Bonnie's excuse of the week

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Okay, it's been lame-o-rama over here in BonnieLand. But for good reason. ;)

Here's what's been holding me back this week:

"Project Runway Canada is on"
Now, if you don't live in Canada, that's just too bad. Because you missed some mighty fine programming. First, we have Iman as the host, who has impeccable style, a groovy rock star husband and an accent that makes anything she says sound perfectly bitchy.

"Sorry, you didn't make the cut."

But what makes this excuse even more lame than usual was what happened on this week's episode. Fourteen designers (most from Toronto, go figure) all showed up with their portfolios, luggage and attitude, and, before we got to the first runway show, two had bailed due to health reasons.

Poor Brian Bailey, the show's design mentor for the contestants. There he was, taking the designers somewhere "private" (with a camera crew and microphone) to help them through their decisions and ensure that they really wanted to miss out on the Project Runway Canada opportunity. At least Brian doesn't look so much like a bad '70s flashback as he did last season. He was all moustache, no man.

I can only imagine what the producers were thinking while all this was going down. It probably rhymed with the word duck.

Never before did I realize how unhealthy the fashion industry is. One gal had an anxiety attack, which resulted in a free trip to the hospital. (After all, this is Canada.) Then, the next day, a designer who had won his battle with cancer had to withdraw due to some complications (his legs were swelling up and he wasn't looking too good).

How was I supposed to get anything done with all this going on?

For a moment, it looked like the remaining designers might get a reprieve. You know, since two of the fourteen were, like, outta there already.

But no, those stinky producers let the elimination proceed as planned, leaving me wondering if the season will be a few episodes short. Or if they'll add some new competitors next week.

So, yeah, the Project Runway Canada drama cut into the time I would have normally spent on my work in progress. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

But that only explains my lack of progress for a few hours. The rest of the time I blame on the alien abduction.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:58 PM 2 comments

Inappropriate title goes here

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ugh. There have been oodles of discussions on appropriateness and rules on some of the loops I belong to lately, and it's enough to make me log out and do laundry instead.

Then again, I really can't complain. Those promises I made to myself last summer about being more active online and networking with others hasn't really been at the top of my list. Especially when I spend most of my time lurking. ;)

And I've misplaced my soapbox somewhere anyhow.

Rules get broken all the time. A lot of grammar rules get drawn and quartered on this blog every time I post. (Hooray!) But I'd rather not get bogged down in all the details in the ongoing discussions, especially not when I have enough stuff on my plate already.

Does avoiding the discussions altogether mean that I'm not being a good loop member? Maybe. But I'd rather stay safe behind the safety of my silence than risk the wrath of another member.

After all, the pen is mightier than the sword. ;)

Maybe I'll check out the archives instead.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:40 PM 5 comments

Post 601

Monday, January 26, 2009

OMG - I let post 600 go by without starting up the chocolate fountain or holding a parade! There must be something wrong with me. I'm in serious celebratory decline.

But I have discovered something: if you ignore a work in progress long enough, it will creep up behind you and smack you over the head until you put your hands on the keyboard and start working on it again.

Hopefully the bruises will fade before my next public appearance. ;)

The reason for the head-banging, I think, is because I've been listening to a bunch of awesome workshops I have on CD from the Romance Writers of America National Conference. Yeah, Frisco baby, I'm reliving it without the balmy weather and tight elevator situations.




And all of these awesome authors, who have so openly shared their knowledge, have led me to a conclusion Michelle has been trying to tell me since I tried to write a murder mystery in which no one died: writing by the seat of your pants equals a lot of revisions.

I know this, but it just hadn't really sunk in yet. Then I thought about the last two novels I'd completed by pantsing. Sure, they're fabulous and all, but it took quite a bit of reworking and revising to make them as fresh and tasty as they are now.

Besides, when I get a book contract and have to write another novel in, say, six months, I won't have time for the additional five years of revisions. Gulp. My editor would actually expect the novel to, uh, be delivered on time. And actually work. Or at least be close to working.

So this "plotting and outlining" thing might be useful. Well, in order to stop the muse from getting all cranky and destroying the furniture, I used my time to write out (longhand) the outline for my current work in progress. Yes, the one I started during National Novel Writing Month -- where plots and outlines are verboten.

Sorry, just had to use that word.

The cool thing is that, even though there's an outline now, it's still flexible enough to let the pantster in me do a little bit of... pantsing. So I should be done this novel in... um, let me get back to you on that. I think the phone's ringing.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:50 PM 4 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ugh. It's been a busy week work-wise, which is very nice for my personal slice of the economy, but I'm feeling quite sluggish as I try to catch up on everything. Especially the laundry and grocery shopping. :::clutches the coupons tightly to her chest:::

"I can't decide which project to focus on."
Hey, I caught that stink-eye! Don't go hating me because I have more than one idea. (Yeah, like I have two. Big whoop.) I know a lot of people who can totally surpass me in a "number of novels in some shape of progress" contest. And they should be very proud of themselves.

Their holiday cards are still in the mail.

I've been using this excuse a lot lately. No, not the "in the mail" one -- it's the whole "can't decide" thing that's gotten the best of me.

But why is that so terrible? Well, until I make a decision, nuttin' gets done. And that's deadly when it comes to generating more words and new pages on a manuscript. All the ideas just kind of sit there, gathering cobwebs, waiting for something more exciting than spellcheck to happen.

It's the freedom of choice dilemma: we all have the freedom of choice, but until you decide, you're trapped.

Since our time is so darn valuable, it's hard to leave the decision of what to focus on up to a coin toss or flip of a cat toy. Or, another favorite, basing the decision on the next shuffled tune on my MP3 player.

When "King Fu Fighting" plays, I still don't know which novel to work on. LOL

So, after hearing two or three songs that remind me of bad '80s outfits and the boys who rocked the acid-wash look perfectly, I wait for the muse to arrive. Then, when that doesn't happen, I look for inspiring words from other authors.

And that's when I notice that a lot of smart people out there warn us about falling into the "revision" trap. I'm guilty of that. Big time. So at least I know to focus on the stuff that isn't finished yet. Or maybe I should say: "isn't even written yet."

Oh yes, my work is cut out for me.

How about you? How do you choose which project you're going to work on?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:23 PM 0 comments

Do what you love before it's too late

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As the owner of several self-help books containing inspiring words about seizing the day and following your dreams, I thought I'd take a break from my President Obama-stalking and explore this point a bit further.

It's easy to do what you have to do; choosing to go after your dreams is what's hard.

Maybe it's because not everyone can make a living eating chocolate or cuddling kittens. Maybe the economy sucks and certain industries aren't able to support themselves, let alone your dream. Whatever you want, you can count on the odds being against you before you even state your dreams aloud.

That's why a lot of people write them down on a piece of paper and stick it to their bathroom mirror -- or tuck it into a desk drawer in a place only they know about.

Back in the late '80s, a huge self-help hit was Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. Right away, in the introduction (if I'm not mistaken, I'm too lazy to reach for it) the author clarifies that the money might not follow right away.

Obviously she had a career in publishing. ;)

And I think that's where people get hung up: on how they determine their success. To be perfectly honest, I'm earning half the income I used to when I worked full time -- but I also used a lot of that cash to buy myself "rewards" for putting up with the politics and crazy deadlines and never-ending workload.

Now I can watch Dr. Phil if I want to. And go to matinees.

What concerns me, though, is that some people have a dream in their hearts and never make a go of it, thinking that they'll get to it later "when they have more time."

Repeat after me: Later is for losers.

Even if you only have five minutes to dedicate to your dream, go for it. Go ahead, put all that you've got into those five minutes -- and soon you'll discover that you might have another five minutes, then another and then another...

The best part? You'll have tried, even for a moment. And that can feel really good when all you've done all day has been for someone else.

If you could do ANYTHING for five minutes, what would it be?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:41 PM 5 comments

I normally don't do this

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The first time I heard Barack Obama speak, I thought about contacting him to do my answering machine message. I mean, let's face it, the man is a brilliant speaker. Simply by hearing his voice, callers would calm down, think of the bigger picture and feel that everything was gonna work out as long as they made an effort to change.

And that's all before they'd get to the beep.

For the first time in my life, I watched a Presidential Inauguration. And, I'm sure, so did a lot of Canadians. The millions gathered at the White House not only made me wonder if there were enough bathrooms for everyone, it also symbolized the power this one man has.

It's scary when you think about it. Have we already put President Obama onto such a high pedestal that his only option is to fall? I sincerely hope not.

While I'm certainly not a political expert, I do watch a lot of TV. And this ceremony was great TV, even with Aretha Franklin's bizarre hat and Dick Cheney looking like Star Wars' evil emperor in his wheelchair. (That's not to say that people in wheelchairs are anything but nice; it just wasn't Cheney's best look.)

When President Obama spoke, I felt included. Me, a crazy Canadian sitting in a pub called The Groundhog, having lunch with some colleagues. As cynical as we all are, he had our attention.

And, once he was done, I felt the significance of what had just happened. As he said, "This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

He said it best, and left me feeling awed, empowered and ready for change.

I think he did that on purpose, don't you?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:55 PM 2 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Saturday, January 17, 2009

When the temperature in Toronto is colder than the coast of the Beaufort Sea (near Alaska), you know that it's time to stop the BBQ. Brr! But blaming the weather isn't what my excuse for this week is about.

"It's too hard."
Can you tell where I'm at in my current WIP? The weather isn't the only thing that's cold around here. The poor Word file is in hibernation.

Well, there are times while on the journey toward accomplishing something that the goal can seem too overwhelming, challenging or simply impossible. And this is when a lot of people give up. Or are really tempted to.

I know, in my case, what normally gets me is a failure to plan or comprehend the amount of time I'll need to dedicate to a task. An excellent example of this is a beautiful needlepoint kit that sat in my craft box for seven years.

Do I have needlepoint experience? Nope. But it looked real pretty, so I bought the package, took it home, and then realized that I needed something called a loom and a needle or two. So I got those too. Without even opening up the pattern, I knew I was in trouble.

Still, I kept it all, just in case the ability to needlepoint perfectly or have the time to do it suddenly appeared. The few times that I'd open the craft box and see it, a little tingle of guilt would hit me as I thought of the money spent on the kit and accessories -- and how well it all collected dust.

What stopped me from picking up the needle? Knowing that I was already in over my head.

I donated the kit to charity before Christmas lat year. Hopefully someone out there is putting it to good use.

And I think that's what's been happening in my novel lately. I'm staring at the pages and not looking ahead. Actually, I'm more focused on the front cover -- or the thought of writing this book. My characters are there, but busy with discussions about cheese and how cold it is outside. This isn't the stuff that captivating stories are made of. (If they are, feel free to let me know.)

If I were mountain climbing instead of writing, I could be hanging off a cliff or surrounded by wolves; my compass, map and trail mix would still be at home. Or at the camping goods store.

So yeah, things are hard to do, but they're even harder to do when you don't have a plan, recipe or outline. While we might not be able to plot out all points in the journey towards success, it helps to know which small steps will bring us closer to it.

How do you deal with a goal that seems too huge to accomplish?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:07 PM 2 comments

I've got to remember to blink

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It was a day marred by the worst headache I've had all year. Actually, in about a few years.

Now I won't say it was a migraine. I'm too much of a wimp to know what kind of pain that entails. And I thank my lucky stars that I don't get them. Or at least I don't think so.

But you really don't want to know about how long I needed to lounge around in a dark room to recover or if Adam Levine from Maroon 5 dropped by to see if I was doing okay.

You're probably asking yourself: how often does she blink when she's looking at her computer screen?

Actually, I should ask you the same question. ;) About a year ago, I read a very interesting article in Romance Writers Report about the need for regular blinking. No, not by those hunky heroes who sometimes wear Stetsons -- blinking needs to be done by the writers.

And I think that's why I prefer the printed page for reading books and magazine articles. Okay, I haven't done any scientific analysis to count the amount of blinkage I do in online and offline scenarios, but rarely do I place a bookmark in a great novel and say: "Ouch! My eyes feel like the sandpapery stuff I saw on that commercial that removes unwanted body hair."

When I'm online for long periods of time, though, the itchy-eye symptoms seem to frequently appear. That can probably be attributed to my need to blink more often. It's really something I don't think about until my eyes are bleeding or I'm getting all squinty-eyed, encouraging even more wrinkles.

BTW, I don't recommend the sandpapery hair-removal product; you're better off going to Home Depot and getting a belt sander. ;)

So please, for the love of all things legible, look away from the monitor and blink a few times. Then remember to do it again and again.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:48 PM 4 comments

A little whine while being cheesy

Monday, January 12, 2009

If there's anything I've learned in my many years on this planet, it's that I don't need to practice complaining. I have the black belt (and wrinkles) to prove it.

Still, it kind of drives me crazy when things don't happen as I plan them to, like with parades and chocolate fountains. It's just that I keep on forgetting that adults do things differently than us seven-and-a-half-year-olds do. (I've adopted my shoe size as my age to encourage more interesting party themes.)

Sure, maybe pom-poms aren't necessary (or appropriate) during certain occasions, but I'd much rather be the one to decide, rather than someone else out there, be it "them," "the man" or "the powers that be."

Perhaps all this talk of economizing has us reigning in too much. No, I'm not advocating cashing out your retirement savings and hopping over to Vegas, but maybe, just maybe, we can be more generous with ourselves.

It could be as simple as planting some seeds indoors so that you have some fresh herbs for your kitchen. Or picking up the phone and dialing long-distance (or do it over the Internet) to chat up with a pal. Or buying the cushy tissues because you feel like your nose is going to fall off and you're totally worth the extra 85 cents. Just see if you can get a coupon for it at the store. ;)

You see, if we master being generous with our time, ideas and compassion in small ways, it'll prepare us for those times when it might be the only thing we have going for us at the time.

Is there a little way you reward yourself or others that has a big impact?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 1:09 PM 6 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Friday, January 9, 2009

2009 has been an interesting year already. And when I say "interesting," I mean "could use some room for improvement" or perhaps "send more chocolate, I'm gonna hibernate instead."

Oh yeah. Even exercising regularly has done little to curb Little Miss Cranky Pants. She's still having that tantrum in the corner that started last week. ;) So that makes this excuse an appropriate one, since it might have inspired my thoughts of hibernation.

"Someone doesn't like it."
It could be that recipe you slaved over for hours, that query letter you spent weeks crafting or, in the absolute worst case, the novel you spent the last year polishing, revising and making sure it was really, really good.

And still, someone out there isn't gonna like it. No matter what you do. Even if you decorate it with butter-cream frosting. Okay, maybe you don't frost your manuscripts, but you know what I mean.

That's what sucks about trying. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes it does. It's just hard to know which "sometimes" we're in until we get verbal or written confirmation that whatever we did wasn't to that person's taste.

Perhaps they don't like macadamia nuts or teen girls struggling with a big secret. Maybe they already had a fabulous turkey dinner at someone else's house and just aren't hungry -- or read a lovely query letter that sounded almost like yours, except it had a dance sequence in it and yours didn't.

Le sigh. It's just hard to know what people mean when they turn down your offer. Or simply let the tray of cute little homemade pastries pass them by without even giving them a glance.

Sure, I might be talking about seeking publication, but the same concept also applies to a lot of other ventures, be it becoming a chef, photographer, Broadway star, major league baseball player... even some astronauts get turned down. Heck, being an astronaut might be even harder to do than getting published right now, given the state of the economy.

So if one door closes, does that mean it's time to give up? Well, what if it's been a couple more doors than one, and it's been longer than, say, five days?

When is the right time to let someone else tell you to stop pursuing your dreams?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:45 AM 3 comments

The Biggest Couch Potato

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Okay, how bad is it that my reason for not going to the gym on Tuesday night was because The Biggest Loser was on?

At least I wasn't downing a tub of Haagen Dazs at the time. Hey, I even did about three sets of psuedo-squats during commercial breaks. Yeah, like I burned, I dunno, five calories? Go me!

But seriously. Lame has a new name, and it starts with B, ends with E and has an onni in the middle of it. The DH did remind me of my goal to work out three times a week, rain or shine. We'd actually been going strong with a workout on Friday and then on Sunday.

I vowed that we would work out Wednesday morning. And, by gosh, we did.

Thanks to living in Canada, a huge pile of snow arrived, just in time for Ukrainian Christmas (happy holidays!). So we spent 30 minutes shoveling instead of working the treadmill.

Was it a coincidence... or fitness destiny? I'm not sure. But I'm afraid of what will happen the next time I try to skip going to the gym.

I wonder how much swarms of locusts weigh when you have to shovel them off the driveway.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 1:11 AM 5 comments

I am spam

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's been very exciting over here at Casa Staring. So far, in three days we've received over 700 emails letting us know that our messages about increasing certain sizes and fulfilling women's dreams have not been able to reach all of the people we sent them to.

Oh yeah, and my name is Rita R New York, Rita S San Francisco or, my favorite, Rita S Chicago.

I'll admit, this was due to happen to us eventually, as the email address being used is one that we've had for ages. Like well over a decade. It just drives me nuts that a lot of people who received these message are cursing our email addy as they delete those pesky spams we never actually sent.

So if you got one from us, I apologize. If anyone has a way to resolve this issue without having to abandon the email address, please let me know. The sooner, the better!

Oh, and can I tell you how much fun it is when, in the middle of a batch of 200 "undeliverable spam" emails, I get four more forwarded messages from a well-meaning (yet obviously not aware of how I feel about forwards) girlfriend. Grr.

Kinda makes me want to send her address to Rita V Texas. ;)

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 5:13 PM 2 comments

Bonnie's excuse of the week

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Apparently the onset of a shiny New Year is not enough to keep my excuses at bay. ;)

"I didn't really want to do it anyway."
This excuse and I go way back and it appears when times get tough and I realize that, in order to accomplish something, I might have to work at it longer than 10 minutes.

That's when the terrible two-year-old inside me throws herself on the floor and starts kicking at the tiles. A few whiny screeches may be involved, highlighted by tears and really blotchy cheeks. Yeah, talk about being ready for my close up. ;)

But seriously, why do some things have to be so darn hard? Why can't it all be as easy as polishing off a box of chocolates or singing along to Boney M's "Rasputin"?

And puh-leeze, don't go trying to convince me that all the hard work will pay off and make me feel an awesome sense of accomplishment when I'm laying this excuse out on the table. No way, no how am I gonna see the point of spending any more time on that "stupider than Jupiter" scheme. No offense to Jupiter, it just rhymes with stupider.

At this point my mantra is "Success be damned!" I'm gonna go hang out on the sofa and get all cranky. Maybe even watch a couple episodes of Temptation Island I still have on tape. Yeah, the ones with Catherine and Edmundo, the star-crossed nimrods who totally deserve each other.

And I'll be the first one to complain that I didn't get anything done that day. ;)

Now prepare yourself for an incredible dose of funkiness:

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 1:57 PM 3 comments

Bad news and good news

Friday, January 2, 2009

Today has been mind-blowing, simply because I've witnessed incredible highs and horrific lows...

And that's not even including the entries I'm judging for the RWA's Golden Heart contest. ;)

In all seriousness, this time of year can be absolute crap for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one or a diagnosis that points out where the end of the road will be. It turns out that a friend's husband has pancreatic cancer. And that really, really sucks.

When life throws a curve ball like that, it makes it impossible to focus on whether or not the laundry gets done or if there are any groceries in the fridge.

And then, just when I was ready to shake my fist at the sky and declare that there was no bright side to anything that could happen today, I stepped outside into a snowstorm.

Okay, maybe it wasn't a snowstorm, but it might as well have been with the mood I was in. Ready to grumble and just not bother with going to the store, I was interrupted by Lukas, the five-year-old pirate wannabe who lives next door.

"Bonnie, it's snowing!"

Sure, he was totally stating the obvious, but he said it with such glee and punctuated it with a prance across the lawn that I couldn't help but smile, then laugh, and then join him in catching snowflakes with our tongues.

And you know something? Lukas' weather report was absolutely right. It was snowing. And he took full advantage of it.

I just have to remember the wisdom of a five-year-old when things get tough.

Peace out.

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 9:35 PM 4 comments