Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In One Store & Out the Other: My Black Friday

1932 Great Depression
It's 2010 and I'm about to compare the competitive shopping we all so lovingly refer to as Black Friday to the bread lines of the Great Depression. I feel I've earned the right, somewhat, because I've just been through Hell and back over the Thanksgiving weekend.

2010 Black Friday Lines

I was in line because of the economic fallout but not because I was starving to death. That's probably the only distinction between bread lines and Black Friday. However, I can imagine that the bread lines included much of the types of stampeding that my group encountered. We not only had a group behind us targeting us for some type of whack-o hatred because they weren't sure if they would get their reduced price TV, we were also offered $100 to allow someone to stand in line with us since we were the first 40 in Target's line. My sister was run over by a cart and called a bitch and I couldn't get past a crazy girl to get out of the store without the evil eye and having to suffer getting my face fake sneezed on. Next year I'm avoiding Target's bread line at all costs. One of my group was offered $100 for his TV because he got the last one. We were shewing people away like flies. Hell, I didn't even know what a Sing-a-ma-jig was until I got the "Golden Ticket" to buy one. Do I need an exclusive holiday Sing-a-ma-jig that costs $14.95? No. But I was one of 50 people who got a ticket so I of course I bought it, that's part of the excitement of Black Friday--I might get something someone else won't. I've decided Black Friday should just be called the Bread Line Experiment.

My Black Friday Group at Target

I still maintain that I would rather go stand in store lines for hours than query during the holidays but that's only because at the end of the day I have the opportunity to get one over on the stores. I get to beat them at their game. I stood in line for hours and finally paid what I consider reasonable prices for toys and whatnots for my three kids and extended family.

In some ways the experience is a lot like querying. I got all the same stomach churning excitement out of the final few minutes before the doors opened at ToysRUs as I do when I get ready to hit send on a query. In those moments before I get in the store I wonder if I'm actually going to get the hot toy before someone else, or if I'm just going to come out of the whole night feeling dejected and insecure based on the comments of some stupid asshole grouped up in the line behind me. I have to put those negative thoughts behind me and remember who I'm there for, my kids. Okay, my bank account. I can get the toys in advance at a premium (or regular price but I consider it a premium) and still make my kids happy, but I feel so much better when I know I can buy $1,149 worth of toys for $552 (I saved 50% at ToysRUs, sure my cart was filled with items for my whole group but still, I saved over $500 on toys).

Now I just have to figure out how to feel as upbeat when I query. I need a way to remind myself of how I can get rid of those insecure thoughts, that feeling of panic that I might have screwed up and put the wrong agent's name in the body of the letter, or that someone else could write my story better. I guess I'll just have to remember what I go through on Black Friday and think querying is a cake walk in comparison (even if the result feels more personal than professional).

Me in front of ToysRUs Black Friday
  • Number of stores hit inside of 16 hours: 6
  • Michaels: Opened 4:30pm -
    • Wait time: Virtualy none.
  • ToysRUs:  Opened 10:00pm -
    • Wait time: Outside--5 hours (4th group in line or #13-17)
    • Inside checkout line--Approximately 30 minutes.
  • Target:  Opened 4:00am -
    • Wait time: 4 hours (had a place holder in line up to 2 hours earlier, #40-45).
    • Inside checkout time: 2 hours in line.
  • Best Buy: Opened at 4am -
    • No wait, in and out because we didn't get out of Target until after 6am.
  • GameStop: Opened at 5am -
    • No wait. In and out because of Target.
  • ToysRUs: Second round started at 5am. In and out.
  • ToysRUs: Third round. Went back at 9pm on Friday.
Woke up at 6am on Thursday, went to bed at 8:45am on Friday.

This post is a follow-up to Not Me, I Won't Query.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are You "Well-Read?"( I'm not sure if I am). . .

The challenge is: Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

This post stems from Rach Writes and many others but I came upon the challenge at Rach Writes.

• Copy this list.

• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.

• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

• Tag other book nerds.

If you dare like Rachael Harrie, then underline those books you plan to read in 2011.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (Didn’t finish all 7 but finished up to book 4)
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell [I've been meaning to read this one for ages]
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare [Was a theatre arts major]
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson [I did read his A Short History of Nearly Everything]
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl [But I’ve read James and the Giant Peach]
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo [In this list, if it’s a classic play then I’ve likely read parts based on my theatre background]

Rachael Harrie at Rach Writes believes there to be one missing on the list and added The Iliad by Homer.

If I were to add the 100th I think I might add Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

I’m afraid in this list of 100, I am not as well read as I should be: 20 Read Entirely and 10 partial reads.

Then again, this is a subjective list. There are great books not on the list like, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway or Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. There are books like Bridget Jones which pales in comparison to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde on a list suggesting whether or not we’re well read. I like it though. It’s great to see what kinds of classics aspiring writers have read. I think I just might make another posting about what exactly is on my bookshelf after Thanksgiving. By the way, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Not Me, I Won't Query

Made you look--*smiling, winking*

I query, I just don't query in November and December.

Personally, my November is stacked with NaNo, Thanksgiving, & Black Friday.

We all know, or understand, how draining NaNo can be especially when kids and holidays are involved. That should be reason alone not to query in November. Luckily, Thanksgiving isn't too bad beause the only family that lives close enough to visit during this time is my sister and her three kids. They live across the street, so this dinner might be bigger in food quantity but it is usually like any other day we hang out.  The only difference is that after we've eaten dinner and dessert has been served, my sister and I jump ship, leaving our husbands to clean up. You might be thinking we head off to another room for girl chat or to knit a scarf, no, no, no. We head out with several other bargain-hunting-moms for the start of Black Friday.

If you don't have kids, or your kids are grown, then you either don't know about Black Friday or you avoid it at all costs. That also means your probably wondering why we start on Thursday for sales that are supposed to start on Friday. The sales actually start on Thursday night. If you don't have a good system, or a team, you might be better off avoiding the rush.  Here's my system:
    • That way you know exactly what you'll be getting and where it's located in the store. Go one or two days before to check the layout. Some items are moved around in the days preceding.
    • These links have the ads in advance:
    • There are a lot of stores but none as important as Toys'R'Us for my group. We can be further back in other store lines like Target, Old Navy,GameStop, Best Buy, etc. (We avoid WalMart)
    • We're talking groups here and not the 5th person in line. You might miss out on a popular item if you aren't one of the first in line.
    • You can't be everywhere, that's why you need a team. Also, you can only really push one cart around the store and it gets stacked up fast.
    • Each member of your team will be responsible for an area of the store. For example, let's use Toys'R'Us where you have electronics, boys toys, girls toys, toddler, bikes, and baby stuff. You need at least 4-5 people in your team to properly conquer this store.
    • Figure out who is going where and then piece out your list to the appropriate team member. You might be able to meet up at the check out to hand off, except for electronics. Send the most funded team member into electronics. If you don't get to meet up then plan on getting your stuff at the end of it all and paying back immediately with a check. Don't forget, you have their items on your list too, so you will only be paying back what isn't covered in what you bought for them.
    • Don't forget your cell phones for communication but don't rely on them either because cell coverage in stores is sometimes poor.
    • For us Toys'R'Us has two rounds of sales, each with different items. Last year, the second round was 4 hours later. (Be aware of which items on your list are for the second round and don't try to buy them during the first round. The cashier won't remind you and you'll end up paying full price for it.)
    • The team member with the most items to purchase in the second round will stay. You can put all the second round items in a cart and wait in the store. That's what I did. I missed the second rush this way. While I was twiddling my thumbs inside Toys'R'Us for 4 hours my team members were conquering Target which opened later. When I was done checking out I headed over to GameStop for all Nintendo DS stuff because they had better sales.
    • Note: Place holders in other store lines is acceptable in my area but might not be in your area. You may want to check and see how that works.
All-in-all Thanksgiving is a 24 hour day thanks to Black Thursday/Friday. My team and I won't return home until about 7am on Friday after starting at 7pm on Thursday.

Once home, the women sleep (or should) while the men and kids hang Xmas lights and put up outdoor decorations.

From there December is already booked. The baking I do alone is enough to do me in. I bake 7-10 items every year and hand out or mail over 20 tins of baked goods.

Can you imagine if I was querying during these two months? Holidays are busy and sometimes depressing (lots of money being spent, for one). Querying yields far more rejections than requests. Why on Earth would I want to get a rejection during these months? I might be crazy enough to do Black Friday but query during the holidays, no way.

The good news though, is that I'm one less writer bogging down the query system. Yay for you!!!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Would I Do it Again? Absolutely!

Regina, Jen, Darci, Me
Thank you to everyone who stopped by and viewed me and my writing group's NaNo lunacy on Saturday. I hope you got to see some of the good stuff while you were here.

For those of you who couldn't stop by or found us only during concentrated writing times here's what you missed:

The Zucchini Genie and Jen were definitely the stars of the show. The Zucchini Genie was the name given by Darci to one of the giant zucchini my husband and I accidentally let grow to a massive size in our backyard garden. See, my husband and I just switched out our summer garden for a winter garden but left one healthy giant zucchini plant. But because the winter veggies are still young and not producing, we sometimes forget to go outside to check on the zucchinis. Thus, we have been growing prize winning zucchini. What better way to enjoy a giant zucchini than to incorporate in into a 16-hour NaNo writing day? Zucchinis are extremely versitile veggies, not to be underestimated in any way. It came in handy for exercising with, passing it around for a game of hot potato, stroking it for inspiration, dancing with it, singing into it, trying to fit it into the Writer's Block Box (a box with prompts to get the thoughts flowing again), and for doing other kinds of R-rated things with.  Ha! Shhhh!  In the end, Jen got to take the Zucchini Genie home as a prize for writing the most words throughout the day although I would have just given it to her for her excellent impersonation of the Risky Business slide across the floor, that was hilarious!

Elton John
I went into that day hoping to come out of it with an extra 10,000 words of which I only completed 5,990. Boo! That's okay. I have a list of excuses for that: My husband got free tickets from an old work partner to see Elton John the day before my 16-hour day.  Let me tell you something, if you haven't ever seen Elton in concert, run out and get some tickets in a hurry.  The show was amazing. My only advice is to see him alone or with an equally popular singer, like Billy Joel. We saw him with Leon Russell who wasn't that great of a live performer. But when Leon wasn't on stage Elton was incredible. He was standing on speaker at the front of the stage, he did a hand stand on the keyboard before plopping onto his bench. Awesome!  However, we didn't get home until after midnight and I had to wake up early since my girls were expected to arrive at 6:30am for breakfast so I started my day tired.

That's not my only excuse. My writing group girls and the two regional NaNo girls were so much fun to hang around that I lost my focus just on the dancing, ass-smacking, pillow fights, back rubs, laughing, story telling, LiveStream chatting, etc.

I have a special thanks to Quinn of seeing, dreaming. . .writing, Michael (my drill sergeant) over at In Time. . ., Christy of erica and christy, my long distance writing group member, Nicole, and Katie my new writing group friend, for chatting with us on LiveStream. To Quinn especially for being there when we woke up and came back at the end to see us through to the finish. Also, to Michael for getting my butt in gear from before the camera turned on to the end. This part of the event was so much fun. Without all of you on chat, we would have been falling asleep or taking naps on the couch in the living room. You kept us pumped up and excited to be writing (goofing off) for 16-hours.

Another special thanks goes out to everyone who came by and left a comment on my blog in show of support. All the comments went to my inbox and immediately inspired us to keep on writing.

Most importantly, thanks to my husband, James, for feeding us and taking care of us all day long and to my Write-A-Tat-Tat girls for agreeing to such lunacy: Regina (my sister and blogger at Middle Distance Runners), Jen, Darci, Nicole and our two new NaNo friends, Katie and Susan.

I was tired all of Sunday, and I have a feeling I will be a little tired for the rest of the week but the writing continues. As a matter of fact, I'm on my way back to writing my NaNo story just as soon as I publish this post.  Write on Writers!!!

How is NaNo going for you? Are you asleep at the wheel or cruising at altitude?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

16-Hour NaNo Write-In

Watch live streaming video from simplicityinvolumes at livestream.com

Saturday, November 6th 7am - 11pm PST

If you've come along to view us (and can actually see us) please leave a quick comment to brighten our day and waken our minds. 

If you cannot see us right now (says Offline) then leave us a quick note in the comments so we can remedy the problem.

The day is supposed to start with 4 of us and then grow to 6 or 7 of us and then finish with 2 or 3 of us.  

We appreciate all love and support!!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Not Commercial Free but We're Up!

Check it out, I've got a potentially very cool tool that will help you view us while we write for 16-hours starting tomorrow, Saturday, November 6th, Pacific Standard Time.  Our hours are 7am - 11pm.

Watch live streaming video from simplicityinvolumes at livestream.com

I've done a test run on this bad boy and have learned a couple of things: First, it occassionally times out and will show us offline. If that happens, just check back later and I'm sure we'll be back up and running.  We cannot let technology impede us!  We must work together if we want to conquer technological snafoos. Secondly, there are commercials. How annoying right? Right. The thing with that is simply we would prefer to use LiveStream for free with commercials than pay $350 for one month's use of it commercial free.So, be aware that every now and then a commercial will appear out of nowhere.

Lastly, and most important, we're writing. If you check in on us and think, man this is boring to watch, then you know, we're writing.  However, we are a bunch of giggly girls so expect us to laugh and carry on about absolutely nothing also.

Before the start of NaNo I figured I could probably write 20,000 words in a 16-hour day based on what I know I can average per hour minus the breaks for food and whatnot.  Now that I've started NaNo, I will be lucky to get 10,000 out by the end of the day tomorrow.  Why? Just in the first 4 days I felt like I was crashing. I was exhausted. My brain knew what it needed to write but I couldn't picture the scenes in my head to write from. And I was only producing 4,000 words per day.  However, I do have fragmented days with kids so my outside influences were definitely increasing my exhaustion.  Tomorrow there will be no kids to distract me so my goal is to write 10,000 words in 16-hours, if not more.  Every couple of hours I will post my word count with NaNo and you will be able to see on my sidebar what I've been able to accomplish.

If you could write for 16-hours, how many words do you truly believe you could pound out? Would you be able to write as many if you were in a group or would that number go down?

Monday, November 1, 2010

And We're Off. . .

I have officially begun my NaNo story.  I waited patiently for midnight to arrive last night and was able to get 232 words done before my eyes started drooping and my hands stopped typing.  I was tired.  Perhaps this was because of our fun filled Halloween with the kids and trick-or-treating, or, because I was so excited the whole weekend and finally just crashed.  I thought the late night Coca-Cola would help, or the five pieces of candy that my kids agreed to trade with me before finally saying, "Mom, I don't want to trade with you anymore because you don't have any good candy in your bucket."  It was true.  I only had hard candies left and no chocolate.  But still, no amount of caffeine or sugar was going to keep my eyes open.

At least I started though.  I've got all day to fit my writing in and then all night before I submit my first word count which I'm hoping will be around 3,000 words (Michael is holding me to it over at In Time. . .). 

Are you doing NaNo?  How's it going so far?  Is the start up hard or easy for you?

Well, I've mentioned over the last few weeks that I will be having a 16-hour writing event for NaNo.  You're probably thinking 16-hours?  Why?  Well, some of you might remember back in July that my husband, James, participated in his first Ironman Triathlon and me and my sister supported him through that.  When I say support I mean we followed him around far longer than the 13 hours and 19 minutes it took him to complete the race.  He was so thankful that he said he would host a 16-hour writing event for me and my writing group, Write-A-Tat-Tat. 

So, be prepared!  My 16-hours begins at 7am this Saturday, November 6th and we will be using LiveStream to let the blogging world in on what we're doing.  You will be able to (assuming we have limited technical difficulty) come here and watch us sitting around typing our hearts our, or pounding our heads on the table, whichever happens first. 

Consider yourselves invited to write along with us for 16-hours, or just to leave a comment to help keep our minds working and our eyes open!

Also, with NaNo in the air, please forgive me for falling behind on my comments, or postings as I will only be able to make my rounds and put up new postings one time per week.  Please understand and know that I will be back at it and in full swing around December (after a long winter's NaNo nap?).  If you're a Crusader, or a new Crusader, please don't think I'm ignoring you.  There are so many of you now that I really need to update my side bar to include your links.  I will do that!  Soon!  I promise!!!!

Fill me in on what's going on for you with NaNo!  Or, in your world of writing and querying!