Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Queerify-ing the Beastie

My new truck has only been with me a few days, hasn't had 100 miles put on it yet, and has only had Country music playing in it so far.  It's still got a long way to earn the status of "Bubba Truck #2", so is nicknamed "the beastie" for now. It hasn't even hauled a load of anything yet.  I decided today was the day to make it truly mine.

I pulled out my Adam Lambert CD and offered up the "virgin" CD player to his first album. I have to love the man. First, he's got an amazing rock voice, is huge sexy, and comes from the one place I truly feel home, San Diego county.  Top that off with the fact that he is openly gay, and I'm an big fan. 

As soon as the first tune started spilling out of the speakers Jess' BFF Paul hopped into my head, making the transition to his Drag Queen self in no time and singing along with me. I had to laugh at all the chaos in going on in my head, Jess was stating that real trucks only play country music, while Paul/Jolita insisted that true allies are open to any kind of music in their trucks and the rest of their crew danced around my head like the Grateful Dead bears.

Popping on my bluetooth headset I made a call to my BFF and left him the following voice mail: "I've queerified the new beastie...I'm playing Adam Lambert in it."

On my way home he called me back, saying the dog told him I'd called. I repeated the message and he laughed along with me. Only I would think to properly queerify my vehicle, but then I am an odd duck, and at a minimum I made my dear friend laugh.

Best part is Jess just gave me the plot changes for book #4 so it's time to write!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Cash for Clunkers" Fall-out Victim

Last night I was having a major pity party, throwing a bit of a tantrum and in tears. I received devastating (well, for me it was devastating) news yesterday afternoon that the axle that we had a line on for my old Bubba truck had the wrong gearing, wasn't setup for ABS or 4WD. At best, we can hope for an axle rebuild, should we be able to find the parts.

Thank to the efforts of my state's Senators (yes, Debbie Stabenow you are one of the guilty!) push to pass "Cash for Clunkers" in an effort to boost auto sales, there are far fewer replacement parts for vehicles of all ages.  Even more so for a 22 year old pickup.  My beloved Bubba truck was a victim of that *oh-so-brilliant-move* (can you hear the sarcasm dripping here?) and my heart was broken.

Fast forward to this morning, when I did just what the wasteful legislation wanted me to do all along, and I went and "replaced" Bubba with a new vehicle. But not quite in the way they'd hoped for. My new vehicle is a new Ford F-150.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I may have bowed to buying a new vehicle, but no I did not spend the extra $3K to get the new Eco-boost V6 Ford is so proud of. Nope. I got me a big honking V8 that gets an estimated 14mpg and 19mpg. Which is far less than Bubba's 22 and 24.  Bwahahaha!!!

Unfortunately for me, the seats are cloth, not the vinyl that I wanted. The windows are powered, not manual like I wanted. But I did score the only vinyl floor on the lot, and it doesn't have Sync (I fix Microsoft's buggy code all day, I don't want it on my vehicle), it's the color I really like, and it's very plain Jane.  I can live with the pieces that aren't exactly as I wanted, however, I'm not sure I will ever get around to liking the horridly ugly and poorly laid out dash.

I'm hoping to get a special license plate for it, if what I want is available, I'll have to wait and see on that as you can't get special plates here the day you purchase a new vehicle.  Part of the problem of not having the DMV and dealer lots connected by computer. Oh, and you can't buy a vehicle on Sundays in this state either.

Fortunately for my old beloved Bubba truck, it's not completely falling victim to the evil plans of DC.  Instead, it's becoming my project truck. My dear hubby bowed to my pouting and shouts of "I don't want to get rid of Bubba truck!" and we will slowly get it restored as funds and parts cooperate. I could really use having my brother nearby to help with it, but alas, I'm not moving back to my home state and it doesn't look like he'll move my way.

None of this has much to do with writing, other than the impact it has had on my emotions. When I'm not happy, writing doesn't happen, so not much has been done on any of my series and the majority of my characters have been quiet. Except for Jess, who pouted and sobbed with me.

Only truck owners really understand other truck owners attachments to their old work horses, perhaps that's why I love Jess so much.

If you happen to live in the Greater Grand Rapids Michigan area, I highly recommend Tony Betten & Sons Ford. They let me take off with the keys and drive the new beastie around sans sales guy, got it all washed and shiny, gassed it up, and dug for every rebate and discount possible for me. Had Bubba been 5 years newer, I would have gotten another rebate, but alas, no go.  As it was he found us over $4K in discounts to go with our X-plan discounts.

Bubba has a new fan in our sales guy who can't wait until it comes in for the axle replacement so he can see what all the fuss is about. He even hooked me up with a really good parts shop that seems to find the hardest to find parts.  Which is pretty cool, considering the first time I had Bubba there for repair, it was misdiagnosed and they fixed it for free to the tune of $1,800 worth of repairs. Love that they stand behind their repairs!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bring on the Criticism!

Maybe I'm weird - okay I know I'm weird - but I'm SO excited to be going through all the criticism from the judges of the Daphne du Maurier contest.  They've given the good, bad, and the ugly on my book. And while I did have a response to one judge's comment, the rest all gave me tons of stuff to work on. Best part? Most of their criticisms are what I was already thinking is wrong with the book. 

It's great to know I'm on the right track. Now I just have to figure out how to fix it. And how am I supposed to improve my writing if I don't know what's wrong. I mean, I know the entire story, but I don't know that what's on the page is enough for everyone else.

My favorite comment is this one from the summary page:
The basis of the story is very good. 

Short and to the point and tells me I've got a good starting point at least.

This one warmed my heart and made feel for the judge, because I may be the one contestant who won't take her comments as criticisms of who I am or who my character is.

Please don't feel discouraged by any of my remarks. You've got the premise for a great cozy here, you just need to work it up some more. I know how hard it is to take a wip from ok-to-good-to-great. You can do it! You've got the imagination, the smarts, and the "voice". Keep at it and i'm sure you'll be published. Good luck!
 This judge is the only one I wish I could have spoken too, because I had questions for her.

You’ve created a heroine with a lot of potential: ex-alcoholic, short fuse, and surprised by dead people at all hours of the day though she’s still a bit of a cipher to me.

I’m pretty confused about the rules/mythology for the dead people. Can the dead people contact jess anywhere or do they have to stay where they are? Could rosie get into the car with jess if she wanted to or does she need to stay in jess’ home? Does jess see dead people constantly at the hospital?

I would think carefully about what the main story is - sallie mae’s story or the story at the hospital - and how much detail you need to go into about the ancillary characters. I’m not sure who is really important to the story.
 My question would be should I put all the information on the rules for Jess's dead groupies. It comes later in the book and I'm wondering if I should put it in the first few chapters. If I could have put in more than 5,000 words she would have gotten that info. But I really like the last paragraph about thinking what is the main story. Because they're all tangled up together I'm not quite sure how I'll fix that yet.

And this one was my absolute favorite, mainly because this judge also gave me his/her email address should I have questions later - and I will be sending one for certain!  
I think this submission has some real potential. The author has an interesting plot in mind. And to be honest, except for a typo here or there, I had no real issues with sentence structure, grammar or punctuation (except for the!s) It was the overabundance of detail that kept stopping me. But truthfully, this is an easy fix, as long as you are willing to part with a good portion of your words.

Think of your novel as a garden. It’s hopefully overflowing with flowers instead of weeds. You want your readers to see and smell and experience the beauty of your skillfully crafted roses, hollyhocks and irises, your flowers. You don’t want your novel garden to be overrun by dandelions.

I wish you the very best and hope that I helped at least a little. Never give up, never stop writing and always, always believe in yourself.
That last line is the one to hang onto. And I hope soon, that I'll get it all figured out and be able to get Jess' story out there.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Strange Love Affair

I've said this line many times: “Anyone who's known me for more than 15 minutes knows I love my truck!”. Luckily for me, my dear hubby is willing to tolerate my odd love affair with my truck. In case you haven't know me for more than 15 minutes, here's the run down on my truck.
  • First new vehicle I've ever purchased
  • Have owned it longer than all but 1 of my nieces and nephews have been alive
  • If it were human it would be legal age to drink alcohol
  • It's a Ford Ranger Custom – who ever ordered it originally had failed financing and it had sat on the lot for 6 months
After 22 years and 325,000 miles, my truck – affectionately nicknamed “Bubba” - had to go in for service. I dreaded what the news may be as I really don't want a new truck, I don't want loan payments, and there's no new Ford Ranger to be had in my town. (Ford has stopped making them). And besides, Bubba truck still runs great, it's a perfect fit for me, and better yet, my hubby can fit in it and actually drive it. Simply put: I love my truck and never, ever want to get rid of it.

Bubba is a simple truck. Nothing fancy on board, besides the extended cab. My one niece referred to his manual windows as “Ghetto Windows” and was a bit shocked to discover there is an alternative to power windows. He has vinyl seats and a vinyl floor just as I had wanted. His color is dark charcoal, interior is light grey, and he came with an AM radio. He does have air conditioning – which I didn't want, but am now very thankful for - and there is only one computer chip on board. That one chip costs about $1,200 to replace now and controls only his starting and fuel injection system.

Bubba and I got together when I was living on my grandfather's orange grove in California. It's first load was an engine hoist we'd rented to use on my grandmother's 1965 Dodge Coronet, and it that was also it's first scratch – in the bed of course. It had been christened as a “real” work truck. Subsequent loads included smudge pots, a pair of pot bellied pigs with the complete makings for their sty's, a friend's office (complete with furniture, files cabinets, and computers), show rabbits, multiple breeds of dogs, lots and lots of computers, and towed a Toyota Corolla with a bad transmission.

I broke Bubba's front shock while off-roading in the bad lands with friends and he still valiantly drove back up the mountain, back into town to drop off my passenger, and then back up the mountain home without compliant. He had his patience (and mine) tested by my brother-in-law who took him to 55 in 3rd gear when he was still being broken in. Since then he's rarely been driven by anyone but me, or my hubby. Bubba is the last manual transmission vehicle my beloved grandfather (a.k.a. Pop) drove. His passengers ranged from multiple

Bubba came with me to pick up my hubby and his kitty in Arizona to move home with me. One of my favorite dogs rode in the front seat with me every weekend to take care of my grandparents. Kodi, our first Great Pyrnees, rode on the arm rest in the bench seat, wrapped in a small towel, on his trip home from his breeder's house and when he got big he rode in his crate, strapped down in the bed. Rascal, one of our favorite kitties, tucked himself into that same arm rest on his way home, after exploring the entire cab first.

It was while driving in Bubba that Pop explained the truth of his birth to me and I learned of my Native American roots. He's also the last vehicle I rode in with Pop, and the only vehicle that I know of that my grandmother went off-roading in while in a tiny jump seat.

Bubba safely delivered our Great Pyrenees dogs Kodi and Kira, our kitties Rascal and Romeow, and my dear hubby to Michigan from California during a minor tornado outbreak in Illinois and Indiana.
None of Bubba's passengers have been famous, but many of my friends consider it an honor to ride in Bubba. The only pair of twins to ever ride in Bubba are now out of college (how scary is that).

I've refused to trade in Bubba truck when we purchased our 1995 Thunderbird, again for our 1999 Suburban, once more when we purchased my 2001 Trakker and our 1999 Yukon at the same time, and finally for our current Suburban. He also outlasted my hubby's 1995 Tempo, and the Caprice Classic we bought from my cousins after my great-uncle passed away.

Bubba and I have been all up and down California and Michigan The only time he has ever stranded me was my own fault when I left his head lights on and the battery died. AAA has always come to the rescue in those situations. We've spent a lot of time together, I had always planned on keeping Bubba until I can no longer get parts to fix him. The good news, is I can hold onto that dream a little bit longer.

The mechanics called back and Bubba is fixable. I've worn out his back end after all these years of hauling stuff around, and completely flattened out his leaf springs. So after a new axle and new leaf springs (which are almost as old as Bubba), Bubba and I will be back on the road, happily toodling around town. No one else in town has a truck that looks like Bubba truck. One of my friends can spot him from the other side of the expressway going in the opposite direction. I swear it's the white shell, although I must admit I haven't seen a 1990 Ford Ranger in dark charcoal grey around town other than mine.

Not for the first time, my early birthday and Christmas present this year will be getting Bubba what he needs done. I'm doing a happy dance while my dear hubby is teasing me about turning Bubba into an artificial reef in Lake Michigan. Either way, in a week or so, Bubba will have an axle replacement and I will be happily driving down the road with no loan payments.