Welcome

Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Love Knowing Smart People

Okay, folks.  Remember how I've been trying to find balance and order between all of the many haphazard parts of my life?  Well, I found part of the answer yesterday on the blog of a very smart woman.

Jemi (Just Jemi) described how she's ordered her blog reading with folders in Google Reader.  Totally copying from Jemi, I not only set up folders for each day of the week, but I added a Daily folder (mainly for agents' blogs), and a "Whenever" folder (e.g., for the gluten-free food blogs I follow).  I know this is going to make my life so much more manageable.

Thanks, Jemi!

So, for those of you who I've missed recently, fear not.  I shall return.  I just might not return every day.  But at least this way I get to see you sometimes! :)

******

In writing-related occurrences, if you didn't see yesterday's post, I'm excited about my new photo acquisition for a character in my WiP.  I'm still working toward finishing my latest draft of WiP#1 by the end of September.  My current word count holds at about 36K.  I didn't get any time to work on it on Monday, but hopefully I'll find some time on Tuesday.

******

Here's a school update after day 1, for those of you who might be interested.  I've gone to my first fiction writing class already, and it was awesome.  The instructor's cool, excited, and adorable.  The other students are a wide mix from campus: seniors and freshman; creative writing majors, grad-me, and psychology majors; an even balance of men and women.

It looks like it's going to be a good class.  For the first few weeks, we'll be focusing on characterization one week, story arcs another, dialogue another, etc.  And at the end of each class she'll give us 5-10 minutes and a writing prompt to get the ol' brain cells activated.  We'll see what comes out of yesterday's prompt over the weekend...

I also had my German for reading class.  It was more or less what I expected.  The instructor said from the get-go that this would be a boring class—monotonous and tedious—but I so sincerely appreciated his honesty about it.  A few years ago I took the equivalent French class, and it was torture for many, many, many, MANY reasons (are you getting how torturous it was??), but the fact that the instructor RESENTED our boredom was ridiculous.  You translate sentences, go around in a circle to talk about your translation, you get a little bit of grammar instruction, go home, prepare, and do it again the next day.  What's exciting about that?  So, kuddos for the German guy for his honesty and bluntness.  And he doesn't care that I bought the e-book, which is good since it was 1/2 the price!

For said German class, I was dreading my hike to the library in the hopes that one more German-English dictionary could be acquired from the shelves, but I didn't have to go :)  My adviser loaned me his German-English dictionary from when he took the class XX years ago.  I'm smiling at it right now.  I love when things are easier than they should be.

In that vein, I get to pick up my books tomorrow, prepackaged and waiting for me at a pick up window in the Union.  How cool is that?

Oh, and finally, after German I went for wine with my awesome friend from the Spanish department—who, coincidentally, suffered with me through the French class.  This woman is so funny that, by the end of my third glass of wine, I was laughing so loudly I was probably irritating the wait staff (who were trying to go home... we were the last folks there...).  It was a great way to end the long first day.

And, today, the gym.  Duh duh dunnnnnnnn....


So, I stink and have no good question for you, my lovely readers, today.  My excuse: I'm writing this Monday night and am an alcoholic lightweight.  Sorry!  I promise for my interesting and writing-related insights throughout the rest of the week.

Happy Tuesday, y'all :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Google Goddess

Many of you already know the wonderful and esteemed Cruella Collett over at The Giraffability of Digressions.  If you don't, she is definitely a woman worth knowing, and for a vast number of reasons beyond the one below.

In response to my post yesterday, Cruella went online and found an electronic version of my sought-after model who exemplifies one of my characters.  She found it on the Everything Fabulous blog (direct link).  I can't imagine how long it took her, and I'm not going to ask, but the fact that she took even five minutes to look for this (after my hour—I think I'm Google-impaired) means the world to me.  Thank you, Cruella!

Anyway, here you go folks.  She's not my MC, and you don't even meet her until WiP#2, but I can't tell you how excited I am to have found her :)


Happy Monday, everyone! :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Weekend Calls

This is officially my last weekend of summer before classes begin on Monday.  Many of our friends have returned, and so people are excited to get together before the grind starts in earnest.

In other news, I still have no good formula for balance.  I'm working on it.  Google Reader is helping, but it feels so impersonal without the cool layouts.

What else?  Oh!  My totally awesomely amazing friend Rory, who you may remember from the wedding we were in a few weeks ago, sent me a page from her Vanity Fair.  While we were waiting to have our hair and makeup done, she and I flipped through a couple of magazines, chatting about this and that.  She was in mid-sentence, but my enthusiasm got the better of me, and I twisted the magazine around to show her an ad and said, "This looks exactly like one of my characters."  Then, distracted by, oh, the WEDDING, I forgot about it until I got home.  When I tried to find a picture of the same woman online, it was obviously impossible since I didn't know her name or even the ad she was in, only that it was in the Vanity Fair with Lady Gaga on the cover.  In a moment of desperation, I emailed Rory and asked her to mail me the picture.  And she did!!  Thank you, Rory! Rawr! :)

PS—Having the ad in hand doesn't make it any easier to find it online to share with you.  If you care, it's from the Lady Gaga issue.  It's a Banana Republic ad on the left-hand page.  The woman in the ad is holding a black umbrella and is wearing a gray sweater and pink blouse.  She's a beautiful redhead with freckles and blue eyes. If you find an electronic copy of the ad, PLEASE let me know.  I keep my pictures together in a file on my computer for when I'm not at home, and I don't know when I'll be able to use a scanner next.

In other writing-related happenings, I recently joined an online critique group and it's awesome.  I've not only gotten some fabulous feedback, but I've had a chance to review other people's work and learn from their positives and negatives.  The folks are great, balancing the critiques with the good and the needs-improving.  Luck is what I can attribute to it.

One of the "events" from the group is finishing our word-count goals by the end of September.  This should prove interesting.  I have the original MS, which is close to 150K, but I'm changing a few things in the plot and rearranging certain events, and hoping to end up around 90-100K before more editing and cutting.  I'm currently at 34K, but since I'm reusing some of the old MS, I do have less than 66K to go in a month.  I'm thinking about adding a ticker to the sidebar, but I'm not sure where to get one.  Any suggestions?

How about you?  Any great writing news to share?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Return to the Old Life?

My real job started again today.  Well, actually, it never technically stopped.  I just stopped.  That's the beauty of freelance work, right?  If you don't do, it just doesn't get done.  I've promised my boss it will, and it will, just not by the time classes start on, er, Monday.

I suspect, due to a rush job that needs to be completed in the next 6-7 weeks, I won't be here quite as much.  It makes me very sad to admit this because it also means I won't have as much time for my own writing.  And while I'm taking a creative writing class, I don't imagine it will affect my work for NaNoWriMo this year.

I've been saying it all summer, but I need to prioritize.  I have a job with a definite deadline, and another one with a loose deadline.  I'm training a new employee at the publisher today and tomorrow, and I'll be her go-to person when she has questions.  Plus classes.  Plus writing.  Plus husband.  Plus laundry and cleaning and cooking and, oh, I should probably start going to the gym again. 

But not necessarily in that order.

In addition to my entire life that needs order and structure, I think my writing life does, too.  At the moment, I'm trying to follow too many blogs (and I love most of them and don't want to give them up!), have my own blog which I have already let slip over the past couple of days, working on helping out the folks in my new online critique group, putting my work over there, and, oh yeah, keeping up with my editing and planning for NaNoWriMo.  *whew*  Again, not necessarily in that order.  Unfortunately, for the past couple of weeks, other tasks from this list have trumped my own writing, and I'm not thrilled about this.

Oh, and no where in there did I mention reading.  I'm currently reading a memoir—Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordain—an MG—Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt—and Stephen King's On Writing is calling to me.  Oh, and a novel I won on GoodReads—No Place for Heroes by Laura Restrepo—and the novel I won from a FB contest—The Handbook for Lightening Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone.  And The Possessed by Elif Batuman, which I've been yearning to read for months and recently got my hands on.  Ack!

So, my attempt to organize and prioritize continues.  I think in addition to setting a minimum number of hours to work each day on the editing side, plus assuming I might do some school work here and there :) I'm going to set myself weekly goals for reading and writing.  Hopefully this will take the daily pressure off if I need to spend more time on my German, or the formatting on my editing job isn't working and takes twice as long as it should.  The writing will happen—it always does—but motivation to edit the text afterward tends to be elusive, and that's what needs to happen most right now.

Okay, ramble over.  We now return you to your regularly scheduling blogging.

How do you prioritize your life?  How do you fit writing into your (presumably) already hectic schedule?

PS—If you're doing NaNoWriMo this year, feel free to add me as your buddy.  I'm Rosie-C over there :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Delusions of a Bloggy World

Do you schedule your posts?  
Or do you post when you finish writing?

"Overwhelmed" does not describe my blogged-out feeling this morning.  I spent my computer time this weekend writing instead of blogging or blogosphering.  Silly me to think that writing was more important!  What was I thinking?  Bad writer!  Bad!

Oh, wait.....

Anyway, this morning, I casually thought I could hop onto blogger and catch up. 

But, being Monday morning, and having more than twelve hours between my sleepy eyes and midnight GMT, I'm pretty sure every one of the 87,000 (rounding down) blogs that I follow had posted.  I couldn't even count the number of posts I needed to scroll through just to get to "1 hour ago". 

I know this goes both ways.  Some people think it's better to post in the morning.  These people (I assume, and please correct me) check their blog roll once or twice per day, and so if your post doesn't come up at the right time, they'll miss it.  But if everyone is posting at the same time, and you have 400 blog posts to read before breakfast, you can't possibly read them all.  Granted, for some blogs, if I miss them on my scroll, I'll seek them out.  But not all of them.  It would be impossible. 

So, beyond the questions above, how do you choose amongst the hundreds of blog posts published between 12:01 and 1 AM GMT (or any arbitrary hour-long period in any arbitrary timezone of a M/W/F morning)?  What makes you want to read a blog post?  What makes you pass one by?

Disclaimer: This post will be published upon completion.  Posts last week were scheduled.  I was riding the high from WriteOnCon, and wrote more blog posts in one day than anyone should tolerate.  Thus, scheduling.


PS—I would like to introduce you to one of my little muses.  She's a tiny monster who finds joy in knocking eggplants off the counter, chasing toy mice, bottle caps, and cherry tomatoes around the kitchen linoleum, and dreams of saving with world with the PowerPuff Girls.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Taking the Initiative

Change scares the toe-socks off of my poor little feet.**  I like consistency.  I'm not spontaneous.  I'm bordering on OCD control-freak.

Aren't you glad you follow me? Heh.

So one of my most nerve-raking experiences came a few weeks ago.  And before I tell you what I did, please know that this was an educated decision on my part, two to three years in the making.  It was not rash, and I'm pretty sure I have burned no bridges.

I told my adviser that I don't want to take my PhD exams, I don't want to write a dissertation, and I would much rather be able to spend my time writing fiction.

After much promise to help me through the writing process, giving me no less than four possible dissertation topics, and suggesting the difference in employment opportunities between having a Masters and a PhD, he said, "I'm fighting because I hate to see you go.  It would be insulting if I just said, 'Sure.  Okay.  Good luck.'"  Annoyed as I might have been through the whole discuss, I appreciated his efforts to keep me around.  He's been a great adviser for the past few years, incredibly supportive, pushed me to go beyond where I thought I could go, and got me opportunities I didn't think I could get.  I'm grateful for all of those things in ways I don't think I could express to him.

But, with all of that support and all of the push, I've learned a lot about myself.  I've learned that many of my boundaries are self-imposed, and I feel I can better recognize the ones that are real and the ones that aren't.  And I have a drive toward something I love that I didn't know I had.

So, toward the end of the meeting when he said to me, "There are creative writing class you could take..." and continues to tell me how he knows the prof and could take to him to see if I could take the class, I should have been elated.  But I balked.  Why?  Well, it was a 600-level MFA course.  MFA students go through a rigorous process to get in, submitting portfolios and publication references, etc.  It wouldn't be fair for me to walk in, sit down, and say, "Well, I published a short story in my HS writing magazine in 1995.  I'm also working on a novel, but the professionals who have seen it haven't even seen the first 10K."  Can we say "instant resent"?

But it got the idea in my head.  I began hunting through the English department's course offerings for the fall semester, and found a 200-level course—the only prerequisite being E103, or Writing for Those Who Didn't Learn How to Write in HS—on creative fiction.  Of the four or five section, one had one available slot.

So I emailed the contact to get permission to take the course, despite my lack of "How to Write a Thesis Statement" course.  As of about 3:00 this afternoon, I am officially registered in an intro to fiction writing course with a bunch of 19 year olds.

But the bottom line is, I can hear my knees rattling.  Nerves are a beautifully annoying thing.  I'm not sure what's making me so concerned about it, since the last time I took a writing class was 1999.  I can certainly use the pointers.  I want to write more short fiction to have SOMETHING to list in a query letter for publications.

It's just change.  There's no good reason to be afraid of change, except for the unknown.  That's where I'm at, folks.  Wish me luck!

And wish me luck if I don't get in, too.  I need to find three more hours of something remotely interesting to take this semester :)


How do you deal with change?  What kind of leaps-of-faith have you taken for your writing?



**Disclaimer: My feet are far from little, and I long ago got rid of all my toe socks.  My wearing them was said to scare small children due to my overly large second digit.

Do You Consider Me Lovely?

Okay, okay, not me.  My blog.

Well, JC Martin (a.k.a. The Fighter Writer) thinks my blog is lovely.  Thank you, JC!


The rules for this award states that I need to pass it along:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Okay, this might be tough.  August has been a super, award-filled month.  I'm not sure who I haven't awarded something recently.  Well, how about this.  Here are a few I really enjoy.

Tara at Aléatoire
Summer at My Inner Fairy
RaShelle at A No. 2 Pencil Stat!
Steph at maybe genius

:)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Character Rap Sheet Redux

So many of you gave awesome suggestions on how I could improve my character interview process on Monday's post.  Thank you!  If I haven't mentioned it recently, you guys ROCK!

I decided that, since I don't want to be selfish and keep this to myself, that I would report this, updated with everyone's suggestions.  Feel free to use this any time, share with your friends, etc.  Also, if you have more suggestions, please leave a note in the comments, and I will continuously update the post at large.


Note A: Before conducting this interview, one suggestion was to push the character's buttons to the point of no return.  Piss them off and then push for information, and they'll be more likely to be bluntly honest.

Note B: If you're finding it difficult to discover this information, another suggestion was to take an idea and write (perhaps a blog post) about it in your character's own words.  For an example, click here.


Everything You Ever Wanted (and Didn't Want) to Know About Your Characters

Physical Appearance (eye color, hair color, other defining facial information, height, weight, scars, piercings, tattoos, is their second toe longer or shorter than their big toe? clothing style, hair style, makeup...)

General Historical Information (DoB, DoD (if applicable), education, extra-curricular activities, suspensions, broken bones, hospitalizations, first kiss, first extensive sexual experiences, mother's maiden name, heritage, children, parents...)

Personal Information (left/right handed, allergies, contacts/glasses/20-20, exercise routine or not, favorite color, food preferences, handwriting style, artistic tendencies or none? zodiac sign...)

Personal Quirks (nervous gestures/ticks, sweaty hands, what do they do when they lie? phobias?  pet peeves?  addictive behaviors...)

Turn Ons/Turn Offs (favorite smells, repulsive smells,

Other Randomness:
  • What did s/he want to be after growing up?
  • Did s/he have any pets as a child?  Names?
  • Hobbies?  How serious are they?  Past hobbies since abandoned?
  • Favorite iconic figures? (actors, writers, musicians, artists, world politicians, historical figures...)
  • Video game obsessions?
  • City or country or suburbia?
  • Boxers or briefs?
  • Favorite type of music?  Favorite type of fiction or non-fiction? Drama, sitcom, or documentary?
  • Do they drink?  What do they drink?
  • If s/he had a million dollars (or applicable currency)...?
  • Left brained or right brained?
  • Favorite/Worst childhood vacation?
  • Favorite/Worst childhood memory?
  • If s/he could visit anywhere, where would s/he go first?
  • Stance on social issues (whales/environment/water/polar bears/etc.)?
  • Introvert or extrovert?
  • How does s/he react around children?
  • Act or React?
  • Fight or flight?
  • Do they hold grudges or let them go?
  • What songs are important to them and why?
  • How do they see the future?
  • What inspired him/her?
  • How do other people perceive him/her?
  • Cats or dogs?
  • Who do they look up to and why?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Prologue or Not To Prologue?

*sigh*

I recently joined an online critique group, and gave them my latest rewrite of the first 4 pages of WiP #1.  The latest rewrite has seen me scrapping the first 3 chapters, and starting at the height of the initial action.  But there was one catch.

What's going on?  Where does this take place?  Is this our world or another one?

Yeowch!  Too many questions are left outstanding, but need to be answered earlier.

I don't want to reintroduce three chapters (approx. 10K words) of backtory.  So, the question is, what do I do to make things clear early enough in the story while still avoiding large paragraphs of exposition?

Here was my thought, and I don't know how much I like it.  A prologue.  Now, everyone and their agent's mother says not to prologue, so I'm torn.  At the moment I have 1 page of prologue, approx. 260 words, introducing one key historical moment of background, still trying to capture the reader's attention.

One potential problem is that the prologue has to be told through a 3rd person omniscient narrator.  The rest of the story is (currently) 1st person.  I recently read a book that did this, and it didn't feel problematic to me, but my hubby (the lit PhD) was concerned about the transition.

Of course, the other problem seems to be that prologues are loathed and, by some, seem to be considered a sign of bad writing.  I don't exactly want to introduce myself that way, that's for sure.  I'm just not sure what else to do. 

So, folks, what do you think?  Do you prologue?  Do you hate prologues?  How do you feel about the narrator transition from one to the other?  Am I committing a mortal literary sin here?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When In Doubt, Throw Everything Out and Start Over

Whew!

WriteOnCon was an intense ride.  I learned so much in such a short period (3 days!).  Top that off with the final for my intensive summer class (as of Thursday I am officially class-free for two weeks!), and my already slushy mind simply melted into sticky sugar water.  I'm still trying to piece everything together and make sense of it.

One post (series) that impacted me from the conference was from agent Weronika Janczuk (and if I didn't love her from her posts, I would because her name is Polish!) on pacing and plotting—click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3.  I focused on her descriptions of plot arcs, what should happen in the first 1/4, the middle 1/2, and the last 1/4 of the novel, how to build tension, etc., etc., and applied it to my current painful revisions of WiP #1.

I'm not willing to admit that my first round for WiP #1 didn't somewhat conform to the formula set forth in these posts.  It did.  But I believe it can be better.  Scratch that.  While it does conform to the increasing tension and tight climax in the last 10%, it's a mediocre story at best, and a complete overhaul will help it shine.

Add to Weronika's posts this vlog by author Kimberly Derting.  I don't write YA thriller/suspense, but that doesn't mean there aren't ample lessons in this vlog on how to build suspense that can be applied to any genre.  As I contemplated Kimberly's words with Weronika's echoing in my sugary mind, ideas of suspense-building mingled with my pondering of story arcs, and I realized, huh, this could be more suspenseful.

My story is told in 1st person (for now).  In the "original" story, my MC finds out some key information less than halfway through the story.  I realized I could increase the suspense by delaying her discovery.  I've been outlining for a couple of days now a complete overhaul of the story, trying to put the events in a proper order to delay discovery, continually increase the tension, and raise the stakes in the climax.

Finally, I'd like to throw into the mix this post from Helen Ginger's post on the Blood Red Pencil—Writers are Hookers.  Beyond the inevitable giggle this invokes in me (yeah, even a few days later), she makes a beautiful point about where the story (and each scene) needs to begin.  After reviewing my first 4-6 chapters for over a month now, I'm almost willing to throw out the first two chapters.  They are mostly background information, and I know that.  I hesitate because I feel like it's important, but we all know that this information can be incorporated later.  And some of it has been moved through recent, pre-overhaul revisions, meaning that leaving it upfront is redundant.

To risk getting a little weepy, part of my hesitation in the complete overhaul is strongly personal.  This story began as a part of my recovery process after my father passed away.  While a strong part of me yearns to be professional and know what needs to get slashed and burnt to make this puppy publishable, deep down I want to leave it, considering it a sacred tribute to my dad.  It's a little silly—my father's nowhere to be seen in the entire story—but that doesn't stop the emotional connection and the need to protect my baby from the red-line.

What I've decided, based on this final post by Jennifer Hubbard, is that I don't have to throw anything away.  (Okay, I knew that, but it's nice to have the reinforcement.)  I can keep the sacred version of my story, the one that makes me think of my struggle and my progress in recovery, and I don't have to share it with anyone but myself.  I can love it and baby it and wrap it in a huge security blanket and save it from the big, bad publishing world forever.  But I can also take the bones, the deep structure (Snicker, GB linguistics out there! Snicker!), the character histories, etc., and weave them together with this new and improved baby, one that I'm willing to raise and help mature into an undeniable force to be reckoned with in the brutal publishing industry.  I'll teach it not to take criticism personally—my baby could never learn that.  I'll mold it into a giant who will box its way onto the desk of an agent, causing said agent to swoon.  After rebandaging its fearsome hands, stopping the bloody nose and tending to its swollen lip, it will be ready to move from the agent's desk to that of the publishers, who will also love and adore it...

Man, am I getting ahead of myself!  I haven't done anything more than work on the outline.  I need to stop daydreaming and get to work.


How do you feel when you have to start over?  The more seasoned writers out there must not do this as often, but I know we have all done it at one point or another.  Have you ever coddled something despite its disrepair?  How long did it take you to admit that some work had to move permanently onto the shelf?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Character Rap Sheet

My dear blogosphery friends,

I need your help.  Through much reflection, a newly received critique, and lessons learned through last week's WriteOnCon, I've come to realize that I need to do great things to improve my characters.  This is hardly a surprising discovery.  I've been slowly moving toward this for some time, and have blogged about it before.

But now I want a complete overhaul of almost every single character.

Yeah, there's one who's interesting and developed (in my not so humble opinion).  Unfortunately, she's second-string, and her deeper involvement in the stories doesn't occur until book 2 :(  Not much help when I'm gutting book 1, is it?

The plan:  I want to create an in-depth questionnaire for myself that I must answer in excruciating detail for every individual who crosses my pages.  I don't care if the character makes a 2-page appearance—well, actually I do, because it means s/he should get cut.  But each character needs to be examined under the bright interrogation lights until they sweat so much I can't read their words on the pages.

I have the following already:

Physical Appearance (eye color, hair color, other defining facial information, height, weight, scars, piercings, tattoos, is their second toe longer or shorter than their big toe? clothing style, hair style, makeup...)
General Historical Information (DoB, DoD (if applicable), education, extra-curricular activities, suspensions, broken bones, hospitalizations, first kiss, first extensive sexual experiences, mother's maiden name, heritage, children, parents...)
Personal Information (left/right handed, allergies, contacts/glasses/20-20, exercise routine or not, favorite color, food preferences, handwriting style...)
Personal Quirks (nervous gestures/ticks, sweaty hands, what do they do when they lie? phobias...)
Other Randomness:
  • What did s/he want to be after growing up?
  • Did s/he have any pets as a child?  Names?
  • Hobbies?  How serious are they?  Past hobbies since abandoned?
  • Favorite iconic figures? (actors, writers, musicians, artists, world politicians, historical figures...)
  • Video game obsessions?
  • City or country or suburbia?
  • Boxers or briefs?
  • Favorite type of music?  Favorite type of fiction or non-fiction? Drama, sitcom, or documentary?
  • Do they drink?  What do they drink?
  • If s/he had a million dollars (or applicable currency)...?
  • Left brained or right brained?
  • Favorite/Worst childhood vacation?
  • Favorite/Worst childhood memory?
  • If s/he could visit anywhere, where would s/he go first?

The problem with the list:  My list so far is a better description of who I am than anything else.  It demonstrates how I think, and not necessarily how my characters think.  The problem, therefore, is that my characters can only grow as much as I allow them to if I stick to this list.  I don't like that.  Not one bit.

(Personal information: type-A control freak...) 

My request to you, dear beloved cyber-friends:  Can you contribute anything to my laundry lists above?  What other questions should I ask my characters?  The randomer the better, folks.  Hit me with your best shot! :)

And thank you!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Slayer, a Vampire, and a Zombie Walk Into a Bar...

Janet Reid's running a contest until about midnight tonight (time zone? not sure).  The entry must be 115 word story beginning with "A monster-slaying governess, a vampire librarian, and a professorial zombie walk into a bar..."

The prizes?


Are we sensing a theme?  Gee, I wonder why all these folks walk into the bar together.

Well, who doesn't love Zombies and Vampires and Slayers, oh my?  So, I thought I'd give it a shot.  I'm not in love with what I wrote, but... *shrug* I had to try.

For your entertainment:


A monster-slaying governess, a vampire librarian, and a professorial zombie walk into a bar, taking a booth by the door.

The governess sipped her wine.  “I can’t allow you to pursue your plan.”

Bored, the librarian stirred her bloody Mary—extra bloody—with the finger skewer, an olive stuck to the nail.

With a slurp of braiña colada, the zombie replied, “Aw, loosen up Janey-baby.  When we work together, we eat half the people.  We’re economizing.”

“I don’t know why you come along,” the librarian said, “when all you do is criticize.”

“It’s my job to protect…”  The slayer slumped over.

“Wow.”  The zombie checked her watch. “That took forever.”

“Let’s get started.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Drabble Challenge 8/12

It's been a couple of weeks since I've been able to get my patootie in gear for the drabble challenge over at the Burrow Blog, but I decided I should try again this week.

**EDIT** I won this week's challenge!

For your reading pleasure:
IMAGE: Pepys and Lady Batten
ARTIST: John Digman Wingfield


Hoping her own wasn’t trembling, she took the man’s hand.  Gentlemanly he was, or so he carried himself before her father.  His chivalrous demeanor impressed her, but his personality remained a mystery.  The unknown waited for her at the end of the journey to her gentleman’s land.

Her recent marriage to this mysterious foreigner brought vast wealth to her family, allowing her father to travel, increasing his clients, and her sister to receive the medical treatment she needed.  The benefits far outweighed her fears.  For the love of her family, she continued on her journey.

She didn’t once look back.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Liar Unveiled

A couple of days ago I offered 7 possible lies/truths for you.  It was up to you to decide which were which.  You've been waiting in anxious anticipation for the big reveal.  Wait no more, my friends!

Even the false statements have elements of truth to them, which I explain below.  Enjoy!

1.  When I was fifteen, I was fortunate enough to go on a vacation... ehem, "student ambassador" program to Europe.  While in London, we took a cruise down the Thames with the British prime minister.  And I fell asleep.  Oops!

False.  The guy on the boat wasn't the prime minister, but someone else from parliament.  I did fall asleep, though.


2.  While studying abroad in Russia in 1999, I twice went on camping trips in the Caucasian mountains with a non-violent Chechan guide.  My parents were none to happy, since this was less than a month after the Chechan war had started (again...).

False.  One of the students on our program who went camping and hiking with us decided to grow out his beard while in Russia, and was frequently mistaken for a Chechan, but was just a fun-loving guy from the Midwest.


3.  Also during my semester in Russia, I had to sort out some banking troubles I was having.  Unfortunately my Russian was *cough* downright atrocious, but I hadn't asked anyone to accompany me.  I spent much too much time trying to convey to the woman at the bank what the problem was, and she treated me like an idiot with the mental capacity of a four-year-old due to my poooooooor Russian.  A woman behind me in line became so incensed by how long it was taking, she began hitting me with her oversized purse, screaming something to the effect of "If this were still the Soviet Union, I wouldn't have to wait behind a..."  You can fill in the rest.  I ran away and returned a few days later with an interpreter.

False.  It was in a post office when the lady started beating me up (yeah, that part's true).  The postal clerk had decided, due to my knotted Slavic tongue, I must be a complete moron, and insisted on putting the stamps on each of my 20 postcards instead of giving the stamps to me.  When the woman started hitting me with her purse, I threw my money at the clerk and blotted.  Two of the postcards made it to their destinations.


4.  Pacifist that I am, I've been kangaroo hunting in New South Wales.  After someone shot a kangaroo that would become our dinner the next night, the kangaroo was tossed into the back of the pick-up with my friend and me, only to discover it wasn't actually dead yet...  It more or less had a seizure while my friend and I screamed.  The man driving got out of the truck and bashed the kangaroo's poor little head until it stopped again.

True.  My twelve-year-old homestay sister shot it.  She had wanted to show off for me and the other US teenage girl staying with them (aka, the other woman in the bed of the truck... who got kicked by the seizing kangaroo).  She had never used a shotgun by herself, and her father thought she had done a pretty decent job until we started screaming a couple of minutes later. 

I was 14 and a staunch vegetarian to boot.


5.  I am a seasoned world traveler (or so I like to tell myself), and at least half of my travel abroad occurred before I turned 18, but the only country I was taken to by my parents was Canada.

False.  My parents have never taken me abroad, even to Canada when it was so close to our Detroit relatives.  By the time I was 18, I had visited New Zealand, Australia, England, Denmark, Germany, France, and, yes, Canada, but with my best friend's family.


6.  When I was a kid, I love wearing my roller skates.  I wore them everywhere (though my mom drew the line at church, but I tried).  While I was outside one day hanging out with the boys down the block, they dared me to climb the tree in one boy's front yard.  Of course I accepted the challenge since I didn't want to look like a wussy girl.  With my roller skates still strapped on tight, I got most of the way up before I fell and broke my arm.  I didn't get to keep my roller skates after that :(

False.  My best friend from high school did this when she was a kid... though I changed a couple of details to account for my own clumsiness.  She never broke anything, and climbed trees in roller skates with her brothers all the time.


7.  My family frequently drove to Lake Catherine in Arkansas when we lived in northern Louisiana.  When I was four, I had a life jacket that said "Little Fishy" on the back.  Strapped into my Little Fishy life jacket, my dad's friend convinced my parents to let me go water skiing on the tyke-sized skis he had for his own kids.  After much enthusiasm on my part, they couldn't possibly say no.  And, might I add, it was AWESOME!  I love water skiing.

False.  I've never been water skiing, even though we had the boat when I was a kid, frequenting both Lake Catherine and later the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.  I believe that if I had ever learned to water ski, I might not have found snow skiing so terrifying.


Do you have any wild, unbelievable stories?  I would LOVE to hear them!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Redefining Myself

As you know, this weekend I was in Wisconsin for a wedding.  During the treacherous seven hours of hair and makeup before the wedding, I had time to discuss writing with my dear friend Rory (she's with me in the last picture on Sunday's post).  For a few months, Rory's been talking about writing an erotic novella, and I've been encouraging her along the way because, well, it would be fantastic to know someone else who's writing and whose phone number exists in my cell phone.  How great would it be to be able to discuss writing in person, or at least using my own voice?  At the moment, this is a great fantasy of mine, so of COURSE I was going to encourage her.

Apparently, though, over the course of the weekend, and evidently due to many things I said, Rory has decided to give up the novella.  Of course this saddens me greatly.  I don't write erotica, but it might be fun to live vicariously through her sensual vision. *blush*  But, if it's what's best for her, then of course I support her decision.

The part about the whole situation I find...  Well, I must be a horrible writer since the only words I can think of are "odd", "surprising" and "inspiring", neither of which seems to really capture what I'm feeling.  Anyway, this is what she wrote in a recent blog post:

Though I imagine she'll in no way want to hear this, my friend Rosie played a big part in my half-ass epiphany. While were were hanging around being bridesmaids, she said several things which convinced me, "This is what a writer sounds like—this is someone who writes for lots of reasons, all of them better than mine."

She then mentions my dreaded editing that I had brought with me, and how I picked a model from a magazine and said the woman looked like my vision for one of my characters.  The reason I find this odd is, I find neither of these (or the other examples she mentioned) out of the ordinary.  I had never considered how this might make "a writer".  It surprised me because she's known me for more than a decade, and she's certainly never had cause to consider me "a writer" before. 

The inspiration from all this is to push me to live up to this new label.  Well, it's not new to me, and perhaps it's not new to you since I have introduced myself to cyberspace as a writer.  But Rory is someone who knows me beyond the blog, and has known me through many reinventions of myself. To have her consider me "a writer" makes me want to push myself even more to live up to the expectation.

What makes a writer "a writer"?  It's more than the simple act of putting words on paper.  What is the quintessential trait someone needs to be "a writer"? 


PS—If you somehow don't know about it, WriteOnCon is this week!  Get over there and check it out.  It's an amazing wealth of information right at your fingertips (well, only if you touch the screen...).  I posting my first five pages of The Monarch's Lies in the YA critique section.  If you've also posted something for critique, leave me a comment so I can find it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Awards Abound!

First, I would like to thank Medeia again for passing an award along to me.  I passed it on earlier in my EPL post.

I also received another award recently from Cruella Collett, and boy did it make me giggle!  Thank you, Cruella.

The Rules:
The Bold Face Liar Creative Writer Award requires you to:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them.

2. Add the award to your blog.

3. Tell six outrageous lies about yourself and one truth. (Another variant: Tell six truths and one outrageous lie. YOU get to guess which variant I chose – and which statements are true, as well as which are lies.)

4. Nominate six creative liars –I mean writers– and post links to them.

5. Let your nominees know that they have been nominated.
 

Six + One
You decide if the six are true or false, and which one doesn't fit.  I'm not telling! :)

1.  When I was fifteen, I was fortunate enough to go on a vacation... ehem, "student ambassador" program to Europe.  While in London, we took a cruise down the Thames with the British prime minister.  And I fell asleep.  Oops!

2.  While studying abroad in Russia in 1999, I twice went on camping trips in the Caucasian mountains with a non-violent Chechan guide.  My parents were none to happy, since this was less than a month after the Chechan war had started (again...).

3.  Also during my semester in Russia, I had to sort out some banking troubles I was having.  Unfortunately my Russian was *cough* downright atrocious, but I hadn't asked anyone to accompany me.  I spent much too much time trying to convey to the woman at the bank what the problem was, and she treated me like an idiot with the mental capacity of a four-year-old due to my poooooooor Russian.  A woman behind me in line became so incensed by how long it was taking, she began hitting me with her oversized purse, screaming something to the effect of "If this were still the Soviet Union, I wouldn't have to wait behind..."  You can fill in the rest.  I ran away and returned a few days later with an interpreter.

4.  Pacifist that I am, I've been kangaroo hunting in New South Wales.  After someone shot a kangaroo that would become our dinner the next night, the kangaroo was tossed into the back of the pick-up with my friend and me, only to discover it wasn't actually dead yet...  It more or less had a seizure while my friend and I screamed.  The man driving got out of the truck and bashed the kangaroo's poor little head until it stopped again.

5.  I am a seasoned world traveler (or so I like to tell myself), and at least half of my travel abroad occurred before I turned 18, but the only country I was taken to by my parents was Canada.

6.  When I was a kid, I love wearing my roller skates.  I wore them everywhere (though my mom drew the line at church, but I tried).  While I was outside one day hanging out with the boys down the block, they dared me to climb the tree in one boy's front yard.  Of course I accepted the challenge since I didn't want to look like a wussy girl.  With my roller skates still strapped on tight, I got most of the way up before I fell and broke my arm.  I didn't get to keep my roller skates after that :(

7.  My family frequently drove to Lake Catherine in Arkansas when we lived in northern Louisiana.  When I was four, I had a life jacket that said "Little Fishy" on the back.  Strapped into my Little Fishy life jacket, my dad's friend convinced my parents to let me go water skiing on the tyke-sized skis he had for his own kids.  After much enthusiasm on my part, they couldn't possibly say no.  And, might I add, it was AWESOME!  I love water skiing.


Stop back on Friday for the big reveal as to what's true and what's not.

So, now I have to pass this on, huh?  Hmm...  I'm going to pass this on to a couple of new and awesome blogs I've founds recently that you should definitely check out.

Mel O. Dramatic at Whimsical Melgasms
Rafi at Escape from Apathy
Vatche at The Student Writer's Mind
Heidi at Drops of Ink
Tara at Tara Maya's Tales
Roland at Writing in the Crosshairs

August Contests!

It's contest time, folks.  Here are just a few that I've come across lately:

Laura Eno is giving away two signed copies of her new release Prophecy Moon (and a third to s/he who writes the most adoring/feet-kissing comment :)  Enter before Tuesday, August 17.

Accompanying a great interview of the author, Charity at My Writing Journey is giving away Substitute Me by Lori Tharps.  Contest ends Friday, August 13.

Angelique at Vampires and Tofu is having a birthday give-away.  Prizes include Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers, Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopkus, and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.  Her birthday is August 30, so I think that must be the deadline... ?

Alexandra at The Publication Follies of Alexandra Shostak is giving away a copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie, or BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, sequel to BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.  **Edit** Deadline is Monday, August 30.

Okay, that's it for now.  Good luck!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Delinquent Me: Eat Pray Love - Love +

A week late is better than not at all, right?

Finish Indonesia and discuss general feelings on the book. How did it affect you? I read this book at a time in my life when I was really struggling and it had a profound effect on me so I am curious to see what others thought of something so deeply personal. 

Will you go see the movie? Will you read Committed which is Gilbert’s follow up to Eat Pray Love?
What are some of your favorite quotes from the book?
 
I really enjoyed the book, and the Pray section impacted me the most.  In fact, I would go so far as to say my deep love of her time in India got me hyped up enough that her time in Indonesia was a real let-down.  That's not to say it was bad, but it wasn't amazing in the way I'd anticipated.  That being said, I loved our medicine man and his Bali meditation:  have every part of your body smile, even your liver.  I need to work on that.  I'm not sure my liver is accustomed to smiling.


Will I see the movie?  Probably not in the theater.  Netflix will send it to me in six to eight months, and by then I will have enough distance from my reading that one will not affect the other.  

Will I read Committed?  Again, probably not, mostly due to my disappointment in the last section, and assuming Committed is based on her time with Filipe.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm thrilled that Liz found true love and could move on with her life a healed woman, but the healing was more interesting to me than the love she allowed herself in the end.


Most of my favorite quotes can be found in my last post on Pray.



Award!

Thank you, Medeia!

I've decided to follow a theme in passing on this award.  I'd like to share this with the EPL book club, since I have so enjoyed reading the book along with other people.  It was a fantastic idea, and I am especially grateful to The Book Vixen for organizing it.

Jamie at Three Cheers for Literacy
Nicole at Home Grown Me
Charlie at Life Happens
Lily of Darkness at Lilium's Realm
Erika at Kiss My Book
Jamie at The Book Junkie's Bookshelf
The Book Vixen


Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the book.  It's been delightful reading along with you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Returns

Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes for the weekend, and greetings to those who found me over the weekend.  I have been without internet for close to 60 hours, so forgive me for not replying to each of you individually.  Coming back to an inbox full of comment-love was delightful, and capped an already tremendous weekend.  ;)

The wedding was fantastic, the reception was a hip-happening good time, the drives to and fro were (painfully) long, and I got the best haircut ever while sitting on a loading dock wrapped in pink plastic.  Oh, and we came home with a sampler pack of New Glarus beer (only sold in WI)—if you're ever there (and you drink beer, of course), you must try my new favorite: Fat Squirrel.

Of the entire event, my only complaint would touch on having someone put too much eye makeup on me.  I don't normally wear much, and I swear there was silver going up past my eyebrows.

We barely just arrived back home.  It's late, I'm tired, and only the Fat Squirrel is keeping me going at the moment.  For now I'm going to post a couple of photos for your Sunday evening/Monday morning viewing pleasure.  Back to writing-related work tomorrow.

The winnings from the rehearsal dinner trivia game: Wisconsin cheese curd.  Yum. 
Getting my hair set by an incredibly awesome hairdresser.  She's so awesome she drove to WI from Chicago to do the wedding party's hair... and give delinquent little ol' me a trim.
Ah, direction.
The blue grass accompaniment for the ceremony.
Our camera was a little slow at taking pictures.
Bride, two giggling officiants, groom.
Bridal party. 
Okay, this photo requires a short tale.  When my husband and I got married many years ago, we got a cheap DJ who didn't understand our taste in music.  During the reception, he played O Town's "All or Nothing".  Our two friends serenaded my new husband with the song.  Two years later, one of those two women (in blue here) got married, and my husband and the other friend serenaded her with the same song.  So, last night, the circle closed as the third member of this pop-loving trio was serenaded in her wedding gown... while wearing an alligator hat.

Me and the lovely bride, post-gown.
Me with my hubby.

Another bridesmaid (formally known as the Fuchsia-maid) and I.  She was holding the camera.  I'm not intentionally trying to show you the inside of my nose, I promise.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Escape

This weekend I'm a bridesmaid for my college roommate.  Pictures will probably abound come Monday, especially since I'll finally be getting a haircut :)

As if I haven't already been delinquent enough in my blogoduties this week, the weekend forecast shows no relief.  Maybe at the hotel on Saturday afternoon before the wedding?  I have no idea what's in store for us—except that haircut.

I'm 20 pages to the end of Eat Pray Love, for those of you who're interested.  I will get my post up by Monday (or may they strike me down!).  Also, an award will show up, since I received one at the beginning of this week and haven't been able to post it.  It's coming.  I haven't forgotten.

As a parting note, I would like to leave you with this, courtesy of PhD Comics (comic #1352).


It doesn't only apply to the PhD, right?

Have a great weekend, folks!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 and the Plotter/Pantser Advantage

I signed up. 

Yup, I sure did.

And now I'm terrified.  Most of that fear stems from not knowing what my life is going to be like once fall classes resume.  And part of it, ladies and gents, is the sheer fact that 50,000 in 30 days is a whole lot of time and sweat and exhaustion waiting to happen.

I'm also pretty stoked. 

I bring this up because a) see above paragraph, and b) I've seen a number of posts in the past 24 hours discussing pantsing v. plotting (see Jessica's and Summer's posts, and, tangentially, iggi and gabi's).  They've made me consider NaNoWriMo, how it works, and who might be more successful—the pantser or the plotter.

Pros for the Plotter
These seem pretty obvious to me.  The outline is waiting for you on top of your keyboard on that fateful November morning when the race begins.  The story has been developing in your mind for some time.  Scenes already exist, though they are yet unwritten.  All you need is some time and some quiet.

Cons for the Plotter
While the outline is immaculate, you haven't plotted the exact path from point A to point B.  You get stuck.  When you resume, your story takes an unexpected turn... 

Actually, wait.  Can this happen to a plotter?  Or is each scene thoroughly outlined so no unknown plot twists can infiltrate the WiP?

Hmm... maybe it's better not to talk about the plotter, seeing as I don't conform to this category.

Pros for the Pantser
The whimsy and excitement of discovering your story drives you to go days without sleep.

Cons for the Pantser
Oh, shoot.  Wait.  What just happened?  How did the story get here?  No, no, no, this doesn't work.  It's headed for a dead end.  Go back, delete 20,000 words and start over.


I've oversimplified the categories, no doubt about it.  And such categories are never so well defined, anyway.  The continuum is vast, and most of us will fall somewhere in the middle.  I tend to lean toward the pantser side (and have found myself getting very little sleep when a story won't stop in my head), but I never start writing before my story has a solid beginning, a few key mid-way points, and a solid ending.  All of these are subject to change, of course, but a barebones outline is necessary for me to feel comfortable with the process.

I've had a story idea bouncing around in my head for close to six months now, and I've decided to hold onto it until November 1st.  I'll spend some time in the next couple of months writing a preliminary summary for it.  Before I discovered NaNoWriMo (or, I should admit, before I went to Google to figure out what all this nonsensical acronym means :) I had already written a couple of pages.  I know we're not supposed to start NaNoWriMo with anything but outlines, but I promise what I've got is nothing of consequence.  If you're interested, you can see the first 250 words here.  I wrote them because I wanted to toss them into the pool for Nathan Bransford's Monday Page Critique.  I'm still waiting, and may wait for another 279 weeks while he goes through everyone else's :)

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?  Which are you more like?  Which do you think would be better for an intensive writing competition like NaNoWriMo?  Why?

Tagged--I'm It (what *is* it?)

I've been tagged!  Oh, no!  Just kidding.  Aléatoire tagged me in this handwriting exercise.  Since I'm terribly behind in posting anyway, I thought I would post this (since I can do it in the extra 15 minutes I've found for myself this morning).


Honestly, I hope that's legible.  I don't have time to take a picture with my real camera, nor do I have a scanner, so PhotoBooth it is, folks.  Here are the prompts:

1. Your name/Blog's name
2. Are you right-handed or left-handed?
3. What are your favorite letters to write?
4. What are your least favorite letters to write?
5. Write: "The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
6. In CAPS, write: "BABOON, SPLENDOR, ONOMATOPOEIA, FLIP-FLOPS, HUZZAH!"
7. Your favorite song lyrics are?
8. Make sure you tag 7 people to join in on the fun.
9. Tickle your fancy and add a special quip for us to enjoy.

I don't have time to tag anyone else right now, but if you think this is cool, consider yourself tagged.  Just leave me a note so I can hop over to your blog and check out your handwriting.  I promise I won't do a(n extensive) handwriting analysis :)

Disclaimer: #9 isn't written in Latin letters.  Illegibility may not be due to bad resolution.

And now, off I run to class.  Happy Wednesday! :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Montage

Update from Saturday's Post

Thank you, everyone, for both your empathy with my cyber-struggle and your suggestions.  I've decided to try a system of scheduled visits—though I haven't worked it out yet.  Of course, if I work out my schedule this week it will be interesting to see how well I can keep up with it over the next month with classes ending, two weddings to attend, my mother visiting, and classes starting again.

Bottom line:  I'm not ignoring you!  I'm trying to get my cyber-bum around to visit everyone, but it will be sporadic for a while.

Writing Update

Instead of being a cyber-junky this weekend, I did some hardcore revising of chapters 1–4 (now chapter 1–6).  More will still need to be done, and my notes are quite extensive, but I'm feeling pretty good about it.  Again, thank you to anyone who shared encouragement or sympathy on Thursday's post.  They helped keep my motivation up all weekend, and I'm still going strong this afternoon.

EPL Book Club

I'm a little delinquent in my reading of EPL.  My final book club post will be up by the end of the week (hopefully...)

Last Week's Random Act of Awesome

Well, it's not entirely random.  I've been planning this for a long time.


PS—Don't EVER get a tattoo on your foot unless you're a true masochist.
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