Friday, March 2, 2012

The First Murder is Always the Hardest and Crit Partner Appreciation Day


I don’t know how many of you have had the pleasure of experiencing March in the Southwest US, but let me just say, it has the most memorable March of all the places I’ve lived. This desiccating wind blows through the valley, drying out everything and sending anything not nailed down (and quite a few things that were nailed down, actually) to the sky.

This wind is a magic thing. It gives life to the dreaded tumbleweed.

If you’ve been reading for a while, I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before, but the battle between man and tumbleweed is taken very seriously here. This wind dries out the weeds and they start rolling around, and not slowly, I’ve been passed by a tumbleweed on the freeway before, doing 60 mph. It’s a thing to behold when a hay bale-sized object speeds past you. Tumbleweed range in size from soccer ball to sedan. I did once see one the size of my living room roll by (yikes). But despite their size they usually aren’t that heavy (hence the rolling along at highway speeds).

Even more disturbing is the way to handle them. Okay, well it’s actually pretty cathartic. When driving, run over the tumbleweed. Do not swerve (unless it’s bigger than your car). They look big, but they’re basically a skeleton of fairly delicate, desiccated plant matter. And even better, when exposed to the front end of a Nissan Versa, they explode in a shower of sticks.

It’s like magic.

In March I always try to think of all my problems as rolling balls of tumbleweed. They always look so much more solid than they are, but every time I’ve run over one, they explode. I like the idea of exploding problems. If all of my problems could be handled so easily… Kapoow!

Did I mention I have the tastes of 12 year old boy, and using my car to make invasive species explode makes me laugh like the mad scientist I am?

The problem is the first one. Every year, it’s a challenge to take out that first tumbleweed. We spend so much of our time learning to protect our cars and drive defensively, that the aggressive act of heartlessly—no! Gleefully!—mowing down a bush in our way is completely foreign to me. But then I get the nerve, line up the damn weed and smack-ola! Sticks and dust fly up over the hood in a satisfying cloud of destruction. Queue maniacal laughter.

Once I take out that first one, it’s game on for the rest of March. Look out tumbleweed, I’m after you.

This is the part where I’m supposed to compare writing to tumbleweed murder. I know, lame right. But it’s always been that way with me, with everything really, not just writing. All the big obstacles were big because I filled in the skeletons with rocks and plaster and stuff to make them harder. I swerved when I should have driven straight ahead. I avoided instead of taking them out when I had the chance. If only I could remember the crunch-whoosh sound of exploding tumbleweed when life throws its curve balls at me.

Right, and now For Crit Partner Appreciation day.

It’s Crit Partner Appreciation day (Thanks for making this one Megan!).

There are a number of people who have looked at my work (query letters and chapters). So in no particular order, I’d like to thank


Go send them some blog love. These guys (I guess gals, really) have changed the way I think about novels, and query letters. You never know how things will stick with a person, but literally, one comment—one sentence!—from someone once made me realize that my entire novel NEEDED to be rewritten (and no, the sentence was not “You need to rewrite your novel”).

In honor of Crit Partner Appreciation day, I’m giving away free crits. No contest, you don’t even have to follow. Send me your first 250 words, and I’ll give you feedback. These are crits people, so they won’t be just full of happy go lucky “I loved it” (even if I do love it). They will be full of honest feedback (it’s the only kind I know how to give). So email me your stuff by Monday the 5th at 11:59 GMT, and I’ll give you one critique on your first page. If you’re in dire need of query help, you can send me a query instead, and I’ll give you all I’ve got in that arena instead.

With critiques, remember that I don’t know any more than the next person, but sometimes all we need is another pair of eyes. I’ve got a pair of eyes, so I’m qualified. My email is RenaLFord(at)gmail, so send me your stuff, and go thank your Crit Partners. 

And for my crit partners, I’ve been closed to crits for a while, but that changes now. Email me.

14 comments:

  1. You are amazing! Thank you for the embrace of National Critique Partner Appreciation Day!

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    1. No problem, we've been in dire need of Crit Partner Appreciation Day. I'm just glad someone got around to doing something about it.

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  2. If I had anything I wasn't too embarrassed to send, I would!

    Tumbleweed is yet another of those mysterious mythical things that I have trouble believing actually exists outside of movies, like cicadas, gophers, and New York :-)

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    1. Oh man, I could go on and on about tumbleweed, but it's actually not native to the US. It came over in the livestock feed from, wait for it, Russia. Yup, the Rooskies gave us tumbleweed (their most diabolical attack yet!).

      As for the others, well, I've held cicadas (one almost the size of lemon!!!), hunted gophers (my great-grandfather was apparently sworn to rid his lawn of the creatures by an arch angel; he used to sit with a glass of wine and a shotgun to take them out), but I'm right there with you about New York, I haven't seen it with my own eyes, so I'm not sure about it...

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  3. Wind and tumble weeds. Sounds fun. We had snow over the weekend in Utah.

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    1. Yeah, we haven't been getting a lot of precip this year. I'm hopeful we'll get more soon...

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  4. You are not kidding about winds in the southwest. In California those Santa Ana winds are actually heaters from heaven...or is it hell? All I know is that they actually can burn your face.

    I had a pal who was a firefighter for the Feds in Lake Elsinore. A mere spark could set a blaze he said. And guess what, he advised that tumbleweeds were a big problem, as they were virtual torches.

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    1. Yeah, the Santa Anas are crazy. Every year I teach my students about them, and they never believe me. I guess it's one of those things like having kids, you just don't understand until you see it.

      And yes, tumbleweed is very flammable. Sometimes we make snow men out of them, and after christmas, you light them on fire. What a blaze!

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  5. Wow...cicadas the size of lemons? Agh.... That's so nice of you to offer to critique! I may have to take you up that... plus, that stuff about tumbleweeds is interesting. I'm from Cleveland, Ohio and all we have is a river that used to be on fire.

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    1. now, being able to light a river on fire is pretty impressive. And as for the cicadas, I came across those giants in, where else, Texas on one of my wild drives across the US. Take a juice lemon and a lime, and the cicada was between the two in size (and kind of scratchy on the palm of my hand as it tried to crawl away).

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  6. The first time I ever drove through the southwest was in March. I remember stopping at Tucumcari (I think that was the name of the first town after TX), New Mexico, getting out of the car, and thinking I was going to blow away. I've never seen wind like that before.

    Wow very generous of you to offer up critiques. You give awesome feedback - completely changed the way I look at my writing =)

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    1. Yup, it's called Tucumcari (pronounces two-come-car-ee), and they get a ton of wind. But if you want to know what's crazy for wind, there's a place in Wyoming where they use this as a wind sock.

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  7. So sad I missed the cut off for the critique! Great post!

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  8. Sorry I'm so late to this party! I love the idea of murdering tumbleweeds. LOL. Thanks for the shout out. Crit Partners are the best. Thanks for the advice you gave me on TGT, it really helped the way I looked at things back then. ;0)

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