The One Where You Get to Be Pygmalion

There's sunshine! Go outside!

There’s sunshine! Go outside!

Hile, inklings!

This week in Courtney’s Grand Writing Adventure Epic Saga, I’m currently sitting at a Panera, desperately trying to get all my online stuff done before my allotted half hour of internet access is exhausted (until 2:00pm). As soon as I’m done posting this and tweeting/Facebooking it, I’ll switch gears into my word processor, start pounding the keys on Elevator People once again, and hope that after 2:00, I can upload the storyish results to my Google document.

*sigh*

A writer’s life is nothing if not complicated. For a “stay-at-home” job, you’d think this would be less fraught with things.

In other news, my weekly article for UnstressedSyllables.com is up, and it’s all about figuring out the Ideal Reader for your story: who she is, why she is, and how she’s absolutely vital to your writing process. Come and see!

Ciao, lovelies.

Witch Doctors, Jesus Christ, and the Harlem Globetrotters

Hile, you lovely people! With no more preamble than what you’re reading RIGHT THIS INSTANT, here’s a quick run-down of Courtney’s Recent Life:

  • Writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com published my recent article on how to choose a target audience for your novel. Click that link to read and go ooh-ahh.
  • Speaking of ooh-aahs, I’ve been singing a lot of “Witch Doctor” to the baby. She finds it entertaining.
  • I’VE BEEN PAINTING. I know. I KNOW. That’s a pretty big one. I hope none of you fainted. If you did, and if you’ve since revived to read the rest of this bullet point, I’ll tell you that I’ve actually got TWO paintings in the works:
    1. an illustration of Revelation: a post-Second-Coming Christ, the church in the form of a house, and a New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens — you know, iconic epic-type stuff
    2. an image that’s been knocking around in my head for almost two years: landscape with crimson sky and purple hills in the background, and a mysterious dark Something in the foreground. The Something might be a structure. Or it might be a person (possibly a female version of this). I’m not sure yet. But it will be black.
  • I’ve been editing Josh‘s latest: Hell-Bent for Leather, a Weird Western in which supernaturally gifted Chet Leather must rescue the soul of his friend, Dan, from the clutches of a Duke of Hell. It’s an incredibly entertaining romp with plenty of action, deviltry, tongue-in-cheekiness, and heart. Though I’m slow due to time constraints, I’m enjoying it immensely. In other news, Josh has been very patient with me.
  • In further news, Elevator People progresses apace. Our Hero is about five paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue away from his final encounter with The Villain, Carrigan Bell. I’m glad of it, because I’m ready for this story to be in editing and pre-publishing stage, and I also want Carrigan Bell over and done with. He’s a particularly nasty sort, and I always feel like I need a shower after I’ve been in his head for a while.
  • This isn’t part of Recent Life, but it’s a Recent Development pertaining to Life, so I’ll share it: I get to see the Harlem Globetrotters in April, and my brother-in-law will be on the opposing team. BAM.

For now, that is all. I’m going to bed. See ya later, dahlings! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

But if you do, take pictures.* ; )

*I picked that one up from my Grandpa. WHAT.

Frying Up Some Mock Turtle, and Other Shenanigans

I know. I KNOW. You haven’t had a real, honest-to-goodness, grit-in-your-teeth blog post from me in ages. I KNOW. And I’m sorry. Yea verily and forsooth, I mourn this even more than you do. Especially since I recently had an apostropheIthinkyoumeananepiphany and I’ve been dying to share it with you and I haven’t been able to.

So, even though I can’t expound much upon it, here goes:

It’s not that I lack the time to write.

What I lack is uninterrupted thought.

In order to write effectively — okay, let’s be honest, in order to write at all, whether it’s noveling or blogging or even emailing — I need a certain amount of uninterrupted thought. If I don’t get it, what I’m doing is what Aaron calls “context-switching.”

mockturtleIn my case, when I try to write at home during the day, I’m constantly switching between two contexts: WRITING (NOVEL OR BLOG) and MAKING SURE BABY SURVIVES AND IS HAPPY AND HEALTHY.

That second one is a doozy of a context.

Context-switching isn’t impossible, but it does come with a price (mental and spiritual exhaustion). And the more I try to do it, the steeper that price becomes. Honestly, I’ve given up trying to pay it for now. The context called BABY has won out (and rightfully so).

For now, I get to write once a week, when my mom comes to babysit and I can leave the house for a few hours. Sometimes, like right now, I’ll decide to sacrifice sleep in order to write while the Itty Bitty is sleeping. But this latter solution also comes with a heavy price, so you won’t see me paying this one willingly often.

In the meantime, do enjoy what I have written. And if you’d like to see how a recipe for Mock Turtle Soup relates to writing a novel, head on over here for a scrumptious taste!

Give Us This Week Our Weekly Writing Advice

Hello, lovelies!

Today’s post is for all you fabulous writers out there. Ready to dive into penning your novel? Check out my ponderings on how to get a grip on what your story is actually about and how that focus will keep you writing even when — especially when — you get stuck.

Oh, and the thing needs a name, right? I talk about figuring out your working title, too. So click through and read through! And feel free to comment. : )

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

Greetings, my beloved inklings!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me here. I mean, yeah, I’ve been posting something every week or so, but those recent posts haven’t had a lot of meat to them. I know. What can I say? The reason for my silence is also the originator of this post’s subject matter. Here’s your bonus round before I even get to my five points:

Babies require many, many items.

Babies require much, much time.

So there ya have it.

Plus, I’ve been working on posts for writing advice site Unstressed Syllables, as well as mentoring Josh through his latest novel. (It’s a Weird Western: cowboys, Pinkertons, vengeful ghosts, and demons.) These are excellent endeavors for me to be involved in, but they have caused my own writing to suffer from neglect.

Balance: It’s difficult to achieve when you’re a new momma. And there’s another bonus point for you.

So! On to the “5 Things” I originally sat down to tell you about today. ; )

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

1.  It can really, really hurt.

Once upon a time when I was 8 or 9 years old, it was summertime and my parents and I were at the grandparents’ house for our annual visit. My cousins, Amanda and Jonathan, and I were jumping on Grandma’s unfolded sofa-bed, launching ourselves up and dropping down on our butts.

As it turns out, this was quite the poor choice on my part. I jumped up, dropped down, and landed tailbone first on the metal rod running beneath the mattress. Said mattress did not provide an adequate cushion for my posterior. All I remember after that is running through the house, screaming for my mother.

Three weeks after that, while visiting the other set of grandparents, I re-injured the aforementioned tailbone by falling off a horse.

Fast-forward 26 or 27 years, and I’m in the hospital, about to push something the size of a small watermelon out of something the diameter of a shooter marble. When my doctor tells me to, I give my first big push. And from somewhere in my nether regions, there comes a loud pop!

“Well,” says I, “that was fun.”

My doctor gives me a look, and I can see her thinking, You have no idea what just happened.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

She was right. I had no idea. I thought that pop was simply the sound of my back popping, which is something it does from time to time.

But no. That pop was the sound of my tailbone fracturing.

I am thankful beyond words that I’d asked for that epidural not quite three hours before.

Nobody told me this could happen.

Apparently, fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth is not terribly uncommon. It can happen if the baby is unusually big. At 6 lbs 12 oz, my baby was not unusually big.

Fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth can also happen if there has been a prior injury to the tailbone. Sometimes, one has quite a bit of cause for regretting the foolishness of one’s youth.

I spent the first two months of my daughter’s life sitting on a Boppy and taking 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours. For the first month, someone had to be with me constantly, because I couldn’t sit down or stand up without using both hands to lower or raise myself. Someone else had to hold the baby while I maneuvered.

Also — and here’s some TMI for you, so read this part at your own risk — I was on Percocet for four days after delivery. Nobody told me that Percocet can cause severe constipation.

Percocet + (fractured tailbone) = bad

Really, really bad.

When my baby was four days old, I spent 4 hours at the emergency room getting an enema. Lemme tell ya, folks, you haven’t lived until you’ve had an attractive young nurse pump a tubeful of soapsuds up your rear.

Side note: This took place a day after my first postpartum ER visit. That one was for unusually severe swelling in my feet and legs. They did ultrasounds on my legs. Fortunately, I didn’t have bloodclots. I just couldn’t elevate my feet properly because of the tailbone pain*.

Nobody told me that could happen, either.

2. You have never known this level of tired. Not even in college.

I’m a lifelong nightowl. I knew that caring for a newborn would involve sleep deprivation. But I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters; I thought I could handle it.

Nuh-uh. Y’all, there is no handling this. United States Government, please don’t ever trust me with state secrets. ‘Cause if the terrorists get hold of me, all they’ll have to do is deprive me of sleep for a few days, and I’ll be singin’ like a drunk canary in a honky-tonk.

Seriously. The first three months, the longest I ever slept in one stretch was 4.5 hours. Most of the time, I averaged 2.5 hours between feedings. Itty Bitty is now 4 months 3 weeks old, and since she was born, I have gotten 8 hours of sleep exactly once. There have been times that I was so tired, I just sat loose-limbed in a chair and sobbed.

During her first month, I had hallucinations. Hallucinations, people.

Nobody told me that could happen.

3. Projectile poop is the new black. (Everybody’s wearing it.)

I read about projectile vomiting. I read about poopy diaper explosions. I read about getting peed on while changing a diaper. (Yes, even little girls can sometimes produce a “fountain.”)

But nobody told me that when you lift up the baby’s legs to wipe her and she turns red in the face and pushes, green liquid can squirt out her butt and up over your shoulder and land on the white carpet three feet behind you. And, if you don’t learn your lesson, she’ll do it again several days later. But this time, it will splatter you from chin to knees.

wubbanubduck

4. Your baby might not, in fact, take a pacifier.

Our Itty Bitty will take a pacifier. In fact, as far as she’s concerned, the pacifier is one of her best friends. The problem is that most of the time, she can’t hold it in her mouth by herself.

I don’t know why this is. Something about developmental stage or sucking method or the alignment of the planets. Whatever it is, most of the time she ain’t got it. And if we want her to stay asleep after we’ve put her to bed, one of us usually has to hang out with her for about half an hour, holding the pacifier in her mouth until she falls deeply enough asleep not to notice when it plops out of her mouth.

“One does not simply hold the pacifier.”

— the Baby

We’ve even tried this cute thing called a “Wubbanub”: a little stuffed toy that is supposed to help baby grasp a pacifier and keep it in her mouth. It’s a great idea and looks really cute and doesn’t work with our baby at all. She just uses the ducky to pull the pacifier out of her mouth again. So we play the now-infamous Pacifier Game with her and hope that Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus line up properly so that we’re not still doing this when she’s 18.

Nobody told me this could happen.

5. The first three months are really, really hard.

Nobody told me this.

And if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

But I still wish they had.

Instead, all I heard was how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is and how cute and cuddly the babies are.

Well, I’m gonna tell it to you straight. Yes, motherhood is wonderful and rewarding. Yes, the baby is cuddly and cute. In fact o’bidness, as Grandpa would say, I think she’s pretty much the most beautiful person on the face of this planet. I wouldn’t trade being her mother for anything.

But.

And please forgive my language, but this is how strong this truth is.

Motherhood during the first 3-4 months is damn hard.

All of those women who portray it as rainbows-glitter-sunshine-unicorns-blue-skies? I’m not saying they’re lying. I’m not even saying they’re misremembering.

But I am suspicious.

This is hard, y’all. And I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. I still sometimes sob because I’m so desperate for sleep. Especially during the past week, when my baby has had her second ear infection and needed my constant attention, I’ve longed to fast-forward to when she can talk and tell me where it hurts, never mind that I’d be missing all the supermurgitroid developments in between. The husband and I are still trying to figure out how to be parents and how to be a married couple at the same time. I used to have a relatively organized house, but now it looks like I’m running a daycare that has never once seen a vacuum or the folding of laundry. I still can’t shower regularly. “Alone time” happens only if I give up sleep to get it. (I’m doing this right now.)

I haven’t even talked about the feeling of inadequacy. My daughter deserves a rested, put-together, patient, on-top-of-things, well-relating mother. I’m not so unrealistic as to feel guilty that I’m not Supermom. But feeling inadequate definitely happens a lot.

Month 4 is definitely easier than Months 1-3. But rough patches still happen. And though I know life will continue to get more manageable, if not easier, I also know that rough patches will continue to happen.

________________

If I were a Pez dispenser and you were a momma-to-be or wanting to be a momma-to-be, I’d give you some advice. But I’m not a dispenser. All I have to offer are these truths that nobody told me. They are my truths. Whether or not they apply to you, I don’t know. But there they are for you to do with what you will.

In the meantime, pray for my sanity. ; )

This. : ) (2 weeks old)

She is cramazing. : ) (2 weeks old)

*By the way, I’ve been in physical therapy for the fractured tailbone for two months. My recovery is progressing nicely. The pain level has dropped from 8-10 to a comfortable 0-2 range. The therapy itself is called “osteopathic therapy,” and as far as I’m concerned, it’s brilliant.

Dragons, and Something to Blow Your Nose On

frenchheadshot1Hile, inklings!

As I recently mentioned, February (read: NOW) is Ye New Officiale Relaunch Monthe for Unstressed Syllables, the writing advice site where I once-upon-a-time was a regular columnist.

Well. My regular columning days have begun again.

So, hop on over to Unstressed Syllables and peruse my all-new post “Dragons, and Something to Blow Your Nose On,” in which I discuss that mythical beast known as Prewriting: what it is, why you need it, and how you wrangle it.

Happy reading! : )

Your New Writing Coaches

Hey y’all,

Just FYI, I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts. You’re not seeing them here because they’re not for my own blog. They’re for the writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com.

unsylbanner

For those not in the know, I used to write a regular column for Unstressed Syllables. I believe my last post was in October 2011. Then NaNoWriMo hit, I got pregnant, and my UnSyl column kind of got shoved onto the back burner. (Mea culpa.)

But no longer. UnSyl’s owner, Aaron Pogue, is in the process of revamping the site. Starting in February, Unstressed Syllables will begin publishing all new material and new columns from a handful of excellent writers and a talented graphic designer. I’m in the process of reading all the upcoming posts, and lemme tell ya: This stuff is CRAMAZING. UnstressedSyllables.com is about to become your one-stop shop for fiction writing and publishing in today’s adventurous new market.

You’re welcome. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to go. : )

Cat Vomit and Temper Tantrums

Over at UnstressedSyllables.com, I’ve posted my weekly column What I Learned About Writing This Week. Click on over to find out what cat vomit has to do with my short story crafting and National Novel Writing Month!

There’s a connection. I promise. ; )

Thanks for reading, y’all!

IT’S ALMOST TIME.