,” Jessie whispered somewhere over his head. “I just knew it.”

Uh oh.

“Um,” he said to the perfect girl who now had her fingers twined in his hair. “So what are you?”

She ducked her head with a shy smile and he felt her weight shift. He saw a tail emerge behind her head. A fish tail.

Oh god, he’d found a mermaid.

“Are you a sailor?” she said.

“What?” He tried to wriggle out from under her, but apparently five feet of fish and woman weighed a lot.

“You look like a sailor,” she said and bit her lip coyly. “Will you be my sailor?”

“Nate?” his dad said again.

“Uh,” Nate said. “Give me a second. I’m not really sure what’s happening.”

“She’s a mermaid, gnat,” Jessie said with a “duh” she didn’t say but he could hear anyway. “They’re always seducing sailors to drag down into their underwater kingdom.”

The mermaid smiled again and nodded. “Wanna come?” she said.

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Did You Really Just Say That?

CrutchI guess I should start a series of these and call it “Did you really just say that?” Sometimes I feel like people don’t really think before they speak.

I was walking through the grocery store the other day when a lady stepped out in front of me with her cart. We did the awkward dance before I stepped around her. I laughed and said “Sorry, it’s hard to change directions.” It was supposed to be a joke because that’s how I relieve tension. The appropriate response would have been to laugh with me and walk away. Instead she stopped and looked like she was working up to something. So I waited politely, mentally tapping my foot because this was supposed to be a quick stop with my husband waiting outside.

Finally, she came up with, “I’m sorry. About…” She gestured to my feet and back up to my head. “It’s just so terrible.”

I said, “It’s okay,” because what the hell else am I supposed to say? I get this one a lot, this and the “When are you getting better?” This lady basically stopped me in the grocery store to tell me she felt sorry for me. At least that’s the interpretation I’m going with. I guess her gesture could have meant “It’s just so terrible you’re alive.”

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say it was the first one, because, you know, everyone wants to know they inspire pity in the rest of the human race. In what world is that encouraging? In what world is it accurate? My life isn’t exactly the mire of aborted dreams and hopelessness she seems to think it is. Oh, I’m just hanging in there until I die. Given how many kids (and adults, though they won’t admit it) want to play with my crutches and my wheelchair, I must have it pretty good.

And it’s funny because I get the complete opposite occasionally, too. The “you’re so inspiring” or “brave”. Now, I wonder how many people are thinking the “I’m sorry for her” while pasting the “inspiration” thing on it to make it more palatable.

Either way, I wonder if people really realize what they’re saying or if they need it played back to thm.

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