Uh Oh, The Marathon Starts Tomorrow

I’m delighted to say that I have received four entries for the Race to the 8th Contest, and I’m really excited about all of them. Since there The Prizeare eight prizes, however, this means that you still have a really good chance of winning. So enter the contest! All the details are in yesterday’s post, and you can follow this link to the entry form or just scroll down to the bottom of this post. Remember, all you have to do is provide me with a five-minute blog topic (questions are good, or anything else you’d like me to write about) and if I choose your entry during my Writing Marathon in the first eight days of February, you win a link to your website and a personalized name doodle (sample on the right.) Like I said, chances are still really good, so please consider entering, and sharing this with your friends.

Also, I’ve never done this kind of contest before so forgive me if this is a little late, but here’s the fine print regarding your winnings. Let me know if there are any questions.

The name doodles will be digital files. Should you win one, the name doodle will belong to you, and you can use it however you want to, whether in print or on the internet. I will provide you (and only you) with a print quality copy via email, should you want to print it out (and I can tell you what your best printing options are, if you’ve never done that sort of thing before). You can use the doodle freely on the internet (facebook, your blog, etc.) as long as you do not pass it off as your own work or try to profit from it in any way. Where appropriate, a link back to my website is always appreciated. The name doodles will include my signature and blog url in the corner, and I reserve the right to use the doodles in posts on my blog (you can opt out of this if you have a name that should not be public knowledge, although if that is the case I strongly encourage you to use a web-friendly name for the doodle, as I will also need to credit you if I use your blog-topic) and in my digital and print portfolio, which includes but is not limited to the website Deviantart.com. I also reserve the right to decline to link to your website should it be something I consider excessively offensive or vulgar.

I really don’t think that last thing is going to be a problem, but better safe than sorry, I suppose.

So: my writing marathon begins tomorrow! Am I ready? Well, I couldn’t tell you. I’m going to spend today doing some painting and earning a bit more cash before I dive into writing full-time tomorrow. I have band practice tonight; we’re becoming a Beatles cover band, apparently. I’m going to have to decide whether an eight-day writing marathon means I can’t go to open mics. I don’t want to let my friends down, so I’ll probably still attend one or two—depending on whether I completed enough writing earlier in the day to warrant taking a break. I did a full-body work out yesterday, my second of the week, and I am sore today! I’m having a surprisingly easy time with my diet changes, though. I’m keeping a journal of everything I eat, and ever since I started writing stuff down it hasn’t been too difficult to decrease my portions and just be more mindful about what I’m putting in my mouth. I’m still thinking about that harp video and I hope to post it soon. Part of the reason I haven’t yet is because I’ve spent much of the past few days blogging in my bathrobe, painting in my painting clothes, exercising in my gym clothes—and when I shower in the evening I change straight into pajamas. Basically, every time I’ve played my harp I haven’t felt presentable enough to attempt a video. Maybe this evening!

I am excited to begin the marathon tomorrow. As I said in yesterday’s post, I’m fed up with how long this book is taking and I want to get into it, and see how far I can get towards my goal in the next eight days. And remember, I really need your help, so don’t forget to enter the contest below. 🙂

-G

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Writing Marathon and… *Contest*

So you’ve all heard that I’m getting close to finishing my current manuscript revision. I’ve been saying it for weeks. Still, every time I think, “This is the week I finish!” it seems like I barely make any progress at all. I need a push; I need a deadline. And conveniently, it’s almost my birthday.

On February 8th, I turn 24. Beginning on February 1st and going until the 8th, I mean to put everything aside and write—because I want a completed draft of Wanderlust for my birthday this year. And I’m gonna need your help.

Race to the 8th Contest

I will blog about my daily progress, because reporting to you will help keep me motivated. Your support and encouragement will help too. I know my progress reports won’t be as meaningful to you as they are to me, however, and I want to make this worth your while. I won’t have a lot of time to blog around working on Wanderlust non-stop, so I am asking YOU to give me eight five-minute blog topics. These could be questions about me, questions about writing, questions about Wanderlust, or even silly things, like, “Please write a story about penguins.” If I choose to respond to your entry (entries will be chosen by whatever I most feel like writing about, or drawn from a hat if that fails) you get two prizes: 1.) I will link to your website on my blog, and 2.) I will create a personalized name-doodle for you. [Edit 31 January: Fine Print is here.]

There will be a delay of about a week for the doodles, because I won’t be able to do them during the writing marathon. I did this sample one with my name, which went in a sort of ocean-nymph direction. YOURS MIGHT BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. These won’t be hugely detailed works of art; I plan to spend in the neighborhood of twenty minutes on each one. Still, I promise to make something aesthetically pleasing just for YOU.

Want one? Enter the Contest!

Want one? Enter the Contest!

Now, there are several things that will make this writing marathon hard. I have recently started a very restrictive diet as well as a new exercise routine. As hopeful as I am that these things will make me healthier and more energized, in the beginning stages they are just as likely to make me tired and cranky. What I’m saying is, this whole thing might go up in flames. I’m hoping we can have some fun before it does. I get a chance to make some real progress on my book, and you get to ask me questions and win prizes. Are you with me? Submissions are open.

A Forgetful Man (and other things)

Hey readers! Here’s a cool thing on the internet you may find interesting, or reassuring, or simply true:

A Forgetful Man by Tom Rich

That link will take you to a blog post by a dear friend of mine, whom I have erstwhile referred to on this blog as Leftenant Weatherby. I also post this by way of apology because, in the fashion elucidated by Rich, I seem to have forgotten how to make regular posts about interesting topics on this blog. I’ll get back to it soon, promise. The good news is that I am writing—if you can call it that. I am limping forward on my manuscript, a few paragraphs at a time. The way it’s going right now, a single sentence is a mighty victory. I’m nervous about the whole project as I near the end of the manuscript; the ending is the part I am most unsure about, the part most susceptible to criticism. I can easily imagine a scenario where I end up completely re-doing the last few chapters on the advice of my first readers. In order to get advice from first readers, though, I have to do the best I can with my manuscript and get it ready to be read.

I’m still playing the harp. My teacher says I’m doing very well, and I should be proud of myself. I can play quite a few little songs now, and they’re real songs, not “baby-music”, as my teacher puts it. Maybe in the near future I can make a video of me playing, and share it with you. Would that be of interest?

harp

My biggest scheme right now is to save enough money to purchase the harp I am renting. My teacher is selling it for a discounted price, and all the money I am putting in for rent will go towards that purchase. At first I wanted to save up for an entirely different harp (were all things equal, I would prefer one that was not blue) but that will take too long. I am too anxious to begin modifying this one; I want to install more levers, and a pick-up, and purchase a more padded case (because apparently I will never ever master the skill of walking through a door without banging my harp against it). And I want to do all that while paying my student loans, and saving up for more travel at some point soon. The obvious, most economical option is to purchase the harp I have, and with a little work I can slowly turn it into exactly the harp I want.

My last post was about making changes. It is a period of change in the Makley household—my father has entered a weight-loss competition at work. Since of course we have to support him(!!) I have seized upon this as an opportunity to change my own habits for the healthier. I’m trying to cut sugar and bread out of my diet as much as possible, and hoping to re-integrate exercise into my routine within the next week.

There are other things I am working on, other things I have forgotten, other things I am thinking about, but they will have to wait. I hope you’re having a good day. Let’s all keep keeping on.

-Grace out

A Day For Thinking, and Making Changes

Sorry for the lack of updates last week. Also, thanks so much to everyone who read my story at the Story Shack, and for all the congratulations and encouragement.

Today, and for the past few days, I have been thinking about this quote:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

(The quote has been attributed to both Albert Einstein and Rita Mae Brown.)

Right now I am asking myself, What am I doing over and over again that just isn’t working? What could I do differently? and What things have I stopped doing that I know have favorable results, and that I should return to?

I turn these questions back to you, if you’re in the mood for some self-reflection. What are you doing over and over again that just isn’t working? What could you do differently? and What things have you stopped doing that you know have favorable results, and that you should return to?

-G

I Got Published Today!

No, I didn’t sneakily finish my book without telling you. But a month or so ago, I did link to an online journal called The Story Shack, and what I didn’t tell you was that I had already submitted a short story to the journal’s editor. My story was ACCEPTED, and today it was published at thestoryshack.com. The story is called Absolut (spelling intentional) and it’s only 400 words, so you should check it out if you have the time. The coolest thing about this is that I got to collaborate with the excellent Sherri Oliver, who illustrated the story. THAT’S HER ILLUSTRATION at the top of this post!! Make sure you check out her portfolio: http://snozzyo.wordpress.com/. It was a weird feeling, handing the illustration over to someone else, but this particular story is a little different than my usual stuff, and I don’t think my illustration style would have fit the story. I think Sherri did a wonderful job, and the hard lines and gritty realism work so well with the tone of the piece.

Anyway, go read it and tell me what you think: http://thestoryshack.com/2013/01/12/absolut/

Also, consider reading my last post, if you missed it; it’s a blog post that sneakily becomes flash fiction, and I’d love to know what you think of it: Vanya Snapshot: High School Chorus

Vanya Snapshot: High School Chorus

This is a behind-the-scenes post. It gives away more of Vanya’s past than I am usually comfortable sharing—but I really wanted to share it anyway. I will be especially grateful for your thoughts in the comments section today.

I attended a high school music concert a few nights ago that featured middle school and high school chorus and band. There was one very small, skinny kid in the High School Chorus with a mop of dark brown hair that completely obscured his eyes when he looked down, although when he looked up he smiled a bright smile. From far away, he didn’t look like a high school freshman; he could have been eight. And he reminded me of Vanya.

A sketchy-sketch of how Vanya may have looked at 15, all dressed up for his high school concert and staring down at his shoes.

A sketchy-sketch of how Vanya may have looked at 15, all dressed up for his high school concert and staring down at his shoes.

Vanya left home when he was fifteen, just a few months into his freshman year of high school. While listening to this concert, I wondered how Vanya’s experience with the high school music program might have gone during the short time he was there. I like to imagine the school was large enough to have a pedal harp sitting around somewhere that Vanya played in the orchestra, which went fairly well because he sat in the back, and hid behind the giant instrument. But how about that chorus concert?

He probably wouldn’t have auditioned for the big solo. He probably would have known that he couldn’t handle that kind of commitment and pressure. But what if the kid who did get the solo was sick on the day of the show? Or drunk? Maybe Vanya saved the day, and sang that solo so perfectly that the audience cried and cheered. Maybe afterwards, they tried to tell him how beautiful he was, all of them, parents and teachers and classmates, crowding around him and shouting congratulations at him in the hallway after the show, overwhelming him with so much praise and admiration that he couldn’t breathe. Maybe that’s when he ran. Or maybe… maybe he did audition for the big solo. Maybe he sang it so perfectly at the audition that the director awarded it to him with hardly any deliberation at all, and the choice was so obvious that even the slighted upperclassmen couldn’t be angry. And when the big night came, maybe he just couldn’t do it. Maybe Vanya showed up drunk, or ran away right before they drew the curtain, and instead of his angelic voice the audience heard only silence, and the whispered confusion of a high school choir that had depended on that beautiful, blonde-haired boy. Either way it happened, I like to think his mother found him hours later in a McDonald’s parking lot, sitting on the wood chips beneath a strangled-looking tree and kicking his heels against the curb. She convinced him to get in the car, and when she saw the wet tears on his cheek she prayed that the Blessed Virgin Mary would help her console her son, even though she’d never understood him. She’d known she would find him that night because his harp was still at the house. If she knew a single thing about her strange and alien child, it was this: on the day he left her forever, he would have that harp at his side.

Painting

Oof—it’s been a little while since I posted. Happy New Year! I hope you all had a delightful celebration and that you’re looking forward to a happy and productive 2013. I don’t have any New Years resolutions, and I’m okay with that. I do have goals; they’re the same goals I worked on in 2012 and, in 2013, I plan to keep on working.

My life has temporarily veered rather sharply off its usual course, which both refreshing and fun. I am house-sitting for some family friends while they are out of town, and also hanging out with their fifteen-year old son and making sure he gets to and from all his sporting events and other commitments. My duties include feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, feeding the dog, and keeping the wood stove running. Most importantly, for another whole week I get to hang out in this house on a mountain and write. By next Saturday, I plan to have made significant progress on this draft of my novel. I’ll keep you updated.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a fun thing I meant to share about a week ago. Last Saturday, Brackett (whom you may recall from the Sandy Hook NJ adventure), Brother, and I had a game day at our house. We also did a gift exchange, and Brackett got me a set of Acrylic paint and some canvases. They are so much fun to play with after working on the computer for so long! After spending an entire afternoon playing Middle Earth Quest (Sauron won, alas) we all took a paint break. Here are the results!

First, mine:

Acrylic on canvas, 4x6"

Acrylic on canvas, 4×6″

The boys decided it should be hung on a restroom door instead of a gender sign, just to see what people would do.

Next, Brackett’s:

BrackettPaint

Acrylic on canvas, 4×6″

All abstract-expressionist, with a Jupiter sort of vibe.

And finally Brother’s:

BrotherPaint

Acrylic on canvas, 4×6″

He was channeling Bob Ross. And you thought I was the artist in the family!

I did my smaller canvas in about 30 seconds, so I got out a larger one and spent the rest of the time on this painting of Vanya, which is still unfinished:

UnfinishedVanya

Acrylic on canvas, 8.5×11

Originally I was going to put Taniel in the other half of the painting, but then his proportions were all wonky so I painted him out. I’m getting into the dark forest as a secondary focal point now (I can put more detail in it and make it all creepy and stuff), but what do you think? Any suggestions for how I should finish this painting?